News and reviews from the PC and console dimensions

March 2011 Archives

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Warstory - Europe in Flames has been updated to version 2.0.
The free-to-play massively multiplayer strategy game (see screenshots) from Games in Flames launched in September 2010. Since then, the company says, players have engaged in more than a million online battles.
The update promises new officers, special units and dynamic faction morale with new bonuses.
Social elements now include invite-a-friend, clan and buddy list features.
Visit www.warstory.com.

Another update:

  • Wicked Interactive's free-to-play shooter Mission Against Terror added new weapons and achievements. Among the new items are grenades (and the company says it isn't kidding) that turn enemies into pigs and turtles that can't fire back. www.wickedinteractiveltd.com
Out now:
  • History Great Battles Medieval for the PC has been released by Slitherine and Matrix Games. Set against a backdrop of the Hundred Years War, the game blends strategy and role playing.
  • Available through Xbox Live Arcade is Rush'N Attack: Ex-Patriot from Konami. The 1980s' style arcade game has players controlling a CIA agent as he attempts to rescue a fellow agent from a Russian prison camp.
  • A demo for Hoard, a strategy arcade title from Big Sandwich Games, now is available for download on Steam. The full version ($9.99) for PC and Mac unlocks April 4 on Steam.

Coming:

  • Renegade Ops, a downloadable military co-op shooter, will be available later this year, Sega of America announced. The game is being developed by Avalanche Studios in Sweden. The game will be a co-op, vehicular shooter
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Beta:

  • A closed beta for Rise of the Immortals is set to start April 5, Petroglyph announced. The game is a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena. To sign up for the beta, visit www.riseofimmortals.com.

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Screenshots have been released for the upcoming PC strategy game A Game of Thrones - Genesis, due this summer from Cyanide Studios and Focus Home Interactive.
The game is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire saga by George R.R. Martin. The Game of Thrones series also is scheduled to air starting April 17 on HBO.
The game's single-player campaign was written under the supervision of Martin. It promises to allow players to take part in critical events in the founding of Westeros, including pivotal battles such as Aegon the Conqueror's invasion and the War of the Usurper.

Also coming soon:

  • Atari Europe announced the arcade classic Warlords will be remade for summer release through Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. The title is being developed by Griptonite Games.
  • The dead, or a least the seriously infected, will walk again, Capcom announced. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is being developed for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Those who purchase Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D for the Nintendo 3DS will receive a playable demo of Resident Evil: Revelations. That's a lot of evil on its way.
  • Kalypso Media USA and Realmforge announced a DLC pack for Dungeons is now available. "Into The Dark" will feature one new mission, 10 new sandbox-mode maps and 19 new prestige gimmicks.

Updates:

  • Trion Worlds announced the first update for its recently launched MMORPG RIFT. Starting March 30, Alsbeth the Discordant will lead massive invasions throughout the world of Telara.
  • WarFlow, an online RTS, unveiled "special battles" that will require players to join forces in order to fight off NPC powers. Success will require players to coordinate their efforts.
  • "Volume III, Book 3: Echoes of the Dead" is on tap over at Lord of the Rings Online, a great free-to-play MMORPG from Turbine.
  • G4Box Inc. announced a spring patch for its online military shooter Cross Fire. Besides play bonuses, new maps, weapons and items, the company will donate 10 percent of the sale of all Panda and Japan Name Card Items to the Red Cross Japan Disaster Relief Fund.
In beta:
  • North American beta testing is under way for Black Prophecy from gamigo AG. The title is an action MMOG.
  • A closed beta for Metal Assault from Aeria Games is set to start April 1. For a beta invitation, visit http://metalassault.aeriagames.com

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Earlier today I spoke with Mike DeVault, senior game designer for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters. We talked about all the new features that go along with the addition of Augusta National. Click on the link below to hear the entire interview.





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I don't play my PlayStation 3 as much as my Xbox 360, that is, until March rolls around. Then my PS3 works overtime for Sony's MLB The Show franchise. The Show has been the best baseball video game for the past half decade and this year's entry, MLB 11 The Show, will give Sony's San Diego Studio the title for another season. If I had a nickel for
every time I had a friend say to me "I wish I had a PS3, just for The Show" -- I'd have a lot of nickels.

Typically with yearly sports titles you don't see a lot of changes. But MLB 11 The Show has added a lot to this year's game, co-op play (online and offline), PlayStation Move support for Home Run Derby, 3D technology, changes to Road to The Show mode, a camera editor and a new voice in the booth in former Chicago Cub Eric Karros. But the biggest change is the addition of analog controls for hitting, pitching and fielding. That's where we will start.

MLB 11 The Show features the new Pure Analog Control System. This is the first time in the history of the franchise that you'll have the option of hitting, pitching and fielding with the right analog stick. For those who like The Show's traditional button-based controls, you still have the option for that as well. The team at San Diego Studio made sure fans had the option of both analog and button controls. You also have the ability to mix up the controls as you wish. If you like analog pitching and button hitting/fielding, you can set your controls up that way. It's customizable in online play as well.

Pure Hitting
Hitting on the analog stick was the one mechanic I was most skeptical about because I've never liked analog hitting in any other baseball game. Hitting on MLB The Show, with the controls on the buttons, has always been a chore. I assumed I would be even worse with the analog controls -- but I wasn't.

The Pure Hitting mechanic has given me better control of my swing. When the pitcher starts his motion you have to time your swing just right. Pull down on the right stick to start your swing, push up on the right stick to follow through. When the game is on Pure Hitting mode it will compensate for high/low and inside/outside, if your timing is right. I've found myself being able to hold off on bad pitches a lot easier with the analog controls than with button hitting. And you'll need to work the count to have offensive success at this game because hitting still isn't a walk in the park. You have to take pitches, wear down that starter and get into the bullpen.

To get a better look at Pure Hitting check out the video below.

Pure Pitching
I was excited to hear that The Show was going to implement analog pitching. Analog pitching has been in the MLB 2K franchise since 2K8, and it was always my favorite part of that game. But MLB 11 The Show's analog pitching is different from 2K's. You still use the button to pick what pitch you want to throw -- let's say X for a fastball. Then you use the ball indicator to pick the location of your fastball. You'll pull down on the right stick to start your throwing motion. At the top of the screen you'll have your pitching meter with a ball, a yellow line that determines your release point and an outline of a ball that shows how far to the left or right you placed your pitch in the strike zone. When you pull the right stick down and start your motion the ball will start to move down toward the yellow line. Push up on the right stick just as the ball hits the yellow line for the best result. If you push up too soon, the pitch will sail high. Push up too late, you'll be bouncing the ball to the catcher. Once you push up on the right stick you'll need to hit your spot. If you located your pitch on the left side of the strike zone you'll have to push up on the right stick and angle it to the left to try and hit the outline of the ball. If you placed the ball in the middle of the strike zone, it will just be a simple up and down motion.

I like the new pitching a lot. Similar to the hitting, I feel like I have more control. And just like a pitcher, you have your strengths and weaknesses. For me, hitting my mark on the left side of the strike zone has been an issue. I'm much better working the right side. MLB 11 The Show provides a practice mode for all the analog controls so you can work on your game. Check out the pitching tutorial video below to get a better look at Pure Pitching.

Pure Throwing
Fielding is where the analog controls get shaky for me. I liked the analog hitting, love the analog pitching, not too keen on the analog throwing. So basically how the fielding works is when a ball is hit to your fielder, let's say a shortstop, you will press the right stick in
the direction of the base you want to throw it to. How long you hold the right stick in the direction determines the power of your throw. I figured out that you have to start the throwing motion a split second before the ball arrives. You have to react pretty quickly to execute a double play. I had several 3-6-3 double play attempts end up with the ball sailing over my first baseman's head.

Now my problem with the analog throwing isn't making mistakes -- that's part of the game. It's the inconsistency with the analog throwing that becomes frustrating. Once you release the right stick on a throw you'll see either a green, yellow or red circle under your fielder. A green circle means it will be a good throw, a yellow circle means your first baseman might have to stretch for the ball and a red circle means the ball will miss its target completely. This is where I ran into issues.

Pedroia.jpg I would field the ball with my shortstop, have his feet perfectly positioned for an accurate throw and would lightly press the right stick toward first base for the most conservative throw possible. And there would be times in that scenario where I would get a red circle. The result was an error on what should have been a routine play for an out. I'm not sure why the red circle comes up on the conservative throws. When throwing the ball in baseball games it's a risk/reward situation. If you throw the ball as hard as you can (going all the way into the red) the risk is a wild throw with runners advancing. The reward is nailing a runner that you wouldn't have cut down if you went with a conservative throw. The problem with MLB 11 The Show's analog throwing is that there seems to be no reward. If the red circle shows up, the throw is going to be wild every time. That has been my experience. If you decide to go with the risky throw it should be about 50/50 error vs. hitting your target.

The inconsistent throwing results become even more frustrating when playing defense in the outfield. Just throwing the ball into second or third base to prevent a runner from advancing can be an adventure. The shaky throwing combined with the AI's very aggressive baserunning is a recipe for disaster. Another small problem I ran into with analog throwing is the fake throw. To execute the fake throw you have to just tap the right stick. Because the throwing is so shaky I tend to stick with conservative throws (pressing the right stick lightly towards the target), but then there were times where I pressed too lightly and gave a pump fake instead. That split second of confusion by my outfielder is all the time the AI needs to take that extra base.

When it comes to fielding I'll stick with the buttons. But 2-for-3 isn't bad on the new controls. You'll take that in baseball any day. The team at San Diego Studio must have known that the new analog fielding would be an issue for users based on one of the PS3 trophies you can earn -- 5 errors in one game. I can proudly say that trophy is part of my virtual collection. Click on the video below to see the Pure Throwing tutorial.

The MLB 11 team also made changes in the Road to The Show mode. Now, when you create your player you will have three sets of sliders that will determine what type of player you'll be. For pitchers the sliders are stamina/power, control/movement and balanced approach/dominant pitch. For position players the sliders are speed/strength, contact/power and glove/arm. So if you start Road to The Show as a pitcher and you want to be all about power, you'll move your stamina/power slider more toward the power side. You can do it 100% one way or leave it in the middle for balance.

When playing Road to The Show games you'll notice a difference as well. In previous years the manager would give you goals going into every at-bat, don't strike out, advance the runner, etc. And if you failed to meet those goals, you got no points. This year you get points for everything. Even if you have a poor at-bat you'll get 1 point.

Former Chicago Cub Eric Karros is now part of the 3-man booth on MLB 11 The Show. Karros sounds very good on the game and is a huge upgrade over Rex Hudler.

I have yet to play online, or offline, co-op play. But my guess is it will be similar to Madden's co-op play. If you play with good people that play the game right, the experience will be great. If you play with a bunch of cheesers, the experience will be terrible.

MLB 11 The Show continues to be one of the best looking games out there. The players and stadiums look great. The Show also does the little things that blow you away. Early in my season with the Cubs I had to call up a player from Triple A because of an injury. I was
playing in Colorado and during the at-bat of that Triple A player, someone from the crowd shouted "go back to Iowa." Iowa of course being the home of the Cubs' Triple A affiliate the Iowa Cubs.

Lots of sports games look good and play well. But it's the little things that separate the great games from the rest of the pack. MLB 11 The Show continues to do the little things that keep gamers coming back. That's why they remain the baseball game of choice for another season.

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Here are the first screen shots and video for EA Sports' NCAA Football 12. In the video NCAA producer Ben Haumiller and art director Jean Adams talk about the new HDR (high dynamic range) lighting in NCAA Football 12. Some other visual upgrades you'll see this year include 3-dimensional grass, dreadlocks and dynamic exposure lighting.

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Crude language, gratuitous gore, relentless action.
Bulletstorm (an aptly named game) goes way over the top in these areas and makes no apologies for doing so. And that is good news for gamers.
This first-person shooter from EA, Epic Games and People Can Fly entreats players to "kill with skill."
The action unfolds in the 26th century. Main characters Grayson Hunt and Ishi Sato are members of an elite military unit called Dead Echo. The unit goes rogue when it discovers it had been tricked by General Victor Serrano to do his dirty work.
As the game opens, Hunt's ship encounters his former commander's battle cruiser over the world of Stygia. Naturally, Hunt orders his ship to ram the other one.
Hunt and Sato find themselves crash landed on the planet Stygia - once a paradise but now a ravaged world. The pair of heroes must survive hordes of mutants, gun-toting thugs and fantastic creatures in order to exact their vengeance on Serrano.
To survive, Hunt can call upon weapons such as the Peacemaker Carbine, Screamer, Flailgun (shoots grenades connected by a chain), Boneduster (four-barrel shotgun), Head Hunter, Bouncer, Chain Gun and Penetrator.
Now, since Bulletstorm demands players "kill with skill," it's not as simple as blowing enemies away with your massive firepower. In fact, enemies can be quite tough to put, and keep, down unless you combine your weapon fire with a skillshot.
Probably the simplest skillshot involves kicking enemies. When you kick one, their outline briefly highlights and they become vulnerable to gunfire. However, you also can kick enemies off cliffs, into spiny cacti, into the jaws of man-eating plants, into dangling live electrical wires and so on.
Players can use their "leash" to grab distant enemies and either pull them close to be shot or pull them into environmental objects that will destroy them. The leash is especially useful for getting at foes hiding behind cover.
The leash also is crucial in opening up routes and removing barriers. When to use the leash in these instances isn't brain surgery; the right spot is clearly marked "leash."
Many locales also have objects that when shot will explode nicely, incinerating nearby enemies.
Completing skillshots earns a player points. The more spectacular the skillshot, the more points.
Points can be spent at the drop pods players find scattered throughout the game.
Use your leash to connect to the drop pod and use points to buy ammunition, unlock new weapons and purchase weapon upgrades. For example the carbine can be modified to carry "charged" ammo in which one shot packs the impact of 100 normal shots.
At the drop pods, players also can track which skillshots they have completed with each weapon. The player's personal statistics also can be found there.
The single-player campaign in Bulletstorm can be enormously entertaining with its mix of non-stop action and irreverent humor. Stygia is a beautifully rendered world, albeit a world in its death throes.
Players control Hunt. Sato and Trishka Novak, who also wants to kill Serrano, are alongside Hunt at times to provide fire support.
However, it falls to Hunt to do the heavy lifting when it comes to key sequences in the game.
The campaign features amazing creatures and exciting segments. In one, players control a massive, radio-controlled killing machine (think a RC Godzilla).
There also are some timed events and rail-shooter segments.
While single-player mode proves compelling and addictive, the multiplayer features seem oddly limited for a game in the FPS genre.
In multiplayer, Anarchy is the one game style. Up to four players cooperate in fighting successive waves of enemies. Score enough points collectively and it is on to the next challenge. Fail and replay the last wave.
No team deathmatch?
Bulletstorm also offers Echoes in which players seek to rack up the highest score they can in a sequence from the single-player game. Players can then compare their score to that of other players.
Bulletstorm (EA) is available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. The 360 version was reviewed here. www.bulletstorm.com.

'Clones,' a review

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Can clones think?
Well, for the sake of this game, and to the delight of players, they do not.
Clones from TomKorp offers a puzzle game in which the player guides the clueless clones through levels filled with pitfalls and obstacles. Typically, completing the puzzle requires players to guide one or a number of clones to the end of the level.
There also may be additional tasks, such as collecting objects.
Many of you may remember a similar title, Lemmings.
Clones delivers an update on that puzzle/strategy classic.
Play takes place on the clone planet, which is split into five regions.
The early levels serve as training sessions in which the player is introduced to clones and how to use morphing to employ a clone's special ability.
Those abilities include flying, digging, exploding, blocking, building stairs, shooting and more.
Players select a clone and then launch the special ability when needed to help complete a puzzle.
For example, clones can be atomized. The atomized clone can fill a hole in the landscape that is blocking the clones' progress. Atomized clones also can be used to build a hill or ramp to reach an area.
Thrown in to the mix are two special kinds of clones. Dark clones change faster and fall further. Light clones can jump and change direction.
Controlling the clones can be accomplished through use of the mouse, through an order belt around a clone and/or through keyboard shortcuts.
The game offers more than 150 levels of play. There also is a level editor to create new puzzles.
Clones also supports online play.
While the clones are cute and the levels colorful, the game can be quite the challenge. Successfully guiding your clones is no walk in the park.
Clones is available at http:clonesgame.com for $9.99 and through various digital download services. System requirements are Windows XP through 7, a 1.5 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM and a 64 MB graphics card.

Interview: 'Top Spin 4'

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Earlier this week I spoke with Top Spin 4 producer Michael Kelly. We discussed changes made to the controls and the revamped presentation. Click on the link to hear the full interview.





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New screens (see screenshots) for the upcoming action RPG Dark Souls were released by Namco Bandai Games America.
The game will feature dungeon crawling and adventure set in a dark, fantasy universe. Also on tap will be online play.
Dark Souls is set to release later this year on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

In other news:

  • Dragon Age II, the blockbuster sequel, now is available in stores, announced EA and developer BioWare. The action RPG is available for the PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
  • Starting Thursday, an open beta starts for the MMORPG Faxion Online from UTV True Games. The free-to-play game takes a lighthearted look at the battle between Heaven and Hell. To register, visit www.FaxionOnline.com.
  • Meanwhile, UTV True also announced it has officially launched its online title Mytheon. Download the free online game at www.MytheonGame.com.
  • Also starting Thursday is the open beta for MicroVolts, a free online game from Rock Hippo Productions. The open beta will include two new maps and a new game mode. Visit www.MicroVolts.com.
  • Set for release this summer is Defenders of Ardania, a tower defense game from Paradox Interactive. The game will be offered on the PC, iPad, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.
  • EA announced that its free, cartoon-style online shooter Battlefield Heroes now has topped 7 million registered users. In honor of the lucky 7, EA will provide gamers a pack of 77 bandages, 77 Battlefunds, 77 wrenches and more through March 15.
  • From Matrix Games and VR Designs comes Advanced Tactics: Gold. The new version of the game boasts a beefed-up scenario editor, expanded random game mode and more.
  • Matrix and Slitherine announced the latest installment in the Field of Glory series - Field of Glory: Legions Triumphant. The title covers the armies of the Roman Empire and its foes from 25 BC to 493 AD. It does require a copy of the original game.

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The demo for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 is now available for download on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.

In the 'Play Now' mode, you'll play at Masters on the par-4 18th hole. In the 'Road to the Masters' mode, you'll play holes 1-5 at TPC San Antonio Oaks Course.

The demo for the PS3 features support for the PlayStation Move controller.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 ships on March 29th for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii.

Interview: "MLB 2K11"

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MLB 2K11 game designer Sean Bailey sat down with me to talk about some of the improvements made to this year's game. Click on the link below to hear the full interview.





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EA Sports announced today that fans will be able to vote for which athlete they would like to see on the cover on NCAA Football 12.

Starting today through April 4th, fans can go to the NCAA Football 12 Facebook page and cast their vote. The winner will be announced on April 19th. You have four athletes to choose from.

Nick Fairley - Defensive Tackle, Auburn University: In 2010 Fairley was one of the most dominant defensive linemen in college football, helping lead Auburn to an undefeated 14-0 season and a National Championship.

Jake Locker - Quarterback, University of Washington: Locker led the Huskies to a 19-7 upset victory over Nebraska in the 2010 Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl.

Mark Ingram - Running Back, University of Alabama: Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in the 2009 season.

DeMarco Murray - Running Back, University of Oklahoma: Murray holds Oklahoma's all-time touchdown record with 58 in four seasons.

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Beta testing is expected to start soon for Elements of War Online (see screenshots) from gamigo.
In the free-to-play real-time strategy game, Russian forces join up with Europe to invade the United States. Along with conventional weapons, both sides can call upon futuristic element weapons to do battle.
Among the element weapons are tornadoes, earthquakes, storms, thunder and electro-magnetic pulses.
The game promises a tactical map with 50 battle zones, 16 maps of various terrains, 31 unit types, experimental units and more.

In other news:

As Paradox Interactive moves into the free-to-play online arena, the company announced Gettysburg: Armored Warfare. (art at left) I am thinking Guns of the South, the alternative history book in which the arrival of AK-47s turn the tide for the Johnny Rebs.
Indeed, the company says Gettysburg will have Union and Confederate forces waging war with weapons from 200 years in the future.
The RTS/FPS hybrid will feature battles with up to 32 players on a side. The game will launch later this year.

  • 2K Games announced new downloadable content for Sid Meier's Civilization V. Available on March 3 will be the Civilization and Scenario Pack: Polynesia and a Multiplayer Map Pack.
  • Longbow Games released the historical RTS wargame Hegemony Gold: Wars of Ancient Greece. For more information, visit www.longbowgames.com.
  • On March 29, Paradox Interactive will release Darkest Hour: A Hearts of Iron Game. The game will cover campaigns set in the time period from the Great War to the start of the Cold War.
  • Croteam revealed Serious Sam 3: BFE will land this summer for the PC and consoles. The developer describes the title as "an exhilarating fusion of classic twitch shooters and modern gameplay features."
  • Noble Master Games plans to award $1,000 in cash prizes for a tournament of its strategy game Age of Conquest Online. The tournament starts March 14. To register, visit www.ageofconquest.com/tourney.html.
  • Also among the free, Wipeout Dash, a physics platformer racing game for the iPhone, iPad, iPod, PC, Mac and Web. Visit www.wipeoutdash.com.
  • UTV True Games announced the second beta testing for its free-to-play Faxion Online. Register at www.FaxionOnline.com.

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Earlier today, I spoke with Ramone Russell, Community Manager for MLB 11 The Show. We talked about the new analog controls and changes made to Road to The Show. Click on the link below to hear the interview.





Ramone and I talked about the new Pure Analog Pitching in MLB 11 The Show. Check out the video below to see how it will work.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

February 2011 is the previous archive.

April 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.