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Call of Duty: Black Ops II is guaranteed to sell a bazillion copies this fall, but even so, developer Treyarch isn't mailing in this sequel. In fact, Black Ops II might be the riskiest entry yet in the Call of Duty franchise...

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EA: Expect discounts, but no Steam-like sales, on Origin


Jun 06
// Samit Sarkar
EA's Origin service recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, and while it's a growing platform -- 12 million registered users and $150 million in revenue is nothing to sneeze at -- it's not yet as good as EA wants it to ...
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E3: Arkedo's Hell Yeah! and its 'polite boss'


Jun 06
// Samit Sarkar
Jonathan Holmes headed to the Sega booth on the E3 show floor to check out a near-final version of Arkedo's Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, a refreshingly self-aware action-adventure platformer. Studio head Camille Guer...
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E3: 360 degrees of the Wii U's PanoramaView


Jun 06
// Samit Sarkar
Nintendo continues to show off the Wii U's capabilities with tech demos, and PanoramaView looks to be another one of them. Our own Jonathan Holmes played around with the feature, which lets you use the GamePad as a window in...
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EA Sports not currently negotiating for MLB license


Jun 06
// Samit Sarkar
Fans who harbor nostalgia for EA Sports' venerated last-gen MVP Baseball franchise may want the publisher to get back in the game and put out a new baseball title, now that Take-Two, the parent company of 2K Sports, seems unw...
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E3: Stab cats in Nintendo Land's Animal Crossing minigame


Jun 06
// Samit Sarkar
Jonathan Holmes' enthusiasm is infectious, as you can see in this video of his hands-on time with "Animal Crossing: Sweet Day," one of the 12 minigames in Nintendo Land. It's a rather strange little five-player game: the Gam...
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E3: Nintendo Land's Donkey Kong Crash Course demo


Jun 06
// Samit Sarkar
Nintendo Land appears to be positioned as the Wii U's version of Wii Sports, a collection of minigames designed to familiarize players with the new system's features and functionality. Our own Jonathan Holmes checked out the...
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E3: Be a Vampire Lord in Skyrim's Dawnguard DLC


Jun 06
// Samit Sarkar
Bethesda is expanding the realm of Skyrim with the game's first piece of downloadable content, Dawnguard. You've seen the trailer and screenshots, and now you can watch The Destructoid Show's Max Scoville give you his though...
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Gearbox Software's Borderlands 2 will be a much more story-driven experience than its predecessor, and that's largely thanks to its principal writer, former Destructoid features editor Anthony Burch. In an interview with The...

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We're approaching the singularity, folks: Final Fantasy games on next-generation hardware could finally look as good as the pre-rendered cutscenes we've been watching for the past decade and a half. Yesterday at E3, publishe...

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Nintendo is figuring out a way to allow Wii owners to transfer data from the Wii to the Wii U, said a hardware producer for the company during a developer Q&A session held today at E3. When asked about the possibility, th...

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E3: Snoop Dogg raps in his Tekken Tag Tournament 2 stage


Jun 05
// Samit Sarkar
I bet that headline is a sequence of words you were never expecting to see.At E3, didn't-see-that-coming shockers tend to fall into the category of unlikely or unforeseen alliances, like Gabe Newell announcing Portal 2 for P...
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E3: Trine 2: Director's Cut coming to Wii U


Jun 05
// Samit Sarkar
Trine 2: Director's Cut was one of the games shown in a montage of third-party software during this morning's Nintendo press briefing. Finnish studio Frozenbyte is building a definitive console version of its well-received c...

E3: Wii U GamePad: 3-5 hours battery, 2.5 hours to charge

Jun 05 // Samit Sarkar
A rechargeable lithium-ion battery serves as the wireless GamePad's power source, but you might actually be spending a lot of time playing games with the unit's AC adapter plugged into an outlet. According to hardware details available on Nintendo of Japan's website -- information that, curiously, Nintendo of America omitted from its E3 site -- the GamePad's battery takes about two and a half hours to charge, and depending on the screen's brightness setting, lasts between three and five hours on a full charge.For reference, that's about how long the PlayStation Vita's battery lasts during gameplay. The GamePad has a lot of technology packed into it, but it's not actually processing gameplay; instead, the image on its screen is streamed from the Wii U console. Here's hoping the unit's charging cable isn't short or proprietary.Check out some photos of both the black and white Wii U hardware in the gallery below.Nintendo All-Access @ E3 2012 [Nintendo of America]E3 2012 - Wii U [Nintendo of Japan]
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Nintendo spent the bulk of its E3 2012 press briefing on the Wii U, focusing on a glossy black version of the hardware in addition to the white console and GamePad that were unveiled a year ago. We still don't have more preci...

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E3: Ubisoft's Watch Dogs confirmed for PC, PS3, Xbox 360


Jun 05
// Samit Sarkar
Ubisoft stole the show at E3 Day Zero with a surprise unveiling of Watch Dogs, an open-world experience that truly looked like a next-generation title. Based on the stunning lighting effects and lifelike animations, most of t...
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E3: Go undercover in this Sleeping Dogs trailer


Jun 05
// Samit Sarkar
I'm really glad that Square Enix picked up United Front Games' Sleeping Dogs after Activision dropped the project (back when it was called True Crime: Hong Kong). Hamza's write-up of the hard-boiled open-world crime thriller...
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E3: Lara Croft endures in this Tomb Raider trailer


Jun 05
// Samit Sarkar
If there's one word to describe Lara Croft in Crystal Dynamics' upcoming reboot of Tomb Raider, it's "resilient." Just look at how much punishment she takes in this trailer, whether from thugs or Mother Nature. At least she ...
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E3: Twisted Pixel teases LocoCycle


Jun 05
// Samit Sarkar
One of the new games Microsoft announced at its E3 2012 press briefing yesterday morning was Twisted Pixel's LocoCycle, the studio's sixth original IP. Here's the short teaser trailer from the show.The titular motorcycle is ...
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E3: Quantic Dream unveils Beyond: Two Souls


Jun 04
// Samit Sarkar
Quantic Dream co-founder David Cage came out on stage at Sony's E3 2012 press briefing to introduce his studio's next project, Beyond: Two Souls. Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page (Hard Candy, Inception) stars as heroine Jod...
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The Sims Social promises to be a good woman if you return


May 30
// Samit Sarkar
Numerous online games send messages to lapsed users in an attempt to get those players to come back. Sometimes, they try to guilt you into going back; other times, they look to entice you into returning by offering free goodi...
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NBA 2K13 announced with All-Star Weekend pre-order DLC


May 30
// Samit Sarkar
2K Sports has announced that NBA 2K13 is due out for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii, and PSP on October 2, 2012, in North America, and October 5 worldwide. A Wii U version is also in development; it will be released during ...
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Origin to distribute crowd-funded games free for 90 days


May 18
// Samit Sarkar
EA is looking to expand its support of small studios, this time through its Origin digital distribution service, by capitalizing on the indie development wave du jour: Kickstarter. The publishing giant announced today a new i...
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NHL 13 announced, will deliver new AI and skating physics


May 18
// Samit Sarkar
[Update: You can now watch the debut trailer, which focuses on True Performance Skating.]EA Sports has officially announced NHL 13, this year's iteration of its critically acclaimed hockey series. After releasing two teaser ...

Preview: Making FIFA 13 'predictably unpredictable'

May 16 // Samit Sarkar
FIFA 13 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, Vita, 3DS, PSP, PS2, iOS) Developer: EA Canada Publisher: EA Sports Release: Fall 2012 Three of the creative leads behind FIFA 13 delivered a lengthy presentation to members of the press a few weeks ago at EA Canada, located on a sprawling campus in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. They discussed five major gameplay innovations that are coming in this fall’s new soccer game, but they did not speak of new modes or any other changes, and we didn’t have a chance to play the game. So there’s a lot more to come regarding FIFA 13 -- perhaps at E3, or, more likely, at Gamescom -- but for now, I’ll take you through what gameplay producer Aaron McHardy called “a revolution of game-changing features” for the PS3, 360, and PC versions. Attacking Intelligence lets AI teammates think ahead Dumb AI is a perennial nuisance in team sports games; it’s always frustrating when a scoring opportunity evaporates because a computer-controlled teammate didn’t do something you perceived as natural, lifelike, and/or smart in a particular situation. EA Canada has revamped FIFA’s positioning code, making AI attackers smarter and opening up the field for your offense. FIFA 13’s new Attacking Intelligence feature is felt in a number of ways. Players are now much better capable of analyzing space to go on decisive runs -- they can not only evaluate openings on the pitch and realize they’re in position to make a run, but also can get to valuable space in a manner that creates more scoring chances. This encompasses new behaviors such as stutter-stepping to stay onside, curving runs around defenders, and creating separation from opponents to open up passing lanes, as well as more complex soccer strategy in player positioning and ball movement. The world’s best players have an unparalleled ability to visualize and predict the progress of a play. As McHardy put it, “They’re processing the game at another level,” always thinking ahead to try and gain the upper hand on defenders. Your teammates in FIFA 13 will do the same: they have the intelligence to understand where the ball is likely to go next, and accordingly -- instead of standing around until the play comes to them -- they’ll start moving one or even two passes ahead of time, putting themselves in better position to receive passes and propel the attack forward. McHardy played footage from the studio’s test bed environment, complete with wire-frame players, proving the improvements between FIFA 12 and FIFA 13 to be apparent, significant, and remarkable. Dancing around defenders with Complete Dribbling Last year’s game introduced Precision Dribbling, a setup that suffered from the same problem that has plagued the movement systems in almost every soccer game: players pushed the ball in a direction and turned their body to follow the ball. It made it difficult to get around defenders without using FIFA’s relatively complicated Skill Moves. FIFA 13 brings in an update called Complete Dribbling. McHardy said it’s “way bigger” than Precision Dribbling, with the key element being that EA Canada has finally separated the moving direction from the facing direction. I asked McHardy how important that change is, and he told me it’s “completely liberating.” Until now, he explained, “You couldn’t really face up a player 1v1 and beat him in the way that Messi beats a player 1v1: running straight at him, sidestepping around him, keeping that facing angle forward, and being able to get around the player.” It’s now possible to move laterally while still facing forward, which lets you quickly evade defenders and continue attacking. Complete Dribbling gives you the power to embarrass your opponents, and the freedom and creativity to do it in a variety of ways. Precision Dribbling brought shielding into FIFA, and Complete Dribbling expands on that with the ability to lock a facing-away angle contextually and chain shielding more fluidly with other dribbling moves. In addition, you now have the ability to change direction more quickly in low-speed dribbles, as well as finer control over close touches. Some of these elements came from the dribbling system in FIFA Street, according to Rutter. While Street is an arcade game, the FIFA team felt that “mapping stick control one-to-one with foot movement work[ed] well,” and implemented parts of that setup in FIFA 13. Complete Dribbling also makes advanced dribbling tactics accessible to all players. It’s controlled completely by the left stick, so even novices who can’t pull off Skill Moves will be able to dribble circles around their opponents in FIFA 13. “What we would like is for everyone that plays our game to feel like they have tools to go around defenders,” said line producer Nick Channon. First Touch Control means nobody’s perfect McHardy played footage from a real soccer match in which Ronaldinho perfectly trapped a pass from 50 meters out -- just one gentle tap from his foot, and the ball fell safely into possession. But he’s one of the world’s best footballers, and even he can’t pull that off in every situation. The next clip McHardy showed was from FIFA 12, in which a middling player managed to receive a long pass with perfect touch. That’s simply not realistic, and FIFA 13’s First Touch Control system aims to fix that. This year, the ball isn’t glued to your foot. The new system introduces “contextual trap error,” taking into account a wide variety of factors to determine how easy or difficult it will be for a player to secure the ball. Rain makes it much tougher; a soft pass is easier to gather, unless it’s coming to Earth from way up high; and a well-timed shove from a defender could make all the difference. First Touch Control also accounts for players’ attributes, differentiating the Ronaldinhos of the world from less skilled footballers. Channon made sure to note that it’s “unpredictable, [but] it’s not random, and that’s a very key difference.” EA Canada implemented the system to eliminate perfect control and introduce opportunities for your opponent to take back possession. Playing aggressive passes will make it harder for your teammates to corral them, and it will give the other team chances to pick up balls that bounced away from an attacker’s foot, providing balance to the more offense-minded gameplay changes discussed above. Getting physical on and off the ball with the Player Impact Engine The FIFA team debuted a completely new collision system with the Player Impact Engine last year, and it had its share of glitches. Many of those errors -- the infamous “kiss,” or players’ limbs being forced into biomechanically-impossible-without-tearing-tissue positions -- arose because FIFA 12 didn’t properly model the musculoskeletal structure of its players. Joints now have the proper tension associated with them, and EA Canada has added (and slowed down) animations so players can disentangle themselves without expressing their love for each other. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. “What’s really rewarding this year is building loads of features” on top of FIFA 12’s solid foundation, said Channon. The original Player Impact Engine had a major limitation: it only calculated physics for collisions in which one player already had the ball. Two opponents waiting for a pass to drop, however, had very little interaction. FIFA 13’s evolution of real-time physics allows for players to push and pull each other off the ball, bringing in the crucial element of jockeying for position. “We never really had that concept in our game,” Channon told me, “and I think that’s something we’re very excited about.” This development makes playing defense much more active, and it allows bigger players to use their size and strength to their advantage in preventing attackers from getting to the ball. It’s all about the “battle for the ball,” said Channon, noting that “it’s like any sport, really: if you’ve got good body position, you’ll generally be in a good place.” Tactical Free Kicks provide creative freedom I have limited experience playing FIFA, but even I’ve noticed that free kicks weren’t very exciting -- not nearly as interesting as they are in real life. “Free kicks, in FIFA, have just been kicking the ball over the wall,” admitted Channon. That’s only one element of many in the highly variable setup, and FIFA 13 finally retools the system to give you numerous options, both on offense and defense. The kicking team can now organize up to three players over the ball to play around with fakes, and execute dummy runs to take the ball down the side or to the front. Test bed footage showed two players hopping over the ball, after which the third player sent a pass to the first, who put a shot on goal. You can add to or subtract from the defensive wall, and even creep upward (with the potential for the referees to notice and penalize you). If you mis-time a shot-blocking attempt, you can reform the wall and jump again. More aggressive teams can send a player toward the kickers to intercept passes or block shots. These changes have been “in the making for a while,” Channon told me, “and we felt that this year was the time to do it.” Minor enhancements can have major effects McHardy closed his presentation by discussing additional gameplay improvements. Last year’s iteration of real-time physics made it “infinitely more difficult” for referees to call fouls correctly, so the team has “re-architected” the rules system to work better. They have also humanized the CPU by making it a bit more forgiving, especially on Professional difficulty, which used to be robotically perfect. Lateral defensive containment is a new option, letting defenders cut off passing lanes by moving sideways instead of only toward or away from attackers. On offense, you can take advantage of new pass types, sending lofted through balls or passes that bounce over defenders’ outstretched legs. EA Canada has also added animations for 180-degree shots, off-balance shots, and celebrations. As you can see, EA Canada is doing a lot of work to more accurately simulate soccer. It took Rutter, Channon, and McHardy 90 minutes to cover all the new gameplay features -- that’s how much is changing this year. I heard a few amazed gasps from fellow journalists during the presentation, so it seems like FIFA fans have a lot of stuff to get excited about between now and FIFA 13’s launch this fall.
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The draw of “reality” television is its ostensibly greater degree of unpredictability over scripted shows, the coveted “you can’t make this stuff up” factor. Many simulation videogames better rep...

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The well-received Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is making its way to the PlayStation Vita this summer, sans Peace Walker; the original PSP game can be purchased on the PlayStation Store, although not through the Vita, weird...

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Lions' Calvin Johnson voted onto Madden NFL 13 cover


Apr 26
// Samit Sarkar
EA Sports put the Madden cover to a vote once again this year, and as of last week, the fans had whittled down a bracket of 64 NFL players to just two: Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam "Ace Boogie" Newton (the No. 1 seed) an...
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A 4-week-old Bastion looked ugly but played beautifully


Apr 13
// Samit Sarkar
Videogame development is an iterative process, and games undergo countless changes along the way. In many cases, the final product bears little resemblance to earlier versions, as developers refine their vision and excise fea...

Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13

Apr 03 // Samit Sarkar
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3) Developer: EA Tiburon Publisher: EA Sports Release: March 27, 2012 (NA) / March 30, 2012 (worldwide) MSRP: $59.99 / $69.99 (The Masters Collector’s Edition) EA Tiburon has made sweeping control changes in PGA Tour 13 that vastly expand shot variety and the effects of user input. Called “Total Swing Control,” the revamped setup is a new paragon of control refinement in sports simulations, presenting a system that’s fundamentally familiar while offering a greater degree of control over shots than in any golf game to date. A golf shot consists of two discrete segments: the setup and the swing. In aiming mode, the D-pad moves the ball’s landing spot, while the right stick controls the position of the ball in your stance (which affects the shot’s trajectory) and how open or closed that stance is (which affects fade and draw, respectively). Having settled on your shot, you address the ball and prepare to swing. Here, you move one analog stick to determine the height of the club’s sweet spot in relation to the ball -- this further affects trajectory, and can also be used to dig a ball out of a bunker or pick it out of the rough -- and swing with the other stick. Once you enter address mode, a white trail that represents the ideal arc of your swing appears around your golfer. PGA Tour 13’s updated animation system works in concert with Total Swing Control to present realistic visual cues to a swing’s potential for success. The game now translates your exact analog-stick motion into a swing: if you pull back and to the left, you’ll notice your golfer’s arms and club follow a red trail that deviates from the white arc. Upon swinging, an on-screen graphic provides feedback on the accuracy, power, and tempo of your flicking motion. Total Swing Control instantly makes every other simulation golf game obsolete. Tiburon has removed the shackles of previous Tiger Woods games, which limited you to certain situational shot types, and the result is astounding in that it lets you do almost anything a real golfer can do. PGA Tour 13 gives you the freedom to succeed or fail, depending solely on your skill with a controller. I’ve recovered from bad lies in the rough or the sand in ways that simply weren’t possible until PGA Tour 13. (Sadly, you still can’t save replays of highlight-reel-worthy shots.) Total Swing Control is a rare innovation, the kind that makes you wonder how you got along all this time without it. I do wish the game did a better job of explaining it, though. One of last year’s new additions was the caddie, who offered shot suggestions based on current conditions. There’s now an option to see your caddie’s advice and go with it or alter your shot in a way that suits you. He usually provides valuable advice, proposing shots that take into account factors you may not have considered. But a lot of his suggestions made me scratch my head -- he tends to over-complicate tee shots with draw and fade, as well as overshoot approach and chip shots. I often found myself ignoring his advice and setting up shots myself; perhaps Tiburon didn’t want players to rely completely on his suggestions. New in PGA Tour 13 is a mode called Tiger Legacy Challenge, in which you follow the arc of Woods’ career from his toddler years all the way through the rest of this decade. You play as Woods at seven different ages in ten eras of his career, reliving some of his most significant golfing milestones and creating some future ones. Each segment of his career includes an audio clip of Woods talking about the challenges he faced and the memories he has of those special moments, and it’s truly endearing to see one man’s passionate, lifelong pursuit of golfing greatness. Legacy Challenge offers 53 events with enough variety to keep things fresh. But some of that variety manifests in odd difficulty spikes. You’ll struggle to keep pace in repeated matches against Woods’ fictional rival, a stoic redheaded kid named Scott Ratchman, but one challenge sees Tiger return to his backyard as a teenager to practice a few straight ten-foot putts. You will have had to sink many much more difficult putts just to reach that point in Legacy Challenge. Road to the PGA Tour, the traditional create-a-golfer career mode, has similar quirks. You start out as an amateur, with the promise of an invitation to The Masters if you can win a regional Amateur Championship. I destroyed the amateur competition in tournaments, once going 14-under while everyone below me was at least a few strokes above par. Yet opponents in one-on-one games such as sponsor challenges kept up with every shot I made. Even so, few videogame thrills compare with the accomplished joy I felt upon winning the Masters’ coveted green jacket as an amateur. The most irritating aspect of the career mode -- and indeed, the entire game -- is the pervasive intrusion of paid content. It’s painfully obvious that EA really wants you to spend money in PGA Tour 13, whether it’s the in-game currency of Coins or real money in the form of Microsoft Points. The disc includes 16 courses, and EA is selling another 16 downloadable courses; the six additional courses exclusive to the Masters Collector’s Edition are not currently available for purchase. Tiburon had the audacity to integrate DLC courses into the career regardless of whether you have access to them, so you’ll occasionally come upon an event that you can’t initially play because you haven’t unlocked or purchased the course at which it’s taking place. (Thankfully, you can at least change the venue to an available course.) This year, you don’t have to buy a DLC course outright (for at least $5 each; less in packs) if you want to play it. You can use your Coins -- which you can earn by playing any mode of PGA Tour 13, or buy with real money (at $5 for 15,000 Coins) -- to purchase rounds on downloadable courses. You can also spend Coins on Pin Packs. Consumable Pins are limited-use items that confer bonuses such as attribute or equipment boosts, while Collectable Pins can be hoarded as a way to unlock courses. Completing all of the objectives to achieve “Gold Mastery” on a particular course is the other way to unlock it for unlimited use. That may sound appealing, but it’s actually insidious. While it’s great that you can try out a DLC course without buying it, you’re better off just paying the $5 to own it if you think you might play it more than once. A single round on a downloadable course costs 6,000 Coins; you get two plays for 9,000, and three tries for 12,000. But you earn Coins at a pitifully slow rate: only about 600 per 18-hole round. And the Gold Mastery unlock is something of a charade: most of the Gold objectives are cumulative goals, like achieving 100 pars or hitting 80 greens in regulation, that are difficult and require numerous rounds to complete. The math just doesn’t work out. And what’s particularly grating is that PGA Tour 13 goes out of its way to remind you at every turn that you’re missing out on content, like by leaving downloadable courses in the course select menu as grayed-out options. The best way to earn Coins more quickly is to join friends in an online Country Club, essentially a clan. You can compare in-game accomplishments with members of your Club and compete for Club Champion titles, or join with your teammates to take on other Clubs and make your way up the leaderboards. It’s a fun setup that encourages each member of the Club to play as well as possible, and since it incorporates offline progress, you can be a social golfer without ever playing online. Thanks to the new swing setup, I’ve had more fun playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 than any previous entry in the series. By putting the onus on you to think like a real golfer and execute every shot, PGA Tour 13 makes successful play more rewarding than ever before and gives you the closest possible feeling to mastering a world-class golf course in real life. EA’s bothersome money-grubbing tactics resemble annoying flies that keep buzzing in your ear, threatening to ruin the golfing experience, until you smack them into oblivion with a perfectly played tee shot.
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If baseball is a game of inches, golf is a game of degrees. The loft of a driver; the slope of a fairway; whether a ball lies above or below your feet; an open or closed club face -- even a few degrees’ variation in any...

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Tim Schafer demoes Double Fine Kinect prototype 'Specs'


Apr 02
// Samit Sarkar
“This thing that I’m going to show you is a really weird thing,” said Tim Schafer, the founder of beloved studio Double Fine Productions, during a recent presentation at New York University. He had come to s...
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EA Sports opens up NHL 13 cover to 60-player fan vote


Mar 29
// Samit Sarkar
EA Sports' Madden cover fan vote has been a massive marketing success, and this year, the publisher is trying to engage hockey fans in the same way by letting them choose the NHL 13 cover athlete. The voting is open right no...

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