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, January 27, 2012

Next Gen Consoles All About The Power

Wii U Controller
Power seems to be the common denominator for the next generation of consoles if all the rumours, speculation and articles of the past week are to be believed. Frankly, the prospect of uber-powerful machines capable of overshadowing the performance of the current crop of consoles is enough to get me positively salivating... and make me think that I need to get saving!

Nintendo's Wii U - apparently due to make its debut later this year - is said to be twice the power of the Xbox 360.

Not to be outdone, there are also murmurings that the next version of the Xbox - dubbed the 720 for now - will have six times the processing power of Nintendo's shiny new machine!
(Photo credit: Image by ze_bear via Flickr)

Megabits Of News: Weekly Roundup

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

Wii U to be in our hands by Christmas 2012
The president of Nintendo has confirmed the much-awaited Wii U will be available in the second half of the year in Japan, Europe and the US. So now you can get your Christmas list in early.

Next Assassin's Creed to be biggest so far
If it’s possible to imagine, Ubisoft has said its next Assassin’s Creed title will be bigger than any of its predecessors in the series. The next instalment is expected to be released around Christmas so another one for the list I guess.

Nintendo expects to make a loss
Bad news for Nintendo. The gaming giant expects to make a loss the year ending 31 March, despite previously predicting that it would report a small profit.

No need to "Resist" further, its over
According to VG247, game developer Insomniac has said it will not be making any more titles for the Resistance franchise. The company will now focus on different projects. How will I protect the world from an alien invasion now, Resistance 3 was brilliant - I say Boooo!!

FIFA 12 takes top spot in sports game sales
“Take a bow, son.” FIFA 12 really made whipping boys out of the competition after becoming the highest grossing sports game in UK history. It has already made more cash than any other FIFA title, without breaking a sweat.

Megabits' Ten Greatest Ship Levels

After our Top Ten Train Levels article, I figured I'd return to the gaming world to list my favourite wet and wild game levels. So, here's our Top Ten Ship Levels. For clarity's sake, I'm using 'ship' as a catch-all term for nautical vessels of any kind, be it on the sea or in space, and 'level' for games not entirely built around being on a ship. Enjoy!

AVAST YE MATEYS! Here be spoilers!

10) USS Nautilus, Crysis 2
Cruising through the waters off New York, the Nautilus makes a good impression of the might of the US armed forces - until it's sunk in the opening moments of Crysis 2, leaving the US Marine strike force trapped belowdecks, scrambling to get out before the mighty sub is left at bottom of the Hudson.

It may have only been a fleeting moment, but this opening set the tone for the rest of the game - brutal, intense, and with the odds stacked firmly against you. Plus, the fact that it looks great graphically - and the music is perfectly pitched - adds to the experience.

9) The cargo ship, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Although the plot of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was the kind of techno-drek that rattles around in Tom Clancy's mind and is occasionally vomited onto a page and turned into a best-seller , the game itself turned out to be pretty good.

About half-way through the title, agent Sam Fisher finds himself infiltrating a cargo ship filled with terrorists, in order to have a nice chat with a bad guy up on the mess deck. Starting you off on the poop deck (no jokes, please, we're British), the canny agent has to sneak his way through the superstructure of the aged lady.

Taking you through the noisy, hot engine room (which makes your thermal goggles useless) and along rainswept decks alike, sneaking around a ship at sea was never more fun - or more deadly.

8) U-4901, Medal of Honor
Although looking at it now you'd think you were fighting boxes of pixels in Nazi uniforms, at the time, Medal of Honor's 'Scuttle Das Boot U-4901' mission was a thrilling battle.

Starting with the infiltration of the mighty, oversized Nazi U-boat, the mission saw OSS agent Jimmy Patterson storming through the metal guts of the boat, killing off its crew, stealing codebooks and finally forcing the ship to the surface.

Sure, the level was linear as hell, but the close-range firefights left an impression on my 13-year-old mind, as did the angry Captain yelling "You're Jimmy Patterson!" at me. Exactly how he knew that remains a mystery... I had a hat on and everything!

7) The cargo ship, Final Fantasy 7
Another game which looks woefully awful when compared to today's graphics, FF7 is nevertheless the best RPG of all time - and it has a pretty kickass level set on a ship as well.

Having snuck onto a Shin-Ra cargo ship, spiky-haired, psychologically deranged, cross-dressing hero Cloud Strife and his band of weirdos are on their way to Costa Del Sol for a much-needed break. Donning stolen uniforms, which don't fit very well - leaving gun-armed Barret looking like a terrifying nightmare of a sailor, and talking wolf/lion/tiger Red XIII on his hind legs - with a tail sticking out - the team try to keep a low profile.

That is, until the calamity from the skies bursts in, and needs to be put back in her box in the cargo hold before she rips the ship to shreds.

Combining comedy with utter terror as Jenova makes an appearance, this ship-based level was both tricky and fun in equal measure.

6) Pirate ships, The Curse of Monkey Island
Everybody loves pirates - and Guybrush Threepwood wants to be one. A shame he can't get the hang of the insult sword-fighting...

Yes, The Curse of Monkey Island takes a break from it's nautical point-and-clickery to indulge in a little piracy two thirds through the game, as Threepwood and his crew of singing barber/sailors taking on other pirates for their booty, cannons and kudos.

Once the crew have subdued an enemy vessel (or the tourist boat that is also cruising the Caribbean – "Oooh! Pirates!"), Threepwood must board and beat the enemy captain in insult sword-fighting, which is a hell of a lot less bloody than the Master and Commander approach...

Hilarious and fun, this challenging section of a great game has stayed with me for a long time.

5) The Katariah, Skyrim
As one of the later missions in the Dark Brotherhood story arc, the mission to the Katariah sees the Dragonborn infiltrating the stately vessel, which is anchored just off the citadel of Solitude - your mission? Kill the Emperor of Tamriel.

That's no easy task...

Sneaking aboard from the lower decks, the gamer has to battle a legion of bodyguards, mages and lowly deckhands as you close on your quarry, forcing back the furious soldiers with magic and sword, while no doubt robbing every bit of shiny loot you can find (of which there is a lot...).

A while later, after breaking into the cabin occupied by the prey, the assassin comes to face-to-face with the Emperor himself - who's been waiting for you. Instead of a huge, brutal fight, you instead find yourself standing in front of an old man who's come to terms with his death and meets you as an equal, turning his back and allowing you to finish your mission.

A hell of a moment, which certainly stopped me in my tracks, even though it didn't stop me killing him and looting his corpse.

4) The Normandy, Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect was a brilliant game. It captured my attention right from the start, and I played through it ferociously, almost obsessively. Bioware did such a good job creating believable, understandable characters and a galaxy with such depth of intrigue that I just kept coming back for more, especially with my trusty starship, the Normandy.

So, for the developers to open Mass Effect 2 with the total and utter destruction of the Normandy, and the apparent death of lead character Commander Shepherd, was a massive shock to me, and a moment that seared itself on my memory.

Characters I’d come to enjoy listening to died in an instant, and the ship I’d come to think of as my own personal passport to the galaxy was gutted and left to crash.

A chilling level to play through, after all the battles the Normandy fought and survived, as well as a kick-ass opening sequence.

3) The Sulon Star, Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight
Quite possibly the best Star Wars game ever made, Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight also featured one of the most atmospheric, intense levels of the 1990s.

Wannabe Jedi Kyle Katarn has tracked his foe, Imperial Inquisitor Jerec, to the Valley of the Jedi, confronting him on the refueling dock of Jerec's huge cargo ship, the Sulon Star. Pretty quickly Kyle finds himself Force-pushed on to the ship - which is hanging over a huge drop - trapped on board, and left to die as the vessel plunges towards the ground.

What follows is as crazy a level as I've every played, as the Star falls into the canyon, rolling over, turning the floor into the ceiling, seeing the artificial gravity failing - and leaving panicking Stormtroopers desperately trying to escape.

A breakneck sprint through the creaking, cracking ship follows, until Katarn manages to make it to his ship, the Mouldy Crow, and gets the hell off the Star before it's consumed in a pillar of fire. Of course, that's only the start off his problems... (incidentally, check out the live-action cutscenes - they don't make 'em like this anymore!).

2) The Long Night of Solace, Halo Reach
Something of a nod to the first Halo's 'Truth and Reconciliation ', the Halo: Reach mission involving the Covenant corvette Long Night of Solace was a bold step for the series, introducing enjoyable, colourful space combat in a pretty nippy little fighter, as well as battleships blowing the crap out of each other - and a zero-G boarding action.

Follow this with an intense, close-range firefight against a legion of pissed off Covenant creatures, a bomb strapped to a gunship and a sad (but not unexpected) sacrifice, and you've got a lengthy game level that leaves a strong impression on you. Naturally, having some friends along for the ride - from launchpad to interstellar combat to boarding action to HALO-jump escape (yes, we get the pun, Bungie) - makes it all the better.

For graphical beauty, brilliant sound effects and capturing the beauty of space warfare, this one is well worth a look. I especially enjoyed the low-gravity scrap in the corvette before Noble Five makes his arrival - the eerie lack of sound makes the battle all the more intense.

1) Discovery/Arsenal Gear, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
If, like me when I thought up the title of this quote, you immediately thought of this game being number one for levels set on ships, you'd be right - it's not just got one, but two whole suites of levels devoted to battling on the high seas.

Starting off, we have Solid Snake's infiltration of the tanker Discovery, which is slowly moving up the Hudson river with a very unusual cargo - Metal Gear Ray , a bipedal, amphibious mech with some terrifying offensive powers.

Cue the stealth action, contrasted with the tension of an invading group of Russian special forces soldiers, driving rain, helicopters strafing you, creaking metal - and cardboard boxes.

Later, the action moves to the form-fitting 'skull suit' of Raiden, a pretty boy-cum badass who finds himself trapped aboard a massive, submersible battleship called Arsenal Gear. The huge ship is full to the brim with supersoldiers, crazed artificial intelligences who keep insisting "It's all a game! Turn off your computer!" and no less than 30 mass-produced Metal Gear Rays defending it.

Add in the fact that the ship's innards have names like 'rectum' and 'ascending colon', and you get the feeling that you're into something special.

I mean, who can honestly say they spent a good 20 minutes fighting off waves of enemies with a ninja's katana... in a giant rectum.

Yep, for variety, great level design and sheer fun, MGS2's ship-based levels deserve the top spot.

As for Raiden... yeah - he got awesome.

You really don't wanna mess with him.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Preview: UFC Undisputed 3

UFC Undisputed 3 is poised to take players inside the virtual Octagon with extensive focus on intense toe-to-toe combat, impressive visual presentation and significantly increased accessibility, including the introduction of PRIDE Mode, two new weight classes and an impressive playable roster of more than 150 UFC fighters.

The long-awaited addition of Featherweights and Bantamweights opens up the game’s roster of fighters by a large scale, letting you play as world class fighters like Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz for the first time in a UFC game.

“UFC Undisputed 3 is on track to deliver an incredible virtual MMA experience unlike any other,” said Danny Bilson, Executive Vice President, Core Games, THQ. “This product is intense, engaging and highly competitive while still being extremely accessible, making it a must-have for millions of UFC fans, traditional fighting game enthusiasts and more casual sports fans around the world.

UFC Undisputed 3 brings significant advancements to the franchise, including the opportunity to fight in Japan’s PRIDE tournament for the first time ever and more casual sports fans around the world.

UFC Undisputed 3 will mark the debut of PRIDE Mode, enabling players to fight for the first time in the renowned Japanese MMA organisation. The mode will include official commentators Bas Rutten and Stephen Quadros, authentic environments and notorious MMA rules, including the ability to execute soccer-style kicks, head stomps and ground knees to the head. Finishing an opponent will be more important than ever through devastating new moves, responsive striking controls, refined visual presentation and the introduction of a brand new submission system. In addition, players will now enter the Octagon with a choice between traditional and simplified gameplay control options, enabling them, regardless of skill level, to experience the intensity of UFC and nuances of MMA combat while executing simple standing strikes or more complex ground and transition mechanics.

Players will also experience the excitement of a live UFC event through significant visual improvements, including the introduction of much-anticipated fighter entrances, new camera positions, improved facial animations and a gritty, high contrast appearance. They will enter into battle with an unparalleled choice of more than 150 playable UFC fighters, including talent from the newly added featherweight and bantamweight divisions.

Rounding out the virtual UFC experience with a significantly revamped online experience, as well as a variety of new and returning gameplay modes, UFC Undisputed 3 lets players have their fights – their way – to deliver the most intense, competitive and engaging experience to date for the franchise.

We took to the Octagon with the game developer, Neven Dravinski, to learn how to tackle this latest challenge in the ultimate fighting franchise.

What is the PRIDE Mode?
We are introducing PRIDE Mode to offer players even more new gameplay experiences. PRIDE is a former Japanese MMA organisation that was purchased by the UFC; in fact, several UFC stars today had some of their most iconic fights in PRIDE. PRIDE rules allow for more brutal attacks, like kicking an opponent in the head when he is on the ground with face stomps and soccer kicks. PRIDE fights occurred in a ring, opposed to an Octagon, and it really allowed us to offer a new look and new gameplay experience in UFC Undisputed 3. What’s really cool is players can take any UFC fighter and fight using PRIDE rules and vice versa. Hardcore fans are going to love our attention to detail, while those not familiar with PRIDE will get a real treat in terms of both gameplay and presentation.

How big is the roster of players - any new weight classes?
The UFC Undisputed 3 roster includes more than 150 fighters. This year, we added the former WEC weight classes of Featherweight and Bantamweight, giving players a great opportunity to see the speed and pace of these lighter weight fighters.

Have you improved upon the finishing moves?
We have been able to put a lot of new animations in the game, and once people get their hands on it, they’re going to love what they see. The biggest compliment comes from those guys who have played all the UFC Undisputed games; it’s great when they tell us how far we’ve come.

What visual improvements have been made?
We’ve worked a lot on improving and tuning our shaders for both the UFC and PRIDE modes. PRIDE offers a lot of opportunity to play with our lighting to mimic the different look of PRIDE fights. We’ve improved our dynamic lighting, our character models, and as mentioned, have added a ton of new animations to the game!

How do you ensure the player is drawn into the Octagon experience?
I think once someone plays UFC Undisputed 3, he or she will be really drawn into the experience because it’s just so real. The visual fidelity and visceral impact experienced by players is one of the hallmarks of the UFC Undisputed franchise. Combined with both pro and amateur controls for players of all types, a more fluid striking system and a graphics-based submission system, these features will all help in making this the best MMA game yet.

How did you research the PRIDE element?
We have a lot of hardcore fight fans on the team, and most of us have been watching PRIDE fights since the early days. Our development team at Yuke’s Osaka is Japanese as well, and some of those guys had the special opportunity to see PRIDE fights in Japan. I would say when one has a team as passionate about MMA as ours; the “research” for PRIDE was actually really fun to do.

How much difference is there between PRIDE and our traditional tournaments?
PRIDE tournaments were the ultimate test of skill for an MMA fighter. Fighters had to survive multiple fights in one night to survive. Imagine facing Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and after a brutal war, your reward is to face Wanderlei Silva? In UFC Undisputed 3, players will carry damage and stamina and energy loss into the next fight. It’s a tough journey – believe me.

Is there the ability to bridge the PRIDE and UFC tournaments?
At any time in UFC Undisputed 3, the player can pick between PRIDE or UFC rules in Exhibition matches. He or she will be able to compete with any UFC fighter using PRIDE rules and any historical PRIDE fighter in UFC rules. This makes for a lot of really cool fantasy matchups. Going through a career in the game will also provide opportunities to compete in one-off PRIDE fights and PRIDE Grand Prix tournaments.

Did you work with any real life fighters to increase the reality of this title?
Absolutely. We have a great relationship with the UFC and its fighters. We have brought in fighters like Frank Mir, Nate Diaz, Matt Hughes and Sean Sherk to do motion capture, and in addition, all the fighters are welcome to stop by the office any time they’re in the area, which many of them do. For the developers, that is a pretty nice perk of the job.

Has the game been endorsed by any recognised fighters?
Diego Sanchez often talks about how he uses the game as mental preparation before fights to imagine himself winning. There are many UFC fighters who play games, and it’s cool to get a chance to play with these guys and to be surprised at how good they are at UFC Undisputed.

Why did you choose to exclude motion control – is this feasible in the future?
UFC Undisputed 3 is really focused on delivering a fighting game experience running at 60 frames per second with responsive, rapid controls. While we are always looking at ways to expand our technology, motion controls didn’t make sense at this time. However, if you check out UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System, you’ll be surprised at how good a job it does at utilising the motion controls for an MMA game!

How long did the title take to develop?
UFC Undisputed 3 spent roughly 18 months in development.

What were the biggest challenges?
Our biggest challenge is always how to get everything finished. These games get bigger and bigger each year. PRIDE Mode is essentially a game within a game, including new announcers, new fighters and new animations. Add that to a new control scheme, a new submission system and two new weight classes, plus all the combat improvements, and let’s just say it was a huge undertaking.

How big was the development team, where was it based and what experiences (previous titles) were brought together?
Our team at Yuke’s Osaka averages around 60 people, depending on the point of development. On top of that, we have a team of folks at our headquarters in Agoura that focus on art, animation, design, production and more.

Was this game designed for your core fighter game fans or designed to entice newbies to the genre?
We designed UFC Undisputed 3 to be played by anyone – and in the ways they want to play. New “Amateur Controls” were specifically designed with new users in mind, but then things like our new Simulation Energy setting were designed with only the hardcore in mind.

How has the online functionality been improved?
In previous UFC titles, we used a lot of middleware; this is no longer the case with UFC Undisputed 3. This year, we also ran an Online Alpha Server test to stress test our servers before launch. From a feature perspective, we are offering a lot of content sharing this year, from highlight reels to logos to fighters, as well as the return of Fight Camps, which have been improved this year.

What can we expect from future editions?
I think the thing our team has always shown is that we are able to have a strong connection with our fans and our community. We’re just as big of MMA fans as anyone else, and I think our record has shown that every year we’re putting in features synonymous with the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts. PRIDE and former WEC weight classes are great examples. What the future holds for the UFC Undisputed franchise is really dependent on what the people want!

  • 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, January 20, 2012

Megabits Of News: Weekly Roundup

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

SEGA Sonic store sale now online
Good news for all Sonic merchandise hunters as SEGA officially launches its full online Sonic the Hedgehog store. For those who love a bargain, customers can get 15% off any order until the end of January by entering the following code – JANSALE15. See for details.

Ubisoft shuts studio in Vancouver
Publisher Ubisoft has shut its studio in Vancouver, Canada. Employees at the studio - apparently previously known as Action Pants - will have chance to consider jobs at some of Ubisoft's other studios, says Joystiq.

Official Video Game for London 2012 announced
Limber up your thumbs and forefingers - or even arms and legs if you have motion control support with an Xbox Kinect or PlayStation Move - as SEGA has confirmed an official tie-in for the London 2012 Olympic Games, featuring over 30 events.

Rockstar’s GTA V could be out by March 2013 - analysts
According to VG24/7, analysts believe Rockstar will have Grand Theft Auto V released before March 2013. Little has been revealed about the game to date.

Katy Perry collaborating with EA’s The Sims franchise
CVG says gaming giant EA has brought in pop star Katy Perry to advertise its new advertising and marketing campaigns for the Sims brand. Perry will also collaborate with EA to develop special Katy Perry themed in-game content.

Top Ten With a Twist 2012. Part Two

I haven't even paid Bojeeva his winnings from the 2011 competition, yet here we are doing it all over again: picking the ten games we're most excited about for the coming year and gambling on who's list will get the highest aggregated review scores (here's Bojeeva's list).

It's a risky list-there are a lot of sequels, and a lot of them are to games that weren't that great in the first place. Where 2011 was a bumper year for great games, 2012 isn't looking so rosy. For every Bioshock or Grand Theft Auto carrying on a tradition of brilliance, there's a Prototype or Transformers, games that have shown bags of potential but thus far fulfilled none of it. We're hoping that 2012 is the year that good ideas are matched with good execution.

(10) Bioshock Infinite
A flying city named after the personificationof America violently imposes it’s will with death from above? You have to say,the setting for the third Bioshock game doesn’t exactly scream subtle.Furthermore, another exceptional city that stumbles across “vigours andnostrums” rather undermines the unique qualities that made Rapture and it’splasmids and adam feel so special. You’d be forgiven for feeling underwhelmedat the prospect of Bioshock Infinite. I’m choosing to be optimistic, however.After all, we weren’t expecting much from Bioshock 2 either, and it turned outto be marvellous, action-packed fun. Add to that the fact that Bioshock’soriginator, Ken Levine, is part of the Infinite team, and you have a recipe foryet another beautiful, bombastic outing.

(9) Mass Effect 3
The non-arrival of MassEffect last year may well have cost me a win in 2011, but with a bit of luck itwill show up in 2012 and bag me plenty of points. After all, if there is asimilarly enormous improvement between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 as therewas between ME 1 and 2, then Mass Effect 3 should be one of the best games ofall time. Bioware have already replaced the convoluted menus with a streamlinedinterface, the bland planets with worthwhile exploration, and the mediocre bossfights with genuinely absorbing battles. Minor tweaks are all it will take tomake the 3rd instalment a GOTY contender.

(8) Grand Theft Auto V
Familiar faces in a familiar setting meanthat the GTA series’ return to San Andreas for its fifth full instalment hasgot fans feeling at home long before the game shows up. What’s more exciting,however, is the appearance of jets, biplanes and jetskis within the trailer. InGTA IV the games gonzo vehicles were kept largely in the background, but thereturn the beautiful and varied environments of San Andreas seem to bring withthem the resumption of the series’ traditional full on vehicular indulgence.

(7) Half Life 2 Episode 3
Humorous haiku from Valve boss Gabe Newell,and a leaked coded containing references to Ep3 has got the whole internethoping that the long, long wait might soon be over. Ok, I’ll believe it onlywhen I finally have Half Life Episode 3 in my hands, but still, I’m optimisticenough to put it in this list. The cold light, unscripted construction andexcellent shooting are oft talked about, but for me the best thing about theHalf Life series is the locations-decaying European cities, vertiginous bridgesand towering alien strongholds. Ep3 promises to add ice locked freighters tothat list, and I can’t wait.

(6) Syndicate
Ok, all the early hints make this look like theisometric, upgrade-happy tactical adventure we remember has been chucked out ofthe window in favour of an FPS with a tech tree. So, that’s Deus Ex all overagain. But have a little faith, this is Peter Molyneux we’re talking about. Theman has one of the most consistent hit lists in gaming, and if he’s turning hishand to an FPS, then we’re sure it will be worth playing.

(5) Prototype 2
The original Prototype combined dozens ofgreat ideas into a strangely uninspiring package. Perhaps it was the genericenemies, or the sprawling, unfocussed nature of the upgrade paths, or perhapsjust the dull, unconvincing city in which the game took place. But there’s atrend in recent years for weak first games to fix their flaws in the sequels,and we reckon Prototype 2 will live up to its predecessors potential.

(4) I Am Alive
I love a good apocalypse/post-apocalypsestory, and the long delayed I Am Alive puts a particularly nice twist on thegenre: instead of being a heavily armed and armoured warrior in a world that’sstarted anew, I Am Alive has you as an underpowered everyman in a world stillreeling from the disasters that have befallen it.

(3) Borderlands 2

The appeal of the original Borderlands as so simple and appealing that I'd be perfectly happy to just play it all over again with different missions but no real changes to the gameplay. Borderlands is all about loot. That addiction to crate-smashing and chest-searching that affect every RPG player are brought to the fore here-every time you think you should turn it off, you decide to just have another rummage in the next box, under the next rock, or in the next crate. Pretty much all you find is money or special guns, and pretty much all you'll spend the money on is more special guns. Get together with your mates, tool up with lightning shotguns and acid assault rifles, and go get yourself some money. It's a simple idea that bears plenty of repetition.

(2) Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
There's an alarming trend in this list-it's almost entirely composed of sequels, and many of them are sequels to games that needed some serious polishing. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is the perfect example. It's predecessor was a perfectly passable third person cover shooter, but it should have been so much more. It could have been reskinned to feature space marines, gangsters or just about any standard gaming protagonist-amongst those towering metal environments, with all those distinctive character designs, you never felt like you were actually controlling a giant steel robot. Tweak the animations and sound effects, add a dash of melee combat, and beef up the floaty handling and you'll have fixed the flaws that held back the original.

(1) Resident Evil 6
Floppy fringed emo-cop Leon and grunting man-tank Chris, together at last. Amazingly, that's not a gay porn synopsis but a selling point for Resident Evil 6. The question is, will they be two separate playable characters with discrete missions, or will we be subjected to another ill-advised co-op adventure? This could be the difference between the heights of RE2 and 4, or the depths of RE5.

Review: Crush3D

By 'eck, when I was a lad viewing a screen in 3D meant donning one sexy pair of specs. One lens red the other blue and suddenly you'd be ducking and dodging like the action on TV was taking place in your living room.....sort of. In reality it was never that good.

Roll on to 2012 and 3D is becoming ever more commonplace in gaming and pleasingly Zoe Mode's updated version of Crush - originally released on Sony's PSP. Crush3D, has landed on the Nintendo 3DS at just the right time.

The story places you into the rather fetching dressing gown of Danny, a troubled young man who agrees, perhaps foolishly, to become Dr. Doccerson's guinea pig in testing the Doc's new invention, C.R.U.S.H. This latest wacky creation allows the user to explore their dreams and fears, but when the machine takes a shine to Danny it traps him in his own mind. Thus begins the sprawling, puzzletastic adventure as Danny tries to escape the machine.

The game takes the form of a classic platform/puzzler but of course being on 3DS means it has a new trick up its sleeve. At the opening of each level Danny has to collect a certain number of marbles which are dotted about the place, this then opens the exit and the chance to proceed, sounds simple enough. Unfortunately it's not quite that straight forward. You see young Danny doesn't possess any particularly astounding powers, so at first glance it appears that the way forward is an impossibility, time to pull that trick from the sleeve.

Utilising the new capabilities of this modern age players can now switch between the traditional 2D perspective into an all new 3D one to solve puzzles and progress through the levels.

This jump from 3D to 2D is known as 'crushing' and works a treat. For example, that platform that is happily floating in the background comfortably out of reach of our young hero can, with the use of 'crushing', be brought to the 2D foreground and easily hopped upon. It quite literally opens up a whole new dimension for the platforming genre and works superbly well.

The trick is working out the necessary perspective to be able to continue. As the game progresses it becomes increasingly difficult and occasionally frustrating as moving platforms, enemies that need to be crushed, special blocks that break and a whole host of other irritations make themselves known. It can be a daunting proposition and certainly slows progress but perseverance and the occasional smile from lady luck will see you through.

The concept of switching between dimensions works really well, the game still works even with the 3D slider right down and the whole package has a charm and logic to it that should keep you coming back for more even when the frustration begins to kick in, plus if you get truly baffled there is a very handy hint option to point you back in the right direction.

The game looks crisp and colourful and this helps with solving the puzzles, the story ticks along nicely in the background via the odd cut-scene and as I said it holds a certain charm throughout. Of course it isn't without fault, there are most definitely times when it can all become just a bit too much and times when it becomes repetitive but thankfully it never over-rides the fun of playing and satisfaction of completing a level.

Overall I've enjoyed my time with Crush3D even if my grey cells have at times begged for mercy. If you're looking for a game that will tax the brain while remaining enjoyable and you can accept that this isn't going to be a quick stroll in the park to the end credits, then you could do a lot worse than enter the troubled mind of Danny and the wonderfully imaginative world of Crush3D.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Too close for comfort... Marvel vs Capcom 3

The year of 2011 is over and what a year it was. We had spectacular games and incredible progress in the video game community. Franchises were lining up as players were treated with phenomenal debuts. Gamers certainly have a lot to talk about, as a result of both ground breaking or lackluster news. Needless to say, 2011 was a great year in gaming.

But that doesn't mean that there weren't a few bumps along the way. Granted there was a lot to praise in 2011, but there was quite a bit to complain about as well. One particular issue that gamers are still talking about now we’re in the new year is the short nine-month gap between Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3.

One of the main reasons I'm raising this subject is that this year marks the 25th Anniversary of Mega Man. Fans are wondering whether Capcom will actually do anything for Mega Man this year. Their scepticism branches from the fact that Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe were both cancelled. Plus, Mega Man was not a featured character in either Marvel vs Capcom 3 or Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3.

Fans have been becoming increasingly agitated with Capcom's cold shoulder to Mega Man. Most argue that he’s one factor that helped build them into the company they are now. However, it isn't only the neglect of a popular character that is ruffling up the feathers of Capcom's audience...

Marvel vs Capcom 3 was released on February 15, 2011. Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 was announced on July 20 and was released on November 15. Fans already had a feeling that Capcom was going to release an expanded game or DLC in the future, they just didn't realize that it was going to be the near future. Hence, many people were upset by the announcement of Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 coming out soon just four months after the first one was released.

The fans wanted answers and the one they got was from Capcom's Seth Killian who stated that scheduling conflicts and time contraints between Marvel and Capcom's games only gave them a small window of opportunity to release Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. There was the answer and fans still had plenty to say about it. I interviewed a few gamers who have their own opinions... (their initials differentiate their answers).

1. Is a nine month gap acceptable between the games?

GP - "No. The first game cost enough to get. I can barely get enough trade-in credit for the first one. If they waited longer, they could have had more stuff."

VB - "I'm pissed. It should have been an update. I already paid enough for the special edition."

PG - "It's a slap in the face. It's like a repeat of Street Fighter IV."

2. Is the new price reasonable?

GP - "Yeah, but the game came out too early for me to be interested in buying the same game."

VB - "The price is not fair. Those of us who bought the special edition should at least get compensation when getting the new game with a discount."

PG - "Yeah, it's okay. It beats having to pay for a full price game."

3. Should the new characters and stages have been downloadable?

GP - "The game would be more expensive like that. Wouldn't it be like five dollars per character? You'd end up paying more for characters than the actual game."

VB - "Yes, it would have been good to have DLC. Then I could choose who and what I want at my own convenience."

PG - "It should all have been DLC. If they have two characters for DLC, why not the others?"

4. Which three Marvel and Capcom characters should have been included?

GP - "For Capcom, Mega Man, Regina from Dino Crisis, and Samonoske from Onimusha. I would have liked to have seen Ms Marvel, Spider-Woman, and Venom, too."

VB - "My choices are Mega Man, Nero, and Masamune Date. Would have been nice if Marvel had Venom, Gambit, and Black Panther."

PG - "Jin, Samonoske, and Alex for sure. They would have been cool. Gambit, Nightcrawler, and Venom are awesome for Marvel's side."

5. Do you think "time constraints" is a good reason for the gap?

GP - "No, they could have waited. Again, they could have added so much more than what was put in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3."

VB - "No. Time constraints shouldn't have been an issue. They could've taken their time."

PG - "In a way, but it would have been better if they took their time. More time leads to more content."

I acknowledge that everyone has their own opinion about the nine month gap; I have my own opinions. This was especially done for those who played the original Marvel vs Capcom 3 and possibly got the special edition. The general consensus that I got from gamers who bought the special edition is that they feel screwed over. They paid twenty dollars more than anyone else who got the standard edition. They then told me about how they will end up getting Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 for its new features, but that they basically paid over one hundred dollars for the same game.

I don't condemn anything about what happened with the nine month gap, but I will say that I understand from both ends how this looks. The developers felt rushed and wanted to get the game out soon or else they wouldn't be able to for awhile. The gamers felt that this was too soon and that they are getting ripped off by spending their money on an update. Gamers may feel even more resentment toward Capcom if they find out that nothing is actually being done with Mega Man's 25th Anniversary. Only time will tell what happens.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: All Zombies Must Die

It’s a lazy trope of journalism but in the case of All Zombies Must Die it’s hard to resist the urge to sum it up simply by combining two existing games, ie: It’s like Gauntlet meets Dead Rising 2. In fact, we won’t resist the urge. Its isometric (almost top down) four-player food-dependent twin-stick mob-twatting combined with the ability to harvest and craft numerous implements into a single zombie-slaying weapon do call to mind both Gauntlet and Dead Rising 2.

We’re not even going to be ashamed of using the “meets” trope, we’re just going to point out the fact that we’ve done it in a knowing way, in much the same way that All Zombies Must Die knowingly points out the weakness of its dialogue and use of old school game mechanics.

Up to four cartoon characters can fight their way round a zombie filled town, battling squads of comparatively feeble ordinary zombies mixed with slightly tougher mutants and the occasional ‘enraged’ horde of tougher red zombies. Set light to them before you kill them and you’ll increase the likelihood of one type of loot drop, make their ears ring with a siren before you send them back to hell and you’ll get a different loot. By collecting and combining the right types of loot you can craft fiery sticks, radioactive shotguns and the like. Along the way you’ll earn XP for kills and quests, which can be spent on upgrading your characters attack, defence, health and speed. You can also spend XP to reassign your favourite weapon, and gain a buff from using it.

The capsule summary tells you everything you need to know the mechanics, but not the experience of playing the game, which is not dissimilar to a Lego title. It’s too much fun to ever abandon in its entirety, but just about repetitive enough to stop you from being engrossed enough to play for ours. It's a game that rewards short bursts of play, an hour here, half an hour there, and as long as you keep it short you’ll keep coming back to it. Give it too long, however, and you might start to find it a little tiresome.

The combat is largely superficial, but the opportunity to chase upgrade points and tweak your weapons and character provides enough motivation to overcome the slightly shallow bash and blast action, as do the enjoyable sound effects. We’ve often thought that novelty sound effects are the holy grail of casual, indie and XBLA games; find the right sound effect and you could sell a million copies of a single-button button-basher off the back of it. AZMD doesn’t quite uncover that holy grail, but it comes close enough to keep you grinning.

That smile will fall from your face as you come to realise quite how limited the game environments are, and how often you’ll trek across them on the games endless list of fetchquests. Once again, the longer you play the game, the less you’ll like it. Treat it like a casual game for short, beery bursts with your mates, however, and it will keep you entertained. If we could, we’d give it a ‘rent it’ but as that’s not possible for an XBLA title we’ll latch on to the affirmatives and say ‘Buy It’.

Reviewed on Xbox 360

Site Offers Team 17 Classics For Retro Treat

I owe a lot to Team 17. Afterall, Superfrog and Alien Breed got me into this whole journalism game. Founded in 1990, Team 17 is one of my favourite developers of the past few decades and was responsible for some absolutely corking titles. It was my addiction to them - fuelled by all night gaming sessions and copious quantities of Coca Cola - that saw me scribble down my gameplay tips and send them to Future Publishing's now defunct (obviously) Commodore Amiga magazine, Amiga Power. My witty writing style and indepth knowledge (!) of the aforementioned titles got me published and I was subsequently showered with free games.

Anyway, I digress. If, like me, you can't muster the enthusiasm to wander about your dimly-lit loft to try and track down these classic Team 17 discs for a nostalgic playthrough, then why not take a trip to The fantastic site - crammed full of DRM-free PC games - has just made some of Team 17's library available for download for only a few dollars.

Among them, Worms United – a special edition of the original Worms with the expansion Worms Reinforcements, Alien Breed and Alien Breed: Tower Assault, Superfrog and World Rally Fever: Born on the Road.

I'm suddenly craving Lucozade!!!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Review: Kirby's Return to Dream Land

I don’t consider it a homecoming when I leave my apartment to go downstairs and pick up the mail. I get no cause for celebration from returning to my humble abode after a grueling affair at the corner store (despite risking my life saying no to the kids asking me to buy them smokes). Even traversing as far away as the distant land of downtown Toronto doesn’t quite warrant the fanfare Kirby seems to be getting with “Kirby’s Return to Dreamland.” I mean, Kirby didn’t really leave Dreamland in the first place. He took a jaunt to a land of strings and clothing patches, and even that trip led to Dreamland in the end anyways. Writing this review is reaaaaaaaally making me want to play Kirby’s Epic Yarn again.

That game unintentionally challenged the notion of games being tests of wit and skill. You couldn’t die. There were no puzzles for which to test your intelligence and falling off a cliff merely penalized you with a frowny-faced Kirby (of which is a more guilt-ridden punishment than death itself). No, that game’s success was in being so gosh-darned cute, and melodically-paced as to dispel all of life’s worries and put the player in a state of wholesome, drug-free bliss. If Kirby’s Epic Yarn was played in Arkham Asylum, crime in Gotham City would go down and the Riddler would be dispensing tongue twisters for all the kids. Instead of killing them with tongue twisters, I guess.

Kirby’s Return to Dreamland forgoes most of what made that former string-based lifeform of a game special and brings the puff-man back to his roots as a giant vacuum carnivore. We’re back to eating other life forms and snuffing their souls from existence in the name of absorbing their powers. But at least lessons were learned from Kirby’s… er… epic yarn of a tale. Namely that there is power in catharsis over difficulty. Sometimes, I don’t want a game where I get cornered by 20 armed guards speaking in Eastern European accents, sometimes I just want to look at very cute things stab each other with spikes coming out of their adorable pores.

The main gameplay conceit of a typical Kirby game (one with carbon-based organisms instead of arts-and-crafts-based organisms) is that Kirby can suck up and spit out most enemy flesh, or swallow and steal the potent superpowers from his adversaries. Part of the fun of those old-fashioned Kirby cannibalism games is discovering and experimenting with the various superpowers. All that is old is new again in Return to Dreamland, as each of the old powers have been given a handful of new tricks and toys for which to administer adorable assault.

Suddenly, every power becomes interesting. Old Kirby games had their share of duds. You know the ones I’m talking about: Electric Power, Spiky Power. The powers that involved you standing perfectly still and hoping Waddle Dee was Waddle Dumb enough to walk into you bioelectric field (he usually was). Well, here you can shake the remote to charge up and fire your electric field of doom, or draw your spikes while dashing to transform into a rolling tire of spiky carnage, puncturing all in your path. This game is rated E for Everyone.

And then you climb the ladder from “Electric Kirby” and “Fire Kirby” to “Martial Arts Kirby” and “Indiana Kirby And the Temple of the Crystal Puff”, constantly getting new powers, waylaying all that gets in your path, and being wooed by the cheerful background music. All the things Kirby does right, just now you can do it right with up to four people; up to four co-habitants can hop in at any time and relieve themselves at the expense of poor Whispy Woods (of course you fight that mopey giant tree again. Though you may be relieved to know he is the one major returning boss character. Sorry Kracko. Sorry…err…painter guy).

Player one controls Kirby, and is the one for whom the screen and all in-level progress is centered around. So as long as player one is not a fool, the game will flow regardless of other players’ maturity/skill/grievance levels. The other players can control either different coloured Kirbys, (Kirbi?) Meta-Knight, King DeDeDe or a spear-toting Waddle Dee of Waddle Death. The latter three play like variations of Kirby with a spear, Kirby with a hammer and Kirby with a sword. Since they can’t absorb powers, I feel like playing as them is missing the point (unless the point is that you think a penguin in a king costume wielding an MF’in mallet is adorable, then by all means, rock that mallet). So four players rocking four Kirbi seems to be to way to go. Also, worry not, this doesn’t have the horrible-human-being physics of New Super Mario Bros Wii. Characters don’t flubberishly bounce off each other and into bottomless pits, nor do they take every excuse to pick up and throw each other as if Mario and Luigi were magnetically attracted to spikes. No, here, four players can co-exist and co-operate peacefully. In fact, players can share health by way of embracing in hugs. It’s that kind of game.

And really, a Kirby game is all about the loving. In spite of all of my murderous wordplay, Kirby only wants to do is lend a hand. The plot of the game, or what little plot there is, involves Kirby helping a shipwrecked extra-terrestrial rebuild his ship because dagnabbit, Kirby is all about doing the right thing. Along the way, he’s going to dig up collectable items to unlock mini games and challenge rooms, including a surprise Super Scope reference, because Super Scope references are also the right thing to do.

Maybe the right thing to do is also to play Kirby’s Return to Dreamland. This is a game that figures out how to make that classic style of Kirbying fun to do. Then it gives you a chance to get three other people around to join you as a way of apologizing for making them play New Super Mario Bros Wii as a group. It has a certain charming aesthetic and vibe that encourages you to kick back and turn puffy enemies into dust clouds. This is an ideal game to relax to, play in quick bursts between trips to the corner store and dramatic returns to your real life Dreamland. And maybe get your younger siblings or drug-addled friends to join in with you. We’re all kind of sick of Wii Sports anyways.

Reviewed on Wii

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Top Ten With A Twist - 2012

Long term readers will know that myself and Ibwib have an ongoing bet each year where we each predict some of the top games that are scheduled and then use score aggregator Metacritic to see who has come out on top. Well, no sooner have the results for our top 2011 games been announced, than we have to rub our respective crystal balls and decide what our top tips are for the year ahead. Just for the record, I'd like to remind everyone (including Ibwib) that I was the victor in 2011 - thanks to the fact Mass Effect 3 didn't emerge! Anyways, it still counts as a victory and as reigning champion I'm going to kick the New Year off with my next selection.

The added "twist" this year is that the list will be extended from five to ten... just to give Ibwib a sporting chance if another of his titles is delayed (he can't use that as an excuse then, eh?).

There are so many great-looking games to choose from: the aforementioned Mass Effect 3, Metal Gear Solid: Rising, Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Bioshock Infinite to name but a few. But they don't even make my list of the most wanted... So without further delay - and in no particular order - here are my most anticipated games for 2012.

(10) Syndicate

The return of one of my favourite games of all time has to head this list - and while I'm hugely disappointed it departs from its traditional isometric viewpoint, it looks like it's going to resemble Deus Ex: Human Revolution - and that can only be a good thing!

(9) Dishonored
Bethesda is set to publish the intriguing-sounding Dishonored and it's certainly on my wanted list this year. This first person action game looks awesome from its early screenshots - thanks to the talents of Half-Life 2 art director Viktor Antonov. You take the role of a bodyguard of an Empress, framed for her murder and hellbent on revenge. You must become an assassin and traverse a gameworld where every choice you make has an effect.

(8) Minecraft
Already a massive hit on the PC, I'm intrigued by how this will play on the humble console. A construction game where anything is possible, this should get your creative juices flowing and bring some real open-ending gameplay. The upcoming 360 version is said to support Kinect. This could be phenomenal!

(7) Borderlands 2

Cel-shading goodness makes a welcome return in 2012. The original was immense with a huge gameworld, loads of shooting and driving missions, great powerups and character classes - and some of the best co-op action ever. The imminent sequel promises to better it in every way.

(6) Hitman Absolution
The Hitman games have always been tricky and I've rarely completed them... but the one thing that keeps making me want to come back is the sheer number of ways in which a mission can be completed. Sure, you can go in all guns blazing but more often than not you'll be shot down in no time. Anyway, it's nowhere near as satisfying as sneaking about, finding an entrance point, avoiding guards and pulling off a sublime assassination with no one even knowing anything was amiss. Can't wait.

(5) Max Payne 3
It may have seen its fair share of delays but it seems absolutely certain that the third installment of Max's escapades will be released very soon indeed. He's looking a little rough around the edges since his last outing in 2003, with a few more pounds around the waist and a little less hair. The original was the first game to use Bullet Time - so who would bet against Max Payne 3 introducing something equally innovative?

(4) Grand Theft Auto V
We at Megabits have been waxing lyrical about the GTA IV for ages. Some hated its slightly more serious tone and a lack of customisation options but we thought that Liberty City was a great world to get lost in. If the teaser trailer is anything to go by, the next in the series looks like it will fly off the shelves and certainly be a contender for Game Of The Year.

(3) Inversion
This third-person co-op shooter sounds both amazing and refreshing. To fully understand the gravity of this game (see what I did there?!), you'll have to get to grips with your unique Grappler weapon to manipulate objects and enemies as you take on the evil Lutadore. Gravity-controlling weapons? Yes please.

(2) Prototype 2
Absolutely loved the first game and I quickly forgave all its flaws. Darting about the city - both horizontally and vertically - was great fun and the free running element was well worked and effective. Gaining powerful abilities that allowed you to morph into people and turn your body into the ultimate killing machine was a great idea - and one that I'm looking forward to revisiting with the sequel.

(1) Anarchy Reigns
SEGA and Platinum Games are set to launch Anarchy Reigns - and I cannot wait. Having adored Vanquish, this promises to be equally over the top. This is an online beat em up featuring varied characters, weapons and powers, with devastating moves that leave the screen awash with colour... just as we've come to expect from this studio!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Review: Rayman Origins

When Rayman Origins was first announced at E3 2010 at the Ubisoft games conference I didn't have high expectations. The original Rayman, released on the PlayStation back in 1995, was still firmly etched into my memory as one of my favorite games from my childhood. I thought there was no way this game could capture the same sense of fun of the first game. However, after finally getting my hands on it, I can gladly say it brought back what made Rayman great and then made it better, which shouldn't have been much of a surprise as Ubisoft had got the creator of Rayman (Michel Ancel) back on board.

You don't need me to tell you how great it looks... The completely hand drawn animations are extremely smooth and the environments are stunning. The lush green forests, sandy deserts and icy tundra all have their own individual look and personality. Unfortunately you will probably miss the amazing scenery the first time round as you will be so focused on getting to the end of the level and smashing open one more cage.

The platforming is exactly what you would expect from a Rayman game; you have your basic controls such as run, jump and attack. As you progress through the game and save more scantily-clad pixies, you unlock new abilities such as the ability to fly and run on walls, which will help you pass the later levels. The controls will never leave you frustrated as they are extremely accurate and at times quite forgiving. Other parts of the game have you mounting a giant mosquito as you fly through the level shooting enemies out of the sky.

The gameplay is quirky and fun, with interesting enemy types from the simple angry bird to glowing sea monsters. The game doesn't provide too much of a challenge and you will likely find your self repeating only a few sections of the game to get to the end. The difficulty comes in collecting everything in the game. And if, like me, you want to collect and see everything that the game has to offer, chances are you will not do this on the first play through. You will keep coming back to levels again and again to try to collect a few more electoons for that gold medal, or trying to sprint an entire level to get the time trial trophies. This adds a lot of hours to the game's length and is really only limited by how many hours you are willing to put in, as it can be quite difficult to acquire everything.

This game is definitely a blast to play on your own but if you can get a couple buddies over and experience the local co-op then hilarity is likely to ensue; you will be raging at each other for messing up a section of the level and creating challenges for each other while trying to collect as many electoons as possible.

Rayman Origins was undoubtedly a lost gem in the sea of last year's end-of-season games. It's nice to see something so unique come out in a time where only certain types of games ever make it into production *cough* First person shooters *cough*. In my opinion, this is the best platforming game to grace consoles this generation, and for those who haven't played it I recommend you go out and get a copy as soon as possible so you can experience this beautiful, quirky game.