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Last week, GameSpot took off to Japan with Sega to check out some of the big releases the publisher has lined up for 2010. While we've been keeping busy with juicy interviews and demos (including Yakuza 3 and Valkyria Chronicles 2), we thought we'd give you a sneak peek at Sega HQs in Japan.
Located in the heart of Tokyo, Sega's main building houses the corporate offices and business arm of the publisher. We took these snaps under the watchful eye of Sega security personnel, who are onsite 24-hours-a-day to guard the building's foyer, which, not surprisingly, is home to a variety of interesting items: a rotating Sonic figure, free-to-play consoles of the latest Sega titles, cushions and scarves to keep out the cold weather, and even two working arcade machines (which don't require money to play!).
Check out the GameSpot photo gallery below and don't forget GameSpot's Sega feature page will go live on December 28, with previews, interviews, and more!
Whether you're in an established act or an up-and-coming band looking to make a name for yourself, you'll have a chance to get your music heard and played (quite literally) with Harmonix's latest musical endeavor, the Rock Band Network. Back in August, we got our first look at how the system of translating your tools from raw audio to plastic guitar and drum gameplay works, and yesterday, Harmonix reps dropped by GameSpot HQ to show off improvements to the RBN since then and give us a peek at the creators corner of Harmonix's Rock Band Network-specific Web site.
Before you get started turning your musical masterpieces into game-ready songs in Rock Band 2, there's a checklist of items you'll need to have:
1) An XNA Creators Club membership, which will allow you to upload your created songs via your Xbox for peer review by fellow Rock Band Network users and, eventually, for sale in the Rock Band Network Store. XNA membership runs $99 per year (or $49 for four months).
2) An account on creators.rockband.com, the Web site run by Harmonix where your projects will live after being uploaded. It's here that your songs will be played and peer-reviewed by other members of the RBN community before being approved for sale in the Rock Band Network Store.
3) Reaper music production software, which is available for $60 and will be where you take your audio tracks, convert them into MIDI format, and lay out the individual drums, guitar, bass, and vocal tracks. Harmonix has worked closely with the developer of Reaper, Cockos, to create handy plug-ins that make the authoring of Rock Band tracks easier.
4) Magma metadata packaging tool, which lets you label and price your individual tracks, add album art to your upload, and compile all the data together.
The costs for getting started with the Rock Band Network aren't just financial. There's also a serious time commitment, because authoring a song from its audio roots into full gameplay is a time-consuming project. The first step is simply mapping out all of the notes in your song for each of the instruments and vocals (you start authoring with expert level in mind, then copy and paste the MIDI gameplay tracks, and then simply remove or modify sections for hard, normal, and easy difficulty). It's a process that, depending on the length and complexity of your tune, can take up to 40 hours or more. Then there's the process of deciding what you want your song to look like when it's being played. The beauty of the Rock Band-specific tools in Reaper is the insane amount of control you have over practically every aspect of presentation: Do you want the camera to focus on the bass player during a harmony vocal part? Should your bandmates initiate a sweet stage slide during the chorus? You can do all of that and much more here.
Powerful authoring tools are great, but authoring efficiency is also important for the folks at Harmonix. To that end, developers have created a number of Reaper templates that you can use to get your project started quickly. Harmonix developers also demonstrated little plug-ins and tools that speed up the authoring process--one tool makes it easy to connect the text of your song's lyrics to the MIDI note path of your vocal melody; another plug-in lets you preview and test your tunes in Reaper using the same note highway players will use in the actual game.
Once you've created your song, you'll use Magma to label the track and album, add additional information and any art you want, and decide on a price you'll sell the song for: 80, 160, or 240 MS points ($1, $2, or $3), which is a slightly higher maximum price than we saw in our previous look at RBN. As part of the XNA program, you'll be paid once per quarter for your efforts, with 30 percent of the proceeds going to the song creator and the rest split between Harmonix, Microsoft, and others. You can then compile and upload your songs to the creators.rockband.com Web site, where it will then be peer-reviewed by RBN community members. The peer-review process seems to be fairly rigid--a song must pass review five times before it can move on to the Rock Band Network Store.
During peer review, you'll get extensive feedback on every aspect of your song's gameplay--including notes on button sequence logic, difficulty, and more. Harmonix producers told us that they're hoping that the community will embrace the peer-review process in order to make sure as much submitted music makes it through the process as possible. That said, both community members and Harmonix employees will be on the lookout for copyrighted or objectionable material, and that content will be summarily rejected.
Still in private beta now, the creators.rockband.com Web site will be entering its public beta phase in the coming weeks. After that it won't be long before the Rock Band Network store is made available in Rock Band 2 and you'll be able to download songs from bands throughout the world. To help you make your choices, you'll be able to download playable samples of RBN songs for free--players will also be able to rate songs they've either sampled or purchased, making sure that the cream of the Rock Band Network rises to the top. With major labels like Sub Pop committed to converting its entire catalog (including Sonic Youth and early Nirvana) into playable songs via Rock Band Network, it seems like it won't just be your garage band that will be getting in on the action. Stay tuned for more on Rock Band Network in the coming months.
Recently, my fellow editor Sophia Tong took a trip to Vancouver to meet with United Front Games and get an extended look at its upcoming project ModNation Racers. A PlayStation 3 exclusive, ModNation Racers can be thought of as a spiritual successor to last year's Little Big Planet. It's a kart racer with a heavy focus on user-generated content, allowing you to design your own driver, karts, and obstacle-laden tracks and then take your creations online and share them with the world.
Sophia's preview--viewable right here--is the product of a thorough look at the game. She got to spend a hefty chunk of time with it right there at the development studio, so it's a story you should definitely check out. I, on the other hand, recently took a much briefer look at the game at a recent Sony event in New York. ModNation was just one of dozens of games playable that evening, so I didn't exactly get to spend a lot of time with it. This being the case, I thought it would be interesting to offer up some of my thoughts on the creation tools as a sort of comparison to what Sophia experienced up in Vancouver.
The very first thing I accomplished in the game was also what I assumed to be the most daunting, and that was to make an entire track. While I had a United Front staffer on hand to guide me through the experience, he dropped me right in the track editor without even letting me get my feet wet with the character creator. Clearly, he was feeling pretty confident about the accessibility of the track creation tool, and you know what? He was right. It's surprisingly easy to not only design a track, but also flesh it out with visual flourishes and those sorts of obstacles you'd expect to find in a zany kart racer.
You start by molding the terrain. Basically, you select how you want to raise or lower the earth with a simple tool that lets you select the size or type of mountain or valley you want to make. From there, it's the fun part: laying track. You basically pretend like you're flying a slow-moving plane that leaves a streak of asphalt behind you. You use flight controls--tilt up and down, roll side to side, and so on--to determine the basic lay of the track as you guide yourself along and eventually meet back up with the first bit of asphalt to complete it. What's cool is that you can either choose to have the asphalt snap to current terrain or let yourself float freely and automatically raise or lower the mountains and valleys you'd previously design to fit with your current track. If it sounds complicated, don't worry: it's really simple.
After that, you can elect to change the type of road and roadside decorations out there manually, or let the game "auto-populate" your track with the best obstacles and boosts it can think of. I went with the latter option, and it worked out for me quite well. The game is really smart about how it inserts stuff onto your track, automatically laying down speed boosts to help you up really steep inclines and adding arrows to indicate a sharp turn coming up ahead. But even if you auto-populate your track, you can still go in and manually tweak everything. I added cows and sheep crossing the track behind a blind curve to give my AI opponents a good fright. I also added a litany of hazards like a flame pit and a giant crusher that drops a huge piston right onto the track at random intervals, or when you attach it to a nearby pressure pad. You can tweak all these obstacles to determine the frequency at which they rough up the drivers and other sorts of variables. For the most part, the menus used to adjust these settings are pretty clean and simple, relying on radial layouts that keep you from scrolling too much.
After that, I got to test-race my track. Despite the fact that I added maybe one or 10 too many obstacles (this thing was pure chaos), it was quite rewarding to see the fruits of my labor play out in the form of a race. I didn't manage to win, but I was very pleased with the way the track worked. Had I not been so happy, I could have easily jumped back into the editor menu and tweaked all manner of obstacles and decorations and then jumped back into the test race just as easily.
All in all, ModNation looks like an interesting and quite promising follow-up to Little Big Planet's "Play, Create, Share" mantra of building a game around user-generated content. I was able to create a fun and functional track in no time flat, showing that you don't need to spend a day at the developer (sorry, Sophia) to make something cool. There are still some kinks to be ironed out, like an occasionally stuttering frame rate and a camera view that's fixed a little bit too closely behind your kart, but those are things that seem fixable before the game's 2010 release date. You can expect to see more on ModNation Racers over the next few months.
GameSpot has a special treat lined up for this year’s Christmas/New Year’s Eve holiday break. We’re heading to Japan to visit Sega and chat with some of its key developers about their biggest titles for 2010!
Over a few days, beginning December 28, we will be bringing you Sega goodness in the form of special developer interviews, heads-up on the latest Sega games, and an exclusive chat with Naoya Tsurumi, former CEO of Sega America and now head of consumer business for the publisher.
We’ll also be taking lots of pictures at Sega HQ in Tokyo and asking you for your thoughts and input!
Right now, we’d like to invite you to send us your questions and thoughts to put to the developers. Below is a list of the developers and the games we’re going to be asking them about. Remember: We want clear and intuitive questions that will translate well and give other readers an insight into the development process and the games.
Game: Yakuza 3
Platform: PlayStation 3
Developer Interview: Toshihiro Nagoshi
Nagoshi is a video game producer and designer for Sega. His previous credits include producer and director on the Super Monkey Ball series, producer on Sonic Unleashed, and most recently, producer on the Yakuza series (including the recently announced-for-the-West Yakuza 3 and the upcoming Yakuza 4).
One of Sega's anticipated games, Yakuza 3 is the fourth installment in the series. Sega decided to bring it back to the modern era where players will once again take the role of the protagonist, former yakuza Kiryu Kazuma. This time, the game takes place in two locations: the subtropical island of Okinawa and the red-light district of Kamurocho.
Game: Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll
Developer Interview: Yasuhito Baba
Super Monkey Ball Step & Roll is the second title in the series for the Wii, adding a dynamic level of interactive gameplay with the use of the Wii Balance Board. Though it's known as Super Monkey Ball Athletic in Japan, there's no real fitness aspect to it, but don't be surprised if you work up a little sweat when controlling Aiai, Meemee, and the rest of the gang with the new control scheme and new cooperative play.
Yasuhito Baba is a producer at Sega.
Game: Resonance of Fate
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Developer Interview: Tri-Ace Studios
Tri-Ace, the team behind the Star Ocean series, Valkyrie Profile, and Infinite Undiscovery has forgone its usual publishing partner Square Enix and instead partnered with Sega for Resonance of Fate. The Japanese role-playing game is set in an enthralling city full of vile hoodlums, mysterious heroes, and intricate machines.
Game: Valkyria Chronicles 2
Developer Interview: Sega
The sequel to the tactical role-playing gameValkyria Chronicles on the PlayStation 3, Valkyria Chronicles 2 takes place two years after the conclusion of the original game. The sequel will see an upgrade of the “Blitz” battle system implementing real-time controls, as well as an overhaul of the original CANVAS engine specifically for the PSP.
Sega head of consumer business: Naoya Tsurumi
Background: Former CEO of Sega America, Mr. Tsurumi was appointed head of Sega’s consumer business incorporating Sega Japan, Sega America, and Sega Europe in June 2009. His current position involved overseeing video game development across all territories.
Make sure you check back here the week starting December 21 to see some of your questions answered. Finally, stay tuned for all the Sega coverage, including previews and video interviews launching on GameSpot on December 28!
It has been a while since we've heard anything new about Heavy Rain, but we've got a demo in our office, and our updated impressions are set to go live on December 14. If you haven't been following our coverage, be sure to check out our previews that cover multiple scenes from the game. There are four main characters in Heavy Rain, and we've already taken a good look at three of them. We were able to get some hands-on time with a demo earlier this year, which featured the young FBI agent Norman Jayden in a scene called "Mad Jack." At this year's E3, we got up close and personal with the beautiful and hypnotic Madison Paige, and at GamesCom we saw how the life of Ethan Mars quickly unraveled after he lost his son.
For those of you who have been tracking this highly anticipated game, we wanted to reach out to you and see what kinds of questions you have for the team at Quantic Dream. We'll be sending questions to the developers and will be posting the QA as soon as we get the responses back. Please note that we can't guarantee that your questions will make it into the final QA, but we'd like to have as much input from you as possible! So submit your questions as soon as you can!
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing is the blue hedgehog's return to karting since Game Gear's Sonic Drift. While Sega's mascot has starred in some slightly odd racing games, such as the Sega Saturn's Sonic R or, most recently, Sonic Riders, All-Stars Racing puts the speedy hedgehog in a car and pits him against a cavalcade of familiar faces from Sega history (both good and bad). We had the chance to try out an updated version of the game on the PlayStation 3 to see how it's coming together.
What's New: We were able to try out two tracks based on Sega franchises, the Sonic the Hedgehog-inspired Pinball Highway and the Super Monkey Ball-inspired Treetops course. Pinball Highway is a classic Sonic casino-zone-inspired level that has you zipping through the innards of pinball machine complete with bumpers and launchers. The Treetops course was set in a Super Monkey Ball-inspired run through the trees that featured sharp angles and dramatic leaps over gaps in the course. Both courses featured an array of power-ups strewn throughout the track that would yield useful items to use during a race, such as homing missiles, turbo boosts, and punching gloves.
What's Different: The new courses showed off the game's whimsical design and Sega history influences. We noticed assorted little touches, such as cameos from Sonic and Monkey Ball characters in the background of the respective tracks.
What's the Same: The game still has a bright, shiny look to it, although we'd like to see better performance when the onscreen action goes nuts. The version we played stuttered when things got hectic and the camera got a bit odd. The action is still going for a Mario Kart feel, which suits the bright visuals, although you'll still have to accept the notion of the world's fastest hedgehog in a car. Power sliding is also still key to successful racing.
What Impression the Game Made This Time: The game has a nice look to it and will likely appeal to younger gamers. There's fun here, but we're hoping that the rough spots get smoothed out.
Hustle Kings is the upcoming PSN pool game that we got a quick peek at earlier this year. The downloadable game aims to offer a pool experience that lets you play alone or with friends. We had a chance to sit down with a work-in-progress version of the game recently to see just how it’s coming together.
Who's Making This Game: Voofoo Studios from the UK.
What The Game Looks Like: Hustle Kings has a clean presentation that keeps things looking mostly realistic, albeit with some flair. We reckon you won’t find many pool halls in real life that have the clean, club-like look of the environments in Hustle Kings. The game is a bit lean on the personality side, but it has a nice look to it.
What There Is To Do: Hustle Kings features a meaty assortment of gameplay modes that let you play online or offline by yourself or with friends. The offline mode features several different game types, including exhibition, tournament, trickshots, and bonus games. Exhibition is a quick-play style of game that lets you jump right into a game; tournament lets you test your skills against friends and the CPU; and trickshots and bonus games feature different challenges and minigames to test your skills. You’ll also find a training mode to run you through the game’s controls; a career mode where you can hone your competition skills and claw your way to the top; and an online mode that lets you play with friends over the PlayStation Network. The game supports up to 16 players offline and considerably more online in the various game modes. In addition, you’ll be able to access the cross media bar and play any music you like during a game.
How The Game Is Played: You’ll have a number of different control configurations ranging from traditional button pressing to more active options using the Sixaxis controller. The game will let you switch between different cameras while playing to help line up shots. You’ll also find a plethora of different pool game types, such as US and UK versions of 8-ball and more, which should give it some appeal for pool fans.
What They Say: The Hustle Kings fact sheet states, "Whether you’re a billiards expert, novice, or casual player, Hustle Kings allows all player-types to become naturally immersed into the sport through true-to-life physics and stunning, photo-realistic lighting and graphics."
What We Say: There are certainly a lot of options for gameplay in Hustle Kings, and the game has an appealing, clean look to it. However, the control scheme still needs some tightening up. There's some twitchiness to deal with when lining up a shot that may prove tricky for novice players.
Capcom sent us a limited, work-in-progress version of its upcoming fighter Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. The promising fighter mashes up Capcom’s stable of fighters with anime giant Tatsunoko’s roster to flashy, over-the-top effect. We’ve been eagerly waiting for more on the game since we last saw it at this year’s Tokyo Game Show and tried out new additions to the game roster. Unfortunately, our demo was pretty limited, and while any character was selectable, we could play only a few rounds before getting a “thanks for playing” message and getting kicked to the character select screen to start again.
What's New: Not much. We were able to play with all the characters for a few matches.
What's Different: We couldn’t poke around to check out any of the different game modes or minigames. While we know they’re being included in some form, we still haven’t been able to check them out or try the online play.
What's The Same: The fighting system remains a good balance of fast, responsive, and flashy gameplay. The new roster additions all fit in nicely and didn’t seem too radically unbalanced.
What Impression The Game Made This Time: We’re still loving the combat and are eager to see the other game modes, especially online.
One of the neat things about MAG--aside from, you know, 256 player matches--is the persistent "Shadow War" among the game's three factions. Once you join Raven, Valor, or SVER, you'll basically become part of an ongoing battle among those mercenary corporations. It's a system that keeps track of not only your own progress and stats over the long haul, but also the entire team you're playing for.
So which side is the one for you? Sony is looking to help make that decision a little easier with a new MAG hub on its PlayStation Facebook page that details the different traits of each faction. Before that rolls out, Sony sent over some video showing what each of the three factions has to offer in a series of recruitment videos that will later go up on the Facebook page. Check them out below:
This week, we received a copy of God of War Collection and immediately started capturing gameplay footage. Here's a look at what the original two games in the series look like with 720p graphics, 60 frames per second animation, and trophies. (The video on the top is God of War, and the bottom is God of War II--but you knew that already, right?) It'll be released next week on the PlayStation 3. Check back then for our final review impressions!
If you didn't get enough of the loot-and-shoot gameplay of Borderlands, 2K Games is gearing up for the game's first downloadable content release, which will be called "The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned." The content is a full-on playable adventure that takes place concurrently with the original game's story and can be played whether you've completed the game or not. As in the original game, it will also scale the difficulty of its critters to your character's level.
This new adventure will take place in Jakob's Cove, which is essentially a spooky forest full of gnarled trees that are being grown by the Jakob weapons concern for its wood--which apparently enhances the performances of certain weapons. However, it seems like the folks at the Jakob company aren't exactly big on being eco-friendly nor have they been particularly careful about cultivating the trees. The growth of this forest has, in fact, turned the area into a gloomy swamp, and the maintenance employees have also been slightly affected by the environmental changes, causing all of them to contract a minor case of being-turned-into-mindless-zombies-that-attack-you. Yes, this is going to be a spooky zombie hunt that might have missed the end of October to commemorate Halloween, but it seems to have plenty of holiday spirit, from the hordes of zombies and the dank swamps to the scenery and bosses (one of the five new bosses is named "Pumpkinhead" that leaves Jack-o-lanterns lying around his territory).
However, there won't be much holiday cheer in this DLC adventure. It'll be much more about stomping zombies that will rise up out of the ground from out of nowhere and generally rush at you rather than fire weapons from cover. If this sounds tough, we'll tell you that it can be, especially if you're all alone and happen to get surrounded by the DLC's new varieties of zombies. These include not only standard shambling zombies that simply charge you but also "defilers" who spit goop at you that obscures your vision and slows you movement, as well as "tankensteins," which are giant zombies that hurl explosive barrels at you. They'll also pound the ground to create shockwaves or simply bum-rush you. A new variety of Borderlands' crowlike rakk, the corpse-eater, will also make its debut here.
Standard zombies seem to be most vulnerable to headshots and take regular headshot criticals, like the original game's basic bandits and soldiers (you'll actually find zombified versions of both in Jakob's Cove), while tankensteins are most vulnerable if you can hit the fiery barrels strapped to their backs. (And if you're lucky, you'll also find "loot goons," which are basically tankensteins that, instead of flaming barrels, carry red treasure chests on their backs.)
While you'll stomp a ton of zombies in this new adventure, you'll also take on about 50 new missions given by "Dr. Ned," who denies being Dr. Zed (the medic you meet at the beginning of the original Borderlands), despite sounding exactly like him, being dressed exactly like him, and looking exactly like him (aside from his obviously phony mustache). These missions will give you more chances to gain experience points and, of course, hunt down new randomly generated loot items. All told, the DLC should offer some six to 10 hours of gameplay and is scheduled to launch on November 24 for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. 2K has not yet announced what plans are in store for the PC version.
We recently got a good look at The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks when we went to visit Nintendo's office, but now we have our own build to play with, and we're able to share a few more details about the game. We'll have more impressions late next week, but right now what we're allowed to share with you is Zelda's Spirit Flute, which is a pan flute that can be played by moving the stylus and blowing into the DS. The flute takes up both screens, and to play it, you use the stylus to slide the pipes left and right to align the right colored pipe to the yellow line. Colored notes will be displayed at the top screen, so you'll have to listen for the timing as well when you blow. It's as close as you can get to mimicking playing a real flute on the DS--it's just unfortunate that your DS doesn't have a spit valve. It's an interesting mechanic, and the first time we used it was to play a beautiful duet, so if you appreciate music and Koji Kondo's score, this is a lovely addition.
For those of you who are wondering about how the train works, we did get to travel across Hyrule a little bit on Link's locomotive. Using the touch screen, you pull levers to change the speed of the train or put it in reverse. Train stations are marked on your map, and you'll see them as they come up. You just have to use some finesse and park at the gate without overshooting it. Similar to how the ship works in Phantom Hourglass, you can set your route ahead of time and just let the train go on its own. However, there is wildlife to avoid on the tracks, so you need to periodically pull the chord to blow the train's whistle to scare cows or large spiders out of the way. Your train does have its own health meter, so it's not wise to leave it on autopilot. By mapping out your route ahead of time, you don't have to worry about switching tracks because it'll be set for you. The first time we got on board, however, we had to learn how to switch tracks manually as a test, as well as avoid other trains on the track. Riding the train is fun but sometimes you wish it had a fast-forward button. The bright side is that it beats making the trip on foot.
For more detailed impressions of the first few dungeons, check out our last preview here. Stay tuned for more updates on The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, which is set to come out on December 7.
Miles Edgeworth may not be as friendly and easy to like as defense attorney Phoenix Wright, but this high prosecutor still managed to gain a solid fan base for those of us who saw that behind the ruffled shirt and cold demeanor was a good heart. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is a spin-off of the popular Ace Attorney series, which stars the ruthless prosecutor and features new gameplay mechanics, as well as a new point of view.
Instead of pointing and clicking through static scenes, you can control Edgey and walk around his office to examine things more closely as you come across an item of interest. But without getting too into detail about how this game plays, check it out for yourself in this exclusive playable Flash demo below! You can also read our impressions of the game here.
Click the image below to start the demo!
A few weeks ago, we took a look at some of the playable characters and missions in the upcoming downloadable content pack for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. Today, we're taking a final look at the upcoming pack, which is due to hit the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 tomorrow. The roster we've seen so far has included Psylocke, Carnage, Cable, Black Panther, and new simulator missions. Today's look showcases the biggest baddie of the DLC bunch--no, not the Blob--as we get a look at Magneto the master of magnetism.
The X-Men nemesis comes packing an alternate costume--awarded to you when you clear a specific simulator mission--and four powerful attacks that rely on his mutant power. Scrap Blades makes weapons of shards of metal that tear around Magneto, damaging anything in their way. Repulsion Wave fires a blast of magnetic force that damages anything in its wake. Rending Force is a powerful radial blast that doles out damage to anything within a set radius. Finally, Master’s Hand--a nod to his comic roots--has Magneto creating a massive hand out of metal to damage his foes. Comic fans should also be pleased to see and hear about some of the abilities that can be powered up with points. Metallurgy causes extra damage to robots and the charismatic leader, which offers a team boost.
As with all the other DLC characters, you can use the supervillain to help you clear the campaign modes or give you some added muscle for the new sim missions, which offer an interesting change of pace from the missions we've seen previously. We tried two new missions: Escort Duty and Overload. Escort Duty has you protecting a robot as it walks through a hazard-filled complex. Overload is a boss fight against Magneto himself. If you manage to clear Overload, you’ll not only get the satisfaction of saying you beat one of the most powerful mutants on the planet, but you also get a slick red alternate costume.
We have to say that we’re pretty happy with what’s coming in the DLC, although we have to get in some requisite whining: Would it kill people to toss in Spider-Woman, Black Widow, and Patriot as playable characters? However, the new playable characters, sim missions, and trophies/achievements that are offered are a very nice chunk of content that should give fans more than enough reasons to come back to the game. Hopefully, Activision and Vicarious will see fit to give fans more DLC next year. Until then, anyone interested should stand poised by their PS3s and Xbox 360s tomorrow.
Gravity Crash is a gorgeous-looking retro shooter, and if you're interested in shoot-'em-ups, old-school arcade pleasures, or addictive PlayStation Network games, then it's well worth taking a look at this one. Published by Sony Computer Entertainment and developed by Just Add Water, Gravity Crash has you guide a spaceship through a variety of colourful isometric environments while blasting enemies, collecting items, and eventually making your way to a wormhole that serves as each level's exit point. The course you take is always fraught with danger and will require deft piloting if you hope to advance to the next level.
The single-player campaign offers a range of missions spread across various planets. Our preview build contained five solar systems with the first one being the aptly-named Basix. There are six planets to explore in Basix, and each one has a different mission from the last. There's plenty of variety to the objectives, and you might need to destroy several enemy fuel pods or collect gems and rescue stranded crewman, for example. At the end of each mission, you're given a score and awarded points for completing the level under par time, rescuing crewmen, collecting items, and activating nodes.
There are two control options available, with either single- or dual-analogue stick schemes to pilot your craft through the treacherous alien landscapes. The single-stick option is recommended for novices and uses the left stick to steer with thrust assigned to a face button. The dual-stick method is much the same as Geometry Wars on the Xbox 360; one stick is used for steering and thrust, while the other for shooting in your current direction. Your craft comes equipped with a shield, and there are two configurations for this too. The manual shield is activated by pressing a button and slowly recharges after a few seconds, whereas the automatic shield will automatically protect you against bumps but requires you to collect gems to recharge it. Your ship is equipped with a basic laser, as well as one of four special weapons. You can only take one into battle, but there are four to choose from, including a plasma ball, drones, an electromagnetic pulse, and a lightning storm.
While the time you're given to complete each mission might be unlimited, your fuel certainly isn't, and you need to blast energy crystals apart to collect more fuel. These are scattered across each level, but there are limited deposits and you need to make sure you collect these regularly so you don't run out of fuel. As the game's title suggests, you also have to worry about gravity's constant pull because the slightest bump against the terrain will destroy your ship. Thankfully, your shield protects you against this--as long as it still has energy. Some sections are underwater, and instead of fighting gravity, your craft's buoyancy will mean you need to watch out for rocks above you.
While exploring the far-flung reaches of space, you encounter a wide range of enemies, including enemy ships, soldiers, and installation, as well as hostile aliens. Not everything you encounter is hostile, however, and there are helpful items, such as energy crystals, switches, activation nodes, and weapon upgrades along the way. There are also artefacts and various gems to be found throughout the levels that will earn you bonus points at the end of the round. Gravity Crash includes a level editor where you can terraform terrain from scratch and insert dozens upon dozens of items, including enemy or friendly units, alien life forms, crystals, and objectives. It looks like you'll be able to share these with the PlayStation Network community in the final release, although there weren't any available at this stage.
Gravity Crash's visuals are eye-catching, and it boasts a funky isometric look, which will appeal to fans of Tron, Geometry Wars, or Darwinia. Objects glow with bright fluorescence set against the abstract backdrop of space, and this is complemented by an electronic soundtrack. There are also some cool sound effects in the game, particularly the endearing beeps and buzzes.
Gravity Crash combines a great visual style with some addictive gameplay, and we're looking forward to trying out the final game. Gravity Crash has yet to be given a firm release date, but stay tuned to GameSpot for more information as we get it.
My dude is running around with an automatic weapon, but I'm not staring at the gun. Instead, it's his sweet cream-colored flat cap, the tan jacket he's rocking that looks like it might be leather, and a thin layer of moustache that wouldn't look out of place on that weird aunt of yours who has too many cats. I'm fascinated by his faux tough-guy look, and while I work with the camera to try to get a better view of his gear, a bullet rips through his chest and he's dead. Oops, forget admiring the sartorial splendor of my makeshift thug and let's get to doing what he does best: popping bullets in fools in the multiplayer features of the upcoming downloadable content episode for Grand Theft Auto IV, The Ballad of Gay Tony. Rockstar hosted a multiplayer session during which we had a chance to try out most of the multiplayer modes available in the Gay Tony expansion.
We started out with a few free-for-all deathmatches, including one particularly hectic match located in the amusement park Funland. Dodging bullets amidst all of the carnival rides turned out to be some of the most fun we had during the entire session. At one point, we had a great sniping point on the veranda of an office building and managed to snag a handful of successive kills without ever being spotted. The Gay Tony-specific weapons have some high points--including a sharp assault submachine gun that's good for tight spaces and an advanced machine gun that makes up for its lack of accuracy with some deadly stopping power.
In addition to the free deathmatches, we tried out the team deathmatch where multiple teams compete to collect as much cash as they can before the session timer runs out. With a long strip of road running down the middle of one of the most popular areas during our team deathmatch session, it wasn't uncommon to see cars hurtling down the road before exploding into flames as rival teams battled it out on the steps of the government building nearby. New deathmatch features in the Gay Tony DLC include earning cash for assisted kills, getting bonus cash for kill streaks, and the using the aforementioned new weapons.
Getting some bullet therapy in has its charms, but it's certainly not the only thing to do in Gay Tony's multiplayer. After all, it wouldn't be GTAIV without some racing, right? We tried out a couple of different races during our session, which included long point-to-point races in high-performance sports car models. Some of the routes were a bit confusing, thanks to a lack of direction. At one point, we managed to take a wrong turn off the highway and completely screwed our race. After a few weeks of playing Forza 3, the loosey-goosey handling of the GTA cars took some getting used to as well. Still, the wheel-to-wheel, anything-goes attitude of racing events made for a lot of laughs (and only a few curses). As in other multiplayer game types, there are a ton of options when setting up races, including car class, number of laps, traffic, pedestrians, time of day, weather, and several others. The races we ran featured sports cars with nitros attached--you could get a significant boost of speed with the B button and respawn your completely destroyed ride by holding the Y button.
The highlight of the multiplayer session had to be the free mode where got a chance to try out the completely awesome (and wondrously incongruous) BASE jumping mode. After hitching a ride with a Rockstar employee who knew his way around the city, we immediately headed to the closest helicopter, took off to fly downtown, and looked for the tallest buildings in the city. With parachutes strapped to our back--which you automatically receive when boarding a helicopter in the game--we peered off the edge of the skyscraper, pondering our virtual doom, before taking the leap of faith and free-falling for as long as we dared. At the last possible moment, we pressed the A button to pull our chute and, for added flare, popped some smoke by pressing the L3 button.
We touched down safely, but because it was the free mode, it wasn't long until other players started making trouble. The timed free-mode session ended with a swath of fiery destruction as we were on foot being chased by a Rockstar employee emptying his helicopter's missile supply in our general direction. We did our best to get another BASE jump attempt in but were met with a fiery death instead. Of course, that isn't the only way to die when BASE jumping. In addition to failing to pop your chute in time, you can be chopped by the rotor blades of a helicopter and killed by weapon-wielding opponents as you glide down to earth.
But then, no one ever said BASE jumping was safe.
Look for The Ballad of Gay Tony for Grand Theft Auto IV on Thursday, October 29, available for download or on disc as part of the Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City stand-alone game.
The original Excitebike was one of the best games on the Nintendo Entertainment System, so it's somewhat surprising that Nintendo hasn't gone back to the well that many times over the years. Beyond the well-received Excitebike 64 for the Nintendo 64, Nintendo just hasn't done much with the Excitebike series. That looks to change with the upcoming Excitebike: World Rally, which will be available on Nintendo's WiiWare channel on November 9.
If you've played the original, the formula in Excitebike: World Rally should be very familiar. You play as a nameless motocross rider who tackles a series of off-road races filled with jumps, obstacles, and your fellow riders. In true Excitebike fashion, racing is straight ahead with no turns (though you can change lanes to avoid obstacles or hit jumps and power-ups). Your speed is regulated not just by mashing the gas on your controller, but also by how well you negotiate your landings after taking off on a jump; if you nail the landing perfectly, you'll get a quick burst of speed as you go. Hitting an obstacle (or another rider) will cause you to briefly crash, and you can recover by shaking the Wii Remote. There's also the issue of keeping your engine cool--rev it too hard for too long and you'll break down. Driving over illuminated arrows on the course will give you an instant cooldown and allow you to get back on the turbo button.
There are two control schemes in World Rally and both have you holding the Wii Remote horizontally. The classic control scheme uses the D pad to change lanes and your rider's position midair; the 2 button acts as gas while the 1 button provides a turbo boost. The new control scheme lets you tilt the Wii Remote left or right in order to control your rider's position midair and is surprisingly sensitive and effective.
We played the Bronze cup races in World Rally, which is one of several series in the game. The series included such locales as London and Canada with different challenges at each track. Unlike the 2D original, World Rally plays at an angled, 2.5 D perspective, giving you a slightly better look at what's coming up ahead of you on the track. The game will also support online play via the Wii's Wi-Fi capability and includes a track designer where you can control every aspect of your track using a variety of preset jumps and obstacles. You can test your track either from the beginning of the track or at specific points along the way.
The game moves at a quick pace--so quick, in fact, that it's easy to run in to other riders even with the new angled camera. But with a little practice (and a little luck) at each track, you should be able to earn a trophy. World Rally doesn't seem to be pushing the Excitebike franchise very far, but the essential fun of fast bikes and huge jumps remains.
Considering the original Matt Hazard game--Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard--spent much of its time making fun of classic game tropes, it's either ironic or inevitable that the tough-as-nails fake-retro video game hero would make his next appearance in an old-school side-scrolling shooter. Hazzard's next adventure will find him heading back in time in the upcoming Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond, a downloadable game for Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. Publisher D3 came by earlier this month to give us a glimpse of this blood-soaked shooter ahead of its release in early 2010.
The plot of Blood Bath and Beyond features Hazzard going back in time to prevent the evil gaming corporation Marathon MegaCorp from destroying his 8-bit self from the good old days. Along the way, he'll be blasting his way through multiple levels of bloody 2D shooting action that mixes in occasional bits of 3D for variety. Controls in the game are straightforward: You use the A button (on the Xbox 360 controller) to jump, the X to fire, and the right trigger to throw grenades; you aim shots by moving the left stick in any direction. In certain areas of a level, you'll encounter enemies that are "behind" the action on the 2D plane--pressing the left trigger will let you turn Hazard so he fires at those enemies before they can get too close to cause problems.
Weapons are plentiful in the game, both in terms of quantity and variety. Shotguns, flamethrowers, grenades, ice guns, and plasma rifles are just a few of the weapons Hazzard and his sidekick Dexter Dare (playable when in co-op mode) will have at their disposal. They'll need every one of those weapons, too, in order to deal with the waves of enemies that assault you in each level. We played two levels of the game. The first--known as Booty Call--had Matt and Dexter fighting pirates in a level that culminated with a boss battle against a huge living lighthouse while onboard a ship. During the battle, the lighthouse occasionally fired missiles that we deflected by shooting at them, turning the missiles back at the lighthouse and eventually destroying it.
A second level featured a Japanese theme, as Dexter and Matt fought off a seemingly unending horde of ninjas and samurais, culminating in a three-tiered fight against a huge monster known as the Rhinozilla. From the name alone, we're guessing you can imagine what this boss looks like. With huge dollops of blood being splashed onscreen at regular intervals and a good deal of the fictional retro humor that permeated the original Matt Hazzard game, Blood Bath and Beyond looks like a fun (and more focused) video game lark than its predecessor. Look for the game on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network in early 2010.
The former ANBU member was first seen in Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2. She's a tricky character who likes to use wires to take down her opponents. In Clash of Ninja Revolution 3, one of her new abilities involves chaining wires up to three times so that she can swing back and forth across the screen. Her wire can latch onto an enemy's feet and pull him or her into the air for juggling opportunities. Another one of her tricks involves using the wire to track down an opponent and attack him or her from underneath. This trick can also track enemies on the run and will cause quite a bit of damage to an opponent on the ground.
Bando comes armed with some heavy-duty chakra cannons, and his signature moves stem from them. He has a fire cannon and an electrical one. The electrical cannon can stun enemies temporarily, allowing Bando to swoop in and perform some hard-hitting melee attacks. His secondary jutsu activates his superarmor, which will make it easy for him to move in and attack without having to worry about being stunned.
Towa is another ANBU member who appeared in Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2. He has a tattoo that is not only there for looks, but also extends from his arm and be used for attacks. The tattoo comes equipped with claws and can function as a tattoo drill. His secondary jutsu lets him extend his tattoo into a huge baton that can take out almost everything onscreen.
An ANBU operative who was first seen in Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2, Komachi's specialty involves using the senbon needles in her hair to fight her opponents. When executing a strong attack in the air, she'll throw the needles down at her target. If her strong attack is held, the senbon needles will hover in midair until they are released. This skill takes up chakra, but Komachi can fight in the meantime, making it a deadly combination or a good defense.
The last time we saw Dante's Inferno for the PSP, it was tucked away in a corner at EA's Tokyo Game Show press event alongside the higher profile Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game. To bolster the handheld's version profile, EA recently dropped by our offices to show off just the PSP version and give us our first peek at the Heresy level of Hell.
What's New: In the epic poem upon which Dante's Inferno is based, Heresy is depicted as the sixth circle of Hell, alongside such sins as treachery and violence. In the game, being helmed by EA's Visceral Games studio and developed by AM2 (the folks behind Wet), the Heresy level is the first level you encounter upon entering the City of Dis. In it, heretics burn in a never-ending fire for doubting the existence of life after death. More so than combat-heavy levels we've previously seen, the Heresy level mixes puzzle-solving and a good deal of platforming. As you make your way through the level, you'll see a gigantic statue of the Old Testament's Abraham, and your goal in the level is to free him from captivity in Hell by solving the level's puzzles.
What's Different: The absolve and punish mechanic, which was previously only available to use on certain non-player characters in the game, looks to be nearly complete. You can now grab an enemy (by pressing the right trigger) and choose to absolve or punish him or her. Punishing a foe is as simple as one press of a button; while absolving requires you to mash buttons and takes longer to complete. The thinking here is that's it's tougher to be holy in the game. Whether you choose punish or absolve, enemies (and NPCs) will determine which powers Dante will have at his disposal as he progresses.
We also got a look at a new enemy--a dark priest of sorts--who could quickly teleport, making him difficult to attack. The priest is also immune to Dante's cross attacks and makes any minion around him similarly immune as long as he's alive. As a result, the priest enemies make for a challenge; one that needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible before things get out of hand.
It's also worth pointing out that, unlike previous levels in Dante's Inferno, the Heresy level doesn't end with a big boss fight. Instead, the level we played finished with an action sequence that had Dante skipping across a chasm of crumbling rocks as he tried to avoid falling into a pit of lava. While there's no boss battle in Heresy, producers said that the following level, Violence, will feature a final encounter. Judging by the level's theme, here's hoping it's a doozy.
What's the Same: The camera in the game hasn't changed much and can still be the occasional problem. During the latter part of the stage, we were required to jump between several moving platforms, trying to make our way closer to the statue of Abraham. It wasn't always easy to tell exactly how close (or far away from) we were to the different platforms, making some of the jumps difficult. In addition, some of the clues you need to finish certain puzzles are a bit obscured, making for a good deal of running around willy-nilly looking for an "interact" icon to pop up on screen.
What Impression the Game Made This Time: Dante's Inferno is at its best when it's reveling in the gruesome landscape of its levels. We've seen a lot of the same enemies in the game, and so far, we aren't in love with the combat system and only a few of the puzzles have been interesting. That said, we've been delighted with the twisted architecture of each new level of Hell, which seems to further cement Visceral Games' status as the go-to developer when it comes to creating a horrific atmosphere.
Look for more on Dante's Inferno in the coming months, leading up to the game's release in February 2010.