The Dynamic Duo are back, and this time theyve brought their friends to play.
Travellers Tales is releasing a much-anticipated sequel to Lego Batman: The Videogame next month, and we got hands-on with the demo at MCM Expo. While the story of Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes remains mostly under wraps, the game will see the Dynamic Duo teaming up with the Justice League to combat the unprecedented threat of the Joker and his new ally, Lex Luthor. The start of the demo sees Bruce Wayne beating Lex to win the coveted Man of the Year Award, then all hell breaks loose when Joker and his cronies decide to crash the ceremony. After a quick costume change, Batman and Robin must battle groups of goons, solve puzzles and assemble Lego objects to progress through the campaign.
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The big change for Lego Batman 2 is that it’s set in an open world, so you can expect to find vast numbers of collectables and secrets hidden throughout Gotham City. Due to its vast size, co-op is now split screen. You and your partner can can choose to explore opposite ends of the city if you so choose, or you can stick together. Youll team up with plenty of familiar faces such as Wonderwoman, Flash, Green Lantern and the Man of Steel himself, Superman. While we didnt get to play as Superman, we did get to see him in action, flying around Gotham City and using his breath to freeze enemies. Due to the different powers of the assorted DC heroes (and villains), collectables are much more widespread, and require you to use a variety of characters to uncover them all. With over fifty characters to unlock for the Free Play mode, DC Super Heroes will offer a lot of replay value, in addition to its 15 hour campaign.
For the first time in a Lego game, DC Super Heroes will feature a fully-voiced cast of characters, including veterans Kevin Conway and Tara Strong, who play Batman and Harley Quinn, respectively. During the demo we got to play as Batman and Robin, switching between the two characters to utilise their different skill sets to complete puzzles and progress through levels. Using alternative costumes, Batman and Robin gain extra powers such as acrobatics and x-ray vision. We got to try out Robins acrobat suit which totally switches up his fighting style by giving him a staff that he can use to hit multiple enemies at once. It can also be used to climb up to previously unreachable areas. He can also turn into a ball at the touch of a button to activate switches and roll over enemies. Batmans stealth suit allows you to pass through laser security systems undetected and you can manipulate items through walls using x-ray vision.
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While the demo we played was only fifteen or so minutes long, it was fun to play. DC Super Heroes retains the fun of previous Lego games, and were looking forward to seeing more at this years E3. The game is set for release on a whole host of platforms in June. And if you want to watch the Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes demo from the GameSpot UK games stage at MCM, head over to our channel on Twitch.TV.
By Lucy James
We storm into Tehran with our hands-on of a new level from EA’s upcoming Battlefield 3.
Japanese games may logically dominate the Tokyo Games Show, but Western publishers still take the opportunity to showcase their biggest titles for Asia’s largest games event. EA has certainly taken this opportunity, showing off a new level from Battlefield 3′s upcoming single-player campaign at TGS.
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While EA reps didn’t disclose at what stage of the game the special level shown at TGS takes place, we do know it’s set in the Iranian city of Tehran. The level–which takes place at night–begins with your character Sergeant Blackburn hunkering down with the rest of Misfit Squad on top of a hill on the edge of the city. As you crouch, you hear your orders come through: Meet up with Haymaker Squad in the city and take out a nest of enemies in an apartment block along the way.
The action begins with a desperate run down the hill, with you and Misfit Squad hightailing it down the slope as explosives land around you, throwing chunks of ground into the air and taking out the occasional soldier. As we reached the bottom of the hill, we set up a mortar and then set off an illumination round into the sky to let our brothers in Haymaker Squad know that we were on our way.
A quick boost over a nearby wall saw us enter our first firefight for the level, so we equipped a SCAR-L rifle equipped with an ACOG scope as our weapon of choice. This area looked like a hilly park, with several machine-gun nests dotting the surrounds. We carefully made our way up the hill, picking off enemies from behind cover and trying to flank MG nests wherever possible. At the top of the hill, we reached a choke point where some stairs led up into the apartment building we needed to storm. This section was a little tougher, with enemies streaming down the stories providing cover by shooters perched up on the higher level.
After we managed to make our way through, we found ourselves in a small courtyard. One of our buddies threw a grenade into the ground floor window of the apartment block, taking out the encamped soldiers inside. That was our queue to make our way inside to clear it of enemies, and we switched to an 870 MCS shotgun for close-quarters killing. After clearing the ground floor, we headed toward a waiting transport, which is where the gameplay session ended.
Even though it was only a brief taste of Battlefield 3′s single-player campaign, it was certainly an adrenalin-pumping one, particularly the mad dash down the hill at the start of the level. The shooting was tight and fluid, and we’re keen to play more to find out just how this level fits into the game’s overall narrative.
Is there still room for creativity in Call of Duty? Treyarch hopes so.
After all the rumors and leaks, it’s finally official: Treyarch is at work on a sequel to Black Ops, due for arrival later this year. This sort of news isn’t exactly shocking, of course, considering that Call of Duty has long been one of those annualized series where gossiping about the next game is a bit like spreading rumors about tomorrow’s sunrise. But just because the existence of Black Ops II is a foregone conclusion doesn’t mean that the content of the game is on that same level of predictability. In fact, the team at Treyarch has got quite a number of tricks up its sleeve for this upcoming first-person shooter. The core action is very much Call of Duty, but the overall package might just surprise you.
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It’s set in the future and the past
The Call of Duty franchise has always been fond of the idea of dual protagonists, whether it was alternating between two separate theaters of war in the World War II days or two different elite tactical units in the Modern Warfare franchise. Black Ops II is out to do the same thing, but with one very different twist: instead of being separated by geography, the playable characters are separated by decades of time.
One half of the game picks up immediately after Black Ops, with you following the journey of Frank Woods, who, as luck would have it, didn’t quite die at the end of the last game. Whether he’s riding on horseback alongside mujahideen during the Afghan Civil War or off pursuing Russian secrets in some other corner of the world, Woods’ adventures will take him through some of the later stages of the Cold War.
The other half of the campaign, though, kicks off in the year 2025, when advanced weapon technologies rule the day. This half of the campaign is filled with drone warfare (you can hack and deploy drones in the heat of combat), robotic quadrupeds roaming the battlefield, and fancy weapon systems that let you do some pretty crazy stuff with your basic firearms (like hold the trigger longer for a charged fire). Even subtle things like the general aesthetic of the heads-up display or the style of the music have a more futuristic feel to them.
If done right, this type of setup could make for a very interesting experience. There’s going to be a lot of contrast between the tone and technologies of these two halves of the campaign, and bouncing between the two could be a lot of fun. Treyarch is keen to stress that it has done this to examine some distinct historical parallels (the old Cold War with Russia and the new one with China), which could be interesting if the thoughtfulness that goes into that premise isn’t overshadowed by sheer chaos and spectacle–something that’s always a risk when it comes to storytelling in Call of Duty.
It has branching storylines
Call of Duty games have long been this industry’s go-to example for linear storytelling. Once you have finished the mile-a-minute campaigns, there has never been a tremendous reason to go back and play through the story again. With Black Ops II, however, Treyarch wants to give you some control over how the story progresses and thus add a reason to go back and experience different events. It’s doing this through a combination of old-fashioned decision-making and allowing mission failures to alter the story rather than simply lead to a game-over screen. Did you manage to kill that one antagonist before he got away? Did you successfully protect that VIP? Instances such as these (if not these examples specifically) can occasionally lead to different outcomes depending on how well you do.
Ideally, this method of storytelling will be more nuanced than just “kill all the men, get the good ending” versus “kill most of the men, get the slightly worse ending.” We’re hoping to see more moral gray area, where you are given the chance to make difficult decisions that alter the game on top of how you perform in battle. This sort of narrative system has the potential to seriously alter how you experience a Call of Duty campaign, and we’re hoping that Treyarch can pull it off in a meaningful way.
It’s occasionally a real-time strategy game
Treyarch is working on a new game mode for Black Ops II called Strikeforce, which is the studio’s attempt to add a more hands-off, sandbox experience for players who want to run-and-gun on their own terms. What Strikeforce does is drop you into a large environment with a number of AI squadmates (sadly, this mode isn’t co-op) and then give you a series of objectives spread throughout the map. It’s basically the game giving you a bunch of space, a bunch of toys, and a bunch of enemies to take care of how you see fit.
The novel bit is that you don’t have to play as the foot soldiers on the ground. You can bounce out to a sort of all-seeing-eye camera that lets you quickly scan across the map and issue orders to the troops on the ground. And since this is the year 2025 (the supplementary game modes like Strikeforce and competitive multiplayer all stick to the future), you can also issue orders to drones, and even play as them from a first-person perspective (including air and ground units). The whole thing is basically Call of Duty’s version of a toy chest come to life. You can either pretend to be each little unit on the ground, or simply play out the entire match as the disembodied overlord looming over the battle, telling everyone what to do and where to go.
It has a villain Treyarch wants you to care about
Think of all the things the Call of Duty franchise has done well over the years: the sensation of being in the middle of a chaotic warzone, the terrific feel of the weapons, the exciting (and occasionally eccentric) set pieces. With this next game, Treyarch is hoping to add “interesting and multifaceted villain” to that list.
While the studio isn’t going into too much detail about this antagonist’s identity, they did mention that they’ll be using the full span of the campaign–both the past and future–to establish the villain as a young man, show his descent into evil, and reveal the full extent of that trajectory come 2025. To help build this villain, Treyarch has been working with screenwriter David Goyer, whose credits include Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Remember Heath Ledger as the Joker? That’s the sort of lightning Treyarch is hoping to bottle up with the help of Goyer.
Game director Dave Anthony explains it like this: “If you look at a show like The Sopranos, the main character is essentially a villain. Not only a villain, but a cold-blooded murderer. But you’re presented with somebody that you actually understand as a human being and empathize with. And then suddenly you’ll see them do something that’s so horrific that it puts you in a real conflict. That’s the approach we’re taking with the villain of Black Ops II.”
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It’s more influenced by e-sports than you think
With last year’s Modern Warfare 3, Infinity Ward made the call to forgo LAN support. It was a decision that led competitive gaming leagues like MLG to drop MW3 from the pro circuits. Treyarch’s approach to e-sports couldn’t be more different. Black Ops II multiplayer design lead David Vonderhaar says that tailoring their game to resonate with the e-sports community is a huge goal for Treyarch. “E-sports has a really big influence. It helps us envision ways we can make the game for a competitive mindset, so there’s elements of e-sports directly influencing the game design in multiplayer,” says Vonderhaar. “But what’s also really fascinating is e-sports as a spectator experience.”
“The theater was fantastic, millions of people making millions of videos. But what’s also fantastic is all these people who watch games get played. I just read this stat a couple days ago: 3 billion minutes per month of people watching people play video games. Three billion minutes! I’m thinking, man, Call of Duty could be 3 billion minutes if it was fun to watch. So this is impacting the game design. Making the game fun to watch is a big part of our agenda.”
You can expect to see Black Ops II hit stores on November 13. Stay tuned for more coverage once next month’s E3 rolls around.
Firaxis unleashes XCOM’s online alien battles.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown lead designer Jake Solomon has been keeping a secret.
Game designers are good at secret-keeping, of course, but Solomon has had an ace up his sleeve for a while, and during our visit to Firaxis’ Maryland studios last week, he finally got to play that ace. XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Firaxis’ highly anticipated strategy game, will ship with online multiplayer. In fact, the game was planned from the beginning to have multiplayer–and we had a chance to play it ourselves during the extensive tour.
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Most notably, Enemy Unknown’s multiplayer matches are generally quick and dirty, in direct contrast to the extensive single-player strategic marathons. Online matches eliminate the strategic layer completely, pitting two players versus each other in a single combat skirmish that’s likely to last around 10 to 15 minutes. The setup is pretty simple: each player is given 10,000 total points to spend prior to the match on various units and inventories, and once the match begins, each player has 90 seconds to take their turn. (That’s true of ranked matches, at least; you and a buddy can customize these and other options in unranked play if you want to experiment.)
The point limitation is the game’s primary means of balancing, though Firaxis is abundantly aware that once the game is released into the wild, players might find creative ways to steamroll their opponents. There’s good news in that regard: the studio can adjust point thresholds on the fly without patching, so if those cyberdiscs you like so much are overpowered (and a few members of the team suspect they might be), numbers can be tweaked without constant patches and hotfixes.
Oh, right: cyberdiscs. You see, you aren’t limited to controlling human soldiers; your team can be a mix of human and alien units, each of which has some kind of weakness to exploit. Curious about what some of these units are, and how they behave? Take a look at some of the ways you can exercise your military might:
Soldiers are the most flexible units at your disposal.
These are the most flexible units in the game, as they come in various classes and can be outfitted in various manners. A soldier in a ghost suit can go invisible for a turn. Some armor types include a grappling hook, allowing the unit to gain a height advantage quickly. Archangel armor allows a soldier to fly for a limited time. Various weapons, armor, and inventory weapons add to the cost of your soldier, so outfitting a single unit as an armored angel of death could use up a sizable portion of your point allotment.
Sectoids are the weakest alien units, and thus come at a low point cost. They may not do a lot of direct damage, but they’re capable of mind merge, which allows them to grant bonuses to more-powerful units. They can also lay down suppressive fire, which can potentially damage an enemy unit that dares wander in its path.
As you might suspect, the sectoid commander is a beefed-up version of the sectoid, coming with more hit points than its lowly counterpart, and capable of a more effective version of the mind merge. The commander can also perform mind control, which allows you to take command of an enemy attacker. But the cost is much higher than a normal sectoid, given its powerful psionic abilities.
Click to page 2 to see even more units, and learn more about XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
Firaxis unleashes XCOM’s online alien battles.
Thin men are also relatively weak, coming with very few hit points and doing little direct damage. However, they can turn the tide of battle when used effectively. Not only are they highly mobile, but they can spew poison, in addition to annoying enemy targets with suppressive fire.
Chrysalids bring on the hurt–but only up close.
The chrysalid is a fast, high-cost melee unit that has a very special effect on the battlefield: its human victims turn into dangerous zombies. In turn, those zombies turn into more chrysalids. Firaxis can’t take total credit for the crazy visual design of the chrysalid; after all, chrysalids were present in the original X-COM. But they did an outstanding job on their version of this storied unit, and watching a zombie morph into a chrysalid is one of Enemy Unknown’s grossest pleasures.
Cyberdiscs possess the ability to fly, making them completely invulnerable to melee-only units like chrysalids. Watching them in action is a treat: like previous games in the franchise, Enemy Unknown features highly destructible environments, and cyberdiscs are capable of bringing down walls, cars, and plenty more in a blaze of fire and debris. These hardy units are immune to psi abilities, do high damage, and perform a powerful area-of-effect attack called the death blossom. As you can imagine, cyberdiscs are the single most expensive unit in the game.
Cyberdiscs are expensive, and they are powerful–but they aren’t infallible.
Berserkers are strong melee brutes with a ton of hit points. Their most powerful attack is the bull rush, which damages any unit in its effective area. The berserker’s high point cost isn’t its only drawback, however: if your opponent brings nothing to the fray but cyberdiscs and floaters, you are simply a lamb brought to slaughter.
There are other units–floaters and mutons among them–and in our matches we tried various setups to see which would work, and it became immediately clear that the best teams were the most flexible ones, at least to a point. An all-berserker team might sound like a good idea at first, but without a ranged unit or two to back them up, a single airborne soldier could prove unassailable. Good strategies usually require some flexibility, to be sure, but don’t discount the support abilities. In multiple circumstances, suppressive fire and overwatch (that is, a free defensive shot) proved immensely valuable, particularly when used by a cloaked unit.
The fate of the human race hinges on the ultimate staring contest.
We played every match with an Xbox 360 controller, and indeed, it was this version we played during our studio tour. This might come as a concern to PC players, who feel rightfully possessive of X-COM and its successors. Solomon reassured us that Enemy Unknown is in no way less deep or challenging just because it appears on consoles–and additional comfort came from none other than Sid Meier himself, Firaxis’ director of creative development. Meier is the beloved designer behind Civilization, Alpha Centauri, and other renowned strategy games, and he’s all too aware of the stinging criticism of passionate PC gamers. One of Firaxis’ many goals was to retain the elements that made the original X-COM so memorable–and bring them to as many players as they could.
It’s an admirable goal indeed, and there’s no reason to think XCOM: Enemy Unknown can’t erect the same tent poles that supported the original game. What we played left nothing but positive impressions, though snap judgments aren’t the most valuable kind when it comes to games as long and involved as this. On October 19, 2012, the game’s release date, we’ll have a better idea of whether Firaxis’ revival is as enthralling as the game that spawned it.
By Kevin VanOrd
We munch on all the new features in the latest Pac-Man offering.
One of the most recognizable icons in video games is still hard at work, chomping on an endless supply of multicolored ghosts. His digestive track seems to be doing just fine, after having recently reached the ripe old age of 30. This year, Pac-Man gets a new game called Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, which expands on the original Pac-Man Championship Edition released in 2007. Because Pac-Man CE was played by competitive gamers who competed in the first Pac-Man World Championship in New York City, it wasn’t always as accessible for newcomers to play. Pac-man DX includes new features that will help new players get all the pac-dots they need.
The basic premise of the game remains the same. You run around a maze, eating as many dots as you can while avoiding the always-watchful ghosts to rack up a high score. The more dots you eat in a row, the higher your multiplier gets. In DX, you now have bombs, which will send all the ghosts back to the house once you activate them with the right trigger. Your multiplier will be halved, however; so if you’re gaining 100 points per dot, it’ll go down to 50, and you’ll have to build your way back up again.
For newcomers, there are three difficulty settings per mode, so the easier the setting, the more bombs and lives you’ll get. One of the biggest additions is a new type of ghost. Sleeping ghosts are carefully placed all over the map, and as soon as you pass by, they’ll wake up and run after you in a giant conga line. Their pattern is mainly just to follow you, so as long as you continue to move forward, they won’t catch up to you. It starts to get tricky when your chain of tormentors gets really long, which makes it hard turn in smaller spaces because you’ll likely run into the ghosts that are on the tail end of the line.
While there are many different modes in Pac-Man DX across nine different maps, the demo we were shown was timed, and we had to get as many points as we could within five minutes. As the timer ticks down, the game speeds up, so eventually, all you see is Pac-man zipping across the screen with a huge line of ghosts behind him. Like the last game, if you start your turns early, sparks will fly, which will let you take your turns faster to increase the distance between you and those multicolored fiends. Random ghosts still appear from the house as soon as you chow down your first power pellet. They’ll come out and start wandering the maze, and when you get close enough to make them angry, they’ll hop into the conga line as well.
The game really starts to get crazy and hectic the longer you play, but anytime you’re surrounded or make a wrong turn and are about to die, the game will suddenly go into bullet time, giving you precious seconds to either use a bomb or turn the other way. It’s a cool feature and may seem a little like cheating, but once you realize how quickly the line of ghosts build up, you’ll be thankful for the slowdown. We didn’t get to actually play the game to see how easy it is to grasp with the new mechanics, but we were told that you die a lot less often with this feature put in, making it more accessible to Pac-Man newbies.
Several new modes have been added, including a Time Trial mode and Ghost Combo. They’re both pretty self-explanatory, but with Ghost Combo, your goal is to get as many ghosts to follow you as you can and then eat them with a power pellet. Now, there is also a bar under the timer that indicates when your power will run out, but ghosts will randomly give you pellets as you’re mowing them down so that you don’t suddenly run out of juice halfway through the conga line. Another mode involves collecting fruits on either side of the screen. You need to clear out half the maze for the fruit to appear on the other end, and vice versa, until you reach the requirement.
Visually, the DX will look very much like the previous Championship Edition, and you’ll have the option to flip among various styles of Pac-Man if you like. Whether you prefer a more pixelated old-school look or a rounded 3D art style, you can pick whatever mode suits your mood. Once you unlock Free mode, you can change all the variables in the game, such as how many ghosts you want when you start out or how much time you need so that you can customize your own game. Some examples of other maps that you’ll unlock include a maze that is completely dark except for a small radius around Pac-Man and a dungeon-style maze that comes complete with dead-ends.
There’s definitely no shortage of pellets in this frantic version of Pac-Man, so look for Pac-Man Championship Edition DX on Xbox Live Arcade, as well as the PlayStation Network, this fall.
By Sophia Tong
Senior producer Jonathan Moses and Incinerator Studios president Joel Goodman discuss this upcoming remake of the classic Atari 2600 game.
The original Star Raiders first saw the light of day on the original Atari consoles of the late 1970s. The game was revolutionary for its time: a first-person cockpit-view space shooter that let you travel from sector to sector of hyperspace while battling the evil Zylons. More than 30 years later, the publisher now known as Atari is bringing back the classic game to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. We get the details from Atari senior producer Jonathan Moses and developer Incinerator Studios president Joel Goodman.
GameSpot: Why did you decide to bring Star Raiders back? Why did the time seem right?
Jonathan Moses: Star Raiders was such an amazing game for its time. Epic dogfights in space, a galactic map that gave players an open world to explore–all on the Atari 2600. There have definitely been other games that have built on this formula, but Star Raiders was the first. I’m a huge fan of the genre, and the opportunity to go back to that original with the new elements that Incinerator Studios is bringing to the table–there was no way to pass that up.
You’re going to be seeing more of this from Atari in the near future. Along with some exciting new IP that we’re working with, we’re not ignoring our history. We’re bringing back some of the classics in a way that makes them relevant now. We recently released a reimagination of the classic Haunted House and are gearing up to launch Atari’s Greatest Hits Volume 1, which features 50 of our gaming classics. It’s an exciting time at Atari.
GS: Once the decision was made to bring it back, how did you settle on the approach–that is, a full-on update of the game versus a more retro version?
JM: I think there could be really fun games in both directions–and you’re going to see Atari revisiting the classics both ways. However, for Star Raiders we’re going with a full update–really taking the core of the original game and reshaping it around a modern approach. There is a story and gameplay that will be familiar to people who play shooters today, and a universe that we can continue to build and explore. At the same time, players who remember the original Star Raiders will feel instantly at home.
GS: How did you settle on a developer?
JM: The core team has a great deal of experience working with vehicle gameplay and have worked with us at previous companies, so hiring them for this project was the best way to make sure the pictures they have on file never get to the authorities. All kidding aside, besides our own comfort level with them as developers, we received several concepts from other teams too. The game that Incinerator proposed was easy for everyone to sign up for. They spun a great story about what the legacy represented, how to build on it, and why they were perfect for the project. They continue to deliver on that initial promise, and I couldn’t be happier about how the game is turning out.
GS: What interested you in updating Star Raiders? What do you remember most fondly about the original Atari game?
Joel Goodman: It isn’t often that a developer gets to work with a genre-defining intellectual property, and Star Raiders is just that. Great games such as X-Wing and Wing Commander were influenced by this Atari classic. The original game had great tension when you warped into a sector not knowing what you would be facing, and at times you were immediately thrown into combat. Having to manage the flow of the game from the Galactic Map was a very unique and exciting experience.
GS: Have you given any thought to including the original game somewhere as an unlockable bonus?
JG: We are currently looking at quite a few options in order to provide the richest experience for the consumer. Providing the original game is a possibility.
GS: What are the key elements you feel the update must retain from the original game? What’s more flexible?
JG: For gameplay, we are building on that great feeling that the original had of dogfighting in space, while adding another dimension through ship transformations, where the combat vehicle changes its flight characteristics on the fly. Other original components that we felt were important are the galactic map and the energy pool. Managing the energy pool was a core part to combat and gives players another layer of strategy.
GS: What’s the underlying direction of the update? Are you taking any inspiration from more-modern sources?
JG: Since the original came out, there have been quite a few exceptional flight combat games, as well as remakes of classic sci-fi movies and TV shows, and they have all played into how we are bringing Star Raiders into this generation. We also wanted to give this version a bit more character by building a story arc for the player.
GS: How did you settle on the game’s art style?
JG: We wanted to have a style that balanced classic sensibilities with modern expectations, and we believe that we achieved that. You see elements of modern sci-fi realism merged with a strong focus on rich color.
GS: Could you give us some more detail on the game’s online modes? Are you planning any DLC?
JG: Players will be able to engage in various online modes, from team deathmatches to last-man-standing battles. They can also duel one-on-one, or play cooperatively against common enemies in a hostile environment. Plans for DLC are being discussed now, as the new Star Raiders universe is extendable in many forms.
GS: Thanks, Jonathan and Joel.