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Digging deeper into Lords of Shadow 2 with Dave Cox

Jul 24 // Jayson Napolitano
On refining the game’s combat systemWhat we did in the demo is give you the basic elements of the combat system, we give you the void sword and chaos sword, but you have unlimited power. In the actual game you don’t have that. You have to build up power. If you remember in the original Lords of Shadow, you had the focus bar. The way that worked was you hit enemies, and as you hit enemies you filled up the focus bar, if you got hit you lost focus. The goal is to build up focus so enemies drop blood. As they drop blood, you can decide if the blood goes into void power or chaos power, and that’s essentially how it works.The key difference is that the void sword and chaos claws have their own set of combos and abilities. And we have the mastery system which is a combat tree for each weapon. So you have one for the shadow whip, one for the void sword, and one for the chaos claws. So when you buy combos by killing enemies and earning experience to buy combos, you can decide if you’re going to buy combos for the shadow whip, the void sword, or the chaos claws, and they’re all different so you have a lot more abilities this time than you did in the previous game.As you use that particular combo you fill up a little gauge for that combo. When it’s filled as you’ve used it a lot in combat, that turns into a mastery, and that mastery can be siphoned into that weapon to upgrade it and make it more powerful, more special, and make it do things it couldn’t do before or make it more efficient than it was before, that kind of stuff.I think we’ve tried to refine the combat and make it more powerful. What you haven’t seen in the demo are Dracula’s vampiric abilities. You can turn into mist, for example.On the difficulties balancing a character as powerful as DraculaWhat we do with the demo is give you the basics, then you wake up a thousand years in the future and you have nothing. You’re literally an old man who can barely walk, so you have to get back to where you were. Introducing enemies at the right time to fit what you might have at that particular moment is a challenge, obviously, but with this particular game you have more tools at your disposal, and I think that’s what makes combat interesting from a hack ‘n’ slash perspective.We want to introduce the core tenants of the game, the focus system and weapons systems, then give it to you in chunks so as you progress you feel like you’re evolving and getting back to yourself. And by the end of the game, you obviously are a bad mother f***er. And you need to be because Satan’s back, and he’s one bad mother f***er too, and he wants payback for what you did to him in the last game.On the lessons learned with Lords of Shadow and Mirror of FateWe got a lot of fan feedback from the first game. A lot of people loved the combat system, but they wanted to explore. We created these amazing vistas, but they couldn’t look at them. Those are things we took onboard. A fixed camera is not friendly for exploration. So that’s the first thing we thought, we needed a free camera system. In order to do that it became evident straight away that if we wanted to maintain the art direction and very intricate details and flavor of what we did before, we needed a brand new engine. And that meant starting from the beginning, and that’s hard to do, and hard to sell to senior management. They ask, “When’s the sequel coming out? One year?,” and we’re like, “No, actually three years,” and they’re like, “What?!”Exploration is something people really wanted to do. Backtrack, discover new secrets, find new abilities. That’s something we knew we would need to create a new engine for because it meant we couldn’t be a linear game anymore. It had to be a game where players could explore a real world. So that again was one of the reasons we’re using a lot of streaming technology. We’re doing a lot of things that you don’t see in the hack ‘n’ slash genre. You can go back, which you can’t do in a lot of games. In this game, you can. You can go back, you can go left, you can go right. And we have to be sure the game’s contents are loading in the background. We had to design the engine to be able to load and offload really quickly. And it’s a good thing because it’s thinking about the future, and thinking about next-gen. So we decided to take the plunge, create the game we really want to make, fix the problems from the first game, improve upon what we have, and get our tech ready for the next generation.On the roles of Simon Belmont and AlucardIf you think of this as a separate universe, we’ve tried to take a different approach. Reintroduce these characters but in a different way. Alucard is Trevor Belmont, and Dracula killed his son and realized he killed his son at the last minute. It’s very tragic. When Robert Carlyle did that scene, he was really crying, and it was quite powerful. And when I play the game now, I say, “Wow,” and it really brings a tear to my eye. And we’ve never seen that from Alucard before. He was different in past games. We’ve never felt that emotional attachment to him and the tragedy of that character. We play on that in this game, as he’s very important to the story in Dracula’s motivation.For Simon Belmont, I thought to myself playing the old games, why is it the Belmonts are always fighting Dracula? It’s never been explained. There was an opportunity to explain that within our universe because we weren’t beholden to the original timeline. The reason why is because there’s a blood feud and a misunderstanding. Real things that can happen with families, and we wanted to portray that, and I think that’s what‘s given the Lords of Shadow series an interesting take. It’s an interesting idea. And we suddenly understand why it’s the Belmonts. And we understand Dracula as a character.That’s what interested me in doing this game from the beginning. It was being able to tell Dracula’s story and doing something unique with the characters that hadn’t been done before. That’s what the team got excited about.On what ever happened to IgarashiHe’s still at Konami. I saw him a few weeks ago. He’s still there, creating games.One thing I will say about Mr. Igarashi is that there were certain things we didn’t want to do in our game because we felt it was stepping on his toes. Out of respect. I can’t tell you now, but there was a certain thing that we were going to have in this game that I felt was going too far, it was encroaching on his universe. I didn’t want to do it purely because if he had the opportunity to do another title, it’s his baby and it’d be wrong for us to do that. We set out our story, we’re separate, this is our take. Whatever happens next, it’s not up to me.He’s been very supportive of the title and has wished us luck. He’s not been involved at all or had a bad word to say.
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Combat, balance, characters, and lessons learned
We learned a lot about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 from our time at San Diego Comic-Con last week. We saw a demo showcasing the game's emphasis on exploration and combat, experienced it on PC, and have also delved into the...

Assassin's Creed IV: Welcome to the Golden Age of Pirates

Jul 23 // Dale North
Assassin's Creed IV (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One]Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: UbisoftRelease: October 29, 2013 We got a full lay of the land (sea?) from three people that would know best. Darby McDevitt, the writer of Assassin's Creed IV, talked about just how much research and detail went into the game's story and setting. Actor Matt Ryan, the talent behind main character Edward Kenway, gave us color on what went into the role. Finally, weapons expert and historian Mike Loades told us just how brutal life was as a pirate, with full details on how fights went down.  Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is set in the beginning of the 18th century, and it follows Edward Kenway from his work in the Royal Navy to his transition into piracy. This happens just as the Golden Age of Pirates kicks off. And as always, a war between the Assassins and Templars seems to be tied to the conflict. My key takeaway from this meeting is that McDevitt's passion for this period of history is really going to make Assassin's Creed IV easy to get caught up in. He told us that after his own half-year of research, he traveled to the area where this history took place, in the West Indies, near Costa Rica. Their work goes way beyond taking pictures and going to museums. All aspects of life, from sugar trade to slavery to stealing everything under the sun, was worked in. He left no stone unturned. Everything from the dress to the talk of the time has been thoroughly researched and carefully implemented. Characters have their proper accents, with voicing coming from actors from their proper locales. Forget "shiver me timbers" -- characters say fun phrases like "dash my buttons" and "bag of shite" in ACIV. And they sing! McDevitt explained that there are some 70 authentic shanties to be heard in this game, all faithfully recreated by the game's composer. What's fun is that players can collect song sheets through play to add to the game's shanty playlist. Authenticity was important enough for Ubisoft to send sound teams to create impulse responses of real-world locales in the area, letting them effectively sample and reuse the characteristics of a building's reverberations in the game. This means that the echoes you hear from voices and sound effects will sound just as they would in the real-world version of the game's locations. These people are crazy. We learned that in the pirate world, many of the pirate stereotypes we know from television and moves did not exist. For example, pirate ships weren't these grand, oversized vessels. Real pirates sought out small, agile ships so that they could make their getaway easy. They rarely went for the big haul, instead going for the easiest pickings possible.  Also, there were female pirates. Not many, and they were considered bad luck, but they existed, and it sounds like we'll encounter some in ACIV. Slavery was also a reality in this time. Assassin's Creed IV will feature slavery, though McDevitt says that they've chosen not to focus on it. In this age, slaves sometimes escaped the plantations and joined pirate crews but weren't given weapons. We were told that no intense scenes of slavery were created for ACIV. Instead, slavery plays out in the background as a fact of life in the time, and not as an attempt to draw sympathy.  Main character Edward has relationships with slaves in the game. Pirates have different ideologies, and Edward has his own philosophy on the topic, so both friendships and enemies are created. The story explores this -- some characters may not like his feelings on slavery. Historian Mike Loades is just as passionate as McDevitt is about the pirate age, though his focus lies more with weaponry. He worked as a consultant for Ubisoft, helping to guide their work on ACIV's weapons. He explained that pirates would board ships carrying as much weaponry as their bodies and clothing could handle, so depictions of television pirates carrying both swords and guns are not that far off. He said that it often went further, with jackets stuffed full of single-shot pistols, grenades, knives and more, all supplementing their cutlass swords. Loades credits Ubisoft with going farther than Hollywood has as far as pirate authenticity is concerned. He admits that ACIV is a fantasy game, but says that it's well anchored in real history. One aspect of pirate life that is often depicted in movies and actually is real is drunkenness. Both Loades and McDevitt explain that water was in limited supply on these boats, though rum was always at the ready. Pirates had to drink rum or grog, a ration of water mixed with rum. As they explained it, pirates lived their entire lives drunk.  Even with all of this authenticity, it's still Assassin's Creed, which means that there's a fair bit of fantasy mixed in. This is not the History Channel, after all. And how boring would it be to sit on a pirate ship for months on end? In fact, 'fast travel' on boats is a feature players will appreciate, getting them back into the action quickly. Just like a movie, a quick sailing scene can take you to the next locale. Details were light on this side of things, but we did learn some new gameplay details from our discussion, including some changes to stealth play. You're on your own as Edward, meaning that can no longer call in the guild for help. You'll just have to be smarter. Or, you could use the new blowpipe to take enemies out from a distance. It's non-lethal as Ubisoft felt that insta-kills like this would break level design. You can now whistle anywhere to distract and later take out enemies via stealth.  We saw a live demo where a single player would have to sneak onto a plantation to take out 10 or more soldiers by himself. The usual tricks worked fine, like hiding in haystacks for stealth takeouts, but it seemed that the blowpipe was a big help in this situation. It looked a lot like the Assassin's Creed we know, but a bit more detailed and fluid. I'm guessing we were watching next-gen console play. The setup we heard from this meeting for Assassin's Creed IV story alone is enough for me to be excited. Factor in the new gameplay in an open world, the naval battles, new multiplayer modes (more on this later), and the next-generation visuals, and you have a game that is sailing toward the top of my most-anticipated list.
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Details on ACIV's story and setting
Your journey as an Assassin's Creed player has been a vast and varied one so far. Time travel has taken us through some of the most exciting times in human history. But, at first glance, the setting for the franchise's next s...

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Tomb Raider

Upcoming Tomb Raider comic to 'lead directly' into sequel


The story continues next year
Jul 23
// Jordan Devore
Having only recently finished up my first and only Lara Croft adventure outside of Guardian of Light, it was heartbreaking to remember that at 3.4 million copies sold as of March, Tomb Raider didn't live up to publisher Squar...
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A more electronically-tinged soundtrack ahead
In a recent chat with producer Dave Cox at San Diego Comic Con, we learned that composer Oscar Araujo is busily working on the soundtrack, and that it will sound very much different compared to those of Lords of Shadow and Mi...

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Saints Row

Enter the Dominatrix to be revived as Saints Row IV DLC


What a weird journey this has been
Jul 22
// Jordan Devore
Previously slated as a standalone expansion for Saints Row: The Third, Enter the Dominatrix has since been incorporated into Saints Row IV, though "very little" of the content made the cut in the merge accordin...
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Lords of Shadow 2

Castlevania's Dave Cox answers our biggest question


We finally have an answer
Jul 21
// Jayson Napolitano
As mentioned yesterday, we had the chance to sit down with producer Dave Cox regarding the upcoming Lords of Shadow 2, and he was fortunately able to answer our most pressing question:

New Lords of Shadow 2 gameplay emphasizes exploration

Jul 21 // Jayson Napolitano
As noted, the new gameplay shown was contained within Dracula’s castle. I found it to be dark, moody, and showing signs of decay, and I have to say first and foremost that the music accompanying this area is amazing. We heard building string work that was ominous yet adventurous, and had a strong sense of melody. I can’t wait to hear more of this soundtrack, which we know will feature a return of composer Oscar Araujo.We were introduced to the free-range camera that allowed us to fully explore our surroundings as well as spot different routes and secret areas that were not accessible at this time. These areas, we were told, will require backtracking once we acquire abilities such as the double jump or mist transformation. This kind of exploration with often turn up hidden relics which can be used to heal life points, increase the amount of experience gained for a duration of time, or even allow you to transform into a dragon.Another key feature that was re-emphasized was the focus system, whereby attacking your enemies builds up a gauge that, once filled, allows you to use the special abilities of your three weapons: the shadow whip, void sword, and chaos claws. Getting hit reduces your focus, so it’s important that you play this game well to succeed, and even our expert demonstrator had difficulty at times, so look forward to a challenging experience. Additionally, there are specific skill trees for each weapon that can be leveled up, and once a particular skill is mastered, you can improve the effectiveness of that particular weapon.At this point in the game, we had access only to the shadow whip, but were attempting to acquire the void sword. Along the way, we encountered some marvelous feats of sound design as a chaotic whirl of whispers, screams, and chanting filled the corridor while the floor fell away, giving rise to geysers of blood and stone. Upon retrieving the void sword on the other side of the corridor, the pools of blood and crumbled stone came together to form a stone golem, who proved to be quite a challenge, and exploded in waves of blood when defeated.Several trappings from the first also game made a return as well, including the travel book that contains a combo list, bestiary, and lore section to read up on the game’s characters and locales, as well as knight’s scrolls to tell the game’s back story.From here we learn that there are forces persuading Dracula to leave his castle, while the castle itself is rebelling against its master to prevent him from escaping. The powers luring Dracula away from his castle are represented by the ghost of his son, Trevor, who gives Dracula the white wolf medallion to travel between the castle and the modern city areas, while the castle itself senses Dracula’s desire to escape and devises ways to stop him, usually involving the appearance of pools of blood that hinder his progress and turn his minions against him.This desire to prevent Dracula’s escape culminates in a battle with one of Dracula’s former minions, the vampire orc. This battle was particularly gruesome as the foe is able to knock you down and drive a sword straight through your chest, requiring a series of button presses to remove the sword and beat back the enemy. We were introduced to weapon abilities as well, including  freeze projection for the void sword that not only acted as a means to freeze enemies in battle, but can also be used in exploration to freeze water elements to solve puzzles and move forward.At the end of the demo, I found myself particularly excited about the prospect of exploring the world of Lords of Shadow 2 and discovering its secrets for myself. One of the goals of the team is to make the combat interesting, and I think the variety of weapons and skill trees will do just that.
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New abilities, music, and camera system shown
In an unexpected surprise here at Comic Con, Konami showed off an extensive hands-off gameplay walkthrough detailing more of the game’s systems, music, and environs. The demo took place a brief time after the events see...

Getting drawn into Scribblenauts Unmasked

Jul 21 // Dale North
Those that have played previous Scribblenauts titles know that part of the joy of the experience is playing around with hero Maxwell's notebook. Anything you write down (type, in this case with the Wii U GamePad's stylus) comes to life on the screen. Write in "corgi" and a cute little dog falls from the sky to play with. Put in "chainsaw" and Maxwell instantly has a pretty good weapon/tree cutter to play with. The joy for comic fans with Scribble Unmasked extends far beyond that as every character ever featured in a DC Comics book is in the game. I typed in Batman and got a list of 36 to pick from -- it's that extensive. Any or all of them can be brought into the game's world at any time. I actually put in "Justice League" and all of them were hovering above the ground, ready to be dropped in.  And if you're an info junkie, Unmasked is fun even before you drop your favorite superheroes in. A Wikipedia-like entry for each and every DC Comics hero or item is available for your reading pleasure. I learned a lot just by using the game's Bat Computer to filter and drill down into the available selection.  Starting off in the Bat Cave, I found myself spawning anything I could think of. I pulled in Green Lantern as a hero to play with, and then drew in a corgi pup to brighten up the place. When I was flying around to test out Green Lantern's powers, I think one of the bad guys in the stage killed him. I had Green Lantern pay him back for that.  Later, in visiting Gotham City, I started in on some missions that Maxwell had stumbled upon. One botched mission had a group of mismatched villains from the DC world ganging up on me , finally wiping me out. Another mission had me drawing in a bulldozer to help a citizen demolish a building, but I soon found myself distracted by the game's unlimited potential once again..  The game's hero maker function is a lot of fun. It lets you start with any superhero in the DC universe and then customize him to your liking. Or, if you're creative enough, make a hero from scratch. After searching through the huge list of available Supermans, I picked Man of Steel and played with the size slider to make him a bit smaller than the rest. In playing with the available stamps for limbs, heads, and other features, I found a cute bear head that I liked. I was able to pop off Superman's head and replace it with a bear head. With a few slides and clicks, I had a big-headed Bear of Steel to spawn into Gotham City.  And then, for no reason, I typed in "tiny Lex Luthor" and then pulled him into Gotham City. I then used Batman to kill him instantly. That's what's so great about Scribblenauts Unmasked. It's a proper game, but there's a game within it for your imagination. That quick break turned out to be a 30+ minute play session. Fans of DC Comics are going to have a blast toying with the endless combinations and possibilities this game provides.
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DC fans will love this game
I took a break from the crowded show floor of San Diego Comic-Con to relax for a bit with the latest build of 5th Cell's upcoming game, Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure. Scribblenauts has always been one of those games that's easy to pick up but hard to break away from, but the new superhero twist in this latest game gives us even more to get lost in.

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Great cosplay at San Diego Comic-Con 2013


Dressed to impress
Jul 21
// Dale North
San Diego Comic-Con never fails to impress when it comes to cosplay. Thursday and Friday were a bit limited when it came to costume variety, but today was a different story. In fact, the only thing stopping nearly endless cos...
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Namco Bandai

Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers is coming to North America


Get ready for awesome rock music in November
Jul 20
// Jayson Napolitano
We recently mentioned that Europe was getting some Saint Seiya love with Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers for the PlayStation 3. As it turns out, Namco Bandai intends to bring the game to North America as a downloadable title on t...
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Dragon Ball Z

Get ready to rumble with Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z


This game is definitely pretty
Jul 20
// Jayson Napolitano
Namco Bandai announced of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z a few weeks back at Anime Expo, but here at San Diego Comic Con, we're getting more details.You've heard that the emphasis is on team battles (up to eight players at once, ...
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The party on the pirate ship at San Diego Comic-Con


Assassin's Creed IV
Jul 20
// Dale North
Last night, the Jackdaw from Assassin's Creed IV (or something like it) was docked behind the convention center after San Diego Comic-Con closed. It was lit up, filled with drinks and music, and then boarded by partygoers fr...
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Next Castlevania will have to come from new team
Speaking with producer Dave Cox at San Diego Comic Con about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, we found ourselves surprised by the candid response we received when we asked about the future of the franchise: "I’ve always ...

Belch out eyeballs of your foes in latest Pac-Man game

Jul 20 // Jayson Napolitano
As noted, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures draws upon Pac-Man's roots with a heavy emphasis on eating everything, including the game's primary enemies: ghosts. You'll find yourself eating pellets as well as a variety of foods that replenish your health as you progress through 20 different levels that explore a number of different environments.We were shown an ice level this time around, which had plenty of puzzles of solve, friends to rescue, and a nifty ice slide that had us dodging obstacles in an almost extreme sports-like fashion. From there, we were shown the new Fire Pac-Man power-up that had our prominently-eyebrowed companion spewing fire to demolish enemies and melt ice-based puzzle elements. Other power-ups will include Ice Pac-Man and Metal Pac-Man.The game will also feature a multiplayer mode that will play like the classic maze-based Pac-Man titles as well as a hub area with an arcade that is full of mini-games.I think this game is actually looking pretty good, although it's clear that the audience is meant to be those who are fans of the cartoon series. While that's not me, this by no means looks like it's going to bring shame to the series, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it shapes up moving forward.Are there any fans of the television show out there that are looking forward to this game? Can you get behind a Pac-Man who disposes of his enemies' remains in such a vulgar fashion?
Pac-Man photo
More details about Pac-Man's latest adventure
We covered the newly-announced Pac-Man game at E3, and while Brett's assessment wasn't positive, I was shocked most by the belch that Pac-Man lets loose at the end of each stage, from which the eyeballs of his consumed ghostl...

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Dazzled by virtual pinball: VP Cabs' brilliant table


Uses Zen Studios' Pinball FX
Jul 20
// Dale North
Imagine a pinball machine with no moving parts other than buttons for flippers. Imagine being able to load up any of your favorite tables from memory to play instantly. VP Cabs custom pinball machine lets you do exactly that...

Powerstar Golf is in the rough

Jul 20 // Dale North
What's different here is that Powerstar has special abilities assigned to each character. A character named Frank has a super-powered swing. Another, Reiko, has a magnetic shot that helps players close the gap in shots that were almost there. These are limited-use abilities, so you'll have to be careful to use them when you really need them.   Another neat advantage comes with separate caddie abilities, which lets these players see putt preview lines, or skip golf balls across water surfaces. So what's the problem with Powerstar Golf, then? There seems to be a lack of polish, which has it falling flat in a lot of areas. Take the shot gauge, for example. The small bar you follow with your eyes to know when to press the button to set shot power and accuracy is so small and thin that it's almost unbelievable. It looked about as thick as the letter "I" on the television I used to test this game. Worse, on the bar's return trip, after setting shot power, the bar moves on a colored field that makes it even more difficult to see. It's pretty bad when the most important part of the shot gauge is incredibly difficult to track due to its size and color. The user interface has other issues along the same lines. The UI font is so small that I had to put my face up to the screen to read some messages. Again, very important messages, like shot distances, are so small that I didn't want to bother reading them. They can improve on the presentation pretty easily, but I think the feel of gameplay needs even more work. While setting the shot landing zone works nicely (done with the analog sticks), camera movement and other related controls feel a bit rough. More importantly, the swing mechanic itself feels clunky and slow. Though it looks just like Hot Shots Golf's classic swing meter, it feels like a fair bit rougher. I just could never get connected with it. And while it may float someone else's boat, the art style isn't doing it for me. The courses look fine, but the characters fall flat. Frank, the big-chinned power swinger, looks like your generic thick-chested cool guy from an American cartoon. Reiko, a scientist, wears goofy oversized glasses and has twiggy legs.  I'm glad that the Xbox One is getting an arcade-style golf title at launch. I hope that a bit more polish can be put into Powerstar Golf before then.
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Headed for the bunker?
Powerstar Golf is a launch title for Xbox One. It's an arcade golf title, but it's no Hot Shots Golf. On the surface it seems like it's par for the arcade-y golf course, but a few issues have it stuck in the sand traps. If yo...

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New Assassin's Creed comic focuses on an Indian Assassin


Fighting off the British once more
Jul 19
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Assassin's Creed: Brahman is the next graphic novel based on the popular series by Ubisoft. This entry to the Assassin's story takes place in 19th century India and follows Assassin Arbaaz Mir as he fights against British col...
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Dead Space movie

EA pushing forward with Dead Space movie


Dead Space film not dead, written by Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li screenwriter
Jul 19
// Steven Hansen
The idea of a Dead Space film has been thrown around for several years now, but news out of Comic-Con suggests EA could be more seriously pushing the property towards becoming a film franchise. Maybe Dead Space 3's "disappoin...
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Soulcalibur 2 HD Online coming to the Xbox 360 and PS3


Heihachi will be playable still
Jul 19
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
[Update: Online multiplayer has been confirmed, and the online infrastructure will feature brand new netcode overseen by the Project Soul development team.] Namco Bandai revealed Soulcalibur 2 HD Online at their San Diego Co...
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Comic-Con

Microsoft is giving away Xbox Ones at Comic-Con


Head to the Xbox Lounge to enter the drawing
Jul 19
// Jordan Devore
This weekend, San Diego Comic-Con attendees have the opportunity to win an Xbox One. As down as some of us are on the system right now -- it's not exactly inexpensive, you know? -- there's no topping free. If you're in town, ...

Sonic Lost World has a casino world called Frozen Factory

Jul 19 // Dale North
As you might have learned from previous coverage of Sonic Lost World, the stage names don't quite fit the locations. Sega told us that we'll get a better idea of how the names fit with the worlds when we see the full thing. Think of it this way: this casino zone is a place in the Frozen Factory.  Frozen Factory certainly didn't look frozen or like a factory, instead looking and sounding like an overgrown casino, complete with huge poker chips and coins and deadly spinning dice. Even more deadly are the lasers that shoot out from the walls and weave their way into your running path. If you hit them, your rings go flying as you are electrocuted. For Frozen Factory, make up for more of the challenge than the enemies do. Most go out with a single bounce, save for one ball-shaped enemy with a shield that required running around his back to kick him to knock him off guard. There are little silver coins that you can pick up for points scattered around the stage. They're not like rings, though. At certain points in the stage you can cash them in for access to other parts of the stage. They float in the air above and behind Sonic, growing in number in a sort of coin cloud.  Early on, I was able to cash in coins for access to a pinball segment of the stage. Of course, this pays tribute to past Sonic games -- you'll even see Miles' name in the stage decoration. The first bit I saw was actually mandatory -- I had to flip Sonic into a certain catch to get out of the pinball machine area and back into the stage.  There are also hidden optional pinball stage sections to find on your own, Sega tells us. The rest of the stage had me running from huge runaway slot machine wheels. I was able to use Sonic's new parkour moves to run along walls to dodge these and other obstacles. Some zones had numbered rings to run through, with progress permitted only after running through them in order. Just as we've seen with the other stages in Sonic Lost World, this is situated on a cylinder that can be explored fully as you progress down it. Running alongside another edge or its bottom will reveal alternate paths. The last bit of this stage had me dying a couple of times. Those wall lasers I told you about earlier came out in a big way in the last stretch, doing a sort of Tron thing, beaming out from everywhere in front of me to hinder Sonic's progress. A bell bounced around between multiple laser paths, beckoning you to follow it and ring it along the way. This required some tight platforming jumps to bounce into path clearings to follow it. I made it through after a couple of tries. After this, one final dodge through a fleet of huge rolling slot reels had me finishing the stage. Oh, and the music is just as casino-y as you'd imagine. Fantastic stuff -- brassy and upbeat toe-tapping stuff. I'm glad to see that Sonic Lost World has a casino in it. I wonder what else they have in store for us.
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Cha-ching!
Sonic games have to have a casino world, right? We got an early look at a newly revealed world in Sonic Lost World on the Wii U called Frozen Factory here at San Diego Comic-Con. Despite the name, it's a full-blown casino zone. Remember Casino Night from Sonic 2? What a great stage (with great music), right? This one looks to be just as fun.

Castlevania photo
Castlevania

We played Lords of Shadow 2 on PC, plus new screens


Nine screenshots to sink your fangs into
Jul 19
// Jayson Napolitano
Have I ever mentioned that I'm really looking forward to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2? It was my personal favorite game at E3 last month, but Konami gave us some hands-on time with the PC version here at San Diego Comi...

Preview: The Wonderful 101 from the beginning

Jul 19 // Dale North
[embed]258379:49660:0[/embed] We saw mild-mannered teacher Mr. Wedgewood save school kids from a runaway school bus as it plowed and snaked through a busy city overpass. But getting them squared away (in 38 seconds, no less) wasn't good enough to save the day as the bus continued to speed forward, putting nearby school Blossom Elementary in danger.  As you might have read in our earlier preview of the game, you play as a hero that has the ability to transform nearby citizens into anything you might need to save the day, be it a sword or a powered-up fist. It's as strange as it sounds. Mr. Wedgewood transforms (in 3 billionths of a second) into Wonder-eyes Red and pulls innocent bystanders together into his powerful Crimsom Fist, which allows him to bash in the heads of enemies that have managed to board this bus to hinder his progress. The gathering of citizens is done with either a swiping of the right analog stick into a circle, or by drawing a quick circle on the GamePad's touchscreen. Anyone in the circle becomes part of this fist. It's strange and hilarious every time, too.  Even Wonder-eyes Red's huge fist isn't enough to stop this bus from barreling forward. Luckily, Elliot Hooker, the hero from the Los Angeles branch office, swoops in to help. After seeing his funny transformation sequence where he smells and then fumbles a rose, he turnes into Wonder-eyes Blue. And just like Red, he can use his Wonder powers to gather citizens into useful weapons. A swipe upward on the GamePad lets him assemble a massive supersonic sword to slice through just about anything.  The duo fights off the baddies as fast as they can while trying to progress toward the front of the speeding bus. One of the funniest uses of citizens players drawing lines between the cars of the school bus to form human bridges that our heroes can walk across.  When they get to the front they notice that the road comes to an abrupt stop, just before Blossom Elementary, which means that the bus will crash directly into the school if not stopped. Again, Wonder powers and bystanders save the day with a swipe that turns people into a curved track that would guide the bus away from the school. That effort is almost enough. As the bus flies over the edge, Red has to throw in a last minute punch to push the bus away from colliding with the school.  The kids at school are all starstruck after the Wonder heroes save the day. Well, one ungrateful kid isn't. It seems he has a beef with the entire hero organization. I punched a bus out of the sky for him! What more does he want? So, just as you've been hearing from us, The Wonderful 101 is so crazy and over-the-top that you can't help but love it. Everything from the super dramatic character introductions to the heroic theme song (complete with lyrics) that plays in the background sets the stage for this bizarre game.  The first 20 minutes? They were wonderful. I can't wait for this game.
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Hands-on with the first 15 minutes
Nintendo has a Gaming Lounge here at San Diego where you can play all of their upcoming games, including upcoming Wii U game The Wonderful 101, but we had the chance to go behind closed doors to see something new. We were able to play The Wonderful 101 from the very beginning, giving us a good luck at the game's opening and first few missions. It's bus-punchingly good.

Final Fantasy photo
Final Fantasy

Distant Worlds: Final Fantasy is a whole new concert


New arrangements played at San Diego Comic Con
Jul 19
// Jayson Napolitano
We've covered the Distant Worlds concert series extensively over the years, but after seeing last night's stop in San Diego for Comic Con, I think it's fair to say that this is an entirely new show with tons of new arrangemen...
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San Diego Comic-Con 2013: Day 1 in photos


What a strange place
Jul 19
// Dale North
I've been covering San Diego Comic-Con for years but I'm still not over how strange a place this is. As you look through our gallery remember that this is technically a slower day. Tomorrow and through the weekend will be muc...

You asked for it: Capcom announces new Strider

Jul 18 // Jordan Devore
[embed]258347:49652:0[/embed]
Strider is back photo
New game the result of fan demand
[Update: Seven-minute gameplay video added below, showing off Strider's new moves and upgrades like exploding cipher, projectile reflection, and a lot more] Capcom's San Diego Comic-Con announcement turned out to be an hones...

Batman photo
Batman

Copperhead joins the assassins of Batman: Arkham Origins


And some bonus screenshots
Jul 18
// Jordan Devore
WB Games Montréal's big San Diego Comic-Con reveal for Batman: Arkham Origins is the inclusion of Copperhead as yet another would-be assassin out to hunt down the Bat. The skilled contortionist is, in this take on the...
Firefly Online photo
Firefly Online

Aim to misbehave: Firefly Online announced at Comic-Con


Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill 'em right back!
Jul 18
// Darren Nakamura
At San Diego Comic-Con, Fox Digital Entertainment has announced Firefly Online, coupling it with the teaser video above. It is being described as a "multi-user, social online roleplaying game," and will be available for Andr...
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Awesome Plants vs. Zombies 18" Munny auction for charity


Child's Play to benefit from these cool pieces
Jul 18
// Dale North
PopCap and EA had many of these really funky 18-inch Mega Munny custom pieces on display at their booth here at San Diego Comic-Con today. Many folks from the game development community took one of Kidrobot's big-headed blank...
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UDON brings a Mega load of new books to SDCC


Mega Man 25th anniversary and more
Jul 18
// Dale North
The blue beauty pictured above? That's the Comic-Con exclusive blue laser foil hardcover edition of MM25: Mega Man & Mega Man X Official Complete Works. This thing is heavy, packed with over 400 pages of content -- everyt...

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