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Games with Gold January: D4, The Witcher 2, MX vs. ATV Alive

Games with Gold in January offers the deliciously off-kilter D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die free all month for Xbox Live Gold members on Xbox One, a savings of $15. Xbox 360 Gold members get two rounds of free games: MX vs. ATV Alive from January 1 - 15, and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings from January 16 - 31.

Swery's D4 is a particularly lovely offering for Xbox One owners – in our review, we note the surprising smoothness of the Kinect voice and motion controls, and highlight the wacky yet gruesome narrative: "As a Kinect game, D4 gives me hope for the innovation and technical acuity still to come in motion-controlled gaming. [...] It's all very fun, even when addressing the gory details of a murder, but that's not where it stops. The story, while generic on the surface, is engaging and wild enough to support an episodic format. I want to know what happens next. I want to interrogate more people. I want to find out who killed my wife, and I want to try to bring her back."

Happy new year, indeed.
[Image: Microsoft]

2014's Box Art: The Year in Review

Gaming is as deeply entrenched in the online age as it's ever been, with more downloadable games hitting storefronts than ever before. So there's no better time than now, while we still can, to commemorate the year through the lens of box art.

So many hours and so much thought goes into creating box art, with designers working their utmost to grab consumer attention at ground level. That makes for a curious mix of designs, turning the average store shelf into a kaleidoscope of logos, familiar faces, and occasionally glittering artwork. That very much remain the case this year.

We've taken 50 of 2014's retail releases - we've restricted it to games that hit physical store shelves (sorry, Shovel Knight) - and compiled them into a gallery to chronicle the year. As for which box art stood out from the rest, we welcome you to illuminate us in the comments.

What was your favorite video game box art of 2014? Which of the covers we didn't include were ones you really liked? And what about the coulda-shoulda-done-betters? Let us know!

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is UK's Christmas No. 1

Ding dong merrily on high / In the UK CoD is winning
Ding dong verily the sky / In LA Kotick's grinning
Spa-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-aycey
Kevin in excelsis!

Like an exosuit-clad soldier sneaking stealthily down the chimney, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare sneaks up on FIFA 15 to nick the UK Christmas No. 1. Activision's shooter usurped EA's kicker with a last-minute promotion, which according to Chart Track makes it the fifth CoD ever to claim the top spot in merrytime.

Outside of that excitement, the UK charts are getting into the holiday spirit by barely moving an inch. Nonetheless, if you jingle below the break you'll find the full top ten, and this week a very festive edition of the customary music video - sort of.

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Final Fantasy Type-0 HD's Class Zero is wanted for treason

Image Relations can get a bit dramatic between Final Fantasy Type-0 HD's 12-pack of young heroes known as Class Zero, and those flare-ups work well for the above propaganda clip for a dominant Empire. Try and keep Class Zero together when Type-0 HD reaches PS4 and Xbox One in March. [Image: Square E... Continue Reading

Claire goes back to work in Resident Evil Revelations 2 opening

It's hard to imagine why Claire Redfield of Capcom's Resident Evil universe would put anything other than "I saved you from becoming zombie food" on her resume, but we suppose that's a pretty good attribute when you work for a human rights organization that unravels the schemes of/cleans up the damage made by terrorists using bio-weapons. Unfortunately, being such a high-profile figure also makes you a target, as evidenced by the opening scene of Resident Evil Revelations 2, which you can watch after the break.

Historically, Claire has fared well against both helicopters and men with guns, but age catches up to all of us it seems, and the lady Redfield is unable to save her place of business from attack. Community Manager Brelston writes on the Capcom Unity blog that after this scene, Claire and company wake up on a prison island with "little information, no weapons and no clear way home."

Well, at least our heroine will be in familiar circumstances when Resident Evil Revelations 2 begins its episodic tale on February 17, 2015.

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New Final Fantasy 15 footage is pos-Cid-ively Titan-ic



Square Enix showed off new Final Fantasy 15 footage this weekend as part of Japanese gaming, anime and maga convention, Jump Festa 2015. While short, there's plenty of new footage to be enjoyed, including first glimpses at series mainstays Titan and Cid.

Titan is quite a bit larger than the last time he appeared in a Final Fantasy game, but it's Cid that's been given a more thorough makeover; the character, usually portrayed as a male airship mechanic, is now "Cidney," a female. A tough-n-tumble sort of lady who gets down in the dirt and doesn't run around in a chainmail bikini ... because she's wearing hotpants and a jacket too small for a toddler instead.

Kotaku reports that game director Hajime Tabata said the town shown in the trailer will be seamlessly connected to the outside world, and though the development team is aiming to make the whole game seamless, "it may turn out that for important places there will be loading." Tabata also clarified that players will gain experience via battles, but those experience points will not convert into levels until a player makes camp to rest.

A demo for Final Fantasy 15 will be available as part of the initial run of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD when it launches on March 17, 2015.
[Image: Square Enix]

Malkovich, Paxton star in Advanced Warfare Exo Zombies



When Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is overrun with zombies, who do you want standing at your side? If you answered "anyone who survived The Walking Dead's zombie apocalypse," "that girl with the gun-leg from Planet Terror," "the general keeping humanity from extinction in Warm Bodies" and "someone with expertise in exoskeletal power armor, like the Master Sergeant from Edge of Tomorrow," we have two things to say to you: One, wow that's a specific list. Like ... really, absurdly specific. And two, congratulations! You'll get all four when the Exo Zombies mode comes to Call of Duty.

According to a new teaser (which you can view above), the Exo Zombies mode will feature the talents of Jon Bernthal (Shane, The Walking Dead), Rose McGowan (Cherry Darling, Planet Terror), John Malkovich (Grigio, Warm Bodies) and Bill Paxton (Master Sergeant Farell, Edge of Tomorrow; also Private Hudson, Aliens). Unfortunately, there's still very little of the mode to be seen in action, so chew on what morsels of gameplay video you can before the zombies chew on Xbox-owning brains in January, and other platform owners at a later date.
[Image: Activision]

343 announces free ODST campaign as apology for Halo: MCC woes

When Halo: The Master Chief Collection launched in November with a largely non-functional online multiplayer component, people were upset. Bonnie Ross, head of developer 343 Industries, personally apologized for the issues, promising to "make this right" with fans of old Tall, Green and Handsome. Yesterday, Ross elaborated on just what she meant: free stuff, including an updated version of Halo 3: ODST running on Xbox One.

Anyone who played Halo: The Master Chief Collection online between launch (November 11, 2014) and December 19, 2014 is eligible to receive one month of complimentary Xbox Live Gold, an exclusive in-game nameplate and avatar, and a free download of the Halo 3: ODST campaign running at 1080p and 60 frames per second. Lastly, everyone who plays The Master Chief Collection will be able to enjoy an updated version of the Halo 2 map, "Relic," when it launches as a free content update for the game.

‚ÄčThe nameplate and avatar will be added to The Master Chief Collection sometime later this month, while a reworked Relic and the ODST campaign will arrive sometime in spring of 2015. "Both [Relic and Halo 3: ODST] were not part of our original development plans, but as a result of community feedback, and to do something special for our fans, both are now in development," an FAQ page for the recently-announced content reads.

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Bravo, you've opened Pandora's app on Xbox One

The Xbox One was originally announced as a console that would bring games, movies, television and other entertainment together in one place. Recently-instated head of Xbox Phil Spencer may be more about the "games" part of the equation, but that doesn't mean the console has stopped supporting its secondary functions. Case in point: This week, the Xbox One has received apps for Pandora, Vevo, Bravo, Telemundo and Popcornflix.

If you're unfamiliar with any of the above, here's a quick rundown:
  • Pandora is an online music service that creates playlists based on the input you give it. Enter "Aerosmith" for example, and you'll wind up with a station that plays classic rock.
  • If you like to engage your eyeballs at the same time as your eardrums, Vevo hosts a collection of music videos to enjoy.
  • Bravo Now is an app that lets you watch full episodes of Bravo programming such as The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce.
  • The Telemundo Now app operates on the same concept: Log in with your service provider and watch full episodes of Telemundo novelas, shows and specials.
  • Popcornflix is a free video streaming service that hosts hundreds of films at no additional cost.
Enjoy your music and movies, señors and señoritas.
[Image: Microsoft/Pandora]

Minecraft's latest Xbox update sounds a little horse

Developer 4J Studios has issued a new update for the Xbox One and Xbox 360 versions of sandbox hit Minecraft that adds new enemies, festive explosives and man's other best friend, the horse.

These new steeds are the focus of the update. Horses can be tamed, ridden and outfitted with armor. They can even be crossbred with donkeys to create mules. Beyond pixelated animal husbandry, the update also brings with it new enemies, including bats, witches and Wither Skeletons, and a new range of programmable fireworks. On the technical side of things, the 1.6.4 update also adds new options to the Host menu, granting players more control over what guests in their virtual worlds are allowed to do.

As with all updates for the Xbox versions of Minecraft, 1.6.4 is available to players at no charge. You can see these new features in action in the trailer beyond the break.
[Image: 4J Studios/Microsoft]

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Joystiq Streams: Halo 5 beta, live and uncut



Halo is on the brain this December. We're chock full of conflicting emotions about Master Chief, personable AI, and the many ancient technology entanglements they find themselves snared in. Revisiting all of Chief's tales in the Master Chief Collection reminded us just how awesome Halo campaigns can be. That said, the plague of matchmaking problems in that anthology caused some serious negative connotations to attach themselves to Halo multiplayer in our brains. What we need is a palate cleanser! A view of the future, not the past. The Halo 5: Guardians beta will be our virtual sorbet.

We're streaming Halo 5: Guardians on Joystiq.com/Twitch starting at 4:00PM EST. Iron sights? Crazy dash moves? We'll see what 343's cooked up. You can come on by and hang with us while we do it.

Joystiq.com/Twitch broadcasts every Tuesday and Thursday at 4:00PM EST, but we stream at unusual times as we're doing today, so make sure to follow us on Twitch to catch all our streams.
[Images: Microsoft]

Joystiq Discussion: Do you pre-order games?

Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Assassin's Creed: Unity. Driveclub. What do these games share? All of them hit consoles this fall in semi-functional states. Halo's matchmaking is still busted, Assassin's Creed is still working to iron out kinks, and Driveclub's many social features, the very things that distinguish it from other driving games, took weeks to properly work at all. As Joystiq's Richard Mitchell put it in his recent editorial, we're paying for broken games.

One reason that the big budget gaming industry is able to sell incomplete products as part of its business model is the pre-order ecosystem. The "insidious psychology" of wanting the latest thing first, as Richard puts it, is taken advantage of by the publishers producing the most expensive games in the world and people end up buying broken goods as a result. A solution to the problem: Stop pre-ordering.

Problem is, sometimes pre-ordering games is the only way to reliably get your hands on them. Limited run items like the retail PS4 version of Retro City Rampage sold out before the game was released. Obviously an international release like Assassin's Creed: Unity isn't going to suffer from the same shortage issues, but some physical releases by larger publishers are rare all the same, particularly limited editions.

The question: Do you pre-order games? Do you do it regularly or only in special circumstances? Take the poll and discuss in the comments.
[Images: Ubisoft]

Lords of the Fallen on mobiles is 'brand new,' not a port

The Lords of the Fallen game coming to iOS and Android isn't a port of this year's console and PC game. In a statement provided to Joystiq, CI Games CEO Marek Tyminski confirmed the mobile game is instead a "brand new" experience. Tyminski also said the Lords of the Fallen sequel announced earlier this week is in development for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Tyminski's statement in full reads:
"I can confirm that the statements made recently to the local Polish media at a press conference earlier this week in Warsaw, and mentioned on Facebook by Executive Producer Tomasz Gop, are true: a Lords of the Fallen sequel is currently in development for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. The reaction from fans to the news has been tremendous so far, and we're eager to take on the challenge of improving upon the solid experience that has been created with Lords of The Fallen.

"I'd also like to offer some new information - we're currently working on a mobile game that takes place in the Lords of the Fallen universe, which we're aiming to launch on iOS and Android in 2015. It will not be a straight port of the game though, but rather a brand new Lords of the Fallen experience. More details on that are still to come."

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Master Chief Collection reloads, adds Combat Evolved playlist

Sure Halo: The Master Chief Collection has already seen its share of stability patches and performance updates, but any fans of the original Halo: Combat Evolved should be pleased by the newest update released by developer 343 Industries, which introduces a playlist dedicated to maps from Halo: CE.

Prior to The Master Chief Collection's launch, 343 specified that the Halo: CE playlist would be held until they were able to "provide the best experience possible." The developer now touts that many of the game's needed tweakings and improvements were added via the most recent patch, and so players can queue up to take one another down, old-school style. The playlist features 2v2 battles, which is due to player feedback, according to 343.
[Image: Microsoft Studios]

Far Cry 4 plans a prison break for January 13

Far Cry 4's "Escape from Durgesh Prison" DLC will be available to download on January 13, Ubisoft announced today. The DLC will have players racing across Kyrat to finish challenges and recover lost weapons, upgrading their gear and skills along the way. Escape from Durgesh Prison will be playable in both single player and cooperative multiplayer modes, but should they die in the DLC, players will have to start the mission over from the beginning.

Escape from Durgesh Prison was revealed as part of Far Cry 4's season pass in October, which gives buyers access to multiple add-on missions including the season pass-exclusive DLC, The Syringe. Those without the $30 season pass can still pick up Escape from Durgesh Prison separately for $10. Far Cry 4 launched in November and received praise for its "interesting and absorbing" world in our review.

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