Quake Champions reveal trailer

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Prey reboot announced

At their E3 2016 press conference, Bethesda surprised fans by bringing Arkane Studios on stage to announce a brand new project:  Prey.  Fans were disappointed when the previously announced Prey 2 was canned after the surprisingly attractive game made a huge splash at E3 2011.  The new game appears to be a complete reboot of the franchise with little or no connection to the original.  Little else beyond the cinematic trailer has been revealed about the game at this time, though it is scheduled for release sometime in 2017 and will be available on PC and current-gen consoles.

Telltale’s Walking Dead Season 3 trailer

Telltale Games has released an in-engine trailer for the upcoming third season of their The Walking Dead series of games.  The game will be set a few years after Season 2, and Clementine is confirmed to be returning.  Players with saves for the first two seasons will find the decisions they made have an impact on the story in Season 3.  Along with Clementine, players will be taking control of a new character, Javier, who is described on the Telltale blog as “a fellow survivor who has been through hell, and has managed to remain alive as long as Clem.”  Little else was revealed about the game, but it is expected to be released this fall.

Warcraft movie review

Videogame films have a long history of being among some of the worst films ever made.  Not from a lack of solid source material, but the execution has always proved lacking.  Early reviews of this summer’s Warcraft movie seemed to indicate that would be the case, yet again, with the first live action adaptation of one of the biggest franchises in the realm of PC gaming.  Early box office numbers seem to suggest otherwise.

The film thrusts viewers into the dying world of Draenor – the Orc homeworld.  We don’t know why it’s dying, but things are grim for this tribal race of warriors.  Hope for the Orcs lies beyond a portal into a new world.  To open and sustain this portal, the Orcish shaman Gul’dan harnesses the power of a mysterious magic known as “the fel.”  It’s a dark magic fueled by death, and a major driving force in the film’s plot.  The amount of energy required to open this portal is immense as Gul’dan harvests the life force of thousands of captives to lead an invading force into this new world, Azeroth.

As a relative newcomer to the lore of Warcraft, having only played one of the original games and less than 20 hours of World of Warcraft, I expected to be lost going into this film.  From the early reviews, it seemed like this was going to be a tale that would only make sense for viewers with a background in the established mythos of Warcraft.  However, I found this assumption to be hugely inaccurate.  While there were moments early in the narrative that felt confusing, the exposition, both from character dialogue and situational context, helped to weave those threads into a coherent plot that was genuinely enjoyable.

The basic premise of the film is rather simple:  a warrior race is moving to a new home, but the natives there don’t take too kindly to that invasion – especially since those invaders are working hard to kill everything in their path.  The way it progresses and the subtle intricacies peppered in the story’s intertwining subplots elevate the basic foundation of the plot and creates an entire world rich with fantasy lore and memorable characters.  It’s not as straightforward as a brutish horde encroaching on a civilized world.  There’s internal conflict from within the tribe as some Orcs begin to question if what Gul’dan is doing is right for the Orcs, or if he’s leading them down a destructive path that blasphemes their heritage and traditions.  The trailers for the film hint at unlikely alliances being formed as a result of these internal conflicts, but when these events take place in the film, the payoff is grand.  It not only sets up one of the best action scenes in the movie, but also unveils new mysteries that send viewers off to fantastic new locations as the players in the Alliance try to stop the rest of the devastating Horde from breaking through from Draenor and destroying the world of Azeroth.

While I can’t say that there’s anything particularly outstanding about the plot – nothing life-changing or deeply impactful – the story manages to be entertaining for the film’s 2-hour runtime.  The fantasy lore is deep and intriguing.  It doesn’t ease viewers in, necessarily, but it does a great job during the 120 minutes you’re in Azeroth to get you caught up.  It doesn’t go out of its way to remind viewers with callbacks or reiterating plot points; instead, exposition in this world feels natural with characters expecting their associates to remember a previous plot point without having to repeat it.  Some viewers may suffer during a first viewing, but the end result feels more organic than hearing a rehash of dialogues and ideas.

The world of Azeroth is a fantastical one filled with numerous fantasy races, powerful mages, devastating warriors, and fearsome Orcs.  The characters in the world are natural in this fantasy realm.  The dialogue is a blend of pseudo old timey expressions melded with contemporary English to give each line a fantasy feel without alienating audiences by being hard to follow.  The only confusion really comes with trying to keep track of characters and locales by name.  As strong as the cast of characters is, the otherworldly nomenclatures are definitely not easy to remember.

Being a fantasy action epic, there’s plenty of fantasy action to be had in Warcraft.  The world is inhabited by formidable warriors and powerful mages.  The Orcs that invade Azeroth are these gigantic, brutish beasts that wield proportionally large weapons.  These massive foes dwarf the humans of the alliance and their prowess of using pure force is downright terrifying when you see them in action.  The combat scenes are as intense as they are entertaining.  Unlike other fantasy films where the heroes are just slightly outmatched in strength by their foes, the Orcs in Warcraft are towering mounds of muscle that can toss a horse without breaking a sweat.  These aren’t end bosses in dungeons, these are the grunts in this army – each one just as powerful as the next.  It’s a genuine blast seeing just how devastating they can be in combat.

It’s not just the war hammers and battle axes that have this devastating impact.  Sorcery is also hugely important in the world of Warcraft.  The previously mentioned “fel” is a terrifying dark magic that feeds on life energy and can be used to bestow or, more appropriately, infect others with this power.  There are a number of spells that make an appearance in the film with each having this startlingly forceful power.  Even a teleport spell feels impressive when the bass reverberates throughout the cinema.

Warcraft is a huge IP.  Millions of gamers are still logging countless hours in World of Warcraft.  The franchise is no stranger to other mediums, and film feels like the next logical step for the brand.  And it’s one that makes sense.  The universe is huge, and the action lends itself well to a summer blockbuster.  Thankfully, the lore is interesting enough to keep the plot moving forward when characters aren’t engaging in combat.  It’s a loud, fun, summer flick that has plenty of depth to keep viewers invested.  While it may not win any awards, it’s certainly entertaining and absolutely worth a watch.

 

Good – 3 / 3

Telltale unveils screens from Batman

Telltale’s Batman game was announced at last year’s The Game Awards in December.  Telltale has arrived prior to the start of this year’s E3 to unveil some screenshots of the upcoming adventure game.  Also revealed is the game’s voice cast which features Troy Baker as The Bat himself.  The list of voices joining Troy Baker in the game’s cast is as follows: Travis Willingham as Harvey Dent, Erin Yvette as Vicki Vale, Enn Reitel as Alfred Pennyworth, Murphy Guyer as Lieutenant James Gordon, Richard McGonagle as Carmine Falcone, and Laura Bailey as Selina Kyle.  Telltale is promising more reveals of characters and cast as the season progresses.

Kevin Bruner, Telltale’s CEO, said the following about their upcoming Batman game:

“We’ve been hard at work at Telltale creating an all-new iteration of the iconic Batman story that puts players in the suit of billionaire Bruce Wayne, just as much as it will put them behind the mask, deciding how to carefully navigate a complex drama, rich with action, crime, corruption, and villainy lurking around every corner of Gotham City. The complex life and fractured psyche of Bruce Wayne has lent itself to becoming a bold evolution of the signature ‘Telltale’ role-playing experience, and we couldn’t be more excited as we prepare to debut the series to players across the world this summer.”

Chester McChexington and the Flemoids of Ooze

Miss our scheduled broadcast of Andrew trying (and failing pretty horribly) to beat Chex Quest on the hardest difficulty?  No worries!  You can catch the replay below.

Doom Review

Doom is synonymous with FPS.  Early games in the genre were dubbed “Doom Clones” and often carried the stigma of never being quite as good as the id-developed shareware hit.  Doom II landed in 1994, just one year after the original, but things would be pretty quiet for the franchise for about a decade after, with Ultimate Doom and Final Doom being the endcaps on the original Doom saga.  Doom 3 brought some new life to the franchise in 2004, focusing more on jump scares and horror elements than just mowing down endless hordes of hellspawn, serving as a reboot to the franchise, but, again, things would go quiet.  There was one expansion, Resurrection of Evil, and several promises of a sequel, but that would never see the light of day.

Fast forward another decade, and enter Doom – no numbers, no subtitles, just DOOM.   Yet another reboot of the franchise, Doom the new brings things back to a more traditional styled action-oriented shooter experience.

The game begins with absolutely no exposition – not unlike starting up the original DOS classic.  You play the voiceless DOOM MARINE and awaken bound to a table and surrounded by grotesque minions of hell.  Evil things need killing and you have the means to do so.  That’s your motivation, and that’s all the exposition you get as the game thrusts you head first into a nonstop killing spree.  There is plenty of story in Doom, though, and you’ll encounter it by way of data logs, infrequent cutscenes, and bits of text on loading screens.  It gives you enough motivation to continue killing (because just shooting ugly bastards may not be enough for modern audiences), but never actually gets in the way of said killing.  It’s a story that does its job to keep you interested for the ten to fifteen hours it’ll probably take you to beat (it took me around 20 on Hurt Me Plenty) but it, thankfully, never takes itself too seriously.

The impressively large single player campaign is composed of 13 huge levels – all of which feature a smattering of secret areas and collectible items.  Progression through the game feels similar to a hybrid of classic Doom and Metroid Prime, with sprawling levels and moderate backtracking to get to the next area after picking up a colored keycard or new ability.  There’s plenty to go back for if you’re a completionist with dozens of well-hidden secrets to test your exploration skills, gameplay challenges for meeting certain requirements in any given level, not to mention just how damned fun the game is.  It’s incredibly replayable.

Gunplay in the new Doom feels absolutely fantastic.  Guns have weight, shots have impact, and, just like the game that spawned the series, there’s no reloading.  You’ve got a number of rounds in your inventory, sure, but you never have to actively reload your guns which have seemingly endless clips.  Ammo is always in abundant supply, as well.  The game never leaves you out to dry and, if you do begin to run low on rounds, you can whip out the powerful chainsaw for a quick, on-demand ammo drop when you rip through a nearby enemy.  To keep things balanced with the chainsaw, which can take down any non-boss enemy with one hit, the weapon runs on fuel and harder enemies will consume more fuel – so a possessed will take one bar of fuel, a revenant will take three, and a mancubus will take five.  As powerful as you feel never having to pause to reload, the game makes sure you never feel too powerful at any given time.  There’s plenty of death to be had in Doom and, depending on your difficulty, you’ll probably get more than your fair share.

Outside the campaign, the game offers a variety of multiplayer modes in addition to a scenario editor called Snap Map.  While the multiplayer modes have received little love from fans and press alike, Snap Map opens up endless possibilities for new gaming experiences.  It’s basically Super Mario Maker with guns.  And demons.  And gobs of goo.  Snap Map is impressive in how much you can do with it – everything from the map layout, enemy placement, items, spawns, and sound effects are up to you.  You can place interactive switches that trigger events in the level, program paths and behaviors for your enemies, set conditions and objectives to win your scenario.  It’s a great, simple to use tool that basically makes you an FPS dungeon master in charge of mini campaign.  The community offerings are hit and miss, to be sure, but there is so much potential with what is possible the Snap Map tools that you can spend countless hours in this game – whether you’re constructing your own scenarios, or playing maps posted by the community.

The resurgence of id’s iconic properties like Wolfenstein and Doom is exciting to me as someone who grew up with those properties for the nostalgic value, but also to see how well the franchises can hold up in these new iterations.  Much like Wolfenstein: The New Order that came before it, Doom is absolutely worth a playthrough.  The multiplayer may leave you wanting, but the campaign and snapmap community should keep you satisfied for, potentially, endless hours.

Good – 3 / 3

No plans for Project Spark on Windows RT

Project-Spark-26

After (finally) getting an invite to Microsoft’s game creation application Project Spark, I was excited to dive in and start creating worlds with my Surface 2 (as it’s the only computer I own with a touch screen).  After encountering an error when trying to download the game from the Windows store, I contacted Microsoft support regarding the error and was informed that Project Spark has only been announced for Windows 8.1, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.  While this is something I’ve known, I assumed that the “Windows 8.1” part of that would include their tablet OS Windows RT – this is not the case.

In response to my query, Microsoft responded with:  “Project Spark beta is currently available only in Windows 8.1.  Eventually, Project Spark will also be on Xbox 360 and Xbox One.  We have not announced any plans for Project Spark on Windows 7 or RT.”  So, there you have it, Surface RT and Surface 2 owners, there are currently no plans for Project Spark on your tablet.

That said, if you’ve received a beta invite for Project Spark, you can still access the game on a Windows 8.1 PC and will be automatically granted access to the Xbox One beta when that rolls out in February.  Microsoft has assured beta participants that a new set of codes will also be sent out to beta participants for the Xbox One beta release in the event that they gave their beta access to another user.