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]

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bionic Commando ReArmed Garners M Rating.

The original Bionic Commando for NES had one of the most memorable endings of the 8-bit era with a short scene gorier than anything Nintendo would typically allow even into the N64 era. Nintendo required all references to Nazism removed from the game, so how this scene (spoilers!) survived censorship is anyone's guess.

Regardless, the developers of the game's XBLA/PSN remake were faced with the difficult decision of keeping the scene intact (with even more realistic graphics), and staying true to the original, or cutting it to score a T rating. Thankfully, they decided that since the entire game was about staying true to the original it'd be wrong to cut one of the most important scenes and as a result the game will carry an M-rating when it releases later this Spring.

It's strange to think that Bionic Commando would've been rated M if the ESRB had been around twenty years ago. Although, realistically, the game most certainly would've been censored in that case. Makes you wonder what else has been censored over the years to get a lower rating.

[via CVG]

Study Suggest Demos Hurt Game Sales

I just love studies that explore one facet of something and make wild declarations that supposedly pertain to the whole. You know, like when someone does a study that finds that 95% of serial murderers ate bread several times a week and then proclaim that we need to do away with bread immediately. EEDAR's latest findings simply replace serial murderers with "poorly selling games" and bread with "demos". The conclusion is the same: demos should be done away with.

The study has found that games which are promoted only by a video trailer, with no playable demo available before launch, sell significantly better than games that do have playable demos. The conclusion being that developers shouldn't put out pre-release demos because they only hurt sales.

That is, of course, mind bogglingly narrow minded.

They never consider WHY games without demos are selling so much better. Let's see, what games without demos have gone on to sell huge numbers: Halo 3, Gears of War, Call of Duty 4. Even though it isn't out yet, GTAIV will not have a demo and will undoubtedly be the biggest selling title of the year. See a trend here? Pretty much any game that a publisher KNOWS is going to sell like mad anyway isn't going to get a demo because it'd just be a waste of time and money. The rules don't apply to games like this.

Claiming that the success of these games has anything to do with the fact that they didn't have demos is just insane. Is there any doubt that they would've been just as successful if there had been demos? I don't think so.

Also, think about the fact that almost EVERY game that comes out nowadays has a demo. That separates those uber-franchises even more, meaning that the line that represents "no demo" games is pretty much exclusively made up of the Halo's, COD's, and GTA's.

Now, I don't disagree with them completely; I think in regards to games like Turning Point or Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, having playable demos available probably did hurt their sales more than if they just had a trailer. But that's because the games weren't very good.

So essentially, the lesson is just common sense: If your game is good, by all means, put up a demo. If it sucks, (and come on teams, you know when your game sucks) you might want to think twice. It's easy to make a game look good in a trailer, but it's tough to disguise crappiness when someone can actually play the game.

[ MTV Multiplayer via Joystiq]

Monday, April 14, 2008

Infogrames to Change Name to Atari...Again?

A bunch of sites are reporting today that Infogrames may be considering changing their name to Atari, a move which was surprising to me because as far as I knew they had already changed their name to Atari five years ago. I hadn't even heard the name Infogrames in years, up until Atari started circling the drain.

I guess at the highest levels of the company it is still known as Infogrames? The question is, who cares if they change their name to Atari when for all intents and purposes they've already been Atari for five years?

It's just like when the artist formerly known as "the Artist Formerly Known as Prince" started once again being "the Artist Currently Known as Prince", only different.

[via Destructoid]

Friday, April 11, 2008

RUMOR: New DS at E3

It's certainly not unheard of for Nintendo to release revised hardware for their portables. They've been doing it since 1996 when the Game Boy Pocket was released and on average release a new revision every 2 years.

In keeping with this tradition, Hirokazu Hamamura, president of Japan's well-known weekly gaming magazine Famitsu, claims that Nintendo will reveal the latest DS revision at this year's E3 in Japan.

If true, the big question is: will this be a simple hardware revision or the actual successor to the DS? Let's not forget that the original DS, despite Nintendo's assertions that it was a "Third Pillar" intended to exist alongside the Game Boy Advance, was released less than 4 years after the succesful GBA and less than 2 years after the even more successful GBA SP. This Fall will mark the 4th Anniversary of the DS and the DS Lite has already been available for 2 years.

My take is that the current DS platform is way too successful for Nintendo to go rushing into a brand new system, even if it is fully backwards compatible with current DS games. If this new DS is real, it's likely just a more compact DS Lite that does away with the GBA port (although, how would you ever play Guitar Hero: On Tour!?) and maybe has better battery life. It'll be more of a cost-saving revision so they can start charging under $100 for the system. I don't think it'll be intended as an upgrade to the DS Lite, just an alternative for those who haven't bought one already. Kind of like the Game Boy Micro was to the GBA SP.

What an announcement it will be if Nintendo really does drop a brand new portable on us though...

[via Destructoid]

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lair to Get a Long Overdue Update

Lair was one of the most critically reviled games of 2007, racking up fours and fives almost straight across the board, largely because of its less than stellar motion controls.

Developer Factor 5 insisted there was nothing wrong with the controls and went so far as to send members of the media a 21-page "Lair Reviewers Guide" explaining to them how to play the game instead of just patching it to enable the analog control it already supported.

On April 17th, nearly 8 months after the game launched, Lair will finally get the analog controls it should have had to begin with. Makes you wonder if Sony plans on launching their PS3 Greatest Hits line soon and wants the game to get a second chance.

I played through Lair and I dare say I actually enjoyed it. The big hitch with the motion controls was your boost and 180 moves, which were activated by violently jerking the controller either forward or up respectively, but which just as often would initiate the opposite move you intended. Doing a 180 when you wanted to boost forward (or vice versa) is about as frustrating a thing as you can experience in a game. If they had simply mapped those two maneuvers to face buttons while still allowing the dragon to be controlled with the Sixaxis I think the reviews would've been much kinder.

Factor 5 head honcho Julian Eggebrecht even famously defended the game by saying he could pull off the 180 move 8 out of 10 times and would go on to hypocritically call out Warhawk for forcing motion controls on players (when Warhawk's motion control was optional and Lair's wasn't), before finally conceding that they probably, maybe, kinda shoulda put analog control in Lair.

Since most of the critical panning of the game revolved around the control, I'd be curious to see reviewers' take on the game post-patch and see if their scores jumped significantly. I doubt that'd happen unless Sony actually repackaged the game as a Director's Cut with more extra content than just a control fix though.

The game had incredible graphics, a fantastic soundtrack and a not-awful story (is that a compliment?) so if you've got a PS3 and can find the game on the cheap side ($20 or less) definitely check it out after the patch hits.

[via Joystiq]

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bionic Commando ReArmed Almost Finished

Simon Viklund, Creative Director on Bionic Commando ReArmed announced today that the game is only a matter of weeks away from being submitted to Microsoft for certification, which means it could very well make it out by the end of May if all goes smoothly.

Viklund decribes the game as a "love letter to the entire sidescrolling genre and its fans, and the original Bionic Commando and its fans in particular" and that they've already started dreaming about what retro love letter they'd like to work on next.

I really hope the game does well enough for Capcom to continue to fund remakes like this because games like 1942: Joint Strike and Commando 3 just look too damn cool. I'm stingy with my virtual dollars, the last game I dropped any MS Points (or Wii Points, or PSN Dollars) on was Rez back in January but I'll be buying BCR day one for sure.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Gears 2 Revealed in Next Game Informer

The folks at Game Informer are used to getting the big exclusives and their next issue is no different as it features a blowout on one of the most highly anticipated titles of 2008, Gears of War 2.

The game takes place six months after the events of the original and sounds like it will primarily take place underground, with the fight being brought directly to the Locusts. There are a bunch of new characters (Cole and Baird won't appear until later in the game) and it will of course be the showcase piece for the latest Unreal Engine 3 tech. The feature has a mess of screens but they don't seem to have made their way online yet.

Unfortunately they are keeping quiet on the multiplayer (the exact opposite of Bungie's promotion of Halo 3), which was the area most in need of improvement. Apparently battles will be 5 on 5 now though. Keep your fingers crossed that Epic actually allows you to play with your friends in ranked battles this time around. Maybe with Sony's SOCOM: Confrontation actually being based almost completely around clan play some other developers will follow suit.

[via CVG]

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ikaruga Finally Blasting Off This Week on XBLA

One of my first posts on this blog was about Ikaruga heading to XBLA. At that point I would've expected the game to be out sometime during the summer, maybe the fall. Yet here we are a year later and the game is just straggling out now.

I just finished up Dark Sector (awesome) and Condemned 2 (even more awesome) and there isn't really much else this week so I might actually snag it when it drops on Wednesday for 800 MSP.

Since it has taken so long for it to arrive I'm hoping they went all out for the release, maybe including some bonus unlockable galleries and stuff (in addition to what the game had originally). The achievements were revealed a while back and for the most part are all pretty reasonable except the 1CC (1 Credit Clear) one, which is exactly as hard as it sounds. I can't fault them for that though, that'll be a true achievement for Ikaruga diehards. A shoot em up game pretty much has to have an achievement like that because it's the kind of thing fans will attempt to do anyway.

[via Kotaku]

Friday, April 4, 2008

Echochrome Will Be Download Only in NA

With echochrome out in Japan for a few weeks now as both a UMD for PSP and download for PS3, the big question has been: when the hell is the game coming to North America, and will the PSP version be making it over?

The release date is still up in the air, but according to the fine folks over at Level Up, echochrome PSP "will be coming to North America via the Playstation Network store only--i.e. not brick and mortar retail--with its own unique 56 levels."

So now the question is, what does "unique levels" mean? The Japanese UMD had 100 some-odd puzzles while the PS3 download only had 50. Is the US PS3 version going to have half the levels from the Japanese UMD while the US PSP version has the other half? Is the US PSP version going to have 56 brand new levels not even in the Japanese version? That seems unlikely. Either way, I think it's safe to say that the PS3 levels will be different from the PSP levels in the US.

I still think Sony should release echochrome as a cross-platform download. You pay $20-$30 and it plays on your PS3 in HD and can be transferred to your PSP. Isn't this exactly what they're doing with the "digital copy" feature on many Blu-ray discs? UMD movies failed because people didn't want to pay $25 to watch a movie they already bought on DVD for $15. Digital Copy is a concession to that. Surely the same principle applies to games?

I don't want to have to buy echochrome twice to be able to play it on both my PSP and PS3. The fact that they are making the PSP levels different than the PS3 levels leads me to believe that this is exactly what Sony wants. Sure, the content is different, but I'd bet that after a month or so there'll be premium downloads for each that include the exclusive puzzles from the other version. All of this is made even sillier by the fact that the game includes a level editor in which you could just recreate levels yourself if you were so inclined.

[via Level Up]

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Get Ready to Go Home

In the just released issue of the Official PlayStation Magazine, Susan Panico, senior director of PSN, mentioned that the long delayed public beta test of PlayStation Home will be starting "very soon". The service has been in closed beta for months, and was supposed to have been officially released already, so PS3 diehards should be psyched at this news.

The most action my PS3 has seen this year was a brief fling with the echochrome demo and with MGS4 still a couple months off the Home beta sounds pretty attractive, especially since April isn't a very packed month for any system. I think Okami for the Wii is the only game I'm remotely interested in.

Let's just hope they get this thing cranking before GTAIV hits...

[via Kotaku]

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Dual Shock 3 Available Next Week, Sixaxis Euthanized

After a year and a half on the market, the PS3 is finally getting the rumble controller it should've been packaged with. Sony has shipped the DualShock 3 to retailers across the US, so the heavier, rumbly, more expensive controller should be available to purchase within days.

To no one's surprise, Sony has also announced that the now obsolete Sixaxis controller will no longer be produced after current stock is depleted sometime this summer.

Thankfully this also means that it will only be a matter of time before Sony stops unloading the outdated controllers on those purchasing new PS3 systems. The Metal Gear Solid 4 Bundle coming in June will include a DS3, so sometime this summer standard systems should as well.

[via Game|Life]

Second New Clancy Franchise Announced

With the Clancy name as big as it is, it's hard to believe that almost 5 years have passed since Ubisoft released a new franchise bearing the moniker (the original Splinter Cell). The mega-publisher is now apparently making up for lost times as they have announced a second new Clancy title that will be joining the previously announced EndWar this Fall.

Tom Clancy's HAWX is set in 2012 and will put you in the cockpit of over 50 planes decked out with all the bells and whistles you'd expect from planes from four whole years into the future. That unfortunately means no laser beams or neutron bombs, but laser-guided missiles and regular explodey bombs are probably a lock.

I've always liked the idea of air combat games but have always found them to be extremely boring. With a little Tom Clancy flavor and some 4 player co-op, hopefully HAWX will be a winning recipe. Lord knows they aren't going to win anything for that name.

[via IGN]

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Prototype Loses Co-op

Prototype is a title that's fairly high up on the list of games I'm looking forward to this year, for a number of reasons. As of today though, co-op play is no longer one of them. Radical Entertainment has announced that co-op will not make it into the game for launch, but they aren't ruling out a DLC pack later on that would add the feature.

As a fan of online co-op gameplay it's always disappointing when a game loses it as an option, but I think Prototype will stand tall as a single player game. It's not like Kane and Lynch where removing the co-op kind of defeated the purpose of the whole game.

As of right now Gamestop is showing a late October release date for Prototype so it's really going to have to be awesome to go toe-to-toe with the onslaught of games you just know will be unleashed at that time.

[via GameInformer]

Rock Band Now Rocking Portal Style

If you happened to miss the announcement that the closing theme from everyone's favorite space manipulating puzzler would be coming to everyone's favorite rock simulator you would be forgiven for thinking that this is an April Fool's Day joke.

It is no ruse however; the song that skyrocketed Jonathan Coulton to instant internet fame is now available as a free download for Rock Band. The 360 version anyway. The PlayStation Store is being renovated and no new content will be available until April 17th. Seems kind of silly that they can't add new content to the old store but at least after the update the PS Store should be much more user friendly than it currently is...

[via Game|Life]