We Take Out The Rebel Scum In Star Wars Battlefront II's New Starfighter Assault Mode

As any veteran of Star Wars: TIE Fighter knows, flying for the bad guys is a thankless job. You’re a disposable hunk of sentient meat piloting an equally disposable spacecraft. What they lack in sentimentality, the Empire makes up for in the raw numbers. Go ahead and gloat over those kills, rebels. There are more where they came from. After spending some hands-on time with Star Wars Battlefront II’s new Starfighter Assault mode, however, I have a greater appreciation for TIE fighters – not for the sacrifices that their pilots make, but for how these much-maligned ships are actually quite great.

Our battle took place over the planet of Fondor, around one of its orbital shipyards. A recuperating imperial star destroyer was in dry dock, and as an imperial pilot, my job was to ensure that the rebels didn’t take out the incapacitated titan. Fortunately, I was part of a team of 12, bolstered by a variety of A.I. controlled ships to add to the delightful confusion and visual impact of this 24-player battle. 

When I spawned into the game, I had my initial pick of three different ships. First up was a run-of-the-mill TIE fighter, followed by its interceptor and bomber variants. I started out with the standard ship, expecting a fragile but deadly ship. It delivered on that front, allowing me to help teammates take on much larger ships, such as Y-wings. I took a “run in and run away” approach, darting into skirmishes to antagonize any X-wings I came across with laser fire, and then taking advantage of the ship’s maneuverability to escape. It seemed to work well, but I found myself dying more than I’d hoped. That changed as soon as I selected the TIE interceptor. 

For some reason, the interceptor and I clicked. It seemed faster than the regular fighter, and I had an easier time evading ships and their inevitable missiles. The speed made it particularly thrilling to try and shake pursuing X-wings by flying dangerously close to the docked star destroyer, darting around its radar array and watching as enemies crashed trying to keep up. 

It was a lot of fun, but it got even better once I amassed enough points to pilot one of the game’s special unique ships. I could have picked Darth Maul’s stealth ship, but it had to be Slave I. That was the right decision. Armed with concussion missiles and luxuriously thick armor, I felt like a flying tank. I’d chase down X-wing after X-wing, turning them into clouds of burning debris with Boba Fett’s notorious vessel. Larger ships like the Y-wing would get my attention, but even they were easy to evade and then destroy. It felt like cheating, but I’m not complaining. The rebels did their best to take out the star destroyer, but our team made it impossible. After destroying their last large ship, we were victorious.

The mode was a lot of fun, even though we ended up losing the next several battles. There’s a nice sense of scale at play, and enemy density is consistent without ever seeming overwhelming. There weren’t many times where I had to spend more than 10 seconds looking for a fight; hang around a defensive objective long enough, and you can be sure that a rebel jerk would descend on it like a vulture. And I couldn’t tell you much more about Fondor beyond its name, but the planet was a dazzling backdrop amid the chaos of battle.

I was fairly ambivalent about the space battles in the last Battlefront game, but I’m definitely excited to spend more time in the cockpit starting November 17.

Beta Test We Take Out The Rebel Scum In Star Wars Battlefront II’s New Starfighter Assault Mode

Aquanox: Deep Descent Features An Existential Undersea Threat

THQ Nordic and Digital Arrow are bringing back the AquaNox series in Aquanox: Deep Descent, a game that blends atmospheric undersea exploration with combat that’s reminiscent of sci-fi space battles. We got to see the latest version of the game today at Gamescom, and it’s shaping up nicely.

The game’s set in 2370, in a post-apocalyptic future where mankind has moved undersea after ravaging the Earth’s surface. Humans being human, old rivalries have reemerged in the new setting, and factions fight underwater for resources and power. You play as one of four crew members who has been brought back from suspended animation to help address a new threat: a new type of plankton that consumes anything manmade that it touches.  

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Players can freely explore a variety of cave networks, open water, and the ocean floor for loot, though they need to be aware of enemy ships as well as natural threats like the plankton and huge mutated creatures. There are three different ship types to choose from, each of which has its own unique abilities (and fully detailed interior). Scouts are speedy and combat ships are great in battle, for example. They’re all customizable, and players can craft new weapons and ammo from scavenging wreckage. Battles are fast and frantic, which may not be what you’re expecting from a game set underwater. 

In the single-player campaign, all four characters are on the same ship. Up to four players can play cooperatively in drop-in, drop out matches, however. In that case each player gets his or her own ship. There are also competitive modes, as well as a special cooperative mode in which teams try to take on a massive capital-class ship.

Aquanox: Deep Descent is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC the first half of 2018.

Beta Test Aquanox: Deep Descent Features An Existential Undersea Threat

Science-Fiction Weekly – Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Han Solo, 10 Minutes Of Battlefront II Gameplay

Lucasfilm’s secrets department has sprung a leak! Dozens of savory details for Star Wars: The Last Jedi hit the web this week, revealing everything from plot points to actual lines from the film. If you want to remain as SPOILER free as possible going into the film this December, run away from this article as fast as you can. Most of the leaks are tied to merchandise, which retailers cannot seem to keep off of shelves, even though none of it is supposed to go on sale until September 1.

The most interesting leaks are from action figures that spout of lines of dialogue. A Kylo Ren figure features 60 different sounds and voice clips from the film. A video of the toy hears him say a few interesting things, such as “Don’t be afraid.” My immediate reaction is he’s entering someone’s mind to probe for information, but he could also be talking to Rey, should they meet up again. Other lines are “I’ve been waiting for you,” and “No! It’s too late!” That last one has to be targeted toward a reunion with Luke Skywalker, right?

Adam Driver told Sunday Today that he hopes fans find Kylo Ren’s role in The Last Jedi to be “unexpected.” This is a common thought many actors have expressed, including Mark Hamill, who said he fundamentally disagreed with every choice made for Luke Skywalker in the new film’s story. What would we classify as unexpected for Kylo Ren? Turning to the lightside? A death? Downing supreme leader Snoke to seize control of the First Order? The video below is a nice interview with Driver that shows how he’s handling with the new level of celebrity associated with being in a Star Wars film.

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Although many of The Last Jedi toys are sitting on store shelves, few people have been able to buy them, thanks to a street date alert that pops up at the register. Someone did manage to walk out of a store with the new 3.75-inch Star Destroyer set that comes packaged with Snoke. The first shot we saw last week established his immense height, but now we see he may be about fortune. The new shot from agalaxynearby shows his gold cloak is extravagant in design, and his left hand is adorned in large gold rings. Although we only saw Snoke as a hologram in The Force Awakens, we assumed he wore black, like a Sith lord. One can’t help but speculate that the gold may be a reflection of other world leaders who are obsessed with gold, but I doubt Disney would let the story of Star Wars get that political.

Regardless, it’s fun to see this character take shape through the leaks. Is he powerful with the Force? Will he just sit in a chair? Director Rian Johnson told Entertainment Weekly that he’s a “force of nature.” Check out agalaxynearby‘s gallery for another shot of the mysterious First Order leader. Another merchandising leak gives us a good shot of the heroes united. Luke looms large in the background and Chewbacca returns, but the focus is clearly on the new generation of characters. Looks like Poe is going to the same stylist as Han Solo.

If you thought the bad news surrounding the untitled Han Solo film was over, buckle up for another blast of disappointment. Actor Michael Kenneth Williams’ role from the film was cut due to timing issues. Deadline caught up with Williams, and he said he was going to play a half-human, half-animal in the film. “When Ron Howard got hired to finish out the film, there were some
reshoot issues that needed to be done in regards to my character, in
order for it to match the new direction which the producers wanted Ron
to carry the film in. And that would have
required me on a plane a month ago to London, to Pinewood, to do
reshoots,” Williams said. “But I’m here, on location in Africa. It’s scheduling. I’m not
going to be back on the market until the end of November after Hap and Leonard, and for them to wait that
long for me, that would have pushed back the release date, which I
believe is in May 2018. They wanted me now; I couldn’t go. So they had
to clip-clip-clip.”

On a more positive note, Star Wars Battlefront II’s space combat looks ridiculously good. As much as I enjoyed piloting X-Wings and TIE Fighters in the first game, the space combat mode felt like a somewhat hollow deathmatch. DICE and Criterion are addressing this concern in the sequel, and as you’ll see in the footage below, the flow of war is objective driven. Sony shared 10 minutes of footage of the PlayStation 4 version, which looks stunning. November 17 can’t come soon enough!

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I’ll leave you today with a brief clip of a toy that gives a voice to the adorable porg creatures that live with Luke Skywalker. I’m getting a real Gremlins vibe from these things. Sure, they look and sound cute, but what do they eat?

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Beta Test Science-Fiction Weekly – Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Han Solo, 10 Minutes Of Battlefront II Gameplay

Five Things You Need To Know About The Wonderfully Weird Biomutant

When I first heard about Biomutant, I was skeptical. It was billed as a “post-apocalyptic kung-fu fable,” which sounded a lot like one of those horrible pizzas that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would order. Every ingredient is fine on its own, but does anyone really want to put a slice of chocolate fudge, sardine, chili pepper, and whipped-cream pizza in their mouth? After getting a demo of Experiment 101’s game at Gamescom, I’m surprised to have had my mind changed so abruptly. Here are five reasons why you may want to keep an eye on Biomutant, too.

Biomutant is weird, and it embraces that weirdness fully
Studio head Stefan Ljungqvist summed it all up when he said, “It’s weird, in a good way.” There are a lot of familiar elements in Biomutant, but they don’t seem unpalatable together like a Ninja Turtle’s pizza. The combat would be at home in any number of stylish-action games. There’s a 16-square-kilometer open world to explore above ground, and an underworld of comparable size. Your raccoon-like character is customizable, from its gender to its body shape to the color and pattern of its fur. You have stats to manage, as well as weapon upgrades, clothing, and special items like electric bullets. Not weird enough for you? How about this: Your character can gain mutagen powers. OK, fine. In the demo we saw him acquire a mutation called “moth mouth” that let him barf out moths. These moths distract enemies and can cause them to attack their friends. It is called “moth mouth.” Let that sink in.

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Your actions matter, except it seems like they actually might
Ljungqvist says that one of the team’s goals is to give players a personal ending, based on their actions in the game. For example, early in the game you learn that the tree of life is dying, and that its death could have a drastic effect on the currently lush landscape. Do you choose to help restore its power? You don’t have to, though you may have to live with the consequences. There’s a morality system in the game, and it doesn’t just revolve around you, either. There are six different tribal factions in the game, and when you start the game it randomly determines whether each one will be “good” or “bad” to put it in simple terms. You can choose to align yourself with one or several of these tribes, find a way to unite them, or simply slaughter them all and call yourself kind. Ultimately, Ljungqvist says it’s a quest about personal discovery. Why does your character have an eyepatch? Where did he come from? What’s his name? These are all important mysteries that will Ljungqvist says will be paid off in ways more substantial than a handful of cutscenes that you watch at the end.

The whole thing is narrated
As you play the game, an unseen narrator will occasionally call out what’s happening. In the crafting menu, for instance, we made a long blade, whereupon the narrator remarked, “Looks good to me. Bet it makes a swoosh sound.” That might make you think of Bastion, but Ljungqvist says it’s more like the announcer in FIFA. The identity of this narrator is one of the game’s many secrets. Of course, the game was just announced and it’s coming out next year, so there’s a chance it’ll be revealed at a later date. Regardless, it’s a fun addition to the action.

It’s built around experimentation
Your character will gain access to a host of mutagenic and psi abilities throughout his adventure, and the game is designed to allow you to incorporate these powers neatly into the blade and bullet action. The left trigger is used as a modifier button to access a second tier of attacks and abilities mapped to the face buttons. Experiment 101 wants players to do some experimentation of their own, finding ways to use telekinesis or chain lightning in combat. When I saw that the main character can get the ability to summon bouncy mushrooms and also telekinesis, I asked Ljungqvist if players could place a mushroom and then telekinetically slam them onto the springy fungus to launch them away or fling them into a pool of deadly oil. The answer? Of course you can, because why wouldn’t you be able to do that?

There’s a big world to explore, and some silly ways to do so
The world is large, and getting around on foot could be boring. Fortunately, you’ll be able to pilot a variety of vehicles, including a mech, hot-air balloon, and mechanical hand that walks around like Master Hand and also shoots enemies by making a gun shape. If fast travel is more your thing, you can unlock points by marking signs. How do you mark them, you ask? Fine. You pee on them.

Biomutant is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC next year.

Beta Test Five Things You Need To Know About The Wonderfully Weird Biomutant

Five Ways Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Changes Things Up

Before the Storm, a prequel to Dontnod’s Life is Strange, is arriving as soon as next week. The three-episode-long series has a lot of changes by having the player embody Chloe Price, Max’s best friend, three years prior to the events of the first game. It also has a completely different development team behind it – Deck Nine – all the while Dontnod is working on its own Life is Strange follow-up. After seeing an extensive presentation, interviewing the developers, and playing a part of the first episode ourselves, I feel a lot of positive changes are on its way for Life is Strange. Here are five ways the prequel changes things up.

Persuading Characters With Backtalk

Forgoing the time travel powers of the first game, Before the Storm instead introduces a new gameplay mechanic that takes the form of a dialogue puzzle. Each time Chloe is conversing with someone who she hopes to persuade, the option of using Backtalk becomes available. Backtalk has Chloe use her wit to throw insults back at the other character, or cleverly try to change their perspective. 

In the demo I saw, Chloe successfully wiggled her way out of an uncomfortable situation with Principal Wells who suspected that she had recently smoked a joint. In another section, she talked her way past a gangly bouncer to enter a concert. Backtalk is optional, and even if you fail a sequence, you can just find another method or route.

The reason for leaving time travel powers behind, outside of canon reasons, is because developer Deck Nine wants the game to center on realistic characters and storytelling. “We didn’t want to focus on science fiction, but instead what we think was so courageous about the first game: authentic flawed characters, and a story that was, despite the time travel, incredibly well-written,” lead writer Zak Garriss says.

Focusing On Chloe And Rachel’s Relationship

In Before the Storm, Chloe’s life feels like it’s crumbling. Still grieving her father’s death, she begins to push others away, fail classes, and make more destructive decisions. “In the first Life is Strange, Chloe Price was this confrontational, blue haired, beanie-wearing badass. In Before the Storm, we’re gonna go into the backstory about how she became who she is in the first game,” producer David Hein says.

Things start to look up when she meets Rachel Amber, a girl that is popular and successful – a stark opposite to Chloe. The bond they form becomes strong and unwavering, as Chloe helps Rachel uncover a secret that could destroy her family. As for the nature of their relationship, it depends on your choices, meaning that the friendship may also dip into romance should you decide to go that route. 

A Grittier View Of The World

Taking place again in Arcadia Bay, you’ll see a lot of familiar places, but from a different perspective. For example, Chloe refers to Blackwell High as “Blackhell” and causes a lot more trouble than Max. She has a more pessimist view of the world, and is quick to confrontation. 

This doesn’t mean that you won’t visit new places, however. In the demo, I saw Chloe enter a warehouse-like building filled with punk rockers, where a concert for a band named Firewalk was being held. “When you’re playing as Chloe, you go to places Max wouldn’t go to,” Garriss says. “Like The Mill, that opening illegal concert. That’s not a scene that Max would fight her way into.”

Multi-Layered Choices And Consequences

The concept of having consequences that have a butterfly effect and come up over time returns in Before the Storm, but to a greater effect. In a playable demo, Chloe roams through a warehouse-like concert venue, where she can do a number of things such as steal a wad of cash. Multiple avenues of choice are available: if you take the cash, you can use it to buy drugs from Frank, who appeared in the first game, or keep it for another purpose, such as helping your mother as she faces financial woes. Even small details like buying marijuana means instead of smoking cigarettes the next morning, it’s a joint in Chloe’s hand.

Making Your Mark With Graffiti 

Similar to how Max took photos and those acted as trophies and hidden collectibles for the player, Chloe instead makes her mark with graffiti. These are often witty remarks, such as writing “not a meth lab” onto an old RV. Areas that can be used for graffiti are often hidden spaces.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm comes out on August 31 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Beta Test Five Ways Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Changes Things Up

You Can Now Use PayPal On The Nintendo Eshop

Owners of the Nintendo Switch, 3DS, and Wii U can now pay for their digital purchases on those consoles with PayPal as an option.

PayPal and Nintendo announced the additional option rolling out to various regions today, though not all PayPal accounts will work with all regions, despite the eShop being region free.

To use PayPal, users link their account when purchasing something on the eShop. The change has been a long time coming for Nintendo console owners and suggests Nintendo is at least looking to modernize payment options of their digital stores.

Beta Test You Can Now Use PayPal On The Nintendo Eshop

A Look At The Third Wave Of Pokémon Gallery Figures

In the beginning of the year, Pokémon Center began a line of Pokémon performing signature moves called Gallery figures. The first wave featured Pikachu, Mew, Eevee, and Magikarp, while the second wave had Cubone, Vulpix, Psyduck, and Jigglypuff. This third wave is decidedly smaller, containing only two figures: Espeon, who is performing light screen, and Umbreon, who is performing dark pulse.

The company sent us both of the figures to check out for
ourselves. Each character features a high level of detail and cool move
effects surrounding them.
You can see all of them and their packaging below. The figures are currently available on PokémonCenter.com and retail for $16.99.

For a photo gallery of the first wave of figures starring Pikachu, Mew, Eevee, and Magikarp, head here. For our look at Cubone, Vulpix, Psyduck, and Jigglypuff, head here.

Beta Test A Look At The Third Wave Of Pokémon Gallery Figures

Latest NHL 18 Trailer Details Franchise Mode Improvements

We dropped a ton of knowledge about the franchise mode changes coming to EA Sports’ hockey title in our 60 Things We Know About NHL 18 feature earlier this year. Today, the dev team shared a trailer that lets you see the expansion draft, mascot creation, mid-season contract extensions, and other changes in action. 

Take a look here:

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You’ll get your first shot at bringing a new team into the league when NHL 18 releases for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 15. To learn more about the game, read our aforementioned deep dive, and check out the videos detailing changes coming to gameplay and the new NHL Threes mode.

Beta Test Latest NHL 18 Trailer Details Franchise Mode Improvements

First Look At Call Of Duty: WWII's Headquarters Mode

With our month of coverage highlighting Call of Duty: WWII to go along with our September cover story, we’re offering exclusive new information at Sledgehammer’s new game. While we’ve shared our extensive thoughts on the game’s new social space called Headquarters in this clip from the GI Show podcast, now’s your first chance to see the mode in action. Headquarters offers a new experience for fans of Call of Duty, where players can meet up and interact with other players in interesting new ways.

Watch the trailer below for your first look at Headquarters.

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We’ll have more exclusive reveals, videos, and information on Call of Duty: WWII throughout the month, so be sure to check out the coverage hub.

Beta Test First Look At Call Of Duty: WWII’s Headquarters Mode

The Escapists 2 Review – Escape From Prison Without Losing Your Sanity

Almost everyone has heard of history’s amazing prison escapes, like Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin fleeing from the world-famous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in 1962. The men spent six months preparing, and used everything from papier-mâché dummy heads left in beds to raincoats stitched together into a lifeboat. The Escapists 2 gives you the same types of tools to escape a variety of themed confines, but also shares the tedium of working slowly toward an elusive goal. The improvements over the previous game are plentiful and novel, but the frequent loss of progress and lack of manual saves stifles experimentation.

The most notable change The Escapists 2 delivers is a wider variety of confines to escape, from Wild West holding cells to futuristic space prisons. These environments are much larger and enhanced by the much-improved visuals. Formerly stark prisons now have plenty of wall decorations and items on desks, and even the pixel-art figures have evolved and are properly shaded.

The Escapists 2 doesn’t lack things to do. As you’d expect in a prison, you must plan your escape while adhering to a daily routine of eating, exercising, roll call, and working. You curry favor with inmates via quests, pilfer items from those same cohabitants, beat people up, steal keys from guards, craft a variety of makeshift weaponry, and crawl through ventilation ducts. Get caught by the guards? You’ll get put in the infirmary or solitary and – most importantly – lose any contraband you have on you at the time.

This is my number one frustration, as any mistake puts you back much closer to square one. Any contraband you’ve hidden in your desk remains, but the on-hand keys, equipment, and weaponry you spent your time crafting are gone, and it’s not quick or easy to regain. It wouldn’t be so frustrating if the game allowed for manual saves, but the individual levels are tied to their online leaderboards and autosave every few seconds. I wish I could have turned this off for local play.

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One particularly irritating moment didn’t even involve me getting caught by the guards. I was ready to escape with all of my gear on hand and a dummy sitting in my cell. I used my makeshift ladder to access a vent that would get me to where I needed to be, and while going through menus to grab my cutter, I accidentally hit up on the PS4’s directional pad ­­­– the surrender button. My character fell to the ground immediately because there was no confirmation for this action. All of my carefully planned progress was lost in a split second.

The streamlined transportation prisons don’t run into these challenges, and were by far my favorite thanks to their more defined goals. Execution was everything, and failure didn’t cause huge setbacks. Building a makeshift carrot on a train to coax a nearby horse was both charming and rewarding.

The new multiplayer is a nice touch, especially as it’s available as both co-op and versus for up to four players. Co-op mirrors the standard game, where other players can distract guards or help you find materials, while versus opens up the prison, makes inmates sell things to you for free, and removes the routine. The first to escape is the winner. This makes the experience different and more rewarding; I enjoyed versus the most because all of the tedious constraints were gone. For that same reason, though, it doesn’t have much staying power.

When you find the right offbeat item, or barely squeak by a guard in Escapists 2, it’s incredibly refreshing. However, the monotony of gathering items and playing errand runner for other inmates sours the experience, and the awkward controls don’t help. For those who crave unforgiving challenges, the Escapists 2 brings them in spades, but it often comes at the cost of your patience.  

Beta Test The Escapists 2 Review – Escape From Prison Without Losing Your Sanity