Beyond: Two Souls Review (PS3): “Defying Everything We Know About Games and the Afterlife”

Beyond Two Souls Wallpaper

Beyond: Two Souls is the latest installment from Heavy Rain director David Cage. Beyond takes gaming and movies, and through some amalgamation ends up with an interactive, storytelling adventure that attempts to replace the conventional thoughts about death. With lead roles being owned by Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, the promise of Beyond: Two Souls escaping the cold clutches of the critics seems plausible, but will the renowned actors be able to save this game alone?

[Be warned: While I attempt to avoid any major spoilers, there are minor spoilers ahead!]

Story: 5/5

It is refreshing to see a game that is different once in a while, and trust me when I say that Beyond: Two Souls is very, very different. You play as Jodie Holmes (played by Ellen Page), a normal girl by any means, with the one exception, that she has an “entity” named Aiden attached to her. No one quite knows what this entity is, why it is tied to her, or how they communicate. But upon learning of his existence, many are curious. Nathan Dawkins (played by Willem Dafoe) is a researcher for the DPA, or Department of Paranormal Activity. He discovers Jodie when she is young after Jodie’s parents bring her to see someone who hopefully can help with the… ‘Incidents’. Nathan quickly learns that Aiden is a force to be reckoned with, and while Jodie can advise him on what to do, Aiden is his own conscious being living beyond what we can perceive as our world. In an attempt to better understand Jodie and Aiden’s link, Nathan takes in Jodie at a young age and becomes a father figure to her – creating a very dense relationship between the two.

Throughout the years, Jodie becomes more in tuned with her life partner Aiden, and the DPA is becoming more knowledgeable about what Aiden is – that is, not whom, but specifically what and where. Jodie becomes able to use Aiden in various ways, such as destroying, healing and even bending the will of others. This attracts the government’s attention, hoping to use her for their own personal gain. With both the DPA and Military sector of government now very interested in what they have coined the “Infraworld” – a dimension that holds spirits and entities alike, Jodie stands the only one who knows even the slightest of truth about what waits for us on the other side. In order for the world not to fall into the ghastly clutches of the Infraworld, Jodie must uncover the rest of the secrets and halt advances to harness this unknown power.

Instead of the traditional linear plot line, David Cage decided to make Beyond more of a mystery – much like death itself, a theme of the game – and make the events of the game staggered throughout time. You play through multiple chapters, each a pivotal time or event in Jodie’s life ranging from her as a young girl to a young adult. At first this put me off, as I felt I couldn’t grasp the questions that needed answering; I couldn’t see where events were falling in place because everything was so scattered. However, my worst fear upon playing through the first few hours was that I couldn’t get emotionally connected to Jodie. Without that emotional connection between player and character, a story-heavy game will fall flat on its face. Luckily, the more dedicated to uncovering the story you are, the more you are rewarded. By about ¾ of the way through the game, I finally had a good understanding of where Jodie came from and her struggles growing up without a true family or friends; but the true reward comes at the end of the game. Seeing the final events unfold, suddenly every bridge was connected, every emotion felt, every question answered – it was almost too much to take. I dare say that the last hour of the story was the best time I have committed to a game ever. If you can take the time and have the maturity to appreciate the pure craftsmanship that went into the creation of the tale, then you will be rewarded.

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Gameplay: 4/5

Seeing as Beyond: Two Souls is more of an interactive movie than video game, it’s hard to judge the gameplay based off of traditional ideas. Instead, you need to look at how the gameplay improves the overall storytelling experience.

In Beyond, you interact with the world via small white spheres that appear by objects or people. This minimalistic design really made the entire game flow quite well, allowing some freedom but keeping you on task and dedicated to events that benefits the story, character development or the overall environment. At times you will have to use shoulder or face buttons to control specific parts of Jodie to bypass an event (i.e. hold R2 to have Jodie move her right leg while climbing a hillside). While this never gets too exciting, it is a nice change of pace during the game progression.

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The heart of the gameplay lies within using Aiden. Throughout the story, you’ll be able to transport yourself to Aiden’s view. Aiden can interact with people or objects: able to push or throw objects, and possess or choke people. Using this constant connection between Jodie and Aiden, you’ll be able to solve multiple puzzles and work around or through obstacles to help progress the story. While the puzzles are never too difficult, there are a lot of different ways to proceed through different events, which is something Beyond really takes advantage of in helping tell the story. At many times in the game you are given choices, whether they be what to say to someone, how to react to a situation, how to progress through an enemy ridden area or what to do on a Saturday night, these choices can impact what happens immediately, or what happens much later down the line. This artistic freedom of affecting your fate as Jodie is a welcomed addition to the classic storytelling. Don’t worry if you’re indecisive however, Beyond: Two Souls takes an interesting position on flow. No matter what choice you make, how you react, what you say – you will progress. The game literally never has a “game over” screen. Even if you mess up by being spotted in a stealth mission, the game will progress in a logical and understandable alternative. This really helps keep the player immersed in the story, which dramatically helps keep interest.

One interesting thing about Beyond is that it actually allows for coop play, putting one player in control of Jodie and the other Aiden. This is dubbed “duo mode” and can be performed via a second dualshock 3… or your mobile phone. That’s right – Quantic Dream gives us a sneak peek into next gen by offering this unique experience. By wireless pairing a phone to your PS3 via wifi network you are able to play either Jodie or Aiden for the entire game! The standard controls of R1, L2 and swiping functions done with the right stick are now mapped simply to touch and swipe controls on your phone. Quite surprisingly the phone app works perfectly, offering no lag and fairly accurate controlling of the character of your choice. Interestingly enough you can also choose to play with your phone solo – if that’s your thing. But keep in mind that you will still need your TV to play, as the phone merely acts as a controller.

While I wish I had more options when controlling Aiden, as I could have bypassed many obstacles different ways (instead of just the few laid out), I felt the gameplay helped make the story. A clunky, obstructive interface and mismatched transitions from player input focus to story focus would have ruined the experience. Instead, Beyond took a little more control than I would have wanted, but in the end, provided a seamless experience that still let me feel like I was in control of this beautifully told adventure.

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Graphics: 4/5

As any story-heavy game should be, Beyond: Two Souls really captivates the player with its gorgeous, yet at times inconsistent graphics. The first thing I noticed is that throughout literally the entire game, two classic widescreen movie bars rest on the top and bottom of the screen. This simple addition creates a smooth transition between cutscenes and gameplay, and really makes you feel like what you are doing in the game at all times IS a cutscene. Due to the dedication of great graphical representation during gameplay scenes, I often wouldn’t realize that the cutscene had ended! This is due to the hard efforts put forth by Quantic Dream at delivering a borderline next-gen experience. It’s been revealed that they in fact created a new engine to handle many of the graphics in-game, especially lighting effects which I instantly noticed as like nothing I had ever seen before. Different objects reflect light in different ways, and the shading accompanying this was extravagant in every stage.

Quantic Dream also utilized a whole new system of motion capture. While they still equipped actors with the classic jumpsuit with tracking bulbs, they also had a massive array of different cameras by which they were able to truly capture each movement and scene near perfectly. This is reflected extremely well whenever you take the time to truly look at the body language of the characters in the game, whether in cutscene or out! I really felt that the characters were human and not rigid structures just put into semi-acceptable actions. Even a simple action such as walking was represented with such lifelike demonstration, fully equipped with moving clothing and subtle nuances from other people in the game.

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Putting real actors into a game can be risky. We know what they look like, and we know they are capable of bringing a large visual donation to their roles. Luckily, Quantic Dream was able to translate their facial expressions into the game in an unprecedented way. With the exception of most minor characters, the facial expressions in cutscenes were a joy to watch. I found myself enjoying a new level of attachment and understanding just by picking up on the delicate touches of expression shown by the characters.

While a slightly more consistent graphic quality could have been brought to the minor characters and busier sections of the game, I truly feel that Beyond is a pure pleasure to sit back and simply watch.

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Sound: 5/5

Here I thought The Last of Us had phenomenal voice acting, but Beyond: Two Souls really takes it up a step. Obviously, we should expect brilliant performances from Page and Dafoe (and we get them!) but even minor characters perform past expectations! The glorious thing to remember is that each character had an incredible amount of different lines to say and emotions to convey based on what actions the player has chosen. Being able to properly push those emotions onto the player in every scene is something that is rarely discovered in any form of art these days; but to have it come across in a game where YOUR choices are YOUR emotions being reflected back onto YOU?! That’s something special.

Compared to the incredible voice acting, the rest of the game’s sound effects should have been a major let down, but luckily we weren’t completely decimated by cheap clip art noises. From slight paper turns to spectral groans, Beyond really emphasizes the reality of the situations. While a few sounds may come across as too loud or out of place compared to the environment, I feel this was just slight nick-picking as the quality was still high.

The game’s soundtrack (composed by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe) was something that surprised me however. There was never a lot of music to cap off scenes, instead relying on the environment’s effects to take hold. However, when there was that added attention grabber, I felt that the music properly conveyed what was going on. I never felt that it really drove what was happening, but merely complimented the experience.

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Overall Score: 18/20 = 9.0 out of 10

Beyond: Two Souls is a fascinating experience that will force you to dive deep into your consciousness to understand the portrayals of life and death as you know it. Impeccable acting and representation of characters and events make you feel like you’re participating in a cinematic experience, and the emotional ties that go along with it won’t let you forget that your choices really matter. If you can get past some minor inconsistencies and be patient in knowing that you can’t know everything, whichever ending you choose, you won’t be let down.

Pros:

+ Amazing acting

+ Facial expressions on main characters

+ Ending 30min-1hr of “epiphanies”

+ Great lighting and physics

+ No game over

+ Choices matter and affect immediate and far outcomes

Cons:

– Minor characters not some facial quality as main

– Some minor inconsistencies in textures and graphic quality

– Non-linear story line may be hard for some to grasp

Copy purchased by author for review purposes.

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The Last of Us Review (PS3): “Naughty Dog’s Perfect Sendoff Letter for the PS3”

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The Last of Us is Naughty Dog’s latest game for the PlayStation 3 that deviates from the adventurous style of Uncharted, and puts you into a post-apocalyptic setting where survival is key. The Uncharted trilogy has definitely made Naughty Dog stand out as a top-tier developer this generation, so does The Last of Us provide to be their proper sendoff letter to the PS3?

Story: 5/5

The story in The Last of Us is a difficult one to discuss here, as almost anything said will spoil what awaits. However, I will keep this as spoiler-free as possible. Joel is a hardened survivor who has witnessed much in his time dealing with the plague that is putting an end to humanity. In a time where resources are scarce and safety seems to be a term unheard of, Joel does whatever he can to stay alive. Early on, Joel is partnered with Tess, who like Joel, does whatever it takes to survive. They have a friendship in which they work together to take on smuggling jobs so that they can obtain the essentials to survive another day. Upon taking one of their jobs, they run into the task of having to escort Ellie, a 14 year-old girl who’s importance is not explained from the get-go. Along the journey, you will meet a cast of characters that all have their own struggles, as well as get attached to them. You will witness that not only is the plague that’s turned people into infected the enemy, but survivors as well. It’s survival of fittest as they struggle on who can be trusted and who can’t.

Naughty Dog is known for their astonishing storytelling and The Last of Us continues that trend. Characters are fleshed out immensely and their voice actors steal the show. It literally takes seconds to get enticed in the brilliantly scripted story and once you do, there’s no turning back. When you finish the story (which took me exactly 12 hours to complete), you’ll feel that you’ve went on as much of a journey as Joel and Ellie have in the game…which is something very few games have ever achieved.

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Gameplay: 5/5

When Naughty Dog announced the game back at the 2011 VGAs, many people wondered if the game was going to essentially be an Uncharted with a post-apocalyptic setting. Over the course of time, we’ve seen and heard that it would be nothing like Uncharted. I can easily say that The Last of Us is a unique experience from start to end. Instead of your hollywood-style action set pieces, you’ll be placed in a setting that’s all about survival, and that every little resource you have can either lead to your survival or your death. If you think this is a game you can just “run-n’-gun” your way through, you’re going to be in for a surprise. Naughty Dog aimed to bring a true feeling of survival in a desolate setting that appears to have no hope. You won’t be unloading 400 rounds of ammo in a single action scene…and that’s a good thing because it’s fair to say a ton of games in the market already do that.

You will control Joel in a move-strafe method with the control stick, while naturally controlling the camera with the right analog stick. There is no “jump” button but you will jump or scour up walls if you’re near them by pressing the X button. Melee is handled primarily with the square button, while triangle may counter or grab the enemy. The melee is extremely raw and visceral by the way. Every time you get into melee combat with an enemy, it’s not over-the-top or hollywood-ish. Each punch, attack and reaction is incredibly realistic and nails the sense of struggle perfectly. When handling guns, it is much more like Resident Evil or Dead Space, where you must aim first and then you can fire. There’s no aimlessly firing from the hip. Also, when aiming down the sights, Joel will not keep a steady hand and you’ll see the reticle swaying back and forth a bit. It’s not excessive, but it makes the shooting combat more challenging and rewarding. Realistically, if you’re in the situations Joel is put through, there’s no way you’d be able to keep a completely steady hand when fighting away these terrifying creatures. It reminded me much of Resident Evil 4, whenever Leon would aim, you’d see his laser pointer on the guns shake a bit…which is realistic. A huge portion of dealing with scenarios in the game revolves around stealth. However, Joel can enter Listen Mode, which amplifies the audio of enemies in the environments and highlights them. You’ll simply hold down R2 and Joel will be able to move very slowly (or stay still) while having an idea of where the people and/or creatures are.

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One of the coolest elements in The Last of Us is the crafting system. Since you’ll be scouring the environments for any resources you can find, you’ll need to create some items to ensure your survival. Simply pressing the Select button will have Joel go through his backpack, seeing what items and resources he’s collected. When you go into the crafting menu, you’ll be able to see all the resource materials you’ve gathered. These range from alcohol, tape, blades, rags, etc. So should you be low on medical kits, you can choose that item and the game will automatically highlight which resource items are needed to create one. Thankfully, the crafting system is one of the simplest I’ve come across in any game and makes crafting a cinch. However, choosing which items you craft is the important step. Some resources are used for a few different crafting items. If you create a medical kit, it uses one of the main ingredients to creating molotov cocktails. Do you create something to benefit your condition or something to give you a greater chance of clearing out infected enemies? Do you create a shiv to stab an enemy in the neck, attach a shiv to a melee object or create a bomb that shreds through anything near it? It’s these type of crafting decisions that make all the difference. Then, there are points where you’ll reach a workbench. At these points, you can upgrade Joel’s gear with the tools you’ve found. You’ll be able to upgrade the reload speed, clip size and fire rate of your weapons, and even add an extra holster for a pistol and long gun so that you don’t have to access your backpack when swapping those weapons. You will not be able to upgrade everything on your first playthrough, but that’s fine, as there is a New Game + mode to tackle when you complete the game once. Also, you will find supplement pills throughout the campaign. When collecting enough of these, Joel will be able to enhance some of his abilities, such as increasing your health, crafting speed, Listen Mode distance, etc. There are a ton of choices to make when it comes to upgrading both Joel and the weapons/gear you’ll carry.

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When it comes to AI in The Last of Us, it really is unrivaled. Enemies all react dynamically based on their attributes and no enemy ever follows the same line or path. For example, enemies known as “Clickers” can’t see anything but they hear even the slightest bit of noise. So if they hear you, they’ll be sprinting toward that direction. However, if you manage to stay quiet enough where they can’t hear you, they may stop looking for you but they certainly will not return to the area they originally were. Scenarios such as this (which are quite often) help convey a sense of tension that I haven’t felt with a game since Resident Evil 4. A big element of the game is sound, so should you throw a brick or bottle at a location, enemies will check it out and look around the particular area until they’ve found something. There are a variety of infected types you’ll take on and they vary based on how long infection has spread on a poor soul’s body. Infected aren’t the only enemies you’ll have to worry about though. There are hunters out there that will kill anyone for food, clothes and resources. Non-infected hunters will work together to flank you should they spot you…and they’re a force to be reckoned with. Should a group spot you, they’ll be packing heat and wielding lead pipes and 2x4s, aggressively coming after you. The enemy AI isn’t the only impressive element in the game though. Since a massive portion of the game is having Ellie alongside Joel, one must wonder how they’ve handled partner AI. Thankfully, Ellie is one of the most advanced AI’s I’ve witnessed in a game to date. She may be a young 14 year old, but she’s grown up in this mess of times and has become a product of her environment. For example, if an enemy grabs Joel from behind, Ellie may quickly run to you and stab the enemy from behind so that Joel can break free to finish the enemy off. She’ll also shout out to Joel if an enemy is trying to sneak up on him by saying, “Joel, behind you!”

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Nowadays, developers feel a pressure that multiplayer has to be implemented into their games to increase longevity. Sure, it can provide for some fun times but lets be honest, many games have throwaway multiplayer tacked on just to have the feature checked off on a list. However, Naughty Dog doesn’t just “tack” features on in their games and we’ve seen that with Uncharted 2’s multiplayer. When that released in 2009, the multiplayer won over the hearts of many gamers (myself included with over 120 hours in that mode alone) and proved how to make a multiplayer mode that flawlessly transitions the gameplay mechanics from the single-player to online. With The Last of Us, many wondered how the multiplayer would be. Well, The Last of Us implements the entire campaign’s gameplay mechanics into the multiplayer the same way Uncharted 2 & 3 did for their campaign to multiplayer transition. Much like the campaign, you can’t run to the middle of the action, guns blazing and thinking you can win. It just doesn’t work like that at all. When you start up the multiplayer (known as Factions), you’ll be presented with two faction types: Hunters and Fireflies. Upon choosing this, you’ll be locked into your faction until one of the following happens: complete the 12 week survival cycle or if your clan dies. Now let me explain this a bit more, because here is where the setup of the multiplayer differs immensely from your typical “gain XP for literally everything you do”. There’s no XP or “level ranks” to be found in this game. Instead, you’ll will earn supplies the better you play. The more kills you get, the more supplies you can nab off your opponent. At the end of a match, if you met the minimum quota or more, you’ll have more “survivors” join your cause. The more survivors that join, the more supplies you’re going to need to sustain them. Upon getting survivors, you’ll see three statuses: Healthy, Hungry and Sick. Healthy means you’re earning more than enough supplies to keep your survivors alive. Hungry means you’re doing ok, but not good enough to cater to everyone. Sick means you’re doing a poor job in matches and not acquiring enough resources. Beyond this point, your survivors can die and if all of them do, your online run is done. You have 12 weeks to try and survive, as well as keep your survivors healthy and kicking. Every match counts as a single day, and each week presents a new story element to the multiplayer that you can check in the Clan Messages. Next to your PSN ID (or Facebook name since you can connect with that), there’ll be a number. This number signifies the amount of weeks you’ve survived. It’s an incredibly refreshing setup and style that replicates the aesthetics of the campaign and its setting.

There are two multiplayer modes you can play: Supply Raid and Survivors. Supply Raid is basically a team deathmatch of 4v4, where each team will have up to 20 respawning lives that all players on a team share. There’s constantly a respawn timer cycling as you play so you won’t always respawn in 3-5 seconds, as it can be upwards to 20 seconds the most. Survivors is still the 4v4 team deathmatch style but takes place in rounds. At the start of round, each player gets a single life. If they die, they’re out of the round. The team that wins four rounds total wins the entire match. Interestingly, the team that’s losing towards the end of a match will be given a slight advantage by seeing a proximity of where the opposing team is hiding by a massive red flash on the radar. Like Uncharted’s multiplayer, you’ll be able to customize your loadouts and emblems. You’ll be given 9 points to allocate to your loadout, which if chosen carefully, can have you going out there with two weapons and four perks. Naturally, it’s all about finding the weapons and perks that work best for you. As you progress through the multiplayer, you will earn new perks and weapons for you to test out. In the hours I’ve spent with the multiplayer, it was lag-free and incredibly addictive. There’s no question that many will extend countless hours just playing online.

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Graphics: 5/5

Naughty Dog’s engine has really blown away gamers worldwide, with visual detail that almost no other developer has been able to achieve on consoles this generation. With The Last of Us, they’ve not only surpassed their visual benchmark, they’ve crafted what is very well the most visually stunning game ever designed this generation. The rich level of detail on the character models has completely exceeded those one would come to expect. Facial animations are so realistic, it’s scary. Whether you’re fighting enemies, exploring the environment, or unfortunately dying, the facial animations are precisely what you would expect them to be. Environments are also insanely detailed, with every single little texture being given as much attention as those of the more pivotal elements. It may be a post-apocalyptic setting, but Naughty Dog has crafted their environments in such a superb style that makes you feel like you’re right there with Joel and Ellie. All the characters’ animations are very realistic and animate precisely the way they would in real-life. For example, when in cover, if you go up to exactly where Ellie is, Joel will still hug the wall over Ellie with his arm extended a slight bit but next to her as close as possible, with no clipping of the models or collision boxes to prevent this. If Joel walks under a stream of water, he’ll put his hand up to cover his face from getting wet. Even when Joel takes a hit to the face from a lead pipe, you’ll see blood dripping from his face and onto his clothes. Little details like this go a long way to further flesh out the game’s aesthetics and environment. Naughty Dog was dedicated to providing their best visual representation and they’ve done so with flying colors. This is by far, the best looking console game…ever.

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Sound: 5/5

Where do I even begin to praise the stellar audio in this game? Well, lets look at the stars of the show: Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnson (Ellie). TLoU has the most believable voice acting in a game to date. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson bring their characters to life in such a way that you grow immensely attached to them and feel for their causes. They definitely have a chemistry that works flawlessly and are almost always conversing with each other, whether in a cutscene or during gameplay. Infected enemies like “Clickers” have the creepiest audio effect when they’re spotted in the area and provide a sense of fear I haven’t felt since El Salvador (chainsaw guy) from Resident Evil 4. Guns and weapons all have an incredibly impacting sound to them. Whether you’re firing off a pistol, revolver, shotgun, or rifle, each gun sounds like they pack a punch and are distinctive from one another. Melee combat sounds brutal and painful, as it should. If I hit someone with a lead pipe or get hit by one, you should be reacting based on the audio and The Last of Us nails that. The soundtrack composed by Gustavo Santaolalla provides a very fresh and unique style to the game that grows on you the more you hear it in-game. Recurring themes help convey the sense of despair and hope that the characters are clearly showing. Music isn’t always playing in the background either, whether exploring or in combat. It plays only at moments it truly needs to and while that’s something that would normally bother me (since I’m an audiophile), the voice acting and superb audio effects carry the game on its own perfectly. Do yourselves a favor…play with the audio all the way up.

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Overall Score: 20/20 = 10 out of 10

The Last of Us is one of those games that will go down in history as one of the biggest achievements in gaming history. Naughty Dog is known for pushing the boundaries within their games and The Last of Us is no different. With one of the most engaging stories ever told, rich atmosphere, phenomenal visual and audio presentation and flawless gameplay, The Last of Us is easily the best game of 2013 so far and is an experience that should not be missed by any means. It’s the perfect sendoff letter for Naughty Dog to leave the PS3 with so that they can focus on the upcoming PS4.

PROS:

+ Best visuals in a console game to date

+ Powerful audio

+ Incredibly believable voice acting

+ Outstanding story

+ Flawless gameplay

+ Fresh, addictive multiplayer

CONS:

– The journey comes to an end…

Copy purchased by author for review purposes.

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The Last of Us – Multiplayer Trailer

The Last of Us

Naughty Dog’s highly-anticipated survival title, The Last of Us, is on its way to consumers on June 14th, and they’ve just shown off a trailer highlighting the game’s intense multiplayer. Those who clocked in countless hours playing Uncharted 2 and 3’s multiplayer component may find some similarities here that’ll definitely grab your attention. More importantly, Naughty Dog tends to craft a multiplayer that feels like an extension to the single-player (mechanics wise) and that’s precisely what we’re seeing in the trailer. Give the trailer a view!


There’s no question that The Last of Us is one of, if not, the biggest title this year. Are you excited? What do you think of the multiplayer trailer? Sound off in the comments below!

The Last of Us Officially Delayed Until June 14th, 2013

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Naughty Dog’s “The Last of Us” is without question one of the most anticipated titles of 2013. When they announced that the game’s release was on May 7th, 2013, many marked their calendars in sheer excitement as the game finally had a release date. As of today, Neil Druckmann, Creative Director at Naughty Dog, announced today on the PlayStation Blog that the game has indeed been delayed…but for only five more weeks. Here’s what he had to say:

As we entered the final phase of development for The Last of Us, we came to realize just how massive Joel and Ellie’s journey is. But instead of cutting corners or compromising our vision, we came to the tough decision that the game deserved a few extra weeks to ensure every detail of The Last of Us was up to Naughty Dog’s internal high standards.

As a team we pride ourselves on setting a very high quality bar for every aspect of our games – gameplay, story, art, design, technology and more. We want to make sure The Last of Us raises that bar even further – for ourselves, and most importantly, for you, our fans.

Naughty Dog is all about providing quality and unrivaled experiences in their games, and The Last of Us looks to set a new benchmark. This is a delay that is more than fine as it is better for the game to release at the level of quality they’re striving for, as opposed to slightly buggy at spots. Regardless, June 14th is the new release so get ready for what could be the best summer release in recent memory.

The Last of Us – Infected Gameplay Footage

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When it comes to setting a new gaming standard, Naughty Dog has far exceeded the expectations of gamers. Today, Naughty Dog has released new gameplay footage for their highly-anticipated “The Last of Us”…and what’s shown, is impressive, intense and downright eerie. In the trailer below, we see some of the gameplay elements that stress “survival horror” and it appears Naughty Dog is reinvigorating the “survival” genre. One slight misstep, and it’s all over. Check out this griping gameplay footage!

Excited for “The Last of Us”? Will you be getting it on May 7th? Sound off in the comments below!

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time Releases at Lower Price Point; Still Has “Cross-Buy”

Fans of PS2’s platformers have been eagerly awaiting Sly Cooper’s return to the next-gen, and within weeks, it will finally be available for consumers to pick up. Back at E3, it was confirmed that Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time will take advantage of the “Cross-Buy” promotion, meaning that buying the PS3 version will give you the digital version of the PS Vita game for free. Well, it appears Sony wants to ensure the game sells well, as they just marked the price from the standard $59.99 to $39.99 for the PS3 version and from $39.99 to $29.99 for the physical PS Vita version. The reason? “We want to make it a no-brainer purchase!” says Cristian Cardona, Associate Product Marketing Manager of Software Marketing at SCEA.

When asked by fans on the PlayStation Blog, Cristian responded back to many defending the reason behind the price drop. He stated that the game has “PLENTY PLENTY” in terms of content and has nothing to reflect on the price. He also stated that it is a “competitive market” and they really want to grab the attention of both fans and newcomers alike with an attractive price attached to the game.

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is set for release on February 5th, 2013 in North America. Are you excited to see Sly make a proper return to the PS3? Are you looking forward to playing it through the PS3 or PS Vita more? Sound off in the comments below!

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault Hits PSN and Retail on November 27th

That’s right Ratchet fans, you read the title correctly. The latest Ratchet installment that was originally a PSN exclusive will now be available to purchase at retail as well, box and all. To further add to this, the game is officially coming out on November 27th for only $19.99! But there’s more…

Insomniac’s James Stevenson also went to confirm that both the PSN and retail copies will automatically net you a free copy of the PS Vita version of Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault (you have to love their titles for these games). However, it should be noted that the PS Vita version is strictly available over the PSN and won’t have a retail release. R&C: FFA is aiming to bring some “base assault and defense” mechanics to the series, while also retaining that classic Ratchet feel that fans have come to love over the years.

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault will have cross-play support between both the PS3 and PS Vita for the competitive multiplayer portion of the game. Also, you’ll be able to utilize the cross-saving so that you can play R&C: FFA anywhere and anytime.

Are you interested in Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault? Sound off in the comments below!

[via PlayStation Blog]

“The Last of Us” – 15 Minute Gameplay Demo

There’s no denying that “The Last of Us” has garnered an enormous amount of interest from gamers everywhere. Knowing Naughty Dog’s history of providing some of the highest quality titles, there’s every reason for gamers to be excited for their upcoming title. Outside of E3 2012, we haven’t really seen much in terms of gameplay. That changes now though. Naughty Dog has just released their latest gameplay demo showcased behind closed doors at PAX Prime and it’s a lengthy one that lasts over 15 minutes! Check it out below!


What do you guys think? Excited for “The Last of Us”? Sound off in the comments below!

Raiden Enters PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

As the title states, Raiden from the Metal Gear franchise has entered the fray and will be donning his Metal Gear Rising suit and combat style. Check out the trailer below to see him in action!


The more characters that keep getting revealed for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, the more interest it seems to be garnering. We’re still a few months away from the game’s November 20th release date for the PS3/Vita so we can certainly expect more surprise announcements until then.

Are you excited for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale? Which characters would you like to see added into the game? Sound off in the comments below!

 

Malicious Review (PSN)

What if elements from Mega Man, Gravity Rush, Bayonetta and Demon’s Souls were meshed together into a single package? Enter Malicious, a PSN exclusive developed by Alvion. Releasing roughly two years ago in Japan via PSN, is it still a title that should be experienced?

You’ll take control of a Spirit Vessel (you get to choose between a male or female), a powerful being that is summoned by the great prophets, to defend the kingdoms being overrun by evil giants known as “Holders”. Imbued with the Mantle of Cinders, you will have the ability to form weapons or shields to defend yourself against these Holders and their subordinates. The premise of the story is basically set up on that but should you want to explore the mythology of the characters, there’s an in-depth backstory that you can read up on as well. The story is a neat premise but is nothing deep or engaging by any means.

What Malicious aims to be is essentially a fast-paced, boss battle rush mode. As you begin, you’ll be introduced to the hub where you’ll choose which kingdom to enter and defend. It’s here where I drew comparisons to Demon’s Souls and Mega Man. The hub itself reminded me of the aspect of the Nexus from Demon’s Souls, where you’ll move around to access the pedestal depicting an image of the kingdom to enter. In terms of the Mega Man comparison, you’ll be on a non-linear path to choose how to go about tackling your bosses in whichever order you want. However, each boss defeated will net you new abilities that may be more powerful to utilize on particular bosses. Discovering which bosses to tackle in a particular order is part of the fun and memorization aspect of the game, giving it a somewhat old-school feel.

Malicious is primarily about combat, and it has a pretty interesting system. As you begin, you’ll be restricted to a weak, yet effective projectile attack and fists which are formed via the mantle hovering behind your character’s head (similar to how Bayonetta’s hair forms fist attacks). You’ll have your weak and strong attack buttons to switch up between while forming combos for your up-close attacks. Thankfully, as you upgrade your mantle with new abilities and weapons, the combat becomes more intuitive. The massive sword you’ll obtain may be sluggish to swing around but is prime to taking out a wave of enemies surrounding you. The lance you’ll obtain after a specific boss allows you to thrust forward to wherever you point the analog stick and attack. Using the lance’s strong attack allows you to hover in the air, aim anywhere in your distance and lunge down on enemies to clear a small radius of the area. Your fists will even receive a substantial upgrade at a certain point that will allow you to throw an endless amount of punches in rapid succession, unless an enemy disrupts your flow with an attack.

The game contains five boss battles to tackle in any order, with a final boss battle awaiting once the five Holders are defeated. The game can be completed in under an hour on Easy difficulty, but choose Normal and you can expect a much stiffer challenge that will demand your full attention to guarding and dodging. Boss battles will take a solid amount of time, so don’t feel discouraged if you notice the boss’s health bar barely going down. Learning the boss’s tactics and building up your Aura gauge is all a part of the showdown. Aura is absolutely essential in succeeding in your battles as it allows you to repair your armor and increase your attack power. Chaining together kills while using the aura abilities will net you even more aura than normal, which you’ll learn is integral. While you’ll be spending aura points to use these abilities, you’ll be able to turn it around by earning more than actually using it up. Your health consists of the character’s appearance, whether losing parts of armor or certain ligaments. Every time the screen freezes for a second and shows lit up veins surrounding the edge of the screen, you’ve lost a piece of armor. Utilizing your aura ability, you can repair yourself at a cost and the more pieces missing, the more it will cost you both point and time-wise.

Now there are a couple of problems the game has. First off, the game lacks a proper tutorial, leaving players in the dark when starting off. You can access the game manual or ask one of the prophet’s in the hub about the game’s mechanics, but it’s strange that no “proper” tutorial was provided for players. The other issue is the camera. While you can choose to lock-on to enemies and/or bosses, the camera usually gets in the way of the chaotic action, leaving you wondering who the real boss is, the Holder or the camera. Also, this can be taken as an interesting premise or a very poor one…leaderboard functionality. Leaderboards are great for those who want to compete with friends or strangers around the world, yet Malicious approaches it a bit differently. In order to access the leaderboards, you need to actually complete the game on Normal in under one hour. The game is by no means a walk in the park on Normal mode and proves to be a solid challenge. It seems as if Alvion wanted players to “earn” the right to be placed on leaderboards, which is neat but many may find questionable. Lastly, while each boss has specific strategies, the final boss initially has an odd strategy that will leave players wandering aimlessly, scratching their head as to what to do. It just doesn’t do the finest job with a sense of direction during certain boss battles.

Earlier I mentioned that the game was part “Gravity Rush”, which I meant in terms of visuals. Malicious is a beautiful looking game that looks reminiscent to Gravity Rush’s visual style. The wonderfully crafted art style is rich with detail and color that truly pops out. Battles get intense and the game runs at a solid framerate the entire experience, with no hiccups and no screen-tearing, helping keep the immersion intact. To heighten the game’s experience is the incredibly well composed soundtrack that truly stands out. Malicious boasts a fantastic, powerful orchestrated score that perfectly nails the both atmosphere and intensity of the battles.

Overall, Malicious is a solid title for the PSN that ranks among some of the more unique ones available. While it may have its issues, the elegant visuals, outstanding soundtrack and intriguing combat system will keep players returning for several playthroughs to try and perfect the mechanics. Malicious is a great new IP and one that should return sooner rather than later.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!