Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Tomb Raider Anniversary to be Xbox Live download?

















Ever since it was announced last year, Xbox 360 owners have wondered why Tomb Raider Anniversary, the remake of the original Tomb Raider, wasn't going to be released on Microsoft's platform. After all, Legend was released on the 360 last year to positive reviews and solid sales.

Today, some new ESRB listings discovered by Kotaku, shed some light on why that may be. 5 levels from the game are individually rated T for Xbox 360, suggesting that they will be made available as individual downloads, instead of released as a complete game.

If this is the case, it will mark the first time that a major game has been released for a console exclusively as a download.

While part of me is glad to see the game is coming to 360 after all, the cynical, digital distribution hating part of me has a feeling it's not going to be ideal.

On both PC and PS2 the game retails for $29.99, a low price for both platforms. So we can extrapolate that a 360 retail release would cost $39.99, covering the next-gen premium.

Now the real question is, what is Eidos going to charge per level for the game? The way I see it, the game should be sold for less than what a retail game would go for since all you're paying for is a download (one that is going to take up probably 3-5GB of space of the 13GB available on the 360 HDD). Perhaps they'll sell the game for less to those who buy all the levels as a package, while charging slightly more for the individual levels?

Any way you slice it, I'll always prefer to have my games on disc so I certainly don't want to have that option taken away, especially if they intend to charge the same or even more than what the game would've cost at retail. I have a feeling that, altogether, the game is going to cost at least $40. Given the choice between a $40 disc and a $30 download, I'd still take the disc. Given a $40 download and nothing else, I'm probably going to go with nothing. I just really don't like the idea of publishers doing away with discs so they can then charge more for the download.

I'm also curious to know how they'll handle the achievements for the game. Will it get a full 1000 points, befitting a major release or will each download have it's own separate achievements?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Folklore Demo Impressions













Today, the Japanese PSN Store saw the release of the demo version of Folklore (or FolksSoul as it's known in Japan) an action RPG from Genji developer, Game Republic.

As it is all in Japanese the subtle nuances of the story escape me, such as why there is a giant blue rat wearing an oversized 19th century European suit, complete with extremely tall top hat. But, I'm sure it all makes sense though...really. Regardless, the game is flat out awesome.

I knew little about the game until Sony's recent Gamer Day and from that I learned you can suck the souls out of your enemies and not much more.

As I write this I am walking around a fairly nondescript European style pub in an equally non descript town perched on a cliffside. This pub, however, is populated with a number of fantastical creatures, not what I was expecting upon walking in.

A jovial, but rotund, witch with a hedgehog on her shoulder sweeps by the fireplace, while an elegantly dressed blue-skinned lady with a parasol floating above her, (who looks like a less stylized version of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride) looks on. The bartender is nothing so much as a 7 foot tall Cousin Itt, only with a straw hat, long ears, and bulging eyes. Sitting at a table across from him is a massive pig-like creature with an upturned blue snout and white hair covering his eyes. He sits with the aforementioned blue rat, who is actually quite tiny. The cutscene, and the fact that he is wearing what looks like a man's suit that is 6 sizes to big for him, lent him the appearance of being much bigger than he is.

As I exit I am accosted by a lamp-wielding scarecrow-looking creature who looks like a darker, more realistic, version of the Skull Kid from Zelda: Majora's Mask.

I notice the name of the bar, in English, above the door: "The Little Neighbors".

After finding myself at a Stonehenge like ruin and meeting with another scarecrow, my decidely modern looking clothes are magically replaced with more appropriate fantasy attire and I am teleported to a world where the creatures in the pub would feel at home.

Soon enough I am in battle with the indigenous creatures, and the combat system is fantastic. You begin with two powers, which you can assign to any of the 4 face buttons, and use them to attack. After pounding on a monster their soul will become visible above them, this is your cue to hit the R1 button at which point a beam of energy links you and the creature's soul and you draw it in, jerking the Sixaxis towards you like you're pulling in a fish. You gain experience and new powers in this way although I'm not sure if the experience is for your character, for increasing that particular power, or both. It seems capturing multiple souls at a time gives an experience boost.

What is awesome is the creatures you face are your weapons and magic. Your basic "sword" attack is a leaf skirted wood sprite who quickly appears in front of you to attack, the very same creature you will face all over this first area. As you defeat new enemies their powers become your own and they can be utilized at the push of whatever button you assign them to.

If it sounds cumbersome, it is anything but. Combat is fast paced and fluid and the use of the Sixaxis to capture souls works perfectly, a slight tug is sufficient to draw it in and it feels natural in the midst of battle. The L1 button lets you lock on to the nearest enemy Zelda-style for focused attacks. The battles are reminiscent of Zelda but even faster paced. It plays how all action RPG's should.

The music and sound is gorgeous: ethereal and spooky, full of soft chimes, evoking the Harry Potter films. Wolves can be heard howling off in the distance.

Graphically, the game is extemely impressive, which is saying something seeing as it is downscaled to 480p on my 1080i-only HDTV. I refused to buy Resistance because it looked terrible on my TV but I would have no problem playing this game in 480p. It might even convince me to upgrade my set because if it looks this good in SD it must look amazing in HD.

Cutscenes are presented in a graphic novel style using the game engine as well as still art. Very well done.

Needless to say, I am kind of blown away by the game so far, and it may very well be the first actual PS3 game I ever play on the system I've owned since launch. Hopefully the game will live up to the promising gameplay shown in the demo, it could easily end up being somewhat of a disappointment if there are limited areas and creature souls to devour.

FolkLore hits Japan in a few weeks and will be releasing this Fall in the US.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Online co-op...my only weakness...how did you know?
















There's been a rumor floating around recently that Traveller's Tales has been working on Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, a next-gen compilation of both LSW games. This rumor kind of intrigued me as I rather enjoyed Lego Star Wars II on 360 but have never played the original title (the one based on the movies with Jar Jar and E.T.). Would I really want to shell out full price for a compilation when I already played through one of the games? How would the achievements work? Would the Lego Star Wars II portion get all new achievements or would they pick half from the original game and recycle them (please, no!)?

Well, the game is rumor no more as it was officially announced today for 360, PS3, and Wii. The best part is, the 360 and PS3 versions will feature drop-in, drop-out online co-op play, a la Gears of War. For those keeping score that's 2 games in 2 days I've become interested in due to co-op play. It was a major feature missing from LSWII, since the game had local co-op, but restraints on where you could move resulted in the mode being largely unusable. Online co-op would fix that problem since everyone would have their own screen. That is assuming, of course, it doesn't play like Marvel Ultimate Alliance where, even online, you all had to stay on the same screen.

In any case, it's nice to see more and more developers making online co-op a standard feature in their games, and in some cases making it the focus of the entire game. Even better, with co-op play now destined for Lego Star Wars, it's pretty likely Lego Batman will feature it as well.

I really do hope that they don't reuse any of the achievements from LSWII though, particularly the "Finish Level X without dying" ones.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Future is Hazy with the Frustrations of Exclusivity












According to a Gamespot report, Free-Radical developed FPS, Haze, originally scheduled to be released on 360, Ps3, and PC this Fall will now only be appearing on PS3...at least in 2007.

I had originally intended to write about yesterday's revelation that Haze would feature four player online co-op through the story mode of the game, an announcement that instantly raised my interest from ambivalence to "now please". No sooner did I become interested in the game than Sony swoops in wielding bags of cash and builds a fort of gold ingots around it. Which now brings us to a diatribe on the stupidity and ensuing frustrations of console exclusives. And who can resist a good diatribe?

I own a PS3, I own a 360, I own a Wii. I own pretty much everything that a game can be played on, from this generation on back to the NES days. Exclusives don't apply to me and never have. But this gen is different. With the advent of Xbox Live, peer pressure is now part of the equation. Since playing through Haze with my brothers and/or my friends is the major draw of the game for me, the PS3 version is not an option, even though I have the means to play it. Why is that? Because I don't know a single person who owns a PlayStation 3. Actually, scratch that, I do know one single person who owns a PS3. One. I did know two people but the other one sold it so he could buy an HDTV to play his 360 on. No joke.

My point here is that even though I own a PS3, my buying habits are most certainly being affected as a result of what my friends and family own, especially in the case of online titles. I could get Haze on PS3 but I'd be playing it by myself. In that case, Haze may as well not even be online and that brings me back to ambivalent level interest.

Sony is paying through the nose for limited exclusivity on a title that isn't going to get them much more sales than if it launched simultaneously on 360. People who only own a PS3 would buy Haze for PS3 anyway, people who only own a 360 aren't going to go buy a PS3 to play it when they know it's coming later. People who own both are more likely to wait for the 360 version to come out since Sony's online service pales in comparison. Even if 75% of people who own both systems bought the PS3 version, how many people are there who own both? The term negligible comes to mind. And let's face it, for people who own neither system, Haze isn't going to convince them to buy a PS3 over a 360 with Halo 3.

Ubisoft is the big winner here because Sony is basically paying them to not have their game be overshadowed by Halo 3 on the 360. They get a chunk of change for NOT putting the game on 360 for a little while and then they can release it in Spring '08, after Halo fever is long past. So once again, we the consumers lose out. Or do we?

In a way, I feel like I should be thanking Sony. By making Haze a PS3 exclusive, that's one less game coming out at a time when there are WAY too many games coming out. So long as Ubisoft takes the extra time it now has to make the 360 version even better, Haze will be the perfect game for the slower Spring period next year.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Shock and Corruption the week of Aug. 19th

No, it's not a new US military offensive, it's Microsoft and Nintendo's covert operation to keep gamers indoors as the summer begins to come to an end and kick off the annual flood of Holiday titles a month early.

Irrational Software's Bioshock is without a doubt my most anticipated game of the year. They played a horrible, horrible joke earlier this year when they laid down the carpet of a June release date and then promptly pulled it out from under me, revealing an open grave with a tombstone marked August 22nd. So it goes.



Not to be outdone, Nintendo had promised Metroid Prime 3: Corruption would be a launch title for the Wii. Shortly before November 19th it suddenly became a "launch window" title, the release designation that is the bane of console launches and gamers everywhere. The time period that could even remotely be considered the "launch window" came and went with no news from Nintendo, outside of a "read my lips" promise from NOA Prez Reggie Fils-Aime that there would be no Wii drought. Now, months into the Wii Drought of 2007 Nintendo has finally announced a final release date for Corruption: August 20th.

Yes, that's right, my 2 most anticipated games of the year, after seeing more than their share of delays will now be released 2 days apart. In a perfect world I would've been done with Metroid Prime 3 months ago and be gearing up for Bioshock right now.

This is not a perfect world, ladies and gentlemen. It is a cruel world. A sick world. One which makes you choose between Bioshock and Metroid Prime 3, and also between sleep, food, and a life.

Ahh, who am I kidding, Bioshock wins, I know what to expect from Metroid, Bioshock looks to be one of the most original games in years. I'll save Prime 3 for the inevitable Wii Drought of 2008. Assuming Mario Galaxy makes it out in 2007 (my prediction? Galaxy this Fall, Smash Bros... Someday.) that adds up to a grand total of one other must-play Wii title for me.













via 1up

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Digital Distribution strikes again...





















If you're a PC gamer your purchasing options for the upcoming bundled release of Half Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2, and Portal just got smaller.

Publisher/Developer Valve recently announced that the $39.99 "Black Box" version of the game, which would've contained only the three aforementioned titles and was geared towards those who already own Half Life 2 and Episode I -arguably the majority of those who would be interested in Episode Two- has been canceled. That leaves only the $49.99 Orange Box package which also throws in the original Half Life 2 and Episode One. This release was obviously geared towards that handful of people who don't already own Half Life 2 and Episode I but at this juncture have suddenly become interested.

What that means for Half Life 2 fans is that they are now going to be forced to purchase 2 titles they already own in order to get Episode II. As it was, many Half Life fans might not have any interest in Team Fortress II or Portal but would have to shell out $40 for the Black Box just to get Episode Two. What started out as a simple $20 expansion to Half Life 2 has somehow transformed into a $50 bundle full of stuff you may or may not want, or even worse, already own.

Don't get me wrong, the Orange Box is a tremendous value, for an extra $10 you're getting Half Life 2 and Episode I. But that's only a value if you hadn't already shelled out $60 and $20 for them previously.

So where does digital distribution fit into this scheme, you ask? Valve of course, with their Steam service, is one of the biggest proponents of the digital distribution of video games. For them, this is a way to squeeze more money out of their customers no matter how they purchase the game. If you want to buy it in the store and get a box, manual, disc etc. you're going to pay the extra $10 for the stuff you already own. If you want to save yourself the $10 you'll still be able to get just the Black Box titles, but only as a download through Steam, which Valve sees more profit from since there are significantly fewer costs associated with downloads than there are with physical packages. Either way, Valve wins and customers lose.

As I've previously written, my biggest beef with digital distribution is when customers are charged the same price for a download (or more!) as they would be for a physical package. It's fine to offer a download as an alternative but why should you pay more as a customer when you are getting less? If the Black Box was to be sold for $40 in stores why not offer it as a download for $30 or even $35? Valve is also aware of this problem and it is exactly why the Black Box was eliminated as a retail SKU. Who would pay $40 for a download when they can get a tangible product in the store for the same price? With no retail alternative they are free to charge $40 for it online.

Look at HL2: Episode One. It was released as a $20 download on Steam back in 2006, at the same time, it was also released in stores with a $20 MSRP but, as is often the case with PC games it was discounted widely, with some stores selling it for as little as $10 and most no more than $17-$18. Now picture if it had only been released online. Everyone would pay $20, no exceptions, and that $20 is going directly into Valve's pockets. There's every benefit for them and absolutely none for the consumer who, now, doesn't even actually "own" the game.

Publishers desperately want digital distribution to become the norm because it means more money for them and tight control over their customers. Now, I have no problem with Valve increasing their profits, I'd much rather see all the money go to the creators of the game as opposed to Gamestop or Best Buy. But charging people a premium for downloads or forcing them to buy stuff they don't need is not the way to endear yourself to your customers. The whole point of digital distribution from a customer standpoint is that it's supposed to be cheaper and more convenient. The way Valve is pushing things, it is neither, and is only going to encourage people to stay away from digitally distributed games.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Newish Riddick game coming to PS3/360.

















UK based games portal CVG is reporting that a next-gen remake of Xbox sleeper hit, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, is making its way to both the 360 and PS3 later this year. Boasting the equally wordy moniker of Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, the game will allegedly include an expanded single player campaign comprised of roughly 40% more rusty hallways. But where they're really going to get you is with this:

"[W]ord is one of the main attractions of Dark Athena will be a superb multiplayer mode, with visceral hand-to-hand combat and shiny shiv action featuring heavily if it follows the course of the original game."

I have to confess to being a little underwhelmed about 40% new content for a game that was only maybe 6-8 hours long to begin with (despite being an excellent 8 hours) especially since Riddick is only 3 years old and still holds up as one of the original Xbox's finest looking titles. But on the bright side it lets them focus on making the multiplayer something special. Also, if it turns out to be successful, we can be assured of a future full fledged sequel.

With Halo 3, Half Life 2 Orange Box (featuring the incredible looking Team Fortress 2), Call of Duty 4 and who knows what else also hitting this fall though, Riddick's multiplayer is going to have to be REALLY unique though.

Well, at least no one has to worry about Butcher Bay becoming backwards compatible now...

-via CVG

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gamer's Days are Everywhere











Gamer days, gamer days, who needs E3 when you’ve got Gamer Days!

Mid-May is always that special time of year when gamers are inundated with new game announcements, and game journalists forego sleep to bring us impressions, videos, screenshots, thoughts, speculation, consternation and sometimes a little joy. But this year was expected to be different, what with E3 having been taken out back and, well, you know…

Publishers, however, are in no big rush to forego the time honored tradition of marking the midway point in the gamer’s calendar with more gaming news in one week than you’ll see for the rest of the year. It’s a digital solstice, if you will, and its sacred rites are not to be so quickly abandoned due to so trivial an obstacle as the event which it all revolves around imploding. SquareEnix, Midway, Sega, Capcom, Tecmo and Sony are just a few of the publishers who are making up for a lack of E3 by throwing themselves giant parties, showing off new games (or in Square’s case, showing off 37 new Final Fantasy games), giving away free stuff and parading scantily clad women around. E3 is alive and well, only the convention hall is now Planet Earth and the booths are spread far and wide. For us armchair quarterbacks, not much has changed. For the game journalists it's a whole different beast. With events scattered all over the four corners of the globe, staffs are spread thin and there's a lot more travel involved.

The last week (really, the last month) has seen so many major announcements you’ve got to wonder: What major news will actually come out of the rescheduled and downsized E3 in July? Are publishers saving even bigger news for E3 or will there just be more info on previously announced projects?

Nintendo in particular is playing their cards close to the chest, as usual. They insist Smash Bros., Mario AND Metroid will all be available by the end of 2007. This event has been determined to be less likely than the planets all aligning, Mercury being struck by a meteor and a resulting billiards-esque collision sending Pluto into a black hole. But nonetheless, Nintendo maintains this to be the case. The real question is, “OK, then what comes after that?” Those three major titles make up the bulging mass of Nintendo fans desires. Surely something must be revealed beyond what gamers will be playing in 6 months? Animal Crossing? A new Zelda created for the Wii from the ground up? An honest-to-God Pokemon title? Pikmin 3? Will there be a 2D Metroid for DS? New Super Mario Bros. 2? Maybe they’ll surprise everyone and do something new for a change.

One thing is certain, there will always be way more games than there is time to play them…

Monday, May 14, 2007

Eternal Sonata Demo Impressions












A fully localized playable demo of Eternal Sonata showed up on the Japanese Xbox Live Marketplace today, much to the delight of RPG fans everywhere and so far it looks like a winner.

I used to be a big RPG fan but have long grown tired of the random, turn based battles which make up the vast bulk of gameplay and discourage exploration. I never liked the feeling of wanting to know what was down a particular hallway or tunnel but then realizing I didn't care enough to fight a battle every three steps all the way there and back. Especially when nine times out of ten it's just a dead end or a treasure chest with some throwaway item. That one time you find the "Fierce Sword of Ass Kicking" or "Platinum Halberd of Reprognification" just doesn't seem worth it. I'll just stick it out with the Satisfactory Rapier of Spanking and the Armor of Adequate Defense, thank you very much.

While Eternal Sonata's battles are still turn based they are done in a fast paced way that feels more like an action RPG. Monsters can be seen, and easily avoided, but they'll give chase if they get wind of you. This allows you to fight when you want to and explore when you want to.

Once in battle, which takes place on a separate battlefield, each character has a certain amount of time on their turn to get into position and pound the crap out of the enemy. Melee characters for example will need to run over to an enemy and then jam on the A button. Ranged fighters can shoot from a distance and therefore spend less of their turn running. When their time is up, control switches to the next character until it is the enemy's turn.

Things can get quite hectic in a battle with multiple enemies, but the real time system makes it much more fun to play than simply selecting "Fight" from a menu. Also, while limited in the demo, it appears that there will be multiple ways to adjust how battles play out, depending on your play style.

Load times going into and coming out of a battle are quick and painless, another important part of keeping the game moving and not making battle something to dread.

What really stands out about Eternal Sonata is the graphics. It is simply beautiful in HD, particularly the characters. It never looks "cel-shaded", it just looks like a cartoon. The attention to detail is admirable and gives you the impression of exploring a story book.

One minor issue is that the game periodically hiccups when running around outside of battle. You'll be moving along and it's almost like the game pauses for a split second. It happens frequently enough to be annoying, so hopefully it will be fixed in the final version. The US version is currently scheduled for a September release so they still have plenty of time. Eternal Sonata looks to be a nice alternative to the uber-hyped Blue Dragon, which is supposed to be as traditional a Japanese RPG as they come.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Exclusive Star Wars Battlefront hitting PSP this fall

The next installment of the popular Star Wars Battlefront series was announced today, not for 360 as had previously been rumored but rather, as a PSP exclusive.

Personally I don't see this as a new direction for the franchise, as IGN implies, but more likely just a pit stop while the next gen Battlefront III stays under wraps a little longer. Battlefront III has already been confirmed to be in development at Free Radical, creators of the TimeSplitters series, so this is clearly not that game.

Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron will feature both single player and online multiplayer when it hits stores this September.

via IGN

Hobos beware: Condemned 2: Bloodshot announced


At today's Sega's Gamer Day, the house that Sonic built announced that a sequel to one of the Xbox 360's best games, Condemned, will be hitting the PS3 and 360. Outside of the subtitle, "Bloodshot", no other details were revealed.

With any luck we'll all be whacking crazed hobos with 2 x 4's by the end of the year...


via Kotaku

Friday, May 4, 2007

Why Digital Delivery is Bad for Gamers


For years we've been hearing about how digital distribution is the future of gaming (and music, and movies etc.). After all, it's a win-win for both publishers and consumers. Publishers save a ton of money by taking retailers out of the equation and not having to produce a physical product which has to be packaged, stored and shipped. Consumers, in theory at least, get cheaper games as well as the "convenience" of being able to download a game directly to their console of choice without ever leaving their house.


I say in theory, because in practice, the exact opposite has been true. Far from passing savings on to consumers, digitally distributed games typically cost the same as or more than their retail counterparts.

Take the recent Oblivion expansion pack, Shivering Isles, for example. Both the 360 and PC versions were released with an SRP of $29.99, regardless of whether you were purchasing the downloadable-only 360 version or the disc-based PC version. So right off the bat the savings to someone downloading instead of buying a physical product, with all the costs associated with it, is absolutely nothing. This is made worse by the fact that the PC expansion can easily be obtained on sale for under $20. Circuit City has it regularly for $18. Digitally distributed content on the Xbox Live Marketplace doesn't go on sale because there is no competition. If you want Shivering Isles, it's the Marketplace or nothing.

You can see how, in reality, this business model benefits only the publisher, while the consumer is firmly held by the balls.

The recent song packs for the 360 version of Guitar Hero II are another demonstration of how consumers are being raked over the coals with digital distribution. At the price being charged for them (over $2 per track) it would cost a customer over $100 to download all 47 Guitar Hero I tracks. Now, keep in mind, all you're getting is songs. You already paid for the game separately. How is it reasonable in the least bit that those 47 tracks can be sold on PS2 for $40 along with the game itself, pressed on a disc with a manual, case etc. but just the data for the songs, distributed digitally at much less cost to the publisher, will run you almost three times that?

If Guitar Hero I were to be released as a standalone game for 360 they couldn't get away with selling it for more than $60, and yet, because it is being digitally distributed, the price is inflated tremendously.

The worst part of digital delivery came smacking many 360 owners in the face this week with the release of the new Elite model. Fans who chose to upgrade to the new machine discovered that content downloaded to their old unit is forever tied to it due to Digital Rights Management (DRM). What that means is any previously purchased XBLA games, TV shows or expansion content will only work on your shiny new Elite's while signed into Xbox Live with the GamerTag that purchased them, so Microsoft can verify that you are in fact entitled to play them.

So, not only are you paying a premium for downloaded content, you don't even actually own it.

While it is unlikely digital distribution will replace physical media-based distribution any time soon, simply due to bandwidth and storage limitations, the emergence of networks controlled by the console manufacturers (PS Store, Live Marketplace, Wii Shop) is already giving rise to some shady practices such as the aforementioned DRM and gripping of balls.

I dread the day widespread digital delivery becomes prevalent because there is absolutely no benefit to the consumer. The publisher saves a fortune on production and associated retail costs, eliminates the middle man and the possibility of lost sales to secondhand copies, and can maintain a high price point for much longer because they're essentially the only store in town. You can either choose to play by their rules or find a new hobby.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mass Effect: September in Europe













Few Xbox 360 games have been the subject of more release date speculation than BioWare's upcoming Sci-Fi RPG. The game has never had a solid release date but Bioware co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka had insinuated the game would be out before mid-July when he stated that Mass Effect would not be appearing at this year's E3. The game has since been expected to drop sometime in mid-to-late June, early July at the latest.

Adding more fuel to the fire however, Euro-focused website CVG claims that the game won't be released until September, citing a Microsoft event as the source of the info. While this news has spread like wildfire and stabbed many gamers right through their fool hearts, no one stopped to consider that a Euro release date for a text and speech laden RPG like Mass Effect is bound to be months after any US release due to localization issues. If anything, this is good news for North American fans.

My guess? Mass Effect in Europe in September(or later depending on when Microsoft decides to unleash the Chief), June/July in North America.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gamestop deal gives you more $$$ for your 360

Never say that Gamestop doesn't love you. If you were planning on kicking your old 360 to the curb in favor of the new "leet" model, Gamestop will take it off your hands and give you $250 in store credit instead of the usual $215.

Gamestop isn't usually the best deal in town when it comes to selling your stuff but $250 for a used 360 isn't really too bad. You'd be lucky to get $300 for one on eBay and that's before service fees, shipping hassles and all that jazz. Since store credit is tax free, when you apply that $250 to the Elite that's also a good $20 savings in tax as well, depending on your state's sales tax. (Almost 9% here in NY, ouch!)

So yeah, Gamestop is still bending you over, but at least this time they're whispering sweet nothings in your ear...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wii REVIEW: Kororinpa: Marble Mania












The basic premise of Kororinpa will be familiar to anyone who has played any of the Super Money Ball titles, particularly the recent Wii incarnation. You are tasked with guiding a marble around increasingly complex levels while collecting crystals and reaching the goal as quickly as possible. Kororinpa differs slightly from Monkey Ball in that all of the red crystals on a level must be collected before the goal is activated. In addition, there is one green crystal for each of the 45 main levels, that when collected, unlock a total of 14 secret levels.

The game puts the Wii remote to good use and is one of the few Wii games where motion control is not just tacked on. Unlike say, Sonic and the Secret Rings (which would’ve actually been a better game without motion control); Kororinpa benefits from it and wouldn’t be as much fun without it. The remote allows for precise control of the stages, which are what you are really manipulating, not the marble. Steady hands and patience are the name of the game, especially on what few tricky levels there are.

The game only makes use of the tilt sensor in the remote, with no IR sensing at all, which is fine because it doesn’t really need to. Menus are navigated using the D-pad on the remote and a nunchuk is not necessary.

Graphically the game does the job, it’s presented in 480i, 4:3 but it still looks decent on my 30” HD set. It’s not the type of game you’d expect next-gen visuals from anyway. The sound is equally unobtrusive, the music isn’t great but it never really gets annoying either. The game’s entire presentation is very basic.

Where Kororinpa falls apart is in its length, you can blow through all 45 of the main stages in a matter of 1-2 hours depending on your previous experience rolling balls through mazes. The difficulty never approaches the tear-your-hair-out frustration level of Super Monkey Ball but a variety of unlockable theme marbles, which can be harder or easier to navigate through the levels, allow you to adjust the difficulty somewhat.

Upon completing the 45 initial stages you will automatically unlock mirror mode, which lets you play through mirrored versions of all the original 45 stages. Depending on your dedication to “completely” finishing a game, and again, how much you enjoy rolling balls around mazes, the game’s replay value varies tremendously. Depending on how many green crystals you picked up your first time through the game, going back to collect them can take 30 minutes to an hour. The 14 stages you unlock from them can be completed in 30 minutes or less, easily. If you’re so inclined, you can also replay the levels to achieve gold medals for getting the best time. Scoring 25 gold medals, which in itself is not overly difficult, leads to a handful of additional levels.

If you are looking for something halfway decent to play on your Wii, you could do a lot worse than giving Kororinpa a rental, especially if Wii is your only system. Even with a $40 price tag though there’s just not enough to justify a purchase.

Pros:
  • Excellent motion control courtesy of the Wii remote
  • Fun, if not overly challenging, gameplay
Cons:
  • Way too short
  • At $40 it's overpriced

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

20GB PS3 November 2006 - April 2007 R.I.P.














I had my tongue firmly planted in my cheek when I suggested in a previous post that Sony was undermining themselves and was secretly working to make the 360 the number one console this generation. Sony, however, is deadly serious.

In light of Microsoft's announcement of the Xbox 360 Elite, and it's $479.99 price tag, many questioned the move to essentially raise the price of the 360 to within $20 of the 20GB PS3. PS3 fanboys delighted that now a 360 model was essentially the same price as a PS3 while still lacking HD movie playback. Sony, concerned about the positive press, shitcanned the model today, making the price difference between the most expensive 360 and the least expensive PS3 a more comfortable $120.

All joking aside, this move really isn't unexpected as many retailers had stopped carrying the 20GB PS3's weeks ago and Sony's own online store also discontinued them.

The real story here is that the murder of the 20GB model is likely a precursor to a price drop, perhaps sometime in the Fall. It has been documented that Sony actually lost more money on the 20GB models than the 60GB: $307 vs. $241 per unit at the time of launch. Since then, the price of the exclusive components that the 60GB has: Wi-Fi, flash card slots, bigger hard drive, have probably come down and widened that gap even more. And keep in mind that future US models will likely cut out the Emotion Engine chip which provided hardware backwards compatibility which also saves a significant chunk of change per unit. At this point they could probably drop the 60GB to $499 and make more per unit than they were on the 20GB.

Bigger loss+no demand= today's news.

The problem for Sony is that even if they dropped the price of the 60GB PS3 by $100, that's still more expensive than the 360 is now. If Microsoft drops their price in response, as they are likely to, Sony's right back in the same boat. Only the 360 would then be even closer to a mass market price. Microsoft's sales are going to benefit a lot more from a price drop than Sony's will. People could've already gotten a PS3 for $500 if they wanted it. The slightly bigger hard drive space, Wi-fi and sleek chrome finish aren't going to suddenly start moving units when they still don't have any games.

Sony needs to get some games out NOW, if they hope to have any chance of competing this gen.

via 1up

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Halo 3 Beta: 3 maps, 3 weeks

After announcing last week that there would be a major Halo 3 announcement this week, Bungie came through today with the only Halo 3 announcement anyone wanted to hear: the Beta begins May 16th.

Following their own Rule of Three, Bungie revealed that there will be three maps available for a period of three weeks: Valhalla, High Ground, and Snowbound which range in size from medium to large and are suitable for "all manner of game types, familiar and new" which you'll get to try for yourselves.

"There are a number of new features you’ll get to test out – including a new grenade type, a completely different class of weapon and some of the enhanced online functionality we plan to bring to the game – but it should be noted, a lot of secret features are hidden in this Beta. We’re keeping a lot of our powder dry for Fall. In May, when your firing the Spiker, sniping vehicles with the Spartan Laser and sticking fools with the Brute Spike grenade, remember that it’s just a peek-a-boo fraction of what’s to come." -bungie.net's Frankie



Sounds good to me. I was surprised to see the Beta would last only 3 weeks but it makes sense, I'm sure they don't want people getting sick of those 3 maps and 3 weeks is plenty of time to get people hooked and left jonesin' for the rumored September release.

I think this announcement also shuts down any possibility of Mass Effect coming out during this period but it also conveniently leads right into mid-June. Releasing Mass Effect immediately following the end of the Beta, perhaps even the next day, would be a smart move.

If they were REALLY smart they'd have a big advertising push for Shadowrun during the Halo 3 Beta and release that to cap it off. Shadowrun is, after all, a multiplayer sci-fi FPS and one that most people know nothing about to boot. After being left high and dry on June 6th, Halo fans might just be tempted to turn to Shadowrun for a quick fix.

Since Shadowrun is a multiplayer only game, unless it turns out to be more than just decent it's shelf life pretty much ends when Halo 3 is released anyway. Microsoft would be wise to capitalize on that and squeeze what sales they can out of the game. It'd be a perfect way to bring the Beta cycle full circle as the Crackdown promotion got a lot of people to buy that game who wouldn't have otherwise.

Monday, April 9, 2007

1up's James Mielke: Blue Dragon isn't so hot...

In his latest 1up blog, James "Milkman" Mielke relates watching a Famitsu-editor-friend play through Blue Dragon in it's entirety over the last month. Their consensus? That it's "fucking boring".

With all the hype surrounding Blue Dragon over the last year or so I've kind of had this feeling that I should be more excited about it than I am. Now I'm thinking maybe what little excitement I have might be too much. I can suffer through archaic turn based gameplay if a game has a cool story or well designed characters. When gameplay is essentially nonexistent, a good story is pretty important. I already thought the characters were pretty lame, even for Toriyama whose designs all look exactly the same. Now hearing the story is boring too is pretty much the icing on the cake. What's amusing about the whole thing is that despite being bored to death by the game Milkman's Famitsu friend Endo still said he'd give the game an 8 if he was reviewing it for Famitsu:

"When Endo had put the finishing touches on beating the game, I asked him what he'd give it. In typical Famitsu-esque manner, he said he'd give it an 8 out of 10. I was aghast, after listening to how bored he was the whole time. He asked me if that wasn't a good score. I said "No, it's a very good score, but that's the problem!" In Japan, even if the game sucks, they'll still give a game like Blue Dragon a 10, 10, 9, and 9 in Famitsu either because they want to support Mistwalker's efforts, or don't want to offend their friends."

Nice. Definitely makes you realize you've got to take Japanese review scores with a grain of salt. Then again, I don't think inflated review scores are exclusive to the Far East...

With Bioshock coming out only a couple weeks after Blue Dragon I'll have to be pretty friggin' bored to waste 50 hours of my life on the game.

Friday, April 6, 2007

REVIEW: BulletWitch












Every once in a while a game comes along that changes the way we look at video games and its influence will be felt in countless titles for years to come.

BulletWitch is not such a game.

It is however, contrary to what most reviews would have you believe, not without its merits and can be pretty damn fun.

BulletWitch plays like your standard third person shooter but with the added element of Alicia's magic spells, which are the best part of the game. Using your telekinesis spell to launch concrete blocks at tanks, which explode as they are flipped over like a child's toy, is very cool. The biggest problem with the spells is that they aren't integrated well into the gameplay, and some are just useless. Simply running through the game shooting everything is as solid a strategy, if not moreso, than using fancy magic. Also, some of the spells, Meteor in particular, while impressive to behold, are almost too dangerous to actually use because the resulting shrapnel (i.e. three-story tall chunks of cement) is just as effective at killing you as it is your enemies. The game is extremely realistic in that regard: When the meteors start raining down, you'd best find yourself someplace else to be, a lesson we would do well to take with us into our everyday lives, no doubt.

The game's visuals are also a mixed bag. Alicia is well designed and animates nicely but the framerate is sketchy and the environments, particularly the first level, are drab. There are moments though, such as the game's two boss fights, where the game distinguishes itself from last-gen titles. The first boss fight, without spoiling anything, kind of gives a glimpse at what a 360 version of Panzer Dragoon Saga might look like. The aforementioned spell effects are also a sight to see and while they tend to bring the game to its knees, the resulting slowdown actually lends a cinematic quality to the sequences.

Unfortunately the game is ultimately too short and it offers little reason to play through a second time unless you want to get all of the uninspired achievements. (Beat Game on Easy, Beat Game on Normal, Beat Game on Hard etc.) Some unlockable stuff would've helped in that department. The concept art for the game is very cool and there were lots of design sketches done for alternate costumes for Alicia that could've been included in an art gallery. Instead, bonuses like costumes and new missions are only available for download through Xbox Live.

BulletWitch is certainly not worth the $50 it is selling for now but it's worth a rental if you're looking for something different and you've already played through the cream of the 360 crop. I expect it won't be too long before you can snag a copy for under $20...

Monday, April 2, 2007

Harmonix reveals Rock Band for 360, PS3














Today Harmonix, along with their corporate masters at EA and MTV, announced the successor to the Guitar Hero franchise: Rock Band! With Guitar Hero now under the control of Activision and Neversoft, Harmonix needed to create a new IP for their musical gaming endeavors.

The game can be thought of as an almagamation of Guitar Hero II (with its Guitar and Bass play), Drum Mania and Karaoke Revolution. It is unclear however how the peripherals will be packaged. Some reports claim that the game will be bundled with all four but a Gamespot report indicates details are still being worked out.

Seeing as Guitar Hero II for 360 is retailing for $90 with just one wired guitar, Rock Band, which will appear on 360 and PS3, could potentially be one expensive game.

I think this game has the potential to have a scene explode around it like no other game in recent memory but at the same time, it's exclusivity to the smaller user base of the next-gen systems as well as it's no doubt steep cost of entry could hamper its sales significantly.

I'm all about big goofy controllers that give a unique experience. I own Steel Battalion, two sets of Samba de Amigo maracas as well as two PS2 Guitar Hero controllers. This however gives me pause. Four different accessories for one game? It seems more like they are gearing the game towards people buying the accessory that they want to play in their virtual Rock Band and then getting together with friends to "perform".

They definitely have their work cut out for them in deciding the ideal way to present the game. A huge bundle could be too intimidating for most but selling the "instruments" individually could result in huge interest in the guitars but maybe not so much in the drum kit and microphone.

If anybody can pull it off though, it's Harmonix. I know I'm intrigued.

NiGHTS confirmed for Wii




















NiGHTS fans all over the world are rejoicing over today's confirmation that their favorite androgynous purple jester with giant feet will be flying onto Wii later this year after spending the last 11-years in videogame exile.

I always thoughts NiGHTS was a fun, if extremely overrated game, so the idea of a motion controlled sequel certainly sounds appealing on paper. Coming fresh off of both Sonic the Hedgehog for 360 and Sonic and the Secret Rings for Wii however (not to mention the abysmal Phantasy Star Universe), my faith in Sega, and Sonic Team in particular, is pretty much nonexistant.

Secret Rings was a lame attempt to shoehorn Wii controls into a Sonic game and it probably would've been a lot more fun to play if you could just use the D-pad to control Sonic and not have to thrust the remote forward to make him attack. 75% of the time you don't even feel like you are actually playing the game and the other 25% you just wish you weren't.

And that is the biggest challenge facing developers of Wii games: how to make the motion controls in the game work better than standard controls would. So far very few games have succeeded in this because very few developers are actually making original titles built around the remote.

There's always hope that NiGHTS will turn out to be a shining example of what a Wii game should be, but coming from today's Sega, I'm not going to hold my breath.

via Kotaku

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Resident Evil 4 for Wii shows up on Gamestop.com



















A reader of dedicated Nintendo blog GoNintendo noticed this listing on Gamestop.com, which will undoubtedly be removed post-haste, that reveals a Wii enhanced version of Resident Evil 4 shipping June 25th for $29.99.

RE4 is one of my favorite games of all time and I always wanted to play through the PS2 version with it's Ada Wong missions and widescreen support. The widescreen support came at the price of the game not looking as good as the Gamecube original however and I never bothered with it.

If they're bothering to bring the game over to Wii, widescreen 480p support is likely with visuals at least as good as Gamecube, possibly slightly enhanced (although at $30 it probably is untouched), and of course the extra content from the PS2 edition and maybe a little extra(new costumes?). Sign me up!

If the game is more than just a listing on Gamestop.com expect it to be announced at Capcom's Gamers Day event in mid-April. A Capcom rep has already previously hinted there will be "some Wii surprises" at the show...

via GoNintendo

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Holy **** Batman, we're Legos!




















It was rumored late last year but is now confirmed: Lego Star Wars developer Traveler's Tales' next game will indeed be Lego Batman...

The Lego Star Wars games were surprisingly fun and playable so I'm onboard for something a little different. It'll probably lean more towards Adam West and Burt Ward Batman as opposed to say Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, but there's nothing wrong with that...


Source: Gamasutra via Game|Life

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

360 WILL Cry












Capcom has been one of the 360's biggest supporters with both Dead Rising and Lost Planet being major exclusives for the system. With future titles like Resident Evil 5 long confirmed for release on both 360 and PS3 it seemed more than possible that the publisher's Devil May Cry 4 would end up on the 360 as well.

Today Capcom made it official, not only confirming DMC4 will be making an appearance on the 360 but that it will do so simultaneously with the PS3 release, adding to the list of former PS3 exclusives that are now multiplatform.

So, any bets on what the next formerly PlayStation exclusive game/series will be making its way to 360? Metal Gear Solid 4? Final Fantasy XIII? Tekken 6?

Well, that was quick: it's Ace Combat 6!

via 1up

GAME INFORMER: Black 360 coming in April




















These Black 360 stories have been popping up for months and now the latest issue of Game Informer is insisting that it is rumor no more and the HDMI enabled, 120GB HDD equipped Box will hit in late April.

They list the price as $479.99 which is consistent with earlier reports of the SKU appearing in some retailers POS systems at that price, but something tells me it could be a placeholder price. Microsoft has yet to drop the price on the 360 and with a new system revision coming now is the perfect opportunity to do so without actually doing so.

If they did away with the HDD-less Core system, which was a mistake right from the beginning, and lowered the price of the Premium system to the Core's $299 price then the new system could take over as the Premium at $399. Extra features aside, raising the price of the system would be a dubious strategy. The new system is also apparently still Wi-Fi free, adding $100 to the cost if you need to buy Microsoft's absurdly priced Wi-Fi adapter.

Get with it MS, the DS Lite has built in Wi-Fi and doesn't cost much more than your adapter! Either package it with the system or lower the price to under $50.

GameInformer also reports that the 120GB HDD will be available separately for under $200, for those of you out there who are getting close to filling up your 13GB HDD's on your current 360.

via Kotaku

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Halo 3 targeted for September

If IGN's sources are to be believed we could all be "Finishing the Fight" much earlier than anticipated. Owing to a crowded holiday release schedule, Microsoft and Bungie are allegedly striving to get the biggest game of this generation out before the annual flood of holiday titles begins.

While no date has been given for Halo 3 outside of "Fall 2007", November seemed to be the likeliest release month as it has traditionally been the month of the Xbox: from the launch in 2001, to the release of Gears of War last year you can almost always expect a defining release in November.

A September release could be as much political as anything. Back in 2004, Halo 2 released only 2 weeks after Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a PS2 exclusive. This fall sees these two uber-franchises facing off again, only this time Grand Theft Auto IV is a fellow 360 title.

Halo 3 is obviously the 360's most anticipated exclusive title yet and will undoubtedly move a lot of systems off of store shelves whenever it's released. This would be a tremendous pre-emptive strike against the PlayStation 3, the biggest Fall title for which, exclusive or not, is...Grand Theft Auto IV. Releasing before GTA boosts the installed base and sets up GTA (and everything else) for even bigger sales than if Halo 3 came out afterwards.

It's a big statement to consumers: the two biggest titles of the year, one is on PS3 but BOTH are on 360. More importantly, it leaves the normally packed November time frame free for other major titles to release without having to get lost in the frenzy that will surround both titles.

Source: Halo 3 Slated for September -IGN 360

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

RUMOR: Condemned 2 coming this fall...















Xbox 360 launch title Condemned may be getting a sequel this fall if a product listing on UK based retailer play.com's website is to be believed.

Play.com even has an eleven word review of the game, calling it "A superb sequel of brilliantly brutal bloody hand to hand brawling..."

Uhhh....what? That sounds like something translated from English into Japanese and back again by V from V for Vendetta.

In any case, this pretty much must happen, because I wish it to be so. Condemned was arguably the 360's best launch title, displaying next-gen graphics and sound like no other title. It was very much a launch title though. You could tell there was a lot more Monolith wanted to do with the game. The forensic tools, for instance, seemed like something that could've been better integrated into the gameplay and the environments, while gorgeous, weren't particularly interactive...even if you could rip signs off of subway walls and beat crazed hobos with them.

Probably the most fun thing you could do in the game was whack one crazed hobo with something to piss them off, and then run away, often causing them to attack other crazed hobos.

Condemned 2 really should have a subplot where you get to play as a crazed hobo. That would be awesome. Hobo.

Source: 360s Condemned again? - Gamespot

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Shivering Isles gets bone-chilling price tag...


Oblivion fans are going to need a couple of 1600 MS point cards come March 27th as that is the newly announced release date for The Elder Scrolls IV's first and last expansion pack, which has the dubious honor of being the single most expensive download in the Live Marketplace: The price was revealed yesterday in a post on elderscrolls.com's forums, to be 2400 Microsoft Points, or roughly $30.

The price is in no way outrageous since Morrowind's two expansions, Bloodmoon and Tribunal, both debuted at $30 and Shivering Isles is also the most substantial update to ever appear on a console. However, I do think that since it is only available as a download for 360 owners the price should be slightly lower, say $25.

The idea of paying the same price for a download as you do for a retail game with a box, disc, manual etc., has never sat well with me. It really makes no sense at all. If there is no physical costs associated with the game, no shipping from a warehouse to a store, no margin for retail profit, then that savings should be passed on to the customer who is no longer receiving anything tangible. They could easily lower the price of the download and still make the same profit or more as they are on the $30 retail box.

This is something publishers are going to have to address if they expect digital delivery to take off as a viable alternative. If a games costs $60 in the store, why would you pay $60 for a download that you're not going to have a box or manual for?


Source: Oblivion gets Shivering Isles this month - Gamespot

Fable 2's interface is Bitchin'!

Or should I say Fable 2's interface IS a bitch, literally? One of the new features in the sequel has been revealed to be a dog sidekick who will have a more important role in the game then one might expect (or desire?). From the mouth of Fable master mind Peter Molyneux:

"...your dog will act as a sort of living HUD. The game has no map, no other user interface on screen. Instead you will have to rely on the dog and what he sees and does."

Ummm...is the main character in Fable supposed to be blind? It sounds like they've got a seeing eye dog.

"
You come upon two bad guys and pull our your gun (yes, the game has guns) and the dogs knows automatically attack the closer targets.”

OK, so now we have guns AND dogs, which of course begs the question: Will your dog laugh at you if you miss said bad guys and (this is the important part) will you be able to shoot your dog when he does?



Source: New Fable 2 Feature: Dog Sidekick! - GWN (via removed Kotaku post)











Well that didn't take long, only days after the rumor surfaced we have confirmation that TMNT will indeed be appearing on XBLA by the end of March in conjunction with the new Ubisoft multi-console game and the movie it's based on.

The best part? It's only 400 MS Points ($5) and will include online (and offline) co-op play for 2-4 players! The worst part about the otherwise surprisingly good NES port of the game was that it only supported 2 players at a time. Hopefully unlike Contra's XBLA co-op play, TMNT's will actually work.

In light of this news I think it's pretty reasonable to expect Turtles in Time to appear on XBLA around the time the DVD hits stores later this year...and we can still keep our fingers crossed for The Simpsons this summer. If TMNT sells well you can count on EA calling up Konami to offer their publishing services, if they haven't already.


Source: It's True: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on XBLA - 1up.com

Monday, February 26, 2007

TMNT Arcade coming to XBLA? Simpsons next?

















This rumor has been making the rounds along with some screens but most sites seems to be skeptical about its authenticity. Personally I think that whether the screens are legit or not, it's inevitable. Konami's original NES TMNT game is already known to be on the way thanks to the ESRB ratings pages. While I don't pretend to know what's involved for one publisher to obtain rights for a classic game's license when another publisher now holds that license, it seems highly unlikely that Konami worked out a deal with Ubisoft (notice both companies logos on the title screen image) so they could release the craptastic NES game and nothing else, especially seeing as the TMNT arcade games are among the most requested XBLA titles.

It's also no coincidence that these rereleases are all surfacing a month before the new TMNT movie hits theatres.

Now, everybody cross your fingers that Konami can work out a deal with current Simpsons license holder, Electronic Arts, so that the never-before-released-on-consoles Simpsons arcade game can make it's way to XBLA too....perhaps alongside the upcoming Simpsons movie?

Source: Rumour: TMNT Xbox Live Clip - Kotaku

Friday, February 23, 2007

Sony to Europe: **** YOU!
















You've got to give credit to Sony, they've done everything in their power to make sure that Microsoft is in a better position with the 360, in every way imaginable. They gave Microsoft a year head start in the next-gen race and then topped that off with a $600 price tag for the PS3. They went out of their way to make sure that only certain HDTV owners would be enjoying PS3 games in HD while the 360 displays perfectly on all sets.

Their online service is pretty much nonexistent, with developers confused as to how to even go about providing online content.

They gave up exclusives on Assassin's Creed and GTAIV because Ken Kutaragi couldn't bother to return some phone calls.

But there was one thing that was bothering Sony, that got them to thinking that maybe they hadn't done everything to hand Microsoft the next-gen crown on a silver platter. What was that itch they just had to scratch? Backwards compatibility.

You see, the PS3's ability to play classic PS and PS2 titles was just too...comprehensive, compared to the 360's patchwork quilt of compatible titles. The system supports 98% of past titles in the US and Japan and that's just way too many games. Damn near 7000 if I remember correctly.

While it was too late to screw over PS3 early adopters in Japan and America, Sony realized that they still had an opportunity to come to Microsoft's aid in Europe. How, you say?

By providing Europe with new and deproved PS3's that lack some of the internal hardware that makes full backwards compatibility possible. Instead, the PS3 will now achieve it's backwards compatibility just like the 360, through software emulation. At least now we really know why the system was delayed for 4 months.

Even better, there's no reason to think this new hardware, which is the result of cost cutting measures, will be a Euro exclusive. It would seem kind of odd to screw over Europe exclusively, not that it hasn't been done before. No, I'd expect that just as Microsoft is gearing up to release it's upgraded 360 with HDMI and a 120GB HDD, Sony will start sneaking these castrated PS3's into stores worldwide.

My take? I think Sony must have lost a bet with Microsoft and the result is Sony having to do whatever Microsoft tells them. Seriously. Nothing else could possibly explain the complete and utter mishandling of this console right from the get-go.

Sony was on top of the industry and yet here they are, well on their way to making Nintendo's decision to stick with cartridges for the N64 look like a brilliant idea.

Source: PAL PS3 Backwards Compatability Gimped -Kotaku

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Microsoft tells 360: Quiet down!



This one's a rumor for now but a German site called Cynamite is claiming that Microsoft has issued an update, currently only accessible to those with Xbox 360 debug units, that significantly reduces the quite significant amount of noise the 360 makes.

Perhaps the update involves wrapping the system in a towel, which would certainly reduce noise and has the added bonus of bringing your dead system back to life...

Source: Rumour: Quieter 360s Through Software Update - Kotaku

M-rating on it's last legs? Don't believe it.

An article up on GigaGamez is suggesting that M-rated games could become few and far between in response to increasing media attention on violent games being sold to minors, particularly in light of Gamestop's decision to fire employees who sell them to kids.

The author likens the M-rating to the MPAA's NC-17 rating for movies, the implication being that just as most theatres won't show NC-17 movies, game stores won't want to carry M games.

The problem is that games already have an NC-17 rating: it's the "AO-Adults Only" designation that GTA infamously got slapped with a couple years ago due to its hidden fellatio mini-game. You may have heard something about it.

Just like NC-17, stores won't carry AO rated games, although strangely it's not a problem for NC-17 movies to be sold at places like Best Buy which won't carry AO games. Hypocritical? You bet!

You see, games are in the middle of the same political wrangling that has targeted both the movie and comics industries in the 20th century. Before games came along and took the magnifying glass off of the other two interests of every well rounded nerd, they were both the popular scapegoats for irresponsible parents everywhere.

Now while a crackdown on sales of M-rated games to minors would logically seem to lead to a decrease in their overall sales, that point of view fails to take into account that by and large those kids foiled by this will just have their parents by the game for them.

In my years managing a GameStop the times I turned a kid down on an M-rated game purchase were exponentially outnumbered by the times where his mom or dad (or 18 year old older brother) walked right in and bought it for him.

Will increased attention result in some lost sales? Probably, but nowhere near the sales publishers of games like Gears of War, God of War, and other super violent games whose names may or may not be abbreviated GoW, will lose if they water down the experiences fans expect.

You know what parents REALLY don't like in games? NUDITY. They couldn't give a rats ass about the violence. Little Billy can rip the wings off of harpies all day, so long as his impressionable young mind never finds out what lies underneath a woman's blouse. I honestly expected God of War II to forego the infamous sex mini game with bare-breasted women because I personally witnessed dozens of teens get denied the game simply because of the "Nudity" descriptor on the back of the box. It's still going strong in GoWII though and the game will sell easily a million copies, if not twice that.

All of this nonsense is a result of the ever pervading public opinion that by definition, video games are for kids. The industry is still in it's infancy and those of us who were kids during the NES-era are still relatively young. While all this seems intimidating now, it WILL get better as those of us who grew up with games get older and exert more influence, just as it did for movies and comics. By then, some new pastime will arise to turn the youth of the world into murderers and video games will be an accepted part of our culture.


This post was brought to you by the letter M and the number 17. You can thank me for the lack of nudity later.


Source: Rated M becoming the NC-17 of Games? - GigaGamez via Game|Life

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

PSP=The Past, DS Lite= The Future...





















...at least according to Gamestop.

This was just too funny not to comment on, although I'm sure the big boys at Sony aren't laughing.

For me it's extremely appropriate because everything I play or have any interest in playing on my PSP (with the exception of LocoRoco) is either a port of an old game (Valkyrie Profile), a remake of an old game (Castlevania: Rondo of Blood) or a collection of old games (Genesis Collection). The system's best games are all retro in some way. The PSP is truly keeping the past alive.

And those who aren't using it for those games are hacking the hell out of the thing so they can play SNES ROM's and the like and even PSX ISO's using Sony's own emulator!

Source: Every single games site on the internet. (But originated on the NeoGAF forums).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

CVG ponders console game mods...

ComputerAndVideoGames.com has an article up talking about the console ports of Unreal Tournament 3 (which is, oddly, the 4th game in the UT series), more specifically that they will support user-created mods, something never before attempted on a console. Apparently the reason a 360 version of the game hadn't been announced earlier (which was surprising since Epic made Gears of War for Microsoft) was because they were trying to get Microsoft to allow it to support mods, something MS is very touchy about on their closed Xbox Live network.

Mods have been one of the major features of PC games that have never been feasible on consoles. Games like Half Life, Elder Scrolls, and Unreal Tournament all have sizable mod communities who create all kinds of freely available content that can maintain people's interest in a game indefinitely.

Since the PC is an open platform this kind of thing poses little problem. When it comes to consoles however, everything has to be cleared with Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo who have complete control over what appears on their respective platforms.

With Xbox Live in particular, which is built around a marketplace where "free" is a four-letter word, there is tight control over what can be given away. For this reason I'm skeptical that mods will become as plentiful on consoles as they are on PC's anytime soon. As CVG points out, mods are likely going to go through Epic before being made available to the public whereas on PC mod-makers can make their creations available directly to other players. This simple fact will keep mods from ever really taking off on consoles. Players will always be at the mercy of whoever's logo is emblazoned on the front of their console of choice. This isn't entirely bad as only the best mods will end up being made available on the consoles (for a fee?) but it takes away the freedom of being able to get whatever you want. There will certainly still be a lot more available for the PC than the consoles. Then again, that's already the case now, so for console gamers: beggars really can't be choosers, some mods are better than none and uhh...don't count your mods before they're hatched.

One thing is sure however: the days of developers providing their own post-launch content for free is over. It began with Bethesda's infamous Horse Armor for Oblivion, a premium price attached to a throwaway piece of content from a developer who provided a ton of free content for Morrowind on the PC. The charging for content on Xbox Live has surely had a negative effect on PC players as they are now subject to paid downloads as a result. If not for Xbox Live, Oblivion's downloads would likely have been free for PC players.


Source: Can UT console mods ever work? - CVG

Saturday, February 17, 2007

New Silent Hill game revealed...




















Konami is finally answering the prayers of Silent Hill fans the world over (or at least Japan) and giving them what they've always wanted: Nope, not Silent Hill 5, not a PS3/360 remake of the original game...Silent Hill the arcade light gun game!

Yes that's right, a House of the Dead style blast-a-thon based on a series where more often than not your weapon is a 2x4 or a lead pipe and the best method for surviving is running right past monsters.

The only way they could make this game better would be to base it on the movie!

I've gotta say though, the cabinet is quite cool.

Now Konami, get back to work on Silent Hill 5 and/or that SH1 remake. I love Silent Hill but it was an ugly game even when it was brand new. A next-gen remake would instantly become my most wanted game.

Oh, and stop making 3D Castlevania's for God's sake. Thanks.

Source: Next Silent Hill Not on Consoles, But in Arcades - 1up

Friday, February 16, 2007

Suda 51/No More Heroes Interview on IGN














I'm a big fan of Killer 7, the last big title from Goichi Suda (Suda 51) and Grasshopper Manufacture. It's gameplay value was questionable but it's style was unmatched and damn me if it wasn't intriguing. One character, Kaede Smith, could slit her wrists, unleashing a bloody spray that would reveal hidden areas. The sheer absurdity of it was priceless. I wouldn't even recommend it to most people but if you're open to experimental games it's well worth checking out.

Needless to say, I was excited when it was announced that Grasshoppers's next game, Heroes, was going to be on Wii. It has since gone through a name revision, presumably because of a conflict with the show Heroes, but you still play as a lightsaber-wielding wannabe assassin named Travis Touchdown.

No More Heroes looks to be as off-the-wall as Killer 7 (it takes place in a small town called Santa Destroy) but the gameplay looks to be a lot more accessible than 7's "on-rails" control. Instead, it features a free roaming open world.

Check out IGN's interview for much more on the game and also the news/rumor that Suda may be working with Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima on a Wii sequel to the classic title Snatcher. Now THAT would be awesome. Suda claims that his next game however, will be for the 360--which he seems very excited to develop for.


Source: Interview: Suda 51 on No More Heroes - IGN Wii

Arkane "Crossing" to 360?











Arkane Studios The Crossing is an ambitious, and I have to say, somewhat confusing FPS, previously announced for the PC. As I understand it, the game progresses in a mix of single player and multiplayer scenarios. The ambitious part lies in the fact that when playing a single player scenario you are actually fighting real players who are playing a multiplayer scenario where the objective is to stop YOU. 1up.com has a nice preview up which can explain it a lot better.

I was intrigued when I read an interview with the developers last month but didn't think too much of it because I'm not really a PC gamer. "Shame it's not coming out on 360", I thought.

Arkane apparently agreed, because they revealed the game is indeed coming to the Big White Box via a job listing on their website looking for a programmer to help port the game to 360.

It's a concept that seems almost too good to be true, so let's hope Arkane can bring their vision to fruition.

Source: Crossing to Xbox 360 - IGN360

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Blue Dragon, worst DLC ever?

The game that sold 80K Xbox 360's in Japan, Blue Dragon, is seeing it's first downloadable content release as I write this. What's in store for Japanese 360 owners with access to Xbox Live?

A new dungeon perhaps? New spells? Items? Horse Armor!?

Nope, nope, nope, and sorry.

"The download is titled "Strong, New Game." With the download, three new options become available at the game's title screen: 'hard,' 'super,' and 'new plus'."

Now, that's all well and good but this is a classic example of stuff that should've been in the game to begin with. Sure, they're not charging for it, but extra difficulty modes aren't what comes to mind when I think of downloadable content. Hopefully the New Game+ option will be available in the final US version, whenever it straggles out.

Source: Blue Dragon Downloads Set to Start - IGN 360

Ikaruga Live incoming

News of a 360 port of Dreamcast/Gamecube uber-shooter Ikaruga arrived today after users of Xbox 360 debug units noticed it listed on PartnerNet, the area of Xbox Live cordoned off for developer and media use.

It has been known for awhile that Treasure was working on an original shooter for the 360 (the kind that comes on an old-fashioned "dee-vee-dee") but no Live Arcade titles had been confirmed.

I have a strange fascination with 2D shooters. I've always been drawn to them, but I almost never play them for more than a couple levels. They're just too damn hard. I think the only one I ever actually finished was Life Force on the NES because you could use the Contra code to get 30 lives. I can't even tell you how many times I had to keep myself from buying Gradius III&IV, Gradius V, and R-Type Final for PS2. And just recently I found myself ogling the Japanese only Salamander Collection and Parodius Collection for PSP.

I own Ikaruga on Gamecube, but I will likely purchase it for the 360 as well. Achievements will no doubt include near impossible goals like: "Finish game without dying." and the even more difficult "Finish the game without breaking controller."

Chances of me completing the game at all? Slim to none.

Source: Ikaruga confirmed for Xbox 360! - CVG