Naughty Dog Announces Release Date and More for The Last of Us Part 2

Two years of silence, and now Naughty Dog gave the world some information on the sequel to the 2013 release, The Last of Us. Physical goods, a release date, a trailer, and more has been announced in the past few days between State of Play on the 20 and today, Outbreak Day, the day in which the developer celebrates anything related to the zombie infested world.

The latest trailer gives some insight into the journey that Joel and Ellie will embark on. Neil Druckmann, creative director of the games, stated that the first was about “love” and this sequel will be about “hate.”Now the meaning behind his words are revealed as Ellie gets kidnapped by a new faction of bandits and witness her new girlfriend die, so it is time to start killing in this revenge story.

The video shows off gameplay and locations. Snowy rural areas to dilapidated cities will give the same variety of environments as the first adventure the two protagonists experienced.

Journalists got some hands on time with The Last of Us Part 2. They got to play three hours through two levels. I won’t walk through the demo since I did not play, but you can read Kotaku’s article on the gameplay along with the snippets of story and characters that were shown.

Last year Anthony Newman, the game’s co-director, told Polygon the new title would have multiplayer like its predecessor, but that changed to opt out of having an online mode. Newman said, “I know we had kind of announced that [it would have multiplayer], but as the game has developed, it’s become so ambitious, so grand in scope, and so intricate in its complexity, that it really required the full focus of the studio to deliver this single-player experience.”

Pre-order editions have been announced:

Standard comes with the base game for $59.99. Some in-game goods are given like an ammo capacity upgrade, crafting training manual, and digital pre-orders get an avatar of Ellie’s new tattoo.

Special Edition for $79.99. You get what the standard offers plus a PS4 dynamic theme, six PSN avatars, a steelbook, and a 48 page art book.

Collector’s is priced at $169.99. Anyone who gets this will get what is listed in the $79.99 edition along with an Amray case, 12″ statue of Ellie, Ellie’s bracelet, five stickers, six pins, digital soundtrack, digital version of the art book, lithograph art print, a behind the scenes documentary and a thank you letter.

Ellie Edition is a sold out product, but it did cost $229.99 and came with everything from the Collector’s plus Ellie’s backpack, logo patch, a vinyl record, and a keychain.

The Last of Us Part 2 releases on Feb. 21, 2020 exclusively for PlayStation.

Header image via Naughty Dog/Sony Interacting Entertainment

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Video Game Review: Borderlands 3

After years of waiting for a third title, Borderlands 3 has arrived. Gearbox’s stylized looter shooter has been one of my favorites ever since I played the second game. The latest entry is worth the wait in every aspect that makes up the DNA of this cel-shaded universe.

Like many of the stories, the Crimson Raiders need help from a Vault Hunter, yes that is you who carries that responsibility. It becomes a race between them and a new cult called Children of the Vault, run by two psychopathic twins, Tyreen and Troy, who want to not only conquer vaults around the galax, especially the mysterious Great Vault. It is the most apocalyptic, high stakes story to date along with twists and turns that made my jaw drop too many times to count.

The writing kept me laughing for all 30 to 40 hours. No matter how small or big a character is in the campaign, they will not be forgotten. The Calypso twins are worthy enemies who take a Millennial approach to destroy the universe, but they cannot touch the bar set by Handsome Jack.

The Vault Hunters available continue to show the creativity behind Borderlands. Fl4K (Flak) is the beastmaster who controls various creatures for support, Amara is the siren that has become a necessity to have as an option, Zane as the operative with all of his fancy gadgets, and Moze as the gunner, a character with the Iron Bear, a heavy-duty robot to help her in battle. It is the most diverse group with equally essential abilities.

Skill trees for each character have been heavily overhauled. The overall system looks quite familiar, but each of the three branches to choose from radically change playstyle for each of the monster slayers. I played Fl4k who ranged from having more reserved playstyle, an elemental damage focus, and pure aggressive attacks. It leads to far more playability to each Vault Hunter as individuals or when going for a new playthrough as someone different.

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Besides the art, Borderlands is all about its guns and loot. Gear is as rewarding as ever and more abundant than previous titles. A billion weapons was a bold claim, and it kinda works. More of what I found seemed too similar, but the variety of possible additions to your arsenal towers over past entries.

Main and side quests always have a unique spin to make it enjoyable. Even tasks that have a pesky objective make up for it with the wacky dialogue and sharp turns for the moments of laughing and asking, “What the fuck is going on?” I will surely spend plenty of more hours racking up the rest of the optional missions.

The overall feel of combat has improved with new systems like alternative fires, better gunplay, and ragdoll physics that had me laughing every step of the way. Shooting kicks better with improved sounds and animations. Having a staggering amount of different enemy types help make the never-ending killing not get boring.

The psychos and monsters to kill never get old, but bosses give combat that grand scale. These unique foes with better attack sets bring back classic boss battles; however, the series flaw of bullet spongey behemoths will turn an epic fight into a tedious shooting range.

The movement goes faster and smoother. Sliding does not get old while parkour makes for deeper levels as you climb various buildings and mountains. The physics hit the right balance between light and nimble, and heavy enough to not seem like a piece of paper running around killing bandits.

Vehicles have more weight, creating tighter handling. Not many more types of modes of transportation are added, but finding new parts for weapon, armor, and wheel upgrades make for refreshing experiences while still having the same car.

Customization to character colors, skins for both Vault Hunter and weapons, along with advanced vehicle options go above expectations on personalizing your experience. Plus, you get your own room to deck out in the spaceship Sanctuary, the new hub world for trading, missions, and traveling around the universe. Sadly, the bedroom gets a lack of action with only a few spots to put a decoration on the wall.

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Traveling around the cosmos is a fresh idea that works mostly in favor of the game’s scenery and narrative. One or two planets are quite small while others are massive, so that inconsistency disappointed me a little. However, each world has a unique environment, creatures, and eccentric personalities to remember.

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Coop is the ultimate way to play a Borderlands game. Shooting hordes of bloodthirsty opponents is as fun as ever. Four-way duels can show who is the best of your friend group as you step away from the baddies that lurk around every corner. Plus a new instanced loot system does not cause tension when someone grabs that gun you wanted, but old school fans can have the shared option if you would like.

Other online modes are available with Proving Grounds to fight bosses and Circle of Slaughter lets you and others fight hordes of enemies. Both give great rewards, as expected from the gear obsessed series. The problem comes from the lack of interest from the community because it takes a long time to find a match if you are lucky to get put into one.

The endgame will keep me coming back for many more hours. True Vault Hunter is back to replay missions with harder difficulty and better gear possibilities along with a new mode called Mayhem, a three-tiered modifier that makes for crazy stat enhancements to give the robots, bandits, and aliens that edge above you. On top of that goodness, Badass Ranks get replaced by Guardian Ranks to further that empowering feeling that should be felt after defeating the Calypsos.

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Collectibles add to the already stunning amount of replayability. Collecting goods give backstory or funny dialogue from the character it is associated with. Many miss the mark on finding hidden items, but this is one of the best I have found this year.

Initial trailers had me worried for the graphics as the cel-shaded style that makes Gearbox’s megahit series iconic looked out of date. Once I got my hands on the product, I could see I was wrong. The art mesmerized me like it did back in 2012 with enhanced lighting and neon colors to make the world pop out of my screen.

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Technical issues were worse from reports on social media, but I had my fair share. Falling through objects, connectivity problems, friends crashing (thankfully I was spared with one or two exceptions), and my pet would get stuck and not be able to aide me when fighting an army of Calypso fanatics.

The most annoying blemish on the surface came from the audio. Gunfire going quiet and characters talking sounded like they were at a far distance if my back gets turned to them. Usually, radio communication comes up when getting too much space between you and the NPC, but this seemed too inconsistent, so make sure subtitles are turned on.

The debut had the idea while the Sophomore release cemented its legacy by standing out from the vast array of shooters like it. Borderlands 3 does not radically change the formula, it sticks to it like glue. A lack of innovation proves to not always be detrimental as the new edition does not defy expectations, but headshots every target in sight.

Score: 9/10

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4 Film Adaptions That Match or Surpass the Quality of the Book

Fans of the original source material often get a sour taste once they see a movie adapt from their favorite book. Usually, they are right as the novel tends to beat out the Hollywood edition like some recent Stephen King adaptions. In rare cases like these, the film can reach the same level of quality or rise above the author’s creation.

Before anyone riots, this is based on what I have seen and read. If anything gets missed, it is because I only watched the movie and not read the book.

#4: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, adapted by David Fincher

David Fincher is a master at taking someone else’s work and making it his own while still being respectful to the author’s work. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is undoubtedly better than the movie by how it develops Nick and Amy as individuals and as a couple (played by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike). But the film reaches the bar by perfectly casting the already memorable characters, beautiful cinematography, and hitting all the right beats in the narrative.

If I had to choose my favorite adapted screenplay, this might get the award as I adore both the book and Fincher’s on-screen depiction.

#3: The Mist by Stephen King, adapted by Frank Darabont

I could pick a far better Stephen King novel that hit the big screen like the 2017 reboot of IT or the classic Shawshank Redemption, but I chose the sorely out of date 2007 flick. Sure, it has some painful CGI and could have plenty of other criticisms thrown at it. What puts Darabont’s film on the list is by how it matches up with what was written back in 1980 by the King of horror and its ending.

SPOILER: The ending of the book comes when the survivors escape by a car and run out of gas. Uncertain of death or rescue, they are trapped and must wait to see what happens. It ends with an ambiguous conclusion that felt too easy to be put on the paper.

The movie makes the protagonist, David (Thomas Jane) resort to shooting his son, and other survivors due to being stuck in the middle of the mist, surrounded by monsters. Then as he steps out of the vehicle to await his demise since he does not have a bullet for himself, the military arrives to save the day. It is heartbreaking and far more memorable than the bland end that King delivered.

#2: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, adapted by Mary Harron

Unpopular opinion, Mary Harron’s American Psycho reigns over the novel. I enjoyed Ellis’ writing, but the pacing was off, and the ending did not satisfy as much. Both share all of the same characteristics, but the film was given that extra push by better social commentary and Christian Bale’s stellar performance.

Ellis has too much psychopathic nonsense with Patrick Bateman without much substance. The filler hinders the actual plot and characters. When it starts to read well, it is brilliant and brutal, but the film tightens everything up so well.

#1: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, adapted as Let Me In by Matt Reeves

Sorry, I am not talking about the Swedish version that was directed by Tomas Alfredson. I only have seen Reeves’ Americanized adaption, so that is where we are going.

Lindqvist has the development of characters, a deeper narrative, and the violence to satisfy the horror fan in me. Reeves was able to take that to a more American audience by keeping the emotion and terror in this relationship between a boy and a vampire.

Reeves keeps it tighter, which in some ways hurts the film, but also enhances its experience. He makes it his own while maintaining the most essential ingredients to not step on Lindqvist’s masterpiece.

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Image via Lions Gate

5 Things About Borderlands That You (Probably) Never Knew

Borderlands 3 is ready to arrive, depending on your time zone you may already be playing or gearing up to jump into the long-awaited sequel. There is always a bit of information nobody knew that could have radically changed the game or gives some insight into its development. These facts will undoubtedly make you think differently about this cel-shaded shooter.

#5: Borderlands Taken Seriously?

The series has always taken a light-hearted approach to its characters and story while having some moments of seriousness. The first game is darker in tone compared to its sequels and the spin-off Telltale game, but it was meant to be even more serious.

The iconic aesthetic initially was more realistic, so was the narrative and personalities that inhabited the world. This shift in visuals caused rewrites and rerecordings of dialogue to fit the art style.

#4: Nathan Fillion Inspired Handsome Jack

Let’s all agree that the writing and Dameon Clarke’s performance makes Handsome Jack one of the greatest villains in history, across video games or any other medium. The inspiration for the character may surprise fans, it is Nathan Fillion.

The Firefly and Castle actor had an interview with Jimmy Kimmel. Something sparked in the minds of the writers when they watched this interaction to base the antagonist of Borderlands 2 on Fillion’s mannerisms. He was described as “charming and funny, but also slightly arrogant in a down-to-Earth kind of way,” and not to insult the star as a psychopath.

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Nathan Fillion speaking at the 2014 Phoenix Comicon. Image via Flickr/GageSkidmore

#3: Dedication to a Fan

Michael Mamaril, a 22-year-old fan of the games, passed away in Oct. 2011 due to cancer. To memorialize his dedication to Gearbox’s looter-shooter, they made him an NPC that hangs out in Sanctuary.

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Image via YouTube.com/AZxWOLFMANx

#2: How Ashly Burch Became Tiny Tina

Quite a few divisive characters lie in the Borderlands universe, Tiny Tina is one of them. The story behind her actress getting the part for this bloodthirsty girl is quite simple. Her brother Anthony wrote Borderlands 2, Pre-Sequel, and Tales from the Borderlands. Connections work, especially when it is family.

#1: David Eddings Getting to Become the Most Annoying Character

Clap Trap might be the most controversial video game character ever. Not because he says anything offensive, it is due to his annoying nature. You need a voice to give a headache to gamers, that is when you blame David Eddings.

The alleged abuse which left him to leave Gearbox and Claptrap behind is well documented, but not much has been on how the VP of business development became the dumb robot companion.

In a Rooster Teeth video, the company that Eddings now works, founder Burnie Burns talked with the former voice actor about his time at Gearbox Software. He gained voice acting experience from radio and working to fill in gaps during the development process at other studios. The character was described as an “afterthought” as the developers needed something to help guide the player in certain areas of the story, eventually landing this opportunity in Eddings’ lap.

When the Pre-Sequel came, the idea for Claptrap to be a playable character had emerged. Eddings suggested this was a bad idea as many people hated the little robot, yet the yellow moron with wheels is just as popular as he is despised. It went through, so did the multiple warnings to prepare players that being Claptrap for dozens of hours might be a bad thing to do to yourself.

Was there anything I missed? Give me any interesting trivia about the cel-shaded looter-shooter that I did not know about, try and surprise me if you can.

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Image via Gearbox Software

8 Most Satisfying Headshots in Video Games

The ingredient for great gun mechanics in video games comes from the sound and overall feel of its impact. Headshots, in particular, are beyond satisfying as you get that one shot kill that gets signified with a ping, splat, or pop. I wondered which are the best of headshots, and these are what I came up with.

#8: Halo

No exploding head or any else that is violent in Halo. The first game in the series does have something which is its ragdoll as you snipe another player’s face. The spinning animation is a classic that makes this series special when getting that one perfect shot.

#7: The Last of Us

Naughty Dog not only delivered an emotionally exhausting story, but it also had the gameplay to back it up. While punches and shooting any part of the body had the right thud or juicy sound of flesh, its headshots were particularly enjoyable. It came mostly from the sound which was equal parts disgusting, violent, and dopamine inducing.

#6: Killing Floor

As Valve refuses to make games, especially a third entry to Left 4 Dead, Tripwire Interactive made the cooperative zombie-killing experience that I was craving. Blowing apart heads is gratifying, but doing it in slow motion makes it far better.

#5: Destiny

I can go on about the problems of the Destiny games, but the gunplay is superb. Handguns, shotguns, and assault rifles all have that weight and power to make up for the weaker elements. Exploding heads of enemies may not be too violent for this rated T sci-fi shooter, but it still manages to be just as delightful as the goriest of games in the genre.

#4: Sniper Elite

Sniping in any game is a popular choice of weaponry. It often highlights the brutality of the combat mechanics, and Sniper Elite is that in one experience.

X-rays and slow motion camera work make every bullet jaw-droppingly violent. Seeing teeth turn to shrapnel inside of someone’s skull, eyes bursting, and brains turning to goop never gets old for morbid players wanting realism and brutality.

#3: Fallout 3 

Fallout 3 marked the first FPS in the series. The new take on the titles that have been around since the late 90s took a turn which granted a new bloody experience. Blowing off limbs was one thing, but head explosions were another. Bethesda made these apocalyptic games its own with modern RPG mechanics and a combat system that holds up today.

#2: Resident Evil 4

Another sharp turn for a franchise came from Resident Evil 4. The undead shooter turned from fixed camera angels to the modern landscape of gaming with its over the shoulder perspective. Popping heads was not only satisfying but dangerous as infected villagers could have something to surprise players.

#1: Gears of War

The first game to shock me with its violence was Gears of War. Chainsawing through the locus army was enough to make anyone want to live out their Leatherface fantasies, but this went a step above. Headshot galore should be the nickname for the Xbox exclusive as most weapons can pop heads easily. The sound effects and gore make it impossible to outgun this sci-fi shooter.

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Image via GearsofWar.Fandom

Capcom Unveil New Coop Resident Evil Spin-Off

After some teasers and leaks, Capcom releases a trailer for the next Resident Evil game, Project Resistance. It appears the title from the previous hints the studio was handing out will be the actual name for the new spin-off.

Project Resistance is called a “brand-new team-based survival horror experience,” where players will fight off the undead and a robotic foe who looks like Mr. X from Resident Evil 2.

Attendees at Capcom’s booth during the Tokyo Game Show will get to see the gameplay in action. The show will start Sept. 12 through Sept. 15.

Project Resistance is set to come out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Image via Capcom

Interview: JP Vanilla of Vanilla Sugar

#1: Has music always been a big part of your life or did it come later? When was that moment for you?

Music has always been a huge part of my life. My dad is a drummer / piano / player / singer and introduced me to piano at the age of four. My mom said I used to bang on pots and pans when I was younger!

#2: What are some of your favorite albums of all time?

My favorite album is The End of all Things to Come by Mudvayne. I can listen to the album from first song to last song without skipping a track.

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#3: What are the hardest and easiest parts of making music for you?

The easiest part of making music is the instrumental part. You can add whatever you want and make it work almost 98 percent of the time. The hardest part is writing lyrics. You have to make sure the content works, the syllables all have to fit, and the melody has to be spot on.

#4: When making music, what does the creative process look like for you and the band?

First thing created is the instrumental. Super fun, just vibing out. Then comes lyric writing and melody planning which is the most time-consuming – it has to be perfect!

#5: What is the biggest dream you have for the band?

I would like to be able to tour the entire world and sell out House of Blues sized venues.

#6: When did you first play music in front of an audience? What was that experience like?

My first show ever was when I was 12 years old. I played in my junior high talent show. I was pretty nervous because a lot of people were watching and it was my first time. We won the talent show so I am guessing we did well (laughs) I was a nervous wreck. To this day I get incredibly nervous before every show. My first Vanilla Sugar show was also nerve-wracking because the music is so different – it’s just me on stage. It was also good. I was happy to get the first one under my belt.

#7: Out of every show you have played, what are some experiences that stick out the most to you?

One show that always stays fresh in my mind is Warped Tour in Anchorage, Alaska. I played for thousands of people and watched them jam out to my songs. It was amazing! The merch line was 2 hours long after the show.

#8: What is the dream tour or festival that you would love to be a part of?

I would absolutely love to play Download Fest and Voodoo Fest.

#9: For the rest of the year, what plans does the band have?

I am currently in the studio working on finishing my debut album, She. She will be released in Jan. 2020, along with two music videos to follow. I have a couple shows left this year – Sept 13 at Area 51 in Los Angeles, CA, and Sept 28 at For The Community Fest in Houston, TX. These shows are to be followed by a US tour in Jan. to promote the new album!

Keep up with Vanilla Sugar for her upcoming album on her Facebook.

Thank you for this interview and thank you to Rogue PR for helping set everything up.

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Images provided by Rogue PR/Vanilla Sugar