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Nvidia Exec Talks GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition, Ansel Cheating Concerns

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 22:00

Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080 is a graphics card of many firsts; the first graphics card in the 10 series line-up, the first to use the new Pascal microarchitecture, and the first to launch with a Founders Edition. The GTX 1080 also incorporates Nvidia's new Ansel feature, which allows players to pause a game and take control of a free-roam camera to take high-resolution screenshots, sans UI.

To discuss the recent launch of the GeForce GTX 1080 and the new features it brings, we interviewed Jeff Yen, Nvidia's director of technical marketing in Asia Pacific.

GameSpot: Why launch the Founders Edition cards? What was the reasoning behind that?

Yen: To us, that makes a lot of sense because our fans have always requested us to always have the version that we build available for the lifespan of the product. In the past, you usually had it for the first month or two and then we discontinue it. So now, it's kind of we're prolonging the lifetime of the product for the entire span of the product. That's why we're doing the Founders Edition.

You're referring to the reference cards?

Yeah, that's something that we're kind of diverting away from. It's one of those things in the past that people kind of saw as a baseline, where we actually put a lot of time and effort into developing this product, this board, using premium parts, and making sure it's a really strong product. It's also partially to dispel this, right? That people think, "Oh, this is baseline." Not really in our case. If you look at the previous few products, you'll notice that our "baseline" is a very strong product on its own.

Does that put strain on your relationship with other hardware partners that make variations of your card, such as Gigabyte, ASUS, etc.?

Well, they're the ones selling it actually. We are in no way, shape, or form trying to compete with their customers or partners. It's more… they're the ones selling it, just that they're selling it for a longer period of time. That also comes with the price differential. They have the option of going lower, but we fully anticipate that they will have higher price points, too. The special OC SKUs, water-cooled SKUs, etc.

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Is this something that Nvidia will continue with its future cards?

I think it's one of those things we're trying out, right? In the future, quite frankly, I don't know. But it's one of those things where we've constantly been asked to have our designs available, but they always disappear after two months, and our fans have asked for it. So we're trying it out, and hopefully it'll work out.

With regards to the GTX 1080, who is the audience that you're marketing this card for?

Enthusiast gamers… it's really… usually, for the higher products, we always have the VR enthusiasts, the enthusiast gamers that constantly want the latest and greatest. But you also have the ones that probably purchased a 680 or something and are looking for an upgrade. We're really stoked that the performance and the efficiency per watt has been so good. So we feel like a lot of gamers will be interested in this.

Right, but which tier of gamer would you say this is for? The elite, or the people who maybe upgrade once every two years…

That's why I didn't say anyone with the 980, right? Usually if you bought one last year you're probably going to debate whether you're going to get a new one now. But it's for those who are using a 780 or a 680, it could actually be a good time to upgrade. It puts you at VR-capable levels, whether or not you have a headset is another thing. But at least you're capable. It also prepares you for all these new games coming out. Surprisingly, we also have a lot of League of Legends pro gamers who play on 980s. Which is awesome.

My next question concerns Ansel, an in-game tool which pauses and allows the player to roam in free-cam mode to take a screenshot. I noticed that one of the games featured in the presentation was The Division, an online multiplayer game. What steps are being taken to prevent people cheating using Ansel?

Honestly, a game like The Division, if you pause and run around you'll probably come back dead anyway. It's one of those give-and-takes, right? You can pause a game, but if I pause it, I'm static, but you're not.

I mean, I've played The Division as well. What's to stop me from running into a house, hiding in a corner, pausing with Ansel, zooming out in free-cam mode, and seeing where my enemies are?

Agreed. That's why how much freedom you get isn't actually defined by us. It's defined by the developer. If the developer feels that they're willing to let you look around free range, or they might just say that you can only do it in single player, or a custom game. They can figure out, or they will define how much freedom they will give you. Like some have discussed, "Okay, I'll lock you in something that feels like a four metre sphere" or wall collisions where you can't go outside the wall or the house. So they're still debating on it. But The Division, yes we do have screenshots of The Division, and yeah you're right. The developer needs to define how much freedom you get.

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No Man's Sky Delayed - Report

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 21:47

Hello Games' upcoming PlayStation 4 and PC space game No Man's Sky has been delayed, according to a report tonight from Kotaku. Two sources, including one who works at video game retailer GameStop, told the site about the reported delay.

No Man's Sky now won't come out until July or August at the earliest, according to the report.

"A second source, who works at GameStop, said they received marketing materials today for No Man's Sky with the original June 21 release date. However, stores were informed that the release date is no longer correct and that they should cover it up with a 'Coming Soon' label."

You can see an image of this message here at Kotaku. Neither Sony nor Hello Games responded to Kotaku's request for comment.

Officially, No Man's Sky is due out for PS4 and PC on June 21 in North America, June 22 in Europe, and June 24 in the UK. We'll update this post as new information becomes available.

In April, Hello Games boss Sean Murray talked about why No Man's Sky was almost canceled and shared a story about snubbing Kanye West (sort of).

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Best Doom Easter Eggs

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 21:30
Plenty of awesome secrets and easter eggs are being uncovered in Doom, here’s seven awesome ones to keep an eye out for in the fiery hellscape!
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Fallout 4 Far Harbor - Bowling with Infinite Balls

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 21:03
Fallout 4 Far Harbor brings the striker. Rob gives us the lowdown on Beaver Creek Lanes' big boy bowling ball launcher and the quest for infinite balls.
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Overwatch - Lucio Full Match - Gameplay

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 20:40
Overwatch's Lucio sonic amplifies and crossfades his way to victory in this full match gameplay.
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Overwatch - Livestream Plays of the Game - Gameplay

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 20:26
Check out the plays of the game from our all day Overwatch livestream. Tracer and Pharah come up big, see who else does too.
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Overwatch - Tracer Full Match - Gameplay

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 20:16
Overwatch's Tracer zips and blinks with pulse pistols blazing through this full match gameplay.
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Overwatch - Reaper Full Match - Gameplay

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 19:41
Overwatch's Reaper hellfire shotguns his way through a full 30 mins of gameplay.
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Kirby: Planet Robobot Review

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 13:10

With plenty of wonderful games tied to his name, I'll never understand why Kirby isn't paraded around as prominently as Nintendo's other mascots. Kirby: Planet Robobot is the perfect example: it's another great Kirby side-scrolling platformer, and yet it's been largely flown under the radar since it was announced.

Like so many of his past outings, Kirby's latest adventure is about partaking in a lively world filled with charming monsters. Kirby can inhale these creatures to acquire new abilities; you can go from swinging a sword to throwing bombs to riding a wave of poison all in the span of a few screens. Kirby has more than 20 transformations in Planet Robobot, and it's an impressive feat that each one offers a distinct skillset that redefines how you move, attack, and defend.

Kirby's natural ability to flutter into the sky, swallow enemies and take on their powers make him a force to be reckoned with--even more so when he hops into Planet Robobot's mechs. When Kirby suits up, he trades agility for strength, earning the ability to punch through substantial objects and knockout enemies in a single blow. These heavy suits appear in the middle of levels and feel like a direct translation of the Ride Armor suits from Mega Man X games. I say "suits" because like our little pink friend, Kirby's mech can acquire extra abilities from enemies: he can blast enemies with sound waves as a massive boombox, wield two massive swords, or make use of a massive propellor that lifts his mech into the air while slicing through unsuspecting enemies.

With access to so many tools, you can get through most levels without much trouble. However: unlocking the final stage in each of Planet Robobot's six worlds requires you to collect a certain number of code cubes, three of which are hidden in each stage. Though some code cubes are easy to stumble upon, you will have to go out of your way to access--let alone locate--most of the cubes in each stage. This is when Kirby's powers prove uniquely useful, as some cubes are only attainable if you're packing the appropriate abilities.

The hunt for code cubes is made less tedious than it sounds by wild variations in level design that affect how your environment looks and how you navigate its challenges. You spend most of your time running and jumping about, moving not just to the left and to the right, but into and out of the background as well. Kirby also takes on side-scrolling shooting missions, which play similarly to arcade classics like R-Type or Gradius. With Kirby's inherent design that encourages you to play in different ways, these segments aren't a saving grace--they're the icing on the cake.

Planet Robobot features reimagined versions of classic bosses.

This sentiment extends to the extra modes in Planet Robobot, which range from short diversions to generous unlocks, such as Meta Knight Returns. This mode in particular is enticing as it allows you to replay the entire game as Meta Knight, Kirby's long-time frenemy. This marks the third chapter in the Meta Knightmare saga, which began on Game Boy Advance with Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land. Though you are essentially replaying Planet Robobot's levels over again in this mode, Meta Knight plays drastically different than Kirby: he can't take on new powers, and instead relies upon his speed and trusty sword to surpass obstacles and enemies. Where the base game is about finishing levels and collecting code cubes while relishing in a wealth of powers, Meta Knight Returns is a time trial mode. The race against time and the added challenge of more difficult bosses is enough to warrant a second playthrough without fear of succumbing to deja vu.

The other standout extra mode is unlocked from the start: Kirby 3D Rumble. This is a top-down, fully 3D Kirby game where your goal is to destroy every enemy on a map using as few moves as possible, achievable by inhaling multiple enemies at once. Like Captain Toad's levels in Super Mario 3D World, these stages feel like part of something bigger that could very well constitute its own game. I only wish there were more of them here: there are just over a dozen stages total. At least when you're done with them, you can look to Team Kirby Clash, which allows you to team up with AI or nearby friends to tackle bosses in a medieval fantasy-themed setting. Planet Robobot is a game about variety, not only in Kirby's innate copy ability, but also in its wealth of extra modes.

Planet Robobot's meager difficulty may feel like a turn off at times, but it's not a reason to write it off. Once you spend time sampling the large selection of powers in each stage, taking in the detailed visuals, the catchy soundtrack, and exploring the wealth of extra modes on hand, you are so focused on the game's pervasive charm that you're looking forward to the next delightful surprise, rather than praying for a grueling test of skill. Planet Robobot is another great feather in Kirby's cap that shouldn't be overlooked.

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What's Your Favorite Game From the Last 20 Years?--GameSpot Q&A

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 11:00

What's Your Favorite?

Welcome to the GameSpot Q&A, where we ask our staff and readers an interesting discussion question about video games. Look at this as a forum where you and others can discuss and compare your opinions of this beloved hobby of ours.

In celebration of GameSpot's 20th anniversary, we asked our staff what their favorite game is from the last 20 years. Click ahead to see our responses, and be sure to let us know what your answer is to this week's question in the comments section below!


Journey | Mary Kish, Senior Producer

I began Journey on top of a golden sand dune with my goal straight ahead of me: a tall mountain peaking out of the distance far, far away. From those hills I embarked on a journey of discovery, exploring caverns and sliding down dunes. Another player joined me along the way with the same goal. We worked together to keep each other safe and find secrets, with no way to speak but a slight ping. I liked that other player, I felt like we went on a grand adventure together, that we connected in some say. I'll probably never meet the person I played with, but that feeling of connection stayed with me.

I have never felt anything like that playing a game before, and never again since. Journey is a truly special game, and it's the best game I've played in the last 20 years.


Final Fantasy Tactics | Peter Brown, Senior Reviews Editor

I cherish Final Fantasy Tactics for how it enraptured me in the plight of the noble hero Ramza, his troubled family, and most importantly, his childhood friend Delita. It is one of the most distraught tales I've ever witnessed, where morality is blurred; where the flawed nature of humanity takes precedence above all else. It also contained a satisfying combat system, driven by a deep array of character classes that could be remixed to suit your whims or the challenge at hand. Final Fantasy Tactics is my favorite game in the series, and my most beloved game of all time.


Super Smash Bros. Melee | Jimmy Thang, Tech Editor

It’s really hard to look back on the past 20 years and pick just one favorite game. But when I think about how many hours I’ve sunk into this title, the answer becomes abundantly clear: Super Smash Bros. Melee. In college, I sunk thousands of hours into Nintendo’s four-player brawler, and I still occasionally play it today. While it was a well-received game when it launched, I think it’s one of those rare games that gets better over time. The game’s tactics are constantly evolving, and it’s still more popular in the esports scenes than all of its sequels. If that doesn’t make for greatness, I don’t know what does.


Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos | Zorine Te, Editor

Whenever someone asks me, "What is your favorite game of all time?" there is a single title that springs immediately to the forefront of my mind. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos was more than just a game--it was a catalyst that would change the rest of my gaming life forever. I still gush about the game's campaign, online modes, and gameplay mechanics. But perhaps most important of all was the custom map editor, which introduced a whole new world to me. From those early humble beginnings came several ideas I remember fondly to this day: tower defense, warchasers, and Defense of the Ancients.


Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater | Scott Butterworth, Editor

I’m a sucker for story. Games that impact me emotionally inevitably stick with me the longest. The Last of Us, BioShock, Mass Effect--all these titles capture everything I love about games. But Metal Gear Solid is especially close to my heart. The original MGS’s ambitious storytelling and innovative stealth mechanics forever changed my perception of what games can accomplish, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater solidified the series as my all-time favorite by perfecting that formula. I’m a lifelong Kojima cutscene apologist, and I have MGS3 to thank for that.


Mass Effect 2 | Lucy James, Video producer

I’ve replayed Mass Effect 2 more times than I care to admit: Renegade run, Paragon run, romance Miranda, romance Garrus, punch the reporter, leave her be. I’ve done it all.

You'd think I'd get tired of it, but the universe BioWare crafted is so rich in detail that each playthrough gives me something new. Mass Effect 2's world is fascinating, filled with nuanced characters, and underpinned by a fascinating web of interspecies politics. Whether it’s a throwaway line, a new outcome for a decision, or interactions that I previously completely missed, Mass Effect 2 is a game that keeps on giving.


Rock Band 3 | Edmond Tran, Editor / Senior Video Producer

Mashing buttons on a plastic guitar neck while strumming a paddle in time with colored gems on screen is not necessarily the kind of physical action your body might be used to. But the feedback you get when you succeed in nailing a note streak is amazing: a melody that corresponds to your rhythmic movements. If you stop, the music stops. "Whoa," your brain says. "I am making this music. My friends and I are in sync. I have a greater appreciation of 20th century music. This feels awesome."

Rock Band 3 represents the pinnacle of the rhythm genre: a quality, inclusive package of memorable, empowering experiences. It's an all-time classic record that makes you smile every time you put it on.


Spelunky | Chris Watters, Host

Spelunky is that rare game that you can come back to time and time again to find that it just gets better and better. The procedurally generated levels and complex array of enemies, weapons, and environmental elements have an evergreen potential to surprise, delight, and kill horribly. This platforming adventure is a masterclass in game design and replayability. It welcomes in new players and challenges veterans; and as you find yourself growing from the former to the latter, you experience one of the most exhilarating journeys of personal growth, discovery, and mastery that gaming has to offer.


Super Mario 64 | Rob Crossley, Editor

Super Mario 64 was the big bang for 3D games: an explosion of ideas that were perfected at first attempt. Perhaps the most extraordinary among them was Mario's nuance and fluidity of movement where the player is free to flow from wall-jumps to somersaults to slides to tiptoeing to butt-stomps.

Before Mario 64, navigating 3D was an overwhelming technical and design conundrum, but this game made it suddenly seem as obvious as running from left to right. That profound elegance runs through virtually everything it offers, allowing the intoxicating bliss of Mario's world and characters to shine through.


Battlefield 1942 | Rob Handlery, Producer

My earliest memory of Battlefield 1942 is from a torn-out article I got from my grandma. "A WWII game incorporating land, sea, and air," rattled my pubescent brain hard.

I went full-on diabolical and convinced my mom we needed a PC for Microsoft Word. This wasn’t just my first PC game; it was my first online multiplayer game. Months later, I was still ripping apart aspiring pilots’ dreams of flight before they lifted off the runway. LANs, clans, and mods--Battlefield 1942 combined my personal dreams and gaming needs.


Left 4 Dead | Ryan Schubert, Youtube Channel Coordinator

Playing Left 4 Dead with three of my best friends every Tuesday night is one of the highlights of my years as a video gamer and a big part of why I have a job at GameSpot today. We played through the same campaigns week after week, and occasionally got together on a weekend in the same house to play through all of the L4D 1 or 2 campaigns back-to-back, without ever getting tired of the carnage. The AI director, Valve’s weekly mutations, and the sheer unexpected randomness of special spawns kept each playthrough fresh.


Dark Souls | Tamoor Hussain, News Editor

Firelink Shrine’s beautiful, haunting music encapsulates what I love about Dark Souls. The strained violin notes are a mournful serenade to Lordran, a world on the brink of collapse. Isolated plucks of a guitar string echo as the symphonic backing fades away, embodying the Chosen Undead, a figure prophesied to overcome great trials and either relight Lordran’s fire or smother it. Amongst it all, a bright cluster of harp notes somehow perseveres against overwhelming hopelessness.

The Souls series’ reputation for difficult gameplay is thoroughly deserved. But it's also filled with deeply personal, human stories of loss, and how it can consume a person.


Halo 3 | Eddie Makuch, Lead News Editor

2007's Halo 3 from Bungie is my favorite game of the past 20 years. The story--well, most of it--was excellent, and the multiplayer hooked me like no other first-person shooter I'd played before. The game came out when I was a senior in high school, and I couldn't get enough. Whether I was playing locally in campaign co-op or on Xbox Live, Halo 3 offered everything I was looking for in a FPS. No shooter has come close to appealing to me in the way that Halo 3 did all those years ago.

Guess it's time to go fire up the Master Chief Collection...


The Longest Journey | Jess McDonell, Host/Producer

I’ve been lucky enough to have my favorite game define both my childhood and my adult life. It began in 1999 when eight-year-old Jess met eighteen-year-old April Ryan, an art student who was prophesied to save the balance between the worlds of magic and science.

The Longest Journey is an awe-inspiring and emotional ride punctuated by clever point-and-click adventure game mechanics. The epic story and complex characters of The Longest Journey series have considerably changed what I expect out of video games, and influenced my opinion that there is no other storytelling medium that can compare.


Halo: Combat Evolved | Mike Mahardy, Editor

Halo has come a long way--from the far reaches of space, to the cities of Africa, to places humans forgot long ago. But it was one mysterious ring world where it all began. Halo: Combat Evolved has fantastic shooting mechanics, organic level design, and a momentous story that all flow into one another. But it also has mystery. It has that sense of the unknown. The Master Chief doesn't know what Halo really is, and neither do we. The horrors within are just there, under the surface, waiting for us to unlock them after millennia of quiet slumber. I love video games that can create an atmosphere like that. In my mind, Halo has no equal.


Vanquish | Matt Espineli, Associate Editor

Few shooters have impacted me as deeply as Vanquish. It’s bold and unafraid to set itself apart from others in its genre. Where other shooters often encourage you to sit behind cover, occasionally popping out to take a few shots, this action/shooter hybrid pushes you outside of your comfort zone. You're always in the midst of gunfire, sliding past bullets in your jet-powered augmented suit, as you unleash hell onto waves of Russian robots. The action and speed of Vanquish taught me to embrace the thrill of movement in games. As a result, it's easily one of my all-time favorites.


Battlefield Bad Company 2 | Aaron Sampson, Senior Producer

Indiana Jones meets Battlefield--what’s not to like? Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has it all: hilarious characters, mystery, destruction, and Rush--one of the most focused modes in all of the Battlefield series. Bad Company 2 also has the unique Vietnam DLC that adds almost another game into the base multiplayer playlist. My boss even has the Bad Company ringtone on his phone, which makes me uncontrollably happy whenever it rings. If that Pavlovian response doesn’t speak to the impact this game had on me, I don’t know what would.


Half-Life 2 | Danny O'Dwyer, Host/Producer

I took a month long break from college the month Half-Life 2 came out. Granted, at least half of that was due to Counter-Strike: Source, which launched alongside it. Half-Life 2 was not only a sequel to the best FPS up to that point, but it somehow managed to eclipse it. Varied level design, a new benchmark in AI, outstanding atmosphere, and the ability to kill members of a fascist police force by bouncing toilets off their heads. The fact that I go back and play through it again every year is a testament to the game's enduring design. 12 years later. It has yet to be topped.


Portal | Justin Haywald, Managing Editor

It physically makes me a little ill to have to choose just one game from the last 20 years to call the "best." I've had thousands of adventures exploring digital lands over the last two decades that I genuinely cherish as much as many of my real-world experiences. But if I had to choose a single game that exemplifies what makes gaming great, it'd be Portal.

Portal’s puzzles are blended masterfully into its narrative. The voice acting and writing exude genuine humor. And I'm pretty sure that, after beating the game, I'm at least 10 points smarter than I was before.

For me, Portal isn't just one of the best games of the last 20 years, it's one of the best games of all time.


Fallout 3 | Randolph Ramsay, Editor-in-Chief

As a huge fan of the first two Fallout games, the third entry’s shift to an open-world viewed through a first-person lens had me worried. But within minutes of traversing the ruins of Washington, D.C., I was hooked. Here was a whole world filled with details and story--some of it right in front of you, a lot of it tucked away in notes or environments--and it all felt so alive.

Or it used to be alive. One of the game's greatest achievements is how it tells you its tale through the people you meet and the places you see, but the story of the old world that existed before war took its toll is still there. Fallout 3 is a wonderful place to visit, and it remains the highest point of my gaming in the last 20 years.


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Nintendo Giving 500 Fans Chance to Play The Legend of Zelda Wii U in June

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 09:01

Nintendo will be giving 500 people the opportunity to be the first in the world to play The Legend of Zelda for Wii U at its New York store.

On June 11, during what is being calling "Super-Fan Signup Day," the first 500 Nintendo fans in line will be given a wristband that can be exchanged for a ticket. This ticket guarantees a spot to play the game during selected time slots from June 14 to June 19.

"The six-day free event will begin at noon ET on June 14, when fans will be invited to watch gameplay of The Legend of Zelda live-streamed from Nintendo's booth at this year's E3 video game trade show in Los Angeles to the 15-foot gaming screen inside Nintendo NY," the company explained in a press release.

"This will be the world's first in-depth look at the game. Then at 3 p.m. ET, the first of 500 fans will begin sampling the game for the first time.

"From June 15 to June 19, Nintendo experts will also be giving guided game-play demonstrations on the big screen for everyone to watch and enjoy. Several fans may even get the chance to participate in guided demonstrations. There will also beThe Legend of Zelda trivia for a chance for fans to win fun prizes."

Event details can be found below.

WHEN

Super-Fan Signup Day

  • June 11, 9 a.m. ET

Nintendo NY The Legend of Zelda experience

  • June 14, noon-3 p.m. ET (Nintendo Treehouse: Live screening from E3)
  • June 14, 3-8 p.m. ET (hands-on experience for fans with appointments)
  • June 15-19, Nintendo NY store hours (hands-on experience for fans with appointments)
  • June 15-19, Nintendo NY store hours (guided game-play presentations with Nintendo experts and trivia)
WHERE

Nintendo NY, 10 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020

VISUALS

June 11

  • Excited Nintendo fans waiting in line to receive the chance to play the newest game in The Legend of Zelda series for the first time.

June 14-19

  • Fans, including some who may come dressed in different costumes inspired by the Zelda series, playing the new The Legend of Zelda game for the Wii U console.
  • The Nintendo NY store decorated to celebrate The Legend of Zelda.
  • Group demos hosted by Nintendo representatives showing fans the extensive The Legend of Zelda demo.

Nintendo has confirmed the Wii U version of The Legend of Zelda will be its only playable title at E3 2016 "in order to provide attendees a complete immersion."

The game is also scheduled to be released on Nintendo's next platform, codenamed the NX, though it has been confirmed that the company will be not discussing this version or the new hardware at E3.

The NX's official release date will be in March 2017.

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Overwatch Review

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 09:00

Overwatch is an exercise in refined chaos. There are multitudes of layers hiding beneath the hectic surface, and they emerge, one after another, the more you play. This is a shooter that knows how to surprise, one that unfolds at a frantic pace, one that takes a handful of great ideas, and combines them into something spectacular.

At first glance, it's a simple formula: two teams of six vie for control of mobile payloads, capture points, and key strategic positions. Each of its four modes are easy to grasp, serving as the foundation for the various maps and the powerful heroes colliding within them. That apparent simplicity is deceiving, though. Overwatch is an amorphous, shapeshifting organism that mean different things for different players, depending on which hero you choose, and what role you assume within the context of your team.

The quality of Overwatch, as a hero shooter, relies on its fighters. And these 21 heroes, both in terms of personality and design, compose one of the more distinct and diverse casts in recent memory. Their dialogue hints at relationships among the group. Their art design conveys a stark visual vocabulary. Their abilities set the stage for multidimensional firefights with explosions, energy shields, and bursts of sonic energy. There's an enticing balance between mastering one character and trying someone completely new.

Each of these characters could be the center of their own game. There's the dwarf engineer Torbjörn and his upgradeable defensive turret. There's the ape scientist Winston, with both superior intellect and animalistic rage. Then there's Tracer, the British pilot removed from the rules of space and time, warping around the battlefield and reversing her actions to correct mistakes she might have made seconds before.

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Like Tracer, Overwatch functions as a sort of time machine, borrowing elements from the shooter genre throughout its evolution over the years. Some of Overwatch's characters display the arena combat of Quake, while others capture the dynamism of the more modern Titanfall. Overwatch's cast also includes a more archetypical military-shooter character, Soldier 76. He serves as a gateway for players more accustomed to Call of Duty or Battlefield, ushering them into a more nuanced and versatile overall experience.

These heroes may be the bricks comprising Overwatch's structure, but the map design is the mortar in between. Skirmishes play out across 12 locales in a futuristic version of Earth, from the foundries of industrial Russia to the shrines of rural Japan. These arenas mix high walkways and low pits, narrow sightlines with wide avenues. Battles change constantly, choke points become virtual morgues, and learning to use your character's range, damage, and special abilities is contingent on what the environments dictate. Variety in map design is one thing--precision in their layout is another entirely. And Overwatch is precision incarnate.

What's impressive isn't Overwatch's ambition--its attempt to bring all these different factors together under one roof. What's impressive is that it fits these characters and interactions into an organic being, with ever-changing scenarios that keep Overwatch fresh through each match. It helps that you can switch heroes mid-match according to the ebb and flow of each situation.

There's an enticing balance between mastering one character and trying someone completely new, and watching new layers unravel.

But even more vital is the ease with which Overwatch teaches you valuable lessons. Playing becomes a digging process, and as you discover new ways to use each character on each map, how better to serve your team, and how to counter your most dangerous opponents, Overwatch's deepest layers begin to emerge.

Imagine defending the last waypoint in Japan as the attackers escort their explosive payload to within yards of victory. Your team is spread around the room, on the upper catwalks and out in the open, standing in the way and keeping the opponents at bay. As the explosive expert Junkrat, you're launching grenades into clumps of enemies. You're laying bear traps to cover the walkway at your rear. You're disrupting the position of shield characters with the blast from your remote mines.

But you're also watching your teammate's back as she snipes with Widowmaker. You're calling out enemy positions to Pharah as she glides above the fray with her rocket launcher ablaze. You're coordinating with Zarya, waiting until both of your ultimate abilities are ready. And as she launches her Graviton Surge into the room, sucking every enemy into one concentrated mass, you release your RIP-Tire explosive, steering it into the group and killing them all, buying your tank characters precious seconds to reverse the payload as the timer reaches zero and you win the match with bated breath.

Overwatch's maps depict a science-fiction utopia on the brink of conflict.

This is what Overwatch does to your brain. These are the thoughts that race through your head. These are the scenarios that encourage you to play the game in such ways. There's even a post-match voting period in which you congratulate individual efforts, whether it be the amount of hit-points Mercy healed, the number of warp portals Symmetra erected, or the percentage of damage Reinhardt blocked with his shield. In these moments, Overwatch is telling you one important thing: there is no single way to play.

Unfortunately, it sometimes ignores this mantra. The end of each match initiates a "Play of the Game" highlight, which showcases the most impressive moment from the perspective of the player who performed it. However, unlike the post-match voting period, the highlight video almost always focuses on killstreaks. These are flashy--especially when the player shows a clear mastery of Reaper's close-quarters attacks, or Genji's ninja-star barrages--but they don't recognize healers or tank characters enough. It's a minor complaint, and only stands out because the rest of Overwatch is so accommodating to individual playstyles--but it's jarring nonetheless.

It's also disappointing how, for every way Overwatch rewards mastery of your favorite characters, it stumbles with its randomized loot system. These awards are all aesthetic, to be clear--a new character skin here, a new celebration stance there--but too often loot crates contain unwanted items. More importantly, they delay the process of outfitting your favorite characters, the ones you use most often, the ones you grow attached to. You can accrue Overwatch gold to unlock specific items, but like the items themselves, gold is strewn throughout random loot crates. In this respect, Overwatch uses gambling to undermine your desire for specific unlocks.

There is a genuine learning process here. There is real value to the time you spend understanding these overlapping systems.

But in almost every other way, Overwatch encourages a more tangible sort of progression: that of filling a critical role on your team and understanding its intricacies the more you play, adapt, and grow. There is a genuine learning process here. There is real value to the time you spend understanding these overlapping systems.

It's that intoxicating path of discovery that makes Overwatch so varied, so rewarding, and ultimately another seminal release from developer Blizzard. Overwatch is an intelligent cascade of disparate ideas, supporting one another, pouring into one another, and coiling around themselves as they flow into the brilliant shooter underneath.

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Hitman's Elusive Targets Are About To Become More Difficult

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 09:00

Hitman's first Elusive Target--a time-limited, one-chance only assassination--was released just recently, and barely half of the players who attempted the mission found any success. You can expect that percentage to drop for future targets, as it seems like Hitman developer IO Interactive is set to bump up the difficulty of these one-off contracts even more.

We spoke with lead online designer Torben Ellert recently to find out what the team at IO learned after their first Elusive Target, and how they're planning to improve the Hitman experience for players.

Does listening to and then implementing audience feedback make development a lot more difficult? My assumption would be that because you're listening to all this feedback from the episodes you've already released, that your goal posts are always shifting.

Yes, is the short answer, but we only have a certain amount of resources so we need to focus. I think that the holster animation is a good example. That's the kind of thing that when you're making cold, hard production decisions, you say, "Holster animation, cut." But we could see that this was really important to people. They felt that it added something that was maybe out of proportion to its cost and the time it'd take us to do it, but we had some time in the studio and we had some available animators, so... holster animation.

So, yes, the goal posts move but sometimes they move closer. People say that they have expectations of how the game should be and what the content should be and sometimes that's doable and sometimes it's not, but it means that we can actually be realistic as the game is being played.

It goes back to Hitman: Absolution. Scoring was busted, and the economy in Contracts mode was just ruined, and the disguise system was really punishing. Of those three, the one that we could fix was the disguise system, so we made some changes and we patched them. The others, we simply couldn't, for many reasons: technical, economic, and resources.

Coming out of Absolution, I sat with our team and we asked: if we wanted a game where we could add in a new mission, just kind of slot it in like a Lego piece. If we wanted to re-balance scoring, add a new challenge, tweak menu flow, improve menu performance, and we didn't want to patch, or patch as little as possible; how could we change the code base from Absolution to another? Those decisions brought us to the technological platform that we have today.

You've recently released some Elusive Targets in Hitman. How did that go?

What I can tell you is that of the people who took him out, 10% managed to be silent assassins. Which is lower than the story mission, but it's also a much higher intensity experience.

Elusive Targets are an idea that we had knocking around for a while. We built the first one just a year and a half ago, but it became clear that we needed to have something that felt more like a fully-fledged experience. So when we started working on The Forger--which is the first of the elusive targets that we built--I sat down and I did a complete rewrite of the script and took the decision that we were going to give him an accent and he was going to be a little bit extreme, because you have to remember him, right? You have to notice him. So when you hear the guy speaking in the French accent, it's like "Wait nobody talks like that, what's going on here?"

What have you learnt so far from the Elusive Targets you've released?

We probably want the first couple at least to be quite approachable experiences, because it's really important that we make it clear that these are not impossible missions. Yes, they're tense, because if you screw up, you're finished. But they're totally doable. I think we need to keep that for the next couple, but as we go down the line, we will improve on their perceptiveness, where it makes narrative sense. For example, if you were going after a high-ranking politician, he would know by face everyone in his security detail, so we would eliminate that dominant strategy of just putting on the bodyguards uniform.

We would harden up some of the approachables for him, but as my creative director [Christian Elverdam] said when we were designing the first couple, "Torben, don't forget you're up against the hive mind." So, I don't think we can make one that's impossible to complete, I really don't.

You think 48 hours is the right amount of time?

"I don't know" is the short answer to that. Is 48 hours starting at 6:00am ET, is that the right place? Does it need to start at 6:00am Central Time? Does it need to be eight hours on a Thursday afternoon? We don't know is the short answer. We will discover this as we go forwards.

How often are you thinking of having an Elusive Target?

I would like to say often, but I don't have a clear answer for you. I feel like it's an important part of the tripod of our live content, which consists of Contracts mode, which is not great, we'll improve that, and Escalations which are these purely game mechanical challenges, and Elusive Targets which are much closer to the pure fiction. That's the tripod that we need to stand this proposition on.

So, speaking directly about Marrakesh and the upcoming Episode 3, there is this situation brewing with the consulate where protests are occurring. Does that situation continue to escalate while you're playing the game, or is that fixed? Is there a way to impact that situation?

Yes, there are ways to impact it, and there are, as always, moving parts that you can discover. I won't spoil it, but what I'll say is that, the banker and the general (the two main targets), their relationship is a lot closer than the news would put it, if you were living in that world. They would be unrelated but in truth, they're probably quite closely related, and playing the level and completing opportunities will reveal that to the player.

Since you launched the game, what would you say is the most significant improvement?

Server performance. It blindsided us that it would happen. I feel we were diligent in trying to hunt these things down, but it underlines the strength and perhaps the challenge of being a game like this. You go, and then your game has been played for tens of millions of hours within the first couple of days. And you can't test it to that scale. So for all the cases that you think you simply don't see in your tests, suddenly become major clusters of events. So, I'm really happy that we've reduced it, we've put in place countermeasures that have improved performance across the board. Do I wish that that hadn't happened? Absolutely, but I feel we've done everything in our power to improve and are continuing to improve it, but it's a consequence of the creative decision that we've made.

I mean, there's been some hysterical shouting. "Oh this is DRM." It's not. The client and the server have a symbiosis--there are rules and game experiences that are being executed server side and the game is shipping off the telemetry to the server and the server is resolving it and putting it back. Do I wish it was smoother? Absolutely, but I stand by it. Because I honestly feel that the flexibility I get as a dev to improve the experience that my players are having, to see what they're doing, to reach out to speed runners and challenge creators, to make new experiences, is worth it. But I completely acknowledge that we need to improve that.

How much better of a game is Hitman now than when you released the first episode and how much more is there to improve?

I feel like it was a finished game when we shipped it. If there had been seven levels, it would have been hailed as Blood Money 2. We wouldn't be having this discussion, but it is a better game now because of what we've seen people do. The fact that it's live and adapting over time makes it a better game and a better common experience.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Blood and Wine Review in Progress

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 09:00

Geralt of Rivia is not primarily known for his humor, nor is The Witcher series itself. Yet a wicked jocularity has always coursed through The Witcher 3 and its predecessors. The residents of this unforgiving world must find pleasure wherever they can, even if only from a sly wisecrack or a groan-worthy pun. In The Witcher 3's final expansion, Blood and Wine, humor no longer lurks in the shadows: it steps into the glowing sun, winking and nudging you towards the next quest with surprising anachronism and self-aggrandizement.

Imagine my surprise, for instance, when I overheard a vineyard laborer singing Simon and Garfunkel, or when Geralt made plain reference to Jesus of Nazareth. Yet The Witcher 3's ability to surprise should, well, not be so surprising; after all, developer CD Projekt Red has consistently proven its ability to rethink and recontextualize returning ideas and themes to say something new about this world and its inhabitants.

I can't say whether the humor is entirely successful; I'm not yet finished with Blood and Wine, which I'd estimate to be about the length of The Witcher 2, judging from the pace of level progression. I've actually found the jokes distracting from time to time; blatant references to the real world have a habit of yanking you out of the fantasy. And yet I couldn't stay cross for long, not when the payoffs were so memorable. The Jesus joke marked the beginning of a magical side-quest that more suggests a tale from Camelot than one from Nazareth or Galilee. Elsewhere, the game's breaking of the fourth wall had me rolling my eyes at first, only to make me joyful over the insight I'd gained later on. I may never think of Roach the same way again.

Humor may take a prominent role, but Blood and Wine is still tumultuous, both in and out of its primary tale. Again, your choices have meaningful and often unpredictable consequences, such as a quest involving a cursed creature and a house full of spoons. It's been a day since I completed that quest, yet I'm still thinking about the truth I found there and the punishment its primary character endured. Was it rightful punishment? I'm not sure, but I've spent a good bit of time contemplating it--and contemplating whether my "good" choice was the right one.

I do miss the old gang, however. Blood and Wine has a dearth of sorceresses and dwarfs, though no shortage of horrific creatures to slay, and certainly no shortage of quests to take. Things can get a bit repetitive if you dally on one quest-line for too long. Solving problems across a couple of vineyards becomes a monotonous cycle of fighting the same monsters in different areas, though this is clearly an exception to the rule. Fortunately, even unexciting quests can yield welcome rewards, one of which is the deed to your own upgradable vineyard and estate. Don't expect Fallout 4 levels of customization; Blood and Wine is more similar to Far Cry: Primal in this regard, presenting a series of automated improvements that cost a certain amount of cash.

Blood and Wine also introduces a supplementary mutations system as a quest reward for a characteristically melancholy storyline. It's a smart mechanic, opening up new possibilities once you've no reason to spend skill points on upgrades you either won't use or have no slot for. You'll certainly be glad for the passive improvements during the tougher encounters, which are, as a rule, much more taxing than before, sometimes exhaustively so. Be prepared to rethink your strategy when living statues pepper the ground with magical traps, or when giant centipedes emerge from the earth to surround you. And don't forget to save from time to time: Blood and Wine's checkpoints don't always work in your favor.

Blood and Wine is outrageously beautiful. Its new region, Toussaint, takes the air of the French countryside, though its skies are bluer, its foliage more lush, and its rolling hills more impressive. It's as close to high fantasy this dark fantasy series has gotten, and is all the better for it, as if The Witcher 2's elven rose garden had been expanded to continental proportions. Every rose has its thorns, however; dank caves harbor terrible beasts, and cemeteries shelter the most horrid of Toussaint's residents.

The creepiest accordion tunes you've ever heard serve to underline the horror. This is not a surprise, given The Witcher 3's consistently excellent audio, notwithstanding a few too many glitches where Geralt speaks over himself when you activate multiple triggers at once. There's more to say about The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine, of course, and I will have a full review for you once I've finished. For now, however, I can confirm what you likely guessed: Blood and Wine is quite good, quite big, and quite likely to make you glad to return to one of video games' most engaging worlds.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Blood and Wine - Review in Progress

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 09:00
The Witcher 3 Blood and Wine review in progress by Kevin VanOrd covers its outrageous beauty and its hints at high fantasy.
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New Sonic Game Teased With Harry Potter Reference

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 08:30

2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog series. Now, Sega has teased that, as was suggested earlier, a new Sonic "anniversary" game may be in the works.

An image posted to the official Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter account uses a meme and a Harry Potter reference to tease that "game development [is] in progress." Check it out (via DualShockers):

We solemnly swear we're up to something good. pic.twitter.com/6D3QvIGUOW

— Sonic the Hedgehog (@sonic_hedgehog) May 23, 2016

Sega's Aaron Webber, who runs the at-times-wacky Sonic Twitter account, said in his own tweet that the blue squares in the image are "just for design." There is a hint "elsewhere," but Webber didn't say if this is in the image itself or somewhere else.

Great eye, but those squares in the Sonic post are just for design. The hint you're looking for is elsewhere. :)

— Aaron Webber (@RubyEclipse) May 23, 2016

If Sega is planning to officially announce a new Sonic game, the reveal could happen at the company's 25th anniversary party in San Diego at Comic-Con this summer. As announced previously, attendees will get an "exclusive first look at the future of Sonic." However, whether this means a new game reveal or something else remains to be seen.

Speaking at a SXSW panel in March, a Sega representative wouldn't say if a new game would be announced at the event, but said fans should "totally come to this party," as Sega will make a "very special announcement."

Interestingly, Crush 40 lead singer Johnny Gioeli wrote on Facebook last year that Sega may be working on a Sonic "anniversary" game. Crush 40 is scheduled to perform at the 25th anniversary party.

Other big-name video game franchises celebrating anniversaries this year include Pokemon and Resident Evil, both of which have now been around for 20 years.

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Gears of War Designer Says He Could Make 1-2 More Games

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Wed, 2016-05-25 07:59

How many more games might Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski makes before retiring?

He talked about his future plans in a new interview with IGN, saying he could make one or two more games after LawBreakers. However, he said that depends on how well the game does and what happens in his personal life.

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"How long do you think you'll keep making games?" he is asked. Bleszinski replies: "I've got at least one or two [more] in me."

He went on to say that the number of additional games he makes may depend on whether or not he becomes a father.

"I'm pumping the brakes on that as long as I can because as much as I love kids...they're a lot of work," he said. "And I tell my wife, 'What do we like right now? Video games, movies, travel, sleep, alcohol, nice dinners, time with friends.' And from what I understand about having a child, it's one of the most rewarding things you can do. But like I say, anything worth doing in life is work--it's a lot of work, man."

"You can't predict what's coming next in this industry a year or two out--you're lucky if you can do six months" -- Bleszinski

If LawBreakers does well, there might be more opportunities to explore additional games in that universe, he suggested. But Bleszinski doesn't have a crystal ball that gives him any answers about what's coming up next for video games.

"You can't predict what's coming next in this industry a year or two out--you're lucky if you can do six months," he said, adding that VR could change the world or it could flop.

Bleszinski did make the right call on virtual reality, it seems. He invested in Oculus Rift in its early days and made a "very sizable chunk of money" after Facebook bought the company in 2014.

Finally, Bleszinski said he is still energized by coming to work every day at Boss Key and building LawBreakers.

"I'm having too much fun [to retire]," he said. "I love pitching a weapon or a character and then seeing a sketch for it two days later. I want to see cosplayers with this game, I want to see tattoos, I want couples coming up to me telling me they met and fell in love online playing this game. That's what gets me out of bed in the morning."

Bleszinski also recently revealed his favorite Gears of War game and talked about how the first game's multiplayer mode almost didn't happen.

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Overwatch - Opening 50 Overwatch Loot Boxes

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Tue, 2016-05-24 21:20
What do you get when you spend $39.99 on Overwatch loot crates? Join Danny and Chris as they open every one and see if it's money well spent, or the ultimate buyer's remorse.
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Fallout 4 Far Harbor Review

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Tue, 2016-05-24 21:11

After dozens of hours in the rough-and-tumble Commonwealth, the coast of Maine sounds like the perfect place for a sojourn in Fallout 4. Enjoy a boat ride; meet new people; solve a mystery with your best synthetic friend--what's not to love?

Who am I kidding: Far Harbor is just as overrun with radiation, desperate factions, and mutated creatures as Fallout 4's main stage. Along its rocky shores and in its foggy woods lie odd characters and rewarding side quests, along with a bounty of new gear to acquire. Visiting Far Harbor is an excellent way to extend your enjoyment of Fallout 4's brand of combat and casual role-playing, but it doesn't succeed in all of its attempts to build on the foundation of the base game's story.

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In many ways, Far Harbor seems like a trip down memory lane. You once again set out in search of a missing child, and ultimately discover a society in the throes of a complicated conflict. The crazed Children of Atom worship radiation, taking refuge in the dense irradiated fog that covers the island. They are at odds with the citizens of Far Harbor: the seafaring town reduced to the only swath of land not overrun by fog. Elsewhere, synths who want to live in peace and isolation watch from the sidelines, though as you soon discover, a murky past brings their motivations into question.

Shortly after you arrive on the island and help defend townsfolk from invading monsters, you're whisked away to the synth refuge in Acadia. Not long after, you're guided to The Children of Atom's sanctuary, called The Nucleus. Unless you deviate into side quests right away, you'll have met most of Far Harbor's big players in less than an hour, and these meetings deliver a rapid-fire procession of seemingly major events and revelations. Unfortunately, this eagerness backfires.

That's some helmet you've got there.

Far Harbour isn't shy about asking you to join a murderous group of religious extremists, or attempting to make you question your own identity. While these moments have potential, they aren't given the time and space they need to spur a meaningful response. The biggest twist of all is so mired in logical inconsistencies that it practically feels like a joke. After the dozens of hours it took to form a position on the various players and problems in the main campaign, the abrupt propositions in Far Harbor feel cheap, to say nothing of how familiar the narrative's themes are at this stage in the game.

The biggest risk Far Harbor takes is a trip into the memory banks of a synth, where you use Fallout 4's settlement-building toolset to recompile broken pieces of data. With a limited number of items at your disposal, you have to redirect lasers to break down barriers and place armaments of your own to defend the flow of information from cannon-toting viruses, all while trying your best not to walk into pitfalls. These sequences are visually distinct and put your abilities as a craftsman to practical use, but they come off as a half-baked puzzle game concocted to drum up variety. Up to the last puzzle, the solutions are easy to identify and execute. The final test, on the other hand, is sprawling and requires tedious exploration, made worse by the limited amount of resources you have to build bridges to and from the maps' various islands of data.

On an island filled with exciting combat and weird characters, the last thing I want to do is struggle with awkward puzzles.

As I dug my heels in and meticulously worked for a solution to the final puzzle, I yearned for adventure. For all the baggage in Far Harbor, it successfully upholds Fallout's tradition of combat, driven by odd requests from locals or by your own lust for loot. New weapons like the harpoon gun empower you to take on new creatures that are fast, resilient, and challenging enough to test seasoned survivors. The only hiccup that gets in the way comes from the fog that permeates Far Harbor, at least on PlayStation 4 and PC at launch--these versions suffer from optimization issues, with the PS4 version suffering the worst during fog-laced combat. The fog and the light that sneaks through it creates a great visual effect, but it's a shame that it comes at the cost of performance.

For its new locations and weapons, the turbulent waters of Maine are a satisfying compliment to Fallout 4. But where Far Harbor succeeds in delivering more of the same great gameplay and oddball characters that made the main campaign such a joy, it can't muster an interesting story. It over-confidently asserts twists and conundrums, without doing enough to earn your investment in the outcome of your decisions. If a moving story is what you're after, steer your ship back to the shores of the Commonwealth.

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Fallout 4 Far Harbor: Ask The Reviewer - The Lobby

GameSpot's PC Reviews - Tue, 2016-05-24 20:17
Fallout 4 Far Harbor has dropped, Peter, Rob, and Danny consider what the DLC has to offer the larger Fallout 4 experience.
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