Shacknews - Steve Watts

Hitman: Sniper Challenge and Gyromancer have been added to Square Enix's free-to-play Core Online platform, the company announced today. The ad and subscription-supported platform now boasts six games in all, including Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Tomb Raider Underworld, Hitman: Blood Money, and Mini Ninjas.

Hitman: Sniper Challenge was previously a pre-order bonus for Absolution. Gyromancer is a gem-matching puzzle game.

CoreOnline allows you to play with ads for 20 minutes per day, for free, or pay a $2.99 monthly subscription fee for unlimited access to all of the games with no ads. You could also buy the games individually to escape the ads and get access, of course. You can access the service by clicking here.

Shacknews - John Keefer

The Civilization 5: Brave New World expansion puts new focus on tourism and culture, including a new Cultural victory that lets you besiege other civs with just how cool you are with all the works of your new artists and composers. A new trailer goes into a bit more detail, including how the masterpieces will bring in the tourists.

An interesting aspect of the video talking about the discovery of archaeology mid-game. Players can discover artifacts from events earlier in the game, giving your civilization more culture and increasing tourism.

The expansion, which will also implement a new diplomatic victory system as well, will be out for PC on July 9.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Borderlands 2's second downloadable content character, Krieg the Psycho, is set to release next week. While each of the characters have been nicely differentiated, Gearbox faced a new kind of challenge with this character. How do you create a player character that actually feels like the series' most iconic (and extremely aggressive) enemies?

The answer, naturally, was to push the player towards non-stop manic action.

"One of my core design philosophies with Krieg was, if there's any skill in the game that encourages you to stand behind a rock and not be fighting, we're cutting it. It does not belong in Krieg," creative designer Paul Hellquist told Shacknews. "Everything has to drive the player to stay in combat as much as possible. Again, that's to put the player in the shoes of the guy who has no regard for his own health and safety, and just wants to annihilate everything."

That idea manifests itself across three skill trees. Two of them, Hellborn and Mania, focus on subverting our expectations and turning normally harmful occurrences into helpful ones. Hellborn rewards you for being set on fire, and many of its skills add a small chance of setting yourself on fire in the normal course of combat. Hellquist said savvy players will probably find themselves capitalizing on it more by choosing more fire weapons and abilities that cause fire in the hopes of catching ablaze themselves. Mania, similarly, rewards you for taking damage, especially to your core health. One ability in this tree causes shields to charge slower, which means more health damage and greater rewards.

The third tree, Bloodlust, is much more subtle. Though Hellquist told us that it's meant to be gun-centric, it relies mainly on a stacking mechanic, much like Gaige the Mechromancer. "We really liked some of the stuff that tree did and some of the design space it opened up," Hellquist said. But for Krieg, they made two significant changes. The stacks are based on the amount of damage you do, rather than simply doing any damage at all. More importantly, the stacks themselves decay if you're not fighting, which force Krieg out into the open to constantly grab more kills.

Because of this subtlety, Hellquist expects Krieg to appeal to experimental players. "Krieg is targeted more at players who love to investigate the intricacies of skills and find the best possible build," he said. "This guy more than anybody else, do not be afraid to re-spec. It's a tool at your disposal. I think some players feel like, 'oh, it's a failure if I re-spec, I made that decision.' With this guy, it's not required by any means, but because he's a little bit trickier to find the connections, you might have some missteps before you start to feel it."

Krieg's action ability, which puts a distinct focus on melee, certainly does make you feel like a bloodthirsty psycho. Though I could only explore a little of the Hellborn tree, I found that hitting his action skill and charging towards enemies was immensely satisfying. Melee was always a last-ditch effort in my other character builds, but Krieg made me look forward to charging up my action ability so I could bash at enemies wildly once again.

That wildness does raise the question, though: why does Krieg even care? Gearbox plans to release a short film to explain his connection to Handsome Jack, but his motivation mostly boils down to an element that writer Anthony Burch calls Krieg's "inner hero."

"We came up with this idea of an inner voice for him that sometimes manifests itself in the battle dialogue. There's a really low chance, anytime he says anything, that instead of being crazy, hulked-out angry guy, he has the voice of a sane human being that is basically trapped inside Krieg," Burch told us. "So it's like the 1% of him that's still sane is trying to steer the other 99% that is completely insane to do the right sort of behavior -- by right I mean, kill bandits instead of babies."

The two added that the inner hero apparently realizes it can't stop Krieg, so it just tries to point him in the right direction. More importantly, only the inner hero is even aware that he exists. Krieg is too crazy, and the other Vault Hunters never hear him speak. "Not even Krieg knows [the inner hero exists]," Burch said. "He just hears this buzzing and he's like, 'what the fuck is that?'"

So in a way, the player is the inner hero: wielding a vicious madman like a weapon against the less reputable denizens of Pandora. Krieg may still be a gun-slinging Vault Hunter like the rest, but his skills and story make him a unique, unsettling addition to the cast.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

World of Tanks developer Wargaming has filed an infringement suit against two Chinese companies, in regards to Gamease's "Project Tank." The suit alleges that Project Tank is "an unoriginal and disturbingly similar game directly based on World of Tanks."

Polygon reports that the complaint charges that Project Tank "copied the plot, theme, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, and character of World of Tanks, in addition to copying specific features, items, tanks, and artwork." So essentially, everything.

The complaint is filed against Changyou.com, and Beijing Gamease Age Digital Technology Co., Ltd. Wargaming cited a number of specific similarities, from similar UI layouts to tech trees. It also claims that tank models and textures were copied directly, and even imitated historical inaccuracies and fictional constructs from World of Tanks. Finally, it alleges that a patent for "Dynamic battle session matchmaking in a multiplayer game" has been used. Wargaming is seeking damages and an injunction against continued infringement.

Changyou, in response, claims it feels "truly shocked and bullied" by Wargaming, and says it only aims "to provide a cheaper, fairer, and more accessible war game to players around the world." It also states that Wargaming has "launched a series of underhand [sic] actions against Project Tank, including using their connections to shut down our Facebook page, over PT's purported infringement' of their intellectual property rights."

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The 1997 game Shadow Warrior is primed for a comeback. Flying Wild Hog, developer of Hard Reset, announced the project and an official site shows a teaser image. Hotline Miami publisher Devolver Digital will be releasing the game.

Flying Wild Hog announced the project on Facebook, calling it a "total reimagining" of Shadow Warrior. The official site simply shows a teaser image (above) for the moment. For its part, Devolver Digital has been tweeting about the game in response to fans. Details are scant at the moment, but we'll update as more information becomes available.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Aliens: Colonial Marines has been through the wringer for a variety of reasons, but despite all the bad publicity, the game sold 1.31 million units since it released on February 12, according to Sega's year-end financials.

The report, which covers the year ended March 31, shows the game was one of Sega's best selling titles, with Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed performing slightly better at 1.36 million units sold, followed by Football Manager 2013 and the Olympics tie-in game London 2012.

The game has gone through numerous large patches to improve the game. Sega has had to deal with a lawsuit over its ad campaign for the game, and weathered a debate over why the game was released in such a poor condition.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Bungie has a way with expansive worlds and fiction--just look at the Halo series. So we expected the same from Destiny, and the company has started to show its hand, sharing more details on the world, story, and the three classes.

The official site shares the details. The white orb, called the Traveler, ushered in a golden age for humanity. After expanding throughout the solar system, humans were pushed back by some malevolent force. All that's left now is a single city (simply called "the City") under the shielding of the Traveler.

You'll play as one of three classes, Guardians of the City: Warlocks, Titans, and Hunters. Warlocks tap energy from the Traveler itself, Titans seem like strong brutes, and Hunters are a bit more lean and quick.

Finally, a few of the environments and enemies are outlined. The earth is an overgrown wasteland, the moon is forbidden, and Mars and Venus are both so remote that they're out-of-touch. Enemies come in two flavors, the Fallen and Cabal. The Fallen have a few classes of their own, and seem like an organized group of human scavengers. Cabal are more mysterious, and the site implies that they haven't been seen in quite a while--which probably means they're the more serious threat.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Four and a half years ago, Ubisoft gave a simple, but daunting, mandate to its Montreal studio: make a new IP. And so, the team began work on "Nexus," the codename for what's now known as Watch Dogs.

With the freedom to create whatever they wanted, the team at Ubisoft Montreal flocked to the open world genre. "The two core things we knew from the beginning of our project was we wanted to create a new IP. That was the mandate we got from Ubisoft. And we wanted to be an open-world game because we think that's a great way to start a brand," senior producer Dominic Guay told Shacknews.

Starting with an open world design means that Watch Dogs shares many design cues from other games, namely Grand Theft Auto. And Guay admits that the team looks towards competing games for ideas. "It's true that there's games that have defined certain rules in open world games, and we're looking at all of them and we're influenced by all of them," he said. However, it wasn't long until Montreal discovered the idea that would differentiate Watch Dogs.

The codename Nexus came about because "it's the central part of an inter-connected network." While Ubisoft would have to figure out how that theme would materialize in the game, the team was fascinated by the notion of playing with an always-connected society.

Of course, technology was quite different four years ago, and to the team's surprise, many of their future-focused sci-fi ideas are already becoming reality. "What's funny is that we stretched reality a bit," Guay said. But once the game started to progress, "we started picking up research and articles that were moving in the direction that we aimed for and we said 'wow, reality is catching up to us and it's scary.'"

Even gaming technology has changed quite drastically in the intervening years since Watch Dogs' inception. Although Watch Dogs will launch on PS4, the central DNA of the game is still rooted in the current gen. "We wanted to support those platforms, because we wanted those gamers to play Watch Dogs," Guay said, adding "we're not going to ignore the 30 million people that have current-gen systems."

With its lengthy development time, Watch Dogs spent most of its production within current-gen pipeline. "We guesstimated that there would possibly be new hardware coming out," Guay admitted, which explains why the PC and PS4 versions of the game will undoubtedly run better than the current-gen versions--and why PS3 and Xbox 360 gamers won't necessarily miss out on the core gaming experience.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

When Watch Dogs made its sudden and surprising debut at E3 last year, I couldn't help but be mesmerized by it. It's not often that a game--seemingly as ambitious as this one, at that--can take the entire industry by surprise. What was Watch Dogs?

After seeing 30 minutes of the game in action, I have to admit that much of the mystery is gone. It's very clear what Watch Dogs is: it's Ubisoft's take on Grand Theft Auto, with a magical hacking twist.

To avoid revealing any story spoilers, Ubisoft intentionally avoided starting a story mission. Instead, they decided to have Aiden Pearce free roaming around a digitally recreated Chicago. However, doing so makes it incredibly easy to see the parallels between Watch Dogs and Grand Theft Auto. Just like a Rockstar thug, Aiden can just as easily hop into any car on the street, race around, buy weapons at a dealer, run over pedestrians, and call attention to the police. Watch Dogs even uses a similar five-star rating system to represent the intensity of the chase.

I couldn't help but feel like some of the mysterious charm of Watch Dogs had dissipated as I watched Aiden take cover whilst shooting down thugs, and running over pedestrians as he fled a crime scene.

Granted, that's not the only way you can play Watch Dogs. Ubisoft may be adhering to many of the genre's conventions, but there's enough of a twist to keep things fresh. Hacking opens up a whole new set of powers, making Aiden far more capable than Niko, but with a level of sophistication that Saints Row 4 is intentionally omitting. Aiden's hacking ability is really just wizardry given a technological coat of paint. You can--for one reason or another--interact with nearly everything in the world. For example, you can turn on random vehicles to distract guards. You can open and close any digitally-controlled door. You can take over security cameras and wi-fi hotspots to get a better look at your surroundings. You can even magically spawn new cover points by controlling conveniently located barricades.

Aiden's powers will require the suspension of disbelief--but hey, you're in a video game and he regenerates health. One of the more intriguing uses of Aiden's digital powers is the ability to see quick summaries of every NPC in the world. Not only will you see their occupation and bank account info, you'll also get a snippet of revealing information: has a gambling debt, works at a children's zoo, HIV positive, etc. This profiling will also reveal "potential criminals" and "potential victims," letting you become a city-defending vigilante--if you wish.

Like Infamous, Watch Dogs utilizes a notoriety system that reflects your choices. Although Ubisoft wants to focus on the "moral gray" of Aiden's abilities, it seems like a clear-cut representation of "good" and "bad." For example, running over random pedestrians will lower your reputation, while stopping an in-progress crime will raise it. And while you'll be able to play the game as dirty as you'd like, it's clear that being "good" will have its benefits. In the demo that I saw, a gunshop owner called the cops as a breaking news story on the TV identified Aiden as a suspect in a recent crime. Avoiding notoriety will undoubtedly prevent these hiccups in the future.

While Watch Dogs is an undoubtedly pretty game, especially running on a high-end PC, it's clear to me now that it's absolutely possible on current-gen consoles. The game, at least in single player, doesn't appear as if it will be as revolutionary as I had hoped. Still, Ubisoft's digital Chicago looks like a fun playground to play in, and Watch Dog's world still intrigues me. Add, Watch Dog's still-unrevealed online mode could be a game-changer--transcending Ubisoft's latest from something much more than "GTA with cell phones."

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Final Fantasy X-2 was quite the odd release. Lampooned for its odd title, the game now seems sensible after recent releases from the JRPG publisher. Time makes the heart grow fond, and it appears many fans are now eagerly awaiting the HD re-release of both X and X-2.

It appears the upcoming HD bundle is no quick cash-in, either. Square Enix released the first screenshots from the X-2 remaster, and they look impressive. According to the publisher, not only have the character models been redone, but "the textures of the surrounding environment and backgrounds were also carefully redrawn."

The remaster will be available later this year, bundled with FFX on PS3, and sold separately on Vita.

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