Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dead Space 2 confirmed?

Feel free to slap anyone who suggests that Dead Space wasn't one of the better games of 2008. My brother was kind enough, recently, to return the copy I'd lent him months ago, and I've been replaying it. It is, simply, a great game on almost every level. Sure - it does nothing new, really - but it does everything so well.

Anyway, take a peeksie at this job posting for then-EA Redwood Shores now-Visceral Games. Most of it is silly, boring, employment stuff - but at the bottom you'll find this:
"The previous installment in the Dead Space franchise received numerous awards for gameplay, visuals, and sound design, and the same core team is in place to create an even better follow up.

The game is in the later stages of pre-production, ready for production in the next few months, with many of the navigational and combat mechanics in place."
And there you have it. Dead Space 2 is coming our way.

Yippie.

FEATURE - MAG Beta impressions.


In late August, I was able to slip into the MAG Beta to try my hand at some hugely multiplayer shooter shenanigans. I spent between twenty and thirty hours with this incomplete iteration of Zipper Interactive's technically ambitious shooter, before I set it aside with intentions to return to it later.

Not because I felt a pressing desire to return to it later - but another ten or fifteen hours would probably have benefited this article (which I've been putting off for some time). First, let's talk massiveness.

The maps are gigantic - as gigantic as they need to be to spread out two hundred and fifty six players to a point where there are no insane bottlenecks, and shooting gallery hell is a very rare occurrence. Each PMC (faction) is made up of several squads, and each squad has its own objective (chosen by players in leadership roles) - as a result, more often than not your small squad will be facing off against another small squad over a small objective. What makes it "massive" is that there are a ton of other small squads pursuing their own small objectives all across the huge maps.

This is a double-edged sword. It's a good idea - and victory will always go to the side with well-organized, obedient squads with a commander worth listening to - but at this point in MAG's lifespan, you aren't playing with a group of hardcore, reliable players who take everything very seriously and want to get the job done. You're playing with anyone who was lucky enough to get into the Beta - and the MAG Beta has its share of prepubescent vitriol-spewers and team-killing griefers. The result is that everyone just goes off and plays Lone Soldier - a tactic that only really serves the sniper specialization.

For clarification, that's the good side of the double-edged sword - there is a system in place to guide players, which has a side effect of ensuring many smaller firefights, but no giant clusterfucks of bullet hell (a common concern after MAG's announcement). The bad side is that you're on a map with two hundred and fifty six other players who you'll very likely never see. In the distance you may hear explosions and gunfire, but not once during my time with MAG was I given the impression of how large the events going on around me were.

So there's that. MAG is designed to ensure that you have very few opportunities to notice how massive Zipper's Massive Action Game actually is. Let's move on...

One of the maps.
(Right-click, open in new window to enlarge.

Gameplay.
Nothing to complain about, here. If you have a worthy commander barking orders - and you follow them - you'll end up losing hours of time to MAG. All the guns feel as they should, and you'll be rewarded with a role to fill no matter what play style you choose.

I waffled back and forth on my build. First I was a sniper - then I realized I had spent points where I shouldn't have and scrapped my character for an assault class. That felt fine, but I didn't feel it gave me any sort of real identity on the field, so I abandoned assault rifles for heavy weapons. An LMG was great in close-quarters firefights, racking up huge kill streaks, but I found I missed my sneaky sniper. In the end, I stuck with my fourth "re-roll" until I unlocked the .50 caliber rifle - very satisfying.

The ease of slipping into MAG and having some fun is no doubt due to Zipper's long experience with online shooters, which shows in the solid mechanics of every item and attack option. What is seriously impressive is the lag situation - which is to say, the complete lack thereof.

If you aim at an enemy's head and pull the trigger, you will kill him, end of story. Not once did I feel I lost a kill to the ether of latency, and I never saw an enemy skipping around the world, writhing and unkillable due to his smaller bandwidth. In terms of the technology, in terms of how it plays, there's very little to complain about with MAG.

Presentation. Given what MAG has to do, I don't think any of us were expecting it to be a visual spectacle - and it isn't - but what's on display is functional, and works well. Every building and piece of cover feels correct - it's easy to slip in to its world and quickly suspend disbelief - even if it doesn't precisely fill one awe awe at the real-world fidelity of the graphics. Perhaps I'm selling it short - let me put it this way: MAG's graphics aren't just good enough, they are precisely good enough.

If there is music, I never noticed it. Gunfire sounds rather correct, and the HUD is easy to quickly understand (go towards the flashy thing - red dots are enemies.) What's lacking in the presentation is a real sense of the game's identity. I loathe the word "generic," but it applies so perfectly to MAG's world I refuse to look up a suitable synonym.

What makes MAG stand out? You could easily cite the amount of players on a single map, but that's only news because it's on a console instead of the PC. No, I'm afraid there is nothing about MAG that really sets it apart from other online shooters.

It is almost uniquely similar to everything. MAG doesn't invite you into a strange world you'd like to explore (Halo) or offer a history-bending trip back in time (any WWII shooter ever). It doesn't astound with its graphics (Call of Duty 4) or - aside from the squad leader functions - bring anything really new to the online first-person shooter genre.

It's samey. It's so ho-hum, in fact, that I never could bring myself to go back to it for another ten or fifteen hours. I just didn't care to.

I think MAG will find its audience - the same people who mastered Warhawk and kept its servers humming years after its release - but I can't say I found its offering particularly compelling. Let's hope they put out a demo, so you can judge for yourself.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Doing well this fall - so far.

When I was planning out the gaming I was hoping to do in the second half of '09, it looked like an unscalable mountain of content. The best/worst is yet to come, but so far I've managed to get reviews done for every game that featured prominently on my radar.

Batman was a natural rental - one that demands a purchase down the road. I was very pleased to get my hands on Wet, but despite all its faults that one's also going to require a purchase at some future date.

All my current (and future) funds are dogeared for a purchase of Uncharted 2 - though I managed to fandangle an early birthday present in the form of Demon's Souls deluxe edition - so I didn't think I'd get to do much more reviewing any time soon. And then, lo and behold, my older brother rents Mini Ninjas and allows me to borrow it for the last two days. Very nice!

Very monetarily-pathetic of me, but very kind of him and very much appreciated.

Aside from Muramasa (which, not having a Wii, I feel adequately excused from), I've gotten my mitts on every title I wanted to, so far this year. Well, aside from BlazBlue I suppose. Still - I hope the last quarter of 2009 is greased with as much good fortune as I've been enjoying so far.

REVIEW - Mini Ninjas.

If there's one type of game I have an insatiable appetite for, it's cel-shaded stealth titles which have been ostensibly designed for children. Granted, up until last month only one series fit the bill - Sucker Punch's Sly Cooper - but IO Interactive (of Hitman fame and Kane & Lynch infamy) have joined the party with Mini Ninjas.

What's on offer is some solidly-built, beautiful, charming, kid-friendly adventuring. The combat is button-mashy with an ankle's worth of depth, the platforming is sticky and not designed to challenge. There is a lot to like about Mini Ninjas, but very little of that is due to how it actually plays.

Where it shines is no surprise, given IO's Hitman legacy. The presentation is always striking - gorgeous art direction and breathtaking set pieces, near-perfect animation and lovely music. The music is so good, in fact, I was convinced it was done by IO's go-to auditory genius Jesper Kyd - turns out he wasn't involved, but it's to Peter Svarre's credit that I made the assumption.

I'm convinced, in a rather nonspecific way, that it's little touches that elevate a good game to great - but Mini Ninjas handily disproves that theory. Despite wonderful character designs and clever attention to detail (your Ninja will settle down and meditate if left alone for a while - or shiver violently in a snowstorm), Mini Ninjas doesn't break beyond "good enough" simply because the designers have quite consciously decided not to burden its young audience with any real depth of gameplay.

As a result, completing the game isn't much of a thrill. You get an arsenal of ninja magic, weapons and explosives to deal with your enemies - but nearly every encounter in the game can be overcome with nothing but Hiro (the starting character) and his trusty sword. This pleases me in the old Hitman I-can-beat-this-level-with-nothing-but-the-fiber-wire sort of way, but it's much, much less satisfactory when you can blitz through the game on the hardest difficulty (on your first attempt) and make a similar boast.

"But David," you're asking, "Mini Ninjas is a game designed for kids - aren't you expecting a little much?"

Nuts to that. Mario and Zelda are designed for kids, and you don't see them slacking off. And the reason I bring up those hallowed Nintendo names is because, with a little extra in the design department, with a little more depth to the gameplay, Mini Ninjas could have been that good.

It has its moments - lovely moments. Tossing a cherry bomb into a squad of Samurai (obliterating all but the commander) before leaping at the final target for an aerial sword slash is a lot of fun. Hopping along the perfectly-placed stones that bridge the top of a giant waterfall feels great, but...

For ninety percent of the game, you're fighting the same stock Samurai swordmen and archers - to really mix things up, sometimes they come in different colors - but occasionally the game throws you a curve ball. A new enemy that resurrects defeated foes! A terrifying Assassin class (see pic above) that totally changes the way you have to fight! Brilliant!

And... that's about where the variety ends. This is only so crushingly disappointing because every time it seems like Mini Ninjas is reaching for a little more depth, it executes it perfectly - so perfectly that it whets your appetite for more clever additions to the gameplay roster - additions which never come.


And, fortunately, that's the worst thing I can say about Mini Ninjas. Every single level rewards you with at least one awe-inspiring vista. The music is close to perfect. I love the slick animation of Hiro sheathing his sword after a battle, and the nervous shrieks of the enemies. (All the possessed Samurai attended the Ewok & Jawa School of Public Speaking - and while the first comment that comes to mind is "it's not as good as the grunts in Halo," it speaks volumes that it allows for a comparison to the gold standard of cannon fodder comedy.)

And yes, it bears comparison to - it's worth saying that it's not as good as - Zelda and Mario because it could be. The amount of love and polish and spit-shine is clear in every flower you pick, every adorable forest creature you free from imprisonment, every gentle lap of Hiro's oar against the surface of a crystaline lake. This game wears a beautiful suit, I just wish there were more underneath it.

I kept on thinking Mini Ninjas would open up and reveal its true splendor - but no. It's not "ostensibly" designed for kids - it's mercilessly designed for kids - and it doesn't do its target audience the service of tasking them with any great feats of skill or cleverness. It's aimed squarely at younger games, but in order to address them it stoops too low and ends up being a touch condescending.

Kids can handle real gameplay, IO - if you just let them try.


THE GOOD
-the music
-the character design
-the animation
-the set pieces
-the voice work
-the art design
-the concept
-pretty much all the production values are top-notch
-a few promising moments
-when the gameplay is fun, it's quite fun indeed
-zero bugs

THE BAD
-gameplay has only the barest bit of depth - you never need to block, though the guard break skill comes in handy
-nearly every boss encounter is a (mercifully easy) quicktime event.
-doesn't rise to the potential it seems to promise


THE VERDICT
Mini Ninjas is a beautiful game that will likely please young gamers - but aside from wanting to revisit some truly gorgeous locations, I can't imagine why I'd want to play through it twice.

Monday, September 28, 2009

In the NEWS - Sept 28.

Short post today - just to give you a heads up on some news you may have missed. Or, in other words: this is filler.


Splinter Cell Conviction impresses.
Over at Kotaku, Stephen Totilo has gone hands-on with Splinter Cell Conviction. There are some interesting additions made to the general stealth formula - specifically, let's say there's three enemies in front of you. You can "mark" two of them for quick executions - but you can only activate the executions after you perform a melee takedown. So you clock out enemy one, auto-headshot enemy 2 and do the same to enemy 3.

The aim here is to let the player "take to the shadows like a panther rather than like a grandma, to stalk rather than to hide." I like the idea of adding some extra style into the stealth genre - style is definitely one of the major plusses of Tenchu or Hitman - but I can't say either of those games made me feel like I was hiding instead of stalking - or a geriatric.



Uncharted 2 demo is free for all tomorrow. Also, twitter shenanigans.
Yep, even if you didn't preorder Uncharted 2, tomorrow you can get all up in the demo and try out some of that sweet, sweet multiplayer. I'll definitely be trying out some co-op.

You may also be aware that you can tell Uncharted 2 to auto-update your Twitter feed with in-game achievements. "David beat level 2!" and so on. Well, those tweets come so quickly and so often that Naughty Dog - for the time being - "disabled Twitter updates on chapter completions." Who'd've ever thought Twitter would turn out to be a bad thing?



Street Fighter IV gets more Super.
Yep, they're doing a Super version of Street Fighter IV. It will boast eight additional characters (Dee Jay, T. Hawk and a newcomer named Juri confirmed so far), new balancing, enhanced online and a cheaper price. I haven't been super-big into fighting games so far this gen. Wake me when Virtua Fighter 5 R gets a console release.



Go hands-on with God of War III. For forty bucks.
Just like that Mexican Sony rep leaked so many months ago, the up-ports of God of War and God of War II will include a bit of a bonus - a code which allows the user to download the demo for God of War III.

Given that - as a general rule - public demos only appear a week or two prior to a game's release, getting your mitts on the GoWIII demo three and a half months ahead of everyone else is pretty damn sweet - particularly if you were already planning on purchasing the up-ports regardless.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

TGS - Kotaku's PS3/360 Bayonetta comparisons.

I don't have a problem if there are differences between the PS3 and 360 version of Bayonetta, so long as I can happily enjoy my copy of the game, I'll have no complaints - but even so, Kotaku's impressions of the game at TGS haven't entirely washed away my anxiety at the Sega-handled port of Platinum Games' work on the 360 version:

"But when we did get our hands on a DualShock to play Bayonetta, it felt largely the same as the Xbox 360 demos we'd played. That may be due to the familiar setting—it was the same demo PlatinumGames and Sega had brought to E3. But it was also due to the fact that the game's were mostly the same, the mechanics firmly intact and the bright visual impact of the flamboyantly designed game nearly identical across both versions.

That said, some of the visuals on the PS3 version did appear to be lagging behind the Xbox 360 version, with muddier textures and a more uneven frame rate bogging down the presentation. Determining those differences was a bit of a struggle, though, as we attempted to verify earlier reports of the game suffering in the graphics department. Both versions were not presented side-by-side, so it was hard to tell how much more attractive one version looked than the other."

Michael McWhertor goes on to note that "either version will satisfy", but acknowledges that "it appears one version may have a longer list of faults than the other."

I tend to agree with another observation he made - to wait until the final builds are stamped onto Blu-rays and DVDs to make a judgement.

A little less worried, but still not entirely thrilled by this Sega-port situation.

Rumor: The Sixth Axis also thinks cross-game voice chat is coming.

Right on the heels of VG247 declaring that a source (a source they trust) has told them cross-game voice chat will appear on PSN this October, as part of firmware 3.10, The Sixth Axis is blowing the same horn.
"...we’ve had a chat with our own source (who wishes to remain anonymous) that has confirmed in principle that the next software update will feature an XMB-based cross game communication tool centred around voice chat."
Eh, I'll believe it when I see it. It'd be nice, but I'm not exactly chewing my nails waiting for it to happen.

Shadow of the Colossus creator likes the idea of PS3 up-ports.


When news of the God of War up-ports for PS3 hit, the reaction among gamers was almost unanimous: "Now, do it for Ico and Shadow of the Colossus."

I think we can all agree this is precisely what should be done, but it's lovely to hear that Fumito Ueda - director of Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and the upcoming The Last Guardian agrees.

When asked about the idea, Ueda said,
"Initially, I didn't want to consider that. I always thought they were designed for PS2 and should stay there. But lately, I've been thinking it would be nice to provide the games to other platforms to reach more users."
It would be nice, wouldn't it?

TGS - Valkyria Chronicles 2 details - there's multiplayer!

I'm feeling a little dopey today, but there's too much news to get through to just toss it out in one big In The News post. Let's start with the sequel to last year's cult-hit strategy JRPG...


The European Playstation Blog Blogs recently had an interview with a representative of Valkyria Chronicles II. A few unanswerable questions pop up (why the PSP? Will it return to PS3?), but some neat new details also get revealed.

First off? Multiplayer. Confirmed co-op and competitive ad-hoc multiplayer. The branching class structure is also explained in a little more detail:
"In terms of new weapons and units, not only will there be more of each, but there will be expanded customisation options for both. We have Scouts and Stormtroopers, as we did in the first game, but Scouts may branch into Scouts who run faster or are more meant for battle. In that way, each of the units will branch into new units"
A surprising revelation is that the main characters of Valkyria Chronicles - Welkin and Alicia - will make an appearance in the sequel, though it was hinted that other characters could show up as well. Oh gosh, let me guess - who would Sega throw in?

I'm really starting to dislike Edy. Moving on, it's also revealed that progression in VC2 won't be as linear as the original.

"Valkyria Chronicles 2 is mission based, so if you reach a mission you can’t clear, you have the option of trying other missions before returning to the more difficult one. By doing that you can level up your characters or you might meet someone who can help you clear this mission. It’s a different method of progressing through the game. Overall the game’s difficulty will be about the same as Valkyria Chronicles, but because the game flow is different you might find the game is easier or, depending on the player, more difficult."
Jeff Rubenstein of the US Playstation Blog went hands-on with the demo at the Tokyo Game Show, and had this to say:
"As a fan, I can safely say that Valkyria Chronicles brings everything that I loved about the original game to the PSP: It handles very similarly, looks great, and has the added benefit of portability."
All I can say is "very pleased."

Friday, September 25, 2009

This doesn't really qualify as news.

Thankfully, blogging has stretched the limits of what can be considered journalism to the point that I can direct your attention to this YouTube vid and not feel like I'm utterly wasting both our time.

The video is, apparently, a cam of Bayonetta running on the PS3 at TGS. What does this tell us, precisely? Not much.

I couldn't detect any framerate hitches (it's a YouTube video) or blurriness (YouTube video), but I distinctly detect an awesome-as-all-get-out hair-dragon-through-a-portal finishing move. Strangely, it has left me feeling a little better about the PS3 version.

Wait... Dead Rising 2 is confirmed multiplatform?

I always figured Dead Rising 2 would be multiplatform - since the original Dead Rising and the awful PS3 port of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, Capcom has brought every major title to both HD consoles - but I also don't remember any actual confirmation that it's coming to PS3.

Turns out, the confirmation came last February, but nobody told me. I just noticed it was listed for PC, PS3 and 360 when I was watching some trailers last night, and a quick Googling pointed me to that Joystiq article. So, yeah - yippie.

The original Dead Rising got a lot of complaints - mostly about the save system - but on the other hand, it also let you run rampant through a mall, slaughtering thousands of zombies with everything from CDs to lawnmowers.

Admittedly, the concept of Dead Rising 2 doesn't turn me on as much as the original. They're identical in (almost) every way save for the setting, but a large shopping mall in middle-America is infinitely more "zombie" to me than Las Vegas.

In the original, you had these exceptional proceedings taking place against a backdrop any North American is intimately familiar with. The incredible mixed with the mundane.

Vegas is the incredible mixed with the incredible, and for some reason that makes the whole thing seem a little less incredible to me. It's like a white splash on a white canvas - the subject is less important when the background is equally spectacular.

Still, I'll be more than happy to finally get my Dead Rising on when the game appears in 2010.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

TGS - PS3 Bayonetta still not entirely up to snuff.


Sony pressers, The Last Guardian trailers, Wii price drops and Project Natal development partners are all well and good, but as far as I'm concerned there was only one piece of news out of TGS I was really looking forward to. Just answer me this question: does the PS3 version of Bayonetta look any better than it did back in August?

1up reported at the time that "while the 360 version on display looked crisp and smooth, the PS3 version was very blurry and the framerate was all over the place. During one portion of the demo, a crazy scene where you are jumping off of falling parts of a giant clock tower, it was often hard to keep track of the action because of the graphical issues on PS3."

It was like someone had kicked my Hype Organ in the figurative groin.

Well, there's a different dude covering Bayonetta for TGS, and he has a slightly more rosy take on the matter - though he doesn't precisely instill the PS3 port with glowing confidence, either.
"I went into it looking to compare the framerate and visuals of the two versions, and found the PS3 demo to look better than I expected it would after reading Justin's impressions (from the event in Japan mentioned above). That's not to say it looked as good as the Xbox 360 demo that was on display 10 feet away at TGS, but the differences came in elements that many people might not notice unless they were actively looking for them -- i.e. the framerate wasn't quite as smooth in some areas, and the overall look seemed to be slightly less vibrant. Notably, however, the level Justin mentioned in our previous story as being the worst example from the PS3 version -- with the clock tower falling in the sky -- was not on display."

So, I suppose there's two things to take away from this:

(1) - It may not look precisely as good as the 360 version, but unless you have the two playing side-by-side, it probably won't occur to you that the PS3 version is in any way inferior. Yay!
(2) - They chose not to show the clock tower sequence, which is where the PS3 version became difficult to play due to technical foibles back in August. Is that part still not up to par?

With the Japanese release of Bayonetta hitting next month, I sure hope everything is ironed out by then. It sucks that the PS3 version may not be locked at 60fps like its 360 counterpart, but still - this has reasonably placated my fears regarding the PS3 version - even if it hasn't exactly swathed me in warm blankets of comfort.

Rumor: PSN cross-game voice chat coming in October?


Stick this one in the maybe, possibly, not-particularly-likely-but-someone-may-believe-it-to-be-true bin: VG247 says an unidentified source says that Sony has informed developers of plans to launch cross-game voice chat - which will arrive by the end of October, as part of a firmware 3.10 update. In the comments section of the article, a VG247 representative tells the commenters that the source of this information has provided good intelligence in the past.

Still, this is equivalent to knowing a guy who knows a guy who also knows another guy, who swears up and down that this is true.

I'd be nice if it was, I won't be shocked if it isn't.

It's Network Update Thursday!

...just not for the North American PSN store - not yet, anyway. But that doesn't mean there's no fun to be had! Over on the European PSN store, you'll find the co-op demo for Lost Planet 2, along with the first DLC for Fallout 3 - Operation Anchorage. No doubt the DLC will show up for us in the Americas later today.

Meanwhile, over on the Hong Kong store you'll find trailers for Sega's tri-Ace produced RPG End of Eternity.

Also, if you've got an Xbox Live Gold account, you can now access the demos to Brutal Legend and Forza 3. No such luck if you're not paying for the service, though. I sure hope we get the Brutal Legend demo on PSN today as well...

TGS - Peace Walker sounds really, really impressive.

Over at Kotaku, Stephen Totilo has posted an extensive article regarding his hands-on time with Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker for the PSP. According to the man, the game looks very good, plays very well, and "left me with the best first impression I've ever had of a game on the PlayStation Portable."

But instead of reading a bunch of quotes I've picked out for you, why not head on over there and give it a read? It certainly dispelled a lot of my fears about a Metal Gear Solid game on the handheld.

TGS - The Last Guardian - new trailer and mini-doc.

Over at the Playstation Blog or GameTrailers, if you prefer, you'll find a mini-documentary on The Last Guardian / an interview with Fumito Ueda, followed by the new trailer.

The new trailer is just like the last trailer - very elegant, same Miller's Crossing music, same strange lighthearted butterflies flitting about my insides - but with new footage and a much shorter running time.

As to the interview with Ueda, two things stuck out for me. First - he says that you can achieve a level of reality with fantasy you could not have achieved otherwise. I think this is pretty intelligent - we wouldn't be buying into the creature nearly as much if it were simply a very large dog.

The second is that he says he wants the ending to really surprise people. If you really want to shock us all, Ueda, the little boy and the baby griffon have to survive the game.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

TGS - Sony's press conference.

Sony has a second opportunity not to drop the ball at TGS - after the opening keynote speech, they're putting on a press conference. Let's all put our disappointment hats on and see what's cookin'! Bullet points!

  • Sony intends to have 1000 PSP titles by the end of this year. (I was reading another article earlier that says the PSP Go will have over 700 titles available to it at launch. They'll have to seriously beef up the PSN store to meet that quota - or just flood the thing with 'minis'.)
  • Old PSP model gets a price drop (no NA price listed) - roughly a $20 reduction.
  • Gran Turismo 5 gets a release date! March 2010. The racers are happy and the actioners are happy. Yes, "actioners" is a word. No, don't look it up!
  • They're talking up the GT5 damage model. ...which I've heard very few positive things about.
  • There will be a special edition "Lightning" PS3 for Final Fantasy XIII. It's white and pink, has a 250GB HD and is likely Japan-only.
  • There's a demo of the new motion controller being used with Resident Evil 5 - dualshock in one hand, motion controller in the other - will the control method be included in the new 'Director's Cut'? The Wii version is often considered the definitive version of RE4... hmm....
This is about a million times better than the keynote speech. Announcements. Thank you.
  • Yep, look at that - the "new Resident Evil Director's Cut" will be out in 2010. Not explicitly confirming the new control for it, but that's how it seems.
  • They're showing Little Big Planet with new motion controls as well. I'm not sure that's such a great concept.
  • A long list of games with motion controller support - mostly PSN titles - notably Flower.
  • Trailer for White Knight Chronicles 2 - very exciting to read about.
  • "Room" for PSP - blogs, photo albums, social networking, chat, minigames and "real-time communication." Essentially, it's mini-Home for PSP.
  • Manga reader for PSP, and that's about it.
Nothing really thrill-worthy, but certainly better than that snoozer earlier.

Go hands-on with Peace Walker, right now.

...provided you have a PSP and an internet connection, of course. If you don't have an internet connection, for God's sake stop using your foul black magic to read my blog!

If you do have an internet connection, head on over to IGN, where you'll find all the necessary instructions and the demo itself.

Enjoy! ...lucky bastards.

TGS - Sony's keynote (is awful).

Sony's Kaz Hirai took to the stage to kick off the Tokyo Game Show. What did he have to say? Quite a bit. I think bullet-form will serve us well, here...

  • It would take twenty-nine years to play through all the user-created levels on Little Big Planet. (Or eight months, if you only play the good ones.)
  • They changed the PS3 logo to "strengthen the brand."
  • Blah blah blah the motion controller is very accurate, recognizes images and depth. Also changes color, and has "vibration feedback".
  • Will ship in 2010.
  • Talked up the PSP Go - no mention of how to support previously released PSP games. I'm sorry Kaz, but if I can't play Portable Ops and God of War: Chains of Olympus, I'll be going with a old 2000.
  • The Playstation Network has 29 million accounts and 600 million pieces of content have been downloaded.
Elapsed time: thirty minutes. No new reveals or announcements. Oh, no wait. Kotaku just got word that the Wii is getting a price cut to $200, starting on the 27th, and a crapload of devs have signed up to make games for Microsoft's Project Natal. Sweet announcements, everyone who's not Sony!
  • Kaz was, apparently, really surprised by how much attention The Beatles: Rock Band got. (No one else was surprised.)
  • Instead of motion controls, he suggests emotion controls. "Cameras that can capture the emotion in our eyes, your sweat, et cetera," but "emotional input is not fully developed."
  • Blah blah LBP.
  • Blah blah "this is the age of network, but there are separate markets due to separate tastes."
The end. Elapsed time fifty two minutes. And nothing. New. To report.

Fuck you, Sony.

Resident Evil 5 getting Director's Cut.


In a recent video interview with unWired TV, the voice actress behind RE5's Jill Valentine spilled the beans on a new release of this year's best not-quite-survival-horror co-op third person shooter.
“I did a voice over last week for the director’s cut that’s coming out for Resident Evil 5. And I guess it’s obvious at this point that it’s gonna be at least somewhat involving Jill Valentine. I look forward to it. There’re some good scenes. You should look forward to it too.”
I don't know what would move me to purchase a second copy of RE5 - I never touch the thing, these days - but knowing the amount of content Capcom likes to cram into later iterations of its games, it could certainly be worth a look. A new campaign as Jill? Hmmm...

Witcher 2 coming to consoles? (Knock on wood.)

CD Projekt senior producer Tomasz Gop has been out answering questions about The Witcher 2. First off, he makes it clear that this will take some time.
"However, please do not expect the game too soon. The Witcher 2 is still deeply in the development stage and as it is huge and complex, there is still many, many hours of work in front of us."
More interestingly, he also makes it clear that they're planning console versions.

"Although PC is certain choice we made regarding platforms for The Witcher 2, we also want to release the console version. More information will come after official announcement of the game."
You've admitted the game exists, Tomasz. That's as official as it gets.

[source]

Nooooooo!

There are rumors - just rumors - that Microsoft is going to purchase Electronic arts.

Let that settle for a moment - consider the implications. EA has 20% of the games publishing market. Think of all the major titles and developers that are aligned with EA. Madden. FIFA. NHL. Not titles that you and I, people who self-identify as gamers, are big on - but John and Jane Quincy Public hoover that stuff up like nobody's business.

For folks like you and I, this means - if it happens - Dead Space II will be 360-exclusive. If Brutal Legend is a success and Double Fine continues its relationship with EA, Tim Schafer's next game will be 360-exclusive. If we ever get a sequel to Mirror's Edge... well, you get the idea.

Microsoft is already a huge force in the games industry, and with the largest publisher in the biz under their umbrella, they would become an absolute juggernaut.

Let me reiterate - this isn't officially happening. "Unsubstantiated chatter" is what Frederic Ruffy, an opinions strategist at WhatsTrading.com called it, and added "but it's out there."

Microsoft's pockets are limitlessly deep. I have to imagine, if they chose to acquire EA, nothing is explicitly out of their price range. Personally, I hope this merger goes the way of EA/Rockstar.

[source]

Update: David Dennis, a spokesman for Microsoft has written an email to seattlepi.com. "There is no truth to this rumor," he said. "We have no plans to purchase EA."

TGS is on!

The Tokyo Game Show kicks off today, and - gall darn it - I'm not there to go hands-on with all the latest awesome and hear any spicy announcements that may occur. But I am there in spirit, and I'm sure there'll be lots of good stuff to gab about - I sure hope it includes some impressions of Bayonetta's PS3 showing.

To start the day off, though, there's a rumor that - if true - is fucking huge. See above post.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

PS2, Dreamcast titles on PSN.

Over the summer, two patents surfaced that outline how the PS2's processors can be emulated on the PS3. Some - myself included - imagined a world of pixies and leprechauns where Sony would include this technology as a firmware update, and allow us to play our beloved PS2 libraries on any PS3. Of course some - myself included - were also a little more realistic: "As a pessimist, I have to imagine Sony will include it as firmware that only allows you to play PS2 titles that you have purchased and downloaded off the PSN."

Turns out, according to that leaked document from Sega, that's precisely what Sony is doing.

PS2 emulator for PS3 (confidential)
  • SCEA wants to sell all PS2 titles on PSN (GTA Vice City/Sonic/etc)
"Confidential" - hah! Poor Sony - nothing is ever confidential for you guys. So obviously, the big news here is the ability to play missed PS2 games on your PS3. The other big news is that if you bought a Slim, chances are you won't be able to play your disc copy of Silent Hill 2 on it - unless you're willing to buy it again. Ugh.

On the brighter side, the document also notes that "if we provide a list of DC (Dreamcast) titles SCEA will let us know which ones they're interest in having exclusively," and "if we give them a long period of exclusivity they'll give us more marketing support."

I'm not sure marketing support from Sony is really an incentive to anyone, but there are legions of rabid Dramcast fanchildren out there who would wet themselves to play Shenmue again on any platform.

Sega leaks tons of interesting news.


We'll just throw this one in the ever-growing pile of Sony-related leaks. Making its way around the internet is an internal document from Sega. The document contains comprehensive notes made during an August 5th meeting with Sony (prior to the Slim launch and price cut), but more importantly it contains whole bunches of neat stuff...



MOTION CONTROLLER
According to the document, Sony plans to launch its motion controller in Spring of 2010 - specifically, March in Japan. Their target is to sell four to five million units next year, and suggest a bundle with pricing details should appear on September first (a few weeks ago). In addition, "SCEA agreed to provide a list of Sega IP that would work well with the motion controller, Virtua Tennis was an example."



PLANET 51
...what the heck is Planet 51? Ah, here we go - it's a kids CGI movie. What's important to note here is that Sony acknowledges that "other movie titles on PS3 had underperformed... (Transformers) this cycle." No duh. It also suggests "hybrid" movie discs. A single or dual-layered Blu-ray with a game and the movie on the same disc. That sounds like a fine idea - but only if we're talking about Kung-fu Panda.

Another IP listed for the concept is Alien Vs Predator - the game and the movie on one BR disc. That I could probably go for - if we're talking the original AvP movie - the second one was awful.



BAYONETTA
The notes here suggest the existence of a collector's edition with a Bayonetta action figure. I can't say I'm thrilled at the idea of having a sexy librarian action figure on my desk, but if the PS3 port of Bayonetta turns out to be acceptable, I could probably be persuaded to drop an extra ten bucks for some pretty plastic.

It was recommended that the PSN demo be launched "around Xmas based off a Jan 5th ship date," and suggests fresh content every weak leading up to launch on the PSN - "trailers, insider video about PG (Platinum Games) heritage, video blogs."

God I hope Bayonetta works out on the PS3.


HOME & CROSS-PROMOTIONS
Several other entries suggest what games might work well with Home spaces - Iron Man, for example, would be a "great candidate for HOME space – explore Tony Stark’s lab etc."

There's n interesting note for the title Sonic Racing, noting that SCEA is "open to DLC to differentiate PS3 SKU - not Ratchet and Clank but other characters." That's not too freakish - but then it goes on to suggest "characters from Rare or Fable universes." Which is, of course, Microsoft-exclusive. I've heard rumblings that a "major" 360 franchise will be coming to PS3, but there is no way it's Fable.


JAPANESE IMPORT ON PSN
Now here's a sweetie of an idea. "Could put Japanese games directly on PSN for download in a special Japanese Import section (pricing $9.99 to $39.99 for full game). May need to localize menus at least with subtitles."

Good God! That's exactly what hardcore gamers want. We don't want crappy, phoned-in voice work from low-paid actors - we want the original voice work with subtitles! Get on this, Sega! Get on this like white on... wait, that might be racist. Get on it.


VALKYRIA CHRONICLES II
Could have a PSP bundle. Nice.


THOR

"SCEA would like a look at the code soon." ...what the heck is Thor? Is there a movie in the works based on the comic book character? Oh, look at that, yes there is - due out in 2011. Directed by Kenneth Branagh? He's a big-time Shakespearean actor. That's... weird.


There is one other major thing, here, but it's so major I'm going to include it in its own separate post (which would be the article above this one).

[Source]

Monday, September 21, 2009

Where's the bloody news?

I don't know if you've noticed, dear Reader, but I never go two days without updating this blog. Sunday seems to be a "usual" day off for me, but I make it a point to always post something if I missed the previous day.

So after giving yesterday a miss, I sat down at my PC today to dig up some interesting gaming news and came up with nothing. Nothing. Well, not nothing - but a bunch of minutiae that doesn't really amount to anything. Right now the news wires are, essentially, all about Halo and Uncharted reviews. Here's the down-low:

  • Halo: ODST is getting mostly positive reviews. This is freakish, as it's not garnering the solid 8-9 you'd expect from a Halo title - but all of the complaints seem to focus on the fact that the campaign can be completed in 4-6 hours, so why are they charging sixty bucks for it? (Answer: because they can.) No big surprises here.
  • Uncharted 2 is getting some really positive reviews - the worst I've seen is an 8/10 from (what I believe to be) a Portuguese website. No surprises here, either.
The rest of the day's news stories are all old stories getting rehashed. Very disappointing - but at least we have the Tokyo Games Show to look forward to this week!

Still, the only thing I really feel like writing about is Wet. So I will...

Wet - on second thought.

So after going back and forth on whether or not I was interested in pursuing the trophies for Wet, I got the Platinum today. It was around last night when I realized I like Wet a lot more than I thought I did.

All of my complaints in the in-depth review are accurate - it's far from a triple-A title in some of the most important ways. In ways that can really hurt your experience with the title.

Thinking back, though, it seems that Wet is precisely what I'd expected and hoped it would be. Where's that article from late June... Here we go:
"It won't win any Game of the Year awards, but it looks like it could be the B-quality fun-as-hell cult classic of 2009."
Okay, so maybe it's not "fun as Hell", but it's still a helluva lot of fun. Because Artificial Mind & Movement were essentially an analog to EA Redwood Shores (licensed crap), and because AM&M was going the Redwood Shores rout and making an original IP they felt strongly about (like Redwood Shores' Dead Space), I had high hopes for Wet.

And what's good about Wet are all the things you'd expect from a gestation like that. It is very, very unique. It has more of an identity of style and purpose and I-don't-give-a-fuck than 90% of action titles, and - discounting, arguably, Max Payne 2 - it is the best slo-mo third-person shooter out there.

Sure it's got problems - some extremely frustrating problems - but I'm really glad I returned to Wet and began trophy hunting. I rediscovered the game I played on my first time through. A game that's all about style, violence, and a kickass main character.

I'll definitely pick up Wet, one day.

When it's cheap.

Also see: Wet's review.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rumor: Yakuza 3 headed our way?

I'm not precisely a huge fan of the Yakuza series. Sources suggest this may be due to never having played a Yakuza title, but at the very least I know there is a passionate desire among gamers to have the latest game in the series localized to North America.

Well, 1up suggests that might be happening: "According to sources close to the project, Yakuza 3 is currently being localized for release in the U.S. and European markets. "

This isn't exactly word from on-high, but the article goes on to remind us that Yakuza 2's localization was announced at TGS back in '07 - and would you look at that? TGS '09 is this week!

Trophy musings.

One thing about trophies on the current gen - you can really use them as a yardstick to say "I beat the holy hell out of a game. The title has no mountains I have not climbed." This is handy for review purposes, as you can confidently say you've really explored every nook and cranny of a title before you sound off on its quality.

It's also a little handy in a second way - whether or not you're even interested in completing the trophy list is a half-decent barometer of how pleasurable a title is to play. Take Wanted: Weapons of Fate, for example. I knew I really, really disliked that game when I realized I couldn't be bothered to try for the next trophy. Currently, my reaction to Wet is a little more ambiguous - I seem to like and dislike it in equal measure, and so while I don't have every trophy, I do have most (I'm at 60%), and my opinion on whether or not to slip it back in the PS3 and have another go at those damned Boneyard Challenges keeps ping-ponging back and forth between "definitely" and "never."

Of course, this system of measurement is hardly accurate. I love Grand Theft Auto IV, but I'll never platinum that sucker. I would, though - if not for those damned online trophies.

*

I'm very disappointed in Wet. It's not that I didn't enjoy a lot of my time with it, it's just... It's been a hugely anticipated title for me since that CGI trailer, and what's perhaps most frustrating is it delivers on all the major promises that trailer made, except for - perhaps most importantly - the feeling that was implied.

REVIEW - Wet.

My first exposure to Wet was this trailer back in '07. It begins and ends with Rubi Malone naked in a tub, bookending some cinematic, acrobatic, stylish dual-pistol gunplay and spectacular flying sword attacks, set to an understated cover of Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down." The video is very cool - a little exploitive - graceful and simple. At this point it's safe to say it was merely a concept video - and although Wet delivers on insane, acrobatic gunplay and flying blade kills, it doesn't truly keep that trailer's promise, in terms of polish and elegance.

I suppose you could call Wet the next step in the evolution of cinematic, slo-mo shooters - it has two really good ideas. Instead of turning slo-mo "Bullet Time" into a limited resource - a management minigame - Wet has a simple rule: if Rubi is doing something awesome - anything remotely awesome (running along a ledge, jumping through the air, sliding along the floor) - while firing her guns, she is doing it in slow motion.

It also neatly solves "The Dual Wield Problem" of similar cinematic shooters - how in the world can you aim at two enemies at once? After all, you need to be able to shoot two separate enemies at once - it looks awesome.

In the above image, Rubi slides along the floor (this lady has ball bearings for kneecaps) - one gun pointed left with the other aiming right. It's the type of split-second image you'd only ever see in concept art or cutscenes - and Wet pulls it off with a relatively simple solution. During an acrobatic maneuver, one hand automatically targets the nearest enemy while the other is manually controlled. Not only does this fulfill one of the concept trailer's promises, it offers the player a cushion of guaranteed damage done to the enemy.

The game's other major highlight is the music. Wet's soundtrack is... blistering. It's an aural assault on the senses, and while it does not, perhaps, precisely conjure up the "grindhouse" style the game is going for, its crazy, way-over-the-top pounding is the one thing that will stick with you long after you've put the game to rest. It injects a berserk frenzy into every major action scene, and for the life of me I cannot get "Children of the Atom" by The Hypnophonics out of my head.


With these advancements in the genre and the brilliantly chosen music, it's clear that Wet's objective is simply "to be awesome" - and a lot of the concepts are great. Many other critics are praising the game's quicktime-event laced freeway chases or Rubi's skydive through the wreckage of a burning airplane, but these glorious concepts don't quite measure up in practice. They look good, but in terms of gameplay they're just nicely presented rail-shooting segments (which I abhor) - and may God help you if you attempt the final car chase sequence on Fixer difficulty without a full clip of sub-machine gun ammo.

Another attempt at awesomeness is the cast, which gets front-and-center billing in the opening credits. I'm not about to say an unkind word about Malcolm McDowell, but Eliza Dushku can't quite do the pulpy dialogue justice. I spent the whole game wishing Rubi were played by someone else.

The plot is a bit of a yawner as well - a super-capable death machine is hired for a job and (gasp!) betrayed by her employer, so she must go all death machine on them to get revenge - and although it's got a colorful cast of characters (the midget torture technician and afro-sporting doctor are standouts,) it would do well to have offered some insight into them with a few Quentin Tarantino-style soliloquies.

Not that Duskhu can quite do justice to even the short speech she gives prior to dispatching a pudgy European (she does nail the line "here's your fucking book," however) - but the whole game is covered in a thick lacquer of Grindhouse Style As Defined By Quentin Tarantino - and if you're going to dig on Tarantino's interpretation of the style, you may as well go all the way with some character development.

Superficially, they've pretty much got it down pat. There are charming, ironic stock movie-house advertising shorts interspersed between major set pieces (try a real "Chilly Dilly!"), and when Rubi dies it's accompanied by the bubbling destruction of the "film reel." Examples like a short scene of Rubi in her underwear offer further nods to the exploitive elements of the old pulp flicks, and in general Wet's style - mostly unique in gaming - is definitely one of its highlights.

At this point, I'm afraid you may have gotten the impression that Wet is worth a purchase. And I suppose it is - I'll certainly pick it up some day - but nowhere near its current price. It's not even close to worth sixty dollars.

I love the ambition of the title, and although some destructible environments would have added to the mix I enjoy the presentation. The gameplay is good, mindless fun - but only when it works - and there are way, way too many times when it simply doesn't.

I'm not talking bugs (though there are a lot of bugs - enemies will simply not spawn, so you'll be stuck in a room and have to restart the system, your aiming reticle will disappear, the game will stop recognizing when you press the fire button, and I've enjoyed some hard freezes), I'm talking about inconsistent gameplay mechanics or - at worst - bad design.

For example, there's a sequence where you're running down a burning hall - you're required to wall-run to a specific point, where time slows and you're prompted to press jump. The quicktime button indicator will light up, confirming you've succeeded in your timing, and Rubi will simply fly off into space and die. This frustration is dulled by being able to instantly retry the jump, but that's not precisely an excuse for it.

The same inconsistencies rear their heads in the Boneyard Challenges, and after completing 90% of a run perfectly - nailing every target and jump - only to fail because of a quicktime jump like the one described above is phenomenally disappointing.

The easy and normal difficulties of Wet are a pleasure. A guilty pleasure, perhaps, but they still put a great big grin on my face. If you look any deeper, however, you discover a list of items that seem like they were never playtested. At one point, I actually found myself whispering the words "I hate this fucking game." You, the player, are doing exactly what you should - but Wet simply plays by loose rules.


At this point I should say something moderately clever like "Wet is just as mediocre as the genre it emulates," but even with a game so incredibly frustrating, I see so much potential. Wet has a laundry list of brilliant ideas and - even though it's nowhere close to a triple-A title - great presentation. I like the world, I love the character of Rubi and I want to see a sequel that could polish all the disappointing crap out of this game.

I played through some Stranglehold earlier today just to compare, and it's no contest - when Wet is at its best, it's much better than that first-gen HD title. Unfortunately, Wet isn't always at its best - and when it's bad, it's terrible.


THE GOOD
-the music
-Rubi is a great character
-some brilliant evolutions in slo-mo gunplay
-mediocre graphics, but fantastic overall presentation
-when it's good, it's great
-some very ambitious concepts
-trying hard to be awesome
-you can go from a wall-run to a jump, transition into a knee-slide and rise out of it with a sword slash. Wow

THE BAD
-inconsistent gameplay mechanics result in frustration
-the harder difficulty levels force the player to ignore many gameplay mechanics (poles) in order to survive
-Eliza Dushku's voice work
-technologically unimpressive
-long, unskippable cutscenes
-buying new acrobatic techniques is annoying, as it seems you should have had most of the moves available from the beginning
-since enemies get tougher as the game progresses, you don't feel more powerful when you upgrade weapons
-characters seem like hollow puppets
-lots of bugs
-when it's bad, it's bad enough to makes mild-mannered bloggers curse in frustration

THE VERDICT
Moderately ambitious with lots of potential, Wet doesn't live up to its promise. Toss it a rental, or buy it on the cheap.

See "Wet: on second thought" for how I felt about the game after more reflection.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Go hands-on with Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, right now.

If you never got your mitts on the bloodier 360 original version of Ninja Gaiden 2, now's your chance to see if the Playstation 3 version is your cup of tea. The only catch is, you gotta' jet on over to the Japanese PSN store to get it - on the bright side, the whole thing is in English!

Update: Just played it... well, that was pretty awesome. The demo for the first Ninja Gaiden Sigma didn't exactly blow my skirt up, but I can definitely see myself enjoying this.

Update update: Hey, look at that, I unlocked something called "Ayame." Yep, jiggle physics from sixaxis control are in there, but it's less impressive than my naughty bits had hoped. She's also like, twice as fun to play as Ryu - even with that ridiculous giant bow on her back.

Yeah, I'll probably have to pick this up some day. You win this round, demo! Speaking of anticipated hands-on, I wonder when the Bayonetta demo will drop?

Sega handling the port of Bayonetta's PS3 version.

Last we heard, Bayonetta's PS3 version wasn't quite living up to the stunning standard set by the 360 demos running at games shows. Unlike the 360's crisp visuals and 60fps locked framerate, the PS3 version was "very blurry and the frame rate was all over the place." I held my breath, and hoped everything would be ironed out by release.

In an article foolishly titled "Platinum soothes Bayonetta PS3 worries," Eurogamer points to the Platinum Games Blog where developer Tatsuya Minami admits the PS3 version is a Sega-handled port of the 360 version. Ouch.
"With Bayonetta, we created the Xbox 360 version of the game first, and then handed off all the data and other assets to SEGA so they could begin the process of porting Bayonetta to the PS3, giving them advice regarding the porting process along the way and overseeing the progress to ensure that the PS3 version would be the best it could be."
Anyone remember EA's PS3 port of The Orange Box? We all know the PS3 is very complex and not particularly easy to develop for, but when shooting for multiplatform games (Burnout Paradise, Mirror's Edge) many developers have found a solution in building the game on the PS3 before porting it to the less-complex 360. Platinum games went... the other way.
"Bringing Bayonetta to users of both the PS3 and the Xbox 360 is something we feel to be very important, and I feel passionately that we have fulfilled our responsibility in that regard."
It's nice that the game will be on both systems - no one's contesting that - but if the PS3 version is indeed the latest in the litany of bad PS3 ports, Platinum will have a pretty big gaffe on their hands in the Land of the Rising Sun.

As for me, I can't say they've straight-out lost a sale, but I have to admit Bayonetta is off my preorder list. This is, simply, very disappointing news. Bayonetta is one of my most anticipated games of this generation, but I'm afraid I'll wait for word of the game's performance at TGS, and hope all these fears of a bad, blurry, choppy PS3 version of Bayonetta are unfounded.

Rockstar says Agent will be "spectacular."

One of the questions in a Q&A over at rockstargames.com fishes for more info on Agent - no details are forthcoming, but they do add:
"...the game is shaping up to be something truly spectacular."
Which is sure better than actual information. Right?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

PS3 Fallout 3 DLC dated - for real this time, I swear.

Looks like it's really happening this time. We were supposed to get the first bit of DLC last month, but it got put on hold for quality assurance reasons. The new date is September 24th (see: next week!) for Broken Steel - the DLC that extends the level cap to 30 - with The Pitt and Operation Anchorage appearing on October First, and Point Lookout and Mothership Zeta showing up a week later.

That's a lot nicer than having to wait several weeks in between like the PC and 360 version, but I'll probably just go with the Game of the Year disc version (pictured above), some time late this year or early next.

Witcher 2 is in the works.


So dig on this video that is "for internal use only." Hopefully it'll be a lot more impressive when they dub some real voice work over the placeholder stuff.

Yep, CD Projekt is working hard on a sequel to critically acclaimed action-RPG The Witcher. As a console gamer, this means very little to me - The Witcher's console port was canceled, much to my eternal chagrin, since Widescreen Games wasn't able to bring it up to CD Projekt's standards. Given how uniquely crash-prone the Windows version is, it's no surprise the console iteration proved a challenge.

My little brother will likely be overjoyed at the news - he loves The Witcher on his big badass gaming PC - as for me, I just hope they'll take a second crack at a console port.

Would you look at that, we're finally getting Afrika.

Don't take this as the God's-honest yet, but according to VGBlogger, the North American release Afrika has gone gold and is due out on October 6th for a cool fitty bones. It's a little idiotic to release a game like this when we're all going nuts over triple-A titles like Uncharted 2, Modern Warfare 2, Ratchet & Clank and Assassins Creed II - damn, that's a lot of sequels - Afrika will likely be a teensy bit less successful than Valkyria Chronicles was when it released around November last year.

On the upside, though? We're getting Afrika, it now has trophy support, and they dropped that dumb-as-all-get-out 'Hakuna Matata' title for the game's English release. Very cool - I'll be seeing you next year, Afrika, when you're in a bargain bin somewhere for thirty dollars.

Don't get me wrong, it looks awesome and I'd love to play it - it's just that there's at least ten titles coming up in the next six months I'd love to play more.

European Playstation Store is the place to be, again.


Once again, if you want The Good Stuff, you may want to head over to the European PSN Store today. While we, in North America, sit on our thumbs waiting for SCEA to get the gorgeous Trine out to us, those saucy Europeans will be knee-deep in enjoying its 2D puzzle-platforming goodness.

In addition, the EU store is the only place you'll find that beautiful slo-mo 'Fortune Favors Trailer' for Uncharted 2. And to think, I used to feel bad about how the European market got the shaft on gaming.

Valkyria Chronicles 2 is coming to North America.

Running a little behind today. I'll try to cover the other big stories later tonight (and there are some good ones), but in my humble O, this is the major announcement of the day:

Valkyria Chronicles II is coming stateside. As announced on the Sega blog, we should expect it next summer. The writer also takes time, at the bottom of the post, to shine a spotlight on the crazy Valkyria fans.
"Finally, we’d like to give a special shout out to all the fans - those who put a fantastic game back into the spotlight, and continue to show their dedication and support for the series. This one goes out to all of you."
Valkyria Chronicles was a critical darling when it appeared during the holiday crush of games in '08, but given its niche market and limited publicity it didn't exactly sell like gangbusters. Some gamers fell in love with the title, though, and made it their mission to let everyone know how special it is. Word of mouth picked up, and the game is now considered a legitimate success, even if it's not a significant commercial hit.

Some might debate the impact such fan-led movements are able to have, but I've seen Ebay prices rise and fall in direct relation to a game's discussions on popular forums - it definitely has an effect.

It's great that Sega is bringing VCII stateside, but I can't say it's much of a surprise - they know how passionate the fans are here, and they've been supporting it with localizations of the downloadable content from Japan. I just hope VCII paves the way for VCIII, and the return of the series to the PS3.