The Zombie Game That Gets Halloween Just Right

The Zombie Game That Gets Halloween Just Right

For such a fun holiday, video games have a lot of trouble doing Halloween justice. Sure there are exceptions—Destiny just did a pretty good job, and Costume Quest is fun—but for the most part it’s a time of year that games struggle to really celebrate. Unless, like right now, we’re talking about Undead Nightmare, the most Halloween video game experience of them all.

An expansion to 2010’s Red Dead Redemption—and released just in time for Halloween of that same year, on October 26—Undead Nightmare manages to capture everything about the spirit of Halloween without having to rely on replicating or mentioning the actual day. It’s dark, but also light-hearted. It’s gross, but in a fun way, never slipping into horror for horror’s sake.

https://streamable.com/e/f5hx

To recap: Red Dead Redemption is one of the best video games ever made. A sprawling Western adventure set across the plains of a fictional frontier America (and Mexico), it told the tale of John Marston, a tired old gunslinger blackmailed into doing one last job for The Man before he can retire in peace with his wife and son. Cue lots of riding around on a horse shooting bad men.

You know how Treehouse of Horrors is one of the best things about The Simpsons (or at least used to be), because every Halloween it took the people you loved and the places you knew from the main show and dropped them in batshit crazy, self-contained nightmares/comedy routines?

That’s basically what Undead Nightmare is, only for Red Dead Redemption. It featured the same characters and the same map, but threw out the very Western tale of …redemption and the frontier spirit of (most of) its inhabitants. Instead, its world is full of zombies, and Marston must survive long enough to find a cure to the infestation so that he can save his wife and son.

https://streamable.com/e/lvrz

The plot change is thorough: there are now zombies everywhere. The random bad guys who used to shoot at you from a distance are now racing to try and eat you. Many of the characters you spoke to as important characters in Red Dead are now just…well, they’re also trying to eat you. Instead of being one of the few good men left on the frontier, you’re now just one of the few men, period, forced to continuously evade the undead while scrounging for clues and scavenging for ammo.

Which is totally unlike the main game! In Red Dead Redemption, it’s a relatively civil affair. There are towns and villages across the map where you can buy stuff, replenish your stocks, have a drink and enjoy the company of plenty of good (or at least, not instantly murderous) people.

Undead Nightmare’s shift in setting, though, is more than just a shift in setting. It completely changes the tone and style of the game. At its very core it’s still a GTA-like experience of completing missions in an open world, but so many other important aspects are flipped. Combat used to be based on cover and movement when you had people shooting at you, but now that zombies are simply running right at you, the action gets a lot more frantic.

https://streamable.com/e/89dz

Ammo for your conventional firearms, plentiful in the main game to the point that it’s never really a concern, is now worth its weight in gold since none of your kills are carrying any of it. Or, it would be worth its weight in gold if there was anyone left alive to care about gold.

Even the world itself has changed. An ill green moon hovers over the horizon, and with even the game’s animals infected, your relationship with the open world is reversed: once an inviting landscape begging to be explored at a leisurely pace, it’s now a hellish, zombie-filled cage where every hill you cross could be your end (a nice touch, since by re-using the same map the allure of exploration has been significantly diminished anyway).

Yet as bleak as the world can get—and some story missions (like Bonnie’s search for her father or a sasquatch genocide) are heartbreaking—Undead Nightmare’s tale is also streaked with slapstick, in-jokes and black humour, many former characters existing as zombies not to terrify the player, but to provide a laugh or two at the contrast between their flesh-eating selves and their living counterparts.

https://streamable.com/e/7abc

Those surviving cast members from the main game who aren’t yearning for human flesh are still changed. With their situation and motives now very different than those in Red Dead, some of Undead Nightmare’s residents come to life in all new—sometimes perverse—ways, essentially presenting the player with all new characters to explore and deal with.

Even the game’s systems are in on the joke; ammo for your traditional weapons may be scarce, but you’re equipped with a new firearm, a custom blunderbuss, that you’re able to load by scooping up body parts from zombies that you’ve dealt with. With no shortage of zombies, there’s no shortage of ammo for at least one of the game’s guns.

Halloween is a holiday where we hold a mirror up to the world, and for one night at least, a civilization we like to pretend is “good” is allowed to revel in its darker side. All the evils of the world, some of man’s darkest fears and taboos from centuries past, are recast for just a moment as a cheap gag. That’s exactly what Undead Nightmare does to Red Dead Redemption, and is why it’s so successful, both as a Halloween experience and as DLC to a story-rich game.

It doesn’t sit at odds with the main game, or try—like so many other expansions—to shoehorn more story or missions into a tale that already has one of gaming’s great endings. Instead, it basically says “you know what, fuck it, let’s just throw Red Dead Redemption out the window and make Dawn of the Dead out of the pieces that survive”. And for that, it ended up being both a trick and a treat.

The Zombie Game That Gets Halloween Just Right

This story was originally published in October 2015.

from Kotaku http://kotaku.com/the-zombie-game-that-gets-halloween-just-right-1739551326

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Can you identify a specific designer’s work by playing their game?

Can you identify a specific designer’s work just by playing through a game they worked on? See why one game programmer who worked on Skyrim thinks so. …

from Gamasutra News http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/284556/Can_you_identify_a_specific_designers_work_by_playing_their_game.php

Two New Resident Evil 7 Gameplay Videos Tease Its Puzzles

Capcom’s series of Resident Evil 7 video clips has continued, providing brief glimpses of gameplay from the upcoming survival-horror game.

Two new videos are making the rounds today (via DualShockers). The first of these is entitled “A Closer Look” and shows off the way you can pick up and examine certain objects in the environment. You can use the analog sticks to rotate them, and at least in some cases you’ll be able to interact with them (like opening the box seen in the video).

Notably, this doesn’t appear to be happening in a sort of pause menu. That could mean you’ll be in for some kind of jump-scare when an enemy pops up while you’re gallivanting around, rotating a can of green beans that you just found on a shelf.

The second video, “Imagination,” also deals with rotating objects. This one seemingly shows off what might be some kind of puzzle involving a light and the silhouettes that are created when you spin various objects in front of it.

Previous videos have shown off a seemingly immortal enemy, knife abilities, save points, herbs, and more. These have provided our best look yet at the game, the details of which remain largely unknown. We’ll likely learn more soon, as Resident Evil 7 is set to launch for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on January 24.

from GameSpot http://www.gamespot.com/articles/two-new-resident-evil-7-gameplay-videos-tease-its-/1100-6444977/

Skyrim Halloween Mod Makes The Whole Game Spookier

Skyrim Halloween Mod Makes The Whole Game Spookier

Unpopular opinion: the biggest problem with Skyrim is that everybody’s not Draculas.

Skyrim’s been around so long that it just got a remaster. Don’t get me wrong: it’s nice to revisit old stomping grounds, but eventually the deja vu becomes deja too much. You’ve gotta spruce up the place. In the spirit of the season, I offer you the Skyrim Encounters And Themes For Halloween 2016 mod.

The mod is three years in the making and turns Skyrim into one giant Halloween party, but with fewer sexy Ken Bones. Here’s its description:

“More than two dozen wilderness encounters now feature creepy creatures. These are new terrifying twists on old chance meetings, where people you meet turn into werewolves or appear as apparitions. You’ll confront more death hounds, witches and gargoyles, and even witness battles between vampire imperials and lycanthrope Stormcloaks!”

Many guards of towns and holds are also transformed into ghosts, werewolves, and skeletons, and in places like Whiterun, Dawnstar, Morthal, Riften, Solitude, and Windhelm, you’ll find trusty merchants turned into witches and all manner of monsters. Despite an apparent apocalypse as imagined by the song “Monster Mash,” you’ll also find kids running around in costumes. Some are even dressed as the Dragonborn, aka you.

Things also get a little weird. Like, taverns-exclusively-serving-human-flesh weird:

“Cannibalism is not just for Markarth any more! In every tavern, dining table and kitchen, you’ll see citizens cooking body parts, eating severed hands, and drinking from bloody goblets. Sweet rolls and nut treats even have eyeballs! All of these you may buy and eat yourself.”

So that’s fun. Don’t worry, though. If things get 2spooky5u, you can just shut off the mod. “Disable the mod any time and the Skyrim ‘nightmare’ ends. Architecture, clutter, food and NPCs return to normal,” said the mod’s creator. Which is good, because there’s nothing scarier than a borked 500-hour save.

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from Kotaku http://steamed.kotaku.com/skyrim-halloween-mod-makes-the-whole-game-spookier-1788422735

Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne: The Kotaku Review

Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne: The Kotaku Review

The Iron Throne is what happens when you take pretty much every murderous stereotype about Game of Thrones, break them down then turn them into a board game where you lie to your friends before stabbing them in the guts.

Based heavily on an older title called Cosmic Encounter, but here leveraging the immense popularity of the Game of Thrones TV show (and the show specifically, since this game uses photos taken from the series instead of art), The Iron Throne is a a breezy affair which asks 3-5 players to basically take turns fighting each other, while at the same time allowing anyone else not directly involved to join in if they’d like.

It works like this: every player is in control of one of five houses at the time of Robert Baratheon’s death. Players take turns to challenge others in direct engagement, during which each house selects one of their members and sets them against their opponent, 1v1.

Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne: The Kotaku Review
The cards/characters at your disposal in the game. There are five houses included—Starks, Lannisters, Tyrells, Targaryens and Baratheons—with notable exceptions (and looming expansions) surely featuring the Martells, Greyjoys and Night’s Watch.

Other houses are then free to join in and support either side. When the engagement is locked in, what normally happens is that players add up the strength of all sides involved, assess any special effects unlocked by using any certain characters, then resolve a winner. Whoever wins gets to exert influence on the losers, and usually the side that is able to exert all its influence on their opponents is the winner.

Which sounds simple, and fairly straight-forward. And for the first few turns it is, as players test the waters and fight a few half-hearted battles. Where the game starts to get messy is in its use of diplomacy.

During each engagement, players are encouraged to openly discuss their intentions, and are then free to choose one of two ways to approach each conflict: with Hostility, or under the banner of Truce. Hostility results in combat, and is resolved in the manner I mentioned above.

Sometimes you’ll decide to approach each other under the banner of Truce, though, which means you can settle things with words. You might agree to swap some stuff, or make a future promise for support or action. It’s all very polite.

And sometimes one player will opt for a Truce while the other, despite saying they’ll also choose Truce, will actually opt for Hostility, which results in Betrayal, which is one of the main ways hostages are taken. And those hostages can then be set free or tortured in future turns.

Note: here’s the official rundown on how the game works if you’d like to read in more detail/with pictures.

This means that over time, as more players take more hostages and as influence spreads across the board, things get increasingly heated, and plans start to get complicated. Promises will be made and broken, alliances will be betrayed and battles will be seemingly won, only to be lost by a quirk of support or a weird character bonus effect.

Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne: The Kotaku Review
While most of the game is played using cards and tokens, the plastic crowns used for health/power are great.

The way Iron Throne’s tension ramps up is a nice trick, as you can feel early plans and strategies start to wash away as the game develops around and past them. I also love the way it keeps a lot of key systems random, so that you can avoid a situation where a particular player becomes too over-powered, or can be bullied by a group.

See, when it’s your turn to engage with another player, you don’t get to choose your opponent. You have to draw a card that tells you who to attack. It might be someone you’re plotting against, it could be someone completely random, but the way that’s dished out by chance really helps foster (and break up) alliances every few turns instead of letting the game fester. Sure, you might have been wanting to attack the Starks, but since you drew the Lannisters, maybe you can have a Truce and a chat instead?

The Iron Throne is fairly short; it should run for around 45-60 minutes if everyone knows what they’re doing, and in some cases can be over far quicker if someone gets particularly crafty/lucky with their victories. It says 3-5 players on the box, and while it certainly works just fine with three people, five is probably the best setup, since it allows for more variables in terms of strategies and outcomes.

The only thing that really disappointed me about the game wasn’t actually about the game at all. It was that, despite featuring a small roster of some of the series’ most memorable characters, aside from whichever one is made your leader for a particular game (any character can be given that honour) and thus granted a special ability, the rest tend to be fairly interchangeable foot soldiers, differentiated only by their art and the chance that, through the hostage mechanic, they might be wounded/killed outside of battle.

Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne: The Kotaku Review
The game is set immediately after Robert’s death, so features some characters we haven’t seen on the show in a LONG time.

I know this has as much to do with the fact this is an adaptation, and not an entirely new game crafted specifically for Game of Thrones, but still. Given how much personality is present in the larger GoT board game, the lack of it here makes everything feel a bit more shallow than it might have been. That said, the special powers employed by each faction leader almost make up for this with their game-changing abilities; Tyrion’s in particular has the power to shape the entire game to fit his own strengths, not as a unit in a game, but as a character in the world.

Aside from that, the rest of the game is a good fit for Game of Thrones, as its engagement system is a fitting distilment of the showdowns we see on the TV series. Sometimes they’re big and brash, sometimes they’re a knife in the shadows, and sometimes—just sometimes—they’re a shake of hands and an agreement in good faith. Until the knives come out later, anyway.

from Kotaku http://kotaku.com/game-of-thrones-the-iron-throne-the-kotaku-review-1788390649

Rise of the Tomb Raider Sequel’s Name Might Haved Leaked in a Weird Way

Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s sequel–which has been hinted at but not announced–might be called “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” and it’s possible Crystal Dynamics won’t be its developer.

This information comes from an unexpected source: a person on a subway. Reddit user Tripleh280 posted the picture below, which shows the name Shadow of the Tomb Raider on a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation for the game. There is more text on the slide, reportedly detailing some element of the game’s visuals, but it’s too blurry to make out.

No Caption Provided

Kotaku heard from a source today that Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the name of the next Tomb Raider. That Square Enix would make another Tomb Raider game is no surprise, but what stands out more is that the site claims Thief and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided developer Eidos Montreal is working on the unannounced game.

A Square Enix representative told GameSpot, “We don’t comment on rumors and speculation.”

At Gamescom 2015, Square Enix boss Phil Rogers let slip that a third game in the Tomb Raider franchise that began with the 2013 reboot was on the way. This came up when we asked him about the controversy and backlash surrounding Rise of the Tomb Raider’s exclusivity deal with Xbox.

“We believe first and foremost this is the right thing to do with Tomb Raider right now,” Rogers said about the deal with Microsoft. “What it’s done for the sake of the studio and the next beat with the Tomb Raider trilogy [emphasis added]… But the backlash is–we’ve watched carefully and we believe it’s the right thing to do.”

In August this year, Crystal Dynamics hired Visceral Games veteran Ian Milham to become a game director for the Tomb Raider franchise, which furthered the suggestion that the studio was making a new Tomb Raider game. Crystal Dynamics is also working on a new IP.

Rise of the Tomb Raider finally came to the PlayStation 4 in September in the form of the 20 Year Celebration Edition.

from GameSpot http://www.gamespot.com/articles/rise-of-the-tomb-raider-sequels-name-might-haved-l/1100-6444975/

Living Computer Museum rebrands to focus on hands-on dev education

Seattle’s Living Computer Museum is changing its name and revamping its facilities to focus not just on teaching computing technology, but how to use it to visitors’ own ends — including game dev. …

from Gamasutra News http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/284552/Living_Computer_Museum_rebrands_to_focus_on_handson_dev_education.php