Alex's forum posts

#1 Posted by Alex (3053 posts) -

Me telling you that Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception looks as though it will offer a thrilling cinematic single-player experience is probably unnecessary. That's what Naughty Dog does. There's no identifiable reason to assume that Uncharted 3 would suddenly fall off the wagon, unless the team suddenly decided to take on a massive, collective drug habit. Fortunately, the representative developers on hand at E3 2011 appeared stone-cold sober during my demo of the game. Perhaps a bit hungover, but honestly, who isn't at this show?

So, again, none of what I'm about to tell you will be surprising. What it may be, however, is enticing. As if the level shown at Sony's press conference weren't enticing enough--with its impressive "On a Boat" physics and animation, intense gunplay, and insane water effects, that level more or less sealed the notion that, yes, Uncharted 3 was going to be another big, honking blockbuster action game. Then myself, alongside a theater full of other gobsmacked writers, found ourselves privy to a new, otherwise unseen level. That double-sealed the deal.

Eventually, you're gonna want to get on that plane, by any means necessary.

Snippets of this level could be seen in Uncharted 3's E3 trailer--specifically, the moment at the end when you see Nathan Drake hanging off the back of an airborne cargo plane all end of Air Force One style, and on the verge of a horrid crushing death via a massive cargo crate. Now, I can actually give you a little context for how that whole bit of life-threatening absurdity came about.

The scene opens with Nathan and series love interest Elena infiltrating a desert settlement full of gun-toting thugs. This marked a particularly emotional moment for the pair--an interesting juxtaposition to the action-heavy footage we tend to see of these sorts of games at trade shows. Nathan knows he's about to go do something incredibly dangerous and stupid, and after convincing Elena that he will help her over the fence into the compound after he climbs to the top, he instead opts to drop down and leave her on the other side. Nathan leaves her behind because what he's about to embark upon is borderline suicidal, and in an act of selflessness, he insists she leave in a nearby jeep, out of fear that he might lose her "again."

From a technical standpoint, this is actually a pretty neat look at, since it gives an indication of the improved facial animations (especially in the eyes) for each of the major characters. More importantly though, it was honestly one of the more effective attempts at emotional resonance I've seen anywhere in this series. Some of the dramatic beats in Uncharted 2 could, at times, feel a little strangely paced and overbearing in nature. Here, the scene delivers on the hoped-for impact. It reflects both in the technology, and the vocal performance.

But enough of that emotional garbage, as you undoubtedly want to hear about Nathan Drake smoking dudes and blowing shit up. Good news: he does a lot of that. Once Elena disembarks the scene, Nathan goes right to work, initially trying to stealth his way toward the plane, but after a short time, he's in the thick of battle against the nearby thugs.

One of the most impressive things this level specifically demonstrated is Uncharted 3's fluidity of combat. Let's face it: this has been the E3 of the quicktime event. And while a few of those are fine, a nonstop deluge of them can make a game's action feel mechanical and distancing for the player. Admittedly, I am saying this second-hand, as the demo I saw was developer-steered, but the impression I got from watching him play through this section was that quicktime events simply don't exist here, at least not in the traditional sense.

This is not an easy thing to do!

As Drake runs across rooftops to try and catch up to the plane, he takes down a variety of enemies in multiple ways--one he pulls over the edge of a rooftop via a stealthy move, and another he simply leaps down upon from a higher roof after a running jump--and the whole thing looked, dare I say it, effortless. There weren't a million button prompts, either. Drake wasn't running on rails, like the Need for Speed: The Run out-of-car sequences. This kind of fluid action is something that's always felt good in Uncharted, but here, it just looks incredible.

After a bit of acrobatic vehicular action--of which all I will say is that Nathan Drake has exceptional balance when riding on the hood of a moving vehicle--Drake works his way up into the landing gear of the plane. He begins crawling through a ventilation duct that runs underneath the floor of the plane, only to run smack dab into an area occupied by a rather hefty guard. This launches into one of the most impressive fight scenes I've ever seen in a game.

Drake is out-sized and outmatched handily. Recall the fight between Indiana Jones and the massive guard toward the end of Temple of Doom, and you'll have an idea of how this plays out. It's not just the size, either. The beats of the fight, the flow of the action, all of it recalls the great adventure movie fights. That's not something I say lightly, as I often compare fisticuffs in games to the classic robot fight between Rock 'em and Sock 'em. Not here. The way the camera captures the action, and the way the characters animate, it feels dynamic, like a properly choreographed battle between a hero and a villain. And no button prompts! None that I saw, anyway. This wasn't just a pile of canned cutscene animation--I kept looking back at the developer to check the controller and be sure he was actually playing, and unless he's a master of smoke and mirrors, he was most definitely playing along.

Where things go from there, you can logically guess based on that stinger from the E3 trailer. I've omitted a few key details from this recap as some of this stuff really needs to be experienced first-hand to be truly appreciated. Suffice it to say, Naughty Dog's E3 showing was incredibly impressive, and seems to indicate that come November 1st, we're all in for a half-tucked treat.

#2 Posted by Alex (3053 posts) -

Let's just push this bit of business out of the way right up front: my name appears in The Gunstringer. Twisted Pixel's lead designer on the project, a surly, vaguely unattractive Australian by the name of Dan Teasdale, is someone I've worked alongside in my sordid past. Part of the game's grading system involves "review quotes" from various "critics." According to Teasdale's site blog on the subject, he apparently wanted a "likable jerk" to help provide quotes. Evidently, he first thought of me, which I guess is sweet. Sort of.

The only thing more terrifying than skeletons with guns is Dan Teasdale's haircut.

Anyway, I sent him a bunch of fake review quotes to use in the game. I did this entirely gratis, as it'd probably be something of a conflict of interest to be paid for such work. Plus, I like dangling favors like this over people's heads, calling in return favors at the most inopportune and uncomfortable times. And, I get to say I contributed to a game alongside a personal hero of mine in Troma Films founder Lloyd Kaufman, who also submitted some alarmingly bizarre quotes. Seemed worth potentially tarnishing my good name.

Now that you know all of this information, you may now marvel as I attempt to actually make objective judgments about The Gunstringer, based on my first attempt at playing it at this year's E3. The unpleasant Australian man himself is at the Microsoft booth demoing the game, and despite my general reluctance toward being in the same room as him, my curiosity toward this bizarre product I've lent my name to got the best of me.

If you're unaware of the game's premise, here's the quick and dirty version. The game is a puppet show. Almost literally. All the game's action takes place on a "stage," complete with a live action video audience that the game will periodically cut away to for reaction shots and applause/boos. Your character, the titular Gunstringer, is a skeletal cowboy on a mission for revenge. All the action is built into Microsoft's Kinect sensor, with your left hand controlling the "strings" of the Gunstringer, and the right controlling the gun. Movements are generally simple, requiring you to direct your left hand left, or right to move the Gunstringer, and up to make him jump. To shoot, you simply point your right hand at the screen, and cock it back to fire.

The entire game is on rails, so all you need to worry about is dodging, jumping, and shooting. One section of the game I saw being played by someone else did involve some side-scrolling gameplay, with a good deal of jumping and obstacle dodging, though still while on rails.

The question with any Kinect game at this point in the technology's lifespan generally tends to be, "Do the controls work?" Good news: yes. I've heard from some that previous builds of the game played a little loose, with more latency between your movements and the in-game reactions than you'd tend to want. I experienced nothing of the sort in the latest E3 build. The controls felt appropriately sensitive, and the Gunstringer would react to my movements with appropriate levels of sensitivity to my admittedly violent gesticulations. It feels good, and best of all? You can play sitting down.

I can't tell you how badly I've wanted to put a whole mess of bullets into one of these things.

The game will, of course, feature Twisted Pixel's trademark brand of absurdist, borderline sociopathic humor. You'll be fighting everything from murderous wobbly arms puppets to unholy cross-breedings between lumberjacks and alligators. Apparently there's a pretty good, too-long sex scene between a lumberjack and an alligator somewhere in the game, so that's super hot.

Take these opinions with as many grains of salt as you please. My closeness to the game obviously prevents me from ever reviewing the final product, but I was honestly just curious to get my hands on the thing after all these months of emails filled with abject cursing and ludicrous legal threats between myself and Mr. Teasdale. And I honestly came away digging it. Today's news that The Gunstringer would move from the realm of Xbox Live Arcade to a final retail product is an interesting one, though Teasdale did say to me that they are planning on fleshing the game out with more content in anticipation of the retail release. At least, that's what I inferred from the series of the dismissive wanking motions he kept making every time I'd ask a question.

We'll bring you more on The Gunstringer as it gets closer to release. Though I probably won't. Not until Teasdale makes good on that favor, at least. Any suggestions on what kind of horrible thing I can make him do? I'm thinking some kind of secret murder on my behalf.

#3 Posted by Alex (3053 posts) -

Say this for Nintendo: they're rarely predictable.

This morning's E3 2011 Nintendo press conference promised to unveil the console maker's next generation of hardware, and Nintendo did not disappoint. Instead, it mostly confused, bewildered, and at times, very much impressed.

Games will support unique displays via the screen when you're playing on the TV, or transfer gameplay directly to the screen.

Let's start with the name, which had been the subject of much bandying by various industry pundits. Everything from just "The Nintendo" to far more ludicrous options had been tossed around, but the near-universal agreement that the Wii branding would be ditched turned out to be a falsehood. The Wii U is the new system, and Reggie used the name unveiling to make a few alliterative talking points regarding "unity" and "utopia" among players.

The console is designed to cater to both the hardcore audience that Nintendo seemingly all but abandoned when the Wii was first introduced, and the casual-minded players who flocked to the Wii in its early days. But just what the hell is this thing, anyway?

Nearly all of the presentation was dedicated to the new controller technology, a slick-looking, tablet-inspired device with two circle sticks, a d-pad, the usual suite of buttons, a gyroscope, a built-in camera, and what have you. However, the big draw is the built-in screen, a 6.2 inch touch-sensitive screen that can emulate at least some version of the graphics you'll see on your TV screen.

Though the demo at the conference didn't do much to explain this, there is actually a Wii U box that hooks up to your TV, which works in proper HD. It's backward compatible with all existing Wii games, and apparently supports existing Wii hardware too.

This is the box. Yes, there is a box.

One of the more intriguing things about the new controller device is that it actually lets you keep playing your games if you decide to do something else with your TV. Whatever game you're playing via the TV will automatically switch to the controller screen should you decide to start watching something else on television.

Nintendo's big thing was to demonstrate the number of different uses for the tech, which included everything from video chat, to stylus drawing, and a variety of motion/video-based controls. However, this was done largely at the expense of new game announcements. Reggie himself only touted one new game in development--a new Lego title from TT Games--but a video featuring several third-party developers and publishers including a slate of game announcements, including Darksiders II, Assassin's Creed, a new Tekken game, Metro Last Light, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, and more. EA's John Riccitiello even vaguely described the "possibility" of a Battlefield game appearing on the system, as Battlefield 3 footage played behind him. However, he stopped short of an actual announcement.

Nintendo is not showing any full games at E3, but rather is sticking to "game demos," which sound more like tech demo-ish proofs of concept. Regardless, we'll definitely be getting our hands on this strange, fascinating new device during the show. Look for more in the near future.

#4 Posted by Alex (3053 posts) -

Capcom's Yoshinori Ono was on-hand at Sony's E3 2011 press conference to unveil a new version of the publisher's upcoming crossover fighting game, Street Fighter x Tekken for Sony's new handheld system, the PlayStation Vita.

The Vita version is aiming to deliver a full fighting game experience on the new system, and even comes with a goofy little bonus feature separate from the console versions: Infamous' electrifying hero, Cole. Ono even demonstrated a bit of his in-game fighting skills and, well, it looks ridiculous. Still, it's no weirder than Kratos wandering into the Mortal Kombat universe, right?

No word on whether the other version of the title, Namco Bandai's Tekken x Street Fighter, will get similar treatment, but that's probably up to Namco Bandai, isn't it?

#5 Posted by Alex (3053 posts) -

At its E3 2011 press conference, Sony finally ended the long, excruciating wait to know what its new handheld console will be branded.

Surprise! It's the thing that's been rumored for weeks: the PlayStation Vita.

Stalwart Sony executive Kaz Hirai revealed the name during a conference presentation, in which he also gave a brief look at some of the social networking tools built into the hardware, and announced both wi-fi and 3G-enabled models of the device. He also announced that AT&T would be the exclusive network carrier for the device, which elicited a rather massive audible groan from the audience in attendance.

The price of the two different models has just been released via press release. The 3G model will retail for $299, while the wi-fi only model will go for $249.

#6 Posted by Alex (3053 posts) -

Here's something we weren't expecting: a PS3-exclusive shooter from a PC MMO that features direct connectivity with that same MMO. But that's exactly what we got at Sony's E3 2011 press conference.

Dust 514, a online first-person shooter from EVE Online developers CCP, is itself a massively-multiplayer online game of some fashion. In addition, actions that take place in either game affect the other. How, exactly, that will all work is still a matter of some question, but CCP and Sony seem confident that this universe is something worth investing in, as Dust 514 will also include Move support, have its own dedicated Home space (yay?) and find its way to the NGP/Vita somewhere down the line.

Dust 514 is scheduled for release in the Spring of next year, and a closed beta will launch later this year.

It's a fascinating crossover that, honestly, I'm not completely sure what to make of. What do you folks think?

#7 Posted by Alex (3053 posts) -

Confirming rumors we've been hearing for some time now, Ubisoft today brought us our first look at Far Cry 3, the latest sequel in its jungle-faring first-person shooter series.

In the game, you are Jason Brody, a man on the hunt for his kidnapped girlfriend and put up against a group of rebels, including one particularly verbose one who seems to enjoy explaining the definition of insanity to our hero.

The action shown in the trailer was unquestionably violent. Lots of blood, lots of explosions. Seemed highly reminiscent of the kind of gunplay you'd typically find in an '80s Schwarzenegger flick, like Predator or Commando.

We'll be sure and get the trailer up as quick as we can. It's a doozy. And it's got swears!

#8 Posted by Alex (3053 posts) -

Ah the Summer of Arcade, that special time of the year when children and adults alike can avoid basking in the warm summer breezes and touching anything that remotely resembles fresh air, and instead spend five straight weeks downloading and playing through five new Xbox Live Arcade games Microsoft deems rad enough to put in its Summer of Arcade promotion.

One of these games is not like the others...

Most of the lineup actually consists of titles we around the Giant Bomb offices have been looking forward to for quite a while now, such as the debut title from Fuelcell Games, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, and Ubisoft's intriguing "spiritual successor" to Populous, From Dust. One I'm personally looking forward to is Toy Soldiers: Cold War, the follow-up to Signal Studios' surprisingly enjoyable tower defense game.

And then there's Fruit Ninja: Kinect. Yeah. Fruit Ninja. Kinect. Mmmhmmm.

Moving on! Last, but definitely not least is the debut title from Supergiant Games, Bastion. Obviously, we have a slightly vested personal interest in that one, what with all the coverage of it we've had via our Building the Bastion segments on the Happy Hour shows. Still, I'll try and remain as objective as possible in wishing congratulations to the Supergiant posse regarding their inclusion.

The promotion kicks off July 20th. No specific dates have been given for each title yet, but expect one a week for the five weeks starting on the 20th. Can we maybe have Fruit Ninja come the last week? During Gamescom? That'd be swell. Thanks.

#9 Posted by Alex (3053 posts) -

We'd known Insomniac Games was going to debut its first foray into the realm of the multiplatform at this year's E3, but what, exactly, the game would be was entirely unknown... until now!

Ted Price brought his patented cheerful demeanor to EA's E3 2011 press conference to announce OverStrike, a new action title featuring a crew of sarcastic, violent-minded mercenaries out to save the world from evil. Probably.

Truth be told, we don't really know what the game is, yet. The trailer presented information on the game's four primary protagonists, their general styles, the kinds of absurd gadgets and weapons they'll employ, and gave an indication of the game's generally tongue-in-cheek demeanor--think Team Fortress 2 mixed with Human Target, or something along those lines--but no actual gameplay was shown.

Regardless, color us intrigued. We all like shooting guns, but something other than a deathly serious blockbuster military shooter sounds pretty good right now. We'll be sure to dig up everything we can on the game once E3 opens up its doors.

#10 Posted by Alex (3053 posts) -

Not gonna beat around the bush or write any overly lengthy intros for this one. Just the facts.

Battlefield 3, one of the two military shooters you are most likely to be chomping at the bit for this year, now has a release date: October 25th, 2011. That's two weeks prior to Modern Warfare 3, just in case you were keeping score at home.

Also getting a release date during EA's E3 2011 press conference was BioWare's latest sci-fi action RPG, Mass Effect 3. You'll be able to continue your adventures as Commander Shepard on March 6th, 2012.

Time to start stuffing your piggy banks!