Category Archives: Alphas/Betas

Games that are currently in test that we are playing.

Foxhole Preview

Foxhole is almost certainly unlike anything you’ve played. It could be compared to Cannon Fodder, to ARMA, perhaps even to Age of Empires – but none of those are quite right. It’s a WWII-era massively multiplayer combat game that features a persistent world, crafting, and a top-down view.

When you spawn in Foxhole there’s very little guidance on what to do – other than players rushing past in trucks yelling at you to get out of the way. Open the map and you’ll see your side (green or blue) has a number of bases, and the enemy has a number of theirs. Your first instinct would probably be to pick up a gun from the town hall and some ammo, then run off to the front line, where you’ll almost certainly get horrible murdered by someone you can’t see. You’ll then slowly realise you just wasted a uniform, a rifle, some ammo, maybe a pistol and some bullets. All of those things were crafted from raw materials that were mined out of the ground. Those then got taken (usually driven in a truck which was also crafted) to various factories, where they were put in a queue to be built. Once complete they were collected and shipped to the spawn points. Like I said, not like anything you’ve played.

The biggest turn-off for some from Foxhole is going to be evident from the screenshots, the view. It’s top-down 3D and your field of view is exceptionally small. Cover breaks your view of even your own team, so if you hide behind a wall, everyone on the other side of it will disappear because you can’t see them anymore. To shoot you hold right click to aim, drawing a line across the terrain, then you shoot with left click, firing a bullet somewhere close to that trajectory. It’s slightly inaccurate and you’re often shooting at people you can’t see – a bit like the real WWII I guess. When it gets dark your view shrinks even further and only a few items (like binoculars) can increase it. Using binoculars, of course only lets you see further when standing still, so you have to relay all that information to the rest of the team.

Finding a team to start out is very daunting, you don’t get placed in a squad like in Battlefield or ARMA, instead you just bumble about until you find someone. There is an official Discord set up to solve this problem, but it’s vital that you group up with people – your carry limit is so low there’s no way you’ll be able to carry all the gear needed for a serious attack.

Once you’re spawned into the game with a team and have a little directions, it all seems to make sense a little more. You could become a scavenger, collecting the metal needed to create the tools and machines of war, doing runs backwards and forwards as efficiently as possible in relatively safe territory. You could become a truck driver, taking the crafted supplies to the front line where there’s a little more risk of ambushes, but people will be more likely to thank you as they are directly affected by what you are doing. You could become a medic, holding back a little and crawling to the wounded to heal them up and get them out of harm’s way. Or you could become an infantryman and master the art of moving through cover, scouting, and then committing to a big push with your team. Some people like to stand around and open gates for people, that’s fine too.

While the game undoubtedly has its epic moments, currently it starts to get quite tedious quite soon. Lots of the jobs simply aren’t that interesting and take a long time. If you want to build tanks for your team, you’re looking at hours of gathering and crafting. Even as an infantry soldier you’re not going to see a great deal of progress very quickly unless the enemy team completely falls apart. Instead you have lots of incredibly long stalemates where nothing interesting happens.

There’s no stats to speak of other than a basic xp levelling system, so nothing you do seems to have any weight. Either you stay in one server for hours and hours playing until you win or lose, or you leave the server half way through a fight and come back to join a different one later, it makes no difference and no successes are going to be particularly remembered.

This tedium and lack of obvious progression have put me off the game for now. If it had lots of dramatic emergent gameplay, that’d be fun. If it had a really fun progression system, the grind would be more bearable. But without either, you’re left with an interesting experiment in a new type of war-game, but not enough to be a really good game.

Now, moreso than usual, I am aware this is very much just my opinion. A friend has been absorbed by the game and lots of people have put hundreds of hours in already, so clearly there’s something there that grabs some people. You can get a decent idea of how the game plays by watching some streamers, but be aware that for every front-line hero, there’s ten more running the supply chain to keep them stocked. That supply chain isn’t a whole lot of fun.

 

Foxhole is available now on Steam Early Access

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Fable Fortune Preview (PC)

Fable Fortune is the somewhat unexpected entry into the card-game genre for the Fable series. Unexpected because there hasn’t been a Fable game in a long while, and because the card-game genre is not only saturated but also completely dominated by Blizzard’s excellent Hearthstone.

It’s no great surprise then that Fable Fortune feels instantly familiar. Essentially this is a slight retooling of the Hearthstone formula rather than a new take on the genre. You and your opponent take turns to play cards, using up gold to do so. The amount of gold you have goes up by one each turn so you can progressively play more, or more powerful, units. The aim of the game is to reduce your opponent’s health down to zero before they can do the same to you. You have a hero ability unique to each class and create your deck from a combination of neutral cards that can be used by any class, or specific cards that are tailored to your particular brand of combat. So far, so Hearthstone.

Fable Fortune does have a few aces up its sleeve though. First of all, and my personal favourite addition to the game, is that you have a taunt ability that can be placed on any unit for 1 mana. This makes taunt-specific cards less important and frees you up to create some interesting plays. You can force opponents who run very few units to waste turns killing off your weakest units, or turn absolute powerhouses into solid walls to protect you. This ability can only be used once per turn but is available to all characters and will often save you from death.

Secondly, and a much less enjoyable change, you start with three gold on your first turn instead of one. I can see why they’ve made this change, it means there’s far fewer skipped turns at the start and everyone has some options. On the other hand, it eliminates the viability of having high-risk decks designed around killing the opponent before they have a chance to get going. I quite enjoy that kind of variety in the game but here rushing is much less of an option.

The final significant change is the morality system. At the beginning of each game you select one of three quests. If you complete this quest, you get a morality point to spend on either good or evil, and this will change your hero power. The more quests you complete, the more points you get, the more options you have. This system also affects certain morality cards that shift depending on your alignment. While it’s an interesting extra system, its impact on the game seems quite limited from what I’ve seen so far, and it would have been nice to have a little more nuance to the system, like healing units pushes you towards good and killing things pushes you towards bad? It feels like an adaptation of the worst side of Fable, which for me was how easy it was to game the morality system. Here they’ve removed any pretence of it being organic and simply let you click a button.

In terms of game modes there’s your regular PvP but also a PvE co-op mode that works on a rotation. Each ‘season’ (lasting a couple of weeks) you get to take on a boss alongside someone else. You take a turn, then the boss, then them, then the boss, then you and so on. You can make use of your team’s units but only your hero powers. The major downfall of this is how incredibly limited the communication system is. You can suggest moves using little exclamation marks, but you can discuss strategy ahead of time or chat at all. In versus you can’t even say ‘well done’, you can just concede. This lack of interaction spoils the co-op mode a bit and really eats into my enjoyment of the versus mode. Everyone is just a faceless opponent with no character, making the game feel more like a grind that it needs to be.

In terms of strategy, the game is fine, but not a patch of the variety and range of Hearthstone. Some of the decks and classes lend themselves to ridiculously long games thanks to the taunt mechanic, and fast, decisive wins are few and far between. At the moment it’s too easy to cling on for another few rounds even if you’ve clearly lost, dragging out games far past the point where they stop being fun or exciting.

Graphically it has a nice Fable-esque art-style, but very little in the way of animation. The boards have no interaction and are simply static backdrops, the cards just project a little 2d cutout of the character above them, and spell effects are basic and uninteresting.

Overall I feel like this has been quite a negative preview, but you definitely can have a lot of fun with Fable Fortune. If you’re looking to learn a new game with new cards and a few new rules, it could be engrossing and eat up your time. If you’re just a casual player like us, it’s hard to see why you’d ever choose this over Hearthstone.

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Worms W.M.D Preview

This preview is based on a very early E3 demo build of the game. We mean really early, like there’s no options menu or way to quit the game.

Worms has been a staple of gaming for almost as long as we can remember. When the first Worms came out it allowed for something that was quite special, turn-taking multiplayer. While this might not sound impressive, it meant you only needed one controller. It meant you could all watch the other person take their turns. It meant there was a lot of nail-biting tension while you waited to see what would become of your little worms. Only needing one controller was quite a big deal, controllers have traditionally been quite expensive, and on a PC it was quite unusual to have two controllers, normally you just had the keyboard and a mouse. Golf games had always let you take turns, but other than it was rare for a game to feature that as the focus of its multiplayer, and it meant a lot of Worms got played. Of course Worms also had some crazy character and weapon design, randomised maps, and the addictive ‘Scorched Earth’ style gameplay that was a genre unto itself in the early 90s, but was it ever a really good game? When we think back to our fondest gaming memories, none of them are of Worms. We remember playing it on the Playstation and enjoying the little FMV sequences before each game, but then we also remember how long the games would drag out and how often they ended in a kind of stalemate where you were almost co-operating with your opponent to get the scenery out of the way. Worms wasn’t necessarily a classic game, it was just one that filled a gap of something to play in multiplayer if you only had one controller and were sick of PGA Tour.

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So the newest entry is called Worms W.M.D and what has changed? Very little.

The biggest innovations are the introduction of vehicles and buildings. Vehicles are a genuinely fun addition that change the gameplay somewhat. They provide some fairly significant firepower, but more importantly they provide protection (in terms of a tank) or mobility (in terms of a helicopter). Those annoying stalemates towards the end of a long game where you’re both unwilling to teleport but are a long way away from each other can be worked around by jumping into a helicopter and flying across the map before strafing your opponent. The tank can give a single remaining worm a decent chance at a comeback. Unfortunately, both of these make the RNG inherent in Worms even worse. Sometimes in multiplayer we’ve started with two tanks and a helicopter right next to our worms, while the enemy team has none. Similarly the new building system that provides shelter and concealment for your worms, but allows them to fire out, is only really an advantage if you spawn next to it from the beginning. They don’t tend to last too long for anyone else.

This is what stops Worms from moving with the times, with the randomness and blatant unfairness inherent in the procedural generation of the maps, it could never be an eSport. Victories never fill you with pride and losses never sting, because you know it was more down to luck than your own skill. Of course better players can make better use of their advantages, but on an even playing field you can almost tell as soon as the map loads who is likely to win.

To alleviate this a little, there is a new crafting system that allows you to break down things you don’t need and replace them with things you do. This is a nice touch that does help to ease the frustration of never getting the one weapon you want to try out, but it isn’t quite enough to make up for the positioning.

Worms W.M.D also feels far too similar to the 1995 game that kicked the series off. Most of the weapons are the same, or are taken from other early entries like the super sheep and holy hand grenade, the gameplay is the same, the movement is the same, and the graphics, while high-res, don’t impress. It’s the same kind of art style they’ve stuck with for twenty years, and while there’s scope for something really impressive (think of all the amazing 2D games we’ve had in the last decade like Rayman Origins, Limbo, Super Meat Boy, etc) they’ve played it safe and just gone for high resolution simple sprites with similar animations to what they’ve always had. It’s a sign of how stuck in the past they are when things like the Worms blowing themselves up when they die no longer feels like a funny joke, it feels like a decidedly unpalatable reference to suicide bombers. Alongside the W.M.D reference in the title, coming out in the same year as the Chilcot Enquiry, the whole thing seems tasteless and gratuitous. They could have easily innovated and used that as an opportunity to change things that don’t really work anymore, but instead they’ve chosen to stick with what they know, even if it’s not fun.

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Overall we’re not impressed with W.M.D so far – it feels like another rehash of a game we’ve played many, many times before, and never found particularly interesting in the first place. If you’re a die hard Worms fan, maybe you’ll enjoy the new features, and this is certainly the best version of the game so far, but if you burnt out on this long ago, you’re unlikely to find anything to rekindle your flames.

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Vr Ping Pong Preview (PC)

VR Ping Pong is a fun game. Let me get that out of the way, what I am not convinced of yet is whether it should really be trying to be a Ping Pong game. In these early days of VR the best experiences so far have been completely new ones, designed to take a new idea into a VR space, rather than take a traditional idea or game and adapt it to VR. The danger with taking something like Ping Pong and making a VR experience out of it, is that it will be competing against your own real life perceptions of Ping Pong as well as how much you may enjoy it as a VR experience.

Continue reading Vr Ping Pong Preview (PC)

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Shadows of Kurgansk Preview

There’s been a wealth of survival horrors since the early days of DayZ (and I’m tempted to say Minecraft). Each tend to have their own little quirk of unique selling point, but they eventually come down to trying to manage stats to keep yourself alive while crafting, exploring, and fighting.

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Shadow of Kurgansk has two fairly unique features. Firstly there’s a campaign-esque tutorial with characters that lets you know what your options are. This obviously eliminates some of the wonder of exploration and experimentation that you find in things like DayZ, but it also gets you on your feet much quicker so you can take part in the real mode, the survival mode, without making too many stupid mistakes. The other unique thing is the art style. While it’s going for a slightly cel-shaded look, it ends up looking a lot more like the incredible and underrated XIII from two generations ago, rather than like Borderlands. The fact that this is an old game ins’t an insult to Kurgansk, XIII still holds up today with a comic-book style that hasn’t really been imitated successfully in FPS games.

Kurgansk is a little by the books in other respects, you are exploring a post apocalyptic temperate wasteland where there’s plenty to scavenge, rats to cook and eat, and monsters to kill. One of the biggest problems we have with the early access version so far is that the monsters simply aren’t scary at all. They look like the local hoodies you’re likely to recognise from outside your local McDonalds and they drop pretty quickly after a couple of blows to the head. Similarly the Stalker-esque anomalies that are meant to have horrific and terrifying effects just warp your screen a bit or make things a little dark. They’re not the lethal death traps we were used to seeing in Pripyat.

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Overall Kurgansk shows some promise with an interesting art style and a slightly different take on the genre, but at the moment everything it’s trying to do just isn’t working so well. The dialogue is awful, the combat is floaty and weightless, the crafting is dull, and the world just isn’t scary enough. Go play The Forest, Stalker, DayZ, or even H1z1 and soak up the atmosphere. In those games you’re always fighting to survive, always on the run, you rarely feel like the apex predator. In Kurgansk you generally feel like you’re the most powerful being around, and it doesn’t matter because there’s nothing interesting to do with that power.

We’ll keep you updated as new builds come out, but for now we’d probably hold off on this one.

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Why the Halo Wars 2 Beta has killed my hype

First of all, I understand that this is a beta. I can imagine how the conversation went over at Microsoft:

So do you have that Halo Wars 2 demo ready for E3?

I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that, it’s not ready. The animations are incomplete, it’s buggy, the performance is all over the place, and we haven’t even finished the assets for most of the units.

OK but we need something to send out, people need convincing that a console RTS can still work, it’s been a while.

This won’t do the job, it’s not ready.

It’s fine, just bundle together the unit’s you’ve done, put it on a weird game mode so people won’t notice the balance issues, lower the unit cap until it runs and just call it a beta.

But it’s barely even an alpha…

Call it a beta.

And so here we have the Halo Wars 2 beta. I was so excited to play it, telling everyone I know who played the old game to go download it so we could relive all that fun we had with the original. Two games in and I stopped telling people to download it.

The biggest problem, aside from the performance, missing animations and effects, and lack of game modes which is just down to it being a beta ( I hope) is that it doesn’t feel like a Halo game. When people think of a Halo RTS they want Warthogs being sliced in half by Brute Choppers, Banshees to be raining down Fuel Rod shots onto advancing Scorpions, squads of marines facing off against squads of elites and grunts, scrambling for cover, using grenades and getting decimated by vehicles that blaze through the combat. They want the opening cinematic of Halo 5, with a Spartan team laying waste to a downhill battle at breakneck speed.

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Instead, we get pathetically anaemic skirmishes that mostly consist of a group of vaguely marine-looking people, firing shots randomly at a load of Brute-looking people, why vehicles park up and join in with the neon snowball fight. There’s no sense of impact, no velocity, no excitement in the battles at all. It even feels like there’s a delay in issuing commands so every battle happens at a tortoise’s pace, unlike the fevered warzones of Starcraft or Dawn of War.

The units simply aren’t what you’d recognise from a Halo game. Yes there are warthogs, scorpions, banshees and more, but the warthogs park up to shoot, the scorpions can siege up and are less intimidating that most of the marine squads, and those marines are just the basic unit of the UNSC, more advanced infantry types are flamethrowers units and cloaking snipers. Not cloaking Spartan snipers, just random marines that apparently go invisible. It’s almost as if 343 and Creative Assembly have had a hard time balancing the real kind of units in the Halo universe and just decided to copy Starcraft instead. Scorpions are now Siege Tanks in all but name, sniper units are Ghosts, Hellbats are thrown in for good measure despite not having an equivalent in Halo. On the Brute side you have some Brutes, but they’re not the rampaging death Gorillas we’re used to, instead they are just gorilla-skinned marines, standing there going ‘pew pew’. Grunts come in suicide squads but the explosion animations seem to be missing. There’s no Pelicans to quickly transport troops and equipment, the Banshees are weirdly weak and slow, particularly to marines, even the Wraith doesn’t look quite right. There’s plenty of new units, but they all have an uninspired design that simply copies another unit and makes it chunkier. Creative Assembly have clearly tried to stick to the rock-paper-scissors style of gameplay from their Total War games, but that doesn’t translate well if it means a marine with an assault rifle can easily down a Banshee.

The larger powers at least feature the MAC cannon, but here it does about as much damage as a large grenade, without any of the punch you’d expect from a space-station cannon that’s firing at a planet. You can also drop mines (remember that from Halo, when a load of mines were dropped from orbit and decimated an entire army?) and ODSTs, but the ODSTs look and move just like normal marines, there’s nothing special about them at all, nothing to make them live up to their fearsome reputation.

As it stands, nothing about this game is good. It looks terrible, with low resolution assets and tonnes of missing effects, played out on dull looking maps. The unit capy is unimaginably small, enough space for 2 scorpions, 2 warthogs, and maybe 4 marine squads in your entire army (until you get the upgrade that lets you have an extra warthog or so). The buildings don’t look like buildings we recognise from Halo, the upgrades are nearly all completely soulless and uninteresting, offering things like a flat 15% in damage for a single unit type. Nothing to change up the gameplay at all, just a stat boost to make you kill things quicker.

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The controls themselves are barely functional, mostly due to the aforementioned delay in getting anything done. They need to be quick and snappy for any kind of competitive play to be bearable, but instead they’re so and sluggish, leading to all games consisting of players amassing one army (unit cap is too small for efficient smaller groups) that lumbers around the map occasionally coming into contact with another lethargic horde, trading tiny little ineffectual blaster bolts until one of them disappears.

If this had been a new RTS coming out in the era of the original Red Alert, I would still have been disappointed. To be coming out in 8 months, in 2017, and to not even feel like it carries the licence it’s designed with, is appalling. Hopefully 343 will take on board the criticism and delay it another year or two to rebuild most of it, because what exists so far just isn’t worth your time.

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Black Desert Online Beta Impressions

We’ve played an awful lot of MMOs in our time but it feels like that era is coming to an end. Once you could always be excited for the next ‘WoW-killer’ but those have all come and gone and none of them managed the job. With high-profile and ridiculously high-budget games like SWTOR struggling to find a significant audience publishers are understandably not to keen to fund a new AAA MMO, but thankfully the Koreans don’t seem to have got that memo. Black Desert Online is a new MMO in the mold of older games like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. Warcraft fans will feel fairly at home with levelling up, hotbar skills and quests, but there’s definitely more freedom and less hand-holding to be found here.

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We’ve only spent a short time with the second closed beta but it only takes a few seconds to realise how spectacular this game could be. It looks absolutely stunning with a new game engine created specifically for the game allowing for highly detailed and customisable character models. The landscape might feature some quite plain geometry and textures in places but the lighting is incredibly and weather effects actually have an effect on combat beyond just adding to atmosphere. The animation, too, is a league above everything else we’ve seen in the MMO-space (except perhaps another Korean MMO, Tera) with combat animations for our berserker coming across as suitably violent, including one where he grabs the enemy by the neck and smashes them down on the floor. That’s simply not possible with the WoW engine.

Korean MMOs have always been accused of being too grindy and we don’t feel that Black Desert is going to do much to change that impression, early quests involve you going somewhere to speak to someone then having to kill an arbitrary number of progressively more powerful enemies. Gathering skills are measured in the 100s rather than an individual attempt being worth anything. We’re not high enough level to take part in the group content yet but hopefully that ends up being a little more tactical and interesting.

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The big selling point for Black Desert is the freedom. We’ve seen people cruising the oceans hunting for whales, guilds can take over areas to get an income of resources, maps are huge and sprawling as opposed to the theme park-style MMOs we’re used to. As it stands, Black Desert feels simply like a modern update for a stale genre, but we think that with a bit more time and the full release it could open itself up to be more player-driven than anything we’ve seen in over a decade.

We’ll bring you more impressions when the full game releases later this month.

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Ark: Survival Evolved Preview (Xbox One)

This morning I woke up and it was all gone. Our two-storey base made from wood and stone was nowhere to be found, the 50ft perimeter wall that had taken three days to build was mostly erased. The collection of rare blueprints, weapons and crafting materials had all been stolen. Worse still, Jeffery, our triceratops, hadn’t even been killed, he’d been re-tamed by people down the beach. I went to demand answers and all they could say was ‘you started us, you killed us earlier, we were scared you’d get more advanced and destroy us so we hit you first’. They had a point, we had killed them, we probably would have destroyed them eventually. So we rebuild.

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Ark has been around on the PC for a while now but in its foray into the Xbox Game Preview program console gamers can finally get a look in at this exciting world of multiplayer survival. If you die you lose everything, building anything takes hours, it doesn’t sound too appealing at first. Once you do establish yourself though, when you survive an attack, that’s when the game gets its hook into you. In Ark you start off with literally nothing, you can scrape together a mining pick and axe Minecraft-style by punching a tree with your fists. You’ll spend your first hour scrounging an existence off berries, running away from basically anything. Within five hours you’ll be hunting smaller dinosaurs, crafting thatch buildings and hoarding everything you can find. Eventually you get rocket launchers, can ride pterodactyls, and can build refrigerators. This is an unusual world, but a dramatic one.

Literally every time we’ve played Ark so far there’s been a story to tell. From being chased by giant ants through a forest to watching in awe as a glowing red raptor managed to destroy itself on our base’s spikes, there’s always something amazing happening. Admittedly the game is still in fairly early days and there are some features that are beyond janky. The server browser is entirely broken and as you store all your progress on a single server, the fact you can’t get back to it if it’s full (there’s no queue system) is more than a little annoying. Playing at peak times I’ve spent upwards of half an hour refreshing the browsing screen to get back into the same. Thankfully that should be fixed this coming week with a new patch. Within the game there’s lots of little oddities like physics not working how you’d expect but it’s definitely playable and often the glitches just add to the fun. The team behind Ark have a good track record of supporting the game on PC so hopefully Microsoft’s certification process won’t get in the way too much and the game will evolve over time alongside the PC version.

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Right now, Ark is a huge amount of fun if you can get over the waiting times for servers. Get a group together, it’s not fun alone, set up a tribe and go build something. Just please don’t steal Jeffery.

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Overwatch Beta beginning October 27th

We played Overwatch repeatedly at Gamescom, it was the only game we went back to more than once. It’s a perfect mix of Team Fortress 2 team-based action and Shadowrun-esque player abilities. We really enjoyed the variety and strategy involved and can’t wait to get stuck back in. So it’s good news that Blizzard have finally announced the beta launch date. The full press release is below.

Overwatch Beta Coming Soon
 
Get ready for battle—beta begins Tuesday, October 27 in the Americas region, with other regions to follow!
    
Attack commencing in 3… 2… 1…
 
 
The Overwatch beta officially begins October 27, and we’re getting ready to invite our first batch of recruits for some field-testing!
 
 
The beta test will kick off on the 27th with Americas gameplay region, with Europe and Asia to follow. Read the mission briefing below to learn more about our plans for the beta, and don’t forget to sign up if you’re interested in helping us shape the fight for the future.
 
We’re aiming to accomplish two primary goals with our public beta test: First, get tons of top-notch feedback on the gameplay—including balance, feel, and fun—to help us make Overwatch the best team-based shooter on the planet. Second, we want to hammer the heck out of our tech, including stress-testing our server infrastructure and making sure the game runs great on the widest variety of systems possible.
 
 
To accomplish this, we’re dividing our beta participants into two different groups, each with different mission objectives and deployment schedules. The Closed Beta group will form the core of our testing crew. In addition, we’ll be conducting a number of Beta Test Weekends with wider groups of players when it’s time to break out the big guns.
 
 
Closed Beta
 
The Closed Beta will be composed of a small number of testers who will have regular access to our public beta test. Our goal for the Closed Beta is 100% gameplay feedback, and we’ll be encouraging participants to discuss and dissect every hero, map, ability, and other aspect of the game on our upcoming beta forums.
In order to get the most meaningful and constructive feedback possible, the total number of players in the Closed Beta will be extremely limited—though we’ll be adding more people from time to time to make sure we have the right number of heroes actively engaged.
The first phase of the Closed Beta will deploy on October 27 in the Americas gameplay region, and players may be added gradually to start (with more being invited as new features are ready to test). During this time, we’ll continue to make preparations for our Europe and Asia gameplay regions—our goal is to have Europe come online next, with Asia following at a later date.
We’ll provide more details—including an FAQ—once the Closed Beta begins.
Beta Test Weekends
From time to time, we’ll also need to open up the floodgates and call upon an army to overwhelm our hardware. The goal: get as many heroes playing as we can, all helping us “stress test” our servers to ensure they can withstand the assault.
These larger-scale Beta Test Weekends will be brought online occasionally for a limited time, generally over a weekend, and will run concurrently with our ongoing Closed Beta test. Because Beta Test Weekends are primarily hardware- and tech-focused, the number of heroes, maps, and gameplay modes will be restricted—but feedback on everything will definitely be welcome.
Multiple different Beta Test Weekends will be assembled in various parts of the world. We have tons of would-be heroes signed up for the Overwatch beta, and we want to give as many as possible a chance to play during the testing period. The first Beta Test Weekend is currently slated for after BlizzCon—stay tuned for more information following the event.
A few more things: The Overwatch beta will be Windows-only, and you’ll need to have theBattle.net desktop app installed to play. If you’re selected to participate in either the Closed Beta or one of our Beta Test Weekends, you’ll receive an email with instructions shortly before you’re deployed. Read this article to make sure our transmissions won’t get filtered, and don’t forget toopt in if you haven’t already.
 
We’ll have more information to share on the Overwatch beta in the near future, so keep your sights trained on playoverwatch.com!

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Crossout Hands On Preview

It’s difficult to write about Crossout without hyperbole. In a year that’s brought us Mad Max, Metal Gear Solid V, The Witcher 3, Until Dawn and Splatoon, this might still be the best thing we’ve played. Imagine The simple controls of War Thunder, the world of Mad Max, the building of Kerbal Space Programme and the procedural damage of Besieged and you’re only part way to imagining how good Crossout is. Oh and it’s going to be free. We’ve been playing the ‘Battle-Test’ (Alpha/Beta) of Crossout for a while and if they released it right now and slapped a £50 price tag on it we’d buy without question.

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The user experience is so good it puts nearly all other AAA titles to shame. You start in the main menu with the usual free-to-play options in front of you, you can see who’s online, join various types of games, or tinker with your vehicle, which sits front and center. The tinkering is incredibly immediate and uses Kerbal-esque control so you simply drag and drop parts around, taking new bits from your storage and attaching them wherever you want. At first it seemed restrictive when we saw we were building around the chassis of a pickup truck, but we quickly realised you can take that apart too, building a new vehicle up from small parts. If you want three wheels on one side and one on the other, try it. If you want to add guns on the side, top, and bottom of your car, do it. As soon as you’ve made a change you can take it for a test drive and rather than being taken to a loading screen, you simply drive out of the menu and into a small arena where you can see what the monstrosity you have created is capable of. Here you can drive around, take pot shots at another inert version of your car (seeing what’s vulnerable and what will break off) or set up some enemies to try out your skills. The handling is sublime and there’s a real sense of connection between your vehicle and the ground, something that is sorely missing in the majority of driving games. If you lose a wheel or some suspension you’re not out of it, you can still limp on with the handling affected proportionately. You have to worry about your centre of gravity and how wide your wheelbase is. You’re guns are usually on a swivel but will stop firing if they’re going to shoot through a part of your own car, this leads to some interesting conflicts about whether to put a gun in an exposed position to give you 360 degrees of targeting, or whether to cover them up a little and accept that your will have to be thinking about positioning all the time.

Once you’re happy with your vehicle you can lunge into an online game and see what your car is made of (scrap, mostly). The game types are fairly familiar to anyone who has played World of Tanks and you’re generally trying to capture a base or kill the opposing team (whichever happens first). Coming up against other people’s designs is absolutely thrilling and strategy is hugely important. Some people stick huge howitzer style cannons on their cars, which are massively powerful but also easy targets. Keep to their sides and focus down the gun and they’ll be defenceless. Others will focus on ramming and try to chase you down. Occasionally you’ll underestimate a wounded enemy who still has a working turret and be ripped to shreds from behind. The vehicles disintegrate into their constituent parts in a very satisfying way and the combat is always brutal, fast and entirely skill based.

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We’re very excited to see Crossout release and anyone who has ever carried a passing interesting in competitive gaming needs to at least give it a try.

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