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Windows 10 makes it even easier for gameplay videos to go viral

Mar 09 // Brett Makedonski
In our demo, the presenter chose to record footage of Goat Simulator running on Steam. Goat Simulator was selected because "[It] shipped on Steam about this time last year. The developers haven't really touched its base functionality since it shipped. It has no knowledge of Xbox One, or Game DVR and Windows 10. But, Game DVR is a feature of the Windows 10 operating system, and it's available to any game played." After just a bit of nonsense in Goat Simulator (which isn't difficult to accomplish), he recorded the clip and showed how Windows 10 saves it. "No smoke and mirrors, no magic, no special file formats. They're just 1080p .mp4s sitting in my videos folder." From there, users can either use the Xbox app on their computer to select start and end points, or they can use any video editing software to make more nuanced edits. Once the clip's suited to their liking, it can be uploaded anywhere, just like any other video. When we asked whether users will find this feature to be resource intensive for Game DVR to always be recording in the background, Microsoft responded by saying "We're working on what the performance profiles of different hardware configurations are. You're going to have best experiences with modern GPUs, but you're still going to be able to use it if you have an older system. We're going to be very upfront about whether it's on or off by default because of the performance profile of your system." But, limitations of your system aren't the only way to turn Game DVR off if it isn't to your liking. The presenter elaborated "We want to put that flexibility in the user's hands. If they say 'frame-rate is unequivocally the most important thing; I don't care how tricked out my rig is.' If they want to turn it off because that's what they want to optimize for, they're going to be able to." A decent chunk of today's gaming space is occupied by sharing unique gameplay videos on sites like reddit. Some personalities thrive on it; others are just normal players that had something wacky happen to them. Whatever the case may be, Windows 10 will make it easier than ever to get those special moments out in front of a crowd.
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'No smoke and mirrors'
The latest generation in gaming has brought with it an emphasis on sharing. Screenshots and gameplay videos can be relatively easily captured and uploaded for anyone's audience to see. It's a smart way to drive interaction --...

The Halo Channel is a huge indicator of Microsoft's plans for the franchise

Aug 14 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]279449:55232:0[/embed] Videogames aren't just about playing games anymore. They're about being an inclusive experience through all methods of media consumption. They're a service. That's unabashedly apparent with The Halo Channel. It's an easy prospect for skeptics to guffaw at, but anyone that wants to be immersed in everything Halo would be hard-pressed to find a better place to do it. Microsoft's branding the channel as an "interactive digital network." All of those claims are true. 343 Industries is putting an emphasis on two-way communication -- not only can it deliver its message to you, but you can deliver your message to it and all of your social contacts. After all, conversation helps things grow; it's how a stagnant experience turns into a talking point. Maybe the key to The Halo Channel is the balance of passive and active activities for users. The active ones are obvious, but still somewhat nuanced. Want to simply play Halo? Hop into a game from the network's hub. Watching a match and fancy some multiplayer of your own? The exact game type that you were viewing can be instantly set up, turning you from a spectator to a player in seconds. However, it's the passive aspect of The Halo Channel that will really justify its existence. The channel will boast a video on-demand service along with a continuous rotation of programs. Microsoft's keen on producing a lot of unique video content that strengthens the Halo lore, so there's sure to be no shortage of shows to watch. With the videogame industry putting more and more emphasis on eSports all the time, 343's direction with The Halo Channel might be a good indicator of its approach to the subject with regard to Halo. 343 producer Kiki Wolfkill explained that the studio's "doubling down" on Halo as a spectator sport. Twitch will be integrated to the channel so players can watch matches at any time, and as mentioned previously jump into similar matches at a moment's notice. When asked what 343's future plans for Halo as a competitive eSport are, the team sort of dodged the question, but remarked that Halo 2 would be well-suited for that kind of thing. Whatever happens with all aspects of the franchise in the future, The Halo Channel is 343 and Microsoft's way of ensuring that fans stay invested and interested in the present. It'll be fairly easily accessible, as it's coming to Xbox One and Windows 8 devices soon, with plans to release on Windows phones sometime down the line. It might be an ambitious project for a singular brand, but if there's one in Xbox's arsenal worthy of the honor, it's Halo. And, if it's as simple, streamlined, and packed with content as it looked to be during the presentation, Halo fans won't need to go anywhere else to get their fix.
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Games as a service
Xbox's flagship franchise isn't something that Microsoft's going to stray from anytime soon. Why would it? If there was any doubt about Halo's lasting appeal, it was dashed with the E3 reveal of Halo: The Master Chief Collect...

The launch line-up: Xbox Games on Windows 8

Feb 04 // Dale North
Rocket Riot 3DDeveloper: Codeglue Before I get to anything else, if you somehow haven't heard of Rocket Riot 3D before, I have to mention the background music. It's hilarious! The song's vocals sing about the game, making the crazy bombing action that much more nuts. This pixel-y, arena-based shooter has you blasting around freely with one thumb on the tablet, while flinging rockets and other projectiles with the other, just like you'd expect with a twin-stick shooter. Or, attach a mouse/keyboard or Xbox 360 controller if you'd like. It's an expanded, upgraded version of the Xbox 360 release, and it's a lot of fun. My memory isn't what it used to be, but I think it looks better than the original with its new visual effects. The Windows 8 version adds 24 new levels, taking the total to over 100. Skulls of the ShogunDeveloper: 17 Bit Studios This amusing/weird strategy game just dropped for Xbox 360, so if you're playing it, this Windows 8 version would make a perfect companion version with its cross-platform saves and resumes. Speaking of cross-platform, asynchronous play is supported for this game across Xbox 360, Windows Phone and Windows 8. As we said in our review, this is a solid SRPG where you'll play as an undead samurai, commanding an undead army for revenge's sake. This game does away with your standard tactical grid, using circle-of-movement fields instead. For the tablet version, it's nice to poke at and drag units over using a controller. I like this portable, easy controlling version a lot. Hydro Thunder HurricaneDeveloper: Vector Unit HYDRO THUNDER! While a new version of this water racing franchise will never fully compare to the loud, crotch-vibrating original arcade cabinet, hitting the waves is always a good time. Hydro Thunder Hurricane looks respectably nice on Windows 8, but the gameplay experience feels more like a mobile game and less like the splashy, tight turning console one I loved so much. ilomilo+Developer: Southend Interactive This cute game had my face buried into the tablet most despite having played it before. The puzzle action it offers is just as cute as it was on Xbox Live, but it somehow comes off as more impressive on a tablet. The touch control scheme is sufficient, but I found myself longing for buttons and a stick after a bit.  The "+" in the title means that the Windows 8 version adds new levels, chapters and cubes. Pinball FX 2 Developer: Zen Studios The tablet version of Zen Studios' XBLA hit game looks really great on the small(er) screen. And with the tablet turned sideways, it's like carrying around a little portable pinball machine. This version also fully supports all leaderboards, and a four-player/one device multiplayer option is now available. They're working on more tables for the Windows 8 version, too.  Adera Developer: HitPoint Studios The find-the-hidden-thing graphical adventure type play of Adera didn't speak to me, but it's really the perfect kind of game for a touchscreen device, and I could see fans of that type having a good time with it. It sure looked great running on this Asus Vivo.  The game's chapters come by way of episodic releases, and cloud save/resume is available across Windows 8 and Windows Phone devices. A nifty spectator mode lets other Windows users watch in and provide hints for the game's puzzles. The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running Developer: Other Ocean Interactive This runner moves from Kinect to Windows 8, adding touchscreen and tilt controls for tablets, or mouse and keyboard for bigger rigs. I'll tip my cowboy hat the game for its presentation and use of skeleton outlaws, but gameplay is clunky and very mobile-ish, taking some of the fun out of it. Reckless Racing UltimateDeveloper: Pixelbite Mobile top-down racing game Reckless Racing HD gets an upgrade for Windows 8, adding leaderboards, multiplayer invite support and more. From a gameplay standpoint, this plays exactly like it would on a mobile phone, so don't go in expecting a console-like experience. Other launch titles: 4 Elements II Special Edition -- Your tween girl is going to love this item hunt game Tap Tiles -- Mahjongg, but in 3D space, with cubes that you can rotate Toy Soliders Cold War -- Army men come to life in a strategy game Windows 8 Microsoft casual launch titles: Microsoft Mahjong -- Supports cloud saves, leaderboards and achievementsMicrosoft Minesweeper -- Adds touch control and a new Adventure modeMicrosoft Solitaire Collection -- The loneliest game everWordament -- Popular Windows Phone competitive word search tournament  
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Windows 8 launch line-up listed
We had a chance to take the launch line-up of Xbox games on Windows 8 for a spin this past week. These games are available for play on any Windows 8 or Windows RT device, including laptops and tablets. I played them all ...

E3: Hunting MOAR bugs in Aliens: Colonial Marines

Jun 06 // Jim Sterling
The new map was a lot more open than the enclosed industrial space I played with in Dallas. Set in an outdoors area, the windswept surface of LV-426 makes for an oppressive arena, and one that is perfect for Xenomorph players.  The dark and stormy environment seemed designed to give the Aliens a distinct advantage, one that allows them to utilize their stealthy abilities and make up for their lack of firepower. If a Marine can spot a Xeno from a good enough distance, there's no doubt that the Xeno will go down ignobly. However, with a landscape rich in dark ridges and slick surfaces, it can be pretty damn hard to keep track of the intended prey until it's far too late.  This map has been designed to encourage paranoia as well. More than once, I was distracted by a torn flag that rippled in the wind with the threatening motions of an Alien warrior's tail. These distractions keep the human team on edge, and allow the Xenomorphs to close in for the kill. Even armed with a motion tracker, it can be damn difficult to know exactly where the attack will come from. That isn't to say a Marine is helpless, of course -- a coordinated team that sticks together has the weaponry to defend itself -- but should the group get picked apart piecemeal, it's all over.  Nailing the balance between two distinctly different teams with distinguished play styles is difficult, but Gearbox is managing to pull it off. Aliens have the home advantage, but humans have the bullets to hold them off. At this stage, it seems that it all comes down to who works together best, as the Gearbox team clearly demonstrated when it guiltlessly wiped the floor with the E3 attendees on my side. It is promising stuff indeed.  With a new build comes new graphical polish, and the game is starting to look even more incredible. The amount of visual feedback on screen in this map really helped create a bitter and harsh environment, something truly evocative of Aliens. The creatures themselves are looking sharper than ever, and their execution kills are deliciously violent. This is going to be one hell of a polished game by the time Gearbox is finally finished with it.  So, it's safe to say that I am still supremely excited for Aliens: Colonial Marines and remain ever hopeful that we're going to get a terrific new game for the franchise. No surprises there, but a little reaffirmation is always a welcome sight, yes? 
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Another event, another Aliens: Colonial Marines preview from yours truly. I caught my first glimpse of this interactive Aliens sequel one year ago during E3 2011, and I was suitably impressed. Of course, watching a hands-off ...


Hands-on: MX Vs ATV: Alive

Apr 30 // Max Scoville
MX Vs ATV: Alive (Playstation 3, Xbox 360 [Previewed])Developer: Rainbow StudiosPublisher: THQMSRP: $49.99To Be Released: May 10, 2011 One nuance I’ve learned to appreciate over the last few years is the difference between a racing game and a driving simulation. Star Wars Super Bombad Racing is a racing game, and Gran Turismo is a driving simulation. Obviously, there’s plenty of overlapping grey area between these two classifications, but it’s safe to say there’s a difference in genres.  I went at MX Vs ATV: Alive with the understanding that it was a realistic simulation of driving (or riding, whatever) motocross bikes and all-terrain vehicles. In doing so, I wasn’t expecting the game to be a mind-blowing thrill-ride that made me shout 1980’s slang like “Excellent!” and “Bodacious!” like I usually do when playing Motorstorm. In real life, I’ve ridden a dirtbike once. I thought it was really fun, even though I wasn’t very good at it -- I guess that’s how I feel about most things in life, video games included -- but I got the hang of the basic physics. It’s sort of like riding a really heavy bicycle that doesn’t want you riding it. In most games I’ve played, riding dirtbikes has been treated like driving two-wheeled cars. In the case of MX Vs ATV: Alive, it’s not quite the same. When on a bike, the left analog stick controls the handlebars. This is how a bike is steered when no one is riding it, but when there’s actually a human being on it, you have to factor in the rider’s weight. That’s what the right analog stick is for, shifting the rider’s weight. Describing this control setup makes it sound awkward and complicated, but in practice, it’s quite intuitive. The best thing I can compare it to is playing a first person shooter, except with a dirt bike instead of a gun. Neal Pabon, one of THQ’s PR guys told me that this control setup had been present in the previous game, MX Vs ATV Unleashed, but that it was tweaked a bit for Alive. I jumped into the multiplayer and got my ass thoroughly handed to me by everyone else playing, but I still had a great time. I know how dumb that sounds, but MX Vs ATV: Alive plays like a 3D version of the original Excitebike, or a less infuriating version of Trials HD. The way the game controls, it makes the simple act of riding a motorbike fun. MX Vs ATV: Alive features three classes of motocross bikes, with two models in each class. I didn’t get a chance to look too closely at any of these, but since I’m a girlyheaded pantywaist who doesn’t know anything about engines or torque or what “CC” stands for, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you much, anyway. I’d probably just write something like “The green bike is faster.” As the title suggest, MX Vs ATV also features ATVs, of which there are two classes with two ATVs each. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play with any of these. I’ve wanted to ride a quad since I was eight years old, and still haven’t, so I’m bummed. The game’s graphics are up to par with the current generation. The bikes and tracks look cool. Trashy-looking girls in tank tops and daisy dukes wave flags to start the race, and that’s cool. Otherwise, the game looks pretty much how you’d expect a game about motocross and ATV racing to look. Out of the box, the game has twelve national courses, four short tracks, and two free-ride. However, there’s a twist. MX vs ATV: Alive is one of THQ’s first forays into hybrid pricing. The game itself is forty bucks, which is pretty cheap, but it’s going to offer a whole bunch of downloadable content. Whether or not this is a smart or fair business model is up for discussion, but it allows you to buy a game for cheaper than usual, and if you like it, there’s more to download.  I’m sure a lot of people will gripe about this pricing method, but I think it’s a cool idea. Let’s say you want a new game, but you can’t muster a full sixty bucks until payday. Drop forty on the disc, and then pick of the rest of the DLC when you can. I guess it’s a sign of the economic times if we’re buying video games in installments, but I’m not opposed to the idea. All that being said, MX Vs ATV: Alive is the latest in an established series about racing motorbikes and ATVs around in the dirt. If you're into that kind of thing, take a look.
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Last week, I attended a THQ event for some of their upcoming games. Initially, I thought I was going to be looking at a game about drawing pictures. I used to go to picture-drawing school, and because of this, people frequent...

Preview: Fancy Pants Adventures

Apr 11 // Tara Long
Fancy Pants Adventures (PSN, XBLA [Previewed])Developer: Over the Top Games & Borne GamesPublisher: Electronic Arts 2DTo Be Released: April 19th, 2011 (PSN), April 20th, 2011 (XBLA) When I spoke with Borne back in February at EA’s GDC event, he explained how surreal the experience of bringing his beloved game to consoles has been. The series, which celebrated its 5-year anniversary last month, has not seen a new sequel since 2008. As Borne explained, the story of the third game focuses on Fancy Pants Man’s little sister, Cutie Pants Girl, who gets captured by pirates. Fancy Pants Man must venture outside of Squiggleville, through dangerous mountains, treacherous caverns, and deadly waters and battle with snails, crabs, and of course, pirates, in order to find her and bring her back. Much like in the Flash games, the levels are built around the mechanics of the gameplay. Every platform is deliberately placed and designed to assist you in some way or another. Whether it’s jumping from platform to platform in the air, sliding up a ramp into a 180-degree loop, or scaling tall buildings, the possibilities for movement never fail to keep you on your toes. The key is momentum. The longer you run, the more momentum you gain, and the farther you can jump and slide. Every surface in the game is slick enough to slide on, which comes in handy for killing enemies.One aspect of the game its creator is particularly excited for is the addition of a multiplayer mode. Up to four people can play together now, working together to complete levels or competing against one another. A variety of multiplayer levels have been added that employ techniques used in single player levels, along with a few unique challenges as well. There are several options when playing in arcade versus mode. Often times, it’s a simple race to the finish line. However, there is a special King of the Hill level where players must scramble to gather more squiggles than anybody else in an allotted amount of time. The gameplay in this mode bears a lot of resemblance to that of Super Smash Bros., in both physics and sheer chaos. The golf level from the second game also makes a reappearance in the third game as a multiplayer level where players work together to move a golf ball from the beginning of the level to a hole at the end. Players are awarded 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place with prizes that range from wacky colored pants to silly hats to makeshift weapons. Make no mistake, the game will become increasingly difficult the more players you add. With only the color of your pants and possibly a funny hat distinguishing you from your opponents, it can be hard to spot your impossibly tiny character in an enormous level with three other players that look almost exactly the same as you. Which is not to say that the game isn’t fun in multiplayer. Quite the opposite, in fact. I demoed most of the game with three other players and I had a blast. I just wouldn’t consider it better than the single player, nor would I purchase the game based on its multiplayer mode alone. Speaking to that, one thing you’ll notice is that Fancy Pants Adventures is bigger than its two previous versions, in all aspects of the word. The levels themselves are larger and many are downright cavernous, allowing for a lot more fast-paced movement and airtime and ultimately providing what I feel is the most valuable addition to the game: space. It’s also much longer. With two hours of updated levels, four hours of new levels, and two hours of gold challenges, the game comes in at around eight hours total. (For comparison, I beat the first two games in less than two hours.) This can quickly become longer, though, if you choose to play through all of the additional challenges included in the game. Every level can be replayed in a timed mode, for example, adding several hours of playtime. Of course, all this work could not have been done by Borne alone. He has been working with developers at Over the Top Games, a small, 4-man team based in Spain, whose previous titles include NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits and Dive: The Medes Islands Secret. Both teams are working hard to ready the game for consoles, after which point, Borne notes on his blog, he will resume working on the next Flash version of the game. The Fancy Pants Adventures hits PSN on April 19th and XBLA on April 20th for $10. If you were a fan of the original games and have been waiting for a sequel, you won’t be disappointed. If you never played the original games and are curious about this one, I highly recommend giving the Flash versions a spin first. Borne assures readers on his blog that "FPA on console is going to be the best way to adventure as Fancy Pants Man – Full screen on your TV, played with a controller – that’s the old school way to play platformers." I certainly can't argue that. While $10 is admittedly inexpensive for the amount of gameplay this title provides, at the end of the day, you’re still playing a video game about stick figures. Albeit, a pretty damn good one.
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When Brad Borne first announced back in November that his successful Flash series Fancy Pants Adventures would be coming to consoles, a myriad of thoughts arose in my mind. The first two games lent themselves well to the F...

Preview: Shadows of the Damned

Mar 08 // Samit Sarkar
Shadows of the Damned (PlayStation 3 [previewed], Xbox 360) Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture Publisher: Electronic Arts To be released: June 7, 2011 Garcia Hotspur is “a demon hunter who has killed one too many demons,” explained the EA rep who demoed the game to me. By doing that, Hotspur has incurred the wrath of the Lord of the Underworld, who has a decidedly un-hellish name, Fleming. He decides to teach Hotspur a lesson by absconding with the demon hunter’s true love, Paula, down into hell. Lucky for Hotspur, he has a buddy named Johnson who is a former demon who escaped from hell. Johnson also happens to be a flaming skull on a stick, which is why he’s so useful to Hotspur: Garcia needs to use the power of light to defeat the forces of darkness. Johnson serves as a “torchgun,” and as Hotspur’s obligatory wise-cracking British sidekick. This is Suda’s kind of love story, explained the rep -- this is his version of “rescuing the princess.” As a former demon, Johnson is Hotspur’s way into hell -- he transforms into a motorcycle and drives straight in. In this game, the outskirts of hell comprise an Old-World town, replete with cobblestone streets. Fleming has thrown some of his minions to impede Hotspur’s progress -- just your typical blood-oozing demon spawn. The basic shooting action, with its over-the-shoulder camera, is very reminiscent of Resident Evil, but it’s not as plodding as that series (although it’s not exactly Devil May Cry, either). A key mechanic that ratchets up the tension is “darkness.” A dark blue haze envelops Hotspur, making it difficult to see and draining his health. The best way to get rid of darkness is to listen for the bleating of a goat, which will lead to a goat head that Hotspur can shoot, “because goats eat everything -- even darkness.” Enemies remain coated in an inky goop that Hotspur must remove with light -- either by hitting them with his Johnson, blowing up light barrels, or using his light gun -- before he can use his regular weapons on them. Johnson can be used as a melee weapon, but he can also turn into a pistol (called “Boner,” because it fires bones, and I wonder why else), a shotgun, and a machine gun. Demons drop red gems that can be used to improve the guns’ attributes (such as clip size and rate of fire), and blue gems will allow Hotspur to upgrade his weapons entirely. According to the EA rep, Suda wanted to bring a B-movie “grindhouse” feel to the proceedings, which is why Shadows features awful accents; cheesy, puerile humor; and visual filters such as film grain and vignetting. The rep mentioned influences such as Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series. Hotspur sports a leather jacket and spouts gloriously ridiculous lines like, “My wrath is your hell!” There’s also Suda’s own peculiar humor; one segment of the demo featured a gate covered in glowing purple bramble -- demon pubes. Charming! Suda’s vision of hell, like No More Heroes, is very over-the-top: the gate to hell is a large structure with a massive, carnival-esque “Welcome to Hell” sign sitting on its roof. The darkness in Shadows will also introduce puzzle elements -- in the demon-pubes section, a large hand sat on a platform spewing darkness into the area, and the gates were adorned with babies’ heads that required sustenance (in the form of eyeballs and brains) before they would open. The gradually approaching wall of darkness forced Hotspur to be quick, and it included the additional concern of more demons. Enemies will hang out within the darkness, since they’re much stronger there, and in this case, Hotspur had to temporarily endure the darkness to solve the puzzle. He fed the babies in order to open the gates and gain access to a goat head and the staircase that led up to the hand. Once there, he merely shoved his Johnson into its palm in order to stop the darkness from coming out.After this segment, I saw the loading screen before the next area; in what the rep described as a “Suda touch,” the screen features a creepy two-dimensional animated map of hell, tracking your progress through the game. Once the chapter loaded, the rep explained that the boss in this section is George, a gluttonous beast with a harmonica lodged in his throat. Each boss has a particular backstory that will be logged in the game’s “Johnsonpedia,” a chronicle of Hotspur’s journey. One of Fleming’s favorite things to do is mess with Hotspur’s head by showing him visions of Paula in a white corset -- this particular one was darting around an open-air meat market, and at one point, her head fell right off before she calmly screwed it back on. Right then, she began convulsing, and ripped herself in half to reveal George. That was where my demo ended; the rep teased a “kick-ass” boss battle. So far, Shadows appears to be a fairly conventional third-person shooter with some interesting gameplay conceits (the darkness, Johnson) and a hell of a lot of style. (This is Suda’s first game on the HD platforms, and the Unreal Engine really lets his artistic vision shine through.) I’m curious to see more of its psychological horror elements, like the stuff with Paula, as well as to find out more about the story in general. I can’t comment much on the score, since the noise level at the press event covered up the game’s sound, but I’m sure Yamaoka’s orchestration will bring a lot to the table. The sum of the parts of Shadows of the Damned sounds appealing enough, but I’m hoping the final product will offer more.
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Grasshopper Manufacture’s Suda51 is renowned for quirky, out-there games that often have something to say, even if it’s through juvenile humor. As the creator of Capcom’s seminal Resident Evil franchise, Shi...

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: 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...

Preview: Supreme Commander 2

Jan 19 // Matthew Razak
Supreme Commander 2 (PC, Xbox 360)Developer: Gas Powered GamesPublisher: Square EnixTo be released: March 2 (PC), March 16 (Xbox 360) To begin with, SC2 is not going to be the computer destroying monster that the original Supreme Commander was. Gas Powered heard the issues people were having, and decided that needing everyone to upgrade their computer in order to play the game probably wasn’t the best sales strategy. Instead they dug their heels in and figured out ways to do more, but with using far less power. According to them they’ve succeeded, and SC2 will run on even some of the lowliest computers out there. To demonstrate this they had some not-so-nice computers running the game next to their all powerful computers. The differences I saw were negligible, so unless they were lying it looks like a far bigger audience will be able to actually play SC2. One of the ways that the team at Gas Powered Games has made the game run faster is by revamping the path control of how units move. Previously in RTS games you gave a group of units a command to move and they all got individual routes to get there and if they ran into anything they’d bump and rotate and bump again and rotate, ad nauseum. However, in a game like SC where you can literally have hundreds upon hundreds of units on the screen at the same time it became a very big task for the computer to process every move, and on top of that you literally had hundreds of units running into each other constantly. So Gas Powered found some really smart guy and he figured out what they’re calling a flow field. A flow field is kind of like how people move on a crowded sidewalk. No one bumps into each and then turns; we all just sort of move through each other. In SC2 this is exactly how units will move. When you tell a group of units to move they’ll form up and then move to their location. If they run into something or someone they’ll flow around it like people do instead of stopping and redoing their route or bumping and turning until they’ve figured it out. It cuts down on processor needs because the units are working as a group and it cuts down on gamer aggravation because your units don’t get stuck or muddled. It wasn’t something that truly awed me when they demoed it, but once I got some time with the game on my own it was clear how much better it could make an RTS. Throw in the fact that the new AI actually does whatever you can do instead of simply building and throwing enemies at you and you’ve got two changes to how the RTS works. Whether these fundamental changes are actually major changes is yet to be seen, but it could offer a more challenging and responsive gaming experience that runs far smoother than previous RTS. Smoother is pretty much exactly what SC2 looks like compared to SC. The UI has been streamlined and slimmed down so that it takes up as little of the screen as possible, but it’s still easy to use and navigate. Meanwhile, the strategic view, a major bullet point for the original game has actually become strategic. One of the cool things about SC is that you can pull your camera out to see the entire map or zoom in on just one unit. This was great in the first game, but pulling out was simply that and nothing more. It gave you a great overall view, but actually wasn’t that strategic. In SC2 pulling all the way out gives you a truly strategic view. The map becomes a grid and your troops get marked as squads. There are also new commands in the strategic view that make it easier to control your troops all the way zoomed out. The game also has plenty of stuff returning from the original. All three factions in the game (Cybran, UED and Aeon) are back though the Aeon are now called the Illuminate. The experimental vehicles that were such a hit in the original are back, but now there are a whopping 27. Plus, thanks to a new style of research tree functionality, in which players can pick and choose where their research points go, players won’t have to wait until the last few levels to get all the best weapons. You can have a giant walking dinosaur covered in guns by the end of the first level, and no, I’m not making that up. It kind of made me wish for a Dino-Riders RTS. Not just the number of experimental vehicles has been improved, though. Chris Taylor, the creator of SC and the lead designer on the game, flat out insulted the original game’s maps when comparing them to the ones in SC2. The maps in SC2 have three dimensional terrain and can go from ridiculously small to massively huge. Some of the maps can take your troops a solid chunk of time just to walk across, making strategy on an immensely key element. The maps aren’t just bigger in size; they’re bigger in scope as well. Unlike in the original game where a map had boundaries that you could clearly see by the fact that the world just ended, SC2’s maps go on forever. No matter where you spin the camera you can see the world going on, not simply ending because the map is over. Ocean’s have floors, ships cast shadows and if your unit falls off a cliff (one level is literally in the clouds) he’ll fall of a cliff and you’ll see him falling. The maps appear to be actual worlds, not just maps.  The fullness of the stages is one of the major ways that Gas Powered wanted to actually immerse the player in the world of SC2, which brings me back to the game actually having a story. When Square Enix stepped in as the series' publisher they game to Gas Powered and said they’d love to have them do SC2, but they didn’t just want a bunch of military heads directing you what to do. They wanted a story, with characters you actually care about and a premise that makes the war matter. We got to see very little of this story, but there will be three separate story arcs (one for each faction) that eventually collide at the end of the game. The one we saw the opening cinematic to was the UED, which follows a commander who must choose between duty and love. Each story will have six operations that will give you 18 in all. Unlike the last game, SC2 will not have multiple endings. This is thanks to the extra focus on story, which is easier to create with only one outcome. It was also noted it’s easier to make sequels when there is only one ending. The game also features a massive multiplayer component. Up to 8 players can take each other on or cooperate to defeat an enemy on a wide variety of maps from the game. The multiplayer functioned smoothly and was deceptively easy to dive into when I played it (as was the single player). Even more amazing was the fact that I didn’t totally suck at it right off the bat, which means they have to be doing something right. However, unless you’re an RTS fan it remains to be seen if the game’s multiplayer could hold your interest any longer than any other RTS could. Finally, we come to the elephant in the room. The game is also landing on the 360. Anyone who played the port of the original game on the 360 knows that it had a few issues, most of which involved it not being that good. However, this time the 360 version is being developed in house at the same time as the PC version and will have everything the PC version has except for eight player multiplayer as the 360 is capped at four. Of course things have been rearranged a bit for the 360 version. The UI is condensed down to radial selection, much like we saw in Halo Wars and movement and selection have been simplified a bit. To tell the truth, moving into the 360 version of the game straight from the PC version was like hitting a brick wall made out of glorious PC user interfaces. However, once you get use to the interface it does seem to work well enough, with only a few minor problems here or there that could be easily worked out by launch date. Of course, as much as they’d like us to believe that playing on a console is just as good as on a PC, it doesn’t look like Gas Powered has found the secret to making an RTS a truly equal experience on consoles. It will be a few months before we find out for sure as the game launches on March 2 for the PC and March 16 for the 360.
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If there is a genre out there that has sat pretty stagnant, it’s probably the RTS. In most cases you’re put on a flat map, given a bunch of soldiers, told to build something and then told to defeat someone by some...

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It has finally come ladies and gentleman, Emergence Day. From what every single person out in Internet Land and beyond have been saying about this game, it looks like it will crush Halo 2. Sales wise at least. A nice sele...

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FINALLY! Bully is coming out tomorrow! You know what that means right? EXACTLY! Bloggers can finally STFU about it! Well, I expect everyone will link to a major news site like GameSpot for their review impressions later on ...

Dtoid first look: Family Guy

Oct 05 // RobertSumma
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Bottom line: An "M" rated LEGO Star Wars with Family Guy animation and humor. I was invited by 2K Games today to check out their upcoming game Family Guy -- which in case you live under a rock is based on the animated tele...

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What's looking good to you this week? Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (PS2) The quick and dirty: PS2: Valkyrie 2, Live 07, NBA 2K7, NBA 07, Grim Adv, DDR Nova, Fast & Furious, Paintball, Just Cause Xbox Live 07, NBA 2K7, ...

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LocoRoco (PSP/Sept 5th) What's looking good to you this week? Oh and let's take a poll: Is Loco Roco the killer ap that PSP has been needing? Here's the quickie for this week: PSP: Loco, Guilty Gear, Nascar 07, Poker 3...

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Last week I stated that this week was going to suck. After some counters to that point, I realized my mistake. The main site I go to for release dates seems to be really unorganized at the moment. Anyways, lots of RPGs ...

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Two highly anticaped games coming out this week. Plus 9 other games no one will probably buy. Which of these look good to you Dtoiders? Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII (PS2) Ninety-Nine Nights (X360) World Ra...

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Wow. I'm not even going to bother asking you all what you're looking forward to today. Super Monkey Ball Adventure (GC, PS2, PSP) Barnyard (PS2, GC, GBA, PC) (no gameplay trailer, but here's the movie trailer. I'v...

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8 games coming out this week. What are you looking forward to? The Ant Bully (PS2/GC/PC/GBA/Wii) Sprint Cars: Road to Knoxville (PS2) Painkiler: Hell Wars (Xbox/PC) Summon Night: Swordcraft Story (GBA) Battl...

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Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth (PSP) This week looks a lot better than the last few weeks. And. holy shizzle, Valkyrie Profile look nuts! What are you Destructoiders looking forward to this week? Blade Dancer (PSP) Miami Vice: The Game (PSP) Monster House (PS2/X/X360/GC/DS/GBA) (Ya, it's the movie trailer. Close enough....) D1 Grand Prix (PS2) NCAA Football 07 (X360/X/PS2/PSP)

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I don't know if you guys know but SCI is working on a game about the cult classic movie Resevoir Dogs. And the guys from WorthPlaying have written a informative article about it including 8 pretty stylish looking screensh...

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Hit the jump for 8 more video previews! Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (PSP/DS/GBA-Got pushed back from last week) Micro Machines V4 (PSP/PS2) Juiced Eliminator (PSP) Naruto: Ultimate Ninja (PS2) ...

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Arguably the only American that still makes original video games. While the rest of them make First-Person-Wrestling-Shooter-Sequels on the new Quake/Ford Hybrid engine, his blog reveals he's also been doing some hard work at...


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