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Destiny Needs Its Blank Pages Filled

GameSpot's PC Reviews - 10 min 48 sec ago

Keeping a game franchise fresh and thriving for 10 years is a lofty goal. But that's exactly what Activision is attempting with Destiny. Accomplishing this feat will require a solid foundation of entertaining gameplay, but it also helps to have an interesting story that draws players in, sparking interest in its mysteries, its history, and its unanswered questions. Destiny's story is certainly brimming with mystery and unanswered questions, but is presented in a way that fosters boredom. The narrative seems detached from the world around it, while many of the characters stand apathetic to your inquiries.

Destiny is a new franchise, and is developer Bungie's latest chance to create something that captivates the imagination. So why does it already feel so bland and uninteresting? Much of the reason behind this is due to Destiny's weak delivery of its narrative. Destiny veils its thin plot, burying what meager background lore it holds behind a wall away from the game itself. It doesn't help that your guardian, the protagonist, is about as intellectually curious as sparrow exhaust, and wields a script that makes Master Chief look like a chatty Cathy.

Destiny's story is one of usual sci-fi trappings with evil aliens, space ships, and planetary exploration. But like a cheap summer action flick, trying to recall the sequence of important events soon after the credits have rolled is more strain that it's worth. Segmented among the narrative--consisting of about 16 hours of fetch quests or fighting off waves of enemies while protecting a door or some important thing--are brief moments of exposition. However, they serve to add more questions than actually inform.

What is the Traveler? What are the Fallen? Why are the guardians enlisted from the dead? And why exactly is there gravity on the Moon? These are among the many questions that lingered in my mind throughout the long journey of playing the main campaign. At the curtain fall to Destiny's vague story, none of them were answered; they were only met with even more questions. Your final reward, besides the grand speech your guardian clearly wasn't invited to, is a free gun and some glimmer for your troubles. The enigmatic female Exo hunter, called the Stranger, a supposed ally who aids you in your travels, is there to offer a final wink at the camera--the promise of more to come--before warping away to places unknown.

In all fairness, it doesn't make sense for a long-term game like Destiny to reveal everything in the first round. But like Peter Jackson's The Hobbit films, the story feels thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread, as Bilbo Baggins would say. It also doesn't help that the game utilizes a baffling array of verbs and nouns to describe enemies and places.

A mission on Venus reads, "Unravel the secrets of the Vex by reviving an ancient research station of the Ishtar Collective." What was the Ishtar Collective? Where did they go? How can a hostile, acidic planet like Venus sustain life? Another mission asks you to "Survive the military power of the Cabal and find the Gate to the Black Garden." What is the Cabal, and where do they come from? What is the Black Garden, and how will its destruction help the Traveler? Sure, your constant Ghost companion gives you some dry exposition during missions, but rarely do those answers feature much in the way of detail. Destiny's banal story lacks any sort of impetus to provide any solid explanations. Still, you march onward. You are a guardian, and you do it because you must--asking questions is not part of the job description.

"You must have no end of questions, Guardian." -- The Speaker

Destiny's uses Grimoire cards as a crutch for its flimsy story, but even they have difficulty keeping it standing. The reason is that many of the cards contribute no more an important role than that of a digital instruction manual, providing only the most basic information possible. If you wish to learn about classes and Super moves, the cards have all the details your heart desires. But salient plot points, such as the origins of the omnipotent Darkness, the ancient enemy of the Traveler and bringer of the Fall, are still shrouded in Destiny's safety blanket of mystery and intrigue.

Grimoire cards are handed out as you play through the game. Meeting new allies and enemies and discovering planets and locations reward you with more of these cards. As I played, I felt curious as to what information the cards held. However, I didn't look at a single Grimoire card until after I had finished the main story. The reason is because to read the card, you are required to stop playing and head to Bungie's website and sign in using your chosen gaming handle for either Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. It also doesn't help that you must accomplish dull chores, such as killing a set of enemies a number of times, to unlock other cards. I have logged in around 40 hours, unlocking many cards. There could be some cards in the Grimoire that offer an explanation to my scrutiny. But I question my dedication to play another several dozen hours of repetitive tasks in order to learn about a story that doesn't ask to be explored.

The Darkness card offers many theories surrounding its existence, but, again, there are no solid answers. And what of the mighty Cabal, the evil alien species that has taken claim on Mars, sharing it with the Vex and their Gate to the Black Garden? As the Cabal card explains, “Their origins and ultimate objectives are a mystery,” because of course they are.

Hey, don't suppose you have any narrative for sale?

If Destiny puts so much importance on the story, why not keep the information in the game? Why the hassle? Siloing important background information out of the game, effectively interrupting fluidity, doesn't make the narrative more compelling.

Grimoire cards are a good idea for a game as massive as Destiny, however, even though they are mismanaged. If you're anything like me, you appreciate it when developers go the extra mile to add fascinating lore or tidbits to supplement the stories of their games. Are you aware that the Vex's Slap Rifle is not only weapon, but also might be used as a field transmitter, navigational beacon, and more? Not everyone will care about a fictitious rifle, but I find this sort of stuff fascinating.

In fact, having lore you can pursue outside of the main story actually isn't a bad thing. There are games that have pulled it off with great success. Mass Effect is a perfect example of providing you with a great story while including some trimmings to enjoy on the side. Why do the Elcor verbalize their emotions? Look it up in the codex. What is the history behind the ancient Protheans? It's in the codex! Grimoire cards have the potential to help round out Destiny's overall story, whenever it decides to show itself. But they need to be a part of the package if the point is to spur interest.

About halfway through Destiny, you meet the Queen of the Reef. The scene marked the first time since I began the game in which I felt the urge to sit up and lean forward with anticipation. Finally, I thought, the story is about to pick up and go somewhere. I knew right away that I'd be glad to do away with these Grimoire cards and get some real answers. As I watched my guardian walk somberly along a walkway lit by eerie azure lighting, that hope was dashed to pieces as I was bombarded with more cards.

After a few tension-filled moments, the queen sends you on a fetch quest for a head of a Vex Gate Lord. The deed done, you spend the rest of the game repeating the same missions that led you there in the first place. So much for that anticipation; I sank back into my chair and continued my hunt for the endgame.

Destiny is meant to stay around for quite a long while. So far, this reason has been the best argument for why the game at its current iteration feels so meager. Looking among all the Grimoire cards I don't have, I realize that it will be years before every space is filled with some important piece of plot that has yet to come to pass. The prospect doesn't fill me with enthusiasm. If Destiny remains the same as it is now, that could mean more short cutscenes bookending hours of repetition. No, not enthusiasm; I find the concept more exhausting than exciting. Unless Bungie does something soon to lift the story out of its slog, especially before the holiday game avalanche, Destiny owners will find little reason to return, save for playing the same missions for the slim chance of better gear. Bungie is gambling on you having the patience to ride Destiny out for the next decade in order to learn its mysteries. Like gambling on a legendary engram to provide something exotic, however, betting on the perseverance of its fans may end up to be less than an uncommon reality.

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Quick Look: Forza Horizon 2

GameSpot's PC Reviews - 44 min 48 sec ago
Watch extended gameplay footage from Forza Horizon 2 featuring the Giant Bomb crew.
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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Review Roundup

GameSpot's PC Reviews - 48 min 48 sec ago

The release of Lord of the Rings game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is now less than a week away out now.

Below is a roundup of scores and editor reflections you can look over ahead of the game's release on September 30 today. Check out GameSpot sister site Metacritic for more on the game's critical reception.

GameSpot -- 8/10

"[T]his is a great game in its own right, narratively disjointed but mechanically sound, made up of excellent parts pieced together in excellent ways. I already knew what future lay in store for Middle-earth as I played Shadow of Mordor; I'm hoping that my own future might one day bring another Lord of the Rings adventure as stirring as this one." - Kevin VanOrd [Full review]

Destructoid -- 6/10

"Ultimately, like many ambitious projects, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor doesn't deliver on everything it sets out to do. Although Monolith's heart is in the right place and the studio honors the lore, it doesn't really add anything that's worth seeing outside of some solid open-world gameplay. It isn't a bad game, it just feels far too repetitive for its own good." - Chris Carter [Full review]

Joystiq -- 5/5

"What would have otherwise been a competent sandbox game with solid combat mechanics and an interesting twist on a known fantasy world is elevated by the Nemesis System. Shadow of Mordor is the strategic person's action game." - Alexander Sliwinski [Full review]

Polygon -- 9.5/10

"Shadow of Mordor is that ultimate rarity. It tells a fun little story that would be enough to hold up most games on its own. But it also provides all of the tools to ensure that the most interesting tales to come out of the game will be the ones that were not scripted." - Philip Kollar [Full review]

IGN -- 9.3/10

"Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor stands out from other open-world action games by putting a great new layer on top of the trail that Batman blazed. I was surprised at how well it integrates its excellent combat with rewarding feedback and progression not just for me, but also for my enemies. I've had many more memorable and unpredictable battles with its randomized Warchiefs and captains than I did in the scripted campaign missions, and I expect those to keep on coming." - Dan Stapleton [Full review]

The Escapist -- 4.5/5

"As an open-world game set in Middle-earth, Shadow of Mordor delivers unique emergent gameplay, finely-tuned combat mechanics, and a story which avoids typical fantasy fare. While the main storyline can be finished relatively quickly, there is a lot of content in Mordor for you to pursue however you like." - Greg Tito [Full review]

A list of additional scores from other publications can be found below:

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch

For all of GameSpot's news coverage, check out our hub. Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

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Batman's Gotham is 5X Larger & New Uncharted Image - IGN Daily Fix - 50 min 48 sec ago
Win Smash Bros. for the 3DS! Borderlands: Pre- Sequel goes gold & why is Arkham Knight's Gotham 5 times larger? Plus, Xbox one release Forza Hub app & Naomi takes on a challenge.
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Greg and Brian Eat Poison Pizza and Almost Die - IGN Plays the Sims 4: Episode 20 - 53 min 48 sec ago
In the final episode of Greg and Brian Play the Sims 4, our favorite IGN editors nearly lose it all. Even their pizza.
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GS News - Windows 10 Unveiled by Microsoft; Yet ANOTHER Assassin’s Game?!

GameSpot's PC Reviews - 53 min 48 sec ago
Microsoft skips Windows 9 and gives people a taste of 10, and Ubisoft has Assassin’s Creed games coming out the ass… assin’s Creed.
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IGN Prime Game of the Month: Endless Legend - 2 hours 23 min ago

IGN Prime has partnered with game developer Amplitude Studios to give away 10,000 Steam copies of the new game Endless Legend to IGN Prime members throughout the month of October.

Endless Legend is a 4X turn-based fantasy strategy game by the creators of Endless Space and Dungeon of the Endless. IGN recently reviewed Endless Legend with a score of 8.3, saying "Endless Legend plays out on one of the greatest, most beautiful maps in strategy gaming history. It combines style, substance, and setting into a marvelous overall experience for both empire management and tactical combat." Check out the full review here.

Continue reading…

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GameStop's Still Around, Still Growing, And Still a Retail Force

GameSpot's PC Reviews - 2 hours 27 min ago

If I mentioned major industry events from this September, the first thing that would spring to your mind would undoubtedly be the Tokyo Game Show. But there was another event held earlier this month that you probably didn't hear as much about: the GameStop Expo, held at the Anaheim Convention Center. It wasn't the hotbed of new announcements and reveals that TGS was--the biggest announcements from GameStop were a credit card and some exclusive 3DS XL variants--but that's not really the show's main thrust. The GameStop Expo is a show all about the massive specialty games retailer and their relationships across the industry--with their managers and employees, with publishers and manufacturers, and with you, the consumer.


It might be easy from an individual perspective to dismiss GameStop as a retail dinosaur, especially as things like digital distribution pick up steam (pun not intended). But that view defies the hard numbers: The chain moved over three billion dollars' worth of product in the last fiscal year via its thousands of retail stores throughout the United States. This figure includes not just new and used games and consoles, but various related collectibles and services. The company's PowerUp Rewards membership program has enlisted 35 million consumers, of which 28 million are located in the US. Even though some players have gone completely digital in their game purchases, it's clear that GameStop's boxed product business is still going strong.

To this end, the company has also pursued aggressive expansion, going into the markets of mobile gaming devices running Android and iOS. They also founded the GameStop Technology Institute in late March. Jeff Donaldson, Senior Vice President of the Institute, describes GTI as an "innovation incubator." "We want to make sure that the pace of change internal to GameStop exceeds the pace of change external to GameStop," says Donaldson.

"Our stores should morph to meet the needs of the customer when they walk in, just like a digital platform or an e-commerce platform." Jeff Donaldson

Some things are definitely changing for the storied retailer. Earlier in the year, the company announced plans to shutter about 120 GameStop stores (link via while opening new Spring Mobile and SimplyMac locations. The company is also developing new technology to engage consumers while they are shopping. "Our stores should morph to meet the needs of the customer when they walk in, just like a digital platform or an e-commerce platform," explains Donaldson.

He elaborated that technology has advanced to a point where a physical shopping experience can mimic elements of e-commerce. One example he showed me was a "beacon," a low-power-consumption device that connects to a customer's mobile device. If a customer has Bluetooth turned on and they've opted in to GameStop's advertising program, when they pass by one of these beacons, they'll receive promotional offers and information tailored to their interests based on their history shopping at GameStop stores and visiting Many of these technologies are currently being tested at select retail locations--one specifically named was the Austin, Texas College Station Mall store--and GameStop hopes to roll these beacons out to more stores in 2015.


But not every new technology venture GameStop has tried in the past has panned out. Among the casualties of GameStop's refocusing was Spawn Labs, which GameStop acquired in 2011 to develop game streaming technology. The plug was pulled on said development earlier this year. I had the opportunity to ask Bob Puzon, the VP of marketing and sales, about the company's cancelled game streaming service. "The gaming consumer has not yet demonstrated that it is ready to adopt this type of service to the level that a sustainable business can be created around it," he explained. "[Instead] we will focus our energy on selling existing services, such as PlayStation Now, through our retail channels."

"We're not afraid of failure," adds Donaldson. "There's things that fail, things that just don't work, things customers don't like. If it doesn't work, we throw it out."


GameStop's sheer retail omnipresence makes them a powerful force for publishers and manufacturers looking to push product--and for the first day of GameStop Expo, which was open only to GameStop staff and press, that's exactly what they did. Every major publisher--and several smaller ones--had set up booths showcasing their upcoming titles, and GameStop employees could personally engage company representatives and developers. The purpose here was clear: the publishers wanted to create awareness and hype among GameStop staffers, who would then proceed to promote the games they felt deserved a bit of a push to inquisitive customers. This sort of word-of-mouth marketing has a lot of power in a specialty retail setting, where the buyer trusts the employees as experts on the products. (It especially benefits publishers without big marketing budgets--I witnessed a store manager talking with reps of a small publisher about the popularity of niche anime-styled games in their particular store.)

While the Expo opens to the public on the second day, it seems almost like a secondary concern. The event is still very much by and for GameStop and GameStop employees: almost every meeting room in the convention hall and the connected hotels were filled with managers, executives, and employees from various GameStop retail regions, gathered together for meetings and strategizing. It wasn't just the United States, either: I saw representatives from Canada, France, Germany, and Australia as well.

"When a new retailer enters the [used game] space we consider that a positive for our business." -- Bob Puzon

To that end, GameStop went to great lengths to promote itself at the show, having several large sales booths for games and collectibles and several displays highlighting GameStop programs and features. These served two benefits: Showcasing the various services like in-store purchases of digital game downloads GameStop offers to consumers, and letting employees know what initiatives and programs they are aiming to promote.

Among these were displays explaining and extolling the virtues of the company's massive refurbishment operations. The used game business is one of the biggest profit drivers for GameStop stores, and it's been a subject of much criticism from developers, publishers, and consumers alike. I didn't have a chance to ask any publishers at the Expo what they thought of this element of GameStop's business being flaunted at the show, but I didn't sense any overt tension about the subject. It seems that when you're as big a retailer as GameStop, companies will accept the presence of used games as long as they can still get new product on shelves.

Indeed, even though big box retailers like Best Buy and Wal-Mart have dabbled in selling used games, GameStop is still far and above the most dominant force in that market. "We've had others compete with us in the pre-owned game space many times," says Bob Puzon. "When a new retailer enters the space we consider that a positive for our business. We see a surge in trade awareness when anyone makes an announcement, so more people start thinking about trades. Yet what the competition doesn't have is our refurbishment center that millions of games go through every year to bring them back to new condition. Or the relationship we have with gamers." Puzon was also quick to point out that over 72% of the 1.2 billion dollars in trade credit went towards the purchase of new product.

2674000-003.jpgWINTER IS COMING

As the all-important holiday season creeps up and GameStop begins to beef up its seasonal sales force, the efforts of publishers to gain the attention of individual managers and employees will potentially yield fruit. "Our store employees, our Game Advisors, they know our customers well, and they know the games. They know when the games launch, when DLC comes out, GameStop exclusives, you can get all of that info from them," says Donaldson. "Our role is to help make the consumer aware of these things during the purchasing process." Think of it this way: when you have a well-meaning-but-not-well-versed-in-gaming grandparent coming into GameStop looking to give thirteen-year-old Timmy his Christmas gift, these GameStop workers are the people who will help determine whether he winds up getting a new Wii U with Super Smash Bros. or an Xbox One with Forza Horizon 2.

The company's biggest consumers through and beyond the holidays, however, remain the core gaming crowd, and they're the people GameStop most wants to retain as loyal customers. Giving these consumers reason to acquire games and game content through the retail channel seems to be of the utmost importance for the company. "We're pursuing the creation of a physical brick-and-mortar store as a platform," says Donaldson. "We want to respond to customers the same way a digital or e-commerce platform would… they are highly engaged. We're introducing the idea of a brick-and-mortar store as part of digital engagement."

And even though GameStop is branching out, Puzon wants to reassure consumers that the company's core focus will always be games. "GameStop has gone through a transformation the last several years to continue to grow ... [but] video gaming is our heritage and our growth engine for the future."

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How to Survive The Evil Within - 3 hours 10 min ago

A post on the official Bethesda Blog has revealed a handful of tips for surviving the challenges of The Evil Within.

Written by guest editor Fran Reyes, the post details some of the challenges players will face and offers some sage advice to make sure protagonist Sebastian Castellanos doesn't meet his grotesque, untimely end.

According to Reyes, being aware of weapon types and managing them effectively will play a major role in one's success.

"From the standard-issue handgun Sebastian has holstered during his initial investigation to the more advanced weaponry he stumbles across, as well as the skills and abilities you’ll slowly upgrade and master — there’s a lot of stuff to juggle if you’re going to survive The Evil Within," Fran writes.

Continue reading…

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Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments Review - 3 hours 29 min ago

As far as games go, famed detective Sherlock Holmes has never looked or played better than he does in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. The latest in developer Frogwares’ adventure series uses Unreal Engine 3 for a much-needed graphics upgrade. The more disappointing news is that Holmes’ final deductions are based largely on a web of circumstantial evidence.

Crimes and Punishments takes place over the course of six perplexing, well-written cases that give Holmes ample opportunities to do what Holmes does best: Snoop around crime scenes for clues, interrogate suspects, and talk down to just about everyone he meets. Murder is afoot in each of the cases, but that doesn’t stop them from being diverse; from a gruesome death by whaling harpoon to an Egyptian-style ritual killing, the plots had me riveted. And like a good winding mystery, the person who did it is rarely the one you suspect initially.

Continue reading…

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How Is Battlefield Hardline Different Than Battlefield 4? Developer Explains

GameSpot's PC Reviews - 3 hours 32 min ago

In a new interview from London's EGX event, Battlefield Hardline's creative director explained the many ways in which he believes Battlefield Hardline is a significantly different game than 2013's Battlefield 4. In a video interview with YouTuber jackfrags, Visceral Games creative director Steve Papoutsis first said the game's five brand-new modes will make Hardline stand out compared to last year's game.

These are "very unique and never been seen in Battlefield before," he said. One such mode is called Hotwire, and it involves high speed car chases and high-octane gunfights. It looks like a lot of fun. Overall, Hardline will have seven modes and nine maps at launch, he said.

Another differentiating factor for Hardline is its setting and story, Papoutsis said, which offers up a cops-and-robbers narrative. Further, he said Hardline will do more to support the eSports crowd because these players "really want Battlefield to be a competitive thing," he said.

On the single-player side, Papoutsis teased that Hardline's campaign will be "very different than anything you've seen in Battlefield before." The story will unfold like a TV show in some respects, and Papoutsis says its cinematics, character development, and episode structure are all new elements for the Battlefield series. He also says that while past Battlefield games were somewhat linear, players will have more freedom to take on missions how they want to in Hardline's story mode.

"Overall, I feel like what we're creating is a significant entry for the franchise, and we hope people see it that way," he said.

Also in the interview, Papoutsis acknowledged that one of the challenges with launching the Hardline beta in June immediately after the game was announced was that some gamers did not understand that what they were playing did not represent the final version of the game. This is one of the factors that led some players to think Hardline was just a "re-skin" of Battlefield 4, Papoutsis said.

In June, Visceral responded to concerns that Hardline looked too similar to Battlefield 4, saying at the time that Hardline will be a very different game due to various improvements, tweaks, and additions.

Hardline launches in February 2015 for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC. A beta for the game will be held on all platforms sometime before the end of the year. For more on Battlefield Hardline, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch

For all of GameSpot's news coverage, check out our hub. Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

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WWE 2K15 - Danny Plays the Game and Meets the Superstars

GameSpot's PC Reviews - 3 hours 55 min ago
Danny gets invited to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida to chat with some superstars and play WWE 2K15's MyCareer Mode.
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Why Arkham Knight's Gotham is 5 Times Larger Than Arkham City - IGN News - 4 hours 24 min ago
Batman: Arkham Knight's world may be five-times larger than that of its predecessor, but that doesn't mean it can't tell a compelling story.
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IGN Plays Metro Redux with Deep Silver - 4 hours 33 min ago
An in depth look at Metro Redux on its one month anniversary.
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New Dragon Age: Inquisition Video Shows What Kind of Characters You Can Create

GameSpot's PC Reviews - 4 hours 35 min ago

You'll be able to create a wide range of looks for your character in Dragon Age: Inquisition, as the new video above demonstrates.

Yesterday we got a quick glimpse at what it's like to build a single, specific character when Inquisition's character-creation tools were revealed. This new video offers a more in-depth look at the range of options players have open to them, showing just how different your character can potentially look.

In the video, we see how everything from iris color to horns to cheekbones can be tweaked, though you'll notice that both beards and mustaches are handled by a single option. It's not the most in-depth character creator ever (nor does it offer any way to cheat by simply scanning your face in), but it looks like it will be able to get the job done.

BioWare claims Inquisition will be a more challenging game than either Dragon Age: Origins or Dragon Age II, though you'll be able to make things easier on yourself by electing to use the tactical view that returns from Origins. A new multiplayer mode is also in store for the game, which, following a delay in July, now arrives on November 18 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Chris Pereira is a freelance writer for GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @TheSmokingManXFor all of GameSpot's news coverage, check out our hub. Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email
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Spacecom Review

GameSpot's PC Reviews - 4 hours 37 min ago

Considering the complexity and hybridization that's en vogue in the games scene these days--where role-playing games are being grafted onto online arenas, and shooters are also looters--it's not so surprising to see a sort of reactionary minimalism begin to appear at the fringe, its adherents calling for a trimming of fat and a renewed focus on more pure genre experiences. Spacecom is just that sort of endeavor, and it angles for a simpler sort of strategy game, divorced from superfluous abilities and special effects.

Spacecom presents a flattened galaxy in abstract: ringed orbs for planets, and lines to string them into daisy chains of interstellar travel. The goal is simple: occupy, defend, and destroy as necessary en route to the opponent’s homeworld. Modus operandi stays true to strategy game traditions here: amass resources and production centers to churn out units as efficiently as possible, maintain your supply lines, and simultaneously command your units in the field. It's a two-button affair: left click to build a unit or select an existing one, right click to set a destination. The gory bits--hat is, the ship-to-ship combat, annexations en force, and planetary bombardments--are all handled in abstracted automations where damage is done by one side or the other when their respective meters fill.

At a glance, there's a lot to like about Spacecom's trim look.

The design of the units themselves is characteristically restrained. They look like little Imperial Star Destroyer wedges, trisected into highlighted parts to show which of three roles they fill. A highlighted prow means a battleship, which fares the best in ship-to-ship combat. A highlight at the stern signifies an invasion unit, which can seize planets and convert itself into stationary defenses. Siege units, ever the awkward middle child, straight-up destroy planets, rendering them unusable by anyone. Seeing one of the latter sneak into one of your undefended manufactories is a real downer, let me tell you.

Problem is, it can take some squinting to figure out which unit that rogue ship actually is. The little, mutely colored buggers can rotate every which way, so at a glance it's hard to identify which part of their thorax bears the telltale highlight. It's just one small example of a broader inscrutability, inscrutability that's particularly disappointing in a game with such simple visual elements.

Spacecom presents a flattened galaxy in abstract: ringed orbs for planets, and lines to string them into daisy chains of interstellar travel.

For one, units stack, appearing as a single ship with multiple sections highlighted. An adjacent number gives you only the sum total of units therein. So when you eventually deduce that the single wedge advancing on your frontline is not one, but seventeen units, you'll still need to click it for a more detailed breakdown and count the battleships, invaders, or siege units by hand so that you can plan accordingly. Even at slow game speeds, the seconds this takes are precious, and sometimes delay your response long enough to turn what might have been a battle won into terrible loss. Planets themselves are similarly coy about their contents, and if you direct your fleets to battle over one, they disappear; you'll have to click the red circle that forms in order to witness the proceedings.

The delays mount. You need to watch the battles play out, because it's frequently unclear who'll win until the deed's actually done. There's a ribbon of text above the battle abstract that attempts to predict the outcome, and the way it flits about is comically capricious--from "everything is lost" to "winning slightly" to "losing slightly" to "victory at hand." That's because while units in Spacecom damage one another at regular intervals, their targets are chosen at random. So the enemy's three ships might beat your five, if yours happen to spread out their fire while your opponent's concentrate theirs.

That little bit of unpredictability might normally have an appreciable effect of keeping battles from becoming rote, but there are more engrossing strategic concerns that you'll want to devote your attention to. That's particularly true if you've roped in a friend or two, because there's a strong board game quality to Spacecom--I'm reminded of Othello's old mantra "A minute to learn, a lifetime to master." Or the board game Twixt, with its supply lines of points and bridges that, when broken, would see your best laid plans thrown off kilter. With a human opponent, there are plenty of strategic gambits to play--feints, distractions, and tactical retreats are all effective, and I've got one particularly nefarious opponent to thank for learning the horror of that lone siege infiltrator. Units are excruciatingly slow to respond, but this keeps the focus on the right skill: the ability to see three moves ahead.

"Stacks of doom" make an unwanted appearance.

That's only the case if you're playing against a fellow human, however. After being humiliated in a few matches, I decided to try my hand against five expert-level AIs, with the hope of honing my abilities. I figured I'd get a workout, hard-pressed on multiple fronts. Imagine my surprise when I stormed through all five in rapid succession, finding the opposition milling about, producing only intermittent siege units--and not at their production centers, but at their homeworlds, in apparent disregard for the rules I'd understood to apply uniformly.

That sort of thing just won't do. When systems reach a certain level of complexity, they start prompting greater expectations. Why can't you set rally points to automatically ferry your newly produced units where you need them? Why can't you specify hotkeys for fleets or production centers? Why does everything need to be clicked in order to see what it's doing? Auralux, Galcon...these games do minimalist space strategy better. Perhaps the hard constraints of a mobile device are more conducive to pared-down design than any self-imposed rigor can be.

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15 of the Most Heartbreaking Game Cancellations - 4 hours 49 min ago

Blizzard cancelling its seven-years-coming MMO Titan reminded us all that game development can be a messy business. Countless hours lost and dollars wasted. But worst of all, we never get to play the game!

It's a sad fact of life - game cancellations are part of the business, and game publishers are going to make that tough call themselves, regardless of how many emails you send or how many sobbing voicemails are left at their offices. Titan isn't the only heartbreaking game cancellation to rock the gaming world - below are 15 more memorable cancelled games we'll never get to play:

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Video Games You Want Everyone To Play - 5 hours 5 sec ago

All month we slowly updated the top 25 games of each gaming platform. We had to rearrange the list from last year to compensate for great games like South Park: The Stick of Truth and Mario Kart 8. This was also the first year for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 lists.

At the end of each list we provided a poll for users to vote on what they find as the best games for each platform. With a combined total of over 50,000 votes, the IGN community agreed with us for the most part.

Mass Effect Trilogy - 25%

Halo 3 - 14%

Grand Theft Auto V - 9%

Skyrim - 8%

Red Dead Redemption - 7%

The Last of Us - 46%

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - 10%

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Battlefield Hardline Dev Responds to Criticisms About Police Militarization

GameSpot's PC Reviews - 5 hours 20 min ago

Battlefield Hardline developer Visceral Games has responded to criticisms about the game's depiction of a militarized police force in the wake of real-world issues on the topic making headlines in the United States recently. Creative director Ian Milham told Polygon that Hardline is not meant to be social commentary, but rather a cop drama "romp."

"The issue has come to the forefront in a way we didn't anticipate," Milham said about police militarization in the US and Hardline's representation of it. "But from the beginning, it was something that we had to think about. I think we've tried to choose the scenarios and content we're showing to be responsible, and to be honest about what we're trying and not trying to accomplish with the game."

Milham went on to say that part of his job as a game creator is to look at what is happening in the world around him and consider how what he's making--in this case, Hardline--fits into that larger landscape. He added that it was never Visceral's intention to make a "realistic police tactics simulator," but rather a TV-like crime drama. "It's not cops and protesters. It's cops and robbers," he said.

When Hardline was first announced, this point might not have been as clearly communicated to gamers as it could have been, Milham admitted. "They're understandably passionate about some of the issues, so I thought for what people knew about what we were doing, the reaction to it, I could understand how people got there," he said. "It was a little frustrating to have the conversation be about so many things we didn't intend or try to make any comment on..."

Milham added that there are no depictions of riots or ways you can harm innocent bystanders in Hardline. Overall, he said he understands the criticisms the game has faced, but explained that things like the debate about whether or not police should have tanks is outside of his purview.

"In our game, you need the tank because you're trying to recover the thing the bad guys have and it makes sense," he said. "When you're making a game about an isolated man on a spaceship, you don't get these questions. It's easier. But that doesn't mean that people are wrong to question this... it's something we have to think about."

Hardline launches in February 2015 for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC. A beta for the game will be held on all platforms sometime before the end of the year. For more on Battlefield Hardline, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch

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Introducing Windows 10 - 5 hours 20 min ago
Learn about some of the features in Windows 10, like the new Start menu, multiple desktops, and improved multi-tasking.
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