Ace Combat 7's Multiplayer And VR Modes Provide Stunning New Experiences

The phrase “a sinking feeling” describes the way your stomach feels when you descend in a roller coaster or a car crests a steep hill, but it’s something that’s hard to emulate without physically moving. While a lot of games end up being capable of bringing about that feeling, none excel at it quite like Ace Combat, and the newest game in the series makes you feel like you’re actually in the cockpit of a fighter jet.

As a series, Ace Combat has been its own roller coaster in narrative over the years. After a fairly disastrous foray into the real world, the series is returning back into the realms of fictious lands and their fictious wars. The opening CG scene for Ace Combat 7 is narrated by a young girl who, over the course of many years, built a fighter jet with her war veteran grandfather and his friends. She remains an ancillary fixture of the story, adjacent to a number of the big events and skirmishes breaking out during the war between the Osean and Erusean armies, serving more as your R2D2 than your Luke Skywalker.

The first mission takes the training wheels off the moment you go wheels up, tasking you with the main goals of your gameplay: shoot things and don’t crash. After being told that there are enemy fighters and bombers in the area, your squad dispatches to a nearby island to get a practical lesson in locking on to enemies and shooting missiles at them. After the mission ends, a cutscene explains that Erusean forces placed drones in shipping containers sent to Osea and remotely activated them to attack, which seems like a pretty good plan.

The second mission has your fighter taking on those drones, jets with the ability to make pinpoint turns into the foggy clouds above. Dogfighting with these enemies as you do your best to dip in and out of the clouds to avoid icing up and finding yourself face-to-face with the ground as you struggle to pull up and not crash straight into the soil is an actually indescribable feeling and feels fresh every single time it happens, which is a lot because I’m a bad pilot.

The VR missions might be the real star of the show, however, and are genuinely impressive. The side missions put players back in the role of Mobius 1, the hero of Ace Combat 4 and general mythological hero of Erusea. The venerated tones with which characters speak about you is probably the second biggest thrill in the game behind the emetic quality of doing loops to dodge missiles in VR. While it is only a side mode, it could stand as proof of concept of how well VR dogfighting can work in general.

We also got a chance to try multiplayer, a point-based online match that puts six planes in a 3v3 fight. Enemies take a lot longer to kill in this mode, so you go for inching you way up with bullets and the occasional missile. At the end of each round, you’re given accolades depending on what you excelled at or failed spectacularly at, such as “Avoided the greatest number of missiles using cloud-cover” or “Fired the most missed shots.”

As someone who has dabbed in Ace Combat before but rarely dove in head-first, I came away from the demo excited to play more, especially with a PSVR in tow. It will also be interesting to see how the fanbase takes to the new game’s narrative hooks and the return to what people liked about Ace Combat in the first place.

Ace Combat 7 releases for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 18, then on February 1 on PC.

Beta Test Ace Combat 7’s Multiplayer And VR Modes Provide Stunning New Experiences

Nier: Automata Game Of The Yorha Edition Announced

A ratings leak a few weeks ago accidentally let slip the title Nier: Automata Game of the Yorha Edition, a pun on Game of the Year using the organization name within the game. It’s not a high-level pun or anything, but it’s serviceable. In a way that makes me wonder whether or not Square Enix remembered if they had already announced it or not, the Nier: Automata Twitter account today confirmed the existence of the game with a message from director Yoko Taro, complete with spelling errors.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

It is likely that the Game of the Yorha Edition will be similar in concept to the Xbox One port of Nier: Automata, which was dubbed the Become as Gods Edition. That version packaged all the game’s DLC onto the disc, which unfortunately did not include any real story DLC, mostly just arenas and boss fights for players that want to dig deep into that stuff. But hey, if you’ve been curious, this is as good a time as any to try.

Nier: Automata is currently available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Beta Test Nier: Automata Game Of The Yorha Edition Announced

Tales Of Crestoria, New Mobile Game, Comes West In 2019

Bandai Namco has announced that their newest Tales of game, a mobile title named Tales of Crestoria, will be coming stateside in 2019. While not quite dubbed the next mainline or flagship Tales of game, Crestoria has all the resources of one and will be releasing in 2019 on iOS and Android.

“Tales of Crestoria takes place in an oppressive dystopia where every citizen must carry with them an all-seeing ‘Vision Orb’ that monitors for criminal violations,” Bandai Namco writes. “The game follows protagonists Kanata, a naive boy blindly accepting of to the Vision Orbs’ justice, and Misella, an audacious orphan unbridled in her dedication to defending Kanata. Due to the horrific events of one fateful night, the duo find themselves branded “Transgressors”, and condemned to death by society’s popular vote—the draconian system of justice by which their world is governed. With eyes now opened to the injustices of society, a chance meeting with Vicious, “The Great Transgressor,” gives Kanata and Misella a defining choice: Own your fate, or let fate own you.”

To celebrate, Bandai Namco has released a concept movie to show off the themes of that description in a fairly cool artstyle Check it out below.

Like most recent Tales of games, the title will be a collaboration between artists Mutsumi Inomata and Kosuke Fujishima.

Despite Bandai Namco traditionally releasing one mainline Tales of game a year, they have slowed down considerably in the last few years, not releasing a new title since 2016’s Tales of Berseria. Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition, a remaster of the decade-old classic with additional content for English-speaking players, will see release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on January 11.

Beta Test Tales Of Crestoria, New Mobile Game, Comes West In 2019

Sledgehammer Founder And Dead Space Creator Leaves Activision

Almost ten years ago, Glen Schofield surprised a lot of industry watchers and fans alike by announcing that he was leaving EA Visceral and founding a new studio at Activision called Sledgehammer Games. Today, Schofield announced on Twitter that particular journey is over as he moves on to further things outside the company.

Schofield founded Sledgehammer in 2009 under the auspices of Activision to work mostly on Call of Duty as part of Activision’s plan to start trading off yearly titles in the series between three studios. As Schofield mentions in his tweet, Sledgehammer oversaw Modern Warfare 3, Advanced Warfare, and World War II. The last of those games was such a success that Schofield and co-founding partner Michael Condrey were brought into Activision’s corporate team to oversee all of the company’s games just earlier this year.

While at EA Visceral, Schofield served as the creator and executive producer of Dead Space, the seminal sci-fi horror series. His credits also include directing Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain and Akuji the Heartless. He was also given special thanks in Call of Duty: Black Ops and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver.

Beta Test Sledgehammer Founder And Dead Space Creator Leaves Activision

Panzer Dragoon I And II Remakes In Development

Panzer Dragoon Orta

Earlier today, Sega and a company named Forever Entertainment announced that they would be co-creating and co-publishing remakes for Sega’s Saturn shooter Panzer Dragoon and its sequel Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei. The first game will be made available before the end of 2019, if all things go according to schedule.

Forever Entertainment is a Polish publisher and developer which is known for a large number of games, but most notably the recent Fear Effect: Sedna. The company obtained the license through a Square Enix program that licenses out old IPs to developers that want to do something with them, which they certainly did as you can tell from our review.

The company describes the games as “refreshes” that conform to modern graphical standards, though it is unclear exactly what they mean by either descriptor. 

“The entire Panzer Dragoon series has been repeatedly remade and released on many platforms,” Forever Entertainment writes in a press release. “The last re-launch took place in April 2018 on Xbox One, where players can play Panzer Dragoon Orta with a backward compatibility. The new version of the game will be characterized by a completely new graphics compatible with today’s standards and several modifications of the game, making it more attractive to modern players, while remaining faithful to the original in terms of story.”

Press inquiries to Sega are redirected back to Forever Entertainment, with the Japanese company stating that they are not involved with the title. Forever did not yet respond to our inquiry of how Sega is co-creating the games in that instance.

The two Panzer Dragoon games being remade are both rail shooters made by Yukio Futatsugi, who later went on to make the Xbox One launch title Crimson Dragon. He is currently working on Swery65’s pet-based mystery game, The Good Life. The Panzer Dragoon series also birthed the rare and lauded Panzer Dragoon Saga, which sells for over $1000 for mint condition western copies.

Beta Test Panzer Dragoon I And II Remakes In Development

Doom On Switch Gets Anniversary Update With Better Performance

It was kind of a surprise last year when Doom was abruptly announced and then quickly released for the Nintendo Switch. The game had to make some concessions to fit on Nintendo’s lower-powered console compared to its PS4 and Xbox One releases, but porting studio Panic Button did a noticeably good job with a tough task. Now, a year after release, the developer is issuing an anniversary patch to, among other things, help the game run better.

As explained in the tweet, Doom now allows you to add friends to your friends list based on recent player data, meaning you can befriend or make a friendly rival out of someone you played against in multiplayer. Video capture was also added, which speaks to further optimizations, as video capture apparently uses up a degree of system resources so several games don’t support it.

Panic Button is also behind the Switch port of Doom Eternal, the still in-development Doom sequel, meaning that the performance optimizations are likely because of work getting done on Doom Eternal being able to transfer backwards.

Doom Eternal is scheduled for release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC in 2019.

Beta Test Doom On Switch Gets Anniversary Update With Better Performance

The Sports Desk – NHL 98: The Greatest Sports Game Intro Of All Time

I was talking with Game Informer creative director and friend Jeff Akervik one day, and somewhere in the conversation NHL 98 came up – specifically its intro. I never played the game back in the day, and I don’t think I could remember hardly any sports game intro off the top of my head – that’s how pedestrian most of them are.

Akervik was not only adamant that I see the intro, but that it was one of his favorites in all of video games. After finding the video on YouTube and chuckling at the thorough ’90s-ness of the production and a bygone era of the NHL, the metal guitar riffs kicked in, sending the intro to another level that concluded – fittingly – with an explosion.

Suitably impressed, I was curious how the whole thing came about. In these days of pervasive licensed music, the NHL 98 intro is striking for its tenor and commendable for simply going for it.

One of the people behind the intro is Jeff van Dyck veteran video game composer and audio director who has won BAFTA awards for Alien: Isolation and Shogun: Total War Warlord Edition. Van Dyck and Saki Kaskas both wrote the music for the game, and I talked to Van Dyck about the game and his time with the NHL series.

The Word of that Game Was ‘Distortion’

“Nobody was really filtering what we were doing,” says Van Dyck of his and Kaskas’ work on NHL 98, “and it seemed like the further we pushed it the more people liked it.”

Despite the relatively harmonious process of working on the game itself, Van Dyck did not get off on the right foot with soon-to-be-employer Electronic Arts when he interviewed for EA Canada in Vancouver in 1992. Van Dyck answered a job posting for an audio programmer even though he wasn’t a programmer at all.

“I was interviewed by all these programmers, and I just failed that interview miserably,” he says. “But two weeks later they phoned me back and said, ‘You’re a crap audio programmer, but you’re obviously really good at producing music. We’d like to offer you a job in our audio department.'”

Despite his proficiency, van Dyck wasn’t trusted with game music straight out of the gate, but was tasked with creating sound effects for the PC version of the NHL series on the then-standard Sound Blaster sound cards. After writing music for inline skating title Skitchin’, Van Dyck earned composer duties for NHL 96 on PC.

Van Dyck says that all the music for the game was streamed so they weren’t limited by the technology at the time, allowing him to record music and put it straight into the game – a process which led him to bring Saki Kaskas to EA, whom Van Dyck met through the Vancouver music scene, and the two were in a jazz/prog-rock band. Kaskas’ guitar work impressed those within EA, and the pair co-wrote music through NHL 98.

“[Producer Ken Sayler] said something like, ‘There should be a voice in here, an announcer, saying some stuff. Can you write some stuff?” remembers Van Dyck of composing music for the intro. “And I said, ‘I’m not really sure what he should say,’ and basically [Sayler] just rattled off what you hear in that intro. It was very flippant, the way he issued it. I think he was expecting me to re-write it, but at the time I just went, ‘Well, it sounds good enough to me.'”

Van Dyck wrote and jammed along to the game, composing mainly on keyboard (mapping bass and drums onto the keys) and trying to go with the flow of the vibe he was getting from the game itself. He gravitated to the en vogue industrial sound of the time, adding synths and a drum machine. Van Dyck says engineer Ken “Hiwatt” Marshall had a lot to do with the overall sound. “The word of that game was ‘distortion’ – there’s distortion on everything in that game. At some point were we going to push the music so hard that the execs would say, ‘Look you guys, you’ve gone too far with this?’ But nobody every said, ‘stop.'” Appropriately, a running gag during recording was ending songs with an explosion, which thankfully made its way into the intro itself.

Marshall used digital plug-ins to produce effects, and liked to include some “trickery,” says Van Dyck, into the songs, including producing and recording feedback from a radio and distilling a song of Kaskas’ down into what ended up sounding like a drill solo. Van Dyck says that they weren’t really limited by technology or budget, and at one point they flew a drummer in from Toronto to record although they sampled him and used some loops in the game rather than his actual playing.

At the end of NHL 98, Van Dyck didn’t take much notice to how fans reacted to the game or his work – in the pre-heyday of the internet, his attitude was to just move on to the next project. “EA appreciated it,” he says. “They knew we were stepping out of the box to do something that stood out.”

Moving Into a New Era

For NHL 99, Van Dyck knew he was going to once again work on the intro, but foreshadowing the future, the intro and its music was built around a licensed song – David Bowie’s classic “Heroes.” Van Dyck thought the use of Bowie’s song was very cool, even though it wasn’t his choice and he didn’t know how everything went together with the music he composed until he saw the final product.

NHL 99 was written after Van Dyck moved to Australia, and as fate would have it, Van Dyck lived blocks away from EA Australia. This enabled him to do some work for their titles like Rugby, Cricket, and Australian Rules Football, as well as EA’s Sled Storm, among others. EA Australia was also the distributor of Sega’s Shogun Total War, and this lose connection enabled him to be hired onto that project, which led to another successful phase in his career.

Today Van Dyck composes music and audio for indie titles, including PC RTS Forts. He is also working on a project to honor Kaskas, who unfortunately passed away in 2016. Van Dyck is finishing off the solo album Kaskas’ was recording at the time, including getting some of Kaskas’ friends to play on it. Van Dyck hopes to have the project finished in the summer of 2019.

EA’s shift toward using EA Trax and its licensed music was part of what led to Van Dyck moving on from the NHL series and the company, but his and Kaskas’ work is remembered fondly. Van Dyck says he gets messages from fans who love the music during his run, saying it brings them back to a better time of their youth, even if the artist in Van Dyck is always critical. “I listen to some of my older stuff and I cringe a little bit because I feel like I’m better at it now than I was back then,” he says. “Why did I mix it like that? Why are those notes there?”

I disagree. Watching and listening to NHL 98 today, it seems almost perfect.

Beta Test The Sports Desk – NHL 98: The Greatest Sports Game Intro Of All Time

New Godzilla Trailer Makes Mountains Out Of Titans

Warner Bros. Studios

Godzilla, the newest kaiju movie from Warner Bros and the latest film in their self-dubbed MonsterVerse, has finally gotten a second trailer elucidating a little on the odds stacked up against Godzilla. Of course humans are at risk, too, but that seems less important.

Check out the trailer below.

The trailer openly pontificates on the idea of weaponizing Godzilla, which is an idea that seems great with basically no flaws in it. Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah eventually make the decision way easier by wrecking things up in, well, a war of the monsters.

Godzilla releases in theaters on May 31. 

Beta Test New Godzilla Trailer Makes Mountains Out Of Titans

Stardew Valley Multiplayer Coming To Switch In A Few Days

Back in July, Stardew Valley developer ConcernedApe and former/sporadic publisher Chucklefish announced that multiplayer would be coming to the Harvest Moon-like game eventually. While it has been out on PC since August, the Switch version hasn’t had any updates beyond a brief mention last week that it is in submission. Now it looks like we’ll be seeing the multiplayer update in just a matter of days.

The update letting the game access multiplayer is coming Wednesday, December 12. The new multiplayer will let you build a farm with friends, get married, attend events together, and basically live the dream farm life with someone else. 

There’s also a number of single-player improvements, such as a traveling night market, new characters, and your horse can wear hats. You can find the full list of changes and improvements here. Updates for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are also on their way, while the Vita version was confirmed not to be getting the multiplayer update due to technological reasons.

Developer ConcernedApe recently transitioned the PS4, Xbox One, and PC versions to self-publishing Stardew Valley under his own label, while Chucklefish retained the rights to publish the Switch and mobile versions.

Beta Test Stardew Valley Multiplayer Coming To Switch In A Few Days

Here's Everything You Need To Know About Rage 2's Factions

Within the fiction of Id Software’s universe, it’s been nearly three decades since the ending of the original Rage, and the various groups that Nicholas Raine squared off against have shifted radically with the landscape and times, their philosophies and the roles they play becoming more developed. Here are the five factions of bandits, outlaws, monsters, and outcasts you can expect to fight during your furious travels and what drives them.

Goon Squad
Originally the group of British punk-looking bandits known as Wasteland, the Goon Squad has become even more nihilistic and depraved since the conclusion of the first game. “Their aesthetic has evolved from that British punk look to something rooted in any wild junk culture you might find,” says Narrative Director Odd Ahlgren. “They’re all about completely unfiltered violence.” The Goon Squad is one of the few agendaless factions in the Wasteland, causing havoc for the sake of it, and even cheering when their allies are killed in battle. “For them, death is probably the ultimate sensation,” narrative gameplay director Loke Wallmo.

Until recently they haven’t been too troublesome, sticking to harassing passersby. However, someone is giving them destructive weapons that they’re unleashing on anyone in sight. “Who is giving them these weapons and why is a mystery that will unravel throughout the game,” Ahlgren teases.

The Authority
The foes of the first game return, as does their leader Martin Cross. A vicious, fascist regime that seeks to impose Cross’ vision on the world, they will stop at nothing to squash the bandits and force the inhabitants of the world to get in line. As the times have changed, so has the tech and soldiers the Authority uses. “The Authority has replaced the free-thinking mutants with more cybernetic implants to have more control over them,” Ahlgren says, with much of the Authority’s troops being pathetic fodder soldiers that look pitiful and grotesque. Even Cross, who’s been using a faulty method of cloning to keep himself alive throughout the years, is little more than a torso and head screwed into a giant exosuit, but that doesn’t stop this faction from being incredibly deadly thanks to their numbers and advanced tech.

Immortal Shrouded
During the war that raged between Rage and Rage 2, the hyper-militaristic group known as The Shrouded sided with the villainous authority. The alliance was short-lived. “They realized that the Authority was taking advantage of them,” says Ahlgren, “but because they had a warrior’s Bushido type code they couldn’t back down. They decided to symbolically kill themselves by decimating a tenth of their own people.” Since the culling, the soldiers have started wearing masks, vowing to never let anyone take advantage of them again. The Immortal Shrouded have advanced technology to go along with their military training, making them one of the deadliest factions in the land. We often saw them using electric swords and cloaking technology in battles against the Goon Squad and Walker.

River Hogs
This faction sticks to the swampy wetlands of Rage 2, which is fitting because these folks are nasty. Essentially a “very trashy” biker gang, the River Hogs enjoy all sorts of excess: drugs, drinking, sex, and being obscene. Don’t let their indulgences fool you though: The River Hogs are very competent mechanics (building and maintaining all their vehicles and equipment) and quite dangerous. We watched Walker square off against a giant mech in one of the swamp’s trashyards and come away with more than a few scrapes.

The Abadon
One of the big twists of the last game was that the dangerous mutants that roamed the Wasteland were in fact the result of horrific experiments put on by the Authority. When the Authority withdrew from battle, they left their mutant military leaders (called Warheads) behind like discarded munitions. The Warheads gathered the other less intelligent mutants and formed a new society called The Abadon. We won’t spoil the reason behind the name because it’s something you should find out for yourself but, rest assured, it’s amusing. The Abadon form one of the most interesting groups in Rage 2, with a simplistic religion that mandates sacrificing humans to a god to keep death at bay, thanks to their sympathetic plight to find salvation in a dangerous world.

For more on Rage 2 be sure to check out our cover story hub by clicking on the banner below.

Beta Test Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Rage 2’s Factions