Remember Me reviewed

Capcom's game has many memorable moments!

7.1 Surround Sound for the masses

Want cinematic sound quality? Then Mad Catz 720+ may be for you

DayZ: a new approach to survival horror

DayZ, a mod for Arma 2, is unlike any other horror game that came before

Best of the worst bad habits in gaming

Megabits of Gaming takes a look at five of its favourite gaming characters who have bad or slightly seedy habits.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Should you get yourself Kinected?

Staring back at me as I write this sits my shiny new Kinect camera - Microsoft's new gadget that brings motion control to the Xbox masses. The larger-than-you'd expect unit had been tucked beneath our Christmas tree only a few days ago and now sits silently below our television, as though watching our every move.

The slightly more paranoid among us may have reservations about exactly how much information Kinect sends over the internet when seemingly dormant, or how many embarassing poses and jumps are captured and digitally distrubuted while actually playing the games. But rest assured, nothing is beamed anywhere without your say so - and there are plenty of settings to protect your privacy! Forget those initial concerns... after a painless set up process you'll soon be jumping about like an absolute lunatic without a care in the world.

In all my gaming years I've hardly seen any other launch split public opinion quite as much as Kinect. The so called hardcore feared it was the beginning of the end for their beloved console, and that an influx of shovelware would start to dominate the charts. As Megabits found out when we raised a few concerns several months ago, there are also those who won't have a bad word said against it.

In recent months, there has been plenty of criticism about the 360's foray into "casual gaming" and about the hardware itself... The cost has been a major hurdle for many prospective buyers, as has the much-discussed space required for it to function correctly. But after some extensive playtesting since I unwrapped it, I must admit I'm a complete convert and envisage great things for the little black box.

It's never going to replace the conventional controller - but what it does, it does extremely well. As mentioned above, it's extremely simple to install and set up. There are few cables so there will be little confusion, and it's compatible with all versions of the console - the older models requiring an extra plug socket for the power supply that is included in the box (Kinect can suck power from the new Xbox Slim's USB ports).

After a quick Live update you'll soon be negotiating the Kinect Hub on your dashboard. A simple wave makes the camera active and signs you in. It's all pretty impressive - uttering "Xbox" pulls up a list of commands and gives you voice control over your Xbox. Minority Report style swiping actions are also pretty cool, allowing rapid scrolling through the various menus. Watching a movie through Sky and telling it to pause or fast forward without physically touching a remote feels strangely satisfying.

Accompanying your new toy is a compilation of mini games in the form of Kinect Adventures. You've no doubt seen the advertisements of happy family members jumping about on virtual rafts, dodging barriers and plugging leaks. Effectively, it's a teaser to show what Kinect is capable off - and as an added bonus, it spews achievement points at you. It's by no means a taxing game, and it may have only limited replayability - but it's definitely good fun alone and excellent with another player. I was initially a little dubious that a few mini games would require much physical exertion, but after just a couple of plays, I was sweating like a good 'un. Next morning, every part of me ached, and muscles I never knew I had were begging me not to boot up my Xbox again. I ignored them. It's damn addictive and adds an entirely new dimension to gaming. What's more, there's barely any noticeable lag! When the developers start applying the new technology to their triple A titles, this is truly going to be something special. In the meantime, Kinect Adventures and the handful of other decent launch titles will do just fine.

What are they you ask? Kinect may only have been with us for a matter of months but there are already plenty of weak titles on the shelves so you should choose carefully. Here is Megabits' pick of the launch games:

Kinect Adventures
A collection of five varied mini games guaranteed to get you sweating. A great introduction to the technology but perhaps a little too juvenile and has limited replayability. Read our review after the jump. (Muscle ache factor next morning: 3/5)

Kinect Sports
Try your hand - or entire body - at various sports including boxing, table tennis, track & field, football, bowling and beach volleyball. It's effectively a glossier, more exhausting version of Wii Sports. Great for party play. (Muscle ache factor: 1/5)

Dance Central

You've no doubt seen the commercials on TV and you'll recognise all the music tracks. This is arguably the best of the first few titles to emerge - but to fully appreciate it, you'd got to lose all those inhibitions and get in the groove. Check out our review. (Muscle ache factor: 2/5)

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved

This "game" shows exactly what Kinect is capable of. Accurate tracking and a mulitude of activities and mini games make this a really worthwhile and rewarding package. (Muscle ache factor: 5/5)

Kinect is certainly an impressive bit of kit, albeit a little on the pricey side. Remember, however, that unlike Sony's Move and the Wii controllers, only a single purchase is necessary for you to get all the benefits and play with your friends - there's no need to buy additional wands or nunchucks!

Regarding space requirements, this will obviously be an issue if your Xbox lives in a tiny, cluttered room. Saying that however, I hardly live in a palatial home but have ample space to do my jumping about. My advice, get a tape measure and ensure you follow Microsoft's guidance for 6ft (1.8m) from the sensor for one player, or 8ft (2.5m) for two people - this seems more than adequate for all the games I've tried to date.

Calibration is painless. The fears about rooms being too cluttered, noisy or well-lit are overblown - it's all common sense. Obviously, the camera will struggle to pick you up if you can't move for debris - but a "lived in" room is fine... you just need to ensure that nothing is obscuring you or the camera, and that you have a clear play space for you to move about a bit. Noise wasn't an issue either. Clearly, when you're running the initial setup, you need silence so only your dulcet tones are picked up but after that, children, pets or bystanders pose few problems while you play. Finally, the lighting issue is hardly problematic. It beggars belief that people can be that surprised that direct sunlight or extremely dark conditions will affect the camera's ability to detect you and your movement... just use common sense.

I really don't see the harm in a few "family-oriented" games coming to the Xbox, and so what if some so-called shovelware emerges? The fact of the matter is that most consumers are pretty circumspect when handing over their money for a full-price game anyway, and will most likely read the occasional review to see whether the purchase is worthwhile - Kinect games are no different. What Kinect does do is open up the console to an entirely new audience and offer more established gamers a new avenue to explore.

Within just a few weeks since it's launch, Kinect has sold several million units and Microsoft is reportedly well on it's way to exceeding it's sales targets by the end of the year. With the user base broadening and more developers getting onboard to work with the new technology, the future is looking incredibly exciting. It's a great purchase and real fun - but for the more hard core, pehaps wait to see which games emerge in the coming months...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review - Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas is the much awaited follow up to 2008's brilliant and addictive Fallout 3, and I have to say I haven’t been disappointed.

Although you find yourself in a different location, New Vegas carries on from Fallout 3, immersing the player in a vast post-apocalyptic wasteland full of gritty lonely ruins, collapsed buildings, and un-neighbourly settlements to explore and discover.

At the start of the game you find yourself in a house recovering, having been left for dead after trying to deliver a platinum chip to the New Vegas Strip, with the intent of finding out who tried to kill you and why.

Your first missions allow you to get yourself up to speed with the controls. From then on the storyline starts to get really interesting and you realise how deep this game actually is.

New Vegas’ main conflict is between two main factions which are fighting to control Hoover Dam and the main power to the wasteland: The New California Republic, a sort of people's militia, and Caesar's Legion, a Roman-themed group which want to rule the land as an empire.

Although it seems clear cut from the get-go which side to choose, as you play through you realise both group’s have a bad side and it can seem confusing which alliance’s to make; but of course if you don't want to route for either faction you always have the choice to anger both and try to become the leader of your own world, although this will mean a hell of a lot more battles on your travels.

From the very beginning you are presented with choices which will determine how you play through the game. You decide on what your character’s main attributes will be and you can choose to become stronger, more intelligent or even luckier.

As you progress through the missions, or just wander about searching every forest, building and cave, you level up and gain perks. With this you can again improve specific abilities of your character. For instance – make him/her better at speaking or bartering with people or at unlocking safes or handling weaponry. Each choice you make will offer, as well as close-off, different ways to complete the game (if that’s even possible).

Also the choices you make when talking and interacting with characters in the game will change the way you can play through it. You can be as moral as possible and help everyone you meet or be a loner and kill anyone or thing that looks at you funny. But be aware that killing some characters will shut you off from completing some of the missions.

In addition, throughout the game you can pick-up computer allies that will accompany and aid you through the game. You have a maximum of two that can be by your side at any one time and each character you choose will again provide you with different perks. Look out for the very loyal Rex the dog, who in my view will be best companion you can get through the game.

The new version’s combat system is similar to its predecessors’ with its divisive VATS system that lets you target enemy's limbs or gun arms or head to kill or stop them from fighting back (there was something really satisfying about blowing up of an enemy’s head in slow motion using my rusty magnum 45).

You also still use a PIP-boy, which is a personal device to do just about everything. It allows you to easily move around already found locations, organise and upgrade weaponry, medicine and apparel, choose which quests you want to do, as well as see information on your personal development and what possessions you have collected on your travels across the wasteland.

Despite all of the game’s positives, I did find some faults which prevented me from giving the game a perfect rating. First of all I found that loading times in this game were sometimes irritatingly long.

Just the wait to go into a room sometimes felt like I had enough time to go and make a cup of tea and come back again without missing any gameplay; I found myself taking exhausted long breathes on some missions in which I had to travel back and forth from numerous locations – in some cases the time I spent waiting was longer than the time it took to carry out the mission itself.

Also I found that sometimes when I was walking across areas of the map like the desolate Mojave desert at quite a quick pace the image became glitchy and at some points the game actually froze, as if the game was struggling to keep up with my movements. In some cases the game even crashed altogether so if you do buy this game I recommend that you get into the habit of saving regularly.

However, these faults are insignificant when looking at the game as a whole. Its story, depth, visuals, dialogue and missions make the game as satisfying as it is addictive. It is a much improved sequel which will have me coming back for more wasteland action again and again.

The landscape design is superb, especially in the brilliantly dark New Vegas strip, and you get a real sense of connection with the characters, whether it's love or hate. The voice acting is also impressive, with each person you meet having their own voice and dialogue, which really adds to the game's hundreds of interlocking missions.

I am completely obsessed with this game. My advice is buy this game and take a month’s holiday to dedicate yourself to it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Call Of Duty Effect

I found myself queuing on a bitter November night outside my local Gamestation, the clock crawling its way agonizingly towards midnight. It was a pretty long queue, a crowd of around 80 to 100 people had turned out in one of North London’s least glamorous locations for the event, and it would seem that about 5.6 million of us around the world had a similar plan. It could only be “The Biggest Entertainment Launch In History!” - Call Of Duty Black Ops.

The previous month I’d been to the midnight launch of Halo: Reach; an altogether more serene affair. There was less pushing, less perturbation and distinctly fewer people. Perhaps this might just have been symptomatic of this particular part of North London’s FPS allegiances, but the furore surrounding Black Ops certainly made Reach’s opening seem like a somewhat sombre affair.

In my social circle it would be fair to say that video games rarely creep into the conversation, let alone cement themselves as a mutually recognized pass time. In fact, I’m pretty much on my own when it comes my passion, meaning that any half-hearted invites to Halo: Reach’s launch were shot down faster than low flying Banshee.

I got on the Tube, walked to the shop, bought a copy of Reach and returned home to play it all on my lonesome. Fair enough, this may be more of a reflection of my friends’ disinterest in games, or at least a disinterest in Halo, than a meaningful statement, yet the same sense of solitude was exempt from my Black Ops launch experience.

A barrage of texts, Facebook messages and general hype mongering ensued from those, for whom the annual Call Of Duty instalment is by and large the one and only game they play - counting down the days, hours and minutes before midnight, November 9th 2010.

Its bizarre; they’ll disassociate themselves entirely from video game culture, and if anything, frown upon anyone that would openly classify themselves as a ‘gamer', yet when it comes to COD they’re completely obsessive.

Q -
“You played Dragon Age? It’s an RPG from Bioware”

A - “What’s a Bioware?, anyway RPGs are f**king geeky”.

Q -
“Fair enough, you thought about giving Bioshock a go if you’re into first person shooters?”

A - “Bioshock!? Sounds pretty gay to be honest…”

Q -
“What do you like playing then?”

A - “Just COD really, don’t really play much else, yeah, only COD…”

Ok, so I may have overstated the puerility of such conversations. However, these are the same individuals who were willing to trek out with me on a freezing cold night, queue for over an hour, and hand over 50 quid for strictly this game only, and play it relentlessly for the next year. They don’t even really like video games, but they love Call Of Duty.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here. The chances are that many dedicated gamers know people that wont even consider powering up a console unless there’s the allure of kill streak rewards, chopper gunners, level 15 prestige and general bloodshed as a result.

Why, for them, is sitting in for hours playing COD absolutely fine, yet doing the same with say, an RPG or an RTS deemed socially inept? It’s almost as if COD has become such a popular form of mainstream entertainment, that it has shifted from merely being a ‘video game’ into an acceptable hobby. Personally, I’m caught in two minds about if this is a positive or negative thing for the medium as a whole.

Not being blessed with an array of friends willing to pick up a controller without being incessantly pestered by myself, my initial reaction is one of satisfaction. After all, talking about the irritation of sprinting round a corner headlong into an RC-XD is at least a form of gaming discussion within which to eagerly participate.

So on the surface Call Of Duty is a good thing. It gets people playing games who’d otherwise shirk away in distain from the very idea of doing so. I’m very much in favour of gaming becoming an ever more celebrated pass time; and if any series has broken the barrier between successful video game and cultural phenomenon then COD is certainly it.

It would be fair to note that franchises such as World of Warcraft, Starcraft etc.. are played on a massive scale, yet there’s still a stigma that (at least here in the West) prevents them from being accepted, socially, into mainstream culture.

Maybe this says something about our collective outlook on acceptability. I might be sitting on a bus and overhear a group discussing which perks compliment which map types and kill streaks, but I can’t say the same for tips on ascending to level 70 as a Druid in WOW. There is undoubtedly an insane amount of discussion regarding the latter, but I’m sure it would tend to be more of a specialist nature rather than creep into everyday conversation.

That might come across as a sweeping generalisation which inevitably many will disagree with, but the point about Call Of Duty’s unwavering popularity is a valid one.
Activision Blizzard recently announced that Black Ops had grossed $1 billion worldwide, not bad going for a game that has only been out for two and a half months.

Of course, such popularity doesn’t simply materialise out of thin air without a degree of quality. And yes, (I’ll use the most recent example for the sake of not having to broadly refer to the whole COD franchise) Black Ops is a good game. It’s visceral, relentless and undeniably entertaining, yet it is not the crème de la crème of videogames; in fact, although it’s perhaps the most refined online COD experience to date, is it even really at the pinnacle of the FPS genre?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed playing the latest COD. I queued up in the freezing cold for it, have beaten the campaign on hardened and veteran, and sunk a good 20 odd hours into reaching first prestige. However - and this is where the counter argument to celebrating COD’s success comes in - there are so many more fulfilling and praiseworthy gaming experiences out there. Why do so many people seem to think that video games begin and end with Call Of Duty?

I’m aware that I’m in danger of sounding like I’m adopting a holier-than-thou attitude here, but the limitations of adopting such a restrictive stance towards any other games is ridiculous.

Video games at their best can be deep, intuitive and emotionally engaging experiences. How many of the former can Black Ops truly claim to represent? Yes it’s entertaining, yet fundamentally shallow. After reaching first prestige, the longevity essentially lies in repeating the same process fifteen times. I’ve had some pretty extensive sessions on Black Ops, maybe seven to eight hours straight, and the entire process has simply washed over me. Sure, I was sufficiently immersed for the duration of that time, playing with robotic efficiency, yet was never truly captivated by the experience.

Ok, so people don’t buy Call Of Duty because it offers sandbox exploration, ingenuity or to emotionally connect with it, they buy it to shoot things. This is all well and good, and who am I to preach to people what they should and shouldn’t play? All I’m saying is that there are so many other games that deserve the same devoted attention that staunch COD fanatics give to their beloved franchise.

Generally speaking I don’t think we’d only watch action films or not read anything but crime novels. No, we’d branch out and explore the multitude of possibilities that both cinema and literature offer us, why can’t we do the same with video games?

The chances are that as you’re reading this on a games website, that your interest in video games extends well beyond Call Of Duty. You may love it, you may hate it, or like myself you might enjoy it for what it is and nothing beyond that; but there’s certainly no doubting the series’ full scale assault on our consciousness .

For me the jury is still out on whether COD is good or bad for gaming. It’s a relentless juggernaut of a franchise, but is it really representative of the undeniable creativity, talent and artistic vision that industry undoubtedly harbours? Probably not. Is it shallow, yet markedly entertaining? Certainly.

Enjoying video games is the whole reason we play them, and I certainly don’t begrudge COD for that. However, Call Of Duty devotees should acknowledge that there‘s so much more outside of the encompassing bubble. As the old phrase goes - there are plenty more fish in the sea…

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Twelve Achievements of Christmas

Have a quick trawl back through the weekly sales charts for this quarter and you get a pretty clear idea of what games are going to be under the Christmas tree-since the end of September certain games have either been riding high in the charts or making brief but explosive high placed entries. It’s pretty clear that the likes of Vanquish won’t be landing in many consoles on the 25th, while Call of Duty: Black Ops is going to be all over the place.

Clearly, there’s nothing special about figuring what everyone will be playing, but as you’ll have seen from Bojeeva’s epic quest to double his gamerscore this year (a quest sadly derailed by his decision to go multi-platform), the Megabit’s team loves the ping of an Achievement or a Trophy almost as much as we love a good game. So here we are, The 12 Achievements of Christmas, our selection of the best achievements to be found in the Christmas hot list of games. Some are here simply because they’re great fun, others were chosen because they represent easy points, while a few were picked out as a genuine challenge that you can feel proud of yourself for meeting.

In the interests of festive fairness, we’ve left platform exclusives off the list, so there’s no Halo: Reach or Gran Turismo 5 points to be harvested here. If you’re feeling a little disgruntled at that we’d suggest you take a deep breath, calm down, and go play on a Wii for a while to reacquaint yourself with trophyless gaming.

Call of Duty: Black Ops
The With Extreme Prejudice achievement in Black Ops is just the sort of challenge we like. The demand that you use only rockets during your helicopter escape is comparatively easy at first, but becomes tougher when you encounter fast moving helicopters towards the end. It’s just our sort of achievement, not so difficult as to become a joyless grind, but tough enough that you’ll really feel you earned that 25G or Silver trophy.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
For some people the joy of Assassin’s Creed is the stealth kills, for others the collecting, for yet more it’s the medieval parkour. For me, it’s about clambering breathlessly all over ancient ruins, something I’ve not done since Miss Pearl let me know the only way I could get an ‘A’ in maths. But I digress. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood continues the Assassin’s Creed tradition of having you locate shrines hidden inside landmarks by way of death defying acrobatics and climbing which remain the best, most vertiginous parts of the series. In Brotherhood, my particular favourite is in sequence 7: Il Collosseo.

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit
Remember when you were a kid and the dodgems were all about crashing into each other? Then one day you thought about the name ‘dodgem’, gave dodging a try and realised that all that crazy swerving and the chance to frustrate all the other drivers was so much more satisfying. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit’s Godzilla achievement, in which you have to earn a medal on the Run to The Hills course WITHOUT using any weapons, is very similar, in that it removes a touch of the bang and crash from the game and adds a surprising amount of tension in the process. It differs from dodgems, however, by being a bit tricky. You’ll need to practice to get this one.

Fallout New Vegas
I guess a lot of Fallout: New Vegas players would happily swap all the achievements for a game that worked, but if you have managed to patch your copy into working order then there’s no doubt about which achievement to chase. Getting the Hardcore achievement and the 100GS/Gold Trophy that goes with it won’t be easy. You have to play the entire game in Hardcore mode, in which the difficulty is increased by way of starvation, dehydration and exhaustion, not to mention the stinker-your ammo now has weight and you’ll have to limit how much bang you can bear. Given that you can put 100s of hours into just an ordinary game of Fallout, we reckon getting ‘Hardcore’ might take you until next Christmas.

Pro Evo 2011
I have a confession to make. As if enough of you didn’t already hate me for my Overrated Games feature, here’s another reason: I’m a Gooner. And being a Gooner, there was no way I couldn’t love Pro Evo 2011’s Possession Play trophy, which asks you to maintain a 60% possession rate over the course of ten matches. If that isn’t a recipe for some Arsenalesque supernumerate strings of cultured passing, insouciant one-touch football and a lot of good, old fashioned pinging-it-about-a-bit, then I don’t know what is. You’ll notice of course that there’s no mention of actually having to win those games...

Star Wars: Force Unleashed II
It may be short, but at least they fixed the auto-aim since the first game! What hasn’t changed is the rather appealing way the game ingratiates itself with you by raining down low and mid-level achievements and trophies throughout the course of a playthrough. Like its predecessor, this is a game with only a few big payouts, but a near constant stream of small rewards. Our pick at the moment is Lucky Streak, a 20GS/Bronze trophy which asks you to rack up 300 kills without dying yourself. Given that the Force Unleashed games expect you to rack up a bodycount like Jack the Ripper with Smallpox disposing of 300 enemies isn’t so tough, but the tension as your killstreak mounts and you realise that a moments inattentiveness or a badly timed bossfight could set you back to square one is what makes this achievement fun.

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor’s Fear The Reaper award isn’t particularly difficult, but it does have that ‘angry, old testament God’ factor as you rain destruction down upon your enemies from on high, using a target-painter to call down airstrikes on your enemies. Careful targeting is required to make sure you get all the baddies rather than just the seven vital ones, but even so, you’re still looking at earning this achievement in only a matter of minutes whilst having a whale of a time.

You know how I said earlier that I’m a Gooner? Well even now, fifteen years on, I still hear it all the time: Nayim from the halfway line! Spurs fans have so little to celebrate that nearly two decades later they’re still crowing over a long range goal from a player who wasn’t even theirs at the time. For the sake of catharsis, how can I possibly resist lining up an Arsenal eleven and going for the Distance Shooter trophy?

Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption’s Hit The Trail challenge is only a Bronze Trophy, or a 10GS Achievement on the Xbox 360, but if you’re lucky the challenge to ride from Blackwater to Escalera between sun up and sun down can be one of the tensest, most enjoyable achievements the game offers. As soon as the other players on your free- roam map notice that you’ve been hanging around in Blackwater all night before tear-arsing Southwards at dawn, they’ll know what you’re up to, and all of a sudden every coloured dot on that map is either converging on you or moving to cut you off, resulting in a thrilling race from one side of the map to the other. Of course, you might end up in a free-roam full of dozy cowpokes who don’t even notice what you’re up to, which would be a shame, but hey, 10GS is 10GS.

EA Sports MMA
Mixed martial arts. You either get it or you don’t. I don’t. Our revered blogmaster Bojeeva, on the other hand, likes nothing more than watching a couple of glass-jawed rednecks getting sweaty with each other, and it’s in honour of his MMA packed Christmas list that we bring you the Rocky Choke for a Bronze trophy. All you have to do is win a fight using a ‘rear naked choke.’ That’s right: a rear naked choke. The achievements list doesn’t mention whether hair mousse and body oil are optional, or whether your heart will break when you hear real boxers laughing at you. Still, as I said above, a trophy is a trophy.

Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock
Regular readers will know that I have two gripes against the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games. The first is that the whole purpose of the controller seems to be to separate you from the game rather than immerse you in it, while the second is that the tracklists have gotten progressively weaker in each version. Well, Warriors of Rock isn’t likely to fix that first complaint, but the tracklist is one of the best we’ve seen in ages-a genuine mix of old and new rock, flashes of metal, a touch of industrial and the odd dash of alternative thrown in. With the likes of Been Caught Stealin, Fortunate Son, What do I Get and Rocking in The Free World on offer, it’s going to be hard to resist the urge to go for the Gem Hoarder’s 20GS on offer for playing 75000 notes.

Mafia II
Ah, Mafia II, you’re like Grand Theft Auto with all the choices removed and replaced with a sizeable dollop of rat pack charm. A third person cover shooter disguised as an open world game, but with enough Godfather II and Mad Men thrown in to ease any disappointment. And best of all, it’s loaded with comparatively easy achievements. We particularly like Cruise Control, where you’re tasked with maintaining a constant speed of 30MPH for five minutes. It may not sound like much, but that means no braking for traffic lights or junctions, no colliding with other cars, no accidental powerslides into someone’s front garden. Once you’re edging towards that fifth minute, the tension starts to ramp up and you start to feel slightly ashamed that you’re driving like you’re granny yet still having a heart attack every time another car gets a little too close.

Forget Christmas cards... here's a card Gameboy

If you don't get the games you fancy this Christmas and find yourself with plenty of spare time, why not take a leaf out of this guy's book and combine your love of gaming with something a bit more creative?

We at Megabits were sent a link to this fantastic site, Behance Network, which shows how a Nintendo Gameboy was accurately constructed out of paper and card! The detail is absolutely stunning and it looks just like the real thing.

To take it one step further, Zim and Zou also created a cartridge and Tetris screenshot! It's got everything apart from the mindnumbing Russian style theme tune. Inspired!

VIDEO: Geek and Gamer Girls music video

Following on from us stumbling upon the music video that features some 8-Bit classics we mentioned a few days ago, Megabits has uncovered this funky tune.

EMBED-Geek and Gamer Girls - Director's Cut - Watch more free videos

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review - Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit

Welcome to Seacrest County. Please drive safely.

Everybody likes cops and robbers, right? It’s a tried and tested formula that’s been reworked for decades… For those of us old enough to have burnt the midnight oil playing retro classic Chase HQ, you’ll be pleased to hear that NFS: Hot Pursuit will bring back many a happy memory.

The game’s premise is simple... Take on the role of cop or racer and drive as fast as your engine will allow you around the various, gorgeously detailed courses. Oh, and stop your opponent from reaching the end of the course...

The career mode sees you faced with a map of the aforementioned fictitious county and offers you a series of events to select. Whether you fancy becoming a law enforcer and chasing down the roadhogs in some souped-up patrol car or a wreckless racer doing your utmost to avoid capture, both are equally fun and get the adrenaline pumping.

Stopping your opponents can be achieved simply by ramming them to damage their cars until they’re wrecked – or by employing various technical wizardry (more on this later). And that’s the game in a nutshell; whether you’re the hunter or the prey, you get a whole lot of fun and plenty of reliability value for your money.

You can tackle the various events in any order you fancy, with more unlocking as you improve your skills and accrue more XP. Along the way, you’ll quickly start to accumulate a huge number of vehicles that you can put through their paces. Before too long you’ll have access to Porsches, Aston Martins and Corvettes… all of which you can drive fast and crash to your heart’s content.

Clearly this doesn’t claim to be a simulator steeped in realism like a certain recently-released PS3 game, this is an arcade racer pure and simple. As a result, it’s easy to pick up but exceedingly tough to put down. Since getting my copy, I’ve often booted up the game for a couple of quick races only to find I’ve been up most of the night whizzing about the tracks and everyone else has long been tucked up in bed. Although each race lasts only a matter of minutes, you’ll find yourself replaying them over and over to shave off vital seconds and set a new personal best.

And therein lies the addiction. Electronic Arts and Criterion Games – the guys behind Burnout: Paradise – have introduced something called the Autolog – a clever addition that monitors the progress of friends on your gamerlist and constantly challenges you to beat their times. Even when they’re offline, it’s as if you’re racing them – certainly something that many other games should adopt!

Every course you try, you’re instantly updated as to whether friends have bettered your time and are urged to give it one more try to grab your rightful place at the top of the leaderboard. When you do trounce their efforts, the game suggests you brag about your achievements by posting on the ingame wall (much like Facebook), throwing down the gauntlet to your opponents. It works really well and keeps the game nice and challenging.

Once you’re done with the pretty lengthy career mode, there’s the opportunity to hone your skills online, pitting you against real people who are slightly more devious than the AI opponents. Up to seven other gamers will join you in the lobby and you’ll be divided into teams of cops and joyriders.

In either mode, the police have plenty of nicely-balanced tools at their disposal to stop those pesky racers: EMPs that temporarily disable a targeted car by shorting the electronics, spike strips to blow the tyres, roadblocks that do exactly helicopters and roadblocks. As you progress these are upgraded and become much more effective. The racers have a few tricks up their sleeves too, with EMPs, spike strips, super fast nitrous boosts and radar jammers.

There are various challenges on offer; the lawmen, for example, can take part in high speed pursuits and rapid response races or simply take their newly-acquired cars out for a spin. A free ride option also allows you to get to know the circuits and multitude of shortcuts, particularly useful as some of those “shortcuts” don’t always work in your favour.

The fact that EA has managed to feature a raft of licensed vehicles is welcome – with each feeling suitably speedy and handling differently. There’s something supremely satisfying about using a sports car worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to deliberately ram people off the road – and, of course, you can rely on Criterion to supply sheer speed and jaw-dropping crashes!

2010 has been a fantastic year for the racing genre, with all the games offering something different - Split/Second (destruction), Blur (weaponry), ModNation Racers (customisation) and Gran Turismo 5 (realism) – but, in many ways, NFS:Hot Pursuit manages to leave them all trailing in its wake.

It doesn’t really tread on the toes of any of the others but provides what us gamers have been keen on for years – a pick up and play racer that’s all about speed and getting one over your opponents. As I said before, it’s simple but executed perfectly. Gorgeous visuals, lovely tunes, varied tracks, good old fashioned carnage and oodles of replayability both solo and online mean that this is a really enjoyable package that deserves to be in your collection.

I feel the need, the need for SPEED!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns

I’ve learned over the past year or so that making a retro-driven video game throwback is not quite as easy as it seems. Merely applying new textures for HD television screens is not enough, as it sucked the timelessness out of Turtles in Time. You can’t go so far as to completely rearrange everything about the original game’s themes (Blaster Master Overdrive’s “kid who lost his frog finds a magical tank replaced with a post-apocalyptic future where mankind’s survival hinges on a single tank.) And you surely can’t just re-release the exact same game (Sonic 4, like Sonic 2 but costing twice as much for half the content). There has to be a combination of factors, old and new. There ought to be a sense of self-awareness as to what the original game was all about, along with a new twist as to justify playing this new product over blowing the dust off of/out of an NES.

Which is why I really like Donkey Kong Country Returns. It makes a whole bevy of tweaks and alterations from the original games, but it also understands the four reasons why people liked the original Donkey Kong Country games. Because lets be honest, we all like Donkey Kong Country games because:

  • They were visually vibrant and energetic
  • They sounded vibrant and energetic
  • They had a metric assload of things to collect
  • They were a metric assload of punishing as hell to play through

If Retro Studios wanted to go full-bore on the nostalgia, they would have sent me a promotional VHS tape (not DVD, not digital copy, not Blu-Ray! Something that could theoretically get tangled up in my VCR) telling me about the benefits of Advanced Computer Modeling and tease the Killer Instinct port. Instead, they settled on creating a new kind of fake technology, called HAWLOSHOTSAO, which I deem stands for “Have A Whole Lot of Shit Happen On The Screen. At Once” Which is to say that in each level, a whole lot of activity is happening in the environment. Ships fire their cannons, levels explode onto themselves, spider hatchlings are birthed for the sole purpose of attacking you…the game is great at filling each level with unique and energized aspects to keep the action going. Meanwhile, revamped renditions of classic songs from the Donkey Kong Country games blur in the background to sort-of-maybe-evoke warm feelings of your Christmas morning after unwrapping your copy of Donkey Kong Country. I miss my childhood.

This is a side-scrolling platformer. You go from the left side of the screen to the right, you jump on the heads of enemies, and you collect a whole bunch of floating bananas. In a kind-of ballsy move, the game has no kremlings or King K Rool. Rather, the antagonists are flying tribal masks that hypnotize the animal population with music. I had thought that this was a nice little tweak, up until encountering the final battle against a giant floating head with two floating hands. A boss seen in many, many popular Nintendo titles. This soured me on the game perhaps more than it should have, but…come on, really? The giant enemy crab boss feels less cliché.

They did pluck out a few other positive elements from the original Donkey Kong Country. There are mine-cart levels…many in fact! Rambi the rhinoceros is back in his overpowered glory, and even then the game manages to find a challenging late-game stage to test Rambi’s bulldozing skills. Cranky Kong appears as the shopkeep and frequent insulter of Donkey Kong’s intellect. And the game is great at filling each level with a bevy of power-ups. There are tons of bananas and extra lives to stimulate the parts of your brain that need glowing things. There are also the hidden K-O-N-G letters as well as bonus mini-stages and puzzle pieces designed to reward you with concept art and music tracks. The gaming kleptomaniac that must collect every shiny trinket will spend many an hour sifting through each of the stages.

The second-biggest issue I have with the game, besides that awful final boss (and yes, that boss is bothering me more than it should) is the controls. It does seem like Nintendo dropped a mandate on all of its developers to incorporate some kind of motion controls into every Wii game, some four years after people stopped thinking the Wii motion controls were at all novel. In fact, here is a list of Wii games that would have been made
better without Wii motion controls.

In this game, you thrust the remote down to interact. The key word being “thrust”, not “waggle”. Waggling in a game like Super Mario Galaxy is at least somewhat tolerable in that it demands a flick of the wrist. Regards of whether you play this game with the Wiimote held sideways or alongside a nunchuk, you must thrust your remote up and down. Thrusting while standing still will make DK do a ground pound, or blow into the air while crouching, or do a barrel roll while moving. The pounding and blowing are meant mostly to interact with the background and collect more fruit, while the nuisance-factor of the thrust made me never use the barrel roll as an offensive maneuver like I would in the original Donkey Kong Country. Why the game does not support the Classic Controller, the controller shaped like the controller you played the original Donkey Kong Country on, is beyond me. I learned to tolerate the thrust, but there are a handful of moments that demand more precise timing than the motion is capable of.

It also bears mentioning that the game is pretty gosh darned hard. The later levels will have you burning through the 50-plus lives that you were accumulating across the earlier, more humane stages. At first, Donkey Kong purists will question the design decision to give DK two hearts of health…and an additional two if you have Diddy Kong in tow. And said purists will question the decision to give Diddy a jetpack that lets the pair hover temporarily. Then said purists will play the game and realize that they sure run out of hearts in a hurry. Look, I’ve 100 percented Super Meat Boy, and I’m not going to say one game is harder than the other. But Super Meat Boy’s philosophy of short levels, instant respawning and unlimited lives makes it feel more tolerable than Donkey Kong Country’s limited lives, larger stages and modestly-placed checkpoints.

If you collect every K-O-N-G letter and puzzle piece, you can unlock mirror mode. This mode flips every stage, removes the power-ups and bans the use of Diddy Kong. It was after reading about mirror mode that I thought to myself “nope, I’m good. I had enough. This game kicked my ass pretty thoroughly.” That said, if you can find a second, competent partner and stockpile some lives, the game becomes a bit more manageable in co-op play. In spite of that, there is the weird gaffe of how player two, as Diddy Kong, gets both the jetpack and a peanut gun while Donkey Kong gets…I don’t know, low self-esteem.

So I do think this game will last players awhile, provided that they are willing. All things considered, I think Retro did a damn fine job of reviving and reinventing Donkey Kong as a platformer. It’s not for everyone, but I think people that liked the original game for all the right reasons will dig it. I would also recommend buying this game with a copy of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, as that game makes for wonderful stress relief for all the pains that Donkey Kong Country Returns will unleash on you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

VIDEO: Dance music gives nod to 8-bit era

Check out this fantastic music video that pays homage to some of the greatest retro classics. Avicii & Sebastien Drums have crammed plenty of old favourite 8-Bit games into their video for
My Feelings For You...

We've spotted Frogger, Pong, Donkey Kong, PacMan, Space Invaders, Arkanoid and Super Mario. There are a few that we can't put names to... any ideas?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Megabits' pick of: underrated games

When assembling our recent Top Ten most overrated games (which some of you found rather controversial) we set a minimum level of entry: to qualify as being overrated it had to have a Metacritic score in the 90% range that we felt it simply didn’t deserve. As we spent several hours deciding which games probably should have been 80 percenters we slowly realised quite what an epic field that was-there are no fewer than 16 and a bit pages to wade through before you get to a game that has a Metacritic score of less than 80, no mean feat when you consider that there are around 100 results per page.

So, give or take the games that fall bob on the 80% mark and the odd variation in the number of entries per page, you’re looking at a list of 1500 games that are in the top twenty percent. Surely, you’d think, just about every good game you’ve played must be in a list that huge? That’s what we thought too, until we started looking through the games that scored 80% or less and started finding good and even great games that hadn’t even made it into that not-very-select group of 1500. We found games that, while far from being epoch-making in terms of their brilliance, were surely deserving of a higher ranking than they’d managed. Worse still, we found games that we’d happily have scored in the 90s that had a Metacritic ranking on a par with Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku for DS! It was time to right a few wrongs. It was time to give a shout out for the games scoring 80% or less. It was time for another list...

Bully: Scholarship Edition (Metacritic 80%)
While the rest of the gaming world has embraced, even revelled in sandbox gaming, the Wii has stood on the sidelines. Whether it’s the comparative lack of system power and memory, or just the platform’s reputation as a casual gamers toybox, there have hardly been any sandbox games for the Wii. So you’d think that when one finally came along, reviewers would be grateful, but no, Bully: Scholarship Edition manages just an 80% score. Think about that for a second-with so few sandbox titles available on the Wii you’d think even a bad one could score reasonably well, so how come Bully doesn’t do better? The game has delightful mixture of hard edges and whimsy that complement rather than clash with each other, the huge number of minigames are excellent and there’s tons of variety in both the environments and the missions to stop Bully from getting stale. It deserves much better than this.

Tomb Raider: Underworld (76%)
Ok, it’s short, occasionally preposterous, unforgivably sleazy and frequently absurd, but none of those things necessarily make it a bad game. It does have all the usual complaints that go with a Tomb Raider game: Lara’s dialogue mixes ham and plums in equal measure, the camera has a mind of its own and the collision detection can cost you valuable braincells with every frustrated facepalm it elicits. But Tomb Raider: Underworld also has all the things that made Tomb Raider successful in the first place- a satisfying sense of progress with every puzzle solved, a variety of interesting environments to explore and, you know, unforgiveable sleaziness.

The first three-quarters of the game are familiar fun enhanced by some well realised and exhilarating motorbike sequences. The final quarter adds a delicious super-power subplot in which you battle zombie yetis in a sunken city using Thor’s electric hammer. I’ll just repeat that: you battle zombie yetis in sunken city using Thor’s electric hammer. Give it some love.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (73%)
Well now, didn’t this get some mediocre reviews? Granted, the Wii version is so pared down as to be almost a completely different game, but even the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions could only muster Metacritic scores in the low seventies, which really doesn’t seem fair. SWFU isn’t a game without a few problems-you can spend an awful lot of time mastering button combos to let rip powers that aren’t noticeably more effective than the simple one-button moves. The set piece battles tend to fall flat as well, with the Star Destroyer sequence in particular standing out as a scene that promised thrills but delivered only tediousness frustration. But while we’d never try to convince anyone that Force Unleashed is the best thing since Bioshock, we do think that its strengths have been too often understated.

The pace is relentless without ever becoming grinding, the combination of Jedi powers, a lightsaber and big squads of baddies results in some very satisfying combat, and the game drops interesting new environments and modestly valued achievements on you with pleasing regularity. The simple enjoyment to be had from levitating a stormtrooper, pinging him off all four walls and then hurling him into space will delight children of the 70s.

Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (80%)
You’d think that in the current economic circumstances people would appreciate a bargain, but to look at Assault on Dark Athena’s scores that’s clearly not the case. Ok, Assault on Dark Athena is little more than a perfectly workable stealth murder game. It’s a bit short and does nothing particularly jaw-dropping. But while the game may be titled Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, everyone in the know realises that the Dark Athena section is little more than a bolt-on to the game's true selling point:a slightly expanded version of 2004’s Escape From Butcher Bay that’s been given a lovely graphical polish before offering its near seamless mix of stealth, action and exploration to current gen consoles.

Stalker: Call of Pripyat (80%)
Perhaps the disappointing bugginess of Clear Sky had left a bad taste in some people’s mouths. When its sequel, Call of Pripyat, came along and offered the same unsettling atmosphere and compelling faction-based shooting but without all the glitches, you’d have thought it would have garnered enough praise to get it more than a feeble 80% when the reviews were munched by Metacritic’s aggregator.

Low on ammo in an irradiated wasteland, hunted by monsters, feted by a huge number of competing groups offering missions while you desperately try to manage the potentially life-saving items in your inventory, S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat combines the best bits of half dozen genres into a single neat and spooky package.

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows (68%)
Take the utterly addictive acrobatics and orb-hunting of Crackdown, then strip out the bland, generic villains and locations and replace them with a selection of pop-culture icons and a recognisable, if cartoonishly stylised, New York. Sounds good, doesn’t it? That’s pretty much the Web of Shadow’s experience. It’s fair to say that the game’s pacing comes from the hurry up and wait school of design, and the repeated nods to comic book continuity will leave non-fans feeling underwhelmed, but the delirious joy of swinging and swooping through the city, bounding from rooftop to rooftop in pursuit of Spider Tokens is enough to make us feel that this game deserved a better score.

RISK: Factions (77%)
The original RISK boardgame has its rules tweaked every few years to greater and lesser effect. For the record, Megabits has a particular preference for the pre-2003 Secret Mission rules, a strong dislike for the post-2003 4-Secret Missions rules, and if you like World Domination rules, we think you’re a little bit girly. As you can see, tweaks and rule changes have a significant effect on how enjoyable a particular version of RISK is.

RISK: Factions, the XBLA version of the game is a particularly strong version, maintaining the fundamentals that make the boardgame such an addictive and mindbending exercise in strategic planning whilst incorporating faction-specific powers and an overkill mode that add that touch of dynamism that makes console games that much more exciting than their board based counterparts. Factions offers the best of both worlds-the classic, no frills game of RISK that can eat several brow furrowing hours of your time, or a comedy overdrive version with wacky rules and dodgy territories that can be played in no time at all.

Stranglehold (77%)
Describing Stranglehold as a cinematic police shooter with slow-mo effects isn’t inaccurate, but it doesn’t really do anything to separate John Woo’s first foray into videogames from a thousand other titles that could be described in the same way, which is probably why Stranglehold is often treated as a middling shooter rather than the hugely enjoyable romp that it is.

For starters, the slo-mo has an extra dimension thanks to its activation via acrobatic leaps, trolley rolls and banister runs. Slo-mo usually reduces the amount of movement on the screen rather than increasing it. On top of that, slo-mo is only the first layer of gunplay mechanics-successful slo-mo shooting racks up the power needed to unleash spinning attacks, momentary spells of unlimited ammo rapid fire, or a slo-mo zoom attack. As if recasting you as the god of gunslingers weren’t enough, Stranglehold’s levels include a harbour full of exploding boats, a penthouse full of laser boobytraps and a natural history museum in which you can sprint up the spine of a fossilised dinosaur whilst taking out squads of machine-gun toting gangsters. It’s nice to have a bit of variety.

Gun (75%)
Gun is one of our most loved games here at Megabits, a delightful generation straddler that can be played on Gamecube, PS2 or Xbox, yet is just as good in its Xbox 360 version.It’s one of those games where the quality is all in the software and comes out regardless of the hardware.

It’s an open-world western that features a central storyline surrounded by numerous law enforcement, horse racing, and hunting missions, all taking place on a map that reflects several iconic Western environments and which are accomplished by way of careful loot collection and the purchase of ever improving weaponry. In essence, it’s Red Dead Redemption writ small. Smaller map, less variety to the side missions, fewer characters...but for all that it looks like last gen’s little brother to the game of 2010, Gun actually manages to be just as good as Red Dead Redemption. The game may be small, but it’s big on character: The story and plot is actually slightly more complex and engaging, the set pieces more extravagant, the environments more varied, while the gold mining forms a simple yet completely addictive treasure hunting backbone to the game. Best of all, Gun seamlessly mixes elements of the most square jawed Saturday matinee oat operas with those of the stubble chinned, cynical revisionist western genre. It’s like a gorgeous collaboration between John Sturges and Sergio Leone, and it deserves far more than a paltry 75%.

Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil (76%)
It’s easy to understand why the cumbersomely titled Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil hasn’t scored more highly. In essence it's an old Gamecube title on a bigger disc. Given the Wii’s backwards compatibility, it would be fair to suggest that anyone wanting to play this Gamecube remake of the original Playstation Resident Evil could do so just by buying a second hand copy of the GC disc for pennies. On the other hand, the ability to play from your existing hardware without investing in Gamecube controllers and memory cards is a big point in Archives’ favour, as is this: Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil is among the very best games you’ll ever play.

Often referred to as REmake, the game has the same story elements and some of the familiar scares that you remember from the original, but features a significantly expanded plot, new bosses, new locations and new abilities. Same old tank-style controls mind you. Still, the awkward controls can’t detract from the powerful atmosphere offered by REmake, or the genuine scares, or the huge sense of satisfaction that comes from painstakingly solving puzzles and gradually unlocking new sections of the mansion and grounds . You also get genuine gut-wringing tension, some tragic new monsters and surprisingly good looks for a Wii game, let alone a Gamecube title. It’s a must-play, and there aren’t many of those on the Wii.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Dance Central

The Kinect is a very special kind of hardware, both identical and polar opposite to the motion options of the Wiimote and Playstation Move. All three of them involve some kind of motion of the body beyond your thumbs, but otherwise…Not to rip into the Wiimote or PS3 Move (though I will gladly rip into the Wiimote anytime, actually, f***ing Wii Sports) but the required motion in those games is limited to arm flicks and movements of various degrees of abstraction. You swing a baseball bat by either assuming a batter pose and pray the Wiimote acknowledges you’re in a batter pose, or flick your wrist and trick the remote into thinking your hand is on steroids. The Kinect is the one motion controller option that requires you to move! There is no waggles or sitting down in a relaxed position here, you’ve got to burn those precious caleries. I understand if you want your video games to be sedentary experiences. I can accept someone that wants to sit down and only sit down for their CODBLOPS experience because they had a long day at work or the concept of exerting force from their muscles seems intimidating. That’s cool. Dance Central is not the game for you.

No, Dance Central is the game for people willing to make a physical commitment. You may need to move furniture to create the necessary space. You may bump into chairs, walls, or have your hand crash into the ceiling a few times. You may need to learn about such fitness concepts as “warming up” and “stretching”. Your scores will improve with having a second player assume the role of a spotter, offering suggestions on how to better your technique. You may sweat. You may feel the pump in your muscles. You may get injured if you’re not used to using the full range of motion in your hips. You should consult a doctor before beginning Dance Central.

The game presents you with a simple concept; do the dance Harmonix tell you to do. A charismatic dancer figure with the build of a Rock Band musician does a dance move in the order displayed on a series of flashcards to the right of the screen. You are graded based on your ability to recreate these maneuvers. The game is alarmingly accurate at reading your motions; I’m sure the Kinect can’t tell how many fingers you’re holding up, or which wall your face is staring at. But the game can very much pick up on the major motions of your arms, legs, hips, torso, shoulders and neck, and thus becomes a stern critic of these joints on the harder difficulties. I learned very recently that Dance Central has a very specific definition for what constitutes a Salsa or a Cabbage Patch, and will not be happy if you swing an arm in the wrong direction. The game initially locks up the Medium and Hard difficulty settings of each song for a very good reason.

It’s very easy at first to blame the Kinect sensor for not scoring you right. You could curse and swear at the technology all you want. But what I found was that you can improve your scores through practice and putting your heart into your dance. You know, like real dancing, or real fitness-related activities. A friend of mine has kicked my ass hard at Dance Central scores because, as she puts it, she tries to be more sexy with her dances. I cannot hope to break her score on Christina Milian’s Dip It Low, and I tried. Jumping into a song for the first time often leads to disaster and head scratching as the player is left wondering what the game considers a “Gank.” Hence, you ought to take the time to enter Break It Down mode, where the game gives you ample chances to practice each move before giving the real song a chance. While I would’ve liked a more versatile practice mode that lets me jump straight to moves I want to practice, (you know, like the Gank!”) the mode here is adequate enough to use for practice.

Dance Central is, admittedly, not as feature-rich as most music games. It’s perhaps best comparable to the original Guitar Hero. Instead of customizable avatar characters, you can choose from pre-built dancers. They include the jock-bitch, the Brit-bitch, the Spanish-dick and my favorite, the Spiritual pretentious man with The Flash’s powers. There is no online play. There is no World Tour mode where you travel throughout a map of the world, increasing an arbitrary number of “fans” who idolize your song covers. The multiplayer mode is merely two people taking turns and competing for points.

At the same time, the multiplayer potential out of that single mode is higher than you think. This was a game designed to be played by a social bunch eager to kindly mock each other. Like every Kinect game, Dance Central frequently snaps photos of you doing your thing. Every song has a freestyle interlude, where the game just asks you to pounce around like a dancing fool. The game then animates a series of photos taken during this sequence and repeats them to you in a manner specifically designed to look as goofy and ridiculous as possible.

And then you get to the setlist itself. 32 songs does not seem like a large setlist at first, until you realize the time it will take to actually practice and learn each of the moves. (And keep in mind, harder difficulty settings will add newer, more demanding moves.) There’s a decided focus on songs from the last decade, which may or may not be enough for today’s finicky generation of teens that can’t compute anything not recorded on Auto-Tune. At the same time, you’ll quickly learn why each song made its way into the game after performing its routines. There are moves that you will be either glad to revisit (Funkytown) or wishing you forgot about (Salt ‘n Pepa’s song). And while the choices for downloadable content is expanding at a slow rate, you get the sense that Harmonix wants to pump out some gems. As of this typing, you can purchase and dance to “Whoop! There it is!” by Tag Team. Thank you.

Let me outline a scenario: there is a song on this game called “Teach Me How To Jerk.” I initially had great difficulty learning how to jerk, as jerking required frequently twisting my knees at odd angles and sliding across the floor. I had to roll up the carpeting off my floor in order to give my joints a smooth enough surface to jerk off of. I also had to do a lot of practice in order to master jerking myself off of. But I ultimately got the upper hand on how to jerk, and my lady friend got a real good laugh at all of the time I spent jerking myself off.

If that does not sound appealing to you at all, then you don’t want Dance Central. You want to get back to sitting on the couch and sipping on your soda of choice while playing your favorite military shooter. Dance Central is a game for people that want something more upbeat than that. Something that requires a little work, a lot of movement and a lot of laughs at the expense of themselves and others. Thus, I’ll constitute it as one of my favorite games of 2010.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Screenshots: Forza Motorsports 4

Forza Motorsports 4 is coming... and judging by this rather tasty announcement trailer, Gran Tursimo 5 should be worried...

There's scant information at present but the guys at Microsoft and Turn 10 will surely be cramming even more gorgeous graphics and grunt under the hood.

Check out the trailer below...

and all the latest screenshots...