Sunday, May 17, 2015

IT News Head Lines (TweakTown) 5/18/2015


CD Projekt Red removes 'PC vs PS4' comparison videos of The Witcher 3
The launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been an interesting one, something that hasn't been filled with bugs and watered down graphics with hidden options in it like Watch Dogs experienced, but something entirely different.

CD Projekt Red, the developer behind The Witcher series of games, has been quite open during the development of its open-world title. Except, that is, when it comes to comparing The Witcher 3 between the PlayStation 4, and PC. Marcin Momot, who works for the studio, talked with German website PCGamesHardware, where he talked about the differences between the PS4 and PC versions of the game. The developer reached out to the website, asking them to remove their video.

Momot said that the main differences between the PC and PS4 versions of the game will be the draw distance, frame rate, resolution and exclusive features like NVIDIA's HairWorks technology. Momot also said that there will be many more NPCs in the PC versions versus the PS4 version, and that the now removed video of the game was "not representative" of the PC version, as it made the PC version look pretty bad. He said: "Regarding the comparison video, unfortunately we don't know how this video was created and what PC settings have been used. It compared an early PC version with a PS4 debug build without the day 1 patch".

He added: "So it's quite an uncommon basic setting. Something went wrong here and therefore we spoke to the editorial team behind it - we both agreed something is not quite right and while we're figuring out what mistake has been made, we have removed the video. We do admit it looked pretty wonky, hence its removal".

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The Oculus Rift won't work with Mac or Linux PCs at launch
Oculus VR announced the recommended requirements for its Rift headset yesterday, with the Facebook-owned VR company set to launch their first consumer VR headset in early 2016.

When the Oculus Rift does launch, it will not work with Apple Mac or Linux systems, at launch. Oculus VR has been working on Rift support for the Mac and Linux for quite sometime now, but the VR startup paused development of Rift support for those operating systems to get the Windows-based software ready for the launch in Q1 2016. Atman Binstock, Oculus VR's Chief Architect, explains: "We want to get back to development for OS X and Linux but we don't have a timeline".

Binstock added: "Note that almost no current laptops have the GPU performance for the recommended spec, though upcoming mobile GPUs may be able to support this level of performance". This will change in the near future, especially with 16nm GPUs and HBM right around the corner. Technology is shrinking and getting faster, quicker than ever.

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First glimpse of Rebel Galaxy from Double Damage Games
TweakTown recently spent a few days playing the preview build of Rebel Galaxy, a single-player spaceship combat action game from Double Damage Games. Rebel Galaxy will be released for the PC first, though it will be available for Mac, Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One. Admittedly, I called upon my 16-year-old brother for his gaming knowledge - and I am not a game reviewer, so here is the meat and potatoes about Rebel Galaxy.

A mouse and keyboard or gamepad work, with fully re-mappable controls for gamers - though it's worth pointing out that Double Damage recommends using a gamepad. Many PC gamers are used to relying on just the mouse and keyboard, which proved to be adequate. The keyboard is used to steer the ship, while the mouse is used to aim accurately and move camera angles.

If you're a fan of a game like Sid Meier's Pirates!, you should feel right at home with Rebel Galaxy. It's a similar type of fighting style, with broadside fighting - and there are turrets so you can blow stuff things up - while you're traveling around completing missions.

The game play seems to favor advancing gamers at a comfortable pace, and players are warned prior to accepting a mission regarding its difficulty. To keep players engaged, you'll have the ability to scavenge for items - or shoot asteroids and collect materials that can be sold. It's sometimes up to gamers to sort themselves out, whether that is trading, mining, hunting, or scavenging - so don't be afraid to use a bit of creativity.

In Rebel Galaxy, gamers enjoy a "swashbuckling space adventure" that gives them control of absolutely humongous spacecraft. The initial press and stream build of the game included the first solar system of Rebel Galaxy, and once the title publicly launches, it'll be possible to travel through multiple systems. Players have the option of completing quests or just doing whatever they feel like while floating through space. Developers were keen to keep gamers on their toes, as unique and random scenarios will be thrown in your path when just out exploring.

Incredibly, a team of just two people at Double Damage Games are responsible for helping develop the game, with Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer only turning to outside consultants as needed for niche tasks. It's rather impressive to think just two people were involved in creating a game which has such huge potential once released.

Gamers interested in purchasing the title will only need to spend $20. It's unknown when Rebel Galaxy will be released, but it is expected sometime before the end of 2015.

The Rebel Galaxy soundtrack is pretty cool, and is worth a note. Double Damage outlined the track list in a recent blog post.

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Naughty Dog has 'all hands on deck' preparing Uncharted 4 for E3 2015
With E3 2015 just over a month away, the hype train is building for various game franchises, but one of the most exciting ones is going to be shown off at E3 this year: Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.

Naughty Dog, the developer behind the PlayStation 4 exclusive title, has said that it is in the last minute crunch time to get the game ready to show off at E3, where the developer has "all hands on deck" getting it ready. Community Manager for Naughty Dog, Eric Monacelli, said that the team is very capable when it comes to last minute crunch time, as the studio hit an achievement when making The Last of Us even work on the PS3.

Monacelli said: "Our team is just full of evil geniuses and wizards and they're just really good programmers. With a lot of dev teams - I worked in a few different places - it's the same sort of feel, but Naughty Dog has this sort of special magic that whenever we go into crunch it's just like, we all come together and we want the absolute best of everything. And it just somehow comes out and shines through, it's just incredible".

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End was delayed earlier this year, where it was pushed into 2016. It will be exclusive to the PS4.

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Doomsday will reportedly be a major villain in Batman v Superman
Up until this point, we know the villain in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be Lex Luthor, which is exciting. We all think it's going to be a mega beat down between the two biggest superheroes of all time: Batman and Superman.

But, it looks like there will be a common enemy, someone who I think will be introduced in the second half of the movie. This villain will be someone who makes Batman and Superman wake up from their fight, to form the Justice League - which will be launching in 2017. We can see it all in the title: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But which villain is big enough for this new Superman, who is the strongest and fastest we've seen yet, to fight? Doomsday, that's who.

According to Umberto Gonzalez aka El Mayimbe, he said that Doomsday in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is "official". Golzalez said that Doomsday appearing in Batman v Superman will be what Darth Vader was to Star Wars, which is saying an incredible amount. Doomsday will be the big bad of Batman v Superman, while the main villain of Dawn of Justice being Lex Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg.

Better yet, Gonzalez says that Doomsday looks "incredible", so we can expect one of the biggest movies of 2016 to be even bigger if the rumors are true. More so that it's being filmed with IMAX cameras, too. Will you be seeing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on day one? I know I will be.


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TSMC teases that 16nm FinFET will deliver 40% performance improvement
TSMC has come out swinging lately, teasing that the shift into 16nm FinFET is going to be quite big for GPUs. The Taiwanese manufacturer said that the move from 28nm to 16nm, and in particular, the 16nm FinFET+ process, will deliver around 40% more performance.

This 40% improvement in performance will not consume any additional power, which should have both NVIDIA and AMD smiling from ear to ear. This means if they were to spin up an NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X on 16nm FinFET+ and have the same performance, it would consume 50% less power. Alternatively, for the same power, they would be able to cram in a huge 40% performance gain. Impressive stuff, shrinking down to 16nm.

TSMC will begin volume production of its 16nm FinFET in Q3 2015, which means we could expect the first GPUs based on the smaller node towards the end of the year, or early 2016. We are predicting that flagship GPUs released from this new 16nm process will be, at an absolute minimum 30-40% faster, all while using the same power draw of around 200-250W. Along with HBM, we could see some serious improvements of 80-100% over the flagship cards we see today. HBM2 (something we saw at NVIDIA's GTC 2015) is due next year, with 1.2TB/sec of memory bandwidth, up from the 640GB/sec that we should see on the AMD Radeon R9 390X, and a big gain from the $999 Titan X and its 336GB/sec.

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Sony says Bloodborne surprised its already high expectations
Sony expected big things from Bloodborne, an action role-playing video game that is a Sony PlayStation 4 exclusive, and the title has delivered.

Bloodborne topped 1 million units sold last month, reaching that point after being available for less than two weeks - with Sony thinking the exclusive title also launched at "just the right time."

"It did surprise us," said Fergal Gara, Managing Director of Sony UK, in a statement to MCV. "We had expectations to do well. We looked at the Souls series as a frame of reference, and we thought we could do better than that. We did - and then some. Relative to some of our sister territories, we were being quite ambitious, but even that proved to be conservative."

As Bloodborne continues to sell well, this is a major victory for Sony, as it can be difficult to rack up such strong game sales for a title tied to a specific platform.

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Engineers successfully create long-range iris scanning technology
An engineer at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has created a long-range iris scanner that can accurately and quickly identify people up to 12 meters away. The scanner is able to capture a person's full face and both irises, even if they are simply walking by the scanner.

There are a number of potential use cases, ranging from police and military deployment, to possibly one day replacing identification scanners. If implemented, it could also remove the need for a traditional fingerprint biometrics login with notebooks and computer systems.

"Fingerprints, they require you to touch something," said Marios Savvides, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, in a statement published by The Atlantic. "Iris, we can capture it at a distance, so we're making the whole user experience much less intrusive, much more comfortable."

Of course, there are plenty of ethical questions surrounding an accurate long-range iris scanner, which must be addressed as Savvides and his team fine-tune their research.


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Qualcomm already raking in the money from Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) has hardware companies and software developers excited, as long as they have properly prepared for the growing craze. Chip maker Qualcomm says it has already generated $1 billion in revenue during 2014 in IoT-related business, with more than 120 million smart home units powered by Qualcomm.

Starting this year, Qualcomm believes 10 percent of its chip division revenue will be from products other than smartphones - as the IoT market continues to develop.

"The investment we've made in the Snapdragon business is necessary to drive our mobile business," said Derek Aberle, president at Qualcomm, in a statement to Forbes. "We've also made some investments in automotive-grade Snapdragon chips, but it's not like we have to create entirely new processors and chips. We can leverage our previous investments and come through with higher margins."

Hardware competition among manufacturers preparing IoT products will be fierce, so Qualcomm will have a number of competitors to deal with in the coming years. Unlike the smartphone market, tech analysts don't believe one - or a small group of companies - will be able to snag control of the IoT market.

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Biostamp skin wearable helps push boundaries of wearable technology
Professor John Rogers, materials scientist from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, hopes his team's Biostamp prototypes prove to push biometrics to the next level. Using the Biostamp, they can monitor and identify stimulation functions, such as firing neurons.

Before the Biostamp and other competing sensors, researchers would need to use complicated and bulky helmets with large amounts of heavy electrodes. These helmets could only be worn for a limited amount of time, in a controlled environment, though the Biostamp could eliminate these hurdles.

"The history of electronics is about getting closer to the individual," Rogers recently said in a statement to CNN. "At first it was a computer down the hall, followed by a desktop, then a laptop, a phone in your pocket and a watch on your wrist. Now it could be electronics integrated the skin, bioelectronics, and fully implantable devices. To go fully into the realm of integrated electronics makes sense to me."

Potential uses include tracking seizures in people with epilepsy, or help track sleeping patterns so doctors can provide better medical advice.

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VENOM cybersecurity vulnerability could pose problems for companies
The VENOM vulnerability, which is the Virtualized Environment Neglected Operations Manipulation targeting data center software, allows cybercriminals to exploit remote access on virtual machines. If done, hackers are able to steal data - and gather information about the company's public cloud.

There is a fear that the VENOM puts intellectual property at risk, along with other personal information, so millions of users could be impacted. Although there were initial comparisons between Venom and Heartbleed, the new security flaw isn't quite on the same level.

"At this time, Venom poses the same level of risk as any new remote-code execution vulnerability," said Chad Kahl, Threat Intelligence Team Lead at Solutionary. "It is bad, but readily fixed or mitigated. First off, it only affects certain platforms. While popular, it doesn't span almost the entire Internet like Heartbleed did."

It doesn't look like VENOM has actually been exploited in the wild yet - and with no proof of concept code or observed active exploitation - there is time for systems to be patched. Patches are already available, so IT staff must be quick to respond.

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Microsoft in control of Windows 10 Mobile updates, leaves out carriers
Microsoft's upcoming launch of Windows 10 is a major effort to win back consumers left disappointed with Windows 8/8.1, including mobile users. The company's Windows 10 Mobile updates will occur under Microsoft's supervision, with wireless carriers left out in the cold.

The company sent an email update to ZDNET and discussed how the Microsoft Denim update, which was announced in September 2014, still isn't available for the T-Mobile Lumia 635, AT&T Lumia 830, and several other phones. Instead, users are running "badly outdated versions," and Microsoft doesn't want that to happen to customers later this year.

"Here at Microsoft, we take our responsibility to keep Windows secure seriously," Microsoft said in an Ignite blog post. "We follow up on all reported security issues, continuously probe our software with leading edge techniques, and proactively update supported devices with necessary updates to address issues. And today, we're announcing this continuous update process applies to all Windows 10 devices, including phones."

Microsoft wants its Windows 10 operating system to work seamlessly across all devices, and trying to win over users on tablets and smartphones will remain a major effort.

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Intel working towards drones that won't even require human control
Drone technology is advancing rapidly, and it may not be too much longer when humans will no longer need to directly control them, according to Intel.

During the Intel Future Showcase in the UK, Intel and Ascending Technologies showed off a drone that uses six Intel RealSense Cameras - that power the drone so it can fly by itself. Using the onboard cameras, a drone can create a real-time 360-degree map of the world, supporting depth and distance analyzing functionality. The idea of a self-navigating drone might be frightening to some, but appears to be a small glimpse of the future.

"Ultimately it will make for a safer and more useful robot... it can avoid people for example, so we can be less likely the drone will run into someone and cause harm," said Scott Dwyer, product and marketing manager at Intel, in a statement published by BT.

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Nevermind... No free Microsoft Windows 10 upgrades for pirates
After unveiling different "editions" of its upcoming Windows 10 operating system, Microsoft has also discussed genuine vs. non-genuine Windows installations. Genuine users will receive a free upgrade to Windows 10 that also includes security updates for the device's lifetime - but pirates won't receive the same feature.

"When we can't verify that Windows is properly installed, licensed, and not tampered with, we create a desktop watermark to notify the user," Microsoft said in a blog post. "If you ever encounter this watermark on a new machine, I encourage you to return the device immediately to the retailer from whom you purchased it and request a Genuine Windows device."

Instead, Microsoft will try to convince users running pirated copies of different "attractive Windows 10 upgrade offers" to switch to Genuine.

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NASA scientist: Antarctic ice shelf could be gone within 10 years
A once-massive Antarctic ice shelf could be gone within the next 10 years, according to NASA researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Large pieces of the Larsen B Ice Shelf are moving at a faster rate of speed, and are splintering after cracks began to form - while two tributary glaciers are continuing to thin, according to researchers.

"These are warning signs that the remnant is disintegrating," said Ala Khazendar, from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in a statement published on CBS News. "Although it's fascinating scientifically to have a front-row seat to watch the ice shelf becoming unstable and breaking up, it's bad news for our planet. This ice shelf has existed for at least 10,000 years, and soon it will be gone."

Researchers point towards mounting ice melt in Antarctica as one clear sign of global warming, which is reportedly having major implications on Earth. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which are generated from fossil fuel usage, are leading to increasing temperatures - and posing significant issues to glaciers.

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Catalyst Waterproof iPhone 6 Case Review


Catalyst claims this iPhone 6 carry case can withstand being submerged 16.4ft underwater, dropped from a height of 6.6ft and more. As a consumer, you're likely to be weary of putting these claims to the test just in case you break your precious phone - so we've got a dummy iPhone 6 on hand to test the waterproof claims which means there will be no issue coming around if the case fails to function correctly.

Not only have we submerged it in water with the dummy inside, we've also thrown a real life iPhone 6 in just to make sure everything else works as it should. Most waterproof cases are expensive, bulky, hard to put on your phone and even harder to use. This Catalyst case has a few common issues to solve and this review will be exploring them through testing. Read on for the results.


This waterproof case boasts an IPX-8 waterproof rating meaning you can submerge it in water to a depth of 16.4 ft. with no issue, it also claims a drop proof protection of up to 6.6ft, an IP-6X dirt proof rating and the ability to still register your touch ID in order to unlock your device.

Set as a full phone cover, there's a little rubber strip at the bottom that covers all ports when not in use ensuring that nothing nasty gets inside. The front panel is a sort of soft plastic design with the sides being of hard rubber and the back panel being a solid transparent piece all making up one well designed frame.

Pricing & Availability

Listed for sale at $69.99 direct from Catalyst themselves, this product is quite pricey, but can be seen as a necessity for those who are always around dust, water and grime.

What's in the box?

The simple package contains the product itself and a handy carry strap, likely to come in use if you're planning to use your phone around the water - splashes will not damage your phone and you're unlikely to let it slip out and sink to the bottom of the ocean.

It would be great if they included a little towel in order to wipe off water and help keep the screen clean, for the large price of $69.99 you might feel like the accessories have been a little skimped out on here.

Touch and feel

The case feels well-constructed and robust which is what you really would expect for something of this nature and pricing. The locking mechanism in order to keep it waterproof (small wheel) is solid and well thought-out, and the rubber grommet which keeps the bottom facing ports free has a solid connection.

The front panel feels smooth and won't be too alien when putting the phone to general use, however, the case is a little bulky and may become annoying when used for every-day use. It's quite easy to get in and out of however, so I see no issue with owning two cases and simply putting this waterproof beauty to use when you're heading out somewhere dirty or wet.

Throwing in the dummy phone and filling up my sink saw a positive result as the phone stayed completely dry. Water doesn't stick to the exterior of the case too well either which was great - a quick shake and wipe down with a towel left it looking like it's never seen liquid in its life.

When putting it to use with a real phone, the home button was extremely responsive which is a great plus for a sturdy case like this - all too often you'll come across solid cases that don't allow for buttons to be pressed properly, think of it something like putting on half-inch thick gloves and then trying to play the guitar.

The side buttons are fairly easy to press and as mentioned before getting the phone in and out of the case was a breeze. There's always the issue with the lens cover however, meaning that if it gets badly scratched on a case like this your images are going to suffer, as the perspex cover will be laden with scratches. This isn't a huge issue, but it's certainly something to keep in mind as a replacement will end up costing you quite a lot.


What's Hot

Sturdy: This product feels great in the hand and great when in use.

Does what it says: We successfully threw it in water with no repercussions.

Easy to use buttons: The buttons are fairly easy to use all around, much better than most other cases of this nature.

Easy to apply: The small locking wheel means you can easily put in and take out your phone when needed - meaning this case will be great to keep as a spare when you're off on an adventure.

What's Not

The size: It's going to be a little annoying for everyday use when you're not around dirt or water.

Pricing: At $69.99 directly from their website, it's expensive insurance for your phone.

Final Thoughts

It's well constructed, keeps your phone dry and is also easy to use. The major downfall comes with the price, but I can certainly see myself keeping this case as a backup for when I head to the beach or out on my jet ski.

The only real improvement I would suggest is a lowering of the price point by around $15 or so and looking into if the size could be reduced as it will be a bit annoying for day-to-day usage. Well done Catalyst, this is the first waterproof case that I've really enjoyed using.
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Bloodborne PlayStation 4 Game Review
When it comes to surprise hits, I don't think you can underestimate how much of a surprise Dark Souls was. This was a game that actively punished players. That brutally challenged them to the point where you could lose hours of progress in a short spell of play. However, it was also a game that challenged players. Many gamers lament the lack of challenge in today's games compared to yesteryear, but Dark Souls brought that back with a bang. Sony saw the popularity and contracted From Software to build a game along the same lines, but with a few key mechanics changed. That game is Bloodborne, and if you liked the Souls games, then this is right up your alley. Even for those who rejected those games in the past, they may find this one a good entry point.

Bloodborne forgets the fantasy style castles and other locations from the Souls series and takes on a much more Victorian England look. Set in a fictional city called Yharnam, the city is rumored to have a medical fix for any ailment hunters have. The hunter (who you play as) arrives in Yharnam only to discover that instead of medical fixes, the city is rife with disease and plagues that has transformed all its inhabitants into powerful enemies. The main aim is to survive the night, to escape the town, but many enemies and bosses await - as you would expect.

Bloodborne as per From Software's other titles is tough as nails. It is a game that will pound you time and time again, only to relent every so often. It is a game that you will play certain sections for hours on end trying to beat it, and despite all this, it is an amazingly crafted game that every PS4 player should try. This is a game where you will generally know the mistake you made, the thing that you should not do, and that is where the beauty lies. Every time you fail, you gain a little more information until you have enough to succeed. And succeeding in Bloodborne is reward enough with a strong sense of accomplishment achieved after each boss is taken down.

For those who have not played the Souls titles, the gameplay basically boils down to this; move from area to area taking out enemies gaining blood echoes whilst trying to find the boss character for that area. That said, the regular enemies are no walk in the park and you will not want to pull three or four at the same time. Whilst taking down the enemies, you collect Blood Echoes, which are used to level up, but you are also gambling with them. Should you succumb to the enemy, you lose all blood echoes currently held, and must return to retrieve them. However, should you succumb again before reaching the echoes, they are gone forever. You are always gambling with the blood echoes when exploring new areas and this fits the risk/reward mentality of the game perfectly.

Although the game remains brutally difficult, it is very clear From Software and Sony wanted this to be a little more accessible than Dark Souls. First of all, there is no weight, so you can carry around as much items as you want without impacting speed. There are also less weapons and in general each of the weapons is enough (when levelled) to finish the game with. The levelling system has been somewhat simplified as well, and one of our favourite changes is that when you succumb to the enemy, you no longer drop in maximum health. This is something that punished new players to the Souls series significantly in Dark Souls 2, so it's nice it is gone. Although we have played the Souls games in the past, we found BloodBorne a lot more accessible and easy to pick up, whilst maintaining the brutal difficulty it is known for.

One of the riskiest and largest changes From Software put into the game was the introduction of guns and the removal of shields. This is very much a game where success is based on offensive measures, rather than defending (though that does remain important). Guns change the game somewhat, but are used more to stun enemies, instead of actually taking them out - and the damage inflicted by them is minimal at best. It is clear they didn't want to turn this into a third person shooter, and they succeeded with that objective.

In terms of the most important aspect of the game in many players' eyes, the bosses, the game offers a ton of variety. You actually are unable to level your character until you find the first boss (levelling up remains locked off), which trains you in how to play the game by having a very weak character against numerous enemies. The boss characters are as epic as ever (we won't spoil any), and before you finish the game, you will have to come up with a unique strategy per boss. Generally, once you figure out a strategy, they are easy to beat, but coming up with it may take hours on end to do.

Despite all this, the game is not without its problems. First of all, the camera can be an utter pain in boss fights. Numerous times we lost to bosses because we jumped or ran into an environmental object we were unable to see due to the camera. To try and alleviate this, the game does include a lock on feature for enemies, however, there are times where its better not to use it. Once you get used to the camera and adjust your fighting style appropriately, it's fine, but it is very frustrating before then.

As well as this, the game has significant load times (around 45 seconds) after each death and to move between the Hunters Dream (where you level up) and back to the game world. It can also be buggy with enemies failing to trigger and also boss characters getting stuck outside the world. From Software has handled this the best way possible by giving you the victory, but when it happens, you feel like a bit of a cheat. To their credit, they have promised to try and patch the load times, and really, once you get used to it, it's not so bad.

Visually the game as you would expect is a significant jump over Dark Souls 2. The PS4 power is on full display with a stunning Victorian world present including some amazing architecture. Just like previously, no map is included, so you need to use landmarks to find your way around. The frame rate generally does not show any niggles and considering how important timing is in this game, that was crucial to its success. The scale of the enemies and environments really is a step above and the world is huge and easy to get lost in.

Multiplayer, like the Souls games, is both about invading other player's games (to become a nuisance and attempt to kill them) and calling for co-operative help. To do this, you need to get access to the various bells for invasion and this introduces a currency known as insight. As you discover new areas and defeat bosses, you will gain insight. If you leave this above particular levels, the game actually becomes harder. From Software clearly wants you to play multiplayer. Items can also be purchased with insight. As you traverse the world, if you are playing online, you can read messages from other players, which may help or hinder you.

Bloodborne may be based on an already existing series, but it does enough with mixing up the gameplay to keep it fresh. The fear about guns ruining the game was clearly unfounded and the stronger focus on attacks may make it easier for players to pick up. This is in our opinion the most accessible game of this year yet, however, if you are expecting a walk in the park, then you should look elsewhere.

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Battlefield Hardline Xbox One Game Review

So, how does Visceral Games do with the new Battlefield?

Let's be honest, Battlefield 4 began life as a mess. The game's biggest feature, the destruction of buildings, was crashing servers left, right and center upon launch, and gamers felt cheated. EA had such a problem that they had to give away some of its DLC and promise to fix the game. Once BF4 was solid, it was a good game, but it always had left a sour taste in the mouth. Therefore, when EA announced that Battlefield was taking a break from the main style it was used to and moving to a urban combat model with Hardline, there were many skeptics. However, the pairing of Visceral Games to the Battlefield franchise may have turned out to be a masterstroke, because although the single player is disappointing, the multiplayer is a blast.

Battlefield has never really had memorable single player campaigns and Hardline is no different. In the initial sequences of the game, you play as a police officer on the beat trying to take down some drug barons only for your partner to frame you and put you in jail. From there it becomes a tale of revenge and reflection, never really reaching the heights it aims for. There are numerous things about the single player campaign that are surprising and it really seems like Visceral has tried to shake the game up.

First of all, you can play the game as a stealth game. Instead of gunning down enemies, you can sneak up on them and arrest them. By doing this, you can actually make the game so easy it becomes a cake walk. However, once you set off one enemy, the game very much becomes the shootout that you expect from a Battlefield game, so if you want to just go in all guns blazing, that is possible as well.

Along with this, there are numerous areas where you don't shoot or attack enemies, and instead the main story plays out. For example, you might just be driving from one location to another with some story exposition playing out with the non-player characters. This is clearly Visceral trying to bring its storytelling talent to the series, but it just does not fit. Call of Duty and Battlefield have generally always been about big explosions and non-stop action, and the breakup of the action in Hardline just seems jarring. We admit that part of that awkwardness comes from the fact it's a Battlefield game, and if it was a different franchise, it may seem different, but as a Battlefield game, it just feels strange and too slow. The presentation of the story line is also different with each mission playing out as a TV episode.

Once you move past the single player (which contains 10 missions and will take you about 6-7 hours to complete), you will find a much more familiar experience in multiplayer. The change to urban combat is a successful one with the combat generally playing out in closer quarters and the maps being constructed in such a way (aside from the large ones) that you are never far from the action. For those who prefer the 64 player matches, Conquest Large makes a return and plays out just as well as it does in the more traditional battlefields.

However, getting away from that, Visceral has really considered how they could best use the cops versus robbers setting and come up with some interesting modes. One of the most interesting and fun to play is the Hot Wire mode. It plays a bit like Conquest, but instead of having points to capture, they are replaced by vehicles. The aim is to take the vehicle and drive them at high speed to deplete the other team's tickets. It's an interesting take on the concept that fits the vehicular world of Battlefield perfectly. Other modes include Blood Money where the aim is to steal gold and return it back to the base (for both the police and robbers side), Rescue which is a round based mode where the aim is to take out or protect the VIP depending on your side, and Heist where particular assets must be retrieved. Each one of these modes fits the urban combat style well.

The game play in Hardline is frenetic. Assisting with this is the ability to start in a squad or in a vehicle, as opposed to specific points on each map. Downtime between lives is small and allows you to buy or re-allocate weaponry. To say that Hardline is clearly inspired by Counter-Strike is a understatement with players gaining money as they perform well and that money can be used to unlock weaponry. We enjoyed Hardline's multiplayer a lot more than Battlefield 4, because as previously stated, the urban environment leads to combat which is much closer in scope, and because the cops vs. robbers idea aesthetic really works.

The maps also carry this feeling as well. Although there are some maps that will remind you more of Battlefield 4 (such as those which are based on the Everglades), most are set in an urban environment. Along with this, the destructive environments from BF4 make a return and it really is fun running around a multi-million dollar mansion in tight quarters blowing out walls trying to find the enemy players. As we said before, it is a frenetic experience and you really need to be concentrating to have even a chance of playing well.

Visually, on the Xbox One, the game is a mixed bag. There are some elements of the game that are impressive and the frame rate remains solid, but often in the single player campaign, we came across some textures that should have looked better. The game has a almost 'total conversion' feel to Battlefield 4 with some objects appearing far too blocky and a clear indication that it could look better on the system. This may be a result of the game being available on both generations of console. Sound effects and soundtrack are not memorable and especially on the robbers side, it's as if they tried too hard.

Battlefield Hardline is a tale of two stories. A single player game that whilst slightly impressive, feels like it should not be in a Battlefield game (we do have to applaud Visceral for trying something new), and a multiplayer game that seems an improvement on Battlefield 4. So, it comes down to this - if you are a seasoned campaign player of Battlefield looking for something new and impressive, you won't find it here and will likely be frustrated by its pacing, but if the multiplayer is more your shtick, this is one to pick up. Never has the difference between the campaign and multiplayer, in terms of quality, been so clear.

PRICING: You can find Battlefield Hardline for Xbox One for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: Battlefield Hardline for Xbox One retails for $56.08 at Amazon.

Canada: Battlefield Hardline for Xbox One retails for CDN$61.88 at Amazon Canada.
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Far Cry 4 PlayStation 4 Game Review
When Vaas first uttered the words 'Do you know the definition of insanity' during the unveiling of Far Cry 3, my interest was piqued instantly. Ubisoft was clearly building a psychotic, smart character to challenge the player over and over again in a huge sandbox world. Far Cry 3 has been and gone, winning plaudits the world over for its stunning gameplay, so a follow up was inevitable. Far Cry 4 in many ways is a repurposing of Far Cry 3, however, to dismiss it as only that is to completely ignore some of the improvements made over its predecessor. Far Cry 4 surpasses FC3 in many ways, and takes the psycho protagonist to an even deeper level, with more decisions and impact for the player to make along the way.

In Far Cry 4, you return to Kyrat as an ex-pat who immigrated to the United States with their mother when they were a child. Kyrat is a fictional city in the Himalayas and where the majority of the game takes place. It is also a dictatorship, ruled by one Pagan Min, a dictator on the level of Vaas from the former game, but one that is prepared to go even further. The story in Far Cry 4 is by no means throwaway, and in fact, many times will keep you forging ahead in the campaign, looking to find out what happens next - especially with the decisions you can make along the way to impact the game world.

Far Cry 4 is again set in a massive open world, free for you to explore from the outset and laden with vehicles to make travelling around the massive expanse of land even easier. It's also a completely open world game that is prone to events just occurring. There are some which are somewhat scripted such as the 'Karma' events and those which just happen. You might be driving along to a mission only to run into a huge enemy presence or just a random event taking place. It is these random events that make the world feel living and breathing. They can also assist you. By completing certain events, you can gain experience and other rewards, so it's worth investigating things that just pop up as you move about.

On the main campaign side, you join a freedom fighter force known as the Golden Path who have been for a period of time attempting to end the reign of Min and restore peace and democracy to the land of the main characters birth. Throughout this campaign, some tough decisions need to be made as to how to advance the story and which main character of the Golden Path you wish to follow. This really mixes up the game, sends the story in different ways, and in many ways every player could have a slightly unique story. It also significantly enhances the replay value of the game, although to be honest, the game is not lacking without it.

Throughout the course of the 12 hour plus campaign, you will find yourself abseiling down huge cliffs, flying through the air in a little helicopter machine, driving a long way, and just generally having a lot of fun. The missions are quite varied as well. Instead of just go here and shoot things, sometimes stealth sequences are thrown into the mix, and whilst most of the time the aim is to clear out the enemy, you can usually achieve your objectives in many ways. Remaining hidden from the enemy is advantageous because they can call significant amounts of reinforcements if you are spotted on most missions.

When it comes down to it, the actual gameplay, the game shines. Picking up where Far Cry 3 left off, the game is of course primarily a first person shooter. However, it is changes such as being able to ride on the back of an elephant that really make this game a stunning success. You also need to craft items to improve your weaponry and abilities. Instead of just purchasing more inventory space, for example, you need to craft a wallet. To do this, you need to hunt specific animals and skin them. It adds another dimension to the game and a challenging one at that. Most of the animals can be ferocious when attacked and getting their skins is not so easy.

Aside from the main campaign missions, one of the other tasks is to unlock areas of the map for quick travel. This is done by climbing towers (fast becoming a common Ubisoft trope) to get rid of the propaganda broadcasting systems. There are benefits to this other than fast travel, such as being able to view other items in the area that were previously greyed out. For those who are not fans of doing tasks such as this, they are entirely optional, but it does make the game a bit more difficult to complete.

In terms of the environment the game is set in, it is stunning. This is a game that clearly is using the power of the current generation system. You can stand on the top of a cliff just admiring the mountains in the distance and the draw distance is also significant. One thing we noticed is that the game really never misses a beat. Despite huge explosions on screen, large draw distances and tons of action, the frame rate remained rock solid for us throughout. At least we did not notice any major frame rate issues, despite the epic nature of the game. Voice acting was also impressive, especially of the evil protagonist, and the propaganda style radio came across as authentic.

Multiplayer comes in the form of complete online co-op and also player versus player battles. In online co-op, you can tackle the campaign and side missions together with one caveat. If the internet connection is dropped, you will be kicked from the game as opposed to switch to a single player mode. This actually stopped us for the most part playing the campaign in co-operative mode more as a precaution, but it does work well. There is also a map editor that ships with the game, allowing you to generate single player/co-op missions, and it's actually quite detailed and easy to use.

Far Cry 4 is a stunning game that builds upon its predecessor well. It may follow the same path of the main character having to slowly build up a force and take out an evil dictator, but despite it being almost the same structure, it works. The additions made including the new animals and location really do mix it up, however, it must be said that if Ubisoft is to return to the Far Cry universe for a fifth time, doing this over again is not going to be enough. That said, Far Cry 4 is one of the must-play games of 2014.

PRICING: You can find Far Cry 4 - PlayStation 4 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: Far Cry 4 - PlayStation 4 retails for $48.92 at Amazon.

Canada: Far Cry 4 - PlayStation 4 retails for CDN$69.95 at Amazon Canada.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition Xbox One Game Review
Bioware has had an interesting time of it lately. Mass Effect 3 ended off (for the moment) one of their best video game series yet, but had major criticism around its ending, so much so Bioware ended up rewriting it. Before that, Dragon Age 2 was taken to the cleaners by many gamers for being too different to the original, and it's been a little while since we've heard from the Bioware crew. The third Dragon Age game, Inquisition, has attempted to take what people liked about the original game, along with some of the mechanics from the second, meld them together, and come up with a game that every Dragon Age fan will love. You know what, Bioware may have just pulled it off. Dragon Age Inquisition is a spectacular game that RPG fans will play for months.

The game begins with the peace between the Magi and Templar factions being shattered by a large explosion which takes out members of the chantry who had brokered the peace deal. The land of Thedas is again on the verge of civil war with those who seek revenge and / or power able to now execute their plans. You play a Herald, a chosen character who builds a team of warriors known as the 'Inquisition'. Who you add to your party is entirely up to you and decisions you make directly affect this world as you play through the game with a number of crucial decision points present throughout.

However, it's not just your decisions in this game that can determine the fate of this world. As part of the game, Bioware launched the Dragon Age Keep. This allows you to go to the Dragon Age site and enter the details from the previous games specific to your playthroughs and will directly affect how the world is when the game begins. The PC version can import the saves, however, the Xbox One version can download the data from the keep once you have set up your game in the Keep.

When it comes to the gameplay as per most Bioware games, there are primarily three sections; combat, narrative, and overall universe management. This is very much a game that mixes the combat up with some interesting narrative sections to play through. For example, without spoiling too much, there is a section where you need to perform a dance to impress a royal family. At times, when you think the combat is dragging on a bit, Bioware mixes it up with something new. Along with this, there is also a War Council that you need to convince to explore new areas, take on new missions, and find new mission objectives. To do this, you gain power by completing side quests or performing particularly well in conversation with key NPCs.

This is in some way where a few players will find some frustration with the game. Side quests are not really optional and are more mandatory to a degree. To gain power, you complete side quests and some of these, especially in the opening areas, are very MMO like. One such example is having to kill ten rams and return their skins. However, the rest of the game (and side quests further into the main structure) makes playing through these worth it. It is a real shame that some of the opening quests leave a bitter taste because the rest of the game is almost perfectly structured.

The combat itself can be played in two modes; either real-time or in a more tactical view. Which mode you take on is of course personal preference, but there are times in the game where the challenge is such that the tactical view becomes a must. In the tactical view, you can give commands to your non-player controlled characters (you can switch to these characters whilst the gameplay is frozen) that can lead to more co-ordinated attacks.

In the real-time mode, you can also do this, but it's a bit more frantic with less time to think. This is one area where Bioware has managed to meld the best of each of the previous games into something that should please everyone. One thing which really frustrated us and in some ways made no sense was the inability to get to the manage character screen during combat to change weapons - a small thing, but frustrating nonetheless.

The world the game is set in is massive. There are numerous areas to explore and more are found when performing tasks with the War Council. The opening area, the Hinterlands, has enough content for around ten hours of gameplay and that represents only a small area of the game. You will visit huge castles, forests, snow covered areas, and others before the epic story of the game wraps up. This is a game that if you do not rush, will take you around fifty to sixty hours to complete. And aside from the opening section if you get bored in one area, there will generally be many others to explore, gaining power and building the prestige of the Inquisition.

Visually, the game is stunning to say the least and really does show the jump between the old generation of consoles and what we have now. The combat is fluid and despite the huge open world's present, the Xbox One console manages to keep the frame rate quite solid throughout. At the start of the game, you can customize your character to a significant level, leading to everyone having a unique character. In an interesting move, when you move into a cut scene wearing a helmet, the helmet is removed showing the characters face. Small tweaks like this really bring home how much effort and care Bioware has put into this game.

The game also features multiplayer, and as you would expect, it's quite a bit different to the single player mode. Played with friends via co-op, the multiplayer mode puts a number of limitations on you as a character to ensure that you need to work together as a team for success. For example, you will have limited access to weapons and potions, and along with this, you can only succumb to the enemy three times before its game over - in single player, other NPC characters can revive you.

There is zero doubt that Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the best games of 2014, and one that if you have any inkling of a liking for RPGs, you should pick it up. Dragon Age 2 may have soured the series, but Bioware went back, licked their wounds, and crafted one of the best games of the year. Your adventure awaits, Herald.

PRICING: You can find Dragon Age Inquisition - Xbox One for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: Dragon Age Inquisition - Xbox One retails for $59.99 at Amazon.

Canada: Dragon Age Inquisition - Xbox One retails for CDN$67.99 at Amazon Canada.

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Halo: The Master Chief Collection Xbox One Game Review
Halo has always held a special part of my gaming history. At the time of its release, I was a PC only gamer that had recently begun writing about video games and Microsoft invited me to try out their new Xbox system with Halo. I was hooked right away and Bungie had clearly proven that a first person shooter game could work on a console control system. Like me, millions of others around the globe picked up an Xbox to play the original Halo, and it has become synonymous with the Microsoft and Xbox brand names.

With the release of the third console from Microsoft, the Xbox One, it was a bit surprising to see that no Halo game was made available, and in fact, we have not seen a Halo game released since 2012. So, to fill in the game, 343 Industries has produced The Master Chief Collection. A collaboration of Halo 1 through to 4. However, if you are not a super fan, is there enough here to warrant buying the games again?

First of all, let's get the value for money argument out of the way. Halo: The Master Chief Collection is quite possibly the best value for money game you will ever purchase. It includes four of the best first person shooter games of all time, and the story so far of one of the most interesting game franchises around. Microsoft is asking you to shell out the full price for this one, but considering the content packed in (the game offers 4500 points of achievements just to give an idea of the size), that's not an unfair request in my opinion.

However, when you look beyond the amazing value the game offers, there are also some impressive facets. First of all, just like they did with the original Halo game, 343 Industries has gone back and rebuilt Halo 2 in an anniversary edition. Improved cut scenes, updated graphics, and just like the original Halo Anniversary, the ability to switch between the old and new graphics. However, this is limited to Halo 2 in this package and this is perhaps where some of the disappointment lies. Halo 2 is such a superior version to every other game in the package that it makes the other ones look poor in comparison.

There are many things that 343 Industries did right with The Master Chief Collection and the first is apparent when you boot the game. Instead of making you slug it out, finishing each campaign one by one to unlock all the games, each game is unlocked from the outset. Not only that, each mission and each checkpoint from each mission is unlocked from the outset. This makes it really feel like a DVD box set of the 'Best of Halo'. Didn't like a mission from Halo 1? Don't play it and skip it. For the super fans, this allows you to show off the best parts you love of the series or skip to exactly what you like. For everyone else, it just means you get to skip bits that were frustrating. It was a masterful move for 343 Industries to do this.

The games can also be modified by skulls that can be found and unlocked in the game world. Instead of just playing regular halo, you can add cheats or other changes to the game world. Again this really adds to the game, especially for those who have already played through the games already and want to mix it up a little.

When it comes to the game themselves, it really comes down to this; if you have not liked Halo in the past, then obviously The Master Chief collection is not for you. However, if you do have a liking for the franchise, what you will find is a game that at times can be a mixed bag. It is awesome that all the games are included in one package at 1080p and sixty frames per second, however, some of those games, especially Halo 1, really are showing their age. At the higher resolution, some of the graphics appear blocky and outdated. This is of no surprise, but when compared to something like Halo 4 in the collection, it really does not stack up well.

Where you will find perhaps the most value and entertainment in The Master Chief Collection is Halo 2 where 343 Industries has put in in a ton of work to bring an Xbox game up to speed for the current-generation consoles. Whilst it looks nowhere near what a Xbox One Halo game built from the ground up game will look like, it still is a significant improvement on its predecessor, and generally matches the Xbox 360 games (Halo 3 and 4) in the collection for visual prowess. Where this particular game shines is the cut scenes. Redone by Blur (a major graphics company responsible for some of the world's most famous CG scenes), the cut scenes bring home the story of Halo 2 in stunning HD.

The other area where you will find huge amounts of value and entertainment is of course the multiplayer. Whilst in comparison to some recent games, Halo does have fairly slow paced gameplay in the multiplayer arena, it still remains tons of fun to play. As well as this, not only can you mix playlists up between games (that is on one map you may play a Halo 1 based map whilst next map might be from Halo 4), but the physics and nuances from each game has carried over.

This is not a situation where 343 has built one engine and ported all the maps. They have ported all the physics and other slight differences between the game, and it shows. This offers a massive challenge when the playlists contain maps from different games because you are always having to adjust to the new style of play. That said, it is a ton of fun and perhaps the best reason to pick this game up.

Halo The Master Chief Collection will probably end up the best value for money gaming package in 2014. It is akin to Super Mario All Stars, where one package contains the best of the franchise so far and for those new to the series, an easy way to catch up before the inevitable Halo 5 release in 2015. 343 Industries probably could have just slapped all the games together, made them work on the Xbox One and shipped the disc. Instead, they put a massive effort into Halo 2 (and all the games for that matter) and managed to get the unique nuances of each game into the multiplayer arena, offering a unique challenge that no Halo fan will be able to resist.

PRICING: You can find the Halo: The Master Chief Collection for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Halo: The Master Chief Collection retails for $50.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The Halo: The Master Chief Collection retails for CDN$68.39 at Amazon Canada.

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Sunset Overdrive Xbox One Game Review
When previous Sony darling Insomniac Games announced that it was building an Xbox One exclusive, the gaming world was surprised to say the least. Insomniac had already begun to move away from Sony exclusivity with its poorly received Fuse, a third person action squad game, so when Sunset Overdrive was announced, there was excitement tinged with a bit of caution, considering the studios previous game.

However, Insomniac Games had proven in the past that it could produce quality titles and with Microsoft managing to lure it as an exclusive, Sunset Overdrive became one of the most anticipated games of the year for Xbox One owners. Thankfully for them, aside from a few slight hiccups, the game has been worth the wait.

Sunset Overdrive begins during the release of a brand new energy drink in the town of Sunset City. Rushed to market, Overdrive is the hip new drink that has failed to go through the correct testing and anyone that drinks it, turns into a mutant. After the launch party, the game picks up with you basically trying to escape the city, and with the help of a few quirky friends, try to get the truth behind the drink and why it causes people to turn into mutants. The story itself is not the strongest around, but it does get the job done and is interesting enough to make you want to play more.

Where the story and surrounds do come into their own is the humor in the game. Whilst it is very much hit and miss, Sunset Overdrive generally is a funny game. The only time that it really loses that charm is when it tries to be too clever for its own good and break the fourth wall. Times such as when the character on screen tells you as the player to press the start button or complains about an upcoming mission because it's so boring. Aside from this, the game itself carries its attempted humor well with many of the game's non-player characters being unique and interesting, to say the least.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises, given the marketing campaign Microsoft has run with the lead male character, you can completely customise your avatar to be male or female with a whole bunch of different clothing. As you play more, additional clothes are unlocked, and whilst it's only a cosmetic change, it does allow you to play the character how you want to. Along with this, you can unlock 'Amps' by gathering items in the world and 'cooking' them.

Amps are power ups for your character that are triggered by the style meter. To build that meter, you need to move around the world in fluid motions and take enemies out stylishly, as the name implies. Movement is key in this game and generally if you are not continuously moving, you will be overrun by enemies in a very short space of time.

This does make the first two or so hours of the game a bit more frustrating than it should be, as it does take time to become accustomed to the way you can move about the world. You can slide on wires, jump on trees and other items in the world to bounce and even part way through the game begin to wall run. Movement in Sunset Overdrive once you have learnt the controls is an absolute delight. You will get to a point where even if the game says the next objective is quite far, you won't mind because the traversal of the world is so fluid and easy that its actually fun to play.

And that is a key word with Sunset Overdrive, fun. Right from the outset, the game clearly wants you to continuously feel like you are having fun playing it. Whether it be the humorous characters present throughout or the non-stop action, this game just generally puts a smile on your face - except for one key facet, tower defence. Sunset Overdrive includes a tower defence offshoot set in the evening where you can unlock more amps to play with. This was our most frustrating element of the game and did not really seem to fit.

Thankfully for the most part, despite sometimes overloading you with enemies, the game does not severely punish you for dying. Instead (except in the previously mentioned tower defence mode), you generally return very close to where you were battling and with your mission progress intact. This is actually a very smart move on the developer's part because it encourages you to try things that may seem stupid, but also keeps you from getting too frustrated with the game. Another master move was that if you happen to fall from a very high platform during a mission, instead of making you traverse all the way back up, the game will place you back near where you were before the fall.

In terms of the missions and quests in the game, there are plenty. Those of you with tendencies to want all achievements will likely get many, many hours out of this game with numerous collectables available and other side quests to keep you going. Sometimes you will need to complete side quests (such as gain 'x' item) to be able to continue the main story, but for the most part, you can mainline the missions.

Missions are generally found in hub style areas and usually culminate in a boss fight. Boss fights generally are not exactly fun to play, but in Sunset Overdrive, the combination of how crazy the bosses are, plus the low punishment for dying, makes it actually enjoyable to take them on. Finishing missions will give you badges to buy overdrives with that basically boost your characters health, weaponry, or defence stats. Sunset Overdrive is not even close to an RPG, but has some very basic elements from that genre included.

On the visuals side of things, Sunset Overdrive impresses in two ways; the graphics themselves and the frame rate. The frame rate during our play never stuttered and never dropped below smooth. Despite a gazillion things happening on the screen, the frame rate was rock solid, and given how graphically impressive this game is, that is a feat in itself. The visuals are vibrant bright colors, which is a nice change, and the world feels almost like a cartoon. Sound wise, the voice acting gets the job done, and the music, whilst nothing to write home about, does not feel out of place or cheap. In fact, all of this game smacks of 'AAA' status and has a high level of polish.

On the multiplayer side of things, the game blurs the lines between single and multiplayer very well. You access multiplayer by visiting a photo booth in the main single player portion of the game. After which you are paired up with people and then vote on a quest to take on. It's an interesting take on the game that allows you to jump in and out of multiplayer almost at will. The end game of multiplayer is night defence (the previously mentioned tower defence game) and how well prepared you are for that is based on how well you do in the previous missions - it's super unique and fits the game world very well indeed. They could have cheaped out and gone player versus player, but instead have come up with a multiplayer mode that is unique and interesting.

Sunset Overdrive was a game closely watched by many gamers due to it being exclusive to the Xbox One. Insomniac Games also needed a win after Fuse failed to shine and people wondered if Insomniac Games would be better off going back to Sony exclusivity. Based on this effort, the answer is an emphatic no. The game does have a few problems, but it's a very polished title that shows off the power of the Xbox One well. If you have an Xbox One console, you owe it to yourself to at least try this game. It's unique, its new IP and it as polished as any other AAA title on the market. Shame about some of the humor though, it really does pull it down.

PRICING: You can find Sunset Overdrive Day One Edition - Xbox One for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: Sunset Overdrive Day One Edition - Xbox One retails for $59.96 at Amazon.

Canada: Sunset Overdrive Day One Edition - Xbox One retails for CDN$64.00 at Amazon Canada.

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FIFA 15 PlayStation 4 Game Review
Last year with the release of the new-generation consoles, EA pushed out an update to its annual FIFA franchise beyond that of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. It was a good start with the Ignite engine showing what might be possible in the new playground that the developers had to play with.

FIFA 14 was impressive, but as I wrote at the time, it had its problems. Things like players seemingly worse in the game than they are in real life, skill wise. However, EA promised to bring its A game back for FIFA 15 and that is exactly what they have done. Not only is FIFA 15 one of the best football games I have ever played, it is one of the best games of 2014, period.

With the release last year, EA unveiled the Ignite engine to the world. This was the engine EA said would power all its sports games going forward on the new platforms. FIFA, along with Madden, was one of the first games to get the engine, and it was impressive, but the extra twelve months development time has really shown the power of this engine. Last year, FIFA felt a bit stiff and without fluid motion, whilst this year, we were pulling off amazing passes and plays within the first hour of play. There is no doubt that the engine this year has had refinement and is working better than ever.

This is also a game that will challenge you, even as a seasoned player. The AI is brutal, to say the least, with most breakaways ending in a goal, and this time around rather than being frustrated at conceding a goal that you felt was unfair, you will clearly be able to see why the goal was conceded. It might have been a defensive line caught out by a perfect pass, a defensive line creeping up too far or a man being left unmarked. This is a marked improvement to FIFA 14 where I often conceded goals that I felt were not necessarily realistic, especially when defenders were unable to obtain the ball with quality tackling.

Other than the engine, there has been some improvements to the management mode, including the brand new Global Transfer Network. You have always been able to trade players in the FIFA games recently, as per the real-world, however, it is even more realistic this year. Instead of searching on numbers (eg a player with a total skill over 80), you research on traits much like a real-world scout would.

This makes the game potentially more difficult, but it allows you to pick up gems for cheap, if you can find them. You need to plan your scouting a lot more - instead of getting to the transfer window and just window shopping, you need to spend time before the window scouting countries and players, readying your moves - just like the real-world scouts. A fundamental change that should be welcomed by most, if not all, players of the game.

The other major change this year is basically EA rubbing everyone's nose in it that they have the Barclays Premier League licence exclusively. As a massive fan of the league, I was super excited that EA was doing this and they did not disappoint. Basically the game contains every team, player and now stadium from the league officially and it looks amazing. The Emirates Stadium in London right through to Loftus Road for QPR has been replicated in minute detail.

As well as this, the in-game UI gets a complete overhaul to appear just like it does in the Premier League broadcasts including upcoming matches, line ups and highlights. We cannot help but feel that this is EA rubbing the competitions nose in it that they have what is seen as the world's biggest league exclusively. It will be interesting to see if they apply the same to La Liga or Serie A etc next year.

This fits in perfectly with EA Sports Matchday, the in-game option to play upcoming games and have the players reflect their current form, injuries or suspensions. Along with this, the Matchday area now also includes a RSS feed of stories from your chosen favourite league, as well as players and teams that are improving, or are declining.

However, all this does not matter if the game does not play well and we can happily report that FIFA 15 plays amazingly well. Players have fluid movement and whilst sometimes collisions can seem a bit silly with players flying all over the place, in general the physics engine plays its part very well. You might wonder why a player goes flying, only to find that the opponent on replay ankle tapped them at high speed. Scoring goals can be difficult, the goalkeepers even on the default difficulty are very good, but when you do score, as you have to work for it - it's very rewarding.

Visually the game is also impressive, especially in the aforementioned Barclays Premier League. The world's best players have again been replicated to the nth degree, right down to their boot choice, and have been given an update again for the next-generation systems. The movement of the players and ball feels incredibly realistic and when a player makes a mistake, you generally know why.

The presentation (even without the BPL skin) is second to none with a strong commentary team present, and in-game visual indicators to see exactly what is happening. EA has also put a lot of effort into the atmosphere of the game and visuals with a lot of 'replays' and other moments like substitutions now rendered completely, including the fourth official.

FIFA 15 takes what EA has done in the past with football games and takes it to the next level. It really is one of the best games we have played in 2014 and is likely to be on a lot of top 10 lists for the year. EA started well last year on the new-generation consoles, but FIFA 15 feels like EA delivering on what these systems can do. If you like the Premier League, you are in for a real treat, but even fans of other leagues or smaller leagues will find a lot to like here. FIFA 15 is, right now, the best football game around, but with PES around the corner, and looking more impressive than it has for a few years, it may not keep the crown for long.

PRICING: You can find FIFA 15 on PlayStation 4 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: FIFA 15 on PlayStation 4 retails for $56.82 at Amazon.

Canada: FIFA 15 on PlayStation 4 retails for CDN$59.99 at Amazon Canada.

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Forza Horizon 2 Xbox One Game Review
When Forza Horizon released on the Xbox 360, Microsoft proved that not only could it produce a game that would compete with Gran Turismo (Forza), but could build an arcade style racing game that took much of what makes Forza such a formidable series and opened it to a wider audience, those that may not necessarily care about tuning and configuring cars.

Forza Horizon was a smash hit and one of our personal favourite games of that generation, but with the Xbox One comes Forza Horizon 2, a game which promises to take the extra grunt available in the new generation system, whilst keeping true to its original style from the 360. Thankfully Playground Games has managed to balance this well, and in many ways, eclipsed the Forza release from last year.

Like the original, Forza Horizon puts you in the middle of the Forza Horizon festival. A party mix of racing and music festival, this time set in the middle of Europe, and seemingly with a larger focus on European supercars from manufacturers such as Koenigsegg. The core gameplay remains the same as its predecessor; enter a Horizon festival location, take part in some races before moving onto the next location. However, it's in the main racing where you will find a lot of changes that make the game even better.

Whilst Forza Horizon kept you on the tarmac, FH2 introduces off-road racing, along with its more traditional counterpart. Quite simply, in particular championships, you will be roughing it in the middle of fields and paddocks, trying to keep hold of the powerful engine sitting in the light chassis. It adds a new element of challenge to the series and offers some of the tensest racing around. There is nothing like driving through a field not being able to see in front of you, trying to determine where the next checkpoint is. The drivatar model from Forza Motorsport 5 is present here as well with friends making up the bulk of your competitors. Along with this change comes the Bucket List, the chance to drive super powerful cars before being able to afford them in the game.

The bucket list spreads many of the game's most powerful cars throughout the world for you to find. Once found, you can begin the challenge, which is twofold; beat the time the game wants you to, as well as beat the current leaders of the challenge. It's not long in the game before you find these cars and it really is a smart move on the part of PlayGround Games because saving up to buy some of the best cars in the game can be a lengthy process. To assist with this, each time you level up, now you are offered the opportunity to spin a poker machine style wheel to either win money or a new car to use in a different championship. Again, this is a clever addition, because it gives a lot of reason to continuously gain levels.

The events on offer remain much the same as the previous game, but this should not be seen as a negative, as FH really did a lot of things right the first time around. Events range from point to point races, circuit races, races that include off-road segments, and finally the road trip. The road trip for each Horizon festival location is unlocked by beating a championship. After doing so, you are offered the chance to take the road trip to the next location. This is basically how you unlock each section of the map for events (though the map is completely unlocked from the outset). To unlock the whole map takes about four hours of play, but the actual game is quite a bit longer than this. There are also some novelty events to take part in such as racing against fighter jets and trains.

The map itself is significantly larger than Forza Horizon and as previously mentioned is set in Europe. More specifically, the game is set in the south of France and the north of Italy. This offers some stunning vistas to race in to say the least and a good variety of events and areas to play in. With the map unlocked right away, there is nothing to stop you just going for a cruise and the game actively encourages this by tracking how many streets you have found on the map - there are 315 overall - as well as experience points, whilst you cruise around.

Where you will find most improvement though by the jump in generation is not surprisingly the graphics. The visuals and draw distance in FH2 are stunning and we really do think this is the first racing game we have played that shows the generation jump and what is possible. The location of Europe offers some stunning visuals and one of the hardest things to get right in a racing game, the cockpit view, is utterly perfect. Usually we find the engine slows down, or the car feels slower from the cockpit view, but the developers have knocked this one out of the park. You simply must play FH2 from the cockpit view. Music wise, there are numerous radio stations that range from dance style music through to classical, although not all are available from the outset with many being unlocked, as you progress through the game.

Multiplayer is handled via the online road trip. Basically, you drive to a specific location in each Horizon festival location and join up with an online crew for that session. You can then choose to either just cruise the map or take part in more structured events. With the Drivatar system from Forza Motorsport 5 used this time around, it also means that basically you are always online, and at any point in the game, whilst cruising, you can challenge these drivatars to a one on one race by pressing X.

Forza Horizon was one of our most loved Xbox 360 games and at the time we felt that the developers were well on the way to eclipsing the Forza Motorsport series. Turn 10 better watch their backs because, in our opinion, Forza Horizon 2 delivers and does eclipse the most recent Forza game. A game that was seen as something to compliment the mainline series has in our opinion now become the better game. There simply is right now no better racing game on Xbox One, and if you have any liking of the racing genre, this is a must play. We can't wait to see what Playground Games does next.

PRICING: You can find Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One retails for $59.99 at Amazon.

Canada: Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One retails for CDN$64.95 at Amazon Canada.
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Counterspy PS VITA Game Review
To say that the PS VITA is kicking goals as an indie gaming machine is to completely underestimate how much this market is driving the success of the console's success. Along with some assistance from Sony with initiatives such as cross buy, many of the most popular mainline console games are also being released on the handheld. The latest of which is Counterspy, the first game from indie studio Dynamighty and the latest to be offered under cross buy. An interesting premise, and solid previews, had us excited for this one, but the final product is unfortunately not without its issues.

In Counterspy, you take the role of a secret agent sent behind both US and Russian lines in the midst of the Cold War. Both superpowers are trying to send a rocket to the moon, which will inevitably destroy it. The humorous thing about this is that both super powers are planning the exact same military move, in the same way, with the same launch sequences. However, you have no idea when, how, or why, and uncovering this becomes your main task in Counterspy.

Counterspy is an action game that is set within a 3D style engine, but gives a very 2D feel during play. Primarily controlled from a side camera, you as the spy can hide behind objects and generally sneak about the environment, taking out enemies unheard. When the game begins, you have a DEFCON rating of 4, and as you are discovered, succumb to the enemy, or allow an enemy to call reinforcements in, that DEFCON level is slowly increased.

The interesting aspect about the DEFCON gameplay element is that it carries over between missions. So how you perform in one mission directly has a correlation with how wanted you are in the next. There are ways to reduce this level such as finding a captain alone and making them surrender, or buying formulas between missions to lower the DEFCON rating. If the DEFCON rating lowers enough, a panic is triggered, which means you as the spy have sixty seconds to end the level. This leads to a frantic race to the end of the mission trying to ensure the secret documents and cash you have picked up during the mission are not lost.

The actual missions are in general short and sharp. Most can be completed in about five minutes, even with the most meticulous of planning. This is clearly a game that Dynamighty feels you should play many times, as if you are connected online when playing, a challenge score is set on each map, and also the game is relatively short. The length of the game is set by how good you are at it. Manage to find many secret plans on each mission, and it will be over before you know it, but if you struggle to find them, expect a longer experience. We finished it after about three hours of gameplay, so don't expect this to be a lengthy experience.

This is where Counterspy somewhat begins to come unstuck. Each mission is randomly generated (aside from the very final map), and this basically leads you to restarting a mission over and over until a map you manage to complete is generated. This is not necessarily a major problem and does keep you coming back to it, but it also means that you can't plan out strategies to try and beat the mission. The random missions do increase the games longevity, but it would have been nice to see a mission 'locked' to a specific level design during the current play through. It leads to a feeling of the player being fortunate, rather than skilful, in completing some of the missions.

There are some elements in the game that do assist you in planning strategy, such as the store, which is present before each mission. Using the cashed gained in missions, you can buy new weaponry, as well as any formulas you have unlocked. These formulas might be lowering the DEFCON level or offering the spy more health for that single mission. Interestingly, these items are not lost when you fail in a mission, and are retained until you complete it.

One major problem, and this is more PS VITA specific, is that the responsiveness of the controls are not as tight as we would have liked. Often we would press circle to try and hide, only to end up barrelling down towards the enemy. We also played the game on the PS4 and did not experience this, so it's clear the VITA in some areas is struggling. As well as this, on the VITA, we occasionally experienced some choppy frame rates that again was not present in the PS4 version.

Visually the game is impressive on the VITA, but there are a few jaggies that really stick out when playing. There is also the aforementioned frame rate issues that need to be dealt with, but overall, Dynamighty has done a pretty good job. Again, this is significantly better on the PS4, as you would expect. There is no voice acting, instead the cut scenes play out in basic text dialogue on screen, whilst the soundtrack is very much that you would expect from a game set in the Cold War.

Counterspy was one of our most anticipated VITA games, and whilst for the most part it lives up to the hype, there is just enough here to have us cautioning you before a purchase. If you are the kind of gamer that cannot handle frame rate issues, or controls that can seem unresponsive at times, then this game is not for you on the VITA. However, aside from that, this is a solid title, despite the lower power of the handheld. If you have a spare few hours to play a VITA game, you could do worse than Counterspy.

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Ultra Street Fighter IV PC Game Review
I'm probably not alone in that one of my first gaming memories is being taken by my friends to the local game outlet to play Street Fighter II at the arcade. It was that which introduced me to the famous series that is Street Fighter, and the second iteration still remains one of the most iconic video games of all time. Street Fighter IV has been and gone, and as is tradition, many different versions have been released after the main version. The latest (and apparently final) version of this is Ultra Street Fighter IV, a version which introduces new fighters, new outfits for the fighters and rounds off the SFIV series. Street Fighter IV has always been a solid game, but the Ultra version is not without its problems, especially on the PC.

Like its predecessors, Ultra Street Fighter IV has an overall story and one for each of the individual characters. In the arcade mode of the game, when you select a character to complete the story with, a few anime cut scenes play out, giving some background as to why this character is fighting. Some of these are incredibly cheesy and over the top, however, overall they fit the game well, and provide some much needed meat to the arcade side of the game for those who just want to play this game by themselves - which, of course, is generally not what SF is all about.

In terms of what has been added for the Ultra version, there are three main categories; characters, stages, and special moves. Ultra includes five new characters; Poison, Decapre, Hugo Andore, Elena, and Rolento F Schugerg. These characters seem loosely based on some previously existing characters with some of their special moves very much mimicking that of some long term stalwarts. Aside from characters, six new stages have been added to the game as well, however, the main change to the gameplay comes in the form of some new special moves.

Ultra adds the ability for a player to select both Ultra combos a character can have (leading to a reduced damage impact), which changes strategy somewhat. In fact, a lot of the changes are very much aimed towards the very high level competition play. For example, one of the additions is the ability to change the way your character recovers from being knocked over. This, in theory, throws top players off their combo moves. If you are a typical Street Fighter IV player, then this is likely to not mean too much to you. You can now also choose the version of your character you wish to play as from the Street Fighter IV range.

From a PC perspective, this game runs very well, even on moderately powerful hardware. Given that this game is a last-generation console game, this is of no surprise, but in an interesting move before you can go online for multiplayer, the game benchmarks your system. That benchmark is then displayed to opposing players for them to decide if they want to play you. For example, if someone has an 'E' class system, they may not want to play an 'A' class system. It's quite a strange thing, but the assumption is that a lower powered machine will have a disadvantage, against a higher spec system.

One area where we did feel a bit disappointed was what we experienced of the netcode. The game in general does run quite well, but there were a few stutters here and there. Even when playing against someone in the local country, there was an indication that the connection was very poor, which was surprising - so, playing intercontinental tournaments or fights is likely not going to offer a good experience.

As well as this, it takes a while for the games to connect, and we found sometimes the games would just drop out before even finalizing the connection.

There are numerous modes to play in the game, ranging from the typical basic arcade mode through to training, where you can practice your move sets. On the multiplayer side of the game, there are even more modes, including the ability for players to form teams and fight in groups or again perform training online. On the single player side, there is the usual arcade mode, but also 'challenges' makes a return, which actually is quite a meaty game mode for a fighting game. It also helps you become proficient at the game, in some ways even more so than the actual training mode.

On the visuals side, Ultra remains a 2.5D game, but it is still a stunningly-beautiful game. Street Fighter IV has always impressed with its visuals, and Ultra is no different. The new characters are animated extremely well and fit into the visual style. The new stages are also visually impressive with lots of action going on behind the actual fight. It really is a 2D fighting game that looks like a 3D one. The cut scenes played through the arcade mode are also animated well, and presented in an anime style. The only thing about the cut scenes is that the voice acting comes across as very run of the mill and cheesy.

The fact is that if you are a big Street Fighter fan, it is likely Ultra is a no brainer for you, and it's also a no brainer for those who want a fighting game, and have yet to pick up a version of Street Fighter IV. However, for those who already have SFIV or Super SFIV, it is a harder sell. Some of the changes are specifically aimed at very high level play, and the new characters, whilst adding something to the game, are not exactly must have additions.

PRICING: You can find the Ultra Street Fighter IV for PC for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Ultra Street Fighter IV [Online Game Code] retails for $29.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The Ultra Street Fighter IV PC Game retails for CDN$28.99 at Amazon Canada.

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