TIME e3 2014

Here’s the Inside Scoop on the Halo Master Chief Collection

Curious about all the new Halo happenings? Then we have the insider scoop from 343 Industries to satisfy your curiosity.

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Halo 5 Beta, Halo Master Chief Collection and a digital short produced by Ridley Scott, entitled Nightfall, were all announced this past week at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles. During the expo, TIME got the insider scoop from 343 Industries’ Frank O’Connor, who is the Franchise Development Director for Halo.

“2014 is the anniversary of the original launch of Halo 2…We had this discussion. We said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we had all the games in the Master Chief story on one console,’” O’Connor told TIME.

The Halo Master Chief Collection will be released on November 11, while Halo 5 will be released in late 2015. Watch the video above the insider scoop.

TIME e3 2014

The Sims 4 Digs Emotionally Deeper

It's time to escape into the newest iteration of the Sims

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For years, the Sims franchise has not only served as a form of entertainment for millions, but as a means of escape from an unmanageable world and into a simulator world that lets you, as the tag line says, “Build. Buy. & Live.”

Since September 2013, the franchise has sold more than 175 million copies worldwide.

The game, which allows a player to customize his or her character’s destiny, has evolved into a cultural phenomenon extending beyond merely ‘play’; Sociologists have written papers on the Sims and it has become fodder for writers, journalists and bloggers to explore cultural trends.

In this newest iteration of the franchise, Sims 4 packs in new features, including the ability to allow characters to embody a wider range of emotional states beyond just sad or happy. The emotion component now affects not only how your Sim character executes tasks, but also how you as a player manage him or her.

The Sims 4 releases on Sept. 2.

TIME e3 2014

This Is the Most Beautiful Game You’ll See All Year

Hello Games

The most promising title we saw at E3

This year’s E3 generated a huge number of exciting announcements and jaw-dropping reveals. For the first time in the new console cycle, there appears to be a critical mass of exciting new titles on the horizon. (For our favorites, check out this mega-list.) But developer Hello Games’ upcoming No Man’s Sky may be the most promising—and gorgeous to watch in action. The procedurally generated space exploration game is coming to PlayStation 4, the small studio announced during Sony’s E3 2014 press conference. In No Man’s Sky, players will be able to explore planets and solar systems that are randomly generated. Check out some of the most beauteous scenes from its latest trailer below.

Hello Games
Hello Games
Hello Games
Hello Games
Hello Games
TIME e3 2014

WATCH: Battlefield: Hardline Takes ‘Cops and Robbers’ to a New Level

Good guys vs. bad guys just got an update.

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The Battlefield series stepped away from its military sweet spot to get back to the childhood classic “Cops and Robbers.” But this isn’t the game you played as a little kid — unless you imagined destroying construction cranes to stage elaborate bank heists.

The epic scale means more weapons and vehicles as well, adding tasers, baseball bats and armored vehicles into the mix.

Want to get in on the action? Visceral Games just launched a beta trial with two different game play options. The blood money option puts a pile of money in the center of the level and lets cops and robbers duke it out, while the heist mode the criminals try to beat the police and pull off the big score.

TIME e3 2014

The Evil Within Refuels Survival-Horror Games, Fuels Nightmares

Please turn on the lights to watch this video.

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King of creepy Shinji Mikami’s newest game looks to scare you. That’s the only goal.

Unlike some of Mikami’s recent work like latest Resident Evil titles, The Evil Within does not require you to kill everything that moves in an environment. Instead, it takes the survival-horror genre back to its roots of scarce resources, chilling isolation and seemingly un-killable enemies.

Stealth and ingenuity are the best weapons against the game’s monsters, but even the character’s own mind will not be safe, as hallucinations and visions blur the line between reality and nightmare.

When the The Evil Within hits shelves, make sure to leave the light on while playing.

TIME e3 2014

What It’s Like to Be the Kraken in Evolve

In which one monster vs. four hunters makes for a surprisingly even multiplayer match.

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Halfway through my hands-on time with Evolve, I could feel the disappointment of the 2K representative next to me. I was still getting the hang of the game, and my gigantic, flying Kraken had taken lots of damage from the four players trying to bring it down. Reading the rep’s face, a comeback seemed like a long shot.

But then, something clicked. I started using the Kraken’s powers more effectively, pinpointing my lightning blasts at exposed monster hunters, while keeping them on the defensive with a barrage of energy blasts from high in the air. I got better at dividing and conquering the hunters, and when one went down, he became bait as the other players tried to revive their fallen comrade. When the last monster hunter fell, I had only a sliver of health left, and my hands were shaking.

Evolve is strictly a multiplayer game, coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC this fall. Four players team up and control the hunters, each with their own special abilities, while a fifth player controls an oversized monster with a handful of super powers. Over the course of a match, the monster can feed on creatures and “evolve” into a more powerful form, so there’s an element of hide-and-seek as the monster tries to become better equipped for fighting the hunters.

It was hard to believe my outcome wasn’t scripted, or at least pushed toward a thrilling conclusion through unseen handicaps. But speaking to Chris Ashton, the game’s design director, he assured me that Evolve’s mechanics are pure, with no extra assistance for ailing players.

“In a racing game, sometimes they’ll make the guy in the back go faster,” Ashton said. “But when you’re a seriously competitive game, you don’t want to artificially give the losing team an advantage or Nerf the winning team at all.”

There are, however, some subtle forces at work. The trapper, for instance, needs lots of time to recharge its containment field, so every few minutes, the monster has a chance to get away and get back to feeding. Meanwhile, the Kraken’s flying ability takes longer to recharge when it’s not in combat, so it’s much easier for the hunters to eventually catch up. Ashton said this creates a roller coaster effect, similar to the Turtle Rock’s use of safe rooms in its previous series, Left 4 Dead.

“We ratchet everything up, and then we ratchet everything back down so you have time to recover,” he said.

Evolve’s sense of balance comes from more than three years of prototyping and testing. The game was bare bones at first, with just a melee attack for the monster and assault rifles for the hunters. As the developers layered on new abilities–such as healing powers for the medic, a containment field for the trapper class, and a slew of special powers for the monsters–they constantly had to rebalance.

The entire studio would play the game for an hour every day, and their matches fed into a telemetry system to help the developers figure out which characters were too weak, or too strong. So by the time 2K started showing Evolve at public and industry events, Ashton expected plenty of close matches.

“We’ve played the game so much that there aren’t really any surprises,” he said.

Still, he thinks this will change when Evolve launches on October 21, and players start learning all the game’s tricks. One of the advantages of the latest game consoles is that it’s much easier to push out updates, so Turtle Rock plans to keep tuning the mechanics long after the game comes out.

“We know that once we release, if we sell millions of copies in the first day, there’s going to be millions of man-hours played,” Ashton said, “And that’s more than we’ve put into the game.”

TIME e3 2014

Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System Tells a New Tale of Middle Earth

In Monolith's Shadow of Mordor, any enemy could become your arch foe.

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Middle Earth as described in The Lord of the Rings is vast and rich in history and lore. It only makes sense that there are stories left untold.

Monolith delves into Tolkien’s world to bring its new game, Shadow of Mordor, to life, telling the story of Talion, a ranger with wraith-like abilities whose family is killed by Sauron’s army.

In order to get the depth and feel of Middle Earth, Shadow of Mordor introduces the “Nemesis System,” which allows players to shape their own story. Every minion, Orc, and Uruk-hai players fight is named, and if they survive the encounter they will change, grow, and appear later in the story.

As you get better, so do your enemies, and the story takes another turn.

TIME e3 2014

Watch Conan O’Brien Play the New Super Smash Brothers. Horribly

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Conan O’Brien tested his fighting skills the latest iteration of his Clueless Gamer series on his late-night show. This time O’Brien tried his hand at Super Smash Bros., an upcoming title for the Wii U. After criticizing Mario’s broken English comparing Samus to Daft Punk, and insulting elven creatures everywhere (sorry Link), Conan proceeded to get pummeled by members of his staff as a host of different characters. In the end, the comedian decided Smash was too complicated. He’d rather play a simpler game, perhaps one about a guy taking a walk to find a cookie. Behold the entire spectacle in the video above.

TIME Culture

Why Assassin’s Creed Killed Off All Its Women

Insiders say creating female characters wouldn't take a ton of effort

More bad news for women gamers—or anyone who wants to play a female avatar in the uber-popular Assassin’s Creed series: Assassin’s Creed: Unity will not have any playable female characters in cooperative mode.

That’s right, none. How come, you ask?

Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio told Polygon in a recent interview that the team ran into “the reality of production.”

“It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets,” Amancio said. “Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.” He went on to explain they started the process of creating female avatars but had to stop because it would require 8,000 extra animations.

Women gamers are no stranger to discrimination in the industry: even though 45% of all gamers are women, too few games feature playable female characters. And those games that do have women are often misogynistic (see: sexism in Grand Theft Auto) or objectify women (see: Lara Croft’s measurements). There was even a recent controversy over a sexual assault scene in the new Castlevina game.

The lack of playable women characters is particularly disappointing in this instance considering that previous Assassins games did include female avatars. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation featured the series’ first female protagonist, Aveline de Grandpré, an African-French assassin in 18th century New Orleans.

Which may explain why Jonathan Cooper, who was the animation director on Assassin’s Creed III, took to Twitter to explain that adding female characters would not have been as labor-intensive as Amancio says.

Ubisoft responded with the following statement:

We recognize the valid concern around diversity in video game narrative. Assassin’s Creed is developed by a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs and we hope this attention to diversity is reflected in the settings of our games and our characters.

Assassin’s Creed Unity is focused on the story of the lead character, Arno. Whether playing by yourself or with the co-op Shared Experiences, you the gamer will always be playing as Arno, complete with his broad range of gear and skill sets that will make you feel unique.

With regard to diversity in our playable Assassins, we’ve featured Aveline, Connor, Adewale and Altair in Assassin’s Creed games and we continue to look at showcasing diverse characters. We look forward to introducing you to some of the strong female characters in Assassin’s Creed Unity.

TIME e3 2014

This Vest Vibrates Your Chest While You Play Video Games

Shahriar Afshar, President and Founder of Immerz, wears the KOR-FX haptic gaming vest at E3 2014. Jared Newman for TIME

KOR-FX aims to emulate that deep bass feeling

It starts with a tiny twitch across my chest, triggered by some gunfire in the distance. Then, there’s an explosion, and my left side starts rumbling. I fire my assault rifle, and it’s like a couple of smartphones are strapped to my upper body, vibrating in unison.

All this is coming from a small vest called KOR-FX. The $150 device translates sound to rumbles by connecting wirelessly to a small transmitter box, which then plugs into any audio source. A pair of transducers in front create rumbles on either side of your chest. I tested a prototype at E3 in a round of Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Immerz, the company behind KOR-FX, says the vest is more sophisticated than it seems. Instead of just basing vibration strength on volume, KOR-FX uses a filtering algorithm to guess which frequencies should produce the most rumble. The idea is that when you hear a sound with deep, chest-thumping bass, you’ll really feel it, even if you just have a set of headphones on. (Shahriar Afshar, the company’s president and founder, came up with the idea in response to some noisy gamer neighbors; he wanted to give them a way to feel the vibrations while maintaining some peace and quiet.)

In practice–with the vest on and pair of headphones over my ears–KOR-FX didn’t quite feel like a stand-in for a Monster subwoofer. I was too aware of this thing on my chest, and the sharp vibrations it created. It was interesting, though I can’t say it was as immersive as the company claims.

But maybe there’s something to the idea. The device isn’t on the market yet–it’s only available for pre-order on Kickstarter for now–but Immerz is already thinking about second-generation hardware. The company may also release a software development kit, so game makers can fine-tune the vest’s vibrations. To start, Immerz is hoping to get some vests out in the wild and gather more feedback from users.

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