News articles search results by Gabriel Vega
A teaser of our GRID 2 features to come this summer on Neoseeker
GRID 2 is here, and everyone is racing and slamming cars like there's no tomorrow. While that's amazing and all, there's always the desire for just that extra edge, something that puts the experience on another level and also improves those times.
Today, we have a small teaser into our exploration of heavier hardware with the game. We're taking the G27 through the WSR circuit on GRID 2 this summer and showing how with the right investments you can make a significant impact in no time at all.
As you can notice in the cuts, each input has their own twist, the keyboard being a very blunt / throwing gesture; it's not very graceful, and the lack of throttle and braking control into corners causes some issues. The game pad corrects the power control but still lacks in being able to sense the turns properly or maintain them. The G27 ignores those. The tension in the wheel allow players to feel the grip or potential slip early on and greater tire control and times turn around because of that ability to go a bit further to the edge.
We'll have longer installments coming in the future, in the meantime enjoy this teaser during E3 week.
Special thanks to our video editor Victor Campos for his work capturing and editing the footage together for us, while everyone else is prepping for the show.
The Dragon returns and he's back for blood
The VGA's played host to many debuts, including the surprising Dark Souls II announcement. Not all said debuts were necessarily for new games though, but new trailers and announcement for already known titles. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, for instance, got its spotlight with a new trailer.
Unfortunately very little is out there to tell of Trevor and Simon, just that (Spoilers!) Gabriel has completed his transformation to Dracula and nothing will get in the way of his vengeance.
VGA 2012 trailer - YouTube
It's an intense clip, sure. Dracula doesn't care what year it is, or whether you're ready for his shenanigans or not. We'll have to hold out for more details to arrive next year, but it'll be a worthwhile wait.
A new holiday pack for current and new players
"Merry Gift-Mas" is what Reloaded Productions is telling loyal APB Reloaded players today.
Starting December 12, the Elves, shops and missions are getting a huge overhaul for the holidays, from custom skins and titles to a custom launcher of the winter variety. On December 13, the official gifting begins at the Armas Marketplace with a Credit Counter Gift. For those hoping to make the most of the event, check back each day to claim your unique prizes or you'll risk missing out on the freebies and new missions. The Reloaded team is staying mum on what players will get, but it's sure to be something good. At least, we hope so.
The update follows the recent 1.10 release of APB Reloaded that arrived in November, and acts as a welcome topping to the already large pool of features that came with the update.
For those interested, APB Reloaded is a F2P title by Reloaded Productions, meaning no monthly subscription is required. Just a passion for making havoc.
Square teases release dates for upcoming titles on Android and iOS this month
Square isn't wasting time keeping iOS and Android fans happy with fresh deals on their array of games. This weekend the company announced their schedule of releases and information on upcoming popular titles including Final Fantasy IV and the Android version of Demon's Score.
The 2008 3D remake will power this build of Final Fantasy IV, complete with the ATB system in tact. The game launches later this month on December 20 and will not make it into the sale.
Android fans get a hint of a Demon's Score release this month, though no confirmed dates have been set. The full Unreal Engine 3 powered game was mentioned alongside Final Fantasy Dimensions and Wizardlings already, so one can only hope that Square delivers and increases on their Android presence.
For iOS users, massive price cuts are coming across the board for iPhone and iPad. Take note of individual pricing as it applies. No Android deals have been mentioned at this point.
December 7 - 14
Final Fantasy I - $3.99
Final Fantasy II - $3.99
Final Fantasy III - $8.99 (iPhone, iPod touch) $9.99 (iPad)
Final Fantasy Dimensions - $16.99
December 12 - January 7
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light - $0.99
Victorian Mysteries: Woman in White - $0.99 (iPad)
Victorian Mysteries: The Moonstone - $0.99 (iPad)
December 17 - January 7
American Mensa Academy - $1.99
We're inquiring with Square for dates on the Android releases, and we'll update with any details as they come up.
Bringing the music game experience to new levels
Music gaming is on the verge of another revolution. The first generation brought pattern understanding and quick reflexes to the masses; the next incorporated new instruments and a social appeal as full bands playing cover songs started to vanish and licensing went into a boom. This year gaming takes a new step forward by incorporating real instruments. In Rock Band 2, the Ion kit tried to bridge the gap but it was a third-party effort. Today we have Seven45 Studios unleashing their latest venture three years in the making: Power Gig: Rise of the Six String. The game incorporates a full-fledged guitar with drum kit, both parts focusing on the experience of playing music and the mechanics behind it.
Taking up the electric junior size guitar brought a different sensation in my hands-on; the steel strings hummed with that first strum, and the weight of the neck in my hand was different from any controller yet. Warming up was confusing at first; the positions are not sensitive by string and instead focus on finger placement to start scoring. My first song suffered, trying to cope with the lack of a physical buttons and counting how many times my finger crossed the frets on the guitar. After the first few minutes it was easy to get into the groove, sliding my finger along the neck or walking my fingers through each chord.
Translation to game play starts like any other franchise. Offering five button beat-matching, the game seems the same until the chord or chord matching mode comes into play. For those seeking the next challenge in gaming, Power Gig is ready to bring it. In action, the standard game mode was forgiving; I was able to sync strumming and chords after some practice feeling at home with the guitar. I did not try to take on the chord matching at the time; my lack of guitar familiarity would have caused a long heartache for everyone at that point.
The next development in the Power Gig pack comes from the drum kit. While many have tried to reproduce a digital midi set, few have focused on technique development. The AirStrike drum design focuses on coordination and directional movement, instead of looking to hit just the right pad. The idea of the air detection is to remove the added pattering of drumsticks; instead of waking friends or neighbors, one can play and practice in peace. While not as much of a revolution, the focus shifts to the experience over design -- portability and function over size. The package is easy enough to throw in a backpack and is compatible with existing games on the market.
As a software suite, many new entries have suffered trying to come into the market, relying on bad covers and lacking original content. Power Gig strives to counter that with exclusive artists from the industry -- Eric Clapton, Kid Rock and Dave Matthews Band have all signed on as exclusive partners. Even with a waiting list, gamers lined up to try their hand at playing "Layla" on the show floor. With a continued lineup of original songs, they could hit a market currently untapped by Guitar Hero or Rock Band at this point.
As more information arrives, we'll be sure to crank it out.
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A young bird hatches in a mysterious world
From hedgehog to kiwi, this is the animal transition of Yuji Naka, a founder to the original Sonic the Hedgehog series. We sat down with XSEED games for a look at Ivy the Kiwi, the star of her own eponymous game, a hatchling running across the world in hopes of finding her mother again.
In our demonstration, we drew fresh vines to guide Ivy forward through the stage. The design of the control appears as simple as it is unique.
Ivy is a hyper bird; starting each level, the only goal is for her to keep running even in the face of predators. The player role is the guardian, drawing vines to lift or drop Ivy on the right path to each goal. Using the Wii remote, the task sounds easy; in practice it needs tight control and patience, as Ivy refuses to stop running. This becomes an issue when trying to pin her down for precision shots; with a changing angle, the results are often rife with errors. The layout of each level has jumps and pitfalls to tackle; some sections will need an expert hand pushing Ivy forward and through enemies.
Our next demonstration focused on multiplayer. Players can jump in and interact with single player gamers drawing vines. Thinking I was helping to guide Ivy, soon I realized I was trapping them unintentionally. In a multiplayer game, the free form vine control continues: players are able to compete on multiple screens with vines interrupting other players for the lead in the stage. Those that feel like creating chaos can use vines to throw off other Ivys; the frustration and entertainment jump the more chaos is on the screen. For the demo group, the key was remembering to guide each bird; much of the completion time vanished while griefing other players and accidentally killing Ivy.
The final mention is the illustrative style of Ivy. The game uses a storybook approach with text constantly running; sepia tone color and active pencil marks also scatter across the screen. It jumps back decades, feeling like an antique storybook, taking gamers through exotic lands to find Ivy’s mother. Each area has a hand drawn quality, developing a sense of warmth and attachment through the stages.
Ivy the Kiwi targets all ages, bringing a family friendly story to everyone, occasionally busting mind-bending difficulty out. Thankfully a friend or family member can lend a hand to make the journey less of a chore, making Ivy the Kiwi a game that genuinely sits proud in the social field.
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Stabbing spleens, kicking faces, bashing heads
Life in the mob is never easy; in Yakuza 4, the struggle goes a step further with the four central characters resuming their stories. At the E3 demo, I walked up ready to jump into the depth of the game, running around the open streets of Kamurocho and exploring the shops and virtual Yakuza life. Instead, Sega presented us with the fighting engine that powers the game, showcasing the improvements. For those who were able to play Shenmue on the Dreamcast or Xbox, the free form fighting will feel familiar.
Our first-run took us to combat with Kazuma Kiryu and the new characters, incorporating weapon demonstrations and martial arts. The environment and movement mimic Shenmue; combinations develop by button sequence with critical strikes. Following in the history of the franchise, players are able to buy and learn new techniques for their preferred fighting style. The inclusion ensures that any player can fight using their desired style -- bar brawling or weapon specialties are all open possibilities. For some characters, frontal attacks may be a horrible solution; in those cases there are other techniques to supplement the challenges present.
I dove into the war zone for each character, sampling fighting styles and the weapons they employed; with a few quick strikes, I broke heads and wills to live. The combat comes fast without remorse; as a Yakuza there is no mercy, and my sword impaling each opponent proved it. I watched bones and spirits break with each strike, enemies rushing forward even as comrades fell to their knees in agony. With some characters, the use of a staff or sword is pointless; their brute force alone will be enough to clear a room without harm.
The combat of Yakuza 4 takes action to a new level; anyone willing to dive into the game will notice the independent AI floating in each fight. When repeating my method of attack, I found resistance. The enemies only entertain the same successes so many times; for other characters, the same combinations do not work. The design of the combat allows the enemy AI to adapt and counter when the challenge drops.
Those with a familiarity for Virtua Fighter or Shenmue should have no issue mastering combat. Yakuza 4 favors fast combat with little pausing, allowing for dramatic combinations and powerful strikes that cripple the thugs challenging your territory. I do hope to have a longer run with it next year when it hits the US market.
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High Voltage Software changed Wii gaming with The Conduit, bringing the modern day shooter in with a graphically friendly package. HVS focused on developing their engine around the limits, bringing a Wii game unlike what anyone had seen before with new effects and depth. At E3 this year we saw a behind doors preview, showcasing the new design and approach to Conduit 2. With linear paths thrown out the window, the team pushed forward to create a tree of paths to suit the style of the player with new AI to match.
Conduit 2 thrives on story and choice, allowing players to adopt the combat style they wish. If full frontal assault occurs, the AI will finally react to the threat they sense happening. In The Conduit, AI suffered from too many choices and too long of a thought cycle for enemies. If an assault took place, the AI would react to the first attack and try to produce actions based on every change in the fight. Conduit 2 restricts paths available; the AI has only so much time for each enemy to decide. This change allows HVS to create independent AI, dedicating decision trees to each class. The demo included an example of this with a scientist ducking for cover and escape; as it moved on, the AI changes were visible, with the lesser AI moving to safety as the soldier classes stepped up to attack.
For those coming from the original, the shift using the branching paths and new AI gives the game new life. This is not The Conduit that players once knew; in fact, the community feedback is still changing the game as they develop it right now, in areas like the new custom control, Wii Motion Plus and Speak support, sensitivity, friend codes (or the lack thereof), and camera choices. It acts as an example of the commitment to the development around the feedback they took before.
Other shifts come through in the flow of the game; in The Conduit, HVS pushed to handle the game in-house for storyboard. In the sequel, a professional author has come in to streamline the game, incorporating an active plot while playing. Cut scenes have become a separation point for many gamers; the latest installment will work on keeping a flow of action instead. HVS has also moved to allow for sprinting on demand, giving players the ability to control the pace of the game. One of the last changes that we found was the update to the HUD, which shows a move to regenerative health over med kits.
Many changes have occurred over the course of the year; HVS plans to continue taking community feedback and develop Conduit 2 to be what players want. We are looking forward to setting up a future Q&A with the team, so stay tuned for more information on that.
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Exploding gas stations, vintage driving control
With only a few months to go before launch, Mafia II is still pushing to make it into the hearts of the media. At E3 this year, Lydia and I sat down with the game in the 2K demo room, exploring illegal practices of the 1940s and 50s.
The demo featuring the mission sequences; our job was to bring a car to the meeting spot without attracting any heat. For most gamers this is not an issue; for my first play through, it proved nearly impossible. As Lydia played the role of listener and I took the PlayStation 3 control, the fate of the mission was not good. While Mafia II has fine-tuned control, it cannot perform miracles; a few seconds outside our door, I was shooting into the air accidentally. A few extra seconds pass; a cop is chasing me, shooting as I earn a rating from firing off too many shots in a row. The response of the analog stick is smooth and responsive; I'm making quick evasive cuts while running.
After evading my pursuant for a moment, I tried to find a car to complete our first mission. Using the pistol to weaken the car glass, I lept in, at which point the police were alerted. I found the cars in Mafia II to have a genuine quality; the high torque and waterbed-like suspension made it easy to back out and drive down the street...and hit elderly patrons, other adults and a gas station pump.
In my follow-up tries, I tackled the first mission fine while feeling out the driving physics. There is much roll to be had; even with hard correction, the steering will often plow the car straight ahead, which makes for many accidents. The police alert is sensitive to the slightest crime -- carrying a weapon in public in front of an officer is enough to grab their attention. Once engaged in a mob hit, the police awareness drops; if it remained constant from idle points, it would be impossible to engage in a crime.
Mafia II launches this August; we'll follow up with a full review and juicy details.
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A successor in name shows us what it has at E3
Resurrecting a series rarely goes well; publishers and developers unfamiliar with the property spark anger from the masses. With XCOM, the fan base has wished for a successor to the series but not in the way that 2K Marin presented. The new XCOM shifts perspective to first-person, focusing the game into a hybrid take on action, adventure and RPG foundations. The 1950s set the tone, the world finding innocence again while the government examines the unexplained oddities dotting the news headlines. It is here William Carter emerges, an FBI agent set to study and solve the unexplained growth in the country.
The base of operations comes in multiple levels; the main hall patches through emergencies and listens for key unnatural reports. The main floor has a map of all active events; each act as an individual quest or mission for Carter to undertake. The lab is the next center of attention, showing where all the latest recovered artifacts go for testing. The lab and engineering center are toy chests; the information and weapons created from the two stations makes tackling the alien menace a breeze.
After some walking, the guide picks his mission. The next stop is a family terrorized by an unidentified threat; with partners and ammo selected, they head out. The scene plays with a sense of dread; the street is silent and there are unsettling sounds all around. The team is ready to hunt; they navigate the block for survivors and signs of alien foul play. While chasing a scream, they break into a sprint, finding a man drowned in black alien fluid while the creature escapes to the street. The thrill of the hunt and sense of unknown are what drive the new XCOM; while a shooter, the demonstration focused on the pursuit and documentation of each finding. The chase brought the team to a house in the suburb area; the husband stumbles from the door, lungs filled with fluid and collapsing in terror.
The team pushes forward; showing the new technology created from our investigations -- a lightning gun and flame grenade are the stars of the show. In a boom of fury, the lightning gun strikes the aliens down, cooking them in their own fluid. As partners rally to support, the alien invasion scales higher, overwhelming one of the men while he throws the grenades out to start a bonfire in the house. The drama is a central role in XCOM; throughout the demo I was always in a sense of alertness to what was going on.
While the game is a deviation from the franchise, it may have the power to stand alone as an alternate universe perspective. XCOM by 2K Marin is a shooter, but it thrives to surpass the stigma of being a BioShock clone.
Buried in sand, bullets our only friend
While E3 was full of shooters, few games stood up with as raw of a nature as Spec Ops: The Line, which brings intense third-person shooting to the next generation.
In a post extinction-level sandstorm striking Dubai, a soldier and his comrades must rescue a legendary colonel. Lost in a maze of dust and debris, the team must navigate unstable sand and fallen architecture throughout. The war zone is a city known for money; the factions have no interest in the territory, just the wealth lost below the dunes. It is in the middle of this war for wealth that it begins, Captain Walker and his crew gripping their sanity as they walk through the darkness that was Dubai.
The design of The Line pushes players to their limits, putting moral and mission choices in the hands of each player as a revolution comes their way. With inspiration from Heart of Darkness, the story lacks a sense of hope or humanity; rebels murder their own men in cold blood constantly. Little hope comes from our demonstration; countless bodies swung from light poles as our guide fought through each patrol unit on their path. As the team fought for survival, the power of the sand became visible, a dynamic object that can divide fights and provide backup immediately. In the demo, this diverted a pool of enemies away; Walker and company then rushed into the new opening created by the avalanche.
The game play sticks to standard third person shooter design, with duck and roll affording standoffs and close quarter battles. Spec Ops keeps a tough line for anyone playing; each zone that came up had decisions to make or ones with no time for a solution. We watched enemy forces carpet bomb themselves, opposition and anyone around to strike fear into everyone; every piece of atmosphere directs user decisions, whether its taking side objectives or saving lives.
Graphically, the details capture the city well; skyscrapers and many buildings are in complete ruin. The detail to the world and the enemy models is high; the textures are crisp and varied. This is secondary to the focal point of the game: the dynamic sand is the star of Spec Ops, using soft appearance with fine texture. The flow of sand in battle works without acting unnaturally; the particles keep the immersion into the game constant and drive a deeper sense of anxiety in heated fights.
2K has hinted that Spec Ops: The Line will see a multiplayer beta in the future; at this point we are unable to set a date to that news, but we will see as the months roll on.
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Changing up the 3rd party offerings once again
Gaming accessories are a tough market in 2010; companies are using new proprietary technologies to lock hardware sales down. At E3 2010, I sat down with Nyko to get a fix on the latest from the company, covering topics about new products and accessories developing for this year. Bernard Hoang played the role of guide to my technology adventure; I stepped into a private demonstration room stacked with the latest that is Nyko and began writing down impressions.
The first introduction unveiled the Wand for the Nintendo Wii, delivering normal Wii control with an integrated Motion Plus control to reduce bulk. The design of the remote matched the official controller, using new Soft Feel texture for better comfort and grip. I found the slip in-hand reduced; with a light use, the controller grip was tight on palm and fingers -- those wanting more can use the included skin for increased size and resistance. In the middle of the textured finish revisions, Nyko also showed a sample of the new Kama with Soft Feel to match, and noted the new finish will follow as an alternative on future Nyko models.
Charging stations followed that demonstration, with new technology running out there for the Wii including a magnetic delivery station which debuted at CES. The IC station hit my hands first with on-demand power as remotes sat suspended; the offering comes in a two or four remote flavor. While magnetic charging station is efficient, it will take a chunk of the day to reach full power. The next offering was the Charge Station. Supporting two or four ports again using direct current and independent power from the AC, both units come complete with enough supporting batteries and grips to fit the Wand or Wii Remote.
Following the display, our topic shifted gears to the Playstation Move; Nyko has expected charging potential and is launching two solutions for gamers.
Hands on, we started with the Charge Station. The two port dock lights up when the Mini-USB ports connect to the Move. To speed the charging up, the station uses direct AC power instead of splitting the standard 5v line from the USB port. The build quality of the single set is a good start in design, though right now the cups may be too shallow as the mock controller wobbled. Nyko made sure to mention the product is still under revisions to account for these findings which we should see around launch time with the Move.
For those who plan to play with a friend, the Charge Station Quad is their solution. The Quad uses a platter design to serve two sets of Move controllers with a small pocket for each to stand in. My first area of attention went to the sleek design of the base station, with optional lights for night charging and a high gloss finish to catch the eye. The station has what many gamers will look for: a dedicated fast charging setup that doesn’t leave cables running from the Playstation 3. In the current state, the Mini-USB has little support; I hope a clear cup or deeper pocket to support the controller will allow for longer product life, as the ports could easily break.
The Raven series is the latest experiment in independent design; a six-axis rumble control using soft feel surfaces provides the function from the original control with new feeling. As an alternative, the first feature I noticed was the comfort of the control as someone with larger hands; thumb spacing on the d-pad and analog are distant for easy action. The secondary buttons get a backseat as triggers take priority in the design for added control and comfort. My biggest shock was when the [Alternate] model came to the table, using the Xbox 360 reversed d-pad and analog. The independent design made sense for the Raven; the layout allows any 360 user to have a nearly seamless transition to the Playstation 3 using this secondary model. The curves and triggers are similar to the 360; the size and bulk are just enough to cater to those finding the PlayStation controller too small or foreign.
Both models will be on sale this July. Nyko hopes the market will snap up both to show what works and what they can develop on in the future.
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The latest evolution of the DS hardware is almost here
When Nintendo launched the DS into the market, the popular question had to be asked: was the DS a successor to the Game Boy hardware? To date the answer remains that it is not a replacement or successor, instead the hardware is viewed as a new avenue for where portable gaming can go. Through the years the DS has taken on revisions which support the mindset, slimming in size and taking on new functionality through web browsers and cameras. All of these changes have tweaked the hardware to new levels and brought standard features of modern handsets to the DS. At E3 we took at look at the 3DS, the latest evolution in the DS line, bringing the DSi foundation to a new peak.
The 3DS packs a 3.53” top screen and 3.02” bottom touch screen which keeps the system compatible with all generations of the DS. The hardware gets an upgrade with an inner lid camera and dual cameras mounted to exterior of the lid for 3D pictures. The latest evolution comes from the 3D upper screen which uses a form of stereoscopic delivery to blend the images. Whether it uses alternating progressive pictures or interlacing has yet to be seen, as we did not have enough time with the unit. We could tell at harder angles that the 3D field is separated back into two pictures, the secondary image acting as a ghost on the screen, depending on which side the 3DS leaned toward.
In practice, the delivery has better results when there is action in the screen: in Star Fox on the 3DS, we had high contrast definition as we rolled and dodged enemy fire. We could not say as much for the slower moving demo reels that ran on the screen for movies and upcoming games -- often we had to realign the 3D to make sense as our eyes strayed from the center of the screen. For gamers easily frustrated with shifting and focus, the slider on the current model 3DS allows for anyone to scale the effect as desired from nothing at all to full 3D. We did play with the variation in the textures and game play to notice that the 3D transition comes in a large lump after 30% of the slider is pushed up.
Control remains the same on the 3DS, taking a detour when we hit the analog stick that moves the d-pad down on the left side. In our demonstrations, the stick played the role of a focus adjustment for the 3D, while the rest of the control input remained close to the traditional DS layout. The placement allows the control to remain fluid as the thumb shifts between the stick and the d-pad; the flow of the stick has 360 degree coverage without blank points in the response. The development allows for a new breed of games to arrive on the platform that may have required more than the traditional pad and touch screen.
For those hoping to catch the next wave of portable gaming, the 3DS will deliver an experience unlike any other DS evolution. Instead of relying on larger screens or a revised package, the system will deliver a new experience to all who try it out. Characters and worlds will come alive thanks to the 3DS screen and the need for external glasses or aspirin will be avoided in the process. We look forward to the continued development of the platform and will bring out the latest that we get from Nintendo on it.
A bit of old and a bit of new to their lineup, including 'a boy and his blob'
Flip's Twisted World
The adventure genre is a bit limited on the Wii, and players often have to rely on Nintendo for decent games like Super Mario Galaxy or even Klonoa. Majesco is trying to help curb that unfortunate trend with the release of Frozen North's Flip's Twisted World. Players will take on the role of Flip, a magician's apprentice, after a spell with a magical artifact went horribly wrong and tossed him into a crazy universe. Trapped in that artifact, Flip must now navigate through the obstacles so that he can return to the real world and restore things to normal before his master comes home.
The primary control system is the Wii Remote, and the game operates on 90 degree horizontal axis turns that can be altered with motion control. Players can use this topsy turvy world to their advantage in exploring by spinning the world in nearly any way possible, dropping Flip onto various platforms and allowing him to access areas on different planes. The one thing to keep in mind with this is that normal rules of gravity apply, so if something turns 90 degrees and there's no support to keep Flip from being sliding into space then he will, in fact, slide off into space. Outside of that, the game plays like a classic platform title, with five different environments to choose from and an assortment of bonus items, such as new costumes and unlockable goodies.
For once, the Wii Remote feels more natural than a Classic or Gamecube Controllers, with the game's controls and targeting. Majesco is planning for a January 2010 release, and we're confident the innocent, childish aesthetics won't put too many people off what might actually be an interesting gaming experience.
Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2010
This is a returning brand for Majesco and they've actually made it a point to consider the feedback of the community on this one, give that the first version from 2009 was a good seller, but the game didn't deliver entirely, focusing too much on mechanics of the on-screen avatar and less about the workout. On top of this, they realized the graphic weren't that great and made a point to revamp the property for the next installment.
The latest game comes through with a direct approach to working with Jillian. Players no longer have an avatar to focus with and instead drive the core workout itself. The result is that players get a more rewarding workout as they're just focusing on themselves and the facsimile of Jillian. The routines that made it into the latest game are all designed by Jillian Michaels to fulfill various purposes like building muscle and strength with exercises such as Swing Kicks, Obliques, Side Planks, Side Lunges, Water Pump and more. The result is a game more driven by the goal of health over mini-games and other such items.
Players are able to define their own personal resolutions over time and monitor their progress, with the ability to plan 6 months ahead. It really does come off as a rewarding experience for those set to get started and really dedicate themselves to the objectives. The game should be dropping in Fall 2009 on the Wii and those with a Balance Board will be able to jump right into the game.
a boy and his blob
A unique property coming to the Wii is the story a boy and his blob. The game takes the original foundation by the 1989 NES title and spins it into a very artistic and interactive world. The first major change was the game's storybook aesthetics and how smooth the flow of animation was for each gesture. Those aspects alone changed it from mere remake into more immersive experience for the masses, given that the entire game was hand drawn and painted with an engine designed specifically for the Wii.
With that said, the story is very much in the same realm of design, focusing around Blobolonia as it's being threatened by an evil emperor. Your blob comes to Earth seeking help and finds a young boy (that's you) upon arrival. Starting from there, the blob and his new friend embark on a new adventure to dethrone the emperor and save the blob people. Along the way, the boy and his blob develop a unique and lasting bond, and much of the game is founded on that.
The game mechanics are fun, and the scrolling platform style means there are many opportunities to make use of the environment. Players will need to jelly beans for their unique effects, choosing them based on which color will provide the most useful effect for a given situation, like hitting switches, crossing pits, and so on.
a boy and his blob will be coming to Nintendo Wii later this year.
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Zombies return against 4 new survivors this November
Left 4 Dead was a bit of a sleeper hit, not what you may call an "instant hit" when it first debuted. Barely anyone was talking about it, and hype was practically non-existant. Once the demo hit Steam, the anticipation finally picked up, and the L4D community began to flourish. In Left 4 Dead 2, players are introduced to the Southern United States, four new Survivors, and updated mechanics. Oh, and the zombies have picked up a few new tricks.
Left 4 Dead 2 maintains the same survivor-style play as before, in which players go from point to point, seeking refuge in safe houses, pausing for ammo and meds. There's a definite improvement in the levels, offering more routes to explore, as seen in the demo level we played through, adding more depth to the teamwork aspect. Now it's easier to wander off and get snagged by Smokers. That open park you run into may look clear, but there could be something hiding in the bushes. Deviate from your party to kill a lone Infected, and you might trigger more to come clamoring over the brush. Based on the time we spent with the new L4D, it feels as though the chances of encountering unique zombies has increased, and they choose more opportune moments to catch you. The game has become noticeably less forgiving toward free-roamers.
Did we mention Witches are no longer stationary? And there's now these mini-Tanks called "Chargers" that pop out of no where and bowl you over. The ground doesn't shake, and the music doesn't shift -- that thing just blitzes players like an anvil on wheels. We're expecting more new Infected, but only the Charger has made his appearance thus far.
The next notable upgrade comes in the form of melee attacks. Players can still pistol whip Infected away, but melee weapons can now be found throughout the levels, ranging from axes to frying pans. It's definitely a cool option to have when you see a swarm coming in, but melee weapons will also force you to get in close with Infected, leaving you quite vulnerable. The attacks are strong, but there's definitely a greater risk attached. The choice is ultimately up to the player, though switching to a firearm means dropping the melee weapon; Valve should look into changing that.
There are also different types of ammo now. When picking from a pile of ammunition, players will occasionally find a "gift," or a unique ammo type. We've only see incendiary rounds at this point, which set zombies ablaze with each shot. Mm, crispy.
Outside of that, players get to encounter four new characters in the L4D2, now consisting of a Coach, Rochelle, Ellis, and Nick. There's definitely some new content to be considered here, on top of improved visuals and tougher objectives. In the demo, an alarm was set off as soon as our team left the safe house, and we had to navigate through the level, then climb up some construction beams to set it off, while Infected swarmed us the entire time.
While many L4D fans are already upset to hear that a sequel is due so soon, Valve will continue to support the existing community with content packs, just as they have for many other Steam titles so far; even Counter-Strike: Source and Day of Defeat: Source were revamped years after release to improve community features. Until Valve says otherwise, Left 4 Dead 2 is coming to PC and Xbox 360 on November 17.
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Richard Marcinko dives into the Cold War in Fall 2009
Every now and again, there is a title that really sweeps people off their feet. Whether that's a good thing is another story.
Richard Marcinko has lent his talents to Bethesda in presenting Rogue Warrior, a new FPS title with a unique flair that borrows from his real-life exploits and classic 1980s action movies. We were treated to a private demo with some of the Rogue Warrior staff at this year's E3.
Playing as Marcinko is quite an experience, as he tries to disrupt a North Korean missile program during the Cold War. We watched as our demonstrator went through the game in a freestyle manner, going both stealth and running in guns blazing, showing off the freedom of choice players get. Another interesting element are the multiple combat kills, totalling over 25 death sequences, and various A.I. routes, depending on how you play. For example, if you prefer stealth, you can probably navigate an entire level (or nearly an entire level) without having to fight more than one or two people at once; however, if you take a direct approach or accidentally alert the enemy, then the A.I. will start sending in the cavalry. Rogue Warrior is also a very environment-conscious, challenging players to try both play styles, as choosing either approach has its strengths and drawbacks.
The gameplay is pretty straight on for a shooter, with cover-fire and all those basics. It also presents multiple melee kills such as breaking an enemy's neck, throwing people off buildings, stabbing someone in the throat and more gruesome finishers. Each kill is almost cinematic in execution, with a heavy emphasis on some vulgar dialogue taken from the mouth of actor Mickey Rourke.
Overall Rogue Warrior is designed as a multiple atmosphere game, friendly to new players in "easy mode," with plenty of options for hardcore gamers. It's a common duality in games today, and Rogue Warrior is no exception. This also lets players choose how they want to approach the game, whether they prefer to take it seriously and play competitively or simply mess around in a drunken daze. Whatever your mood may be, the game will offer adequate options. Given that it's heavily inspired by 1980s entertainment and all the gruffness that entails, Rogue Warrior may be reserved for older audiences who can appreciate the references.
Rogue Warrior is slated to hit shelves in November 2009 on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. There was mention of multiplayer, but the devs didn't delve too deeply into that. Stay tuned to our Neoseeker news in the future when details do break.
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New engine, improved physics, and broader audience target
We went behind doors with Forza Motorsport 3 to meet Dan Greenawalt, game director at Turn 10 Studios. What ensued from that point on was a 30-min breakdown on the latest racing title to grace the Xbox 360.
Forza 3 is a middle-ground title, aiming to unite gamers and auto-enthusiasts under one roof, providing simulation-level behavior / damage physics / impressive visuals and ease of adoption for gameplay. High-end car manufacturers like Audi and BMW are here to lend a hand in luring their loyal followers while Turn 10 can focus on perfecting a truly amazing racer for the gamers.
Some familiar elements return in Forza 3, like the suggestion line that tells you where to drive and driving assists for more nervous racers. Now there are new tools to help beginners, testing them on players ranging from ages six to 65, boasts Greenawalt; overall, he estimates that the hardest tracks in the game will be around 50 percent easier because of these assists and that with other features like the gameplay rewind. By hitting the back button on your controller after a crash, you activate the new rewind option that takes your car back to where it was before, meaning players won't need to start over or experience much setback due to one mistake (4 consecutive 5 second rewinds are the max in a given scenario, so timing is important). Greenawalt is certain that the rewind ability will become a definitive standard in racing games down the path, just like the suggestion line.
Of course, these assists can be turned off, and gamers earn more money if they race without the aid of assists. However, the game doesn't penalize you for using them either, as players can still gain Achievements and experience everything Forza 3 has to offer even if they need some help.
The meat of the demonstration was in the technical aspects of the game, as Forza 3 incorporates a extensive simulation from sources like Pirelli, McLaren and more, so that every little detail from real life is incorporated. Greenawalt specifically pointed out the tire flex simulation while joking, "We're actually running out of things to simulate!" He made it quite clear that Turn 10 doesn't draw inspiration from other racing games but games in general, thus broadening their way of thinking during the development process.
The game also runs the physics engine at 360 fps so that there's no choke / variation in how the game reacts in every precide moment. Compensating that far ahead allows for a more authentic feel to the race, including damage to the actual car. On top of all this, Turn 10 developed the A.I. to be more reactive in the game instead of just following rails to the best line around the track, so that players can have a more immersive experience, from pressuring cars into corners or even bumping into them.
Visually, Forza 3 is absolutely amazing, keeping the same mechanics that worked in Forza 2 without dumbing it down with easier A.I. or compromising handling aspects simply so it's easier to play. One such highlight is the graphics engine; the game supports around 10x more polygons compared to Forza 2, and the Audi R8 V10 shown on screen was noted to have about 360,000 polygons to the model while maintaining their standard of 60 fps in game. Turn 10 has taken the collective knowledge to produce a visually impressive title that allows more freedom with improved shadows, HDR and reflections.
The final step to Forza 3 was the continued support for the auction house and expanding customization in-game by breaking down every aspect for Forza newcomers. Instead of being overwhelmed by options, new gamers can rely on the A.I.'s recommendations in the "Season play" feature, as the game monitors every player's style and preferences to compile a unique venue of events and options -- total individuality. Leaderboards will be split into different specializations, like decal design for the artistically inclined, video direction for those who like fiddling with Forza 3's video editor, along with tuners and racers.
XSEED brings in new properties to the show and uses quite a punch.
JU-ON: The Grudge
The Wii has a variety of titles coming to it these days. Even so, there are many gaps in the lineup, and even worse, holes to dodge when it comes to finding a decent experience. JU-ON is an attempt to fill the thriller genre hole on the Wii with a game that borrows from the original movie property and tries to crank it up another notch.
The gameplay was pretty brief for the demo, but we were able to see the game in full operation. The only difference was for the demo, we had unlimited battery life on the in-game flashlight, because when the Wiimote (acting as your light) batteries lose charge it becomes a game over situation. As such, some moments that we caught were not as intense as they might have been if it was dark with the flashlight on the verge of shorting out. Although for the others it proved effective even without it, something about a child with blacked out eyes peering right over the top of your head does strike a nerve to say the least.
The progression of the game is very much maze-based, finding items and paths to complete objectives and proceed on. As a result, the game comes off as promising but may lose your interest after a while. A friend can join in as second player, and the game randomly drops visitors into the screen for great shock value. Overall the game looks like a decent way to kill time on a weekend with friends or solo. The game is due out in October of 2009, though if you can hold out until the holidays, it may drop a bit in price by then.
Another title for those looking to get some mystery in on the Wii, Fragile takes place in an apocalyptic world. Seto may just be the last person alive, and players jump into the world with a flashlight and explore abandoned cities in search of any human contact. The demo was brief enough, touching on the topic that while you are alone, you're not the only one out there, as another survivor is encountered but doesn't care to help you. Given that the world has fallen into darkness, and ghosts and demons essentially haunt the planet it makes sense that they might be less than happy to join up.
The game features a simple play mechanic. It's an 3D action title with multiple rooms and areas to explore, with challenges presenting themselves in various ways. Players may get stuck in a ghost room and can only escape by beating all of the ghosts around to reach freedom; minions may respawn, however, when you backtrack into that room. The objectives in that case vary by area and much of the timed respawns aren't an issue since those moments aren't designed to be that frequent.
Overall the design and art for the game is unique. It looks like a fantasy in a decimated world with so much attention to light and environment over all other elements. The game is worth considering if you're looking for a change of pace on the Wii.
Arc Rise Fantasia
A JPRG designed to strike a weak area on the Wii these days, the game introduces turn-based mechanics using the same action points gauge so that players can better focus their energy use depending on their play style. If players like to buff up a heavy striker or mage they can use it in an effective manner or go all out with a full team blast of attacks using the gauge. The flexibility is there to hopefully introduce a newer method of team turn-battles. The mechanics also include summon abilities during battle and other features known to the genre. Overall it strikes for smooth play over huge amounts of grinding.
The story is pretty decent from what I caught. The world is on the edge of destruction as creatures from outside threaten to destroy the order of the land. The enemies approaching are powerful and have the ability to increase their numbers using "crystalization," so all current fights have proven futile. When killed, the creatures also give off a poison that harms the land.
The game looks to be a classic approach to RPG gaming but it presents a visually impressive scenario. Arc Rise is packed with enemies, and the images of the Contaminant Dragons look to take it to a different level of fantasy in a more medieval sense.
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30GB model down by clock bug in calculating leap years
We've been following this quite a bit today but now there's a happy ending -- well, two, if you also used our DIY guide. The story breaks down like this, according to our Microsoft representative.
"Early this morning we were alerted by our customers that there was a widespread issue affecting our 2006 model Zune 30GB devices (a large number of which are still actively being used). The technical team jumped on the problem immediately and isolated the issue: a bug in the internal clock driver related to the way the device handles a leap year. That being the case, the issue should be resolved over the next 24 hours as the time change moves to January 1, 2009. We expect the internal clock on the Zune 30GB devices will automatically reset tomorrow (noon, GMT). By tomorrow you should allow the battery to fully run out of power before the unit can restart successfully then simply ensure that your device is recharged, then turn it back on. If you're a Zune Pass subscriber, you may need to sync your device with your PC to refresh the rights to the subscription content you have downloaded to your device."
So if your Zune is stuck at 99%, the battery will just have to run out before you can do anything else. They seem to have the issue pegged, and the culprit isn't that surprising when you consider how new the clock feature is.
It's nice to have a decent ending to this saga. The tech team is now going through the Zune software with a fine-toothed comb, and we'll hope this is just a one-time error.
For those wanting to keep tabs, Zune support has an ongoing bulletin update. Doesn't look like the issue is getting resolved any time soon though.
Quick n' dirty DIY guide to fixing your bricked 30GB Zune
The 30GB downtime is no fun at all; drive spinning, battery draining, it's a drag honestly.
If you're handy with a small screwdriver (Philips or standard), you can pop the thing open and fix this problem quite fast. Keep in mind this CAN wreck your Zune if you're not careful or don't know what you're doing. This DIY solution isn't for everyone.
With a small screwdriver, lightly apply pressure on each end of the black clip and pop off the cover to the Zune. Underneath there should now be 2 Philips head screws. If the tool is small enough, turn these screws and remove them so that you can remove the case. Carefully (perhaps with your fingernail) pry the case up -- it should lift easily.
Now you'll see the back of the Zune. The black rectangle is the battery. Follow the lead on this over the back of the LCD to the plug. To make it easier on yourself, you might want to lift up the battery, then slightly pull on the ribbon cable to get it out. After you do this, let it rest for a moment before plugging the battery back in. This is where a steady hand comes in, since the cable can resist and might break with too much force. Slide the cable back in until it's secure (there should be a little bit of white showing still). The Zune should be able to power up once again, displaying the menu screen. Reattach the back of your Zune, returning the screws to their proper locations.
If all goes accordingly, everything should be fully operational.
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