Editor's note: This review in progress covers the single-player content of Resident Evil 3. We will be playing the multiplayer part of the Resident Evil 3 package, Resistance, over the next few days and finalizing this review once we've fully tested the mode.
The opening hours of Resident Evil 3 are incredibly effective at putting you on edge. A remake of the original 1999 game, Resident Evil 3 puts the volatile and intense conflict between protagonist Jill Valentine and the unrelenting force of nature, Nemesis, front and center--giving way to some strong survival horror moments that show off the best of what the series can offer. But after that solid start, this revisit to a bygone era not only loses track of the type of horror game that Resident Evil once was, but also loses sight of what made the original so memorable.
Much like 2019's Resident Evil 2, the remake of Resident Evil 3 interprets the classic survival horror game through a modern lens, redesigning locations and altering key events to fit a significantly revised story. Resident Evil 3 doesn't deviate too much from the formula set by the RE2 remake, but it does lean harder into the action-focused slant the original version of RE3 had, giving you some greater defensive skills to survive. RE3's introduction is a strong one, conveying a creeping sense of paranoia and dread that's synonymous with the series, and Jill Valentine once again proves herself to be a confident protagonist to take everything head-on.
Resident Evil has traditionally been a survival-horror franchise with a focus on moody isolation, which runs counter to the idea of online multiplayer modes. However, Resident Evil 3 includes an online asymmetrical 4v1 mode called Resistance that actually does a stellar job capturing the horror inherent in the series. In Resistance, a group of four survivors works together to escape the sadistic tests set up by the Machiavellian Umbrella corporation. Meanwhile, a single player-controlled mastermind works from the shadows to keep you in line and destroy your morale. It's more fun than I suspected and might be worth your time.
Each match is split into three stages where survivors work to complete various goals. In the first stage, you scour the environments for keys to unlock the next area. In the next stage, you hack a series of computers while avoiding monsters. And in the final stage, you race across the map and work to destroy a number of experimental equipment. As players take down roaming zombies and other enemies they earn Umbrella cash that can be used to buy new weapons, herbs, and other tools at the beginning of each round.
For my first match, I play as the absurdly named Martin Sandwich. All of Resistance’s survivors have their own unique skills, and Martin is an engineering genius who can disable traps around the battlefield and use his flash baton to stun enemies. Using one of Martin’s skills, I ping the environment, which highlights objects on the map for the rest of my team. However, when I wander too far from the group I become an easy meal. It’s hard to play Resistance as a lone wolf, and teams of survivors need to stick together to survive.
Martin is a good example of a support character, but if you want to be on the front lines, you can play as someone like Samuel Jordan. This young bruiser used to train as a boxer, which makes him an ideal shield for the rest of the team. I love Sam’s dash punch, which allows him to quickly close in on zombies. Sam is also skilled in the use of melee weapons, such as bats and sledgehammers, which easily tear through groups of undead monsters.
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Playing as a survivor is only half of the Resistance experience, and I probably had the most fun when I jumped into the shoes of a mastermind. The mastermind works behind the scenes laying traps and working to prevent the survivors from escaping before time runs out. Masterminds start with a complete view of the map and can see the location of all the survivors' goals. They are also dealt a hand of random cards, which can be used to summon various monsters or lay trip mines. Masterminds can also get their hands dirty by directly controlling anything they spawn, but I felt that I was just as effective when I let my spawn run wild.
Iconic villains such as Annette Birkin and Ozwell Spencer return for the role of mastermind. During my turn at the controls, I play as Alex Wesker and I laughed with demented glee as I unleashed a small army of zombie dogs on a group of unwitting survivors. Each mastermind has their own ultimate attack, which allows them to do things like unleash Tyrants onto the battlefield or set up deadly laser fields that kill anyone they touch. Alex’s ultimate is a monstrous plant, which looks a bit like Plant 42 from the original Resident Evil. This plant’s vines whip out in all directions and it devours two survivors before they finally subdue my creature.
Over the years, Capcom has experimented with a lot of different multiplayer modes within the Resident Evil universe, but they have rarely left a lasting impact. However, I started having fun with Residence the moment I picked up the controller. Coordinating with a group of survivors is a lot of fun and manages to remain tense and scary. Meanwhile, the mastermind offers a more strategic level of play that we haven’t seen in a Resident Evil game before, but one that I’m actually interested in exploring more when Resident Evil 3 launches. We’ll have to wait for the final release to see if Resistance has staying power, but this is the most promising new mode we’ve seen from the series in a long time. Stay tuned for our upcoming review.
Gears Tactics was announced at E3 2018 alongside Gears 5 and the Funko-branded Gears Pop! It almost seemed like a joke to pull the Gears franchise in so many disparate directions, but the more we’ve seen of Gears Tactics, the less we’re laughing. Not only is Microsoft taking this entry into tactical strategy very seriously, Gears Tactics looks like it could be something special.
Gears Tactics draws the obvious comparisons to other turn-based strategy games, such as XCOM. Co-developed by The Coalition and Splash Damage, this fast-paced, turn-based strategy game lets players plan coordinated strikes for a whole team of warriors as they try to find the best line of attack without sacrificing too much cover.
“When we were thinking about how to expand the Gears of War universe, we locked in on this idea of a tactics game, because we have some common areas in the fact that Gears has squads and cover is important," says design director Tyler Bielman. “But it was important that we do our version of a tactics game, so we made a lot of effort to pace up the game. You have as much time as you want on your turn to figure out your strategies and where you want to go, but everything else is faster. We wanted it to feel a lot more intense than traditional tactics games.”
During an extended demo, we got a taste for Gear Tactics’ faster pace and watched a handful of soldiers face off against a squad of Locust grunts. Unlike many strategy games, the heroes in Gears Tactics don’t move along a grid. Instead, players are free to move around the battlefield however they like. This opens up new strategies as players now have a greater level of flexibility to create flanking routes around their enemies. At the same time, it’s still very important to grab cover and find lines of sight that give your heroes a higher percent chance to hit their targets.
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Another big change to combat is how Gears Tactics approaches its action system. Traditionally, strategy games allow players to move each hero once per turn before attacking. Gears Tactics, on the other hand, gives each hero three action points to use each turn, and players can choose to mix and match their movements or attacks however they like. Meaning, a hero left on the outskirts of a combat zone can use all three action points to make a mad dash across the battlefield. Alternatively, a character who is well positioned could use all three actions to attack. The heavy gunner class actually has an ability that makes each successive attack more deadly, as long as they don’t move between shots. Another neat trick is placing a character with three actions into overwatch, so when enemies move into their field of view, your soldier attacks up to three times.
The final piece to Gears Tactics strategy puzzle is the execution system. After dishing out a set amount of damage to an enemy, it might fall into an execution state. Enemies in an execution state crawl slowly along the ground and pose little threat, but they can be revived by their companions. On the other hand, if your heroes get within melee range of these downed foes, they can perform an execution. These brutal melee attacks not only remove those enemies from the board completely, but they also give the rest of your companions an additional action point to use during that turn. Players who find good ways to push deeper into the battlefield may be able to chain executions together to keep their turn rolling for a long time.
“To counter all that freedom, we serve up a lot of enemies,” Bielman explains. “Our average enemy per encounter count is pretty high. You are facing a lot of different types of enemies, some that create fronts and are defensive, some that will snipe you from afar, and some that will actually rush you and try to push you out of cover. The whole combination makes the game feel like Gears of War, just kind of boiled down to its essence. It's about flanking and it's about cover and it's about combinations of tactical moves.”
Players have five different classes to choose from and each class has over 30 different skills to learn as they level up over the course of the game. Gears Tactics doesn’t feature any top-level base building mechanics similar to XCOM, but you are rewarded with better equipment after each level, and additional gear is scattered throughout the levels. All of these weapons can be modded, and players can also visually customize each piece of gear with a variety of paints and visual patterns.
The story for Gears Tactics is set 12 years before the first Gears of War and follows defiant COG soldier Gabe Diaz, who just happens to be the father of Kait Diaz, featured in Gears 4 and 5. Gabe's squad is ultimately tasked with assassinating a Locus scientist named Ukkon. However, Ukkon isn’t some pencil pusher, he’s an elite member of the Locust Council and one of the geneticists responsible for breeding some of the nastiest monsters in the entire Horde.
“He's the monster that makes monsters,” Bielman says. “In Gears games, we have these big bosses. We've got Brumaks and we’ve got Corpsers. If you’ve never seen a Brumak, it's basically a big dinosaur with rocket launchers strapped to it. You'd think, 'Wow, who would actually do that? Who would put rocket launchers on a dinosaur?’ That's Ukkon. So Gabe’s team needs to find him and shut him down before he improves the Locust army any further.”
Based on everything we’ve seen, Gears Tactics looks like it should be a fun ride for Gears of War diehards. However, strategy fans who have never played a Gears game before might also want to give this a try. Despite the recent coronavirus outbreak, Gears Tactics is still set to launch on April 28 for PCs and will be available from day one for Xbox Game Pass owners (you still have to play on PC). An Xbox version is in the works and will release at a later date.
Resident Evil 3 releases on April 3, so you don't have to wait long to run in fear from Nemesis yourself. However, to whet your appetite for fear, check out these exclusive screens of Capcom's monsters in action.
In the banal future-war fiction that serves as set dressing for the battlefields of Corruption 2029, soldiers are remote-controlled living machines. These humanoid husks are devoid of humanity, mechanized units designed to be disposable as they fight the second American civil war. Both sides sport bland three-letter initials, the NAC (New American Council) and the UPA (United Peoples of America), their full names reading like soulless corporate think-tanks, their motives as opaque as they are forgettable. Actual people are seemingly absent in this conflict. Lifelessness permeates the entire experience, sapping all interest in what is otherwise an accomplished tactical combat game.
In this sense, Corruption 2029 is a disappointing step backward from the developer's debut title, 2018's Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, a game that elevated the XCOM formula primarily through a charismatic cast of characters. The mechanics of combat work in essentially the same way they did in Mutant Year Zero with similarly distinguished results. You control a squad of three units (and occasionally a fourth unit you might acquire mid-mission) and you're able to explore the map in real-time until the enemy spots you or, preferably, you trigger an ambush. Once the fight's underway, you and the engaged enemies alternate between ducking behind cover, firing your weapons, lobbing grenades, and deploying special abilities in turn-based combat.
The tactical combat is a triumph of clarity. The UI conveys all the pertinent information flawlessly, leaving you reassured that each move you make is going to play out with a high degree of certainty and few unintended consequences. When deciding where to move, for example, you can hover over each accessible square on the grid and see your exact chance to hit every enemy in range with the weapon you have equipped. Swap that weapon and all the percentages update. Clear icons inform you that the destination is in low cover or high cover and if an enemy is currently flanking that position. Having these details reliably presented on-screen is a constant benefit to the decision-making process and goes a long way to ensure success in each combat encounter is determined by preparation and smart choices rather than an unexpected fluke.
Jill is the main star in Capcom’s upcoming remake of Resident Evil 3, but she’s not the only survivor you control throughout the game. Carlos Oliveira is a UBCS’s heavy weapons specialist who meets Jill early on, and he becomes an integral part of the story. Since Carlos is working for Umbrella, Jill initially distrusts him, but the two survivors eventually form an uneasy alliance, and players even take control of Carlos about halfway through the game. For our Resident Evil 3 cover story this month, we went hands-on with a section within Raccoon City’s ruined hospital that features Carlos.
“If you look at the original design of Carlos, you could say that he had a more easygoing, almost playboy personality,” art director Yonghee Cho says. “We wanted to maintain his personality, but at the same time, make sure that the way he interacts with everybody makes sense, given the dire situation. In terms of the hairstyle, we went back to that easygoing nature. He's not going to be too concerned about that stuff, so we’re making sure that part of his character is intact.”
Different concept sketches for Carlos
In the original Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, players take control of Carlos about halfway through the game as he races through a hospital to find a cure to the T-virus. Capcom asked us not to share the details of his mission in the remake, but we did get a good look at the hospital and were impressed by how much Capcom expanded the facility. The ‘90s version was simply a handful of zombie-infested rooms featuring a few puzzles. The remake expands the hospital into a network of interlocking rooms compete with several lock-and-key puzzles that slowly open new areas in a traditional Resident Evil fashion.
As I set off exploring the new hospital, I come across a set of lockers. Inside, I find a key that opens a whole new set of previously locked rooms. Later, I drop down into a courtyard where I find another useful item that opens other areas. Somewhere along the way, I pick up an upgrade for Carlos’ M4A1 carbine assault rifle that reduces the weapon’s recoil. Weapon upgrades like this are scattered throughout the game, but they usually require players to do some extra puzzle solving.
Amidst a scattering of healing herbs and ammo, I find notes that detail the horrors of the hospital staff leading up to the outbreak. One nurse talks about an influx of patients experiencing hyperphagia and limb necrosis. Resident Evil 3's atmosphere does a fantastic job of ratcheting up the tension even when you're not fighting enemies.
Inside a waiting room, I find a small horde of zombies waiting to eat my face, so it’s time to put Carlos’ dodge move to the test. Much like Jill, Carlos can dodge enemy attacks with a well-timed button tap. However, where Jill simple rolls out of harm's way, Carlos gets aggressive and shoves enemies to the ground. Not only does this dodge negate any incoming damage, but it neutralizes enemies for several seconds and buys me some extra time to line up a few headshots.
Unfortunately for Carlos, slow-moving zombies aren't the only enemies Carlos will encounter. As I move through the operations wing of the building, I catch a hint of a much larger creature: the Hunter Beta. Hardcore fans will recognize these lizard-like hulks who dart around the environment and slash at you with razor-sharp talons. For Resident Evil 3, the Hunter Beta has been redesigned and now looks a bit insect-like in addition to its lizard features.
Various concept designs for different versions of the Hunter
“I wanted to make sure that it was clear that these are not naturally occurring adversaries,” Cho says. “These are manmade, artificial creatures. Specifically, with the Hunter, if you take a look at the original design, it has a much more humanoid look. This time around, we wanted the hunters to look almost beast-like, a little bit more feral.”
As I face my first Hunter Beta, I stagger back in horror. This feral beast’s claws are drawn, and its mandibles flicker eagerly, hungry for my flesh. He’s strong and fast, which is a deadly combo, and I unload nearly two full magazines worth of ammo into the monster before he finally collapses. The Hunter Beta is a fearsome foe even in a one-on-one battle, but Hunters will eventually hunt you in packs, which sounds truly unnerving. Carlos’ demo comes to a close not long after my confrontation with these creatures, but I know that more horrors await when Resident Evil 3 launches on April 3.
Naturally, monumental expectations accompany the first Half-Life game in 13 years, and for the iconic franchise's return to come in the form of a VR exclusive is undoubtedly bold. But at each step of the way, Half-Life: Alyx proves that almost everything the franchise did best is elevated by VR: the environmental puzzles that require a keen eye, the threat of a headcrab jumping for your face, the cryptic storytelling. The series' staples are as great as ever here, and in its most powerful moments, Half-Life: Alyx confidently shows you why it couldn't have been done any other way.
What's a day in the life of Alyx Vance? In true Half-Life form, the entire game goes from morning to night in a single shot of first-person action in which you, as Alyx, trek through the undergrounds and abandoned zones of City 17. At first, it's to save your dad Eli Vance from the clutches of the Combine. However, you're subsequently led to uncover the nature of that massive floating structure that hovers over City 17, referred to as the Vault. With a cheeky sidekick Russell in your ear, and a trusty, prophetic Vortigaunt who comes in clutch, Alyx is more than prepared. A basic premise for sure, but the journey is thrilling, and the payoff is immense.
There's a newfound intimacy captured in doing the things that Half-Life always asked of you. Because it's a VR game, the way you look at and process your surroundings fundamentally changes, thus making the solutions to environmental puzzles more of a personal accomplishment than before. Simply finding the right objects to progress was fine with a keyboard and mouse, but when it's your own hands turning valves, moving junk to find critical items, pulling levers, or hitting switches while turning your head to see the results of your actions, these become enticing gameplay mechanics rather than means for breaking up the pace. Without waypoints or objective markers to guide you, subtle visual cues and calculated level design lead you to the solutions, and progress feels earned because of that.
MLB The Show 20 suddenly finds itself in an unprecedented position. The COVID-19 coronavirus has disrupted sports across the globe, and baseball is no different, as Opening Day of the 2020 Major League Baseball season was recently postponed for at least the next two months--and even that seems optimistic. It's an unfathomable turn of events, yet it also means Sony San Diego's latest baseball sim is now one of the only ways to experience the 2020 season of America's favorite pastime. It's a good job, then, that MLB 20 maintains the series' consistently high quality. Refinements to fielding and hitting may only be incremental this year, but they add more depth to what is still one of the most compelling sports games on the market, while new additions and modes off the field increase the game's variety as you chart a course towards World Series glory.
Fielding and defense received a lot of love in last year's game, so MLB 20 adds a few more wrinkles without rocking the boat too much. The distinction between Gold Glove caliber outfielders and mere mortals is now slightly more pronounced, particularly when the CPU is in control. The best outfielders in the game are much more dialed in this year, reacting to the ball off the bat with authentic accuracy and a dependable first-step. On the flip side, the square peg you've lodged into the round hole in left field might struggle when it comes to reading the flight of the ball, committing a fair few errors over the course of a season as balls careen off the edge of his glove instead of nesting in its palm.
There's also a new Extreme Catch Indicator that identifies those bloop singles and hard-sinking line drives that are right on the edge of being catchable. If you have a player like Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton patrolling the outfield, you might take a chance and attempt a risky diving catch on one of these tough-to-reach balls, knowing full well that he's skilled enough to pull off a spectacular grab. With an average defender hustling towards the ball, however, you might prefer to play it safe and get yourself in position to gather the ball after it bounces. Surrendering a single is a much more positive outcome than laying out for a catch and completely missing the ball, resulting in a triple for the fortunate hitter.
The latest Call of Duty from Infinity Ward shipped without an answer to Black Ops 4’s Blackout, but it has since been supplemented by Warzone--a completely standalone battle royale built off of the backbone of Modern Warfare. Not only is it a smarter way to ensure it's not tied to each annual release in the series, but Warzone gives the series its own identity within the competitive genre.
It might not be apparent at first, though, especially when you take into consideration how much Warzone borrows from other popular battle royale games. It incorporates a ping system similar to the one in Apex Legends, letting you tag enemy positions, points of interest, and loot for teammates at the press of a button (albeit mapped to a button that's harder to reach quickly, mitigating some of its convenience). It plays out on a massive map akin to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, where large swathes of open land are ripe for snipers while dense suburbs make for exhilarating and chaotic close-quarters skirmishes. And like the ones in Fortnite, color-coded chests overflowing with loot are easy to hunt down when you are within earshot of their signature emanating jingle.
None of these competitors are defined solely by the elements Warzone borrows from them, and Warzone isn't defined by the sum of their parts. Instead, Warzone uses them to establish a solid foundation for its own distinct elements. It starts with a larger player count than the aforementioned battle royale games, with Warzone currently supporting up to 150 players per match, with modes for three-person squads or solo play. Having so many players active at once keeps you constantly on alert, but also increases the odds that you'll at least have some action (and likely a handful of kills) each match. This makes even some of the least successful drops feel worthwhile--even if your entire match lasts only a handful of minutes, you'll likely get some valuable time in with some weapons, better preparing you for another fight in the next match.
Sabotage, the studio behind 2018 indie darling The Messenger, has announced a Kickstarter campaign for its new project. Sea of Stars is a beautiful turn-based RPG that serves as a prequel to the Ninja Gaiden-inspired The Messenger. However, rather than exploring the origins of certain characters, this prequel looks to expand and enrich the world introduced in The Messenger.
Just as The Messenger drew inspiration from Ninja Gaiden and the classic Metroidvania formula, Sea of Stars borrows heavily from classic RPGs like Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire, and Illusion of Gaia. While this may seem like a jarring leap between such distinct genres, Sabotage says this was the plan going in. "We've been wanting to make an RPG all along, but it just was too ambitious as a first project and too risky to arrive with no name for ourselves and propose such a big project," says CEO and creative director Thierry Boulanger. "We wanted to start building interest about this world. We're slowly telling the important story arcs of that world, one game at a time. The game genre that we use is always the best way to tell whichever story that we're telling. For The Messenger, it was a platformer because it was just one character and a more linear, straightforward mission; now it's all about exploration, a party of six people, and higher stakes, so the RPG is kind of indicated there."
Sea of Stars takes the world of The Messenger, which was flooded to the point there was only one island remaining, and lowers the tide as we travel back hundreds of thousands of years to a time where you could hop from island to island and explore the various communities that existed on them. In the video presentation I saw, I witnessed a vibrant colony of humanoid seahorses, a group of gorillas hidden deep in a dark cavern, and a cult of lizard assassins working to resurrect their evil goddess. All the while, the threat of a flesh monster who can manipulate bone, blood, and flesh to create abominations to do his bidding looms.
To fight off the flesh monster's creations, the world looks to Children of the Solstice, guardians who were born on either the summer or winter solstice and acquire the power of the sun or moon. At the beginning of the adventure, you choose to play as either Valere, a girl imbued with the power of the moon and carries a heavy-hitting staff, or Zale, a boy harnessing the power of the sun who uses his agility to blade dance. Regardless of the character you choose, the story remains largely unchanged, and the other protagonist remains in your party and plays a crucial role in combat, solving puzzles, and traversing the world.
During the presentation, I see how two characters play off each other in exploration. As the two protagonists come to a head-shaped stone formation with a moon symbol in the top, the two characters manipulate the time of day into night, illuminate the symbol, and open the door to reveal an enemy scorpion monster to fight.
Battles play out in typical turn-based fashion, but they are far from passive affairs relying solely on random-number generators. By timing your inputs in conjunction with when your attack animation occurs, you can inflict more damage to your target. Conversely, if you time your defensive input with your assailant's animation, you can mitigate the damage done to you. In addition, when you cast a spell, it sometimes requires certain inputs to maximize the spell's effectiveness. For example, in one battle I saw, Zale casts a Sunball attack, but before he blasts the fireball at the enemy, the UI prompts the player to mash a given button as much as possible within a given window.
When an enemy goes to cast a spell, it broadcasts a series of attacks you can perform to neutralize the incoming spell. In a different battle, the soon-to-be-casting enemy displays two moon symbols, a sun symbol, and a sword symbol over its head. This means that for every attack that matches those symbols, the spell will be weaker. Sabotage hopes all of these, when combined with the standard elemental weaknesses and interchangeable battle party, delivers a turn-based system that elevates beyond what other titles in the space have done.
One pain point for a lot of RPG players is the grinding requirements present in a lot of traditional titles. Sabotage wanted to ease that pain by making it more about your battle plan and skill in executing your moves than how much time and repetition you put into the battles leading up to that. "Grinding, at least in my opinion, can be tedious," Boulanger says. "You still have progression; through combat, you still upgrade your character, but you're always moving the story forward. The game is shorter, but you end up playing it more because you have no friction in replaying it because it's never a task. It's constantly moving forward. For us, grinding is probably so you spend more time in the game, but you'll spend even more time in the game if you want to play it two or three times."
While I didn't get my hands on Sea of Stars, the gameplay footage shown to me was gorgeous and engaging. The battle system looks to experiment in interesting ways without alienating turn-based combat fans such as myself. When combined with meaningful exploration and a beautiful world full of mystery, I'm looking forward to learning more about Sabotage's next title.
Sabotage launches its Sea of Stars Kickstarter campaign today. If you'd like to contribute to it or learn more about the project, head here. The title is still early in development, so players should expect to wait until 2022 before being able to add the game to their PC or consoles.