Gaming Steve

PlayStation 3 Archives - Page 2

February 21, 2008

GDC08: Sony's PhyreEngine Brings Powerful Development to PS3 ... and Xbox 360?

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Sony touted their free to use cross-platform development engine at GDC, with some interesting details. Perhaps most of note is the fact that this Sony created development engine can be used to make games for the PS3 as well as the PC and Xbox 360.

So far three games have used the engine (flOw, Gripshift, and DiRT), with two of those games being available on the Xbox 360 (the fact that two of them have sTranGe CAPiTALiZATiON is mere coincidence). So why give a powerful "graphics engine", with "full source code and artwork" to developers working on multi-platform titles?

It would seem Sony is looking at the market realistically, and seeing more and more games going multi-platform. With the PhyreEngine, Sony hopes game developers will make games on the PS3 first (like Burnout: Paradise) and then port them over the the Xbox 360. Usually multi-platform games are made the other way around, being that the Xbox 360 is easier to develop on (and slightly less powerful). Sony understands that the console the game is made on first (the Lead Platform), is usually the the console the game ends up running on better. Hopefully we will see the continued success of Sony's new found "logical thinking" strategy.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 5:30 PM | Comments (4) | Posted to PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 19, 2008

GDC08: Ridiculously Good Real Time Motion Capture from Mova for Unreal Engine 3

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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.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 4:00 PM | Comments (6) | Posted to Business | PC | PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 19, 2008

Toshiba Discontinues HD DVD, Blu-ray Wins the Race

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The high-def format race is finally over. Toshiba announced today it will no longer develop, make, or market HD DVD players and recorders.

"We concluded that a swift decision would be best," Toshiba President Atsutoshi Nishida told reporters in Tokyo after making the announcement.

To some this may be a surprise, and to HD DVD owners possibly even a huge letdown, but to others it's simply understandable as to why Toshiba has discontinued the HD DVD player. Blu-ray was winning the format wars and it seemed that Blu-ray finally got to a tipping point where it was inevitable they were going to win in the long run.

Perhaps it was the inclusion within the PlayStation 3, perhaps it was superior format, perhaps it was millions in back-door bribes. Whatever the end reason, Blu-ray has won and HD DVD is now officially dead.

This holiday season Sony's Blu-ray had a much more appealing marketing and management plan, dealing a massive blow to HD DVD's sales and ultimately leading to their demise.

Fortunately for XBox 360 owners the HD DVD is not an allowed format for video games on the console, but anyone who bought the extra accessory to enjoy the high-definition quality DVD's on their system are going to have to consider other outlets. Not to worry though; at CES 2008 Microsoft stated that if the consumers demanded Blu-ray over HD-DVD, they would certainly begin supporting it.

Sorry to see you go HD DVD. You had a nice run.

Posted by Steven Mills at 11:45 AM | Comments (4) | Posted to Business | PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 19, 2008

Gaming Steve Review: Devil May Cry 4

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Devil May Cry 4
Developer: Capcom Production Studio 1
Publisher: Capcom
Price: $59.99
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Category: Action
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Release Date: February 5, 2008 (US), January 31, 2008 (Japan), February 8, 2008 (Europe), February 7, 2008 (Australia)

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.

dmc1.jpgNo 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.

dmc2.jpgUnlike 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.

dmc3.jpgGushing 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.

dmc5.jpgDisappointments 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!

Posted by Matt Robinson at 9:30 AM | Comments (2) | Posted to PC | PlayStation 3 | Review | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 2, 2008

Saw Game Coming to Next Generation Consoles?

Saw

Brash Entertainment revealed at a recent press event that a Saw game is currently in the works and slated for a October 2009 release. The brief presentation showed a grainy trailer featuring the Jigsaw puppet, telling attending journalists that they were wasting their lives playing games and we should check out whoisjigsaw.com instead.

Brash is working closely with the creators of the Saw franchise – Leigh Whannell & James Wan – to bring the Saw experience to gamers. The game will be using Epic's Unreal Engine 3 – hinting most likely to a PS3 and XBox 360 release – and promises lots of blood and gore.

Personally I'm a huge fan of the Saw movies and have seen all four the day they came out, not to mention own them on DVD. While the movies themselves may be a little sick or twisted, they always have a great plot with an ending you don't expect. I think a solid game experience is quite possible although with constant controversy with Manhunt 2 it will be interesting how they will be able to pull off a "horror porn" game in this age of constant media scrutiny.

Oh yes. There will be blood.

Posted by Steven Mills at 2:00 PM | Comments (8) | Posted to PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 29, 2008

Console Friendly CryEngine 2 To Be Running on Xbox 360/PS3 at GDC

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The CryEngine2, known best as the software powering the ridiculously beautiful PC game Crysis, will be shown running on the Xbox 360 and PS3 at this year's Game Developers Conference. Developer Crytek did not confirm whether a tech demo, or specific game would be shown at the show.

Crytek will also be showing the engine running on a budget PC costing only $600 (cheap for a gaming PC) to prove the scalability of their engine. The presentation, name "Crysis in the Making", will also detail the making of both CryEngine2 and Crysis.

This is definitely a good move for Crytek, considering how much Crysis didn't sell last year. Consoles also make more sense for game publishers, seeing how they have a larger "core" audience and less piracy to deal with. I'd really like to play Crysis, and though my MacBook Pro can play some modern games well while in Windows (including Team Fortress 2 and Command and Conquer 3), I have a feeling I'd come no where near the experience the game is meant to have. Hopefully a console version will follow this development cycle.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 10:30 PM | Comments (9) | Posted to PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 28, 2008

Gaming Steve Review: Burnout Paradise

Burnout ParadiseBurnout Paradise
Developer: Criterion Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Price: $59.99
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Category: Racing
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Release Date: January 22, 2008 (US); January 25, 2008 (Europe); February 7, 2008 (Australia)

The latest addition to Criterion's long-running, turbo-charged, truly insane race 'em up series turns the franchise on its head via a surprising new free-roaming slant, with oddly conflicting results to show for it. While Burnout Paradise is often a fantastic, truly original title that supersedes its predecessors right across the board, it just as often proves a frustrating and flawed exercise in missed opportunities and even flat-out monotony. Allow me to explain.

On firing up the game for the first time, you'll find yourself almost instantly set loose upon Paradise City minus any sort of leash. There's all but two minutes of a tutorial to get you up to speed, and scarce little in the way of unlockable content for which to work towards, with Paradise instead throwing an entire god damn world at you in pretty much one go. The idea is, you blaze around this wide-open city, pull off stunts, track down collectibles, and partake in any of its endless list of challenges and events as and when you please. It's all up to you, fella.

This is all fantastic stuff at first too. Beholding the exquisite detail of Paradise City, and the luscious fluidity in which you careen around its plush, sensual innards awards it instant love that's hard to deny. For a while, you feel as if you're witnessing the very future of racing games in fact, not just graphically, but in terms of sheer design. All of the series' landmark traits — the ludicrous speed, the demented pile-ups and the jaw-dropping crashes — come through in-tact, but this time via a seamless, less constrained and undeniably next-gen universe in which to now savor them. Wow.

Burnout ParadiseUnfortunately, the actual content within this world often fails to live up to the premise. Over time, the challenges reveal themselves to be a repetitive, cut-back and under-realized bunch, giving the game a far more hollow feeling than perhaps one would've liked. Criterion boast the presence of a new such challenge at each and every crossroad in the entire game — with you merely holding down the two triggers to enter any at will — but in practice, the majority of its 120 odd events prove a little too similar for comfort.

You've got good old "Road Rage" challenges — the pick of the litter — that see you bashing enemies to death as you navigate the streets at immense speeds. Enjoyable "Stunt Runs", that enforce gravity defying jumps and crazy drifts within a set time limit. And of course the traditional Burnout races that you'd expect, in which you go toe to toe with seven AI combatants in a blitz for the finish line ala previous titles in the series. The difference being, Paradise has much improved new car handling, way better graphics, and some pleasing new depth to its boosting system. And hey, that's great.

What ain't are the actual "tracks". An unfortunate side effect of the free-roaming world in which they're set, sees these city-based routes never feeling setup, nor specifically designed for actual racing. Grid-like streets simply can't match the cornered-off, impeccably designed circuits of similar such driving games, and the added freedom of multiple routes can make such races notoriously confusing too. Given this game's extreme speeds, it's mildly annoying having to continually monitor your mini-map in order to gauge where to turn, with you regularly heading off down the wrong street and spontaneously having to backtrack at a split-second's notice. Expect many a lost race due to this. And grinded down teeth.

With only eight potential finishing lines peppered throughout the entirety of the city, races all end in a worryingly similar fashion too. You'll return to the same roads and same locations so darn often, déjà vu becomes a prominent gameplay feature. A new "Marked Man" twist on these races spruces them up occasionally, in which you'll have to zoom to the finishing line by your lonesome while kamikaze AI drivers ram you off the road to much amusement, but even these grow old in time. A pity.

Burnout ParadiseWhat started out fresh and invigorating then — heralding the pinnacle of its genre — grows slowly stale and bland as you progress. Scrapping the challenges, hitting the streets sandbox-style, and merely seeing what crazy off-road secrets you can uncover becomes a far more gripping way to spend your time as a result, and there's plenty of nooks and crannies tucked away within Paradise City to set your sights on with that in mind. This can't hide the fact that the single player game is a somewhat short-lived affair for the most part though, and five or six hours in, I was just about done with it. Particularly in light of the city's shockingly small size that lets you blitz from literally one side to the other in about 4 minutes flat.

Thankfully, all is not lost. Paradise boasts a superb online mode you see, one that goes a hell of a long way towards filling in the blanks. A mode, oddly enough, that reminds heavily of Crackdown of all things. In the same way that game was always at its best when played online — with you and a buddy merely tearing up the town and causing as much improvised mischief as you could — Burnout is no different. Just er, trapped in a car this time out. Ignoring the plot — or in this case, the races — engaging in your own demented multiplayer stunts is where this game truly shines, only it supports a whopping great 8 players by comparison, and is choc-full of superb mini-games for you to partake in along the way.

Paradise weaves such inventive tomfoolery into the actual game design, you see. One minute it may task your group with pulling off 100 jumps between you in quick succession, the next it may have you pile every single car onto one specific level of a particular building without falling off, and so on. The subsequent calamity and group-based bundles prove endlessly enjoyable and undeniably hysterical, with literally hours dropping off the clock at a time as you work your way through its laundry list of shenanigans. The average newcomer will often be left with a, "Guh? I don't get it" look on their face on first firing it up, and given the co-operative nature of these challenges, it can be annoying when just one of your eight won't play along. Once you get your head around how it all works though, simply fartin' around with your pals starts to make up the very core of Paradise's brilliance, and with a decent host making full use of the challenges, it proves truly amazing stuff. Not to mention utterly unique.

Burnout ParadiseSure, for more traditional online fun, there are more familiar multiplayer races on offer too. You can partake in 4-round mini-leagues should you so wish, at which point the game reverts to more of a Burnout Revenge-style versus game. All the "rivalry" features of its predecessor return thankfully, with new Vision Cam/PlayStation Eye support giving such violence a new — and often mature-rated — twist, and it's pleasant enough fun I'm pleased to say. The finicky niggles and mass confusion of the single player races turn into plus points when played alongside humans, with all players regularly zooming off in the wrong direction to much amusement and giggly group banter. With no one at a distinct disadvantage, races can turn drastically at a moment's notice, right up to the very home straight, making 'em far more enjoyable and exciting than against AI. Combined with the aforementioned co-op mini-games, this multiplayer suite affords the game much needed mileage most noticeably lacking from solo play.

Burnout Paradise is an intriguing experiment all in all then, that at often times works, yet just as often fails. In addition to the plethora of negatives outlined above, a series of smaller annoyances like the lack of an instant "retry" option, the removal of the ever enjoyable "Crash" mode, and the inability to turn off the god-forsaken "takedown" cam continually grate, all culminating in far from the nutso racing classic some might have been expecting. There's no denying though, that in its first few hours alone, it's one hell of a spectacular ride, and with a server full of pals, there's no multiplayer game quite so original...nor so god damn hilarious.

Providing you have friends, I'd say it's worth the pinch.

PLUSES: Traditional Burnout car-bashing antics prove just as fun as you'd hope, while flawless graphics with a seldom-faltering 60 FPS render 'em better than ever before. Amazing multiplayer modes provide plenty of longevity.

MINUSES: Single player challenges lack variety, while the city feels small after just an hour or two of exploring. No instant retry on the events can be frustrating, as can the reliance on a mini-map for one so fast-paced.

FINAL VERDICT: 7.5 BUY IT!

Posted by Matt Robinson at 12:15 AM | Comments (7) | Posted to PlayStation 3 | Review | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 20, 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4 Demo Coming to PSN In February?

Metal Gear Solid 4

Playstation 3 owners looking forward to what is arguably the console's biggest release of this year will be getting a reward for all their patience: a Metal Gear Solid 4 demo in February.

This shocking news is from poster TomEmo12 on the gametrailers.com forums where he posted a picture of the British magazine PSW stating a fairly straightforward remark that a demo will be on the Playstation Network in February.

Details are extremely sparse, and Konami has yet to confirm anything, but it appears to be one single player level from the game. If true, this a complete turn around for Konami, who was quoted at TGS 2007 as having no demo planned. Being that the game has become quite the poster child for the console, it would probably be in both Sony and Konami's best interest to get a demo out as soon as possible.

I personally look forward to playing this game, having really enjoyed Metal Gear Solid 3 (and the tactical card game on the PSP) and as long as it doesn't come out for the Xbox 360, it will probably be one of the games that convinces me to purchase my own PS3. Releasing a demo would also be both great publicity for Sony and, so long as the demo is good, a sales boon for Konami. Apparently, that's something they really need for this title.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 4:00 PM | Comments (7) | Posted to PlayStation 3 | Rumor |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 16, 2008

Clayton's Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of the Next 3 Months

2007 was a fantastic year of gaming, one filled with games I still have yet to play. But 2008 is already looking like a another great year for gaming, one filled with many potential triple-A titles. I was prepared to write up a list of my 10 most anticipated games of the whole year but I quickly found 10 coming out before April that I'm dying to play.

10. Bully: Scholarship Edition (Xbox 360, Wii)
Bully: Scholarship EditionI have always appreciated Rockstar's ability to make interesting characters, witty dialog, and deep stories more than anything else they do. The Grand Theft Auto games always had an entertaining, well written story beneath all the prostitute killing and car jacking, so I'm really looking forward seeing what Rockstar did with Bully.

I missed Bully back on the PS2, so I'm happy for its re-release on the Xbox 360 and Wii, with added content and updated graphics. Mostly known for its media backlash before even being released, the original game focused on tough kid Jimmy Hopkins, who's been sent to Bullsworth Academy after being expelled from seven other schools.

Consisting of the sandbox style gameplay known from the GTA games, Bully takes you through high school culture using a wide variety of gameplay including schoolyard combat, bicycle riding, childhood crushes, and school pranks to name just a few. Jimmy interacts with five groups at the school, ranging from preps to jocks to nerds, while teachers and adults outside the school also give Jimmy missions to complete. While the gameplay looks varied, what I'm really looking forward too is the excellent voice acting, story, and interesting characters, something I wish more developers would spend time on.

Release Date: March 4, 2008

9. Devil May Cry 4 (PS3, Xbox 360)
Devil May Cry 4I'll have to admit right up front: I have yet to play any games in the Devil May Cry series. From what I have seen an heard about Devil May Cry 4, I know it's going to be my first. The game will let player use both the series star demon slayer Dante and new comer Nero, whom players will use for the majority of the game. Using his “demonically enhanced” right arm, Nero will be able use enemies as shields, tear them in half, or use it as a grappling hook in between combat.

Devil May Cry 4 promises to continue the story of the series (Devil May Cry 3 was a prequel), and at least on the PS3, the game allow players to watch a summary of the series story so far, while the game installs a cache onto the hard drive to eliminate all loading during game. Perhaps my favorite new feature is the addition of both a more balanced difficulty level and an actual tutorial to teach you the combat. With this and Ninja Gaiden 2, 2008 looks like a good year for action games.

Release Date: February 5, 2008

8. Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath (PC, Xbox 360)
Command & Conquer 3: Kane's WrathAnyone remember the previous Command & Conquer game, Generals? While an interesting diversion for the series, it didn't really find its place until the excellent expansion pack, Zero Hour. By dividing up each faction into three sub-factions led by specific generals with specific concentrations, the game really found its footing. This is what Kane's Wrath intends to do, by dividing up the three factions of Command & Conquer 3 into specialized sub-factions which will have unique special units, upgrades and support powers designed to cater to more distinct styles of play. Find yourself using NODs stealth abilities often? Then maybe you'll enjoy "The Marked of Kane" sub-division. Love GDI's incredible fire power? Then "The Steel Talons" are just for you!

In addition to their new regular units, each side will be getting unique hero-type “Epic Units”. The idea of hulking monstrosities that can single handedly “turn the tide of a battle”, from the Scrin's Eradicator to NOD's Redeemer, just fills me with joy. Of course, it also helps that the original Command & Conquer 3 was a fantastic game in it's own right, but with new units, abilities, and a Risk style “Conquer the World” campaign, where can you go wrong? And don't worry, there will be plenty more of the fantastic cut-scenes featuring Joseph Kucan as NODs messiah, Kane.

Release Date: March 13, 2008

7. Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (DS)
Advance Wars: Days of RuinPerhaps my favorite DS game of all time, Advanced Wars: Dual Strike was a fantastic turn based strategy game with cartoony graphics and larger than life characters. Days of Ruin bucks the previous games style (and the annoying DS naming acronym Nintendo apparently forced on developers for the DS's first couple of years) in favor a darker and more serious tone.

An entire new cast of characters and therefore new CO powers means a fresh new set of strategies to try. CO powers have also been toned down and tag team powers eliminated so that the game can't be won in a single turn, something that greatly annoyed me during Dual Strike's campaign. The units have been rebalanced and some new ones have been added, but the biggest improvement is the Wi-Fi multiplayer. Players will be able to play games over Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection service, complete with voice chat and map sharing. Another added multiplayer feature that is conversely low tech is the ability to simply pass the DS each turn for local multiplayer, something every turn based game on a portable should have.

Release Date: January 21, 2008

6. Rez HD (Xbox 360 Live Arcade)
Rez HDI'll have to admit I never got the chance to play the original Rez, but hearing it on so many peoples top ten games of all time lists, I feel I need to at least give it a try. In the simplest terms, the game is an on rails shooter where your “weaponry” adds to the pulsing soundtrack. The game is said to put you in a trance and even give you a mild sense of synesthesia, meaning you “hear colors” and “see sounds”.

Perhaps I am looking at this game too pretentiously, but since I loved Lumines, a game also created by Rez's creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi, I know that there is some real creative talent behind the game. Whether I like it or not, it's one of those games I feel I need to play for myself. Updated HD graphics and an 800 MS Point (10$) price tag only sweetens the deal. You'll also be able to use your extra Xbox 360 controllers as “Trance Vibrators” to... well... “enhance the experience”.

Release Date: January 2008

5. Burnout: Paradise (Xbox 360, PS3)
Burnout: ParadiseI'm not a big fan of racing games. Any time I play Gran Turismo I just end up turning my car around and trying to run head on into the competition. However, the Burnout series tapped into my inner need to smash cars together, making Burnout 3: Takedown one of my favorite PS2 games of all time. Burnout: Paradise looks to take the frenetic car crashing gameplay the series is known for into the current generation, while adding in an improved free roaming city in the style of Need for Speed: Underground 2.

What do I mean by an improved “free roaming city”? How about absolutely no front end. As in no menu screens or server lobbies to navigate through in order to find races or jump online. Just pull up to any stop light in the game and press accelerate and reverse at the same time to start an event. The game also allows players to join their friends in their own version of Paradise City to crash and compete all without stopping their driving, an impressive technical achievement in its own right. Gorgeous graphics and an extensive collection of super destructible cars will make this the racing game to beat in 2008. A demo is available on both consoles, and I highly recommend playing it online to see what makes that game so great.

Release Date: January 22, 2008

4. Condemned 2: Blood Shot (Xbox 360, PS3)
Condemned 2: Blood ShotThe sequel to the Xbox 360's best launch title, Condemned 2: Blood Shot will probably be the scariest game of the year. The original was a creepy, atmospheric First Person Shooter ... although "First Person Shooter" doesn't fully describe its gameplay. Using melee weapons found in the environment such as wrenches, locker doors, and fire axes, you used timing-based combat to attack and counter enemy attacks. Gunplay was extremely limited as you couldn't reload your guns, so it was literally "fire and forget". The close combat gameplay, limited ammo, and a deviously small flashlight beam combined to created an overwhelmingly tense feeling throughout the entire game – where a crazed hobo or junkie could jump out and attack you at any time.

Bloodshot looks to add to the melee combat with defensive and offensive moves, as well as extensive combo chains. More than 40 brutal finishing moves, and “upgrades” including brass knuckles and steel tipped boots (I can only imagine the carnage those will cause) have also been added. An interesting multiplayer option has also new the the sequel, with a “Hobo Fighting Arena” and traditional Death Match where you unlock more weapons after finding them in the single player game. The game will also continue the story of detective Ethan Thomas, one year after the mysterious events of the first game. Cool forensic investigations and paranormal occurrences from the original created one of the more interesting stories in an FPS in a while, one I look forward to continuing soon.

Release Date: March 11, 2008

3. Culdcept: Saga (Xbox 360)
Culdcept: SagaXbox Live demos are perhaps the best feature the service has to offer besides multiplayer gaming. Without them, I would never have found the inexplicable joy of the Monopoly and Collectible Card Game concoction that is Culdcept: Saga. With dice rolls, property upgrades, magic, and monsters, Culdcept: Saga is definitely not what you expect to be released on the Xbox 360.

Consisting of a game board made up of four distinct elements where you summon monsters to protect you territory, and a deck of magic, monster, and weapon cards you get to build, the gameplay is unlike anything else you might have seen on the console. You win the game by obtaining a set amount of gold, which you have to gain by moving around the board, capturing territory, and forcing your opponents to pay a toll when they land on your territory. However, instead of hotels and motels you collect rent using demons and dragons.

When one player lands on another's territory, battle commences where you use monsters and additional armor, weapon, and magic cards to avoid paying the toll (and steal their territory). With the added randomness of dice rolls, the gameplay takes on a very unique feel, where a game can be completely turned around by a lucky roll. And nothing is more satisfying that having you opponent land on your thrice upgraded territory and beaten down by your ax-wielding minotaur. Always wished you could do that in Monopoly, don't you?

Release Date: February 5, 2008

2. Sins of a Solar Empire (PC)
Sins of a Solar EmpireLove Homeworld 2? Also love Galactic Civilizations 2? Then have I found the dream game for your! Featuring epic real time space battles with extensive 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate) style strategy, this game should be high up on any strategy gamers list. Being published by Stardock, makers of the excellent Galactic Civilizations series (think Sid Meier's Civilization series, only in space), and developed by new studio Ironclad Games, the game aims to let players control massive galactic civilizations spanning multiple planets and controlling numerous spaceship fleets.

With research trees, colony improvements, and diplomacy, everything you expect from turn based strategy games is to be found here, but lets not forget the giant spaceships are so awesome: the epic, cinematic, and explosive battles. Combat takes a page out of Homeworld 2's book and presents some interesting ideas, including Capitol ships that gain experience, battles taking place within the gravity wells of planets, and helpful AI that knows which ship to attack and which it has no chance against. This game has the chance to replace Homeworld 2 on my laptop hard drive.

Release date: February 4, 2008

1. Beyond the Red Line (PC, Mac)
Beyond the Red LineBeing the huge Battlestar Galactica fan that I am, I couldn't help but to list this one here, even if the release date is technically “when it's done”. And even if you aren't a fan of Battlestar Galactica, here's another reason to be on the lookout for this game: it's completely free. A stand alone total conversion for the PC space flight sim Freespace 2, Beyond the Red Line puts you right in the cockpit of the Viper Mk II, Viper Mk VII, Raider, and possibly more as the game nears release. Weaving in and in between the events of the excellent show, you'll be hunting down Scar, defending the Galactica from Cylons Basestars, and securing Tillium ore for the fleet.

While it doesn't have the exacting Newtonian physics from the show, it does have a pretty good alternative that allows you conserve your inertia for some tricky maneuvers. Oozing quality, from its excellent graphics, spoken dialog, and a soundtrack both from the show and originally composed, it's amazing that this game is just being given away. A demo is available with three single player missions and multiplayer mode and I've found it works really well with an Xbox 360 controller plugged into your PC.

Release Date: Pray to the Gods it is soon!

Honorable Mentions

Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) – I never got into the previous games as much as my friends, and their being so much better than me makes it a pretty unfair (and unfun) fight. Maybe with Brawl I can concentrate my time into one character (Solid Snake!) and at least have a fighting chance.

Left 4 Dead (PC, Xbox 360, PS3) – I originally had this game in the list at number 3, since it had a tenuous Q1 2008 release date. I thought it was funny to point out how notorious Valve is for delaying games and I guess I just tempted fate: the game was pushed back to the summer before I finished my article.

Castle Crashers (Xbox Live Arcade) – A beautiful looking arcade games that has been delayed multiple times now, I just hope we can play it before the end of the year. Awesome looking multiplayer action from the people that brought you Alien Hominid, Rez HD faces stiff competition for my Microsoft Points.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 10:30 AM | Comments (21) | Posted to DS | Feature | PC | PlayStation 3 | Preview | Wii | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 12, 2008

New Team Fortress 2 Maps, Gameplay Options, and Achievements Coming Soon

Team Fortress 2

Valve has confirmed that within the next two months, the PC version of Team Fortress 2 will be getting two new maps. Also coming before those maps is a Medic-centric achievement pack. Valve intends to add an achievement pack for every class at some point, and using these achievements they intend to make a "large scale" change to the gameplay. Valve's Robin Walker said this in Shacknews' scoop:

"It's a large scale modification to the core of the game. It'll debut in a limited fashion through the Medic first, but it'll be affecting all classes eventually. We're really looking forward to the community reaction. We're really excited about where TF2 will be going over the next year."

One of the new maps is a remake of Badlands from Team Fortress Classic. The map will focus on more vertically-oriented battles because it's control points are located at the top of spires. The other map has yet to be announced and unfortunately for console owners, neither of these maps has been confirmed to be coming to either the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360.

Knowing Valve, I doubt these maps will be anything but free, though I'm basing that on the fact that Valve is so good at giving stuff away. The "friends" service added to Steam is many times more competent than Microsoft's Windows Live, and comparable to Xbox Live all without costing users a dime. Team Fortress 2 is easily my favorite online multiplayer shooter, it's only problem being the limited amount of maps. I can't wait to prance about these maps with my head full of eyeballs, how about you?

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 11:30 AM | Comments (6) | Posted to PC | PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!