Gaming Steve

PC Archives - Page 1

June 24, 2008

Diablo III to be Announced This Week

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If you visit the Blizzard website right now you'll get a strange splash page depicting ice with some runes. People throughout the Internet are speculating what this could mean ... perhaps Blizzard will be announcing a new game? Perhaps the long awaited Lost Vikings sequel will be announced this week at the Worldwide Invitational in Paris?

Well it's quite simple, it's exactly what everyone is hoping/think it's going to be.

Blizzard is going to formally announce they are developing Diablo III this week at the Worldwide Invitational in Paris (or D3 they like to call it).

In fact, much like Starcraft II , Blizzard has been hard at work on D3 for several years and people will quite surprised at just how far along they are with the development of D3. Again, like Starcraft II, D3 will have greatly enhanced graphics, updated gameplay, new classes, and will continue to tell the story of the struggle between the agents of Heaven and Hell (sure that's pretty vague, but it's D3 is D2 with enhanced graphics and updated gameplay, what more do you need to know?).

But when will it come out? Right now from what I understand the loose release schedule is as follows. World of Warcraft Wrath of the Lich King is to be released by the end of 2008. StarCraft II will be released towards the end of 2009. And Diablo III is aiming to be released by the end of 2010, but I would expect D3 to be delayed until at least 2011.

So all of those who have been patiently waiting for a sequel to Diablo will finally have their prayers answered this week ... and then will have to wait several more years. Well at least Starcraft II should be out to hold those starved D3 fans over.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 8:30 AM | Comments (72) | Posted to PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

May 9, 2008

Maxis Responds to the Spore DRM Controversy

Spore

There has been a small firestorm concerning the Spore Digital Rights Management system. Well Maxis has been listening and Caryl Shaw, Online Producer for Spore, sent me a note about these concerns:

Hey Spore Fans -

We wanted to let you know that we've been hearing your concerns about the online authentication mentioned earlier this week. I didn't want to head into the weekend without getting back to you with some information about how Spore is planning on using this new system.

A few things we wanted you to know:

  • We authenticate your game online when you install and launch it the first time.
  • We'll re-authenticate when a player uses online features, downloads new content or a patch for their game.
  • The new system means you don't have to play with the disc in your computer. And if you are like me, always losing discs, this will be a huge benefit.
  • You'll still be able to install and play on multiple computers.
  • You can play offline.

We do hope that players will play online - sharing creatures, buildings and vehicles with other players is something that is unique to Spore and one of the coolest features of the game. Every day, when I play the Creature Stage, I get to see wacky and awesome new creatures from my Buddies on the team coming over the hill at me and I can't wait to see what happens when our creative, passionate community starts sharing their creations.

I'd love to write more - but I need to get back to work. We've got a game to finish. :-)

-caryl

Personally I don't see the big deal about the online DRM, especially for a game such as Spore which all but requires you to play online and communicate regularly with EA's servers. Heck, Spore is almost an MMORPG in considering all the online content that will be available for the game once it's released.

Oh yes, and if you think EA's DRM is harsh wait until you see the new DRM that Blizzard is working on for S2 and D3....

Posted by Gaming Steve at 3:00 PM | Comments (67) | Posted to PC | Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

April 28, 2008

Ubisoft Announces a New Prince of Persia Game

surprise

In an unprecedented move, Ubisoft has announced another sequel in the Prince of Persia series, currently titled ... Prince of Persia. The rebellious move is expected to net Ubisoft lots of money and huge profits.

In another move by maverick Ubisoft, the game will be launch for not one, not two, but four platforms: the Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and DS. Ubisoft believes the game will do what no game has done before and "rejuvenate the action-adventure genre." In perhaps their most unexpected move, the game will be on sale during the Holidays of 2008.

In all seriousness, a new Prince of Persia game isn't a bad thing. All three in the recent trilogy were fantastic games, despite some missteps in character and attitude. Ubisoft also announced that the game will have an "illustrative art style" that intrigues me. The upcoming movie also piques my interest: Bruckheimer may not be an artistic savant, be he made a theme park ride into a competent, enjoyable movie series, so Prince of Persia shouldn't be much trouble.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 11:45 PM | Comments (4) | Posted to DS | PC | PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

April 24, 2008

U.S. Government Using Games to Train Spies

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In the increasingly complicated world of International Intelligence, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was looking for a new way to train recruits in the fine art of "critical thinking" three guesses where they decided to turn (and the first two don't count). Yep, the world of video games (of course)!

Three PC games were developed by Visual Purple (a simulation studio) for the DIA with the explicit goal of training young agents to analyze complex issues. "It is clear that our new workforce is very comfortable with this approach," says Bruce Bennett, chief of the analysis-training branch at the DIA's Joint Military Intelligence Training Center.

Wired got the chance to play these three games, all of which sound very interesting. The games are a "surprisingly clever and occasionally surreal blend of education, humor and intellectual challenge" that range from "Zen Buddhism meets the National Intelligence Estimate" to "a whodunit that begins with scenes of a tanker under attack in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war in 1988". Maybe the government could make up some of the $2.6 million spent on these games by making a consumer copy (I'd sure like to give them a try). And what happens when these games become common in military training? Maybe in the next Call of Duty players will have to train in a video game in order to pass basic training.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 9:00 PM | Comments (4) | Posted to Culture | PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

April 2, 2008

Madden on the PC – RIP (And Why You Should Care)

madden08-RIP

I wish I could say I’m shocked, but I’m not.

Yesterday on his blog, EA’s Peter Moore confirmed that Madden 09 will not be released on the PC, because … well, because making games solely for the console is a more efficient way to back the old Brinks truck up to EA’s corporate headquarters, I guess. Officially, it’s being called “serious business challenges in the sports category”.

On one hand, there’s a certain inevitable logic to the numbers. Sales from the console versions of Madden 08 (NPD, August 07) clocked in around 2 million units, almost 900,000 of that on the 360 alone.

Madden on the PC … well, I couldn’t even find firm figures, but Bioshock was the top-selling PC game at around 77,000, so Madden’s PC sales had to be fewer than that. When you’re talking about a platform that doesn’t break 5% of your sales ... if I’m running a business, I’m probably making that same call.

That said, if you look at the history of the franchise, it’s hard not to feel like EA’s got the blinders on a little, and are missing a bigger problem that could bite them in the ass down the road. The fact is, they’ve been charging full-game prices for expansion-pack content for years now – open a new Madden each year, and you get new rosters, some cosmetic upgrades, and one or two minor gameplay tweaks.

Even as they’re doing that, other aspects of the game remain unfixed, enshrined forever in EA’s Canton of Half-Assed Coding. And buying up the exclusive NFL license and effectively driving competition out of the market hasn’t been the best thing for public relations, even if it was the NFL who approached them.

In the console space, none of this has been a problem … yet … because new hardware has driven software sales as people switched to a new platform, and EA’s been able to shed blame for bugs and incomplete features by blaming it on the challenges of developing for the new hardware. In the PC marketplace, the customers have seen the emperor’s new clothes for a while now – they’ve watched as EA put all the development efforts into next-gen while handing PC gamers the same game as last year with a different splash screen.

And now, figuratively and literally, they’ve taken their ball and gone home. Which may be fine on a balance sheet, but ignores a larger customer satisfaction issue – what’s EA going to do when there isn’t a new console to prop up sales and they have to rely solely on the quality of their product? The PC sales figures aren’t just a blip on the radar, they’re Jacob Marley warning Scrooge that those chains itch something fierce.

OK, so why does any of this matter to you? You guys are mostly here for Spore, and the international readers probably don’t give a damn about American football. Points taken.

But consider the broader implications – Madden is one of the 800-lb gorillas of the gaming scene: it’s consistently one of the biggest releases of the year, it has its own TV show (albeit a really stupid one), it’s a game that’s “safe” for gamers to admit they like, it even mainstreamed the concept of the “Maddenoliday”.

Other game companies will be watching this move, and possibly base their own future decisions on how well this turns out for EA. So even if you don’t care specifically about the hand-wringing across Madden Nation, it should at least give you pause as a disturbing sign of possibilities to come.

Posted by Jay McDonald at 4:30 PM | Comments (10) | Posted to Business | Feature | PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

April 2, 2008

Gaming Steve Review: Rainbow Six Vegas 2

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Rainbow Six Vegas 2
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Price: $59.99
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Category: Third-Person Shooter
Rating: M for Mature
Release Date: March 18 2008 (US), March 20 2008 (Europe); PC Version: April 15, 2008

These days, everyone loves a good tactical shooting, taking down tangos in an overly planned manner. Games in the Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon series' have advanced from being completely hardcore titles to become somewhat more accessible, letting players ease in with slicker controls and cover points, as well as giving them a bit more health and power. The introduction of cinematic cutscenes that take full advantage of the new generation of hardware has also helped the helped the genre, as well as the fact that the Tom Clancy brand has been thrusted upon gamers everywhere.

If you haven't played a recent Rainbow Six game, they are basically tactical FPS with a story. Rainbow Six "mixes it up" by giving you indirect control of two equally skilled NPCs fighting at your side. You can order them to move to a certain position, blow up doors and clear rooms, as well as making them cover you when you're trying a particular maneuver and they do their jobs pretty darn well.

Overall it's a nice change to command a small squad rather playing yet another "uber killing machine". However, unlike your standard FPS your character is quite vulnerable – even a few shots are more than enough to take you out – so you have to play carefully and artistically. Vegas 2 follows this same basic pattern, with a story that involves Las Vegas, funnily enough...

82166-rainbowscreenfull10.jpgThe single player game as a whole is fairly short, but it is a solid and enjoyable experience, and given the XP system (more on that later), it's quite replayable. The AI offers a decent challenge, and you always have to be aware of their positions, plotting a set course through a particular level to dispatch of the terrorists quickly and efficiently. The game is very satisfying if you digest it all at once, like a movie, as you race through the levels for no particular reason apart from testing your skills as a trained operative and master tactician.

The original Rainbow Six Vegas was good; it brought the age-old tactical shooter to a new generation, showing people the power of their new hardware, and became an Xbox Live favorite. It was fun, had a large story mode, and also featured some nice set-pieces. However, it was flawed by the randomly spawning AI, the lack of a coherent friend invite system in the online multiplayer, spotty team and enemy AI, and some rough graphical finishes. Well, I'm not happy to report that its sequel doesn't improve on much of these at all, and instead chooses to add different things.

Yes, the rough graphics are back, as is the invisible tripwire spawning AI, and the team and enemy NPCs are still fascinatingly glitchy. The ranked multiplayer now has friend slots, but after a game you are not returned to the lobby with all of your friends, but are literally thrown back to the main menu. Why Ubisoft Montreal can't get it right is beyond me, but perhaps looking at the release date can give us a clue. This game has arrived approximately 1 year and 4 months after the original appeared on the 360. Therefore, it's fair to say that Vegas 2 had a rushed development, with the developers just delivering the smallest amount they could get away with to make a quick profit, somewhat akin to GRAW2's rapid arrival last year.

82177-rainbowscreenfull7.jpgHowever, this is Rainbow Six we are talking about, which revels in its punishing gameplay, multiplayer modes, and a maddeningly large collection of guns. Vegas 2 continues in the same stead as the other titles in the series and delivers a very solid experience despite its inability to evolve into something better. The novelty of ordering your team to different objectives and making them do all the hard work for you still hasn't worn off after all this time, and darting through levels, using fast ropes and rappel points still works delightfully well too.

The multiplayer side of the game has seen little change from the original Vegas, but there are one or two new modes and a few new maps which are pretty much copied from the single player mode. The game will keep you hooked just like its predecessor though, because the gameplay is fast, frantic, and tense, and winding up your friends with mad camo combos and customized characters is still fun. Terrorist Hunt still rules the roost though, which now can be played on your own with your own squad, and the online component finally has options such as respawning for weaker players.

Moving on to one of the better additions to the franchise, the character creation aspect has certainly changed. You can now carry a persistent character across all of the game modes and you can earn experience points for just about ... well anything really. You can earn XP from kills, when your team-mates kill someone, killing someone up close, through think cover, with an explosion, with harsh language... I'm actually surprised they didn't award XP for starting the game there are so many different ways to earn XP.

82135-pecfull1.jpgBut the developers use good use of this system as you can use your XP in many ways. You can level up a few sub-classes (marksman, close quarters and assault skills) plus you can use XP to improve your character and unlock new items. The XP bar is always a part of the HUD, taking a prominent area at the bottom of the screen, and genuinely makes you think differently to how you interact with the game, forcing you to make more kills yourself if you want to level up and obtain new weapons and items. Plus it adds replay value (sort of).

In conclusion then, Vegas 2 is a very mixed bag. It is hard to review as a standalone release as in essence Vegas 2 is an expansion pack for the original game. It adds little from the original title and even takes away some elements. Most notably the story mode being smaller in general and co-op mode reduced to 2 players. But the few new features are excellent and suit the franchise amicably – even though Ubisoft Montreal should've hammered out some of the bugs in the code they (metaphorically) simply copied and pasted from the last game.

The end result is very conservative effort, feeding the fanbase of the past game and trying to appeal to many people at once. It does certainly improve on the predecessor and makes small shuffling steps in the right direction for the series as a whole, and it will definitely be a highly played title for a considerably long while.

82180-rainbowscreenfull6.jpgThis just doesn't look and feel like how a sequel should be, and if this trend continues with Ubisoft's Tom Clancy branded titles (and all signs say it will – GRAW2 being one of them), then we are in for an extremely boring and monotonous future, where mediocrity dominates.

PLUSES: Same old lovely Rainbow Six gameplay, the controls are refined further still, and the running addition is useful. Also, the increased importance of the XP system is refreshing, offering real player progression.

MINUSES: This is basically an expansion pack to the original game, and doesn't offer that many new useful additions. Furthermore, all of the old bugs and nuances from the last game are all still present and unfixed here.

FINAL VERDICT: 7.0 TRY IT!

Posted by Chris Holmes at 4:00 PM | Comments (2) | Posted to PC | PlayStation 3 | Review | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 18, 2008

Gaming Steve Review: Lost: Via Domus

Lost

Lost: Via Domus
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft Montreal
Price: $29.99
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Category: Adventure
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Release Date: February 26, 2008 (US), March 7, 2008 (Europe), February 8, 2008 (Australia)

The highest compliment I can pay Via Domus, is that despite the lack of canonization deemed worthy by the show's creators – meaning none of the game's content should be considered official events that actually take place within the confines of the show – the storyline genuinely feels as if it were concocted by the writers themselves. Playing as one of the un-named 46 survivors of Oceanic flight 815 – complete with his own back-story, secrets and flashback sequences – the pitch alone is positively gripping to the typical LOST nut like myself.

Clearly made by avid watchers of the TV program then, the look, sound and mood is faithfully represented too, through some glorious presentation and superb use of music. Exploring The Hatch for instance – keying in the numbers frantically while that dreaded alarm goes off – provides that irresistibly tense LOST buzz us long-time viewers'll positively mop up.

LostSimilarly, even though its levels are perhaps some of the worst in the game, the look and feel of the terrifying black smoke are suitably scary and incredibly evocative too.

Before all that though, you'll start the game right where the pilot episode does. Ground zero. Exploding engines and screaming passengers abound, our nameless hero has not only the recent crashing on a (not so) deserted island to contend with, but also his newfound amnesia. This setup proves ripe for a fab LOST yarn, with you slowly uncovering bits and pieces of your memory as the story progresses, forever knowing only as much (or as little) as our new found friend does. The plot's kinda great right up 'til the very end in fact, where it promptly turns ludicrous and takes a humongous dose-dive into incomprehensible LOST nonsense-ville. Oh well.

Unfortunately, this segways into my other complaints with the game; pretty much everything else. I'm afraid as an actual gameplay experience, Domus falls drastically short you see. Five seconds within firing her up, and the lack of official endorsement from the show's creators makes complete sense. While it may be kinda fun to watch – and as mentioned, the atmosphere is incredibly potent – it's a stilted, jerky and simply horrible game to actually play.

It tries to fool you into thinking you have a reasonable chunk of freedom at your disposal in the beginning. Exploring the island, conversing with familiar faces from the show and perusing quests as you so wish hints at mild promise. On further examination however, it turns startlingly linear, and you realize you're forever surrounded by cardboard sets and invisible walls.

LostThese hub-style sections aside, it's almost a poor-man's Indigo Prophecy you could say, in that it's broken up into a similar series of small mini-games and self-contained "moments", rather than a full, cohesive game. Each such moment has its own set of rules and controls, and failing to complete said scenes in the specific manner the game wants you to results in a rewinding of time 'til you get it right. Then it's on to the next.

These can range from Pipe Dream-esque puzzles, to labyrinthine mazes, to the odd shoot-out too ... not much else. Other than the admittedly exciting chase sequences, none really impress I'm sad to say, with some proving flat-out excruciating. One can't help but feel like more of an action slant – perhaps mixed with some Tomb Raider or Uncharted style platforming influences – could have turned this far more enjoyable. Alas, t'was not to be I'm afraid. A pity, to be sure.

While no Crysis, it does at least impress graphically. The amazing visuals Ubisoft have become synonymous with shine through as you'd expect, with a similar hazy, desaturated look found in the likes of GRAW and Assassin's Creed. The lighting effects and real-time shadows come across particularly lovely, really selling that desert island vibe at all times. Meanwhile, spooky interiors and recreated sets from the show appear 100% faithful and packed full o' love. Sadly, it lacks the sheer scope of the aforementioned Ubi titles, with distant mountains and gorgeous views merely that. As mentioned, constant barriers keep you forever confined to what is essentially a very tiny corridor game 100% of the time. Yikes.

Pretty much every major character from the show makes an appearance at some point – looking pleasingly similar to their real-life counter-parts at that – yet they're animated truly dreadfully, and are rockin' that "uncanny valley" look in full-force. After bathing in beautiful digital acting in the likes of Heavenly Sword and Mass Effect, LOST's love doll-esque mannequins simply don't convince as a result. If you ever wanted to watch the show reenacted by waxwork dummies, now's your chance.

LostWhile one or two of the actors proper show up to collect voice acting paychecks– Desmond and Ben for example – the majority unsurprisingly don't. The result is a severely mixed bag of good and bad on the dialogue tip, with some – like Locke – doing a reasonable impersonation, and others – like Charlie – making you cry.

Thankfully, you won't be doing a whole lot o' that though, as Domus is over before it's even started. As in, I finished the darn thing in three measly hours. For a full-priced game, that's somewhat reprehensible, and worthy of chopped off hands if you ask me, particularly amidst these here days of cheap downloadable titles and top quality budget-ware. With just a handful of concept art paintings to unlock, there's precious little to call back even the most die-hard LOST fan beyond that initial play-through too.

All in all then? Rubbish.

PLUSES: Lovely visuals and cool presentation brings the LOST universe to life pretty darn well at times. Interesting storyline keeps you wading on through hardships.

MINUSES: General roughness invades every facet of the gameplay. Monotonous fetch quests and repetitive puzzles bore quickly. Hilariously short with zero replayability.

FINAL VERDICT: 4.0 AVOID IT!

Posted by Matt Robinson at 5:00 PM | Comments (4) | Posted to PC | PlayStation 3 | Review | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 10, 2008

Starcraft II's Zerg Reveal Themselves, Then Burrow Underground

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The last race to be detailed in the sequel to Blizzard's competitive sport, the Zerg, have been released upon the world in the form of a shakey-cam video from a presentation in Korea.

As much as I don't trust Blizzard to make a release date, this game looks great, and could actually be in our hands this summer. Depending on whether they get a beta out or not, it looks like endless amounts of balancing are all thats needed.

It would appear that the Zerg have retained their penchant for swarm tactics as well as the use of bio weapons. It would also appear that the Queen of Blades herself, Kerrigan, is still going to be at the head of Zerg. Blizzplanet appears to also have a details on some new Zerg units, like the Overseer, Roach, and Corrupter. Can I get a We are Swarm?

Video of the Zerg after the jump.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 4:15 PM | Comments (3) | Posted to PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 5, 2008

A Sims 3 Teaser Site is Live

sims3

An official EA website has gone live to hype the upcoming, official announcement of what is presumably the next game in the line of the highest selling video game of all time: The Sims 3.

While a sequel to what is arguably EA's biggest cash cow was a no brainier, the fact that its announcement is coming along before the release of Spore is somewhat surprising to me. I expected EA to be trying to make Spore into the next Sims in terms of wide adoption by all manners of gamers, but an announcement like seems a little premature to me.

Either way, I can't wait to see what they have added. I got hooked on the original and the sequel to a lesser extent. I loved building houses (I had dreams of being an architect as a kid, so in a lot of ways it was my dream game), but the addictive, deep, and oddly random gameplay kept me coming back.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 11:30 PM | Comments (13) | Posted to PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 25, 2008

The First Big Gaming Time Sink of 2008: Phun (with Physics!)

phun

If you thought that the Falling Sand Game and Desktop Tower Defense already took up too much of your time, then quick, avert your eyes! The simple, 2D physics simulator, Phun, will suck you in and never let your go!

Phun is a fairly deep, yet easily accessible 2D physics simulator. It's not a "game" in the technical sense, but you can easily spend hours messing with it.

You can create blocks, springs, pistons, liquids, and freehand objects, all of which can have their friction, mass, and "bounciness" changed. Examples of complex motors and machines come with the game, as well as catapults and cars.

The possibilities are almost unlimited: make two battering rams and charge them into each other. Build a tower and play a game of Jenga or just destroy it with a catapult. Change their density, friction, and gravity to create perpetual motion machines or super dense bullets of doom. I'm sorry if you enjoyed your spare time. Really I am.

Video after the jump.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 12:30 AM | Comments (11) | Posted to PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!