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X10: A sandbox shooter and whole lot more: Halo: Reach

Feb 12 // Ben Perlee
Halo: Reach (Xbox 360)Developer: BungiePublisher: Microsoft Game StudiosTo be released: Fall 2010 Halo: Reach, as Bungie was happy to point out, is probably the most ambitious title that it has ever made. While fans of Halo 3 might decry the nature of ODST, it looks like Halo: Reach is a proper prequel, a game that is going to take the series in a new direction, as opposed to keeping the same-old, same-old. The Plot, multiplayer, and the base engine are all brand new to the series. That's a big deal right there. Reach, as many of you know, is a prequel to the original series. It's 2552 on the planet of Reach, and it's the last line of defense against the covenant. You play as the latest recruit to Noble Team, an elite squad of Spartan 3s. While you are the newest member of the squad (replacing some dead guy), you get plenty of face time with the rest of the crew. It's a racial and gender mixed squad, right in line with the politically correct ambitions of the day. Here's the rough'n'gruff leader named Carter 259! Here's his second in command, a no-sh*t badass lady who probably spells her name (Kat 320) with a K! Here's the Asian sniper named Jun 266! Another girl! A burly guy who might be black! A crazy member of the team with a shadowy past! Oh Em Gee! As you can see, not being a fan of the Halo series, the plot here is not the thing that's exciting. It's inspired by The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven, but... yawn. Can we expect a 12 year-old Spartan tactical genius next? I mean, let's take this idyllic '80s Saturday afternoon baloney all the way, m'kay? However, May 3 does actually excite me. This is the big beta launch for the game, so everything I was shown stands for what fans can look forward to playing in a couple of months. Many of your standard Halo modes will be coming, with levels like “Powerhouse,” a cliff-side level taking place on a hydroelectric center. While I was shown that one arena, it looks amazingly good, much better than even the recent ODST. The May beta will bring a bunch of these levels and modes, with a couple new ones players have never seen before. Multiplayer levels are now based more so on the single-player campaign. Insanely (and it was hard to understand how it's going to play out exactly) Halo: Reach is an effing sandbox game. I don't think anyone outside of Bungie has a clear idea how this is going to play out (and they're not letting on just yet) but there is a guy whose entire job is to be the sandbox designer (it's in his title). While details are slim, Bungie made it seem like there are going to be many different ways a player is able to approach a mission. Oddly, expect the triumphant return of health packs. Seems like the folks at Bungie like the idea of strategically placing them all over multiplayer maps. To this I'm completely nonchalant, and who the hell knows, it might be the groundbreaking thing they want it to be. Now, the biggest reason I am excited about Halo: Reach are the visuals. I will say it here: I have never been impressed with a Halo game before when it came to the looks. (Sorry, but personal opinion.) However, Bungie has rebuilt almost the entire Halo engine, and it effin' shows. This game is incredible in action. When some games this day and age struggle with textures, Halo: Reach has some of the most in-depth looking levels, terrain, and weapons I've ever seen on a 360 title. Even the facial animations of your squad mates has gone through the roof. While supposedly amazingly animated games like Assassin's Creed 2 (and a whole lot more) struggle with good looking facial animation, Halo: Reach rocks it in this department. Here's some numbers on what this game can do: There are four times the polygons of Halo 3 in Halo: Reach, for example. Halo 3 had no more than 100 colliding particles, and Halo: Reach has thousands. I'm not one for being a "graphics whore," but damn skippy, does this game look fine. Now, among other things, the Covenant Elite is going to make a comeback in a big way. There was also a new enemy called the Skirmisher, which looked like a kitty/doggy version of the covenant. Expect big teeth. Weapons, too, have been boosted with looks and handling. Besides looking a million times better over Halo 3, weapons like the Needler and the assault rifle look "Oh My God" good. Those graphical enhancements were applied to those weapons, and they look great. Crazily, the Needler is now white, and if you skewer a foe with three or four needles, there will be a nice explosion to reward you. Neat! Armor Abilities are also a new thing. Taking a note from Modern Warfare or Red Faction: Guerilla, these Armor Abilities will be persistent abilities that you can use as much as you'd like, and are determined before the match. This is stuff like speed boosts, and could be a real game changer for Halo fans. When looking at Halo: Reach, I'm going to leave you with this quote from the short documentary I was shown: “This is the definitive Halo by the people who made Halo.” You can better believe they look like they are backing this up. I've never been excited about these games, and you know what? I'm going to be online with the rest of you come May 3.
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I've never been a fan of Halo because I'm too cool for school, and popular games are hella lame, and no one cool likes what everyone likes. I also wear thick rimmed glasses and listen to pretentious music, so that makes me a ...

X10: Hands-off with Fable III

Feb 12 // Ben Perlee
Fable III (Xbox 360)Developer: Lionhead StudiosPublisher: Microsoft Game StudiosTo be released: Holiday 2010 In Fable III, you'll play as the son (or daughter) of the main character from 2008's Fable II. All of the standard stuff you've come to expect from a Fable game is here: the good and the bad, the multiple plots paths, the dog, co-op -- everything. Even better, you can import your save from Fable II, and you will be able to gain some extra features, as well as influence the state of your new main character. Not much changes, but in a post-Mass Effect 2 world, it's a nice feature. What is not coming back is a health bar, or a HUD... period. This is the big news that Molyneux said was going to piss gamers off. Honestly, it's still hard to figure out how much health you have left, but there you go. In Peter we trust, I suppose. The game is heavily inspired by Charles Dickens and the Industrial Revolution in that Albion is now a heavily industrialized nation due to the actions of the corrupt king. Children as young as five-years-old are working in factories, and at least ten a day are dying. Everyone is sad, and it's up to you to make a change or keep things nasty as you progress through the game. Molyneux made it very clear that there is a new theme in Fable III: power. “Power” runs through the whole game, and you'll even become King or Queen by the story's mid-point. Considering the HUD is gone, and also considering that XP is now AWOL in a traditional sense (more on that later), being a powerful leader is very important. You'll be getting followers, and each action you take will cause you to gain or lose followers. Let's say you're the king. If you had promised to close the factories employing children, open schools, and turn towns into the idyllic places they once were -- and then you don't come through -- you will lose followers. If you divorce your wife, you will lose followers. If you marry a baroness, you will gain followers. There's a lot going on, and everything will fluctuate as you play. I've been told that the number of followers is pretty much the clearest manifestation of XP in Fable III. The game features two major updates to the Fable franchise. First, every weapon you use has an impact on you, the player. One of the complaints of Fable II was how even female characters would get really bulky. This changes with Fable III. Depending on the weapon type, you will bulk up or bulk down. A heavy hammer will "Conan you out," while using a gun will make you a pussy-footed weakling. Magic users will become more... magical (much like the iPad). A mixture of weapon uses will also offer a mixture of physical traits. Also, now characters have wings called “extreme expressions.” They pop out when you do attacks, and will align to your good and bad traits. This also ties to the weapons. Weapons initially start out weak and simple, and depending on what you do, the item will start to look and act different. If you kill a bunch of spiky Hobs and murder innocents, the weapon will be spiky and drip blood. If you kill a lot of another enemy, it'll start to pick up those traits. Even better, those weapons will be tied to your Gamertag, so your unique weapon will be called “Puffm@ster420's Blade of Blood,” or something similar depending on your chosen Xbox LIVE handle. Even when you trade it, that weapon will always be named after you. Molyneux also mentioned that the weapons are tied to your Gamerscore, but how those numbers translate into the game and with these weapons was made unclear. The next, and biggest, update of Fable is the inclusion of the “touch” feature. Heavily inspired by Ico, “touching” is done with the right trigger, and it is a contextual interaction with the characters in the game. You can discipline your daughter or pick her up, or hug your wife. As King, drag peons down to the dungeon, and more. The flagship animation here is holding hands. You can walk your daughter back home, or you can drag a hobo to be sold to a factory. It's supposedly designed to create more emotion, as well as man-on-man hand-holding, and looks like a core element of Fable III. Oddly, there was no confirmation of an episodic rollout; Molyneux was very diplomatic and indefinite. After the episodic release of Fable II, it seems like a good enough guess. An even more curious missing element was the lack of a mention of Project Natal. Or the support of Project Natal. Or something. See, while Molyneux was talking about the game, a representative was playing it. Almost every time a “touch” element of the game would happen, the player would move his right hand like he was holding hands with the character -- for example, lifting up the child. I even saw him do a finishing move like an overhead smash with his hand. Was there a hidden Natal camera somewhere? I have no idea, but I'm going to speculate that players without Natal are going to be able to play using just RT, and Natal payers will have support for some "waggle." If what I suspect regarding Natal is true, I'm not really impressed. Of course, we won't find out until E3, I'm sure, and I hope, Molyneux has some surprises in store that are better than what we've already seen with Wii motion. The graphics have been boosted quite a bit, as well. While the last game had smallish, cramped dungeons, Fable III's are more expansive. The general world is pretty nice and lush where it needs to be. It's obvious at a glance that this sequel looks much better than Fable II. Fable III certainly has some pretty interesting new features, and it's obvious that the game is going in some interesting directions. It's also obvious that there is a whole lot that Molyneux is keeping close to his chest. Let's see if the guy can follow through with all that he's promised, and maybe deliver on the Natal stuff he's hinted at. Fingers crossed.
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I hope you guys have been having a good time checking out the X10 information that has been flowing out like a stream of Microsoft-branded consciousness. Seriously, it's kicking the butts of everyone who is going, and I'm doi...

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X10: Here are some new Alan Wake screenshots


Feb 12
// Jim Sterling
To compliment the news that Alan Wake won't be coming to PC, here are some fresh screenshots that show off the "psychological action thriller thing" in action. The images are basically what we've come to expect from Alan Wake...
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X10: There will be no health bar in Fable III


Feb 11
// Brad Nicholson
Each new Fable brings fresh ideas and new mechanics to the table. Fable III is no exception -- but one in particular might just get you "super pissed."During the presentation for the upcoming title at Microsoft's media-only X...
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X10: Five things we think we learned about Fable III


Feb 11
// Brad Nicholson
[UPDATE]We've since seen the game in action and heard what Lionhead Studios had to spill about Fable III at this particular event. This little bit of humor and editorial is now available below the fold. And why is that, you d...
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X10: Our first look at Left 4 Dead 2's 'The Passing' DLC


Feb 11
// Jordan Devore
One of the many things that I found delightful about Left 4 Dead 2 was its use of daytime levels. It's not something you see done frequently when it comes to zombies, videogames or otherwise. That said, seeing these dark and ...
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X10: No plans for Dead Rising 2 prelude DLC on PS3


Feb 11
// Dale North
Earlier we told you a bit about Dead Rising 2's downloadable content, called Dead Rising: CASE ZERO. This playable prologue ties together the two games. We have a bit of new information on it, but one of the key points is tha...
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X10: Day-one Game Room purchases come with exclusive item


Feb 11
// Nick Chester
Microsoft's old-school gaming hub Game Room is coming to Xbox 360 this March, and it's already been confirmed to launch with 30 titles. But starting in April, expect somewhere between five and seven games a week to be added f...
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X10: Dead Rising 2's new screens have me squeeing


Feb 11
// Dale North
From Microsoft's X10 event today we learned that Dead Rising 2 is coming on August 31st. Nice. If you've ever done time at an anime convention, you know about squeeing. It's like a high-pitched squeal of delight that you'd ty...
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X10: Capcom reveals more Marcus and Dom in Lost Planet 2


Feb 11
// Brad Nicholson
The weather in San Francisco just isn't "warm" enough to warrant a Gears of War reveal, but that doesn't mean the ongoing Microsoft's media-only X10 event lacks Marcus Fenix and Dom Santiago. A mere three images of the duo's ...
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X10: A closer look at Alan Wake Limited Edition, box art


Feb 11
// Nick Chester
So you know when Alan Wake hit store shelves -- May 19. You know what's inside the Limited Edition box, too. But when you go to the store, what should you be looking for?  This stuff, apparently. Microsoft and Remedy hav...
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X10: New Left 4 Dead DLC coming, also comic


Feb 11
// Dale North
That's the first Left 4 Dead, folks. New DLC for the older game, to kind of go alongside the new Left 4 Dead 2 DLC. Confused? There's two DLC packs coming, one for each game. They kind of tie together. First off, the L4D2 DLC...
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X10: Crackdown 2 looks hot, as does its box art


Feb 11
// Jordan Devore
With a slew of release dates being revealed at X10 and Crackdown 2 one of the few games not included, I was more than a little bummed out. But then, approximately five seconds later, a ton of new screenshots -- including the ...
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X10: Updates on Final Fantasy XIII bundle, also faceplate


Feb 11
// Dale North
Here's what the Final Fantasy XIII Xbox 360 faceplate looks like. Created by Square Enix designer Tetsuya Nomura, these plates are super limited in number. The are "only available promotionally in fixed quantities across sele...
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X10: Alan Wake date, trailer, and pre-order bonuses


Feb 11
// Joseph Leray
A few weeks ago, Microsoft talking head Aaron Greenberg promised we'd be seeing Alan Wake "in the first half of 2010." Those of you who haven't given up Alan Wake -- what with it's umpteen delays and all -- will be excited t...
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X10: Dead Rising 2 dated, exclusive 360 prologue content


Feb 11
// Brad Nicholson
If all parties involved continue to play nice and hit their respective milestones, it appears as if we'll be mowing zombies in Dead Rising 2 particularly soon. Word from Major Nelson via his oh-so-informative "10 things you n...
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X10: Perfect Dark, Game Room, and more coming this March


Feb 11
// Jordan Devore
The downloadable games scene for Xbox 360 is heating up this March. As announced at X10, Game Room, the virtual hub for old-school arcade titles, will be launching. Additionally, March will see the release of a number of Xbox...
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X10: Halo: Reach beta arrives on May 3


Feb 11
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Microsoft's X10 event is going on right now here in San Francisco and we just learned that the Halo: Reach beta begins on May 3, 2010. This beta is for the multiplayer mode and anyone that owns Halo 3: ODST will be able to ge...

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