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Archive for February, 2009

Left 4 Dead (360) Updated

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Experienced first-hand last night, I’m loving the fact Valve “updated” the Xbox 360 version of Left 4 Dead.  This full list of changes that the update brings is below, but the proof of these items making the game better, if that’s possible, is in playing the game, which I did last night.  The most dramatic changes are actually of the smaller variety, such as a HUD for the Infected so you know at a glance the condition of the other Infected players and “smashable” items highlighted in red while you’re playing as the Tank. (Tank runs also last longer due to some of the other tweaks that were made — the Tank is even more of a threat.)  Awesome stuff!

General
Fixed Survivors being able to climb surfaces marked for versus infected only.
Fixed a class of SurvivorBot bugs dealing with rescuing downed players.
Players can no longer grab ladders while flying through the air after a Tank punch.
Shooting near a car with an alarm that has already fired the alarm will no longer make chirping noises.
Fixed mini-gun physics exploit.
Fixed propane tanks (and other physics objects) causing players to fall through elevators.
Fixed rare achievement bug issues.
Fixed several map exploits.

Versus Changes
Added HUD elements to show status of other infected players.
Fixed instance where a Survivor changing to the infected team would be attacked by infected bots.
Normalized special infected melee damage.
Fixed exploit where infected players could run away and teleport back to gain health.
Players can only change teams once per map.
Players can’t change teams while other players are still loading.
Tank spawns at the same % through the map for both teams in versus mode.
Made the Tank and Witch spawn directly on the escape route.
Increased chance of getting the Tank or Witch.
Fixed team swap issue.

(more…)

“Dead Space Extraction” Coming to Wii

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

This has been going around the Internet for a while now but now EA has finally revealed more details about the upcoming Dead Space game, subtitled “Extraction”, for Wii.  The release states that the game is being “built from the ground up and developed exclusively for the Wii”, which is a very good thing because there’s no way the Wii could handle a direct port of the original game.

Dead Space Extraction tells the story of a handful of space colonists desperately struggling to escape from a horrific infection on the Aegis VII mining colony deep in the furthest regions of space. The game introduces a new heroine to the fiction and as the crew fall victim to a mysterious contagion aboard the ship, it becomes clear that protecting her may be their only hope for survival. Dead Space Extraction introduces all new characters, weapons, enemies, puzzles and co-operative multiplayer gameplay.

With this announcement, EA is seems to be maintaining its commitment to developing original IP and really developing the Dead Space mythos through other media (i.e. comics and the animated Dead Space Downfall).  Even better for fans of Dead Space, EA also announced that Extraction is scheduled to ship Fall 2009.

Possible Brodeo Reunion “Live!” at PAX ’09

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Anthony Gallegos let word slip on Rebel FM’s latest podcast that a Brodeo Reunion “Live!” at PAX ’09 is in the works.  It’s early in the process right now but, if everything turns out like we all want it to, when things are finalized we’ll be releasing further details.  Stay tuned to The Armchair Empire!

Additional: The only reason I’m posting this note, is because I’ve had a few emails asking about it after the latest Rebel FM.

New “Aliens vs. Predator” Coming from Sega

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Hope many Aliens vs. Predator games does the world need?  Sega’s answer: As many as possible.  And that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Today Sega announced that they will be publishing a new “Aliens vs. Predator (working title) in early 2010″ in development by Rebellion, who created the original AvP game.

With the opportunity to publish what promises to be a landmark game, SEGA has strategically updated the release of the other upcoming Aliens titles currently in development within its portfolio.

“The innovative new AvP game presents an exciting opportunity for us,” says CEO of SEGA West, Naoya Tsurumi, “It represents a fantastic addition to our growing Aliens franchise and the reinvention of one of gaming’s most cherished iconic titles. By adjusting the release of our other Aliens titles to accommodate it, SEGA will ensure that every title lives up to the high expectations of Aliens and AvP fans.”

The emphasis above is mine because I was trying to remember what other AvP games might be in development.  According to their website, Gearbox is still developing Aliens: Colonial Marines, but beyond that I can’t remember what other games featuring Aliens and/or Predator are in the works.

“Pokémon Platinum Version” Gets Pre-Order Treatment

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

The release date is March 22, but pre-orders for Pokémon Platinum Version (for DS) commence February 15 with the incentive of a Kaiyodo-produced plastic version of the Pokémon debuting in Platinum Version: Giratina Origin Forme.

Kaiyodo makes some pretty sweet collectibles so it’ll turn out awesome even if you have no idea what a Giratina Origin Forme actually is.

The sculpted Giratina Origin Forme figure strikes a dramatic pose and stands about 2.75 inches tall. It is crafted by Kaiyodo, an internationally renowned figure-making company. In Pokémon Platinum Version, Giratina appears in its Origin Forme in the mysterious new Distortion World. Giratina is classified as a Renegade Pokémon of the Ghost/Dragon type. Giratina Origin Forme has the special Ability to Levitate, which makes Giratina immune to Ground-type attacks. Giratina will revert to its “Altered Forme” (seen in Pokémon Diamond Version and Pokémon Pearl Version, each sold separately) once a player encounters and catches it in Pokémon Platinum Version. Players may transform Giratina back into its Origin Forme by having it hold a special item found in the game.

Dead Rising 2 Officially Announced

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Rumors have swirled for a few months that Blue Castle Games, located in Vancouver, BC, was working on a sequel to Dead Rising.  And finally, we get the official word from Capcom confirming the rumor!

Dead Rising 2 will take the franchise to a new level of zombie-killing fun with tens of thousands of zombies, the all new gambling paradise of Fortune City to explore and conquer plus a host of new in-game objects that can all be used as deadly weapons to stave off the zombie assault.

Dead Rising 2 is set several years after the infamous zombie invasion of Willamette. Unfortunately, the zombie virus was not contained at the conclusion of Dead Rising, spreading unchecked throughout the United States and Dead Rising 2 depicts a country where zombie outbreaks continue to strike.

Dead Rising 2 is being developed in partnership with up and coming Canadian developer Blue Castle Games. A number of members from the original Dead Rising team will be working alongside Blue Castle Games throughout the development process, including Capcom’s global head of research and development, Keiji Inafune, who as the game’s Producer will play an active role in the project.

The way I see this is that the only pieces of information missing is whether or not Frank West will return as the protagonist and if crisp back bacon will be a weapon.

A release date is also missing, but it is in development for Playstation 3 and PC, besides Xbox 360.

“Best of Innovations Design and Engineering” Awarded to Psyko’s 5.1 Surround Sound Headphones

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

While currently available only in limited quantities, gamers that want the best out of their audio while being restricted to apartment living, gaming late at night while the kids sleep, or a budget that rules out creating a “perfect” gaming room, complete with kick-you-in-the-gonads bass, a company out of Calgary, Alberta (Canada) called Psyko Audio Labs Inc. is promising gamers everywhere that you’ll always be in the “sweet spot”.  At least as it pertains to audio.

In a release today to coincide with CES awarding Psyko’s 5.1 Surround Sound Headphones “Best of Innovations Design and Engineering”, the company offered some details to expand on what they hope to deliver to gamers later on this year.

“It’s been decades since there was any innovation to headphones’ core technology of simply placing a speaker at each ear” remarks James Hildebrandt, CEO of Psyko Audio Labs.  “Essentially, all other headphone designs deliver left sounds into your left ear and right sounds into your right ear. We offer a fundamental break from this limiting paradigm. We accurately position each speaker in the headphone bridge and then, using our patent pending Psyko Waveguide Technology, we deliver every sound to both ears, with the correct timing, volume variations, and front and back flow directions found in a natural 3D sound field.”

PsykoWave Technology – Psyko 5.1 gaming headphones work the same way a 5.1 room system does.  Every sound is delivered to both ears with the correct direction, timing and volume difference between each ear. The headphone bridge houses 5 audio drivers (front left, center and right) and (rear left and right) with a subwoofer in each ear cup. Sounds from each driver carry throughout the PyskoWave guides to pass over the front and back of both ears, giving users natural, not simulated, surround sound.

Simple and Accurate – Another significant advantage to gamers is the simplicity and accuracy of speaker setup.  Rather than the normal compromises in speaker positioning typical to 5.1 room systems, all our speakers are in exactly the right spot automatically.  You literally just put them on and you are in the optimal “sweet spot” of the 5.1 surround sound experience.  Gamers will likely hear directional sound more accurately wearing the Psyko 5.1 headphones than they will with their 5.1 room system.

Optimal Comfort– Psyko 5.1 gives the user control to either block outside sounds, or open the ear cup to vent their ears for cooling and to hear conversation in the room during game play.  The headset is fully adjustable and provides maximum cushioning using fabric rather than faux leather or vinyl which gets slippery and itchy with sweat.  Marathon gaming sessions have never been so comfortable.

Personalization – An amplifier lets gamers customize volume and bass levels.

It sounds promising on the surface, but the proof is in the hearing and we haven’t heard it yet.  The suggested price is $299US, which seems excessive for a pair of headphones, but as a replacement for that massive theater system (taking up a lot less space in the bargain), it might just fit into your budget (i.e. you can convince your wife that they’re worth it).  If we get a hold of a pair of these, we’ll let you know if Psyko is able to deliver.

And, of course, some pictures:

psyko headphones

EA Reports $641 Million Loss

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Following closely on the heels of word that release dates for both Sims 3 and Dragon Age were pushed back, EA’s recent revelations of a $641 Million loss for the 3rd Quarter might have some wondering if EA might change course on producing more original IPs like Dead Space or Mirror’s Edge. Gamesindustry.biz is reporting that EA head honcho, John Riccitiello, is bullish on what will happen in the coming months, confident that they can turn things around.

Despite the loss, Riccitiello stated that product quality was high compared to rival third-party publishers.

“We delivered on game quality and innovation in calendar 2008, with 13 titles rated 80 or above – more than any third-party publisher. We expect to build on this great quality record in the year ahead while delivering more profitability.”

12 facilities are scheduled for closure and the number of SKU’s being released in 2010 has been slashed.

The report on Gamesindustry.biz also notes:

FIFA 09 was EA’s best selling title for the period, with 7.8 million copies in the hands of consumers. Need for Speed Undercover sold 5.2 million copies, while Littlest Pet Shop shifted 2.8 million units.

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning ended the quarter with 300,000 paying subscribers, according to EA.

As a reminder, EA Black Box, developer of Need for Spedd was “absorbed” by EA Canada, and was also the subject of lay-offs.  So it seems that no one will be spared during this restructuring as described by Eric Brown, chief financial officer:

In a bid to further cut costs, the publisher has said it will close 12 of its facilities and increase redundancies to 11 per cent of the workforce, or 1100 members of staff.

“This includes headcount at all levels; staff, managers, directors, and VPs and above, and across all functions and geographies,” said Eric Brown, chief financial officer.

Crytek Acquires Free Radical; Monkies With Guns Incoming

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Word comes down today that troubled developer Free Radical — maybe best known for their TimeSplitters games — has been acquired by Crytek.  It’s good news for Free Radical, especially in this economic climate, and it’s also an indication of how well Crytek is doing because they wouldn’t acquire a company if they were in rough shape.  Here’s a portion of the release:

Crytek GmbH (“Crytek”) announced today that it has acquired all assets and business of Free Radical Design Limited (“Free Radical”). Free Radical is based in Nottingham, United Kingdom and is known for the multi-award winning Timesplitters series. The studio will now be integrated into Crytek’s network.

Avni Yerli, Managing Director of Crytek, said, “We’re very excited about this step to expand Crytek into the UK with such an experienced and highly talented team. Free Radical Design is a great fit to Crytek and its culture, given that Free Radical has a proven track record on delivering high quality games. The combination of this team, the Crytek network and our CryENGINE technology will be a foundation for outstanding gaming experiences and a magnet for the best talent in the UK.”

“Red Dead Revolver” Sequel Announced

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Fans of the Red Dead Revolver have been waiting a long time for this announcement a long time and now, more than five years after its release, a sequel has just been announced by Rockstar: Red Dead Redemption.  And from the basic description that Sam Houser, Founder of Rockstar supplies one can’t help but think of Red Dead Redemption as Red Dead GTA.

The seamless combination of breathtaking beauty and intense action, all woven together with strong plotlines in a massive vibrant, rural environment is mind-blowing. We think this game helps to push the limits of what an open-world gaming experience can be.”

The press release goes on to give some very loose details about the game:

Utilizing Rockstar’s proprietary Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE), Red Dead Redemption features an open-world environment for players to explore, including frontier towns, rolling prairies teaming with wildlife, and perilous mountain passes – each packed with an endless flow of varied distractions. Along the way, players will experience the heat of gunfights and battles, meet a host of unique characters, struggle against the harshness of one of the world’s last remaining wildernesses, and ultimately pick their own precarious path through an epic story about the death of the Wild West and the gunslingers that inhabited it.

Being developed by Rockstar’s San Diego Studio for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Red Dead Redemption is due in the waning months of 2009.

Ubisoft Puts On “Action Pants”

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

While there’s been a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the video game industry in the last few months, Ubisoft is bucking the trend by acquiring Vancouver-based developer, Action Pants, Inc.

Action Pants’ first game — “a sports game developed exclusively for Wii” — won’t even be out until later this year so it’s hard to make a snap judgement as to the relevancy of the acquisition but it is nice to hear some good news coming out of the Vancouver game development scene. (Just a very quick list: EA Black Box was closed/merged with EA Canada, Propaganda Games just experienced a round of lay-offs, Nexon closed its Vancouver location, and when Activision/Vivendi merged Radical Entertainment “lost” half of its staff.)  It’s also good news for me personally because I think the name, Action Pants, is cool.

Established in 2006 by industry veterans Simon Andrews, Nik Palmer and Omar Al-Khafaji, Action Pants Inc. currently employs more than 110 video game developers. Based in the trendy Yaletown area, the studio was ranked as one of the province’s Top 50 employers in 2008 and 2009, and among BC Business magazine’s “Best Companies to work for in BC in 2007.” 2009 will see the release of the studio’s first title, a sports game developed exclusively for Wii™.  This new intellectual property will expand upon Ubisoft’s recent success in the sports genre with the Shaun White Snowboarding franchise.

“We have been looking closely at Vancouver for some time, as we wished to set up a presence in what is one of the industry’s biggest talent pools,” said Christine Burgess-Quemard, executive director of worldwide production studios at Ubisoft. “The creative talent at Action Pants made the decision an easy one, and we are delighted to both establish ourselves in the region as well as welcome a fantastic group of experienced developers who can start exchanging with our other teams worldwide.”

“We are very excited about this opportunity, and how it will benefit our studio” stated Simon Andrews, co-founder and executive partner of Action Pants Inc. ”Action Pants and Ubisoft share very similar values and we are confident that this synergy will provide all of our staff with new and exciting opportunities, as well as resources that will benefit all of our future products”.