The Nostalgic Insanity of Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon image

Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is nothing like I expected it to be. For starters, don’t let the “3″ in the title fool you — there’s no sign of Jason Brody, Vaas Montenegro, or tropical islands to be found. Unless Blood Dragon turns out to be one of Dr. Earnhardt’s LSD trips, this game is in no way related to FC3. What the Ubisoft Montreal team has created here is a downloadable, kinetic ball of ’80s nostalgia that exists within in the confines of Far Cry’s mechanical skeleton.

You’re bombarded with Reagan-era references the moment you load up Blood Dragon. Cutscenes come across in 8-bit fashion, neon lights ripped straight from Miami bombard your senses, and the theme of mechanically-altered super soldiers absolutely screams “Terminator.” Hell, the main character is even voiced by Michael “Kyle Reese” Biehn. I’d be willing to bet that an “All Your Base…” joke pops up at some point, and honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about that. Like 2012′s Retro City Rampage, it’s clear that the team behind Blood Dragon grew up with their hands glued to NES controllers and their eyes fixated on cheesy action movies. The question is, can Ubisoft back up their pastiche with any real substance?

Blood Dragon begins with a shockingly linear sequence which made me immediately fear that Far Cry’s iconic expansive environments were going to be replaced with claustrophobic corridors. The opening is a limited and confining series of tutorials and dry encounters. Admittedly the self-reference in the tutorial points to Ubisoft’s willingness to make fun of themselves, but the opening 30 minutes left me fearing the worst. Thankfully this prologue is merely an entryway into a much more compelling world. Once you get past the disappointing opening, Blood Dragon bares its teeth and reveals just why it deserves to be called a Far Cry game.

With your hero stranded in a neon-tinted prehistoric wasteland, the experience becomes a familiar open world affair with one major addition: the titular beasts that roam the environment are simultaneously a grave threat and your most useful weapon. If you don’t tread carefully near the laser-firing lizards, you’ll quickly find yourself torn to shreds. But using the various cybernetic hearts that you cultivate (read: rip out) from the bodies of your enemies, you can take control of the beasts and use them in a variety of tactical ways.

Something something "get to the chopper."

…you can take control of the beasts and use them in a variety of tactical ways.

There’s a ton of potential to be had in using the Blood Dragons to your advantage while raiding a garrison. In the brief time I spent in the world, I managed to lure a pack of the critters to the walls of an encampment, where they proceeded to wreak havoc eye-laser-style on my enemies. This gave me the perfect opportunity to slink in through the back, take out some distracted guards with stealth kills, and eventually gain control over the entire compound. This skirmish could’ve played out in dozens of ways, and I can’t wait to dig in and start playing around in Ubisoft’s sandbox.

While I’m absolutely on board with Blood Dragon’s mechanics and systems, I’m still not completely sold on the unrelenting homage to the ’80s. The over-the-top 8-bit cutscenes start off as charming, but I quickly grew tired of the sheer bulk in which they were delivered. It felt like half of the game’s first hour was dedicated to exposition, which quickly became overbearing. Their presence seemed to only exist as a reminder that the ’80s were once a thing, as opposed to the homage and nostalgia adding anything substantial to the final product.

We’ll have to wait and see if Blood Dragon’s familiar mechanics, self reference, and nostalgic madness are able to maintain their posture throughout the campaign’s entirety.

Marty Sliva is an Associate Editor at IGN. He really hopes that the next Prince of Persia is directly inspired by Purple Rain. Follow him on Twitter @McBiggitty and on IGN.

By Marty Sliva

Nordic Looking at Options for Darksiders Sequel

Darksiders II image

Nordic Games says it “will look into various options” to make sequels to Darksiders. In an interview with Eurogamer, Nordic CEO Lars Wingefors explained that his company is considering all of the possibilities for the franchise and having discussions about its future.

“We are not a developer,” Wingefors said. “We should not create a sequel. We need to find the best creative team to look into a sequel. We will look into various options to make sequels. In the last 24 hours we have been approached by people who seem to know that product very well. However, if those discussions lead anywhere, I don’t know.”

Wingefors also discussed the possibility of working with Crytek USA, a studio made up of ex-Darksiders devs who recently expressed interest in the franchise.

“Without saying we have been in contact with Crytek USA, I’d love to do something with them if we can find the right set-up,” Wingefors said. “If they can prove they can make a worthwhile sequel, why shouldn’t we talk? I have a great respect for those guys. They made very good games. But I’m sure they have a full agenda. Making games takes time. They are the best-suited people in the world to make a sequel, that I’m aware of. But if someone else has a better set-up, they should step forward. We take one day at a time. I’m sure we’ll get the chance to speak.”

Yesterday, Nordic acquired the rights to Darksiders as well as Red Faction, MX vs. ATV and many more. At the time, Wingefors said “in the long term, we either want to cooperate with the original creators or best possible developers in order to work on sequels or additional content for these titles. A very important point for us is not to dash into several self-financed multi-million dollar projects right away, but rather to continue our in-depth analysis of all titles and carefully selecting different financing models for developing new installments of acquired IPs.”

Andrew Goldfarb is IGN’s news editor. Keep up with pictures of the latest food he’s been eating by following @garfep on Twitter or garfep on IGN.

By Andrew Goldfarb

Call of Duty PR Reps Steal $36,600 From Activision

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 image

The UK’s Daily Mail newspaper has reported on a rather interesting story, one concerning a head PR representative from Activision, the publisher behind the tour de force Call of Duty franchise, and one of her colleagues.

According to the story, “PR executive” Kathryn Kirton “siphoned off £18,963 to pay for her engagement party, hen party and designer shopping sprees.” £18,963 amounts to just over $29,000.

A “PR consultant” named Jamie Kaye also stood accused of stealing money. Ultimately, both Kirton and Kaye pled guilty to the charges, with Kaye himself responsible for another £5,000 stolen (or about $7,600).

Both Kirton and Kaye were given suspended sentences, so neither were given actual prison time. “Both [Kirton and Kaye] pleaded guilty to one count of fraud,” according to the Daily Mail’s story.

We’ve reached out to Activision for official comment. In the meantime, for more on what all of that money was fraudulently spent on, be sure to consult the Daily Mail’s story.

Colin Moriarty is an IGN PlayStation editor. You can follow him on Twitter and IGN and learn just how sad the life of a New York Islanders and New York Jets fan can be.

By Colin Moriarty

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Announced

XCOM image

2K has officially announced The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. Due on August 20th in North America and August 23rd in Europe, The Bureau will hit Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC for $59.99 and is a tactical squad-based third-person shooter in development at 2K Marin.

The Bureau is set in 1962 against the backdrop of the Cold War. Players will take on the role of agent William Carter, an intelligence operative recruited into The Bureau who soon finds himself leading teams against aliens that have invaded the United States. Through Carter, players will see the cover up that takes place, as well as the “secret story” behind the XCOM initiative.

IGN had a chance to talk to creative director Morgan Gray and associate producer Andrew Dutra about The Bureau and how it fits into the XCOM universe.

“At a high level, what we were attempting to do was find a third-person tactical squad-based interpretation of the classic XCOM gameplay tenets,” Gray told IGN. Those include Team, which Gray explained as “no Rambos, no one-man army. It’s me leading my soldiers in battle to success against numerically superior and technologically superior forces.” The Bureau also focuses on tools and tech, allowing players to gain access to additional technology as the fight continues.

The Bureau also features a heavy focus on tactics, and Gray explained that “our mission statement here is to move beyond the turn-based isometric God’s Eye View on the battlefield and to put you into the boots of this squad leader, where the bullets are flying in the middle of the mix, having to basically direct your squad and keep your own head from being shot off all at the same time.” Players will be able to move agents using an interface called Battle Focus.

“The Battle Focus interface allows you to do things like maneuver and position your squadmates around the battlefield in real-time,” Gray said. Players will also be able to focus on features like “target prioritization, utilizing different powers and abilities that [your squad] is able to rank up and obtain that you customize them with, and controlling squadmates as the battle happens, building tactical plans and then watching them get executed in the field. Things like leapfrog maneuvers, looking for flanks, height advantages, that sort of thing.”

In classic XCOM fashion, The Bureau will also feature permanent death for agents. “As agents rank up, you customize them. You’re going to get used to them,” Gray told us. “A couple hours into the game, you make a poor decision in the fight. In any other game, that’d be like ‘oh, something happened.’ In our game, he’s dead. He’s gone. You’re going to have to get a new recruit. He may not be as powerful, but the fight goes on.”

2K Marin’s XCOM project was first announced back in 2010 as a first-person shooter. A slightly changed version was shown off at E3 2011 and was initially due to arrive that year. The game was later delayed in early 2012 and delayed once again to Take-Two’s 2014 fiscal year. We first heard about the change to third-person last September.

2K emphasized that The Bureau: XCOM Declassified will be a single-player game focused on narrative, with no multiplayer modes. Players who pre-order will receive an extra side mission called Codebreakers from select retailers, in which “a communications facility responsible for intercepting and interpreting the enemy’s transmissions has gone dark. Special Agent Carter and his squad must make contact with any remaining personnel and investigate the incident.”

Look out for much more on The Bureau from IGN in the weeks to come.

Andrew Goldfarb is IGN’s news editor. Keep up with pictures of the latest food he’s been eating by following @garfep on Twitter or garfep on IGN.

By Andrew Goldfarb

Evoland Review

Evoland goes through the motions of imitating some great games, but never evolves into a good game itself.

The Good

  • Brings back fond memories of classic games.

The Bad

  • Rudimentary combat and exploration
  • Rote imitations of other games lack personality.

It can be pleasant to reminisce about the good old days. To listen to songs that are associated with happy memories, or to revisit movies that you loved as a kid. Sometimes, all it takes is a quick glance at an old photograph, or a whiff of a familiar home-cooked dish, to bring memories flooding back. Evoland sets out to overload your nostalgia receptors by hitting you with one familiar element after another, and if you’ve played the games it’s referencing–early Legend of Zelda games, older Final Fantasies, Diablo–you’ll certainly find yourself recalling time spent with those games. What Evoland fails to do is to fashion these throwbacks to older games into a game that’s worth playing for its own sake. Establishing no unique identity, Evoland is content to just trot out its references and make you think of other games, and that’s just not enough.

From these humble beginnings comes a thoroughly humble adventure.

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As its name implies, Evoland’s core conceit is that it evolves frequently, particularly in terms of its visuals and gameplay. At the very beginning, its top-down perspective, chunky pixels, and lack of color suggest a Zelda-style action adventure game running on Nintendo’s Game Boy. But as you guide your hero around, you open chests that change the gameplay and the world. One bestows the luxury of 16 vibrant colors on the game’s graphics; another brings about musical accompaniment; and still another introduces save points.

But though the chests laid out in your path bring new monsters and new weapons (bombs and a bow eventually join the sword you acquire very early on) to the land of Evoland, the gameplay of these sections never advances past offering hack-and-slash combat, environmental exploration, and puzzle-solving of the most rudimentary. It tries to recall games like the original Legend of Zelda, but while it reminds you of that game (provided you once played it), it doesn’t have any of Zelda’s magic. This basic combat isn’t a way for you to overcome dangers in a fascinating world whose landscape you must explore and conquer on your own; it’s simply there to remind you of other, better games.

Evoland repeatedly reminds you that you've played plenty of games that are way better than Evoland.

Evoland repeatedly reminds you that you’ve played plenty of games that are way better than Evoland.

Your journey soon takes you out onto an overworld map, where your travels are frequently interrupted by random encounters. These battles require no thought; you simply select your attack command until all your foes have been defeated. Early on, your hero–named Clink by default–is joined by a woman who is, by default, named Kaeris (do these names sound familiar?). Kaeris enlists your help to recover a crystal and save her village, but don’t expect much plot development here. Like everything else about Evoland, the story is as generic as they come; that may make it easier for you to project your memories of whatever games Evoland reminds you of onto the experience of playing it, but it doesn’t make Evoland itself any richer. Nor do Kaeris’ healing abilities make the turn-based combat any more complex or engaging. The high rate of random encounters is reminiscent of the games Evoland wants to recall, but here, it’s only a frustration, reminding you not of how good the games of days gone by were but of why games have largely left this mechanic behind.

Evoland’s gameplay draws primarily upon early Zelda and Final Fantasy games–Clink, appropriately, sports a green tunic and spiky blond hair–but it shifts gears slightly for one dungeon, in which monsters attack you in swarms and drop piles of coins, a la Diablo. A character equipment screen mimics those seen in games of Diablo’s ilk, but like so many things about Evoland, it’s just a halfhearted imitation. Your enemies drop items that you automatically equip, but although their names call to mind the randomly generated loot of many hack-and-slash role-playing games, they’re not actually randomly generated, nor do they have any real effect. It’s a purely superficial reference that, when coupled with the bare-bones combat in which you can do little but press the attack button until all your enemies are dead, just makes you wish you were playing one of the better games Evoland is referencing.

Yes, there's an airship. Of course there's an airship.

Yes, there’s an airship. Of course there’s an airship.

It takes only a few hours to finish Evoland, but you couldn’t call the game too short; because it lacks any soul of its own, its trotting-out of one reference after another grows tired and predictable well before the credits roll. It’s possible for games to be all about celebrating other games and yet still be fun and exciting in their own right; Abobo’s Big Adventure crammed in more references and gameplay styles than you can count, but used them in a game that you enjoy as much for its frequent surprises and subversions of your memories as you do for its faithful re-creations of aspects of older games. Evoland doesn’t try to surprise you, to subvert your expectations, or even to capture what really made the games it’s mimicking so great. It sets out only to remind you of earlier games. To that end, it succeeds, but it’s hardly the most heroic of undertakings.

By Carolyn Petit

Grid 2: Tearing up the Multiplayer Tarmac

Grid 2 image

The souped-up motors of Grid 2 are about to take their starting positions. The long-awaited title is finally set for release this May, almost a half-decade to the day since its much-lauded predecessor was rolled out. The maxim for this sequel is one of “total race day immersion”, an ambitious effort to recreate the tension, glamour, and sparking rivalry of any authentic competitive driving event. From our hands-on with the game’s re-imagined multiplayer modes, that sense of competition has filtered right through to the development team – Grid 2’s multiplayer is set to stand alone from that pesky career.

“We’ve decided to make it a completely distinct experience from the single player, because of the fiction we’ve created in the career – we didn’t want that impinging on the multiplayer at all,” says Senior Game Designer Ross Gowing, with a grin. Essentially, this separation means there are two dedicated games under Grid 2’s hood, with victories in solo and multiplayer modes resulting in rewards unique to each. “Online has its own progression system of XP and cash, and all the vehicles that you might have acquired throughout the career, you have will have to earn to use in multiplayer,” Gowing explains.

A significant shift from the first game is the new LiveRoutes system, which is implemented in various modes and randomly creates the track ahead of the racers. “The tracks will change lap by lap, dynamically,” says Becky Crossdale, Level Designer. “They’re all in the same location but at one point you might go down a straight and on the first lap, you’ll take a left and by the time you’ve come around again you might take a right but you won’t have seen anything change; it’s very subtle.”

For those who don’t fancy putting it all online, Grid 2 also brings back local two-player split screen, where players can create custom races based on the career mode. For the gently confrontational, there’s also asynchronous online play linked through Codemasters’ Racenet – think any turn-based game on Facebook for an idea of how this will work, where you won’t have to be online at the same time to compete and challenges are delivered to friends the next time they connect.

That’s all well and good – and as we’ve previously covered, the game looks great, boasts a stunning selection of cars (from classic BMWs up to supercars that Bill Gates probably couldn’t afford), and has spent its five year absence honing every nut and bolt. The handling in particular already seemed hugely improved when we looked at the game last. But how does that hold up in match conditions?

In a word, marvellously.

Dropped into a straight-up, first-past-the-post race against a squad of Codemasters’ finest – an unfair advantage to the home team, surely? – the Subaru BRZ responds well to the slightest touch and it’s soon clear each vehicle is performing to its own standards. Interestingly, cutting a corner in a mis-timed overtake prompts a penalty, decreasing performance until the illegal benefit had been equalised. We like it, but how this approach goes down with players en masse will be interesting to see.

Endurance mode mixes it up, first by showcasing LiveRoutes in action, the streets of a bewilderingly pretty Dubai snaking off into the distance, each corner providing a new surprise, second by forcing a new approach to play. Victory goes to the driver covering the greatest distance in lengthy races – customisable up to a whopping 40 minutes, though here a couple of merciful five-minute defeats – rather than passing a finish line first. Constantly keeping up with the unpredictable track while trying to nimbly zip between rivals and avoid collisions, all to get the most miles on the wheels, proves a thrilling challenge.

The last mode tested was Checkpoint. Flipping Endurance on its head, this knocks players out of the race as the run out of time between, well, checkpoints. Nothing gamers haven’t seen before but, coupled with LiveRoutes again randomising the track progression, feels somehow fresher than comparable efforts elsewhere.

Although not shown yet, Gowing promises that Grid 2 will also have “Time Attack, which is all about setting the best time whilst all drivers are on track but not jostling for position. Face-Off and Touge –two-player focussed race modes. Drift challenge. Then the Global Challenge which adds a couple of race types to that – Power Lap, which is standing start, timed lap; Overtake, which is passing event traffic in a given time, and the Checkpoint mode”

Beneath the hood of all the multiplayer components is Codemasters’ integrated Racenet. “[It’s] technically been in beta since [DiRT Showdown] was released, so Grid 2 will signify the 1.0 release of it,” Gowing told us. “We’ve been listening to community feedback, so that’s allowed us to expand our feature set. You’ll see Racenet being a pillar of the game, driving our Global Challenge system, where nine events are presented to the world each week, and you compete against your friends or rivals to do the best cumulative performance over the week. Racenet is the main pusher and puller all of that, it’s providing all of the rosters in-game, the tracking, everything.”

Although some players may not like the sound of ‘levelling up’ through the two chains of career and multiplayer, those separate paths and the option of playing with the variable LiveRoutes routes helps make the action genuinely competitive. There’s no grinding on single player only to take the best cars online, and having ever-shifting routes means every twist and turn is down to skill, reaction and performance rather than more obsessive players memorising tracks. Another subtle tweak is in upgrades, purchased with the cash won in-game, which can nudge a cars’ performance into the next championship tier. Trick out a Nissan R34 just right, and you could be racing it out of class against the likes of the BAC Mono. In these situations more than any other, each victory has to be 100% earned.

In the five-year gap since the first Grid, the DiRT series has veered between rallying and stunt driving, while the Formula One license has been focussed on creating a precise simulation of the real-world sport. Grid 2 now has the chance to complete Codemasters’ triptych of racing offerings, delivering an experience distinct from its garage-mates – and with it shaping up to be a chrome-plated, sexed-up street racer with a fresh take on competitive multiplayer, it should do just that.

Matt Kamen is a freelance games journalist. When the revolution comes, he’s putting anyone who didn’t buy a Dreamcast up against the wall first. You can follow him on IGN and Twitter.

By Matt Kamen

Dragon’s Dogma Patch Could Corrupt Saves

Dragon's Dogma image

Capcom has advised gamers that a new update for Dragon’s Dogma could corrupt files and prevent data from being saved or loaded. According to a post on Capcom Unity, a new title update could cause the problem for Dragon’s Dogma and Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen players.

“A number of users have encountered an unforeseen issue with a recent downloadable Title Update (patch),” Capcom advised. “The TU, in some cases, has caused players’ DD save data to become corrupted (cue Olra purification jokes), meaning the game will no longer save or load their game progress.”

Capcom recommends backing up your save before downloading the update, noting “to prevent the possibility of permanent loss of your data, please copy your existing save data (whether it be DD or DDDA) to an external storage device or cloud whenever possible–especially if you are picking up the game for the first time in awhile or switching over to Dark Arisen for the first time.”

For now, Capcom is “exploring the issue” and hopes “to have a solution as quickly as possible.”

Andrew Goldfarb is IGN’s news editor. Keep up with pictures of the latest food he’s been eating by following @garfep on Twitter or garfep on IGN

By Andrew Goldfarb

Minecraft Getting Horses Soon?

Minecraft image

Mojang has hinted that horses may be headed to Minecraft soon. In a post on Twitter, Jens “Jeb” Bergensten provided “a subtle hint” on the “main feature” in the upcoming 1.6 update by posting the following photo:

The news comes as Minecraft has passed 10 million in sales. Joining the six million Xbox copies and five million mobile copies sold so far, Minecraft franchise sales are well past 20 million to date.

More information about update 1.6 (and its potential horses) is expected to be released soon.

Andrew Goldfarb is IGN’s news editor. Keep up with pictures of the latest food he’s been eating by following @garfep on Twitter or garfep on IGN.

By Andrew Goldfarb

Get Your Face in Grand Theft Auto 5

GTA 5 image

Rockstar has posted another mysterious Epsilon Program tease for Grand Theft Auto V offering a chance to get your face in the game. On Rockstar’s official site, the Epsilon Program invites you to “join us in Los Santos” for its “Los Santos area Enlightenment Seminar in September.”

The post allows readers to apply using their name, email and photo, the latter required “so that we may recognize you when retrieving you at Los Santos International Airport.” However, a glance through a list of terms on the page reveals that anyone who submits their photo “will be considered for casting as an Epsilon Program member in Grand Theft Auto V.” Submissions will be considered “from 12:01 AM ET April 29, 2013 until 11:59:59 PM ET on May 27, 2013.”

The Epsilon Program originally appeared in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and was recently teased by Rockstar along with an invitation to “visit one of our enlightenment centers.” So far, the group’s specific involvement in Grand Theft Auto V has yet to be revealed.

Grand Theft Auto V will hit Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on September 17th. Be sure to tune into IGN Live tomorrow for a look at three brand new trailers, then return on Thursday for all-new details about GTA V including our impressions after seeing the game in action.

Andrew Goldfarb is IGN’s news editor. Keep up with pictures of the latest food he’s been eating by following @garfep on Twitter or garfep on IGN.

By Andrew Goldfarb

SEGA Adds Disclaimer to Aliens Trailers

Aliens: Colonial Marines image

SEGA Europe has agreed to add disclaimers to trailers for Aliens: Colonial Marines acknowledging that they do not reflect the final game, as a result of a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority by Reddit user subpardave.

The Redditor originally contacted the ASA to complain that trailers for the game that claimed to be in-game footage bore almost no resemblence to the final game, and were misrepresentative. “I submitted my complaint based on the absurd differences between the ‘in game’ and ‘playthorugh’ footage that was widely used to advertise A:CM. Of course, the game looked and played NOTHING like what was shown to consumers,” he wrote.

The response he received, which was posted in full here, stated that after the ASA contacted SEGA Europe, the publisher agreed to add a disclaimer to Aliens: Colonial Marines trailers, whilst asserting that it was not necessarily the publisher’s fault that they were not in line with the final game. “They explained that their online trailers used demo footage, created using the in-game engine,” it reads. “Sega Europe understood the objections raised about the quality of the game in relation to the trailers, but explained that they weren’t aware of these issues when the trailers were produced, in some cases several months before release.”

It goes on to say that the publisher has agreed to amend the trailers. “Sega Europe acknowledged your objection that the trailers did not accurately reflect the final content of the game. They agreed to add a disclaimer, both on their website and in all relevant YouTube videos, which explains that the trailers depict footage of the demo versions of the game. The disclaimer will be visible when each online trailer is played.”

The disparity between the in-progress footage of Aliens: Colonial Marines shown to press and public before release and the quality of the final game has been a big talking point since the game was released to widespread disappointment earlier this year. We put together a screenshot gallery highlighting the difference.

The letter from the ASA concludes by saying that “our role in cases like this is to ensure that marketing material isn’t likely to materially mislead the public. We consider that with this disclaimer in place, customers are unlikely to get the impression that the trailer shows the finished product, and that the ads are therefore unlikely to mislead.”

The case is listed on the ASA website as informally resolved.

Thanks, Eurogamer.

Keza MacDonald is in charge of IGN’s games coverage in the UK. You can follow her on IGN and Twitter.

By Keza MacDonald