Trenched Touches Down in June

I know I’ve posted this Trenched trailer before, but it’s awesome and the game looks awesome and these dudes have some seriously epic soup strainers. The wait for Trenched isn’t much longer as it’s coming out on June 22 for 1200 Microsoft Space Bucks. Unfortunately, if you’re a PS3 owner the wait may be a wee bit longer as Trenched is an XBLA exclusive. I still wouldn’t rule it out entirely though as these exclusives always seem to make themselves to other platforms at one point or another. I’d love to review this one, but alas, I’ll be on vacation when it drops, so instead I’ll have to play the game for nothing but the sheer joy of riding mechs into fields of explosive destruction.

Space Marine Pre-Order Info (Um, Blood for the Blood God!)


First off, nice box art.

THQ is at it this time with the pre-order hoo-hah. The Collector’s Edition is 100 bones. The PC edition $80…because we’re either a cheap lot or are less inclined to buy these. Not sure which.

PR time — and yes there there are Gamestop, Best Buy, Amazon and Walmart only deals. Amazon shoppers get a CHAINSWORD!? Seriously there are more pre-order deals for this game than you can shake a snotling at.

The Emperor is not pleased.

THQ Inc. today announced that it will be releasing a limited run Collector’s Edition for its upcoming 3rd Person Action/Shooter, Warhammer 40,000®: Space Marine as well as a robust* collection of retail specific pre-order items to choose from.

The Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Collector’s Edition features a 10” replica Purity Seal, a glossy hardback art book, the official Space Marine soundtrack, a premium pack of 25 foiled character information cards and a copy of the game, packaged together in a premium box set. The Space Marine Collector’s Edition is available exclusively from the THQ.com Store in limited quantities. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 editions are available for a suggested retail price of $99.99 and the PC edition for $79.99

Other exclusive pre-order offers include unique multiplayer weapon and armor skins which will allow Space Marine fans to distinguish themselves further on the battlefield.

The Emperor’s Elite Pack, only available at Gamestop, includes the unique Space Wolves and Black Templar chapter armor skins

For players who prefer the nefarious forces of Chaos, The Traitor Legion Pack includes the complete armor sets for the Iron Warriors and Emperor’s Children and is only available at Best Buy.

The Golden Relic Chainsword, the primary close combat weapon for Space Marines, is only available at Amazon.com

The Golden Relic Bolter, a powerful ranged combat weapon, is only available at Walmart.

PC Gamers can celebrate their love of the Dawn of War series by donning themselves in the iconic red and bone colored armor of the Blood Ravens Chapter as well as receiving a FREE copy of Darksiders on PC when they pre-order the PC game through Steam.

PC Gamers also have the choice of pre-ordering their copy of Space Marine through THQ’s E-Store to get an exclusive PowerSword weapon for multiplayer.

Finally PC Gamers who choose to buy a digital copy of Space Marine through select digital retailers will be offered a FREE copy of Darksiders on PC.

Set in the rich Warhammer 40,000 universe created by Games Workshop®, Space Marine is scheduled to be released worldwide for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system and Windows PC on September 6, 2011.

For more information visit www.SpaceMarine.com

*That’s one word for it.

The Exercise Game

No High Scores

In one of the comments for Bill’s last Time Wasters column, punningpundit said he’d be interested in an article about whether or not my daily gaming sessions while exercising affects the games I play. Well, actually he thought Todd was the one who worked out and before I could swoop in and make fun of Todd, Todd swooped in and did it for me. Curse you Brakke.

Fast forward to Wednesday and I have nothing to write about as the only game I’m playing is LA Noire and I feel that we’ve given that game all the attention it warrants. Plus, I don’t think anyone wants a piece about how bad I am at Neuroshima Hex. For the record, I’m very, very bad. I’m also terrible at Zombie Dice, or maybe it’s just that my wife is so much better at it. Truly I am a horrible board game player, but that’s for another time. Today, let’s talk about exercise…

When we moved to Atlanta I didn’t need to lose weight having lost 20 lbs in Virginia in a response to high cholesterol and a desire for my first tattoo. I made a deal with myself and my wife that if I lost the weight, I could get a tattoo. I kept up my end of the bargain and thus, my first step down the road to multiple tattoos was complete. Once we got to Atlanta though, Linda and I discovered the joy that was the Costco caramel apple pie. These things were absolutely amazing and we’d easily eat one every other week, sometimes every week. Yes, that’s two people eating a pie in a week’s time. I don’t care how many recipes you make from Cooking Light, if you eat half of a pie a week, you’re going to gain some weight.

In all honesty though, it wasn’t just the pies. In Virginia, we lived in a neighborhood that was easily 500 houses and filled with sidewalks and trails. Here, our neighborhood is 52 houses and no sidewalks. In Virginia we took the dogs and our son for a walk every night. Here our dogs seemed to have gotten old overnight and no longer wanted to walk. My son still did, but once we adopted my daughter no one wanted to walk as she would spend the entire walk screaming in her stroller. I am not kidding when I say this. So, the lack of walking combined with the pies led to me gaining all of the weight back, and then some.

I started working out at work as we have a gym right down the hall but I found that if you don’t want to exercise, you’re not going to and I didn’t want to exercise. Oh sure, there was a TV in the workout room, but the security guard would frequently come in before I started working out and watch Flavor of Love and other such bullshit. Sometimes I’d watch bowling, or Food Network (bad idea) and sometimes I’d read a book or watch tv shows on my PSP, but at the end of the day it was incredibly boring and day after day I’d come up with another excuse not to work out. Unlike Danielle, I hate working out, and without something to do to take my mind off of the fact that I was exercising, I was bored.

Then Wii Fit came out. Perfect, I thought. I could spend 30 minutes of my hour gaming session working out and then switch over to something else for the other 30 minutes. Plus, with the balance board also acting as a scale along with Wii Fit’s tracking features, I could keep track of my weight loss and stay motivated. For a while it worked, but I quickly learned that Wii Fit is great for people who are completely new to exercise, but if you want a sustained, elevated heart rate, Wii Fit is not for you. Plus, with the remaining 30 minutes of my game playing time, you can’t get a lot done, and depending on how the save points are spread out, you may not be able to get anything done at all.

So, with this in mind, I bought an exercise bike. I have a 92 inch screen and a projector in my basement and while an exercise bike didn’t exactly add to the decor, putting it in the basement got it out of the way and meant I could watch movies while I biked. I bought a recumbent bike, specifically so I could sit and hold a controller in my hand and not feel like I was going to fall over and break my neck. My original plan was to catch up on all of my movies and tv shows on DVD, playing games only occasionally.

It was a good plan, but the problem is that I was working out for only 40 minutes a day, I have since bumped it up to 45, and at that rate, a two hour movie takes three days. Nothing destroys one’s ability to stay interested in a movie more than having it split up into three parts. I’m fine with having a movie split up into two days, so I watch a lot of animated stuff while I work out, but by the third day, I could care less about whatever I’m watching. Except for Ninja Assassin. That movie kicked ass.

So now I game pretty much exclusively and I couldn’t be happier. Seriously. I look forward to working out because it means more time playing games. In fact, if it’s a work day, even if I’m not working out, I still get up and work out. Yes, I realize how dumb that sounds given that it means getting up at 4:30 instead of sleeping in, but I am a man of routine and working out is part of that routine. Obviously for long vacations like Christmas break I don’t, but I’d rather lose sleep than gaming time for the occasional day off. Plus, I know me and the minute I give myself permission to miss a workout here and there, it’s all over.

As for whether or not exercising while gaming affects what I play, sure it does. Anything that requires a great deal of concentration is bad as I’ll slow down while playing. So racing games are out as I’m a terrible driver and I need to focus on driving effectively. You’d think the speed would cause me to ramp up my biking, but not so. Ditto for shooters that require a lot of precision aiming. I made a concession for Bulletstorm, which I thought wouldn’t work as I was playing on Very Hard but the addition of the leash and the ability to kill without shooting made up for any concentration needed to shoot dudes.

Similarly, any games with a lot of platforming elements cause problems as I tend to slow down when I try and make a jump. It doesn’t help that I am terrible at platformers, as Danielle can attest to from our E3 Nintendo experience. So what does work? Well, really, anything else. Action games like God of War or Darksiders, 3rd person shooters with good lock on aim assist, open world games, puzzle games, RPG’s. I’ve played all of ‘em and had a great time.

Unfortunately, being an achievement whore, the exercise bike does introduce a special challenge in that a laptop is not available to look things up. For this though, preparation is key. If I’m playing a game that has a lot of collectibles, I’ll print out a list ahead of time and put the list in the bike’s magazine rack. I try to do my research ahead of time so that I don’t get stuck, as nothing is more frustrating than playing for 45 minutes and getting nowhere because I got stuck on something with no way to look up answers. In fact, just this morning I spent almost my entire workout trailing Candy Edwards in LA Noire. It sucked.

Usually I can tell from the achievements if a game is something I can play on the bike, or if the achievements require too much research or videos for completion. The iPad has been a huge help in this regard as it’s thin enough to be held in the magazine rack and easy enough to be used while I’m playing. I try not to use it if I can avoid it, as it’s way too expensive to have break simply because I couldn’t wait to find a bottle in Sly Cooper 2. The problems is though, if I get stuck, or realize that playing is going to screw something up due to my lack of preparation, I don’t have many other options. Starting a movie is a pain once I’ve started biking as I’d have to stop, get off of the bike and put it in, as I don’t have Netflix or any of my movies stored digitally. Plus, watching 20 or 30 minutes of something as filler is hardly exciting and brings me back to the reason I’m gaming in the first place, so that I don’t get bored. Most of the PS3 games I play get played while I’m biking for the simple reason that I don’t care about trophies. Of course, that also requires research and preparations so that I don’t spend ten minutes of my workout watching the firmware update bar creep across the screen. I have had this happen to me and it sucks as much as trailing Candy Edwards did.

So yes, gaming while exercising requires some special preparations and research, or at least a disregard for things like achievements but it can be done and, in my case, is the difference between looking at exercise as something you want to do and something you have to do and will eventually stop doing. It’s also a big help as it gives me more time to play games for review, and believe you me, my critical mind is sharp as a tack at 5AM. That is, when I can actually see the screen and haven’t forgotten my glasses on the bedside table. A tack I tell you, a tack! Obviously this won’t work for everyone as I have the room and a projector and nine different consoles, but I am a firm believer that combing gaming and exercise can work for people who may not want to exercise, but definitely want to game.

Konami Unveils Birds of Steel


I swear, when I read this press release headline in my pr feed I thought, “More Angry Birds– in steel form.”

Alas, it’s a dogfight sim from the makers of IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey. I’m by no means a hardcore flight sim fan, but I do love a good straight up dog fighting game — stuff like Red Baron and even the old Star Wars games qualify. I played those to death. Of course that was…a long time ago. I’m much more interested in historical stuff rather than fire and forget modern day flight sims. Therefore I want to see more of this one. You mention the Me 109 and I’m at least interested. Mention co-op and well…

Birds of Steel is a World War II combat sim developed solely for consoles according to Konami, the trailer above looks pretty darn cool, and the PR is dead ahead:

Konami Digital Entertainment has announced a stunning new blend of flight combat and battle theatre genres, with the advent of Birds of Steel for PlayStation®3 and Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft.

Developed by Gaijin Entertainment, Birds of Steel is a breath-taking combat simulator featuring some of the most pivotal air battles of World War II, including the battle of Midway, Guadalcanal, Coral Sea, the historic attack on Pearl Harbour, the Mediterranean Maltese island, Germany’s Ruhr Valley, and others. Players can select how detailed they want each campaign to be, and are offered a wealth of single and multi-player campaigns.

Birds of Steel offers 20 historical and a wealth of fictitious missions, spanning eight world-famous campaigns, and users are given access to over 100 famous planes from the entire axis and allied forces rosters. A number of planes ideal for each campaign can be selected, and have been faithfully recreated in terms of handling, capabilities and weaponry. The classic Spitfire, P-51D Mustangs, and Messerschmidt 109 are all lined up for combat, as players opt to player opt to fight for the Allies, Japanese or Axis forces.

The game features a breath-taking level of detail, with the weather effects of each war zone brilliantly brought to life, while the handling and battle-scarred planes are susceptible to damage and will suffer in terms of control accordingly. Similarly, a series of camera views allow users to witness their skills from a series of external views, or within the varied cockpits of the 100 planes. The missions are presented in a pre-conflict briefing, and players can also see how their contributions related to the overall path of the scenario, with new planes available on the completion of specific goals. Birds of Steel also offers the user a number of control systems, ranging from simplistic arcade-style movements, to entirely faithful control systems that offer total control over every aspect of flight.

Birds of Steel also enjoys a huge online element. Players can support co-op missions alongside friends, or enter massive multi-player online dogfights to see who owns the skies. Gaijin are busy creating a series of absorbing missions for online users, with team death matches, co-op strike missions, airfield raids, and tournament play. all set to throw open the skies for the most intense aerial combat ever to grace the PlayStation®3 and Xbox 360 systems. Squadrons can even edit their finest hours to showcase their skills, and share them with their peers.

“For far too long, first-person shooter fans have been tied to the foot soldier point of view, but we aim to bring the seat-of-their-pants skill and daring of dogfighting and aerial combat to a wider audience,” said Martin Schneider, General Manager, Konami Digital Entertainment GmbH. “Birds of Steel pushes the throttle of realism by giving fans what they’ve been missing when it comes to co-operative online gameplay, incredibly realistic visuals and game dynamics, while spanning the entirety of the war’s air campaigns.”

Xbox Down! Xbox is DOWN!


So, yeah. There is a “problem” right now in accessing much of the Xbox Live Marketplace. Microsoft is “aware of the problem” and is on the case. There is no evidence of a hack attempt but there are clearly gremlins in the system.

Here’s a statement from Microsoft:

“We are aware of the problem and are working to resolve the issue. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your patience.”

Let’s just hope Todd doesn’t need to open up the train pic archive.

IOS Neuroshima Hex gets even hexier with an update


Neuroshima Hex is one of the best strategy game available on the App Store and it is the best digital implementation of a physical board game I’ve seen so far. It doesn’t hurt that the print game is absolutely outstanding and remains one of the best games of the past decade. But up until today, there’s been something of a deficiency with the handheld version- it’s been missing elements from the Babel-13 expansion that’s been out for quite a while now via Z-Man Games and Portal Publishing.

Along with some bug fixes and a battery of achievments, two new armies have been made available as IAPs. Joining the conflict are New York and Neojungle- both very cool factions with some new tile mixes and abilties. Neojungle in particular plays quite differently than the other teams. No word if these guys will be made available for Neuroshima Hex: Puzzle. They’re on sale right now for 99 cents, it looks like the usual asking price is $2.49. Get ‘em while they’re cheap.

Space Marine Combat System Video Takes Blood Donation to a New Level

As a Space Marine, all you need to do to regain health is eviscerate your enemies as brutally as possible. Effective on the battlefield, not so useful when you come down with the flu. I must admit, this game is looking better and better. Come on September!

King's Bounty Heads to Facebook


Oh No! Not another one!

Yes, another one.

Nival has announced that the King’s Bounty franchise is heading to a Facebook page near you in the form of King’s Bounty: Legions. Hide the children — and for god’s sake don’t tell that Dyack fellow.

PR Ahead:

For the first time in the history of the highly successful King’s Bounty series, gamers will get to take their turn at beating their friends as Nival, a global publisher of social strategy games, today announced it will publish, King’s Bounty: Legions. The title is a turn-based, social strategy game that will be available on Facebook this summer. King’s Bounty: Legions will introduce player-versus-player (PvP) combat, allowing gamers to prove who’s best among friends on Facebook.

“King’s Bounty: Legions is the very definition of a social strategy game, offering the combination of competitive, tactical gameplay with fun social interaction,” said David D Christensen, general manager of Nival’s North American operations and executive producer of King’s Bounty: Legions. “With its mixture of fun for both hardcore and social gamers, we like to think of King’s Bounty: Legions as the chocolate and vanilla swirl cone of Facebook gaming.”

King’s Bounty: Legions offers gamers an extensive and witty storyline and 40 levels of gameplay to start. Gamers will advance by completing quests; engaging in tactical, turn-based combat; and hiring troops to manage within their armies. Gamers will be treated to multiple forms of combat including PvP battles against friends, PvE battles against challenging AI, and asynchronous battles; all of which will test users’ ability to strategically assemble the paramount army.

King’s Bounty: Legions will be a cross-platform title, appearing on Facebook, and later on the iOS and Android platforms. The game is being developed on the Unity 3D engine and aims to raise the level of graphic quality in social network games to a level normally reserved for a client experience. Beta testing will begin this summer on Facebook, at which time, players will be able to play for free and may choose to purchase in-game items. Nival plans to support King’s Bounty: Legions with regular game updates featuring new troops, creatures, maps and quests.

The title is being developed by KranX Productions. King’s Bounty® and King’s Bounty: Legions™ are provided under license through 1C Company. Players interested in learning more about King’s Bounty: Legions can visit www.facebook.com/KingsBountyLegions.

NCAA Football '12: The Coach Carousel


No High Scores

Yesterday, NCAA Football 12 designer Jordan Petereson posted to the game’s blog about the game’s new Coach Carousel feature (as part of an ongoing week-long series of posts on the game). This mode, which they say is one of the community’s “top requested features” adds coaches and contracts to the game. Granted, their usage here is greatly expanded, but coaches and contracts were there before were they not? (You could make a coach in the game, get fired, and go to a new school in prior editions.)

Regardless, there is new stuff here. As the player, it’s no longer just the head coach you can create or take over. You can also choose to be an offensive or defensive coordinator that only worries about one side of the ball. There’s a new system for taking on contracts and rising through the “coaching ladder.” Coordinators can be promoted to head coaches. Coaches have an alma mater that, as you progress into your career, may affect job offers. Think Rich Rodriguez, back when he had credibility, taking over West Virginia’s program. You also take your playbook with you as you go from school to school and that playbook could also affect which schools are interested in you. (Granted, Rich Rod’s playbook couldn’t have been a worse fit for Michigan’s personnel at the time, yet there he went. Big win, that move. Sigh.) Most importantly of all, though, you get to select your coach’s apparel…

Woo! (kidding)

The head coaching goals you used to receive just for coaching at a particular school are now a part of the contract process (were there contracts before?) and each goal is weighted as to how much success or failure affects your job security. Goals include how many games you win in a season, signing a specific number of prospects (at a certain level), having a Top 50 recruiting class, etc. Coordinators have different goals, largely based on team statistics for the applicable side of the ball. The blog notes that the goals you receive are based on your coach’s prestige and the school involved, so if you somehow take Western Michigan to a BCS bowl, expect that to have a greater impact on your standing with your school than if you do that as USC.

In terms of recruiting, all coach positions are involved, but the job you do recruiting as a coordinator doesn’t affect your contract goals. For head coaches there’s now a coach loyalty rating that affects how potential recruits view your position at that school. Are you a guy who’s going to bolt or stick around? When they’re pledging the next 4-5 years of their lives to you (along with any NFL aspirations), the kids do care about that stuff.

The carousel itself is meant to reflect the domino effect that goes on each season as positions open up and coaches from other schools move to fill them, open up still more positions. Here’s an example from the blog:

Let’s say it’s year 10 of a Dynasty and Michigan hires South Carolina’s Head Coach because he’s an alumus. South Carolina then hires USC’s Offensive Coordinator because of his offensive style. USC then hires San Diego State’s Head Coach to be their Offensive Coordinator, because of his coach prestige. San Diego State then promotes their Defensive Coordinator to Head Coach because he’s also an alumnus, and so on.

As much as this sounds gimmicky, I actually found myself growing more interested in this as I delved in. There’s a lot of stuff not addressed. Do contracts involve money? Sure, it would just be Simoleans or whatever, but daddy wants to get paid! Is carousel an optional Dynasty feature you enable or disable? How do you play the game if you’re doing the coach carousel thing? Do you play the games or literally and exclusively coach from the sidelines? Can you choose? Do student academics play a role in recruiting and reputation? Can you get in trouble with the NCAA? Will athletes transfer if you don’t fulfill your promises? Is their increased attrition or bump in recruiting difficulty when taking over a new program? What about kids in the program being drafted to the NFL benefiting your reputation? I could go on, but you get my point.

Still, one of the things I always used to enjoy in NCAA was starting out at a small school and working my way up. In that respect this more like a 2.0 version of a feature that’s already been there for years. If these new facets to that part of the game add to it, so much the better. Hell, I might even enjoy doing this in a coach only mode (as opposed to directly controlling the action) moreso than I do actually playing the game, which is not something I get into as much as I used to.

Hopefully we’ll get to interact with this mode some at E3 in a couple weeks, though I’m not holding my breath. Usually you just get to play games on the field and that’s about it. We’ll see. In the meantime, you’ll find more detail on all this at the blog (linked above).

Witcher 2 Coming to Xbox 360

No High Scores

The ESRB is a font of gaming knowledge providing not only interesting bits about what’s in the games that they rate, but what platforms they’re going to be released on. It’s this last bit that’s important as the ESRB description of The Witcher 2 has been updated to include the Xbox 360 as a platform. This, combined with CD Projekt’s recent statement that they’ll have an E3 announcement that should interest console gamers, makes a Witcher 2 console port a done deal, at least in my mind.

Tycho has a pretty interesting post about the Witcher 2 up on today’s Penny Arcade, and in it he mentions that the difficulty curve, as it exists in the game currently, simply won’t fly with console players, and while I can’t speak to my unwashed brethren, when it comes to me, he’s right on the goddamn money. I hear there’s an Easy difficulty level and I can assure you that’s the level the game will start out on, but if I still need to spend 20 minutes of potion chugging and spell casting to get into a battle that lasts for ten seconds before I’m impaled on the horn of Greater Were-Unicorn, well, I’ll have to admire Geralt from afar. That being said, I’ll be first in line at the store to buy the game, difficulty level be damned. If I can’t play it, I’ll keep it at my house, a testament to my shame and to the erosion of my skills that I so willingly accepted.