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, October 29, 2010

Golden Joysticks winners announced

It seems like an age ago that voting started for the Golden Joystick Awards but the winners have finally been revealed. More votes were cast than ever before - with the total coming in at a staggering 1.5m!

Mass Effect 2 took the biggest accolade for Ultimate Game Of The Year - the 360 and PC title beating the likes of Modern Warfare 2 and Megabits's favourite, Assassin's Creed II.

Here are the other winners in all their glory...

Action/Adventure Game Of The Year - Assassin's Creed II
Runners Up: Batman: Arkham Asylum, Red Dead Redemption

Fighting Game Of The Year - Street Fighter IV
Runners Up: Tekken 6, Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny

Racing Game Of The Year - Forza Motorsport 3
Runners Up: Need For Speed: Shift. Colin McRae: Dirt 2

Sports Game Of The Year - FIFA 10
Runners Up: Wii Sports Resort, Skate 3

Strategy Game Of The Year - Plants vs. Zombies

Runners Up: The Sims 3, Age of Empires III: Collection

RPG Of The Year - Mass Effect 2

Runners Up: Fallout 3: Game Of The Year Edition, Final Fantasy XIII

Shooter Of The Year - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Runners Up: Bad Company 2, Left 4 Dead 2

Music Game Of The Year - Guitar Hero 5
Runners Up: DJ Hero, The Beatles: Rock Band

One To Watch - Call of Duty: Black Ops
Runners Up: Fallout: New Vegas, Star Wars: The Old Republic

Online Game Of The Year - League of Legends
Runners Up: Aion: The Tower Of Eternity, Farmville

Portable Game Of The Year - Pokémon Heart Gold/Soul Silver
Runners Up: Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines, Plants vs. Zombies

Download Game Of The Year - Plants vs. Zombies
Runners Up: Battlefield 1943, Call of Duty: World At War: ZOMBIES

Puzzle Game Of The Year - World of Goo
Runners Up: Professor Layton and Pandora's Box, Scribblenauts

Soundtrack Of The Year - Final Fantasy XIII
Runners Up: Brutal Legend, Assassin's Creed 2

UK Developer Of The Year - Jagex
Runners Up: Rockstar North, Codemasters

Review: Sengoku BASARA Samurai Heroes

To the uninitiated, the first introduction to the world of Sengoku BASARA will most likely affirm your initial preconceptions of the game. A thrashing electro pop/rock hybrid of an opening theme blasts out as swords clash and fists fly; cycling through the bizarre assortment of madcap combatants in typical fighting game fashion. If you had any suspicions of the nature of Sengoku BASARA: Samurai Heroes before loading it up, then the minute-long opening video before the main menu should certainly act as confirmation. It is very Japanese, a trait that for many of us less travelled gamers renders the title in question way out of our Westernised comfort zones.

Samurai Heroes is both published and developed by Capcom, meaning we’re not treading completely unfamiliar terrain here, with the man behind Devil May Cry 4 assuming orchestration duties. But, players craving the gothic tonality of Dante’s demon-slaying escapades would be well advised to divert their attentions elsewhere. The general overarching plotline of Samurai Heroes is more or less just a vague narrative device that plays second fiddle to the brawl or nothing gameplay. Set “during a tumultuous period of Japanese history” your chosen character (eight are available initially with additions to the roster to unlock) embarks on a quest of unification or revenge depending on their moral disposition.

It soon becomes apparent that Samurai Heroes is a light hearted affair, and in fact revels in its own sheer ridiculousness. We may connate the Samurai culture with bloodshed, morbidity or sacrifice, yet this tongue in cheek brawler is bright, brash, and in fact a very humorous title. In videogames especially, the conversion from Japanese to English becomes a rather bungled process (“All your base are belong to us” becoming an iconic symbol of such instances). Dodgy text translations and shocking American voice-overs are often staple ingredients of an East to West transition, often resulting in thoroughly unintentional humour. Luckily Samurai Heroes is fully aware of this notion, and what primarily seems like slight inward mockery soon becomes fully blown self deprecating hilarity.

Whether this was the case in the Japanese original remains to be seen, but the dreadful wooden acting and cliché ridden script really have to be seen to be believed. Littered with exaggerated denouncements of honour, nobility and cries of revenge; the cast will literally have you laughing out loud. Outrageously camp adversaries and praise gushing allies are among some of the demented caricatures you’ll encounter, each adding to the comedic feel of the Sengoku BASARA world. Of course those unwilling to embrace the eccentricity will be unlikely to warm to the playing experience, as this sense of outlandishness is a permanent theme throughout the game.

The core gameplay mode here is ‘Heroes Story’; a quest mode of sorts, that strings individual stages together with your chosen fighter’s ‘narrative’ (using the word in the loosest possible sense). These self contained areas play host to the third person ‘crowd combat‘, a la Dynasty Warriors/Fighting Force/Ninety Nine Nights. The basic premise involves fighting through ranks and ranks of enemy soldiers, gaining control of designated encampments and eventually confronting (there are often more than one however) the stage’s inevitably bonkers boss character. No wild originality there, but the breakneck pace of each ‘war’ and the fluidity of the fighting (the vast amount of NPC’s thankfully do not cause frame rate issues) suits the nature of such combat heavy titles; the only break in the action coming in the form of the occasional absurdity-riddled cut scene.

The most accurate way to describe the frenetic action in Samurai Heroes would be ‘combo-centric’. You’ll be actively encouraged to rack up hit chains in excess of 2000 against the hordes of enemy foot soldiers. Moves are referred to as ‘Arts’: Normal and Special Arts (square/triangle) which in turn effectuate juggles and air attacks, ‘Super Arts’ (R2), and a charged up frenzy; the ‘Basara Art’ (circle), which will rack up the KO’s and send the combo counter into overdrive. These are complimented by the ‘Hero Time’ ability, enabling you to slow down time to your advantage after you’ve charged up the relevant metre with enough hits during the course of battle. It’s a simplistic layout, but one that’s geared towards a pick up and play accessibility, a notion that certainly works in Samurai Heroes favour.

Initial button bashing will soon give way to a slightly more tactical, though still undeniably basic approach. Chaining vast combos together (where the bulk of the enjoyment lies) as well as citing the most efficient way to utilize your most powerful Arts will result in a sense of satisfaction, albeit one governed by simplicity. For example, using Ieyasu’s (the clean cut, well-to-do character in search of peace and unification via the means of relentless violence) sun splitter when overwhelmed by foes causes decent amounts of damage and effectively repels the masses; allowing some much needed breathing space to instigate your next barrage. It may well be wise to keep your Hero Time and Basara Art gauges charged for the boss encounters, as here is where the ability to slow time and command a powerful multi-hit frenzy will be most advantageous.

As you progress through the linear battlefields you’ll be accompanied by allied soldiers and a supporting general, the AI of which truly exemplifies incompetence. Opting to stand around passively instead of actively engaging with enemy troops is a fact that you’ll come to terms with early on; realising that assistance wise your cohorts are more or less non-functional. Initially this is not too much of an issue, but as the challenge greatens, a helping hand would be much appreciated. However, a friend can grab a second pad and take control of your otherwise completely static ally (your small collective of soldiers remains uncontrollable however), which hardcore players aside, you’ll need to rely on in order to conquer the hardest difficulty or overcome the more resilient bosses. Co-op is good clean fun and should vanquish the frustrations suffered whilst accompanying your pacifistic single player compardres.

Upon defeating the bosses of certain factions, some will opt to unite with you or alternatively join your nemesis, cue more consciously pretentious drama to prod your character specific plot along. Amidst the preposterousness that envelopes Samurai Heroes lies shallow RPG elements of sorts. Don’t expect anything beyond basic item combination, weapon accessories or obligatory levelling up (no in-depth customisation or daunting sub menus to trouble you), but then again role playing is most definitely not the focal point of the game, and as such it would be an unfair criticism to highlight the non-complexity of this feature.

The trouble with relying so heavily on one mechanic; relentless fighting - though entertaining in short bursts - is that repetition is destined to rear its ugly head. With nine stages (battles last around half an hour barring death) per character and no checkpoint system within each one; only the most patient and dedicated players will fully conclude each and every starting/unlockable warrior’s quest. On the other hand, in that respect it’s fair to say that Samurai Heroes gives punters value for money, at least in terms of possible play time. A quick battle mode lets you replay any one of the 38 stages once they’ve been unlocked in Heroes Story. Unlockable titles, and a gallery mode are available for those who want to relive the melodrama, adding bulk to the game, although supplying very little in the way extra variety. With no online options or leaderboards to broaden the Samurai Heroes experience, lack of variation is a real issue that will effect all but the most devoted of brawler/action fanatics. Still, most gamers who aren’t part of the aforementioned demographic can still attain a simplistic pleasure here, if not find the motivation for extended replayability.

Sengoku BASARA: Samurai Heroes is most definitely an acquired taste. The game’s over the top flamboyance may well be an attraction to some gamers, whereas others will detest it from the outset. Suffice to say that Western audiences do not stereotypically take to such games as their Eastern counterparts do. It’s bizarre, brash and wholeheartedly Japanese, a cultural barrier that many will simply refuse to attempt to bypass.

However, beneath the oddball exterior lies an accessibly gratifying slice of action. It’s fun and addictive in bursts, though repetition detracts from the potential longevity on offer. Fans of third person fighters would be advised to at least give Sengoku BASARA: Samurai Heroes a shot, and at just over £20 new at retail it could well be worth a look for a short term fighting fix. If your sense of humour doesn’t extend to truly shocking voice-overs and scriptwriting however, stay well, well away from this title.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

10 gaming gripes that grind my gears - Part 2

What really winds you up about gaming? See if you share any of our gaming gripes. If you missed the first part, take a look after the jump...

Hydrophobia - Myself and digital representations of H20 have always endured a somewhat strained relationship. Ever since watching Sonic’s lifeless blue corpse limply sink to the bottom of the screen after painfully failing to fill his lungs with a life-saving bubble of air; my fear of drowning has remained paramount. Prolonged sections of aquatics in games really do detract from any sense of a pleasurable experience for me. The memory of a lifeless hedgehog will be forever etched in my mind, but if that event laid the foundations for hydrophobia then Tomb Raider truly cemented the notion. When I was a younger, less schooled gamer the sight of Lara Croft’s spasmodic body was commonplace on my television screen. The blue air bar emptying at a worryingly swift pace, Lara’s sluggish breaststroke (stop giggling at the back) technique not aiding the increasingly doom laden situation. Trapped in a maze of underwater corridors under some god forsaken tomb, was a circumstance that would serve as Miss Croft’s resting place time and time again. These many underwater deaths in my gaming youth have remained with me to this day, resulting in a passionate hatred for any obstacle with an abundance of the wet stuff.

I think it’s the claustrophobic nature of many underwater swimming sequences that really aggrieve me. Relative freedom and ease of movement are suddenly replaced with graceless, heavy handed manoeuvrability; making such sections in games a painstaking chore to play. I was pleased to see however that I’m not alone in this (what many would seem irrational) fear of videogame water. After a long hot day exploring the Frontier, John Marston looked like he could use a little refreshment. Spotting a near by stream this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. After paddling in up to the top of his boots he proceeded to flounder and flap around before succumbing to the calmly trickling current. He can massacre outlaws, hunt and skin grisly bears and hammer down enough whiskey to outdrink George Best in his prime. He can’t, however, deal with a mere drop of water, a character trait that appears to be hereditary as his son suffers acutely from exactly the same problem. Although the Marstons’ swimming skills were woefully underdeveloped to an irritating extent, I can certainly sympathise with their misgivings. When it comes to games, I’m perfectly happy on solid, dry land.

The Curse Of Wii Commercials - I do own a Wii. It sits in the corner like an unloved child, collecting dust, occasionally being hauled out of retirement for an obligatory spot of planet hopping with Mario. I’m not a fan of motion controls or casual games, hence the Wii is such a disused inclusion in my gaming set up. In fact, even the ancient and barely functioning PS2 (the disc tray grinding open sounds like the last spluttering cough of a man on his death bed) gets more attention than Nintendo’s happy white chunk.

However, one thing that grinds my gears more than endless reams of generic party games or squeaky clean sports titles is the adverts promoting them. Ant and Dec are admittedly pretty good at what they do; so long as that involves goading Z list celebrities into eating kangaroo testicles. When they’re endorsing Wii Fit to a group of weight watchers or playing Sports Resort with a craftily assembled collective representing a ‘wonderfully diverse’ cross section of ages and ethnicities; a sudden urge to pick up the Wii and hurl it through the TV screen engulfs me. It’s like the REM song about “shiny happy people holding hands”, except instead of holding hands they’re gathered around for a ‘good old session’ of Wii beach volleyball.

Being the twisted cynic that I am, I can’t help but find this false ideal of a communal gaming utopia utterly ridiculous. In actuality it’s far more likely for at least one overly competitive individual to scream, shout and swear, therefore shattering this harmonious illusion for all involved. The most recent addition to the roster of infuriating Wii adverts sees boy band JLS furiously fist pumping their way through an assortment of mini-games. The only saving grace from complete and utter irritance being that the rhythmic fashion in which the ‘band’ gyrate their hands up and down, shall we say; ‘above the groin area’ is rather an amusing sight. Regrettably these cheese laden adverts can’t be doing the Wii any harm, evidence of which can be seen by the console’s colossal sales figures. Still, for the sceptical hardcore, the sight of father and son combo ‘Arry and Jamie Redknap having a super jolly fun time on Mario Kart is highly unlikely to win them over to the Wii‘s casual way of thinking, me included.

Rubbish Movie Tie-Ins - For every occasional exception to the rule that games of films are utter rubbish, there’s a metaphorical desert landfill full of tripe of the highest order. Unfortunately, Goldeneye can’t single-handedly defend the film-to-game tie-in, and the perpetual landslide of substandard products slapdashed onto the shelves saturates the market with mediocrity. Every Disney film to hit the big screen will inevitably be accompanied by a happy, shiny, box-ticking videogame that parents will feel compelled to buy their children out of sheer exasperation. On the whole (fair enough Toy Story 3 received semi-favourable reviews) these games are composed of generic, child pleasing gameplay elements with a sickly sweet coating of all round wholesomeness for good measure.

OK so I may be being a little harsh here, after all it’s plain to see that these games are solely designed for children to engage with. However, that doesn’t excuse milking the cash cow with lacklustre products that kids will want regardless of quality. Let’s be frank, I doubt that a six year old is going to hunt around sites for meaningful feedback or meticulously check metacritic for average scores of the latest Hollywood franchise’s (usually involving talking animals) game tie-in.

Will a Miley Cyrus obsessive baulk at the less than favourable scores (to put it bluntly) awarded to the videogame incarnation of her/his beloved Hannah Montana, and opt out of pestering their parents into purchasing it? Highly unlikely. It is indeed possible to develop good games geared towards children, yet so many movie tie-ins in the category are at best woefully second rate or in actuality usually worse. That said, if the film performs well at the box office the game will usually follow suit in the stores regardless of standard. Regrettably in that respect, it’s doubtful we’ll see a shift in the trend any time in the near future.

When it comes to shockingly poor transitions from one medium to the other, films based on games perhaps fair even worse than their interactive siblings. Tomb Raider was universally slammed, Prince Of Persia didn’t fair much better and Hitman effectively put a gun to the side of its own head and pulled the trigger. None of the aforementioned examples however compare to the granddaddy of all game-to-film disasters; the truly atrocious Street Fighter: The Movie. In terms of actual box office success the only real notable exception (though by no means classic cinematic material) would be the Resident Evil movies. The fact that RE has done relatively well on the silver screen is somewhat surprising considering how notoriously bad the acting and script of the games are. But fair play, RE does what it does and is mildly entertaining, if unchallenging fun. Generally speaking, the crossover process seems to stall somewhere; the transition from interactive medium to passive or vica versa often seems to suffer a major translation hiccup along the way. And for some of us, Jean Claude Van Damme playing Guile is still too painful a memory to forget or forgive.

Out Of Control - I don’t claim to be the greatest gamer in the world (above average, I’d say) but nothing mind-bogglingly spectacular. One of the most excruciating and torturous scenarios a gamer can put themselves through is having to watch someone else play who literally has no idea what they’re doing. Despite the impression that this list gives off, I’m actually a tolerant and fairly patient person. This doesn’t stop me from wanting to tear my own hair out when I see a bumbling buffoon entrusted with orchestrating the on screen action. Let me illustrate the case in point with a few examples:

  • Racing games - Scraping every barrier, careering off at the gentlest corner, or the cardinal sin; driving in the opposite direction round the circuit despite the stream of oncoming traffic and a big flashing ‘WRONG WAY’ icon at the top of the screen.
  • First Person Shooters - Shooting at walls, shooting the sky, shooting at team mates, just generally spraying bullets at everything except the enemy. Throwing grenades at their own feet, rocket launching a nearby shrub resulting in death etc...
  • Platformers - attempt jump, die, attempt jump, die. Make jump (they feel very pleased with themselves at this point), run to the next jump, die, attempt jump…you get the picture.
  • Survival Horror - Shrieking in terror and hurling the controller on the floor when being mauled by a zombie/monster/necromorprh or generally blood hungry creature. This really doesn’t aid the whole ‘survival’ aspect of the gameplay.
I’m by no means against inexperienced gamers playing. In fact, I’d even encourage it, but if they’re so abominable that I’m loosing faith in actually living, then I’ll have to remove myself calmly from the premises for the sake of the gamer in questions own wellbeing.

Achievements: The Love/Hate Relationship - When the ‘Achievement Unlocked’ icon pops up after a particularly gruelling challenge, it’s one of the most satisfying occurrences in gaming. One hundred percenting GTA IV or Red Dead Redemption for example rewards you with 100G for your enduring efforts, and suddenly all that pigeon murdering and flower picking doesn’t seem so worthless after all.

I used to really not care about achievements (although I’m still far from being an obsessive), but nowadays I do tend to let them govern the way I approach playing a game. The ‘shall I start on the hardest setting to try and avoid a repeat play through’ predicament always gets me. Unless your proficient in a certain game series for example, it can be unwise to try and complete a title at its most challenging for fear of getting too frustrated with it. However if an achievement is willing to dish out 150G for beating it on hard, the temptation is always there; and unless the game really is impeccably good I’m unlikely to instantly go for a repeat playthrough. I know achievements are essentially designed for replayability purposes, but often this notion of extended longevity results in a chore like grind for gamerscore.

You may well be thinking (and rightly so) that no one is forced into unlocking achievements and as such there’s no need to complain. Personally though, I kind of feel compelled to do so. I’ll very rarely bother unlocking a game’s maximum point tally, but if there’s one sitting in the library with anything less than a third of its achievements unlocked, the lacklustre gamerscore irritates me greatly. Of course there are the online achievements that encourage boosting, farming, grinding or whichever phrase you choose to coin, that can have an adverse effect on the overall experience. The other factor to consider it that of the sneering hierarchy. Sitting on their lofty gamerscore thrones with hundreds of thousands of points mocking the mere underlings lurking down there in the early twenties. It shouldn’t annoy me but it does, to an extent that I’m never satisfied with my relatively meagre score

After all, what do achievement points really mean? In the grand scheme of things, absolutely bugger all; zip, squat, nothing, yet the addictive nature of them keeps gamers coming back for more. As much as gamerscore is essentially just a platform to show off, no one wants to be ridiculed. As far as the half a million man Stallion 83 goes, the mind only boggles at how he can play so many games without going stark raving mad. Games are fun granted, but life can be pretty good if you actually attempt to live one outside of the digital realm. So while achievements will never overtake my life like a certain Mr Stallion, every time I fire up the Xbox I’m guiltily looking forward to being awarded with my next instalment of G; annoying as that may be.

Honourable Mention - Seth from Street Fighter IV. I hate that guy.

(Photo credit: iwinatcookie)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The race for Christmas number one...

If you believe the bookmakers, EA's FIFA 11 is
a pretty safe bet to top the charts this Christmas... but what do they know, eh?

Megabits can't remember the last time the release schedule looked so strong.
Since the rather quiet summer, there have been plenty of must-have games that have been added gamers' Christmas lists. Here, we take a look at 25 of them... in the form of our very own Advent Calender. Release dates are of course subject to change so who knows if some of these will slip into the quieter New Year period...

Dead Rising 2 (Capcom) 360, PS3, PC

Capcom’s much-anticipated sequel transports you from a shopping mall to gamblers’ paradise – with thousands of zombies and plenty more weapons to find and customize (Megabits looks at 10 of the best here). We thought it was a fantastic sequel and a worthy purchase (see our review after the jump) - and fans of zombie killing will love it.

EA Sports MMA (EA) 360, PS3

A huge roster, plenty of moves and all the atmosphere of an MMA event. It may not have all the official licenses boasted by the recent UFC Undisputed 2010 (see our review here) but it certainly plays well - and is more than a little reminiscent of EA's brilliant boxing game Fight Night Round 4. Feels a little more controlled and far less button-bashy than its UFC rival.

Medal of Honor (EA) 360, PS3, PC

It's had mixed reviews from the critics but EA’s franchise has had a much-needed facelift and is still a great shooter. The question is, does it really stand much of a chance against the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops?

Halo: Reach (Microsoft) 360
The biggest launch of the year, it already boasts the most sales despite only being released a few weeks ago. It's the end of an era but was it worth the wait? Check out our review after the jump.

FIFA 11 (EA) 360, PS3, Wii, PC

The best in the series so far – it looks, feels and plays just like the real thing. New game modes and the online options make this the ultimate footy game. We've already waxed lyrical about EA's latest offering - check out our review after the jump.

Kinect Adventures (Microsoft) 360

It's being criticized by the hardcore but stranger things have happened than this getting to Christmas number one. It’s bundled with the new peripheral so if it proves as popular as Microsoft think it will be, Adventures could sell by the bucketload.

Rock Band 3 (EA) 360, PS3, Wii

The latest iteration of the massively-popular series will feature 83 Songs dating back from the 1960s to present day - including hits from the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Ozzy Osbourne to The White Stripes and The Flaming Lips.

The Sims 3 (EA) - 360, PS3, Wii

It’s one of the best-selling series of all time and it’s coming soon to a console near you. Create and control your Sims and watch them as they work, live and play. Includes new “Karma powers” to give them news traits and abilities, such as luck and beauty.

Star Wars:The Force Unleashed II(LucasArts)360,PS3,Wii,PC
Control two lightsabers at once? Who’d have thought the first game could get much better? Starkiller - Darth Vader's secret apprentice - is back, with the game taking place between Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011 (THQ) 360, PS3, Wii
Loads of your favourite wrestlers, finishing moves and game modes mean this will be top of the wanted list for fans of the series. Expect it to look better than its predecessor and be a big and brash as the "real" thing on television.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (Blizzard) PC

The world's biggest MMORPG is soon to get its third expansion pack - and seeing as there are millions of subscribers to the game out there, it could well be number one this Christmas...

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit (EA) 360, PS3, Wii, PC
If the ultra-realistic Gran Turismon 5 isn't your bag, then EA's Need for Speed offers the perfect remedy, blending great graphics, speed and arcade racing. For the first time in the series' history, you'll be able to play a career mode, assuming the role of the cops or the racers. Either way, you'll have some souped-up cars at your disposal.

Fable III (Microsoft) 360, PC
Can Peter Molyneux finally deliver a game that lives up to the hype? Fans of the series won't care as they once again enter the immersive world of Albion. Looking better than ever and featuring its best-ever voicecast including John Cleese, Simon Pegg and a return for Stephen Fry, this is certain to be an epic adventure with more weapons, magic and humour.

Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision) 360, PS3, Wii, PC

Treyarch take the reins for one of the most anticipated games of the year. It promises to be bigger, better and bloodier than ever.
Once again, Call of Duty's going to included the popular zombie mode, which should add some longevity and variety to the proceedings.

Fallout: New Vegas (Bethesda) - 360, PS3, PC

A great voicecast, huge environment and the same freedom that gamers enjoyed in the award-winning 2008 Game of the Year, Fallout 3. Vegas is the new setting - and reviews have so far been pretty positive.

Michael Jackson (Ubisoft) - 360, PS3, Wii

This is what motion control gaming was made for. It's been just over a year since the death of the King of Pop and it was inevitable that it wouldn't be too long before he'd appear in a video game once again. Featuring many of his famous songs including Bad, Billie Jean and Earth Song, this is certain to sell well to fans of dance games and the man himself.

Wii Party (Nintendo) - Wii
Nintendo can do no wrong as far as these Party games go. Released a matter of weeks ago, who would bet against countless families playing some of the 80 mini games this Christmas?

Vanquish (SEGA) 360, PS3
Don a futuristic battlesuit and join a fight against the Russians on a captured space station as you fight to control the world's fast-depleting energy sources. A big, bold and beautiful shooter.

007: Goldeneye (Activision) Wii
Finally the gaming gods have listened to the call for the N64's classic shooter to get a revival - and those lucky Wii (and DS) owners are going to be the only ones to get a copy. Activision promises various ways to complete each level, destructible environments and multiplayer modes.

Disney Epic Mickey (Disney) Wii
The exclusive Wii platformer will see Mickey leap into the world of Wasteland, armed only with paint and paint thinner to alter the world itself and splash a bit of much-needed colour about the place. It promises to be a beauty - everybody likes good ol' Mickey now don't they?

LittleBigPlanet 2 (Sony) PS3
The sequel to one of the PS3's landmark games will boast better graphics, a new story and more customization than ever before. The new Create mode will allow the burgeoning online community to create not only levels, but complete games.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (Ubisoft) 360, PS3, PC

Assassin's Creed II was so much better than the first game, and Brotherhood promises to build on that winning formula. The new game brings with it a multiplayer mode, and loads of new characters, each with their own unique weapons and assassination styles.

Just Dance 2 (Ubisoft) Wii
The motion-control dance sim makes a comeback - but with more accurate tracking. Copy the movements onscreen either alone or with friends and rack up those scores.

Football Manager 2011 (SEGA) PC

A firm favourite of Megabits and a definite purchase each year. The demo has just been released so aspiring football managers can some practise in before the game's full release in early November. This year's edition promises the usual squad updates, better media interaction, a set piece creator and improved match analysis.

Gran Turismo 5 (Sony) PS3
After countless delays, fans are still optimistic that potentially the greatest driving sim ever will still make it onto the shelves before Christmas. This PS3 exclusive title will feature more than 1,000 photo-realistic cars (this time with real-time damage!) and over 20 tracks, with 70 variations. A petrolhead's paradise!

So which of these do you reckon will make it to Christmas number one this year? Megabits' money is on Black Ops... but with so many top titles making an appearance, there are plenty of candidates in the running.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Games that will get you screaming...

Halloween pumpkin
Now you didn't think we'd let Halloween pass without taking a look at some of the most terrifying games soon to leap onto your console, did you?

Forget Condemned, Manhunt or Alan Wake - here,
Megabits takes a break from hiding behind the sofa to look at five upcoming titles guaranteed to scare the living daylights out of you...

SAW II: Flesh & Blood (Konami)
Return to Jigsaw's screwed-up world and get to grips with new gruesome puzzles and challenges. The sequel takes place at a time between the second and third movies, with you taking the role of Detective Tapp’s estranged son Michael as he tries to unravel the reasons behind his father's untimely demise. Expect more of the same blood and gore from the original.

Deadly Premonition (Rising Star Games)
Although yet to be released in Europe (although it's due out before Halloween!), other regions have already experienced this survival horror. Now here's a game that's split the gaming world - even in the publicity material, the managing director of Rising Star Games, Martin Defries, points to its the contradictory review scores... Destructoid gave it a whopping 10/10, whereas at the other end of the scale, it was awarded a paltry 2/10 by IGN. The one thing all reviews seem to agree on, however, is that it's one hell of a scary game!

Dead Space 2 (EA)
Start the New Year with a scare... Isaac Clarke makes a comeback, as do the Necromorphs. It promises the same great atmosphere of the original as well as all-important new weapons to help with the alien dismembering that helped to make the first game such a classic. Remember, in space no one can hear you scream!

F.E.A.R 3 (Warner Bros)
Alma's back. Or at least, she will be next year. The scary shooter is going to be beefed up in the horror stakes thanks to input from legendary direct John Carpenter (he was behind the classic movies Halloween, The Thing and the awesome Vampires). Not only that but script writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) is also on hand to add a few shocks.

Silent Hill 8 (Konami)
It's still a working title and there's very little actually confirmed about the return of the horror series - but one thing's for sure, it's going to provide the usual thrills and spills fans have come to know and love. According to the press release back in June, the game follows prison inmate Murphy Pendleton who is stranded in silent hill after his transport vehicle careers off the road... what a place to be stranded, eh?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Music for the 8-bit generation-The Icarus Kid

Ah, the 1980s - a decade epitomised by synthesiser music and 8-bit gaming! Happy times.

Megabits is pleased to say that it has been able to
once again experience both these fantastic creations thanks to the intriguingly-named Icarus Kid, who has recently launched his self-titled new album.

Dan Crowdus is the man behind the keyboard and the shades - and his new album manages to perfectly combine those much-missed electronic beats with the classic sounds of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) - the great grandaddy of consoles.

And this being the 25th anniversary of the NES, we thought that Dan's new album was definitely worthy of a mention.

The chunky grey games console sold by the bucketload following its release in 1985 and spawned cult titles such as Super Mario Bros, Metroid and Zelda - all of which make an appearance on Dan's album.

It all makes for some pretty decent listening; the tempo is ubeat and cheery - bringing back many happy memories from that golden era of gaming.
A raft of old favourites are sampled such as Duck Hunt, Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, Metroid and Bubble Bobble. Personal favourites include Albatross (featuring the sounds of Super Mario Bros 2 and Defender II) and the aptly-named Hammer, which includes music from Wrecking Crew - a 1985 classic (have a listen).

Visit the official site and buy the album after the jump - or visit Dan's page on Facebook.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Hall of Shame - bad taste gaming

Controversy is nothing new to the world of gaming so the furore over the release of EA's Medal of Honor should really come as no surprise. The revived franchise echoes Infinity Ward's move a few years back to transport its Call of Duty series to more modern times.

But by adding that modern day twist, and setting it in Afghanistan where soldiers are still fighting in real life, EA kicked up a (desert) storm. Not only that but providing players with the ability to take on the role of the Taliban also fuelled the flames - so much so that EA even backtracked a little

Not for the first time in the world of gaming, politicians waded into the argument too. In August, the British Defence Secretary stole the headlines by labelling the first person shooter "disgusting" and calling for an outright ban. As others jumped onto the bandwagon, EA issued a response to defend the game.

Megabits of Gaming decided to take some of the heat off the release and revisit some of the most controversial moments in gaming over the years (read more about each game in the PDF file below - thanks to Wikipedia):

Manhunt (2003) - Rockstar may release some fantastic games but they've also courted a fair amount of controversy over the years. Not only was Manhunt banned in many countries but back in 2004, the ultra-violent game was
pulled from the shelves after it was blamed for influencing a real-life murder. It's 2007 sequel didn't fare much better with the media...

Bully (2006) - Rockstar's school simulator not only proved controversial because it allowed you to torment fellow students but a gay kiss got the tabloids a little hot under the collar.

Grand Theft Auto (1997) - Ah, the most controversial gaming series of all time. According to Guinness World Records, there have been more than 4,000 articles written about the games - criticizing them for glamoring violence and generally being a bit of a bad influence. Well, remember the first GTA, with its birds' eye view, chunky graphics and... the chanting Hare Krishnas you could mow down? The latter helped it get into the papers for all the wrong reasons.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004) - The infamous Hot Coffee minigame certainly didn't help to dispel the illusion that games set a bad example... but watching your character get down to it with a pixellated honey is among the most memorable moments of the GTA series. The controversy saw it pulled from shelves in some cases and re-rated.

Grand Theft Auto IV (2008/DLC 2009) – Yet another entry for Rockstar - this time it's the full frontal male nudity that reared its ugly head(!) in the downloadable content, The Lost and Damned. The self righteous in the media found it all too much to swallow.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009) - Two words... No Russian. Yeah it was a skippable mission if you couldn't stomach it, but many wonder why a level where you wander through an airport gunning down innocent civilians made it into the game in the first place.

Mortal Kombat (1992) – Back in the day, people were sensitive about the daftest things. Mortal Kombat, the beat em up that featured digitized characters and all manner of gruesome fatality moves - including animations of decapitation - was criticized for having too much blood. As a result, the Megadrive/Genesis version needed a secret code to unlock all the gore, whereas the SNES replaced the red stuff that flew off the fighters' bodies with sweat. Spoilsports. What's more, it caused such a stink that it helped to get all those age restrictions placed on our games boxes.

Postal (1997) - Named after the post office massacres in the US back in 1986, the game understandably raised a few eyebrows. After finding out your house is repossessed, you take on the role of a homicidal maniac and gun down as many people as you can. The pinnacle of bad taste gaming? Many thought so - it was banned and blacklisted by many countries.

Resistance Fall of Man (2006) – Sony's landmark shooter on the PS3 may have looked the business and brought some much-needed FPS action to the console but it was criticized by the Church of England for featuring Manchester Cathedral without permission.

LittleBigPlanet (2008)
– Cute, cuddly and highly acclaimed... but in these times of heightened anxiety regarding religion, it wasn't a great move to ship a game that included music featuring passages from the Koran... To avoid offense to Muslims, Sony opted to recall copies, delaying its much-anticipated launch.

Carmageddon (1997) - A racing game where you win by finishing first or running down everyone that moves was bound to court controversy... violent, bloody and a much-loved classic.

Custer’s Revenge (1982) - A sexually-explicit video game? On the Atari 2600? In 1982? No, really. Custer's Revenge has gone down in the annals (oo er) of history as having completely distasteful content. Not only did the titular Custer wander round naked showing off his manhood, but there was huge controversy over the raping of a Native American woman tied to a pole. Not one of gaming's finest hours.

Bioshock (2007) – Choosing to save or "harvest" the little sisters
didn't go down too well with some, who suggested that choosing to kill young girls was rather tasteless. Nevertheless, despite its debatable morality, it remains one of the best games of recent years.

Six days in Fallujah (TBA) - This third person shooter is a little too close to the bone with its current day setting recreating real-life events. It's not yet seen the light of day but has already been the subject of scathing criticism. As the name suggests, it follows a squad of marines over the course of six days in war torn Iraq. The subject matter is still a little too raw for some.

Left 4 Dead 2 (2009)
– Thousands of zombies, lots of carnage, shooting, blood... all selling points if you ask your average gamer. Live in Australia though and you're unlikely to ever see any of it. The government said the game displayed excess violence, and it was
refused classification. Sadly, many antipodeans are now missing out on one of the best multiplayer games - and one of the best intro movies EVER!

Resident Evil 5 (2009) – I know what you're thinking but unlike Left 4 Dead 2, it wasn't the killing of helpless zombies that rubbed many up the wrong way. Nope, racism was the culprit on this occasion. It all stemmed from the E3 trailer, which included the white protagonist shooting the undead - most of whom appeared to be black.

Hooligans: Storm over Europe (2002) - “The only thing to fear is running out of beer” – the strapline on the box set the scene for this PC-based football hooligan sim, where you were tasked with becoming the most notorious gang on the continent. Drugs, booze, violence, looting… the game had plenty to rile politicians and the media who called for it to be banned.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Screenshots: EA Sports MMA

Megabits loves its mixed martial arts and can't wait to get to grips with the latest offering from EA. Hitting US stores today and elsewhere later this week, EA Sports MMA lets you punch, kick and grapple your way to victory through the extensive career mode or take on all comers from around the world with the online multiplayer.

The game includes a huge roster of fighters - including Fedor Emelianenko, Randy Couture, Frank Shamrock and Dan Henderson, all with their own unique styles and abilities. When you’re done pummelling them, you can create and customise your own fighter too.

If you can't wait to experience the atmosphere, the tension, the blood, sweat, tears and especially the ring girls... here are a few screenshots until you get hold of your copy...

For more on the game, check out EA's official site after the jump.

Gamerscore world record: 500,000G

Our congratulations go out to Stallion83 - the man on a mission to reach one million gamerscore on the Xbox 360... He's only gone and broken the 500,000G barrier and gained the Guiness World Record for the highest gamerscore!

We've followed his efforts for some time now, ever since we embarked on our own gamerscore challenge a few months ago (relive our attempt after the jump).

Well done that man.
Follow his gaming escapades on his blog.

Monday, October 18, 2010

10 gaming gripes that grind my gears - Part 1

I love games. If I’m not playing them I’m writing about them, and if I’m not engaging in either of the former two, rest assured that some aspect of gaming will be playing on my mind. There’s undoubtedly a great deal of emotive feedback to be extracted from the playing experience; psychological responses such as elation, anxiety and fear, as well as physical, adrenaline induced reactions to on-screen scenarios. One inevitable aspect of gaming I’m sure we can all relate to, no matter how fervently we engage in our passion is that of frustration.

Some of us deal with game related irritation more effectively than others; the latter may well be reduced to pad smashing fits of rage whilst the former will calmly power down the console and collect themselves. The manner in how we deal with videogame vexation could arguably be subjective to each player’s individual personality, but let’s face it, sometimes the developers themselves would appear to be pretty unremorseful in toying with our psychological wellbeing. OK, so I’m exaggerating a little there, but let’s take a look at some gaming gripes (both relatively minor and major) that could well be the catalyst for some serious gritting of teeth and uncontrollable fuse blowing…

Respawning enemies - Leaping out of invisible portals, this is digital reincarnation exemplified. Hordes of never ending, generic clones, each one baying for blood and backed up by a factory line of cohorts. Yep, the respawning enemy, whom depending on the circumstance can be intensely irritating and detrimental to progress and enjoyment. Overwhelming waves of foes stand between you and your objective, with the doom laden sense of hopelessness washing over you with each one you kill - “there’s more where that came from“. Sometimes it just feels plain unfair going up against seemingly insurmountable odds, where tightly honed skills and unrivalled patience are your only allies and your key to victory.

Call Of Duty World at War; playing on veteran, the experience at best is unforgiving and at worst almost suicide inducing. One level that many players still have nightmares over is the relentlessly punishing ‘Heart of the Reich’. Four flak cannons, one checkpoint and an army of ruthlessly accurate, grenade spamming respawners. I’ve been informed that after the third cannon they actually stop respawning, but I’ll hold my hands up; this section drove me so mad that I had to rage quit for fear of introducing my 360 to the window. It wouldn’t have been so painful had the enemies
not respawned, but every time a square inch of terrain was covered the grenades rained down and I was forced back by the unyielding tide. Criticize my gaming skills if you will, but I admitted defeat at the hands of respawning Nazis.

Harshly placed checkpoints - D.H Lawrence once said “But better die than live mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions”. Ok so I just looked that up on Google, but its relevance outweighs my inability to pluck meaningful quotes out of thin air. There are obviously some exceptions in life, but on the whole, repetition tends to lean towards the undesirable. In the case of videogames, unless we’re awestruck by some masterpiece of design or bowled over by aesthetic beauty, repeating the same section over and over again becomes very tiresome, very quickly. Admittedly this is most likely to occur on harder difficulty settings, so in that sense such circumstances can be avoided, but sometimes the space between those tension relieving checkpoints is unnecessarily harsh. Play, die, repeat is a cycle that causes sweaty palms to collide with exasperated foreheads.

To be fair however, most games these days are pretty generous with checkpoints (not you Demon’s Souls - you’re one inexorable exception), so when an instance occurs where this is not the case, there’s a tendency to feel unjustly treated. Maybe that’s the point then - we gamers have too much of an easy ride these days. Let’s not forget that it wasn’t an age ago that once the lives had trickled down to zero and all your continues had slowly absconded, you simply had to get over it and start again. In the modern era however, I personally tend to submit to frustration a hell of a lot quicker than I did in my gaming youth. This means that the occasional instance of epic-trek checkpoint passing, particularly in an already abhorrent section of the game results in a severe grinding of the gears.

Fixed cameras - There’s a couple of things to establish here. Firstly, this a very minor and petty gripe on my behalf; it doesn’t really affect the game drastically in anyway, just an occasional and mild irritance. Secondly, games that have fixed cameras throughout their course (eg God Of War) are exempt from blame. It’s when your granted full control of the camera - 360 degree panoramic movement for the majority of playing time, and then all of a sudden for some inexplicable reason it becomes rooted the spot. It could be argued that the developers do this for specific cinematic effect; to take in a sweeping vista or engage you with a point of particular poignancy for example, yet often this isn’t the case.

Recently, in Enslaved, the curse of the stubborn camera reared its ugly head on more than one occasion. 95% of the time you're free to manoeuvre the camera at will in conjunction with Monkey’s athletic prowess, then occasionally, out of the blue it’s suddenly glued to a piece of post apocalyptic masonry. As I mentioned, this can be done with good reason, and admittedly Enslaved does occasionally implement constrictive cameras to force the player to intake their surroundings. However, if I’m being made to stare at a piece of dilapidated wall or a rusty pipe when I’d rather get a decent view of some cunningly placed, out of reach orbs; it’s an avoidable displeasure that a continued use of free camera movement would have overcome. Petty, paltry and petulant, yet personally, still an occasionally raised complaint when playing third person games. Maybe I’ll get over it one day…

Defending the senseless - Artificial intelligence these days (on the whole) is vastly improved from previous generations. In that respect this gripe is slightly less relevant than once it was. I’ll initially draw on a particular example from back in the day to illustrate the point. Goldeneye 007; synonymous with words like ‘classic’, ‘legendary’, as well as a host of other nostalgia fuelled labels of appraisal and rightly so.

As prestigious and indeed
important as Goldeneye was, the AI of the time left a lot to be desired, not just of enemies but of allies also. One particular mission late on; ‘Control’ I seem to recall, you were tasked with protecting Natalya throughout. The only catch in this reasonably simple sounding premise was that Natalya happened to be burdened with the intellectual capacity of a tadpole. Especially on the harder difficulty settings she’d dance happily into a volley of gunfire like a particularly stupid moth to an intensely hot flame. Of course her imbecilic actions often resulted in your premature downfall as she disregarded all dangers around her in favor of an early grave. We’ll let Natalya off because of Goldeneye’s historical context within videogames, but at the time, her harebrained attitude to life was enough to make the blood boil.

A more relevant example of such instances of allied intellectual shortcomings would be in Resident Evil 5. OK, so to experience RE5 at its most prolific you really need to be partnered by another human rather than accompanying a computer controlled Sheva. But, for those of us whom for whatever reason (none of our friends had RE5, none of our friends are gamers or we just had no friends) were lumbered with our incompetent AI ally, were subjected to a rather torrid time. Stealing vital health sprays and ammo, running headlong into chainsaw wielding maniacs or using the aforementioned health sprays on you after suffering a small scratch, were all factors that made Sheva more of a burden than a reliable compadre. The real issue here is having to deal with situations that to an extent are out of the players hands, and as such are unfair to be asked to contend with. The whole experience of RE5 was soured for me by Sheva’s cumbersome AI. Fair enough the title is geared towards two player co-op, but that doesn’t mean the single player element should suffer as result; rendering your partner a hindrance rather than a co-operative helping hand. Very irritating indeed.

TERRIBLE voice acting - My first real introduction to shocking voice acting in games was the original Resident Evil (apologies for the over abundance of Resident Evil related examples). Jill, Chris, Barry and Co. were so wooden you sometimes wondered if you were wandering around a zombie infested lumber mill instead of a remote mansion. In fact though, the dreadful B-Movie voice ‘talent’ was in a strange way rather endearing; the eternal words “Whoa - you were almost a Jill sandwich!” will be forever etched in gaming folklore.

Sometimes however, there’s a very fine line between humoring horrendous acting and been driven to distraction by it. With bigger budgets in the modern era, companies can afford to hire somewhat more of a stellar cast than was previously possible. Games like Uncharted 2, Enslaved and for the most part Red Dead Redemption provide some pretty solid performances from their main protagonists. Perhaps as a result, this shift in trend highlights the lacklustre acting exemplifications in gaming more than ever before. I was adamantly against the shift from text boxes to voice acting in Final Fantasy X. If anything, I found the game less immersive and in a sense less ‘charming’ than previous FF incarnations due to the obnoxious voice-overs. Final Fantasy XIII (I’ll admit I never played 11 or 12 - shame on me) had a particularly irritating line up of actors for the English translation. Vanille’s relentlessly chirpy and high pitched vocal tones remorselessly grated rather than captivated; the mute button often offering an all too tempting release from the irritation.

Some games rather than have terrible acting so to speak just have their protagonists conform to monotonous stereotypes. The husky, gravelly tones of the all round ‘ass-kicking’ Gears Of War heroes doesn’t necessarily detract from a game that is far more effective at dealing with massive guns and explosions than an emotive narrative. However, Gears 2 fell into the pitfall of attempting to use the latter to powerful effect. Call me heartless, but I’d wager that the majority of gamers were not too concerned with poor Dom losing his wife, but rather were more focused on getting back to slaughtering the Locust horde. I feel the characters of Gears are more or less irrelevant. I’m not connected to Dom’s plight in anyway because he’s just a generic Locust killing machine. As I said, the acting of the Gears cast is by no means rubbish; but personally I’m not buying into the sob story aspect as these characters are simply ineffective tools which to try and pull off ‘emotional’ story telling.

Anyhow, enough griping for now as I’m starting to sound like a bitter and twisted old man who hates everything about games, which I assure you is far from the case.

Part 2 to follow...