You won't find any scores in here, but if you're wondering what GameSpot's reviewers are working on right now this is the blog you should be bookmarking.
Other Site Blogs
GameSpot Versus Beat the Pros Edition is a way for GameSpot members to test their skills against super star pro gamers. From FPS to...
You wake up in an unknown facility, in a medical gown and nothing else. The cold sense of reality sets in; you don't know your...
The first episode of Telltale Games' new episodic game series, Tales of Monkey Island, is available today, though not quite in the way you might imagine. For the one-time purchase price of $34.95, you get all five of the episodes delivered monthly as they are released. So, to play the first episode, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, you'll have to purchase every other episode in advance. This structure precludes us from being able to evaluate the game according to our ratings system because we can't assess whether the purchase price is worth it without playing every episode. We have, however, played Launch of the Screaming Narwhal to completion, and the following are our impressions of the first episode in the new Tales of Monkey Island adventure series.
Below: Check out this official clip of the first few minutes of Launch of the Screaming Narhwal.
Launch of the Screaming Narwhal begins where you might expect an adventure game to end. The hero (Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate) is about to rescue the girl (his wife, Elaine) and defeat the nefarious villain (LeChuck, evil poxed pirate). These characters, as well as a few more you'll meet along the way, are carried through from the first four games in the Monkey Island series, and fans of those games will find references to those and other LucasArts adventures peppered throughout the new episode. Fortunately, Narwhal's humor doesn't rely too much on the past, and most of the jokes are accessible to first-time Islanders. While the game is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, it maintains a fairly constant level of cleverness that is sure to elicit some chuckles, more than a few groans, and plenty of wry smiles--a style reminiscent of LucasArts' adventure classics.
After his villain-vanquishing efforts go awry, Guybrush finds himself stranded on Flotsam Island. It's here that your adventuring really begins, and you set about exploring the town and surrounding jungle, chatting up locals, and picking up anything that isn't nailed down. You can walk around using the keyboard or the mouse. The movement controls aren't quite point-and-click: You hold down the left mouse button and slide the mouse gently to determine the direction in which you want to walk. It's a bit finicky at first, but it works well once you get the hang of it, though you might want to switch to the keyboard occasionally to avoid index-finger fatigue. You can also hold the right mouse button or the Shift key to run, which is a welcome feature when you're traversing familiar territory yet again.
Below: How Guybrush Threepwood takes control of the situation (CONTAINS SOLUTION TO PUZZLE)
Though Flotsam Island isn't very big, there are a good number of puzzles to solve and intrigues to unravel. Speaking with the locals will get you started, and though there are an oddly limited number of character models (fat or skinny, and that's about it), each one is distinctly garbed and has his own weird personality. Your early adventures establish you as a pirate of distinction on this tiny backwater as you start a bar fight, discover buried treasure, and commandeer a ship. Of course, you accomplish these tasks in goofy roundabout ways that provide plenty of opportunities for clever item use and general silliness. Usually, it won't be too hard to puzzle out what to do next, but if you get really stuck, you can ratchet up the hint frequency and Guybrush will chime in with helpful observations to steer you in the right direction.
Your later adventures includ two characters that are bound to recur throughout the Tales of Monkey Island series, and dealing with them is appreciably more entertaining. They have more robustly eccentric personalities and help set the course for not only your escape from Flotsam Island, but also future episodes. The presence of multiple episode-spanning intrigues bodes well for the future of the series, and you'll likely be looking forward to the next one (The Siege of Spinner Cay) when you finish Launch of the Screaming Narwhal.
While it doesn't quite herald a new golden age of adventure gaming, the first episode of Tales of Monkey Island is funny and engaging enough to entertain for the few hours that it lasts. Fans of the Monkey Island series will get a kick out of the old references and familiar characters, while newcomers will find a clever adventure that kicks off the episodic run with style.
I'm sorry that we haven't been able to bring you a full review of Fight Night Round 4 this week, but because of some kind of mix-up at EA we didn't receive final copies of the game until late on Tuesday--several days after we first spotted other reviewers playing online. I've sunk maybe a dozen or so hours into the game since then, both offline and online, but as of right now I don't feel that I'm far enough into the lengthy career mode to judge it. With a fight record of 26(14)-1-0 I'm currently ranked tenth in my weight class, but as my opponents are getting tougher (and my attributes aren't improving nearly as quickly as I'd like), fights are frequently taking the full ten 3-minute rounds to win.
I'll be spending a lot more time with Fight Night Round 4 this weekend, and hope to have a review ready before end-of-day Monday. In the meantime, here are some notes on my experience thus far:
The first thing I do in any game that will let me is attempt to put myself into the game. My first attempt with the Xbox Live Vision Camera wasn't too impressive, but using a proper digital camera and using front and side photos of my face uploaded to EA's Website, I've ended up with a fighter that I think looks quite a lot like me--at least from some angles. There's no option to add tattoos though. /sadface.
Bolton Wanderers fan Justin Calvert ready for his first (amateur) career fight.
Going into the review, I was completely unaware that it would be possible to share boxers online. I haven't uploaded mine for other people to beat up yet, but I've expanded the game's roster with a whole bunch of player-made fighters. Favorites include Zab Judah, Evander Holyfield, Joe Louis, Gary Coleman, Chuck Norris, and Bill Cosby.
Norris versus Cosby
Hitting the Canvas
One of my favorite features of Fight Night Round 4 right now, other than the fighting itself, is the new mechanic for getting back to your feet after being knocked down. The camera shifts to a first-person perspective, you use the left stick to straighten up and avoid swaying left and right too much, and the right stick to actually stand. I especially like the way that the ref checks you out before letting you continue.
Are you OK to continue?
You don't get to spend a whole lot of time training in career mode, so fighter progression can be slow. The training minigames are fun, but their difficulty is wildly inconsistent.
This is one of the easier training minigames. Some of them are really difficult early on.
I haven't entered the Online World Championship yet, but I've taken part in plenty of online bouts with friends that, to date, have been lag-free. That was before the game officially went on sale, though, so I need to see if the game is still performing as well now that there are a lot more people online.
That's about all I'm going to say for now. I'll be playing as JusticeCovert on both PS3 and X360 this weekend, so if any of you feel like stepping into the squared circle with me feel free to shoot me an invite. I can't promise that I'll jump straight into a game with you though--getting through the career mode has to take priority.
Last year, Guitar Hero World Tour expanded the seminal franchise to include vocals and drums in addition to guitars and bass. A slew of new songs for the full band have since been released, but what about the tracks from the axe-only days of Guitar Hero? For those hoping to revisit those tracks, Activision has released Guitar Hero: Smash Hits. This full-priced retail game is packed with 48 songs drawn from previous GH games. We recently spent some time rocking with the Xbox 360 retail release of Smash Hits. This blog entry will tell you what to expect from Smash Hits, and whether or not it's worth the asking price.
Guitar Hero: Smash Hits sports the expected array of game modes, including Career (unlock songs and venues as you progress), Quickplay (select up to six songs at a time from the full tracklist), Head to Head (two players duel using their instrument of choice), Xbox Live (Band Quickplay, Band vs. Band, Head to Head, Downloadable Content), Music Studio, and assorted other options. It looks and plays pretty much exactly like Guitar Hero World Tour, with the exception of some graphical flourishes and new venues.
With no new features to speak of, Guitar Hero: Smash Hits is essentially a track pack. So is it worth the price? Well, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions are priced at $59.99: 48 songs for about $60 works out to $1.25 per song. This is a significantly lower price than you'll pay when purchasing downloadable tracks individually or in bundles, so in that sense it's a reasonably good value. However, there's no picking or choosing your favorites here. You get these songs, and these songs only:
• "Godzilla" by Blue Oyster Cult
• "More Than a Feeling" by Boston
• "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple
• "Take Me Out" by Franz Ferdinand
• "Unsung (Live)" by Helmet
• "Stellar" by Incubus
• "I Love Rock N' Roll" by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
• "Bark at the Moon" by Ozzy Osbourne
• "Cowboys From Hell (Live)" by Pantera
• "Killer Queen" by Queen
• "No One Knows" by Queens of the Stone Age
• "Take It Off" by The Donnas
• "Hey You" by The Exies
• "Thunder Kiss '65" by White Zombie
Guitar Hero II
• "Them Bones" by Alice in Chains
• "Beast and the Harlot" by Avenged Sevenfold
• "Mother" by Danzig
• "Monkey Wrench" by Foo Fighters
• "The Trooper" by Iron Maiden
• "Stop!" by Jane's Addiction
• "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas
• "Laid to Rest" by Lamb of God
• "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
• "Shout at the Devil" by Motley Crue
• "Heart-Shaped Box" by Nirvana
• "Killing in the Name" by Rage Against the Machine
• "Psychobilly Freakout" by Reverend Horton Heat
• "YYZ" by Rush
• "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart" by Stone Temple Pilots
• "Message in a Bottle" by The Police
• "Freya" by The Sword
• "Cherry Pie" by Warrant
• "Woman" by Wolfmother
Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s
• "Caught in a Mosh" by Anthrax
• "Play With Me" by Extreme
• "Electric Eye" by Judas Priest
• "Nothin' but a Good Time" by Poison
• "Round and Round" by Ratt
• "I Wanna Rock" by Twisted Sister
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
• "Miss Murder" by AFI
• "Through the Fire and Flames" by DragonForce
• "Barracuda" by Heart
• "Rock and Roll All Nite" by Kiss
• "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour
• "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar
• "Lay Down" by Priestess
• "Raining Blood" by Slayer
Guitar Hero: Aerosmith
• "Back in the Saddle" by Aerosmith
So what do you think? There are certainly some classics in there, just as there are some not-so-classics. Though Smash Hits' appeal will vary from person to person, it's unlikely that anyone other than a true World Tour enthusiast will view this as a particularly good deal. Since the dawn of the full-band rhythm game, players have been able to pick and choose their own tracks from a large list of downloadable content. Shoppers accustomed to purchasing tracks individually or in small bundles will likely balk at the prospect of buying in bulk. Those who regularly consume large amounts of World Tour may appreciate the wholesale discount, but more casual rockers are advised to exercise patience. Smash Hits may never be broken out into more bite-size downloadable packages, but the price is sure to drop eventually, which will make this track pack much more appealing.
We downloaded the biggest Burnout DLC to date--the brand new Big Surf Island.
Burnout Paradise has received its fair share of downloadable content, and over the past year, it's definitely led the way in terms of postrelease extras. However, Big Surf Island, released this week, is the biggest and most expensive addition to Burnout yet. For $12.99/£9.99/€12.99, you can now drive over the bridge east of Paradise City and onto a totally new island, complete with new races, jumps, and vehicles. We downloaded the content fresh from the Net as soon as it was released, and we're pleased to say that while it's costly, it's still well worth checking out.
Check out our video hands-on to see Big Surf Island in action!
The big draw of the Big Surf Island DLC is obviously the extended playing area, but there's plenty more to experience other than new real estate. There are a total of nine new cars, including a dust storm buggy, which is open from the off. Big Surf Island is packed to the brim with insane jumps, and the dust buggy is the perfect vehicle to tackle them with because it's fast, light, and agile. There are also plenty of new challenges to complete--15 events, 10 freeburn challenges, and more than 100 billboards, smashes, and jumps to find. We can't profess to have found everything in the add-on, but Criterion promises more than five hours of playtime from the DLC.
The island itself is designed like a playground for the rich and famous inhabitants of Paradise City. Not only are there shops and malls all over the place, but there's also a ski jump at the very peak of the island. This attraction offers the highest jump on the island, but there are many humongous jumps to be had, from construction sites to lighthouses. Exploring this island offers some of the most fun we've ever had in Burnout Paradise because there's just so much barrell-rolling fun to be had with the new buggy.
The races on Big Surf Island take the form of checkpoint races, meaning you have to pass through gates on a looped track rather than race from A to B. There's also a new event type called island tours that is particularly challenging because it involves racing around the island to a very short timer. All in all, though, the new challenges should keep you going for quite a while, and you can still drive them in all of the cars, bikes, and other DLC vehicles that you might have previously bought.
It's an expensive business keeping up with Burnout Paradise's DLC--all of the collected content would cost you £48.54 if you were to download it on the PlayStation Network. That said, Burnout Paradise is still one of, if not, the best arcade racing games on the market, and if you only buy one piece of DLC for the game, then Big Surf Island should be it. Check out our impressions of previous Burnout DLC on our reviews blog, and if you're new to the series, check out the full review of the original game.
Just a quick note to let you all know that, now that E3 is over and we're all back at work, we haven't forgotten about any of the games that were released while we were in LA or that are shipping to stores today. A handful of reviews from guys who didn't make it to E3 will start going up later today, I'll have Prototype ready in a day or two, Kevin has been playing Fuel furiously, and our teams in the UK and Australia are pitching in wherever possible.
Hope you all enjoyed E3 as much as we did.
We went hands-on with the latest F.E.A.R. 2 maps, playing head-to-head against the developers of the game.
Following last month's release of the free Toy Soldiers Map Pack, Monolith has just unleashed the first paid-for content for F.E.A.R. 2. The Armored Front map pack contains two new multiplayer maps, both of which have an emphasis on mech-based combat, and four new skins for your multiplayer character. The pack launches on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network this week, but we managed to score an advance play of the maps against the developers themselves.
Check out the Armored Front map pack in our video hands-on.
The Armored Front map pack contains two new multiplayer maps, both of which are large and open. Conductor takes place in a train yard, while Decoy is an old soldier training ground. Conductor feels the largest of the two, with a huge open area that you can easily snipe from, while Decoy features cardboard targets that pop up and down. They're not particularly distracting, but you do need to shoot them out of the way to access certain areas.
Given the name of this expansion, it's suitable that both maps should be focussed on the Armored Front game mode. In this mode, each team has to fight to take control of five different points across the map. The twist is that you have to capture each point sequentially, so battles often centre around the third capture point in each map. The games we played were three-on-three against a combination of Monolith developers and WB marketing peeps, and we have to say that we found it pretty difficult to put up a decent fight against such expert competition.
The common theme in these new maps is mech combat. Both teams have access to a giant robot, which can provide effective support for those who are doing the capturing. The mechs have both rocket grenades and machine guns at their disposal, which can make mincemeat out of any standard soldiers. The rockets take a few seconds to reload, while the turrets overheat quickly, so you still have to think about how you're going to approach each situation.
The only effective ways to take out a mech are to use another mech or to pick up one of the rocket launchers that lie around in each map. It still takes a few rockets to take down the robots, so it's best to approach them from behind, as it takes the mechs a while to turn around. The Decoy map also features gun turrets next to the final capture points, which you can jump into and make a desperate last stand. With all these high-powered weapons, the Armored Front maps have a real hectic feel to them, and we have to say that's probably the best thing about them.
Three months on from release, the online community for F.E.A.R. 2 doesn't seem to be huge, but it's clear that Warner Bros. is keen on supporting the game. While 560 Microsoft points is slightly overpriced for two maps and some new avatars, the Armored Front pack is still worth playing if you're a fan of the game. Watch the video above to see it in action, and you can download it from Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network now.
Despite the replayability of the excellent single-player and co-op campaign offered in Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3), sometimes simply killing the debatably undead grows tiresome. This is an entirely natural phenomenon, and one that developer Capcom has chosen to address by offering you the Mercenaries minigame, which lets you kill maybe-undead in a timed challenge for points. But what if you want more? What if you want to hunt down the most dangerous prey of all, your fellow man? Lucky you! Capcom has once again stepped in by offering the Resident Evil 5 Versus Mode DLC, allowing you to channel your bloodthirsty tendencies in a creative, anonymous, non-capital-crimey way.
Versus mode offers two distinct gameplay types--Slayers and Survivors--both of which can be played in solo or team versions. Slayers is essentially a competitive version of the Mercenaries minigame that supports four players. You play on one of the same eight levels as in Mercenaries with the exact same rule set. Each character is preloaded with different weapons, and you run around and rack up kills to build up your combo meter and score, picking up time and combo bonuses as necessary. You can fight the other players if you like, or you can try to ignore them and focus on the Majini that will spawn. If you're killed, you'll respawn instantly so you can get back into the action, and the round ends once the timer runs out.
Survivors is a Mercenaries take on the standard Deathmatch mode, which once again takes place on the same eight levels and supports up to four players. There's still a countdown timer, and Majini still spawn (albeit at a slower rate and in fewer numbers), but the main attraction is the player battles. In this game mode, you increase your score by damaging the other players, and your score is decreased whenever you take damage or die. There are no combo items this time around, and you start with only one weapon, though others can be found around the maps or are dropped by the Boss Majini that show up (though you otherwise get no points for killing them).
For both of these modes you have access to the same group of characters available in Mercenaries, including all three costumed versions of Chris and Sheva, and both versions of Jill and Wesker. Unlike in Mercenaries, though, you don't unlock additional characters by simply winning matches on the various levels--you've got to purchase them with the precious exchange points you earn by playing the game. What this means is that unless you've got an excess of points in your Internet wallet, you're going to be put at an immediate disadvantage once you start playing Versus mode because you don't have the 50,000 EP needed to buy the incredibly smug S.T.A.R.S. Wesker, who has indeed achieved complete global saturation thanks to how hideously overpowered his armament is (not to mention his special dash ability). But, as with Mercenaries, you earn points for playing, so keep at it and eventually you too will be able to play as Wesker and mash the assist button to hear his hilariously disdainful comments.
Poor performance indeed!
One of the most interesting aspects of the Versus DLC is figuring out how you should approach each of the levels and modes. There are a number of different strategies for you to use, whether it's as simple as finding the high ground with a sniper rifle and watching your back, as sinister as planting proximity bombs around blind corners in heavily trafficked areas, or as jerk-y as running to the health item stash and discarding everything but the few you keep for yourself so you're the only one who can heal. Despite the number of potential strategies, the gameplay in the Versus mode is the same as it is elsewhere in the game--you've got to stop to aim and shoot--which means that close-range gunfights sometimes devolve into stationary face-offs (which are as dumb as they sound).
Ultimately, the amount of fun and enjoyment you get out of the Versus DLC for Resident Evil 5 depends a lot on how much you like the Mercenaries minigame. Both Slayers and Survivors are based on the gameplay found in Mercenaries, though they have different goals and require separate strategies. If you've mastered Mercenaries and are looking for new challenges (and ways to show off, since Versus features its own leaderboards), you're definitely going to want to pick up Versus. But even if you're not a professional riding the wind of madness, this pack is only 400 Microsoft points or $4.99 on the PSN, so you may want to give it a shot.
The Steel & Titanium Pack delivers two new multiplayer maps for Killzone 2 for the price of $5.99. The new maps, Wasteland Bullet and Vekta Cruiser, take place on a pair of speeding freight trains and a massive airship, respectively. While both maps nail the chaotic, war-torn atmosphere of Killzone 2, they are a bit more constricted than most of the other multiplayer maps. Each one is full of long corridors and small to midsize rooms that encourage intense, close-range firefights and prolonged battles for key chokepoints. The action is fast and furious, but it also feels a bit strategically limited due to the smaller layouts. A few unique touches help flesh things out, and jumping between trains in Wasteland Bullet is a thrill in and of itself. With a handful of new trophies to round it out, the Steel & Titanium Pack is a no-brainer for folks who still play Killzone 2 online regularly. If you haven't gone back to Helghan in a while and want a more detailed analysis of the pack, read on.
Of the two forms of transit featured in Steel & Titanium, the two trains of Wasteland Bullet are definitely the more exciting. These trains are constantly traveling at high speeds, and the lighting in the level can change dramatically as you speed in and out of tunnels across the smoky, barren wastes. Though the trains run consistently parallel to each other, there aren't any bridges connecting them, so you'll have to jump between them to strategically navigate the map. There are a number of clearly designated platforms to jump from, but every so often the trains pass large metal columns that zip down the gap with deadly speed. Get clipped by one of these, or miss your jump, and you're dead. Because there are only a few of these platforms throughout the level, they are strategically important areas that often see significant traffic and can occasionally become hotly contested chokepoints. Scouting up the gap to see your opponents streaming over to your side of the train can be a handy tactic, and it looks really cool to boot.
As expected, the map is laid out in two long and narrow rectangles. Massive engine assemblies and control hubs at opposite ends of the trains serve as base spawn points. Moving toward the center, each team crosses an open freight storage platform that houses the target areas for the search-and-destroy missions. These matches often boil down to fierce chokepoint battles as enemies try to leap over the gap or stream in through the narrow doors that lead to the central interior sections. These two-story sections are crisscrossed with walkways and stairs that make for some tactical multilevel interior encounters, and they provide access to the roof of the train. Up on the roof, you can look down on the open freight platforms (a great firing position during search-and-destroy missions), and capable engineers can repair the busted turret and wreak havoc. It's a dangerous position, though, because the trains will often pass overhead obstacles that can kill you instantly if you are poorly positioned. Knowing your routes through this level is essential, because Wasteland Bullet is full of chokepoints that enemies can easily clog up. The high-speed trains and short-range combat make for some intense action, but the claustrophobic feel will likely make you yearn for some wide-open spaces.
You'll get a glimpse of those spaces in Vekta Cruiser, but you won't get to stretch out much. This massive airship offers views of the scorched, cloudy sky, but you're stuck battling it out in the interior. The two decks center around a massive circular reactor, but though you can sort of see through it to spot enemy movements, projectiles will not pass through. The stage is laid out in a rectangle. The bow and stern are the farthest points from each other, so naturally they house the base spawn areas. Right out of the spawn areas are open two-story rooms where fierce search-and-destroy conflicts play out. Grated stairs and walkways allow you to shoot players above and below you, and the many entrances and open layout make these areas a bustling hive of death.
Heading toward the middle of the ship, you'll encounter the large reactor and engage in some longer-range firefights. Capture-and-hold battles get pretty heated here, but this central area tends to be more of a pass-through to other points of interest. There are long flanking hallways on either side of the ship, and this is where things get downright nasty. These narrow corridors again feature grated walkways, and one side of the ship has been massively damaged and has some cool-looking iron wreckage. There are many entrance points to these areas, which means they are a favorite route for traversing the ship. Again, the enclosed spaces of Vekta Cruiser make it a great venue for fierce close-range battles, but not much else.
The clean gray metals of the ISA cruiser contrast nicely with the gritty greens and blacks of the Helghast train, providing great aesthetic backgrounds for battle. Steel & Titanium does add some new spice to the pot of Killzone 2 multiplayer (and a bunch of new map-specific trophies to boot). Those whose tastes veer away from tight spaces and confined conflicts may not want to bother purchasing them, as there is still plenty of action to be found elsewhere. Still, the exciting train environment and the novelty of new killing grounds should appeal to most players. Those who haven't played in a while may even find that the claustrophobic Steel & Titanium battles will reawaken their desire to revisit the original set of maps, which are still some of the best around.
**Ed. Note: The original text of this entry included comments about glitches relating to a specific trophy and a secondary ability. These were determined to be unrelated to the Steel & Titanium pack, and the comments were removed.
Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures is the latest episodic game series from developer and publisher Telltale Games. We recently completed the first of the four planned episodes, Fright of the Bumblebees; however, you won't be seeing a proper review for Grand Adventures for some time yet. That's because it's not possible to purchase these episodes individually and so, at the time of this writing, we've played only 25 percent of the content we've purchased. Of course, we can give you our impressions of the first episode so you can see how the series is shaping up. Read on for our thoughts on Wallace & Gromit's first Grand Adventure.
Fright of the Bumblebees begins at a logical starting place: breakfast. It's Gromit's turn to prepare the morning repast, and as you guide him through this gadget-assisted ritual, you'll notice that his wry looks and exaggerated walking animation are adeptly replicated. While the game isn't claymation and lacks some of that medium's subtle delights, Fright of the Bumblebees captures the look and feel of the characters and their world. The elaborate contraptions, goofy neighbors, and cozy suburban feel of West Wallaby Street are all faithfully represented here. The top-notch voice acting rounds out the impressive presentation, which really nails the whimsical charm of Wallace & Gromit franchise.
Once breakfast is done, Wallace and Gromit go about their daily business: coming up with harebrained schemes to get themselves out of the messes caused by their previous harebrained schemes. This sort of action is very well-suited to the point-and-click adventure gameplay of Fright of the Bumblebees. The duo's existing problems and their new business plan provide more than enough activities that need puzzling out, and you'll do so predominantly by moving from area to area, collecting items, speaking with townsfolk, and figuring out what to use your items for. The map is pleasantly small--you'll visit only a few locations--and the narrow scope means you'll never be at a loss for what to do next. Your adventure proceeds at a good pace, and if you get hung up, there are good hints to help you get moving again.
Moving Wallace and Gromit (you alternate between them) around with the keyboard is easy, and you use the mouse for everything else. In addition to bringing items to different places and using them appropriately, there are a few one-off puzzles and action sequences that break up the pace nicely. It's not a difficult game, and though you'll probably run into a few head-scratchers, they're nothing a hint or some creative thinking can't solve. The game lasts a few hours and feels ideally suited for play across a few short sessions. The light difficulty and silly sense of humor can make longer sessions tiresome, but taken in chunks, Wallace and Gromit's first episodic outing is good wholesome fun.
Fright of the Bumblebees a great debut for Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures, and we're looking forward to seeing how the series progresses. Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures is also slated for episodic release on Xbox Live Arcade (release date TBA), where each episode will be released (and reviewed) individually.
Guitar Hero: Metallica hit retail shelves this week, and our review is up and ready for your perusal. As with any such music game, the setlist is one of the best ways to gauge whether or not you, as a consumer, are going to be interested. The review itself isn't the proper place to list all of the game's 49 songs, but the reviews blog will do nicely. So without further ado, behold!
• All Nightmare Long
• Creeping Death
• Disposable Heroes
• Dyers Eve
• Enter Sandman
• Fade To Black
• Fight Fire With Fire
• For Whom The Bell Tolls
• Hit The Lights
• King Nothing
• Master of Puppets
• Mercyful Fate (Medley)
• No Leaf Clover (Live)
• Nothing Else Matters
• Sad But True
• Seek And Destroy
• The Memory Remains
• The Shortest Straw
• The Thing That Should Not Be
• The Unforgiven
• Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
• Wherever I May Roam
• Alice In Chains -- "No Excuses"
• Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band -- "Turn The Page (Live)"
• Corrosion of Conformity -- "Albatross"
• Diamond Head -- "Am I Evil?"
• Foo Fighters -- "Stacked Actors"
• Judas Priest -- "Hell Bent For Leather"
• Kyuss -- "Demon Cleaner"
• Lynyrd Skynyrd -- "Tuesday's Gone"
• Machine Head -- "Beautiful Mourning"
• Mastodon -- "Blood And Thunder"
• Mercyful Fate -- "Evil"
• Michael Schenker Group -- "Armed and Ready"
• Motorhead -- "Ace of Spades"
• Queen -- "Stone Cold Crazy"
• Samhain -- "Mother of Mercy"
• Slayer -- "War Ensemble"
• Social Distortion -- "Mommy's Little Monster (Live)"
• Suicidal Tendencies -- "War Inside My Head"
• The Sword -- "Black River"
• System of a Down -- "Toxicity"
• Thin Lizzy -- "The Boys Are Back in Town"
Now check out our full Guitar Hero: Metallica review!
According to a recent thread in our Men of War forum, the review that we posted for the game yesterday contained a number of factual inaccuracies. We're looking into it and, while we figure out our next course of action, the review has been pulled from the site. I'll update this entry when I have more information to share.
EDIT:Replacement Men of War review is now live.
We've just posted our review of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars which, I'm happy to report, is an extremely positive one. It's not often that we feel compelled to produce a video review for a DS game nowadays, but Chinatown Wars is definitely an exception. Our video review should have been going live simultaneously with the text, but at the time of this writing we're experiencing some technical problems and so, because we just can't wait any longer to share our review of this game with you, we've made the decision to post it without the accompanying video for the moment.
Perhaps by the time you read this the video review will be live, but in case it isn't, please check back later. Screenshots don't even come close to doing this incredible-looking game justice.
Prince of Persia was one of my favorite games from last year, but even though I loved jumping across the beautiful environments, I was still hesitant about the idea of additional content. Unlike other expansion packs that create wholly separate missions from the main quest, Epilogue serves as a direct continuation of Prince of Persia, starting right after the controversial ending. The powerful conclusion to the first game did an excellent job of whetting my appetite for the inevitable sequel, so I wasn't sure how I would feel after Epilogue changed my understanding of the story. After finishing up the additional quest today, I can say that I am still extremely excited for where this story ends up. If you have yet to play through the main quest, please stop reading now; spoilers are all but impossible to avoid.
If you somehow forgot about the ending to Prince of Persia, let me quickly recap the events so you aren't completely lost: Elika died. In a noble (yet so foolish) attempt to save the world from Ahriman, she sacrificed herself at the altar of death. Kind of a bum-out way to end a 10-hour adventure, right? Well, the Prince agreed, and resurrected her at the cost of setting Ahriman loose to potentially take over the world. And that is exactly where Epilogue begins. The Prince is running away from a terrible dust storm (the meteorological embodiment of Ahriman, of course), carrying the princess's limp body and hurrying toward an abandoned temple. What could possible go wrong?
The story development is handled in a similar manner as the main quest. Whenever Elika has something important on her mind, the screen will prompt you to communicate with her. This system lets you learn as much--or as little--about the princess as you wish. There is one tweak, though, that makes character development much more powerful. In the main storyline, you can complete quests in whatever order you like. In this strictly linear temple, though, every important story development is triggered in a specific order, so the characters grow in a logical and convincing way throughout the journey. Be prepared to put up with the cold shoulder for the first hour or so; Elika is none too pleased that you rescued her from permanent slumber.
Like the story, the gameplay is largely the same as the source material, but it adds a few tweaks. The biggest difference is the linear nature of this temple. There is no hub world this time, and you don't have much chance to explore different parts of this building at your leisure. Light seeds have also been eliminated. Although this makes sense from a story perspective (the temple that the Light Seeds fueled was destroyed at the end of the first game), it mostly removes the exploration aspect that was so engrossing the first time around. There are a few frescos hidden just off of the beaten path, but they aren't prevalent enough to fully replace the joy of collecting balls of glowing light. Furthermore, considering that the entire adventure takes place in a temple, the enchanting vistas from the first game are gone. Sure, the temple looks really nice, but it's dank and uninviting and, unlike the fertile lands of the main quest, you can't even breathe life into this deserted ruin.
Even with those deviations from the formula, Epilogue is still a blast to play. The platforming is much more difficult this time around. The corruption puddles are placed in truly devious ways, requiring perfect timing to get from one platform to another. Certain sections impose a time limit on you, forcing you to run along walls and swing from poles much quicker than you ordinarily would, lest you end up consumed by the ever-present might of Ahriman. A purple power pad has also been thrown into the mix. This also imposes a time limit on your adventuring, creating magic walls that disappear if you don't use them quickly enough. These new features make the experience feel fresh, even though it's still predominantly the same as the original.
After every major platforming section, you will still be required to battle one of Ahriman's dark forces, and this is again the weakest part of the experience. You now have the ability to rush at your foe from afar, triggering a quick-time event that will momentarily give the upper hand to the winner. But there are only a handful of enemies that you can fight, so these battles become repetitive almost immediately. They certainly aren't bad--in fact, once you get in the rhythm of grabbing and stabbing these evil beasts, they can be flat-out fun--but they ultimately serve as distractions from the amazing platforming.
The Epilogue last about three hours and has enough content to justify the $10 price point. If you are still on the fence, though, ask yourself this one question: How important is the story to you? The ending to this Epilogue completely changes the events from the end of the main quest, so if you want to stay up to date on the Prince's struggles with Ahriman, you will certainly get more out of this addition than someone who just wants to jump and fight. Prince of Persia may not have needed DLC at all, but the incredible platforming and satisfying story make it worthwhile to go back for a few more hours.
Lara's Shadow is much more ambitious than 'Beneath the Ashes', and turns Tomb Raider into a much faster, more fluid game.
'Lara's Shadow' is the second downloadable content pack for Tomb Raider Underworld, following a mere fortnight after 'Beneath the Ashes'. Whereas Lara's first DLC was a short, uninspired trot through familiar territory, Lara's Shadow does far more to justify its 800 Microsoft Point price tag. It has an all-new protagonist, whose new moves and special abilities make the game much faster than before, and imaginative level design that takes advantage of her new skill set. In short, Lara's Shadow delivers what fans have a right to expect from DLC, and it will please Lara die-hards and adventure fans alike.
The story of Lara's Shadow interweaves Beneath the Ashes, and even features some of its cut-scenes. You play Lara's Shadow, the doppleganger who first appeared in Tomb Raider Underworld, and the game revolves around her relationship to both Natla and Lara. As with previous Tomb Raiders, the story and characters are badly written and entirely forgettable, but the introduction of Lara's Shadow does wonders for the gameplay. Her increased agility, stronger powers and new special abilities mean that this is a very different game to Tomb Raider Underworld, and one that fans of the series will really get a kick out of.
The new gameplay feature is the shadow meter, which enhances the standard move set. By holding down either of the bumper buttons to activate these powers, Shadow Lara can free-climb up certain special surfaces, or run along regular ledges a lot quicker than before. She moves at such a pace that she makes the original Lara look like an amateur spelunker, and experienced players will be able to scale the environments in a much more fluid manner than before. The latest Prince of Persia has clearly influenced Shadow Lara's abilities, but thankfully they add to the challenge and sense of exploration, rather than making things too easy.
The other area where the shadow abilities come into play is combat. As long as your shadow meter is at full capacity, holding a shoulder button and pressing a regular attack results in a much more powerful version of that move. Press punch, and Shadow Lara will unleash an almighty blow to her enemy, whereas shooting your guns results in a much faster rate of fire. She can also slow down time and move faster through the environment if you hold the shoulder button, allowing her to pass through some fiendish Indiana-Jones style traps. Finally, her health regenerates, meaning that the old-fashioned system of collecting health packs has gone completely. Combined with the new offensive moves, the health system does make the combat easier, even though the enemies are much bigger.
Given Shadow Lara's new skills and abilities, the levels have had to become even larger and more industrial. There are some huge set-pieces involving mechanical traps and moving objects, and her new skill set comes in handy in moving quickly or slowing down time in order to avoid death. Whereas 'Beneath the Ashes' incorporated a lot of rappelling and puzzle-solving, this has been banished in favour of elaborate exploration in Lara's Shadow. Much of your time will be spent figuring out how to scale a huge environment, and then using the right combination of button presses to navigate it. This is where Lara's Shadow really succeeds, and while the combat still occurs more frequently than we'd like, it's an absolute joy to master the new abilities and see them in action. The only downside is that, like Underworld, there's some back-tracking through the same areas.
Although Lara's Shadow arrives a mere fortnight after Beneath the Ashes, it outshines its predecessor in nearly every way. The new character radically changes the gameplay, making the game much more fast paced than before, while the level design incorporates these changes for a new focus on simple exploration. The combat is still cumbersome, and it's still relatively short at around two hours, but the level design makes this world a joy to explore. This is a great example of novel downloadable content, and it's something that Tomb Raider fans should definitely add to their download queue.
If you're familiar with the Total War series, you are surely aware that Empire: Total War is a huge, slow-paced, ambitious game, full of nuance and gravity and all of the features, wonders, and shortcomings of a game this massive. As a result, it takes a while to review a product like this, and though we received our copy in the middle of last week, I still only feel like I am scratching the surface. So bear with me while I wade my through enough of it to provide a proper review. I am also working on Blue Dragon Plus and Drakensang, but both of those reviews are on hold for a short time while I let Total War take over my life.
In the meanwhile, I will be offering a couple of updates to let you know how well my empire is faring. Enjoy the look!
I am playing the Grand Campaign as the Ottoman Empire, and started in 1700. Right off, I knew that the Greeks would be trouble. I wasted no time in declaring war on Venice, since they seemed to be an obvious route to keeping tabs on Austria, my mortal enemy. The problems started right away, however, as Vienna decided to pluck Athens from underneath me. I was able to get Athens back, and actually, all of Greece. Sadly, Patras, Morea proved to be a pain in the backside. Greek rebels rose up and pestered so often that I eventually decided to let them be for the time being while I whittled away at Russia and Persia.
I should have realized, however, that Austria wouldn't sit idly by, and they declared war on me just when it seemed I might be able to rid the map of Venice once and for all. It's now 1715, and I am trying to keep both Venice and Austria in check by blockading their ports and raiding trade routes with my naval forces. Without a proper income, I am hoping I can diminish their wealth, and fortunately, their navies aren't aggressive--yet.
The bad news is that with too many fronts spread about the map, my offensives on Russia and Persia haven't gone according to plan. With the Greeks more pain than I need, and France being all uppity with me every time I open negotiations, I decided to just give Greece to the British in return for an alliance and some technology. With trade routes blocked and Greece no longer a priority, I now have a far better flow of cash, and I can concentrate on technology and war.
Blocking ports and raiding trade routes is a great way to earn some extra cash while sabotaging your enemies.
I start with 9312 in funds, probably the most I have had to work with in a single turn yet. First, I use my Hashishin (assassin) to take out an iron mine in Austria. I need to cripple the economy if I have a hope of succeeding. I also recruit multiple soldiers to my nearby army. Zagreb was mine, and I intend to take it back from the Austrians.
I decide to attack the Russian city of Cherkassk. I have an Imam in there converting the population to Islam, so hopefully, keeping the city won't be too problematic, since the population will have already warmed to my presence. The assault goes well; I send melee troops into a garrisoned building, easily crushing the armed citizenry inside. Then, it's a matter of using camel nomads to off the rest. It was a snowy day, making it easier to forgive all sorts of AI weirdness--a pretty typical kind of oddity in Empire's real-time battles. Victory! The region is mine.
I also send in a small force to rid me of the Persian troops led by Shaheen Siyavushi outside Baghdad, and like an idiot, I let the battle autoresolve. I should know better--I have gotten quite good at exploiting the enemy AI in battle, so I regret taking the easy way out!
Finally, needing more income to feed my war plans, I build a cotton plantation in Egypt, an area completely unworried by military concerns. For now. End Turn.
Joy! A small Austrian army attacks troops I have holding on to a farm. No autoresolve this time--I will wait out the long loading time and do this myself. My azzars, well-positioned, take care of the Austrian pikemen. Heroic victory! And more joy--An enormous Persian army attacks a tiny force of 63 troops. This time I can retreat, so I run with my tail between my legs.
Some battles are easily won; some aren't.
Seems my carpet weaver's cottage in Erbil has been sabotaged. Call me unhappy. Well, I can get the Persians back by attacking their tiny army of Zamindari pikemen. Not willing to take the autoresolve route, I decide to send my camel nomads into the pikemen--it's my only option. I watch them struggle to get over a wall, and the pikemen are done, though I lose some cavalry in the process. And rather than let the routed enemy end the battle, I finish it out all the way.Good thing, because I kill their general. I get credited with a close victory for some reason.
Next Russian target? Astrakhan. I build up the army, recruit more units, and the troops in that direction. In the meanwhile, I could use some more friends about the world, but even the few nations friendly or at least indifferent that I am not already allied with are being babies. Sweden is cold--no surprise given their geography--but I don't need them anyway. Besides, we already have a trade agreement. I convince them to trade technologies, but they'll only do it with a payment of 430. I hope canister shot is worth it. Emboldened, I go to Prussia, my greatest ally. I throw in a stipend and everything, but they don't seem to want to offer me their square formation tech. Well, fine. I didn't want it anyway!
In the meanwhile, my army in Bosnia is eyeing Zagreb closely. I recruit some units and stay my course there. The plan? Take Zagreb, build up the army, and grab Venice once and for all. Over in Fort Hunedoara, I have a small army in need of a general, so I recruit one, and plan to build up that army. It's a nice feature in Empire: armies with generals can recruit new ranks, rather than needing to get new ones at a city. I regret not being able to build more this turn, but my armies are getting feeble.
Ending the turn.
Russia decided to attack a medium sized force led by Dolabci Musa Ismail. I don't hope for the best here; he's got a definite upper hand.But I get lucky, thanks to some lucky deployment positioning and good use of infantry to distract ranged troops.
Don't forget to use melee infantry to soak up the damage, lest your gunners end up the victim of charging cavalry
I hope you enjoyed the rundown on my current empire. Look for a review of Empire: Total War, with luck, by the end of the week!
If you're a fan of Japanese role-playing games, then today's your lucky day as you should be able to find Star Ocean: The Last Hope, the fourth game in the spacefaring series by developers Tri-Ace, on store shelves in the US. Though we try to have reviews ready on or before release, this time it simply wasn't possible and I've only recently been able to start on it.
In case you're wondering if The Last Hope is for you, know that it continues many Star Ocean traditions like having a strong and fun real-time combat system and providing a richly detailed universe that is meticulously explained via an in-menu dictionary. Fans will further enjoy the fact that this is a prequel rather than a sequel (for reasons obvious to those who have completed Star Ocean: Till the End of Time), and as it takes place at the very beginning of space exploration for the planet Earth, the entire game is steeped in a sense of discovery.
As Edge Maverick, it's your job to assist the Space Reconnaissance Force in their quest for a new home for mankind, as global nuclear war sort of made Earth not the most happening place to be. Because it takes place so early in the Space Date Calendar, you'll literally be going where no man has gone before as you explore the galaxy, so there's no need to worry about pesky rules like the Underdeveloped Planet Preservation pact since they don't exist yet! Throughout your journey, you'll be making history as you make those critical first impressions with the other sentient races out there too, so try not to mess things up.
Yup, in the future, they still use bows and arrows.
The Last Hope starts out with an in-depth tutorial of the new combat system, and covers basics like movement, attacks, skills, and more (for more detailed information about this, be sure to check out our recent preview). From there, I was eased into the story and explored a new planet called Aeos that is similar to Earth in most ways, save for the presence of gigantic and really mean insects that are immune to railgun fire, but not swords or arrows for some reason. After taking out the first big boss on what may or may not be valuable beachfront property someday, Edge and his childhood-friend-slash-possible-love-interest Reimi made the acquaintance of Faize Sheifa Beleth, an Eldarian (read: space elf) skilled in the arts of Symbology and the Rapier. After this, it was off to yet another planet where the group was joined by Lymle Lemuri Phi, a powerful little girl that keeps a hellhound as pet.
Though it's way too early to say anything definitive about The Last Hope, the combat system--which just about has to be the strongest aspect of any JRPG because of the amount time you spend in battle--is fun, engaging, and nuanced. The addition of the blindside system to dodge and counter attacks adds a strategic element that is further enhanced by the bonus board, which lets you tailor post-battle rewards however you wish. Technically, the game is solid, though there are a few things to complain about: the camera system has some problems anytime there's an object between your character and it, the framerate suffers (just a bit) when you're performing flashy attacks on several enemies simultaneously, and for some reason enemies are only really visible on the field if they're within 10 yards or so. These issues are for the most part pretty minor though.
As mentioned previously, Star Ocean: The Last Hope is in stores in the US as of today for the Xbox 360. If you're still unsure about it, be sure to watch Sophia's video preview below and check out our final word in the review that will be up soon.
View the first 15 minutes of Beneath the Ashes and Lara's gold bikini in action. (540p HD version here.)
With new expansions for Grand Theft Auto IV, Fable II and Fallout 3 , the GameSpot Reviews Blog has been awfully busy with downloadable content of late. Tomb Raider Underworld is the latest game to be given the DLC treatment, with 'Beneath the Ashes' adding a new level, a new enemy and six new outfits. The result is an expansion that offers some memorable set-pieces, but it's short at around two hours and does very little to fix the existing problems from Underworld.
Beneath the Ashes takes place under Croft Manor, which is now a burnt wreckage after the events of Underworld. Lara is following a lead from her father's journal, who buried a sacred artifact deep under the country estate to stop it getting into the wrong hands. This isn't just some dusty old monument either--it holds the power to control the Thralls, an ancient supernatural army of warriors. Lara being Lara, she decides to investigate, and this mini-adventure takes her from the basement of her home right down to the ancient monuments underneath.
Beneath the Ashes does a good job of maintaining the same balance of adventuring, puzzle-solving and combat from Underworld. The action takes place completely underground, but the new level isn't short on huge expanses to cover. This is where the game is at its best--gradually figuring out your way through an environment, and then being rewarded with some spectacular views along the way. The expansion also has some great puzzles, including the best use of Lara's grapple rope yet. Where it all falls down is on the combat--frequent encounters with Thralls and giant spiders are unwelcome distractions from the business of tomb raiding. The combat is fiddly, the enemies are weak, while Lara's ability to fit a shotgun, rifle and uzis into her tiny backpack mean that it's all incredibly easy.
Lara Croft fans who also have a Princess Leia fetish have their prayers answered by this DLC, as it adds six new costumes including a gold bikini. Putting aside the impracticality of spelunking in a swimsuit for a moment, the bikinis are nicely designed, and show off the work that's been put into designing the character. They also demonstrate the great dirt effects that gradually build up on her body, while the confined spaces allow you to 'appreciate' the subtle breast physics.
I had plenty of gripes with the core mechanics of Underworld, so I'm sad to report that they're still present in Beneath the Ashes. The camera is as unruly as ever, refusing to move around solid objects to offer a better view of the world, while it's even worse in confined spaces, of which there are many. You have to wrestle with the camera as it makes simple mistakes, moving underwater as you're doing something above, and there are even bugs, such as an underwater corridor where Lara never needs to come up for air.
Story and characters have never been Tomb Raider's strong point, but if you are into the lore of the series, you'll get something out of Beneath the Ashes. The level features Lara's Shadow character from Underworld, plus an interesting plot twist towards the end. You also get to read Lara's father's journal, which not only helps figure out the puzzles, but also fills in some of the Croft family history. And if you're not into any of the exposition but are lured by the possibility of achievements, then there are 125 points offer for completing the level and finding all the treasures.
Another problem with Beneath the Ashes is that it's a victim of bad timing, releasing just after The Lost & Damned has set a new benchmark for downloadable content. True, Tomb Raider's content is half the price of GTA's, but it also offers a lot less than half the value and entertainment. For what it is, Beneath the Ashes offers a good Tomb Raider level and some revealing outfits, but I'd certainly rather have seen new gameplay mechanics or environments. If you're a die-hard fan of Tomb Raider then you've probably already added this to your download queue, but everyone else is likely to feel a little short-changed.
Killzone 2's multiplayer maps are some of the best on which I have ever fought. Most of them feature winding paths, various chokepoints, and clever placement of capture points, so even on the larger maps, there is no reason why you wouldn't be right in the thick of the action. You know how some shooter maps are great for, say, capture the flag, or deathmatch, but not for other modes? Killzone 2's maps may excel in some modes more than others, but possess no intrinsic weaknesses. And that's for the best, because matches string multiple modes seamlessly together, keeping you constantly on your toes and forcing you to switch gears several times in a single game.
And yes, the review is coming this week! In the meanwhile, I thought I'd fill you in on all eight maps that ship with Killzone 2, so I can give you further reasons to salivate.
The dust blows past and rocky mesas rise from the desert sand. The derelict base in the center of this dusty purgatory is the perfect place for a skirmish, due to the three bridges that link the Helghast headquarters with that of the ISA. These overpasses create chokepoints where plenty of nail-biting firefights occur. However, a good squad will take advantage of an unoccupied bridge and bring the fight to the enemy. At the end of one bridge is a nice, tiny hiding spot where you can lie in wait for an unsuspecting foe, though there is no real camping in this game. Possibly my favorite map in Killzone 2.
Explosions and flaming artillery fire light the skies in this moody marketplace. The crumbling buildings above ensure that battles occur on multiple levels, particularly in modes like Search and Retrieve, a variation on capture the flag. In cases like this, you may have to collect a propaganda speaker from a cramped room and return it to a more vulnerable position near the market stalls. By keeping the action hotspots moving, Killzone 2's multilevel maps succeed extremely well.
The Helghan and ISA bases on this map are parallel to each other, but a large multistory complex separates them. A mode like Search and Destroy forces teams to cross wider areas and meet head to head inside the claustrophobic stairwells, where I've found the shotgun to be eminently handy. Across the way, ramps lead you into an edifice that gives you a bit more room to maneuver. This is also an incredibly atmospheric map where loose pages fly in the wind and lightning flashes across the dark, ominous sky.
This cliffside base hovers over the planet below, and if you look towards the nearby city, note the towering mushroom cloud and reddish hue swathing the land. The map itself is somewhat of a U shape, but a central complex keeps teams constantly engaged. Capture and Hold is particularly fun on this map, as the control points on either side are exposed not just because they are in the open, but raised on a platform accessible by a stairway on either side.
The highlight of this grey-tinted map is the courtyard in the center. The hallways surrounding this area and the balconied walkways above give you a lot of leeway on how to approach targets in the yard. If you have a close-range weapon like a shotgun, your sidearm may get a good workout here, though I've found the M82 to be eminently helpful here for its versatility.
The way shafts of light flood into the interior environs of this map is stunning, though the action is the real star here. Overhead walkways keep battles raging above and below, and Bodycount (team deathmatch) is especially enjoyable, since the tight, blocky design means you have to be constantly on the move.
This map competes with Pyrrhus Rise as my favorite battleground in the game. Winding stairways and underground tunnels provide plenty of chokepoints, and a gulley above which power lines shake in the wind offers plenty of team vs. team showdowns. As if there wasn't enough tension, bolts of lightning flash across the sky and even strike the surrounding buildings. Crank up the sound when playing on this one--you might actually jump out of your chair.
This dockside map is also great in Capture and Hold, thanks to exposed capture points stranded at the end of the walkways that hover over the water, and a center control node on a platform above. Talk about intense action--the ensuing firefights are amongst the best in the game here, though a gaping hole in the central platform can help make for a quick getaway. Don't gaze at the pretty water for too long, or you'll be toast.
If you read my previous post on the subject of Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned, you know that I had an opportunity to play through and was really impressed with the Johnny Klebitz storyline a few days before it was released on Xbox Live. I wasn't able to spend any time with downloadable episode's new multiplayer modes until the retail servers went live though, so in case you're still unsure whether or not to buy the new episode or you're just so busy with the new story that you've yet to use the multiplayer option on Johnny's cell phone, here's a quick video to bring you up to speed on the new modes that you're missing out on.
Hope you like it, and hope to see you online. Oh, and you can find a 540p version of this multiplayer impressions video here .
Ah Street Fighter, who knows how many of our coins and notes you've gobbled at arcades over the last 20 years? Actually, come to think of it, it's probably best that we don't know, lest we have to feign embarrassment at the fiscal irresponsibility of the whole debacle. Undoubtedly one of the most anticipated home console ports of the last few years, we've spent a lot of quality time with the Street Fighter IV review code of late. That said, you're probably wondering where our review is. While reviews from other media outlets have been popping up steadily over the last few days, we decided to hold off on our final judgment just a little longer solely in the name of accuracy and accountability to you the players who may throw down money to buy the product. We've had reviewable code for a while now, and it has allowed us to explore and analyse the single-player and offline multiplayer modes thoroughly. Unfortunately though, the online component of Street Fighter IV--in our eyes a crucial part of the game's overall experience, and a key factor in determining our score--has up to this point been unavailable. Not surprisingly, prior to launch the online player base was a little light on players. As the game went on sale in Japan and copies began to make their way into the wild we found ourselves matchmaking with overseas players and largely getting games with poor connections. For this reason we've held off on posting until we could confirm the online experience by testing with players from various regions and using a multitude of connection strengths. As a result of plenty of hours playing online, we're now convinced our review fairly evaluates the online experience to our own high editorial standards.
Another issue cropped up during the review process. We have a firm (and well publicised) policy of reviewing only code which is representative of final retail product--the stuff that ends up in boxes on shelves. In this instance our review code was only playable on debugging units, and while the PlayStation 3 version of the game included the optional hard drive installation, the Xbox hard drive install was unavailable to us. Given the PS3 dropped load times from over 30 seconds to a much more palatable 10 seconds per game, we weren't prepared to post until we could confirm whether the 14 second load times on the Xbox were what you should expect. Our suspicions were confirmed once we had final pressed and signed code, bringing load times in line with its PlayStation 3 counterpart. Four seconds per load and some laggy online games might not seem like much to hold a review over, but we've never been a publication prepared to assume or compromise for the sake of being out there first.
By the time you read this our full text and video reviews should be sitting prominently on the front page of the site. If not, sit tight and check out guide to the best Street Fighter IV hardware.