Sunday, July 25, 2010

San Diego Comic Con 2010: Day Three Video Game Panels

Scheduling for the third day of video game panels was a bit complicated, some were early while others were too close from others.

Despite some misses, I got into the "Street Fighter" and "Epic Mickey" panels.

Street Fighter

"Super Street Fighter IV" producer Yoshinori Ono began the panel about the rumored "Darkstalkers" game believed to appear in Comic Con. Confirmed to not be true, Ono though asked the crowd to pull out a dollar and were photographed to convince Capcom to help create a new entry in the series.

Ono then talked about the success of Super Street Fighter IV and planning for a Nintendo DS release of the game.

"We're going to do our best to have the look and feel of SSF4 on the 360 and PS3 and bring that to the DS," Ono said. So be on the lookout in the future for more information about SSF4 on DS."

The two mysterious character slots featured in the upcoming arcade version of SSF4 have been discussed with the crowd guessing who will they be.

"In September we have the Tokyo Game Show and we'll talk about that more then," Ono replied.

Ono made an announcement that a new version of "Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike" is now in development with the additional subtitle "Online Edition." No further details including platforms have been released.

He jokingly said shortly after, "because you saved my job, the least I could do is bring Street Fighter III back to you."

During some talk about additional content to SSF4, people from Namco interrupted by giving out copies of Tekken 6 and suddenly producer Katsuhiro Harada came in to announce that his company and Capcom are working on two projects using characters from Tekken and Street Fighter.

The first revealed titled "Street Fighter X Tekken" (X pronounced as cross) is being developed by Capcom. It seems to resemble and play more like Street Fighter IV with additional tag features.

Harada announced that Namco will be developing "Tekken X Street Fighter" which will play in a 3D gamefield, closer to what is in Tekken.

Ono did want the crowd to enjoy "Marvel vs. Capcom 3" first as both of the "X" games will not arrive "for a while."

Epic Mickey

Later on in the day, renowned developer Warren Spector and Marvel writer Peter David were panelists for their upcoming Disney project tentatively titled "Epic Mickey."

Spector considered that when people get their hands on the game, they should "perceive the game as they want it."

Spector began to talk about the origins of the creation of Epic Mickey including his strong interest in developing a platformer and David's involvement after the Marvel/Disney merger.

A new trailer was reviled showing familiar locations like Steamboat Willie and new ones influenced by Pirates of the Carribean.

Later on, the topic of morality in the game was discussed. Spector wanted to avoid the good/bad path and dig deeper into more detail like how one group might admires a said activity while another group doesn't.

As additional content, a digital comic named "Tales of Wasteland" was announced providing background information about the universe named "Wasteland;" where older Disney characters and settings have been deserted.

David will be working on the six issues as well as an 64-page graphic novel adaptation to the game when it ships fourth quarter of 2010.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

San Diego Comic Con 2010: Day Two Video Game Panels

On the second day of Comic Con, I visited some of the important video game panels including Epic Game's anticipated shooter "Gears of War 3."

Twisted Metal

Earlier in the day, I went to see info on the upcoming "Twisted Metal" coming for the PlayStation 3. People at the panel featured members of the development team Eat Sleep Play including series creator David Jaffe.

Jaffe detailed on the single player mode which will focus on four characters; Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grimm, Dollface and Preacher. Each will have live action sequences detailing some backstory as well as endings.

Eat Sleep Play would later reveal a new level still planned in development named "Rooftop;" heavily influenced by similarly named maps in the first two Twisted Metal games.

Jaffe also discussed different concepts of what Twisted Metal was supposed to be. Included is "Twisted Metal: Apocalypse" taking place in a post-nuclear setting and another was a clean and stylized approach similar to what can be seen in the "Midnight Club" game.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Unfortunately, I missed the "Marvel vs. Capcom 3" panel due to being open when Twisted Metal ended and being full in the meeting room. From what I have heard, it basically talked about what the game was and shown the trailer to new character and Okami protagonist Ameterasu.

Gears of War 3

During the evening, Epic Games shown tons of new content for "Gears of War 3" and other expanded content surrounding the series.

Moderated by G4TV's Adam Sessler, Epic Game's Rod Ferguson and Cliff Blezinski appeared to talk about new stuff in Gears of War 3.

They begun talking about the origins of the new mode "Beast." After some testing of "Gears of War 2's" "Horde" mode, it was believed that an Epic developer suggested trying the Locust Horde and lead to the creation of Beast. It's different from Horde where players take roles as the Locust in order to take down the humans. Blezinski called Beast a "class-based squad mode."

Both Blezinski and Ferguson provided specified commentary to the E3 co-operative demonstration giving more insight to parts including weapons and enemies.

While female characters were confirmed, more details was revealed in the panel. Actress Claudia Black was confirmed to play as a soldier named Sam. Another named Bernie was confirmed to fight along with the other Gears.

The rumors of hip-hop artists Drake and Ice-T in Gears of War 3 was confirmed to be true as they will be important characters in the story.

Book series author Karen Traviss who worked on the previous two Gears of War novels is now confirmed to be writing two more books respectively titled "Anvil Gate" and "Coalition's End." The latter book has been revealed that it will take place 18 months in between the second and third games.

The action figure series by NECA is still developing new models just in time for Gears of War 3. The main panalists were then suddenly interrupted by actor Carlos Ferro, who played as major character Dom. Eventually the voice actors of Cole, Lester Speight, and then Carmine, Michael Gough, appeared creating loud reactions from the crowd.

Gough especially talked about the dispute of Carmine's fate and was split on both choices: "Save Carmine" and "Carmine Must Die." Blezinski would introduce a video serving as a campaign video about picking one of the sides.

The panel ended with a strong question and answer session involving things in multiplayer and the universe.

Fans of the game were able to get autographs from every panelists including Gough who was eager to get as much signatures as possible.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

San Diego Comic Con 2010: Day One Video Game Panels

Thursday at this year’s San Diego Comic Con International featured a prominent video game appearance including special panels for upcoming releases which some I visited.

At the morning, one of the many meeting rooms featured Capcom’s “Dead Rising 2” with a high volume of people attending.

While developers Blue Castle Games were unable to come by to talk about the game, creator and executive producer Keiji Inafune and producer Shinsaka Ohara appeared before the crowd. Inafune discussed a bit of how surprisingly successful the first game was and hopes that Dead Rising 2 will “cater more to western audiences.”

More details of the plot have been revealed where the zombie outbreak hit Las Vegas and later the main area Fortune City.

While Dead Rising 2 takes place 5 years after the original, the downloadable “Case Zero” will confine to the Vegas infection just two years.

Dated for an Aug. 31 release date just a short of a month before the full game, Case Zero is an Xbox 360 exclusive priced at 400 Microsoft Points. The game is “To provide a taste of Dead Rising 2 while serving something new,” Inafune said. Case Zero introduces sequel protagonist Chuck and his daughter surviving zombies in Vegas. The downloadable also gives background on the anti-zombification medicine “Zombrex” which will serve a strong role in the full sequel.

Chuck in Dead Rising 2 participates in a zombie killing show in Fortune City to fund enough money for his daughter’s Zombrex medication. Along the way, Chuck gets framed for trying to destroy television equipment and must clear his name before a 72 hour extraction deadline.

Capcom also details about Dead Rising 2’s multiplayer where players can play against each other or in co-op as well as participate in mini-game challenges dubbed “Terror Is Reality.”

Set for Sept. 28, Dead Rising 2 will receive a special “Zombrex” edition featuring various props and a special disc different in both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. While the PlayStation 3 will receive a making of documentary, the Xbox 360 version will have Inafune-directed B-movie horror film “Zombrex Dead Rising Sun” with an exclusive alternate ending.

Later on, Ubisoft began a panel for “Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood” featuring G4TV’s Morgan Webb on moderation.

Writer Jeffrey Yohalem described how the whole Assassin’s Creed series relied on a specific set of rules where everything in the game had to have justification for it to exist. The storyline relying on controversial historical periods and being “the spine of the experience;” meaning that other elements including gameplay and sound aids this plot.

Brotherhood continues the storyline of Italian assassin Ezio Auditore di Firenze and his struggle leading to truly leading the Assassin Order. Yohalem confirmed that the themes of Brotherhood was heavily influenced by “The Prince” by real-life person and series character Machiavelli. Characters in the “Assassin’s Creed 2’s” story including Ezio’s mother Maria and will have a much larger and complex role in shaping his destiny.

The multiplayer fits in to the story where members of the antagonistic group Abstergo takes over personas of assassins to train them. Along with an overview, two new characters were announced including the bearded “Blacksmith” and the smirky “Soldier.”

With the release of Brotherhood, a comic book series is planned. Taking place in early-1900 Russia, the protagonist is a novice assassin named Nikolai who travels between Siberia and St. Petersburg while the infamous Tunguska Event occurred.

Towards the evening, members of Bungie initiated a demonstration of new features in “Halo: Reach.” Multiplayer designer Lars Bakken discussed the options that can be placed in returning mode “Firefight.” Players can customize wave types and enemies, end a game prematurely, and provide objectives including generator defense. Still multiplayer enabled, Reach features matchmaking along with friend based joining. A mode introduced in the panel is “Versus” where one can be a Spartan defending Covenant forces led by another playable member. Versus will be playable tomorrow at Comic Con.

Another part of the live demonstration is the much improved “Forge” mode. While the multiplayer favorite “Blood Gulch” returns to Reach re-titled as “Hemorrhage,” it’s part of a tremendously bigger map called “Forge World.” Just like its title, it’s a map perfect for different designs using Forge. The capabilities of constructing new things in Forge has increased like where objects can clip on other pieces and much better rotation controls giving new possibilities in making outrageous designs. Bungie also had video documentary shortly released showing what can be done in the new Forge mode.

Before the end of the Halo: Reach panel, Bungie revealed a special Xbox 360 containing a special silver design on the console and two controllers along with a full copy of the game. The special edition console is planned to release the same as Reach.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cermemony - Rohnert Park/Trash Talk - Eyes & Nines

California Über Alles
These two northern California bands share a lot of similarities. Interesting to note that these bands are friends to one another and a member from each group contributed in the others' latest releases. Both Ceremony and Trash Talk in their previous works combined a very fast and straightforward style very reminiscent of Infest and other groups distinctive to some modern hardcore punk today. The latest releases from both bands signifies a departure from that approach. Yet different, their favor of finding a new noise still binds their musical relationship.

From the two, Ceremony takes a huge left turn in "Rohnert Park." There is a profound difference in comparison to their earlier recordings "Violence, Violence" and "Still Nothing Moves You." From hyperspeed anger to now nostalgic homage of more classic hardcore groups from the 1980s. The stylistic changes help create catchiness and variation. While some sound like a punk in the default sense, the others including 'The Doldums (Friendly City)' feel like something out of a new wave band. Beginning song 'Sick' pays respect (and jokingly disrespects) to those bands while the constant punk beat goes on and vocalist Ross Farrar goes misanthrophic about Barrack Obama, the GOP, atheists, buddhists, and other annoyances.

Lyrically, the content is strong detailing things Farrar's stints in Main County Detention Facility in Sonoma County, California ('MCDF'), his near death experience seconds after his birth ('Back In '84'), and the dullness of growing up in the city of Rohnert Park ('The Doldrums [Friendly City]'). The clarity of his storytelling always felt enjoyable and immersive while digesting. Sure it's not exactly distinctive to other suburban kid angst content but it's all about the details.

Hours east is Sacramento where Trash Talk formed and vocalist Lee Spielman still resides. His approach in "Eyes & Nines" is more centered towards many different (and sometimes abstract) themes as opposed to personal pieces. It can range from smoking pot on Wednesday ('Hash Wednesday') to pyromania ('Explode). Lyrics in Trash Talk though is not their strongest suit but rather their assaulting manner of the vocals and instruments mixing.

It's different from their earlier releases yet have a similar feeling. Trash Talk tries out a Discharge-like d-beat approach and hell it's successful. Sans the super doomy Hash Wednesday, Eyes & Nines lasts only 12 minutes long thanks to the constantly fast and seamless transitioning of songs. The bludgeoning strikes in 'I Do' immediately continues in 'Trudge' and does the same in 'On A Fix' and the titled and ultimate track. Especially at the second half of the album, it's energy-inducing and doesn't take breaks; Trash Talk still knows how to make swift and memorable strikes.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Music To Frag To! – June, 2010

(From Digital Gaudium)

This series of monthly features will talk about select songs on the latest albums from extreme music based bands (death metal, hardcore punk, powerviolence, etc.) which you should listen to when getting the nuke or capturing a flag.

Sometimes when I play games like “Call of Duty” or “Halo,” I get a bit irritated of those moments of silence. It became an annoyance when I played the “Lost Planet 2″ multiplayer demo where distant sounds sounded too far and near proximity effects fade too quickly. I put on some fast grindcore which in result turned out excellent. The immediate assaulting songs worked in context of the game and would work in others too.

For this month I will showcase music from the first half of 2010. For the coming months, it will regularly be based on releases during a particular month while I might do some special entries on occasion.

NOTICE: Music on this edition will be removed by next feature of this series. Labels, if you request a track removal during this period, contact and we will happily remove the file.

1. Kverlertak - 'Mjød' (self-titled)
In extreme music, Norway is the capital of its significant black metal scene. Murders, church burning and even a bizarre suicide situation. The ideology is dangerous but the music is intense and mysterious.

The atmospheric energy from the sound is blended with Kvelertak's love for party time rock and roll. Sort of like a mix of Turbonegro, Emperor and Refused. Their latest album is perfect for those casual play sessions with friends where good clean fun is more important than winning. Kvelertak's self-title album is currently streaming here.

2. Celeste - 'Ces belles de rêve aux verres embués' ("Morte(s) Nee(s)")
Most of the time I hear people put their microphones near their music speakers on Xbox Live; it's pretty much badly done hip-hop music with the bass frequency of the beat pattern repeatedly coming on. French quartet Celeste also focuses on constant rapid repetition but for their case it works.

Hypnotizing black metal-like guitars and bass fill the left and right channels, drums stays and a pummeling rhythm, and vocals contribute to the chaotic approach. The production is intentionally overpowered to match the constant bombastic and bludgeoning terror the album encompasses. Would sound great for the upcoming "Splatterhouse" reimagining. An intensely violent game with intensely violent music; there will be blood. The album along with their previous two is officially available for free here.

3. Extortion - 'Regrets' ("Loose Screws")
FAST! FASTER!! FASTEST!!! High speed intensity represents this powerviolence band from Perth, Australia. It's immature and punk but that's the point. They play it very straightforward in every release they had. Great for those tactical knife sprinting runs on Modern Warfare 2.

4. Ceremony - 'Sick' ("Rohnert Park")
Ceremony is too after two album of fastness. Rohnert Part takes it back to the early 1980s where bands like Black Flag and Bad Brains were emerging from their own scenes. The song "Sick" best represents that feeling.

Staying on a pacing tempo, Ceremony vocalist Ross Farrar goes all out nihilistic about hating everything. If you have that same mood and won't care if you are playing adversarial or team modes, you hate everyone and it's time to kill them (in game of course).

5. Trash Talk - Tracks 1-3 and 5-10 ("Eyes & Nines")
Removing the fourth slow track 'Hash Wednesday,' Eyes & Nines from this Sacramento, California quartet is just about 12 minutes long. But hell those 12 minutes go out fast like a bullet. A big player count Halo match should be enough for these nine songs. The minutes will be blissful chaos during melee combat and constant ballistic urgency.

6. Integrity - 'Learn To Love The Lie' ("The Blackest Curse")
Cleavland, Ohio metalcore masters debuts a full length (ever since 2001) with more "Holy Terror."

Remember when Slayer's 'Angel of Death' was in almost every skateboarding game? Even a great thrash song can get tiring. If there was an alternative, I will take this song or others from Integrity's The Blackest Curse." They match the rage that Slayer perfected in "Reign In Blood" and makes it more in key with hardcore punk. It's still angry.

7. "This Comp Kills Fascists Vol. 2"
It's 74 tracks of aural violence in one CD! The compilation soundtrack to utter chaos for any intense multiplayer game. Enough said. Here are two tracks from the massive grindhouse of sound. DON'T PRESS PAUSE.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Halo: Reach multiplayer beta (preview)

Originally posted on Digital Gaudium (May 8, 2010)

Bungie, developers of the acclaimed Halo video game series released a multiplayer testing build of their final franchise-based game “Halo: Reach” to the public with high anticipation before the retail release this fall.

Officially released on Monday, people who own a copy of “Halo 3: ODST” and have a membership to the Xbox Live, can download the beta. The download provides a small taste of the multiplayer mode that will be featured in the final build.

After a short introduction message from Bungie, players can pick one of the two modes available.

Matchmaking mode allows online players to combat one another in multiple playlists featuring game types common in Halo like “capture the flag” and the deathmatch-based “Slayer” while some new are introduced in Reach. “Headhunter” requires players to grab skulls from fallen enemies and deposit them at specific capture areas for points while “Stockpile” is a variant of capture the flag where teams must store neutral flags in their own bases.

Throughout the beta, Bungie will add more game types for players to play and test. “Generator Defense” has a small team of Spartans have to defend multiple machines from a rag-tag group of invading Elites. The other, “Invasion,” is the large scale mode featured in the beta where Elites must complete a set of objectives while going through Spartan defenses; this mode also has a Slayer only variant.

Introduced in “Halo 3,” “Theater” mode allows players to watch footage of their played games as well as take screenshots.

So far, the Halo: Reach beta looks, sounds and plays like any other Halo game but like the series’ previous incarnations, new features and other nuances makes this distinct from the others.

The most apparent addition is armor abilities where each player can pick one of the four provided. These abilities replace the equipment system in Halo 3 where it was one use as opposed to Reach being reusable. Each ability serve different purposes best for particular situations. Active camouflage increases the chances of assassinating enemies without being seen while the jetpack allows temporary air superiority against ground forces.

Weapons have gone towards another overhaul in Reach featuring new additions as well as removing some common in the series. Similar to the original Halo and Halo 3: ODST, dual-wielding is not featured in Reach. In return for balance, weapons like the magnum pistol have more power into it just in case if ammo for a primary weapon runs out; those single handed weapons serve as more of a sidearm.

The popular battle rifle has been removed as well for another called the DMR, short for Designated Marksman Rifle. Instead of a three-round burst, the DMR can only provide single shot fire generally preferred for mid to long range combat; making it closer to the battle rifle’s original envision during Halo 2. It’s not easy to handle though because the DMR along with almost every other weapon in Reach has accuracy and the faster each firearm is shot, the less accurate it will become. The DMR and many other new weapons are featured in Reach for all of us to play with.

Although Bungie wants everyone to enjoy this small bit of the beta, they want players to discover and report any issues or bugs; which in this phase is normally suited for private testing. Bungie is eager for every players’ opinion if such things as the focus rifle being overpowered or someone found a way to get under the battlefield ever occurs.

There are some particular issues in the beta but with over a million participants, all the feedback up until closing day on May 17, 2010 will allow Bungie to fine tune and help create the best possible experience in Halo: Reach when it comes out fall 2010.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis (review)

It's Mathcore Madness!

It has been more than a decade since the release of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s acclaimed 1999 progressive metalcore debut “Calculating Infinity.” The group continues with their latest release doing what they do best: providing catchy unpredictable aural assaults while trying to experiment with new sounds and styles.

The first track “Farewell, Mona Lisa” foreshadows what’s to become of the band’s longest album to date. The first part features their signature burst of chaos exemplified by guitarist Ben Weinman and newly recruited drummer Billy Rymer.

Almost two minutes in, the song displays an ebb and flow effect where vocalist Greg Puicato shines in his dynamic vocal range following a tremendous band-central climax.

Although not as apparent, it’s great to hear that their characteristic hypersonic and discordant style is not forgotten in this record.
“Good Neighbor” features many dissonant yet enticing guitar runs by Weinman while Rymer can hit multiple time signatures without error. It has a lot of energy which when translated live, can entice large scale moshes.

The instrumental capabilities of Weinman and Rymer are best heard in “Endless Endings.” The majority of the track sounded like a much harder version of experimental jazz band Naked City. Weinman’s fast solos and chords sound like an altered interpretation of many different cultures of music and Rymer does his best to the point that it’s reminiscent of former DEP drummer Chris Pennie.

Some select songs from previous albums “Miss Machine” and “Ire Works” featured DEP experimenting with a pop music approach in mind, much different from their heavier pieces. “Option Paralysis” takes what made those songs great and adds a fitting metal edge, which makes the overall sound more cohesive.

“Gold Teeth On A Bum” best displays their new approach. Taking notes from former collaborator Faith No More’s Mike Patton, Puicato uses various vocal styles throughout.

From whispering, to screeching and then to singing, Puicato knows which style is perfect for each section. The band aids him resulting in a more tenacious unit instead of one particular member standing out.

“Widower” is another great example of the band’s experimentation in the album. Enrolling pianist Mike Garson, the song evolves from being very isolating and later on deconstructing.

Although being the longest album compared to the others for the band with only three songs falling below three minutes, there are still intense songs that justify its length.

“Room Full Of Eyes” still sounds like DEP but halfway in is a very pummeling doom dirge where everybody can headbang to.

Each album sounds like a logical progression in which “Option Paralysis” follows what made best with their previous work. With four albums and multiple member changes, The Dillinger Escape Plan excels at what they do and always tries to tread new ground, while not compromising who they are.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (review)

Tactical Destruction
Part 2

Although with the recent midst of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 dominating the first person shooter market, Battlefield developers DICE was working on the sequel to their 2007 console breakout Battlefield: Bad Company. Containing memorable characters, a unique style while pertaining to the series ethic of large scale vehicular combat, and fun multiplayer, a sequel should be anticipated. Now released it's indeed a hell of a good time.

Following a quick and surprising prologue, the player controls again soldier Preston Marlowe fighting with a rag-tag squad formerly of an Army's B-company (nicknamed Bad Company) After going rogue and escaping with mercenary gold from the previous Bad Company, it's implied that they eventually got caught. Impressed by the squad's activities, the military assigns them to a special operation involving a Russian terrorist and a mysterious weapon of catastrophic proportions. In return for succeeding, the squad is able to retire from service.

The first Bad Company had a comedic feel and seemed to have been influenced by the war film Three Kings. Bad Company 2 takes a more conventional action movie route removing some of the little nuances that charmed the original including the in-game radio (surf music during battle is awesome). The interaction between the squad is still retained yet much applied in a more subtle fashion than in the previous game. It's hilarious to hear conversations about Harrison Ford, the pronounciation of 50 Cent, and what would be the best mixed martial arts nickname for squad leader Sgt. Redford. It's up to committing some downtime to hear their comrade because of the game's much more confined level structure.

Unlike the first game's single player, Bad Company 2 removes most of the large scale semi-linear formula and takes a 180 degree turn. The choice results in a double-edge sword effect where although it goes outside Battlefield's tradition of big free-form action, the pacing is well timed and the action is much more fun. The completion time with the changes applied is shorter than the original Bad Company but the memorable moments throughout many beautiful environments kept me going back.

Some moments outside the gunplay and just seeing the mountain ranges, it almost looks photo realistic. Much detail has been taken care of for the updated Frostbite Engine with effects that I would have never thought would work on consoles. DICE did an excellent job in making a great looking game while running at an always constant 30 frames per second and allowing anybody destroy the world to their whim.

Just like the first Bad Company, the sequel makes use of destructive environments once again and increases by two-folds. Not only the walls can be destroyed, now with enough explosives, buildings can collapse killing anybody inside which is a great alternative for one of the multiplayer modes.

Without the gold, the Rush gametype follows the same format with some fixes including the defending team able to recompose and prepare for an attacking base. A smaller variant called Squad Rush is intense and requires everyone to work together on four on four combat. Versions of maps accommodate the mode as opposed to being tacked in. The conquest gametype originally absent at the first game's launch is here and does it job just fine. The last surprising mode is Squad Deathmatch where four squads of four members attack one another for the highest kills. That mode is great for a quick pick up and play without committing too much time.

With four classes specializing in different ways of playing, there is thought in picking one for a particular situation. Medics can heal and revive teammates while providing suppressing fire. Assaults use high powered rifles and grenade launchers to destroy enemy cover. Engineers are able to fix vehicles as well as destroy with rocket launchers. Recon units can snipe enemies from afar and infiltrate bases with spotting tools. The classes are simplified and much more accessible from the previous game.

Vehicles like in multiplayer as well as single player are threatening. Along with the usual tanks and helicopters, newly added is a small unmanned aerial vehicle which can provide missile support and suppression fire by means of a machine gun from above. For an attacking team, it's a godsend while the defensive side can feel overwhelmed if not destroyed.

The multiplayer grabs some elements experimented with downloadable Battlefield 1943 including squad member spawining which helps in very tight situations. It helps improve the communication and cooperation factor of Battlefield which is the key to success as opposed to running and gunning.

There is also unlocks that seem to be grabbed from Modern Warfare 2 but with a twist. Each experience gained in a class is added to getting a class-based upgrade including kits and weapons. Included are all kit perks and weapons for which someone who would like to go all out with a Thompson submachine gun while looking like a recon class is great.

Even with an emphasis in multiplayer (the box art says "Defining Online Warfare") and a single player that is lacking in length, the overall package in Bad Company 2 is excellent. It's a great alternative for people who want to try other high profile shooters in the market now besides Modern Warfare 2. There is enough variety and charm which will keep me going back for more building destruction online or offline.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Toy Soldiers (review)

Fine and dandy ol' chap!
Similar to the Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade program where a block of high profile Xbox Live Arcade games are released next to each other, the Spring season of 2010 has the Block Party containing such pieces as Perfect Dark and the tower-defense style game Toy Soldiers. Despite not being a fan of that genre, I gave Toy Soldiers a chance and in return was a really fun hybrid game.

Set in a World War I themed diorama containing toy soldiers and vehicles inside a bedroom, the single player campaign follows the British army defending against the attacking German forces. It plays out as more of a tower defense game where units can be built to prevent a set number or a boss entering and destroying the base (aka the toy box).

With the construction of defending machine guns, howitzers, and gas units, the said units along with tanks and helicopters can be fully controlled to help turn the tide in battle. That said, it comes with a price as it can increase the odds of loosing (especially during boss fights) if not treated with moderation; and it plays very well with that mentality.

The artificial intelligence and the order of attacking Germans were intimidating which forced me to make quick decisions of either constructing a particular unit or controlling an existing one. The boss fights not being dynamic in actions provide a sense of struggle because one bad move can ruin the match. If the boss destroyed, I felt relieved as well as invigorated of how I completed something that looked impossible.

Multiplayer follows the same basic fashion but give the possibility of attacking a base. With two players max on splitscreen and Xbox Live, both players have to defend and create attack plans which can be stressful but really fun.

Although being figurines, all of the working units look like a shrunken version of their real counterparts. With that and how the camera uses a macro-like focus, it reminded me of when I played small figurines when I was younger but much more visceral (although cartoon-like). To compliment the classic visual style is a snappy classic-style soundtrack which made me feel very dandy if I lost my base.

This is the closest game to commanding an army without feeling like some disembodied higher being. The charm it carries greatly benefit the overall experience. Coming from a very small studio, I am impressed at what Signal Studios done and is looking forward to the game's downloadable content and any future products.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Extortion - Loose Screws (review)


To reasonably respect the fast pace nature of Loose Screws from Perth, Australia's violence group let's do this:

A fast fucking intense piece of adrenaline assault of extreme music that improves upon their infectious Sick. With some pieces lasting up to 2 minutes, all of the songs don't compromise ferocity. Catchy and more addicting than Sick. It's like falling off a skyscraper; just like the album artwork presents.

If Napalm Death's Barney Greenway intimidating guest vocal on the appropriately titled "Grind To A Halt" doesn't attract you, the repetitive nature of "Faulty Wiring" will be stuck in your head.



Friday, February 19, 2010

Blacklisted - Eccentrichine (review)

Lost In An Illusion

It was a bit questionable of what Blacklisted done on the much experimental No One Deserves To Be Here More Than Me. No problem for me to like new distances and although I did like the album, there seemed to be an annoying vibe of that it sounds more of a solo album by singer George Hirsch than an actual Blacklisted album. Shortly after the record's stealthy release onto Deathwish Inc., a companion EP recently came about which in result makes question its purpose and makes me appreciate No One even more.

With only four songs, Eccentrichine features two new songs recorded from the No One session. That album lasted less than 30 minutes and the revealed pieces are conventional song length? "Stones Throw" could have been added no problem because it sounds like a song from the album while the title track could have been hidden or Japan only. The title track strays away to what we expect from them and goes all alternative rock. It does fall though into good concept/bad execution though; it fits here on an EP that's weak.

The other two songs fall under the same issue where the more electric "The P.I.G." is very exciting while an acoustic version of "Wish" lacks any energy. With only standing half way, Eccentrichine more of an optional piece for non-hardcore fans of Blacklisted.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tactical Intervention tech demo video leaked

Fan site of the spiritual successor to Counter-Strike has uploaded a portion of a Tactical Intervention demonstration recorded with a handycam onto the internet for all of us to witness.

With a first look and actual gameplay footage revealed late last year, co-creator of Counter-Strike and head of Tactical Intervention Minh Le speaks and plays on behalf of the video showing what will be featured in the upcoming Source engine powered game.

The beginning of the video shows the Le shooting different objects within the environment including a rack of sweaters that dynamically flail when shot at. He was then able to use the butt of the primary weapon as a melee move without the need of a knife. About half-way in, the demonstration surprisingly presents the ability of having attack dogs that can be used by both terrorists and counter-terrorists. Near the end, Le shows some of actions the player can do including leaning, blindfiring without the need for a cover mechanism and taking a hostage as a human shield.

Though there are some similarities yet some differences to Counter-Strike, we will have to wait for the upcoming beta that was originally planned for a late 2009 release.

(Thanks and This Is Game)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Xbox 360 demo (hands-on)

Let's blow up more buildings!

A month before the release of the original Battlefield: Bad Company, the game's demo was the only thing I played at that time because it felt so engaging to be part of large scale base battles in the game's "Gold Rush" mode (in both attacking and defensive sides). It did have a linear feel to it as opposed to DICE's PC predecessors where they were more open ended with the "Conquest" mode but things like sniping attacking runners or reigning down with a helicopter on an opposing base were very intense and addicting. Bad Company 2 is a similar case especially having a beta shortly before the month away demo release. Users of the PlayStation 3 were able to get their hands on it first for testing but many Xbox 360 players (including me) now have the opportunity to try out the changes applied in this upcoming sequel.

The demo features full 24 player online support on one map different from the PS3 beta. Instead of a desert like environment, the demo map is a winter-based Russia as they attack the Americans defending a oil pipeline.

Like the previous Bad Company demo, this features the assault gametype renamed as "Rush" removing any evidence of gold. Within the context of the game universe, it's not about getting a prestigious object but more of presenting the conflict against the Russians and Americans with each trying to gain ground. Besides the changes in the name and drive of the mode, there are some tweaks that can be compared to "Gold Rush." Although based on destroying two crates and moving on to another defensive base carrying more, the attacking team is then required to stay in their conquered area for a short amount of time before assaulting the next one. It seemed very awkward at first but as soon as I was on the defending team, it made more sense. Not only that time in between prevents the attackers from making an immediate and cheap victory, it helps recompose the defensive side and make a better plan in draining the opposing force's tickets. Added from the arcade hit Battlefield 1943 is an improved spawning system where you can spawn in base or with a particular squad member which can help turn the tide of battle.

As with a Battlefield game, there are vehicles featured for each side. The Americans can use helicopters to provide air support against the Russians who assault with tanks, light armor, and even four-wheeled ATVs. Another addition used by the Russians in the demo map is a small remote controlled helicopter which can provide recon support and even guide missiles to designated targets. Much different from the original Bad Company in terms of controlling but worked pretty well when I got the hang of it as the shoulder button controls most of the driving and shooting mechanics allowing the player to steer and aim with ease.

One very distinguishable difference from the previous Bad Company multiplayer is the classes provided. As opposed to the original five classes, it has been reduced to four: assault, engineer, medic, and recon (from the original Bad Company's assault, demolition, specialists, recon, and support). My first thought was that they would compromise each of the class' dynamics but the tweaks are justifiable. Removing the specialist class and providing some of its attributes to others blend in pretty well; for example, the sniper class obtains C4 charges (which are key for low profile destruction). The case of trading tools also happens in other classes too with some being placed in a new section dedicated to universal secondary weapons. If you wanted a shotgun for your sniper, its possible in this game.

To obtain it though, it's all based on leveling up from playing games. Besides getting new ranks, players can obtain bonus weapons by gaining experience points from a specific class. The demo though only provides one new weapon for each class but as it's released, similar to Modern Warfare 2, players (including me) will try to get all of them.

The playing feels much like the original Bad Company but a bit faster when engaging the enemy in a very closed-in setting. Explosions constantly appear everywhere and death happens a lot but with regenerative health it's less painful to experience. To lessen the death issue even more is the inclusion of the medic class having a defibrillator (introduced in Battlefield 2) which revives downed teammates at an instant if they don't respawn. When playing the sniper based recon class, I was surprised of how DICE treated sniper rifles. The previous game featured a realistic like delay in a sniper shot and Bad Company 2 takes it to another level with weight. Specifically a bullet shot in long range loses its consistency to where it arcs and the bullet falls downward. This avoids the issue of 100% accuracy and forces to predict where the shot may lead to.

Making use of an updated Frostbite Engine, the detail in the game is much more detailed in graphical fidelity than its predecessor. There is much more content present while moving smooth and consistent. The characteristic destruction system makes a return and is implemented to the "Rush" game type much better than before. Most of the players in the games I experienced destroyed the walls surrounding the crates as an alternative to planting explosives. The attackers can make use of the destroyed walls for tanks to fire upon while defenders might want to use it to lure attackers and shoot them when their position is compromised.

Although a multiplayer demo, I am impressed with the changes done for the Bad Comapny sequel. I hope to have a great and fun time when it releases this March.