Thursday, April 11, 2013
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Could next-gen games cost ten bucks more? Mr. Pachter thinks so.
March 9, 2013
by Casey Lynch
PS4 and next Xbox games will retail at $70, ten dollars more than current gen games, said Wedbush Securities Research Analyst Michael Pachter during a panel at SXSW.
The news was tweeted this afternoon by Spike and GamesTrailers Host Geoff Keighley.
This comes after Sony clarified the price point of PS4 games when SCEA President and CEO Jack Tretton explained that Sony, "will offer games with prices ranging from $0.99 to the more traditional $60 range with the ability for players to sample games before they buy."
It's important to note that Tretton's quote never gives a hard number, like a MSRP of $59.99, etc., which leaves plenty of room for interpretation of what Sony's view of a "traditional $60 range" might actually be.
IGN has reached out to Sony and Pachter for further comment.
Friday, January 18, 2013
Halo 4: Spartan Ops Finally Fulfills its Potential
At nearly every turn, Spartan Ops let IGN editors down for failing to live up to Halo standard -- and that finally changes on Monday, January 21. Episode Six of Halo 4's downloadable weekly cooperative campaign kicks off the second half of Season One, and it goes to great lengths to make up for past mistakes.
During the mid-season break, 343 Industries worked to strengthen the second half of Spartan Ops season one by addressing fan feedback and important criticisms head-on. First and foremost, the gameplay and story intertwine in more meaningful ways, with first-person cutscenes, mid-mission radio chatter, and character motivations meant to connect you to more than just combat. Objectives throughout Episode Six tie closer to events going on elsewhere -- in the first chapter, Crimson had been captured by the same Covenant group that captured Spartan Thorne during the mid-season finale. Their escape involved Ghosts, optional Banshees, ground-based combat, a lot of Jackals and suicidal Grunts, sneaking through groups of sleeping Covenant, and a brutal airstrike.
Sounds a little Master Chief-esque, no?
Spartan Ops' second half mixes up the locations as well, with 343 promising plenty of new and unexpected areas to lay waste to Covenant and Promethean forces. The way these environments unfold in Episode Six feels much more akin to an actual Halo campaign -- open-ended environments with more of that sandbox freedom -- than the recycled, mostly enclosed wave-based arenas from Episodes 1-5.
This is because 343 is taking advantage of its own resources -- with campaign designers and animators no longer working on the core Master Chief portion of Halo 4, they're more readily available to help create better, more interesting add-on missions for Spartan Ops. The studio's using more of its talent to make Spartan Ops better -- and it is absolutely working.
Get caught up on Spartan Ops before its return on Monday by watching the recap at the top of this story, and look for weekly commentaries on each new episode from IGN's Xbox team every Tuesday.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Lightning Returns, But Should She Have Stayed Away?
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t look like a Final Fantasy game. Despite only seeing 15 minutes of the upcoming title, this was the thought that resolutely planted itself in my brain and has remained stuck there ever since. With a whole host of changes to party make-up, skill acquisition and, most noticeably, combat all being introduced, it’s obvious that Square Enix’s dev team is trying to evolve the systems of Final Fantasy XIII-2 into something more palatable for those who haven’t played the original Final Fantasy XIII. And while what early stuff I saw already looks like an incredibly promising action game, I couldn’t help but feel that fans of the Final Fantasy franchise should prepare themselves for a bit of a shock.
As the name suggests, Lightning Returns is very much the story of our titular protagonist; as a result, in a bold move for the series the developers have decided to make a big change regarding parties. While Final Fantasy XIII-2 messed with the make-up of the traditional FF party by introducing monsters to the mix, Lightning Returns has abandoned the party-model all together, only offering you control of Lightning as she goes mano-a-mano with foes.
As you can imagine, the impact this has on combat is gargantuan. Gone are the turn-based battles most associate with the series. Instead, a real-time action combat system has been introduced with abilities assigned to face buttons in a style very similar to both the Kingdom Hearts series and what little we’ve seen of Final Fantasy Versus XIII. It’s set to make combat much faster paced, through the inclusion of abilities such as guard that reduces the incoming damage from enemy attacks. Additionally, while monsters still appear on the world map and attacking them causes the landscape for battle to open up, static battles are a thing of the past as, for the first time, you’ll be able to move Lightning around using the left thumbstick, along with the new dodge roll ability.
When it comes to the actual attacking aspect of combat, the abilities you can use are tied to which of her various outfits Lightning is wearing. Now before you freak out that this is Final Fantasy X-2’s Dress Spheres all over again, relax. A number of outfits are available for Lightning throughout the game, each with innate stat bonuses and slots for you to assign abilities to. Some of these are named after the previous games’ paradigms, as is the case with the Commando outfit, to give you an idea of what to expect. The level of customisation this offers is colossal, though it obviously makes sense that you’d assign moves like thunder and fire to costumes that boost your magical prowess, while keeping physical attacks reserved for the strength-enhancing outfits.
Once this is done, you’re allowed to take three outfits with you into battle. You can switch between them at the touch of a button, though it’s important to note that each has its own ATB bar that fills independently of the other two. This means you can feasibly keep jumping between costumes to maintain a flurry of attacks on your foe with little to no downtime, as long as you keep a careful eye on the bars. As usual, certain monsters are more vulnerable to magic than physical attacks and vice versa, so while making sure that you have an appropriate array of outfits prepared is key, it’s more important to have costumes that suit your play style.
Indeed, the decision to offer control of a sole combatant was largely made in a bid to foster this approach. Speaking to the game’s director Motomu Toriyama, he explains, “There’s a great balance of action elements and strategic elements in this game, and I think the sole protagonist system really helps that. Combat in RPGs has two elements: one is action, the other is strategy. If you’re the kind of gamer who loves action-orientated games you’ll enjoy this game because you can use abilities like guard and dodge roll, and clever positioning is required to execute effective attacks. But on the other hand, if you’re a fan of more strategic, command-based gameplay you can actually customize Lightning so that she’s more of a magician or mage, then you can cast spells to weaken monsters. Both areas have progressed since last time. You can actually choose to create your best battle style.”
As a knock-on effect of this new system, the means through which characters acquire abilities has also faced a revamp. Toriyama explained that if you were hoping for an intricate Sphere Grid or Crystarium to play around with, you’re out of luck. This time around abilities are purchased from one of the game’s many merchants and then assigned to outfits. Apparently there’s more info on the system to come soon, but Toriyama remains tight-lipped except to say it’d be different to what we’ve seen before, explaining “At the moment we can’t discuss all the information about all the characters, but we can say at this stage is there’s not going to be any system like the Crystarium or any system like that… but there’s more to say later!”
So that’s a fair amount to take in. Yet still, no matter how intrigued I was by all these changes, nestled at the forefront of my mind remains a kernel of doubt. Though Square-Enix has repeatedly insisted that fans were enamoured with Lightning’s character and demanded to see more, as a lifelong fan of the franchise I have to say I don’t share this sentiment. When compared with the likes of Vaan or Tidus, with their naïve optimism that reels you in as you discover a huge world together, Lightning struck me as closed and alienating. With all other characters in Lightning Returns very much demoted to playing supporting roles, especially without the traditional party dynamic to create a protective bond between you and them, it makes me wonder if Lightning really is strong enough to go it alone.
Voicing these concerns to Toriyama, I got a decidedly honest response. He acknowledged that while many found her to be a “cool” character (presumably referring to her awe-inspiring combat skills rather than her distant personality), a lot of people were alienated by her aloofness. This was one of the reasons that they opted to resurrect her for the sequel; much as Final Fantasy XIII-2 set out to correct the mistakes made in the original Final Fantasy XIII, so Lightning Returns hope to redeem Lightning’s character in the eyes of the franchise’s fans.
“We wanted to depict her again in a slightly different light so that people can have another opportunity to get to know her better,” he explains. “You might be a little bit surprised to see her at the beginning of Lightning Returns because you’re going to find her even more distant and more closed than before, but throughout the story you’re going to find out more about her real emotions, and what goes through her mind. She will be getting more and more human and vulnerable, even as you play.”
Just because the game won’t feature a party in the traditional sense though, it doesn’t mean that a host of familiar faces won’t be reappearing. While it’s been confirmed previously that Snow Villiers will crop up, as will Hope Estheim, offering Lightning advice via comlink, it’s been newly revealed that Noel Kreiss will also have a role to play. Unlike Hope and Snow though, the chaotic energy generated by the imminent end of the world has corrupted him, meaning it’s up to Lightning to save the man she once fought alongside by putting him down. Hard.
New faces will be making an appearance too. The most intriguing of these is Lumina; the young girl you can see in the images above. While you may be quick to dismiss the similarities between her and Lightning’s younger sister Serah as a design quirk, don’t. The Final Fantasy series has never been one to flirt with coincidence, and in the presentation given to us the sentence “you may notice that she looks quite like Serah. Mysterious…” was actually uttered. There’s more to this one than meets the eye, no doubt about it.
Most of the other systems shown to us from the game have already been heavily discussed, such as the 13 day countdown to the end of the world, but it’s worth clarifying that this can’t be navigated a la Majora’s Mask. While we’ve previously heard that certain actions will add or detract time to the countdown, you can’t actually jump backwards, meaning if you miss an event you’re going to have to play through the game again to catch it. Toriyama explains: “You can’t turn back the clock or go against the passage of time and do it again, but this is the type of game where we expect the player to actually enjoy a few playthroughs at least. So if you think you have missed something you can go to that particular area and enjoy that experience on a new playthrough.”
With the game currently slated for a worldwide release sometime during Autumn 2013, there’s plenty of time for its features to change and come to resemble what we’d expect from a Final Fantasy title. At the close of the demo we were teased with a glimpse of the plush Wildlands and sand-covered Dead Dunes zones and, irrefutably, both look incredible. But that niggle is still there. What I witnessed bore all the hallmarks of an enjoyable action game, but was less recognizable as an entry in one of the gaming community’s best-loved franchises. At this early stage, it’s still unclear if Lightning can strike thrice.