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 thing I think you should know about The Lost and Damned is that it's best played after you've already beaten (or at least played a long way through) Niko Bellic's story in the original game. That's because the two protagonists' paths cross on occasion, and Johnny could conceivably spoil some of Niko's surprises for you. It could also be said that Niko spoils some of Johnny's surprises of course: The Lost and Damned doesn't just acknowledge that you've likely already beaten GTAIV, but it also delights in it and affords you an opportunity to see key events and characters from a different perspective. Downloadable content isn't something that we review right now, but that doesn't mean that we don't have anything to say about a release as significant as the first downloadable episode for Grand Theft Auto IV. If you've come here looking for a recommendation on whether or not you should buy The Lost and Damned, the short answer is that if you enjoyed GTAIV, I can't think of a better way for you to spend $20 when it hits Xbox Live tomorrow. If you want to know exactly what's included in the download, then keep reading. I had an opportunity to play through the entire Johnny Klebitz storyline using an advance copy of the DLC on one of our debug consoles last week, and I promise I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum.
Obviously I don't want to talk too much about Johnny's story, but what I will say is that it's 20 or so missions took me the best part of 10 hours to play through and that the narrative was every bit as compelling as Niko's. Where gameplay is concerned, the new missions aren't radically different from those in GTAIV, but there are some great new weapons to play with (the grenade launcher and assault shotgun are favorites), and you'll find that a number of them--including pipe bombs and the sawed-off shotgun--can be used while riding a bike. Bikes are a lot easier to ride with Johnny at the handlebars than they were for Niko, but they're still prone to getting thrown up into the air unrealistically if you hit a curb or another small object at the wrong angle and speed.
While we're on the subject of bikes, much is made at the start of The Lost and Damned about the fact that Johnny's ride is unique and that, supposedly, it can't be replaced if you let it get destroyed. Based on my own experiences with it, I suggest you not worry about it too much--not only are there plenty of better bikes in Liberty City, but Johnny's custom Hexer has a habit of finding its way back to you anytime you lose it. I parked a completely different bike outside a Burger Shot one time, and after I was done eating, I walked outside to find that it had been replaced with the Hexer. Another time, shortly after parking the Hexer outside the gang's clubhouse and going inside to save my progress, I walked outside to find two of the "unique" bikes parked next to each other. Obviously none of this stuff really impacted my enjoyment of the game, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless.
The quality of the missions varies somewhat, as does their difficulty, but there are some really great ones in the mix, and if you fail one at any time, you can restart from a checkpoint within the mission rather than from the very beginning--an option I'd have welcomed in the original game. I didn't spend nearly as much time riding alongside the rest of the Lost gang as I was expecting to in the story missions, but I did take advantage of the option to call brothers in for backup once or twice when things got tough.
In addition to the story missions, there are a number of optional missions that you can undertake for characters old and new, and two new activities that are very much in keeping with the biker theme. The first, which I had no idea about going into the game and was thrilled to discover, is a series of 12 bike races in which you can use a baseball bat to attack opponents on either side of you. I was a huge fan of Road Rash back in the day (who wasn't?), and I suspect that if that series were still going it would have evolved into something resembling these races by now. The second is a gang war system that highlights the locations of enemy biker gangs on the map so you can go and do battle with them alongside a few of your crew. There are 25 gang-war scenarios to play through, and while they generally don't take very long, they're a lot of fun while they last.
Other additions to Liberty City are less significant, but taken as a whole they go a long way to making The Lost and Damned feel more fresh than DLC for an existing game has any right to. There are loads of new bikes and a few other new vehicles on the roads, there are new arm wrestling and hi-lo-card minigames (don't get too excited about those), and those pigeons you could exterminate in GTAIV have purportedly (I say that because I've yet to see one) been replaced with 50 equally hard-to-find seagulls. There's new content to find on the in-game Internet, there are new shows on the TV (check out the new episode of Republican Space Rangers if you're not easily offended), more than 50 new music tracks have been added to the radio stations' playlists, and there's even a new comedy act all the way from Scotland.
Even the visuals in The Lost and Damned feel a little different from those in GTAIV. A muted color palette and an optional noise filter that's turned on by default give the episode a grittier feel than the original, and Rockstar North's attention to detail even runs to equipping Johnny with a cheap old cell phone. Like Niko's before it, said phone can be used to get into multiplayer games, and this time there's an instant action option that lets you bypass the lobby system and get right into a game. New multiplayer modes include Bike Races, Chopper vs. Chopper, Club Business, Lone Wolf Biker, and Own the City, as well as biker-gang-flavored Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch variants. At the time of writing I'm afraid I haven't had a chance to check out any of the new multiplayer modes for myself, but after reading Brian's recent Lost and Damned multiplayer preview, I can't wait to do just that.
Those of you anticipating Killzone 2 don't have long to wait--we're two weeks away from the game's release! Of course, by now you've probably played the demo, but you're no doubt curious to see what other surprises the game has in store for you.
Well as it happens, I have finished the campaign and played a good amount of multiplayer, and I can say with vehemence that most of Killzone 2's weapons are awesome to shoot, whether you're aiming at Helghast hordes or looking down your sights at human players. This isn't a full list, but I wanted to show a few of these terrific instruments of death.
Weapon: M82 Rifle
This is my main default weapon when playing, not just because it's a great all-rounder, but because its scope makes zooming in a huge pleasure. It takes a few more hits to down Helghast scum with the M82 than with the Sta52, but its effectiveness at short- and long-ranges make it an excellent fallback.
Weapon: VC5 Electricity Gun
It's got a long recharge time if you go too crazy with it, but this thing is the most powerful weapon in the game. When it appears in the refinery mission, you'll be taking down sentry bots and standard enemies without a second thought. It's fun to use and a powerful killing machine.
Weapon: VC21 Boltgun
Strength: Exploding bolts
My favorite weapon in Killzone 2. We've seen nailguns and the such before, but this thing feels just right. The bolt flies into your enemy, carries him backwards, sticks him to any object behind him, and explodes a few seconds later. That is fantastic in anyone's book, though it takes a talented gunner to take the Helghast down at long range with one.
Weapon: Sta52 Assault Rifle
Strength: It's always there when you need it
If there aren't any M82s lying around, this is likely your go-to gun. Packs more punch than the M82, but the iron sights make it less accurate at long range. It's a solid rifle and gets the job done every time.
Weapon: VC9 Missile Launcher
You'll face tanks from time to time, but this missile launcher will blow them to smithereens, and gazing down the sights is more satisfying than with similar weapons in other games. Explosions in Killzone 2 look amazing, and anything that lights the sky up with fire is awesome in my book.
There are other weapons of course, such as the fantastic flamethrower, and the less fantastic sniper rifle (do we really have to have Sixaxis functionality forced on us like this?), but aside from that one weak point, shooting guns in Killzone 2 is an absolute joy. We'll be bringing you a full review closer to the game's release date, but I'll drop more information on this highly anticipated first-person shooter between now and then.
Due to publisher-requested embargo, we won't be posting any new screens or video of F.E.A.R. 2's full single player campaign until Tuesday, along with the review. However, we are able to give you a taste of multiplayer, and I wanted to give you a few screens and video of that experience. The screens are of the PC version, while the video is of the Xbox 360 version.
Boom, and lots of blood. The modes are familiar--deathmatch, a capture the flag variant called blitz, variants on conquest/territories, and a few others. Sadly, there are no slo-motion variants as there were in the original F.E.A.R.
One of those conquest variants is Armored Front, in which each team gains access to a huge mech. I am not piloting it here, but you can surely see it in action!
I like the shotgun. It makes nice splatters of gooey entrails.
Additionally, I am hoping to show off some screens and video of Killzone 2 on Monday, and show off some of my favorite weapons in that game. In the meanwhile, I offer a few videos of this beautiful title in action!
I am a big fan of mech sequences, on-rails bits, and turret sections that break up the gameplay. Here is one such portion.
Multiplayer action. W00t!
One of many nail-biting sequences in the single-player campaign. For more Killzone 2 gameplay videos, check out the gamespace --just make sure to click to the second page to see the latest!
You may have heard about a little game called Killzone 2. It is possibly the most anticipated game on the PlayStation 3, and I've been fortunate enough to have finished the single player campaign and played several hours of multiplayer. Today, February 2nd, is the review embargo date; in other words, Sony will allow American online reviews of Killzone 2 to be posted as early as today. European reviews and exclusive reviews had already popped up, as you may have noticed, although the game isn't released until February 27th--more than three weeks from now.
However, we've decided not to rush a review to publication for several reasons. The most important is Killzone 2's multiplayer component. There have been three one-hour multiplayer sessions to date for members of the American press. However, Killzone 2's online play is complex. It uses a class-based system with seven total classes, but these classes (among weapons, upgrades, and many other perks) are only unlocked once you have reached the appropriate level. In just over three hours of play, the two of us joining these sessions had yet to unlock a new class. It takes many, many hours of online play to unlock them, and it would be improper for us to review class-based multiplayer without actually experiencing the classes. The other multiplayer factor is that these sessions did not take place on retail servers, and used an earlier build of the game than the one that will be on the disc you buy. It is our policy never to knowingly review a game using software that does not represent the same game you will purchase on store shelves.
I know with so many reviews already being posted that it's disappointing that you don't see one from GameSpot yet--but we'd rather get it right than rush it. After all, Killzone 2 won't be out for over three weeks from now; racing to publish a review that isn't informed by incredibly important aspects of the online game would be doing you a disservice. The good news is that because the review embargo is up, we can post videos, screens, and more about the game--and we decided to start off with an impressions feature. Chris Watters, Andre Segers and I sat down to talk about our impressions of Killzone 2, so if you want some initial thoughts, here are plenty of them to tide you over!
We will also be publishing loads of gameplay video and screens for you to gaze at with longing. In addition, over the next couple of weeks, I will be updating this blog with looks at various features of Killzone 2, from multiplayer classes, to weapons, to single-player levels. Trust me: I know you're hungry for anything you can get. But never fear, shooter fans, for I will be here to overwhelm you with as much information as I can!
Bethesda is the famous development house behind the infamously overpriced "horse armor" downloadable content for Oblivion. The good news is that with Fallout 3's first content pack for the PC and Xbox 360, you get a lot more than armor: You get an entire mission set in a simulated Alaska that recreates events prior to the nuclear holocaust--the one that turned our beloved planet into a desecrated wasteland. Returning to an awesome game is never a bad thing, and Operation Anchorage possesses some likeable features, like icy, atmospheric environments and new weapons to play with. On the other hand, this new mission is a mild letdown. By focusing on squad combat, Operation Anchorage seems to fancy itself a shooter, going light on role-playing elements and sending you off on a linear, combat-heavy adventure. Not only does it not play to Fallout 3's strengths, but shines a bright spotlight on its weaknesses. At 800 points ($10), this lackluster, slightly buggy three-hour escapade feels a bit overpriced.
Once you install the add-on, a radio distress signal points you to a group of Brotherhood outcasts that ask you to enter a combat simulator. They need military secrets from the past, and your pip-boy is the key to retrieving it. In true Matrix style, should you die in the simulation, you kick the bucket in real life as well. What is this secret technology the outcasts need? What's up with the sudden, insane events that ensue once you return from the simulation? There are few real answers: it's all an excuse to get you out of apocalyptica and into the snowy environs of Communist-besieged Alaska.
Operation Anchorage's focus on gunplay is obvious right from the beginning, pitting you against Chinese soldiers and granting you use of a sniper rifle, an uninspiring silenced pistol, and the truly awesome gauss rifle, amongst others. The mission is tightly controlled in the manner of a linear shooter, eschewing the stimpacks and corpse looting of Fallout 3 in favor of ammo caches and health dispensers. After you make your way to an Army outpost, you choose from a few pre-determined weapons loadouts, and more interestingly, personalize a squad from a selection of different soldier types, including the ever-popular Mister Gutsy.
Fans of slow-motion V.A.T.S. combat will enjoy the trek, since there are plenty of opportunities to shed blood and shoot off limbs and heads, and some new enemies to take on, like the stealth-enabled Crimson Dragoons and a giant Chimera tank. Your squad can come in handy, but artificial intelligence is not Fallout 3's specialty, a drawback that Operation Anchorage brings into plain view. Squad members frequently stand around and do nothing while bullets rain down on you, or may refuse to follow you; enemies move about with no real purpose; and everything feels a bit slipshod. Thank God for that Gauss rifle, a fine and powerful addition to your loadout as long as you play your cards correctly, and one that you will get to add to your wasteland arsenal when you return to DC.
Ranged combat was never Fallout 3's greatest strength, but in the context of a huge nuclear RPG, the mechanics made good sense. In a downloadable mission that essentially turns the game into a squad-based shooter, they feel a bit more bothersome. Thankfully, you do get some weapons and armor to take back with you into the wasteland, a new perk (if you collect ten briefcases in the simulation), and some new achievement points. You also get some new bugs. We got stuck in the environment, forcing a reload; an inventory item from the wasteland managed to stay in our inventory within the simulation; and enemies simply popped into view as if teleporting in. There are other reported glitches, including one that lets you equip multiple weapon sets.
Any character can access Operation Anchorage at any time, and its difficulty is purely dependent on your current level. This downloadable content is good, but it isn't spectacular, and $10 seems a bit too much to ask for a short combat-focused addon that provides a bit of fun but doesn't espouse the traits that make Fallout 3 such a superb experience.
For people who have slayed every balverine and silenced every bard, there is finally a reason to return to Fable II's whimsical land of Albion. Lionhead released a new island via the wonders of downloadable content today, giving heroes a chance to get a new haircut and set off for battle. Given that this isn't a full-blown expansion, I am eschewing the scoring system of our standard reviews and simply laying out my thoughts in this convenient blog. For people who are just curious if they should spend their 800 hard-earned Microsoft points but fear even the slightest hint of a spoiler, I'll give you a quick verdict: It's fun. Check it out. For people who would like a more convincing argument, read on.
The expansion pack introduces a character who not only invented the submarine, but is also in dire need of help from a hero. After offering a few gifts to brighten your disposition, he ferries you to the fabled Knothole Island, a strange place that mainland citizens fled to long ago because they heard they would have the power to control the weather there. When the founding settlers finally died off, the new generation could not handle that power and become lost in a perpetual deluge of bristling snow. It's your job to fix the weather and give these people control over these potentially harsh conditions.
The story takes a backseat to all of the wacky adventures that you can get yourself in, but there is still a tale behind this crazy place. There are books strewn across the island that will slowly reveal the trials that these original citizens went through. Knothole Island is fairly large, with a bunch of other hidden treats as well. It provides plenty of places to search for chests, dig for buried treasure, and dive for sunken goodies under the water.
There is also a town on Knothole Island that, though small, is pretty interesting. One of the shops lets you trade seemingly useless junk for rare items that can be found only in this expansion. You'll finally have a reason to use those puny carrots you've been hording. There is also a shop to buy new augmentations for your weapons and another that lets you purchase unique furniture, clothing, and even potions. The potions are particularly cool. I won't spoil exactly what sort of powers these give you, but they are unlike anything from the main quest. Plus, you'll finally be able to complete some of the unfinished outfits from your original journey.
Knothole Island isn't all about finding books and getting new clothes, though. There are three quests to play through as well. Each of these quests has you running through a dungeon, so there aren't any clever twists in your journey, but at least the dungeons are really well constructed. You'll find an abundance of switches this time, those colored orbs that require you to attack them in a certain way before they'll activate. This is the trickiest part of your trek because you'll have to quickly attack these swerving targets before they disappear. There aren't any wholly new enemies on Knothole Island, but the recycled monsters at least look slightly different from what you're accustomed to.
The new content can be as brief as an hour or two if you run through the dungeons, but if you take your time and scour every inch of the land, it can take much longer than that. The most important thing is that, though there isn't a ton of new places to explore and quests to partake in, what is here is quite good. The dungeons are longer than most in the game, presenting plenty of clever traps and deadly ambushes, and there are tons of new items to collect. And you can finally don a proper piece of armor suitable for a hero instead of the random assortment of rags you're given in the main quest. Knothole Island is a darn good excuse to return to Fable II.
One of the newer traditions here at GameSpot, celebrating its first anniversary this week, is the "You Wanna Review What?!" email thread. I send an email around to all of our in-house reviewers (including those in the UK and Australia this year) and ask each of them for a list of the 10 games that they'd most like to review during the next 12 months. Inevitably there's some crossover (though not much), so simply having a game on your list doesn't guarantee that you'll get the assignment, but the process certainly makes figuring out who is going to review which games a lot easier for all of us.
It also makes for some interesting conversations at the office and, for me at least, it serves as a reminder of just how varied and eclectic the tastes of our reviewers are. Not everyone on the team has settled on their final lists yet, and it's worth noting that if a big game isn't mentioned it might be because the team already more or less knows who is working on it, but in case you're interested here are some of the lists--minus the names of the reviewers they belong to:
Beyond Good & Evil 2
God of War 3
I Am Alive
Halo 3 ODST
Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard
Resident Evil 5
Star Ocean: The Last Hope
BioShock 2: Sea of Dreams
Miles Edgeworth: Perfect Prosecutor
FEAR 2: Project Origin
House of the Dead Overkill
Dragon Age: Origins
FEAR 2: Project Origin
The Sims 3
Dawn of War 2
Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena
Wii Sports Resort
Burnout Paradise PC
Just Cause 2
Pro Evolution Soccer 2010
GTA IV: Lost & Damned
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Puzzle Quest: Galactrix
GTA Chinatown Wars
Fight Night Round 4
Beyond Good & Evil 2
Mass Effect 2
Half-Life 2: Episode 3
Halo 3: ODST
Wii Sports Resort
Red Faction Guerrilla
Max Payne 3
Muramasa: The Demon Blade
No More Heroes 2
Edge of Twilight
World in Conflict: Soviet Assault
Clearly, some of us have opted to include games on our lists that aren't guaranteed to arrive in stores this year. Life on the edge!
EDIT: Reviewer #8 has finally settled on his list - did you really think we'd forgotten about his first pick? Also, I should have made it clear in the original post that some of the reviewers made their lists after seeing those submitted by colleagues and so deliberately avoided duplication.
Street Fighter IV
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Gran Turismo 5
Splinter Cell: Conviction
GTA Chinatown Wars
Formula 1 2009
UPDATE: u can has linx - Lark
WARNING: This post contains spoilers.
I'm sure it goes without saying at this point that reviews of MMO games and their expansion packs are impossible to post prior to or even right around the time of their release. Right now I anticipate having a Wrath of the Lich King review ready shortly after Thanksgiving but, in the meantime, I wanted to let you all know what I've been up to in Northrend since the expansion went live almost two weeks ago.
Actually, the very first thing I did didn't involve the new continent of Northrend at all--Jim "video reviews guy" Maybury and I were among the first people on our server to create Death Knights (WoW's first hero class) and to play through the class's unique starting area. I haven't played my DK enough at this point to really comment on how they are as a class, but they're certainly a lot of fun, and while comparisons to both paladins and warlocks are valid, I think the DK feels unique in a lot of ways. My DK is still only level 59 at the time of this writing--that's because while leveling my main character to check out level 80 dungeons and the like, I've mostly been using the DK to check out the new inscription profession.
The Armored Brown Bear is a steal at 750 gold.
So far I'm liking inscription even more than the engineering and leatherworking professions that I've mastered previously, not only because there's an interesting randomness about the way that you experiment to learn how to make new items, but also because, even as a relatively low-level inscriber, I'm able to make items that are genuinely useful and which have a good chance of selling on the auction house. I'm having to spend a good chunk of time revisiting a lot of WoW's "classic" areas to gather all of the herbs that I need to make pigments and inks, but if nothing else that's serving as a timely reminder of how much better-looking Northrend's environments are.
As you'd expect, there's no shortage of variety where Northrend's distinct regions are concerned. There's plenty of snow of course, but there are also lush green forests, perpetually dark ruins, and plenty of other locales in the mix. More surprising, perhaps, is that Blizzard has managed to inject similar (and much-needed) variety into the gameplay. Most of the quests still involve killing a specific number of enemies or fetching and delivering items, but there are a good number that are far more interesting. My favorites right now are those that see you taking the controls of various mounts and vehicles, each with their own unique and uncomplicated controls. To date I've rescued villagers while flying around on a dragon, collected lumber at the controls of a machine known as a shredder, battled the undead in a tank, taken on a titan while sat atop a giant, and ridden a torpedo into the side of an enemy ship, to name but a few. Elsewhere, variety comes when you have an opportunity to wear a disguise or to wield an item with a unique power. Oh, and just last night I completed a quest that, even though I was playing solo at the time, bore more than a passing resemblance to the Prince Malchezaar boss fight in Burning Crusade's Karazhan 10-man raid instance.
Speaking of instances, I've played through several of the dozen or so smaller dungeons introduced in Wrath of the Lich King, and so far I've enjoyed every one of them. Unlike some of the older dungeons, these seem designed to take only an hour or so to play through, and in that time there are generally at least three or four boss fights. Presumably because they're relatively easy to get to and to defeat, bosses aren't dropping spectacular loot the way that some of their predecessors did, but that's what the more difficult "heroic" level-80 variants of these dungeons are for. I'll be getting to those over the Thanksgiving break I hope.
Spot the Gnome competition #1
I'm also planning to spend a lot more time in Wintergrasp, the new PVP-oriented zone where an attack/defend battle involving siege weapons takes place every few hours. I've been frequenting the zone quite a lot for the past week, because there are a lot of mining nodes there that, until recently, other players seemed to be largely unaware of. I've participated in plenty of battles there as well, though to date I think the most people I've seen in the zone simultaneously is still less than 50. The zone seems large enough to accommodate at least 10 times that number, and I suspect the battles will be at their best when more people start showing up. I have no doubt that it'll happen, because the incentives for participating are great: The faction in control of the zone not only gains exclusive access to a dungeon located there, but can also collect shards from the bosses inside other dungeons. These shards can then be redeemed for rare items used in crafting, new gear, and even a black war mammoth mount.
Honestly, there's a lot more stuff I could talk about here, but I need to save some stuff for the review and… you know, my rogue isn't getting any closer to level 80 while I'm sat here typing. Expect a full review of Wrath of the Lich King next week.
There's some noise right now about Eidos trying to manage Tomb Raider scores by delaying any that are below an 8 until after the game's UK release. I figured I'd weigh in since one of the reasons we have this reviews blog is to offer you a look into what we do and how we do it. This week, Barrington Harvey, a UK PR agency that represents Eidos, asked one of our UK editors to hold the Underworld review until Monday if the score wasn't in a range they wanted. This was supposedly done on Eidos' behalf but we didn't get anything like that here in the US and Eidos UK is saying that they never asked the agency to do that. I'm honestly not sure what went down but, at end of the day, these kinds of requests aren't exactly rare. Asking for low scoring reviews to be held is, sadly, a common practice among some publishers, especially at this time of the year. Such requests are generally informal, though that's not always the case. Regardless of how the request is made, our response is always the same: Our review schedule is dictated by our reviews team, not by those companies who mistakenly think that sending us games for review entitles them to some control of our editorial calendar.
The sole exception to that policy is when companies send us games well in advance of their release date and we sign NDAs (nondisclosure agreements) stating that we won't post our review until a certain date. At GameSpot we've always been more interested in getting our reviews right than in getting them posted ahead of the competition anyway, so these NDAs only rarely result in us posting a review any later than we would choose to anyway. We'll push back if a proposed NDA would prevent us from posting a review before a game arrives in stores, but for the most part companies aren't presumptuous enough to make requests like that. This situation with Tomb Raider is an exception, of course, and in keeping with our policy the request is being ignored and we'll be posting our review later today and that will be that.
I'm sure the notion of companies trying to dictate review timelines based on scores will raise eyebrows for some out there. That's fine--it should. It's a pretty stupid practice and you'd think most of these publishers would know better. It's not hard to figure out why publishers would want unflattering reviews to hit late, but what works for them doesn't work for us or for you, and hopefully they'll come to understand that in time. Until then, we'll continue to review games how and when we see fit.
Just as a heads up, the review for the DS version of Chrono Trigger will be up this Friday. Chrono Trigger has remained one of my favorite games ever since I first played it 13 years ago on the SNES, and I'm really excited that I get to review the rerelease of it now. So, because I'm a huge fan of the game and remember way too much about it, I'm going to write up a list of major differences between the SNES and DS versions that I spotted while playing on my blog. If you're so inclined, you'll be able to see this list--which by no means includes all of them--after the review goes live. It will include spoilers though, so, ya'know, you may want to hold off on reading it until you've finished the game.
See you in the future!
Just a heads up about our Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts review. We may not be able to have our review up by the time the game comes out next Tuesday. The only copy we currently have in our offices is installed on Xbox 360 debug hardware. We do not review games in this state (installed, as opposed to on disc) as they often offer a different experience from what you will find in a retail copy of the game. We apologize for our tardiness, but we feel it is important to only judge games in their final state.
UPDATE: I started playing Banjo for review this Monday (we got the game late last week, but I finished up my Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa review first). I think I'm about halfway through the adventure. I'm not going to make any grandiose proclamations about the quality at this point, but the building mechanics are really well done and I'm having a really good time creating the most ridiculous contraptions possible. I'll make sure to have a final analysis later this week. Thanks for being patient.
So, last week I told that you that we were launching a new reviews-related feature, and about five minutes ago we did. After the Fact: Reviews Revisited is a way for us to update our reviews (without actually changing the original text or score) as games evolve after their release. This is a response to us noticing that our reviews, while accurate on day one, are becoming outdated as patches and game "updates" become more common.
For example, we mention in our Battlefield: Bad Company review that the game doesn't have Conquest mode--that's no longer accurate, since it was patched in at a later date. There's now an After the Fact entry to reflect this on the review page and, if you look around the site, you'll find that we've got the ball rolling with updates for several other games as well. This is just the beginning, of course, and while we're not planning to post entries for every single update that's released for every single game, we're definitely planning to cover stuff that we think potential buyers of games need to know in order to make a well-informed purchasing decision.
Oh, and if there are any updates worth covering that we haven't yet posted an After the Fact entry for (there are a lot right now, of course), feel free to let us know via our new firstname.lastname@example.org email address. We'll get to them as quickly as we can.
Hey folks, just wanted to chime in with a quick update on the Resistance 2 review. We've had the game for about a week, so I'm good and done with the single player campaign. However, the multiplayer servers for retail PS3s just went live last night, so I (and many of my compatriots) are still hip deep in the extensive cooperative and competitive modes. It's important to us to test these games in the environment you'll be playing them, so that's why you haven't seen a review just yet. We greatly appreciate your patience, but we certainly don't want to keep you waiting too long, so expect the review to hit tomorrow, Wednesday the 5th.
Hey all! I know some of you are incredibly excited to hear about EndWar, since it looks so explosive and has the cool voice command mechanic. Never fear: I have played many, many, many hours of EndWar already, so a review is on its way. However, for those that don't know, the meat of EndWar's gameplay is the online Theatre of War, which is an MMO-inspired persistent campaign in which hundreds or thousands of battles can be raging at any given time. This is something I will need to experience in a real-world setting, and I wouldn't be doing the game justice if I didn't spend several days experiencing it on my own.
Of course, most people won't have the game until Tuesday or Wednesday, so while I had hoped that a review would go up on Tuesday evening, I wouldn't be doing the game, or you, any justice by rushing it to publication. This is a really unique title that relies heavily on this mode, so bear with me while my European forces pummel on the Russians for a few days.
Also, I know that RPG fans are anxiously awaiting word on Valkyria Chronicles. Unfortunately, we didn't get a reviewable copy from SEGA, for unknown reasons. As soon as we get the game, whether from a retail store or from the publisher, we will play it to completion and publish a review afterwards. Thanks for your patience!
It's been a while since I posted anything here. Sorry about that. Given that we're in the thick of what is arguably the busiest reviews season ever, I figured I should update you on what we're working on and why, in some cases, reviews might not be hitting the site as early as you (or we) would like. In no particular order, here goes:
Gears of War 2 - This is being handled by our UK team, who were able to get their hands on retail code almost a full week before we were. The review is under embargo until Monday, 2pm UK time, 6am Pacific, so expect our review to hit around that time.
Guitar Hero: World Tour - We had originally planned to post this review first thing on Monday (10.27), but our resident expert has had a particularly nasty case of the flu all week. He's on the road to recovery now, and the review will be posting this coming Monday.
Dead Space - While our review for the Xbox 360 version was up in time for the game's release, we didn't receive PS3 and PC versions until after the game was already in stores. Rather than just post the same review for all three platforms and hope that there are no significant differences, we opted (as we always do) to wait until we could spend plenty of time with the other versions before reviewing them. The PS3 and PC reviews will be appearing on the site later today.
Resistance 2 - We've had retail code for this one for a while, and today (during our gameplay marathon) we'll be checking out the eight-player co-op support with an all-GameSpot crew for the first time. Review is scheduled to go live on Monday.
Tom Clancy's EndWar - This is another one that we received retail code for well in advance of the game's release. Review will hit Monday or Tuesday of next week.
James Bond: Quantum of Solace - Another opportunity for our UK team to flex their editorial muscles. They were able to get their hands on retail code (X360 only at the time of this writing) even before we received a debug-console-only review version. Also, the movie is out in the UK already.
If the game you're waiting for a review of isn't mentioned here, it's not because we've forgotten about it. We're doing everything we can to bring you reviews in a timely fashion, but we don't always receive code in a timely fashion. We refuse to sacrifice quality by rushing reviews, and we still want to make sure that every game is reviewed by the person on the team who is best qualified to do so. Also, please don't think that because we review only one version of a game that it's because we don't care about the other platforms that it's appearing on. Fact is, we're often sent only one version prior to the game's release, and more often than not (for reasons beyond our control) it tends to be the Xbox 360 version.
In other news, we're going to be launching a new reviews-related feature that I'm really excited about early next week. It's something I've been wanting to do on GameSpot for a while, and, well... I'll tell you all about it soon.
Hi all! I just wanted to throw out a quick mention about Fallout 3 footage. Because I did much of my PlayStation 3 and PC playtime with the game at home, I hadn't taken much footage of those two versions. Sadly, I discovered that transferring PC game saves wasn't as easy as I had hoped, and my PS3 save files were also troublesome. You should see footage from those two versions post tomorrow, but I wanted to make sure that PS3 and PC owners didn't feel left out in the cold when Xbox 360 footage posted before footage of the other 2.Look for gameplay footage and more screens of every version of Fallout 3 tomorrow!
Well, perhaps they do, anyway! I just wanted to update you all on what is on my current plate, since big titles are coming out, and I wanted to keep you up to date on when to expect reviews for the games sitting on my desk. It's busy! As you can imagine, it isn't easy keeping on top of the calendar, but with luck, you should see reviews of the most important fall/holiday releases coming on day of release or before. That said, here's what's on my plate and what you'll see coming.
It's all about threes when it comes to a few of them, anyway. That is, Fallout 3 and Red Alert 3. You should expect to see a review of Fallout 3 Tuesday morning for at least two versions if not all three. As you can imagine, a big game like that requires a lot of time. It's impossible to see every single thing in all three versions, but I want to see the biggest chunk possible. I have already finished the story, so for now, it is a matter of roaming about taking side quests, looking in all the nooks and crannies, and comparing the three versions. I am playing Red Alert 3 as well; expect to see it post Monday evening.
You'll also see reviews of Motorstorm: Pacific Rift and Eternal Sonata on the PS3 by the end of the week; Eternal Sonata tomorrow, and Motorstorm either tomorrow or Friday. We didn't get our copy of ES as early as I had hoped, but I wanted to make sure that it didn't get lost in the shuffle of high-profile games flying onto, and off of, store shelves. The other two games I am sure I will be reviewing are Tom Clancy's Endwar and Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, both of which are sitting on my desk. I expect reviews of both games will also post on or before their release dates, God willing.
This is the time of year when readers are most likely to ask when so and so review will be out, and yes, we do strive to post reviews on or before release date. However, it isn't always possible for as many reasons as there are games. When we're playing games day and night, with nary a free moment to be found, our priority is to play--and to post the most accurate review possible. Forgive us if a date passes and you don't see a review of your favorite game. It never means we don't care, or wish to slight the game, its audience, or its platform. Simply put, it means we have limited staff, and we want to assign each review to the staff member most qualified to review it. It may also mean there are other circumstances at work, such as a publisher unwilling to send an advance copy, or the need to wait for a retail copy due to technical issues or other reasons. And remember, there are only so many of us reviewing games, and so many hours in a day. But hopefully our long days and fitful nights will show you how dedicated we are to you, just as you are dedicated to us.
So hang on--it's a huge month and a huge year for games, and we'll be busting our butts to give you timely reviews of the important stuff. But remember--it isn't a race. We'd rather play the game fully than rush a review that we weren't comfortable with. Thanks for your loyalty, and don't spend too much in one place!
The official review embargo for FIFA 09 has now passed, and the game is due out tomorrow in Europe. We're working to get the review done as soon as possible, and it should be up at the beginning of next week. We've had the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions since last Friday and have played through the single-player modes--however we can't test the online multiplayer aspect of the game thoroughly until the public get a hold of it. The big new feature for this year's game is the 10-v-10 online, and although we've tried to get EA to help set this up ahead of the release, the logistical challenge of doing this has ultimately been too much.
As well as the aforementioned 10-v-10 online mode, this year's game has the Adidas Live Season, whereby player stats are updated according to real-world performance on a week-by-week basis. You can also create custom team tactics and upload them to share online, in addition to taking videos and photos as you could in FIFA 08 and Euro 2008. We've also been playing through the Be a Pro: Seasons mode, where you play as a single player in your favourite team and then see out through four consecutive seasons with them. All in all, there's a lot of new content in FIFA 09, and it's all wrapped up with the consummate style that we've come to expect from EA Sports. We've taken some videos from the game, which you can find below, and our review should be up on the site early next week.
Downloadable content for console games has gotten out of hand. Not only are we increasingly being expected to pay for extras that seem like they should have been included in the box, but a lot of the extra content is being made available on the same day as the games arrive in stores. I have no idea how much money these premium downloads make for the companies involved, but given that the trend doesn't appear to be going anywhere I'm assuming that enough of you are buying them to make it worth their while. I'm not here to write an editorial on which types of DLC I do or don't have a problem with, though, nor to chastise you for sending games companies the wrong message with your dollars. Nope, I'm here to ask a favor: Please, don't any of you tell anyone even remotely involved with UK-based developer Criterion about this premium DLC thing--those guys have been pumping out worthwhile updates for Burnout Paradise for months now, and they've never charged a penny for any of them.
Because the much-publicized "Bikes Pack" for Burnout Paradise is being given away for free this week, it's not something that we feel the need to review. It's a significant enough new feature for an old enough game, though, that we felt compelled to give you some kind of heads-up on it in case you either missed the game when it was released in January or have been looking for an excuse to get back into it. For what it's worth, I fall into the latter camp. So, I've spent a couple of days with a pre-release version of the update, and while it's not everything that I hoped it would be I've certainly had a lot of fun with it.
The update adds four bikes to Burnout Paradise's sizeable collection of four-wheelers, though only two of them are available from the outset. I managed to unlock a third by completing 50 percent of the update's new content, but the fourth is still eluding me as I write this with a completion percentage of 78. Bike-specific content in the update includes 128 Road Rule events and 38 Burning Rides, both divided equally between daytime and (the all-new) nighttime. There are also 70 new Freeburn Challenges to complete online with friends, and stat-tracking for your longest wheelie and longest jump on a bike.
Climbing onto a bike in Paradise City for the first time, you'll certainly be impressed by their speed and acceleration, even if you've spent time behind the wheel of the game's fastest cars. It won't take long for you to notice that the bikes don't support any kind of boost mechanic, though, so while near misses and the like are still dutifully noted on-screen, there's really no reason to try for them. The first time you crash you'll also notice that the glorious vehicular deformation and destruction upon which the Burnout series was practically built is nowhere to be seen when you're on a bike. Most of the time when you crash you'll just instantly reappear on the road as if nothing happened, and on the rare occasions when you get to watch the collision play out the rider vanishes without a trace at the point of impact and the bike gets thrown around without ever taking any significant visible damage. Neither of those things would even be worth mentioning, except that, you know, this is Burnout!
You also can't destroy billboards or smash through shortcut barriers when you're on a bike, because there aren't any. Enough with all of the negativity, though. You can still perform super jumps, you get a second license to take goofy photos for, and crucially, racing from one side of the city to the other on a bike is a very different challenge on two wheels than it is on four. Traffic is generally much easier to avoid, for example, but cornering at speed can be difficult if you don't take something resembling a good racing line. When all's said and done, the Bikes Pack plays more like a conventional racing game than Burnout Paradise normally does. That's no bad thing if you're in the market for a super-fast arcade bike racer that costs absolutely nothing (who isn't?), but it's not quite the "Burnout on bikes" that I was expecting.
Unlike the first Rock Band, which initially shipped bundled with a microphone, guitar, and drum kit, Rock Band 2 is currently only sold as a standalone product. The bundle won't ship until mid-October and individual instruments aren't yet available (though they're slated to hit stores this week). For that reason we aren't evaluating the instruments in our review of the game, but given the numerous problems (broken drum pedals, faulty strum bars, and dead microphones) with the original Rock Band equipment, as well as the new features of RB 2's instruments, we wanted to share our impressions of the hardware after five days of intense use.
We'll start with the guitar, which carries a suggested retail price of $69.99 USD. It's still a Fender Stratocaster, but it now has a new, cool-looking faux wood grain finish. It's also wireless (AA batteries are included). So far we haven't had to replace the batteries and we have had no issues with the game not recognizing notes--it performs just like a wired guitar. One of the neatest features is the guitar's ability to auto-calibrate your television's audio/video lag with the game. All you have to do is hold the guitar up to your speakers for a few seconds to determine audio lag and then hold the guitar in front of your television while the screen flashes to compensate for video delay. Unless you're dragging your instruments all over town you won't have to use this feature much, but it'll be useful at least once and works great. The strum bar is a little more firm, but that's really it as far as how the guitar feels when compared to the original guitar.
Rock Band 2's drums carry a hefty MSRP of $89.99. Like the guitar, they're wireless and include batteries. Unlike the guitar they can't be used to automatically calibrate lag--a bummer if you only buy the drums and have trouble adjusting the game's lag settings on your own. The drums don't look much different than before, but they've actually received quite a bit of attention. The pedal is now covered with a metal plate, which hopefully will make it more durable than the original pedal. It also stays attached to the kit when you lift it--a huge plus for anyone who has watched the pedal crash to the floor when carrying their drums from place to place. The base has also been altered a bit and feels sturdier. But the big improvements to the kit are with the drum heads. They're quieter and also extremely accurate. I'm not the world's best drummer and I'd typically average about 94% on medium when playing Rock Band with the original drums. Playing with the new drums on the same difficulty my percentage went up to 99% and I had a streak of over 500 notes during the first song I played. That never happened with the old drums.
Are the new instruments worth the money? If you own a Rock Band guitar and it's in good shape, there's little reason to drop $70 on a new guitar, even though it works great. The drums are a little more enticing. The $90 price tag is difficult to swallow for casual drummers, but if you consider yourself an expert (or even if you just play a lot of drums in Rock Band) the improved sensitivity and quieter pads are worth the cash. It's anyone's guess as to how well they'll hold up from a reliability standpoint, but so far we haven't had any issues to report.Note: The text and video review for Rock Band 2 will be posted on Sept. 16.