Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Vlambeer's Nuclear Throne is entering 2015 as an Early Access title, but early adopters will now be able to get their friends in on the fun, too. The indie studio is giving those that have purchased the game early an additional copy to give to any of their friends.

Steam owners should see their free giftable copy of the game in their inventory, as previously indicated during the game's most recent update. Those that have purchased the game through the Humble Store or through Twitch will also find an extra copy in their inventory notifications.

"You've become really adept Nuclear Throne players, and we want to call upon you for your help," said Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail. "We need new players, people that are great players, that would love Nuclear Throne, and we need them to be part of our community. We're sure you know somebody like that, and if you do, we want to ask you to invite them to the Nuclear Throne community. We need fresh eyes on the game, people that will still get decimated by Big Bandit and that will complain about the ravens in the scrapyard. We need to know how they feel about Nuclear Throne, and we need your help to reach them."

Nuclear Throne is expected to release some time in 2015 on PC with a PS4 version also on the way. The game is currently available through Steam Early Access.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

It's been quite a year for Shacknews. We began 2014 facing the prospect of new ownership. No one knew quite what to expect from the changing of the guard, but that also means that we didn't anticipate just how well it has turned out. 

Shacknews has grown, both in staff and in scope. What was a small team of roughly five members has grown into well over a dozen, complete with a dedicated video team, social media manager, and Web designers. The combined effort has led to two redesigns, along with Shack Lab, a product blog meant to keep our most loyal Chatty users informed about changes coming to the site. Throughout the process we've been listening to our community and incorporating changes to assure the smoothest browsing experience.

The expansion has also meant more content types, and more output of the kinds of content you've seen at Shacknews for years. Our larger staff has been able to produce more features and reviews, new original video features like 8-Bit Cuisine and the Shack Snack, strategy guides, a weekly podcast, and roundtable discussions of new releases and current gaming controversies. We've also expanded our focus, with an increased emphasis on gaming tech as an integral part of forward-facing video game coverage. 

We hope you've enjoyed the changes in 2014 as much as we have. We already have exciting plans in the works for next year, and we can't wait to get started. 

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Stellar track design and gorgeous art makes Mario Kart 8 a surefire party hit and earns it a place in our favorite games of this year.

It's easy enough to pass this off as yet another franchise entry. The "eight" in its title already reaches well past the point that most franchises would abandon numbers and start using subtitles. While Mario Kart 8 certainly does owe large swaths of its identity to the games that came before it, Nintendo gave it the care it deserved to make it a standout hit. The racers are a large and diverse blend of Mario favorites. The tracks are by-and-large among the best of the entire series to date, perfectly taking advantage of the physics and new anti-gravity mechanic. The art style is vibrant and colorful, and even stacks up favorably with more dark-and-dour games on more powerful consoles. Nintendo consistently shows that a little art design can go a long way.

Nintendo is also starting to dip a toe into downloadable content recently, which hints at an exciting direction for the series. With the addition of characters and karts from series like The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, and Metroid, Mario Kart is becoming more like Smash Bros--a celebration of all things Nintendo. Wii U has struggled this year, but with games like Mario Kart 8 on the platform, console owners should be happy that they're getting some of the best Nintendo has to offer.

More Game of the Year Coverage: 

Shacknews - John Gaudiosi

Gameloft has taken a detour with the driving gameplay experience of its latest Asphalt racing game. Asphalt Overdrive combines a retro Miami Vice atmosphere, including the Italian super cars that Crockett and Tubbs drove, with the latest mobile technology from Nvidia. Gameloft Vice President of Product Management Mo Versi explains what’s in store for Android gamers in this exclusive interview.

What were your goals heading into this game?

Our goal with Asphalt Overdrive is to offer our players a mission based arcade driving game, playable on the go. It is set in a “new ‘80s” Southern California and has a unique atmosphere thanks to its graphics, music, and selection of iconic licensed cars such as the Ferrari Testarossa and Lamborghini Countach.

What’s the storyline in this mobile game world?

In Asphalt Overdrive, you play as a character who’s been betrayed by his girlfriend and old partners in crime, and will start an adventure to get his revenge.

Can you talk about the gaming experience and how it utilizes tablets like Nvidia Shield Tablet and smartphone functionality?

We are taking the full power of the K1 GPU on the Nvidia Shield Tablet, providing a high graphic profile on those devices in Asphalt Overdrive.

What does your game brings new to the genre?

Asphalt Overdrive offers the production value of the Asphalt franchise with beautiful 3D graphics and prestigious licensed cars, but proposes a brand new arcade experience with original gameplay that is playable in short sessions. The player progresses through six different types of missions where he will have to perform stunts, fight against bosses, escape the cops, and much more.

How do you feel you're pushing things forward with this game?

In addition to providing a unique gameplay and atmosphere, our production team pushed the technologic aspects forward working on high quality cars materials with advanced reflection, GPU particle effects, post effects, HDR, light shafts and more!

How have you worked with Nvidia on your game?

We haven't worked with Nvidia directly on this title, but we used the tools they provide for the Nvidia Shield Tablet during development.

What have they provided in terms of tech that has helped with development?

We used the Android development tools (TADP) provided by Nvidia to optimize Asphalt Overdrive on Nvidia devices, and push their capabilities to the limits of those devices.

How does your game make use of the latest Tegra K1 technology?

For each game, we have different performance profiles in order to adapt to the different hardware. We are pushing a high profile on K1 enabled devices, as they are powerful enough to support the graphics experience.

How does this impact the gameplay experience across the platforms you’re targeting?

Each device will select its best performance profile, to provide a stable and enjoyable experience.

What are your thoughts on Nvidia Tegra K1 technology?

It is one of the most powerful GPUs on the market. That's the reason why we can push top graphics profiles for games like Asphalt Overdrive.

What do you see that opening up for game developers moving forward?

It supports Gameloft’s strategy to continue offering various games with high quality graphics and experiences for our users.

How do you see Android TV opening up new opportunities for game developers?

Android TV opens up the living room space to mobile game publishers and it is a very exciting opportunity. Users will be able to seamlessly transition from mobile to TV, always being able to play the games they love. We are very proud to bring some of our most successful games to this new ecosystem.

What are your thoughts on the Nvidia Shield and Shield Tablet?

Both devices offer a very compelling experience to users who are looking for high performance devices to play their games. Users will be able to enjoy an immersive experience with games such as Modern Combat 5.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

It appears there are some new Mortal Kombat X details to send everyone into 2015. Though Netherrealm isn't issuing any new trailers, it does appear that the studio released some information to Finnish magazine Pelaaja. The forum-goers at Test Your Might have browsed through this interview and picked up some key story points, as well as an unrevealed character.

The article confirms that Kung Lao will be making his return to Mortal Kombat X. This is somewhat curious, especially for anyone that played through the previous Mortal Kombat's Story Mode. It remains to be seen whether this is the same character or whether it's a new descendant bearing the same name. However, Test Your Might does lay out some of what to expect from everyone's favorite hat-wielder.

"The differences between Kung Lao's Tempest-, Buzz Saw- and Hat Trick- variations happen to be the biggest ones yet. With Tempest Kung Lao uses more spinning attacks and has the ability to set his hat to spin around him as a shield of sorts. In his Buzz Saw variation his hat is sharpened with razor blade edges and allows the player to control his hat throws more. Hat Trick is the most experimental of the three, because you can throw and call back your hat at any point you want. This keeps the opponent on their toes, because the hat can extend combos."

While Pelaaja was not allowed time with the new Story Mode, the publication was able to surmise some of the notable narrative points. Kotal Khan, descendant of the emperor, looks to be ruling Outworld, as the fight against the resistance led by Cassie Cage (daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade) rages on, just as it did 25 years ago. Meanwhile, Scorpion's eternal battle has taken a twist, as it appears that a new ninja warrior will have taken the Sub Zero mantle.

Look for more Mortal Kombat X details to be revealed in the coming months.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

With 2015 coming to a close, Sony has offered a look at January's PlayStation Plus lineup. Teased by the PlayStation Blog in Europe yesterday, the lineup was confirmed today for North America.

The list of freebies, as indicated by PlayStation.Blog, includes the standalone expansion Infamous: First Light. This is Fetch's tale that leads to her role in Infamous: Second Son, allowing players to master a whole new round of powers.

Those that own either PS4, PS3, or Vita can pick up the indie platformer, The Swapper. This is the claymation-driven game that requires players to create clones to move forward along a sci-fi world. Meanwhile, PS3 owners can grab Prototype 2, DuckTales Remastered, and Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition (also on Vita). Finally, Vita owners can grab Woah Dave!, the retro-styled arcade game from Choice Provisions (a.k.a. the former Gaijin Games, makers of the BIT.TRIP series).

All of these games become available to PlayStation Plus users on January 6. For the full recap, check out the video below.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

2014 was a year of transition for Microsoft, and a large part of that was distancing itself from decisions that had left a bad taste in gamers' mouths the previous year. This actually began the year prior, when Microsoft quickly reversed course on its DRM plans, but the trend continued well into this year as well. Starting with Phil Spencer taking the lead as head of Xbox in March, we saw a dramatic shift in policies, particularly those revolving around Xbox One.

In May, the company announced a Kinect-free version of the console, reducing its price to a lean $399 that made it more competitive with Sony's PlayStation 4. This came alongside the announcement that, as in Sony devices, entertainment apps were finally going to be untethered from Gold subscriptions--a move that forced Microsoft to offer partial refunds for users who had purchased Gold for that purpose. Xbox One got an even bigger price drop for the holidays. Microsoft also more aggressively began courting third-parties, most notably with a timed exclusivity deal for Rise of the Tomb Raider. It opened up its wallet for a big acquisition by purchasing Minecraft

Spencer himself was front and center on many of these announcements, becoming the most visible spokesman for the Xbox brand under his watch. These moves have slowly paid off. We quickly heard that Xbox One sales picked up without Kinect, and the most recent holiday price drop boosted the console to be the top-seller in November. We'll know soon enough if that trend continued through December.

Not all of Microsoft's gaming news was centered around its new console, though. Spencer also made waves by recommitting the company to focus on putting core franchises on PC. Elsewhere in the company, Satya Nadella was named CEO upon the retirement of Steve Ballmer, with prior CEO Bill Gates taking on an advisory role.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

As more indie developers reach adulthood, games with retro themes and graphics are becoming more commonplace. To call Shovel Knight just another retro throwback would do this game a complete disservice. It's one thing to replicate the look of an old-school game, but it's another to completely capture the atmosphere.

After playing through Shovel Knight, the signs of brilliance were there. The level design was nearly flawless, the 8-bit worlds were captivating, and the challenge was definitely there. Developer Yacht Club Games understood the appeal of a true challenge and Shovel Knight managed to offer it in spades. Jumps were tough as nails, bosses had crazy attack patterns, and many of the obstacles were genuinely clever. The game offers an intense challenge, but it also offers a fair one. While I was ready to toss my controller at the wall at several points, I never felt like Shovel Knight was unfairly designed, especially with a modern checkpoint system. There was a lot of death in Shovel Knight, but there was also persistance. Eventually, there was triumph.

After making it through the story, meeting all of the fun characters, mastering every tricky jump, upgrading the hero's armor and attacks, finding every hidden ability, and even playing with a handful of the cheats, the realization begins to sink in. Shovel Knight is more than a good retro game that would have fit in perfectly with the NES era of cartridges. It's just a fantastic game, period, and one that can stand proudly as one of the best of this year.

More Game of the Year Coverage: 

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Comedy Central’s South Park is no stranger to video games. Not only has the show made numerous references to gaming during its lengthy cable run, but it was also licensed for a number of games throughout the years. We first saw South Park on the Nintendo 64 in 1998, and since then, there have been a total of five games dedicated to the little mountain town, which have usually received mixed reviews. This year, South Park: The Stick of Truth changed what we perceive a South Park game could be. Not only did it have an expectedly outrageous storyline, but it also had a number of fun side quests, fantastic voice acting, and poked fun at the absurdity of social media.

South Park: The Stick of Truth starts simple enough. You play as the new kid in town as you and your family have moved to South Park for reasons made unknown at the start of the game. While your family is unpacking, you’re instructed to go out and make friends, and after a short walk, you meet Butters. Butters invites you over to Cartman’s house, and that’s when the game takes its players on an unforgettable journey that involves an epic quest for The Stick of Truth.

During your adventure, your character will be passing an unhealthy amount of gas, fighting a wide variety of enemies that include gingers, fetuses, and zombie nazis, and making a lot of friends on Facebook. In fact, making friends on Facebook actually increases the strength of the new kid. You’ll also come across notable celebrities such as Morgan Freeman, Al Gore, and Jesus Christ along the way.

The combat wasn't as deep or complex as most modern-day RPGs considering your party could easily dispose of your enemies in just a few seconds, but there were some bosses that required a bit more strategy than just hitting them with the most powerful attacks in your arsenal. What also held South Park from greatness was its short story as players could complete the game in around 15 hours, which isn’t very long in RPG standards.

Even with its shortcomings, South Park: The Stick of Truth kept us entertained for hours on end as it’s presented like yet another episode of the popular television show. And if you’re a fan of the show, then you owe yourself to check out the game as we have a feeling you’ll be laughing from start to finish.

More Game of the Year Coverage: 

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Comedy Central’s South Park is no stranger to video games. Not only has the show made numerous references to gaming during its lengthy cable run, but it was also licensed for a number of games throughout the years. We first saw South Park on the Nintendo 64 in 1998, and since then, there have been a total of five games dedicated to the little mountain town, which have usually received mixed reviews. This year, South Park: The Stick of Truth changed what we perceive a South Park game could be. Not only did it have an expectedly outrageous storyline, but it also had a number of fun side quests, fantastic voice acting, and poked fun at the absurdity of social media.

South Park: The Stick of Truth starts simple enough. You play as the new kid in town as you and your family have moved to South Park for reasons made unknown at the start of the game. While your family is unpacking, you’re instructed to go out and make friends, and after a short walk, you meet Butters. Butters invites you over to Cartman’s house, and that’s when the game takes its players on an unforgettable journey that involves an epic quest for The Stick of Truth.

During your adventure, your character will be passing an unhealthy amount of gas, fighting a wide variety of enemies that include gingers, fetuses, and zombie nazis, and making a lot of friends on Facebook. In fact, making friends on Facebook actually increases the strength of the new kid. You’ll also come across notable celebrities such as Morgan Freeman, Al Gore, and Jesus Christ along the way.

The combat wasn't as deep or complex as most modern-day RPGs considering your party could easily dispose of your enemies in just a few seconds, but there were some bosses that required a bit more strategy than just hitting them with the most powerful attacks in your arsenal. What also held South Park from greatness was its short story as players could complete the game in around 15 hours, which isn’t very long in RPG standards.

Even with its shortcomings, South Park: The Stick of Truth kept us entertained for hours on end as it’s presented like yet another episode of the popular television show. And if you’re a fan of the show, then you owe yourself to check out the game as we have a feeling you’ll be laughing from start to finish.

More Game of the Year Coverage: 

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