BitSnark

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Archive for January 2008

CryENGINE 2 to be demonstrated on XBOX 360 and PS3

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At GDC this year, those wonderfully talented bods at Crytek, will show off the engine that powers the graphically staggering Crysis on the XBOX 360 and PS3 platforms. Make no mistake people this is significant currently for one reason and one reason only… EA get to fulfill their mantra of releasing games on as many formats as they can and will bring the PC FPS Opus to the next-gen (when does it become current gen?) console market.

This is significant to you for three reasons.

Firstly, Crysis is one of the most beautiful and intricately structured shooters since Half-Life 2.

Secondly, you don’t have to pay £700/£800 for a PC rig just to play the darn thing.

Lastly, those of your friends who did, will, in all likelihood be crying into the beer when they realise you will be able to play the game on a £200 console.

Again, nothing official has been announced regarding a conversion, but surely logic dictates that it surely has to be a matter of time and an obvious conclusion to the demonstration to the CryENGINE 2 tech… Unless of course we get an orginal IP using the engine, which is unlikely given the current popularity of the Crysis IP already.

What do you think folks?

Written by bitsnark

January 31, 2008 at 7:38 am

Reminder: Rez HD XBLA on Wednesday

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Just as a little reminder to those of you who want to get hold of Rez without scrabbling around the second hand bargain bin in your local games emporium, Rez HD becomes available on the XBOX Live Marketplace this Wednesday.

Go on, treat yourself to it if you’ve been curious and never played it, and to those of you who have… well, you know the score :).

Written by bitsnark

January 28, 2008 at 7:05 pm

GTA IV Worldwide Release Date: 29th April

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The headline pretty much speaks for itself on that one, but for those who want a little more detail on what that it means, it basically means not a day later, or a day earlier than our stars & stripes cousins but the same darn day.

Looks like people should be booking off holidays, cancelling lives and buying baseball bats to disuade little kids from trying to convince someone to buy the game for them.

It’s all about the morality 🙂

Written by bitsnark

January 26, 2008 at 9:41 pm

First Resistance 2 screenies hit the interweb

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Being the worst kept secret on PS3 for sometime now, the sequel to PS3 launch game Resistance: Fall Of Man, has finally been unveiled with the first screenshots coming online just five minutes ago.

The screenshots appear to show off a much higher level of detail than the original game, with seemingly higher poly counts for the models, better lighting and hugely improved shadowing, not to mention more detailed environments.

Impressions in just one word though?

Purdy.

Hit the link to see for yourself:

http://uk.media.ps3.ign.com/media/142/14211237/imgs_1.html

Written by bitsnark

January 26, 2008 at 9:35 pm

Cry a tear…

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This morning THQ announced the discontinuation of two of it’s franchises, namely Juiced and Stuntman. This primarily is due to the franchises not performing as they were expected.

Wow, people who are interested in gaming probably won’t give a rats whereas those who really aren’t will probably mourn the loss shortly, before moving on to buy Random Generic Street Racing Game 5.

Nice one THQ, leave the shops with more shelf space for games that actually validate the medium and make gaming enjoyable.

Written by bitsnark

January 24, 2008 at 5:38 pm

360 Devil May Cry 4 Demo Impressions

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Devil May Cry 4 (XB360) Demo Impressions

Upon starting up the demo proper, you are greeted with two ‘missions’, each of which are essentially a taste of the game at two different stages. Firstly, you have Extermination which is a ten minute timed mission which takes in near enough a whole level from the game and then you have Execution, which seemingly takes place later on in the game and thrusts you straight into a boss battle with a huge fire creature.

Starting off, I took a crack at the Extermination mission which allowed me to see pretty much how the fundamentals of the game would hold up. To all previous Devil May Cry players, the format remains assuredly similar. The character that you play here, Nero, plays and feels just like Dante from the previous games in that pretty much all the stylishly OTT moves you could do in the previous games you can do here.

With Nero’s arsenal you can knock enemies up in the air with your blade, charge up your gun (just one this time), rev up your sword for increased damage, juggle your enemies in mid-air, throw enemies around and so on and so forth. Nero also has a taunt that he can perform, though its usefulness escapes me as it’s not used to improve your ranking score any and simply gets you punished. Speaking of which, like previous games, points and ranking are awarded based on how well you chain together different moves whilst keeping your enemies in a world of hurt. The better rank you achieve, the more red orbs you receive to upgrade your arsenal of weaponry and demonic powers.

In this demo however, the upgrade system didn’t appear to be in place which makes sense in one respect due to the fact that Nero already appears to be suitably powered up to begin with.

The much talked about ‘Demon Arm’ that would appear to form the basis of Nero’s character actually offers very little in terms of gameplay from what we see in the demo. The arm purely exists as an augmentation to Nero’s set of abilities with its current usefulness limited to simply throwing enemies or doubling up as a grappling hook to swing from one location to another.

While the Extermination mission didn’t put up much of a fight, the Execution mission with the boss battle did however, with the series’ trademark difficulty level making a reappearance and punishing you for not making split-second evasions and making the most out of every combo.

Graphically the game is a splendour, particularly in the Extermination mission which takes in old castle architecture, an old town and a group of shipping docks. In particular, the level of artistic detail prevalent in the architecture of the buildings unashamedly betrays the artists Western European inspirations and shows some of the most beautiful environments yet witnessed on the XBOX 360.

In further regard to the aesthetics of the game, textures are very clean with no discernable break up with dynamic shadowing, complex lighting and a rock solid 60 Frames Per Second being the order of the day here. Truly if you want to show off Devil May Cry 4 to your friends on your shiny HD set, the Extermination mission is the one to show as it is by far the most graphically appealing of the two missions, with the Execution boss battle mission being set in a rather dull snowy tundra with a burnt out village being the only real deviation in terms of setting. That said, the boss looks quite impressive in terms of movement and graphical trickery (check out the fire on him) but all in all he provides a mild highlight for what stands as a mediocre looking level.

All in all, I was impressed by the demo but not overly awed by it. I knew what to expect – that being a more shiny, polished Devil May Cry experience and that’s exactly what I got – so no complaints there, however I hope that the gulf in quality between the two parts of the demo, aren’t in any way indicative of the level of consistency for the rest of the game.

Oh and yes, Nero, is an arrogant git, just like Dante, so get ready for more silly surfer dude come backs if you didn’t already get your fill from Devil May Cry 3.

Reply with your impressions people.

Written by bitsnark

January 24, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Devil May Cry 4 demo hits XBOX Live tomorrow, PS3 demo due on PSN a week later

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Yup, headline says it all really. Don’t forget, download and reply to my inital impressions tomorrow.

Yup, all in that order 🙂

Written by bitsnark

January 23, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Speaking of XBLA…

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A quick reminder to those who haven’t already – get your rear ends onto the marketplace and claim your free XBLA game – Undertow. Haven’t even played the trial yet myself, but heck its FREE – so get downloading.

If you’re wondering why MS is being so generous, its because of the sizeable downtime that Live had over the Christmas period, preventing many little Timmy’s from playing their newly gifted CoD4’s and Halo 3’s online.

Oh and be quick with the download, it stops being free after Sunday.

Written by bitsnark

January 23, 2008 at 4:19 pm

GoldenEye XBLA… Would you *really* care?

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With all the ‘will they, won’t they’ discussions that seem to permate the subject, not to mention the constant rumour mongering, I wonder if a lot of people would actually dedicate that much time to the game if it ever got released.

I mean truthfully, most of us who want the game have played the damn thing to death, and while it’s almost certainly better than the train wreck that was Perfect Dark Zero, would it be enough to tear us away from the mutilplayer delights of Halo 3 and Call Of Duty 4?

While I have many friends who would buy the game if it became available and spend about a week buggering around with prox mines on the Facility multiplayer level, I also know that given a week most of them would get bored with it and move on. The single player campaign is different kettle of fish however. From my perspective I cant bear to look at it as I have been through it countless times on every difficulty level, and achievements be damned I wouldn’t be doing it again.

Ergh, I dunno if I am being too cynical here but now that we’re close to something actually happening with this (Rare having the finished code but waiting for cross-publisher approval) I find myself caring less then I did when it was just a pipe dream.

Thoughts?

Written by bitsnark

January 21, 2008 at 2:54 pm

A review of an anime classic…

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Cowboy Bebop TV Series

Genre: Sci-fi Space Adventure Drama
Director: Shinichiro Watanabe
Distributor: Bandai Entertainment
Duration: 25 minutes approx per episode with 26 episodes total
Production Creation: 1998

Plot Synopsis

The year is 2071 and mankind has given himself wings with which to reach out into space. Just as on earth, crime and the lawless flourish in space and where there’s wrongdoing, there’s money to be paid to sort it out. It’s in this vein we find the roaming spaceship known as the Bebop to be the home of mysterious ex-mafia member Spike Spiegel and former policeman Jet Black. Two unlikely characters that have a formed an alliance, a bounty hunting alliance, to track down and capture to whatever ends necessary, their bounty so that they can continue to finance their operation.

Joined by the dangerous femme-fatale with a mysterious past Faye Valentine, Data dog Ein and hyperactive teenage computer genius Ed, bounty hunting has never been more complicated… But who would want it any other way?

The Review

Hyped, loved, adored and generally praised by otaku everywhere, Cowboy Bebop could quite easily be summed up as the anime event of the late nineties. For those of you who have been living on another planet for the last five years and haven’t heard of Cowboy Bebop, let me just say that it’s one of the freshest and finest anime shows to come out of Japan not just recently, but period.

It’s main draw as a show certainly is it’s super cool and ultra stylish demeanour that extends to every aspect of it’s production. Everything about it just seems so suave and fresh, from the stylised jazz music soundtrack through to the striking character designs and artwork, there are few anime shows that are as downright cool as Cowboy Bebop. Obviously shallow factors such as being ‘cool’ and stylish aren’t enough to make an anime great or even watchable, and because of this Cowboy Bebop brings far more than just this to the table to make it one of my favourite shows of all time.

To start with, it has a clique of characters that are varied, deep and interesting to watch and develop. Chief among these characters is mysterious bounty hunter Spike, who besides being your typical drifter type, has a past that is convoluted to say the least. Although Spike comes across as a remarkably laid back and some would say ‘chilled’ individual, he is still a master of the Jeet Kune Do fighting style and is almost one with his firearms. As you can probably tell, he is one tough customer. At the same time however, he often finds himself in more scrapes than he can handle and its usually at this point that his bounty hunting associate Jet Black, decides to lend a helping hand.

The relationship that the two have is interesting to say the least as it kinda reminded me of those old buddy cop movies that always used to be on TV. Nevertheless, such a tried dynamic works well with these two as they play off of each other really well and get each other into some interesting situations. Jet is also a deeply developed character, being a former cop discharged under dubious circumstances, his past is gradually explained throughout the course of the series. Being perfectly reasoned and down-to-business, he is the perfect yin to Spike’s yang. Enter Faye Valentine, the sexy (not to mention debt ridden) femme fatale, who succeeds in disrupting their relative harmony and in doing so introduces a real wild card into the equation. Faye is impulsive, devious and calculating and while she may be all of those things, we later learn that she is also quite vulnerable and somewhat insecure, not to mention a constant supply of fan service…..

Ahem, moving on I could go on all day about how well developed the other characters are too, such as the nihilistic Vicious and the hyperactive Ed, but at the risk of revealing any more about them let me just say that they are the most entertaining and diverse ensemble cast that I have seen in an anime to date.

Speaking of entertaining, the storyline fits that bill too. Being a mixture of superb episodic plotlines and a larger background story that begins to get established fairly early on, Cowboy Bebop excels here as well. Thankfully, many of the episodes that don’t tie in directly with the main storyline are pertinent to many of the characters as such episodes serve to develop their backgrounds further, such as Ed meeting her father in one episode.

Overall the tone of the show tends to be serious. There is often a lot fighting, space combat and darker moments. The darker moments often come about when Spike’s past is given focus in the show, along with his mysterious connection with the cold blooded killer, Vicious. That said, the show does have its fair share of lighter moments too (often at Spike’s expense) which balances everything out nicely, but primarily this is a serious, extremely cool (darn it, there I go again) show.

Well i’ve been harping on about it for long enough now, so let me tell you what makes this show so coo….. um, dapper. As good as the plot and characters are in Cowboy Bebop, (and if you don’t know already, they are darn good), Cowboy Bebop wouldn’t be quite as well known or as successful as it is today if it didn’t carry with it such a sense of style. Notably, the jazz infused soundtrack playing in the background contributes largely to the stylish atmosphere that pervades throughout, as does the innumerable amounts of cool noir-esque scenes (complete with muted colour), character posing and stylish action scenes.

Compounding this sense of style, you will find that the show is packed with both illicit and explicit references to various aspects of music, movie and art culture. One reference in particular that stays in my mind, is when Spike gives a line where he describes the best way to defeat your opponent is to ‘be able to flow like water’, – a philosophical quote taken directly from martial arts master Bruce Lee, who also happens to be the pioneer of the Jeet Kune Do martial art that Spike practices. Some might say that the inclusion of such references are superfluous, personally I think it just reinforces what is already an immeasurably stylish and charismatic show and helps to put Cowboy Bebop in a league of it’s own.

Cowboy Bebop’s artwork is exceptionally well produced. The backgrounds are realised to a high level of detail, while the character designs maintain a suave, almost sleek look to their features and clothing that really encapsulate the stylish feel of the show. Combining awesome CG visuals with traditional cel drawn techniques, Cowboy Bebop’s animation remains a step above just about any other any anime production out there, managing to be fluid, smooth with never an awkward movement or jerky frame in sight.

Cowboy Bebop’s sublime visual aesthetics are further complimented by the simply awesome soundtrack that’s on offer here. Again succeeding in tying in nicely with the cool atmosphere of the show, Yoko Kanno lends her incomparable talents to the creation of the soundtrack, which is a series of accomplished jazz melodies sometimes in hybrid with more contemporary overtones. Simply sublime.

I truly would hate to see the size of the production bill for this series.

With all this positivity, surely there’s at least one flaw with Cowboy Bebop? It’s flaw is that as with many great things in life, it ends, and with the exception of the recently released Cowboy Bebop movie which takes place during the course of the TV series, the show will not continue. Although by no fault of it’s own design, i’m just bummed out that my favourite show won’t get any kind of continuation. Still, would a sequel have done the stellar original any justice?

Ultimately, this is a series that does so many things right. It’s cool, stylish, full of character and has a great plotline. It would be easy to be forever heaping praise upon Cowboy Bebop, but I guess this review has to end some time. Don’t do yourself the disservice of being the only person who actually hasn’t seen it.

Ratings Summary

Animation: A
Art: A-
Music: A+
Content: A+

Overall: A+

Review by: John-Paul Jones

Suitability for children

There is a fair amount of the claret spilt throughout the course of the show, mild profanity and whole load of Faye orientated fan service. Only really suitable for those aged 15+ then.

If you liked this why not try…

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie – Bandai Entertainment
Outlaw Star – Pioneer Animation

Written by bitsnark

January 15, 2008 at 8:25 pm

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