Friday, June 6, 2008

Qore is Out, Shady Things Afoot

So, Sony's new interactive video magazine thing, Qore, went up last night and, as I had mentioned on Tuesday, I was debating purchasing an annual subscription. I held off because I kept hearing varying stories on whether you actually got Calling All Cars for free, or if you had to pay $2.99 for it, or if there was any promotion at all. No official site mentioned it at all.

Turns out you do get the game for free with an annual subscription, but in the meantime I learned something else: The big exclusive they are touting with this first issue is that you get access to the SOCOM: Confrontation public beta when it begins. Only, that isn't strictly true. You get access to the beta 2 weeks after it begins.

So who gets to play those first 2 weeks? People who pre-order the game. So if you want access to the Beta you can either pay $2.99 for Qore and get in 2 weeks late, or you can pre-order the game for FREE (because you can either cancel your pre-order or the $5 will go towards your purchase) and get in at the start. What's wrong with this picture? If Beta access was invitation only this wouldn't be so bad, but when anyone can get into the Beta not only for free, but 2 weeks earlier, why would you pay $3? You wouldn't, which is why it's pretty crappy that Qore is being promoted this way. Anyone who shelled out the $3 for the beta just got, as they say, hosed.

I thought Qore sounded fairly cool in and of itself, but this doesn't instill much confidence in me as far as future "exclusives".

Thursday, June 5, 2008

COD4 Back on Top

Call of Duty 4 was unceremoniously knocked out of its long held position as Most Played 360 Game when Grand Theft Auto IV was released a month ago, but today it has reclaimed its spot while GTAIV has fallen to third place, behind Halo 3. In celebration, all COD4 players will receive double experience points when playing this weekend.

To be honest, I was surprised it took this long. It was pretty clear that the game was topping the charts based mainly on people playing the single player game, so once they had their fill, unless they moved onto regularly playing the multiplayer, the game was going to drop like a rock.

I have to hand it to GTAIV, keeping so many people involved in a single player game for a month is no small feat. Can it climb back to the top when the still mysterious "episode" drops in the Fall?

[via fourzerotwo]

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

MGS4 Is Eighth Game to Receive Perfect Famitsu Score

Between 1998 and 2007 Famitsu only awarded 6 games a perfect score of 40/40 (four 10's from four reviewers). In 2008 they have handed out two 40's already, the first to Super Smash Bros. Brawl and now to Hideo Kojima's magnum opus, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, which releases worldwide on June 12th.

This marks the first time Famitsu has given two perfect scores in one year and also the first time a Konami title has received the honor (only Nintendo, Square, and Namco games have gotten perfect scores before).

Also of note is that Famitsu has never awarded a perfect score to more than one game on any specific console. Will the PS3 be the first to buck this trend? Final Fantasy XIII is still on the way after all...The DS (which scored a 40 with Nintendogs of all things) is also still a viable system and has Dragon Quest IX coming later this year.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sony Launching Interactive Video Mag on PSN

Starting Thursday, PS3 owners will have access to a new PSN service called Qore. What is Qore? Let me allow Veronica Belmont to explain:

From Crackle: Qore preview

So basically, it's the online equivalent of the now defunct Official PlayStation Magazine, complete with exclusive demos.

Yes, that's right, there will be demos for certain games that will only be made available through Qore, which I'm sure is not going to go over well in some quarters.

The first "issue" will be available sometime on Thursday for $2.99 and will give you access to the SOCOM: Confrontation Beta, whenever that begins. There is also an option to subscribe for a year (13 installments) at $24.99, which will also net you a copy of the PSN game Calling All Cars for a limited time.

I'm debating signing up; at worst I get Calling All Cars out of it (which I've always wanted to try anyway) and I just don't resubscribe next year. I also like that Veronica Belmont hosts the show as she's more than just a pretty face; she actually knows what she's talking about, which is more than you can say for anyone hosting a show on G4.

[via Kotaku]

Monday, June 2, 2008

RUMOR: Microsoft Has Two Major 360 Titles Up Its Sleeve

Citing "well placed sources close to Microsoft" CVG is reporting that Microsoft will be revealing two more "big" 360 titles at E3, that will be a part of their 2008 lineup. Currently, two big Microsoft titles are in limbo: Halo Wars and Alan Wake, but it's unknown whether the announcement will be for completely new games or a confirmation that these two will hit in 2008 after all.

CVG further speculates that one of the titles may utilize the rumored 360 motion controller (how awesome would Halo Wars be if you could use a motion controlled pointer device!?) but I'd say that if Microsoft really does have a motion controller in the works, they'd be crazy not to incorporate it into all of their first party games to some extent. Certainly Banjo Kazooie 3 as well as Viva Pinata 2 will both use it considering Rare are the ones rumored to be spearheading development on the controller.

In any case, it's nice to think there might be some surprise announcements at E3. Last year's press conferences were a joke. Now all we need is for Nintendo to pull out something more exciting than WiiFit and for Sony to show games that will actually be out by this time next year. And not just games like InFamous and Killzone 2 which they showed last year (and 2 years before that in Killzone's case). I'm betting Final Fantasy XIII will be a major part of their briefing. That game has got to be nearing completion, right? Right!?

[via CVG]

Friday, May 30, 2008

New Resident Evil 5 Trailer Astounds

GameTrailersTV premiered the new Resident Evil 5 trailer tonight and damn, does it look awesome. Hordes of zombies, huge explosions, and arguably the best graphics ever seen on a console. You don't have to take my word for it though, watch it below through the magic of embedded video!

They don't show any kind of co-op gameplay but the female character at the end is presumably the mercenary that the second player will control.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Steam Gets Cloudy

Steamcloud! Sounds like some cool cyberpunk game right? Well, not exactly, but it's still pretty cool.

Steamcloud is a new feature coming to Valve's Steam service which will let users store their game data server side. Save files, control configurations, in game preferences can all be stored online and retrieved through your Steam account.

I'm not really a PC gamer, but I had hoped for similar features out of the 360 before it launched (particularly online save storage) seeing as we all shell out $50 a year for the service. Now that Steam is offering it up for free, it gives me hope that we might see it on consoles at some point.

As time goes on MS is going to have to justify Live's annual price tag against the PS3's free service which is rumored to soon be adding a universal friends list as well as several other features that are currently 360 exclusive. Adding a Steamcloud-like feature would be one way to keep a leg up on the competition.

[via Kotaku]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Beyond Good and Evil 2 Trailer

Michel Ancel didn't disappoint. His recent revelation that Ubisoft hadn't yet greenlighted the sequel to Beyond Good and Evil that he has been in pre-production on for the last year whipped fans into a frenzy. They finally had confirmation that the long awaited sequel was in the works and it came with the caveat that it might not actually come to fruition.

All that is in the past now though, as Ubisoft, as expected, officially revealed the first trailer for the game at its UbiDays event.

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot introduced the clip by stating that the trailer was rendered completely in the game's engine, which means this is going to be one purty game.

It's interesting that they chose to only show Jade (the heroine of the original) from the back, which leads me to believe they probably haven't nailed down what she'll look like now that the visuals are much more realistic. In the original game, Jade looked a LOT like a cartoony version of Alyx Vance from Half-Life 2. They'll have their work cut out for them to keep her from looking too much like Alyx while still being recognizable as Jade outside of the context of the game. Green lipstick helps.

No date or platforms have been announced but 360/PS3 are a lock based on the HD graphics of the trailer. Wii fanboys had been hoping it would be an exclusive to the little white box based on the fact that the original game reportedly sold best on GameCube, but it looks like it isn't meant to be. I wouldn't put it past Ubi to re-release the original on Wii, Okami-style though.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Resident Evil 5 to Feature Co-op Play

In an in-depth preview that has now been yanked from their site, GamesRadar dropped the bomb that Resident Evil 5 will indeed include 2-player cooperative play. Apparently Chris Redfield will be accompanied throughout the game by a currently unnamed female mercenary that a second player can take control of at any time.

RE5 is easily my most anticipated game of next year (or this year if it actually sneaks out) and I always love me some co-op so this is very cool news. I do hope that the co-op play is more than just a second person with a gun and is incorporated into the puzzles and such. I always liked the idea of Resident Evil Outbreak but Capcom didn't really deliver with that series. This is their chance to make up for it.

[via Destructoid]

Friday, May 23, 2008

360 DRM Fix Tool Coming in June

One major flaw with the 360's Xbox Live Marketplace is the way it handles Digital Rights Management (DRM). When you download a Live Arcade game or piece of premium content (say a Rock Band song) it is linked to both your GamerTag and the serial number of your console. What this means is that, if you ever get a new 360, either because your old one dies or you upgrade to an Elite, all the content you paid for on the old system will only work if you are signed into Xbox Live with the GamerTag that purchased it. No other profiles on the system will be able to access it and if you take your 360 to someone's house (perhaps for a Rock Band party) you'll need to hook it up to an internet connection or else all your content will be locked out.

Needless to say, that's a huge pain in the ass, and an unnecessary one at that.

Thankfully Microsoft has been listening and will be releasing a tool next month that will "allow you to better consolidate your licenses for downloaded content to a single Xbox and allow you the freedom to be able to play your content both online and offline."

All I can say is: It's about damn time.

Even if it turns out there really will be no dashboard update anytime soon, this long overdue fix kind of makes up for it.

What's interesting is that this DRM fix was one of the features listed on the rumored spring update feature list that leaked earlier this month. This lends a bit of credibility to that list, even though the whole thing reads like a fanboy wet dream and a fix to the DRM issues would certainly be high up on any such wishlist.

[via Joystiq]

What's the Deal With the 360 Spring Update?

One thing 360 owners have come to expect over the last few years are the bi-annual dashboard updates that are released in the Spring and the Fall which add all sorts of new functionality to the console interface. Right around now is the time when the Spring Update would normally be released. Next-Gen is reporting that there will be no Spring Update this year, based on an interview with Xbox Live manager Marc Whitten, however, as one Next-Gen reader pointed out in the comments, Whitten never specifically says that there will be only one update this year, just that "most users will not notice any significant changes to the dashboard this spring".

This could mean any number of things:

1. There will be a spring update, it just won't be as significant as past updates. This makes sense because as time goes on there are going to be less and less features they can reasonably add.

2. There will be a sizable update, it just won't be in the Spring. Remember that the Fall Update was released so late in the Fall that it was very nearly the Winter Update. It would follow then that the next update might not be ready until early to mid summer, which would make it the "Summer Update". That of course begs the question, "Why didn't Whitten just say that the update wouldn't be out until the Summer?"

3. Next-Gen is right and there won't be any kind of update until the Fall or later.

I would hope Microsoft wouldn't go an entire year between updates while Sony constantly updates the PS3 firmware. I've always liked Microsoft's strategy better because not only is it something to look forward to, the updates are always virtually seamless. Anyone with a PS3 (or PSP which works the same way) will tell you that updating the firmware is a huge pain in the ass, made worse by the fact that Sony regularly releases updates that do nothing, but are required nonetheless.

I'd like to think Scenario 2 is what will happen, but either way this definitely requires further investigation.

[via Joystiq]

Thursday, May 22, 2008

BioSHOCKER: PS3 to Experience Rapture this Fall

Can you believe it!? Bioshock is coming to PS3!!!

Alright, this is only slightly more shocking then when Assassin's Creed was confirmed for 360, but regardless, it's great news for those poor bastards who only own a PS3 and whose PC is lucky to be able to run Firefox. Take-Two has already announced that Bioshock 2 will be released at the end of 2009 so this sets the sequel up to be a simultaneous multiplatform title.

The full scoop is in the July issue of EGM, but currently the details are nonexistent. It's a safe bet that at the very least the game will have the bonus plasmids and increased difficulty option that the 360/PC version received as DLC, but I'd wager it'll have a bit more than that. Perhaps a third ending? One that doesn't suck?

[via CVG]

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Penny Arcade First 150MB+ XBLA Title

Well, we didn't have to wait long for the first game to break the previous XBLA glass ceiling of 150MB, as today's release of Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain Slick...blah blah blah, clocks in at the record breaking size of 165MB. That looks to me like the game would've been squeezed under 150MB with some added compression but the new size limit saved Hothead Games the bother.

I gave the demo a run through and was rather impressed with the game, especially the awesome HD Penny Arcade art in some of the cutscenes and particularly the way the character you create is implemented into them. The battle system will be comfortable for anyone who's played a Final Fantasy game and it's actually a bit more frantic because it takes place in real time.

Still, with reviews citing an average length of 6 hours (some people say it's 4-5, other say it's 6-8) along with an insultingly easy difficulty level for a game geared specifically at hardcore gamers (i.e. Penny Arcade readers), I just can't get over that $20 price tag. At $10 I would've bought it, beaten it already and likely been eagerly awaiting the next episode. At $20 all I can think is, "Well, there's supposed to be at least 4 episodes; that comes out to $80 for an RPG that even by the most liberal estimates will be about 30 hours, but more likely around 20."

I'd gladly pay $40 for that game. $80? No way in hell. I don't even like paying $60 for retail releases that I can sell for cash later on. I'll wait for all the episodes to be released on disc for $40 next year. Publish Post

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Xbox Live Arcade Size Limit Raised to 350MB

Here we go again. We learned a couple months ago that Microsoft would be granting a dispensation to Capcom to allow it to break the 150MB barrier for Bionic Commando ReArmed and Street Fighter II HD. What we didn't know was how big those games were going to be. 200MB? 250MB? 500MB?

Today, we know they're not going to be bigger than 350MB, as that is the new file size limit Microsoft has set for XBLA games.

I find the timing of this revelation interesting because it comes only days after The Behemoth announced that Castle Crashers, which was infamously delayed for a year to take advantage of the previous increase to 150MB, has finally been completed.

Now, it's all well and good that MS is increasing the size cap yet again, but honestly, why couldn't it have been raised to 350MB last year? Or even 450MB? The current 512MB memory cards could handle it. We all know that in another year's time we'll be hearing about it being raised to 700MB and MS will have a new 1-2GB memory card that'll sell for $50.

I really hope that the timing of these announcements aren't a coincidence and Castle Crashers will be among the first to utilize the extra space. It was clear they really needed the extra 100MB so an extra 200 on top of that would no doubt have been a godsend. I can't imagine it's fun to repeatedly have the rug pulled out from underneath you. It'll be a real damn shame if the game isn't everything it could have been simply because of an arbitrary size limitation.

Just as likely is that the announcement simply precedes the release of Bionic Commando ReArmed, the first game to break 150MB, which should be released any Wednesday now. Remember that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night brought with it the news of the fall of the 50MB barrier.

[via XBOX360 Fanboy]

Splinter Cell 5 Catches a Major Delay

As one long awaited game finishes development, another gets sent back to the drawing board. It's been so long since there has been any news on Splinter Cell Conviction that I completely forgot about it. In fact, the last news on the game was the announcement that it and Haze (which comes out this week and scored an enthusiastic 4.5/10 from IGN!) had been delayed until 2008.

The word is now that the title will be rebuilt from the ground up and won't see release until Christmas...2009. Possibly Spring 2010, a full 2 years away. Wow.

Ubisoft Montreal certainly has a lot on their plate with the new Prince of Persia coming this Fall as well as the inevitable Assassin's Creed sequel. Something tells me we'll see AC2 before SC5.

As with Beyond Good and Evil 2, the full scoop will likely come at next week's UbiDays event in Paris.

[via CVG]

Monday, May 19, 2008

Castle Crashers Development Wraps Up

The wait for Castle Crashers has been a long one. Originally scheduled to be released over a year ago, the game's developer, The Behemoth, decided to delay the game in order to take advantage of the 100MB of extra space Microsoft lovingly bestowed upon XBLA developers. So while the delay was painful, the end result should be a much bigger, deeper game. And now, the wait is almost over because the game is officially complete.

The Behemoth's Dan Paladin wrote on the Castle Crashers blog,

This game is undoubtedly the largest 360 XBLA game that has any kind of story; Large in scope, takes hours and hours to go through with your buddies. Lots of little treasures and secrets hiding around the levels, many unlockable characters all with a different feel

Unfortunately, due to the way XBLA works: certification, fitting the game into the release schedule etc., it could still be a couple months before the game is actually made available for purchase.

On the bright side though, what a summer this looks to be for XBLA: Penny Arcade Adventures, Bionic Commando ReArmed, Commando 3, Super Street Fighter II HD, Braid. Even with all the garbage that usually ends up released on a weekly basis, we shouldn't go more than a couple weeks without something really cool.

It's nice to see that the Big Three have all realized that their online services are the perfect venue to combat the annual summer drought. 360's got a great XBLA lineup, Nintendo just introduced WiiWare, with games like Alien Crush and Eternity's Child on tap for the Summer, and Sony has the intriguing looking PixelJunk Eden as well as the episodic Siren: Blood Curse coming to PSN.

I'm looking forward to most of these games more than anything that's coming out at retail until Too Human hits in late August and my excitement for that has dropped dramatically in the wake of the complete neutering the co-op has gone under.

4-player co-op lives on in Castle Crashers!

[via Joystiq]

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rock Band Euro Bonus Tracks Hit US Tuesday

EA and Harmonix announced a while back that if Rock Band were to ever actually ship in Europe, it would feature 9 bonus tracks we didn't get here in North America. Well, it is finally shipping in Europe next week, so, in the interests of parity, all those bonus songs will be available for download through the Rock Band Music Store on this side of the Atlantic as well.

It's an odd bunch of songs, mostly from bands you've likely never heard of, but MUSE's Hysteria is among them and that makes all the difference. I like Blur as well, but I live in fear of cover versions in music games.

The full list is:

"Beetlebum" (Blur) (Cover version)
"Hier Kommt Alex" (Die Toten Hosen)
"Countdown To Insanity" (H-Block X)
"Perfekte Welle" (Juli)
"New Wave" (Pleymo)
"Monsoon" (Tokio Hotel)
"Hysteria" (Muse)
"Rock 'n' Roll Star" (Oasis)
"Manu Chao" (Les Wampas)

Here's the video for Hysteria:

[via Destructoid]

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Beyond Good and Evil 2 In the Works

Upon reading that headline you likely either shrugged your shoulders or had to pinch yourself to see if you were dreaming. It is, in fact, true though. Beyond Good and Evil (and Rayman) creator Michel Ancel has disclosed to French magazine JeuxVideo, that he and a small team have been in pre-production on a sequel for the past year. That's the good news.

The bad news is, Ubisoft hasn't actually agreed to greenlight the game yet, so all the work Ancel and his team have done so far could just end up a giant could-have-been.

I hope Ancel is confident that the game will end up in production because I really don't care to hear about how the game was *this close* to being made before being backburnered. That's just mean.

We're in the midst of the now apparently annual "Gamer Days" that publishers started holding last year in the wake of E3's downsizing so maybe it will be confirmed at Ubi's aptly named UbiDays event. The E3 of old is gone, but publishers still like to announce stuff in May.

[via Destructoid]

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

First Set of Free echochrome Levels Available Tomorrow

It's only been two weeks since echochrome's surprise release but already it will be seeing the first of its promised download packs consisting of user-made levels.

Starting tomorrow you will be able to download the pack, which will add 20 levels to the game's freeform mode. The levels will only appear if the difficulty is set to 2 or 3.

Keep in mind that these levels will only be available until the next batch goes up, which will apparently be on May 22nd, so don't dawdle. No one likes a dawdler.

[via PlayStation Blog]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Too Human Co-op Cut In Half

No sooner do we get a set date for one of my most anticipated games of the last few years than we get news that the main feature I've been anticipating has been neutered.

Yes, 4 player co-op in Too Human has been "scaled back" to only two players. Why, oh why?

"The reason we did that is we looked at it, and the way the game is really frantic, and when you have a lot of guys zooming around, we weren't sure that would play out the best", says Silicon Knights' Denis Dyack.

Which, to me, sounds like the engine couldn't handle all of that action with 4 players on the screen at the same time.

I still have no doubt the game will be solid but I really think they are killing off its long term appeal by limiting the co-op play. There is a huge difference between playing with a partner and playing as a team. The game features five unique character classes, but that doesn't create much of a dynamic when only two people can play together.

Regardless of whether this change really is in the best interest of the gameplay, it's still a huge disappointment for anyone who was looking forward to playing the game with a group of friends.

Too Human is starting to look like it will be this generation's Fable: a solid game that ended up a disappointment because it was too ambitious and didn't deliver on its lofty promises after being in development for ages. I really hope that isn't the case.

[via Co-Optimus]

Too Human Gets Quickest Delay Ever

I just read over on IGN that Silicon Knights had finally locked down a release date of August 12th for Too Human, after announcing it for PSOne ten years ago. I returned to the page a few minutes later to get a source link and I'll be damned if the release date wasn't changed to August 19th.

Microsoft's official Too Human page lists the August 12th date but company reps insist that the 19th is the actual date. I don't know about you, but that's the fastest delay I've ever seen.

You might say, "Well, one week isn't really a big deal." But then you'd remember that August is practically the new November and there are a mess of huge titles dropping. It would definitely be in MS's best interest to get the game out earlier in the month and give it some space before other long delayed titles like Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway and Mercenaries 2 release later in the month.

In any case, it'll be great to finally be able to play a game I've been looking forward to for years (even though my anticipation has dropped off greatly). Now Silicon Knights has their work cut out for them to actually get the other parts of the trilogy out on the 360 before the next Xbox hits in 2010-11.

[via IGN360]

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bioshock Film Coming From "Pirates" Director

Yep, it's another game-to-film adaptation, only this time it's a franchise people actually care about, helmed by a director who isn't Uwe Boll. You know Gore Verbinski from the Pirates of the Caribbean films and also The Ring. He's not a bad choice.

So will it turn out to be good? I doubt it, but it depends on what they do with it.

If they try in any way shape or form to translate the story from the game into movie form, it will fail horribly. First of all, both endings to the game were terrible. Secondly, 75% of the story was told through the audio recordings you find throughout the game. That isn't going to make for very exciting cinema.

What they really need to do is come up with an original story that takes place in Rapture, because let's face it, Rapture is what made Bioshock cool. Not the characters, not the immediate story you played out. It was the whole concept of a secret city under the sea.

This is the problem with game adaptations though: they want to incorporate everything about the game into the movie, but when you start out with prerequisites like that, the script is going to suffer.

Film-to-game adaptations work best when the game isn't directly based on a film. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay is a perfect example. It wasn't just good for a game based on a movie, it was a great game, period. It was actually much better than the movie it was based on. The same would be true in reverse if anyone would actually try it.

Make a film that fits into the canon established in the game, not one that just retells the same basic story but rearranges everything to work better as a film. That's just a disservice to everyone. Fans will be pissed off about things that were changed and newcomers are getting a half-assed story because it is built around trying to incorporate as much from the game as possible instead of simply weaving an interesting tale.

The worst part is, bad movies just give games a bad name. A game movie should make people want to go out and play the game. Instead, most (if not all) of them make people want to avoid it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

No Public Beta for LittleBigPlanet

After E3 last year, we knew a couple things about Little Big Planet, or at least we thought we did:

1. It was almost done.
2. There would be a public beta shortly before the game's release.

Since the game never made it out last year and isn't being released until 15 months after E3 2007, we all know the first one was clearly incorrect. The public beta on the other hand has always been in LBP-fans minds because no matter when the game was going to be released, they'd get a chance to play it a month or two before.

Unfortunately, like a 2007 release date, the Public Beta will not be coming to pass. There will still be a Beta, but access will likely be extremely limited and by invite only, much like the Beta for Home that has been going on for ages.

The good news is, there is still likely to be a demo for the game, the bad news is, by the time the demo hits the game will probably only be a couple weeks away anyway.

I'm very curious to know what exactly Little Big Planet will be like as a game, and not as software for creating your own game. The original plan for it was to release it on PSN and let the community "make the game"; after a while they would take the best of what the community had created and release that as a retail product. After a year of extra development time I would hope that the game will now feature its own significant single player campaign and will ship on a disc right off the bat.

[via PS3 Fanboy]

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

id Announces Doom 4

In what is certainly an overly premature announcement, iD Software revealed today that they have begun work on Doom 4. That's right, just begun. As in, they're looking for new talent to help make it.

In other words, this game is YEARS away. To put it in perspective, id announced back in 2005 that they were working on a new Wolfenstein title that would be a timed exclusive for the 360 (which wasn't even out yet at that point). Fast forward almost 3 years and we don't even have a screenshot of the game.

At that rate, Doom 4 will be released in 2012 and will be exclusive to the Xbox720. I doubt Doom 4 will drop off the face of the earth like Wolfenstein did but it couldn't possibly make it out any earlier than Fall 2010, which is essentially the beginning of the end of the current console generation. But then, Doom 3 came out at the beginning of the end of the last console generation, so I guess it's fitting.

[via Destructoid]

LittleBigPlanet, Killzone 2 Dealt Delays

If you're looking forward to LittleBigPlanet or Killzone 2 (and let's face it, if you own a PS3 you probably are) your wait just got a little longer for the former and a lot longer for the latter. Both were previously targeting a September release but now LBP will make it out sometime in October and the new date you can expect Killzone 2 to be delayed from is February 2009. I don't honestly expect it until March at the earliest.

I never had any illusions about Killzone 2 actually seeing this side of 2008 anyway, it just didn't make any sense to release it so close to Resistance 2, and from hands-on reports with Killzone 2, it really needs the extra time if it is going to live up to the infamous target rendered trailer from 2005, which is kind of messed up when you think about it. This game was supposed to go toe-to-toe with Halo 3 and now Gears of War 2 will be old news by the time it hits.

[via 1up & Kotaku]

Siren Goes Episodic in Europe

Recently announced in Japan, Siren New Translation will be making its way west this Summer, not as a retail release but as 12 self-contained episodes under the name Siren Blood Curse.

As surprising as this may be, the evidence was really there all along. A leaked SCEE release list from back in March had the game scheduled for a July release, but the odd thing was that the release list was comprised entirely of PlayStation Store content. Furthermore, IGN mentioned in their write up of the Japanese announcement that "the game is now split into 12 episodes, each with an opening and ending sequence". Sounds perfect for an episodic game, no?

This announcement pertains to the European release of the game so there is no official word on whether the game will be released in the US in the same way, or even at all.

What makes this all interesting is that Blood Curse could very well be the first truly episodic game in the way we think of the term in regards to television shows. So far, episodic games have run the gamut from the Half-Life 2, every 18 months or so plan, to Sam and Max's roughly monthly installments. Never to my knowledge has a game been released episodically on a weekly basis, at least outside of Japan.

SCEE hasn't confirmed that episodes will be released on a weekly basis, but as it is, it would take 3 months to release the entire game. This would conveniently lead right up to Halloween, assuming a late July release date for the first episode. The full game goes on sale in Japan in late July, so this is very likely. It's possible that they could even do two episodes a week over 6 weeks. After all, 3 months is a long time to expect a gamer to wait for an ending to a game they'd normally beat in a couple days.

No pricing has been announced for the episodes, but if Sony is smart, they'll make the first couple of episodes free and then charge no more than $4.99 an episode for the remaining 10. $3.99 would be even better seeing as their profit margin on the game is much higher when they cut retail and production out of the equation.

They also face the problems of gamers who like having their games on disc avoiding the game altogether until the episodes are collected in disc form. That's not exactly the best way to breed goodwill among your fans.

[via PS3 Fanboy]

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

RUMOR: Samba de Amigo Gets Premium Content

The boxart for Sega's upcoming Samba de Amigo for the Wii just popped up on Gamestop's site bearing the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection "Pay to Play" logo which Nintendo had announced awhile back would appear on games that had extra costs associated with them, either in regards to online play or premium content.

In the case of Samba de Amigo it likely refers to extra songs available for purchase, but the Wii has already proven to be problematic in this regard due to its limited storage space. Both Guitar Hero III and Rock Band have had to forgo downloadable songs for this reason. So how exactly is Sega going to pull off what Activision and Harmonix can't?

Fans of the original Dreamcast Samba de Amigo may remember that it too had "downloadable" songs which were in reality already on the game disc and were only unlocked by a tiny downloaded "token" which took up very little space on a Dreamcast memory unit. It's very likely that the Wii version works the same way.

The problem is, the downloaded songs on Dreamcast were free, which is apparently not going to be the case on the Wii. As far as I'm concerned, charging for content that is already on the disc is just shady, so hopefully this isn't the case.

[via GoNintendo]

Monday, May 5, 2008

echochrome Getting Free Level Packs

Sony just keeps surprising me with echochrome; first they release it in the US for half the price of the Japanese version and now they announce that the game will get downloadable levels for free.

I fully expected level packs to be sold for $5-$10 but instead, the developers will be selecting the best of the user-created levels from amongst the echochrome community and releasing them periodically. It's another win-win situation because not only do players get new levels for free but level makers have more of an incentive to put effort into some ingenious levels.

The bad news is, each pack will only be available until the next one is up. Users are still free to trade levels amongst themselves though so I'm sure level archives will pop up around the net.

I guess we can look at echochrome as sort of a test run for what we'll be getting out of LittleBigPlanet in terms of user-created content later this year.


The Bourne Conspiracy Demo Impressions

The playable demo for The Bourne Conspiracy just showed up on Xbox Live so I took it for a quick spin despite never having seen any of the Bourne movies and not really having followed the development of the game.

From what I've played so far it seems like a potentially cool title with some repetitive gameplay. It is certainly the most cinematic action game I've ever played. The developers did a good job of making gameplay look like a fast-paced movie. Gunplay works very well, but Bourne's basic movement is a little sluggish. For the most part you're either fighting or shooting though, moving is just a means to get to the next firefight or brawl, so it's not a big deal.

My biggest problem with the game is the hand to hand combat, which looks incredible in action but is also extremely repetitive. You basically jam on X and Y to do punching combos and you can also hold down the same buttons for an unblockable kick attack that takes a couple seconds to activate. Successful attacks build up a meter which can be used to execute "takedown" attacks which will usually finish a regular enemy off.

You'll often fight 4 or 5 guys in a row and your health meter will only refill in between battles, often resulting in you getting killed by the final guy and having to restart from the last checkpoint. Bosses are similar to fighting multiple guys in a row because they can withstand 5 or more takedown attacks before finally giving up the ghost. My other problem is that the kick attacks are sketchy and often won't activate even though you held the button down for like 3 seconds. This just leaves you open to getting your ass whooped, making the kicks a huge risk to use.

Even more baffling is that the couple of bosses you fight in the demo are both guys who are clearly twice Jason Bourne's age. Being that Bourne is a government secret weapon, it doesn't make much sense that it takes him 10 minutes to knock out some 50-year old guy and even less sense that said 50-year old can knock Bourne out in no time. Of course, it's a game and there needs to be some sort of challenge, but the fights don't need to be dragged on so long. It just makes it that much more annoying to play over when you die right before you're about to beat them. They also have that classic video game trait of all of a sudden pounding the crap out of you when they're almost finished, making it hard to even get an attack in. Even if you never got touched the entire fight they can deplete your entire health meter in a couple of barrages. Again, who's the specially trained government super weapon?

Despite the weak fighting system I was actually pretty impressed with the game. It looks fantastic and overall plays very smoothly, I just hope that hand-to-hand fighting isn't as prominent in the final game or else it might be a deal breaker for me. It's fine to break things up a bit here and there but I don't want to be kickboxing every boss in the game.

There is also one short driving level in the demo but it is over so fast it's hard to tell how well driving will be implemented in the final game. You tool around in a little Mini Cooper, which controls fine, trying to shake the cops who are chasing you. I would imagine driving won't be a huge part of the game and that's just as well.

The Bourne Conspiracy is currently scheduled to ship on June 3rd, which puts it awfully close to titles like LEGO Indiana Jones and Ninja Gaiden II. They probably should've pushed to get the game out a couple weeks earlier, especially since nothing is really coming out in May anyway.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Penny Arcade Adventures Strikes Gold

You would think that a game that is going to be exclusively digitally distributed couldn't really "go gold" but apparently you'd be wrong, as Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rainslick Precipice Of Darkness: Episode One or PAA:OTRSPOD:E1 for short, has done exactly that.

The game is currently targeted for the not at all vague release date of "by the end of this quarter" for PC, Mac and Linux, but the press release doesn't mention the XBLA version except in regards to price: 1600 points ($20).

I'm still of the opinion that $20 is asking a bit much for a single installment of an episodic game, but I'll wait for the reviews to sort that out. The game looks like a lot of fun so hopefully the gameplay and content will justify the price.

[via Joystiq]

Prince of Persia Gets the (Re)Boot

Eurogamer has the first online details about the new Prince of Persia game, revealed in the pages of French gaming mag Joypad (presumably unrelated to US blog Joystiq, which only sounds like a French site).

This untitled new entry will be a total reboot of the series in the same way that Sands of Time was. I find this relieving because that is the only game in the series I finished. I tried Warrior Within and actually liked it for the most part, in spite of the controversial image makeover applied to the Prince, but I got fed up with constantly being forced to replay large sections of the game due to a weak checkpoint system. The Two Thrones was reportedly a return to the quality of the first game but having not finished the second game I couldn't bring myself to play the third. I probably would have if they had ported it to 360 during its first year drought, but I guess we'll never know. In any case, starting over with the series next-gen debut after giving it a much needed three year break is a wise move.

The big news is, the Dagger of Time is no more. Ubisoft feels the time manipulation element has been beaten into the ground at this point, which is, truly, an understatement.

The other big news is that the game is going to be...don't flinch...cel-shaded. Yes, the Prince will now be a little cartoon boy with blond hair and giant eyes who....OK, not really.

The game will have a hand drawn look to it, but be more like a graphic novel than a cartoon. I personally like cel-shading and it should work really well with the fantastical nature of the game. Assassin's Creed looked amazing but we don't need a Prince of Persia game that looks exactly the same.

Eurogamer names a bunch of games as providing inspiration for various elements in the new title and it reads like a Game of the Year reunion: Okami, Shadow of the Colossus, Twilight Princess, Soul Calibur, Metal Gear Solid. Rock Band. OK, maybe not that last one. I don't think there will be any Godsmack songs on the soundtrack this time out.

If Ubisoft Montreal can successfully synthesize the best elements of those games into a Prince of Persia title, I dare say they'll have one hell of a game on their hands.

The game will be formally revealed at Ubisoft's UbiDays event at the end of May so much more details, videos and maybe even gameplay impressions are right around the corner.

[via Eurogamer]

Thursday, May 1, 2008

SURPRISE: Echochrome Available TODAY!

When I was glancing over IGN's PS3 page and saw the headline "echochrome On Its Way: Mind bending puzzler arrives soon", a big grin came across my face because I figured "soon" meant that the previously release date-less game would be hitting by the end of May. Up until then I had been expecting it to maybe hit in June.

Well, that grin practically ripped my head in half when I clicked the article and saw that the release date is actually today.

I've been playing games for far longer than I care to think about but I can't remember another instance where a game I was really looking forward to was simply released out of the blue, with no prior announcement. What a weird feeling. Of course, as of right now, (11:30a.m EDT) the game isn't up yet, but hell, I can handle a few hour wait.

The best part? The game is only $10 for both PSP and PS3, with 56 exclusive levels in each. The Japanese PS3 version was almost $20 for the same amount of levels. I fully expected it to cost $20 in the US, so I tip my Magic Hat to Sony for pricing the game so aggressively. It certainly makes having to purchase the PSP version separately a lot more appealing.

I had previously ranted about this and it's always nice when one's concerns are addressed. Not that Sony changed their pricing because of my bitching, but obviously they felt it was a concern as well.

In fact, I think their solution is even better than mine was. Rather than one $20 game that is playable on both the PS3 or PSP they have given us two $10 games and you can choose whether you want one or the other, or both. People who own only a PS3 or only a PSP aren't paying for a feature they can't use and people who want both are still only paying $20.

THAT, my friends, is a win-win situation.

Clover Stripped From Okami Credits

You may or may not know that Okami was the creation of a small studio within Capcom called Clover who also created games like Viewtiful Joe and Steel Battalion. They were disbanded after the release of Okami because, while their games were almost universally praised, they just didn't sell all that well.

Fast forward a year and a half, Okami is ported to the Wii by Ready at Dawn Studios (God of War CoO, Daxter), but apparently, any mention of Clover and its staff were stripped from the game's credits. Not very classy, but there must be a reason, right?

Community Manager Seth Killian explained on Capcom's message board:

The credits were removed because they were a pre-rendered movie that contained the Clover logo. We have no legal right to use the Clover logo in a game they were not involved with directly. We also didn't have the source to the credit movie itself, so we couldn't just use it and remove the Clover logo.

OK. So there is an explanation, if not a very good one. First of all, Capcom owned Clover so it seems baffling that they can't legally use their logo. I'm not a lawyer though and God knows the law can be complicated. Fine. But to say Clover wasn't involved directly with the game? They created it! This isn't a new game using the Okami world and characters, it's a port of a game Clover developed. I would think that the real legal issue would NOT be crediting the people who created the game.

So the real question is, when they created their new credit sequence, couldn't they have just copied the names out of the PS2 credits and added them to it? Not being able to use the Clover logo is one thing, but not acknowledging the people who busted their ass to make the game is another.

Interestingly, the director of the game, Hideki Kamiya, is less concerned about his name being cut then by the fact that the credit sequence they created was meant to serve as a coda to the game itself. It was very much part of the game, and by cutting it, the ending of the game as they intended the player to experience it is compromised.

Anyone who's interested in seeing the original PS2 credits you can find the Japanese version on YouTube. I'd imagine someone will put up the US version as well in light of this.

[via Kotaku]

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fatal Inertia to Crash Land on PSN

Koei's futuristic racer Fatal Inertia may just have a history that is more interesting than the game itself. Initially a PS3 exclusive launch title, Inertia was delayed and a 360 port announced. The 360 version would eventually stumble out--to much ambivalence from critics and gamers--but the PS3 version was still nowhere in sight, making the once PS3 exclusive suddenly a 360 exclusive.

Now, over half a year later, Koei has announced that Fatal Inertia will finally end its years long journey towards the PS3, not as a retail title, but as a PSN download.

In doing so it will actually become the first "intended-for-retail" PS3 game to be available only through PSN, since Warhawk and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue both had disc based editions.

Fatal Inertia EX will hit PSN in late May for $29.99.

[via MTV Multiplayer]

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Who Stands to Gain the Most From GTAIV?

1up has a nice feature up today pondering whether Microsoft or Sony will reap more benefits from Grand Theft Auto IV, which got me thinking about it as well.

There's no question that GTAIV is going to be a huge success. It's going to sell a ton (more like tons) of copies on both platforms and while most people agree that it'll sell more on the 360, thanks to its higher installed base, some think that the game will be a bigger system seller for PS3 in spite of that.

So basically, while Microsoft may end up with the upper hand in sales, the game will likely be sold mostly to people who already own a 360. Sony on the other hand, may see the game being sold to more people who will be buying a PS3 alongside it.

I think that's a fair estimate, but I also think it's going to be almost impossible to really determine who benefits the most from GTAIV at the end of the day. After all, MS no doubt sold quite a few 360's during Halo 3's launch to people who knew GTAIV was coming as well. Microsoft consistently outsold Sony through the holidays and I'm sure a big part of that was people knew that not only were they getting Halo 3 now, but that they'd be getting GTAIV in a few months.

I think the biggest question of all is: Will the $50 million Microsoft paid to Rockstar for the exclusive DLC be worth it in the end?

That really all depends on how significant the content turns out to be. Keep in mind that Gears of War cost $10 million to develop. The entire game. I would hope that whatever Rockstar is cooking up for 360 is very significant indeed because $50 million is a hell of a lot of dough.

It's also a hell of alot of money considering that, here we are on launch day, while hundreds of thousands of copies are being bought and sold as I type this, and we still don't know what extra content we're going to be offered in the Fall. Microsoft wants people to choose the 360 version because of this mysterious content, but they won't say what it is. Will it just add a few hours of story to the game? A new island based on Staten Island? An entire new city? All of the above?

If I had paid $50 million to ensure that the 360 version of the game was the one to get, I'd want to actually be able to advertise what it is that my customers will be able to get come the Fall because, as a customer, based on the kind of post-release DLC we've gotten for games in the past, I'd assume it ain't going to be much. The fact that they won't say what it is only reinforces that.

I'd be willing to bet that the average person buying GTAIV, the kind of person who doesn't follow video game news, has no idea that the 360 version is even going to have exclusive content. How would they? And even if they did, does it really mean anything to them?

There have been rumors lately that claim the DLC will be to GTAIV what Vice City and San Andreas were to GTAIII. That seems completely absurd at first, but $50 million is an absurd amount of money. On one hand you'd almost have to expect the content to be of that caliber to justify paying so much for it, on the other, you'd also expect, if it were true, that Microsoft would be screaming it from the rooftops, making it well known to people who are, right now, making their decision on what version to buy.

The conspiracy theorist in me would suggest that perhaps Rockstar and Microsoft would want to keep such a thing secret because it could result in PS3 gamers repurchasing the entire game come the Fall to be able to play the new content they had previously thought wouldn't be worth it. Rockstar has also said that they will largely be determining what to include in the content packs based on feedback from how people are playing the game. That certainly makes sense, but still, Microsoft has to have an overall idea of what they're going to get for their 1/20th of a Billion Dollars.

It's a safe bet that, like COD4's Game of the Year edition which includes a free token for the Variety Map Pack, GTAIV will see its own re-release come the Fall that will include a complimentary download of the first content pack, whatever it turns out to be.

I honestly don't think the sales split between the consoles would be much different if this exclusive content didn't exist, so Microsoft has to be pretty confident that they will make their money back, and maybe even make a profit on their investment. They're going to have to sell a LOT of DLC packs to do that though.

In any case, since they've been so tight-lipped about it up until now, I wouldn't expect any concrete news about the DLC until E3 in July.

Rock Band, Now With 1% More Pumpkins

Well, it's not exactly the entirety of Siamese Dream, but any Pumpkins is better than no Pumpkins. Their single, "Zero", off of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is now available for download from the Rock Band Music Store.

Everyone needs to download it so maybe Harmonix will get their act together and, at the very least, release a Pumpkins 3-pack. Make sure you download Siva also, if you haven't already.

This week's update also includes two songs from the Mother Hips: "Time Sick Son of a Grizzly Bear", and "Red Tandy". The Hips' song "Time We Had" is included in the game itself so if you like that, you may want to check out the 30-second previews in the Music Store.

As always, these songs will be available to PS3 owners as part of the Thursday PSN Store update.

[via Joystiq]

Monday, April 28, 2008

XBLA On Vacation This Week

Reading that headline, you probably got all excited for a moment, thinking there is actually some news that doesn't relate to Grand Theft Auto IV, and you'd be forgiven for being wrong.

In light of Tuesday's launch, Microsoft has decided that any new XBLA title would likely be ignored by the millions of 360 players who will be wreaking havoc in Liberty City.

A safe bet, especially if they were planning on continuing their streak of titles like Lost Cities and Rocky and Bullwinkle. Then again, I suppose the kind of person who would play such games probably aren't picking up GTA anyway.

May 7th will see the return of weekly updates but which game will have the honor is up in the air. I'm hoping for the release of Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3, which was supposed to be out by the end of April.

Assault Heroes 2 has previously been confirmed as May 14th's release, however, and the two games share very similar gameplay.

I've still got my fingers crossed that Bionic Commando ReArmed will make it out by the end of May as well.


Microsoft Shot Down Portal for XBLA

Portal was, without a doubt, the biggest surprise of last year. What was essentially a "bonus" game in the Half-Life 2 showcase, The Orange Box, completely stole the show, and the hearts of gamers everywhere.

You'd think then that MS would jump at the chance to make Portal available as a standalone downloadable title for XBLA. Then you'd remember that Microsoft has rules. Rules that they break when they see fit, but apparently Portal is not such a case.

Valve wants to see it on XBLA, but just like the free maps they want to offer for Team Fortress 2, Microsoft is having none of it.

Valve's Doug Lombardi has hope though, telling that, "It always happens once it's been proven and I think it's been proven now on Steam, so I'm sure it'll migrate back to the consoles just like everything else does."

I say, put Portal up on PSN. Just as with Bionic Commando and Street Fighter II HD, Microsoft will change their tune when Sony has something they don't.

[via Destructoid]

Sunday, April 27, 2008

GTAIV: PS3 vs. 360

In a little over a day and a half, thousands of gamers will be lining up at stores all over the country so they can be among the first to get their shaking hands on Rockstar's long awaited Grand Theft Auto IV after a painful six-month delay. Since I'm a cheap bastard my wait is more like 3 days, which is when my copy from Gamefly will hopefully arrive.

Since Halo is an Xbox exclusive and past GTA titles were always Ps2 exclusive at launch, GTAIV stands to be the biggest multiplatform release ever. This also presents a predicament, since, for the first time, multi-console owners will have to decide which platform they want to play the game on.

While most people have probably already decided whether they are going to spring for either the 360 or the PS3 version, Kotaku has a good comparison between the two for those still sitting on the fence.

Rockstar has always maintained that the two versions would be virtually indistinguishable from each other and Kotaku confirms that is the case.

It seems that the biggest difference between the games (which itself is still only a slight difference) is the mandatory 3.4GB installation on the PS3 version, which takes about 7 minutes. This installation significantly reduces the amount of graphical pop-in PS3 players will experience during gameplay and also results in missions loading faster.

I've always planned on playing the 360 version, for a number of reasons, but I have to say that I'm disappointed to hear that it is more prone to pop-in, something that I find annoying in games. The worst part is that it is completely inexcusable. There's no reason Microsoft couldn't have allowed Rockstar to create an installation option for the 360. If I was Microsoft I would want to make sure that the 360 version matched the PS3 version feature for feature, especially since they paid $50 million to secure exclusive rights to the downloadable episodes Rockstar will start releasing this Fall.

As far as I'm concerned, anything that makes the game run better IS a feature.

In the case of Devil May Cry 4, the mandatory installation was viewed as a joke, since, after the 20 minutes it takes to install, all you end up with is a game that runs exactly the same as the 360 version does straight off the disc. It's not ideal, but for PS3 owners a 20 minute installation sure beats a game without one that runs like garbage.

On the same note, I don't think any 360 gamer would be opposed to being given the choice of a 7 minute installation of GTAIV if it would mean a significant reduction of pop-in and diminished load times. I don't know if this wouldn't be possible on 360 or if Microsoft simply wouldn't allow it but knowing Microsoft and their absurd rules I'd lean towards the latter.

For me, all the other subjective benefits the 360 version has: a better controller, better online where everyone I know will be playing, and the exclusive DLC, still make it my version of choice, but it's a shame that the PS3 version edges it out in one area when it doesn't have to be that way.

The good news is, now that the embargo on reviews is over, the game is getting 10's almost straight across the board and the little bit of extra pop-in really isn't going to mar the experience. I have to hand it to Rockstar, I was pretty fed up with GTA after San Andreas and they still hadn't fixed some basic things like aiming, but I'm actually pretty excited for GTAIV despite not really paying it much attention over the past year.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Man, you can't go to a single game site without being inundated with GTAIV related new, most related to the fact that the game leaked out online in the last few days.

The leak prompted an enterprising fan to compose a bogus letter from Take-Two Interactive CEO Ben Feder to retail stores, instructing them they could sell GTAIV early in light of the rampant piracy of the game online. Fanboys got their hopes up but Rockstar quickly put the rumor to bed.

There has also been a smörgåsbord of stories about Rockstar and Microsoft keeping track of people who are playing the game before launch with all sorts of speculation about people being banned (it'll never happen).

In any case, with so many people already playing the game, it's probably a good idea to stay away from message boards if you want to avoid spoilers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

360 Vegas 2 Patched

Rainbow Six Vegas 2 players will be greeted with a title update upon signing in to the game today, which, among other things, fixes a couple of broken achievements, increases the speed at which you switch to your pistol, makes respawns faster in Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, and perhaps most importantly, makes respawns random in Team Deathmatch to cut down on the spawn camping that Rainbow Six matches tend to devolve into.

The patch is currently only for 360 but will be heading to PS3 shortly.

The complete list of changes can be found on the Ubisoft forums.

[via Joystiq]

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DLC CAN Carry Different Rating, Says ESRB

Last week I went on a little rant for myself in regards to the ESRB's policy of not allowing DLC to exceed the rating of the game it is intended for.

As it turns out, that isn't exactly true.

The ESRB forbids mandatory DLC updates from including content that would effectively change the rating of the game. Optional DLC, on the other hand, can carry a higher rating if the developer/publisher wishes to create such content.

While we can't expect any AO content for games like GTAIV due to the fact that (as Joystiq points out) none of the console manufacturers are likely to allow it, it does seem like publishers could get away with censoring their games to get a T rating (cutting out blood, gore, strong language and the like) and then making that stuff available as an optional download.

Basically a 21st Century version of the old Mortal Kombat blood code.

I really hope this means that World of Goo's profanity pack will hit the Wii after all...

[via Joystiq]

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

RUMOR: Infinity Ward to Be Sole Wards of COD Franchise

According to an ex-employee of Activision's soon to be defunct Underground studio, Call of Duty 4 developers Infinity Ward (who also developed COD1 and 2) have apparently renegotiated their contract with Activision, giving them sole stewardship over the franchise they created.

Currently, Call of Duty 5 is in development at Call of Duty 3 developer Treyarch and, if this source is to be believed, will be the last Call of Duty game to be developed outside of Infinity Ward. The source claims that Underground was working on a COD spin off game that would be played from a third person perspective rather than the series' traditional first person view and would itself be an annual franchise, resulting in 2 Call of Duty titles every year.

Since the alleged contract renegotiation with Infinity Ward would bar such a title from being published, development was halted and Underground put on notice.

Activision PR has responded to Next-Gen's original story on the matter, outright denying what they call "erroneous information", although they have confirmed that Underground will be shut down by the end of May.

I don't buy Activision's denial for a second though. This sounds like the real deal and the news leaked out before they were ready to spin it. Infinity Ward is now one of the premier developers in the world and Activision knows that Call of Duty is what it is because of them. They need to keep them happy or risk losing what made the franchise successful to begin with.

There has been no word from Infinity Ward on the matter but I wouldn't expect much other than a "We can't comment", out of them at this point anyway.

Expect more on this, as we've surely only seen the tip of the iceberg here.

[Next-Gen via Kotaku]

You're Gonna Be Away From HOME For the Summer

It was only a couple weeks ago that the Official PlayStation magazine gave word that the Home Beta would be starting "very soon". The bad news is, unless you consider the Fall "very soon", Sony jumped the gun with the announcement.

Yes, the beta which was scheduled to start last Fall before being delayed until Q1 2008 has been delayed once again. Sony apparently bit off way more then it could chew with Home, which was supposed to have been officially released by now.

Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kazuo Hirai, lets us down gently:

"[W]e have come to the conclusion that we need more time to refine the service to ensure a more focused gaming entertainment experience than what it is today."

Tune in this Fall when we bring you the news of a further delay to Spring 2009.

[via 1up]

Monday, April 21, 2008

You Got Your Silent Hill In My Track & Field!(?)

If you're wondering what exactly it is you're looking at, that's a screenshot from Konami's new International Track and Field game for the DS, in which Silent Hill 2's Pyramid Head is doing the backstroke.

Pyramid Head is best known for forcing himself on mannequin monsters, as well as for giving what is likely the only purple nurple that ever resulted in death, making this the most absurdly inappropriate guest appearance in any game, EVER.

Besides, how the hell can he swim with a giant rusty iron helmet on?

Is James Sunderland's dead wife also going to make an appearance?

In addition to Mr. Head, Solid Snake, Simon Belmont, Sparkster (!) and Frogger will also be playable. I always knew it was only a matter of time before Frogger and Pyramid Head would compete to see who could throw a javelin farther, I just didn't think it would be this soon.

Silent Hill V is Dead. Long Live Silent Hill: Homecoming

Well, Silent Hill V isn't really dead, it is Silent Hill after all. It simply traded in its "V" for a shiny new subtitle and a release date.

According to CVG, the game will now be known as Silent Hill: Homecoming, and will hit store shelves in Europe this September. Presumably the US date will be around the same time, but Europe has been known to get Silent Hill games early, even before Japan on occasion.

I'm a huge Silent Hill fan but I just don't find myself excited about this game. The fact that it's developed by an American studio doesn't bother me, because I rather enjoyed Origins on PSP (and the Japanese-developed SH4 sucked). Maybe it's because Resident Evil 5 and Alone in the Dark really look like next-gen games while SH5 so far just looks like a Silent Hill game with improved visuals.The standard SH gameplay has gotten kind of stale over the years so the story really needs to be incredible.

I'll still play it, but honestly, I'd be much more excited if they were doing a remake of Silent Hill 1 (which is LONG overdue). It's not a good sign for a franchise when you'd rather see an older game remade then get a new one. Hopefully The Collective (now part of Double Helix Games) will surprise me and deliver an amazing game instead of just a competent one.

SURPRISE: MGO Beta Delayed

In a move which comes as absolutely no surprise if you've been following the tragedy of errors that is the Metal Gear Online Beta, Konami has announced that the start of the Beta has been delayed "due to extraordinary levels of traffic from all around the globe."

There will be another announcement tomorrow (4.22) once they've figured out the new start date.

Fittingly, they have also extended the end date of the Beta from May 5th to May 11th to compensate for the loss of time on this end. Hopefully a 6 day extension doesn't mean a 6 day delay until it starts.

The timing of the Beta was perfect because it would've given PS3 owners something to take the edge off the wait for GTAIV. Once that beast hits, the traffic on the MGO beta is going to drop off dramatically. Konami really needs to get the Beta up and running by Friday at the latest so they can get at least one good weekend of people playing it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Metal Gear Online Beta Registration SUCKS

The MGO Beta starts tomorrow so I figured I'd better get off my ass and head down to Best Buy to pick up a Metal Gear Saga Vol. 2 disc and get myself an access key. Best Buy had a bunch on the shelf, so no problem there. Even better, when I got the thing home and cracked it open, it had a 12 character beta key and not the useless 9 character codes a lot of people were getting (which requires a phone call to Konami to get the right code).

The beta downloaded reasonably fast, but I suppose at this point most people have had it downloaded for days.

After downloading and installation you need to download the Ver. 1.01 patch which also downloaded pretty quickly (you have the choice of HTTP or BitTorrent download; I chose the Torrent file). After installing that comes the real pain in the ass: registering for a Konami ID AND a MGS Game ID. That's right, you won't be using your PSN ID for this game and you will have to create not one, but two new names. Great.

Konami apparently thought Nintendo's Friend Code system wasn't complicated enough and decided to see if they could top them.

Right off the bat, I had the same problem as I did when trying to register my PSN name: for whatever reason, "skullivan" isn't a valid name. It's not just that someone else has it already (they don't), it's just not allowed. After trying for 20 minutes to come up with something I like, none of which are available or allowed (it has to be 8 characters minimum) I see that you can have periods in your name. I decide I can live with "skul.livan" and, lo and behold, THAT is an acceptable KonamiID.

It's then that I realize that I also have to create a GameID. I assume it won't let me use the same name as the Konami ID so I try all sorts of combinations of skullivan with a period in it. skulliva.n,, skulli.van, etc. All "unavailable", which, again, means it's just flat out not allowed, not that someone already has it. If someone else has it, you get "This ID is already in use". Keep in mind that every time you check the availability of a name it takes about 20 seconds and then another 10 seconds or so to get back to the main entry screen once the check is complete. So glad I have fiber optic internet.

Finally, I just give in and try what I entered as my KonamiID and sure enough, "Your KonamiID cannot be the same as your GameID." So I change my KonamiID to a different name, figuring it'll never be shown in game anyway, and make skul.livan my GameID. Hallelujah, that works.

It ain't over yet, though. Now I have to come up with new passwords for each ID because they both have different requirements. Konami ID passwords have to be 8-32 characters with at least one number, GameID passwords have to be 4-16 numbers, no letters. WTF? I don't want passwords at all, let alone two new ones with silly requirements.

What a tremendous amount of bother for something that is completely unnecessary. If this Beta was for 360, this story would've ended after the second paragraph.

It's worth noting too that my experience went about as smoothly as possible. A lot of people weren't able to get the KonamiID site to work at all and had to get other people to create ID's for them.

In any case, I'm all setup and should be able to play as soon as the beta goes live later tonight. You currently get an error message if you attempt to connect. Given how long I usually spend playing Betas, I probably spent more time downloading, installing and registering than I ever will actually playing the game.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Siren Trailer is Successfully Spooky

Sony has released the first trailer for their just announced remake of Siren and damn does it look awesome. Or at least I suspect it would look awesome if it wasn't shrouded in darkness. It definitely looks like Siren, though I hope the actual game isn't quite that dark. The music is suitably creepy in any case, and even in the Japanese version the characters are voiced in English with American accents.

Apparently one of the major changes in the remake is that the characters come from all over the world rather than being exclusively Japanese. Sounds to me like this remake is being specifically tailored to appeal to the US market, who, for whatever reason, didn't like the Japanese people with British accents in the original.

Since the voice acting is obviously going to be in English already, hopefully the US localization won't take long.

[via Joystiq]

Rock Band Finally Gets Albums, I Yawn

Before Rock Band even launched The Who's Who's Next, and Nirvana's Nevermind,were the first full albums announced for it. Who's Next was originally supposed to be available the day the game launched. Nirvana and Who fans are going to have to wait a tad (read: months) longer however, as today's announcement of what will actually comprise Rock Band's first downloadable albums contains no mention of them.

Judas Priest's Screaming for Vengeance will have the distinction of being the first album, all 10 tracks of which will be available this coming Tuesday, April 22nd for 1200 Microsoft Points or $14.99.

It will be followed in May by The Cars eponymous first album and in June by Pixies Doolittle.

So, why the long wait for downloadable albums to be realized? Harmonix' Alex Rigopulos explains:

...a big reason that it's taken us so long to get them to market is that the actual technical delivery of the assets required for any one song - they're actually pretty complicated. You're often dealing with masters for the older stuff that were recorded on analog. Often it takes a long time to even locate those masters. The right takes and the right edits have to be found, and in some cases old gear that's not in use anymore has to be resuscitated to transfer the stuff to digital. And so for any one song, the actual process of finding the right tape, resuscitating it and transferring it to the right digital format that we need and all that is an undertaking...

If you're just going for a handful of tracks by a particular artist and they're slow to locate one of them, well you just pick a different track and go on. Well, when you're looking for a dozen tracks in a particular album, you cant really release the album until you've tracked every one of those assets.

Makes sense. I wonder how long it will be before a new album is released in Rock Band at the same time it is released in stores. Harmonix has said in the past that that is their vision for the game.

Kotaku has a nice Q&A up with Rigopulos that has some more info on how albums will be priced and such.

I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for the Pumpkins Siamese Dream; none of those first three announced albums do anything for me. Come on Harmonix, the 15th Anniversary of Siamese Dream is July 27th. Make it happen.

[via Kotaku]

COD4 Variety Pack Goes Platinum

Infinity Ward are the Kings of the World. Not only has Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare been the number one game on Xbox Live for essentially all of 2008, but it now has the honor of having the most downloaded premium content pack ever.

In its first 9 days, the Variety Map Pack was downloaded over 1 million times. Considering Infinity Ward recently claimed that the game has 1.3 million people playing the game every single day (on Live alone), that's an incredible tie-ratio.

They even managed to get me to buy the damn thing and I am usually repulsed by premium maps.

You know what though? Infinity Ward did it right. The maps are seamlessly integrated into existing playlists as you are simply matched up with other players who have them. People without the maps will be matched up with those who don't have them. It takes no longer to get a game going then it did before.

In Rainbow Six Vegas 1 and 2, players are automatically booted from a server if a host loads up a map they don't have. In Halo 3, the months old Heroic Map Pack was only just added to regular playlists, now that the new 3-map pack is out. And that pack won't be added to playlists until sometime in July. Who wants to pay $10 for new maps when it's just a huge hassle to play them? Either make the maps free or implement them into the game in a way that people who do pay for them actually get to play them as if they had been included with the game to begin with. IW is the first developer to pull off the latter.

Ubisoft and Bungie could both learn a lesson from IW's integration of the maps as it has no doubt played a big part in their success. I'd love to see how many Heroic Map Packs Microsoft actually sold, because there was certainly never any major announcement about it hitting any kind of sales milestone. Releasing only 3 new maps was a mistake too. When Halo 2 had a 9 map pack a few years ago for $20 it's hard to justify a 3 map pack for $10. Microsoft got too greedy and it bit them in their ass.

I don't think it's a coincidence that COD4 didn't start topping Halo 3 on the Live charts until right after the Heroic Map Pack hit. Logic would dictate that a new map pack would renew interest in Halo 3, but the opposite happened.

[via CVG]

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Brothers in Arms 3 Finally Gets a Release Date

Gearbox announced today via a new trailer that its long awaited Brothers in Arms sequel, Hell's Highway, will be coming out this August, just shy of three years after it was announced. They've supposedly completely redesigned the online component and it will now feature "dozens" of players on each team where originally it was only going to support 20 players total. A strict reading of "dozens" means we're looking at 48-player games at a minimum. There haven't been any games that have pulled off that many simultaneous players with success on a console, so Gearbox has their work cut out for them. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say. Then again, Insomniac is promising 60-player battles in Resistance 2, so who knows.

Highway's arrival proves that August is indeed the new beginning of the holiday season as it joins fellow long-delayed shooter Mercenaries 2 and Saint's Row 2, both confirmed for August. Too Human and Left 4 Dead, two of my most anticipated games, are rumored to be August releases as well.

And you thought last year, with Bioshock, Blue Dragon, and Metroid Prime 3 was big.

[via Joystiq]

UTIII Still Coming to 360

The status of Unreal Tournament III for Xbox 360 has kind of been up in the air in the months since the PS3 version shipped. Epic has been trying, apparently without success, to get Microsoft to allow user mods in the game, but it looks like it will be coming out regardless.

To make up for this shortcoming somewhat, the 360 edition will ship with 5 new exclusive maps, a couple of new characters, and all of the downloadable content Epic has created for the PS3 and PC versions so far. Not too shabby. Knowing Epic, they will continue to support the game with free content packs as well.

I tried UTIII on PS3 when it came out and it didn't do much for me but it didn't help that it looked like crap because the game only supports 720p (my TV downscales anything that isn't 1080i to 480p). I'll probably give it another chance when it hits 360 depending on when it's released. Some retailers have it listed for early June, others late June. There's a lot of stuff coming out in June though, including MGS4, LEGO Indiana Jones, Alone in the Dark, and Ninja Gaiden II.

[via IGN]

ESRB: DLC Can Not Exceed Original Rating

Speaking at the recent MI6 Conference, ESRB Head Honchita Patricia Vance declared that post release downloadable content (DLC) for a game must stay within the bounds of the original rating or else the game would face re-rating. DLC for a T-rated game that added blood and gore, swearing, nudity, and/or other such shenanigans would therefore be allowed, but the game itself would then be reclassified as an M-rated game, whether you purchase or download the DLC or not.

Honestly, I'm surprised they had to clarify this because I would've assumed this to be the case anyway. Now that it has been brought up though, it really seems like kind of a shitty policy.

The ESRB rates downloadable games, so why can't DLC for a game be individually rated in the same way? Such content could even carry a warning that downloading it will effectively raise the rating of the game. Should the original game have to carry that rating on its packaging in stores then? Should a web browser be rated AO because you can download and view graphic pornography through it?

All the current gen consoles have parental control features on them that can be set to block users from playing games of a certain rating and also to disallow users from downloading content.

As it is I still really don't see the difference between the M rating and AO rating. One says 17-year-olds and older can play it, the other says 18-year-olds and older can play it. Are we really splitting hairs over one year here?

Why not just make the M-rating 18+ instead of 17+ and then do away with the AO rating? So far, the kind of things that have caused games to get AO ratings are tamer than what you can see in an R-rated (17+) movie.

I wonder how the XBLA versions of Fable 2's pub games will be rated seeing as Fable 2 itself will likely receive an M-rating. If they are being used to promote an M-rated game, will they also have to be M-rated even if their content isn't on that level?

[Multiplayer via 1up]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Siren Gets PS3 Remake

A month ago, a PS3 release list was leaked from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe which indicated that a new Siren game was in the works, bearing an unlikely release date of July.

Well, as it turns out, not only is the game for real, so was the July release date (at least in Japan). Entitled Siren: New Translation, the game is actually a remake of the PS2 original. Even better, a playable demo of the game (which is currently 90% complete) will be up on the Japanese PSN on April 24th. Why is it that American games are never announced when they are 90% complete and 3 months away from release? No, we follow the Duke Nukem Forever school of game announcing.

The original Siren, despite being an innovative addition to the survival horror genre with its multiple playable characters and unique "sightjacking" element, never made a big splash in America. For reasons I have never heard explained(likely lack of funding), the game, which is very much Japanese, had English voiceovers in the US version. As in British English. So these very Japanese characters in very Japanese settings are speaking with British accents. Just a bit awkward from an American perspective. A bigger problem was that the story was told in a circuitous timeline and certain segments could only be unlocked by performing obscure actions in particular levels, which the game never deigns to tell you. I couldn't imagine playing through the game without a strategy guide or FAQ close at hand. Also, it was damn hard. There were undead snipers (!) who could (and would) kill your ass in a split second. Over and over again.

The game received a sequel which was, by all accounts, much improved over the first game but it would never see our fair shores, despite being translated for Europe.

I liked the first game a lot but it just got too frustrating and I never finished it. Hopefully, this remake will:

A. Incorporate the features of the sequel that made it a better game.
B. Actually get released in the US (with American voice actors and/or Japanese audio option!)
C. Do well enough that Siren 2 also gets remade and brought to the US
D. Encourage Konami to remake Silent Hill 1 (whose creators left Konami to make Siren!)

That's a lot of hope pinned on one game, I know. At least with the PS3 being region free (and 720p being a universal standard, unlike PAL) if it only hits Europe, importing should be relatively painless, if a bit costly.

[via Kotaku]