Watch Tekken 7’s Newest, Tiger-Summoning Fighter in Action

Bandai Namco has released a trailer for another Tekken 7 fighter who’s a completely new addition to the fighting game series.

Kazumi Mishima, who first appeared in the opening cinematic for Tekken 7, Is Heihachi Mishima’s wife, Kazuya Mishima mother, and (at least one of) the game’s boss characters who can transform into a demon. As you can see in the video below, some of her special attacks involve summoning a tiger.

Tekken 7 was announced last year. The game, which is powered by Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, is already in Japanese arcades, but Bandai Namco has yet to announce when the game will hit other platforms in other territories.

For more on the game, check out GameSpot’s previous coverage of Tekken 7.

Want to Go to E3? You Might Get an Invite From Your Favorite Game Company

E3 is the biggest event of the year for the gaming industry, but it’s always been a trade show closed to the public. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the organization that puts on E3, is starting to change that this year.

ESA’s senior vice president of consumer and industry affairs Rich Taylor told Polygon that the organization gave 4,000 to 5,000 E3 passes to game companies that are ESA members and are exhibiting at the show this year. Taylor didn’t share the exact split, but the number of passes a company got was relative to the size of its booth, meaning that companies that pay more for bigger booths get more passes.

The game companies can then distribute these passes to these customers. Note that having a pass to all days of the show means you’ll be able to wait in line and play whatever demos are on the show floor, but that this doesn’t guarantee appointments behind closed doors (which is where publications like GameSpot see some of the biggest, newest games every year), or a seat at any of the big press conferences held separately by Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, and Bethesda.

“The thinking was to include the prosumers and then evaluate how it went after this year’s show,” Taylor told Polygon, suggesting that the show might be even more open to the public in the future.

E3 2015 kicks off Sunday, June 14 with Bethesda’s first-ever briefing. The show then rolls on Monday with briefings from Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Sony. Things continue Tuesday, when Nintendo and Square Enix hold their own events. For more on E3 2015, check out GameSpot’s complete roundup of the dates and times for all the briefings.

Magicka 2 Review

Put Magicka 2 next to its 2011 predecessor and you’ve got a before-and-after comparison straight out of a weight-loss advertising campaign. The new-and-improved version is leaner, meaner, and better looking, but just like in those ad photos, at the end of the day this is still the same guy with a few less pounds and a spray-on tan. As a fan of the cult franchise, I don’t consider this a disappointment. I’m happy with more of the same because this new demonstration of wizard-bursting carnage features the same skill-based magic system and catchy co-operative modes of play that made the original play like Dungeons and Dragons on crank in a slaughterhouse. Still, there isn’t much new here aside from expected refinements, like smoother controls and better visuals, and plenty of added frustration from bugs and the extreme difficulty for single players.

Anyone who played the first Magicka will see a lot that’s familiar here. This is pretty much the same magical combat experience, with colorful cowled wizards slinging spells at a veritable Monster Manual lineup of goblins, orcs, ents, gun-toting demons, and more. As before, the essence of the game can be summed up with its control mechanics. While this looks like the usual rip-off of an action RPG, there are no experience points, no inventory, no need to smash open chests to get at the enchanted goodies inside, or anything else that might be the provenance of Diablo and its successors. All that’s between you and the bad guys are eight magical elements (accessed via the QWER and ASDF banks of keys or via the buttons on a gamepad, if you swing that way) that are called up and thrown together into combos to create dozens of spell effects you can cast on yourself, enemies, or the area at large.

As a result, combat is almost entirely skill-based, depending on how swift you are with a keyboard. You can dumb things down and hammer on single elements for spells. Hit Arcane, and you launch a death beam. Fire activates a mystical flamethrower, Water calls up a spout of H2O, and so forth. But that won’t get you very far due to the sheer number of monsters. You need to do a lot of experimenting to make the most of your spellcasting.

This means that combat quickly grows complex. You can use up to five elements at once. Some are good matches, while others are opposites (oddly enough, Water and Lightning don’t mix well). Add Cold to Shield, and you get a frozen barrier. Use Earth and Fire to launch flaming boulders at foes. But you’ve really got to play around with the spells (or do some online searching) to get a grip on the powerful spell effects generated by using more than two elements. And you’ve gotta dance on the keys like you’re a latter-day Mavis Beacon or you won’t be able to keep up with the enemy hordes.

As with the first game, Magicka 2 also features superpowered “magicks” that take incantations to the next level. The one big difference here is that these spells can be accessed via hotkeys rather than having to type in a challenging combination of three or more keys. This removes some of the skill from the game in that you don’t have to splay your fingers all over the keyboard to cast Haste or Thunderbolt. It also takes away some of the fun, especially for the overly dextrous. Before, you were only limited by the speed of your fingers. Now, each of these magicks is subject to a cooldown period.

Calling down powerful magicks can be helpful in spots, but only if you’re extremely adroit with the eight keys that control spells.

Still, these instant-access magicks seem to make a positive change overall. Anything that eases the steep learning curve for the average player can only be a good thing, especially given the challenge of the core spell-casting system. You can still use the key combos if you want (although the cooldown period is still in effect, so there’s little point in doing things the hard way).

Speaking of a challenge, Magicka 2 is even harder than its predecessor, which is really saying something. Both the adventure campaign and the one-off Challenge scenarios against waves of monsters are brutally tough when you’re going solo. I found it unplayable after the fourth chapter, where I encountered swarms of creatures that wiped me out again and again. Casual players and those who want to go it alone desperately need an easier difficulty setting.

Aspects of the campaign are sadistically punitive. Levels have been designed as killing floors where retreat is routinely blocked off. Every battle plays out the same way. You walk over a trigger point. This kicks off a huge monster onslaught. Overwhelming enemy numbers force you to retreat. Then the game refuses to let you go any farther, even though there is no visible reason why you can’t go back down a cave tunnel or forest path that you just traversed seconds before. Seconds later, you’re dead.

That Magicka sense of humor returns.

I can’t understand why the developers chose to cut off escape routes like this and make battles so cramped. It is totally unnecessary and does nothing but push the game beyond any sort of reasonable difficulty level. In addition, closing down the ability to freewheel really affects the gameplay, turning battles into mindless drudgery where you constantly run away, pausing only to lay down bombs and shields in your wake or heal up.

Thank Odin for co-op. The only way to really enjoy (and survive) Magicka 2 is by joining up to three other mages either online or locally and tackling the campaign or challenges together. This doesn’t turn levels into a cakewalk, but adding even one buddy turns unwinnable scraps against giant orcs and their pals into tough but manageable battle royales that are a blast to play. It’s easy to log in and play with two or three strangers in seconds.

Every match is a chaotic free-for-all that moves swiftly, with zero to very little slowdown even in the most insane battles with mobs of monsters. The one drawback is that everything is so nuts with explosions and death beams and gibbed mages that you can easily lose track of where you are on the screen. It’s clear that the developers intended players to experience Magicka 2 in co-op, although it’s a shame that they didn’t scale the difficulty better so solo players could get the most out of the game. Incidentally, there is no versus mode here, likely because of the team-based multiplayer focus of sister game Magicka: Wizard Wars.

Magicka 2 is even harder than its predecessor, which is really saying something.

Other changes are fairly minor. Movement is now smoother, and you can cast spells and run at the same time. You can pick a location, click to run to it, and then blast away at trailing enemies as you shuffle backwards. I found this incredibly helpful when retreating from crowds of monsters (well, at least until the game decided not to let me back up any farther). The old checkpoint save system has been automated with regular save locations that prevent a fair bit of backtracking (although there are some aggravating moments, and you are always set too far back if you get killed during boss battles). You can use unlockable artifacts to tweak gameplay, offering the ability to adjust everything from your health to enemy attacks and introducing goofy frills, like adding sitcom laughter to deaths. It’s an interesting concept, although I didn’t experiment much here. Artifacts seem to hold promise in boosting replayability, though.

Visuals and sound are in the same ballpark as the original game, although the graphics are more colorful and better detailed and the sound is a little more amped up and cartoony. As with the first game, there is a pleasant atmosphere to everything, with a bright color palette, NPCs speaking gibberish, and constant self-lampooning jokes–right up until the moment the first wizard explodes into shreds of red goo. Nothing here is funny in a laugh-out-loud way, although the combination of good cheer and bloody murder is twisted enough to raise a few smiles.

Playing cooperatively is the only way to experience the murderous mayhem that is Magicka 2.

Bugs are something of a concern. The game is stable enough that I didn’t experience any crashes, but I did run into a couple of glitches playing solo. Every so often, getting killed by the exit to a level’s section during the campaign would throw me into the next section as if I’d slain the bad guys. Given the spectacular difficulty of many of these fights, I wasn’t complaining. Still, there’s obviously a bug here.

Respawning is messed up in solo play. Almost without fail, getting killed once in the midst of a mob of enemies results in getting killed twice in the midst of a mob of enemies because you always respawn within inches of where you were murdered in the first place. To make matters even worse, you can sustain damage almost from the moment you appear, and magicks (including Haste, which is spectacularly useful in these situations), are greyed out for what seems like a thousand years after you pop back into existence. Because getting taken out twice sends you back to a save point, this automatic second strike is incredibly annoying.

Battles can get just a teensy bit chaotic, especially in Magicka 2 co-op, which is really the best and only way to experience the game.

A lot of the discussion above sounds pretty negative. That’s with good reason–I have to admit that at many times, solo Magicka 2 almost made me throw my mouse through my office window. But the terrific magic system, joyous carnage, and the ability to ditch single-player for the vastly more enjoyable co-op rescued the game and made it almost as compelling as the typical “after” model featured in a late-night infomercial. If you’re a social type, this is a must-play. But loners might want to give this one a pass, at least until the developers scale the difficulty better for single mages.

Magicka 2 Review

Put Magicka 2 next to its 2011 predecessor and you’ve got a before-and-after comparison straight out of a weight-loss advertising campaign. The new-and-improved version is leaner, meaner, and better looking, but just like in those ad photos, at the end of the day this is still the same guy with a few less pounds and a spray-on tan. As a fan of the cult franchise, I don’t consider this a disappointment. I’m happy with more of the same because this new demonstration of wizard-bursting carnage features the same skill-based magic system and catchy co-operative modes of play that made the original play like Dungeons and Dragons on crank in a slaughterhouse. Still, there isn’t much new here aside from expected refinements, like smoother controls and better visuals, and plenty of added frustration from bugs and the extreme difficulty for single players.

Anyone who played the first Magicka will see a lot that’s familiar here. This is pretty much the same magical combat experience, with colorful cowled wizards slinging spells at a veritable Monster Manual lineup of goblins, orcs, ents, gun-toting demons, and more. As before, the essence of the game can be summed up with its control mechanics. While this looks like the usual rip-off of an action RPG, there are no experience points, no inventory, no need to smash open chests to get at the enchanted goodies inside, or anything else that might be the provenance of Diablo and its successors. All that’s between you and the bad guys are eight magical elements (accessed via the QWER and ASDF banks of keys or via the buttons on a gamepad, if you swing that way) that are called up and thrown together into combos to create dozens of spell effects you can cast on yourself, enemies, or the area at large.

As a result, combat is almost entirely skill-based, depending on how swift you are with a keyboard. You can dumb things down and hammer on single elements for spells. Hit Arcane, and you launch a death beam. Fire activates a mystical flamethrower, Water calls up a spout of H2O, and so forth. But that won’t get you very far due to the sheer number of monsters. You need to do a lot of experimenting to make the most of your spellcasting.

This means that combat quickly grows complex. You can use up to five elements at once. Some are good matches, while others are opposites (oddly enough, Water and Lightning don’t mix well). Add Cold to Shield, and you get a frozen barrier. Use Earth and Fire to launch flaming boulders at foes. But you’ve really got to play around with the spells (or do some online searching) to get a grip on the powerful spell effects generated by using more than two elements. And you’ve gotta dance on the keys like you’re a latter-day Mavis Beacon or you won’t be able to keep up with the enemy hordes.

As with the first game, Magicka 2 also features superpowered “magicks” that take incantations to the next level. The one big difference here is that these spells can be accessed via hotkeys rather than having to type in a challenging combination of three or more keys. This removes some of the skill from the game in that you don’t have to splay your fingers all over the keyboard to cast Haste or Thunderbolt. It also takes away some of the fun, especially for the overly dextrous. Before, you were only limited by the speed of your fingers. Now, each of these magicks is subject to a cooldown period.

Calling down powerful magicks can be helpful in spots, but only if you’re extremely adroit with the eight keys that control spells.

Still, these instant-access magicks seem to make a positive change overall. Anything that eases the steep learning curve for the average player can only be a good thing, especially given the challenge of the core spell-casting system. You can still use the key combos if you want (although the cooldown period is still in effect, so there’s little point in doing things the hard way).

Speaking of a challenge, Magicka 2 is even harder than its predecessor, which is really saying something. Both the adventure campaign and the one-off Challenge scenarios against waves of monsters are brutally tough when you’re going solo. I found it unplayable after the fourth chapter, where I encountered swarms of creatures that wiped me out again and again. Casual players and those who want to go it alone desperately need an easier difficulty setting.

Aspects of the campaign are sadistically punitive. Levels have been designed as killing floors where retreat is routinely blocked off. Every battle plays out the same way. You walk over a trigger point. This kicks off a huge monster onslaught. Overwhelming enemy numbers force you to retreat. Then the game refuses to let you go any farther, even though there is no visible reason why you can’t go back down a cave tunnel or forest path that you just traversed seconds before. Seconds later, you’re dead.

That Magicka sense of humor returns.

I can’t understand why the developers chose to cut off escape routes like this and make battles so cramped. It is totally unnecessary and does nothing but push the game beyond any sort of reasonable difficulty level. In addition, closing down the ability to freewheel really affects the gameplay, turning battles into mindless drudgery where you constantly run away, pausing only to lay down bombs and shields in your wake or heal up.

Thank Odin for co-op. The only way to really enjoy (and survive) Magicka 2 is by joining up to three other mages either online or locally and tackling the campaign or challenges together. This doesn’t turn levels into a cakewalk, but adding even one buddy turns unwinnable scraps against giant orcs and their pals into tough but manageable battle royales that are a blast to play. It’s easy to log in and play with two or three strangers in seconds.

Every match is a chaotic free-for-all that moves swiftly, with zero to very little slowdown even in the most insane battles with mobs of monsters. The one drawback is that everything is so nuts with explosions and death beams and gibbed mages that you can easily lose track of where you are on the screen. It’s clear that the developers intended players to experience Magicka 2 in co-op, although it’s a shame that they didn’t scale the difficulty better so solo players could get the most out of the game. Incidentally, there is no versus mode here, likely because of the team-based multiplayer focus of sister game Magicka: Wizard Wars.

Magicka 2 is even harder than its predecessor, which is really saying something.

Other changes are fairly minor. Movement is now smoother, and you can cast spells and run at the same time. You can pick a location, click to run to it, and then blast away at trailing enemies as you shuffle backwards. I found this incredibly helpful when retreating from crowds of monsters (well, at least until the game decided not to let me back up any farther). The old checkpoint save system has been automated with regular save locations that prevent a fair bit of backtracking (although there are some aggravating moments, and you are always set too far back if you get killed during boss battles). You can use unlockable artifacts to tweak gameplay, offering the ability to adjust everything from your health to enemy attacks and introducing goofy frills, like adding sitcom laughter to deaths. It’s an interesting concept, although I didn’t experiment much here. Artifacts seem to hold promise in boosting replayability, though.

Visuals and sound are in the same ballpark as the original game, although the graphics are more colorful and better detailed and the sound is a little more amped up and cartoony. As with the first game, there is a pleasant atmosphere to everything, with a bright color palette, NPCs speaking gibberish, and constant self-lampooning jokes–right up until the moment the first wizard explodes into shreds of red goo. Nothing here is funny in a laugh-out-loud way, although the combination of good cheer and bloody murder is twisted enough to raise a few smiles.

Playing cooperatively is the only way to experience the murderous mayhem that is Magicka 2.

Bugs are something of a concern. The game is stable enough that I didn’t experience any crashes, but I did run into a couple of glitches playing solo. Every so often, getting killed by the exit to a level’s section during the campaign would throw me into the next section as if I’d slain the bad guys. Given the spectacular difficulty of many of these fights, I wasn’t complaining. Still, there’s obviously a bug here.

Respawning is messed up in solo play. Almost without fail, getting killed once in the midst of a mob of enemies results in getting killed twice in the midst of a mob of enemies because you always respawn within inches of where you were murdered in the first place. To make matters even worse, you can sustain damage almost from the moment you appear, and magicks (including Haste, which is spectacularly useful in these situations), are greyed out for what seems like a thousand years after you pop back into existence. Because getting taken out twice sends you back to a save point, this automatic second strike is incredibly annoying.

Battles can get just a teensy bit chaotic, especially in Magicka 2 co-op, which is really the best and only way to experience the game.

A lot of the discussion above sounds pretty negative. That’s with good reason–I have to admit that at many times, solo Magicka 2 almost made me throw my mouse through my office window. But the terrific magic system, joyous carnage, and the ability to ditch single-player for the vastly more enjoyable co-op rescued the game and made it almost as compelling as the typical “after” model featured in a late-night infomercial. If you’re a social type, this is a must-play. But loners might want to give this one a pass, at least until the developers scale the difficulty better for single mages.

Magnetic: Cage Closed Review

Magnetic: Cage Closed is a game where every second is a battle against loose jumping and even looser primary gimmick powers as you solve mindless puzzles. Unwieldy imprecision is at the core of Magnetic, and it makes for a terribly frustrating experience.

Originally created as a student project for developer Guru Games, Magnetic: Cage Closed is a puzzle-platformer with magnetic force as the primary gimmick. Stuck in some dystopian prison (for reasons that are never properly explained) and sentenced to death row, your character is given a chance at freedom if she can escape the twisted, sadistic warden’s experimental weapons laboratory by becoming the latest guinea pig for a new supertool: a magnet gun.

This is as subtle as Magnetic’s storytelling gets.

If that sounds like an intriguing premise, it is. The game was originally designed as Portal meets The Cube, and solving physics-based puzzles in a totalitarian prison environment sounds like an idea with legs. However, it’s clear that Magnetic: Cage Closed doesn’t have the personality or fresh perspective to pull this sort of material off. The primary villain, the warden, is GlaDos without any of that homicidal AI’s charm or humor. And while the game has every right to tell a more serious story, it doesn’t, despite many attempts. There’s no nuance or subtlety to the villains, your environment, or your actions. Thus, the story is an “evil prison” with no context or heart pushing you forward.

The game’s primary gimmick is magnetic attraction/repulsion. You’re given a magnet gun–with three different power settings–that you can use to attract surfaces or repel them. You can use your gun to pick up boxes and then shoot them across the room. You can levitate across specialized magnetic pads and use those pads to fling yourself across rooms. But at every turn, it never felt like I was in true control of my movements and actions.

If I never see another lever again, it will be too soon.

It’s the little things that add up in Magnetic: Cage Closed’s avalanche of missteps. Mid-puzzle checkpoints are a rarity, almost to the point of being non-existent. For many of the more-involved, late-game puzzles, you will play long sections of puzzles over and over again as you reach the spot where one botched jump or poorly executed magnetic repulsion flight means instant death through impalement or a slow death through chlorine gas poison.

At the beginning of the game, it’s not an issue. Magnetic is simply dull. But the back half of the game featured multiple puzzles that I spent over half an hour on (and two that took over an hour) not because the puzzles were difficult to solve–puzzles are never more involved than “get boxes here”–but because the platforming refused to cooperate. Various “puzzles” rely on trial-and-error guessing instead of logic. You’re required to shoot boxes at certain buttons surrounded by magnetic attraction/repulsion pads, which create magnetic fields around the button keeping you from shooting the box directly at the button. And that’s cool…in theory. But what it ultimately comes to is figuring out early where exactly you need to shoot the box and then spending 10 minutes nailing the sweet spot.

Rarely has a tool felt so useless.

The game also features “moral choices,” but they’re extremely simple. The first choice (arguably the most clever) involves simply pressing a button or not pressing a button within one minute. The rest are stale: sentence someone to certain death or don’t (without ever putting a face to the person you’re making a decision about); seek revenge or take a more selfless action. The choices could have been interesting, but you’re never given any context to make you care about why you’re doing anything.

Magnetic: Cage Closed is not a puzzle platformer that will tickle your brain and push your problem-solving capabilities. Extreme repetition, poor controls, and a barely there story makes this game a dull proposition from start to finish.

Sunset Review

In Sunset, you sweep dusty floors, wash spotted windows, and fold a stranger’s well-pressed, tailored clothes–every week for a full year.

These acts might sound routine and tedious, but when you’re rooted in the fictional Latin American country of Anchuria during a 1972 military coup, a ritualistic comfort goes along with carefully making a bed or unclogging the upstairs sink. Still, uncertainty lies even within these constants because the man whose house you maintain has ties to the political and cultural turmoil engulfing the streets. Sunset beautifully pairs its dull corners with a sharp, sociopolitical edge, and while its inconsistent pacing and nagging technical hiccups blur the vision, there’s an unquestionable beauty in watching the sunset kiss the tips of skyscrapers as another somber day comes to a close.

No matter the time of day, Sunset is a beautiful game.

You’ll spend Sunset’s four-hour run with Angela Burns, an African-American engineer working as a housekeeper to cover her hefty school bills. Angela works for the affluent art collector Gabriel Ortega, whom Angela gets to know solely through his surplus of sculptures and paintings, his eclectic taste in literature, and a series of notes on which you can write personal responses. You become most intimately acquainted with the actual apartment, though, which both subtly and dramatically morphs as the revolution outside its walls progresses. It’s a character all its own, and you grow accustomed to its many distinguishing features–such as the deep closet dug into Ortega’s bedroom, the neatly prepared chess board in the game room that pines for players, and, maybe most importantly, the wide windows by the patio that act as a thin veil between calm and chaos.

How this apartment is decorated and what you do during each in-game hour is up to you. If you feel compelled to go above and beyond the to-do list and hang up pictures of Ortega’s accomplishments, you have the option. If you just don’t feel up to lifting a finger on a cool September evening, you can simply turn around, open the elevator doors, and call it a night.

The diary entries tend to provide the most poignant writing.

You do work within boundaries, though. You can’t throw a chair in the fireplace or send the grand piano out the window and into the streets (I tried), but the chores you’re assigned have variations. You’re given a warm and a cool option when you hover your cursor over a task, which determines whether you want to add some personality to the work or complete the task plainly. You can decorate the second floor with bright, floral wallpaper or slap on whatever drab design Ortega has tucked away in the closet. The material of the rug in front of the fireplace, the color of the fresh coat of paint on the bar walls, the care taken when stitching a patch into a ripped piece of clothing–this system provides a fork in every road. How these decisions affect actual change in the grand scheme of things isn’t always clear, but they do act as a silent, day-to-day means of communication between you and Ortega.

Much of the storytelling in this first-person experience is visual, but Angela’s running monologue provides direct context for each week’s happenings and her current feelings toward Ortega. In addition, Angela can sit on a canvas-wrapped chair located within the apartment at any time to begin scribbling notes into her diary. Beyond questioning Ortega’s intentions and worrying for her rebel brother’s safety during the conflict, she digs deeper into her interpretation of Ortega’s art, the social differences between Anchuria and her hometown of Baltimore, and her place in this unstable country. This is where the superb writing shines brightest, and while the text’s sluggish scroll quickly drains precious minutes before the sun sets, it’s worth your time to drink it all in.

Continuing to clean while buildings burn just down the street is real dedication to your job.

Depending on how often you complete tasks and reply to notes with a warm sensibility, a strong romantic bond begins to form between tenant and housekeeper. It starts as an innocent flirtation, but as the revolution escalates, so do their feelings toward one another. And while the passion isn’t capped by a nightly embrace and kiss goodbye, watching the unspoken dance grow and evolve into something deeper is satisfying. It’s hard to know whether or not it’s a kinship born from tragedy and stoked by fear, but they find comfort in each other’s presence–even if that presence isn’t physical.

For the most part, the deliberate pacing benefits the relationship’s establishment. However, the steady climb toward a resolution is occasionally broken by days of inactivity and narrative stagnation. More than a few visits feel like filler, with no notes to respond to and few tasks to complete. These periods slowly drag you away from an otherwise compelling story. Sunset excels at using subtlety to build tension and curiosity, but when the progression halts, the activities start to feel like exactly what they are–chores.

Running Sunset on higher graphical settings can also be called a chore. Even after experimenting with a handful of different option combinations, I couldn’t find a mix that permanently steadied my framerate or prevented hitching. The presentation–from the glamour of the sky’s often-lavender glow to the dark smoke billowing from the buildings in the distance–is salient but often muddled by technical inconsistency. It’s a shame, too, because when Sunset does run smoothly for a visit or two and the powerful, orchestral soundtrack booms across the household, it can be an audiovisual marvel.

The only time you ever really see Angela is through her reflection.

Sunset presents so much, all while asking you to do so little. A revolution burns, bombs burst just out of sight, and all you can do is decide if your boss would rather have a fancy dinner or a hefty portion of macaroni. The complexity of your decisions is occasionally greater than setting the table, but Sunset succeeds at making each small action feel significant by giving them all similar weight. Though the story is peppered with periods of inactivity that are detrimental to the pace, Sunset acts as a thoughtful, pensive walk through social themes and struggles not often explored in this medium.

Sunset Review

In Sunset, you sweep dusty floors, wash spotted windows, and fold a stranger’s well-pressed, tailored clothes–every week for a full year.

These acts might sound routine and tedious, but when you’re rooted in the fictional Latin American country of Anchuria during a 1972 military coup, a ritualistic comfort goes along with carefully making a bed or unclogging the upstairs sink. Still, uncertainty lies even within these constants because the man whose house you maintain has ties to the political and cultural turmoil engulfing the streets. Sunset beautifully pairs its dull corners with a sharp, sociopolitical edge, and while its inconsistent pacing and nagging technical hiccups blur the vision, there’s an unquestionable beauty in watching the sunset kiss the tips of skyscrapers as another somber day comes to a close.

No matter the time of day, Sunset is a beautiful game.

You’ll spend Sunset’s four-hour run with Angela Burns, an African-American engineer working as a housekeeper to cover her hefty school bills. Angela works for the affluent art collector Gabriel Ortega, whom Angela gets to know solely through his surplus of sculptures and paintings, his eclectic taste in literature, and a series of notes on which you can write personal responses. You become most intimately acquainted with the actual apartment, though, which both subtly and dramatically morphs as the revolution outside its walls progresses. It’s a character all its own, and you grow accustomed to its many distinguishing features–such as the deep closet dug into Ortega’s bedroom, the neatly prepared chess board in the game room that pines for players, and, maybe most importantly, the wide windows by the patio that act as a thin veil between calm and chaos.

How this apartment is decorated and what you do during each in-game hour is up to you. If you feel compelled to go above and beyond the to-do list and hang up pictures of Ortega’s accomplishments, you have the option. If you just don’t feel up to lifting a finger on a cool September evening, you can simply turn around, open the elevator doors, and call it a night.

The diary entries tend to provide the most poignant writing.

You do work within boundaries, though. You can’t throw a chair in the fireplace or send the grand piano out the window and into the streets (I tried), but the chores you’re assigned have variations. You’re given a warm and a cool option when you hover your cursor over a task, which determines whether you want to add some personality to the work or complete the task plainly. You can decorate the second floor with bright, floral wallpaper or slap on whatever drab design Ortega has tucked away in the closet. The material of the rug in front of the fireplace, the color of the fresh coat of paint on the bar walls, the care taken when stitching a patch into a ripped piece of clothing–this system provides a fork in every road. How these decisions affect actual change in the grand scheme of things isn’t always clear, but they do act as a silent, day-to-day means of communication between you and Ortega.

Much of the storytelling in this first-person experience is visual, but Angela’s running monologue provides direct context for each week’s happenings and her current feelings toward Ortega. In addition, Angela can sit on a canvas-wrapped chair located within the apartment at any time to begin scribbling notes into her diary. Beyond questioning Ortega’s intentions and worrying for her rebel brother’s safety during the conflict, she digs deeper into her interpretation of Ortega’s art, the social differences between Anchuria and her hometown of Baltimore, and her place in this unstable country. This is where the superb writing shines brightest, and while the text’s sluggish scroll quickly drains precious minutes before the sun sets, it’s worth your time to drink it all in.

Continuing to clean while buildings burn just down the street is real dedication to your job.

Depending on how often you complete tasks and reply to notes with a warm sensibility, a strong romantic bond begins to form between tenant and housekeeper. It starts as an innocent flirtation, but as the revolution escalates, so do their feelings toward one another. And while the passion isn’t capped by a nightly embrace and kiss goodbye, watching the unspoken dance grow and evolve into something deeper is satisfying. It’s hard to know whether or not it’s a kinship born from tragedy and stoked by fear, but they find comfort in each other’s presence–even if that presence isn’t physical.

For the most part, the deliberate pacing benefits the relationship’s establishment. However, the steady climb toward a resolution is occasionally broken by days of inactivity and narrative stagnation. More than a few visits feel like filler, with no notes to respond to and few tasks to complete. These periods slowly drag you away from an otherwise compelling story. Sunset excels at using subtlety to build tension and curiosity, but when the progression halts, the activities start to feel like exactly what they are–chores.

Running Sunset on higher graphical settings can also be called a chore. Even after experimenting with a handful of different option combinations, I couldn’t find a mix that permanently steadied my framerate or prevented hitching. The presentation–from the glamour of the sky’s often-lavender glow to the dark smoke billowing from the buildings in the distance–is salient but often muddled by technical inconsistency. It’s a shame, too, because when Sunset does run smoothly for a visit or two and the powerful, orchestral soundtrack booms across the household, it can be an audiovisual marvel.

The only time you ever really see Angela is through her reflection.

Sunset presents so much, all while asking you to do so little. A revolution burns, bombs burst just out of sight, and all you can do is decide if your boss would rather have a fancy dinner or a hefty portion of macaroni. The complexity of your decisions is occasionally greater than setting the table, but Sunset succeeds at making each small action feel significant by giving them all similar weight. Though the story is peppered with periods of inactivity that are detrimental to the pace, Sunset acts as a thoughtful, pensive walk through social themes and struggles not often explored in this medium.

Game of Thrones: Episode Four — Sons of Winter Review

A friend once joked that HBO’s Game of Thrones should be renamed “A Series of Meetings,” given its string of recent episodes featuring more exposition and chatter than action. I’m applying this moniker to Sons of Winter, the fourth episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones, because it marks a departure from the series’ dramatic tension and, unfortunately, is starting to mimic its source material in all-too-predictable ways. That’s not to say Sons of Winter is without its bright points, however: they come in the form of the episode’s secondary characters, who unravel their own backstories and add more interesting dilemmas.

I’ve praised the the game’s focus on the Forrester family before; they are always the most interesting characters on screen at any given time, overshadowing cameos from the TV show’s stars. It’s been thoroughly delightful (and painful, in that masochistic, enjoyable way) to watch Mira evolve into a sneaking schemer, to see Rodrik struggle to balance the demands of Lady Forrester and his sister Talia without letting either down, and to uncover the mystery of the fabled North Grove with Gared. But their story is starting to to mimic the tale of the Starks–the downtrodden family at the center of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire–with the introduction of new characters and scenarios that come across as though detailed on a writer’s checklist of necessary plot points. I can’t list all those things here, as doing do would spoil nearly every turning point for the episode, but I can say that if you’re familiar with the arcs of Sansa Stark and Jon Snow, you will find few surprises here.

We last left Gared Tuttle at the Wall in more trouble that he’s ever been, with Mira out of favor with Margaery Tyrell, with Rodrik trying and failing to regain control of Ironrath, and with Asher at the feet of Daenerys Targaryen. Most of the major choices in Sons of Winter revolve around the heroes trying to please one person at the expense of incurring another’s wrath–something you’ve been doing in more exciting, meaningful ways for three episodes already. There’s a lot of verbal fencing, but none of it reaches anxious heights of, say, Mira’s first conversation with Cersei Lannister in Episode One. For example, Asher’s plea to Daenerys to provide an army is rushed and flat, and no matter what you tell her, she continues to threaten you. Having Mira eavesdropping on partygoers and potentially ruin fellow handmaiden Sera’s life doesn’t feel thrilling, and threats made towards her are all simple variants of “You’ll pay for this!” and “We’ll get you!” with little bite behind the bark.

Sons of Winter is about defense and safety–protecting yourself and your house, and keeping who you can safe. You can’t keep everyone secure, though, and most decisions are predictable: side with Beshka or with your uncle as Asher, side with Sera (or not) as Mira, side with your mother or with the woman you love as Rodrik. These gambits of “him or her” decisions, one after another, have become tiring four episodes in. You have to decide how to use the information you have, who to reveal it to, and with whom to use it as a bargaining chip. You’ll make people angry, fall further out of favor if you choose to put your family first, and, in one instance, alter someone’s only chance at having a good life.

You’re still being pushed to think of your family first, and endanger yourself in the process, but the emotional risks feel just out of sight here, not in the way that you can sometimes be blind to negative consequences, but in a way that you aren’t taking time to weigh outcomes because there is no threat to consider. Having those threats simmer at every major choice has served Game of Thrones well in its first half, but Episode Four drops the tension entirely. In Mira’s case, for instance, you gather loads of useful information in a short amount of time and are then able to bully and tease others as you please. But by making Mira powerful, much of what made her storyline frightening has been sidelined. She’s playing the Game of Thrones with no immediate consequence.

Perhaps this is the part of Game of Thrones when it’s time to talk more and do less, to bide time and wait for opportunity. But the episode’s overall goal is to introduce more information, more context, and more characters, and not to drop the Forresters directly into harm’s way. There’s nothing wrong with slowing down, but Sons of Winter slows to a crawl. Telltale’s games are at their best when they drop action sequences into unexpected junctures of downtime, thus creating threats that need to be dealt with immediately and quickly before you can proceed. An entire episode of exposition and lock-picking doesn’t contribute to the mood-building, especially in Westeros, and the lengthiest action sequence–a string of running into cover, sneaking, and stealthily taking down guards–is devoid of any real stress or excitement.

There are a few emotional cling-points in Sons of Winter, and they revolve around the people who are willing to risk life and limb to help the Forresters. Most notable among these are several scenes with Beskha, the brash and cutthroat sellsword who has become Asher’s best friend. You finally learn why she’s so tough and why she’s loath to return to Meereen, and the scene culminates in one of the most heartbreaking moments in the series so far. Her tragedy outweighs Asher’s. By revealing her backstory to Asher, he gains some perspective in his relationship with her, which delivers several sweet, enjoyable moments between the two that are welcome amid the episode’s low points.

It is also refreshing to see Rodrik’s struggle against the Whitehills finally move away from the repetitive cycle of events that characterized the series’ first half. As the Whitehills realize they aren’t as strong or as powerful as they thought, unlikely allies come to Rodrik’s aid. These supporting characters bring a refreshing change to the fight we’ve seen so far, revealing personalities that alternately clash and meld with the Forresters and bring out new, personal facets of their struggle. Rodrik’s beloved, Elaena Glenmore, becomes more important in Episode Four than she’s been throughout the series, evolving beyond a love interest and perhaps into something more dangerous as she pushes Rodrik to take action on her behalf.

A bit about the presence of the TV show characters: Daenerys is totally out of character. She’s mean and hard in ways that she isn’t in the TV series. In the show, she is firm and always open to listening, but Telltale has made her into a vicious would-be despot. Her scene happens early in the episode and jarred me out of the experience; she didn’t fit, her behavior so off that it was harder for me to find my emotional footing for the rest of the episode.

As Telltale’s Game of Thrones passes its halfway mark, it takes a bit of a dip, staging a set of scenes that feels less like something you can control and more like something you can only passively watch. There’s no sense of agency in the choices you are offered; you simply spin a conversation in a certain direction before arriving at a pre-determined outcome. Sons of Winter is set dressing, though the events of its last two minutes are strong enough of a taster to make you hunger for Episode Five. It’s a bit disappointing that the rest of the episode doesn’t reach the dramatic bar Telltale has already set for itself.

Evolve’s New, Free Arena Mode Gets Right to the Action

Publisher 2K and developer Turtle Rock Studios today released a new, free mode for its four-players versus one monster multiplayer shooter Evolve.

The new Arena Mode lets players get right to the action, pitting hunters against the monster in best-of-three matches set in fixed arenas.

The fixed arenas are set on 14 of Evolve’s maps for a total of 70 locations to fight in. Hunters enter the arena and face off against a monster that starts the match at Stage 2, and simply battle to the death. The round ends when either the monster or all the hunters are eliminated, and the next match starts in a new fixed arena on the same map.

Arena Mode is completely free on all platform and is available starting today. If you want to watch Arena Mode in action, check out Evolve’s Twitch channel here starting at 12:00 PM Eastern Time.

Earlier this month, 2K parent company Take-Two said Turtle Rock will continue to support Evolve throughout the year with new characters, modes, and more. Evolve has shipped around 2.5 million copies since its release across Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC back in February, and the publisher called it a “key long-term franchise for 2K.”

Blizzard Explains Why It Removed Heroes of the Storm Character’s Cigar

Blizzard fans might have noticed that StarCraft’s Tychus Findlay, who’s a playable character in Heroes of the Storm, no longer has his signature cigar hanging out the side of his mouth. As Blizzard recently explained in a post to Reddit, the decision to remove the cigar had to do with the game’s rating.

Heroes of the Storm is published in multiple regions with a teen rating, so there are a number guidelines Blizzard has to adhere to. There are are regions where Findlay couldn’t smoke and keep the teen rating, so Blizzard could either make two versions of the character (smoking and non-smoking) or just remove the cigar entirely.

“Making 2 versions means more data management, multiple duplicates of the asset (if we update an animation, it has to propagate to all versions) such as the the death ragdoll model, The facial animations, his morph into the Odin, and apply that process to every skin as well,” a Blizzard developer said. “This mountain of work affects multiple departments and has to be addressed every time we’d adjust Tychus.”

Blizzard said that this isn’t the first time it had to adjust a Heroes of the Storm character’s appearance to accommodate rules in different regions. Any character that has a skeletal or bloody element has to be changed or removed entirely in some regions.

“It is a full time job managing those exceptions, and the less we have to manage, the more time we can spend making more game!” Blizzard said.

Ahead of the game’s official launch early next month, Heroes of the Storm has entered open beta, meaning anyone can now freely download and play Blizzard’s take on the increasingly popular MOBA genre.