Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This is literally what my walk to work is like, every day.

Good thing I'm able to grind enough coins at the office to afford the extra lives.

First inFamous 2 review, courtesy Google Translate.


Deus Ex: Human Revolution - 'Revenge' trailer.

If this game plays as good as it looks..? Yummy.

No. ...this one has potential.

So there's a new BloodRayne game coming out. It's a 2D sidescroller.

Wait! Wait, don't go yet. I know, I know I said BloodRayne, but just give me a minute, here. So I'm poking around to find some news, and for some reason I decide to watch this dev diary of BloodRayne: Betrayal:

And I'm like, "hm. Some of that animation is pretty good. And the guy seems to know what he's talking about, and... what studio is this?" Ah - WayForward Technologies. You may not've heard of them, but these are the dudes who put together that well-received Batman: The Brave and the Bold game for the Wii.

So these are guys who know 2D brawler/platformers. That's cool. On the other hand, this is just another game license from a developer that specializes in putting games together with other studios' properties...

...still, some of that animation does look pretty good - and that's like, 90% of the battle for me, when it comes to 2D games. Let's see if there's an actual trailer up, somewhere...

Hm. It looked better in the dev diary. Still... I like the idea of a lushly animated 2D hacknslash about a sexy vampire lady who sucks the life force from your neck before killing you with her awesome vampire kung-fu.

Monday, May 30, 2011



Word is the first review for Alice: Madness Returns was dropped by OPM UK, and they weren't pleased. As in 5/10.
“A poor pace potholes the proceedings. The game lingers on its jumping puzzles, reveling in presenting us with open vistas that require navigation across partially invisible pathways, weighted platforms, billowing air vents, and ever-shifting floors. With this limited vocabulary, Alice chugs and chugs and chugs. Timing challenges are added and overdone, and some are additionally hampered by the need to shoot targets with a Pepper Grinder gun saddled with a manual aim system that is imprecise at best. The game tops off its overlong, overly gimmick-reliant platform navigation with heroine-crushing blocks, spiked platforms, and flame spitters. In the end, we’re not jumping and soaring across Wonderland but simply grinding it out.”
Yeah... if you played American McGee's Alice, that's pretty much what you should have expected - and I've no doubt Madness Returns will still manage to be charming enough to be a slow-burn hit like the original.

The Dead Island box art is... different.

On the one hand, I like that it's a throwback to the days when almost all game covers were done up thusly - by artists with a painty disposition. On the other... it looks kind of stupid, yeah? It would've been nice to see something as elegant and thoughtful as that insane cinematic trailer.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I love - inFamous.

It says a lot that while I was grinding my way through L.A. Noire, exasperated that it wasn't as fun as it was pretty, I was looking forward to playing inFamous. The timing was prescribed - with its sequel dropping in nine days, it's a good time to familiarize myself with the original - but it's also an absolute antithesis to the constrictive, ho-hum gameplay of Noire.

Noire is a title to be experienced on an intellectual level. inFamous is simply a game to be played - and more than anything, it nails the fun factor.

I had long intended to make a very simple "I love" post about inFamous where I detail that I really, really like Cole's backward handspring animation, but as I was rolling through it today I had did something in the game I never tried before.

The other day, Blue was over. I was playing through the first island of the game and pointed out how the title's mechanics just sing when it comes to translating player intention to action as you elegantly navigate its dense architecture. I've explained before that despite what the commercials will tell you, inFamous is first and foremost a fantastic platformer, and I showed Blue how I discovered a new way to zip up to a metro track by dancing back and forth on the stair railings.

Today, I'm on the second island - The Warren - and I've come to the mission where the gang in power there has employed "Terror Busses" to roll through the city streets, shooting at pedestrians. Given that I've played through inFamous about ten times, I'm an old hand at this mission.

You can't just run up to the bus and climb on top to fry the exposed engine - it's bristling with machine guns, and razor wire at the top prevents your ascent. What you need to do is see where the bus is headed, climb up onto a nearby building and jump from there onto the bus's roof - then just turn around and use your awesome lightning powers on its V12.

This is how I've always done it. I've always just jumped from the safety of a static rooftop - it's a reliable way to solve the problem.

Today, I was kind of mucking about, letting the bus get away from me while I took little detours to pick up blast shards (which increase your ability to store electricity). The bus was a block and a half away, and I was losing ground.

There were no suitably high buildings near the bus from which to leap... but there was a power line headed in its general direction.

Using Cole's induction grind, you can zip along these cables much faster than you can run. If you simply drop off when it ends you'll get some decent forward momentum.

If you jump at the last second, Cole will blast into the air. If you then use his "static thrusters" to repulse gravity, you'll turn that long jump into a lonnnnnng jump.

So I jump, pull myself onto a nearby cable that leads to the roof of a nearby building, and zip up four storeys. Just before the cable ends I jump and rocket down the street, making a high arc over the Bus of Terror. I look down, I line myself up, and release R1 to stop using glide.

Cole smacks in to the roof of the Terror Bus. I turn around to the engine, raise my hand, and electricity crackles across my arm.

Then I got up to write this article. This game's mechanics are so incredibly well-honed that, once you understand its rules, Empire City is truly your playground.

I love inFamous.

Speaking of which, I was watching this inFamous 2 trailer today and I noticed that Cole's tattoos change depending on which karmic rout the player takes. Hey, at least it's not some dumbass faux-tribal crap!

I still feel it's quite the shame that Sucker Punch let the public push them around and scrapped New Cole's original design.

MiniReview - L.A. Noire.

L.A. Noire is certainly the prettiest game thus far this year. Its presentation is largely excellent across the board with graphics, music, animation and acting all getting top marks - and the performance capture that directly recreates an actor's face is both affecting and unnerving. The story is likewise strong, with a patient, reserved tack that pays big rewards in player interest and involvement - but L.A. Noire is sorely lacking in the gameplay department.

Nothing about its driving, punching, running and shooting is bad - but neither is it particularly fun. Solving crimes is at least interesting - buoyed by the desire to succeed, thanks to the excellent story - but the frustrating interviews aren't nearly as elegant or refined as one would hope.

If you want something unique or simply beautiful and often emotionally engaging, this is it. Well, this and Heavy Rain. If you want a game that's a pleasure to play, look elsewhere.

Darksiders 2 likely to appear at E3.

Danny Bilson is (Darksiders publisher) THQ's executive vice president of core games. Rumor has it the game may be gracing the cover of the next Game Informer issue, but... gosh... I wonder if there's a gigantic expo of game reveals and announcements that occurs in precisely one week...?

...do you think it could be featured there? Nah. No, that's just crazy talk.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Personal Note

Awww, did someone hurt Cole Phelps's feelings?

Much of the media coverage for L.A. Noire in the weeks leading up to its release touted the game as Rockstar's newest opus - placing it squarely among such no-contest Game of the Year contenders as Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto IV.

This annoyed the hell out of me, and many fellow gamers. If L.A. Noire is a success, it is not a credit to Rockstar. If it is a failure, it rests squarely on the shoulders of developer Team Bondi - an independent studio, headlined by former members of Sony's Team Soho (The Getaway).

Below this post, you'll find I have difficulty coming to the same conclusion as most other critics on L.A. Noire.
L.A. Noire is - as of this writing - a bona fide hit, with honchos at Rockstar already announcing their intent to finance L.A. Noire 2 and 3. The title has enjoyed a hugely positive critical consensus - but I find myself in a strange position, on this one.

More often than not, I agree with consensus. When a hundred people all tell you the same thing about a product - in this case, that it's entirely fantastic - one begins to suspect that may be the truth, and upon investigation often finds it to be so. While I certainly see much of what others commend L.A. Noire for, I'm afraid I can't come to the same conclusion of its overall quality.

* * *

Oh, one thing I was never able to mention in the review:

Y'know when in a game, you're climbing up a fire escape? You go up the stairs or ladder to one level, then you walk your avatar around to the other side of the fire escape before heading up the next flight of stairs? It'll often slow you down.

In L.A. Noire, all you have to press is up and the run button - Cole will seamlessly zip up the stairs, dash around that corner on his own and keep on ascending.

It's a nice touch.

* * *

I'm starting to wonder if I should start writing two reviews for each game. I naturally favor an in-depth approach - but it's likely not everyone wants to read such a massive missive. I'm thinking I'll write a long one and a short one. And when I say short, I mean like, one or two paragraphs max. [update] Three. Three paragraphs. [/update]

I think I'll give that a shot for Noir tomorrow.

REVIEW - L.A. Noire.

Pleasure in L.A. Noire comes from its setting. Its interesting characters of reasonable (and sometimes impressive) depth. It comes in the tourist-y thrill of cruising around mid-twentieth-century Los Angeles in a gigantic, swooping Caddy, and getting caught up in the righteous indignation of pursuing the terrible crimes that populate it.

Unfortunately, it's just not that fun to actually play. It's fun to see. It's beautiful - regularly fun to watch, often very interesting and occasionally emotionally involving. The experience it provides is singular, but I find myself struggling to point out any really enjoyable gameplay.

To a degree, that's okay - presentation goes a very, very long way with me. A game with mediocre gameplay and inspired presentation can still succeed - I guess my problem with L.A. Noire is simply that I didn't have much fun with it.

I do enjoy the driving, at least. Getting behind the wheel of a two-ton boat and nailing a perfect e-brake turn at 90MPH is particularly satisfying, given that the game penalizes you for every pedestrian car you ding and ever parking meter you flatten. Likewise, zooming around late-40s Los Angeles in gorgeous, curvy old cars in hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect is a visually stunning treat.

It's troubling that the most enjoyment I get out of the gameplay is when I play it in a fashion the title discourages. The more fun you try to have with the driving, the lower your score at the end of each case will be.

Elsewhere, there's midline-level enjoyment to be had when L.A. Noire tries its hand at action. There are rote on-foot chase events, bare-bones, stilted fisticuffs and simple cover-based shooting - the gunplay ripped wholesale from Red Dead Redemption, minus the Dead Eye mechanic.

What (slightly) elevates this by-the-numbers action is the fact that each example is backed up by a heaping helping of context. The action is always while in pursuit of a character with a name and a bit of history within the story - someone you care about catching or stopping - which makes it feel more worthwhile.

L.A. Noire separates itself from action fare - and almost every other high-profile game - with its detective work. Each case has you combing over crime scenes in search of clues, and this neatly recalls the heyday of point-and-click adventure games. It's simple, and pleasing in that old-school way - but again, what saves it from mediocrity is the context of the story you're piecing together, and how these discoveries pay off as you try to see justice done.

The other half of the adventure-style gaming is interviewing witnesses and suspects, and this is where L.A. Noire both spectacularly succeeds and fails - occasionally falling flat on its face.

The cornerstone of these interviews - the foundation on which the entire game is built, in fact - is the presentation. It's up to you to notice the minutiae of an actor's performance to tell if they're lying or not, and you are presented with a choice - accept that they're telling you the 'truth', cast 'doubt' on their statement, or prove that they're 'lying' by selecting the appropriate evidence.

These sequences are both thoroughly involving and incredibly frustrating.

It's not hard to call it when someone is telling you the truth, but if you suspect them of being the least bit shifty, things become a real headache. If you know they're lying about being at the rail yard last night, accuse them of such and choose appropriate evidence, you may just get burned as the game wanted you to press more gently with 'doubt.'

If the game, in this case, wanted you to choose 'lie', that doesn't mean you've actually made the right selection - the game may have needed you to present the other piece of evidence that proves they were at the rail yard.

Either way, once you screw it up (and you will), that question is forever marked with an X and lost to you.

It should be noted that the arbitrary failure these sequences impose wouldn't be nearly as annoying if the player wasn't so emotionally invested in the outcome - but we are - and that's what makes it bearable. The largely excellent presentation and wisely reserved narrative makes you want to succeed at all the by-the-numbers action and frustrating adventuring.

L.A. Noire's writers know, more than anything, how to take their time. I'll often take a game to task for bludgeoning the player with overbearing exposition and unrestrained dialogue, but Noire employs a light, practiced hand at storytelling.

The protagonist, who at first seems to be an irritatingly perfect golden boy is, over time, revealed to be a deeply flawed, scarred and most importantly human character - much more interesting than John Marston or Niko Bellic, if less entertaining. Often the satellite characters are given similar relatable humanity, though the major villains are largely and disappointingly two-dimensional.

While the writing is well above-par (save for the occasional bits that should have been cut in interviews), the performances of the cast are absolutely incredible.

Where most successfully cinematic games are populated by experienced voice actors, L.A. Noire's groundbreaking performance capture required a cast with experience on film or stage. In Noire's technique, an actor's facial performance is digitally captured and precisely reproduced within the game.

Thanks to the experience and sizable talent of the cast, this means every line of dialogue is masterfully delivered, while the facial animation isn't animation at all - it's an actor's performance, untimely twitches, blinks and all.

It also means that we end up with these spectacularly realistic faces moving strangely atop bodies that sometimes seem as marionettes. When the in-game character turns their head to speak to someone, or notice something, it's obvious that the captured face - which was required to stay still during the process - did not.

It's very unsettling, but when it works (which is often) it's astonishing, and thoroughly draws the player into the game's world. We're fascinated by these characters. We hate these villains. We want to see this thing through to the end - and that is why we accept the gameplay.

Despite all the complaints I've leveled at it above, L.A. Noire is a resounding success in terms of overall presentation, and recreating an era. Los Angeles as found in the game is almost obscenely huge - one frankly wonders if they needed to make it so big - and incredibly detailed.

Fashions, music, cars and radio play are all period-accurate (personally, I love the shock value of hearing advertisements for cigarettes), and one truly gets the sense of a world teetering dangerously on a philosophical edge, veiled by American moral authority following the second World War. It's always a treat for games like Assassin's Creed or The Saboteur to transport us to a critical place and period in history, but L.A. Noire's scope and attention to detail blow its contemporaries out of the water.

It is a graphically exemplary title, with presentation that borders on perfect. The remarkable technology of its performance capture, the amazing work of its actors, the painstakingly recreated setting and the wonderful script all make L.A. Noire a deeply engrossing experience - one that gets under your skin, and draws you in.

I've been all over the place, here - to the point that I wonder if I'm angry at L.A. Noire for some reason. Is it because the game forced me to accuse men I was sure were innocent of murder, and sent them to jail (repeatedly)? Is it because it's so damned different, with its totally linear progression and frustrating interrogations, but so samey with its action?

Perhaps it's because one would think a game that looks so perfect would be more perfect. I wanted L.A. Noire to have not just good action, but thrilling. I wanted to navigate its beautiful interrogations with similarly beautiful, elegant mechanics - but that's not what it offers.

Noire gets huge points for striking out on its own path, but its only real triumph are the performances of its cast, its excellent presentation and its thoughtful, reserved approach to storytelling which does a real whammy on the player. I care about its characters and I want to solve the hell out of its cases - I just also wanted to enjoy myself while doing it.

It is exceptional in ways we don't often see - and that alone makes it remarkable, and worthy of attention. It's worth your time if you simply hunger for something different.

If you want something unique, engaging or simply beautiful and often emotionally affecting, this is it. Well, this and Heavy Rain. If you want a game that's a pleasure to play, look elsewhere. There is much more fun to be had than on the seedy streets of postwar L.A.

-excellent presentation and a great sense of style
-late-40s L.A. is expertly recreated
-drive sweet, curvy old cars in fun chases
-the cast is uniformly fantastic and the facial performance capture is, honestly, incredible
-(mostly) intelligent, reserved writing
-a very involving story
-when the interviews work, they really work
-Cole Phelps is much more interesting than your standard open-world protagonist
-awesome hats - and I love the way Cole will scoop his back on if it gets knocked off, and you return to it. Nice touch.

-simple, thoughtless shooting
-boring fisticuffs
-boring foot chases
-frustrating interviews
-there's nothing to do in L.A. aside from fighting crime

-the fact that the facial capture was done separately from the motion capture makes it seem like you've got a real head on a marionette body. It freaks me out
-travel, meet interesting people, and accuse them of murders they didn't commit
-man, that ending pissed me off
-it's a sandbox game that doesn't want you to play

L.A. Noire is a gorgeous, ambitious, involving title. Look to it for an interesting, gripping experience - but look elsewhere for fun.

Gears of War 3 War Pigs trailer.

A new trailer for Gears 3! This one neatly sidesteps the usual Gears style of being all sad and atmospheric, and instead goes straight for the Big Dudes With Muscles and Crazy Guns and Monsters thing.

That reminds me - I really should finish Gears 2 one of these days.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Future.

Oh now the timeline makes sense...

Thanks matt!

The Games of June 2011.

Compared to the trickle that came before, June is a tidal wave of noteworthy titles. I wonder why? Perhaps it's because it's in such close proximity to E3 - indeed, this month's highest-profile game launches during the expo - and titles may hope to be buoyed by the general video game hype.

Things kick off, however, with a little nut-punch of a game.

* * *

June 6th
Mega Man Legends 3: Prototype Version
Hype-O-Meter: "You've got to be fucking kidding me."

The Mega Man Legends franchise has a small but ravenously loyal following. The games are, essentially, action-RPGs set in a slightly non-canonical Mega Man universe - and the original title is said to be (Mega Man co-designer and legendary producer) Keiji Inafune's favorite game.

Legends 3: Prototype is... sort of a demo. It's also sort of a beta release of Mega Man Legends 3 so the developers can (a) see how much interest there is in the the game, (b) have gamers test out their new mechanics and tell them they suck, instead of - y'know - playtesting their game - and (c) charge said gamers for the privilege.

Dick move, Capcom. Dick move.

June 7th
inFamous 2
Hype-O-Meter: This is my single most anticipated game of the year.

Above, greened and suitably bolded, you will find a bold statement. 2011 boasts Dead Space 2, Uncharted 3, Gears of War 3, Dark Souls, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City and other hugely noteworthy titles - so why would I put inFamous 2 ahead of that exemplary pack?

Gameplay. That's it. Unless Sucker Punch have seriously screwed the pooch on this one - and they haven't let me down yet - I expect inFamous 2 to be the single funnest game of 2011.

I feel no other developer working today has such a masterful handle on three-dimensional platforming. No, not even the folks who brought us the Super Mario Galaxies can really plug in to the pure platformy pleasure Sucker Punch provides. There is a wholesome, tactile, deeply immersive quality to their games. Pitch-perfect controls elegantly and instantly translate intention to action, and you never fumble with their mechanics or execution.

It's also an open-world game. It's also a fantastic third-person shooter with none of the stumbly bits that genre is prone to. It's also got a graphic-novel bent. Fantastic animation. An above-par story - but who gives a shit about all that?

I expect inFamous 2 to be the funnest game of the year, and that's all that matters.

June 14th
Alice: Madness Returns
PS3, 360, PC
: Day One. Medium.

I'll be honest, I already have my preorder down on Alice - but lest you get swept up in my personal wave of hype, I should warn you that by all reports, it will be a merely fair game. It won't play sweetly, it won't satisfy your platforming appetites or puzzle propensities, as its mechanics will feel rather stiff and unwieldly - but it will be gorgeous. And interesting. And emotionally thrilling.

I look forward to it.

June 14th
Duke Nukem Forever
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Day One. Medium-high.

The unshippable game - so long in development it became an industry joke - has recently gone gold, and will actually appear in stores on June 14th.

Thirteen years in the making, DNF was constantly hamstrung by a creative director who wanted to make a perfect game instead of a great one. Whenever a new mechanic or action style was introduced as other new games hit the market, he would go to his team and insist it be included - which essentially required them to constantly re-make sequences over and over and over.

Don't expect Duke Nukem Forever to be a revelation of gameplay and design thanks to its unthinkably long gestation, but welcome it for what it is - a tongue-in-cheek, self-aware, wholly indulgent throwback to the days when first person shooters were played predominantly by near-children who had recently discovered the thrill of masturbation.

Also, it has boobs.

June 14th
Child of Eden
Hype-O-Meter: For me? Meh. For fans of Rez? Day one.

Child of Eden is the spiritual sequel to cult classic psychedelic rhythm shooter Rez, which saw a resurgence of interest with its HD up-port on Xbox Live in 2008. The game can be played with the Kinect or a standard gamepad - and actually tweaks its difficulty depending on your method of choosing (Kinect = easier, gamepad = harder).

Child of Eden is a gorgeous current-gen re-imagining of Rez's mechanics, and is certain to find an instant audience with those who fell in love with Rez - but PS3-centric gamers will have to wait until September to give it a spin.

June 17th
American McGee's Alice
Hype-O-Meter: Oh, it'll be a treat.

The high-def up-port of 2008's American McGee's Alice is actually included with new copies of Alice: Madness Returns as part of EA's Project Ten Dollar. You've got to hand it to EA - they come up with some pretty creative solutions for implementing the plan with single-player titles.

Personally, I couldn't be more pleased with this - despite its gameplay gubbins, I've always wanted to own a copy of Alice - but it works out well in my case, as I tend to buy games new and sealed. For folks who won't want to take a sixty-dollar plunge on Madness Returns, the original Alice will be there to tempt them on XBL and PSN for ten dollars worth of virtual cash.

June 19th
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
Hype-O-Meter: "All of them. Over and over."

Ocarina of Time remains one of the top-ten most critically acclaimed games of all time, and the flag bearer of Zelda quality. Personally, I'm partial to Link to the Past - but it's no wonder the title has had (sometimes multiple) ports on every Nintendo console since its launch. Folks love this game - and it's probably the single most-anticipated title for Nintendo's new handheld.

At the same time, I can't help but be cynical about it. There's something pathetic - something distasteful - about the most important game on a new platform being thirteen years old. The 3DS's launch lineup should have included something new - something thrilling, something inspired, something surprising - but Ocarina 3D is merely the latest in a growing list of good-old-game ports.

That said, improved ports of classic, beloved titles certainly have a place in my library - and if you own a 3DS, this one likely has a place in yours.

June 21st
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Low as a snake's belt buckle.

This game was supposed to come out last month - so I'm just going to copy-paste what I wrote then:
"I have friends who are hyped for this game, but I still just don't get it. These have always sort of seemed like... well... shitty games to me - but maybe I'm a nutcase and F.E.A.R. titles have always been landmarks of quality entertainment, packed tight with thrills, chills and spilled blood. Either way, it's dropping this month and I predict a Metascore in the 70-85 range."

June 21st
Shadows of the Damned
PS3, 360
Hype-O-Meter: Medium - and rising.

Two weeks ago, I was more than a little worried about how much consumer-friendly influence publisher Electronic Arts had wielded on Shadows of the Damned - a title which represents the teaming-up of legendary game stylemeister Suda 51 (Killer 7, No More Heroes) and legendary action game director Shinji Mikami (Okami, Resident Evil 4, Vanquish).

Today, I am much less worried. More than that, my interest in the title has skyrocketed thanks to this preview article, which lays it out so simply I'm a bit ashamed I didn't think of it before: Suda 51 has always been long on ridiculousness and style, and short on gameplay. Mikami has always created exceptional gameplay, but is less interested in the context.

Together, they form a singularity of video gaming ridicul-awesome that threatens to tear the universe asunder. Color my interest piqued - and piqued hard.

June 22nd
It's Double Fine, so day one.

Trenched is a WWI sci-fi third-person steampunk-mech-piloting shooter which wages you against some crazy onslaught of neon-colored creatures. That's all I can tell you, because I only heard about this game two days ago.

That said, I can't say my (remarkable) ignorance of the title has much of an effect on my interest level. This is the next thing made by Double Fine - and so, it gets a purchase. Double Fine, in the unlikely event you're unaware, is one of the single most creative, funny and entertaining developers in the business - who are tragically unappreciated in a commercial sense. The only game of theirs I'm aware of that I won't be getting is that Sesame Street game - because I don't have or want Kinect.

June 29th
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
Hype-O-Meter: Low.

Not just a port of an old game - Mercenaries 3D is a port of a part of a game - and not even the best part.

There's no denying it's the single best-looking game coming to the 3DS, however. How they'll match those awesome screenshots on Nintendo's new handheld is beyond me, but the platform could use a solid action title - whether or not Mercenaries is that title remains to be seen.

* * *

There you have it. We shan't see a flood of games like this until the Fall tsunami of releases heats up. "June 2011: like September, October or November - except it's June."

I've trademarked that tag line, but you can use it.

Sorry for the late post.

I went and saw a late show of Pirates 4 tonight, and was only like, one-fifth of the way through the article when I had to go. Still, I haven't technically slept yet - so as far as my mental clock is concerned, it's still Friday.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

News from the Sony investors call.

Information's been trickling out after the honchos at Sony's head offices in Japan sat down for a conference call with their investors. On the table was what, precisely, is happening with the NGP, and why they're burning through so much cash with research and development despite the PS3 being, y'know, already made.

There's only three bits that are really worthy. First of all, the NGP's had its specs cut.

Originally announced as having 500MB of video and system memory (twice as much as the PS3), with 16GB of onboard flash storage memory (as much as the PSP Go), it appears corners have been cut in the name of getting the unit down to a price that can compete with Nintendo's 3DS - word is, it will now release with 256MB of video and system memory, and zero storage memory. This is more than a bit of a disappointment to me, as I was counting on the NGP to replace my PSP Go for the gems on Sony's current handheld.

Reports are placing the NGP's planned price as $250-300 - but it still sounds like there will be two different versions. The lower-priced one will be a bare-bones affair, but a higher-priced version will be equipped with 3G wireless. Perhaps, now, the premium version will also carry the internal memory?

If so, I may have to pay up.

Meanwhile, the investor's call also brought to light that Sony has no intention of making a "PS3-type investment" in the future. Sony spent billions of dollars to construct their own semiconductor-producing facility for the console - a financial blunder they don't intend to repeat.

"It is no longer thinkable to have a huge initial financial investment like that of the PS3," said Chief Financial Officer Masaru Kato during the call. That said, don't think he's ringing the death knell of future PlayStation home consoles.

When asked to explain increasing costs in R&D, Kato said

"For the home equipment the PS3 still has a product life - but this is a platform business, so for the future platform - when we'll be introducing what product I cannot discuss that - but our development work is already under way, so the costs are incurred there."
There we have it. There is a "future platform." Speaking of future platforms, have you heard the rumor that the next Xbox is already in developer hands?



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Okay, how was I unaware of Trenched?

Double Fine needs to make their new downloadable titles higher-profile - 'cause this is the second damned timed this has happened. Trenched is an sci-fi WWI action title that seems to be coming exclusively to XBL.

Trenched is due to drop on June 22nd. Which reminds me - when are we getting Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet?

DeathSpank: The Baconing coming this summer.

Remember when I said we'll see a few new game announcements prior to E3, as developers try to get the word out before it could be swept away by the E3 tide? Well, here's an example. A new DeathSpank title is on its way this summer to every HD platform, and it promises to address the series' greatest weakness - its combat.
"Enjoy the feel of countless gameplay improvements to the combat system. Dizzy enemies with the shield bash, deflect ranged weapons back at enemies and use devastating charged attacks to send a message to foes. Players will feel more in control of the battle situations than in previous DeathSpank games, providing gamers with opportunity and choice when engaging the enemies which stand in DeathSpank's way."
This Summer, DeathSpank - once and for all - will finally destroy the remaining Thongs of Power.

Songs to test by.

Valve are giving away a twenty-two track OST to Portal 2 at this website. The game's most famous song - Want You Gone - is absent, but what we have here are plenty of atmospheric tracks that will instantly recall moments from the game, its lovely ambience and how, sometimes, the sounds of various devices which made up its world would result in a concert.


I've been sore about the original Witcher's failure to get a console port for oh... about two years, now. I have long since accepted that it's a series I'll never get to play - so I've tried to ignore the stunning reviews the series receives, the feral cheering of its fans and its awesome magical stripping arts.

Well, the lords of CD Projekt have thrown me a bone in the form of an announcement yesterday that there will be an announcement at E3 which is not The Witcher 3, and is something "that console gamers might be interested in." To make matters jucier, an ESRB rating appeared yesterday for an Xbox 360 version of the title. If Microsoft does indeed get console exclusivity, it'll be a coup on par with Mass Effect's four-year monogamy with their box.

Either way, I am pleased as punch - and doubly happy I picked up the 360 last year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Marvelous Entertainment plans multiple NGP titles.

Marvelous Entertainment doesn't really stand among Capcom, Konami and Square Enix when it comes to western mind share, but you've no doubt played or at least been interested in one of their releases. Their highest-profile series is likely Harvest Moon, but they're also the folks who backed No More Heroes, its sequel and its high-def port - as well as Muramasa: The Demon Blade.

Not every title Marvelous puts out is of such viciously creative grit - but they've more than earned my respect, so I'm thrilled to hear that while they have limited plans for the 3DS, they intend to publish multiple titles for Sony's new handheld.

Details haven't been announced yet, but I'm crossing my fingers to the breaking point in the hopes of The Next Thing From Vanillaware. NGP port of Grand Knights History or Muramasa? God, yes!

Do you know what today is?

Today is the two-week pre-anniversary of inFamous 2! I know, right? It's like how could this have slipped your mind?

God, I can't wait. For me, inFamous 2 is bigger than Dead Space 2, Uncharted 3 and The Last Guardian. It will be F. U. N.

Let's celebrate with a new trailer!

Y'know what's weird? I'm hankering to get done with L.A. Noire just so I can start on my pre-inFamous 2 run of the first inFamous. I just got a new TV and I want to put it through its paces with some heavy action.


Spec Ops: The Line delayed.

The Line
keeps company with only Battlefield 3 as a military-themed shooters I'm actually interested in. I'm a bit disappointed, as it was announced today that Take 2 are pushing the game back (again) to the first half of their fiscal 2012 year - which means it will be released between April 1st and September 30th of next year.

On the one hand I'm disappointed it's not coming sooner. On the other, I'm glad it won't be going toe-to-toe with Uncharted 3, Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Gears of War 3 and all the other shining stars of the 2011 fall lineup.

It's the calm before the storm.

You've no doubt noticed that gaming news, in general, has slowed to a trickle. It's customary for this time of year, friends - if there's anything to be said, the developers intend to say it at E3. We'll get bits and bites here and there - but things should start to heat up in a week or so.

A week (or so) prior to E3, expect a lot of new trailers to drop - or even game announcements - as publishers attempt to get the word out on their game before it gets washed away in the crushing tide of E3 info.

In the meantime, it's May 24th - I wonder if the PSN store is going back up today?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Grand Knights History media blowout!

Even considering Valkyria Chronicles 3, Grand Knights History is without a doubt the single game I am drooling over for the PSP. If this thing doesn't get localized, I will die to death in agony.

But on to the media! We've got a bunch of character art. Each class in Grand Knights History is further broken up into three specializations. For starters, we've got...


Hunter type

Sniper type
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "her skirt is too short" - but you'd be wrong. She's clearly not wearing a skirt.

"Robin Hood" type


Soldier type

Paladin type

Maiden type
"Maiden type"? Seriously?


Magician type

Witch type

Cleric type

So - nine's a nice round number of potential classes! No problem there - but it appears we'll also have a great deal of choice when we're assembling our units - everything from preferred weapon to hairdo to voice is left up to the player.

God it looks gorgeous in motion. Moving on - each of those weapons you select allows a different weapon skill to be used. Of course, as you level your units up, they'll be able to use more powerful abilities - but there's a look at the baseline skills.

Skullfang (greatsword)

Judgment (magic)

Gallop Beat (spear)

Flash Code (saber)

Blaze Rain (bow)

To polish things off, here's that intro movie we got last month again. Why? Because lots of a good thing is still good.