Saturday, 29 November 2008

Weekend Roundup #9

It's been another pretty uneventful week in gaming - bar one thing: Home. The Wanderer has already spoken a bit about his first impressions, and as we go into the first full week of the massively expanded beta, expect to see improvements and enhancements across the board. But it's easy to see why Sony is so excited about Home (and difficult to see why what is currently available took so long...).

Likely you'll be seeing a lot more on the topic of Home soon, but this week has also been pretty bare. But there's one very good reason for this, probably the best possible reason in fact, and that is that we've all been playing very good new games. Fryingpan has been digging into Call of Duty World at War, as well as defending himself against increasingly more deadly zombies in Left 4 Dead. Aquatic has been engaging with mutants and hacking into supermarket intercoms in Fallout 3, and working through the second half of Dead Space so I can steal it. I myself have been playing FarCry 2, which makes you think quite differently to the normal first-person shooter in order to succeed. Oh and a package arrived for me this morning:

It's short roundup this week, partly due to the lack of anything interesting to talk about, and partly because I have Little Sisters to go rescue/harvest. Toodles!

Reward Unlocked: Home

So I've been in Home for about 6 solid hours now, and (so long NDA) I'm liking what I see.

Out there, in the vast expanse of the Internet, a lot of negative attitude has been generated for Home, from the long long production schedule, lack of content in the beta, or a combination of both*. Which is fair enough, and they're valid points, but you all forget that this is not only a beta, but a closed beta. Sony aren't going to show give us all the content they've got planned for Home, are they? It's not a test to see whether the users like what they see (well it is, but to a lesser extent) but instead a test on whether their servers can take the strain that Home will bring.

I will happily put my reputation as a semi-committed blogger on the line when I say that Sony will have a bunch of stuff ready for us on the release of the open beta, if not before.

And that sounds like there's not anything in there already; there is, surprisingly, you just have to know where to look. Unlockables have been hinted at (clothing, furniture, trophies, etc) but there are tasters of them already chucked in.

Echochrome Unlockables:

There's a bunch of unlockables that you get from playing the arcade game echochrome in the Bowling Alley. You can unlock gloves, shirt, trousers and shoes that make you look like the white mannequin character (echoing footsteps not included). To do this, just achieve a score of about 4000 in the game. My approximate settings were about 20 shadows, 4 minutes and a score of 4200, which unlocked everything for me.

Icebreaker Unlockables:

I don't know much about these, but after completing every 4th level (4th, 8th and 12th) you are awarded 2 unlockables. I don't know how long this goes on for, since I died on the 12th level, but I unlocked a penguin hat, icebreaker shirt, and 2 more things I have yet to identify. I will be playing more and finding out later.

But again, let me re-iterate; Home is awesome. Whether you're judging it's potential or the service as it is, it is awesome, and I fully forgive Sony for all their delays. *twitch*

*(And what is strange, is that everyone that I've spoken to on the beta say that they're really enjoying it. I suppose you could argue that I only found them because the rest are off expressing their hatred on some blog, but still, I should've found one Scrooge at least?)

AW

Friday, 28 November 2008

Store Detectives: 28/11/08

Hello again, and it's quite a big store update this week, so let's get going:

There's both a demo and full release for Capcom's Age of Booty. My advice is most definitely to get the demo first, because as much as the game intrigues me from what I've played, you'd need to really like it to justify the £8 price tag. But, if you feel like a gamble, there are much worse games than this on the Store. AREN'T THERE GTI CLUB? Yes, yes there are. I was willing to give the Club the benefit of the doubt at Eurogamer seeing as it was quite fun, but from reviews and the demo now available on the store, I would like to admit I was wrong (hear that women?), and in fact, the game is quite shit. There's also a Dead Space demo, which I downloaded, and which also only confirmed that I quite want this game.

Syndicate Wars is a difficult game to talk about. Before you ask, I haven't downloaded it and here's why: it's not the sort of game that ages well. Admittedly the same could be said on less of a scale for Crash Bandicoot, but Syndicate Wars, although being pretty amazing in scope and gameplay for its time (and the series still has a great plot), it doesn't hold up at all nowadays. Which is sad, because it was an awesome game. Good point: great quotes. Bad point: the story doesn't make sense because the original wasn't available for PlayStation and so isn't on the Store. Get it if you want, but my recommendation is to avoid.

To add-ons then! The LBP Chimera costume is awesome (although why its 60p more than the MotorStorm one, I don't understand) and if wandering around with a giant turkey on your head is your thing then go ahead and grab this weeks freebie too. No other content for any of the games we have this week, my copy of FarCry is only borrowed, but for the amount of stuff in the expansion, it seems well worth it. And did anyone genuinely buy G1 Jockey 4? Why is there even a 4?

Oh, guess what? This week's Tomb Raider video is still shit. And the fact it is labeled "Enemies #1" scares me into thinking there'll be more next week. I'm pretty sure everyone that wants the game now has it, although with the amount of 360+Underworld advertising going around, I don't even know if people are aware its out on PS3. The two Resistance videos (one the regular TV spot, and one a new action trailer) really sum up the atmosphere of the new game in comparison to the old. Basically, less British. As much as I loved the original, the sequel seems a bit generic in amongst all the new and interesting games this month, maybe I'll pick it up later on. The Naruto trailer interests me even less - it looks just like all the other anime-based games around.

Oh Shoot, why must you ruin it so quickly? After a fantastic film last week, this weeks (by a Frenchman - double gah) is pretty rubbishy. Here's hoping for next week eh? Oh and the HVB theme is ugly as sin. Don't Sony realize people only use nice-looking themes?

PSP-wise there's the marvelous LocoRoco 2, continuing Sony's promised streak of Store-released new games, and Super Stardust Portable also appeared earlier this week.

Okay...so this week my recommendations are: the two LBP costumes of you have that game (if not, why not?), the FarCry content if you've got that, the Dead Space and Age of Booty demos, Resistance action trailer, and if you've got a PSP, both of the new full game releases.

Arriving Home


So, you know that bunch of Home invites that were recently sent out?

Guess what tumbled into my inbox at 11:24pm, seconds after I'd gone to sleep?

That's right. I'll see you all in Home.

(Rumour has it the NDA has been lifted, but I don't know the details about that yet. Will find out, then report as much as I possibly can about it.)

AW

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Eurogamer Expo: Legendary


A game that had also slipped under my radar this year was Legendary (previously known as Legendary: The Box). The old name in itself could have subconsciously caused me to ignore it, but I'm going to go with the fact I filed it under 'generic', pretty early on in it's production. You couldn't blame me though; it had guns, greyness, mythical beats and all the jazz, and I could pick a bunch of games out of a hat that had these and more.

But I hadn't played the game, so when I stood at the tiny 360 kiosk I had to put all those preconceptions behind me and get into it.

You star as some sort of thief called Charles Deckard, who has to for some reason or another steal something important from a place that's pretty big (I skipped the cut scene). The demo began with you going through a museum, and getting your way to the legendary box which, naturally, unleashes hell and infuses you with powers when you touch it.

Gameplay started right after this, giving you abilities involving blasting stuff and blasting more stuff, and if you're really good, moving stuff before you blast it.

...And yep, that's about it. Besides this, there's really nothing else to it. Guns were to be fired, monsters were to be killed, but aside from the (in my opinion) incredibly cool giant car monster halfway through the demo, everything about it sucked balls. I was standing there mentally ticking off the list of clich├ęs and overused gameplay mechanics, and adding a couple more when I found them.

Something I really hated was how incredibly linear it was. There's only one path to take and you can press a button and it points you in the right direction. Now, this has been used in other games (Dead Space being a perfect example) but they're tied in so well with the whole theme of the game, and are cumbersome enough to not have you tapping it all the time that it doesn't make it too easy.

All in all, I was quite glad to let the controller dangle there, game still running (safety precautions be damned) after I was 'done' with it, because that's what I felt it deserves.

It's out already for PS3, 360 and PC, but by all means this does not require you to purchase it. Avoid it like someone with the plague who's come round for tea, uninvited and naked.

AW

Fallout 3 DLC and G.E.C.K

Recently, I have been raving about L4D mostly, so now for what else I have been playing.

Fallout 3, recently described to me as having the weirdest and most disturbing opening of any game played, is amazing. Yes it has been out for a while, but thankfully, Bethesda have announced the release of Downloadable content.

And more importantly, the G.E.C.K (or software kit) which allows the modders to finally appear from their holes and give us amazing custom content just like Oblivion before.

The G.E.C.K is due December.

The DLC will come in three batches as of going to print, in January, February and March. These will provide new locations and a continuation of the main quest.

Confirmed locations are: The Pitt (based in Pittsburgh) Anchorage and Alaska

These should be good.

More on Fallout 3 as it arrives and possibly a short story on it.

Pan.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Eurogamer Expo: Killzone 2

It's time for my final hands-on from the Eurogamer Expo, and I have most definitely saved the best until last. Sure, Mirror's Edge and EndWar are trying new things, but for sure awesomeness, I turned to the two massive screens set up for Killzone 2. You can say what you want about E305's "target footage" or the obscene amounts of money being spent on the game's development, but when you finally get a controller in your hands to play the game, all of this slips away.

Having queued for a good half hour (I say queued, it was more just a mass of people waiting in a completely incoherent manner), myself and the Wanderer perched ourselves on the stools in front of the 42" screen, and surrounded by Dolby's latest surround sound speakers (bizarrely, the Dolby rep quizzing those waiting was actually asking about PC sound). The first thing that strikes you about Killzone 2 is, depending on who you ask, how good the graphics look, or how grey those graphics are.


I kid, I kid - Killzone 2 is a beautiful game. From the way the scenery sways in the storms in the skies of Helghan, to the ominous glowing orange eyes of the Helghast themselves, it really makes you take a breath. Any recent video you might have seen? It looks exactly like that, and maybe a little better. And the grey and dull colours of the surroundings, the subject of much debate, is really explained by playing the game yourself. Comrades and other ISA units (tanks etc) have slight blue tints and lights on them, but the main colour in the game is orange: the eyes of the Helghast and the awesome blood spatters on your screen when you take damage being prime examples. But its clear that Guerrilla Games have taken the criticism on board; there's gorgeous orange (and sometimes inexplicable) lens flare as well as just more subtle hints of colour all around. The actual design of Helghan is something also massively improved over the original video, and the planet really has a unique character: industrial, but with elements of steampunk and even a little art deco, perhaps inspired by Bioshock.

But the graphics are something you can see on video - the main thing I want to talk about here is how the game plays. The answer? Really well. I've never played Call of Duty 4, so can't make comparisons there, but the guns feel like they have real weight behind them - your character clunks around with the weight of their packs and guns (as do the Helghast), and the weapons themselves chuck back with quite a bit of force. This is likely assisted in part by the DualShock we were playing with, but also by the game's incredible sound. Each shot sounds great, something quite hard to describe using text, and the game uses an evolved version of Home's location-based sound to give a realistic sense of sound depending on how close or far away you are to nearby gunfights.


I guess I should address the one other down-point that other previews of Killzone 2 have brought up: that the enemies take too many shots to kill, giving an illusion of weak guns. Whilst the guns are in fact very powerful, yes, the Helghast do take a lock of shots to go down. And anyone writing this as a negative in previews has evidently never played the original game. In Killzone on PS2, the Helghast could be real bastards at some times, taking a couple of shotgun bullets even to go down, and this was something that actually made me love the game, that you really had a sense of "these invader guys are actually pretty good". Yes, 2 takes place on the Helghast homeworld and that sense is now of "these guys really don't want to be beaten", but the strength of the Helghast force is still there, and I love that.

As a massive fan of the original game, I am really hyped for Killzone 2, and hopefully it'll live up to those expectations when it launches in February.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Secrets No More


Posting so late on a Saturday night? My god, you barely post at all at the weekends anyway? What gives?

Well this is Octopus here, and I'm up late with some exciting news! Sony Europe held their annual staff briefing at the end of this week (everyone was there - this was why no-one noticed the Home e-mail bug), and I've done some digging to find out what Sony has up its lovingly sackcrafted sleeves.

Firstly, confirmation that there will be PSP versions of both MotorStorm and LittleBigPlanet (the latter of which has only been in development for four months). Expect MS towards the end of next year, and LBP in late 09, early 2010. Fits in to my guessed timeline - PSP2 at E3 2010.

On to PS3 now, and besides hinting at a March price cut, SCEE big boss David Reeves also showed a short teaser trailer for Uncharted 2 (name TBC) with some Aztec masks and a nice explosion. Killzone 2 was briefly teased and God of War III was shown off in such a way that no-one could work out if it was in-game or CGI. There were also murmurs of technological innovations for both PSP and PS3. Finally, Sony has much more planned for the PlayStation Network, but kept schtum on what this entails besides adding online content to Blu-Ray titles.

Hopefully we'll be seeing Uncharted 2 and God of War again at Gamers Day or PlayStation Day, whichever Sony decides to do this Spring. Roll on the next year of PlayStation!

Weekend Roundup #8

Well, what to make of this week. It was so uneventful: very little gaming news of any kind, a pretty crappy Store update and...oh yeah, then came Home. In a surprise announcement that surprised absolutely no-one, Sony decided Home 1.0 was ready and went out to the first new batch of testers on Friday. Unfortunately the European e-mails messed up due to a bit a technical doodoo, but hopefully I'll get one when they go out Monday (there's another batch due Thursday if you're not one of the lucky ones). But regardless of whether you get it this week, in a couple of weeks time, EVERYONE will finally have Home. And you know what, it's so close I can taste it - now its finally just round the corner, I'm actually pretty excited. But I'll leave going on about it anymore until such a time where we can get our grubby mits on it for the first time.

Fryingpan is the only one doing anything new this week, and has been completely contactable since acquiring Left 4 Dead on Friday. He reports it is quite awesome, or at least he would if he hadn't already assumed his role as Defender Against the Undead (a role Aquatic is highly envious of). Aquatic himself has gone underground as well, popping up only occasionally to show me how his epic LittleBigPlanet level is coming along. Hint: it is suhweeet. And me? Well I've gone back to GTA. I've been meaning to jump back in since the trophy patch launched, as it gave me some kind of purpose to restarting the game, and not cocking up/using cheats. I also started a new game of Uncharted on Crushing, and died in the introduction. Fail indeed.

There are some bits and bobs you may have seen or may have missed however: here's my pick of the internet this week:
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and we'll see you next week when (hopefully) we'll be noticeably less Homeless.

Octopus done.

(*Oh yes I did.)

Play to the Music

Left 4 Dead finally found its way into my Steam account yesterday thanks to a free period last. And I can't say that I'm disappointed. In fact, I'm pretty pleased with it. One thing really did strike. The music.

Most multiplayer games either fail with music or don't bother including it. And you can see why. It's pointless when you don't know what's going to happen next, music would ruin the atmosphere. L4D is different. In fact, the music helps you. It makes you a better player.

You're sneaking through a derelict building. All is quiet, no gunfire. Only footsteps and the quiet eerie strings. You move forward, hoping no one is about. Suddenly, the music is changing, but still you see nothing. And then a bugle. And then a cry. The horde are coming.

You see, listening to audio cues can give you a subtle hint to what is about to rip you to pieces. But wait, isn't this like 'audiowallhacks'? No, not at all. The thing is, you don't notice them unless you are focused on the game, otherwise it's just more background music by some anonymous composer.

Onto my other recent purchase. Call of Duty: World at War. First things first, and I expect you all know this, it is the 'pre-sequel' to the most successful and some say best FPS ever (I don't think this personally, CS:S is god) CoD4.

WWII has been done to death, I will be the first to admit. From Wolfenstein to MoH to Company of Heroes, everyone has stormed Normandy or fought their way through war torn Belgium and France. It has almost become a cliche in the gaming world. Now set it all aside.

Controversy: CoD: WaW is the best WWII shooter of this and last generation. Take CoD4s atmosphere and take it back 60 years. The story might not be that engaging, but the moment you wake up in THAT fountain (play it and you know what I will mean), you really feel as close as you can get to that grim era.

The multiplayer is amazing. Yes in CoD4 I would get 10 kill streaks with a knife, but thats only because I'm a cheeky bastard. And that stun nades were over powered. But in this outing, two or three knife kills is more likely. It is balanced beautifully, the perk system is back with a vengeance and it sounds beautiful. Please, for the good of its developers, go buy this game.

Oh yes, a quick rant. FPS GAMES ARE MADE FOR MOUSE AND KEYBOARD. Today I saw my beloved TF2 being played by my brother on the Xbox. It. Is. A. Crime.

Pan.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Chimera Breakout

Just a quick note to say that SCEE is holding a Resistance 2 preview event (one day ahead of release) at Rendezvous, an lovely little ice-cream place in Leicester Square, London next Thursday November 27th. It will just be the eight-player co-op on display, but from our experiences in the beta, that's more than enough to prove the awesomeness. There will be apparently be free food too, but the event is open to over 18s only, and ID will be required. Unfortunately we can't make it, but Jem Alexander from PS3Fanboy will be there, so kick his arse!

Store Detectives: 21/11/08

Hello again internets, Octopus back with this week's Store Detectives. And you know what, I wish they'd stop just chucking us DLC all the time, kinda defies the objective of the posts when we can't actually judge the content. Which is our way of saying "we're ignoring the music game content now".

First and foremost, however, I must address what I hope and pray is not the start of a worrying new trend. EA: we will not buy old PSone games for more than a full PSN game like Eden or PAIN. Simply isn't happening mate. Drop it to the usual £3.50 though, and the game is actually pretty decent should you wish to grab it.


There is one other point of contention for me in this weeks list, and it's...oh yeah, EA again. They do it every year with their Need for Speed games: have all the unlockables that you should get for progressing through the game, available for instant purchase on the Store at release. Since I because less of an occasional gamer and more of a completist, this has bugged me more, as you see people online with content waaay out of their achievement level. Grrr!

This week's LittleBigPlanet (which is purely cosmetic) is fantastic as ever. The Sack-In-The-Box costume was created by the winner of the US co
stume design contest (how apt) and even features a dangly power cable! The LocoRoco costumes are just as awesome - and cheap, seeing as it was the Wanderer's turn to buy costumes this week - with heads, antennae that match your cloth colour and pattern, and awesome little LocoRoco toys that attach to your wrists for some random reason.

I am assured that the Challenge Rooms are a worthy addition to the world of Bioshock for those of you that have worked your way through everything the disk has to offer (you've done Survivor mode? Seriously? I don't believe you), and from those I've spoken to, I get the feeling that more of these arcadey challenge add-ons wou
ld be well received.

In other stuffs, there's the Linger in Shadows soundtrack up for free (all three tracks of it), and it really is awesome. There's trailers for the Bioshock and recent PAIN DLC, as well as MotorStorm behind the scenes vids that are noticeably more exciting that the never-ending Tomb Raider ones (those TR themes are ugly, by the way). The Naruto (bad caps lock) and EndWar videos are also worth a peek in general and particularly if you want either game.
But there is of course one more addition to the EU Store this week: Shoot! (their exclamation mark, not mine). The first of the short films is now available, "Bitter", made by Brits Joel Campbell and Jamie Wilson, and is all about the meeting between a father and his daughter's new man, with an amusing twist. It's well worth a watch, especially considering its free, and shows that along with the summer's "Movement" show, SCEE is dedicated to exclusive content for Europe. There's also a Making-of video, an interview with the creators and a Pitch video to grab.

That's it for this week, and under my calculations...*cogs turning*...you should be spending £8.68 this time round, on the LBP and Bioshock content, and make sure you get the Shoot film too.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Yeah, We Can Read

Well, I got my copy of the Official UK PlayStation Magazine through today, so let's have a flick through and see what's going down.

First of all, there's the world exclusive announcement, deets and screens of Dirt 2. Then plenty of info on Killzone 2, and interviews with Shuhei Yoshida, Alex Evans and Nolan North (the voice of Nathan Drake and the new Prince of Persia).

Rumours-wise, APB is supposedly coming to PS3, as is the oft-delayed Splinter Cell Conviction. EA is making a Dante's Inferno game (presumably the one Variety were talking about last month), and have laid-off staff working on Steven Spielberg's LMNO (that's fact, not rumour). Appaently work on MGS5 has begun with a new hero, Sony is readying a Wiimote of its own that uses the Eye in some way (that old rumour again) and it'll be three years until the next game from Bethesda's Fallout team.

Previews include White Knight Chronicles, Killzone 2, Demon's Souls, Red Faction (die!), Quantum Theory, Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2, Bayonetta and FEAR 2. There's also a feature on the upcoming PSN hits such as Crash Commando, The Punisher, Flower, Savage Moon etc.

In reviews, Prince of Persia gets an 8, NFS Undercover earns a surprisingly high 7, Fallout 3 a beautiful 9, Quantum of Solace 6, Manhunt 2 bullies the review editor into gettign another 8, as does Call of Duty World at War, MK vs DC and SOCOM both get 7s, Guitar Hero and Rock Band 2 both get 9s (so unhelpful) and Rock Revolution gets the shitty-game-of-the-month award with a 4. Alone in the Dark scrapes a 6, MotoGP a 7, Golden Axe also gets a 4, GTi Club+ a 6 and Shaun White bombs his way to a 5.

There are many many more, but go buy the magazine you lazy bastards. This issue (26) will be out next Tuesday for the normal £5.99 and has some epic Prince of Persia art on the front.

Life in Paradise

Yesterday, I reviewed Burnout Paradise for the PS3 and 360. But the content on the game disk is nothing compared to how the game stands now, 10 months after release. Criterion Games has been the forerunner for post-release support up to this point, and it doesn't appear that this will change anytime soon.

In August, the 'Cagney' update was released, which aimed to enhance the online component of the game. To the online races, it added online versions of the Stunt Run, Road Rage and Marked Man events, as well as adding more Freeburn Challenges. Other additions included new cars, new paint jobs and custom soundtracks for the PS3. Adding such a large amount of new content so long after a games release was unheard of up til this point - but Criterion wasn't done yet.


In mid-September, they added the 'Bikes' pack. For the first time ever in a Burnout game, bikes were available to play with, and although the crashes aren't quite as vicious, to offer such a game changing update in a game (particularly an EA game) for free is a first. At the same time, more big changes were made - the addition of a day and night cycle, as well as a changing weather system. At for the bikes, 70 new Freeburn challenges were available (half of these timed) amongst various other fixes and enhancements. A week later, a trophy patch was released, and the game became the first full made-for-disk retail release to become available on the PlayStation Store.

Having had the game since I got my PS3 in May it was at this time, as I was becoming a trophy whore, that I decided to restart Burnout Paradise and play it through to the end. And it became the first racing game I've ever completed, mostly because of the sheer fun - even when some of the races were becoming stupidly hard. At that time, all that was known for the future of Paradise was that at some point there would be a whole new island released that added more freedom than ever to the game to drive wherever you wanted. But then, in October, Criterion announced they weren't done just yet.


Over four consecutive weeks, Criterion will announce more new packs (excluding the Island) to be released in Spring 2009 - well over a year after the original release of the game. The first of these is the 'Party' pack, which adds a pass-the-pad multiplayer mode with plenty of challenges to complete, as well as a new party-themed UI and brighter in-game colours for the mode. The next two packs are 'Legendary Cars' and 'Toy Cars'. The best addition coming up in these? The DeLorean-alike Jansen 88 Special that can fold up its wheels and hover, and pressing boost leaves fiery strips behind you. Who knows what the next packs will be?


For more on the packs, head over to CriterionGames.com, but for now I think it's appropriate to re-review Burnout Paradise with all it's new content (downloadable now as updates, or on a new disk called the Ultimate Box in Spring 09), and I think it deserves a 95%.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Go To The City


[Please note: this is a review for the vanilla (ie: without patches or DLC) disk experience.]

Burnout Paradise is awesome.

There we go, I just spoilt the whole review. But the game's been out since the beginning of the year, and so if you haven't played it yet, you really have missed out. Burnout Paradise is one of the top five best next-gen games so far, and when you're sharing that list with LittleBigPlanet, you've done a fantastic job.

I'm gonna start out as if you've never played a Burnout game before: In all the games in the series prior to Paradise, you spent your time racing at ridiculous speeds along gorgeous tracks, shoving other racers out of the way (taking them own) to whizz off into the distance, earning the series (and developer Criterion Games) a massive and well-deserved fanbase. In Paradise, which was released in January, the game was changed dramatically in many different ways for the series debut on the next generation of consoles.

*yoink* Thankyou, IGN.

The first thing you'll likely say upon seeing the screenshot above is "omg, screen clutter" or something similar. And I guess to a certain extent this is true, there is a lot more going on on the screen than in most other games. But really, this screenshot just serves as a jumping-off point to talk about some of the best and most important bits of Paradise.

In the bottom right hand corner of the screen you can see the mini-map. Normally in a racing game, the mini-map (if there is one) is just for checking by how much your mates are kicking your arse. But Burnout Paradise has an entirely open map, and when you take part in a race you can go any way you feel like. Although at launch there was a lot of contention at the disappearance of structured races and easily discernible routes, as you progress through the game you realise the ability to take shortcuts down other roads or jump up onto the train tracks looping around the city is a godsend when trying to shave those valuable seconds off your time. You can figure out the ideal route using either the mini-map and/or compass to make snap decisions or view the whole city map with Select. Oh and did I mention that past the initial load, there are no loading screens whatsoever?

And although this works fantastically well in the main single-player game, it really shines online, with players shooting off in all different directions along their preferred routes. The way Burnout Paradise does online is truly unique as well. Pressing the right directional button at any time will open the Easy Drive menu, from where you can access a number of settings, as well as starting a Freeburn over the internet, or jumping straight into a round of whatever game mode you choose. Whilst the game modes are varied, it's the online Freeburn that is the real innovation here. Basically a free roam mode, you can do whatever you like in a lobby with up to 8 players. Anytime another player beats a road rule, showtime rule or jump record that you have set, a message will flash up on the screen (and if they have a camera attached to their console, so will their smug face). Also, you can trigger challenges (both fun ones and timed ones) that everyone can get involved in.

There's so much in Burnout Paradise to talk about, and I have barely scratched the surface, but the game really shows how fun a racing game can be without being silly and pointless, and therefore comes with the highest recommendation for me. At at the now-lower price, there's no excuse not to jump in and join the ever-growing community. 85%

P.S. Come back tomorrow where I'll be looking at the amazing patches and downloadable content for the game, and regrading the game including all this.

Eurogamer Expo: Red Faction Guerrilla

I have one piece of advice for anyone thinking of buying the new Red Faction when it comes out next year, its "don't". Seriously, out of all the games on display at the Expo, it was easily the worst, so much so that it was relegated to two tiny 360 booths in a corner. In fact, there's so few positive things to say about the build we played, that instead I'll just list the shittyness:
  • The graphics are horrendous, and I mean PS2-era.
  • The shooting and general movement is clunky as hell.
  • The destruction doesn't really work.
  • The objectives are dull and uninteresting.
On the plus side...erm...that gives me one less game to buy.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Demands

Octopus here, with some recommendations for this holiday season. Don't go out and buy terrible games just because you have money, oh no! This year has been one of the best ever for gaming, with so many amazing games, so read carefully, and inwardly digest.

5. Burnout Paradise
Okay, so this game is ancient now (Jan 08), but that doesn't give you an excuse not to buy it; its Platinum-priced at retail and about £25 on the PlayStation Store. There's been a steady stream of game-changing updates to the game this year so far, and from the recent announcements over on Criterion's website, it doesn't look like this is going to change going into next year. Expect a full review very very soon.

4. SingStar
Go on, admit this one made you go "say wha, girlfriend?". Hear me out, Christmas-time is when all your relatives are round, so just set up some pass-the-mic rounds, add in some tacky tunes (or the new Abba disk for added cheesiness) and they'll be distracted for hours. Sneak a girl (or two if you choose) in the back door and head upstairs. Leave to simmer for 15 minutes. And if instead you'll be sitting around all on your lonesome, trying to figure out how to pull both ends of a cracker yourself, a nice ballad or two will have you bawling your eyes out and then promptly falling asleep. Christmas Day solved either way.

3. Resistance 2
Skimpy parents? Pretty much guaranteed that this will be the one time you get a game all year? Then grab R2. A pretty substantial and engrossing single player mode, a seperate co-op mode for up to eight-players online or off, and a full-featured multiplayer mode that is all kinds of fun. All of this, as well as Trophies, will keep you playing the game well into next year.

2. Mirror's Edge
Number two is a toughie, but I've gone for the complete opposite of Resistance. Fancy a relatively short game, but one that's unique and incredibly intricate? Then go for Mirror's Edge. Set in a dystopian future where Runners carry packages between underground rebels, it actually works best as an on-foot racing game, taking alternate routes in an attempt to get to your destination ASAP.

1. LittleBigPlanet
Okay so this one was pretty inevitable, but look at it! It's got Burnout's post-launch support, SingStar's all-out fun, R2's longevity and Mirror's Edge's beauty. It is such a rare thing nowadays to see a game (from a relatively unknown studio too) tick all these boxes, and it is an absolute must-buy for any gamer worth his weight in prize bubbles. Epic review coming shortly.

Be Home Soon


Meet you in the TWP Clubhouse?

Monday, 17 November 2008

Eurogamer Expo: Savage Moon

Last week here on the blog, I talked about Tom Clancy's EndWar and how it was using voice control to switch up the old RTS game mechanics. But that wasn't the only strategy game we got our hands on at the Eurogamer Expo (E2?), oh no! Savage Moon is a tower defence game, like PixelJunk Monsters, that swaps the cutesy graphics and 2D view for space insects and lots of grey.

Savage Moon is quite a different beast to Q Games' beautiful cult classic. Savage Moon is set on a 'moon' being used for mining of minerals. And whaddya know, some 'savage' creatures who inhabit the aforementioned moon are none too happy about this. But you don't really need a decent backstory with these sorts of games: long story short, bad creatures go round map and attack your base - stop them.

Really, if you want to know how the game works, just read anything ever written about tower defence games, but there is one feature that I haven't seen pop up elsewhere recently: as well as putting towers on high ground, you can also put them down in the path of oncoming creatures. The advantage of this is that you can sort of herd the creatures round a certain way to take out more of them before they get to your base. The flip side of this, of course, is that the creatures just might take a liking to your nice vulnerable tower and destroy the crap out of it. Its an intruiging concept, and was interesting to toy around with in the time I spent with the game and its overly controlling Sony handler, but whether it can actually make that much of a difference to become a regular feature in rounds I don't yet know.

There were a couple of issues that I had with the game that developer FluffyLogic needs to iron out prior to the games planned Q1 2009 release. Although I didn't experience any erratic crashes, the controller had a knack of randomly disconnecting (I was told this was a known bug, explaining why this game had a handler unlike the others at the Expo), and the menus need to be a bit more responsive to deal with the fast-paced play styles of lots of RTSers. But, there's plenty of time for this to be worked out, and I have high hopes for the game when it gets released to the PlayStation Network at the beginning of next year.

Eurogamer Expo: Banjo Kazooie Nuts And Bolts


I've had a long history with Rareware. Having played Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong 64, GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, Conkers Bad Fur Day, and both the N64 Banjo games, it's safe to say I've had enough experience with the developer to assume that they know what they're doing. Which is why it almost physically pains me to say that I hate them for what they have done.

Playing through those games as a child was glorious; memories I will hold dear to me until the day I die. It's why that when they moved to Microsoft (bear in mind that I was a Ninty fanboy up until recently) I was actually okay with it, going on the fact that they've given me more than enough joy through Nintendo; it's someone elses turn.

That's a precarious rope of fail you're walking there Banjo.

But this? 'Nuts and Bolts'? This I am not okay with. I could say that it's a good thing, I don't particularly enjoy the 360 and if it gets this then it's quite fitting. But regardless of who has to play it, Banjo should not look like that. It's like he's made of Lego, or clay, and someone has just forgot to round him off; he should be smooth. Bears don't have edges. You couldn't balance a cup on a bears head, but I guess for Banjo we'll make an exception! Ugh. Screw you Rare.

...But enough of my pedantic anthropologic jabs at it's visual style, onto the demo.

I hated it. And yes, that could be because I spent most of my time leering at Banjo and not doing anything else (heck, the video speaks wonders) but surely if the gameplay was good then I would've been drawn into playing it more? Okay, so maybe I picked it up in where it was in the middle of nowhere when someone left the booth, and fine, maybe the buttons on the controller I had weren't exactly working and if we're being really nit-picky it was a demo. But none of this stops me from saying 'This isn't a Banjo game.' I'm sure the full game or the even the demo in some cases succeeds in other areas, what's it's supposed to be; a game where you're a bear with a bird in your backpack and you create vehicles for mundane tasks. I'm sure if I went to it expecting that I would've had a blast.

But I expected Banjo. And if you're game is under the Banjo moniker, I'll damn well compare you to what Banjo should be, and that is a refined, quirky, powerful platformer. Instead what I got was a platformer in theory, but with so many mechanics take away from it to make room for building stuff that it became less of a platformer, but more of a twisted version of Driver, where the only difference is that you've got fur and you have to build your vehicles before you drive them. Which is why, for this demo at least, I hated it.

For those of you who want to create cars and haphazard trashcans as a bear/bird duo, the game's already out for the Xbox 360. Try not to have too much fun.

AW

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Weekend Roundup #7


Woah, busy week on the blog. A whole 14 posts breaks the weekly record here on TWP, signaling both that we are paying more attention to blogging, and at the same time do not want to do homework. Anyway, lets dive in to the gaming goings-on of the last week.

Both myself and the Wanderer have been pretty dedicated to LittleBigPlanet this week, pretty unsurprisingly. Both having run through the Story mode at least one-and-a-half times, we're getting pretty awesome: he's aced the whole game and collected nearly everything, and I'm not too far behind. We're now both focused on making some levels ourselves, and have been dabbling also in some online playing (which would be a lot easier if the servers weren't so temperamental. My PS3 also decided to have a few days of crazy towards the end of the week which was no fun, but a Games Lounge held at school on Friday gave me a chance to play some good old fashioned PAIN Bowling with Wanderer and some other mates (I shotgunned the Hoff, naturally). Fryingpan on the other hand has been indulging here and there in LBP but mostly playing Left4Dead which he declares to be awesome (check out his post from earlier this week for evidence of creative juice). He's also grabbed CoD: World at War so expect to hear more from him on that soon; our hands on with the multiplayer mode at Eurogamer was too mental to talk about due to noobiness.

Apparently the developers and newsmakers have been having a busy week too, so here's my pick of the stories you may have missed:
Next week is sure to be even more LBP-filled, and we'll be summing up our coverage of the Eurogamer Expo and waxing lyrical about MotorStorm.

See you soon.

Just A Thought

Whatever happened to these?

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Store Detectives: 15/11/08

Apolgies for the delay to this weeks Store Detectives, unfortunately it was out of our hands. Anyway, this week was a bumber update, but with no new games or demos, it is very much an "if you have this game, get the DLC" week.

Neither of us have Guitar Hero, Rock Band, SoulCalibur or Star Wars, so all that DLC is wasted on us. I grabbed the PAIN bits, Aquatic avoided the Dead Space stuff, our friend with Everybody's Golf reports that the character pack is pretty overblown price-wise, and another with Civilisation says the map packs are very cheap for a lot of content. The new PAIN expansion pack adds a whole new level, and although its not as interesting as the Abusement Pack at first glance, spend some time messing around with all the interactive elements, as well as the three launcher positions, and you'll find there's a lot of depth there. Oh and Hasslehoff has some fantastic lines. The Wanderer's reasoning for not getting the Dead Space costumes and weapons is that he doesn't want to cheapen the game by using an easier/tougher suit. Everybody's Golf wise, the costumes are kind of meh, and on the CivRev front, the continual flow of DLC is apparently keeping the game surprisingly fresh. LBP costumes this week include the free competition winner one, and four quite cheap anmal costumes available either together in a pack or separately (none of them are as good as last weeks).

Video-wise there's a lot going on this week: trailers and the first of the Shoot content. Shoot is a series of short films (made in HD) created by some upcoming directors from across Europe, and backed up by leading filmmakers such as Jerry Bruckheimer. This week there's a trailer for the whole series, as well as very interesting trailers for each film, that talk a bit about the premise, the style and the people involved. Elsewhere, the Bioshock 2 trailer looks even better on TV than the internets, the SWS trailer isn't that exciting, SoulCalibur is still boring, Tomb Raider behind-the-scenes are still tedious, and the EndWar and MotorStorm vids are both pretty sweet if you're on the fence about getting either game.

There's also some pretty awesome FarCry 2 wallpapers, and a kind of plasticy-looking GT5 theme. My reccomendations this week are to grab whatever free DLC is applicable and for paid bits get the CivRev, PAIN and LBP stuff if you have the games, everythign else is a bit rubbishy. Here's hoping for some demos or games next week.

Coming Up

Just thought I'd take some time out of my now non-existent gaming schedule to tell you what you can expect on ThinkWithPortals for the rest of this year.

We're not far off done with our Eurogamer Expo coverage, and will be summing that up with exclusive impressions of two of early 2009's biggest games, Resident Evil 5 and Killzone 2. Then, throughout the rest of November and beginning of December, you'll be seeing our reviews of massive games old and new. But that's not all, oh no.

Our regular Weekend Roundups will continue in the new format we launched last week, and (fingers-crossed) so will our new feature Store Detectives, and we also have a new feature or two in the planning stages. As well as reading our finely thought-out opinions on the effect unlockables such as Trophies have on games, there will be a new series of posts from yours truly under the heading 'Connected' all about the changes (good and bad) that internet connectivity is having on the gaming world.

Also, in December you can see our fantastic new TWP Awards for the best games of 2008, the Christmas Shopping List, and our big roundup of the year in gaming.
So keep checking by, and we'll keep you up to date with our deluded ramblings.

FO.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Public Service Announcement

Just a little heads up to say that this week's Store Detectives has been indefinitely postponed due to a technical issue with the PS3 related to some problems I'm currently having with the electrics in my house.

Back with you shortly.

Don't leave me....

1st November 2008: First signs of infection

Two weeks later and I'm running down a flight of stairs behind my three surviving friends. Behind us we can hear a distincly inhuman moan. And footsteps. Lots of footsteps. I turn and fire a couple of rounds into the dark of the corridor, the flashes illuminating the horror behind us. Zombies. Hundreds of fucking zombies.

We pile through a door, closing it behind us. Navio, a black business man from Detroit levels his shotgun at the door, waiting. Miniman, the vietnam vet. reloads his submachine gun masterfully and then aims at roughly where the heads of the zombies behind the door should be. Trippy, a sassy female student wraps a bandage around a cut on her wrist and then retrieves her rifle. I, Fryingpan, a local biker, grab a second pistol. And wait. It starts slowly, scratch scratch. Then thudding, undead hands pumelling the door.

And then the inevitable crash as part of the door splinters away. Rotting hands thrust through and all hell breaks loose. I fire blindly into the hole in the door, knowing that any second they would be through. We could run, but they would catch us up somehow, so we stand our ground.

The door splinters completely, the undead rushing through, enraged by the smell of us. One rushed me, arms stretching for my face, my eyes, my cheeks. I pistol whip it(her? him?) and fire off two rounds into its face, dropping it. Another rushes from the side, I blindly fire at its chest, only slowing it. It gets up to me and swings widely, ripping my jacket. And then its head explodes as Navio saves me once again. I mutter a thanks and continue with the bloody work.

The last of the horde drops to the ground and we all breath a sigh of relief. And then Trippy screams. And stops screaming just as abruptly. Around her neck is the tongue of a tall shadow above is in the rafters. Navio and Miniman fire openly at it, until a growl and and a thud result in Miniman being tackled by a hunter. It tears through the old mans shirt and rips him open. Miniman dies almost instantly. I blast the hunter from point blank in the back of the head, sprawling it across the floor. A crack! Trippy's neck snaps and she goes limp. Navio looks at me and his gaze shifts to over my shoulder. A look enters his eye as he raises his trusty shottie once again. I sidestep and run forwards and feel the force of an explosion hit my shoulders. Luckily, the Boomer spit/guts/whatever didn't hit me too badly. Hopefully the horde can't smell it.

The two of us made our way outside into the rain. Why is it always raining? Down the alley, past derelict cars and rubbish, we can see a small hunched figure. A young girl cowers in the alley, ears covered, letting out a soft sob. We know we are screwed now. She is right in our path. Navio glances at me furtively. He is bleeding out and he knows it. Before I can stop him, he has lit a molotov and is rushing the Witch, for that is what this girl is, a sexy teenage zombie who will kill you as soon as look at you. Navio throws the molotov, it explodes in a celestial light, flame engulfing him and the Witch. I stare for a second, and then run on, hoping Navio's sacrifice to not be in vain.

I hear a scream. And then silence.

I make it out of the alley onto the main road. Mindless horde stagger about, not really paying me any special attention. I keep my distance and they don't bother me. I see a subway, probably safer then the surface and I leg it towards the entrance, brushing past zombies. Nearing the enterance, a lurches infront of me, panickedly, I shoot, missing and hitting the car sitting nearby. Fuck. The cars alarm screeches in the night air. The horde waken from their daze and rush towards me, arms flailing, teeth bared. And yet they stare with cold, dead eyes.

I leap ontop of the offending car, hoping to not get swamped. This works, but only for a second, the horde find it difficult to clamber up. My pistols clips run dry within a bullet of eachother. I kick, punch, headbutt, all while trying to reaload. Everything shakes. Everything goes quiet. The horde stop motionless in their tracks. The car beneath me shakes again. I turn, looking for where it's coming from. I can't see much in the shadows.

But it is the shadow making the vibrations.

An 8 foot lump of flesh rushes towards me, I manage to reload one pistol before he reaches me and fire off a round or two in desperation. Suddenly I'm flying. Beneath me, horde stare up, hungrily. Everything seems to have slowed down. I can see the huge Tank-like zombie moving towards me. My life seems to flash before my eyes. The flight ends against a brick wall. My head wiplashes against it and I can feel the warmth of blood on my scalp.

My vision has blurred but I still look up. Slouched at the bottom of the wall, I smile, looking at my pistol. The horde rush towards me. I lift the pistol, fire three bullets, hitting three heads. The last my own.

*****************

Yeah yeah depressing, but what the hell. This is sort of an idea of what Left 4 Dead would be like, was it a novel(la) I guess. Left 4 Dead is amazing, atmospheric and still very social, without your friends, you're screwed.

Every PC gamer worth his or her salt should ATLEAST try the demo, if not get the game. Heck, even 360 gamers should give it a whirl.

Can't wait for it Nov 18th.

Pan

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Eurogamer Expo: Tomb Raider Underworld

TRU2

It’s been five years now since the disastrous Angel of Darkness completely ruined the Tomb Raider franchise. Since then, the series was wrenched from the cold dead hands of Core Design and handed over to new studio Crystal Dynamics for Tom Raider: Legend. After a back-tracking interlude in the form of Anniversary (a remake of the very first game in the series), Crystal Dynamics is back with the follow-up to Legend, Underworld, which sees Lara jetsetting around the world to do the normal saving-the-world thing.

 

Although I didn’t get spend much time with the newest entry in the series, I was able to get a bit of a feel for the game. My playtime began with Lara jumping off a boat into some sea somewhere, at which point I decided it would be fun to try out the new underwater elements. The underwater shooting is a bit strange, as the game appears to have no concept of tides, and therefore there is no noticeable difference between normal and underwater shooting other than the fact that you’re mostly on your front, not your feet. Also, the new twin-aim system takes a bit of time to get used to.*

 

Underworld

 

Luckily, the climbing, jumping and acrobatics are as amazing as ever. After climbing up a sheer cliff-face, making ridiculous stretches from one rock to another, then shimmying along a ledge and jumping about a bit, I realised that Lara is too late. A year too late, in fact. Because, you see, bar the camera that seems to always pick the best angle to show off Lara’s derriere whilst climbing, this is all very much what we saw in last year’s Uncharted.

I’m not going to review Uncharted here (that’s for the Wanderer to do in a bit), but there are definite and absolute similarities that range from the increased importance of gunplay, to the new much greener setting. Having said that, taking Underworld as a game by itself and it looks to be a successful continuation of the series that Legend rebooted, and here’s hoping for a demo before the game’s release on November 21st.

Eurogamer Expo: Crash Commando

It seems a little blasphemous to be sitting here typing up a hands-on for Crash Commando with that bulking header staring at me, since before the day I sat down to play it, I had not heard of the game. I don't know whether that was coincidence or there just wasn't much news on it beforehand, but besides perhaps a brief mumbling mention of the name in passing by some speech impedimented traveller, I was none the wiser.

Which is why I left the booth feeling pleasantly surprised. I'm one always up for a quick, frantic shoot-em-up of any kind, one that doesn't take months to master and Crash Commando fit that niche perfectly (as you can see in the video embedded below, my utter astonishment when I accidentally complete a mission within seconds; deceptively simple at first).

In the demo I braved, I took control of an anonymous guy, donned in anonymous gear, equipped with an anonymous gun. I was then prompted to kill other anonymous guys (okay, perhaps not anonymous, but names like 'Steve' and 'Brian' didn't exactly tell me much about their characters, and they didn't seem to be the most interesting guys anyway), and by prompting, I mean I was shot at and had to therefore try not to die. Gameplay is established on a 2D plane, where you run left and right, with the capabilities to fire in a 360 degree area, leaving no man safe. Guns are plentiful (if a little overpowerful) and it's nice to see that vehicles like tanks and jeeps have been added to, though in some cases are stuck on rails.

The only real twist is that there are essentially 2 battlefields on a single map, back-to-back, like two sides of a piece of paper, where switching between the two is a simple as walking through a door. Not much of a twist, but it's enough, as this ends in classic moments with people trying to escape their predator momentarily, only later to be cornered at the other end of the map by the same guy, but in a tank. Good times.


As I said, this game pleasantly surprised me. It's a buy for me at least, and when it comes out (there's no official release date) on the PSN, I guess we'll find out how much the online community (oh yes, online multiplayer) fares against my unstoppable beginners luck!

AW

Shiny

Okay, so it’s not really that shiny. I figured I’d leave the bling to horrendous Bebo skins. But, regardless of that, it’s time to tell you a bit about the recent (as in, over the last few weeks) site upgrade here at ThinkWithPortals.

The most obvious thing that’s changed is the template that we use, but most of you looking at the site now never visited the site in the old days, so this is kind of a moot point. Just so you know, the newer format has a wider space for main blog content, so that means less scrolling for everyone.

The second thing to talk about is the newly-enhanced sidebar. The Playlist and Wishlist sections remain, along with the blog archive, but there are a few new panels to talk about. On top of adding a welcome message for those new to the site, we now have a Twitter account which you can follow either from the sidebar or at http://www.twitter.com/ThinkWithPortal (and no, Twitter had no space for that last ‘s’). The little ‘Featured’ panel that now contains links to our posts on the Eurogamer Expo and our LittleBigPlanet coverage will be updated with what’s hip and happening here on the blog.

We’ve also added a number of new ways to follow the site: we’ve moved our RSS feed over to FeedBurner to make it easier to add our feed to whichever reader you use, and also added a mobile version of the site. Or two to be precise.

Should you have a regular WAP (or similar) phone, you can view all of our posts on the mobile site much quicker than attempting to load the full version. There’s pictures and everything! But should you be using an iPhone, like Farmer Fryingpan’s shiny new one, you should instead go to the special iPhone page, which looks a bit like this:

phonescreen

Here you can view all the same content as the full and mobile versions, just in a snazzier, touch friendly format. Both of those versions are live now using the links in the sidebar (I highly suggest you favourite them on your devices), and I hope to get a redirect up for mobile devices sometime in the near future.

There is, as ever, a lot more behind the scenes in this upgrade which should make the site much more stable, as well as fixing some annoying little bugs, and helping us serve up more awesome gaming goodness.

FO done.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Eurogamer Expo: The Ubisoft Tent

Although there was a pretty extensive number and variety of games on show at the Expo from a whole range of developers and publishers, the only company to have a proper all-under-one-roof booth was Ubisoft (there was a MotorStorm booth opposite, but that's not the same). In here were EndWar (which I babbled about yesterday), the new Prince of Persia and Shaun White's Snowboarding, as well as a couple of Raving Rabbids TV Party booths outside. Just outside the booth you can see Ubisoft trailer DVDs and Shaun White-branded bags being given out (yes, we got some).

There were about a dozen Prince of Persia booths set up (impressive for such a small van) on top of the other ten or so in the main Expo building, and although this tended to make it seem that the game wasn't as popular as Killzone for instance, whenever I saw a machine running the game, it was occupied. So either people are at least intruiged by the new Prince, or Ubisoft's been sending in its people undercover (I kid, Ubi! Thanks for the lush PoP shirts btw).

Onto the actual game: ah. Now I'll admit that I haven't really been following news and media on the game as religiously as I have been for LBP or the like, but I was aware of a) the new look, b) the new accomplice and c) the lack of any connection to the previous games in the series. And the only other Pricne game I've played was the one for PSP that came out a long time back. That I was shit at.My issue with the new look is not any kind of loyalty to previous art styles, or even that I think cel-shading is ugly, it is that Ubi seem to be using cel-shading as an excuse to have massive chunks of quite bland colour everywhere. The area I played had you following the new girl (who has not relaly been introduced at this point in the game) as she ran and jumped around a bit, and there was just massive patches of brown that made up the floor and walls: not attractive. Now I can understand that in games like this you're supposed to be moving quite quickly and therefore not noticing this anyway, but that never stopped Burnout Paradise or Wipeout HD being gorgeous.

As I said already, I've not played much Persia before this game, and so in fact, the only comparison I can make is with Assassins Creed (same engine, much of the same staff, same parkour concept). And my comparison is this: Persia seems very...simple. There's pretty much one button to jump or grab or grind, and although this may appear to make the game more accessible it is in fact more of a blow. PoP is the sort of game that requires precision and perfect timing, something the one-button system and often sluggish movement cannot really enable.

I find it hard to make a recommendation or not, as Persia is not my normal sort of game, but I guess I suggest renting it first, whether you think you'll fall in love with it or not - from reactions at the Expo, it is very Marmite. Prince of Persia is made by Ubisoft Montreal and should be out in December for PS3/PC/360.

Whilst the Wanderer spent some quality time with EndWar, I took the oppertunity to try out Shaun White Snowboarding for the Wii (Balance Board and all). And if you think attempting to show off your non-existent snowboarding prowess to a girl is bad enough anyway, try doing it in a room full of viscious nerds.
 
Turns out the game is suprisingly good, and a helluva lot better than Ninty's E3 conference made it seem. But then it is easy to understand why they chose to show it off: the use of both the balance board (which you simply lean in whichever direction to steer and jump when applicable) and Wiimote is essentially seamless, and pretty solidly recreates what you're actually trying to do on screen, and for this reason is not only more fun, but also what feels like a better game than the non-waggle console versions (I played with those too, I'm not just making it up). So thats one of my main issues with the majority of Wii games down. Next up - graphics. And you know what? Those are damn good too! easily much better than SSX Blur on the same console and can comfortably be shown next to the HD 360 version with no embarrassment. The on screen UI is modified to be more edgy and fun to suit the different game, and powering down the slopes at full speed offered up no visible issues. It's potentially the best planned Wii game I've ever played so I have high hopes for its success. Shaun White Snowboarding is devleoped by Ubisoft Montreal and will be released for Wii, 360 and PS3 this Friday 14th November, with Windows, DS and PSP versions to come.

That's all for now (these posts get blooming long), but we'll be back with more impressions soon.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Eurogamer Expo: Tom Clancy's EndWar

I think it's probably safe to say that I'm a big fan of RTS (or real-time strategy) games, partly due to the fact that some of the great older strategy games (the Age of Empires series, Total Annihilation and StarCraft) are amongst the few games that actually run on my now-quite-ageing laptop. For this reason, there were two games in particular that I wanted to spend some time with at the Expo: Savage Moon, a PSN tower defence game that I'll be talking about soon, and the latest in the never-ending line of Tom Clancy games: EndWar.
The background of this game is a time when there is not enough oil to go around, and therefore the US, the Europeans and Russia have all decided to have a nuclear food fight amongst themselves in an attempt to secure the remaining supplies. And of course, this all happens in a nice grey near-future setting.
The beauty of EndWar, however, is not in its setting or backstory, but instead in the way the game is played. EndWar is almost entirely playable using only a headset (Bluetooth or USB; SingStar or Rock Band microphones work equally as well, but a headset is much less fiddly believe me). It works like this: you hold down the the R2 shoulder button/trigger and navigate the tree menu that appears using your voice. For instance, should you wish to move your tanks (which you have rather intelligently assigned to slot two) to waypoint Delta on the map, you say, simply: "Unit - 2 - move to - Delta". Its a very easy way to work out what you want to say, as only saying part of a command will bring up the menu to that point, so you can then pick the unit you want to move, hostile you want to attack or whatnot. There are a few tasks that require a pad, such as adding support troops and switching up your units, but this requires only the directional and the X button.
And the voice recognition is amazingly good. In fact, in the crowded nerd-filled room I was playing, next to three other players also shouting into headsets, and the regular bursts of "ooohs" from the sealed Gears of War 2 cubicle just along, the game had no problem picking up what I was saying perfectly. Admittedly, the demo I later played with my SingStar mic was not as good, but this is more down to the quality of the microphone than any fault of the game's. But, should you find yourself in a situation in which you don't fancy shouting your head off at crazed Russians, you can play the whole game using a gamepad, navigating the aforementioned tree menus using the directional buttons, but this takes away a large amount of the fun of the game.
Amongst others, one of the game types I played was Conquest, in which you simply try to take and hold more specific targets on the map than your enemy, and others on offer involved swanning into an area and taking everyone out to claim it, and defending your bases from incoming attacks. And this is where I can see the cracks in the game: the gameplay and unique feature is pretty-much perfect, but it is just being used in very generic situations, which could easily become very repetitive when stretched out over both an entire campaign mode and EndWar's innovative online play that recalculates areas of control every day based on the matches and skirmishes that have taken place.
Although I though it was a great session that I spent with the game, I think that is how it will likely be best played come the final release - in short sharp bursts. There are a couple of other niggles I had with the game, bearing in mind we were playing a near-complete, if not complete, version of the game (Tropies had been implemented - I unlocked a nice bronze one during one of my plays of the game): the loading times are near rediculous, with multiple screens that all disguise the fact the level is still bloody loading, and the minimap displays only the letters of checkpoints, so you better know your phonetic alphabet before you start issuing orders (after a good old shouting session, we realised B was for Bravo, not Beta). The game has enormous potential, and I will be glad to get some more hands-on time with the final game in the future.
Tom Clancy's EndWar is developed by Ubisoft Shanghai and published by Ubisoft. It was released on November 8th in the UK on PlayStation 3, and a special edition PS3 version bundled with the new official Bluetooth headset is also available. A downloadable demo is currently available on the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live Marketplace. A PC version of the game is slated for next year.

Eurogamer Expo: GTI Club+


Hello*, and this is my hands on with GTI Club+, the upcoming PSN game releasing on the 4th of December for £9.99.

Not a particularly extravagant introduction, but then this isn't a particularly extravagant game.. Sure, online play, 60fps, 720p visuals and SIXAXIS/PSEye support is just fantabby-dooby, but when reviewing playtime here at TWP, it's all about the fun. And it might just be me but limited boring tracks and stiff controls doesn't translate into 'extravagant'.

I was hoping it would follow in the steps of previous GTI Club games, perhaps end up like the love child of Crazy Taxi and Micro Machines. But instead it feeels like watching a kid play with Hot Wheels cars in treacle, every so often bumping into barriers and cars going ppsssscheeeow (which could very well be my poor driving game skills and overactive imagination) but ultimately feeling very cheap and plasticy.

Which is sad, because it was a game that I'd imagined myself buying, but it's hard not to compare it with WipEout HD in such a respect. For £2 more, you get better visuals, more modes, more vehicles, more tracks and fantastically responsive controls. And yes it may be narrowminded to compare two quite different racing games to each other, but if it ever came to it? WipEout all the way.

Aquatic Wanderer

*Though it would be pointless to say that I'm back from Italy. Kinda obvious.
Also LBP OMGOMGOMG

Please eX-PLane.

OK so i promised to update you on the iPhones gaming capacity. I have promising news.

So I will start with Trace. It's basically Line Rider but slightly more complicated in that there are things the KILL your awesome little guy whom you have to navigate towards the star. Yeah sounds like a pipe dream to me too. Its free, so worth a look.

Second is X-Plane. Now I do like flight simulations. Sad, yes, but also, when done right, oh so liberating. Especially over mountains. Which is perfect. X-Plane has a large area over some mountains in Austria, a choice of weather, day time, cloud levels etc.

But the contols, oh god the controls! Think of a PS3s sixaxis. Done right. And you have the controls for X-Plane. It is incredible. Buy it. Ah yeah, that's its only downside, it costs a bit, but not too much thankfully...

Anyhoo, thats two games you might like to pick up at some point. If not then whatever, your loss. Will get back to you with some more, will try to do a bought one and a free one every now and then, so it might be worth staying up to date with the blog *hint hint*.

Leave comments, make us feel loved!
Pan

Monday, 10 November 2008

A Weekend Like No Other.

So this weekend was a big one for me. After spending Friday evening kicking down with some mates playing Fifa 09 and Guitar Hero 3 on the Xbox 360 (shoot me now!), I awoke on a sofa with a stiff neck and a painful back. The neck, I guess, was because of my sleeping postion, but my back was unexplainable. Until I stood up.

Wait for it.

Underneath me were the pieces of what had once been a Motorolla cR4P phone. My phone. So this depressed me somewhat, especially as I now had no way of calling the mother(ship) for a ride home.

When I eventually made it to town later that afternoon, I decided I should probably get a new mobile. I wandered round for half an hour, pretending to look at phones, but in truth, my mind was made up.

I picked up the iPhone 3G.

Now generally I don't go for this sorta stuff (mainly because I can't afford it), but with christmas coming up, I figured what the heck. After the twenty minutes with 'Nathalie', a short and quite pretty O2 shop assistant, it was a done deal.

So after having the 3G for two days, I don't regret it. Yes it costs me £35 a month, but so what? It has free internet. Which is pretty damn useful. Apart from the obvious 3G, it can connect to WiFi and the EDGE network, meaning you have internet almost anywhere. Amazing.

And of course it plays games too!

I will update you on said games in a later article.

For now, I'm a farming Fryingpan.

Told you Obama would win it.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

GTi Club Trophies

This has been sitting in my notepad since Eurogamer Expo when we sneakily jotted them down from the build on show, and although you'll be hearing more about the game next week when the Wanderer gets back from Italy next week, here's the trophies for GTi Club+, which should be launching on the PSN Store sometime this side of Christmas.

Bronze Trophies:
  • Photo Finish - Finish in first position less than 0.1 second ahead of an opponent.
  • L Plates - Finish any Race.
  • Back at Ya - Pass the bomb back to a player within 5 seconds of recieving it.
  • Bombtag Bully - Pass the bomb to the same player 3 times in one race.
  • Rolling on Suds - Clean your car in the car wash and finish a race.
  • Me First - Finish each lap of a race in 1st position.
  • Exhibit - Customise a car.
  • Dented Pride - Win a race after crashing into all oponents at least once.
  • Solo Polo - Win 5 Races using the VW Polo.
  • Scorpion Fight - Win 5 Races using the Fiat 500.
  • French Fenzy - Win 5 Races using the Peugeot 207 GT.
  • Minitastic - Win 5 Races using the Mini Cooper 2007.
  • Common Courtesy - Complete 5 Races without crashing.
  • New Breed - Win 2 Easy Races with each of the new cars.
  • Born Winner - Win 2 Medium Races with each of the new cars.
Silver Trophies:
  • Pro - Win a Hard Race.
  • Showboating - Finish first whilst reversing over the finishing line.
  • Dont Stop Me Now - Finish in the top 3 without using the brake or handbrake.
  • Top Dog - Beat the fastest time for a Hard Race in the records.
  • Impossible Turnaround - Win a hard race after finishing your 1st lap in last place.
  • Leader of the Pack - Win 3 Hard Races with each of the new cars.
Gold Trophies:
  • Speed Demon - Complete a lap in less than 37 seconds.

Weekend Roundup #6

Octopus here with a bit of a shake-up to the old "What We Are Playing" Saturday post. From now on, rather than simply being about what we've been jiggling our analog sticks to in the week, I'll give a little bit of opinion on the weeks gaming news.

This week is obviously one all three of us here have been looking forward to for a long long time (since GDC '07 to be precise). LittleBigPlanet finally made it to release, and it took it's fricking sweet time coming, but all of that was forgotten when we got our copies in our hands. The dramatic improvements between the beta and the final are incredible, and the amount of content to unlock is insane. But you'll hear more about LBP from us this week I should think. I myself am now on the first level of The Temples, which I *think* is the pinultimate area. The Wanderer was somewhere in the Savannah before he left for Italy, and Fryingpan is still awaiting his newly repaired PS3.

Bar a bit of Fallout 3 for PC on Fryingpan's part, that's pretty much it for the games this week. Sure, lots of good games just came out, and between us we have most of them, but LBP just draws your attention every single time. Even my sister (10 years old) is a fan (and has been for months), and when a boy in her class at school called LBP "shit" this week, she punched him in the face. I love my sister.

Other little bits of news that you might've missed this week: Ubisoft cancelled their games based on Heroes (probably "Heroes: The Video Game") disappointing considering how much fun it would be, not so disappointing because we all saw how shit the Lost game was. Also, Dissidia for PSP announced that it to (following the latest Monster Hunter game) would support the "Data Install" feature, which allows the user to install some of the game data to a Memory Stick for faster loading. There are a number of differently-sized installs available, and all of them are optional. Remember optional installs? Oh yes I did. And finally, EA amazingly manages to top the Red Alert 3 Music Video with the most recent RA3 trailer - featuring the Hoff (in other Hoff news, his appearance in PAIN has apparently been delayed two weeks or more). Watch here.

We may be a gaming blog here, and although I don't want to turn into later-era Surfer Girl, I think it is appropriate to mention some politics here. Well done to President Elect Obama. And comiserations to McCain and Palin. Good luck!

I think that's about it for this week, stay tuned as there's lots planned over the next week here on ThinkWithPortals.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Store Detectives: 07/11/08

Hello and welcome all to a new feature here at ThinkWithPortals, and one in which we offer a dedicated service to all you loyal PlayStation Store addicts out there. With Store Detectives, which will likely be up sometime each Friday, we shall take a look at the week’s Store update, and offer our (potentially helpful) thoughts on the latest selection of downloadable goodies.

(I’d just like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that we are talking about the European Store update here, not the US. /confusion.)

Firstly: what I won’t be talking about. Sorry Spin Jam, I don’t know you. Sorry Bayonetta trailer, but I watched one of you online and I cried of shittiness. Sorry Rock Band and Guitar Hero DLC, I don’t have either of your overpriced instruments. And sorry SoulCalibur DLC also, when you went all product placement you lost any respect I many previously have had for you.
Moving on to what I have grabbed today, and you know what, it says something about how good the Euro store updates have got over the past while that there’s actually more content that all I just pissed all over up above.

- Theme Park (PSone Classic) is a must-get for me, I loved the game first time around, and if it can maintain the charm like Theme Hospital (already on the store) has, it’s another winner from the days of PlayStation long gone.
- Thank God for the “skip this bit” feature on Alone on the Dark: Inferno. Because in the demo just released (that’s right, the demo, where you show the bestest bit of the whole game) there is one bit which is boring and another bit which the clunky controls deem impossible. One of those demos that make you less likely to buy the full game. Oh and having to press the right analog stick to blink? BAD.
- There's also Metal Gear Solid 4 demo. For once I agree with the general consensus on the internet: wtf. Little bit late maybe? Well not really. After doing its sales on release, Konami want it to do just as well this Xmas, so that explains that. The actual demo? Well, it's good. I can't really elaborate that much because I died a lot - I've never played a MGS game (and a way into the fourth in the series isn't a sensible place to start), and I suck at stealth. But you'll be glad to know you can play it reasonably well as an action game. Just until you have to sneak somewhere. Either way, everyone should at least play this game once to experience it for themselves.
- LittleBigPlanet DLC: yes, I bought it all. Even the £4 t-shirt. But I do have something to say: “Media Molecule, I bought it this week because I really wanted that shirt, but put anything else up (however rare) for that much, and you’ll be unlikely to see a buy from me”. Seriously, it’s mad - £4 for a t-shirt when a full outfit is 99p (MotorStorm) or free (Spaceman). All of the items look exquisite in-game by the way.
- I did get the Enlistment Pack for EndWar, even though I don’t have the game yet, because based on my hands-on at Eurogamer (which you can read shortly) it is a definite buy for me, and when the DLC is free for a week only, it’s nice to have to grab from my Download List when I do get hold of the game. There’s a nice trailer up too.
- The “Launching the PSP-3000” video is not really all that particular to the 3000’s features and is in fact just like any of the other PSP promo vids on the Store already.
- If I wasn’t hyped enough for this game already, the launch trailer for Bioshock would’ve surely pushed me over the edge. Note: it may be £40 at retail, but Play.com and Game.co.uk both have it for £30.
- Tomb Raider Underworld making-of videos. It’s like they want to make the game less enticing. So tedious. Again, Eurogamer hands-on soon.
- One thing I find so very odd about the game trailers that go up on the Store is their timing. Two Need for Speed trailers went up today, yet they are weeks old, and there are in-face at least 4 more recent ones to pick from around the internet.
- Pure trailer? Just looks generic. I recently got a chance to spend some time with the final game and this trailer really doesn’t do it justice. Unlike MotorStorm’s mayhem racing, Pure is a lot more about tricks and, therefore, has more of an emphasis on getting airborne. It’s just a very different experience, and not really all that comparable beyond them both being dusty racing games.
- Aaand finally, I come to you, Mr “I’m a paid Bioshock theme”. The EU store has yet to get a paid themes section like the US one, and so this was a bit of a surprise, particularly considering the Bioshock theme already on the store for free, and not looking to shabby. I would’ve downloaded you Mr Theme, but there’s no preview. Failure. Not gonna spend money on a theme when so many that get uploaded nowadays are quite terrible.

So this week, you need to spend a grand total of £5.58 - and yes that is just the LBP content. But free-wise, if you haven't played MGS4, grab the demo, and if you've got EndWar grab that free DLC cos you can't argue with free.