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E3 2010 Day 2: News & Impressions

e3-logoWe’re in full swing at E3 2010 after our day 1 coverage and full of excitement and sheer madness that fills the atmosphere. Activision’s extravaganza last night set some of their biggest games’ trailers to a whole host of massive artists from Usher to Jane’s Addiction, capping off the night with Eminem, showcasing Call of Duty: Black Ops. But enough of the publicity stunts, let’s get down to business.

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Konami Press Conference

Konami offered a mixed bag this afternoon, ranging from images of a woman being dissected by an elevator in Saw II, to campness defined in Glee Karaoke Revolution. The real highlights were as follows. An announcement of Silent Hill 8 (working title) with an overhauled combat system for 360 and PS3 got horror fans shuddering with excitement and Never Dead, the new title from Rebellion, by Shinta Nojiri, looks to be a 3rd person shooter in which the loss of limbs is just a minor inconvenience: neat.

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Perhaps most exciting for yours truly was a little bit more chat over Metal Gear: Rising. The energy in the spine that Raiden rips out in the trailer is a core gameplay mechanic that constitutes energy and even intel for our bleached-haired heroin.

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Evidently from the gameplay trailer on Tuesday, Rising’s combat revolves around a lot of slicing and dicing, but there will also be stealth elements, as is fitting for a Metal Gear game, though with an added verticality and a faster pace. In terms of timeline, the game documents the period between MGS2 and MGS4, showing how Raiden goes from snivelling lady boy to the unflappable cyborg ninja.

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It’s hard to even explain everything that happened on stage this afternoon – at one point a developer introducing Never Dead, appeared to decapitate himself live on stage. Needless to say this presser was odd, and the below video should give you a taster of what it was like. To get the full thing with all the announcements, click here.

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Announcements & Incoming Games News

Behind closed doors THQ’s VP Danny Bilson has said that Saints Row 3 isn’t being shown at E3 because they felt it wasn’t quite ready yet, but it will make its debut appearance at the VGAs in December. Apparently THQ are investing heavily into its launch and accompanying merchandise, with a Saints Row film ostensibly hitting at the same time. In Mr. Bilson’s own words “Saints Row is going to be a monster for us.”

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Also, Nintendo today announced the spine-tingling news that a complete remake of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the classic N64 title, is on its way to the Nintendo 3DS. In conjunction with the brilliant looking Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Wii, Miyamoto has got himself a whole bunch of immeasurably pleased fans.

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Nintendo 3DS

As soon as I arrived on the show floor today I had but one thing on my mind, the Nintendo 3DS. However it appeared so did a couple of hundred other journalists, creating a gargantuan line. But here’s the thing: It was absolutely, undeniably worth it!

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The 3DS is very difficult to convey via any medium, but I’ll give it a go. The 3D, as opposed to an in your face, gimmicky splashing out of the screen type of affair, is quite subtle. It drops out behind the screen, only reaching out towards you every now and then with certain images; it’s truly remarkable. Put together with the increased processing power of the 3DS and you’ve got a unique experience sitting in your hands with consistency and style, without the need for hideous glasses and proving it to be no gimmick. It doesn’t stop there though; the thing can also take 3D photographs on the spot and play special Hollywood movies in glorious 3D without glasses.

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Nintendo are backing their claims up almost flawlessly, with a whole host of huge developers signed up to make games for the 3DS, including the wordy titled Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater “The Naked Snake”. They have stolen the show, and crawled back with avengence from a fairly uneventful E3 2009 (for Nintendo).

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Portal 2

At lunchtime I was lucky enough to attend a closed screening of Portal 2 with Valve employee, Erik Johnson, and frankly it’s looking fantastic. As well as adding in a co-op mode and a brand new story, fitting for a full title size this time round, Valve have pushed the envelope in terms of the puzzling potential in Portal with a number of aptly named new features.

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The ‘Aerial Faith Platform’ adds a jumping dynamic for you to gain momentum with, ‘Repulsion gel’ does exactly what it says and can be painted on surfaces, in order to fling yourself forward and ‘Thermal Discouragement Beams’ prompt light-based riddles. All of these new features and many more are used in conjunction with the actual portals, meaning an amalgamation of all these elements could culminate in a mind-boggling and devilishly difficult test.

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Erik Johnson explained to me the initial approach to Portal 2, in regards to the original game:

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“Portal 1 was part of the Orange Box in 2007 and was this successful commercial product for us. What was surprising for us was this attachment that people had to the product after it shipped. And for us, because so much of the game seemed to center around surprising people, we really needed to take a look at exactly what kind of game we needed to build. So we broke it into three pieces and said story was one part of it that was really important to every one; GLaDOS and Chell and their relationship.

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Thing two was being smart, irreverent and funny, which was a huge part. On the gameplay side, people would tell us ‘we want more of Portal 1′, but we think what they’re saying is they want to be surprised all over again, which was the scary part for game designers to actually re-surprise them; but we think we’ve done a pretty good job.  And then the third thing was music, where ‘Still Alive’ became this incredible hit with Portal fans and kind of a calling card for fans to talk to each other and edit it on YouTube.”

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Portal 2 is set to go live sometime in early 2011 for 360, PC and PS3, and considering the almost universal praise Portal 1 received and the scope of what I saw today, you’ll not want to miss this one. Expect devious puzzling, shiny new graphics and oodles of dry humour.

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Fable 3

I was able to have a brief look at Lionhead Studios’ much-hyped Fable 3, which imitates a time period of around the 18th century this time, only with the usual spells, sorcery and overly cockney accents. It’s looking pretty nice too and runs smoothly; confirming the more action/adventure-ish experience Peter Molyneux was aiming for. But the show floor hardly does justice to most games, especially deeper RPGs, so it was difficult to soak up the full experience, but I can confidently say that having John Cleese as your butler is as good as it sounds and the combat is nice and fluid, meaning innocent civilians are all that easier to murder!

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Limbo

Limbo is an indie title headed for PSN and Xbox Live Arcade this summer, created by PlayDead Studios. It’s a 2D puzzle-platformer, with a striking visual aesthetic akin to a harrowing and dark dream, where the player controls the silhouette of a boy, often with only his bright white eyes distinguishing him from shadowy backdrop.

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Not only is the environment hauntingly beautiful, but all the animations are incredibly smooth and elegant, capturing the way forces work on ropes and vines and how the boy reacts to them expertly. It’s not just easy on the eye though – there’s plenty of clever little puzzles with a solid physics system to back it up.

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It’s really no wonder it’s been nominated for a number of “best of E3” awards, and it’s excellent to see an independent developer produce something of such a standard that’s on show to be considered alongside it’s corporate counter-parts’ products.

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Xbox 360 Kinect (Motion Controller)

Finally I headed over to the Microsoft booth to get a good feel for the Kinect motion controller. Now if you don’t mind making a prat of yourself in front of your family, or for that matter, loosing your dignity; Microsoft’s new technology is great and works pretty much as you’d hope.

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It succinctly mirrors the actions you parade in front of it with very little latency. It certainly is an intriguing new piece of tech – no one could refute the evidence and I’m not surprised it’s taken a lot of effort to develop. But sometimes just having the means doesn’t cut it, and it baffles as to why they’d release Kinect with so few noteworthy titles. Every single launch title is another very conspicuous finger in Nintendo’s pie.

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People were having fun with the new experience of being almost completely understood and recognised by their Xbox from head to toe, but most would agree that Microsoft are far from exploiting its full potential, especially given they are releasing a new Xbox 360 ‘Slim’ console model which could also have had more features as many people are already commenting about.

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Summary

Day two was another chaotic day, with all sorts happening in every game-filled corner; even rappers Methodman and Redman were present, performing a live concert to promote Def Jap Rapstar. I’ll be sure to report back tomorrow with my final impressions on as many games as I can get my hands on and the subsequent reflections on this year’s E3 as a whole.

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Check out Zath.co.uk for all your technology related news!

June 17th, 2010
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E3 2010: Day 1 Games News & Press Events Review

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So here it is, the gaming judgement day of the year, E3, where every company, big or small, casual or hardcore struts their stuff for buyers, and primarily, the insatiably hungry media. I arrived in LA on Monday and thanks to an uncharacteristically cool summer day, I’ve managed to squeeze in plenty of previews, for which I will share my impressions with you now. I shall be writing each day up in the evening, and then putting together a reflective summary afterwards, along with a few interviews with developers. So here goes…

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Microsoft

After an elaborate, and ultimately insane fanfare for Kinect (the artist formerly known as Project Natal) which utilised the unwitting media, clothing them in white and blue ponchos and shoulder pads, Microsoft showed their hand on Monday morning, and as expected Kinect featured very heavily. However, they were also eager to parade some of their high-profile games and deals such as the first dibs on Call of Duty: Black Ops DLC, Metal Gear: Rising (multiplatform), the very pinnacle of incisional euphoria, allowing you slice and dice enemies at will and the star-studded Fable 3, boasting performances for Sir Ben Kingsley, John Cleese, Jonathan Ross and Stephen Fry, penned for an October 26th release.

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Also very much noteworthy for many Halo fans was the reveal, via a new trailer, that Reach will have space combat and firefight mode. So after some more trivial Xbox Live announcements, Microsoft pulled out the big guns announcing the Kinect motion controller to release November 4th in America, along with 15 launch titles, and the new slim-line Xbox 360 console model, complete with built-in Wifi, 250gb HDD headed for Europe July 16th. Microsoft’s press conference was solid, with the new slim Xbox 360 console stealing the show.

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Nintendo

High expectations were circling Nintendo’s presser, what with a new Zelda rumoured and the Nintendo 3DS handheld, and boy did they deliver in their signature style. Miyamoto demonstrated The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword live on stage, which employs the Wii controller and nunchuk to act as sword and shield, along with a number of new gadgets and in one word it looked superb. In terms of Wii titles, they also had a wealth of classic franchises to grace your consoles including Epic Mickey, where you literally paint town red, and every other colour forming the world around you, in classic Disney locations. Bursting out from rumour to reality, Nintendo revealed a GoldenEye remake, surely irresistible to any gamer with memories of the definitive original.

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And as if these weren’t they went ahead and announced the continuation of two classic Nintendo series with Donkey Kong Country Returns and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. By this time heads were already spinning, but Miyamoto and his chums couldn’t stop themselves there and thus debuted the Nintendo 3DS along with a slew of high profile games in development for it. Among this fountain of fantasies were a 3DS remake of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Kid Icarus, Resident Evil, Kingdom Hearts and Golden Sun. Mind blown yet? It will also play full Hollywood movies and can take 3D photographs. Enough said; here’s the full thing.

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Sony

Finally Sony did their thing, and much like Microsoft, their motion control took centre stage. But regarding the actual titles, Sony were all about their exclusives, citing exclusive content for Mafia II, Medal of Honor and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer. And indeed they were also able to announce some strong titles such as a brand new Twisted Metal, Gran Turismo 5 and Killzone 3. Nevertheless, very few expected their biggest gift to Playstation hardcore gamers: Portal 2 on PS3 and Steamworks in 2011, though Valve aren’t top performers on keeping to schedule.

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Splitting the 50 million strong userbase, PSN Plus was announced by Jack Tretton costing €14.99 per 3 months, granting access to PS3 and PSN downloadable games, early access to betas etc, DLC avatars and other frills. However, Kevin Butler, who was incidentally hilarious, and the rest were eager to give Playstation Move a look in. Sony’s answer to motion control, which I would be forgiven for saying has certain air of familiarity (Wii Motion Plus?), will be hitting Europe September 15th, at $100 (around £70) for the big bundle of the Move controller, the extra navigation controller and Playstation Eye. Expect a number of launch titles along with support for 20 existing ones counting Heavy Rain and Resident Evil 5. Get the whole shebang here.

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Publisher Conferences

Among other things, at it’s presser, Electronic Arts broke out its Crysis 2, looking thoroughly heart-racing, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, EA Sports MMA, Bulletstorm for February 2011 and the obligatory motion control game EA Sports Active 2. You can watched the whole Electronic Arts press conference at G4.

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Ubisoft presented an equally varied list of upcomings, the most significant being a pretty looking 2D Rayman, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood for a US release of November 16th and profit reports demanding Just Dance 2. Add to this a brand new Ghost Recon subtitled Future Soldier that allows you to sneak up on foes under a stealth cloak and blow his head off point blank, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, a seemingly much slicker answer to video game fitness, exclusive to Xbox 360 (for Kinect) and we’ve got a fairly decent collection of titles, even if it is sprinkled with the trappings of an industry desperate to cater to the casual demographic. Again you can watch Ubisoft’s press conference in full over at G4.

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Without a doubt Nintendo take top podium, offering a brilliant and comprehensive line-up filled with classic franchises and a reportedly spectacular new platform (impressions of the Nintendo 3DS to come in the next couple of days) with yet more mind-imploding titles to back it up. Most would agree that the philosophy behind Nintendo’s conference was admirable: Great gameplay experiences to utilise the technology and not just cold hardware. In comparison titles like Microsoft’s Kinect Sports looked horribly counterfeit in comparison. Unfortunately, even though some exciting titles were announced along with a brand new console version, in my opinion, Microsoft takes last place. The Kinect is an impressive technology, it goes without saying, but they just didn’t deliver anything remarkable enough to capitalize on it.

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Vanquish

Sega’s new 3rd person shooter follows the exploits of Sam Gideon, one part of an elite military unit, tasked with recapturing an energy harnessing space station. If were to just list of some it’s most basic features: high tech spacey type suit, gears of war cover system, big guns and an AI controlled squad, you’d be staving off your yawns pretty quickly, but Shinji Mikami’s take on the western shooter is much more; a lot more.

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Gears of War-esque does a good job at describing this maelstrom of bullets explosions and robots if you add the description on steroids and a whole lot of Ritalin. Motion blur check, Slow motion check. Picture yourself sliding on your knees spraying bullets everywhere only to flip over a giant robot and dodge its rockets in mid air and you’ve got a pretty good picture of Vanquish. Some fairly standard controls and a smooth, bright graphical style and we’ve got the makings of one hectic, but stonking new shooter.

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Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Surprisingly, Assassin’s Creed’s multiplayer elements have been a work in progress ever since the release of the original, and it looks as though it may be worth the wait. I was shown the ropes in Assassination mode where you are given another player target to assassinate, having chosen my character abilities including disguise, speed boost and smoke bombs, I headed into the match, where my onscreen radar prompts me off the general direction my mark is in.

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But here’s the awesome bit: you yourself are being hunted by another player too, meaning you must blend in to the crowd much like your target is attempting. This dynamic creates a really tense experience, where watching both your movements and the subtleties of the crowds is paramount. The only slightly disappointing aspect was an over-abundance of HUD somewhat breaking immersion, but this is a work in progress, so we may see some improvements upon final release. So coupled with a visually stunning trailer and a great gameplay demo in Ubisoft’s presser and I’m thoroughly psyched for this one.

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The Shoot for Playstation Move

Wondering around the Sony booth I thought I’d take a shot at Sony’s Move with The Shoot, a basic rail shooter and one of the launch titles. The Shoot is essentially Time Crisis in the wild west, if it were a shooting range with fake wooden cowboys. Doesn’t sound great? It isn’t really; it’s fine for ten minutes or so and probably targeted at younger demographic, but the basics work well at least, swiping to dodge incoming knives and axes.

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Given a reasonable price, way down from typical PS3 titles and it may be worth the purchase if the Move happens to be your cup of tea. That just leaves the Move itself. Put simply it works as you’d expect, accurate enough to hit your targets, but still feels a little fidgety, and not something I’d be inclined to sit down with for any prolonged period of time. But then again, it wasn’t designed to be used for long gaming nights. So as you may have realised, this peripheral is on my periphery, but I will persevere tomorrow with some more complex titles.

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Little Big Planet 2

Having navigated E3’s corridors, tightly packed with, admittedly awesome, but manly shooters and high octane adventure games, I couldn’t help but whisk myself off to the nearest LBP2 exhibit in the afternoon to checkout the sequel to one of Sony’s most loveable gems. You’ll read it everywhere but the comparison of the original to Little Big Planet 2 boils down to this: In LBP 1 you created levels, unique, crazy and adorable levels, but in LBP 2 you’re creating games. The limit really is your imagination (providing you can make it work in 2D or 3-plane 3D).

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Media Molecule can be forgiven for saying there will be no need for a sequel because the few, seemingly insignificant new features open a veritable world of possibilities. The driver’s seat object allows you to take control of absolutely anything you choose making it possible to create an almost such as a RTS emulator or a racing game. I want this now; you don’t even need to mention the improved graphics, generally smoother gameplay, dramatically increased customisation and a whole host of new creation tools. I don’t even need to qualify my excitement with given expectations – this title needs no caveats from me.

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Summary

It’s been a good, if not hectic day, and it’s great to get it all underway. The sights and sounds of E3 are quite unlike anything else I’ve experienced: the 100 strong fake Korean army marching the hallways, the life-sized and living space marine and the untutored yet brilliantly easy-on-the-eye booth girls attest to that. Expect some interviews, daily write-ups and more updates via Zath’s Twitter feed and on Zath.co.uk over the next couple days. See you tomorrow!

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June 16th, 2010
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E3 2010 Day -1: Highlights

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I’ll be doing full day summaries once the event commences tomorrow both here and on Zath.co.uk, but until then, here are some of the most exciting things from today’s keynotes. As we feared, Microsoft, Ubisoft and EA were all too excited to instruct us how to stand up in our living rooms and look like prats, with the horde of new games built for the newly named Kinect, but there was thankfully, some proper E3 goodness. So take heart in these highlights:

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  • First and foremost was a first look at the insanely cool Metal Gear: Rising. Remember how badass Raiden’s entry scene was in MGS4? Imagine yourself doing it for real, slicing limb from limb in cyborg madness. Slicey!

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  • Microsoft’s answer to the PS3 slim: Sleek new design, built in Wifi, 250gb hard drive and quieter running noise, because of course, silence is golden or shiny back. Whatever.
  • Ghost Recon: Future Soldier complete with large explosions and stealth camouflage in order that you might experience the joy of shooting unwitting terrorists point blank in the back of the head.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops still looking awesome.
  • Medal of Honor passing off as Battlefield: Bad Company 2 crossed with the best parts of Modern Warfare 2, with a BETA on the way

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Other noteworthy stuff:

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Catch you tomorrow when the fun begins.

June 14th, 2010
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News 25/5/10: “What the dickens happened at the end of Lost?” edition

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Now that I’ve expressed my repressed dismay on the subject of TV’s most eminent cop-out finale, we can get on with some interesting tid-bits of news to let our palettes savour. I’ve been deep in my childhood wild west fantasies for the last few days, which Read Dead: Redemption allows me to indulge, so I should have a review up for that in the next few days, and as you may have noticed, it’s causing quite stir with shortages on PS3, fulfilled expectations of high sales numbers and even Irish newspapers protesting against its loveable Irish drunk. Anywho, I felt it necessary to put something up here while I prepare my review so here’s some information with which you may temporarily satisfy your never ending hunger.

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Pre-3

With the year’s biggest trade show just around the corner, rumours concerning large announcements at E3 are flittering about interwebs unchecked. So to get our heads straight and prepared for this maelstrom of promised-filled gaming news, I’ve decided to roundup what we know, and what we don’t have a clue about.

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So out with big guns first: It was rumoured last week, by MCV that, the PSP 2 would make it’s debut appearance at this year’s E3, but after some digging from the likes of VG247, supposedly reliable sources reveal that they are “99%” sure that it isn’t setup for an E3 reveal, but it is supposed to have 3G capabilities, 2 cameras and a very powerful processor. Word on the street, or rather behind closed developer’s studio doors, is that it’s actually due for an early 2011 launch, as games are currently being developed in the UK as we speak. Either way, it’ll be certainly interesting to see what the fat cats at E3 have to say.

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Also in the journalists’ sights is Capcom, who according to a recent episode of Weekend Confirmed podcast, have a “bombshell” to drop at E3, and speculation points to either a reboot of a classic franchise that will utilise Project Natal or Devil May Cry 5. Personally, I’m crossing my trembling fingers for the former, as Capcom has some truly fantastic franchises in the cupboard, and lets face it, Devil May Cry 4 failed miserably, so I’ve not got high hopes for that white haired buffoon for a 5th outing.

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To add to the hype, EEDAR boss Jesse Divnich, in an interview with Game Informer, predicted that Rockstar would be at least teasing GTA V at E3, for a possible release in 2011. He also noted that it’s unlikely any exclusivity deals would be drawn up this time round because Microsoft’s attempt’s with GTA IV wasn’t particularly successful, and there are other franchises in the market now standing as tall if not taller than GTA, thus an exclusive deal with for the PS3 or Xbox 360 would do much less to affect hardware sales. Although this leans towards dubious and seems to be complete speculation, it’d be foolish to ignore such a man’s predictions, so stay tuned for Grand Theft Auto: Glasgow.

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On The DL

Some believe these digital downloads are the entire future of games, while others call bullshit, but either way, developers of all shapes and sizes are keen to sate your appetite for their franchises with extra content, so here’s what’s worth looking forward to spending your so-easily disposable income on.

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Firstly, the ever-dependable Bioware, via Casey Hudson told us that the alleged “Star Wars of this generation” Mass Effect series would bridge the story gap between 2 and 3 through downloadable missions. We’ve not really seen anyone use DLC as an instrument to advance narrative in any meaningful way, so as long as Bioware continue to deliver the goods at a reasonable price, we may witness the very evolution of the way DLC is to be handled. The Overlord DLC, including an entire new planet for you to prance around in your space boots on, is heading for Xbox Live in June.

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Also very much on my radar, or should I say in my torchlight, is the sharp implement-filled Alan Wake, which is to receive its first DLC July 27th, “The Signal”, cutting Remedy’s development time record by about 500%, with promise of a second instalment on the way, named “The Writer”, thanks to an opportunistic screenshot of a glitch in the Alan Wake online store. Turn all your lights on and keep looking behind you for my exceedingly, but fashionably, late review in the next few weeks.

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Finally the folks, at least the few left, over at Infinity Ward have announced and detailed the second map pack for Modern Warfare 2, Resurgence, at the same price with the same distribution of maps, headed deployment on June 3rd. Resurgence includes Vacant and Strike from CoD 4, and three new maps by the names of Trailer Park, Carnival and Fuel.

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CoD: Black Ops

Now MW2 is all well and good, but most would agree that it’s starting to loose its edge, and along with all the drama concerning Activision, it’s very nice to see Treyarch, the underdog of the Call of Duty licensing deal, produce something pretty kick ass, with the announcement of Call of Duty: Black Ops. The trailer below, put simply, is thunder-fucking awesome, and of course, although we must be rational and remember it’s just a trailer, it seems like Treyarch are doing their best to capitalise on all the bad press over Modern Warfare 2. To put salt on the wound Black Ops will have dedicated servers, an issue which caused a debacle back when it was announced this would not be the case for MW2. It appears Treyarch are putting a lot of effort into a brand new multiplayer class system, new vehicles and even a streamlined matchmaking system amongst other things. More info to be thrown our way in due course; Call of Duty: Black Ops launches on November 9th.

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And Finally…

I’ll leave you with this completely unrelated video, which I can justify posting, purely because it’s so gut-wrenchingly hilarious. Curtains please.

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May 24th, 2010
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