Your NoHS E3 2011 Press Center, Part 1

In between cramming lemon bars in his gullet and defending Tom Chick from assailants, Bill Abner has been sending press releases from E3back to the NoHS Atlanta office. I’ve been so busy with the excitement surrounding B3 that I’ve not kept up with posting them. Until now. Now, this is in no way all of the press that this event has generated, just a couple of random nuggets so I can pretend like I was there, reporting on the show. I’m not paid enough by NoHS to meticulously post every press release. I’m not paid at all. And my tolerance for this kind of marketing guff is very, very low. I hope that Bill has trained your reader’s eyes well, and that you are able to mentally redact this marketing speak in your mind. I think some of these titles look like absolute crap that no amount of hyperbole can salvage, but press releases aren’t written for me anyway. Come on, copywriters…dazzle us with your purple prose!

First up is Topware, and they’re offering us a “pirate world without censorship”. Because you know how the censors always came down on the pirates. Then there’s Gorky 21, which appears to be a sequel to Gorky 1-20. I think Odium, a PC game from about ten years ago no one remembers, was actually Gorky 17. Either way, it offers Polish mutants. I’m sure our very own Todd Brakke will offer us some keen insight on these titles when pays his hotly anticipated visit to Topware central on the E3 floor this week. Let’s look at their pirate game, Raven’s Cry.

TopWare Interactive and Octane Games will be releasing a game that finally doesn’t paint pirates as the funny and playful ones we have to come to accept in pop-culture, but rather the ruthless and blood thirsty portrayal of historical relevance. With the announcement of the release of TopWare’s next big title, Raven’s Cry, even real pirate fans will be shaking in their buckled boots.

It’s a good thing I’m not a real pirate fan then. Those buckled boots chafe.

The 17th century Caribbean unfortunately will not be starring a quirky, yet devilishly handsome and incredibly famous actor portraying the pirate life, but a man who fights with his own demons and morals, with only the memory of his butchered family to propel him into his destiny among the seas.

Raven’s Cry will offer players three different styles of gameplay, from 3rd person hack n’ slash, to helming a full-fledged pirate ship into battle, or navigating your way through the harsh waters on the world map. TopWare will be showcasing this title at this year’s E3 and are proud to announce that it will hit shelves Q2 of 2012!

TopWare Interactive announces the release of Gorky 21 ™

Mutants from Poland aren’t always Polish Mutants. Especially in TopWare Interactive’s newly announced installment to the scientifically dark and beloved Gorky franchise: Gorky 21.

TopWare adds another game to the roster with the revival of the series that combined turn-based tactics with point and click adventure-horror.

Set in a world devastated by nuclear war, Gorky 21 will offer endless customization and personalization of the player’s character as well as a mind-blowing crafting system to upgrade your weaponry.

Mind-blowing? They’re not pulling any punches, are they?

Killing mutants and cybernetic commandos has never been this fun as the player will strategically blast their way through a plethora of post-apocalyptic environments using only the sexiest of Steampunk weapons and Nano-Technology power-ups. With intense boss battles set in specifically designed arenas, Gorky 21 will bring an experience that veterans and new gamers alike can enjoy! Look for Gorky 21 to hit the shelves of Q4 2012!

OK, so a couple of jabs at Johnny Depp and not-Polish mutants from Poland. I’m so confused. Good luck with these reviews in 2012, Todd!

Moving right along…505 Games is announcing a new Kinect-enabled first person shooter. Does your game have that bad ass Gunsmith feature, 505 Games? Let’s see what their press writer said.

Global videogame publisher 505 Games today announced Blackwater, an immersive First Person eXperience (FPX) coming exclusively to Kinect for Xbox 360®. Produced by Pantierra and developed by Zombie Studios, Blackwater is titled for the former name of the private security company founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL, to provide training support to military and law enforcement agencies.

Blackwater reinvents the modern combat shooter genre by giving players the ability to completely control the gameplay experience using a traditional controller or Kinect for Xbox 360’s controller-free abilities which introduces an unprecedented level of immersion to the FPS genre.

Uh oh. They claim to be “reinventing” the genre. This looks bad.

“This game and its immersive Kinect-based approach will give players the chance to experience what it is like to be on a Blackwater team on a mission without being dropped into a real combat situation,” said Prince.

What the hell does Prince know about shooters anyway? At least it’ll probably be all shades of purple instead of brown. OK, I’ll shut up now.

505 Games will be providing a first look at the title to select press during the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, June 7-9, 2011.

“The Blackwater team is comprised of an amazing group of individuals and we’re proud to work with them to create a video game that showcases their talent and courage,” said Ian Howe, President, 505 Games. “Being able to get the controller out of player’s hands with Kinect and have them on the ground and immersed in the experience will give them a glimpse of what it takes to be a member of an elite fighting force.”

Based on a fictional story, the game was developed in conjunction with former members of the Blackwater team to ensure accuracy of moves, gestures and gameplay. The game also features a selection of officially-licensed weapons for your soldier to choose from.

Blackwater is an intense, cinematic shooter experience unlike anything you’ve ever played before. Lead a team of Blackwater Operators protecting a fictional North African town, battling dangerous warlords and fighting back two opposing militia forces. Using the motion-sensing Kinect controller players can do everything from moving their character to aiming and firing a weapon as you work your way through pressure-filled missions. The game is also playable with a standard controller.

“Unlike anything you’ve ever played before”? Really? So this game isn’t ANYTHING like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal of Honor, and so forth?

Blackwater is scheduled to release in fall 2011. The game is developed under a trademark license agreement. ESRB rating for this game is pending. For more information on 505 Games, please visit their official website at www.505Games.com.

Next up is Atlus, and they’re talking about Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2. I don’t have anything smart to say about this one, because I really liked the first game.

ATLUS today revealed plans to publish Shin Megami Tensei®: Devil Survivor 2 for Nintendo DS, the sequel to the award-winning, fan favorite RPG/SRPG hybrid, in North America next year. What would people do if they could see others’ deaths before they come to pass? As devastation and ruin begin to spread, the player will have to use a mysterious website with the power to predict casualties in order to save lives, save themselves, and ultimately, save the city.

Building on the original game’s acclaimed foundation of accessible turn-based combat with elements of grid-based strategy, Devil Survivor 2 delivers everything fans loved about the first game: an intense narrative with multiple endings based on player actions, the beautiful visuals and sounds the Shin Megami Tensei series is renowned for, the addicting challenge of collecting, customizing, auctioning, and fusing every last demon in the game, and much more. Moreover, a system akin to the Social Links found in Persona 3 and 4 allows players to invest time in developing bonds with their party members to unlock special rewards. Those relationships become all the more precious since every party member in the game is vulnerable to permanent death based on critical player choices over the course of the game. Every decision could easily be a matter of life and death.

“Devil Survivor 2 continues the successful marriage of RPG and strategy RPG gameplay elements introduced in the acclaimed original title,” stated Aram Jabbari, Manager of PR and Sales at ATLUS. “With an all new story and cast, an expanded roster of demons to manage, vastly expanded party interaction, an all new soundtrack from composer Kenji Ito (SaGa series), plus a host of refinements and improvements over its predecessor, Devil Survivor 2 doesn’t simply deliver more of the same-it delivers more and better, exactly what we believe a good sequel should.”

SMT: Devil Survivor 2 for Nintendo DS is currently scheduled to release in 2012. For more info, visit the official website at http://www.atlus.com/devilsurvivor2.

Now, that wasn’t so bad. No strident claims, just “here’s our product, we’re proud of it and stand by it, we think it’s good.” No “reinvention” or claims that there has never been a game like it before.

Let’s see what else is in the press bucket…oh, here’s one from Konami. About Megadeth.

Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. today announced legendary heavy metal band Megadeth are recording a customized soundtrack for the company’s forthcoming action-adventure franchise NeverDead. “Never Dead,” the official song sharing KONAMI’s video game title, will appear on Megadeth’s 13th album, which the band is currently recording.

“The members of Megadeth are speed-metal music pioneers with a world renowned reputation for producing song catalogs with original and progressive lyrics,” said Shinji Hirano, President of Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. “The NeverDead soundtrack is an example of pure imagination and it fully captures the essence of our game. We’re proud to have such a distinctive band associated with our title.”

Megadeth have sold over 25 million albums worldwide, with five consecutive albums being certified Platinum or multi-Platinum in the United States and have garnered nine Grammy nominations under their belt.

” ‘Never Dead’ was written specifically for the game, and the song’s lyrics and concept fit perfectly with its transcendental nature,” said Madelyn Scarpulla, Senior Vice President of Marketing & Creative Services for Roadrunner Records. “Megadeth and Roadrunner are both looking forward to the mutually beneficial marketing partnership we have established with KONAMI with the launch of NeverDead and Megadeth’s new album coming this fall.”

Transcendental nature? Are you kidding me??? Wow. Just wow. I love how the guy shifts from something so highfalutin and unfounded to solid, straight-in-the-eye business-talk.

NeverDead, currently in production, is a third-person action game set in a futuristic world where humans are battling supernatural enemies across a dark post-apocalyptic metropolis. In the game, players will assume the role of a demonic hero agent named Bryce who, assisted by his female lead Arcadia, must undertake a series of missions to combat a demonic plague. NeverDead is expected to release later this year for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

For more information about KONAMI happenings during the 2011 E3 Expo tradeshow at the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 7 – 9, please be sure to check out the official Pre-E3 show hosted on the company website at konami.com/e3.

I love old school thrash metal from back in the days when bullet belts were a must-own accessory. But I’ve never liked Megadeth. Why couldn’t they have gotten Possessed, Kreator, or Nuclear Assault for this?

Here’s another from Konami for a new action game with a female lead that won’t be as good as Bayonetta. What is it about being stranded on a island this year? Far Cry 3, Tomb Raider, now this Blades of Time thing. I hope that dude from Far Cry 3, Lara, and this lady don’t run into each other, that would be awkward.

Today, Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. announced Blades of Time, a brand new action title coming to Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system in early 2012. Developed by Gaijin Entertainment, Blades of Time takes a page out of the “hack-and-slash” genre and slices new gameplay mechanics to the genre by incorporating a beautiful heroine, a colorful cast of supporting characters, multiplayer functionality and lush environments.

That’s just crap writing. It “slices” new gameplay mechanics…by incoporating all of these three things that are neither new nor mechanics.

In Blades of Time, players don the persona of the gorgeous gunsword-wielding treasure hunter, Ayumi. Blessed with beauty and a trigger happy finger, she’s on a mission to find lost bounties in a mysterious and dangerous island. Quickly, she learns this island isn’t just trees, berries and gold – but something more sinister lies beneath the surface. As the wonderment of the island becomes to reveal itself, she learns this land can gift her powers man can only dream of, but also she’s not alone on this island! Thank goodness she brought her own weapons. Ayumi then proceeds to battle against menacing villains on the island by destroying them and everything in her path while looking to acquire magical powers that only the strongest warrior can possess.

Blades of Time is schedule to slash into retail stores nationwide in the first quarter of 2012 on XBOX 360 and Playstation3.

For more information, including screenshots and new trailer, please visit: http://www.konami.com/XXXXXXX.

Finally, there’s Ubisoft’s The Adventures of Tin-Tin: the Game. I’ve already talked about Ubisoft’s lineup elsewhere, so I didn’t pile their press releases in here. Just assume they’re full of hyperbole and bad writing. Although, this one actually isn’t too bad. But I’ll tell you what, when I see a game called “X: The Game” where X is a licensed property…bad things are afoot.

Today, Ubisoft unveiled product details for the upcoming release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Game. Based on the highly anticipated feature film The Adventures of Tintin directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy, The Adventures of Tintin: The Game will provide Tintin fans, both young and old, the opportunity to dive into the world of Tintin and relive key adventures from the series. Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier in close collaboration with Paramount Digital Entertainment, the video game will be released in the US for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, Windows PC, Nintendo 3DS and Wii this Holiday 2011.

Were excited for the opportunity to work with such renowned filmmakers on the iconic Tintin franchise, said Yves Guillemot, Chief Executive Officer at Ubisoft. Our development team in Montpellier has worked very closely with the film team to ensure that players will have the chance to recreate the magical moments of the movie and to experience complete immersion into the Tintin universe.

Well, it’ made by French people and French people love Tin-Tin. maybe they’ll surprise us.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Game is an action-packed adventure that takes gamers on a nonstop journey through the world of Tintin; the hero and intrepid reporter from Hergés original comic books. Players will rediscover the movies enchanting environs including Captain Archibald Haddocks ship the Karaboudjan, Omar Ben Salaads Palace and the exotic city of Bagghar and experience many of Tintins exciting adventures.

With various elements adapted from Tintin comic books The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackhams Treasure, gamers are able to continue the adventure from the movie solo or with friends in one of three gameplay modes. The single-player campaign offers a unique blend of exploration, puzzles and combat. It also includes exotic gameplay elements such as sword fighting, aerial combat and driving. This next-generation of Tintin includes support for the Kinect for Xbox 360, and PlayStation® Move for the PlayStation®3 system.

In addition to the solo adventure, The Adventures of Tintin: The Game offers cooperative challenges that introduce classic characters from Tintins adventures. Players can work together in special multiplayer maps straight from the moody dreams of Captain Haddock, or for those looking for extra competition; Challenge mode features many opportunities for players to compete with each other for high scores.

For more information on The Adventures of Tintin: The Game, please visit:
www.tintin-thegame.com.

Alright, I’m shutting the press center down. I’m sure Bill Abner will flood my mailbox with more. We’ll do another round tomorrow.

E3 2011 – Live, from Nintendo's Press Event

No High Scores

I’m coming at you straight from Nintendo’s press conference here in semi-sunny LA. I may have had to get up at an ungodly hour to go join the people of Nintendo for their annual cheerleading session, but this time around, I’m glad I did.

Last year, Nintendo shocked me with its best press event in years – with the 3DS’ successful announcement and several seriously promising games that turned out to be awesome (Donkey Kong Country Returns, Goldeneye 007, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, etc.). I was pretty sure that the company wouldn’t be able to top last year’s show, even though we all knew going in that a mysterious new console was going to be unveiled.

Actually, the big N was absolutely on par with its 2010 showing. The aforementioned new console – the Wii U – actually looked fantastic (though it’s still very early), and the mentioned 3DS support was promising. Message-wise, Nintendo was very wise to stick with what works and speak fairly directly – they’re offering Nintendo franchises and nostalgia, and hardcore games for actual gamers. They’re telling us what we want to hear, for sure – but that’s far, far better than what the publisher was peddling at, say, E3 2008 (remember that Wii Music demo?).

The tone was set in the first moments, when an actual symphony orchestra and chorus performed a selection of Zelda melodies, set to stirring clips from the series. Way to class up the joint, eh?

Shiguru Miyamoto came out and stirred up a bunch of warm fuzzies in honor of Zelda’s 25th anniversary, along with a few announcements – Ocarina of Time 3DS will include the master quest and a boss challenge mode, 4 Swords will be out for free on the 3DS eShop, and the new Wii title, Skyward Sword was confirmed for this holiday season.

What followed was a giant tease, wherein biggest of bigwigs Iwata came out and revealed the company’s new strategy – deeper and wider – which (get your damned mind out of the gutter) – signifies the desire to truly cater to core gamers who want deep game experiences, while making the “new platform” itself accessible as possible for wide audiences.

Promptly, Reggie came out and told us, in no uncertain terms, that Nintendo knows what we want. A bold statement, but considering what followed, he wasn’t too far off. He elaborated – what “we” (Nintendo fans, I think), want, are the same franchises, the comfortable, the familiar – but with fresh perspectives, the “edge” of the new. 5 new 3DS games with launch dates in the vicinity were immediately trotted out, to a few whoops and hollers and thunderous applause.

Trailers for Mario Kart 3D, Star Fox 64 3D, Kid Icarus Uprising, Super Mario 3D and Luigi’s Mansion 2 were shown – of which Luigi’s Mansion was the biggest surprise – and the biggest no-brainer. Luigi’s Mansion is almost criminally underrated, and absolutely perfect for both 3D and touch screen controls (as my esteemed colleague mentioned in his E3 wish list last week). Super Mario 3D is notable as the first 3D Mario game actually made exclusively for a handheld (and well, the only 3D Mario that’s presented in 3D as well), and multiplayer features were highlighted for both Star Fox and Kid Icarus.

After that nice little warm up, it was announcement time. Reggie went on about the philosophy behind the new system – the Wii U – but what really matters was seeing it in action. Simply put – the new system is an HD home console with a genuinely revolutionary controller that allows you to play on its tablet-like screen. Or you can play on your TV, using the controller as a motion device. Or you can use Wii-motes – all Wii controllers and games are backward compatible.

There’s serious potential here for designers to do new, exciting things – a point that was perhaps belabored in a series of interviews with industry bigwigs (including Irrational main man Ken Levine), but the possibilities are genuinely exciting.

However, the tech is obviously still early. No real games are actually playable on the hardware yet, though there will be several demos on the show floor. Also – no release dates or price points were discussed.

Thankfully, games were discussed. A new Smash Brothers game – for both 3DS and Wii U is being developed, as well as a new “New Super Mario Bros.” game, and Lego City Stories, an open world Lego game.

But for once, the third party games are more exciting on a Nintendo system. Darksiders II is confirmed as a launch game, and Batman Arkham City, Assassin’s Creed, Dirt, Aliens Colonial Marines Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online, Metro last Light, Tekken, and Ninja Gaiden 3 were all shown, running in slick HD. John Ricitello even showed up onstage, to announce just how excited he is to bring EA games to the Wii U.

Basically, this was the first time I ever saw blood and gore in a Nintendo press conference. Mario may not be killing any hookers, but holy shit, the Aliens aren’t screwing around.

I must say, it was a little surreal to go from the cutesy trivia of the pre-show and the sweet Zelda nostalgia at the beginning of the show to footage of violent, visceral games made for adults, but it’s very nice to see Nintendo actually embracing the deeper, wider strategy. Let’s hope they actually make good on it!

B3 2011- Barnes' take on the Wii U and Nintendo's Press Conference

It’s another hot as hell day here in Atlanta, where the B3 celebration continues unabated. I’ve just sat down to watch Reggie, Shigeru, and the gang’s press conference so here’s my thoughts on it, if you care. And yes, they made The Announcment.

So it’s the Wii U. I think it’s a terrible name, but it is smart that they kept the Wii brand since it’s so widely known among mainstream consumers. Most of the rumours we’ve been hearing panned out, but I think the console looks more promising than those early reports suggested.

It looks incredible, with a lot of concepts that could be extremely innovative and groundbreaking for console gaming. But the Wii looked like that too. The idea of being able to effectively stream a game from the console to the device- eliminating the need for a TV altogether- is one thing. But seeing some of the potential of the tablet-like touchscreen controller in conjunction with more traditional input (including Wiimotes), this thing could be huge.

Or it could be, literally, Wii 2. If Nintendo has once again asked third party developers to write code for a piece of hardware wholly unlike its marketplace peers and if no one has the resources or inclination to fully leverage the technology, we could wind up with another ugly shovelware situation where the only good games are the ones made by Nintendo. If that happens, this thing, as far as I’m concerned, is DOA.

Hands-on tech demos are being shown at E3, but no games. I need to see more on the games before I commit to it, but it definitely looks impressive and the hardware definitely looks up to speed. But hypothetical, proof-of-concept stuff is one thing…seeing AAA games announced for it with demonstrations of how they’re going to use the console’s unique features are another. This can’t be another situation where the Nintendo console gets some kind of tooled-down port of what’s available for 360 and PS3 but with a gimmick added. They played a montage with developers talking about the Wii U, and there were promises of Darksiders II, Assassin’s Creed, Colonial Marines, Ninja Gaiden 3 and Arkham City made- but the biggest news to me was Metro: Last Light. I never imagined that I might be playing that on a Nintendo console next year.

They appear to have the biggest third party players on board, so that’s a good sign. But we saw this same kind of thing with the 3DS release last year- and now we’re waiting for software for it.

As for the remainder of Nintendo’s press conference, Reggie Fils-Aime pretty much summed it up- “you want something familiar, but you also want surprises.” That’s what they gave us, although I thought the biggest surprise was Mario without a hat in Super Mario 3D. Luigi’s Mansion 2 was sort of an out-of-leftfield announcement, and it looks good. The 3DS games looked good, but the best were all first party so there’s that. Mario Kart 3D looks fun with some flying and underwater tracks, by appearances. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the RE title, and Cave Story 3D didn’t need to be shown- they’ve already got my money for those.

I could have done without the 15 minute tribute to the Zelda games. I like them OK, but I’m hardly a fanatic about them. There’s lots of good news for Zelda fans- Link’s Awakening on the Eshop, downloadable Four Swords, 25th anniversary symphonic concerts…and Ocarina of Time 3D next week, of course. Skyward Sword looks like it’ll be the Wii’s last gasp after all, and they’re doing a special gold Wiimote for it. The Wii U will have full backward compatibility, so that’s good news for folks like me who’ve ditched ol’ Whitey but might still want to check out the new Zelda title.

So yeah, I’m coming out of this impressed about the Wii U but cautious. The 3DS support still feels kind of up in the air to me, particularly after last year’s gangbusters announcement. One of the key takeways out of this presser to me was that Nintendo is really making an effort to put out modern, forward thinking game devices that mesh with lifestyles. They’ve been doing that for a few years, but this time it feels right. Maybe because they seem more committed to online functionality this time.

Oh, and seeing people play Go on the Wii U…that was pretty awesome.

BioShock Infinite trailer

Here is yet another brilliant looking Bioshock Infinite trailer for your viewing pleasure. I can’t wait to see this Thursday.

We are about to head out and catch the E3 shuttle and grab our badges. Danielle is at the Nintendo press conference apparently listening to an orchestra. We will have a lot of stuff later today as we see a lot of games first hand.

Sorry for the lack of press conference updates but …I truly hate those things. Get me to the games.

Mass Effect 3 E3 Trailer – Save us, Shepherd!

So here’s the new Mass Effect 3 trailer and it’s every bit your prototypical E3 trailer – Sh** blows up. Done. It’s also quite pretty. We (Bill and I) get the EA booth tour in a few hours and I’m looking forward to seeing more than, well, this. Also, and keep in mind I love me some Mass Effect, at some level is the degree to which, “Only Shepherd can save us,” getting beyond ridiculous? I mean he’s a guy who pretty much just runs around and shoots stuff with a few fancy speeches thrown in for good measure. You’d think his ability to impact galaxy-altering events would be marginally replaceable. But no. It’s gotta be Shepherd or we should just pack it all in and go home. Ah well. As long as the dialog is snappy and the ‘splosions are big, I’m sure I’ll be happy.

E3 Day Zero Thoughts

No High Scores

Greetings from Los Angeles!

I was traveling for pretty much all of the festivities yesterday, so I missed out on the big announcements but have been dutifully keeping up with the joy that is Google Reader. I’m not going to do a formal write-up, but will instead rock my E3 thoughts bullet point style.

I do want to point out that my E3 dreams have already come true with the announcement of a new Sly Cooper game, so everything after this is pretty much gravy.

Point 1: The Downtown Shetaton is an actual hotel and not a holding pen for future murder victims. It has a coffee maker and everything. Two guesses on who made Bill made coffee this morning. I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t Bill.

Point 2: I apparently snore at first, and then it dissipates. This has been classified as both “weird” and “fortunate” the second alluding to the fact that if I didn’t stop snoring I was going to get a midnight snack of one of Bill’s size 11s.

Point 3: CPK is still awesome. The Meat Craver’s pizza is a giant slab of salt and pork fat. I would have married it if I could have.

Point 4: Sly Cooper 4? Hell to the yes. I would have liked to see some game play, but with the game not coming out until 2012, I can understand.

Point 5: $249 for the PS Vita? Nintendo better fire with both barrels at their press conference today because the 3DS just got seriously slapped in the face. The Vita’s hardware looks amazing as does the lineup of games. Nintendo has not had a game for the 3DS that looks even remotely as interesting as Uncharted on the Vita, and unless Nintendo has some serious 3DS games up its sleeve, that doesn’t look to be changing any time soon. Now, I’m still withholding judgement until I see what the storage options for the Vita are, as I really don’t want to go back to using Memory Sticks, and with a sequel to Cladun coming out, I’ll need to get my download on. Ditto for PSP game support. Still though, $249 is a lot cheaper than I would have expected so consider me interested. Plus, I’m hoping to be the only Gshark writer with a Vita thereby bringing me untold riches.

Point 6: The most exciting announcement by Microsoft, namely the ability to save to the cloud, wasn’t even part of their press briefing. I’m glad that they’re making a bunch of new Kinect games, as I know those with Kinect have been left in the lurch somewhat, but I don’t have a Kinect ready entertainment space, so their conference didn’t have much for me. Sure I’ll play Gears 3 and Mass Effect 3, but not with Kinect, and I knew about them already. So yeah, Petey, I’m happy for you. I look forward to your epic run of new Kinect game achievement points, but other than that, Microsoft left me cold.

Point 7: Camping air mattresses are surprisingly comfortable, especially when one is exhausted but not comfortable enough to let you rid your body of your home time zone. We were all up at 6AM, even those not working out.

Point 8: Good or bad, the Nintendo announcement should be interesting.

That’s it for me for now. More later on tonight when I get through my slate of games. Today I have Aliens: Colonial Marines, Dark Souls, Microsoft and Serious Sam as well as some roaming time built in. Wish me luck with Dark Souls. I’m pretty sure that game is going to kill me. A lot.

Barnes catches up with the Sony and Ubisoft press events at E3

I missed them both. Work got in the way of one, family time in the way of the other. I’ll get by.

But I have been catching up while continuing the B3 festivities, which right now includes drinking Illy coffee and watching Escape from New York. Not Escape from L.A. mind you. It would be like salt in an open wound, in more ways than one. Here’s some thoughts on ‘em.


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Dang it Ubisoft, I want to see more Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Hell, just put the guy up there tinkering with gas systems and other internal gun components for a while while Yves Guillemot says “may vee see zumtheeng else?” and I’ll be happy. Watching the guy in his Lunging Tiger stance required to play it with Kinect, not so much. Oh well, Far Cry 3 more than made up for it. I just picked up a $10 copy of Far Cry 2 last week and I’m really digging it, definitely looking forward to a retun to the jungle setting of he first game. It looks great, here’s hoping that they smooth off some of the rough edges and reptition of its predecessor.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations looks great, but what’d you expect? Another “well, duh” announcement. I don’t need for this to be advertised at me, you’ve got my sixty bucks- day one. But seriosuly, that preorder bonus bullshit has got to stop.

I’ve never cared a lick about Brothers in Arms, but Furious Four looks fun. For one thing, it’s being developed by Gearbox. For another, it looks like it gets right down to the noble business of killin’ Natzees. As in, it’s clearly the brainchild of someone who watched Inglourious Basterds and thought that there was a good video game idea in there. I like that it’s more of a pulpy, two-fisted and very over-the-top take on WWII. After all of he po-faced, very earnest and sincere games that have attempted to make us feel somber about the trials of our fighting men in that conflict, it’s nice to see something that just owns upt to being about puttin’ the boot (and Texas-shaped brand) to the goose-steppers. Could be fun. But it could also be one of those that turns out to be a total dud.

Rayman, I can’t imagine a game series I have less interest in.

Well, the question of whether or not they’d talk about the outage was right up front. Nice show of decorum without hyperbole or just blowing it off.

I have mixed feelings about Sony’s showing. Of course I’m bonkers for Uncharted 3, who wouldn’t be. It’s one of those where I don’t even bother to look at the screenshots, I know it’s something I want. I’ll just wait until it’s on my TV screen to see it, thanks. But most of Sony’s exclusives this year aren’t particularly exciting to me. I couldn’t get into the other Resistance games, so that one’s third installment is sort of a miss for me. Infamous was one of those squarely OK games, I’ve got a copy of the just-out sequel coming from Gamefly but I wonder if I’ll bother to even play through it. Sly Cooper is in the same “don’t care” bin as Rayman. Starhawk and the EVE Online shooter Dust 514 look OK, but seriously…when the best thing other than Uncharted 3 that you’ve got to show is the multiplatform Bioshock Infinite…well, that says it all, doesn’t it?

3D blah blah blah, still don’t care. I’m very excited about the ICO/Shadow of the Colossus reissue, but I couldn’t care less about the 3D. Sony needs to quit trying to stump for its gimmicks and let the games do the talking. The Move still exists? Huh. How about that.

The Vita (formerly the NGP) looks pretty good. I like that it’s at least priced competitively with the 3DS- which may lure Nintendo into an already-needed price drop. The games look outstanding, and all I needed to hear was “Bioshock” to get my on board for it. Street Fighter x Tekken looks fun, and Capcom has already proven that they can ace the portable fighter. I like Cole McGrath as a character in it more than I like Kratos in Mortal Kombat, but I sort of hate that character, so there you go. Ruin looks neat. Yeah, I think I’ll put a preorder in for one of the 3G models. I have AT&T already.

I dunno, I think Microsoft’s show was more “wow”. But even it wasn’t a jaw-dropper. The ball is now in Nintendo’s court. They’ve got a lot to prove this year, just like last year. And they aced it in 2010, but now we need some follow-up support on the 3DS and they’ve got to get the core gamers back on board for Project Cafe. Tomorrow should be pretty exciting.

B3 2011- Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls impressions

One of the hottest games being shown at B3 here at my house in Decatur, Georgia this year is Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls. It’s the first Wizardry game released in the US since 2001. It’s old school to the max, even though it has that newfangled anime art instead of cool s#!t like red foil embossed dragons and Apple IIe graphics that made you squint to recognize a goblin. But hey, they kept the logo at least. Read on to see what I thought after my hands-on. I ate a lemon bar while playing the game. I’m not kidding. It’s just like E3. Wanna come over and play some Super Mario Bros.?

Kate didn’t make it.

She was a young priest, and even though I had her on the back row of the party, she bit it when the eye-patched samurai woman misjudged a trapped chest and it blew up. We dragged her dead body back to the temple and I made a donation to the church to hedge our bets. The resurrection attempt turned her to ashes, and then when I tried again I guess the ashes blew away or something because she was “lost forever”.

And so goes the saga of life and death in Wizardary: Labyrinth of Lost Souls, a new game in the long-running dungeon crawling franchise. Originally developed by Sir-Tech back in 1981, the games were challenging, unforgiving, and they had a certain mystique that games today just don’t have anymore. I don’t think there’s been a Western Wizardry game in ten years, but it’s always been, strangely, big in Japan. It’s turn-based gameplay and emphasis on developing individual characters is an obvious influence on the way JRPGs developed. It isn’t hard to see the series’ hardcore ethos and demanding gameplay in Demon’s Souls or King’s Field.

The new one, available for $15 thanks to Xseed and Acquire on PSN, is definitely a niche, super old-school title that will appeal only to a small number of players. Definitely try the demo to see if it’s your kind of thing. However, if you’ve read this far in to an article about a Wizardry game, it probably is your kind of thing. It’s not Diablo, it’s not Elder Scrolls, and it’s not Final Fantasy. You’ve got a party of six characters- which you can build out yourself or pick from preset ones. There’s a front row of three characters that typically you want to be your melee/close combat fighters. In the back row you want to stick your ranged attackers and spellcasters. Everything is turn-based. Oh, and this isn’t a game where you can guzzle mana potions and spam healing spells all day long. Early in the game, you’re lucky to get to cast two spells each trip into the dungeon. Resources are tight, and careless play will get you killed by a pack of kobolds. Or simply lost.

There is a menu-based hub town where you conduct business, get quests, rest, listen for rumours, and all that good stuff. You’d better buy torches and a map before you go down into the dungeon, because it’s dark and easy to get lost. There’s a guild where you can create and swap out party members, which is something worth doing often so that you can level up several different characters across different classes. Just in case. The game’s mapping system isn’t nearly as cool as the one in the Etrian Odyssey games, but at least you don’t have to break out graph paper.

Combat is slow, menu driven, and definitely old fashioned but it also calls for tough choices and strategy. This is not a high-action, cinematic game at all. There aren’t even any animations. I don’t like the anime artwork because I think it ruins the potentially cool, 1980s D&D atmosphere the game could have, but I guess it’s got to have something to bring the kids in the door. Boy, will they be disappointed.

This is definitely an old folks game, and it’s one we’d likely never see in the West without a download service such as PSN to make its localization a much smaller financial risk. Despite the anime crap and Japanese voiceovers (“Wizahdoowee”) I’d definitely recommend it for fans of the classic Wizardy games. Or anyone who might get interested if I said the phrase “party-based first-person non-random Roguelike with brutal difficulty”. There’s not really much of a story to speak of, it’s really more about completing simple quests, grinding, and getting to where you can afford the outrageously expensive equipment to keep your people from dying. I’m enjoying it, and I’m surprised at how tightly it clings to traditional Wizardry gameplay.

One final note- if you’re rolling up a new character and want to be a cheat, you can keep trying to get better bonuses. The random bonus it gives you to assign to stats ranges from 6 to 40. That’s a little ridiculous because a character with 40 extra stat points is obviously going to be stronger, but so it goes. You’re going to need all the help you can get anyway. Besides, you don’t want your newly created priest to wind up like poor Kate.

B3 2011- Barnes half-assedly watches the 2011 EA preview at E3

I have to admit I only half-watched EA’s preview event because I was trying to get some work done while it was on TV. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take off for the big B3 events going on here in Atlanta, where you don’t have to worry about getting lost in Compton on the way back to your hotel from the Staples Center. There were some cool highlights from what I could see. I’ll just hit the high points…which are totally subjective. My high points may not be your high points.

- Mass Effect 3 was shown. Everyone in the world will be playing it next March. What is there really to say? It looks effing great if you like the ME series.

- Battlefield 3 looks far, far more interesting to me than Modern Warfare 3. Footage shows more gameplay elements, and it looks less like a big, expensive theme park ride where you don’t really do anything other than push up on the left stick or point a mounted gun at a moving target. Battlelog, the game’s answer to the NFS Autolog, should be a great addition that adds a social networking angle to the game. It looks like this game is a no-brainer, day one purchase for me. Production values are through the roof, and it retains that distinctive Battlefield feel.

- Speaking of Need for Speed, The Run didn’t really impress me much. I don’t play car games to run around. Or deal with a story, at least not one beyond “I bought a 1969 Dodge Charger and painted it to match the one in ‘Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry’. It went fast. The end.”

- Overstrike is Insomniac’s new multiplatform IP and the trailer looked fantastic…if it were a Pixar action movie. There was no gameplay footage shown so it’s a hard call, but at least it looks cool. I like the slightly cartoony, colorful style, it’s very refreshing. Another class-based co-op thing, by the looks of it with a superspy-kind of theme. It looks like there will be plenty of trademark Insomniac zany weapons too. Definitely on my “ask me again when we see gameplay footage” pile.

- FIFA 12, holy crap it looks great. I took FIFA 11 off but played the bejeezus out of South Africa. It looks like there’s tons of advancements to the game, many of which I as a casual fan may not be able to fully appreciate. I have no idea what L’il Wayne has to do with. Rooney’s hair transplants are looking nice. They really should have had a featurette how his new locks will be modeled 1:1 in the game.

- Other sports games, blah blah blah, I’m sure Bill Abner can tell you more about them. Some guys in football uniforms got up there and huffed and puffed, wielding a trophy. It didn’t make any sense to me and I had the sound off. If it ain’t Tecmo Bowl, Mutant League Football or TV Sports Football, it’s trash as far as I’m concerned.

- Kingdoms of Amalur looks surprisingly good for a game with such an awful name and the involvement of Todd McFarlane and nerd potboiler author R.A. Salvatore. I’m about ready for a new Western RPG, The Witcher 2 notwithstanding. Curt Schilling definitely knows games- he’s a hardcore tabletop wargamer. As in, ASL hardcore. As in, he publishes ASL.

- SSX, I stopped caring about it around the time they stopped making Surge.

- Star Wars, maybe if it were any time before May 21, 1999 I’d be excited about it. And if I liked MMORPGs. Which I don’t.

- Sims blah blah blah, played the first one a decade ago, made everyone miserable, went back to playing No One Lives Forever.

So a huge disappointment because there was no surprise Mirror’s Edge 2 reveal, but otherwise some good-looking stuff. The Insomniac title was a wild card, but once again- all stuff we’ve seen and known about ahead of time. Oh, Internet, you’d ruin Christmas if you could.

B3 2011- Microsoft's Global Press Briefing @ E3- The Barnes View

We are having an awesome time here at B3 in Atlanta, 2000 miles away from E3 and getting potentially caught in The Big One should it happen to strike California at any monent. I sure am glad I’m not there, I like being not trapped under rubble, giant Fear 3 banners, and people with terrible hygiene. But I did watch Microsoft’s Press Briefing from the safety of my living room and scribbled out some random thoughts about it. In short- it’s all about Kinect this year. Read more, if you dare. Or if you’re not already sick of hearing about E3.

The 2011 Microsoft Press Briefing kicked off with a playthrough of the entire Modern Warfare 3 single player campaign- all fifteen minutes of it. It looked beautiful. But it also looked like more like a heavily scripted theme park ride directred by Michael Bay than a video game. Ditto for Tomb Raider, despite the promise of “open environments” to be revealed later. It looked amazing and I want to get on board with a Lara Croft origin story, but when the gameplay shown is almost non-interactive other than QTEs, I get suspicious. One of my all-time favorite video game feelings was in the first Tomb Raider when you would walk into a big area filled with ruins and realize that you can explore the whole thing. I don’t know if I like a restrictive, linear Tomb Raider. I guess it all has something to do with the Bermuda Triangle.

These and the other big core titles weren’t exactly surprises. We’ve all played at least some of Gears of War 3 already (but not with Ice-T and Cliffy B.), the Halo HD remake has been in the aether for awhile, and Forza 4 was shown in a preliminary state last year. Forza 4 comes out on my birthday and I do really like cars. I’m just sayin’. No surprises here, but all are typical, solid-looking games that will certainly sell bazillions of copies. I’ll skip on the Halo remake though, I’ll gladly never slog through that incredibly boring campaign again.

It was pretty surprising to hear that Ice-T will be reuniting Body Count for Gears of War 3, sans dead original guitarist Ernie Hudson. I saw them at the very peak of the “Cop Killer” controversy opening for Sepultura and Ministry- filling in for Helmet, who had crashed their bus on the way to the venue. It was awesome. He said “they told me they was gonna arrest me if I do this song, but I’mma do it anyway” and they of course, played “Cop Killer”. He did not get arrested. I think that Charleton Heston’s reading of the lyrics to that song is one of the greatest moments of Western Civilization.

Kinect was definitely the focus of Microsoft’s showing. And truth be told, this was the briefing that Microsoft should have had last year when Kinect made its big debut with a bunch of junky post-Wii “family activity” games. They came out swinging for the hardcore fences by demonstrating almost ALL of their games with Kinect integration. And that’s the key right there- integration rather than games to encourage your aging mother to shake her “bootay”. And who would have thunk it- Minecraft for Kinect?! I bet Mojang can afford a Lamborghini Countach at this point. And that, my friends, is a barometer of wealth.

I was actually quite impressed at some of the Kinect features shown. The voice responses in Mass Effect 3 seem cool and immersive, although I wish I had a nickel for every time some gamer out there tries the command “Liara, take off your top”. I love the idea of possibly verbally arguing scientific ethics with Mordin Solus. I balked when I saw the “Better than Kinect” tagged on ME3, but…you know, it may just be. One thing that was kind of weird was saying the on-screen prompt and then Shepard said something else. They really write the dialogue to match up so that what you say leads into Shepard’s response.

I was also impressed with the functionality shown by Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier despite the weird, cat-like squatting the demonstrator had to do with some very non-intuitive gestures triggering controls. Was it me or was he doing jazz hands to shoot. The gun customization looks absolutely nuts, like a Gran Turismo for firearms- you can customize parts in a fully manipulative exploded view. You can call for an optimized weapon for QCB or long range. The actual gameplay was just a firing range, but if they bring forward the more tactical approach of past Ghost Recon games, it could be pretty darn good. No wonder this game has been pushed back so much- it looks like they may actually be trying to do some new things with it. After the nightmare of Ghost Recon Wii, I had kind of written this series off…but what they showed was interesting. But it also wasn’t campaign gameplay, so there’s that.

Kinect looked much less impressive in the games where it’s the central control input. Crytek’s Ryse didn’t look that impressive to me at all, although I’m sure our very own Bill Abner will be putting on his Caesar costume from Party City and jumping around his living room. Fable: The Journey I couldn’t care less about. Come on Molyneux, couldn’t you have made some more strident claims while you were up there? The world was watching, tell us how we’ll never possibly understand the depth of the gesture-based farting mechanic or something!

Disneyland Adventures, Star Wars, and Double Fine’s Once Upon a Monster (the Sesame Street Game) looked like fun stuff for kids, but I’m still not feeling the “you are the controller” business. But the Sesame Street game looks really, really cute. If my boy was just a little older, I’d get it for him. Kinect Sports Season 2, who cares. The Wii Sports ship sailed out a long, long time ago. The guy playing quarterback and hollering should be ashamed of himself. Dance Central 2? I’ll just go to a club, thanks. One that plays music that I like.

Kinect Funlabs is a great idea, and the demonstrations were shockingly cool in terms of creating content and its scanning technology. It’s one thing when the device recognizes and recreates your face, it’s another when it does your clothes too. Crazy stuff. The cool thing about Funlabs is that it really shows what can be done with it on an experimental level. They pulled a Saturn on it- it’s available right now.

Bing, YouTube, live TV. Snore. I guess I’m old fashioned. If I want to see a video of a cute puppy howling along to “Boyz n the Hood”, I’ll do it on my phone. I don’t watch TV, and I still use Yahoo. It is smart business though, making the console more central to home entertainment. 40% of Xbox Live traffic isn’t even gaming, and that’s quite significant.

They closed it all out with Halo 4, which again wasn’t exactly a surprise. Just an announcement teaser, really. Another big fat Barnes “so what” on that one. Yeah, of course I’ll play it just like everybody else, Holiday 2012. In all, it was a fairly decent presentation without many embarrassments or disappointments. I was really surprised at how decent Kinect appears after being out for months without anything interesting to do with it. It still remains to be seen if all these promises pan out and if it turns into a significant gameplay feature rather than another novelty, but I think if they stick to this concept of Kinect as an optional enhancement for core games then they could be onto something.

Holy shit, Skyrim footage. I need to go get a drool rag, I’m slobberin’.