The Evil Within DLC Pass Announced


Bethesda announced that their upcoming survival horror game, The Evil Within, is set to have a $25.95 DLC pass.

The pack will include three expansions taking on three different perspectives.

In the first add-on, assume the role of The Keeper (aka Boxman) in a sadistic collection of mission-based maps. The second and third add-ons take you further down a path of madness in a two-part, story-driven experience in the role of Juli Kidman – Sebastian Castellanos’ mysterious partner. Encounter unthinkable enemies and new areas that reveal hidden motives and harrowing evil.

The Evil Within is set to release for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC on October 14.

The Evil Within

The 10 Talking Points of Xbox at E3


Summed up in one word: Games

It’s that time of year again. For a gamer, it’s pretty much the best time of the year. All the rush and excitement, eager to see what the big boys in the gaming industry have in store for us.

OXCGN was present once again at the Xbox E3 media briefing, and it was plain to see what their focus was. Games. Phil Spencer told us that Xbox listened to fans, as they were shaping the future of the company. In that respect, fans just want to play games. It’s all about games. So much so that the entire briefing was devoted solely to games.

So what got people talking the most? Check out the main points of interest from Xbox at E3.

10. A more interactive experience

Microsoft’s Xbox conference felt like a huge event, even more so than last year, when the focus was all about the next generation of consoles. It felt like something you’d see from a major sporting event, with a pre and post-show that got people’s excitement growing, and tied the whole conference together.

The stage configuration played a key part in a more personal experience. Little individual stages on the show floor allowed presenters to get up close and personal with gamers. It was a neat touch.

Another little neat thing for those attending were the Xbox bracelets received upon entry. They lit up in various colours at specific points throughout the show, making the audience feel apart of what was happening on screen.

9. Call of Duty returning to form?

I’m one of those guys who has a jaded view of the Call of Duty series. I, like the masses, used to play my fair share. I was hooked by the original Modern Warfare, over time the yearly releases of virtually the same product made me abandon the series.

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However, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has piqued my interest. The demo looked really slick, and the setting almost makes it seem like it isn’t a Call of Duty game.

Riding the current wave of futuristic warfare, the use of booster packs and the increased verticality of movement no longer has me thinking about past Call of Duty games, but Titanfall instead.

Could Advanced Warfare be the one to revive the series?

8. Forza, into the future

Racing fans got their fix with more details about Forza Horizon 2. The game will feature a full day/night cycle, as well as a dynamic weather system. The news that this will all be running in 1080p got the audience cheering.

The great thing for fans who will be picking up Forza Horizon 2 is the fact that your Forza 5 Drivatar is already participating in races. So you’ll have a nice reward to collect when the game launches this year on September 30th.

Turn 10 were on hand to talk about the upcoming Forza Horizon 2, but they had a little something for those who own Forza Motorsport 5.

They announced that the famous Nurburgring would be making its debut, with the best thing is that it’s available now – for free.

7. The rebirth of Fable

The Fable series has always been a bit troubled. Seemingly over-promising and under-delivering, the last few entries into the series weren’t too well received by the gaming community.

Fable Legends looks to be the rebirth of the series. It still takes place in Albion, and returns to the medieval setting of Fable 1 and 2. It retains the quirky British-esque voice acting and humour. What’s new is the fact that four players can team up to complete quests, combining skills in order to defeat enemies.

In a great twist, another player can play as ‘The Villain,’ who plays through the God perspective, setting traps and placing enemies in an effort to overwhelm the players.

With the Multiplayer Beta coming in Spring, Fable Legends looks to break out from its previous structure, tgo provide a new adventure experience.

6. Assassin’s Creed regains its footing

Assassin’s Creed: Unity looks to be built solely for next generation consoles. Set in 18th century Paris, players are let loose in the biggest world Ubisoft have created in the AC series. In a first for the series, up to four players can band together to rid the world of Templar threats.

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It looks cool to see you and your fellow assassins flowing through the crowd, taking out guards in unison along the way. Crowds actually look like crowds this time around. Hundreds of NPCs cram together on screen to truly present a city population on the brink of revolt.

The movement is fluid and is as crisp as ever, but the visuals have received a lot of improvement. For ages the Assassin’s Creed series has had a lot of jagged edges plaguing it, but Unity has tightened things up immensely, as all characters look great.

Unity looks to be putting Assassin’s Creed back on the right path after the waywardness it’s suffered in over the last few years.

5. Co-op is the norm

It seems this year the growing trend is co-op gameplay. Rather than limit the campaign of a game to one player, you and three friends can get in on the action.

We’ve already covered the fact that Fable Legends and AC: Unity have co-op, but so did many other games shown at the Xbox conference. Evolve has it, with the addition of another player as the monster, Sunset Overdrive has an eight player Chaos mode, and The Division lets you and your friends team up to cleanse New York City.

The more the merrier.

4. DLC and you

Like it or not, DLC is a regular part of our gaming lives, and we just have to get used to it. The neat thing is, all games shown at the Xbox conference will receive all DLC content first.

Killer Instinct continues to be supported, with TJ Combo revealed as the latest downloadable character for Season 2.

But by far the funniest DLC story coming out of the conference is Dead Rising 3. Having the best DLC name ever, Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha Prime is packed to the brim with Capcom love.

You and three friends (again) can team up as your favourite Dead Rising heroes in an arcade zombie killing adventure. Containing references to old Capcom games, it seems to be their version of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, with its wackiness and humour.

3. The craziness that is Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive is truly a unique and exciting, not to mention new, IP from Insomniac Games.

You play as the hero, in a world that has been plagued by monsters who have been created from contaminated energy drinks. Yes, as you can probably guess, Sunset Overdrive is very tongue-in-cheek, and it works very well.

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It gives the game its own unique character, which complements the gameplay shown, Sunset Overdrive has players traversing over a bright landscape with ease. Movement is fluid, with the player easily able to transition between grinding powerlines and bouncing trees.

All while the player is grinding across the level, they’re also chaining kills. Much like games such as Devil May Cry, more and more kills generate bigger and better combos.

With a unique look and an exciting feel, Sunset Overdrive is one exclusive we can’t wait to play.

2. Those sweet, sweet reveals

By far the best thing, and the thing most gamers out there look forward to at E3 conferences, is brand new reveals. Whether it’s a reboot, or a brand new IP, it always get’s gamers excited out there.

In addition to what’s been covered, here’s what Microsoft revealed at the Xbox briefing:

  • Happy Wars – porting over to Xbox One
  • Fantasia: Music Evolved – available October 21st
  • Dance Central: Spotlight – a digital-only download
  • Conker (Conker’s Bad Fur Day) now a part of Project Spark
  • Ori and the Blind Forest – emotionally-charged platformer from Moon Studios
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Inside – Playdead Studios, creators of Limbo
  • Phantom Dust reboot
  • and many more indy titles

Oh, there was one more thing that was revealed.

1. Halo: The Master Chief Collection

 There was a collective cheer heard around the world as Xbox owners knew that Halo: The Master Chief Collection was real.

There were rumours buzzing around before E3, people were unsure if there was going to be said collection, or Halo 2 Anniversary.  Well, we got both. The collection features Halo 1-4, with Halo 2 receiving the full anniversary treatment, all the while retaining its original multiplayer. The collection is all one one blu-ray disc, accessible from one slick HUD.

halo

This isn’t just some bundle collection. Players are able to pick their favourite levels from each of the games, in order to create custom playlists. Every multiplayer map will be available to play, coming in at over a whopping 100 maps. It also contains 4000 gamerscore for achievement hunters, and will run at 1080p at 60 fps.

Also bundled in is Halo: Nightfall, a live action series which takes place leading up to the start of Halo 5: Guardians.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection will be available on November 11th, this year.

Only the beginning…

The expo hasn’t even started yet, but we’ve seen a lot from Xbox in their briefing. Stay tuned to OXCGN for the rest of our E3 coverage!

© Daniel Geikowski 2014

OXCGN’s Murdered: Soul Suspect Review


I ain’t afraid of no ghost

Square-Enix, along with Airtight Games bring us their latest creation titled Murdered: Soul Suspect. Our story takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, were we are given a brief rundown on a serial killer that’s on the loose, being called the Bell killer, who has been haunting the Sale for quite some time, mainly targeting young girls.

Murdered: Soul Suspect has a great narrative with some compelling story telling and some great voice work, although some characters do seem to fall into stereotypes. The story definitely keeps you going, despite the game being someone short, clocking in at about 8 – 10 hours for the main story.

We then meet our main protagonist, Ronan O’Connor, who has a checkered past and a lot of body tattoos to show for it. Ronan, who we see for the first time being thrown out of a second story window by said serial killer. Ronan has his life flash before his eyes, summing up the major moments, like growing up as a street thief, meeting his love interest, Julia, who he marries, and even joining the police force. However, his life takes a a dive as his wife dies with no explanations given.

Murdered Soul Suspect Ronan
Meet our bullet riddled ghost detective, Ronan O’Connor.

This is where our adventure with Ronan starts, after reuniting with your wife in the afterlife, you are quickly sent back to the real world, as you are not yet ready to pass on, and in order to ‘cross the bridge’ he must complete whatever is unfinished business is, which is to solve his own murder.

You’ll quickly find that Murdered: Soul Suspect sets its own limitations on you early, as you’ll only be able to enter buildings when someone opens a door for you, making your exploration pretty much non-existent, outside of exploring Salem, and even then, it’s a relatively small sandbox for you to play in.

The game plays on the rich history of Salem,  specifically the era of the witch hunting trials. However, the use of it feels wasted, as most of the time ghostly apparitions of Salem’s past will appear simply to block your path, stopping you from going in a different direction other than the one the game wants you to go, taking away any means of exploration.

The atmosphere in Salem feels like an empty void, with a serious lack of population, and when people are around, they’re mostly lifeless, just standing or sitting around, doing the same robotic movements, with barely anything to say. You can interact with them, and very rarely will you need to possess them to continue the story. When you first start, you’ll probably try possessing every living person in sight, but they usually don’t have anything to offer other than two lines of dialogue that’s just filler.

Murdered Soul Suspect SS1
No wonder they haven’t caught the Bell killer, all these cops are too busy playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution (A vastly superiors Square-Enix game).

The ghost population seem more life-like than the living people (although that has a lot to do with the fact that you can interact with them), you come across various ghosts in Salem, which you are able to interact with. Some ghosts either don’t accept that they’re dead, or don’t act the slightest bit surprised or upset to know that they are dead, which seemed really puzzling. The ghostly population of Salem will give you clues to help you move onto your next objective, otherwise they will tell your their own problems and Ronan will offer to help, unusually hunting down clues and assembling the right ones to solve their murder. Unfortunately, these side missions don’t lead to anything and have no impact on the story other than those completionists out there.

Speaking of compleitionists, scattered across Salem are ghostly, some more well hidden than others, and usually refer to Salem’s past, but again, these have no impact on the story whatsoever and are really just a distraction. Those of whom do collect all these times in a certain area are treated to a short story involving said items, but ultimately it’s just a voice track with a still image, feels kind of half hearted.

The arsenal of abilities that Ronan has will slowly improve throughout the story, but realistically it’s only there to further the narrative and don’t have any other significant use. Most of the time you’ll just come to a scene and start looking for items or clues, which require you to just run around and find each clue individually, the game will keep track of how many clues you’ve found and how many there are in total, but finding all the clues doesn’t actually make the case any easier to solve, because most of them are dead simple to begin with. You’ll then have to piece together the relevant information you have to determine what happened at the crime scene just makes you feel like you’re running around doing busy work to figure out the obvious truth.

Murdered Soul Suspect dead body
Ronan, staring down at his own lifeless body.

Whether it’s your own mistake or the what the game is conveying isn’t obvious, sometimes when solving a puzzle, you may make a mistake. However, there don’t seem to be any repercussions throughout the game when the wrong choice is picked, the game simply informs you that’s wrong and lets you pick yet another answer until you get the right one, which really takes away all challenge of the game, at one point, I  simply picked randomly which clue I wanted to use until I got them all right, simply because it had no repercussions as to how many times I got it wrong, and it has no overall effect to the story or its ending.

Although you might be dead, that doesn’t mean you’re completely safe, as demon roam around Salem, looking on souls to feast on, yours included. This is actually where the game shines, in its means of combat. You must sneak directly behind them to kill them if you wish to continue onto the next area. However, sometimes these demons will go you first, and running away doesn’t always help, and you may have to teleport between the ghost soul residue scattered around the area. The unfortunate side of this is this style of gameplay is severely under utilised throughout the game, considering it’s really the only way you can die.

Murdered Soul Suspect Demon
OK, maybe I am afraid of that ghost.

Pros:

+ Fantastic narrative that’ll keep you playing till the very end

+ Soul sucking demons really set an eerie feel, and the combat system to counter or hide from them works well

+ Voice cast and acting is great, despite some of the characters being a little bland

Cons:

– The tiny sandbox that is Salem is dull and uninteresting, full of people that have no relevance to the narrative and are just there so it doesn’t look desolate (even though it still does)

– The game has no real challenge, you can make as many mistakes as you like and you’ll always get another chance

– Despite some characters having great voice talent, their actual characters can be rather bland and stereotypical, some don’t even seem surprised that they’re dead.

TL;DR

Murdered: Soul Suspect is a great concept and the story will keep you playing, but has its short comings. With a 8 – 10 hour main mission, completely pointless choices, uninteresting side missions, lifeless people and the environments surrounding them, and little reason to have multiple play-throughs, you’ll complete the game and put it back on your shelf. With the mechanics and abilities that Ronan has in game, this could have had so much more potential, but ultimately a lot of it was under-utilised and game suffers for it.

6.5/10

© Yvan Zivkovic 2014

Review conducted with a promotional copy provided by Namco Bandai Australia.

5 Heavy Hitters I Want To See More Of At E3 2014


The Fab Five

It’s that time of year again.

We’re just over a week away from one of the biggest events on the gaming calendar, E3. It’s pretty much like Christmas, we spend all the time leading up getting excited and thinking of what we’ll receive, and revel in the excitement when that time comes to ‘opening our gifts.’

While everyone loves E3, I enjoy the weeks leading up to it. You read people’s thoughts on what they think will be revealed or shown at the event, and it’s great to hear some of the realistic and far-fetched theories of what we can expect from this year’s event.

The main thing about E3 is of course, video games. You know there’s always going to be some big talking points. Whether it’s seeing some unique gameplay of a recently revealed title, or the world’s first look at a new game, there’s always something for everyone.

Without further ado, here’s my list of the AAA titles I’d like to see more of at E3.

1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was hands down my favourite title that I saw first hand at last year’s E3. Hell, it’s the one game I’m looking forward to more than anything. CD Projekt Red are really putting their heart and soul into the final entry into the trilogy of Geralt of Rivia. Last year, I was blown away by just how far CD Projekt Red had come in such a short amount of time. I was privy to a 45 minute demo of the vast and beautifully-detailed world players will be able to explore.

The-Witcher-3

While I hope to see more gameplay footage revealed, what I really want to see is a bit of narrative background for Wild Hunt. Yes, we know Geralt is after the Wild Hunt, but a little bit more information about the goings-on in the world would be great. That, and I really would like to see more regarding the detailed monster hunting, as well as the impacts various choices have on the player.

CD Projekt Red are striving to ensure The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the genre-defining RPG, and here’s hoping what they show at E3 can tide me over until its release in 2015.

2. Far Cry 4

Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3 was OXCGN’s own Game of the Year in 2012, and with good reason. It was an open-world shooter that gave the player a choice of how they’d like to approach multiple objectives, whether that be through brains or brawn. Add to that the fact the environment was a lush, bright tropical paradise of Rook Island, compared to the dark, bleak and dingy settings we are used to with most FPS titles. To top it all off, it had some great characters and a reasonable story.

Fast forward to 2014, an Ubisoft have announced the latest instalment into the series, Far Cry 4. Taking place in Kyrat, a remote area located within the Himalayas, the country is home to violent traditions. It’s reported you play as Ajay Ghale, a Himalayan native who returns to Kyrat to fulfil his mother’s dying wish.

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Far Cry 4 aims to build of the success of the previous entries in the series. Naturally, I’d loved to see anything about the game. While no doubt many people want to see gameplay footage of the new and beautiful world Ubisoft are able to create, as well as the many options to complete objective available to the player (myself included), I really want to see a focus on characters and narrative.

Ubisoft have got the open world down pat, but the narrative needs work. Far Cry 3 had some amazing characters (most notably Vaas), but the story left a bit to be desired. I want Ubisoft to give me a reason to care about the characters, and want to constantly keep progressing. If Far Cry 4 gives me a main character to care about, it could be the final piece that makes it one of the best games of 2014.

3. Tom Clancy’s The Division

Another highly-anticipated title to receive a delay into 2015 is Tom Clancy’s The Division. One of the big surprises of last year’s event, The Division looks to be a different take on the ‘end of the world as we know it’ scenario. Capitalising on the success of online survival titles such as Rust and DayZ, The Division allows you and your fellow mates to team up and attempt to save what remains of society after the outbreak of a deadly disease.

Division

The game no doubt has impressed people with the visuals, but what has impressed me is the RPG structure of The Division. While games such as Borderlands have you select a specific class, and build up a unique set of skills from there, The Division does things slightly different. Instead of locking yourself into a set class, the game adapts to your playstyle on the fly. Prefer using a sniper rifle over close quarter weapons? The game picks up on this, therefore rewards and weapons you receive tailor more to a long range kit.

So what do I want to see more of? Combat of course! I’d also like to see more of the world, and what else friends can get up to when not shooting A.I. or other players in the face. Not to mention what the game offers to those who prefer a lone wolf style of play. I’d also like to see more narrative focus, in order to keep players interested. As demonstrated with Titanfall, things felt repetitive with no deep story and characters to keep things interesting.

4. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

The famous stealth espionage action series finally makes its way to Next-Gen. While we’ve already had a taste of what’s to come with Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, gamers like myself out there can’t wait to sink our teeth into Phantom Pain. In a first for the series, MGSV goes open world, allowing players to approach objectives in an order they see fit, and completing them in a similar manner.

mgs5

Konami have shown us the eclectic cast of characters Kiefer Sutherland’s Punished Snake will be going up against, but hopefully we get to see more of each character’s background, and their motivation for going up against Snake. Speaking of Kiefer Sutherland, after playing Ground Zeroes, I felt his portrayal of Snake turned a once iconic character into another generic action hero, much like Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell: Blacklist.

Therefore I hope Konami really show me something that makes Snake feel like the unique character we’ve grown up with. How do they do that? I have no idea…cardboard boxes maybe?

5. Quantum Break

Remedy Entertainment look to be on the mark with the Xbox One exclusive, Quantum Break. While it was recently announced that Remedy would be revealing all new gameplay at Gamescom, I hope we at least get something at E3, as it would be a huge boost to Microsoft’s line-up. Even though Quantum Break is another title which we won’t get our hands on until 2015, there’s plenty to be excited about.

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When Remedy do something, they don’t do it half-assed. They created a fantastic graphic novel inspired series in Max Payne, then an episodic drama with Alan Wake. Quantum Break is the next step for Remedy Entertainment to conquer. To intertwine both a live action series and video game is no small feat, just look at Defiance.

Even though we won’t be seeing any new gameplay, what could I hope to see? Give me more information on the game’s three main characters. Get me invested in their stories now. While we know they were all involved in the same experiment in time travel that went horribly wrong (or right), a bit of background information wouldn’t hurt. Since Gamescom is getting new gameplay, how about we get a sneak peek at the live action series accompanying it?

Biding Our Time

While this is a personal wishlist of what I’d exactly like to see, we just won’t know for sure until the big event hits us next week. We here at OXCGN will be on the ground in LA to bring you all the big news from this year’s E3, so we’ll see how much of my wishlist comes to fruition.

What do you hope to see more of at E3?

© Daniel Geikowski 2014

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Set to Land Spring 2014


Play as CL4PTRAP

Earlier last night 2K announced the newest entry into the Borderlands franchise, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Set after Borderlands and before Borderlands 2, the pre-sequel is set to follow four new adventurers on Pandora’s moon as they experience gravity-defying gunfights in zero atmosphere environments.

The game will feature a slew of new enemies as well as new weapons that the franchise is well known for. The Pre-Sequel will follow the rise of Handsome Jack and the Hyperion Corporation. Finally we’ll get to see his transformation into the megalomaniacal tyrant.

Randy Pitchford, president of Gearbox Software. “Since Gearbox Software first created the Borderlands franchise, we never dreamed of this much love and support from gamers. We are grateful that the incredible talent at 2K Australia has been able to jump in with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel to help it live up to the high standards that Borderlands fans have come to expect.”

Ever since the plethora of DLC that was made available for Borderlands 2, I knew that at some point we would eventually arrive at Pandora’s moon, I didn’t however expect it to be a new standalone entry. I am a little disappointed that this is not the next-gen Borderlands we’ve been waiting for. Which means we just have to wait longer to see how many guns they can cram into that, but for those looking for an excuse to stick with their Xbox 360 and PS3 a little longer now have that reasons.

From the Press Release:

“Gearbox has entrusted 2K Australia with the co-development of their award-winning franchise and we are committed to delivering an all-new shoot ‘n’ loot experience that fans will love,” concluded Tony Lawrence, general manager of 2K Australia. “Fans will see for themselves at PAX East that there’s nothing quite like moon jumping in a low-gravity gunfight, completely freezing a moon bandit with one of the new Cryo weapons, and then shattering him into little pieces that float off into space. It’s pretty epic.”

Check out the developer overview with Randy Pitchford and Tony Lawrence, as we get our first glimpse of this Pre-Sequel:

©2014 Arthur Kotsopoulos

OXCGN’s South Park: The Stick of Truth Review


So come on down to South Park and meet some friends of mine.

I’ve been excited about this game ever since it was announced back in 2012 by THQ, who announced the first delay and set the release date for April, 2013. Shortly after than, THQ had declared chapter 11 bankruptcy and Ubisoft had then bought the publishing rights, which caused the game to be delayed yet again, and to be scheduled for release in December, 2013, in time for the holidays, only for the game to be delayed again in late October, 2013 that it would be released in March, 2014.

Well, there are no more delays, South Park: The Stick of Truth is finally out.

With changing publishers and multiple delays, does this new South Park game end up like the turd throwing simulator, Duke Nukem Forever, or is it the South Park game we’ve truly been waiting for?

South Park - SoT8
South Park in all its glory, and it’s completely open for you to explore.

The Stick of Truth isn’t the first South Park game to be released, with a number of underwhelming releases in the Playstation era, like ‘Chef’s Luv Shack’ and ‘South Park Rally’, followed by a few downloadable only titles like ‘South Park Lets Go Tower Defence Play!’ and ‘South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge’, all of which have never done the franchise justice.

This time, we finally get the South Park game that meets the same level of quality as the TV show, the music, the voice talent and the art style all are so much like the show, sometimes you’ll forget you’re playing a game and just watching an episode of South Park. There are even moments where you might feel that you’re just watching a cutscene, but low and behold, there is your customised character, nothing is pre rendered and just gives the game that first feeling of a true South Park game.

Your family have just moved into South Park and your character doesn’t seem to know or remember why they moved. Your parents quickly  instruct you to go out and start making some new friends amongst the community. Once you leave your own home, you are quickly introduced to one of your first companions, Butters, who happens to be a who instantly becomes friends with you on Facebook, which is commonly used and referred to in the game. You eventually meet Cartman, grand wizard of the Kingdom of Kupa Keep, who inducts you into his kingdom to fight against the elves. You must choose one of four classes, Fighter, Mage, Thief or Jew, each with their own unique, but very similar abilities. Once you have picked your class, you are on your way out to regroup the other kingdoms members, because the elves (Kyle’s faction) have stolen the Stick of Truth and you are on a mission to get it back.

South Park - SoT6
You have four classes to choose from, Fighter, Mage, Thief and Jew. All have their own novelty moves moves, but all are too similar.

You see, once you leave Kupa Keep, you can (almost) do whatever you want in South Park, to the point where you’ll almost get lost exploring it to it’s entirety. All your favourite characters from the TV show are there, all with their own side quests and rewards. Whether it’s entering randoms peoples houses and rummaging through their bedrooms and kitchen cupboards, including the houses of Cartman, Kenny, Stan and Kyle and noticing all the references to episodes past. For anyone who watches South Park, this really is a delight and is great fan service.

South Park - SoT1
The contents of Cartman’s wardrobe. So many items from so many seasons.

“…you can (almost) do whatever you want in South Park, to the point where you’ll almost get lost exploring it to it’s entirety”

Getting to the gameplay, the RPG style reminds me a lot of the SNES game, Super Mario RPG, with it’s timed attacks and blocks, and it’s layout. The biggest argument against the turn based gameplay is that your characters abilities, regardless of what class you roll, are all too similar and don’t really offer much variety. Your special moves that use Power Points (PP) get better as you level, but even then, you’re capped at level 15 and you’ll most likely only use 1 ability over and over.

The real fun comes with the other characters who accompany you through your battles. Whether  it’s Jimmy singing you a ballad to buff your party, Cartman overloading his V-chip, or Butters turning into Professor Chaos and spinning the wheel of fate! The existing characters of South Park are a lot more fun to play and offer a lot more variety than then stock standard four classes you can choose from in the beginning.

This game really is one really long, hilarious and well written episode of South Park, where Trey Parker and Matt Stone clearly have had a huge influence over the production of the game in it’s entirety. This isn’t another Simpsons of Family Guy game where it rehashes ideas from many, many seasons ago, this truly is a game worthy of the South Park franchise.

South Park - SoT3
Let’s see how you like dealing with Professor Chaos!

Pros:

+ The show might look like paper cut outs, but so does the game, and it does an awesome job of looking EXACTLY like the show.

+The humour might be crude, but it’s hilarious and not something a South Park fan should miss.

+ Not quite the largest open world game (and dare I say, one of the smallest) but still one of the most fun to travel through and explore.

+ All your favourite South Park characters are there, even one from beyond the grave!

Cons:

–  The battle system is a little too simplistic, with only a few abilities to choose from for each character and class.

– Limited customization and variety with class builds.

– Fights don’t vary much, while the boss fights are a little harder, they don’t really involve much strategy, and are more about timing.

TL;DR

It’s basically a virtual South Park with simple turn-base RPG gameplay elements, side quests and crude humour aplenty. This is not a Square-Enix RPG by any stretch of the imagination, and I don’t believe that Obsidian were aiming for that. If you love South Park, you need to buy this. If you don’t like South Park, why on earth did you read this entire review?

8.5/10

OXCGN’s Dark Souls II Review


Nope. No, no, hell no. Ok. Shit.

I was fairly late to the party with Dark Souls, having only purchased the game in January of this year. I knew going in, difficulty was what the game was reknown for, but at its heart there was a vast world to explore and lore that players needed to uncover for themselves.

Dark Souls was not a easy game, cutscenes only introduced bosses and dialogue from characters that populated the world were vague at best. Failure was punishable by death and success was rewarded with souls and equipment to help you in your long journey.

Dark Souls II follows the same route as it’s predecessor and whilst not directly linked to Dark Souls, it’s connected in a bigger picture kind of way. Through dialogue, players will be treated to little tidbits of information that’ll help to explain the story behind Drangleic.

Bonfires are crucial, make good use of them
Bonfires are crucial, make good use of them

As a traveller you bear the Darksign, a mark which symbolises the curse of the Undead. Lured to Drangleic in search for a cure to their affliction, you are tasked by the Emerald Herald to search for larger more powerful souls in order to stay sane, your objective is crystal clear. With a simple task at hand, it’s easy to get lost in the land of Drangleic as Majula, the games central hub, branches out into multiple paths.

Many NPC’s that you encounter along your journey will end up in Majula. It’s a safe haven where those who have been drawn to Drangleic can rest, gather themselves and try to make sense of what brought them here. It also holds many secrets for the player to find, that’ll aid them moving forward.

By now many will know that in Dark Souls II, certain gameplay mechanics have changed. Whilst the combat is tighter and features a much broader realistic moveset, health replenishment has changed. Players no longer start with 10 Estus Flasks, they must find Estus Flask Shards scattered through Drangleic and return them to the Emerald Herald to increase their count.

Sublime Bone Dust will increase their healing factor but can only be burned at the bonfire in Majula. Lifegems which are crystalised souls can be consumed during combat and allow you to slowly move whilst using them. This gives the player a small window to breather when a battle gets to hard.

It’s through this ingenious structure that Dark Souls II ascends itself above the pack, whilst players must return to the Emerald Herald to level up using their acquired souls, burning various items at bonfires adds a whole new level of intensity to the game.

Whilst many action RPG’s allow you to choose your difficulty from the get go, Dark Souls II starts of with the default difficulty mode of what I like to call “Brutal”. Methods exist to allow the player to alter the challenge as they see fit by joining the Covenant of Champions, which will increase the challenge ahead by throwing more foes in your face with a larger range of attacks.

Burning a Bonfire Aesthetic will increase the intensity of its enemies around it and New Game + which is a whole new beast, is said to be as brutal all of these combined. I’m roughly 5 hours into NG+, and can safely say, that as a Knight I found my first playthrough a breeze. Mainly due to my high Strength, Dexterity and Adaptability, I wasn’t ready to go forward as The Deprived.

Even playing as the Swordsman for roughly 5 hours gave me trouble. When up against two of the games early bosses I struggled to find an opening to attack whilst taking as little damage as possible. A testament that I wasn’t quite rerady to tackle this game with anything other than a class I was familiar with.

With NG+ however. I could see the holes in my Knights attack and defense and this was due to the fact that I was never challenged enough by the enemy AI. I never sought to improve my fighting technique because up until this point, it had worked. When one uses the block and attack technique throughout the whole game, it’s difficult to change it when an enemy’s attack patterns change.

Players need to carefully deconstruct an enemy and their attacks. Rolling is much more fluid and nimble enemies will use this to their advantage. If you’re not always moving an enemy can break your guard, leaving you open for a barrage of attacks. Anything that you can do the enemy can too, so be smart. Read your enemy and be patient, don’t rush in swinging that blade, sit back, block and let your enemy tell you everything you need to know about them through the way they fight.

Now with a greater challenge at hand, players are allowed to equip up to 4 rings each with their own unique buff to aid in battle, and rest assured you’ll want to find as many rings as you can and vary up your combinations.

As players die during the state of being hollow, they’ll notice their health slowly start to degrade roughly 10% at a time until almost half their health has been cut off. The only way to increase it back to normal is to use a “Human Effigy” to become human again. If you are low on effigies and require them to summon NPC’s to aid you in boss battles, players can equip the “Ring of Binding”, which will lessen the degradation of health whilst Hollow.

Whilst FromSoftware have included a slew of new ways to punish players they’ve countered that by ways that players can negate these effects. Do you sacrifice half your health bar to wear 4 rings which buffs statistics or are you that concerned about having full health, you don’t mind one less buff to aid you in battle?

Horror in Dark Souls II, stands 10 feet tall
Horror in Dark Souls II, stands 10 feet tall

Only through trial and error and a lot of patience, will players start to see that Dark Souls II combat has multiple layers rather than being a simple hack and slash title. Players only now need to find a single ember to allow themselves to infuse weapons with various effects. No longer must you ascend a weapons to +10 before you can infuse it with boss souls. You can just trade these souls for your defeated enemies weapon or shield and keep others for yourself if you need the souls.

This will allow you to spend more time crafting fighting styles with pikes, swords, greatswords and axes to name a few. My trusty club, purchased off a merchant done me proud and lasted me the whole game only ever switching to my sword, because weapon degradation played its part.

Resting at a bonfire will repair a player’s weapon if it hasn’t broken, but it also means the world around them will restart brand new. If any given section is too hard and the player dies multiple times, the game will register and cease to spawn enemies at said bonfire.

This is due to players in Dark Souls farming various sections for souls and to also encourage progression. It’s a nice touch, but it takes away from the satisfaction of finally overcoming a challenge.

It’s the easy way out, and if you take away the challenge then the player can’t exactly teach themselves how to become better.

FromSoftware have developed a game that will require a player to induce multiple playthroughs, due to the many secrets one can uncover and the increased challenge that it offers as you progress.

In the 60 hours I spent in Drangleic, I never once found myself tired of exploring. FromSoftware have done a fantastic job in crafting the transition of every area to make it feel natural. From Heide’s Tower of Flame to No Man’s Wharf, one cannot fault the amount of work put into the environment. Presentation is at an all time high with each environment as unique as the last and offering various stages of horror.

Sprawling catacombs filled with tombstones to large castles filled with multiple rooms, staircases and tight hallways induced with fear and a sense of dread of what’s to come. Coupled with a bone chilling soundtrack, Dark Souls II is as atmospheric as a game can get.

Opening up fast travel between every bonfire from the start of the game is an easier method of transportation, and allows the massive world of Drangleic to be more accessible. It doesn’t however make the world less treacherous in that sense.

The newer engine compliments these backdrops with stunning lightning and whilst up close the game’s textures aren’t that pretty from afar they are majestic to look at. Sacrificing protection for a torch in various areas could prove costly, as if you favour the light you will be open to an array of attacks and exhausting your stamina will prove fatal.

The Gutter is where the lightning engine is most evident, lighting torches and seeing them from afar in the dark as this small speck of light knowing that you’ve come so far any mistake could prove costly.

With improved visuals, battles have also intensified thanks to the newer engine. One battle takes place inside a boat, and the longer the player takes to defeat his foe the higher the water rises incapacitating your movement to a minimum.

Other battles will see enemies react differently once they reach a certain threshold and unleash an array of attacks or call upon lesser minions to help them defeat you. The new engine has allowed FromSoftware to increase the intensity of battles by how the environment and others factors contribute.

There’s plenty to appreciate from this game, which is running on consoles that are now just under 8 years old.

Pyromancy at its finest
Pyromancy at its finest

Whilst many will appreciate the improved graphics engine, one cannot forget the excellent job with the art direction. The horrors that lurk throughout Drangleic are all crafted to perfection. No enemy is depicted by hanging flesh, rotten skin or maggots crawling out of them for that “Wow” factor. Much like the Gaping Dragon, they’re all depicted in an artistic manner that compliments the game.

This is how horror should be and there’s very little to hate in this game.

A lack of direction will set players back some hours on their first run and this is something many may come to hate. I found myself stuck at a certain point, because I had no clear direction of what to do or where to go. The Souls series is known for its lack of handholding and its evident here.

Something as simple as talking to a certain NPC to activate the next area was all that was needed but because I’m new to the franchise it’s something that I wouldn’t have thought if I weren’t told. Other players found themselves stuck at the same spot and messaged me for help whilst I had others request assistance for certain boss battles or areas that I had no difficulty reaching.

It didn’t hinder my appreciation for the game, only because it allowed me to explore each area in great detail to see what I was missing. In doing this, I found hiddens chest with items of interest, souls and plenty of other goodies.

It really goes to show how explorable this game is and how much there is to see.

Due to having such early access with the game I was unfortunately unable to try out it’s new multiplayer component with Covenants. The inability to be invaded at any given moment or to invade other players world was a little disappointing, but I’ll be sure to do a follow up when the game launches and others have started their NG+ playthrough.

There is a sense of fear however, as players can now be invaded whether they’re Human or Hollow. Red Phantom NPC’s will invade you depending on which covenant you’re apart of. They become much more frequent through the later stages of the game and one must always be on alert when a message pops up that they have been invaded.

A revised combat system, improved Covenants, a much larger world to explore and a more straightforward story has allowed Dark Souls II to easily transcend from it’s predecessor, combining the best of Demon Souls and Dark Souls. Minor bugs aside, this is a worthy sequel, and if players wish to get the most out of it they’ll need to invest.

The games combat is only the icing on a cake with many layers, that they all compliment each other beautifully.

A constant fear that at any momnent, you can be invaded
A constant fear that at any momnent, you can be invaded

Pros:

+ Crafted with the need for multiple playthroughs

+ New Game + doesn’t just increase enemy health it adds new enemies and combat animations

+ Drangleic is vast open world with much to explore

Cons:

– Bugs negating enemies to statues not registering your presence

– No connection to the servers meant no ability to try out Multiplayer before release

9.5/10

Review conducted with a promotional copy provided by Bandai Namco Australia.

Check out the “Dark Souls 2 – How to Play Video”

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Red Cross Australia Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Preview


Become Dracula in Castlevania’s most impressive outing to date

Last week the Australian Red Cross, in collaboration with Mindscape, gave the media and general public an early taste of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. This event aimed to educate gamers on the importance of donating blood whilst previewing the latest vampiric offerings from Mindscape.

This event was a great success, with pledges and blood donation happening during the evening. Awareness of important issues like blood donation in the specific demographic games like Castlevania aim for can always be improved, and this type of event was a really clever way to reach out. I have to thank both Mindscape and the Red Cross for allowing us to come and test out the game, and to commend them on the excellent event held. I really hope we start to see more events like this, focussing not just on amazing new games, but also on important topics within our society. You can read more about blood donation, and even donate on the Blood Service website.

Even Vampire donate blood
Even vampires donate blood

Now, onto Castlevania. During the event the first three hours were playable, taking us through the tutorial, prologue and then giving us a look at the modern-day missions and open world. In a great move for newcomers, the game introduces the core story for the series over the course of a long cutscene to bring players up to speed with the series, and as a person who hasn’t played a lot of the Castlevania games before this, I felt quite comfortable following the plot.

We first meet Dracula as the game opens in his throne room, sitting atop his throne with a chalice of blood. Before long he’s interrupted, the door shakes as it’s hit by an ornate battering ram over and over. The doors shatter and enemies start to pour in; Dracula’s castle is under siege, and our tutorial begins.

The combat is fairly simple but quite well put together. Using a series of light and heavy attacks, plus blocking and dodging, you can reliably knock down enemies health and sometimes even stun them to perform a gruesome finishing move. You soon become quite good at predicting the moves of the basic enemies, but the bigger enemies and bosses mix up the pattern quite nicely. You also gain two different special weapons for use in combat, the Void Sword, which allows you to absorb health from enemies upon hitting them and the Chaos Claws, which can be used to break through enemy defences and shields. These weapons add a nice sophistication to the combat, making you think about how and when to use your weapons.

The more you use your weapons and powers, the more they can be upgraded through ‘masteries’. You can also unlock more abilities and attacks by collecting experience orbs, broadening moves and attacks from the initially somewhat basic combat roster.

Just as you slide into the comfort of fighting basic enemies the game shows you its impressive set pieces, giving us a stunning view over Dracula’s castle under siege. For a moment you can take in the impressive gothic fantasy world that has been created here, before being attacked by a walking siege castle and a shining gold paladin, whose only aim is to kill Dracula.

The golden Paladin, a fierce early game enemy!
The golden Paladin, a fierce early game enemy!

The game has a great balance to it with its enemies and bosses. It’s not too hard, but hard enough to be a challenge. Enemies and bosses will kill you, but this is no Dark Souls; you won’t find yourself throwing a controller across the room because of them. Slight hints and tells balance out the un-blockable heavy hits, and used wisely, the Void Sword keeps you pretty well stocked on health.

Upon completion of the Prologue you are introduced to the modern-day world through a series of (overly long) cutscenes. Whilst the dialogue can get a little overdramatic, the story is intriguing and the voice acting is quite strong, lead by actors like Patrick Stewart and Richard Madden (of Game of Thrones fame). Regardless of length the lore cutscenes have a great visual style to them, playing out like the pages of a dark fantasy novel across the screen.

Even the in-game or cinematic cutscene have quite a dark feel to them. In one instance, after Dracula’s re-emergence to the modern-day, you are given a real weakness as a shrivelled and old vampire. Directly following this, the game hits the hardest that I saw in its first three hours. In a dark and quite disturbing way you’re forced to murder a family in order to feed to regain your youth and strength, which whilst fitting in with the tone of the game, I found overly brutal. It reminds the player that even though Dracula is the protagonist, he is in no way a ‘good’ guy.

Outside of combat you get an open world to explore in the modern-day, filled with mission based ‘dungeons’ of sorts. I was able to complete the first mission, to in

Gothic architecture and climbing make for some great scenes
Gothic architecture and climbing make for some great scenes

filtrate a science and technology company believed to be a front for the allies of Satan, paving the way for his return. You can smash all sorts of items that litter the area for experience and art unlocks, as well as keeping your eyes open for crystals to increase your health and magic. Lords of Shadow 2 has a very Darksiders feel to it outside of combat. You’ll climb and jump your way through levels whilst gaining powers (such as a crystal that lets you freeze and climb waterfalls), all the while solving basic puzzles to progress.

In the first three hours the game had no really hard puzzles, but almost all of them required a little thought at least. Adding to the puzzles is the drift between the present day and Dracula’s time. You’ll enter a stark modern passageway, or industrial service hatch and come out into a grand ballroom line with chandeliers and torches. It has a beautiful visual style that keeps things pretty exiting all the way through.

Castlevania also employs some stealth gameplay that works well in sections. You can possess rats and hide in the shadows to avoid enemies and traverse passageways unnoticed. Whilst these sections were fun, the game really shines in it’s cool combat and diverse enemy roster.

All in all I very much enjoyed my time with Lords of Shadow 2. With pretty fresh gameplay and an intriguing story it has all the hallmarks to be an exciting entry into the series, and I’m eagerly awaiting it’s release, February 27th, to play more of this game. Once again, a huge thanks to the guys at Mindscape and the Australian Red Cross for hosting the event and giving us a hands on preview of the title!