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    • Following leaks and rumors of another skin from the hit Netflix series entering the game, Arcane: A League of Legends Story is once again partnering with Epic Games, this time dropping the Fortnite Arcane Vi skin into the Item Shop. Vi is the elder sister of Jinx--who was previously featured in Fortnite--and fights crime as an enforcer for the city of Piltover. The two's tenuous relationship now carries over to the Fortnite island starting January 22 at 4 PM PT / 7 PM ET. The Piltover's Finest loading screen, available as part of the Arcane Vi bundle.The Arcane Vi skin comes bundled with the Memories of Zaun back bling, while her massive Piltover Warhammer pickaxe and unique Punching Practice emote. All of these items will be available in an Arcane Vi bundle as well, which also adds the Piltover's Finest loading screen seen above. Arcane Vi will not enter the Item Shop alone, as Arcane Jinx makes her triumphant return to the shop. All of the items Jinx debuted with will be available again, including Jinx’s Dream Monkey back bling, Pow Pow Crusher pickaxe, and the Playground (Instrumental) lobby track. The Arcane Jinx bundle--which additionally included the Jinxed spray and two loading screens, Wreaking Havoc and Katchoo!--has also returned. The two League of Legends-themed skins are part of a major partnership announced between Epic Games and Riot Games when the Jinx skin first debuted in November. Part of that agreement included League of Legends' debut on the Epic Games Store, the first time the game could be downloaded outside of the game's official website. View the full article
    • Microsoft has confirmed a new detail regarding Halo Infinite's live-service elements, announcing that Credits will be earnable in Season 2's Battle Pass. In a blog post, developer 343 said this change is being made in response to community feedback. "That means you will be able to earn Credits as part of your Halo Infinite progression. We'll have more to share on this as we get closer to Season 2," 343 said. Season 2 is not expected to be here for quite some time, as 343 is planning to end Season 1 in May 2022, with Season 2 coming sometime thereafter. Campaign co-op and Forge--two fan-favorite modes that didn't make it in for launch--are expected to be debut beginning with Season 2 as well. In other news, 343 recently made some changes to Halo Infinite's in-game shop to make items less expensive. "Our focus with these changes is on reducing pricing across the board, providing stronger values in our bundles, starting to put individual items outside of bundles, and more," 343 said. "This week we focused on reducing the prices of our weekly bundles, while next week will have individual items starting to appear on their own." 343 also mentioned that it continues to try to fix Halo Infinite's Big Team Battle mode, which has been in a less-than-great state since before the holidays. A new patch came out this week, but it did not improve the experience in the way 343 wanted. The studio is still investigating, it said. And while this week's hotfix didn't fix the issues outright, it did provide "promising data" to the team. As 343 attempts to fix the problems with Big Team Battle, the studio said it will remove Big Team Battle-related challenges "for the time being." "We don't want to alter Challenge decks when they are live (as it would removing people's progression on those Challenges), so these changes will start next Tuesday when the Weekly Challenges typically rollover," 343 said. View the full article
    • In last week's Friday 'Nite, my weekly Fortnite lore deep dive, I took a look at how much shared DNA there is between Epic's gargantuan battle royale game and the former zeitgeist-dominating TV series Lost. The conclusion, which hopefully I made obvious, is that higher-ups within Epic's storytelling department are Lost fans. In particular, it seems like Donald Mustard, the chief creative officer at Epic and de facto Fortnite lore-bible scribe, clearly nerded out for the show a decade ago, like so many of us did. But Mustard is multifaceted, and this week I want to highlight another of his apparent influences, even as this one seems all the more unlikely for a game that is made up, in no small part, of teenagers buying avatars of their favorite Marvel superheroes. In 2011, professor and historian Yuval Noah Harari published what would go on to become his career-defining work: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. A nearly 500-page primer on our species from its bloody beginnings to the modern day, the text went on to become a bestseller. To this day, it remains atop many public figures' recommended reading list, and Harari's subsequent books, Homo Deus and Lessons For The 21st Century, have become bestsellers of their own. What does this have to do with Fortnite? Well, Mustard, famous for tweeting vague teases to Fortnite's story and future events, is clearly a fan. What Mustard is referring to in his somewhat cryptic tweet seems to be the exact thesis of Sapiens. In it, Harari argues that homo sapiens survived to become the singular human species because of a cocktail of controversial reasons. Ultimately, the author lays out our survival as the result of our ability to lie. We lie to ourselves, lie to each other, lie about what we know about the world, and lie about what we don't. Harari says that it's this important and unique ability to tell stories, make promises, and plan for an unclear future that has been the inextinguishable flame of progress in human history. Harari put it best when he wrote: "There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings." Our consciousness, however confounding its origins, granted us this exclusive ability and ensured we would outlive (and in some cases slaughter with our own hands) some of the other six species of humans over the last 70,000 years. While the pop anthropology book has sometimes been criticized for lacking evidence for certain claims about what early humans may have been like, it's nevertheless won over many thousands of superfans, and apparently, Mustard is one of them. Unexpectedly, this is important to the colorful, often ridiculous Fortnite not just because it provides insight into the mindset of its writers, but because it may reveal story details that the always tightlipped Epic Games doesn't intend to share yet. In Sapiens, the phrase "imagined order" comes up a lot. Harari defines this as a power structure that doesn't exist in nature, but is, rather, one we invented as homo sapiens in order to maintain structure on Earth. In Fortnite, the Imagined Order is the apparent villainous faction that seeks to control the Zero Point, the life-giving energy at the heart of the island. The Imagined Order is presented as the bad guys, and though I have my doubts, maybe that will end up being true. In Fortnite, the Imagined Order is, well, an imagined order.But the faction's name reveals at least one thing: Its power is as theoretical as the persistent fan pipedream that the Chapter 1 island is coming back. The Imagined Order's dominance of the Fortnite island, Artemis, is not bestowed by nature. The group has simply planted its flag and decried all others as annoying interlopers. From that point, what can we infer? For starters, it's possible, and I think very likely, that we haven't met the true grand rulers of the Fortnite world. Maybe the oft-mentioned but never seen Geno serves this role. Maybe Dr. Slone does not represent the tip of the IO's spear and other more powerful levels exist within the shadowy group who better understand the island. Maybe the Zero Point itself is conscious and pulling the strings of loopers, the IO, The Seven, and everyone else who journeys to the island. While we don't have this particular answer yet, what we can assume is that the Imagined Order, be it good, evil, or something in between, is not the be-all and end-all ruler of the Fortnite multiverse. If it was, apparent Sapiens fan Donald Mustard would've given it another name. Instead, Epic is slyly nodding to the IO's fragile balance of power--its need to satiate its own questions of the omniverse by pretending everything is neat and tidy. The IO is meant to be the instrument by which Dr. Slone and others make order out of chaos, but like in Sapiens, we Fortnite players may come to understand that these once-seemingly foundational structures are quite bendable, even breakable, in the end. Well, either that, or Epic is just teasing a Yuval Noah Harari skin coming soon to the Item Shop. View the full article
    • A little less than five weeks remain before the launch of The Witch Queen in Destiny 2, meaning we're now in the clean-up portion of the Season of the Lost. It's a chill time, at least, when players get to finish up seals like Moments of Triumph or farm Grandmaster Nightfalls for a bit. I still haven't seen a lightning round in Dares of Eternity. Whatever. The real draw of the next few weeks (other than the final culmination of the Season of the Lost happening in there somewhere) is the trickle of information about everything that'll come with the next expansion. We've gotten a few teases in the form of trailers, and we're getting new tidbits in each This Week at Bungie blog that comes out along the way. This week, we found out about the new Power level cap coming with the Witch Queen, as well as the launch of its new raid. The date on that one is 10 AM PT / 1 PM ET on March 5. We're planning to stream our Day One attempt at clearing the raid when it goes live, so stay tuned for more information on that. As for the Power cap, it's jumping up another 200 levels to 1560. The new Power floor is 1350, a touch higher than it is now, and all players who jump into the game will find themselves at that level--even if they're new to Destiny 2 or they've lapsed for a while. So the good news is, you don't need to do any grinding right now to get in position for The Witch Queen. However, you are going to need to play the new story campaign and the activities of the expansion in order to get ready for the raid. All that said, get ready for blue gear drops to matter again--you'll need them to push up to the new Soft Power cap of 1500. After that, you'll need to pursue "Powerful" gear drops from specific activities to climb up to 1550. To get to the final Hard Power cap of 1560, the highest number your gear can attain, you'll need to chase "Pinnacle" gear drops from endgame activities. If Beyond Light and the Deep Stone Crypt are any indications, expect to need to hit around 1530 to be ready for the raid. Speaking of blue drops though, Bungie also announced it's making some changes to gear drops in The Witch Queen, while also altering the economy some. It's a bunch of quality-of-life changes that sound excellent. Remove these from the game, Bungie. Blue Blues There are a lot of little things being altered about the gear economy in The Witch Queen, but my favorite is a reduction in Rare weapon and armor drops--the ones that are colored blue. Those drops occupy a very specific place in Destiny 2's gear grind: They're only really necessary when you're leveling up with a new expansion. When The Witch Queen drops and everyone starts at Power level 1350, every piece of gear they pick up will be of a higher level, and equipping that gear is how you raise your character's overall Power. Blue drops, the most common in the game, will come fast and furious as you kill enemies out in the world. They'll allow you to boost yourself up to 1500. Once you hit 1500, though, only purple Legendary drops matter--Prime Engrams and Powerful gear rewards are what you need to increase your overall level toward 1550, and those are only Legendary. Blues only ever drop at your current level once you've hit the Soft cap, which means that for anybody who's playing the game regularly, blues become items you instantly dismantle for their parts. So Bungie is reducing the number of blue drops players have to contend with--although, since blues are necessary for leveling, they're not going away entirely. Once you hit the Soft Power cap, though, you'll stop receiving blue drops from playlist activities like Strikes and Gambit and Crucible matches. Instead, you'll only receive Legendary drops, or a smattering of the materials you'd otherwise get from breaking down blue gear, essentially saving you the step of deleting all those useless weapons and armor pieces yourself. This is a thing that I've been waiting for, personally--I'm a person whose inventory is constantly full, and blue drops often find their way to the Postmaster, where lost items and inventory overflow wind up, as a result. And I don't clean out my Postmaster, because I need that space since my Vault is perpetually full. So when a bunch of stupid blue drops wind up in my mailbox, they crowd out the other gear I've been holding there, hoping to hang onto (or that I still haven't decided if I want to keep or not). When your mailbox is full, the oldest items in it get deleted first. Thus, stupid blue drops I'm just going to delete anyway literally rob me of guns I want. (Yes, I know this is the fault of my own disorganization and inability to stop hoarding items--I don't care.) Please, no more random kinds of currency that you can only spend with one guy in the Tower and take up two inventory slots. So anything that gets rid of extra blue drops is awesome. In fact, it'd be great if we could just eliminate them altogether once you're at the Soft cap, if you ask me. Barring that, anything that reduces the amount of inventory management I have to do at any given time just to play the game is a positive change. I'd love to see Bungie do more quality-of-life stuff like this, automating the deletions I'm going to make anyway. Just give me the Glimmer, that's all I really want. There's other unnecessary stuff being knocked out of the economy, too. Gunsmith Materials and Telemetry are gone in The Witch Queen, another boon to my bloated inventory. Instead, the Gunsmith vendor will function like other vendors in the Tower--you'll gain reputation points by doing their thing (in this case, smashing apart guns, I guess), and earn rewards when you do enough of that. The reputation system as it stands isn't perfect, necessarily (it takes way too many Strikes to get stuff from Zavala, for one), but if you ask me, these systems are better than having tens of obtuse currencies that have limited uses and are scattered throughout the game. In fact, anything Destiny 2 can do to cut back on the number of crystals, tokens, prisms, cores, materials, and bones and worms that are their dollars, would be great. They feel like stop-gap solutions for introducing new mechanics, but they always needlessly complicate the game. There's plenty to keep in mind already. We don't need to feed piles of gun parts to a robot in the Tower to get more guns. So I'm all for anything that streamlines Destiny 2. Of course, that's an ongoing process and the feeling I get is that it's a lot easier to complicate the game to make it work a little better than it is to de-complicate it. But there have been positive steps of late, and this is another one. Anything that lets me gather less junk while I'm trying to shoot people. It's been a light week, so that's it for me. Don't forget to visit Xur and grab his high-stat ST0MP-EE5 and Phoenix Protocol, because he has some pretty solid rolls this week. And as always, feel free to leave your own impressions about Destiny 2's upcoming changes, and anything else, in the comments below. View the full article
    • With Apex Legends Escape--the eleventh season for the battle royale game--slated to end in early February, Respawn has started teasing what's to come in Season 12. And it's looking like Apex Legends Season 12's new playable legend may be Mad Maggie, a character we haven't seen since Season 8. A major hint that Mad Maggie could be the new character popped up in-game on January 21, via the coolest Apex Legends content tease to date. If you drop into a match on Storm Point, you can hear and see a battle taking place in the skies above the map. During the battle, you may hear a huge explosion, indicating one of the ships has been shot down. You can watch the ship begin to fall towards the ground at the northern part of Storm Point, before the ship seemingly makes a warp space jump to an unknown location just ahead of the crash. A piece of the ship doesn't make it, though, ultimately falling down on the leftmost peninsula of North Pad. Prominently painted onto the ship is the symbol of Salvo, which Mad Maggie loves leaving behind when she blows stuff up. So it's looking like Mad Maggie (or perhaps another person from Salvo) may be Apex Legends' next playable character. You can easily identify the piece of ship from a distance, given that it glows with a bluish-purple energy. That's definitely the symbol that Maggie carved into the side of Kings Canyon with explosives. Who is Mad Maggie? Margaret "Mad Maggie" Kōhere was first introduced as the childhood friend of Season 8 legend Walter "Fuse" Fitzroy. Maggie and Wally grew up on Salvo, a Fringe World of constant battle where warlords and their respective followers fought for control. Prior to the events of Apex Legends, the entire planet had been in a state of perpetual war for more than 50 years. In this environment, Maggie and Wally grew up to become exceptionally competent mercenaries, relying on each other for decades. However, whereas Maggie strove to become Salvo's next ruling warlord--adopting the moniker of Mad Maggie--Wally fell in love with the glory-seeking nature of Salvo's arena bloodsport: the Bonecage. This created a rift in the pair's friendship. Eventually the Syndicate--the group that oversees and runs the Apex Games--sought to acquire Salvo, promising peace for the war-torn world if it became the seventh planet to join Syndicate Space. Though Maggie fought against the takeover with all her might, the rulers of Salvo agreed to the Syndicate's terms. As part of the deal, Salvo was allowed to add one of their warriors to the Apex Games as a new legend and Wally was chosen, adopting the moniker of Fuse. Maggie viewed Wally's decision to join the Apex Games as a betrayal of Salvo's fight for independence, and upon his departure, the two friends fought over his leaving--an argument that ended with Maggie tossing a grenade at Wally in a fit of frustration and blowing off his arm (which is why Fuse has a mechanical arm). Refusing to let her friend abandon her, Maggie followed Fuse to the Apex Games, orchestrating a terrorist attack on the civilian populace attending his welcoming ceremony (which is why whole sections of Kings Canyon are now gone). Maggie continued to hound Wally and his fellow legends for the entirety of Season 8, promising a reward to anyone who managed to give her Wally's other arm, and temporarily taking over the Apex Games in Season 8's Chaos Theory limited-time event with the Ring Fury Takeover. She became the main antagonist of Season 8's Quest, Armageddon, which saw Fuse ultimately befriend Lifeline and kindle a strong connection (which has since been heavily hinted to be romantic in nature) with Bloodhound. Isn't Mad Maggie dead? Technically yes. Apex Legends Season 8 Quest: Armageddon does indeed end with Fuse, Lifeline, and Bloodhound watching Mad Maggie sacrifice herself, with the implication that she committed suicide after learning that she'd never be able to convince her oldest friend to join her crusade for Salvo independence. After Fuse tells Maggie that he's found a new home among the legends and that he's not returning to Salvo, Maggie attempts to kill Lifeline and Bloodhound with some hidden turrets. Fuse quickly blows the turrets up, but the resulting explosion knocks him and Maggie over the side of a skyscraper. Both manage to grab hold of hanging scaffolding, but when Fuse offers Maggie his arm to help pull her up to safety, she smugly replies that she's decided he can "keep it" after all and then lets go, seemingly falling to her death. Given that Maggie's body has never been recovered, however, she could still be alive. Respawn has yet to officially confirm that she's dead--just look at Ash, a character supposedly killed in Titanfall 2, who went on to return as a playable character in Apex Legends. And even if Maggie suffered a mortal wound, in a universe where human minds can be transposed into simulacrum bodies (the way Revenant was), even death doesn't technically mean someone is permanently off the board. What abilities will Mad Maggie have? Respawn has yet to confirm whether Mad Maggie is Season 12's new character, so we don't even know if all this speculation will even hold up. As such, we don't yet know what her abilities might be. That said, however, we can make two educated guesses. The first theory is that Mad Maggie will have abilities tied to what we've already seen her do in-game, when she took control of the Apex Games in the Ring Fury Takeover. In that takeover, Maggie figured out a way to shape the energy that creates the ring to make "ring flares," pockets of dangerous energy that appear within the safe zones. So maybe she can temporarily tweak the ring, making small ring flares as an offensive character or lessening the damage of the ring for her allies and herself as a support character. Apex Legends has long needed a new support character, so maybe Season 12 is finally when we get one. Apex Legends' last support character was Loba, added in Season 5. So it's been six seasons of only offensive, defensive, and recon legends.The other theory is that Mad Maggie's abilities have potentially already been revealed via a datamine. Several of Apex Legends' characters have been hinted at months ahead of their official release via datamined abilities attached to code names. Revenant initially appeared as "Blackout" in datamined Apex Legends files, for example, and Valkyrie was first listed as "Valk." So, in theory, one of the datamined legend profiles could be an early placeholder for Mad Maggie. The most prevalent guess going around right now was first put forward by Apex Legends dataminer KralRindo, who pointed out similarities between Mad Maggie's abilities as depicted in the in-game comics and those of datamined legend "Husaria," who seems geared towards offense as an explosive door breacher. According to the datamine, Husaria will have a gun strapped to her leg, giving her the passive ability that she can break down doors and more aggressively melee attack enemies if she has shotgun ammo in her inventory. Her tactical ability is supposedly a flashbang grenade that temporarily blinds and deafens those caught in its blast, and her ultimate ability is a device that emits a sonic wave that forces open doors and destroys traps. All of that fits Mad Maggie's aggressive personality, but given that Husaria is a datamined legend and thus could have been scrapped ages ago, there's no way to tell if she's still the starting point for an upcoming Apex Legends character. Other possible datamined characters that could be Maggie include an "Elite Mercenary" who seems to be able to create ring flares with their tactical ability (though the community commonly believes this character is a potential placeholder for Blisk) and "Downfall," who possesses abilities related to blowing stuff up and is able to passively grow angry enough to withstand fire damage. When does Apex Legends Season 12 start? Respawn has not officially revealed when Season 12 will start, but if the pattern for Apex Legends holds, the new season will begin on the day that the previous season ends. The battle pass for Apex Legends Season 11 concludes February 8, so the implication is that the season will end that day as well. Thus, Apex Legends Season 12 will likely start February 8. View the full article
    • Sony's PlayStation 2 established a library of quality games during its run, building up a collection of software that has stood the test of time. Whether you were looking for simulation driving at its very best, wildly imaginative adventure games, or thought-provoking journeys into mystery, the PS2 had it all. We're taking a look back at the best of the PS2 library, and across the console's monumental sales and the sheer volume of games released on it, we've narrowed the list down to the 25 best PS2 games. More PlayStation best lists Best PS5 games Best PS4 games Best PS1 games Best PS Vita games Best PSP games Read on to discover which PS2 classics made the cut (in the alphabetical order). Burnout 3 Burnout 3While Criterion's previous Burnout games had always skirted with turning your car into a destructive wrecking ball, Burnout 3 was the game that fully embraced a destruction derby flavor. Crash Mode was the highlight of this arcade racer, a drive down Road Rage Boulevard as you put the pedal to the metal in an attempt to cause as much collateral damage as possible while you reveled in the slow-motion carnage. Being an absolute menace was the driving force behind Burnout 3's success, with the rest of the game being racing bliss as you earned crashes and cash during your grand tour. Read our Burnout 3 review. Capcom vs. SNK 2 Capcom vs. SNK 2Bringing together many of the most popular characters from Capcom's and SNK's fighting games for a rematch, Capcom vs SNK 2 was one of the best 2D fighting games available on PS2 during the early 2000s. The follow-up added more characters, features, and refinements to the package, creating the definitive crossover of its time that saw it become a cult classic in the years after it was released. Read our Capcom vs SNK 2 review. Devil May Cry 3 Devil May Cry 3After a lackluster follow-up in the form of Devil May Cry 2, Capcom went back to the drawing board for Dante's next demon-slaying adventure. The solution to reinvigorate the series? A prequel that charted the early days of Dante, a new antagonist in the form of his identical twin brother Vergil, and an arsenal of demonic tools that could be used to banish devilish foes back to the underworld. Devil May Cry 3 didn't just recapture the magic of the original game; it easily surpassed it with blockbuster levels of action and a story that wasn't short on twists. Read our Devil May Cry 3 review. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed KingDragon Quest VIII felt like the sum total of every Dragon Quest that came before it: a lavish and epic adventure for the ages. It was a role-playing game with an absurd amount of content, giving fans a constant supply of enemies and side quests to grind through. At a time when Japan's best RPGs were producing groundbreaking and experimental work within the genre--look at Square's Final Fantasy games from that time--Dragon Quest VIII was staunchly traditional, never wavering from its path and sharpening the elements of its formula that had made it so popular over the years. A safe RPG to dive into, but one that exemplified the very best of the genre. Read our Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King review. Final Fantasy X Final Fantasy XThe original PlayStation era of Final Fantasy games had raised the bar for what the series was capable of, and for its first mainline foray on the PS2, Final Fantasy X had some hefty expectations to meet. The RPG rose to the occasion, crafting a story that may have been more mechanically linear when compared to previous games, but was loaded with impressive visuals, satisfying turn-based action, and full voice-acting for its main cast. An underappreciated gem of a game in comparison to other Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy X is still an emotional odyssey that's packed with pure character chemistry, imaginative world-building, and a certified banger of a tune in its soundtrack. Read our Final Fantasy X review. God of War 2 God of War 2How do you live up to and surpass a game that is widely hailed as one of the best action titles of all time? If you're God of War 2, you deliver an Olympus-smashing adventure that smooths out any rough spots from the original, gives its main character a good excuse to commit some more deicide, and awe-inspiring environments to explore. God of War 2 delivered on those ideas, pushing the PS2 to the breaking point with its ambitious gameplay, and giving the console the sendoff that it deserved as the PS3 era began gathering steam. Read our God of War 2 review. Gran Turismo 4 Gran Turismo 4Gran Turismo games are like the Halley's Comet of video game releases: rare, they take a while to appear, and they're absolutely worth observing when they do appear. The series' fourth mainline entry, Gran Turismo 4 pulled out all the stops for its arrival on PS2. With the genre getting more competitive now that Forza Motorsport had arrived on Xbox, Gran Turismo's shift into a higher gear saw it take first place with a game that contained hundreds of cars, improved driving physics, and an expanded career mode. B-spec mode introduced some managerial fun to the title, making it one of the definitive driving games to own on PS2. Read our Gran Turismo 4 review. GTA San Andreas GTA San AndreasGrand Theft Auto games in the PS2 era helped form the foundation for the modern era of sandbox titles, and after a tour of Liberty and Vice City, Rockstar games were ready to raise the bar in GTA: San Andreas. A playground of gangland violence modeled after Los Angeles and Las Vegas, San Andreas was a leap forward that added RPG elements to the GTA formula. Players were given the opportunity to create a version of protagonist CJ that reflected their own playstyle, while the sandbox was in peak digital condition for all the chaos that could be caused inside of it. Every GTA game is a classic, but San Andreas stands tall as the best of the bunch on PS2. Read our GTA San Andreas review. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Guitar Hero III: Legends of RockThe 2000s were an era of plastic instrument peripherals, and you can thank Guitar Hero for making everyone feel like a rock-'n-roll superstar. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater developer Neversoft handled development duties on this title, crafting a game that retained the basic and accessible gameplay while adding a new co-op career mode and competitive challenges for grand rock-offs against the legends of rock. The soundtrack was pure fire of course, and mastering solo career mode would unlock DragonForce's "Through the Fire and Flames," a merciless gauntlet of sick licks and heavy metal riffs that few players were ready for. Read our Guitar Hero 3 review. Jak II Jak IIJak and Daxter's introduction on PS2 was a vibrant and energetic romp through alien worlds, and for the sequel, developer Naughty Dog looked to turn everything that worked up to 11. Bigger and more ambitious in design, Jak II's foundational gameplay was enhanced by non-linear exploration, terrific voice-acting, and satisfying action. The story had a few twists up its sleeve, the graphical design made it a showcase title for the PS2, and a constantly rewarding gameplay loop kept fans coming back for more. Read our Jak II review. Kingdom Hearts Kingdom HeartsKingdom Hearts might be best known for having an overarching plot that's denser than a white dwarf star with all of its various narrative threads, but back in 2002, the first game was heralded for being an ambitious merger of worlds. Throwing Disney's greatest characters into worlds inhabited by heroes and villains from Square Enix's Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts was effortlessly charming and boasted some stellar design with its superb visuals. Future sequels and spin-offs may have further polished its various ideas, but as far as first impressions go, the original Kingdom Hearts was hard to beat. Read our Kingdom Hearts review. Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max PayneThe original Max Payne was a game-changer in the action genre, merging bullet-time gunplay with a hard-boiled detective story of revenge and tragedy. For its sequel, Remedy Entertainment dialed up the noir influences, atmosphere, and action that had been a highlight of the first game, polishing these elements into a gritty gangland story. An admittedly short game, Max Payne 2 is still a stylish and cinematic experience that provides blockbuster fun from start to finish. Read our Max Payne 2 review. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence Metal Gear Solid 3: SubsistenceWhile Metal Gear Solid 2 was a gigantic leap forward for the stealth and espionage series, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater took those advancements and used them to craft a cunning prequel that put players in the shoes of a young Big Boss. Codenamed Naked Snake, Metal Gear Solid 3 was a departure from the series' conventions as it introduced new camouflage, close-quarters combat, survival systems, and injury gameplay mechanics to the franchise. Packed with a lengthy story and epic moments, Snake Eater's Subsistence edition is the definitive version of the prequel that irons out any lingering issues while also adding an impressive amount of extra content to the package. Read our Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence review. Okami Okami2006 was a great year for the PS2, but it was Okami that helped close the curtain on the PlayStation 2 with an unforgettable adventure. While its core gameplay riffs on Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series--complete with dungeons, boss fights, and puzzles--Okami was still very much a unique beast to play. On the surface, the cel-shaded aesthetic made Okami look like a Japanese ink painting come to interactive life, but beneath that gorgeous veneer, there was a game that embraced the very idea of art, using it to paint a masterpiece of epic design. Read our Okami review. Persona 4 Persona 4Released on PS2 well after the PS3 had succeeded it, 2008's Persona 4 hasn't lost any of its magic over the years. If you enjoyed Persona 5, then Persona 4's mix of modern-day Japanese high school drama, dungeons, and monsters that need to be taken down a peg is going to be an instant dealmaker for you--especially when you add a lengthy murder-mystery story that drops plot twists on your head when you're least expecting it. One of the very best Persona games out there, the good news is that you won't need to track down a PS2 console to play it, as its Persona 4 Golden edition was ported to PC in 2020. Read our Persona 4 review. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Prince of Persia: The Sands of TimeWhile a Prince of Persia reboot had popped up in 1999, it was Ubisoft that proved that it had the right stuff for a fresh take on the iconic property. Embracing the third dimension, Prince of Persia was a groundbreaking fusion of parkour and time-bending magic that helped players survive numerous deathtraps. Constantly challenging and filled with exhilarating moments of triumph, Ubisoft's first foray into the Prince of Persia series helped spawn a new franchise, one that's due for a revival as soon as the current remake of the 2003 classic finally escapes from the development dungeon. Read our Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time review. Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal Ratchet and Clank: Up Your ArsenalAlmost two decades later, Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal is still widely considered to be one of the very best entries in the series. That's no small feat for the Insomniac-developed game, especially when you factor in 2021's superb Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart into the rankings, but Up Your Arsenal simply had the right stuff back in 2004. The primary gameplay pillars of the series felt better than ever before, the selection of weapons that Ratchet could wield against Dr. Nefarious made the action constantly fun, and the online multiplayer turned the game into an all-time classic. Read our Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal review. Resident Evil 4 Resident Evil 4After the mainline games had thoroughly explored every corner of the Spencer Mansion and Raccoon City, Resident Evil 4 was a breath of fresh air for the series. Transplanting the bioweapon horror of the series into a Spanish village that was infested with a new breed of viral antagonists, Resident Evil 4 took a more action-packed approach but still had plenty of terror to unleash on players with its collection of spooky Los Illuminados enemies, atmospheric locations, and a behind-the-scenes betrayal of Nintendo that makes for a fascinating story. Read our Resident Evil 4 review. Rez RezAn absolute mind-trip of a game from Tetsuya Mizuguchi and the team at United Game Artists, Rez had you hacking mainframes to the beat of the music and the flow of an on-rail shooter. Fighting back against hostile programs, learning the rhythm of a stage, and constantly upgrading your avatar as you worked your way up the digital food chain made for a unique ride that was strangely cathartic as well. Read our Rez review. Shadow of the Colossus Shadow of the ColossusShadow of the Colossus was a unique and thought-provoking masterpiece of its time, arriving during the final days of the PS2 to definitively prove that video games could be art. Using both style and substance, Shadow of the Colossus hooked fans with its unique design and wildly ambitious concept of traveling the land to slay more than a dozen titans. The game felt even better to play, tasking players with working out strategies for dealing with each Colossi and augmenting those epic battles with a sublime soundtrack. A colossal challenge that still managed to deliver a gigantic twist near the end. A remake would arrive in 2018, but the original game still stands as developer Team Ico's finest hour. Read our Shadow of the Colossus review. Silent Hill 2 Silent Hill 2Silent Hill's first sequel still stands as a masterpiece of terror, taking the ideas of the first game and executing them on a grand scale. It's unnerving, and decades later, it still has a razor-sharp edge that'll stay with you long after you've put a sweat-drenched DualShock controller down. A nightmarish journey filled with abominable monsters, plot twists, and multiple endings, Silent Hill 2 never gives you a chance to catch your breath as it constantly keeps you on your toes. Plus, how many other video games can lay claim to having the best ending of all time? Read our Silent Hill 2 review. Soulcalibur II SoulCalibur IISoulcalibur II's greatest triumph was that it leveled the playing field for both fighting game experts and novices alike. Striking a balance that allowed for anyone to feel like a master of the blade, the end result was a game that allowed for flashy combos, hard-hitting attacks, and some of the best couch co-op you could have on Friday nights with your friends. Each character had a style that made them a viable option for combat, the game looked like a million bucks, and even the story mode was worth investing your time in, just to see who would resist the sweet temptations of a demonic sword that was thirsty for souls. SSX Tricky SSX TrickyThe early 2000s were the golden age of extreme sports video games, and when it came to the fine art of snowboarding, EA's SSX was in a class of its own. 2001's SSX Tricky refined the formula of its predecessor while creating a benchmark for all future titles to be judged against, delivering pure downhill excitement and amplifying the experience with a few neat tricks. It was adrenaline-charged entertainment, every combo you pulled off was a slap in the face of gravity, and each track was brilliant to replay as you hunted for extras. Read our SSX Tricky review. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4An overlooked chapter in the Tony Hawk series, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 was an earnest attempt by developer Neversoft to create a new foundation for the franchise. Gone were the two-minute runs that had formed the main template for THPS games, with Neversoft opting to embrace a more open-ended design where time was on your side. Career and Free Skate modes gave players time to explore the beautifully crafted stages, the introduction of spine transfers made the gameplay smoother than ever, and street tricks got a much-needed upgrade with new grinding and lip trick enhancements. All that, and it had a killer soundtrack that added a terrific atmosphere. Read our Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 review. Viewtiful Joe Viewtiful JoeWhat happens when you combine the power of cinema with pure Japanese Tokusatsu action? You get one of the best beat-'em-ups of the 2000s, a love letter to the art of film that's written with punches, kicks, and visual effects powers. Viewtiful Joe's challenging action made it stand out, but the tools that players had access to made overcoming each obstacle an absolute blast. From slowing down time to zooming in to deliver powerful haymakers, Joe's Viewtiful Effects arsenal made each run through multiple episodes an Oscar contender. It also looked great thanks to some colorful cel-shading, and clearing the game on a certain difficulty would even unlock Dante from Devil May Cry as a playable character. Read our Viewtiful Joe review. View the full article
    • The Xbox One has been around for more than eight years, and during that time it has amassed a sizeable collection of free-to-play games across several different genres. If you can't afford (or just don't want to) spend cash on a game or you're just not sure if you're going to like the latest hit, free-to-play games on Xbox One are a great option. And if you're holding out to buy an Xbox Series X, having all that extra cash is a big help. We've rounded up the best free Xbox One games so you can have a great time without breaking or even touching the bank. Don't even think about a bank, in fact--unless you start buying microtransactions in any of these games, of course. Apex Legends Apex LegendsIt's fitting that Apex Legends--a spin-off of the criminally underappreciated Titanfall and Titanfall 2--would also happen to be one of the best free-to-play games on Xbox One. Set in the same universe as the Titanfall games but with a hero-based battle royale spin, Apex Legends draws just as much inspiration from Call of Duty and Overwatch as it does from Titanfall. With an emphasis on the different playable characters' unique roles, team composition is an important part of success, and both the maps' verticality and plethora of gear you can pick up add an element of strategy not seen in some other online shooters. See our Apex Legends review. Halo Infinite (multiplayer) Halo InfiniteMicrosoft went to a different release model with Halo Infinite than past games, opting to make the campaign a premium experience while offering the multiplayer for free across Xbox consoles, PC, and the cloud. This change has led to a few rough edges--the progression system needs some work--but Halo Infinite's multiplayer is also the best competitive mode in the series since Halo: Reach. Fantastic map design, a good mix of old and new weapons, and a focus on the simple "shoot the other team" gameplay that made the original games work is key to its success. Oh, and you can put cat ears on your Spartan, if you want. See our Halo Infinite multiplayer review. Fortnite FortniteCould there possibly be a list of the best free-to-play games without Fortnite? The most popular video game on the planet--and one that has remained on top for several years--Fortnite's success story is odd in that it began its life without having its signature battle royale mode at all. Since that pivot, however, it's grown into a juggernaut, complete with in-game concerts, crossovers, with just about every major franchise you can think of, and a bizarre in-universe lore that has made way for massive changes to the battle royale map. With cross-play support, you can play it with friends on just about any system, too. Rocket League Rocket LeagueFree now after previously costing 20 bucks for years, Rocket League seems like it was conceived by a seven-year-old who wasn't paying attention during class. Essentially a big game of soccer but with rocket-powered cars in place of the players, the hectic sport sees vehicles zipping across the pitch and through the air as they attempt to knock the giant ball into their opponents' goal while defending their own. While a simple enough premise in theory, Rocket League is very difficult to master, with the best players maintaining expert control as they knock a ball into the net. PUBG: Battlegrounds PUBG: BattlegroundsThe battle royale game that kicked off a massive trend across the industry--though it wasn't the first game in the genre--PUBG: Battlegrounds (formerly PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds) doesn't have all the bells and whistles of its competitors. There's no building structures and there aren't character classes. Instead, it takes a slightly more realistic approach to the concept, dropping you on a gritty island as you scavenge for weapons, ammunition, armor, and medical gear. Stealth and escape are often the best tactics in PUBG: Battlegrounds, as it only takes a few shots to send you to an early grave. See our full PUBG: Battlegrounds review. Warframe WarframeSure, Destiny has certainly improved a lot over the years, but there was a point when a free-to-play game was pretty much eating Bungie's lunch. Warframe combines multiplayer action, third-person combat, and extensive character customization together, and the game will also be getting a cross-play feature in 2022. This way, all your friends can squad up and take on its tough cooperative challenges--all for free--even if one person is on an Xbox One while another is playing on a Nintendo Switch. See our full Warframe review. Splitgate Splitgate"Halo meets Portal" might sound like an idea that someone only thought of for a few seconds before tossing it in the trash, but somehow, Splitgate takes that crossover concept and turns it into one of the most compelling multiplayer shooters around today--free or otherwise. By giving you the ability to create portals on the map and shoot through them, the basic gameplay loop of shooting, finding cover, and shooting again has been flipped on its head. Nowhere is safe, because an enemy 50 yards away is also, potentially, right next to you. The strategies you use in just about every other shooter won't work in Splitgate, and that's what makes it so successful. Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis Phantasy Star Online 2: New GenesisPhantasy Star has been one of the most compelling RPG series for decades, beginning as a Final Fantasy competitor that instantly differentiated itself with sci-fi elements. With the updated MMO Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, it continues to impress through gorgeous environments and flashy combat. For action fans who may not usually be interested in the skill-bar-based combat of some other online role-playing games, New Genesis is a great alternative, and with six different classes available, you can find one to fit your own play style. Dauntless DauntlessMonster Hunter, but free? Not exactly, but that's basically the elevator pitch for Dauntless. Just like in Capcom's series, you'll be teaming up with other players as you venture out into the unknown and take down mon… er, "Behemoths," though the game's style take it in a more science-fiction direction than Monster Hunter ever has. Because of cross-play support, you can play it on Xbox One with friends across PlayStation, PC, and even Nintendo Switch, and special modes like Escalation will challenge your boss-killing ability in a marathon of combat. See our full Dauntless review. Call of Duty: Warzone Call of Duty: Warzone Call of Duty first entered the battle royale scene with Black Ops 4's Blackout mode, but it was perfected in the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone. Expanding the universe of several of the series' games, including Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War, Warzone manages to seamlessly fit the twitchy Call of Duty shooting into a battle royale while also offering plenty of reasons for players to keep coming back. One of the biggest is the new Pacific map, which features a radically different layout and color scheme than its European predecessor. See our full Call of Duty: Warzone review. View the full article
    • Niantic is mixing up the Pokemon Go Community Day schedule with tomorrow's Bulbasaur-themed Community Day Classic, a first-of-its-kind bonus community event coming just a week after the Spheal event on January 16. While we love the idea of extra Community Days--and we love Bulbasaur--this new initiative does raise some questions. We sat down with the live game director Michael Steranka, who shed some light on the strategy behind the extra event and whether or not we'll see more of them in the future. Bulbasaur is the bulba-star of the first Community Day Classic.Bulbasaur! The first question we had was a simple one: Why was Bulbasaur the best choice for this first-ever Community Day Classic? Besides our insisting it was because Bulbasaur is the best--something Steranka said was "up for debate"--the first Pokemon in the Pokedex was a logical choice for multiple reasons. "Bulbasaur was one of the first ever Pokemon we featured in a Community Day," Steranka explained, "as well as a Pokemon that is very relevant in PvP. Also, there's a great thematic element where in the Pokedex, he's literally number 001. So we thought, let's start with him and see where we go from there." The Community Day Classic event will also award the highly-effective Frenzy Plant move to any Ivysaurs who evolve into Venusaur during the event. While other Community Day events with returning Pokemon debuted new moves--Eevee's second Community Day, for example, featured Eevees knowing Last Resort--keeping Frenzy Plant on Venusaur here was a conscious decision. "We brought in brand-new moves for re-featured Pokemon from earlier Community Day events, but we received a lot of feedback that players want access to the original hyper-powerful moves–Frenzy Plant, Blast Burn, Hydro Cannon, etc--and we wanted to honor that." The Community Day Classic Experiment The genesis of a "classic" Community Day started from the simple fact that the game is approaching six years old, and there are a large group of players who might have missed out on older Pokemon. "What it really boiled down to is, a lot of the Pokemon that we've featured in previous years just haven't been in rotation for a while," Steranka explained. "We see millions of people come into the game every year and they've missed out. We want to make sure everyone is able to get access to these Pokemon." Despite this, having a second Community Day only six days after the previous one could engender feelings of burnout or fatigue for the game. Steranka definitely understands this--he played all six hours of the Spheal Community Day this past weekend himself--and acknowledges that the team gets it too. "I definitely empathize with those who may be feeling a sense of burnout with this event being so soon," he said. "But yes, that is definitely something we'll be considering." For those who may be worried that we're going to be inundated with Community Days every week, the Community Day Classic happening this weekend is essentially a trial run and player feedback will be key to its future. Player perception for the event will be key to its future, he explained, and as of now the team is not committed to this being a permanent part of the Pokemon Go experience. "We're always looking for player feedback to guide us into the future of the product, so we didn't want to overcommit and say, 'Hey, we're always going to do these classic Community Days every month moving forward,'" Starenka said. "Maybe we'll do it once every three months or 1-2 times a year, or maybe players will hate this and we'll say, 'That was a good trial run, but we don't need to do this again." Pikmin Bloom, Niantic's other Nintendo mobile project, also has a Community Day on January 22.Pokemon and Pikmin The upcoming Community Day Classic shares a day with another of Niantic's Community Days: a 10,000-step event for the recent mobile title Pikmin Bloom. Were these two events intentionally planned to run simultaneously? Steranka says no, but the two games do work in tandem very well. "We do a lot of what we call 'air traffic control' with a lot of the teams at Niantic," Strenka explained. "I think there are some games where a Community Day isn't as natural of an overlap with one another. In those cases we don't want a player to have to decide which game they're playing. "Fortunately Pikmin Bloom plays very nicely with Pokemon Go on Community Days. Thanks to our Adventure Sync, you can be active in Pokemon Go while also getting the kilometers you need in Pikmin Bloom." When we asked if any future "cross-pollinations" were planned between Go and Bloom--because a Pikachu in a Pikmin hat sounds awesome--Steranka told us not to get too excited. "As of right now," he revealed, "that's not something we're currently exploring." View the full article
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    • Microsoft's Minecraft franchise and the apparel company Puma appear to be teaming up for something. A teaser video posted today hints at a forthcoming partnership between the hugely popular gaming franchise and the German athletic apparel company. In the teaser video, an ocelot from Minecraft chases a creeper, ending with the ocelot jumping into position to match the Puma logo. "We can't wait to reveal more," the developer said. That's all there is to go on for this collaboration, so we'll have to wait to learn more. But Puma would become just the latest big-name brand to work with Microsoft on the Minecraft series. The franchise has previously welcome skins from mega-franchises like The Simpsons and Star Wars, as well as Mass Effect and Skyrim, among many, many others. Minecraft was in the news recently when it became the first video game franchise ever to pass 1 trillion views on YouTube. The series remains immensely popular and continues to receive big new updates, the most recent of which was Caves and Cliffs in December. The series is becoming a film, with Peter Sollett (Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist) directing. Minecraft has also been making headlines recently as part of Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Microsoft didn't stop publishing Minecraft on PlayStation when it acquired the series, and Microsoft will continue to put Call of Duty on PlayStation even after the buyout. View the full article
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