One of the things that always made the Ratchet & Clank series fun was the outlandish weapons they could use to triumph over the forces of evil (and sanity).
In their upcoming game, “Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One,” the silliness and destruction continues with some new weapons that definitely brings the wow factor. A new trailer released by Sony demonstrated the firepower with devastating results.
The game features online and offline four player co-op gameplay with players controlling Ratchet, Clank, Quark and Dr. Nefarious. This motley band of heros (and villain) are out to take on their biggest challenge yet on a mysterious new world.
“Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One” will launch October 18 exclusively for the PlayStation 3. It will also support 3D play.
The price in the United States drops from $249.99 to $169.99 on August 12. In Japan, the price drops 10,000 yen ($127) on August 11.
The Nintendo 3DS was released in late February in Japan and March in US with much fanfare about its innovative glasses-free 3-D video display. Reviewers praised the improved controls and look of games while some fans complained about headaches associated with the new 3-D display.
“For anyone who was on the fence about buying a Nintendo 3DS, this is a huge motivation to buy now,” said Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. “We are giving shoppers every incentive to pick up a Nintendo 3DS, from an amazing new price to a rapid-fire succession of great games.”
Nintendo is expecting to launch several iconic titles for the 3DS beginning in September. “Star Fox 64 3D” arrives on September 9, followed by “Super Mario 3D Land,” “Mario Kart 7” and “Kid Icarus Uprising” by the holiday season.
If you already own a 3DS, Nintendo hasn’t forgotten about you. They are offering 20 free downloadable games from the Nintendo eShop – 10 from the NES Virtual Console games and 10 Game Boy Advance Virtual Console games – before they are available to the general public.
Current users who connect to the eShop before August 11 will automatically be registered as in the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador program. The program will allow those 3DS owners to get the 20 games for free.
Games from the NES like “Super Mario Bros.” and “Donkey Kong Jr.” are slated to become available later this year. Game Boy games like “Metroid Fusion” and “Mario Kart” will only be accessible to the Ambassador members and there are no plans to make them available to the general public.
While a company announcement did not directly address the reasons for the price drop, Nintendo may be reacting to disappointing sales numbers from early in the year. They came up 39 million units short of projected numbers for their fiscal year ending March 31 and have cut financial projections for the year from 110 billion yen to 20 billion yen.
Competition from the new PlayStation handheld Vita expected later this year may also be spurring the price move now. Vita was expected to hit the marketplace at $249 with more than 80 titles at launch.
A new trailer for the highly anticipated “El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron” shows new areas to explore and flamboyant action that makes this game unique.
The new footage includes a first look at the game’s intense later chapters of one man’s epic journey into the depths of hell. It also shows the main character, Enoch, performing colorful and powerful attacks against the forces of Hell.
Developed by an all-star team, led by Sawaki Takeyasu (Devil May Cry), “El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron” draws players in through its unique art style and its engaging storyline. Inspired by events in the Old Testament’s apocryphal ‘Book of Enoch,’ players take on the role of the purest of men chosen by God to reclaim the souls of corrupted angels and ultimately avoid the apocalyptic wrath from the Heavens.
The game is expected to be released on August 16 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
The lineup for “Batman: Arkham City” keeps growing with two more characters revealed.
The Penguin is continuing his shady business dealing within Arkham City, bringing chaos and corruption to the dark alleys and foreboding corridors of the sprawling cityscape. A new trailer from Warner Bros. Entertainment and DC Entertainment highlights the bird-based villain’s plans and introduces yet another huge DC bad guy working for the Penguin.
It was also announced that Talia al Ghul will be included in the game. Stana Katic, star of “Castle,” will be doing the voice work for the daughter of Batman’s greatest intellectual foe.
“Talia is such a complex character and it was great to voice her,” said Katic regarding her role in the game. “I was amazed at all the detail put into the project and it’s great to see how excited the fans are about the game.”
“Batman: Arkham City” will be available beginning Oct. 18 in North America for Xbox 360, PC and the PlayStation3.
As the line between video games and comics continues to blur, developers are looking to refine their ideas to bring the best of both worlds to the fans.
“The Darkness II” (2K Games, Digital Extremes) is a first-person shooter, action horror game that puts you in the role of a demon possessed hitman. It is a sequel to “The Darkness” (2007) and based on the comic book series of the same name.
At Comic-Con 2011, Marc Silvestri, creator of “The Darkness” comics, points out that it makes sense for comic books to reach out to video games and vice versa. He said there is a shared DNA in the make-up of the fans of each and the ability to tell a better story through multiple media is appealing.
“It has got that great sense of putting yourself in the place of the (comic) hero translates perfectly to other media – games and movies. (Comic fans) were just waiting for the technology,” Silvestri said. “Each generation gets more and more prepared for the next step (in entertainment).”
One good thing about “The Darkness” franchise, he said, is that it is so story and character driven. The developers realized that all their cool gameplay and technology would not stand up to the demands of today’s fans without a really good story to envelope it.
“In ‘The Darkness II,’ you are never not in the shoes of the main character. It is critical to tell a great story to go with the action,” Silvestri points out. “We’ve got a great writer who wrote, not only the comics, but the video game, in Paul Jenkins. He’s also a guy who understands gaming stuff.”
Developers are also embracing the transformation from comic book to video game by giving writers the ability to direct the story while still maintaining some flexibility to allow for player decisions in game. It isn’t as simple as going from point A to point B. Today’s games need to let the player feel like they control the action – even though they may be heading in the direction the game intends.
“The Darkness II” does rely heavily on the comic book source material for its graphical look and feel. While the video game action will be intense and the subject matter is definitely for mature audiences, Silvestri thought it was a bold move for developer Digital Extremes to stick to the look of the comic book series.
“When you play ‘The Darkness II,’ you are literally playing in a graphic novel. It is kind of an eerie effect, but it works perfectly for what the subject matter is,” Silvestri said. “These guys hand painted every texture. It is literally living art. If Walt Disney were alive today and wanted to make a game visually, he’d make ‘The Darkness II’.”
Performers are also embracing the transformation into video games. Movie actors have long been voice actors for comics and games, and musical artists are delving into the gaming side.
Mike Patton, lead singer for Faith No More, will be returning to his role as The Darkness in the new sequel. Patton is excited about getting involved again as the demon.
“I’ve had a lot of practice (with a demonic voice) with various musical projects I’ve been involved with over the years, some of which can be extreme. I’ve always tried to use my voice as an instrument,” Patton said.
He said the biggest challenge was not to overdo it because his character does a lot of yelling and screaming and makes a lot of demonic and otherworldly sounds. He spent about 8 hours in a studio and had moments where he really could improvise.
Patton points out there are as many hard core music geeks as there are gaming geeks and he thinks there is a lot of crossover between the two.
“This ‘Darkness’ thing has really taken off. It is a really elegant and dynamic game. It’s a gas,” he said. “It is ultra-violent, but it is stylized and an exhilarating thrill ride.”
Patton really enjoyed working on the series and said he would love to continue doing the voice in the future. He might get that chance on a bigger screen.
Silvestri said there are plans to make ‘The Darkness’ into a feature film. He said the movie would have elements from the game and the comic book series, meshing all the entertainment genres together.
In case you can’t get enough of the Batman environment, a new multiplayer game will let you take to the streets as your own Batman-type of hero.
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Entertainment released an all-new trailer for the upcoming download-only multiplayer first-person shooter, “Gotham City Impostors.”
The game gives players the opportunity to rebel against conformity as they customize their own characters. Posing as amateur vigilantes or villains, gamers will create their very own Bats and Jokerz characters using unprecedented customization options including insane costumes, homebrewed gadgets and a wide range of traditional and imagined weapons.
If the trailer is any indication, it looks more like a world gone Joker. And it is a FPS, so Batman-like characters will be doing something that Batman himself would never do – carry and use firearms.
The game will feature maps and modes inspired by DC Comics’ Batman license.
“Gotham City Impostors” is scheduled for release Winter 2012 and will be available on Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network. The game will also be available for download for PC.
If one legendary basketball superstar on the cover of your video game is great, what about three?
2K Sports announced the cover art of their upcoming NBA simulation game, “NBA 2K12,” will feature the return of Michael Jordan (did we heard that before in 1995?) and also include hoops greats Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Each athlete will be shown separately on three distinct covers of the video game packaging.
The artwork of each athlete is stylized and unique for 2K Sports and was created by artist Adam Larson. Larson’s work on sports has been highlighted in a cover of “ESPN Magazine,” featured in art galleries, and won numerous awards.
Jason Argent, vice president of marking for 2K Sports, said after the huge success of Jordan on the cover for “NBA 2K11,” the company signed His Airness to a multi-year partnership, but they felt fans of the game deserved more.
“We are constantly focused on breaking the mold, not falling into any sort of pattern,” he said. “We wanted to make a big statement and a big departure and continue to evolve and grow this franchise, which has been such a great level of success for us.”
Argent said the three covers for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions will be shipped equally at launched to each retail location in the US. He said at this time, all other platform version and non-US locations would only get the Jordan cover.
“The idea was to keep doing things bigger and better and continue to shake things up.”
Argent said he thought the multi-cover approach was a first in the sports video game genre and extends the strong legacy established by “NBA 2K11.” Last year’s game sold more than 5 million units worldwide and won 14 Sports Game of the Year honors.
He said they weren’t ready to release gameplay details at this time, but the philosophy and success of the Jordan Challenge in “NBA 2K11” would be continued and expanded on in the new version.
“NBA 2K12” will be available on October 4, 2011, for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation2, Xbox 360, Wii, PSP and Windows PC.
“Bastion” (Warner Bros. Interactive, Supergiant Games) offers a unique environment, responsive combat, and a one of a kind reactive narrative that will have players saying “wow” during gameplay.
The game starts off, oddly enough, as your character – Kid – is laying in bed, which happens to be sitting on a floating chunk of land. Apparently, the world has broken into pieces due to something called a Calamity, and it is your task to find a way to rebuild it
The environment is a series of broken pieces of land that are only revealed as Kid begins to traverse them. His base of operations is called Bastion, and this is where he sets forth as he gathers Cores – gemstones that help him construct buildings.
Skyways fling you from one floating bit of land to another in search of Cores and new weapons. The scenery is colorful, bright, and looks nearly hand painted. It is also very destructible, but go wild at your own peril because you can fall off the land into the great void.
Each piece of land has its own enemies and friends. Kid can use two different weapons from a choice of several throughout the game. Some are melee weapons like the machete and others are ranged weapons like the mortar launcher.
These weapons can be modified or switched out at the Bastion to increase their firepower or other skills. There is also a secret skill attached with each weapon enabling it to cause serious damage over a wide area. Players can develop their own fighting style depending on which weapons they want to carry into combat.
Idols to fallen gods can also be found throughout the land. These idols raise the level of difficulty for players and offer greater rewards when activated. This is another way to allow players to customize the game to suit their tastes.
Combat is intense. Health potions keep you going and a shield offers some protection from attacks. But mixing it up against opponents is enjoyable and productive.
What really makes this game unique is that an old man known as the Stranger narrates the entire game. He isn’t just reciting lines of dialog – he is really telling the story of what happened during the Calamity and what Kid is doing to fix it.
During one part when I was just having Kid destroying everything, the Stranger said, “Kid just starts raging.” It took me aback a bit because I originally figured the dialog was tied to specific major events in the game.
It was pleasing to have a personalized touch to my game and made the experience even more immersive. Important clues about future events were revealed during the narrative while I was wailing away at opponents. Definitely kept me on my toes visually and aurally.
The entire adventure is single player only – no co-op or online multiplayer. It will take about 8 to 10 hours to get through to the end.
There are some graphical glitches that leave fallen enemies hanging in mid-air. The musical score tends to get a bit repetitive or lost during the narration.
I was confused by how the game chose to achieve its ending. There are no moral choices to be made during the game (ala “Mass Effect”), but there are two places near the end where the game comes to an abrupt stop and forces you to make a choice.
It seemed awkward to introduce this game mechanic so late in the game. The first choice seems unnecessary and the second choice merely allows you two different endings to the game.
Even with that confusion, “Bastion” was still loads of fun to play. Finding the right weapons, locating friends (enjoy the baby anklegator), and making the story feel like it was being created just for me is a winning combination.
Supergiant Games put together a good formula for an immersive game without needing to overdo.
“Bastion” will be available July 20 on the Xbox Live Arcade, and later in the year for PCs. It is rated E10+ for animated blood, fantasy violence and use of alcohol and tobacco. This review was done playing the downloaded version of the game on the Xbox 360.
Comic Con is more than just a gathering of comic book fans. It is a place where those fans can satisfy their cravings for all things superheroic in many ways. Video game companies are also making their mark at the convention to bring to life the action from the comic pages. “X-Play” host Adam Sessler talked with me about how gaming and comic books are improving the level of entertainment for fans.
When people think of Comic Con, they think of the comics and the superheroes. More and more, entertainment and movies are getting into the comic world. However, gaming has been there for quite some time. Do you think that games get the kind of publicity and recognition that they should with comic fans?
I think so. I think that games become more prominent at Comic Con because the quality of superhero related games has improved significantly over time. If you go back in the catalog, most of the superhero games a generation ago were kind of throwaways, they were attached to a movie or a quick cash-in on a license. When you look at titles like “Batman: Arkham Asylum” or “DC Universe Online,” you are seeing things that respect the heritage of the source material because that’s the best way to curry favor with the fans of Batman or Superman.
Having worked with video games for years, I think there is a kind of myopia of comic books are only enjoyed by comic book fans and games are only enjoyed by gamers. Really, if you are into games, most likely, you are going to see a certain type of movie. You are going to read a certain type of comic book. There is a nexus where all three things coexist quite comfortably and synergistically. It makes sense for all these things to interact at the same time.
Comic books and comic book movies seem to translate into games very well. If you go vice versa, there are not too many games out there that translate into movies or comics very well. Why do you think that is?
I think if they wanted to turn games source material into something, they should turn it into an HBO mini-series. It would have a longer narrative arc. Games are longer and the stronger narrative can take advantage of doling out the information slowly and more effectively. I do think that Hollywood movies about video games are cynical and a cash-in on the source material. All the stories and rumors we are hearing about “Uncharted 3” with director David O. Russell speak to that.
Games as an experience and as a narrative are so fundamentally different because they are interactive. You are supposed to feel like that main character. I have always wondered why people would want to see a “Halo” movie since Master Chief is not a fully drawn out character. It is for you as a player to draw out that character and have that experience. You cannot do that in a movie and I do not think it would be a very compelling character in a cinematic version of him.
What are some games this year that have raised the level of gaming? Are there a couple that stand out in your mind?
I would say “L.A. Noire” really stands out as taking something quite daring and putting the narrative at the forefront. Some people have said that it is an interactive story. I think that is selling it a little bit short. It is the idea that you are not necessarily there for a reliable dose of action every 10 or 15 minutes. In this way, the action is dictated by the story and I find it very effective. I know some people disagree with me but they are wrong. (laugh)
I think the other one is “Portal 2.” Once again, such an effective story told in an entirely different way because as you are playing the game – what essentially is a puzzle game – you really are enmeshed into trying to figure out what’s going on. While at the same time, it is incredibly funny – most effective humor I’ve ever seen in a video game. It really is one of the highlights for 2011.
That is a really interesting question. I think that when you see the gameplay working in concert with the story, that really works. You don’t feel that the narrative is just setting up the necessary action pieces. I think the player does respond to that and what that seems to create is loyalty to the franchise. The games industry is so franchise heavy, which I think is to its deficit. But the only way they can continue down that path is they really need to have something that is truly identifiable and breed loyalty to their fan base.
One excellent example is “Assassin’s Creed.” When the first one came out, I was quite interested in it, but I assumed with its tone and its setting, it was going to be something of a niche game. I was completely wrong. We are in, I think, the fourth game in the series and it has a massive fan base. I think it is because it sets the story and the sense of history that really brings people back while at the same time it does work very well with the gameplay mechanics. I have over the years taken some issue with it, but they seem to really understand that the two really work well together.
There have been quite a few publicity pitches this year for new titles or new IPs that have had a comic book attached with them.
There are already books for “Halo” or for “Mass Effect” that are canon or lore. I think it is a way to fill in some of that in a way that game storytelling really cannot accomplish. It is a way to just raise the profile. If you think about it, the game industry seems to be aware of the fact that they cannot just rely on the sale of games to be their primary source of revenue. They look at these properties of having these multifaceted ways of generating revenue and generating the profile of the game. If it is a comic book, a comic book store might be one of the better ways to let the comic book guy know there is game called “Infamous.”
When you talk with the fans, is there still a passion for games that are not the major titles like “Halo” or “Assassins Creed”? Is there any interest in games that are not considered mainstream?
There seems to be a lot of it. I get asked a lot, “Hey, have you seen this game? Are you going to cover it?” I am in the position, as are you, of getting to play so many games through the course of the year. The average person is not dropping $60 a game for every release that comes out and that helps hone where their interests are. There is something organic when an indie game starts getting a good following and that helps us figure out what we cover on the show.
Is there still a console war among the fans?
Only among the Sony fans. (laughs) By all means, I think games on the Xbox 360 console, and especially from third-party game companies, seem to play better on the 360. In terms of interesting IPs, Sony just has this generation with games like “Heavy Rain” and “Little Big Planet.” It is a testament to efforts that (director of Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc) Phil Harrison and (president of Worldwide Studios) Shuhei Yoshida have made over at Sony.
“X-Play” will be hosting a live show from Comic Con for the first time Thursday, July 21 at 7 pm. Sessler and co-hosts Morgan Webb and Blair Herter will be featuring hands-on demos, new premiers and surprise live guests. They will also be hosting a live panel at 11 am to take questions and comments from the audience, challenge with trivia, and give out prizes to a lucky few.
The package will be available for $99 beginning Oct. 18 in North America for Xbox 360, PlayStation3, and PC.
The Collector’s Edition will include the following extensive bonus content:
- Custom Batman statue produced by Kotobukiya
- Collectible art book
- Early access to the Iceberg Lounge Challenge Map and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns skin
- Album from WaterTower Music including original songs by hit artists
- Bonus animated original movie, Batman: Gotham Knight
- Four collectible cards
This special offering is on top of the news that Robin is going to be part of a pre-order package from Best Buy. So the question becomes: how are you going to get your hands on the game?