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Heads roll in gorgeous Witcher 3 intro cinematic

Image As this meticulously rendered intro cinematic for The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt demonstrates, Geralt of Rivia's world is a dark place, full of arcane magicks, hardened warriors and horse heads flying through the air like so many bloody pigeons. [Image: CD Projekt] ... Continue Reading

World of Warcraft gives a week of free game time to lapsed players

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If you're a former World of Warcraft player who's been away from the game for a while, you might want to check your account for a nice surprise. Blizzard has activated a free seven-day pass to the game for all lapsed players. This pass includes all of the content up through Mists of Pandaria.

World of Warcraft is also throwing a 25% off sale for its extra services, including character transfers, faction changes, guild transfers, and (you guessed it) guild faction changes.

Hitman Go adds Hitman 2-inspired levels, on sale this week

Square Enix updated Hitman Go yesterday, adding new levels to the diorama-style puzzle game on iOS and Android. The game's eight new levels are based on Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Eidos' 2002 game for PC, Xbox and PS2. Additionally, the publisher dropped the price of the game to $1.99 (€1.79/£1.49) for one week, so those that have been on the fence about buying the assassination-themed puzzler may want to act fast.

The Hitman 2 levels are locked to players at the outset, but can be accessed in one of two ways just like the game's "Airport Box" update in July. Players will naturally unlock the Hitman 2 set by progressing through the game or can choose to pony up an extra dollar (€0.99/£0.69) to access the eight puzzles. The update brings the total number of levels in Hitman Go up to 91. Developer Square Enix Montreal's next mobile Hitman spinoff, Hitman: Sniper, soft-launched in Canada on iOS earlier this month and will arrive in the rest of the world this winter.
[Image: Square Enix]

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How 8-way fights work in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Super Smash Bros.' 4-player fights have been chaotic but properly described by subtitles like Melee and Brawl. With the introduction of 8-player fights in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, though, those fights are going from brawl-ish to downright riotous. How will 8-ways in Smash Bros. for Wii U even work? The official Smash Bros. website offers up a handy guide for octuple pounding.

First and most importantly, only certain stages are available for 8-way fights. Screenshots show a Super Mario Galaxy stage, the Xenoblade stage seen in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, the Earthbound stage, and the Twilight Princess desert scene. The site does not specify if these are the only stages available for 8-player fights.

Those fights are restricted to Stock (set number of times you can be knocked out) and Time (knock out as many players before the clock runs out) settings. Players can split into as many as four color-coded teams of two as well.

How will these fights control? Players can use as many as eight Nintendo 3DSes or eight Gamecube controllers, but there are some restrictions. Only seven Wii remotes or Wii U Pro controllers can be used simultaneously, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U only supports a single tablet GamePad. Plan those Smash parties accordingly.
[Images: Nintendo]

PS4 update rolls out USB music player, Share Play next week

The PlayStation 4's version 2.0 system update will arrive next Tuesday, October 28, PlayStation announced via Twitter. Codenamed "Masamune," the update adds the ability to play music from a USB stick connected to the console. As revealed earlier this month, it also features more game broadcast tools, such as the ability to archive sessions and search for specific games being broadcast, as well as themes to spice up the system's layout.

One of the major features being added to the console next week is Share Play, the pass-the-controller-style cooperative multiplayer game sharing mode announced by Sony at its Gamescom 2014 event in August. Though limited to one-hour increments, the feature will be inherent to all PS4 games, allowing PS Plus members to let a friend take over a game the latter doesn't own via PSN. The Masamune update also adds a dedicated YouTube app as well as improved game library filtering options.
[Image: Sony]

Puzzling platformer Forward to the Sky scales Greenlight's tower

What do you get when you blend a third-person perspective, puzzles, platforming mechanics, JRPG-inspired art and a big sword together? Forward to the Sky, of course, the 3D puzzle-platformer-with-a-big-sword game from independent developer Magichnology. The Taipei, Taiwan-based developer added its first game to the list of Steam hopefuls on Greenlight, awaiting community approval for distribution on the PC platform.

Starting out as a side project for the developer in September 2013, the game is set in a "sky tower ruin." Players control a princess that gathers crystal pieces while ascending the tower and learning about a disaster that seemingly erased history. Magichnology crafted six levels for the game, each highlighted by the game's "relaxing mood, bright art" and "adventurous but peaceful music." Forward to the Sky is slated to launch in Q4 of this year on PC, Mac and Linux for $10.
[Image: Magichnology]

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Retro RPG Pier Solar HD out for Wii U on November 6


The Wii U version of WaterMelon's classic-styled JRPG Pier Solar HD will hit the eShop on November 6, suffering a brief delay after its recent cross-platform launch.

Tracing its origins back to a Sega Genesis homebrew release in 2010, Pier Solar later transitioned to modern platforms thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. Pier Solar premiered for the PlayStation 4 and PS3 in September, arriving alongside releases for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Ouya.

Pier Solar HD boasts stylish art and turn-based combat that recalls the 16-bit RPG era. A release for the Xbox One is also in the works.

[Image: WaterMelon]

3D Realms returns with 32-game Anthology release


Once-defunct publisher 3D Realms has re-opened its doors, releasing a 32-game compilation and promising a slate of upcoming releases from a newly-assembled staff.

The 3D Realms Anthology, available for $19.99 from the publisher's website, collects Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, Commander Keen: Goodbye Galaxy, Wolfenstein 3D, Rise of the Triad: Dark War, and other classic PC games in a DRM-free package. Many of the company's past works -- including Alien Carnage, Major Stryker, and Stargunner -- are also available as free downloads.

3D Realms shed its former staff in 2008, but retained its rights to Duke Nukem and other landmark PC franchises. Rise of the Triad developer Interceptor Entertainment acquired label owner Apogee Software earlier this year, and now controls all associated IP and branding.

[Video: 3D Realms]

Assassin's Creed: Unity shows off sneaking, sweeping, PC specs


There's a lot of room for activities in Assassin's Creed: Unity – activities such as murder mysteries, treasure hunts and high-intensity sweeping, as shown off in the game's Open World Activities trailer.

To prepare your rig for these feats, Ubisoft has released PC requirements for the game, including a 64-bit operating system, 6GB RAM minimum and 8GB RAM recommended, 50GB hard drive space and, for multiplayer, 256 kbps or faster broadband connection. See the full requirement list below.

Assassin's Creed: Unity will run at 30fps on both PS4 and Xbox One, and developers have said that there's no real advantage to a game running at 60fps, the framerate some fans would rather see. The game's AI is what makes a top-tier framerate difficult to reach, even on new consoles, Senior Producer Vincent Pontbriand said: "We could be running at 100fps if it was just graphics, but because of AI, we're still limited to 30fps."
[Image: Ubisoft]

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League of Legends tops MMO revenue list, Hearthstone No. 10

MMO games, including MOBAs, compose 21 percent of the worldwide digital game market and are on track to generate $11 billion in revenue this year alone, SuperData Research reports. By 2017, that number is expected to rise to $13 billion.

In 2014, the No. 1 MMO in terms of revenue is League of Legends, which has so far generated $946 million, beating out subscription games such as World of Warcraft, which is No. 4 on the list with $728 million. World of Tanks comes in at No. 5 and represents the largest revenue gap on the graph at $369 million. Dota 2 is No. 9 with $136 million, and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is No. 10 with $114 million. See the full graph below.

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35 minutes of Smash Bros. Wii U facts and fights



Today, Nintendo broadcast thirty minutes of Smash Bros. Wii U action for the world, revealing fifty facts about the upcoming game. While a good portion of the Nintendo Direct episode was reiterating information we've already learned about the anticipated game, there were a handful of announcements – such as the reveal of an offline 8-player mode.

Other information revealed included notes on the Wii U game's soundtrack, which Nintendo announced would feature original music, "almost all" of the tunes from the recently released Smash Bros. 3DS and tracks from the history of games associated with the fighters.

In the spirit of catching them all, Nintendo also revealed that owning both the 3DS and Wii U versions of Smash Bros. give players access to Mewtwo as a playable fighter. The classic Pokemon character is scheduled to be available for download in Spring 2015.

For more Smash Bros. and to hear the most excitable announcer in history, watch the video above.

Metareview: Civilization: Beyond Earth

Joystiq's Alexander Sliwinski gave 2K's interstellar strategy game Civilization: Beyond Earth four stars in his review, alternately praising it as "a good game in the context of the Civilization franchise" while also framing it as "a cut-rate disappointment" compared to its inspiration, Alpha Centauri.

While some feel that it comes up short compared to its predecessors, Civilization: Beyond Earth still has a lot to offer for fans of the strategy genre. Here's a small sampling of what critics are saying.

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Up to 8 players brawl in Super Smash Bros. Wii U

According to today's Nintendo Direct stream, when Super Smash Bros. hits the Wii U it will boast "the highest quality visuals" the series has ever seen running at 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second. That's a good thing too, as you'll need those extra pixels to contain the game's simultaneous 8-player brawls.

The inclusion of an 8-player Smash mode comes with two caveats: 8-person melees are only available when playing offline and not all stages are eligible for that many combatants. Instead, the game features specially-designed, extra large stages to accommodate all those fighters. As you can see from the Nintendo Direct archive video below the break, even these designated stages quickly grow very chaotic when eight fighters are duking it out.

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Digital Foundry looks into Evil Within pre-patch problems

Our review of The Evil Within wasn't too keen on Shinji Mikami's latest survival horror epic, but according to the techies at Digital Foundry, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game are worse off if you play offline and forego the day-one patch.

As you'll see in the performance comparison video beyond the break, the un-patched game runs 30 to 40 percent slower than its updated counterpart. The slowdown is so bad at times that when creating the video, Digital Foundry couldn't even properly record its findings and "needed to modify the values of our frame-time graph when creating the performance video, in order to accommodate gameplay pauses of up to 100ms." Additionally, while the patched game runs at a resolution of 1920x768, the unpatched game can only manage 1600x900 awkwardly crammed into a 1920x768 window. "What's baffling, though, is that even with a lower resolution, the performance is so much lower all around than the patched product," Digital Foundry adds.

While the development team's impressive work on the game's 1.01 patch can only truly be appreciated when witnessing the technical troubles of its original incarnation, it does drive home the worrying nature of our new "always online" hobby.
[Image: Bethesda Softworks]

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Upgraded Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas coming to Xbox 360

Following a recent leak that exposed Xbox 360 Achievements for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Rockstar Games has confirmed that an updated version of the open-world crime sandbox is headed to Microsoft's moribund console.

Beyond confirming that the Achievements discovered by fans are legit, Rockstar has offered a modicum of information on what will be included in the San Andreas redux. Obviously, the game will feature Achievement support, and the Rockstar support page notes that the game will feature 720p resolution and "enhanced draw distance."

Lacking from Rockstar's description was any mention of how much the digital re-release will cost, but we won't have to wait long for the answer to that mystery. Rockstar plans to launch Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on the Xbox 360 on October 26.
[Image: Rockstar Games]

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The Joystiq Podcast

The Joystiq Podcast

Super Joystiq Podcast 117: The Evil Within, Far Cry 4, Bayonetta 2

Latest episode: Friday, October 17th, 2014

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