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New Armored Core photo
New Armored Core

Armored Core: Verdict Day announced for 360 and PS3


Rock 'em Sock 'em Corebots
Feb 22
// Chris Carter
[Update: Namco Bandai has just announced the game will see a US release. More official screens have been added to the gallery.] Although Armored Core V didn't deliver the goods for a lot of people, I still have hope for the f...
Mechs photo
Mechs

First trailer reveal for Heavy Gear Assault


Revitalised mech combat franchise returns
Feb 19
// Alasdair Duncan
If you needed any reminder that 2013 could well be the Year of the Mech, then this reveal trailer for Heavy Gear Assault should be another strong reminder that mechs are truly back. Developed by MekTekStudios and published b...
Hawken video photo
Hawken video

Hawken trailer shows off new PhysX eye candy


That your PC can't handle
Jan 30
// Allistair Pinsof
In case you were concerned that visually-stunning mech shooter Hawken would run well on your computer, you can always turn on the PhysX options that will ensure amazing visuals and mournful performance (for most). In this vi...

Review: Zone of the Enders HD Collection

Nov 24 // Brett Zeidler
Zone of the Enders HD Collection (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Kojima Productions, High Voltage Software Publisher: KonamiRelease: October 30, 2012MSRP: $39.99 If you're intimately familiar with these games after playing them countless times on your PlayStation 2, yes, these are the exact same games you remember. They stay true to the originals by keeping the exact same content, but upgrading the textures, smoothing out the jaggies, and expanding the aspect ratio to widescreen. These are the games you know and love, looking more beautiful than ever before. Read on for more technical details. The first Zone of the Enders was developed concurrently alongside Metal Gear Solid 2. Even back in 2001, it was clear which was neglected in design and budget. The story was a mess and, frankly, wasn't interesting at all (voice acting was equally painful to listen to). It follows Leo as a group of his friends are killed, and he happens upon Jehuty (your Orbital Frame from here on out) and its AI A.D.A., where they go on adventure not unlike Zelda where you must find particular upgrades so the ship can leave the Jupiter colony installation in one piece. The climax never really comes to a satisfying resolution, and the player can never really feel bothered to care for the characters. It was the gameplay and the visuals that kept players invested. I can even recall a time when I thought it was the best-looking game I ever saw up to that point. Combat was quick, sleek, and made the player feel like a badass. Even though the player never meets any new enemies, and the camera can prove to be a problem occasionally, fighting always felt right. There is nothing quite as satisfying as pulling out insane combos with your sword, backing off to fire a few shots, boosting to the side to launch some rockets, and finishing it all off with a final strike. All in beautiful HD now, to boot. No other game (that I know of) to this day plays like Zone of the Enders. It holds up remarkably well, save for the awful story and voice acting. The game's aesthetic looks better than it ever has -- colors just pop with the increased resolution. Only the game's cinematics were not able to receive the HD treatment. But really, there isn't much reason to watch them anyway. Flash forward ahead to 2003, and Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner took everything that was said about the first Z.O.E. above, but multiplied it by ten. Even the PS2 version still looks gorgeous now. Kojima Productions went with a cel-shaded look where particle effects glow and shine through all of the action perfectly, and there's much more variety in the environments which all helps to create a perfect storm of eye candy in HD. The anime cinematics were also redone in full HD this time around, so nothing was left untouched when it came out of its time capsule. The story and voice acting are slightly better in this sequel, but there's still not much that can be said about them. It's all very forgettable. Again, it's the gameplay that makes all of the same problems passable. Combat moves much, much faster than in the first title, and the game will throw many more enemies at you than before. Good thing Jehuty has a revitalized moveset and array of weapons to take care of them like it's nothing. This is the best way to experience mecha action that no other game can offer like Z.O.E. But if you just want to catch up on the series, High Voltage Software did an amazing job bringing these cult classics up to speed on the Xbox 360. Be warned, however, that the PlayStation 3 version (which we did not play for review) is well-documented to have a significantly lower performance. If you're an old fan, dedicated fan, or a would-be brand new fan of the series, Zone of the Enders HD Collection is easily worth your time and money, especially with the inclusion of the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demo and The 2nd Runner alone.
Z.O.E. HD Review photo
Mecha action brought up to speed
Zone of the Enders was a welcome departure from Hideo Kojima's legendary brainchild Metal Gear Solid back in 2001. While a stark contrast to tactical espionage action, Z.O.E. always weirdly felt like it could easily fit ...

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Strike Suit Zero successfully funded, beta in December


Space-mecha-shooting is go!
Nov 21
// Alasdair Duncan
Space combat fans will be happy to know that the ambitious Strike Suit Zero Kickstarter campaign has managed to hit its funding goal and more. With the project confirmed, developer Born Ready is rolling out a closed beta in D...
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MechWarrior Online open beta impending


Mechanical murder for all
Oct 26
// Fraser Brown
Mark October 29 on your calendar, or on the wall of your cell, people. Come Monday, MechWarrior Online is moving to open beta and -- if you haven't already -- you'll finally get a taste of that hot mech on mech action.  ...
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Strike Suit Zero devs turn to Kickstarter to finish game


Can you spare $100,000? For mechs?
Oct 25
// Jordan Devore
Casey's preview of Strike Suit Zero had me on board before I finished reading it. Even halfway decent space combat is an alluring prospect in this day and age, to say nothing of the ship's ability to transform into a mech. Wh...
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MechWarrior Online open beta incoming


Founder's Program ending soon
Oct 10
// Jordan Devore
After working with players on the closed beta of MechWarrior Online, Piranha Games is nearly ready to transition into the open beta. That will be happening on Tuesday, October 16, and those on the fence about the Founder's Pr...
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Zone of the Enders HD Collection targets late Oct. launch


Sep 19
// Jordan Devore
Halloween with Zone of the Enders HD Collection doesn't sound like a bad way to spend the day at all. In North America, the two-game pack will be out for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on Tuesday, October 30. HD Collection compil...

Preview: Strike Suit Zero and space-based mech warfare

Sep 07 // Casey Baker
Strike Suit Zero (PC)Developer: Born Ready GamesPublisher: DoublesixRelease: TBD You may have seen the trailers for Strike Suit Zero floating around here and elsewhere on the Internet, and the glimpse of giant mechs may have gotten your mind to imagining some heavy duty ground combat sections. This may be a bit misleading, as I was informed by the developers that Strike Suit Zero only takes place hovering thousands of miles above any sort of solid ground, if anywhere near it at all. However, I would definitely urge you not to be disappointed by this news, as the primary transforming mech suit more than makes up for it with its incredible versatility in space warfare. Even with a pre-beta build that we had a chance to play, the combat was both challenging and engaging. In the first mission we previewed, the first large-scale battle took place against a great deal of smaller ships. This helped me get a feel for the basic controls, which are generally mouse and keyboard controls with a few adjustments relating to boosting and extra movement in the Strike Suit. Gamepads and joysticks are also supported, though I stuck with the typical PC controls. The mission's storyline involved coming to the aid of a destroyed Earth base in the midst of a massive civil war between colonists possessing a powerful technology and those still remaining patriotic to the planet. The sense of a large battle taking place was in full effect, as ships on my side engaged in dogfights while I tried my best to keep hordes of enemy ships in my line of fire. With a press of the spacebar, my ship would quickly transform into its mech state -- provided I had enough "flux." In this mode, I could hold down the right mouse button to paint several targets and release it to let go of a barrage of missiles that destroyed several targets at once. The Strike Suit also can dash quickly out of the way of incoming enemy projectiles in full 360-degree movement, and shoots powerful machine gun bursts as its primary weapon. Flux is gained by taking down enemies in chains, and it is entirely possible to stay in this more powerful mode provided you can keep chaining kills and refilling your flux bar. At one point during the session, a comparison was made regarding the space combat to Max Payne -- which I found a little strange at first, but as soon as I figured out how to effectively use the Strike Suit, this comparison completely clicked. As you're battling enemies, you learn quickly to switch back and forth in rapid bursts between your mech suit and your regular ship to effectively store flux and keep enough power stored for stronger enemies. One of the biggest strategies -- especially in the later parts of the second mission we previewed -- can be found in quickly switching to your mech suit to paint a few targets and dodge a few missiles before switching right back to your normal ship mode and boosting out of harm's way. This definitely did give off a similar vibe to Max Payne's bullet-dodge mechanic, as it was all about the best timing to get into a special mode before painting several targets and leaping out of the way. As mentioned before, the game was still in a pre-beta stage so although there was narrative and storyline built in, it was given to us by a hastily Photoshopped and distorted picture of a young and much maligned male pop star as a space commander with a robotic female voice. Of course, we were told to ignore this early build stuff, but in a weird way, it sort of worked. Granted, I'm sure the actual narrative will be handled much more professionally but like early screenings of movies where character dialogue has some odd kinks to be worked out, it was still sort of fun to see some effort put into getting the story and dialogue at least set into place. Overall, I really believe Strike Suit Zero will do an awesome job in reviving the space combat genre for those who grew up with and loved games like Wing Commander. It has intelligent, tough enemy AI and a great Strike Suit advantage that prepares you for the challenges ahead with powerful defensive and offensive abilities. The eerie, otherworldly soundtrack is certainly no slouch either.
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Born Ready Games has a vision to revive large-scale space combat as a viable genre in the vein of games like Wing Commander and Freelancer. With their new PC venture Strike Suit Zero, the company is poised to do exactly that....

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How does next week sound for Iron Brigade on PC?


Aug 07
// Jordan Devore
Even this long after the name change, I'm still not used to calling it Iron Brigade. The game formerly known as Trenched will be making the waltz over to PC on August 13, 2012, Double Fine has announced. And yes, it'll be ava...
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Last week, we headed down to Nvidia headquarters and got our first look at the free-to-play, Cryengine3-powered Mechwarrior Online from Piranha Games. I got to chat with the game's creative director, Bryan Ekman, and he told ...

Preview: MechWarrior Online

Aug 02 // Steven Hansen
MechWarrior Online (PC) Developer: Piranha Games Publisher: Infinite Game Publishing Release: Summer 2012 More and more titles are embracing the free-to-play market and MechWarrior Online is among them. With recent, praised releases like Blacklight Retribution and Tribes: Ascend, as well as the upcoming, mech-based Hawken, visual fidelity up to current standards is basically expected of Western free-to-play games. As such, MWO boasts some high-fidelity visuals and DirectX11 support. That being said, the art direction largely leans towards a dank and war-torn direction. The levels I played felt rather similar, despite changes in color tone. There was a snow-blindingly white locale, a rainy, mountainous evening, a level with a sickening greenish industrial flair and smoke stacks, a washed out, crumbling urban environment, and so on. Everything feels quite desolate and the levels are mostly open outdoor environments -- these battle mechs need room to strut their stuff -- so there is an air of familiarity about them, despite the changes in terrain and lighting. However, I’m sure these subtle stage differences are going to be important factors to consider for someone who knows the game well and isn’t in their equivalent of a first day behind the wheel. The devil’s in the details and there are details here for days, to the point of intimidation. It’s not the most accessible title around. It took me a while just to get acclimated to the vehicular piloting of the mechs and it wasn’t until I was just about ready to call it a night that I claimed my first victim. Giants robots are hard to destroy, even if you have your own giant robot. Who would’ve thunk it? For the uninitiated, as I was, down (s) and up (w) control your throttle forward and backward, setting your mech to a constant speed. Right (d) and left (a) point the mech in the direction you want it heading, while your pilot looks around freely relative to where your mouse is pointing, though you can no longer look around a full 360 degrees (at least not in the ones I used) like an inquisitive owl. Otherwise, the scheme is familiar. Click the mouse to fire your lasers (or, sometimes, other weapons), space to jump for mechs outfitted with such an ability, and so on. Oh, and a super neat controller is in the works, too, though I didn’t get to use it. Simulation! These lumbering hulks can absorb a lot of punishment and your lasers overheat with quickness when overused, which causes a temporary system-wide shutdown, leaving you vulnerable. Again, it’s a slow-moving affair. Teamwork, restraint and thoughtful piloting seemed imperative, giving confrontations a dogfight sort of volley as you trade strangely whimsical red and green pew pews of laser. Mechs are armored differently and will take a lot of damage to different portions before finally sustaining critical damage, rendering you a scrap heap for the remainder of the present match. In addition to the combat, there is an extensive warehouse for playing robot dress up, as well as selecting pilot perks. BattleMechs can be outfitted with different armor, weapons and color schemes. Also in this depot, you can choose between your available battle bots, which come in light, medium and heavy varieties. During my hands-on time, there were about a dozen available, all of which had dull names like HBK-46 or the slightly more colorful Ranger, instead of cool ones like Deathscythe, but I guess you can’t fault them for that. These are heavily industrialized, realistic death machines, after all. Once you begin to swap out parts, the possibilities are rather staggering. Each individual piece -- head, torso, arms, legs -- has applicable weapons or armor to change and more still to buy. It remains to be seen how viable all of the possible builds will be, but, for the time being, they’re possible, and should work towards giving your mechano-man a distinct feel that conforms to your play style. Equally up in the air is how purchasable content, like parts, will affect stat differences, or how viable a completely (real-world) purchase-free build will be; balance, in short. I’m quite interested to see how the well traveled MechWarrior property adapts to this free-to-play model, especially with sexy up and comer Hawken right on its tail. There’s definitely a learning curve to it, which could keep new players from investing the time it takes to learn its nuanced, restrained combat, without the impetus of making the most use of their money spent. Given its niche, the steady influx of newbies could also frustrate those who are deeply invested in its sim-like style, upsetting match balance. In the mean time, you can head over to the MechWarrior Online site to reserve your pilot name, lest some cretin swoop in and filch your moniker.
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The MechWarrior property is an oldie. Perhaps even unrecognizable to some, as there hasn’t been a proper entry in like ten years; I know it in name and concept only, having seen box art or occasional screens. Accordingl...

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Jenner mech revealed for MechWarrior Online


Jul 26
// Brett Zeidler
There's never enough mechs. It appears Piranha Games would agree, as they showed off the recently announced Jenner mech that'll appear in MechWarrior Online. Before we go any further, I'd like to just quote the trailer real ...
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First look at Caustic Valley map in MechWarrior Online


Jul 23
// Brett Zeidler
It's really, really f*cking hot outside. I don't know about you guys, but it's well over a hundred degrees around my neck of the woods and it has been all summer long. It may be a weird coincidence, but Piranha Games has rev...
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MechWarrior Online exists, I've come to terms with that


Jun 28
// Kyle MacGregor
With Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor now in the rear-view mirror and Hawken shining brightly on the horizon mechs seem to be experiencing something of a resurgence as of late. And now that your turret arms' ...
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MechWarrior Online initiates its founder's program


Jun 19
// Jordan Devore
As previously covered, MechWarrior Online is offering a multi-tier founder's program that gives players willing to throw down some cash up front early access to the free-to-play game and exclusive content. Starting today, you...

Review: Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor

Jun 19 // Chris Carter
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor (Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: From SoftwarePublisher: CapcomReleased: June 19, 2012MSRP: $59.99 As previously stated, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is a Kinect-only joint that uses a controller in tandem with Microsoft's high-tech camera. Now, I have a decent size basement, and plenty of room to play Dance Central 2 with both my wife and I. To maximize my experience, I cleared out the room and placed a chair in the middle of it. I was able to calibrate my motion tracking sitting and standing settings in-game. So far, so good. Upon piloting my mech (which are called Vertical Tanks) for the first time however, the game's control issues become immediately evident. Simply put, the fact that they're required is absurd, because they absolutely do not need to be, for reasons that become clearer the further the game goes. First off, you have to sit up straight while playing (no slouching!). If you want to have less issues, this is non-negotiable. As you can imagine, it's very awkward to sit up straight constantly during gameplay -- especially when games are supposed to be a relaxation tool for some people. While this isn't a deal-breaker, pretty much everything else is. [embed]229691:44119:0[/embed] Posture aside, the main problem is switching between the game's two points of view. Basically you're in a jalopy tin-can mech with three other co-pilots in your default view, looking at your instrument panel -- you start every mission in this same manner. In order to actually see outside of your tank (to you know, move, or shoot anything), you have to put both of your hands in front of you to "grab" the panel and pull yourself forward. This motion never works consistently, and the controller itself (which the game says you need to hold, as both movement and firing are done from it) even blocks your hands from the sensor sometimes. This basically means that in the heat of battle, you're putting your hands in front of you back and forth constantly just to see/shoot/move, and go back to view your instruments. Once you make the motion to utilize the viewport, you don't have to specifically keep holding your hands forward, but you can easily move in/out of it accidentally, depending on where your hands are at all times -- so basically, not only do you need to sit up straight, but you need to babysit your hand placement as well. This wouldn't be so bad if it actually worked, and you didn't have to constantly move in and out of your viewing area to mess around with pointless switches and gadgets like the HVAC system. To make matters worse, a large AP shell will cause you to shake out of your viewport, which means more two-handed masturbation while fumbling a controller. The other big issue is that you are required to physically stand up for a lot of sections to pop open the hatch and periodically check out the action. This is a cool idea, but constantly has motion issues, and again, actually looking around is done with the controller, which can hinder the Kinect's sensors. It also means you need even more playing space, because the Kinect needs to detect your head before you're allowed to play the game (and every time you get up to use the bathroom or whatever, you have to recalibrate this). My breaking point came around Mission 5, which forces you to stand up, and scout for an enemy platoon. After about thirty seconds I found said enemy unit, and was told to "make sure I give the signal so my unit can start up the engines" -- except the game doesn't tell you what "the signal" is. I pressed every button, waved my arms around like an idiot, and even tried to vocalize something for the Kinect mic -- nothing. Eventually we are getting shot at, and then my engine-guy decides to start it up. After that, you have to "juice" the engine yourself by holding your right hand down, grabbing a lever, and pulling. Even though I had been doing this fine the first four missions, for some reason my Kinect shat itself and it wouldn't do it. After getting killed four times (having to wait for the enemy unit to show itself from the very beginning of the mission each time), I had to go do something else for a while. Eventually, I figured out the mission, and was able to continue on my way. But shortly after that, I had another similar experience that severely impaired my ability to enjoy the game. Kinect isn't entirely to blame here (as I've had plenty of good Kinect experiences since buying it at launch) as much as the design choices involved. Unfortunately, there is no voice control capability whatsoever; either to augment the experience, or provide an additional control scheme. To add insult to injury, you may be having issues as a result of a false positive when calibrating. To be clear; the calibration tool can be deceiving. Sometimes if you're sitting too far away, the game will correctly calibrate like nothing is wrong, leaving you to guess whether or not everything is fine. After you're unable to grab a pivotal lever and suffer an untimely and frustrating death because you're not immersed in the game's perfect conditions, you may not be inclined to keep playing. I could have fixed this entire scheme with one simple design philosophy -- allow the player to turn the Kinect off. Simply allow the left analog stick button-click to move the player in and out of the cockpit (a button that is not used, mind you), and by pressing the right analog stick, allow the player the option to select certain instruments -- done and dusted. Utilizing voice commands to bark orders at crew-members (thus not forcing you to wave your arms around) could have also helped immensely, and helped drive the "crew unity" point across much more effectively.  Even then, if you put all of this forced control nonsense aside, you're greeted with one of the most generic games of all time. All of SB:HA's characters are literally stereotypes, including the "aww sheeet!" token black guy and the "haha you must be a virgin... loser!" New York guy. Even the loading screens remind you of the shallow supporting cast, such as the "proud Native American who eventually embraced his heritage", or the "OCD young female". The story is fairly terrible (like a World War 3 Kojima fanfic gone wrong), and the art direction is non-existent, as it's basically a very simple "Army" aesthetic. The game attempts to have you "connect" with your crew through "fist bumping and hand shaking" Kinect motions, but it falls completely flat due to how unlikable pretty much every character in the game is. Also, these simple movements are often plagued with the above tracking problems. For those who feel like putting up with the game's controls, there is a full coop feature for up to three other players for some missions. By playing coop you're able to unlock new VT parts, so it's in your best interest to look for people as much as possible. Everyone pilots their own independent Vertical Tanks, and in the few coop sessions I was able to test, I had no latency issues. All of the above issues are quite a shame -- I liked the original Xbox title (giant controller and all), because it worked. All I had to do is push a button and it did what it needed to do. It was extremely non-user friendly and had some questionable design choices, but ultimately it was beatable, and unique for the time. Heavy Armor on the other hand isn't unique in any way. At its core, it's a basic mech game with a "realistic and gritty" feel to it that you've seen a million times before. Maybe at some point, the Kinect requirement can be patched out of it. Until then, piloting these Vertical Tanks even while sober may result in a loss of brain cells.
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If you were alive in 2002, you may remember Steel Battalion for the original Xbox. To many gamer's dismay, it required a special giant $200 controller and a priceless amount of mental fortitude, making it one of the most uniq...

E3: Hawken looks to be the king of free-to-play gaming

Jun 09 // Patrick Hancock
This was the first time that I was able to play Hawken’s most unique game type, Siege Mode. Two teams compete to destroy the other's base, but in order to accomplish that goal, an airship must be launched. In order to launch your airship towards the enemies’ base, you need to collect energy via stations throughout the map or by killing your enemies and depositing it in your base. You can only carry a limited amount of energy at any given time, and if you die, all of your energy drops. This creates for a nice sense of risk versus reward, considering if you die with maximum energy your enemy may receive a huge boost. In Siege Mode, teamwork is what really shines. Everyone I played with had headsets on, and we put them to very good use. While I can’t say for certain, it was pretty obvious that the other team was not using their headsets, considering how overwhelmingly one-sided the match was in our favor. Constantly traveling together, even in just pairs, and watching each other’s back helps secure the energy that you need to win the game. As someone who almost always games with buddies, Siege Mode is going to be my go-to game mode for sure. The free-for-all map that I played was very different from any Hawken map I had played prior. This new map had a ton of verticality built into it. In order to take advantage of this, I chose to play as a long-ranged light mech instead of my in-your-face brute force style that I usually go with. Being able to maneuver around the map relatively easily with a lighter class in conjunction with the deadly range made me a killing machine (literally). I was also equipped with an item I hadn’t seen in my last preview: the hologram. Placing the hologram down made a stationary image of me to distract any enemies on my tail. This ability saved my circuits just about every time I deployed it. Jason also told me that people thought the game was broken because they were pumping rounds into holograms with no results. People are silly. I asked Jason how they were approaching matchmaking for matches, since when a game fails to match you up against people of similar skill level, people can and will get frustrated quickly. He told me that the main system is still in the works, but they’re smart enough to use a multitude of statistics to match people up. While a player’s in-game level is a nice place to start, there’s nothing that says a level 5 player isn’t better than someone level 20. Jason brought up things like kill-death ratio and time played as other factors that may go into matchmaking. There will be both ranked and unranked matches in Hawken, where ranked matches affect your player level and unranked matches do not. Ranked matches will work as they do in most other games -- a quick match against (hopefully) similarly skilled opponents in a competition for experience. Unranked matches will use a server browser, something that gets PC gamers all giddy as soon as it is mentioned. I know I got goosebumps. I unfortunately didn’t get to play around with the mech customization, but from what Jason was telling me, it sounds pretty robust. You will be able to mix and match your mech’s look and feel, but something that was new to me was the addition of skill trees. Jason likened the skill trees in Hawken to those in Borderlands, where staying in one tree allows you to unlock one very special power at the very end. You don’t have to stay in the same skill tree, though -- you’re free to mix-and-match those just as your appearance. The amount of character slots isn’t determined yet, but I’d reckon that only a few will be free and more can be unlocked with real money. When I brought up the possibility of a Spectator Mode, I was very surprised to learn that Hawken is already planning to have a large focus on the eSports scene. As a large eSports fan, it really warmed my heart to see what is now one of my most anticipated games focus on competitive gaming. I talked up Dota2’s Spectator Mode features and just how easy it is to jump in and watch a game, so hopefully Hawken can take some ideas from Valve. Unfortunately, Spectator Mode and anything else eSports-focused may not make it into the launch build of the game, but will be a “priority” around the launch window. As someone who primarily plays games on the PC, Hawken was one of my favorite games of E3. My only concern is the same concern I have with every new free-to-play title: how slowly in-game currency is unlocked. If it's too slow, the game will start to feel like a grind and turn players away. If it's too fast, there's no incentive to use real-world money. I’m a firm believer of the free-to-play movement that’s sweeping over the industry when it strikes that balance, and Hawken looks to be headed in the right direction. Hawken will enter open beta on December 12th of this year. You can register for the beta here.
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When I got to check out the upcoming free-to-play mech game Hawken for PC at PAX East earlier this year, I was blown away. The developers nailed the most important part of the mech genre: the feel. If you don’t feel as ...

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MechWarrior Online founder's program detailed


May 22
// Jordan Devore
I know the free-to-play nature of MechWarrior Online turned some of us away early on, but the game looks rather good, visually speaking. Surely that and the brand are reason enough to check out the closed beta, which you can ...
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Gaikai to offer Hawken prior to its full launch


May 15
// Jordan Devore
This probably goes without saying, but, December isn't exactly right around the corner. As such, the wait for Hawken has and continues to be a test of my patience. Cloud gaming service Gaikai has reached an agreement with Met...

Preview: Kinect rules with Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor

May 11 // Ryan Perez
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor (Xbox 360) Developer: From Software Publisher: Capcom Release: June 19, 2012 I need to get this out of the way right now: Heavy Armor is the first Kinect game I've ever played where I didn't feel like a complete idiot while doing so. No simple balancing act or acrobatic feat is required during the fun. In fact, the majority of the experience requires you to be comfortably seated. Fat people, rejoice, for we have secured our victory against active gaming. From Software was quick to state that their primary goal was to make a Kinect game for the hardcore audience, and push the add-on away from the regular mini-game titles that plague anything with motion controls. Their first principle: While hardcore gamers might be intrigued by the concept of gestures mimicking actions, the majority of their dedicated gaming lives have been experienced via the controller ... and there's no reason to completely get rid of that. In Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, you control what is essentially a tank. In the not-so-distant future, silicon-consuming microbes have completely devoured the world's digital technology, reverting us back to the basic combustion tech of yesteryear. Your mech, unlike the peppy, agile ones we're used to seeing come out of Japan, controls more like a big, bulky, powerful machine actually would ... slowly and ungracefully. The developer put a lot of research into how the tanks of today feel and control, and it definitely shows. Your mech consists of several features with their own useful purpose, all accessed by very accurately associated gestures and movements. Reaching up and pulling down activates your periscope, which provides a nice alternative to the measly viewing window to your front. Fires may spark in the cockpit, which require you to reach to your side, open a small panel, and open the vents so you and your crew don't suffocate. Certain moments require a better full-scale view, so standing up will open your top hatch and pop your character out of the cockpit. Putting your hand to your face then activates your binoculars, which are easily controlled by the right thumb stick. Every command makes absolute sense, and never feels out of place or conflicting with the controller in your hand. That's the best thing about this game; while your tank contains a variety of Kinect-controlled features (camera monitor, engine and weapon controls, etc.), the general gameplay is actually manipulated by that thing in your hand that Peter Molyneux deemed a nuisance. Yep, when you're trudging the landscape and blowing away enemies, expect to do so like in any other shooter: with the 360 controller. For me, what stuck out the most when it came to the controls and features is that they're intuitive enough to actually lend themselves quite well to the action of the game. If you suck at console shooters (like yours truly), then chances are your blast window will take enough hits to become completely shot out. At this point, any intense action will often require you to reach forward, shut the viewing hatch, and then reach up for the periscope. Failing to do so will inevitably result in a bullet flying through the port and killing either you or one of your crew. Sometimes, during an intense battle, footsteps will be heard trotting atop your mech. Quick, sound action means standing up, opening the top hatch, pointing and shooting them. Slow action results in them opening your hatch, tossing in a sizzling grenade, and you hopefully grabbing and throwing it out the bottom hatch. The heat of battle provides several natural and scripted instances that make the entire experience feel very immersive, and can be designated as one of the few instances where motion controls actually aide in the immersion. I'm not a fan of Kinect, so every new game I play is like learning how to walk all over again. With Heavy Armor, though, everything quickly became second nature. This is all tied neatly into a bow by the game's World War II aesthetics. A quick look at the box art is a fine enough example, but to delve deeper, fellow soldiers don the iconic green, netted helmets of 1940s American soldiers, as well as the earthy toned attire. Even the mechs resemble beat-up Sherman tanks: faded and scuffed paint, parts falling off, and pure, raw metal. Overall, the game was definitely not what I was expecting. Considering the track record of Kinect games, I had a preconception of Heavy Armor before even seeing it at all. The moment I heard "is played while seated" and "controller," though, I was instantly intrigued. And then when I played it, well, I didn't want to stop. The bastards got me all hot and bothered with a sexy game, and didn't even have the decency to let me finish. If you own a Kinect (and I know some of you do), then there's little doubt it's experienced a bit of neglect. Or perhaps you love it do death and play it regularly, I don't know. If you are one of those people who slightly regrets their purchase, however -- I know plenty of you exist -- then you're definitely going to want to keep an eye on Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. This time around, it doesn't cost you an arm and a leg, and doesn't come with a peripheral the size of a Shriner mini car.
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It's somewhat difficult to deny at this point that the whole motion controls movement has been a bit of a bust. Developers never quite figured out how to properly implement them into already established genres. The traditiona...

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First in-game screens of MechWarrior Online show Catapult


May 02
// Brett Zeidler
Okay, I know what you're thinking, and no, MechWarrior Online is not going to have the catapult you're thinking of. When I first went to check out the screenshots, I was expecting some sort of futuristic giant catapult that l...
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First MechWarrior Tactics gameplay clip is such a tease


Apr 25
// Brett Zeidler
Remember that time I said the MechWarrior Tactics gameplay was revealed and there was no actual footage of it shown? Yeah, that wasn't nice. You guys want to see it in action. I've got just the thing for you today. That's ri...
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Steel Battalion has fashionable pre-order bonuses


Apr 23
// Jordan Devore
It's humorous to see these newly announced pre-order incentives for Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. So far, everything Capcom has shown points toward a rather bleak-looking game filled with death and destruction. You know what ...

First hands-on with Hawken

Apr 10 // Patrick Hancock
[embed]225547:43321[/embed] There were four classes of mechs to choose from: Light Close, Light Ranged, Medium Close, and Medium Ranged. Jason assured me that there will indeed be a Heavy choice, as well, once the game launches. Personally, I prefer a close up fighting style in all of my shooters, so I chose Medium Close right from the start. From there, I had three choices for my primary weapon and three choices for my secondary weapon. Each of these weapons behaved very differently and luckily I could swap weapons while I waited to respawn. Eventually I found the two weapons that suited me best and really got into my groove. The weapons had the appropriate punch when firing them. Firing off my secondary cannon sounded and felt like it was doing some serious damage (which it totally did). On the flip side, when I got hit by some of the harder hitting weapons, I felt it. Felt it real good. I found myself physically cringing after being hit by a barrage of missiles because I felt like I was the mech itself. Let's talk about movement. The movement of the mechs is something that has to feel right in a game like this. Walking with the Medium sized mech felt appropriately heavy; I felt as if I was a large, hulking mech. You can speed up with a dash in a single direction by holding Shift if the situation warrants it, though. The best part about this dash is that when you stop dashing, the mech stops and wavers a bit while it centers itself again. The amount of authenticity that this seemingly small detail adds to the gameplay is tremendous. Once I dashed up to a fight and was ready to start smokin' dudes, but had to wait for a second or two while I readjusted; because of that, I lost a potential kill. It might come off as annoying in text, but trust me, I wouldn't have it any other way. I did play the smaller class for about half a round and it was definitely more agile. You can fly up in the air for a small amount of time and the maneuverability afforded to the Light class is quite noticeable. I equipped some long range weapons and approached each encounter completely differently from when I played as the Medium Close mech. I went for a more hit-and-run style of fighting, due to my relatively low HP. It seemed to work out okay, but it just wasn't my jam. Every mech had the ability to self-heal by holding down the C key, but it made you incapacitated for the duration. It's a risk vs. reward mechanic at its most basic level and yet it still creates a wonderful sense of tension as you constantly question yourself, "Oh jeez, what if this isn't the best spot to heal?!" It's a nice touch that I didn't necessarily expect to see in the game There were also items that each mech had, which I completely forgot about until Jason reminded everyone that R launches your selected item (at which point about eight items were haphazardly thrown). There was a damaging grenade (in function, not in looks), an EMP, and a deployable turret. I tried to constantly remind myself to integrate these into my fights, but I often found myself using them at inopportune times. It wasn't the game’s fault; I'm just a pretty forgetful person and my attention was more focused on making sure I fired both my secondary and primary weapons whenever possible. I talked to Jason a lot about the decision to go free-to-play. Chances are if someone were to look at the game in action and see just how gorgeous the game's visuals are, they would never guess that the game was free. Jason said that with the free-to-play model, they have a lot more flexibility with what they do. The day-one content doesn't have to reflect any price point since the price of admission is zero. It makes sense, really; it's hard to complain about content if there's no barrier to entry. He also made it clear to me that this will never be a pay-to-win game: anything that will have a gameplay effect will be unlockable via experience. You'll be able to acquire whole mechs with either experience or real money and once you own a mech, you're free to mix and match body parts of various mechs to your liking. I asked if we'd see anything other than walking mechs, like using tank treads instead of legs, but Jason pointed out that issues would come up while trying to navigate the maps. There will likely be more types of legs, but sadly tank treads would not quite work. When I asked about the inspiration behind the visual style, he threw out Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell. Their goal wasn't just to create a futuristic world, but rather a "realistic future." Apartment buildings around the map looked like what you would expect an apartment building to look like in the maybe-not-so-distant future, and I totally got that vibe when I wasn't in a fight and could truly take in my surroundings. Jason also explained Hawken's unique "Siege Mode." Each team will have a base with the objective being to destroy the enemy base. You can collect Energy by finding it on the map or by killing another player. You can choose to deposit your carried Energy back to your base so that when you're killed none will be dropped, but the drawback is that you're not out there collecting even more Energy. Once you collect enough Energy, you can launch a massive ship called the Destroyer. This ship will help you push forward and destroy the enemy base. The twist is that once the Destroyer is launched, the game becomes a Capture Point map, with a single point. If the defending team has the point, it will be easier to defend and take down the Destroyer. If the Destroyer is killed, it drops a massive amount of Energy and can be launched again by the same team. In fact, each time the Destroyer is launched (up to three times), it becomes more powerful and harder to take down. Oh, and the bases have turrets set up in them. Jason seemed really excited about those turrets. The Siege mode sounds like it'll require a good amount of teamwork to pull off successfully. I can see teammates covering each other as they return to the base with Energy or making sure they're all around to collect the massive amount of Energy dropped by the Destroyer. To me, Siege mode appears to be the more serious of the modes that I'd play exclusively with friends, while Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are more along the lines of quick solo fun. I feel like Hawken is the playfully cute girl in class. I've been eying her up for a while because god damn is she good lookin'. Then I got to hang out with her for a bit! Be still, my beating heart! We had a great time and things were going well, but before I knew it, we had to go our separate ways. Now I'm here to say that all of those wonderful things that you assumed about her are true. So the next time you get the chance, grab onto her. Grab onto her and don't let go. Hawken drops 12/12/12, but for now you can sign up for the upcoming beta over on the official site.
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If you're like me, as soon as you saw gameplay of the upcoming free-to-play PC mech game, Hawken, you not only wanted to play it -- you needed to play it. Everything just looks so right. I'm a huge proponent of play...

Review: Armored Core V

Mar 26 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]224542:43170[/embed] Armored Core V  (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3)Developer: From SoftwarePublisher: Namco BandaiReleased: March 20, 2012MSRP: $59.99I've had a couple slight encounters with Armored Core before, but never played one from beginning to end. Being my first full-fledged Armored Core experience, it’s inevitable that I will get some things wrong in my assessment of Armored Core V. However, this is as much the game’s fault as it is my own for not attending the AC Master Class at Harvard like the best of you. It also doesn't help that the game's tutorial and manual tell you fuck-all. Again, Harvard. If you are also new to the series, prepare to have some distant observations reaffirmed through play: ACV is one of the most archaic, obtuse, and frustrating games of this generation. It’s also one of the most ambitious. As if releasing a hardcore mech game in 2012 isn't enough, ACV introduces some rather interesting online features. Like previous entries, the main draw of ACV is the incredibly in-depth customization options. Fans call it the Forza of mech games for good reason: There are so many possible combinations that it can be daunting to choose one. Everything from the legs to your booster can be altered to accommodate a subtly different playstyle. The game is at its best when you go online with a motley mech crew. One may jump across buildings with a sword in (mech) hand, while another might slowly walk toward a vantage point for its sniper rifle. I imagine most players will stick with a specific build after a couple rounds. Weapons, however, will continue to be swapped, if only out of necessity. A key feature of combat is the three different weapon damage types -- having the right kind of weapon available can be crucial to a mission. There were times where a fight went from near impossible to stupid easy because I didn’t have the right weapon attached. Coming to grips with this can be both massively rewarding and frustrating at times. It’s the love it or hate it calling card of the series and ACV absolutely nails this aspect. For those keeping count, that's one thing the game gets right. Despite the title, ACV isn’t a direct sequel. Actually, it’s a reboot of sorts in a series that goes well beyond five entries (more like 14). I know: how very Japanese of them! In an effort to stay contemporary -- the graphics and audio sure as hell aren’t pulling their weight here -- developer From Software (Dark Souls) designed the game around a persistent online world. The game is closer to Monster Hunter than an MMORPG, however. Like that beloved Japanese series, playing offline is an option but much of the game’s appeal is lost in the process. One of the first things you'll do upon booting up ACV is starting or joining a team. Teams can include up to 20 players who can claim/defend territory (the game's persistent world, as mentioned above), take on missions together, and trade items. Every victory a team member achieves will help level up the member and team, gaining access to more missions in time. It’s a cool concept that doesn’t amount to much  due to clunky design. I imagine every player’s experience with ACV’s menu and systems will vary. For me, it was a very poor one. For starters, the team aspect felt utterly pointless. I changed my team a couple times, during my play sessions, and came across the same problems. No one was ever online on my team, and when they were there was no way to play with them. Thankfully, you can hire mercenaries that take the role of team members on missions. These mercenaries are just other players in the same boat as you who want somebody to play with. You will have to share the mission income with these players, but it’s often worth it. Well, sometimes. Getting one of these guys into your game can be a painful process in itself. For whatever reason, the game would frequently deny my requests, forcing me to exit out of the mission and start another. Magically, it would suddenly work after repeating this process. There are a lot of strange issues like this in the game’s design. "Polished" is one thing that no one can call ACV. Once you get into a story mission (which there are ten of), you’ll run into a whole new host of problems. One of which relates to the co-op aspect. If your co-op buddy leaves the game, you are forced out as well. This would be fine if you could keep your checkpoint or if these missions weren’t 30+ minutes long. This, however, is not the case. I found myself getting so frustrated with losing progress (we are talking at least three hours), I played most missions solo. Neither player even gets anything if they forfeit, which makes it even worse. Here is the absolute worst part of all of ACV: After a match, the game forces you to send a message to the other players. I'm all for ridiculing these jerks, except all the messages are positive! "SUPERB JORB!!!" It's like that scene where your mom walks in on your older brother beating you up and then she tells you to apologize for getting beat up. Except it happens repeatedly and you can't hit them back when mom leaves. The missions themselves are pretty shoddy, feeling like a 360/PS3 launch title in their presentation and design. You go from point A to B with very little variety in enemy type or objectives. You can look forward to such thrilling things as a sewer that loops three times for no good reason (this actually appears in two missions, since the game has only eight maps), a turret that can kill you in one shot, and some horribly cheap boss fights. You’d be wrong in thinking ACV is hard. It’s not. It’s just terribly imbalanced and unfair. I went from one of the most grueling enemy encounters in one mission, to the next being an absolute cakewalk. The game is baffling in its difficulty spikes. Most of the challenge will come from the disadvantages of your particular build. You may come across a section that requires you to dodge fast, but you are built for slow, direct combat. I wouldn’t say this is a pro or con; it’s just the nature of this type of game. However, I’d like to think there are ways to offer alternative routes for alternative playstyles. Regardless, ACV is decidedly not progressive in its design despite the forward-thinking online wrapper surrounding the game. If you are in need of extra in-game income, ACV offers a couple options. At any time you can jump into different non-story missions. Order missions are simple in presentation and last about a minute to complete, most of the time. You just take down ridiculously underpowered enemies and move on to the next mission. Invasion missions let you and your team claim territory in the game’s persistent world. In execution, however, they play out just like an Order mission. The only difference is that you can have three team members with you and an Operator who can direct your team by setting waypoints and marking enemies. The main draw of ACV is Conquest, which is its 5-on-5 multiplayer mode. Once you learn the nuances of the game’s combat, you can have some really exciting matches in Conquest. It’s a shame then that this mode is tied to some bizarre concepts. You aren’t just playing team deathmatch; you are fighting over the game’s persistent territory. As a result, you need to spend team points to even play this mode. Team points are a form of currency you acquire upon winning a match in any other mode. So, even if you are a serious AC player, you’ll be just as frustrated that the game sends computer-controlled mechs to defend your territory if a real player isn’t around. If all this sounds confusing and dumb, it’s probably because it is. Even when I look past all of ACV’s hit-and-miss ambitious concepts, it is a very poorly designed game at its core. On a technical level, it is full of glitches and weird little quirks. Presentation-wise, its graphics, audio, art direction, and story are terrible and not in that charming dated way of other From Software games (here’s looking at you, Ninja Blade). Even the mechs don’t control like you want. They are far, far more sluggish and heavier than the ones in AC4 that let you fly around the sky like a Gundam cartoon. The game’s opening sets the tone very well: This is a new Armored Core. It’s one where the mechs are beat to hell and the world is in tatters (even more so than before). Everything from the inexcusably bad audio design to the weird delay on boosting conveyed this aesthetic -- probably not in the way the developer intended, however. Even once I worked past the game’s convoluted, tutorial-free systems and understood how to build a mech, I found myself in a constant state of despondency. I just can’t get myself to care about the customization and persistent world when everything surrounding it so poorly designed and not the least bit fun. I mean, at least give me loot. Give me something! ACV will make Chromehounds fans mourn that game’s passing and will leave genre newcomers crying out in frustration. A good mech game is hard to find, these days. 
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There are many theories on why mech games died out. The question I have is "why are they coming back now?" Perhaps these two issues are tied closer together than some may think. It’s a matter of innovation, I believe. ...

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Hey guys! Here we are again! Today's show, we talk about how Kickstarter is the hottest thing on the web right now, and how Tim Schafer's Double Fine Adventure raised 3.3 million dollars, and how inXile's Wasteland 2 is in th...

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Armored Core V pre-order bonuses listed


Mar 12
// Jordan Devore
According to Namco Bandai, Armored Core V went gold this week, just in time for its release which happens to be next week. While Japan has had access to this new installment for some time, North America is only now getting it...

GDC: Reviving MechWarrior with the CryEngine 3

Mar 11 // Daniel Starkey
MechWarrior Online (PC)Developer: Piranha GamesPublisher: Infinite Game PublishingRelease: Summer 2012 MechWarrior Online takes place about two decades after the original title. All of the factions and all of the planets that have been established over the 27 year franchise will be present in some capacity, and planets will shift alliances based on in-game events.  The use of CryEngine 3 gives some pretty substantive graphical improvements, with the level of detail looking amazing -- it definitely adds a lot to the package. If you fire a laser at another mech, for example, the metal will slowly melt and pour off. Some of the ground and tree textures aren't quite up to the models of the mechs and some of the other environments, but it is still a marked improvement over anything else in the rest of the franchise.There's been a lot of emphasis placed on total immersion; making the player feel like an actual pilot instead of just the mech itself. If you move the camera far enough, you can see each of your arms, legs, and all of the panels and internals of the machine. Everything is rendered and all of the information is updated as your unit takes damage, builds up heat, etc.  Piranha has been focused on trying to replicate the feel of many of the older games in the series while expanding combat and role-based combat. Players will be organized into lances which have four players each, and multiplayer allows up to three lances per side (grand total of 24 giant death machines on the field).  The team also demoed some battles between several different classes running from the small and light, all the way up to the biggest frame in the game. They've been working on the viability of all classes, such that tiny 25 ton dudes will be competitive and useful in play against much larger pieces if played effectively. Unfortunately, while I watched the game played for some time, I never got my nerdy little hands on it. It looks good, and I have some genuine interest in seeing how this will turn out, especially given that this is yet another hardcore "freemium" title. Look for the full release sometime this Summer.
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I was a pretty big fan of MechWarrior back in the day. I kind of have a thing for mechs, and I thought it was really awesome. What little kid wouldn't want to blow up giant robots with lasers and missiles fired from other gia...


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