Tag Archives: polygon

Google’s Stadia will let you jump into a game in seconds straight from YouTube

Google’s Game Developers Conference keynote today pulled the curtain back on Stadia, a service that allows anyone to play new video games by streaming them over the internet. According to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the ambition was to “build a gaming platform for everyone,” which means no barriers — including hardware.

The idea is wild: Google Vice President Phil Harrison took to the stage and showed how players will be able to load up a YouTube trailer. At the end of an official trailer, you might see a button that says “Play Now,” and pressing it will launch you straight into whatever game you were watching within seconds. You’ll be able to play straight from the browser itself. According to Google, the YouTube integration will also allow for real-time streaming at 4K and 60 frames-per-second, eventually allowing for 120 FPS at 8k.

To show it off, Harrison said they intentionally bought the lowest-end PC possible — meaning that as long as you have an internet connection, you’ll be able to play modern video games without hitches. Stadia will reportedly work on nearly anything from phones to tablets, and Chromebooks.

Source: Polygon.com

Here’s your first look at Google’s gaming controller

Google’s foray into the gaming world, Google Stadia, depends on an ambitious plan to let nearly any ordinary device stream modern video games. To go along with this Stadia announcement, Google also revealed a specialized controller at the Game Developers Conference this year that will help players direct their streaming experiences. Here’s what you can expect.

The controller, while fancy, is not actually necessary to enjoy Google’s gaming experience — players can also hook up whatever peripheral they’d like via USB or Bluetooth. However, the Google controller will let players to perform stream-specific tasks with the touch of a button, making it a smart choice of anyone picking up Stadia.

For example, you’ll be able to press a button to receive help from the developers. There’s also a button that allows for easy capture and sharing with friends. Otherwise, the controller is what you’d expect from a device of this kind: there’s a D-pad, joysticks, face buttons, and shoulder buttons. The controller will connect to the cloud via Wi-Fi.

Google has been gearing up to reveal its gaming plans for a while now. Beyond poaching top video game talent from various studios, the tech company has also been testing out Project Stream, a browser-based service that allowed players enjoy titles such as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey without needing high-end hardware.

Google Stadia Controller in white, black, and sky blue Google

Source: Polygon.com

Apex Legends’ season 1 patch adjusts the game’s biggest hitboxes

Apex Legends’ first season has begun, and alongside the battle pass and a new character, there’s also a patch that fixes a few bugs.

The main goal of this patch, according to developer Respawn Entertainment, was to better balance the Legends, specifically to make up for the characters’ various hitbox sizes. Pathfinder, Gibraltar, and Caustic all got smaller hitboxes in the patch which should help them compete with other Legends a little easier.

The other changes coming with the first season one patch are mostly focused on quality of life changes and bug fixes. Some of these changes including updates to the UI and sound systems in the game. Another important change is the addition of the “Report a Player” feature that can help players identify players cheating or using hateful speech in game.

The patch also made a few changes to Apex Legends’ weapons as well.

For a look at everything that changed in this patch you can look at the full Apex Legends 1.0 patch notes below.


  • Added Battle Pass tab to Lobby.
  • Cost: 950 Apex Coins
  • Earn over 100 unique items throughout the season – everything you snag before the season is over is yours to keep.
  • Updated dashboard images for Season 1 on PC and Xbox [PS4 is on the way!]
  • Updated Main Menu with new Season 1 art.
  • Updated the Lobby visuals for Season 1.
  • Updated Apex Legends site FAQ with info on Battle Pass.


  • Get the Battle Pass, plus unlock your next 25 levels for Season 1 instantly.
  • Cost: 2,800 Apex Coins.


Everyone that plays Apex Legends during Season 1 can earn the following rewards:

  • 1 Wild Frontier Legend Skin
  • 5 Apex Packs
  • 18 Wild Frontier themed Stat Trackers

Passive: Swift Mend

  • While not taking damage, Octane restores 1 health every 2 seconds.

Tactical: Stim

  • Move 30% faster for 6 seconds. Costs health to use. While active, Octane is affected less by attacks that cause slowdown. 2 second recharge.

Ultimate: Launch Pad

  • Deployable jump pad that catapults players through the air. Takes 90 seconds to recharge.


  • 12,000 Legend Tokens
  • 750 Apex Coins

Improved stability for various GPU configurations.

Capped PC FPS to 300 to balance improving stability but still letting you folks enjoy those sweet frames.

Addressed issue with PS4 crashes due to running out of memory.

Introducing better reporting when Apex crashes on PC without error message.

We really want to fix any crashes people happen to get on PC. We also respect our player’s privacy. So, if the PC game crashes, it will write “apex_crash.txt” to your “Documents” folder. This tiny file is plain text, so you can easily see for yourself that it has no personal information. If you choose to share this file with us, it will tell us whether the crash was in Apex or in third party software. If the crash was in Apex, our programmers can use the information to find and fix it. If you experience a crash, please include this file when you report.

We protect your personal information.

You can easily see everything in the file yourself; we have no secrets.

You’re in control of whether we ever see the file.

Added Report a Player feature for cheating and abuse on PC.

  • Players can now report cheaters they encounter in-game and it’ll be sent directly to Easy Anti-Cheat. You can do this from either the spectate view after dying or when looking at your team’s Banner Cards in the Squad tab.
  • We have lots of other work going on behind the scenes and this remains high priority for us. We won’t be able to share many specifics of what we’re doing but we’ll strive to provide updates on progress for the things we can talk about.
  • As I’m finishing the notes this morning, 499,937 accounts and counting have been banned for cheating.
  • Speed hacking: We do currently have anti-speed hacking in Apex Legends, but it’s not being as effective as intended due to a bug that we believe we’ve identified and will be addressing in our next server update. Will provide ETA for it when I have it. Working to get it out ASAP.

Added Report a Player for abuse on Consoles

  • You can report players from the spectate view after dying or when looking at your team’s Banner Cards in the Squad tab.

Optimized skydiving to improve overall server performance.

Fixed bug where sometimes the client could crash when opening Apex Packs one right after the other.

Added “Swap LT/RT & LB/RB” / “Swap L1/R1 & L2/R2”) toggle in the Controller Button Layout settings.

  • Lets you quickly swap what your bumpers & triggers are set to, with any controller preset.

Added “Sprint View Shake” setting under the Video tab.

  • Setting this to “Minimal” can be especially helpful for players susceptible to motion sickness.

Added “Trigger Deadzones” setting under the Controller tab.

  • Customize how far you want to pull the triggers before they register.

Added “Advanced Look Controls” settings submenu under the Controller tab.

  • Fine-tune specific aspects of the look controls for a custom feel; such as Deadzone, Response Curve, Target Compensation (aim assist), and more.

When you relinquish the Jumpmaster position to another player you will now hear your Legend’s VO line in addition to the new Jumpmaster. The third player won’t hear it though.

Pathfinder grapple: updated icon

Pathfinder grapple: added indicator near crosshair to show when player is in range of grapple-able geo

Improved mantling from a grapple point.

Pathfinder can now grapple ziplines.

We’ve added D-pad navigation as a convenience in most of the menus. Our hope is this will speed up browsing and improve accessibility.

UI improvements to the KO Shield

  • Shield bar drains to indicate the remaining health of the shield.
  • When you have a Gold KO Shield and are down, we’ve added an effect to the label that reminds you that you can self revive.

We saw that the Ring indicator that appears when players are viewing the whole map wasn’t accurately showing the player’s position so we fixed that.

Character animations while taking damage now accurately reflect the direction the damage is coming from.

Fixed a bug where occluded sounds would sometimes sound unoccluded.

Patched up some issues with missing geo on Kings Canyon and fixed a few spots where players were getting stuck.

Fixed a script error that could happen when removing attachments on holstered weapons.

General polish to game UI fixing some grammar issues, improved navigation, and composition of elements.

Fixed PC users constantly switching weapons while scrolling through items in a Death Box.

Fixed issue where we were seeing server stability issues sometimes caused by purchasing items while matchmaking.

Fixed script errors that could occur during the skydive.

Reduced skybox fog.

Adjusted the code for Supply Bins so they are less likely to kill players. If you do still get killed by one please let us know!

Made it so push-to-talk is no longer on when a chat box is active.

LT/RT no longer switches between players in spectator mode while the map is open.

Updated the minimap to more accurately reflect the geo and points of interest on the main map.

Adding sound FX to the UI for the key binding menu.

Fixed issue where a player’s name would not show up when they send a message that reached the character limit.

Fixed bug where sometimes the Champion screen resolution would be stretched in widescreen resolutions.

Fixed audio bug where sometimes the zipline sounds FX would keep playing after disembarking.

Added accessibility option to modify the subtitle size.

Improvements / fixes for color blind players:

  • Added better color blind support for Blood Hound’s Threat Vision.
  • Colorblind colors per setting are now displayed in the settings menu.
  • Colorblind settings moved from Video Settings to Gameplay->Accessibility. They are now applied on the fly.
  • Enemy pings now use proper enemy color instead of only using red.


  • Turned down volume when Wraith activates a portal.
  • Turned down the end sounds on the Peacekeeper charged shot.
  • Turned down the draw/holster sound slightly for thermite grenades.

  • Adjusted hitboxes for Gibraltar, Caustic, and Pathfinder to better align with their shapes.

  • Fixed players being able to shortcut weapon swap by changing stance
  • Fixed players being able to shortcut Peacekeeper rechamber sequence
  • Fixed inaccurate auto ranging fullscreen (sniper) optics when base FOV is not set to default
  • Spitfire: fixed ADS view on Legendaries partially obscured by custom geo. (The Continuum, The Heavy Construct)
  • Fixed ADS view being blocked when using Caustic legendary skins with certain weapon/ optic combos
  • Digital threat optics: threat highlights are now more visible (slightly brighter; no longer affected by TSAA)
  • Fixed bug where Devotion audio sometimes wouldn’t accurately reflect rate of fire.

  • Fixed rare issue where a player could get stuck on the drop ship and be invulnerable.
  • Patched up the hole we found in Gibraltar’s shield.
  • Fixed issue where Lifeline’s revive shield wouldn’t stay put while on a moving platform.
  • Fixed issue where sometimes players would get stuck in map geometry while skydiving from the dropship or Jump Towers.
  • Fixed bug where players could still shoot even after being downed.
  • Fixed bug where occasionally Lifeline’s D.O.C. drone would stay connected to a player but not heal them.
  • Limited the amount of Lifeline’s D.O.C. drones that can connect to a player to 2.
  • Fixed Pathfinder’s zipline not deploying when jumping.
  • Fixed a bug with the HUD where sometimes the Heal Bar would stay up if the heal was cancelled right after it was started.
  • Fixed a bug where sometimes the audio would continue to play sound FX for the Knockdown Shield even after it’s been destroyed.
  • Fixed issue where sometimes players could get disconnected when unplugging their controller during a game.
  • Fixed the exploit where you could do infinite wallclimb using Pathfinder’s Grapple.
  • Fixed bug where sometimes you couldn’t fire the Peacekeeper after riding a zip line.
  • Fixed issue where sometimes the skybox fog would not appear while spectating after you died.
  • Fixed bug where Banner Cards would show through walls occasionally when viewed through a very high FOV.
  • Fixed some odd light flickering that was happening on the ballon flags attached to Jump Towers.
  • Fixed bug where sometimes a player’s Banner Card would not show up after character select.

  • Red lights during banner transitions.
  • While skydiving colors will tune to the color of your smoke trail.
  • Picking up loot.
  • Opening Apex Packs
  • Firing and taking damage.
  • Colors that flash when your Ultimate is ready.
  • And more!

Source: Polygon.com

Google Stadia is the new streaming gaming platform from Google

Google announced Stadia, a new cloud-based gaming platform, at its GDC 2019 keynote Tuesday morning. It’s a major move for Google into the video game business, which is increasingly building toward streaming as a solution.

Stadia is not a dedicated console or set-top box. The platform will be accessible over the internet on a variety of platforms: browsers, computers, TVs, and mobile devices. In an onstage demonstration of Stadia, Google showed someone playing a game on a Chromebook, then playing it on a phone, then immediately playing it on PC, picking up where the game left off in real time.

Stadia can stream games in 60 fps, with HDR and 4K resolution, said Google’s Majd Bakar. In the future, Bakar said, Stadia will achieve resolutions up to 8K and frame rates up to 120 fps. Google showed AAA games like Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and id Software Doom Eternal running on Stadia.

Google will have a hardware component, however: the Stadia Controller. It’s a traditional looking gamepad, with dual analog joysticks, four face buttons, and shoulder buttons. The controller will connect to the cloud via wi-fi, and includes a “share” button to connect to YouTube and a Google Assistant button.

Stadia will be powered by Google’s worldwide data centers, which live in more than 200 countries and territories, streamed over hundreds of millions of miles of fiber optic cable, Pichai said. Executive Phil Harrison, previously at PlayStation and Xbox, now at Google, said the company will give developers access to its data centers to bring games to Stadia.

Harrison said that players will be able to access and play Stadia games, like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, within seconds. Harrison showed a YouTube video of Odyssey featuring a “Play” button that would offer near-instant access to the game.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the new platform at the Game Developers Conference, saying that Google want to build a gaming platform for everyone, and break down barriers to access for high-end games.

Google offered a glimpse of its new gaming initiative in 2018 with the public test of Project Stream, a technology that made it possible to stream Assassin’s Creed Odyssey through its Chrome web browser.

Source: Polygon.com

Google’s gaming service and hardware announcement, keynote, and details

Everything you need to know about Google’s new gaming-related announcement

Today at the 2019 Game Developers Conference, Google will announce a brand new gaming-related project. Details from the keynote are incoming; we’ll update this storystream as Google reveals more information.

Today’s keynote will offer what Google calls its “vision for the future of gaming.” While more details are still to be seen, we do know that Google unveiled Project Stream last year, a tech demo that made it possible to stream Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey through a Google Chrome browser.

We also know that Google is reportedly working on a “a subscription-based game streaming service that could work either on Google’s Chromecast or possibly a Google-made console,” according to a report from The Information. That project is reportedly codenamed “Yeti.”

Source: Polygon.com

Stadia: Google’s gaming service and hardware announcement, keynote, and details

Everything you need to know about Google’s new gaming-related announcement

Today at the 2019 Game Developers Conference, Google will announce a brand new gaming-related project. Details from the keynote are incoming; we’ll update this storystream as Google reveals more information.

Today’s keynote will offer what Google calls its “vision for the future of gaming.” While more details are still to be seen, we do know that Google unveiled Project Stream last year, a tech demo that made it possible to stream Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey through a Google Chrome browser.

We also know that Google is reportedly working on a “a subscription-based game streaming service that could work either on Google’s Chromecast or possibly a Google-made console,” according to a report from The Information. That project is reportedly codenamed “Yeti.”

Source: Polygon.com

Google GDC keynote: watch it here

Google is making a big splash at the annual Game Developers Conference today. The company plans to make a major gaming-related announcement at its GDC 2019 keynote on Tuesday, March 19. The event kicks off at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET, and you can watch it live on YouTube.

Today’s keynote will offer what Google calls its “vision for the future of gaming.” Whatever it’s working on, it’s clear that streaming — specifically cloud-based gaming — will be a big part of it. Google unveiled Project Stream last year, a tech demo that made it possible to stream Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey through a Google Chrome browser. That demo was an impressive proof of concept, and showed that Google can realistically stream AAA video games over the internet, without the need for a dedicated console or high-end consumer hardware.

But Google is also reportedly working on some sort of hardware component for its gaming initiative. The Information reported last year that Google was developing “a subscription-based game streaming service that could work either on Google’s Chromecast or possibly a Google-made console.”

At GDC, Google is signaling that some sort of console-like hardware will be on hand. Outside of the convention center, the company set up a mini outdoor museum with a handful of consoles (Sega Dreamcast, Atari Pong) and gaming peripherals (NES Power Glove, Game Boy) next to a display featuring what appears to be a logo for the new gaming initiative. Google has also filed a patent for its own video game controller, albeit a rather basic looking gamepad.

Google has recently made some big hiring moves to bolster in-house game development. Over the past few years, the company has hired former Xbox and PlayStation executive Phil Harrison; former Ubisoft and EA studio head Jade Raymond; former PlayStation hardware research fellow Richard Marks; and former PlayStation Home and PlayStation Now director Jack Buser.

Whatever Google has planned, it’s entering an increasingly crowded streaming gaming market: Microsoft plans to give consumers a taste of its cloud gaming platform, dubbed Project xCloud, later this year; Valve recently upgraded its Steam Link platform to allow streaming of Steam games over the internet; and Amazon is also reportedly trying to get into the cloud gaming space.

Source: Polygon.com

They’re making a Die Hard board game

The classic action film Die Hard is being turned into a board game. Titled Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game, publishers at OP Games (aka USAopoly) tell Polygon that it will be a one-versus-many asymmetric experience. More information will be released prior to the launch this spring.

Die Hard’s influence over the action-thriller genre is staggering, so we were beyond excited for the opportunity to harness the movie’s expert blend of action, intelligence and drama into a unique tabletop experience,” said Pat Marino, lead game designer for OP, today in a press release. “We are developing a game that will deeply resonate with Die Hard enthusiasts, incorporating even the slightest details to create a rich and entertaining experience that properly pays tribute to arguably the greatest action movie of all time.”

A mockup of the box art for Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game.
A mockup of the box art for Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game.
OP Games

OP, which is best known for creating licensed versions of classic games like Monopoly, Clue, and Risk, has been on a bit of a hot streak lately. The publisher has found success by diving deep into the hobby games space to bring obscure titles out at big box chains. Its catalogue includes Telestrations, the 2009 party game that combines the folk game of telephone with Pictionary, and licensed versions of Codenames, the hit card-based deduction game by Vlaada Chvátil.

OP also recently picked up rights to create games based on the classic Talisman franchise, created by Games Workshop. The first title in that line is called Talisman: Kingdom Hearts Edition, and will retell the story of the original video game on the tabletop.

Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game appears to be an entirely new tabletop game, developed internally at OP. It will be available this spring at select retailers. No price point was announced.

Source: Polygon.com

The complete ranking of the Metroid series

Today in Japan 25 years ago, Nintendo gave the world one of its most influential creations: Super Metroid. Highly regarded by fans, constantly imitated by game developers, Super Metroid has even been called the greatest game of all time. To commemorate the anniversary of this landmark work, I recently stepped back to consider the entirety of the Metroid franchise and rank the games from worst to best.

Sure, Super Metroid was the high point of the series back in 1994 — but there have been nearly a dozen other Metroid games since then. Does it still hold that vaunted title? And if not, which Metroid adventure has dethroned it? Read on.

Metroid: Other M

14. Metroid: Other M

(Wii, 2010)

Scraping the dead-last barrel-bottom of the Metroid franchise, we have the massively disappointing Metroid: Other M. It’s not actually a bad game, but it’s a devastatingly awful excuse for a Metroid sequel. Had Nintendo shipped this under an unrelated title (something like … “Robo-Lady’s Surly Shooting Adventure in Space”), it would have been fine. But as an attempt to revitalize a beloved franchise, it demonstrated a shocking failure to capture what actually draws fans to the series.

Other M transforms Metroid into a highly linear, fast-paced shooter with few opportunities for real exploration, no sense of freedom, and a painfully contrived character progression gimmick. There’s no looking to the plotline to redeem the game, either. As an action game built around quick reflexes and evasion, the game has its charms, yet the story is irredeemable. It casually reduces heroine Samus Aran from the stoic, hyper-competent warrior fans love to a bratty, timid girl-child. Other M turned out to be such a massive misfire and a flop with fans that it practically killed the series: Nintendo’s only Metroid output in the decade since has been a single spinoff and a lone remake.

Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt

13. Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt

(Nintendo DS, 2004)

Once upon a time, video game systems shipped with games packed in. Nintendo DS did not. Instead, it shipped with a tiny demo of a Metroid game that wouldn’t arrive for another year and a half. A pared-down version of Metroid Prime Hunters, First Hunt consists of three tiny, bite-sized scenarios set in environments drawn from the final game. It’s a tutorial-teaser for Hunters rather than an actual game in its own right. It’s decent enough, but there’s almost no substance to it.

Metroid Prime Hunters

12. Metroid Prime Hunters

(Nintendo DS, 2006)

Nintendo made a big deal about Metroid Prime not being a “first-person shooter.” This was partially to assuage the fears of fans who assumed the series was going to transforms into a mindless run-and-gun game, and partially because, well, Prime actually didn’t focus much on shooting. Hunters, on the other hand, was precisely the kind of game that everyone expected the Prime titles to be before they played them. Players take control of Samus in a single-player campaign or play as one of several different bounty hunters in a head-to-head competitive mode, running around claustrophobic alien environments and attempting to gun down as many other rivals as possible.

It’s fine for what it is. However, “what it is” turned out to be a generic multiplayer shooter wearing Metroid clothing, running on a woefully underpowered handheld system, centered around the use of a clumsy virtual touch-screen control pad. Hunters is basically a smartphone spinoff that shipped several years before such things even existed. Points for prescience, then, but none for giving players a proper, classic Metroid game for DS.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force

11. Metroid Prime: Federation Force

(Nintendo 3DS, 2016)

Much like Metroid: Other M, Federation Force represents above all else a tremendous failure by Nintendo to read the proverbial room. Metroid fans were desperate for a new game in 2016, having gone six years without a follow-up to rectify the wrongs of Other M. But Federation Force absolutely wasn’t that redeemer. Rather than further the tale of Samus Aran in a sprawling solo adventure, it instead centered on a team of generic space marines in a mission-based multiplayer shooter … on 3DS, of all systems. It also has a somewhat goofy visual style that speaks to a younger audience than the hardened veterans who love Metroid most. Nintendo presumably hoped to draw in a younger audience, but the end result was a game that spoke to no one.

Yet weird and misguided as its basic pretext for existence may be, Federation Force isn’t bad! It looks great considering the platform, and it offers a variety of mission objectives along with some excellent first-person team-based combat. Its biggest shortcomings come from the fact that its difficulty and design don’t scale based on the number of active players, and from that its big end-game twist revolves around an extraordinarily dopey plot development involving Samus. Flawed but fun, Federation Force feels like it could have led to better things if Nintendo had targeted it a bit more carefully.

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

10. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

(GameCube, 2004)

Samus’ second outing in 3D abandons much of the cohesion and sense of purpose that drove its predecessor. The original Prime suffered from what were ultimately fairly forgivable issues, but Echoes exacerbated all of those issues and threw in problems of its own making on top.

Echoes revolves around a duality-based gimmick that might work on paper but falls flat in practice. Here, players have to navigate a world divided into dark and light zones, a concept that defines every last inch of the game. Venturing into the dark world drains Samus’ energy, and certain creatures within each realm can only be destroyed with specific expendable ammunition. Things do become less punishing toward the end of the game, as Samus finds tools to help mitigate the effects of shifting universes, but the journey to reaching that point is so exhausting most players never get there. It doesn’t help that Echoes is probably the single most challenging Metroid game ever made even without the reality-shifting elements, with some of the trickiest bosses in the entire franchise to conquer. Taxing, tiring, and tedious throughout most of its running length, Echoes is one of those sequels that demonstrates the “difficult second album” phenomenon in action.

Metroid Prime Pinball

9. Metroid Prime Pinball

(Nintendo DS, 2005)

Samus Aran’s only outing on Nintendo DS besides Hunters and First Hunt turned out to be even less of a traditional Metroid game than those two. In fact, it was so far removed from the platonic ideal of “Metroid” that it stands up a lot better to scrutiny. Metroid Prime Pinball continues a long-running tradition of Nintendo franchises spinning off into handheld pinball sims, which have ranged from brilliant (Pokémon Pinball) to weirdly disappointing (Mario Pinball Land). Prime Pinball a pretty fun take on the venerable arcade pastime, and it even almost kind of makes sense within the context of Metroid; after all, one of Samus’s trademark powers is the ability to duck into a “morph ball” form and roll around, right?

Metroid Prime Pinball makes great use of the Nintendo DS, too, as the system’s evenly sized dual screens allow players to enjoy playing on a full vertical table without the need to scroll or flip between screens. The game does have a fairly ugly look to it, lacking the trademark luminosity and vivid colors that made the Prime games so delightful to play, but it incorporate the motifs and themes of Metroid Prime effectively all the way down to the inevitable pinball-based boss fights. An odd excursion, but an enjoyable one.

Metroid II: Return of Samus

8. Metroid II: Return of Samus

(Game Boy, 1992)

Metroid’s first sequel immediately took the series in an unexpected direction: Onto a handheld platform with less horsepower than the system that hosted the original. Still, no one knew the Game Boy’s strengths and weaknesses like Nintendo’s R&D1 division — the creators of both the Metroid series and the Game Boy hardware — so the pairing turned out to be a forward step for Samus Aran regardless.

Metroid II did a great deal to flesh out the series’ universe, exploring the origins and evolution of the eponymous space monsters, and its minimalist narrative set the stage for the magnificent Super Metroid. That said, Return of Samus does suffer from a few notable issues. Samus looks great, but she’s huge on the tiny Game Boy screen, and the chunky proportions of the graphics crowd the action and hamper exploration. Planet SR-388 also isn’t nearly as thoughtfully structured as other settings that have appeared throughout the Metroid franchise, and the monochrome graphics make the corridors both confusing and repetitive. It’s a remarkable feat of a Game Boy game, but it nevertheless stands as the weakest of the core Metroid titles.

Metroid Prime 3

7. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

(Wii, 2007)

The finale of the initial Metroid Prime trilogy wrapped on a slightly less frustrating note than Echoes. Corruption took a dramatically different approach to the classic Metroid structure, breaking Samus’ adventure into a series of discrete environments spread across multiple planets — similar to Fusion’s standalone space station sectors, but without that game’s opportunities for unexpected intersections and the satisfying discovery of secret passageways connecting the different areas.

Corruption’s approach mostly works, though spreading the quest across so many disparate settings does strain the plausibility of the numerous navigation puzzles. Thankfully, Corruption manages to maintain a brisk enough pace that you rarely have time to sit down and contemplate its more inane moments. Samus finds herself constantly racing against (and often battling) some of her rival bounty hunters and even teaming up with the Galactic Federation to deal with a steady stream of sci-fi threats. It’s the franchise’s first proper attempt to combine the trademark Metroid style with the fast-paced action of other sci-fi shooter franchises, and the effort pans out a lot better here than it does a few years later in Other M.


6. Metroid

(Famicom Disk System/NES, 1986/1987)

At launch, the original Metroid was Nintendo’s biggest, boldest take on the newly-forged platform shooter genre. By modern standards, it’s far from a perfect experience. But it nevertheless holds up to the ravages of time thanks to the enormous care with which its tiny team constructed the whole thing. Certainly Metroid suffers from opaque objectives and critical paths that tend to be hidden a little too efficiently within its secretive walls and floors. The limited visuals and stark backgrounds can make it tough to keep track of Samus’s precise whereabouts at any given time. You need to spend a little too much grinding on enemies to top off Samus’ health. The fussy password system turns the process of recording data into a grade school handwriting text. Minor frustrations abound here.

To balance out these complaints, the original Metroid presents you with a sprawling, open-ended world and the incredible abilities you need to conquer it. Here we see one of Nintendo’s greatest achievements: Samus’ tools double as weapons, so that as she grows more powerful she also gains the ability to traverse more of the world. This creates a brilliant, addictive gameplay loop. Oh, and the big plot twist at the end, the one where legendary top-tier armored bounty hunter Samus Aran turns out to be a lady? That holds up pretty well these days, too.

Metroid: Samus Returns

5. Metroid: Samus Returns

(Nintendo 3DS, 2017)

The second remake in the Metroid line, this one for a game that genuinely needed revisiting to bring it more into line with the series’ standards and vision. Samus Returns reworks Metroid II into a post-Metroid Fusion adventure, maintaining the original game’s plotline, the general layout of SR-388, and the need to face off against rapidly evolving metroids on their turf. But the overall flow of the adventure is radically changed here, with repetitive caverns taking on a denser, more puzzle-oriented feel with an emphasis on acquiring weapons and gear in order to delve deeper into the planet. Likewise, the formerly monotonous metroid battles now play out as challenging, tactical battles emphasizing counterattacks and evasion — something that even carries over into basic play.

While this is undoubtedly a more involved game than the original, it errs on the side of over-complicating things. Unlike the best Metroid entries, Samus Returns is all complex corridor-crawling and monster-battling, and its reliance on counterattack-based combat renders our heroine strangely passive while bogging down the action as you wait for enemies to strike first so you can parry them. There’s never an opportunity to breathe easy, and the rhythm of the game fails to convey a sensation that Samus has grown powerful only to move along to face even greater threats. It’s a good and interesting take on a flawed Game Boy creation, but it introduces its own vexing quirks in the process of bringing things up to code.

Metroid Fusion

4. Metroid Fusion

(Game Boy Advance, 2002)

Metroid Fusion was the first of several entries in the series to experiment with the concept of taking away Samus’ incredible powers and putting her on the defensive, and it’s still the best take on that idea to date. It’s also a deeply divisive game as a result, as it strips away the freedom and sense of discovery that defined the first three chapters of the series. But that’s the whole point of Fusion: It begins by disempowering Samus, forcing her to take orders from a computer that locks her into restrictive spaces, all to emphasize the importance of the freedom she eventually gains once she breaks out of the boundaries of the space station in which the action is set.

Further emphasizing Samus’ reduced state here is a literal X factor that roams the station: SA-X, a copy of Samus borne from a mysterious sentient virus codenamed X. SA-X serves as a constant deadly reminder of how unstoppable Samus used to be and how fragile she’s become. Throughout most of the game, Samus is forced to flee meekly whenever she encounters SA-X, a force even more overwhelming than the massive bosses you face throughout the station. Yet choking back your pride to escape these encounters simply makes the endgame all the more satisfying — you restore Samus’ true strength over the course of her quest, ultimately facing off against and defeating her clone in the game’s climactic battle. On top of that, Fusion streamlines Super Metroid’s sometimes inelegant control scheme to work within the GBA’s limits, adds all-new abilities to Samus’ repertoire, and allows players a glimpse of her inner monologue without diminishing her the way Other M does. It’s a clever (and frequently misunderstood) classic.

Metroid Prime

3. Metroid Prime

(GameCube, 2002)

Released day-and-date with Fusion, Metroid Prime innovated in the other direction from its counterpart. Where Fusion used old-fashioned 2D graphics and mechanics to present an entirely different kind of Metroid adventure, Prime used tried-and-true gameplay as a foundation for a technological shift. Just as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a thinly veiled reworking of its predecessor A Link to the Past, Metroid Prime traces the the outlines of Super Metroid to ensure the series’ move into 3D is supported by impeccable underpinnings. And it works — in fact, Prime is at its worst when it strays too far from the Super Metroid formula, as with the pace-killing drudgery of the late-game Relic fetch quest.

Most importantly, developer Retro Studios managed to avoid allowing Metroid’s move into first-person action from reducing the game to a twitchy shooter, respecting the series’ cerebral nature from start to finish. While there’s plenty of shooting to be done here, it’s hardly, say, Quake or Unreal (thanks to the game’s reliance on an automatic lock-on feature). In fact, Prime probably has the lowest ratio of combat to navigation and exploration in the entire series. Meanwhile, the brilliant Scan Visor feature plays an essential role in battle (seeking out enemy weaknesses) while also allowing players to drink in all manner of world-building details — and what a world it is! Metroid Prime is one of the rare early ’00s 3D games that still looks gorgeous thanks to its sleek design and vivid use of color. Oh, and all the loving details it contains, like being able to glimpse Samus’ reflection on the inside of her visor whenever lightning flashes. Metroid seemingly shouldn’t have worked as a first-person shooter, but Prime pulled it off, and it remains a high-water mark for the format.

Metroid: Zero Mission

2. Metroid: Zero Mission

(Game Boy Advance, 2004)

In may respects, Zero Mission is the strongest, smartest, and sharpest of all the Metroid games. All it really has working against it is a lack of originality. As a remake of the original Metroid, Zero Mission covers a lot of the same ground that Super Metroid had already cased out so expertly a decade before. It expands on the NES game’s labyrinths in ways that feel familiar and ends with an unusual stealth sequence that demystifies the enigmatic Wrecked Ship area of Super Metroid. It also has a strange art style as a result of a mid-development creative shift that changed the overall look from cartoonish to traditional but didn’t bring all the existing background scenery into line with the new style.

Aside from these small annoyances, however, you’d be hard-pressed to find fault in Zero Mission. Its dev team took meticulous notes about all the things that didn’t quite work in previous entries ranging from the original game all the way through Fusion and Prime. Really, you could probably best describe Zero Mission as a hybrid of Super Metroid and Fusion (despite the fact that it’s a remake of a different game altogether); it maintains the zippy pace and streamlined control scheme of Fusion, but it does a much better job of stepping out of the player’s way and letting them figure out how to progress. Zero Mission points out new objectives on the in-game map, but more often than not you’ll find yourself taking circuitous routes through uncharted territory to get there. Much of this involves an all-new region called Chozodia, which provides much of the game’s mystery and introduces enigmatic tidbits about Samus’ background in the process.

Zero Mission gives Samus a fully updated arsenal, including Power Bombs and a ledge grip skill. It reinvents the original Metroid’s lackluster boss encounters, introduces new foes, and provides far greater incentive for full exploration of the world. Familiar scenery takes on a new flavor when reworked to include complex navigation puzzles. Even that stealth sequence manages not to be dead weight by properly presenting the epilogue as a key moment in Samus’ own personal journey. It’s a gold standard for video game remakes even 15 years later.

Super Metroid

1. Super Metroid

(Super NES, 1994)

One of the high-water marks of the 16-bit era, Super Metroid introduced players to a near-perfect synthesis of game mechanics, world design, and embedded narrative. Loosely built on the bones of the original Metroid, Super Metroid sent players back to the tunnels and tubes of planet Zebes. This return trip was no mere rehash, however. While the overall arrangement of Super Metroid’s underground labyrinth closely resembles the broad strokes of its NES predecessor, here that environment been both fleshed out and greatly expanded. Hidden passages and navigational puzzles play an even bigger part of Samus’ quest, but now they’re less obtuse in nature thanks to the addition of new quality-of-life elements, like a visor that can scan for secrets and an in-game auto-mapping feature.

The world of Zebes teems with detail, hinting at a much larger story but leaving details of its mysteries — things like the ghostly image of metroids on the monitors of the wrecked ship, or the dead explorer outside of Kraid’s lair — to the player’s imagination. Unexpected secrets abound, ranging from clever shortcuts the developers hid in plain sight to oblique alternate mechanisms to defeat bosses. Meanwhile, the primary throughline of the quest tells a surprisingly moving story that follows immediately on the heels of Metroid II and unfolds entirely in pantomime. Samus’ journey builds her into a near-invincible engine of destruction, pushes her to the edge of defeat regardless of that power, and ends with a brilliant catharsis of sheer destruction.

The flow and design of Super Metroid vary from area to area, from the leisurely underwater exploration that defines Maridia to the intense, oppressive action that propels Samus through the straightforward loop of Ridley’s lair. Super Metroid is one of those rare games that doesn’t take a single false step, and its failings ultimately boil down to a matter of taste: Samus’ floaty aerial physics, the precision required for wall-jumping, the way the game occasionally leaves players to their own devices in order to find the way forward. Dozens and dozens of games have looked to Super Metroid for design inspiration, but Nintendo’s masterpiece remains unrivaled.

Source: Polygon.com

First full trailer for Toy Story 4 asks some big questions

The first full trailer for Toy Story 4 unveiled on Good Morning America and finally the pieces are starting to come together.

Previous glimpses of Toy Story 4 introduced “Forky,” a spork with eyes and pipe cleaner hands who challenges the existing laws of the universe. Bo Peep also returned, but with a revamped look, ready to challenge the patriarchy. The previous teasers also revealed a new carnival setting.

This new trailer kicks the plot into full gear, as Woody and Buzz attempt to rescue a runaway Forky. Woody aims to show him the true meaning of being a toy. But after running into old ex-girlfriend Bo Peep, Woody starts to question what exactly it means to exist in this world.

Toy Story’s getting philosophical up in here.

Tom Hanks and Tim Allen return to their roles of Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Also returning is Joan Cusack as Jessie and Annie Potts as Bo Peep. New to the cast is Keanu Reeves in an unspecified role.

Toy Story 4 arrives in theaters June 21.

Source: Polygon.com