Capcom's survival horror series makes a return - but without the survival horror!
DayZ, a mod for Arma 2, is unlike any other horror game that came before
Megabits of Gaming takes a look at five of its favourite gaming characters who have bad or slightly seedy habits.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Bored of the drab old graphics? Fancy something a bit more colourful and upbeat? Then what about taking on the role of Bart and fragging the locals in Springfield... Quake III gets a Simpsons overhaul. Fantastic.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Kinect kit unleashed
The success of Kinect and the impressive number of hacks that have already emerged has seen Microsoft announce the release of a software development tool. The BBC says this will allow developers to tap into the hardware and take the technology beyond gaming.
Gears of War 3 release date revealed
The next installment of Gears of War is due to hit our screens on 20 September! Besides the campaign, there will be a four-player co-op mode and five on five multiplayer. Guardian.co.uk adds: "Developer Epic Games is also adding a new Beast mode, in which you control the Locust Hordes as they attack a human outpost – an inversion of the series' excellent Horde mode."
Command & Conquer to return?
Rock, Paper, Shotgun has revealed that EA is planning a reboot of its Command & Conquer series. Looks like the new game is destined for the PC.
Child Of Eden videos emerge
CVG has shown off five gameplay videos of upcoming Kinect title Child Of Eden from Tetsuya Mizuguchi who was behind the classic Rez. Lots of shooting, plenty of colourful explosions and thumping music suggest this is going to be great a great addition for the motion controller.
New gaming TV channel coming soon
Are you a UK gamer who misses the days of TV video game shows like GamesMaster and Bad Influence? Well, MCV says fear not - a new games channel is launching in March!
The general consensus from opposing parties is that as the events depicted in each game are either very recent (in Six Days’ case the US/Iraqi/British offensive of Fallujah in late 2004) or currently in progress, and as such are inappropriate material for videogames to depict. Countless films have been made chronicling the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, none of which to my knowledge have sparked the degree of controversy as the two games in question. Again, this raises questions about the perception of videogames having not reached a status of acceptability (or perceived maturity) on par with other forms of media. Whilst films on the subject are generally viewed as portraying a raw depiction of the conflict, videogames on the other hand, are accused of glorifying it.
However, openly basing your game on recent or on-going real world conflicts remains highly contentious, as well as potentially dangerous for publishers and developers who don’t have the power and stability to counter a media/public backlash.
Another problem - especially with Kinect - is that the hardcore, and thus the more violent games, have such a vast array of actions that it would be incredibly difficult for motion controls to fully cover their spectrum of movement (check out Bojeeva’s article on the FPS genre in that respect). Violent actions or not, could a GTA game be fully integrated into a motion control scheme? It’s doubtful.
Our games consoles have evolved. No longer content with spending their existence performing the task we all bought them for - running our video games - they wanted more.
They craved our undivided attention, want to watch a movie? 'I'll do that!' bit of music? 'Me me me!!' Our console can now perform the tasks of a variety of devices all on it's own. It's become the 'Daddy' of the entertainment centre and it's managed it without resorting to violence.
Not so long ago this new found desire to give us gamers more landed on our dashboards. In came MSN Messenger, LastFM, Facebook, Twitter, Zune Videos, Zune Music and Sky Player, gatecrashing our gaming lives and turning our heads with their promises of an even more fulfilling console experience. I'll openly admit as someone that has regularly used most of these dashboard newcomers away from my console, I was excited... That excitement was soon replaced by my old friend disappointment.
But how could I be disappointed with these attempts to transform my beige console into something altogether more colourful? Well, here's the problem. With the exception of Sky Player all these new apps are far superior on the old PC. Facebook & Twitter look like Lite versions of their bigger PC brothers , LastFM is choked by any real lack of scope on console and I stopped signing into Messenger after around a week of frustrating controller typed conversations.
'Take 5 seconds saying what you want on laptop?'
'Now you can take 5 minutes misspelling it on console.'
I had high hopes for this new chapter in the book of gaming, truth be known I still do, it's just that so far I've been left cold. If a console wants to dominate my spare time with activities other than feeding my passion for video games it needs a new angle, something fresh, something that isn't an infinitely more fulfilling experience on a PC, in fact something that has never been seen on monitor before.
What feature could herald this new dawn in console interactivity? I'll be damned if I know, I'm just a writer trying to put some form to the ramblings in my head, but until the light bulb sparks in the think tank at Microsoft and delivers I think I'll stick to using my games machine to do the unthinkable.....and just play games.
(Photo credits: Xbox.com)
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
So what do you get for your money? Robots. Big, bad-ass robots. The biggest bad guys since Lost Planet 2. And guns, lots of guns. And explosions. Oh, and a plot that’s as daft as it gets.
Population growth has gone haywire and the planet is bursting at the seams with the population now in excess of 10bn. Resources are dwindling. The canny US government thus decided to enter the final frontier and set up some funky solar-harvesting space station in the stratosphere. Unfortunately, the Russian government is overthrown and replaced by an extremist group ominously called the Order of the Russian Star - which is intent of taking some of that solar goodness for itself. Cue an attack on aforementioned space station, the launch of devastating energy waves that raze parts of the US to the ground and the dawn of yet another war between the old enemies.
Clearly, the US government isn't going to take this lying down and responds to the threat by sending hardened war veteran, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Burns (no, not Scotland's favourite son!), and his crack team of marines skyward to go and sort things out. But they're not alone - oh, no, they've got lovable rogue and our overall good guy Sam Gideon along for the ride. And he’s wearing a funky robot suit.
Sam isn't your typical former-American football player turned hero, Sam's a chain-smoking researcher from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) - and he doesn't like Russians. In fact, he likes nothing better than to don his rather high tech armour suit (or Augmented Reaction Suit - ARS) and dive, boost and blast his way through their ranks without a care in the world. As you may have gathered, he’s got a pretty great “ARS”; the integrated jet packs allowing him to scoot about the place at speed for a limited time, while the suit is also capable of scanning nearby firearms and morphing into them to give Sam huge amounts of firepower. As an aside to despatching those pesky Russian Star guys, Sam also has to rescue missing scientist Professor Candide - helped by the short skirt-wearing Elena.
And so the scene is set. It’s not surprising that the story is pretty woolly – or that the stars of the game are caricatures. Afterall, Platinum Games’ deal with Sony has already brought us the likes of Bayonetta and MadWorld – so these guys have got form.
But ignore the stupidity and the machismo and you’ll discover an amazing title that takes the benchmark set by the acclaimed Gears of War and racks it up a notch.
The ARS is a device that’s used very well by the developers; not only does the shiny utility suit help you dart about the place to avoid incoming fire or duck into cover, it also acts as a last gasp shield – providing a brief period of protection should you receive too much damage. This sees the action slow to Matrix-style bullet time, allowing you to take evasive action and recuperate.
Graphically, it’s all very impressive. The environments are colourful and sprawling, and don’t degrade when a lot is happening onscreen or when using your super-fast jet packs. Aurally, it’s equally strong – with decent voice acting and suitably raspy weapon sounds.
The AI is decent too and the range of enemies offers plenty of variety, requiring players to adjust their tactics, fighting style and weapons accordingly. Besides the red footsoldier robots that succumb easily to a well-placed headshot and the smaller ball-like machines that roll about and then pound you with gun fire, there are plenty of tougher adversaries too. Not so long after starting your quest you’ll face the massive Argus robot – a four-legged beasty that soaks up your gunfire before transforming into its taller two-legged guise. It’s an absolute behemoth but seeing it explode after numerous attempts proves hugely rewarding and drives you on.
As you may have gathered, this game is a firm favourite – it is, however, woefully short, coming in at around 7-8 hours even on the hardest setting; those among you who opt for Casual difficulty will complete the game in half that. However, I doubt whether there’s much of a replayability factor beyond the separate challenge missions and mopping up any left over achievements. One of these is awarded for making it through the game without dying once – an achievement that may prove elusive to this reviewer seeing as I died a staggering 74 times on the first level alone (your kills, deaths and mission time is shown at the end of each mission).
To maximise your enjoyment, we’d definitely recommend tackling this on Hard the first time round – after an initially steep learning curve while learning your suit’s abilities, you’ll soon master the controls and be sliding and shooting with ease.
This is a fantastic title – and, even better, it’s now available in most stores for an absolute pittance. Highly recommended. Just can’t wait for a sequel!
Monday, February 21, 2011
If a recent playthough of Hudson Soft's dire Sports Island Freedom (AKA Deca Sports Freedom) is anything to go by, such lofty aspirations are nothing more than a distant pipedream. For the record, had we done a review of the game, it would have achieved our "Avoid It" rating!
To date, my experience with Kinect titles has been largely positive. Sure, there's been occasional lag or the camera failing to pick up movement but overall, I've been very impressed by the new technology. What's more, I've really enjoyed bounding about the place to play games as diverse as Dance Central, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Kinect Sports.
When Sports Island emerged I must confess I was quite excited by the prospect. Granted, it's been subject to plenty of mixed reviews but I was pleased to see a little bit more imagination over some of the other Kinect releases. This was a game that would introduce people to the delights of kendo, archery, figure skating and snowboarding - a game that could show off the scope of Kinect's capabilities, and appeal not only to casual players but the more dedicated among us. Alas, it wasn't to be. So much so that I couldn't even muster the enthusiasm to mop up the easy achievements for Megabits' ongoing Gamerscore Challenge!
The motion tracking was lame, the menus and control system were abysmal and the mini games proved to be absolutely no fun whatsoever - alone or when playing alongside another unfortunate soul. But one of the "events", in particular, highlighted that Kinect just isn't ready for the FPS genre - not by a long shot (or a headshot, for that matter)! This sad fact was best illustrated by the paintball minigame, which on paper sounds absolutely fantastic. A decent-sized arena, guns, two teams - a winning formula. Shame then that the controls are so convoluted and your actions somehow get lost by the time they're interpreted onscreen.
A small box is displayed showing the position of your feet and to move, you simply step/lean in the desired direction, raising your hand to shoot. It's simple. Sadly, it just doesn't work and I was soon urging the countdown timer to expire. I know it's early days but Kinect just doesn't seem compatible with the requirements of today's shooters. I seriously question if it ever will be. Here are a few very good reasons why FPS games are not ready to get an outing on Kinect just yet:
As illustrated while "playing" paintball, it's nigh on impossible to stay within that infernal movement box. In all the excitement, too often you find yourself jumping this way and that, leaving the view of your little black camera - while your onscreen persona remains completely stationary and becomes cannon fodder for the opposing team. Kinect's biggest flaw remains its space limitations.
The very nature of a frenetic FPS such as Call of Duty is that you need to move and react quickly. You can't hang around when bullets are whizzing past your head or a frag grenade has landed at your feet. You need to be constantly on the move - which is pretty tricky when you've got to remember to stay inside that box (clearly, there's going to be a point where you'll run out of energy playing this through Kinect anyway). Then there's always going to be a certain degree of lag with Kinect too, meaning that your movements won't always translate into the actions you'd expect - hugely frustrating for a shooter!
No freakin' buttons
Without buttons, how do you fire or change your weapon? Throwing grenades will be pretty easy but how could I signal that I want to change my pistol for a FAMAS. How do I zoom my sniper rifle or reload? Sure, you could raise your arm, extend your fingers (if Kinect could detect them) to form like a faux gun and shout "bang, bang" to the microphone but that doesn't really make you look very cool and frankly, makes the serious issue of killing bad guys a bit of a joke. If only one weapon were available, perhaps this wouldn't be an issue... but the armoury in Black Ops was huge.
Go prone - WTH!?
Need to stay out of sight from that sniper up ahead. Want to go prone or crouch? Really? Games such as EA Sports Active 2 have, at least, proven that Kinect can detect you on the floor but it's hugely impractical to dive for cover or stay crouching for sustained periods, isn't it? What's more, Sport Active 2 also proved that floorwork doesn't produce the most accurate results. Whether Kinect could detect you accurately if it were mounted atop the television, on the wall behind or beneath the screen may mean varied results too.
Friday, February 18, 2011
As long term gamers, the vast majority of us can vouch for our own mental stability despite playing violent titles for many years. We haven’t been moulded into homicidal maniacs no matter how ardently Jack Thompson claims that we have, and contrary to popular opinion in the right wing media (yes, you Fox News/The Daily Mail etc…), videogames are not responsible for all of the world’s ills. However, with regards to the manner that Thompson, Carol Lieberman et al blindly rush to scapegoat games for society’s downfall, it’s important for us to avoid sweeping generalisations and adopting an equally stubborn stance on the subject.
OXM keeps quiet on secret game
Official Xbox Magazine has been forced to delay revealing the name of the secret title that's making a big comeback on the console. Readers had been teased in the latest issue that they would find out next month about “one of the best games ever made” being “reborn” on the console. MCV says speculation is rife over what the game is - but fan favourite Syndicate is rumoured.
Plenty of life in the PS3 yet...no PS4 for a while
Sony is not, repeat not, even thinking about developing its next PlayStation console... at least not yet. According to Kotaku, the PS4 is very much on the backburner as the company still believes its current flagship machine has plenty of life in it yet.
And the nominees are... BAFTA reveals all
It's only a few weeks until the BAFTA Video Games Awards and the nominations have been announced. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is up for seven awards, Call of Duty: Black Ops and Heavy Rain have six apiece. Mass Effect 2 comes in just behind with five!
Dead Space 2 sales strong... but is another on the way?
It's not long been released, but there are already suggestions that Dead Space 2 won't be the final outing for Isaac! CVG says that EA CEO John Riccitiello commented this week that sales in the series would "start to explode with the arrivial of Dead Space 3"... The second game in the series has already seen double the sales of the original.
Dead Island announcement causes a stir
There aren't enough games featuring zombies, are there? So it's great to see the announcement of Dead Island from Deep Silver. The trailer has already caused some controversy says Guardian.co.uk. There will be bucketloads of gore, says Gamingbolt, as "hordes of different festering zombies await players around every corner while they embark on a variety of thrilling missions through the holiday resort". A FPS combined with RPG elements... and zombies? Bring it on!
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Today, this story has also been covered by Kotaku - ‘Is Apple A Little Upset With Capcom?’ - and POCKET GAMER.biz - ‘Apple calls in Capcom over Smurfs' Village IAP controversy’.
The articles highlight the need for Apple to tighten its iTunes log in, as the current 15 minutes default isn’t short enough, and is allowing a number of children to unknowingly notch up a list of purchases while playing the free app. I know from my own experience just how risky this can be!!!
Here at Megabits we can fully understand the need to hone in on the current iTunes log in. However, does this open up a wider issue of how old a child should be to be to be allowed to play on an iTunes app – or any game for that matter? The old debate over age restrictions raises it’s ugly head once again…
(Photo credit: Vik Nanda)
Monday, February 14, 2011
It's perhaps no surprise that some of the best-selling titles today are shooters - and with the increased emphasis on online play, there's never been a better time to turn your attention to the genre.
Afterall, after a hard day's work, what better way to unwind than to grab your plasma rifle and get a few headshots before bed?
Friday, February 11, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Each month, Megabits takes a look at a new release in a gaming franchise and considers how its evolved over the years and what makes it great!
Here’s the latest of the articles from the February 2011 issue. For more about the magazine, check out its Facebook page after the jump.
Stealthily climbing up the Christmas sales charts; Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was a surprise contender to sneak into the coveted number one spot. Had it not been for the perennially-successful FIFA series or the ridiculously popular Call of Duty: Black Ops, our parkour-loving protagonist may well have triumphed.
Described by many as Assassin’s Creed 2.5, the third game in the series since 2007 is a shining example of what happens when developers actually listen to the consumer. The feedback after the much-hyped launch of the first in the series was mixed to say the least.
Adopting the role of master assassin Altair during the Third Crusade in 1191 AD, we were promised an exciting new free-roaming world that would combine the coolest elements from classic titles such as Thief: The Dark Project (1998), Hitman: Codename 47 (2000) and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003). Its environments were unique; any building or mountain could be scaled, any obstacle overcome (except water, which caused our hero to drown even when it barely covered his boots)… However, for some reason it just wasn’t that much fun.
The premise ticked all the right boxes: a memory-based time traveling storyline, a free-running hero, unrivalled graphics and, most importantly, the ability to assassinate targets in a variety of gruesome ways.
Sadly, there was very little substance to the game and you’d find yourself roaming about aimlessly between each repetitive mission. At first this wasn’t too bad as you soaked up the atmosphere of 12th century Jerusalem but the appeal quickly wore a little thin.
Few would have expected the subsequent games to be any better, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. The sequel once again put you in control of a robed killer, just as happy to scale a tall building as to leap from the top. This time round, however, your playground was 15th century Italy and your missions were seen through the eyes of Ezio, a decent sort who had to quickly learn the art of stealth and assassination following the brutal murder of his father and brothers. By honing your skills as you progressed through the missions, you learned how best to dispatch your enemies and retrieve those all important treasures and trinkets.
Forgive the slightly convoluted story and you would quickly become engrossed by the new environments of Florence, Tuscany and Venice - vast, living, breathing cities. Besides the actual gameplay, the cut scenes and voice acting were a marked improvement on the original too.
The fighting elements had also been much improved and somehow, the multitude of button presses and combinations required to get Ezio about the place didn’t seem half as complicated as during Altair’s outing.
So to Brotherhood, and the story picks up where Assassin’s Creed II ended - our suave protagonist Ezio making a welcome return, funky cape and hidden knives included. This time it’s off to the city of Roma - offering plenty of new towers to climb and loads of lovely vistas to gawp at.
Granted, it’s more of the same, but every element of the title is an improvement on its predecessors. Ezio can now call upon his titular “Brotherhood” to help out too, recruiting and dispatching fellow assassins to get some assistance should he find himself in trouble.
As a final nail in Altair’s coffin, the new online multiplayer options add a whole new dimension – you joining likeminded killers in a race to track down your prey before meeting your own untimely demise. Inspired.
Few games manage to evolve as quickly and effectively as the Assassin’s Creed series – particularly bearing in mind that this all taken place in a single console generation. Ubisoft has achieved something exceptional with its relatively nascent IP; if nothing else, it has proved that the customer IS always right.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Gaming is arguably one of the fastest moving markets in the world - with millions of us likeminded addicts sitting at home each day fragging, strafing and pwning. Who would have thought that just a few decades ago this was all completely unfathomable and people had to do things like read or go out with friends? Pah.
Check out this homage to the history of gaming - cleverly put together by a group of German design students. Clearly, there are a few omissions but it still provides a good idea of how quickly our favourite past time has evolved...
Monday, February 07, 2011
From the voice control to the Tom Cruise-like waving of arms to navigate the menus, using it rather than a conventional controller still feels a little alien and takes some getting used to - but you can't help but be impressed by the technology. Having waded through some of the launch titles - with a day or two of recovery between plays because of tired and achy limbs - I've been largely impressed with the initial efforts. Granted, there's plenty of rubbish out there too - the so-called shovelware that Nintendo's Wii is notorious for - but the support is certainly there to prevent Kinect becoming an expensive flop.
Looking ahead, there are some exciting prospects in the pipeline and Kinect's lineup is fairly promising - particularly horror game Rise of Nightmares and the psychedelic awesomeness that is Child of Eden. But Megabits has also had a bit of a brainstorm and come up with some classic titles that deserve a reboot - and, most importantly, would be perfectly suited to this motion control phenomenon...
Black & White - Not for the first time, Peter Molyneux and Lionhead promised great things with the release of the original Black & White in 2001 and with its sequel four years later. Unfortunately, despite the great concept, it never really lived up to expectations. Who wouldn't want to become a God, care for a population and manipulate a giant beast to ward off attackers? Complicated mouse gestures were required to master each of these skills - so wouldn't motion control be a great alternative? Apparently, a wired glove peripheral could be used with some patches of the game rather than a mouse... but wired addons are now so last decade.
Tetris - Ah, the puzzle game with the catchy/annoying (*delete as appropriate) Russian tunes that made Nintendo's GameBoy the must have gadget of 1989. Wouldn't a simple arm movement or hand waft picked up by Kinect be the perfect way of conrolling the plummeting blocks? Want to speed things up, then gesture downwards and make them fall more quickly. Only downside - given the game's addictiveness - it that a lengthy session could cause severe muscle ache for the following few days. Still, it would be worth it, right?
Dune II - Before Command & Conquer, there was Dune II - and it's well overdue a comeback! The 1992 rendition of David Lynch's movie/Frank Herbert's novel, this was among the first real time strategy games and is still held in high regard by fans of the genre. Choose a faction - Ordos, Atreides and Harkonnen (the latter was, by far, my favourite - maybe it was their evil red colouring?) - build a base, harvest spice and see off your enemies. Wouldn't it be great to become commander of your forces through motion control provided by Kinect? It would certainly help make you feel much more powerful and important than you used to when gripping your sweaty mouse after an extensive gaming session. Just watch out for the sandworms!
Lemmings - I think I read that this is one of, if not the, most ported game of all time - making an appearance on nearly every home computer and console imaginable. So what harm could one more outing be? If you remember the classic puzzler, you didn't actually control the little green haired fellas but you determined their fate. Couldn't you see gamers selecting certain critters and performing various moves to get them to block, float and build their way out of trouble? Alternatively, if things go badly wrong, just slam your hands on your head and shake your booty to make them all explode!
Arkanoid - the simple paddle game from the eighties would be a great addition to everyone's collection. The concept is proven in motion control thanks to all those tennis and table tennis mini games already available (see Kinect Sports!) but throw in guns, growing paddles, multiballs and even a two player co-op option and this could be a hit?
Cannon Fodder - Besides Sensible World of Soccer, this remains one of Sensible Software's greatest ever releases and I maintain it would be great to see it on current gen consoles using gesticulation rather than mouse control. Form a whole new bond with your elite squad of big-headed squaddies as you lob grenades by flinging your arms about and motion to your armies... War has never been so much fun.
Road Rash - Stop chortling at this suggestion and think for a moment... Classic biking game Road Rash would be perfect for Kinect. You could pull up a chair and movement could be controlled simply by leaning into each bend. Tilting forward to see you accelerate, and back could perfom a wheelie, for example, or reign in your speed? And when you get close enough to a rival, a quick punching movement or shove could send them to the tarmac. There had been rumours that Road Rash was going to make a well-deserved comeback... Kinect could be the perfect vehicle for this racing classic.
The Movies - yet another Lionhead game makes this list... The Movies was the 2005 brainchild of Molyneux, putting you in charge of a new film studio and giving you the power to make those key decisions that determined whether a script would turn into a Hollywood blockbuster. Not only would the ability to control scenes using Kinect be rather cool - but the potential of casting your friends' avatars and sharing your completed movies over Xbox Live would be fantastic.
Parappa the Rapper - Kick! Punch! It's all in the mind... okay, okay, I know this is a Sony game so the liklihood of it being ported to Microsoft's funky new hardware is fairly slim but wouldn't it be fantastic? Even in Kinect's short life so far, there have been a heap of rhythm dance games released of varying quality. Bringing one of the original games of the genre back to life would be perfect for motion control; the button combos replaced by sweeping arm movements and sudden kicks.
Populous - One of my favourite God games of all time despite it being one of the first, Populous kept me glued to the screen for hours. The sounds of a heartbeat heightened the atmosphere, while the awe-inspiring ability to raise and lower the ground, build and improve settlements and create powerful knights to raise merry hell kept that atmosphere tense. I imagine the simple controls could be easily transferred to Kinect - drawing your arm higher could create a mountain or pointing to an area could send your minions off to war. And don't even get me started on bringing the classic Powermonger back... or Mega Lo Mania...