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2:54 PM on 01.28.2014

I Paid Actual Money for Tony Hawk's Ride

Not much mind you, but in the immortal words of Gob, "I've made a huge mistake".

For those that don't know/remember/blocked the experience from their mind and this will bring up some horrible repressed memories, Tony Hawk's Ride was the first Tony Hawk game that required the use of a proprietary skateboard controller and here is the beast now:


This is the second generation controller that came with Tony Hawk's Shred and based on reviews, it is actually better and more responsive than the original. Hey, for a 1 I'm sure I could get a few laughs, right? Especially with the game being only 50p. Steam sale impulse buy levels happened and here we are, so let's boot the game up. I was prepared for the game to be bad, but I wasn't prepared to be angry at itl.

Firs thing's first: Calibration. 15 seconds of the board being left alone and then 15 seconds on each sensor while Tony Hawk attempts to be funny with such lines as "Hey, look over there", what a guy. Apparently you need to do this every time you change batteries only, but I find that you need to do it if you move the board an inch towards a wall or piece of furniture, but hey, what's a few minutes of calibration every time you feel like you need to play a game? The title screen menu finally emerges and you have single player, party games and creating a skater.

Single player has road trip and exhibition modes where the only difference is the road trip is like the career mode so you can unlock things, while exhibition has exactly the same stages and modes, but doesn't unlock things. But hey, you can be pro skaters in exhibition which is also utterly pointless as skaters don't have stats, unless you want to start at Tony Hawk's butt instead of your created skater. Since exhibition mode holds nothing of value, I'll try the Road Trip mode.

Tutorials! The game takes you through the basics and I really do mean basics. It teaches you to play in casual mode, which is on rails and how to ollie, do lean tricks (roll the board while ollying) and do rotate tricks where you rotate the board as you olly. Grinding involves jumping onto rails and moving the board around while manuals are leaning the board back.

Once you go through that, you pick a city, an area and then you have a choice of modes. Rather than just be the free-form area where you have a checklist of things, you pick a task which are Speed runs, trick score attack and challenge mode, which revolves around gaps and grinds more than anything. Where's the S-K-A-T-E collecting and random things to do within a few minutes? Slight disappointment, but let's try some tricks!

Casual mode is dull where it just makes you follow a line with no control, but it offers confident mode that allows you to skate where you like, but offers some assistance with direction when ollying to grind or hit gaps. Hardcore has no assistance at all for people who "know what they're doing". I'm playing on Confident in California and then I get greeted by a real life skating douchebag named P-Rod. Not just a douchebag, but a real video with a really odd cel-shading filter. Things are REALLY going downhill now, especially appearing on a T-Mobile Sidekick which were really dead by the time the game came out.



The maps are verts or some narrow corridor. WHY?! It's bad enough when modern FPS games shove you down corridors but a skating game? I want to explore, not be hand held, but as soon as you push off, hell breaks lose. The board isn't wide enough for someone with a size 12 UK foot which means it's hard enough to control as it is, but the sensors, oh lord the sensors.

You need more space than Kinect to really use the thing because those sensors will just go off at anything that comes even close to any of the sensors. Every ollie seems to result in an Indy grab... Wait, grab? That's right, something the tutotial didn't even touch on and with good reason. if you actually try to grab the board while leaning, your fingers will be crushed when you come back down on it which is a terrible design flaw.

In spite of all this, when you get a good trick run going finishing with a manual with a fingerflip, it feels really good for brief moments until you get the horrible visuals back in your face when you've stopped concentrating on the board. Then the next time you attempt a run and the sensors go mad again. That's where the anger comes in rather than just laughing at a bad game: It has potential. If that controller worked and they designed some levels worth playing, this could have actually been enjoyable, but nope, Activision had to churn it out as quick as possible.

Party mode could also be fun, but it's the same few modes and you just take it in turns. Why is there no HORSE mode? That was an obvious slam dunk.

Shred was also 50p and being delivered soon. I'll see if that's any better, but I don't think the problems are purely software based. Still, this time I'll try seeing if getting drunk first will add to the enjoyment.   read


10:05 AM on 01.07.2012

OHHHHHHHHHHHHH YEAHHHHHHH: Macho Man's Reincarnation into Skyrim (Shortblog)



The Macho Man is back, in Skyrim and not the way you would expect. I'll let the video do all my talking for me.

Video

I love the insanity of PC modding sometimes and this sells it. Not some cheap hack, he's perfectly animated and everything. This is GLORIOUS. Feel free to make arrow in the knee jokes in the comments.

Grab it from here to have some Macho Madness yourself.   read


5:25 AM on 11.25.2011

WWE '12 - A Non Review



WWE '12 was revealed with a lot of fanfare. Rebranding the series away from Smackdown Vs. Raw and with a tagline of "Bigger. Badder. Better". With everything they revealed and each snippet of information that came out, it gave wrestling game aficionados such as myself a good reason to believe that a few things that were broken in the last game were fixed as well as adding a bunch of new customization options such as creating your own arena and having your own brands with exclusive wrestlers, but have they pulled off that feat?

SD V Raw 2011 was probably a bigger revolution. It changed the physics model and added a Universe mode, which forms shows and matches for you and keeps a storyline of your wrestlers progress as well as maintaining ranks for the various championships. It's a great idea in theory, but the previous game wasn't exactly coherent in what was happening, seemingly randomly throwing in cutscenes. It seems that in the race to add things to add to the box and keep the yearly schedule rolling, not much has changed.



What they have added is the idea of "Remarkable Matches" and this is a rare occurrence that actually has a storyline spanning weeks or months and they're built into happen, such as winning your first match brings out Brock Leasnar, winning the tag championship bringing out Demolition and winning your first match with Cody Rhodes brings out Goldust. These work well and actually makes it feel like you're on an ongoing wrestling show. You can also now defend a title when you like in any match, so if you prefer to play the role of the show-runner as well as playing the matches, you can now have more control over that. On top of that there is a draft after Wrestlemania which runs just like the real draft, with brand v brand matches with the winner getting a randomly assigned wrestler moving over to the next brand.

Injuries were also added, which is more of a hit and miss affair. What tends to happen is someone will get injured and be out for months, meaning you can't pick him in matches. What ends up happening though is that the logic of the game will cause the injured wrestler to still be booked into matches, even the week after. Poor old Arn Anderson in my game was still wrestling with a career ending injury and saving his friend Cody Rhodes in a match. Interference can now happen by pressing Y and having 1 minute to make whoever you want to win get the pinfall. It's a nice little mini-game, but it has happened where I've woken the referee up and the guy who was being pinned gets the win. Since the first 3 times I've done it though, trying this from then has locked up the entire XBox and required a re-start.



Unfortunately, outside of that, little has changed. Random cut-scenes happen with little or no purpose and it starts to grate you after a while. My CAW came out to the ring after Dolph Ziggler won the WCW championship to celebrate in the ring with him and the commentary saying that it was a touching moment that they're both champions, totally ignoring the fact my CAW held no titles. HHH and Cody came out to celebrate CM Punks win, despite having no connection with Punk and being on a completely different brand.

The biggest offender though was when my CAW cashed in the Money in the Bank contract. This is where a wrestler has won a ladder match to have a title match at any time. In the real world, this usually occurs after the champion has taken a huge beating and he comes out to make an easy pin. In the game, the original match never takes place and the MITB winner walks out with the briefcase and cashes in. It works a little better as the champion is already hurt and they guy cashing in gets a signature, but what happened in my game is that instead of winning the active WCW title, I won the inactive World Heavyweight Championship, making cashing in pointless.

it's a real shame that in the second year of this feature, it still feels fundamentally broken. I'm not sure if the yearly schedule for churning these games out has given them a rush to get new bullet-points on the back of the box and not fix the original features, but if Universe worked like it should, it would be the best mode in any wrestling game bar none.



Other things are broken too. The physics model still isn't right as demonstrated above with people landing in mid-air when a weapon is nearby, the ring occasionally glitches to a black mess which makes the match unplayable, I've had a guy be whipped into the corner, then magically float to the other side of the ring forcing a match re-start as he couldn't be taken out of it and Create-a-Story feels broken as well. CAS keeps bringing up the wrong name of the person that's speaking (although their image is correct) and when you put a match segment in, the camera is zoomed out way too much and any pre-match damage modifiers you gave to a wrestler have no effect. The servers are also unstable right now, but THQ have promised that fixes are coming very soon for that area, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and gloss past that for now.

I've been negative, but the new RTWM is a great little story even if the Outsider story is a lull in the proceedings and the new AI is working very well, actually providing a challenge this year. It's incredibly addictive even with the issues and it's slightly frustrating that a few errors can really hamper a decent effort as it would put me off pre-ordering next year. THQ have been stingy with patches to fix things in years gone by, but I really hope they can fix a lot of this with a couple of them. Maybe take a year off and really hone WWE '14 with a steady stream of DLC to keep the roster fresh.



They've been moving in the right direction with the last couple of games, I really hope they can just nail it all one year.   read


5:57 PM on 09.21.2011

Review: F1 2011



F1 2010 was always destined for greatness. You take the biggest motorsport in the world, give it to the racing game experts at Codemasters and gold was to follow. Not even metaphorical gold like that tease Abe Lincoln had, but actual BAFTA gold in the form of that creepy trophy face they hand out every year. But now after one short year, it's back, shocking anyone who knows about sports games with years on the end. Is grabbing this worth it, even if you've had more than one season in 2010? Let's slide right in.

F1 2011 (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, XBox 360)
Developer: Codemasters Birmingham
Publisher: Codemasters
Released: September 23 2011 (Europe) / Out Now (USA)
MSRP: 29.99 (PC) / 39.99 (Console)

The biggest thing a yearly F1 game has going for it compared to other annual sports games is the fact that the rules change year on year and going from the 2010 season into the 2011 season was almost a total revolution. To improve overtaking, the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) returned and a new Drag Reduction System (DRS) was introduced. KERS works by recharging a battery through braking and then by pressing a button, that energy is released causing a power increase of 80bhp. The regulations allow this to be used for 6.67 seconds per lap essentially making it the real life equivalent of a Mario Kart golden mushroom. You know, without the WAHOO that Toad would yell and make me want to destroy all mankind. The DRS system also improves top speed and acceleration in very specific circumstances at the cost of handling ability and a new tyre compound means that fresh tyres are very grippy, but wear out very quickly making for an interesting pit-stop strategy battle in races.

So what does that mean for the game? As much as you want it to. The KERS and DRS systems are not able to be disabled as such, but on lower skill levels they're not needed to win which is probably for the best. To hit maximum speed on a 360 pad, you'll need to hit Y at the start of the straight to enable the DRS while accelerating with RT and then hold LB for the KERS boost. At the higher end of the simulation and difficulty, this makes it almost impossible to manage all that with a manual gearbox on a joypad and it wasn't until breaking out a wheel with a flappy paddle gear changer and pedals that actually made it even possible to do with two hands, but it's still simpler than a real F1 car, observe the steering wheel:



But all the options are back allowing you to tweak the experience with traction control, ABS, fuel and tyre simulations, penalties and even auto braking assist to help you get up to speed with handling a real F1 car, which Codemasters have taken to the next level with a few additions that were notably absent in 2010. If a big accident happens, the safety car is deployed making all cars bunch together and slows the race down before the track is cleared and racing can begin again and with full penalties on, you can now have penalties that make you drive through the pits rather than the old time penalties which are still given out on reduced penalty mode. All in all, it is a much more accurate simulation of the sport.

But does that make it more fun? After playing a full race, I believe it does. One of the main things that differentiated F1 2010 from other racing games and even the Sony produced F1 games was the fact that these cars are nothing like taking a car out for a spin in Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo. you had to use practice sessions to find your braking spots and that has become even more imperative now. The braking feels very different from the previous edition which is something that real F1 drivers have said now KERS has been brought back since the recovery parts actually make the real axle brake a lot harder than they previously did. Couple all this with random breakdowns when damage is on full simulation and this is the best representation of F1 that has ever been released on a console, even nipping at the heels of the highly revered PC simulation Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix and that really is a testament to how much detail they've gone into here.



There's a few things that I'm not sure if they're design decisions or bugs though. I've had a 20 car pile-up only to watch CPU cars drive through other CPU cars like they weren't on the track and I'm unsure as to whether or not this is a design decision to let traffic through and the race resume, or something that should not be happening. I'm more inclined to say bug at this stage because I've seen it on corners too with no pile-up occurring. Also, with all simulation options on, sometimes the game will turn my car into a ghost car to stop a nasty crash because I'm reversing and this should be something I can turn off. Why would I pick a full simulation if I didn't want to be disqualified for being an unsafe driver?

As for the bells and whistles, they've evolved, just not as much as the race engine. Career mode does feel more immersive simply by adding emails to receive and by making your motorhome match the colours of your team and other than adding a co-operative career mode where you both take race seats on the same team, allowing you to have an inter-team battle while racking up points for the constructors title, very little else feels new. Multiplayer has been bumped up from 12 players to 16 and now supports AI drivers to round it up to the full 24 car grid if you so choose, which is nice, but not the mind blowing increase to 24 human players would be. Graphics are still gorgeous and have had a slight bump on the PC from the last version, especially in terms of how reflective the cars are and how much detail is in those reflections.



This does such a fine job of being a brilliant representation of the sport on track that I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone with even a slight interest in in Formula 1 or even racing simulations in general. Once you get the feel of the cars down to an art, there is just no better feeling than nailing the apex of a fast corner and it is worth spending the money to upgrade from 2010. There is just this feeling that they could have done more and while I appreciate the fact the actual racing is the main focus, 24 player races and a more robust career mode really would have made this the perfect game. The 2012 season promises to have a stable ruleset, so with that set in stone, 2012 might bring the improvements those areas need, but it's not something I would wait for. Even if this game only has a lifespan of 12 months, it's going to be a very fun 12 months.

Final Verdict: 8/10 Great: 8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but worth your time and cash.   read


11:55 AM on 09.14.2011

THE DEMO SHOWDOWN: PES 2012 V FIFA 12



The PES/FIFA rivalry has always been slightly odd. After Konami's arcadey International Superstar Soccer and FIFA's simulation FIFA games almost switching in styles once the 32-Bit consoles rolled around. ISS really cemented it's quality dominance with ISS: Pro Evolution in 1999 and all the PS2 games up to PES6. From there with the releases of PES 2008 and FIFA 2008, alliances were split and then come the 2009 games, FIFA really took the lead in gameplay stakes while adding features and that's where we're up to now.

This year, Konami are promising a return to the old gameplay mechanics, with a new passing system to try and re-appease their fans while FIFA is talking defensive revolution with new mechanics to stop the opposing team and new physics engines for collisions to bring the game more to life. Both teams have brought out a PC demo and amazingly, the PC demo is now based on current-gen consoles rather than the PS2 version. So, after 20 matches on each, which one's looking the most promising right now? Let's Czech it out and without further ado, LOL SPORTS.

FIFA 2012



Starting with the control method and a tutorial on the new defence mechanics, it throws you into the arena and into the men us for the game, in these matches, I picked the blue side of Manchester to take on Arsenal. The new defence mechanics work thusly on the alternate control scheme using a 360 pad: Left trigger makes your body perpendicular to the ball to jockey the opponent, B slides in to tacke, X either takes a stab at the ball with your foot or reaches out an arm to slow down the opponent if you're behind them and finally the A button homes in on the ball carrier. There is a big difference with that A button though, instead of pressuring the ball carrier, you now hold your distance automatically and do not try and tackle, that needs to be done separately.

For me, the new defence system was terrible and a step backwards. It felt like I was playing FIFA 97 again where I just took wild stabs at the ball now and again. After 10 games, I delved into the options and thankfully, "legacy defending" was there as an option, back to basics which is much, much better. Also, there are lots of options in there like what shape the nets on the goals are and how tight the netting is and even handball this year. However, FIFA 12 still has one more ace up it's rectum.



As an avid WWE games player, 2011 added a physics system to it's weapons which just turned the matches from fun, to having some amazing spots where a persons body would react to the world around him. FIFA has done something similar here and while it only seems to add to the gameplay in small doses such as set pieces and running into people during crosses, it does bring the world further to life by seeing players react to each other. Like the moment pictured above, a simple lunge tackle that managed to make Van Persie straddle my players shoulder and as he stood up, kind of lifted him up in the air and dumped him on the floor. There's some polygon clashing issues where people merge into other people, but they are minimal and not really noticeable at standard game camera angles.

If I was to pick at nits, I've gotta say that the game still feels much too fast on the default setting and too slow on slow. It's playable on the default, but just exaggerated compared to an actual match. The physics also cause one or two issues where it is far to easy to run past people as you leave a leg out when you turn and mr. Stupid AI will roll over it instead of easily stepping away from it. But it's all looking so delightful, especially with other unplayable changes so far such as storylines being added what's the competition looking like?

PES 2012



I'm just going to cut to the chase, it's back and it's back in a big way. This is the PES we loved before they started adding years to the end. It plays almost exactly like a smoother more refined version of the older games, which is great news. The passing also works brilliantly and in the settings you can change the level that the ball homes on on a fellow player when you pass the ball. When the level is down, you can pass the ball into space fairly easily and use it more effectively than the through balls.

That leaves the old right stick method of manual passing sent straight out to stud, leaving it free to make off the ball attackers make runs. Point at a player and click to make them run or if you're feeling really skilled, take complete control of the with the right stick as you move the ball player with the left. It takes some getting used to, but the level of control it leaves is fantastic.



The other thing it has over FIFA is the tactical side of the game. Maybe it's just me being an anorak, but I do love being able to easily position everyone anywhere I like. You can grab any of those spheres and position them anyway, then fiddle with as many sliders as possible to come up with any tactics. It is something that sets it aside from FIFA, along with arcade style training challenges to try and top your high scored.

Collisions are a lot more jerky after using the engine from FIFA and seeing how everything reacts with everything else, but it has so many animations that it doesn't become a big issue. The biggest question ever since PES went to the year in the title format though is the netcode. It has been worse than terrorism in the past and this demo doesn't have online features to test it out. If that code works though, Online Master League awaits which has the potential to be a brilliant feature.



So which one's on top? Based on the demo's in isolation, it's tough. I was originally going to write this to say "PES IS BACK, SORRY FIFA" but then I figured out you could turn off the horrible new defensive system on FIFA and I was back to square one. Perfect world? FIFA's overall engine with PES's new passing system which just about gives FIFA the edge. If I had to pre-order one and only one right now based on what I know, that would be FIFA too. Online Master League is just a delicious sounding concept, but I can't trust Konami's netcode right now. It may seem like an anti-climax, but PES is back and we should all be happy it will be pushing FIFA to be better in the future and that PES may be king once again in the future. I'll drink to that for sure.   read


6:01 AM on 05.25.2011

Unannounced Sonic Game Found Alive And Well



It's a classic story told since the dawn of time. Boy has money, boy spends money on XBox Dev Kit, boy finds prototype version of a game, boy announces discovery to the internet. The big difference here is that the game in question was never even announced. Just developed and quietly cancelled in the night.

Yes, Sonic Extreme from unknown developer. Not "Xtreme", the ill-fated PC/Saturn game that was quite far in development and never finished, but some completely unknown-until-3-weeks-ago skateboarding game. According to the finder ProtonX (Unsure if that's his real name or online handle), the game uses art from SA1 apart from the crates which are from SA2 and Shadow in 2-player mode, music from SA2 and has Mega Drive Sonic item boxes littered about.

As for the gameplay, the goal of the missions is to get a key and then open a lock, combat mode is a small area with 4 sub-zones. There are 4 keys, 1 for each zone. There are grenades, firecrackers, homing rockets and mines that can be picked up and used against the other player or to destroy crates. This version doesn't have a way to win/lose/leave without quitting. Finally there is the race level. It feels a lot like Sonic Adventure 2 battle- the first level. You go around a seemingly never-ending track, then when you finish it boots you to the game screen.

There's some videos below. overall, I love these finds and hopefully I'll get to play this sometime. It's very rare a unique find like this happens, so I hope some of you get a kick out of seeing something that will never come to light.

[embed]201966:38714[/embed]

[embed]201966:38715[/embed]

[embed]201966:38716[/embed]   read


5:47 PM on 05.22.2011

FYI: Outer Heaven Temporary Home



Hey there, just a quickie... I know that's how you like it.

We've taken up temporary residence for the Outer Heaven regulars on the same IRC server as #destructoid. That is:

Server: irc.dynastynet.net:6667
Channel: #outerheaven

Also, Zwuh has kindly set up an applet on his site for you to hit up and make it easy. Click here for that flavour of shizz.

Come and hold us while we cradle back and forth.   read


7:53 AM on 05.21.2011

Let's Give TNA iMPACT for iOS a Try



I'm having a very bored hungover Saturday so thought I would give you some unedited thoughts AS THEY HAPPEN of TNA iMPACT. The original TNA for iOS was a weird 2D turn-based wrestling game which I kind of enjoyed. It was a fun diversion, but the key was that they made a game that suited the controls and medium it was on. Now Namco Bandai have produced an all action game similar to console wrestling games. So let's get started.

Career mode, oooo. Lets start an X-Division career. Create a wrestler to go through the ranks. Amazingly basic. Not sure what type of finisher the DW4 is, but I have it. I also have a massive TWO (2) grapple moves and I picked high-flyer style.

So first thing. I'm in the ring with Hogan who speaks nothing like Hogan in the text bar saying "brother" a lot. Hogan has announced there will be an 8 man tournament for a shot at Doug Williams X-Division championship. HOT STUFF. Backstage with Bischoff. "I'm sure you heard Hulk's announcement". Why yes I did, I was in the ring with him at the time. He has good news though, I'll be facing The Pope in the first round. Standing there in my wrestling gear, but I should probably "go get ready".



Couldn't set an entrance, but I came out pointing at the crowd with some nice looking pyro. The Pope comes out with proper music and money raining entrance. Wow, someone at Namco actually did some research! Let's play a match... Wow, the fact I have to mash buttons to get up after I performed a successful move is a joke. It's so jerky and slow paced, it's a good 5 seconds to climb the turnbuckle and turn around. SUCH A HIGH-FLYER. Honestly the worst match engine of all time. I won the match somehow with what looked like a taunt, think Triple H's post water spit pose on the apron to be precise.

Tenay and Tazz hype up Turning Point and say my match with RVD is a semi-final match. I contemplated playing further, but RVD's music (R V D... THE WHOLE F'N SHOW and loop) took me over the edge with it's awfulness.

HASNEY'S SCORE:

10/10 as a TNA game. It is faithful to it's source product as in it is a total trainwreck. 1/10 as an entertaining product.

That was kind of an abortion. I honestly don't believe I have ever started and quit a game in such record time. I want to be sick thinking about the 15 minutes I lost to that. I would recommend burning your retinas out before playing this game or even trapping your nuts in a vice.

  read


4:52 AM on 05.19.2011

That Outer Heaven Chat Thing That People Talk About



BRUDDAH

Chat has been going for a good couple of months now and it has easily become one of the reasons I come here. Even in the dead times of GMT mornings, there's usually someone awesome to talk to. I honestly believe the only person who wouldn't really like it would be my boss if he ever sees my new level of productivity.

We've built up a little mini-community right now in there, keeping away from the largely unmoderated General Chat and inviting the non-trolls in and having a good time talking about any topic that comes up, which is a shame as I know a few of you may have come into the chat and been scared off by the trolls or total inactivity because we've abandoned the troll, but hopefully we can have it in a moderated state and be the most welcoming bunch of people since hotel door openers.

I'm not going to gush on and wax lyrical about good times, but I've seen people be genuinely touched by events that have transpired and ridiculous memes such as UNLIMITED DRAGONS WITH BULLET TIME AND STEALTH, but it is all goodtime fun in a massive time sink. Mad shoutouts to Zwuh, DrunkPunk, Eltron, Savant, Genn, Xzi and kevinsano just of the top of my head right now but there are others too that are the biggest cases of fucking awesome I've talked to in a long time.

Drop on by sometime. We'll show you to the shadows...   read


6:18 AM on 04.30.2011

Review: Virtua Tennis 4



Virtua Tennis was the pinnacle of arcade sports games when the original came out for the Dreamcast. Back then, it had 2 buttons and was so simple to pick up, but impossible to master. The perfect recipe for any arcade game. The sequel added a 3rd button and a more robust world tour before AM2 handed the reigns over to Sumo Digital for the fun but stale Virtua Tennis 3 and 2009. Now AM2 take the mantle once more, but can they freshen up the game enough to make a purchase worth it?


Virtua Tennis 4 (Xbox 360(Reviewed), PS3, Wii, PC)
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega AM2
Released: Out now (European console versions), May 10 (US console versions) Summer 2011 (PC)
Price: $49.99/39.99 (360/PS3), $39.99/29.99 (Wii) TBA (PC)

Jump into a game and the first thing that you'll notice is that not much has changed. From the slightly dated graphics beginning to show their age right up to the same play style. As you delve deeper though, you find that by following your players play-style builds up a bar above your players name. Once that is up, you can hit B to unleash a power shot that is unstoppable in the correct situation. It's that simple elegance which makes Virtua Tennis a joy to play, but the big addition may make it more complex.

That big addition: motion controls on all consoles. Kinect, Move and MotionPlus are all supported and by all reports, working well with intricate wrist movements affecting shots on Move and MotionPlus. Sega are saying that Move is the best way to play the game, but TV ads for the game appear to have had a Sony-sponsored PS3 spot in there so I'm now taking their claims with a pinch of salt.



For those without expensive add-ons though, is there anything else to justify the purchase? Well, online mode has had a massive upgrade borrowing the excellent Virtua Fighter 5 netcode. The matches that I've been subjected to have been smooth with a very good match-making service. Not only that, but online tournaments are in making it a good overall package that can keep you coming back.

World Tour is the meat and potatoes of the game and it's holding up it's end of the bargain. After changing the default design from it's perfectly Aryan look to a guy with the ever-fashionable Hitler moustache and the highest pitch grunt ever, I got underway. As Samit explained in his preview, instead of being a super-serious sports simulation of a career, it instead brings a board game style experience. This is a departure of older Virtua Tennis games as well where you manage your time and schedule to train using mini-games. Now you have to plan your moves with 3 movement cards randomly given to you at the start of each turn with the aim to get as many stars (which affect rankings) and coins to spend on various things. There are also 3 slots to store your own cards. The stored cards range from numbers for movement, condition recovery, agents (which give an increase to stars as you go about your day to day activities) and shuffle cards that will discard your 3 movement cards for 3 new ones.



As you move through the map, you'll find exhibition matches and tournaments, publicity work (raises your profile at the expense of some condition), charity work (like publicity but also loses you coin), accidents, relaxation spots and training mini-games. The mini-games are all new and are excellent with none of the coming across as filler. Highlights being Ace Striker where you serve a football into a goal past a wall and goalkeeper, Poker in which the aim is to hit balls at cards to change them and create poker hands and Wall Battle, which is a 1-on-1 tennis match except you have 3 switches to make sections of the net grow and bounce the ball back to you opponent to score points.

Sensibly, the mini-games are broken up over the 4 seasons so you don't have the all available to get bored of in one play session. Each season concentrates on a different part of the world, with the first season being Asia and Australia, the second in south Europe culminating in the French open, third in north Europe with Wimbledon and finally America with the US open. Finally, there is a bonus season if you finish in the top echelon of the rankings, adding another area and year to play where you will face the king of all tennis, who returns in this game. As you go, you'll receive messages from your rival players usually mocking you, your coach giving you some advice, or Chris who is your stalking superfan who sent me a letter saying he liked my "ball chasing-down skills".



If you've read all this, you're probably thinking that should take your time and slowly go to each tournament, training hard and getting enough events, but each season also has a number of days. If you're late, the tournament actually waits for you, but not without a hit to your reputation for having a gall to be late.This changes the dynamic of the world tour to be a fine balancing act as you also need a number of stars to qualify for the tournament and not waste all your condition on the qualifying rounds and does add a much needed dash of strategy.

Tracking my progress through a few accidents, all of which resulted in "strange rumours coming out about me", I unlocked a lot of kit to buy that never really interests me, but since you start in a grey top and look dull, I had a look and I was not disappointed. Right now, I'm rocking a t-shirt shirt, playing with a baguette as a racket and wearing jeans. The lack of seriousness is endearing and made me want to unlock more comedy outfits which actually have a point along with the comedy rackets even changing the sound effects with baguettes making a really satisfying DOOF noise and the clink of smacking a ball with a sledgehammer. Fancy dress party outfits give you cash multipliers the more fancy dress items you have on.



At the end of each season, a number of awards are handed out for the Season MVP, most MAX serves, most smash points, most special shots and the speediest player which is the player who reached the final tournament in the least amount of moves. Then your new season starts with you starting on maximum condition. The only thing I can fault the world tour on is the god-awful music, which unfortunately is true throughout the whole game.

All in all, this isn't the in-depth tennis simulator that something like Top Spin is. If you're wanting a serious sports experience, that's what you should be sticking with. If you want a fun, deep game with excellent online features and a possible reason to dust off those motion controllers, you should be seriously taking a look at this. It is the definitive Virtua Tennis and it's a fabulous purchase even if you're upgrading from 2009. Going back to the original developers and not outsourcing to Sumo has shown and hopefully it continues the tradition of improving the franchise with each iteration instead of becoming a yearly sports cash cow. It isn't going to be for everyone and that has been reflected in my score, but as a long-time fan of the series, this is Sega at their arcade-style best.

8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

  read


7:26 PM on 04.15.2011

E3 Hopes: Nintendo Edition



With the rumors circulating around what Nintendo is going to bring to the party, I'm going to boldly claim it 'tis the season and all that jazz and hit what I hope the proverbial buffet cart of the aforementioned party will contain. Despite my doubts, for the purpose of this blog, I am going to assume that the new home console is happening, mainly because I so so so so so so so so so so so so hope it is true.

With that said, HIT IT.

[embed]198966:37738[/embed]

1) Motion control was SOOOO 2006, you guys



Nintendo had a hit with the Wii, no question, but the shine appears to have come off the Wii a little. Accused by the masses of being simply a Wii Sports/Fit machine with some New Super Mario Bros. thrown in, I believe it needs to go back to basics.

I'm not saying abandon motion entirely, but bundle the thing with a real joypad as well as the Wii-plus mote (or new motion thing to ensure backwards compatibility) and come out on stage to say that Nintendo thinks it's ADORABLE Sony and Microsoft are on that bandwagon now, but we have the best motion solution and we're coming back after your hardcorey games. But don't worry, soccer moms, you'll only need one bulk of plastic in front of your TV because this bad boy will play your Wii and GC titles as well as having an even bigger Virtual Console. Check-fricking-mate.

2) This 3DS thing we launched? We will finish it TODAY.



I love my 3DS, but I see it as a beta handheld. The love is based on things I know are coming games wise rather than what I have in my hands now. Clearly rushed out to hit promised deadlines, it's missing a lot of promised things. The lull of retail releases that we're going to have for a period here would have been made so much better if I was playing Links Awakening on VC while grinning like a little schoolgirl. I'd even have settled for Sonic Chaos.

At E3, announce that from that day, a new firmware update is coming out to add the online store, Virtual Console, 3D classics and DSi store. Make everything new playable from SD card and we have a winner. But there is another thing that firmware update should address...

3) You know what else was so 2006? Robust online systems.




That firmware should shake things up, attach your friend code or maybe even an online handle into Nintendo's new and shiny online service. Lobbies, messaging and all that stuff that allows you to actually jump into a game with friends without using another device to co-ordinate the impending smackdown. I can do without the XBox Live bells and whistles for something that functions in a way that allows me to play games.

Don't worry about the casual crowd, they are slowly getting more tech savvy. My auntie even hooked up her blu-ray player to update all by herself a few weeks back. If they want to play online, they'll find a way. Optional extra would be some sort of achievement/trophy system because some people really hang their hat on them for some reason. SF4 has medals and they work quite well, flashing up when one is unlocked. Roll that shit out and make it standard.

4) Why do we even buy consoles? GAMES. COME ON.



This is where Nintendo's strong suit lies for me. I love me some Gears of War and I did like Resistance when I had my PS3, but a few quality franchises here and there cannot compete with Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Kirby. I'm still left wanting more though.

The last two successful IP's Nintendo created were Pikmin and Nintendogs. Get a little creative and try something new. It could be something beautiful and amazing if they were just to take that risk and I would love it. Even if it turned out all Wii Music again, I would respect them for trying to innovate creatively.

Finally, if they were to snatch a 3rd party to do an exclusive or timed-exclusive franchise, that would just be pure carnival. Think about it, the next Bioware game being Nintendo exclusive or something crazy. Fanboys of other console would bitch to hell and have to end up buying Nintendo, a spectacle I'm sure you'll agree.

5) Less sales figures



I know, you've been the top dogs for a few years now, but do we need to see the graphs? When they weren't on top and just about to unleash the Wii, Reggie came out on stage and just said "We're Nintendo and we're here to kick ass and take names". Great, let's get back to that mantra instead of staring at charts of however you want to spin strong, but slumping sales.

There's a time and a place for these types of figures, E3 isn't one of them. The casual media doesn't care, the games media doesn't care. We're all listening to hear how Nintendo is going to kick those arses, not what arse has been kicked.

If the rumors are true, I cannot wait. We'll have Nintendo 3DS developments and new home console taking on the NGP and whatever Microsoft has up it's sleeve. But those will have to wait for future editions.

The first shots have been fired, in 2 months, we'll see what 2011 really has in store.[img]   read


6:54 AM on 04.14.2011

Dreamcast News Round-Up

I really hope that title made you do a double take. YES. NEWS..



First off, bullet hell shooter game developer NG:DEV sold out of the batch of Fast Striker they sent to Play-Asia. They won't release how many units they sent to them, but the fact that they sold 1 might shock several people.

You can still grab the game from their online store here or experience the terror on iOS devices for 99 of your American cents here.



Now you're probably really confused. Zelda? On my Dreamcast?

Homebrew developer Neoblast has ported the first game in a PC Zelda trilogy to the Dreamcast. Based on LttP sprites, it plays pretty smooth for a first version and will eat up 14 blocks of your VMU... If you remember those things.

Grab it here, before Nintendo infects the developers with AIDS... Or asks them to stop.



Wind and Water: Puzzle Battles, the game that has been whored around the GP2X, to a professional release on the Dreamcast has had a totally free release on Windows. It is a damn fun little game and you can download it from here. If you want to support them, they'll even draw you an avatar in the game for either $10 for a static one or $15 for an animated one! I'd highly recommend giving the game a look, especially now it's free.

It's still thinking, dammit.   read


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