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Peter Stormare Returns As ‘The Replacer’ To Promote Call Of Duty DLC

Back when Black Ops II was the latest game in the Call of Duty rotation, Activision created a character called The Replacer to promote the game. Played by Peter Stormare (Armageddon, Fargo), the character stepped in to give average joes more time for fraggin’.

With the first Call of Duty: Black Ops III map pack, Awakening, nearly upon us, Stormare has re-enlisted. A new video promoting the four maps and new zombies chapter features the actor returning to the role of The Replacer.

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The humorous video also gives us a solid look at the four maps. And Stormare’s ankles. Meow.

The Awakening DLC will be out on February 2 for PlayStation 4. Xbox One and PC gamers will get in about 30 days later. The content is, as of now, not in the cards for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

For more on the Awakening DLC, check out our previous coverage. You can also read our review of Black Ops III from the fall.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Games London initiative to make the city ‘the games capital of the world’

London’s video game industry is about to receive a £1.2 million boost following the launch of Games London, a new program designed to make the city “the games capital of the world.”  …


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Rainbow Six Siege Review – The Under-Equipped Combatant

Ash is dead, but she doesn’t know it yet. 

Our team of operators is positioned at three different points of entry. I’m watching the assault unfold from inside the barricade with a drone I placed under a couch after locating the bomb. I see her outline approach the door cautiously, crouching to conceal the sound of her movement. But when a defender on the other side of the wall goes prone with his gun pointed at the wooden door, my warning to take cover comes too late. The stream of bullets rips the door to shreds, downing my comrade in the process. 

Now it’s four versus five. My teammate Fuze places his cluster charge on a nearby unfortified wall as I back out of my drone view to take position at a barricaded window. The grenades announce their presence with a satisfying thump-thump-thump, sending the defenders scrambling to avoid their explosions. I breach the window seconds afterward and train my sights on an enemy scrambling to heal a downed teammate. Four-three. From here, the skirmish devolves to a frantic display of environmental destruction, tactical peek-and-pop gunfire, and shouting as we communicate enemy positions. As the dust settles we emerge victorious, but now it’s our turn to survive an onslaught.

This satisfying blend of measured team tactics, frantic firefights, and high tech gadgetry has always been the centerpiece of the Rainbow Six experience, but Siege takes a different approach than its predecessors. Singularly focused on creating a balanced competitive playing field, many of the qualities we’ve come to expect from a Team Rainbow joint are AWOL in Siege. Cooperative campaign? Gone. Deep character customization? Abandoned. Terrorist hunt? Still standing, but hamstrung by weak A.I. and inflexibility. Siege sacrifices it all for the sake of one highly tuned multiplayer mode. 

And what a mode it is when everything falls into place. This five-on-five twist on Last Man Standing places the two teams in the roles of attackers and defenders. Before each of the best-of-five rounds starts (or best-of-seven for ranked matches), the attacking team takes control of drones to case the building and hopefully locate the objectives (which can be a hostage to save, a bomb to diffuse, or a weaponized chemical to secure). At the same time, the defenders scramble to fortify their position, laying down barbed wire, reinforcing walls susceptible to breaching, and setting traps. No matter what preparation the defenders make, however, a point of weakness is always present. 

The rounds are won when the attacking team completes its objective, the defenders prevent them from doing so in the allotted time, or if one of the two teams is wiped off the map. In my experience the objectives rarely decided matches; more than 90 percent of rounds were determined by the barrel of a player’s gun.

The depth and variety of these matches is driven by the cast of operators each team takes into a match, but don’t expect the grizzled cast of previous Rainbow Six entries. Siege abandons the Tom Clancy fiction in favor of a G.I. Joe-style ensemble of fighters. Each of the 20 options (10 for attack and 10 for defense) is named for the special ability he or she brings to the fray. For instance, defense-oriented operator Smoke unleashes poisonous gas, Kapkan puts booby traps on doors, and Pulse uses a heartbeat sensor to locate enemies through walls. On the attacker side, Thermite has an exothermic breach that can destroy reinforced walls, Blitz carries a shields useful for barging into dangerous rooms, and Sledge wields a sledgehammer that can break through destructible walls and doors. Each operative has a natural counter, and coordinating your team make-up is paramount to victory. 

After you learn the 10 maps, most of which are expertly designed for this type of match, a game of tactical chess reveals itself. Is the attacking team relying on the cluster bomb attack? Then set up an active defense system to intercept those grenades and protect your teammates. Is barbed wire blocking the most effective point of entry to the objective? Use Twitch’s drone to disable the traps. Contemplating these various strategies and executing them is the biggest thrill Siege offers.

In most shooters, once you die you simply sit on the sidelines until the next round starts. Siege smartly gives early casualties meaning by allowing defeated players to rotate between the security cameras or drones, calling out movement to their teammates still in the fray and even letting them mark enemy positions. Being able to continue as an active participant after death sooths the sting of sitting out the rest of the round, which typically last less than three minutes anyway. 

The tactical realities of these matches necessitate strong communication between your five teammates, which is both a strength and a weakness for Siege. When you have a group of five planning their strategies and calling out threats, the matches are exhilarating. But if you’re playing with teams dominated by players without headsets, the matches inevitably devolve into lone wolf crusades that almost always end with a loss. Ubisoft added visual cues so players without mics can mark threats and see where teammates are downed, but these are inadequate stand-ins for talking in a fever-pitched firefight. 

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Given the dependence on communication, Ubisoft curiously opted against implementing a clan infrastructure to enable players to find like-minded gamers craving a more structured experience. If you don’t jump into a match with a group of friends, you may need several rounds before you find enough players with mics to bring out the best in the game. Considering the lack of other content surrounding this mode, I’m surprised Siege doesn’t offer team names, uniform colors, logos, or eSports standards like spectator mode. Giving players a few more multiplayer modes to play would also go a long way toward rounding out the package.

The player customization also lacks the depth you would expect from Rainbow Six. As you play competitive matches, hunt terrorists, or complete objectives in the brief tutorial missions, you earn Renown. This currency is used to unlock new operatives and purchase weapon attachments or gaudy skins. Unlocking the majority of the 20 operative and the limited amount of scopes, barrels, and handles for the various weapons doesn’t take too long; like Titanfall, Evolve, and Star Wars Battlefront before it, Siege is missing the long-term progression tail to keep players invested. This is especially disappointing given the abundance of player customization found in previous Rainbow Six titles, which let you tweak everything from armor placement to clothing. I appreciate limiting weapon customization for the sake of balance, but nothing is preventing Ubisoft from opening the floodgates with personalization accessories.

The questionable hit detection may drive some players away as well. I commonly saw something very different watching killcams than I experienced during my death. While it seemed like I got a handful of rounds off before being dropped, the replay claims I only fired one. These discrepancies can be maddening, and Ubisoft needs to address this quickly given its eSports aspirations. The rappel system is also awkward; don’t be surprised to plummet to your death when you think you’ve attached the rope but haven’t.

I also noticed occasional infrastructure hiccups in the various modes. Backing out of terrorist mode disbands the party you brought together, server recalibrations between matches can be slow, and replacement players are not always added at the beginning of a match when a player from the last round drops out. Playing three-versus-five is maddening, especially in the ranked play rounds that punish players with a temporary ban should they leave a match before completion. 

Fans of the well-crafted, single-player campaigns of previous Rainbow Six games will find nothing of value in Siege. The short tutorial missions lack replay value, and the popular Terrorist Hunt mode, which can be played with up to five friends, gives players little options other than ramping up the difficulty. Locking players out of selecting the map they want to play on is a curious decision, as are many of the battle tactics you see the enemy A.I. employ.  

The multiplayer core at the heart of Rainbow Six Siege is a great foundation. But given its lack of infrastructure around the mode and severe lack of meaningful modes to buttress it, Siege feels slight when compared to its past entries and the other big-name first-person shooter franchises it competes against. The tactical demands Siege puts on players is unlike anything else on the console market today, and may prove enough for those seeking this flavor of first-person shooter. However, Siege doesn’t do enough to unite players who understand the importance of communication or provide variation in rest of the package. 

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Cibele Review –The Complexities Of Love In The 21st Century

In the Internet era, people are forming complex
relationships, uttering "I love you," before ever being in the same room
together. Even so, one universal truth remains: Relationships are hard. Cibele
is an honest look at Internet communication, love, and sex. The tale is highly
personal, but it evokes an eerie feeling of déjà vu. You've probably had a
similar experience or know someone who has formed a bond this way.

Cibele is unlike anything I've played. The story unfolds in
pieces as you read emails, look at photos, and play games on a personal
computer in 2009. The narrative is split into three acts (taking around two
hours total), allowing you to check the computer for new files to see how the
relationship has grown between two characters: Nina and Blake.

Each act has you logging in to a fictional MMORPG,
mindlessly attacking monsters as you listen to the voice chat. The MMO action
is simple and effective; you click on enemies to auto-attack, and you don't
have a health meter to worry about. This conveys the automatic process that MMO
players develop without getting bogged down in mechanics. Plus, it lets you
focus on the dialogue between the two main characters. These exchanges get
progressively more flirtatious and revealing, leading to sexy photo exchanges
and more innuendo. Watching the relationship unfold is exciting as you're
wondering just how much further it will go – it has a "will they or won't
they?" appeal.

Cibele's biggest strengths are that it's raw and honest. The
narrative is based on a true story, and developers Nina Freeman and Emmett
Butler play the roles of the main characters in the live-action scenes. The
live-actions scenes and voice chat conversations play out naturally, making the
experience feel all the more real. This story is Freeman's, and she puts
herself out there, showing her class poetry assignments, personal photos, and
old website templates. At times, you almost feeling like you're invading her
privacy because it gets so intimate. Freeman lets you get a glimpse into her
life that most people would hide under lock and key, which is admirable – but
at the same time, it makes me feel voyeuristic.

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My favorite moments are when the two converse in the MMO's
private chat, discussing everyday topics at first and eventually going deeper. Many
people form connections playing games together, and Cibele's simulation of that
experience works well. While playing the MMO and chatting, you get messages
from other players and email alerts, putting you in the moment and making it
feel genuine. There's also something to be said about the intimate
conversations; the chats start to get more sexual and involved, but you're
still always left wondering just how much these two people revealed about their
real lives to one another. This mystery kept me hanging on, intrigued to see
the tale through.

Unfortunately, the finale doesn't end up as satisfying as
watching the relationship unfold. The ending is abrupt, providing you little
closure. We see so much of the relationship evolve, but the later part of the
arc is missing and left unaddressed. It feels like someone yelled, "Cut!" too
soon. I liked how Cibele is set up to explore the digital age and
relationships, but it doesn't let its characters offer much reflection on the
subject matter. In addition, some of the live-action video feels like a missed
opportunity to flesh out the characters, since they don't add much to the
journey beyond the growing sexual nature.

Games are continuing to evolve. Just like with
other media, such as movies and books, various genres are surfacing. Cibele
shows an intriguing direction for games to become representations of their
creators' real lives, almost like confessionals. As we've seen more in recent
years, developers are confronting tougher topics, such as sex, depression, and
death. This is an enlightening movement that's still in its infancy. Much like
Cibele, these early lessons have revealed a few stumbling blocks, but I'm glad
they're happening.  

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

‘The itch to make and nothing to say’ – Creative significance and games

Paul Kilduff-Taylor recently suggested that developers concentrate on “creatively significant work” — but what is that? What does it mean? He tackles the topic here. …


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Video: ‘The future of the PlayStation’ from Phil Harrison, in 2000

Former and longtime Sony exec Phil Harrison’s fascinating GDC 2000 Sony keynote, given ahead of PlayStation 2′s Western launch — right before the console went on to win the world. …


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Rumor: More Evidence Of Upcoming ‘The Taken King’ Destiny Expansion Surfaces

In early May, Bungie registered a trademark for something called "The Taken King." At the time, we posited that it could be something related to Destiny, or might be related to another Activision game (based on previous trickery).

An photograph has surfaced that seems to indicate that this is, indeed, the name of an upcoming Destiny expansion. The photo below is an image of a case of Red Bull. It bears The Taken King logo in the color (oxblood) specified in the trademark filing.

Additionally, another image has appeared online showing another angle of the box. As you can see below, it references Red Bull-sponsored pro gamer Michael "Flamesword" Chaves and includes his likeness.

We've reached out to Activision for comment. We'll update should we receive a response.

[Source: PS4.MMGN.com via Agrios Endendros on Twitter, The Destiny Blog]

 

Our Take
These box shots seem quite convincing, down to Flamesword's likeness. Of course, the possibility exists that these could be fakes. If not though, I suspect Activision is going to have some stern words for Red Bull.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Bungie Registers Trademark For ‘The Taken King’

Bungie has registered a new trademark with United States Patent and Trademark Office for something called “The Taken King.” While our first hunch might be the name of an upcoming Destiny expansion, history suggests we might want to think more broadly.

The trademark was filed on April 28, and includes a logo (as seen above). The applicant is listed as Bungie attorney Jim Charne.

While we’re tempted to link this directly to Destiny, one thing gives us pause. Activision pulled a clever head-fake with The Dark Below, Destiny’s first expansion.

That was registered by Blizzard and, at the time, we thought it might be the name of a Diablo expansion. As history shows, that subterfuge worked perfectly.

We’ve reached out to Activision, and we’ll update should we receive a response. What we do know for sure is that Destiny’s second update, House of Wolves, is due out on May 19.

[Source: USPTO via NeoGAF]

 

Our Take
The logo seems like it could be connected Destiny's Hive enemy faction. The naming has the right cadence for the Destiny universe. If not for history, I’d be pretty convinced. Fool me once, though…

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Magic Leap is ‘the only safe way forward’ for VR/AR dev, says CEO

Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz shed a bit more light on what sets the “cinematic reality” startup apart from competitors like Oculus VR while taking part in a brief AMA thread today on Reddit. …


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‘The Faces Of Skyrim’ Showcases Tamriel’s Most Beautiful Portraiture

It’s almost hard to believe that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is over three years old already. It still appears on Steam’s top 10 most played games list and modders continue to make the game more beautiful.

Andy Cull shared with us his work curating some of the most beautiful images taken from the snowy wilds of Skyrim. Cull tells us that all of the images have been taken directly from the game with no touch-up work in Photoshop or other image editing program. There are two galleries of character portraits featuring many (but not all, sorry Khajiit and Argonian fans) of the different races of Tamriel. 

In addition, Cull has assembled a gallery of Skyrim landscapes, featuring snowy mountainsides, hazy forests, and craggy ruins. A separate gallery houses images of Skyrim's gorgeous vistas.

You can see the Faces of Skyrim galleries here and here. For the Dawn’s Beauty landscapes (the Aldmeris name for Tamriel), visit this page.

For those interested in beautifying their Skyrim adventure, there are a number of options available. The Steam Workshop includes a number of different mods to tweak and enhance the experience.

For those looking for something a bit more technical, last year I spent a weekend going through a process called the Skyrim Total Enhancement Project (STEP). This includes dozens of mods that change visuals, sounds, textures, and menu elements.

While my results aren’t quite as striking as what Cull has assembled, the visuals are still a big improvement from what the game manages on its own. You can read up on STEP on the group’s website.

[Images: Rahna by Dovahqueen (top), TESV 2014-05-25 20-49-22-78 by Wanako Works (middle), Heading in by Pangaliosr (bottom)]

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