Rage 2 debuted with a bombastic trailer full of neon color splashes. It was a sign Rage 2 would not look like the first Rage, which was defined by brown horizons.
Avalanche aims to create a variety of visual variations across Rage 2’s world, and that process starts with art concepts. We sat down with Rage 2’s art director Jeremy Miller, who detailed the process for creating Rage 2’s world and why he thinks it has an insanity problem.
“A core part of the Rage world is wasteland cyberpunk. It’s not the cyberpunk world where you go into a desert, it is a post, post-apocalyptic world with a wasteland that is sometimes lush that also has a strong cyberpunk layer.
“Visual variation was core for us, and that is supported within the character factions and every part of the world. I would rather that we have a really beautiful, dynamic world rather than super high fidelity cups, for example.”
“Each faction is full of terrible people. But they're also awesome. You can’t help but kind of like them.”
“Rage doesn’t have a resource problem. It has an insanity problem. The world is filled with stuff. There are computers and computer parts, glass, guns, and cars. If you want to get stuff, there is plenty of it laying around and underground… People have spent years taking all this stuff and hacking it together to get it into working order. So we have this weird leveling of all technology so you’ll see people with holograms and right beside, someone has taken old smart tablet and nailed it to a wall. The world has a lot of resources, but no one knows how to use it all and people are crazy.”
“When the Apophis asteroid hit there was this sense that – as far as everyone was concerned – when they came back up, the world was going to be Mars. The planet was going to be completely barren. There is an element of that sort of spacefaring colonialism worked into the costumes. You can see this subtle NASA vibe in their outfits.”
“One of our key pillars is this is about fun, and that is a huge element of crazy, but if the crazy we create is just depressing and not fun, then it’s not for Rage. It always has to have the horrific quality of, ‘oh my God! This is so awful! Why would they do this? But I can’t help but kind of like them.' That’s the sweet spot for us.”
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It has been over ten years since the first No More Heroes game released, taking players into the strange and murderous land of Santa Destroy from the perspective of the strange and murderous Travis Touchdown. While there has been a sequel to the game, the first title in the series kind of ended an era for both Travis and developer Grasshopper Manufacture. It was the last game that saw Goichi Suda, better known by his penname of Suda51, in the director’s chair and nothing from the studio since has felt quite the same way since.
A decade later, Suda is stepping back up to direct a game again in the form of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes and, after hands-on time with new levels, we can report that it definitely feels like Suda51’s style is back in full force again.
The latest demo for Travis Strikes Again shows new levels for the first time since the game was revealed in an August 2017 Nintendo Direct. Grasshopper has indicated that they want every level in the game to feel different even though the basic framework remains the same. Unlike the previous No More Heroes games with a traditional 3D action game camera, Travis Strikes Again takes a top-down perspective for the majority of its gameplay. To that end, Grasshopper wanted to make each level still feel unique in theme, tone, and mechanics.
The first new level was titled Life is Destroy, which puts Travis into a seemingly cozy suburban neighborhood. The comfortable feelings do not last long, however, as Travis is made aware that a serial killer called the Doppelganger has been active in the suburb. To win the game, Travis must solve the murders, unmask the Doppelganger, and move on to the next work. As Travis travels between houses, a giant glowing skull follows him, causing an instant kill if he touches it. If there is an explanation for the skull, I didn’t get a chance to see it, but I’m hoping it has no explanation.
After investigating a murder scene, Travis is attacked by a monstrous humanoid sheep. The mid-boss charges at you repeatedly and is basically unaffected by anything you do, serving as a pretty strong tutorial for learning how to use your skills. By holding the left bumper and combining it with a face button, Travis can skills that the player has earned and put in slots. These skills are found around the game world in the form of Skill Chips and can drastically alter how well you proceed through fights.
One skill was a time bomb that can be shot out to stick to enemies. By using this on the monster sheep, I could take advantage of his calmer moments to stick a bomb to him and then run away when he got more aggressive, giving me time to let the skill cooldown. Skills also become important when playing in co-op, as synergy between the two players in their skillsets mattered a great deal. Travis had a skill that called in an airstrike, but took a few seconds to fully charge and was interruptible during that time. Badman, Travis’ unwilling partner in the game world, had equipped a skill that slowed enemies to a crawl, making communication between the two important on which skills to use when.
The second level was titled Golden Dragon GP, named after a VR game within the game world itself. Travis is convinced to put a VR headset on and enter a Tron-like world of wireframes, orange beams of light, and death racing. In the races, players must max out to the top speed of their current gear and then shift gears by navigating a path to the next gear. Sometimes they’ll be in a normal order, sometimes they’ll occur in random orders or be branches off in strange directions. The first few races are implausibly easy, but the first boss leaves you in his dust.
Travis is then persuaded to search for better parts, which provides the next action sequence. I had been playing single-player up until this point, but adding a co-op partner is quick and easy and can be done at any time, whether you’re wandering around the game world or fighting a boss. Badman joined Travis to help him tear through a few dozen enemies as the two searched a Japanese-looking mansion for a Golden Dragon GP part.
As Travis and Badman strike enemies, they lose power in their weapons, just like in the original No More Heroes games. In the Wii titles, Travis had to shake the controller up and down to recharge. That functionality is retained here, by holding in the left analog stick and shaking the controller, Travis regains beam saber functionality in pips. This can be done with any of the game’s supported controllers, like the joycons, dual-joycons, Pro controller, or handheld mode. Thankfully, aside from the single-joycon option, all other controllers let you just press in the left analog stick and then oscillate the right analog up and down to charge. It’s quite a bit more consistent, especially in the heat of battle.
While I wish I could have played more about Travis Strikes Again, a lot of my initial concerns about it have fallen to the wayside. The dialogue is undeniably Suda and not the emulation of it that felt flat in previous Grasshopper games. No one would, or should, confuse Travis Strikes Again with earlier No More Heroes games, but it seems to have that feeling of abstract punk that I have been missing, even if the titular character is wearing an Unreal Engine logo on his t-shirt.
Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo have revealed two more returning characters to Dead or Alive 6, veterans Brad and Eliot. Brad is mostly unchanged from his previous incarnations, utilizing his drunken master style once again. Eliot also seems to be the same as the previous game, but has a jazzy new outfit.
You can check out the character trailer for both below.
The pair are fighting on a new stage titled Unforgettable, which pieces together parts from a number of old DOA stages on a film set. You can see the stairs from Helena's stage, outside the casino, the war zone, and more. It seems to be a greatest hits of DOA stages past.
Dead or Alive 6 releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on February 15.
Painting Gris as a beautiful adventure is almost too obvious. Even amid the crumbling ruins that hint at better days, every element of this platformer emphasizes its undeniable loveliness. From the wide-angle shots and the ethereal music to the delicate way in which you glide gracefully to a far-off platform, Gris is enrapturing in ways that make it hard to walk away from. Though it takes a mere four hours to reach the ending credits, the time spent with Gris is so captivating that it would have felt greedy to stay with it any longer.
In Gris, a young woman finds herself alone in a desolate world. Ruined buildings and broken pillars dominate the landscape, remnants from a lost civilization. Without saying a word, the woman exudes loneliness, moving forward only to fulfill the aching sense of longing that is now her only companion. The feeling of loss is palpable. You wander through a palace that could tumble with one strong gust of wind. Cracked statues lay before you, all of women. Some stand in poses of power, others of thoughtfulness, but all are only relics of what used to be. Savor the sight because the statues, the buildings, the pillars could all be turned to dust when you return.
Your goal is to obtain fragments of light that complete constellations, allowing you to reach other areas. But the dreamy flow through locations is so subtle that it rarely feels as if you’re completing specific tasks. Rather, you guide the young woman down slopes, across balconies, and through ruins because the call to see what wonders await is impossible to resist. For much of the game, I felt lost as I glided across the serene landscapes, unaware of where I was going but curious to see what lay just outside of my vision. Being lost in Gris is different from other games, though. Whenever I wondered if I was going in the right direction, I wandered into a new location just as beautiful as where I had been, and I set off to wherever it felt like I was being led.
As I drifted through Gris’ world, I collected the odd light fragment, but it never felt like the point of my movement--I just wanted to see where the path led me, and I solved puzzles to reach the fragments along the way. These puzzles are not mind-teasers that demand careful concentration or daring trial-and-error obstacles. Rather, you need only figure out how your given abilities work in a specific area to continue onward undeterred. In the beginning, for instance, I had to learn that I could walk up staircases I thought were only in the background. A little puzzle, yes, but one that brings joy when you realize how simple and delightful the solution is.
Later sections have blocks that appear when a light shines upon them or a wintery wind that casts statues of ice in your image, but none of the puzzles are presented in such a way as to stymie a player. Gris is a game in which its lack of challenge is a positive quality because any frustrating section would have derailed the feeling of peace and serenity that it builds so wondrously as you progress. There’s no combat or death to break you from this trance, just pure pleasure throughout. I wanted to explore this world, to see breathtaking sights and soak in the melancholic score, and Gris welcomed this feeling instead of hiding its charms behind tests of skill.
Despite the ease of the puzzles, there are genuine surprises in how you navigate the world. I gasped when I realized a rippling block wasn’t as solid as I had assumed and there’s a perspective-flipping section that made me laugh with joy. The magic of Gris is that it encompasses the varied move set you’d expect in a more demanding platformer, without expecting impressive feats of dexterity to progress. Instead, it introduces all those navigational twists to draw you ever deeper into this fascinating world. Because of its many surprises, it’s the rare game where I wish I could have my memory erased, to play it once more from the beginning, because few games contain surprises that were so affected.
Gris is joyful and sad, a beautiful ruin, contradictions that make these experiences so exciting. The surprises that lay hidden are not plot twists or unlockable goodies but rather moments when the mechanics perfectly complement the aesthetics. Every element is used to engage your sense of awe. Gris is beautiful, yes, but it uses that beauty like a surgical knife. As you climb to the top of a pyramid, with the sun growing ever brighter and the stars beckoning, it knows to pull back the camera, to show how small you stand against the majesty of the universe.
Don’t dismiss Gris as a game so caught up in its artistic splendor that it forgets what medium it's a part of, though. Strip away the resplendent visual design and enchanting score and Gris would still be enticing because of its sense of movement. The young woman moves with graceful purpose. She’s light on her feet but sure-headed, giving her a weightiness that makes it feel like you’re trying to break free of gravity but can never quite do so. There were sections when I would purposely repeat a series of jumps because it felt so good to skirt against the dreamy sky. New powers are unlocked as you get deeper into the adventure, and all of them add another layer of interactivity that not only expands your horizons but feels good to enact.
Gris understands intrinsically how magical video games can be and continually pushes your imagination until you’re almost bursting with joy. The ways in which it reinvents itself as you gain powers and dive ever deeper into this world is truly special, and just as it knows exactly when to pull back the camera or introduce a new song, it’s keenly aware of when it's time to say goodbye. Like a comet streaking across the sky, Gris is full of wonder and beauty and leaves you with a warm glow in your heart.
Desert Child is a game of modern ambitions and sensibilities wrapped up in a retro aesthetic. It looks like an early-'90s DOS game rendering of a future where humanity has colonized Mars and built a city that feels like a mix between a Cowboy Bebop planet and modern-day Australia. The game's unique look, chilled vibe, and strong concept make for a great first impression, but unfortunately, by the end of it you'll realize that there's not much more to Desert Child than what you got in those opening minutes.
You play as a young man who leaves Earth in the game's opening, looking to conquer Mars' speeder bike circuit and earn enough money to prove himself in an upcoming championship. At the beginning of the game, you choose between four weapons to have mounted on the front of your vehicle, each with a different difficulty rating depending on how useful they are. All races are one-on-one and play out on a 2D plane viewed from a side-on perspective, which is a strange--but also a strangely enjoyable--way to compete. There are a handful of different tracks, all with unique obstacles, and when you start up a race you'll be thrown into one of them at random. While there are obstacles to avoid, winning comes down to using your boost effectively and firing your weapon at TVs planted around the track. Each TV you take out gives you a speed boost, and to maintain your maximum speed you need to consistently destroy the televisions on the track before your opponent does.
The first few times you race in Desert Child, it's thrilling. Your hoverbike controls well--it's floaty and fast but precise--and blasting away at everything in front of you and timing your boosts well is fun. The game captures the inherent excitement of hoverbike racing, but once it becomes clear that every race is going to be more-or-less the same, that excitement dulls considerably. You can't switch guns mid-game, the tracks all play very similarly, and the only real difference between opponents is that the very last one in the game is more difficult to beat than the others. I couldn't highlight a uniquely cool moment from any of the races I took part in across two playthroughs of the game, or a race where the game showed off a new trick or idea.
Desert Child also has the thin veneer of an RPG system. You spend much of the game's short running time wandering around a Martian city, exploring and poking at its different stores, NPCs, and the odd jobs it offers. There are only a handful of different environments for your unnamed protagonist to mosey through, and while they're lovely to look at the first few times, the game's small scale begins to feel limiting when you realize that the game world never changes in any significant way. After each race or job you take, the day progresses, and while some NPCs shift around and store stocks change, Mars very quickly starts to feel small and static.
Your major objective is to raise $10,000 for a tournament while keeping yourself well fed, your bike in good working order, and not attracting the law by taking on too many dodgy missions in the nightlife district. The goal seems to be to capture some of the tedium of life in this town--there's a lot of walking around, visiting ramen stores, and switching between odd jobs. Some of these jobs are fun, but generally only for the first few times that you play them. For example, you can work as a pizza delivery person, riding a bicycle through one of the game's tracks while shooting pizza boxes at people; you can herd kangaroos, which involves following a group of them through a field and maneuvering your hoverbike behind any slackers so that they don't drop away from the pack; you can enter and intentionally lose a race for the local crime boss.
There are a few different minigames like this, but ultimately none of them really offers anything that feels like a meaningful twist on the existing racing (with the possible exception of the "hacking" minigame, in which you're attacked by floating Windows logos and marble busts--I could not figure out this job's victory conditions). Once you've quickly seen everything Mars has to offer, and especially once you've bought the game's entire soundtrack from the record shop (which is worth doing, because the music is great), there's nothing exciting to find or unlock.
There are a lot of references in Desert Child that will hit harder with an Australian audience. There's a bridge dedicated to the welfare program Centrelink, complete with a job board that you can access different tasks from; the constant casual profanity is very Aussie; and there are little nods to local cultural touchstones dotted around Mars. The "Bring Back Tim Tams" graffiti might not hold the same appeal for all players, but it made me smile.
Before long, your focus will shift to saving up for the tournament, which boils down to racing and completing tasks over and over while storing your earnings in your bank to accrue interest. It's an uninteresting progression model, and the tournament itself is unexciting--you race three times, and if you lose any of them you must start again. You earn huge amounts of money even if you lose the first two races, which lets you buy all your hoverbike's potential upgrades and make things a bit easier on yourself. Winning the third race promptly ends the game, even though, narratively and mechanically, it really feels like things are just getting started.
Desert Child exhibits a number of smaller issues, too. While the numerous misspellings feel like they could plausibly be an intentional part of the game's aesthetic, the lack of a pause option during races feels like an oversight, as does the fact that selecting "New Game" from the menu automatically starts up a new game without warning you that all previous data is going to be erased. Sometimes the equipment I'd put on my bike, like a laser sight for my gun, arbitrarily wouldn't work during a race, and I could never figure out why there were TVs scattered around during the pizza delivery game with seemingly no way to destroy them. Problems like this pop up all over Desert Child, and while most of them are minor, they add up.
Desert Child has a wonderful sense of style, and there are moments when it clicks. When you jet across the water on your bike firing a shotgun blast that shatters several televisions in front of you, or when you first start to wrap your head around the aesthetic of Mars, the game briefly, but brightly, shines. But Desert Child doesn't quite hang together, and by the end of its very brief runtime the things that seemed exciting just an hour prior have lost most of their luster. This could be a lovely proof of concept for a bigger game; as it stands, it's hard not to get caught up thinking about all that it could have been.
The phrase “a sinking feeling” describes the way your stomach feels when you descend in a roller coaster or a car crests a steep hill, but it’s something that’s hard to emulate without physically moving. While a lot of games end up being capable of bringing about that feeling, none excel at it quite like Ace Combat, and the newest game in the series makes you feel like you’re actually in the cockpit of a fighter jet.
As a series, Ace Combat has been its own roller coaster in narrative over the years. After a fairly disastrous foray into the real world, the series is returning back into the realms of fictious lands and their fictious wars. The opening CG scene for Ace Combat 7 is narrated by a young girl who, over the course of many years, built a fighter jet with her war veteran grandfather and his friends. She remains an ancillary fixture of the story, adjacent to a number of the big events and skirmishes breaking out during the war between the Osean and Erusean armies, serving more as your R2D2 than your Luke Skywalker.
The first mission takes the training wheels off the moment you go wheels up, tasking you with the main goals of your gameplay: shoot things and don’t crash. After being told that there are enemy fighters and bombers in the area, your squad dispatches to a nearby island to get a practical lesson in locking on to enemies and shooting missiles at them. After the mission ends, a cutscene explains that Erusean forces placed drones in shipping containers sent to Osea and remotely activated them to attack, which seems like a pretty good plan.
The second mission has your fighter taking on those drones, jets with the ability to make pinpoint turns into the foggy clouds above. Dogfighting with these enemies as you do your best to dip in and out of the clouds to avoid icing up and finding yourself face-to-face with the ground as you struggle to pull up and not crash straight into the soil is an actually indescribable feeling and feels fresh every single time it happens, which is a lot because I’m a bad pilot.
The VR missions might be the real star of the show, however, and are genuinely impressive. The side missions put players back in the role of Mobius 1, the hero of Ace Combat 4 and general mythological hero of Erusea. The venerated tones with which characters speak about you is probably the second biggest thrill in the game behind the emetic quality of doing loops to dodge missiles in VR. While it is only a side mode, it could stand as proof of concept of how well VR dogfighting can work in general.
We also got a chance to try multiplayer, a point-based online match that puts six planes in a 3v3 fight. Enemies take a lot longer to kill in this mode, so you go for inching you way up with bullets and the occasional missile. At the end of each round, you’re given accolades depending on what you excelled at or failed spectacularly at, such as “Avoided the greatest number of missiles using cloud-cover” or “Fired the most missed shots.”
As someone who has dabbed in Ace Combat before but rarely dove in head-first, I came away from the demo excited to play more, especially with a PSVR in tow. It will also be interesting to see how the fanbase takes to the new game’s narrative hooks and the return to what people liked about Ace Combat in the first place.
Ace Combat 7 releases for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 18, then on February 1 on PC.
It's difficult to talk about Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom without discussing Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap and its 2017 remake, because despite being produced by an entirely different development team, this game is, in fact, an official successor in the Wonder Boy series. But even though its history might be confusing, Monster Boy is a fantastic adventure in its own right, one that distinctly builds upon the best parts of Wonder Boy and adds some welcome modern conveniences for good measure.
You play as Jin, a blue-haired young man who must stop his drunk uncle Nabu from inflicting curses upon the kingdom's inhabitants and transforming them into animals. Unfortunately, the plot doesn't really expand beyond that initial premise. With the exception of some moments of levity provided by the cast of interesting supporting characters, the story is uninspired and concludes on a final act that feels shoehorned. But where Monster Boy's narrative lacks in imagination, it more than makes up for it with its well-honed character transformation mechanic.
Over the course of the game, Jin unlocks an arsenal of equipment and gains five animal transformations--pig, snake, frog, lion, and dragon--each of whom has their own unique abilities. Jin's human, frog, lion, and dragon forms are also able to equip a variety of weapons, shields, and armor, all of which can be upgraded. Equipping items unlocks new abilities--one type of boots allow you to walk on clouds, while another allows you to double jump, for instance. Quickly swapping between all these different forms to take advantage of their strengths adds a continually enjoyable layer of thought to the platforming experience, and its strengths are regularly showcased by Monster Boy's excellent puzzle design.
You're eased into each new animal form and piece of equipment with some basic obstacles and enemies before being set loose to explore the titular Cursed Kingdom. Puzzles scattered throughout require some thought; on several occasions, you'll be forced to combine the use of several different powers and abilities in creative ways in order to progress forward or reach a treasure. It might be juggling two different animal forms, using particular equipment abilities, or taking advantage of environmental items, and when you eventually figure out how to get there, it always feels rewarding. Puzzles become increasingly complex, the variety of enemies becomes tougher, and the platforming sections feature additional obstacles that require more precise timing as you progress, but the growing challenges are balanced out well by a forgiving number of checkpoints, which help you keep motivated to give things another try.
While the game is primarily linear, the Cursed Kingdom itself is enormous and features several different secret-filled areas (discovering everything will likely blow out your playtime to roughly 15-20 hours), and the variety of puzzles and charming locations that you find in far corners of the world are themselves an attractive incentive to reach. The experience is doubly rewarding when you unearth new paths while revisiting a previously-discovered area armed with a bigger arsenal of animal forms and skills, and Monster Boy even implements a teleportation mechanic to alleviate frustrations of excessive backtracking.
Monster Boy also boasts a brilliant visual and audio presentation that makes the Wonder Boy aesthetic shine, featuring a meticulously detailed hand-drawn art style. Each character is beautifully realized with their own delightful animation--little details, like the pig's sheepish look as he farts after eating a power-up plant or the frog eyeballing some flies as part of his idle animation, adds volumes to Jin's characterization and the game's charm. Every area of the Cursed Kingdom is also visually distinct and beautifully animated, and a couple of superb anime-style sequences that bookend the game help give it a slick, cohesive feel. The game's strong soundtrack helps round out the package and features both original pieces influenced by Wonder Boy's soundtrack, combined with new, rock-influenced arrangements of Wonder Boy's most memorable tunes, making it a great collection of music both new and old.
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom not only pays faithful homage to Wonder Boy, particularly The Dragon's Trap, but by refining the solid foundations of its spiritual predecessors with modern affordances, it becomes a rich platforming adventure in its own right. With a well-realized world filled to the brim with secrets and excellent platforming mechanics that always keeps things interesting, the Cursed Kingdom is a place you will want to discover every corner of.
Bandai Namco has announced that their newest Tales of game, a mobile title named Tales of Crestoria, will be coming stateside in 2019. While not quite dubbed the next mainline or flagship Tales of game, Crestoria has all the resources of one and will be releasing in 2019 on iOS and Android.
"Tales of Crestoria takes place in an oppressive dystopia where every citizen must carry with them an all-seeing 'Vision Orb' that monitors for criminal violations," Bandai Namco writes. "The game follows protagonists Kanata, a naive boy blindly accepting of to the Vision Orbs’ justice, and Misella, an audacious orphan unbridled in her dedication to defending Kanata. Due to the horrific events of one fateful night, the duo find themselves branded “Transgressors”, and condemned to death by society’s popular vote—the draconian system of justice by which their world is governed. With eyes now opened to the injustices of society, a chance meeting with Vicious, “The Great Transgressor,” gives Kanata and Misella a defining choice: Own your fate, or let fate own you."
To celebrate, Bandai Namco has released a concept movie to show off the themes of that description in a fairly cool artstyle Check it out below.
Like most recent Tales of games, the title will be a collaboration between artists Mutsumi Inomata and Kosuke Fujishima.
Despite Bandai Namco traditionally releasing one mainline Tales of game a year, they have slowed down considerably in the last few years, not releasing a new title since 2016's Tales of Berseria. Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition, a remaster of the decade-old classic with additional content for English-speaking players, will see release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on January 11.
Capcom has made a few announcements about the future of Monster Hunter: World, including a new expansion, Iceborne, which comes out next fall.
Iceborne brings with it new quest ranks, monsters, and more – all within its own story that takes place after the base game.
Early next year, however, hunters will be able to play as Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, featuring his own quests and gameplay.
In other Monster Hunter news, to celebrate the game's one-year anniversary, in January there is an Appreciation Fest, including a newly decorated gathering hub and special quests.
Before then, starting tomorrow (4 p.m. PST), a free trial (PS4, Xbox One) of the base game is available to those who haven't played it through December 17 (3:59 p.m. PST), and if you decide to buy the game outright, your progress transfers to the main title.
Finally, the Kulve Taroth Siege special event quest returns on December 20, featuring an Arch Tempered version of the monster as well as more powerful rewards.