TIME e3 2014

What It’s Like to Play Destiny Competitive Multiplayer

Destiny's "Crucible" mode feels familiar, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

It feels like Halo.

I’d heard this even before laying hands on Destiny for the first time, and wondered if it was a lazy comparison.

But with Destiny’s competitive multiplayer (known as “Crucible”), the similarities to Halo are easy to notice. You’re still an armor-clad soldier with regenerating health that can absorb more than just a shot or two to the gut. The pace is slower compared to twitchy shooters like Call of Duty, allowing cat-and-mouse games to emerge as players chase each other around corners and into hidey holes. You’ve got a couple guns, some grenades and a mêlée attack, and you may need to use some combination of them to bring another player down.

I could use the same description for Halo, which Bungie worked on for over a decade before moving on to build Destiny under publisher Activision. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Halo is one of the most revered first-person shooters of all time. But clearly, Bungie isn’t reinventing any basic mechanics. Instead, it’s offering a slightly different take on the style of shooter it created in 2000.

In a demo at E3, I played a couple rounds of Control, in which two teams tussle to maintain command of three zones. It’s the kind of mode you’ll find in lots of shooters, and the flow wasn’t much different here. The winning strategy, as always, is to pick a base and stick with it, finding a good vantage point to fend off foes as they approach. I would’ve happily played more if Activision let me.

While there are differences from Halo, they’re subtle. You can see how much health your opponents have, which takes some guesswork out of deciding your next move. In larger maps, you can summon a personal hovercraft, called a “Sparrow,” to help you zip to your objective. And instead of picking up weapons scattered around the map, you bring your own preset arsenal to the fight. (The occasional “heavy ammo” drop allows you to use your most powerful weapon, so the mad scramble for rocket launchers or chainguns is essentially intact.)

I may be understating what could be Destiny’s biggest distinguishing trait: In Halo, everyone has the same abilities and the same choices in weaponry, but in Destiny, every character is different, based entirely on the weapons, armor and special abilities they’ve unlocked in the main game. Halo was almost religious in making sure everyone fought on a level playing field–the ability to customize your loadout didn’t happen until Halo 4, which Bungie didn’t work on–but Destiny appears to take the opposite approach. Having the story mode influence the competitive multiplayer is something few games have attempted, and it’ll be interesting to see if Destiny can pull it off.

Still, I couldn’t get a sense of how this actually affected the game just from a short, standalone demo. In my brief experience, Destiny’s competitive multiplayer was easy to fall into, as if it was something I’d already spent hundreds of hours of my life playing. If Destiny’s character-building hook makes a meaningful difference, I think I’ll be okay with that.

TIME viral

This Mean Girls 8-Bit Video Game Is So Fetch

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Survive high school

A decade after the Tina Fey comedy debuted, Mean Girls got the 8-bit video game treatment.

The clever clip from YouTube channel CineFix covers all the major plot points of the legendary (make that, mythological) Lindsay Lohan classic, complete with pixelated Plastics, an anime Rachel McAdams, and an 8-bit Mathlete competition set to an ’80s soundtrack.

The NES-inspired game is sadly not playable, but it is still fun to watch as fresh-out-of-Africa Cady navigates life in her new high school. She collects points, stocks her inventory (here’s a pencil, Aaron! here’s a weight loss bar, Regina!), makes friends, destroys her enemies and learns the rules (“On Wednesdays we wear pink!”).

The clip is fun to watch, but it would be more fun if, say, you could make Glen Coco point and laugh at Gretchen Weiners or have Janis go all Heathers on Regina George. We know we can’t make fetch happen, but what about a real Mean Girls video game?

MORE: A Sonic the Hedgehog Movie Is Happening

MORE: ‘Mean Girls’ Is Not a Comedy. It’s Mythology.

 

TIME e3 2014

E3 Recap: Ubisoft Press Conference in Under 2 Minutes

All you need to know from Ubisoft's press conference in less than 2 minutes:

At the E3 Gaming conference on Monday, Ubisoft joined the list of the massive gaming publishers who were announcing new games during lavish press conferences. During the conference Ubisoft announced titles such as Far Cry 4 and showed attendees new footage from games like The Division. For those of you who don’t have the time to watch an long hour press conference, don’t worry about it – we got you covered. Here are all the highlights in 2 minutes

TIME movies

A Sonic the Hedgehog Movie Is Happening

The movie adaptation of the popular video game series will be a mix of live action and CGI

Everyone’s favorite spiky blue speed demon is coming to the big screen.

Sony Pictures and 22 Jump Street producer Neil Moritz aare adapting the popular Sega video game series, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sonic the Hedgehog is a billion-dollar franchise that has sold more than 140 million games in its two decades.

The movie will be a combination of live action and computer animation, with Evan Susser and Van Robichaux, formerly of the Upright Citizens Brigade, handling the screenplay. Dr. Eggman, Sonic’s mad-scientist nemesis, will be featured in the story, though other characters from Sonic’s world have not yet been announced.

“We’re looking to capture everything that generations of fans know and love about Sonic while also growing his audience wider than ever before,” Sony Pictures production president Hannah Minghella said in a statement.

There’s no word on a release date yet, but it’s probably a good idea to start saving your golden rings to cash in later.

[THR]

TIME e3 2014

E3 Recap: Electronic Arts’ Press Conference in 2 Minutes

All you need to know from EA's press conference in 2 minutes

At the E3 Gaming conference on Monday, the massive video game developer and publisher Electronic Arts put on a lavish press show, during which EA showed off heavily anticipated titles such as Battlefield Hardline and Dragon Age Inquisition.

For those of you who don’t have the time to watch hour long press conference, or just want to see the best parts again, don’t worry about it – we’ve got you covered. Here are all the highlights in two minutes.

TIME e3 2014

What It’s Like to Play Sunset Overdrive, the Xbox One’s Cartoon-Violent Exclusive Shooter

Pulling off extreme acrobatics while blasting mutant hordes is trickier than it looks, but maybe that's the idea.

In the hands of a skilled player, Sunset Overdrive is a beautiful sight. Effortlessly, the player bounces from car hoods to rooftops, gliding on banisters and leaping into the air, firing every manner of explosive, colorful weaponry at the scrambling, screaming mutants below. In a flash, they become a dazzling display of pyrotechnics and orange gore.

This was not quite my experience when I first played the game for myself at E3 2014. A perfect example of the disconnect between scripted presentations (like the one at Microsoft’s press conference) and hands-on demos, I immediately found myself on the ground and surrounded by mutants, failing to grasp the “traversal” system that lets players bounce and slide from one platform to the next. Moments later, I was dead.

But maybe quick punishment was a form of training. In no time, I learned that treating Sunset Overdrive like a typical shooter–strafing on the ground while using your weapons as crowd control–is a quick way to get killed. You need to learn the acrobatics if you want to survive.

This isn’t as easy as it looks in trailers and canned demos. If you’re trying to land on a railing and are off by a smidgen, or you don’t hit “X’ in time, you’ll simply fall to the ground below, leaving you exposed to the horde as you try to scramble back to high ground. While you’re positioning yourself and timing your “X” button taps, you also need to be aiming with the right stick, firing with the left trigger and occasionally switching weapons with the right trigger.

It’s a lot to handle, but in a way, Sunset Overdrive’s complex mechanics are better than something like Assassin’s Creed, in which the climbing and grappling feel automatic. It’s all the more rewarding when you actually start pulling off some impressive tricks yourself.

Over the course of my demo–which included a single-player mission and a “defend the base” multiplayer mode–I became more comfortable with jumping, landing and positioning. I started to grasp the intricacies of the game’s wacky weapons, which include a ricocheting vinyl disc thrower, a launcher for exploding teddy bears, an area-of-effect freeze ray and a gun that seems to just make everything explode. I stopped dying and completed my mission, laying waste to a pair of firework-laden towers while zipping around an old amusement park roller coaster.

Like any shooter that revolves around a central gimmick, I have concerns about how long Sunset Overdrive will remain as thrilling. It’ll depend on how much variety developer Insomniac Games can introduce through enemies and set pieces and, more importantly, how far the game will push its players toward mastery of more complex stunts. But in this demo, at least, it’s pushing in the right direction.

Sunset Overdrive launches for Xbox One on October 28.

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: Nintendo Wants to Sell You Mario Figurines You Can Use in Its Video Games

Nintendo announced at E3 Tuesday a new line of electronic figurines called Amiibo that can interact with the Wii U’s gamepad and be used in various titles for the console.

The figures, which will include popular Nintendo stalwarts like Mario and Link, can be leveled up by playing different games, while they keep their unique stats across multiple titles. Disney already uses similar figures of its own iconic characters for its Wii U game Disney Infinity.

The first Nintendo game to make use of Amiibo will be Super Smash Bros. this holiday season. The toys will also be incorporated into upcoming games like Mario Party 10 and already released titles like Mario Kart 8. Amiibo will also be compatible with the 3DS.

TIME e3 2014

Xbox One vs. PS4: Battle of the Exclusives

As Microsoft and Sony try to win gamers over to their respective consoles, both companies used E3 2014 as a battleground for “exclusives” that the rival platform doesn’t have. That means choosing between an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 isn’t just about features or price points, it’s about personal preference for games that will only appear on that platform.

It’ll be a while until many of these exclusives are even available, but here’s the rundown in chronological order:

PS4: Entwined

What it is: A relaxing game where you simultaneously guide two characters through tunnel-like dreamscapes, using opposite thumbsticks. The goal is to unify them over time, so they transform into a great dragon.

Release date: It’s out now

Xbox One: Forza Horizon 2

What it is: An open-world racing game with obsessive attention to vehicle detail and realism, set in southern Europe.

Release date: September 30, 2014

PS4: Driveclub

What it is: A racing game in which players can create teams and take to the road together. It won’t be an ultra-realistic simulator like Gran Turismo, but it won’t be too arcade-like either.

Release date: October 7, 2014

Xbox One: Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

What it is: Much like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, you use a series of gestures–tracked by the Xbox Kinect sensor–to create music and bring life to the world.

Release date: October 21, 2014

Xbox One: Sunset Overdrive

What it is: An acrobatic third-person shooter with a cartoonish, over-the-top art style. Players create their own character and try to save a city in which an addictive energy drink has turned everyone into mutants.

Release date: October 28, 2014

Xbox One: Halo: The Master Chief Collection

What it is: Every major Halo game re-released, including a newly-remastered version of Halo 2. (Halo 3: ODST and Halo Wars aren’t part of the package.) It’ll also include the live action Halo: Nightfall and access to the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta.

Release date: November 11, 2014

PS4: LittleBigPlanet 3

What it is: A cute platform game that encourages players to work together, and lets them create their own levels. LittleBigPlanet 3 adds three new character types to the mix, and will include all 8.7 million user-made levels from the first two games.

Release date: November 2014

Xbox One: Dance Central Spotlight

What it is: A downloadable sequel to the popular Kinect-driven dance-along. Developer Harmonix says it’s come up with a system for bringing new tracks to the game faster than before.

Release date: Fall 2014

Xbox One: Ori and the Blind Forest

What it is: An artsy 2D platformer in which you explore a beautiful enchanted forest, gaining new powers along the way.

Release date: Fall 2014

PS4: Various Devolver Digital Titles

What it is: A series of games from indie label Devolver Digital, including Hotline Miami: Wrong Number, Broforce, Titan Souls, Not a Hero and The Talos Principle. Most of them are throwbacks to the 8- and 16-bit era with modern twists, while The Talos Principle is a 3D puzzler with a touch of deep philosophy.

Release date: 2014

Xbox One: Inside

What it is: A platformer with a dark, haunting atmosphere, somewhat reminiscent of Limbo.

Release date: Early 2015 as a timed exclusive

Xbox One: Halo 5: Guardians

What it is: A new Halo game in which the Master Chief mourns the loss of his AI companion Cortana and goes searching for answers. Details are still scarce, and we haven’t seen the actual game in action yet.

Release date: Fall 2015

PS4: Bloodborne

What it is: A gruesome-looking adventure game from Hidetaka Miyazaki, who was behind Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls.

Release date: 2015

Xbox One: Crackdown

What it is: Possibly a reboot for the open-world Xbox 360 franchise, which let players earn superpowers as they fought crime in a futuristic city.

Release date: 2015

PS4: Abzu

What it is: A game that seems to involve underwater exploration. It’s from a couple of people who were involved with Journey, so it’ll likely be artistically striking, beautifully scored and somewhat cryptic.

Release date: 2016

Xbox One: Fable: Legends

What it is: A multiplayer action-RPG with cooperative play. Also, another player can control “The Villain,” and command an army of foes to attack the good guys.

Release date: Unknown, but a multiplayer beta begins this fall

Xbox One: Scalebound

What it is: An action game involving a human character that can don a set of dragon-like scales, and appears to gain command over various creatures. The studio behind it, PlatinumGames, is well-regarded for games like Bayonetta, Vanquish and MadWorld.

Release date: Unknown

PS4: The Order 1886

What it is: A third-person, supernatural thriller set in a steampunk version of 19th century London, where beastly, man-eating “half breeds” roam the world.

Release date: Unknown

Xbox One: Phantom Dust

What it is: A remake or sequel to the original Xbox cult favorite, which combined third-person action with Magic the Gathering-style deck building.

Release date: Unknown

PS4: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

What it is: Another entry in the Indiana Jones-inspired action adventure series. That’s about all we know.

Release date: Unknown

PS4: Magicka 2

What it is: A four-player, cooperative, top-down action-adventure game involving wizards.

Release date: Unknown

PS4: Grim Fandango Remastered

What it is: A sprucing-up of a beloved adventure game, which combines dark comedy with a noir art style. It stars a skeletal travel agent who discovers corruption in the Land of the Dead.

Release date: Unknown

PS4: Let It Die

What it is: The next game from oddball designer Suda 51, the guy behind No More Heroes and Lollipop Chainsaw. It seems to involve a lot of killing, but that’s about all we know.

Release date: Unknown

PS4: No Man’s Sky

What it is: A world where everything, from the creatures to the environment to the surrounding galaxy, is created algorithmically. Players are plunked on one of these computer-generated planets, and can then explore the universe while meeting with other players. It looks pretty trippy.

Release date: Unknown

Xbox One: Downloadable Content

For a handful of larger games that aren’t Xbox exclusives, Microsoft is getting first dibs on additional content, sold after the games launch. These games include Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, The Division, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Evolve.

PS4: Early Betas

Sony isn’t as interested in getting downloadable content first, but instead wants to give players an earlier taste of upcoming games. Both Destiny and Battlefield Hardline will include early beta access on the PS4, and players can also check out a Destiny alpha this Thursday.

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: Mario Maker for Wii U Lets You Build Your Own Mario Levels

Nintendo announced a new game at E3 Tuesday that allows players to build their own Mario levels.

Dubbed Mario Maker, the new Wii U title lets players create 2D levels either in the classic, 8-bit art style of the original Super Mario Bros. or the more modern 3D graphics Nintendo has used in the New Super Mario Bros. series.

The brief gameplay trailer showed that players will have the ability to lay green pipes, boxes marked with question marks, Goombas and other Mario staples across their levels. The title makes use of the Wii U’s gamepad allowing players to edit levels via the controller’s screen while using a stylus.

The game will go toe to toe with Sony’s upcoming level-creator game, LittleBigPlanet 3, when it launches in the first half of 2015.

TIME e3 2014

Nintendo Wagers Inventive New Games at E3, Not Headline-Grabbers

Nintendo's E3 presentation turns up a mix of creative vamps on existing genres, a Skylanders-like leap into the toy-to-life market and teases for titles we won't see until 2015.

Splatoon. That’s what Nintendo’s newest, weirdest Wii U game is called, except I keep saying it “SPLIH-tune” because that’s how everyone else pronounced it (must be my Midwestern ear, what can I say?). It’s the thing I spent the most time with during the pre-E3 demos Nintendo offered instead of rolling all their new ideas into one splashy, realtime, FX-suffused press event.

Instead they’re doing their customary too-cool-for-school thing and holding a prerecorded digital event, which you’re maybe just coming from. (If you missed it, it’s re-playable here.) I admit the Satoru Iwata / Reggie Fils-Aime jazzed-up brawl elicited more than a chuckle.

But I think everyone’s going to agree: Nintendo’s striking a much lower-key note at E3 2014 than either Microsoft or Sony at their respective events. The games displayed in Nintendo’s tout we’ve mostly known about, and of those — with a few exceptions I’ll get to momentarily — the footage comes across as more supplemental than revelatory. The games themselves seem thematically stuck in the key of whimsical: there were no Entwined or No Man’s Sky or Abzû moments.

But let’s get back to Splatoon, a 4-vs-4 action game due in the first half of 2015 that lets you spray ink all over the screen like You Can’t Do That on Television‘s slime pumped through Super Soakers. The idea’s simple enough: whoever’s team covers the most square footage with their color of ink wins. When you bump into enemy inkers furiously blanketing their side of each level in colorful globs, you can square off as in a shooter, hosing them down or firing a rocket-like weapon you can whip out once you’ve powered up.

Nintendo

The twist — or other twist, I suppose — is that you play as a human that can morph into a squid: in squid form, you recharge spent ink and can swim super-fast through your own ink color, including up the sides of walls, letting you zip from low ground to an out-of-reach platform in an instant.

It makes for frenetic, often amusing moments and seems to be a slyly charming inversion of shooter genre tropes filtered through Nintendo’s playful lens. I found the Wii U GamePad’s control scheme a bit of a challenge at first, since it combined aiming with the motion sensor (panning your view as you swing the GamePad) and traditional camera panning using the controller thumb-sticks. It started to sink in as I played further, but I wasn’t totally down with it by the time my demo sessions ended. In any event, the game’s human-squid mechanic seems the biggest lure, an inventive, tactically sophisticated feature I wanted to spent a lot more time exploring.

Let’s get the least interesting (if mostly like to generate piles of cash for Nintendo) part of the event out of the way: Nintendo’s move into Skylanders-like figurines, which it’s calling “amiibo.” We knew this was coming, and now we know how and when. Instead of subverting the genre Activision launched and that Disney’s been helping enlarge, Nintendo’s swimming into known waters with its own lineup of figurines that’ll communicate wirelessly with the Wii U GamePad and level up as you play. Nintendo says it’ll launch around 10 figures this November in tandem with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, the first game they’re designed to work with, though expect support for others, including already-released games like Mario Kart 8, down the road.

Nintendo

Some of the more interesting games in Nintendo’s presentation included Yoshi’s Wooly World (previously referred to as “Yarn Yoshi”) for Wii U, starring Yoshi as a bounding ball of filaments exploring a gorgeous, pliable 2.5D world, and a Wii U puzzle game starring Captain Toad that extracts levels from Super Mario 3D World and turns them into perspective-shiftable puzzles through which you’ll hunt for coins, gems and stars. And Mario Maker — a Miyamoto-led design tool that’ll let you roll your own Super Mario Bros. game using the Wii U GamePad — has the potential to be spectacular when it arrives sometime in the first half of 2015.

Nintendo announced a $20 adapter for GameCube or WaveBird controllers that’ll let you use either with Super Smash Bros., due on 3DS October 3 and by the holidays for Wii U. We saw a bit more of Hyrule Warriors, the Zelda-meets-Dynasty Warriors brawler for Wii U, which Nintendo says it’ll launch September 26. 3DS versions of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire were confirmed for November. And we caught another glimpse of Bayonetta 2, now due in October.

And of course we had our first look at Zelda for Wii U (that’s it up top): a gorgeous long shot of Hyrule with close-in focus on exquisitely detailed blades of swishing grass, running to distant mountains at the other end of a vast expanse. You can go all the way to those mountains and back, says Nintendo … which of course brought to mind Bethesda’s pitch for Oblivion in 2004 or 2005, though it’s hard not to feel a little thrill at the prospect of playing something like Nintendo’s version of Skyrim. The soonest we’ll get to do so is 2015, says Nintendo.

All told, a respectable if downtempo showing. If the goal was to generate the kind of buzzy spectacle Sony and Microsoft do nowadays, you could argue Nintendo failed. But this is what Nintendo does, and it still manages to with a certain amount of dignity. Whether all these predominantly first-party games aimed less at enthusiast than generalist players can pull the company out of the red this year, or bring the Wii U back to something approximating life when titles like Zelda and Star Fox hit in 2015 (for the latter, see my interview with Shigeru Miyamoto here) remains as much a question now as it was a year ago.

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