Gaming Steve

Xbox Archives - Page 2

February 24, 2008

Puzzle Quest Sequel Unveiled (Again): Galactrix

Galactrix

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.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | Posted to DS | PC | PSP | Wii | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 21, 2008

GDC08: Portal's "Still Alive" coming to Rock Band

Portal and Rock Band

Huge Success! The song that kept GlaDOS in all of our hearts well after Portal came to an end (which won GDC's Game of the Year award by the way) will be coming to Harmonix's rock band simulator... Rock Band in the form of DLC. From the Rock Band Blog:

That is when we jumped on-stage and pulled out our Rock Band equipment piece by piece. Dan Teasdale (one of our senior designers) started picking a three person band with Jonathan and Alex Rigopulos (co-founder of Harmonix and head honcho). When they got to the song list they scrolled through an almost infinite amount of DLC until eventually they stopped on one-

"Still Alive" by GlaDOS.

Yup. That is the song that Jonathan wrote that is the credits song at the end of Portal. The crowd went nuts. Earlier we had turned the backing vocals all the way down and the microphone vocals all the way up so we could actually hear his voice instead of GLaDOS. Alex was on drums ruling it, and Dan Teasdale held his own on guitar. By the end of the song even the people in the back of the room were screaming. It was an awesome way to debut a song we've been working on.

Details including "when" and "how" weren't released, so we can only hope it will be soon (and cheap or free!). It's hard to overstate my satisfaction...

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

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 20, 2008

GDC08: Fable 2 Getting 2-Player (Maybe Online) Co-op

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More details about Fable 2 have been revealed at GDC including 2-player co-op on one machine, though Peter Molyneux wouldn't rule out the feature being implemented online. Currently players will be able to instantly join another players game (unfortunately without their now synonymous canine companion) to delve into dungeons and even meet the family.

In order to keep the context of a world that responds to all of your actions, Molyneux explained that a friend you bring into your world can have a drastic effect on it. In a specific case, a friend Molyneux brought into his world shot and killed the husband of his female character. His husband would be dead for ever and his child would most likely be sent to an orphanage.

During combat your friend could gain experience and money, even playing on someone else console, by using their Gamertag. The graphics have reportedly been made much prettier since the games last showing. Also announced was an Xbox Live Arcade full of minigames related to the Fable 2 universe. Players will be able to earn money through activities such as gambling and then use it in the full game, which will be released a few weeks later (neither games release date was announced).

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

February 20, 2008

GDC08: Gears of War 2 Announced

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Microsoft finally lifted the curtain on Epic’s highly-rumoured Gears of War 2 at their GDC Keynote today. The game is slated to be released this November in a press release after the conference, which also included a nice quote from everyone’s friend, CliffyB, lead designer for Epic Games:

"To our team the original game was just a tease, the appetizer to the Gears of War characters and new style of gameplay. We were so amped to get to the next chapter, and dig deeper into the universe of this franchise. Gears of War 2 is an even bigger, better, and more badass experience than the first game, and we can’t wait to get it in the hands of eager gamers this November."

Also, the trailer that appeared at the keynote was released on Xbox Live earlier, along with a free picture pack and a free theme for your perusal, as part of Microsoft’s “Bringing it Home” initiative. Full trailer after the break.

Posted by Chris Holmes at 7:45 PM | Comments (0) | Posted to Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 20, 2008

Microsoft Announces Xbox Live Community Arcade

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After two years of keynotes and press events, Microsoft seems to have finally committed to their "YouTube of games" with Xbox Live Community Arcade. Based of the XNA development software, gamers will soon be able to make games on PC and move them to either the Xbox 360 or the Zune.

Using peer reviews, Microsoft hopes that "Game distribution will be democratized, allowing the community to control the content". (Chris Satchel, Game Developer Group General Manager). Gamers will be able to create a "creator identity" similar to that of their gamer tag (though couldn't they use the one they already have?) so users can find preferred game makers, as well as games that suit their tastes based on descriptive sliders.

This could potentially be huge, considering how big social networks and YouTube have gotten. Hopefully Microsoft can make an experience as cohesive as the rest of the Xbox Live experience.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 4:45 PM | Comments (1) | Posted to Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 20, 2008

At GDC and Not Liveblogging the Microsoft Keynote

Hey all I'm here at GDC, waiting for the Microsoft event to start, but I won't be liveblogging the Microsoft Keynote in order to save my laptop battery for the two Spore talks later today.

Tune back at 3:00 EST PM for "Procedural Music in Spore" and then later at 5:30 PM EST for "Pollination the Universe: User-generated Content in Spore" where I'll be liveblogging those two talks.

Also make sure to check back for my podcast which wraps-up the day's events. Need to save my battery for the back-to-back Spore talks!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:25 PM | Comments (5) | Posted to 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!