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]