When Rico Rodriguez raided his first island nation in the original Just Cause, fans were entertained by a singular, satisfying objective: blow stuff up in the most exciting and ridiculous ways possible. Three games later, your goal remains largely the same, but new destructive tools, customization options, and the series’ largest physics-based sandbox yet deliver a steady stream of mayhem and hilarity.

Just Cause 4 review screens

When I first started Just Cause 4, it didn’t make a great first impression. The main menu screen requires a hefty load time, and many cutscenes suffer from stuttering framerates and perplexingly low-res textures. The story those scenes convey also isn’t anything to write home about; Rico Rodriguez finds himself on yet another island that needs liberating from the Black Hand mercenary group, which has served as the antagonizing force in most of the previous entries. Add in some confusing progression and customization menus that take a while to wrap your head around, and I had some serious doubts if Just Cause 4 would live up to my previous enjoyment of the series. 

Those doubts didn’t last long once I began exploring Just Cause 4’s diverse and beautiful open world. One of the biggest criticisms lodged at Just Cause 3 was its stuttering and inconsistent framerate, and Avalanche’s number-one priority here was clearly the gameplay. Even when I was laying siege to the Black Hand’s most fortified strongholds, ziplining between attack helicopters and showering the battlefield with the debris of every radar dish, propane tank, and enemy vehicle I could set my sights on, the frame rate held up, and the visuals continued to dazzle.

Just Cause 4 review screens

While players can find an arsenal of satisfyingly overpowered weapons strewn about every enemy stronghold, your most invaluable tool remains Rico’s grappler. The handy arm cannon allows you to flex your destructive creativity by suspending objects via giant balloons, tethering them together with cables, or turning pretty much anything into an improvised missile with rocket boosters. Rico’s grappling hook, parachute, and wingsuit also turn him into a veritable superhero, and make zipping around the island a breeze. Sticking a squad of enemy soldiers with airlifters and inflating them into the stratosphere isn’t the smartest way to win a ground conflict, but it sure is entertaining.

Liberating Solis is slightly more involved than previous entries. Instead of just blowing up everything that’s painted red (which you’re still encouraged to do), Rico undergoes discrete missions to soften up each district before advancing the frontlines of the war, which is represented by endless clashes between the Black Hand and Rico’s Army of Chaos. These liberation missions become repetitive, but are augmented by three different chains of missions that feed your grappler upgrades. The main story missions provide further variety, and are also broken down into several chains based on biome-specific weather storms that have Rico chasing tornados and wingsuiting his way through sandstorms, blizzards, and deadly lightning storms (not recommended, by the way). All in all, Just Cause 4’s missions offer up plenty of manic fun, even if I was ready to never flip another circuit breaker once the final pocket of Solis was liberated.


Just Cause 4 occasionally gets too difficult for its own good, bombarding you with swarms of enemies that have no qualms about taking potshots from afar. This was also an issue in previous entries, but the gunplay has improved; even the most bullet-spongy enemy can be downed with a few headshots, and generous checkpoints ensure steady progress through even the most difficult missions. Being able to commandeer an enemy helicopter and blow your attackers to kingdom come also helps stem the frustration.

Most of my favorite moments in Just Cause 4 had nothing to do with the story missions, and instead emerged out of playing with Rico’s ridiculous toolset – like turning a dumpster into a humble airship with a couple of balloons and riding it across the island, or rigging the horses on a merry-go-round with rocket boosters and watching it spin out of control. If you can devise a stupid and dangerous use for Rico’s grappler, you can probably pull it off – and I’ve got a hard-drive full of hilarious videos to prove it. Just like any good sandbox game, Just Cause 4 gives you the freedom to make your own fun, and has kept me experimenting and entertained for hours after the credits rolled.

The film adaptation for Dmitry Glukhovsky’s 2005 novel Metro 2033, which was successfully made into a video game back in 2010, has been cancelled and all rights have reverted back to the author. In his book, the post-apocalyptic story is set in the Moscow Metro and tackles themes of communism and xenophobia, both of which Glukhovsky felt were in jeopardy when MGM decided to relocated the story to America. 

The author explained that, “In Washington D.C., Nazis don’t work, communists don’t work at all, and the Dark Ones don’t work,” and that, “They had to replace the Dark Ones with some kind of random beasts and as long as the beasts don’t look human, the entire story of xenophobia doesn’t work.”

Though it must be difficult to see a project so long in the making get scrapped – MGM originally gained the rights to Metro 2033 in 2012 – Glukhovsy has another Metro project to look forward to. Metro Exodus, a game being made by Deep Silver and 4A Games, is set to release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC February 22. You can check out their concept for the snowy Russia wasteland here

[Source: PC Gamer]

Rockstar has just released its latest DLC for Grand Theft Auto Online, and it looks like players will be able to enter the Maze Bank Arena for some car-on-car gladiatorial combat.  

Arena Wars brings with it a new workshop capable of turning your car into a death machine, seven new arena event modes, and the ability to track your progress in the events to unlock trophies and new outfits. Players can also get their hands on 12 new contender vehicles all capable of receiving metal-shearing upgrades, available in three new styles: apocalypse, future shock, and nightmare.

Among the many modes announced, players can jump into the area for the free-for-all mode of carnage where players will battle it out with a host of other weaponized vehicles until there’s only one left standing. There are also classic modes like flag war (capture the flag) and some new ones like here comes the monsters, which unleashes a horde of monster trucks upon some hapless compact cars to see if even one of the eco-friendly vehicles can survive. Players who are eliminated will also become spectators capable of unleashing explosive-armed RC cars and lethal drones upon the remaining drivers.

The new DLC released today, so if players log on from now until December 17, they’ll receive a free in-game T-shirt, double GTA$ and RP in the arena mode, as well as discounted weapons at the weapons shop.  

Epic Games has removed the Infinity Blade Trilogy from the iOS app store, citing concerns about being able to support it as developer Chair works on its next game, Spyjinx.

The company made the official announcement on its blog yesterday. “With the development of Spyjinx and other projects, it has become increasingly difficult for our team to support the Infinity Blade series at a level that meets our standards,” Epic said. The company will support Infinity Blade III with Clash Mobs over the next month.

Although new buyers can no longer access the games on the store, those who’ve already purchased and downloaded the games will continue to have access to them (and be able to re-download them) “for the foreseeable future.” All in-app purchases for the game have also been removed.

Epic ended the blog by hinting Infinity Blade may pop up “in places you wouldn’t expect,” – A nod to the sword’s sudden appearance in Fortnite as a weapon.

I sunk a few hours into the first Infinity Blade, and while I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan of the series, I did appreciate its fusion of choose-your-own-adventure branching paths and Punch-Out!!-esque boss fights. I’m not sure why the series had to disappear completely instead of just no longer being supported, but I always had some intention, however minor, to play through this series at one point. But I think the real question is: What does the future hold for Infinity Blade FX, the arcade version of the game!?

The phrase “a sinking feeling” describes the way your stomach feels when you descend in a roller coaster or a car crests a steep hill, but it’s something that’s hard to emulate without physically moving. While a lot of games end up being capable of bringing about that feeling, none excel at it quite like Ace Combat, and the newest game in the series makes you feel like you’re actually in the cockpit of a fighter jet.

As a series, Ace Combat has been its own roller coaster in narrative over the years. After a fairly disastrous foray into the real world, the series is returning back into the realms of fictious lands and their fictious wars. The opening CG scene for Ace Combat 7 is narrated by a young girl who, over the course of many years, built a fighter jet with her war veteran grandfather and his friends. She remains an ancillary fixture of the story, adjacent to a number of the big events and skirmishes breaking out during the war between the Osean and Erusean armies, serving more as your R2D2 than your Luke Skywalker.

The first mission takes the training wheels off the moment you go wheels up, tasking you with the main goals of your gameplay: shoot things and don’t crash. After being told that there are enemy fighters and bombers in the area, your squad dispatches to a nearby island to get a practical lesson in locking on to enemies and shooting missiles at them. After the mission ends, a cutscene explains that Erusean forces placed drones in shipping containers sent to Osea and remotely activated them to attack, which seems like a pretty good plan.

The second mission has your fighter taking on those drones, jets with the ability to make pinpoint turns into the foggy clouds above. Dogfighting with these enemies as you do your best to dip in and out of the clouds to avoid icing up and finding yourself face-to-face with the ground as you struggle to pull up and not crash straight into the soil is an actually indescribable feeling and feels fresh every single time it happens, which is a lot because I’m a bad pilot.

The VR missions might be the real star of the show, however, and are genuinely impressive. The side missions put players back in the role of Mobius 1, the hero of Ace Combat 4 and general mythological hero of Erusea. The venerated tones with which characters speak about you is probably the second biggest thrill in the game behind the emetic quality of doing loops to dodge missiles in VR. While it is only a side mode, it could stand as proof of concept of how well VR dogfighting can work in general.

We also got a chance to try multiplayer, a point-based online match that puts six planes in a 3v3 fight. Enemies take a lot longer to kill in this mode, so you go for inching you way up with bullets and the occasional missile. At the end of each round, you’re given accolades depending on what you excelled at or failed spectacularly at, such as “Avoided the greatest number of missiles using cloud-cover” or “Fired the most missed shots.”

As someone who has dabbed in Ace Combat before but rarely dove in head-first, I came away from the demo excited to play more, especially with a PSVR in tow. It will also be interesting to see how the fanbase takes to the new game’s narrative hooks and the return to what people liked about Ace Combat in the first place.

Ace Combat 7 releases for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 18, then on February 1 on PC.

Bandai Namco has announced that their newest Tales of game, a mobile title named Tales of Crestoria, will be coming stateside in 2019. While not quite dubbed the next mainline or flagship Tales of game, Crestoria has all the resources of one and will be releasing in 2019 on iOS and Android.

“Tales of Crestoria takes place in an oppressive dystopia where every citizen must carry with them an all-seeing ‘Vision Orb’ that monitors for criminal violations,” Bandai Namco writes. “The game follows protagonists Kanata, a naive boy blindly accepting of to the Vision Orbs’ justice, and Misella, an audacious orphan unbridled in her dedication to defending Kanata. Due to the horrific events of one fateful night, the duo find themselves branded “Transgressors”, and condemned to death by society’s popular vote—the draconian system of justice by which their world is governed. With eyes now opened to the injustices of society, a chance meeting with Vicious, “The Great Transgressor,” gives Kanata and Misella a defining choice: Own your fate, or let fate own you.”

To celebrate, Bandai Namco has released a concept movie to show off the themes of that description in a fairly cool artstyle Check it out below.

Like most recent Tales of games, the title will be a collaboration between artists Mutsumi Inomata and Kosuke Fujishima.

Despite Bandai Namco traditionally releasing one mainline Tales of game a year, they have slowed down considerably in the last few years, not releasing a new title since 2016’s Tales of Berseria. Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition, a remaster of the decade-old classic with additional content for English-speaking players, will see release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on January 11.

A ratings leak a few weeks ago accidentally let slip the title Nier: Automata Game of the Yorha Edition, a pun on Game of the Year using the organization name within the game. It’s not a high-level pun or anything, but it’s serviceable. In a way that makes me wonder whether or not Square Enix remembered if they had already announced it or not, the Nier: Automata Twitter account today confirmed the existence of the game with a message from director Yoko Taro, complete with spelling errors.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

It is likely that the Game of the Yorha Edition will be similar in concept to the Xbox One port of Nier: Automata, which was dubbed the Become as Gods Edition. That version packaged all the game’s DLC onto the disc, which unfortunately did not include any real story DLC, mostly just arenas and boss fights for players that want to dig deep into that stuff. But hey, if you’ve been curious, this is as good a time as any to try.

Nier: Automata is currently available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Almost ten years ago, Glen Schofield surprised a lot of industry watchers and fans alike by announcing that he was leaving EA Visceral and founding a new studio at Activision called Sledgehammer Games. Today, Schofield announced on Twitter that particular journey is over as he moves on to further things outside the company.

Schofield founded Sledgehammer in 2009 under the auspices of Activision to work mostly on Call of Duty as part of Activision’s plan to start trading off yearly titles in the series between three studios. As Schofield mentions in his tweet, Sledgehammer oversaw Modern Warfare 3, Advanced Warfare, and World War II. The last of those games was such a success that Schofield and co-founding partner Michael Condrey were brought into Activision’s corporate team to oversee all of the company’s games just earlier this year.

While at EA Visceral, Schofield served as the creator and executive producer of Dead Space, the seminal sci-fi horror series. His credits also include directing Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain and Akuji the Heartless. He was also given special thanks in Call of Duty: Black Ops and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver.

Panzer Dragoon Orta

Earlier today, Sega and a company named Forever Entertainment announced that they would be co-creating and co-publishing remakes for Sega’s Saturn shooter Panzer Dragoon and its sequel Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei. The first game will be made available before the end of 2019, if all things go according to schedule.

Forever Entertainment is a Polish publisher and developer which is known for a large number of games, but most notably the recent Fear Effect: Sedna. The company obtained the license through a Square Enix program that licenses out old IPs to developers that want to do something with them, which they certainly did as you can tell from our review.

The company describes the games as “refreshes” that conform to modern graphical standards, though it is unclear exactly what they mean by either descriptor. 

“The entire Panzer Dragoon series has been repeatedly remade and released on many platforms,” Forever Entertainment writes in a press release. “The last re-launch took place in April 2018 on Xbox One, where players can play Panzer Dragoon Orta with a backward compatibility. The new version of the game will be characterized by a completely new graphics compatible with today’s standards and several modifications of the game, making it more attractive to modern players, while remaining faithful to the original in terms of story.”

Press inquiries to Sega are redirected back to Forever Entertainment, with the Japanese company stating that they are not involved with the title. Forever did not yet respond to our inquiry of how Sega is co-creating the games in that instance.

The two Panzer Dragoon games being remade are both rail shooters made by Yukio Futatsugi, who later went on to make the Xbox One launch title Crimson Dragon. He is currently working on Swery65’s pet-based mystery game, The Good Life. The Panzer Dragoon series also birthed the rare and lauded Panzer Dragoon Saga, which sells for over $1000 for mint condition western copies.

I was talking with Game Informer creative director and friend Jeff Akervik one day, and somewhere in the conversation NHL 98 came up – specifically its intro. I never played the game back in the day, and I don’t think I could remember hardly any sports game intro off the top of my head – that’s how pedestrian most of them are.

Akervik was not only adamant that I see the intro, but that it was one of his favorites in all of video games. After finding the video on YouTube and chuckling at the thorough ’90s-ness of the production and a bygone era of the NHL, the metal guitar riffs kicked in, sending the intro to another level that concluded – fittingly – with an explosion.

Suitably impressed, I was curious how the whole thing came about. In these days of pervasive licensed music, the NHL 98 intro is striking for its tenor and commendable for simply going for it.

One of the people behind the intro is Jeff van Dyck veteran video game composer and audio director who has won BAFTA awards for Alien: Isolation and Shogun: Total War Warlord Edition. Van Dyck and Saki Kaskas both wrote the music for the game, and I talked to Van Dyck about the game and his time with the NHL series.

The Word of that Game Was ‘Distortion’

“Nobody was really filtering what we were doing,” says Van Dyck of his and Kaskas’ work on NHL 98, “and it seemed like the further we pushed it the more people liked it.”

Despite the relatively harmonious process of working on the game itself, Van Dyck did not get off on the right foot with soon-to-be-employer Electronic Arts when he interviewed for EA Canada in Vancouver in 1992. Van Dyck answered a job posting for an audio programmer even though he wasn’t a programmer at all.

“I was interviewed by all these programmers, and I just failed that interview miserably,” he says. “But two weeks later they phoned me back and said, ‘You’re a crap audio programmer, but you’re obviously really good at producing music. We’d like to offer you a job in our audio department.'”

Despite his proficiency, van Dyck wasn’t trusted with game music straight out of the gate, but was tasked with creating sound effects for the PC version of the NHL series on the then-standard Sound Blaster sound cards. After writing music for inline skating title Skitchin’, Van Dyck earned composer duties for NHL 96 on PC.

Van Dyck says that all the music for the game was streamed so they weren’t limited by the technology at the time, allowing him to record music and put it straight into the game – a process which led him to bring Saki Kaskas to EA, whom Van Dyck met through the Vancouver music scene, and the two were in a jazz/prog-rock band. Kaskas’ guitar work impressed those within EA, and the pair co-wrote music through NHL 98.

“[Producer Ken Sayler] said something like, ‘There should be a voice in here, an announcer, saying some stuff. Can you write some stuff?” remembers Van Dyck of composing music for the intro. “And I said, ‘I’m not really sure what he should say,’ and basically [Sayler] just rattled off what you hear in that intro. It was very flippant, the way he issued it. I think he was expecting me to re-write it, but at the time I just went, ‘Well, it sounds good enough to me.'”

Van Dyck wrote and jammed along to the game, composing mainly on keyboard (mapping bass and drums onto the keys) and trying to go with the flow of the vibe he was getting from the game itself. He gravitated to the en vogue industrial sound of the time, adding synths and a drum machine. Van Dyck says engineer Ken “Hiwatt” Marshall had a lot to do with the overall sound. “The word of that game was ‘distortion’ – there’s distortion on everything in that game. At some point were we going to push the music so hard that the execs would say, ‘Look you guys, you’ve gone too far with this?’ But nobody every said, ‘stop.'” Appropriately, a running gag during recording was ending songs with an explosion, which thankfully made its way into the intro itself.

Marshall used digital plug-ins to produce effects, and liked to include some “trickery,” says Van Dyck, into the songs, including producing and recording feedback from a radio and distilling a song of Kaskas’ down into what ended up sounding like a drill solo. Van Dyck says that they weren’t really limited by technology or budget, and at one point they flew a drummer in from Toronto to record although they sampled him and used some loops in the game rather than his actual playing.

At the end of NHL 98, Van Dyck didn’t take much notice to how fans reacted to the game or his work – in the pre-heyday of the internet, his attitude was to just move on to the next project. “EA appreciated it,” he says. “They knew we were stepping out of the box to do something that stood out.”

Moving Into a New Era

For NHL 99, Van Dyck knew he was going to once again work on the intro, but foreshadowing the future, the intro and its music was built around a licensed song – David Bowie’s classic “Heroes.” Van Dyck thought the use of Bowie’s song was very cool, even though it wasn’t his choice and he didn’t know how everything went together with the music he composed until he saw the final product.

NHL 99 was written after Van Dyck moved to Australia, and as fate would have it, Van Dyck lived blocks away from EA Australia. This enabled him to do some work for their titles like Rugby, Cricket, and Australian Rules Football, as well as EA’s Sled Storm, among others. EA Australia was also the distributor of Sega’s Shogun Total War, and this lose connection enabled him to be hired onto that project, which led to another successful phase in his career.

Today Van Dyck composes music and audio for indie titles, including PC RTS Forts. He is also working on a project to honor Kaskas, who unfortunately passed away in 2016. Van Dyck is finishing off the solo album Kaskas’ was recording at the time, including getting some of Kaskas’ friends to play on it. Van Dyck hopes to have the project finished in the summer of 2019.

EA’s shift toward using EA Trax and its licensed music was part of what led to Van Dyck moving on from the NHL series and the company, but his and Kaskas’ work is remembered fondly. Van Dyck says he gets messages from fans who love the music during his run, saying it brings them back to a better time of their youth, even if the artist in Van Dyck is always critical. “I listen to some of my older stuff and I cringe a little bit because I feel like I’m better at it now than I was back then,” he says. “Why did I mix it like that? Why are those notes there?”

I disagree. Watching and listening to NHL 98 today, it seems almost perfect.