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In near-future London, Dedsec is no more. Framed for a terrorist attack, the hacktivist group from previous Watch Dogs games has been purged, and the city has morphed into an authoritarian state policed by Albion, an evil mercenary company. However, the subjugated citizens carry the spark of resistance; it’s up to you to fan it into a wildfire of rebellion. Instead of putting you in control of a single protagonist, Watch Dogs: Legion gives you thousands of disgruntled Londoners, providing the freedom and flexibility to fight like never before. Despite a few bad apples, they don’t spoil what’s ultimately an entertaining fight for freedom.
Your objective is to retake London from its enemy kingpins. You explore and reclaim boroughs through a variety of activities, including sabotage, evidence gathering, and promoting your own propaganda. Where Watch Dogs: Legion sets itself apart from many open-world games is its city full of potential heroes.
Amassing your army of agents is a fulfilling and strategic (though occasionally flawed) endeavor. Anyone can be recruited, and I felt like a kid in a candy store scanning Londoners thanks to the cool combinations of skills each can bring. For example, one of my favorite members was a futuristic beekeeper who commanded swarms of robotic hornets. Techies hack devices faster, investors rake in more money, protesters can rally bystanders to fight, and spies bring gadgets and combat expertise. It’s delightfully silly to command a group resembling a tech-savvy Village People, and the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, making it fun to revel in the absurdity.Click here to watch embedded media
I grew to cherish certain team members for their skillsets and zaniness (especially because I played with the optional permadeath turned on). Teams fill up quicker than you think, and I missed out on awesome prospects because I lacked the space for them. Because I wasn’t allowed to ditch recruits, I had to start throwing any dead weight off skyscrapers or into speeding buses. While this murderous take on spring cleaning is hilarious, being able to simply fire someone would be even better – especially since optimizing your team is such a central part of Watch Dogs: Legion’s appeal.
Most of the side content consists of satisfying the needs of potential recruits. They’re decently fun tasks, but start repeating themselves too soon. Borough uprisings offer better diversions thanks to their variety and the exciting final missions each neighborhood presents. Lesser activities like package deliveries and graffiti tagging provide lighter thrills, but they at least give an excuse to tour Legion’s beautiful, high-tech take on London.
The main story missions are much more gratifying. Four genuinely despicable villains provide plenty of motivation to free London of their tyranny, and your tasks focused on taking them down regularly surprised me with their creativity. One of the best involves a surprisingly heartbreaking trek through the disturbing home of a scientist obsessed with digitizing human mind.
Smart level design forces players to consider the right person for the job while also allowing multiple approaches. Strutting into an Albion stronghold disguised as an employee is just as viable as sending combat drones to mow down threats ahead of time. I always had fun surveying a situation and deciding which combination of tools to employ. To that end, the game makes excellent use of its gadgets, like drones, cameras, and turrets. I especially like the spiderbots – arachnid-like drones that provide a satisfying way to circumvent heavily guarded areas. Plus, I also enjoyed the stealthy platforming segments dedicated to them.
Commanding various robots is also fun in combat and for puzzle-solving. Riding atop large cargo drones like Spider-Man’s Green Goblin is particularly awesome. Not only can soaring overhead bypass a lot of obstacles, but raining hell from above is supremely entertaining. I love how Legion allows players to combine their tools for creative improvisation. I got a kick from attaching spider turrets atop cars or cargo drones to create mobile murder machines. Enemy A.I. can be boneheaded at times, but the gameplay is a blast that gets better with every upgrade and ability unlocked.
While Watch Dogs: Legion mostly sells the fantasy of a wholly unique populous, hearing the same handful of voice samples or viewing similar character portraits with slight variations sullies that vision a bit. Another small but regular annoyance comes in the load time while switching agents (at least on current-gen hardware). While not egregiously long, it’s just enough of a delay to break your stride.
Legion feels like the realization of the hacker fantasy the first Watch Dogs tried to capture. Between the fun team-building, fantastic mission design, strong narrative, and a gorgeous world, everything comes together in a largely entertaining and cohesive package. Whether you’re controlling a trained super spy or a gassy grandmother, Watch Dogs: Legion is a ton of fun.
Summary: Whether you're controlling a trained super spy or a gassy grandmother, Watch Dogs: Legion is a ton of fun.
Concept: Take down an oppressive regime by recruiting an army of hackers across near-future London
Graphics: Holographic propaganda, omnipresent drones, and neon lights sell the city’s beauty and oppressive atmosphere
Sound: Hearing your crew spout the same voice samples gets old, but strong main character performances carry the slack. The licensed soundtrack rocks, too
Playability: Gameplay promotes flexibility and creativity while also rewarding the use of ideal agent types. More robust team-management options would be helpful, though
Entertainment: Legion offers a refreshing and fun change-up to the Watch Dogs formula that succeeds in letting players forge their own path like never before
If you’ve been playing NHL 21’s Be A Pro mode, you might have heard a new voice commenting on your rookie season. Newcomer Carrlyn Bathe joins core broadcasters Ray Ferraro and James Cybulski in giving updates on your progress and discussing important milestones. She’s no stranger to hockey: LA Kings fans should recognize her as she’s been covering the team for Fox Sports West, but Bathe also has hockey in her blood: Her father, Frank, played for the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings, and she also grew up playing the sport. Bathe’s role in NHL 21 marks her as the first female broadcasting voice in the franchise’s history. We recently sat down with Bathe to discuss her role, and found out she’s also taken a shine to gaming and streaming.Photo credit: Gus Jaimes
The New Be A Pro
This year, EA Vancouver gave its Be A Pro mode, where you chart your path from inexperienced rookie to NHL star, a huge upgrade, adding a new conversation system, likeability meters, and presentation updates. The latter included involving the broadcasting team in presenting an authentic look at being in the spotlight as a highly touted up-and-comer. In the mode, the main commentator, James Cybulski, has his own radio show, where he comments on your efforts each game and how your season is going. He also brings along Ray Ferraro for an additional perspective.
To round out this effort, Carrlyn Bathe was brought in to be another voice on your talent. “I'm almost like what I am in real life – a ringside reporter giving updates on what's known as 'the rookie' throughout the game,” Bathe explains. “I give social-media updates, what I spoke with the coach in the morning about, and maybe how the teammates are feeling about the rookie. It's literally all based around however the player is playing, and then my updates will come in throughout the game, kind of stating, ‘Oh, was that a good choice?’ ‘Was that a bad choice?’ Here's how it reflected on the ice.”via @CarrlynBathe
Landing The Gig
A key connection brought Bathe to the role. Her husband, Mike Hammer, founder of enforcer-themed hockey-style brand Violent Gentlemen, is a big fan of the series, and one of his friends happens to be NHL 21 producer Sean “Rammer” Ramjagsingh. “Rammer and my husband go way back, and a female voice is something they wanted to add to the game, “ Bathe says. “Rammer thought of me, thinking, ‘Okay, well, this is something she does in real life.’ And after speaking with him, I let him know, not only do I report for the Kings, I took four years of improv and comedy training at the Groundlings school in California; like, that was something I always tied to my hosting resume. And I always thought that that helped me on camera and whatnot. Little did I know down the road, it would help me in a video game as well. So having that knowledge and having me in mind, I was one of the people that he submitted before his team.”
Bathe had to submit samples, so the team could be certain she was the right fit for the role. “I think it was one of my actual hits that I did during a game because I keep a big notebook or lots of notebooks, actually, little black notebooks, that I buy and keep them at my house, and I had leftover hits from one of my games and just recorded that.”
Bathe got the seal of approval from the team, and quickly found out how different things are when it comes to providing her voice for a video game as opposed to the live action on the ice. “It was a crazy process, because they start planning for these games in what feels like a year in advance,” Bathe says laughing. “So it's crazy to think about like, ‘Wow, I've been talking about this since last December. And the game is coming out in October. It's so crazy. And having to keep it a secret the whole time was just really difficult, but I did it!”Photo credit: Katlyn Gambill
Getting In The Virtual Booth
Of course, when EA Vancouver and Bathe were in the planning stages last December, there’s one thing they couldn’t anticipate: COVID-19. The team had planned to fly Bathe into Vancouver to record her lines in the studio and were working with her to line it up with her schedule. Unfortunately, her free time to do so was in March, which was when everything had come to a head, forcing everyone to quarantine and the NHL to shut down. “I was just at home, and we had to figure out how to make it work,” Bathe recalls. “And luckily, they had experience recording remotely with James Cybulski and probably Ray [Ferraro] as well.”
Bathe ended up recording her lines over the summer in her home office; it took around five to six hours. “I had to have like James [Cybulski] on one call, and me playing off of what he was saying,” she explains. “Each line of mine had to be teed up by him, so he would create the toss. And it's created off of a bullet point on a Google Doc, so the creativity that James has in those moments is what fuels me to say the thing that I'm saying that everyone's hearing in the game. We've got a rough idea of like, ‘You're the rookie, you just bought a new house, everybody on the team thinks he's gonna play well, let's see how that plays out.' James gives an awesome toss, and then I go off of that and try and give my good one-liner.”
Bathe confirmed that Cybulski loves a good pun, and some of her favorite moments in the studio were when she got clever with one on the spot. There’s a fruit pun she’s especially proud of that she can’t wait for others to hear in the game. “She had great chemistry with our existing team, namely James Cybulski, who she interacts with during each segment,” says NHL 21 presentation lead David Pritchett. “It’s a testament to her skill as a broadcaster that she was able to fit into our already established group with very little lead time. She felt like part of the team from the first minute in the recording studio.”
“It took me about 15 minutes to get in the groove,” Bathe adds. Because it's not just reporting, it's voice acting. So you have the producer saying, ‘Okay, now pretend you're in an arena and raise your voice a little bit.’ So, I think I'm yelling my line. He then says, ‘All right, now do that and turn it up 5 to 10 notches.’ I'm like, ‘Okay, so I'm gonna be screaming.’ It feels like I'm literally yelling, and then you hear it in the game and you're like, ‘That sounds totally normal behind crowd noise!”via @CarrlynBathe
Taking on Brady Tkachuk In NHL 21
Carrlyn Bathe has played the previous EA NHL games, but she’s not as acquainted with them as her husband. Still, that didn’t stop her from competing in EA Sports’ First Look Tournament for NHL 21, where she went head-to-head with Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk. Bathe had only played the regular versus mode up until that point, but for the tournament, she was forced to play Threes, a fast-paced, over-the-top arcade mode with pucks that can add to your goal total or subtract from your opponent’s. Bathe didn’t entirely know what she was in for. Here’s her complete (and hilarious) take on how this experience played out and why she’s happy she did it:
“Yeah, Brady Tkachuk beat the crap out of me,” Bathe says laughing. “So I had not been familiar with [Threes], and I was just getting destroyed. He scored a goal, and all of a sudden, three goes on the board. And I'm like, ‘What the hell? What do you mean, I have to catch up that much?”’ So then I feel like it drives even more competition out of you. So I'm just digging into this game, really trying, and I'm terrible. You have no idea. Like I'm so terrible. It was embarrassing, but in the most fun way, because I felt like at least I was showing people, ‘Hey, if you're at my level, this game is still fun.’ You can have fun getting your butt kicked. So I literally tried my hardest. I scored a goal. I go up on the board. And then little do I know that goal can get taken away in all this hard work. I was celebrating so hard. I'm so freakin pumped. And I don't know the rules, thinking, ‘Yeah, this one's got to stick!” Sure enough, I lost seven to nothing. I'm like, ‘Where's my effort?’ Brady's really good. He was really focused, and he loves playing the game. I know that much, and it definitely showed the hours that he puts in at least.”
The Start Of Something
Being the first professional voice in the game is an honor Bathe holds dearly and a role she hopes grows in the future. “It feels incredible,” she says. “And it also feels like the start of something bigger and feels like I will be the first of many. There have been a lot of male voices in this game, and it wasn't lost on me that you know, ‘Hey, a girl in here would be kind of cool.’ I am so grateful that they chose me. I'm so happy that I am able to have this platform and speak about this game and get people excited about video games as well. Because this to me, it literally is a tool that brings people into loving hockey.”
Bathe also knows the importance of being a visual female voice and what impact that can have on other women. She recalls how even though she grew up surrounded by hockey, doing her current job never occurred to her until she was 19 and saw television sports reporter Heidi Androl covering the Kings.” I thought, ‘I want that job and I will do everything in my journey to work toward it,’ she says. “And so I hope there's some girl that's just growing up right now that gets her hands on this game and goes, ‘Wow, I can do that one day.’”
Right now, Bathe only appears in Be A Pro mode, but both she and EA Vancouver seem keen on continuing to work together and potentially expand that role in the future. Her energy is infectious, and she adds a fresh dynamic, speaking to the fans’ perspective, so here’s hoping EA works to have her show up more in the series.via Twitch
When Bathe isn’t reporting what’s happening in the league and on the ice come game time, she’s focusing on her new hobby: streaming video games. Bathe started streaming in May, playing games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The pandemic actually caused her to discover her love for gaming, and she couldn’t be happier to share it with fans. In fact, she’s been playing NHL 21’s Be A Pro mode on her stream, as she wanted to share the special moment with her fans.
“I'm in my 30s,” she says. “It almost feels like, “Well, if I didn't get in on [gaming] when I was in my teens, did I miss the boat? If I didn't get on it in my 20s, is it too late now?’ During this time in our lives, I feel like it is absolutely not too late to pick up a controller, and it's crazy how it can bring friends together. I can keep in touch with family members through a headset and my controller and bond and have this time with them, even if we're that far apart. So it's serving as this vessel of a little bit of happiness, a little bit of escape, and creating connections with people that are however many thousands of miles away or a connection with yourself that you lost when you were a kid.”
Picture inviting snow-packed mountains, a continuously evolving Alaskan skyline, and the best canine companions a person could ever hope for. That's exactly what Timberline Studio's The Red Lantern has to offer with its immersive, story-driven, roguelite survival game. Even if survival games don’t typically draw you in, The Red Lantern offers a magic that supersedes the genre. The art style and narrative flow in a way that isn’t constrained necessarily by its mechanics or the usual bindings that survival games typically come with.
In this dogsledding adventure, you play as a woman who has abandoned city life to chase her dogsledding dreams into the Alaskan mountaintops. Through the beginning parts of the story, she visits several dogs, each with different personalities and unique skills that help later on. As a dog lover, going through each area to meet the different canine companions is too pure for this world, especially when learning the personality of each pup. Whether you're looking for a hunter to track down squirrels or just want a cuddle-bug that knows how to navigate the wilderness, each animal is created to feel real, which helps to form a bond between you and each dog for the adventure ahead.
The Red Lantern is a survival game, but you have less autonomy than you may expect. You have some agency in your dialogue choices and actions – choosing when to rest, when to feed your animals – but the game plays itself in a lot of ways. While you take to the slopes for sledding runs, you don't have direct control over your movement outside of base directional queues. Instead of feeling frustrating, this surrender of control makes the game feel therapeutic in a way that I find incredibly enjoyable. It allows you the freedom to enjoy the experience while taking in the beauty of the world at large without panicking or worrying about running your sled (and dogs) into a massive ditch somewhere. From the color palette changes to the subtle shifts in the passing scenery, this journey is aesthetically appealing right from the start, and the ability to sit back and enjoy it makes the limited movement worth it.Click here to watch embedded media
The survival aspect comes from natural progression and resource management. Dogsledding is hard work, and each trail marker passed means less energy for your canine pals leading the charge. You can rest in established campsites to recoup energy and playfully interact with each dog, leaning into their personalities. Barkley, for instance, is an extremely loyal and protective animal, which means extra pets should always go to that little cutie when given a chance.
Keeping an eye out on how many bullets are left is key for hunting and protection against wildlife, while med kits are crucial for any unforeseen injuries that may occur. A run may present you with opportunities to claim a supply drop or hunt an animal, but engaging in those off-trail actions expends more energy. The more energy depleted, the higher the danger is for both you and your animal companions, so keep an eye on those gauges in the corner of your screen.
The gauges for survival are easily accessible, and a constant reminder of your in-game mortality. While this new adventure into the Alaskan wilderness is beautiful, it’s far from safe, and not all of those dangers are external. The problem with this, however, is that sometimes it is easy to assume you have more time than you actually do, and that’s where the randomly generated content can either help or hurt the gameplay experience.
A lot of the interactions you see on the trail come down to luck, which adds another layer of thrill to survival. Food is a valuable resource and supplies are scarce, so your success can hinge on when you are given the opportunity to stock up again. My first failed run following that initial kick in the teeth was due to the fact that I tend to procrastinate. Much like I do in the real world with "I'll go to the next gas station to fill up my car," I often made this same choice in-game. That choice will sometimes pay off, but not always. And when it doesn't, that's another mission to flush down the drain. This aspect of The Red Lantern doesn't dominate the experience, but it does cause a lot of frustration, and the reliance on luck staunches the replayability potential.
Item management becomes easier as time goes on, but one piece of advice: Don't be afraid to fail. The first time taking to a trail with your gathered pups will, more than likely, end in failure due to the low number of supplies allocated at the start. Don't worry, this is a deliberate attempt to show off just how important management is in the game, so think of that first run as a tutorial and less as a reflection of your skill.
Click image thumbnails to view larger version
Another aspect of survival that is important to keep an eye on is the temperature. It's possible for you and the dogs to starve or even freeze to death. This makes awareness of any depletion absolutely vital for successful runs. At first, that thought overwhelmed me, and I found myself tracking each gauge obsessively in an effort to avoid any accidental deaths. Luckily, The Red Lantern does offer a feature in the main menu option that allows for the choice to make sure the dogs stay alive no matter what. This is a great addition from the studio for those like me that get a little squeamish with animal violence in games.
Overall, The Red Lantern is a stunning game that offers a juxtaposition of being both a calming experience and one that can inspire a level of anxiety due to the more randomized nature of the mechanics. Watching that meter drop and feeling hope drop down with it can sometimes feel like a punch to the gut, but eventually a rhythm is found and relaxing around a campfire with a full belly, a warm fire, and adorable furry friends more than makes up for those dips in euphoria.
Summary: Abandon city life and immerse yourself in the wilds of Alaska with a team of dogs that become family and your key to survival.
Concept: A woman abandons city life to venture into the Alaskan wilderness to pursue her dog sledding dreams
Graphics: The art style and colors provide an escapists-like quality without breaking the immersion of survival and exploration
Sound: Moving through the wilderness has a muted quality that is both peaceful and unnerving when expecting danger
Playability: Due to RNG mechanics, much of this game's success relies on luck, which can be frustrating at times
Entertainment: The Red Lantern isn't for thrill seekers, but it is a phenomenal handheld experience that is easy to get lost in
Replay: Moderately low
Dying Light is bringing back that Left 4 Dead 2 crossover goodness for Halloween again with Bill and Chompski showing Virals who is boss. The crossover event was met with praise when it debuted last year, which means now is the perfect time for Techland to bring it back.
The Left 4 Dead 2 crossover event in Dying Light is short, it starts today on October 27 and will run until October 29. In this event, players will see a massive increase in Virals as they battle it out through hordes of foes with each wave getting harder and harder as they come.Click here to watch embedded media
In the revival of the event, Techland offers a new playable character with William "Bill" Overbeck, a known Valve favorite, alongside the handy dandy Gnome Chompski weapon meant to shred the undead to pieces.
"Face hordes of enraged zombies in this extremely challenging game mode, and try to survive," says Techland about the game's returning crossover. "To make it a bit easier, and a lot more fun, you’ll be able to use a new type of shotgun ammo that gives the infected a taste of fire and brimstone. And remember – whenever you get tired of fighting off endless zombie hordes, you can turn the Viral Rush event off in the options menu."
The crossover event is free and is available for PC players. The DLC including the Valve nods will be available on console, though not the event itself, in a few weeks. An exact console date hasn't been revealed at this time.
Ready to rip and tear (wrong franchise) in Dying Light with the Left 4 Dead 2 crossover event? Sound off with that undead-killin' love in the comment section below!
Chris Metzen, former senior vice president of story and franchise at Blizzard Entertainment, is back in the game development ring. Warchief Gaming was a tabletop gaming club in Orange County, CA, but now it's going to be a development studio as well. Metzen is joined by Mike Gilmartin, former vice president of quality assurance at Blizzard, in this new adventure pursuing the development of tabletop games.Chris Metzen
This might be one of the worst times in recent history to be pushing tabletop products given the COVID-19 crisis, but hopefully things are way better on that front by the time Metzen's new adventure bears fruit.Mike Gilmartin
Warchief Gaming was originally a gaming club founded in 2018, but now it's going to be making games too. The original club intends to remain open and continue operations even as the development studio begins in earnest.
Check out the Warchief Gaming announcement video below!Click here to watch embedded media
Madden NFL 21 and Fifa 21 are headed to Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 on December 4, and using the EA dual entitlement system you can upgrade your game for free from current gen consoles. How does it work? Well, there's a big FAQ and assorted rules to read over on the official dual entitlement EA page, but the essence is that you can upgrade your game to the next gen version for free.
Buy Now. Get Next Gen Madden NFL 21 Free.— Madden NFL 21 (@EAMaddenNFL) October 27, 2020
Upgrade to PS5 or Xbox Series X/S for FREE*. And carry your MUT, Franchise modes, and Yard progress across generations.
*Conditions apply. pic.twitter.com/YTuWjjg0Lq
Certain types of progress are also slated to carry over in Fifa 21, including content in Fifa 21 Ultimate Team and VOLTA FOOTBALL. In Madden NFL 21, content from Madden NFL Ultimate Team, binder content, Madden Points, avatars, gear, and Madden Rank through The Yard all carry over.
The offer is good for a limited time, and the respective offers expire when Madden NFL 22 and Fifa 22 come out. For more details and information about dual entitlement, check out the official EA page.