Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Etrian Odyssey III Videos: Character Creation/Mapmaking

Playing a bit of catch-up here, so you get two (*click!*), TWO videos from Atlus' upcoming DS epic, Etrian Odyssey III. I'll post the screens and pre-order goodies later. Just grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy. Hell, go finish the second game if you haven't already - the September 21, 2010 release date is right around the corner and this new one looks like it'll be even more massive than the previous installments!

Preview: Mafia II Hands-On

With 2K Games set to strong-arm Mafia II into stores on August 24, I had the opportunity to play a demo of the PS3 version at Sony's Holiday showcase in NYC. The build had a brief taste of game's driving and shooting mechanics and featured spectacular visuals, deadly enemy AI, partially destructible environments and some excellently acted and voiced cinematic sequences. So far, 2K's Czech studios has crafted a dynamic, violent crime saga with what's looking to be a richly developed plot. Granted, a great deal of what's here is clearly inspired by Rockstar's epic GTA juggernaut. However, the time period and overall visual quality of Mafia II's Empire Bay looks as it will be a bit more realistic in some aspects.

The demo was in two sections: first an intro to main character Vito with a quick tutorial on movement and driving as he had to head out of his apartment and drive to a warehouse location after receiving a phone call. The second part of the demo was action-packed with bullets flying and bodies dropping, showing off the excellent targeting system and the aforementioned enemy AI. Poor Vito got killed twice during my hands-on, once as I rushed past an enemy I thought had fallen over after I took him down and the second time from a surprise shotgun blast from a stairway. These guys don't stand still and wait around once you start shooting. Enemies will head for and use cover, try to flank you and in general, make every shootout a workout. I didn't get to try the hand to hand combat in the demo, but I have high hopes that it's as fun as the gunplay.

2k Czech's proprietary Illusion Engine can render some amazing character models and environments complete with plenty of lighting, weather and other realistic effects. The game actually uses two different color palettes to separate its post-war 40's and 50's settings. the early portions of the game have a more nostalgic, almost muted scheme while the 50's are brighter and almost cheerful, reflecting America's more optimistic consumerist mood. Of course, an arty guy like me picked up on this just by watching the trailers and gameplay footage after the demo, but the game also has some really snappy, really funny literate writing. One example: after a certain character is shot in the groin (ouch) there's a hilarious exchange afterward about getting him to a doctor that's priceless and made me want to get a copy of the game script so I could read more prime lines like that.

The demo ended on a very cool cliffhanger on a bridge as Vito and his crew are trapped by the police that I hope is continued in the final version. As a fan of the first game, it's really nice to see the same developer take what worked and improve on it so greatly for the sequel. Then again, that's to be expected with something like seven years between chapters. Overall, Mafia II is looking very much like a solid and engaging experience definitely geared toward a more mature gaming crowd that appreciates the big picture rather than pieces of a whole. Of course, 2K also plans to support the release with DLC packs, but more on those later. Now, I just need to make time to review the final version. Schedule, consider that hole definitely punched. Mafia II will hit stores on August 24 for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gallery: God of War: Ghost of Sparta

Want even more Kratos? Well, here you go! Ready at Dawn and Sony Santa Monica Studios are doing wonders with the PSP hardware as you can see in these massive (and massively gorgeous) screens. Best-looking PSP game to date, I say (and it plays pretty damn well to boot!). Betwenn this, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Persona 3 Portable and a bunch of other excellent exclusives, it's definitely looking like the best year for Sony's handheld wonder.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Preview: Dead Space 2 Hands-On

"Disturbingly spectacular" were the first two things I thought of upon seeing Dead Space 2 in action and after playing through the demo build, let's just say that Visceral Games is going to be responsible for a lot of wet couches and floors when the game finally ships early next year. The demo was both fantastic to look at and great, challenging fun that had the small area always packed with editor-types crowded around watching other play as they waited their turn. As great as the original was, Visceral is going all out to insure that the sequel is even more cinematic without pulling players out of the action.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Preview: Bulletstorm Hands-On

Picture this: eight grown watching another grown man playing a video game while yelling "Shoot him in the ass! Shoot him in the ASS!" at him in unison as the guy is indeed trying to do just that to some poor virtual gun-toting goon. A few shots later, the guy flies head over heels and as he's spinning, a shot hits him right in the butt as the words "FIRE IN THE HOLE" appear above his rotating corpse. Ouch. Well, it's either some sort of Deliverance meets Dirty Harry-inspired fever dream or you're watching someone play EA's upcoming lead filled blast-fest known as Bulletstorm.

People Can Fly (Painkiller) and Epic Games (you know what, that game and yup, that other one too) are teaming up to give FPS gamers something a wee bit different that the usual yearly franchise-driven shooter. What's coming your way in early 2011 has not only a grand sense of humor about itself, it's also a damn fine bit of programming where stylish shooting scores big points and there's plenty of enemies waiting for you to plug them with flair.

At EA's Hot for the Holidays showcase, Bulletstorm was one of those great-looking high action games that drew constant attention for both its fantastic graphics and very awesome scoring system that allows players to rack up huge points depending on how creatively they can kill. A quick trip through the demo build shows that this isn't a shooter where camping or hiding is part of the plan. Unlike many other shooters, you're turning the tables on the AI by constantly hunting them down in order to keep that scoring streak going.

Additionally, environments are packed with plenty of hazards you can use to gain even more combo points. Man-eating plants, very spiky cacti, well-placed explosives and other elements are all here and waiting for you to use. There's also the risk of these deadly traps being used against you, but having a quick trigger finger will allow you to shoot a thrown bomb out of the air or even whip it back and shoot it so it explodes, taking out the goon that tossed it. Killing with skill earns you points, those points get used to buy better guns and upgrades which yes, allow you to pull off even more hilariously spectacular kills.

You're also armed with some great weapons, a cable whip that can yank enemies toward you and (in a nod to Duke Nukem, I'd imagine), a hefty kick that can send enemies flying into the aforementioned cacti or high into the air, ripe for targeting like human skeet. The demo packed in quite a few laughs and thanks to the many different ways to dispatch the bad guys, no two people who stepped up to the game played it exactly the same way. While the demo build was a tad on the short side, the amount of pure adrenaline gameplay it delivered was more than impressive.

Graphically, BulletStorm looks outstanding so far. Obviously, PCF's experience on the Painkiller games plus Epic's long track record of quality is paying off big time. The environments in the demo and trailer were massive and featured amazing lighting and some rich color usage. It looks as if a few key titles in the FPS class of 2011 are going for more than the usual dark, gritty urban look, that's for sure. It's definitely welcome here, as the wild arcade-style gameplay works quite well with the assorted colorful maps. Our multiplayer questions were left as up in the air as some of the enemies in the demo, but if the modes are half as fun as the single player is looking, the game could be an even bigger hit for shooter fans looking to break out of the same old-same old.

We'll have more updates on Bulletstorm as news comes in - stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Preview: Medal of Honor

After plenty of WWII installments on consoles, PC and handheld platforms, Electronic Arts is looking to get shooter fans excited about the Medal of Honor series by taking the FPS into present day Afghanistan. While this might seem controversial to some, it's another way of looking at a war that's become part of everyday life for some in more ways than one. This new Medal of Honor is not only looking amazing in demo form, it's also managed to capture the unpredictability and chaos of war as it focused on things going right and wrong in a short period of time. At EA's Hot for the Holidays press event, a PlayStation 3 demo build drew a constant crowd of editors who sat and watched a producer put the build though its paces.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gallery: Kung Fu Rider

Here are 20 screens from the hilarious PS3 exclusive office furniture mayhem stunt racer. Hey, wasn't there some free PC game download and/or a budget PS One title in Japan that used this wacky idea some years ago? I'll have to look this up, but I'm guessing that perhaps some of the folks that worked on those games ended up here. Ah well, whatever - the game is absolutely insane, fast and funny as hell. It may be a super niche title, but it's a total blast and good for some rolling off the couch hysteria once you give it a whirl.

Enslaved: Journey to the West Gameplay Footage

Enslaved: Journey to the West is shaping up to be one of the nicer surprises in Namco Bandai's 2010 lineup. Here's a quick look at some gameplay footage featuring Monkey. Ninja Theory is really on a roll with this one and yes, I can't wait to see how the final version turns out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gallery: Blood Stone 007

Work in progress images from Bizarre Creations' upcoming Blood Stone 007 game plus an added treat: Joss Stone in photo and polygon form - tattooed foot and nose piercing aside, she makes a cute Bond Girl, no?