Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Army of Two: The 40th Day Contest

Like weapons? Want to design one for EA? Check out this contest:

Today, EA Montreal announced the return of the weapon design contest for ARMY OF TWO: THE 40th DAY. From June 23, 2009 to July 12 2009, participants can submit their ultimate weapon at the game's official website for a chance to have it included in a future EA Game. To enter the contest, gamers will need to submit an image of their weapon and a brief 200-word description. Please click on the game's official website to view the contest rules. Once gamers submit their designs, the images will be posted to the site for the community to vote on. Starting on July 20, 2009 the top weapons will be reviewed by the development team who will then pick the two best designs.

A “future EA Game” sounds kinda nebulous — personally I hope the winning design will wind up in Madden 2011.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Daemon CoverDaemon
Author: Daniel Suarez
Publisher: Dutton
Released: Jan. 2009
After two CyberStorm Entertainment employees die suspiciously, Detective Peter Sebeck discovers their deaths were caused by elaborate death traps set by revered game designer and CyberStorm CEO Matthew Sobol. Officers storming Sobol’s mansion find themselves in a standoff against more tech-powered traps, but the greater challenge is that the deceased Sobol is doing all this from beyond the grave.

A daemon, a hidden computer program, is part of Sobol’s postmortem plot not to hack computers, but to hack society. Recruiting disaffected individuals and channeling billions of dollars, Sobol’s Daemon organizes a global cabal capable of bringing down corporations and threatening governments.

Lending equal weight to online and offline action, Suarez has some scenes set in CyberStorm’s computer games, which the Daemon is using for recruitment. Beating a mod for the WWII-themed, Over the Rhine, wins the approval of the game’s baddie SS Obesrtleutnant Heinrich Boerner. Later The Gate (CyberStorm’s fantasy MMO) is the setting for a stakeout.

More than a techno-thriller, Daniel Suarez has created a plausible scenario about what a determined individual can accomplish in a wired world.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

9 the Poster

Allegedly this is an exclusive, but I'm thinking other sites may have been sent this too.

Want more? Catch up on the backstory at 9 Scientist's Facebook.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gain size today!

There’s an alternate dimension. One where everything is determined by your gamerscore. Have a low gamerscore and you can forget about that car, that job, and that brunette at the end of the bar. Have a monster gamerscore and the world is yours.

I know this dimension exists because I’ve found an artifact from it: The Easy 360 Achievement Guide written by someone called Ski. If you’re willing to spend $39.95, this guide will enlarge your gamerscore.

Judging from the ad copy, this guide tells you which games to play – so you won’t waste time playing games with a low rate of return. You’ll save time and money, playing only the games which engorge your gamerscore.

“It was taking me three days to get through Burnout Revenge and by the end I'd only unlocked 4 of its 36 achievements. My gamerscore was creeping up while my friend played all day and widened the gap.”

Yeah, why would you want to slog through good games, when you can fly through crappy ones? Why bother playing any game which doesn’t endow your meaty, throbbing online presence?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged Edition

X-Men Origins: Wolverine CoverX-Men Origins: Wolverine
Developer: Raven Software
Publisher: Activision
Platform: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Released: May 1, 2009
In the Xbox 360 version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine you earn an achievement for killing 2000 enemies. And I do mean killing. With his foot-long adamantium claws, Wolverine dismembers, decapitates, and disembowels his way through some of the best standalone superhero gaming since 2004’s Spider-Man 2.

The “video game of the movie” is typically a tired, obligatory exercise. Based on Wolverine’s last movie tie-in, X-Men 2: Wolverine's Revenge (TestFreaks’ FreakScore 3.2/10), gamers would be right to be skeptical of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is more than the typical summer blockbuster throwaway title. Taking cues from God of War, Wolverine is an epic brawler set comfortably between the X-Men movie franchise and the Marvel Universe.

Following the movie's lead, Origins starts with a pre-admantium Logan engaged in a black ops mission in Africa. Logan is part of a mutant team which includes his brother Victor Creed whose mutation parallels Logan's. Even without unbreakable bones, Logan is still a killing machine. By alternating weak and strong claw attacks, players can chain combos unleashing savage attacks against machete and machine gun wielding mercenaries.

While it seems like button mashing at first, Origins has a robust combat system which allows Logan to throw enemies to their death, impale them on spikes, and — most satisfying — lunge at them from a distance. As the game progresses, Wolverine levels up increasing his health and opening up rage-powered area of effect attacks. Speaking of health, Wolverine's healing factor is in place, but it's more of a nice bonus instead of a game changer — think of it as a replacement for the ubiquitous health kits which litter most games.

Origins bounces between a present day adamantium-laced Wolverine, who's dealing with severe fraternal issues by killing everyone standing between him and Creed, and the Africa mission where everything went south. The game resembles the movie's storyline, but has interesting deviations and many welcome additions. In addition to an expanded Weapon X facility, Wolverine also tears through a secret robotics lab in the Southwest and the duel with Gambit has been stretched into a multistage battle.

The game pulls from the movie's dialogue, with some original voice work from major cast members including Hugh Jackman (Logan) and Liev Schrieber (Creed). I imagine the audio sessions which captured the various grunts must have been hilarious. Aside from solid voice work (including audio logs ala BioShock), sound is largely unmemorable save for some nice ambient effects.

In addition to the expected boss battles and waves of mercenaries, including specially engineered foot soldiers and jungle mutants, Origins throws a few minibosses against Wolverine and it's here that repetition sets in. The first time you figure out how to take down a giant lava monster, it's satisfying. But by lava monster number three, the satisfaction is gone. Later Origins introduces another oversized baddie and you'll realize that you have to use the same strategy. And then another oversized baddie is introduced.

Games based on movies have a narrow launch window, often giving them an unfinished feeling. Origins is more solid than most, but there are a few nagging issues with the graphics including some slowdowns during larger battles and some aggravating clipping issues. Mostly the levels are well designed — and props to Raven for throwing in some hilarious and timely easter eggs — but there's definitely pressure to stay on the path. And it's a little head scratching that so many environmental puzzles are based on Wolverine trying to open doors, since his claws could easily slice through most of them.

However, these issues pale to the experience of forcing a commando to blow off his head with a shotgun or launching an aerial assault against a fleet of helicopters. The visceral design of X-Men Origins: Wolverine makes gameplay a compelling (and M for Mature) experience.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Nintendo’s E3 Briefing

E3 continued today, with Nintendo's Media Briefing at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The Electronic Entertainment Expo is the video game industry's annual trade show where major players gather to reveal anticipated games and new technology. While Nintendo's presentation wasn't as well received as yesterday's Microsoft briefing, here are three things for Nintendo fans to get excited about (and I should note that I love the DS and Nintendo has some cool things planned for the DSi, but the Wii was the star of the show).

New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii
Can there be anything new about Mario? After all, the last New Super Mario Bros. was a 2006 DS title and the venerable plumber has been hanging around since 1981's Donkey Kong. With that said, Nintendo has something interesting here — they've taken the core 2D platform design and turned it into a 4-player co-op game. Or at least co-op in spirit — I'm thinking this game will be the new Gauntlet, where screwing over fellow players is almost as much fun as working together.

Wii Sports Resort combined with Wii MotionPlus
Nintendo's Wii captured people's imagination with a motion-sensitve controller which made you feel like you were actually swinging a baseball bat or throwing a punch instead of pulling the strings on a computer-generated puppet. MotionPlus (a new attachment for the Wiimote) ups the realism by allowing faster and more sensitive motion-tracking. As shown in the Wii Sports Resort trailer, this means archery, golf, water skiing and a host of other sports have now reached the next level of immersion. Can the ultimate lightsaber game be too far behind?

Metroid: Other M for the Wii
There was major fail at this year's briefings, with the consoles attempting to reach out to hardcore gamers and girls not realizing that hardcore gaming knows no gender restrictions. With delicious irony, Nintendo's best received title was the hardcore Metroid: Other M featuring the badass (and female) Samus. Nintendo plus Team Ninja equals stunning 3D environments, awesome boss battles and fast and furious (and edgy) gameplay.

Educational Opportunities in Computer Games

Who would have ever thought that computer games - a form of entertainment - could improve the minds of those that play them! The truth is that amid all the cool graphics, the fantastic music, and the intriguing plots, educational opportunities are abound - and to find them, one only needs to look at them a little closer.

1. Computer games improve strategic thinking. Rare is the computer game that doesn't require its player to make a decision two or three steps ahead of a current situation. With constant play, players quickly learn the advantage of strategic thinking and they start to apply it to actual world opportunities.

2. Computer games improve problem solving. Although the same could be said about any game, computer games have proven in study after study to improve problem-solving skills. This is because most (if not all) games are centered around a problem and then challenge the player to solve it. In just one game, a player may solve anywhere from three to a hundred or more different problems.

3. Computer games improve hand and eye coordination. If you find this hard to believe, pick up a game controller and try to maneuver around the game. Manipulating a game controller demands the same skills that it takes to maneuver a mouse around a computer screen.

4. Computer games facilitate quick decision-making. One quality of computer games that lends to quick decision making is its impromptu situations. The element of surprise is always around the corner and it's what makes games exciting to play. To win however, players must be able to make smart decisions within a very short amount of time.

5. Computer games feed the imagination. We don't really understand the argument against things like television, videos, and gaming where people use the lack of imagination to support their part of the debate. Some people claim that computer games take away from the imagination because games supply the mind with things instead of encouraging the mind to come up with these things on their own. Bear in mind that these are the same people who say a stack of blocks is sufficient to grow a child's imagination. Of course we couldn't disagree more. The imagery in video games only fuels the imagination and gives it a spring board to form new possibilities that might not have occurred otherwise. 

6. Computer games encourage exploration. In role-playing games, players must venture off the beaten path and explore the unknown. They have to open doors without knowing what's behind them. They have to enter areas of the game without knowing the consequence. And they have to interact with characters that they've never met before. Inside these particular kinds of games, the opportunity to gather up the courage to explorer unknown territory isn't just available, it's required.

7. Computer games enforce memorization. Another feature of computer games is its strong influence on memorization. The terrain portrayed inside some of these games is huge, yet accessing the maps can be cumbersome and disruptive to the game. To compensate, gamers will not only memorize a large portion of the terrain, they'll remember the tasks required to get to specific areas.

8. Computer games teach consequence. All computer games operate off of an "action - reaction" principle. Do something, and the game will react. This is a great opportunity to learn about consequence - whether this opportunity is experienced from a gamer's point of view or a programmer's point of view.

9. Computer games teach patience, dedication, and endurance. No great game can be conquered in a day. In fact, some of the best and most popular games take weeks or months to finish. 

These are just some of the educational opportunities hidden inside computer games. After closer investigation, we're sure you can find more in addition to hours of fun and amazement.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Nintendo Power censorship

The short story is that when Roxboro Middle School principal Brian Sharosky saw the cover of the November 2008 issue of Nintendo Power he yanked it from the school library. Said cover featured a Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars character loading a gun.

It should be noted that the school librarian objected to the yanking because it bypassed the standard procedure for dealing with complaints about library materials.

Now the ACLU is involved because Principal Sharosky has violated the students’ constitutional right to cheat codes.

As a librarian and a gamer, I have the required level of outrage mixed with moderate surprise that Nintendo Power is still in print – have they heard of the Internet? But overriding all that, I can only say, “What the hell?”

Their middle school has Nintendo Power?

You know what my middle school had? Pilgrim’s freaking Progress. That’s all.

I’m always annoyed when I read about sexy, racy, slutty books being pulled from school libraries – and it’s not that I care about Intellectual Freedom – it’s that these kids are reading about rainbow parties and vampires playing baseball while I was reading:

As I walk'd through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a Denn; And I laid me down in that place to sleep: And as I slept I dreamed a Dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a Man cloathed with Raggs, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own House, a Book in his hand, and a great burden upon his Back. I looked and saw him open the Book, and Read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled: and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry; saying, what shall I do?

Pilgrim’s Progress is so long and boring the author John “You’re thinking of my brother Paul” Bunyan apologizes for it before it even starts: as so I penned It down, until at last it came to be, For length and breadth, the bigness which you see.

That's all we had — and if someone else had checked it out, then all we could hope for is that they might kindly recite passages from it that we might be humbled and edified.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena  CoverThe Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
Developer: Starbreeze Studios, Tigon Studios
Publisher: Atari
Platform: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Released: April 7, 2009
Test Geeks' Freak Score: 8.6/10
I'm crouched down in a dark corner of my house, but my dog is still able to see me. This is disappointing because according to The Chronicles of Riddick, I should be completely hidden. But shadows in The Chronicles of Riddick work differently from real world shadows — they are pools of absolute darkness from which Riddick springs forth for the kill.

Riddick was the standout character in 2000’s Pitch Black who became a franchise in 2004’s Chronicles movie. He’s an antihero – a badass who’s willing to kill, yet he also seems to have a moral code. He’s called a villain, but in a future without heroes that label means little.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is two games in one: a remake of the 2004 Xbox/PC game Escape from Butcher Bay and the new Assault on Dark Athena, which picks up where the first game ends. Whether Riddick is escaping or assaulting he faces overwhelming odds, but Vin Diesel's voice and likeness ain't going to be no punk.

Of the two games, Escape from Butcher Bay is the superior one. Butcher Bay, half supermax prison and half mining colony, is a massive facility populated with distinctive characters, each with their own motivations. Within minutes of being tossed in a cell, Riddick must learn the rules of the prison while earning respect and — more importantly — favors.

Some inmates want Riddick to solve their problems with a shiv and others want him to gather information. But whether you're beating down inmates or provoking guards, you're also learning the layout of the facility and how to access restricted areas.

With escape as the goal, Riddick will have to move between prison towers and the mining facility to find a way off planet. This will not only draw the ire of lowly inmates and basic prison guards, but will eventually put Riddick up against trained mercenaries and heavily armored guards.

While it's fair to say that gameplay is stealth-based (the games are first-person-sneakers), it's also combat-friendly. If you're in a hallway patrolled by guards, you can move from shadow to shadow and stay unseen, maneuver behind guards and execute quick kills, or open up with an assault rifle.

The plus side is that you can find a style of play that works best for you. And failing to be stealthy doesn’t necessarily bring instant death. Some stealth games end abruptly when you're spotted, but Riddick can make the best of a bad situation by upping the violence. The downside is that Riddick can't take that many bullets before flopping over — and the game could desperately use a cover system a step beyond ducking behind crates.

Butcher Bay is one of those things where everything went right. Even before the game was brought up to today’s graphical standards, it had excellent voice acting, interesting missions and great level design. The thing that impressed me most about Butcher Bay is the pacing of the game. It plays like a well edited movie, rising to an epic conclusion.

In contrast, Dark Athena’s pacing drags the game down. Much of what worked in Butcher Bay has simply been transplanted here, with the setting shifting from a prison colony to a prison ship. What’s strange is that the boss battle and thrilling finale come at the game’s midpoint. Then the game continues on an island which looks like it’s been pulled from Myst and is patrolled by the Borg and creatures which have escaped from Prey.

By no means is Dark Athena a bad game, it just pales in comparison to the excellent Butcher Bay. Both games are ten hour experiences – longer if you’re seeking out every collectable or completing every side quest – and there’s several multiplayer modes too. Atari is to be commended for releasing the game with the most value since Valve’s Orange Box.

Riddick: Dark Athena

The Riddick franchise is all over the place, but I'm looking forward to this. And I'm glad this includes The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, which I think I bought for my PC but never played. Sorry, PC :(.

Computer Games blog started

Hi all!

I just started my new blog about computer games. I will post articles, tips, cheats and reviews of hot computer games.