Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Portal 2 gameplay in HD.

During E3 I pointed out some gameplay videos of Portal 2. They were, unfortunately, not direct feed videos, but one certainly got the gist of what was going on.

Thankfully, Valve has deigned to release some direct feed vids of some of the same stuff! Ladies and gentlemen, let us wallow in Portal awesomeness.

Not all the new mechanics are shown - we're missing the speed gel and the bounce gel - but you can still check out the cam versions here.

Remember when all the PS3s stopped working?

Error 80081050F struck on the last night of February, the first day of March of this year, rendering all of the older PS3 models unable to play any trophy-enabled PS3 game (or access the PSN).

Sony didn't actually do anything to fix it at the time - eventually the PS3's internal clocks clicked back into synch and things started working again - but hidden in amongst all the lovelies we got with yesterday's firmware 3.40 was a fix for the ApocalyPS3 bug.

Which is good.

Darksiders PC version pushed back.

For some reason, I always got the impression a PC version had sort of become vaporware.

Anyway, good news everyone! THQ announced today that Darksiders will be hitting the personal computers September 24th this year. Now our PC-playin' brethren will get to enjoy the wonderful, freakish love-child of Kratos and Princess Zelda.

This is, of course, disappointing news to anyone looking forward to its previous release date ("June") - I'm just happy it's coming out at all.

Hulu Plus on PS3 next month.

What's Hulu Plus, you ask? It's just like the Hulu you get for free on your PC, but this Hulu costs ten bucks a month! Plus - for an unlimited time only - enjoy their complimentary advertisements!

What's the point of this, if you have a capable laptop with a TV out? No idea. Of course, given that I live in Canada, this won't be an issue I have to concern myself with for quite some time. For you Americans, though? Well, here's something else you get to pay for. Specifically:

Full Current Seasons Available Through Hulu Plus Include:
30 Rock
American Dad!
Brothers & Sisters
Cougar Town
Dancing With The Stars
Desperate Housewives
Family Guy
Find My Family
Friday Night Lights
Happy Town
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Lie To Me
Losing It With Jillian
Minute to Win It
Modern Family
Parks and Recreation
Private Practice
Saturday Night Live
Shark Tank
The Biggest Loser
The Cleveland Show
The Good Guys
The Office
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
The Wanda Sykes Show

Full Season Runs Available Through Hulu Plus Include:

30 Rock
8 Simple Rules
Ally McBeal
American Dad!
Arrested Development
The Biggest Loser
Brothers & Sisters
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Dancing With The Stars
Desperate Housewives
Eli Stone
Grey's Anatomy
Law and Order SVU
Legend of the Seeker
Lipstick Jungle
Miami Vice
My Name is Earl
Parks and Recreation
Prison Break
Quantum Leap
Samantha Who?
Saturday Night Live
The OFfice
The Pretender
The X-Files
Ugly Betty
What About Brian

All in 720p. Which is nice. The service is also coming to Xbox 360 some time in 2011.

For my money, though... no Flight of the Conchords? No Colbert Report or Venture Bros? No dice.

Monday, June 28, 2010

PS3 system update 3.40: The deal.

Firmware 3.40 went live tonight, and the regular PSN received some nice little goodies.

  • Photo Gallery: A new network based photo sharing feature is now available on the Photo Gallery. The enhancement allows you to upload, browse and comment on photos on Facebook and Picasa Web Album. You can also opt to share your photos between your PlayStation Network friends as well as print photos from Photo Gallery.
  • Video Editor & Uploader: Video Editor and Uploader is a new function found on the XrossMediaBar (XMB), which enables you to edit, save and upload video files stored on the PS3 system to sites such as Facebook or YouTube.
  • Five Star Rating Support: Users can rate the PlayStation Store content they have purchased with one to five star ratings.
  • Power Save Settings: The default setting for PS3 System Auto-Off will be set at 2 hours, providing you with additional power save options and further improving power save features on the PS3 system.

...which is pretty sweet - particularly the video editor - but the real news today is PlayStation Plus.

What, precisely do you get for your fifty dollars (or twenty, if you went for the three-month deal)? Well, if you take everything they're offering this month, you get about ninety dollars worth of goodies and discounts. Of course, you may not consider the goodies all that good.

  • inFamous game trial (60-minute trial)
  • WipEout HD (Full Game) FREE [normally $19.99]
  • Rally Cross (PSOne Classic) FREE [normally $5.99]
  • Age of Zombies (minis) FREE [normally $4.99]
  • Warhark Fallen Star (Add-On) FREE [normally $1.99]
  • Collision Theme FREE
  • Fat Princess: Fat Roles DLC $3.99 [normally $4.99]
  • Fat Princess Pink and Blue Princess Avatars FREE
  • Gauntlet II $2.50 [normally $4.99]
  • Mortal Kombat II $2.50 [normally $4.99]
  • Rampage $2.50 [normally $4.99]
  • Rampart $2.50 [normally $4.99]
  • Cuboid $7.99 [normally $9.99]
  • Cuboid Booster Pack FREE [normally $2.99]
  • Cuboid Bundle Pack FREE [normally $4.99]
  • Cuboid Level Editor FREE [normally $3.99]
  • Hamsterball $7.99 [normally $9.99]
  • Interpol $7.99 [normally $9.99]
  • Magic Orbz $7.99 [normally $9.99]
  • Magic Orbz Witches Pack FREE [normally $2.99]
  • Magic Orbz Jungle Pack FREE [normally $2.99]
  • Magic Orbz Winter Pack FREE [normally $2.99]
  • Mahjong Tales: Ancient Wisdom $7.99 [normally $9.99]
  • Mahjong Tales Ancient Wisdom Booster Pack FREE [normally $4.99]
  • Smash Cars $11.99 [normally $14.99]
  • Smash Cards Virus Run FREE [normally $2.99]
  • Wakeboarding HD $11.99 [normally $14.99]

That's a lot of stuff and a lot of discounts... on a lot of stuff I'm not particularly interested in. I mean, Mortal Kombat II and Rampage for $2.50 each is pretty sweet - and WipEout HD - well, I can't find much fault with that.

And I did just buy myself a $50 PSN card the other day...

But I think, for now, I'll pass. That PSN card is going towards Persona 3 Portable.

Perhaps, if the LBP2 beta is ever tied to it, I'll reconsider a PSN+ subscription. 'Till then, I'd rather spend my $50 on a game of my choosing, instead of Sony's.

C'mon everyone, let's do some math!

Likewise, why spend your money on things like perishable food and clothes that will just wear out one day? Buy video games! It's an investment in your entertainment future!

With the rather intimidating amount of awesome and potenti-awesome headed our way in the next six months, only a fool would forge ahead all willy-nilly. One needs to consider. To gauge value and assemble a shopping list which, hopefully, puts just how much money one is about to blow into perspective.

Of course, one could just rent their games or buy used - it's cheaper in the long run - but such practices deny hard-working developers an honest return on their superlative efforts, and have a hugely negative impact on the industry we hold so dear. Let me put it another way:
If you want developers to keep making games,
pay them for their games.

Which I intend to do. Alright, people - let's get this figured. To the workstation!

Let us use our local Amazons as a price-gauge. The local EB will occasionally try to screw me by tacking an extra $5 on budget titles (God of War Collection, for example), so Amazon will serve better.

Also: all prices are listed in Canadian funds. 'Cause it's my blog. These are the purchases I intend to make:

$20.00 - Shank$40.00 - Persona 3 Portable
$40.00 - BlazBlue: Continuum Shift
$40.00 - Valkyria Chronicles 2$60.00 - The Sly Collection$60.00 - Little Big Planet 2$70.oo - Enslaved: Odyssey to the West$70.00 - Dead Rising 2$70.00 - Fallout: New Vegas$70.00 -Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

I choose you, calculator!

= $540.00. Plus (12%) tax, of course.
= $604.80.

...which ain't that bad, spread over five months.

Of course, what if Mafia II, Epic Mickey, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Kane & Lynch II, Donkey Kong Country Returns or even (gasp!) Force Unleashed II also require purchase?

That comes to... $1030.40 with tax. Which makes me sorta' glad I'm not sure I want any of those other games. It's a strange position to be in. Every fall, gamers kind of end up hoping some games aren't awesome.

* * *

Six hundred bucks is swingable. It's the sort of number that's not too intimidating, when spread out over several months. Over a grand is... well it's no longer borderline stupid - it's a stupid amount of money. And lest we forget - after the fabulous fall frenzy of fantastical frivolity comes Christmas - and if you don't have at least a thousand dollars to spend on your collected loved ones at Christmas, you're a jerk.

That's right, I'm talking to you, Warren C. Shipley.

You know what you did.

TL:DR - The rest of 2010.

The feature in which I attempt to draw your attention to the notable upcoming titles of 2010 is a bit of a beast. Maybe you don't have time for all those words! Here's a short version.

If you find yourself scratching your head at any of these titles, feel free to wade through the feature and discover what, precisely, the deal is.

6th - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (PSP)
13th - Deathspank - (PSN, XBLA)
27th - BlazBlue: Continuum Shift (PS3, 360)

10th - Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (PSN, XBLA)
24th - Kane & Lynch: Dog Days (PS3, 360, PC)
24th - Mafia II (PS3, 360, PC)
31st? - Metroid: Other M (Wii)
31st - Valkyria Chronicles 2 (PSP)

- Patapon 3 (PSP)
7th - Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep (PSP)
14th - Halo: Reach (360)
16th - Epic Mickey (Wii)
22nd? - Shank (PSN, XBLA, PC)
28th - Dead Rising 2 (PS3, 360, PC)

- Medal of Honor (PS3, 360, PC)
12th - Quantum Theory (PS3, 360)
19th - Fallout: New Vegas (PS3, 360, PC)
25th - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (PS3, 360, PC, iOS, NDS, Wii)
26th - Fable III (360)
"Fall 2010" - Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)

2nd - Gran Turismo (PS3)
4th - Dance Central (360 with Kinect)
9th - Call of Duty: Black Ops (PS3, 360, PC, Wii)
16th- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (PS3, 360, PC)
Oct-Nov - Little Big Planet 2 (PS3)
Nov - The Sly Collection (PS3)
"Holiday 2010" - Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)

Aw. Dead Rising 2 gets pushed back a month.

And here I went and made an image from the game into the header for the August section of the below feature. Burn.

No longer will Dead Rising 2 be released on August 31st. Instead it will be released on September 28th in North America, and October 1st in Europe.

Well, hey, at least we're still getting it in 2010!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

FEATURE - The rest of 2010. Lookin' good.

June is nearly behind us. It's been a great six months for games (an absolutely remarkable six months, actually), but the time has come to look at the next half of the year.

Unlike last year - when many notable titles had unfixed release dates, or were later pushed to 2010 (Bayonetta, Darksiders, Alpha Protocol), the industry seems to have gotten more comfortable with launching games after the colossally important holiday sales rush. Huge titles that could duke it out quite comfortably with this year's big guns are already resting comfortably in the first few months of 2011 (Dead Space 2, Bulletstorm), and - for the most part - we have a pretty good idea of when, precisely we can expect 2010's important titles.

Now, I should note, these release dates mostly firm dates announced by official sources - but not all. I should also note that these are "important titles" as I see 'em - though not necessarily important to me - as denoted by the Hype-O-Meter.

Let's take a look.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable
July 6th (PSP)

Strategy RPG

: Day one purchase.

I give full credit to Persona 3 for being the game that convinced me I could love a JRPG - I would never have even tried Resonance of Fate or Eternal Sonata if not for that gem of a game. Now, if I had to choose, I'd probably take Persona 4 as the superior title - but an enhanced version of P3 for the PSP that includes many of Persona 4's improvements? Thank you, Sir, may I have another?

July 13th (PSN, XBLA)

Action RPG.

A few good reviews and I'm sold.

DeathSpank is "Diablo meets Monkey Island." I can offer no guarantees of its Diablo-ness (though it is an ARPG), but its Monkey Island-ness is assured thanks simply to being the product of Ron Gilbert - the writer and director of that legendary adventure title.

With an infectious, zany sense of humor and the assured voice work of Jim Ward as the titular DeathSpank, DeathSpank should feature prominently on your July radar.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift
July 27th


Hype-O-Meter: In the red.

If I have one great shame for The Year In Games 2009, it's that I didn't pick up BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger. It got rock-solid reviews, but it's the promise of big, beautiful high-def 2D sprites as the entry point to a terribly deep combat system that whet my whistle.

Now... I haven't invested myself in a 2D fighter since the heyday of the genre with Super Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. As far as I'm concerned the greatest fighter ever made is Virtua Fighter 5, so I must admit BlazBlue intimidates the shit out of me. I am, simply, out of touch with all the advances made in the genre since the late 90s. That said, in 2010 I will not repeat the mistake I made in 2009.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
August 10th (PSN, XBLA)

Side-scrolling brawler.


Scott Pilgrim is one of those titles that seems to be designed with the express purpose of pleasing me, personally. Big, pretty 2D sprites, snappy music, creative overload and gameplay that harkens back to the good ol' days.

My only concern is that often, if you go back and play those good ol' games, they're too simple, too mashy, too boring to stand up to modern expectations. Let's hope Scott Pilgrim is the best of both worlds.

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
August 24th (PS3, 360, PC)

Third-person shooter.

Hype-O-Meter: Worthy of hope, but not hype.

Third time may be the charm for Hitman developer IO Interactive on the HD consoles. The original Kane & Lynch was largely panned by critics (and sparked the Gerstmanngate fiasco). I'll be honest - I wanted to give it a try, but that demo was just terrible.

IO followed K&L up with the just-okay Mini Ninjas, but they've yet to find real success on the current gen. Early reaction from the media suggest that Dog Days plays infinitely better than its predecessor, and with the visual hook of its presentation (and largely positive reaction to the original's narrative), Kane & Lynch: Dog Days deserves to be watched. Cautiously. From across the room.

Mafia II
August 24th (PS3, 360, PC)

Open-world action.


2K Czech have been working on Mafia II for five years, and it looks remarkably solid. The presentation is great and the recreation of 1940s-50s America is an inviting setting, but I'll be honest: these days, if an open-world game isn't developed by Rockstar or Sucker Punch, I just can't bring myself to have any faith in it.

I'll wait for reviews.

Metroid: Other M
August 31st? We think? (Wii)

Action adventure.

: Medium.

Now, some folks are willing to assume that playing Metroid: Other M will be like sucking sweet sustenance from the iridescent nipple of a winged unicorn - and they may very well be right. Team Ninja have no credit with me, and Metroid was never really high on the list of reasons to love my old NES or SNES, so it's not plugging in to my Nostalgia Unit.

That said, I'll certainly be watching to see if Metroid: Other M proves worthy of its skyrocketing general hype.

Valkyria Chronicles 2
August 31st (PSP)

Strategy RPG.

Day one purchase.

Falling in neatly behind last year's phenomenal Demon's Souls, 2008's Valkyria Chronicles is in second place for the most critically acclaimed Japanese-developed RPG on the HD consoles. Don't believe me? Think FFXIII fits in there somewhere? Go ahead, check it out - I'll wait.

Back? Good.

Now that you're aware that Valkyria Chronicles is absolutely bloody awesome - a gorgeous, clever, moving and mature beast of a game - please look into Valkyria Chronicles 2 on the PSP. I don't want to have to wait six months again before the gamer masses realize how special this thing is and actually start buying it.

If it's half as good as the original, it will be one of the best games on the PSP. Fortunately, if import reviews are anything to go on, it's better.

Patapon 3
September 4th (PSP)

Strategy RPG rhythm game.

Hype-O-Meter: Medium.

Patapon 3 is unlikely to see a purchase from me any time soon, but this is simply because I haven't played Patapon 2 or even finished the original. Don't get me wrong, I love the original - I just got sidetracked and never finished it.

I like what I'm seeing with Patapon 3, though. The trademark gigantic bosses and lovingly animated 2D sprites are back, but I've seen screenshots of only three or four massive Hero-Pons battling it out with said behemoths - a huge change from the massive Pata-armies of olde. Patapon 3 is definitely one to keep your eye on.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
September 7th (PSP)

Action RPG.


Kingdom Hearts is a recent juggernaut of the RPG world. They boast the sky-high production values of Square Enix and solid action-RPG mechanics, but I've got to admit, I lost interest when I spent four hours "enjoying" the tutorial for Kingdom Hearts II.

Still, Birth By Sleep is one of the two biggest PSP titles of the year (the other being Peace Walker). I would very likely give it a try if it were coming to the PSP Go, but word is Disney won't allow any form of digital distribution.

Poor me. Lucky you.

Halo: Reach
September 14th (360)

First-person shooter.

Hype-O-Meter (for me):
Hype-O-Meter (for the masses): Day one purchase.

Sure there's no Master Chief and Reach doesn't continue the Halo story - it's a prequel - but it's also the graphical leap everyone wanted Halo 3 to provide back in 2007.

Reach will, no doubt, be another great Halo game. The mechanics are rock-solid, the online is the best in the biz, and - engine aside - I expect very little will change with what is reported to be Bungie's last turn at bat with Microsoft's legendary franchise. Reach will sell millions upon millions of copies by December 2010, and is easily the most important game in Microsoft's arsenal this year.

Epic Mickey
September 16th (Wii)

Platformer, action-adventure.


Epic Mickey gameplay was finally revealed at E3 2010, and the high levels of general expectation among the media were tempered to a tepid warmth and hope that the game may deliver more than what was shown.

Warren Spector, the legendary creator of Deus Ex, Wing Commander and Thief, has a huge amount of credit with me (and the gaming media as a whole) - so we're all crossing our fingers that the Epic Mickey experience will prove to be more than the sum of its parts. I mean, let's face it - a simple platforming, puzzle-solving game can be one of the best games of the year - if it's done well enough.

September 22nd? We think? (PSN, XBLA, PC)

2D brawler/platformer.


Shank is a smaller indie game that, like DeathSpank, was picked up by publishing giant Electronic Arts for digital distribution. The developers' goal, it's said, is to constantly blow the player away with what they were willing to put in the game - which is no idle threat, as Shank was written by God of War co-creator Marianne Krawczyk.

Everything about Shank looks great. The game itself is a gorgeous, sprite-based visual feast, animated by Jeff Agala (Atomic Betty), and hands-on impressions from the media only ever suggest the title is a liquid-smooth blast to play. Look, just watch the videos.

Dead Rising 2
September 28th (PS3, 360, PC)

Zombie humiliation/genocide simulator.


Capcom's flawed action-adventure survival horror gets a facelift with a multiplatform sequel and (they promise) a better save system. More than Halo and even Gears, the original Dead Rising was a huge reason to be jealous of your friend's Xbox 360.

Capcom's commitment to making all their games multiplatform means I too, finally, will be able to inflict ridiculous violence on an infinite number of undead; it will take some very bad reviews to make me pass on Dead Rising 2.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
October 8th in the UK (PS3, 360)

Action adventure.


Enslaved is this year's Wet or Darksiders. Or... it would be, if Darksiders hadn't released this year. It's one of those titles that could be really, really awesome, but we'll never know until we lay hands on it and find out for ourselves.

Reasons to hope: Ninja Theory also made Heavenly Sword, which had spectacular presentation and art direction, and boasted facial animation and cutscene quality that is still unequaled to this day. That is not hyperbole. Directed (and sometimes starring) The Lord of The Rings' Andy Serkis, the presentation of story in Heavenly Sword was staggering - and that is what I expect from Enslaved.

Reason to fear: Ninja Theory also made Heavenly Sword, which suffered from rather tedious combat and action. They've said it's their objective to make a game that isn't "button mashy" with Enslaved - which is good - because that's the term that best describes their last game.

Medal of Honor
October 12th (PS3, 360, PC)

First-person shooter.


Built on the Frostbite engine (Battlefield: Bad Company 2), Electronic Arts returns to its flagship military shooter franchise with this Medal of Honor reboot. Will it be any good? Who knows? The last Medal of Honor game I played was Allied Assault - an incredible title - which was mostly built by folks who left Electronic Arts and founded Infinity Ward (Modern Warfare).

What's important is that Medal of Honor's multiplayer is being developed by DICE, who cranked things up to 11 with Bad Company 2. As for the single player campaign, who knows? Medal of Honor is, simply put, Electronic Arts' attempt at a Call of Duty-killer.

Quantum Theory
October 12th (PS3, 360)

Third-person cover-based shooter.


Quantum Theory is a Japanese take on Gears of War. That's it. It features a bit of co-op with a scantily-clad AI partner and a fantasy/sci-fi world, but... it's not actually looking very good.

It's looking just shy of okay. Like a game you're not sure you'd want to rent. But heck - once upon a time Darksiders looked the same way - Quantum Theory may turn out to be a hidden gem. ...or just a game that should be hidden.

Fallout: New Vegas
October 19th (PS3, 360, PC)

Open-world FPS RPG.

A few good reviews and I'm sold.

In a unique reversal of precedent, the more the public sees of New Vegas, the less interest we seem to have in it. I am not immune to this trend. Its greatest flaw is that, graphically, it is identical to the celebrated Fallout 3.

All the interesting stuff is happening under the hood - the RPG side of the equation that Black Isle Studios (Alpha Protocol) have pimped out Fallout 3's standard gameplay with - the most popular community mods (hardcore mode), a total revamp of the karma system, and the addition of much more classic Fallout flavor.

I'll likely day-one Fallout: New Vegas, but I'd like to see some reviews first. For me, it shares a problem with Dead Rising 2: the extraordinary setting of Las Vegas may not provide a good contrast to the extraordinary events of the game. It's much more impactful when crazy stuff like the apocalypse tears apart Everytown, USA.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
October 25th (PS3, 360, PC, iOS, NDS, Wii)

Third-person action.


The Force Unleashed was a crappy game - a very poor God of War/Devil May Cry clone - and no incredible $4,500,000 trailer is going to make me forget that. A torrential downpour of 9/10 reviews are unlikely to move me, when it comes to Force Unleashed II - but may convince me to toss it a rental. We'll see.

Fable III
October 26th (360, PC)

Action RPG.

High (for most).

Peter Molyneux's flagship RPG franchise on the 360 returns, and it'll surely come as no surprise that I can tell you relatively little about it. The Fable games get great receptions from critics, but I've heard mixed things from gamers. It's one of those 360 franchises that I'd be happy to try out, but I can personally offer no assurances of its quality.

Rest assured, however, that Fable III will sell like gangbusters, and likely receive high praise from the media at large.

Kirby's Epic Yarn
Fall 2010 (Wii)

Puzzle platformer.


Sorry, Zelda, you've been overshadowed by soft fabrics and animated stitching.

With a both a new vibe and a classic feel, Kirby's Epic Yarn stole Nintendo's show at E3 2010 with its clever mechanics and stunning art direction. It seems a bit strange, for me, to be so interested in what is "merely" a 2D platformer - I'm more comfortable buying such fare cheaply, from an indie developer off the PSN these days - but Epic Yarn seems both familiar and unique enough to warrant close attention in the coming months.

Little Big Planet 2
October - November. We think. (PS3)


Hype-O-Meter: Meh.

Little Big Planet 2 isn't prominently featured on my radar. In fact, it's so far removed I completely forgot to include it on this list - that said, I might end up buying it just to experience the Media Molecule-created levels, and to goof around with my older brother once in a while. I sure hope they've improved the online code.

LBP2 is, perhaps more than anything, a platform for games creation. The amount of variety and tools available to those gamers who wish to immerse themselves in the ultimate LEGO-style building experience is truly staggering - you can design anything from a bullet-hell shooter to a puzzle game to a top-down racer with LBP2.

The kids will love it.

The Sly Collection
November? We think?

Action/stealth platformer.

Day one purchase.

Put simply, the Sly Cooper trilogy are fantastic platformers with cartoony presentation and a kiddie-stealth bent. Like Sucker Punch's PS3 debut inFamous, the they are just remarkably fun to play.

That's it. They're wonderful, and I will definitely but them again.

Gran Turismo 5
November 2nd (PS3)

Racing simulator.

Hype-O-Meter (for me):
Hype-O-Meter (for the masses):
In the red.

Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo 5 has been a long, long (long) time coming. It will be yet another technological showpiece for a Sony console, running at a phenomenal resolution of 1080p.

Gran Turismo is a bit like those Twilight movies (bear with me on this). Some folks are absolutely fanatical in their loyalty and love of the series, and some folks just couldn't care less. I fall into the latter camp, but Gran Turismo 5 is coming, and it wants to prove that after years of letting Forza take all the glory, it's Sony's franchise that's the "real driving simulator."

Whether or not Gran Turismo can still be the worldwide powerhouse it once was while other racers are bowing to the new, well-moneyed God of Accessibility remains to be seen.

Dance Central
November 4th (360 with Kinect)



From Harmonix (Rock Band, Guitar Hero) comes the dance game. You're not stepping on a dance pad, you're not waving your arms with a Wiimote in hand - with Kinect tracking your entire body, Dance Central is the single most promising dance game of all time.

Will it be a great game? Well, all I can say is Harmonix isn't known for bad titles. That, and the (seriously) impressive demo of Dance Central at the Microsoft E3 presser - when an incredibly geeky looking and sounding fellow got up on stage, explained that the tutorials in Dance Central taught him everything the audience was about to see, and then danced his ass of - make Dance Central the single best reason to own a Kinect, and force one to admit the merits of motion control.

Call of Duty: Black Ops
November 9th (PS3, 360, PC, Wii)

First-person shooter.


Black Ops is the next Call of Duty from CoD: World At War developer Treyarch. Treyarch's titles have always been okay. They've been decent, but let's face it: they have lived entirely in the shadow of CoD: Modern Warfare developer Infinity Ward.

Well, Infinity Ward is no more, and the Call of Duty mantle now rests squarely on Treyarch's shoulders. Early peeks at the title have been promising, showcasing all the big, explosive game-design-by-Jerry-Bruckheimer action the franchise is known for. Black Ops may be the game that finally allows Treyarch to step out of Infinity Ward's shadow.

...or it may be another by-the-numbers military-themed first person shooter. Either way, the Call of Duty name will shift a few million boxes.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
November 16th (PS3, 360, PC)

Open-world action.


Ubisoft Montreal fires another Assassin's Creed at us just one year after their last (excellent) title. Continuing the story of ACII, Brotherhood charts Ezio Auditore's rise as the head of the Assassin's order, and his group's attempt to take back Rome from the Templars.

At first blush Brotherhood may seem like a quick cash-in on II's critical and commercial success, but a (welcome) revamp to the combat system and the addition of what seems to be really good multiplayer may make it a worthy addition to the franchise. Like the last one, Brotherhood may end up being one of this year's must-play titles.

Donkey Kong Country Returns
Holiday 2010 (Wii)

2D platformer.


No matter what the haters say, Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo was an incredible game - but I can't say DKC Returns is very high up on my to-do list. Why? Two reasons.

First off, I simply don't feel the 3D polygonal Donkey Kong looks as good as his old 16-bit pre-rendered sprite counterpart. Second, Donkey Kong Country was an incredible game four console generations ago - these days we pay ten dollars for games like this off PSN or XBLA and still feel a bit ripped off. Why does Kirby's Epic Yarn get a pass while DKC get a fail? I don't know. Personal taste, I guess.

That said, DKC Returns is being made by Retro Games - the American-based Nintendo-owned developer who brought us the Metroid Prime series. I should extend 'em a little credit.

* * *

...and that's it. Every notable title between now and 2011. The list seems a little short - perhaps I missed one or two? Perhaps some release dates for major titles this fall haven't come yet.

Can I just say I find it rather strange that I have two must-play day-one purchases on the PSP, of all systems? That's just weird. Also, where is Sony's big gun for the holiday rush? It can't just be Gran Turismo - what about the rest of us? Oh, right. LBP2. Meh.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

First look at inFamous 2 gameplay, Journey on July 2.

In an episode set to highlight Deadliest Warrior: The Game, the GameTrailers TV episode airing on July 2 will also feature gameplay from inFamous 2 and a look at upcoming PSN title Journey.

I've little doubt the gameplay in inFamous 2 will be any less sublime than it was in the original, but I'm still more than happy to check it out. As for Journey, I'll forgive you if you have forgotten or are unaware of thatgamecompany's newest experimental title - but that is one game I'm dying to see in motion.

Screw you, ending of Hellsing!

Continuing today's highlights of notable not-for-kids cartoons, last night I finished watching Hellsing. It was recommended by a friend, and for the first six or seven episodes I was mostly pleased with the proceedings.

I've always enjoyed tales of fledgling vampires fighting against their new hunger, so Seras Victoria's story was off to a great start - even if she did conform to the unfortunate anime trope of wearing a bit too little. A miniskirt and knee-highs as part of her military uniform? Sometimes it's hard to love you, anime.

I like that her "master," the unstoppable warrior vampire Alucard is himself bound to a master - a strong, conservatively-dressed woman, to balance things - but the greater story of why and how he is aligned with the Hellsing organization and his history are given very short shrift.

This keeps him nice and mysterious - and if you choose to read between the lines you get the sense of his true identity - but at the end of the (thirteen episode) series I was left with no sense of closure or satisfaction - only further questions. It really feels like the series simply didn't have enough time to tell its story.

If anyone out there has read the manga, please fill me in: what did Sir Integra choose? Also, did Victoria ever end up saying "I am vampire, hear me roar?"

* * *

I'm not trying to say that Hellsing isn't a worthy investment of your anime-watching time, but it seriously left me wanting more. Freakishly (and this is unprecedented) it made me want to hunt down the original books to discover the real story behind the slice the anime offers.

Perhaps I'll look into Hellsing Ultimate.

* * *

Also: only the baddest of the bad dudes can pull off wearing a big red bow around their neck.

And all was a little righter with the world.

A good friend of mine drove up to visit from the States yesterday, and in their suitcase they smuggled in some VHS tapes on which they had recorded the first two new episodes Futurama. Thanks, good friend!

Some folks will quickly condemn the new episodes as not being as good as Futurama in its prime - which is perhaps a little inaccurate. They're different - pauses are milked longer, for example - but it still employs way-over-our-heads scientist humor, sci-fi references galore and extra jokes that will only be discovered on subsequent viewings.

It's repeat viewings - a benefit of the original show's syndication - that converted a legion of fans and drove them to snap up the seasons on DVD. An episode of Futurama never reveals its true splendor by watching it once.

So, all things considered, I am ultra-pleased.

Is it weird for anyone else to have Leela and Fry in a relationship now? I know it was done in the DVD movies because, if the Comedy Central deal didn't bear fruit, that's how they wanted to wrap up the series - but the series isn't wrapped and now one of the central conflicts is absent. Eh, that's cool. I'm just glad to have it back.

Happy birthday, blog o'mine.

This blog is one in a million. Or, perhaps more accurately, one among millions upon millions of other passionate bloggers standing on their home-made soap boxes, yelling into the storm. One year ago today, I made my first post on The Games of Chance and added my squeaking fury to the deafening roar of self-indulgent online content.

I'm almost impressed that I stuck with it as long as I have.

I love Samurai Champloo, and you should too.

Why sell myself short? I've improved, yo. If not in quality, at least in quantity I've surpassed my original commitment.

In June of 2009 I resolved to never go two days without a post. Now The Rule (which I never actually decided on - it just became the matter of course) is that we get at least one post every day (even if that post is just an apology). More often than not, we'll get two or three or - when the amount of news warrants it - twentyish.

It's gotten to the point where (I flatter myself to suggest) I'm sure some folks actually make this place part of their daily Internet Digest - or at least the traffic numbers sure suggest it, as a full 30% of my visits are the product of direct traffic - folks who've bookmarked this place, and swing by for a mid-day mental snack of gaming news and opinion.

Thank you, by the way. I appreciate your custom.

So what've we done in a year? I've expanded my console family from a 60GB PS3 to include the new Slim, a PSP Go (y'know what? I like the Go) and even a Wii. I've written thirty reviews (for twenty-eight games - 'cause I'm funny that way), forty-six features and a grand total of 769 posts - which is only 2.15 posts per day, but what with my sweet new computer I'll doubtless improve that average by this time next year.

Speaking of improving my averages, check out this month! Thanks to E3, this is June 2010's 137th post. That's a lot of game trailers from GameTrailers - but it's also a lot of news leaks, first screenshots, unofficial off-camera videos and bitching about motion control.

Since we're chatting, please go buy Resonance of Fate.
It's great, and I really want a sequel.

I suppose I should give myself some sort of goal, moving forward. More X, less Y and - to really switch things up, some Z - but that sort of suggests this blog has more of a mission or purpose than it actually does.

I'd like to write more features, editorials, opinion pieces - but let's face it, I need to get back on the reviews thing! For starters, I should write my Non-Review of 3D Dot Game Heroes (short version: don't buy it), and I suppose I should sound off on what I thought of the Big 3 at E3 (short version: Nintendo A+, Sony A-, Microsoft C-), but I guess planning ain't part of the plan.

But I've got tomorrow off - and when I wake up, I'll see what news is worth talking about and I'll ask myself what thrills me at that very moment. And then, if you'll let me, I'll tell you all about it.

Here's to another year. Thanks so much for reading.