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Calendar Man – Week of 6/6

No High Scores

Hey, it’s E3 week! Woo-hoo! The cynic in me would say that any games released during E3 week are done so as to not be reviewed when they first come out, allowing for a week of criticism free purchasing. The release of Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters on almost every gaming platform known to humanity would certainly add to this theory. Practically speaking, it’s probably just how the chips fell for most of these games, although I do wonder why Red Faction: Armageddon had it’s release pushed back to the 7th, but review copies were still sent out in time for the original release date of May 31 and the review embargo lifted on June 1st. Ah hell, what does it matter any way? Green Lantern will be waiting for me when I get home, regardless of how good it is, and I’ll have to play it like the good little reviewer I am.

New Releases
Oh look, all of those Green Lantern games I mentioned. By lantern’s light, there sure are a lot of them.

Cole Whatshisface, everyone’s favorite moody lightning slinger is back in inFAMOUS 2. I really wanted to like inFAMOUS and I’ll probably pick it up as the free PS3 Welcome Back game, if anything just to goof around. I haven’t gotten a good enough feel on this one to know if the problems I had with the first were fixed. In the end, I’ll probably just stick to renting. Sorry Cole!

I honestly have no idea what the Operation Flashpoint games are about, but they look like military shooters, so, um, yeah. Research!

The Red Faction: Armageddon reviews ended up being both disappointing and not terribly surprising at the same time. The demo played like a third person shooter made interesting by destructibility and the magnet gun and that’s pretty much what the game is. That was well and good for the demo, but I’m not sure it will hold up for 8 – 10 hours, especially if I’m spending 60 bucks for the privilege of playing. Hello GameFly. Time to work your magic again.

This isn’t a deal, but the DS Lite is now 99 bucks, an excellent price if you have a younger kid who is just getting into gaming and doesn’t need all of the fancy bells and whistles of the DSi or the 3DS. My son has my old DS Lite and it suits him just fine.

Toys R Us – Free $50 gift card with purchase of either Xbox 360 Slim Kinect bundle or PS3 320GB Move bundle. DS Lite on sale for $89.99. Save $20 on the following games: Dragon Age II, MLB 2K11, TW PGA 12, NFS Shift 2 Unleashed, Crysis 2. Save $10 on the following: Mortal Kombat, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, MX vs ATV Alive. Buy inFAMOUS 2, get inFAMOUS for ten bucks. Save $10 on the following DS games: Kung Fu Panda 2, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, Squinkies.

Target – Following DS games on sale for $17.99: Cooking Mama, LEGO Indiana Jones 2, Despicable Me. The following DS games are on sale for $24.99: LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, LEGO Star Wars III, LEGO Battles Ninjago. The following Wii games are on sale for $29.99: Just Dance 2, Zumba Fitness, Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters.

Best Buy – Save $30 on any of the following games when purchased with inFAMOUS 2: Gran Turismo 5, Motorstorm Apocalypse, Killzone 3, SOCOM 4, MLB 11: The Show.

Steam – To celebrate the release of Red Faction: Armageddon, all of the Red Faction games are on sale, as are a bunch of other things, all on the < ahref = "" target = "new">specials page.

Impulse has Crysis 2 for $29.97 as well as some other good deals on their

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Sunday Time Waster: The E3 Plan

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It’s that time — time for the week long game fest that is E3. The entire NHS team will be covering the show for GameShark this week. Well, everyone but Barnes. He’s legally not allowed to leave Georgia. (Well, according to his wife, anyway.)

But the rest of the crew, as well as several other GameShark writers, will be on hand.

Here’s what we have planned…

The GameShark crew this year consists of me, Todd, Brandon, Danielle, GameShark Sr. Editor Brian Rowe (@UndeadAreGo) freelancer Mitch Dyer (@MitchyD), Tom Chick (@…wait Tom doesn’t use Twitter, nevermind), our newest writer Justin Amirkhani (@Keadin), and video man Jason McMaster, who isn’t taking any video this year. I am a genius.

Planning E3 is a real bitch, and the NHS crew won’t see every game at the show but — we’re going to see a lot of them. I wanted to share some of our schedule this year so you’ll have an idea of what we can talk about here during the show and what you can expect us to talk about on our nightly E3 podcasts.

Seriously make sure to tune into the podcasts because we have a lot of people on talking games and having a good time. We’re usually punch drunk (not really drunk, as drunk E3 podcasting is never, ever a good idea).

Anyway our schedule:


A Game of Thrones (me and Todd)
The 2 hour EA Tour (Mass Effect 3, Madden, NCAA, etc.) (Me and Todd)
Battlefield 3 (me)
Star Wars MMO (me)
Aliens: Colonial Marines (Brandon)
Namco (Dark Souls…I am not seeing this, Brandon is, which makes me sad. I’m booked for the EA Tour during the Dark Souls apt.)
Microsoft (Brandon)
Serious Sam BFE (Brandon)
CD Project (Todd)
Warner (Batman) (Danielle)
Sega: Rise of Nightmares (Danielle)
Atari (Danielle)


Kalypso (Tropico 4, Jagged Alliance: Back in Action) (me)
505 Games (Brandon, Danielle, where we see Danielle play a Kinect swimming game)
Topware (Todd)
Bethesda (hands on RAGE, also Skyrim likely non playable demo. Great lemon squares.) (Me, Brandon, Todd)
Paradox (me and Todd)
2K Games (me and Brandon) — likely seeing XCOM, Darkness II
The rest of SEGA (Danielle)
Activision (Danielle)
Paramount (Danielle, new Star Trek game)


Lucasarts (me)
Nival (Brandon)
DTP Entertainment (Todd)
D3 (Danielle)
UbiSoft (me)
THQ (Saints Row bitches! And Space Marine.) (Me and Brandon)
BioShock Infinite (Me, Todd, Danielle)
Deep Silver (Dead Island) (Brandon)
Square Enix (Deus Ex) (Todd)
Nintendo (Danielle)

So, that’s it, at least from the NHS team’s perspective. You likely noticed some big names not on that list — Sony, for instance. That’s because we can’t see everything between the four of us and it’s why I have a team of nine people.

But if you want to know what we thought of a particular game/company booth now you know when we’re seeing what. As for updates here on the blog, we’ll do what we can. Remember we’re going there for GameShark and you can expect daily recaps posted every night starting on Tuesday with brief write ups from the entire GShark E3 team located on the main page of The weekend after E3 is when we get everything together and post our massive E3 A-Z feature. I’ll post that link here when it’s done. It’s a beast of a feature. In addition, we’ll post here as well, about individual games that caught our eye, in a more relaxed blog format.

Our E3 2011 banner (a Danielle creation) is below so when you see that, you know — “hey an E3 update!”

Cool eh?

Barnes will also be around posting press releases and making sad posts about how he can’t be at E3.

We’ll return to regular blog operations starting June 13th. For a week, at least. After that I go to Yellowstone with the family for a week and Brandon is also going on vacation so it’ll be Mike, Todd and Danielle holding down the fort while we’re gone.



OK time to announce the winner of the Hunted contest! I played a few hours of co-op with Brandon Friday night and we had a lot of fun. It’ s a hard game — you can easily die after only a few direct hits. Brandon played the brute and never did seem to get the whole “I need to use this shield” tactic. And you really do need to work as a team or you’re dead. I liked that. Brandon did not. Brandon should never, ever, play Demon’s Souls. But remember what Brandon has always said: he is not good at videogames.

Brandon is an honest man.

So – the winner of this shiny new game is: (Bill goes off to use Random.Org…)


Congrats! I’ll drop you an email shortly and get the game out hopefully Monday. If not Monday…then after E3. So hopefully Monday.

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Madden '12: Dynamic Player Performance

No High Scores

Of all the good-sounding, but ultimately ill-fated ideas I’ve seen implemented in sports game, the notion of having player ratings dynamically change based on the ebb and flow of the game is probably the biggest. The notion of a guy getting on a hot or cold streak lies at the heart of sports. Last year at this time Armando Galarraga tossed what should have been a perfect game for the Detroit Tigers. The guy epitomizes back-of-the-rotation starter, even borderline major leaguer, and there he was, one out away from perfection. For one day, he was the best in baseball. Since then… well, not so much. (Still a hell of a guy, though. No matter what uni he puts on, I’ll always root for him.)

Athletes play above and below their abilities all the time. But for as long as sports games have tried to replicate this idea, I can’t really name a game that I thought did a convincing job of it. Very often it completely jacks with the balance of the game. Madden ’12 aims to take a fresh stab it with their Dynamic Player Performance (DPP) feature. Today they’ve put up not one, not two, but three posts on the Madden ’12 blog to convince us all they’ve found the secret formula. And you know what, totally unnecessary duplicative posting aside? I really want to believe they’re going to pull it off.

Here’s a look at how, in the first post, Aaron Boulding describes this feature’s effect on quarterbacks (from the first post)…

Separate from a player’s ratings, DPP introduces player traits that are position-specific and have only a handful of potential “settings”. Understanding these traits and what kind of on-the-field events trigger them and in what direction is key. As the most important players on the field, quarterbacks have the most traits including ones like “Senses Pressure” and “Tucks and Runs”. The Senses Pressure trait, for example, can come up as Paranoid, Trigger Happy, Ideal, Average and Oblivious. A “Paranoid” quarterback, like a rookie, will look to throw the ball as quickly as possible to avoid a hit rather than waiting an extra beat for a receiver to break open. At the other end of the spectrum is a guy like Ben Roethlisberger who is oblivious to pressure and will wait forever before delivering the ball, sometimes taking sacks, sometimes creating a play that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
The most important points to understand about traits is that they only change over the course of a game based on events that happen during the game. Roethlisberger is “Oblivious” when it comes to sensing pressure but if he gets hit often enough, if his late throws lead to interceptions, eventually he will look to deliver the ball sooner when he feels pressure coming and maybe he moves to “Average.”

What we didn’t tell you is that all traits for all players are “in play” and can be affected at all times during a game. So while you are sensing the pressure as Roethlisberger and calculating how many milliseconds you have to fire the ball or when you’re going to tuck the ball and run away, Roethlisberger’s Tight Spiral trait may switch from “Yes” to “No” after a few hits. After he’s gotten to you a few times the pass rusher’s Big Hitter trait may switch from “No” to “Yes” now that he smells blood in the water. A linebacker or defensive back may have his Plays Ball in the Air trait switch to “Aggressive” since he’s seen you throw so many wounded ducks due to pressure and now he wants to go for the pick. The whole point is, A.I.-controlled players will be the ones most influenced by the new Dynamic Player Performance system rather than the players you’re controlling. You’ll be able to understand Roethlisberger’s tendency to hold the ball or tuck and run better when you’re playing against him than when you’re using him.

There’s a whole lot of ways this can go wrong, but that’s pretty damn cool, and an accurate reflection of how football plays on a week to week basis. This isn’t arbitrary or based on the user making a barrel-full of plays that only the user can pull off. It’s based on the genuine ebb and flow of everything that happens on the field and that could lead to a lot of the game to game variability a sports game desperately needs to have legitimate staying power. (Note: The third post, the one by Wes Reinhart, lists all 18 different player traits. Well worth checking out.)

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Witcher 2 1.2 Patch Released

No High Scores

True to their word during CD Projekt’s summer conference extravaganza, Witcher 2 Patch 1.2 is now available. Newly installed copies of the game will get the patch automatically. If you have already updated to version 1.1 the PR says you can get it from the Witcher 2 Launcher, but I see no such option. Fortunately, you can also download it directly, here.

Among other fixes, the patch includes the latest DLC, Barbers and Coiffeuses, which lets you restyle Geralt’s hair. (Note: If you do this you’re no longer allowed to make fun of girls accessorizing their Barbie dolls.) Also of note, NVIDIA put out a new official driver update that includes Witcher 2-specific fixes/tweaks.

Here’s the PR (unabridged)…

CD Projekt RED, the creator of distinctive non-linear RPG experiences, announces the release of a new patch for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings that upgrades the game to version 1.2. It implements more than 30 significant additions, improvements and fixes plus a number of lesser ones. The full list of changes can be found at

Version 1.2 of The Witcher incorporates several downloadable content packs. A highlight is the completely new “Barbers and Coiffeuses” DLC, which adds the option to use hairstyling services in the game, and thus the possibility for the main character to have a total of six different looks. A video showing these haircuts may be viewed at In addition, six previously released DLCs are now automatically installed as natural parts of the game. Some of these provide equipment and other items that can be quite helpful right from the start of play in the Prologue.

Adam Badowski, Development Director at CD Projekt RED, commented, “Making a very good game is, in my opinion, equalled in importance by the need to offer strong ongoing support, especially on a platform as complex as the PC. I hope providing two major patches within barely more than two weeks after release demonstrates our dedication to supporting The Witcher 2 over the long term. What’s more, this is just one small sign of our commitment to this guiding direction. PC gamers can expect more goodies from us in the future. And of course, we won’t charge for them since we feel it’s our duty to improve and enhance the game for both current and future players.”

The game now patches to version 1.2 automatically during a fresh installation, or through the auto-patching option from the Game Launcher if version 1.1 is already installed. Any players who installed and also activated their games but did not apply patch 1.1 should do so manually from; this will enable auto-patching to the latest version. In addition, patching from version 1.1 to 1.2 can be done manually via Users who purchased the Steam digital version must use the Steam patcher.

The Witcher 2 was released internationally for the PC in mid-May. It has been received exceptionally well by gamers and media alike, and sold through 400,000 copies in its first week. An Xbox 360 adaptation was announced yesterday, and will be shown behind closed doors at the E3 trade show next week in media-only presentations; to book an appointment, please contact us at Together with important announcement, the company released a new Papercraft Launch Trailer that may be viewed at

Additional information is available at the recently re-launched official site,

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Remake/Remodel- Konami's upcoming HD Collections

Look, I’m just as excited as everybody else to wallow in the flood of new game announcements, screenshots, and press that’s about to be unleashed upon mankind. But strangely enough, the one bit of pre-E3 press that’s got me excited is Konami’s announcement yesterday that they’re bringing out three HD’ed-up remake collections for Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, and Zone of Enders franchises for both PS3 and Xbox 360. The MGS one in particular almost had me hyperventilating- MGS 2 and 3 along with Peace Walker (!) completely redone with full HD support. I missed all of those games but the first MGS remains one of the best console games I’ve ever played and the fourth is one of the most batshit insane ones I’ve ever played- in a ood way. So I’m glad to get a chance to catch up without having to go buy an old console, find a copy of the games on eBay, and bother with the hassle. I’ve played either Zone of Enders game or Silent Hill 3, so I’ve got some catching up to do. After the jump, I’ll rap some more about reprints.

I love reprints. When I was a kid listening to obscure metal and punk rock, if it weren’t for reissues, remasters, and box sets of older records I don’t know what I would have done since I didn’t have MP3s or Soulseek to track that stuff down. And with films, can you imagine a scenario where the only films available to purchase were “current gen” titles, and you couldn’t pick up a DVD of a Stanley Kubrick film simply because it’s “old” and out of circulation? In the past couple of years in the tabletop gaming scene, reissues of out-of-print games has become big (relatively speaking) business, and classic board games like Fury of Dracula and Cosmic Encounter are widely available in best-ever editions. Back catalogue is important and keeping significant and influential games in circulation and available is becoming more and more critical as the cultural history of video games lengthens.

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when you couldn’t easily and readily by a copy of and play Super Mario World, Perfect Dark, or Master of Orion II. It’s even harder to believe that there was a time when lots of folks didn’t _want_ to play old games like that. There’s been a drastic change over the past decade in that kind of thinking, and there is a much greater awareness of what games are significant and which remain worth playing today, even if the technicals are long past their prime. Digital distribution has been incredibly significant in keeping older games current, with services such as and Nintendo’s Virtual Console serving as indispensible- and accessible- archives for classic games. Even though I’m squarely on the “let’s go all digital” bandwagon and I think that eventually almost every game we’ve ever played will be available on demand, it’s still nice to see companies like Konami recognizing the demand for disc-based collections like this and giving them a modernizing face lift to keep them from embarrassing themselves at the reunion.

A lot of folks tend to cry “milking” when collections like this are announced. Then there’s the guy that proudly announces in the forums that he has five copies of each game in their original format along with the console to play them at his bachelor pad and he doesn’t understand why they would re-release old games. And then there’s the person grousing that companies are wasting time and money doing remakes rather than constantly churning out new IPs. Many of these kinds of comments are, of course, made by either kids or the very naïve who aren’t aware of how capitalist businesses operate.

But I say bring ‘em on. “Box set” collections like this are a great opportunity for fans to revisit old favorites and reassess them as well as a jump-on point for those who might have missed out during their window of availability. As we head into a week likely filled with plenty of “no shit, Sherlock” announcements of annualized franchises and stuff we’ve all known about for months or even years, I won’t be surprised if these collections are what I’ll come away most excited about. Sure, if had played these games before I’d probably be less enthusiastic, but regardless I’m glad to see that the industry realizes the value of its past successes. They might be monetizing their properties, but we benefit from their availability.

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