BitSnark

Random scribblings by a prick. Enjoy.

Archive for May 2012

‘Because We May’ indie sale starts today on DirectPC/Steam/iOS/Android – lasts a week.

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One of the reasons why I love the indie gaming scene, besides the general positive swell in innovation, is the pricing.  Generally, indie games find themselves subject to more sales per year than Lindsay Lohan does DUI infractions and the nattily named ‘Because We May’ sale is one more example of independent creativity being sold on the cheap.  Below, are links to the various sale category listings such as iOS, Direct PC, Steam, Android, Mac and everything else.

Direct PC:  http://www.becausewemay.com/direct.html

iOS: http://www.becausewemay.com/ios.html

MAC: http://www.becausewemay.com/mac.html

Android: http://www.becausewemay.com/play.html

Steam: http://www.becausewemay.com/steam.html

Other: http://www.becausewemay.com/other.html

Particuarly for mobile gamers, there are a lot of decent discounts there on some cracking little titles.  I mean really, if the likes of Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor and Waking Mars at their reduced prices don’t cause you to plunge your hand in your pocket; you must be some sort of disgusting pervert or something.

Creativity on the cheap is a GOOD THING.

Written by bitsnark

May 24, 2012 at 9:04 am

Far Cry 3 gets ‘Insane Edition’. Now available to pre-order.

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In the grand tradition of fleecing the gullable and financially senseless, comes along this latest collectors edition for Ubisoft’s forthcoming Far Cry 3.

Just look at that bobble head for heaven’s sake.

The ‘Insane Edition’ for Far Cry 3 includes the following tat:

Exclusive Survival Kit Packaging: It’s supposed to look like a survival kit. It doesn’t.

An Insane Vaas Wahine: A 12cm Wahine with Vaas bobble head that looks totally fucking hideous. 

A survival guide: Discover unique artwork and inside information to help you survive the insanity of the island: Does anyone actually look at ‘unique artwork’ as a selling point these days for collectors editions? 

Monkey Business: Discover Hurk, a new memorable character and quest giver, and his 4 unique missions. An extra hour of gameplay exclusive to this collector’s edition! A WHOLE EXTRA HOUR! He’s memorable too!

The Lost Expeditions: 2 Suspenseful Action Missions and an exclusive World War II Flare Gun. An extra 40min of gameplay! FORTY MINUTES (Count em’) of extra gameplay!

  • The Hunter Pack: The M700 hunting rifle and its three collector’s skins.
  • The Warrior Pack: A handcrafted dagger and two exclusive tribal tattoos
  • The Predator Pack: 4 exclusive rare predators and a multiplayer bow.

Really, the allure of the multiplayer tidbits listed above will depend completely on the strength of the multiplayer – a bit of an unknown quantity at this point.  Still, you get all of that tat for £49.99, so it’s not like they’ve violated you for the usual £69.99 price point that so many collectors editions seem to be set at these days.

The Insane Edition of the game is available to pre-order at Zavvi.com.  Linkage here:  http://www.zavvi.com/elysium.search?search=Far+Cry+3%3A+The+Insane+Edition

There’s also a ‘reveal’ trailer for the Insane Edition that i’m sure you probably couldn’t care about.

Here it is anyway.  It looks awful.

Far Cry 3 is due to release on 360, PS3 and PC on 7th September 2012. 

Written by bitsnark

May 23, 2012 at 10:24 am

Post-Halo, Bungie’s next IP – Destiny, is a Sci-Fi FPS with MMO stylings and will arrive on Xbox and Next-Gen formats from 2013 onward. Apparently.

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That was a mouthful wasn’t it?

Yep, it would seem that the current hot topic right now on a number of sites is the reveal of new details pertaining to ‘Destiny’; the codename for the next franchise from Halo developer Bungie.

These details were actually brought to light as a result of the now apparently closed litigation between EA and Activision over that whole sordid Infinity Ward business.  Specifically, the deets were contained in an Bungie/Activision contract which can be seen courtesy of the L.A Times at the link here: http://documents.latimes.com/bungie-activision-contract/

If you can’t be arsed to trawl through all that the details basically boil down to this:

– The codenamed ‘Destiny’ IP is being positioned as a sprawling franchise which encompasses “sci-fi fantasy, action shooter” mechanics with additional MMO stylings which lend itself to “client based mission structures with persistent elements”.

– The franchise is supposed to kick off next year (likely Q4) and will arrive on both the 360 AND the next Xbox as timed exclusive.  Timed exclusive releases eh? They never get old.

– In 2014, the game will finally arrive on the PS3 once the timed exclusivity period has expired for Microsoft.

– A second Destiny game is then apparently due to arrive  on ‘Xbox consoles’ (presumably they would be holding out to see if a 360 release remains feasible), PS4 and PC in 2016.  A PC release of the second game, but not the first? Um, what?

– Essentially the plan is to release a Destiny title every other year from 2014 (excluding the early period of exclusivity that MS would have for the first game in late 2013), resulting in Destiny titles all the way up to 2020.  2020!

– DLC is naturally a big part of the strategem for getting this franchise embedded in the hearts and minds of us ordinary folk and as a result, DLC expansions (codenamed – ‘Comet’), are set for staggered releases between each major Destiny instalment.

– Microtransactions are also revealed to be part of the deal; although in what capacity is yet to be known.

Now comes the great bit, usually when leaks like this happen you get a huge fucking stonewalling from the official sources.

Not this time.

None other than Bungie themselves have confirmed the leak saying:

“Well, that just happened…”

“So, yeah. While we’re not ready to show you what we’ve been working on, we can reconfirm that we are hard at work on our new universe. We can’t wait for you to see it.

“See you starside in 2013.”

Brilliant stuff.  I imagine this will make a sodding huge splash at E3 this year.

A Destiny Prototype Logo. Yesterday.

Written by bitsnark

May 22, 2012 at 11:35 am

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 confirmed to release on 360 & PS3 platforms on September 14th, 2012. GAME gets a swanky collectors edition.

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The latest addition to the ‘King of the Iron Fist’ franchise now has an official date.

Publisher Namco Bandai has today confirmed that Tekken Tag Tournament 2 will unleash it’s unique brand of fistic action on September 14th this year, for both 360 and PS3 consoles.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is the first sequel to the Tekken Tag Tournament spin-off series that began way back in July 1999 when the original Tekken Tag Tournament hit the arcades.  Just over a year later, Tekken Tag Tournament would find it’s way onto the PS2 as a crucial part of the machine’s launch line-up way back in the mists of the year 2000.

Now that the history lesson is done, you might also like to know that some retailers are being slaves to fashion and are packing DLC with pre-orders of the game.

First up is Zavvi, who are tossing in two DLC characters for free – Kunimitsu (a watered-down Yoshimitsu clone last seen in the original Tekken Tag) and Ancient Ogre (the final bad dude in Tekken 3).

Linkage to the Zavvi deal can be seen below.  Meanwhile, other retailers will likely follow with other free DLC characters given that Angel and Michelle Chang were both announced as Day One DLC characters a few days ago.

http://www.zavvi.com/elysium.search?search=Tekken+Tag+Tournament+2+

Furthermore to this, GAME are apparently hosting the only collectors edition available for the game.  The ‘We Are Tekken Edition’, comes in a steelcase, has a 200 page artbook, soundtrack and a DVD with hints and tips from various expert Tekken players – including Harada-san himself.  All this tat will probably go for £69.99 and i’ll certainly preorder it.  Because i’m a moron.  Pre-orders for the collectors edition have yet to go live on GAME’s website.

And you want a trailer I suppose too don’t you?  Fine, cast your eyes downward you bunch of pushy bastards.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is due to release on Septmeber 14th 2012, on both 360 & PS3 consoles.

DmC (Devil May Cry) joins the 2013 brigade with a EU/US January 15th release date. PC version due ‘later in 2013’.

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And there goes another one.

No longer part of the once seemingly assured group of games that would arrive in the three months leading up to chrimbo, the Ninja Theory developed Devil May Cry reboot (and it is a reboot – Capcom clearly don’t know how to use the term correctly) has now been shunted into 2013 along with a few of its notable former Christmas running buddies such as Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider and Aliens: Colonial Marines.  Meanwhile, the PC version of the game is due ‘later in 2013’.

I wonder which game is next to get the 2013 ticket?  Smart money is on Grand Theft Auto V.  Considering we’ve only seen a SINGLE trailer for it so far and going on the October release window that a few are now talking about since Bioshock: Infinite got delayed, that would leave us approximately only FIVE months for Rockstar to get the product done and ready for primetime.    Also, Rockstar like to fine-tune everything to within an inch of it’s life and they like to gear up the marketing campaign accordingly.

So no, I don’t see it happening – it’s just not in their DNA.  Therefore expect Grand Theft Auto V to join the growing clique of blockbuster games in 2013.  Probably around April/May time.

Oh and seeing as I’ve veered off topic a tad, below you will find the newest video for Capcom’s DmC; one that centers on the sweary, attitude-packing protagonist and shows off some brief snippets of gameplay:

DmC is due out on 360 and PS3 platforms January 15th, 2013.  A PC version will follow later that year at a date to be specified.

Written by bitsnark

May 22, 2012 at 6:03 am

Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance gets a nearly ten minute long english language minute trailer

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I’ll admit, i’ve not actually played any of the Kingdom Heart games.  Sure, they’ve certainly looked very pretty with style to spare and on some level at least, the idea of a Disney crossover with the guys and gals from the Square-Enixverse has often appealed to me.

It’s just the haters.  They’ve got to me.  You see, it’s all the warnings and general vitrol that i’ve seen on countless forums regarding the supposedly nonsensical narrative that has done much to dull my motivation to get involved with this sprawling series of games.

Still, this newest english language trailer for Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance on the 3DS, certainly piques my interest in the game from a visual standpoint (it appears to be one of the better looking games on the handheld) and apparently, the game is much more akin to a ‘full’ entry in the series rather than the shitty spin-offs that have plagued the DS and to a lesser extent, the PSP.

Nevertheless, watching the trailer still sent my ‘what the fuck’ sense tingling pretty strongly so maybe i’ll finalhave a go at deciphering it all when they release the inevitable HD re-release of Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2.

Have a look and see what you think (although I wish they would quit it with those crappy tiled borders in these trailers. They look like shit).

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance is due to release on the Nintendo 3DS late this Summer.

Written by bitsnark

May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Aliens: Colonial Marines no longer due in 2012 – the bug hunt now commences on February 12, 2013. New trailer too.

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To be filed quite neatly under ‘no shit’ comes this little news nugget that Sega’s Gearbox Software developed shooter tie-in, Aliens: Colonial Marines, has been delayed into the great unknown that is 2013.  February 12th, 2013 to be exact.

To celebrate this latest delay since the game was announced thousands of fucking years ago, comes a moody ‘release date’ trailer that certainly does an admirable job of getting the blood and man-mustard pumping with due-aplomb.  It certainly looks the part, if perhaps a little overfamiliar due to a seeming over-reliance on scripted events.

Anyhow, have a look at the trailer yourself and see if it floats your Nostromo or not.

Aliens: Colonial Marines is due to arrive on 360, PS3, PC and WiiU platforms on February 12th 2013.

Written by bitsnark

May 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm

The Walking Dead: Episode One Review (360)

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What makes The Walking Dead so enjoyable? Well-written characters, a tense scenario, stylish violence and ‘Shut up Dale’ would be the main four things I’d say. Well, Telltale Games inaugural episode of The Walking Dead goes three for four with the potential promise of the fourth being fulfilled in a later episode.

Well, with any luck anyway.

The Walking Dead: Episode One, subtitled ‘A New Day’, casts the player as Lee Everett, an academic turned criminal who begins the episode en route to prison; locked in the back of a police squad car.

As you might reasonably expect, things go to shit really quite quickly and before you know it, your leg is all fucked up and you’re hobbling out of the smouldering wreck of the squad car trying to find some sort of salvation in a downtown suburb whilst a great throng of undead lerch after you, desperate for a spot of noms.

The Walking Dead plays in a very similar fashion to Telltale Games other titles, with the player character wandering around a set scene, interacting with objects and striking up conversations with NPC’s to further the plot. The puzzle solving element which is prevalent in the majority of their output, has been toned down here in favour of a focus on conversation and character development.

And it’s here really, in the quality of it’s writing that the Walking Dead dramatically separates itself from its Telltale stablemates. The Walking Dead legitimately feels like a three or four long episode of the popular TV show, rather than a pale imitation of it and that largely is down to just how well the characters are fleshed out and how effective the dialogue is.

The way you chinwag in The Walking Dead is through the selection of a number of dialog options in a similar manner to how you would in games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect. The real kicker here though, is in some cases if you don’t reply quickly enough, events will continue on around you – often forcing spontaneous and rushed responses as you would expect in a scenario where the undead are trying to turn you into a Happy Meal. It’s all really quite great and refreshing change from what has come before.

Speaking of conversation though, lies *will* come back to bite you in the ass as a result of your actions often carrying significant consequences with them. For example, if you begin lying to folks about certain aspects of your past, when these past transgressions come to light, people start casting doubt on you and trust you less; which as well as resulting in different dialog, perfectly echoes the character dynamic of the TV show and graphic novel, with everybody suppressing their darkest secrets in the face of prioritising survival.

Indeed, many of the survivor’s that you come across run the whole gamut of the human condition; you’ll encounter everything from the orphan looking for a place of security in a world she doesn’t understand, through to the terribly over-protective asshole father, who doesn’t want to let you within ten feet of his daughter, knows your darkest secrets and hates your face. This is the main reason why The Walking Dead fiction succeeds so well as a TV show and as a graphic novel; it never shies away from showing what desperation does to the human condition. It makes people paranoid, violent, insular, scared and many other emotions to boot and it’s this whole range of human emotion in a broken world, that Telltale Games have been able to replicate, pretty much wholesale, in The Walking Dead.

A nice little surprise in the game is the revelation that this appears to take place before the events in TV show/graphical novel, so expect to bump into some familiar faces prior to their journey with Rick & Co later on. It’s a nice touch and helps to make the world seem that much bigger and interconnected.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that all you do is talk though. While you do a fair chunk of talking and chewing the fat, there is a fair bit of action to be getting on with too. The combat system is not a twitch-based system like you would expect to find in the likes of Dead Rising and Left 4 Dead, but rather it employs a mixture of the dreaded QTE’s and cursor motion based systems.

Before you cringe yourself into the floor, let me just say that the QTE system actually makes sense here. Rather than watching the character on screen do like a seventeen-thousand hit combo that can be triggered by just pressing ‘A’ (*cough* Asura’s Wrath *cough*), the Walking Dead employs the system sensibly. For example, if you’re struggling to prevent a zombie from going all-you-can-eat buffet on your face, you tap ‘A’ until you free yourself and then using the cursor to move your arms around, you snatch a pin-hammer from the hands of a trembling on-looker and proceed to aim at the skull of the rotting cadaver, whilst pressing ‘B’ to mash said hammer into the cranium of the undead until they stop moving. They tweak the formula a smidgen between encounters to keep things fresh, but ultimately given the distinctly cinematic experience that Telltale has crafted here, the system holds up and feels both effective and satisfying.

Despite the pleasing graphical novel inspired cel-shaded art style, make no mistake; The Walking Dead is a violent game that pulls few punches. Rather than the splashes of blood and bodies clumsily splashed in blood as seen in Dead Rising, violence in The Walking Dead is almost always a prolonged and intimate affair, with lingering graphic scenes of folks getting torn to shreds, eaten and of course, zombies being offed in increasingly ultraviolent ways.

As the episode reaches it close, a real kicker of a little feature appears. It’s an end of episode report which shows you the percentage of other players who did exactly what you did at key points throughout the game. Really, it’s something that all games should have that trumpet the ‘choice’ card. For instance; were you a complete asshole who got somebody killed? Well, 22% did the same as you – so you can all take seats in the asshole boat together.

Another cool little gimmick and one that precedes the end credits is the next episode preview.

Done in the style of TV show, ‘Next time on The Walking Dead’ shows you a sizzle reel of what you’ll be encountering in the next episode but most ingeniously, hints towards the potential consequences of choices that you have made in this episode. Genius stuff indeed.

The Walking Dead: Episode 1 is *easily* worth the 400 MSP admission price. For that, you’re essentially getting an experience that cribs all the best aspects of the TV show and still manages to pack in enough gameplay to keep you occupied. I’ll look forward to future episodes and to hopefully fulfilling my goal of telling Dale to shut the hell up. The twat.

Written by bitsnark

May 3, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Dragon Age 2 Review (360)

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There is an inn that you can visit in Dragon Age 2, called The Hangman’s Pub. In this seedy little establishment is an NPC called the ‘Talkative Man’ who, as you might reasonably infer, potters about the place talking about all sorts of stuff. The common thread throughout all of his inane witterings however, is that everything in the world seems simpler, reduced and diminished. The scary thing is, the guy is absolutely right and if Bioware had spent more time adding meaningful features to Dragon Age 2 instead of taking them away and creating smarmy, pseudo-ironic fourth wall breaking dialogue, this game wouldn’t be the trainwreck of a sequel that it currently is.

I mean really, with Dragon Age 2 it’s like Bioware have cut out just about everything that was done well last time and turned in a game that is in almost every significant way, completely inferior to the mostly excellent Dragon Age: Origins. It’s the very definition of a cut-down, watered-down and low-budget sequel.

Nowhere is this more keenly and immediately felt than right at the start of the game, where you must define your character. Gone are the multiple race selections and unique origin stories and in their place is a single-human protagonist named Hawke, with whom you can choose a gender and then one of three classes; warrior, rogue and mage. There is a trade-off in effect here with the culling of origin stories and racial choice, but that’s something that I’ll get onto in a bit.

The plot in Dragon Age 2 is also much reduced in scope when compared to the sweeping ‘call to arms’ epic that formed the narrative backbone and primary story arc of the original Dragon Age. The narrative here is much more introspective and less dramatic than the events witnessed in Origins, with the player having to deal with the machinations of the overzealous Chantry in conflict against the chaotic Circle of Mages.

In preferring to deal with weighty socio-cultural issues like religion, tolerance and corruption – you find that your enemies are almost always regular folk and the series primary antagonists, the Darkspawn, largely take a back seat here (although saying that, you do get to tangle with those ugly bastards a few times).

Another aspect of the game which suffers from this troubling case of sequel diminishment is the combat. Combat is a lot less tactical, favouring a button-mashing hack and slash approach in which the ‘A’ button, becomes some sort of crazy spam attack which you can do over and over until the foe drops dead. Sure, you have your assignable abilities and whatnot, but more often than not it comes down to you furiously hammering away on that poor face button in an attempt to whittle your opponent’s health bar down to nil.

It’s not exactly terribly riveting stuff and to that end, many encounters rarely require any kind of tactics other than being aware when to use your healing potions. It’s sorely disappointing and certainly yet another facet of the game that fares poorly when compared to its predecessor.

With the renewed focus being so doggedly on Hawke, it quickly becomes apparent that your other party members have been given short thrift. One particularly galling example of this is that they are no longer able to have their own unique equipment – a feature of just about every RPG since the year dot. You can probably imagine how frustrating it is to pick up a nice, shiny bit of loot for your party member rogue only to see – “Restriction – Garrett Hawke’, time and time and time again. This is yet another design decision that beggars belief; why would you take these sorts of fundamental things away from the player? It’s not like that the equipment system was terribly convoluted or difficult to use in the first place.

Another aspect of the game that has been overzealously streamlined is the chinwagging. There are no persuasion/intimidation modifiers to conversations now – meaning that everybody will have the same conversational choices regardless of how they’ve developed their character. It’s also hard to shake the feeling that with the conversation system itself, we’re being led by the hand a little too much, since each conversation option has a symbol attached to it, representing the type of reply. A good reply comes with a halo, an aggressive reply comes with a fist, a flirtatious one comes with a heart and so on and so forth.

It’s all quite terribly condescending and makes me feel like I should be dining on a diet of crayons to increase my IQ.

The scope of the game just feels that much smaller compared to its predecessor too. Gone is the ability to travel the countryside, going from town to town and camping in-between as instead your adventures are largely confined to the dreary city of Kirkwall, with just a small clutch of errands taking you outside the city limits.

Kirkwall itself is split up into a number of districts and locations. Naturally, you have the better off areas where all the toffs hang out, ‘Hightown’, in this case and of course the less-well off areas like the imaginatively named ‘Lowtown’ and ‘Darktown’, where all manner of scum and villainy are ready to separate you from your mortal shell.

In an effort to provide some sort of diversity to the locales that you visit within Kirkwall, you have the option of visiting these places at either day or night and doing so allows you to complete missions unavailable at the other time of day. Ultimately, it comes across a half-hearted attempt to pad out the fact that there really isn’t that much to do in Kirkwall and does little to hide the fact that you’re traipsing in the same locales again and again.

Further compounding the claustrophobically small nature of the gameworld is the fact that the few caves and external locations you do enter are just recycled maps. You will literally see the same locations over and over and over again, which in case you haven’t realised, is horribly tedious and does little to reinforce the notion that you and your party are engaged in high-fantasy adventure in a sprawling and vividly detailed fantasy world.

Indeed, if Dragon Age: Origins was a sprawling, Tolkien-esque saga, then by comparison, Dragon Age 2 feels like a BBC produced fantasy show with half-price sets, a studio audience and Colin Firth.

The questing in Dragon Age 2 is dreadfully uneven and mostly unsatisfying state of affairs. The main storyline quests are at least moderately compelling and weave competent narrative threads, whereas the side-quests tend to be from the 2002 MMORPG School of Questing, where you find an item and have to return it to its owner with no real sort of explanation or reasoning why you’re doing it other than a marginal monetary reward. In short, the side-quests are a total joke and would only be worth bothering with if you had a compulsive disorder which forced you to clear your quest log out.

Still, for all of the missteps that DA2 makes, certainly the one thing it does right and arguably better than its predecessor is how the main protagonist is handled. No longer afflicted with semi-paralysis and a personality equal to that of Keanu Reeves, the primary protagonist Hawke, is both generously animated and blessed with his/her own voice. With the lack of voice acting such a key deal breaker in the believability of the player character in the original, the presence of a VA for the main character in DA2 is much appreciated, due in no small part because the voice actors themselves acquit themselves ably in the role.

Essentially then, Bioware have traded in the myriad of character creation choice seen in Origins, for a more defined and personable hero who functions and fills his/her role in much the same fashion as the ‘Shepard’ character does in the Mass Effect trilogy of games. Arguably, your mileage will likely vary as to whether that trade-off is appealing to you, but it does make me ask the question; why can’t we have the best of both worlds? Surely even reducing the racial choice down to three and still keeping the voice acting and unique animations wouldn’t be too much ask. Right?

In conclusion then, Dragon Age 2 should be a cautionary tale to all on how a sequel can completely fuck up and destroy just about everything that made it’s predecessor so endearing to start with. The game is horribly diminished and simplified in so many ways compared to its predecessor that it seems like the developers have pissed any profits made from the original against the wall and made this on their lunch breaks in-between their Mass Effect 3 crunch meetings.

For a franchise with so many more tales to tell us and places to take us, the Dragon Age franchise deserves better than this.

Written by bitsnark

May 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm

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