Replay: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Posted on August 13, 2011

We thought that this weekend would be a good opportunity to go back and visit the modern-day classic known as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. We were worried about how well it would hold up, but we were all looking forward to being reminded of how the story unfolds over the first couple of missions. Before long we were entering cheat codes to unlock the tank and trying to outrun the cops at a five-star wanted level. Enjoy the mayhem. Watch the video below as Andrew Reiner, Matt Helgeson, Joe Juba, and a pop-in mystery guest walk the mean streets of Vice City.

Due to a technical mishap, some of the audio from the game wasn’t recorded and has been replaced by the totally radical soundtrack for the game. Enjoy.

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Check out the rest of the Replay episodes at our Replay hub.


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Spoiled! Portal 2

Posted on May 05, 2011

It almost feels wrong highlighting the finale of Portal 2 when the entirety of the game is near perfect. Few of us in the Game Informer offices rushed to discuss the awesome climax right after beating it. Instead we chatted about memorable puzzles along the way, new gameplay mechanics, and Cave Johnson. Especially Cave Johnson. That doesn’t mean that the ending of the game isn’t worth spoiling for anyone silly enough not to complete it. Even if you did complete it, I present this video of Ben Reeves and I discussing what we thought about the ending in the great outdoors.

Spoiled Alert!

Portal 2’s conclusion:

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Discussion with Ben Reeves:

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For more episodes of Spoiled! check out our hub page.


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"Blow $#%@ Up" With Explosive Launch Trailer

Posted on April 24, 2011

The upcoming downloadable game espouses a none-too-subtle tagline in
the latest trailer for the multi-directional shooter.

Lest you be confused by the message of what Gatling Gears is all about, EA
would like to clear up any confusion with this brief trailer. Mostly,
it’s about co-op mech-walking top-down twin-stick shootin’.

Gatling Gears will release on May 11th for XBLA and May 18th for PSN. Further trailer action can be peeped here.

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The Grandeur of NCAA 12

Posted on April 20, 2011

The first details about NCAA 12 are slowly coming out, and this teaser trailer from EA Sports showcases some of the college pageantry in the game.

Today the publisher also announced that former University of Alabama running back Mark Ingram has been voted as the cover star for this year’s game, which comes out on July 12.

You’ll probably notice in the screens and the video below that the game is looking pretty good thanks to a new feature called HDR lighting. You can see the first developer diary about HDR lighting in this previous preview. This new look is augmented by increased presentation, including more pre-game festivities to get your blood going.

Stay tuned for more on NCAA 12 – including news about some important gameplay changes – in the coming days.

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Kato Becomes A Race Car Driver

Posted on April 11, 2011

I’m probably as good of a real-life race car driver as I am in video games, but that’s not saying much. I test drove a Porsche 911 Carerra 2S on an actual race track to see if any of my racing experience in video games would translate to the real world. My instructor for the day was Porsche professional factory driver Patrick Long, who not only had some invaluable tips on how to drive race cars, but also wasn’t too shabby  behind the wheel of Forza 3.

Check out this video of us trading paint in the game and getting behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 Turbo, Porsche 911 Carerra 2S, and the smokin’ Porsche GT3 (which Patrick calls a “race car with a license plate”).

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Also be sure to check out my full story in the new Mass Effect 3 issue of Game Informer (issue #217).

Thanks to videographer Jon Gordon for filming and our own Ben Hanson for editing.

 


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Replay: Splinter Cell

Posted on April 09, 2011

Fans of this classic Tom Clancy-branded stealth series, prepare to be frustrated! On this week’s episode of Replay, Dan Ryckert, Tim Turi, Andrew Reiner, and I revisit the Xbox release that started the Splinter Cell series. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since we’ve played this game — in the case of Dan and I, we’ve barely ever touched it — so it takes a bit of time to get reacquaint ourselves with the complex control scheme. Like, uh…most of the episode.

Prepare some angry comments for Dan and stick with us for a Replay Roulette where we check out another Xbox…er…classic — this time, with co-op!

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Want to hear our commentary over other legendary and not-so-legendary games of yesteryear? Visit the Replay hub to see them all!


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Nintendo 3DS Launch Guide

Posted on March 22, 2011

After much anticipation, Nintendo’s 3DS is finally set to launch on March 27. Whether you’re getting ready to pick up your unit on Sunday, or are still on the fence about buying Nintendo’s latest handheld, we’ve put together a launch guide with everything you need to know about the 3DS.

At $249.99, the 3DS is the priciest portable Nintendo device to date, however aside from its glasses-free 3D capabilities, it comes with several accessories, applications, and features right out the box.

What’s in the Box?

Nintendo 3DS system (Plays 3DS, DS, and DSi software)
Charging Cradle
AC Adapter
3DS Stylus (can be adjusted to desired length)
2GB SD Memory Card
AR Cards
Operations manual, quick-start guide, other printed materials

For the full 3DS unboxing, click here.

Go on to Page 2 for details on 3DS features.


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Robert Rodriguez Meets Resident Evil 4 In Shadows Of The Damned

Posted on March 19, 2011

Japanese developer Goichi Suda (a.k.a. Suda51) has a penchant for creating strange, stylish, and brash games such as No More Heroes. His studio, Grasshopper Manufacture, has also gained a reputation for creating gameplay that’s never as polished or interesting as the concepts behind it. That’s why Grasshopper’s latest project, a collaboration with Resident Evil mastermind Shinji Mikami, is so exciting. Could this finally be the game that matches the insanity of Suda51’s vision with more widely accepted gameplay?

Shadows of the Damned tells the over-the-top tale of a man named Garcia Hotspur, a demon hunter whose latest exploits hit closer to home. After his girlfriend Paula is kidnapped and imprisoned in hell, Garcia sets out to massacre as many demons as he needs to in order to save her.

Garcia’s main weapon for fighting demonic legions is a powerful torch that shape-shifts into various guns – a machine gun called the teether, a shotgun called the monocutioner, and a pistol known as the boner. Clearly, Suda and crew are not afraid of making easy jokes when possible. Garcia uses these weapons via traditional third-person shooter controls heavily inspired by the over-the-shoulder style of the most recent Resident Evil games.

Of course, demons can’t be destroyed by bullets alone. Garcia must use the regular torch form of his weapon to blast a powerful shield of darkness off his opponents before they are vulnerable to attack. At some points, whole sections of a level will be covered in darkness. When this happens the world turns blue and Garcia’s health is slowly drained. Enemies become invincible or infinitely respawn until Garcia can locate and destroy a goat head that is spewing the darkness.

In addition to hunting for goat heads, Shadows features simple puzzles where Garcia’s progress is blocked by a demon gate with a baby’s head on it that demands specific items as offerings before opening the gate. For example, in the demo that I watched, the baby gate requests a brain in exchange for opening the gate. Garcia then explores the nearby area until he finds said delicacy and delivers it. It’s essentially a bizarre version of keycards, but wouldn’t you rather be collecting livers and kidneys?

During his travels Garcia is joined by a big-mouthed flaming skull named Johnson, a spirit he rescued in a previous adventure. Johnson provides comic relief and gives clues to surviving certain puzzles and combat encounters. Garcia also has a unique form of health recovery – boozing. To restore his energy, he must visit vending machines filled with hard liquor like sake, tequila, and absinthe.

Late in the demo, Garcia has his first run-in with what he thinks is his girlfriend. Walking into an area that looks like a crowded Mexican marketplace, he notices a female head on a table. He picks it up and somberly identifies it as Paula. Before he can begin mourning though, the head suddenly screams, flying out of his hands and attaching to a nearby body. Garcia’s girlfriend twitches and a giant demon named George with blades for hands bursts out in a gory explosion.

As with all of the bosses in Shadows of the Damned, Garcia’s several encounters with George uncover a backstory revealing why he is especially damned. Don’t think this is the final fate of Paula either; it looks like pretending to be Paula and messing with Garcia’s head is a favorite pastime of the major enemies.

The producer who played Shadows of the Damned while I watched referred to the game as Evil Dead meets Desperado. Between the juvenile humor and Garcia’s wisecracks, the unique Grindhouse feel is sure to appeal to fans of Suda’s previous works. But more importantly, Shadows of the Damned has a good chance of being the first Grasshopper game to pull in a wider audience. I’m hopeful that this crazy journey to hell will come together in time for its June release.

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Pokémon Past, Present, And Future

Posted on March 13, 2011

This week marks the long-awaited release of the fifth-generation of Pokémon titles, Black and White. Game Freak co-founder, Junichi Masuda, and the graphic designer who created many of the game’s 150 new Pokémon, Mana Ibe, tell us about the past, present, and future of the long-running franchise. Did you know the traditional routes found in Pokémon games were initially created as a workaround for cartridge limitations? Did you know that Pokémon originally didn’t evolve? If it weren’t for the lengthy six-year development cycle of the original games, these series staples would not have existed. Read on to learn more franchise secrets.

Game Freak’s beginnings

Masuda: First it was a gathering of people who knew each other who really liked games, “game freaks” if you will, kind of like indie developers. We all got together with Satoshi Itaji and decided to make an indie game at the time for the Famicom, Quinty (Mendel Palace in North America). After creating that game and nearing the end of its completion, we decided to come together and form the company Game Freak. From here on out, Game Freak’s philosophy is to challenge new things, challenge ourselves, and make games that make people happy, games that people can play over and over for a long time, and have a smile on their face when they play it.

Pokémon began as a vehicle for communication

Masuda: At the time the Game Boy had just come out and it had the Game Link Cable that allowed communication between two Game Boys. Itaji came up with the idea that he really wanted to find a way to use that link cable so players could trade. At the time the idea for Pokémon still wasn’t right there. The starting point of creating Pokémon came from the idea of finding a way of communicating to trade.

The six-year development cycle

Masuda: The development processes for the first two games was very long – it was a six-year development span – and at first obviously with the Game Boy the cartridges didn’t have much memory at all, as a result of that, we had to program it in a way for the data to be as small as possible.

Pokémon open world game?

Masuda: In the beginning we really wanted to make a really big world, a really big field, kind of seamless, but because of the hardware limitations we had to connect these various maps with routes and it’s become a tradition that we still use in the games up until now. It wasn’t originally planned, but because of the hardware limitations we had to implement that.

No evolution, types at outset

Masuda: During original concept, there was no concept of evolution for Pokémon to evolve and get stronger, and have their design and appearance totally change. That’s obviously an important part of the Pokémon series, one of the characteristics that wouldn’t have come if the development process wasn’t so long.

Also, stuff like individual types was something that came up later in development that really added a lot of strategic importance to battles, and the reason a lot of this was gradually added on when development went on was because the Game Boy cartridge’s memory continued to expand over its lifetime. This allowed Game Freak to increase the amount of Pokémon in the game and add the Pokédex because at that point we had so many Pokémon we wanted something that players could use to look at detailed information for each Pokémon.

Capsulmon?

Masuda: One of the original names [for the games] was “Capsule Monsters” because they go in capsules, but decided later on to go with Pocket Monsters or “Pokémon.”

From Red and Blue to Black and White

Masuda: It was actually the themes behind the games that decided the titles [for Black and White]. One of the themes is to really express two polar opposites. For example, you have the big city in one field, and then you have the countryside in the other field. The theme of the polar opposites is what brought us to think of black and white.

Pokémon RPG not designed for console

Masuda: Portability is really important for the Pokémon series. For example, in Pokémon Black and Pokémon White versions we have the new C-Gear that appears on the bottom screen that has a lot of communication features. When it’s on it’s always communicating information with players nearby, for instance, at a place where a lot of people get together or at a friend’s house. Turn it on and if other players are nearby you can find out what they’re up to, whether they’re catching Pokémon or in a battle with trainers. It’s this concept of always playing and communicating with nearby players that has always been important to the Pokémon.

Aside from that, to be able to communicate with players who are really far away or can’t be in the same area, in Pokémon Black version or Pokémon White version we are introducing the Pokémon Global Link (PGL) that allows players to communicate data from their DS to their computers, go on the Pokémon Global Link website, and view rankings for battles or communicate with players that are really far away. I look forward to seeing how well this does, especially in the United States, as a lot  more people use the internet off their computers.

Designing 150 new Pokémon

Ibe: There were about 17 designers for Black and White project at Game Freak and one of the ways we make sure we don’t have too much overlap with any of the previous Pokémon is if we have a new design, we’ll take a silhouette of it, just the outline of it, and color the rest of it in black, and make sure the shape of it doesn’t overlap with previous Pokémon designs, and make sure it still looks original. We also do that with the color palette, color combinations, and make sure that there aren’t any Pokémon in the older games that share that exact same color palette as the new ones. Some of the directions we got from planners was to not be restricted or bound by old designs, for example, just because there might be one type of Pokémon existing in the old games, doesn’t mean you can’t make a similar type of Pokémon in a different light.

Finding inspiration in real-life animals, objects

Ibe: I’ll sometimes go to the zoo and look at various animals or animals outside and study their behavior. I also get inspiration from inanimate objects as well, such as an umbrella. If you combined an umbrella with an animal, how would they use that umbrella? How would you combine that to make an interesting creature?

Never running out of ideas

Masuda: Video games haven’t been around as long as other media. In the past I was worried that once I turn 50 would I still be able to come up with new ideas? But then I look at other creators in the industry who are older like Shigeru Miyamoto, who keeps coming up with new ideas. I’m relieved to see that because even if you keep getting older you keep coming up with original ideas. There’s still a lot of stuff that hasn’t been done. In the past it was sometimes said in Japan that people over 30 wouldn’t be able to use computers because they just get too old for them, but nowadays you have grandparents, people at work in their 50s using computers. There’s still a lot of room for innovation and I hope to keep making games as I grow older. I’m always thinking about new ideas and trying to find ways to realize those ideas, and I feel confident going forward that I’m going to find ways to innovate the series and just games in general.

Future of the franchise

Masuda: Often I’ll think about what computers are going to be like 10 years from now. In movies you’ll see representations of the future. You’ll see transparent floating computer devices in the air, touch and pull screens on a transparent screen. It’s just something like in a dream. I hope that the Pokémon series can turn into something that we would dream of now in the future.

Ibe: I played the original Red and Blue games years ago, I was a kid back then, and I’m really impressed that Pokémon is still accepted by society and still popular among people. I never even imagined that I’d work at Game Freak. The ones that come out now are made by people of my generation, obviously the older people make them as well. The new games are matching this generation and I expect that they’re going to continue to evolve with new generations.

Check out our review for Pokemon Black and Pokemon White versions.


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Save The Kingdom With Tandem Teamwork

Posted on March 10, 2011

Two years ago, Trine surprised PC and PS3 users with a fresh spin on platforming and puzzle solving. The unique mechanic of swapping between characters gave the title a Lost Vikings feel, but with fun physics-based brain-teasers. If switching between three complementary protagonists by yourself didn’t suit your fancy, the sequel allows you and two friends to simultaneously don the wizard’s robes, thief’s cowl, and knight’s armor. Better yet, the enchanting tale’s next chapter is also coming to XBLA.

Trine 2 can still be played like the first game, with a single player controlling the characters one at a time. Players familiarize themselves with some of the characters’ subtle changes during a brief introductory tutorial. For instance, the spellcaster Amadeus is no longer shackled by limited mana, allowing him to draw unlimited boxes and ladders into life. Sir Pontius can block enemy attacks with his shield to deliver a swift counterattack, and has his massive battle hammer available from the start. Zoya, the arrow-wielding, high-flying thief remains mostly unchanged, but we still love her.

Most of our time with the game was spent with the new three-player co-op. Having all three characters on screen at once doesn’t change the structure of the campaign’s levels or puzzles, but it does allow for dynamic teamwork. Many puzzles have multiple solutions, and having three minds at work leads to the most creative “eureka” moments. For example, the wizard can create boxes and levitate allies to unreachable ledges, or the thief can use her grappling hook to gain higher ground, then knock down an object the others can use to climb up. The wizard’s power to manipulate certain objects is far and away the most useful ability. In one situation he sloshes water down a log with ladle-shaped fauna to water a cabbage sprout, which then lures a gigantic, hungry snail out of our heroes’ path.

Atlus emphasized the importance of water as a new puzzle mechanic in Trine 2. The new physics behind the beautifully rendered fluid will force players to think about gravity and their environments in different ways. Water puzzles will be used to open up new pathways to discover and explore, as evidenced by the roughage-loving snail.

Having three players sharing screen time also comes in handy when ambushed by a pack of goblins. The knight is still the primary combatant, but the wizard and thief now have interesting support roles. The wizard can run interference from afar by drawing boxes to keep enemies at bay, helping with crowd control and keeping his fragile frame out of harm’s way. The thief can also whittle away foes’ HP with a few well-placed arrows. Players also gain experience and unique gear throughout their journey, but Atlus isn’t saying anything about progression yet.

The original Trine was a beautiful, atmospheric downloadable game, and the visual fidelity is carrying over to the sequel. Plants overrun the world of Trine, and the wild, vibrant foliage is everywhere. Vines coil and invade almost every piece of scenery, with bright greens, oranges, and other exotic colors spicing up the game’s palette. The thriving, immersive atmosphere of Trine 2 will suck in any fan of fantasy with its living environments.

Our time with this early build of the game left us with a slew of information, but also some new questions. We now know that three-player co-op works perfectly in combat and puzzle-solving scenarios, and that the overgrown world is a visual treat. What we don’t know yet is how the leveling and equipment system works, what the large-scale boss encounters entail, or when exactly the game hits this year. We’re intrigued enough by this 360/PS3/PC downloadable that when the answers do bloom, we won’t miss them.


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Replay: Robocop

Posted on March 08, 2011

Freeze, punk! On this week’s episode of Replay, I’m joined by Robocop fans Joe Juba, Andrew Reiner, and Dan Ryckert to check out an Xbox interpretation of the classic film franchise. This atrocity was created in 2003 by none other than Titus Software — the same dastardly developers behind the notoriously awful Superman 64.

Tune in for further examples of why Dan sucks at video games as well as some hilariously over-sized rodents. Also stick with us for the most off-topic Replay Roulette ever.

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Want to watch more Replay? Head over to our Replay hub page!


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If You Like Dungeon Crawlers, You’ll Love Castle Ravenloft

Posted on March 08, 2011

In our continuing series on tabletop games that are fun for video
gamers, we look at this cooperative fantasy board game of horror and
adventure.

No one reading this website needs to be sold
on the fun of online cooperative play. The ability to shoot your way
through a Covenant army in Halo or tackle a big boss in World of
Warcraft with a bunch of friends is thrilling. But the cooperative
gaming experience isn’t just available in the video game sphere. As we
continue to examine tabletop games that we think are a good fit for the
video gaming crowd, we zero in on a new game from the folks who bring us
the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game.

Castle Ravenloft
strips away much of the complexity inherent to a true D&D game, and
delivers a cooperative dungeon crawl that is perfect for gamers fond of
Diablo, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, or Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, but
uninterested in spending hours bogged down in complicated rules.

Gameplay

Castle Ravenloft is a 1 to 5-player cooperative game of dungeon
exploration and questing. The game uses a dramatically pared down set of
4th edition D&D rules, minus the need for a dungeon master or a
doctorate in the game rules in order to enjoy. Every player takes on the
role of a pre-made hero with a set of special abilities and stats,
mostly represented on a large cardboard card. The group works together
to tackle one of several unique scenarios. In one, the characters need
to escape the dungeon before waves of monsters destroy them. In another,
the adventurers must hunt down the villainous vampire at the heart of
the castle. Each quest has its own special rules and setup, assuring a
variation in the story and objectives. On top of that, the dungeon is
created randomly over the course of the game as the heroes explore, so
the adventure feels unexpected and challenging every time.

Story

Castle Ravenloft carries the Dungeons & Dragons logo on its
front, but don’t be fooled. There’s not much in the way of complex
character interactions or storytelling at play here, unless, of course,
you put them in yourself. Instead, Castle Ravenloft presents a simple
premise. A dangerous castle filled with ghastly undead and their
terrifying vampire master loom over an unfortunate town, and you must
act to save its people. Each scenario offers a little more detail to
flesh out the fiction, but things are kept simple in order to get to
what the game is really about — combat.

Unique Features

Castle Ravenloft is all about exploring a mysterious dungeon and
fighting monsters along the way. You’re fighting monsters at nearly
every turn, and there’s a fantastic terror connected to feeling
overwhelmed by the attacking baddies.

The game does a great job
of keeping the intensity high and the action moving quickly around the
table. Turns occur at a fast pace, with clearly delineated phases for
each turn. Players move and act, then potentially place a new tile, and
finally control designated monsters as they spawn. Every player
participates in “running the board.” The creatures that spawn move by
preset rules on their own monster cards, which usually involve attacking the nearest character to
where the creature appears. The game’s random dungeon tiles keep things
interesting, as do the large number of surprising encounters that arise.
Between unique treasure items, numerous monsters, lots of traps and
other event-based challenges, and customizable characters, there’s
plenty to keep the game feeling fresh and exciting. Even though the game is pretty easy to pick up, don’t mistake that for the game being easy. Your party will be defeated almost as much as it will win the day.

The game also comes with a bunch of great looking unpainted mini figures to help visualize the action.

Up Next: Do I need an advanced degree to play?


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Rochard Knocks The Gravity Out From Under Our Feet

Posted on March 06, 2011

Finnish Studio Recoil Games took us behind closed doors to check out its newest downloadable title for PSN, a gravity manipulating platformer called Rochard. We didn’t know what to expect, but after getting some hands-on time with the title, we’re looking forward to its spring release.

Rochard follows the story of an astro-miner named John Rochard (voiced by Duke Nukem’s own Jon St. John.) Rochard and his mining team work for one of the lowest producing mining rigs in the galaxy, but just as the team is about to lose their jobs, they discover proof of alien life on a lonely asteroid. At the same time, a group of dim-witted space bandits attack their mining station and begin ransacking the rig. Using only his wits and his mining equipment, Rochard is forced to fend off the pirates, find his missing crew, and save an alien artifact that could change human history.

Altering gravity is the crux of Rochard’s gameplay. Rocard is equipped with a gravity gun that allows him to move blocks around his environment, but he will also be able to alter the strength of gravity, which allows him to jump to greater heights and pick up larger objects. A series of environmental puzzles require Rochard to reroute power, and disable auto turrets while navigating a space bandit populated mining station. We enjoyed our brief hands on time with the game, and are looking forward to Rochard’s spring release. But don’t take our word for it; check out the game in action below.

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Talking Battlefield 3 Multiplayer

Posted on March 06, 2011

Though we didn’t see any multiplayer in action during our cover story visit to DICE, that didn’t stop us from prying some revealing answers from executive producer Patrick Bach.

This is an extended version of the interview that ran in the March 2011 issue of Game Informer.

The experienced player understands and appreciates the teamwork concept in Battlefield’s multiplayer, but you often see new players lone wolfing it and missing the point entirely. How do you break through that barrier?
We’ve been asking ourselves that question – why don’t people play it. Because when you’ve put some hours into it it’s like, “this is way better than the competition.” The problem isn’t only on the game side, it’s how do you get to the point where everyone has tried it? Even if you have a demo or you gave away free samples you still need people to try it. The challenge is to get people to try it because we know that they will get hooked when they do. But also on the teamplay aspect it’s a deeper layer that most other shooters don’t have. The hurdle is to make sure that we lower the threshold to get into the game by letting everyone try it out. The running and gunning should be extremely accessible. That’s something we’re working toward with every iteration of the game while deepening the game so once you get hooked, there’s enough depth to play to get people to come back.

Bad Company 2 came out of the gates quickly, placing in the top three on Xbox Live for several months. Then you went six months without delivering new maps and the community fell off drastically. Do you plan on taking a different approach with Battlefield 3?
We have a big focus on sustaining the game. To be honest, Bad Company 2 was a bigger success than we anticipated. We did not account for that. We sold a lot of copies and don’t feel bad about where we were, but looking back, we should have released more, bigger content earlier. The challenge is to build a game, and then have more people coming on before the project is done to start building extra content because it takes a lot of time to get stuff out. Even if you’re done with something it takes another one-to-two months to get it on the net so to speak. We’ve learned our lesson now, and have a lot of really interesting plans for how to keep the attention of the players. We can do better in that area.

One of the things I felt went hand-in-hand with the lack of new maps was that, anecdotally, a lot of people stopped playing around level 25 because there was no longer a carrot dangling in front of them in terms of unlockables. Why did you decide on that approach, and do you plan on altering the progression in Battlefield 3?
It falls back on what I said earlier – we were much more successful with our approach than we anticipated. We didn’t think most people would hit level 22 to be honest, and especially not so fast. Our calculations on how much people would play to hit level 20, 25, 50 were completely wrong. Thought people wouldn’t play that much. We’re looking into the numbers of how we scale up, what we give away, how we give it away, with the understanding that some people put a lot of time into the game. There will be a lot more to unlock, not only weapons and other treats, but we have more things that you can unlock than in Bad Company 2, and we’re also making sure that there is a reason for you to reach the top rank. It doesn’t just end. There will be a lot of focus on persistence and how we present stuff to the player.

One of the things that helps persistence is when you give the player an identity. For instance, you can carve your initials into your gun in Black Ops, and Rainbow Six let you customize your outfit. What are the challenges to this approach and do you see Battlefield 3 going in this direction?

The more variation you have [in the characters] the less variation you can have in the rest of the world. I think it also has to do with the way you play more professionally. You don’t want people to look completely different. It’s team A versus team B. It’s always a challenge – how do you personalize a uniform? Giving the pink rabbit hat to someone would make it fun, but if you’re running around and you don’t know what you’re shooting at you don’t take the professional gaming seriously in my book. So there’s a challenge between personalizing and keeping it uniform. We will do more in that area, making sure that you can get your character to be more personalized both in a visual way and more specifically in the way you gear up. We did a good job I would argue in Bad Company 2 with specializations, different scopes, and different weapons – you can kind of find your way of playing the game, which broadens the game for more people. The deeper you get into that the more you unravel figuring new things out every day. That was kind of the seed to what we’re building now. We now know more than we’ve ever known about how to personalize a uniform team. Your friends will get very happy when they can see what they can do with their soldiers.

When I think about Battlefield 2, I always come back to the Commander position and the game within the game that arose from having Special Forces objectives. Are those returning in the proper sequel?

We could implement it but the question is how do you get the threshold lower? That’s not by making it more complicated. Our challenge is to make sure that anyone that just jumps into the game will get it. One of the biggest problems with Commander was that only two people could use it. Some people liked it but most people didn’t care, they just cared that someone gave them an order or that their squad could play together having fun on their own more or less. Then the more hardcore people went into the Commander mode and learned how to use that. You could argue it was a great feature, but looking at the numbers you could also say that no one uses it. We tried in Bad Company 2 to give that to the players, so you could issue orders to your squad, and you could use gadgets like the UAV that only the commander could use earlier – giving the power back to the players so everyone could use it. That made a big difference. More people could enjoy the game. We lowered the threshold for everyone because we gave it to everyone. We now know where the boundaries are for keeping the strategic depth and complexity while lowering the threshold to get in.

Since Battlefield 2 you’ve toyed with the amount of classes – that game had seven classes, Battlefield 1943 had only three, and Bad Company 2 had four. Do you think you’ve found the sweet spot?

Yes, I think the sweet spot is four. Looking at what we’ve done so far, we see the classes as a starting point. Classes are kind of “Who am I? Well, I’m this kind of person. I want to help out or play in this way.” Then as you go along you will find different nuances of that class. If you look at the amount of classes you actually have in Bad Company 2 with all of the different loadouts, it’s probably a couple of thousand, compared to 1942, which was quite static. So the sweet spot for entry is around four. Then it’s about how much you branch it. It’s a never-ending discussion that’s a matter of what kind of toys you want the player to have and how you balance it out. The rock, paper, scissors theory is still the foundation of every Battlefield game. A lot of people come up to me and say “You should increase the power of that gun, or you should make this gun better, or you should add nukes.” The easy response to that is “How is that fun for the person getting shot at?” Because that needs to be the balance – if there’s no counter to a weapon, then we won’t put it in the game. There should always be a way of countering, so then you get this circle of death where if you have the means to kill me, I can switch gear and find means to get back at you. There shouldn’t be any über class or über weapons. Some games have perks where you kill the game by using it, and you do it over and over again. That’s no fun, that’s a game breaker. If someone gets really good at flying a chopper, then people say the chopper is overpowered. No, you just haven’t learned how to counter it, because there is a counter. That’s the kind of depth you want in a Battlefield game. It actually takes time until someone figures it out. We often compare ourselves to sports. You have a game with a set of rules, but there are a million ways of playing that game still even though the rule set is very solid and it hasn’t changed for 100 years. Every game is completely new. There is always a way to counter the opponent. Like football, or basketball, or soccer, the game is always evolving, yet the rules are the same. People adapt and find new ways.


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Dead Space 3 Wishlist

Posted on March 05, 2011

The original Dead Space was a tough act to follow, but Visceral Games
succeeded by making improvements across the board for Dead Space 2. The
problem? Now the team has set an ever higher bar for the inevitable
Dead Space 3. As good as Dead Space 2 was, EA and Visceral are probably
already looking into a follow-up – along with aspects of the gameplay
and story that could use some tuning. The form Dead Space 3 takes is
anyone’s guess at this point, but here are some things we hope are on
the team’s radar as the series moves forward.

NOTE: The following article contains SPOILERS for Dead Space and Dead Space 2. If you haven’t finished the games or plan to play them, we suggest you do so before reading our wishlist.

Answers
Yeah, we get it: The marker is mysterious. After
two games of cryptic references and vague mumbo-jumbo, it’s time for
some answers. That isn’t to say that every little mystery should be
explained, but in Dead Space 3, Visceral needs to stop answering every
question with another question. Who built the markers? Why do they make
people crazy? What is Isaac’s significance? Give us some concrete info
to fuel our speculation!

Zero-G Combat
Dead Space 2 took the concept of zero-gravity
gameplay and made it more interesting, allowing Isaac to maneuver in 3D
space. That is an improvement, but it didn’t go far enough; Zero-G
sequences involved more navigation than combat, which didn’t exactly
leave players on the edge of their seats. In Dead Space 3, we want these
segments to be more threatening, delivering scares instead of shooting
gallery encounters. It’s a tricky request, since zero-gravity combat
could be terrible if handled incorrectly, but we have faith in Visceral.

Isaac the Ripley
After surviving two Necromorph outbreaks, Isaac isn’t just some hapless
engineer with a plasma cutter. Like Ripley from the Alien series, he has
become the galaxy’s foremost expert on dealing with hostile
abominations. It would be nice to see an acknowledgement of this fact in
the Dead Space universe. Yeah, the government is trying to cover up the
whole necromorph thing, but at some point people have to recognize that
Isaac is the only dude who knows what’s going on. Dead Space 3 would be
a great place to start that process.

Still Demented
Isaac’s mind has been changed by the marker,

and he no longer has a firm grasp on reality. This was a key element of
the story in Dead Space 2, and we don’t want that going anywhere.
Seeing the world through the eyes of an unstable protagonist adds a lot
to the atmosphere, since his hallucinations make you question the
reality of events. As hard as life is for Isaac, we hope the marker’s
effects don’t start to wear off.

 


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Call Of Juarez: The Cartel Brings The West To Modern Day L.A.

Posted on March 04, 2011

When Ubisoft first revealed Call of Juarez: The Cartel, fans of the series were confused. What does a game set in modern day L.A. have to do with the franchise’s Western theme? Recently, the publisher revealed some new information that explains the dramatic setting shift.

The Cartel tells the story of a ruthless drug cartel’s war against the American government in modern times. After the cartel bombs a U.S. law enforcement agency, the government creates a task force to stop the drug runners. Ubisoft has revealed the task force’s three key characters:

  • Kim Evans: a “gang-affiliated street kid-turned-FBI agent.”
  • Eddie Guerra: a “DEA agent with a chronic gambling habit.”
  • Ben McCall: a “brutal LAPD detective” and descendant of the first Call of Juarez’s Ray McCall.

      It’s up to these three characters to hunt down and stop the cartel’s kingpin. Over the course of the game players will travel through California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Juarez, Mexico. Not only can you choose to be any of the three characters during the campaign (each character will have a unique story and ending), but there will also be an online three player co-op mode will have you and two friends controlling the trio together.

      Ubisoft is promising a wide variety of mission types, including undercover missions and car chases, while keeping the “unique themes of the Wild West intact.” How developer Techland plans to accomplish this is anybody’s guess, but Ubisoft tells us that it will be revealing more details about the game soon, including “a twist on the three-player co-op storyline.” Until then, check out the announcement trailer and concept art below.

      (Please visit the site to view this media)


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      A Few Words On The PixelJunk Series With Q-Games

      Posted on March 04, 2011

      The PixelJunk series started off with Racers on PSN that eventually spun off into multiple genres such as tower defense and even shooters, with the most recent downloadable release being PixelJunk Shooter 2. Now with PixelJunk Shooter 2 available for download, we caught up with Q-Games producer Ariel Angelotti at GDC in San Francisco who came all the way from the developer’s studio in Japan to discuss the past, present, and future of the PixelJunk franchise.

      Establishing the PixelJunk name

      Dylan [Cuthbert, Q-Games founder] had this idea that the name would become the brand to tie in all of these games because they’re very different games if you look at the whole series. They focus on different kinds of genres. It was just a way to drive everything together and say “we are the same people making all of these games.” Even if they’re not necessarily tied in – same characters, same artistic style, even same genre – I think there is something very special about every game in the PixelJunk series that makes it a creative, unique experience, and is just a way to tie everything in so they have a common thread going throughout.

      Success of the franchise

      We have a unique look. You don’t need to be a full AAA title like Killzone 3 or like the latest Halo to have really kick a** graphics. It looks really pretty and I think it pulls you in even though it’s 2D. The artistic style is something. I also do think it’s because it’s easy to pick up and play, and that can pull in gamers that haven’t really played games before. I’m very into the fan community – I do a lot of community management with my job – and I get tons of letters talking about “my entire family loves PixelJunk Monsters or PixelJunk Shooter and they can’t wait for the next game!” It’s so good to hear that from people because maybe you have someone who is introducing their wife to the game, and maybe they’re hardcore, but the wife isn’t, and get drawn into it.

      Fan favorites and the future of PixelJunk

      Our fan favorite is Monsters. I can’t talk about what we have in the future, but it depends on fan response. We also have PixelJunk Lifelike in the works. It’s a music visualizer game and it’s really exciting. Unfortunately we can’t go into details…


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      Update: User-Generated Missions Infiltrate Infamous 2

      Posted on March 04, 2011

      Taking a page from its PlayStation 3 brethren LittleBigPlanet, Sucker Punch announced today that Infamous 2 will feature user-generated missions.

      The surprising new feature will allow users to create missions for Infamous 2, drawing from a broad range of genres – defense, escort, search and destroy, survival, shooting gallery, platforming, obstacle courses, puzzles, and more.

      The city of New Marais will be seamlessly populated with both officially developed missions and user-created missions, allowing you to continue experiencing fresh content even after you’ve completed the primary campaign. Unique colors will differentiate official and unofficial content, and filters will let you choose the type of games you want to play by genre, ranking, and so on.

      Those interested in developing their own missions will have the ability to draw from the same pool of assets and behaviors used by Sucker Punch. Aspiring designers have the option of creating a missions from scratch or remixing an existing level by dragging and dropping items and determining the behaviors of NPCs.

      Creating missions in Infamous 2 provides players a chance to become famous themselves. The higher quality the mission the better chance it will be showcased through a system of user rankings. The “Famous” tier is where most successful mission designers will land, with the elite being selected for the highest tier – Sucker Punch Featured Content. These are the missions that will default to everyone’s world by default.

      In order to ensure a smooth release, a public beta is slated for early April. Details on how to participate will be provided March 14. The best missions from this beta will be chosen as Sucker Punch Featured Content and populate to the world when the game ships.

      We’re about to get our hands on four missions designed to showcase the newly unveiled user-generated content, and will update accordingly with impressions.

      Update: We’ve put four short missions through their paces to see what Infamous 2’s user-generated content has to offer. The first mission – Save The Cathedral – tasked Cole with escorting a group of allies through a slew of hostiles in order to disarm a bomb. The second mission felt similar to a tower defense game, with Cole perched on a bridge attempting to halt waves of enemies before they could break through defenses below.

      The third mission harkened to a shooting gallery, with Cole picking up explosive barrels and tossing them at foes positioned throughout the environment. The last of the missions featured a race against time through a series of rings.

      All of the missions were designed to showcase the newly announced feature in a short span of time, so none of them clocked in at more than two minutes. That being said, Sucker Punch representatives made clear that missions can be as long or as short as the designer desires, the only real consideration being to ensure the attention of the player is maintained in order to nab a high ranking.

      There also appears to be some sort of XP system that stems from playing user-generated missions, but Sony wasn’t able to comment on specifics or how it would feed back into the core game.

       


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      Reiner And Phil Play De Blob 2

      Posted on March 04, 2011

      De Blob 2 is a colorful platforming adventure from THQ that has players take on the role of a cute blob who has to bring color to the desaturated world around him. Never heard of it? Want more details? Reiner and I recorded a 20-minute video showing off the various collectibles you’ll be hunting down, how the game switches from 3D to 2D, and more.

      (Please visit the site to view this media)


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      The Good, The Bad, & The Gunstringer Trailer

      Posted on March 03, 2011

      Are you looking forward to checking out Twisted Pixel’s Kinect-enabled shooter, The Gunstringer? You’re in luck, because we’ve got a batch of screenshots and a zany new trailer for the downloadable XBLA title.

      What’s not to love about a game that combines two of everyone’s favorite things – marionettes and gunplay?

      In case you missed our preview of the sharp-shootin’ new game, because to give it a read. But before that, cast your eyes upon the shiny new video below, partner.

      (Please visit the site to view this media)


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