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Last week we visited Russia to get a look at publisher 1C's upcoming slate of titles, including Captain Blood, Cryostasis, and the cross-platform combat flight sim IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey. And by Russia we mean the Russian Consulate in San Francisco. We half expected Jack Bauer to storm in at any moment and start demanding answers. But answers we got. In addition to the aforementioned games, we also got a look at these babies. Click on each title to see a new trailer, too. Enjoy:
Yes, the original Deathtrack is being resurrected by 1C and developer SkyFallen. In the near future, football, baseball, and basketball are boooooooring. Instead, fans need their thirst for blood quenched by vehicular death races in which drivers vie for not only first place, but their very survival. Post-apocalyptic tracks weave through New York where the Statue of Liberty has fallen, and through Paris, where the Eiffel Tower is burning. You'll also drive, shoot, and destroy your way through Bangkok, London, Moscow, Prague, San Diego, Istanbul, Tokyo, and the Vatican City, where you better pray you win. Get it? Anyway, Death Track looks like a fairly standard vehicular combat racing title, complete with machine guns and missiles. Look for it to hit PCs later this year.
Off-road gear-heads may be tempted by the upcoming 4x4 Hummer, developed by 1C and Avalon Style Entertainment. 1C told us we can expect a full off-road simulation, so this won't be a reworked Hummer Badlands. Instead, you can expect to tweak the gearbox, center differential locking, tire pressure and height control on a number of GM vehicles. In addition to a fleet of Hummers, you can also jump into an Escalade, Tahoe, Yukon, and Envoy and challenge yourself to races and events located in Iceland, Egypt, Crimea, and the Grand Canyon. Prepare to get muddy.
IC takes us back to WWII with Men of War, a real-time-strategy game that will put you in control of Soviet, Allied, and German soldiers. There are more than 20 unit types at your disposal, including infantry, tanks, and heavy guns. The 19-mission campaign spans the globe and includes such locales as Germany, Italy, North Africa, Ukraine, Russia, Greece and the Pacific. Multiplayer modes will include Capture the Flag and "high-value-cargo," and will feature a matchmaking rating system to keep the fight fair. We didn't see Men of War in action, but it sounds like a cross between Battlestations: Midway and Company of Heroes. We'll have more when we get to see the game for ourselves.
Not to be confused with the above Men of War, Theatre of War II is yet another WWII strategy game. This time around you'll be fighting in North Africa with the chance to control British and American troops or Germany's Afrika Korps under the command of the Desert Fox, General Erwin Rommel. Again, this is another game we didn't get to play, but we do know it will have 15 missions, a mission editor, and lots of bullets and bombs. Also be ready for hand-to-hand combat, fighting inside buildings, and ground-based plus aerial vehicles. We'll have more when we learn more, but Theatre of War II is set to release sometime this year.
Though they garnered a good bit of attention, swords, snowboards, and supersonic jets weren't the only things on display at UbiDays. New titles in the Imagine series were on hand, as well as a handful of other titles that venture outside of the traditional video game demographic. Whether you're looking to lose weight, hide secrets from your friends, or put a sombrero on a labrador, Ubi's got your game. Intrepid reporter Don Francis and I ventured into this uncharted territory and brought back tidbits on each game for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!
Have you ever wanted to be a new teacher at a new high school? If so, Imagine Teacher fulfills that dream for you. You can plan your week, teach lessons, and correct homework via the DS touchscreen. The best part is the better you do, the better your students do. One day Cindy will grow up to be a physicist and she will thank you. You can then thank Imagine Teacher for getting you started on the path to elementary school instruction.
What secrets lurk within the hearts of tweens (children between the ages of 8-12)? My Secret World for the DS will know some later this year when DS owners of all ages can create their own personal record that blends the best parts of diaries, daily organizers, and scrapbooking. Also included are minigames for your friends to play to try and learn more about you and for you to find out more juicy tidbits about them! Once and for all you can determine if Jen and Betsy can ever truly get along or if you will just have to pick one of them.
You are an up-and-coming assistant at the premiere fashion studio. You can create outfits with a wide variety of fabrics, designs, and minigames. As you rise from neophyte to empress of the garment industry in the main storyline you will meet new characters, take on jobs for customers, and have a great time designing, cutting, sewing, ironing, and assembling a wide range of clothing. Your performance will be graded on Speed, Style, and Tailoring, so be sure to bring your best ideas to satisfy some outlandish requests.
The title ships with tracking data for meals, exercise, and many other metrics to help you take care of your body. Also, you can select five minigames: Classic Quiz, Intruder (a hangman-like test), True/false quizzes, Round quiz ( a variation of the preceding three options), and an assortment of health-related tips and facts. My Weight Loss Coach even comes with your own pedometer. It can go from your hip into the GBA slot of your DS. The pedometer's data is used to upload your activity to help you defend those calories you consumed. Don't cheat, because the best way to improve your health and wellness with My Weight Loss Coach is to be honest.
Being a rock star is about more than just the music, it's about the image. Imagine Rock Star is bringing both these aspects of music stardom to the DS with rhythm-based music challenges and enough wardrobe customization to satisfy even the most fashion-conscious young starlets. Form a band with up to three other friends through wireless multicard play and jam out to a variety of pop, rock, and funk songs on the guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums. Get your look just right by tweaking your outfit, makeup, and instrument, and take the show on the road to multiple venues in your quest for rock stardom.
Ain't no party like a Babyz party, 'cuz a Babyz party takes naps! As the lone babysitter in a day care center full of babies, it's up to you to keep them entertained with the 30 minigames contained herein. The games are divided into play (Red Light, Green Light!) and care (no such example revealed to us, but we're hoping diaper-changing does not make an appearance), and change depending on the current season. Customize your wee lass or laddie and compete with up to three other friends to see who is king of the playpen.
This entry in Ubisoft's health and wellness game catalog was developed in close collaboration with the folks behind the well-established Easyway method. The method targets 14 reasons why people smoke, then logically breaks them down in so that you no longer have any reason to smoke. Once you create your profile and choose your coach, you'll tackle each reason through text accompanied by a minigame. We tackled the "it's a social prop" reason with a cute, simple game that challenged us to keep our stick figure on the dance floor with his buddies while a cigarette we were chained to pulled at us from outside. No wacky mic functionality was on display, but it did seem like a clever way to present this famous method for quitting smoking.
Finally, a pet dog that doesn't run away when you try to put a fedora, suit, and handlebar mustache on it! Aside from the downright silly outfits, Dogz lets you play with your furry friend and teach it up to 24 neat tricks. Once you've had your fill of that, it's off to the races as you take your pet through a series of competitions ranging from your local street to the national stage. With 36 races and 18 breeds, there's plenty of room for you and your friends to get a whole doggie play group together.
In case you haven't been paying attention to the calendar, summer blockbuster season is officially upon us. And we all know that summer blockbuster season can't fade away into autumn without first bringing more than a few movie tie-ins our way. One such example is next week's release of Kung Fu Panda, the game accompanying Jack Black's CGI movie starring a panda whose fighting skills far surpass his portly physique. We just took a look at a brief preview build of the Xbox 360 version to give you an idea of what to expect from the game.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly what genre Kung Fu Panda belongs in. At any point in the game you'll feel like you're in a button-mashing brawler, a Sonic-like platformer, or any of the dozens of other gameplay variations the game constantly switches between with nary a warning. The first level features Po, the main character voiced by Jack Black, fighting his way through a dream sequence filled with a seemingly never-ending stream of enemies. The combat is fairly simple: press X for a quick attack, Y for a strong attack, or combine the two in various sequence to unlock the power of combo moves. It's generally a battle of stamina since the game tends to flood the screen with pesky critters seeking to take you down. During the fight sequences, you'll hear Jack Black spit out a few voiceovers, but they tend to be pretty repetitive and don't really sound like the Tenacious D singer is quite giving it his all. Enemies will taunt you as well.
But as we mentioned, the brawling scenes represent only one part of the game's many scenarios. Po can turn into a super-fast rolling ball and cruise over rooftops collecting coins just like you'd see in recent 3D representations of the Sonic series. He'll also need to bounce from lilly pad to lilly pad in a water level, capped off by a sequence where you need to steer a boat through treacherous rocks with crocodiles flinging rocks at you. Later in the game you play as Po's master Shifu. Shifu goes through some odd sections that require both cloud-jumping and archery prowess, in addition to the standard brawling. These random sections come at you so fast and unexpectedly that Kung Fu Panda almost feels like a minigame compilation.
There are a couple multiplayer modes featured in our preview build. One is the standard memory matching game pitting you against a grid of cards which you can only flip over two at a time. It's obviously a mode featured in plenty of games before, but the twist here is that you're competing against other players in two ways: racing across the screen to uncover the right tiles and engaging in combat when you find pairs requiring the same card. The other is a mode that dispenses with the mental exercises altogether in a standard multiplayer fighter arena. Here you'll need to duke it out with another player while being careful to avoid the bombs the giant gorilla standing nearby happens to be tossing your way. The fact that you're fighting on a narrow platform suspended above oblivion gives it the slight feel of a Smash Bros. game.
Far and away the best feature of Kung Fu Panda is that it looks really great. From the way Po's panda fur looks fuzzy and touchable to the way light reflects on the pond in the Treacherous Waters level, the visuals are consistently pleasing. It makes sense considering the game is based on a big budget CGI movie; the bar for those has certainly been raised in the Pixar versus DreamWorks battles of recent years.
Altogether, Kung Fu Panda doesn't look like it will be luring hardcore players to the realm of the blockbuster tie-in, but it certainly has a few appealing qualities. The sheer variety of gameplay and pleasant look of the game should at least win over the casual crowd. You can expect to see it released next week.
Sony was showing off both of its upcoming Buzz titles at today's media event so we had a quick look at them. Guy had a good run through the PSP game, Buzz! Quizmaster, here if you haven't seen it already so I'll just run through the PS3 one, Buzz! Quiz TV, which is looking pretty cool. The game is getting some nice mileage out of the TV channel theme and adds some online features that fans and newcomers to the series should get into. The two big things for us were the new wireless controllers, finally, and the ability to make your own quizzes and import them into the game via the My Buzz website Sony's setting up.
Four wireless controllers will come packed in with the game which will also recognize the original PS2 controllers as well if you want to mix and match them for larger multiplayer games. Sony isn't sure on the timing of when the wireless controllers will be sold separately so mixing and matching will probably be the thing to do for eight player games. The quiz creation options are pretty neat, you'll be able to make your own eight question quiz and use it in your game. The web page will also let you flag it as private, so only your PSN friends with Buzz see it, or make it public so the world can have a crack at it. Public quizzes will be rated by anyone who plays them so the more popular ones will show up more often when people go looking for some original ones. Beyond that the game will feature multiplayer modes, online and offline, which will let you test your skills against other trivia nuts.
While the game isn't really for veteran gamer types its pretty perfect for those of us looking for some gateway games to suck folks into our world. Buzz is about as un-intimidating as it gets so it should be pretty handy. Buzz ! QuizTV and Buzz! Quizmaster are both due out this fall.
Wow. So Sony had this little head trip tucked away in a corner of the hotel suite where it had all the games playable at today's event. I had no idea what the heck it was when I walked over, I just saw a bunch of cool and random images on the TV every time I looked over. Dogs, cats, pandas, flying squid creatures, floating platforms- all pretty random stuff. My curiosity eventually got the best of me and well, wow. The title is a piece of interactive developed by a core group of folk from the European demoscene movement, all of about five people to be exact. So basically demoscene is a collective of artists from different mediums who work together to produce demos on PC that show off coding proficiency as well as visuals and music. It's a bit abstract and has really been more of a thing outside the US although it sounds as though folks are trying to get organized and give it a go in the states.
Why the Cliff Notes info on the whole movement? Well, mostly because it's at the heart of Linger In-Shadow. Sony approached some of folks involved in the scene and got them some PS3 dev kits and let them go to town. The result is Linger In-Shadow, a unique and stunning piece of PSN content that you'll be able to watch and have some limited interactivity by exploring the virtual environment that's been created. At first blush it just looks like a really cool tech demo but, we came to find that you'll be able to explore the crazy visuals you see and even interact with them. You'll see button prompts and even have to shake the controller to uncover new bits to see. Sound bizarre? I suppose it would in writing. So here, just have a look. As you can see: dogs, cats, pandas, flying squid creatures, floating platforms. Why not right? While this isn't a game, I'm pretty excited to see where Sony goes with this. Creative folks need outlets and this could be a cool one. The title is set to his this summer on PSN, no word on pricing.
So Guy covered this one really well at Sony's London event earlier this month but, after playing it myself, I had to chime in on it. Pixel Junk Eden is one of those weird and cool titles that are slowly becoming more and more of a Sony staple. The game is looking good and has an addictive appeal to it. The three player co-op, while not online, is good fun. I have to hand it to Q games, the Pixel Junk series is getting better and better. If the co-op in this can be as engaging as the one in Monsters then all will be right with the world. Outside of the gameplay, the game's strong sense of style, courtesy of Japanese artist Baiyon is key to making the experience fly. The game's slightly off kilter take on platforming feels fresh and the non linear structure seems like it's going to keep things interesting. We've got an interview with two of the folks working on it here so give it a look.
What's with all the cars hitting each other today? First, there was the traffic-checking in Burnout Revenge. Then Midway's The Wheelman introduces so-called "car melee strikes". Now there's one more for that list, the upcoming MotorStorm: Pacific Rift from Sony and developer Evolution Studios, which I had a chance to spend some time with today. In Pacific Rift, you can attack other vehicles by pressing the square button. Depending on what you're driving, your attack will either be pretty devastating on your opponent (such as when blasting a motorcycle when driving a monster truck) or completely useless (such as in the reverse situation).
As an aside, even though attempting to punch a dune buggy while astride a dirt bike was utterly ineffectual, it nonetheless did not become any less funny to me during my hands-on time with the game.
The build on hand was advertised as roughly 40 percent complete and, though the game had the requisite frame rate problems you'd expect in early code, you can tell that Pacific Rift is going to be a better-looking game than its already impressive predecessor. The setting is a big factor here--gone is the arid dusty desert mountains, replaced instead by a visually rich tropical environment that looks scrumptious, full of muddy expanses and watery sections (the latter of which will help cool your engine when you overdo it with the turbo boost). The track design was full of alternate paths and other fun surprises--including a twisting tank turret hung on the edge of a jump that took me out more than once.
If only those lush areas and interesting tracks could be bigger; Pacific Rift is still going with the circuit racing theme, at least in the track shown in the game today. It seems to me that the wide open, balls-to-the-wall offroad approach that the MotorStorm series has established for itself in its driving model is pretty opposed to the rigid and predictable nature of circuit racing. When Evolution Studios merges its kamikaze driving model to a similarly reckless and unpredictable (read: point-to-point) track design philosophy, we'll have an offroad driving game that nobody will be able to stop.
Okay, so technically the title of this blog entry should read "Sony Pre-E3 2008: SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Confrontation Impressions" but I'm afraid that, if I typed the full thing out, the Internet would run out of space. So I keep it short for you. Anyway, I'm a self professed former SOCOM fan. I say "former", not because of a lack of quality in recent games, but rather a lack of time for playing them. Indeed, ever since the first SOCOM, I've been a big fan. I have fond memories of spending seemingly endless hours playing the first two SOCOMs--the former of which has the uneasy distinction of being the game that introduced me to the "corpse hump."
With SOCOM Confrontation, the game has made strides, yet still manages to feel iike the SOCOM i destroyed my early 30s with. On the progress front, the game is making fun use of the Sixaxis features on the Dual Shock 3. When you bring your player to rest and set up for a shot, the angle your holding your controller at will determine whether your charater is crouching, standing up straight or peeking left or right. It takes a while to get used to moving the Sixaxis up, down, left, and right, and, more importantly, being mindful of your controller's position at all times but it's surpsingly responsive and useful once you do acclimate to it.
Despite touches like that, this is still SOCOM through and through; with multiplayer maps that give you tons of options for avoiding (or confronting) enemies, and enough cubbyholes and rooftops to please the latent camper in all of us. The Middle Eastern map on-hand at today's event was one of seven that will be included in the final product, with the possibilty of additional DLC maps after the game is released.
As much fun as I had with SOCOM Confrontation, it's hard not to think of the more modern-feeling Call of Duty 4 when playing it. Certainly the bar has been raised in the multiplayer military genre of late and the competition--of which SOCOM Confrontation is included--is going to have to decide what that means for the future of their series.
Today, Ricardo, myself, and Jim Maybury headed down to Los Angeles for a look at the games that Sony will have at E3 this year. Ricardo will be along in a bit to discuss his part in the whole E3 judges stuff but, as a non-judge, I was just in town to check out some cool games. And, make no mistake, Killzone 2 is cool. I hadn't seen the game since Leipzig last year and, just like everyone, I've still got the memories of that legendary E3 2005 trailer (good Lord, has it really been three years?) still in my head.
As it turns out, the pre-alpha demo build of Killzone 2 on-hand today did feature a remarkably faithful opening that hearkened back to that trailer--though it should be noted that the level on which that trailer is based (and the demo level I played today) is actually the second level in the game. For whatever reason, that fact surprised me, as it always seemed to me that frantic frenetic pace of the E3 trailer was exactly the tone you'd want to set for the game early on. Punch the player in the face early, and let them stretch their legs after their nose is bleeding, and all that. As it turns out, Killzone 2's first level will be a training tutorial of sorts before dropping you into the real action of level two.
Still, whatever level it is, it certainly packs a punch. As you glide in on your lander, having watch the enemy take out multiple allied landers all around you, you can't help but wonder what else will be in store for you once you hit the ground. In fact, what's waiting for you is tons of vaguely Nazi-looking bad guys with orange goggles, intent on blasting you to Kingdom Come.
Things I Liked:
- The setting. The mechanical architecture of the surroundings adds a proper level of militaristic grimness to the surroundings. Even the muted color palette of greys and blacks works for me, though I'm not sure it would work for an entire game.
- The feel of the weapons. This one is always tricky for me; it's a mixture of animation, sound, and feedback from the controller itself, and it's a balance that not ever game gets. Even Call of Duty 4 didn't meet the standards set by games like Half-Life and Half-Life 2, which are the epitome for me. Killzone 2's weapons feel satisfying right away.
- The enemy AI. One time, this futuristic Nazi guy tried to flank me, sneaking around a corner to try and get behind me so he could put me down. Luckily, I caught him moving around the corner at the last moment. He caught a bullet in the face for his trouble, but I appreciated the effort on his behalf.
Things I Disliked:
- As much as I dig the sci-fi Nazi look of the enemy troops in the game, there's not much in the way of variety.
- I wish the assault rifle I favored had more bullets in the clip. Seriously, even when trying to contain my fire to short bursts, it seems like I was reloading way too much.
- The twist-the-valve wheel mini-game. Here, you had to press L1 and R1 to grasp the valve, then twist the Sixaxis to turn it. Then let go of L1/R1, set the Sixaxis back and press the two buttons again to re-grasp the valve. Lather, rinse, repeat. Bah.
Things I'm Not Sure About:
- The buddy assist system. Here you can help your allies access areas they couldn't normally reach and vice verse. I only saw it in action once, when my buddy helped haul me up a wall. It might be a big part of the latter parts of the game but it felt sort of tacked on in the demo.
- The green targeting reticle on my rifle? Really? Green? I don't know why this bugs me. But green?
Earlier today at the Microsoft Gamer's Day, I got my hands-on Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One, much to my delight. Created in the style and spirit of the popular web comic, the game casts you as a new member of the Startling Developments Detective Agency. The other two members are, naturally, Gabe and Tycho, and you join them in investigating strange phenomena, like a giant Fruit [Fornicator] robot stomping through town. The banter between Gabe and Tycho is as razor-sharp as fans will expect it to be, and even investigating yoursurroundings will yield humorous descriptions of sinister mailboxes and the like. The signature Penny Arcade humor is pervasive throughout, and I found myself chuckling regularly throughout the first level.
The visual style is an impressive 3D rendering of the art style of Penny Arcade and complements the humor quite well. Battles are turn-based, and with only two attacks per character, are easy to get figure out. This ease belies the strategic complexity that can be found in combining character attacks, shuffling party members, and deploying some of the numerous items that can be found by smashing objects in the game world. For a more detailed breakdown of the combat system, check out our hands-on preview from a few months back (totally still pertinent!).
Folks familiar with the web comic will know that its brand of humor is definitely adult, and the game is no exception. The Fruit [Fornicator] robots I battled in the first level offering a glimpse of this vulgarity in action, spraying me with a "yellow juice" attack and furiously humping the orange I threw to distract them. With foes like feral hobos, obscene clowns, and The Mime Pope, there's little doubt the tiny robots' antics are just the beginning.
Penny Arcade Adventures releases next Wednesday (5/21) for Xbox Live Arcade, as well as Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. We'll have a review ripe and ready to go on release day, so check back for the final word.
Today we managed to get a new video and a bunch of screens from Atari's upcoming Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit. The video features two characters, Trunks and Recoome, duking it out in a rather scenic nature setting. Beautiful mountains, grassy hills--it really makes you wonder what provoked such a brawl. Maybe taking a look at their histories can help answer that question...
- Japanese Voice Actor: Takeshi Kusao
- English Voice Actor: Eric Vale
- First Appearance: Dragon Ball Z (Android Saga)
- Race: Half Saiyan and half Earthling
- Character Traits: Honest and serious
- Fast Fact: Carries a sword given to him by Tapion
- Fighting Style: Relies heavily on his sword
- Opponents: VS Frieza, Android 13, and others
Trunks is the son of Bulma and Vegeta. To change his shattered future--a world where most of the Z-fighters have been killed by the merciless androids--he travels to the past in a time machine. In his own time, Gohan, the last surviving Z-fighter, had been Trunks' friend and mentor. Trunks looks forward to seeing Gohan again and meeting his father, Vegeta, for the first time.
- Japanese Voice Actor: Kenji Utsumi
- English Voice Actor: Christopher Sabat
- First Appearance: Dragon Ball Z (Freiza Saga)
- Race: Alien
- Character Traits: Has great confidence in himself, easily elated, and won't break his joking style
- Fast Fact: Always poses before a fight
- Fighting Style: Uses brute force to make it look like he's fighting effortlessly
- Opponents: VS Vegeta, Gohan, Goku, and others
Recoome is a member of Frieza's elite fighting unit, the Ginyu Force. Having been summoned by Frieza to aid in the search for the Namekian Dragon Balls, Recoome unleashes his overwhelming power upon Vegeta, Krillin, and Gohan. He uses many original techniques, such as the eraser gun and the Recoome kick. At one point, he was prepared to unleash his secret ultimate move, the ultra fighting bomber, but Goku stopped him before he had the chance.
So what have we learned from all this? These guys just plain love to fight. A lot. And in our new video, you can really get a look at how the game is trying to replicate their fighting styles. Trunks is quick and agile, using his sword to go for those strong attacks. He's also serious and quiet, but he isn't afraid to turn super Saiyan when he gets angry. Recoome couldn't be any more different. Always posing, laughing, and making funny noises--this guy is quite the jokester. The video really seems to capture the spirit of these two characters as they proceed to beat the living daylights out of each other.
Want more? Take a look at our preview from earlier this month and then stay tuned for more coverage on Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit.
With preview season in full swing, we've had abundant opportunities to sit down with various publishers and check out selections from their upcoming release schedules. We've rolled out coverage hubs for Midway, Nintendo, and Namco Bandai to name a few, and next week we'll be launching a similar page detailing the prize ponies in Sierra's stable. One of their finer specimens is Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy, a game that puts you in the shoes, and fists, of Jason Bourne, everyone's favorite amnesiac black ops agent. Joe Dodson previewed the game two months ago, Brian Ekberg got his hands on the demo that will be downloadable sometime this May, and we even hosted developer High Moon Studios on On The Spot. After all checking out all this fist-flinging content, I was eager to get my own mitts on the game. Is it wrong to want to jump kick a man from a full sprint, or acquaint book with esophagus in ways that would make Guttenberg turn in his grave? I say nay. So without further ado, here's my take on the first level of the full retail version of the game.
The story begins, as in The Bourne Identity, at sea. Specifically, in the sea, the place where Jason Bourne ends up after he attempts to assassinate Wombosi on his private yacht. Wondering who Wombosi is? Cue flashback! Suddenly it's two days ago and I'm infiltrating Wombosi's organization in Marseilles, France. The level begins with Bourne standing on a side street. Using an ability called Bourne Instinct, my objective lights up on the radar in the bottom right corner of the screen. Rule number one of being Jason Bourne: he always has a target. Bourne Instinct makes that target clear so there's no down time figuring out where to go next. At my objective point I acquire some key info: Wombosi has hired an assassin to kill me, so now it's kill or be killed. But before I get to the target, I'll have to go through his goon squad.
Running through the streets of Marseilles, Bourne is accosted by henchman galore. Some he can see coming, others just jump him from around a corner. In each case, combat is initiated by a quick, automatic encounter. Goon sees Bourne coming, goon throws punch, Bourne parries and hits goon with a kick to the leg that sends goon back a step, and combat begins. At first, these auto-engagements feel a bit jarring, but after a few fights I begin to appreciate the kinetic tone they set for the action. Stringing together combos with light and heavy attacks, Bourne gains adrenaline that will allow him to perform a takedown. Bourne can either beat goon into submission, or activate a takedown to lay goon low with style. Be it a head smashed into a dumpster, a face through a pane of glass, or a good working over with a fire extinguisher, a takedown is as satisfying as it is savage. Build up two or three tiers of adrenaline, and Bourne can take down two or three foes with a series of timed button presses. Since takedowns are environment-specific, I found myself luring enemies to certain areas, wondering if I really could, say, use this lamppost or that drainpipe in sinister fashion. The answer was almost always yes, and the takedowns were always brutal, badass, and believably Bourne.
In addition to goons galore, Bourne also had to contend with traps set by his target. Rounding one corner, I was given a split second to tap a button and dive behind a bench as a nearby cherry picker exploded and crashed to the ground right where I had been standing. Moments like this can happen anytime, and add to the sense that danger is everywhere in Bourne's world. The camera angles during this sequence were very similar to the fight and takedown camera, so rather than feeling shoe-horned in, it felt reasonably integrated into the gameplay. Sprinting to catch up with my target, I busted out a running takedown on an approaching henchman. Bourne delivered a vicious high kick to the chest, knocked his would-be attacker out cold, and barely even broke his stride. The dude has icky moves.
Once Bourne caught up with his target, the boss rumble was on. These differ from normal encounters because bosses are much tougher than your average goon, and can withstand a number of takedowns. The boss fight areas are littered with different takedown-ready elements, and over the course of our battle I put my foe's head through a microwave, smashed it in a refrigerator, used it to bust open a fuse box, and that was just in the first section. Rule number two of being Jason Bourne: he is resourceful and uses whatever he finds for his purposes. Case in point, each boss fight has a unique weapon Bourne can use in a takedown, and in this case it was a book. The book takedown featured a sharp rap of the book cover to the face, a jab of the spine to the throat, and then a good old fashioned smack upside the head. These takedowns are particularly fun because they closely mirror the (badass) scene in the movie in which the item was used.
When the boss got low on health, he jumped out a window and escaped on to the roof. Bourne's health meter regenerates only outside of combat, so you'll have to be careful with the more powerful bosses, who can execute takedowns on you. These can be evaded with timed button presses. I finally caught up with my quarry by a large neon sign, which I promptly used in a particularly flashy takedown. After a few more combos, the boss succumbed to one final takedown that involved his head and an air-conditioning unit. This fatal bludgeoning happened off-camera, of course. Rated T for Teen.
Since the boss fights are such an intense distillation of the game's fighting mechanic, the developers reckon players will want to try them again and again. Once you beat a boss, that fight is unlocked and you can access it any time from the menu screen. With an estimated 8-9 hour storyline, plus this bonus boss fight mode, The Bourne Conspiracy certainly looks to quench any player's desire for fisticuffs when it ships on June 3rd. I certainly enjoyed busting faces on the streets of France, and am looking forward to more.
Fans of Rock Band have seen plenty of download packs focused on a single artist, but none that boast the designation of being a full studio album. That'll all change today when Harmonix releases the entirety of Judas Priest's 1982 record, Screaming For Vengeance. You may be interested to know that we (myself, Ricardo Torres, Chris Watters and a Harmonix rep) just finished up playing the majority of the album right here in the GameSpot offices. Early indications suggest Harmonix made a fine choice with this inagural album: my right calf is still sore from the manic drumwork and Chris Watters has elected to remain silent for the rest of the day to rest his hoarse singing voice.
The original studio album features 10 songs, while the Rock Band DLC pack features nine. Don't worry--they just combined the 41-second intro, The Hellion, with the album's second song, Electric Eye. That was the first song we went with. Like the rest of the songs, it started out tough and barely let up. On the drums, there's a fast pace and plenty of kick pedal trickery to deal with, but it's undeniably fun. For most of the songs, I alternated between medium and hard on the drums. Oddly enough, I found myself doing better on hard difficulty. I think that's because it's easier to stay locked into the lightning-quick beat on hard. For me, keeping my hands moving quickly meant I didn't think as much about hitting the drumheads, which let me focus more on the pesky, alternating bass drum parts.
The other songs we played included Riding on the Wind, Screaming for Vengeance, You've got another Thing Comin and Devil's Child. Rock Band novices might be tempted to go with You've Got Another Thing Comin first, since it's one of the Judas Priest's more popular hits. That's a good thing, because it was one of the easier songs we played. Relatively speaking, it wasn't a killer on any of the instruments. You can't say the same for Screaming for Vengeance, though. That one was definitely the toughest of the bunch. It was especially difficult on vocals for poor Chris Watters, who had to wail out a falsetto for practically the entire song. He "joked" about needing an oxygen tank right afterwards, but if you could see his face I'm not so sure you'd think he was really kidding. On guitar, the songs featured plenty of solos since Judas Priest isn't exactly a band noted for their creative restraint when it comes to the six-string.
As someone who has never been much of a Judas Priest fan, I still had a lot of fun playing the songs. The difficulty level definitely veers toward the hard end of the spectrum for most of what you'll find in this $15 download, but it's not prohibitively tough for those who've spent much time with the game. If nothing else, Screaming For Vengeance's heavy metal sound should provide a nice balance to the other upcoming albums. In case you haven't been paying attention, those will include the new wave stylings of The Cars' self-titled album and The Pixies' alternative fan-favorite, Doolittle.
Wanna see more? Check out our skills (or lack therof) in the form of a video montage.
Earlier today, we posted all our previews from last' week's Nintendo Media Summit. You can find them right here. I've got a few thoughts and anecdotes that, for one reason or another, I wasn't able to work into the previews I wrote. So what better place to share them than in our new preview blog? No place, is the answer. Without further ado, I give you an itemized list:
Mario Kart Wii
Perhaps you've heard, but we've got a little routine around here at the GameSpot offices known as Kart Kall. Everyday at 2:30 we get together in the main lounge to play ten tracks worth of Mario Kart DS. We've been doing this for a long time, and the level of competition is quite high. Well, I brought that experience with me to the Nintendo event where I managed to raise a few eyebrows with a steady string of first place finishes. It got to the point where if I was about to start up a match with another journalist, I had to first warn them, "Listen, I'm probably gonna beat you but don't feel bad. I devote an obscene amount of time to this game. You should pity me, if anything."
This was definitely one of the surprises of the show for me. It looked really good, and I had quite a bit of fun with the multiplayer session I got to take part in. I devoted quite a few words in my preview to the game's physics engine, which is surprisingly good for the supposedly hardware-challenged Wii. Looking at still photos of the game doesn't do it justice; you've got to see those blocks teetering on the edge of falling to really appreciate the physics behind it. You know those crazy youtube videos of Crysis where a dude stacks thousands of barrells and knocks them all down? Boom Blox reminded me of that, but in a very lite version. Still very cool-looking, though. One other fun tidbit: I jokingly asked the senior producer, Amir Rahimi, if the game would have any Spielberg easter eggs in it (like the Jaws theme) knowing full well this would be a copyright disaster. He told me the game only has original easter eggs, but they did make a short video just for their own personal amusement where a block-shaped Indiana Jones was outrunning a block-shaped boulder to match the look of the game's NPCs. That definitely made me laugh.
World of Goo
It seems "physics engine" was the phrase of the day for me, because World of Goo is another Wii game with a solid foundation of algorithms and cosines and square roots running the show. (Can you tell I was an English major?) Although I sucked badly at this game, it was still very impressive to see running, and even more impressive to play. I mentioned my first encounter with the game in the preview, where I managed to screw up by building a tower of goo that would make the Leaning Tower of Pisa look structurally sound in comparison. The game's designers told me this was a later level from the game, so it's supposed to be hard, but I'm still a little unsure. I'm definitely gonna get World of Goo when it comes out, but it seems like it'll conflict with my notorious lack of patience (the reason I can't play RTS games). But there's something so twisted and surreal about this game that I feel compelled to bypass my usual tastes and do some serious strategic thinking.
Today we received a package from the Land of the Rising Sun stuffed full of the magical goodness of Mario Kart for the Wii. We eagerly set out on it and put in a few solid hours of single-player and four-person multiplayer, and so far, the general consensus is that it's pretty awesome. There are a lot of really minor gameplay changes, from the addition of the handy "you're about to get hit" alert indicator to the way power slides are handled, but it's important to note that even with these changes, the game is still very much the Mario Kart that you have come to know over the years.
Be sure to check here for some gameplay footage we took of our various exploits and check back next week for even more media and coverage!
Hello and welcome to Work In Progress, the GameSpot previews blog. Much like the reviews blog this is going to live up to its name and be a work in progress that will evolve over time. The main thinking behind it is that it's our way to offer information out to you all faster. Besides standard previews stuff, like shorter updated impressions from game demos or answering any questions you all have on previews we've posted, we'll also be letting you know about events and other goings on that we're covering. April is going to be nutty so you can expect all kinds of craziness on the site. So far we've been to Bungie to see the new Halo 3 map packs on Friday of last week (embargo lifting this Friday), been to Sierra's press day today (embargo lifting later this month), and got a Nintendo event Thursday and Friday of this week (embargo up next week).
We'll be updating Work In Progress a minimum of two times a week, sometimes more depending on what's going on, so keep an eye on it and let us know what you think and what you want to know.
Ricardo Torres, Editor-in-Chief