Since making their February announcement, Sony has been very quiet about their new next generation PlayStation 4 until their showcase event at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo.
They promptly won the hearts, minds and wallets of gamers everywhere after announcing no restrictions on used games for the PS4 and no “always on” requirements for internet connection for the new console, two areas of contention that bothered players about the Xbox One.
They then went one step further and announced a lower price point for the PS4 — $399 US, 399 Euro, and £349 in the UK. Sony Computer Entertainment of America president Jack Tretton made the revelations to wild cheers from the audience at their showcase event in Los Angeles.
“You are free to trade in your games at a retail store, sell it to another person, give it to a friend or keep it forever,” Tretton said, taking direct aim at Microsoft’s policies. “The PS4 won’t impose any new restrictions on your use of PS4 game discs.”
Senior Vice President of Product Development for Worldwide Studios America, SCEA Scott Rohde said Sony had already planned to implement those used game and “always on” policies all along, but to hear from the gaming community helped cement their decision.
“We knew we wanted to make a big splash with it at this press conference,” Rohde said. “It all goes to the way PlayStation believes about gamers and the gaming community. We want to do what feels fair to them and to the developers and to the publishers.”
Tretton confirmed that PS Plus, a subscription service for the PlayStation Network, will transfer over to the PS4. However, if you want to play multiplayer games on the PS4, membership with PS Plus will be required.
“PS4 gamers who aren’t Plus members can still enjoy single-player games for free,” Tretton said. Other media services, like Netflix, can be also used without a PS Plus membership.
Most of the time spent during the event was highlighting new games for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita handheld console, and the PS4. Plenty of new titles are expected by the end of the year on all the platforms, including 85 for the Vita.
Rohde said Sony’s commitment to the PS3 is strong because of their belief in the long lifecycle of the current home console. Masterful titles like “The Last of Us,” “Beyond: Two Souls,” “Gran Turismo 6,” and “Batman: Arkham Origins” show the continued support of quality content for the PS3.
But it was the next gen console that brought people to the event and fans everywhere got their first look at the new PlayStation 4 console. A familiar black box, slightly angled, will house the next generation of gaming from Sony.
Sony’s Worldwide Studios president Shu Yoshida said there are over 30 PS4 titles in development and 20 games are planned for release in the first year of the PS4. They showed off the four titles from their February event and included a new one, “The Order: 1866” – a steampunk, Victorian era shooter where the enemy appears to be supernatural creatures.
Sony also is embracing the independent developer and allowing them to self-publishing across the PlayStation 4 platform. Several indie companies joined Sony on stage at the same time to show off the depth of talent and passion that will appear on the PS4.
“We recognize how special that is to us internally and how special it is to the gamers out there and how special it is to the indies,” Rohde said. “To provide a place that includes them all and give them a chance to succeed without the heavy arm of a big publisher on their back. That’s why we embrace indies. What they do inspires us to do things better ourselves.”
Square Enix introduced a very lengthy demo of “Final Fantasy Versus XIII,” now titled “Final Fantasy XV.” But they weren’t done. They also announced that “Kingdom Hearts 3” is currently in development for the PS4.
Sony also touched on their depth of entertainment choices by tapping into the vast resources of the Sony Entertainment Network. This commitment across company lines indicates the support of resources and content Sony is ready to put behind the PS4.
As the event drew to a close, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Andrew House brought it all back to the player, emphasizing that they are the most important component in any new console. He also explained why they made the choices about used games and the always on requirement.
“Consumer trust is very important to us,” he said. “And we will do everything we can to earn that trust.”
The PlayStation 4 is expected to arrive in homes this holiday season.
The Librom, a deformed journal, recounts the memories of a sorcerer, Magusar, who has taken you prisoner. The idea is to relive what Magusar has gone through in his life in the form of phantom quests to be able to defeat him.
Each quest is an arena-type battle with you and possibly a “friend” (more about that in a moment) taking on waves of monsters. With each successful quest, you learn new skills and your power increases. Indeed, robust customization of your character will let you make them look and act any way you want.
However, it is how life and death are treated in the game that shapes your character.
Players can save or sacrifice each creature they defeat. “Saving” means releasing the demon within and allowing the host to go free. It also increases your life abilities and help to make you harder to kill.
Sacrifice means destroying host and demon, but getting an increase in your powers in exchange. This makes your abilities stronger and more potent.
It isn’t just limited to enemies. Sometimes, you will save your friends to help you continue the fight. Along the way, you can and WILL sacrifice your sidekicks/partners to gain even more powerful skills, which are very effective but also have a lingering cost (i.e. – reduced defense) associated with them - the Black Rite spells.
You can also choose to save or sacrifice yourself during a battle. Saving allows you to heal, while sacrifice turns you into a spirit form that still has some influence over the fight.
Life or death. Save or sacrifice. This is the main choice throughout the game and will shape your character and the story as you progress.
As trite as it might sound, the rest of the game is rather ordinary. The arena battles tend to get a bit repetitive in their look and feel. Even with the ability to customize your attack skills, fights tend to digress into “dodge – attack – dodge – attack” rhythms.
The maps are reused and, while beautifully rendered, don’t offer much in the way of tactics. Battles are fought on the floor of the map and lack any useful or interesting elements.
In between, the Librom is an interesting tool to move from one battle to the other. The book is dark, funny, and definitely well voiced. But the story it tells is painfully slow and plodding.
Sure, you can advance through just to get to the next fight, but I want to know the backstory so I can understand the subtleties of each character I meet. I just don’t want it to be a time suck.
Multiplayer is smooth, but gameplay is pretty much spot on to single player action. I dabbled a bit, but wanted to get back to my own story.
One cool feature lets you take on the Final Boss (Magusar) whenever you think you are ready. When you are prepared, don’t. You really need to spend a lot of time getting even more powerful and skilled than you think you should. He can (and will) wipe the floor with you.
“Soul Sacrifice” has good elements of an RPG (customization, interesting story) with an equal smattering of the bad (repetitive combat, flat level design). It plays very well on the PlayStation Vita handheld console and is best enjoyed in small chunks of time rather than any lengthy session.
But beware talking books that cry. Nobody wants that.
Since Kratos dies (but did he really?) at the end of “God of War III,” the only place to go is back to the past. We find our oft-blood-covered hero being hounded by the Furies, the mythical beings who punish wrongdoers – in this case, those who break oaths with the gods. Kratos has already reneged his pledge to Ares, the god of war, and is trying to escape from the clutches of the immortal judges.
Much of the game bounces back and forth in time as Kratos attempt to differentiate between realty and illusion. This creates some discontinuity as one of the Furies is seen with only one arm early on, then two arms later. Of course, we find out quickly enough why she has only one arm, but the time stream lurching wasn’t a very effective method of moving the game forward.
The environments are gorgeous, broad and bold. While the action is very linear based, the surroundings have a look and feel that would normally encourage exploration. Distant peaks beckon, magnificent statues impress, and the area feels wide open and colorful. Too bad Kratos is always a man on a mission.
Evolutions in combat from previous franchise titles were a pleasure. Developers at Sony Santa Monica combined magic effects with the powerful attacks from the Blades of Athena often wielded by Kratos. This created some very powerful and visually appealing combat moments. Brutal, bloody and very effective, the blades whirled with fire, ice, electricity or souls power to create a devastating field of attack.
Fights with mini-bosses, like a new Medusa or the monstrous Elephantaur, provided new lessons in mythological anatomy. Yeah, we’ve all seen the insides of a Minotaur spilling out, but to bisect a Medusa through the head, neck and chest, and see the bone structure of the creature is definitely something new.
The mini-boss fights have also evolved from the simple quick-time events of the past. Sure, timed button pushing is still important, but is also key to pick up clues on when to dodge. Otherwise, Kratos can and will take some punishment while he’s conducting an anatomy lesson.
Kratos’ movements also seem a little jerky this time, not as fluid as in previous games. There are moments when he literally glides across the battlefield instead of a solid foot plant to push off toward his quarry. His wall parkour moves in particular felt lacking in any type of weight or effort of movement. A minor quibble, but one that will cause fans of the franchise to be distracted.
As much as I love this franchise, the character of Kratos, and the highly technical development of the combat system in “God of War,” I can’t help feeling a little let down. Where are the gods?
The main opponent in “God of War: Ascension” isn’t Ares or Zeus or any other occupant of Mount Olympus. It is the Furies, not gods but also not mortal. There are often allusions to Ares and we see Zeus and Hades in flashback cut scenes, but the lack of any godly power or might makes the game feel less than “God of War.”
This is the soul of the franchise – the battle of mortal Kratos against the godly forces of Olympus. I get this is supposed to be a precursor to all the “future” battles against the gods, but that’s what makes the game great, pitting your skills and talents against a foe that can’t be defeated. While the Furies do offer challenges, the feel of the game just never seemed to get the full flavor of a “God of War” game.
I also have to point out the difficulty ramp gets a little out of hand in the latter stages of the game.
During the Trial of Archimedes chapter, I was faced with multiple mini-boss enemies in a confined space. Playing on normal mode, attempt after attempt was met with failure. While my Blades of Athena were not fully upgraded (missing two upgrades in basic blades), they were extremely powerful and had dispatched enemies like this before.
Yet, I could not get past these groups. What was I doing wrong?
I reached out to Sony reps in desperation. Was I missing some trick? Were my tactics off? How could eight years of “God of War” experience not be enough to progress?
Sony Santa Monica responded and talked me off my controller-throwing ledge. I was told the Trial of Archimedes was supposed to be the ultimate challenge in combat and would require a near fully powered Kratos and Blade of Athena to complete.
While I can understand developers wanting to challenge players close to the end, requiring a new player to know he has to search out most of the chests for red orbs to upgrade the Blades is a little on the sadistic side. In short, the challenge was unbalanced.
Sony was kind enough to get me through the area to let me finish the game, but the bitter taste left behind would not go away. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to have this issue.
The God of War development team recently issued a patch to increase the amount of health orbs and magic orbs that were available during the fight. From a release on the godofwar.com site, the team wrote, “the degree of challenge offered here was short of our goal of being perfectly balanced.”
It is good that they responded to community feedback in this fashion rather than just telling players to tough it out. I understand and applaud what they were trying to do in the game. The execution was literally killing us though.
Overall, I had mixed feelings about “God of War: Ascension.” The gameplay and combat were absolutely stunning and well done. The environments are majestic; the battlefields are detailed. Nevertheless, I still have a problem with a game that seems to lack … something. It was nice to portray Kratos as a family man in the latter stages of the game, but the mood shift from bloodthirsty seeker of truth to doting dad was abrupt.
I remain conflicted about “Ascension” and its place in the “God of War” lore. It doesn’t really answer any lingering questions I had about Kratos’ history or really push him into new territory as a character. However, the combat and action makes the game worth playing.
Just beware the Trial of Archimedes.
“God of War: Ascension” is available as a PlayStation 3 exclusive. It is rated M for Mature due to Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, and Sexual Content. This review was done playing a provided retail copy for the PS3.”
The Sly Cooper franchise celebrates its long awaited return with a fun romp through time in their latest title, “Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.”
Sly and his Cooper Gang are Robin Hood thieves. They only steal from other thieves. But in this version, someone is stealing Sly’s past and they must go back in time to restore things to normal.
Players will visit five different eras in history – feudal Japan, the American Old West, Canada during the Ice Age, medieval England and ancient Arabia. Each era contains a member from Sly’s family tree for whom history has changed his path. They also represent different aspects of Sly’s personality – stealthy, adventurous, athletic, noble, and yes, sometimes lazy.
The villain for this adventure is going back in time to steal the Cooper staff from each time period. Players must complete “jobs” or missions in each era to try and stop the ancestral thefts.
While each relative of Sly has unique powers, Sly also gains new abilities through period costumes he finds. Bentley the Turtle and Murray the Hippo from the Cooper Gang accompany Sly through each era, lending technical support (Bentley) or muscle (Murray) to each mission.
Oddly enough, it feels like Bentley is the star much of the time. He coordinates all the missions, handles the hacking and generally directs most of the dialog throughout the jobs. Sly is relegated to a sidekick role and I didn’t get a good connection with him. Even with the final boss battle, my feelings about Sly were less than they should have been for the title character.
The missions in the era are fun. There is great variety in the gameplay and it doesn’t feel repetitive at all. The Cooper staves in each time period help keep things fresh and it was great to try different things to get the job done. The game also makes good use of the motion sensors in the DualShock controller, which often is overlooked in many games.
Each Cooper relative was fun to play with their own powers. The back stories on each were also unique and helped connect me with what was going on in their eras. Pro tip: turn on the subtitles when you get to the Ice Age area. You’ll have a better idea what Bob is saying if you do.
You will also get an education along the way. Did you know that a raccoon invented sushi? It is (apparently) true! The voice acting and dialog is also fantastic with each character doing a good job of interacting with others. The jokes and puns are hilarious.
However, I could have definitely done without the quick time events tied to musical missions, ala “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band.” They were way too long and really slowed down the pace of the action.
There are also A LOT of load screens and they soak up time. The frequency seemed excessive and really diminished the immersion into the gameplay. Get a mission – load screen. Walk outside to another location – load screen. You get the idea. I’m not sure why the mission, the area of the mission and all its parameters couldn’t get loaded all at once.
While the environments were colorful, they weren’t overly expansive. You are in a confined space for each time period so the idea of loading it all at once or on the fly shouldn’t have been that difficult. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I don’t think so.
For completionists (which I am not), there are collectables in each era as well. Collect enough clue bottles and you can open chests for a special reward. Cooper masks can also be found as well and treasures. These collecting mission are a nice diversion if you like that sort of thing, but definitely not necessary or part of the storyline.
Cross-saving, saving your progress on one console and downloading it on another was very awesome and the best argument yet for the handheld Playstation Vita. The difference in controls was very slight and highly manageable. It made playing more fun knowing I could take it with me and complete missions while away from my PS3.
If Sony really wants to kick the Vita into more households, they would have more games with cross-saving.
Overall, “Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time” has a variety of gameplay actions, playful environments and a wide-range of characters to enjoy. Cross-save is a blessing and will keep you involved even on the go.
I didn’t feel very connected with Sly in this one. Maybe it was too many characters, but he just seemed to be in the background quite a bit. The QTE missions are overly long and disappointing, and the final boss battle wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped. But if you want hours of fun, comedy and some drama, Sly and the Cooper Gang are a great choice.
“Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time” is a PlayStation 3 exclusive title and is rated E 10+ for Everyone older than 10 years old. It does have warnings for alcohol reference, cartoon violence, suggestive themes, and use of tobacco. This review was done with a provided copy for the PS3.
“Sound Shapes” wants players to create and play in musical worlds with a blend of platforming action and digital melodies.
Created by Queasy Games as an exclusive cross-play title for the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, players control an orb that can transform from a sticky blob (looks like a sunny-side up egg) into a speedy ball across elaborate levels. In some levels, your orb gets to pilot a flying saucer, which is cute and different. Along the way, collected coins trigger musical notes to be played during the action.
Scoring is based on quick completion of the level and the gathering of those musical coins. The only danger in the levels is anything colored red, which for me was a bit of a problem (I’m colorblind). Touch something red and you are sent back to the checkpoint – no deaths here. However, trying to navigate the level and figure out how to collect all the notes was my challenge and it was still fun.
There are 20 platforming levels (musical tracks) across 5 worlds (record albums) in the campaign mode. Beck, deadmau5, I Am Robot and Proud (2 worlds), and Jim Guthrie provide the musical targets for players. The artwork is also sublime and felt like something out of “Yellow Submarine” at times.
Playing through the campaign is only half the fun. Now, take the music and art elements from those worlds and use them to create your own musical fantasylands.
On the Vita, the touch screen helps place notes, artwork and creatures on a blank slate, meaning anything you can imagine can become a music video. Buttons and analog sticks work the magic on the PS3. Once your track is created and saved, it can be uploaded to the community and have others play and rate your work.
Creating a new level can be as quick or intricate as you choose. There are plenty of tools, creatures and musical notes to choose from with pieces of art that help craft your masterpiece. It should help spur artists, both visual and aural, to think outside their normal confines and explore what can be created.
Feel free to browse among tracks created by others. Early entries into the musical community included tracks based on other video games like “The Legend of Zelda,” “Kingdom Hearts,” and “Super Mario Bros.” And more new world are being thought of and created – all for the enjoyment of the community.
“Sound Shapes” has a little bit of something for everyone. It is an interesting platforming game with enough challenges to keep players busy. The art and music in the campaign worlds is dazzling, especially the tracks by Beck, but it is a bit short.
If you are the creative type, designing and sharing your own levels will appeal to your internal muse. Can you create something others will enjoy, and perhaps inspire some new levels based off your idea?
Either way, “Sound Shapes” is a nice blend of art and music inside a good game mechanic. It is a new idea executed well on a device in need of a shot in the arm. This will do just nicely.
“Sound Shapes” is available now for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita as a cross-save title. It is rated E for Everyone. This review was done with provided digital download code.
Lightbox Interactive and founder Dylan Jobe wanted to take one of their old titles, “Warhawk,” and make it into something more enjoyable and more complete. “Warhawk,” released in 2007, was widely praised for its multiplayer action, but had no single player campaign.
Jobe and his team took the best ideas from “Warhawk,” combined them with a new setting and single-player campaign, then added his “Build and Battle” mechanic to offer a new way to think about shooters.
“Build and Battle” allows players to call down hardware from a dropship circling high above the planet. When I say hardware, I don’t mean a weapons cache full of ammo and guns. I mean large, physical structures and buildings that allow players to defend, attack and punish the enemy.
Walls with turrets on top, garages with access to jetcycles, buggies and tanks, and very tall sniper towers complete with rifles are at the players’ command. These and many more can be called down and placed on the battlefield for maximum damage or protection.
Ground and air vehicles can also be called down and used. Jetbikes and Razorbacks (three-player combat buggies) handle a lot of the ground transportation. Ox Tanks bring the heavy pain with artillery shells and cannon. It can take a lot of punishment, but is slow to move.
If you are looking for more speed and maneuverability, the Hawk is a transformer-like vehicle that switches from armored robot to nimble aircraft quickly. On the ground, a mech stomp wipes out scores of troops, while in the air, the jet has a range of specialized missiles and bombs at its disposal.
Each one of these vehicles can be spawned from a garage summoned with the “Battle and Build” mechanic. As with the other buildings, planning must be utilized to determine prime placement as well as how each garage can be defended.
The “Build and Battle” concept works well and adds a strategic element to each battle. The mechanic works seamlessly within combat and doesn’t slow down or break up the action. Plus, players not only have to think about conserving their personal ammunition, but need to figure out how they want to confront the enemy waves with buildings.
Do you use walls to block routes into your area? Or do you form them along the sides and funnel the enemy into a gauntlet of beam turrets? It is this flexibility of gameplay that makes “Starhawk” enjoyable and interesting.
Plus, if a particularly large group of scabs (the enemy grunts) is headed your way, just drop a building on them. Each structure costs rift energy, a universal source of power harvested from different planets, much like oil on Earth.
Indeed, the single-player campaign has the Wild West feel and motif that could remind gamers of the great Oil Rush in the United States. Rifters want to capture the rift energy for sale, while Outcasts believe the rift energy to be their lifeblood and want to destroy all who would take it. Emmitt Graves, the main character in the campaign, goes into the disputed areas to reclaim the rift from the Outcasts.
The storyline is told through cinematic videos rather than any gameplay and merely acts as rather weak glue between the combat set pieces. Despite trying to inject some connection between Emmitt and the leader of the Outcasts, the characters come across as emotionless and uncaring about anything other than getting the job done.
Rather, it is the multiplayer mode where the game really shines. Up to 32 players can battle in four different scenarios and five different environments across two maps. More maps are planned as downloadable content (DLC), which Jobe says will be free to all.
The “Build and Battle” mechanic is utilized to its best in the Capture The Flag and Zones modes. Teammates work together to build walls, turrets and repair arms to defend their areas while others take vehicles out to seek and destroy the opposing side.
Coordination is key and many battles have been won due to the combined efforts of teammates defending or attacking en masse. The more players per side, the more action and organized chaos across the battlefield. It truly is some of the best and most enjoyable gameplay I’ve experienced on the PlayStation 3.
Overall, the combat in “Starhawk” is refreshing, thoughtful and very well done. The beautiful environments are utilized as structures are dropped from the sky in a game mechanic that is unique to the shooter arena. The breadth of weapons, vehicles and buildings make each playthrough different, and the multiplayer highlights the best of all that is available.
While the campaign story is disappointing, “Starhawk” ends up being a game that shines in spite of its weak characters. In some ways, the “Build and Battle” system is the true star of the action, and that’s just fine for gamers who want to think their way through combat as well as shoot their way out.
“Starhawk” is available now worldwide and exclusively for the PlayStation 3. It is rated T for Teens due to blood, language, and violence. This review was done with a provided copy for the PlayStation 3 and multiplayer action done on public servers.
Every year, big name video games titles extend their franchise footprint across the gaming landscape with more explosions, deeper storylines or outrageous gameplay. Recently, some smaller developers are having an important influence about what games are about, and are getting some help from a “big brother.”
Giant Sparrow is a small group of developers who got behind the vision of Ian Dallas, a graduate from the University of Southern California in their game design program. Dallas had an idea to put players in a totally white landscape and challenge them to explore their surroundings using paintball to reveal the environment.
He and some of his friends began building the backbone for what will become “The Unfinished Swan,” an upcoming game that is based off the “Alice in Wonderland” motif, but features a swan that has escaped from an unfinished painting. Dallas wanted to open the minds of gamers and get them thinking about what they’re doing as opposed to following an “excruciatingly detailed tutorial.”
“This game is about what all of your buttons do,” he said. “I wanted to create an experience of a total white space where you don’t know anything and you’re gradually discovering it on your own in a way that’s very player directed.”
He posted a trailer online and his game mechanic was featured at an Indie gaming event in 2008 called Sense of Wonder, a gathering of new ideas and new talent for the gaming industry. What he didn’t know was he was also showing what he could do to talent recruiters at Sony Santa Monica studios.
Dallas said he remembers getting a call from Sony and an offer to meet for coffee rather than talking about developing his mechanic into a game. However, by January 2009, Dallas was fleshing out the rest of the story idea to fully develop his vision with help from Sony.
Shannon Studstill, senior director of product development for Sony Santa Monica, said the studio has an incubation program for young developers who show great potential in their ability to build a game, but also understand how the industry works. She said they keep an eye on shows and gatherings for new ideas and fresh talent, then talk with those people to find out what their thought process is like and what they want to achieve.
“From that, we start talking about the commercial viability of the product, which isn’t always the case,” she said. “You see what more is going on in that person’s head, what is the strength of the idea and how important is it to that person to see that idea realized.”
She said Sony Santa Monica gives these fledging teams a base from which to launch their idea and shoulders the burden of some of the more mundane, but necessary, management of game design. This way, the team can focus on developing their idea and not worry about who got snacks for the day.
Studstill points to the success of thatgamecompany, a development team that produced critically applauded titles like “Journey” and “Flower” while working with Sony Santa Monica, as how well the program supports young designers and lets them grow.
“We’ve gotten fan mail from people that have said (“Journey”) has changed their lives,” she said. “These people are sitting in front of their TVs crying or feeling extremely emotional in that moment. We take a lot of pride in that.”
Studstill said young developers should be willing to show passion about their product as much as the talent they possess. Keeping an open mind about the industry is also key.
“You’ve got to be willing to learn to work with us,” she said. “We pretty much are world-renowned in what we do. We’ve got a ton of specialist and will give you the opportunity to interface with those people, but you’ve got to be willing and have a mindset that you aren’t the only one who knows the right way of doing games.”
She said Dallas impressed her and the talent finders with the strength of his idea and the conviction he had toward his game mechanic. Studstill said she thinks his game will be a success if they can get just one person to say “Unfinished Swan” has affected them.
“We really believed in where he wanted to take his creative idea,” Studstill said. “The opportunity to get in on that and nurture it was pretty obvious early on.”
Dallas understands that his game is not typical and is more along the lines of “video games of art” genre, like “Journey,” but wants to carve out his own niche.
“We’re looking to try to appeal to two different types of gamers,” Dallas said. “We’re looking for the people who have played a ton of games and are a little bit jaded and are looking for something that feels kind of different. We’re also hoping to appeal to people who don’t play a lot of games at all… and hoping to provide a different kind of experience.”
The game is expected to be released later this year on the PlayStation Network.
A teaser trailer was released on the PlayStation blog along with the promise of more information at an April 30 event. The trailer doesn’t show any game footage, but does insinuate that players will be going back in time to when Kratos was first tapped by Ares as his instrument of war.
There is also quite a bit of imagery depicting Kratos apparently in Hades (again) as he is tormented by Cerberus and Medusa, and bound in chains. But the voice over says it will also be “a time when he would no longer be bound in blood.”
There is no date for release of this prequel, but as always, it will be a PlayStation exclusive for the PS3. Click the thumbnails below for trailer images.
It is a writ of passage that when spring arrives, it is time for baseball season. In the video game world, “MLB12 The Show” (Sony) and “Major League Baseball 2K12” (2K Games) both arrive and ready to crack the starting line-ups of gaming consoles everywhere. Each franchise has been around for a while – 8 years for “2K12” and 6 years for “The Show” – but one is starting it age.
Pitching styles is a big difference between the two titles. “2K12” continues to use their gesture mechanic with the joystick controllers that relies on timing one circle to fit within another. The artificial intelligence has been fine-tuned so that batters will remember pitches and adjust accordingly, thus ramping up the realism level a bit.
“The Show” has added a pulse pitching mechanism that determines how accurate your pitches are within your target area. It’s all about timing, but only utilizes one button as opposed to moving the joystick in a particular way. Saves a lot of wear and tear on the thumbs.
Defense is straightforward. There are animation differences that I’ll get into later, but fielders move and throw with good precision. Both title use a scale to determine how accurate the throws get – “The Show” uses a circle; “2K12” uses a bar. Push a button to the corresponding base and fire the ball. Holding down the button longer makes for a stronger, but possibly inaccurate throw.
Zone batting is new for “The Show,” where the right stick determines your stride and swing while the left allows you to move your “sweet spot” to the area where you think the ball will cross the plate. “2K12” already uses a similar style to determine how hard you are swinging and where. It also will give pitch type hints as the ball is heading for the plate, much as a batter would be able to recognize a curveball from a slider. “The Show” also has a simple button swing mechanic if that is more your speed.
The animations and look of “The Show” really make it shine above “2K12”. Each player has a unique look and fluid movements in everything they do. Pitching, hitting, throwing and catching the ball all appear very realistic and natural. It is a visually appealing game and looks like you are watching an Orioles vs. Yankees matchup on television.
“2K12” looks less like a TV broadcast and more like … well, a video game. There are hiccups and stutters in some of the animation. Most of the players don’t look much different from each other. Balls hit near fielders will make sudden leaps into the glove or outfielders will jump slightly to one side before catching a fly ball. It isn’t as well polished as its counterpart and looks old.
And speaking of TV broadcasts, a tip of the cap to the announcing team of Gary Thorne, Steve Philips and John Kruk on “2K12.” Their banter seemed fresh and timely, referencing the right things and never sounding boring. Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell and Eric Karros for “The Show” sounded stale and repetitive. Some of their phrases sounded exactly the same as last year, and there were a couple of games when I wondered if Karros had gone out for a pretzel and just never came back because he was heard so infrequently.
Franchise mode is back for each as well as allowing you to create your own player and work him through the ranks. “2K12” offers a “MLB Today” mode that lets player play games at the same pace as their favorite MLB team. But that means you can only play one game a day in that mode and doesn’t allow you to play past or future games.
The new “Diamond Dynasty” mode for “The Show” seems geared more for a fantasy franchise baseball fan than someone who wants to play a game. There are baseball cards, budgets, and customizable team logos and colors. If you are a stats nut or someone who likes to micromanage, this might be right for you.
The “Perfect Game Challenge” is back for “2K12” with a twist. In previous years, whoever got the first perfect game of the season using the title won $1 million. This year, the first eight perfect games will get the chance to head to New York City and compete in a live tournament for that top prize.
“The Show” is Move ready, bringing motion controls to every aspect of the games. They have also tied the PlayStation 3 game with the new PS Vita handheld console. Games can be saved to the Cloud on one console and downloaded to another for continued playing. For die-hard video baseball games, this mean never having to stop even when you are away from home (provided you have a Vita).
The biggest drawback to “The Show” is that it is a PlayStation exclusive title. If you own anything other than a PS3 or Vita, you can only play “Major League Baseball 2K12.” Fundamentally, it is a solid, but visually underwhelming, title that will be enjoyable.
But if you have a choice, “The Show” brings together realistic mechanics with outstanding animation to create an “at the ballpark” feel that outshines its competitor. All I need now is a hot dog and a frosty beverage to make the experience complete.
“MLB12 The Show” is available now only on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. “Major League Baseball 2K12” is available now for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, Nintendo DS, PSP and Microsoft Windows. Both games are rated E for Everybody. This review was done playing both titles on the PS3 as well as playing “MLB12 The Show” on the Vita.
The digital download for the PlayStation 3 is a beautifully rendered and wonderfully scored adventure through a world that is mysterious and vague. But it is hard even to call it a game because the action takes place along a predetermined path and has no real consequences of failure.
It begins with the player’s character being dropped into a wasteland of sand and ruin, and it is his task to find out what happened and what his lot in life is.
The environments are stunning. The sand flows like water, and the player literally ski down dunes, spraying red granules in their wake. Broken buildings jut out of the sand and huge columns rise above, beckoning the player to find a way to the top.
Players will also find some water areas to explore before their adventure culminates with a snowy climb to a mountaintop. The entire world has a fluidity and calmness that makes it relaxing.
The artistry is magnificently done, with just the right amount of gravitas. It would be almost Zen-like if the landscape wasn’t the result of some historic catastrophe.
Your character is tasked to discover what happened to the civilization that was here before the great cleansing. Ribbons act as keys to unlock walkways — touch one and it glows, making bridges appear. Or find a glowing light that acts as a beacon to show you bits of history and lead you along the way.
There are locations that allow the character to commune with the spirits of the world and unravel the mystery of the disaster. The ghosts of the past also show you that you are now part of their ever-expanding story.
There are some dangers present in the game, but they are only minor inconveniences. Your character cannot die, cannot attack and cannot speak. He can jump and call out with his special identifying note. His only hope is to press on to his goal.
And here is where I think the title breaks down as a game. There is no sense of achievement or competition. The character walks, slides or flies along a set path of ribbons and lights to the ultimate conclusion. Can you ignore them? Sure, but then the game doesn’t progress and you are left wandering in the same area until you trigger the next scene.
The much-vaunted multiplayer mode online allows others to join your game without prompting. But they serve no real purpose other than to be a sidekick for your journey. Interaction takes place through the single note each character can sing, but what does it all mean?
I’m not asking the title to be a first-person shooter or a real-time strategy game. But a game that is short (each play-through lasted about 90 minutes) and leaves me shaking my head in confusion is not a game.
“Journey” could best be described as art, an experiment or entertainment. The environments and artistic renderings will leave you breathless. The story, on a very high level, is one of ruin and rebirth.
But as a game, it is sorely lacking in any meaningful interactivity or consequences. It is a game on a rail — one that just passes you by.
“Journey” is available through the PlayStation Network as an online download only. The game will be available on March 13 in North America, March 14 in Europe and March 15 in Japan. It is rated E for Everyone. This review was done using a provided download code for the PlayStation 3 and played multiple times.