Master of The Free World Productions | Jumpcut Entertainment Network

A New Sherlock Holmes Adventure Is Coming This Year

Frogwares and Focus Home Interactive have announced their next Sherlock Holmes title. Crimes & Punishments will be coming to PC and consoles this year.

In the reveal trailer for the title, you’ll see Holmes investigate, interrogate, and subdue suspects. Players will need to explore crime scenes and question those involved in order to deduce the perpetrator’s identity.

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Frogwares and Focus Home Interactive are no strangers to Sherlock Holmes. The duo released The Testament of Sherlock Holmes in 2013. Read on here for our review.

Sherlock Holmes: Crime and Punishments is slated for release this year. It's coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. – The Feed

Moments: An Epic Bounty Chase In Red Dead Redemption

There’s a set period of time when an open-world game has a sense of wonder. Those beginning hours of discovery fill the mind with possibilities of what kind of shenanigans can be had in each new area that is introduced. Usually, new locations are presented in a structured or regimented way; missions become available in new places specifically for the game to progress to that new area. But every once in a while, something more organic happens.

My first bounty hunter mission in Red Dead Redemption is a moment I’ll never forget. When first riding in to enter the city of Armadillo, myriad side missions and activities pop up, one of which is bounty hunting. Taking a wanted poster puts a marker on the map, and it’s your duty to go to that area, find that varmint, and bring him in dead or alive. My first bounty took me to a bandit hideout on the outskirts of Pike’s Basin near MacFarlane Ranch, a place that would be introduced in a story mission later on, but for the time being was a new area to me. 

I approached the campsite and shot a group of half a dozen bandits, except for the main target because obviously I wanted him alive. By the time I had killed the bounty’s posse however, he had already gotten on his horse and darted away. I whistled for my steed, mounted up and galloped off, and thus began one of my favorite chase sequences I’ve had in a video game – and it wasn’t even scripted.

That rapscallion took off into the distance, towards the small hills behind MacFarlane Ranch. Since this was near the start of the game, I was new and inexperienced at using the lasso, and there was no dead-eye mechanic that slowed down time. This actually made the chase more exciting and challenging. I didn’t want to shoot him off the horse for fear of killing him, so aiming a lasso at a moving horse became a tricky situation. I would catch up to him and try to lasso him off his horse and barely miss. Finally I lassoed him off, but then when I got off my horse to tie him up, he shot at me and scurried back onto his horse, and the chase began anew. 

I chased the outlaw away from MacFarlane Ranch into territory I’d never seen before.  He led his horse past the dry fields of the prairie and into the marshes and wetlands far off the beaten path. I later came to learn that the chase took me near Thieves’ Landing, a location that is not formally introduced until much later in the game. The interesting thing about Red Dead Redemption is that unlike most games that restrict the player into a small area at the beginning, Red Dead’s only restrictions are the rivers that aren’t traversable, giving you a huge expanse to explore from the outset. Most of the land has no activities related to it, but it’s beautiful all the same. I might have never seen this area if it wasn’t for this chase, and that’s pretty awesome.

Meanwhile as the chase went on, Bill Elm and Woody Jackson’s brilliant, rollicking score blasted out of my TV set. For those that haven’t played the game, imagine hearing this playing for the first time as you ride through uncharted territory in a high-pressure horse chase: (Please visit the site to view this media) Thanks to YouTuber allaboutVGmusic for the video

 Everything from the bass line to the guitars to the percussion was pitch-perfect for a Wild West chase. Hearing this music play for a good five minutes as I struggled to track my man down made the experience just incredible. 

Finally, in a wooded area in the middle of nowhere, I managed to get him off the horse and tie him up before he could get back on. As the epic music faded out, I realized that the sequence was everything a Western game should be: open, wild, and spontaneous. 

As the game went on, I never had quite the same experience with the bounty hunting. Once I got used to the mechanics I realized that with the slow-motion dead eye mechanic I could shoot the horse and shoot the bandit in the leg quickly, and the mission would be over in thirty seconds. What was once unknown territory became known, and there was less excitement. This is inevitably what happens if you play a game long enough: Everything becomes familiar. 

But there is always that sweet spot in games where nearly everything you do is novel, and that’s what I love. In the case of open-world games, there’s an element of spontaneity and unpredictability that adds even more excitement. I had no idea where that bandit was going to go, and he took me into completely new parts of the world. He could have taken five different players into five different directions, and that’s pretty darn cool. When you’re in a moment that is completely new and you have no idea what’s going to happen next, that’s when games are at their best. – The Feed

Test Chamber – Octodad: Dadliest Catch

After becoming finalists for the IGF student prize in 2011, developer Young Horses formed to build a new version of Octodad for a more public release. That game, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, has just released on PC, Mac, and Linux, and we hopped in to give it a try.

In today’s Test Chamber, Andrew Reiner and I explore one of the early levels of the game, helping Octodad start his day at home and complete some yard work. The resulting flailing and knocking over of objects gives a great idea of the both the laughs and frustrations inherent to this strange game. 

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For more episodes of Test Chamber, visit our hub. – The Feed

Activision Evaluating Future Of UK Studio Behind Call Of Duty: Strike Team

Activision is currently in the process of reassessing its relationship with UK studio Blast Furnace. The Leeds UK studio is behind 2013’s mobile Call of Duty title, Strike Team.

"Like any successful business, Activision Publishing continuously works to evolve its business based on our strategic plans and market opportunities,” a representative told Game Informer via email.  “As we focus on our 2014 operating plan, we are aligning our resources against our anticipated business requirements. As part of this review, we have started a consultation at Blast Furnace based in Leeds in the UK.”

Activision is currently investigating a number of options, which could include closing the studio, downsizing it, or helping it along the way to independence. The publisher will be taking time to evaluate the situation before taking action.

“Blast Furnace is a very talented studio and has been a great partner to Activision,” the company representative writes. “As part of this consultation exercise we are exploring all our options regarding the studio." 

Blast Furnace was founded in 2011. Among its credits are mobile titles based on Pitfall and the game show Wipeout.

[Source: MCV]


Our Take
Call of Duty: Strike Force didn’t live up to the critical reception of the PC and console titles. It’s unfortunate that the 47 employees are in peril of losing their jobs, and we are hopeful that the resolution will be independence or, if not that, downsizing that preserves some jobs. – The Feed

[Update] Report: Microsoft Close To Naming New CEO

Update: New reports suggest that Microsoft will be meeting soon to make a final determination on new leadership. Recode is reporting that the board of directors will be meeting this weekend (though not during the Super Bowl, in which the Seattle Seahawks are playing). 

An announcement is then expected to come next week. As we reported last night in our original writeup, executive vice president Satya Nadella appears to be the frontrunner.

Original Story:

Bloomberg is reporting that the tech giant and console manufacturer will be naming Satya Nadella to replace retiring CEO Steve Ballmer.

In the report, Bloomberg says that a source within Microsoft says that Nadella has been viewed as one of the strongest candidates for the job. Nadella is currently the executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Groups. He was previously head of R&D of the company's online division and worked at Sun Microsystems prior to Microsoft.

It's also being reported that company founder Bill Gates may step down from his role as chairman of the board, a spot that will likely be taken by Microsoft lead independent director John Thompson.

[Source: Bloomberg/photo courtesy of Bloomberg]

Our Take:
I don't know much about Nadella, but he obviously has a long history within the company and the tech industry. One thing that's a positive note is that Nadella's roots are in product development, a contrast from Steve Ballmer, who came from the sales department. Also, if it's true that Bill Gates is stepping down as chairman of the board, that will be the true end of an era at Microsoft. It will be interesting to see how these changes affect the company's Xbox strategy. – The Feed

Dark Souls II Fan-Made Shield Contest Concludes

From Software’s ongoing fan-made shield contest is finishing strong with two more shields making their way from concept to reality, both in the real world and in the world of Dark Souls II.

Designed by Dark Souls fan Illim under the name “Rose Shield”, the shield will appear in-game as the “Blossom Kite Shield” with a description that states it “soothes the weary heart of its bearer.”

The other winner announced today comes from fan Charles Collier, whose shield submitted as “Disunion” will make its way into the Dark Souls universe under the name of “WatchDragon Parma.” It’s twin dragon design in-game depicts the “ebb and flow of the fate of all things living.”

Both winners will be receiving a Dark Souls II Collector’s Edition and a real life version of their shield crafted by the blacksmiths of Armédia, a company specializing in the creation of medieval weapons and accessories. 

You can check out the shields in all their glory in the gallery below, and check out previous contest winners here and here.

If you are excited for Dark Souls II, you won't have to wait much longer. The game arrives on March 11 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.

[Source: Dark Souls on Facebook] – The Feed

Octodad Review – Clever Humor With Diminishing Returns

Octodad has no shortage of wit, creativity, or laughs. As the story of an octopus masquerading as a human, Octodad starts off strong with a clear focus on the crazy premise, and gameplay that is simple enough to showcase the wacky physics and fun of knocking lamps around the room and flinging axes across the yard. It’s a smart, innovative testbed for interactions, but the more it tries to be a game filled with challenging objectives and boss fights, the more Octodad reveals that underneath the suit, there’s not much to get excited about. 

I was instantly charmed by Octodad and his flailing tentacles. An opening level set at the poor guy’s wedding, and a subsequent morning at home with his family, are both filled with playful quips from the characters. Beneath the amusing surface is a thoughtful theme about the way we all grow up and have to start going through the motions of being an adult, even when we don’t always know what we’re doing. 

At first, the gameplay that accompanies the inventive concept is haphazard, but entertaining. Moving Octodad’s appendages with any clear purpose is an exercise in frustration, and that’s just fine when the tasks are simple. Sure, it’s a little tricky to maneuver his tentacles into place so he can grill those hamburgers for his kids, but with a little practice, the job gets done. The tasks become more difficult as you progress, but unlike most games, your precision and understanding of the controls never improve. By the time you’re trying to climb obstacle-laden towers, fleeing from an angry chef, or sneaking past wary sailors, the once-amusing control mechanics are infuriating. 

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The later levels are dominated by ill-advised stealth sequences, frustrating camera angles, and complex level geometries which are too easy to get stuck on. It’s all capped off by one of the most tedious boss battles I’ve had the misfortune to encounter in recent years. The jokes just don’t bring the same chuckles when you’ve been cursing for minutes about futilely trying to climb an escalator that’s going the wrong way. These later sequences demand a level of precision that the purposefully slippery controls can’t accommodate. 

Octodad supports multiple control inputs, which is good, because the keyboard/mouse setup is a mess – I strongly recommend a 360 controller or other gamepad. Young Horses has included an amusing way to play cooperatively by assigning different players to different appendages – a good fit for folks considering a playthrough with the family. Octodad also offers some fun extras scattered throughout, like a secret 2D level and a collection of hidden ties, but many of the tasks involved in completing these optional sections are more trouble than they’re worth. Engaged players will also want to check out the included level editor, and the workshop mode that lets you explore other users’ creations. It pains me to level a harsh judgment against a game that’s trying something new and innovative, but Octodad doesn’t balance the frustration with the funny. – The Feed

Opinion – Lack Of Innovation Isn’t A Problem

"Innovative" has always been an overused buzzword in
the video game industry, to the point where the term has lost all meaning. Lately
however, gamers have become fond of using innovation – or the lack thereof – as
a convenient excuse to condemn series and genres they simply don't like.

Scroll through the comments on a story discussing virtually
any popular franchise or sequel, and inevitably someone will cite the absence
of innovation as a reason for hating it. Usually, this argument is presented as
being incontrovertible, a self-evident assertion of the game's lack of value. As
far as pointless Internet arguments go, it's pretty effective and damning –
unless you actually stop and think about it for more than five seconds.

Part of the problem is that the word "innovative" is so overused
and misunderstood that it has no meaning. In the most basic sense, describing
something as innovative simply means that it contains new ideas – something
that is true of most games to at least some degree. However, for most people
innovative means much more. We consider a game innovative when it does
something clever, something we haven't seen before, something groundbreaking. By
straying from the dictionary definition, "innovative" already has a nebulous
and mystical quality to it – a perfect descriptor for people who want something
new but don't know precisely what that new thing should be.

At the same time, "innovative" is a dreadfully overused term, one of
many buzzwords publishers invoke to convince consumers that their title offers
a revolutionary new experience that will forever change how they play games. In
reality, most games only feature incremental improvements. That's not a bad
thing; most great products come from years of refinement, and are not miraculously
perfect in their first iteration. But no developer or publisher wants players to
think of their game as more of the same plus a few minor improvements, and everyone
wants to play a game that's Innovative with a capital "I."

Nowadays, gamers have contorted the indefinable qualities of
innovation as a way to condemn and dismiss games that aren't suited to their
tastes. Our recent coverage
of Evolve
made this strikingly clear to me. Turtle Rock is playing with a
lot of new and genuinely unique ideas, from an asymmetrical player structure to
hunting and trapping mechanics that we haven't seen in games before. The result
is a game that plays differently than any game I've played before, which was
one of the reasons I was excited to introduce our readers to it. Imagine my
surprise when I found out that – according to some online comments – Evolve isn't
innovative because you're still shooting guns.

In cases like this, people are obscuring their personal game
preferences with allegations over a lack of innovation. It's not that the game
isn't introducing new ideas – they're just not ideas the game's detractors are interested
in because they don't appreciate or enjoy the core mechanics. Evolve lost these
players at the word "shooter." But rather than condemn a game based solely on
its genre, they dress up their complaints with a word that's too vague to
refute; it's not "innovative." If someone does call B.S., they can always fall
back on the classic philosophical argument that every idea is derived from
something else.

The biggest victim of this kind of accusation is Call of Duty.
Activision's FPS series makes for an easy target; the franchise is one of the
industry's biggest commercial successes, it sees annual releases, and it's largely
iterative, with each new game building on previous installments. Call of Duty
provides so much low-hanging fruit that you can hardly blame trolls for showing
up to shake the branch. You've probably seen the comments: "Call of Duty doesn't
do anything new! It's the exact same game every year! It's not innovative!"

Only the series is different every year, and sometimes
wildly so. Call of Duty: Ghosts has so many strange detours off the battlefield
– from first-person dog sequences to shark attacks and spacewalks – that it's hardly
recognizable as a military shooter anymore. The multiplayer offerings are
equally eclectic, with a new co-operative mode that pits players against invading
aliens and DLC that lets
you play as Michael Myers
. How are these ideas not new? What more could the
developers possibly do to shake up the series?

There's nothing wrong with being uninterested in a game series,
but we should be honest about our reasons for disliking them. New ideas are
being explored in every genre – yes, even in first-person shooters – and iterative
refinement is an equally important (albeit less sexy) aspect of the industry. Innovation
isn't a problem, and the term is so abused and overused that we should strike it from our vocabulary. – The Feed

What are Zynga’s plans for 2014? We go to the source

Gamasutra interviews Clive Downie, the company’s newly-installed COO, to find out what the NaturalMotion acquisition means and how the company hopes to find broad mobile success. …

Gamasutra News

Payday 2 Gets Free Update, Third Piece of DLC

Payday 2's third DLC is now live on Steam and adds some heavy weaponry and new masks for players to enjoy. New content brings a familiar foe back into the fray, too.

The game’s Gage Weapon Pack #2 adds three light machine guns, the Brenner-21 Light Machine Gun, the KSP Light Machine Gun and the RPK Light Machine Gun. A batch of four new masks for players to equip during their bank robbing escapades rounds out the dlc, which is priced at $ 4.99 on Steam. 

A free update coinciding with the release of the DLC adds an enemy that may be familiar to players of the original Payday – the cloaker. The free update also includes four new knives for players to equip, perfect for stealth takedowns.

You can check out screens from the update and new DLC in the gallery below. For more on Payday 2, our award winner for best cooperative multiplayer shooter of 2013, be sure to check out our review. – The Feed