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June 20, 2008

Derek Jeter Pro Baseball 2008

A few weeks ago Gameloft was kind enough to take me to watch the Yankees beat Seattle. I also got a chance to play the new Derek Jeter Pro Baseball for mobile phones. I was actually pretty impressed with it and found it very playable. Graphics are getting better on mobile all the time and I thought this looked like it could be PS-One quality, but a lot smaller than a typical TV. That's really neither here nor there but I just thought that I would point it out because I'm usually a little bit too much of a snob to say that a mobile game is good.

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The lowdown on the game is that it is fun to play and a pretty good baseball game. Baseball fans will be pleased to see batting and pitching statistics for every team. There are also little Derek Jeter moments where you can learn some tips and some stuff about the life of a big time ball player.

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April 23, 2008

Midway Gamers Day 2008

I recently went out to Las Vegas for Midway's Gamers Day at the Red Rock Resort. They showed a few games: NBA Ballers: Chosen One, Wheelman, TNA Impact, Unreal Tournament 3 Xbox 360, and This is Vegas were playable. They also announced a Mortal Kombat and DC Comics game, which looked like a MK fighter with Scorpion, Sub Zero, Superman, and Batman confirmed as characters. There was a lot of excitement in the crowd about that one. We wondered how the whole fatality thing would play out with the super heroes, for example, would DC want Superman to rip out his opponent's skull and show it to him? They also announced sequels for Game Party and Touch Master as well as Blitz: The League.

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There was a lot of talk, especially from Midway execs like Mark Booty, Interim President and CEO, about how Midway is reaping the benefits of centralization and standardization. The different studios share assets like game engines and design tools as well as knowledge. You could see how licensing the Unreal Engine and then using it to build every game is paying off in terms of how the games look, how complex the game play is, and how quickly they can come to market.

The big focus was on This is Vegas. The game is being made by Surreal Software in Seattle - they've been working on it for three plus years. It's an open world of a likeness of Vegas where you gamble, party, race, and fight. It's an ambitious project to create a world that big. This gives players the chance to live out "their Vegas fantasy." It looked OK, nothing special in terms of graphics or audio. The focus has definitely been on game play. I did the dancing mini-game, the same that was shown during the press conference. I thought that it was fun. I wonder about it conceptually though. My concern is that by offering many types of game play it may end up asking players to play in ways that they don't want to play, for example, the guy who wants to drive around and beat people up may not be the same guy who wants to enter a dance contest. But I talked to Darci Morales about this concern and she said that if you don't want to play a particular mini-game you don't have to. The point of all the mini-games is to build your buzz and gain experience and you could choose to do that however you want. I'm mainly interested in seeing how all of the different games and gaming mechanics translate into a holistic gaming experience. I think This Is Vegas is noteworthy because it looks like it'll be a hell of an achievement for Surreal and Midway when it is done and it deserves merit if only for being a massive effort at establishing an open game play world with lots of variety. I'm not sure whether that translates into being a successful game in an overall sense. I'd get a better idea from a more in depth demo where I could see how the player goes from one mode to the other, how fluid that is, and how all of the different modes combine.

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February 28, 2008

What's in Store for Xbox 360 in 2008?

I had the opportunity earlier today to chat with Aaron Goldberg, Group Product Manager for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live. We talked about a bunch of Xbox related things and he brought me a shiny new Elite which I'm sure I'll enjoy.

We talked about new games that are coming out this year for Xbox 360:
April 29 - GTA IV. It's going to be in HD for the first time, have many online multiplayer modes, and exclusive episodic content for Xbox 360 gamers starting in fall 2008.

June - Ninja Gaiden II - controls will be easier to master and there will be more save points. I really hate games that don't have enough save points, so this is great news.

November - Gears of War 2

By end of year 2008, there will be over 1000 titles available for Xbox 360. Microsoft's goal is to become the default platform for developers. Remember how 3 years ago every game was targeted at PS2? We're rapidly approaching the days where every game is targeted at Xbox 360. Already, many games are optimized for 360. An example of this is Madden NFL, which ran at 60 fps on 360 and 30 fps on PS3.

Microsoft is really building up Live. Sony completely missed the boat on this one. Microsoft has a valuable entry point into millions of living rooms with Xbox Live. They've got more HD available for download than satellite or cable including movies, TV shows, music videos, and game trailers. TV Shows cost about $2 to own and movies are rentals that time out.

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January 20, 2008

UbiSoft 2008 Preview

I met with Ubisoft the other day and talked to them about the games that they are working on for 2008. I saw a bunch of demos, and played some games. They even brewed a fresh pot of coffee for me.

Rainbow 6 Vegas 2 - It's the 10 year anniversary of the franchise and it returns with a bigger (meaning more game play) story. Due out in March 2008. There's a greater degree of character customization in equipment and experience points can be applied to better weapons. Enemy and squad AI is better. There's been a huge expansion of co-op game play - friends can jump in and out of the game on the fly without restarting levels. It's the same core game play as version 1 with simple team controls. They've worked hard to add verticality to the levels such as looking up and seeing an enemy through a skylight and then having to go outside and climb up onto the roof to get him. There's destructible cover so you can't sit in one spot and hide. You sort of have to think and plan rather than charge right in. There are 7 locations and each location has multiple scenarios.
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Far Cry 2 - They set out to keep the best parts of the original. The intention is to keep it real yet exotic so this version takes place in Africa. There's 50 square kilometers of open game world, mostly savanna with some jungle. All objects are coded meaning that nothing is just a stupid graphic so trees grow while you're playing and everything can take damage. There's wind and light from the sun that change as the day progresses. No mission will ever be exactly the same because there's a randomness about how enemies are deployed; they're not always in the same place at the same time. It's fast paced and from what I saw there was a lot of fire which is always a good thing. One fascinating thing that Clint Hocking (Creative Director) brought up is that it is now cheaper in terms of utilizing system resources to create vegetation procedurally than it is to make it animated. The game is due out roughly around holiday 2008. It will be the same game on console as on PC with the PC version having higher resolution.
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Petz Bunnyz - This cute little DS game is basically targeted at young girls who want to play with fluffy bunnies at Easter time. It's not my kind of game, but if you have a daughter who wants to raise a virtual bunny and play with it then this would be a hit.

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October 28, 2007

Rock Band Preview

I was lucky enough to be invited up to MTV the other day to take a look at the upcoming Rock Band. First of all, that building is really something. The lobby has a big waterfall and they actually had someone playing piano. I couldn't help but wonder when Sarrel Group is going to hire a pianist to play in the lobby during lunch time. Second of all, the room they showed me the game in was like a home theater lab and was very cool. Big huge projection screen TV and a massive sound system. Add that to an inside look at one of the most anticipated games of the year and what could be bad?

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To cut to the chase, I loved it. I had a great time playing the game. So much fun. It really tapped the closet musician in me. Much more than Guitar Hero, which is a hell of a lot of fun too, but Rock Band gives you more variety. If I felt like playing guitar I could. If I wanted to sing I could. Or I could play drums. Or not play drums very well as it would turn out. I wish there were more songs in the game, but overall I totally have to recommend Rock Band for people who want to play music games.

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My love affair with Harmonix began back in the day of Frequency and Amplitude. At one point I reviewed Amplitude as one of the most innovative games to come out on PS2. Gameplay has remained essentially the same and I love it. This is apparently the culmination of everything that Harmonix has been working towards over the years.

The hook here is that you can play bass, guitar, drums, or sing. There is a real group experience. People can form their own band and then play together either in one place or online. The cool thing is that how well each of you play affects the overall score and the band's success. If someone screws up the others can bail them out with "overdrive" which is similar to GH's "star power". Guitar and bass are the same. Drums was really hard for me. After screwing up over and over again I developed the theory that I can no longer move my arms to push buttons as part of a game - I can only move my fingers to push buttons in a game. Vocals kicked ass. I have always wanted to scream Mississippi Queen (you know what I mean) while pretending I'm Leslie West.

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October 14, 2007

Midway TNA Impact! World Premiere

I'm down in Atlanta covering the world premiere of Midway's TNA Impact! video game. This is a very cool event focused on what looks to be a very cool game. We've rubbed elbows with TNA wrestlers, played the game against lead designers, drank an awful lot of bourbon, and enjoyed ourselves to the fullest. You might even say it's been "Total Non-stop Action".

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I'm going to follow this up with a post tonight about the actual wrestling match. They got us press passes so we can get right up front and hopefully we'll take some great photos. I've also got some interviews with wrestlers that I'm going to post. I had a great time talking to Samoan Joe. He and I both wrestled in high school and then played judo afterwards. And now I write this blog and he beats the crap out of people in an 18 month undefeated streak.

The game looked very good. The wrestlers worked closely with Midway on facial capture, mocap, and the dynamics of the game. The 6 sided ring is there - they're adding cages, glass, and barbed wire later. The version we saw was about 60% complete so it was a little buggy, ie you could throw guys through fences and stuff. It was really fun to play, not like other wrestling games which have traditionally been a mix of button mashing and really hard to memorize combos. I thought that even at this early stage it had a very good feel to it in terms of how satisfying it was to lay the smackdown on someone and the rhythm of counter-attacks and reversals. One thing that I like in particular is the way guys react to getting punched; if you punch a guy in the face he grabs his face, and if you kick him in the gut he grabs his gut.

There are a lot of grapples, reversals, alternate-grapples, and aerial moves. It's pretty fast paced for a wrestling game. There's the beloved Irish Whip, climbing the turnbuckles, and running around the ring. The ropes ripple when you run into them which is a nice touch.

We only played some one on one quick play. They're adding a story mode, create-a-player, tag team, and online play.

Oh yeah, and Samoan Joe says he's going to kill you.

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May 17, 2007

The Bigs

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This game will ship June 25 and be available for 360, ps-3 psp, wii. This is the first 2k sports game on Wii, all aspects of the game use the Wiimote - pitching, catching, running.

Today we're looking at the Xbox 360 version.

Why The Bigs? It's a heroic baseball game, over the top, arcadey. The game celebrates the sport of baseball and make highllights and dramatic moments happen, including big catches, wall catches, dives, etc. It's all genuine MLB licensed products with all teams and all stadiums, but with a little bit of a dramatic flare.

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There are super slo-mo diving catches. What the players do is still tied to stats but also like a mini-game of timing button pushes to pull off the spectacular. In a double play timing is critical, hold onto it for too long and they slide into and knock you down. There's a knock over catcher button mashing to get slider on your side and then you bowl the catcher over and maybe he loses the ball. 2K Sports is bending the rules to make the game more interesting but not taking it to extremes like MLB Slugfest which was a ton of fun but not very much like baseball.

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There's a turbo meter and a big play meter. When pitching, throw strikes to earn turbo, batter takes ball and gets turbo, use turbo to enhance pitches and hits, use turbo in the field to run to the ball or whip it in from the outfield. Turbo becomes pretty important tactically. Pitches based on button that you push to choose pitch, aim with reticle, them meter fills up. Batting is simple - contact green or power red; you can influence direction of the hit with the left thumbstick. You manage baserunning with the left analog stick and color coded base running icons over each guys head. It's easiest to advance all or retreat all using bumpers. The big play meter gives you power blast ability to drive ball deep just by making contact, or make a defensive big play meaning big heat so all pitches are super charged and when you strike the opponent out you steal his points

Homerun pinball is Katie's favorite feature. It was pretty fun. It's like batting practice in Times Square and all the signs and objects are worth points when you hit them. It's a lot of fun and very competitive.

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multiplayer - 2-4 players coop switching turns
online play also

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March 3, 2007

SEGA's NYC Demo Day

SEGA was in town the other day and I checked out a bunch of their games. Almost everything they showed ships on March 20, 2007. I'm not sure why March 20 is such a significant date for them that they have to deliver every game on that same day. But whatever, I'll take them. A bunch of these were really fun. Virtua Tennis is always fun and Armored Core played pretty well, that is if you like blowing things to pieces.


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Virtua Tennis 3 for psp, xbox 360, ps3. This game flat out looks great on the PS3 and the Xbox 360. The attention to detail is superb: little puffs of dust come up from your footsteps when you run on the clay court, the linesmen move out of the way when the ball is hit at them. You can create your own player, customize him or her as far as appearance, cloths and equipment. Then you practice and play on the world tour, slowly advancing and improving your skills. On Xbox 360 there's a whole online leaderboard system. Four people can play together online from four different consoles. You can watch other people's online matches and develop your strategy against them.

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Armored Core 4
This is a mech game, but unlike other mech games you can actually move quickly in this game. Most mechs feel like you're piloting them through molasses, but in Armored Core 4 you can jump and strafe and all those good things. Multiplayer online is new. There are 6 different factions. They wanted to make it appeal to new players and veterans as well. You start in the Independent City and it's sort of like a training mission. There are over 35 different missions. You have primary and secondary fire weapons. Your mech is highly mobile and you can strafe; there's regular boost and quick boost for dodging during combat. In general, mechs are more agile than before, and I can say that it seemed so when I played. I could jump over stuff and quickly cut to the side to avoid enemy fire. It's for ps3 and 360 and ships on mar 20. You can customize appearance with paint and emblems and can use the colors to camoflage yourself. This is pretty cool because you could do something like put on desert camo to fight in the desert and have an advantage. You can trade weapons and parts with other players online; some missions are search and rescue, most take 20 minutes or more, mechs have primal armor which is like a force field.

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Sonic and the Secret Rings
, just released on Tuesday. This game was designed specifically for the Wii and has more of a 2d feel to it. You tilt the controller left and right to steer while Sonic naturally accelerates. Press 2 to jump, snap the controller forward to catch some more air and do your homing attack. It's an arabian nights story where Sonic needs to find 7 rings before the evil genie does. There are 8 different game worlds each with a few tracks. As far as multiplayer, there are 40 party games for up to 4 players. They all have different movements of the controller depending on the games. It's an E rated title targeted at family fun. This is a solid Sonic game and I hold Sonic games in high regard. There was a time when I sunk at least 80 hours into Sonic on my Game Gear. Man, that was a long time ago.

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February 27, 2007

Pogo Update

I had the opportunity to chat with Beatrice Spaine of EA about Pogo.com last week. It was really interesting. This whole casual games thing intrigues me because I'm a hardcore gamer, my friends are hardcore gamers, and I sort of target my reviews at hardcore gamers. But these casual games are taking off like wildfire. The most interesting thing is that casual gamers rarely even see themselves as gamers - they're just having fun. In fact, a lot of them spend a helluva lot of time on Club Pogo so maybe they are hardcore. It sort of makes me question the whole use of the term "hardcore".

Here's an example. My father got a Pocket PC last summer and he brought it down the shore for the weekend. He was literally glued to the thing for the whole weekend because he was playing some game where he had to match the color of some balls. I think he even brought it to dinner one night and my mother made him put it away (we had a similar incident earlier in the season when I brought my DS and Nintendogs to the table - hey, Teddy and I were in the middle of a walk). My father is in no way a hardcore gamer, but his behavior reminds me of myself when I get a new game that I fall in love with. What is the real difference between my father playing this ball game and me staying up for 72 hours so I could play through Metal Gear Solid or Medal of Honor? Yes, there was an incident here several years ago with Medal of Honor Rising Sun where my neighbor came downstairs at 2 am to ask me to put the war on hold.

I guess the major difference between my gaming and my father's gaming is the twitch and coordination factor. One has to be reasonably adept in order to target and shoot, whereas it's pretty easy to point at balls with a stylus. But in terms of the love of the game it is the same. I think that's the significant part. People love to play games. Actually, it almost seems like everything alive (with half a brain) loves to play. Not to trivialize the issue, but are my cats casual or hardcore gamers when they're chasing a catnip mouse around the apartment?

So I think I've just stumbled on the bottom line. Gamers want to have fun, pick up a little diversion, and perhaps be challenged. Casual or hardcore, we're all the same on a basic level. And at the risk of sounding silly, game on everyone. Kick back, have fun. Michael Franti and Spearhead sing that "it's not who you love, but do you love", and I think I'm ready to say "it's not what you play, but do you play?"

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Hellgate London Preview

I met with Andrew Wong of EA and Bill Roper of Flagship Studios a few days ago to talk about the upcoming action RPG Hellgate London. Overall I was pretty impressed with it and stayed to talk to Bill for a long time.

I'm trying something new with this entry. I took notes during the demo and I'm writing this directly from the notes so it probably won't flow as well as most of my entries by will probably contain more information. My guess is that you probably came here for information and not for beautiful prose.


They wanted to make the starting area compact and simple for players to navigate. The London Underground is a safe zone so when you're there you don't have to worry about getting attacked. Everything starts with a tutorial. NPCs have quests for you so you have to walk around and talk to all of them. If the quest is blue then it is part of the major story arc. The cool thing about the game is that it is both single player and MMO, so in theory there's tons of replayability which is somewhat refreshing today. You can buy the box and play on your own for about 30-40 hours, then you can go online where there will be additional game modes and story lines. Flagship intends to work tightly with community to tailor the game to be the experience that players want.

Every time you go out on an adventure the area and all the contents are randomly generated. Two people can do the same level or quest and have two totally different experiences. My general impression is that the game looks good and has nice shadowing and fire effects. There's actually a huge mothership kind of thing that casts a massive shadow over the city so shadows come and go and the effect is very cool. The point of the game is to fight demons on the surface, and they're an ugly bunch. There's a lot of finding, buying and selling items which is always a big element of these games.

Flagship has made every effort to make the game playable for both hardcore and nonhardcore gamers. They've tried to simplify menus and also make keys context sensitive so you don't have to hunt for certain functions. For example, the left shift can make you sprint during combat. Alt brings up the action menu, your inventory is drag and drop, as is modding your weapons and leveling up your skills. The automap and quest log shown on the screen.

There is pretty good diversity in game play for the different classes. The hunter is more like an FPS than an RPG where you aim with a reticle and shoot from the hip. The first person features were designed in from the beginning so it feels right. If youŕe hunter with engineering skills (thank you hellgateguru.com) you can build drones that help you fight, drop health, project shields and more. The templar is melee based third person only; he can use the grappler which is a cool weapon that drags enemies in so you can bash them. This can be very useful for enemies with ranged attacks or flying enemies. The game is very playable using each different character class. All of the character classes have to be able to complete the game solo and all character classes have to be playable in solo mode. The cabbalist is a spell caster who uses the powers of the demons against them. They us focus items to channel the energy

One interesting thing is that armor is color themed meaning that individual pieces now match instead of giving the usual patchwork feel. Also you can make a guild color theme and share it with your guild. You can also mod your weapons to enhance capabilities. The armor colors and the mods on weapons are ways to individualize yourself within the game. Using different items require different attributes which creates a whole system of trade offs.

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February 4, 2007

Majesco Winter Gamers Day

I met with Majesco a few days ago and checked out their spring lineup. It's essentially casual games, ie not hardcore gaming, on Wii and DS. I liked a few of them, but I can't help but remember that Majesco once shipped BloodRayne. That was a great game and you couldn't really ask for something more hardcore than that. Times have changed and markets have changed. My guess is that it has more to do with the finances of developing and publishing blockbuster titles. Nothing that Majesco showed me is going to run away with the market, but there's certainly fun to be had.

Cooking Mama Cook Off - This innovative game for Wii puts you in the kitchen where you learn recipes and cooking techniques. It was pretty fun on DS and now they've got a Wii version with 55 new recipes. An interesting thing that they did was add an international element. There are 10 countries, each with a champion and 2 dishes. So you can compete against the little Spanish girl to make paella and that unlocks the paella recipe. It's really a bunch of clever cooking based mini games. For example, you hold the Wii controller upright and spin it like you are spinning pizza dough on your fingertip. The speed with which you spin the controller dictates the size of the pizza. There's 2 player split screen which should be a blast at parties. It'll ship in April for $49.99.
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Cooking Mama: Cook Off Trailer

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January 31, 2007

Major League Baseball 2K7

I met with my good friends Anthony (from 2K Sports) and Katie (from Access PR) yesterday and they showed me Major League Baseball 2K7 on Xbox 360 and PS3. It's going to be available on everything except GameCube and Wii (they would have had to create a whole new control system and couldn't do it in time for the season) and it will ship in the first week of March 2007. i was pretty impressed with it. Overall, the graphics and sound are great. The details are all there, from Inside Edge statistics that affect AI on a play by play basis, to 150 signature style individualized player animations, and even to shirts rippling in the wind and little puffs of dirt coming up from player's footsteps. The commentary was reasonably interesting, at least for the few innings that we played. The heckling "Hey, I stole your girlfriend Jeter") was pretty cool.

Here's a screenshot from PS3:
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Pitching controls remain the same, using the "Payoff Pitching" system and now you can even control the catcher and have him call the game. Hitting is the same using the swing stick. On PS3 you also have the option to swing using the controller due to it's 6-axis motion sensing capability. I couldn't get the hang of this during the brief time that I had with the game. They reworked a lot of the fielding so that momentum when running seems more real than last year. They also revamped every stadium, including lighting down to the way that shadows affect hitting. The PIP baserunning makes it easy to control runners.

Here's a screenshot from Xbox360:
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There is online play with online leagues for both Xbox 360 and PS3.

Also new is the ability to manage your budget and set ticket prices in franchise mode.

Here's a PSP screenshot:
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January 30, 2007

Midway Winter Gamers Day

I spent a few days in Las Vegas last week to visit Midway. They booked The Joint at the Hard Rock for a great event that highlighted several of their 2007 and 2008 titles. They had some great sushi and the scotch was flowing freely; what could be bad?

BlackSite: Area 51 This FPS is due to ship summer 2007 for Xbox 360, PC, and PS3. The story is pretty cool. You're sent into an area because some troops are missing and all of a sudden all hell breaks loose. There are all sorts of creepy crawlies that come after you. My favorite are the ones that you kill but their heads pop off and continue to pursue you. Midway promises realistic sound, but I couldn't tell because it was in a crowded noisy room. The graphics look great and lighting effects were very cool. The massively destructible environment is another cool thing. All in all, the short level that I played was a whole lot of fun. There's also a basic squad based element, which I mainly used to order my guys ahead on point. There were some performance issues, but it's a very early build. All in all, this is a title that I'm looking forward to.
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Hour of Victory This Xbox 360 WWII FPS is built on the Unreal Engine 3 so it looked fantastic. The innovation with this title is the ability to switch between 3 characters. There's the brawny charge ahead and gun Nazis down character, the stealthy slit their necks from behind character, and the eagle eyed sniper. At various points in each level you are given the opportunity to switch guys. Interestingly, you can do any part of the game using any character although some are better at certain parts than others. I found that using the brawny charge ahead and gun Nazis down character made this game feel exactly like Call of Duty. Not a bad thing for me, because I love these WWII shooters. In fact, I can remember a night when the guy in the apartment above me asked me to stop storming the beaches at Normandy (Medal of Honor) because it was 2 in the morning. I wonder how many other people like them. How much of a market is there for them? Very little was said about multiplayer modes, although the level looked like a good multiplayer design. The other cool thing is that you can take over turrets, planes, tanks, etc. That's always tons of fun in multiplayer.
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They also showed Stranglehold which looks like so much fun. I've written about it several times before.
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They showed a trailer for The Wheelman with Vin Deisel. I can never tell very much about a game from the trailer. It's too early for me to have anything to say about this one.

They showed a great video about the controls for Mortal Kombat: Armagedon for Wii. This looks like a lot of fun. It's basically a combination of swipes and motions with the remote and a little button pushing. I'm really looking forward to playing this one.
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And finally they had playable The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar which is a MMO for PC. They announced that it will ship on April 24, 2007. They just started a pre-order program which gets you the game for $9.99 per month or $199 lifetime. It looked good and there was a lot of excitement about it.

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January 24, 2007

EA Demo Night

The other night my good friends at EA invited me to come over and see some of their upcoming titles. Overall, it looks like they have a strong spring liineup. I spent so much time there that they were kidding me that I should help pack up.

Command and Conquer 3 - The epic struggle between the Global Defense Initiative and The Brotherhood of NOD continues as the third Tiberium war begins. This is a pretty solid RTS for Xbox 360. I was surprised at how easy it was to command my troops across the whole map. The PC version ships on March 28 and the Xbox 360 version ships in Spring 2007.
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Def Jam: Icon - What can I say, these Def Jam games are massively popular. This one integrates hip hop music and fighting like never before. The music actually affects the fight. Drive him down with a series of punches that grow stronger because they match the bass line. Environments pulsate and debris flies along with the music. There's also an all new single player story mode that takes you from nobody to hip hop mogul as you build a record label, discover new talent, and become a hip hop icon yourself.
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Medal of Honor Vanguard - I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again: Everyone likes killing Nazis. This latest installment of the highly successful WWII FPS is back and it looked great. They've simplified the HUD and gotten rid of the medpack system. Now when you're hurt you go hide in the corner and heal. This ships in March 2007 for PS2 and Wii.
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NBA STREET Homecourt - Featuring a brand new game engine that will knock your socks off, this wild street trick basketball game returns. This game is totally next gen with guys sweating, muscles rippling, cloth physics, all very smoothly integrated into game play. A new animation engine makes all the crazy moves you can pull look fluid. New controls let you create hundreds of tricks on the fly. Get ready to defy gravity and practice saying "Not in my house"!
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July 28, 2006

2K Sports NHL2K7 and NBA 2K7 Previews

The good news is that they're going to try to have both NHL 2K7 and NBA 2K7 available for PS3 launch. It's not an official declaration that they will have the games, just an announcement of an intention.

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NHL 2K7 This is, of course, the hockey game. They've developed a new concept in hockey game play called "cinemotion", where you can either have no commentary and a dynamically orchestrated soundrack synched to the action, or have commentary. There are a lot of new cut scenes and they've added a lot of player voices in something like 16 different languages. There's a new skating engine and new animations. I am a huge hockey fan and I thought that the game looked extraordinarily realistic. There's a new "parametric" camera angle that is above the rink sort of like the ESPN cameras; it moves in and out, up and down, and you can actually see a line change. The game plays much more fluidly when you can see the whole ice surface, it's really easy to step up in the hole and make a play. The right bumper is a drop pass. The left bumper can be used to send a teammate to shadow or take out a player. In franchise mode trading logic has been tuned and the computer does a better job of balancing team chemistry. There's a rivalry system that builds rivalries over time based on year to year play. There's also something called "opprotunity knocks" where as GM you get a random phone call that you can accept or decline and it can be a good thing or a bad thing for your team. Online leagues are now based on a real point system. Overall, I think the game looked great on the Xbox 360 and I can't wait to play it.

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Marty's Better!

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July 21, 2006

Majesco Holiday Games Preview

I met with Majesco a few days ago and looked at their holiday games. They're now making casual games for DS. I understand that casual gaming (games with easy instructions that you can just pick up and play for a minute or two) is hot, but I want to see more hardcore games because that's what interests me. And probably anyone reading this for that matter. I just couldn't really figure out what Majesco's overall objective is by coming out with all of these inexpensive casual style games.

Guilty Gear X2 and Judgment - For PSP, this game ships in September 2006. Guilty Gear X2 is a straight port of the Xbox title with 22 characters. You can use the analog stick or the d-pad for control. There's two player ad hoc versus mode. Judgment is a sidescroller like Final Fight with unique moves for each character. There are five core characters. You meet new characters, fight with them, and then unlock their story mode. There are 19 areas for each character. The right shoulder button is a powerful back attack.
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Mech Assault Phantom War - This is a mech fighting game for DS that ships in September 2006 for $29.99. There are campaign and multi-player modes, 4 player ad hoc game play. There are 24 missions on 4 planets. You use your mech to bring generators back online. There are 20+ mechs, battle armor, tanks, and turrets. The game uses a lot of voice to tell you what to do so you'll have to actually listen to your DS for once. You pick up salvage to replenish health and power up weapons. Take over enemy mechs. This looks like a fun game. Multiplayer can be team based or not. THere's a Phanto Melee mode in which heavy dense fog makes you rely on your radar for combat.
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Monster Bomber - This DS title ships in September 2006 for $19.99. This is a casual game for the DS. Aliens invade earth in this bust a move meets missle command meets space invaders game. There is single cartridge four player multiplayer which is pretty cool because 4 friends can play with only a single copy of the game. Basically, you fling balls of color at the matching color enemy and then go for combos of coloration.
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Naco Libre - This DS title ships in October 2006 (when the DVD comes out) and will cost $29.99. When I saw it, it was about 35% complete. The plot follows the movie with cut scenes from the movie. There's also a 4 player ad-hoc mode. They're using a technique they're calling "photo puppetry" to creat characters with a realistic head and face and a cartoony body. The result is realism combined with comedy. This is going to be the first wrestling game on DS and will also come with mini games that use the touch screen.
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July 12, 2006

Midway Games Holiday Preview

I met with Midway today and saw their holiday 2006 lineup.

Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar - This is a Turbine developed MMO for the PC that will ship "when it's ready." Beta testing begins around the end of August. They believe that they've created a state of the art MMO set in Tolkein's world. It's a large world where players have to act in groups and changes are persistent. Explore the world and fight monsters to unlock accomplishments and special skills. You can customize your character by developing different skills. It's easy to play, the quest list is showing on the right side of the screen all the time with specific steps that you have to take. There are classes and professions. Bree town is a major gathering place that Turbine forsees as a bustling city full of player and nonplayer characters where you can train and participate in secure auctions. There are huge open areas like the Misty Mountains. Even though I was looking at an alpha build I thought it looked good. You can drag and drop to equip items. Quests encourage you to participate in group activities so there are some social aspects to it.
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Mortal Kombat Armageddon In the seventh of the series for PS2 and Xbox, Midway brings back over 60 characters from the earlier versions. A huge feature is Kreate-A-Fighter where character creation is totally tweakable down to (or up to) breast size. If you add it all up there are millions of combos of different features that you can customize. You can also customize fighting style and button combos and write a bio for your character. Then you can take it all online and battle against other people's characters. There's also Kreate-A-Fatality where you enter a series of 3 button presses and can make your fatility as complex as you want. We're talking about ripping out skulls, spines, beating hearts. There's also a hidden mode that they're releasing information about in August. Konquest mode is bigger and better with better graphics and more realistic melee fighting. It's a single player story driven mode with boss battles that are the classic MK style. There are 20 plus backgrounds, some classics revisited now in 3D. This ships in October 2006 for PS2 and Xbox.
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Mortal Kombat Unchained - This ships in October 2006 also and is for PSP. It's got ad hoc WiFi multiplayer combat. There are 30 characters. Honestly, this looked fine but after seeing the Xbox version the PSP didn't look so great.
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June 23, 2006

Casual Games Day

I met with a number of companies yesterday to talk about casual games. For those of you who don't know what a casual game is, it's a game that is easy to learn and doesn't require complex skills to operate. Web games and mobile phone games usually fit into this category. According to DFC Intelligence, the worldwide casual games market is valued at $205 million today and will surpass $13 billion by 2011.

Boonty - They aggregate and serve casual games, usually with a free version that doesn't have all the levels or times out. Then you have to buy it to keep playing it. A lot of their games are web playable which means from deciding to play to playing there's no delay. Go to www.boonty.com for tons of casual games.

PlayFirst - They've seen an enormous growth in non-hardcore or casual gaming. The audience is broadening for 35 year old women. The average casual gamer is a different person from the average hardcore games. Many of these games have a woman as the protagonist. Developers target women and people over 35 who want to take a break at work or after the kids go to bed. There's no killing and no babes in bikinis. These are easy to learn games that provide an escape. They've seen 90% year over year growth. One of their games is Connect Four Cities, where you play Connect Four using buildings. And yes, you can give the gift of game on their site.

Glu - They're the #2 publisher of mobile games. Holiday titles include ATV Offroad Fury (8 different tracks), World Series of Poker, and Deer Hunter 2 (five weapons and persistent environments). In July they've got Super KO Boxing which is a cartonny boxing game like Super Punch for NES. They also offer Fox Sports Mobile Pro for $5.99 per month. It's a shell that gets filled with sports news. You can also follow your favorite team while they're on the field with live play by play.

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June 22, 2006

Buena Vista Games Demos

Desperate Housewives - Think of this game as a fresh new season to play with 12 new episodes. The central question is "should you be bitchy or should you be nice?" as you manage your character and your home life. The game starts off and you're a new housewife on Wisteria Lane. You create your character and choose your husband. The game has the feel of The Sims but with more intrigue and manipulation. It seems well written. They're working with a writer from the show. You've got a composure meter that you need to maintain so you can play with the big girls. There are a series of mini-games also, such as cooking, gardening, sneaking around and spying. Unlock your dark past in this narrative driven adventure sim. This is PC only and ships in October 2006.

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Every Extend Extra - This PSP game from Q Entertainment ships in November 2006. As with most Q Entertainment games, the music is interactive with the game play. This is very much like Rez, where you target a bunch of objects and hold down the button; when you let go everything explodes. The music sort of keeps time with the action. You can detach the target quickly to go get crystals and to greate chain reactions. The name, "Every Extend Extra" refers to the fact that the better you are at the game the longer it lasts.

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June 13, 2006

THQ Holiday in the Heat of Summer

Today I went up to midtown to meet with THQ and check out some of their games.

Supreme Commander - I'm sorry I don't have any screenshots for this one. The zip file THQ gave me is corrupt. This is a futuristic sci-fi RTS game for PC. The design goal was to bring strategy back to the RTS, to open up the game and increase scale. That way you can see everything and make the best strategic decisions. You can zoom all the way out to see the whole board or zoom right down to a single unit. Supreme Commander supports dual monitors, so you could keep one set on the overview map and use the other to drill down to specific battles. Battles are a simulation and are fought on land, sea, and air. There's a coordinated attack system where you can schedule multiple units to arrive at the battlefield at the same time. You can control any single unit. This game packs some serious firepower - it's possible to launch full scale nuclear assaults. It's scheduled to ship in early 2007.

Company of Heroes - This is a WWII RTS game for the PC. They stepped up the graphics beyond what you'd usually expect from the RTS genre. They've got Havoc physics on everything. The environment is fully destructible. Soldiers are aware of their environment and they seek shelter and set up crossfires. Resource points are scattered across the map (manpower, munitions, fuel) and you need to control them in order to milk the sweet resources from within. You need to maintain supply lines between your resource points in order to keep building resources. You can customize your experience by playing as infantry, airborne, or armor. You can build custom units. You can seize control of enemy weapons and use them.
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Watch the return of the greatest multiplayer series with MICRO MACHINES v4 first game play video

See it in action with the new video now available online at www.codemasters.com/micromachines

New York (June 13, 2006) – Remember what pure fun looks like, as Codemasters unleashes the first video of MICRO MACHINES v4. Multiplayer mayhem like this is the reason friends were invented, as gamers can see for themselves at www.codemasters.com/micromachines.

MICRO MACHINES v4 has now gone gold and is speeding towards its June 27th ship date for the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system, the PSP system, and PC with a Nintendo DS edition to follow. The MICRO MACHINES property is under license from the Hasbro Properties Group, the intellectual property development arm of Hasbro, Inc. (NYSE: HAS).

Everything gamers love about the MICRO MACHINES games is back and tuned up several notches. It’s time again to race tiny sports cars around the dinner table firing pint-sized rockets at friends knocking them over the edge. But no hard feelings, what’s a glass of spilt milk between friends? Just a road hazard is all.

Up to four players can challenge each other on MICRO MACHINES v4’s genius household raceways, weaving between train carriages on a model railway or ripping up the baize on a pool table.

A tantalizing taste of the massive fun to be had in this micro world is online now at www.codemasters.com/micromachines. Players can also prepare for the trash talking on the forum at www.codemasters.com/forum.

ABOUT MICRO MACHINES V4
Mixing miniature mayhem with maximum multiplayer racing, Micro Machines v4 comes packed with knockabout, breakneck racing in the fastest scale miniatures, complete with explosive weapon power-ups. Letting players loose with hundreds of vehicles, each with distinctive performance abilities, players will race inch-long miniature motors on the wildest tracks where everyday household objects appear immense in size and can become lethal hazards.

There’s an arsenal of power-ups and weapons to collect and use on opponents while racing. Micro Machines v4 brings all the favorites back – such as missiles and bombs – and provides new ones to attack with, including flamethrowers, heat-seeking missiles, plasma guns and, of course, the car-mounted giant hammer!

* Engage in madcap competition racing with your micro motors on the wildest tracks around your house, garden and beyond...
* Spin out on the breakfast table, turbo boost across the pool table or hit the gas as you race around the rim of the bath.
* Use your arsenal of power ups to blast your opponents with the flamethrower or heat-seeking homing missiles to throw them off course.
* Hundreds of tiny turbo cars to collect or trade. Or, up the stakes when you play for keeps with ‘pink slip racing’.
* Unlock bonus tracks with PSP system to PlayStation 2 connectivity.
* PSP system & DS wireless capability for up to 4-players, PC online multiplay and LAN.
* Unlockable multiplayer and single player content.
* Earn credits to unlock tracks and cars then trade with your friends.
* Track editor choose your own route through the garden or science lab… then challenge your friends to do battle!

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May 26, 2006

The Adventure Company Releases Trailer for EVIDENCE: The Last Ritual

In this PC CD-ROM game the notorious serial killer “The Phoenix” is back and the authorities need your help to catch him once and for all. Using an innovative blend of Windows® gameplay and the Internet, the player will explore key cities in Europe and North America. They will receive actual emails from virtual characters, scour real and fictitious websites, analyze video excerpts, photos, soundtracks, and piece together evidence to break the Phoenix’s embedded codes. From the creators of MISSING: Since January.

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May 21, 2006

E3 Coverage - Magic Online III

I met with Wizards of the Coast on Thursday morning and they revealed to me a new version of Magic Online due to go live in the third quarter of 2006. Essentially, they give away the software for free (and there's no subscription fee) and you then sell you content as you go. There's new content released every 3 months. People collect and trade digital objects (like cards). There's a significant market on Ebay. There are 6 million paper (or real card) players and 250,000 electronic players. There are 400 million digital objects in the Magic Online universe and they host 2 million games per month.
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May 20, 2006

E3 Coverage - Namco Networks

I met with Scott Rubin, VP of Sales and Marketing for Namco Networks America as my last meeting on Wednesday. This is the first year that Namco Networks has had it's own booth. And it was a huge booth for a mobile games publisher. Scott told me of Namco Networks' success in the past year with the rapid uptake in casual gaming and how their classic arcade games lend themselves very well to the mobile format. Popular titles include Galaga, Pac Man and Ms. Pac Man.
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Scott also told me about original Namco Networks titles such as Snoopy and the Red Baron, Dilbert Cubicle Chaos, and Scene it? the number 1 board game in the world. For those of you who don't know about it, like me, it's a tv and movie trivia game. All of these games are network enabled meaning that you can download additional content and they support multi player.
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E3 Coverage - Razer

I have to admit that I didn't know much about Razer prior to our meeting Robert Karkoff (president) told me the whole story.

Razer was founded eight years ago and makes PC gaming products. Gamers are passionate about their equipment and Razer makes equipment for that high end market. They make high resolution gaming mice. Most, almost all, mice are 8-bit. Razer made the a 16-bit mouse in 2004. Most mice are 400 dpi; Razer mice are 1600 dpi or 2000 dpi. Razer believes that mice should be measure in inches per second because it is a more accurate measure of the type of performance required by high end gamers. The Diamondback runs at 90 ips and a human can move at about 72 ips. Everything Razer makes is a pure hardware solution. They actively seek feedback and validation from professional gamers with each product they bring to market.
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The Copperhead has a 1ms latency, which is just about nothing. The mouse is completely portable. It has memory to store settings so you can take it with you, plug it in, and have all your settings right there. The mouse can receive firmware updates. It was the first 2000 dpi laser sensor mouse.

They're coming out with a keyboard named Tarantula in August 2006. It's the "first true gaming keyboard", low latency (1ms) and anti-ghosting so you can press as many keys as you want at once. It's completely programmable and has macro keys on each side. There are 5 profiles to store your programming; Razer will host a website to upload and download profiles. It's washable and has replaceable keys. There's a dock for peripherals across the top of it and Razer says that a lamp and a webcam are on the way. It will sell for $99.99.
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May 18, 2006

E3 Coverage - SEGA

I had a good time over at SEGA with Jenny. Overall, they've got an impressive bunch of games.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz - This is a Wii launch title and I'm looking forward to it. Playing is a good demonstration of how the Wii controller can be used. Imagine that you are holding the puzzle tray in your hand. Tilt the controller the way that you would tilt the puzzle tray to move the monkey the way you want. It makes the game very cool. There are 50+ mini games and 50+ puzzle trays. Some of the mini games have creative ways of using the controller. For example, in the hammer throw you twirl the controller and release the button to throw the hammer.
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Sonic Wild Fire (working title) - This is another Wii launch title. Sonic falls asleep reading the Arabian Nights and journeys into that world. It was fun to control him running through the game using the controller, tilting it to turn, flicking it up to jump. I got pulled out in the middle of this demo so I don't have much more. I also don't have a screen shot for this one.

Midieval II Total War - This is a PC only title due to ship in November 2006. It's being developed by a 40 person Australian team. There are 21 factions, 17 of which are playable. They doubled the resolution at which the graphics engine runs. They replaced the battle engine. Troops are now individuals that move and think independently within the context of their orders. You can upgrade the troops and see the difference in how they battle. There's a vegetation system that makes for great looking trees and bushes. The environment has strategic value so you can use it to win battles by trapping the enemy. The battle was something to see. Troops look around for their next opponent, corpses stack up in pools of blood. You can fight in the Crusades where there's a whole aspect to the game of managing the relationship with the Pope.
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E3 Coverage - Atari

Test Drive Unlimited - The entire game takes place on the island of Oahu. There are over 100 licensed vehicles and 1000 miles of road. It's all pretty much online races. There can be up to 8 player online races. You can drive around randomly exploring. When you encounter another player you can challenge him to a race. Then you lay out the course on the map and start racing. The world can have up to 1000 players on the same server so you probably won't have to race the same person twice, unless you want to. There will be online racing clubs to join. This game ships in September 2006 for PS2, PSP, PC, and Xbox 360.

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May 14, 2006

E3 Coverage - 2K Games

NBA 2K7 - 2K did more motion caption on more players so there are more players in the game with their signature moves. For example, Steve Nash pauses every few minutes while dribbling to lick his fingers. Shot stick is more precise so you have more control over your dunks and layups. Players sweat, the clothes ripple. There's online play on all platforms. This game is for Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2 and PS3 and ships at the beginning of basketball season.

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NHL 2K7 - 2K focused on making gameplay a more cinematic experience. Their goal was to emulate the movie Miracle. As such, players are more graceful and gameplay is more fluid. You can give defensive orders instead of just watching them and hoping they do the right thing. They've got NHL and NHLPA licenses. They promised me that the crap in the current version has been cleaned up, that the inicidence of garbage goals scored from the back of the net is down and that the stats and announcing are accurate. This game is for Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2 and PS3 and ships in Fall 2006.

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College Hoops 2K7 - This is a basketball game where the more important aspect is coaching. You have to take into account team chemistry, not just grab the ball and drive the lane. The stadiums are realistic. There's an in-depth legacy mode and online play. This game is for Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2 and PS3 and ships in Fall 2006.

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May 12, 2006

E3 Coverage - Capcom

On Wednesday I got to meet with my good friend Alicia Kim and see Capcom's line of upcoming games. Alicia's really the one who launched my career as a game reviewer about 5 years ago when she hooked me up with a Dreamcast and a whole lot of SEGA games.

Lost Planet - You're on a very cold planet. In fact, the whole game is about how cold it is and how much thermal energy you can gain and store. You have to maintain your thermal health in this futuristic scifi 3rd person action adventure. This comes out on Xbox 360 in Q1 2007.

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Dead Rising - This game comes out soon, in August 2006. You're a photo journalist in a mall that's been overridden with zombies. You can use anything as a weapon, and I did. I was beating up zombies with a huge teddy bear. It was hysterical.

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Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins - This game comes out for PSP in September 2006. It's a sequel but everything in it is completely new. It's a 2D side scroller. The great thing is that when you die you come back in at the same spot where you died. This prevents you from having to redo the entire level over and over again until you get it right.

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Capcom Puzzle World - This game is for PSP and ships in October 2006. It's all previously seen content but new to the PSP. It includes Super Puzzle Fighter, Blank Blank and three versions of Buster Brothers

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Power Stone Collection - This game is for PSP and ships in October 2006. Again, no new content, just Power Stone 1 and Power Stone 2 ported to PSP. It's a multiplayer fighter with wacky weapons. You collect power stones to unlock abilities and weapons. You can take your own screenshots, so if you beat the crap out of your friend really bad you can take a screen shot, save it to the memory stick, copy it to the PC, and e-mail it to all of your other friends.

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Capcom Classics Collection Reloaded - This game is for PSP and ships in October 2006. It is 19 Capcom arcade games such as Street Fighter 2.

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Capcom Classics Collection Volume 2 - This is for PS2 and Xbox and ships in October 2006 with 18+ classic arcade games.

God Hand - This is for PS2 and ships in October 2006. Developed by Clover Studios, this can best be described as a samurai game set in a future western style world with funky surf music. It has over the top action and lots of fighting.

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E3 Coverage - Mercury Meltdown

I met with Ignition Entertainment and they showed me Mercury Meltdown for PSP. You control a little blob of mercury and have to navigate through mazes. It's party Super Monkey Ball and partly that game we had as kids where you roll a marble around on top of a wooden box and try not to get it in the holes. They kept the core gameplay the same but there are lots of new aspects to it. You move through 3D mazes, flip switches, navigate rollers, and try not to split up the big ball. There's multiplayer mode.

You can do different things with the mercury. You can heat it up to make it more blobby and make it go faster. You can turn it into a ball bearing to run up two rails. And you can make it cold, which makes it sticky and less likely to fall apart.

There are 160+ levels and 5 party games.

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E3 Coverage - Psyclone PSP Speakers

I saw a very cool set of PSP speakers today. I would show you pics but it was just a prototype. This is pretty high end stuff and it sounded very good, way better than the Logitech or Logic3 speakers that I have. They use "TM Technology" which is a digital amplifier that cleans up imperfections in mp3 files.

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May 11, 2006

E3 Coverage - Nintendo

Nintendo showed 27 titles for Wii. They're not all launch titles though; they wouldn't commit to a specific number of launch titles. The Wii is actually very cool. I have to admit that I'm more excited about the Wii than I am about the PS3. The way I see it, Microsoft and Sony can throw more horsepower at games and have better graphics. Big deal. Gaming is still the same just with better graphics. But the Wii is new and radical. The controls are totally different from anything else that I've played. Honestly, after PS3 is going to cost as much as a house, I think I'm much more interested in Wii. There's a bunch of different controllers, the usual nunchuck controller and then there's the classic style controller which is like a GameCube controller, and there's a prototype zapper style controller which is like a gun.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

Madden NFL 07 - using the Wii controller is very cool. You use the controller like the football. You snap it to start the play, then you pass with it, and shake it to juke.

The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess - this is so cool. The controller takes some getting used to. You use both hands to play, aiming with the controller and swinging your sword by swiping with the controller. The game looks great.

Wii Sports is golf, tennis, and baseball. You use the controller like you would play the sport. For instance, you serve in tennis and then swing to hit the ball as it comes to you. Very cool stuff.

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May 10, 2006

E3 Coverage - Mercenaries 2 World in Flames

Last night my friend Andrew and I went to Pandemic's party and saw their PS3 title Mercenaries 2 World in Flames. I was very impressed that they had this Humboldt Fog goat cheese that I really like. This is the first actual PS3 game that I've seen played. I've seen plenty of trailers and movies but this ws the first time I saw someone playing it. The game is due out in 2007.

It's pretty similar to the original Mercenaries. There's a support mechanic so you make friends with NPCs and then your friends can be called in with particular things to help you, like they'll bring you a dune buggy or a helicopter. One really cool thing is the ability to light fires and basically play with fire. That's the first time I've seen fire as a toy and not fire as an effect in a game. The dev team is going for an action movie feel so a lot of stuff looks very cinematic with the way the camera shows the action. You can take control of any vehicle anywhere. There's a grappling hook that you can use to board helicopters while they're in the air and then fly them.

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E3 Coverage - Mass Effect

This is an RPG where the galaxy is your playground. The game world is a huge scale with a sleek and futuristic look. You can play as Commander Shepard or develop your own fully customizable character. There is a lot of walking around and interacting with NPCs. Everything is very fluid and the character modelling is excellent. There's an innovative dialogue system where you pick the basics of what your character should say and then he says something like what you selected but with more detail.

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May 4, 2006

Eidos Releases Two Video Developer Diaries for Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend!

You have seen the game, now it is time to take a trip inside the development studio behind Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend. Crystal Dynamics has brought Lara Croft back to the top, and you will find that not only are they skilled at game design, they also have a good sense of humor! In these two video developer diaries you get to hear from members of the development team about what their thoughts are regarding Lara Croft and the new game. Also take a look at some of the design aspects that were used to create the fluid movement system, as well as a nice tour of the sound studio where music genius Troels Folmann works.

Download the videos now over at:
http://www.eidosinteractive.com/downloads/search.html?gmid=158!

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May 3, 2006

Get a Glimpse at the Mysterious Wheelchair Man from Hitman: Blood Money in the Latest Trailer!

Agent 47 is set to make his triumphant return in the latest installment of the Hitman franchise, Hitman: Blood Money. As the world’s deadliest assassin, Agent 47 is normally the one stalking the target. This time however, other assassins from his contract killing firm known as the Agency have been ending up on the wrong side of the executions. Sensing that he might be the next target, Agent 47 travels to America to uncover clues about this rival agency which has suddenly entered the fray.Much of this conspiracy is still unknown, but in the latest trailer released for Hitman: Blood Money you can take a first look at the mysterious Wheelchair Man, and it is pretty clear that Agent 47 is definitely not on his good side. Who is this Wheelchair Man and what are his motives... these answers you will have to find out for yourself.

Download the new trailer now at:
http://www.eidosinteractive.com/downloads/search.html?gmid=159!

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April 21, 2006

EIDOS CONFIRMS URBAN CHAOS: RIOT RESPONSE RELEASE DATE AND RELEASES NEW TRAILER

San Francisco, CA (April 21, 2006) -- Eidos Interactive, one of the world’s leading publishers and developers of entertainment software, today announced that URBAN CHAOS: Riot Response will be released in North America on June 13, 2006 on the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system and the Xbox® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft.

Developed by London-based Rocksteady Studios, URBAN CHAOS: Riot Response gives gamers the opportunity to step into the shoes of a real urban superhero. Play as Nick Mason, an ex-US marine and leading member of T-Zero - an elite police counter-gang unit. Specially trained in all areas of urban combat and armed with the very latest high-tech weaponry, T-Zero – the last line in urban defense - teams-up with Emergency Services groups including firefighters, paramedics and police to save the city and combat multiple threats including bombings and hostage scenarios.

“URBAN CHAOS is one of the most anticipated games of 2006 and offers a unique experience right at the heart of a full scale riot,” said Helen Clark, Brand Manager, “for fans of the FPS genre, this will be a highly original and intense challenge.”

URBAN CHAOS: Riot Response offers gamers the latest in gaming advancements including realistic and dynamic city environments where all sorts of extreme action takes place, progressive fire effect technology and fully interactive environments, using Havok 3 technology. Players can utilize members of the Emergency Services to progress through levels and save civilians and partner with the riot shield and use it as a weapon or for protection. In hostage scenarios, gamers go head to head with a twisted enemy to save innocent bystanders. Players are tasked to be the hero the city needs... don’t back down in the face of true Urban Chaos!

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Special Abilities of Gunnar Displayed in the Latest Gameplay Video for Rogue Trooper!

Rogue Trooper, the upcoming third person sci-fi action shooter game based off of the popular comic book series from 2000 AD, puts you in the shoes of the last survivor of the Genetic Infantrymen who were set up and brutally massacred. Rogue sets off alone on a mission for revenge as he fights his way through platoons of soldiers to search for the traitor responsible for the death of his comrades. Though alone on the battlefield, the bio-chips containing the genetic information of his fallen comrades Gunnar, Bagman and Helm, have been implanted in his gear, which allows their personalities and abilities to come to life a second time.

Download the new video now at: http://www.eidosinteractive.com/downloads/search.html?gmid=161!

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April 10, 2006

Official TV Commercial Released for Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend!

Lara Croft is known for traveling the world, however tomorrow it is her new adventure, Tomb Raider: Legend, which is taking a journey as it is set to ship to retailers on April 11th! The wait is over, and the time has come for celebration. What better way to mark the occasion than to deliver you a copy of the official television commercial which you can expect to see on some popular channels soon! Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend marks the return of Lara Croft to the tombs, and with the highly detailed interactive environments, it is definitely a game that you do not want to miss! Lara Croft moves with beautiful fluid movement, and her new acrobatic moves coupled with the gaming dynamics brought by gear such as the magnetic grapple make this the most intense tomb raiding experience to date! The commercial features some great action adventure sequences, along with a lot of the stellar praise that Tomb Raider: Legend has been receiving from the press!

Here's the Ad.

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April 7, 2006

Eidos Releases 6 Spectacular New Videos for Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend!

There are only a few days remaining until the North American launch of the most anticipated game in the Tomb Raider franchise yet! Since the day when you can finally make Tomb Raider: Legend your own is so near, it is time to overhaul you with media, as we are releasing 6 spectacular brand new videos! Tomb Raider: Legend features the return of Lara Croft to the tombs, and she has gained some brand new acrobatic moves and gadgets which make traversing the beautiful interactive environments pure joy. These new videos give you another sneak peak at some of the great new features of the game such as how Lara Croft can climb around with beautiful fluid movement, the new magnetic grapple gadget in action, and some of the deadly traps that she encounters in the tombs. On top of it all, we also are showing you a few cut-scenes which are displayed in true cinematic quality.

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March 30, 2006

The Adventure Company Releases Official Trailer For Crime Stories

About Crime Stories:

Travel from the busy streets of New York City to ancient Mayan ruins as you take on the role of Martin Mystère, the brilliant detective investigating the brutal murder of the highly reputed scientist, Professor Eulemberg. What fascinating discovery had the professor uncovered and why is he now dead? Engage your inner detective and solve this horrific crime and the mystery that lies beneath…

* A cinematic investigative thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat for hours!
* Beautifully detailed 3D graphics with rich, colorful environments to explore.
* 3rd person gameplay with numerous inventory items to discover and interact with.
* Creative and original puzzles that will challenge you!
* Loads of characters to talk to and assist you with your investigations – you choose what you want to say to them.
* A dark and disturbing tale of betrayal and murder!
* A rich atmospheric soundtrack accompanies gameplay and adjusts to your surroundings.

Crime Stories has an ESRB rating of ‘T’ for Teen and is currently available in retail stores across North America.

Here's the trailer.

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Agent 47 Displays Methods of Accessing His Targets in the Latest Video

In order to execute the perfect hit, a detailed plan of action is needed. However, though planning is essential, the actual implementation is where your life is on the line, and a single mistake could be deadly. In order to gain access to your target, you must use a variety of tactics, all without being seen. This latest video shows Agent 47 in action, as he gets close to his target, and obtains a position to make the kill. Hitman: Blood Money, the latest installment of the popular Hitman franchise gives Agent 47 brand new moves to gain access to his targets and puts the decision making in your hands, as the brand new levels provide you with complete freedom to determine how to make the hit. Prepare to make a killing, as Hitman: Blood Money is set to ship this Spring 2006, for the PS2, Xbox and PC.

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March 29, 2006

Vicious Gameplay Video Released For Urban Chaos: Riot Response!

When trying to take back a city held hostage by a ruthless gang of pyromaniacs, there is no need to play nice. The new action packed first person shooter Urban Chaos: Riot Response puts you in the shoes of Nick Mason, a true civic super hero in charge of the elite anti-gang unit T-Zero, and you have been given clearance to use any means necessary to take back your city. This week’s gameplay video gives you a sneak peak at what the psychopathic gang known as the Burners have in store for them, and from the looks of the video, they are going to have some serious regrets about ever lighting up their torches. Normally a stun gun is one of the more peaceful weapons, however when innocent civilian lives are at stake, leaving it on a tad bit longer than normal to take out a burner in true pyromaniac style can prove a point. Just in case they didn’t get the message, a few up-close blasts from a sawed-off shotgun should make it clear that the time for playing games has passed.

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New Trailer Released for Rogue Trooper Featuring Stealth Combat!

Rogue Trooper, the new sci-fi action shooter game based of the comic book series from 2000 AD, puts you in the shoes of a pissed off genetic infantryman whose sole purpose is getting revenge on those who set up his race for destruction.

Vastly outnumbered, take on full platoons of soldiers with only the aid of your fallen comrades, whose bio-chips have been implanted into Rogue’s gear. With such a difficult task at hand, the only chance you have at success is to plan out your attack, stay low, and strike when it hurts the most. Luckily for Rogue Trooper, his comrades Gunnar, Helm and Bagman have a few surprises in store for their enemies. Set up Gunnar as a turret, to provide cover fire while you get a better vantage point. Use Helm to act as a Holodecoy to distract your enemies as you attack them from behind. And when the situation calls for an ambush, Bagman is more than happy to lay down a field of micro-mines to ensure that it’s an explosive encounter. These special abilities give Rogue Trooper the edge he needs, and along with his massive arsenal of high-tech weaponry, anyone who stands in his way is in for some pain.

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March 25, 2006

Get Another Inside Look at the Commandos Strike Force Team in the Latest Developer Video!

Commandos Strike Force, the intense stealth combat game which fuses first person shooter style gamplay with strategic stealth combat is almost at your fingertips. To give you another inside glimpse of Pyro Studios hard at work redefining their successful franchise we have made another developer video available over at Eidos Interactive. This week’s video goes into detail about the teams involved to make the different versions of Commandos Strike Force for the PS2, Xbox and PC, as well as how they strived to make the game set itself apart from other games in the first person shooter genre. There is also a segment that goes into detail about the extensive testing that was done on the title, to ensure that it stands up to their rigorous standards of quality. The wait is almost over, as Commandos Strike Force is set to ship April 4th in North America for the PS2, Xbox and PC.

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March 24, 2006

Agent 47 Prepares to Make a Killing in the Latest Video for Hitman: Blood Money!

To be a professional hitman, you must always be prepared. Not having a proper plan put together will only lead to mistakes, and as the world’s deadliest assassin, Agent 47 does not make mistakes. Planning the proper hit takes strategy, wits and precision; the ability to get into position unnoticed, execute your plan, and then leave without a trace. It’s like an art form, and the latest video from Hitman: Blood Money shows the legendary artist of execution at work as Agent 47 puts together a plan that ends with the perfect shot. The latest installment of the Hitman franchise puts you in control, as you determine the best way to make the hit... but be prepared, for the blood will be on your hands.

Download the video now here:
http://www.eidosinteractive.com/downloads/search.html?gmid=159!

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March 16, 2006

Agent 47 Practices His New Moves on a Giant Chicken in the Latest Batch of Screenshots for Hitman: Blood Money!

Normally it’s rare to come across a man in an oversized bird suit, but at the world’s largest party, the Mardi Gras, it’s commonplace. However, what’s definitely out of the ordinary is to see a professional hitman stalking such a man in costume. Sadly for the man in the bird suit, he must have rubbed Agent 47 the wrong way, because in the latest batch of screenshots he is trying out a few of his new kill moves at the bird man’s expense!

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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Midway Demos

I met with Midway yesterday at the W Hotel where they had the greatest rice krispy squares dipped in chocolate.

SpyHunter: Nowhere to Run
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This ships on June 19, 2006 for PS2 and Xbox. It's more than the same old SpyHunter because there is an added 3rd person action element staring The Rock. It's pretty melee heavy. I got to play this one and it was a lot of fun. Driving had that exciting combat. I kept dying during the level with the boat. The gun battles and fighting were pretty cool and they really bring a new dimension to the game.

Stranglehold
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This will be Midway's first next generation game for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. It's a John Woo project, the spiritual sequel to Hardboiled. Chow Yun Fat plays Inspector Tequila and the game takes place in both Hong Kong and Chicago. There is environment is massively destructible and rooms look like a gun battle took place there with debris on the ground and the walls being all chewed up by bullets. The theatrical effects are there with blood spray and the animation is very fluid. There's also Tequila Time where you move in real time and everyone else moves in slow motion. It's being developed by the same team that did Psi-Ops and they're using Havoc physics and the Unreal Engine 3.0. Stranglehold is scheduled to ship in winto 2006.

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March 14, 2006

Spore Lecture from GDC

Spore Gameplay Video - Google Video

Check out this video of Will Wright's lecture about Spore at GDC. This game looks amazing.

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March 11, 2006

Lara Croft Looks Stunning in the Latest Batch of Screenshots Featuring a Stop in Tokyo!

When getting ready to travel the world in search of rare artifacts, you need to make sure that you have the right equipment. Dual Pistols... check. Magnetic Grapple... check. Cocktail Dress... CHECK!! That’s right, Lara Croft is traveling to Tokyo, and she is definitely dressed to impress! When you are there to crash a party, it’s not a crime to look sizzling in the process, now is it? But why is she there? Well, she needs to collect some information about the rare artifact that she wants to add to her collection, the... now we can’t go and spoil that for you yet! But what we can reveal is a brand new batch of screenshots featuring Lara Croft in one of her beautiful new outfits as she bursts into action on the rooftops of Tokyo!

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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March 7, 2006

Majesco Portable Demos

Guilty Gear Judgment and Guilty Gear Reload - a straight port of Reload from the consoles and an all new game, Reload. Reload is a side-scroller heavy on the fighting. There are lots of special effects like fire and plenty of screaming. There are 20 levels, 6 bosses and 21 characters, where you start with 2 characters and have to unlock the rest. Guilty Gear Reload has 23 characters all unlocked from the begining. There's traditional arcade mode, mission mode, wireless vs. mode. Heavy metal anime worlds. Total pandemonium. Looks like a fun fighter.

$39.99 release in early May 2006

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Guilty Gear Dust Strikers for DS - uses both screens on a multi-tiered fighting level. Fight 4 other players at one time. There are power ups that you can pick up and throw at opponents or use the touch screen to store them and use them later. Typical Guilty Gear graphics and audio. With 4 fighters it's almost like a party game. Mini-games uses the touch screen where you unlock moves for robo-ky as he takes other players' moves and assimilates them.

$29.99 release in mid to late April
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6 New PC Screenshots for Fuel

March 7, 2006 - DreamCatcher releases 6 PC and 3 high resolution XBOX screenshots from FUEL to showcase some of the 20 stunts available to players in this high energy multi-vehicle racing game.

The Ultimate Racing Experience!

Play as one of 10 characters from around the globe. Switch between off-road vehicles, ATVs, or personal watercrafts – choose from over 35 vehicles! Perform stunts and tricks racking up points as you navigate through a variety of terrains including: Amazon Run, Orient Express, Chilled to the Bone, Tropical Turmoil, Beaches n’ Babes, and over 20 other available and unlockable exciting locations from around the world. Compete in the wildest race ever!

There are no rules in this all out frantic race. A no-holds-barred, free-for-all, action-packed game, with one goal - get to the finish line first! …and scoring points along the way would help!

· Collect as many points as possible to help gain FUEL boosts!

· Over 70 single player tracks available and unlockable

· Drive anywhere and do whatever it takes to finish the race!

· XBOX® features split-screen, 4 player multiplayer mode, “Reverse” and “Sandbox” modes


If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter Launch Trailer Available Now!

Today we at Ubisoft are pleased to release the official launch trailer for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. This marks the game's imminent decent on retail, and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is ready to take gamers to the next generation in style. Keep your eyes peeled for more information as GRAW quickly approaches its release this week!

This trailer rocks!

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March 3, 2006

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter Xbox 360

Today we at Ubisoft continue with our ongoing series of video developer diaries for the upcoming Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. These diaries drill deep into what it takes to create a Ghost Recon game in the next generation, all direct from the people making it happen! Keep your eyes peeled for more information and additional overall goodness for Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter as it prepares for its release next week!!

Click here to view the video.

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March 2, 2006

New Xbox 360 Screen Shots For Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent

About Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent

With the entirely new direction of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent, Ubisoft has reinvented the best-selling and highest rated espionage franchise. The revolutionary double agent concept immerses players in the world of international espionage more completely than ever, expanding the story and depth of Sam Fisher's character and evoking players' emotions by drawing them deeper into the gaming experience. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent will push the limits of each platform based on its respective technological capabilities, taking advantage of a collaborative development effort between Ubisoft's award-winning development studios in Montreal, Shanghai and Annecy, France. Across all platforms, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent will have the features that have defined the Splinter Cell franchise - amazing graphics, fluid animations, advanced artificial intelligence and open level design. Furthermore, each platform will feature exclusive content and offer a unique game play experience.

Storyline

Veteran agent Sam Fisher is back. But he's never faced an enemy like this before. To stop a devastating terrorist attack, he must infiltrate a vicious terrorist group and destroy it from within. For the first time ever, experience the relentless tension and gut-wrenching dilemmas of life as a double agent. As you infiltrate a terrorist organization in its American headquarters, you must carefully weigh the consequences of your actions. Kill too many criminals and you'll blow your cover. Hesitate too long and millions will die. Do whatever it takes to complete your mission, but get out alive.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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March 1, 2006

Get a Taste of Revenge with the Latest Rogue Trooper Screenshots!

How would you feel if all of your comrades were brutally massacred, and the only one left behind with the aftermath was yourself? That’s the case for Rogue Trooper, the last of the Genetic Infantrymen, and he’s pissed off and hell-bent on revenge. Having taken the bio-chips containing the digitized personalities of his dead friends, their souls come alive in his equipment. With the abilities of Gunnar, Helm and Bagman at his side, Rogue Trooper is ready to dish out the world of pain that was dealt to him. Rogue Trooper features intense sci-fi action in a futuristic battlefield where you must use your surroundings to gain the edge you need to take on full armies single-handedly. To give you another
glimpse of the vengeance, we’re bringing you 10 new screenshots!

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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February 26, 2006

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Bethesda Softworks invited me to play Oblivion last week and I really enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, they gave us from 1 to 4:30 to play the game. At 2:15 I looked at my watch and I thought, this is cool but do I really want to play it for another 2 hours when the USA is playing Russia in Olypic hockey. Then the next thing I knew it was 4:30 and it was time to go. I got so swept up in the game that I lost all sense of time. I play a lot of games every year and this is a rare thing so it certainly says something positive about the quality of the game and the power of the story.

Oblivion is a role playing game (RPG) that is the latest chaper in the epic and highly successful Elder Scrolls saga. It's really well done. I'd give it very high scores in sound and video quality. The first thing that struck me about the game is its soundtrack which enhances the environment well. The freeform gameplay allows you to unravel the main quest at your own pace so I just immediately set off on randomly exploring the world. It was very easy to get the hang of the controls. There are stealth aspects to moving around dungeons and sewers and stealth attacks do more damage. There's a very deep alchemy system in which you mix different ingredients together to make something that you then apply to your character to enhance his abilities. A lot of the things you can make are poisons that you apply to your weapons.

The storey goes that after the mysterious and untimely death of the Emperor, the throne of Tamriel lies empty. With the Empire ready to crumble, the gates of Oblivion open and demons march upone the land - laying waste to everything in their path. To turn the tide of darkness, you must find the lost heir to the throne and unravel the sinister plot that threatens to destroy all of Tamriel.

This game is well worth playing if you like action RPGs. I don't rate previews but if I did this would get a 5.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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February 22, 2006

CRIME STORIES

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Toronto, February 22, 2006 - The Adventure Company releases 6 new screenshots from Crime Stories, its investigative thriller adventure title.

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As the brilliant young FBI agent Martin Mystère, you have just been called upon to investigate the brutal murder of the highly reputed scientist, Professor Eulemberg. What sensational secret has the professor uncovered that has made him the victim of such a horrific crime?

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Your investigations into the murder will take you all over the world as you are confronted with many dangerous and exciting adventures. Only you can solve this horrific crime - and the mystery that lies beneath it...

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· A cinematic investigative thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat for hours!

· Amazing hi-quality 3D environments to expore and interact with.

· Many interesting objects to search for, collect and use.

· Creative and original puzzles to solve.

· Loads of characters to meet and talk to - you choose what you want to say to them!

· A dark and disturbing tale of betrayal and murder!

· From the award-winning publisher of MISSING® and Syberia®

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February 21, 2006

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter

Today we at Ubisoft continue with our ongoing series of video developer diaries for the upcoming Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. This round we get the inside look at the development of the current generation Xbox version. We continue to dig deep into the behind the scenes development of GRAW! We will continue to keep the world updated on the development of GRAW, with the delivery of even more of these video developer diaries in the coming weeks. Keep your eyes peeled for these and additional overall goodness for Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter as it approaches its March 2006 ship.


View the video clip.

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February 9, 2006

Ubisoft Releases First Trailer for Drakengard 2

Today, Ubisoft officially released the first North American trailer for Drakengard 2, exclusively for the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system. Developed by Cavia, Inc., the sequel to 2004's popular Square Enix published Drakengard, Drakengard 2 is due in retail stores around the U.S. next week.

Key Features:

Multifaceted air and ground combat: Lay waste to entire armies in the ferocious ground battles, or engage in intense aerial combat as you fly freely through the game world on the back of the dragon.

Face your destiny with a host of companions: Change freely between four playable characters with specific weapons and abilities. They will aid you in battle, as well as accompany you on an epic journey.

Upgradeable characters, weapons and items: A deeper Drakengard experience with both RPG and action elements. Information gathering now plays a key role.

Great improvements from the original: Boss battles have increased in number and challenge, and the ground battle system has been intensified thanks to a new combo system. Now accessories and items can be used to improve your characters.

An epic adventure: More than 20 hours of gameplay featuring epic engagements of the Empire and Union in a magnificent medieval world. Crush enemy forces with 67 different deadly weapons in more than 90 perilous missions.

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January 31, 2006

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter Video Developer Diary 2: "Making It Real"

Today we at Ubisoft continue with our ongoing series of video developer diaries for the upcoming Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. We continue to drill into what it takes to create a Ghost Recon game in the next generation, all direct from the people making it happen! We will continue to keep the world updated on the development of GRAW, with the delivery of even more of these video developer diaries in the coming weeks. Keep your eyes peeled for these and additional overall goodness for Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter as it approaches its March 2006 ship.

For this second installment we dig even deeper into GRAW's development. Get the first hand info on how the development team is working hard to re-create the near-future military realism that the Ghost Recon brand has been known for. The full implementation of the Integrated Warfighter System (IWS) is of focus in this video diary. Hear how players will be able to utilize a suite of cutting edge technology to play GRAW in exciting new ways. See how the developers have taken pain-staking measures to replicate this technology in the next generation of gaming. On
the battlefield of the future intelligence will be of the highest importance. GRAW will have it in droves, leaving the choice of how and when to use it up to the player. See how this plays out with real-life footage, and all new amazing in-game footage, showing exactly what they are talking about.

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January 15, 2006

UbiSoft Demo Day

I spent several hours with the crew over at UbiSoft on Thursday and Friday and played a whole lot of games. I also met a streetball player named Escalade. I'm like a twig next to him - he's a foot taller than me and twice my weight. Nice guy though.

CSI Three Dimensions of Murder
This is the first 3d CSI game and as such it is much closer to the TV show than previous versions. The opening full motion video is just like the show, and the crime lab is a reproduction based on the set. There's more interaction with characters, then environment and evidence. It's not just pixel hunting anymore. The environment is more complex which means more complex clue hunting. You recreate each crime, process your own evidence, get warrants, in short you do everything. There are 5 cases and the game will ship in March 2006 for PC.

Splinter Cell Essentials
This will ship for PSP in March. There are 9 missions, of which 5 are new. They tried to create the same control system on the PSP, light/shadow meter, danger meter, circle controls the camera, the stick moves Sam, box crouches. The missions are set from when Sam become's a Navy Seal in 1992 until the present day. There's a jail level that is similar to the jail level of Splinter Cell Double Agent (see below). You can save at any time. There's a lot of hiding and shooting. In ad hoc mode you can play spy vs. spy. As always, it is your choice whether to kill or simply immobilize. Content is different on all platforms.

Splinter Cell Double Agent
Same is having a tough time and he's in jail in this forth of the series. In the past, gamers tended to view Sam as a soldier, and the developers really want him to be perceived as more of a "bad ass super spy". He's on NOC - non official cover and if he's caught that's it our governement has no knowledge of him or his mission which is to infiltrate a terrorist cell as a double agent. As a double agent you have to balance the consequences of your actions, balance the good with the evil. For example, should you murder or be discovered? There are some tough moral decisions - the good of the many outweighs the needs of the few. All versions are the same storyline but the missions are different. Escape prision, join terrorist cell, following the storyline exactly or going off on little side explorations. There are some coop elements with NPC companions where you have to help each other over barriers and such. It's a mix of action and puzzles and a design goal was that you shouldn't get frustrated by repetitive trial and error.

And 1 Basketball
This started as a clothing company with the Mix it Up Tour where they filmed streetball and then dub in hip hop tunes. Now it's grown into a streetball tournament with style. There are open runs where anyone plays in the tournament, then a main run where the 5 best players take on the And 1 team. It's authentic in that they mo-capped real players and everyone in the game is based on a real player except for your character. You create your character and then he's in all the cut scene which is a cool attention to detail. In story mode you play tournaments until you earn an And 1 contract. The new control system uses both analog sticks to sort of dial in a move. There are three levels to each move, the setup dribble, the showboat and the ankle breaker. There are 10 national and 4 internation tournaments. There are 13 exclusive tracks on the soundtrack. When you win the game you unlock a special Mix It Up tape. There's online play for PS2 and Xbox and the game ships in the end of March

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January 13, 2006

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter Video Developer Diary 1: Cross Com

Today we at Ubisoft are happy to unveil the first in an ongoing series of video developer diaries for the upcoming Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. These video pieces offer an inside look at the design, development and revolutionary features of Advanced Warfighter as told directly from the people making it happen. This is an exclusive window for gamers into the creation of this highly anticipated title, and an interesting approach to detailing and demonstrating exactly what is taking this installment in the Ghost Recon franchise to the next level. This is the first in the series of these developer diaries. Over the next few weeks we will be offering fresh new information and visuals in similar
fashion. Keep your eyes peeled for these and additional overall goodness for Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter as it approaches its March 2006 ship.
Watch the video.

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January 9, 2006

Ace Combat Zero

This is a prequel to the successful Ace Combat 5 flight and combat simulator. The Ace Combat style gauge is new. When you go into a mission you can strictly follow your mission or fight against the intercepting plans. How well you do it and what you do will earn you style points. If you just go after money you'll be a mercenary, soldier, etc. The stages change depending on how you play them and what type of style you have.

Enemies fly a lot smarter than previous versions. They'll try to lure you into their wingman's sites, and when you're chasing them . You can give your wingman commands against air or ground targets. Icons show you where targets are. The backgrounds, mountains, the ocean, and the horizon look very good. At the end of every mission you can see your replay. There's also a replay on a grid that shows how you flew the whole mission. There are over 100 rival aces, and downing them brings a cut scene, so you'll want to replay battles in order to beat them all.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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Me And My Katamari

This is an all new installment with all new magic and quirkiness, and it shows right from the opening movie. The king, queen and the prince took a vacation and went swimming. They found flooded islands and now they need to roll up Katamari to recreate those islands. The interface is all new and the menus are part of the game. You can customize your character more. All the cousins are back and there are some new ones. Animals come onto your island and ask for help. The game uses the d-pad and the face button (triangle to go forward, etc). Can still do dashing and quick turns. The simple and fun graphics translate well onto the PSP. The songs are a mix of the last two versions and also some new ones.

There's wireless ad-hoc (2-4 players) where you'll compete to pick up specific items like rings, treasure chests, and crowns. You can bash into your opponent and try to steal their stuff.

Environmental effects (like ice) are new. You can roll into and out of rooms and buildings. There are approximately 20 different levels.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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December 19, 2005

Sony Game Night

I went to a Sony party and demo night last Thursday and had some fun. They had the one party feature that virtually guarantees that attendance will be worth it: an open bar.

I played Tourist Trophy, a realistic simulation motorcylce raching game from the same studio that developed GT4. There are a lot of the same tracks as GT but switched around for motorcylce racing. The sound effects are taken from an actual motorcylce going around a track. There are more than 35 tracks and over 100 bikes. The bike handled well, predictably, and consistently. I enjoyed playing this very much. It is scheduled to ship in March or April of 2006.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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December 15, 2005

The Sacred Rings

The Adventure Company today released 8 new screenshots from its upcoming adventure game, The Sacred Rings, the sequel to Aura: Fate of the Ages for PC. An epic graphic adventure in a dark fantastical world of magic and intrigue…

Features:

§ Three vast regions to explore: No Man’s Land, Manula Valley and the Keeper’s Land.
§ Easy to navigate mouse-driven, point-and-click interface.
§ Numerous original and creative puzzles to solve and challenge you.
§ A proprietary engine that blends together beautiful pre-rendered graphics and environmental interaction with immersive special effects.
§ More than 40 minutes of incredible cut-scenes.
§ More than 400 beautiful locations to fully-explore.
§ Numerous characters to interact with.
§ An astonishing musical score with 8 varied themes to compliment gameplay.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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December 14, 2005

NBA Ballers: Phenom

This morning I met with Midway and they showed me NBA Ballers: Phenom, the sequel to last year's hit NBA Ballers (1.5 million copies sold). The game ships in March 2006 for Xbox and PS2. An updated version of the original, NBA Ballers Rebound will be available for PSP. Although far from complete, the PS2 and PSP versions looked great.

The premise behind the game is that this is an RPG for basketball players. With a deep story mode and a lot of wide open game play there is plenty to do. The story revolves around a series of 2 on 2 tournaments (2 on 2 brings back memories of NBA Jam) and side missions that are like mini-games. Gamers create their character and assign attributes. Later, attributes increase according to how you play the game (if you are strong on D when you play then your character's defensive attributes go up). The other way to increase attributes is to drink a Sprite which is something like drinking a potion in that it gives a temporary attribute boost. Attributes can be boosted also by wearing special items like better sneakers.

As far as in-game dynamics, this game looks good. The character modeling is very strong and the players look like themselves. Because it is 2 on 2 there is now team play calling. The animated trick moves, called "Act A Fool" are hilarious. It's all about showmanship and tricks.

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December 7, 2005

Tom Clancy's Rainbox Six: Lockdown

The Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six franchise, hailed for its immersive single-player and multi-player experiences, continues with Lockdown as Team Rainbow, the world’s premier counter-terrorist unit, is called on to fight a deadly bioterrorism threat. The crisis takes Rainbow into new territory and new situations, as for the first time the hunter becomes the hunted.

All-new features, specific to the PC, add to the tensest close-quarter battles ever experienced online. New features include:

• Enhanced Tactical Experience
Ø Deadlier enemies with improved tactics require quick and intense decision making. But move too fast and you’ll find the enemy waiting for you…
Ø Hostages that must be navigated through the level and accounted for during firefights. Keep them safe and get them out alive!
• New Multiplayer Features
Ø “Class Style” gameplay for multiplayer, allowing more specialization
Ø Multiplayer reward system
Ø New “Free-for-all” game type
Ø The return of 3 classic maps – 747, Mint, and Bunkers
Ø Re-imagined missions, more challenging than ever before
Ø Re-vamped Rivalry Mode: Rainbow vs. Mercenaries, battling over three different objective types simultaneously. No two Rivalry matches play out exactly the same way!
• New Equipment
Ø Enemy use of Lock Fusers in single-player gameplay presents new challenges to the player
Ø Laser Trip Mines, Virus grenades, and C4 explosives add new options to the multiplayer arsenal

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December 2, 2005

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter

1. Hello, first of all could you introduce yourself?
Hi, I am Mathieu Girard, Ubisoft Producer. My role is to ensure that the production of the game goes smoothly, and that we reach the highest possible quality. That means following closely the team at GRIN, and also the group here at Ubisoft.

2. What engine do you use for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter?
GRIN has developed its own engine called Diesel. It is really a masterpiece of technology and a very convenient development tool. The advantage of having the dev team using its own engine is that they know it by heart and are really keen on taking the best out of its capabilities.
Diesel allows for all the latest technologies. It integrates physics and all the latest rendering technologies in huge and highly detailed maps.
GRIN has strong experience in military applications (they started developing software for the armed forces). They also distinguished themselves in developing groundbreaking technology; in fact GRIN were among the first developers to feature vertex and pixel shaders in cooperation with Nvidia for the launch of the GeForce 3.

3. What features can we expect on the graphics side, how will that render into the game?
All the graphics features are used to create the heat of war in Mexico. You will see very realistic buildings, props, characters, and vehicles, combined with Next Gen effects that will immerse you in this feeling of urban war. These effects are also combined with the near-future equipments that you and your team will be using to create a cohesive tangibility between player, the environment and the action.

4. What about physics? How interesting is it in terms of gameplay?
The idea with using more and more physics in games is to immerse the player even further in the simulation of a realistic world. 10 years ago we did a first step in that direction with the explosion of 3D and the apparition of the first mass market 3D cards. Today with more realistic physics we are continuing in the same direction.

We are using two physics engines. One engine will be used for the simulations most connected to gameplay like dead body physics, explosions, environment destruction and/or alteration, while the other one will create never-seen-before visual effects.

Gameplay wise, the layout of the level will be modified, as dynamic objects are destroyed or moved around, thus changing the cover positions in the level. In older generations of shooters a car would be placed somewhere to give cover to the player at one particular place. In GRAW cars give cover, but some heavy calibre weapons will cut through them, destroying doors can reveal a hidden enemy and blowing it up may have it move into the middle of the street, thus creating a natural barricade.

The most amazing thing with physics – visually speaking – will be some of the explosions that you will see in the game. We are currently working with AGEIA to implement their NovodeX technology in the game. Hardware accelerated physics will allow us to create massive explosions including thousands of particles and objects. Some moments in the game promise to be really memorable for this sole reason…

5. Can you tell us more about the first-person view in Tom Clancy’s GHOST RECON Advanced Warfighter™? Why did you choose this camera system?
We chose the first person view because it is the most consistent with the controls on PC. We still want to have the player “feel” that he is Captain Mitchell; this is also why we have developed body awareness. We will go more into that below. Our objective is basically to provide the most realistic first person view possible. You will benefit from a realistic freedom of movement, and your virtual body will react just as real ones do.

6. Tell us more about body awareness and special moves. How does it impact on gameplay?
Body awareness helps to feel more a part of your surrounding, being immersed and not just a floating camera. In fact it is an improved FPS view that lets you see your own body and equipment. This gives you better situational awareness and makes your moves more precise. It allows you to see which parts of your body, that you thought were protected by the environment, are in fact exposed to enemy fire. Just like in real life. While implementing body awareness into mechanics such as the rope insertion from the Blackhawk helicopter plays on the use of emotion, immersing you in the feeling of tension and fear when leaving the perceived safety of the Blackhawk and entering a hot combat zone.
On top of that we implemented special moves such as sliding or diving that will allow you to reach a cover point more quickly for instance. Those moves, including the leaning system, will also be useful to survey the environment from your cover point, to locate and suppress the enemy threat in a blink.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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November 4, 2005

2K Sports Xbox 360 Preview

Yesterday I met with 2K Sports and they showed me Amped 3, NBA 2K6, and NHL 2K6.

Amped 3 is a snowboarding lifestyle game. They boast that it is the most realistic snowboarding experience. I'm an avid boarder and I would actually argue that nothing even comes close to a realistic snowboarding experience so who cares. You create and fully customize a character. There are tons of options for body type, jacket, gloves, etc. There are over 400 licensed items in the game. Instead of a menu to choose what to do you can board over to different sections of the mountain and accomplish the objectives there to earn "awesomeness". The soundtrack is fully customizable and includes over 300 songs. The load screens are very creative and will entertain gamers while they wait, at least the first few times. Some of the cut scenes are hysterical. There's a feature called Park Builder that lets you lay down objects and create your own courses.

NHL 2K6 is probably the best looking hockey game I've ever seen (and the only next gen one I've seen). First, 2K Sports assured me that they addressed some of the bugs that have been bothering me in the Xbox version. They say that you can no longer score by shooting the puck through the back of the net. They also say that they've addressed some of the commentary errors, like showing a stat and then discussing the wrong stat (screen says 6 hits and announcers and that's his 3rd hit". But to be realistic there will always be bugs in games. This game has all the features of the current gen version plus Crease Control, a feature added by Marty Turco. Crease Control establishes a cone of vision around the goalie and centered on the puck. This lets you figure out how to block shots. The coolest thing that I saw was the way the ice is textured. Skaters leave trails in the ice and the surface has different properties of reflectivity based on its condition and whether there is something written under it or not. The crowd reacts to big hits along the boards, and the glass reflects so there's an awful lot to look at. Players' clothing is using a cloth physics system that has the clothing bunch, sway, and wrinkle as the players move.

NBK 2K6 is 2K Sports' latest salvo in the battle for console basketball dominance. The player models are extremely detailed down to muscles, veins, facial hair, and tattoos. Their faces are very good. Some players make you think the real player is on screen (like Shaq the cover athlete). The reflections off the wood are almost as cool as the reflections off the ice in NHL 2K6 and again the cloth physics is in full display. Players sweat more and more as the game goes on and they start to get shiny. The neck musculature is so realistic that I started just watching the way a player's head and neck moved. There's this VIP feature, where your profile and the resulting AI can be saved and then your opponents can play against your VIP to practice for playing against you.

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October 27, 2005

The Matrix: Path of Neo

As the second Matrix title prepares to launch (the original Enter the Matrix came out three years ago and sold 5 million copies worldwide), I had that opportunity to sit down with Atari and Shiny and play the game.

In this game you play as Neo through what resembles all three movies but has scenes added and scenes deleted. The game is the movies and it isn't. It's an expansion of the movie world. Scenes and situations that were only hinted at in the movie are in the game. The original music score is very good. The Wachowski brothers were deeply involved in the design process. Atari promises a surprise ending.

You start as Thomas Anderson. Actually, that's not true. In an innovative level setting scheme, the game has you start off in the dream lobby and test your skills. A progression of bad guys come after you, from security guards to the riot squad and agents. The game bases the difficulty level on how well you handle this battle. It is from here that you would have to become The One and replay the game to unlock everything that's hidden.

Then you start as Anderson with no skills. It's important to do exactly as Morpheus says because you have no skills. There are different ways to escape the building and the game unravels differently depending on how you meet each challenge. There are six training missions to prep you for combat, and then off you go.

I found the game fun to play, a step up from a button masher. The timing of my attacks seemed at least as important as the attack itself. Attacks can be upgraded over time in RPG fashion. And the story certainly is compelling.

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October 26, 2005

Majesco's Winter Wonderland

I met with Majesco last week and we went over their holiday and spring lineup. Most of it looks pretty good. I'm really excited about Infected.

Teen Titans is due to ship in February 2006 for gamecube, ps2, and xbox. It is up to 4 player story mode coop or arena. In coop mode you can switch between titans at any time to make use of their special attacks. The game has the look and feel of the cartoon with locations from the shows and more than 12 voice actors involved. Each character gets upgrades to his/her special attacks and can pull off combo moves. There are 24 characters to choose from in arena mode, which is an up to 4 player free for all. There are also some puzzle levels that are like retro games, ie pong and invaders.

Jaws Unleashed is due to ship in February 2006 for PC, ps2, and xbox. Built on the Echo the Dolphin engine, this is a story where you play as Jaws and attack and destroy everything. If you're really careful you can disembody your prey before consuming it. They are adding cinematic fatalities to the game. There are more than 12 kinds of boats and different ocean and land areas (mainly harbors and docks) to be explored. The night levels were pretty cool - the moon reflects off the ocean's surface and down below it is murkier than during daylight.

Age of Empires is due to ship for Nintendo DS in January 2006. Built on the success of earlier Age of Empires games this brings a solid foundation to wifi enabled 4 player battles. User profiles track scoring and bonuses so you can compare yourself to friends and enemies. They're currently working on adding more artwork, streamlining game play, and tweaking the battle system to show more graphics in the results. You can use the stylus or the d-pad to control troops. There are 28 missions total, 5-6 per campaign.

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October 25, 2005

Xbox 360 Preview

I wrote a hands on preview of the Xbox 360 for PC Magazine that got posted today. It's a helluva piece of hardware. I'm excited about a bunch of the games for it.

Gun, from Activision, is wild ride set in the 1880's west. It's along the line of High Plains Drifter and various other spaghetti westerns. It looked absolutely beautiful in 720p. At one point I was riding my horse along a ridge and across the valley the sun was setting. I paused to look at it and reflect on the insane number of polygons involved in the moment. You start off hunting but the violence starts soon. There's a quick draw where you draw in real-time while everyone else moves in slow time. You'll need it in order to take down multiple foes in a crowded room. Enemies take damage in 12 body areas and react accordingly. You can go to Dodge City or Empire City and get missions, then carry them out wherever they take you.

Project Gotham Racing 3 - This looked great. All of the speed of PGR 1 and 2 with bigger views and more detail. There are more polygons in the Brooklyn Bridge in PGR3 than in a whole city is PGR2. That pretty much says it all. Online racing is a big focus of PGR3 with world rankings. There's a part where you can set up your own track in any of the cities in the game. Shadowing was great and reflections off the hood are a nice touch. The crowd reacts to you. It's kind of cool to smash into the wall and make them scatter.

Call of Duty 2 - A tremendous amount of fun, as one would expect from COD. There's a lot more texturing in the Xbox 360 version than in the Xbox version, and HD makes a big difference. This is a completely different game from the Xbox version so I'm looking forward to playing both.

NBA Live 2006 - EA Sports has put an insane amount of detail into their player modeling. It's very hard to tell the difference between NBA Live and a real game on TV at this point. Players sweat and their blood vessels stick out. Their shorts have physics. A very cool thing is that you can play one-on-one while loading a game in the background.

Dead Or Alive 4 - Talk about beautiful vistas! There is eye candy aplenty as the perennial fighter returns. Everything is pretty much the same but there's a few new characters. The big draw here is the online functionality. Players meet in a lobby where they can look at world rankings. You can search for a match or find your friend. You can stand in the lobby and watch other people fight on a TV, then text them and set up an impromptu tournament where you have winners.

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Call of Duty 2: Big Red One

A few weeks ago I got to play Call of Duty 2: Big Red One while meeting with the good people at Activision. The game is entirely new, meaning a new core engine for GameCube, PS2, and Xbox. They also improved the enemy AI. I could tell. The Nazis don't just stand there and shoot back. They drop back, regroup, even try to flank you. In addition your comrades' AI improves over the course of the game as they become experienced.

foxholesm.jpg

You play as a member of America's most decorated and heroic fighting unit, The Big Red One. You'll have to work with your squad to accomplish a variety of land, sea, and air combat missions spanning North Africa, Italy, and Nazi-occupied Western Europe. The goal of the development team was to "create an epic war movie" and they did. And then they threw you right into the middle of it.

tanksm.jpg

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October 24, 2005

Quake 4 Preview

New York City September 22, 2005.
This morning I met with Activision and id about Quake 4. This involved a lot of playing the PC version and some playing of the Xbox 360 version. This preview is tainted positively because I have so much fun killing everything that moves. Quake 4 is a whole lot of fun in single player story mode. A sort of edgy fun. The kind of edgy fun that involves invading your enemy's home world with a pistol.

Quake 4 is really the sequel to Quake 2 in story mode and Quake 3 in multi-player mode (supports up to 16 players). id brings the both of best worlds together in Quake 4. So here's the story. The ground assault begins on the Strogg home world. You play Matthew Kane of Rhino Squad, a squad of elite ground troops. You're on the ground just outside the Strogg fortress. Fight your way in and...at this point who cares? I know all I need to know. I kill the Strogg and protect my comrades in Rhino Squad. Now let's start killing.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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EA Holiday Demos

Yesterday I met with EA and saw some game demos. The most interesting were:

Black is a first person shooter that sets out with the goal of creating a hyper-realistic weapons experience. It's like stepping into some over the top special forces movie. You are pretty much firing incessantly, lobbing grenades and taking cover. There are any number of ways to accomplish something. For example, if you need to get by some enemies who are behind a care you can sneak around the car and shoot them, blow up the car and them with a grenade, or shoot out the tires and then take head shots at the enemies when the car sinks. I played almost a third of a level and it was a blast, literally. It's an all out firefight. It'll be out late February 2006.

Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth 2 is a PC only real time strategy game. It's pretty cool because it uses the Middle Earth world as a background. You build your castles, recruit your heroes, fight your enemies, and control Middle Earth. It looks beautiful with a lot of detail on the buildings and troops.

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October 17, 2005

Namco Wireless

I met with Namco Wireless a few days ago to talk about their games for cell phones and ringtones. Overall, the games look pretty good. The last time I saw a mobile game it looked pretty crappy, but on today's phones these games can look good.

Namco's big hits are their arcade classics like Pac Man, Dig Dug, and Galaxian. All three of these are quite playable.

They also have original content like Pac Man Bowling, PC Man Pin Ball, and PacMania 3D. The 3D games is cool because you can jump over the ghosts if you time it right.

PAC-MANIA.jpg

PAC-MAN_BOWLING.jpg

Pool Pro was cool. You sign in and immediately someone challenges you. Then there is almost no delay between turns so the games are fast.

Particularly innovative is Time Crisis. If you recall, Time Crisis is a first person shooter. How do you create an FPS for a cell phone. Divide the screen into quadrants like the keypad, then push the number that corresponds to the quadrant to fire at it. I could see spending a lot of time if I had this one.

Time_Crisis_Mobile_Screenshot01.bmp

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October 7, 2005

Activision Demos

This morning I met with Activision and saw three games: Gun, Call of Duty: Big Red On, and True Crime 2: New York City. I'm not allowed to write anything about Call of Duty. I'm sorry. I will say that I enjoyed playing it, but that's to be expected.

Gun is simply breathtaking; it is the first game for Xbox 360 that I've seen that is really stunning. There are parts where the sun is setting over the mountains or on another side of a valley and you have to just stop and look at it. The storyline is just like a western movie. It's 1881 and you and your pappy, Kris Kristofferson, are out hunting. This gives you a chance to learn to shoot. Then all hell pretty much breaks loose. So now you're on your own and you can ride around the West taking missions and/or following the main storyline. You can go to Dodge City or Empire City where you'll meet people who will give you quests. You can be a bounty hunter, a miner, ride for the pony express, just about any profession that belongs. There's even a Texas Hold 'Em mini game where you can win money.

It's all about the gun. Quick draw slows down everyone else for a limited amount of time and lets you mow down enemies. The shutgun is just a fun weapon. Enemies take damage in one of 12 body areas and react accordingly. You can blow someone's foot off and watch them hobble around. You can even shoot someone's hat off and juggle it with additional shots while it is still in the air. Mounted combat is also pretty cool. That's riding a horse and shooting, or using the horse to trample people.

Activision estimates that it'll take about 20 hours to play straight through the storyline. They think if you try all the side missions there's at least 40 hours there. And it looked like a lot of fun to me. Gun for Xbox 360 will be available November 22, 2005.

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