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If you've got a thing for World War II, board games, and collectible cards and have a little patience to go along with it, then you might enjoy the upcoming Panzer General: Allied Assault for Xbox Live Arcade. It's a slow game--as turn-based wargames have a tendency to be--but it can also be a pretty engrossing challenge if you've got the patience and proclivity. I recently tried a two-level demo of the game, which will be out tomorrow on Xbox Live Arcade.
The first mission in the demo serves as the game's tutorial and is designed to teach you the basics of gameplay. Once the mission loads, you're presented with a six-cell-by-five-cell grid that serves as your environment; one side of the board is initially controlled by the Allied forces, and the other is controlled by the Axis. Each grid on the board has its own features (such as mountains, trees, or rivers) that might affect how units placed on that cell behave. For example, units in a forest cell will receive a bonus to their overall defense rating, while units on a mountain will have a slightly higher attack rating.
While each mission in Allied Assault has its own individual goals, your most basic agenda is to control as much territory as you can on the map. Invading enemy-controlled territory or moving into unclaimed cells will earn you prestige points at the end of a round. These prestige points are valuable because they will allow you to buy more cards for your deck. Prestige points are the currency, and the cards in your deck are your tools to victory. There are a ton of cards in the game, including units you can set in the field during a turn in order to bolster your attack (or your defense), specialized action cards (such as bombing runs that can damage enemy units), and boost cards that can strengthen your forces and weaken your opponents.
A typical round of combat begins with you laying down new units (assuming you have them in your deck) and then moving your troops to new positions on the board. You can also play action cards or set your units to attack enemies at any point. Once you've attacked an opponent, the combat phase begins. First, any support units--such as nearby infantry, armor, or long-range artillery--will be taken into account and will affect your attack rating. Next, the enemy's defensive rating is calculated.
After that it's a matter of playing whatever combat cards you have in your deck--these cards can do things like remove enemy support capability or, in the case of the smoke-screen card, end combat then and there. Once combat cards have been played, you can choose to sacrifice any card in your deck to add to your offensive (or defensive, when being attacked) rating. Each card has a different prestige cost, and by sacrificing a card, you add its value to your offensive or defensive rating. Once all of this is done, it's time to roll the dice, the result of which will add a final result to your respective rating. Combat is then resolved using each player's offensive and defensive rating. The other side then gets a chance to counterattack, and the whole process starts over again.
Depending on the number of combat cards played and the number of other cards sacrificed, a single combat round can go on for a while. Considering that you will often have multiple clashes per round, Panzer General is not a game for the impatient. That said, the game's strategic elements are fun, the scenarios are based on actual events from World War II (the second mission, for example, is a turn-based re-creation of D-Day, as you storm Utah Beach), and unlocking new card types after completing rounds is right up the alley for the collectible card nerd inside you. The game will have a full campaign with 14 levels to play through (on two difficulty levels), a skirmish mode, and multiplayer support, as well as a deck manager that will let you build decks of cards you can use in specific game situations.
Panzer General: Allied Assault is due for release on Xbox Live on Wednesday, October 21 and will cost 800 MS points.
The folks at Harmonix are nothing if not busy. Sometime next month, the developer of the Rock Band franchise will surpass the 1,000 song mark (including both disc content and DLC) for its music game franchise. This week we got to see two sets of upcoming DLC, both of which will be available on Tuesday.
First up, we had a chance to try out the new DLC for The Beatles: Rock Band, the full version of the group's 1969 album Abbey Road. Five of Abbey Road's songs were included in the disc version of The Beatles: Rock Band but fans will still have some real gems to experience as part of the DLC, including the clanging groove of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and the epic 16-medley that serves as Abbey Road's climax. Here's the full track listing as the songs appear in the game:
• Come Together
• Maxwell's Silver Hammer
• Oh! Darling
• Octopus's Garden
• I Want You (She's So Heavy)
• Here Comes the Sun
• You Never Give Me Your Money
• Sun King/Mean Mr. Mustard
• Polythene Pam/She Came In Through the Bathroom Window
• Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End
• Her Majesty
As you can see, several of the songs that make up the medley have been strung together to make slightly longer game experiences. If you're playing the 360 or PS3 version of The Beatles: Rock Band, you'll be able to either play these combined tunes individually (for example "Sun King/Mean Mr. Mustard") or as part of a setlist; you'll also have the choice to play the Abbey Road medley in its entirety, eliminating the loading times that typically come between songs on a Rock Band setlist.
Unfortunately, the option to play the Abbey Road medley uninterrupted will not be available on the Wii version of this DLC. Incidentally, Harmonix reps told us that playing the Abbey Road medley in its entirety is a relatively simple way of getting the "One Million Points" achievement in the game. In addition, for a song like "Because" that features no drum track, you'll be able to play through the song even if you're signed into the game as a drummer--something you couldn't previously do.
There aren't any new dreamscape visuals created for the DLC of Abbey Road; instead, the game will be pulling from the art assets that are already on the disc featuring the band recording their songs in the Abbey Road studios. In all the highlight of the Abbey Road DLC will surely be playing the medley straight through--after all, who isn't going to enjoy belting "Carry That Weight" at the top of their lungs?
Next up is the Queen track pack, which features ten of the English rock band's finest songs. Here's the tunes that will be available in Queen pack:
• Another One Bites the Dust
• Crazy Little Thing Called Love
• Fat Bottomed Girls
• I Want It All
• I Want to Be Free
• Killer Queen
• One Vision
• Somebody to Love
• Tie Your Mother Down
• Under Pressure
If you're familiar with Freddie Mercury and Crew, you know that Queen songs are often vocal showcases and it will take your best chops to emulate Mercury's signature style and range. We tried out the anthemic "I Want It All" (which you might recognize from its use in a bank commercial these days) and the classic "Killer Queen" which originally appeared, as a cover, in the first Guitar Hero game. Brian May's delicate and melodic guitar part in the latter is still a highlight for us and we're happy to report it's still a blast to play in Rock Band 2.
Abbey Road DLC will be available on Tuesday, October 20 and run you $16.99 or 1360 MS points. The Queen track pack (1280 MS points, $15.99) will be released on Xbox 360 and Wii on October 20, and on PSN on October 22.
For the last several weeks, sleep has become an elusive thing for me. After the birth of my first child back in early September, my wife and I have been experiencing the familiar trial of all new parents--figuring out ways to get our daughter to sleep for more than two hours at a stretch. We've had varying degrees of success but last night was particularly bad--the little one refused to sleep much at all, and the result was me standing in the middle of our bedroom for what seemed like a miniature eternity, gently rocking her and trying to get her to snooze while simultaneously trying to prevent myself from falling asleep standing up.
That miniature marathon of enforced insomnia came on the heels of an appointment I had yesterday afternoon with the fine folks at D3, who dropped by to show off Kamen Riders Dragon Knight for Nintendo Wii and DS. The game is based on a long running Japanese sci-fi television series, which seems to be a mix of an amped up version of Power Rangers and Yu-Gi-Oh-style card collecting with a healthy dose of cartoon violence. The game, and its complex backstory, turned out to be a heady mix, especially in my fragile mental state and, as I stood in the middle of my room last night rocking the baby to sleep, visions of the absurd costumes and hyperspeed action of the game came creeping uninvited back into my head.
So, here's a list of things I either noticed in Kamen Rider Dragon Knight or hallucinated in my sleep-deprived state:
Mirror World -- There are two worlds in the universe of Kamen Rider, the "real" earth and an alternate dimension known as Ventara. The evil General Xaviax is preparing to invade the real earth, and your goal in the game's story mode is to prevent that from happening by kicking all sorts of butt. Incidentally, I guessed the correct spelling of "Xaviax" the instant I first heard his name. After all, nothing is more devious than a bad guy with two X's in his name.
Ready… Fight! -- Kamen Rider is a fighting game, pure and simple. In story mode, you'll choose your favorite Rider and then progress through a grid of encounters leading up to a final battle against Xaviax. These fights can either be traditional one-on-one brawls as in games like Tekken or Soul Calibur or taking on multiple opponents in 3D brawls. There's also duel modes in both versions of the game, where you can pit various characters against one another.
Contract Beasts -- Pets in Kamen Rider aren't like your dog, willing to do anything you want even if you treat him like crap. No, in the Kamen Rider universe, your beasts are contractors and, in the game, you can summon them in a fight to attack your enemy. If I was a beast in the Kamen Rider universe, I would demand a signing bonus and the company of many, many female beasts at my beck and call.
All Hands on Deck -- It wouldn't be a kid's show without some sort of collectible card tie-in, right? In Kamen Rider, every combatant has a so-called Advent Deck of cards which offer him or her special powers in a fight. You have to build up energy to use your cards in combat but they do offer some cool powers like…
A Dude Became a Tank -- During one point in the game, one of the Kamen Rider fighters played a card in his deck that allowed him to become a tank. Or interface with a tank he had summoned from thin air. Or transform the front of his body into a tank. Something like that. Then the guy/tank nuked my character into oblivion with a 50-hit combo and explosive effects that would have looked like overkill in Mercenaries 2. It was at this point in the demo that I wearily turned to the friendly D3 representative and said, "I don't understand this game, culturally."
Up Yours! -- At one point, a triumphant Kamen Rider struck a victory pose that looked distinctly like he was telling me to go screw myself. I can only hope the gesture means something else entirely in Japan.
Yodeling Puppies Wearing Mexican Wrestling Masks -- Okay, I'm 95 percent certain this one was a hallucination.
Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is coming for the Nintendo Wii and DS on December 22.
Are you dying to know who's going to join Naruto and his buddies in Tomy's upcoming fighting game? Here are the latest characters that have been confirmed on the growing roster.
Sasuke's older brother Itachi likes to use clones, as well as his genjutsu, to throw off the enemy. The aerial crow-kunai is one of his special attacks, which allows him to teleport to the ground after releasing the dangerous projectiles. He can also quickly teleport to the backside of an opponent to gain a distinct advantage. Itachi's other specialties include creating an exploding clone as a counter move, and in this game, he's gained a new aerial fire ball jutsu move that can be executed by hitting the jutsu button in midair.
The former member of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist, Kisame is a lethal adversary in close-quarters combat. His sharkskin sword attack drains chakra, and he can also summon a clone to take down an opponent with water prison jutsu for some extra free hits. The key to playing as Kisame is to stay within close range while attacking with your sword so that you can break an enemy's guard and suck its chakra. If enemies understand this and hover too far away, he has a water shark bomb jutsu that will close the gap.
Once a great shinobi of Sunagakure, Hiruko is now a slow character but he has a dangerous reach with his long tail. While he may skulk and lumber around the field, his tail is quick and lethal, as well as poised to do a ton of damage. He can poison his opponents and confuse them by inverting their controls, and one of his special abilities is a latent ninja ability that involves time-sensitive poison. It's a secondary jutsu that allows him to poison enemies who then have to defeat him before a timer runs out or they will die. Playing keep-away and run-the-timer-down is another way to win if you feel like you can't win the old-fashioned way.
Sasori of the Red Sand has a lot of variety in his move set. He can do heavy close-range damage with his mechanical wings or take out opponents from afar with the cord that comes out of his body. If that doesn't work, he also has a stream of fire he can unleash. Sasori has hyperarmor, which protects him from knockback effects as he's walking forward. Damage can still be dealt, but he won't be stunned. His secondary jutsu allows him the ability to poison opponents and break down their guard. In partnered matches, Hiruko and Sasori can team up as one character if Hiruko dies first.
The youngest member of the Akatsuki, Deidara likes to utilize his explosive clay creations and keep his distance in a fight. He can set explosive spiders and birds, which is important in distracting his opponents. In latent ninja mode, he can drop three times as many explosives, and the spiders will actually track down enemies. His secondary jutsu allows him to use a giant bomb to take out almost everything onscreen, which will come in handy during four-player free-for-all matches. In the latest game, Deidara has a new custom throw in which he attaches an explosive spider to an opponent's face. And watch out for his counter jutsu--it deals a ton of damage.
Naruto Shippuden: Clash of Ninja Revolution 3 is set to be released on November 17.
Tropico 3 for the PC and the Xbox 360 is the upcoming sequel to the Tropico series, which has a tumultuous history. The original game was created by dearly departed developer PopTop Software, and the sequel was created by Imperialism developer Frog City. The third game is being developed by Haemimont Games, whose previous work includes Imperium Romanum and Glory of the Roman Empire.
El Presidente, I presume?
In any case, the third game is clearly trying to capitalize on the strong points of the previous games by offering a city-building strategy game with a layer of tongue-in-cheek humor that makes not-so-subtle jabs at a certain other Caribbean island that became a socialist nation in the 20th century. The game comes complete with an jazzy soundtrack packed with upbeat Latin music that seems to work well with the game's look and feel--colorful island landscapes and interface screens reminiscent of red-ink-covered, typewriter-written documents from the 1950s.
The setup in Tropico 3 is much like that of the previous games--you are a new "presidente" who has come into power on the island of Tropico, and you must manage your land's agricultural output, exports and trade relations, and the general happiness of the proletariat. While the game has all the trappings of a standard city simulator, from hiring and firing workers at factories, farms, and other industrial sites to building key structures to fulfill your peoples' needs, it will all be wrapped up in a tongue-in-cheek, humorous presentation that begins with a tutorial from your obsequious advisor and carries through to the dictator you play as.
Your custom dictator can be outfitted with a beret that will strike fear into the hearts of your enemies. Or, rather, the enemies of the state. Of course.
You can choose to play a pregenerated dictator, but you can also create a custom character that's either male or female from a variety of different looks, choosing from a variety of Karl Marx-esque beards for male characters and ballgowns and earrings for female characters. You can also choose a variety of different origins for your character (a scholar who was a political prisoner and accomplished a bloodless coup, a military strongman, and so on) and must choose both advantageous and disadvantageous traits. These include things like having ties with various factions, such as the military, the clergy, Soviet Russia (the communists), and the USA (the capitalists). Each of the advantages seems extremely powerful though each disadvantage also seems pretty severe, but they should help direct your gameplay style and foreign policy, your administrative policies, and the structure of your island-wide presidential speeches (which can be tailored to appeal to certain factions at the cost of losing support elsewhere).
Tropico 3 is scheduled for release in October.
Unless you're watching the Cartoon Network on Friday nights, Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks and The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun are probably not going to mean much to you. But chances are that you've at least heard of Astro Boy, given that the movie is set to hit theatres next month. D3 Publisher came by our office to show us the video game version of the three properties, and even though there's a stigma surrounding games based on TV shows and movies, the games we saw had some engaging gameplay elements that held our attention.
Astro Boy: The Video Game
The last time we saw Astro Boy was at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con where we met up with producer Cameron Rains to check out the game. This time, we were shown a never-seen-before Arena mode, in which Astro Boy takes on waves upon waves of enemies with a friend in air- or ground-based combat. The gameplay hasn't changed much since we last saw it, but we did play on the hard mode and then ended up bumping it to hero difficulty, which made things a bit more challenging. Luckily, the person demoing the game stayed alive for the most part, so as long as one player is still at it, the other person can die as many times as he or she wants without having to worry about starting over.
We also had a chance to check out the final boss battle against Peacekeeper (not a spoiler because everyone knows that it's Astro's arch nemesis). Playing cooperatively makes a huge difference because Astro Boy is a frantic and fast-paced shooter. We won't reveal too much about the final fight, but if you have quick reflexes and want to play as Astro Boy, then be sure to keep an eye out on the game when it is released October 20.
Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks
Young Ben Tennyson is on another adventure and armed with his omnitrix to explore the galaxy via the Xbox 360. This is the first time that Ben will be able to transform into 10 different aliens, using their unique superpowers to get through the levels. The world is in 3D now, with a fully rotatable camera and numerous platforming sections. We fought these ghostlike aliens, which we had to lure to a nearby lantern before being able to hit them. The controls felt good, and you can easily come up with combo attacks as long as you keep pressing the X and Y buttons for light and heavy attacks.
The ability to swap into any alien form at any given time is also new, and it doesn't drain your energy gauge either. You can swap to swampfire and use its fire-breathing skills and then switch back to spidermonkey to quickly maneuver through hazardous areas. The game should last anywhere between seven and nine hours, and fans of the show will appreciate the fact that all the voice actors are involved with the game and the original story is penned by one of the show's writers. Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks will be released October 27.
The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun
The Secret Saturdays is a Cartoon Network show about a family of scientific explorers who fight to protect and hide cryptids, which are exotic creatures that evil people want to exploit. The game is a 2.5D action platformer, in which you play as Zak, an 11-year-old kid armed with a big stick that also functions as a grappling hook. Zak has the power to control the minds of cryptids and scan them for information. We spent most of our time platforming, but in combat, we were able to tag team with other members of the family to fend off enemies. If you're a perfectionist, you can collect fireflies as you make your way through the levels, which will unlock goodies.
The controls are easy to pick up, and it's fun to hop into the body of your family pet Fiskerton because Fiskerton can scale walls and get to hard-to-reach places. There are more than 50 cryptids to encounter, as well as racing and target-practice minigames to change up the gameplay. The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun is probably not going to interest you unless you enjoy the cartoon series, but at least the game is shaping up to be a solid platforming/action experience. Look for the game on the Wii, DS, PlayStation 2, and PSP when it is released October 20.
The third chapter of Telltale Games' Tales of Monkey Island episodic adventure game series will be called "Lair of the Leviathan," and is headed for the PC and the Nintendo Wii later this month. The game will continue the lighthearted adventures of kind-of-a-pirate Guybrush Threepwood, who, as a part of the series' storyline, is trying to reverse the effects of an evil voodoo plague. Guybrush's quest for the mystical Voodoo Sponge, which is said to have the power to soak up the pestilence. When we last left off with our hero at the end of episode two, he was captured and held at swordpoint by by the sassy pirate hunter Morgan LeFlay...when they were all swallowed by a giant manatee.
Can Guybrush put a stop to...the CURSE??
The new game begins in the belly of the beast, who is late for an amorous encounter at the giant manatee breeding grounds. It seems the manatee has lost its cornea, and with it, all sense of direction, so it's been swimming in circles for some time. Guybrush must recover the cornea from a trio of pirates who, with Morgan, have been swallowed up. As a result, the first half of the episode takes place in the guts of the spacious sea cow, as Guybrush must win acceptance into the pirates' secret society by performing a number of humorous tasks. In the meantime, he reacquaints himself with Murray, the Demonic Talking Skull, whom Guybrush finds in a treasure chest and rescues--Murray and his unique abilities will come in handy later in the game. Though Guybrush is usually an upbeat fellow, in Lair of the Leviathan, he has clearly started to succumb to the onset of the voodoo curse; his skin is covered with green boils, and occasionally becomes possessed by an angry madness that causes him to threaten everyone in the vicinity. Can he thwart the curse and save the Caribbean? (Hint: Probably.)
Later, Guybrush does manage to escape the belly of the manatee, and learns that the mystical sponge he seeks is actually rumored to be hidden at the giant manatee mating grounds. And as it happens, the sponge is, in fact, there...guarded by a giant lady dugong, so it's up to Guybrush and his uncanny ability to hold his breath while walking on the ocean floor, to give the sea cow he rode in on a few dating tips. (Let's just say the big fella isn't exactly a lady's man...atee.)
You can set sail with Guybrush and his buddies later this month.
Lair of the Leviathan is planned to launch at the end of the month. Telltale also suggests it may announce some additional promotions starting this weekend (is it International Talk Like A Pirate Day already?).
Order of War is a PC real-time strategy game published by, of all people, Square Enix, and developed by Russia-based Wargaming.net. The game was originally released in Russia as Operation Bagration, but has been retrofitted with an all-new American campaign, new cinematic cutscenes, and full English voice acting. We recently had a chance to play a few quick multiplayer sessions in head-to-head competition (the game will offer both one-on-one team competition modes).
Tough guys go into battle as infantry, but real men drive tanks.
In multiplayer, you can play as one of three factions, the US, the Germans, or the Russians, each of whom has between 25-30 units apiece. While the factions are roughly symmetrical, they differ somewhat in their unit mix and strengths according to approximate strengths that Wargaming.net has built into each faction, such as the tank superiority of the Germans.
Multiplayer is more or less a completely tactical exercise in deploying the right troops at the right time and right spots. There aren't any in-game bases to build or resources to harvest--just a requisition meter that gradually fills up over time, which can then be spent on purchasing units, though your meter will fill up faster if you're nimble enough to capture the various control points on the map. You can even capture your oppponent's home base, which acts like a control point, and if you do so, you cut him off from gaining any more points until he either recaptures his home base, or captures yours. The game will launch with six multiplayer maps, and two of these maps will appear in the upcoming multiplayer demo.
Though you start off a new match with a squadron of light infantry (who are perhaps better utilized when garrisoned in buildings once the heavy armor starts rolling out) and a medium tank squad, though you can commission different types of tanks, transports, infantry, and stationary artillery, as well as calling in one-off assistance attacks offscreen, such as artillery strikes and airstrikes.
Order of War, and its multiplayer demo, are incoming later this month.
Matches seem fairly fast-paced and, in some of the smaller maps, you may even face a decision to go after control points or try to rush your enemy, since you start new matches with a small chunk of requisition points in the pot. Different maps will have different layouts (one map will have several narrow chokepoints, which makes swarming your opponent with massive clusters of tanks unfeasible), but the general path to victory seems to be doing more than one thing at once; locking down as many control points as possible while either defending yourself from your opponents' rush or staging a rush of your own.
Order of War ships later this month, and the multiplayer demo will be available soon.
We recently had a chance to see the PC version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition in motion. The PC version of the game is being brought over by Aspyr Media, has been in development for a few months, and is in a pre-alpha state, though it should hit beta soon. The PC version of the game will, of course, include support for a USB Xbox 360 controller and will, according to Aspyr and LucasArts, otherwise be a content-faithful port of the console versions of Ultimate Sith Edition. Be advised that this preview may contain story spoilers, especially for those who haven't played the original Force Unleashed.
As the Emperor's apprentice, you shall be the one to bring the Rancor down.
For those who aren't familiar with The Force Unleashed or Ultimate Sith Edition, here's a quick recap: The Force Unleashed was the first brand-new Star Wars story out of LucasArts in some time and told the tale of Starkiller, a secret apprentice to Darth Vader who was sent by his master to eliminate key Rebel and Empire targets that stood in the way of Vader's larger ambitions. The game had two different endings: one in which you carried out your master's orders to the letter and another, non-canonical ending, in which you could oppose Vader and actually slay him. But if you opposed Vader, you would be broken and twisted by the powers of Emperor Palpatine (in an attack similar to the scene near the end of Return of the Jedi) and effectively become the new Darth Vader, serving the Emperor's will.
The three new missions in the downloadable content for The Force Unleashed, which will be included in the USE, follow the non-canonical ending. In these levels, which will be accessible at the very beginning of the game (rather than having to be unlocked), you will be put you in the role of this new dark lord, exploring Tattooine, Hoth, and a Jedi temple during the A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back time frames to effectively carry out Vader's missions, but in a different way.
We're told that the team had access to many assets from the original films and even had a chance to toy with material that was cut from the first-run footage (for instance, there was apparently going to be a scene in Empire in which the Hoth base was overrun by whompas, and this scene will actually appear in the USE). In fact, the opening of the Hoth level is a frame-for-frame re-creation of the introductory sequence to Empire, except for the very end where things go sideways. Sadly, we were able to see only the Tattooine level in action, which includes all the jawa and Gamorrean guard tossing and Rancor-head-in-a-gate-slamming action we've covered in our hands-on preview of the console DLC. The PC version of the USE runs at a steady 30 frames per second, and even in an early pre-alpha state, it looks pretty sharp.
Three new missions and all the Jawa-tossing you can handle await you in Ultimate Sith Edition.
The PC version of Ultimate Sith Edition will be released later this year.
Originally released on the PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii, and the PC last year, Obscure: The Aftermath will now be available on the PlayStation Portable so that you can take this college drama/survival horror game on the go. It might not be the easiest game to get into while commuting or waiting in line, but if you want increase your chances of having dreams about monsters and poisonous plants, then it's probably best to play this in bed after you've turned off the lights. It was difficult for us to get into the game with the fluorescent lights in our office, but from what we've played, it's very similar to what we saw on the consoles last year.
The Aftermath takes place a couple of years after the events of the first Obscure game, and the survivors have graduated from high school and moved on to Fallcreek University. The distinct, cheesy teen-slasher vibe is written all over as the group tries to fend off mutants that like to rip apart fellow students. You're not alone on this adventure, however, because a friend can always accompany you via ad hoc as you try to unravel the mysteries surrounding a strange flower.
All of the individuals you played as on the consoles return in this version, and each has his or her own unique ability to solve environmental puzzles. If you need brute strength or a brilliant mind to hack into a system, you can swap characters with the triangle button to get the job done. It's unfortunate that the camera still doesn't work very well and makes it hard to see what ahead of you when you're exploring narrow hallways or peeking around the corner. After picking up various pieces of sports equipment, you can attack by holding the R button and swing using the X.
One of the highlights of the game is Olivier Deriviere's soundtrack, which sets the mood and reminds you of what kind of game you're playing. It can be easy to forget when the dialogue is limited to sexual innuendo and cringeworthy one-liners, but that's also part of the game's charm if you can laugh it off. It doesn't look like the gameplay has been adjusted though, because the AI still isn't very bright, which makes The Aftermath ideal to play with a friend. It's not that often you get a chance to play a survival horror game with a buddy anyway. For more information, check out our Wii review of the game here .
We recently took a quick look at the PC version of Red Faction: Guerrilla , a physics-heavy console action game. The PC version of the game has been in development for about a year at Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Reactor Zero and will arrive on the PC fully intact, with every last bit of content from the console version, including all the content from the first downloadable content installment, Demons of the Badlands. In fact, the PC version will also ship with two additional exclusive multiplayer maps, plus the six additional Wrecking Crew mode maps that were available with preorder for the console version, plus content from the second DLC update for consoles which hasn't yet been released, which includes six more Wrecking Crew maps and the Bagman and Team Bagman multiplayer modes. With all this extra content packed in, Volition intends for the PC version of the game to be the "definitive" version of RFG.
The PC version of Red Faction: Guerilla will be packed with all prior console DLC and pre-order content, plus advance content from the next console DLC pack that isn't even out yet.
The PC version of Red Faction: Guerrilla will bring over Volition's proprietary GeoMod 2.0 physics technology, which models extensive environmental destruction for just about everything in the world. It will also include what Volition describes as "full DirectX 10 support," which can be seen in features like advanced lighting that procedurally pokes through destroyed rubble. The PC version has also been developed with support for the USB Xbox 360 controller and has been optimized for mouse-and-keyboard setups.
Otherwise, the PC version of Guerrilla will offer the full RFG console experience, including the entire story of Alec Mason, the miner-turned-guerrilla-warrior who joins the rebellious Red Faction to oppose the oppressive regime of the Earth Defense Force on the red planet of Mars. Guerrilla will also, as mentioned, offer Demons of the Badlands, a full prequel to the game starring Samanya, one of RFG's secondary characters. It takes place before Samanya's time with Red Faction and explains how she came to join the rebellion.
Red Faction: Guerilla touches down on the PC later this month.
Red Faction: Guerrilla for the PC looks like it will offer plenty of stuff to play with right out of the box when the game ships on September 15.
We just had a chance to look at the PC version of Batman: Arkham Asylum, the recently released console game starring the caped crusader himself. While the console version of the game has a lot to offer, it seems like the PC version will have even more, especially if you're running Nvidia hardware. Be advised that this story may contain spoilers.
Get ready for explosive special effects in the PC version of Batman: Arkham Asylum.
The demonstration we watched took place on a machine with video cards set up in SLI. While users with lower-end setups will be able to enjoy some of the higher-end graphical effects, Nvidia suggests that the best way to enjoy all the graphical bells and whistles, particularly the game's implementation of PhysX, is to have an SLI setup with one card rendering graphics and the other set to handle the in-game physics. To have the best experience, the hardware manufacturer also recommends you use its handy-dandy 3D vision goggles, which have additional depth-of-field and out-of-screen effects similar to other games that support it, like Resident Evil 5.
We sat through a demonstration of some of the earlier levels in the game, which showed the way that the PhysX rendering will enhance all particle effects, while 3D vision will make them pop out of the screen. Batman looks good beating the stuffing out of thugs, but when the time comes to pry a grille out of a wall, the bolts will pop out of the screen, and the cobwebs in the air vent will sway procedurally to and fro. Batman uses his grapnel to vault up onto gargoyles in the shadows, and bits of stone and rubble go bouncing out of the walls each time the hook hits home.
Batman, his enhanced volumetric fog, and all his PC-exclusive special effects will ship out on September 15.
The physics rendering provides a lot of subtle visual effects, but there are also parts of the game where they're used to great effect. At one point, Batman rescues a team of Arkham therapists who have been gassed by the Scarecrow, who appears in the game as a gaunt figure with glowing eyes and syringes for fingers. It soon becomes clear that Batman has also been gassed as he begins to hallucinate about a dead Commissioner Gordon, the corpses of his parents returning to cuss him out, and an eventual attack by a giant-sized Scarecrow. This last encounter takes place in a hallucination-enhanced version of the asylum's morgue, where the walls and ceiling and floor have been all but torn away, and the room floats in midair. As regular-sized Batman, you need to sneak around the shattered room without attracting your enemy's attention to get to a bat-signal flood light and shine it on him to banish him, constantly staying on the move by hopping across floating floor fragments to avoid his gaze. In the meantime, surgical instruments and dozens of wall tiles swirl dramatically in the air as the gigantic Scarecrow peers over the fragments of the wall trying to hunt you down. The effect of the floating debris is pretty spectacular, and it's a shame it'll be exclusive to the PC version, which is scheduled for release on September 15.
[Editor's Note: The Last Stand will actually launch this October, not September, as previously posted.]
This October, Relic will launch a brand-new multiplayer mode for Dawn of War II, the Warhammer 40,000-based strategy sequel. While Dawn of War II had excellent multiplayer for real-time strategy fans, Relic feels it has more to offer players who aren't necessarily looking for heavy-duty competition. This is where the new mode, The Last Stand, comes into play.
The Last Stand will be an intimate multiplayer mode that will pit three heroes against wave after wave of enemies.
The Last Stand is a multiplayer mode for three players--no more, no less. In the mode, each of the three player slots can be filled with any one of three hero units from the Eldar, Space Marine, and Ork factions: the Eldar Farseer, the Space Marine Captain, or the Ork Mekboy. (You can choose any combination of these three heroes; for instance, you can have three Mekboys, if you prefer.) These particular classes were chosen because they tend to work well with one another; the Farseer's "buff" abilities are useful to help your teammates, and the Mekboy's support abilities and ranged artillery attacks are excellent backup for the Space Marine Captain's versatile offense, which can include either a melee-plus-ranged weapon loadout or a two-handed heavy bolter, an Assault Marine-style jumpjet, and orbital strikes (and the Captain can also carry various healing and revival items). We played a few matches, and from what we've seen, the mode seems varied enough to allow for plenty of experimentation, though the Captain's strong offense and defense abilities seem to make him a powerful anchor. It's possible that Relic might later open up the hero selection, though the plan is to launch with these three heroes available.
The Last Stand is a cooperative "comp stomp" mode that pits your team against waves of computer-controlled enemies, not unlike the Stonewall mode of Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor. Currently, the mode takes place on a single map, a burned-out city with plenty of destructible cover, though more maps may be added later. In addition to fighting for your lives, your team will also have the option of capturing and defending two key strategic points on the left and right sides of the map. Capturing and holding these areas will net your team bonus multiplier points as you clear out successive waves of enemies, though your foes will also go after these locations and take them over if you're not paying attention.
The Relic team plans to launch The Last Stand with a total of 16 different "waves" of enemies that will stream in and attack the roughly square-shaped map from all four corners. These enemies will be foes from all four of DOWII's factions (Orks, Eldar, Space Marines, and Tyranid), and each wave will get bigger and tougher. Every fourth wave will be a "boss wave" that will usher in especially tough foes, eventually including top-tier units from each faction's technology tree. After a few practice sessions, we ourselves completed wave 16. Without spoiling anything, let's just say that the final wave has a special set of bosses that will challenge your team with a true test of their skills--how well you and your buddies know your heroes and their abilities will very much be the determining factor there.
By gaining experience levels, you'll get access to new items that will give your heroes new abilities.
Like DOWII's single-player campaign, The Last Stand will also have a "metagame" based around your character's advancement. Each win you make with each hero will net you experience points that will eventually level that hero up. Once you gain a level, you won't adjust any statistics--you'll just attain a new piece of wargear that will take up slots for your various weapons, armor, and items and may grant you new abilities. While some of the items are based on stuff from the campaign, most of them are a lot more powerful since your heroes don't have any armies to back them up. The new mode is planned to launch with an upper cap of level 20, at which point your hero should have everything unlocked. (There will also be an "elite status" mode that lets you restart at level 1 and play through again, similar to the prestige mode of the recent Call of Duty games.)
However, having a higher level won't make your hero any tougher--it'll just mean you'll have access to all the items and be able to choose your loadout--whether you want to focus on melee combat, ranged combat, or support. Since The Last Stand requires a team of three players online, there will be a lot of different strategies you and your team can use and different approaches you can take depending on your play style and the items you have available. Fortunately, the enemies in The Last Stand will stay the same from game to game, so after a few games, you'll know what to expect and when, and this should help you plan.
We played through a handful of sessions and found the new mode to be a fast-moving multiplayer experience that doesn't really ramp up until a few waves in. While there is a great deal of cover, most of it can be destroyed, so carelessly tossing around grenades or using other environment-deforming abilities like the Space Marine's "charge" attack will clear out cover that you (or your enemies) might need later. In the later modes, when you're getting swarmed by squadrons of Tyranids or teleporting Eldar, you'll really need to be aware of your hero's movement speed, attack delays, and firing range, since even superpowered heroes will get mobbed in the later waves. Fortunately, at level 20, there seems to be more than enough variety in different character builds to suit your playing style. For instance, the Space Marine Captain can focus on ranged damage by using a heavy bolter (which comes with a bonus incendiary grenade-tossing ability); focus on melee by choosing an offhand melee weapon and armor and accoutrements that regenerate his health; or focus on support by choosing ranged weapons and items that heal and revive his comrades. The smartest teams that rack up the most kills and bonus points will be immortalized in a leaderboard for all of DOWII's community to see.
Are you tough enough, and smart enough, to survive The Last Stand?
The Last Stand is planned to launch in September, and although you'll need to use your Games for Windows - Live username to sign in and play and the mode will come free of charge for all DOW II owners.
We recently had a chance to visit with developer and distributor Stardock to get an update on the studio's software developments and on Elemental: War of Magic. Stardock is hard at work on its "GOO" (Game Object Obfuscation) copyright protection software--a simple copy-protection setup that requires users to enter their name, e-mail address, and serial code online to register the game once, then be able to claim full ownership over that game regardless of time passed or computer used. The software has already been adopted by such publishers as Ubisoft and Paradox and, according to Stardock frontman Brad Wardell, will be used by "all the big publishers" for their PC games in the near future. The studio will also soon be taking the wraps off the next revision of its Impulse online distribution client, which will feature a new "ready to play" system that will let you fill out a personal profile for yourself and then actually have prospective multiplayer partners suggested to you based on profile matches--assuming none of the people on your friends list are available for you to play.
The studio also made a brief showing of the next Sins of a Solar Empire microexpansion, Diplomacy. Diplomacy will, like the last microexpansion, Entrenchment, sell for $9.95 and will offer new gameplay content to the space strategy game. Diplomacy will add new interfaction diplomacy features and new diplomatic tech-tree options to research, including the ability to form treaties with other alien races and to trade treaties with other races. While Sins of a Solar Empire currently has an excellent space combat system, it doesn't have a way to manage relations with other space races, so the new microexpansion will draw inspiration from the diplomacy system of Galactic Civilizations II. Diplomacy will go into beta this fall and is planned to launch next year.
Finally, the studio gave us an updated look at Elemental: War of Magic. Elemental is currently in a very early beta-testing phase where Stardock is testing only gameplay concepts. In fact, the early beta presented to the testers has what Wardell refers to as a "cloth map" interface--an interface that looks like a cloth map but is actually just the game zoomed out all the way back. The version of the game we saw was zoomed in, and even though it's still very early, the graphics already had a stylized look that resembled the faded color art you might expect to see from medieval European paintings.
You'll build a fantasy kingdom and rule it forever in Elemental. Or at least, until you win, or someone else defeats you.
Elemental is still very much in development--a work-in-progress--so we were able to see only the basics of the game in action. You start with nothing but an immortal sovereign unit who can commission new buildings, though later you can marry into one of the game's other 12 base factions and sire prince and princess children who can also be married off, increasing your standing with them. Unfortunately, while your sovereign, who is both a powerful wizard and a mighty military general, is immortal, his children aren't, so when that good-for-nothing son of yours kicks the bucket, his wife's family may not react kindly. Wardell compares the courtly intrigue of Elemental to one of his chief inspirations, the Game of Thrones novels by author George R. R. Martin.
An actual game session of Elemental will let you try to do the same thing you do every night in every other explore-and-conquer game--try to take over the world--but in a variety of different ways. Among other things, you can conquer the world through military force; you can amass powerful diplomatic ties; you can win through sorcerous means (a combination of extensive magical research and controlling different magical shards that may be attuned to one of five different spheres of influence: earth, air, water, fire, and life); or you can win by "questing." Elemental's maps will have lengthy, story-driven quests that are being crafted to resemble role-playing game content, and by completing an epic arc of story-related quests first, you can also attain victory.
The game's flexible 3D engine will let you zoom in and out as you please.
Elemental's graphical engine, while still being worked on, provides an impressive level of detail and seamlessly zooms out to multiple zoom levels with a single glide of the mousewheel--all the way out to cloth map view, and all the way in to a close-up view that lets you see the tiny peasants building up your kingdom as they putter around, hammering and chiseling the walls of your castle. Elemental will support robust level-of-detail rendering to play the game at different zoom levels and will let you lock in the zoom to support the best combination of zoomed-in graphics and performance that your desktop or laptop computer can handle. The engine (and map editor) will also support deformable terrain so that the randomly generated scenario maps will have valleys, volcanoes, and bodies of water (the latter will primarily act as obstacles that you'll need to traverse by putting your infantry units onto boats).
In preparation for extensive experimentation on the part of the fan community, Stardock is planning to ship the game with the same editing tools that the studio's in-house developers use. While Stardock expects that fans will definitely create new fantasy races to play (the base game will have only playable human factions), the editor will have no polygon limit, so as computing technology increases, the fan community might continue to build huger and huger maps. Wardell even suggests that the robust editor will be useful for applications beyond playing Elemental--as an old-time Dungeons & Dragons fan, the studio head pointed out that Elemental's robust toolset could actually be used to generate maps and campaign aids for game masters running tabletop games such as D&D.
Watch for Elemental next year.
Elemental is still a ways off and is scheduled to ship next year. Like Stardock's other games, and in keeping with the studio's "Gamer's Bill of Rights," of which Goo and Impulse v4.0 are a part, the game will ship free of any DRM software.
A few weeks ago, my colleague Shaun McInnis spent nearly an entire day griefing rally driver Ken Block--or, more specifically, a CPU driver programmed with the name Ken Block--in a preview build of Dirt 2 for Xbox 360. Whether Shaun was intentionally T-boning him into the side of a wall in the first corner of a race, or springing elaborate traps that would inevitably involve sharp corners, blind jumps, and horrific crashes, Ken Block paid the ultimate price for hours on end. As an aside, Shaun cackling with such demented glee while he tormented what amounts to an AI routine speaks volumes to me about what a sick human being he is.
As it turns out, Shaun will get a chance to taunt Block--or at least other AI drivers--in Dirt 2 for the Nintendo Wii. I had a chance to take the game for a quick spin yesterday. Here's a few movies for you to check out:
As you can see, the game runs at a pretty good clip--as it should, considering there's only four cars on screen. All of the above clips were taken from the game's career mode, which pits you in races from locales as varied as Japan, Mexico and the USA, racing in rally cars, big trucks, and dune buggies. There are several controller options, including using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, the Wii Remote by itself, or driving with a classic controller. There's several camera options to choose from too, though the cockpit cam that is my favorite view in the 360/PS3 version is sadly missing here.
The game leans more arcade in terms of car handling compared to its counterparts but there's a decent sense of speed, especially using the hood cam. For more on the game, check out some brand new screenshots.
Dirt 2 will be released in early September, so get your Ken Block griefing techniques ready.
[UPDATE: Codemasters contacted GameSpot today to let us know that there are actually three control schemes for the Wii version of Dirt 2, not one as previously reported. I've since corrected this in the article above.]
One of the most beloved adventure games of the last 20 years, The Secret of Monkey Island, is back and in all-new high definition glory. Lucasarts revealed The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition at this year's E3 alongside a new episodic adventure, the PC's Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, but certainly surprised everyone when an iPhone version was released roughly one week after it arrived on the Xbox 360 and PC. So just how does Monkey Island shape up in handheld form? We loaded it onto an iPhone and set sail for Melee Island to find out.
Monkey Island is part of Lucasarts' classic point-and-click adventure series. The game was released almost 20 years ago, back in 1990, and went on to spawn three sequels over the coming decade. Monkey Island sets you in the swashbuckling shoes of would-be pirate Guybrush Threepwood. Seeking fame and fortune, he arrives on Melee Island, situated deep in the Caribbean, and embarks on three quests to prove to a bunch of "important-looking pirate" chiefs that he's worthy of becoming a member of the pack.
The game combines point-and-click puzzle-solving with an outrageous storyline written by Penny Arcade Adventures' Ron Gilbert and Brutal Legend's Tim Schafer, and features line after line of witty dialogue that's become the staple of geek speak for years. To solve the secret of Monkey Island, you'll need a sharp wit to collect and combine objects into puzzle solutions. Along with talking to the townsfolk for clues, you'll eventually piece together the correct solution.
The most dramatic improvement to the original is the all new graphics, which follow the more caricatured look seen in The Curse of Monkey Island, and Launch of the Screaming Narwhal. Threepwood, Marley, and the rest of the cast have come to life in crisp detail, and it's great to see the world of Monkey Island in such a vibrant recreation. While the backgrounds are still 2D, they've also been given a facelift and include new animations such as swirling clouds, shimmering water, and crackling campfires.
We experienced the occasional dropped frame here and there, but otherwise the iPhone does a great job of recreating the fun of this timeless classic, and the experience plays virtually the same as the Xbox 360 version, but in handheld form. In addition to the new graphics, the special edition also includes some superb voice acting, breathing fresh life into all of the game's characters.
If you're an old school fan then fear not, as Lucasarts has also included the original version, with its classic low-fi graphics. You can seamlessly switch between the two versions on the fly, simply by swiping the screen with two fingers. While the original doesn't have an option to hear the new voice acting, the experience is exactly how we remember it, and it's a great inclusion.
Monkey Island's point-and-click interface seems perfectly suited to the iPhone and we're pleased to report that it works great. You can choose from a preset list of verbs, such as "use", "open", "pick up", and then click directly onto an object or person to interact with them. You can access your inventory by clicking on the bottom toolbar and use this to combine items, or use them with other objects, or people. It seems a bit odd that the cursor doesn't reposition itself to where your touch the screen, so at times your finger will reach the edge of the screen and you'll have to drag the cursor several times to the desired place.
If you get stuck at any point you can flip your iPhone to access the main menu, or shake it to access an all-new hints system. The first clue for any situation is usually quite vague but if you're really in a bind you can keep shaking your iPhone until the full solution reveals itself. If you don't want to resort to hints, you can simply pass the time by engaging in some amusing banter.
The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition is a faithful recreation of the original, adding well-delivered dialogue, a new soundtrack and crisp graphics to a beloved old friend. The iPhone version is priced at £4.99, about £2 less than the 360 version, and if you prefer gaming on the go then consider this as a worthy alternative.
We've tallied your votes from a poll we had on our front page several weeks ago, asking you whichheroes and villains you'd like to see on the battlefield.We have paired up 10 of your favorite Final Fantasy characters so that each week, we'll release new gameplay footage. You'll want to keep your eyes out for these epic showdowns.
Our first contestants: Terra and Ultimecia. This isn't going to pretty, but if you want to see how the fight ends, check out the video of the two lovely ladies locked in combat.
One of the main protagonists of Final Fantasy VI, Terra is blessed--or cursed--with incredible powers. Captured by Emperor Gestahl as a child and raised as a living weapon while in a constant state of mind control, Terra possesses an innate affinity for magic and has the ability to shift into an Esper form to temporarily increase her powers. After awakening from a long slumber, Terra has been summoned by Cosmos to retrieve a crystal that might help bring back her lost memories.
A powerful sorceress from the future of Final Fantasy VIII, Ultimecia reached far into the past to manipulate events and cause a phenomena she called "time compression" to prevent her own death at the hands of a legendary SeeD. She possesses near-unlimited power, including the ability to junction people and manifest life from subconscious thought. Summoned by Chaos to fight against Cosmos, Ultimecia stands opposed to Squall Leonhart.
[UPDATE: Friday 17 July - Capcom has confirmed that the PC version of Resident Evil WILL run on XP machines running DirectX 9. The company has clarified that DirectX 10 will be required ONLY for use with Nvidia's 3D Vision goggles. Apologies for any confusion.]
We recently had a chance to see and try out the PC version of Resident Evil 5 at Capcom's California offices, running on both an upper-midrange rig and on a high-end rig with dual GeForce GTX 285 cards in SLI. Both machines were running Windows 7, though the game is planned to support both Windows 7 and Vista, as well as XP, at decently high resolutions, and while the lower-end machine had vsync enabled to keep the frame rate capped to work with the Nvviidia 3D Vision goggles we had handy, the higher-end box had the frame rate uncapped and ran the game at 1280x720x32 bit textures at frame rates of upward of 130-150 frames per second.
If your computer has the chops to run it at high performance levels, you'll be able to play Resident Evil 5 at frame rates in excess of 100 frames per second.
While the performance on the higher-end machine is more of a vanity accoutrement for those with space-age computers from the future, owners of decent computers will be able to experience good performance with crisp texturing and more importantly, full lighting (unlike the embarrassing PC port of Resident Evil 4, which shipped with stripped-down visual effects and no real allowances made for the PC's differing control schemes). Fortunately, that won't be the case with the PC version of RE5, which will have full support both for the USB Xbox 360 controller, as well as full-on mouse-and-keyboard free-look, just like your favorite PC-native first-person shooters. You can even switch controls on the fly--should you put down your USB controller and grab your mouse, the game will immediately recognize the change in input and also give differing contextual instructions onscreen (instead of instructing you to press your controller's blue X button to pick up that box of bullets, it'll instead prompt you to press your F key). The PC controls seem to work quite well and are very intuitive; while using a USB controller will activate the classic Resident Evil red laser gun-sight on your weapon to help you paint your targets, switching to a mouse-and-keyboard setup will turn off the laser sight and pull up a traditional targeting reticle with full, free mouse-look--without any console-style "sticky aim" or any other kind of aiming assistance. Using Chris Redfield's knife for close encounters or just to smash open barrels without wasting bullets will be a matter of pressing and holding the space bar to draw your knife, then left-clicking on your mouse (the default fire/attack input) to swing your weapon. What's most gratifying about the PC control scheme is that you don't have to use RE5's "real-time inventory" system, which would pull up your inventory in translucent windows onscreen right on top of the action and right before that raging zombie buried a knife in your face. Instead, you can swap weapons first-person-shooter style with the number keys on your keyboard. You can even reload by pressing the R key.
Aside from the better, more responsive controls, one of the more interesting new features of the PC version is support for Nvidia's 3D Vision goggles, which require you to have a monitor capable of running at at least a 120Hz refresh rate. 3D Vision in RE5 enables depth-of-field effects that appear to "layer" characters onscreen relative to where they're standing. For instance, the infamous execution scene that plays early on in the game actually looks like you're watching it from out of a window as Chris and Sheva are--nearer characters appear closer, while characters standing in the background appear to actually be standing farther away. The goggles also allow for "out-of-screen" effects (such as hurled hatchets that will actually fly toward you and appear to pop out of the screen or blood spatters that will splash up out of slain zombies and appear to momentarily fly out of your monitor). The setup we watched ran at a pretty consistent 30 frames per second with vsync enabled--the lower frame rate was a result of the 3D Vision effects, which actually render the game twice; once normally and once for 3D Vision. Obviously, in order to experience 3D Vision, you'll not only need a high-refresh-rate monitor, but you'll also need to own Nvidia's 3D Vision goggles. If you don't, but you have a fairly good computer, you'll be able to run at higher frame rates closer to 60 (or if you uncap vsync, possibly higher, in the hundreds). To get a sense of how your computer stacks up, you can use Nvidia's recently released Resident Evil 5 benchmark.
Chris and Sheva will have new outfits and a much more crowded Mercs difficulty level. All exclusive to the PC.
Aside from offering strong performance and good controls, Resident Evil 5 for the PC will offer the full experience of the original console versions, uncut. The PC version will also ship with exclusive content in the form of four brand new clothing outfits--two for Chris and two for his companion Sheva--as well as a new, even-harder difficulty level of the game's freeform Mercenaries mode that will triple the number of enemies in each map. It's still not exactly clear how the console's downloadable content (namely, Versus mode) will make its way to your PC--either out-of-the-box or as PC downloadable content--but we're told that the content will appear on the PC in some form, regardless.
Resident Evil 5 for the PC will be released on September 15 of this year. Though the base game will run on XP with DirectX 9.0c, playing the game with Nvidia's 3D Vision goggles will require a machine running DirectX 10 natively. So if you do have that kind of setup and the hardware to run it, you should keep an eye out for the game--it looks great, plays great, and seems to finally be a Resident Evil game built to play for the PC.
Recently, we managed to get our hands on preview code for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 for the PS3. Sigma 2 producer Yosuke Hayashi has gone on record as saying that the game will be less gory on the PS3 than the Xbox 360 original, telling GameSpot "Since last year, the number of games featuring high levels of violence increased. So rather than do something the same as everyone else is doing, we decided to make it different." We checked out both versions of the game to discover if Ryu Hayabusa really has been censored on the Sony system.
Though both games start off identically, when the action kicks in it does seem like the Xbox 360 version has the edge in terms of epic bloodletting. The graphic decapitations and limb severing are still in the PS3 version, but the vast sprays of blood have been toned down. Instead of seeing the red stuff pouring out of every wound, there is a purple mist that emanates from your fallen foes.
The difference is most noticeable in the sliced legs and head losses that frequently happen in the game, and gore lovers will no doubt miss the no-holds barred feeling of the 360 version. However, if you're not a gore fanatic, then you should be able to live with this, and at least in terms of gameplay, the PS3 version is identical to the Xbox 360 original.
Many people will also be wondering about the graphics in the PS3 version, but we're impressed with what we've seen from our preview build. Even at an early stage, Sigma 2 is looking like a visual treat on Sony's console. The environments are a feast for the eyes, and both the traditional Japanese huts and bustling skyline behind it show great attention to detail and look beautiful on PlayStation 3. We even noticed some awesome lighting effects in Sigma 2, with a cherry blossom tree at the start of the game looking vibrant and colourful, particularly in the gorgeous pink leaves that fall to the ground.
While Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is still rock hard on the PS3, we can't wait to have another chance to play through the game. It's released on Playstation 3 this September, so keep your eyes on GameSpot for more on the game in the upcoming months.
At a recent press event held by Russia-based publisher 1C, we had a chance to see and try out a fistful of new games for both the PC and consoles. Here's a blow-by-blow report on what we saw:
Men of War: Red Tide - We played this briefly. This expansion pack to the original World War II game will offer more small-scale, small-arms tactical strategy. This time around, you control a small squad of Russian marine commandos in a variety of assault missions against German occupation armies on the Eastern Front. The level we played put us in command of a handful of soldiers of different professions (such as officer, rifleman, submachine gun support, and sniper) taking on a night mission in a German-occupied shipyard. We found ourselves landed on the beach, trying to carefully inch our squadron forward while periodically coming under fire by soldiers hidden behind cover. Fortunately, because we were on the docks, there was plenty of cover for our troops--stacks of crates, barrels, and fishing nets for us to hover our mouse over before our next move to pull up silhouettes, which indicated where our soldiers would end up relative to cover. We attempted to finesse our way across the dock by sending in our assault-oriented troops in first to draw fire while we leapfrogged our sniper into position behind higher cover, but this didn't seem to work well, since we encountered new pockets of hidden soldiers with pretty much every significant forward move we made. If the first mission is any indication, Red Tide seems like it may be less about stealth and more about getting into firefights early and often. The game will be released later this year.
XIII Century: Blood of Europe.
XIII Century: Blood of Europe - We played this briefly. This follow-up to XIII Century will, like the previous game, offer large-scale tactical battles reminiscent of the Total War series. This time around, the campaign focuses on Dovmont, the prince of Pskov in the region known as "Northern Rus" (present-day Russia), who must repel the attacks of powerful, well-armed Teuton invaders. The quick battle we jumped into was part of the ongoing "Europe at War" play mode (the game will also have a separate campaign mode as well as a "custom game" mode). Like in XIII Century, in Blood of Europe, you'll have a brief respite before each battle to choose your forces before heading out to the field. In our case, because we were basically starting a new game from scratch, we had only the funds to hire three mounted companies; a lancer company, an archer company, and a swordsman company, and we were greatly outnumbered by the Teutons. Once we were done deliberating, we moved out to the field where our tiny army stood at the ready, with the real-time battle defaulting to "paused." We then unpaused the game using the "unpause" button from the icon-and-button-stuffed interface menu in the lower-left corner of the screen (which also has buttons for grouping, company orders, formations, and dozens of other things) and led our units forward to the enemy, which lay in wait on the other side of a shallow swamp surrounded on the edges by heavy forest and a small foothill off to the side. Sadly, our elegant stratagem of sneaking our archers to the high ground to pelt our enemies with arrows didn't quite work since or enemies caught wind of us before we were all the way around the foothill. They rushed us through the nearby forest and quickly surrounded our melee companies, but hovering our mouse over the armies helpfully displayed dozens of different statistics about each battalion--weapon status, armor, skill, morale, flank status, rear status, and so on before we unleashed the ultimate stratagem to prevent defeat--quitting out back to the main menu (after all, it was a big event with a lot of games, and we were pressed for time...and we're sticking to that story). Blood of Europe will be released later this year.
IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey.
IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey for Xbox 360 / PS3 - We played this briefly. Despite the game's name, it has little or nothing to do with the original IL-2 Sturmovik combat flight simulator for the PC from 2001, except that this game is also about flying fighter plans in World War II. However, Birds of Prey has a much more-forgiving control scheme that's better suited to a console controller, and also offers two different "realism" levels--the default arcade-style mode that has the easiest handling, and a more-realistic mode (which we did not try) that has more-challenging plane physics and also requires you to worry about things like your ship's fuel supply. The left analog stick controls your ship's bearing (nose up, nose down, wings up and down) while the right analog stick controls the throttle, and with the exception of suddenly losing forward momentum by pulling up to high in the air, or twirling around too low to the ground and crashing, there probably won't be too many hazardous accidents for players who are serious enough to hunker down and try to wrap their heads around the game's control scheme. The mission we played was in a dogfighting ship equipped with wing-mounted machineguns to fly into enemy territory and try to repel an enemy squadron of similarly equipped fighter planes. The level seemed to do a good job of pacing the encounters for newer players, first throwing only a couple of advance scouts at us so that we could get used to the back-and-forth airborne jousting you'll be doing a great deal of in the game, following blinking indicator arrows onscreen to the location of your nearest enemy, or nearest mission objective, or even your nearest ally. Yes, some missions will actually offer computer-controlled allied planes that seem to fly quite competently and are even pretty good shots, though with persistence and a mindful eye to keep our ship well above the ocean below us, we were able to eventually bring down a few enemy fighters ourselves. However, this action came after a long flight out from base over the ocean to eventually arrive in enemy territory--much like the action in many World War II campaigns, which occasionally required long, uneventful, from-point-A-to-point-B air trips before seeing any action, so it's not clear that Birds of Prey will be a quick pick-up-and-put-down game for 15 minutes on the sofa. The game is scheduled for release later this year.
Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Simulator.
Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim - We played this briefly. For those unfamiliar, this is the sequel to the cult-classic, Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim, a role-playing/strategy hybrid with the unique distinction of having heroes who went on quests, gained experience levels, hunted for treasure, and so on, but not under your direct control. Like in the original game, in Majesty 2, you build up a kingdom, but the actual business of heroically sallying forth and slaying monsters is left up to heroes on their own time. Starting a new game of Majesty 2, we began by building defense towers around our starting keep to safeguard it from rampaging monsters, then started to build guild structures that recruit heroes, such as rangers (who are dynamite archers) and priests (who can cast healing spells). Once we built our guilds and cranked out our first heroes, we set about our task of exploring the wilderness, then clearing out the wolf's den that lay just southwest of our little burg. In situations like this, your best hope to explore the fog-of-war-obscured map, clear out monster nests, and rescue the princess(es) is to place a bounty of gold on these tasks by setting down either an explore flag or a conquer flag in these areas, and affixing whatever gold bounty you consider to be fair. We laid down a few explore flags to help clear out the fog, then dropped a hunting bounty on the den of those pesky wolves and placed a bounty of a couple hundred gold pieces. Once you lay out a bounty and incentivize it, you can mouse over that bounty's flag to see (and change) its current gold bounty price, as well as see how many active heroes are "interested" in taking on the task. In our case, both our ranger and our priest heroes were interested, and trotted out to the den to began whaling on the wolves and their cave. In the meantime, we built up a marketplace at our starting keep to promote commerce and bring in more gold--as you progress through the game, you'll be able to offer bounties to much more-powerful heroes to perform much more-heroic tasks, but it'll cost you. From what we've played, Majesty 2 seems like it stays true to the original game while offering a colorful, 3D graphics makeover. The game will ship later this year.
King's Bounty: Armored Princess.
King's Bounty: Armored Princess - We played this briefly. Armored Princess is the follow-up to last year's King's Bounty: The Legend, which is itself a spiritual successor to the classic Heroes of Might and Magic turn-based fantasy strategy series. Like last year's King's Bounty, Armored Princess is a fully 3D game that takes place in a colorful fantasy world populated by knights, wizards, and lots of different monsters. These fantastical denizens live in different keeps, each of which gives rise to a different set of critters which can be recruited to your cause, though to reap the spoils of war, you must first conquer these keeps and any wandering monsters that guard them. You do so in turn-based battles that take placed on a hex grid and, like in Heroes of Might and Magic, each company of monsters in your employ appears in battle, can move a certain number of hexes per turn, attack at melee range (at the risk of suffering a counterattack from the defending forces), and may have different abilities in battle that will give your team an edge, such as ranged attacks from dwarven cannoneers, or a powerful charging attack from mounted horsemen. In the game, you play as the titular Armored Princess Amelie, who rides her wondrous flying horse (you can press the "F" key to toggle flying on and off) on a quest to find her missing mentor, the mighty hero Bill Gilbert (we know, right?), and to find Bill, you'll need to explore overland maps, picking up piles of treasure and magical items along the way and doing plenty of turn-based fighting. Armored Princess looks like it'll offer even more colorful, fantasy-themed turn-based strategy, and for fans of this sort of thing, things could be a lot worse. The game will ship this Christmas.
Death to Spies: Moment of Truth - We played this briefly. Moment of Truth is the follow-up to 2007's Death to Spies, and like the original game, you play as a covert operative from the perspective of a third-person shooter. However, this isn't a game about running and gunning--in fact, if your enemies sight you, there's a good chance you're already a dead man. Instead, Moment of Truth is about sneaking through each level in the hopes of going undetected to reach your objective. Like in the previous game, you'll have a big bag of tricks to help you, including different weapon loadouts you can choose at the outset of each mission (like a silenced Sten submachine gun and a silenced handgun), a knife for silent kills, chloroform to knock out enemies, and a variety of grenades. There are also multiple postures you can take on the move--walking, crouching, and prone, and while the game has keyboard shortcuts for each, you can also handily switch your posture on the fly with your mousewheel the moment you sight trouble. We played through a bit of the first mission, which required us to sneak along a wooded path to rescue some captured scientists. At any point in the mission, you can press the "O" key to bring up your mission briefing to refresh your memory as well as to locate yourself on a handy map relative to your goal. Since the forest was actually structured like a shallow basin with the open road being the lowest (and most conspicuous) level, we carefully tried to stay halfway between the road and the forest and grass to get the most cover, though we were sighted by groups of enemy soldiers several times and had our heads handed to us once or twice. Because Moment of Truth is a stealth-based game, there's a "detection" meter that sits at the top of the screen that shows how aware your enemies are of your presence; if they barely catch a glimpse of you and you hightail it out of there through cover, the meter will eventually empty out and you'll be in the clear. However, if you get close enough to engage in battle and pull your gun, they'll generally pursue you, which makes it difficult to impossible to escape their notice again. Death to Spies: Moment of Truth is scheduled for release later this year.
Rig'n'Roll - We unfortunately didn't get a chance to try playing this one, but we did get a good look at it. Rig'n'Roll is 1C's ambitious (and long-in-development) trucking simulation, which will let you drive a truck to run races in racing minigames, ship out freight from location to location, and eventually build up your own trucking empire as you hire additional truckers to join your operation and haul oranges, hats, car parts, hats, women's shoes, and hats all across the Golden State. The game will model the entire geography of the state of California and all its highways (presumably the maddening choke of rush-hour traffic on such commute-heavy thoroughfares as the I-80 near the Bay Bridge and the 101 near the San Jose corridor will not appear in the game), and support high-end PC driving peripherals if you happen to have them. While you drive, Rig'n'Roll will offer multiple viewing perspectives (such as a third-person behind-the-truck view, a driver's seat view, and a first-person view), a few gadgets to play with (such as the windshield wipers if it happens to be raining--the game will have day/night cycles and the kind of weather conditions you'd expect to see in sunny California), and continuous radio chatter from your fellow trucking employees and the beautiful young female dispatcher who will update you on your missions. Rig'N'Roll is scheduled for release this year.
Captain Blood for Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC - We unfortunately didn't get a chance to try playing this one, but it appears to be a third-person action game reminiscent of the recent Prince of Persia games or the God of War series, in that you have a relatively nimble protagonist armed with a melee weapon (in this case, a gleaming curved cutlass) and can press your attack button repeatedly to perform combination melee attacks against your enemies, which appear include rival pirates and the local constabulary. You play as the titular sea captain, star of author Rafael Sabatini's swashbuckling novels, and both explore land areas and manage ship-to-ship combat by taking manual control of the cannons on your ships and firing on enemy ships with the aid of glowing onscreen arcs. The game will be released on the PC and the Xbox 360 this year.