Monday, January 31, 2011

Project Dark's official name is Dark Souls.

You may remember this trailer from TGS 2010...



And yes, that's still the best we've got - a direct feed of that trailer doesn't seem to exist. It is From Software's spiritual sequel to the phenomenal Demon's Souls. Well, thanks to NeoGAF member Duckroll (and their translation of a recent Famitsu article), we now know a whole lot more. For example, the name. Now it's Dark Souls - an almost blatant F. U. to Sony.
  • This time they want to increase the amount of field exploration in the game.
  • All fields are seamless, so whatever you can see, you can reach and explore. If you see a fortress or castle walls in the distance, you can eventually get there.
  • There will be no map display in the game, just a position display marker.
  • They aim to make the game just as challenging than Demon's Souls, but also just as rewarding when you succeed. The sense of achievement is important.
  • The gameplay will be similar to Demon's Souls in concept, where it's about trial and error and learning from your mistakes to play better.
  • The game does not share the same world and story as Demon's Souls.
  • The game will not use the same format as Demon's Souls in terms of having 5 worlds connected via a hub.
  • Instead all maps in the game will be linked seamlessly in a connected world. The pace of the game will feel more about exploration and discovering locations, which you can then go inside into a dungeon or whatever and explore the interior further.
  • There will be more complex level designs in the game using more vertical design in areas and such.
  • The world setting is based on medieval dark fantasy, and will contain themes like "high fantasy of kings and knights", "death and the depths of the earth", and "the flames of chaos".
  • The character creation process will not be class based.
  • The play style of the player character will have much more freedom this time.
  • There will be many more spells and items, and the animation and uniqueness of weapons will also be increased.
  • The online elements are very similar to Demon's Souls. There is cooperative and PvP.
  • You can still leave messages, and see players who died at various places.
  • There will be no Soul Tendency this time because they don't want to have to use dedicated servers to handle that s**t again.
  • Instead this time there will be more features allowing players to engage in "mutual role playing" which they say are still under wraps. They'll reveal more when it's time.

Allow me to gather my wits, sharpen my tongue and communicate the emotion that threatens to consume me...




Three things.

THING THE FIRST:
PoP HD ON BR IN NA

I was rather peeved when the Prince of Persia Trilogy was only released on Blu-ray in the UK, while we North Americans had to make due with PSN-only versions. The sting was lessened by reports that the trilogy suffered from more than a few serious bugs - which now makes news that the trilogy will see an NA release a bit less cheerworthy.

Still, price it right and I'll pick it up. Here's hoping they've repaired some of those issues.


THING THE SECOND:
PSP GAMES COMING TO NGP


Sony announced today that, beyond the NGP's compatibility with PSN releases of PSP titles, they're planning on re-releasing PSP titles for their new handheld on its new media: solid-state flash cards.

Sony: finding ways to charge you for the same game three different times.


THING THE THIRD:
CLOUD STORAGE ON PS3

We've been hearing about the possibility of cloud storage for savegames on PS3 for over a year - but now it sounds like it's actually going to happen. The feature will become available with the console's firmware version 3.60, and - you guessed it - will be the exclusive domain of PlayStation Plus subscribers.

Also of note, it's possible that not all games will allow you to use the feature. Specifically, developers can opt to remove the functionality from their games.

Anarchy Reigns gameplay! Meet Sacha.

The Ice Queen.



Now... let's be fair, here. If you're going to make a multiplayer brawler, you want it to be made by the crew behind Bayonetta. I wonder if Kamiya's directing?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The games of February 2011.


February's lineup is not quite as varied as last month, but with four notable releases and two promising downloadable titles, there's still more than a bit to look forward to.



February 1st
Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2
PSN, XBLA
Hype-O-Meter: Medium-low.

Bionic Commando: Rearmed is one of the better DLC games out there, and - along with Mega Man - one of the only classic franchises to successfully negotiate HD development, and prove awesome. It's a delicious, unique, old-school platformer.

Rearmed 2 seeks to capitalize on this success with a whole new campaign and the (gasp!) ability to jump - but I can't say I have much faith in Swedish developer Fatshark. I've never heard of these people, I can't point to any great game they've assembled in the past, and I feel rather strongly that Rearmed succeeded so well because it treated the classic NES game as a sacred text, and made no major changes. Rearmed 2 is going its own rout - and I can't say I'm entirely optimistic at the prospect. Still, it bears watching.



February 9th
Stacking
PSN, XBLA
Hype-O-Meter: High.

I'm probably going to day-one Stacking, simply because it's the next thing from Double Fine (Brutal Legend, Costume Quest, Psychonauts) - but beyond that, it's easy to watch a few gameplay videos and instantly understand what the deal is. It's stealth and puzzle solving and multiple unique abilities and a crazy-unique art style.

Oh, Double Fine. I love you.



February 15th
Marvel Vs Capcom 2: Fate of Two Worlds
PS3, 360
Hype-O-Meter:
For me? Zip. For fighting game enthusiasts, it's a day-one.

Capcom's classic series returns from its eleven-year hiatus with what is inarguably the most anticipated fighting game of the year. It's big (with 40 playable characters), it's flashy, and it plays so damned fast you'll miss it if you blink. Folks may have oohed and ahhed at the Mortal Kombat reboot's return to gory form, but make no mistake - this is likely the fighting game of 2011.



February 15th
Gears of War Triple Pack
360
Hype-O-Meter: It's a re-release, so not much.

Microsoft's thoughtful re-release contains Gears of War, Gears of War 2 and a code for Gears 2's All Fronts download pack. Let us not split hairs, here - a $30 price tag for two great games is a wonderful deal, assuming you didn't already buy them - but honestly, how many gaming enthusiasts with a 360 don't already have Gears?

Folks who came on board with the 360S, perhaps - still, if you have a 360 and you haven't taste-tested this heavyweight series, there's never been a better time.



February 22nd
Bulletstorm
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Medium-high.

I'll admit, my anticipation for People Can Fly's first title since Epic Games bought them out fizzled a bit when I tried the demo, and I've been kept from giving it more of a chance due to a debilitating Dead Space 2 addiction - but I still have high hopes for Bulletstorm. It still could be a fun-as-balls game - I think I just need to spend more time with it to know for sure.

It may be wise to wait for reviews, but for now I'll just put some preorder money down on this month's final game of note.



February 22nd
Killzone 3
PS3
Hype-O-Meter:
High.

Killzone 3 is a very known quantity. It will be a tactile, stunningly good-looking shooter, and incredibly immersive - and the latter is all I really need to know, when it comes to FPSes.


* * *

A pretty sparse month, all things considered. I wonder what's coming up in March..?

Hm. Dragon Age II, Yakuza 4 and Crysis 2. Well, those'll be cool - but that's all that's coming out in March. All hail February!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Honestly.


Below you will find that I am really, really pleased with Dead Space 2. I suppose it's not that crazy - I did put the original Dead Space on my Ten Best PS3 Games Period list - but it's unusual for me to make such a statement after having spent five days with a title. Still, as I wrote the review, I found myself saying
"it's the best game I've played since... Uncharted 2? Am I really going to say this game is better than Red Dead Redemption? That's a very apples and oranges comparison - let's just not go there at all..."
So let me just say I haven't recieved this much unmitigated enjoyment from a game in a while.

a REVIEW I screwed up - Dead Space 2.

Dear reader,
please consider this a "first draft" of the review for Dead Space 2
. I made a significant error in it (noted below with [update] tags), and so gave the whole thing a second pass, cut some paragraphs, and noted some things I felt were missing - leaving us with my final word on the subject, which is perhaps too long - but there it is.

It's my policy to never delete posts, reviews or editorials in which I make errors - as if pretending I had never made the mistake at all - and so, my crime remains on display for the sake of posterity.



Let's get this out in the open: Dead Space 2 is one of the better games of the current generation and possibly the single best console title operating under the horror banner. It's gorgeous, with excellent presentation and remarkable sound design. It's scary in all the ways a game can be - with eerie moments of slowly increasing tension, red herring frights, the desperation for dwindling resources, lazy but effective monster closet "boo!"'s and foul, monstrous enemies that were very clearly once just like you and me.

All its easily-measured attributes help the title stand confidently among other triple-A action franchises, but Dead Space 2 - like the original - stands out thanks to its exhaustively well-realized, immersive world, and the simple fact that it's a horror game which happens to be great fun to actually play. It separates itself from the pack by simply being a big-budget, thoughtfully constructed product from tip to tail - an unusual boast for any third-party action game to make.

My only real complaint is that the player's sense of awe at the environment is lessened, compared to the first game, due to an omission of narrative - it lacks a scene that helped define the original.

Dead Space (2008)

Dead Space beings with Isaac Clark, Kendra Daniels and Zach Hammond getting their first view of the USG Ishimura as it orbits Aegis 7. The view doesn't last long - but it does instantly resonate with the player, and has a huge impact on our understanding of the environment we explore. It's the introduction to the setting - the way of allowing the player to identify the game world as more than just a series of corridors and set pieces, but as a whole. As part of a greater location - part of a greater universe - and the incredible experience that awaits within its darkened halls is entirely informed by that brief, romantic, inspiring introduction.

Dead Space 2's multitude of unique environments easily bests the original game, but because we're never given a similar, distant vista-view, that cohesive understanding of the game world as a whole is missing - which is a shame, because The Sprawl is a pretty awesome place.

[update] The scene exists, just in a form so far-removed from its shape in the original game that I missed it. I missed it three times, and that makes me a bit of an idiot - but on my fourth playthrough, during a sequence where Isaac is slowly running out of oxygen, floating in space, I moved myself away from what I was doing for a moment, and looked.

The entire Sprawl, and the chunk of rock it is anchored to, lay before me - visible from tip to tail. The scene I asked for is there - but the game is so fast-paced, I never stopped to slow down and look for it. Holy pacing, Batman. [/update]

If there's another item I'd like to see changed, it's a mechanic that I actually really, really like. When you kill an enemy in Dead Space 2, it doesn't shoot out a few space bucks or some ammunition on its own. You have to shoot it again or throw it around with kinesis or - more likely - stomp on it.


Again, I like this mechanic. It guides the player to behave as their character would - smashing a foot into the corpse of their monstrous, defeated foes. Isaac speaks simply and forcefully to his enemies with this final, insulting, violent act. "Fuck you," he says.

Now, because the player wants all that loot to continue, y'know, surviving, they say it too - again and again and again. Wham. "Fuck you, necromorph!" I love that aspect of it.

I dislike that, should you fail to stomp an enemy and more show up, the defeated enemy may de-spawn, and you will lose that item forever. The game tries to balance itself for a certain amount of ammo and items required for survival - and this mechanic risks tipping the scales in favor of death, due to so much potentially lost loot.

Having covered those two bases - one due to narrative design, the other to an emotionally wise mechanic that requires but a single tweak - Dead Space 2 is just fantastic on all fronts.


The title is seemingly designed for those back-of-the-box blurbs that make a game sound far better than it could possibly be - the problem is, in this case, those quotes are likely accurate. Here, let me try one:
"...grips the player like an over-cinched straight jacket and flings them down a rollercoaster of thrills, chills and action..."
...and it does. This game's opening is an absolute stunner. The following minutes are brilliant, as it takes its time placing familiar tools back in your hands - forcing you to rely on mechanics you didn't know you could trust to keep you alive. You certainly couldn't in the first game - but that's the point, isn't it?

Things are different this time around. Everything is useful, considered, and - true to the developer's new moniker - visceral.


I admit, once I got my mitts on the plasma cutter, I largely ignored the refinement of Isaac's kinesis in favor of the old three-tap: two in the leg to drop them, one in the arm to finish them off - but this was an error on my part.

The one-tap is the new three-tap: one shot to blast off a necromorph's arm, then snag the sharpened limb out of the air and fire it through the chest of the approaching fiend, sending them flying and stapling them to the wall beyond (it's very satisfying).

The system will always favor grabbing an item which can be used as a weapon - if there are a few credits on the floor next to a three-foot spike, Isaac will never accidentally grab the credits instead of the weapon, and leave himself helpless.

Kinesis 2.0 - designed from all sides to encourage offensive use - is a reliable, pleasing, bloody addition to the Dead Space arsenal, and a vast improvement over the original game's mechanic.


Improvements really are the name of the game, here. The title consistently throws dramatic, thrilling set piece moments at the player - one sequence basically takes a similar scene in 2009's Wet, cuts away the crap and turns it into a straight-up adrenaline rush.

The new enemies added to the roster are all wonderful, horrific creations - the Stalker in particular is outstanding. A necromorph which exhibits intelligence, stealth and self-preservation is an unnerving contrast to a lineup that was plenty scary before.

Perhaps the greatest change, however, is one of pacing. Dead Space 2 really does (box blurb!) "grip the player tight and shoot them off on a rollercoaster of thrills, chills and action." You are seized by need and narrative and funneled, tumbling, down the rabbit hole, with briefer moments of quiet to catch your breath.

This isn't to say you must entirely abandon your well-honed gamer sense of checking which way you need to head before promptly setting off to explore the opposite direction - you'll always be rewarded with a trinket when you do - but such tangents are much shorter trips this time. The game just clips along, with time slipping out of mind as you grit your teeth and survive, against all odds.

It's such a fun ride that - even more so than the original - Dead Space 2 begs for repeat playthroughs, and never feels any less rewarding for the familiarity (three playthroughs as of this writing).


Many folks were concerned at the news that spacefaring nerd-turned-badass Isaac Clarke would be receiving his own upgrade by way of dialogue, but this too comes as a welcome change. Unlike the original, which seemingly cast Isaac as a dude in a cool suit who just happened to be in the worst place at the worst time, Dead Space 2 leans heavily on the new idea that Isaac is the hero of this universe because, with his combination of unique talents and hellish experience, he is the only one who could do this.

The story gives reason to why he alone was not simply driven batshit crazy, while everyone else around him went all Norman Bates. When Isaac comes across a gigantic, impenetrable security door, the space engineer simply cracks open a nearby panel and sets to work rewiring the system. Nothing stops him. By the end of Dead Space 2, it becomes disturbing to see just how far he is willing to go - but it's impossible not to cheer for him, and love the guy.

Gunner Wright presents Isaac as a frustrated everyman. He is eminently capable, ever hopeful and furious at the growing dimentia that seeks to overtake him. In Dead Space, Isaac was merely the player's avatar - this time he is much, much more.


Dead Space 2 is the rarest of games - a modern horror classic - the likes of which we haven't been graced with since the original, three years ago. At first blush it may suffer from familiarity, but every part of the game has been improved, every facet buffed to a shine.

The story is more involving and more intimate, with a script that wisely knows when it's best to say as little as possible. No environment outstays its welcome - the variety allows for some major payoffs - and no addition to the formula is a missed step (save, arguably, for that one missing scene, and the stomp-reward mechanic).

It looks fantastic and plays beautifully, with fast, growling combat that benefits from an added dose of strategy thanks to reworked weapons and the viable option of turning enemies' own severed limbs against them. Games of such uniformly high quality don't appear too often - and almost never as a multiplatform release from a third-party developer.

It's excellent.


THE GOOD
-excellent production values
-incredible sound work
-very strong visuals, art direction and enemy design
-additions to the necromorph lineup are all winners (particularly the Stalker)
-a more involving, intimate story
-visceral, pleasurable combat with deeper strategy
-very well-realized world
-pacing that drives you ever-forward
-great "big action moments"
-no load screens
-the ending is absolutely brilliant


THE BAD (arguably)
-when an un-stomped necromorph de-spawns, it should drop my loot!

THE VERDICT
It's excellent.

This is what you get for beating Dead Space 2 on hard core.

In case you didn't know, this is what Hard Core mode entails:
  • no New Game+ goodies.
  • the bare minimum of health and ammo.
  • you can only save three times throughout the entire game.
  • when you die, there are no checkpoints - you go back to your last save.
...which sounds absolutely brutal, and something I'm not sure I'll attempt any time soon - though I'm certain to attempt it at some point. It's nice to know that somewhere out there, someone has pulled it off - and in return, they sport a floppy foam finger. But Isaac has to make the sound effects while shooting it.

"Pew pew pew!"

Friday, January 28, 2011

We are lucky gamers.


I'll try to keep this short.

It occurred to me the other day that we seem, currently, to be living in The Golden Age of Gaming. If I were to make a long-term forecast for the industry, it would be the eventual domination of a single company - and perhaps, in the far-distant future, a single game.

The further we go down this road of ever-advancing technology, the more expensive (and financially risky) it will be to develop games that are triple-A, as we know them - to the point where I expect most, if not all, companies will choose simply not to take that risk.

Looking to the past, console generations were often dominated by one or two manufacturers. Nintendo owned the late eighties and early 90s, Sony was at its strength in the early-2000s, and now we find ourselves in a very different place.

Gamers have so many options nowadays - choices we never had in the past. Time was, two or more consoles would enter a ring and one would be left standing - but now there are no less than five current-gen dedicated gaming platforms - each successful enough to command its own attractive library of exclusives.

We have some spectacular games - an incredible amount of them, really. Stuff gamers ten years ago wouldn't have dared to dream of - and unlike in years past, no matter what device you choose to do your gaming on, you are guaranteed hundreds upon hundreds of hours worth of compelling content. Folks fortunate enough to have access to more than one platform have a ridiculous amount of potential pleasures at their fingertips.

* * *

That's all - I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate the time we live in.

Hot new header action!

This one is well-known in gamer circles, but if you're unfamiliar with it: it's a piece called Zombie Playground by Jason Chan.

It's a bit surprising to me, how hard it is to come up with a good new header. I mean, if a great picture just falls in your lap - great - but going out and trying to find a great picture you've never seen before? A header-worthy picture? That is difficult - particularly when I'm trying to steer clear of the anime-style girls that've been the theme for the past two headers.

In today's search I did find one awesome image I've never seen before - Isaac Clarke meets Mr. B.


But that may be a little dark. I've been trying to put something together with art work I saw on a shirt my little brother was wearing...


...but that is simply an awful lot of orange. I'm not sure orange is my color. It occurred to me that, if I couldn't have No Bento, perhaps I could do up some anime-style samurai - and my favorite anime-style samurai is Champloo.


When all is said and done, though, I think I made the right call, this time. Hopefully this won't be a Momohime vs. The Octopus redux.

New Kirby game is on the way for the Wii.

Word is it's called Kirby's Star, and has been in development limbo since before the Wii launched - beyond that, all we know about it can be seen in this trailer.

The Catherine demo is out!


My buddy Blue, recently, has been making a concerted effort to learn to speak, read and write Japanese. I rarely envy him this - save for when I'm attempting to play the demo for a Japanese game - particularly when, as with Catherine's, the thing is 90% narrative.

That said, the "action" portion of the game is rather accessible. Solving and clambering up a towering stairway while unspeakable evil claws its way up behind you is very involving, surprisingly fast-paced (with really sharp controls, I should note), and rather satisfying when your blocks click in to place precisely where you need them and you dash ahead.

The story/adventure sequences look fantastic, the art direction is classic modern Atlus, and for the love of Pete can we get a localization announcement?

* * *

The demo just appeared this week on the JP PSN store. If you want to find it, head to the Japanese PSN store. From the initial menu, select the second-from-the-top option (this must be "what's new," or somesuch.) The icon for Catherine is very recognizable. Easy peasy!

Three things about the NGP.

First of all, this is the first known screenshot of the Uncharted game for Sony's next handheld:



"Okay," one may think, "but how does it look full-size?" Well, the NGP screen is five inches - so this is full-size. In fact it's a teensy bit bigger than full-size. Taking that into account, it looks pretty damned good! If you want to see it blown up, check out the image gallery over at Amazon.com - where this single screenshot emerged from.

* * *

A ton of third-party developers are listed as committing to putting products on Sony's new portable - and here they all are.

Japan

  • Acquire Corp.
  • Alvion Inc.
  • AQ Interactive Inc.
  • Arc System Works Co. Ltd.
  • Arika Co. Ltd.
  • Artdink Corporation
  • Ascii Media Works Inc.
  • Capcom Co. Ltd.
  • Chun Soft Co. Letd.
  • Codemasters Software Company Limited
  • Crafts & Meister Co. Ltd.
  • CyberConnect2 Co. Ltd
  • D3 Publisher Inc.
  • Dimps Corporation
  • Edia Co. Ltd.
  • Enterbrain Inc.
  • From Software Inc.
  • Gameloft K.K.
  • Genki Co. Ltd.
  • Grasshopper Manufacture Inc.
  • GungHo Online Entertainment Inc.
  • Gust Co. Ltd.
  • Hamster Corporation
  • Hudson Soft Co. Ltd.
  • Idea Factory Co. Ltd.
  • Index Corporation (Atlus)
  • Irem Software Engineering Inc.
  • Kadokawa Games Ltd.
  • Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co. Ltd.
  • Konami Digital Entertainment Co. Ltd.
  • Level-5 Inc.
  • Marvelous Entertainment Inc.
  • Media5 Corporation
  • Namco Bandai Games Inc.
  • Nihon Falcom Corporation
  • Nippon Ichi Software Inc.
  • Nowproduction Co. Ltd.
  • Q Entertainment Inc.
  • Sega Corporation
  • SNK Playmore Corporation
  • Spike Co. Ltd.
  • Square Enix Co. Ltd.
  • SystemSoft Alpha Corp.
  • Tecmo Koei Games Co. Ltd.
  • TOMY Company Ltd.
  • TOSE Co. Ltd.
  • Ubisoft K.K.
  • Yuke’s Co. Ltd.

North America

  • Activision Inc.
  • Capybara Games
  • Demiurge Studios
  • Epic Games Inc.
  • Far Sight Studios
  • Frima
  • High Voltage Software
  • Kung Fu Factory
  • Paramount Digital Entertainment
  • PopCap Games
  • Powerhead Games
  • Trendy Entertainment
  • Ubisoft
  • Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
  • 2K Games
  • 2K Sports

Europe/PAL

  • Avalanche Studios
  • Climax Studios Ltd.
  • Codemasters Software Company Ltd.
  • Eurocom Developments Ltd.
  • Eutechnyx Ltd.
  • Exient Ltd.
  • Firemint PTY Ltd.
  • Gameloft SA
  • Gusto Games Ltd.
  • Home Entertainment Suppliers PTY Ltd.
  • Impromptu Software Ltd.
  • Rebellion
  • Rockstar Games
  • Sidhe Interactive
  • Sumo Digital Ltd.
  • Team 17 Software Ltd.
  • Ubisoft Entertainment SA
  • Zen Studios Ltd.
Notably absent are Electronic Arts and THQ. Personally, I'd kill to be playing Darksiders or Dead Space on the go - but at the very least we can rest assured that EA will put something on the handheld. They put something on everything.

* * *

Finally, a few additional notes on the tech.

The NGP is boasting 3G network connectivity, which is a big deal in Japan where everything is 3G. That's not the case in North America - and it seems to add $150 to the price tag of any product it's a part of - so let us thank the lawd that Sony is planning on releasing different SKUs. If you want an NGP with 3G, you can have it - if you don't care about it, and would rather save some cash, Sony will be putting out a 3G-less version.

This is wonderful news to those of us (see: me) concerned about price.

Also on the tech front: word is the 3G will not have a replaceable battery. Like the PSP Go or iPhone, the thing is entirely sealed.

Boo.

Max Anarchy will come to the west as Anarchy Reigns.

And here's a teaser trailer, showing a few characters but absolutely no gameplay!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The craziest f**&ing thing I've ever seen.

My little brother emailed me this video last night, I watched it, proclaimed it one of the craziest fucking things I've ever seen, and promptly forgot about it in the wake of the NGP news.

Today, Kotaku has it posted - which reminded me to post it. So here it is. It's fucking crazy.

Michael Pachter is reasonable on the NGP's potential.


While other analysts are kind of poo-pooing the NGP because - while every other portable gaming device has zigged in the direction of the huge casual market - Sony's device has zagged directly at core gamers, Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter is suddenly the voice of reason.

This is precisely the sort of environment I described wanting to see last year, when I complained that Pachter seems to be the only industry analyst we ever hear quotes from. Well, turns out if you listen to what a few analysts have to say about the NGP, Pachter's the one who seems the least inflammatory - or at least the one willing to admit the device has potential.
"There is a lot to like, and Sony has a huge library of content. The device looks pretty powerful, so I wouldn't be surprised to see some pretty sophisticated games, and the 3G capability and relationship with Android means we'll see a ton of Android apps on the device as well.

I suppose it will sell incredibly well for the first year (would bet 15 million or so), and then it will succeed or slow based upon the availability of software, much like the original PSP. I think it's a huge step up on the PSP, and think that the memory card-based games (a la DS) make a lot of sense."

- via Eurogamer -

...and he's probably right. I think that's precisely what's going to happen - and if strong software support doesn't continue, the NGP may be in for another slow burn like its predecessor.

This is the PSP2 (currently called the NGP).

"Next Generation Portable"

Looks rather like a standard-series PSP, doesn't it? Sony notes that the NGP's final design may be subject to change. I'm going to note that it's backward compatible with PSN store PSP games and it's due out Holiday 2011.

SPECS
  • CPU: ARM® Cortex™-A9 core (4 core)
  • GPU: SGX543MP4+
  • External Dimensions: Approx. 182.0 x 18.6 x 83.5mm (width x height x depth) (tentative, excludes largest projection)
  • Rear touch pad: Multi touch pad (capacitive type)
  • Cameras: Front camera, Rear camera
  • Sound: Built-in stereo speakers, Built-in microphone
  • Sensors: Six-axis motion sensing system (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer), Three-axis electronic compass
  • Location: Built-in GPS, Wi-Fi location service support
  • Keys / Switches: PS button, Power button, Directional buttons (Up/Down/Right/Left), Action buttons (Triangle, Circle, Cross, Square), Shoulder buttons (Right/Left), Right stick, Left stick, START button, SELECT button, Volume buttons
  • Wireless communications: Mobile network connectivity (3G), IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1x1)(Wi-Fi) (Infrastructure mode/Ad-hoc mode), Bluetooth® 2.1+EDR (A2DP/AVRCP/HSP)
The screen is 5", it's HD, apparently new hot-shit technology called OLED, and it's a touchscreen. That's right - this thing has a touchscreen on the front and a touchpad on the back.


ATTRACTIVE GAMES
YOU'VE ALREADY PLAYED

Also rather important: Hideo Kojima turned up at Sony's presser tonight to show a demo version of Metal Gear Solid 4 running on the NGP, entirely using assets from the PS3 version. He did not implicitly say that MGS4 or any new MGS title will be on the system - he was basically just there to say "check out how awesome-good games can look on this thing." Specifically,
"This game used the model data and environments from PS3, and it was exported directly to NGP. On NGP, we can enjoy the same quality as the PS3."


Much more exciting is that they showed off an Uncharted game on the NGP. Says Kotaku's Brian Ashcroft:
"It looks like its the first Uncharted, but with new controls. Very very pretty, very impressive."
The "new controls" he's talking about are iProduct-like swiping controls this NGP version of Uncharted supports. Touch a location, and Drake will go there, et cetera. Deliver me from motion gaming. Other Sony franchises coming to the system include...
  • Killzone
  • WipeOut
  • Resistance
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Hustle Kings
  • Hot Shots Golf
...but it seems likely that we may see a slew of near-direct ports of current-gen console titles.
"Sega's Toshihiro Nagoshi also showed off a PSP2 version of Yakuza 4, extolling the ease of reusing PlayStation 3 assets, saying the Yakuza team created its NGP demo in a very short time frame."
A representative from Capcom also noted how easy it was to get things up and running on the NGP, saying they're able to very quickly put together games for it using their NT framework (Resident Evil 5, Lost Planet). Given the dual-analog control this new platform boasts, it's a real possibility that we'll finally see handheld games that can stand up to their console counterparts. An enticing prospect.


IN CLOSING

In case you hadn't heard - UMDs are out - it uses flash memory sticks. Also, trophy support!

Finally, this thing is not small. It is, in fact, the largest comparable device short of the iPad. Kotaku did up a great comparison image - the NGP is the one on the right, there.


The NGP seems - at this distance - set to be a great handheld, custom-made for the dedicated gamer. Still, there are some worrisome points that were not covered in this presentation - price and battery life.

And those are major concerns.

I'm not spending more than $250 on a first-gen piece of technology like this, and I'm not sure I'll ever buy it if its battery life is less than four hours. These are important factors - and we'll likely get answers in the next few weeks, or at E3 at the very latest. The fact that battery life wasn't mentioned in this morning's presser does raise a red flag, for me.

That said - so far, so good.

[update] The battery life is reported to be 4-6 hours. Which means 4 hours. Also, 1up has a video posted (cam footage) of a short montage of NGP games. Most impressive are the Resistance title and the fact that the Uncharted game they've got running on there looks pretty damn good. [/update]

Beat Dead Space 2.


It's incredible.

I'll admit, a part of me lost faith in EA Redwood Shores after playing the demo (and, I'll admit, only the demo) for Dante's Inferno...

...but Dead Space 2 is a phenomenal bloody game. Without question, they hit this one out of the park.

Also: that took me like, two days. And I work full time. That's got to be some sort of personal best.

I can't wait to start up a new game. I wonder if I'll be able to pull myself away for long enough to try the Bulletstorm demo? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The PlayStation Meeting is happening right now.

Folks anticipate the official announcement of the PSP2. If you want to dig on a video in a language you likely don't understand, you can find Kotaku Japan's livestream here.

I'll gather all the info I can and do up a summary later tonight.

[update] This is taking too long. I'm gonna' go get my Dead Space 2 on, and come back when there's some news to talk about. [/update]

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thank God It's Tuesday.


First off, Dead Space 2 is pretty damned incredible, and as soon as I finish this post I shall resume attending to that situation.

Second, it's Online Store Update Day! Xbox Live gold members can get their mitts on the multiplayer demo for Crysis 2 today (which looks rather wonderful), but I'll be waiting until it's available to all, thank you very much.

On the PSN side of things, we've got the Bulletstorm demo (yay!), the Be The Weapon (single player) trailer for Crysis 2 and the wicked launch trailer for Dead Space 2 - all worthy additions to any hard drive.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I feel like I was at work for hours and hours - because I was - and it's time to relax.

Platinum Games' next title is...


The latest issue of Famitsu magazine has the scoop on the newest title from the studio that gave us Vanquish, Bayonetta and MadWorld.

Max Anarchy is "an online action combat game with support for large numbers of players." Screenshots - which are only available in this gigantic, kinda' blurry scan - clearly show MadWorld protagonist Jack is in on the action.

The game is due out some time this year, but as much as I adore Platinum, I am trepidatious about this one. When was the last seriously awesome online action game from a Japanese developer? No, you can't count fighting games.

Yes, I suppose Demon's Souls counts - but not really.

Platinum Games are one of the few developers that I tend to support without question - but let's face it, the best online multiplayer action titles come from the west. If Platinum pulls this off? If it's actually a success? They'll be able to write their own ticket.

The Last Guardian release date leaked?


One, two, three, four and five different UK retailers today are listing The Last Guardian's release date for October 7th, 2011. Given that Sony is throwing a presser the day after tomorrow, this could be a case of these stores just not paying attention to embargoes - or it could be a placeholder date that means nothing at all.

Thank goodness for HMV.


So late last night I'm cruising the interwebs, and I check out HMV's Canadian site. It reported two copies of the PS3 CE at my local store. It took all of thirty seconds to make an account for the site and reserve one of the copies.

When I went in this morning (bright and early, at 10:00AM) and inquired about the CE, the store manager told me he sold their last copy thirty seconds before I walked into the store. They still have plenty more of the regular editions, though!

"So... so what does reserving a copy online get you?" I asked.

"Oh, that was you? You shoulda' said that first - I got it right over here."

Yeahhhhhhhhh!

  • - the necromorph transformation art seems pretty cheap
  • - the plasma cutter is infinitely more cheap-looking than advertised
  • + soundtrack!
  • + I have a copy of Dead Space 2! And it comes with the PS3 up-port of Extraction!
[update] This game makes a very strong, very positive first impression. [/update]

Monday, January 24, 2011

Well goddamnit.


So I get home from work today to discover a message from my local EB Games (GameStop, in Canada). Turns out they won't have my preorder of Dead Space 2 in tomorrow - or this week - but they're willing to cut me a deal if I buy something else!

Seriously, EB. I'm starting to get pretty sick of you. My local HMV seems to have copies of the CE available - I'll phone tomorrow morning to make sure, and hopefully still get my mitts on Dead Space 2 before the day is out. I sure hope this isn't some situation where the entire Canadian shipment got held up.

Crysis 2 multiplayer trailer.

Holy crap. Also, Invaders Must Die is a great song - but does it really need to be in every trailer? All the time?

That said, this looks pretty incredible.



This makes me want to play a multiplayer FPS. And that's no small feat.

New L.A. Noire trailer!

The one that was leaked last week and promptly smart-bombed by Take-Two's legal fire squad.

It focuses on the grisly side of the game we haven't seen before.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Game Diary - Donky Kong Country Returns.

Didn't see that coming, did ya?


Yes, I picked up DKC Returns, and it has waited patiently in its sealing wrap until today. After two straight days of Mass Effect 2, I found I wanted to escape to a sunnier climate for a few minutes.

Forty minutes or so, to be specific. Cleared the first world.

I bought the game because, basically, I'm betting against the house again. No other Wii game has managed to really capture me in the way Muramasa has - but I keep trying. Nintendo's first-party titles, in particular, repeatedly fail to inspire.

I've heard nothing but good things about this game, though. Everywhere. From everyone.

The reviews are great (which, going on my experience with Super Mario Galaxy and Kirby's Epic Yarn, is meaningless), folks I know on the interwebs tell me it's great, and living, breathing people in The Real World have nothing but good things to say about it.

So I decided to give a Nintendo first-party title another shot.


So far, so good.

Great art direction. The graphics are better than I'd feared (and complained about, earlier), and - throughout the first world, at least - the title seems rife with creativity and inspired design choices. The music (which many reviews have complained are simply remixes of the original DKC's songs) perfectly strums a chord which resonates with the fourteen year old Super Nintendo fanatic who still dwells, somewhere, within me.

Animation is very good - expressive... and the mechanics..?

I hate waggle. I can't help it. Every time I make Kong crouch low and waggle to blow a puff off a dandelion, every time I roll off a ledge to do a long jump, I'm frustrated that I can't just press a goddamned button to use these moves.

That said, Giovanni assures me that, given time, I won't even notice it any more. I hope he's right. And, at the very least, I love the rest of the title. It simply is Donkey Kong Country. And not DKC2 or 3, where things went a bit off the rails - it's Donkey Kong Country with new mechanics - and I love that.

When I'm not waggling, I'm loving this game. For the forty-five minutes I put into it.

And now, back to Mass Effect 2. I've got another few loyalty missions to get through before I start worrying about the Omega 4 Relay.

To my brother, from my other brother.

I don't know if it says more about LittleBigPlanet or the dedication of the folks who put this together - but hand-made materials just instantly bring you back to the game.



Thanks matt!

Nit-picking Mass Effect 2.

I've been all cherries and daisies as I talk about Mass Effect 2, though at this point - thirty-three hours in - I find myself agreeing with my earlier impression that it couldn't beat out Red Dead Redemption for GotY 2010.

RDR is so damn close to flawless - and ME2, while absolutely fantastic, has a few notable problems. That, I'm afraid, pushes RDR ahead. Would Mass Effect 2 beat out my pick of BioShock 2 for runner-up? Yeah, probably.

So what're we looking at, here? Well, first off - and most egregiously - there's The Miranda V. Jack Catfight, and what it reveals about one of the game's central systems.

When I first saw the image above, courtesy of Nerf Now, I thought the artist was simply pointing out that you have make the impossible choice between tappin' this ass or that ass. After all, 30% of the image is taken up by ladies' bottoms - but no, what it's about (beyond buns) is a mid-game confrontation where Shepard has to pick a side between two of his crew members.

Now, here's the deal. You need a shitload of Paragon or Renegade points to simply settle the argument without taking a side - otherwise, you have to choose, and lose the loyalty of one of your badass biotic smartbombs. So let's take a look at our Paradon/Renegade meters and see how much we need...


Turns out where you are with those line segments you see have nothing to do with whether or not you'll pass a Renegade/Paragon speech check. How full your meter is has nothing to do with it.

You could have your Paragon bar 100% full and still be forced to choose Jack over Miranda, because these bars and these segments have nothing to do with your Paragon/Renegade speech options. Instead, all that is done in secret by the game - and it's not so much about how many Paragon points you have, it's more about how few points you've missed - and the game won't tell you, one way or the other.

So, let's say you have your Paragon bar maxed, and a speech check requires 80% Paragon - but you fail the check. Why did you fail? Because although you've obtained enough Paragon points to max the bar, you've actually only obtained, let's say, 75% of a possible 100% Paragon points available. Despite what your little blue bar says, you don't have 100% Paragon points. The bar is maxed, but in reality you only have 75%.

That's fucking bullshit. Why even have those bars?! It also begs the question, how much choice does the player really have, if they're so boxed in by requirements like that? I like choice - and it's a kick in the nuts for a major scene to occur with half of the options sitting there, in gray, unselectable - insulting me, like a striped biologist taunter.

The other issue is one of presentation.


These load times are impressively long. Like Bayonetta-long.

I have a rule about load times. Here is is: if I start using the remote to flip back and forth between the game and a Monty Python movie during the game's load times, those load times are too long.

On the bright side, hey - Monty Python - but a lot of these loads could be circumvented by just having an extra menu option.

Finally, yes...



...the planet scanning minigame gets old pretty fast.

The rest of it is great, and it remains the best overall western-developed RPG I've ever played (others have, perhaps, greater strengths in specific areas). And, for the record, I went with Jack.


Because Jack's bullet power seems pretty awesome.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

30 hours in.


Today is a guilty day. There's lots of posts I've been meaning to write. I recently read the 9th Yotsuba&! book, and have been meaning to do up a post on Azuma. I read Handling The Undead by the same dude as Let The Right One In, and wanted to write about that - but obviously neither of those have happened.

Ooh! I just realized I should do up something about the reincarnation of Futurama! But anyway - yeah - obviously, I didn't write either of those today, and put up a limp little post about L.A. Noire's release date. Which is nice to have, but still...

Yes, Mass Effect 2 has claimed me. I find myself more interested and invested in it than any game since Fallout: New Vegas. Take the two alien badasses pictured above, for example.

I love these guys. And Kasumi. Just finished Garrus's loyalty mission, and while I know I owe this blog a post of reasonable size and quality, what I want to do is go play more Mass Effect 2.

Given that, as a general rule since I started this blog, I spend more time researching and writing about video games than playing video games, I don't see this as an entirely negative reversal.

L.A. Noire drops May 17th.


Rockstar is prepared to drop a new trailer for L.A. Noire on Monday, the 24th. Unfortunately, this being the internet, things went awry and the trailer got leaked. I suppose I really should've ripped the trailer to YouTube as soon as it popped up online, but I've been a busy little bee between work and ME2 - and besides, all the uploads of the leaked vids have been ravaged by TakeTwo's legal department.

I'll just have to wait 'till Monday to see the trailer. Perhaps the most important part of the trailer remains in the public eye, fortunately - the game will be released on May 17th. Given that we've been drip-fed information on L.A. Nore since... oh... 2006? Well, having a release date is just delicious.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mass Effect 2? Mass Effect 2.


Pardon me for an hour or eight.

Oh God yes.


Breathe deep. Don't freak out. It's nothing official - but the Official PlayStation Magazine UK has heard "insider whispers" that Metal Gear Solid is "in the facelift queue" and the "first three" Metal Gear Solid titles will get a release a'la Sly Cooper and Team ICO's titles in high def on the PS3.

That would be sweet.

Sweet like candy.

-source-

It's time to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

Heh. This trailer illustrates the difference between "low-brow" and "no-brow."



We also got a release date today - May 4th.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Final Fantasy XIII-2 trailer - now in English!



Hmm.

The first four months of 2011: Lookin' good.


Hokay, so the retrospective of 2010 is all wrapped up - two awesome games have already been released this year, so it's high time we started looking ahead! Release dates start to get hazy around the April/May mark, so we'll plant our flag there - but I'll try to be as comprehensive as possible, when it comes to the important games on the near horizon.

Let's get to it.



January 25th (next Tuesday!)
DEAD SPACE 2
Visceral Games (PS3, 360, PC)
Hype-O-Meter - day one.

EA Redwood Shores may have dropped the ball with last year's uninspired Dante's Inferno, and while they weren't able to successfully iterate on God of War's formula, faith remains that they'll hit one out of the park with their own original property.

While it was well-received, most people only tended to appreciate the first game in hindsight - so let us be clear: Dead Space is an incredible game, a successful riff on the modern action-horror genre which allows you to explore a fantastically well-realized world. If Dead Space 2 even manages to be more of the same, it'll be an exceptional title.



February 25th
MARVEL Vs. CAPCOM 3
Capcom (PS3, 360)
Hype-O-Meter - for me? Zilch. For folks who love fighters? Day one.

Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, uniquely, managed to break free of Street Fighter's shadow back in 2000 and carve its own place in the world of fighting games. It is unquestionably the most-anticipated fighter of the year, easily out-hyping the back-to-its-roots Mortal Kombat reboot.

With its beloved property, a roster of over 40 characters and the series' trademark lightning-fast combat intact, MvC3 is a shoe-in for fighting game of the year for 2011.



February 22nd
KILLZONE 3
Guerrilla Games (PS3)
Hype-O-Meter - high.

Oddly, I don't talk much about Killzone 3. I expect it to be a great game, but perhaps that's part of why I don't bring it up much - it's such a known quantity. I expect it to be a bit better than Killzone 2 - and Killzone 2 was a tour-de-force of stunning graphical prowess, incredible atmosphere and first-person shooting gameplay that actually managed to feel unique, thanks to the weighty weapons.

Killzone 3 will be more of the same, but better - and it's very likely a day-one pickup for me. I'm just not as excited for it as I am for Bulletstorm.



February 22nd
BULLETSTORM
People Can Fly (PS3, 360, PC)
Hype-O-Meter - day one.

People Can Fly is best known for zany FPS Painkiller and the PC port of Gears of War. This year, furiously successful developer Epic Games purchased the studio, and let them do their own thing.

Turns out, their own thing is another zany, over-the-top FPS that harkens back to the golden age of the genre, with a few original mechanics thrown in for good measure. The game appears - from this distance - to be more concerned with fun and playability than anything else.

I usually only pin my hopes on one or two unproven properties a year - and this is my #1 dark horse for 2011.



March 8th
DRAGON AGE II
BioWare (PS3, 360, PC)
Hype-O-Meter - day one.

RPG video games got their start on the foundation laid in Dungeons & Dragons, and the modern desire to constantly push at the limits of the genre has given us far-removed properties like Mass Effect, Fallout, Deus Ex and Resonance of Fate. It is, in fact, rare to play an RPG that recalls the sweeping, romantic swords and sorcery setting we once directly associated with the genre - and BioWare's Dragon Age is the answer to that unsated appetite.

It doesn't hurt that they are the premier western studio, when it comes to RPGs, and have perhaps a better handle on writing than 98% of developers. If their last three games are anything to go on, Dragon Age II is likely to be one of the best RPGs of the year.



March 15th
OKAMIDEN
Capcom (DS)
Hype-O-Meter - 50/50.

Is Okamiden (a) a soulless attempt to cash in on the fanatical affection some folks have for the critically acclaimed original, (b) a labor of love for a small internal Capcom studio or (c) the only way we were ever going to see a sequel to Clover Studio's inspired Zelda riff? If you answered (d) all of the above, you're very likely correct.

Aside from a few Shin Megami Tensei offerings, this is the only DS game I have ever spoken about on the blog. Regular readers will know, I don't actually have a DS. I have every system except for the DS - but I will be watching this title very closely to discern if I need to change that.

I don't have much faith that it will live up to the original - which I've no difficulty proclaiming a masterpiece - but if it manages to be the game I and others hope, it could be worth buying a system for.


March 15th
YAKUZA 4
CS1 Team (PS3)
Hype-O-Meter - hmm...

I keep on wanting to dive into the Yakuza series - ever since I saw the original on the rack at Blockbuster - but I can never bring myself to invest any time (or money) into the possibility that I could love the series. It certainly seems like a property I should love - it's a localized version of a game with intensely Japanese modern flavor, and I heart those - but I remain standoffish.

Still, I'm very happy to see that, unlike with the excruciating wait for news of a Yakuza 3 localization, Yakuza 4 was almost immediately announced as coming to our shores.

Honestly, it makes me want to buy it just to support more publishers doing precisely that.



March 22nd
CRYSIS 2
Crytek Frankfurt, Crytek UK (PS3, 360, PC)
Hype-O-Meter - medium-high.

This is one of those games that could be awesome - if it proves to be more than just a pretty face.

Having not been a PC gamer since I broke free of a debilitating WoW addiction years ago, Crytek and the Crysis have no credit with me. I've seen those stunning Crysis screenshots and seen (admittedly gorgeous) trailers for the upcoming sequel - and it certainly has piqued my interest - but I'm not really prepared to give Crysis 2 the benefit of the doubt, yet.

At the very least, I can guarantee I'll be giving this a rental - a proclamation of low confidence I only throw at one or two games a year.



April 19th
PORTAL 2
Valve (PC, PS3, 360)
Hype-O-Meter - day one.

I won't insult you by explaining it to you. It's the sequel to Portal, and the PS3 version is set to have all kinds of awesome extras (like, for example, the PC version of Portal 2.)



April 27th
BRINK
Splash Damage (PS3, 360, PC)
Hype-O-Meter - medium.

Like Bulletstorm, Brink is poised to be one of the surprise hits of the year. Lesser-known developer Splash Damage (Enemy Territory: Quake Wars) has promised a first-person shooter with a very exciting take on movement.

That said, the post linked above is the only other post I've ever made about Brink. To me it's just another multiplayer FPS - and the FPS that can actually get me to invest a great deal of time in its multiplayer component is an FPS I haven't met yet.

At the same time... if they do manage to pull off their ambition for movement? Well, damn. We've got one of the next steps in modern gaming, don't we?



* * *


At this point, we run out of release dates and start moving into release windows - which I won't bother you with. Other notable titles on the near horizon include the Team ICO Collection, inFamous 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, L.A. Noire and the actual, factual release of Duke Nukem Forever.