Need For Speed has repeatedly attempted to reinvent itself, trying out new twists within the arcade racing milieu to stay fresh after 20 years of releases. In pursuit of that novelty, Payback throws an enormous array of activities at the wall to see what might stick, including car customization, police chases, drifting, collectibles, offroad jumps, blink-and-you-miss-them drag races, and supercar highway sprints. The sheer scope of activities is impressive at first, but consistent technical problems, hackneyed storytelling, uneven balancing, and a wildly frustrating progression system all combine to sap the fun. Payback is like being behind the wheel of a riding mower as you cut the lawn of a beautiful estate; it may be pretty and have lots to look at, but it’s still a tedious chore. 

Tyler and his crew have been betrayed, and they’re out for revenge against the nebulous threat of “The House,” a shady organization that runs the Need For Speed analog of Las Vegas. With each new stereotypical character intro, plot beat, and dialogue line, the vapid storytelling made me wince a little more, right up until the unfulfilling and anticlimactic ending. After “crushing it” and “doing it for the streets” with “drifting anarchist hackers” for several dozen hours, I found myself longing for the nuanced scripting of a Jason Statham film. 

On the bright side, the open world of Payback captures the stark beauty of the southwest United States, with the glitzy trash of Vegas, the sprawling deserts of Nevada, and the jagged rocks of southern Utah. The open world has plenty of billboards to smash through, switchback roads to drift along, and secret collectibles to track down. Tons of events, races, and activities can be tackled around the map, and I appreciate the breadth of content, even if some of the races feel like copies of events I already completed. 

The cars you drive through these attractive settings are varied and cool to look at. Modding your car’s visual style is versatile, but never feels especially meaningful or worth the time and money. It’s too bad that the derelict car system is so tiresome. Ostensibly, it’s built to let you find the parts to an old car and rebuild it into a monster. In practice, between collecting parts from cryptic road maps, rebuilding the vehicles, and upgrading them, these versatile rides end up feeling like they’re simply not worth the ample effort required to make them viable competitors.

No matter the vehicle, I struggled to enjoy the feel of the rubber against the road, or to really recognize how any one car in a given class was different from another. Handling across all the car types is often loose and vaguely out of my control. Drifting is oversimplified and imprecise. Police chases don’t have the urgency and challenge of earlier franchise entries. Until the late game, street races lack the speed and control that can make a game like this feel tense.

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Payback’s greatest sin is its infuriating progression mechanics. In what I can only presume is an effort to extend the life of the game and encourage engagement with the microtransaction system, improving the performance of your rides is a slow and poorly paced process. Instead of giving you clear control over how to make a car better, you’re forced into a strange confluence of currencies, speed cards, spare parts, and numerical values. Growth is tied to random improvements on sale at any given time at the tune-up shop, along with a literal slot machine mechanic – all of which tie back to currencies obtainable through real-world purchases. 

The further into the game you go, the longer it takes to reach the next story event’s power threshold. The result is you either invest time grinding or spend real money multiple times to get up to snuff, or alternately feel consistently underpowered in every race you enter. And this must be done with multiple car types, not just one, since offroad, drift, drag, race, and runner vehicles all have separate upgrade paths. The problem is exacerbated by wildly uneven balancing and rubber banding during events, teetering back and forth from too easy to too hard, so you never really know when you’re ready to move on and tackle a task.

Technical problems also crater the game’s potential. U.I. fails to load immediately after an in-race cinematic sequence or crash, leaving you facing crucial seconds with no navigational aid. Distant objects (like turn warnings and enemy racers) have occasional pop-in problems. Load times are weirdly long. Opponent A.I. acts wonky, sometimes veering into siderails for no reason. Mini-map navigation often sends you along unnecessarily complex routes, rather than recognizing simpler paths to an objective.

Multiplayer lets you take on opponents in ranked or unranked playlists. The online battles are passable, but opponent cars regularly fail to load in at race start, leading to a bumper-car-like scrum with invisible foes in the opening frantic seconds. After that, the online races can be enjoyable, but marred by matchmaking that struggles to find a good match of players. And when I ran up against a particularly tricked-out competitor, I couldn’t escape the suspicion that someone had simply paid their way into a winning position.

Scattered across its unnaturally lengthy campaign, Payback has several fun event sequences that blend cinematic action with rousing racing. And as players begin to control more sophisticated cars, the sense of excitement and speed can be engaging. Unfortunately, too much of the rest of the game feels lackluster, unpolished, and catered to other priorities besides fun. Payback hits a lot of the checkpoints on a bullet list for a big modern racing adventure, but lacks the discipline and execution to come in for anything but a disappointing finish. 

Due to last-second changes to Star Wars Battlefront II’s hero costs, I decided to hold my review, and won’t post it until I have firm grasp on the new flow of the game. Electronic Arts clearly heard the uproar from the gaming community about the inflated costs of heroes, and slashed their prices by 75 percent. This is not a small tweak. It completely changes my take on the game – moving from an evil time sink to potentially reasonable. I need to dive back into all of the modes to see if any other changes were made.

For instance, during my review, completing the campaign earned players a unique loot crate that contained 20,000 credits. That reward is now 5,000 credits. A big change. What else is different? I need to find out. One thing I hope EA is addressing is Arcade rewards; after completing five challenges, I was alerted that I could no longer earn credits in this mode and that more would be available in 14 hours.

The cost of heroes and the push for players to buy loot crates were my two biggest complaints. The loot crate hook may still be there, or maybe it isn’t. I can’t say definitively at this point. I need to play more of the game, which I will gladly do, as I think all avenues of multiplayer are fantastic. It delivers that Star Wars fantasy in a big way, both in gameplay and the visuals. This is easily one of the best-looking games out there.

I can also say I didn’t enjoy the single-player campaign. Iden Versio’s story starts on a strong note, but quickly falls apart. For the sake of spoilers, you may want to stop reading here. EA doesn’t follow through on the promise of seeing Star Wars from a different perspective. Iden has a big change of heart that completely sucks the soul out of the experience. It ends up becoming a cookie-cutter Star Wars story that is upended even further by lengthy, player-controlled hero cameos.

How long I’ll have to spend with the game again remains to be seen, but I am looking forward to jumping back into the multiplayer and the awesome space combat. Yes, you heard right: The space combat is quite good. Think Rogue Squadron, people.

Activision’s Deadpool game has had an odd history that just sort of keeps getting dumber.

The game originally released in June 2013 to less than stellar reviews. Due to licensing issues, the game was subsequently delisted from digital distribution services in January 2014, six months after release. Following the success of the Deadpool movie, Activision relicensed the existing title and remastered it for PlayStation 4 and Xbox one, relisting on digital services on November 2015.

Now, two years later, the game is getting delisted again. On November 16, the game will disappear from services for what one assumes is the final time. This two year stretch since the last relisting has been the longest stretch of time the game has been available.

If you are eager to own Deadpool digitally, and I have no idea why you would be, you have until this Thursday to do so and the rest of your life to regret that decision.

 

Our Take
I am very interested to see if it gets relisted again – not because I want it, but because the idea that Activision just re-releases the same Deadpool game every time Deadpool is relevant is hilarious to me.

Sony is happy with the new Marvel-connected Spider-Man series and is taking advantage with spinoff after spinoff, now including Morbius, the living vampire.

The news comes courtesy of Hollywood Reporter, which, uh, reports that Sony is pursuing a spinoff of Spider-Man’s sometimes-villain and antihero. Morbius was a human with a rare blood disease who, in a world of lizard men and radioactive spiders, decided to try and cure himself and of course became a vampire.

Some fans might remember Morbius from FOX’s Spider-Man cartoon, where the more kid-friendly nature of the cartoon forced writers to change Morbius’ blood-sucking from his fangs to far scarier living suckers on the palms of his hands.

Sony has confirmed it is producing a Venom spinoff that takes place in the same world as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, with rumors abound that Black Cat and Silver Sable movies in the same vein also in development. 

[Source: Hollywood Reporter]

TT Games has assembled an enviable brand with its Lego games, consistently delivering laughs with family friendly co-op. Its latest game, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, keeps the streak going, though the results are a little sloppier than we’re used to. Check out our latest episode of New Gameplay Today to get a look at the game, where Leo Vader, Joe Juba, and I show off some of the deep-cut characters and at least one or two bugs.

The game’s open world is a fun mashup of eras and locations from the Marvel Universe, and its roster of more than 200 unlockable characters is great. What’s not so great? Its frequent and occasionally game-breaking bugs. We’re still working on our formal review, but in the meantime, this video shows off some of Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2’s highs and lows.

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Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is available today on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

A recent sketch from Saturday Night Live parodies eSports by having two gamers face-off in a fighting game bearing a striking resemblance to Mortal Kombat.

In the skit, actors Pete Davidson and Kenan Thompson have to choose a fighter before the match begins. Unfortunately, Kenan is forced to play a character he’s never heard of before: Boo Boo Jeffries (Tiffany Haddish), an amusing character that isn’t very helpful in a fight. The skit is entertaining and is mostly ludicrous, making it worth a watch. You can check it out below.

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For more SNL skits, check out the outtakes from a Star Wars skit that was aired earlier this year.

With 148,777 dominoes and a lot of patience, YouTuber TheDominoKing created an impressive tribute to Super Mario Odyssey. It took him over two months to build the setup, and the final product is nothing short of amazing. 

The nearly five minute video shows the entire setup. Each part is recorded individually and it’s then all edited together to give the impression of continuity between each set. Despite this, it’s still very well done and features a slew of characters and villains such as Mario, Pauline, Bowser, Cappy, and Princess Peach. We get to see some of our favorite characters in their wedding attire, too. You can watch the video yourself below.

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TheDominoKing has long been making domino-themed videos inspired by pop culture and video games. For more of his work, check out these videos that are centered around Super Mario World, Sonic, and the Legend of Zelda. You can read our review of Super Mario Odyssey here.

[Source: TheDominoKing on YouTube]

Warface, the free-to-play online first-person shooter from Crytek, is joining in on the battle royale craze thanks to the success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Crytek announced today in a blog post that the “new, experimental PvP” mode is coming to the shooter for a limited time alongside the next update.

The new Battle Royale mode is strikingly similar to PUBG, where everyone fights for survival until the last one standing, and also features a shrinking map. 

Crytek is the studio behind the upcoming shooter Hunt: Showdowns, which is currently requesting players to sign up for the alpha. In 2016, Crytek shut down five of its subsidiary studios, which you can read about here.

[Source: Warface Official Website

Diddy Kong, who debuted as Donkey Kong’s sidekick in Donkey Kong Country on SNES, is featured in Did You Know Gaming’s latest video. The YouTube show takes a deep dive into Diddy’s history and how he has evolved over the years.

Originally, Diddy Kong was planned to be a redesigned version of Donkey Kong Jr., but Nintendo eventually asked Rare to make him an entirely new character. The artist behind Diddy Kong’s design, Kevin Bayliss, hoped that Diddy would provide a contrast to Donkey Kong. Whereas Donkey Kong is more aggressive and strong-looking, Diddy Kong has a friendlier and more childlike aesthetic. 

The video looks at all the games Diddy Kong is featured in, which spans across several console generations including the Nintendo 64 and Wii U. You can watch the video below to find out more interesting details.

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For more Did You Know Gaming videos, click here to see an in-depth look at Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle and click here for GameCube trivia.

Wall Street Journal reporter Takashi Mochizuki, via Japanese news site Jiji, reports that Capcom is planning multiple Switch titles for the next fiscal year, including Ace Attorney.

The statement came from Capcom chief operating officer Haruhiro Tsujimoto, who was asked about Switch development. Tsujimoto explained that they have already begun development of games for the system, including a game in the Ace Attorney series for fiscal year 2019. Capcom’s fiscal year, like most Japanese companies, starts on the first day of April and ends on the last day of March, so any new Switch titles would come after April, if you take Tsujimoto’s comments literally.

Capcom infamously said recently that getting new software out for a system’s first year is not possible, but Ace Attorney is traditionally not an extremely resource-intensive title. Assuming they plan to keep the 3D models from the 3DS/mobile games, it should still look quite nice on the Switch.

[Source: Takashi Mochizuki Twitter]

 

Our Take
The series has been up and down lately, but I am always down for more portable lawyering.