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Welcome to GameSpot's first flowchart preview. The idea for this kind of preview began back at Leipzig 2008 when, in a fit of exhaustion-driven inspiration, Shaun, Tyler, and I put together the best flowchart ever. Ever since, we've been looking to find ways to incorporate flowcharts into our daily lives, as the flowchart truly is the pinnacle of human achievement.
Today's flowchart preview covers Majesco's Major Minor's Majestic March for the Nintendo Wii. It's being developed by the same folks behind Parappa the Rapper, a classic music game for the original PlayStation.
If you're having trouble reading the flowchart, click on the image below for the full-sized version.
As the Wii continues to fly off of store shelves at a rate that's already put the GameCube to shame, the clever folks at Nintendo have come to realize that they've got an entire back catalogue of great last-generation games that a lot of their new market probably hasn't played. Think of your Aunt Barb who just got a Wii for Christmas--what are the chances that she played a game like Metroid Prime 2? Slim, we're guessing. And so we have Nintendo's All Play initiative: rereleases of some of the GameCube's finest games with only modest changes here and there, mainly in the form of added motion control. The first on the agenda for Nintendo is Pikmin. We recently spent some time with a preview build of New Play Control Pikmin to see what's new and how well those changes work. To give a well-rounded view, we've got impressions from both Shaun McInnis and Sophia Tong. Shaun played Pikmin extensively when it was first released, and Sophia--much like your Aunt Barb--is brand-new to the world of Captain Olimar.
Let's get this out of the way: Pikmin is a great game, no matter which system you're playing it on. To me, it's the ideal format for a console real-time strategy game. The controls are simple and elegant, and there's not a ton of micromanaging to be done. So we're certainly starting with a great game as a foundation here. And to tell you the truth, the foundation hasn't changed much. There are really only two big alterations. The first is your onscreen cursor, which has been mapped to the Wii Remote and lets you move around by pointing at the screen instead of twisting the C-stick on the GameCube controller. This is a huge part of the game, given that you'll spend a ton of time highlighting groups of Pikmin to recruit into your party and carefully deselecting the ones that you can't afford to lose in battle. It feels precise, but the C-stick worked pretty well on its own, too. So it's a minor change, but a positive one.
The other alteration is to the game's overall timer. As Captain Olimar, you've got 30 days to rescue 30 parts for your ship. There's no rule that says you need to collect one part per day, so it's up to you to stay on a solid pace for completion. You might collect two parts in a single day and then go five days without nabbing a single one. In the original, time was set in stone; if a day passed and you saved your game, that day was done forever. But in the new version of the game, you can return to any previous day and restart from there. So if you were doing great in the first week but totally fell off track during the second week, you can go to the calendar and jump back to Day 7 when you were still on pace. This feels like a much more substantial change than the control alterations, and should make the game a bit more palatable to the Wii's slightly more "casual" audience.
I've never played Pikmin on the GameCube before, so it's cool that Nintendo is giving people like me another chance to play this whimsical little game with walking sprouts. Seeing as how I don't have anything to compare to, I liked using the Wii Remote to point and click, but I can't imagine that using the analog stick on the GC was that difficult to begin with. I'm not too crazy about the camera controls, but that's only a minor complaint given that the gameplay still holds up very well. It was fun to watch my Pikmin collection flourish, but that quickly faded when I realized I left a few stragglers at the end of the day--oops! The game requires some strategy, but even if you don't like thinking, Olimar and his marching band of onionheads should keep you amused with their cutesy personalities. There's nothing like sending an army of walking vegetables to do your busywork. I'd encourage those who haven't played the original Pikmin to check it out. However, pros who played this in the past aren't missing much except the new Wii control scheme.
Brian and I managed to check out a bundle of random games that range from a heroic tactical role-playing game to an interactive board game involving drama queens. Majesco sure knows how to cater to a broad audience, that's for sure. Regardless of whether or not the game is targeted to your demographic, chances are, you know someone who fits the bill.
Dawn of Heroes
There's quite obviously a long way to go before Dawn of Heroes for Nintendo DS is ready for prime time. The demo that Majesco had on-hand for us to see was barebones to say the least, showing little more than the basics of combat that this turn-based tactical RPG will have when it's released later this year. As such, there's very little I can tell you about the story in the game--other than the generic basics: Long ago a hero defeated a bad guy and encased him in stone. Time passes and bad stuff starts happening all over again. The locals blame the entrapped bad guy and a new group of heroes arrive on the scene to take care of it. Boom. Cut to many, many turn-based battles.
Speaking of those battles, the combat in Dawn of Heroes is interesting. The upper screen shows off the game's attractive character models--which sort of look like tattooed, badass Cabbage Patch Kids to my eyes--while the lower screen is where you control the action. Combat takes place on a grid of sorts, and each character will have a certain amount of spaces he or she can move on that grid, mixing in attacks as they go. With ranged attacks and plenty of magical spells, it looks like combat will be consistently interesting but, other than that, there's not much more I can tell you. Fans of the Fire Emblem series, file this one away for future reference. I know I'll be keeping an eye on it.
It's very likely that this game won't appeal to most of you, but a video game with "Drama Queens" in the title peaks my interest. It wasn't quite what I was expecting because Drama Queens is an interactive board game on the Nintendo DS. (I'm not sure what I was expecting really, an adventure game perhaps?) It's about as random as the Game of Life, but before you get to the end to tally up your popularity points, you'll swap boyfriends and BFFs, move ahead in your career and hopefully find friendship and love. Obviously targeted at the tween girl audience, Drama Queens can be played locally with four players or in hot seat mode with one cartridge. There's a story mode if you want to play on your own, but I'd imagine cat fights being much more entertaining with other people. Let the games begin once Drama Queens is released in April.
Drama, drama, drama.
Our House: Party!I got an early look ata party game called, Our House: Party for the Wii. It's a Mario Party-like compilation of minigames, except the end goal is to build your dream house--whether it be a gingerbread house or an all-American suburban home. Each character has his or her own unique personality and special skills. Before the building begins, you'll visit a local home store to play a short minigame in which you have to snag a tool. This will be your special weapon that might come in handy later. As I watched the characters push shopping carts into each other and scramble to the check-out line, it brought back bad memories of holiday shopping. The only other minigame I got to see was a bricklaying game, in which you had to lay bricks along the yellow line with a teammate. To keep things interesting, you can sabotage your opponent's hard work by wandering over to their side of the screen. Everything is still a work-in-progress, but the game isn't scheduled to be released until June.
Gardening is tough work.
Speaking of gardening...I do have to admit, Cooking Mama is fantastic series for young gamers and I enjoy watching my little cousins play. Sadly, when it comes to my turn, they boss me around and tell me that, "I'm doing it wrong." In my defense, I'm a better chef in real life…which is what counts right? Anyway, Gardening Mama is what you would expect it to be. Cooking Mama all over again but outside. All those onions need to come from somewhere! Mama guides you through the garden planting bulbs and saplings, so that you can watch your virtual garden flourish with delightful tulips and juicy apples. Alex did a hands-on during the Tokyo Game Show, and if he can do it, so can you. Gardening Mama can be played with four players and you can decorate your garden, as well as unlock new outfits for Mama. Look for it when it is released sometime in March.
Gardening is more than just poking holes.
Remember how a few short weeks ago, we were discussing what our most anticipated games were? I think I'm the only one in the office who is still following Final Fantasy XIII with any hope that it'll come out before the next-gen systems are announced. I also specifically said, "I don't want another trailer." I'm not surprised though, that the mysterious countdown on the FFXIII official site unveiled a marvelous trailer that does nothing except make me wish April 2010 was not so far away.
Is it just me, or does she always have that smoldering look?
This trailer does however give us a brief glimpse at the gameplay and a hint of the story--although I was getting some serious FFVII flashbacks watching it. Doesn't Lightning look like a female version of Cloud? I think I even saw a Wakka look-alike in the footage too. Keeping up with the tradition, the latest trailer has some fantastic looking cut scenes and some frenetic and fast-paced battles. It's obviously command-based but it's hard to determine the details on how the mechanics works from the trailer. Regardless, sweeping camera angles, epic battles and ultra-attractive main characters with elaborate outfits is enough to rile up the fans.
As much as I wish I could play the game this year (or now), I'm willing to wait until next year and hope that this game will be even better than the last.
What did you think of the trailer? I'm happy that we at least got something!
Okay, confession time. While I was a big Atari 2600 and NES fan, I mostly missed the Genesis, Sega Saturn, and SNES days. My excuse? I'd like to tell you it was because I was focused on my studies in high school and college… but that would be lying. Closer to the truth: I was spending my time drinking and chasing girls. Beyond the occasional casual jaunts of Super Mario World or Street Fighter II, gaming just wasn't a big part of my life until I finally decided to buy a PlayStation on a whim back in 1996. As a result, I've got a sizable gap in my gaming history, one that seemed perfectly justifiable back then but, these days, feels like wasted time.
So, for someone like me, Sega's upcoming Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 feels simultaneously retro and brand spanking new. Loaded with more than 40 games from Sega's revered console including, as the name suggests, a load of Sonic games, you'll likely find something in the lineup that tickles your fancy, or drums up the nostalgia. Highlights for me included Streets of Rage games, Shinobi III, Ecco the Dolphin, and the utterly innovative (and really, really hard) Comix Zone. Check out screens of the game here.
In addition to the 40 games that are available as soon as you pop in SUGC into your console, there are a few surprises hidden away for you to uncover. These goodies include more games (including the original Phantasy Star, which wasn't a Genesis game but complements nicely with Phantasy Star II, III, and IV, which are also available in this collection). In addition to the extra games, the collection also features original box art you can peruse, and video interviews with many of the creators of the games that are featured in this collection. To unlock extra games, you need to complete certain tasks in other games. For instance, to unlock the classic isometric arcade space shooter Zaxxon, you need to earn five bonus coins in the platforming game Decap Attack.
The old-school graphics for some of these classics don't always hold up--though the bright, attractive color palette of some of the original Sonic games are a testament to those early games' quality. That said, you have the option to either play the game in the original aspect ratio, or stretch things out to widescreen, if you're playing on an HDTV. Not all of the game's benefit from expanding the screen width--in fact, of the games I tried, only Ecco really benefited from the feature. A smoothing option reduces some of the graphical ugliness but, none of the games in this collection are going to end up looking like Sonic Unleashed.
Despite the Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection's odd name--which makes it sound like simply a collection of Sonic games--this seems like a fun collection for fans who want to relive Sega's glory days or, for folks like me, want to play some of these classic games for the very first time.
List of Games:
Dr. Robotnik's M.B.M.
Ecco the Dolphin
Ecco: The Tides of Time
Golden Axe II
Golden Axe III
Phantasy Star II
Phantasy Star III
Phantasy Star IV
Shining Force 2
Shining In the Darkness
Sonic & Knuckles
Sonic 3D Blast
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Streets of Rage
Streets of Rage 2
Streets of Rage 3
Super Thunder Blade
Altered Beast Arcade
Golden Axe Warrior
Originally by Ricardo Torres
Okay, Street Fighter IV can't get here quick enough. We've been having a good old time beating each other up, like you do with a Street Fighter game, but we've recently had the chance to do it with a little more style. Capcom got us a save file that let us try out alternate costumes for the crew. We took some footage to let you all get a look at some of them.
As you can see, the costumes run the range from "blah" to pretty cool. We're fans of Chun-Li's homage to Mai Shiranui, Zangief's Haggar inspired threads, and Guile's tribute to Charlie. We're less happy about Ryu's "fightin' hobo" look as well as the large bows worn by Gouki, Gouken, and E. Honda. Ken's gold chain, fur collar, and sneaker ensemble is kind of a head scratcher too. Anyone looking at the movies should note this is a near final version of the game with a few quirks, hence the "you did not earn a trophy" message popping up. I don't think the final game will blatantly chip away at your self esteem--well, with text. At the higher levels of difficulty Street Fighter IV's AI will most definitely get you questioning your skills. As for how you get the costumes, Capcom is choosing to be mysterious and keeping quiet about whether the costumes are unlockable or downloadable content (which, if they are, we're hoping is either super cheap or free) so we'll see how this plays out. In the meantime, enjoy.
Today, we had a chance to take a quick look at the Xbox 360 version of Divinity 2: Ego Draconis , which is also headed to the PC. Many of you--tens of you, in fact--may remember the game's predecessor, the original Divine Divinity and its follow-up, Beyond Divinity, each of which could best be described as a combination of the isometric hacking and slashing of Diablo II with some of the branching story elements of the Baldur's Gate series.
Divinity 2: Ego Draconis will feature such characters as this guy. Do you dare accept the challenge...of this guy?
Divinity 2 takes place, surprisingly enough, after the events of the previous games, which include the defeat of Damian, the incarnation of evil. As it happens, Damian returns for, as our European counterparts might put it, "another go" in the new game and eventually becomes the great enemy of the land you must vanquish. However, your character has his-or-her own problems at the outset of the game, since you start off knowing nothing of Damian or even of the previous two games in the series, and is instead a wet-behind-the-ears adventurer who's trying to earn his-or-her merit badge in dragonslaying. From what we can tell, becoming a dragonslayer isn't an easy job, since you not only have to find and kill one of these majestic beasts, but you must also find a dishonest and evil dragon who is disturbing the otherwise diplomatic relations between humans and dragonkind.
The original Divine Divinity of 2002 for the PC.
To do this, you will go on adventures through a huge, continuous overworld with no loading time breaks (though there will be load times to enter dungeons), in search of monsters to slay and quests to perform in order to gain precious experience points that will advance you along the game's branching skill trees that, like in Divine Divinity, are separated among different professions. Like in the previous games, you can choose to specialize your character in a specific profession, such as a warrior, a mage, or a ranger, and seek out "mentor" characters to train you along these lines. It seems that you can also take a more freeform approach the game and simply pick up whichever skills you care to, and regardless of whether you decide to become the world's wimpiest wizard with the world's floppiest robes, you'll always be able to swing a sword using the game's simple, real-time "press-buttons-to-perform-attack-combos" control scheme.
Skeletons? In my fantasy-themed role-playing game? It's more likely than you think.
Quests will come from all sides, including from towns, which will act as quest hubs that may unlock other quests; we visited a town from the earlier parts of the game where the local tavern has come under siege from a group of rowdy, drunken soldiers. Pacifying them will win you the approval of the townspeople at the bar (and who knows, maybe a barmaid or two), who will then offer you additional quests. In the meantime, you'll also be able to acquire a "battle tower," essentially, your own player housing, which takes the form of a huge, multilevel tower that acts as a storage room for your trophies of war, crafting stations for any alchemy ingredients you've captured, and even an experimental breeding ground to play God with your companion critter. Over the course of the game, you'll be joined by a monster who can be tinkered with by your tower's friendly necromancer to swap out the body parts of powerful ogres and wily goblins (and presumably, wily ogres and powerful goblins). However, most players will probably be more attracted to how you will also eventually gain the power to assume the form of a dragon yourself, and engage in 3D flight (and 3D combat with wyverns and other flying beasties), as yes, as a dragon, you'll be able to gain dragon-ly experience points and pick up new items (such as dragon armor) and learn new skills (such as dragon skills). The version of the game we saw was extremely early, though we're told that although the PC version of the game is further in development than the Xbox 360 version of the game, both games will be brought in line with each other and should be ready for a simultaneous release this June.
Flower is one of those games that you can't quite place in a category. If you've already looked at our previous gameplay footage, you may be asking yourself why anyone would want to play a game with flower petals. And is this even a game in the first place? Flower is unique, it's beautiful and it even tells a story (really!) The preview build we received only gave us access to the first three levels, which look very similar to each other, making you wonder where this game is even going. We met with Sony and checked one of the later night levels (which you can see below) and found that those three levels were merely preparing you for things to come. Flower does blossom into something more than blades of grass and blue skies, but since the game is relatively short with only seven levels, we don't want to give away any surprises.
So, what do you think Flower is about?
Jenova Chen shares his philosophy behind thatgamecompany and Flower.
With the dawning of a new calendar year, we at the GameSpot previews team are trying to expand the sort of coverage we give upcoming games. One way we've been doing this is by bringing back video previews. Most of our video work is limited to on-camera interviews and gameplay demos, but now we've started putting together little video vignettes that combine the proper text of a preview article and video footage of the game. Last week, I did a fairly straightforward video preview for The Godfather II, which you can see in HD here, or super compressed down below:
However, this week we went a little more over the top with our video preview for House of the Dead: Overkill. This game is pure bat**** insanity, so we wanted to do something that reflected that. Brian Ekberg is the genius behind this video. He came up with the concept, wrote the voiceover script, and came up with most of the ideas for things we could improv about on camera. Just about the only thing I came up with was my ridiculous name, Dr. 48. Behold in stunning HD, or right here:
We had way more fun than anyone should have while filming that, and we definitely want to do some more video previews like this (as in sticking with the spirit of the game, not necessarily being super vulgar). What games out there would you guys like to see us cover in video preview form? I'm sure there are plenty, so have at it!
Bonus trivia: The character creator in The Godfather II is really detailed and even lets you customize your gang members. So of course I made a maniac Waluigi in perrywinkle. If you ask anyone around the office, they'll tell you I'm terrible with character creation. I always make the looniest people, and often spend more time in that menu than the game itself.
Bonus trivia 2: The suitcase, gun, and fake money used in the HotD video came from a James Bond: Quantum of Solace preview event. It's been sitting under my desk since October waiting to be used in some way. I think we did it justice.
A quick look at the stories the GS previews crew put together this week:
The Godfather II Hands-On (Part one, Part two): GameSpot UK's Guy Cocker acts like a gangster and thinks like a don in the first part of our hands-on look at EA's new open-world game. Then, Shaun takes a break from hislegendary murderous rampage in the game to dig a little deeper into the life ofa crime boss. The things you can do with a baseball bat in this game. Good Lord!
Madworld Hands-On: Godfather II and this Wii-only gore-fest are running neck and neck for "most horrifically violent game of 2009". Ricardo Torres smashes, slices,and pulps dudes in this preview for the insanely gorgeous beat-em-up from Platinum Games.
HAWX Updated Cooperative Hands-On: We can't seem to stop getting our hands on this gorgeous flight combat game from Ubisoft. In this go-round, Shaun gets to dog-fighting in the skies above Chicago and Washington D.C.
Deadly Creatures Updated Hands-On: Sophia Tong sews an adorably awesome Sackboy but that didn't stop us from tossing this creepycrawly Wii game on her desk. In other news: I'm deathly afraid of spiders and make my wife kill them when they come in our house. Does that make me less of a man?
'Removing the Drama' in RacePro: I've always liked to drive in circles. In this look at RacePro, I get circles driven around me by Simbin's creative director Diego Sartori. Read as I get schooled and try to impart some driving wisdom in the process.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II Updated Q&A - Multiplayer Details, Customization, and Beta: Relic's Jonny Ebbert lifts the veil on Dawn of War II's multiplayer gameplay and much more. You know, if someone designed a game that consisted of nothing more than painting virtual Warhammer 40K figurines, I'd buy the ever-living crap out of it.
Skate 2 Developer Q&A - Online Multiplayer and Content Sharing: Earlier this week, Shaun made a Skate 2 video of his created skater hurling himself off the roof of a ten-story building and then landing on a metal railing, junk-first. Oh God it was swell. In this Q&A, you can read about how you'll be able to share these kinds of special moments with your friends in EA's upcoming skateboarding sequel.
Fuel Hands-On: Codemasters and Asobo Studios are bringing this open-world off-road racer to consoles this year. Word has it the game will contain around 100,000 kilometers of drivable roads, which is just preposterous. I. Want. This. Now.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert Uprising Q&A: New Campaign, Units, and More: We caught up with C&C producer Greg Kasavin to learn more about the new expansion for this RTS. Wait… Kasavin? Kasavin. Hmm. Where do I know that name…?
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin Developer Q&A: The long-awaited F.E.A.R. sequel is almost here and, in this Q&A, we hear from Monolith's Dave Matthews and Matthew Titlebaum. Find out how piloting a mech suit will add a whole new dimension to the game.
Thing We Got in the Mail This Week:
Anyone care to venture a guess as to which game this was meant to accompany?
Sneak Peek at Next Week:
Be sure and tune into GameSpot next week for looks at The Sims 3, Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride, Spore: Galactic Adventures, and The House of the Dead: Overkill. Plus, D3 is having an event where we'll check out the new Puzzle Quest (along with a certain bikini-clad, zombie-slaying game). Also, look for our first hands-onreport on Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. All that and more! Exclamation mark!
2009 is starting and the first official week of of the year ends today, so here's a short-list of some of the PC games scheduled for a 2009 release to which I'm most looking forward. Again, this short-list (note: it's not even a "list," it's a "short-list") is NOT supposed to be all-inclusive. If I don't include your favorite game in this post, it's not because I'm biased or hate that particular game, it's because your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries.
Here's the shortlist in no particular order:
Empire: Total War will offer grand economic and political strategy plus gigantic real-time land battles, and real-time naval battles in the Age of Sail. Pictured: The Sail. Not pictured: The Age.
This one is a pretty obvious addition to nearly any short-list of promising PC games for this year. The Total War series is known for its epic, era-spanning strategy based on various contentious periods in actual world history, such as the conquest of Rome, the unification of the Holy Roman Empire, and feudal Japan. However, the Total War series has often focused on historical wars between massive world superpowers, while Empire will include new campaigns based on the war between the royal armies of England and 13 scrappy, underdog colonies that came to be known as the United States of America. It's also going to have some of the best-looking real-time naval combat I've ever seen in a game on any platform, and the naval battles seem pretty satisfying so far, at least in my short time with them. The new Colonial America setting also gives the Total War development team a chance to play with new economic options, such as commodity trading (tobacco, sugar, and so on) and fur trading, as well as with new government options, some starring such American luminaries as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, as well as new land army types and new military officers, such as the steady veteran general George Washington. Empire looks like it could provide lots of really cool new content for Total War fans to sink their [collective] teeth into, and hopefully, it will.
Dragon Age: Origins
Projected Release Date: March 2009
Recent Preview Coverage: Interview on the Characters of Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age: Origins will attempt to recapture the magic of Baldur's Gate. No, not the console version of Baldur's Gate. Turns out there was a PC one about 10 years ago. Then, fire was invented.
This may or may not be news to you, but the developer we know as BioWare started off making hardcore nerd role-playing games for the PC, and a few years later, the studio created some obscure outer-space game about aliens nobody has ever heard of. Then, from what I can tell, it decided the key to success would be to make outer-space games that went further and further into outer space each time. In 2009, BioWare finally seems ready to return to its roots with Dragon Age: Origins, which will be a fantasy RPG, minus the Dungeons & Dragons license used for the Baldur's Gate series, and minus the setting-free D20 ruleset used for Knights of the Old Republic. I first saw Dragon Age at the 2004 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) event and was excited by the prospect of BioWare returning to its fantasy RPG roots. Then about four years passed, and I saw the game again. Even though the developer seems to be putting a lot of emphasis on the new game's story, I'm personally hoping for another Baldur's Gate II-style hack-and-slash odyssey. Since it seems doubtful we'll ever get another Baldur's Gate game, I'm hoping Dragon Age: Origins ends up being the next best thing. (And yes, the game will eventually come to consoles as well, but it's debuting first on the PC.)
The Sims 3 will have improved AI, in-depth careers, and much more character customization. It'll also let you strike out with the ladies in even more embarrassing ways. (pictured)
This is another obvious addition to add to the wishlist of most any PC game player (and if you don't happen to be a Sims 2 player, it's OK, there are more than 5 million other people out there who are). One of the most intriguing aspects of The Sims series is how it lends itself to be played in a bunch of different ways. It's either a quirky role-playing-game-like experience where you try to build up one individual "sim" (those funny little computer people who talk in gibberish); or a strategy game where you try to manage a group of sims and all their little needs and wants; or a hands-off ant-farm-like experience where you simply sit back and watch whatever zany hijinks these little computer people with differing little personalities get into (if any); or an out-of-game design exercise where you play as an interior decorator, laying out an outdoor "lot" area like a restaurant or a bowling alley, or designing the interior of a tricked-out home, usually with the help of the free money cheat code. Or it's some combination of them all, since, if you ever get bored of any one of these aspects, you can immediately switch to focus in on another. It sounds like The Sims 3 may not be as open-ended for home designers who want to do nothing but build, build, build, since the game will ship with only one town (not multiple towns to build up and tear down, like in the Sims 2, but the town itself is said to be enormous), and hopefully future expansion packs (another hallmark of The Sims series) will remedy this. The Sims 3 will also have streamlined "motive" needs (no more having to worry about whether the room you're standing in is pleasing enough to the eye), an enhanced life goal system with short-term "wish" quests, and longer career paths that even include moral choices. I haven't asked about this specifically, but my gut tells me you'll also still be able to have two little sims make "Woohoo." For those who aren't familiar with the term, but think they know what it might mean...it means exactly what you think it means.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II will offer a unique campaign and lots of violence and gore. In fact, this screenshot is rated M for "Mature."
Dawn of War II is one of the most promising strategy games of the new year, if not the most promising. If you're not familiar with the Warhammer 40,000 universe, here's a quick primer: It takes place a zillion years in the future, where squadrons of supercharged human Space Marines in gigantic suits of power armor go out and fight pretty much everybody else in the universe, which includes a bunch of different alien races like the Orks (yes, that's how it's spelled), techno-elf Eldar, insect-like Tyranids, and plenty of other races that are all basically a different shade of murderous crazy, and pretty much all hate each other. Because the Space Marines are genetically engineered for battle and fanatically devoted to fighting wars in the name of their crippled, god-like emperor, they actually win a good number of their battles, even against impossible odds...and this is, incidentally, the foundation of Dawn of War II's single-player game. I've had a chance to try out the single-player campaign and from what little time I've spent, it seems like it has every chance of turning out to be the kind of addictive, easy-access, hack-and-slash experience that the development team seems to be shooting for, and should hopefully bring in a lot of new players to the world of real-time strategy. I haven't had a chance to try out the multiplayer personally, but from the sound of it, it's much closer to a more-traditional real-time strategy experience, just highly streamlined (there aren't a bunch of different base structures to build) to minimize building and maximize combat. It's unfortunate that Dawn of War II will apparently ship with "only" four playable races (Space Marines, Orks, Tyranids, and Eldar)...which is actually a pretty substantial number on its own, but fewer than what the original Dawn of War and its expansion packs eventually offered in total (such as the Necron, the Imperial Guard, and Chaos). Even though lunch breaks don't actually exist in my world, Dawn of War II's quickie campaign mission structure should still come in handy for my schedule, and hopefully the multiplayer turns out well, too.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty and Diablo III
Projected release dates: 2009, maybe.
Genres: Strategy, Real-Time and Role-Playing, Action, respectively
Recent Preview Coverage: Starcraft II Hands-On Impressions and Blizzcon 2008 Diablo III Hands-On Impressions
No, I didn't forget either of these games. Did you really think I would?
Yeah, duh. I know. Not much to say except that these two games are probably the most no-brainer of the no-brainer additions to whatever list of upcoming games that every PC game player out there is keeping tabs on. Also, that last sentence was probably the ugliest sentence I've ever written in my entire life. Maybe there is one other thing to say: Hopefully one or both of these games actually does, in fact, get released this year. We'll see.
That's the short-list so far. Again, this isn't supposed to be a comprehensive list that has every single 2009 PC game on it, just some of (but not all of, I admit) the more interesting ones I think should be on your radar. One other thing: I purposely haven't included Star Wars: The Old Republic, BioWare's massively multiplayer game based on KOTOR, but only because this game's release date appears to be even more uncertain than the Blizzard games.
Did I miss any? (Just kidding, of course I did.) Let me know with a comment. And if you're upset that I didn't include your favorite game on this short-list...again, don't blame me, blame your heritage.
It's hard to find someone who actually enjoys math. Even if they do, chances are they probably wouldn't admit it to anyone. However, if you secretly enjoy speedy arithmetic, Personal Trainer: Math is a handy piece of software to jog that mushy brain of yours.
Like Brain Age, it's all about repetition, speed and date stamps. Personal Trainer: Math is a great way to torture--uh, help your kids work on their multiplication table until they can recite it in their sleep. There is a calendar to track your sessions, but from what we've seen, it doesn't look like Dr. Kageyama is going to give you any lip if you skip a day or 50--unlike some other Dr. we know. This isn't really a game though, but you can make it one if you gather 16 of your friends and compete in an intense game of subtraction!
Or if you're like me, and find that it's been awhile since you haven't done basic math without a calculator, it is a good refresher so that you don't look completely stupid when you need to pause to remember what 8 x 7 is. (yes yes, I know it's 56. I played after lunch, I was sleepy ok?)
The handwriting recognition worked most of the time in my session with it. But when you're blazing through with incredible speed (like yours truly), it doesn't always register the right number. It could partially be due to my lousy handwriting, but I was doing it on purpose to see how often it would mess up. The game will pause to let you know when you have the wrong answer, so you're not immediately penalized for your chicken scratches.
Anyway, I'm just lucky that this wasn't around when I was a kid, because I'm pretty sure this would have easily replaced Mathcopter that I was forced to play during my summer vacation. Although now that I'm…wiser, math problems can be kind of fun because it doesn't require too much thought. These math drills really help exercise your brain, especially if you don't do a lot of mental math on a regular basis.
Get ready to bust out those math skills when Personal Trainer: Math is released on January 12.
If you haven't gotten enough of MySims, you'd be happy to know that there will be two new titles to get your hands on in the near future. Electronic Arts has announced that MySims Party will be available sometime this year and we got a sneak peek at MySims Racing in its pre-alpha stage.
MySims Party includes familiar faces from the previous MySims and MySims Kingdom. It's a compilation of short and easy minigames that the whole family can enjoy together. Last night, I was able to mess around with a few minigames on the Wii and the Nintendo DS with the developers. The DS will include an entirely new set of games that revolve around the DS's features. For example I played a minigame where I had to chisel around a fossil and blow away the dirt. The Wii version seemed to have a wide variety of games that range from remote waggling to rhythm based swinging, as well as games that rely completely on chance. The presentation of the game is nicely done, with vibrant colors and festive backdrops. We should be able to provide a more detailed hands-on in the next few weeks when we receive a preview build of the game.
MySims Racing, even in its early stages, looked really good. It includes power-ups, drifting, road hazards and the ability to knock people completely off the track. Thankfully it also includes the ability to use any kind of controller figuration that suits your fancy.
We'll update with more information as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, be sure to check out some bright and shiny new exclusive screens!
Happy New Year, everyone. The GameSpot crew is back in the office today after a healthy, fun, and gloriously non-productive vacation and, to kick off the new year, we wanted to chime in with a handful of games we can't wait to get our hands on for the first time. Some of these might not arrive in 2009 but we can't wait to play them in preview form nonetheless.
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I'm hoping that if I'm a good girl this year that Santa *cough Square Enix* will finally show us something, anything, regarding Final Fantasy XIII. Well, maybe not anything because I don't want another trailer. It would be nice if I could get some quality preview time with the next Final Fantasy game and maybe, just maybe a release date! Is that asking too much? I just want one area, maybe one fight, a menu screen, something! It's been too long since the last one I've played (FFXI doesn't count) and Final Fantasy XII was a bit of a blur. I even played FFX and FFX-2 twice because of the wait between games. I know that SE has been dumping out a lot of remakes that I could spend a ridiculous amount of time with, but I'm tired of oogling at trailers of what is obviously a beautiful and exciting game (with abnormally attractive people).
So if that doesn't work out, I'm equally excited to get some hands-on time to play Heavy Rain and not just stare at it. I like the way Heavy Rain is shaping up to be an interactive movie, rather than a traditional action/thriller video game that is dependent on your quick reaction. Even though your reflexes are needed, the concept of not dying is an interesting one.
As much as I know that Sims 3 will keep me occupied long enough just to build one house and a half-assed landscaped backyard, I am still very curious to see what it has to offer. There's something satisfying about bossing people around and forcing them to get a job.
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Before I was bitten by the WoW bug, I was the world's biggest City of Heroes fan. Okay, maybe not the world's biggest fan, but definitely up there. Top thousand, for sure. Of course, I had just as much fun actually creating heroes from scratch with that game's amazing creation tools. And while I'm curious about diving into the action in Sony's upcoming DC Universe Online--and interacting with some of the heavy-hitters of the DCU (I long to beat up Nightwing in a vicious way), the entirety of the game hinges on the create-a-hero system for me. I want depth and I want creativity. I want to be able to slap angel wings on the head of a four hundred pound plant-woman who can shoot deadly poison steam out of her eyelashes. Give me that, and as long as the game has some moderately varied enemies, a good storyline, and a decent party system, I'll be happy.
Runners Up: Champions Online, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Fusion, Gran Turismo 5, Forza 3, Diablo III
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The game I'm most looking forward to in 2009 is the sequel to my favorite game of 2007. It was only recently announced, and at this early stage we haven't even seen any gameplay footage--only brief teaser trailers and a handful of leaked screenshots. That game, of course, is Uncharted 2. I adored the first game not only for its combination of fluid platforming and stop-and-pop gunplay, but also for its Indiana Jones-like plot that dropped extremely likeable characters into gorgeous jungle locales. Nathan Drake wasn't the deepest or most original protagonist the world has seen, but he was certainly among the most human and entertaining. Now that he's going to take his act to the snowy slopes of Tibet, it's all the more exciting. Early buzz for the game has thrown around the phrases "free platforming" and "stealth combat," as a few example of the way Naughty Dog is looking to expand upon the gameplay. People tend to fear change, so this obviously has some folks a little skeptical. But you know what? I trust Naughty Dog to deliver on this sequel, and that's why Uncharted 2 is my most anticipated game of 2009.
Runners Up: Forza 3, MadWorld, The BioWare tandem of Dragon Age: Origins & Mass Effect 2 , Bionic Commando, Beyond Good and Evil 2* * *
I spent a chunk of my break getting caught up on a few weeks worth of comics I wasn't able to get to so that's left me in the mindset to play Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Fusion. I was a huge fan of the first MUA, finished it more than a few times with my heroes of choice, and am excited to see where they go with this new entry. What's been teased of the roster has me hopeful and I'm anxious to see how the fusion business works out. Technically all the crazy power combining really is more of a mutant thing (so anytime anyone wants to do that in an X-Men Legends 3 I'll be waiting&hellip but I'm excited to see what kind combinations will be possible and where the go with the story.
Although it hasn't been officially announced, outside of a teaser at the end of Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty, I'm also pretty excited to see what the next Ratchet and Clank is going to be. According to the teaser it's due fall of this year so I'm hoping the date sticks and we get news of it soon. I'll always have a soft spot for some good platforming, plus I need to know what happened to Clank.
Runners Up: Infamous, Halo 3: ODST, Uncharted 2, Wii Sports Resort, Resistance Retribution
Proving that not every 2D sidescroller released via digital distribution needs to be a retro port, Sony will soon be bringing Crash Commando to the PlayStation Network. This original shooter plays a bit like a mash-up between Warhawk and Bionic Commando, pitting up to 12 players in regular and team deathmatch scenarios on a 2D plane, with ample amounts of weapons, vehicles, and exaggerated gore. We had our first look at Crash Commando during this year's PAX, but we recently spent some time with an updated build to get a more extended look.
The Bionic Commando comparison is most immediately apparent in the way Crash Commando controls. You move your character with the left stick, and the right stick controls the trajectory of your gun for all 360 degrees around you. L1 activates a temporary rocket boost, allowing you to float in the air for short periods of time (making the game feel a bit like the free 2002 PC title, Soldat). You can also jump into jeeps and tanks, which are able to drive along set tracks that are occasionally magnetized to give you the ability to drive up a sheer vertical surface. When not adhered to the track, vehicles can also boost in the air with the help of temporary rocket boosts. That combination of footsoliders and vehicles flying all about is what makes the game feel a bit like Warhawk.
You can select your loadout before joining a game. In keeping with the game's simple controls and visuals, you're given slots for primary, sidearm, and explosive weapons. Primary weapon options include standard fair like an assault rifle, shotgun, and rocket launcher. The only real novel gun is the CAB, which will kill enemies and heal your teammates with the same mysterious ray of energy. Sidearms include a handgun and knife, while explosives include grenades, mines, and C4. A number of mounted turrets exist throughout each level as well as on each vehicle. Of course, you can also use vehicles as a blunt instrument of death by simply running people over in an explosion of blood and gooey bits. Our favorite, though, is probably the RC-controlled rocket station that shoots a slow-moving missile which you can guide right into an unsuspecting victim at hilariously glacial speeds.
These battles play out on maps that use 3D graphics on a 2D plane. There are two categories: those scaled for 6-player matches, and those for 12 players. The maps are vaguely futuristic, somewhat industrial looking areas that seem like they might be plucked from the set of a Bond movie. What makes these maps interesting is that there are two planes of action. Certain doors allow you to go from the foreground to the background, which unlike a game along the lines of Little Big Planet, is pretty far off in the distance. You can see the other side, but can't shoot them unless you find yourself on a specialized turret gun that faces directly toward the other plane. It's a bit confusing at first, but adds a neat little bit of strategy to the game.
Crash Commando offers both single- and multiplayer modes, but only real difference is the presence of bots. A single-player campaign allows you to progress through the maps against AI opponents, with the criteria for advancement requiring you to kill a set number of bad guys. The weapons, maps and vehicles are the same as multiplayer, it's just a way to learn the ropes of the game. In multiplayer, you can go online with matches of 12 people, letting bots fill in for empty spaces wherever necessary.
So far, Crash Commando looks like a pretty neat little downloadable shooter that blends a few interesting gameplay mechanics on a small but frantic scale. No release date has been announced yet, but we'll keep you posted.
One of the things we've been aiming to do with this previews blog since we unveiled it some months back is deliver new, unique forms of previews coverage to add a little variety to the way we cover games. One of the ideas we recently came up with is to do a Q&A format where we field questions from you, the readers. After all, you guys are the ones reading, so why not go to you directly? So we're going to try doing something like this with Halo Wars. We're going to see the game tomorrow, and before then we'd like to get a bunch of reader questions posted in the comments below to see what to keep an eye out for. So post in the comments any and all questions you have related to Halo Wars and we'll do our best to answer them.And don't worry, our normal previews aren't going anywhere--this is just a fun experiment for the previews blog.
Cake Mania continues to tempt gamers with its delectable treats and addictive time-management gameplay. This game caters to a more casual audience and those who like similar games like Diner Dash (and the dozens of other management games that have popped up since). You play as Jill, who managed to save her grandparent's bakery from closing from the first Cake Mania game, but she is now bored with running a mom and pop shop and wants to get out there and share her cakes with the world. As luck would have it, her friend Risha, who seems to be living a glamorous life in the big city, calls her up asking for help. Right after the phone call, another friend Jack appears at her doorstep begging her to lend her culinary skills. You begin by choosing who you want to help first, but you can switch back and forth so that you're spreading the joy equally among your two friends.
The formula for Cake Mania remains the same throughout, except that it gets harder when you get more customers. You'll use the Wii Remote to click on customers to give them a menu; then you click on the oven to bake the cake that they want. When the cake is done baking, you'll put frosting on it and then give it to the customer who ordered it. It's easy, but customers start to get impatient so you'll need to be quick on your feet if you want to maximize profits. You'll earn money as you go along and in between stages you can purchase a variety of upgrades. More ovens, frosters, TVs, fish tanks and new shoes are just some of the items that you can get. A new pair of shoes cost about $600, so it's not cheap to make Jill walk faster.
Cake Mania's appeal lies in the time-management gameplay and it draws out the obsessive compulsiveness in you to try and upgrade everything. The cake theme helps too because who doesn't love cake? A random assortment of customers will also visit your bakery, from ninjas to leprechauns but unfortunately we didn't have the chance to serve them yet. We decided to help poor Jack first and noticed that the only customers in his underwater bakery consisted of people in deep-sea diving gear. There will be 9 locations to explore and 19 different decorations spruce up your cake.
The game is very bright, with a lot of solid colors and upbeat music to get you in the groove. It translates fairly well to the Wii because of the remote but you still have the most control with a mouse on the PC. You can also manage your own bakery with up to three friends co-operatively, as well as custom bake your own cakes. In the Mix! will retail for $29.99 and will be released later this month.
It should be no surprise by now that some of the most random games will appear on WiiWare. The premise of Pit Crew Panic is that you control a crew of girls in skin tight mini-dresses and crazy heels to fix a variety of things, from a wedding cake to an aircraft carrier. We were at Hudson's Gamers Day in San Francisco last week and had an opportunity to play a bit of Pit Crew Panic. We only had access to fix a few select items, so after awhile it got a bit repetitive. The game is definitely bizarre if that is something that you're on the look-out for. We had our girls fixing sunflower pots and giant broken toilets.
Using the Wii Remote, all you have to do is press A to pick up a girl, and drag her to a section of the object that needs to be fixed and she'll automatically walk over there to do her job. If you hold the B button down, a moving Wii Remote icon will appear at the bottom of the screen where you can mimic the action (supposed to replicate tools) to speed things up. Since you have an entire crew of lovely young ladies, you'll have to manage them all to be as efficient as possible. Up to four players can play together so you don't have to be alone. Once every portion of the flowerpot is fixed, an arrow will appear, so you need to drag it off-screen to move on to the next fixer-upper. That's the entire game.
To change things up, you can split into two teams (2v2 or 3v1) or play against a clock. There isn't much else to do but we were told that this won't be costing a lot of Wii Points. It's silly and entertaining, but unless there are more content or modes, the novelty is going to wear off fairly quickly. Pit Crew Panic is almost complete, but it won't be available for another few months.
There's little more enticing for a snowboarder than having sole access to a huge mountain, with ramps made out of tightly packed snow and bottomless caverns providing opportunities to perform all sorts of fancy spins and flips. But after a few hours of taking the ski lift by yourself and performing hellacious tricks with no one watching, you'll feel cold, wet, and awfully lonely. Luckily for Shaun White, he doesn't go anywhere without his posse tightly in tow. We had a chance to create some snow angels with pals in the multiplayer mode of this upcoming winter adventure, and came away pining for a cup of hot chocolate.
There are four different snow-covered mountains that serve as your freezing playgrounds in Shaun White Snowboarding: Park City, Japan, Europe, and Alaska. We aren't able to talk about the Japanese course at this time (check our full review for that), but the other mountains are fair game. You'll encounter lots of snow, a few abandoned cabins, and a terrifying outbreak of Dutch elm disease. Don't worry; all those fallen trees haven't died in vain. You can grind them, which makes their painful deaths more than worth it.
Given that you and your friends have an entire mountain to yourselves, you're free to grind and flip without any guiding structure. There are ski lifts to whisk you away to various parts of the mountain, or you can just hop on a private helicopter (Shaun White is stupid rich) and fly straight to the top. Getting wicked air off a mound of snow is always more fun with friends, but the real reason to invite your buddies is because of the glorious snowball fights that invariably break out when more than two people are together in the snow. Jumping off a ramp sure is fun, but it's even more fun smacking your pal in the back, causing him or her to fly face-first into an icy wall.
If you get tired of mercilessly pelting your friends with balls of frozen water (though it takes an awfully long time to tire of such a pristine activity), there are a few actual events scattered around the mountain. The most basic of these diversions is Rat Race, a standard race down the mountain. Though this takes place on a winding course, you're free to cut straight across the snowy walls and make a beeline for the finish line if you choose. Sure, you'll be a cheater and draw a fair share of snowballs from your rule-abiding friends, but if you can glide unscathed to the finish line, you'll be the one holding the metaphorical victory trophy.
King of the Hill mode requires a little more skill. It's still a race down an unforgiving mountain, but you have to continually pull off tricks while flying down as fast as gravity will allow. You'll have to master a tricky respect-to-time ratio that will quickly diminish if you go for stretches without taking air and spinning like a human top. Ground Tricking is the mode to fill your jibbing needs. All of those rotting trees that are lining the mountains come in handy here; you'll need to grind their sloughing bark to rack up the points. Air Time demands that you stay above the earth's surface for as long as possible. You'll have to rocket off of ramps here (you can't just hop off the ground) to keep your board from touching snow. The person who ignores gravity's all-too-strict laws for the longest time wins.
The final mode we had a chance to compete in is officially called Death Race, but is affectionately referred to as Bear Racin'. Once again, you have to ride down the mountain in the shortest time possible, but, unlike Rat Race, there are actual rules to follow. For instance, you can't just ignore the course entirely and shoot for the finish line. No, there are fancy gates to burst through, keeping everyone on the same path. Second, you have to actually focus on racing and not chucking snowballs to trip up your friends. If you do "accidentally" hit your friend in the back when he or she is trying to fly off of a ramp, you'll certainly smile but you'll also find a DQ stamped next to your name and a giant bear suit enveloping your body. That's right, you're actually punished with a super cool-looking outfit--as if that's an adequate deterrent for snuffing snowball fights.
If you're going to be cold and wet, you might as well invite your friends along for the ride. There aren't a lot of different modes to compete in, but there are bear suits and snowballs, lots and lots of snowballs. Check out the full review for Shaun White Snowboarding the week it comes out, November 16h.
With the release of Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party right around the corner, we'd like to show you the last batch of minigames that we were able to get our hands on. This week's highlights include: Mount Kilamytushy, Miss Fit and Rabbidass. Here's the moment you've been waiting for--using the Wii Balance Board to direct your rabbid (who's sliding on the belly of a wildebeest) down a snowy mountain.
In Mount Kilamytushy, you have the option of using the Wii Balance Board board to steer, but if you don't have the board, remote and nunchuks work well too. Since you're sitting on the board, you're going to have to put those gluteus maximus to work. You just have to lean left and right to steer and if you want a boost, lean back. It's a little bit tricky to get your rear end to react quickly enough, so you might find that it's just easier to use your hands and use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk instead. But then, what's the fun in that? It's a fast-paced joyride that's hilarious to watch, especially when you go off jumps where you'll have the opportunity to use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to do tricks. This minigame brings back memories of tobogganing as a kid; it's fun while you're sliding but you'll always go home with a sore butt.
Rabbidass begins with a rabbid jumping off the top of a building because it's skydiving through what looks like a construction site. There are platforms on the way down with Tetris-shaped holes, so your job is to use the Wii Remote and draw the shape before the rabbid slams into them. If you draw the lines correctly, your daredevil rabbid will contort his body into the correct shape and fall through without being harmed. The problem arises when the platforms are closer together, so they come up much too quickly for you to accurately draw anything. There were times when the game wouldn't even register the straight line that we clearly drew. Usually the game ends with us plowing through the last few platforms and then ending the trip with a face plant into some wet cement.
Miss Fit is like the game Simon Says, where you follow the pot-bellied Chuckie Morris on screen as he does ridiculous exercises. Chuckie is in a skin-tight spandex as he does squats, hula exercises, the crocodile and the elephant. This may not be the most visually appealing of the minigames, but for kids, it could be fun for them to use their arms and mimic wild animals. The Wii Balance Board can come into play here as well if you want to get that full body workout.
This wraps up the minigames we were able to play with on the preview build that we received. Be sure to check out some gameplay footage on our video page. TV Party is full of wackly rabbid personality and will come with more than 50 minigames by the time it ships. The party starts on November 18 when Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party is released on the Wii.