Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Review: The Sims 3 University Life (PC)

That Steely Dan song proclaimed you could never go back to your old school, but the Sims have done just that in The Sims 3: University Life.

For the Sims 2, gamers could take their Sims to college. And now Sims 3 gamers can do the same, by sending off their Sims to school for a degree and experience college life, including the whole dorm experience, in a college campus addition to the Sims 3 realm.

Obviously the main focus is studying and earning one of six Sims degrees, but what would college life be without the social scene? University Life has that covered.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Review: Fuse (PS3)

Fuse is a third person cooperative shooter set in the not too distant future where the US military has started harnessing alien technology called "Fuse" to develop weapons. Fuse is basically a weapon of mass destruction and a hot commodity on the black market. A rogue paramilitary group named Raven, stages a successful attempt to steal the alien technology from the government. So, with the clock ticking, a team of four special operatives called Overstrike 9 are called into retrieve the stolen technology.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Weekly Checkpoint 53 - Wizardry, Final Fantasy XIV, and Very Little of Xbox One

It's the weekend, so Jeff chats a bit about the week that was in gaming.  Having already said his bit about the Xbox One, he's focusing more on some interesting news regarding classic Wizardry games and the relaunch of Square-Enix's troubled MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Review: Another World (PC)

Writing a review of a game like Another World (known as Out of this World in North America), which was originally released in 1991, is like trying to point out flaws of your most cherished childhood memories. It doesn't feel right, it feels uncomfortable, and there's always the danger of being swallowed whole by the featureless maw of Nostalgia as you let your mind wander back to that place.

The imagery is appropriate considering the terrifying black things that dot the alien landscape that protagonist Lester Knight Chaykin finds himself in after an incredibly bad turn of luck. (What are the chances a lightning bolt would strike a particle accelerator at exactly the moment Lester activates an experiment?)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

RGT: Bloody Roar (PS1)

Like classic fighting games?  Then you're probably familiar with Bloody Roar, a game where characters could transform into vicious animals when beating the tar out of their opponents.  Today Jeff takes a look back at the first game in the series.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

News: New Xbox Revealed - Xbox One

Today, Microsoft revealed their new console, officially called Xbox One, at a press event.  The information presented is by turns illuminating and frustrating.  Some basic system information has been released about the console itself: an eight-core processor with 8GB RAM, built-in Wi-Fi, a 500GB hard drive, and an integrated Kinect with a 1080p camera.  The actual release date has not been announced, however, with Microsoft promising the console "later this year."  More information will be revealed at E3 in a few weeks.

Correction: The Kinect is a separate unit, but the intimation is that each Xbox One will be paired with a Kinect.  Further clarification on this will likely be forthcoming.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Review: Star Wars Pinball (360)

After giving the iconic and classic comics universe a proper pinball treatment with its excellent collection of Marvel pinball tables, Pinball FX 2 applies the same reverence to another iconic classic, the Star Wars universe, with Star Wars Pinball on Xbox Live.

For a movie franchise that loves its trilogies, Star Wars Pinball has three tables included: Clone Wars, one devoted to the badass bounty hunter Boba Fett, and the best of the three, Star Wars Episode IV: The Empire Strikes Back. All three have the expected level of quality that all FX 2 tables have come to be known for in respect to the ball physics and pinball sounds. FX 2 pinball gives gamers such an unbelievably realistic pinball experience, it's hard sometimes to realize you're not actually standing at a table in the arcade or local pizza shop with a few quarters or tokens lined up on the table glass waiting for the next game.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Review: Brutal Legend (PC)

If Brutal Legend is remembered for one thing, I hope it's the intro scene and main menu. Jack Black walks down the street while telling the player about a secret thing. He wanders into a record store and pulls out an album. As if to hint at the metal within, the price tag reads $6.66. Pressing the start button flips open the album and it's off to the races.

Not since the main menu of Psychonauts, has a game been able to tell the player almost everything they needed to know about the game even before one second of the game has been played.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Feature: Top Ten Classic Game Soundtracks

Game music in the early days is historically remembered as typically either horrendous or genius. However, great game music wasn’t always high art. Numerous classic games boast great theme songs, but lack engaging music throughout the core of the gameplay. Yet, some composers of the 8 and 16-bit eras took on the technical challenges and crafted impressive compositions – music that stayed with us long after we put down the game. These soundtracks are the complete package, entertaining from beginning to end.

10. The Guardian Legend
Composed by: Masatomo Miyamoto (Miyamoto Shant), 1988
The Guardian Legend soundtrack translates the mysterious yet sublime temperament of an alien world into impressively enchanting musical harmonies. Even years after its release, the dramatic tones of the “Crystal Labyrinth” or “Forest Corridor” make us want to explore and defend space all over again.

Review: Black Rock Shooter - The Game (PSP)

The first time I saw Black Rock Shooter was at an introduction to Vocaloid panel at a large anime convention years ago. Supercell’s entrancing electro beats played over the elegantly animated illustrations by Ryohei Fuke a.k.a. Huke, transporting me to an excitingly mysterious new world. When Black Rock Shooter: The Game hit the PlayStation Network in North America, I picked it up hoping for a more interactive trip down the Black Rock rabbit hole. Though lacking the visual visceral magic that made the music video so enchanting, the game succeeded in pulling me in.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Interview: Ted Price (Insomniac Games, FUSE)

At a recent press event for the game Fuse, I sat down with Insomniac Games CEO Ted Price (TP). We discussed FUSE, freedom of speech and the next generation of consoles. My interview was recorded and his answers have been transcribed/paraphrased.

Big thanks to Ted for talking to us!

AE: Has the game Fuse changed significantly from what you originally envisioned compared to the final product?
The core concept has remained consistent. We wanted to create a core cooperative game that was a blast for one through four players.

There are always four heroes playing with you whether they are controlled by humans or AI. We knew that when it came to coop and humans playing together, that we had to raise the bar in some way In terms of themes, the game had always been about a team of agents infiltrating enemy strongholds in pursuit of a volatile banned substance. While the window dressing for the game has changed a bit, those core concepts have remained consistent.

Preview: Fuse *Hands-On* (360, PS3)

Weapons, weapons and more cool weapons! As a company, that's the general theme of Insomniac Games (IG). Starting with Ratchet and Clank and through the Resistance franchise, both series have featured cool weapons. I still remember seeing the commercial for the original Ratchet and Clank where several guys were sitting in their backyard testing out a weapon called the "morpher" on one of their friends and turning him into a chicken. It was pretty cool and it was my introduction to Insomniac Games.

For the past decade, IG have found themselves working exclusively for Sony on the Ratchet and Clank and Resistiance franchises. A few years ago, IG announced that they had joined forces with Electronic Arts to develop a a multi-platform game whose core focus was on creating a cooperative experience.

Preview: Saints Row IV (360, PC, PS3)

Saints Row IV is setting itself up as one of those games that will feature a launch trailer that is neatly diced by one-off quotes from previews divorced of context and box art that will have at least two quotes on the back saying lines like:
"Saints Row IV is like Prototype 2 with a sense of humour!"
"Taking ridiculousness to astounding new levels!"
"A pimped-out sandbox world!"
"Super orgasmic!"
"The action is never flaccid!"
"Juvenile? 100%"
"Volition's got your stimulus package right here!"
And so on.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Review: Metro: Last Light (PC)

Growing up at the tail end of the Cold War like I did, Soviet Russia was this weird other place that part of me wanted to visit, if only to say that I'd been there and liked what I had in America better.

Russian culture, as far as I could discern from pre-Revolution through post-glastnost, was weird but not that weird.  And being part of the last Cold War generation, as much as I wondered how America might change after a nuclear war, I was equally curious how Russia might change.  I seem to have found one possible scenario in Metro: Last Light, and it's a decidedly Russian experience.  Which is to say, weird but not that weird.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Preview: Remember Me (360, PC, PS3)

I'm a sucker for "lost memory" stories even though I think it's a trope full of lazy cliché, especially in games. Too often it's a matter of convenience and makes it feel like the designer didn't quite know how to begin a story so he or she washes the main character up on a beach with a healthy case of amnesia. The character innately knows how to summon a two-headed, acid-breathing dragon, SURPRISE, which is the only way to defeat the evil sorcerer, SURPRISE!

The player is never surprised.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Editorial: Raving Rant - Dragging the Offline

This is Dutch Uncle Axel talking to you, EA COO Peter Moore: sit down, shut up, and pay attention.

This is important, because this is why you’re getting a second “Worst Company In America” award  from The Consumerist. I’d apologize for being brusque, but it would be an utter lie, and you need to hear this in as plain a language as possible. It will offend you. It will make you angry. I won’t spout the whole “anger leads to the Dark Side” nonsense because you’re already there. But anger does have value as a psychological motivator for survival. And you do want to survive, right?

Recently, my cable Internet service became unavailable for a prolonged period. Not a couple of hours, but a couple of weeks. During this interim, would you care to take a guess how many hours I spent trying to catch up on Mass Effect 3? Or Kingdoms of Amalur? Or maybe trying to beat a high score on Gatling Gears? The answer is zero, Peter.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Weekly Checkpoint 51

Aaron and Jeff team up to discuss some of this week's gaming news including EA exclusively making Star Wars games, an Eternal Darkness Kickstarter, lack of interest in Wii U development, and more.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Video: StarDrive Impressions (PC)

I'm a sucker for space 4X strategy games, so it was only a matter of time before I took StarDrive for a spin. Find out more about the game, and some of my early thoughts on it in the video above.  ^_^

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Review: Planetside 2 (PC)

I'm not going to deny that I'm an unrepentant snob when it comes to FPS games.

I like them on my PC, I like them pretty, and I like them 'splodey in all the right ways.  A well made shooter is almost a thing of beauty.

In terms of pure design, I hold Unreal Tournament as the apex of what a shooter should attempt to attain.  MMOFPS games have to do double duty, since they not only have to work as an FPS but they also have to properly convey the persistent world of an MMO.  I didn't have an opportunity to try Sony's original Planetside, but to correct that oversight, I did get the chance to go through Planetside 2.  I can't really speak to its value as a sequel, but on its value as an MMOFPS, the first half seems to be fairly well executed at the expense of the second.

News: World of Warcraft Loses 1.3 Million Subscribers

Pandarans fighting
Activision Blizzard recently announced their most recent financials, and one of the more interesting things to stand out in this onslaught of very big numbers was that one of their most important games, World of Warcraft, has shed 1.3 million subscribers. That brings the game's subscription base down to a "paltry" 8.3 million people.

Reasons given for this decline include free to play games starting to become a major competitor, especially in Asia, as well as content not coming out quick enough to satisfy players. These are certainly plausible, but there could be plenty of other reasons as well. People who got the free one year subscription for pre-ordering Diablo 3 are likely seeing their free subscriptions expiring and taking the opportunity to leave the game. Also, the game is just getting old. It wasn't going to be a 10 million+ subscriber juggernaut forever. Frankly, I'm surprised it still has as many subscribers as it does all these years later.

News: Total War: Rome II Coming in September

Massive battle

People looking forward to the next Total War game need only wait until September 3 to start marching legionnaires around on the path to glory. Sega has confirmed that this will be a global release date, so there'll be no waiting around in one region while another is happily enjoying their game. There will also be a fancy collector's edition which comes as a physical copy of the game with all sorts of physical goods, making for a nice change of pace from so many other recent collector's editions where everything has been digital. Although speaking of digital, there is also day one DLC planned for the game (feel free to ready pitchforks, tar, and feathers at your leisure) that will unlock various Greek factions including Athens, Sparta, and Epirus. People who pre-order the game will get this DLC for free with Rome II.

Review: Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 (360)

My undying love of the Naruto franchise has been extolled multiple times, so there's no point in gushing over it again. Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 lets you play out some of the major battles of the 5 Kage Summit Arc, or if you'd rather, just wander around beating the crap of other ninjas in versus mode.

The Single Player campaign is the main draw for the game; getting to compete in some of the bigger set piece battles is the steak for this meal. You get to start off with the battle against Kyuubi in Konoha in all its apocalyptic city destruction glory. By showing the destruction of Konoha and showing the necessary co-operation of every ninja you really appreciate the talents required to bring down this force of nature. After such an impressive battle, each following one tries in vain to live up to this high point. That's not to say the rest of the game is a write-off, it just highlights how impressive the first big one is.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

News: More Problems with Diablo III's Auction House

FIghting a siegebreaker
After hammering away on the latest patch for Diablo III, it looks like Blizzard is still having trouble with the game. A bug has made it past testing and into the live game whereby people who make an auction to sell some gold will be refunded double what they were actually trying to sell should they cancel the auction. Oops! Auctions have been shut down until Blizzard is able to sort out the mess, and it sounds like there won't be too many rollbacks to cancel out all of the gold that has been given out because of the bug. The only exception appears to be for people who really tried hard to exploit the bug. Almost a year on, and still the auction house that meant so much to Activision and Blizzard continues having problems.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

News: EA Gets to Make Star Wars Games! (Hurray?)

That's no moon
With Disney scooping up all things Star Wars then shuttering LucasArts a while back, it was only a matter of time before they would announce that some big company is taking over making Jedi / Sith / Hutt-centric games for one and all. The company to come out on top was everybody's favorite publisher, Electronic Arts. The fallout has been amusing as snide comments abound what with everyone taking a quick pot shot at the company. Frankly, I can't see how it would be anyone other than one of the largest publishers that would get Star Wars. If it wasn't EA, instead we'd probably be hearing people bitch about Activision or UbiSoft getting the license and how one of those companies will balls everything up.

Seriously, Disney spent billions to get Star Wars. Of course they're going to expect top dollar when shopping around licensing agreements for the games. Of course, only a few of the biggest, and coincidentally most complained about, publishers would be able to afford it. What were people expecting? Maybe a group of plucky, young indie studios would get the license and shower us with quirky, new experiences? Come on now. We're going to get our Star Wars themed Battlefield games, and we may or may not like it. (Though, I think I may actually like that...)

Preview: Batman: Arkham Origins (360, PC, PS3, Wii U)

There was a small ripple of "What? What!?!" when it was revealed that the next installment of the Batman franchise wasn't coming from Rocksteady, developer of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, but any thought that this latest title -- Arkham Origins -- couldn't possibly match or live up to the previous games was assuaged in my mind by one name: Eric Holmes.

Digesting Free to Play

Party fight
Neverwinter is another in a recent stream of free to play MMORPGs
to come out
Over the last week, another batch of free to play games became readily available to the public either as a full release, or an open beta. Those games were Ragnarok Online 2 and Neverwinter. This isn't going to be a review of those games, or the time I've spent fiddling around in either of them, but more a chance for me to try and articulate my own thoughts on the current state of free to play, and by "articulate" I largely mean prattle on incoherently. So, business as usual.

Friday, 3 May 2013

News: Can An "Eternal Darkness" Sequel Be Kickstarted?

IGN has posted the first teaser trailer for what appears to be a "spiritual sequel" to the 2002 GameCube horror title Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem.  The new title, called Shadow Of The Eternals, seems to hearken back to the ealier game from now-defunct developer Silicon Knights.  Purportedly, Denis Dyack and his team were working on a pitch for a proper sequel to Eternal Darkness before the company shut down following their legal troubles with Epic Games over Too Human.

There's no explicit reference to Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding site, though given the difficulties Lab Zero Games have experienced with IndieGoGo and PayPal, Kickstarter might be the safer and more obvious choice.  More details are promised on the game's website (currently showing a countdown timer) as coming out on Monday.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Review: Dyad (PC)

Riding some zip lines in Dyad
In early tracks it's reasonably easy to see what's going on
There have been a decent number of games with glowing, pulsating, minimalist visuals that have players barreling down some corridor or predetermined path doing all sorts of groovy things.  Some make a concerted effort to have a strong gameplay element with tight controls, score attacks, and the like, while others go for a more ambient experience where players can just turn off their brains and enjoy the ride. Dyad tries very hard to be the former, but winds up playing more like the latter. While there is a slew of gameplay mechanics and such that players can try to master, a lot of the time it is very hard to see what's going on in the game just because the amount of glowing and pulsating light is overwhelming. It leaves one resigned to enjoy the game more from a visceral standpoint than from one where players have a strong command of what is happening on the screen.

Hands-On Preview: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing (PC)

As the introduction movie played, with it's water-colours and inky sketches as a voice-over provides a monologue about Van Helsing (well, his son), I couldn't avoid the easy and extremely apt comparison to Diablo III, though scaled back in scope and art assets. And voice actors.