By PlayStation Official blog (blog.playstation.com)
New Halo Infinite Campaign Showcase Highlights New Cortana-Like AI, Bosses With Health Bars, And More
Less than two months from launch, Microsoft and 343 Industries have finally shown off more of the Halo Infinite campaign. Today's six-and-a-half-minute campaign overview video was the first time we've seen Halo Infinite campaign footage in a year. In it, we get a look at some of the improved art and visuals that came by way of a delay that put Halo Infinite's release date into 2021 (rather than the original 2020 release date), and sure enough, it looks great. Anyone who's been playing the recent technical multiplayer previews as of late is familiar with these improved visuals, too. Click here to watch embedded media Regarding what we can expect from the Halo Infinite campaign, the overview video didn't reveal anything too specific. We get a much more comprehensive look at Zeta Halo, which is where the game takes place, as well as a new look at some of the terrain and subterranean chambers we can expect to make our way through. Of course, we'll be running into Banished enemies such as brutes, as well as Halo classics like Jackals, Hunters, Grunts, Elites, Forerunner enemies, and even a new mechanical enemy called Skimmers. Speaking of enemies, this campaign overview video also showcased something entirely new for the mainline Halo series: bosses with health bars. In the video, we see Chief taking on a brute boss with a white bar (presumably a shield) and a red bar underneath it, which appears to be the boss' actual health. That was the only boss with a health bar showcased, so it's unclear if we'll encounter many bosses with health bars or if that fight is a one-off thing. The rest of the video showcases a lot of what we'll actually be doing in Halo come this December: flying Wasps around, destroying banshees, using Chief's new grappling hook and thruster abilities, destroying Banished strongholds, completing side quests, and more. Another key piece of information revealed was The Weapon. This AI is very Cortana-like, except its sole purpose is to "lock down" Cortana. After the events of Halo 5 Guardians, Chief is looking to save a rampant Cortana. According to the new AI, the answer to this problem is on Zeta Halo, which seems to be the other primary objective next to defeating the Banished army. Be sure to check out the Halo Infinite campaign overview video and then check out this extensive breakdown of everything we know about Halo Infinite after that. Read our thoughts on Halo Infinite's multiplayer thus far, and then check out these wild things people are already doing in Halo Infinite's multiplayer. Are you more excited for the campaign of Halo Infinite following today's showcase? Let us know in the comments below!
The open world of Horizon Zero Dawn is a true playground for players. Gallop through the wilds on your trusty Charger to take in the lush environments and vibrant settlements.
Click to watch embedded media Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Eidos Montreal Release: October 26, 2021 Rating: Teen Reviewed on: Xbox Series X/S Also on: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC From the moment the Guardians of the Galaxy are introduced as a space-faring team that will do anything for a quick buck, it’s abundantly clear how much of a dysfunctional mess they are. Gamora and Rocket are at each other’s throats. Drax and Star-Lord don’t see eye to eye. And no one is paying attention to Groot. For the next 15-plus hours of gameplay, I listened to these misfits bicker, hurl insults, and chatter nonstop – much to my enjoyment. When I say “nonstop,” I mean they never stop talking. A second rarely goes by without the Guardians sharing their thoughts. I’m not exaggerating this frequency. Any moments of quiet made me question if the game was not working properly. The amount of dialogue that Eidos-Montreal crafted is off the charts, and most of it is nicely penned, offering the witty humor, heartfelt intimacy, and sheer chaos you’d expect from the Guardians. Drax’s inability to comprehend common colloquialisms and phrases brings big laughs and is just as good as James Gunn’s take on the character in the Guardians’ movies. I’ve never said this in a review before, but the dialogue is the best part of the game. Eidos-Montreal knocked it out of the park. The rest of the game delivers plenty of fun but with varying levels of quality and polish – the latter subtly hurting critical areas of the experience. It took me a few hours to warm up to both Star-Lord and the combat system. Peter Quill is a bit grating from the outset but comes around when the team dynamic begins to gel, and the story softens from its overall bombastic tone to allow him to show his emotional side. I ended up adoring him over time, especially when he’s talking to himself. His story is well written, and Eidos-Montreal did an excellent job injecting his leadership qualities into the action and decision-making. Players are in total control of Star-Lord and will determine the road your team takes. These choices aren’t on the same seismic scale as a Mass Effect game and don’t change the story much, but do offer fun alternate sequences and even more dialogue. I can’t speak to all of the outcomes that stem from these choices, but the dozen-plus I experienced in a second playthrough were just as good and flowed as naturally as those in my first run through the game. While it was to fun to take in the different humor or unique gameplay sequences I missed before, they weren’t enough for me to want to keep going to see how the second journey would be different. Again, things aren't changing much. Click here to watch embedded media This is a game where the narrative consumes just as much time as gameplay. Given how enjoyable the story is, I didn’t have a problem sitting back and watching for a big chunk of my time, especially when I had control over the most significant decisions. The allure of discovery anchors the story and touches each Guardian in ways that flesh them out thoroughly. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but the Guardians are chasing something evil that they unleash. That hook remains strong through most of the experience, moving at a nice clip and striking a delicate balance between serious and outright absurd. Eidos-Montreal fully embraces “science-fiction” themes in the worlds, characters, and that evil entity of note. The worlds steal the eye with their wildly colored and oddly designed vistas. The characters are just as weird (sometimes for comedic sake), and that evil beast moves in the most peculiar and astonishing ways. Click image thumbnails to view larger version Each world pushes the Guardians to lean into their unique abilities to navigate treacherous terrain. The paths forward are always linear and filled with platforming sequences and combat arenas, much like the Uncharted games. While the player only controls Star-Lord – a decision that works well for all gameplay aspects – each Guardian can be summoned with a button press to perform a specific task. These brief inputs work well, and Eidos-Montreal even warps the character to the desired location to make sure you are moving forward at a solid pace. You can summon Drax to knock over a pillar or Gamora to leap up onto a wall to give you a boost up to a platform. All the Guardians’ moves are used for environmental puzzle solving, which starts fun but loses its luster through repeated solutions. The Guardians also play massive roles in combat and are as powerful as you would hope. Groot can upend enemies with a swarm of roots, Rocket blasts foes with a silly number of guns, and Drax and Gamora use blades to slice and dice. For Star-Lord, however, this is not a game I’d bill as a power fantasy. His blasters are weak, and he must work hard to drop even the lowliest of foes. All the Guardians need to be used in strategic ways to find success. Star-Lord can dash around quickly and tick away at the enemy’s health, but his most significant contribution is as a play-maker. When he wants to call upon a Guardian, time slows, and he can tell them to perform a desired ability. It’s not a power fantasy, but a teamwork fantasy that ends up being immensely satisfying when everything is clicking as it should. Click here to watch embedded media At its peak, combat is handled admirably through the controls, allowing the player to whip across the arena, quickly highlight targets, and just as swiftly tell each Guardian what to do. Given how many characters are onscreen at any given time, the fray looks chaotic, but there’s a violent beauty to it, and you oversee all of it, barking out commands to rain death in various ways. The Guardians can also chain together most moves to truly show the team's power. By the end of the game, the battles are wildly entertaining and deliver a good challenge. Oddly, the game’s most powerful ability is a pep talk by Star-Lord, which always carries a little humor, but pauses combat for far too long and ends up being quite annoying. Now the bad news: The opening hours of combat are a rough and uneventful ride. Before legitimate threats come out of the woodwork, the Guardians take on gelatinous cubes and spheres, conflicts that are as dull as they sound. With a good majority of abilities locked away for over half of the game, the true potential of the Guardians is kept at bay for far too long, and the experience suffers. This game is at its best when it’s over the top, and it eventually gets there, but not quickly enough. The training wheels are on for half of the game. A lack of polish across the entire experience also hurts. Some animations are a bit jumpy, specific gameplay mechanics like sliding don’t offer much precision, and combat’s framerate can be rough at times. Another misfire is controlling the Milano in space-combat sequences. It’s cool in concept, but awkward controls and lack of a threat make these moments little more than a visual showcase. The game’s other distractions fare much better. Tracking down different suits for each Guardian is a nice reward, and some collectibles that appear on the Milano open new conversations and backstory. As a fan of the Guardians’ comic books and movies, I thoroughly enjoyed Eidos-Montreal’s unique take on this supergroup. The nonstop character banter and nicely designed choices make this a journey worth taking, even if the gameplay takes a little too long to highlight the team’s true potential. Score: 8.5 Summary: Nonstop banter between the misfit superteam makes for a surprisingly fun time. Concept: A linear, story-driven action game that embraces the true spirit of the Guardians through extensive dialogue. The gameplay delivers mixed results Graphics: The worlds are science-fiction works of art that blend colors in fascinating ways. The character models are also quite good and convey true emotion even without any words being spoken Sound: A wonderful soundtrack filled with 1980s hits and great orchestration – both are used to heighten dramatic moments. All of the voicework is top notch, but Star-Lord takes a while to truly find his groove Playability: Star-Lord controls admirably, and issuing commands to his teammates is a simple process with plenty of depth Entertainment: A rarity in gaming that is at its best when the characters are rambling on Replay: High Click to Purchase
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Developer: Relic Entertainment Release: October 28, 2021 Rating: Teen Reviewed on: PC Age of Empires IV gives players eight different civilizations to explore in both single-player and multiplayer real-time strategy. While there is a lengthy campaign that spans multiple civilizations, the longevity of the experience lies in multiplayer encounters. If multiplayer isn’t your thing, you do miss out on a hefty chunk of the game, but there are always skirmishes to take on A.I. at a comfortable difficulty level if you don’t feel like taking on other players. Age of Empires IV is incredibly safe in its execution, channeling the spirit of Age of Empires II for many of its systems, mechanics, and features. While the divisive Age of Empires III hit 16 years ago, it’s a bit of a dulling anesthetic seeing IV play things so close to Age of Empires II. Click here to watch embedded media There’s a meaty campaign in which the first segment functions as an extensive tutorial that can teach even an RTS neophyte to harvest resources, form control groups, and learn how to break down walled fortifications. These campaign offerings are heavily rooted in classical RTS and mostly involve building up forces and resources and taking out your opponents, but there are some nice surprises here too. Much of the good stuff here outside of the ordinary involves historical figures that lead troops that have been given special abilities for the campaign, adding a bit of zest and flair to the rote. However, the most enjoyable aspect of the campaigns wasn’t the gameplay. Instead, I had a blast nerding out during History-channel-style videos and segments between missions. I haven’t had a Magna Carta refresher like this since high school. Some of the video segments occur in an offbeat fashion where ancient battles and history are superimposed onto modern environments. Whatever the case, it works, and I found myself motivated to complete each fierce war involving William the Conqueror, King John, and others to unravel the next layer of edutainment. The video vignettes and bonus history content keep things interesting among many traditional “resource up and go” missions. Click image thumbnails to view larger version Within the eight different civilizations, there is a ton of gameplay diversity, even inside each culture. Feel like playing incredibly aggressive? Pick the Mongols and begin expanding immediately and putting pressure on your opponent. Want to annihilate the enemy at long range? Get some English longbowmen in the ranks! And when nothing else but giant elephant wrath will do, pick the Delhi Sultanate and rip through opposing fortifications. Exploring other unique elements like one culture not requiring any resources to execute research provides plenty of depth. There’s a lot to learn and experiment with each faction’s unique buildings, units, and game mechanics, and it’s fun to try out different build orders and routes to victory. Click here to watch embedded media Even if you don’t want to play against other players in multiplayer, you can team up with them and take on co-op vs. AI encounters. Pretty much every game you play grants experience points that go towards unlocking new cosmetics you can show off with, including portraits, coats-of-arms, and town monuments. These don’t force you to play any way you don’t want to but offer those that choose to master a faction some visual flair to take into their matches. The real-time strategy genre remains relevant, fueled by a few big titles once in a while. While Age of Empires IV lacks any ambition to even gently jostle the standards set by Age of Empires II decades earlier, it’s a good way to play a classic-feeling RTS today with some slick polish and panache. Score: 8.25 Summary: Gather resources, raise an army, and obliterate your opponents in real-time strategy. Concept: Play as various civilizations through their early development in a multitude of battles against other players or A.I. Graphics: The graphics are clean, and it’s enjoyable to zoom in on big encounters for a closer look Sound: The effects are pretty crisp, with the booming sound of a culverin crack echoing across the battlefield. A solid soundtrack accompanies the action Playability: While classic real-time strategy is not the most approachable genre, there are a ton of tutorials and guides to help ease players into the experience within the game Entertainment: Age of Empires IV successfully captures some of the magic of earlier titles in the franchise with clean, crisp gameplay and varied playstyles. Replay: High Click to Purchase