Tag Archives: videogames

Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel Demo Gameplay Trailer

Download the Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel demo for your first sampling of gameplay. Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel which will be available in North America on April 26th and in Europe on April 29th, 2012. Those who will pre-order the game will receive the exclusive Army of TWO The Devil’s Cartel Overkill Edition, which includes three bonus Contracts, plus additional guns and outfits.

This game is a gritty co-op action-shooter that pits two players against the dangers of the Mexican drug war. Together, you and your partner must shoot and destroy anything in your path to take down a violent drug cartel that’s taken over Mexico.

Built on the new Frostbite 2 engine, Overkill mode offers the devastating power needed to unleash epic mass destruction at any time. You can experience the game in two-player local split-screen or online co-op.Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is being developed by Visceral Games for PS3 and Xbox 360.

Advertisements

Gears of War: Judgment’s Campaign Will Break You

The heavy chord at the end of a Gears of War battle used to be congratulatory. Your chainsaw roared, corpses crumpled, and a thundering hum warned the world what you’d done. In Gears of War Judgment, the sound that used to celebrate success is a comforting signal to unclench your teeth and start breathing again. You probably won’t make it out next time.

Judgment starts 30 days after Emergence Day, just as humanity goes to war with the Locust. The COG doesn’t know its enemy just yet, which leaves them exposed to the grubs’ fearless aggression. Locust spawn by the dozen, popping out of the ground, crawling out of emergence holes, and knocking down doors in the largest, scariest groups you’ve seen in a Gears game. They are lethal individually, seemingly unstoppable in mixed groups of enemies new and old, and utterly terrifying for even the most grizzled Gears vet. At first, this challenge defines Judgment. Before long, that gives way to an impressive level of newfound complexity.

The common thread between difficulty and depth is variety – each enemy encounter is unique, both by design and thanks to the new semi-random spawning system, which generates different opponents each time you retry an encounter. If a group of Bloodmounts takes you down, don’t expect to see them a second time – Maulers and Grenadiers may replace them, perhaps with a half-dozen Wretches in tow.

Judgment doesn’t ever dial back because you’ll always have the tools necessary to scrape by. This is Gears at its quickest and most aggressive. I swapped between guns as opposed to relying on my Lancer, typically because I’d thrown it to the ground after running out of ammo. Early in the story, when Damon Baird’s Kilo Squad makes its way through the Onyx Guard’s home city of Halvo Bay, you’ll hunker down to defend the Museum of Military Glory using sentry turrets. The tower defense-influence works as effectively in a campaign context as it did in Gears of War 3’s Horde 2.0. It’s a stark change of pace from the push-push-push mission structure preceding it.

 

 

Baird, Cole, Paduk and Hendrick – Kilo’s key members – previously swapped Gnasher shotguns and close-quarters combat for the ranged superiority of the new Markza semi-auto sniper-rifle. They chainsawed grubs beneath the burning surface of Halvo Bay’s Old Town district, where they’d later mount turrets to chew through the horde. With Mauler, Boomer, Kantus, Cyclops, and Dark Wretch corpses behind them, Kilo should have earned a leisurely rest while turrets took down Locust inside the museum. Judgment never gives them that chance. I died three times trying to hold off incoming forces. Later, I’d die nearly 10 during a futile stab at the punishing Hardcore difficulty.

Moment to moment, Judgment always has something new and interesting for you to do, but it also presents the opportunity to add an interesting variable to each and every enemy encounter. Activating glowing crimson omens heralds not a hidden COG tag but instead unlocks the “declassified” version of an upcoming fight. Typically, these opt-in objectives limit your weapon usage to, say, Hammerbursts or a Gnasher/Sawed-Off combo. Others give the enemy an advantage. You may come up against Cyclopes with Lancers, grubs who attack from behind, or One-Shots with high-ground positioning. But why on Sera would you willingly make a tough shooter harder for yourself? What good could possibly come from wandering into a claustrophobic cloud of dense, blinding smoke when it’s unnecessary?

Two things.

 

The common thread between difficulty and depth is variety.

First, declassifications present narrative conceits that fits Judgment well. The story begins with Kilo Squad in a military court, and each mission we play representing a testimony of the events leading up to their trial. The testimony Kilo Squad delivers will change as you activate omens, revealing information you may not have known about the characters and world. Sometimes it relates to military rules, characters’ origins, or simply the COG discovering the intelligence of the Locust.

Secondly, declassified objectives tie into Judgment’s scoring system – and before you run off, it’s not as awful as it sounds. Earning stars for performing well adds substance to the combat without trivializing it. Fighting is more tactical and engaging than ever when you’re rewarded for speed, style, and efficiency. You’re always rewarded for headshots, executions, gib-splosions and other decidedly Gears of War kills, but playing with optional variables adds a multiplier to your score tracker. Earning more stars for kill combos feels even better when the pot’s sweetened. In turn, the way you think about Gears of War’s combat changes – not only because the actual flow of battle is different, but because you’re actively trying to do better than usual. Suddenly Gears of War feels smarter, even if it has more video game-y elements in the mix.

All of this plays hand-in-hand with multiplayer. Free-for-All remains an aggressive departure from the norm, particularly on the smaller-scale street map, while OverRun encourages a different kind of cooperative experience than fans are used to. Epic told IGN that completing challenges and goals across all modes contributes to character unlocks; each character can be customized in a way that’s comparable to past Gears’ weapon skins.

Really, the only way Gears of War Judgment is the same as previous games – core mechanics aside – is in the way its cast interacts. There’s some smart, funny writing behind the characters in Kilo Squad, and it comes through in the way they tease, mock, or outright dislike each other. The witty banter between these characters is exactly what you’d expect out of Marcus and Dom, which speaks volumes about how well this cast – whether they’re old friends or new – will carry its story.

Tomb Raider Review

0fcfe416a700cdd937561ad0964a0299

Let’s get this out of the way. Don’t read this review if you’re expecting impossible jumps, crazy puzzles, and short shorts. This reboot isn’t for you my dear friend. Because this is a Tomb Raider game in name only. So run — run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. Okay, now that they’re gone let’s get down to business.

The Story – Tomb Raider explores the intense and gritty origin story of Lara Croft and her ascent from a young woman to a hardened survivor. Armed only with raw instincts and the ability to push beyond the limits of human endurance, Lara must fight to unravel the dark history of a forgotten island to escape its relentless hold.

0651c64af8bc077048dfead3dcc70aa9

  • Quite the Looker – The art direction is stellar and graphically this gives most modern games a run for their money. Now keep in mind that I played the PC version. But I’ve seen the console ones in action and in my opinion they look great too.
  • An Interesting Tale – The story borrows heavily from LOST, but it’s an interesting enough tale.Everyone loves a mysterious Island, right? And it’s smoke monster free!
  • Shoot – The shooting feels just as good as it does in any other third person shooter. Aiming is easy and you’ll be pulling off headshots in no time. Wait – I can’t believe we’re talking about headshots in a Tomb Raider game. It’s kind of weird, but you quickly get over it.
  • Loot – You gain salvage and weapon parts by looting dead enemies, killing animals, and opening crates. This quickly becomes addictive because it feeds into gamers’ basic desire to collect tons of useless junk.
  • Upgrade, Upgrade, Upgrade – Okay, salvage isn’t useless. It’s used to upgrade your gear. I put most of my points into the bow because I wanted to reenact the Hunger Games. The system isn’t extremely deep, but it adds a sense of progression. You can also upgrade Lara’s abilities. Want to use your axe as a mêlée weapon? Go for it!
  • Katniss Would Be Proud – Lara loves her bow and it’s easily the best weapon in the game. Once fully upgraded it becomes a force to be reckoned with. There’s nothing more satisfying than pulling off a headshot with a fire arrow.
  • Smart Cover – You won’t find a cover button here. Lara automatically goes into cover when you run up to something. Gone are the days of getting shot because you didn’t press circle fast enough. Every third person shooter needs to adopt a similar system.
  • Lara the Explorer – Tomb Raider doesn’t have an open world, but it’s far from linear. It opens up more as you progress and you can use the base camps to revisit old areas. Some areas are inaccessible at first, but you can go back and explore them once you’ve upgraded your equipment.

cc2f0ceb5e01752ecd2dc20065457850

  • #Reborn – Camilla Luddington delivers a believable performance as a young Lara Croft. Camilla’s task wasn’t an easy one. She had to honor Lara’s legacy while displaying a certain level of vulnerability. She does this and more with ease.
  • A Tight Squeeze – The camera always moved to the perfect position. When Lara enters a tight space it zooms in and makes things feel tenser. Prepare to freak out a little if you’re claustrophobic.
  • Audio Logs – Reading someone’s diary is wrong, but that doesn’t stop Lara from reading everything she gets her bloody little hands on. These diaries provide insight into the minds of your crewmates and the island’s inhabitants. Oh and they’re fully voiced.
  • Darkly Dreaming – I won’t give anything away, but this game can be really dark at times. Some sections had a survivor horror feel to them.
  • Island Life – Yamatai is filled with wild animals to hunt, secrets, treasure, beautiful vistas, and bloodthirsty savages. It’s the real star of this adventure.
  • The Little Things – Lara reacts to her surroundings. When she’s in a tight spot she’ll gently rub her hands against a nearby wall and when an enemy is close she automatically starts to slowdown and crouch. She also looks around frantically when she hears something terrifying in the distance. Lara’s believable interactions with her environments make Tomb Raider one deeply immersive experience.
  • PC Options – I played the PC version and it’s a great port. There’s a wide range of options and it looks good even on normal settings. It also has hair physics and a benchmarking tool. I couldn’t crank the settings up on my iMac, but I’ve seen videos of the game on ultra and it looks wonderful. But like I said – the game looks great on normal settings too.
  • PC Options II – My iMac has an AMD Radeon HD 6770M and I could play the game on normal settings at 720p. I averaged 43 frames per second on these settings. This isn’t bad for a computer that isn’t really made for gaming.
  • Uncharted? – When Tomb Raider was first shown off everyone said, “It looks like an Unchartedclone!” Now, at first it does feel like Uncharted with a female lead. But as you progress you soon realize that this isn’t a carbon copy of Uncharted. Actually, at times it feels more like Batman Arkham City thanks to the hub areas and “Survivor Instinct”. The marketing team did this reboot a disservice by just focusing on the action and set pieces. There’s more to the game. Naughty Dog could learn a thing or two from Tomb Raider. Because this game easily tops Uncharted 3. The subtitle for this review isn’t Lara’s Deception because I think it’s an Uncharted clone. It’s because I feel like most of Tomb Raider‘s promotional material deceived the hell out of us.

5b6511049d99605c7442cc2ee3e82bd1

  • Magnetic Ledges – The platforming is automatic. Just jump in the right direction and Lara will magically fly towards the ledge. This will disappoint long time fans and anyone looking for a challenging platformer.
  • Press ‘Y’ or Die! – The QTEs are kind of annoying. Prepare to die often until you get the timing right. I wish developers would abolish QTEs. They add nothing to a game. There are tons in the beginning, but they drop off by the end of Lara’s adventure.
  • Hunting is Shallow – You don’t have to hunt to survive. You just kill animals for extra salvage.
  • Wave After Wave – Really? Another wave of enemies? I just killed hundreds of your brothers – call it a day. Sigh, okay, here’s an arrow to the… face. Jokes aside – the endless waves of enemies can become tedious.
  • You Call That a Puzzle? – The puzzles are a little on the easy side. A few of the optional tombs are confusing at first, but once you figured out what to do you can solve them in a matter of minutes.
  • So So Multiplayer – The multiplayer isn’t bad, but it’s nothing to get excited about. Serviceable is the best way to describe it. I could go into more detail, but if you’ve ever played a third person shooter online then you already know what to expect.

4dc77ca19c6a2cf284af5523b235db9c

  • Walking Clichés – Tomb Raider’s cast of characters includes a tough black woman, generic geek, lovable big guy, supportive best friend, mad scientist, wise old man, and a few other stereotypical character archetypes. These walking clichés get some backstory in the form of audio logs, but they never become truly interesting.

049a301b2d97168c7a1571ec1d6187d0

Crystal Dynamics crafted one of the best third person shooters of this generation, but it’s also one of the most derivative games ever created. It shamelessly wears its influences on its sleeve (every popular game from the past five years). This doesn’t take much away from the game, though. It’s still one hell of a ride and a must buy for fans of the genre.

SimCity Review in Progress

Because EA is selling this new SimCity as an online game, we’re not quite ready to give you an official score until we’ve spent some serious time with it after its long-awaited launch tomorrow. But I can tell you right now what I think of the couple of dozen hours I’ve spent playing on the review version, both by myself and with others: so far what we have here is a gorgeous and incredibly detailed city simulation that occasionally trips over its own staggering complexity.

First off, an unfortunate dealbreaker for thousands of PC gamers: you’re going to need a permanent internet connection in order to play SimCity. Even though it doesn’t need moment-to-moment updates from Maxis’ servers (so lag isn’t an issue), it does need to phone home in order to save, even when playing single-player. Maxis insists that requirement isn’t simply for DRM purposes, but who’re they kidding? Of course it is. Also, EA’s Origin client is required and must be installed in order to play. In fairness, it’s been pretty well-behaved for me, other than a couple of loading issues that EA promises won’t happen with the live version. I’ll keep you posted on that.

I know those restrictions are big problems for some of you, and it’s a damn shame that they’re even something we have to worry about here. Because this SimCity is, in many ways, magnificently ambitious and an enormous improvement over the last real SimCity game from 10 years ago. For example, just watching one of these cities run and knowing that each and every one of its tens or even hundreds of thousands of Sim citizens is individually tracked, and can be followed from home to work or school to the store to parks or shows or other activities and then back home again, is genuinely impressive when you think about it.

What kind of stalker-ish creepy mayor are you?

While they generally number fewer than the denizens of old-school SimCitys, those games are effectively just guessing about which Sims are where using some fuzzy math. This one knows. You can click on one person in a crowd of hundreds on a busy city street, and that person has a name and things that he wants and things that have recently made him happy or angry. It’s completely insane. So are they, sometimes, like why my citizens felt the need to protest in front of City Hall when I had an 83% approval rating, or a bus driver fails to enter a school parking lot and shuts down traffic for blocks, but on the whole it’s really cool to watch.

On top of the simulation, SimCity is super-dense with rich art and style. It starts with the elegant, mostly intuitive interface, and extends to graphical nuances like sunlight reflecting off solar panels and the unique ambient sounds that play every time you select a building like a police station. The music that accompanies everything is delightful, a cheerily optimistic and industrious tune that shifts enough to avoid becoming monotonous. It all made my first hours after founding a city a constant stream of astonishments at the level of attention Maxis has slathered over every inch of this thing.

Those little Sim people don’t look like much – they’re little more than colorful digital stick figures even at the closest zoom level – but the cities we can build for them are beautifully diverse. The new curvy roads may be inefficient when it comes to packing in as many people and buildings as possible, but they’re a great option for sculpting picturesque layouts when the mood strikes, or when the stubbornly un-editable terrain of the pre-defined maps demands a road go around it. Dozens of different building designs and color schemes sprout up on their own wherever you create residential, commercial, or industrial zones, and you can zoom in close enough to see the green garden hose hooked on the side of a suburban home. Different education and wealth levels all have unique looks, and high-tech buildings in cities with fancy education systems look dramatically different from their low-tech equivalents. Zooming in and flying through a bustling street for some sightseeing definitely hasn’t gotten old yet.

Welcome to SimBurbia.

City specializations – a somewhat strange concept of mayor-run businesses – add both further visual differences and some welcome changed-up gameplay. One map I played on had a motherload of oil underneath it, and when I plopped down a field of pumping oil wells and a trade depot to automatically export black gold to the global market, the amount of cash it brought in felt almost like a cheat code. (A more advanced city could refine that crude into even pricier gasoline, but I’m not there yet.) Other specializations, such as casinos and tourism, are about attracting out-of-town Sim tourists – a process that, like several of SimCity’s late-game concepts, isn’t explained terribly well. You can get by on tax revenue alone if you don’t care to bother with that stuff, though.

For all its technical ambition, however, there’s one place SimCity really doesn’t push hard enough. Maxis says it named this game engine GlassBox because it shows off the inner workings of the simulation machine, but it took on another meaning entirely when, far sooner than I’d expected, an invisible wall prevented me from continuing to expand my city. Just as I felt like my economy was picking up the momentum I’d need to really grow this thing, space to plop down large buildings like community colleges and recycling facilities became hard to come by. The route to further growth is to increase the density of the city, not the area, and that feels a bit constraining. EA says there may be larger maps in the future, but there’s no word on when or whether they’ll cost extra. To be fair, my biggest 100,000-population city never could manage to slow down my PC, which is running a three-year-old Core i7 and a GeForce GTX 570.

Given the limited city sizes, I appreciate how the second city I built in the same region, Dan Jose, could mooch off the technology and excess resources of my first (Dan Francisco). For example, when I founded Dan Jose I didn’t have to build a power plant at all because Dan Francisco had a nuclear reactor, and I could simply buy whatever wasn’t being used. The same goes for unlocks – if a City Hall add-on exists in Dan Francisco that allows a hospital to be built, Dan Jose gets all the benefits too (and vice versa). That system both saves precious building space and ensures that starting each new town isn’t the same monotonous procedure of putting down exactly the same electricity, water, sewage, trash, police, fire, medical, and education structures every time.

That kind of inter-city cooperation is also the foundational idea of multiplayer, where you can share a region with up to 15 other mayors. It does work, and with lots of coordination it can work well, but in the multiplayer sessions I’ve played so far it had nearly as many drawbacks as advantages. While it’s excellent to be able to ask a friend to build a City Hall upgrade you need but don’t have a slot open for, or to send you a shipment of refined alloy so you can get your highly profitable computer chip factory operational, it’s a pain when I suddenly find the power or water supply I was relying on has dried up because the player I was buying it from expanded his city without also increasing capacity. It’s a problem that’s avoidable with enough communication, but this isn’t Left 4 Dead – you probably aren’t all going to be on voice chat the entire time calling out for second-to-second needs. I won’t, anyway.

Maxis wants us to be team players, like these guys.

I’m going to go ahead and predict that, much like Blizzard found with Diablo 3, Maxis will soon discover that the majority of SimCity players will want to play by themselves most of the time. The good news is that it’s a totally valid way to play, and no significant options I’ve seen are closed off to those of us who play in private regions and single-handedly run all the cities therein. Progress is a little slower because you have to switch between cities, but it’s definitely doable. It’s very much like playing The Sims 2, which allows you to control multiple households, but in order to switch between them you have to go through a loading screen.

Solo players might have a tough time managing a Great Work — regional projects like a major airport or power plant that benefits all the cities in a region. They’re so ambitious that I’ve yet to even get one off the ground after more than 25 hours played. I’m sure you could build one in that time if you know what you’re doing, but so far that’s proved too ambitious for me as a new player.

I’ll get there soon enough though, because so far SimCity is the kind of game that makes me wish it had a real-world clock displayed on the screen so I know when to stop to eat. When I get engrossed fine-tuning the inner workings of my public transportation system it devours time like nobody’s business.

Remember to check back here at IGN for ongoing impressions as the week goes on, and if you want to see it in action on launch day, be sure to watch Greg Miller’s epic nine-hour SimCity livestream tomorrow!

 

 

Launch Day

 

Who could possibly have predicted that SimCity would experience launch day problems due to its online requirement? Right: everyone. Everyone predicted that. And EA’s Origin servers did not disappoint them, delivering slow download speeds, spotty connections, and log-in queues upward of a half hour. It’s definitely not a disaster on the scale of Diablo 3’s Error 37 fiasco, as I was able to get in and play within a half hour of the official launch, but far from smooth. This morning I woke to reports of problems deleting regions and Origin not allowing friend invites, so it hasn’t yet been sorted out. I just fired up Origin myself and was greeted by a “Slow network: your games library could not be loaded at this time” message for a few moments before I was even shown my list of games. Attempting to download it failed outright – fortunately I have a disc to install off of. Pretty sure that problem wasn’t on my end.

One thing’s for sure: the specter of always-online DRM has once again failed to chase off enough interested people that the servers weren’t overwhelmed. Even though we all know what’s coming, we just can’t resist the urge to try to log in during those first moments, like a horde of Black Friday shoppers beating down the Walmart doors and trampling each other in the process.

But in spite of it all I got in several hours’ worth of play last night, and other than the Origin social side, things worked fairly well. Right now Greg Miller is livestreaming a full nine hours worth of SimCity gameplay, and that’s working too. (No, he’s not playing on some magic journalist-only server.)

I had to start over since the review version ran on a private server, but I’ve already got a pretty good thing going. I’d built it on a plot of land with coal deposits, which, once I’d built the coal mine and trade depot, funneled a steady stream of $4,100 payments into my account at regular intervals. That’s enough to allow a city to grow extremely quickly, and get free coal resources for a coal power plant (which provides much more juice than a eco-friendly wind farm). To counteract my dirty coal economy, I focused on education so that my industrial buildings wouldn’t pump out even more pollution.

As I built, I noticed several minor improvements in the way roads are drawn that happened between the review version and the release – they’re welcome changes, and they make drawing a curved road or snapping to the guidelines which help you draw roads an appropriate distance apart feel snappier and more accurate, but they still haven’t eliminated all of the frustrations that come from roads sometimes glitching out and being unable to build where they look like they definitely should. Because SimCity has no undo button, having to change plans can be very expensive.

Everything went really well until I got up to 120,000 citizens. That’s when a zombie outbreak hit my medical clinic, wiping out about a third of my population – and apparently most of my educated workforce. Not only did I lose the tax revenue from 40,000 wealthy Sims, I lost the businesses they’d run, too. All at once they complained of a lack of an educated workforce and closed up shop, leaving my once-proud city a husk of empty buildings that, when moused over, gave me messages about how they’d either shut down or were “devoured by zombies.” Thus began my struggle to rebuild… and it wasn’t pretty.

For one thing, this education system. Despite having two fully-upgraded elementary schools, a high school, a community college, a university, and even a public library, people just didn’t seem interested in going to school anymore. Desks sat empty while businesses complained of an uneducated work force, and there was nothing I could do short of yelling “Stay in school, kids!” PSAs at the screen. Meanwhile, crime and fires ran rampant. Buildings were being abandoned and reduced to rubble faster than I could bulldoze the ruins, and even more were shutting down because of too much crime. Tax revenue declined, and even with the huge influx of cash that my recycling center brought me (who’d have thought that could be more profitable than coal?) I was in a downward spiral. I was forced to shut down most of my education system – which, to be fair, wasn’t being used anyone – and take out $150,000 worth of bonds just to stay afloat. It was a downward spiral.

I should mention, by the way, that I’ve got the Limited Edition package that comes with the superhero Maxis Man. When you build his headquarters you can pay him $500 to go heal some sick people; after a $40,000 garage upgrade you can pay him $1,000 to go catch some criminals every few minutes. That’s not very heroic… more like a mercenary for hire. Batman doesn’t charge Gotham every time he goes out on patrol! Also, Batman is actually effective at catching criminals. I paid this idiot a small fortune thinking he could do a better job than my overstretched police force at collaring crooks, but the results were terrible. I eventually just shut off the power to his lair and saved myself the $900/hour upkeep fees. I’d have to handle this one myself.

What did save me was the Police Precinct building, which I finally managed to scrape together the hefty sum to set up. The real heroes of SimCity allowed me to get back on my feet for a bit, and my population climbed back up over 100,000. That’s when things started going weird, and very possibly broken.

People started complaining about sewage. Which was odd, because I had a huge sewage treatment plant that should’ve had ample capacity to handle my city’s needs. But it wasn’t working, citing a lack of water. Which was odd, because my water pumps were also more than enough. Clicking on those, they said they couldn’t run because of lack of electricity – which makes no sense. I had a coal plant and a finite but still healthy supply of fuel still being extracted from the ground, so in theory I was good for power for the foreseeable future. And yet when I clicked on the plant it reported it was running out of coal, and power output had been cut in half. Checking on my coal mines and storage facility, they were both full to capacity. So for some reason, the delivery trucks had simply stopped running, and building additional delivery trucks didn’t solve it. Some glitch had apparently caused the drivers to go on an unofficial strike, and it was crippling my city from top to bottom.

I tried everything I could think of. I turned facilities off and on again (which fires and then rehires workers, and sometimes frees things that have gotten stuck somewhere), I bulldozed some roads and improved my traffic as best I could with the limited resources I had to clear the roads for the truck drivers, but nothing worked. Eventually I quit out and reloaded, and that seems to have reminded them they’re being paid to move coal around.

This isn’t the first time an inexplicable sequence of events has ground life in my cities to a halt. Some of them, I’m sure, are a result of me just not fully understanding the way this incredibly complex virtual machine operates. Much of it, I’m sure, will be answered as the community sorts things out and tells us how to run them in SimCity Wikis, but Maxis hasn’t done a fantastic job of making it clear. I’m actually really disappointed by the lack of documentation here – the “manual” that pops up when you push the “Game Manual” button on the Options UI isn’t even working right now, but when it is it’s just a two-page PDF of default keybindings. The Help Center button, right now, is doing nothing at all, but earlier it just took me to the forums.

On a technical note, at least, I’m impressed: SimCity has yet to crash on me, it’s run at a steady framerate even under heavy load, and it alt-tabs to and fro (and runs in a Window) like a pro.

Again, I want to make it clear that overall my experience with SimCity has been rocky, but I’m still absolutely fascinated by its complexity and its beauty. It’s one of those intricate games that I’m willing to put up with a lot to tinker with. If your threshhold for this kind of frustrating shenanigans is low, though, you definitely want to wait at least a few days before you join in. Let us early adopters figure it out first.

 

9PM on Launch Day

 

If my review takes longer than expected, this is why:

If only it were just 10 minutes.

This, by the way, is the third time around this 20-minute clock. Each time I think I’m getting close to playing, I’m booted back again. And this is after EA added a second server to both the US West and US East regions, both of which are at least as full as this one. If you held off and waited on this purchase, give yourself a pat on the back. If you didn’t, I advise thinking twice next time. Remember: if you really want to make a game publisher sweat, tell them (over Twitter – believe me, they’re listening) you’re not preordering because you’re concerned about launch issues. They’re all about that these days.

Now that it’s been 24 hours since launch, EA is quickly running out my very generous grace period.

Resident Evil 6: The War on Bio-Terror

Demos are tricky things. Though certainly better than only watching trailers, or agonizing over the smallest details in screenshots, demos only give you a small slice of an experience. They lack the context of previous gameplay or story to fully demonstrate a game’s potential.

Resident Evil 6 has certainly suffered from that problem. A premature and poorly constructed E3/Dragon’s Dogma demo exposed the game’s weaknesses in all the worst places. A startling lack of quality made it easy to start drawing conclusions about the game. Would the camera get better? Would screen-tearing constantly be a problem? Would Leon Kennedy be robbed of action? Would Jake Muller and Chris Redfield not benefit from slower moments that allow for a proper ebb and flow of tension?

We’ve now had the chance to spend about 15 hours with Resident Evil 6, completing approximately half of the three lead campaigns featuring Leon, Chris and Jake. That time not only reinforces some of our impressions (be sure to read them) based on the second, much-improved round of Comic-Con demos, but allowed us a glimpse at new functionality, new storyline elements and new design elements in general. What follows are three new video previews detailing our thoughts, plus a variety of other notes.

Be warned: There are some spoilers ahead, particularly in the video previews. Nothing huge, but we know some of you care about that sort of thing.

 

Leon Kennedy’s Campaign

 

Think Leon’s campaign is just about a slow crawl through Tall Oaks University? Not quite.

 

Chris’s Campaign

 

Are you a recent convert to the world of Resident Evil? Are you a big fan of RE 5? You’ll definitely want to pay attention to Chris Redfield’s campaign.

 

Jake’s Campaign

 

Leon and Chris are easily two of the most iconic characters in RE lore, but Capcom sought to add a new face to the mix this time around. Let’s take a look at Jake’s storyline, which pairs this newcomer with RE 2’s Sherry Birkin.

 

The Campaigns

 

We cover a lot of different details between the three video previews above, but there’s even more to say about how Resident Evil 6 tells its story. What’s probably most important is that while all three campaigns share similar control schemes, and feature pairs of characters fighting bio-terror across the globe, they have their distinct tones and in their own way feel like their own complete experience.

Leon’s campaign definitely takes on a darker, slower tone that does feel similar to Resident Evil 4. With its emphasis on BSAA action, and plenty of battling in the broad daylight, Chris Redfield’s story does call back strongly to Resident Evil 5. Finally, Jake Muller’s arc is based more on tension than horror, as Jake and Sherry are constantly being chased by the Ustanak. Although all campaigns have some tonal overlaps – there’s plenty of high action for Leon and some slower, creepier moments for Chris – they do stand apart all the same.

Expect plenty of Resident Evil’s signature traits as well – both good and bad. This is B-movie horror at its finest, with some cringe-worthy dialogue, obtuse main characters and a large, generic supporting cast waiting to be slaughtered. Yet as any B-horror movie fan will tell you, that’s part of the fun. Every so often the game attempts to take itself seriously, with mixed results, but by and large Resident Evil 6 is attempting to be everything that any Resident Evil fan would want. So far, with about a dozen hours spent between all three campaigns, Capcom appears to be succeeding.

 

Playing With Skill

 

For many years, Resident Evil has wrestled with how players should handle things like inventory, ammo scarcity and character evolution. With solutions ranging from briefcases to storage bins to upgradeable weapons and mysterious merchants, the past decade has presented many options. Resident Evil 6 tries to walk a fine line between everything.

So far it appears as though Capcom has opted for an upgrade system that focuses on the actual characters, not weapons. Likewise, the stores – merchant or otherwise – are gone, replaced by a skill point system that is accessible from the game’s main menu, or between chapters. Points are found during the campaigns themselves, picked up as random drops from fallen enemies or in random treasure chests. More difficult enemies will drop thousands of points, while more common ones will typically drop 50-100 points, if they’re not leaving ammunition or herbs behind.

The upgrade system can affect everything from the effectiveness of melee attacks to gun recoil to the likelihood of certain types of ammo drops. Once purchased, these upgrades (some of which have multiple levels to buy) can be placed into one of three slots, which affect all characters regardless of campaign. In other words, if you decide you want to exit from Leon’s campaign to make some progress in Chris’s, you’ll want to check your skill set to make sure it’s appropriate for that specific campaign. What you select can definitely make a difference.

 

Herbs and Ammo

 

A few other details stood out to us during our time with Resident Evil 6. The herb system is particularly different, as it not only focuses on what types of herbs you have, but rewards you for risking your character’s health.

Herbs are no longer something that can be instantly consumed. They must be converted into pills before your character can use them to recover one of your six health blocks. Typically one green herb yields one pill, but waiting until you have two, and combining them when you convert, will yield three. Better yet, combining a red and green will yield six. So the game rewards you for taking risks, for holding your herbs rather than pushing to have them available. It’s a small detail, but occasionally you’ll find yourself strongly weighing whether to enter a room fully equipped, or risk having to scramble in the hopes of finding some extra herbs and profiting from that patience.

Ammunition is also an unusual commodity this time around. Resident Evil 5 was well known for providing ample amounts of ammo, particularly before major confrontations. This time around Capcom isn’t quite so generous. Though it’s certainly not as punishing as some of the older games, Resident Evil 6 often holds back on the bullets, particularly because enemies frequently drop skill points instead of usable commodities. Careful item management is definitely something worth considering. In fact there were several points where we let our partners do some of the work for us, or restricted ourselves to melee attacks to conserve ammo for another battle. It was strange to feel the need to do these things – but very much welcome.

This limited stock of ammunition does lead to a few bumps, where you simply must shoot something to progress, and little will happen until you do. If your guns aren’t loaded, prepare for some rather awkward gaps in action until you do. This type of situation doesn’t happen often, and in some ways it’s a reasonable price to pay for the thrill of having limited resources.

 

The Battle Continues

 

Even a dozen hours in, we know we’ve only scratched the surface of what Resident Evil 6 has to offer. Capcom is almost literally crafting four games in one. While each is estimated to be shorter than previous entries in the series, the sum of the parts is one massive adventure. Better than that – our early fears have been put to rest, as the more time we spend in Tall Oaks, Europe and China, the more the experience grows on us. Capcom is still taking a variety of risks here. Not all of them will pay off. Yet somehow that’s always been the story of the Resident Evil series. If we have to take a few weird moments alongside our epic horror show, we’ll gladly do it.

We’re just over a month away from the release of Resident Evil 6. Stay tuned for more and more coverage of the game and its legacy as the days count down.

Scientists propose DE-STAR to protect Earth from asteroids

Technogin

DE-STAR

BARELY a month after the White House rejected a petition to build a Death Star, a group of Californian scientists have pushed the idea forward again.

Instead of blasting rebellious planets, their proposed DE-STAR project is intended to be a “realistic” project to vaporise asteroids that pose a threat to Earth.

They’ve chosen the timing of their pitch well after last week’s meteor explosion over Russia and a close shave with a potential killer asteroid.

University of California physicist Philip M. Lubin and California Polytechnic State University researcher Gary B. Hughes unveiled a series of proposals for their Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation (DE-STAR for short).

While not quite at the scale or strength of its Star Wars namesake, some of the proposals get close. And they’re designed to be more realistic than the Kickstarter campaign to build a Death Star replica.

All versions of the…

View original post 256 more words