PC Archives - Page 2
February 24, 2008
The sequel to last years surprise hit "puzzle RPG hardcore casual game", Puzzle Quest, was revealed last week as the Sci-Fi themed hexagonal puzzle RPG, Puzzle Quest: Galactrix.
The game was actually announced last year in April, but was today re-branded as part of the Puzzle Quest series. The game's basic puzzle combat has been tweaked beyond the implementation of the hexagonal shapes. Gravity will now play a part, meaning when orbit around a planet pieces will fall down, but in empty space pieces follow their momentum and will move wherever you send them.
Players can also look forward to building space ships and traversing solar systems (and perhaps entire galaxies) as well as another ... deeply involving plot. The game will be released later this year for Xbox 360, PC, and DS, but strangely has not confirmed for the PSP.
February 19, 2008
Without the need of those goofy mo-cap ping pong balls, motion capture company Mova is bringing near photo realistic quality motion capture to the most popular current generation graphics engine. Using an array of cameras, powerful software maps 100,000 polygons in real time to create highly life like facial expressions. Mova founder Steve Perlman had this to say in Joystiq's scoop:
"This pushes Unreal Engine 3 to its very limit ... it's about as photo-real as you can get in real time. People have never had this kind of data available before in a game context ... their heads are spinning. What you're seeing right there is the result of, having time to wrap our heads around this thing and see how we're going to use it, and yes, we can in fact get a face that looks almost photo-real – you know, not quite, but almost photo-real – running in a game engine today."
This technology could save thousands of dollars and time. With the traditional mo-cap of the day, game makers get blocky, skeletal motion that they then have to turn into a convincing character. Mova's technology makes a near perfect face almost immediately after a shoot and seems to actually avoid the uncanny valley. Combining this with the extensive technologies already found in the Unreal Engine III, we games can hope for developers to spend more time on gameplay and story, and less time trying to get the tech right.
February 19, 2008
Devil May Cry 4
DMC ain't normally my thing to be honest. While dabbling in past Cry titles for example, I've typically given up within the first hour or two, convinced that Team Ninja has little to worry about, and content in the fact that Ryu could throttle lady-boy Dante any day of the week. Needless to say, I'm more of a Ninja Gaiden guy.
At least, I was until 4 arrived. Quite simply, it won me over. It may be the fact that DMC3's insane difficulty has been replaced with a far more gradual and finely tuned learning curve (hypocritical, coming from a Gaiden fan I guess). Perhaps it's the inventive new combat system that the awe-inspiring addition known as the "Devil Bringer" affords. Or maybe it's just the swishy new next-gen visuals re-awakening the graphical harlot within me. Who knows? All I can say, is that numero quatro here has been devouring every spare hour of my life this past week. Sorry it took so long, sons of Sparda.
I therefore approach this game from far more of the perspective of the newcomer, as opposed to the devoted die-hard. Make of that what you will....
As luck would have it, DMC4 introduces a playable newbie of its own to the series; emo bad ass Nero, thus providing quite the convenient in-road for those in my shoes. Gorgeous early cut-scenes – all rendered real-time, as panning around with the right analogue stick soon proves – show Nero late for a ceremony at the local Opera House, in which his special lady friend is performing on stage for the Order of the Sword. Whoever they might be. In a minor hurry, Nero dispatches demons in the typically ludicrous DMC fashion amidst his brisk wall-run there, but you'd be forgiven for thinking you were actually watching good old Dante on first glance; bizarrely similar artistic design decisions ahoy.
No sooner has he shown up, when a mysterious (and rope-less) abseiler – who just so happens to be Dante himself – crashes the party from above and starts with the unprovoked assassinating. Nero promptly jumps into action and fends him off, and thus our game begins ... though you might be hard pressed to figure out just who you're actually controlling at first. Where the plot heads from here, I'll let you find out for yourself, but it's surprisingly riveting stuff that kinda caught me off guard actually. Epic cheddar-tinged brilliance awaits, I assure you.
As a character, Nero's fab in particular. While imbued with the trademark sword 'n' gun combo the series is known for, he's also host to a crazy blue demon arm; the previously touched upon Devil Bringer. Seemingly invincible – regularly punching its way through solid concrete and stopping razor sharp swords dead in their tracks – the arm works its way seamlessly into his arsenal to much bone-snapping amusement. You can ram enemies into the floor with shocking power, as well as fling the suckers around as if made from cotton wool, and it's spectacular looking stuff I must say. Meandering such tomfoolery into your turbo-charged melee combos becomes quite the sight in particular, with Nero – for example – able to slice and dice enemies all over the screen, grab 'em before they fall down dead, drag 'em back kicking 'n' screaming, then continue the pummeling with nary an interruption. You will smile.
The beauty of DMC4's fighting system is how many similarly great little nuggets of brilliance there are tucked away to discover should you so wish to though. Insane amounts of combos to learn, tons of weapons to unlock, and crazy magical powers are all a given, but there's also a great little charge-up mini-game to contend with too for instance, one barely touched upon in the tutorial. Coming across like a beat 'em up twist on Gears of War's much loved "active reload" feature, "instant revving" your sword up in this manner enables it to not only fire off even more unlockable specials, but also ups your damage quota in the process, and is yet another means of sprucing up your kills and raking in the style points. Yet I doubt many even know it's there.
Unlike Ninja Gaiden, you can randomly button bash your way through Nero's various abilities to quite some success you see, pulling off some pretty damn impressive stuff, lack of dexterity be damned. Mastering them all to perfection will of course take far more perseverance though, affording Cry with however much depth you so desire. Lovely.
Yet there's more. Halfway through the game, Dante himself turns playable, giving you a whole other character to factor in on top. From what I understand, little has changed from controlling ol' white pubes since his previous outing – other than a newfangled real-time style change ability – but hey, it's still one hell of a pleasing addition that adds a ton more depth to an already insanely robust fighting system. One could never claim this game lacks stuff to do betwixt the hack 'n' slashing.
You could say DMC4's combat is what stood out to me above all else then. There are simply so many different combinations, weapons and techniques at your disposal, that each and every player essentially gets to craft their own distinct fighting style out of it. I love that. You just know a game's on to something special when every single time a wall is sealed and you're forced to bash your way through further hordes of respawning enemies in order to proceed, you get a brief surge of adrenaline and a smile creeps across your face. 4's battles just never grow old, it seems.
Of course, I have to mention how stunning the game looks too. From Lost Planet, to Dead Rising, to DMC and (one hopes) Resi 5, Capcom's ever impressive next-gen engine continues to drop jaws the more we see of it. The moody art design, Ico-esque vistas and effortlessly rich detail impress all the more when blazing along at a gloriously flawless 60 FPS, while character models and their subsequent animations are more than up to the task too. With some of the most spectacular looking bosses seen this side of God of War – many 30 times Nero's size at that – our boy's ability to then hurl such colossi around like a sack of soon-to-be-drowned kittens is the kinda giddy-infused video game experience that leaves you ready to give up on life and retire to your death bed. Resigned to the fact, that few experiences in the boring old real world will ever match up.
Gushing aside, I do have some niggles, that said. As spectacular as those boss battles are – and believe me, they really bleedin' are – the game seemingly runs out of ideas in its latter half, repeating 'em on a loop. In fact, the entire second half of the game is essentially a repeat of the first, played in reverse. This is a minor let-down in and of itself, yet making it considerably worse is the introduction of a pair of god-awful new grunts around this point who will burrow away at your very soul with their sheer and utter lame-ness. I refuse to call them by their official monikers, as to me they will always be the "Flying Blue Boob" and the "Electrically Charged Spazzer". And you've never experienced frustration until you've been introduced.
A lot of the goodwill the game sets up early on goes straight outta the window as a result, knocking DMC down a peg or two from where I'd initially placed it I'm sad to say. Don't even get me started on the penultimate "dice" level.
The trademark ear-bleeding fighting music that's plagued previous DMC games returns too, although at least that's nothing a little custom soundtrack twiddling won't fix if 360-endowed. More aggravating are some middling – to downright ginormous – camera issues, whose presence in this day and age is ... somewhat perplexing, really.
Disappointments an' all though, DMC4 is quite the achievement never the less. I think it speaks volumes that despite how far the game seemingly goes out of its way to shoot itself in the foot in its latter levels, I still returned day in, day out, ready to smother it with love and huge chunks of my time.
In fact, between the depth of the combat system, the insane technical accomplishments, and just that final unlockable gun alone (details of which, I'll resist spoilerating for now), I'd even go so far as to call it the first truly great game of 2008.
The question is, can Team Ninja now recapture the throne?
PLUSES: Fantastically balanced fighting action with scale-able depth and difficulty for all types of player. Hundreds of moves to see and learn, and at 15 to 20 hours long, plenty of game to use 'em in too. Graphics impress like nothing else.
MINUSES: Second half loses some of the early magic. Combat music blows, giving PS3ers major mp3 envy. Devil vets may feel déjà vu, given Dante's lack of upgrades (no skin off my back though!)
FINAL VERDICT: 8.0 BUY IT!
February 18, 2008
Today Wizards of the Coast announced that they have begun developing games for the Xbox Live Arcade and PC based on their Magic: The Gathering franchise. With their partnerships with Stainless Games and Mind Control Software, Wizards of the Coast have begun work on two games: one for the XBLA and PC, and another for PC and Mac.
"We’re excited to bring the Magic brand to new platforms and give our fans new ways to experience this great property,” said Jared Gustafson, Brand Director for Magic: The Gathering at Wizards of the Coast. “It’s partnerships like these that will advance the strategy games category and transform it to meet the needs and desires of today’s digital gamers."
On would think that they were created an online version of Magic: The Gathering for XBLA, but earlier today I was standing right next to Ilja Rotelli, the Director of Online Media for Wizards of the Coast, as this announcement was made and he personally informed me that these games were not an online version of Magic: The Gathering.
He explained to be that if you wanted to play Magic they already have the brand new Magic Online III coming out later this year. That is their online version of Magic and it's nearly complete.
Instead they are brining "the Magic: The Gathering brand to multiple platforms." Exactly what this means Ilja wouldn't tell me. But he said to expect to hear a lot more on Wednesday at GDC.
After all, Wizards is the Platinum Sponsor for this year's Independent Games Festival, you don't throw around that sort of cash unless you got something big to announce...
February 15, 2008
Recently it was revealed that the Marvel MMO canceled and that Cryptic Studios was instead working on a Champions MMO named Champions Online. Champions is one of the longest-running and best superhero RPGs and as the resident RPG guru, Steve asked me to take a minute and explain to folks why this is an awesome move.
First, I don’t really have any specifics about the upcoming MMO, so a lot of my feelings will change depending on whether the new game simply uses Champions characters and settings, or whether it uses the actual Champions game mechanics in any form.
I’m hoping it’s the latter myself.
One of the greatest things about Champions was the ability of the game system to model any superhero you wanted to create. It’s a point-based effects system, which means the game describes how it works, and you describe how it looks.
This gives you more variability and a greater ability to model characters. Here’s an example of what I mean. In Champions, the Flight power determines how fast you can fly, based on how many points you spend on it. Whether that Flight is you being carried along by a gust of wind (like Storm) or generating a jet of fire (like the Human Torch) is meaningless.
With a huge amount of effects to choose from, this allows Champions to model characters that are very difficult to model under any other supers system. This would be a great system for a MMO, since you’d almost never see characters that were similar.
Of course, Champions has some great IP as well, some excellent villain teams and some great super-agencies such as U.N.T.I.L. and their villainous counterpart Viper.
But it was always the game mechanics of the Champions system that drove me, and countless other players wild, so here’s hoping this game uses a system derived from Champions and not just the City of Heroes rules with a coat of Champions paint on it.
February 13, 2008
Sam & Max Episode 203: Night of the Raving Dead
With minimal spoilers, Sam & Max Episode 203: Night of the Raving Dead, Sam and Max have to stop a flood of zombies who are invading from the “zombie factory”, try and help Sybil get her groove on and sell their soul to mass market a new online service. In short, it’s a nice satire of various horror genres, especially the ISP-marketing-horror genre, one I certainly miss from the days when I was drowning in discs arriving in the mail.
I’ll start right off and say that I was really looking forward to reviewing this game. I had heard nothing but good things about the Sam & Max series, to the point that I’d categorize it as a “critic’s darling” for whatever that’s worth.
I realize the point of this review is what I thought of the game but I wanted to establish my mood going in which was terribly positive.
Since life is too short for negativity, I’ll start with the positives for this game and there are a lot of them.
The game looks beautiful. It’s not photorealistic beautiful, more cartoon beautiful but beautiful nonetheless. The main characters are well designed and everything has a richness that just makes the game nice to look at.
In addition to being nice to look at, the characters are all well voiced, especially the main characters and those I’d guess are recurring, this being an episodic game and all. I especially like Sybil and found her story, her light-hearted search for love the most interesting storyline in the game.
Which brings me to another positive about the game: silly as it was (and again – it’s a cartoon so silly is a plus not a minus) I really wanted to see how the story ended. That’s a very nice trick for any game to pull off, since I often want less talk and more gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, this seems like a nice place to segue into the part of the game that I did not care for. One reason I perhaps failed to resent the dialogue for getting in the way of the gameplay in Sam & Max is that I found said gameplay to be an exercise in tedium.
If your idea of a good time is mousing over every square inch of a room looking for that one item you missed, then this will be gaming nirvana for you. If your idea of the perfect evening is a glass of warm milk and a 200,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, then this will be the best game ever made.
And so my review really comes down to one of personal tastes. If you like hunting for clues and piecing puzzles together, then I can’t recommend this game highly enough. It has great production values, is very well put together and has an engaging story.
On the other hand, if you’d like something in a game, even a single time, to be solved simply, by say, taking out your big gun and putting holes in dudes, then this is probably not the game for you.
PLUSES: Fantastic art direction, story and dialogue. Great voice acting. Genuinely funny.
February 12, 2008
A leaked cover from PC Guru and the newly revealed PC Gamer confirmed the development of the next game in the Command & Conquer: Red Alert series. Rumors have formed around this game before, but this seems to be just short of an official announcement from EA.
Presumably, this game will be released on PCs, though considering the recent fad, perhaps also on Xbox 360. Their really aren't any other facts on the game currently.
I've been looking forward to this game for a while now. In a choice between Starcraft and Red Alert 2 (being that I played them both at the same time), I'd almost have to say I favored the latter. Something about the alternate time line, campy storyline, and creative units really drew me. Speaking of the alternate time line, I'd be really interested to see which side they'll use as the "winner" from Red Alert 2 and whether the telepathic Yuri will be making an appearance.
February 12, 2008
Wow. After months/years with little to no information on Will Wright's Spore we were treated to an explosion of new information in a matter of hours. With so much concrete information released it almost makes you believe something crazy ... like, you know, they might actually release the game in the near future!
For those who might have missed some of the Spore-related articles that suddenly appeared in the last 12 hours here's a quick recap:
February 12, 2008
With no warning and little fanfare the release date for Spore has finally been announced – September 7, 2008 Spore will be released for PC, Mac, DS, and mobile phones.
February 12, 2008
Sins of a Solar Empire
A really simple, two-word summary of Sins of a Solar Empire would be "ridiculously epic". If you think spending 2 hours playing a single RTS game is long, then I'll tell you right now, this is not your game. My shortest game on the smallest map with one enemy clocked in at over 3 hours. But for those who love their gigantic games of galactic conquest to span multiple solar systems and hours, then this truly is a gift from the strategy-game gods.
Sins of a Solar Empire is in the simplest description an RTS set in space. You build space stations, take over planets, and command massive fleets of frigates and cruisers. But where this game differentiates itself from other space strategy games, like say Homeworld 2 , is the addition of 4X turn based strategy mainstays, like culture, trade, and long term tactics.
You begin a game of Sins of a Solar Empire with a single planet and a couple of construction ships. This planet (and all other planets, stars, large asteroids, and various other space oddities) is surrounded by a "gravity well" where your buildings, spaceships, and resources (crystal and metal asteroids) are located. Your spaceships travel through warp lanes that connect these gravity wells, which makes the maps focused and strategic. By making a majority of the map that would ordinarily be empty space actually empty space the maps end up very concise and goal oriented. Claiming a resource rich planet or the only route into another solar system creates true tactical points worth fighting over. Resources are harvested in much the same way as Company of Heroes or Dawn of War – once you have built your harvesting buildings resources will automatically be gathered. The last resource, money, is gathered through taxes collected on your planets or trade routes you can set up between your colonies.
Like most RTS games a detailed research tree is included, though here it's split into two distinct trees: the resource, culture, and building upgrade-oriented "civic tree" and the spaceship upgrade-oriented "military tree". Diplomacy is also included, though with a few interesting additions: bounty missions and tribute are demanded by your opponents which gives you the chance to build up allies and resources. Another interesting addition is pirate bounties: through an auction-like bidding menu, civilizations can place a bounty on enemies (or allies!) to encourage a pirate raid. This interesting wrinkle in strategy allows an economically oriented player to keep their enemies at bay while they build up their economy.
The game includes 3 different civilizations: the Vasari (the aliens), and the TEC (the humans), and the Advent (the freaky humans). There's some fairly generic science fiction lore behind them, but without an actual story driven campaign, it's not that important. All that I've described so far is effectively universal to each race as their largest differences is in their combat abilities. As far as I can tell after playing each is that the TEC appear to have brute force on their side, utilizing powerful planet destroying bombs, armored capital ships, and nuclear missiles. The Advent focus more on lasers and shields, along with their telepathic special powers to turn battles in their favor. Finally, the Vasari are perhaps the least focused on direct combat, opting to use nanotechnologies to "poison" enemies and repair their own vessels, and using their advanced manipulation of "phase-space" to zip around the map. Each civilization is distinct enough to make for varied strategies, but don't expect Starcraft levels of variety.
Sins of a Solar Empire's combat effectively takes place on a 2D plane with 3D space, though ships can pile over each other automatically. The games combat relies on the classic "rock-paper-scissors" style countering with frigates, cruisers, and support ships all taking part in the epic battles. The more interesting feature in the combat is how the game handles capital ships. Each capitol ship has various power-ups and fight/bomber fleets that are upgraded through experience in battle, much like heroes in Warcraft III. These powers range from super powerful planet bombs to powerful reflective shields.
Together, all these things wrap together to make Sins of a Solar Empire a refreshing, deep, and above all fun tactical experience. What I found really amazing is how well the developers integrated 4X turn-based strategy into an RTS experience. The games pacing gives you free range to actually create tactics and analyze the situation, something most "rush" oriented RTS simply don't allow. If you love turn based games, but find most RTSs to be to twitchy, I highly recommend this as a first step into the genre, and vice versa. If you find the game to be too slow, you can increase the games speed as well as resource gathering and researching.
Despite the very intricate nature of the game, the interface is surprisingly elegant and user friendly. A search option allows you to quickly find that rouge colony ship of yours or figure out just where your scouts are exploring. A useful "Empire Tree" sits on the left side of the screen, giving instant access to all your ships and buildings. The game also has a Supreme Commander like mega-zoom feature where you can zoom right up to an individual fighter all the way out to an icon represented view of you multi-solar-system galaxy. With all these incredibly useful interface innovations, I do find it odd that simple double clicking isn't in the game. This is partly remedied by the fact that you are more "fleet" oriented with your ships and assign fleets to all ten of your numerical keys with a quick Ctrl-Number, but when was the last game you played that didn't have double clicking?
Not only does the interface look great, but the game as a whole is beautiful. I'm running the game on a 2.2 Ghz Core2Duo, with 2 gigs of ram and 128 MB of video ram to fantastic effect. I only have the settings on high, but the glowing stars, the pulsing quasars, and the intense hundred plus ship battles all look fantastic and almost never stutter. The game is also purported to sun fine and even look fairly acceptable on older machines. The game is purported to run on four to five year old machines, and even some laptops.
Lovers of deep strategy games should definitely consider this game, especially if they're fans of Galactic Civilizations as the game seems highly influenced by it. The game doesn't include a campaign mode, so if you enjoy this aspect of strategy games it could be a minus for you. Right now I'll say this is easily recommendable to hardcore strategy fans, and a great gateway for turn-based strategy fans to try out an RTS.
PLUSES: Incredibly deep and strategic. Deftly combines RTS and 4X Turn-based elements. Beautiful graphics, art direction, and user interface. Some unique tactical elements (pirate bidding, intricate warp lanes). Suprisingly easy to grasp, considering how complex the game is. A passionate developer that promises and delivers extra content (and no need to have the DVD in order to play). Well thought out multiplayer. The Novalith Cannon!
MINUSES: No Story driven campaign (though I know many who never bother with these anyway). The 3 races aren't all that unique, save their art direction. The huge levels also means it takes a long time to cross the map. The combat seems just a little shallow. No double-click?
FINAL VERDICT: 9.0 BUY IT!