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20th September 2017
The Three New Kingdoms Are A Blast To Explore

The Three New Kingdoms Are A Blast To Explore

Over the years, Nintendo has shown it isn't afraid to redefine what makes a Super Mario game. From Mario's ever-expanding power-up arsenal in the 2D games to the more extravagant 3D adventures like Galaxy and 3D World, we've seen the definition of what makes for a Super Mario game molded to fit new gameplay ideas. However, with Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo is stretching the gameplay of the core series further than what we saw with games like Sunshine, while keeping the D.N.A. of the series intact. I recently played through three new Kingdoms of Super Mario Odyssey to see how Nintendo is revolutionizing the series in unprecedented ways.

In Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo alters certain conventions fans have grown accustomed to. Things like the lives system are done away with, while the seemingly countless coins Mario snatches up suddenly have value beyond giving you a better score. With your coins, you buy new outfits that Mario can equip to not only change up Mario's look, but also give him access to certain areas. In a previous play session, I needed to fit a certain look in order to access the mariachi club in Sand Kingdom, so I bought a sombrero and a poncho and they let me in. These themes carried over in my latest session with Super Mario Odyssey as I checked out Cap Kingdom, the food-themed Luncheon Kingdom, and the beachy Seaside Kingdom.

After the opening cutscene where Bowser defeats Mario and takes Princess Peach away on his airship, Mario awakens in a dreary, colorless landscape populated by ghost-like hat creatures. One of these characters is named Cappy. Mario's sudden return to consciousness scares Cappy and he runs off. After a brief chase through the hilly landscape, Mario catches up to the horrified headgear. Cappy reveals that Bowser not only attacked Bonneton in the Cap Kingdom (destroying all of their ships in the process) but Mario's rival also stole away Cappy's sister. Cappy suggests the two join forces to take down Bowser and rescue the two hostages. Cappy combines with Mario's iconic cap, which was shredded in the aftermath of the earlier confrontation, to grant Mario new hat-based powers. Mario can throw his cap like a boomerang, use it as a trampoline to jump higher, and even pluck pegs out of the ground to open up new areas. The most important new mechanic Cappy's fusion with Mario's hat introduces, however, is the ability to "capture" creatures and unlock new abilities for Mario.

The first creature you capture is a frog, which allows you to jump comically high. However, the creatures you can possess only get more unique from there. Over the course of my playthrough, I captured everything from Goombas to fireballs. My favorite targets were found in Seaside Kingdom, as I grabbed control of a squid that can jet across the surface of the water and upward to reach new areas, as well as a cheep cheep, which let Mario breathe underwater and have more complete control in his swimming. The strangest thing I captured during my time with Super Mario Odyssey was a giant slab of meat in Luncheon Kingdom, which I then made flop around in some salt to bait a giant bird to take me up to its nest where I could jump out and collect a bundle of three power moons.

Power moons are the main objective of the game, similar to stars in Super Mario 64. Using these moons, Mario powers his hat-shaped ship, The Odyssey, to reach new Kingdoms. Power moons can be found throughout the entire world, often where you least expect them. Sometimes they're out in the open and yours for the taking, while other objectives are a bit more abstract in how you acquire them.

With power moons, gold coins, Kingdom-specific purple coins, and more scattered throughout each area, exploration is paramount in Super Mario Odyssey. While I completed the main objectives in each Kingdom and claimed those rewards, I also found several other power moons along the way. For example, in Luncheon Kingdom, I found multiple power moons by doing everything from smashing a nearby box to finding a secret entrance and capturing a fireball to swim through boiling stew that required me to jump from puddle to puddle in difficult "platforming" sequences.

Though Luncheon Kingdom delivered the most surprises, my favorite Kingdom I explored was Seaside. Not only did this area give me the most fun creatures to capture with the aforementioned squids and cheep cheeps, but the underwater depths seem to house untold secrets. I also enjoyed tossing Cappy at an exotic flower growing in the region, which attached a rocket to the back of Mario's cap, allowing him to temporarily sprint across the water's surface. After completing the main objective of collecting four power moons to open up the region's famous fountains and knock an octopus who has been slurping up the Kingdom's carbonated water off of his pedestal.

Unfortunately, now the octopus is angry. Fortunately, this boss battle ends up being the most fun part of my time with Odyssey. The octopus is content with staying in the water, so Mario can't take him on as-is. Instead, I capture a nearby squid, which is much more well equipped to take on the behemoth. The action intensifies the longer the battle goes on, with the spiked seashells he leaves in the water eventually giving way to spiral shells he shoots like missiles. The intense confrontation was fun to play and left me wanting more as my play session came to a close.

I was initially skeptical of the direction of the game, but each time I play Super Mario Odyssey, I'm more on board with the new, bizarre concepts at play. Capturing opens up so many new ideas for gameplay and world design, and the distinct areas I've explored to this point have kept me engaged even beyond the time I've had to play in them. I've left my previous demos with Odyssey wondering what secrets I missed and how else the game will surprise me when it finally comes out, and this time was no different.

Super Mario Odyssey hits Switch on October 27. To see a highlight reel of my time with Super Mario Odyssey, head to our video feature.

19th September 2017
Free Day One DLC Adds Shadow As Playable Character

Free Day One DLC Adds Shadow As Playable Character

Sonic Forces pulls out all the stops with the enemies that Sonic and his crew must take on. From staples like Eggman and Metal Sonic to the return of fan-favorite Chaos and the newly introduced Infinite, the baddies have multiplied, while the number of playable characters has shrunk. Sonic Forces puts you in control of just three characters: Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic, and whatever custom character you come up with. However, through newly announced day one DLC that is free to anyone who buys the game, players can also play as Shadow.

The Episode Shadow add-on is available to players beginning launch day. The DLC focuses on the backstory between Shadow and the new antagonist, Infinite. Episode Shadow adds three stages for Shadow, as well as the ability to replay over 10 Sonic Forces stages as Shadow. In addition, if you get the Digital Bonus Edition (which retails for $39.99), you get a Shadow costume for your custom character. The Digital Bonus Edition also includes the Sega/Atlus Pack add-on, which gives your custom character in-game outfit items and accessories to make your character look like five other characters from Sega and Atlus games.

Earlier this year, when I spoke with head of Sonic Team, Takashi Iizuka, about the addition of custom characters, he said that the philosophy the team has had with adding new characters was that they were fine as long as they still delivered the sense of speed they've found that players typically want. "It's kind of a merging of all the fun things of Sonic with the variety of a different character without going to the extreme of not having the Sonic elements or not having the variety," he said. Shadow's inclusion seems to play into that core philosophy, as he retains the speed that has made him such a fun equal to Sonic since his introduction in Sonic Adventure 2.

I played through one level from Episode Shadow, and it was as challenging as anything I've played in any of my sessions to this point. You can see video of the level I played through below.

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Sonic Forces launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on November 7.

14th September 2017
Latest Trailer Reveals Villainous Shadow Organization

Latest Trailer Reveals Villainous Shadow Organization

Assassin's Creed Origins may take place before the era-spanning clash between the Assassins and Templars kicks off, but that doesn't mean it's lacking in evil shadow organizations. 

The latest trailer introduces us to The Order of the Ancients, a power-hungry clandestine group that controls the Pharaoh and seek to unlock the mysterious power of the ancient gods. Remind you of anyone? They also rock some pretty intimidating and bad-ass masks. 

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To learn more about what's at stake in Assassin's Creed Origins, visit our coverage hub for in-depth discussions about gameplay systems, ancient Egypt, and the protagonist Bayek. 

Assassin's Creed Origins releases on October 21 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. 

14th September 2017
Dishonored: Death Of The Outsider Presents The Impossible Mission

Dishonored: Death Of The Outsider Presents The Impossible Mission

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider comes out tomorrow, September 15 (PS4, Xbox One, and PC), and tasks new character Billie Lurk with perhaps the series' hardest mission: kill The Outsider.

Lurk reunites with her mentor Daud and heads to Karnaca from Dishonored 2, with new supernatural abilities, weapons, and gear at her disposal.

For more on the standalone game, check out this previous gameplay trailer and read creator Harvey Smith's thoughts on the matter.

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12th September 2017
Latest Trailer Shows Mind-Bending Horror In A Broken World

Latest Trailer Shows Mind-Bending Horror In A Broken World

Bethesda has released a new gameplay trailer for The Evil Within 2, which shows off some of the bizarre horror that Sebastian Castellanos faces. As you can see in the video, not even the ground beneath his feet can be trusted.

Castellanos is searching for his daughter, Lily, whose brain is being used to power a new version of the STEM simulation. This time, he is stuck in a crumbling town called Union. He's not alone, either. 

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For more on The Evil Within 2, take a look at our extensive hands-on preview. The game is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on October 13.

10th September 2017
Pre-Order Bonuses Include Costumes For Thor, Hulk, And More

Pre-Order Bonuses Include Costumes For Thor, Hulk, And More

A new trailer for the upcoming Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite shows off some pre-order bonus costumes for characters like Thor, Ryu, Hulk, and Mega Man X. As long as you buy the game before it hits on September 19, you can get some extra costumes.

The Warrior Thor and Evil Ryu costumes come with the standard edition pre-order (priced $59.99), whereas Gladiator Hulk and Command Mission X are included in the Deluxe Edition ($89.99).

Watch the teaser below to see these costumed characters in action.

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For more on Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite, read our five big takeaways from playing hands-on as well as another trailer here.

9th September 2017
An In-Depth Look At The Upcoming Zelda-Inspired Action Adventure Game

An In-Depth Look At The Upcoming Zelda-Inspired Action Adventure Game

In a recent dev diary from Runic Games, the team gives an inside look at Hob, and an overview of how upgrading and forging swords will work in the game.

Hob is an action adventure game with a beautiful art style, with gameplay reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda series. "When we first started working on Hob, we knew we wanted the world to be this really mysterious thing," says studio head Marsh Lefter in the video. "But we always have this story in the back on our mind. So whatever we do, we always try to integrate those two things into what you see in the game."

Watch the dev diary video below.

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For more on Hob, watch our video about why we're looking forward to it as well as check out our hands-on impressions.

7th September 2017
Latest Dev Diary Sheds Light On How The Game's Thrilling Encounters Are Built

Latest Dev Diary Sheds Light On How The Game’s Thrilling Encounters Are Built

Crytek's upcoming title Hunt: Showdown is a curious blend of survival horror, shooter, and plain-old survival game set in a gothic-horror version of the wild west. And, as we've written about before, it works. Today, we've got an exclusive first look at the studio's third developer diary, which sheds light on the game's development – in more ways than one.

The video below shows off an under-the-hood view of the game's development, with members of the team showing the tools they're using to create encounters that are different every time players jump in. You can also see a level set during the daytime, which is a departure from the night-in-the-woods sections that we've seen and played so far.

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Be sure to check out the other dev diaries, too. The first one provides a nice introduction to the game, and the second video highlights Hunt: Showdown's old-west arsenal.

6th September 2017
Take A Look At Billie's Arsenal

Take A Look At Billie’s Arsenal

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is a standalone expansion to Dishonored 2, which means it can make some big changes. Chief among them is the introduction of Billie Lurk as a playable character, which means players will have a whole new array of powers to play around with.

Below, you'll find a breakdown of the character's arsenal. New tricks include a new kind of teleport ability (in which Billie leaves a marker she can leave behind and teleport to), and a long-ranged slash that can dispatch foes from afar.

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