Down the Rabbit Hole, Alice: Madness Returns Launch Trailer

EA has just released the launch trailer for the upcoming sequel to American McGee’s twisted take on Alice in Wonderland. Alice: Madness Returns finds the title character back in the morbid world of Wonderland. Alice is coming to grips with her insanity as she fights to preserve the very world that haunts her. The original was a cult classic with a very distinct art style and the new one certainly looks to continue that trend. Alice: Madness Returns is just around the corner with a June 14th (that’s THIS month) release date. It will be available on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

It’s 2011; No One Has Killed Halo Yet

June 3, 2011 4 comments

Whoa… that’s alot of pitchforks and torches. I do realize that the title of this article is a bit pretentious, however I do have some objective FACTS and EVIDENCE to back up this bold statement. Simmer down any urges to punch me in the face and hear me out for a few moments.

Today’s FPS games are a dime a dozen and first-person shooters are easily the most popular genre of them all. How much can developers really change the experience of looking down the barrel of a gun and blasting away at anything that moves? How did we wind up with all these different games where the core action is the same? Run/Strafe. Move reticle. Aim. Trigger. Reload. Rinse and repeat. Developers have to break up that core action by always giving the player something new to do that supplements the base shooting.

Ever since Halo: Combat Evolved, Bungie always possessed an internal mantra of taking “30 seconds of fun” and stretching it across an entire game. In retrospect, Bungie never relied too heavily on scripted events. They would craft sprawling sandboxes, give the player the tools to have fun, and let the artificial intelligence breathe. Granted, players will navigate through the same environments upon replay like in other games, but the battles unfold differently thanks to the dynamic AI. Most other games are just military-themed shooting galleries with the same terrorist popping out of the same cave and/or bunker.

A screenshot from Call of Honor: Contemporary Conflict 5 Operation: Terrorism Shits It's Pants

You might be thinking, “Whoa this guy has a hard on for Bungie”, but the truth is that first-person shooters (see: Call of duty) are banking the entirety of their excitement on “set-piece” moments. I love my Call of Duty games as much as the next gamer, but recently I’ve discovered (after the release of Black Ops) that replaying the single-player campaign in a Call of Duty title doesn’t maintain the same “wow” factor it did the first time around. These scripted moments are very intense and exciting when they pop your cherry, but coming back to reclaim the White House from Russian soldiers or marching up that hill to kill some more VC is a ride we’ve all been on the first time around. It’s like chewing gum, the flavor is amazing when it’s there but after awhile, you’re just kind of chewing it for the sake of chewing.

This moment was shocking the first time around... but do I really wanna play this part again?

Bungie’s design philosophy allows players to control their experience. Do I want to take this Warhog and tear up this extraterrestrial countryside? Or do I want to nab a Banshee and scope things out from the sky? Or should we take the tank because it’s a fuckin tank? Halo has always given players options to tackle objectives how they see fit and replaying it warrants new experiences. You may state, “Hey Call of Duty has vehicles too” but those moments, may as well be on a rollercoaster. The snowmobile opening in MW2 and the takeover of a Russian Hind in Black Ops will always play out in the same way and the destination will always be the same. At some point the programmer is going to say, “The ride’s over, get off”. A vehicle section in Halo gets me to think, “How long is this vehicle going to last me before the Covenant blows it up with one of theirs?” My point is that If your approach in a Halo game doesn’t work, there’s always another option. In other shooters, you have to act out your role. Why haven’t developers escaped this need to hold my hand to show me something cool? Give me some freedom.

You decide the approach here

When you think about it the Halo formula has never changed since Halo:CE. Bungie gave birth to the then-dreaded, now-lauded two-weapon inventory, dedicated grenade button, and weapon-specific melee. Every installment (with the exception of Halo Wars, duh) never moved away from any of these basics. Halo games have always played like Halo games, you’ll come to an area, unload, circle-strafe, and grenade Covenant (and Flood) to death. This type of gameplay may sound uninteresting to some people, but no one has been able to replicate this to any measure of success. To be objective; how many shooters are you playing now that involve you pulling left trigger to auto-aim somebody and pull right trigger to kill them? Pretty much every major shooter like Battlefiend BC, Borderlands, Call of Duty, Killzone and more recently, Crysis 2 (only to name a few). They may not all be the same type of game but they all PLAY THE SAME. I’m terrified if this control-scheme is going to be the new gold-standard. Yes, the Halo controls and the formula that comes included is about a decade old, but it still works, it’s still fun, and no other game plays quite like it. Who do you think made Y (Triangle) “Switch Weapon”, X (Square) “Reload”, and A (X) “Jump”?

Quick-scoping? No. Just no...

Lets shift our focus over to what is now a strong selling point to most gamers: multiplayer. A proper multiplayer suite was a pipe-dream for most console gamers and developers until Bungie put their foot down. Halo:CE featured co-op play throughout it’s entire campaign via splitscreen, 4-player splitscreen deathmatch, and 16 players via system link. Pretty lackluster by today’s standards undoubtedly, but why are shooters these days still struggling to create a cooperative splitscreen experience? There are too many great games out there where I think to myself, “This would be cool if it had splitscreen.” The Halo franchise was great for getting people to play together.

"I brought some friends... and a few rides.

My heart broke a bit when Battlefield: Bad Company didn’t feature any splitscreen support through it’s campaign. Everyone and their mothers were begging for it in Killzone 2 (we eventually got it in Killzone 3). I don’t want to pass off, let me give another controller to someone else so we can kick some ass together and enjoy the story. Props to the team at Gearbox for giving us splitscreen play in Borderlands, a game that could’ve easily shipped without it, was made more enjoyable when you have someone to loot with. As much as I want to commend Treyarch for implementing a cooperative campaign in World at War, they subsequently removed a splitscreen campaign in Black Ops. It’s like they were thinking, “Boy that was fun, lets get rid of it.” What!? Halo never REMOVED any cooperative elements from their games.You want splitscreen coop throughout the entire campaign? Bank on Halo. Campaign co-op online? H… a… l… o…

It's good to kill together

You want splitscreen competitive? Guess what? Yup. Since Halo 2 (that’s on the first Xbox yuh…) you can jump online with up to 4 buddies on the same couch. It’s a wonder as to why developers can’t implement 4-player splitscreen online. I’m aware that Black Ops has pulled this off, but it’s still limited to just two players on a single console. Although, I’m not completely heartless, splitscreen Black Ops is balling. My wish is that more games/developers follow this model if their goal is to get people to play online more. There is nothing quite like teaming up with people in the same room and coming out on top. It’s a high-five bromance-a-palooza that not too many other multiplayer games can replicate. Halo’s base shooting may not have the depth other shooters possess in the online arena, but the franchise has always presented a wealth of campaign, cooperative, and competitive features that is still unparalleled to this day.

Wanna grab a few beers after this? Better yet, lets grab a few beers now

For those who like to see the stats that match the glory, Bungie has included a wide-array of stat tracking ranging from weapons used/favored, killzones on particular maps, and proficiency in each gametype. All of which can be viewed thoroughly (for free) at Bungie.net. Each individual player’s stats are persistent across all Halo titles that were released on the 360. So if you want to see the mountain of numbers that prove how great you are, Bungie has you covered. It’s also on the house.

Statistical stats and such...

Halo has always been a social shooter. But perhaps what’s more telling is the footprint it still leaves on other games in the same genre. Sure, it’s a game about space marines, pious aliens, and intergalactic undead; but it is THEE game about space marines, pious aliens, and intergalactic undead. Remember, at it’s inception Halo was an RTS that was developed in the mid-90’s on the Mac. Halo put Microsoft in the console race and shaped the brand to what we know it as today. Halo 2’s online features catapulted Xbox Live and made PC gamers blush, right about the same time the first Killzone fell flat on it’s face. Halo 3, ODST, and Reach carried the torch by allowing players blast their way across the sprawling campaigns in splitscreen co-op or in 4 player squads online. Xbox gamers with a thirst for competition can jump online with three other buddies on the same console. There’s nothing more fun than gathering your own rag-tag team of couch potatoes and unleashing a teabagging epidemic upon the next unsuspecting matchmaking party.

Best. Pistol. Evar.

This is not an attempt to say that the Halo series is the best ever. Far from it. It’s just to say that the Halo formula is often imitated, but never perfected. It’s style of gameplay and features from the last generation are still fairly non-existent; even in the current generation. People looking for a sweeping sci-fi saga will find it here. Halo is meant to be enjoyed together. Be it split-screen on the couch or online. Halo is the kind of first-person shooter that other shooters can only hope to be. I’m sick of scripted moments, watching the same explosion, and being funneled into another shooting gallery. I know haters are gonna hate, but if I have to pull left trigger and then right trigger to kill someone in a game one more time, I’m never buying another damn shooter again.

Face it, no one has killed Halo yet.

Oh Yeah, Gears of War 3 Is Still Comin Out…

May 28, 2011 1 comment

After a delay, Gears of War 3 peeks out a couple of weeks before E3. Of course there was the multiplayer beta… if you played got Bulletstorm. However, this time Epic has revealed a few snippets from the campaign. The campaign trailer shows some promise with a further refined Unreal engine, along with more monsters and more bromance. Epic has promised that the third installment will be intensely cooperative and possess the lengthiest campaign in the series. Hopefully it will wrap up all the loose ends of the trilogy. We can only find out when the game is released WORLDWIDE on September 20th 2011 on the Xbox 360.

Bobby Kotick Wants Your Money: Modern Warfare 3 Reveal Trailer

May 23, 2011 1 comment

After Kotaku’s full-blown spoiler nuke; Activision has officially come clean with a reveal trailer for Modern Warfare 3. For lack of a better description; it’s a Call of Duty trailer… just schizophrenic glimpses of ambiguous gameplay moments. It’s immediately apparent that the engine has improved and the scale is nothing short of epic. The trailer even dubs the conflict as “WW3” before reverting back to the regular “MW3” logo in it’s closing moments. The initial trailer is enough to entice most gamers, but lets hope for more info on the multiplayer components to spill out during E3. The trailer confirms a release date of November 8th 2011.


It’s Alive! PSN Slowly Finds It’s Legs

After four weeks of thumb twiddling, whistling, and countless paper airplanes; Playstation Network is back online… kind of. Sony is currently working to bring the network up to speed by rolling out features bit by bit. As of 5/14, PS3 owners were prompted to download mandatory firmware update v3.61. Today, PSN gamers will be able to play games online, however features like the PSN Store will be undergoing maintenance and accessible at a later date yet to be confirmed. At one point today, the service encountered a speed bump for roughly 30 minutes or so from a high volume of password changes –  for good reason. Hopefully, the entirety of the service will be up for all PS3 owners to enjoy sooner rather than later.

Sony has released a video (shown below) that goes into further detail of forthcoming changes to services and when certain features will be available to users.


Categories: Video Games Tags: , ,

Where in the World is [Enter Video Game Related Entity Here]?

Well now that Duke Nukem Forever is (finally) becoming more than the biggest mythological creature in the video game industry, I thought I’d figure out what the f*** happened to some of the other stuff that was promised to come or just disappeared off of the face of the Earth. We, as gamers, don’t always get everything that was promised to us (ie. the entire Too Human game), but sometimes it would be nice to get an explanation as to why some properties suddenly dissipate. There is a fine line between not wanting to spoil too much about your game (which I personally feel the video game community does too much), waiting for some big event (ie. E3), and just being a complete asshole tease. These are the games/ideas/properties that I feel have crossed the line.

If anyone has any games or entities they would like to find out about, just leave a comment and I’ll update the post with my findings.

The single biggest tease in all of video games

X-COM

Officially Announced: April 13, 2010 | Release Date: TBA 2011 | Developer: 2K Marin

Aliens vs. the FBI in 1950's America? Count me in!

What is it?

Based off of the classic game X-COM: UFO Defense, a PC strategy game developed by Mythos Games in 1994, X-COM is a reimaging of that fabled property. Now a first person shooter (I know we have too many of those, but don’t fret, this one actually looks good), 2K Marin is bringing the game into the new generation. It tells the fight between man and alien as the FBI fights the spread of the unknown enemy. Remembering its roots, the game will feature intense story, complex strategy, and against-all-odds action to increase the suspense of this thriller shooter.

Where is it?

We first heard of this game in April of 2010 and were shown it hands on at E3 2010. After a promise from 2K Marin at E3 2010 that the game would be released in 2011, we haven’t heard much out of them since then. It is currently the middle of May in 2011 and 2K had yet to spill any beans on this coveted title. Once E3 2011 rolls around I’m sure the story will be different, but a little tidbit of information (like a more specific release date) now wouldn’t hurt.

What do we expect?

2K Marin will most likely spill their guts at E3 this year and will most likely get a holiday 2011 release, maybe a first quarter 2012 release if they’re falling behind.

BattleBlock Theater

Officially Announced: January 2009 | Release Date: TBA | Developer: The Behemoth

He's sad because the game isn't out yet

What is is?

The next game from the studio that brought you Alien Hominid HD and Castle Crashers, this is a side-scrolling, action-filled platformer. It features a heavy basis on 4-player multiplayer (a la Left 4 Dead). Expect the same cartoony violence you got with the blockbuster hit Castle Crashers

Where is it?

Unlike the other items on this list, this one has actually been seen recently. The last time we saw this game was at the Behemoth stand at PAX in March of this year. It was a playable game alongside Castle Crashers. So, as far as it looks, this game is nearly complete and ready to be distributed.

What do we expect?

Well, if we don’t here anything out of E3, expect a release at some point later this year. If all is said and done, nothing will be holding The Behemoth back from making their hard earned money. The best bet though? We will get a concrete date at E3, and it wont be too long of a wait either.

Respawn Entertainment Project

Officially Announced: 2010 | Release Date: TBA | Developer: Respawn Entertainment

Zampella and West: The founders of Respawn

What is is?

After the big fight/lawsuit between Vince Zampella, Jason West and Activision, those two decided to run off and form their own development company under publisher (take a good guess) EA. And with this comes the tumblings of their first big project. After originally stating that they were working on a blockbuster hit to compete with the monster they helped create, Call of Duty, not much has been coming out of Respawn.

Where is it?

No one really knows. Zampella and West started an entire new development studio AND are staring a new game in a new franchise under a new publisher from scratch. It is bound to take some time for them to hire enough people to staff the studio, come up with an idea, and then make enough of said idea to get a solid amount of info to share with the public.

What do we expect?

Don’t expect anything for a little while yet. Even if they do throw us a bone at E3 this year, don’t expect a game until at least mid to late 2o12. But don’t give up hope! Whatever they come up with is bound to be great and, in my opinion, the longer it takes for a game to come out, the longer the development team is taking to make sure their game is perfect.

Vitality Sensor

Officially Announced: June 2009 | Release Date: TBA | Developer: Nintendo

I just...I don't even know what Satoru Iwata was thinking...

What is is?

Also known as the biggest joke from Nintendo yet, the Vitality Sensor was supposed to be the next great thing for Nintendo and their healthy gaming craze. It was meant for people to track their pulse and other bodily numbers to use in sync with other health games, like Wii Fit. It was designed to help people relieve and manage their stress as well. The only other practical use for such a device is to monitor peoples stress levels while playing a horror survival game such as Resident Evil (but what could you honestly do with that data?)

Where is it?

Quite frankly, who cares? Is anyone honestly sitting around saying “Man, I really wish Nintendo would release that Vitality Sensor already.” Only the hardcore crowd really knows about it now, and we could care less about it. All the health freak moms are the ones who care, and unless they watch E3 press conferences each year, I’m pretty sure they’ve never heard of it. All the sub par feedback isn’t stopping Iwata though. He says the peripheral is still on track for a release…sometime.

What do we expect?

Don’t get your hopes up. It was announced at E3 2009 and hasn’t been heard from since. After being the laughing stock of the gaming community for a month or so after it was announced, it dropped off of the face of the Earth. And now that we know “Project Cafe”, Nintendo’s next home console, will be shown at this years E3, I’m pretty sure that little announcement will overshadow anything relative to the Vitality Sensor.

Half Life 2: Episode 3

Officially Announced: 2006 | Release Date: TBA | Developer: Valve

Valve Logo

The masterminds behind TF2, Portal, Left 4 Dead, and Half Life.

What is is?

Hinted to all the way back in 2006, Half Life 2: Episode 3 is (obviously) the successor to Episode 2. It continues the story of theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman

Where is it?

This game here is arguably the most anticipated game for PC gamers. It has been far too long since Episode 2 to take. And the sad thing is is that Valve has not said much about it at all. They said it was coming, but we don’t know much other than that. They have been pouring out game after game, update after update, but nothing on this game. Valve did, however, promise in September of 2010 that there would be three big announcements over the coming year. What could they be?

What do we expect?

This one is a mystery to all. The best we can do is hope for something at E3 or just wait for more of those “big announcements” Valve promised to come.

Well, that’s the list. Overall, the main thing we can do is wait. If you didn’t get the hint by now, E3 is the thing to look for. It’s coming fast and is bound to show us at least one of the games on this list. Keep your fingers crossed.

Why Gaming is Still Stuck in the 90’s: The Female Image in Games

May 14, 2011 3 comments

All too often I find myself enjoying a game only to get jolted into reminding myself, “Yup, this is a videogame.” Not necessarily because of bad graphics or a poor story, it’s because the portrayals of females is more offensive than not. Listen, I enjoy a pair of knockers as much as the next guy; but when it’s in a game because a developer said, “BECAUSE BOOBS!” doesn’t mean there should be a place for it.

"There's all these heavily armed ninjas chasing me you gotta... nevermind... I'll find someone else..."

Games are becoming increasingly more immersive, their purpose is to remove you from your boring life for a few moments so you can be empowered in another. Story-telling and graphics help to significantly sell the experience. But, every once in a good while your experience is rudely interrupted by a pair of gozungas. You’re probably thinking, “But Chris, I like sex appeal in videogames don’t you?” Sex appeal is fine in video games as they’re more “mature” now than ever. However, if a developer is trying to sell me on an empowered female character, she shouldn’t be wearing a cheerleader outfit with her rack hanging out; I won’t be able to take her seriously. Imagine yourself playing a game and you’re unraveling the finer mysteries as to why the world is ending. At some point (in pretty much every game) you’ll set out with a goal in mind to stop certain catastrophe, when all of a sudden a porno-esque female librarian/secretary “briefs” you on a mission. This particular scenario isn’t from any particular game, but we’ve all been there; playing a game and a pornstar comes out of left field to shove a “set” in our faces.

Lady Gaga kills demons too... and then unnecessarily turns into a recurring character...

“Whoa hot chicks in videogames are awesome!!! What’s your beef?!” My “beef” is that promiscuity can often times TAKE AWAY from a female character instead of adding to them. I don’t know what it’s like for a female gamer to play some of these games. I can’t speak for all of them, but I can’t imagine feeling “okay” with some of the female depictions that are out there.

WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?!?!?!

This isn’t something that has recently surfaced in the industry; it’s been around since the dawn of gaming. I don’t want to remind everyone of Custer’s Revenge on the Atari 2600. Even during the NES era with the Battletoad’s Dark Queen; while she may be “tame” by today’s standards, keep in mind that 5 year olds (including me), were getting our hands on these games. Double Dragon 2’s Marion was also another one from the NES era that needed to pull up her blouse in front of the kids. Perhaps what sparked the fire was the PS1 era’s Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider series. Gameplay-wise the series got increasingly poorer, but her bust size kept increasing along with her sales. No other female videogame character has received as much notoriety as Lara Croft in the 90’s.

Blame her. She won't care.

I’m not here to rain on everyone’s parade saying, “No more boobs” in games. Let’s not forget that the gaming industry is growing up and developers are targeting adults now more than ever. The God of War series is known for it’s sex minigames and female characters that never fail to be topless. Bayonetta is just oozing (no pun, no pun goddamnit!) with sex appeal in EVERYTHING she does in the game. I can’t state that these are the only exceptions, but they’re M-rated and perhaps the developers want to push the envelope a bit, but they can do so respectfully. I’m sure there are female gamers out there whom enjoy these titles, but I can’t imagine myself playing a game where I control a man that gets naked-er as I’m vanquishing foes. Fighting games are infamous for their cast of female fighters. Most fighting games don’t exactly support a strong story for the characters to grow in, so the extent of their “character” boils down to their movesets and how “cool” they look. Soul Calibur is a beloved fighting franchise with a strong roster. However, EVERY female character in that game is… just look at the screenshot below, it tells all….

YOU'RE A NINJA?! HOW AM I SUPPOSE TO TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY?! HOW DO I EVEN FIGHT YOU?!

I’m sure character designers and artists are thinking, “How do we give her more personality?” Most will increase the polygon count in the chest and buttocks region and call it a day. Creating a believable and rich female character avoids that completely. Bonnie from Red Dead Redemption is a tough gal that doesn’t take crap from nobody. She doesn’t look like a dominatrix armed to the teeth. She’s a an appropriately-dressed western girl that has her head on straight. Her blue-collar attitude is what makes me interested in her character; not her bra size.

Being a blockbuster series; Uncharted could’ve easily fallen into the pitfall of having a female protagonist that “dresses for success”. However, Elena Fisher finds herself at the opposite end of the spectrum. She’s a woman that is guided by her career and supports the main character you play as. She doesn’t carry a whip, she carries a camera. She doesn’t rock a school-girl outfit, she wears jeans and a half-tucked shirt. Elena has a way of motivating the player through her dialogue and the energy she projects, not by unbuttoning her blouse. These are only a few of the female characters that are exactly what they are – female characters; not sex goddesses.

She looks nice, but she's got a vicious hook and can handle a piece.

The videogame industry can do a better job of depicting females in games. There are developers out there who understand that an overly-revealing character can be annoying or distracting for all the wrong reasons. It still seems like most game makers are still targeting males, they need to be mindful that women also play videogames. As a male gamer, an army of under-dressed virtual woman would not make me change my mind as to whether or not a game sucks. A bad game is a bad game. Undoubtedly, there are other gamers like me, male and female, who are sick of “characters” that are no more than virtual strippers. If I’m laying down $60 + tax for a video game, I’m paying for the experience and the potential fun, not a shameful peep show. If I want that, I’ll find it at the bar on the Touch Master, not on my home consoles.