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Rush'n Attack: Ex Patriot has a major problem when it comes to plot. You see, it's not the late 1980s anymore, so the rampant fear of Soviet Russia doesn't hang over us like a red curtain. So Rush'n Attack: Ex Patri...

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When we last saw Hard Corps: Uprising at Comic-Con, our Dale North came away quite impressed with the flashy sidescrolling shooter from Arc System Works and Konami. After all, the stunning 2D animation makes this title p...

Impressions: Fighters Uncaged

Oct 05 // Ben Perlee
Fighters Uncaged (Kinect)Developer: AMA StudiosPublisher: UbisoftTo be released: November 4, 2010 When the developers of AMA Studios placed me in front of Kinect, it was pretty clear early on that the game was more than a little different from the rest of Ubisoft's lineup of games. This one was gritty and violent, a far cry from the cuddly animals and hoards of avatars. Designed explicitly as a hardcore title for Kinect, this one has been developed with gamers like us in mind. However, those looking for a Street Fighting knock-off should best stick with their sticks, as Fighters Uncaged is less Street Fighter and more Punch Out!!. Considering players view the action from an over-the-shoulder perspective, this makes sense. However, unlike Little Mac, main character Simon can punch, kick, elbow, sweep kick, head butt, and a whole lot more. As a matter of fact, there are over 70 different moves to perform, and while some of them are weird to pull off (I could never perform the leg sweep, and the special move—where you have to yell at the built-in mic in Kinect—was just a tad too goofy), the device is able to generally perform every move you yourself pantomime. It's a neat bit of tech, and while I can see that the training mode will help tremendously in getting a player to know what moves are most tactical, I just ended up flailing around. Which is bad, as each of the different opponents have different fighting styles, appendage preferences, specific weaknesses, and more. For example, one lighter characters might be leg heavy, so you need to prepare to block their kicks, and go heavy on hitting their head. Combos can be performed depending on the chains that are built, so it takes a lot of recognition of the opponent responses. If you are good enough, you can damage their legs and arms, creating even more weak points for you to abuse. Again, it's very evocative of a full body version of Punch Out!!, so fans of that franchise should certainly pay attention. Unfortunately, due to all of the fighting action, no more than one person can play at a time. There's really not much more to say about this, but it looks like multiplayer might be a universal problem with Kinect. For a title like Fighters Uncaged, this is a major buzz kill. Oddly, there are no female character models in the game. When I asked this to Luc Verdier, Producer of Fighters Uncaged, he was pretty upfront: there was not enough time. While the team at AMA Studios would love to have the other gender a part of the game, women will just have to fight digital representations of their gender another time. Go figure! Unfortunately, one other problem that has plagued a lot of Kinect titles is the amount of space you need to play. There is a very good reason why you never hear about Kinect titles allowing more than two players to play at any given time: the sweet spot for games to work is just too small. For example, in Fighters Uncaged, there is a box area between six to eight feet from the camera, and it's about three feet wide. Move too close or too far back, and many games balk at the player, Fighters Uncaged included. Certainly not the fault of the game, just be ready to shuffle back to that sweet spot every few minutes during particularly grueling fights. After a good twenty or so minutes with the game, I can say that Fighters Uncaged could be a novel alternative to the swarms of sports titles coming to Kinect. It's not outrageously violent, but it is certainly different from the swarms of candy colored games ready to hit the market. Between the recognized long kicks and short punches, it's clear that the game is putting the device through its paces in recognizing different moves, and that in itself is a step up from other motion controlled fighting games. Will it become the next great fighting game franchise? Probably not, as the somewhat generic art direction and the ambitious usage of Kinect means this may not be the perfect beginning of a franchise. However, there is a lot here that is exciting for a first generation Kinect title, and fans of fighting games and Punch Out!! should certainly pay attention to Fighters Uncaged.
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As much as Microsoft would like to indicate, Kinect is a device that is going to leave most hardcore gamers in the cold...at least initially. With the upcoming launch set for November 4 in the States, most of the expected lau...

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Beyond Good & Evil HD screenshots look hot hot hot


Sep 30
// Ben Perlee
Early this morning we announced that Ubisoft was going to be bringing Beyond Good & Evil for download in a brand new high definition update: Beyond Good & Evil HD. I did my best to make it clear that the gam...
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As you can tell from some of our coverage today, Ubisoft has made some interesting announcements about upcoming downloadable titles coming over the next year or so. However, that's just the beginning of a new connective meth...

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Knives Chau announced for Scott Pilgrim: The Game


Sep 30
// Ben Perlee
[Update] Video added. Since Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game released last month, people have been wondering when we were going to unlock the final secret character in the game. Nega Scott is easily attainable in th...
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Ever since Ubisoft announced Beyond Good and Evil 2 in 2008, gamers have been dying to see what exactly Ubisoft was going to do with the franchise. It's been two years since then, and little has been discussed with the g...

Hands-on: Superstars V8 Racing

Sep 28 // Ben Perlee
Superstars V8 Racing (PSN)Developer: MilestonePublisher: O-GamesTo be released: October 19, 2010 I'll be real. Superstars V8 Racing is not exactly a racing circuit I'm familiar with -- not many Americans will be. It's a real-life Italian racing series using real-world V8 cars. As a matter of fact, there are only 19 racers in the whole series with only 11 teams. Unlike some recent simulation racing games, players will not be playing as a created character, rather they will be going through the racing season with actual racers.  Thankfully, the cars themselves are pretty great. Ranging from the popular BMW to the classical Maserati, these machines are true supercars, and they all will be designed to look exactly like their real-life counterparts. While this lack of customization is a bit of a bummer, props must be given to the rather unique method of making a car work for you. Entering training mode, players will race their given car around the real-life courses and tune it as they play. Edits can be made on the fly, so instead of tuning off the track, it's all done in real time to make the car race perfectly. If all that tuning doesn't sound interesting to you, the game can be switched between Arcade and Sim mode. Arcade keeps it simple and just brings you to the race, while simulation offers loads more options to change up the car. While the visuals cannot be customized, everything under the hood can be tweaked. For those who just want to race, Quick Race is the easiest method to get on the track, while a mode called Race Weekend offers timed series of tuning, time trials, then a race. Championship is the regular campaign, and this is where players will be earning most of their trophies. Finally, Superstars Licenses is a mode with 20 different specific challenges. Multiplayer is very flexible, offering up to 12 players at once; in contrast with many new titles, bots will be brought out to make sure there are always vehicles on the track. Unfortunately, there is no offline multiplayer, so no couch play will be available. As for tracks, there are 10 in all, each one based upon real-world tracks from across the world. South Africa and Portugal were two nations I saw represented, and each of these courses will be affected not only by weather but also by wear and tear. While racers have to be aware of the state of their vehicle's tires, engines, and more, they also have to be aware of the tire grime that will build up over a race, making many areas slippery.  AI itself is very aggressive, meaning new players will want to watch out and give themselves as much assistance as possible. Course markers, difficulty levels, and more are all options to make the game easier. It is a fairly difficult racing title, but simulation fans shouldn't have too much of a problem with this one. Graphically, this is a fairly impressive game, especially considering it is a downloadable title. It doesn't look like the developers skimped out on making this a good-looking game, and considering this is a full disc title in Europe (released the summer of 2009), expect this one to be a major download. As for right now, we cannot confirm if the title will support a driving wheel. However, it controls just fine with the PS3 controller. All in all, this is pretty impressive for a downloadable title. While our friends in Europe might have had plenty of time with this game, making it digital both opens up the market and could potentially make this a more successful title. It is certainly a niche game for a niche market, and avoiding the brick and mortar shops will be an interesting exercise. Look out for Superstars V8 Racing in October.
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Everyone says that digital downloads are the future of gaming, but so many publishers seem to be afraid of making their product strictly digital. That's not stopping O-Games from releasing a full retail racing title onto the ...

Hands-on: Dungeon Defenders

Sep 28 // Ben Perlee
Dungeon Defenders (XBLA, PSN)Developer: Trendy EntertainmentPublisher: Reverb Publishing; Trendy EntertainmentTo be released: Winter 2010 Immediately, indications show that Dungeon Defenders has a cute little story. Four heroes have sealed away some major evil in a gigantic crystal. One day, they leave their castle to go address some problem, and they leave behind their kids. Of course, kids being kids, they screw around, break a chunk of the crystal, and unleash an evil hoard of orcs and trolls hell bent on breaking into their castle and unleashing the bigger baddie.  Thankfully, the kids themselves are pretty capable, with each representing one of four classes. First we've got the Squire, a young knight whose actions are more hack 'n' slash, while his towers act more like spin blades and cannon balls. The Mage Apprentice is an elemental projectionist, who can perform actions like mana bombs and launch fire balls, while his towers launch massive blasts of energy.  There's also the Monk character, who acts as a sort of middle ground between the Squire and the Mage Apprentice, and the final character, the Huntress, has skills based upon trapping. Unfortunately, I only had time with the Squire and the Mage Apprentice, but clearly each one is unique, with their towers ranging from turrets to barriers. Missions take place in a gigantic castle, from the lowest dungeons to the highest parapets of the the fort. Each level has a series of difficulty options to choose from, with all the best loot and experience coming from the most-difficult missions, and players are encouraged to replay levels. The missions themselves play out in two phases. The first of which is the building phase. With only a limited amount of mana (which is used to build towers and do special attacks), and a limited amount of time, players have to be quick to place barricades on hallways and stairwells that monsters may wander through. Towers can basically be dropped anywhere, from directly on the ground to on the handrails of staircases. Single players will have more time and less enemies, but multiple players can delegate duties and areas of the map to drop towers and defend against foes. That's actually where the second part of the game opens up. Waves of enemies will come charging out of monster closets, and usually you can see the bottlenecks where they come rushing forward. Typically, the turrets and barriers will generally take care of themselves, leaving you free to dive into the action yourself. However, it's important to keep checking in and making sure those defenses have not been destroyed.  Multiplayer really makes this easier, as each person can focus on a certain area of the map, or you can have someone act as a tank while other members makes sure the turrets and stuff are up to shape. It's the bosses, however, that will pose the biggest problem; I was shown a massive demon that causes some major issues in the center of one map. So while we have to deal with the regular bad guys charging toward the crystal, there is also a major boss with typical boss battle techniques -- in this case, hacking at some electric points to zap the demon -- so there can be a lot going on. It's an entirely enjoyable challenge, and it never feels unfair. Customization is out of control here. Everything from the color of your giant crystal you are protecting, to the stats of your equipment and weapons, to your skills (Wanna be a tank attacker? Or a super powerful tower master?), your character stats, and more. Considering the developers at Trendy Entertainment are super huge fans of Diablo, equipable items will fall like crazy as players defeat enemies. There is always something to do to make your character super powerful. Items themselves can be upgraded as well, so good loot can become even better. One area that deserves some major props is the graphical direction. While it's nothing super outstanding -- and the menus do feel a little cluttered -- the actual game looks pretty great, with lots of bold lines and a vivid, cartoonish representation of everything. Perhaps most exciting is the news for PS3 owners, as Dungeon Defenders supports both Move and 3D. Sure, with Move only one player can use the device, and with 3D you have to have the right TV, but it's certainly a nice bonus for the game Multiplayer is as easy as drop-in couch play, online multiplayer, and any combination of the two. Character stats are tied to your profile, so no matter what you do and what loot you get, it'll always stay with your character. Everything is very easy to deal with, and there are loads of flexibility to bring players in and out. With up to four players, there is some scaling to make sure there is still a challenge, and with all of the difficulty options, it looks like players will always have be able to take on a real challenge, whether it be one player or four. Dungeon Defenders is a true surprise. As a major fan of the tower defense genre, I found the game to be a fantastic twist on the genre. Who would have thought that the fusion between action-adventuring, multiplayer co-operative, and tower defense would work so well. It's an exciting new approach, and I'm ready to see what Trendy Entertainment and Reverb are going to launch with later this year. 
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I know the guys from Reverb Communications pretty well. After all, as the PR representatives for many games like Rock Band and Deadly Premonition, they act as the middle man between publishers and games journalists. A great g...

Hands-on: Donkey Kong Country Returns

Sep 23 // Ben Perlee
Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)Developer: Retro StudiosPublisher: NintendoTo be released: November 21, 2010 Donkey Kong Country Returns looks and feels like a perfect ... return ... to the franchise. Simple as that. Anyone coming back after 15 years will find that the movement, feel, and complete gameplay is a fantastic update of the original SNES titles. This time, instead of the traditional K. Rool, DK's island has been invaded by a bunch of banana-stealing Tikis. That narrative masterpiece is the basis for our game, and considering it's Donkey Kong, it'll do just fine. Once again, DK and Diddy platform as a pair across traditional left-to-right stages, but thankfully between the two of them, there are some brand new abilities to shake up the normalcy. Diddy exemplifies his monkey skills, this time clinging on DK's back instead of just following behind. Each of them have two heart points, and when they are together, DK and Diddy share four points in total. What's more, Diddy also has his jetpack most people know from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, so he and DK can double jump -- provided Diddy hasn't taken enough damage and peaced out. Thankfully, it's not game breaking to lose Diddy, and DK is still good by himself. Taking a move from the Wii version of Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, DK can perform a ground pound by shaking the Wii Remote. Holding down and shaking, DK and Diddy will blow from their mouths -- which, while a weird new technique -- is good for taking down the fire enemies and solving simple puzzles.  Things become more dynamic once multiplayer starts up. Unlike the original games, where each player would have to alternate between controlling the duo, Donkey Kong Country Returns offers full live co-op. Once Diddy is running on his own, it's clear he has a few more tricks up his sleeve. In addition to his faster walking speed, jetpack, cartwheel and generally higher jump, Diddy can also shoot from his peanut popgun. It's a great little addition, and it makes multiplayer that much more fun. The two characters are different enough that they compliment each other, and the reduced health means the game is still balanced. Even better, switching to single-player is as easy as a button press, meaning those difficult sections can be performed by a more-capable player should it come to that. Perhaps the most exciting elements to return to Donkey Kong Country Returns is the addition of his animal friends. As anyone will remember, Rambi the Rhino, Espresso the Ostrich, and Engarde the Swordfish, among others, made up some of the most-enjoyable segments of the Donkey Kong Country franchise. I'm very pleased to say that these moments will be making a solid return, although the only one confirmed so far is Rambi. His segments are great. While only one player can control the rhino, Diddy can still shoot his popgun ahead of him while Rambi plows forward. If you watched the trailer that went up yesterday, you'll see that Rambi's stages usually entail racing forward while ruins crumble beneath the trio. It's fun, and while it's nothing new, it's done so perfectly that it's hard to not be charmed by the big guy. As everyone knows, the most graphically successful Wii titles are the games that cause style, charm, and all the little touches necessary to come together and make a cohesive and visually pleasing game. Retro Studios has done an amazing job of making the world of Donkey Kong Country Returns full of activity and dynamism. Each of the levels have small visual cues that make the world of Donkey Kong vibrant and exuberant. From the way Donkey Kong's grass hut warps cartoonishly when he fights the invading Tikis, to the active volcano in the background of the stage, or how a giant octopus' tentacles will wrap throughout a screen with the charm of a cartoon character, each level is always moving and always buzzing with activity.   This focus on making a fully realized Donkey Kong world is best realized on the Sunset Shore, one of many levels in which Donkey Kong and Diddy must journey through the sunsets and vistas of the their island. During these levels, DK, Diddy, and everything from left to right are stylized shadows with bright red ties and baseball caps. Sure, it's something "aped" from EXIT and Shank, but it's done so well that it's hard to hold it against the game.  This level alone means Kirby's Epic Yarn has some competition for this year's best-looking game on the Wii. Donkey Kong Country Returns is one of the cleanest, sharpest and fantastically stylized games on the platform. Once again, it looks like Nintendo has the right approach to making a game that works within the confines of the Wii and produces something fresh, nostalgic, and gorgeous to look at.  Of course, not just the levels were visually dynamic. Each stage feels truly special and unique, while still fitting in perfectly with the whole title. One level comes across as a traditional jungle platforming stage, and then the next is a wet, ruined temple. Stormy seas, ruins of gigantic Mayan monkeys, a huge angry octopus, minecart levels, stages based upon DK's animal buddies, and barrel-based stages all showcase the variety. What is also new is how our simian crew can jump between different planes of the jungle during specific moments in a level. So, at one moment, they'll be close to the screen, and the next they will be way in the distance. Again, this is something Super Paper Mario did, and it's an enjoyable little touch that makes puzzles a bit more perplexing. All in all, the stages are fun and difficult, offering new tricks on Donkey Kong Country platforming, and with all the bananas, puzzle pieces, KONG coins, and banana coins you can collect. Retro Studios has done something entirely remarkable here. Donkey Kong Country Returns is such a solid and true sequel to the franchise. It's great to see a studio pick up what Rare started and make a game that promises to be a perfect continuation of the franchise. Controlling like a dream, Donkey Kong Country Returns is as tight and responsive as the original games, all wrapped up in a bundle of tunes and iconography that screams Donkey Kong. From all the small details to the pure replication of fan-favorite gameplay, Donkey Kong Country Returns is the leader of a bunch of Wii titles coming out this holiday.
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Returning to Donkey Kong Country is like returning to an old friend. Many of us have fond memories of rolling through the jungles of DK's island in, at the time, one of the most visually impressive games ever made. There were...

Preview: Apache: Air Assault

Sep 21 // Ben Perlee
Apache: Air Assault (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Develop: Gaijin EntertainmentPublisher: ActivisionTo be released: November 16, 2010 To be clear, usually these sorts of titles appeal to a specific fanbase. While military simulations are always popular, they have a tendency to alienate more casual users by not offering the right sort of experience to appeal to everyone. Thankfully, publisher Activision and Gaijin Entertainment have added variations of difficulty to make the game more enjoyable to different audiences. For those who would rather get in the chopper and not worry about technical maneuvers or careful flight techniques, there is the Training Mode. While it restricts you from performing certain helicopter actions, it does let players go through the entire campaign without too much difficulty. For a greater challenge, there is Realistic Mode, in which players have only three lives. For players who really love helicopter action, there is finally Veteran Mode, offering only one life and finite ammo.  The helicopters themselves are all Apache brand choppers: the Apache AH-64D Longbow, Apache AH-1, Apache AH-64X Experimental Prototype, MQ-8B Fire Scout, and Mi-35 Hind. While only major helicopter nerds will know the variations by name alone, players will find that each one controls and functions differently. Compared to airplanes, these machines need a wider turning radius, can obviously hover, and generally function in a manner very different from other flight simulators. Helicopters unsurprisingly have special abilities, and Apache pilots will be able to maneuver these machines vertically and nearly upside down, for example. These abilities range from hovering to shooting techniques. Dodging missiles is as easy as dropping altitude, yet to gain speed, the player must dive the Apache downward then swing up, much like a glider. There is a lot of flexibility with these vehicles, and it's going to require a minor learning curve even for those players who are comfortable with flight simulators. One impressive feature is how the helicopters handle variations of damage, such as flying with a damaged engine at the expense of mobility. However, certain parts, like the rotor blades, cannot be taken out without bad things happening. You get my drift. While flight simulators don't exactly offer in-depth plots, Apache: Air Assault tells the story of three different Apache crews working for a fictional UN military organization fighting insurgents across the world. I suppose it'll get the job done, but let's admit it, no one will be playing this game for the plot. However, missions themselves are rather dynamic. Objectives will change on the fly, and goals never take more than a few minutes to perform. The first level I was shown, taking place over the plains of Africa, guided us across bluffs and dusty roads while we took out insurgent vehicles. After reducing one insurgent town to rubble (hey, it was filled with no one but guerrilla terrorists, alright?), our Apache had to defend a fellow downed helicopter in a much larger city as insurgents attacked both us and the soldiers on the ground waiting for airlift. Success in this mission involved locking the Apache into a hover position, then switching over to a shooting mode, alternating between a tactical black-and-white vision cam that highlights enemy vehicles and an infrared cam that highlights enemy soldiers as solid white against a field of black. It looks pretty great, and once the rescue crew showed up, the mission became an escort mission. Within 15 minutes, missions varied from taking out targets, defensive aerial battles, and escort challenges. If the whole game can keep up with the variety, fans of flight simulators will have a lot to like. If not, they'll appreciate the free flight mode, with a whole set of variables to keep the gameplay dynamic. With regards to multiplayer, Gaijin Entertainment is taking a cooperative approach. Apache: Air Assault offers 13 multiplayer-exclusive modes with up to four players acting as a squadron to work through more team-based missions. Though online only, the main campaign can be completed as a co-operative team with one player acting as the pilot and the other as the gunner. Coming away from the game, it's clear that fans of air combat games and flight simulators will find a lot to appreciate and enjoy. Clearly, it's not for everyone, but it's a niche title for a niche audience. However, there seems to be a strong amount of polish and focus on making a helicopter title that works. It also helps that it is a great looking game with very lush and realistic geography and a solid draw distance. Hopefully, Gaijin Entertainment and Activision can keep things together and release a quality Apache helicopter simulator when Apache: Air Assault launches this November.
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Apache: Air Assault is a special beast. While it might be considered a helicopter version of Gaijin Entertainment's IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, a military aerial simulator released in 2009, it is clearly a differ...

Hands-on: Dead Space 2 multiplayer

Sep 13 // Ben Perlee
Dead Space 2 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Visceral GamesPublisher: Electronic ArtsTo be released: January 25, 2011 Dead Space 2's multiplayer boils down to this: it's a traditional 4v4 versus mode seen in many games. However, there is a decidedly Left 4 Dead feel to the mode, as four players are rocking the human engineers, and the other four crawl about as the twisted Necromorphs. Yep, fans of ganking will have a blast with this one, as nothing is more satisfying than killing some dude as a baby tentacle monster with a couple of your buddies. With regards to the basic gameplay, this is about it, with one team trying to escape, and the Necromorphs just trying to eff things up. There is a slight RPG system at play, however, as players will be earning experience to receive different customization options for the game. These can be weapons for the humans and attack variations for the Necromorphs, as well as aesthetic changes. Experience can be spent at the Shop area, and hopefully the unlockable options promote multiple playthroughs. Dead Space 2's multiplayer is admittedly a little light on variations. As a matter of fact, there are only five arenas to work through, and there is only one mode to play through. If it initially seems anemic, it's not. The goal is to make these five arenas feel more robust, with each one offering slightly different gameplay offerings. I was shown two levels, Titan Mines and and Escape. Titan Mines required players to try and move bomb parts to different areas of a mine, while Escape required the human players to charge forward through a spaceship to escape pods. There's enough distinct differences between these two levels, and with three more offered, hopefully we can see some strong variables in levels alone. One nice touch is that -- keeping with Dead Space's zero HUD rule -- the scores and timer is posted on physical leaderboards placed around the map. It's a neat little touch. Playing as the humans, controls are just as you'd expect. Players have options for two weapons at a time, and, like I mentioned before, they can earn more options and loadouts to be used in multiplayer. Playing as humans is instantly recognizable and easy to jump into, and while having three friends with you means the game is not quite as isolating as the single-player game, this is certainly a creepy multiplayer component; you're always on the search for Necromorphs jumping out and attacking. It's very intense. However, we know what's what, and most people are interested in playing as the Necromorphs. Much like the Special Infected from Left 4 Dead, the Necromorphs have special abilities distinct from the human players. There are four in total, but we were only shown three of these horrific beasts. First of all was the Pack, a small child Necromorph that is fast and dangerous. Designed to rush behind the human players and hack away, these weaker Necromorphs were great at overwhelming the human force. Another option is the Lurker, which very much looks like a baby crawling around on the walls and ceilings. A good Lurker will sit on the ceiling or a pillar and shoot acid at the humans. They too can run up and attack, but they are much more of a distance-focused class. Finally, I played as the Spitter, a giant female Necromorph with tentacles to boot. She has a chargeable acid wad she can spit, and considering her strength and power, there is an extended respawn time for her to be used. The Puker will be the last one, and he's a short range, heavy damage Necromorph, although we were not shown him in action. Each of these characters control and feel very different, and it looks like from my play time, players will fall into roles they really enjoy. I found the Lurker to be a fantastic support class, making sure that the humans never knew where exactly they were taking damage from, for example.  Actually playing as the Necromorphs is a much faster experience than say, a game like Left 4 Dead. Instead of respawning after a long 30-second cool down, the Necromorphs can respawn instantly (Spitter excluded), but they have have to choose where they will respawn. Throughout the levels are ducts that can be smashed open, so a thoughtful player will try to find a good spot to make the most damage. Spitters and Lurkers will want to spawn from across the map, and Pack necromorphs will be better suited popping out right by the humans. Helping the Necromorphs is this visual representation of the human's nervous systems, and while it's a rip off of what Left 4 Dead did years ago, it's much more visually impressive this time around. Overall, it's a frantic experience, to say the least. What is most exciting about the Dead Space 2 multiplayer is how clearly Visceral Games is working hard to make this a multiplayer game worth playing, not just some slapped on versus mode with some half-assed excuse for something unique and distinct. There is a lot of thought and involvement in making this a balanced and enjoyable experience, and while not everything is known or explained about the game, my time with it so far left me itching for more. 
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Adding multiplayer to a game that is primarily known for the single-player experience is always a finicky deal. Take a look at Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, or BioShock 2. While both of these titles were able to bring so...

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Tron Bonne confirmed for MvC3; Mega Man still missing


Sep 10
// Ben Perlee
First of all, watch the lovely cinematic above. It's dashing! It's brave! It's exciting! Captain America punches the crap out of a helicopter, Chun-Li proves herself worthless, Trish does some bad-ass shooting...

Hands-on: Claptrap's New Robot Revolution

Sep 09 // Ben Perlee
For those of you who don't know, the deal is that with the opening of the Vault, Hyperion Corporation has seen a massive drop in sales for its weapons. Apparently people just picking up weapons isn't great for sales. So they've sent the special Claptrap Ninja Assassin to deal with the problem. Unfortunately for them, this little guy found his race of Claptraps to be oppressed, and he's started an uprising against the dominating forces... which unfortunately, includes you. C'est la vie, I suppose. Viva la revolucion? This Robot Revolution is also a boss battle mode, of sorts. Previous bosses from the game have come back from the dead, only this time they aren't so... humanioid. (Their transformation is literally called “Getting the clap.”) Now that the Claptraps have gotten a hold of them, characters like General Knoxx have come back from the dead, half man and half Claptrap. This applies to the enemies as well, as humans, skags, and rakks are now all bionic, with tubes and wires sticking all over the place. This includes the new Tartarus Station, a train station area that is more open and less linear than the General Knoxx zone; the whole town has a "Claptrap-ified" new look. Other new additions to the game include three more backpack item slots to carry more of the new guns and items to rock out on the go. With the new level cap brought over from the latest (and free) patch, and the 20 new missions, these new add-ons are going to go a long way to making a new experience. It looks like the writing, however, is where the game will really shine. I was told that every member of the team has left their fingerprints on the humor of the title, and it shows. Killing a punching-glove equipped Claptrap, for example, and he'll die while screaming “404 error: server not found.” Lines like these are littered throughout the game, and it's often a specific brand of humor for those who spend a little bit too much time online. It's great. Throughout the new area of Tartarus Station, the impact of the Claptraps are everywhere, with fake revolution posters designed to look like Che Guevera, among others, and the whole vibe is this silly little revolution gone weird. By far it is the funniest and goofiest interpretation of the Borderlands universe. When asked if this would be the final content pack for the game, the response I received from the Gearbox rep Adam Fletcher was that Genral Knoxx was initially going to be the final expansion. So as long as fans keep playing and buying the new additions, there is a good chance Gearbox could make more after the Robot Revolution. Also, it's important for me to note that Gearbox and its employees seemed really intent to make a game that really stands up as something the fans want to play. This was indicated when I first previewed the game last year, and it certainly seems to be the case with this bit of content. The patch we reported on earlier today indicates the same thing, as that was entirely designed to please the fans. Finally, for people interested in Borderlands, but have not picked up the game, the Game of the Year edition will be coming out on October 12 for $49.99 for PC, $59.99 for consoles, with all of the downloadable content, as well as a specialized map of what Gearbox is calling “The East Coast of Pandora.” Pretty interesting, considering that means there's a whole West Coast that has not been seen. Allusions to the future, it's pretty clear that Gearbox is already preparing for the next game in the franchise. When I brought up questions about problems with the franchise, such as the lack of scaling between players at different levels, the developers just nodded their heads knowingly. Hopefully good things will be in store for the future. Coming away from Claptrap's New Robot Revolution, I feel great that this might be the best bit of downloadable content yet. Incredibly funny and tongue-in-cheek, it's total fan service, designed for a laugh, and fun to boot. For those who haven't played any of the new downloadable content, this might be a great one to start off with. For those who have been keeping up with the add-ons, this is one not to miss. Be ready to pick this one up September 28 for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.
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It's been about a year since the first time I saw Borderlands. Taking place at some quirky bar in the famous Haight district in San Francisco, the oddness of the place fit the game, and I wasn't expecting much. At that point ...

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For fans of Borderlands, the addition of Claptrap's New Robot Revolution is going to be an exciting bit of downloadable content. Having seen the new features, I can say it's a fantastic addition to Borderlands, and you'll def...

Impressions: Shogun 2: Total War

Sep 02 // Ben Perlee
Shogun 2: Total War (PC)Developer: The Creative AssemblyPublisher: SegaTo be released: March 2011 Since this is a shogun game, taking place in 16th century Japan, the idea of Samurai is really important. Players will be asked to lead one of twelve fiefdoms in the quest for Japanese Samurai glory and control of the nation. Starting off in 1545 AD, players will be tasked to guide Japanese culture through wars, the influx of Western nations, Christianity, gunpowder, cultural strife, and more. All of these features, as well as the turn-based elements of the game, build around the core of the game: the real-time battles. These battles are huge in scope and very tactical. Troops are organized by social and military types, and, interestingly, the enemy AI typically responds like traditional Japanese soldiers would. That is, they fight with a certain code of honor in which unit types fight like unit types, and there is no variation from that. Of course, you're allowed to ignore those honor codes, which is always fun, screwing with different cultural norms. Controlling the units is as simple as clicking a group and dragging them to the selected spot. Since these units can only walk, run, or ride horses, they don't move terribly fast, which creates a feeling of impending force. This a slow, powerful feeling RTS. And boy, there are a lot of units. From noble samurai to lowly peasants, to archers and ninjas, there are over 30 different types of Japanese military units to use. These will change over time, as the change in culture and influx of Western influences will influence the state of the battlefield. There's a lot to keep track of, and the way units are used and upgraded make a big impact on the field. One of the biggest impacts is the morale of the units. As units charge across the field, they have a morale meter that indicates how they are feeling on the field. If they face a particularly powerful unit, and their morale may drop enough for them to run away in shame. There is actually a couple ways to win these real time matches, and one of them is to weaken enemy morale by out manning them, taking over their fortresses, or to defeat their general. The generals play a big role in the battles, as a general-less army is severely weakened. When the general is around, he'll often make a speech to his troops, and these can range from epic poetry to odd words about squirrels and the moon. Depending on what they say, the troops can respond differently, both good and bad. Either way, it's good to have a general, as they have extra strength in the battle field, will often charge ahead, and can boost morale. However, is they die, troops morale will drop heavily, so it's best to keep him around as long as possible. Most of the matches are just battles on a battle field. However, other battles use the new naval battleships to blur the line between units. Shogun-era naval units were like giant floating fortresses, perfect for moving units along the shallow bays and rivers of Japan. Many of the battles will entail sending units from a ship to attack and overtake a Japanese fortress. These buildings have a staggered affect, in which units move from court yard to courtyard fighting. All of these elements will be in play for the epic battles. The battles that I was shown featured some impressive bits of tech. Shogun 2 is capable of supporting around 56,000 troops on one screen. Up close, sure, they look a little jaggy, but considering each and every one of them are taking part in individualized fights, this is more than impressive. Considering Kendo martial artists did all the mocap for the game, coupled with artists and musicians who spent a year and a to get everything right for the game, there is a very high standard for accuracy here. The team at The Creative Assembly used primary and secondary sources as inspiration for all the elements of the game, as well as the assistance of Japanese and Western scholars to make to make this as accurate as possible. All the voice acting and terminology uses the proper romaji and Japanese language, and real steps have been made to making this the best representation of Shogun Japan as possible. Over all, I'm pretty impressed with what The Creative Assembly has done. Even in pre-alpha, there are some pretty fantastic bits of tech here (hell, water runs off the roofs in a realistic manner during a rain storm, for example). Moving troops is a simple and thoughtful affair, and it looks like a very realistic take on ordering your troops about and lining them up. Coupled with the turn-based, Civilization-esque elements that I am not yet allowed to talk about, I think Shogun 2: Total War could very well be a major title for RTS PC gamers.
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Recently Sega invited me over to its San Francisco offices to take a peek at the latest game in the Total War series: Shogun 2. As a return to the original Total War game Shogun: Total War, Shogun 2 is the latest in the real ...

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Blood Drive car combat game from Activision leaked


Sep 02
// Ben Perlee
One time I gave blood at a blood drive, and I got grape juice and some graham crackers. It was a really wonderful experience, and except for the needle protruding from my arm while slowly pumping blood into a bag, I...

Hands-on: John Daly ProStroke Golf

Sep 01 // Ben Perlee
John Daly's Prostroke Golf (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)Developer: Gusto GamesPublisher: O-GamesTo be released: October 5, 2010 John Daly's Prostroke Golf is the technical sequel to the Prostroke golf series last seen on the PS2, PSP and Xbox. The addition of John Daly is important, as other than Tiger Woods, he's one of the most well known golfers in history, with a unique play style and a perchance for drama. Serious, the man has been married four times, dealt with alcoholism, weight problems, and a whole lot more, and is widely considered the comeback king of golf. Between his outrageous personality and his crazy line of wild Loudmouth golf clothing, Daly has his mark well and true on the game. While Daly himself is playable on the 16 original courses (with some based upon British courses), players will also be making their own character. Nothing particularly remarkable about this, but it's a nice addition that you can even dress your character up in crazy Loudmouth branded clothing that look like quilts. Seriously. Expect DLC of clothing and character options, surely. As far as basic gameplay goes, players will be using the Move controller to indicate and line up their shots on the course. There is a smallish checkerboard grid that both indicates the angle of the course, as well as indicates the general area the ball will go if hit straight on. Moving this grid about is easy, although it is a little sensitive. Most players initially tug the trigger and swing about the course, when a gentle pull and slow motions get the job done. While motion control is important for lining up your shots, the actual swing gameplay is much more important. Players will enter a first person perspective looking down at the ball. From there, they can step closer or farther from the ball to put on some top or back spin, twist their wrist to open or close their shot, as well as practice how they want to hit the ball. Pull the trigger, and then the game measures how far back you pull back your swing, how vertical your club is, and how fast you rip through. Depending on how you hit the ball, your angle, how close or far you are standing, and a whole lot more the ball can go anywhere. However, it was pretty clear how to clean up your shot, and before long, we were pulling off courses at par. For anyone who needs a little assistance, there is a training mode in which John Daly himself will guide players through technique. Apparently the first time he played the game, he did an amazing job on the courses, so the technique in the game is strongly based upon real world skills. Right now, it does take a little getting used to the controls. The Move controller has a lot more buttons than the Wiimote, so it is easy to accidentally press the wrong button, or when you need to calibrate the device (a surprisingly common occurrence) you would press the wrong button. Thankfully, fifteen minutes of play made this a non-issue, and I was in control of everything no problem. Coming away from the motion control, I was pretty impressed. Unlike the Wii experience, it really did feel much more accurate and realistic. While the character models and general graphics are not the most impressive, the gameplay feels solid and functional. It doesn't feel like the game ruins shots that should have been perfect, and there is a lot of flexibility to modify how you want the ball to go. Plainly, it just feels nice. That's a good thing for a golf game. In addition, if motion control isn't your jam, John Daly Prostroke Golf will be coming to the Xbox 360, as well as the PC. However, if you've got the PS3, this would certainly be the version to get.
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When motion control first came out with the Wii, one of the most relaxing activities to take part in was the golf game that came with Wii Sports. It wasn't exactly accurate, and it didn't always work right all the time, but i...

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Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions for the DS was, quite frankly, a surprise. While the console versions of Shattered Dimensions are a great opportunity to see all the variations of the webbed wonder, they were, at the end of t...

Hands-on: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Sep 01 // Ben Perlee
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PC)Developer: BeenoxPublisher: ActivisionTo be released: September 7, 2010 By now the idea behind Shattered Dimensions is pretty well known. Take four different Spider-Man universes, toss them together, and go to town. It's cool, for sure, to be playing one version of classic Amazing Spider-Man one minute, and the next to be diving off a building as Spider-Man 2099. However, there is some reason to this rhyme, and it seems Mysterio has broken up the Tablet of Chaos and Order. It's caused all sorts of bad news to go down, and the arachnoid Madam Web has tasked, well, all of the Spider-Man to retrieve the pieces and undo the problems Mysterio started. It's all typical comic book stuff, and seems inoffensive. While many past Spider-Man games opted for the open world approach by re-creating New York City and letting Spidey roam about as he pleases, Shattered Dimensions doesn't exactly work that way considering they have four different universes to work with. Shattered Dimensions is strictly a level-based game, broken up into universes and in chapters. One weird side effect is that because there is no open world, the whole free-swinging portion of Spider-Man is gone. Considering I had seen only a small portion of the game, I'm hopeful that there will be more swinging opportunities in the game, as I didn't really have many. However, swinging aside, each of the four different universes offer slightly different aesthetics and gameplay. While all of the versions of Spider-Man share the same general fighting combos and spider abilities, there is still plenty of variation. For example, the Ultimate Spider-Man level took place in a S.H.E.I.L.D hangar, with a battle going on between Carnage's minions and S.H.E.I.L.D bots. It was a three-way battle with Spidey, who was chasing down Carnage. With fire and alien flesh all over the place, everything took on a reddish hue. Ultimate can use his Spidey sense, and can also use a rage mode that will increase his powers. That level ended with a boss battle against Carnage. Between first-person punches and kicking his ass into some jet engines, the Carnage fight was usually just mash away at him and jumping out of the way at the last second. Generally, Ultimate is all about the action, with a little bit more focus on the punches. Amazing, however, is all about the web action. In his mission, Spidey was chasing after Juggernaut, who in his escape destroyed some gas pipes to cause a fire. Spider-Man, the pro at randomly falling into the wrong situation at the wrong time, found himself in the midst of a bunch of enemies in the middle of a construction site. By swinging over and saving the nearby construction workers, I was able to get past. My demo ended there, but this stage offered a little of the free swinging I had been hoping for, as well as showed off the web abilities Amazing could use. His web could transform in fists and hammers, and the combat felt a little bit more distance based than Ultimate. Spider-Man 2099's major hook is threefold. First of all, each of his attacks are a little faster and much more acrobatic, while in the end they do basically the same thing as the others. However, while Ultimate has the ability to boost his power, 2099 has the ability to slow down time. While this is great for some of the fights, in which Spidey goes all Viewtiful Joe against his foes, it's even better in some of the free fall sections. New York City is much taller now, and 2099 has the ability to sort of glide down from the top of buildings. In a race against a game exclusive version of Hobgoblin (redesigned to look like a metallic purple gargoyle) Spider-Man is tasked with dodging building shrapnel and other bits thrown his way by Hobgoblin. After this free fall, I was treated to another fight in which Hobgoblin would throw pumpkins at me, and I'd swing them back.  Finally, Spider-Man Noir offered the most interesting version of the webbed on. Based upon the Noir universe, everything is very much in shades of gray, black, and muddy yellow. Activision took some liberties with this version, as he has some extra web abilities he doesn't have in the comics, such as web swing. This is less important, however, as Noir is focused on stealth. He is a capable fighter one-on-one, but any more than that, and his health takes a dive. Thankfully, in the shadows his health will respawn, so Noir takes on an almost Batman approach to crime fighting: hide in the shadows, and take out your threats from above. His mission was about saving some prisoners locked up in a train yard, and after taking some of Hammerhead's minions, it was as easy as swinging off to the nearby safezone. Each of the four versions of Spider-Man offered quite a bit of variety, and it was enjoyable to see how each universe represents what is basically the same ideas and imagery. Most of the charm comes from teasing out the different elements of the game, and working through them to see how this or that will be reinterpreted. It's certainly enjoyable. Odd for most tiles coming out, the Wii version is exactly the same as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game. Other than the obvious drop in textures and jump in aliasing, the games are exactly the same save some additional motion control. All of the attacks are with the press of the B-trigger, and depending on the angle of the Wiimote up or down, the attacks will be heavy or weak. Shake the nunchuck for a throw, press C to jump, and + or – will access the Spidey Sense and special abilities. It took me a little while to figure things out, and it does fell little complicated. However, these look like they will redeem themselves with other Wii-specific opportunities. In Noir, for example, Spider-Man will have to point where he wants his webbing to shoot on the barred doors holding the prisoners, and you have to yank them off. In Ultimate, during the boss fight with Carnage, players will have to dodge his attacks and throw in punches using motion control. It's a nice addition, I'll give it that. Coming away from Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, there are things I certainly like. I like that there are different art directions and looks to each of the worlds, and I like that it gives us a feel of each universe. I like that Spider-Man plays out a little bit in each universe. I am a little disappointed that web swinging seems to take a slight back seat to the combat, but the combat is at least varied and fun. If the whole of the game is enjoyable and dynamic, I can see this being a great sort of game to blast through after a day of work or on a Saturday afternoon. Finger's crossed.
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When it comes to super heroes, the most successful are able to recreate the element of the “everyman.” While almost all of us want to be Superman, Batman, Wolverine or, uh, Mr. Fantastic (was that just me?), those...

Hands-on: Drawn: Dark Flight

Aug 26 // Ben Perlee
Drawn: Dark Flight (PC)Developer: Big Fish GamesPublisher: Big Fish GamesTo be released: August 31, 2010 Drawn: Dark Flight picks right up after the plot of the first title. You have just descended a tower in a kingdom taken over by a dark force, and the game picks up in this city. The darkness has become more pronounced here in the streets, and your job will be to solve puzzles to reach your young queen Iris, with the ultimate goal to take back the kingdom and save the day. However, like most adventure games, these items have to be placed in rather unique and odd places, so the puzzles promise to be pretty complex. That said, this is a casual title, so there's plenty of help and assistance with completing the game. Big Fish Games really wants to make a game people can complete. Now, polish is really where devs have striven to place their effort on Dark Flight. The child queen, Iris, has a special ability that allows her drawings and creations to come to life, so throughout the adventure puzzles will involve interacting with pieces of art inside and outside the actual pieces themselves. For example, one lush painting of a self-aware Easter Island monolith is depressed, for stormy weather in his painting means he cannot receive a letter from his beloved. Using some cranks outside the painting activate a fan that will blow the clouds away. Once back in the painting, we receive the letter with another image of a pirate. This animated painting, designed to look like cardboard cut-outs, was a puzzle involving shooting sharks with cannon balls before reaching his treasure. It's a neat effect, with puzzles within puzzles, and these puzzles take place all across the game. Other puzzles entail finishing drawings of objects, like a line of rope, to make them become real and useful in your journey. It's the visuals that are most impressive. While the main city streets are creepily pretty, with a hand drawn and painted aesthetic, it's when you get paintings and drawings that dynamism becomes a big deal. Considering all of their options for artistic opportunities, we've got paintings, drawings, pop-up books, cut-outs, sketches, and plenty more art styles to work through. Having such a varied aesthetic fits the style of the game and allows for lots of flexibility for the designers. Dark Flight looks like a pretty little casual title. There is an extremely high level of polish here, and fans of point-and-click adventures will certainly want to pay attention to Drawn: Dark Flight. Coming in a $9.99 special edition and a $19.99 collector's edition (with 2 hours of extra gameplay), there are a couple different buying options for players. Drawn: Dark Flight will be available on August 31.
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Big Fish Games isn't exactly a household name. After all, each of their titles are casual games that don't receive much attention, but seem to do just fine for the company. And considering, as they claim, that they launch a n...

Hands-on: BioShock 2's Minerva's Den

Aug 26 // Ben Perlee
While all areas of Rapture are distinct and the technology within can be described as proto-contemporary -- art deco-punk, I suppose -- the actual source of the technology has not been explained. Minerva's Den answers these questions, as the plot describes the real technological power of Rapture, a massive computer that, like all things in the underwater city, has gone to hell. Players fill the shoes of another alpha series Big Daddy, Subject Sigma, and he's been tasked by head engineer C.M. Porter with retrieving the basic code of this computer that Rapture's citizens call "The Thinker." Compounding problems is Porter's rival, Reed Wahl, attempting to control the area and usurp Porter. All of this takes place parallel to the events of BioShock 2, but you won't see or interact with any of the characters from the main plot, although I was told that Dr. Tenenbaum will be the exception. New plasmids and weapons include the Gravity Well plasmid, a super-powered trap that sucks all enemies and non-secured objects into a gravity hole, making them perfect targets for a shot in the head. There is also the brand new Ion Laser, a laser cannon that can be charged up into a massive burst that works great with the gravity plasmid. Additionally, there is a new sentry bot to control, the rocket bot, that does exactly what the name says, and new thermal ammo for lighting enemies on fire. These additions are exclusive to the Minerva's Den DLC, and will not be making an appearance in the multiplayer portion of the game. However, you will need them to deal with the new Lancer-type Big Daddy, who has his own Ion laser. I was only shown a small bit of the new areas of Minerva's Den, but what I played fits Rapture perfectly. For fans not ready to move on from Rapture, this looks like a fair swan song to the series, as the story follows all the dystopian conflicts you'd expect, and with three new levels, there is time to answer some of the questions fans may have about the original BioShock. The theme of "early computing" is rather unique, and it is interesting to see how this will play out in the broad plot. Minerva's Den will be available on August 31 for $10 on PlayStation Network or 800 Microsoft Points on Xbox LIVE Marketplace.
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Poor BioShock 2. Not only does it have to be the direct sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed titles of all time, BioShock 2 had to deal with a weaker plot and an audience that approached it with particularly outstan...

Interview: Producer of Star Trek Online on Season 2

Aug 19 // Ben Perlee
  Destructoid: Now that the game is entering "Season 2", please describe for me the feelings you hope to evoke with this expansion. What sort of new experiences will we see with the game? Is this considered an expansion or a seasonal update? Daniel Stahl-Executive Producer of Star Trek Online: Season 2 was a lot about reaction to the feedback we received from players. People asked for non-combat missions, so we delivered. People demanded more PvE Klingon content, so we built that.  We’re also trying something new with weekly episodes. They’re brand new, level-agnostic content that people of either faction can play. We’re debuting a new one each week for a while. The episodes are connected and tell a story new to Star Trek Online. We want people to have something to be excited about each week, and we think this is a good way to generate some of that excitement. Season 2 isn’t really an expansion – it’s just a big update. We structure all of our updates like this. There will be a Season 3 and Season 4, as well.  Overall, I’d say we want to evoke a feeling of excited satisfaction from our current players, and to continue to provide a sense of wonder and potential from all of our players new and old. Please describe the Diplomatic Corps. Star Trek has always been about intercultural interactions more than action and shooting, and what will fans of this side of Star Trek find? The Diplomatic Corps is a new gameplay option for players. It has its own reward and advancement system. As you complete special missions for the Corps, you gain diplomatic experience and then progress in rank, which gives you access to higher-profile missions.  One early mission is called Quarantine. A disease has found its way onto your ship, and it’s up to you to work with Starfleet to develop a cure to save you and your crew. There are also First Contact missions, where you can reach out to civilizations that have just developed Warp technology. You can learn about the new species and speak with their leaders, and so on. But that’s just the beginning of this system. We’re going to develop it more based on what people tell us they want to play. Will we see more references from the show make an appearance in the game? Definitely! This is more of an “as we can” thing, and if it fits. Since Star Trek Online takes place at later time than any of the shows, it won’t make sense to see some characters from previous shows. That doesn’t necessarily tie our hands, though. For instance, in Season 2 we introduced a gambling mini-game: Dabo. Leeta, a “Dabo girl” at Quark’s Bar, was a popular recurring character from Deep Space 9. Our community really wanted to see her included in our presentation of Dabo, so we designed a holographic Leeta and recruited Chase Masterson, the actress that played Leeta, to provide voice talent. Plot-wise, where are we in the game now? How has the overarching narrative of the universe progressed? The universe is still at war. The Federation and the Klingons are still engaged in hostilities, and the Borg are trying to take advantage of the instability to move against both groups. To make matters worse, the Undine, a shapeshifting race from beyond the Alpha Quadrant, have emerged as quite a threat.  In Season 2, we’ve added the Fek’ihri, a fabled enemy of the Klingons. They feature in the Klingon-exclusive episodes we put together. And in our weekly episodes, players will square off against the Breen. So really, things are pretty hot everywhere.  How has the response been to the game been? Working with the Star Trek franchise has probably been a dream come true. Has it been the flexible experience you hoped? Star Trek fans are some of the most passionate and knowledgeable fans out there and they’re definitely not shy about giving you their opinion about the game.  They have really given us encouragement and feedback as well as some great ideas for what they would like to see in the game. We’ve been taking a lot of cues from them on our mini-game designs, for instance. I’ve been a Star Trek fan for a long, long time and I was really excited to be given the chance to add to such an awesome franchise.  Fortunately for us, CBS has given us a lot of freedom with Star Trek and have been great about providing feedback and any sort of information we may have needed throughout the development cycle.   Where do you hope to go next with Star Trek Online? We really want to get Klingons caught up, content-wise, with the Federation.  And in general, we really want to polish the experience to a mirror shine.  I want the things our players encounter to be good, not just there. That’s coloring everything we’re doing going forward.
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In the world of MMOs, we all know the heavy hitters. There's World of Warcraft, maybe a little adventuring in Middle Earth, some crime fighting in City of Heroes and Champions Online, maybe some free-to-play action. Then ther...

Hands-on: NBA 2K11

Aug 18 // Ben Perlee
NBA 2K11 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii, PC)Developer: Visual ConceptsPublisher: 2K SportsTo be released: October 5th, 2010 First, lets talk polish. When the developers first went about making NBA 2K11 more polished, they started with the cameras. All the angles now support truer broadcast shots, so now you will never play from an angle that is not true to how viewers watch the games themselves. After working through the cameras, players' faces were redesigned, and special focus was placed upon the small details. If a player has a special tic that he always does, or if he always wears a sock a certain way, that's how the game will represent him. As for control, a lot of effort has been placed upon redesigning the animation. Whereas before players would be locked into an animation, unable to mix things up, now players can shift and move with a lot more fluidity. Again, the R-stick is used for making shots, and small “cell phone reception” bars will pop up next to a player to indicate their success at performing a shot. It's all stuff we've come to expect from an NBA 2K game, so that's all well and good. The most exciting element of NBA 2K11 is certainly all the new stuff about Michael Jordan. Not just the cover athlete, players will be able to play through a bunch of classic and legendary Jordan matches from his career, all while fulfilling certain requirements. Called The Jordan Challenge, these games range from his April 20, 1986 game against the Boston Celtics (Score 63 points or more, and shoot 50 percent or better from the field), the June 16, 1996 match against the Sonics the day after Jordan's father was murdered, and even the June 11, 1997 match in which Jordan struggled with a nasty flu. These are ten special matches in which everything has been done to recreate how those matches were seen by fans. Courts have been repainted, the players are all the legacy players from the match (and they themselves are playable in exhibition matches), and the voice work and announcers all speak as if in the time. Jordan himself will change in appearance as he plays different eras as well. Most interesting, however, is that The Jordan Challenge focuses entirely on the Chicago Bulls era, so no Washington Wizards matches here. Once you've completed the ten games in the The Jordan Challenge, players can then follow up with the Creating a Legend mode. In this mode players will drop Jordan in a modern team, with him as a young upstart with a lot of talent. It's up to the player to boost his stats and make him the player he would become. It's a neat little feature tossed into the game, and all this special attention to Michael Jordan is pretty great. Considering they interviewed him and got his perspective on—well, being Jordan, this is probably the most accurate Michael Jordan game yet.  I'm pretty impressed with NBA 2K11. It's clear that the dev team has spent a lot of time trying to get the best experience out there, by listening to their fans and building this wholly Jordan-focused experience. There's a lot of polish here, and it's fantastic to see a sports game developer really try to make their game the best.
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Unlike football or baseball, there isn't some sort of exclusivity contract at play with the National Basketball Association. This is somewhat great, as it affords us different basketball games from different companies, with t...

Hands-on: Rock Band 3's keyboard peripheral

Aug 17 // Ben Perlee
Rock Band 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii)Developer: HarmonixPublisher: MTV GamesTo be released: October 26, 2010 Playing normal, non-Pro keys is a pretty simple affair. With only five keys to worry about, the game can get hard, but it's nothing that anyone with experience playing Rock Band should have trouble with. Colored indicators fall down the highway, you hit the key. Ta-da, simple as that. It's a fun addition to the game, and even without Pro mode, it's an enthralling take on Rock Band. An odd side effect of the keyboard is that it supports guitar and bass tracks, so if you want to play them with the keyboard, go right ahead. The reverse also remains true, as any keyboard part is playable with the guitar controller. However, things get much more complicated once Pro Keys mode is selected. Expanded past the five initial keys, Pro Keys will use the entire keyboard, sliding back and forth to indicate which octave will be in use. Keys will come down in certain areas of the playing space of the keyboard, but when it's time to jump or drop an octave, the game indicates which direction the player should go. It works really well and is a thoughtful approach to fitting a full keyboard on the screen. It's also very difficult, so expect to practice a lot in order to get any good. You can also just work your way through the Trainer. Offering training for every instrument, the Trainer is an in-depth tutorial that teaches both the academic and technical sides of playing an instrument. While players won't be able to sight-read music by the time they complete this mode, they will be better prepared for some of the harder songs with each instrument. Harmonix will also be offering supplementary information on music on its official website, and hopefully anyone who can complete a Pro mode with an instrument will be ready to take on the real deal. One of the best features about the Trainer is that it's offered developers and musicians at Harmonix to create their own music for this mode. Considering many of the developers at Harmonix are musicians, this is a pretty cool way to get peek into the lives of the developers, and see what sort of music influences them. The best part about this is that the music is built to assist the teaching, so we as gamers can avoid some of the crappy music forced upon students in traditional music lessons. The keyboard itself is a nice little device. It's not going to win any awards in the looks department, but it'll get the job done. For those with their own MIDI keyboards, I would recommend getting the Rock Band 3 MIDI Pro-Adapter. This little device will convert any MIDI keyboard into a controller compatible with the game. Over all, between the keyboard, the Pro modes, and the Trainer, Harmonix has more than enough for a brand new, kick-ass music game. Clearly a lot of time and effort goes into making these games, and all of these extra features indicate that gamers will have a lot to invest into when Rock Band 3 launches later this year.
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Ever since Harmonix announced the keyboard for Rock Band 3, fans have been begging to get their hands on the new instrument. And for good reason -- Rock Band's music has been compensating for the lack of keyboard support with...

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I've been a pretty big fan of Dance Central since the first time I saw it at E3. Take a look at my preview, and you can tell I think the game is pretty damn fun. Built from the ground up for the Kinect device, Dance Central&...

Preview: Moving my body to Dance Central

Aug 17 // Ben Perlee
Dance Central (Xbox 360)Developer: HarmonixPublisher: MTV GamesTo be released: November 4, 2010 The basics of Dance Central are this: characters on the screen do stuff, and you re-enact it, with the assistance of flash cards indicating what move you need to perform. Pretty simple -- that is, until the game hands your ass back to you because you can't keep up. With each of the songs having multiple difficulties, and a sort of training mode to make sure you know how to perform the routines, there's a lot here to guide would-be dancers. Oddly, I had no problem with this at E3, but somehow, with the bright lighting of an almost empty white room, I struggled to perform any of the moves correctly. Hopefully this won't be an issue when I have the device in my own house... but then, maybe I just suck.  That's not to say I didn't have a ton of fun. Far from it. Dance Central is a very enjoyable game, and to say otherwise is pretty silly. Sure, I might have to actually memorize routines to get any good, but once you've got a routine down, it's hard to not feel pretty awesome about the performance. It's just a bummer that the tech isn't quite there to do some moves on the ground, or to interact with objects, but that's how the cookie crumbles. However, one area that perplexed gamers was the lack of multiplayer for the game. Talking with Dance Central's Project Director, Kasson Crooker, about this very issue, he was clear that Kinect is capable of recognizing two players doing the routine. Unfortunately, what Kinect cannot offer is space. Already, the device needs players to stand four to eight feet away, and as a dance game, Dance Central needs a lot of space. With two players performing the intense routines of the game, Crooker noted that they'd be slamming into each other, and that to make it fit with two bodies, the routines would have to be scaled back. That doesn't stop multiple people from dancing at once; actually, that's something Harmonix wants. It's just that with two graded dancers at once, things become much more complicated. But there is a multiplayer mode, though. It's called Dance Battle and has players alternating between segments of a song. Players with the highest score win. It's pretty simple, and switching between players offers perfect opportunity for trash talking. Another new addition announced by Harmonix is the calorie counter. Nothing wild here, but it does keep track of generally how many calories you've burned up in the process of dancing. It's a nice bullet point for those who want Kinect to be the next big health device, but I doubt many people will care too much about it. It's a little too early to call Dance Central a system seller for Kinect. It does have a strikingly high level of polish, and while I struggled with the game, it looks like that was an issue on my part, not on the game. If  Harmonix can follow through with its goals of making a game that captures the spirit of dance, it could have the “it” casual game of this holiday season.
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Dancing games get a bad rap. Either they're something like DanceDanceRevolution, or they are something like Just Dance. One is a hardcore score-based game that doesn't ever look like real dancing, and one is a much easier mot...

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Dance Central's prettiest pictures rock the dancefloor


Aug 17
// Ben Perlee
Oh hey, check it out! In addition to the announcement of brand new songs for Dance Central, Harmonix sent over a positive slurry of brand new screenshots and character art for the game. There's a little something for everyone...
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Updated Dance Central tracklist is full of satisfaction


Aug 17
// Ben Perlee
Harmonix was thoughtful enough at a recent press event to show off some of the brand new tracks you'll be able to dance to in the Kinect exclusive Dance Central. Part of the event was to show off many of the new songs that pl...
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Check out these brand new screenshots of Rock Band 3


Aug 16
// Ben Perlee
If you take a look at some of the screenshots Harmonix swung our way, and you look deep enough, you can see some heavy duty Pro mode action at play. With Pro Keys and Pro guitar, whoever is rocking that really knows their stuff. Do you think you can handle it? I don't think I can handle it. I think my hands might cramp up. I think I'm a little sad now.

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