Random scribblings by a prick. Enjoy.

Posts Tagged ‘360

Review: Spelunky (XBLA)

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When people talk about Spelunky they far too often refer to it as some sort of ‘death-grind’, where all you do is spawn and die and that’s somehow that’s the single, solitary hook that keeps you playing like some sort of brutal exercise in platforming S&M.

For me, it wasn’t the notion of getting flat-lined just to try again that kept me coming back, it was something a little more subtle than that; namely the concepts of greed versus survival and risk versus reward.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by bitsnark

July 17, 2012 at 10:24 am

Konami Is Coming To The Eurogamer Expo And They’ve Got A Lot To Shout About – MGS:R, ZOE HD And Others Confirmed Playable

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This is going to playable at the show. I cannot fathom a SINGLE reason why you wouldn’t have, or would want to get a ticket for the show at this point. I really can’t.

With 78 days to go before Earl’s Court swings open its doors to the sweaty gamer massive for this year’s Eurogamer Expo, Konami has confirmed that they will be at the show and will be bringing a number of playable games and surprises along with them.

The organisers of the show have confirmed that Konami will have Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, PES 2013, Zone of the Enders HD Collection and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate on 3DS all playable on the show-floor, so feel free to brag to all of your mates who don’t have a ticket.  In addition to the these games, Konami have also confirmed that in light of this year being the 25th anniversary of their stealth opus Metal Gear, they’ll have every single game in the series playable on the show floor.

Holy poo.

And you wanted surprises?  Well, the folks at the Eurogamer Expo also had this little cryptic tidbit to impart regarding the Japanese developer’s presence at the show:

“That is not all we are doing to celebrate this milestone, either, but I am not allowed to provide more hints as to what else may be occurring or I will be shot with a dart and stuffed in a locker. We’ll update you with more details once they are finalised.”

I don’t know about you lot, but I’m getting some strong whiffs of a Hideo Kojima developer session and retrospective on the Metal Gear franchise.  Too. Much. Awesome.

The addition of all of these lovely playable games at show from Konami quite handily compliments the earlier announcement of big hitters such as Assassins Creed 3, Far Cry 3, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 6, Hitman Absolution and DmC among a great deal of others, all being playable on the showfloor.

We’re also told that we should expect to hear something on the developer sessions and that tying in with those announcements will be earlier confirmations of times so that y’know, you can plan how much time you spend playing on all these lovely games and nipping into the Pizza Express kiosk naturally.

If you haven’t done so already, you can grab some tickets here.

No tickets? No? I don’t even know you. Actually, I don’t.

The Eurogamer Expo is due to take place this year on September 27-30 at Earls Court in London.

Satisfaction Through Payne – Max Payne 3 Review (Xbox 360)

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In the nine or so years that have passed since Max Payne last lit up our screens with his Matrix inspired, bullet-ballet gameplay, a great deal has changed. The Matrix is in the past, bullet-time has been shamelessly milked by so many countless film and game properties that it’s no longer the fresh, mind-blowingly cool gimmick that it used to be and third person shooters in general have been forced behind cover due to a certain franchise obsessed with biceps and chainsaws.

Much like it’s titular character, Max Payne 3 is an unapologetic relic of an earlier era; a game that when compared to it’s contemporaries may seem outdated and relatively bereft of innovation or surprise in light of just how closely it sticks to the genre tropes that the first two titles did so much to create.

Despite appearing to be just another eye-rolling exercise in over-familiarity, developers Rockstar have somehow managed to make the familiar seem weightier and more substantial; meaningfully reclaiming the ‘grittiness’ from other po-faced shooter efforts who would merely use the word as an excuse to swear liberally and spray gore and body parts across the screen.

It’s in this grittiness that the narrative of Max Payne 3 is framed so succinctly. Set some time after 2003’s Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, this third entry in the series finds our tragic hero serving as a personal security officer for some of Brazil’s political elite by day, while at night, Max finds himself without distraction; locked in a downward spiral and broken down on every emotional level by a harrowing trifecta of personal tragedy, alcohol and painkillers. As you might imagine, things don’t stay calm very long and before you know it, folks are being kidnapped, shot and executed; prompting Max to start ejecting lead into people’s faces as an approximate and frequent reply all the while attempting to maintain his tenuous grip on reality.

Grizzled, pissed off and with a gun in his hand – this is the sort of poise common to our heroic chap throughout the game.

It’s an action-packed yarn, filled with the sort of striking violence, depravity, social commentary and sharp direction that typifies it as a Rockstar developed title. Taking Max from the crib of the richest financial and political magnates in Brazil, all the way to the crime-infested, desperate slums that make up the sprawling favelas of Sao Paulo, the plot of Max Payne is a much a meditation on character introspection and redemption as it is a gritty, gun-play laden action blockbuster.

If it’s not clear to you at this point, allow me to make it clear; Max Payne 3 is a very violent game indeed. Bullets cause all sorts of deformed nastiness to the human anatomy in this game with all manner of entry and exit wounds causing foes to slump against nearby furniture, or crash down a flight of stairs. The kill cam, just one of Max Payne 3’s many visual flourishes, serves to further heighten the violence; bringing time to almost a standstill as you watch round after round crash through the body of the unfortunate goon who just happened to be in your way. With that said, the damage modelling isn’t perfect – enemies caught by an explosion will merely have their bodies thrown (fully intact) across the room without any visual injury; a surprise given how meticulously the game models physical damage from firearms elsewhere.

Despite a stylish focus on the grisly, from a cinematic perspective the game distances itself from it’s genre stalemates in typical grand Rockstar fashion with a flair for the dramatic. Here, Rockstar have combined the sort of edgy and progressive cinematography seen in films such as Drive by Nicolas Winding Refn and Elite Squad by Brazilian director Jose Padilha, to sharp and impressive effect. This shouldn’t suggest however, that Max Payne 3 has left the original Noir stylings which characterised the it’s predecessors behind.

Despite it’s more contemporary cinematic influences, Max Payne 3 is still as much a love-letter to classic Hollywood Noir as it ever was. The internal monologues return, as do the dramatic analogous speeches, yet the game supplements this with a visual veneer that evokes a heady combination of David Fincher and the adrenaline-fused, visual style seen in the Crank movies.

During cut-scenes, conversational-text, momentarily darts into view while the camera-lens periodically loses focus and bleeds colour and hue – providing the sort of drug-infused distorted vision that you would imagine Max himself having after a night-long binge of his favourite brand of ‘Kong’ Whiskey (look for it) and painkillers. Indeed, in this incarnation Max himself has a very definite Hollywood look; boasting the rough facial lines and craggy looks which evoke a deep similarity to a 1980’s era James Caan.

No action shootery game is complete without the obligatory AVOID THE SNIPERS section. There are a few of these. Just a few.

When it comes down to the gameplay, it’s in the act of plugging folks with a variety of firearms that Max Payne 3 reminds us just how similar it is to the previous games that have spawned it. If the cinematic aspect of the game references the work of European and American directors, then the gameplay almost certain remains as much a homage to John Woo cinema as the previous games have. Bullet-time, the feature by which Max Payne his quite literally lived and died by since his debut over eleven years ago; remains a steadfast part of the gameplay in Max Payne 3. Max can dive forwards, backwards or to the side in slow-motion whilst firing his weapon of choice; either a primary firearm such as a rifle or heavy machine gun, a side-arm such as a handgun or a combination of two sidearms for maximum ‘guns akimbo’ effect.

It’s here that another little way in which Max Payne 3 separates itself from other, similar games becomes apparent.

If say, the impossibly muscled and gruff Marcus Fenix from Gears Of War attempted to dive side-ways whilst opening fire and there was a physical impediment in the way, such as a wall or other obstacle, he would just roll against it and get up right away. Max on the other hand, quite literally crashes into the wall, realistically sliding down it as he struggles to gain his bearings and correct himself. Age, drink and substance abuse haven’t been kind to Max Payne’s body, and so such physicality comes across exactly as it should – wholly appropriate.

In terms of the gameplay, these sort of weighted acrobatics have additional implications outside of the cosmetic. Although he may have crashed painfully against a wall or crashed backwards through a pool table after a frenzied dive, Max Payne can still remain on the offensive; even though if he may be struggling to pull himself up off the ground, or steady himself with a hand on the wall, he always has his gun pointed forward, meaning that you are always a danger to the enemy regardless of the state of animation you are in.

Very few third-person shooters can boast of such a level of offensive versatility and at first it catches you be surprise – you think “Ok, I’ve just dived through a table and I’m lying flat on my back…what now? Oh wait, I can still.. shoot?”. This is just one example of how Rockstar has embellished the fundamentals in the pursuit of attempting to perfect them.

Max Payne 3 hasn’t been totally immune to the genre status quo however; cover is now a critical part of the gameplay experience where it didn’t exist before. Hiding behind desks, lockers, walls and much more is mandatory in Max Payne 3, simply on the virtue of the lethality of the enemy attacks. Three or maybe four direct hits are all that’s required to put Mr. Payne in a wooden box and as such cover must be used intelligently; a fact which is further reinforced by the fact that the enemy aren’t stupid – they’ll regularly look for opportunities to flank you and will dart from cover to cover whilst doing so.

This sort of thing happens a lot in Max Payne 3. The trick is to be the guy holding the two guns and not the guy holding the two bullets in his cranium.

Speaking of mortality, like in previous games, Max is able to stave off the Grim Reaper by chewing down on bottles of painkillers which are dotted throughout the various locations in the game. In Max Payne 3 however, an additional feature has been added which effectively allows you a second wind if you have endured a fatal shot. Functioning similarly to Call of Duty’s ‘Last Stand’ perk, If Max has one bottle of painkillers left and has taken a hit that would otherwise kill him, he instantly consumes the painkillers (at half the effective rate) and time slows right down to a crawl for a few seconds. If during this time you can shoot and kill the guy who fatally wounded you, Max gets up to fight another day sans one bottle of painkillers. If you don’t, well, you die and that’s pretty much it. While it may seem whimsically gimmicky, the system actually forces you to balance your painkiller use more carefully and ensure that wherever possible, you have one left in the bank just in case you find yourself on the wrong end of an ambush or lucky shot.

There is no getting around it; Max Payne 3 never ever attempts to convince you that it is anything but an exceptionally gritty and tonally nasty third-person cover shooter. When you aren’t diving from behind furniture to avoid enemy fire you’re usually sliding down a rooftop unleashing a shower of precision lead on a group of unsuspecting goons, or some such similar scenario. The fact that it continues to segue into familiar territory with on rails vehicle shootouts and sniping missions, does little dissuade you from the fact that you’ve played this game in a hundred different places a hundred different times before.

In addition to the main campaign, you can opt to do the entirety of the campaign in Arcade Mode, where you are given score to accrue per chapter and with each chapter you complete, your score for that chapter is uploaded to the Max Payne 3 leaderboards. Another way that Rockstar have attempted to pad out the single-player side of things is through the ‘New York Minute’ game mode which again, takes you through the campaign but this time you’re set against a timer.  If the timer hits zero it’s game over and the only way to prevent this from happening, to delay the timer is to blast enemies; netting you a bit of extra time for each kill. Depending on how much of a completist you are, your mileage may vary, but with the main campaign topping it out at just over ten hours on the longevity scale, I found these additional modes to be rather hackneyed additions to the game that weren’t compelling enough to make me re-run the game.

Multiplayer-wise, there are the expected deathmatch and team deathmatch games, but the unique Payne Killer and Gang Wars present a much more interesting pair of propositions. In Payne Killer, the objective is simple; you are able to become Max Payne or his partner Passos by killing them, and then you can start earning points for staying alive and killing as many of the attacking players as possible. Naturally, your bullet-time bursts and life-saving painkillers will give you an advantage for a short time, but as always it’s a numbers game and it’s only a matter of time until those numbers catch you up and fuck you over.

Our hero Max Payne, post heavy whiskey binging session. Sort of looks like me after a night on the town. Only he has hair.

Gang Wars on the other hand, is a five-round team game in which objectives dynamically change round to round – always keeping the action fresh. For instance, one objective might require your team to plant explosives at selected sites that the opposing team are trying to keep standing. In another example, there might be a VIP whom you need to flat line on opposite team; the kicker being that the identity and location of this VIP will only be revealed after you’ve sent a select number of the other team to meet their makers. It’s an entertaining game type and one that certainly provides a different set of thrills from what you would often get in the usual run-of-the-mill deathmatch multiplayer game modes by virtue of it’s ever changing objectives.

Solid multi-player offerings aside, for me, the strongest part of Max Payne 3 remains it’s hugely satisfying and stylishly cinematic single-player story campaign. Nine years may passed, but Max Payne can still shoot it out with the best of them and he does so in the sort of relentlessly entertaining, teeth-grindingly intense way that only he can offer.

Like the harrowing journey Max himself takes during the game’s narrative, the strides made in the areas of gameplay in pursuit of that picture-perfect John Woo esque thriller are equally as considerable. Max Payne 3 is one of the finest cinematic shooters to be released in sometime and it demands your attention like a .38 pushed against your sweating brow.

Highly recommended.

Max Payne 3 is available to buy now on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC from all major gaming software outlets.  

Written by bitsnark

July 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Sega Announces NiGHTS Into Dreams HD Re-Release For Later This Year – Forgets The Spit ‘n’ Polish

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One of the most fondly remembered games from the Sega Saturn deserves more than just the ‘lick’ of HD paint that it currently has. Singular.

Sega has announced a HD re-release for their 1996 Sega Saturn cult hit, Nights Into Dreams, which is due to drop later this year on 360, PS3 and PC (via Steam) platforms.

As well as having all of the usual mod-cons like achievements, trophies and a new lick of HD paint, the game also bundles in the original Sega Saturn version with the original visuals intact as a freebie.  Whilst any day in which anything remotely Nights orientated gets announced should be looked upon as a good day, i’m left distinctly underwhelmed by the title’s HD resurrection.  The reason for my dissatisfaction is purely superficial – the supposedly ‘new’ high definition visuals look chuffing awful; drawing attention to the fact that this looks like the laziest and most cynical ‘HD update’ seen in a long while.

The whole thing has essentially been upscaled into 720p with the sixteen year old assets being brought along for the ride, kicking and screaming.  That’s it – that’s the extent of these ‘new’ visuals – a resolution upscale.  Thanks for that.

It looks fairly atrocious and this sad issue is exasperated by the fact that in the trailer below, footage is shown of the bundled Saturn version and it looks almost indistinguishable from the high definition version.

Not happy.  In addition, to say that it doesn’t exactly light a fire of confidence regarding my hopes for a quality Shenmue HD re-release would be understatement of the year at this point.

Watch and cry below:

NiGHTS Into Dreams is due to be released sometime later this year on 360, PS3 and Steam.  OR, you could just bring out your Sega Saturn and play it NOW.

Written by bitsnark

July 6, 2012 at 9:38 am

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Announced By Namco-Bandai, Due For Release Next Year – Debut Trailer Inside

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Dattebayo! Etc.

Continuing the success that developers CyberConnect2 have had with previous instalments in the series, the very same codeteam are due to release Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 sometime next year on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 platforms.

If you’re already a fan of the manga/anime property that this game is based on then by all means read on; if however, you are not, the following blurb might not make much sense to you.  Just saying.

Using the Fourth Shinobi World War Arc as the basis for it’s storyline, the trailer; a mixture of in-game cut-scenes and gameplay, chronicles the attack of the Nine Tailed Beast on the village of Konoha and more specifically, the events that led to the attack.  Interestingly, ‘The Masked Man’, also known as Tobi/Uchiha Madara, is painted as the primary antagonist here; which is great because he’s a horrendously charismatic villain with a very unique set of abilities; making him the perfect foil to the titular character in the game’s inevitable story mode.

On that note, i’m hoping that they continue to make big strides with the story mode – since the story mode in previous games while serviceable, tended to degenerate into boring collect-a-thons around barely interactive locations populated with one-liner, paper-cut out NPC’s then generally did little else than loiter and annoy.

Anyway, it still looks absolutely gorgeous; as you yourself can see by casting your peepers over the embedded trailer below:

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is due to be released sometime next year on Xbox 360 and PS3.

Written by bitsnark

July 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Jump In, Nobody Cares – Microsoft E3 2012 Press Conference Analysis

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If you’re looking for the Microsoft of 2009 you’ve come to the wrong place. They have E3 2013 booked instead. Thank you for your time.

Of all three console manufacturers, the next-gen white elephant in the room loomed no larger than it did at Microsoft’s E3 press conference.

While not quite a train wreck raging with the fires of fanboy discontent, the Microsoft press conference was nevertheless the weakest of the three (narrowly beating out Nintendo’s second time screw up at unveiling the WiiU). Of the three manufacturers doing press conferences at E3 2012, Microsoft had the least stakes to play for since they weren’t trying to reinvigorate a flagging handheld or attempt to relaunch a brand new home console in the eyes of Joe Consumer.

Still, while the bright-spots were very few and far between they nonetheless were still there, beginning unsurprisingly with 343 Industries Halo 4.

Halo 4 – The fight starts, again.

There really wasn’t anything else at the presser that even remotely approached the same level of gravitas.

It was common knowledge that regardless of whatever else Microsoft was going to announce, that Halo 4 would be the centrepiece of their briefing. It was generally accepted thinking that Halo 4 was to be the solid and dependable title that would back up more significant, surprising announcements.

As it turned out there actually weren’t any terribly significant or surprising announcements and as luck would have it, Halo 4 actually stepped up to the plate; sneaking up on us all and delivering some of the most solid looking gameplay the series has seen for a long time.

Boasting a dramatic live-action introduction which segued into an in-game cut-scene, followed by some sumptuous jungle based gunplay, Halo 4 boasted polished visuals, classic and brand-new weaponry and a completely brand new foe for the eponymous Master Chief to combat (the cool looking tech/insect hyrbid race known as the Prometheans) . In short, Halo 4 looked every bit like the presser centrepiece for the Redmond software and hardware giant at E3.

Besides ‘just’ having a solid presser centrepiece, Halo 4 fulfilled another mandate; it reassured gamers that the Halo franchise remains in safe hands since creators and long-time custodians Bungie, left the IP in Microsoft’s hands in 2010.

Indeed, new developers 343 Industries have made fired an indomitable opening salvo for the new Halo trilogy – laying the sort of blueprint that should give gamers a confidence restoring glimpse into the state of Halo for the next seven to ten years.

DLC Announcements – When Exclusivity Fails You Let Them On Stage Anyway 

A popular Microsoft tactic for the last few years has been to secure timed exclusivity on downloadable content for perceivably popular third-party releases. This year was no different with Microsoft getting first dibs on DLC for Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 6 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

One thing that did surprise was that two of the games at their conference didn’t have any DLC timed exclusivity tied in with them. The highly anticipated Splinter Cell: Blacklist, was simply demonstrated for nearly ten minutes with no mention of exclusive features or DLC for the Microsoft platform (interesting given Conviction’s 360-only release), and South Park: The Stick Of Truth, was talked about on stage briefly by series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, but again, no exclusive 360-centric features or DLC were announced.

Unless I’m missing something, it seems a tad pointless for Microsoft to showcase multiplatform titles at their presser without the promise of any content unique to the Xbox 360 platform.

Effectively, they are freely showcasing titles that may be bought on competing systems with no unique differential (at this point at least) to convince customers to stick with the 360 SKU. That, ladies and gentlemen, is madness.

Like Clockwork – Social Apps & Nike Plus

Continuing their relentless crusade to ensure that the 360 is the centrepiece of the living room, Microsoft announced that more social apps would be available to users in the forthcoming months and that they had also entered into a partnership with sports label Nike, to create ‘Nike Plus’, a Kinect focused workout title.

Normally, multi-media and social stuff like this would be a sore-point of contention with many folk where press conference time should be dedicated to gaming, it’s innovations and additional related possibilities. In the context of their showing and realising the point of the Xbox 360’s life-cycle that we are in, it serves to fortify the notion that Microsoft are in a holding pattern until next year, where they get to announce and gleefully showcase their next lump of money-gobbling plastic to the world.

Essentially then, they can get away with devoting nearly a half a hour to this sort of the stuff now, but next year, where we expect to be over-fucking-whelmed by a cascade of quality first-party and third-party titles for the system that they would want us to purchase later that year, this sort of shit really isn’t going to fly.

Gears of War: Judgement – Entering The Breach Between Generations

Leaked just hours before the Microsoft presser was due to commence, this newest entry in the Gears of War saga was rumoured for good while, with the murmurings of both Bulletstorm developer People Can Fly and the game being a prequel, being accurately founded.

Set as a prequel to the events witnessed in the Gears of War trilogy, the primary protagonist has shifted from the gruff and muscle headed Marcus Fenix to the gruff, muscle headed and venom-tongued Baird. Based on the ever-so-brief snippets of video that have been released, gameplay-wise the game appears to have endured an equally conservative shift with People Can Fly taking the route of least resistance in showcasing a game that looks nigh-on identical to Gears of War 3.

For a developer new to such a big, blockbuster franchise this cautious and minimally risky entry in the series makes sense given the solid set of expectations that fans have for the series and also the fact that we’re in the twilight years for the platform that birthed this hugely successful IP in the first place. For those of us wanting to see the IP branch out and strike out onto some new ground, we’re very likely going to have to wait until its next-generation debut.

In actuality though, while Gears of War: Judgement looks like perfect franchise stop-gap fodder as we carefully make the leap between this generation and the next, the stigma of carrying such a moniker shouldn’t really be any cause for concern – it’s still a Gears of War title and by proxy of that fact; it still looks to be extremely solid.

In short, franchise-fans should remain entertained by this latest installment, but it won’t attract any new blood to their player base given the relatively safe road that the developers have travelled here in regards to the gameplay and new features.

Limp Wingmen – The ‘Other’ First Party Titles Forza: Horizon,  Fable: The Journey & Dance Central 3

Another franchise that is getting a spin-off title prior to its proper next-gen debut is Microsoft’s Forza Motorsport series with the introduction of Forza: Horizon. Distancing itself from the track-based simulation shenanigans that the series is known for, the Playground Games developed Forza Horizon is instead much more reminiscent of games like Test Drive Unlimited with its focus on open-world exploratory driving and motorsport lifestyle.

The official trailer for the game that was released at that show (which you can see below) was predictably showy; high on sizzle, low on steak and it’s really in the gameplay footage that managed to sneak out just before the show and after that we can get any sort of indication of the game’s quality.

To this end Forza Motorsport filled a strange a niche in the Microsoft presser – it appeared in trailer form to let everyone know that Microsoft have another first-party in the tube that isn’t called Halo or Gears of War, but did little else besides. Other than a mere, albeit flashy confirmation of it’s existence, no gameplay was shown or feature-set talked about on-stage – a somewhat troubling vote in confidence in the title given that we are now less than four months away from it’s launch.

Another game that only appeared in trailer format (and is also due for release in a few short months) was Lionhead’s Fable Kinect title, Fable: The Journey. Whilst they had the decency to make the trailer in-game, they should have had more decency to not even show it all. The game looked horrendous quite frankly – coming across as little other than a Kinect-driven light-gun title, the title looked uninspiring, rough and just downright awful. Take a look at the trailer below and cringe away:

Next up was Harmonix’s Dance Central 3 which was showcased by a combination of sizzle-reel trailer and Usher, of all fucking people, doing his jive-thang on stage and reminding us that A) Nobody can dance like him and that B) Nobody wants to. Really, his presence was merely there to market the ‘new’ feature of being able to mimic the dance routines of famous artists and also to reinforce the fact that Microsoft are THAT hip company who have their finger on the pulse on everybody under twenty-one years old.

In the end though, while certainly solid-enough based on the fact that little else will be changed over it’s highly accomplished predecessors, Dance Central 3 feels like more of the same instead of a little of something new.

Arguably, like the majority of the Microsoft first-party line-up, Dance Central 3 reeks of the fetid smell of conservatism; a smell bourne of Microsoft’s desire to save all of the really good stuff for their next-generation debut and as a result, serve as poor first-party wingmen for Halo 4 later this year.

Microsoft Smartglass – How To Make 2004 Seem New (and relevant) Again.

One thing that Microsoft made a rather large noise about at their conference was Microsoft Smartglass. Effectively a piece of connectivity tech, SmartGlass allows gamers to link their Xbox console to their smartphones and tablet devices for a number of different supplementary tasks and activities.

Microsoft believe that this is a difference-maker when it comes to new and involving gameplay experiences. It isn’t.

In one instance in which this was shown, EA had a player devising NFL strategies in-game on a Windows tablet, allowing instantaneous play of their chosen strategy in the game. In another example, Halo 4 developers 343 Industries displayed an interactive codex of information while Halo 4 was playing, in addition to a slew of matchmaking and other multiplayer features being done on the small screen instead of the TV.

While it sounds like a nice thing to have, it by no means sounds essential – it’s function and purpose consigning it to an extra-curricular augmentation of the gameplay experience rather than a meaningful addition to it. Smartglass then, provides Xbox 360 (and likely 720) owners with the sort of companion-like gameplay experiences that Nintendo DS owners have had for nearly eight years now. While the tech remains interesting at face value at least, I remain less than optimistic that many devs will look at the extra screen available to them and not proclaim “Yay! MAPS!”.

Microsoft @ E3 2012 – Conclusion

Boasting a barely perfunctory line-up of safe titles, you get the impression that only a small handful of folks at Microsoft give any sort of shit about the first-party fortunes of the console with the rest of the Microsoft Hive busying themselves for the unveiling of the next Xbox at E3 2013.

With the exception of the Microsoft SmartScreen – a tech that effectively gives 360 owners the same gameplay possibilities as Nintendo DS owners have had since 2004, everything else that was on display in their conference could largely be seen coming a mile off.

Halo 4 was a large (if unexpectedly spectacular) part of their line-up alongside an expected showing of previously announced first-party spin-off properties in Forza Horizon and Gears of War: Judgement. While Halo 4 certainly performed it’s vocation admirably as their centrifugal first-party offering, but backed up by some relatively limp and unexciting company in the form of Fable: The Journey, Forza: Horizon and Dance Central 3. Gears of War: Judgement was really the game that Microsoft should have positioned alongside Halo 4 to propel the 360 into next year where the veritable flood of triple-A third-party software would likely continue to buoy the platform to growth anyway, but alas, this was not to be.

Demonstrations of multiplat blockbusters such as Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 6 and Black Ops 2 did the usual shtick of combining fresh looks at these games alongside announcements of timed exclusivity on DLC for the Microsoft platform, despite some of them being given precious show time without any exclusivity announced at all.

Continuing on, further exposition of forthcoming social and TV applications continued to be an unfortunate hallmark for Microsoft at E3 alongside showings of Kinect fitness title Nike + and naff looking Kinect exclusive titles like Fable: The Journey.

Really it wasn’t so much the content that was there that troubled, more instead; it was the content that wasn’t. Things that would have bolstered their anaemic software offering such as details of the forthcoming Summer of Arcade were omitted from the presser altogether (they were announced on the official blog hours later) in favour of having Usher flail about on stage for nearly ten minutes in some vague attempt to shill the dance routine features of the next Dance Central title.

Overall then, if Microsoft didn’t seem like they were trying to capture the hearts and minds of all us at E3 it’s because they weren’t. As I write this article, Microsoft is readying the next generation successor to the Xbox 360 and as sure as I am that Microsoft are glad that E3 2012 is over, I’m just as sure the next year, everything that they’ve held back will be brought to the fore to make that machine have the best debut possible.

Well, they better do at any rate.

Written by bitsnark

July 1, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Bethesda Releases ‘Golden Cat’ E3 Gameplay Walkthrough For Dishonored – Confirms Potential Game Of The Year Status

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Bethesda Softworks today blew the lid off of their behind-closed-doors E3 gameplay demo of  their highly anticipated title Dishonored, with the release of two director commentary gameplay videos.  Due to arrive in October, on PS3 360 and PC formats, Dishonored casts you as a supernatural assassin driven by revenge in a Victorian-inspired world merged with nightmarish science-fiction.

Broken down into two parts, each of these videos successfully conveys the primary lure of Dishonored; the freedom to creatively eliminate your targets with a hugely flexible combat system allowing you to combine supernatural abilities with a myriad of weapons and gadgets at your disposal.  Boasting a dynamic mission structure that alters throughout depending on the choices you make, Dishonored is equal parts Thief, Deus Ex and Bioshock; combining the key aspects of each of these notable genre alumni into a cohesive whole, that while perhaps not so technically impressive amongst its contemporaries, nevertheless looks to captivate and enrapture with it’s complete freedom of approach to completing missions and objectives.

Everything from skulking in the shadows and dropping down for a gory kill, through to teleportation and possessing anything with a heartbeat (even a fish!) combined with the creative fusion of a hugely dynamic arsenal of weapons and powers is showcased in the two videos embedded below.

With commentary by Co-Creative Directors Raphael Colantonio and Harvey Smith, each video represents the same mission, but differ in the manner by which the mission is tackled.  The first video shows a more stealthy approach; leveraging a select number of  powers in addition to the traditional stealth genre tropes (hiding in the shadows, hiding bodies from sight etc.) to get things done quietly and undetected. The second video as you might reasonably infer, instead shows a total balls-to-the-wall approach – where the shadows are left behind and the entire supernatural arsenal of the player is brought to bear in full-on confrontational combat.

Personally, I would much rather prefer the stealthy sort of gameplay myself at this early juncture.  The game appears to function much stronger in this regard and like last year’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the game seemingly has it’s most rewarding and satisfying moments when it is played in this fashion.

Enough of my prattle though, have a look at the footage below and see which approach you would favour in what looks to be a dark horse contender for Game of the Year:

 Dishonored is due to be released on 360, PC & PS3 platforms on October 12th, 2012.

Written by bitsnark

June 28, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Square-Enix Confirms Tomb Raider And Hitman: Absolution For Eurogamer Expo – Sensationalist Groping And Killer Female Clergy Not Included

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If you have a ticket, you’ll actually be PLAYING this at the show. Feel free to leave your issues regarding the recent controversy at the door eh?

Following on from their respective PR shitstorms seen here and here respectively, publisher Square-Enix has announced that both Tomb Raider and Hitman: Absolution will be playable on the show floor at this year’s Eurogamer Expo.

It’ll be refreshing just to get these games in our hands and push the sight and thought of terrifyingly inept PR cretins to the back of our minds as we attempt to lose ourselves in what should otherwise be two, very promising titles.

The announcement of the Square-Enix twosome being present at the show follows announcements from Ubisoft and Capcom that many of their banner titles would also be playable on the show floor, inclusive of the likes of the recently delayed Far Cry 3, Assassins Creed 3, DmC and Resident Evil 6.

Overall, it’s looking like it’ll be a pretty stacked show and if you haven’t gotten a ticket by now, you must be some sort of disgustingly cretinous miscreant.

Right your ship and buy them here while you still can.

What’s your excuse this time? Did your cat explode?

The Eurogamer Expo is due to take place this year on September 27-30 at Earls Court in London.

Written by bitsnark

June 28, 2012 at 9:25 am

Fist Of The North Star: Ken’s Rage 2(He’s STILL Angry) Is A Real, Official Thing – Completely Uneventful Debut Trailer Inside

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It’s probably a good idea to make something clear here; the original Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage represents a very niche sort of game.  Firstly, you have to be a fan of the Dynasty Warrior’s/Samurai Warriors games and secondly, you really need to be a fan of the Fist of the North Star manga or anime, since being a fan of the latter will likely help you embrace the former.  Though I imagine it works the other way around; the game isn’t as technically sound from a gameplay perspective as Tecmo-Koei’s other, similar titles.

If you’re still unclear as to exactly what sort of game this is, take a look at this gameplay video from the original game below:

Still here? Excellent – keep reading.

A couple of years ago, Tecmo-Koei released Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage – their first adapation of the popular and OTT brutal manga which followed the ‘Musou’ gameplay style blueprint of their previous titles, Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors.  Really, it turned out that a narrative in which a perptually pissed off protagonist goes around punching a small country’s worth of folk until their heads explode, was aptly served by 1 vs 1000 style of gameplay that the Musou style enables.  Nobody wanted to see the likes of Kenshiro and Raoh duking it out in the one vs one battles that the earlier games provided – no, what they wanted to see was free-roaming, wide-scale carnage of tattooed goons and impossibly muscled bad guys being offed in increasingly comical gruesome ways.

Largely, the original Ken’s Rage delivered in this regard with a game that felt like a Dynasty Warriors title, but yet had all the characters and events of the manga combined with a feature-set all of it’s own.  For fans of the FOTNS manga and anime the game was a revelation – no other game had really done the property this sort of justice before and now Tecmo-Koei look to try their hand at the license again with a sequel to their 2010 game.  I would expect the game to be conservative in it’s improvements and evolution over it’s predecessor (a practice seemingly common for all Tecmo-Koei Musou games), but really, we know little else at this stage about the sequel other than it simply exists.

The somewhat lacking debut trailer for the game does little to enlighten either, but hopefully we’ll get something with a touch more gameplay to help us fill in the blanks soon:

Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 is due out later this year for 360 & PS3 Platforms

Written by bitsnark

June 25, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Ubisoft to Bring The Big Guns To Eurogamer Expo 2012 – Assassins Creed 3, Far Cry 3 and Just Dance 4 All Playable

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THIS is one reason why you should be heading to the EG Expo this year – playable Assassins Creed 3. Playable Far Cry 3, also at the Expo, is another.

The Eurogamer Network has announced that Ubisoft will be present at their annual Eurogamer Expo show this year in some force indeed.  Assassins Creed 3, Far Cry 3 and Just Dance 4 (which will have a bus all to itself) as well as other Ubisoft titles will be all playable at the event.  Bravo indeed.

Really, if you consider yourself any sort of gamer you should come along – it’s chuffing brilliant.  You get to play the latest games before they are released, attend developer sessions with some of the industry’s best talent, unearth some fine independent games in their Indie Games Arcade and have packets of Chilli Heatwave Doritos tossed at you every time you try and leave the place among other things.

It’s brilliant I tell thee.  Grab your tickets here before they all disappear like Jimmy Carr’s stand-up career.

Like games? Got a ticket? No? SORT IT OUT.

The Eurogamer Expo is due to take place this year on September 27-30 at Earls Court in London.

Written by bitsnark

June 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm

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