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News 25/2/10

Call of Duty: Nam’?

Well there was speculation and rumours that this year’s inevitable serving of the Call of Duty franchise would be based on that war with most tenuous and controversial of motives, Vietnam, and it seems all but confirmed. A recent LA casting call for Call of Duty-related “voice over/motion capture” for an Activision “video game” and described character, Frank Barnes as being part of an elite Vietnam unit. There appears to be four major characters – a fiercely patriotic veteran, a very physically fit black man, a 30-something white military tactician and a cold, Russian-born, martial arts trained female. So as you can see, the game is already bursting with originality right off the bat; and you can bet your blown off limb that this 7th instalment will be squished to the brim with movie take-offs, clichés and line from any number of Nam epics. Having bashed Treyarch, there’s still a possibility that a further improved multiplayer experience could save the title – I think we can all agree that Infinity Ward’s MW2 just attempted, in many respects, to achieve too much and failed to reconcile and balance all the features. Either way, expect to be flung into a hail of weeping comrades, unnecessary deforestation and hippy-bashing.

CoD 7: Vietnam?

Project 10 Dollar

Sounds cool right? This suave codename actually stands for EA’s new policy to combat loss of sales due to second hand purchases. This directive is the result of a brainstorming session in New York last year headed by EA CEO John Riccitiello and came into effect with Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2, to be used here onward, allowing customers who buy games brand new to benefit from a slew of free content, and charging the thrifty second-handers or anyone late on the scene fairly substantial sums for the DLC. With Dead Space 2, a couple of Need for Speeds and Crysis 2 hitting the shelves this year, along with a promise to provide DLC for every title accordingly, this is a pretty big effort and was no doubt decided upon by Riccitiello ominously looking out on the world from the top of a skyscraper, with his hands behind his back (the name just requires it!). In a climate such as ours now, with the Games Industry increasingly succumbing to the force of recession, I for one admire the strategy – free content for being an enthusiastic gamer? I’ll bite; It’s just another clever use of price discrimination and although some may feel differently, increased first hand purchases can only do the industry good.

Just Be-Cause 2

Square Enix, to the delight of pyromaniacs and Michael bay fans alike, and of course me, released some trailers for Just Cause 2 recently. The series of promos titled Anatomy of a Stunt feature the game’s protagonist, Rico, performing all manner of ridiculous and insane tricks, showing of the improved physics engine. The game boasts in-game video capture as well and is due out in March. I can’t really say anymore, just watch and switch off your brain!



How The West Was Won Made

Red Dead Redemption is shaping up to be a veritable groundbreaker, pushing the boundaries, both literally and figuratively – checkout any of the trailers, and then wipe the salivation off of your keyboard. But, you’d have to have been living under a very heavy, liberal rock to not know Rockstar is no stranger to breaking new ground, whether you believe it best left untrodden or not. In a recent interview with IGN, the co-founder of Rockstar, Dan Houser explained how the simple values of Rockstar made the basis for its hugely successful games, most notably the GTA franchise. With many games in the genre being almost innately described as “like GTA but.” (and usually not up to the same standard) it’ll be interesting to see how Redemption fares, as it’s one of the only games that can proudly and rightly hold the aforementioned description. I’ve no doubt that it will be an achievement of its own though, the voice acting looks phenomenal and the combat looks set to truly capture the intricacies of action which cowboy films made popular.

Houser went on to say how the controversy over certain Rockstar games has been misplaced (we’ve all seen the fox news clip where the douche claims the goal is to fuck a prostitute and then kill her) and that though many claim it has only helped the game in terms of publicity, this was not the case, as gamers don’t go out to buy a game solely because it’s controversial, but because it’s a good game – the only thing that’s happened is ignorant media corporations and parents think they know something about it. There’s a lot more about their philosophy of game creation and some interesting points in the full interview, definitely worth a read. Whatever your view on the company and it’s games, there’s no doubt that it is, at the moment, going from strength to strength, and it appears as though Take-Two, Rockstar’s parent company, believe in them as well, having opened a new publishing HQ in Japan, in a time other publishers are laying-off by the bucket-load, set to publish Episodes from Liberty City as its first release.

Console Yourself

No new hardware, or at least consoles in the “near future”; at least that’s the news from EA chief financial officer, Eric brown who, at a recent conference, said he did not expect “a sharp and distinct console transition like we’ve seen in the past”. It seems fairly logical as well – yes, there’s a huge increase in demand for games compared to the last generation, but people are playing any one game for so much longer due to quality, downloadable content and online multiplayer.  Speaking to shareholders, Brown explained that consumers’ needs are fulfilled by today’s current technology, with nothing considerably better than the HD consoles to upgrade to. Although there’s been no word from the major console companies, hardware such project Natal prove their ambitions lie elsewhere. Just as well, as developers, specifically, Remedy (creators of the soon to come Alan Wake), told GI that they’re in no hurry to make the transition to another generation of consoles, although reportedly (ID CEO Todd Hollenshed told VG247) Microsoft are the best position to make the next move, having had their consoles out for a while with all the costs recouped. Personally I’m happy with what we’ve got; the investments made on copious amounts of games warrant a much longer life on this cycle, and as the innovators of the industry have shown with increasingly technologically impressive titles and hardware accessories.

[UPDATE: Jack Tretton, the CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, stated that he is convinced the PS3 will enjoy a ten year life cycle]

Natal Vs. the Arc

SCEA SVP of PR Rob Dyer has confidently claimed that line-up behind Sony’s Arc will beat out Microsoft’s “PR Barrage”. He said “From Sony’s perspective, rather than go out and do a whole PR barrage to give everybody the ‘happy, happy, joy, joy’ news,” said Dyer, “we’re going to show up and have a line-up of products to show people rather than having a lot of great statements to say, ‘This is what’s going to happen.’ This might have some substance if we hadn’t already seen both in working order. Natal is nothing less than groundbreaking if you believe the Microsoft executives or at least, completely original, if you don’t, whereas Sony’s offering seems to just an extension of the Wii’s thang, and possibly worse. Dyer’s argument was that with Natal it means writing games with a whole new codebase to work with the system, but with the Arc you can use the same PS3 code and therefore there will more diversity and innovation. Fair point, but the hardcore gamers who primarily own PS3s and 360s aren’t exactly akin to the idea of motion control anyway, and it they were they’d have a Wii, but where Natal has the edge is in the originality of the whole system. Put it this way, I’m not keen on the whole motion control to start with, so I’m unexcited and unimpressed with the Arc, but at least the Natal’s innovative system has me wondering, and at $25, wanting to give a whirl.

Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg stated a couple of days ago, that they were going to be careful with what they release for the Natal and doesn’t want to dump everything and anything onto the market. So this kinda confirms that there may be less games out for Natal to start with, but will the quality offset this? The Analyst Michael Pachter certainly thinks so, predicting the Natal to outsell Arc 5 to 1. Either way, those legendary developers at Valve are going to be chuffed, as they recently went on record as saying they hope there’ll be more “shitty party games,” and are keen on using the Natal, and possibly Arc (as they recently said they would try to give the PS3 some loving) to make a real impression and “not [to] make shitty games I wouldn’t want to play if I had to use a joystick.”

Despite the codename of Sony’s motion controller being much cooler, the Natal looks to be undeniably superior – all that’s left now is to hope we can incorporate the word “fail” into the Sony controller’s real name, if it isn’t in fact Arc.

Finally

Here’s an awesomely terrifying presentation given by Carnegie Mellon assistant professor of entertainment and technology, Jesse Schell, at the DICE summit the other week about the evil genius of the casual games, and more importantly the future as a whole…

February 25th, 2010
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