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Mortal Kombat Made Me a Gamer

April 20, 2015 By: Sniper Category: Whats Up?

Mortal Kombat is special to me. And yes, it might sound weird to be affectionate about a game that is most noteworthy for making parents faint from the sheer amount of gore on screen, but there you have it: Mortal Kombat and I are involved. It’s a love affair that blossomed in my youth, and I have stayed faithful. I owe a lot of credit to Mortal Kombat for instilling in me the lighting-quick reflexes, iron constitution, and trash-talking prowess that made me the gamer I am today.

When I was in elementary school, in-between rounds of Skip-It or POGs, my friends and I talked about Mortal Kombat – usually in tight, hunched-over groups, in hushed tones, so nobody heard the intense acts we were describing. In this pre-Internet video era, we had to rely on each other to relay, with giddy bloodlust, the depictions of the intense fighting action we had witnessed that weekend.

Fatalities were what set Mortal Kombat apart from other fighters. It was a novelty then, and it’s still one now. Each character had their own unique way of ending the match for the opponent, be it ripping out their heart, or removing their head and spinal column, or freezing them solid and shattering them into hundreds of pieces. I can still remember the first time I saw Sonya Blade blow a kiss, torching the flesh off my favorite character Sub-Zero’s bones and reducing him to ash. It was the most badass thing I had ever seen.

What Mortal Kombat did was create a spectator sport for arcades and homes that other fighting games have long since tried to capture. Sure, there are more technical fighters out there, though Mortal Kombat‘s combo system and fighting stances have expanded the game into a worthy entry into the fighting game pantheon. But more than that, Mortal Kombat was almost as fun to watch as it was to play. If you hung out in an arcade in the mid ‘90s, you remember: A half-dozen people crowded around a cabinet, watching two players battle it out. And as those words flash on the screen, “Finish Him,” a hush fell over the crowd. This was what Mortal Kombat whittled down to. When all was said and done, all that mattered was one thing.

Could you pull off the Fatality?

There’s a fraction of a second, between when a player enters that precise, exact button combination, and the Fatality begins, where you think, “Dang, he didn’t do it.” And what elation it is when that screen darkens, the telltale sign that it’s about to happen. Whether it was a classic head sever, or something as over-the-top as Smoke unleashing enough bombs to blow up the entire planet, getting to watch a Fatality in the arcade was always a special treat.

My gaming taste has matured and expanded since the ‘90s; I discovered platformers, role-playing games, and racing games to try to master much the same way. But there are very few other game series that I’ve spent as …read more

Spartan Locke Showcases Deadly Skills in New Halo 5: Guardians Trailer

April 20, 2015 By: Sniper Category: Whats Up?

On Oct. 27, the hunt begins with the worldwide launch of Halo 5: Guardians, only on Xbox One. In an exclusive GameStop trailer released today, the UNSC’s elite manhunter – Spartan Locke – rips through Covenant opposition while in pursuit of the legendary Master Chief. Featuring new and classic weapons, a host of brand-new Spartan abilities that completely transform the way you engage enemies, and more, Halo 5: Guardians marks the greatest evolution in franchise history.

Fans who reserve Halo 5: Guardians at GameStop in the U.S. will get access at launch* to the pre-order exclusive Spartan Locke, HUNTER-class armor set for use in multiplayer**, including:

  • HUNTER-Class Armor: Sophisticated and lethal, HUNTER-class armor incorporates Watershed Division’s latest warfighting technology.

  • HUNTER-Class Helmet: Though still considered a prototype implementation, the HUNTER’s sensor suite enhances situational and threat awareness.

The trailer can be viewed exclusively at GameStop stores and via GameStop’s YouTube channel here.

Be sure to check Halo Waypoint for updated Halo information and keep tuning into Xbox Wire for the latest on Halo 5: Guardians, Xbox One and more.

* In-store preorder: code is printed on receipt; online preorder: code is emailed

** Xbox Live Gold membership (sold separately) required. Guarantees access to helmet and armor set at launch

…read more

Star Wars: Battlefront Strikes Back

April 17, 2015 By: Sniper Category: Whats Up?

Our recent demo of Star Wars Battlefront – publisher Electronic Arts’ and developer DICE’s reboot of the beloved Star Wars multiplayer-focused shooter, coming to Xbox One and PC this November – opened on the moon of Endor. The lush forest setting was immediately familiar; well, save for the fact there wasn’t a single Ewok in sight. Of course, the cute creatures were probably just taking cover from the epic, eye-popping battle that unfolded before us.

Dubbed “Walker Assault,” the 40-player mode we saw was an all-out, action-fueled Rebels-versus-Empire melee. Complemented by detail-drenched character, vehicle, and weapon models – as well as the sort of immersive audio that will have you considering a sound system upgrade – the demo saw Stormtroopers and Rebel forces trading blaster rounds in adrenaline-pumping firefights that wouldn’t look out of place in the films.

Among the intense exchanges of laser blasts, speeder bikes whizzed by – often before colliding with trees in glorious displays of new-gen special effects – AT-ST Walkers stomped about, and an unsettling thud occasionally rattled the room we were sitting in. That latter element turned out to be the unmistakable sound of an AT-AT’s metallic hoof hitting the ground. That’s right: The iconic four-legged foes, generally associated with the Hoth battle from “The Empire Strikes Back,” were turning the Endor forest to toothpicks.

Before dealing with that daunting threat, though, the Rebel player made swift work of Stormtroopers that appeared to be attacking from all directions. Surrounded by teammates, many protected by a spherical dome-like shield, he pushed forward to grab a rocket launcher-like upgrade. With this new toy shouldered, he was then able to turn one of the AT-STs into a smoking heap of twisted metal.

While that same strategy didn’t work on the bipedal bots’ much bigger brothers, the player found an uplink station that allowed him to call in an air strike. It’s difficult to pick a single favorite moment from our demo, but seeing the player pass right beneath the screen-swallowing Walker before hell rained down from the sky to destroy it ranks right up there.

Looking to avoid the fallout of his ground-scorching attack, the player headed into a nearby base. This change of scenery also brought a new combat dynamic, as the interior corridor-shooter battles contrasted nicely with the more wide-open outdoor encounters. Upon frying a few foes with more blaster fire, the player paused to witness one of his teammates go limp under an apparent Force-fueled chokehold. Turning the corner to help, he was faced by the Dark Lord of the Sith himself; from behind his signature red lightsaber, Darth Vader approached the player – effortlessly deflecting bullets as he moved forward – before the demo came to a close.

As we attempted to catch our breath and collect our jaws from the floor, Battlefront‘s design director Niklas Fegraeus shared some additional intel on what we’d just seen and what’s to come. The combat, which will also take to the skies for seat-of-the-pants X-Wing-versus-TIE-Fighter dogfights, can be engaged from a first- …read more

Star Wars™ Battlefront™ Begins Shipping Across the Galaxy November 17, 2015

April 17, 2015 By: Sniper Category: Whats Up?

Star Wars™ Battlefront™ Begins Shipping Across the Galaxy November 17, 2015 …read more

A Closer Look at the Fighter Variants of Mortal Kombat X

April 16, 2015 By: Sniper Category: Whats Up?

By now, you’ve probably heard that Mortal Kombat X comes with a huge cast of characters, but what you might not know is that they each actually come in three variants – like Neapolitan ice cream, but bloodier. The variations depend on which character you choose. For example, Scorpion has Ninjitsu, Hellfire, and Inferno variants, whereas Raiden has Thunder God, Displacer, and Master of Storms variants. But the key here is that each variation not only has a different look, but has a different set of moves – and a different play style.

This not only means more depth to your favorite characters, it means it’s harder to predict what style your opponent will use in multiplayer based on who they choose to play. Scorpion’s Ninjitsu mode, for example, adds unique sets of moves that capitalize on the pair of swords he wears on his back. In this mode, his special attacks focus more on direct striking, and benefit from the increased range of the blades. However, in Inferno mode, Scorpion can summon demonic minions to assist him in combat, turning his fighting style from direct attack into more of a standoff and counter-combo style. This means players can master the basic moves from their favorite characters, then learn the specials from each of the three variations, and suddenly have a much wider variety of play styles available to them.

Of course, opponents will be able to perceive which variant a player has chosen. Each variant has clear visual cues that show it off: Reptile’s Noxious variant is surrounded by a persistent poison cloud and buzzing insects, while his Deceptive variant wears no mask, for example. So this isn’t about trickery; it’s about expanding move sets and play styles without having to go through the trouble of mastering the timings, hit boxes, and spacings of two or three entirely new characters. It’s about offering different match-ups easily and quickly without having to worry about whether one character is “weak” against another. It’s about making multiplayer easy, variable, and fun.

Given the huge variety of game modes and challenges in Mortal Kombat X, it’s great to see that developer NetherRealm Studios is allowing players to focus on honing their favorite characters and taking those honed skills to a variety of different stages. It also allows Mortal Kombat vets to draw on some of their familiarity with the legacy characters while still being challenged to learn new tricks and twists, while at the same time giving newcomers the flexibility to take on series experts. In all, the character variants seem like a fantastic stroke of simple genius that should make our favorite brutal fighter all the more multifaceted and accessible at the same time.

Mortal Kombat X hit Xbox One and Xbox 360 this week. Are you ready to test your might? …read more

Take the Fight on the Go with Halo: Spartan Strike

April 16, 2015 By: Sniper Category: Whats Up?

This week, the Halo franchise brings the fight to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, as well as to iPad, iPhone, and Steam – and it doesn’t miss a step in the process.

Published by Microsoft Studios, and developed by 343 Industries in conjunction with Vanguard Games, Halo: Spartan Strike is a new perspective on the illustrious series – specifically a top-down perspective, with players moving through full 3D environments from a bird’s eye view. Set during the events of Halo 2, Halo:Spartan Strike casts you as a Spartan in a real-world, classified simulation that starts on New Mombasa in 2552.

Make no mistake: This is neither a Halo turn-based strategy game nor a Halo role-playing game, but rather a full-fledged action game and very much a Halo title, albeit from a different angle. The action is fast and frenetic, with players constantly making use of cover and managing enemies from multiple directions. Twin sticks help hugely, allowing for simultaneous running-and-gunning on all platforms: The game uses touch controls on smartphones and tablets, while Windows 8 and Steam PC players can choose between a keyboard and mouse combo, a USB-connected Xbox 360 or Xbox One controller, or touch-based virtual joysticks. And from Assault Rifles and Pistols to Needlers and Sniper Rifles, all of your favorite Halo weapons are here, and handle accordingly.

Spartan Strike‘s 30 missions see you making your way through jungles and urban areas, where you’re tasked with preventing Earth from being overtaken by hordes of both Covenant and Promethean enemies. You’ll drive a Warthog (with which to both shoot and run over enemies), and you gain access to weapons like the Suppressor, Scatter Shot, Binary Rifle, and Incineration Cannon. You’ll also make use of Proximity Mines and Bubble Shields, as well as a Teleport ability and the capacity to call in air strikes. The story takes you from New Mombasa on Earth to the enigmatic Gamma Halo – located at the edge of charted space.

Perhaps most appealingly, Spartan Strike brings with it all of the quintessential Halo sensibilities, from the distinctive strafing feel to the precise, rock-solid gunplay. The experience feels at once new and reassuringly familiar, with a level of polish that’s come to be expected from the franchise. Indeed, the thrill of taking out an Elite with a Sniper Rifle from across the screen feels like a fresh take on a familiar encounter. Varied topography truly brings the game’s lush environments to life, with vast, interconnected pieces of the world layered atop one another. Sometimes you’re looking down onto highways running below your immediate battleground; other times, you’re taking the fight across transparent platforms with nothing below but the cold, starry expanse of space.

For Halo regulars, earning Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 achievements in Halo: Spartan Strike unlocks an exclusive emblem, nameplate, and avatar in Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Xbox One. And the brand-new score was composed by award-winning composer Tom Salta, whose work you’ve heard on Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo: Spartan Assault, and …read more

Halo: Spartan Strike Launches Today on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, iPhone, iPad and Steam

April 16, 2015 By: Sniper Category: Whats Up?

The newest mobile top-down shooter from the Halo universe has officially arrived. Today, Microsoft Studios and 343 Industries, in conjunction with Vanguard Games, launched Halo: Spartan Strike on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, iPhone, iPad, and Steam as a digital download for $5.99 ERP1.

Halo: Spartan Strike tells a compelling new story in the Halo universe set during the events of Halo 2 on New Mombasa in 2552. As a Spartan supersoldier in a classified ONI simulation, delve into 30 challenging missions while leading UNSC troops through cities and jungles with an all new arsenal of weapons, abilities and vehicles.

No matter where you are, Halo: Spartan Strike provides fans a piece of the Halo universe with improved touch controls and updated graphics for an enhanced pick-up-and-play experience.

In addition to the campaign, players on Windows 8 devices can compare performance against friends in weekly challenges and attempt to take the top spot on the leaderboard. Earn Achievements that unlock an exclusive emblem, nameplate and avatar in Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Xbox One2.

Enjoy a new musical score from award-winning composer Tom Salta, whose previous work includes Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo: Spartan Assault, and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.

Also available on iPad, iPhone, and Steam is the Halo: Spartan Bundle. The bundle includes both Halo: Spartan Assault – the original Halo top-down shooter that plays through the historic first missions of the Spartan Ops program as Commander Palmer – and Halo: Spartan Strike for $9.99 ERP1.

Be sure to check Halo Waypoint for updated Halo information and keep tuning into Xbox Wire for the latest on Halo: Spartan Strike, Xbox and more.

1 Estimated retail price. Actual retail prices may vary

2 Available on Windows 8/8.1 Phone and Windows 8/8.1

…read more

Ollie Clarke Waxes Nostalgic About His New Game LA Cops

April 14, 2015 By: Sniper Category: Whats Up?

If you haven’t played it yet, LA Cops is an ID@Xbox 1970s-themed finesse shooter, from English design team Modern Dream. Set in Los Angeles just around the time of your favorite kitschy cop shows, LA Cops puts you in charge of two detectives with itchy trigger fingers and a drive for justice. You’ll power through levels, taking out bad guys, watching your angles, and working together with your A.I. partner – all while taking in the wonderfully color-saturated 1970s look and feel of it all.

The game is the brainchild of Ollie Clarke, director of Modern Dream, and Xbox Wire was lucky enough to catch over a beer in a pub somewhere far, far away from the streets of Los Angeles. Here’s what he had to say about his new game.

Xbox Wire: Where did a mild-mannered Englishman such as yourself get the idea for LA Cops? How did you start building the game?

Ollie Clarke:
Modern Dream had just finished working on Typing of the Dead for SEGA, and we were thinking, “We need to do something new!” We’re a very small team, obviously… but we managed to get investment to make a new game, and we pitched LA Cops as a top-down shooter for people who enjoy run-and-gun games. Top-down shooters, as you know, were really popular on platforms like the Amiga, and we really felt like it was time for them to make a comeback. We just thought, “Let’s give it a go.” We wanted to put the two-cop, strategic angle on it from the beginning, and just see if we could get it to work, and that’s really how we got started with the game.

Xbox Wire: Forgive me for saying this, but you seem a little young to have experienced 1970s cop shows yourself. How did you decide on LA Cops‘ eye-catching aesthetic?

Ollie Clarke:
That’s a really good question! I grew up in the UK, and in the ‘80s, what I used to watch were American TV shows from the ‘70s and ‘80s. We’re talking “Starsky & Hutch,” “Cagney & Lacey,” and all those kinds of shows. We knew it wasn’t real, and making the game, we knew that’s not what real Los Angeles was like… but we wanted to create something that was like the fantasy that those shows were trying to get across. And that’s what LA Cops is, it’s a fantasy.

Xbox Wire: Tell us a little bit about LA Cops‘ characters, the different detectives you can play.

Ollie Clarke:
You’ve got six cops to choose from: Kowalski is the jock, kind of a big, dumb idiot. His partner, who was high-maintenance, has just left him, because he was tired of living an impoverished cop’s lifestyle. Then there’s Murphy, who’s our “Cagney & Lacey.” All she’s ever wanted to be is a cop, and she’s doing the job. Then there’s her opposite, Williams, who somehow accidentally fell into being a cop, and all he really wants to do is eat donuts and get through the day. …read more

5 Things We’re Loving About Mortal Kombat X

April 14, 2015 By: Sniper Category: Whats Up?

Mortal Kombat X is finally here, and the Xbox One is now 10 times bloodier because of it. We’ve been eagerly awaiting the sequel to 2011’s epic reboot of the series, and Mortal Kombat X delivers with insane combos, interactive stages, and – of course – over-the-top Fatalities. Here’s some of the awesome new content we’ve been loving about Mortal Kombat X.

There’s a Huge, Epic Story Mode
One of our favorite things about 2011’s Mortal Kombat was the huge, sprawling time travel story that retconned Mortal Kombat history and set the series on a new path. So how does developer NetherRealm Studios follow up on something that big? By making a story mode that spans multiple decades… and features two generations of Mortal Kombat characters.

Keeping it in the Family
The roster for Mortal Kombat X is huge, and features a ton of new characters, most of whom appear to be related to some classic Mortal Kombat favorites. The new generation of MK fighters, consisting off offspring and younger cousins, adds a weird-but-cool element to the game. Cassie Cage, in particular, is an amalgamation of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade’s fighting styles, and is really fun to play because of it.

Factions Add a Purpose to Online Mode
When you start Mortal Kombat X, you declare your allegiance to a faction, based around the groups fighting for control in the story. You can choose between Sub-Zero’s Lin Kuei clan, Kano’s Black Dragon, the Special Forces, and more. By completing tasks in-game, like performing a certain number of Fatalities, you earn points for your faction – and potentially rewards for yourself. Oh, and each faction has two unique Fatalities, to add even more bloody incentive.

Five-on-Five Matches Means We Don’t Have to Carry All the Weight
In 5v5 matches, five players face off in one-on-one matches against five other players. It’s a best-of-five scenario where you’re in a team, but without the risk of losing it if you’re having an off-night.

The Living Tower Keeps Mortal Kombat… Alive

The Living Tower is a battle tower mode in Mortal Kombat where new towers and challenges pop up at different times. Some are hourly, or daily, while other stay for longer. The towers have different rules and modifiers, like health boosts dropping randomly, or the stage getting flipped upside down. Beating these living towers earns you a ton of points that can be used to unlock bonus content in Mortal Kombat X.

There’s so much more that we’re loving about Mortal Kombat X: the return of Brutalities; horror film icon Jason Voorhees as a downloadable bonus character; the somehow-even-more-gruesome X-Ray attacks; the multiple fighting stances each character can use. Mortal Kombat X – now available for Xbox One – is full of amazing content for you to laugh at and squirm over. …read more

EA to Release Fourth Quarter Fiscal Year 2015 Results on May 5, 2015

April 14, 2015 By: Sniper Category: Whats Up?

EA to Release Fourth Quarter Fiscal Year 2015 Results on May 5, 2015 …read more