Assassin’s Creed Unity Teaser Trailer

Following rumors and leaked screenshots, Ubisoft has officially confirmed the existence of Assassin’s Creed Unity with a brief teaser trailer for the upcoming game. Set in 18th century France, the game is the first Assassin’s Creed installment to be developed exclusively for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – a separate game, codenamed Assassin’s Creed Comet, is rumored to be making its way to the PlayStation 3and Xbox 360 – features a brand new black-clad assassin, and is rumored to employ a modified take on the series’ signature parkour-like navigation system. Check out the brief glimpse of the game above and stay tuned for additional looks ahead of its Holiday 2014 release.

full story:

‘Titanfall’ Review (Xbox One): The Iron Giant

by Paul Tassi, Contributor

Speed. It’s been missing from the competitive FPS genre since the days of Quake. Call of Duty lets you sprint for mere seconds at a time. Gears of War has you run only when it leads to hiding behind a wall. Halo allows more mobility in the form of a power-armor assisted vertical leap, but often getting from one side of the map to the other is a daunting, plodding journey.

Enter Titanfall, Respawn’s new bit of multiplayer mayhem which puts mobility and speed front and center to the point where it often feels like the reinvention of the genre it’s trying to be. Sprint is unlimited, and far faster than its counterpart in other shooters. A jetpack allows for double jumps, edge grabbing and wallrunning, making nearly every part of every map landmark accessible on foot.

The speed is required, of course, to stay out from underfoot of the massive Titans that make up the other half of gameplay. Kills allow faster access to the machines, and once a pilot is inside, it takes enough firepower to destroy a small country to bring them down.


Titanfall is an Xbox One and PC exclusive from Respawn’s Jason West and Vince Zampella, the minds who brought Call of Duty out of World War II and shaped it into the powerhouse shooter franchise it is today. Now with their new title, Titanfall, they build on the existing concepts of their older games. Gunplay feels similar, but the speed, mech play and scope of Titanfall make it feel like it’s leagues past a simple evolution of Call of Duty.

The game is multiplayer only, for better or worse. It allowed the team to focus on making the most refined multiplayer experience possible, but also means that Titanfall is painfully short on anything like lore, story or iconic heroes. I wondered in a previous post if Titanfall would suffer without its own public face, be it Captain Price, Marcus Fenix, or Master Chief. Is a compelling multiplayer experience be enough to offset a nearly non-existent story? Yes, but it’s still easy to wish there was more mythology to this newly created universe.

The game does attempt to inject at least some bit of story into the game with an almost comically anemic “Campaign” mode. It’s simply a string of predetermined multiplayer matches, the only difference being a sixty second introductory voiceover explaining why exactly we have to hold points A, B and C on a map, and a fifteen second “drop-in” cutscene that’s barely more than what you see in regular multiplayer. Plot-related things actually happen during the match, but it’s impossible to have any idea what’s going on as you attempt to listen to radio communications while in the middle of a never-ending firefight.

It’s a lot like the much-derided Brink’s attempt at a campaign made up entirely of multiplayer levels, but even that game had more cutscenes explaining some vague semblance of story. It wasn’t a good idea then, and it isn’t a good idea now. It seems like the mode only exists so the game doesn’t feel quite so flimsy, but it adds practically nothing to the experience, and I did find myself wishing there was more to learn about the Titanfall universe than what we’re given. Perhaps a traditional, linear campaign isn’t the answer, but the game needed something more than this.

Fortunately, multiplayer is so engaging that the lack of a story will be quickly forgiven by most, especially since a great many players have take to skipping campaigns altogether in recent shooter releases in favor of diving right into deathmatches. Not a practice I partake in, but it is somewhat commonplace.


At long last, we get to see the full scope of the maps in Titanfall, rather than the two many of us played in the beta on repeat for a week. While it will likely take a while to learn them all, there are none that stand out to me as either empirically awful or fan favorites, at least not in these limited first few days of play. There doesn’t seem to be as much of a size disparity in the maps as there is in other games which have both tiny and sprawling levels, namely because no matter what mode you pick, it’s the same amount of players.

Similarly, the design is restricted by the fact that levels have to both accommodate massive Titans and tiny mobile pilots. That means that most levels are a mix of open spaces and smaller, corridored buildings. As a result, your preferred playstyle can work in any map, but it can also make many of them feel a bit too similar to one another.

It’s impressive how Respawn managed to make playing as both a jump-happy pilot and a locked-to-the-ground Titan equally fun modes of play, and entirely different than one another. Being a pilot on foot allows for much more diversity of play as you bound all around the map, killing pilots, AI bots and Titans alike. The shooting isn’t quite as tight as Call of Duty. The guns feel a bit softer in the way the connect with targets and may take some getting used to. There are far less gun and attachment options to choose from than other shooters, but there are many more than the limited selection we saw in the beta. The amount seems to be just right, as at a certain point, nine assault rifle variants with twenty attachments each seems to be a bit excessive. There are enough unlocks to instill a sense of progress, but not so many where the entire game is driven by XP collection.

Controlling a Titan is a different story than sprinting around as a pilot. They are locked into specific open tracks on the map, as jumping isn’t an option. You can swat and blast pilots like flies if your aim is good enough, but mostly you’ll spend your time battling other Titans. Those fights aren’t the twitch reflex “who shoots first” matchups of ground warfare, they’re often battles of attrition and strategy. You should always try to engage with a friend, and if you find yourself outnumbered or without a shield, you probably want to run. Switching between guns, missiles, shields and other abilities means there’s a lot to keep track of, but it’s not overly technical to the point where it’s cumbersome and annoying.

I believe many players will find themselves drawn to one form of combat over the other. Some may love the freedom of freerunning to the point where they’re content to let their Titan roam around in auto-mode, while others may never leave the safety of their metal nest, locked into the mech for as long as humanly possible. The game allows a mix of both, and the most fun moments are found when you hop in and out of your Titan, depending on the landscape and the foes you’re trying to fight.

I prefer Titan combat simply because I appear to be better at it. While I’m lucky if I break half a dozen pilot kills a game, I always rack up 4-5 Titan kills, which are much harder to come by. Many games, after I get my first Titan, I manage fight my way to the end of the match without dying, which is always a gratifying experience.

In general, it’s refreshing to die a lot, lot less in Titanfall than in other multiplayer shooters. While only the elite in other games will die 1-3 times in a match, in Titanfall that can happen frequently even to average players like me. It allows for far less frustration as you almost never get trapped in “spawn death” loops where you live for only a few seconds at a time, and get killed by unseen enemies before you have a chance to do anything. Rather, Titanfall’s universally large levels allow you to spawn a safe distance away from enemies most of the time, and as such you’ll likely only die a handful of times. Lives last minutes, not seconds, and that’s refreshing for the genre.

Of course fewer deaths means less killing. As nice as it is not to die every ten seconds, it comes at the price of a reduced amount of kills. To counter this and give players at least something to shoot at, the game is flooded with AI bots which dramatically outnumber the six players on each team. The bots pepper you with bullets that appear to be made out of Nerf foam, and serve as cannon fodder while you seek out an enemy that can actually fight back. The addition of bots is a mixed bag. It fills up the sprawling levels and creates a proper “battle” atmosphere that enhances the matches. But there’s a little pang of sadness every time you kill an AI thinking it was a human. As I said in the beta, ” I’m not sure it’s even possible for an AI soldier to kill you, and half the time it feels like you’re slaughtering defenseless, dumb animals that just happen to look like humans or warbots.”

The problem is that if all the AI were replaced with humans and we had something like crazy 16 vs. 16 matches, death and kill totals would skyrocket, making Titanfall just like other games in that regard. And since the game can’t handle that many players anyway, removing them would make for some very dull matches. Right now they seem necessary, whether we actually want them there or not.

Burn cards are another interesting aspect of multiplayer, though I’m not quite sure how impactful they are. Each player has three slots a game to use the consumable cards which can do things like shave seconds of a Titan drop, give the player an upgraded weapon, or allow them a special ability like unlimited grenades or invisibility. Most only last until the end of the player’s life, so when you have one active, you want to be especially careful to make the most out of it. In my eyes, they don’t really affect gameplay all that much one way or the other. They’re just fun little additions to make a minute or two of the game more interesting than it would have been otherwise. Perhaps I haven’t seen them all yet and a few could dramatically unbalance the game in some way, but that doesn’t seem to be the case yet.


For as much focus as Respawn devoted to making Titanfall a purely multiplayer title, it’s fairly disappointing that there are only five modes in which to play the game. All of them are 6 vs. 6 with the requisite swarm of bots, and include Attrition (Deathmatch), Hardpoint (Domination), Last Titan Standing, Pilot Hunter and Capture the Flag.

The first two are standard fare for every shooter, so it’s no surprise to see them here. Last Titan Standing should be right up my alley, as it’s a fun bit of search and destroy with Titans, but the matches are exceptionally long and snowball rapidly, making the mode rather unappealing. Pilot Hunter is just a stripped down version of deathmatch where nothing but killing pilots actually scores points. Capture the Flag is probably the most fun non-deathmatch game, as in the world of Titanfall, the action is five times as intense as it normally is for the mode. With Titans guarding flags and wallrunning and jetpack jumping as a means to avoid enemies, it’s easily the most pulse-pounding the game gets. The only problem is that if you’re an active flag pursuer, you’ll tank your overall K/D ratio as during Capture the Flag you canrack up 15-20 deaths rather than the usual 2-5.

But, that’s it. Five modes, most entirely traditional, one seemingly pointless, and all with the exact same player count. It seems like there could have been a lot more done with mode variety, and something like a custom game creator would go a long way. I’m picturing games that use permanent burn cards to shake up the action. Maybe Titans with special weaponry that drop randomly from the sky and can be controlled by both players. A mode where the rarely seen monsters from the variety of planets actually stumble into the map and influence gameplay. And at the very least, they need a ranked mode.

All of this seems possible through future patches, but it does make this initial release of Titanfall feel like something of a blueprint for the future rather than a final product in and of itself. While the multiplayer combat is absolutely excellent, and all Respawn’s hard work shows, the actual content of the game is relatively sparse compared others in the genre, given its almost complete lack of a campaign, an incredibly limited selection of modes, and no “third pillar” of co-op gameplay like Zombies, Firefight, or Spec Ops.

Finally, I have to praise the game from a technical perspective, at least so far. The launch has been flawless from my initial downloading of the game to the fact that I haven’t been booted out of a match due to server issues yet. I’m waiting for players to come home from school and work and start playing to make a final judgement call about stability, however. (Update: Annnnd the game probably killed Xbox Live). And for all the controversy about resolution at launch, the game looks just fine to me. It’s not the most visually impressive title I’ve seen in this new generation, but it didn’t need to be, and there’s certainly nothing to complain about. Besides, further resolution patches are coming, according to Respawn.

Titanfall is a great game and an incredible amount of fun. Combat is creative, exciting and never, ever static. It lacks depth past its core concept however, and hopefully that’s something that can be rectified well ahead of the inevitable Titanfall 2. But right now, this is the game the Xbox One needs, and it’s the first true must-have of the new console generation.

Platform: Xbox One, PC

Developer: Respawn

Publisher: EA

Released: March 11th, 2014

Price: $59.99

Score: 9/10

Follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my Forbes blog, and pick up a copy of my sci-fi novel, The Last Exodus, and its sequel, The Exiled Earthborn.

full story:

Xbox Live Down On ‘Titanfall’ Launch Day

by Paul Tassi, Contributor

Well, that didn’t last long.

It seemed like a smooth launch for Titanfall so far, but just hours after I published my review praising Microsoft and EA for a release free from technical hiccups, Xbox Live has gone down.

Though there’s no official confirmation that the outage is tied to the Titanfall launch, it would be a fairly obvious culprit as millions of players try to access the game on launch day. Titanfall relies heavily on Microsoft’s Azure cloud servers which were going to be used to ensure something like this didn’thappen, but it appears things have gone wrong, as many expected they might.

The service outage has lasted for the better part of an hour now, and Xbox Support says that service is “Limited” right now. “Unable to sign in to Xbox Live on Xbox One?” they say, “We’re on the case to get this issue fixed as soon as possible!”


I thought I was taking crazy pills as when I was unable to play Titanfall (because there’s no offline mode, naturally), I turned to boot up Hearthstone, which has just dropped its beta badge to go officially live as of today. Now it seems is alsodown, and the result was me resetting my internet for about twenty minutes until I figured out what was going on. I’m not sure why Hearthstone would pick today of all days to go live, nor do I know what their issue is, though I assume it’s 100% unrelated to Microsoft’s plight.

This is the problem with launching a 100% online multiplayer title like Titanfall. A game with a campaign would at least have something for players to do as they waited for Live to return, but the entire game is locked behind the online wall.

And now we see a problem with EA and Titanfall relying on Microsoft directly for server support. Now if the servers melt down, it’s not just Titanfall that’s inaccessible, it’s the entirety of Xbox Live. A problem for not only Titanfall, but Xbox One as a whole. The One is failing the digital test I talked about yesterday if this keeps up.

I suspect the server load is just too great as players are now getting home from work or school and trying to play. It’s 5PM EST, and with most schools out at 3 or 4, the service kicking out about an hour or so ago makes sense.

Nothing other than boilerplate “we’re fixing it” responses from Microsoft yet, so we’ll have to keep an eye on the situation. At least EA has someone to share the blame with this time.

Keep checking back here for updates, and I’ll post information as soon as I find it.

Update: From Respawn’s Vince Zampella: “Looks like Xbox live sign in is down currently. I hope that isn’t our fault!” Keep hoping, Vince.

Update #2: I’m hearing reports of people that have been playing through this entire outage. I guess that explains the “Limited” service interruption rather than whatever it would say otherwise. “Offline,” maybe. I’m trying to figure out if this is location-based.

Update #3: I’ve asked Microsoft PR for an ETA on service restoration, but nothing yet. As for how widespread this is, I’m not sure how to gauge it other than noting that “tweets per minute” about the outage appear to be extremely high.

Update #4: From Microsoft’s Major Nelson, who says this isn’t a Titanfall problem: “If you are having issues signing into Xbox Live, we are aware of it and actively working on the issue. This is not a #Titanfall issue.” Well that officially makes this the world’s worst coincidence, if that’s actually the case. I have my doubts their luck would be that poor, but I’ll take him at his word. Still, it’s the biggest launch of the year and Live was killed at the beginning of a peak traffic time in the US. Hardly a stretch to imagine the two are related.

Update #5 (7:50 PM EST): Well, the only update I have now is that Live is still down, and Microsoft PR said that Nelson’s tweet is the official word on the situation. I still cannot process how this is not Titanfall related, but that information will have to be sorted out when this crisis ends.

Update #6 (10:53 PM EST): Alright, it appears you can restore service using this process:

  1. While the console is on, press and hold the console’s Xbox button for 5 seconds.
  2. The console will power down.
  3. Wait 30 seconds, and then turn your console back on by again pressing the Xbox button.

It worked for me, and appears to be fixing the problem for many others as well. Hopefully we all can get in a few games of Titanfall before bed (lucky West Coasters). Anyway, more on this tomorrow as hopefully Microsoft will offer some sort of concrete explanation on what exactly happened here, and how it could have possibly not been Titanfall-related.

Follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my Forbes blog, and pick up a copy of my sci-fi novel, The Last Exodus, and its sequel, The Exiled Earthborn.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

full story:

Microsoft Tweaking Xbox One Controller For ‘Titanfall’

by Dave Thier, Contributor

Microsoft it would seem, is all in on Titanfall. Respawn entertainment’s upcoming mech-shooter is, arguably, the centerpiece of the Xbox One’s first few months, and the company is making sure that the console is good and ready for it when it arrives. We’re meant to be getting a software update shortly before launch that will address issues surrounding online multiplayer, and according to The Verge, Microsoft even worked with Respawn to tweak how the controller operates.

“It’s just fixing the controller input, really,” Lead designer Justin Hendry told The Verge. “It wasn’t really where we felt it should be; it was a little overly twitchy with the current controls. Now it’s fixed. We’re happy with it.”

The fix will make the outer limits of the analog sticks more sensitive.


Titanfall enters beta on Friday, and from everything I’ve seen, we have reason to be optimistic. The game is fast, frenetic and genuinely new feeling. It borrows influence not just from the multiplayer shooters that dominated last generation, but also from MOBA’s like League of Legends, and even collectible trading card games. Matches have scope and progression, something that was sorely lacking in the lightning-quick death and respawn cycles that characterize games like Call of Duty. The only thing that gives me pause is the total lack of a single-player mode.  While players overwhelmingly spend their time on multiplayer with games like this, a story mode still serves to ground the fiction in which the game takes place. Witness Call of Duty, which dominated the shooter landscape last generation by updating little more than the story mode in each iteration.

One thing is for certain — the Titanfall launch must be perfect. As ED Kain notes, there is very little room for error for either the Xbox One or publisher EA. The latter company saw catastrophic launches for both SimCity and Battlefield 4, and it needs to prove to the gaming public that it can make a title that actually works as intended. As far as the Xbox One goes, Titanfall is meant to show off the company’s extensive cloud services, so any launch hiccups would undermine some of the console’s fairly basic selling points. The console has a $700 million server farm in Iowa dubbed “Project Mountain” in Iowa backing it up, so here’s hoping that can keep the launch stable.

Titanfall marks the first major next-gen release outside of launch. Xbox One is trailing PS4 in total sales, so it will be interesting to see if this gamble can galvanize sales and re-establish Xbox as a preeminent shooter brand.

full story:

Xbox One live gameplay broadcast feature could still be months away

By Sean Hollister

xbox vs. playstation

Microsoft couldn’t deliver one of the Xbox One’s key features at launch: the ability to stream your gameplay, live, for anyone on the web to watch. Here’s more bad news: the company behind that feature,, has no idea when it will launch either. According to a tweet from the company, Microsoft hasn’t yet provided any date, and it could be “a few more months” before it arrives.


TwitchTVSupport 8 Jan

Xbox One Direct Broadcasting: There is no ETA at this time from Microsoft. Expect a few more months. If we know sooner, we’ll update.

What’s the hold up? We can’t say, but one possibility is that Microsoft hasn’t yet figured out how to deal with streams of an unsavory nature. Sony’s PlayStation 4, which did ship with, found itself facing a bit of a controversy when users realized they could filmthemselves doing all sorts of things — including having sex — in the augmented reality demo The Playroom. Sony decided to cut off access to for that one game as a solution, perhaps something that’s not as easy or even technically impossible with the current Xbox One software.

Also, it’s not like Sony delivered on all of its promises for the PlayStation 4 at launch. The console is still lacking its instant-on mode to instantly resume games from standby, and it won’t stream games from PlayStation Now until summer at the earliest.

What are the Best Xbox One Games?

Wondering which of the Xbox One’s games are worth getting? Team USG pick the ones they think are the best – and explain why.

By USgamer Team

Xbox One weighs in at a fairly hefty retail price of $499. The machine includes a built-in Kinect system, and has a variety of features that enable users to watch an enhanced version of TV. However, it’s the games we’re most interested in, and that’s what we’re looking at today. Each member of Team USG has looked at the roster of Xbox One titles and have chosen the ones they think are the best to buy.

Forza 5

I’ve been going on and on about this for months, so it’s no surprise Forza 5 sits at pole position on my must-buy Xbox One launch games list.

When I played it at E3, I was very impressed. Not quite blown away, but definitely impressed. This is largely due to the narrowing technical gap between generations that we’ve been seeing since the 90’s. While we will eventually see a clear and significant difference between the incoming generation and the outgoing one, it’s going to take some time. Until then, to the untrained eye, many games will look very similar.

Anyone expecting a huge upgrade from Forza 4 may be disappointed. This time around it’s all about subtle details and atmospheric effects.

Forza 5 is such a game. On the face of it, it’s not a huge step up from Forza 4. There are differences, however – it’s just that they’re in the details. The richer level of atmospheric effects, the more complex lighting, the slightly more convincing interiors, and minutiae like leaves that swirl as you drive past them. The backdrops are more sophisticated too, and draw distances have been pushed way out. It’s difficult to appreciate them when you’re driving down a narrow road at 125 mph trying to overtake an opponent, but they’re there if you look.

The new and much-heralded AI system is a little hit-and-miss. It’s supposed to be based on real people’s driving, but it sometimes does some really dumb things – like braking ridiculously early, or freaking out on a straight. Perhaps that’s what some people do, but sometimes it just seems a bit off. Ultimately, if you spend more time competing with other players, it’s all moot anyway.

We’ll have to wait and see whether Gran Turismo will catch up when it finally arrives on PS4. If its recent performance is anything to go by, it’ll likely arrive around the same time we’ll be expecting Forza 6. Until then, Forza 5 sits atop the podium as greatest racer out there.

Need for Speed: Rivals

Yes. Another driving game. But this one is a slightly different flavor to Forza 5. Where Turn 10’s elegant automotive experience is all about driving finesse, trying not to hit other cars and shaving tenths of a second off your lap time to reach the checkered flag first, Need for Speed is a brutal, no-holds-barred, four-wheeled war zone.

Forza 5 and Need for Speed: Rivals might both be racing games, but they offer diametrically opposed experiences. But both are fantastic!

It packs a ton of features that make it great, but the best of them all is AllDrive, which seamlessly integrates single- and multiplayer mode. If your friends are online, you can see exactly what they’re doing and join in their fun. Or you can just drive right past them and carry on doing whatever it is you’re doing. Which is inevitably driving flat-out like an idiot, either trying to catch the racer in front of you as a cop, or trying to avoid cops and challenging other players to races if you’ve decided to pursue a career on the wrong side of the law.

Boasting a wealth of cars, tons of missions, and a big open world that offers a full spectrum of driving opportunities, Need for Speed: Rivals is a gorgeous-looking, raucous-sounding, bonkers-playing combat race game that helps start this next generation off with a bang, followed by a huge slide, a collision with an oncoming car, and a barrel roll down the road.

Call of Duty: Ghosts..Or maybe Battlefield 4

I think both of these are great multiplayer games – but offer a weak single-player experience. If you’re playing solo, Call of Duty gets the nod from me. It’s shorter, but offers a lot more bang for the buck, delivering an almost cinematic experience during some of its spectacular set-pieces. But then again, these games are all about multiplayer, and both deliver an absolutely excellent experience here.

COD or BF? Neither are great as single-player games, but both deliver the goods on multiplayer. COD is tighter and more focused on gunplay. BF is like some kind of insane combat theme park.

If you’re after involving, close-up, visceral and fast-paced action, Call of Duty is definitely the game to get. It’s all about the subtleties of gunplay and finessing your loadouts to best suit your own personal playstyle – and the kind of combat you’re entering. Whether it’s classic deathmatch gameplay, or working with others on some of the new objective-based formats, Call of Duty: Ghosts is tense and exciting.

What I particularly like this time around is the new Squads mode that lets you construct a small army of bots and take them into battle. Again, you can experiment with roles and loadouts to see what works best where, and the AI is impressive enough to give you a really fun mulitplayer experience without having to go online and wait for others. Finally Extinction mode is a really cool, but all-too-short multiplayer co-op mode where you fight off an alien invasion. It’s incredibly good fun, and something I hope we’ll see more of in future COD games.

But while COD is the better choice for those who want the very best gun-oriented action, Battlefield is the one to have if you want more variety. From driving tanks, flying planes and blasting the enemy with a wide variety of weapons, Battlefield is a huge open space filled with mayhem. It’s not quite as authentic-feeling as COD, but it’s a lot more “fun” – and certainly has lots of different things to do. Either way, I think both are a great choice. I prefer COD personally, simply because I like its format of multiplayer better, but I still always enjoy myself whenever I play Battlefield, because it’s just so nuts.

Dead Rising 3

I’ve said before that I have a hard time getting stoked about launch lineups, and Xbox One really drives that fact home. It’s not that the system’s debut titles don’t have promise — they’re just not the sort of games I normally flip out for. Those typically come later, after developers have a chance to get a feel for the machine and time to develop deeper, more consuming ventures. Plus Xbox One lacks the huge roster of indie titles that balances out PS4’s flashy-but-shallow retail releases. There’s plenty to be excited about further down the road for the console — D4 looks interestingly wacky, and holy cow is Titanfall fun — but this early slate of software leaves me cold.

Fortunately, Dead Rising 3 embodies the shining exception to my launch blues rules: At once a substantial adventure, a sequel to one of the definitive titles for Microsoft’s previous system, and an ambitious open-world action thriller. The previous Dead Risings have been full of interesting ideas and systems that never quite gelled to perfection, but early buzz on the third game in the series suggests it has real potential. I’m not enamored with the second-screen elements (which basically amount to “use a tablet for an instant win”) but so long as they’re optional I’m happy to go about my zombie-slaying tasks with aplomb. Especially if it evokes the ridiculously un-serious fun of Saints Row. And this from someone who normally hates zombie games!

It looks like 2013 is where Double Helix breaks out of its shell of mediocrity. Killer Instinct by all rights should be horrible; fighting games are hard to make and balance. Instead, it plays well; it’s fast, bright, and fun. The team has clearly looked at what works in the current fighting game market and updated the classic Killer Instinct gameplay accordingly.

The updated designs for the original cast have all been superb, even if Glacius’ new look will have to grow on me. Even more surprising, is that each character has clearly been pushed in different direction to allow for different playstyles. It’s impressive work, and it all comes together. The roster is a bit sparse, but this isn’t a fire-and-forget release. Microsoft and Double Helix intend to support the game with more characters and a story mode coming next year. I’ve been wanting a new Killer Instinct since 1996, and someone finally delivered.

Just Dance 2014

On the Xbox 360, the Kinect – yes, I have one – was only great for two things: dance games and Netflix voice commands. Of the two dance games out there, Harmonix’ Dance Central and Ubisoft’s Just Dance, I stuck with Dance Central. Just Dance was more fun, but Dance Central was the “hardcore” version. You felt like you could actually dance after long sessions of Dance Central, while Just dance was more forgiving. Harmonix has left the Dance Central series behind in order to create the family-friendly Fantasia: Music Evolved, so Ubisoft has this year’s dance card all to itself.

I was going to ignore Just Dance 2014, but having to wait at Ubisoft’s E3 booth for other appointments meant I had to watch three or four Just Dance 2014 songs performed by professional dancers and random crowd members. With each song, my interest peaked a little more. It looked like a ton of fun. Is there some sort of sinister hypnotism at work?

Just Dance 2014 features an impressive list of super pop-y songs for me to shake my ass to, and all-new Kinect works just as well as the old one. Will you booty shake with me?

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Yes, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was also on my list for PlayStation 4 and I loved it when I reviewed it on that platform, but I’m a bit of a rebel. If I was only getting one console and that was the Xbox One, ACIV would still be at the top of my list. Did the navel-gazing of Assassin’s Creed III’s Connor bore you at times? ACIV’s protagonist – ‘hero’ is a bit strong – Edward Kenway is far more charismatic and in tune with exactly what he wants from the world.

Did you hate the naval combat in ACIII because it never felt tied to the main game? Good, because now it’s an integral part of the experience! Did you love the naval combat in ACIII? Great, because now there’s a ton more of it!

I’m also excited for the DLC.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a big badass open-world and Ubisoft has had another year to hammer out the bugs in its new AnvilNext engine. While the game will still probably look good on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4, it looks goddamn gorgeous on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Even though it’s coming to current-gen as well, it’s still my next-gen title to beat.

Need for Speed: Rivals

I enjoy the Need for Speed games, but I always feel like they stop short of providing what I really want from them — an interactive Fast and Furious movie. Several past installments have tried to incorporate story into their gameplay with varying amounts of success, but mostly have just boiled down to racing. Fun, exciting, eminently silly racing, admittedly, but still little more than the same sort of thing we’ve been enjoying for years now, albeit a little prettier.

Need for Speed: Rivals still doesn’t really provide that experience, but it does the next best thing: gives us another Hot Pursuit. Autolog is simultaneously the best and worst thing to happen to racing games ever; competition with friends is good, but at the same time it can lead to repeatedly playing one single race over and over again in an attempt to smash that last record by a hundredth of a second rather than actually making any progress.

Hot Pursuit kept my friends and I battling it out for hundredths of a second for a significant period of time; Most Wanted unfortunately failed to recapture that magic. I’m hoping Rivals has the legs to support competition in the long term.

Zoo Tycoon

Most of the games that I enjoy tend to run towards the hardcore. Dota 2, for example, is my drug of my choice. However, Zoo Tycoon has me both charmed and rather curious. It’s being marketed as this zoo-building simulator of unparalleled beauty and accessibility. Why stop at making artfully realistic enclosures for the animals? Go in. Go wild! Stop by the elephant range and scrub down the entire family. I’m skeptical as to how realistic Zoo Tycoon will be. The less pleasant logistics associated with animal husbandry are most likely going to be glossed over.

Still, this is going to be something that I will be able to introduce to my mother and my sister, neither of whom are terribly comfortable around electronic devices. The notion of Zoo Tycoon possibly functioning as a gateway drug tickles me. If something as tactile as Zoo Tycoon is advertised to be cannot beguile the family into joining me in the Dark Side, nothing can. Plus, there’s also the appeal of checking out my first Zoo Tycoon game in god knows how long. It’ll be interesting to see how it fares on the next-gen console, especially with Frontier behind the wheels. Kinectimals was an adorable diversion but too shallow to engage me in the long-term. Will Zoo Tycoon take what was good about its spiritual predecessor and make it palatable to adults? Only time will tell.

full story: