Friday, April 2, 2010

DICE Unlock 'Squad Rush' in BFBC2 for those who did not Pre-Order with GameStop

I preordered Bad Company 2 with Amazon (see what I did there?) because they are a better company and they do not make me want to take my money and burn it (like GameStop makes me want to) instead of spend my money there (at GameStop). I was punished by not having the ability to play a mode called 'Squad Rush' for an entire frakking month. Oh well.

The mode is now unlocked for all of us that have free-will and do not fall to tantilizing deals provided by the company who must not be named (from this point forward of course).

Enjoy the video:

Split/Second Hands-On

Split/Second is a racing game by the folks - Blackrock Studio - that brought you Pure. Of all of the publishers out there, Disney (yes, it is still shocking) is putting the proverbial gas in the tank. Split/Second looks to be a high octane thrill ride and I'm here to let you know if my hands-on time lived up to the hype or if the shock of this being a Disney game is all the appeal that it has.

Before I had the chance to put my foot down on the accelerator I was able to watch several people play the track that I would be playing. It looked like downtown Seattle mainly because there was a large Space Needle that became "part of the race". I'll embellish on that in a moment but I would first like to describe to you the beauty of this game.

Split/Second is gorgeous. From the absence of HUD (explained just one sentence down) to the graphically fidelity this game screeches (like rubber tires on the pavement) triple A. Now there is a HUD but this is not anything that you are used to; the HUD is "strapped" to the bottom of your vehicle and what it displays is very basic. The HUD consists of your Power Play meter (this bar fills as you drift, draft, pass, etc. opponents), your position in the race, and the lap counter. Contributing to the fidelity of the game the screen also "tilts" with your turns and in direct correlation to that it "feels" fast and immersive - very much like a Burnout game.

Having previously mentioned the Power Play meter, Power Plays are Split/Second's bread and butter. Power Plays are crescendo events that you can trigger using the "A" button (of course providing that you have some Power Play in your meter). There are smaller crescendos that may just involve dropping something from a helicopter onto the track in front of an opponent, triggering their temporary demise, to much larger events such as dropping the Space Needle on the track (it also becomes part of the track!). The large events are few and far between and it seems like they become each track's set-piece. The Power Plays are fantastic but are there enough to go around?

This brings me to the part where I have to tell you that the game is not all sunshine and rainbows. Though this could have been an issue with the demo, the game seems to have a lot of slowdown issues (particularly when there are a large amount of explosions or Power Plays being triggered simultaneously) and for a racing game this is a notably troubling issue. This could have troubling repercussions in multiplayer play as well.

In addition to the slowdown, after watching the races so many times before I was able to play myself, I noticed that the Power Play moments become predictable (and later potentially boring?). It becomes easy to know when to trigger them or to know where to drive in the case that they are triggered against you (and you get more juice for your PP meter for an escape). For a game that will probably have a decently sized multiplayer community this will either become boring or empowering for Veterans of the game or it will be off-putting to newcomers.

Having the luxury of playing a second track, at the Joystiq Blueberry Muffin Tops Breakfast, did nothing to sway me in the game's favor. I only noticed how the same experience seemed to be cut and pasted into a different area. The aesthetic only felt slightly different (one guy asked the Disney rep if all of the tracks took place in an urban environment to which he received no response) and even the smaller crescendo events seemed to be, or were, exactly the same.

I was excited for Split/Second when I first approached Disney's booth but now it is on my list of wait-and-see titles.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile Hands-On

If you have not even tried The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, what are you waiting for? The Dishwasher is the brain child of Ska Studios (aka Jame Silva) and what a... dead... child it is. The game is hand drawn/animated and it has a dark gritty style.

But I will dare and assume that you have played Dead Samurai and what you are here for are my thoughts on Vampire Smile. In any other context that sentence might not make a whole lot of sense but alas that would only be from the outside looking in.

At first sight, Vampire Smile appears to be more in the same vein as its predecessor. It has the same art style but upon a closer look the game is much more crisp and clear. This is attributed to a newer version of the XNA engine.

The follow-up to Dead Samurai also brings better control of The Dishwasher. The controls feel more precise and they actually made the game feel easier than I remember the first game being.

In The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile we will be treated to three campaigns: one for The Dishwasher, one for Yuki, and a co-op campaign. Yuki is a character that breifly appeared in the previous game but in case you did not remember she is the Dishwasher's (now dead) step sister.

James said that this game will be great because it is all new - from the ground up. He said that the first game started as something small, in order to win the Dream. Build. Play. Competition, that he kept adding to but that Vampire Smile started from the beginning as a full title.

Look forward to it, "when it's done."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Raskulls Hands-On

Raskulls is the addictive little game - with the Castle Crashers art style - by Halfbrick Studios. It is being compared to Dig Dug, Mr. Driller, Mario Kart, and other multiplayer party games. I can tell you that all of this is true and more.

Raskulls fast-paced addictive gameplay includes a full story campaign as well as competitive multiplayer. The story is three chapters long with roughly twenty levels per campaign. The game is exclusive to Xbox Live Arcade unlike the studios other games which have ranged from PSP Minis to various other platforms such as the DS and the original Xbox.

The inspiration for the game was described as the desire to make a simple pick up and play title in the vein of a Mario Kart type party game; having played against another person, those last few seconds of a race get very hectic. I even managed to eek out one of my few wins by being on top of my opponents head. You can also add bots to your multiplayer match (they vary in skill based on four difficulty levels ranging from easy to intense). My opponent and I were bested several times by the, quicker than believable, bots (and we were only on hard - one level below intense). It becomes very clear that this will be a very popular title over Xbox Live or whenever you have friends over. It has four player same box multiplayer and the same over Live.

You know when a developer says that when something like this is more fun to make rather than making a big budget title, something good is bound to come of it.

There was no clear date and price set down for the game but the Halfbrick representative that I had the pleasure of spoking to said that summer looked ideal along with a tentative price of ten to fifteen dollars. Whenever it releases I will be first in line the download queue.

Monday, March 29, 2010

PAX Day Three Wrap-Up (The End)

On the last day of PAX East it felt very much like the winding down of something epic. There was a sadness in my chest that can only be explained as the end of something special. The experience was like nothing I had ever had the pleasure of attending. It is like they say, "We made the kind of convention we wanted to attend when we were growing up."

To start off the beginning of the end, my wife and I attended the XBOX LIVE Enforcement panel which even my wife said was a learning experience.  You can hear the full audio of the panel above if you missed out.

Afterward we met up with our friends again to see the last Penny Arcade Q & A. Mike and Jerry (again Gabe and Tycho respectively) are as funny as they are weird and seeing them arm wrestle was priceless and perhaps a once in a lifetime (or once a year) experience.

Then, it being the last day and all, we had to finally meet Wil Wheaton. My wife and I waited in line for an hour and a half; let me just say this, meeting him, was one of the best experiences I have ever had - ever. I will be writing more about this later so if you are interested I will have a link on my Twitter or in this post sooner rather than later.

The last things that I took away from PAX East were interview questions that I asked a couple of studios (once more, more on that later). I also had the pleasure of playing Monday Night Combat which (again) will have a hands-on write-up soon.

It was one of the greatest weekends of my life and also one of the most exhausting weekends. I would have never thought I could get my fill of video games but in three short days I managed to have more (pent up) conversation about video games than I could have ever imagined. Part of me wants PAX to continue FOREVER (like an every day sort of thing) but part of me is glad that I will have to wait for the next one.

PAX Day Two Wrap-Up (The Experience)

The second day had come to pass and the gaming overload said, "Let there be knowledge."

This is my general feeling about yesterday's delicious PAXy goodness. Overall the day felt more organized - I am not entirely sure how this came to pass and whether it was my anticipation of lines or just better knowledge from the Enforcers of how things were supposed to run. A fine person whom I had the pleasure of thanking for the show also said that the convention should be running smoother.

My wife and I also woke up for the show rather early so that I could attend the Joystiq Blueberry Muffin Tops Breakfast. At the breakfast I had the opportunity to play a second map in Split Second that I will also be adding to my thoughts on the game later on.

From the breakfast we (again just my wife and I) went to the panel for the Penny-Arcade series and it was hilarious. Jerry (Tycho) and Mike (Gabe) did a live commentary on two previously aired episodes; I was doubled over in laughter most of the time. We then saw an episode that will not be aired until this Friday so that was a nice treat for PAX attendees.

Directly thereafter we got back in line for the create-a-strip panel having met up with some friends. Watching the strip was not only entertaining, but it was visually unbelievable. Watching the whole strip come together, in person, could not have been a better experience. Later when I spoke to Mike, albeit briefly, he said that the create-a-strip panel is his favorite of the weekend. It can only imagine how humbling and awesome that must be to share that.

For a good portion of the day after that panel we turned our four person group into a seven person group and just hung around chatting about what we had seen in the previous two days. This is truly what is so great about PAX - to be among friends whose heart is in the same place as your own.

I also had the distinct pleasure of introducing my friends to the Joystiq Podcast LIVE and that was great.