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Today is the 27th anniversary livestream for Sonic the Hedgehog, which unfortunately did not have any loud buzzing sounds or people in Sonic costumes being awkwardly asked to stop dancing and exit the stage. It did, however, have an announcement of a few new characters for Team Sonic Racing.

Amy comes with a pink car that she is basically invisible standing against, the Chao which is actually four Chao driving together have a pod-like buggy, and Big the Cat has a big green car that looks like Froggy and has a fishing rod in the back. 

Team Sonic Racing later this year on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Switch.

At E3 this year, Life is Strange creators Dontnod revealed a new story set in the Life is Strange universe, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. The episode will be free to download and the developers have confirmed it is launching one day earlier than its initially revealed date next Tuesday. The game is now launching on June 25.

The game supposedly sets up the story of Life is Strange's sequel series, but it's currently unknown why or how. The episode will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Announced in a Reddit AMA today, Ubisoft confirmed that Assassin's Creed Odyssey will have a reversible cover, each side featuring a different playable character.

One side of the cover will represent Alexios, the male choice, while Kassandra, the female choice, is on the otherside. While it isn't said there which cover will be the default one, Ubisoft did confirm in a later answer that Kassandra is the canon story. They did emphasize, however, that there's no incorrect choice between the two.

If you want to learn more about Assassin's Creed Odyssey, check out New Gameplay Today playing through a good chunk of the new game, wrote down ten things to know about the game, and explain how the latest AC title is doubling down on Assassin's Creed Origins' RPG elements.

The Switch version of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, the puzzle/adventure game starring the galaxy-spanning explorer and his colleague Toadette, has a demo on the Switch eShop in all regions now.

You can go ahead and download the demo now and explore how the game plays on the Switch. Captain Toad made his introduction in Mario Galaxy as the leader of a brave though perpetually lost exploration force, then as a minigame in Super Mario 3D World. That minigame was spun off and fleshed out into Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, which ended up featuring full levels from 3D World for Captain Toad to strut through.

According to a Nintendo World Report preview, however, the Switch version is losing those 3D World levels. It was revealed in its first Nintendo Direct that the game would be getting New Donk City-themed stages added to the Switch and 3DS versions, but it appears those are coming at the cost of the 3D World content. It sounds like the other stages are based on Odyssey's kingdoms, but are still replacing 3D World's levels with smaller puzzles.

You can find our review of the Wii U version of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker right here.

Total War Makes A Compelling Return To History With Three Kingdoms

After two fantasy-based jaunts into the Warhammer universe, The Creative Assembly has once again turned its eye to history with the latest Total War game. Previous games have let players wage war and live out their realpolitik fantasies in historical periods like medieval Europe, feudal Japan, and the Roman empire. With Three Kingdoms, Total War is taking on a new era, The Han dynasty, as well as a few new gameplay twists.

Now let's be clear: You should not expect a radically different Total War game with Three Kingdoms, which is probably a good thing. The series has remained one of the strategy genre's most popular titles for a reason, with massive battles featuring detailed environments and troops as far as the eye can see, as well as extensive diplomacy and warfare options on a metalevel. Three Kingdoms looks to expand on all those things.

While Creative Assembly wouldn't dish out details on what new diplomatic options players would be getting, they told me it would be an expanded suite compared to previous games, and that those who loved finding a reason to justify their high-end PCs would find plenty of eye candy here. The developer also told me that those with moderate-powered PCs would have enough graphical options to make the game run well.

The biggest gameplay twist that players can expect is when it comes to the MOBA-like hero of generals (all based on historical figures like Lu Bu and Cao Cao) that carries over from Warhammer. Generals have buffs and powers that can turn the tide of battle, but the new wrinkle is that generals can also build relationships with one in another in a social-link mechanic that's reminiscent of both Fire Emblem and even a little bit of Persona.

During battle, your generals' relationships will change as they fight alongside one another. Sometimes they'll become friends and give each other buffs. Other times, their personalities might grind, having negative effects on your army and maybe even culminating in one of those generals leaving your army to join your opponent's army.  This extends to more than just battles, too. Force a general to surrender enough times without executing him, for example, and he may be so impressed by your honor that he joins your army. This system has a lot of potential for adding an engaging level of unpredictability in the campaign, and we can't wait to see more of it in action.

Total War: Three Kingdoms is out next year on PC. You can read our review of the previous game, Warhammer II, here.

 

Six Changes That Make NHL 19 The Most Promising Hockey Game Of The Generation

After starting the console generation in the hole with a handicapped debut, EA?s NHL series has slowly skated back toward relevancy by rebuilding popular modes like EASHL and introducing new ways to play like NHL Threes. But despite incremental changes, the game has never felt truly next gen. Based on our early impressions with NHL 19?s new skating and physics systems, that time could finally be coming. 

In addition to getting hands-on time with the title, we sat down with longtime producer Sean Ramjagsingh and new creative director William Ho, who most recently worked on the Need for Speed franchise, to talk about the big changes coming to NHL 19 both on and off the ice. Here are the standout changes. 

A Revolutionary New Skating System
For years, we?ve been asking for dramatically improved player handling to give us more fidelity in moving in small spaces, more agility when making turns so it doesn?t feel like you are steering the Titanic, and better puck pickups. EA Canada thinks it can go three for three on these requests thanks to the integration of the Real Player Motion animation technology and significant changes to how players skate. 

Grabbing the controller, it only took a matter of seconds to understand just how dramatically the skating system has improved. Players burst out of their stops, showing the acceleration of world-class athletes. Their edgework, crossovers, and carving looks more in line with NHL players, and it?s much easier to turn, cut, and make hard stops.  Turns are more responsive and natural feeling. "Before it was difficult to just take a step or two over, now you can actually do that," Ho says. That fidelity of movement is going to be necessary, because when elite stick handlers get used to the new skating, they could be even harder to stop. 

You should also notice a wider variety of skating animations from player to player. For the first time in the series, EA motion-capped small, mid-sized, and large players to give them unique movements. 

The wide new variety of animations makes it easier for the players to reach for the puck, kick the puck to their stick, or glove the puck, which hopefully alleviates the myriad frustrations around puck pickups. ?We've really dramatically improved in this department," Ho says.

More Realistic Player Collisions
The new skating animation system couples with a new physics engine to add a lot more variety to the types of hits you see across the ice. 

?The new physics engine gives us the ability to tune every single limb on the character, and because you see them in new positions they were never in before, we're seeing tons of new checks,? Ramjagsingh says.
We saw several of these hits in action in our brief time with the game. Some examples include a larger player driving through his target, open ice hits that stop the puck carrier flat, and awkward collisions that take out a players? arms and legs on the same side. Ramjagsingh says they?ve even seen players helicopter spin when hit right. 

The incidental contact when players are fighting for the puck also looks more realistic based on the brief time we?ve had with the game thus far. 

With physicality returning to a more prominent place in the game, the team is still refining defensive tools like poke checks to make sure they aren?t too overpowered. As the game is currently tuned, if a puck carrier is protecting the puck properly, there is a very low chance of getting poke checked and a higher chance of drawing a penalty.

Introducing The World Of Chel
The EASHL is the NHL franchise?s stickiest mode, so when exploring new ways of capturing the essence of the sport, EA wanted to expand the way players compete against one another. Enter The World of Chel.

This new social hub includes EASHL, Threes pick-up games, plus two new modes. The first is NHL Pro-Am, which allows players who want to play online to hone their skills against A.I. before jumping into real competitions. This mode offers 40 3v3 challenges against the best hockey players past and present. The second is Ones, a new skill-based competition that pits your talents against others in a three-for-all where the player who scores the most goals against an A.I. goalie in a certain amount of time wins.

As you win these 1v1v1 competitions, you earn points that can eventually move you up the competitive tiers. Conversely, if you?re on a losing streak you face the real threat of being relegated back down the ladder. You start playing in a parking lot rink, and can earn your way up to the cove rink, dock rink, and eventually a resort-style rink with massive stands, a festival atmosphere, and live music. These outdoor environments are partially inspired by events like the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships (and feature a unique announcer), but EA took some liberties with the locations. For instance, one is modeled after Lake Louise in Banff National Park, which has the beautiful Canadian Rockies as a backdrop. 

Ones hosts a daily tournament, so whoever ends up in first place gets a special reward in the form of cosmetics. Another player who sees you wearing a Ones reward will know you're a past champion. These matches are quick, so while this mode won?t be a destination experience for me, I could see myself killing time in these games while waiting for my EASHL team to form up. 

Greater Player Customization
No matter which World of Chel mode you play, your created player earns XP and rewards in the form of hockey bags. 

When first creating your player, you can choose your height and weight, which has parameters based on the 12 available player classes that break down according to classic hockey archetypes (sniper, playmaker, grinder, etc). From there, you can pick from dozens of traits to activate in a primary and secondary slot, as well as specializations. The primary trait is more heavily weighted, and the secondary gets about half the weight. The game gives feedback when you are activating a trait via new HUD icons that light up in the lower left-hand corner, so you can understand if the trait fits with your play style. A large number of traits are unlocked right from the start, and the game awards the rest quickly as you level up.

Specializations are more context-based, like getting more energy late in a period or giving your team energy boosts if you get a late goal. 

Since you won?t always be playing the same class in EASHL, NHL 19 allows you to save multiple loadouts so you can develop different roles like stay-at-home defensemen, hitting sniper, etc.

"Ultimately, we want people to have their favorite loadout so that when they're playing with their buddies, they are min-maxing,? Ho says. ?They are strategizing as a group in how they are going to go in as a team with everyone playing their role on the team with their different loadouts."

Every time you level up, you earn a hockey bag that includes a random cosmetic item. Given that EA wants to expand into the wider hockey culture, this means you will receive apparel well beyond team jerseys. Yes, there is a lot team-brandedded apparel (for current teams ? don?t expect a lot of Whalers and North Stars gear), but you can also earn parkas, hoodies, hats, track pants, cargo pants, breezers, unique skates, and fun sticks like an NHL ?94 themed twig. In all, EA says it has more than 900 customization items in the game, with more to come post-release. 

Given this is EA we?re talking about, you?re probably wondering if these hockey bags are microtransaction focused. "They're not monetized, I'll say that right away,? Ho says. So why is it randomized instead of letting players pick what they want? ?We wanted to create a lot of divergence so everyone is getting different rewards so they'll equip different pieces of apparel.  We'll get instant variety on the ice."

You can?t trade items with other players, but at least you won't have to contend duplicates. 

Doubling Down On Legends
We?ve had NHL legends appear in various modes like Hockey Ultimate Team before. But thanks to an agreement with the NHL Alumni Association, EA Canada is bringing enough legends to NHL 19 to fill out several all-time teams. More than 200 legends are featured in this year?s title, including The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky. These legends aren?t all from recent eras, either. The game has Hall of Famers extending back to the days of black and white television, including stars from teams relegated to the dustbin of history like the Hartford Whalers and Minnesota North Stars. 

A New Scouting System
We plan to go into greater detail on this at a later date, but what we can tell you right now is EA has designed its franchise mode scouting system to give players more control on how they scout, which results in more useful information on prospects. The CPU teams also have access to this new system, and should be much more active in draft day trades to make sure they get their most coveted prospects. 

In addition to handling amateur scouts, you will also be managing a team of pro scouts, who will need to be deployed so you understand how other team?s prospects are progressing and whether or not aging players are regressing. These changes should add more interesting management options for players who like to tinker with roster creation. 

NHL 19 is scheduled to release on September 14 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Pokémon Quest Might Be On Mobile Next Week (Update: Confirmed June 27)

Update: The game has been confirmed for June 27, per the official Pokémon twitter account, on both iOS and Android.

The original story is as follows:

Pokémon Quest was announced a few weeks ago at The Pokémon Company's unveiling of Pokémon Let's Go: Pikachu & Eevee and came out just after the unveiling. At the time, the game was announced for both Switch and mobile platforms, but only Switch has been released so far. That might not be the case for too much longer, according to IGN.

The Japanese Pokémon Twitter account tweeted today that pre-registration for the mobile version begins soon. The Switch version has also been downloaded 2.5 million times so far. IGN discovered an app store listing that says the iOS version of the game, and presumably the Android version as well, will release on June 28.

You can find our review of Pokémon Quest right here, which takes a thorough look at the Switch version of the game.

[Source: IGN]

Watch Leon Stalk The Halls Of The Raccoon City Police Department In New Resident Evil 2 Footage

Resident Evil 2 was revealed during Sony's E3 conference and playable on the show floor. While we got hands on time with the demo, the realities of playing a creeping horror game like Resident Evil 2 around people in a bright room on a convention floor means it's hard to sit back and take the entire game in.

Thankfully, Capcom has released five minutes from the demo containing nothing but the game audio as Leon finds his way in and through the Raccoon City Police Department. You can check out the five minute video below.

Resident Evil 2 releases on January 25 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Sega has announced that the anticipated sequel to the Valkyria Chronicles series will be arriving on a multitude of platforms on September 25.

The title is the first new Valkyria game to hit western shores since Valkyria Chronicles II on PSP in 2010. The third game in the series never arrived in America and Sega had more or less shut down the series until Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, a HD update of the original PlayStation 3 game, beat expectations on PC and PlayStation 4. 

We recently got hands-on with Valkyria Chronicles 4 and our impressions of the game were fairly glowing. Check out our latest preview here.

Breaking Down The Improvements Coming To NBA Live 19

After nearly a decade of struggling to field a competitive basketball game, last year EA Sports finally put some proper pieces into place that signal a better future for the NBA Live franchise. NBA Live 19 looks to continue the upward trajectory with some needed changes to the on-court action and some interesting additions to The One mode. Here's everything we learned from playing a couple games and chatting with creative director Connor Dougan. 

GAMEPLAY

  • NBA Live 19 introduces the Real Player Motion technology recently seen in EA Sports titles like FIFA 18 and UFC 3, which EA Tiburon believes has resulted in more realistic player animations. "When you compared us to 2K in the past it just wouldn't feel as smooth; we had this kind of stiffness," Dougan says. "With Real Player Motion and changing our player skeleton and models, we feel we have a nice jump in animation quality."
  • Some of the new animations I saw in gameplay included new contested dunks, players fighting through screens during pick and rolls, and way more physicality off the ball.
  • The new animation system comes hand-in-hand with reworked dribbling. Expect to see many more signature animations like LeBron James puffing out his chest and James Harden coming up the court with more relaxed body language and his standard crossovers. You can also pull off basic moves by flicking the left analog stick; you no longer always need to use the right analog stick, but if you do expect to find more moves for star players than before.
  • EA also did a lot of "live environment" work to make the players better interact with the world around them. Expect to see players crashing into the stanchion, diving into the crowd, taunting one another, and even exchanging pleasantries with the opposing team's bench along the sidelines. 
  • Overhauled triple-threat controls integrate new jab steps and a new pump fake system. 
  • Building off last year's one-on-one gameplay, EA is bringing the cat and mouse game to off-ball interactions as well, which should hopefully make playing in space more engaging. You use the left trigger to engage in off-ball defense, which tries to slow down your mark. The offensive player has counters like V-cuts and L-cuts to break off your defending. 
  • The reworked shooting system now includes varied jump heights and release points for different players, which should make it feel more authentic. 
  • Last year's CPU A.I. had problems feeding star players. EA says this year's dynamic gameplay A.I. does a better job of recognizing when a star is heading up and will continue to feed a hot hand. Stars will strong personalities will start to talk trash when firing on all cylinders. 
  • You can now switch to take control of an off-ball player in versus by holding the RB and flicking the analog stick toward the player you want to control. 
  • You can triple-tap the steal button to perform a hard foul when you need to stop the clock.
  • The transition game also gets a jump in CPU A.I. Expect to see players on the break cut to the hoop stronger and the trailing wing players space out for open threes.
  • If you own a player by continually scoring on them or breaking their ankle, you can affect their mentality. When a player is adversely affected, their ratings take a hit. 
  • To mix up replays, NBA Live 19 introduces cell phone cutaway highlights, where the perspective shifts to a person in the crowd capturing the play of note.
 

THE ONE

  • Last year, you played as a former blue-chip college prospect trying to overcome a horrific injury. This year you start earlier in the journey as a hot high school prospect. Rather than go to college, you try to build your rep on the street courts. 
  • Eventually if you earn enough prestige, you get invited to a pre-draft camp where you can prove your mettle by playing in a few prospect games. 
  • During your rise to stardom, influencers and broadcasters will show off your highlights. 
  • The dialogue system returns from last year, but it leans more heavily toward meaningful choices this time. 
  • Expect to see more hairstyles, tattoos, and clothing options this year. 
  • Cosmetics are no longer locked behind loot crates. You can buy what you want when you want. 
  • The progression system is similar to last year, but adds a new wrinkle with the icon abilities. These abilities give you branching choices that let you to have more say over what type of specialist you are. Say you choose shot blocking as your icon ability. Eventually, you may be presented with a choice. For instance, do you want a higher percentage of success for each shot block, or extend the radius where your shot block is effective?
  • EA has added several new traits to the progression as well. 
  • EA realizes there were too many ball hogs in online team play last year, so it reworked the grading system to give players more points for teamplay and less for being selfish. If you take a bad shot, you will get hit with a -10. Doing it again knocks you another 20 points, and it continues to scale the punishment so people have way less incentive to try to shoot out of slumps. 

SQUAD

  • Last year in The One's  Street mode you went to different venues to play with random collections of players. This year you can custom build your squad by earning players as you rack up Ws. As you beat different teams, you can add star players to your lineup that can be swapped out as you see fit. 
  • The players you start with are largely scrubs and low-level NBA benchwarmers, but you can eventually earn stars and even NBA legends. 
  • Your streetball endeavors take you to new courts around the world, including France, Brazil, and the Phillippines. Expect a few new North American courts as well. 
  • Many of the live events in NBA Live 19 will be centered on earning new squad players who are only available for a limited time. 

We still have a lot to learn about how EA Tiburon plans to improve the Ultimate Team and Franchise Mode experieince of NBA Live 19. Stay tuned in the coming months as we dive deeper into the title. 

The free NBA Live 19 demo releases on August 24 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The First Trial starts on September 3 on Xbox One, and final release drops for both consoles on September 7. 

Blowing Bubbles And Bashing Heads In Ninjala

The E3 Nintendo Direct presentation largely focused on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but it scattered in a few surprises along the way. One such surprise was Ninjala, a new family-friendly ninja game where characters compete in battles involving bubble gum and inflatable weapons. I went hands on with the colorful title and spoke with GungHo CEO Kazuki Morishita about the new title.

Ninjala gives Splatoon vibes from the very first glance. The colorful, young characters with stylish clothes and bright hair look as though they could be a part of the same universe as Nintendo?s inklings. However, despite the team?s affection for Splatoon, they wanted to make a brawler instead of a shooter.

Before you can jump into 8-player action and beat up your opponents, you must inflate your weapon. You do this by blowing a massive bubble using bubblegum and funneling that air into the weapon. Depending on which gum you choose, you get a different weapon. Weapons range from baseball bats and clubs to yo-yos. The bigger the bubble you blow, the bigger the weapon is.

Large weapons are slow, but powerful, while short weapons can be made quickly and swung fast. In addition, you can use the bubble as a projectile to stick enemies to the ground temporarily or hold it in your mouth to run up walls. If you get the drop on an enemy and charge up your swing, you can unleash a massive hit and score an Ippon ? a one-hit K.O. If you don?t want to challenge other players, you can earn points by defeating drones. However, you don?t earn nearly as many points for destroying these harmless robots.

Ninjala

Battles are frantic and fun. Whether you?re running up a wall to avoid a massive bubble heading your way or whacking an opponent over the head with an inflatable club, Ninjala overflows with goofy action and absurd moments.

GungHo recently released the ultraviolent collaboration with Grasshopper Manufacture, Let It Die. Now, the studio is going in a different direction. Rather than focusing on the hyperviolence, blood, and gore of Let It Die, Ninjala is a cute game about young ninjas fighting each other with unimposing weapons.

Ninjala

?When I made Let it Die, I had a different environment, and what I felt at the time was different than when I was making this,? Morishita says. ?When I was making Puzzle & Dragons, I was making a kind of peaceful puzzle game, but then I got under a lot of stress and that?s where Let It Die came from. [Laughs] Then, after that, I came back with Ninjala. So I feel good right now. [Laughs].?

Currently, GungHo is working on maps loosely based on real cities and regions around the world. I played in the New York map, but so far, the team can confirm Japan, Europe, and Egypt as regions players will visit. GungHo is also planning additional support through post-release updates, but Morishita won?t elaborate on the team?s plans.

Ninjala

In addition to team battle and free-for-all multiplayer modes, Ninjala features a single-player mode. Though no details are available for this mode currently, if it?s anything like the single-player modes in Splatoon, I?m looking forward to it.

Oozing with personality and attitude, Ninjala is a fun, accessible multiplayer brawler that seems like a perfect fit for Switch?s audience. NInjala launches in 2019 exclusively on Switch.

Team Sonic Racing Delivers Kart Racing With A Squad-Based Twist

Developer Sumo Digital landed a hit with its 2012 kart-racing game Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Now, the developer is partnering with Sonic Team, stripping away the non-Sonic characters, and adding a new layer of team-based strategy for Team Sonic Racing.

In this new kart-racing title from Sega, the developers are focusing entirely on the Sonic universe, which means no Aiai or Ryo Hazuki this time around (sorry, fellow Shenmue fans). Instead, players get a roster of 15 Sonic characters. In the build I played, I could choose between Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, Shadow, Rouge, and E-123 Omega. Each character fits into one of three classes: speed, technique, or power. Once you choose a character, you're placed in a team of three based on the character's alliances; Sonic was always placed with Tails and Knuckles, while Rouge raced alongside Shadow and Omega.

When the race begins, it plays out much like a standard kart racer. Characters drift around corners, acquire consumable items, and avoid zany obstacles in the push to be first. In addition to the tried-and-true formula, players can help their teammates; you can gift items, request items, and slingshot around teammates by following their path. The game will also include a solo mode that removes the team-based mechanics, but outside of an occasional pure kart-racing foray, I don't foresee myself playing that mode much.

At the end of the race, it assigns points for your team based on where each member finished. This means you must help your team in order to actually win. In one of my races, my team finished third, fourth, and fifth, but because we were the most consistent team, we came in first in the race. In another race, I finished first, but my teammates were in the middle of the pack, so we came in second overall. I like that twist of having to keep an eye on your standing in the race, as well as your teammates.

 

When the game ships, it will feature stages that are both brand new to the Sonic universe, as well as familiar levels. While the developers wouldn't spill any additional details, Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka tells me that some stages will feature recognizable songs from Sonic's past, and that Jun Senoue is composing the game. In addition, Senoue's fan-favorite band, Crush 40, performs the main theme.

Team Sonic Racing may not have the fancy transformations or characters outside of the Sonic universe, but it makes up for it with thoughtful team-based mechanics that add new twists to the formula. Sonic Team Racing is set to launch this winter on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

Update: Our Questions Answered ? More On Forza Horizon 4

Update: We posed a few questions about the game to developer Playground Games ? check out their answers in the sidebar below the main story.

 

The Forza Horizon franchise has always been about an open world, but Forza Horizon 4 is stretching that in new ways for the series. We talked with the developers at Playground Games in more depth about the what players can expect as they explore, engage in co-op with friends, and enjoy the seamless environment.

Driving around the world, you will always have access to 12 real-life drivers. Moreover, this online state can easily be switched off at any time, at which time the game reverts back to the drivatar-filled world you?re used to. As you race along, your friends can follow you across the map, but the game will load in instances of other real-life drivers.

Players experience four distinct seasons, which introduce their own handling challenges and even open up new areas of the map, and the seasons change for everyone at the same time once per week.

 

If you see someone, their collision will be turned off unless they?re already a friend or you start a race (you can also block people if you just don't want them in your world). Forza Horizon 4?s co-op blends the previously separate co-op silos so there?s no difference between free-roam and event racing, for instance. While you won't be able to create your own events in the world (like putting down a marker where you hit some huge air, for example), you're free to flow between all the game has to offer with or without other people. 

Despite the fact that the online scope of the game is widening, features like race rewinding and photography are still available, as is the ability to chat in the world via preset messages.

The Horizon Festival is once again at the center of the title (complete with a drag strip and circuit in the hub), but campaign players are free to rise up the ranks as they see fit, whether that's through racing, painting, photography, tuning, or streaming.

 

The game also broadens out the Forza Horizon lifestyle with ancillary options like houses, jobs, owning businesses, and customization through clothing. There are approximately 12 houses to own in the game, from a simple cottage to Edinburgh Castle, although developer Playground Games hasn't specified how you purchase them (the studio hasn't announced any new microtransactions). Houses can also be used for fast travel.

Those looking for a PvP competitive scene can find it in new team PvP, leagues, and the ability to recruit and create/share PvP circuits.

Post-launch the team is looking at the in-game season format (one year in the game should roughly equal one month) to push new content, and the ultimate goal is to make each season in the game have different stuff to do from in-game year to in-game year. One of the things on the wishlist currently is the ability to make your own events for co-op play.

From game to game the Forza Horizon series has fulfilled the promise of its open world more and more, and Forza Horizon 4 is taking down one of the last main barriers.

Metro Exodus Is Content Complete, Giving 4A Games Eight Months To Polish

The Metro Exodus E3 2018 demo was based on the same content we saw back in February for the March cover story, giving the world its first chance to see the boundary-pushing graphics, unforgiving gameplay, and ambitious transition from the linear focused Metro underground to the harsh, more open Russian countryside that convinced us to put the game on the cover of Game Informer. Running at 4K on the Xbox One X console, the game's beauty won over many. But the demo wasn't without its share of gameplay hiccups.

The shooting felt good, and all of the game's systems were online, but we noticed a few rough spots as well. Collision issues made moving across the countryside more burdensome than it should be, framerate drops disrupted the gameplay, and the rowboat Artyom uses to explore the Volga River region outside Moscow was tough to steer. When we brought these issues up to executive producer Jon Bloch, he said the team is keenly aware of the current build's shortcomings and the team has more than enough time to hone the experience. 

"We've never shown Metro on a console this early before, and we felt like it was appropriate for showing off this content on Xbox One X in 4K ? it's already there," Bloch says. "Yes, we have some polish to go, and yes, there's still some performance stuff to nail, but it's already in good shape, so trust us when we say this extra time really is focused on polish. We're not still making the game at this point, we're smoothing it out."

Since the game is content complete and feature complete, the 4A Games to-do list in the lead-up to Metro Exodus' February launch includes raising all the levels up to the quality bar the team has set, smoothing out environmental collision both on foot and in vehicles, plugging narrative gaps they noticed once they strung the levels together, and fine-tuning performance.

Given 4A Game's strong track record, we're inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that the game will be running smoothly by deadline. Metro Exodus is scheduled to launch alongside a surprisingly strong lineup (Anthem, Days Gone) on February 22 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. 

Lego DC Super-Villains Shows A Renewed Focus For TT Games

TT Games has been steadily releasing Lego titles for more than a decade now, bringing notable franchises like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Marvel and DC comics to life in charming, family friendly games. While the frequency of releases has been reliable, its quality has occasionally slipped. If you were frustrated with the state of Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 at launch, you?re not alone, either. TT Games has been examining how to revitalize its games moving forward, starting with the upcoming Lego DC Super-Villains. I played the E3 demo and chatted with Arthur Parsons, head of design at TT Games, about what the studio is doing to make the best possible game ? for both returning players and newcomers. 

There?s a lot to unpack with this game, so I?ll focus on the big things first. Lego DC Super-Villains is the first time that players will get to play through a campaign centered around the best part of most stories: the bad guys. ?Everyone loves playing as Vader or Voldemort, or whoever the bad guys are,? Parsons says.? And because of the wealth of source material here, TT Games had a lot to work with. ?DC?s villains, I think they out of every IP we?ve ever touched, they?ve got the best roster of villains. By a long way.?

Players have been able to play as the baddies in free play in the DC games, with one exception. ?In Lego Batman 1 we had villain levels, but you had to complete the whole hero bit first,? Parsons says. ?They were actually the most fun bit of Lego Batman 1, but we?ve not been there since. When it came time to do another DC game, villains was the obvious choice. It effectively feels like a new IP.?

While you?ll interact with bad guys like Lex Luther, Joker, and Harley Quinn, there?s also another major player in town: you. ?For the first time ever, the customizer is important to the game,? Parsons says. ?Normally it?s an afterthought; it?s just something for free play. This time around, the first thing you do is create your own villain who joins with the Legion of Doom. But the villain that you create is actually important in the story, and you can upgrade them along the way, so they have the ability to absorb energy, so you get new powers and new abilities, and it?s a character who weaves in and out of the story all the way right through the end.?
If you don?t care all that much about your character, you can pick from a variety of presets or have the game come up with a random selection. Lego veterans know the depth that players have with their created characters, and it?s fully on display here. You have a wide array of options at your disposal, from decals, body parts, and weapons, right down to your villain?s backstory. Your character has an absorption ability, so he or she can acquire new powers throughout the campaign. When it?s over, it?s possible to end up with an overpowered jack-of-all-trades style villain, who can deftly handle gold and silver blocks, laser-cutting puzzles, and anything else that gets in the way ? similar to how the unlockable Stan Lee character acts in the Lego Marvel titles.

The demo is a silly escape from Stryker?s Island, where Lex Luther and Mercy help my created character out of the prison. As we move from one brick-bashing location to the next, I also get to play as Solomon Grundy, Cheetah, Joker, and Harley. There isn?t anything particularly mind-blowing about any of it, but it does highlight some of the refinements that TT Games has made ? refinements that are a long time coming. For example, when you encounter a situation that requires a specific character?s ability, control will automatically leap to that villain.

 

?We?ve put a lot of attention on accessibility with this game,? Parsons explains. ?We don?t want kids to get roadblocked, we don?t want anyone getting frustrated not knowing what to do.? In one area, I climb to the top of an area with wall jumps. Once I get to the top, Cheetah jumps away from the opening to prevent her from accidentally falling back down. ?I know that?s not much of a touch, but all those little things, people just get through the content nice and easy and they don?t get roadblocked,? Parsons says. 

Parsons says that his team went back to the studio?s earlier games as an exercise, and played through them again. It ended up providing them with some great internal feedback, including the realization that it?s quite easy to get stuck on the first levels of their games. ?We can?t allow that to happen. I know when I play games, and you get to a point where you get frustrated or there are roadblocks, you put the controller down, and sometimes you won?t come back. That?s just unacceptable. We create all this content, and we spend a lot of time creating it, and we want everyone to be able to get through it.?

Technical issues have been a problem for the Lego games, too, and those have been given special attention. Sometimes, the solution comes from avoiding problem areas altogether. I build a drivable gadget with Joker, and after I place the final brick, the character automatically moves a little bit away from the creation. ?You know far too well that some games in the past once you build something, sometimes you get embedded in it or wedged into things,? Parsons says, ?Little things like that help stop these little niggly bugs and irritants that are going to come through.?

One such irritant is the platforming. It?s never felt great in the games, and characters have a tendency to fall during lengthy jumping sections. Parsons says it?s being addressed with DC Super-Villains. ?People won?t notice, but there will be slight magnetism, so if you?re doing a jump and you kind of drift, we?ll sort of auto drift you back, but you won?t notice it. In terms of refinements from say, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 to this one, there will be several thousand, but people won?t necessarily notice them because they?re all little tiny bits here, there, and everywhere. It?s that constant evolution. We do try to get better and better at what we do.? 

Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 ended up being a bit of a wake-up call for TT Games. As I mentioned in my review, it was loaded with technical issues that made it difficult to play. ?Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 in my mind is a great game, but there were a few bugs and glitches when it came out,? Parsons says. ?They?re all fixed in a patch now, but the problem is they shouldn?t be there in the first place.? He says his team is working to do everything they can to make sure this game ships bug-free. ? The way we?ve had to do that is actually lengthen our debug phase. It?s more than double for this than if we were doing a normal dev cycle. The results of this should be that when people get it in their hands it?s slick and it?s clean.?

We won?t know until the game?s October 16 release date if they?re successful, but what I played was rock solid. I appreciate the little quality-of-life touches , such as automatically switching characters during some sections in single player. After years of playing the games, I?ve gotten used to some of the peculiarities. But as Parsons says, his audience is constantly changing. ?As kids graduate up and start playing Fortnite, there?s a whole new package of kids that come and are going to play it. Despite all the Lego games we?ve made, this could be someone?s very first Lego game.?

Hopefully, the little touches and improvements will make life much easier and more fun for those new players. Me, I?m just eager to hang with Joker and his friends.