Saturday, October 29, 2011

GameStop Dives Into the World of Tablets

For quite some time now, GameStop has been discussing its plans to sell an Android tablet that features video game optimization. Well, on Friday, October 28 the video game retailer announced that certain stores will be offering three different Google Android-based tablets from Acer, Asus and Samsung. They will be packaged with external Bluetooth controllers that they hope will bring a very console-like gaming experience.

The tablets that will be offered by GameStop include: the Acer A100, costing $329.99 without a controller; the Asus Transformer, costing $399; and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, priced at $499.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, GameStop will be directing a tablet pilot program. Two hundred retail locations across the country are carrying the tablets. Writers at PCMag contacted several different GameStop locations on the West Coast, and they confirmed that they do indeed have tablets in stock.

A representative at a GameStop located in San Francisco said in addition to the tablets and external game controllers that the company will be selling, it will also be loading tablets with software and promoting game titles that have been optimized for tablets.

Earlier this year when GameStop first began discussing their plans to offer a tablet at their retail stores, the company said that it was planning to begin building its own tablet if it could not find a tablet that it liked enough to sell. "If we can work with our partners and the OEMs and they come up with a great tablet that is enabled with a great gaming experience and coupled with a bluetooth controller, then there's no need to go out and develop our own," said GameStop president Tony Bartel in April. "But if we can't find one that's great for gaming, then we will create our own."

Just last month, Bartel announced that he saw no need for GameStop to build its own tablet because there were so many already available. He had continued saying that any tablet that the company sold would be branded as a GameStop tablet; however, it does not seem as though that is the case with the three tablets that they are currently offering.

Although they did not build their own tablet, GameStop did go ahead and build its own controller for the tablet. This summer, they tested the controller on consumers in Dallas.

"[W]e've created a controller that we're testing to really allow for immersive gameplay," Bartel said in September. "It's hard to imagine how to stream a game—let's say Modern Warfare 3—onto a tablet and then play it with your finger." Bartel did admit that they might run across the problem of not having enough content to offer in the beginning.

"There are not a lot of tablet/android based games for the consumer that are designed to use an external controller," Bartel said. He did, however, mention that GameStop will begin streaming console games to the devices as soon as they become available.

I think that it is very interesting that gaming retailers are starting to get in on the tablet market. Personally, I think that it’s a little early, since there aren’t tons of console games available right now, but it’s better to be early than late. It will be interesting to see how things go for GameStop.

Source: PCMag - GameStop Selling Not One But Three Android Tablets

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Monday, October 24, 2011

World of Warcraft Expansion Pack Adds a New Character…A Panda?

On Friday, October 21st Blizzard Entertainment announced at BlizzCon 2011 that it would be releasing its fourth add-on to its incredibly popular role-playing game World of Warcraft. The expansion, “World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria,” adds another whole continent for gamers to explore in the world Azaroth.

However, the new lost continent is not the only new thing that players can enjoy. Now there is the option to play as a new character, a bear-like creature that is called a pandaren. If players decide to play as this neutral character, they can choose to join one of the two factions that are constantly at war with each other throughout the game, the Alliance or the Horde.

The expansion also adds a new class to the game. Players can now choose to be a martial arts-focused Monk and decide whether they want to play in the game as a tank, a damage dealer or a healer.

With the new add-on the level cap has also been increased. Players can now work all the way up to level 90. This expansion continues in the years past the “Cataclysm.” This was an event that reset the world in the game and modified some of the continents and added new opponents and dungeons.

"In the aftermath of the Cataclysm played out in World of Warcraft's third expansion, Pandaria's heroes are emerging from their land's lush forests and cloud-ringed mountains to choose sides in the escalating war between the Alliance and the Horde and to share the extraordinary secrets of their ancient martial arts," Blizzard said in a statement. "As tensions between the factions near a breaking point following the discovery of this new world, players will be called upon to explore Pandaria's exotic expanses, make contact with its strange indigenous creatures, and unlock the world-changing secrets that have been hiding in the mists for millennia."

Although Blizzard announced the new Pandaria expansion, they have not given a release date for it yet. If you’re a World of Warcraft player, I guess that you will be forced to sit on pins and needles until Blizzard decides to be kind enough to discuss the release date. Until then, feel free to enjoy the preview trailer.

Source: PCMag - World of Warcraft Adds Kung-Fu Pandaren in Fourth Expansion

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mass Effect 3 Getting the Multiplayer Treatment

If you're a Mass Effect fan and you haven't heard the biggest piece of news to hit the series in the history of the title, then you should seriously reconsider your devotion to the game. I'm talking, of course, about Mass Effect 3 coming with multiplayer. That's right, everybody's favorite single-player space saga isn't so single-player anymore, but things are not always as they appear.

With Mass Effect 3 being the final title in the series, it isn't surprising that BioWare would attempt to go all out for the game. Advancements in gaming, like motion control, are becoming more mainstream as many of the top name companies are starting to incorporate the latest tech into their games. And while multiplayer is certainly not a new feature to gaming, it is to the Mass Effect series.

One of the main things that made the first two Mass Effect games such hits was the gripping, dramatic, interactive and incredibly well-written story, something that was accomplished solo. Games like Mass Effect, that have a lack of multiplayer, make up for it by delivering an incredible story and multiple different ways to play through the game. Mass Effect, for example, gives you the option of playing through as a Paragon (good guy) or Renegade (bad guy) and also delivers a plethora of different character classes, each with their own play style.

I am a firm believer in the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" which is why when I first heard about Mass Effect 3 having multiplayer, I wasn't so thrilled. There are many reasons I think Mass Effect multiplayer is a useless commodity. For starters, I enjoyed being the lone hero in my galaxy. Everything was personal. Second, I honestly did not want what I like to call the Dead Rising 2 Effect, basically the exact same character running around like a clone. I don't want multiple Shepards running around and I certainly don't need one helping me through my adventure.

That being said, I was completely surprised when BioWare announced just exactly how Mass Effect 3's multiplayer would work and from what they've said, it seems like it is going to work out perfectly.

If you aren't familiar with the way the game works, Mass Effect has you traveling to different planets and fighting off this extremely old race of sentient machines hell bent on purging the galaxy of any and all life. Every person you talk to, every place you visit and every choice you make has a direct impact on the endgame. Spare this guy, kill that one, blow up this building or ignore this mission, no matter what you do, there will be repercussions.

It is this cause-and-effect mechanic that is the main feature of Mass Effect 3's multiplayer. Instead of playing as Commander Shepard and teaming up with your friend's Commander Shepard, you take control of a completely unique character that you personally create. Then you and up to three friends travel to other planets to complete missions and gain control of these systems in order to affect the endgame of Mass Effect 3. The characters you create in multiplayer don't have any interaction with the main story characters and are simply a way to tweak your endgame to your specifications.

The best thing about the multiplayer component is that you are not restricted to play as a human. Multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 allows you to create a completely customizable character using any of the main alien races you encounter in the game, including races like Salarian, Asari, Drell, Turian, Quarian and my personal favorite, Krogan. In addition to picking a race, you can also pick a class like Soldier, Engineer, Technician or Adept. This allows you to play your character like you would in the single-player without having to run around with three other Commander Shepards.

Honestly, this is the only way multiplayer can work for Mass Effect 3. Giving players the option to choose a race other than human will play to the fantasies of many fans of the series and not running around with clones of your character or engaging in the same old team deathmatch multiplayer modes should help in putting all the haters at ease. What's more-- the multiplayer is completely optional. With the game mechanic having a direct effect on the endgame, one would assume that it is necessary to finish the game. However, BioWare has already announced that if you want to play Mass Effect 3 like you did Mass Effect 1 and 2, by playing completely by yourself, then you still can. At no point in the game are you forced to play multiplayer, nor are you penalized for opting not to.

Personally, after hearing how multiplayer is going to work, I can honestly say that I am excited to jump in and give it a try. All my fears about playing with another Shepard or running around trying to kill as many enemies as possible in Team Deathmatch have all been laid to rest. BioWare even made the announcement sweeter by stating that no team members were taken away from the single-player development as the multiplayer aspect has been developed by a completely separate team.

So what say you? Are you excited for Mass Effect 3's multiplayer? Do you think it is a good idea or one that will completely ruin the game for you? Sound off in the comments with how you really feel.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Critics Claim COD is Simply "Cutting and Pasting"

Call of Duty is considered one of the most successful gaming franchises of the past decade or so, but recently it has been facing some criticism surrounding Modern Warfare 3. Some critics are saying that the franchise simply uses the formula from the previous game and essentially cuts and pastes the previous version, makes a few minor changes and sells it as a “new” game. Well, according to the general manager of Sledgehammer Games Glen Schofield, this is most certainly not the case.

Schofield sat down for an interview with CVG and replied to the current accusations of the critics.

"If you put Modern Warfare 2 next to Modern Warfare 3, you would see a huge difference," he said. "Look at all the character models, look at all the gun models, look at the reflections, look at the water. There is so much that we've added, so when someone says 'cut and paste', I don't even want to talk to them because they don't know. They just don't know. They have no idea."

“I need to make sure that the millions of people that played Modern Warfare 2 will pick up this game, notice that it's better, notice that it's bigger, that there's more in it, that there's more polish, all that stuff.”

"I've worked on a lot of engines over my lifetime and spent a lot of time putting graphics into them and this thing is Porsche," he continued, "and what I mean by that is that it is stream-lined, everything in it is perfectly freaking clean. You can tell it's been worked on for years. It's easy to upgrade."

"On top of that you have what we added to the audio engine. Then there's a lot of stuff under the hood. People don't think about this but when you make your tools better and you can iterate twice as many times, you make the game better."

However, graphics are not the only thing that has been upgraded. Schofield said that gameplay was definitely the primary focus for Modern Warfare 3.

"I've said this before - I'm not shipping an engine, I'm shipping a game. So that's why I'm going to talk about the game. You can talk about your engine all you want. It's not fun."

Many people have also criticized the games lack of an open beta, but Schofield said that he believed that Call of Duty XP was sufficient enough. "This game is so big between the campaign, the Spec-Ops and the multiplayer, there was so much work to do that I don't know whether [a beta] hit anyone's mind or not," he said. "We had XP and XP was in itself a way for thousands of people to play the game and for us to look over their shoulder and see how they were doing and how they liked it and that was really good."

So some people are criticizing Modern Warfare 3, but do you really think that will diminish the sales numbers for the game? I highly doubt it! The Call of Duty franchise knows what it is doing, and as Schofield said, Modern Warfare 3 should be very different from Modern Warfare 2. I personally cannot wait to get my hands on the latest Call of Duty game. It will be available on November 8, and all I can say is that I am counting down the days!

Source: IGN - Sledgehammer: Modern Warfare 3 Not a 'Cut and Paste'

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Could FIFA Be the Link to the Recent Xbox Live Hacks?

During the past couple of weeks, reports of Xbox Live hackings have been appearing on the Internet. Allegedly, there are purchases that are showing up on some users' credit cards that are linked to their Xbox Live accounts. Obviously, a few hacks here and there are to be expected, but some are speculating that there is a common link between these recent hackings.

Many of the hacks that have been reported state that that FIFA Soccer 11 and 12 have been played on their account, although they have never owned or played the game. This is causing people to believe that these recent hacks might be FIFA-specific.

Despite all of these speculations, Microsoft is saying that they do not have any kind of evidence of a widespread Xbox Live hack. They issued a statement saying: “We do not have any evidence the Xbox LIVE service has been compromised. We take the security of our service seriously and work on an ongoing basis to improve it against evolving threats. However, a limited number of members have contacted us regarding unauthorized access to their accounts by outside individuals. We are working with our impacted members directly to resolve any unauthorized changes to their accounts. As always, we highly recommend our members follow the Xbox LIVE Account Security guidance provided at to protect your account.”

So is it all just coincidence? Are these truly random occurrences that just happen to appear as if there is a pattern? Electronic Arts believes that this is most definitely the case.

“With the popularity of FIFA globally and the sheer number of players playing the game online, FIFA is an obvious target for phishers and frauds,” an Electronic Arts told Giant Bomb.

“It’s not a title-specific issue and is coincidental that FIFA has been tied to a number of compromised accounts,” a Microsoft representative said.

Microsoft and EA seem very confident that all of this is a coincidence. I’m not exactly convinced yet. We’ll just have to see how things go the next couple of weeks. All I can say is make sure to pay close attention to your account because you don’t want to have to deal with the stress of being hacked.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Battlefield 3 Open Beta: PC vs. 360

Battlefield 3 betaLike many of you, I signed up and downloaded the new open beta for Dice's upcoming war shooter Battlefield 3. Unlike many of you, I did so on both my Xbox 360 and PC, just to get a feel for how different they may be and to see which layout I like better. I didn't expect the betas to be all that different from each other but, unfortunately, I was wrong.

Before I played the beta for Battlefield 3, I was fortunate enough to get in on the alpha. An alpha is like a beta to the beta, in case you were wondering. I was initially very impressed with the alpha. Graphically the game looked very good and the different play style from Call of Duty was a fresh change. The game felt more tactical and I seemed to rely on my team more than I would in Call of Duty.

Since it is a Battlefield game, there had to be vehicles, the series' trademark. There was only one in the alpha map, a large armored truck with a cannon on top. The good thing was that the vehicle didn't feel overpowered, especially when three or four RPGs were hitting it from all directions.

Skip over to the beta and things are a little different. The map, Operation Metro, is the same from alpha to beta but not everything is alike. Gone is the armored truck, as well as any other vehicle, and one of the MCOM stations has been moved parallel to the other, avoiding the annoying aspect of trying to plant a bomb directly in the middle of the defenders' spawn point.


The PC version of the beta runs a lot smoother than the 360 build. This isn't surprising considering that fact that PC games usually run smoother than console games but also because the Battlefield series has, until now, been a strictly PC-only game. Aside from Battlefield: Bad Company 1 and 2, all the other games have been on PC.

Graphically the game is much smoother and more crisp and the graphics themselves look very good. Trees fall down from explosions and foliage blocks you from the enemy and the enemy from you. The textures look very realistic and character movements are more realistic and fluid as well. Knifing an enemy, for example, has you turning the person around and stabbing them in the chest while simultaneously ripping off their dog tags, a very satisfying kill indeed.

As far as gameplay goes, Battlefield 3 plays like a mix between Bad Company 2 and Call of Duty. The characters feel bigger than they do in Bad Company and the map you play on feels smaller, much like a Call of Duty map. However, every map is tiered. In Operation Metro there are four tiers: the first is outside in a park, the second is in a blown up subway terminal, the third is in the lobby/ticket area of the subway terminal and the fourth is outside in a city street.

One complaint I do have with the PC version is that it seems like I die with one shot, no matter the gun or the distance. However, that could either be glitch in the game or my extreme lack of experience with PC first-person shooters.

Xbox 360:

Compared to the PC beta, the 360 beta looks like complete crap. Graphically the game looks bad. The character model of your hands and weapons look about the same as any first-person shooter but everything else looks very rough. While I would normally dismiss this as just being part of the beta, I am hesitant to do so, especially considering that the game is coming out in about three weeks. Any type of polish should be done asap if Dice wants to make a stand against Modern Warfare.

The gameplay of the 360 beta also felt very buggy. The game didn't feel as smooth as the PC build and seemed very choppy. There were also some serious glitch issues when you die and you see who killed you. I can't remember how many times it looked like a floating person or a helmet on the ground killed me after I died.

Combat felt more balanced though there was still the occasional one-hit kill from a pistol or heavy machine gun from across the map. The gameplay is still basically the same as the PC version just not as good. It's like wanting a whole pizza and getting a pizza hotpocket, the hotpocket is good if you can't get a pizza but it just isn't the same.

As it stands right now I am leaning more towards getting the game for PC. While more of my friends will probably be getting it for consoles, I honestly feel like I will have a better experience on a PC, as far as the beta is concerned that is.

Additional Comments:

There are some things that worried me about the beta and some things that didn't quite make sense. One is the lack of vehicles. The one major thing that Battlefield has over Call of Duty is that addition of fully operational vehicles. The ability to fly a jet or a helicopter or to drive a tank right into the battle is something that I loved most about Bad Company 2. Not putting the main feature (in my opinion) into the open beta seems like a big mistake on Dice's part.

Another thing that Battlefield has going for it over Call of Duty is destructible environments. However, that was lacking in the beta as well. Battlefield prides itself on having fully destructible environments that add a tactical aspect to the game. However, in the betas as well as the alpha, the only thing I found really destructible was on the last segment of the map. Players can take position in multi-story buildings and shooting the window areas with an RPG crumbles the exterior of the area, raining debris onto the streets below. While doing this is cool, I want more in the final product. Having a map with only one destructible feature just isn't going to cut it.

Battlefield 3 is going to have to pick it up if it wants to beat out Call of Duty during this holiday season. What I thought was going to be a landslide in favor of Battlefield 3 has suddenly turned into a footrace to the finish.

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