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At a recent press event, I got to play a closed alpha version of Rainbow Six Siege, the same version that will be made available for a limited group of players sometime in the coming weeks. Siege is a first-person shooter in which a team of five players holds a hostage in a small structure and a team of five other players tries to extract the hostage. The teams are also trying to kill each other, naturally, but actual gunplay is usually the last thing that happens in a match, and firefights are usually over very quickly. The core of the game, then, and the part that makes Siege so compelling, is what happens before the bullets start flying.
Let's say you're holed up in the cargo area of a plane with your hostage. You have 45 seconds to set up fortifications to help you survive and keep custody of the hostage during a three minute assault. Where do you start? This is an Air Force One-size jet, so there's a lot of interior space to cover. Barricading doors to slow enemy progress is a good first step, but you also want your allies to be free to set up their own defenses, and closing off doorways limits their mobility. The walls in the room are thin, so it'll be no problem for invaders to shoot or breach their way through. Better get some reinforcing panels up, unless your plan is to shoot out through the walls when the enemy shows up. There are too many points of entry to reinforce them all, so set some deployable cover and gas traps to cover their most likely point of entry, provided your team can agree on where that is. Oh, and by the way, your foes have been scouting your defenses this entire time with remote-controlled drones. Maybe you should've set up that electronic signal jammer before you did any of this?
At any given moment, there are multiple things you could be doing to improve your situation, and that's just the preparation stage. Once the three-minute timer begins and the infiltrators start coming, you have to stand firm behind your defenses or scramble to cover some new contingency that is developing before your eyes. Likewise, the attackers can formulate a plan based on the intel they gather from their drone phase, but who knows where the defenders will actually be waiting?No need to get the door, I'll make my own.
Siege is as much a battle of knowledge as it is a battle of reflexes. Crouching in a corner to check the security camera feed on your tablet can be as valuable as laying down suppressing fire, and both are crucial to victory. Taking time for recon can leave you vulnerable to attack, but the knowledge you gain can give you a significant edge. Deciding when to focus on what is one of the central challenges of Siege matches.
There have been two maps revealed thus far: the house from the E3 demo and the aforementioned airplane (which, by the way, is parked on the tarmac, not mid-flight). Each has three main levels surrounded by exterior and rooftop areas that allow you to reach different entry points. Knowing the map gives you an edge in any competitive shooter, but because of Siege's extensive environmental destructibility, it's absolutely paramount. It's not enough to know where a wall (or a ceiling or a floor) is and what's on the other side. You have to know if it can be shot through, and what the firing lines from the other side might be. If the ceiling starts exploding, you need to know if enemies will be dropping into the room with you or simply shooting through the floorboards. And even when you know the surfaces well, the layout of the map evolves differently in every match as gunfire and explosions obliterate cover and open up new sightlines.
The other big variable from match to match is the individual operators. The final version of Rainbow Six Siege will have 20 unique characters to choose from; the closed alpha version I played only had 10. While the standard choices of primary weapon, secondary weapon, and gadget are available to all, each operator has a specific skill that only they can perform. The attacking characters I saw could breach reinforced walls, smash normal walls with a sledgehammer, disrupt electronics with a grenade, fire a breach charge to destroy walls from a distance, and scout with a small drone armed with a shock weapon. On the defending side, I used an electronic jammer to block the remote activation of breach charges and drones, placed toxic gas traps, used reinforced barricades, laid down extra armor vests for the team, and used a heartbeat sensor to detect enemies through walls and floors.Know your gas maks.
Each of the abilities can tip the scales when applied properly, and each can be countered, if you're prepared. You won't know which of the 10 attackers your five foes have chosen until you or a teammate spots them. The character designs appear to be generic, armored police at first glance, but a closer look reveals quickly recognizable attributes that will allow experienced players to identify their foes on sight (helmets, gas masks, hair, glasses, etcetera). Icons at the top of the screen also signal which operators are in play, once you've scouted them, so you can be on the lookout for, say, a quick hammer breach when you know Sledge has taken the field. With ten choices per side, there are going to be abilities that get left out of each match, making adapting your plan to account your enemies' strengths even more important.
The fast, heated gun battles of Siege are often over as soon as they start because one player has scouted the situation better and is more prepared. Fights are won and lost by intel, and during my first few hours playing the game, I felt like I was slowly filling up a mental almanac of possible tactics and countertactics. With each round, my knowledge base improved as I regularly encountered new situations or new enemy maneuvers. Between each match, my teammates and I quickly shared our stories, identifying where we had gone wrong and scheming about what we could do next round. It was exciting to discover and test out new strategies, and regardless of whether I won or lost, I entered each new match feeling more poised and prepared than before. Rainbow Six Siege is shaping up to be a shooter in which knowledge is as powerful as a quick trigger finger, and perhaps even more rewarding.
Developer Cloud Imperium Games is now selling a new ship for Star Citizen, but you can't fly it right away. Available now through a "Concept Sale" that ends April 6 is the A3G Vanguard, a sleek-looking deep space fighter that features forward-mounted weaponry including four high-caliber laser cannons and a central Gatling gun. This all combines to give the Vanguard an "unprecedented amount of sheer striking power."
The Vanguard costs $250 through April 6, after which its price will go up.
It's not available yet to fly, however. "The ship design meets our specifications, but it is not yet ready to display in your Hangar or to fight in Arena Commander," Cloud Imerpium Games says.
For $250, you get the ship, lifetime insurance, and a pair of decorative items for your Hangar. An upcoming patch for Star Citizen will introduce a Vanguard poster, and when the final model is finished, buyers will also receive an in-game Vanguard mini ship model, the developer said. After April 6, not only will the Vanguard price go up, but buyers will not get these extras.
A full breakdown of Vanguard ship specifications is available at the Star Citizen website.
Microsoft's 343 Industries has published a new blog post that outlines all the changes coming to Xbox One game Halo: The Master Chief Collection through its upcoming April update. March's game update "normalized and improved" matchmaking overall, so in April, 343 is introducing even more features.
April's Halo: The Master Chief Collection update will "address a variety of issues across the game." These include "specific improvements to ranking, new quit and betrayal penalties," and further tweaks in preparation for the ranking system going live for other playlists.
Further information about April's update, including full patch notes, will come later.
343 is also planning more improvements for The Master Chief Collection's various playlists. Specifically, the developer is working on changing team sizes for specific playlists. Some of these changes have already been rolled out. For example, the Halo: Combat Evolved playlist has been changed so that the team size is no longer 2-3 players, but rather strictly 2 players.
"Based on results and feedback, we'll be looking to update team sizes and player counts across existing and upcoming playlists, including Team Doubles, as we get closer to the next update," 343 said. "Lastly, SWAT and Team Snipers will both make a return into the rotation in the near future, and we'll continue to evaluate playlist data to determine which playlists become permanent additions."
Are you still playing Halo: The Master Chief Collection? I sure am. Enjoying the tweaks 343 is making? Let us know in the comments below.
In other Halo news, Microsoft has announced a release date for Halo 5: Guardians and released two new cryptic live-action trailers for the upcoming sci-fi shooter.
Destiny senior gameplay designer Josh Hamrick has left Bungie to join Fallout and Elder Scrolls developer Bethesda. He announced the news on Twitter, expressing gratitude to Bungie, and wishing the developer all the best as it continues to work on Destiny going forward without him.Hamrick
Hamrick did not announce his exact title at Bethesda, nor did he say what project at the developer he'll be working on. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim team Betheda Game Studios is currently working on an unannounced game.
Some are suggesting this game may be announced at E3 given that Bethesda is--for the first time ever--holding its own press conference at the show.
During Hamrick's nearly six years at Bungie, he also worked on the developer's final Halo title, Halo: Reach. Prior to joining Bungie in 2009, Hamrick worked at Midway Studios Austin on BlackSite: Area 51, among other titles.
Destiny launched in September 2014 and Bungie has continually supported and expanded game since then. The game's first add-on, The Dark Below, was released in December, while the next expansion--House of Wolves--will be released before the end of June. Bungie is also working on "Destiny 2."
To both my @Bungie family & our fans (looking at you 7th Column), from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU! It's been an honor and a pleasure.— Josh Hamrick (@Josh_Hamrick) March 28, 2015
I'll miss @Bungie more than words can tell, but I'm excited about both new challenges and being much closer to our hometown and our family.— Josh Hamrick (@Josh_Hamrick) March 28, 2015
Bethesda! It's Bethesda! I'm going to @BethesdaStudios and I'm super stoked about it!! :-). I hope you'll continue to follow along with me!— Josh Hamrick (@Josh_Hamrick) March 28, 2015
Again, I need to say how much the team @Bungie means to me. I've learned so much from them and made tons of lifelong friends during my stay.— Josh Hamrick (@Josh_Hamrick) March 28, 2015
Love you @Bungie! Thanks for millions of great memories. Keep kicking ass! Always & forever your biggest fan. <3 josh pic.twitter.com/HlW9DszpfO— Josh Hamrick (@Josh_Hamrick) March 28, 2015
This is a pretty impressive video. Watch as musician Donal Hinely plays the famous Legend of Zelda theme using a variety of wine glasses, each filled with a different volume of water that corresponds to pitch.
In the video, captured by YouTube user -K0Ff3 - (via Reddit), Hinely calls it a very difficult song to perform. Well, I'd say he did a pretty excellent job and is fully deserving of the applause at the end. Well done!
More information about Hinely and his works is available at his website.
In other news about The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo has delayed the upcoming Zelda Wii U game out of 2015. The developer also confirmed that the open-world role-playing game won't be at E3.
I've now spent almost four hours playing Might & Magic Heroes VII over the course of two visits to Ubisoft's San Francisco office, and while it's difficult to say whether the game will inspire hundreds of hours of exploration and strategizing in the way Heroes III did, I appreciate its ability to suck me in. I'm generally delighted by this brand of fantasy in any case, and Heroes VII has that blue-and-gold sheen that brings to mind all manner of arcane spells and barbarous beasts. In the first of three maps I explore, harpies are trapped in a magical prison whose boundaries pulse and glow. Cyan crystals and impossibly lush green grass provide a striking contrast to the browns and yellows of the cliffs and countryside. And through it all, pompous music pumps up the drama, much of it recalling early Tchaikovsky, vibrating with sonorous French horns and elegant strings. Heroes VII wants you to know that it is the highest of high fantasy from the moment you start playing.
The initial map is focused primarily on story. There is no castle to maintain here, only a single orc hero named Imani, who has diverted from her brother's orders and seeks alliances with other factions that may greatly bolster the army. Heroes VII is focused not just on Imani, but on the Stronghold faction, which is made up of three different orc nations. This story centers on the tribes of the Sahaar, which--as you may guess from the name--a vast desert. In any case, Imani was the hero I controlled in this first map, where I have only a few weeks of in-game time to convince harpies, centaurs, and other races to come to my aid. Unsurprisingly, none of the faction leaders is willing to do it just because I ask nicely in my broken, verbless English. They need favors done; If I am unwilling to scratch their backs, they will not scratch mine.
So I gallop about the kingdom, each turn giving me a certain number of movement points to spend in Heroes tradition. I gather wood and gold as I gradually uncover the fog of war, and eventually approach a blackfang vendor who agrees to reveal the area around its towers--for a price, of course. Remember that magical prison? The only way to earn the harpies' trust is to free them from the wizards, who, as the harpies tell it, often come to laugh and scoff at the creatures' misfortune. However, the prison's anchors are guarded, and I must destroy the beastly sentries protecting them before I can grant the harpies their wish.
This is the first of many combat encounters to come, but the flaming salamanders I face in the current turn-based battle are easily dealt with. Imani stands behind the battle grid, waiting for me to issue a standard attack order or perform the one spell available to me, which heals targets over time. On the grid, I move orcish dagger-throwers and soldiers forward, each visible individual representing a larger number of units. Suffering attacks means not just taking damage, but losing those numbers until the entire unit is destroyed. The salamanders are soon toast, but subsequent battles introduce me to new opponents, as well as to new units I can hire for myself. The lizardlike basilisk might be my favorite of these, given the massive amount of damage it does not just during attack, but when retaliating against djinn and genies mounted on hovering magic carpets. It's most effective when I flank my adversaries, which is a new element Heroes VII introduces.
The adventure sees me completing the necessary actions until my army is made up of griffins, harpies, centaur archers, elemental golems, and a number of other fiends. The enemy hero has been aggressive, attacking me twice during my travels--and one of those times introducing a game-killing bug that auto-initiates the end of turns before I can ever move from my position. But success is at hand: it is time to face the beastmen army that has branded me as a traitor. What a gorgeous battlefield this is, with a waterfall in the background, and surrounding us with shining blue-and-white architecture. I win not just with might but with magic; my most valuable unit is a flaming elemental that flings fire all the way across the map, though I have to give my centaurs some of the credit. Alas, it is too late. The battle may be won, but Imani's brother Jengo has already proceeded to battle, leading his troops to sure death before Imani and her alliance can supplement his army.
I don't have enough time to see either of the remaining two maps to their conclusions, sadly. The second map keeps me in Imani's substantial shoes, and puts me in control of a keep for the first time. One way to recruit troops to your heroes' armies is to bribe them rather than fight them, though the stronger the opposition, the less likely they are to offer their services. But this map is populated by orc squadrons willing to join me if I perform a particular rite at a nearby burial ground. And of course, I can recruit units at my castle, to which I return several times to build upgrades that give me access to new units and magic spells.
The best element to this map is the navigation itself. In addition to rally flags and other objects that offer me passive bonuses and resources, I discover portals that transport me to other parts of the Sahaar desert. Fully exploring the map means repairing bridges and teleporting to and fro. Yet sometimes, the shiny things beckon: there are new weapons and pieces of armor that I can retrieve and equip--but only if I fight the creatures guarding them. With each successful fight comes experience, and soon I have spent multiple skill points, most of them offering passive bonuses, such as removing morale penalties when employing units from other races. The skill wheel is incredibly simple to use; There is no mystery in finding and employing the right benefit when the time comes to level up.
The second adventure comes to an end when I face an army that blocks a bridge I desperately need to cross. My opponent and I wipe each other clean, leaving my remaining orc archer to fend for himself against murderous soldiers. I am ready to say goodbye to Imani, frankly, so it's fortunate that the third map gives me two Haven heroes to send out into the world. (The Haven and Stronghold are two of six factions in total; the other four are Sylvan, Academy, Necropolis, and Dungeon.) The two heroes at my disposal are Orna and Edric, who represent a split of might and magic: Orna has numerous spells already available in her spellbook, while Edric clearly prefers might, and currently employs no spells.
I don't get too much time to engage in battle, but I enjoy alternating turns, as it allows me to see new battlefields and employ different kinds of strategies. Orna's spells make her my favorite in combat. I always have the option to auto-resolve battle, but it's always satisfying to watch her summon fire from the sky and rain it on the skeletons and wolves charging from the other end of the square-based grid. After a while, I purchase a war machine for her--in this case, a catapult that automatically launches a projectile at a nearby unit. Edric, in the meanwhile, finds himself in trouble after I get too aggressive, and even his wolves are left to the buzzards. I busily collect wood and gold when it comes time to control Edric, while I throw Orna into every encounter I can that won't result in slaughter. But before I can see how my strategy plays out, it's time to leave, and I can only surmise what might happen on these cracked plateaus.
I never got to experiment with Heroes VII's proposed cover system, which I am told exists, but I don't think ever came into play during my time with it. (Indeed, my centaurs' arrows sailed directly through the rocks that you would think should block their path.) But flanking bonuses are clearly vital, and I suspect many battles will be won or lost this way. Otherwise, my time with Might & Magic Heroes VII scratched that same itch the series always has, and with luck, the full game will be just as enchanting when it releases to the wild sometime later this year.
Following the release of two new Halo 5: Guardians trailers last night that offered cryptic story details and confirmed an October 27 release date for the Xbox One game, Microsoft has now offered even more information about the game by way of a new statement from 343 Industries studio head Bonnie Ross.
In it, Ross hypes Halo 5 by saying it will deliver epic "scope and scale and drama," while also teasing that the game will make players question everything they think they know about the Halo universe.
“We wanted Halo 5: Guardians to be the game that pays off the epic promise of the Halo universe in scope and scale and drama," Ross said. “We want to amaze players with the sheer size of the worlds and battles they’ll experience, even as they question everything they thought they knew about its heroes, marvels, and mysteries."
Ross added that Microsoft's newly launched "Hunt the Truth" marketing campaign for Halo 5 is "only the beginning." She went on to say that Microsoft will deliver more details about Halo 5 during E3 in June.
Halo fans will want to watch the new Halo 5 trailers, as they offer new insight into the mysterious relationship between Master Chief and Agent Locke. "Who is the hunter and who is the hunted?" is the central question being asked by both new videos.
Microsoft has also released a handful of new stills from the Halo 5 live-action trailers. See them all in the gallery below.
It has been confirmed that Agent Locke would be a playable character in Halo 5, and that Cortana will make an appearance in the game. Halo 5 is in development at 343 Industries exclusively for Xbox One. Producer Josh Holmes recently confirmed that the game will use dedicated servers for all multiplayer, including custom games.
At some point in your life, you wake up in an unexpected place. You open your eyes, and for a split second, confusion takes over. You may be on your couch after a sleepy night of watching bad television, or, you may find yourself in bed next to a stranger in a room you don't recognize. But, what are the odds that you'll ever wake up in a different world?
Axiom Verge is your chace. Following an experiment on Earth gone horribly wrong, you wake up in a strange place known as Sudra. It's a world unlike Earth, where strange biological formations meld with mechanical contraptions to form massive structures. Being inexplicably transported to such a place would rock most people's psyche, but the protagonist, Trace, barely bats an eye. It's weird that he doesn't collapse in shock, honestly, but this misstep doesn't detract from the fact that Axiom Verge's plot is so good at drawing you in with heavy doses of mystery and intrigue. These moments kick off when large mechanical beings known as the Rusulka enter the picture. They act as guides, providing directions in exchange for repairs (something has left them in disarray), and insight into Sudra's troubled history. I'd love to go into greater detail, but to describe the relationship between you and the Rusulka any further would spoil one of the best aspects of Axiom Verge's world. It's a world that emphasizes exploration in the same vein that Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night do, but it's also a quest for knowledge that keeps you guessing until the very end.
As you make your way through Sudra's foreboding world at the behest of the Rusulka, you encounter numerous types of imposing wildlife. The only bad thing that can be said of the enemies in the game is that you occasionally find one that feels out of place, and this small inconsistency is one of a mere couple issues with the game, neither of which are important enough to detract from your enjoyment in a significant way. Big or small, Axiom Verge's enemies command your attention with wildly varying behavior and impressive displays of force. Some let out ear piercing battle cries while slashing at you with great speed, while others use more creative means to attack, such as spewing swarms of energy leeching bugs that are difficult to shake. It takes time and practice to learn how to deal with the trickier enemies, but you quickly gain new weapons as you explore, and thus new methods to defend yourself become available.The drill is one of the first tools that you find, and it's an invaluable aid when digging for Sudra's most elusive items and secret areas.
Your primary weapon, the Axiom Disruptor, fires simple energy-bullets, but you quickly rack up augmentations that make it capable of delivering shotgun-like blasts of electricity, or a beam of current not unlike what you might see in a Ghostbusters movie, for example. With more than a dozen weapons to find, you have to spend a lot of time searching for each and every one. While you don't need every weapon to be efficient at blasting away enemies that stand in your path, you learn to love many of the weapons over time, and who doesn't like having options?
There are other tools to discover that make navigating Sudra manageable, let alone possible. A laser drill lets you plow through rock (and some tough-skinned enemies), revealing new pathways and potential secrets. You eventually find a grappling hook that turns you into a veritable Bionic Commando, allowing you to bridge large gaps and swing across ceilings. Like in Metroid, you can sneak through small tunnels that you find, but not by morphing into a ball. Rather, you find a drone that can do the exploring for you. It has its own life bar and some modest firepower, and while it's out and about, you get to rest inside an impenetrable force field. A quick press of a button, and the drone dismantles itself before zipping back to your location. Eventually, it becomes a remote teleportation device, allowing you to warp to its location.
One tool stands out as the most special of the lot: the Address Disruptor. This device can corrupt enemies or repair garbled matter, which has many implications and uses during your adventure. Sometimes, firing it at glitchy matter will yield a new platform that will help you get to a new location, while other times it can clear a path. The most interesting application, however, is using it to transform enemies. Every enemy has a different reaction to the Address Disruptor, and it's critical to pay attention to the particulars therein. An enemy that spawns laser firing bugs may suddenly spawn life energy once you've corrupted it, while another may start to gnaw away at rock, which you can use to your advantage when trying to access hard to reach areas. There are dozens of different behaviors associated with the Address Disruptor, and it's easily one of the most interesting weapons or tools that I've ever seen in a game.An experiment this dramatic is bound to go wrong.
One enemy's reaction in particular leads me to talk about the game's password system. Within the inventory and map menu lies a place to input passwords. Passwords can trigger different things, such as changing your outfit or allowing you to read previously indecipherable texts. All of the info in the documents you find are supplements to the story, but they also stoke your curiosity to dig deeper into the mysterious events of the past and present. Passwords aren't just given out, you need to work to find them. In one case, a hard to reach document contains a translation string, another reveals itself when you use the Address Disruptor on a glitchy area of the map. My favorite, and the basis of this segue, is the enemy that reveals a code, letter by letter, after it's been corrupted. This particular enemy is only in one room, and even though there are others like it to be found on the map, it only provides a password in this particular instance. Moments like this are when you realize that you must use every tool at your disposal if you hope to uncover all of the secrets that lie within Axiom Verge. It takes a lot of work to find some items, but you get a real sense of accomplishment when you overcome difficult situations by combining your skills in clever ways.
Part of the reason you want to find secrets and secret areas is because you may gain a new weapon or ability, but also because your speed, map coverage, and item percentage have an impact on the game's ending. No matter what, Axiom Verge's final third will satisfy your curiosity and surprise you, but you learn more about Trace if you get through the game with efficiency and an attention to detail.The Address Disruptor is Axiom Verge's defining tool. It can transform enemies into allies and reveal hidden objects, to name just a couple of its effects.
Accomplishing everything it takes to get the absolute best ending isn't easy, especially your first time through. It took me the better part of 14 hours to get through to the end, and even with all of that time, I only uncovered 92% of the map and found 70% of the items. It's not an impressive run by any measure, but it would have been far worse if Axiom Verge punished you for every death, which I experienced dozens of during the course of my journey. Thankfully, dying only sends you back to the last save point on the map with all of your progress kept intact. While this may mean that you're teleported back a significant distance across Sudra, any milestones you've hit are preserved, meaning you don't need to waste precious time repeating previous efforts.
Speaking of repeating previous efforts, once the credits finished rolling, I couldn't wait to jump back in and start Trace's journey all over again. Some games conclude and I'm happy to walk away, but Axiom Verge is such a joy to play, with dozens of tools to play with, and too many secrets to find. The skills and rules you learn inform your expectations and plans, and my second trip through became more about the gameplay than the story, which isn't entirely a bad thing. After all, the better I play, the better the payoff in the end. I'm still working through Sudra for the second time, occasionally going back to my first save to identify things I may have missed so that I'm prepared when I encounter them again.
Axiom Verge is a game that's easy to fall in love with because it hits so many high notes. It takes the Metroidvania model and adds layers of ingenuity that are in a league all of their own, the most notable being the Address Disruptor. Yes it's occasionally drab looking, and some enemies may not fit in with the rest of the world, but when a game is this good, these blemishes quickly fade into the back of your mind. The chilling sci-fi setting, mysterious plot, and a seemingly endless number of abilities keep your mind busy, and your curiosity at fever pitch. It's not a stretch to say that Axiom Verge is better than the games that inspired it, because it's so inventive and thoughtfully crafted. There's no excuse to hold onto the past when the present is this amazing.