Coming as no surprise to anyone, USAToday reports that Guitar Hero: Metallica will be coming to a system near you in 2009. Complete with DRM, we assume. Check out the full interview with Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett and GH:M lead designer Alan Flores.
Geneforge 5 Now Available For Mac December 8, 2008
The Exile Trilogy was followed by the Avernum series, which was basically a higher-tech remake of Spiderweb’s fantasy RPG. Geneforge came later, casting you as a Shaper with the power to create, control and destroy creatures who may or may not have native intelligence.
As I said, I’ve yet to play Geneforge 5, but I look forward to doing it. If you don’t want to wait and you’re a Mac user, check out Spiderweb’s truly epic demo. PC users, you’ll have to hang on until March.
5th Cell Scribbles For The Moon December 6, 2008
As promised, game developer 5th Cell announced their next DS game on Friday in an IGN exclusive. The game is Scribblenauts, an incredibly ambitious title that will have players scribbling words onscreen to solve puzzles in a platfoming-type adventure.
The level 5th Cell showed featured main character Maxwell scribbling the word “ladder” to make a ladder appear to scale a great height. I think I could easily spend a few hours scribbling “puppy”, “kitty”, “mouse”, and any other critter that came to mind, just to see if they’d appear. This would seem to fit with the game’s tagline of “Write Anything, Solve Everything.”
Check out this gameplay footage from 5th Cell, which is so entertaining I will even forgive them the horrendous error of writing “100’s” with an apostrophe.
For even more scribbly goodness, head over to IGN for their exclusive interview with 5TH Cell’s co-founder and creative director Jeremiah Slaczka.
Oh Boy, More Sonic Crap December 1, 2008
Continuing their cavalcade of “We Don’t Care If You Like It, We’re Just Going To Put Out A New Game Every Month Instead of Doing What The Fans Want And Doing An Actual Retro Game”, Sonic Team has released new screenshots from the upcoming Wii game Sonic and the Black Knight. You can check those shots out over at Kotaku if you like, I’m not wasting space with them here.
In the last few years Sonic has gone to Pseudo-Arabia to make it with a human chick, spun off a gun-toting Shadow, searched deep into his RPG roots, and become a freakin’ werewolf – excuse me, werehog. In fact, he’s done everything but run around really damn fast for 4 hours and collect rings while freeing cute bunnies and saving Chaos Emeralds! For the love of Ceiling Cat and all that is HOLY, Team Sonic, make a damned SONIC game!
Thank you. That is all.
Preview: Hands On With Mirror’s Edge November 7, 2008
With only a week remaining until its North American release on the XBox 360 and PS3, it is time to delve into Mirror’s Edge. We’ve been playing the demo here at the Weiner and we’ve got some pretty interesting stuff to report.
Mirror’s Edge is a new twist on an old genre – it is a first person parkour game. As per Wikipedia:
Parkour (sometimes abbreviated to PK) or l’art du déplacement (English: the art of movement) is an activity with the aim of moving from one point to another as efficiently and quickly as possible, using principally the abilities of the human body. It is meant to help one overcome obstacles, which can be anything in the surrounding environment—from branches and rocks to rails and concrete walls—and can be practiced in both rural and urban areas. Parkour practitioners are referred to as traceurs, or traceuses for females.
The protagonist is a courier named Faith who takes to to the rooftops to deliver important packages in a world where information on the ground is locked up tight. Faith’s world is detailed in shining white with spare primary colors, notably red, indicating your path. That isn’t to say that the game is linear, but instead the bright accents give you a sense of direction when your body is hurling through space.
There is some fighting in Mirror’s Edge, but the action centers on Faith’s movement through the levels. Weapons are generally used to get out of a jam and then tossed, because combat will slow you down too much.
The demo feels solid. The jump buttons are on the shoulders, which gives your motion a more organic feel as you maneuver through the sky. They offer a couple different configurations, but the default has (Jump/Duck-Slide) mapped to the LB/LT and (Punch/Kick) to RB/RT. (Although RB will also do quick turns.) It takes a moment or two of getting used to, and then it really feels smooth.
There is a definite sense of urgency to the missions, which makes it feel even better when you hit your jumps and turns and swings just right. In that way it feels like a well-designed platformer, and the pleasure you derive from play is oddly similar to what you might feel when flawlessly completing a level in a Mario game.
The checkpoint system is reasonable, which is good. You’re going to plummet to your death 20 or 30 times while getting the hang of this thing. The time trials are not nearly as forgiving – the demo’s “qualifying time” of 2:00 will take more than a few tries.
All in all, Mirror’s Edge looks like it has come together well, and shaped up quite a bit from when we saw it at PAX. Check out the launch trailer here and enjoy the game when it comes out next week.
Preview: The New XBox Live Experience November 4, 2008
Are you experienced? As Jimi rock and rolls in his grave, Microsoft prepares to roll out their “New XBox Live Experience” on November 19th. First announced and shown at E3, the NXLE is essentially a giant Dashboard update, which means that ready or not, it is coming to your system in two weeks. In response to a “can I keep my old system?” FAQ, Microsoft replies, in near-Orwellian fashion:
“Why would you want to? The New Xbox Experience is the same experience you had before and so much more! As a matter fact, the blades that people have come to know and love are integrated directly in to the guide button so that every aspect of the Xbox experience is always only one button click away. The new Xbox experience is built with community as its foundation and requires everyone to upgrade.”
Microsoft is touting NXLE as the “ultimate social entertainment experience”. Apparently concerts, clubs, coffeeshops, and the like are done for good. But enough of slagging on the change for change’s sake. What’s new?
First up, move over Miis. Avatars are here. Immediately after downloading the new interface you will be asked to create an avatar, which will take the place of your gamerpic and will be used in games ranging from Scene It! to . . . Scene It! 2.
Next comes Themes 2.0. This PS3 Home-esque feature gives you your own little piece of virtual real estate. Each graphic you see in a theme ties into the overall effect, and there are rumors of purchaseable theme items for that “special touch”. People with friends can invite them into the Friends Channel to host an avatar party, complete with dressup dolls and pudgy unicorns. Ok, I made that last part up. Still love your Penny Arcade blades theme? Microsoft assures us that we won’t lose our old gamerpics and themes, but as of this writing, they “haven’t given out specifics about how your Gamerpics and Themes will be used when the update launches”.
One of the biggest new features, both in terms of impact and hard disk space, is the new Netflix on Demand feature. If this works like the PC version, XBox Live users will be able to watch any of thousands of movies on their large shiny TVs without having to wait for a disc to arrive in the mail. This feature requires membership in the Netflix unlimited subscription plan and, I’d imagine, sufficient hard disk space to store the data. This should become interesting to Comcast subscribers, who have a shiny new bandwidth cap.
Where does this leave “Arcade” and “Core System” users? Microsoft states that “to download the update, Xbox LIVE members will need to have at least 128MB of memory available. However, we recommend having a hard drive for the best experience.” Right. So upgrade now, folks, lest ye be judged.
All in all, I think that some of these changes are decent. The streamlined interface will be nice after the learning curve, and avatars look fun, if useless. The big draw is really Netflix, and we won’t know how well that actually works after launch. Here’s hoping they can keep the system up longer than Sony has of late with Little Big Planet.
Preview: Star Wars: The Old Republic October 25, 2008
This week Bioware finally let out some details about the worst-kept secret in PC video games: that their secret MMORPG project is related to their hit title, Knights of the Old Republic.
Welcome to SWTOR, or “Swatter”, as we shall pronounce it.
The new game, is set 3,500 years before the rise of Darth Vader, and 300 years after your adventures as Revan in the original KOTOR. Players will be thrust into a world where the real Sith Empire has finally emerged from hiding on the fringes of the galaxy and delivered a major defeat to the Republic. While the two sides are technically at peace, it’s clear that a new war between the Republic and the Empire is in the offing.
The Galactic Republic stood for generations as a bastion of peace in a galaxy of warring star systems. Protected by its stalwart Jedi guardians, the Republic held the greatest hope for the progress of civilization and galactic unity.
Deep in unknown space, however, a mighty Sith Empire was forged, led by dark Sith Lords who dreamt of galactic domination and vengeance against their ancient Jedi enemies. After centuries of preparation, the time came for the Sith to make their return.
Bioware’s official website is sparse on details, without even an expect ship timeframe or base system requirements. All we can do at the moment is oogle at the pretty concept pictures hosted at the site.
Preview: Mother 3 Translation Project October 18, 2008
The Mother series of games is a big deal to RPGers. Known as the Earthbound series in the United States, these role-playing games are not another thud-and-blunder series, but instead are set in the West, albeit from a Japanese point of view. Enemies range from aliens to hippies, your weapon is more like to be a Star Tropic-al yo-yo than a sword. The series started in 1989 with the Japan only release of Mother for the Famicom. The second game in the series was released in the U.S. as EarthBound for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1995.
Mother 3 was in development for 12 years before it was released in Japan in April 2006 for the GBA. Ostensibly the most popular title of the series, it is similar to Dragon Quest IV in that it divides the tale up into several chapters. Each chapter features different characters whose stories all tie together in the end. The original game received a 35/40 from Famitsu Magazineand sold 205,914 copies in its first 3 days on sale.
Earthbound 3 was announced as an N64 title, but was scrapped. Ever since, fans have been clamoring for an English version. As of today, they need clamor no more. A group of talented fan programmers known as Starmen.Net have translated and patched the entire game. After two years of work, the translation patch was finally released today, October 17, 2008. Any fan with the ROM can run the patch and enjoy Mother 3’s humor in English. I intend to do just that this weekend and give a full review on Monday.
Preview: Wrath of the Lich King Content Patch Plans October 10, 2008
Blizz blue posters Tigole and Kalgan sat down with the legitimate WoW press on Thursday evening and let slip some details about what to expect — but not when — from content patches for Wrath of the Lich King.
Patch 3.1 will include the 10/25 man raid of Ulduar, which is set in the Storm Peaks of northern Northrend. I wouldn’t look for this patch to go Live under well into 2009 since there will be plenty keeping folks busy in the Naxxramas / Obsidian Sanctum / Malygos progression. Unless you’re Nihilum or Death & Taxes, you’ll probably have your hands full. I would expect the final boss to of the Ulduar raid to be Loken, a sort of “fallen” Titan or servant of the Titans.
Patch 3.2 will include a new raid instance that is currently a mystery. A mystery, eh Blizzard? Well, what area doesn’t feature a raid and can be tied into the lore of Northrend? Remember Warcraft III, The Frozen Throne, when Arthas had to harrow the lowest depths of the Azjol-Nerub to get to Icecrown? During his journey he was beset the the hideous Faceless Ones, servants of a vile creature who was unseen. I believe this entity is Yogg-Saron, an Old God alluded to in quests in the Grizzly Hills and Storm Peaks, and that this monstrosity will be the final encounter of this unannounced raid instance.
Patch 3.3 will reportedly bring Icecrown Citadel and “resolve” the Ashbringer storyline. Frankly, I really, really want to have an Ashbringer in my inventory. I’m a Retribution Paladin, and nothing could be more fitting. As to when you might expect to look forward to this patch, my guess would be sometime in the first half of 2010, judging by Blizzard’s past history in delivering content patches.
Also coming soon to a content patch near you: the dance studio, a feature announced at BlizzCon last year but presently missing from the beta. Blizzard’s goal with the dance studio is not just to add new dances, but rather to allow players to piece dance moves together to create their own unique dances. That sounds like a lot of work — don’t hold your breath for a release in 2008.
You know how I feel about Blizzard charging us 950g to learn how to fly all over again. Well, Blizzard claims they’ll have a way wherein players who don’t train (or re-train, if you will) flying at 77 when it’s available will be able to borrow a “temporary” mount to get from point A to point B. No idea how this works yet, since it’s not in Beta to my knowledge, but I guess it’ll be seen at Blizzcon this weekend.
Preview: Professor Laytonmania October 3, 2008
People love puzzles. Japanese people doubly so (see Brain Age, SuDuKo, Go, etc.). Thus, a few years ago Level-5 rolled up all the puzzles they could find in one tidy package called Professor Layton and the Curious Village. The DS title featured Layton, a natty professor, and Luke, his apprentice, solving puzzle after puzzle in order to unravel a townwide mystery. Curious Village landed Stateside about a year after its Japanese release, much to the delight of brainfreaks everywhere.
The Curious Village sold over 700,000 units in Japan in 2007 and was the top selling game for the Nintendo DS in the United States in the first three weeks after its release, so you know there are sequels.
The first sequel is Professor Layton and Pandora’s Box. This time Layton and Luke are off to visit the Professor’s mentor, who sent them a letter about a mysterious box. This title, released in Japan in November of 2007, features three distinct areas, including a train and two villages. There are also new meta-games including collecting items to exercise your hamster and brewing the perfect cup of tea. The game sold over 800,000 copies in Japan as of July 2008. The U.S. port of Pandora’s Box was confirmed in February 2008, and U.S. gamers are expecting to see it here sometime in November 2008.
This has not kept Level-5 from going full steam ahead with Professor Layton 3, however. They recently released a trailer for Professor Layton and the Last Time Travel. This time Layton travels to future London for unknown reasons. You can check out the trailer here (in Japanese):
The Weiner enjoyed Curious Village. Some of the puzzles, such as obtaining 4 ounces of water with only a 3 ounce and 5 ounce glass, are classics. It was a thrill to solve piles and piles of these chestnuts. I wonder, however, how many more old saws they can haul out. Are there enough classic puzzles for three games? If not, are there enough new puzzles and variations to keep things interesting and challenging? We’ll have more on this when Professor Layton and Pandora’s Box and Professor Layton and the Last Time Travel are released in America.