XBox 360 Universe Straight from the source
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    September 30th, 2014GamespotPreviews

    Keeping a game franchise fresh and thriving for 10 years is a lofty goal. But that's exactly what Activision is attempting with Destiny. Accomplishing this feat will require a solid foundation of entertaining gameplay, but it also helps to have an interesting story that draws players in, sparking interest in its mysteries, its history, and its unanswered questions. Destiny's story is certainly brimming with mystery and unanswered questions, but is presented in a way that fosters boredom. The narrative seems detached from the world around it, while many of the characters stand apathetic to your inquiries.

    Destiny is a new franchise, and is developer Bungie's latest chance to create something that captivates the imagination. So why does it already feel so bland and uninteresting? Much of the reason behind this is due to Destiny's weak delivery of its narrative. Destiny veils its thin plot, burying what meager background lore it holds behind a wall away from the game itself. It doesn't help that your guardian, the protagonist, is about as intellectually curious as sparrow exhaust, and wields a script that makes Master Chief look like a chatty Cathy.

    Destiny's story is one of usual sci-fi trappings with evil aliens, space ships, and planetary exploration. But like a cheap summer action flick, trying to recall the sequence of important events soon after the credits have rolled is more strain that it's worth. Segmented among the narrative--consisting of about 16 hours of fetch quests or fighting off waves of enemies while protecting a door or some important thing--are brief moments of exposition. However, they serve to add more questions than actually inform.

    What is the Traveler? What are the Fallen? Why are the guardians enlisted from the dead? And why exactly is there gravity on the Moon? These are among the many questions that lingered in my mind throughout the long journey of playing the main campaign. At the curtain fall to Destiny's vague story, none of them were answered; they were only met with even more questions. Your final reward, besides the grand speech your guardian clearly wasn't invited to, is a free gun and some glimmer for your troubles. The enigmatic female Exo hunter, called the Stranger, a supposed ally who aids you in your travels, is there to offer a final wink at the camera--the promise of more to come--before warping away to places unknown.

    In all fairness, it doesn't make sense for a long-term game like Destiny to reveal everything in the first round. But like Peter Jackson's The Hobbit films, the story feels thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread, as Bilbo Baggins would say. It also doesn't help that the game utilizes a baffling array of verbs and nouns to describe enemies and places.

    A mission on Venus reads, "Unravel the secrets of the Vex by reviving an ancient research station of the Ishtar Collective." What was the Ishtar Collective? Where did they go? How can a hostile, acidic planet like Venus sustain life? Another mission asks you to "Survive the military power of the Cabal and find the Gate to the Black Garden." What is the Cabal, and where do they come from? What is the Black Garden, and how will its destruction help the Traveler? Sure, your constant Ghost companion gives you some dry exposition during missions, but rarely do those answers feature much in the way of detail. Destiny's banal story lacks any sort of impetus to provide any solid explanations. Still, you march onward. You are a guardian, and you do it because you must--asking questions is not part of the job description.

    "You must have no end of questions, Guardian." -- The Speaker

    Destiny's uses Grimoire cards as a crutch for its flimsy story, but even they have difficulty keeping it standing. The reason is that many of the cards contribute no more an important role than that of a digital instruction manual, providing only the most basic information possible. If you wish to learn about classes and Super moves, the cards have all the details your heart desires. But salient plot points, such as the origins of the omnipotent Darkness, the ancient enemy of the Traveler and bringer of the Fall, are still shrouded in Destiny's safety blanket of mystery and intrigue.

    Grimoire cards are handed out as you play through the game. Meeting new allies and enemies and discovering planets and locations reward you with more of these cards. As I played, I felt curious as to what information the cards held. However, I didn't look at a single Grimoire card until after I had finished the main story. The reason is because to read the card, you are required to stop playing and head to Bungie's website and sign in using your chosen gaming handle for either Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. It also doesn't help that you must accomplish dull chores, such as killing a set of enemies a number of times, to unlock other cards. I have logged in around 40 hours, unlocking many cards. There could be some cards in the Grimoire that offer an explanation to my scrutiny. But I question my dedication to play another several dozen hours of repetitive tasks in order to learn about a story that doesn't ask to be explored.

    The Darkness card offers many theories surrounding its existence, but, again, there are no solid answers. And what of the mighty Cabal, the evil alien species that has taken claim on Mars, sharing it with the Vex and their Gate to the Black Garden? As the Cabal card explains, “Their origins and ultimate objectives are a mystery,” because of course they are.

    Hey, don't suppose you have any narrative for sale?

    If Destiny puts so much importance on the story, why not keep the information in the game? Why the hassle? Siloing important background information out of the game, effectively interrupting fluidity, doesn't make the narrative more compelling.

    Grimoire cards are a good idea for a game as massive as Destiny, however, even though they are mismanaged. If you're anything like me, you appreciate it when developers go the extra mile to add fascinating lore or tidbits to supplement the stories of their games. Are you aware that the Vex's Slap Rifle is not only weapon, but also might be used as a field transmitter, navigational beacon, and more? Not everyone will care about a fictitious rifle, but I find this sort of stuff fascinating.

    In fact, having lore you can pursue outside of the main story actually isn't a bad thing. There are games that have pulled it off with great success. Mass Effect is a perfect example of providing you with a great story while including some trimmings to enjoy on the side. Why do the Elcor verbalize their emotions? Look it up in the codex. What is the history behind the ancient Protheans? It's in the codex! Grimoire cards have the potential to help round out Destiny's overall story, whenever it decides to show itself. But they need to be a part of the package if the point is to spur interest.

    About halfway through Destiny, you meet the Queen of the Reef. The scene marked the first time since I began the game in which I felt the urge to sit up and lean forward with anticipation. Finally, I thought, the story is about to pick up and go somewhere. I knew right away that I'd be glad to do away with these Grimoire cards and get some real answers. As I watched my guardian walk somberly along a walkway lit by eerie azure lighting, that hope was dashed to pieces as I was bombarded with more cards.

    After a few tension-filled moments, the queen sends you on a fetch quest for a head of a Vex Gate Lord. The deed done, you spend the rest of the game repeating the same missions that led you there in the first place. So much for that anticipation; I sank back into my chair and continued my hunt for the endgame.

    Destiny is meant to stay around for quite a long while. So far, this reason has been the best argument for why the game at its current iteration feels so meager. Looking among all the Grimoire cards I don't have, I realize that it will be years before every space is filled with some important piece of plot that has yet to come to pass. The prospect doesn't fill me with enthusiasm. If Destiny remains the same as it is now, that could mean more short cutscenes bookending hours of repetition. No, not enthusiasm; I find the concept more exhausting than exciting. Unless Bungie does something soon to lift the story out of its slog, especially before the holiday game avalanche, Destiny owners will find little reason to return, save for playing the same missions for the slim chance of better gear. Bungie is gambling on you having the patience to ride Destiny out for the next decade in order to learn its mysteries. Like gambling on a legendary engram to provide something exotic, however, betting on the perseverance of its fans may end up to be less than an uncommon reality.

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    September 30th, 2014JoystiqNews
    Digital pre-orders for Creative Assembly's frightful first-person game Alien: Isolation are now available. Players can put money down in advance of the game's impending launch in one week on Steam, PSN and Xbox Live to pre-download the game and pick up its season pass.

    Xbox One players can pre-purchase the game's Nostromo Edition on Microsoft's store, which includes the full game as well as the "Crew Expendable" bonus content. PS4 and PS3 players can scoot over to PSN to pre-order either the Nostromo Edition or the Season Pass bundle, with individual passes available on launch day, October 7. Likewise, the Nostromo Edition as well as the Digital Deluxe Edition are available to pre-purchase on Steam, the latter of which also includes the game's season pass. The $30 season pass give players access to Alien: Isolation's survivor mode map packs.
    [Image: Sega]

    JoystiqPre-order Alien: Isolation digitally, watch it download in terror originally appeared on Joystiq on Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    September 30th, 2014GamespotPreviews
    Watch extended gameplay footage from Forza Horizon 2 featuring the Giant Bomb crew.
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    September 30th, 2014GamespotPreviews

    The release of Lord of the Rings game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is now less than a week away out now.

    Below is a roundup of scores and editor reflections you can look over ahead of the game's release on September 30 today. Check out GameSpot sister site Metacritic for more on the game's critical reception.

    GameSpot -- 8/10

    "[T]his is a great game in its own right, narratively disjointed but mechanically sound, made up of excellent parts pieced together in excellent ways. I already knew what future lay in store for Middle-earth as I played Shadow of Mordor; I'm hoping that my own future might one day bring another Lord of the Rings adventure as stirring as this one." - Kevin VanOrd [Full review]

    Destructoid -- 6/10

    "Ultimately, like many ambitious projects, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor doesn't deliver on everything it sets out to do. Although Monolith's heart is in the right place and the studio honors the lore, it doesn't really add anything that's worth seeing outside of some solid open-world gameplay. It isn't a bad game, it just feels far too repetitive for its own good." - Chris Carter [Full review]

    Joystiq -- 5/5

    "What would have otherwise been a competent sandbox game with solid combat mechanics and an interesting twist on a known fantasy world is elevated by the Nemesis System. Shadow of Mordor is the strategic person's action game." - Alexander Sliwinski [Full review]

    Polygon -- 9.5/10

    "Shadow of Mordor is that ultimate rarity. It tells a fun little story that would be enough to hold up most games on its own. But it also provides all of the tools to ensure that the most interesting tales to come out of the game will be the ones that were not scripted." - Philip Kollar [Full review]

    IGN -- 9.3/10

    "Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor stands out from other open-world action games by putting a great new layer on top of the trail that Batman blazed. I was surprised at how well it integrates its excellent combat with rewarding feedback and progression not just for me, but also for my enemies. I've had many more memorable and unpredictable battles with its randomized Warchiefs and captains than I did in the scripted campaign missions, and I expect those to keep on coming." - Dan Stapleton [Full review]

    The Escapist -- 4.5/5

    "As an open-world game set in Middle-earth, Shadow of Mordor delivers unique emergent gameplay, finely-tuned combat mechanics, and a story which avoids typical fantasy fare. While the main storyline can be finished relatively quickly, there is a lot of content in Mordor for you to pursue however you like." - Greg Tito [Full review]

    A list of additional scores from other publications can be found below:

    Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch

    For all of GameSpot's news coverage, check out our hub. Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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    September 30th, 2014GamespotPreviews
    Microsoft skips Windows 9 and gives people a taste of 10, and Ubisoft has Assassin’s Creed games coming out the ass… assin’s Creed.
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    September 30th, 2014JoystiqNews
    This is State of Service, an ongoing review of the online service of a recently launched game. You can read our scored review of Destiny here.
    Tuesday, September 30 | T-minus 9 days until final verdict
    Current State of Service:
    Good
    Summary: Destiny servers have been largely stable, with a couple of hiccups. Bungie closed the "Loot Cave" exploit, though players have already flocked to a new one. An upcoming patch aims to improve the loot system.

    Destiny's third week was mostly a smooth one, with only a few isolated server problems. Bungie noted sign-in issues across all platforms on Thursday, September 25, which were resolved quickly. Xbox 360 players ran into similar trouble on Monday, September 29, but these too were quickly rectified. The Joystiq staff encountered no outstanding complications at all last week. Meanwhile, Bungie states that it is still addressing outlying networking issues, reporting that "Bee," "Lion," or "Fly" error codes have been reduced by 50 percent over the last week.

    Elsewhere in the galaxy, Bungie put an end to Destiny's infamous "Loot Cave." Undaunted, players immediately latched onto a different Loot Cave. Perhaps in response to the design problems that the Loot Cave represents, Bungie announced that patch 1.0.2 will significantly change the loot system. Namely, Purple Engrams will guarantee Legendary quality items, while Blue Engrams will guarantee Rare or better quality items.

    If you encounter any connection problems while playing Destiny, let us know in the comments, or on the Joystiq Twitter or Facebook accounts. Use the hashtag "#sos" and specify your platform, please.

    Continue reading Destiny State of Service: Week Three

    JoystiqDestiny State of Service: Week Three originally appeared on Joystiq on Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    September 30th, 2014JoystiqNews
    2K Sports offered details today on WWE 2K15's other career mode, My Career. Much like the mode of the same name in Visual Concepts' NBA 2K series, in My Career, players take a custom wrestler through the career path of a WWE superstar. The mode begins by having players learn the ropes at the Orlando-based WWE Performance Center, eventually headlining WrestleMania and winning the top championship titles in the company.

    The mode features seasoned trainer Bill DeMott and general manager Vickie Guerrero, the latter setting matches and giving wrestlers goals to advance their career. As the journey unfolds, wrestlers improve their attributes and unlock new abilities and moves while developing alliances and rivalries with others on the WWE roster. With each decision a player makes in My Career, the crowd's reaction will change and "multiple branching storylines, surprises, twists and turns" will manifest, complimenting the game's other, historical career mode, 2K Showcase. WWE 2K15 will launch October 28 for Xbox 360 and PS3, arriving later on November 18 for PS4 and Xbox One.
    [Image: 2K Sports]

    Continue reading Get a push, win the belt in WWE 2K15's 'My Career' mode

    JoystiqGet a push, win the belt in WWE 2K15's 'My Career' mode originally appeared on Joystiq on Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    September 30th, 2014GamespotPreviews
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    If I mentioned major industry events from this September, the first thing that would spring to your mind would undoubtedly be the Tokyo Game Show. But there was another event held earlier this month that you probably didn't hear as much about: the GameStop Expo, held at the Anaheim Convention Center. It wasn't the hotbed of new announcements and reveals that TGS was--the biggest announcements from GameStop were a credit card and some exclusive 3DS XL variants--but that's not really the show's main thrust. The GameStop Expo is a show all about the massive specialty games retailer and their relationships across the industry--with their managers and employees, with publishers and manufacturers, and with you, the consumer.

    ADAPT AND THRIVE

    It might be easy from an individual perspective to dismiss GameStop as a retail dinosaur, especially as things like digital distribution pick up steam (pun not intended). But that view defies the hard numbers: The chain moved over three billion dollars' worth of product in the last fiscal year via its thousands of retail stores throughout the United States. This figure includes not just new and used games and consoles, but various related collectibles and services. The company's PowerUp Rewards membership program has enlisted 35 million consumers, of which 28 million are located in the US. Even though some players have gone completely digital in their game purchases, it's clear that GameStop's boxed product business is still going strong.

    To this end, the company has also pursued aggressive expansion, going into the markets of mobile gaming devices running Android and iOS. They also founded the GameStop Technology Institute in late March. Jeff Donaldson, Senior Vice President of the Institute, describes GTI as an "innovation incubator." "We want to make sure that the pace of change internal to GameStop exceeds the pace of change external to GameStop," says Donaldson.

    "Our stores should morph to meet the needs of the customer when they walk in, just like a digital platform or an e-commerce platform." Jeff Donaldson

    Some things are definitely changing for the storied retailer. Earlier in the year, the company announced plans to shutter about 120 GameStop stores (link via Gamesindustry.biz) while opening new Spring Mobile and SimplyMac locations. The company is also developing new technology to engage consumers while they are shopping. "Our stores should morph to meet the needs of the customer when they walk in, just like a digital platform or an e-commerce platform," explains Donaldson.

    He elaborated that technology has advanced to a point where a physical shopping experience can mimic elements of e-commerce. One example he showed me was a "beacon," a low-power-consumption device that connects to a customer's mobile device. If a customer has Bluetooth turned on and they've opted in to GameStop's advertising program, when they pass by one of these beacons, they'll receive promotional offers and information tailored to their interests based on their history shopping at GameStop stores and visiting GameStop.com. Many of these technologies are currently being tested at select retail locations--one specifically named was the Austin, Texas College Station Mall store--and GameStop hopes to roll these beacons out to more stores in 2015.

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    But not every new technology venture GameStop has tried in the past has panned out. Among the casualties of GameStop's refocusing was Spawn Labs, which GameStop acquired in 2011 to develop game streaming technology. The plug was pulled on said development earlier this year. I had the opportunity to ask Bob Puzon, the VP of marketing and sales, about the company's cancelled game streaming service. "The gaming consumer has not yet demonstrated that it is ready to adopt this type of service to the level that a sustainable business can be created around it," he explained. "[Instead] we will focus our energy on selling existing services, such as PlayStation Now, through our retail channels."

    "We're not afraid of failure," adds Donaldson. "There's things that fail, things that just don't work, things customers don't like. If it doesn't work, we throw it out."

    GETTING PERSONAL

    GameStop's sheer retail omnipresence makes them a powerful force for publishers and manufacturers looking to push product--and for the first day of GameStop Expo, which was open only to GameStop staff and press, that's exactly what they did. Every major publisher--and several smaller ones--had set up booths showcasing their upcoming titles, and GameStop employees could personally engage company representatives and developers. The purpose here was clear: the publishers wanted to create awareness and hype among GameStop staffers, who would then proceed to promote the games they felt deserved a bit of a push to inquisitive customers. This sort of word-of-mouth marketing has a lot of power in a specialty retail setting, where the buyer trusts the employees as experts on the products. (It especially benefits publishers without big marketing budgets--I witnessed a store manager talking with reps of a small publisher about the popularity of niche anime-styled games in their particular store.)

    While the Expo opens to the public on the second day, it seems almost like a secondary concern. The event is still very much by and for GameStop and GameStop employees: almost every meeting room in the convention hall and the connected hotels were filled with managers, executives, and employees from various GameStop retail regions, gathered together for meetings and strategizing. It wasn't just the United States, either: I saw representatives from Canada, France, Germany, and Australia as well.

    "When a new retailer enters the [used game] space we consider that a positive for our business." -- Bob Puzon

    To that end, GameStop went to great lengths to promote itself at the show, having several large sales booths for games and collectibles and several displays highlighting GameStop programs and features. These served two benefits: Showcasing the various services like in-store purchases of digital game downloads GameStop offers to consumers, and letting employees know what initiatives and programs they are aiming to promote.

    Among these were displays explaining and extolling the virtues of the company's massive refurbishment operations. The used game business is one of the biggest profit drivers for GameStop stores, and it's been a subject of much criticism from developers, publishers, and consumers alike. I didn't have a chance to ask any publishers at the Expo what they thought of this element of GameStop's business being flaunted at the show, but I didn't sense any overt tension about the subject. It seems that when you're as big a retailer as GameStop, companies will accept the presence of used games as long as they can still get new product on shelves.

    Indeed, even though big box retailers like Best Buy and Wal-Mart have dabbled in selling used games, GameStop is still far and above the most dominant force in that market. "We've had others compete with us in the pre-owned game space many times," says Bob Puzon. "When a new retailer enters the space we consider that a positive for our business. We see a surge in trade awareness when anyone makes an announcement, so more people start thinking about trades. Yet what the competition doesn't have is our refurbishment center that millions of games go through every year to bring them back to new condition. Or the relationship we have with gamers." Puzon was also quick to point out that over 72% of the 1.2 billion dollars in trade credit went towards the purchase of new product.

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    WINTER IS COMING

    As the all-important holiday season creeps up and GameStop begins to beef up its seasonal sales force, the efforts of publishers to gain the attention of individual managers and employees will potentially yield fruit. "Our store employees, our Game Advisors, they know our customers well, and they know the games. They know when the games launch, when DLC comes out, GameStop exclusives, you can get all of that info from them," says Donaldson. "Our role is to help make the consumer aware of these things during the purchasing process." Think of it this way: when you have a well-meaning-but-not-well-versed-in-gaming grandparent coming into GameStop looking to give thirteen-year-old Timmy his Christmas gift, these GameStop workers are the people who will help determine whether he winds up getting a new Wii U with Super Smash Bros. or an Xbox One with Forza Horizon 2.

    The company's biggest consumers through and beyond the holidays, however, remain the core gaming crowd, and they're the people GameStop most wants to retain as loyal customers. Giving these consumers reason to acquire games and game content through the retail channel seems to be of the utmost importance for the company. "We're pursuing the creation of a physical brick-and-mortar store as a platform," says Donaldson. "We want to respond to customers the same way a digital or e-commerce platform would… they are highly engaged. We're introducing the idea of a brick-and-mortar store as part of digital engagement."

    And even though GameStop is branching out, Puzon wants to reassure consumers that the company's core focus will always be games. "GameStop has gone through a transformation the last several years to continue to grow ... [but] video gaming is our heritage and our growth engine for the future."

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    September 30th, 2014JoystiqNews

    Screamride is aimed at giving players a blank canvas upon which they might construct and ride their ideal rollercoaster, but as this footage shows, the game's most interesting, bombastic moments come when a coaster goes off the rails and smashes through pieces of the background scenery.
    [Image: Microsoft]

    JoystiqRoller coaster builder Screamride revels in destruction originally appeared on Joystiq on Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    September 30th, 2014JoystiqNews


    JOY-STIQ! JOY-STIQ! JOY-STIQ! STREEEEAAAAAMMMMMMMMS! One day, when we're all War Chiefs in Sauron's army of Uruks, that's what they'll chant. From high and low, they'll call our names out, afraid of our endless wrath and prowess in battle!

    Then again, it seems like being an Uruk is hard work. You're outside literally all the time, giant pig-wolf things are always trying to eat you, and there is almost always a bearded dude carrying half a sword skulking in the shadows waiting to stab you. Forget it. Joystiq Streams may not be ready for war chiefdom, but we're certainly ready to play Shadow of Mordor for your viewing pleasure.

    Starting at 4:00PM EST on Joystiq.com/Twitch, Richard Mitchell (@TheRichardM) will be playing through Mordor's early missions. Alexander Sliwinski (@Sliwinski) and Anthony John Agnello (@ajohnagnello) will be around to talk about the game's subtleties and hang in the chat. Show up early for the pre-show tomfoolery.

    Joystiq Streams airs every Tuesday and Thursday at 4:00PM on Joystiq.com/Twitch, but if you want to catch all our streams make sure to follow us on Twitch.

    [Images: WBIE]

    JoystiqJoystiq Streams: Casting a fiery eye on Shadow of Mordor originally appeared on Joystiq on Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:34:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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