Alex's forum posts
If you're one of the many post-plastic rockers who, feeling a distinct sense of music genre malaise after so many years of clicky guitars and downloadable Miley Cyrus songs, found themselves unable to muster enough excitement to go out and purchase Rock Band 3 when it hit stores last year: congratulations. Your indifference toward one of the best games of last year has led to a tremendous discount for everyone. Way to go.
Harmonix today announced that going forward, all game-only copies of Rock Band 3 will be $20 at all major retailers, including the usual suspects like Amazon and Walmart. GameStop will probably get with the times eventually, but as of now, they're still selling for $49.99, because GameStop is jerks.
Incidentally, this new price puts Rock Band 3 $10 below the current retail price of Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, a game that, despite being by all accounts dead, still continues to produce new DLC. Sort of like the part of the zombie brain that remains active and instinctively hungry for your money long after any identifiable humanity has ceased to be.
All Rock Band instruments are still sold separately--and appear largely undiscounted at this juncture--but with all the extra money you're not spending on a disc, maybe you can pony up for a keyboard and some brand-new downloadable Grand Funk Railroad and/or Joy Division songs. Or perhaps you could make up the difference with cheap copies of Green Day: Rock Band and one of the Rock Band Country Track Packs, each replete with exportable tracks. You'll create a playlist that's bound to confuse the hell out of everyone who attends your next Rock Band party, to be sure.
If you don't own a copy of Rock Band 3, or know someone who doesn't, now seems like the perfect time to get yourself or your stingy cohorts in on one of the best music games of all time. And I'm totally not saying that because I used to work for Harmonix, the developer of the Rock Band series. It's not like my name appears in the credits for that game, or anything. Who in their right mind would let a former Rock Band publicist write a news story ostensibly promoting the purchase of a game in that franchise? The very notion is utterly ludicrous, and not even worth thinking about, if you ask me.
More Burnout is always a good thing, but I don't know if they could have come up with a lazier subtitle.
Coming soon: Super Mario Bros: Jump, Legend of Zelda: Sword and Kid Icarus: That Dude Has Wings.
It's been the better part of seven years since anyone uttered the name of BloodRayne without the title being immediately preceded by "That terrible Uwe Boll vampire movie..." Today, Majesco made it a point to remind us that, yes, this was once a video game franchise, by announcing the first new entry in the series since 2004's BloodRayne 2 and title heroine Rayne's somewhat dubious appearance in Playboy magazine. Titled BloodRayne: Betrayal, this sequel moves away from the series' 3D action roots into the realm of two-dimensional scrolling to the side. Majesco plans to release it this summer via Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.
Betrayal is not the product of original BloodRayne developer Terminal Reality, but rather is currently in the capable developmental hands of WayForward, who is, as the press release puts it, "the award-winning team known for bringing franchise favorites back to audiences in exciting new ways." That seems like an awfully roundabout way of saying, "We make really good side-scrolling games based on your existing franchises so you don't have to," but regardless, WayForward has enjoyed some success in this genre previously, with such titles as A Boy and His Blob, Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Videogame and Contra 4, otherwise known as "the fourth Contra game." In a weird bit of subtitle convergence, this is also WayForward's second game titled Betrayal. They also made the Game Boy Color wrestler WWF Betrayal. Presumably, the two games are unrelated.
Other than its side-scrolling nature, the press release is sadly light on details, as is the entirely teasing teaser of a trailer, which is embedded below. The official website also fails to offer up any juicy information, beyond a prospective keyboard-and-power-chord-laden soundtrack that sounds a little like it fell out of Cradle of Filth's ass. We'll be sure to bring you more on BloodRayne: Betrayal as it becomes available, including any word on an eventual Uwe Boll-directed film tie-in. Considering the last film, BloodRayne: The Third Reich came out just last year, it seems pretty much inevitable.
News began bubbling yesterday via the Twitter feed of well-informed game developer/frequent employment death knell-sounder George Broussard that publisher Sony Online was cutting a significant chunk of its development staff. That news was sadly confirmed today with SOE's announcement that 205 positions would be terminated across three studios in Seattle, Denver and Tucson. All of those studios are now shuttered, as a result.
Of the projects formerly being worked on by these teams, the frequently delayed MMO spy thriller The Agency proved to be the biggest casualty. Initially announced back in 2007, The Agency made repeated smoke signals regarding continued existence via screenshots and occasional previews, but the game never seemed to get a firm grip on anything resembling a release date. Its cancellation certainly comes as little shock, though is no less tragic, given the hefty number of people now out of work.
In the official statement, as it originally appeared on Game Informer (and appears in its entirety below), Sony cites the need to focus on key upcoming titles in established franchises such as EverQuest and PlanetSide. SOE also states that current MMO projects, such as EverQuest II and DC Universe Online are unaffected by these cuts.
As part of a strategic decision to reduce costs and streamline its global workforce, SOE announced today that it will eliminate 205 positions and close its Denver, Seattle and Tucson studios. As part of this restructuring, SOE is discontinuing production of The Agency so it can focus development resources on delivering two new MMOs based on its renowned PlanetSide and EverQuest properties, while also maintaining its current portfolio of online games. All possible steps are being taken to ensure team members affected by the transition are treated with appropriate concern.
This strategic decision will have no impact on SOE’s current portfolio of live games; additionally SOE will transition development efforts for the Denver and Tucson studios’ suite of products to its San Diego headquarters. This strategic alignment of development resources better positions SOE to remain a global leader in online gaming and deliver on its promise of creating entertaining games for players of all ages, and servicing the 20 million players that visited SOE servers in just the past year.
I have no idea what any of that is about. I told Jeff shortly before he left GameSpot that I was thinking of moving onto something else. Him getting fired just proved the catalyst for getting me to move forward on that. I can refute this story by saying that Jeff has never, ever bought me coffee in the history of time. Also, I never cry. I lack tear ducts.
Already got a shrink. Thanks for your concern.
True, though by the same token, the 1980s totally happened, and literally hundreds of crime films are set in that era. And yet there's no denying that Vice City very much plays into the plot points and characters of Scarface. There's definitely a number of things specific to L.A. Confidential tied into L.A. Noire, though as I said, they based their storylines on a number of true crime scenarios from the era.
It's surreal, the number of long-in-development games that might actually burst forth into the light of commercial release in 2011. In the time since Rockstar Games and Team Bondi's Los Angeles crime saga, L.A. Noire, initially appeared by way of scant few screenshots and little concrete info back in the mid-2000s, children have been born, learned to crawl, walk, talk, and use basic arithmetic. And yet, while some games of similarly protracted and clandestine development cycles perhaps look worse for all that developmental wear, L.A. Noire seems to have benefited from its extended gestation. Though the game was only shown via a developer-driven, 30-minute demo at PAX East 2011, what Rockstar showed certainly made an impression.
At first blush, L.A. Noire seems to have all the hallmarks of a typical Rockstar joint, namely a third-person protagonist wandering around an open world full of sex, murder, corruption, and everything illicit in between. In this case, the setting is 1947 Los Angeles, and you play as Cole Phelps, a young officer in the LAPD rising through the ranks of the department. Phelps, played by Mad Men's Aaron Staton, starts out the game as a beat cop, working the streets and securing crime scenes for the detectives above his pay grade. However, over the course of the game your career will flourish, with stops in a variety of different units, including traffic, arson, vice and homicide.
Instead, we were introduced to intense, brutal violence right from the get-go. A woman is dragged screaming from a car at a popular heavy-petting spot overlooking the city, and is subsequently beaten to death with a tire iron. The faceless killer fades into the dark, and we are introduced to Cole. Upon arriving at the scene with his cantankerous, half-drunk new partner, Rusty Galloway, Phelps goes right to work, bee-lining for the stark-naked and desecrated corpse. Side note: If you are sensitive to seeing fully naked dead ladies, this is probably not the game for you.
After a bit of rat-a-tat back-and-forth with some nosy reporters, Phelps begins investigating. Rockstar emphasized the nature of the game's investigation mechanics, compared with other crime-solving adventure titles. Rather than just poking around until you find the right highlighted object that progresses you to the next section of the story, L.A. Noire is aimed at getting you to use your head and actual investigation. For example, when you examine the woman's body, you can highlight several sections, including her head, her arms, her torso, and so on. While highlighted on those sections, you can use the controller's analog sticks to turn them to look more closely at wounds, markings or other possible evidence. Elsewhere, it pays to be dutiful in your searching. Supposedly, you will never quite know when an object might pertinent to your investigation or not, so it pays to be painstaking when it comes to searching and evidence collection. All of your evidence and information is kept inside your notebook, which keeps a detailed and easily accessible list of everything you've discovered so far.
This careful style of play carries over into interrogations. As persons of interest appear, you will find yourself asking them pointed questions about the victims, what they saw, and possible involvement in the crimes. With each response given, it's on you to determine if the person in front of you is being truthful or not. How you determine that comes largely from intuition. If a person is being direct, making eye contact, and saying things that don't contradict evidence you have, they're almost certainly telling the truth, which means you should select the "truth" option when directing your next question. However, if someone is being evasive or stumbling over their words, they're likely lying. If you have evidence that directly contradicts what they're saying, you can choose the "lie" option, and directly confront them. If you currently lack that evidence, choose "doubt," and you'll press them without out-and-out calling them a liar.
It's easy to envision a mechanic like this boiling down to a series of painfully obvious visual cues and character tics--after all, subtlety in facial expression is not something games have really done well up to this point. Enter a new form of facial capture technology, which Team Bondi has used to capture the expressions of the actors as they deliver their lines in the recording studio. The aim of this tech is to finally cross over that seemingly insurmountable valley of the uncanny and create video game characters that blink, smirk, furrow, and frown with naturalistic quality. If the demo I saw was any indication, they've nailed it.
Certainly you know you are looking at a game character, but I can't recall a time when I've seen anything this believable and realistic. Lip movements are phenomenal and accurate, with none of the awkward fish-mouthed movements one tends to associate with games. More impressive are the eyes, which don't just dart around based on random algorithms or stare straight ahead at you, like a dead-eyed automaton. Interrogating a suspect, you see the subtle movements, the wrinkles in their brow, the throwaway looks downward that signal something might be amiss. I'm trying to avoid hyperbole because, again, this was just a 30-minute demo. But over the course of that demo, I saw such a wide array of expressions and facial features that frankly, I just couldn't help but be impressed. The one knock is that, by comparison, the body animations seem rather antiquated. Outside of fisticuffs--which, frankly, looked a bit clunky--the basic body movements seemed fine, but when juxtaposed against the hyperrealism of the character faces, the stiffness found below the neck stuck out.
Equally impressive is the game's sense of style and atmosphere. Though it's set a few years earlier, L.A. Noire immediately evokes the look, feel, music, fashion and overall vibe of 1997's Oscar-winning 1950s crime drama, L.A. Confidential. You see it all over the larger world, from the busy, coupe-filled streets to the rundown bungalows and apartment buildings that pock the sprawling landscape. However, it's the smaller details that really dig out the L.A. Confidential thing. One particularly on-the-nose scene features your Irish police captain delivering a matter-of-fact speech on the heinous murder you're about to investigate, while you sit in a wood-paneled room behind clunky desks amid peers of run down men in $30 suits and fedora hats. Much the way that they co-opted the plot, scenery, soundtrack and characters of Scarface for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Rockstar seems to have plunged its tendrils deep into L.A. Confidential's cultural elements, and found a way to marry them to the world of their game with a kind of creative reverence.
For as much as was shown during the L.A. Noire demo, just as much wasn't. The developers opted against showing any of the open world stuff, instead sticking to the "trip skip" mechanic to jump to the next relevant point on the map. They did comment on the size of the city--8 square miles--and that deciding to drive would yield you some periodically relevant dialogue about your current case with your partner. Additionally, we only saw maybe half of one case, with no clear picture of exactly how many cases the game offers, or how much exploratory side questing the game would allow for (though earlier reports seem to indicate the game maintains a fairly linear structure throughout). Still, the facial capture tech, the detail-rich world, and the solid-looking crime-solving mechanics at the core of the game all looked unquestionably impressive. It can be tough to glean the true nature of a game from a tightly-scripted, developer-driven demo, but what Rockstar brought to PAX East was something that certainly seemed worth getting excited about.