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Fullbright’s latest game, Tacoma, underwent some major changes during development, and studio founder Steve Gaynor recently explained why they decided to pivot away from the game’s original aesthetic and design.
“As much as we were trying to move away or to make the experience we were building feel legitimately different from Gone Home, we had still stuck with too many of our assumptions about it—like kind of the shape of how you moved through the game was still very much based on Gone Home,” Gaynor said on the latest episode of our monthly interview show IGN Unfiltered.
He noted how they had AR figures in the game, which were “much more isolated” and ultimately not all that different than the audio diaries in Gone Home. “We just realized that we were not going as far as we needed to, and that the game that we were making contained ideas that were kind of being pointed towards—like the idea was there but we needed to do more with it,” he said.
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It took one of the most popular Hulk comic book stories ever, Planet Hulk, to make Thor: Ragnarok the most entertaining Thor movie yet. But in a story ostensibly about Ragnarok — the end of Asgard — a crazy subplot set entirely apart from those events and inspired by an entirely different hero’s story really shouldn’t be the best thing about the film, should it?
Thor: Ragnarok is as glib and cheeky as the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and embraces a deliberately ‘80s space opera aesthetic and synth score (composed by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh, providing the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most distinctive original music yet). This makes for a fun and often hilarious romp, and a film that looks as vibrant and out there as an old Jack Kirby Marvel comic. But it also encapsulates the MCU’s increasing desire to go for the gag, to mock its own innate absurdity, even at the expense of the characters and settings Marvel Studios has spent years now establishing.
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Spoiler warning and editor’s note: This preview contains plot details for the first three missions of Star Wars: Battlefront 2’s campaign, roughly the first two hours of the game. Additionally, one of Battlefront 2’s writers is former IGN editor Mitch Dyer. The author of this preview was hired after Dyer left IGN and has no relationship of any kind with him.
There’s an old Star Wars joke (best known from Kevin Smith’s Clerks) about all the janitors and construction workers who were innocently working on the second Death Star when it blew up. Sure, the Emperor was finally defeated, but what about the little people? Was working a day job for the Empire really deserving of such a grisly fate?
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There’s one scene early in Thor: Ragnarok that I felt sure was going to be a call-back to the first Thor movie. Doctor Strange offers Thor a cup of tea, and Thor replies that he doesn’t touch the stuff. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring up the God of Thunder’s love of coffee, established in the first movie’s diner scene: Shortly after finding himself on Earth for the first time, Thor showed his appreciation for the new beverage by violently smashing his mug on the ground and demanding another. It was the first time Thor was really funny.
Instead, Benedict Cumberbatch (who’s unfortunately only in this movie for about three minutes total) summons a hefty mug of ale from thin air, and Chris Hemsworth quaffs it appreciatively. Thor: Ragnarok may be the funniest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie yet, thanks to comedic-minded director Taika Waititi. But it’s also in large part a departure. As much as it still feels like a main stage MCU entry, in other ways Thor: Ragnarok is eager to leave the past behind.
Waititi’s sensibilities are everywhere in Thor: Ragnarok, moreso than most past directors have been allowed to imprint themselves on a larger MCU film (the main exception being James Gunn with Guardians of the Galaxy). The New Zealander director comes from the Flight of the Conchords-style school of comedy, and his own movies, like the both-excellent What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, have a distinctly dry, earnest Kiwi humor at their hearts. Whether in Thor’s frequent one-liners, Jeff Goldblum’s loopy Grandmaster, or absurd side characters like the soft-spoken warrior Korg (who’s voiced by the director himself), that same humor is central to Thor: Ragnarok‘s identity.
That’s for better or worse, depending largely on how you feel about this type of humor. These awkward silences and absurd jokes aren’t for everyone. The actors and filmmakers have stated during press conferences and interviews that there was a lot of improvisation on set, and it shows, especially in scenes with Goldblum’s Grandmaster. The veteran oddball comedian/heartthrob is clearly riffing in most of his scenes, and that loosey-goosey feeling also pervades much of the film.
At the same time, Ragnarok is about the Asgardians’ literal apocalypse. That’s a big MCU event, and when it’s not being funny Ragnarok feels like most other big Marvel movies, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. The action is huge, but the stakes are low. Extended CG-heavy set pieces like a high-speed spaceship chase, during which Thor and Valkyrie jump from pursuing ship to ship stabbing them with big swords, feel gratuitous, and don’t look particularly good. Anyone who saw Blade Runner 2049 recently understands how big a difference having practical sets can make, and certain green screen-fueled environments in Thor, including the coliseum scene, look unreal enough to be a distraction.
During that same sequence, Mark Ruffalo–who’s transformed back into Bruce Banner after an extended stint as the Hulk–laments that he doesn’t know how to fly a spaceship. Thor quips that he should use one of his many PhDs, before leaping heroically from the ship. It’s a decent joke, but one without any weight, because Ruffalo is obviously going to steer the ship just fine, which he does. Having stakes is important for audiences to get invested in prolonged scenes of shallow spectacle, something Ragnarok forgets. (Also, it ruined the best reveal–Hulk’s entrance into the fighting pit–in literally every trailer, which is a shame, considering the movie spends its entire first third building up to the entrance of the “champion” like it’s some big surprise.)
Speaking of tropes, for all its strengths and departures Thor: Ragnarok still stumbles headlong into that most entrenched of Marvel movie problems: the boring villain. Cate Blanchett does her best as the Wicked Witch of Asgard, but there’s nothing even remotely interesting about Hela (or her sidekick, the criminally misused Karl Urban, who spends most of the movie scowling off to the side while having no impact whatsoever). As Thor and Loki’s banished sister and Odin’s one-time right hand commander, Hela feels utterly shoehorned into a world in which it’s completely unbelievable that she’d never been mentioned before. Her motivations amount to nothing more than total, boring domination, and her title as “the Goddess of Death” has no bearing on her actual abilities or personality.
Valkyrie, at least, feels like a worthy addition. The booze-swigging, hard-hitting Tessa Thompson steals most scenes she’s in, especially early in the movie, when she has power over the downtrodden Thor. The character’s backstory is fleshed out just enough to make sense of her motivations, and she provides a good foil for Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, whose constant trickery is starting to wear thin after so many movies of the same. (Loki is still impersonating Odin when the movie starts, a plot point from Thor 2 that this movie ruthlessly discards and moves on from within the opening minutes.)
Ragnarok also has more Hulk than any recent MCU movie. The big green guy is changed from the last time we saw him, in part because when we catch up with him here, he’s been stuck that way for a while. But allowing the Hulk to have relatively normal, calm conversations also feels like a rule change for this iteration of the character that isn’t necessarily earned or explained.
The final thing that bears mentioning is Thor: Ragnarok‘s aural and visual aesthetic, which simultaneously summons ’60s psychedelia, ’70s disco, ’80s metal, Guardians-like sci-fi, and bloody Roman gladiator bouts. Ragnarok is the most colorful MCU movie yet, rivaling Gunn’s Guardians entries for sheer visual joy. Mark Mothersbaugh’s synth-heavy score underscores most of it with perfect synchronicity, although Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song–used in the movie to lend oomph to not one, but two separate action scenes–is way past feeling overused.
Thor: Ragnarok shines when it’s allowed to stray from the formula set by a decade of predecessors in the MCU, and it seems Waititi is to thank for most of what feels fresh and new here. By the movie’s end, Thor and co. have left much of their past behind, ensuring the future is exciting in its potential, especially as we approach the Infinity War storyline. But in other ways, Ragnarok is still beholden to the same tropes by which these movies are often anchored. If Marvel takes anything away from this, fans should hope it’s that these films are best when talented directors are allowed to leave their personal marks on them.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Funniest MCU movie yet||No to low stakes throughout|
|Tessa Thompson steals scenes as Valkyrie||Hela is an incredibly boring villain|
|Colorful and well-scored||Big CGI action scenes are pointless spectacle|
|Waititi leaves his much-appreciated mark||Best reveal ruined in marketing|
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Star Wars Battlefront II‘s campaign was much requested by fans after the first game lacked any form of single-player. We already knew the sequel’s offline portion would bridge the gap between Episodes VI and VII and would have you play as Iden, an Imperial special forces agent, but how’s it shaping up?
We recently got the chance to play the opening three chapters from Battlefront II’s story mode, so we thought we’d sit our two Star Wars experts down and let them chat about their experiences with the game so far.
Oscar Dayus, Staff Writer: My overriding feeling was one of, “I’m glad this exists, but it’s definitely not the centerpiece to this game.” It was fun–the characters seem pretty strong, it’s obviously beautiful, and, you know, it’s more Star Wars–but i don’t think this will hold my attention for as long as the multiplayer. Then again, maybe it’s not supposed to?
Miguel Concepcion, Editor: Yeah. It’s easy to draw parallels between the Battlefront to Battlefront II and Titanfall to Titanfall 2 in terms of their respective studios adding a substantial single-player to the sequels.
Did your presentation include a point about how the single-player uses “elements” from the multiplayer? Usually that “selling point” is a red flag. So I was surprised and glad that–at least based off those first few chapters–it isn’t just a bunch of MP maps strung together with a flimsy story.
Oscar: So far, I haven’t seen anything here to suggest it will be as creative as Titanfall 2 on the gameplay side though. As you say, it seems more than just some MP maps stuck together, but I was kinda disappointed by the variety of stuff you were actually doing. It was all, “Blow these two objectives up,” “Reach this point,” “Defeat these enemies.” I don’t really know what I expected or wanted, but outside of the story it felt a little by-the-numbers. But yeah, the inclusion of Star Cards in the campaign is an interesting choice–EA told me it was so you could earn rewards that you could then go and use in MP, but it’s hard not to be cynical about it.
Miguel: If the Star Cards can be used in both the campaign and MP, that’d be great. I was surprised how many cards you unlock in these three chapters. Makes me wonder how many toys you’ll have by the time you complete the story. And will that make you well-stocked with those rewards for MP?
Oscar: That’s true, I guess in that respect it could help prepare you for multiplayer in a more tangible way than just helping you get used to the guns. But at least some part of me was a little wary of whether microtransactions will now start having an impact on single player games as well as multiplayer.
And whether or not you use them will likely depend on what kind of player you are–I actually stuck with the same three abilities that I started out with, but if you’re someone who likes to tinker you’ll likely get a lot of depth out of playing levels in different ways with different cards.
Miguel: In the context of that hands-on, I was glad that I didn’t have to think about the microtransaction implications.
Some abilities that stood out for me:
- One of the grenade types really needed some finesse, especially when it took so long to detonate.
- The scanner made some of the gunbattles really easy. On the flipside, it can make you feel overconfident.
- I also liked having the turret, but I didn’t get a handle on how effective they were.
Oscar: Yeah the scanner felt overpowered in combat–it worked well in the stealth section though. That whole sequence–escaping your cell and creeping your way around the rebel ship–was one I enjoyed a lot. The other levels felt more similar to the multiplayer in how large-scale they felt and the action gameplay you’d see online, but the sneaky section offered something that was genuinely different from that, even if the stealth itself was a little rudimentary when compared to a good dedicated stealth-oriented game like MGSV or Hitman or whatever.
Miguel: Rudimentary is a good way to put it. As I recall, there’s a story-triggered alert mode, but I certainly did not stay as hidden as long as I could have. And yes, I did enjoy the linearity of the prologue, which was a fine contrast to the more open maps.
But even thinking about Endor, the story version of that map did not feel like a multiplayer map, in my opinion. I mentioned this to our World War II enthusiasts in the San Francisco office: fans know from the trailer that Iden watches the Death Star blow up. I thought this was narratively well executed in how that event was framed.
You start on Endor and Inferno Squad is optimistic as heck that the Empire will win. Then boom. The ‘mop up period’ reminded me of World War II, how the war wasn’t immediately over the moment the Allies reached Berlin. It’s not like the Stormtroopers were going to drop their arms with the Death Star gone. I love the shift to an evacuation.
Oscar: Yeah, that was handled really well. I was worried the story–in bridging the gap between Episodes VI and VII–would feel redundant in the same way Rogue One did for me, since we already know what happens afterwards. But Episode VII is set so far after what Battlefront II is trying to show–the immediate aftermath of the Death Star blowing up–that it leaves Battlefront II a lot of room to maneuver.
Playing as the Empire is, so far, just as intriguing as I’d hoped. I like seeing the conflicts that go on between different characters within that faction, that the Empire is not just one faceless conglomerate, a single entity; rather a collection of individuals with their own views on how they should approach recovering from defeat and how they should treat the victorious rebels. The characters in particular seemed strong in the three chapters I played. Iden seems genuinely great, and it’s weird kind of sympathising with a member of such an evil organisation.
Miguel: On that note, I was surprised how much the first story trailer conveyed her personal conflict with how the Empire is dealing with that aftermath. It’s as if she guaranteed to help out the Rebellion-turned-Resistance in some capacity by the latter half of this campaign.
Oscar: Yeah. I mean, without playing more it appears the story can only go one of two ways: either she turns good or she dies. Who knows which, or if something else will happen, but even if they do, I think the story at least is shaping up to be a good ride along the way.
Miguel: This sampling of the story also made me optimistic about the space battles. Between remnants of the Death Star and the remaining space vessels navigating through the chaos, I wasn’t hard on myself when I died once from hitting Death Star debris. I found the dogfight chases particularly thrilling. I wouldn’t be surprised if the AI programmers designed the enemies to take scenic paths when pursued. I found myself nearly grazing the surface of a star destroyer during a chase. My favorite pursuit was down a narrow passage within one the vessels. As I took my target down, it felt serendipitous to find an opening to make my escape from the ship.
Oscar: I felt the same way about the space battles as I did when I played them at Gamescom, and similar to how I felt about the whole of the the first game: they were great fun at first and in small chunks, but after a while the buzz of flying a TIE Fighter kind of wears off. Hopefully the latter stages of the campaign have some more interesting objectives than “Shoot these four dudes,” or maybe the Star Cards can provide the depth this feels to me like it’s missing right now.
Miguel: In all, I’m excited, speaking as a fan of single player components of shooters more so than MP. I’m also curious what new names and places will be added to the lore due to this game. I did chuckle that you go from Endor to “Fondor.“
Oscar: Let’s hope it continues to be Fun-dor when it launches next month.
(That joke would’ve been better if your name was Dor, I demand you change your name to suit my 2/10 joke.)
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A Nintendo Switch version of Star Wars Battlefront II could happen, but it doesn’t sound likely. Speaking to GameSpot this week, Motive Studios producer David Robillard said EA will consider a Switch version “if we see opportunities.”
“This is something we’ll explore if we see opportunities there, but it is not something that’s on the books right now,” Robillard explained. Battlefront II launches for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in November. A Switch version, if it ever does happen, would presumably come after that. Battlefront II runs on EA’s Frostbite engine, which hasn’t been used for any Switch games so far. The Switch version of FIFA 18 uses a custom engine, whereas the PS4 and Xbox One versions use Frostbite.
EA and other publishers often speak about being platform agnostic, which is a way of saying they want to be wherever the consumer is. If any platform has a large enough install base, you can expect publishers to want to bring their games to it. While the Switch is off to a solid start and has sold 4.7 million units as of the end of June (the latest available reporting period), that pales in comparison to the install bases of the PS4 and Xbox One, while the PC market is of course massive as well. There is also the matter of the Switch’s horsepower compared to those other platforms.
We’ll post our full interview with Robillard in the days ahead. In other news, GameSpot’s Oscar Dayus and Miguel Concepcion recently played Battlefront II’s campaign, and you can read their impressions here.
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Star Wars Battlefront II’s open beta ended last week after giving players the chance to try out the game’s new weapons, maps, and heroes. However, much of the discussion surrounding the game has focused on its microtransactions, loot crates, and Star Cards. Battlefront II will give away things like maps and character DLC for free, but it will use a loot box-style system for unlocking various upgrades, leading to some fans accusing the system of being ‘pay-to-win.’
In an interview with GameSpot, EA said people’s fears are “understandable,” at the same time as calling the accusations “hard to dodge.”
Offering his take on people’s concerns, Chris Matthews (art director at EA Motive, the team behind Battlefront II‘s campaign) said: “Right now there have been games that exploit players and there have been games that have done it in better ways.”
He continued: “DICE [developer of Battlefront II’s multiplayer] has taken great care to make sure that Star Cards and the way they work give you more options in battle. Terms like pay-to-win and stuff like that are hard to dodge, but the guys are doing a really incredible job of trying to balance that system.
“[The response] is not annoying because we love the fans. We’re gamers and we’re trying to make something that’s super-compelling that everybody’s going to enjoy, but, you know, it’s understandable.”
Mitch Dyer, one of the campaign’s writers, went on to say DICE is listening to players’ feedback. “The beta existed for things like this,” he said. “To look at things like, how are people responding to the balance and the maps and how everything flows? What are people enjoying or not enjoying? What’s working? What’s not working? We’ll take all of that from the beta and start pumping it back into the game to improve it because Battlefront II is a game that exists because of feedback from fans. Couch co-op, a single-player campaign… these elements exist because people wanted them, which I think, to DICE’s credit, shows that they are listening and they do listen to feedback.”
When asked if they can envisage a version of the game where the loot crate system is removed, Matthews was non-commmital, stating, “We’re not really in a great position to talk about that” and, “The guys at DICE would give you a great answer.”
Following the conclusion of the open beta last week, DICE published a blog post addressing some of the microtransaction-related concerns: “The complete system was not in the beta and will continue to be tuned over time,” it said.
“As a balance goal, we’re working towards having the most powerful items in the game only earnable via in-game achievements,” the developer explained. Crates are obtained by completing challenges “and other gameplay milestones” or by purchasing them–either with credits earned in-game or real-world money. Inside crates, you’ll find Star Cards, emotes, victory poses, and outfits; any duplicate Star Cards you receive are turned into crafting parts that can be put toward other Star Cards of your choosing.
Star Cards impact gameplay and, because of this, have become a major concern for players. But DICE claims there is more to becoming powerful than simply buying a crate and getting a good Star Card. “You have to earn the right to be able to upgrade Star Cards and unlock most weapons,” it said. “You can only upgrade or unlock them if you have reached a high enough rank, which is determined by playing the game.”
Battlefront II releases for PC, PS4, and Xbox One on November 17. Whether we’ll see any changes to the proposed crates system between now and then remains to be seen. For more on the shooter, check out our impression of Battlefront II’s single-player campaign.
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It’s another packed week of releases for Nintendo Switch. A total of 14 games launch for the hybrid console this week, nine of which arrive in the Eshop today, October 19.
Headlining this week’s batch of releases is Fire Emblem Warriors, the hack-and-slash Fire Emblem spin-off by Dynasty Warriors developer Koei Tecmo. The game releases for Switch (and New 3DS) on October 20 and features more than 20 characters taken from past Fire Emblem titles, including Chrom, Marth, and fan-favorite hero Lyn. It also incorporates many of Fire Emblem’s signature mechanics into the Warriors series’ large-scale battles, such as permadeath and the weapon triangle. Fire Emblem Warriors retails for $60/£50 on Switch and $40/£40 on New 3DS. You can learn more about the title in GameSpot’s Fire Emblem Warriors review.
Also available this week is Elliot Quest, a retro-style adventure-platformer inspired by classic titles like Zelda II and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. The game puts players in the role of Elliot, who embarks on a quest to lift a curse placed on him by the demon Satar. Players must guide Elliot across the island of Urele, collecting new spells and abilities to navigate through five dungeons and defeat the game’s 16 bosses. You can download Elliot Quest for $10.
Other notable releases this week include the latest ACA Neo Geo game, Robo Army ($8/£6.29); the party game compilation The Jackbox Party Pack 4 ($25/£20); Square Enix’s co-op exploration game Spelunker Party ($30/£25, with a free demo available); and the psychedelic, over-the-top Party Golf ($15/£13.49). You can find the full list of this week’s releases below.
This Week’s Nintendo Switch New Releases
- Don’t Knock Twice
- Rogue Trooper Redux
- Putty Pals
- ACA Neo Geo Robo Army
- The Count Lucanor
- Elliot Quest
- The Jackbox Party Pack 4
- Party Golf
- Revenant Saga
- Spelunker Party
- Super Ping Pong Trick Shot
- Fire Emblem Warriors
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