Gears of War 3 Campaign Trailer

You were supposed to see this trailer during game 6 of the Heat – Bulls playoff round but LeBron went and screwed that up for everyone. Good move LeBron. Regardless, here is the campaign trailer for Gears of War 3. I’m not seeing anything here that’s particularly surprising. Big, gruff, sweaty men shooting at large beasts and glowy things. Marcus’ dad is still alive, so there’s that. After Gears 2, any hopes for a coherent narrative went right out the window, so while I’ll certainly play Gears 3, I’m not holding my breath for a story that does anything but try and link the shooty bits together.

Witcher 2 Wrap-up and Hardware Specs

No High Scores

What a week it’s been:

Tuesday – Finish Witcher 2. (Anyone have one week in the NHS pool?) Order new PC parts for replay. (Timing not a coincidence.)
Wednesday – Write Witcher 2 review for the mothership. (A-, btw.)
Thursday – Receive new PC parts. Do podcast. Install new PC parts. Lose ability to boot system. (I’ve been building my own systems since my 486 and there’s always something.)
Friday – OS reinstall (on new SSD drive! Woot!). Start Witcher 2 over, now using tweaked Ultra detail settings. Faint.

So, yeah, that’s why there’s been no initial Witcher 2 wrap-up post. I’m on the job today, though, so let’s discuss…

Most everything I wrote in my Mid-game Impressions post still stands, both the good and the bad. This is a fantastically good game with a few hiccups that in no way should dissuade you from playing it unless: A) Your PC hardware isn’t up to snuff, or B) You really hated the world in the first game (or otherwise take issue with games that present deplorable depictions of human behavior).

Now that I’ve got an initial run-through in the books and a functioning PC that can play it without weeping, I’m looking forward to really exploring its nooks and crannies for a run of Dissecting columns. I’d like to get some in next week, but with E3 coming up the week after, I may hold off on posting those until after we’re back. For now, let’s talk a bit about what sticks out most to me and a bit about hardware performance and how it affects gameplay.

- The ending. It won’t be for everybody. Very little is actually resolved and the fates of very few of the core characters are clear. It was not a cliff hanger in any way shape or form, but what you get from this ending are answers and not resolutions. What’s Geralt’s story? What is everybody’s motivation for doing the things they did? What are everyone’s deep dark secrets? That you get. I loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it. This is how you set up a future game without sacrificing ideas of choice and consequence in the product you’re actually paying for. (Oh no, I’m not still bitter about DA2. Not me.) In particular, the final sequence involving the kingslayer was just such a remarkable encounter. I’ve got a Spoiler post in mind in which I want to discuss that (and more) with all of you who’ve played and finished the game. (You in for that, Tempest?) Maybe I can punch that one out next week.

- I talked quite a bit with Mitchell Dyer last week. At the end of Chapter 1 there’s a key point where we made opposite decisions and the impact that had on the rest of the game for each of us is remarkable. There’s a core thread that was the same in terms of our goals, but it may as well have been a completely different game in terms of who you were with and the angle from which you approached everything. Seriously, if Bioware isn’t going to school on this game, they’re missing a golden opportunity to look at how choice and consequence can be made to matter while still coming around to the same end point. Granted, Witcher 2 obviously got more development time than did DA2. This is a crafted experience from top to bottom, although the third chapter does feel rushed, leading into my only significant grievance with how the story unfolded.

- The down side to the variability of the game is the degree to which not all the threads get tied off. Significant players just seem to disappear or end up being stashed in some remote corner of the game world, far away from you. Things happen in the story for which you have no idea. There’s a secret one of the characters had – a ginormous, huge secret- about which I only found out from talking to Mitch. Another character died off screen and I only heard about it in passing, “Well, you know because this person is dead that means this other person has to do this other thing.” Huh? That person is dead? What the hell happened? I have no idea. Some of the more personal resolutions also didn’t really come through. For those of you playing, there’s a scene in Chapter 1 with a rose that I was flat out positive would come back around later in the game. It never did, despite my best efforts to make quest choices that would do so, and I’ll bet money it’s not because there was no intention for it to come back. So, you throw all that into the mix with the fact that there are a lot of names, places, and titles being thrown around and it gets confusing. There was a lot of action going on in Chapter 3 about which I had only a loose notion of what the scoop was. Some of that could have been me just not keeping everything straight in my head. It could also have been I missed a couple notable side quests or interactions. There’s a fair amount of optional stuff in the game, which I think is a good thing, but perhaps missing some leaves you in the dark in some matters? I dunno.

Having re-played most of the prologue last night, I can tell you it was much easier to follow the beginning of the game this time around. I’m walking around the siege camp with the king and suddenly I realize what it means for the Niilfgardien (sp?) ambassador to be strolling around and why the king hates his guts. I get the reference in the opening sequence to the battle at Brenna and why Foltest’s death is such a huge deal for the northern kingdoms. Like a lot of good movies, I’ve got a strong feeling a second play through of this game will offer new appreciation for how well thought out the story actually is.

No High Scores

Now, let’s talk about system performance with this game because, as I found out last night, it makes a huge difference in terms of just being able to play the game. My old system consisted of the following:

- Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz; Asus P5N32-E SLI motherboard (uses the Nvidia 650i chipset); 6GB DDR 2 DRAM, Nvidia GTX 460 motherboard

Graphics card aside, you’re talking four year old technology and the Witcher 2 made it cry. I played through the entire game on tweaked Medium graphics settings and, cut scenes aside, it struggled to stay over 20 frames per second. In heavy combat it drops into the teens, which makes an already challenging combat model that much more difficult. I spent a fair chunk of the game playing on Easy because it simply wasn’t worth fighting through the low frame rate. Could I have dropped to Low detail settings? Yep. And I tried. It made little difference because it was my CPU and chipset holding me back, not the graphics card, a fact I confirmed with my new system build. That system?

- Intel Core i5 2500k (3.3Ghz), Asus P8P67 Pro motherboard (uses Intel’s P67 chipset); 8GB DDR 3 DRAM; Nvidia GTX 460 motherboard. (Oh, and Windows is now installed on a solid state drive, but the game is not.)

Last night I booted up the game with Ultra settings tweaked down just a touch (no antialiasing or ubersampling, no depth of field or blur effects). I ran through the bulk of the prologue before calling it a night and, as I suspected, it was a remarkable improvement. My frame rate never dipped below 30, which had an enormously positive effect on my ability to manage combat. Suddenly I’m running out spells and traps, tumbling and blocking, and I’m able to do it without getting stuck in combat animations that leave me staggered and flanked. Awesome. Oh. And it’s the best looking game I’ve ever played, bar none.

No High Scores

Bottom line, take the hardware recommendations for this game seriously. Not the minimums, but the recommended, which says a quad core processor and at least 3GB of RAM.

And with that, I’m digging back in. As I noted above, expect a spoiler post this week and a Dissecting series after E3.

Brink Stats Page and DLC Plans

The Bethesda blog has word of the upcoming stats website for Brink as well as some nuggets on the upcoming DLC called Agents of Change which is scheduled to drop in June.

I have to say as borked as the Brink release may have been (it was borked) Bethesda and Splash Damage are pouring support into the game so if you ran away in fear due to the early reviews, you may want to consider giving it another look.

You could also read Mike’s excellent review to get another viewpoint.

Here’s the DLC and stats info from the blog — good stuff:

…the statistics site will be going live next Tuesday for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 players. PC players can look forward to it going up very soon. This site, located at, will be your hub for in-depth stats, including data on matches, players and the overall progress in the weekly Battle for the Ark. Check out the screenshot above for a sneak peek and dig up that VIP code as you’ll need it to register once the stats page is live.

On top of that, the Agents of Change DLC is just on the horizon, slated for release in June. The pack will bring new maps, abilities, character customization options and weapon attachments to Brink, while also raising the level cap to 24. Here’s a full list of the DLC content:

New Maps

* Founders’ Tower – The revolution finally reaches the island’s iconic spire and takes the battle for the Ark to dizzying heights.
* Labs – Venture into the depths of the Ark’s original research and development laboratories, a submerged high-tech facility so far untouched by the civil war.

New Player Abilities

* UAV – This stealthy and lethal device allows Operatives to automatically mark nearby enemies on their radar. For more explosive fun, they can even take direct control of the UAV and detonate it near unsuspecting foes.
* Napalm Grenade – Soldiers can use this new grenade to cover an area in a sea of deadly flames.
* Pyro Mine – Engineers can plant these mines and leave enemies in the epicenter of a massive napalm explosion.
* Field Regen Unit – Medics can deploy these units to increase the health regeneration of any nearby teammates.
* Tactical Scanner – This universal ability allows players to reveal the active buffs of their opponents, allowing them to pick off enemies more strategically.

New Weapon Attachments

* Bayonets – Gain the edge in melee combat and cause extra damage with these deadly blades.
* Weapon Shields – Take cover from enemy fire and prevent headshot bonus damage behind riot-style shields.

New Character Outfits

* The Sad Punk – Add a touch of Steampunk to your Resistance character.
* The Limey – Bring order to the Ark with this outfit inspired by traditional European police.

BioWare Talks Dragon Age II Criticisms

I always enjoy talking to (or in this case reading) a developer after a game has been released to get a feel for what they truly thought of a project. A post release interview can sometimes, and I’d argue usually will, reveal far more than when you do an interview with a developer on a press tour.

When the hype is over, what’s left? Most of the time — a little honesty.

In this case we aren’t talking interview but rather a forum post by BioWare’s Mike Laidlaw. It’s a very interesting read. Here’s a snip:

I am absolutely aware of the concerns voiced here. Issues like level re-use, the implementation of wave combat, concerns about the narrative and significance of choice and so on have all been not only noted, but examined, inspected and even aided me (and many, many others on the team) in formulating future plans. Further, I’m not only aware of the concerns, but I agree that there are aspects of DA II that not only can but must be improved in future installments. And that is precisely our intent.

Read the whole thing here.

Thanks KyleS!

Section 8: Prejudice Overdrive Map Pack Set for June 1

I’m a fan of Section 8: Prejudice. It’s budget gaming at its finest and now Timegate is adding more stuff to the mix with a map pack on June 1st. And by “Map Pack” they mean: two new maps.

And they’ll charge you $4 for them.

Those better be some damn fine maps…

PR Ahead:

TimeGate Studios continues its all-out assault on the shooter market by announc(es) ing the release of the Overdrive Map Pack for Section 8: Prejudice on June 1, 2011 for PC and Xbox LIVE Arcade for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. With two brand new maps, the Overdrive Map Pack further expands Prejudice’s incredibly rich game experience and demonstrates TimeGate’s commitment to extensive post-launch support of the highly acclaimed $15 shooter. The Overdrive Map Pack will be available on Xbox Live Arcade and Games for Windows Marketplace for 320 Microsoft Points ($3.99).

The Overdrive Map Pack includes two new multiplayer maps, Abaddon and Sky Dock. Amidst the magma craters of Abaddon, protect a power cell facility built on a scalding energy source. Sky Dock is a crucial military base and space port nestled in the frozen tundra. Each map is playable in both multiplayer and offline play for all game modes, which includes Swarm, Conquest, and the recently community-unlocked Assault game mode.

D&D Conquest of Nerath board game rollin' up June 21st

So Daggerdale sort of hit with a thud this week, once again dashing hopes that Dungeons & Dragons would be returning to its former video game glory days. Fortunately, it’s still going strong on the tabletop and Wizards of the Coast has been on something of a roll lately with board games set in familiar D&D environs.

Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon were great dungeon crawls but next up is Conquest of Nerath, a “dudes on a map” conquest game- I can’t remember the last time there’s been anything like this for D&D. Hopefully, it’s a good framework for some dice rolling and dude-killing and there’s a quest mechanic which is always fun in these kinds of big-scale wargames. Scheduled for a June 21st release, it’s retailing at $80 and there’s 252 plastic figures involved if that’s your thing. I’m kind of looking forward to it. Publisher copy follows.

War has come to the Dungeons & Dragons world! In the north, the undead legions of the Dark Empire of Karkoth march against the fragile League of Nerath, determined to sweep away the human kingdoms forever. To the south, the infernal Iron Circle launches its own goblin hordes in a campaign of conquest against the elves and corsairs of Vailin. From the snowy expanse of the Winterbole Forest to the sun-warmed coasts of ancient Vailin, four great powers struggle for survival.

Muster armies of footsoldiers, siege engines, monsters, and dragons to attack your enemies. Fight across the waves with fleets of warships and raging elementals. Plunder ancient dungeons with bands of mighty heroes, searching for magical artifacts and awesome treasures that might tip the scales of battle in your favor. The fate of empires is in your hands!

House of the Dead: Overkill Mother Effing Extended Cut Coming to PS-Mothereffing-3

No High Scores

House of the mother-effing Dead: Overkill is one of the best mother-effing game to ever come out on the mother-effing Wii and now this mother-effer, this mother-effer right here will be coming to the PS-mother-effing-3 with full mother-effing Move support and two extra mother-effing episodes. Hopefully, with these new mother-effing episodes they can take back their mother-effing World’s Record for the most mother-effing uses of the mother-effing f bombs in a video game. Eff those mother-effing Mafia II punks. They ain’t got nothing on House of the mother-effing Dead!

The mother-effing game drops on October mother-effing 25th, just in time for Hallo-mother-effing-ween. I may have to make my mother-effing pumpkin a picture of Detective mother-effing Washington, or at the very mother-effing least, a giant F-bomb. Who wants mother-effing candy?

Seen at mother-effing Joystiq, mother-effers!

Total Spoiler: The Conduit 2 Ending

Brandon played the original (which he liked) as well as the sequel (which he did not). When he was writing his review for Conduit 2 he sent me a chat message about how the ending was simply beyond words.

Brandon is rarely one to exaggerate the truth so I was genuinely curious to see what he was talking about. He told me how the game ends and I simply refused to believe it. The following video is proof — Brandon was right. Beyond words.

Now if you have any plans to play Conduit 2 then you shouldn’t watch this. Oh hell who I am kidding you need to watch this regardless. It’s the best videogame ending of all time.

Assassin's Creed Revelations Teaser

UbiSoft yesterday released this teaser trailer for AC: Revelations which doesn’t show much but tells you that this trailer is really just a way to let you know that the real trailer will drop on June 6th.

Thanks for that.

UbiSoft did issue the following PR as well:

Assassin’s Creed Revelations follows master assassin Ezio Auditore as he walks in the footsteps of his legendary mentor, Altaïr, on a journey to recover five ancient seals that hold the keys to the future of the Assassins brotherhood. It is a perilous path – one that will take Ezio to Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire, where a growing army of Templars threatens to destabilize the region.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations is set to release on the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, the PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system and Windows PC this November.

• Hone the deadly art of assassination – As Ezio Auditore, wield the lethal skills of a wiser, more efficient assassin. Armed with a new arsenal of weapons and abilities including the hookblade, bomb crafting and a heightened Eagle Sense, you can kill with death-dealing proficiency.
• Herald the return of a legend – Assassin’s Creed Revelations features the return of Altaïr as a playable character, the hero of the original Assassin’s Creed.
• Journey to the Constantinople –Explore picturesque settings, from Masyaf, the mountain stronghold of the Assassins during the Third Crusade to the vibrant and exotic Constantinople, the jewel of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th Century. Navigate crowded streets and vistas, through a cauldron of cultures as Constantinople comes to life.
• Meet new players to the Assassins Creed lore –Encounter memorable personalities, including fellow master assassin Yusuf Tazim, Prince Suleiman, destined to become one of the greatest monarchs in history, and Sofia Sorto, a simple woman who vies for Ezio’s heart.
• Test your skills as an assassin against your friends – the acclaimed online multiplayer experience returns, refined and expanded with more modes, more enthralling maps and new characters

Consumers who pre-order Assassin’s Creed Revelations at a U.S. GameStop location will receive an exclusive Penny Arcade poster. (limited quantities while supplies last.)

Far Cry Sale on Steam

Are you a PC gamer looking for a nice deal?

Then saunter over to Steam and grab Far Cry Complete for $7.49. I know Far Cry 2 is a divise game, but I thought it was pretty damn good and if you never played the original, now’s a great time to give these games a whirl.

Check out the sale page here — it ends May 30.