Gaming Steve

April 2, 2008

Is This Really Even News Anymore?

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I am pretty much contradicting myself by writing about this, but yet another "main stream" journalist thinks video games are super terrible for society and that something must be done to stop them.

The source in question comes from an editorial written by Giles Whittell, writer and parent from the Times of London, where said Journalist has come to the conclusion that video games are as bad as heroin and teenage pregnancy. Sigh.

The writer believes that one shouldn't have to try games to know their bad just like they shouldn't have to try heroin or teenage pregnancy to know they're bad. An obvious indication of how little this person knows about games is their repeated use of the phrase "I will never buy my children a Nintendo" (because apparently someone at the Times believed it crucial that Giles actually try a game before criticizing it).

At this point I'm just going through the motions. Turns out crime has gone down as video game popularity has risen. The largest market isn't kids, it's 18 - 35 year olds. Heroin kills people and teenage pregnancy often leads to broken families. Video gamers almost always grow up to be skilled, intelligent, and productive members in a increasingly technology dependent society. Video games shouldn't be a babysitter, they are a form of entertainment, as much as reading a child a book or taking them to the park. Video games can teach children valuable skills including teamwork, the villainy of cheating, accomplishment and working with loss. I can keep this up all day...

Anyone care to guess when the next one of these type of stories get written?

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 5:00 PM | Comments (8) | Posted to Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

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

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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.

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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!

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...

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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 24, 2008

50 Cent II ... Why Have You Forsaken Us Vivendi?

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In a move sure to excite those with poor taste in shooters (and Vivendi's stockholders), a sequel to the dreadful 2005 "hit" 50 Cent: Bulletproof.

The cover of next month's EGM confirms that the writers did indeed suffer through what can be assumed to be another blight on games. With the original selling well over 1 million copies, it is not to surprising to see a sequel coming.

Also to be anticipated is the media backlash, with 50 Cent: Bulletproof still able to make the 10 ten most violent video games of 2007 even though it was originally released in 2005. With a game so likely to be so bad, it just doesn't seem worth defending. Maybe one of those laws against violent video games could be of some use after all.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 11:00 PM | Comments (6) | Posted to PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Stop The Presses! A "Real World" Journalist Actually "Gets" Gaming

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In an excellent satirical piece for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Humorist James Lileks details the failure of Minneapolis's attempt to pass an anti-violent video game law.

James points out both the ridiculousness of a $25 fine for selling to minors, as well as the Judges comparing of the violence in the Bible to the violence in a video game. While it would seem he wouldn't be opposed to a more strict way of keeping violent video games away from children, he points out the most obvious place to start: with the parents.

The exceptional humor however comes from the author's take on the violence hidden in even the most friendly looking games, including Roller Coaster Tycoon (as a drowning simulator) and Wii Bowling (a "simulator for aggression against polished dowels"). How refreshing to finally read someone in the "real media" who actually understands video games.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 10:45 PM | Comments (4) | Posted to Culture |  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.

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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 17, 2008

February NPD Results – Last Gen On Top Again

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The Official February NPD numbers have been released, and they make for highly interested reading. It was a great month for everyone, but there was an unexpected high inflation of PS2 sales, even though hardly anything was released for it in February. Here is the complete list:

  • DS – 587.6K
  • Wii – 423K
  • PS2 – 351.8K
  • PS3 – 280.8K
  • 360 – 254.6K
  • PSP – 243.1K

These numbers are massive for this time of year, increasing on the sales of this time last year. The DS and Wii are having a wonderful time at retail, and Nintendo must be delighted that the DS sold over half a million units in a fairly quiet month for the handheld.

However, it is the PS2 that is the big news this time, as it emerged from nowhere to sell over 350,000 units. Some attribute this to Best Buy's $99 PS2 deal, and it will be intriguing to see where it ends up next month. If Sony reduced the price of the aging little machine to $99 itself, it will definitely sell more than these large numbers. The PS3 has beaten the 360 again this month, but Microsoft has continuously stated that the system is supply constrained. However, if it performs this poorly again next month, they're going to have to invent a new excuse.

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Posted by Chris Holmes at 4:30 PM | Comments (5) | Posted to Business |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Solid Snake Secret Super Smash Bros. Brawl Taunts

Never thought you lived to see the day Otacon explains Donkey Kong to Snake tries to wrap his head around a 2D Mr. Game-and-Watch? In what I'm now labeling the most hilarious video game crossover ever (though Star Wars characters in Soul Caliber is pretty ridiculous) Solid Snake has a special, classic "codec" conversation about every single character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Voiced by none other than David Hayter himself, Solid Snake is given the histories or tactical tips about all of fighters in the game. Full of fantastic in jokes, especially for fans of the Metal Gear Solid series, this shouldn't be missed even if you don't partake in the game.

There's a gorilla with a tie here! He's Huge!

Ton of taunt videos after the jump.

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Posted by Clayton Ashley at 4:15 PM | Comments (5) | Posted to Wii |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 11, 2008

Echochrome PSP Demo Hands-On

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Last week the demo for the M.C. Escher-like Echochrome was released over the Japanese PlayStation Network. Always a fan of unique games, we downloaded the PSP version to see what all the fuss was about. After the very small download (approximately 4MB) and a few screens covered in Kanji, the main menu had some simple English alongside the Japanese text, so it was extremely easy to play.

The demo only had a handful of levels, but this was the perfect amount to show off the game's capabilities and basic premise. The game is basically a puzzle-based title, putting you in control of rotating and moving a wire-model of a level in 3D-space to guide a small puppet to his goal or to collect small dark characters. In essence, what the camera view shows is used as the perceived truth within the world itself, so when you move the wire-model level, you have to block gaps in the world by rotating the camera to put a pillar in the way, for example. Also, you have to move them to make a hole in the ground lead to a platform so your little puppet has somewhere to land.

Echochrome Screenshot 1.jpgThe gameplay in these demo levels was fairly easy, but it was genuinely fun and clever to play. Moving the levels about wasn't as difficult as the images here show, and it was fairly intuitive once we got used to the controls. The D-Pad rotated the levels about, holding the X button made the puppet move faster, and pressing the triangle button turned "thinking mode" on, which paused the moving puppet but still allowed us to manipulate the level in the usual way.

The graphics are fairly basic, but they are clean and clear. However, a lot of jaggies were present in this demo, which is not good considering it's barely pushing the PSP's technical grunt. On the plus side though, the violin-based soundtrack suits the game and is extremely enjoyable. The sound effects were also pretty unique and worked well in the game's bizarre universe.

Echochrome Screenshot 5.jpgOverall, this demo was a perfect little taster into the world of Echochrome and was a great way to introduce the concept in a playable form to gamers. If the anti-aliasing can be sorted out before release, then we are looking at something very special here that introduces a certain freshness to the puzzle genre of old.

Echochrome is set for release on March 19, 2008 within Japan. No release date has been set for North America or Europe (although the game appears to be extremely import friendly). To download the demo and give the game a try on your own simple follow these instructions.

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Posted by Chris Holmes at 1:00 AM | Comments (4) | Posted to PSP |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 10, 2008

New Mass Effect DLC Released

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The new Mass Effect downloadable content was released onto Xbox Live today for 400 Microsoft Points, which translates to $5/£3.40/€4.65 in real money. This DLC pack comes with 50 Gamerscore Points to achieve, along with a decent sidequest, as opposed to the mostly disappointing ones that were in the full game.

Major Nelson has all the download details:

Content: Bring Down the Sky
Price: 400 Microsoft Points
Availability: All Xbox LIVE regions
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Story Description: Batarian extremists have hijacked a mobile asteroid station in the Asgard system, setting it on a collision course with the nearby colony world of Terra Nova. Only you can save the human hostages on the asteroid and reroute it before it crashes into the world, killing millions of innocent civilians.
Size: 253.40 MB

This is all well and good, but if you're in the unfortunate position of having a save at the end of the game like myself, you will not be able to play this sidequest, and you would have to play through a new game (continuing with your old character if you so choose) to get to the part where you gain full control of the Normandy, where the new side-quest will appear on the star map. Initial reports of the content have been fairly promising, and for 400MP, it's not going to break the bank, so it should be worthwhile.

Posted by Chris Holmes at 10:30 PM | Comments (4) | Posted to Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

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.

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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!

Xbox 360 Price Drop In Europe

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Microsoft today confirmed that they are dropping the price of the Xbox 360 in Europe. Starting Friday 14th March, price drops for all the current SKUs will take place, taking the Arcade SKU to £159.99/€199.99, the Premium SKU to £199.99/€269.99, and the Elite SKU to £259.99/€369.99.

These price drops are quite aggressive for Europe, as now the Arcade version of the console is cheaper than a Nintendo Wii, and retailers here in this swing territory will entice customers with special deals, often going below these new RRPs. No price drops for other territories have been announced yet, but it is probably on the cards, with rumours stating that Microsoft wants to knock money off their systems in North America before the release of the hotly anticipated GTAIV.

Furthermore, the consoles are now cheap enough for people to basically trade in their older models that are more prone to the red ring of death and other issues, without losing too much money. The new models have improved motherboards and power consumption, as well as 65nm CPUs that help to make the system run cooler. This was probably not in Microsoft's plan, but us gamers are a clever bunch, and being able to run on improved hardware for little loss of money works for everyone.

Posted by Chris Holmes at 4:00 PM | Comments (1) | Posted to Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 6, 2008

Spore Coming to the iPhone (and iPod Touch)

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In retrospect it's not a surprising announcement (Spore will be on everything in few years) but at a press conference where Apple detailed it's iPhone software development platform, EA was happy to announce a specially made version of Spore for the uber-popular iPhone (and iPod Touch).

Details are scant right now, but we know the game will use the special technologies in the iPhone, including it's Accelerometer and multi touch screen. The game will include some kind of creature creator, but the only images of the game in the flOw like stage. The game won't be released before September (presumably right along with the PC game).

So long as the price is right and the game is of the same quality of the PC game, I'll definitely be interested. The iPhone and iPod Touch have some really interesting technology in them, so hopefully we'll see some more creative games for the "platform" (such as this one).

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

March 5, 2008

A Sims 3 Teaser Site is Live

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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!

Ziff Davis Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

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The publisher in charge of such well known gaming magazines as Electronic Gaming Monthly and website 1up.com, has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in an attempt to lower the companies debt. Ziff Davis has reportedly had money problems for a while now, with nearly 400 million dollars worth of debt.

Ziff Davis hopes to restructure the company in order to lighten the debt and hopefully not create any more. It is expected that the gaming websites/magazines won't be affected during the transition, though it's well known that Ziff Davis is perhaps still looking to sell its gaming division.

I really enjoy listening to both the 1up Yours and GFW Radio podcasts, and can tell some really passionate gamers work for these companies. Hopefully everything works out for as far as their concerned.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 11:00 PM | Comments (2) | Posted to Business |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!