Larry Hryb, known more commonly by his Xbox Live gamertag Major Nelson, revealed the new controller on his blog. Hyrb, the Director of Programming for Xbox Live, is shown in a video how the adjustable D-pad will work.
With a twist of the wrist, the D-pad goes from flat to a raised plus controller. Hryb said this was in response to many gamers who didn’t like the feel of the D-pad and the engineers came up with a solution that was designed to give options for those who wanted a better feel.
The colored buttons are also gone in favor of gray A, B, X, Y buttons. Concave analog sticks and a matte silver finish complete the transformation for the new wireless controller.
The new device will not be included in new console sales and is only available with the new Play & Charge Kit that will launch on November 9 for $64.99. The Play & Charge Kit includes a rechargeable battery pack, which allows gamers to lose disposable batteries currently used to power the controllers.
When developing their hockey game for the upcoming season, 2KSports decided to put all their eggs in one basket by only making a game for the Nintendo Wii and bypassing the Sony PS3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 consoles. By utilizing the Wii Remote controller and the Wii Motion Plus attachment, 2KSports hoped to introduce a more true-to-life feel in the game play.
The game boasts real-time puck handing, poke checks and even juggling moves. While the fancy moves are attainable with the Wii Motion Plus, it is the basic moves where the games fall short.
Simply trying to shoot the puck is a hit or miss proposition since the controller movement (a flick upward) doesn’t always work when you need it to. One-timer shots connect with power, but can sometimes be swing and a miss attempts as well – not what you’d expect from NHL style players.
The Wii nunchuck controller works well to move the players on the ice and is also utilized with the Wii Remote during hockey fights. And who doesn’t like a good hockey fight?
Using the Classic Controller to play fixes a lot of the shooting issues, but loses the puck handling and juggling abilities. It also seems to take away the reason for making it a Wii-exclusive title by getting away from the Wii Remote and into a more traditional controller.
The computer-controlled players also seem to have issues with positioning and spacing. Many times, players are out of position or slow to react to puck movements, which seem to result in breakaways for the opposing team.
Refereeing is inconsistent when a minor collision nets a penalty call while running a guy over when he doesn’t have the puck is brushed aside. Sure, that happens in NHL games, but these little things add up and detract from making the game feel truly realistic.
There are plenty of features invested in the game including replaying the Winter Classic and an all-new Road to the Cup mode that pits Miis (personalize avatars for the Wii) against one another in competition. There are also alternative jerseys to be worn and each team has a full roster to choose your own lines.
The look of the game is great. Individual players appear realistic enough, right down to the slightly askew noses and missing teeth. The hockey rinks are well lit and loud, with appropriate fan noise for each arena.
But “NHL2K11” falls short where it counts. The gameplay isn’t horrible, but spotty shooting abilities, a sluggish A.I., and a game that actually plays better when you don’t use the controller it was designed for mean an average experience for a sport that is designed for speed and skill.
“NHL2K11” is a Wii-exclusive title and is rated E 10+ for mild violence (unless your fighting skills are better than your shooting skills).
Disney Interactive Studios announced that their upcoming title, “Disney Epic Mickey,” will also be released as a Collectors’ Edition, complete with the adventurous Mickey in ready pose. Available for pre-order, the CE will contain the 5-inch figurine, Wii console skins and remote faceplate, and a DVD with behind-the-scenes video.
“We’re thrilled to roll out this Collectors’ Edition featuring so many unique items including the collectible figurine and content that will surprise and delight gamers and Disney fans alike,” said Graham Hopper, executive vice president and general manager, Disney Interactive Studios. “The addition of the bonus DVD with behind-the-scenes video and more will enhance and expand the overall experience.”
“Disney Epic Mickey” is an action adventure game that allows players to control Mickey Mouse through a land that has become drab and desolate. The world is expected to be populated by Disney’s long forgotten characters and attractions.
Mickey will have the power of paint to alter the landscape and change the world, also changing how the game story will play out. Calling their concept “Playstyle Matters,” developers have built different challenges to allow players many different options and storylines – but all with consequences.
“Disney Epic Mickey” will be available this holiday season exclusively for Wii.
Twenty four years after her initial appearance, Samus Aran returns as “Metroid: Other M” (Nintendo) continues her outer-space adventures with a new control set-up that will have players flipping all night long.
The eleventh games in the series, the story of “Metroid: Other M” actually takes place between two other releases, “Super Metroid” in 1994 and “Metroid Fusion” in 2002. The beginning of “Metroid: Other M” actually retells the ending of “Super Metroid” in a lengthy, beginning cut scene.
Action begins as Samus answers a distress call from a floating ship and runs into a group of space soldiers who are also investigating the call. Players guide Samus through the ship in search of survivors and to discover what caused the disaster in the first place.
Movement through the ship is from many vantage points. Sometimes, it appears to be a side-scroller game with left to right movement only. Other times, it takes on first-person shooter characteristics, allowing for line of sight viewpoint and full 3-D motion within rooms and hallways.
In addition to the adventure along the damaged space ship, well-rendered cut scenes spend a lot of time looking backward and revealing more about Samus’ haunted past and why she decided to become an intergalactic bounty hunter. For long time fans of the series, these scenes really fill in the gaps about her history and motivation as a warrior.
Energy beams and bombs cut through enemies well enough. They are also used to open doors, demolish barriers, and some beams allow Samus to traverse wide gaps. Even boss battles will often use a combination of weapons to not allow players just to wail away with missiles.
“Metroid: Other M” also utilizes a Sense mode, which allows Samus the ability to dodge strikes from opponents and counterattack rapidly with a melee hit. Samus can also jump on top of enemies’ heads and deal death blows from that strategic point.
The environment starts off dark, but once energy is restored, there are few shadows to allow creatures to hide and leap out. Most bad guys are brightly colored and are easy to spot. Some creatures have specific points of spawning, which need to be taken out to stop wave after wave of baddies.
The game renders the feel of a derelict space ship nicely. It isn’t gloom and doom like portrayed in “Dead Space”, but you know not everything is going to work and getting around some damaged areas takes some creative thinking.
Samus retains her ability to morph into a small ball similar to an armadillo. This ability comes in handy for rapid movements, getting into tight spaces, and dodging enemies that want to swoop down from above.
What really sets this game apart from others in the franchise is the use of the Wii controller to open up various actions and movements.
The Wii controller is used in two ways – horizontally and vertically. Each has its own uses and impact on the game.
Horizontally, the controller acts as a classic controller with D-pad on the left and buttons on the right. With only two buttons, 1 & 2, they control jumping and shooting. The A button on the left controls the morphing ability into the small ball.
In vertical mode, the controller acts more like a pointer and gives a first-person-shooter perspective on the action. Samus can’t move, but she can scan a room for enemies and points of interest. A lock-on feature helps with targeting in a room full of enemies.
Action will require the use of both modes during some scenes, so gamers should be sure to loosen up their arms because flipping from horizontal to vertical and back will be quite frequent.
There are some minor drawbacks. It is easier to control the speed at which Samus moves when she’s in ball form than when she’s in human form. When moving through a corridor or room, she’s moving at full speed at all times, so it lacks some finesse.
The music is also disjointed. Dramatic tunes play during certain scenes causing players to expect something to happen. But Samus continues on without any conflict or revealing information obtained so the music seems tacked on.
As one of the first female protagonists in the video game industry, Samus and the “Metroid” series have a built in fan base that has been wanting to see where the bounty hunter would go with the new generation of consoles. “Metroid: Other M” pays homage to its past through the cut scenes and story tie in while exploring new ways to portray action with the Wii controller.
Fans and newcomers alike should be pleased with the variety and interaction. It was nominated for “Game of the Show” at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California in June.
“Metroid: Other M” is rated T for teens for animated blood and violence. It will be released on August 31 in North America, September 2 for Japan and Australia, and September 3 in Europe.
Set in the 1940s and 50s, “Mafia II”(2K Czech) is a violent, historical, and definitely exciting journey through the mob world in the United States – featuring a great story, accurate artwork and music for the time period, and gameplay that isn’t overly complicated.
The tale begins with a street tough kid from Cicely named Vito Scaletta whose parents emigrate to the U.S. and Empire City, a sprawling metropolis based on New York City, Chicago and San Francisco. It ends as with Scaletta as a made man for the mafia, but along the way, he goes through many scenarios involving theft, betrayal, stealth and murder.
Much of the action takes place with Vito’s childhood friend, Joe Barbero. Barbero is a non-player character who helps spur the action along and also helps out in some of the more wild firefights.
Jack Scalici, director of creative production at 2K Gamers, said writer Daniel Vavra wanted to base the story on Mafia history with an alternative slant.
“Daniel is a Mafia historian,” Scalici said. “He really wanted to show what Mafia life was like through one guy during a specific time period.”
There are plenty of opportunities for classic gun battles in iconic buildings for a Mafia story like a bourbon distillery, dock warehouse and Chinese restaurant. Some scenes end in total bloodbaths after the player has mowed down dozens of other mobsters and gangsters.
Conflicts with police (and there will be many of those) can be resolved through bribery, or, for a more exciting option, car chases and rolling gun fights throughout the streets of the city.
Despite a free-roaming city that reaches out 10 square miles, the story is a linear one. Each episode flows directly into the next in a series of events that doesn’t require side missions. There are plenty of shops dotted throughout Empire City, but they are visited on an as-needed basis for guns, clothing or food.
“This is not a GTA (Grand Theft Auto) game,” Scalici explains. “There is nothing out there like it. There is so much more you can do.”
Scalici described the game as an authentic 40s and 50s era experience – right down to historically accurate cars (which players can customize) from each time period, the music on the radios, the billboard ads, and the buildings seen throughout Empire City.
“In the 40s, the buildings are mostly brick with very few skyscrapers,” Scalici said. “Once we get to the 50s, there is more glass in the building and more skyscrapers in the skyline.”
In an effort to achieve historical accuracy, Scalici said there is language and dialect that is appropriate for each neighborhood of Empire City. There are also over 100 different interior designs so players don’t feel like they are visiting the same room for every building.
Because getting from one place to another usually involves a car ride, music was a huge component in creating a believable environment. Scalici said there are 120 licensed songs from the 40s and 50s that play from radio in vehicles and in some buildings. The process of picking those songs took nearly 2 years.
“I told our music people to send me all the music before Phil Spector,” he said. “They sent me thousands, which we whittled down to 1,500. I listened to them for the next 2 years before finally getting it down to 120.”
Scalici said he didn’t want to pick the greatest hits from each era. In fact, he said they eliminated some artists just so people would want to listen to them throughout the game.
“I picked Roy Hamilton instead of Elvis,” he said. “I chose songs that wouldn’t get on the players nerves after a couple of hours.”
Even the radio announcers were chosen because of their classic sound. Los Angeles-based AM radio DJ Jim Thornton is heard doing many different voices in the style of his counterparts from that time period.
The gameplay is pretty straight forward since the game was designed towards the casual gamer. There aren’t complicated controls during hand-to-hand battles and firing weapons is as easy as point and shoot.
Different cars behave differently on the road and under changing weather conditions. Each vehicle has its own speed and handling specifications, which can make some chapters more challenging depending on what getaway vehicle the player decided to bring.
“Mafia II” is not without some bits of controversy. The game is rated M for mature and it earns that rating fairly. There is a lot of coarse language befitting the time period. Know the old saying, “use it like a comma”? It is more like “use it instead of spaces between words.”
There is also some nudity sprinkled through the game in collectible Playboy covers and centerfolds from the 1950s. It is part of a licensing deal that ads a bit of authenticity to the game and isn’t overly front and center in any of the game play.
The one glaring drawback to the game was the ending. Without giving anything away, the finale feels abrupt, like the ending of the middle movie in a trilogy that really doesn’t resolve anything, but seems to be setting up the next movie.
Ending aside, “Mafia II” is a fun, energetic, sometimes bloody game that steeps the player in the alternate world of the crime families from the 40s and 50s. There are 15 chapters, with each taking anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes to play.
Once you start, it will be hard to put down because the flow and story of the game really pulls you along. There are 2 downloadable content packs that introduce a character specifically for those DLCs and are not part of the main storyline.
“Mafia II” is out for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.
Digital Rights Management, or DRM, has been touted as a piracy preventer by entertainment and gaming manufacturers while being blasted by end users as restrictive and ineffective against illegal downloading and copying of electronic media.
One gaming company has heard the cries of the players and plans to release their latest title without DRM. They aren’t inviting pirates to copy their game, but they think they’ve found a way to keep their customers happy and still put a dent in the counterfeit gaming process.
DRM encrypts material in such a way that only a particular device or code can play or retrieve it. Gamers who buy DRM games usually get a digital code to insert at the beginning of the game, which allows it to be played by that player’s console or computer.
Companies claim they need to use DRM to maintain the integrity of the games they produce and ensure that the end user is getting the quality they’ve paid for. Publisher Ubisoft created a virtual firestorm in March, 2010, when they put DRM protections on their game, “Assassin’s Creed” for the PC.
At the time, players quickly lashed out at Ubisoft, calling the DRM plan easy to circumvent and burdensome. It required the game to constantly be connected online to verify the purchase; so if the internet connection was lost during gameplay, all progress was lost and players were forced to restart or hope for a reconnection. The same was true if Ubisoft’s master servers went down.
Other gaming companies have tried to protect their product with other types of DRM systems – some succeed, others are still working toward a system that thwarts pirates and doesn’t disrupt legitimate game play.
Stardock, maker of the “Galactic Civilizations” series, believes that DRM doesn’t work and refuses to place any DRM copy protection on its games. But they have a process that only allows legitimate customers access to all the game’s features.
Their latest title, “Elemental: War of Magic,” is a turn-based strategy game that contains a role-playing game element. As a ruler, you will found new cities, research technology and recruit specialists and champions to do your bidding much like a strategy game. However, you will also increase your own personal stats, talents and spells like an RPG game character.
Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock, hopes the combination of play styles will be a big hit with gamers.
“Unlike some games where you do the quest and if you fail, someone else has to clean up the mess, in our game, you are the one to have to clean up from adventurers who unleashed evil on the world,” Wardell said. “You will be able to literally build your own world with your own quests and monsters.”
Wardell said the game will be released on August 24 in stores or through Impulse, a digital download platform without any DRM protections. He said it is all about trying to focus on the customer.
“We want to reward customers for buying the product,” he explained. “We release lots of free updates for our games with several in the pipeline and more in development. Pirates won’t get this.”
Wardell emphasized that he isn’t endorsing nor does he want his games to be pirated. But by releasing a base game then adding free material after a gamer registers, he believes that pirates won’t want to waste their time with a product that doesn’t have all the features.
“If you buy it online, we know who you are,” Wardell said. “If you buy it retail, there are concerns about being inconvenienced by (DRM) connections. We want to remove those concerns and try to focus on our customer.”
He said a player’s paid account with Stardock will grant them access to everything the game has to offer, including the ability to make your own challenges and creatures and share them with others. He touted the unique art style in the game allows for lower hardware requirements, but still project a beautifully rendered playing experience without having to upgrade your computer.
Wardell doesn’t think he’s breaking any new ground by not including DRM protections. He said it is too obvious of a move to be considered a new trail.
“We just want to reward those customers who are loyal for buying ‘Elemental: War of Magic,’” he said. “Pirates just make me mad.”
“Elemental: War of Magic” will be released August 24 exclusively for the PC.
Because a new “World of Warcraft” game alone isn’t enough, Blizzard Entertainment announced plans for a Collector’s Edition for their third expansion, “World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.”
“World of Warcraft” is the most popular subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) in the world with over 11 million subscriptions to play WoW. The first two “World of Warcraft” expansions, “The Burning Crusade” and “Wrath of the Lich King”, each shattered PC game sales records when they were released.
This new expansion will feature two new playable races – worgen and goblins – as well as a new level cap of 85. Players will find that Azeroth has changed and been reshaped by the Cataclysm, offering new adventures and challenges leading up to a battle with the Dragon Aspect Deathwing.
The special Collector’s Edition package, which will only be available at retail stores, will include the following exclusive bonus items in addition to the game disc:
- Art of the Cataclysm art book, featuring 176 pages of never-before-seen images from the archives of the Blizzard cinematics department and the World of Warcraft development team, as well as progressive visuals from multiple stages of development.
- Exclusive in-game pet: Lil’ Deathwing will proudly accompany heroes on their struggle to save Azeroth from his much, much larger counterpart.
- Behind-the-scenes DVD with over an hour of developer interviews and commentaries, as well as a special retrospective examining the rich gaming history of the Warcraft universe.
- Soundtrack featuring 10 epic new tracks from Cataclysm, including exclusive bonus tracks.
- Special-edition mouse pad depicting Deathwing menacing the ravaged continents of Azeroth.
- World of Warcraft Trading Card Game cards, including a 60-card starter deck from the Wrathgate series, two extended-art cards, and two Collector’s Edition-exclusive hero cards, marking the first appearance of goblin and worgen heroes in the TCG.
Last October, Insomniac Games creative director Brian Allgeier said “Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time” was about tying up many loose ends in the series, which spawned talk about the popular franchise coming to a close.
“Never say never, but people need that closure,” Allgeier said in October. “We hope to be wrapping things up with a bow.”
At the GamesCom event in Cologne, Germany, Insomniac unraveled the bow just a bit with the announcement of a new R&C game, “Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One,” exclusively for the PlayStation 3 console.
The game is a four-player co-op title allowing gamers to play as Ratchet, Clank, Captain Quark or Dr. Nefarious. The demo at GamesCom showed all four characters being used to traverse chasms, being launched by cannon and cooperating to kill a boss fight by flinging each other at the opponent.
The game is called Insomniac’s first ever one-to-four player cooperative, online/offline, drop-in/drop-out title. Chad Dezern, studio director at Insomniac’s North Carolina studios, said they felt a moral obligation to include Quark and Nefarious in the game.
“There was just too much comedy potential in bringing this group together for us to pass up the opportunity, Dezern said. “Their bumbling idiocy, prickly antagonism, and unfettered evil was a perfect reflection of how we play “All 4 One” here in the office. “
Dezern said they began work on the new title in January 2009 and expect to release “Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One” in the fall of 2011. He said they also plan to release more information at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, Washington on September 4.
Electronic Arts announced big news for two of their major non-sports franchises and special package for two other titles at the GamesCom festival in Cologne, Germany on Tuesday.
BioWare and EA announced that “Dragon Age 2” will be available in March 2011, a sequel from their 2009 hit, “Dragon Age: Origins.”
“With Dragon Age 2, we are building on the outstanding role-playing game fundamentals the original delivered while taking the franchise in a new direction with faster, more responsive combat that will allow players to think like a general, but fight like a Spartan,” said Mark Darrah, executive producer at BioWare. “We are giving the franchise’s gameplay a shot of adrenaline. We can’t wait to get the game in people’s hands so they can feel the difference.”
“Dragon Age 2” will have a new hero, revamped art work and an all-new story that spans 10 years in the “Dragon Age” timeline. The new game is expected to be available on the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
“Mass Effect 2” (BioWare/Electronic Arts), already the highest rated game in 2010 for the Xbox 360, will be headed to the PlayStation 3 console at the beginning of 2011. The release will include the full game and hours of bonus content.
“Crysis 2” (Crytek/Electronic Arts) will be getting to special treatments when it is released later in 2010.
The “Crysis 2 Limited Edition” and the “Crysis 2 Nano Edition” will feature premium packaging and special unlocks for the “Crysis 2” multiplayer game.
The “Crysis 2 Limited Edition” will be available for no additional cost and features four in-game unlocks for the multiplayer experience:
- Bonus XP – Players will jump into multiplayer battles with an edge by starting with enough experience points to gain early access to all 5 preset class load-outs.
- SCAR Hologram Decoy – This special attachment to the SCAR will project a hologram image of the player, allowing them to confuse their opponents with the decoy.
- SCAR Weapon Skin – This digital camouflage skin will allow players to add a personalized touch to one of the more popular assault rifles in the game.
- Platinum Dog Tag – This special one-of-a-kind dog tag is one of over 250 that will be collectible in “Crysis 2” multiplayer, helping to separate you from the rest of the field.
The “Crysis 2 Nano Edition” will include the Limited Edition housed in a steel case plus a statue of the game’s hero, Prophet, on top of a New York taxi cab, a high-quality art book, all packaged inside a backpack modeled after the Nanosuit itself. Not available in stores, the Nano Edition is available in extremely limited quantities via pre-order only for $149.99.
“Crysis 2” will be available for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC on March 22.
Finally, “Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit” (Criterion/EA) will be getting the Limited Edition treatment as well.
The Limited Edition features six of the world’s fastest cars that players can use to race and chase their friends, right out of the box. The Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, Ford Shelby GT500, Audi TT RS Coupé, Chevrolet Camaro SS, Porsche Cayman S and Dodge Challenger SRT8 will all be part of the new package.
The Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione and Ford Shelby GT500 are only available in the Limited Edition – and will not be available at any other time. The Audi TT RS Coupé, Chevrolet Camaro SS, Porsche Cayman S and Dodge Challenger SRT8 can be unlocked by leveling up in the game.
“Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit” recently won the prestigious ‘Best Racing Game’ award at the Electronic Entertainment Expo from the Game Critics Awards. It will be available on November 16, 2010 on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and PC.
In hopes of continuing their success with the franchise, 2K Games announced Thursday that “BioShockInfinite” will be produced by the original team who did the first “BioShock” title and will be out in 2012.
“BioShockInfinite” will be set in 1912, but takes the adventure out of the water and into the sky. Irrational Games, the studio who did the first undersea Rapture adventure, will be placing the player in Columbia, an immense city in the sky.
The premise of the story is that Columbia is launched with much fanfare as a symbol of growing United States power in the world. Predictably, something goes wrong and the city disappears into the clouds to whereabouts unknown.
The main character will be former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, who is sent to find the lost city and rescue a young woman imprisoned there since childhood. Battles will be set indoors and among the clouds, using new weapons and abilities not previously seen in the BioShock series.
“We are excited to expand the world of BioShock,” Christoph Hartmann, president of 2K, said in a press release. “We believe that Irrational Games will lend their meticulous attention to detail and unique storytelling expertise to make BioShockInfinite an incredible entertainment experience that will immerse new and diehard fans of BioShock alike.”
Irrational Games has said there are no sacred cows with the BioShock mythos and they had to rethink, rebuild and expand the BioShock arsenal.
Creative director Ken Levine said, “The only thing gamers can be certain of is this: the rules of the BioShock universe are about to change.”
BioShockInfinite is expected to be released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation3 and PC sometime in 2012.