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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

30 Minute Playtest: Asura's Wrath

The concept of the 30 Minute Playtest, as you'd expect, is to provide our first impressions of a game. This time restriction means we cut to the chase and look at the important stuff like the controls, graphics, sound effects and plot. We try to determine whether there's enough to get you hooked based on the first half an hour of gameplay...

The problem with Capcom's latest epic yarn, Asura's Wrath, is that the first 30 minutes largely consists of an introductory movie outlining the plight of our hero, and a series of button-mashing Quick Time Event sections... not two of Megabits' favourite game mechanics, to be honest.

Strangely enough, however, we found Asura's Wrath to be rather good. It had certainly flown under our radar and until we inserted that shiny disc into our drive, we knew little about the titular demi-god. Asura sure is an interesting character... and boy, does he have some major anger issues!

Developed by Cyber Connect 2, the game fuses together Asian mythology and Sci Fi, boasts a unique graphical comic book style and is split into episodes like a TV series. It's all quite unique.

The opening scenes show our wild-haired protagonist returning triumphant from a fierce battle with the evil Gohma. He's a hero and everyone loves him... until the Emperor is found assassinated and Asura seems to be the culprit. Things go from bad to worse: his wife is murdered, daughter kidnapped and Asura finds himself banished from the realm. Fast forward 12,000 years and we're reintroduced to a VERY angry Asura, hellbent on revenge.

When you're not watching the lengthy cutscenes - which outline the story extrememly well and actually kept us engrossed - the game basically seems to be a bit of a hack and slash affair. There are different attacks, special moves and an anger meter that, when fill, allows you to unleash some devastating moves... it's all lovely to watch and good fun to play - feeling more than a little reminiscent of the God of War games.

So, first impressions of the gameplay - what there was of it - are positive. It's a great-looking game, with an intriguing plot, a great main character and some decent fighting elements. I do wonder whether the long cut scenes will irk after a while, and the fighting could get a little repetitive unless there's a bit more to it as the game progresses, but based on our playtest, there's enough here to make me want to play on.

Jet Set Radio Is Returning

Prepare to turn that dial to excited folks as SEGA has announced the return of cult classic Jet Set Radio. The roller-blading, graffiti spraying slice of gaming goodness that made it's original bow on Sega's ill-fated Dreamcast will be grinding on to Xbox LIVE Arcade and Playstation Network this summer.

In this shiny new HD version, DJ Professor, Beat, Gum and the rest of the GG's gang will be taking their skills to the futuristic Tokyo streets as players vie for control of the turf by graffiti tagging walls, billboards and rival gang members.

The original was one of the shining lights of the Dreamcast catalogue while the updated Jet Set Radio Future that made waves on Xbox continued the excellent arcade styling's and slick gameplay.

The plot sees players take on the role of the GG's leader, Beat, and taking arms (or cans of spray paint) against the overbearing, corporate controlled police force. Guided by Professor K, DJ for the hottest pirate broadcast in town – “Jet Set Radio” – the GGs will ultimately uncover the sinister plot hatched by the controlling powers.

Alongside the game announcement, SEGA has also revealed details of an upcoming contest for UK and US fans of the Jet Set Radio series. They will have to put their own artistic skills to the test by designing 18 pieces of in-game art that will eventually be seen by players worldwide. More on the competition after the jump.

Haruki Satomi, Senior Vice President of Digital Business at SEGA of America, said: "Every time we look at our favourite SEGA classics, the fans never fail to ask about Jet Set Radio. The game was unlike anything else when it first came out, and was one of the first games in history to use cel-shading. More importantly, Jet Set Radio is a game that celebrates self-expression, and we’re looking forward to seeing how gamers and artists come together to leave their mark on Tokyo-to.”

If Sega can re-capture the magic of the first Jet Set games then this will be a sure-fire hit and one of the best pieces of arcade-action to yet the arcade. You can quote me on that!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Achievements: Top 5 Games To Boost Your Score

It’s fair to say that we at Megabits are a bit sweet on achievements. You only have to check out our yearly battle to boost our Gamerscore to see how addicted we are to chasing points. But we’re not scorewhores-we won’t do it with any game just for the points. Look through our lists and you won’t find points from Avatar: The Last Airbender, or the Just Cause ambulance glitch. We want to earn points, and we want to earn them quickly, but we want to enjoy it while we do.

With that in mind, welcome to our list of the five best games for boosting your Gamerscore quickly and enjoyably. These aren’t necessarily the games that you’ll get 1000GS from, but they’re the games that give you a lot of points in a short space of time, games that are fun to play, and games that dish out a lot of points without demanding multiple playthroughs or lots of replays from save points. Our final caveat is that it mustn’t deform your natural gameplaying expectations-FPS games that dish out points for 200 melee kills, for example, need not apply.

1. Bioshock
It’s easy to list the reasons why Bioshock is a great game: the heavily customisable guns-and-powers combo combat, the awe inspiring environments, the richness of the world, and the sense that your story is simply a significant subplot in an epic story. Fore an achievement hunter, however, Bioshock is even better. There isn’t an ounce of fat on the game, so even a slow player can get through it around six hours, in which time you’ll pick up over 750 point. All you need to do is be thorough in your searches of each room, varied in the photos you take, and consistent in your actions-no harvesting little sisters one minute and saving them the next. Best of all, if you fancy a double hit, everything that we’ve said about Bioshock also applies to Bioshock 2, another game that will give you around 750 points from a single, speedy playthrough.

2. Fight Night Round 4
It’s fair to say that Fight Night 3 is perhaps the more generous game-simply completing it will give you the full 1000 GS-but Fight Night Round 4 is the more rewarding rewarder. You have to resign yourself straight away to the fact that the points on offer for beating online world champions need as much luck as skill, and can’t be relied upon, but beyond that Fight Night Round 4 has exactly the sort of achievements we like: generous scores for playing the game and polishing your skills. It doesn’t demand that you grind tedious tasks, or twist your gameplay into an unnatural shape. Win some quick fights, play through a successful career, and triumph in a few online matches and you’ll have picked up well over 840 points without noticing it.

3. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Slash-em-ups are often generous with their points. It’s a trope of the genre that you’ll learn lots of ways to kill villains, be given lots of villains to kill, and be awarded points for killing them in lots of ways. It’s a self-fulfilling system, and X-Men: Origins is a great example of it. Ok, at least half its chapters are repetitive, and the final boss fight is tougher than seems strictly fair, but these minor quibbles don’t diminish the enjoyably frantic hack and slash action that rains a constant stream of points upon you just for playing, whilst dishing out the odd bonus for wandering off to find the game’s hidden jokes (you can find Portal’s Cake, Lost’s Hatch and a sideways mention of World of Warcraft if you stray off the game’s beaten path). Yet again, you’ll pick up over 800 points in just a few hours.

4. Harms Way
There were a few driving games that competed for a spot on this list: the dumb but short Nail’d, the explosive and the enjoyable Split/Second Velocity both dish out several hundred points after one quick and easy playthrough, but for real value for money points scoring, it’s hard to beat Harms Way-an XBLA freeby that dishes out all of its 200 points in under ten minutes whilst providing a short lived but intense burst of rally-driving and target-shooting action.

5. Dead Space 2
Either of the two Dead Space games could have gone on the list, as a single playthrough of either should net you over 700 points. Dead Space makes more points easily available, but does demand that you jump through some tiresome hoops to get them, whereas Dead Space 2 awards points for carrying out actions that are an intrinsic part of the game. Like dismembering howling beasties whilst squeaking in terror and recoiling from the screen.

Monday, February 27, 2012

30 Minute Playtest: SSX

When we did a 30 Minute Playtest on Just Cause 2, it didn’t seem long enough. When we did one on Quantum Theory it seemed like far, far, far too long. With SSX it’s exactly the right amount of time to assess the game and come to a very neat conclusion: if you like arcade style action sports games in the Skate or Pure mold, then you’ll love this and want more. If you’re not a fan of that type of thing, then half an hour will be quite long enough.

The SSX series has always been popular with critics and, to a lesser extent, fans. The first three instalments raked in praise aplenty, but later versions tended to be greeted with benevolent indulgence rather than out and out praise, which is why the series has been quiet ever since 2007’s Wii edition. This latest version drops the catchy sub-titles and returns to the straightforward name of the first edition, and looks likely to recapture the plaudits as it reuses the name.

It’s a pretty simple concept: take the extreme sports staples of helicopter drops, skyboarding and snowboard racing, throw in stakes-raising avalanches to amp up the drama, then borrow some geographical data from NASA in order to realistically map genuine slopes from around the world.

The combination of real world environments with arcade style action sounds hugely exciting, but in practise you’ll barely notice the effort that’s gone into creating authentic runs for you and your plank, as the speed and exuberance of the tricked out racing tends to create tunnel vision in the player. You could be boarding down a Black Forest Gateaux and you probably wouldn’t notice.

The gameplay follows a common formula: tricks and rail grinds fill your stunt meter, which in turn allows you to go faster and pull off crazier stunts. The control system uses an intuitive system not dissimilar to that seen in Skate: left and right flicks of the left stick make you grab the left or right side of the board, up and down make you grab the front or back. Combinations of the two allow you to play something akin to snowboard Twister: left and up, for example, would make you grab the front of the board with your left hand. The left and right triggers are then used to modify the tricks with spins and leaps and the like.

These controls are put to use in races, free-roaming explorations and points competitions, all taking place in a set of very open environments, all accompanied by the sort vile audio bubblegum associated with extreme sports games (ok, we’ll admit that a couple of tracks are ok, but for the most part this is a game to play with the music volume turned down).

The controls are intuitive, the racing speedy, the drifts convincing and the near misses will have you sucking on your teeth like a nervous plumber. It offers pretty much everything you want from an arcade racer. I have to admit, it’s not entirely my cup of tea, but it’s a tightly assembled game that does everything fans of the genre will ask of it, so we’ll say play on.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review: Soul Calibur V

The newest Soul Calibur has been released and I have to say that it is a huge improvement over Soul Calibur IV in many ways. I've said before that I am only good with certain fighting game franchises nowadays and Soul Calibur was one listed. While I am really comfortable with the change in combat from the original Soul Blade to Soul Calibur V, I must say that this was version is pretty good.

For starters, the combat system is amazingly smooth. It wasn't as slow as Soul Calibur IV. While some veteran fighters were replaced with newer ones, their move sets can be devastating when you learn how to use them. On top of that, some of the other veterans make good comebacks, like Astaroth, Mitsurugi, and Ivy. Speaking of characters, with Ezio Auditore da Firenze in the mix, Assassin's Creed fans will love being able to go up against Nightmare with their favorite assassin. Another feature means you can literally sidestep an opponent and attack from a new angle.

A great addition to Soul Calibur V are the "Brave Edge" and "Critical Edge" moves. These moves are available to a player when they charge the super meter next to their character's name. These are way easier to execute than the "Critical Finish" in Soul Calibur IV, where you had to break your opponent's armor and then press all the face buttons at the same time. That feat was very difficult to pull off as you didn't know when precisely the armor would break and you have a small window to press the buttons. These new "Edge" moves only require a shoulder button press and face button press. I must say, they are extremely satisfying to use.

The creation system has seen a drastic change as well. While they don't give you a lot to work with early on, when you level up by winning matches either online, in the story, or against other players (or computer), you earn more customizable parts. However, the creation only really gives you so much. My friends and I made it to level forty-something and we were just unlocking skirts and pants. Sure, the armor looks nice, but I really wish there was more. The creation system in Soul Calibur IV had more to choose from and I hope that more can possibly be made available through future DLC.

The graphics are pretty nice; environments are beautiful and the characters look amazing. Sometimes during a match, I would just pause or go into training mode to look at what's going on in the background. Soul Calibur, at least to me, has a good history of lush and detailed fighting arenas. It is very impressive.

The story on the other hand is, well, unimpressive. Soul Calibur V centers on the children of Sophitia, Patroklos and Pyrrha, and their ordeal with the Soul Swords coming back. There is an ongoing plot about "malfested" who are monsters that are created from Soul Edge. Soul Calibur has returned and it would seem that Patroklos is the new keeper of the sword, like Siegfried before him. Pyrrha has been missing for awhile and thus Patrokolos is on a mission to find her and discover what connections his missing sister has to Soul Calibur and Soul Edge. The writing isn't exactly the best nor does some of the conflict make sense. Old Soul Calibur characters make brief, sometimes random, appearances and hardly play into the larger plot (outside of Nightmare and Ivy). There are even cutscenes, but they are few and far in between as the rest of the story is told through still pictures and you hear the dialogue. Again, Mortal Kombat gave fully fleshed out cutscenes and they proved they could do it here. Why not continue doing them? Near the end of the story, the final few fights seem to have a huge spike in difficulty as it took me numerous attempts to defeat the final opponents.

Arcade mode consists of six stages were you face random characters and get into a final fight with Nightmare, Pyrrha, or Patroklos. I am yet to see other final characters being fought in the sixth stage. The problem here is that there are no character endings. Yep, no character endings whatsoever. So Ezio, despite his inclusion here, doesn't get an individual ending. I don't get it. Darth Vader, Starkiller, Yoda, Link, Spawn, and Heihachi got character endings in Soul Calibur before. Why not Ezio or the other characters? At least Marvel vs Capcom 3 had endings, despite them being still picture and text endings. Soul Calibur V doesn't have any!

Overall, Soul Calibur V is average. While there were a lot of good changes to the final product, there were a lot of questionable decisions. For every good addition, there's a bad reduction. You can play online with your difficulty options and that's a major plus. Then you also have lack of character endings in Arcade mode... You get a full story, but it's lackluster. At this point in time, I'd suggest you Try It.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Megabits Of News: Weekly Roundup

Megabits of Gaming trawls the web for the tastiest morsels of news, so you don't have to...

Vita sales to top 12m
According to our friends at Gamingbolt, analysts have told the Guardian that the new PlayStation Vita handheld should shift a mammoth 12.4m units this year.

The console market will shrink
Mobiles and portable gaming are the future, according to SEGA. The days of the humble console are numbered, reports MCV.

Borderlands 2 dated
September 18. Put that date in your diary now, or you'll miss out on all sorts of cel-shaded goodness. Borderlands 2 promises a bazillion guns, loads of characters, four-player co-op and a new campaign. Check out Den of Geek for the trailer.

Gotham City Imposters steals top spot
According to MCV, Warner Bros' new shooter has leapt to the top of the XBLA charts. Great graphics and madcap gameplay saw it beat the likes of Pinball FX2 and Warp.

Sonic set for second episode

Finally, new footage has emerged of the spikey one's next appearance in Sonic 4. Tails is there... and a water level... as are plenty of springs and some catchy tunes.

VIDEO: LEGO Video Game Montage

You may recall that we at Megabits are particularly fond of LEGO-based homages to popular games so we were pleased to find yet another great video.

Alex Kobbs created this for the opening of the Interactive Achievement Awards and it was shown to a room full of the great and the good in the gaming industry. See how many game references you can spot - we particularly like the Uncharted 3 castle escape! Here it is in all its glory...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Megabits Of News: Weekly Roundup

Megabits of Gaming trawls the web for the tastiest morsels of news, so you don't have to...

Far Cry 3 due in September

According to the game’s trailer, Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3 will be on our shelves on 6 September for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. The Far Cry 3 trailer informatively ends with a confirmation of its proposed release date, which is nice. Check out more from MCV after the jump.

Sony: Vita games are worth $40
Sony Worldwide Studios boss, Shuhei Yoshi said the company can justify placing a $40 price tag on PlayStation Vita games. In a world where consumers now can pay next to nothing for games on smart phones, Yoshi said gamer’s will see the value to their experience by buying the higher priced games. Hands up to everyone who spent close to that amount on a PS2 or DS game, he might have a point.

Batman and LA Noire lead BAFTA nominations
And the winner is … VG247 reports that with eight nominations each, Batman: Arkham City and LA Noire are leading the 2012 BAFTA Game Awards. Both will be going head to head for the Best Game. Can’t there be two winners?

Expansion pack for Civilization 5 in spring

If you thought Civilization 5 was not big enough, the “Gods & Kings” expansion pack will be available in late spring this year. The expansion brings with it 27 new units and 13 new buildings as well as nine new civilizations to rule, says Joystiq.

PS4 announcements unlikely in 2012
Sadly, it look likes reports on a PS4 will be few and far between in 2012, according to VG247. SCE America CEO Jack Tretton said he won’t be making any new hardware announcements this year and that the company is strongly focused on the PS3 and the Vita.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Skyrim Modding Tools A Hit With PC Owners

A free tool that allows PC owners to create their own content for Bethesda’s awesome Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim saw a staggering 2 million mods downloaded in the three days after it launched. According to ZeniMax Media, the Creation Kit has seen gamers make over 2,500 mods via the Skryim Workshop already!

Skyrim was the unequivocal hit of 2011, winning countless awards and a legion of dedicated fans. Apparently, it was the second best selling game of 2011 revenue-wise. Within a month of the game launching last November, Bethesda said it had shipped over 10m units - equivalent to some $650m in sales.

Steam data shows that gamers are spending an average of 75 hours roaming the vast map. It's also apparently the fastest-selling title in Steam's history.

Megabits loved it too - check our Skyrim review here - and has even taken the time to offer some decent tips to make your adventures a little easier. Visit our guide after the jump.

Megabits Column: WWE '12

Megabits of Gaming contributes a monthly column in Charged Middle East – a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games magazine that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics.

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 2012 issue. For more about the magazine, check out its Facebook page after the jump.

About a decade ago I was a huge fan of the WWF – not the panda-loving association that wanted to save the planet (although I’ve nothing against them). I’m talking about the World Wrestling Federation; home to hulking muscle-bound meatheads smashing one another’s faces into turnbuckles and using ladders and desks to pummel opponents into submission. Each ridiculous bout was punctuated with equally ridiculous acting, which would make Hollywood movie moguls’ toes curl. It was a guilty pleasure. Along with many other wrestling fans, I simply refused to believe it was little more than a badly-acted soap opera; as far as I was concerned, the fighters were real, the stories were real and all those audacious moves were real.

Thankfully, video games have managed to not only capture the very essence of wrestling but the imagination of the enthusiasts too.

In the past 10 years there have been countless renditions of the sport captured on our consoles, and arguably the developers have ensured that the virtual wrestling matches are every bit as realistic as the actual TV shows. THQ’s WWE ‘12 is the latest in a long line of wrestling games that aims to transport us into the ring.

As with all modern fighting games, the presentation is superb and perfectly replicates the real thing - from the fireworks and lighting that accompanies each fighter’s entrance to the commentary, crowd chants and growls mid-fight.

Aesthetically, it all looks very authentic too. From the wrestlers themselves to the animated canvas and the rope physics that react to each strike. The game’s new Predator Technology also improves the transition between moves, making them look seamless.

New broadcast camera angles keep up with all the action, the developers having worked alongside the TV production team to include 25 new angles to capture everything.

As you’d expect, copious game modes are on offer, from the traditional one on one fights to Hell in a Cell, Inferno matches, Iron Man, Ladder and Last Man Standing to name a few. Then there’s the hefty Road to WrestleMania mode too.

A new Limb Targeting System adds a welcome element of strategy to the game, allowing you to grapple your opponent and focus attacks on their head, arms or legs – making submissions easier. The momentum of a match can change suddenly with the improved AI adding unpredictability and excitement to each fight. It’s probably as close as many of us will get to the ring without pulling on some stretchy spandex and grunting a lot.

THQ’s latest effort continues a long legacy dating back almost 30 years. Sure you didn’t have the quality graphics back then, and all those grapples, strikes and throws didn’t require a complex series of button presses like they do today but the early wrestling games still managed to capture the raucous nature of the sport.

The arcades played host to Tag Team Wrestling in 1983, which was one of the first games of its type and spawned countless imitators. Developer Technos Japan may have only included a small number of playable characters and moves but it helped lay the foundations for future titles. It was also credited for introducing the tag team mechanic in games – something which other developers have grappled with ever since.

Tag Team Match M.U.S.C.L.E (1985) and Pro Wrestling (1987) were other notable offerings on the Nintendo NES but it probably wasn’t until Rare’s WWF Wrestlemania bounded onto the system in 1988 that gamers really started to sit up and take notice. It coincided with the immense popularity of Hulk Hogan et al on the small screen and meant you could re-enact their trademark moves.

Over the years, there’s been stiff competition from other franchises such as the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat arcade brawlers to more realistic sports sims such as UFC Undisputed, but they all owe a lot to those wrestling titles. For decades, they have captured the spectacle, the stories and rivalries. It’s exciting and over the top, with each fight every bit as ridiculous as it is entertaining.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

30 Minute Playtest: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

If you were an RPG developer, you’d be forgiven for taking some time off. The last few months have seen the RPG market take a double hit in the form of Skyrim’s accessible mix of addictive exploration and action, and Dark Souls’ rather less accessible but no less addictive mix of incredibly inventive environments and endless player death.

Between the two of them, you’d think it would be pretty much impossible to sell an RPG right now, best wait a few more months until the fuss dies down. But no, Big Huge Games and 38 Studios have decided to give us Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

To be fair, it has the sort of pedigree that would make it stand out for geeks: Executive designer Ken Rolston worked on the Elder Scrolls series, writer R A Salvatore has a swords and sorcery background writing the Forgotten Realms D&D spin off novels, and the art was provided by Todd MacFarlane, a man who made a fortune out of derivative art, poor writing and a bratty refusal to acknowledge other creators' intellectual property. Still, it’s an eyecatching team. Rather than use their skills to create something entirely original, however, they seem to have chosen to blend the best bits of the genre.

The game mixes RPG and fantasy fiction tropes in equal measure-you get a stirring score, portentous dialogue, crates that need smashing, rats that need killing, and a looming mystical threat of apocalyptic proportions. So far, so standard. Amalur saves itself, however, by merging the best bits of recent RPGs: it has the visual style and easy playing mechanics of the Fable series, but with the deeper skill trees and levelling capabilities of harder edged RPGs. In essence, it sits somewhere between the RPG-lite stylings of Fable and the character building of an Elder Scrolls game.

The third-person combat is more convincingly physical than the featherlight blade waftings of Skyrim and Oblivion, and is built around a basic block-dodge-bash mechanic using the trigger, face buttons and sticks. It’s fast and fun, and its simplicity can be built upon by learning new special moves, using the basic one-button archery, or dropping in the odd bit of overpowered, underfuelled magic: you can do serious damage with a single spell, but you can’t throw many.

Combat is a lively case of mixing up the buttons you most fancy bashing, although the boss fights do descend into fixed camera smack-em-ups that end with simple QTEs.

The ability to use magic, archery and melee combat all in a single character is nearer the generalism of Fable, but those who favour specialism will find that the levelling system, which consists of a page of general skills and three pages of multiple skill trees divided between Magic, Might and Finesse, allow for a very respectable degree of character customisation.

Any RPG fans who’ve recently chugged their way through the complex menus of Dark Souls or the unintuitive ordering of Skyrim will find the inventory management in Amalur refreshing. What might be more disappointing are the environments - a half hour playtest isn’t enough to be sure, but the early impression is one of linear paths through modestly sized and discrete play areas, rather than a complex map to decipher a’la Dark Souls, or an epic open world to explore as in Skyrim.

It’s a little unfair on Amalur that it gets compared to so many other RPGs, but to be honest, the comparisons are neither unwarranted or unfair. This is a very enjoyable game, and one that’s likely to appeal to action oriented players as much as hardcore RPG statgrinders. It definitely gets a continue from us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

JAM Live Music Arcade Coming Soon

Musicians and wannabe DJ’s rejoice! Your prayers may just have been answered in the shape of forthcoming music creation game JAM Live Music Arcade. Coming soon to Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network, JAM puts the power at your creative fingertips as you become DJ, producer and band leader.

When playing JAM you’ll take on the roles of lead guitarist, bassist, drummer, singer and synth player. The game aims to put the emphasis on creation, experimentation and exploration as opposed to high score chasing, so let those wild imaginings and unwritten songs roam free.

Chad Koehler, Vice President of Zivix LLC, the guys responsible for developing the game, said: “JAM Live Music Arcade builds upon years of our music experience and some of the successes we had with previous iterations of the JAM franchise, but takes it to an entirely new level allowing creative freedom and a closer connection to the music.

He added: “The world loves music, and this product provides immediate accessibility in a totally new way. If you’re looking to jam out, turn the living room in to a live show and experiment with a near-infinite bank of sounds, effects and rhythms, then this is the experience for you. If you’re interested in a more traditional follow-the-leader type of play, then we’ve included the Arcade Mode just for that purpose. With the great songs and artists we have and the wide variety refreshingly creative different play modes, JAM Live Music Arcade is the breath of fresh air the music gaming genre needs.”

The game comes with 30+ licensed tracks from such notable artists as Modest Mouse and Fatboy Slim and gives you the power to jam and remix all aspects of the song to create your very own masterpiece. All this power is wielded via the compatible guitar peripherals most of us have lying around or by using the standard controller (if you haven’t got one of them lying around your probably in the wrong place).

Features include:

  • Control and remix all aspects of the song – it’s an entire band in your hands
  • Players are rewarded for their sense of timing by getting into the flow of the music and beat
  • Features 32 tracks
  • Compatible with guitar peripherals
  • Arcade Mode incorporates more controller actions from an up-strum to the whammy bar
  • Dynamic visuals respond to your every move
  • User created content: Create a mix, replay or challenge it in Arcade Mode

It sounds promising and speaking as a huge fan of previous music mixing titles I’m curious to see how this one pans out. Certainly remixing current tracks doesn’t sound quite as appealing as creating a tune from scratch, but it’s good to see the genre is still breathing, even if those breaths may appear a tad shallow.

More information about the game after the jump.

Review: Storm in a Teacup

'Storm in a Teacup'? What's next? A game based around 'You reap what you sow'? Oh, they did that in 'Garden Simulator'...

Ok, well, puns aside, Storm in a Teacup is a decent, challenging, simple game which ideally suited to mobile formats, so its release on PC is something of a mystery to me.

The game's meagre plot revolves around Storm, a Cloud Strife-haired kid who loves to play with his model of himself in a teacup... and some 'evil clouds'. Somebody get this kid an Xbox.

When Storm goes to sleep his dreams come to life, and the gamer has to steer little Storm around in his magical teacup, picking up sugar lumps and keys, and avoiding the clouds, which hover malevolently around the map, up to no good.

The gameplay is simplicity itself. You move storm with the arrow keys, and tap space to jump. Tapping space repeatedly allows the spinky-haired one to hurl his magical crockery up high as he can, in order to reach the game's many hidey-holes and collect the lightning bolt symbols dotted around.

The levels start easy and get tricky pretty fast, but the quick respawning and generous checkpoints make it less of a chore.

That said, the music is very much a chore – it consists of one annoyingly cheery track played over and over until your head explodes, or you turn it off. Trust me, playing Storm in a Teacup with the Foo Fightters ripping it up in the background changes your outlook somewhat...

The graphics are solid, colourful and enjoyable to zip around, though a little more variation in level design would have been a wise investment.

*Reviewed on PC

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Preview: Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 is probably one of the most anticipated games of 2012. The final installment of the series is getting so much attention and with good reason. With its imminent release, many fans have been looking into the great features of the new game.

Arguably the biggest addition to the series is multiplayer. According to BioWare, multiplayer will act as a cooperative effort against the Reapers. This is interesting in that the characters used in multiplayer can build up power and experience. The kicker is that they can be used further in the main single player campaign. How this is going to affect combat in the main story is still up in the air as BioWare has only released so much information...

With the different classes to choose from, gained experience that is put into the powers and skills of your character will make all the difference in how you want to be in the field. Do you like bulking up health and gunning down enemies as a soldier? Perhaps you like cutting down enemies from a distance as a biotic?

Also, you will not just be playing as humans. BioWare has confirmed six different species to the list including Humans, Turians, Asari, Salarians, Krogran, and Drell. Reportedly, each of them have their own skills and abilities that contribute to their combat style. Gameplay has the traditional idea of "accomplish this mission while dealing with waves of enemies". I've heard tellings of plenty of variety in the missions and possible mini bosses. Needless to say, multiplayer is looking pretty good.

So how about difficulty levels? There are going to be three game modes that can be set to the player's liking. One is Roleplaying, where it's the usual format the Mass Effect fans have long enjoyed complete with story choices. Second is Action, where the game focuses primarily on gameplay and gives players a set pattern of dialogue for a linear story, but you still get Paragon and Renegade opportunities. Finally, there is the Story option where combat is set to a very fast and easier playthrough, while still giving gamers heavy emphasis on the plot.

And finally, there are the preorder bonuses. Please keep in mind that the Mass Effect 3 N7 Collector's Edition preorders are going fast. There is a significant difference between the Standard Edition and Collector's Edition when preordered. Standard Edition preorders will receive the N7 Valkyrie assault rifle and N7 Defender Armor. Collector's Edition preorders, meanwhile, will recieve the N7 Valkyrie assault rifle, N7 Defender Armor, a DLC called N7 Arsenal Pack with four additional weapons, a FENRIS robot dog, the Squadmate Alternate Outfit Pack, an N7 Hoodie (possibly an article of clothing), a bonus mission, a bonus character, and a hardcover case for the game.

After listing all of that, I need to catch my breath. Regardless of my imminent blackout from sheer awesomeness, Mass Effect 3 looks to be jam packed with content. If you are a Mass Effect fan, do yourself a favor and check out the game. The list of features just keeps growing. I can easily see that I'm going to be dedicating weekends and evenings to this game. I will have to apologize to my PS3 for the sudden neglect, but Mass Effect 3 is calling and I cannot wait!

Check out these videos for more info:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Top Ten Overshadowed Characters

You know that feeling at work when you're performing really well yet one of your peers gets the promotion? Or when you're clearly the best at football but someone else gets picked ahead of you? And how many times has the star of a movie only received Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars?!?

Well, in another example of art imitating life, it's exactly the same in gaming. Here Megabits looks at the the Top Ten Nearly Men (or Women) In Gaming - those who could have been true greats but were overshadowed by others and are now merely known as sidekicks or extras.

(mild spoilers ahead)

10) Luigi
Think of a missed opportunity for a character in gaming and perhaps the green-hatted moustacioued Italian springs immediately to mind. His first appearance in 1983's Mario Bros sums up his gaming life... he was the character always controlled by player two - and he would forever remain the deuteragonist of the series. Sure he had cameos and more prominent appearances in other games but his portly brother always got most of the adoration and attention. It's-a-me...Luigi.

9) Victor Sullivan
We catch a glimpse of a younger, fitter Sully in Uncharted 3's flashback level and get the impression that he would have been worthy to star in a game! Sure, he's available as a multiplayer character but he perhaps he rues the day that Nate stepped into the limelight and stole all his glory.

8) Otacon
Hal Emmerich was a key character in the MGS series and saves Snake's skin more than once. As a hacker, he spends most of the time behind the scenes, communicating with our protagonist via the good old Codec. He had enough history and background to carry a game on his own as the lead character - but maybe it was his repeated failure with the ladies (most of whom come into contact with him die in his arms), combined with his geeky persona that was his downfall?

7) Catwoman
She's sultry, slinky and sexy but has never made it on her own. The Halle Berry movie-inspired 2004 offering was panned by critics and has become infamous more for its idle animation than the gameplay. She made a welcome appearance in the latest Rocksteady outing but, as always, had to play second fiddle to the Dark Knight himself. She could have been a great, if it weren't for Bruce!

6) Ishi Sato
Grayson Hunt steals the limelight in the sublime killfest Bulletstorm with Ishi just acting all bitter and twisted. Mind, he was critically injured during that initial attack so he has every right to be a little pissed. Oh, and he does end up as an ugly-ass cyborg with a dislike for Hunt's escapades. Another case of "what could have been", we bet Ishi wishes it was Grayson on that operating table and he'd been the one to find fame by pulling off all those cool skillshots.

5) Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde
The Pac Man ghosts are synonymous with retro gaming; they're cult figures but they never quite made the big time as they were always in the shadow of the pizza-shaped, pill-popping Pac Man. They were real characters; the menu screen even flagged up their different attributes. But all these years on, they proved they weren't individuals, just followers. They could have been greats but Pac Man ran rings around them.

4) Brucie Kibbutz
Baldie Kibbutz had three loves in his life: women, steroids and himself - perhaps that's why he never had the time to focus on becoming more of a leading man. He appeared in both GTA IV and DLC The Ballad of Gay Tony but had no more than a bit part, playing second fiddle to Niko, Roman and countless others in Liberty City. His character was surely worthy of a standalone outing?

3) Daxter
Funny but also slightly irritating, Jak's trusty sidekick in the popular series is only playable on a few occasions and definitely plays second fiddle to the guy that turned him into the otter/weasel hybrid we all know and love. He has had the occasional moment of glory - notably his self-titled PSP game - but he could have achieved so much more.

2) Alyx Vance
AKA the woman in Half Life who keeps saving Gordon Freeman's butt. She's good with computers, handy with a gun and an all-round strong female character. Much-loved but overshadowed, what about making her a playable character and giving her centre stage in Half Life 3, eh?

1) Wheatley
UK comic Stephen Merchant's Bristolian accent and humour was perfect for playing Portal 2's slightly-deranged robot Wheatley. He initially revives Chell from her slumber and encourages her to escape by completing a few simple puzzles... His well-"rounded" (see what I did there) character would be perfect for a spin off game - if he can ever find a way of getting back from space.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Preview: Ghost Recon Future Soldier

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (previously known as Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 4) is published by Ubisoft. Excluding expansions, it is the fourth installment in the Ghost Recon series, and was first announced to be in development by Ubisoft in January 2009.

The story will take place in a near future in Norway, the Middle East, and Asia where Russia went into war. The Ghosts will be fighting an ultra-nationalist force that took control of Russia and are invading neighbouring countries on the deadliest missions behind enemy lines. The player will take control of a 4-man Ghost team consisting of a commando (Kozak), a sniper weapons expert (Pepper), a reconnaissance expert (30k), and an engineer (Bones).

The game is a third-person shooter for most of the time, except when aiming using sights or firing from cover at which point the game switches to a first-person camera in order to facilitate more precise aiming. A new feature in the series is the “optical camouflage”, a form of active camouflage which allows the Ghosts to become instantly invisible.

During E3 2011 Ubisoft also debuted the games weapon customiser. The system works with the Xbox Kinect and allows an unprecedented level of customisation, down to the gas management parts of every gun. While customising weapons, the player is also allowed to test their creations in a simulated environment. Voice control is also used in weapon creation, in addition to hand movements.

Using Kinect, drawing a weapon is done by reaching a hand over your back, and pulling it back down, as if grabbing a gun from your back. Shooting is accomplished by opening the hand and closing it again. This amazing level of interaction should bring a new dimension to the series.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, the military tactical shooter, was first created by Red Storm Entertainment, the game development studio founded in part by American author Tom Clancy, in 2001.

Throughout the series, players have been in charge of a fictional, newly-conceived squad of United States Army Special Forces operators from Company D, 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (5th SFG ). Their role is not unlike other real world special operations forces, in that their operations are kept highly classified, which is why they are sometimes referred to as “the Ghosts”.

We donned our camouflage flacks and took to the battlefield with Thomas Leroux-Hugon, International Brand Manager, for a debrief on the Future Soldier.

Will Last Man Standing make a return?
We don’t have Last Man Standing, but we ARE bringing back the multiplayer mode Siege, which is a lot like Last Man Standing with the addition of a central objective that has to be defended. We find it focuses the match and creates a stronger sense of team play. [In case you don’t know/remember the rules of Siege, one team spawns in a central location and has to defend an objective. The attackers are deployed randomly around the outside of the map, and you have only a single life, there are no respawns!]

In co-op, will there be multiple points of insertion?
In our co-op mode the entire team spawn at the same moment and at the same place. Instead of choosing where you will spawn on the map, we like better to offer to the player the choice of “how he will engage the fight”, and how he will coordinate with his team to reach his objective efficiently.

What team play incentives have you introduced?
In addition to speeding up the objective capture rate, Confidence also affects the hacking speed for Data Hacking — so if you have a teammate nearby when you stun someone it can be a big asset [Data Hacking is the action of stealing the enemy team’s positional intel from a stunned enemy]. We have a number of other systems that encourage team play — we’ve got intel and suppression, for starters. Getting intel for your team makes it a lot easier to set up a shot, and tools like the UAV allow you to perform in a dedicated support role in this regard. Suppression allows a rifleman to keep a target pinned down, which gives his teammates time to flank the enemy. We’ve also got tools like the Coordination System which allows players to mark objectives, enemy targets, or call for support. Finally, items like ammo boxes and med kits can make a crucial difference for a well-organised team, especially in non-respawn game types.

How will the weapon progression work?
We’ve got both a rank progression system — where you can unlock equipment and weapons based on leveling up — and an “open” system, where everyone has access to everyone. You get the best of both worlds: unlocks in the Public matchmaking for those of you that like them, and access to everything in Private matches for those who don’t!

Can you play multiplayer in first person?

All guns have first person scope view for precise shooting — however, there is no dedicated first person view other than this.

Will you introduce Kill Streak rewards?

We don’t have a concept of rewards for “kill streaks” — that doesn’t really fit our Future Soldier experience. What we DO have is rewards for completing objectives — for example, if you hack into an enemy sensor network, you’ll be rewarded with positional intel on enemy forces, or if you capture enemy ammo crates, you’ll be able to resupply there. Our play tests show that the objectives really focus the game, creating intense firefights and awesome teamwork.

How much customisation is offered in multiplayer?
In terms of settings, we’ve got four game types, and 10 maps. Combine this with two factions, three roles, over 50 weapons, dozens of pieces of equipment, and a number of grenades and you’ve got a huge degree of flexibility in how you want to play the game. You’ve also got the ability to play in Public matches with the ranking system turned on, or play with all of the gear in Private or Local matches.

How many weapons are there?

You can create over 20 million entirely unique guns. We have 52 guns in GunSmith with over 49 possible attachments & modifications! For instance the ACR itself has over 1,000,000 unique variants.

How have you incorporated training?

In GRFS you indeed have to be careful as every shot you take can be lethal, but each of the gameplay mechanics are adapted to these. The cover system for example, has been designed to be very easy to handle, you can go to cover, aim, shoot, and then switch cover in a blink of an eye. And of course, in the first stages of the solo campaign the player will be partially guided with an ingame integrated tutorial, teaching him how to perform all of the moves and how to use intel.

What is the average game play time?
Depending on the level of the player, an average of 12 hours will be necessary to run through the solo campaign. Furthermore, the game time is greatly increased by the co-op mode which will allow you to play the campaign with three friends, the extremely wealthy eight player adversarial multiplayer mode, and a very ambitious new multiplayer mode that we’re going to announce soon.

What extra dimension has motion control added?
The motion controllers create an exciting challenge to the teams as they look for ways to innovate and give meaning to the player. The Kinect component of Ghost Recon is an exciting addition to the game – it enables the player to interact with the weapons as never done before, check out the options and get a hands-on feel before going into combat.

  • Michael Gordon is editor of Charged Middle East magazine, a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games title that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics. For more about the magazine, visit its Facebook page after the jump. Check out this article and many more in the February issue.

Friday, February 10, 2012

More Of The Best GTA IV Mods

It's staggering the amount of interest we've had since late 2010 when we published our pick of The 10 Best GTA IV Mods Ever! But it seems a lot of you out there are still keen to eek out as much enjoyment as possible from one of our favourite games of recent years - at least before the next instalment comes out.

So, in keeping with the old saying that you should give the audience what they want... we've pored over You Tube to bring you another 10 mods and tweaks that breath new life into Liberty City. Enjoy!

Enhanced graphics

Back To The Future

Heavy bus


Merry Christmas


Monster truck

Nightmare mode


T-Rex chase

Megabits Of News: Weekly Roundup (w/e 10 Feb)

Megabits of Gaming trawls the web for the tastiest morsels of news, so you don't have to...

Asura must wait to unleash his Wrath
The release date of Capcom’s third-person action game Asura’s Wrath has been postponed until 9 March. The title, which will be released on the Xbox 360 and PS3, was previously expected to hit UK shops later this month.

Ubisoft not in the dancing mood
According to MCV, games producer Ubisoft has decided against publishing a music game based on the BBC’s successful TV show Strictly Come Dancing, which was due on UK shelves this Christmas. Ballroom fans need not worry though as the Strictly Come Dancing game will still arrive, just published by someone else not yet announced.

Skyrim patch 1.4 now on 360 - PS3 owners still waiting
Skyrim’s latest patch is now available to happy Xbox 360 owners. The 1.4 update, which has been out on the PC since last week, should be available on the PS3 soon but confirmation is still pending, says Joystiq.

Sleeping Dogs to be released in second half of 2012
Square Enix has announced that Sleeping Dogs, the new name for True Crime: Hong Kong, will be released in the second half of 2012. CVG says True Crime: Hong Kong, which was almost complete and playable, was dropped by former publisher Activision early last year.

Codemasters - March release for DiRT 3: Complete Edition
Start your engines, driving game DiRT 3: Complete Edition will be released on 9 March, Codemasters has announced. DiRT 3 will include 12 new routes across two locations, new cars and a range of liveries.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Megabits Column: Need For Speed The Run

Megabits of Gaming contributes a monthly column in Charged Middle East – a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games magazine that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics.

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 January 2012 issue. For more about the magazine, check out its Facebook page after the jump.

If you’re anything like me, an absolute Luddite when it comes to understanding and appreciating cars, then the trend towards realism in racing games leaves you absolutely cold. A game that claims to perfectly replicate the performance of a combustion engine or accurately render some technical wizardry beneath the bonnet certainly deserves praise and adulation. For me, however, I have no real desire to be spending more time tweaking my vehicle rather than driving it. You can keep your garages and stats screens; point me instead in the direction of that virtual road and I’ll speed off, controller gripped and eyes focused on the oncoming traffic.

For that very reason, the arrival of Need for Speed: The Run is the perfect tonic and an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. Granted it’s not the longest game in the world, and sure it isn’t going to fulfil the primal desires of your average petrolhead, but for those of us who don’t know the difference between a piston and a spark plug, Electronic Arts with its 18th Need for Speed game fits the bill nicely.

It’s been quite a journey for the long-running series, with many twists and turns along the way – and plenty of innovation. According to Guinness World Records, by early 2009 the franchise had sold about 100 million copies in the 15 years since its debut.

The Run, from developer Black Box, is the first racer to be powered by DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine, allowing enhanced physics and visuals for some pretty impressive damage effects to the cars and environments.

It tells the story of Jack Rourke, a man who’s upset some dangerous people and needs to pay them a huge sum of money. Fast. Coincidentally, Jack receives a proposition to take part in a 3000-mile race across the US, from San Francisco to New York. With a cool $25m at stake, it’s a bit of a no brainer. Cue an adrenaline-fuelled dash across the continent, loads of smart looking super cars, crashes, smashes and... Quick Time Events (QTE).

The last bit isn’t really something to shout about but it does mark the series’ attempts to do something a little different with a driving game. For the first time, you’re not stuck behind the wheel for the entirety of the game; at certain moments, Jack will have to leave the confines of his car to run, jump and fight his way out of trouble thanks to your button-mashing expertise.

Thankfully, the impressive Autolog function – another EA brainchild - also makes a welcome return to The Run after its introduction in the previous title a year earlier, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010). This useful widget allows players to track their progress and compare stats with friends. It even suggests events and challenges – and lets you brag about your exploits.

Electronic Arts has never been afraid of shaking up the racing genre. With the original Need for Speed in 1994 it worked with auto publication Road & Track to ensure the vehicles sounded the part – entering the record books for being the first game to recreate the aural effects of the gear control levers.

Even years later, it was trying something new. In 2009, it took the plaudits for having the most advanced cockpit in a racing game. Developer Slightly Mad Studios had accurately modelled the interiors in Need for Speed: Shift, from the dashboard to the driver’s head that reacted to g-force.

Driving games have been loved by gamers for decades, from the glory days of Outrun and Buggy Boy to the advent of the Gran Turismo series and Forza. The wheels have come off many of the studios behind some of the greatest racing games of recent years and, as such, promising series such as Project Gotham Racing (2001-2007), Blur (2010) and Split/Second: Velocity (2010) have run out of gas. EA’s Need for Speed, however, remains firmly on track and shows no sign of slowing down.