News and reviews from the PC and console dimensions

August 2010 Archives

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Pity the poor Soviet Union.
One nuclear disaster and it becomes the bogeyman in novels, movies and games for all things gone awry regarding radiation and mutations.
Such is the case with Singularity, a new FSP from Activision and Raven Software.
The game mixes elements most players will recognize from a number of other games into a satisfying stew of nuclear horror, time travel, action and puzzle solving.
For me the blend works, keeping me playing to the conclusion of this unsettling adventure.
The action is set on Katgora-12, an island off the eastern coast of the Soviet Union. On the island, the Soviets discovered Element 99, which was seen as a key to developing new weapons and technology to defeat the West during the height of the Cold War.
Unfortunately, as things inevitably do, Soviet experimentation goes terribly wrong, ending in a cataclysm and the seeming end of Katgora-12 and its inhabitants (at least as human lifeforms).
Fast forward to the present day: Players take the role of an American special operative sent to investigate a radiation surge at the island.
As the game progresses, Capt. Nathaniel Renko learns of E99 and the devastation it unleashed. The story is told through numerous notes, audio recordings and films Renko encounters during his exploration.
When not learning of the island's past, Renko finds himself battling enemy soldiers and nasty mutant creatures. Throw in a fair amount of puzzles and you've got a heaping dose of entertainment.
Players run across an assortment of weapons, including a pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, autocannon, grenade launcher, sniper rifle, rocket launcher and something called the spikeshot.
Only two weapons can be carried at any one time. However, weapons lockers can be found at various points at which players can change their guns and add upgrades. Upgrades are purchased with weapon tech that can be found during the game.
The critical device in Singularity proves to be the TMD (Time Manipulation Device).
With it, comes these powers: age or revert objects and creatures, a shock wave, gravity manipulator, the deadlock (freeze action for a short period), the Chrono Ping (shows players where to go next) and the Chrono Pull ( yank an object out of temporal shift into the current time).
And then there is time travel. At times, players will have to shift between 1955 and 2010.
The TMD is powered by E99. E99 devices can be found throughout the adventure. Collected E99 can be spent at Augmentors to add new powers to the TMD or upgrade existing powers.
The game's designers do a great job incorporating the TMD into the game.
It can be used in combat (knocking Zeks back into the present time frame so they can be shot) or freezing a host of attackers so they can be dealt with while they are immobilized.
The TMD also plays a major role in puzzle solving. For example, crushed crates can be reverted to their original state. Then they can be moved with the TMD's antigravity powers to a position where they can be climbed onto to gain access to an area that could not be reached otherwise.
The one thing I quickly realized during Singularity was that when a new weapon or TMD power arrived, I could figure on having to use it in the near future. Hardcore gamers might find this objectionable, but I found it made the game more accessible.
Among the mutants running amok on Katgora-12 are: Zeks (phase in and out of normal time), Phase Ticks (attack in swarms), Radion (shoots rockets) and Reverts (toxic vomit). The Reverts are blind and if you are really careful, you can sneak by them.
There are also a number of boss creatures.
On the soldier side, there are Blitzers, Lurkers, Bruisers and Healers.
Multiplayer game modes are: Creatures vs. Soldiers in deathmatch action and Extermination Mode in which the soldier teams tries to activate beacons and the creature team works to destroy them.
The graphics, music and sound effects create a chilling atmosphere and a compelling look at a 1955 secret Soviet installation.
Raven has taken a number of elements and put them to great use in a captivating game.
Singularity is available for the Windows PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. PC requirements are 2.8 GHz dual-core CPU, 2 GB of RAM and video card. For more information, visit www.singularity-game.com.


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Microsoft's Major Nelson announced on his blog that the price of Xbox Live Gold subscriptions would be increasing across the board in the United States and other countries. You can read his blog for the full list of price increases.

Starting November 1st a 1-year subscription for an Xbox Live Gold account will increase from $49.99 to $59.99.

GameSpot TV talked with NBA 2K11 producer Erick Boenich about the "Jordan Challenge." The footage shown is from the "Shrug" challenge in Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. The setting is the old Chicago Stadium, which is disappointingly called Bulls Arena in the game. Michael Jordan hit six 3-pointers in the first half in this contest and after his sixth 3-pointer, Jordan turned to the NBC television crew and gave the shrug.

There will be four goals for this particular challenge.
Goal 1: Score 35+ points in the first half
Goal 2: Make 6+ threes in the first half
Goal 3: Hold Drexler to under 20 points
Goal 4: Win the Game

If you'd like to compare NBA 2K11 to the real thing, here's Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals. The shrug comes around the 4:30 mark.

And just in case you haven't had enough, here's a look at some of the new controls for NBA 2K11.

Funcom released a trailer for the upcoming The Secret World (above).
The video offers a look at the Templar faction for the MMO. Set in the modern world, players choose to start at a Templar, Illuminati or Dragon character.
For more information, visit www.funcom.com.

Out now:


  • Ubisoft's MMO web-based game Might & Magic Heroes Kingdoms has launched for the PC, Mac and iPad. Heroes Kingdoms is the first installment of the saga, featuring RPG elements, adventure and management skills. Visit www.mm-hk.com.

  • Nvidia will offer a free copy of the just-released Mafia II from 2K Games with the purchase of a GeForce GPU, GTX 465 and higher video card. The offer will available while supplies last. For more information, visit www.nvidia.com/object/promotion_mafia_2.html.

  • A patch is out for the recently released Battlefield Academy from Slitherine. The patch adds four new multiplayer maps and six new units to the strategy game. Included are a number of fixes to the original game.

  • Solar Struggle from redspotgames and Z-Software is available for 400 Microsoft Points through Xbox Live Arcade. For more on the space action game, visit www.solarstruggle.com.

  • Also available through Xbox Live is Codex, a spatial logic puzzle game from Good Guy Robots Inc. Visit goodguyrobots.com.

  • Burda:ic, a publisher of online games, announced the launch of Land of Chaos Online. The free game blends elements of an RTS with a third-person shooter. Visit www.loco.alaplaya.net.

Coming:

  • Capcom's Dead Rising 2 will be available Sept. 28 for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. The Dead Rising 2 High Stakes Edition is available for preorder through Capcom. The special edition (360 and PS3) will include the game, Fortune City-themed poker set, game map and more. One game will contain the "Golden" Terror Is Reality XVII admission ticket, which is redeemable for Burt the Zombie, a 6-foot Dead Rising 2 zombie replica.

  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a horror game from Frictional Games, has gone gold. The game will be out Sept. 8 for the PC, Mac and Linux. Visit www.amnesiagame.com.

  • On Sept. 21 look for new content for Rockstar Games' Red Dead Redemption. The downloadable Liars & Cheaters Pack will feature new hideouts, hunting grounds, an explosive rifle, multiplayer poker and dice games, multiplayer horse races and more.

  • An open beta test for the free-to-play parkour racing game FreeJack will start Oct. 1, Game Bridger Entertainment announced. To sign up, visit freejack.gamerkraft.com.

Valve Software released a trailer (above) for Portal 2 at the Gamescon 2010 Festival in Cologne, Germany. The game will be available Feb. 9, 2011, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Mac.
For more information, visit www.thinkwithportals.com.
More trailers:


  • En Masse Entertainment announced a new trailer (above) for its action MMO Tera. The trailer was unveiled at Gamescon. In the game, the gods of Tera make war on one another. Six mortal races are left to make their way through the remaining war-torn world. For more information, visit www.tera-online.com.

  • A video for Battlefield Academy from Slitherine Software and Matrix Games is available on YouTube and ot the companies' product pages.


Free:

  • More details for the coming free-to-play Legend of Edda from GamesCampus.com. Players pledge an allegiance to either Olympus or Titan in the game based on Greek mythology.

  • GamersFirst and Korean game developer Indy21 will team up to publish 9Dragons. The free martial arts MMORPG will launch in September

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Coming:

  • Dungeon Defenders will arrive this fall for the PC and through Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. The game from Reverb Publishing will allow up to four players to battle waves of foes. Also offered will be character customization and leveling up.

  • Independent developer Ben Bradley announced work on Substream, which is described as an "animated, abstract 3D shooter." For more info, visit www.substream.info/

  • Konami will release Saw II: Flesh & Blood on Oct. 19 for the 360 and PS3, marking the release of the movie, Saw VII 3D.

Out now:

  • Shank, from Electronic Arts and Klei Entertainment, is available through XBLA and PlayStation Network. Players take the role of Shank who discovers his own past while on a mission of revenge.

  • Mafia II from 2K Games now is available for the PS3, 360 and PC. The game of mob life and violence is set in Empire City during the 1940s and 1950s.

  • Matrix Games and Strategy 3 Tactics announced an update for Close Combat - Cross of Iron. For the update and more information, visit www.matrixgames.com.

Full 'Rock Band 3' setlist

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rsz_rb3_screen.jpg2000s:
· Amy Winehouse, "Rehab"
· At the Drive-In, "One Armed Scissor"
· Avenged Sevenfold, "The Beast & the Harlot"
· Dover, "King George"
· The Bronx, "False Alarm"
· The Flaming Lips, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1"
· HIM (His Infernal Majesty), "Killing Loneliness"
· Hypernova, "Viva La Resistance"
· Ida Maria, "Oh My God"*
· Juanes, "Me Enamora"
· Metric, "Combat Baby"
· Paramore, "Misery Business"
· Phoenix, "Lasso"*
· Poni Hoax, "Antibodies"
· Pretty Girls Make Graves, "Something Bigger, Something Brighter"
· Queens of the Stone Age, "No One Knows"rsz_rb_cover.jpg
· The Ravonettes, "Last Dance"
· Rilo Kiley, "Portions for Foxes"
· Riverboat Gamblers, "Don't Bury Me...I'm Still Not Dead"
· Slipknot, "Before I Forget"
· The Sounds, "Living in America"
· Tegan & Sara, "The Con"
· Them Crooked Vultures, "Dead End Friends"
· Tokio Hotel, "Humanoid"
· The Vines, "Get Free"
· The White Stripes, "The Hardest Button to Button"
1990s:
· Faith No More, "Midlife Crisis"
· Filter, "Hey Man, Nice Shot"
· Jane's Addiction, "Been Caught Stealing"
· Maná, "Oye Mi Amor"
· Marilyn Manson, "The Beautiful People"
· The Muffs, "Outer Space"
· Phish, "Llama"
· Primus, "Jerry Was a Racecar Driver"
· Rammstein, "Du Hast"
· Smash Mouth, "Walkin' On The Sun"
· Spacehog, "In the Meantime"
· Stone Temple Pilots, "Plush"
· Swingin' Utters, "This Bastard's Life"
1980s:
· Anthrax, "Caught in a Mosh"
· Big Country, "In a Big Country"
· The Cure, "Just Like Heaven"
· Def Leppard, "Foolin'"
· Devo, "Whip It"
· Dio, "Rainbow in the Dark"
· Dire Straits, "Walk of Life"
· Echo & the Bunnymen, "The Killing Moon"
· Huey Lewis and the News, "The Power of Love"
· INXS, "Need You Tonight"
· J. Geils Band, "Centerfold"
· Joan Jett, "I Love Rock N' Roll"*
· Night Ranger, "Sister Christian"
· Ozzy Osbourne, "Crazy Train"
· The Police, "Don't Stand So Close to Me"
· Roxette, "The Look"
· The Smiths, "Stop Me if You Think You've Heard This One Before"
· Tears for Fears, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"
· Whitesnake, "Here I Go Again"*rsz_rb3_cover_ps3.jpg
1970s:
· The B-52's, "Rock Lobster"
· Blondie, "Heart of Glass"
· Bob Marley, "Get Up, Stand Up"
· Chicago, "25 or 6 to 4"
· Deep Purple, "Smoke on the Water"
· Doobie Brothers, "China Grove"
· Elton John, "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting"
· Foreigner, "Cold As Ice"
· Golden Earring, "Radar Love"
· John Lennon, "Imagine"
· Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Free Bird"
· Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody"
· Ramones, "I Wanna Be Sedated"
· Steve Miller Band, "Fly Like an Eagle"
· T. Rex, "20th Century Boy"
· Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "I Need to Know"
· War, "Low Rider"
· Warren Zevon, "Werewolves of London"
· Yes, "Roundabout"
1960s:
· Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations (Live)"
· David Bowie, "Space Oddity"
· The Doors, "Break on Through (To the Other Side)"
· James Brown, "I Got You" (I Feel Good) - Alternate Studio Version
· The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Crosstown Traffic"
· The Who, "I Can See for Miles"

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A content update has been announced for Dungeon Fighter Online (see screenshots) from Nexon America.
With "Act III: Rise of Champions" gamers will see 10 new levels, a new zone with five dungeons, more monsters and a higher loot level.
DFG is a 2D, side-scrolling fighting game. The fighting game is free to play.
Visit www.dungeonfighter.nexon.net.
Another update:


  • A new patch was announced for the free-to-play Myth War II Online. The patch features an increase in level caps for players, pets and spells. Also featured will be weekly events and the third advancement, Rebirth. Visit http://mw2.igg.com

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Free:

  • Sony Online Entertainment launched a free version of EverQuest with EverQuest II Extended. A subscription version of the MMO also is available. For details, visit http://everquest2.com/free_to_play.

  • A public beta is under way for Star Wars: Clone Wars, also from Sony Online Entertainment and LucasArts. The final game will release Sept. 15. Players also can opt for a $5.99 per month monthly subscription. Visit www.CloneWarsAdventures.com.


Coming soon:

  • Pride of Nations, a turn-based strategy game set in the colonial era of the 19th century will arrive in first quarter 2011 from AGEOD and Paradox Interactive.

  • Oct. 5 is the date for the arrival of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow from Konami for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

  • Rainblood: Town of Death (certainly not the most cheery of titles), a free-hand RPG from China is now available in English. Look for it at www.soulframe-rpg.com/rainblood/?p=277.

  • Lastly, one of my favorite games, Jagged Alliance 2, is set for a remake. German publisher bitComposer Games plans to release Jagged Alliance 2: Reloaded next year. Check it out at www.jaggedalliance.com.

The first teaser trailer for Dungeons, a strategy/simulation for the PC, has been released.
Dungeons is being developed by Realmforge and will be released by Kalypso Media early in 2011. In the game, players will take the role of a Dungeon Lord who must lure heroes into his lair and then trap them with infernal devices.
Visit www.kalypsomedia.com
More trailers:


  • A trailer for the strategy title Lionheart: Kings Crusade from Paradox Interactive and Neocore Games is available on You Tube. Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5uGOUQw6Bw

  • Dragon Age 2 will be available March 11, 2011, from Electronic Arts. The first trailer, "Destiny," can be viewed at www.DragonAge.com

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Free

  • Lord of the Rings Online will move to a free-to-play model on Sept. 10, announced Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Turbine. Players can download and play the game for free. They can purchase expansions, quest packs, items and account services from a new LOTRO Store.

  • Patrician Online, a free browser-based game will launch in 2011, Kalpyso Media and gamigo announced.

  • GamesCampus.com announced Chapter 3 in its free MMORPG Asda Story. "The Demons Shadow" brings new jobs, skills and quests to the fantasy, anime-style game. Visit asdastory.gamescampus.com

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Coming soon

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  • A Windows PC version of Homefront from Kaos Studios, a first-person shooter, is being developed by Digital Extremes, THQ announced. An early 2011 release is expected.

  • Also from THQ, the company announced the development of Red Faction: Battlegrounds, which will be downloadable next year through Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.

  • Ubisoft announced the return of the popular Might & Magic franchise with Might & Magic Heroes VI. The game will be available for the PC in 2011.

  • The next installment in the Warhammer 40K series from THQ will be a stand-alone expansion next year, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Retribution.

Activision has released the full tracklist for Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, which will hit store shelves on September 28th.

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Aerosmith - "Cryin'"
AFI - "Dancing Through Sunday"
Alice Cooper - "No More Mr. Nice Guy"
Alter Bridge - "Ties That Bind"
Anberlin - "The Feel Good Drag"
Anthrax - "Indians"
Arch Enemy - "Nemesis"
Atreyu - "Ravenous"
Avenged Sevenfold - "Bat Country"
Bad Brains - "Re-Ignition (Live)"
Band Of Skulls - "I Know What I Am"
Black Sabbath - "Children Of The Grave"
Blind Melon - "Tones Of Home"
Blue Öyster Cult - "Burnin' For You"
Bush - "Machinehead"
Buzzcocks - "What Do I Get?"
Children Of Bodom - "If You Want Peace... Prepare For War"
Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Fortunate Son"
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Deep Purple - "Burn"
Def Leppard - "Pour Some Sugar On Me (Live)"
Dethklok - "Bloodlines"
The Dillinger Escape Plan - "Setting Fire To Sleeping Giants"
Dire Straits - "Money For Nothing"
DragonForce - "Fury of the Storm"
Drowning Pool - "Bodies"
Edgar Winter- "Free Ride"
Fall Out Boy - "Dance, Dance"
Five Finger Death Punch - "Hard To See"
Flyleaf - "Again"
Foo Fighters - "No Way Back"
Foreigner - "Feels Like The First Time"
George Thorogood and The Destroyers - "Move It On Over (Live)"
The Hives - "Tick Tick Boom"
Interpol - "Slow Hands"
Jane's Addiction - "Been Caught Stealing" GH2.jpg
Jethro Tull - "Aqualung"
John 5 - "Black Widow Of La Porte"
KISS - "Love Gun"
Linkin Park - "Bleed It Out"
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Call Me The Breeze (Live)"
Megadeth - "Sudden Death"
Megadeth - "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due"
Megadeth - "This Day We Fight!"
Metallica & Ozzy Osbourne - "Paranoid (Live)"
Muse - "Uprising"
My Chemical Romance - "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)"
Neil Young - "Rockin' In The Free World"
Nickelback - "How You Remind Me"
Night Ranger - "(You Can Still) Rock In America"
Nine Inch Nails - "Wish"
The Offspring - "Self Esteem"
Orianthi - "Suffocated"
Pantera - "I'm Broken"
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Poison - "Unskinny Bop"
Queen - "Bohemian Rhapsody"
Queensrÿche - "Jet City Woman"
Rammstein - "Waidmanns Heil"
The Ramones - "Theme From Spiderman"
Red Rider - "Lunatic Fringe"
R.E.M. - "Losing My Religion"
Rise Against - "Savior"
The Rolling Stones - "Stray Cat Blues"
The Runaways - "Cherry Bomb"
Rush - "2112 Pt. 1 - Overture"
Rush - "2112 Pt. 2 - The Temples Of Syrinx"
Rush - "2112 Pt. 3 - Discovery"
Rush - "2112 Pt. 4 - Presentation"
Rush - "2112 Pt. 5 - Oracle: The Dream"
Rush - "2112 Pt. 6 - Soliloquy"
Rush - "2112 Pt. 7 - Grand Finale"
RX Bandits - "It's Only Another Parsec..."
Silversun Pickups - "There's No Secrets This Year"
Slash featuring Ian Astbury - "Ghost" GH3.jpg
Slayer - "Chemical Warfare"
Slipknot - "Psychosocial"
Snot - "Deadfall"
Soundgarden - "Black Rain"
Steve Vai - "Speeding" (Vault Version)
Stone Temple Pilots - "Interstate Love Song"
Strung Out - "Calling"
Styx - "Renegade"
Sum 41 - "Motivation"
Tesla - "Modern Day Cowboy"
Them Crooked Vultures - "Scumbag Blues"
Third Eye Blind - "Graduate"
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - "Listen To Her Heart"
Twisted Sister - "We're Not Gonna Take It"
The Vines - "Get Free"
The White Stripes - "Seven Nation Army"
ZZ Top - "Sharp Dressed Man (Live)"

Watching this trailer almost brings a tear to my eye. This is great. I finally get to live out my dream of playing with Orlando Woolridge in a basketball game.

The latest issue of Game Informer magazine confirms that NBA 2K11 has secured the license for all the players involved in the "Jordan Challenge." So for all you Bulls fans, you'll be able to play with Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, Dennis Rodman, Bill Cartwright, John Paxson, etc. In addition, you will be able to use any of the retro teams in Association mode.

The trailer shows highlights of several old school teams playing current NBA teams. My favorite part was Michael Jordan dunking over the Lakers' Lamar Odom at the old Chicago Stadium.

GI magazine also confirms that NBA 2K11 will have the classic arenas as well. So in addition to Chicago Stadium we should be able to play at the Great Western Forum and the Boston Garden. So sweet.

Interview: 'NHL 11'

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Earlier today I spoke with NHL 11 lead producer Sean Ramjagsingh about all the new features for this year's title. The demo for NHL 11 is now available for download on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network. Click on the link below to listen to the interview.

NHL 11 Lead Producer Sean Ramjagsingh

Kalypso Media released a trailer for its new trading and naval warfare game Patrician IV: Conquest by Trade.
The game will arrive for the PC in September. For more information, visit www.patrician4.com.
More trailers:


  • Team 17 announced two trailers for Worms Reloaded. The series has been around for years and is making a return to the PC. Both the Worms Reloaded trailer and customization trailer can be found on YouTube.

  • Racing action is at hand with the gameplay video for F1 (Formula One) 2010 from Codemasters. The game will release in September for the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. The video can be viewed at www.formula1-game.com

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Now available:

  • Victoria II from Paradox Interactive is out now for the PC and a trailer is offered on YouTube. Victoria II is a grand strategy game set during the colonial era of the 19th century.

  • Kalypso released a patch for the boxed retail edition of Disciples III: Renaissance. Digital versions of the game have automatically been patches. To find the patch, visit the download section of the company website, www.kalypsomedia.com.

  • An update for Field of Glory, a game of ancient warfare, is available from Matrix Games (www.matrixgames.com) and Slitherine Software (www.slitherine.com). The update includes improved AI, new maps and images, an auto deployment system and more

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Coming:

  • Southpeak Interactive announced it will publish Stronghold 3 from Firefly Studios in the first quarter of 2011. The game offers players the can to build and defend castles.

  • A new series of operational level World War II games are on the way from Matrix Games and VR Designs. Decisive Campaigns: The Blitzkrieg from Warsaw to Paris will be the first title in the series.

  • Also from Matrix will be Panzer Command: Ostfront in the fourth quarter of this year. The game will be free for owners of Panzer Command: Kharkov, the previous release in the series of 3D, turn-based tactical wargames.

  • Set for the first quarter of next year is Dungeons, a strategy game for the PC from Kalypso Media. For info, visit www.kalypsomedia.com.


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SEGA announced today that Virtua Tennis 4 is in development for the Playstation 3 and it will be fully compatible with Playstation Move and Sony 3D technology. VT4 will be released sometime in 2011.

"Virtua Tennis 4 is a fantastic example of how our 3rd party partners are seeing the potential not just in PlayStation Move, but also 3D," Simon Rutter, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing at SCEE said. "Virtua Tennis 4 shows how this technology can be implemented and we are very excited to be working with SEGA on this."

I've been a fan of the VT series dating back to Dreamcast. I think this is a perfect game for Playstation Move.

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Harmonix and MTV Games has revealed the newest songs that will be in Rock Band 3. The known setlist is now up to 40 songs. Here's a list of the latest 10 tracks.

Bob Marley & The Wailers: Get Up, Stand Up
INXS: Need You Tonight
Poni Hoax: Antibodies
Rammstein: Du Hast
Roxette: The Look
Tokio Hotel: Humanoid
HIM: Killing Loneliness
Maná: Oye Mi Amor
Slipknot: Before I Forget
War: Low Rider

Prepare to do battle

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The first screenshots (above) of Castle Vox have been released by Sillysoft Games.
Castle Vox, a turn-based strategy game, is set for a September release for the PC. Developers say the games mixes elements of Axis & Allies and Diplomacy.
Game maps will cover many areas, from Hades to Japan to Outer Space.
Visit www.sillysoft.net
Now available:


  • Battlefield Academy can be downloaded from Matrix Games (www.matrixgames.com) and Slitherine (www.slitherine.com). The game features more than 30 battles from throughout history. Included is a play by e-mail system.

  • Wicked Interactive and Suba Games have brought back Fragoria to North America. The browser -based MMO of fantasy combat is free to play and can be found at www.fragoria.com.

  • A 14-day free trial is offered for Darkfall Online, a MMORPG fantasy title from Aventurine SA and Kalypso Media Group. Visit www.darkfallonline.com

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Trailer:

  • Frogster released a new trailer for Bounty Bay Online that offers a look at the game's fourth expansion, "Atlantis." The expansion will go live Sept. 22. Visit www.bountybayonline.com/en/atlantis


DLC:

  • The Legends and Killers Pack, an expansion for Red Dead Redemption, is available through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, Rockstar Games announced. Among other things, the pack adds new locations and new multiplayer maps.

  • Claptrap's New Robot Revolution is a downloadable adventure for Borderlands from 2K Games and Gearbox Software. It will be available in September through Xbox Live Marketplace and the PlayStation Network. In either single-player or cooperative multiplayer modes, players will try to beat back a Claptrap revolution. Leading the Claptraps will be a new character, the deadly Ninja Assassin.


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What if an agent needed to be as quick with his wits as with a gun?
That's the situation with Alpha Protocol.
The game from Sega and Obsidian rolls role-playing and action elements into an interesting spy adventure.
Players take the role of Michael Thornton, a new recruit to an off-the-government-books agency known at Alpha Protocol. Its agents take on the military and covert missions the government may want to disavow.
However, early on, Thornton finds himself abandoned by his agency. Yet, Thornton still wants to complete his mission involving stolen missiles and a rogue international corporation.
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of the RPG side is the dialogue. Thornton finds himself in conversation with numerous characters - both friend and foe.
His responses during those conversations shape how the game ultimately plays out.
Players do not need to pick a specific line of dialogue. Rather, they are given a set of approaches they want to take (trusting, cautious, practical, flirtatious, etc.). And, they have a limited time to make that choice.
Those responses determine Thornton's relationship with the game's many colorful characters.
As he is tossed aside by his own agency, Thornton may find it helpful to make alliances with other shadowy groups. They can provide valuable intelligence and offer access to weapons, gadgets and armor on the black market.
To start play, players select whether Thornton has a background as a soldier, covert operator, tech specialist, freelancer or rookie. Each choice comes with specific strengths and weaknesses.
As play progresses, players can spend earned action points on the skills and talents they feel most important for Thornton. Players who prefer the stealthy side of skullduggery will want to spend their points there. Those who feel more comfortable blasting away can upgrade their weapon skills.
As to the weapons, armor and gear, many are upgradeable. Thornton can find cash to buy higher-caliber stuff during his missions.
Those missions also can involve mini-games. For example, solving a maze game can silence an alarm system. Cracking a hidden word problem can allow Thornton to hack into a computer and gain any information there. Locks can be picked to open a door.
While the RPG elements stand out, the same can't be said for the combat system.
The gun battles in Alpha Protocol can only be described as adequate. They just don't seem to have the polish of the RPG side.
It does seem to help if Thornton takes time to aim his shots, rather than just snapping them off.
The one feature that does not ring true is the occasional boss battle. It seems unrealistic in this type of game to run into a character that seems to be 10 times harder to kill than the usual suspects.
Players looking for a new take on the spying game can put Alpha Protocol in their dossier. They'll find an intriguing story and colorful characters.
Alpha Protocol is available for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. System requirements are Windows XP or Vista, 2.4 GHz Intel or 2.0 GHz AMD processor, 1 GB of RAM (XP), 2 GB of RAM (Vista) and a Nvidia Geforce 6 or higher video card or ATI 1300XT or higher video card.


Review: 'Madden NFL 11'

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Football season is rapidly approaching, training camps are in full swing and the first preseason game of the year was played last night. Another sign we are close to the start of the NFL season -- the release of Madden NFL. Madden NFL 11 will hit stores on Tuesday August 10th and it will try to change the way you've played Madden for the last 20+ years.

I've been a Madden player since the early 90s. The first version I remember playing was on the Super Nintendo around 1992. Ever since then I've called my plays the same way: scroll through the playbook and pick the play. And that's basically how you pick plays in all football video games, not just Madden. But this year the development team of Madden NFL 11 is changing the way plays are selected.

Madden NFL 11 will feature the new play-calling system GameFlow. GameFlow allows you to create a game plan and the GameFlow engine will pick from the plays you pre-selected. When GameFlow is on during a game, you won't be scrolling through plays in the menu as the play will be automatically called for you. The idea behind GameFlow came from John Madden himself. He said that NFL coaches don't go into a game on Sunday with over 300 plays to run. NFL coaches have a select amount of plays they will use throughout a game. And while that is true, I was still a bit skeptical of GameFlow.

When I played the demo of Madden NFL 11, I really didn't like GameFlow. It felt like I was in a constant no-huddle. You'd press the A button to select the next GameFlow play and then -- "Boom" -- your team's walking to the line of scrimmage. I didn't like it at first. But after playing the full version of the game for a few days, I've come around to GameFlow.

The challenge for the Madden development team is having guys, like myself, change the way I've played a game for many years. I'm so used to scrolling through formations and plays and picking one every down -- GameFlow was a shock to the system. And when I wrote my demo impressions, I said I wouldn't be using it. But I've done a 180 on GameFlow.

Bears huddle.jpgThe main reason why I've done a complete turnaround on GameFlow is the flexibility that the Madden team gives you with it. After every play, you have the option of switching to the full playbook. For example, if it's a 3rd-and-short situation, and you don't want to leave the play selection to GameFlow, you can trump GameFlow, open your entire playbook, and pick the money play that you always use. I also do a lot of hot routes when I play, so even if GameFlow picks a passing play I don't want to use at that exact moment, I can just do a few hot routes and change the play up. You can also audible to a different play as needed. So the flexibility that is given to you is the only way GameFlow could really work. I can't see any Madden player wanting to give full control to the AI when it comes to picking the plays.

When I played the demo I didn't really take the time to sit down and make a full GameFlow game plan -- because it was just a demo. But now that I've started my Chicago Bears franchise, I took the time to make a full game plan with all the plays I run for every situation. Each situation allows you to select up to 15 plays, and the situations include 3rd-and-long, 2nd-and-short, 3rd-and-medium, 2-minute offense, 4th-and-short, etc. There's GameFlow for defensive plays as well, but with not as many categories. Once you select the amount of plays to be in your game plan, you will put emphasis on which plays will be called more than others. I like to run the ball on first down, so I put five stars on my HB slam play and only two stars on my slants play. So on first downs, the GameFlow engine will select HB slam more often than slants. When I spoke with Anthony Stevenson, Madden NFL 11's product manager, he told me that the average Madden player uses only 13 plays a game. Once I made my entire Game plan I found I didn't use too much more than that.

Another desired effect of GameFlow is that it will cut down on the length of a Madden game. Game length has never been a problem for me because I do run the ball a lot and use up the clock. I also made use of the accelerated clock that was put in Madden 10. But for those pass-happy Madden players out there, GameFlow could cut down on the length of the game. GameFlow is a nice addition to Madden and it's a feature I will use. I found that it's something I will lean on more when playing against the AI. When I play another user, I will probably want to hand pick more of my plays and not leave it up to the GameFlow engine. If GameFlow is something you don't want to use at all, you have the option of picking plays from the full playbook like you always have.

A word of warning -- you have to save your offensive and defensive game plans separately. I had created a full offensive game plan and saved it under my name. Then I created my defensive plan, assuming both offense and defense was saved together, I ended up overwriting my offensive game plan with my defensive one. I had to go back and recreate my entire offensive game plan.

Urlacher2.jpgAnother new feature to Madden NFL 11 is Online Team Play. OTP will feature up to 3-on-3 football with a user in control of each set of positions. On offense one user will control the QB, the WRs or the RB. On defense a user will control the defensive line, the linebackers or the secondary. Players also have the option of playing any position on the field. But that could lead to confusion with users trying to switch to the same players. It's best if guys stick to a locked in position.

This game mode can be a ton of fun. I played a few games of OTP and this mode will be as good as the people you play with. If you can play with five of your friends, or people that play the game the right way, this mode will be a lot of fun. If you end up playing with guys who put the defense in a bad position because they decide they want to blitz on every play, then the experience will be terrible, just like any other game mode when being played with cheesers.

I also got to experience what Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer might feel like with Chad Ochocinco in one ear and Terrell Owens in the other. I was the quarterback in one OTP game and the other two guys were on the mic with me. One guy was the wide receiver and the other the running back. The guy who was the running back was going out for passes to try and make the defense pay for blitzing so much. But after every play I had to hear "I was wide open," "I was wide open too." It got a bit annoying after a while but we worked through it to put ourselves in a position to win. A late missed field goal did us in. There was a lot of lag when kicking online. Hopefully that will get fixed soon. I missed two extra points and a field goal in that game because the kicking meter was lagging so badly.

While you might encounter some annoying players who think they're the second coming of Bill Walsh, OTP is a fun game mode. You just have to play with the right people. OTP also features a leveling up system where your skill as a QB, or any of the other positions, will carry over to a lesser team. For example, if you increase your skill level while playing with Donovan McNabb, when you play with a team that has a lesser QB, like the Buffalo Bills, you will bring increased attributes to that position.

I was very excited last year when Madden 10 added online franchise mode for the first time. I was equally disappointed when I found out that the mode went untouched for Madden 11. The reason no improvements were made to online franchise mode -- it was the least played mode on Madden 11 according to product manager Anthony Stevenson.

Madden NFL 11 senior product manager Anthony Stevenson

To complete multiple seasons, or even one season, in an online franchise (or online dynasty in NCAA 11) you need dedicated, mature players. It's hard to find a lot of people to make a successful franchise. I've been in good franchises/dynasties because I know most of the people I'm in the league with. So many other leagues get started and never get off the ground. How many times have you been in an online lobby and a player will post in the chat box "get in my franchise, starting up tonight." Chances are that franchise was a complete failure. I wish they would have made some additions to online franchise mode, like free agency or importing of NCAA draft classes, but I can understand why it was left alone for Madden 11. Online franchise mode is still part of the game and I'll probably get in a league with the same guys I got in with last year. Madden NFL 11's offline franchise mode continues to be one of the best franchise mode's ever made for a sports game.

Madden NFL 11 will have a different sound this year as Gus Johnson replaces Tom Hammond in the booth. I've never been a fan of Johnson's style, but I was willing to give him a chance because his style (screaming when not necessary) is suited for a video game. I wasn't thrilled with Johnson in the demo, and I'm even less impressed with him in the full version of the game. The transitions Johnson's voice makes from high to low make me cringe. I would have preferred they stuck with Tom Hammond. Cris Collinsworth on the other hand continues to be one of the best sounding announcers to ever be on a video game. Collinsworth sounds exactly the same on Madden as he does on Sunday Night Football.

Madden Xbox cover.jpgThe game atmosphere also got some tweaking. In the pregame you'll see guys getting off the bus in a suit and getting ready in the locker room. Stadium sound also has been improved with team fight songs and chants. After you score a touchdown with the Chicago Bears you'll hear "Bear Down Chicago Bears" being played over the speakers. Jets fans will do the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets chant and Packers fans will do the Go Pack Go chant.

The graphics are better than ever as players and coaches look very realistic. When I was playing the Vikings they cut to the sidelines and showed head coach Brad Childress and it was almost like looking at a picture. There was another cutaway that showed Childress talking to Brett Favre. Favre was standing with his helmet halfway off and it looked exactly like him - including the 5 o'clock shadow. I'm very impressed with how the game looks this year.

Madden NFL 11 is a solid game and I think the franchise is going in the right direction. I am disappointed that improvements were not made to online franchise mode, but it's still part of the game so I'll still be playing it because it was my favorite game mode from last year.

GameFlow and Online Team Play are nice additions to the franchise. Online Team Play has the potential to be a great game mode. But like I said earlier, you have to play with good people.

I think Madden NFL 11 is worth the purchase this year. For a few years I was down on the franchise, but Madden 10 restored my faith. And Madden NFL 11 will be taking up a lot of my gaming time as the much-welcomed football season approaches.

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Earlier this week EA Sports announced that their upcoming basketball title, NBA Elite 11, will come with a code for a one-time download of NBA Jam. You will be able to play three game modes in the downloadable version of NBA Jam -- play now, classic campaign and online play. NBA Elite 11 (with NBA Jam download code) will ship on October 5th for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. NBA Jam for Nintendo Wii will also ship on October 5th.

In other news:
-- MTV Games and Harmonix announced today that a new 3-pack of Ministry songs will be making it way to the Rock Band music store on Tuesday August 10th. "Stigmata," "Thieves" and "Jesus Built My Hotrod" will be part of "Ministry Pack 2" that will cost 440 Microsoft points ($5.50 PS3). The songs can also be purchased individually for 160 MS points, 200 Wii points or $2 on the PS3.

-- NaturalMotion Games announced today that their "Greathouse" patch for their football title Backbreaker has been released. The patch will feature a new replay system, 110 new plays, nine new formations, improved quarterback camera view, and a user catch system for receivers. Good to see the team at NaturalMotion make these improvements that fans have been asking for.

-- Real Madrid midfielder Kaka has been selected to be the cover athlete for FIFA Soccer 11.

-- 2K Sports' NHL 2K11 R/V Tour hits Chicago this weekend. The R/V will be at the Best Buy in Burbank (7600 S. Cicero Ave.) on Saturday August 7th from 1p-4p. On Sunday August 8th, the R/V will be at a Game Stop in Chicago (6451 W. Diversey Ave.) from 1p-4p. The festivities will include contests, prizes and giveaways.

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Microsoft Games Studios and Lionhead Studios released a trailer for the upcoming Fable III (see screenshots).
The trailer can be viewed at www.lionhead.com.
In the game, players will lead a rebellion against their brother, the tyrant king Logan, to become the new ruler of Albion.
Elsewhere;


  • Codemasters has released a trailer for DIRT 3, due out in 2011 for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. In the video, driver Ken Block is shown tearing up the track in Kenya, Norway and Monaco. The trailer can be seen at www.facebook.com/dirt3game. The game will feature more than 50 rally cars and double the track content than the 2009 entry in the series.

  • Blizzard Entertainment announced that its much-anticipated strategy game, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, sold more than 1 million copies the first day it was available. That total makes it the best-selling PC game of the year.

  • Protector Trials, single-player downloadable content for BioShock 2, is available for 400 Microsoft points through Xbox Live Marketplace and $4.99 on the PlayStation Network. 2K Games says the add-on includes six new maps, new unlockables, seven new achievements and three new difficulty levels based of favorite locales from BioShock 2.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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