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May 21, 2008

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue

Title: Gran Turismo 5 Prologue
Genre: Racing
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Release Date: April 15, 2008
ESRB: E
Rating: 8 out of 10

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If it seems like a year is too long to wait for Gran Turismo 5, then Sony will satisfy your love of the road with this abridged and early version. I sort of think that $39.99 is a lot for a teaser, but now that I’ve played it non-stop for days I think it is worth it.

It’s sort of weird how the game starts and you have nothing. You have to buy your first car, and then the collecting starts. Part of the game is about collecting new cars and they’re all different so it is always cool. There are only 60 cars. This is more than enough for me, but still it would be better if there were more. They are sorted by brand such as Ferrari, Acura, Honda, Ford, Mitsubishi, Dodge, etc. There’s plenty of variety in terms of learning how each car handles and accelerates. I’m psyched that I can race using my car, and Acura Integra. There’s not much tuning, but then again, that’s not what GT is for.

The graphics and audio are amazing and enveloping once properly configured. Watching a full 1080p on my 65” HDTV and listening to 7.1 multi-channel sound makes me feel as much of a race car driver as I’ve ever felt if not more so. If anything, GT5 Prologue shows us that GT5 will look stellar. The details are all there. Shadows sweep across the track, water ripples on infield lakes, the steering wheels are leather wrapped. The only disappointment is that the crowd looks like some cardboard cutouts – Sony would have been better off leaving the crowd out completely rather than doing a half-assed job.

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The graphics really shine when you start to change camera perspectives while driving. One view involves you sitting behind the wheel, steering left and right, shifting, and tilting your head from side to side. You’ve got side view and rear view mirrors. The details are noteworthy. I’ve never seen another racing game like this. Of course, I find that view hard to use for racing and opt to use one that is almost first person. I think, and I would for someone from Sony to give me a pixel count, that there are more pixels in the rear view mirror of GT5P than there were in the whole screen in my beloved GT on PSX.

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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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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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September 17, 2007

Colin Mcrae Dies in Helicopter Crash

I just read the news and I'm heartbroken. I really knew nothing about rally racing until I played the Codemasters game and loved it. From what I've read, Colin was a great guy, really likable, and very approachable despite his fame. He was piloting a helicopter and crashed. His son died in the crash as well. It's very sad. I think I'll stop writing for the day and go play the game as a tribute.

Read the Reuters story.

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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October 24, 2005

Total Overdose

Get ready to enter a Robert Rodriguez film. BTW, if you haven't seen El Mariachi go rent it. You play as a criminal released from prison to take the place of your DEA Agent brother in the hunt for your father's killers. The whole thing involves shooting your way through the Mexican drug world. You get missions and drive around to them, or you can go directly to the mission and skip the exploration. I'd recommend the exploration because it is not only fun but also the best place for finding pick-ups, some of which like Day of the Dead in which you kill as many people as you can, end up being great bonus opportunities. Driving around or running around you can find a lot of stuff that you can use to improve your character's skills.

It's a fun game. The heart of it is shooting the crap out of everyone and everything. You use the left trigger (L1) to pull off all the dodges and shooting moves, such as walking up a wall, diving left, reversing and diving backwards, all while shooting. You can use vehicles as weapons, ramming into enemies or driving at them and then jumping out of the car before it smashes into them and explodes. Every battle is a guns blazing battle where charging forward using special moves is the way to go. There's no drop back and pick off the enemy like a sniper here; it's all bull forward laying down the lead. It's set against a surreal Mexican background so there are a lot of opportunities for humor. A dark humor pervades this game. I actually found myself laughing aloud at times.

The bad news is that the load times are just ridiculous. It's not that the load times take a long time, but rather that there are so many of them. It seemed like every 2 minutes I had to take a break and watch the game load. It completely ruins the atmosphere to have that many loads. My only other gripe is that vehicle control is not so good. Everything handles like a sled. It is good that there's a way to skip the driving and go right to an objective.

Total Overdose is a fun shoot-em-up set in a stylistic Mexican drug world. It's not for the faint-hearted or little kids. It's a lot of fun to play it.

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

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October 20, 2005

From Russia With Love Has Gone Gold

The Lector has been decoded and the message reads: From Russia With Love™, starring Academy Award®-winner, Sir Sean Connery has gone gold on the PS2 and Xbox and will be shipping on Tuesday Nov. 1, 2005! A version for the Nintendo GameCube™ will be released shortly after in mid- November.

From Russia With Love, the game, is based on the classic Bond film from 1963 but features new plot twists, gadgets, weapons and characters. Sir Sean Connery, appearing in his first-ever videogame, lent his voice and likeness to the project. Also making their videogame debuts as original Bond girls are movie and TV star Maria Menounos and multi-platinum UK pop star Natasha Bedingfield.

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