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Preview: Gears of War 3

Aug 15 // Patricia Hernandez
[embed]202274:38835[/embed] Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360)Developer: Epic GamesPublisher: Microsoft Game StudiosTo be released: September 20, 2011MSRP: $59.99 My father has called me. To say goodbye, Anya explains, but I’m not really listening. We walk down to the end of the hall as she briefs me. The light seeps in from the door cracks, calling me forth. On the other side is hell itself. I look around me as my fellow soldiers try to push back an endless horde of Locust. The sky is ablaze, the light casting an orange radiance over all of us. Bullets whisk past me, and I try to ignore this ominous feeling that has crept itself into the corner of my thoughts lately: that this is it. This is how it ends. I’m hugging this pillar for dear life, popping in and out of cover as necessary, trying to stay alive as long as possible, but deep down, I just ... know. This is the last stand. I’m not coming out of this alive. And then I wake up. It’s a dream, just a dream -- a nightmare, rather. Shake it off. Whoa -- what’s all this about plot? What’s this about feelings? Isn’t Gears of War mostly burly men shooting each other with chainsaw guns, grunting suggestively as alien bits, pieces and blood explode in a wonderful confectionery of violence? To an extent, yes, but nonetheless, the effort put into the story -- penned by novelist Karen Traviss, who is also behind the fantastic Gears books -- is especially evident in the third title. When the Gears aren’t cracking jokes about asses or whoo-whooing like a locker room full of teenage boys, the tone of the game is thick and somber. There’s a reason for that: where Gears of War 2 chose to up the ante and increase the scope of the franchise, Gears of War 3 aims to be personal. For both Cliff Bleszinski and Rod Fergusson, personal means tapping into their own experiences with their deceased fathers. Accordingly, the heart of the story in Gears of War 3 is a paternal one. Marcus has received a call from beyond the grave -- his father is alive, and he’s being held hostage somewhere. Moreover, Mr. Fenix claims to have developed a solution for the Lambent problem. The message cuts out before Adam can tell Marcus what this breakthrough is, of course. Still, one can’t help but muse over the possible cathartic significance of this premise for both Bleszinski and Fergusson, eh? It follows, then, that this a story about vulnerability, too. The Gears have been abandoned, left to fend for themselves. This means they have to turn back to older weapons from the Pendulum Wars, such as the retro lancer. But we see it in the small details, too. For example, the new armor isn’t full-body like the suits we saw in the first two games; Marcus and company are actually showing some skin. Dom has lost Maria and his children, and is now a farmer of sorts, on the ship -- overalls, beard and all. Clayton is one of two remaining Carmines in the line. Even the Cole Train himself shows some emotional flexibility this time around. Actually, the most touching moment in the first act had to be watching Cole deal with his past as a thrashball star. A segment of the first act sees the player visiting Hanover, Cole’s hometown and also home of the Cougars, his old team. While we’re there to look for supplies in a local supermarket, Cole insists that we visit the thrashball stadium, which is a multiplayer map that was available in the beta. On our way there, we meet civilians who are initially hostile toward the Gears, because the Gears are nothing short of a trouble magnet. Then, these civilians see Cole and their entire attitude toward us changes. Cole’s their hero! Naturally, he revels in this attention. But as we progress further through this level we start to see Cole’s facade slip away. While looking at his own image -- which is plastered all over the place -- he said something that, frankly, threw me right off. “Ever feel like you’re dead, but nobody’s ever told you?” This characterization, in combination with a fantastic playable football section that I don’t want to spoil too much, made this segment of the first act the most engaging for me. Speaking of characterization, I am obligated to take a moment to talk about the interaction between Sam and Baird. Sam, you see, is voiced by the sensual Claudia Black. Y’know, the woman behind characters like Morrigan from Dragon Age and Chloe Fraser from Uncharted 2? Yeah, her. True to form, Black brings her signature strong, independent, and sexy bitch role to the raven-haired Gear, and this makes for some hilarious sexual tension between Sam and Baird. Marcus may be on the game’s cover, but the segments with Cole, Baird, Sam and Clayton stole the show in the first act. The Hanover section is a real treat. I’ve spent most of this preview detailing what the third Gears title is about, but very little on how it plays, haven’t I? Well, there’s a reason for that. There’s not too much to be said, gameplay-wise. Don’t get me wrong: it plays marvelously, but if you’ve played the previous titles, you know more or less what’s in store for you. Still, there were a few new, noteworthy elements. Fellow writer Ryan Perez and I went through the game on Hardcore difficulty -- the development team suggested starting here if you’re a Gearhead already. As we went through the first act, I noted that combat was, for the most part, long-range. This is due to a variety of design choices. First, speaking logistically, the game has to accommodate four possible players because it supports four-player co-op. This means that combat areas tended to have ample room, allowing players to roam about freely without getting in each other’s way too much. I appreciated this design, because it made levels feel like a giant playground -- every encounter had a myriad of locations, if not levels, from which one could engage in combat.  Secondly, well, getting close to the Lambent was generally not a good idea. Killing one of these infected baddies results in an explosion that you do not want to be close to, but it took me, oh, I don’t know, a dozen downs before I learned this lesson the hard way. In my defense I often found myself out of ammo, even with the added damage of active reload, and this saw me trying to take ’em down with my shotgun. On that note, because the combat was often long-range, I didn’t touch weapons outside of assault rifles very often. I felt dissuaded from using my shotgun save for when I had absolutely no other choice, because that almost always ended up being more trouble than it was worth, and the pistol damage is straight-up laughable. Power weapons, while gratifying in their oomph and crunchy brutality, didn’t seem particularly useful -- ammo was limited, and enemies didn’t cluster enough to take advantage of their heavy firepower. Anyway, the space available to players in an encounter was definitely taken advantage of by the AI. On Hardcore, the difficulty seemed just right for the most part. One Lambent type in particular likes throwing balls of Imulsion that can go through cover, which hurts a lot. These battles made my blood rush, because I couldn't stay anywhere for too long, and cover itself wasn't necessarily the haven it usually is. It's interesting to see Epic play around with the idea of cover; aside from this Lambent type, we've also got the digger launcher to consider, an underground grenade launcher. The digger launcher laughs at your silly notion of cover, human! The aforementioned segments found me cursing like a sailor, because oh my god was this boss-type difficult to get rid of. I found myself praying to the crimson omen more times than I care to admit to. That experience had me thinking that the vote went against Carmine’s favor, because the only way I can explain his refusal to pick me up during these encounters was an outright loss of the will to live! The last new element of gameplay that I experienced during the first act were the mechs, which I actually found a tad disappointing. Gears is an experience, a feeling. The exhilaration of the roadie run, the full-bodied thud of sticking to cover, the pop of a successful active reload, the swish of a roll, the crunch of a headshot; Gears has, hands down, the best sound effect for a headshot. Everything in the game is visceral, is felt; everything carries an internal cadence, a rhythm. Most of the new weapons follow suit, have friction in their own ways, but the mech suits, for the most part, do not follow this paradigm. Though you feel the weight of your movement -- the suits are heavy, after all -- shooting seemed to fall flat, and it didn’t feel visceral at all. Still, what I saw of Gears 3 left me wanting more and I’m definitely counting down the days until release -- September 20, for those of you wondering. You've got the signature Gears gameplay, only refined thanks to some new design choices and level design wrapped around a new, brighter and colorful palette and contextualized under a surprisingly touching premise and great characters. Also: Claudia freaking Black. Oh. It’s also of the utmost importance to you, as a consumer who is considering possibly purchasing Gears of War 3 this Fall, to know that Ryan and I killed the Lambent Leviathan that Cliff couldn’t take down on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Yeah, we’re awesome.
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Stranded. That’s what you and your fellow Gears are -- stranded. Everything that could go wrong, did: Jacinto has fallen; the C.O.G. has ceased to exist and Richard Prescott has disappeared; and what’s left of ...

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XBLA prices are rising, wallets everywhere cry


Jul 24
// Patricia Hernandez
While mobile games get cheaper and cheaper, downloadable titles on the Xbox Live Arcade platform are rising in price according to Chris Charla, the XBLA portfolio director. Every year, more and more titles are priced at 1,200...
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Who is the best female Shepard?


Jul 24
// Patricia Hernandez
The Mass Effect Facebook page is taking votes to determine which Femshep makes the cut in the game -- and likely, who gets featured on the collector's edition of Mass Effect 3, too. Check the gallery out, which angry Femshep ...
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Gears of War 3 will have a casual mode


Jul 23
// Patricia Hernandez
Stepping into the multiplayer mode of any game is no laughing matter when you're a newbie to the franchise. Experienced players can and will mop the floors with novices, and this creates a tiresome, unfun environment for thos...

War never changes: Absurdity in the world of Fallout

Jul 22 // Patricia Hernandez
War, war never changes The iconic phrase almost inspires goosebumps when Ron Perlman says it, doesn’t it? The words relay an infinitude of information regarding not just the world that the Fallout franchise occupies, but also functions as a stark critique of society and our ideals. Or so says my particular interpretation of the words, anyway. The theme of absurdity is obvious in the franchise’s depiction of culture. We have the chipper fifties retro-futurism of western culture-- which is that confidence that a Jetsons-like future is our destiny--contrasted with the ugly reality of the Fallout world. Instead of having these hopes for a futuristic empire of the great United States of America become nothing more than a semiotic phantom, Fallout postulates a reality in which we continue to be defined by that futurism. What's a semiotic phantom? Well, William Gibson describes a semiotic ghost in Burning Chrome as the "'Futuristic' thirties and forties architecture you pass daily in American cities without noticing; the movie marquees ribbed to radiate some mysterious energy, the dime stores faced with fluted aluminum, the chrome-tube chairs gathering dust in the lobbies of transient hotels…segments of a dreamworld, abandoned in an uncaring present.”  So in the Fallout timeline, instead of that ghost being hidden away in the architecture of the cityscape or as a broken dream in the recesses of our cultural consciousness, we continue to embrace it, to allow it to define us as a culture. Nothing conveys the absurdity of this idea better than the intro cinematic of Fallout 1. The first time the words "War, war never changes" are uttered are during this cinematic, the screen flickers and crackles, but we’re soothed by silky, almost eerie lyrics of "Maybe", by The Ink Spots. Maybe you'll think of me when you are all alone The visuals go from an advertisement for the infamous Vault-Tec Vaults to a scene where government officials are "keeping the peace"over in Canada. They shoot one bullet, two bullets, into the back of someones head, and without missing a beat, a cackle ensues, they turn to the camera and start waving cheerfully. Then, we see a soldier in a power suit looking out into the horizon with the American flag swaying in the wind, and this transitions into an advertisement commanding us to buy war bonds. Nothin’ like some good ol' propaganda, no? The camera pans out, and we see that this advertisement is playing on a television set....which happens to be functioning in the remains of a destroyed city. Somehow. Not even a minute into the game and the juxtaposition of absurd patriotism (the cause of war) and destruction (the result of war) gives us the feeling that perhaps the price of war is too high to pay, perhaps, just perhaps, the principle behind war is idiotic and not justifiable in the face of consequences like these. You can draw parallels to the real world if you’d like--I’m sure there are many that would argue that there’s nothing worth the ten year war with Afghanistan, for example--but I speak primarily of the in-game politics. Of course, what makes the history of the Fallout universe so delicious is that arguably, its reality isn’t too far off from our own. "The Great War," refers an energy crisis where nearly every last bit of oil is depleted, resulting  in global atomic warfare. It sounds like something that could happen to us, should we fail at finding an alternate energy source to oil, no? Playing through Fallout 2 might reveal that the specific reason for the nuclear holocaust wasn’t some government losing it and pressing the big red button, though. There’s a lonely AI in San Francisco called ACE who implies that boredom and neglect caused self-aware AI to launch nukes for their own amusement. Even if ACE’s absurd story is a dirty lie, the refusal by global powers to find and adopt an alternate energy source, their willingness to burn the world to the ground in the name of technological advancement, of war mongering and actively using the "big stick" speaks volumes on the ridiculous context that caused those series of events. Nail on the coffin? The advertisement prior to the propaganda makes it clear that the public was not only aware of what was going on, but actively encouraged it. All of this is contextualized with history itself. “The Romans waged war to gather slaves and wealth. Spain built an empire from its lust for gold and territory. Hitler shaped a battered Germany into an economic superpower. "But war never changes. ” Which is to say, the war in the game is in the same vein as war waged for avarice and lust, both of which cannot be said to be reasons for "just" war. That’s what I believe the phrase refers to: never changes because it is never justified. An unjustified war is an absurd war. The absurdity of this all is further implied when we take into consideration that the “Spoils of war were also its weapons.” War is being waged...so that more war can be waged. How stupid is that? The same can be said of the "war" we find in the game itself. In the first Fallout specifically, the war between the super mutant army and humanity is the central conflict. Super mutants are a direct consequence of pre-war actions. West-Tek developed a series of technologies for the American government in the game, one of which included a drug that was meant to help defend against possible biological warfare from China. While the drug was successful in combating biological weapons, the side effects caused extreme growth in muscle and brain function. Naturally, these effects enamored the government, who then wanted to use the Forced Evolutionary Virus (FEV) to create super-soldiers. The experiment was never fully finished, but facility in which this all took place was later rediscovered by Richard Grey. Richard Grey is exposed to FEV and ends up becoming "The Master," who then decides on using the virus to create a master race of super mutants. While his intent was "noble" in that he wanted to evolve humanity into something that would be beyond misery, conflict and war, it is still misguided, and the parallels to Nazis is obvious. Thus the war between humans and super mutants can be said to be a result of absurdity on two counts: a deranged, insane villain, and the ridiculous result of previous war-mongering. In Fallout 2, the central conflict is the war between the “government” and the wastelanders. The government, who now call themselves "The Enclave," want to reclaim the land that was once theirs. While some semblance of a government could be considered to be a beneficial thing, nobody has appointed these folks into office. They’re just the descendants of the people who were elected before the nuclear holocaust. Aside from that, the manner in which they want to reclaim what was once theirs is absurd: they want to remove all genetic "impurities" and create a society of those with a "pure strain."  Now, let’s entertain the idea that maybe the wastelanders cannot be considered human anymore and thus do not deserve to live for a second. The reason they have mutated into "something" else is because of the government. It’s not just that the government caused the world to be so heavily radiated, but that the government toyed with the vaults and made them into experiments. The Vaults were not meant to allow people to survive and one day rebuild society. They were meant to be a social experiment, to see how people would react when under specific conditions. One Vault, for example, housed a single male and 999 females. While classification as a human is debatable for the wastelanders, they still have a willpower, are still capable of rational thought. Personally, when the future of humanity is at stake, getting rid of the bulk of its remains doesn't sit well with me. I'm no scientist, but I would imagine that having the mutations that allow people to live in a post-nuclear world is a beneficial thing? In any case, none of this matters to the Enclave, because to them, the wastelanders are nothing but lab rats. Here, too, the cause of war is absurd. In Fallout 3, it becomes more difficult to pick a "central" conflict. We have the war between the super mutants and humanity, which is similar to the war we see in Fallout 1. The storyline focuses mostly on the conflict between scientists who want to provide clean water for the population under "Project Purity," and the government, who still want to get rid of the "impure." The Enclave figure they can commit genocide by contaminating the same water that the main character's father seeks to purify. Here, there's not too much to be said that hasn't been said already -- the plot is a rehash of the conflicts we see in Fallout 1 and 2. And what do the people behind the game think? I contacted Chris Avellone, one of the minds behind the Fallout franchise, who most recently worked on Fallout: New Vegas . "The argument around here (well, mostly from me) is that 'the urge to make war' never changes," explains Chris. Of course, it's still worth noting that in some sense, 'War Never Changes' isn't much more than a tagline. "History has clearly shown us that yes, war does change. In fact over the past 20 years, the whole notion of war has changed dramatically, and the techniques have also changed dramatically. So it's a really nice tagline, but I don't feel it makes any sense logically." So it would seem as if it comes down to personal interpretation. This begs the question: what do the words mean to you?
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Recently I had the pleasure of reading ctrl+alt+defeat’s first issue, "War", in which Dilyan Damyanov ponders the meaning of the phrase "War, war never changes." By taking the general events that occur in the Fallout ...

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Star Fox 64 3D out September 9 on the 3DS


Jul 20
// Patricia Hernandez
We previewed Star Fox 64 3D earlier, but that's just words and static pictures. Fancy some gameplay footage of Fox pew-pewing his way through space? It's prettier than what you played 14 years ago, I promise. Come for the updated, crisp visuals and stay for the endearing space critters pleading for your support. Star Fox 64 3D will be out September 9.

Preview: Star Fox 64 3D

Jul 20 // Patricia Hernandez
Star Fox 64 3D (3DS)Developer: Nintendo EADPublisher: NintendoRelease date: September 11, 2011 The first and most notable change to the remake is it's graphical overhaul. I've always considered that the fifth generation of consoles the ugly stepchild in terms of graphics, because let's face it, all the obtuse polygons attempting realism when realism was still way out of reach sometimes resulted in terrible visuals. Thankfully, the 3DS is very capable, though, and lends the game detail and depth a bit more in line (but not quite there) with what Star Fox Adventures offered visually. Water, specifically, is particularly impressive as it shines and glimmers as the waves rise and fall. True to form, being the graphics junkie that I am, I marveled over the visual update while my Arwing was getting its butt kicked by my rivals. Star Fox 64 3D features a local wireless multiplayer that allows up to four people to play off a single cartridge. There are different modes available depending on how you like to play multiplayer matches. There's a mode for points (first to X amount of kills wins), and a mode based on a time limit, for example. Each of these can be configured to define preferences within that mode, from level select to specific win conditions within that mode. Someone like me, who is terrible at the game, might be interested in knowing that handicaps can be set. Once those things were decided upon, I was able to experience some of the new features in the multiplayer. I tried out the gyroscope controls, which allow you to direct your aircraft by tilting the 3DS. This might be of interest to those of you that tend to really get into your games and tend to physically move in the same direction you are commanding your avatar. I phrase it that way because I didn't find that the option added something that the normal controls didn't already provide in a more precise format, nor did I notice that anyone playing the game actually used these controls despite having the option. Still, the option is there should that be your thing; it's not mine so it made no difference or impression upon me after trying them out for a bit. Fellow combatants on the battlefield are particularly visible given that every aircraft has a face attached to it thanks to the 3DS camera. While a seemingly inane inclusion, seeing your rival's mug every time they destroy your ship definitely fuels the competitive spirit. The winning screen is of particular note, because the crowned winner has the opportunity to gloat over the poor, unskilled plebs in fourth, third and second place. Combat is fast-paced and intense. Players fly about the landscape while picking up power ups, which give you special ammo and abilities, and can also collect rings to restore health. Having humans at the helm means that actually hitting someone else can sometimes be tricky, though thankfully players have the ability to lock onto other ships. Still, with rings to restore health and power ups such as a force field at your disposal, taking someone out isn't always simple task, especially if they know how to fly an Arwing half-decently. Aside from multiplayer, there's the ability to play something like a score/time attack mode. Stages are denoted by planets and can be visited in whatever order one wants. Like most modes similar of this ilk, players can revisit earlier stages and attempt to achieve higher scores or faster times. So far Star Fox 64 3D is looking like a solid, if not safe revisit of an earlier classic that offers a few new features in a prettier, but still familiar package.
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Its been fourteen years since Peppy first told us to do a barrel roll on the Nintendo 64. Now he and all your other space critter friends are back, in another dimension to boot. The original Star Fox 64 introduced a bevy of n...

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We may not be able to tell you what Tali looks like, but how about we settle for showing you one of the new squad members in Mass Effect 3? Pictured above is James Vega (previously named James Sanders), an alliance soldier wh...

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Uncharted 3 beta stats released


Jul 16
// Patricia Hernandez
Numbers! The whole point of a beta is to collect numbers and data. Naughty Dog has released some intriguing Uncharted 3 beta metrics. Not only is Uncharted 3 the largest PlayStation 3 beta yet at 1.53 million participants, bu...
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Possible El Shaddai spinoffs could come to Vita, Wii U


Jul 15
// Patricia Hernandez
Now that El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is two weeks away from release in North America, Ignition Entertainment is looking towards the horizon. I spoke to Shane Bettenhausen, the director of business development at Ign...

El Shaddai Preview: Heretical Art

Jul 15 // Patricia Hernandez
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Ignition Entertainment Publisher: Ignition EntertainmentTo be released: July 26, 2011 This Enoch, whose flesh was turned to flame, his veins to fire, his eye-lashes to flashes of lightning, his eye-balls to flaming torches, and whom God placed on a throne next to the throne of glory, received after this heavenly transformation the name Metatron. As the title might suggest, El Shaddai, a game that's a modern reinterpretation of biblical apocrypha, follows Enoch on his journey to become worthy of transforming into the Metatron. Our previous coverage touched on the game's premise, but here's a small recap: God sent angels down to Earth to watch over it. These appropriately named "Watchers" let their lust get the better of them, and they fell in love with humans and with our world. The Watchers fathered the Nephilim with the humans in an unholy union, but the Watchers didn't stop at making these cutesy monstrosities. Hubris led them to create the Tower of Babel, where the game takes place, with each "level" being a utopia that one of the angels has created. The premise is edgy and controversial, yes. Shane Bettenhausen, Ignition Entertainment's director of business development, states that the development team needed "to be careful, because there are people in the world who do consider the book of Enoch to be canon, like Ethiopia for example." He expressed uncertainty when it came to how these people would take the game. Thus far, little to no controversy has been made after the Japanese launch. The first time I entered the Tower of Babel, I couldn't help but empathize with the Watchers who defied God. I looked in awe and wonder at my surroundings -- am I really out to punish the souls who created such splendor? These angels, they're not antagonists in the typical way videogames pose flimsy, simple depictions of "evil." The angels aren't evil, but they're definitely misguided. Even Lucifel himself is a curious antagonist. We all know or assume the evil of the devilish Lucifer, the fallen angel, but things are especially tricky when you consider that Lucifel can see the future. According to the book of Enoch (spoilers?), Enoch is destined to take Lucifel's place at God's side. Knowing all of this -- we assume he knows all of this, anyway -- Lucifel guides Enoch through the game. Why is that? Can we truly trust him? I pondered all of this as I made my way through a utopia created by Sariel, an angel obsessed with love. The first part of the stage was colorful and adorned primarily by giant geometrical shapes that Enoch had to traverse through. The level made it clear that Sariel had been quite busy in his time on Earth, as there were tiny Nephilim swarms accosting Enoch wherever he went. After a couple of successful jabs at possessing me, I decided to ignore the Nephilim and started focusing on the platforming. Boy, was the platforming difficult -- I must have died a few dozen times. El Shaddai features intense platforming, a breath of fresh air amongst titles like Enslaved or Uncharted. "Most of us grew up playing Mario, and we know how to jump, and I think that a lot of modern games do the jumping for you," remarked Shane. Mind, this is all on normal difficulty. Once you beat the game, you unlock higher difficulty levels and can even choose to turn on the HUD. The HUD toggle is meant for more hardcore players, who want to keep track of combos and scoring. After making my way through this part of the level, I came across a large black abyss where a boss battle against Sariel was to take place. Typically, boss battles in El Shaddai will either be against angels testing your strength or against their pets and playthings. The dark void made me pause and wonder if I would fall straight down into it. Yes, in the middle of a battle, I was heavily concerned with my environment. That's the type of game El Shaddai is -- contemplative, like a sip of fine wine. This place was heretical but oh so magical, so beautiful. Each step produced a splash of pastel colors, and I found myself moving just to recreate these small moments of wonder. It was like the first time Drake's shirt gets wet in Uncharted, and I would roll through the puddles just so that I could be in awe of the effects. The environment in El Shaddai is straight out of a pipe dream, and rightly so. According to Shane, "We hired an artist to direct the game ... he had such a distinct point of view of how he wanted to do the game, and we let him do what he wanted." That artist happens to be Takeyasu Sawaki of Okami and Devil May Cry fame. El Shaddai will most likely surprise players, as the scenery changes aplenty and sometimes hundreds of years can pass between levels. I could be more specific about what may appear in later stages -- Shane figured that at this stage, there's not much point to trying to save people from spoilers -- but I still don't want to spoil it for folks. That's how striking I found one of the later levels. Amazingly, it's this artistic approach that has made the game successful in courting otherwise elusive markets. The game has already been released in Japan, and the demographics have been surprising. "More than half of the people who bought it there were women ... because of the characters, because of the art, because of the story." Who would have thought that you simply needed a good narrative, art direction, and characters to court that market? Of course, there are some design choices that lend themselves well to a casual market, too. The game may be challenging, but it's still very forgiving. There are a generous number of checkpoints, and Enoch has the ability to bring himself back to life after being defeated, at the cost of one segment of armor per death, however. The design paradigm is essentially "teaching without punishment." What you must understand about this game is that it's different, eccentric even. That's not my coy way of injecting marketing-speak at you, either. Unlike the plethora of games this generation borne from a focus group or designed in accordance to metrics or data, El Shaddai is a game that dares to approach an artistic vision without compromise. What I saw in the demo last Tuesday was all the more striking and fresh for it.
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Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. [Genesis 5:24]Every hero has something unique or extraordinary about him, and as Enoch, grandson of Adam, grandfather of Noah, titular character in El Sha...

Preview: Quarrel

Jul 15 // Patricia Hernandez
Quarrel (iOS)Developer: Denki Publisher: Ignition EntertainmentRelease date: 2011 Players start the game by controlling an equal number of territories and troops. You take turns moving about the map and take control of new territories by battling opponents with the available troops. What I saw was an early level against a dim-witted AI, where there were only a handful of sections on the map being contested. The number of soldiers -- which can be silly things like aliens, cowboys and so on -- represents the number of letters available to a player. These units thus also dictate word size -- having five troops, for example, will mean having to make a five letter word. Like Scrabble, each letter is worth a certain number of points, with vowels typically valued less than consonants. Troop size isn't the only thing that influences point-totals, though: if the player manages to construct the specific word that the word tiles are an anagram of, then the player receives a massive bonus to their point total.   Quarrel is an especially competitive experience when you consider that all players acquire the same tiles -- meaning that there is less of an element of randomness involved. You can't blame your laughable score on having only X, Y, Z tiles anymore! It can also be an educational experience: definitions of the specific word the game is fishing for displays across the bottom of the screen at the end of a turn. In just fifteen minutes with the game, I added a couple of new words to my repertoire, though I still maintain that "funster" doesn't sound like a real word. Losing an individual battle and having a troop dwindle down to a couple of soldiers doesn't doom that troop to an inevitable demise, though. Players can choose to ration out remaining troops as they see fit, though doing so puts the newly-bolstered troop out of commission for that turn. This adds another layer of complexity to the strategy involved when playing Quarrel. It's not unusual for games of Scrabble to take forever while players try to come up with optimal words. Quarrel players can can find themselves in similar situations, but the title lends itself to pick-up-and-play scenarios, too. Not only can time limits on turns be imposed, but games can be instantly ended via a sudden death. In sudden death, each player will be given a final anagram, and the player with the highest point total from that round wins the entire game regardless of how many points were on the scoreboard prior to the sudden death. Quarrel features different game modes and multiplayer though I only caught a glimpse of the core game against an AI opponent. It is set to launch on mobile platforms this Summer, though "home console downloads" may be in the title's future, if not Facebook too, according to the developer.
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A wise man once told me that one's worth is measured by one's vocabulary. Okay, nobody's ever told me that, but you'd better believe that you will live and die by that maxim when it comes to Quarrel. Quarrel is a quirky take ...

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Japanese market keeps NIS stuck on PSP Development


Jul 03
// Patricia Hernandez
You want Disgaea 4 on the Xbox? So does Nippon Ichi's president, Haru Akenga. In an interview, Haru explained that Nippon Ichi asks Microsoft for the opportunity to develop for the system all the time, particularly when it co...
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BioWare unsure when it comes to unmasking Tali


Jul 02
// Patricia Hernandez
Forget about who Liara's father is, or where the Illusive Man is located. The big mystery of the Mass Effect franchise has to be what one specific Quarian looks like: Tali'Zorah. What's underneath the mask? Many of the charac...
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Uncharted was once a bit more like BioShock


Jul 02
// Patricia Hernandez
Early in the game's development -- when it existed as nothing more than a tech demo, even -- Uncharted existed differently than what we've come to know. Evan Wells, the co-president of Naughty Dog, recently revealed that the ...






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