In addition to looking at the lighter and weirder side of the game industry, System Update provides the latest information on weekly console updates, DLC, game-specific updates, and other game-industry flotsam and jetsam.
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Codemasters confirmed to GameSpot today that a PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 demo for Clive Barker's Jericho would be getting under gamers' skin this week. The PC demo will creep onto GameSpot Wednesday, with an Xbox Live and PlayStation Network trial slated to follow on Thursday.
In the demo for Barker's latest supernatural shooter, players will attempt to survive during the Crusades time period after their strike force has been decimated by the evil forces controlling the city of Al-Khali. As the spirit of deceased squad leader Cpt. Devin Ross, players will be able to possess the bodies of heavy-weapons expert Sgt. Frank Delgado, telekinetic sniper Lt. Abigail Black, and enchantress and martial weapons specialist Sgt. Billie Church. Players will also get a first-hand look at the warped abominations that Barker has devised for the game.
Clive Barker's Jericho is rated M for Mature. Check out the latest trailer for the game, available exclusively through GameSpot, and pick up the PC demo on Wednesday.
The site of a tragic hunting incident on Sunday, Seattle's Qwest Field will house the World Cyber Games Grand Final from October 4-7. Today, event organizers announced a few more particulars of this year's Grand Final.
The event, which brings together the top 700 combatants from a pool of more than 1.5 million entrants, will determine the "world's best" in 12 different games, including Starcraft: Brood War, Counter-Strike, FIFA 07, and Gears of War. At stake for this year's event will be a portion of the more than $500,000 in cash and prizes.
The WCG has added several new sponsors for the event, including Samsung Mobile, Thermaltake, Kingston, and AMD. As with many industry trade shows, the WCG will feature several panels as well as speakers from companies such as Microsoft, Gas Powered Games, Valve, Wizards of the Coast.
The WCG 2007 Web site has more details on the event as well as a complete schedule.
Of all the different movie monster clichés in the horror film genre, zombies undoubtedly have the best winning percentage. The rotting abominations chalked up another notch in the win column this weekend, as Resident Evil: Extinction feasted upon Good Luck Chuck and The Brave One to top the US weekend box office with a $24 million box office haul, according to Media By Numbers, LLC.
That's the best opening weekend yet for the series, which saw the original Resident Evil take in $18 million and Resident Evil: Apocalypse net $23 million in their US debuts.
Resident Evil: Extinction once again stars Milla Jovovich as Alice, who finds herself hiding out in Nevada with a small group of survivors. Along the way, she'll search for a solution to the zombie infestation threatening mankind and attempt to settle a score with the sinister Umbrella Corporation, which created the zombie plague in the first place.
If Extinction wants to remain on top of the box office heap next weekend, it will need to fend off a diverse group of high- and low-brow new releases that includes Ang Lee's latest, Lust, Caution; The Kingdom, starring Jamie Foxx; Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited; and The Game Plan, which features Doom star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
Earlier this month, Emergent Game Technologies announced that its Gamebryo Engine had been optimized to work with Nintendo's pint-sized Wii. The news interested many, considering that these development tools had heretofore been used on such games as Bethesda Softworks' award-winning The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and EA Mythic's anticipated Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.
Of course, tools are only as good as the artist that wields them. Sidhe Interactive has signed on as one of the first studios to put the tools to use on the Wii. The New Zealand-based shop announced today that its middleware platform of choice would be the Gamebryo Engine for development on the Wii and future multiplatform projects.
Sidhe announced last month that it would be ramping up its game-development output, with its most-recently revealed game being Speed Racer on the Wii, Nintendo DS, and PlayStation Portable. Although Sidhe did not call out any specific games slated to use the tech, it did note that one project using Gamebryo was currently in development and that several others are set to begin soon.
Microsoft welcomed September with its first-ever Xbox Live Arcade sale, and it's wrapping up the month in the same way. Starting Tuesday at 5 p.m. Pacific, Bankshot Billiards 2, Hardwood Spades, and Frogger will all see a temporary price drop. But unlike the half-off specials of the Labor Day sale, these price reductions will be more modest.
Bankshot Billiards 2 ordinarily sells for 1,200 Microsoft points ($15), but during the promotion, it will sell for 900 Microsoft points ($11.25). Meanwhile, Frogger and Hardwood Spades--each of which normally sells for 400 Microsoft points ($5)--will fetch 300 Microsoft points ($3.75) for the sale.
The price drops will remain in effect until 5 p.m. Pacific on October 2.
TOKYO--The Tokyo Game Show is just about ready to finish up, with only another hour left for gaming fans to get their fixes, cosplayers to show off their costumes, and industry executives to finalise deals. So what did the man on the street think of the show? We asked a selection of the less scary looking people what their verdict was.
First up, we spoke to Mike Adams,who works for DreamCatcher Games in Canada. He came over to Tokyo on a business trip specifically to visit the show.
GSUK: What do you think of this year's TGS?
MA: I absolutely love it. Now that E3 is over, it's great to be able to go to a show that's still on that level size-wise and buzz-wise.
GSUK: Which is your favourite booth?
MA: The PlayStation 3 one. It looks like the biggest here, and I think they did a really good job with that space. Oh, and the Canada booth was excellent, of course!
GSUK: Anything that could be better?
MA: I wish Nintendo had done something. They have, what, like 58 percent of the market in Japan but no booth at the Tokyo Game Show?
GSUK: What's your game of the show?
MA: Ace Combat 6, although the line was too long--I didn't get to play it, but the trailer was enough. I also like the look of Project Gotham 4.
Next we spoke to Todd Resnick, who works for a music licensing company in the US. This is his first time at TGS.
GSUK: So, first time, huh? What do you think?
TR: It's ok. It's not brilliant, and not terrible. I'm here for business, so in terms of a B2B (business to business) show it's not what I expected at all. It's more B2C (business to consumer), TGS seems to be all about revealing new products to consumers, that kind of thing.
GSUK: What's the best game you've seen here?
TR: Without a doubt, Ace Combat 6. The trailer for that game is absolutely amazing--really theatrical. I can't wait to play it.
GSUK: Do you think anything could be improved for next year?
TR: No, it doesn't need to change. It's perfect at what it does, as a consumer show. With the demise of E3, we really need a good B2B show, though.
Mike Jorgenson is originally from the US, and has lived in Japan for over four years.
GSUK: How many times have you been to TGS?
MJ: This is my sixth time. The show used to be twice a year, which is how that works.
GSUK: What do you think of this year's extravaganza compared to previous years?
MJ: One thing I've noticed over the last two years is that the percentage of space for mobile games has been growing and growing. I think it's going to keep getting bigger and bigger, as well, as here everyone has keiteis (cell phones) and everyone commutes. So, the mobile phone companies' booths are bigger once again.
Britton Rees is from the US, but is currently living in Japan. He came along to TGS with his girlfriend, who said she's not into games but joked that she wanted to keep an eye on him with all the hot booth babes on the loose.
GSUK: The event's been supersized this year. Does it seem like there are more people to you?
BR: Actually, no. If anything, I think it's less busy. Which seems strange, but that's just how it seems--it definitely seemed like there were more people last year. It seems like there are less games this year too.
GSUK: Tell me about some of the interesting games you've seen so far?
BR: I've seen a lot, but most of them I don't know their names because my Japanese isn't so great. There was one the looked like the movie The Grudge, that looked really interesting, but I couldn't figure out what it was. I also saw the infamous broomstick game--which was, uh, interesting.
GSUK: Anything get your goat?
BR: The lines are a pain, but that's the way it goes on the public days.
Craig Mercer is from Ohio, where he's part of an anime group.
GSUK: What brings you to TGS?
CM: I'm part of an anime group in the US that puts on a convention, so I've come over to TGS to see how they do it in Japan and to improve our own event with some new ideas.
GSUK: What has impressed you most so far?
CM: The Gundam Bandai stuff--since I'm old school, I enjoyed that.
GSUK: Seen anything weird or crazy yet?
CM: Not yet. I'm sure I will have by the end of the show, though. It's TGS, after all.
Ole Rosand is originally from Norway, but he's currently living in Japan and studying Japanese.
GSUK: Is this your first game show?
OR: No, but it's my first one for a while. The last show I went to was Nintendo Space World back in 2000. It's expensive to travel just for the shows, and we don't really have any big ones in Norway.
GSUK: What do you think of the crowds?
OR: It's busy but it's not as busy as I expected it to be, actually. I had to queue for 20 minutes to get in, but I was expecting it to take at least an hour.
GSUK: What game here are you most interested in?
OR: I just bought Eternal Sonata for the Xbox 360, and I'm playing that at the moment and really enjoying it. I'm interested in Square Enix's Infinite Undiscovery, as it looks like a similar kind of game for the 360--but they haven't given much away.
Helge Stenstrom is also from Norway, and is currently based in Tokyo studying Japanese with his friend.
GSUK: So, what do you think?
HS: I think it's awesome. As a huge gamer, it's kind of heaven to see lots and lots of games collected together in an enormous booth. I own every console, so I'm interested in everything.
GSUK: Seen anything strange?
HS: Yes, actually. We stood in line for this promo event for a new PSP game. It was a fun experience, kind of like a talk show with singing--I'm not really sure what it had to do with games but it was really funny. We couldn't work out what they were actually singing, either, even though we both speak Japanese, since they were singing so loud.
GSUK: What is your game of the show?
HS: Metal Gear Solid 4: Sons of the Patriots. I haven't been over to the Square Enix booth yet, but if Final Fantasy XIII is there, then that too.
TOKYO--One of the highlights of every TGS is the creative costumes that cosplayers come up with, and this year was absolutely no exception. On the public days, cosplayers can be found in the wild hanging out in between halls three and four. The minute they start to strike a pose, a horde of fans descend to take their picture, asking them to strike a variety of poses and taking up to five minutes to shoot to ensure that they have images of the outfits from every conceivable angle.
Naturally, the majority of the crowd being male, the longest queues were for the ladies, although there were also some great costumes from the guys. GameSpot stood in line to chat to some of this year's best cosplayers to ask them about themselves and why they do it.
Imo was one of the very first cosplayers to strike a pose at today's Tokyo Game Show, and was clearly a veteran of the event. The Tokyo lass made her costume herself, and like many of the other cosplayers hanging out, had chosen a character from the Final Fantasy universe to dress up as. A big Final Fantasy fan, Imo chose sky pirate Elza, one of the three pirates that Reddas employs in the Nintendo DS game Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. Revenant Wings is currently available only in Japan, but is due for a US release on November 20. When asked why she chose that costume, Imo said, "Pirates are cool and I love the outfit, too."
Standing across from Imo was Hifumi, who also made her costume herself. The "proper" cosplayers all do this, although costumes for popular video game characters can be bought here in shops like Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku. She laughed when we asked her if she wears the costume out. "No, no, no," she said. "I only do this at shows." She started cosplaying because some of her friends were into it, and they got her interested in the scene. One of many Guilty Gear characters, Hifumi was dressed as the nunlike Bridget from the Japanese 2D fighting game series. She told GameSpot, "I look forward to TGS every year, because I love doing this. I'm here with all my friends too, so it's really fun." She's now been cosplaying for two years, and says it's so much fun she's going to be doing it for a while yet.
Next to Hifumi were two friends who had also come to the show together, Sakura and Yuki. They had both dressed as the same character, but in different colours--Sakura is wearing the black costume, whereas Yuki is dressed in white. They both chose Dead or Alive Live's Kasumi to pose as. The two are avid gamers, and they love the Dead or Alive series. They're relative newbies to the cosplay scene--it's Sakura's first time posing, and Yuki started last year. Sakura said she wasn't sure what to expect, but she found herself really enjoying it. She said, "I'll definitely be back next year."
One of the most impressive costumes of the show is the huge vinyl suit modelled by a guy by the name of Tora. Tora is wearing a huge vinyl suit, which he painstakingly made himself--and which took him one whole year to make. His character is Shin Getter Robo, a mecha which appears in the Getter Robot Go manga. He has been cosplaying for three years. In the hot, sticky Tokyo heat, it must have been rather uncomfortable inside the huge suit, but Tora says he doesn't mind. He said, "I don't care. I love wearing it."
Next to Tora was another guy--hey, guys love cosplay too--who goes by the name of Kinuzeru. Kinuzeru is dressed as the big, tough guy Barret Wallace from Final Fantasy VII. Barret is the leader of the military organisation Avalanche, and then joins hero Cloud Strife to help him defeat the evil Sephiroth. Tora has been in the cosplay scene for only eight months, and he says that he chose Barret because "he's manly."
It wasn't only the Japanese who were out parading in their cosplay outfits--some Westerners had travelled all the way to Tokyo just for the privelege. These included three Western Australians from Perth, who were helping out the WA government to promote the region at this year's TGS. They are from left to right, K (Sora from Kingdom Hearts II), Vel (Axel from Kingdom Hearts II), and Drayke (Link from The Legend of Zelda series). K and Vel describe themselves as big into cosplay in their homeland. The two have both been cosplaying for over five years, and have their own business cards and fan sites. Isn't TGS a little far to go just to wear an outfit? "Cosplaying's great," says Kay. "It's really fun to dress up. We came here because we had to come to the country where cosplay started."
Another pirate fan, Anya has been cosplaying for 10 years, although only as six months in this particular outfit. She bought herself the online game Final Fantasy XI, and found herself enjoying the vitual world so much that cosplaying was a way of almost stepping into that virtual world in reality. Her costume took her a month to make, and she bought accessories to make it complete. Her character is called Koseya.
Anya's friend Haide has been cosplaying for 14 years, and drew the biggest crowd around her, as she struck a variety of different poses for the cameramen (and women--but mainly men) who lined up to snap her picture. Her character is also from online role-playing game Square Enix's Final Fantasy XI, and is called Alta Madoushi. So, obviously, she can't have been a Final Fantasy XI character for the whole 10 years--which others has she played? Haide said, "Hmmm...that's tricky. I've done so many I really couldn't count."
The good news: Electronic Arts and Crytek are still releasing a demo of their forthcoming PC shooter Crysis. The bad news: The demo has been delayed to October 26, three weeks before the game goes on sale. "We are taking some extra time to make sure you that you have an amazing experience but also we did not want to risk the [November 16] release date of Crysis at this stage," Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli explained in a statement.
Yerli partially assuaged impatient gamers' ire by announcing the Crysis demo, which will be available via GameSpot Downloads, will ship with the CryEngine 2's Sandbox 2 game editor. This will give "the community the opportunity to get familiar with the vast amount of tools they will have at their disposal" when the highly anticipated game arrives on store shelves, said Yerli. For more information on Crysis, peruse GameSpot's extensive previous coverage.
Two more demos have appeared on the Xbox Live Marketplace this week, one available for any Xbox 360 user, and one limited to those in specific regions. First up is a 971MB demo for Viva Piñata Party Animals, which lets up to four players try out a handful of the minigames from the upcoming party game. The Party Animals demo is available to all Xbox Live users worldwide.
The other demo is for Pro Evolution Soccer 2008, but the sample version of Konami's game based on the most popular sport in the world is unavailable in a bunch of countries. While gamers in Europe can try out the next installment in the long-running soccer series, the 1.18 GB demo is unavailable in two entire continents: North America and China. Unfortunate 360 owners who can't download the demo can still get an idea of how the game handles can check out GameSpot's latest Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 preview, straight from the 2007 Tokyo Game Show.
The musically diverse setlists of RedOctane's Guitar Hero series have always resembled the hodgepodge of hits one might find on a blockbuster film soundtrack. As a result, it's not entirely surprising that a soundtrack CD based on the latest installment of the game is in the works.
According to a Billboard.com report, record label Interscope is preparing a Guitar Hero III soundtrack CD featuring music from the game. Naturally, the disc will feature Interscope artists like Sonic Youth, AFI, Queens of the Stone Age, and Flyleaf.
Xbox 360 gamers who purchase the soundtrack will also find a code they can use to download three bonus songs from Xbox Live. The songs include AFI's as-yet unreleased "Carcinogen Crush," Flyleaf's "Tina," and a Nick Zinner (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) remix of Marilyn Manson's "Putting Holes in Happiness."
Set for release alongside the game in late October, the Guitar Hero III soundtrack is currently listed on Amazon.com for $14.99. A full tracklisting for the CD was not listed as of press time.
While gaming journalists will roundly snicker at anyone claiming that the road to personal fortune lies in writing about games, the projected $47 billion in industry revenue has got to be going into somebody's pocket. A new book by Scott Steinberg claims to have the inside scoop on how to cash in on that haul.
Titled Get Rich Playing Games, the approximately 200-page map to El Dorado offers tips on everything from creating a video game to getting a job in the industry to becoming a corporate-sponsored gamer. The book also features commentary from industry luminaries such as Shigeru Miyamoto, Will Wright, and Sid Meier. It also includes a forward from the original gaming-industry entrepreneur, Nolan Bushnell. Get Rich Playing Games can either be purchased via major retail chains for $17.95, or downloaded for free through Steinberg's Web site.
When it comes to video format wars, traditionally there has been a winner and a loser. But, if a new report issued by UK-based analyst firm Screen Digest is to be believed, the conflict raging between Toshiba's HD-DVD and Sony's Blu-ray high-definition video players may end in a stalemate.
Despite Blu-ray players currently outselling HD-DVD devices at a rate of two-to-one, Screen Digest's research indicates that film studios will potentially miss out on $280 million in revenue for 2008. "Blu-ray-exclusive studios Sony, Fox and Disney could miss out on $175m in consumer spending by not publishing their films on HD DVD, although Blu-ray's stronger sales mean that HD-DVD-only supporters are at risk of making the largest individual losses."
Rather than viewing Paramount's recent HD-DVD alignment as an obvious flaw in its argument, Screen Digest thinks the move will have the opposite effect on other studios. "The decision has effectively secured HD-DVD's immediate future, and cleared the way for the other studios that currently support one platform only to move to an agnostic position without being the studio solely responsible for prolonging a format war, or for killing off one of the formats."
Screen Digest concludes that many format-exclusive studios will rethink their strategies in 2008 and come to the conclusion that cashing in on lost sales trumps fueling the platform war. "We believe that eventually most will decide to offer their titles on both HD-DVD and BD in order to maximize their returns," the report concludes.
There's something fishy about Atari's Downstream Panic, and it's not just that the PlayStation Portable game is all about fish. Announced by the publisher today, the game is set in a world where a cyclone has sucked the world's fish up into the atmosphere, and it's up to players to guide them safely back to terra infirma.
Downstream Panic is being developed by Eko Software, creators of Th3 Plan for the PlayStation 2 and PC. The game will feature 80 different levels, five customizable environments, three play modes, and downloadable content. Atari said it plans to launch Downstream Panic early next year.
In a manner similar to the close proximity of their annual NHL icecapades earlier this month, 2K Sports and EA Sports will take the court simultaneously for their yearly NBA basketball installments on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 2. Players looking to scout out the matchup before the games' October 2 release date have already been offered a free trial of EA's NBA Live 08 on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. Now, 2K Games is joining in the preseason warm-ups with a demo for NBA 2K8 on Xbox Live.
Clocking in at 325MB, the NBA 2K8 sampler lets players take the court for a four-minute exhibition game. The full version of 2K's annual baller will include a number of new features, including the slam-dunk contest mode, off-ball controls, revamped player models, and more "signature style" player animations. NBA 2K8 will retail for $59.99 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, with the PlayStation 2 version landing at a budget price of $29.99.
Filed in the "No, really?" category, a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that first-year college students who room with someone owning a gaming console hit the books on average 40 minutes less each day, which amounts to a 0.241 hit to their grade-point average on a 4.0 scale.
Speaking to USA Today, the researchers--Todd Stinebrickner, an associate professor of economics at the University of Western Ontario, and his father, Ralph Stinebrickner, a professor of mathematics and computer science at Berea College in Kentucky--noted that the goal of their study was the effect of study habits on overall GPA, not explicitly the impact of gaming on grades. According to the duo, research has yet to link studying with improved performance in the class room.
Aside from the drop in time spent studying, the study notes that gaming for first-year students doesn't have a significant impact on other college behavior. According to USA Today's assessment of the study, rooming with a console owner did not result in changes to class attendance, partying, study efficiency, or paid employment.
However, far from discounting gaming altogether, the younger Stinebrickner concludes that distractions such as games can also contribute to better grades if they raise overall happiness.
While it would be borderline abhorrent to decide the next victim of the infamous Madden Curse, EA's newest way to pass the pigskin doesn't yet have that reputation. Therefore, the publishing giant is asking football fans to choose who will represent NFL Tour for its opening season.
By visiting the NFL Tour Web site, fans can cast their vote for one of three current NFL defensive players. The cover boy candidates are Miami Dolphins defensive end and 2006 NFL defensive player of the year Jason Taylor, Indianapolis Colts defensive end and three-time Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney, and San Diego Chargers linebacker, two-time Pro-Bowler, and 2005 defensive rookie of the year Shawne Merriman. The voting polls are currently open.
Billed as a traveling football show, NFL Tour puts players in the cleats of an NFL hopeful competing with and against real gridiron superstars for a shot at a playing contract. Developed by EA Tiburon--the same studio behind Madden football--NFL Tour will arrive for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in January 2008. It has not yet been rated or priced.
Numerous UK-based publications, including trade title MCV, are reporting that Halo 3's much-publicised September 26 (25 in North America) release date has been broken by at least one major high street retailer. Argos, which sells garden furniture, jewellery, and just about everything in-between via in-store catalogues and a Web site, had reportedly been advertising a September 19-20 collection date for preordered copies of the game, and has been making good on that promise.
Predictably, Master Chief wannabes who have managed to get their hands on the game early have wasted no time gloating on message boards and the like, and several have offered proof in the form of photos or videos that clearly show the retail game alongside an Argos receipt. Posting about getting Halo 3 early is more important to a good number of people than actually playing it, it would seem, which might not be such a bad thing for them if reports that Microsoft will freeze the Live accounts of anyone caught playing the game early (even retroactively) are to be believed.
When contacted by GameSpot for comment, a Microsoft UK spokesperson said: "The launch date of Halo 3 is Wednesday, 26th September 2007. We expect our partners to stick to the agreed launch date and take any breaches of the street date agreement very seriously, and we will take appropriate action with retails if the launch date is broken."
Looks like bad news for Argos, then, but what about those people who are already playing the game? Being banned from Xbox Live, even temporarily, seems a little harsh a punishment simply for getting ahold of a game early, but at the time of writing GameSpot is still waiting to hear back from Microsoft on that one.
Incidentally, GameSpot's search for Halo 3 on the Argos website found a picture of the game's box, but it doesn't actually link through to the product, suggesting that it has been removed from the store's online preorder scheme. There appear to be plenty of "Halo Silver 3" light ceiling fans available, though, which can be reservedto pick up in the store, subject to stock. More news on this one as we get it.
[UPDATE]: A US representative with Microsoft told GameSpot that the company won't be banning people who play the game early thanks to broken street dates at retailers. If gamers can track a copy down, they're clear to play it.
Nowhere is the cultural divide between Europe and the US more visible than in entertainment. Traditionally, the US frowns upon frank descriptions of sexuality while remaining indifferent to violence. Across the Atlantic, it's just the opposite, with governments dropping the banhammer on gore while letting sensuality flow unfettered.
The lastest example of this schism can be seen in two ratings of BioWare's forthcoming Xbox 360 role-playing game Mass Effect. In the US, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board slapped the game with a M for Mature rating for "Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, [and] Violence"--meaning that no one under 17 should buy or rent the game without parent approval.
Although the ESRB didn't elaborate, the British Board of Film Classification--which recently banned Manhunt 2 outright--explained that the American board's lascivious labels stem from a single sequence depicting a risqué encounter.
"[Mass Effect's] single sex scene is brief and undetailed, although there is breast nudity in one version of the scene," read the board's summary. "The sex scene is triggered by the player making a series of choices about becoming more than friends with a colleague. If playing as a male character the scene can take place between him and a human woman or a humanoid female alien. If playing as a female character the scene can take place between her and a male human or a female humanoid alien." (Emphasis added.)
On its surface, the mention of extraterrestrial bisexuals raises the specter of an interstellar version of the "Hot Coffee" scandal sparked by Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas two years ago. However, any controversy will likely be allayed by the fact that the BBFC gave Mass Effect a "12" rating--meaning that it deems the content in question to be perfectly suitable for unsupervised preteens.
It's also worth noting that Mass Effect isn't the first BioWare title to involve bisexual romance. The PC and Xbox martial arts fantasy Jade Empire features several nongraphic, crossgender love subplots, including one storyline that leads to an implied three-way liaison between a male hero and two non-player characters, Silk Fox and Dawn Star. The choice of having a female or male character could also lead to some same-sex crushes in the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games.
Multiplayer mayhem being the core experience of any Super Smash Bros. game, rumor mills have churned the possibility of online play for the Wi-Fi-equipped Wii version of the game to a powder-fine millet. The rumor, however, can now be put to rest, as the game's official Web site, Super Smash Bros. Dojo, has laid out plans for online fisticuffs in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
When the game releases for the Wii on December 3, players will be able to jump into global or friend-only matches. Players will be able to check the status of those in their Wii friend network, and then jump into a match under a variety of modes. The game will apparently not feature any kind of voice chat; instead, four pre-entered taunts can be issued using the D pad. While waiting for other players to ready up, players will be able to practice their moves on sandbag.
"With Anyone" matches will differ slightly from "With Friends" battles. For these, players will engage in anonymous online play, and the limited chat options will be disabled. SSB Dojo also noted that stat-tracking will be disabled for these matches, implying that records will be kept for friend-only brawls. The site also apologetically notes that local matches will perform far better than long-distance melees, which can take place between fighters in, for instance, the US and Japan.
Testing the waters before The Orange Box officially ships out on October 10, Valve has cracked the floodgates on the Team Fortress 2 beta. As previously reported, those who prepurchase The Orange Box through Valve's online portal Steam before October 10 will receive 10 percent off the PC game's $49.95 price tag, a free copy of Peggle Extreme, and exclusive access to TF2's multiplayer beta.
TF2's beta launch comes in the wake of last week's community-oriented overhaul, which opened up a new Web portal for Steam users and added a number of features designed to enhance the user experience. Team Fortress 2 iterates on the original Team Fortress Quake mod with a new cartoony vibe but retains the same over-the-top, team-based action. It will be included in The Orange Box along with Half-Life 2, its Episode One and Episode Two expansions, and Portal.