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EB Games Expo 2011: The booth babes


Oct 21
// David Rayfield
On some levels, I don't really understand why booth babes exist. Sure, I get the whole 'sex sells' angle but I'm positive if I ever spoke to a booth babe, she probably wouldn't be able to tell me just how many Dark Brotherhoo...
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EB Games Expo 2011: A little hope for the future


Oct 21
// David Rayfield
This past weekend, Australia's Gold Coast played host to the first, fully dedicated video game show the country has ever seen. Before the EB Games Expo branched out from a vendor-only trade show to open its doors to the public, there was only the vague mention or damp corner of videogames at pop culture conventions or tabletop gaming shows. 

Hands-on: Kid Icarus Uprising

Oct 20 // David Rayfield
I'll be honest. I have not played either of the previous Kid Icarus games. However, I'm well aware of some of the reverence that Nintendo fans have for the series and going into this demo I tried my best to disconnect myself from that, simply looking upon the third in the series as just another game. The Nintendo booth at the EB Games Expo was expansive with a heavy emphasis on the 3DS. Four handhelds were running Uprising and it had been busy most of the morning. When I finally grabbed it, I seemed to be the only one; the Mario Kart 7 demo drawing most people away. Protagonist Pit was already in the air. From a third-person perspective, the flight controls felt natural and easy with the 3DS' circle pad. Moving Pit through the sky was a breeze and when the floating enemies showed up, it was tons of fun to attack them through the clouds. The depth of the environments looked amazing in 3D. At this point, I was excited to play more. The backdrops of landmass far below Pit were incredibly detailed and with the 3D slider turned all the way on, they became real, tangible locations. I was all the more surprised when Pit flew down in between buildings to fight some enemies on the ground. All the action took place on the top screen of the 3DS. The bottom screen was reserved for story-based text conversations between Pit and the goddess of light, Palutena. While in the air, a colossal Medusa appeared and I engaged in what seemed to be a short boss battle. Using Pit's barrel roll (yes, I did a barrel roll), I managed to avoid her attacks. While I was doing so, in the midst of battle, I glanced down to the bottom screen to notice story text scrolling past. Pit and Palutena were talking to each other. Granted, it was just encouragement from Palutena and energetic battle cries from Pit, but I completely missed it as I was too busy fighting Medusa. When the game took over control and landed Pit in a courtyard, the 3D once again shined. Tiny as they were, I noticed alleyways and balconies on the nearby buildings just before wave after wave of enemies headed my way. I could switch quite quickly between weapons, using a bow and a sword. When the enemies hit, the screen filled with attacks and I had to be constantly on the move. Sidestepping attacks and dishing out some of my own required pretty much all of my attention, otherwise Pit's life would be over. Halfway through the battle I glanced down to the bottom screen to see Pit and Palutena talking again. The text scrolled across the screen and I immediately realised I had again missed quite a large amount of what they were saying. The top screen during a battle afforded very little room for error and even glancing down for a few seconds proved costly. Now, I consider myself a relatively fast reader but there was a problem with trying to keep up with anything the two main characters were saying while I was getting bombarded with projectiles. This wasn't simply encouraging remarks I was missing anymore either, Palutena was relating story points and directions about the enemies (possibly improving my chances in battle). It was strange. I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing. The developers, Project Sora, had specifically inserted text on the bottom screen that was important to the story during a battle. Which seemed to be only time you couldn't really afford to look at it. I tried to be quicker in glancing at the text but then it became more about me fighting the game rather than Pit fighting monsters. Perhaps speed readers will have no trouble with this feature. They glance for a split-second, absorb all the information and then go right back to the action. I certainly couldn't manage it every time. And as far as I know, a large portion of the people buying Kid Icarus: Uprising will be kids. Kids who might not be able to keep up with the quick-paced conversations. Finishing the demo, I was confused. Was this feature present throughout the entire game? And if it was, how would that impact the story and the overall game as you progress through it? Sure, you can say "Story in a Kid Icarus game? Who cares?" but wouldn't it be preferable to know why you're fighting in the first place? And not just fighting to stay alive so you can read the story?
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For the most part, the games I saw and played at the EB Games Expo were impressive. None really disappointed me or made me lose hope in a franchise. Some weren't for me, some made me want to pre-order that very same minute.&n...

Hands-on: Rayman Origins

Oct 20 // David Rayfield
2D platformers have seen something of a resurgence in recent years, with one small caveat. Most of the resurgence has been due to downloads. Braid, Super Meat Boy, Outland and even Shadow Complex have made a significant impact on the genre. Rayman Origins, though, will be asking full price when it is released on a disc in November; a change from its initially planned format as an episodic, downloadable title. But this shouldn't worry anyone who has a chance to play the game beforehand. Like a smack to the face, the game is downright gorgeous. Its striking art style of painted colours and vibrant backgrounds look good in screenshots, but to see it in motion on a huge screen is impressive. The controller I picked up belonged to series character Globox (the big blue one) as the couple next to me was controlling Rayman himself and one of the insect 'teenies'.  I learned later that the game moves at 60 frames per second and this came as no surprise. Even with three characters (out of four) playing and a ton of other madcap insanity on screen, Rayman Origins moves so smoothly it's almost not even worth thinking about. It's as if the game has never even heard of the concept of 'framerate issues'. The action itself is pretty familiar to anyone who has played platformers. Running, jumping and using the environment to fight enemies and collect items is pretty standard here. One thing I noticed as we were playing was the obvious similarity to New Super Mario Bros Wii. The frantic multiplayer co-op even places you in a bubble when you die that can only be burst by another player to allow you to continue. Having now played both games, though, I can say the co-op felt a bit over the top in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, whereas here it seems more suited to the gameplay. Using other players to help you get items seems to be more of a focus in Origins, and less emphasis is placed on the frustration of accidentally causing another player's death. Being propelled across the screen via wind ducts and trampolines is only enjoyable due to the game's precise controls. There are so many precarious edges and deadly spikes in the environment that it becomes tense not to die at every turn and if the controls were even a tiny bit less responsive, some frustration would creep in.  I never expected a Rayman game to be this enchanting. A lot of it has to do with how the game looks, but the characters and the overall feel of the game is just so charming it's difficult to put down even in my brief stint with it. When the demo ended, the couple next to me didn't have much to say. They simply nodded and left. As if to say "Yeah, we'll be buying this one". Honestly, as it stands now, I don't blame them.
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The Rayman Origins booth at the EB Games Expo on Australia's Gold Coast was an area I thought would be largely ignored. Given the hours people were waiting to play Battlefield 3 or merely watch a section of The Elder Scrolls ...


EB Expo 2011: Mario Kart 7 hands-on

Oct 17 // David Rayfield
One of the main features I've been wanting to see is, of course, the 3D effect. However, I hold off until I get a feel for the controls. As I begin my race in Mario's signature red kart, I first get a sense of the course. The Nintendo rep at the booth tells me that, while it doesn't have a name yet, the track will be in the final game.  A mixture of tropics, sand, and even underwater sections greet me as I use the circle pad to take corners. Almost immediately, I feel completely at ease steering in this manner. It feels smooth and natural while also giving me precise control of my handling. As I experience the speed of the demo, Bowser and Peach both speed past me as I fail to notice the bridge ahead. I'm suddenly underwater, where a section of the track continues. The water makes the kart feel floaty without sacrificing much control over my maneuverability. I turn the 3D slider all the way to max, and the track opens up in a way I did not expect. Platform sections become huge and engrossing, and the surrounding environments envelop the course. I have to be careful, as slight movement of the screen causes the 3D effect to ghost a little, causing me to lose concentration. As I cross the start line, series stalwart Lakitu appears on his cloud, holding up the checkered flag. While only briefly flashing past, both him and his 'Final Lap' sign sit fully formed in the sky in surprisingly amazing three dimensions. The highlight of the demo is certainly the hang gliding section. In addition to being able to now customize your karts with upgrades, a hang glider attachment is now fitted for every racer. It automatically pops out at certain points in the track, and it is great fun. Floating past Peach to gain a third place victory is a fantastic feeling. It is regrettably a short demo, but in the end, I'm honestly shocked. I thought I was done with Mario Kart! I had been playing the series as far back as I can remember, and my interest had started to wane. If this demo of Mario Kart 7 is any indication, I'll be jumping back into it with a great deal of excitement when it is released in December. Every aspect seems effortless and injects new life into a potentially aging franchise. I can't wait to play more!
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In the long history of the Mario Kart franchise, fans have been divided on which entry is the best. Many maintain that nothing will ever exceed the sheer fun of the original Super Mario Kart for the Super Nintendo, while othe...

EB Expo 2011: Mass Effect 3 hands-on

Oct 17 // David Rayfield
In the interest of full disclosure, this demo is the same single-player slice of Mass Effect 3 that was shown at E3 in June and the Eurogamer Expo in September. Whether or not this demo at the EB Games Expo in Australia is exactly the same build of the game is unclear, but EA certainly seems determined to stick with it for public viewings. Regardless, the atmosphere of the tropical medical facility hangs heavy. There are fires burning out of control, and smoke blocks out part of the sky. Mordin orders Shepard and his squad to make their way through the ruins and help him in his liberation of the krogan. I take control of Shepard; it feels immediately familiar to anyone who has played the previous games in the series. The left bumper pauses the game to bring up the menu wheel, filled with weapon options for each character. The right bumper does the same for squad abilities. As I move forward, I immediately notice something: everything seems to be saturated in a very fine, film grain effect. The white walls of the facility have flecks of dust on them, as does the air itself. I continue to advance only to confirm that it isn't atmospheric residue of the fires, it's actually part of the screen. The Cerberus agents arrive, dropping down from the sky in jet-propelled battle armor. I take cover behind a bench and start firing. As I'm ordering my squad to attack, the combat is strikingly reminiscent of Mass Effect 2. The crouching and shooting feels like slipping on an old pair of shoes. As we finish off the agents, I decide to try out the squad movement commands -- left on the D-pad to order one squad member to advance to a position, right for the other. I order Garrus and Liara to move ahead. As they do, I notice that their running animations are terrible. Both shuffle forward as if they are floating slightly above the ground when moving into position. As they run, it seems as if their legs are too fast for the speed that their bodies are moving. I send them forward again, and sure enough, it happens again. Running animations aren't a major component to any game, but I was surprised how much they stand out here. I locate a workbench, where Shepard can now customize weapons on the go. I'm carrying three standard weapons -- a pistol and a couple of rifles. Upgrading the weapons seems like a handy, easy-to-use feature that hints at a larger range of features.  As I order the squad back to Mordin's position, I decide to take a look at the external view of the tropical terrain around the facility. Despite fires raging out of control and lush trees surrounding the area, I'm immediately taken aback by the jagged edges on the buildings outside. Moving the camera, the graphical roughness remains. I'm shocked by the lack of smoothness of the structures, making sections of the game feel unfinished. It overshadows an otherwise beautiful view of the planet. and I start to wonder what other visual issues I might stumble across.  None of these questions are raised during the cut-scenes. As expected, they look and sound great. Mordin still speaks with rapid-fire fragility, and Shepard exudes confidence with every word. After finishing the demo, the graphical limitations become more evident the longer I think about them. If this is indeed the same build from June, I can only assume that BioWare has fixed these problems since then. As it stands now, I'm surprised at how rough the overall experience feels, and it raises far too many niggling questions I didn't expect to ask. It's now October, and the game's release is in early March. It begs the question why EA would keep showing this demo when hopefully there is a better version somewhere out there ready for consumption.
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As I'm waiting in line to play BioWare's third installment in its celebrated science fiction RPG series, Commander Shepard appears next to me. He is tall and imposing, complete with N7 suit and buzz cut. A young girl also wai...

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Australia breaks global Batman: Arkham City release date


Oct 17
// David Rayfield
Despite that rest of the world is still eagerly awaiting the release of Rocksteady's highly anticipated and critically acclaimed sequel to its 2009 hit, Australia has become the first place where you can buy Batman: Arkham Ci...

EB Expo 2011: Interview with Battlefield 3's DICE

Oct 16 // David Rayfield
For any developer, the launch of a game is both exciting and stressful. But in the case of Battlefield 3, the pressure raises up several hundred notches. Not far from where we're sitting, a line stretches far back into the show floor filled with people from all walks of life. They're waiting to play a few minutes of the game at the EA booth and the line is three hours long. The presence of so many people wanting to get their hands on their game, even for a moment, is something that is omnipresent for DICE. Lars explains the current vibe at the studio, saying "There's a lot of nervousness going around. People saying 'Did you see that? Did you see what they said over there?' I think everyone is extremely jumpy. I wouldn't say it's fear but it's your baby and you just want it to go extremely well." Daniel is also aware of the the whole gaming world's excitement for the title. "This is the absolute biggest project we have ever taken on. We've always wanted to make Battlefield 3 ever since Battlefield 2 released and we all feel some form of pressure in one way or another." "The most important thing though," he continues, "is how we handle that pressure. We have to keep our heads in the game and keep working and working. Even though the game will be fantastic at launch, it will be even more fantastic when it's released because that's when the real job starts." Last week, the beta ended for Battlefield 3 and received a lot of mixed reactions. Implementing any feedback from the beta into the final game has been a mixture of expectations and surprises for DICE. Lars is confident about both. "You always need to look at what type of game you have. We can't release whatever we have just because we have a [launch] date. I think it's been extreme dedication and focus on the team to make sure we have a great game when the date comes. I would say we have exceeded my expectations in what we managed to accomplish with this game." "It wasn't like when things surfaced in the beta we were caught by surprise and started fixing the main game. The main game was more or less done," explains Lars. "It was more validating what we knew. We just checked our lists of already implemented fixes and said 'Yeah, yeah we know about that one' or 'Oh yeah, that old one.' But then, there were things we found. The pace of scoring, that people were scoring so quick took us by surprise. A lot of good findings that will make it a better experience." Despite a long history of dedicated fans, Battlefield 3 stands as DICE's most high-profile release to date. Pre-orders for the game have broken previous records set by Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and every time a further piece of information is released about the game, people sit up and take notice. Which brings new challenges; new players who have never touched a Battlefield before will be jumping into this one in record numbers. Lars begins to talk about how that will be a relatively painless process. "Everything can ease you in from single-player and going into co-op with a friend and really getting the core of the gameplay. But then of course we have our matchmaking and a very gradual introduction of all of the gameplay and the unlock system. The easiest to get into would be Team Deathmatch and then find your way into the more advanced modes. I think there really is something there for everyone." Unsurprisingly, Daniel agrees. "It really fits our Battlefield formula and the style of play we have which is easy to learn and hard to master. The hardcore players of course will adapt early because they're used to the jets, they're used to the tanks. Players that haven't played Battlefield before, it's very easy to step in." As the interview progresses and the long, long line near us shuffles forward, I notice something I did not expect: enthusiasm. Both Lars and Daniel have been working and traveling for far beyond what normal human beings should be capable of, so I expected at least a slight weariness in them. But it is the complete opposite. Both of them are beaming and eager to tell me about every inch of the game. The main part of which, will be the multiplayer. Once it launches, hardcore players will rank up and unlock weapons quicker than most mortals. Post-launch, the game will continue to support and feed into such gameplay styles. "What we've seen over our history of the big community we have it's that players stick to Battlefield even if the game is two years old," states Daniel. "We still have tournaments in Battlefield 2 and still a lot of players in Bad Company 2. In six months, I think people will have finally gotten the gist of what Battlefield 3 is. Because by then, they've unlocked a lot of stuff and been playing through the maps so may times that they know the sweet spots. So what we're going to see is the community coming together as one to play the maps the way they're supposed to be played." The last word goes to Lars, who is confident of Battlefield 3's long-lasting endurance: "We have an operations team that has been working since before the beginning of the year with potential post-launch content and plans. If you know DICE from earlier titles, we keep going along the life cycle of a title. So six months from now, it's just the beginning of a long relationship." The interview wraps up and we shake hands. As I leave, both men are eager to reach their next appointment and then finish for the day so they can return home. That said, the feeling of pride is almost tangible. Both Lars and Daniel are noticeably proud of the work they are doing. In less than two weeks, maybe they can have a night off.
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Battlefield 3 is on shelves in less than two weeks and he seems surprisingly relaxed. The same goes for his colleague. Both of them have been on the road for two straight weeks. First Moscow, then Sydney, and now here on the ...

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Australian ratings for mobile, online games put on hold


Oct 12
// David Rayfield
Way back in the heady days of 2009, the idea of mobile games' being classified in Australia reared its head. In 2011, the possibility of ratings for mobile and online games is becoming very real. But today, the Federal Minist...
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Study reveals major increase in gaming in Australia


Oct 12
// David Rayfield
3,500 Australians in over 1,200 households have been surveyed in the Digital Australia Report 2012 as to their videogame and digital media habits. The results are nothing but positive -- a whopping 92% of Australian household...
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EB Games Expo gets much more hands-on


Oct 04
// David Rayfield
Next weekend (October 15 and 16) sees the launch of the EB Games Expo at Australia's Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, offering one and all the opportunity to attend the show and play some upcoming games well befor...
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Bionic Commando rated by Australian Classification Board


Oct 03
// David Rayfield
It must be hard for publishers trying to keep a lid on certain upcoming releases when, a lot of the time, the game is simply dropped into the public consciousness via classification rating. Or perhaps these regular leaks are ...
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UK newspaper: 'Gamers can't tell real world from fantasy'


Sep 21
// David Rayfield
After roughly every single outlet in the UK blaming the London Riots on videogames, I was led to believe that perhaps we would experience a few months before some more insanity was thrown about by the mainstream media. Perhap...
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New PSN terms of service do not apply to Australia


Sep 20
// David Rayfield
The recent and questionable move by Sony for all its PlayStation Network users to waive any group-based lawsuits after signing up to the service has had a lot of people outraged. In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Austr...
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Patch for PC Battlefield: Bad Company 2 incoming


Sep 19
// David Rayfield
Are you sitting down? Because you should be before you read this next sentence: Battlefield 3 is only six weeks away from release. Before that game drops, though, DICE hasn't forgotten about its current entry in the fran...
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Visceral Studios Melbourne closes its doors


Sep 19
// David Rayfield
Recently, the Australian videogame industry has suffered some crippling blows. From THQ closing two Sydney-based studios to the controversial end of Team Bondi, it seemed the situation can only go from bad to worse. Well, tod...
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LucasArts now hiring for new projects


Sep 15
// David Rayfield
In the mid-to-late nineties, LucasArts was one of the most exciting game developers on the planet. Since then, the quality of their titles has been rather hit-and-miss. That latter-day disappointment may be about to change, a...
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Dead Island ships over 1 million units in North America


Sep 15
// David Rayfield
Despite some early hiccups, Techland's Dead Island seems to be a pleasant surprise for a great deal of people. Publisher Deep Silver is reporting that in just one week of sale, they have shipped more than one million copies o...
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EB Games Expo final lineup announced


Sep 13
// David Rayfield
Last we heard, the EB Games Expo happening in Australia's Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre was starting to fill up with some serious contenders in the way of game publishers. Pretty much every major release for the...
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The Last Guardian will be absent from Tokyo Game Show


Sep 09
// David Rayfield
Even with the recent and welcome news regarding Team ICO's previous works, it does little to sate the hunger that pretty much everyone has for the respected developer's next game. The long-delayed The Last Guardian will ...
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XBLA Bloodrayne Betrayal delayed in Australia


Sep 09
// David Rayfield
Developer Wayforward have already been tasting some measure of critical success with their 2D animated side-scroller BloodRayne: Betrayal, which released on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade this week. Unfortunately, X...
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Uwe Boll returns with another baffling videogame movie


Sep 05
// David Rayfield
Remember Zombie Massacre for the Amiga? No? Well, that's fine because Uwe Boll does. He remembers it so fondly, he is adding it to the long, long, list of games he believes would translate into movies. The 1998 Doom clone is ...
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Xbox LIVE Rewards finally launches in Australia


Sep 05
// David Rayfield
Ten months after the launch of Xbox LIVE's Rewards program in the US and UK, the ability to earn Microsoft Points for doing stuff on Xbox LIVE is now up and running for Australia. Invitations are now being sent out to Austral...
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PS3 sales increase 400% in Australia


Sep 01
// David Rayfield
Sony Australia have announced an astounding increase in popularity for the PlayStation 3. Based on information from retailers and NPD data, a 400% sales jump for the console happened soon after the price cut was announced at ...
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Capcom announce Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike DLC packs


Sep 01
// David Rayfield
In the past, Capcom have earned themselves a less than favourable reputation when it comes to downloadable content for its games. Fans have displayed everything from mild annoyance to white hot rage every time Capcom reveal t...
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Team Bondi closes its doors and enters administration


Sep 01
// David Rayfield
The Sydney-based developer of L.A. Noire hasn't had the best of times since its 1940s-era crime epic was released in May. Despite strong sales and positive reviews, Team Bondi's troubles extended to employees' lack of proper ...
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Skyrim will fit on one Xbox 360 disc so you can relax now


Aug 29
// David Rayfield
In the last year or so, games on the Xbox 360 have started to expand to two (Mass Effect 2) and sometimes even three (L.A. Noire) discs. When it comes to the next installment in the Elder Scrolls series, you would be forgiven...
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House Of The Dead: Overkill Extended Cut banned in Aus


Aug 24
// David Rayfield
The new version of SEGA's lightgun zombie shooter House Of The Dead: Overkill has been refused classification in Australia, effectively banning it from sale. "A game banned in Australia? Is it lunch time already?" is probably...
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I Am Alive rated by Australian Classification Board


Aug 23
// David Rayfield
When it rains, it pours. Fresh from the maybe-possibly-real trailer that leaked out, Ubisoft's disaster survival game I Am Alive seems to be gaining traction in the real world and out of the realms of vaporware. The Australia...
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Saints Row: Money Shot sure is a thing that exists


Aug 22
// David Rayfield
Hot on the heels of The Most Stupidly Awesome Collector's Edition of 2011, THQ's Saints Row franchise seems to want to keep itself in the spotlight. Some scraps of information have circulated from a number of sources pointing...

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