Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Diary of an Assassin - Tenth Entry

Well, it seems like the Assassin’s Creed franchise decides when it’s time for me to upgrade. I originally started writing this series because I had to upgrade my computer to be able to play the first Assassin’s Creed. Since then I’ve played through all five games, seeing the changes from one to the next, with each one playing silky smooth. That is, until Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag.

From the first scene, Black Flag told me, “Hey, I’m going to tax your system.” The naval battle at night in the rain chugged along; dipping to 30 frames per second at times, no thanks to the way the AnvilNext engine handles vertical sync. I spent about a week at the area above tweaking settings, trying different anti-aliasing options, seeing if I could squeak out extra frames by turning down shadows, foliage, god-rays, and other environment effects.

I built my computer in November 2011, and by 2013, it was already showing signs of age. So I did what I thought any other PC player would do gain a bit of power without spending extra money: I overclocked, further. When I built my system, I overclocked my i5-2500K from its factory setting of 3.3GHz to 4.0GHz with a third-party cooler. This was my first time ever trying to overclock something, so I thought that was decent. Doing more research, I found the i5-2500K was stable enough most people could overclock to 4.0GHz using just the stock cooler, and with third-party coolers, it could reach up to 4.8GHz.

In order to make sure conditions were right for overclocking, I cleaned out my system of any dust or particles, cleaning up around the desk area, and in general making the area cooler for the system to run. With that, I bumped up the CPU to 4.5GHz and ran a few stress tests to make sure it was stable. Once it was, I also dug into overclocking my EVGA GeForce GTX 570. I used MSI Afterburner to bump it up from its default settings of 732MHz core clock, 1464MHz shader clock, and 1900MHz memory clock, to a core clock of 850MHz, 1700MHz shader clock, and 2000MHz memory clock.

What this all essentially means is I gained about 10-15 extra frames per second while playing Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag, making gameplay range anywhere from 45 to 60 frames per second, which makes for a vastly better game experience. I also was able to stave off having to upgrade for another few months until Watch Dogs releases.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Wolf Among Us review - game noir

I’ve never read a single issue of the Fables comic, but that makes me the perfect audience for The Wolf Among Us.

It takes a simple premise and flips it on its side. All the fairy tales we heard about as kids, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the seven dwarfs, Jack and the beanstalk, they’re all real. But rather than living happily ever after, they were forced from their homes by ‘The Adversary’ and now live in a place called Fabletown in New York City, where they live among normal people hiding their true identities with spells called glamour making make them look human.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Layoffs at 2K Marin

BioShock 2 and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified developer 2K Marin has been hit with layoffs today. Official numbers are unknown but a source told Polygon the “majority” of the studio has been let go.

According to the source, the only developers safe from layoffs were those already in transition moving the new 2K studio in the Bay Area under former BioShock Infinite producer Rod Ferguson.

A 2K Games representative said, “We can confirm staff reductions at 2K Marin. While these were difficult decisions, we regularly evaluate our development efforts and have decided to reallocate creative resources. Our goal to create world-class video game titles remains unchanged.”

One former employee took to Twitter stating he is no longer employed by 2K Games.

Former 2K designer Steve Gaynor, co-founder of The Fullbright Company, reacted to the news on Twitter, sending out condolences to those affected.

Blizzard All-Stars is now Heroes of the Storm

The Blizzard themed MOBA, which first debuted as Blizzard DOTA then renamed to Blizzard All-Stars following Valve’s development of Dota 2, has a new name again: Heroes of the Storm.

“Yep, we’ve changed it again,” reads the description of the video above debuting the new name.

Heroes of the Storm first appeared a few weeks ago when Blizzard filed for a trademark for the name, leading to speculation that it might be the name of the next World of Warcraft expansion.

The video description also says to, “Set aside whatever you think you knew about Blizzard All-Stars,” as more information will be released at Blizzard’s upcoming BlizzCon on Nov. 8 and 9 in Anaheim, Calif., where it assumingly will be playable.

I played Blizzard DOTA at BlizzCon 2011 when it was still called Blizzard DOTA. It was the first time I’d ever played a MOBA. You can read my impressions here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Watch Dogs delayed to spring 2014

Ubisoft announced the delay of Watch Dogs, its open-world game set in Chicago, to spring 2014 today on their blog. When it was first shown at Ubisoft’s E3 2012 press conference, Watch Dogs was synonymous with next-gen, heading the charge of the new comes that are now less than a month away.

“Our ambition from the start with Watch Dogs has been to deliver something that embodies what we wanted to see in the next-generation of gaming. It is with this in mind that we’ve made the tough decision to delay the release until spring 2014.”

According to the post, Ubisoft is using the extra time on polish to closer deliver on their desired quality.

“We know a lot of you are probably wondering: Why now? We struggled with whether we would delay the game. But from the beginning, we have adopted the attitude that we will not compromise on quality. As we got closer to release, as all the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place in our last push before completion, it became clear to us that we needed to take the extra time to polish and fine tune each detail so we can deliver a truly memorable and exceptional experience.”

Watch Dogs was originally slated to release on November 19 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 version launching alongside those consoles. It will now release sometime in spring of 2014. The push to spring leaves November 19 open to Need for Speed: Rivals and the PC version of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Superpowers are the glue that holds Saints Row IV together

On paper, Saints Row 4 shouldn’t work.

Originally conceived as an expansion to Saints Row The Third, it takes place in the same city, reuses some of the same jokes and gags, and has some of the same tired activities. But with a different premise, the introduction of new characters, and a varied narrative, Saints Row 4 feels like one whole cohesive game wrapped around the concept of superpowers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Marvel Heroes is finally ready for you to play

When Marvel Heroes launched back in June, it had the same predicament as most MMOs when released. It was done and out of beta, but barebones. It lacked any features and systems that made players want to play beyond just the story. Gazillion Entertainment took that starting point and ran with it, growing and adding more in the months since to now finally make Marvel Heroes feel like a complete game.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gone Home review - connecting the dots

If you have any interest in playing Gone Home, don’t read past this paragraph. Just go buy it and play it. It’s best played blind, without any pretense knowledge, and gives you an experience that can’t be replicated in movies, books, or other mediums.

It is 1:15 AM on June 7, 1995. You are Katie Greenbriar, just coming home on a dark rainy night from a year traveling through Europe. You arrive at the house, but no one is home. There is a mysterious and ominous sounding note on the door. Where is everyone?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gamescom Batman: Arkham Origns trailer introduces Firefly

Warner Bros. Montreal showed off a new trailer for Batman: Arkham Origins at Gamescom, introducing one of the newest of the eight assassins to threaten Gotham on Christmas Eve. Firefly joins the list, which already includes Deathstroke, Deadshot, Bane, and Copperhead. However, those aren’t the only villains who appear, with the Joker playing a significant part, and if you’re careful, you can see the Penguin appearing briefing in the trailer. Batman: Arkham Origins releases for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on October 25, with its handheld counterpart, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, coming to the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita on the same day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Division coming to PC afterall

After Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment unveiled The Division at E3 this year, PC players wanted to take part. A petition asking for a PC version amassed over 140,000 signatures, and this week at Gamescom Ubisoft announced The Division will indeed come to the PC. “I’m very pleased to announce that the game will be available on PC,” executive producer Fredrik Rundqvist said, “Massive Entertainment has its roots in PC development with titles like Ground Control and World in Conflict. You can be certain that we will provide you with a first-rate PC experience.” It's unknown if the delay in announcement will reflect onto release with the PC version coming later after the console versions, similar to the Assassin's Creed series, but PC players should be happy knowing their collective voices were heard. The Division is slated to release late 2014 on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Prepare for new Titanfall gameplay demo from Gamescom

Respawn unveiled a new Titanfall video showcasing multiplayer gameplay during EA's Gamescom press conference. The video plays out like a singleplayer campaign mission, tasking the player with defending a pilot named Barker from capture. We follow a single soldier from ground, to titan, to air on a map called Angel City in an attrition mode gametype. The video also shows the epilogue of the match as the pilot escapes to the evac ship after defeat. It will be intriguing to see how this match might play from the opposing team, showing what a victory entails. Titanfall is coming exclusively to the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC sometime in spring 2014.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

PlayStation 4 to release on November 15 in US

Sony announced today at their Gamescom press conference the PlayStation 4 will be available starting November 15 in the North America and November 29 for Europe. President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Andrew House said, “The response that we have received has been nothing short of incredible. You’ve made it clear that you’re excited about this platform with more than one million preorders already worldwide.”

In addition, Sony detailed the 32 countries the PlayStation 4 will launch on November 29 along with the UK, including Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and Latin America.

The PlayStation 4 will launch at $399 in North America, and €399 and £349 in Europe.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Papers, Please review – a lesson in bureaucracy

Every day I do the same thing. I wake up and walk to work at the edge of Arstotzka, where the border has finally re-opened after six years of war with neighboring nation Kolechia. I should feel lucky. Thanks to the labor lottery, my family and I have a place to live, and I have a job to support them. It’s not a luxurious position, but I can help keep the borders safe by detaining criminals, denying foreigners with forged papers, or identifying terrorists. Glory to Arstotzka!

Friday, August 16, 2013

2013 Fall release schedule

Games are releasing again. The summer drought of games started near the beginning of June and starting next week, games will figuratively start hitting shelves again. The fall schedule always seems to start fast and furious, but unlike 2012 where there was a constant stream of new games almost every week, 2013 appears staggered. This makes sense, though, as Microsoft and Sony have yet to confirm dates for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, leaving these gaps in releases for console releases and launch line-up games leading up to Thanksgiving and Black Friday. This list covers the majority of games I’m looking forward to with a few exceptions, like games that are console exclusives, such as Grand Theft Auto V, and games that don’t have a release date yet, such as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance for the PC.

August 20
Saints Row IV
Splinter Cell: Blacklist
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

August 28
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

September 3
Rayman Legends

September 10
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs

October 25
Batman: Arkham Origins

October 29
Battlefield 4

November 5
Call of Duty: Ghosts

November 12
XCOM: Enemy Within Injustice: Gods Among Us

November 19
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Need for Speed: Rivals

Friday, June 14, 2013

Assassin's Creed 4 transitions from land to sea in E3 gameplay debut

Ubisoft finally unveiled gameplay of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag at Sony's E3 press conference, and while there were some hiccups, it looks to bring stealth back to the series. The most intriguing part of the demo was the seamless change from land to sea as Edward Kenway, grandfather of Conner Kenway from Assassin’s Creed 3, jumps from rooftop to rooftop to the back of his ship the Jackdaw, instantly taking command of it amongst a sea battle. Along with a new cinematic trailer below, Ubisoft also showed off a new gameplay trailer, featuring the song "Half Circle" by Full Moon Run, at their press conference. Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag releases on October 29 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC, with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions coming later this year.

Dragon Age 3 simply becomes Inquisition in new trailer

BioWare finally unveiled footage for the upcoming conclusion, Dragon Age: Inquisition. Dropping the number three from the title, Inquisition runs on the Frostbite 3 engine while taking inspirations from games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. BioWare noted the world of Inquisition would be more open than previous games with less of a focus on linear story telling. BioWare is also looking into ways to import save data from previous games where choices will affect the narrative as well as possible feature previous protagonists, as hinted at in the trailer with Morrigan showing up. Dragon Age: Inquisition is slated to release for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC in fall 2014.

Your first look at the new Star Wars: Battlefront

After several attempts and restarts by multiple studios, a new Battlefront is actually happening. During EA's press conference, they snuck in the above teaser trailer, showing the frigid wasteland of Hoth as a snowspeeder crashes across the screen and an AT-AT foot stomps down. It's been eight years since the last games, Battlefront 2, and with the newly christened deal between Disney and EA, DICE is set to develop the new Battlefront on the Frostbite 3 engine. There are no other details about the game beyond that. Pre-production just barely started so don't expect Battlefront to come to current generation consoles or any time before 2015.

Need for Speed: Rivals focuses on the pursuit

Need for Speed: Rivals is sounding more and more like the perfect blend of Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted after its showing at EA's press conference. Set in an open-world build in the Frostbite 3 engine, Rivals will take a stab at blending singleplayer and multiplayer by populating the world with other players while online, meaning races and pursuits between other players could happen at almost any time. Meanwhile, Rivals also has a complete singleplayer campaign for both cops and racers. Ghost Games is putting a focus the pursuit, giving tools such as spike strips and EMPs that were absent in Most Wanted. You can see the full reveal trailer shown at the press conference below. Need for Speed: Rivals releases for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on November 19, with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions coming later.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mirror's Edge 2 is coming, but it's not actually a sequel

After years of whispers about a possible sequel, EA finally unveiled a follow up to Mirror’s Edge this year at their E3 press conference. While not exactly Mirror’s Edge 2, this new game will be a prequel to the original game, telling the origin story of Faith. The game will utilize the new Frostbite 3 engine and work as an open-world game. No dates were announced for this new Mirror’s Edge, with the trailer simply saying coming when it’s ready, but it will be released for next-generation consoles and PC.

Batman spreads his wings in this E3 Arkham Origins trailer

The newest trailer for Batman: Arkham Origins was unveiled during Sony’s E3 press conference showing a noticeably younger Batman, Bane, and Joker. Developed by Warner Bros. Montreal instead of former studio Rocksteady, Arkham Origins is set as a prequel taking place during the early years of Batman’s career. Because of this, Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy are not returning as the voice of the Joker and Batman, instead recruiting Troy Baker, who voiced Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite, and Roger Craig Smith. Arkham Origins takes place on Christmas Eve in Gotham as Black Mask puts out the call for five assassins to take down Batman. Three of those five, Bane, Deadshot, and Deathstroke, have been named so far with Penguin being rumored as a fourth. Batman: Arkham Origins releases on October 25 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Battlefield 4 brings down the building with multiplayer

DICE introduced two new gameplay demos this week, one at the Microsoft press conference and another at the EA press conference, showcasing both the singleplayer and multiplayer aspects of Battlefield 4. A total of 64 people on were live on stage playing the multiplayer demo on PCs, but next-generation consoles will also support up to 64 players. While the singleplayer trailer below has the player gauntlet through a scripted escape sequence off an aircraft carrier, the multiplayer shows the level of fidelity Battlefield 4 brings with its destruction on the new Frostbite 3 engine. Battlefield 4 releases on October 29 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC, with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions coming later this year.

Titanfall drops in at this year's E3

Nearly three years after its formation by former Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella, Respawn Entertainment finally unveiled their game, Titanfall, as the exclamation point on Microsoft’s E3 press conference. Titanfall is first-person shooter featuring a hybrid gameplay mix of on foot pilots and mechs called Titans. Despite being multiplayer only, the game aims to blend fast-paced round-based multiplayer with the cinematic singleplayer aspect of modern shooters. Built on the Source engine, Titanfall is designed to offload physics calculations and AI to servers, making matches run smoother and faster on consoles. You can see the full reveal trailer showcasing more of the story of Titanfall below. Scheduled for release in spring 2014, Titanfall will be exclusive for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Garrett returns as the master Thief in these screenshots and trailer

A new cinematic trailer was shown for Thief during Microsoft's press conference this week. The trailer focuses squarely on Garrett, the master thief of the city out to take what he wants. While no gameplay was shown, the game is playable behind closed doors on the E3 show floor, with small showcases of gameplay on various stage demos. However, Eidos did release some new screenshots from the classic first-person perspective that you can see below. Thief is slated to come to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC sometime in 2014.

Geralt of Rivia returns for one final hunt in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

CD Projekt RED unveiled the newest gameplay trailer for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt during Microsoft's E3 press conference on Monday. While the trailer is pretty standard, showing off the high visual fidelity the series has been known for since The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, there are also several shots entirely in CG. Like their previous Cyberpunk 2077 trailer, CD Projekt RED managed to sneak a small message in the trailer right before the title unveil. Below is a screen capture of that message, but if you can't make it out, the entire message is posted below. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is due sometime in 2014 for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

New Watch Dogs blackout demo in time for E3

Watch Dogs, the stand-out game from E3 2012, is back this year again with a brand new CG trailer and lengthy gameplay demo during the Sony press conference. The demo shows off the interconnected city of Chicago and the various ways players can manipulate the environment to plan their escapes. It’s nice to see hacking in game that uses it as a gameplay mechanic rather than a simple minigame. The demo also highlights second-screen capabilities with a tablet. Watch Dogs is coming to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC on November 19, with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions coming later in the year.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Saints Row 4 is clearly the Citizen Kane of video games

A new Saints Row 4 trailer released just in time for E3. The President of the United States is stuck in a Zin simulation and it's up to the Saints to get him free, including Pierce, Kinzie, Shaundi, Shaundi from Saints Row 2, newcomer Asha Odekar, the return of Benjamin King from the first Saints Row, and Keith David as himself as the Vice President of the United States. Unlike the Power-induced trailer for Saints Row The Third, this trailer plays accompanied by dramatic music that would fit more appropriately for an Oscar-nominated movie. All of this, of course, while the President of the United States shoots aliens in the streets of the city naked. Saints Row 4 releases on August 20 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lara Croft and the steady hand of death

Tomb Raider is easily my most conflicting game this year so far. Don’t get me wrong, the controls are precise, the transition from the old blocky grid-like movement to modern free form running is great, and the visual fidelity is outstanding, especially with TressFX enabled. But there’s one small section of Tomb Raider I’ve gone back and forth on, changing my mind whether it’s executed poorly, or its subtle nuances make everything fit together.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fast cars and cops are back in Need for Speed: Rivals

EA announced a new Need for Speed game, Rivals, will be coming later this year. Though it's not the first Need for Speed title to use Rivals (that honor goes to the 2005 PSP exclusive Need for Speed: Underground 2: Rivals), it will use the same Frostbite 3 engine appearing in other EA games, including Battlefield 4 and Dragon Age 3: Inquisition. Need for Speed: Rivals aims to combine the open-world of last year's Most Wanted with the exciting police chases of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Surprisingly, Criterion Games, who announced at E3 last year it would oversee all future Need for Speed games, is not developing Need for Speed: Rivals. Instead, a Gothenberg-based studio called Ghost Games will be handling development. However, the creative director of Most Wanted and Hot Pursuit, Craig Sullivan, joined Ghost Games to oversee the project. Along with the return of Autolog, Rivals will include a new feature called AllDrive, allowing players to seamlessly drop in and out of single and multiplayer races. Need for Speed: Rivals arrives for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on November 19, with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions coming at a later time.

Call of Duty: Ghosts is real and coming this November

Following the announcement of Call of Duty: Ghosts with a live-action teaser trailer, the first gameplay trailer appeared at last week's Xbox One presentation. Along with the trailer, developer Infinity Ward showed a behind-the-scenes look at the new engine powering Ghosts, comparing soldier and dog textures from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to Call of Duty: Ghosts. You read that right; Call of Duty: Ghosts will feature a dog as part of your squad that can help sniff out bombs and, presumably, play fetch. While plots details are sparse, Call of Duty: Ghosts is set sometime in the future, 10 years after a global event leaves the United States crippled and no longer one of the world's strongest countries. Call of Duty: Ghosts releases for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC on November 5, with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions following shortly.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Set sail with Edward Kenway in Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag

As previously rumored, the next installment in the Assassin's Creed series is indeed heading to the high seas with Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. This time taking a step back in history, rather than moving forward, with Edward Kenway, father of Haythem Kenway and grandfather to Conner from Assassin's Creed 3. Set during the golden age of piracy, Kenway sails through the Caribbean encountering historic pirates such as Blackbeard and Anne Bonny while plundering treasure from the the king he once served, attempting to redeem himself as a 'man of quality' to his family. Black Flag will improve on the sailing and naval combat first seen in Assassin's Creed 3, giving players the option to explore the open sea as well as deserted islands. Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag is due to release for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC on October 29, while PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions will arrive sometime later in the quarter.

Saints Row 4 PAX East Demo

If you weren't able to make it to PAX East in Boston back in March, Volition and their newly-minted publisher Deep Silver recently released a video showing off the gameplay demo they were showing for Saints Row 4. The video highlights some of the crazier parts of Saints Row 4, including a virtual Steelport, the dubstep gun, superpowers, a mech-suit, and aliens. Originally created as the expansion Enter the Domintarix for Saints Row: The Third, whole parts including missions, story, and voice-acting were thrown out in order to not feel like an expansion, instead going for a full-fledged sequel where the player is the President of the United States. As the the video above shows, the more eccentric parts of Enter the Dominatrix remained. Saints Row 4 releases on August 20 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The shortcomings of Makeb

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Initially concepted as a content patch when Star Wars: The Old Republic was still using the subscription model, Rise of the Hutt Cartel released on April 14 and I’m already finished. I’m not level 55 though; I’m only about half way through level 52, but I’m done with Makeb. What seemed like a full, fleshed-out planet turned out to not even last 10% of length of the base game. Instead of something like Tatooine or Corellia, I got Quesh.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

LucasArts closing its doors

Disney announced today the closing of recently acquired LucasArts, publisher of games such as the Monkey Island series, Grim Fandango, and all Star Wars video games.

In a statement to Game Informer, Disney said, “After evaluating our position in the games market, we've decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company's risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games. As a result of this change, we've had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.”

The shift from internal development to licensing means more studios will have opportunities to work on previously LucasArts owned titles, most notably Star Wars games. The most recent LucasArts-developed game was Star Wars: The Force Unleashed in 2008, and the last published game was last year’s Kinect Star Wars, developed by Terminal Reality.

Star Wars 1313, unveiled at E3 2012, along with the recently uncovered downloadable shooter, Star Wars: First Assault, are still up in the air whether they will see release. A Disney representative did note, “There's always a possibility that it [Star Wars 1313] can still come out via licensing,” but with the recent cancelling of The Clone Wars TV series, it seems Disney and Lucasfilm are focusing all their efforts on post-Return of the Jedi content.

When Disney acquired LucasArts back in October as part of the $4.05 billion deal for Lucasfilm, Disney CEO Bob Iger noted, “We're likely to focus more on social and mobile than we are on console. We'll look opportunistically at console, most likely in licensing rather than publishing, but we think that given the nature of these characters and how well known they are, and the storytelling, that they lend themselves quite nicely, as they've already demonstrated on other platforms.”

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The first Thief reboot trailer

Square Enix unveiled the first trailer for the recently re-announced Thief game. Previously slated as Thief 4 back when it was first announced back in 2009, it's now positioned as a reboot, taking Garret back into the industrial metropolis known simply as the City to take anything and everything. For those unaware of the lineage of the Thief series, there are sure to be comparison to last year’s Dishonored, which the trailer doesn’t try to sidestep. Thief is due to hit PC, PlayStation 4, and other next generation platforms sometime in 2014.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Defining atmosphere through BioShock

Games tell stories through dialogue, narration, and cutscenes, but it’s environmental storytelling, often referred to as atmosphere, that usually tells the most about a character or setting. One of the first things they teach in film study classes is the phrase, Mise en scène, translated from French meaning placing on stage. It means nothing in a scene is there by accident, everything is meticulously placed and serves a purpose.

Most games set up their environments effectively, but BioShock is one of the few games in recent years to do it eloquently, making the underwater city of Rapture feel not only natural, but real. From its art direction, taking on a retro 50s era aesthetic, to its inclusion of timely music from that era, BioShock created a unique place that, despite its dead and abandoned nature, felt alive and left its mark on players.

What makes up the atmosphere is a combination of art direction, sound design, and environmental details. The clip above encapsulates all these with the corpse of a Big Daddy sitting in the middle of the room, the wooden beam breaking from his dead weight, and the blood stains against the far wall, probably from the struggle between the Big Daddy and its attacker. But it’s the sound design that relies most heavily in this moment.

If you listen to the clip above and with your eyes closed, it’s amazing what you can interpret through just the audio. The voice of Dr. Tenenbaum realizing where her hatred is rooted from, the flooded area sways with the sound of water, the creaking of walls as water pressure pushes against them, the moan of the Big Daddy draws dread with each clamoring footstep, the mutterings of a splicer just outside the room looking for you. All of that is illustrated just with sound.

No matter how fantastic or unrealistic a premise might be, small details like stumbling uponwhat looks like a lived-in bedroom, rather than just a sterile room, helps create the sense of place. It’s one thing to find a crate lying around lifelessly that has no connection or context to it, it’s another to come across a half-played game of pool with bags of potato chips and bottles of liquor strewed about unfinished. It conjures narrative questions like, who was here, and what happened to them?

Friday, March 22, 2013

How Crysis followed in the footsteps of the Predator

February was a weird month for the Aliens and Predator franchises. Both have always played off each other since the aliens skull appeared in the trophy room in Predator 2, transitioning to books, comics, and two crossover movies. It came to a head last month in games, though. Dead Space 3 released to fairly warm reception, though not as the best in the series. The Dead Space series clearly took inspiration from the tension, dread, and horror of the Aliens franchise, creating its own world and fiction. Then, an actual Aliens game released.

Poised as the official sequel to the Aliens movie, Aliens: Colonial Marines, released to an almost industry wide panning that even made several outlets question the role of previews. It was fascinating to see a game that only took inspiration receive better than the series it took inspiration from. At the end of February came Crysis 3, the last in a series that takes elements of the Predator movies and flips it in reverse, casting the player as a super-powered solider taking out aliens.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag poster surfaces

ac4posterThe next Assassin’s Creed game may already have a name. Kotaku received the poster to the left earlier today along with other marketing materials for something called Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

Ubisoft hasn’t officially announced the name or any details of the next Assassin’s Creed, but they did confirm during their last financial conference call a new game would be coming in their 2014 fiscal year with a new hero and a new setting.

The poster shows an assassin in garb similar to Conner from Assassin’s Creed 3, standing on a pirate ship with a knife in one hand and a pistol in the other. The artwork is apparently from comic-artist Todd McFarlene, leading to the speculation that the poster is legitimate as it wouldn’t be the first time Ubisoft used a comic artist for the Assassin’s Creed series. Promotional materials for Assassin’s Creed 3 used artwork from Alex Ross.

Rumored details for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flags include the main character Edward Kenway, Haythem’s father. Edward is a privateer, assassin, and sometimes pirate, leading to locations in the Caribbean such as Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas. If this is true, Ubisoft seems to be leaning on the strong naval missions from Assassin’s Creed 3, while possibly exploring the narrative behind Haythem’s turn from the assassins to the Templars.

Ubisoft has only said so far that the next Assassin’s Creed game will be coming sometime in the next year. The Examiner ran first screenshot, running on an Xbox 360, showing what looks like an improved lighting model. It’s unknown if the game will be solely for current generation platforms, or have next generation versions as well. Ubisoft is holding an event tomorrow on February 27 presumably to discuss more details about the next game.

The first 30 minutes of Aliens: Colonial Marines in GIFs

As Corporal Winters aboard the USS Sephora, you awake out of cryosleep to respond to a distress call aboard the USS Sulaco. The Sulaco, last seen over Fiorina "Fury" 161 (as noted in Aliens 3), is orbiting back over LV-426. Your squad, Rhino 2-3, is the second squad sent in to assess the situation and recover the flight recorder of the USS Sulaco. Oorah to ashes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dead Space 3 review – thrills through experiment

If the first Dead Space is a survival-horror game, and Dead Space 2 was all about its sense of dread, then Dead Space 3 tends to lean the side of action-horror. You won’t be guns blazing all the time like in a Call of Duty campaign, but the action does kick up whenever human enemies are involved. Despite this, Visceral manages to balance the tension and action with environments that look amazing and sound design matching what set the first Dead Space apart.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bungie’s Destiny: The more things change, the more they stay the same

Over the weekend, Bungie unveiled their upcoming ‘shared-world’ first-person shooter, Destiny. Set among the Earth’s solar system, players will become Knights and Guardians, empowered by The Traveler, a mysterious white orb hovering above the Earth’s last city, to discover what caused the genocide of our species, and who or what is The Traveler. Destiny aims to marry emergent gameplay of an MMO with a persistent first-person shooter, giving players a world that lives and breathes even when they’re not playing. Designed to span over the next 10 years, Destiny will give players a reason to keep coming back as new content and expansions are developed and released, without the need for a subscription fee.

And that’s about all we know about Destiny. Despite the press event held at their headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., Bungie showed little to no gameplay, offering only a high-level look at it through concept art, the engine, in-game models, and music. The assets released thus far have are all concept art shown at the event, with small snippets of gameplay in a video documentary explaining the ideas of Destiny. At one point during the event, they showed a reel not of gameplay, but the reactions of play-testers encountering the emergent gameplay that comes with the MMO design. If testers are involved, Destiny must already be in some sort of playable state, so it begs the question of why Bungie showed things like concept art, but no gameplay.

That’s not to say they can’t pull it off. Bungie did learn how to adapt for consoles with Halo, making it the standard for console first-person shooters. But Destiny is much more ambitious game, both technically and narratively. Without more information like what gameplay is like, how classes work, how multiplayer will work, when it’s coming out, and how it will sustain itself over the next 10 years, I remain skeptical. It’s another reminder that things like CG trailers and early announcements are less relevant.

Destiny is destined for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sometime in 2014, along other future consoles. Bungie didn’t come out and say it, but expect to see Destiny on the next Xbox and PlayStation. They made no mention of a PC version, but COO Peter Parsons said to Eurogamer, “We would absolutely love to be on the PC. If you talk to the people upstairs, we play it on all platforms. So, stay tuned.” While that sounds promising, I’m not holding my breath. Bungie co-founder and Destiny project director Jason Jones noted, “We've learned a bunch of lessons from MMOs and Facebook games… but Destiny is a console shooter.”

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How I plan to play SWTOR for the rest of 2013 for just $15

*Plus expansions costs

Unlike most, I was excited when BioWare announced Star Wars: The Old Republic would go free-to-play. I played free-to-play games in the past, but they hardly held my interest for more than week. With SWTOR, I could dive deep into the free-to-play experience in a game I already played and enjoyed. My playstyle wasn’t vigorous enough to warrant paying $15 a month when I only completed a flashpoint two or three times a week, and luck out into a spot in an operations group on the weekend.

Monday, February 11, 2013

DmC Devil May Cry review – killing demons and thumbs

I’ve never played a Devil May Cry game before. I have no context of what Dante was like before, only murmurings from the internet of how he was either a caricature of a superpowered anime character, or a torn, conflicted man called to fight a war between angels and demons. Whether that makes Ninja Theory’s reboot appeal to me more or less doesn’t matter. What matters is how DmC plays and feels on its own, and if it plays to the strengths of Ninja Theory’s cinematic visuals, vibrant design, and developed narrative.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Diary of an Assassin – Ninth Entry

Note: As I have now moved into the recently released Assassin’s Creed 3, these diary entries will contain spoilers about gameplay and story. Please read cautiously. If you do not want these things spoiled, please read after finishing the game.

Assassin’s Creed 3 ends in a weird place. Desmond is dead. The earth and its population are safe from the solar flare through a global aurora borealis. And Juno is free, planning her rise to power to conquer humans once again.

Ubisoft announced yesterday during their Q3 2012 earnings call that Assassin’s Creed 3 sold over 12 million copies worldwide, making it the most successful entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Following on that note, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot stated a new Assassin’s Creed game will be coming Ubisoft’s 2014 fiscal year, which runs from April 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cart Life reminds me why I’m cautious of indie games

I tend to enjoy big-budget games more than independent games. Polish and production value carry a lot of weight for me, and these elements often take a nosedive with independent games. The majority of independent games tend to be retro platformers with some sort of pixel-art aesthetic, trying to reminisce about the age of the Nintendo and Super Nintendo. While I understand the sense of nostalgia these games try to convey, they lose me in their simplistic design and interaction. That’s not to say I hate indie games. Games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Dear Esther, Limbo, and Bastion carve out their own space, standing not only as spotlight independent games, but also as great games.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The difference between games and non-games

Right around the time game of the year announcements started appearing, a small discussion took place about the validity of the awards. This isn’t anything new; debates about whether a game is worthy of the title game of the year happen every year, and most of it is subjective. But this time it wasn’t a debate about whether the titles should be called game of the year, it was whether they should be called a game.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Finding a good home for THQ's games

Look, there’s a reason I would be a terrible analyst. THQ is done. After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the end of last year in an attempt to sell the company to Clearlake Capital Group for $60 million, the judge governing over the filing sided instead with a group of creditors and US trustees. They objected to the sale, claiming the 30-day window was not long enough to provide other companies a chance to offer a bid. The result means THQ will be auctioned off piece by piece next week on January 22. Whether that means by franchise, studio, or both is unknown.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The next three months of Japanese games for a PC gamer

PC gaming has never had the same kind of relevance consoles do in Japan. Publisher-funded games tend to lean toward Xbox 360 and locally developed PlayStation 3 titles, with PC versions of those games being far and few between. When a PC version does release, it usually releases months or years after the console counterparts, or arrives as port with questionable quality.