Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2(Brace for onslaught of angry fanboy hate) I did not like Dead Space. I found the controls clunky and the gameplay to be slow, and I didn't really finish the game. That being said, I found it on Steam for $6.80 so I have decided to give it another chance. However, that is beside the point because I am here to discuss Dead Space 2, the sequel to the game which, from what I was told, was pretty amazing.

The original Dead Space was all about tactical precision, sick monsters and badass kills, but Dead Space 2 is about much more than that. A mere three years after the events of the original game our hero Isaac Clarke is facing just one necromorphic nightmare after another. Dead Space 2 finds Clarke aboard the Sprawl, a giant space station that is, you guessed it, overrun by the necromorphs, the reanimated bodies turned monsters from the first game. From the very first second of the game Clarke is fighting for his life......again.

In this game you will pick up your plasma cutter, throw on your engineering suit and get ready to dismember as many freaky monsters as you can without getting your head ripped off (trust me it happens, a lot). The main goal of Dead Space 2 is to find a religious idol known as the Marker which is causing all of this chaos. But that isn't all, players must also contend with the internal war Clarke is struggling with. After the events of the original game, I think it is safe to say that Clarke is a little shaken up. I don't know, maybe it's the fact that Clarke's girlfriend was brutally killed in the last game on the ship he encouraged her to work on. That would get me pretty messed up too.

Dead Space 2 GameplayClarke is slowly slipping into insanity in Dead Space 2 and it makes for a truly gripping story. Our hero doesn't let anybody in on how he is going loopy so only you as the player get to see into the darker recesses of his mind. The game adds some internal monologues i.e. Alan Wake as well as some hallucinations that really add to the theme. But what many fans will be looking for in Dead Space 2 is the combat and in this game it is oh so satisfying.

In this game your character is faster and lighter on his feet which is a big upgrade from the first game. Stomping crates and bashing bodies for loot are just the beginning. Why cut off the limbs of a necromorph when you can bash them with a telekineticly thrown crate? Heck, why don't you try mixing and matching all of these things together to see what kind of crazy combos you can come up with? One thing that is particularly enticing is slowing down an approaching foe, blasting off an appendage and impaling the poor sucker to the wall with it.

Visceral, creators of the game, took out the crap that slowed down the first game. Stuff like backtracking and becoming disoriented are a thing of the past which makes Dead Space 2 faster and more heart pounding then ever. Paths that you need to travel are clearcut making it easy to navigate, just be prepared to cut your way through anything and everything to get where you need to go.

Multiple playthroughs are possible due to the fact that you can play each one differently. There are some classic weapons as well as some new ones, and if you add that with Clarke's telekinesis, suit and stasis module (all of which can be upgraded), then you have a plethora of ways to destroy your foes. This progress can also be saved and carried over into a new game if you want.

Visceral had said that Dead Space 2 was going to contain a lot more action and that didn't sit well with some of the hardcore fans. However, they can all shove it because the action works and it is awesome. Clarke is badass and with good reason. Maybe fans of the first game were too busy peeing in their pants to notice that he took out an entire ship of these things by himself last time. Clarke was scared in the first game. Now, having lost everything, he is out for some revenge.

Dead Space 2 GameplayFor hardcore fans of the game, and I mean hardcore, like eating shards of glass for breakfast hardcore, there is a mode known as, well, "hardcore" mode. Enemies are the toughest you have ever seen, supplies are scarce, checkpoints are gone and when you die you restart from your last save point. Oh, and did I mention you can only save your game three times in hardcore mode? Yeah, it's that insane.

The whole "go to point A, push said button, kill advancing enemies" routine may get old for some, and the overall narrative is not as exciting compared to Clarke's inner demons. The other characters in the game are little more than slave drivers dictating your every move. So those are some faults. Another less than stellar aspect is the multiplayer. Players are split into two teams: humans and necromorphs. The human team has an objective to complete and the necromorphs are there to make sure they don't achieve it. The multiplayer sort of feels added on at the end.

Thankfully, the single player is good which is why people are going to want to play this game. A step up and in the right direction from the previous game, Dead Space 2 is something every fan of the original should get. People expecting to get this on the PlayStation 3 will be pleased to know that they will also get Dead Space Extraction as well and that the game is compatible with the traditional PS3 controller as well as PlayStation Move. The game is available now for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.

Source: IGN
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Killzone 3 Should Have a Much More "Fluid" Gameplay

Fans of Killzone will be happy to hear that according to Guerrilla Games, Killzone 3 should feature much more “fluid” gameplay. The game developer says that it has been working out all of the issues associated with the game’s frame rate and cover system. They are confident that fans will be very pleased with gameplay of the highly anticipated sci-fi sequel. Killzone 3 will offer a much smoother gameplay experience than its predecessors.

Game director Mathijis de Jonge is the source that revealed all of this information about Killzone 3. He said that numerous gamers complained about a variety of issues with Killzone 2, but Jonge says that they have all been ironed out for the sequel, which will be launching next month.

"[While] we were still tweaking and checking framerate, I checked this game back-to-back with Killzone 2 and have to say that it plays so much more fluidly. Also, the adjustments we made to lean-and-peek - you can actually slide into cover now, vault over, brutally melee your enemies - it feels more fluid, stutters less. There are fewer points of irritation,” he told Edge.

He continued saying, “[The] thing with Killzone 2 was there were some quite technical problems in the controls, actually, and I think we've solved those now.”
"There was a lot of lag... by fixing those issues we've lost a bit of that weighty feeling. We've tried to maintain that original experience, but if we'd kept it as slow, we'd run into the danger of losing some people, moving too far away from our competitors."

Studio chief Herman Hulst commented on the upcoming game as well. He said that he thinks that fans will be pleased with the game’s environment. He went on saying that there will be a much greater diversity in terms of the locations that gamers will be able to visit.

"A big improvement over Killzone 2 is that we're looking to have pretty much a unique setting for each level...,” he said.

"We're going from the Helghast interpretation of jungle to very Killzone-esque scrapyards, and at the end we go into space. It's a big departure from Killzone 2, where the first five levels were all urban settings."

Killzone 2 was an incredible game, but everything about Killzone 3 seems even better. Hopefully this highly anticipated game will meet the expectations that people are setting for it. I can’t wait to actually get the opportunity to play Killzone 3 after all of the hype. For those that are as excited as I am, we don’t have much longer to wait. Guerrilla Games will be releasing Killzone 3 in the United States on Tuesday, February 22.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Decrease in Overall Gaming Sales, But Records Still Broken

Despite all of the new games, accessories, and improved gaming systems that were released this past year, gaming sales in 2010 definitely went down. Yes, there were huge accomplishments like Microsoft selling 8 million Kinect accessory packages in the first 60 days after its release, and the fact that the company sold more Xbox 360s this year than ever before, but sales numbers were still lower than last year.

On Thursday, January 13 the NPD Group published their December and annual reports concerning video games in 2010. The reports said that the total sales for video games in 2010 reached $18.58 billion. They went on to explain that this sales figure was less than the past two years. Sales in 2009 were $19.66 billion while video games brought in $21.4 billion in 2008.

NPD did offer an explanation for the drop in sales. They said that they could be attributed to the 13 percent dip in spending on console hardware and a 6 percent drop in new video game software sales. The firm went on to say that consumer spending for new and used games, as well as downloadable games, have dropped by one percent. Now on the other hand, the sales of video game accessories have gone up. In 2010 the sale of all video game accessories jumped a whole 13 percent above the sales numbers from 2009. For the month of December alone, sales reached $853.2 million.

One of the biggest contributors that even allowed the gaming sales numbers to be what they are for 2010 was Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Sales of consoles went up 42 percent in 2010 over what they were the year before. December was a record setting month for the five-year-old console. Sales numbers showed that Microsoft sold 1.9 million units, making it the best-selling month ever for the gaming platform.

Microsoft said that to accommodate the unexpected demands in December they had to make units available that had been set aside for January and February production runs. "Despite this, Microsoft still experienced out of supply situations in late December,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement that confirmed the news of the shortage. “It [Microsoft] expects supply constraint to continue in January and February as it works with retail and manufacturing partners to expedite production and shipments to replenish the channel."

Although Microsoft definitely had incredible sales numbers in December, the company with the top overall hardware sales for 2010 was Nintendo. The company sold more than 8.5 million DS systems for the year, as well as 7 million Wii consoles. For the month of December, the company sold 2.5 million DS units and 2.3 million Wii units.

Now everyone needs to remember that overall gaming sales also include PC gaming. In 2010 PC gaming has had a small increase since 2009. Its sales numbers grew an overall 3 percent over last year’s numbers in terms of selling software. NPD reported that consumers in 2010 seemed to spend more of their money on used games, game downloads, and digital copies of games. There were some new games in 2010 though that did definitely make a fine contribution to the PC gaming sales numbers. Blizzard’s World of Warcraft : Cataclysm expansion pack and the highly-anticipated Starcraft sequel, Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, combined to account for 14 percent of the total PC gaming sales for the year.

On the console side there were some new games that definitely upped the gaming sales this year. The best of these include: Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops, EA’s Madden NFL 11, Microsoft’s Halo: Reach, and Nintendo’s New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Of these games Black Ops definitely nabbed the top spot. In the first two months, more than 12 million copies of the game were sold.

Although gaming sales have declined the past two years, plenty of records are still being broken, and we can all definitely agree that gaming itself isn’t declining. There were some great accomplishments, broken records, and new games that we saw in 2010. Who knows what will happen in 2011, but I’m sure that there will be even bigger and better things to come.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Details on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimIf you don't know about The Elder Scrolls by now, then you must not know a lot about video games. Well, Bethesda is back with their next big hit, and it comes in the form of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, sequel to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The latest issue of Game Informer had some pretty fresh gameplay details on this newest installment in the Elder Scrolls series.

The setting of Skyrim is 200 years after the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and the world of Tamriel has seen better days. Elves have taken over the empire, the Blades are gone, hate is brewing between the Nords and civil war is on the verge of breaking out. Oh, and if you remember that big dragon the Elder Scrolls kept talking about, well, he has arrived too. Players will take control of the last remaining Dragonborn, a dragon hunter anointed by the gods to help defeat the threat.

The world of Skyrim is made up of five massive cities that range from frozen tundras to rocky mountain tops. Players will also engage with new wildlife like saber-toothed cats and wooly mammoths. The combat in the game is getting an overhaul as well. Players will have the ability to equip weapons and spells to either hand at any time and even dual wield two of the same weapon. A new customizable menu is also being added in order to easily swap loadouts on the fly.

The character class system is also gone and the leveling system has been reworked as well. Skills will be leveled up the more they are used which contributes to your overall level growth. According to Todd Howard, a designer at Bethesda, "Raising one skill from 34 to 35 is going to level you faster than increasing one from 11 to 12." Players can also increase past level 50 though doing so is much slower at that point.

Bethesda has also added the perk system seen in Fallout 3 where each new level gained allows you to add special abilities to your character like damage increases to dagger stealth attacks or having your mace ignore the armor of enemies. The conversations you have with NPCs is also more realistic. Aside from adding a bunch more voice actors, the AI will move around and continue on with activities while you speak with them. You will also find more activities in towns like farming, mining, woodcutting and cooking.

The menu has also seen a change. Howard stated that the team used, of all things, Apple's iTunes as inspiration and direction. Players will be greeted with a compass-style overlay that has four options. These options include Skill, Inventory, Map and Magic. Weapons and spells can be tagged as a favorite for quick selection and every item has a 3D object that can be viewed and examined. If Bethesda keeps up with these positive changes, then Skyrim may very well be the best game in the series.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is set to be released on November 11, 2011 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

Source: IGN
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Clarification About the 3DS Warning

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the warning that Nintendo released concerning their 3DS that will soon be available. I talked about the effect that Nintendo said the 3DS’s screen could have on young children’s eyes. Well, at the Consumer Electronics Show, Reggie Fils-Aime, the president of Nintendo for America, spoke about the recent reports concerning the company’s 3DS. He wanted to clarify the extent of the hazardous effects that the gaming device could have on young children.

Fils-Aime was interviewed recently by Gearlog’s Brian Heater. He claimed that the warning that Nintendo put out about their 3DS is very common when it comes to any kind of 3D display.

"Essentially, there's manipulation of your vision being done to get the 3D effect, and we're recommending that not happen for children six and under," he said. "All 3D devices carry a similar warning. Some of them, the age begins at six, some of them they say seven and under. What we’re saying is six and below should not experience the 3D images."

He went on saying that Nintendo has very similar warnings for many of their existing devices. "We do that with every device. With the Wii we recommend that you take a break and go outside. We're recommending the same thing. The insight here is, anything you do for an extended period of time, it'll put stress on your eyes."

The 3DS is a portable device that delivers 3D images without gamers having to wear any special 3D glasses. Fortunately, for concerned parents the 3DS also has a 2D mode that is completely safe for children of all ages. This allows gamers who are younger or have a disability and cannot safely experience the 3D mode to still have the opportunity to enjoy the device.

"The screen, even in 2D mode, is substantially better than any DS we've done to date," Fils-Aime said. "So even if you were going to use it only in 2D mode, there's a substantial experience that you can have."

Although the warning about the 3DS was released by Nintendo when the device was revealed in the summer, no one really seemed to pay any attention to it until late December when the 3DS quickly became the center of scrutiny by the media. The warning is posted on the Japanese Nintendo Web site. Translated it says, "Vision of children under the age of six has been said [to be in the] developmental stage. [3D content] delivers 3D images with different left and right eye images, [which] has a potential impact on the growth of children's eyes."

Fils-Aime warned that even older children who are using the 3DS should take a break from viewing the 3D content. Every 30 minutes or if users are feeling sick at all, gamers should take a break from their 3D device. In the past, Nintendo has advised gamers to take a break from their hand-held devices every hour, but since 3D causes eye fatigue much more quickly than 2D game play, this is why Nintendo decided that the 30 minute intervals were more appropriate for the 3DS.

One issue that needed to be addressed though was the 3D movies that the 3DS can play. Movies are obviously a lot longer than a mere 30 minutes, so what are kids supposed to do? Do they have to take a break from the movie every 30 minutes? That’s not exactly practical when we’re talking about kids here. Fils-Aime commented on the situation saying that parents will just need to use their best judgment when it comes to letting their kids watch 3D movies on the 3DS. If it seems as though their children’s eyes are getting fatigued, they should suggest that they take a break.

Fils-Aime also pointed out the convenient parental control feature that is built into the 3DS. It allows any concerned parents to turn off the 3D mode on the device.
I think that this clarification about the 3DS was a good move for Nintendo. People were a little freaked out when they first heard about the warning, but now that they know that Nintendo has similar warnings for most of their devices just as a precautionary measure, they should hopefully feel a little better.

The 3DS will soon be released, and like a lot of people, I absolutely can’t wait.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Windows OS Created Within LittleBigPlanet

There are plenty of interesting things that intense gamers like to do with their games like create new characters, levels, etc., but it’s not every day that you see gamers creating entire operating systems within a game. Well, PlayStation users “Boss_Mob,” “SaggySackBoy,” tomatenbrei,” and “daFRED94” decided to all come together to develop the very first operating system created within a video game.

How did they do it, you might ask? Well, the four amateur developers used the PS3’s LittleBigPlanet’s built-in level creation tools to redesign what has been referred to as a “faithful homage” to the Microsoft Windows operating system. This design includes the Windows XP startup sounds, a working start menu, a recycle bin, and much more.

Now, of course this isn’t an exact replica of the Windows XP OS. It’s more of a mash-up of different Windows software. The creation from the four designers allows access to various aspects of the OS. You can do things like pull up “My Pictures” from the start menu with your working mouse cursor and bring up portraits of the various Sackboy characters that you have created. You can also do things like listen to music in your very own LittleBigPlanet-themed version of Windows Media Player that even includes working visualizations.

On top of everything, you can also play games within the game. Windows: LBP has two different exclusives games included with the OS like Windows XP has the ever so popular Minesweeper and Solitaire. These games from Windows: LBP, an asteroid-style shooter and a dodging falling blocks game, are available for users to play on the mock OS system within LittleBigPlanet.

Despite all of these incredible features included within LittleBigPlanet, the best feature is the working Windows: LBP Internet Explorer browser that can be utilized from within the game. All you need is a keyboard that hooks into your PS3. You can utilize the built-in “software” featured in LittleBigPlanet to run Google searches from within the game. Other than that, you can’t do much surfing on the Web, but who cares? I think that it’s just cool that you can even do a Google search.

One thing that you can do on the created Windows OS that you would not want to do on the real Windows OS: the designers made a way for players to “beat” the Windows: LBP level.

I think that this is absolutely incredible! I never would have even thought of creating an OS within LittleBigPlanet let alone actually figured it out. I don’t know who the guys are that designed the OS, but they are really creative and did an awesome job. The fact that you can actually do a Google search on a fake Windows OS system from within LittleBigPlanet is just really cool.

Click here to see the video that shows off the operating system that the LittleBigPlanet enthusiasts created. Now, the video does spoil the ending, so definitely watch with caution, but if you’re curious about the “Windows OS”, then you should check it out.

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