The Callisto Protocol Performance Review

The Callisto Protocol is a game with a myriad of inspirations and references within its design, but on the technical front it is most certainly a leader. Striking Distance is a relatively small, and certainly new studio, filled with a mix of veterans and new members who have collaborated to create one of the most forward-looking games of this generation. But before I get into that, I need to note that while the game is cross-generation, our review code only had access to the new-gen consoles and later the PC version.

Game Modes

The PS5 and Xbox Series X both have two modes: one is the default, which you could call a Quality mode or Ray Tracing mode, which runs at 30fps and has a dynamic scaling resolution with counts ranging from 3456×1944 to 2304×1296, effectively 90% to 60% of 4K. This is then improved, I suspect, by Unreal Engine’s TAAU to up-sample that back to 4K as often as possible. The image treatment here from that lower base is staggering, and I would not be shocked to learn that the team that has built or enhanced this with their own custom resolve and AA pass, as it can easily pass as 4K aside from some high-contrast areas that can be slightly unstable from the jittered rendering resolve it uses to up-sample. The game also supports FSR 2.1, with the caveat that this could be what the consoles are using, and the dynamic scaling could be higher or lower. Due to its dark look, gritty world, gore, and violence, this is a game that benefits greatly both from the Film Grain, which can improve perceived sharpness of the image, and the superb Per Pixel Motion Blur that assists greatly in the fully real-time cinematics, often convincing you they are genuine offline renders from only last generation.

The Quality mode is where all the new features stand out, being a great example of how the team has integrated elements of the later Unreal Engine 5 into this Unreal Engine 4.2 game. It supports both DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 to enable older GPUs to run the game, but without DX12 you will miss out on the ray-traced reflections, shadows, and translucent surface refractions. In isolation they may seem like only a small boost, but due to the core cinematic and atmospheric design the game has, they are the biggest reason the game pulls off possibly the most impressive real-time character models in games thus far.

This mode has two main boosts, Ray Traced Shadows and Reflections, with the shadows running on both Series X and PS5. They not only dramatically increase the amount of shadow casting light sources within a scene, they also allow smaller objects to now cast shadows. The accuracy here is incredible as light and shadow now react more realistically, and less light bleeds through geometry. Darker areas now contrast better with the light, and shadows cast right off into the distance, whereas in Performance mode, they can pop in close to the camera and cast no shadows off into the middle and far distance. The way light casts across faces is so good, making it one of the main reasons that the game has such a high-quality CGI look and feel. The other big boosts are in the gameplay, as the lighting design works much better with the sheer wealth of shadows, particularly since some jump scares and tells in the game are designed with Ray Traced shadows in mind. This means in Performance mode you will simply not see a shadow of a monster in the distance, whereas in the Quality mode it is like Michael Myers popping up from behind the sofa.

Currently only the PlayStation 5 supports ray-traced reflections, even as of launch patch 1.3, with the Series X version limited to screen space reflections. I would assume that a patch will come soon to add them to the Series X, but until then it does leave the Xbox console missing out on a big visual boost of the new-gen version. The only saving grace is the Quality mode on Series X does run with a higher resolution most of the time due to this. The loss is noticable, as reflections are another key ingredient to the horror cake. Screen space reflections are still used as a boost to the local screen data on pools of water, blood and such, but they draw off as SSR no longer has that information on screen, but they blend here with those ray-traced reflections, and those are always present. From giant security robots to head-munching beasts, everything reflects in these surfaces. But the game goes even further by using them in planar surfaces and transparent reflections, which are expensive, meaning that both you and dynamic enemies all appear far more grounded and present in the game world. These reflections are also used on sub surface light refraction on enemy skin, with the blood- and pus-filled growths refracting light through in real-time.

The second mode is Performance, which makes some visual cutbacks to the graphical force this game is. Ray-traced effects are all off the table now along with reduced post effects, lighting model, ambient occlusion, shadows and resolution, which now changes the dynamic range from a 2560×1440 maximum down to a low of approximately 2112×1188 – 55% of 4K – in some heavier sections. Again, with many of these techniques it may be a base resolution AA up sampling that now targets 1440p rather than 4K. The result is that any deficit can be hard to notice in many sections, but the biggest tell is on texture details within high frequency areas, increased dithering on shadows and a great deal less of them, and worse and nosier lighting passes. The payback is the game now runs at a 60fps target, which helps improve the temporal stability and the controller response. This helps most in the dodge-and-evade combat mechanic which requires you to move the left stick in opposite directions to the attack.

That said, this game is not a fast-paced shooter by any means, although it does have many other Doom-like qualities. In fact one of the games it reminded me of was Doom 3, a game that pioneered stencil shadows, so it’s fitting for the ray-traced ones here to really deliver on those same aims of accurate light and dark. It has the same sense of atmospheric tension, just delivered on a whole new scale.

The Series S cuts back some more effects, but resolution is the same as the Performance mode on the higher-end consoles, with a 1440p high and dynamically scaling down to 1080p as needed, although all my counts came out at 1440p. However, this is a single mode on the console and targets the same 30fps as the higher-quality mode of the other consoles, but it misses out on many of the graphical treats that mode offers, and instead resembles the Performance mode more, just with some extra cutbacks to aid the performance targets and relatively high pixel count it offers. The differences are not stark to most I am sure, but it did stand out to me jumping from the ray-traced mode on the other two. The cutbacks are intelligent, which can start to highlight some of the cross-generation roots of the game, as the extra fidelity, post effects, lighting and essential post processed film like rendering techniques are cut back heavily in places and far more frugal in others. This leaves materials often looking flat, with far fewer light sources, shadows, and more obvious light bleed and incorrect lighting on faces. These can still happen on the Performance mode on the other consoles, it just appears more frequent here due to reduced shadows over those modes.

Performance Comparisons

Performance Mode

Starting with the Performance mode, pitting the PS5 against the Xbox Series X, the first big difference is the resolution is often higher on the PS5 than the Series X, with the PS5 sometimes having a 19% higher pixel count. In addition, the performance is slightly more stable on the PS5, but these tend to be memory or CPU-like stutters that crop up on Series X on occasion when entering a new area, or mid-battle as it appears to be calculating the impact of the dynamic dismemberment and deformation system in real time. That said, most of these are almost invisible with an fps graph, and they both perform brilliantly in all the sections I tested with that 60fps rate never being an issue. Considering the game’s delivery time and some of the bugs that did crop up, performance is largely a standout achievement. Additionally, the patches that have come since review code dropped have improved all formats, and the 60fps mode is very close now between the two consoles.

Ray Traced Mode

The extra graphical enhancements and increased resolution cost halve the framerate in this mode, which is actually more than a fair trade off as the increased per object motion blur and 3rd person action are not significantly hampered by the reduced input latency. And from the sections I tested, it really only skips a single frame here and there which would never be noticed without a frame-time graph. The review code was very stable on PS5 and slightly less so on Series S, but the Series X had more dips and judders that would have caused an issue. But applying the patch 1.2 and then 1.3 it now performs much better and is close to a locked 30fps to now be in the same range as the PS5. In this mode though the Series X has the resolution advantage now, with it often hitting 2880×1620 versus the PS5 often being at 2688×1512, giving a 14% resolution increase in this mode. The visual reductions do explain some of this, but like the small performance dips, the gap is not really apparent as the relatively high resolutions they all run at.

Xbox Series S

The Xbox Series S also runs very close to a locked 30fps, and I noted no big issues both with and without Motion Blur. It can dip more than the Quality mode on the other two consoles, but this has been improved with the pre-launch patch and now is as close to locked 30fps as you would hope for. I played some sections I thought would present some dips, but it was all very solid in general with only a handful of dips on the odd occasion, so this presents an excellent version of the game that manages to achieve the core aims of the team. The biggest standout is the much lower RAM pool does cause lower material quality and slow mip loading in gameplay and more so in cinematics, which is where they stand out the most.

SoundScapes

The final piece of the jump scare jigsaw is the sound design, mixing and execution. The electric fizzle of an earthing cable. The hydraulic pressure of an opening door. Fans that create a Doppler effect as you walk closer, accompanied by screen shake and controller vibrations. The meaty squelch as heads pop, limbs break and much much more. The use of sound and silence is incredible as you can hear the screech of enemies in the distance, but sometimes the sound of silence scares you the most. Music is blended in at times, with a clear John Carpenter-like synth mix that has more than a nod to the Thing. Voice acting from all is top notch and although it can be cheesy and cliche at times, it often takes twists and turns you do not expect and is never holding your hand or running on too long. I often say that sound is 50 percent of the experience in games and films, and here that may be understating its impact. It is an impeccable piece of work from the sound team that complements the game’s art, technical, animation and storytelling.

Summary

Striking Distance has managed to achieve a feat we have not seen in a very long time, blending many mediums and archetypes into a seminal survival horror game. From a visual and audio perspective it is a leader for the current generation. Taking the UE4 engine and, in my opinion, improving on what we saw from the Matrix Awakens UE5 demo. The character models are now at the point of being photorealistic both in gameplay and cutscenes that you would struggle to tell a video from the game apart. Some bugs with death animations, clipping through scenery, and bad animation cycles aside, the team has managed to deliver one of the most visually striking, stable, impressive games this generation. As linear and within the lines of its own genre it may be, The Callisto Protocol still offers a visual tour de force and enough surprises to be worth your time across all formats. I just hope that the final Christmas present is that Series X gets its Ray Traced reflections added before the year is out.

Destiny 2: Where Is Xur Today? Location and Exotic Items for December 2-6

The man whose loot was so good it crashed Destiny’s servers this morning, Xûr, is now live in Destiny 2 for the weekend until next week’s reset. If you’re looking to get your some shiny new Exotic armor or weapons for your Guardian, look no further.

Each week, Xûr has a random assortment of Exotic armor, one for each Guardian class, as well as a random Exotic Weapon and an Exotic Engram available for purchase. In addition to his Exotic wares, he’s got a random collection of Legendary weapons and armor to deck out your Guardians.

We’ve rounded up all the info on Xûr for the week including where to find Xûr, which Exotic weapons and armor are available, as well as which Legendary weapons you should pick up, either for PvE or PvP.

Where Is Xûr Today?

Xûr’s location can be found at Winding Cove in the EDZ on December 2 through December 6. To reach him, travel to the landing point at Winding Cove. When you arrive, make for the rock cliffs at the far end of the cove and look for a cave winding up to a platform next to some Fallen. There you’ll find the freakish salesman we all adore.

What’s Xûr Selling Today?

Exotic Engram

Cerberus+1 – Exotic Auto Rifle

Workhusk Crown – Exotic Hunter Helmet

  • 14 Mobility
  • 6 Resilience
  • 11 Recovery
  • 9 Discipline
  • 11 Intellect
  • 12 Strength
  • Total: 63

Peregrine Greaves – Exotic Titan Leg Armor

  • 3 Mobility
  • 17 Resilience
  • 13 Recovery
  • 9 Discipline
  • 2 Intellect
  • 20 Strength
  • Total: 64

Skull of Dire Ahamkara – Exotic Warlock Helmet

  • 9 Mobility
  • 8 Resilience
  • 15 Recovery
  • 2 Discipline
  • 14 Intellect
  • 15 Strength
  • Total: 63

None of the exotic offerings are exactly mindblowing today (including the auto rifle), but the roll on Peregrine Greaves would be my top pick if I had to choose. That said, you wouldn’t be missing out on much by skipping everything this week.

Exotic Weapons

Hawkmoon – Exotic Hand Cannon

  • Paracausal Shot
  • Extended Barrel
  • Alloy Magazine
  • Snapshot Sights
  • Combat Grip

Dead Man’s Tale – Exotic Scout Rifle

  • Cranial Spike
  • Smallbore
  • Flared Magwell
  • Killing Wind
  • Fited Stock

Hawkmoon and Dead Man’s Tale are both great weapons, and this week’s roll of Hawkmoon is pretty darn good (especially for PvP, I’d wager). Snag it if you’d like!

Legendary Weapons

Vulpecula – Hand Cannon

  • Full Bore/Polygonal Rifling
  • Alloy Magazine/Flared Magwell
  • Encore
  • Headstone
  • Handling Masterwork

Stars In Shadow – Pulse Rifle

  • Arrowhead Brake/Corkscrew Rifling
  • Extended Mag/Alloy Magazine
  • Pulse Monitor/Grave Robber
  • Sympathetic Arsenal/Elemental Capacitor
  • One Quiet Moment
  • Stability Masterwork

Fractethyst – Shotgun

  • Smoothbore/Smallbore
  • Steady Rounds/Accurized Rounds
  • Quickdraw
  • Thresh
  • Handling Masterwork

Farewell – Sidearm

  • Corkscrew Rifling/Fluted Barrel
  • Accurized Rounds/Extended Mag
  • Tunnel Vision
  • Multikill Clip
  • Handling Masterwork

Extraordinary Rendition – Submachine Gun

  • Chambered Compensator/Fluted Barrel
  • Tactical Mag/Flared Magwell
  • Surplus
  • Tap The Trigger
  • Stability Masterwork

Far Future – Sniper Rifle

  • Arrowhead Brake/Extended Barrel
  • Tactical Mag/Extended Mag
  • Lead From Gold
  • Thresh
  • Stability Masterwork

Falling Guillotine – Sword

  • Hungry Edge/Jagged Edge/Tempered Edge
  • Balanced Guard/Enduring Guard
  • Energy Transfer
  • Surrounded
  • Impact Masterwork

None of the legendary weapons this week steal my heart, but the rolls for Fractethyst and Stars In Shadow may prove pretty decent for a PvE use case.

Warlock Legendary Armor

For Warlocks, Xûr is selling the Seventh Seraph set which includes:

Seventh Seraph Gauntlets

  • 12 Mobility
  • 2 Resilience
  • 16 Recovery
  • 7 Discipline
  • 9 Intellect
  • 16 Strength
  • Total: 62

Seventh Seraph Chest Armor

  • 12 Mobility
  • 16 Resilience
  • 2 Recovery
  • 16 Discipline
  • 7 Intellect
  • 9 Strength
  • Total: 62

Seventh Seraph Helmet

  • 7 Mobility
  • 2 Resilience
  • 19 Recovery
  • 7 Discipline
  • 16 Intellect
  • 7 Strength
  • Total: 58

Seventh Seraph Leg Armor

  • 6 Mobility
  • 24 Resilience
  • 2 Recovery
  • 2 Discipline
  • 16 Intellect
  • 9 Strength
  • Total: 59

Seventh Seraph Bond

Warlocks got skunked this week! Absolutely nothing is even remotely worth considering! Yikes!

Titan Legendary Armor

For Titans, Xûr is selling the Seventh Seraph set which includes:

Seventh Seraph Gauntlets

  • 6 Mobility
  • 12 Resilience
  • 10 Recovery
  • 2 Discipline
  • 20 Intellect
  • 7 Strength
  • Total: 57

Seventh Seraph Chest Armor

  • 12 Mobility
  • 14 Resilience
  • 6 Recovery
  • 2 Discipline
  • 10 Intellect
  • 21 Strength
  • Total: 65

Seventh Seraph Helmet

  • 13 Mobility
  • 6 Resilience
  • 12 Recovery
  • 7 Discipline
  • 20 Intellect
  • 2 Strength
  • Total: 60

Seventh Seraph Leg Armor

  • 14 Mobility
  • 6 Resilience
  • 12 Recovery
  • 12 Discipline
  • 16 Intellect
  • 2 Strength
  • Total: 62

Seventh Seraph Mark

Titans have one nice roll with the chest piece that’s got a spikey strength stat — I could see that coming in a lot of handy for us punchy Titans!

Hunter Legendary Armor

For Hunters, Xûr is selling the Seventh Seraph set which includes:

Seventh Seraph Gauntlets

  • 13 Mobility
  • 2 Resilience
  • 16 Recovery
  • 14 Discipline
  • 15 Intellect
  • 2 Strength
  • Total: 62

Seventh Seraph Chest Armor

  • 12 Mobility
  • 2 Resilience
  • 16 Recovery
  • 13 Discipline
  • 14 Intellect
  • 2 Strength
  • Total: 59

Seventh Seraph Helmet

  • 2 Mobility
  • 23 Resilience
  • 6 Recovery
  • 9 Discipline
  • 2 Intellect
  • 21 Strength
  • Total: 63

Seventh Seraph Leg Armor

  • 16 Mobility
  • 8 Resilience
  • 6 Recovery
  • 17 Discipline
  • 6 Intellect
  • 6 Strength
  • Total: 59

Seventh Seraph Cloak

Hunters got one decent armor piece with the helmet, which has decent overall stats and spikiness in the Resilience and Strength categories. Not amazing, but also not bad!

That’s a wrap on Xûr for this week, Guardians! Are you excited for the new season of Destiny next week? Let us know in the comments! For more on Destiny, check out some of the new weapons and gear you can find in The Witch Queen and read about how Sony’s purchase of Bungie fits into its larger plans.

Travis Northup is a writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @TieGuyTravis and read his games coverage here.

DJ Game Fuser to Sunset Live Services

Harmonix is shutting down live services for Fuser, its two-year-old DJ simulator, on December 19.

On that day, Fuser and its DLC will no longer be available to purchase, according to Harmonix, and those who already own it will be restricted to two game modes: Campaign and Quick Play. The developer stopped releasing new paid DLC for Fuser earlier in 2022.

Fuser is Harmonix’s most recent music game. Players take on the role of a festival DJ trying to conquer the music world.

Using a mixing table, players can mix and match different tracks from popular songs to create original remixes. The game features a full story mode as well as an online competitive mode, but the latter will seemingly be shut down following the sunset.

Harmonix was acquired by Epic Games in November 2021. At the time, the developer said it would “create musical journeys and gameplay for Fortnite,” while continuing to release new DLC for Rock Band 4, which it’s done as recently as December 1.

In the same blog post, Harmonix stated it wasn’t “planning to change the way we support any of our older games,” including Fuser, though plans and priorities, of course, are subject to change.

IGN’s Fuser review called it “the most promising attempt yet to bring back the glory days of social music gaming.”

Jordan covers games, shows, and movies as a freelance writer for IGN.

Dysterra is a Futuristic Sci-Fi FPS that Challenges Players to Survive Extinction by Any Means Necessary

Dysterra is a brand-new, sci-fi survival game with futuristic FPS gameplay that challenges players to either compete or cooperate on a dying Earth as they strive to secure a one-way ticket to the stars — and survival.

Dysterra is now in Early Access on PC via Steam, and we’re going to break down the five biggest reasons why this is one battle you won’t want to miss!

Survive an Imminent Extinction by Building a Base Worthy of Legend

Earth is on the brink of being destroyed by Terrafire explosions, and your only hope of avoiding extinction is to board escape rockets. So, what’s the problem? Well, there’s only a limited amount of space and time is tick, tick, ticking away. To retain any hope of making it off Earth before it’s too late, you’ll need to adapt quickly and take down any challenge that gets in your way.

While you prepare for your journey, it’s essential to build a base of operations that will protect you from attacks on a harsh near-future Earth that you once called home. You can fortify your base with impenetrable defenses; made up of turrets, electric fences, and even powerful A.I. mechs that will crush anyone who tries to enter.

Your base can become a safe haven for you and your team and can literally make the difference between life and death in Dysterra. Raiding an enemy base can be a surefire way of securing resources and weapons galore that can give you the edge you need to win.

Compete or Cooperate, the Choice is Yours

Speaking of enemies, there’s an entire world of baddies out there looking to halt your escape. You can choose to face these dangers alone or with friends. Teaming up gives you more of a chance to gather resources, take on threats, and gather the most powerful gear to share with the team, but you might not be here to play nice. Take loot on your own, vanquish your foes, and get off Earth alone like the rogue hero you’ve known you always were.

While PvP is a huge part of Dysterra, there are also PvE and single-player modes for those looking for something a bit different. Dysterra is all about choice, and the challenge of survival will be present no matter how you choose to play.

Escape the Earth by Any Means Necessary

The goal of Dysterra is to escape the dying Earth by any means necessary. The planet is completely doomed. The only glimmer of survival exists in the seats of those escape rockets.

These ships are ready to take a lucky few off-planet for a chance to forge a new life in the stars, but spaces are very limited. The only way to secure a ticket is by purchasing one with the valuable resource Terrasite, which you can collect out in the world. However, just buying a ticket isn’t enough.

Other players can steal the ticket from you and your teammates, so building up a base and finding Dysterra’s most powerful weapons are essential to making it out alive. This mission provides endless opportunities and choices of play — will you focus on collecting Terrasite and defending your base until the rockets leave? Or will you become a maelstrom of power and pry a ticket from the cold, dead hands of your defeated foes?

Take on Any Challenge with a Wide Array of Futuristic Weaponry

Either way, you’re going to need firepower. Every player in Dysterra starts with a pistol and a rifle to protect them from the start, but they will only be helpful for so long and soon you will need to look for better weapons. From snipers that take out threats from afar to rocket launchers that decimate any base and those who call it home and assault rifles that let you take the fight right to your enemies, there are endless options and play-styles for all types of players!

There are also incredibly powerful weapons and armor just waiting for those worthy enough to claim them, but obtaining these riches will be anything but easy.

A Dangerous World Filled with Rewards for Those Who Can Make it Through

You’ll need to be tougher than tough to survive in the world of Dysterra, but the rewards for those who overcome its challenges are something to behold. One of the tougher obstacles are abandoned labs filled with deadly, deranged AI robots and creatures that were once bred to kill; nightmarish monsters that embody the evil and greed that set earth on a course for calamity.

Make it past these man-made weapons of mass destruction and you will be rewarded with game-changing control chips. With the tables turned, these will give you god-like powers. You’ll be equipped to wreak havoc on your already doomed world; with earthquakes and chemical strikes being just a couple of the options available to you.

Bosses also stalk the world, praying on unprepared players and carrying some of the biggest rewards in all of Dysterra. Defeating them is a herculean task and not without risk, but their loot can change your entire journey and book you a first-class place off this raggedy rock before it implodes into oblivion.

We told you the world was out to get you. Will you survive or will this dying Earth claim you?

Dysterra is now in Early Access on Steam, and players can now loot, craft, build, and team up to face the ever-growing challenges crafted by the team at Reality MagiQ.

Atomic Heart: Our Questions Answered – IGN First

After a month of Atomic Heart coverage as part of IGN First, we still had plenty of things we wanted to know about the upcoming shooter. So, we asked game director Robert Bagratuni just a few of the many questions we still have and learned plenty of interesting new details.

There’s lots of melee combat. Is this by design or are resources such as ammo limited?

Mundfish says that “every game needs balance, and Atomic Heart is no exception. We meticulously crafted each weapon so that it behaves uniquely in combat and is necessary for its way. Yes, melee helps to save ammo, because there are a lot of enemies, and it’s unlikely you’ll always have enough ammo to take them all out. That is why we have a special mechanic that allows us to accumulate energy in close combat, and later it can be used for shooting with special energy weapons.”

Many upgraded melee weapons also have special attacks that give you advantages range weapons could never do. The key is to combine weapon types and tactics because in some fights you have to deal with many types of enemies at once.

What difficulty options are there and what do you recommend?

Atomic Heart has three difficulty options as Bagratuni details: “Like most games, Atomic Heart has a story, medium, and hard difficulty levels. For those who want to focus on the story, for those who want to get through the game the way it was intended, and for those who are not afraid of anything in that world and have strong nerves. The difficulty level won’t affect the story, so it’s up to the player to relax in battles or work up a sweat.”

Are there other elemental attacks beyond lightning and Ice?

There are many more abilities available in Atomic Heart. Among them is the polymer bomb skill that allows you to cover enemies with a polymer substance that is very reactive to lighting, freeze, and fire. Director Robert Bagratuni says “you cover your opponents with polymer and then electrify them with a taser, they won’t stand a chance of winning. If aggression isn’t your approach, take a polymer shield and then freeze – protecting yourself from attacks with the shield, freeze your opponent at the right moment and quietly destroy them in safety.”

Mundfish confirmed there is no fire skill in the game, but you can use special weapon attachments that make bullets incendiary. So you can combine these skills and mechanics to create some unique in-game effects such as rings of fire, electrified or freezing traps, and so on.

Is there any stealth gameplay?

“It depends on how you’re going to play and what weapons you prefer”, the director states. “The game has mechanics that allow you to quietly get rid of both organic and mechanical enemies without attracting attention. There’s also an alarm system that will summon more and more robots, but even for that, there are actions to help you avoid unnecessary attention – an extensive facility ecosystem that links all the robots into a single communication network with a large number of nodes.”

He continues, “there’s no full stealth mode in the game – you can’t get through it the way some games can be played without fighting. You can greatly reduce the number of enemies, you can be cautious, not raise the alarm, and use tactics both in battle and when exploring the world. But you have to fight.”

What does Mick Gordon’s music bring to Atomic Heart?

The team says that working with Gordon was a joy – “Mick did an amazing job for us – he set the mood in a very stylish way. There’s a lot of his music in the open world – it’s literally filled with Mick. His music matches the high-tempo combat we see in the open world, it sets the mood and the emotion, and it’s like telling you what to do next.”

Soviet-style pop meets juicy Doom-style remixes.

“But apart from Mick’s work you can find a lot of other compositions of the last century, from the 50s-80s”, Bagratuni continues. “Music is very important for immersion, especially in our case – when you create a retro-futuristic world in which history has taken an alternate path, but great musicians of the past still wrote their songs. Soviet-style pop meets juicy Doom-style remixes – it’s very impressive.”

How much driving is there in Atomic Heart?

There is only one car model that you can drive directly, to reflect the lack of options that existed in the real USSR. As for its uses, the director says that “It’s quite handy when you need to get away from a large number of enemies while squashing a few robots. Or if you don’t want to spend a lot of time exploring areas on foot. Of course, it’s not a game about daily life in a big city where you use a car to get from point A to point B, but it’s a wide world and a car is convenient. Maybe in the DLC, we’ll add more vehicles like buses and tractors – but that’s more for fun rather than what we should have focused on in this game.”

Is the world fully open from the start? How big is it?

The devs say that “the world of Atomic Heart is quite large, but creating a completely open world doesn’t always work well. We were aiming for more narrative consistency here, but not to turn it into a huge map with points of interest where you go from one issue to the next, completely forgetting about the story.”

“Beyond that, we wanted to recreate the mood of a “closed, secret facility” where the entrances and exits are carefully guarded. It is important to understand that laboratories and other buildings are not only above ground, but also below. If you imagine this world and try to compare it to something, it most closely resembles a mushroom tree, branching out and going in all directions.”

Bagratuni continues, “When the player exits the first underground complex, where he is just beginning to immerse in the story and understand the strengths of his character, an open world awaits them. There are many interesting territories in the open world and also carefully hidden optional locations. We are now seeing just one of them. There are quite a lot of such places, but you will have to make an effort to find them.”

“Apart from that you can walk, swim, drive in any direction, look for secluded places where you can find something valuable, and collect the stories of the inhabitants of the world and everything that will help you to understand the plot more deeply. There’s plenty to do in Atomic Heart’s world. Quite importantly, the journey through Atomic’s world is seamless – with no loading screens.”

Are there environmental story objects to find?

Atomic Heart is a story-focused game as Mundfish explains: “The narrative is the main driving force behind the game. The story is told both through the environment and the huge amount of dialogue between the main characters. This includes general reasoning about what is happening, getting tasks, the relationships between the characters, and a large number of cutscenes that immerse you in the world and the events of the game”

In Bagratuni’s opinion, the story in Atomic Heart “is the strongest aspect of the game”. As for influences, they were “inspired by many dystopia novels from the 30s~80s, by the great masters of science fiction. The story has both comic and deeply philosophical issues, drama, detective and twists.”

What is the balance between combat, story, and puzzles?

Bagratuni wants to keep players guessing throughout Atomic Heart: “We wanted to make a game that will surprise you all the time during the whole passing – to give new fresh sensations, events, and locations. It’s a kind of rollercoaster of emotions. At first, everything is bright and joyful, then it’s a horror where you’re scared to make a step, then when you’re stronger and understand how it all works, the game changes the pace, pushing you against new opponents and events.”

We wanted to make a game that will surprise you all the time.

“The player’s experience will depend on what is more interesting to them. Some may spend a long time in the open world-destroying robots to build themselves a new super-powered gun. Someone will decide to unlock all the optional puzzles, where rare and valuable rewards await you. And some will follow the story without being distracted by the battles.”

What is your favourite build/loadout to play with?

Bagratuni shared that his perfect loadout is “Telekinesis and polymer bomb skills, Pashtet melee weapon with its flying blade special attack, and the Electro gun.” He prefers to use freezing ammo for close-quarters combat, and fire ammo for long-range combat. Saying that “together with the polymer bomb and telekinesis, it makes a great all-purpose set that can be used dynamically in combat. You can also make different traps for your opponents by creating a polymer halt in front of them, and giving them elemental properties.”

“Honestly, everyone in our team plays differently, some run through, some are more cautious, and choose a strategy with shield and enemy control. But I really like to see how other people play the game differently and use some cool combinations of weapons, skills, and upgrades, that I’ve never seen before.”

Hopefully, you’ve got an even deeper understanding of Atomic Heart after this and all of our IGN First features on Atomic Heart. If you happen to miss any, check out a history of the game’s alternate Soviet World or our exclusive hands-on preview.

Simon Cardy thinks we should stop trying to build robots that might turn against us. Follow him on Twitter at @CardySimon.

The Callisto Protocol’s Steam Reviews Suffer Following Reports of Poor Performance

The Callisto Protocol’s Steam reviews are suffering as several users are reporting a stuttering frame rate on PC.

As reported by PC Gamer, the game’s Steam page currently has a mostly negative rating with just 29% of the 2,840 reviews being positive.

The Callisto Protocol is described as a “stuttering mess” by one user while another commented: “It’s pretty hard to get immersed when the game drops frames every time you go around a corner.”

Several of these users also claimed to be running The Callisto Protocol on high-end graphics cards including the RTX 3080, but even then the frame rate regularly drops significantly.

“Currently I can’t even walk through the opening area and turn a corner without stuttering on a 3080 with ray tracing off,” said another user. “Performance is not good at all right now.”

The Callisto Protocol was released on December 2 also on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series, and Xbox One. Only the PC version appears to have frame rate issues so far, however, and even then it doesn’t appear to be affecting every user.

In our 7/10 review, IGN said: “The Callisto Protocol is a satisfyingly gory spiritual successor to the Dead Space series, but it’s ultimately more of a striking modern mimic than a scary new mutation.”

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer and acting UK news editor. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.

EA Teases Battlefield 2042 Season 4 and Confirms a Season 5 Without New Operators

EA has teased what’s coming in Season 4 of Battlefield 2042 and confirmed that a Season 5 is also on the way, though the latter won’t feature a specialist.

Season 4 is set to launch in early 2023, according to a new blog posted on EA’s website. The season will bring with it a new recon Specialist and Battle Pass, fresh hardware, re-worked environments, and new maps, one of which will heavily reference Battlefield 4.

Developer DICE has promised the Season 4 map will be a “smaller, shorter, and linear” close-quarters affair, which sounds like a change of pace from the sprawling environments on offer at the moment.

Season 5 will offer a similar amount of content to previous seasons – with the introduction of another map, new hardware, and a new Battle Pass – but no new Specialists.

Previous games will also be an inspiration, as Season 5 will “lean into previous games and how they can show up in the world of 2042”. The map will be a “forgotten battleground” from the Battlefield 4 era, albeit altered by the narrative events that led up to the 2042 setting. This map will apparently be overgrown with vegetation and “encourage a combination of vehicular and infantry combat”.

DICE admitted it understood the negative feedback relating to the combat environments offered at Battlefield 2042’s launch and has been steadily improving many of the game’s early maps.

This trend is set to continue in Season 3: Escalation, with the reworking of the Manifest and Breakaway maps alongside the new Spearhead environment, which will see players fight over two high tech weapon manufacturing facilities in the Swedish wilderness.

Manifest is set for re-release in December as part of Update 3.1, which will offer improved visibility, cover, and sightlines over the previous version of the map. HQ flags have also been shifted “closer to the action”.

Breakaway is also set to be reworked in a later 3.2 update, in which the vast oil rig structure will be moved closer to the centre of the map to provide a more “focused play-space”. An improved version of the Discarded map meanwhile will be re-launched during Season 4, while the overhaul of Hourglass has yet to be given a release window.

IGN gave Battlefield 2042 a 7/10 when it launched almost one year ago, in which we celebrated the game’s strategic Hazard Zone game mode and Portal options, but lamented elements of the chaotic 128 player matches of its all out warfare modes.

Anthony is a freelance contributor covering science and video gaming news for IGN. He has over eight years experience of covering breaking developments in multiple scientific fields and absolutely no time for your shenanigans. Follow him on Twitter @BeardConGamer

Nintendo Issues Full Statement Over Smash World Tour Cancellation

Days after news that Smash World Tour [SWT] would be canceling its final 2022 championship and 2023 tour, Nintendo has offered a lengthy statement over the decision to not offer SWT a license to host Smash Bros. events.

In a statement to IGN, Nintendo said that its “decision was solely based on our assessment of the proposals submitted by the SWT and our evaluation of their unlicensed activities.” Nintendo added that “Any partner that we grant a license to has to meet the high standards we require when it comes to the health and safety of our fans.”

“It’s also important that a partner adheres to brand and IP guidelines and conducts itself according to professional and organizational best practices,” Nintendo writes. “We use this same approach to independently assess all partners. If we discover that a partner is doing something inappropriate, we will work to correct it.”

Earlier this week, organizers of the Smash World Tour, one of the largest third-party Super Smash Bros. fighting game tournaments, announced that it will cancel its final event of the year as well as its 2023 events after Nintendo declined to issue them a license to carry on Smash Bros. fighting tournament events.

The organizers of SWT published a lengthy Medium post regretting the events, claiming that “without any warning” it was told it could no longer operate. Organizers also revealed that it was in negotiations with Nintendo to receive a license to operate Smash Bros. tournaments and that Nintendo even noted how SWT did not infringe on their IP.

However, this point is seemingly disputed by Nintendo’s statement which implies any partner must adhere to “brand and IP guidelines” set by the company.

Nintendo also reiterated that it “verbally” let the organizers of SWT know that it was not asking to cancel the 2022 finals “because of the impact it would have on players,” and saying that “the decision to cancel the SWT 2022 was, and still is, their own choice.”

Organizers of SWT say that it will offer full refunds to attendees of its now-canceled 2022 event.

“Any partner that we grant a license to has to meet the high standards we require when it comes to the health and safety of our fans.”

The SWT organizers also accused one of Nintendo’s Smash Bros. partners, Panda Global, the organizers of the Panda Cup Smash Bros. tournament, of sabotage claiming that its founder Alan Bunney was telling potential organizers that SWT would be getting shut down, thereby making any potential SWT partners have second-thoughts of joining up with the Smash World Tour.

Nintendo says its decision “was not influenced by any external parties such as Panda Global,” and that the company is “open to partnering with other organizations and will continue to offer licenses for major tournaments outside of the Panda Cup.” While Panda Global will remain a partner with Nintendo on Smash Bros. the company says that it “look[s] forward to receiving proposals from other groups for tournament licenses.”

You can read Nintendo’s full statement below.

Matt T.M. Kim is IGN’s News Editor. You can reach him @lawoftd.

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight Review in Progress

Most recent World of Warcraft expansions started with a tightly scripted, story-heavy, and somewhat bothersome on-rails scenario. Dragonflight seems to have remembered that this is an MMORPG and I should be deciding what kind of adventures I want to go on. Right off the boat onto the expansive, beautiful Dragon Isles, you’ll be met with only minimal handholding and four huge, new zones to explore. It’s like Blizzard finally learned to trust us to find the fun without supervision, and they’re letting us have the run of the world again. I still have a lot of this expansion left to play, but it’s already so refreshing.

As of now, I’ve leveled from 60 to 67 and quested through two of Dragonflight’s four major zones. They really fly by – pun intended – which is a bit of a disappointment. I’m much more of a, “The journey is more important than the destination,” kind of player than one who thinks the “real” game only begins at max level. The new talent points I’ve earned along the way have definitely helped my characters come into their own, though. I feel like I understand so much better where the combat designers were going with specs like Marksmanship Hunter and Preservation Evoker now that I have a more complete toolkit to work with.

These zones are downright gorgeous, too. The contrast between volcanic wastelands and verdant river valleys in The Waking Shores is a breathtaking introduction to the expansion. And it features some of the best side quest writing I’ve seen in WoW in a long time. One of my favorite quests involved sitting and listening to a red dragon, shapeshifted into a humble dwarf, talk about all his regrets and the pain of being banished from his homeland for 10,000 years.

Another one I loved involves traveling slowly, on foot, with a centaur clan to their sacred meeting grounds, complete with a pit stop for a hunting competition. These kinds of heartfelt, memorable moments really are World of Warcraft at its absolute best. They seem to be here to lovingly bonk you over the head and remind you to take your time, simply exist in this beautiful world for a moment.

A Wing and a Prayer

If that’s a bit too slow-paced for you, though, then I think you’ll love the new dragon riding system. Zooming over the landscape at up to three times the speed of WoW’s traditional “flying” mounts, I feel like I can’t ever go back to that old system. Vigor, which limits your dragon’s stamina, can feel a bit restrictive at first. I’ve developed a habit of tabbing out of the game to check on my friends in discord every time I’m forced to land and wait for it to recharge, because there’s often nothing useful or interesting to do during this downtime.

But it feels incredible when you’re soaring, banking, and diving around with a palpable sense of momentum and physicality that WoW normally lacks. The restrictiveness of your first drake’s abilities is a strong incentive to chase hidden glyphs that will allow you to go higher, further, faster, which has been one of my favorite activities – alongside dragon riding courses that reward you for better and better times.

I’m not a huge fan of how it controls on a mouse and keyboard, though. It seems to be begging for controller support, which has long been rumored but never actually manifested. Also, there are still some technical issues. If you fly into a steep slope at high enough speed, you might just glitch out and get booted to the login screen. A couple of my guildmates were even unable to log in again for some time afterwards.

A Dance of Dragons

The main story, so far, hasn’t exactly wowed me as much as the side quests. If you didn’t follow all of the out-of-game lore leading up to Dragonflight, you might be a bit confused about why you’re even here in the first place. There is some tension between the major good guys, but it rings kind of hollow. The new bad guys, the primal dragons and their humanoid minions, the Primalists, haven’t yet made an impression as especially complex or interesting villains. There does at least seem to be some sort of succession crisis brewing within the Black Dragonflight that has the promise of delivering interesting stories down the line. But the first dungeon, Ruby Life Pools, is very straightforward and unmemorable outside of the rather bombastic final fight.

All of that has kind of fallen to the wayside so far though, because I’m just having so much fun exploring the isles and getting excited about smaller adventures that don’t involve the fate of the world again. This gives me the feeling of playing 2004 vanilla WoW more than even WoW Classic did. I might get called “Champion” by the power players like the Dragon Queen Alexstrasza or the cocky Prince Wrathion, but most of the time I’m just vibing like I did in my freelance adventurer days when some guy in the woods would ask me to go collect twelve bear asses for his bear ass stew. It feels good.

And the expanded crafting system has really gotten its hooks into me, too. This is easily the best World of Warcraft has ever been for fans of making and enchanting your own cool stuff, with varying qualities of materials and different results for finished products based on your skill level and progression choices. When I make myself a pair of Tier 5 leather pants, I know every stat on those bad boys is as high as it is because my Leatherworking skill is so much higher than the recipe calls for, because I specialized into leather pants specifically, and because I chose to use only the finest bear asses in their manufacture. Those pants will be sought after because of my mastery, dedication, and reputation as a crafter. There are many pairs of leather pants. But you want these ones, because I made them.

There’s still more than half of the expansion to see, so I’ll be updating this review as my journey continues. I’d be remiss to put a score on Dragonflight before I’ve seen the new raid, currently scheduled to go live on December 12. But at this moment? While I may miss the spirit of innovation that ran through certain parts of Shadowlands – I long for something like Torghast done better, where it doesn’t feel like a chore but still allows primarily solo players like me a place to really test our skills and class mastery – the back-to-basics approach of this expansion seems to be paying off so far. The positive reaction to WoW Classic clearly inspired some soul-searching at Blizzard based on interviews they’ve given recently, and while this may end up feeling like a “rebuilding year” for modern WoW, the foundations being laid are strong ones.

Monster Hunter Rise Is Coming to Xbox Game Pass Next Month

Monster Hunter Rise is making the move to all consoles, as the previously Switch-exclusive game will soon be available on PlayStation 5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Windows. Plus, Xbox Game Pass subscribers can look forward to Rise joining the service for consoles, PC, and cloud at launch.

Capcom announced the game’s multiplatform release is set for January 20, 2023. Monster Hunter Rise originally launched exclusively on Nintendo Switch in March 2021, before it came to Steam earlier this year. Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak — the major expansion already available on Switch and Steam — is coming to all platforms sometime next Spring.

Unfortunately for hunters who have already poured hundreds of hours into Rise on Switch or Steam, cross-save and cross-play is not planned for the Xbox or PlayStation releases. This means if you want to play on these platforms, you’ll have to start from scratch. Fans requested cross-save and cross-play leading up to Monster Hunter Rise’s Steam release as well, but Capcom said they were unable to implement the features at the time.

The new versions of Monster Hunter Rise boast improved performance over the Switch release. 4K resolution and 60 FPS are supported on PS5 and Series X, along with 3D audio. Ranged and shielded weapons will also make use of the DualSense’s adaptive triggers on PlayStation 5.

Monster Hunter Rise is a great addition to Capcom’s long-running franchise, and Sunbreak added a lot of cool new monsters on top of the base game. Sunbreak is still getting new free content drops, most recently adding a trio of new monsters in its latest update.

Early 2023 will be a busy time for hunters, with the multitplatform release of Monster Hunter Rise coming just a few weeks before EA and Omega Force’s Wild Hearts, which looks to hit a lot of the same beats as Capcom’s hunting franchise.

Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN covering video game and entertainment news. He has over six years of experience in the gaming industry with bylines at IGN, Nintendo Wire, Switch Player Magazine, and Lifewire. Find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.