News

Weekly News Round-Up 23/3/10

I’m a tad behind on the latest news since my last full article about GDC ’10, which had a record breaking 18,000 attendees, having had a recent power outage, but fear not! The gaming goodness is now here and fit for consumption!

Heavy Rain's DLC features Madison Paige

On the DL

A number of released and unreleased games are getting the DLC treatment – it seems it’s the only way forward for any half-worthy franchise. Peter Johansson, lead designer on Just Cause 2 announced forthcoming DLC, following the game’s release on March 23rd, yet he insisted the content already existent in the game is, to say the least, extensive, he qualified this, in an interview with Eurogamer, by bragging he’d completed only 60% of the game, but had racked up 55 hours. Modern Warfare 2 is getting it’s first “stimulus package” to cure sufferers of Mapathy on March 30th for Xbox Live, at a whopping 1200MS – unfortunately healthcare insurance doesn’t cover this one. The map pack includes Crash and Overgrown from CoD4 so you can relive the glory days/nights! And to top it off, a double XP system will be put in place the following weekend April 2nd – 5th. Dragon Age: Origins has a new expansion out titled Awakening and Bioware teased, that in theory, they could release infinite DLC packs like this. Finally, Quantic Dream’s interactive depression title, Heavy Rain, is receiving its first DLC, named The Taxidermist. The content revolves around Madison Paige, and acts as a short prequel story for the character.

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Gaming Blues

Unfortunately the recession is still rearing its ugly head and indeed, backhand, as the recent weeks have seen a number of layoffs – our thoughts go out to them. Rebellion, perhaps most famous for its recent Alien Vs Predator, handed pink slips to around 20 of its staff in Oxford, UK and IGN has reportedly also, been forced to let a number of its junior members ago, despite recent financial success for the media company. However there is one man we’re not sorry to see the back of , Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, famous in the Australian gaming community for his refusal to allow a R18+ game certificate, and vehement battle against video games. Fortunately the over-sensitive Atkinson has stepped down.

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360 Degrees worth of Xbox-ness

Microsoft are always looking for ways to fiddle with Xbox and thereby make more cash and occasionally, genuinely improve our experience, so here are a few rumours/updates. According to a report by Joystiq, the 360 will be receiving a firmware update this spring. The document they claim to have a hold of states “USB Mass Storage Device Support on the Xbox 360” so be sure to check back here for updates on that. In addition, Microsoft are releasing a 250GB standalone 360 HDD, as advertised on the Xbox Dashboard.

Send off your 360 with dignity

A patent, filed by Microsoft back in 2008, for a streamlined DLC system for Xbox Live, has now been approved. The system apparently lets you download available content without having to leave your game lobby, so you can jump in with friends even if you don’t have the content prior to joining the lobby. Presumably this will be pushed out the doors fairly quick now the patent’s approved. Also, the Xbox Live Marketplace release schedule for the next week or so has been revealed and is here.

Finally, Daniel Ek of Spotify, the music service, reportedly told SXSW goers that he’d like to see Spotify on the 360. Granted this is not news, really, or even a rumour – but I signifies that there’s a good chance of this becoming a reality. Ek said that he wants to make music like water, and though personally I’m not keen on it being sole reason the human race and life exists on earth, but you get his meaning.

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DRM Woes

Steam UK is now without the friendly Italian assassin we know and love, as a number of Ubisoft’s main titles that use the much-maligned DRM software, including Assassin’s Creed 2, have been removed. Despite speculations that this decision was taken by Valve due to the controversial DRM, and Gabe Newell’s stance on the subject, Ubisoft told VG247 that it has “nothing to do” with the DRM issues and is simply a business decision, that only applies to the UK.

Command & Conquer 4: Tiberium Wars was released last week, and it was proudly announced it had, in fact, no DRM – fantastic you’re thinking, however it does require an Internet connection to play at all times. It’s a shame to see any franchise follow in the steps of Ubisoft, as this software is damaging to the market; pirating is a problem, but other large companies like Valve manage to get along alright – in fact if every company could be something like Valve we’d live in a better, albeit quirky world.

We do have one partial victory though – in Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s most recent patch, all DRM was dropped from Steam-purchased copies, in DICE’s ever increasing effort to impress the cool kids (and it’s working).

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Bad Company Fights Back

So speaking of Bad Company 2, although it’s nothing like Modern Warfare 2, it seems to have pitted itself against it. The first person shooter, having sold 2.3 million units, and topped March sales records in Europe and North America, released a public service announcement video the other day:

In case you missed it, the video pokes fun at Modern Warfare 2’s original video F.A.G.S. PSA, which was pulled after complaints over the obvious. On top of this, DICE plan to release a playlist update for all original owners of the game free of charge (part of Project Ten Dollar) on March 30th in direct (and fierce) competition with Modern Warfare 2’s exorbitant map pack, and plan to release paid DLC in the near future. I thought DICE’s decision to release Bad Company 2 in March when MW2 was beginning to become a tad samey, was a savvy decision, but you’ve got to respect them for going up against the behemoth this month – courage or stupidity? Either way it’ll be interesting to see how the two battle it out.

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BioWare

My beloved BioWare are now busy at work extending Mass Effect 2’s universe and experiences with DLC and after having seen what Greg Zeschuk had to say at GDC, that, as he put it, “It’s [DLC] not like a piece of lunch meat”, but rather part of a long term vision, to extend the lifetime of the game for consumers and publisher alike, after having put so much work into the original game – I’m fairly confident we’ve got some galactic delights in store. First up is Firewalker hitting tomorrow, March 23rd, on the Cerberus Network with the new Hammerhead Tank and 5 accompanying missions, then there’s a character appearance package for Thane, Jack and Garrus on the same day but (unfortunately) for $2 and finally Kasumi’s Stolen Memory on April 6th, for a modest 560MS. Additionally, if you’re interested in some input from BioWare about how Mass Effect 3 will shape up, there are a couple of articles here and here, thanks to VG247, explaining the company’s development and teasing their approach to the final instalment.

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For Your Consideration

There are a number of high profile games in development due for release this year or early next year, and GDC brought the chance to get a better idea of how each developer is tackling their game, so here’s some updates and articles, mainly thanks to VG247, again.

–> Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor, EA’s answer to Call of Duty, despite lacking a much-needed “u” in it’s title, is under full-swing development at the moment and apparently has “cool toys” and aims to portray a number of different viewpoints in the Afghanistan war.

–> Killzone 3

Guerrilla Games, creators of Killzone, are convinced they haven’t pushed the PS3 to its limits yet, in terms of graphics, and presumably mean to implement said visuals in Killzone 3 which has been promised by Jack Tretton, though release date rumours range from April to 2011.

–> Halo: Reach

Bungie recently released some details on Halo’s swan song, Halo: Reach, in regards to matchmaking – undoubtedly fans will be obsessing over each scrap of information as we speak, such are that strange breed.

–> Fable 3

Peter Molyneux, aside from other daily activities such as proclaiming the rise of the PC again, praising Quantic Dream and promising the first thing that enters his mind, has recently tweeted that he’s worried about the first 30 minutes of Fable 3 due to a lack of combat. In other Fable 3 news there will be twitter support, episodic content and one last “big” reveal at E3 (I ask to readers, for sanity’s sake to take “big” with a large handful of salt, due to source material).

–> Rockstar

Rockstar co-president Dan Houser, in the most recent issue of GamesTM, stated that developing Red Dead: Redemption has been “challenging”, despite the company’s vast experience. Additionally, speaking to Edge, Rockstar has said that LA Noire is taking a different approach to the usual Rockstar open-world game, relying less on action and more on interaction other subtleties. It’s fantastic to see Rockstar pushing itself, to be original but also build off of it’s unique and unquestionably brilliant sandbox-gaming heritage.

–> Star Wars: The Old Republic

BioWare, regardless of its other strong franchises, are taking on what is clearly it’s biggest undertaking, (its first MMO) Star Wars: The Old Republic. EA aim to secure 2 million subscriptions for the game due to be release in a year’s time, though I suspect, if VG247’s early preview is anything to go by, it’ll be a lot more than that and may rival World of Warcraft. CEO Ray Muzyka, teased that TOR will have some “twists” regarding payments, but added that it will mostly follow the traditional business model of MMORPGs, and the twists will be well integrated into the story and mechanics. With things like micro-payments being a contentious issue for many hardcore MMO players, who makeup a large percentage of the market, BioWare will have to be careful about how they handle this – lets hope their passion for story and great gameplay will makeup for lack of experience in this particular genre.

–> Sega

The once great Sega are apparently announcing a Natal Project at E3. Its unkown with it will be a new IP or whether they will bring back a much-loved story from the many in the depths of their games history. And Lastly, creators of the upcoming third-person shooter, Vanquish, Platinum Games of Sega, are to make a PS3 version first, before the 360, because the Playstation 3 is untrodden territory for Sega, and thus they want to avoid a “shoddy” port.

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Odds & Sods

Every week there are a number of odd bits of news I can’t justify a whole section on nor think of a brilliantly unfunny title for. Try to read the following as TV news headlines with epic music in the background.

  • According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Microsoft is already developing a Natal 2. [This probably isn’t as surprising as it sounds, if it is true, as it’s most likely internal development that’s taking place all the time at the company’s headquarters – it’s unlikely to stay stagnant just because the Natal’s almost ready.]
  • Game Informer have yet more scoops on the Portal 2 world, now with new characters, including new loveable sentry bots.
  • The movie adaptation of Kane & Lynch is to star none other than Bruce Willis (that sounds about right) and Jamie Foxx (wait, what?), respectively.
  • GameStop will reportedly have shortages of Wiis and PS3s until the summer, according to the company’s Executive VP of merchandising, Tony Bartel.
  • Nintendo have are due to release the 3DS in March next year, to support 3D gaming, with a sharp screen and analogue sticks.
  • Vice President of Epic Games, has confirmed there will be no Gears of War this year, in order to stay out of the way of blockbuster titles and the Natal. [When questioned on the April 2011 rumour he answered, “you’re kidding right?” – take what you will from that]
  • The Playstation 3 is the heaviest console of all time.
March 23rd, 2010
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News

News 28/01/10

This week: Your console is your childrens’ portal to hell, yet more of that beautiful downloadable content and glorious game releases and the Southern Americans’ iPod.

Governments Flaming Consoles

The latest news brought to you by a stream of somewhat subjective and uniformed thought has seen not only the socialist president of Venezuela condemn video games, but also the UK Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith. Two weeks ago Chavez declared on his weekly TV Show “Alo Presidente” that “Those games they call ‘PlayStation’ are poison, some games teach you to kill. They once put my face on a game, ‘you’ve got to find Chavez to kill him.’” (butthurt much?) and that games “promote the need for cigarettes, drugs and alcohol so they can sell them. That’s capitalism, the road to hell”.

Hugo Chavez

Aside from the fact that we can clearly deduce old Hugo is raging Xbox fanboy, I can’t help but think condemning violence in video games is a little hypocritical considering he himself has attempted military coups. What’s more distressing is the attacks on games much closer to home from Duncan Smith. Speaking to The Times, the UK MP claimed “We are driving children to lose their childhood, and some video games are incredibly violent, like Grand Theft Auto. They are meant to be 18 but nobody cares what it says on the label.” Now I certainly advocate improving the ratings system, but this statement is clearly subjective and grossly misinformed – I suppose blaming video games is an easy way to account for the UK’s crime and anti-social behaviour problems, but one must consider that the real problem lies in those vandalising public property and hanging around, sniffing glue in the park, not indoors indulging in some good old GTA. I could go on on for a few more pages discussing my stance on video games being a cause of violence but I’ll simply remind myself that this is a man talking about loss of innocence, who voted for the Iraq war in which many soldiers were actually killed and countless civilians.

Wii, Xbox Live & PSN

It was recently announced, to the relief of many Nintendo fanboys, that Netflix would indeed be coming to the Wii sometime in the Spring, with the usual subscription of $9 a month – however, it will not offer HD videos because of course, the Wii is not capable…let the flame wars commence.

SCEA director of hardware marketing, John Koller, recently stated that expansion of the PSN is “critical” in 2010, and this comes as no surprise given the tight competition between the  next gen console publisher to expand their products into more than just devices to play games on. He promised more original titles and a resurgence of PS1 games, but had nothing to add when asked if Sony planned anything similar to a Games on Demand service like Xbox Live’s – C’mon Sony, keep up now.

And finally Ben Jones of Zipper Interactive claims Xbox Live is more juvenile than PSN. Nonsense! I was discussing how mature Xbox Live was with a gentleman I met on CoD last night, and by guy I mean 10 year old…and by discussing I mean struggling to translate the high pitched screams and racial slurs. Anywho, he went on to say, that as a result the PSN is a better fit for the 256 player MAG. Probably so, but a game of that magnitude needs teamwork, so we’ll have to wait and see whether the game produces the sort of cooperation necessary.

Japan Isn’t Over

Despite Keiji Inafune’s comments at last December’s Tokyo Game Show, according to Aaron Greenberg, director of product management at Xbox, “the future is bright” for Japan, as he believes Natal will help leverage and inspire creativity. He emphasised that it’s important that the Japanese developers should seek to be original and not attempt to create the next Call of Duty or Halo (we’ve nothing to worry about on that front, as they’ll be a constant stream shoved down our throats – I’m not complaining). The Japanese games market generated ¥542,640 million in 2009, down 6.9 per cent year-over-year, so one can understand the negativity; but even Inafune, on the Project Natal panel, said “I strongly feel that Project Natal will expand the possibilities of gaming”. So, whether you like it or not, Natal is coming and Microsoft are placing a lot behind it, claiming that 80% of 3rd party developers have Natal titles in development currently.

iPod iPad iPuddy cat

Yesterday, Steve Jobs, with the whole of the hip, polo-neck-weaking Apple corporation behind him, announced and showed off the iPad, Apple’s offering to the Tablet computer market. And thus the usual hype, fanboyism and anti-Appleism swept its way over the internet with claims from ‘revolutionary’ to ‘really big iPhone’. You can get the full details virtually everywhere and here, but the point is it will be able to run iPhone games and apps and EA have gotten in with the cool crowd to cash in.

He looks so proud

Apparently at least 150 titles are in due to be released  for the iPad, and although the titles shown off at the press event, NOVA and Need for Speed: Shift were simply scaled up versions of the iPhone games, they had very little time to produce the titles to demonstrate. Hopefully game developers with a little more time on there hands might be able to offer up something more substantial for the iPad, which clearly has better gaming prospects given its size and power, as Apple would want you to know.

Game & DLC Releases

Mass Effect 2 is out in the US and arrives tomorrow for the UK with all its galactic shenanigans and I hope to have a review up soonish, depending on how long it takes me to savour its’ delights. You can check out the orgasmic, I mean fantastic, trailer here and if that isn’t enough, Greg Zeschuk, co-founder of Bioware has stated that although this Mass Effect series is limited to a trilogy, other incarnations and forms are possible and definitely on the table – lovely jubbly. In slightly smaller, but equally awesome news, Jack Wall, I hear, is returning or rather, has returned as composer for the soundtrack of Mass Effect 2 – happy face.

Assassin’s Creed II: Battle of Forli DLC is out today for just 320MS points – so get stabbing and leaping through it and enjoy the fact that it will be followed up by Bonfire of the Vanities next month! We’re clearly spoiled. Go and check out the trailer here if you should need convincing.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 developer DICE has dropped a whole bunch of crap on the PC community recently, announcing the sequel would neither have a dev console nor private dedicated server support, only officially rented – meaning no mods or custom maps, which is a real shame; Infinity Ward might have suffered a great many less illegal downloads of MW2 had this been announced earlier. Nevertheless, the game looks promising and there’s a new multiplayer mode trailer out, so check it out.

Dragon Age: Origins is receiving yet more DLC next week called Return to Ostagar and Bioware have also announced the expansion, Awakening, will be hitting March 16th, so no shortage of pointy ears and potions. Finally, I’ll leave you with a refreshingly depressing thought – a Tony Hawk’s Ride sequel is already in development. God help us all; see this for reference.



January 28th, 2010
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