Thursday, June 27, 2013

Spartacus Legends is free to play, but expensive in micro-transactions

Ubisoft recently launched “Spartacus Legends”, an arena brawl game that’s free on Xbox Live. It’s a fighting style game set in ancient Greece where you take on the role of Gladiators fighting for victory and freedom. It’s a nice game, especially for being free (besides the 2GB HD requirement), but it’s in the extra costs of the game that you almost welcome death.

While you can play the game without spending any money, you will need to spend some real life cash for new weapons and armor. The biggest transaction in the game is in buying gold coins. The going rate for 3,000 gold coins? 12,000 MSP. Yeah you read that correctly. Twelve thousand Microsoft points. That’s like 37 million dollars ($150)!

I’m not gonna lie, that’s an insanely steep price for a free-to-play game, Ubisoft. Guess I’ll be going bare back most of the time.

Microsoft developing adapter for Xbox 360 headsets to work on Xbox One

Microsoft has gone another 180 degrees on one of their policies. Responding to a querent on twitter, Xbox Support confirmed they are currently working on an adapter for the Xbox One that would for current gen headsets to be useable.

With all of the criticism Microsoft received after the announcement that current generation headsets would not work with their newest console, it’s not surprising they would decide to create an adapter for it. Now, it obviously won’t stand up against the next gen headsets being created specifically for the Xbox One, but with the news that there will not be a headset included with the Xbox One console, this is sure to mollify fans.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Remember Me review

If there is one thing that affects us most as human beings, it is our memories. We reflect on the good ones when we are down, and we rely on the bad ones to teach us how to not make the same mistakes as the past. I'm sure though, that every single person out there has a day in their past where they wish they could remember it differently, or just escape the pain of a memory so traumatic it can shut you down. That is the premise of Remember Me.

A world obsessed with memories, Remember Me takes place in Paris, 60 years in the future. Memories are a commodity of sorts, with people clamoring to spend whatever cash they have to obtain a happy or pleasurable experience. You might want to replace a bad memory with a good one for instance, or share an intimate recollection with a spouse or friends. Anything is up for grabs, from the memory of a 10th birthday party to someone's first kiss. Memories are swapped, shared, and ultimately sold. Someone down on their luck might sell a few of their more happy occasions to get back on track, I mean why would it hurt to lose a memory you won't even know existed? Other memories, are not so willfully obtained. Here we get into the darker side of the story.

You take on the role of Nilin, an ex-memory hunter who recently underwent a memory wipe. She knows nothing about who she is or what she is doing inside of a prison that feels more like a psych ward. Glass cased rubber rooms look like they are holding mental patients, emaciated people staggering around or curled up on the floor, all of them muttering nonsensically and holding their heads as if in pain. As Nilin staggers down a hallway following an illuminated line on the floor, a voice starts cutting through the outside noise speaking directly to her in her head. Rather than go through with a full system wipe, the voice instructs her to sneak out a security door and slip away while the guards are distracted. What follows is a desperate escape from the facility, going through maintenance corridors and avoiding automated defenses. Nilin escapes, but her mind is fragmented, her memories damaged. In order to find out who she is, Nilin must fight her way to the top of the corruption and expose it for the evil it has become.

Remember Me video game

The story begins with such astounding promise. An ironic twist of the greatest memory hunter in the world suddenly being tossed into a world she cannot remember. Fighting evil, sadistic creatures, pale shadows of the humans they once were. Taking up arms against the corporation who would seek to doom her to a loss of her own self. A lone warrior guided only by the friend she doesn't know, through conflicts she doesn't understand, towards a goal she doesn't even know if she wants. The opening sequences really impress upon you the horrors the world is going through, and leaves you longing to gain insight into what has happened. Catching sight of the world above the hell in the sewers takes your breath away, as you gaze in rapture at the beauty of Paris. You will scale walls from the underbelly of the sewers to the towering skyscrapers where the wealthy and privileged reside, finding out how the twisted dreams of the Memorize corporation has affected both the rich and the poor. Your inner explorer screams to climb out of the cesspool you've been ungraciously dumped into to run through the city streets seeing everything possible to see. But it simply is not meant to be.

remember me paris

Remember Me is simply too linear to enjoy fully. There is no real chance to explore the game beyond the hallways and small rooms you travel through. There are no secondary paths you can take, there are no ways to avoid guards or other enemies. The only real puzzles to be found are opening the correct doors in order to trap sentry bots or yank power from one system to power another so you can progress through the area. It lacks immersion into the world as you are either stuck scaling a building, running through abandoned metro stations, moving around offices/apartments, or crawling through maintenance areas. It merely is a go here, now go there, turn right, climb the pipe, rinse and repeat formula. There are no real direct routes anywhere in the game, so scrambling up pipes and clinging to ledges becomes your main mode of travel. There are guides along every route so you will never lose your way, which can be helpful with as many turns as there are lighting changes, the latter of which happens a lot. The game tries to keep it fresh by adding in running sequences while being shot at, or a timed sequence where you have to close some doors quickly to keep from dying, but these are extremely gimmicky and not really that exciting. There are sections where you try to jump from one railing to another but the game can sometimes glitch it so your jump only puts you halfway across the chasm leading to your death. With horrendously long loading times after you die, even making one mistake is cause enough to get frustrated as you can wait anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes waiting for it to reset you at the exact same jump.

The game redeems itself a bit with the combat. The combat system works much the way it does in the Batman Arkham series. Fluid movements using timed combos is moderately satisfying, but it's not as polished as it could be. You will spend a lot of time dodging as the enemies are usually in packs and there is no real counter system. That being said, the combo moves are fairly enjoyable and you can customize them to a degree. The button patterns (X, Y) are preset, but you can change the abilities you do in your combo setup. You can choose to deal greater damage, add in health regeneration, swap for a cool down rate (for special abilities), or chain together combos for an added bonus of the last move you used (damage, health, cool down). You only have 4 combos to choose from and you will really only be using 2 of them throughout the game. The longer combos don't add up for much since you will most likely lose about half of the combo when you need to dodge an attack from behind. Adding in a counter system would have made it more enjoyable, but it's not as shallow as it could have been.


With the game revolving around memories, you need to steal some to move forward. Reliving these memories allows you to use a person's secret path to avoid detection grids, find needed clues, and grant you access codes. But where you can steal, you can also manipulate. Memory remixing is one of the best features in the game, but it is so underutilized it's almost a mockery of what the game could have been. Memory remixing allows Nilin to go into someone's mind to a specific memory and alter it to change who they are right now. Watching the scene play out, you are merely an observer to the past. Once you get through that instance, you can rewind the memory and change little things here and there to lead to a much different outcome. Glitches in the memory point to changes you can make, whether it is something as irrelevant as a dropped cigarette or as drastic as a doctor giving a patient the wrong medicine, the memory will change as will the person change. Hope can be replaced by grief, anger with remorse, hatred with guilt, all changing who the person is and what they do because of it, all to suit Nilin's needs. These instances are so enjoyable you can hardly wait until the next one, but therein lies the problem. There are only 4 instances in the roughly 8 hour campaign.

The game's best quality is actually in the main character herself. Where most games focus on the outside factor, Remember Me is all about the internal one. The story is important and definitely intriguing, but without the main character being as fleshed out as she is, it wouldn't amount to much. Nilin is an absolute mess of emotions. Scared and confused from losing her memories, feeling distrustful of the disembodied voice through her communicator, doubtful of the path she is on, Nilin comes across entirely too human. You really get to feel for her character as she struggles to regain her memories and take down the corporation that started it all. Twists and turns keep you guessing and some of the biggest realizations are a shock to your system when they hit. Accompanied by some terrific voice acting, you can hear the weariness of the character, the tremble in her voice, the sarcasm attempting to hide her own fears. It all comes together to showcase a fantastic main character that takes almost no effort to get behind.


Remember Me had a lot going for it. The premise was good, combat was nice, and the main character was great. It just never came into it's own. The game was far too linear and offered little to no exploration. Seeing a beautiful setting but being unable to even come near it was devastating to how the game felt. Tight corridors that affected your camera made it annoying when fighting enemies, and the overall ease of dispatching the bad guys became repetitive. The story started and finished very satisfyingly, but the 5-6 hours in between were fairly dull. Your investment into the main character is a saving grace and if you give yourself over to the game it's very enjoyable, just don't expect the game to go above and beyond. Is the game fun? Most definitely. Could it have been done better? Most definitely. Hopefully if there is a sequel, Dontnod Entertainment can expand on the world they have created because as it is, Remember Me just fails to come across as highly memorable.

Final  Score: 7.5/10

Friday, June 21, 2013

MS reverses Xbox One policies, but was it the right call?

The internet exploded yesterday with rumors of Microsoft on the verge of changing their DRM and 24 hour check-in policies. Fans were stoked with these rumored reports and stood with baited breath to hear if they were true. Less than an hour later, Microsoft confirmed that these rumors were indeed true. And there was much rejoicing. But is it really a good thing?

I'm going to be the first in line to bring up my own articles that I've done in the past week talking about why Microsoft's policies were horrid in regard to the Xbox One and while I am thrilled Microsoft took a step back to reevaluate the way their policies would affect their customers, I think they looked at the wrong feedback. Whether they bowed to the pressure from Sony's splash in the media or they read one too many fanboy "debates" ripping apart their policies, Microsoft went way beyond what they probably should have done.

The biggest outcry we had seen online was in regards to the DRM and 24 hour check-in, both of which Microsoft addressed in their changes. Where they went wrong was linking the two together. The DRM policy was, well, it sucked. It was great for developers as it allowed for studios to get a cut of what was used game sales rather than Microsoft or stores like Gamestop. However, it was not great for consumers. People had massive amounts of restrictions on buying and selling used games (had to be done through authorized dealers only). Now, I want developers to get the money they deserve for making these games. They worked their asses off, sometimes for years, and for a studio to lose cash because used game sales take a large chunk out of extra possible revenue is bullshit. At the same time, it's not fair to the consumers to have to jump through hoops to play, sell, buy, loan, cut up, throw away, piss on, have sex with, or do whatever else they want to do with it. Making it so the game you bought was an extension of a movie rental is absurd. You buy the disc, you own the disc, you get to play the game that is on the disc. No, you don't own the game. No, you can't make thousands of copies and sell it/abuse it. It's not your game. It is however, your disc. Saying to someone, "Hey, you bought the disc, but guess what? We control what you can do with it" is going to end up pissing people off, and it did just that. It's basically a hostage situation and you're a lone, unarmed cop. You can talk on the megaphone and spout off whatever you want, but unless you play ball, the robber can just shoot the hostage and walk away from you.

Now, the 'once every 24 hours check-in' was just abysmal. Yes, internet is prevalent. Hell, you're using it right now while reading this article. You were using it when you were ranting about how the 24 hour policy is crap, which is a bit on the ironic side, but I digress. The fact of the matter is that while internet is huge in the world today, it's not infallible, nor is it available everywhere you go. Having your console be required to connect once a day is fine until you hit hour 24 and your Xbox just shuts down. There were so many issues with this idea. It was such a grand-scale bit of innovation. It was ahead of the curve and it was such an exciting idea. And if this was 2020, it would have gone off without a hitch. There are still millions of people who game without any internet connection to use, including military personnel currently deployed. Thousands of troops play games in their downtime, which the Xbox One would have been basically a gigantic middle finger to them. It's actually a really good change that the check-in is now gone. You never have to connect to the net beyond the first day's setup. That being said, the check-in had some very cool features. It worked for multiple reasons including some really awesome features that tied in with the DRM, mainly the "family sharing" system. Choose 10 "family" members (can be friends, can be fellow inmates, can be the homeless guy down the road with the plasma tv and broadband internet connection. Microsoft didn't really care) and they can access your entire game library over the net on their Xbox One. No need to mail off the discs to cousin Bob over in Utah. Simply sign-in, click "Library", and play. This was probably one of the biggest things people were excited about.

Fans get back control of what they can do with their discs, whether trading it in or loaning it out. Besides the one-time internet connected setup, you never have to connect your Xbox One with the internet. This frees up your options to take your console on vacations, to friends houses, to LAN parties... pretty much wherever you want that has power and a tv screen. There are no more region locks associated with the system, so you can take your US console to Japan if you want to. Fans got everything they demanded in regards to these policies. However, it came at a large price. With these policy changes, fans lost features many were excited about. You can no longer play games without the discs. You can no longer share your games through the cloud. The family share plan is gone. The concession of Microsoft was something many felt was a great thing, until the full consequences were revealed and the internet began to cry out again.

We've been split down the middle once more, this time we just swapped places. We lost innovation in exchange for an old system we've been using for 7 years with just upgraded graphics. And there really wasn't much of a reason to. I can think of several solutions that really would have placated the masses on both sides, one which is fairly simple to implement since Microsoft has already proven their own statement wrong that "these things are built into the system and cannot be altered." Loosen up the strict DRM policies to allow for game sharing between friends and make it so gamers can play offline if they have a disc or downloaded copy. That's all. Developers would still be getting their larger cut and gamers would get to enjoy the console on a greater scale. Rental companies would not have been hit with huge restrictions, used game sales would fall meaning possibly lower retail prices in the future, and there would not be such a large outcry on these policies. I'm sure there is something wrong with that idea on how to implement it, but from an outside perspective it seems to work just fine. It seems like rather than fight for their position on their innovation, Microsoft caved to the internet masses and just made an Xbox 360 2.0

Whether it was low sales numbers, genuine amount of complaints, or just Xbox deciding to throw in the towel, the fact doesn't change that Microsoft attempted to bring in new ideas and they failed to communicate that to gamers across the world. For every 1 person who loved it, there were 20 highly vocal ones who did not. Would those 20 have come around if the Xbox One had been presented better? Maybe. Microsoft still would have needed to tweak their policies to redeem themselves in the eyes of gamers, but they may not have been so drastic. While trying to bring back some alienated fans, they drove away those who were more interested in the innovative features to the next-gen console. It seems that Microsoft stepped in the same crap, just with a different foot.

Friday, June 14, 2013

“Anonymous Xbox engineer” explains DRM/Check-in/Kinect policies UPDATE: Fake report

***Update: As figured, the "information" is bunk. The engineer doesn't exist. Too bad really. It would have been so nice.***

There have been a lot of discussions about the Xbox One and the policies that Microsoft has implemented in regards to their newest console. DRM restrictions, 24 hour online check-in, and privacy issues with their “always-on” Kinect have raised questions and had fans clamoring for answers. Since this information was announced, Microsoft has stonewalled criticism and ignored questions presented to the developer. Now it appears as if one of their developers is tired of the misconceptions and has spoken out. Without having this information confirmed by Microsoft, all we can say that if it is true, it will definitely boost sales. If not, well, we’ll have to see where Microsoft is actually taking us.
The thing is we suck at telling the story. The whole point of the DRM switch from disc based to cloud based is to kill disc swapping, scratched discs, bringing discs to friends house, trade-ins for shit value with nothign going back to developers, and high game costs. If you want games cheaper then 59.99, you have to limit used games somehow. Steam’s model requires a limited used game model.
The thing is, the DRM is really really similar to steam… You can login anywhere and play your games, anyone in your house can play with the family xbox. The only diff is steam you have to sign in before playing, and Xbox does it automatically at night for you (once per 24 hours)
It’s a long tail strategy, just like steam. Steam had it’s growing pains at the beginning with all it’s drm shit as well. [...] For digital downloads steam had no real competition at the time, they were competing against boxed sales. At the time people were pretty irate about steam, (on 4chan too…) It was only once they had a digital marketplace with DRM that was locked down to prevent sharing that they could do super discounted shit.
Think about it, on steam you get a game for the true cost of the game, 5$-30$. On a console you have to pay for that PLUS any additional licenses for when you sell / trade / borrow / etc. If the developer / publisher can’t get it on additional licenses (like steam), then they charge the first person more. [...] If we say “Hey publishers, you limit game to 39.99, we ensure every license transfer you get 10$, gamestop gets 20$” that is a decent model… Microsoft gets a license fee on first and subsequent game purchases, compared to just first now? That’s a revenue increase.
Competition is the best man, it helps drive both to new heights. See technology from the Cold War. If we had no USSR, we’d be way worse off today. TLDR: Bring it on Steam :)
Yeah we passed that around the office at Xbox. Most of us were like “Well played Sony, Well played”. That being said they are just riding the hype train of ZOMG THEY ARE TRYING TO FUCK US FOR NO REASON. Without actually thinking about how convienent it would be for the majority of the time to not find that disc your brother didn’t put back… [...] just simpleminded people not seeing the bigger picture. Some PS4 viral team made them all “U TOOK R DISCS” and they hiveminded.
Everyone and their mother complains about how gamestop fucks them on their trade ins, getting 5$ for their used games. We come in trying to find a way to take money out of gamestop, and put some in developers and get you possibly cheaper games and everyone bitches at MS. Well, if you want the @#$@ing from Gamestop, go play PS4.
The goal is to move to digital downloads, but Gamestop, Walmart, Target, Amazon are KIND OF FUCKING ENTRENCHED in the industry. They have a lot of power, and the shift has to be gradual. Long term goal is steam for consoles. [...] If you always want to stay with what you have, then keep current consoles, or a PS4. We’re TRYING to move the industry forwards towards digital distribution… it’sa bumpy road
Publishers have enourmous power. Microsoft is trying to balance between consumer delight, and publisher wishes. If we cave to far in either direction you have a non-starting product. WiiU goes too far to consumer, you have no 3rd party support to shake a stick at. PS4 is status-quo. XB1 is trying to push some things, at the expense of others. We have a vision, we’ll see if it works in the coming years
Living room transformation. We want to own the living room. Every living room TV with an XBox on input one. It’s the thing that gives the signal to your TV, everything is secondary. The future, where games, TV, internet telephony, all that shit happens magically on some huge ass screen with hand / voice gestures… That’s our goal.
Google TV + PS4 + Minority report level gestures, that combined with a sick second screen experience (which is really hot for TV, I know I know.. tv tv tv tv tv… but it’s fucking sick when you have it). Games will be the same, there are more exclusives to MS then PS atm, and Kinect 2 makes Kinect 1 look like a childs toy.
By default it’s on, listening for “Xbox On”. You can turn it off tho, and turn the console like OFF off. OFF off is required for Germany / other countries that require it (no vampire appliances) [...] It has to be plugged in for the console to post. You can turn off everything it does from the settings. Think of it like airplane mode for the iPhone. You can’t just unplug the cellular radio, but you can turn it off.
Instead of 10mins, is 24hrs for your console, and 1 or 2 at a friends house. Really the majority of people have a speck of internet at least once a day. And if you don’t. Don’t buy an Xbox 1. Just like if you didn’t have a broadband connection don’t get Live, and if you don’t have an HDTV the 360 isn’t that great for you either. New tech, new req. This allows us to do cool shit when we can assume things like you have a kinect, you have internet, etc.
Current plan is basically you’re fucked after 24 hours. Yeah… I know. Kind of sucks. I believe they will probably revist the time period and / or find a diff way to “call in” to ensure you haven’t sold your license to gamestop or something… but there is no plan YET. I’m hoping the change it, but I don’t work on that so I don’t have much influence there /sigh
If the power goes out you ain’t playing shit. I’m assuming you mean the internet goes out but you have power for TV and Xbox. Yes, You’re fucked for single player games. Again, that’s the PoR (Plan of record), but I expect it to change after the e3 clusterfuck
What fee? There is no fee to play your games at your friends house. Never has, never will. Even x360 digital downloads could do that.
The cloud capabilities is the shit they like the most. We basically made a huge cloud compute shit and made it free. What people are doing with it is kind of cool. THe original intention was to get all the Multiplayer servers not requiring 3rd party costs (Like EA shutting down game servers to cut costs), as well as taking all the games that servers hosted by the clients (Halo, etc), and have all that compute done in the cloud allowing more CPU cycles for gameplay. That will really expand what developers can do. Anything that doesn’t need per frame calculation and can handle 100ms delays can be shifted to the cloud. That’s huge.
SmartGlass + IE is going to be pretty freaking sweet. 1 finger cursor, 2 finger direct manip. Basically if you think of a laptop trackpad where your phone/ slate is the trackpad and the monitor is your TV… it’s that. The tech is there, just needs to be applied. There is some really cool shit going on with Petra + controllers that pairs people with controllers. So if person with controller two trades controlers with controller 1, their profiles magically switch. It’s sick. What does this matter? Now if you lean left/right it knows which person is leaning, even if 4 people are all int he same room. It’s awesome.
New service using Azure for cloud compute. Allows developers to not use clients for hosting multiplayer servers, or other tasks that do not require per frame calcuations. It’s pretty sweet.
Honestly, if you care about anything other then pure games AT ALL. Xbox 1 > PS4. If all you do is play games, and nothing else, PS4.
This was all from the Microsoft engineer that was on /b/ last night.
It’s not worth my time to prove it, or risk my Job. I work in Studio A, 40th ave in Redmond, Wa. The thai place in the studio cafeteria has double punch wednesdays. Go ahead and call them and verify if you want.
If true, this goes a very long way towards soothing consumers and assuring them that Microsoft really does know what they are doing. The DRM issue and the 24 hour check-in policy are still difficult to accept, however the “supposed” engineer does seem to think there will be changes to those policies. As for the Kinect, the fact that you can turn it completely off, and not just put on stand-by, should be overwhelmingly reassuring to those concerned about privacy (myself included). Again, take this with a grain of salt. Until Microsoft confirms these statements are correct, this merely gives Xbox fans a chance to dream.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The big question: Who won E3?

The biggest question that always comes out about E3 is “Who stole the show?” While it’s fun to discuss this with your buddies over XBL, PSN, or over a beer, the debate always gets fairly heated. It’s a very large scale, open-ended question that sometimes results in confused opinions and hate-laced rants. Millions of gamers watched the broadcasted conferences, demo streams, and interviews, but a vast majority of gamers rely on answering that big question. While it is very opinion-based, one thing is certain, a report based on who exactly won E3 can lead to larger sways in sales from mob mentality.

First things first, nobody wins at E3. E3 is an expo designed to reveal new content to the masses, whether it’s new consoles, new games, upcoming features, and the like. The conference is not designed to be a battle to the death on who has more exclusives, who can deliver more, who offers more bang for the buck. While it is often treated that way by the masses, the direct goal is to entice players to choose one side or another. That’s not to say it can’t get heated, and as a rule, it usually does.

All 3 consoles came in with general misgivings from fans. Microsoft had some innovative, albeit controversial, features, Sony came in with relatively little known about the console or games attached, and Nintendo was suffering from low sales figures on their Wii U console, mainly due to a low amount of available games. What followed was 3 days worth of apprehension, relief, insults, and overall frustration because of conflicting reports.




Let’s start with Microsoft. Their Xbox One conference was illuminating to say the least, and it essentially created a dichotomy of opinions. The new features such as voice activated scrolling and television control fell a little flat during the Xbox reveal, and the developers were quick to dismiss that for their E3 presentation. Where the fans felt Microsoft went wrong was the policies on DRM, 24 hour online check-in, and the Kinect being forced to always be connected. Where Microsoft succeeded however, is in the games. Unveiling roughly 20 games in their 90 minute conference, fans were delighted to see some new exclusives such as Ryse: Son of Rome (a launch title for the Xbox One), a return of the fighting game Killer Instinct, and a quick peek at a new Halo title. Even more titles surfaced during the event, including some previously unattainable exclusives like Kingdom Hearts 3.

Starting off a conference about your new system can be tricky, but one thing is for certain, you never should announce new stuff for the old system. Especially not a design to a 7 year old current-gen one. The “new” 360 is merely a 360 slim with a new shell design. The fans run quieter now, but that can be worked around by installing your games on the current slim model. Bringing news about offering 2 free XBL games per month for gold members was a good addition though, even if the titles are older ones.
Cloud expansion announcements also caused big hype for the Xbox One, as Microsoft explained the vast scope of it’s previously implemented feature. Working with the cloud, gamers can access their stored games from anywhere you can connect an Xbox One to the net, with no discs needed. A Twitch partnership was met with overwhelming approval, with gamers now being able to stream online with nothing more than a Twitch channel and their Xbox One. Cap cards will mostly be rendered obsolete if you are into causal recording, as they now allow you to save, edit, and upload stored gameplay.

On the flip side, we have the controversial issues. The new DRM policy restricts sharing games and purchasing/selling used titles. While Microsoft has been adamant that the Xbox One was designed to allow for used games, the system itself appears to speak differently. Games can only be loaned to friends who have been on your friends list for 30 days minimum, and each game can only ever be given to one friend total. Another issue that relates to DRM is the 24 hour check-in policy. The Xbox One is designed to require an internet connection, and forces gamers to connect to the internet and Xbox Live at least once every 24 hours, otherwise the console will not play any games, whether you have a physical disc or are just using your installed data. If you are not at your own console (i.e. friend’s house) you are required to check in once every hour. This is done to check and verify if the games you are playing are actually yours, and not a loaned copy. The policy has been established to prevent piracy or trading used games, but ultimately comes across as a nanny-policy where the console insists you let them know exactly what you are doing. Whether this 24 hour policy will be affected by times when XBL is down for maintenance is unknown.

A third controversial implementation is the requirement that every system must be equipped with a Kinect at all times. Microsoft has stated that the Kinect can be “paused” or turned “off”, however it has also been said it will continuously monitor voice commands in the background, regardless if it needs to act on those commands or not. This has led many to question the motives behind the decision and many view it as a breach in privacy. A newly revised Xbox Live Terms of Service does not allay these concerns:
You should not expect any level of privacy concerning your use of the live communication features (for example, voice chat, video and communications in live-hosted gameplay sessions) offered through the Xbox LIVE/Games for Windows-LIVE Service. We may monitor these communications to the extent permitted by law.

When you use Voice Search, all voice commands are sent to Microsoft and stored to provide the Voice Search Service and improve Microsoft products. If you use Voice Search, you consent to Microsoft recording and collecting your voice input to provide the Voice Search Service and improve Microsoft products.

With all of these policy changes and a $500 price tag, do the innovations and game releases outweigh the restrictions?



PS4 002
Sony came into the conference and appeared to be out for blood, as they continuously ripped into Microsoft in regards to their policies. Where the original PS3 was concerned with offering consumers more than just a gaming console, Sony had lost ground on the gaming front. Some big hitting exclusives and free online service kept them in the race. If not for an attack on their PS Network resulting in a total shutdown for 2 months, they might have tied, or even overtaken the Xbox 360 at that time. With past mistakes in mind, Sony was dead set on giving fans what they wanted. A purely gaming console.

Not to be outdone on games, Sony rattled off their own list of exclusives, with returning titles like Killzone and Infamous, and also bringing some new IPs to the table such as The Order: 1886, a Victorian era “steam-punk” game, reminiscent of Dishonored. Sony also opened the doors a little wider for indie developers, which went over very well with the crowd. Indie games have been rapidly gaining huge followings over the past several years, and making it more accessible to these small group developers can really help drive sales numbers. One thing that did not go over well, was the announcement that a PS Plus membership would be required to play online games. With PS Plus being a relatively gimmicky service previously, the news that it would be a required expense shocked quite a few gamers.

Where the marketing really hit big was also where Sony failed in several ways. Taking apart Microsoft’s policies bit by bit, Sony announced that the PS4 would not restrict any sort of used games, nor would they require any sort of internet connection in order to play games. With an announcement the next morning about DRM being up to individual developers, Sony appears to be shifting any blame on further use of the current DRM service we see today towards developers rather than on them. This double speak led to quite a harsh reception when discussing the Playstation 4, however with many gamers used to online passes, the same system being implemented again did not bring about any real change in perception on the console developer. The almost childish attacks on Microsoft earned them a lot of cheers from the crowd, but further discussions hosted online pointed towards Sony coming across as arrogant. Combined with a lower price tag of $399, many gamers concluded that Sony had stolen the show.



A large mistake Nintendo made was forgoing a conference at E3, choosing instead to live stream it over Nintendo Direct. When you are hosting a live stream, any glitches or technical difficulties are on your own head and can result in people not being able to see your new content. Luckily, the stream held for the most part, and fans of the franchise were overwhelmed with returning favorites.

With a new Smash Bros., Mario Kart 8, a new Donkey Kong game, and several Legend of Zelda titles being revealed, the chat rooms were beside themselves with glee. Bringing back tried and true IPs works in Nintendo’s favor on multiple fronts, resulting in increased faith in their Wii U console, as well as ensuring these titles will sell like hot cakes.

Unfortunately, not many third party titles were revealed. Players will most likely be relegated to the confines of Nintendo based games until such a time as third party companies become more confident about the Wii U.

Beyond the games, Nintendo didn’t have much to offer, but appealing massively to their fanbase will work wonders in their favor.


Overall impressions

In the end, the biggest thing to take away, is that nobody decisively won at E3. Each of these consoles come with pros and cons, as do the games they are promoting. Without actually being able to use the units or immerse ourselves in the game, there really cannot be a crowned winner. Fans will continue to buy their favorites regardless of policies, content, or how pretty/ugly the consoles are (I mean, one is a giant VCR, the other looks like a trapezoid from math class. Neither really win in that regard). It will be up to consumers to determine where they want to spend their money.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

From bad to worse: How Microsoft is digging their own grave

I’m unsure how Microsoft could have made their situation at E3 worse, but they pulled it off. A comment made by Microsoft rep Don Mattrick, recently hit the internet to overwhelming shock from Xbox fans. Responding to questions from Gametrailers, Don Mattrick addressed the concern about the console needing to connect to the internet at least once every 24 hours.
"Fortunately we have a product for people who aren't able to get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360. If you have zero access to the Internet, that is an offline device.”
Is Microsoft truly unaware of how critical fans have been in regards to the online connection policy? This statement would point to that conclusion, but even worse were statements he made only a few moments later.
“Seriously, when I read the blogs and thought about who’s really the most impacted there was a person who said, ‘Hey I’m on a nuclear sub.’ And I don’t even know what it means to be on a nuclear sub but I’ve got to imagine it’s not easy to get an internet connection. But hey, I can empathize; if I was on a sub I’d be disappointed."
The offhandedness of his comments along with his casual approach to a major concern of fans is astounding. The man in the submarine is not alone by any means. There are tens of millions of gamers out in the world who don't have access to stable internet, or even internet period to whom Microsoft just raised a big middle finger.

The arrogance of these comments and the way they are handling the debacle is repulsive. Microsoft is attempting to place the blame on consumers about why they can't play the Xbox One. Internet is a luxury, Mr. Mattrick. It's expensive out here in the real world, especially for those who don't have easy access to it. I know you rich boys heading up the Xbox division think it's a non-issue, but the reality is that it is a very big issue.You are asking people to pay for a luxury in order to use a luxury.

You already have features that cannot be accessed without internet. Things like Skype, Netflix, your internet browser, Bing search engine. All of these require internet to function. And that's okay. People are not expecting to be able to use internet based features if there is no internet. It's a given that these will be dead to rights for any home that is offline. That being said, the main reasoning of the gaming console is to play games. Turning your console into a $500 VCR and TV remote just because you cannot access the net once every 24 hours is mindbogglingly stupid. There is no other way to describe it. It is an idiotic policy, penned by moronic administrators.

You are literally destroying your fan base by millions of customers. You have sold 75 million Xbox 360 units, yet you only have 40 million XBL members, and your goal is to sell 1 billion X1 consoles? You are either delusional or have little to no higher brain function. It's not 2030, Microsoft. The global net is still being built. Very few countries in the world have the luxury of stable internet, and even then, not all regions or consumers do. People are at the mercy of individual companies, some of which are great, others who are not so. The X1 is basically telling people to take a  train across the county before the Transcontinental Railroad has even been started. It's going to take years, perhaps even decades, before a global network has been created that is stable enough to be completely reliable.

On top of that, Xbox Live itself is never fully reliable. Service has been disrupted for days at a time in previous years. Anytime this happens, gamers still had the chance at playing while offline. There is also the possibility that Xbox Live could be hacked, much the same way Playstation was that shut down PSN for 2 months. No security system is invulnerable, and with controversial statements like these, Microsoft is almost inviting an attack. If either of these scenarios happen, tens of millions of consumers are going to be left with a large, shiny brick on the top shelf. Sure they can use it to change the television channel, but so can this ingenious device called a remote control. People don't need a voice activated remote. They need a gaming console.
“It’s a service-based world, if you think about things and how they get better with an internet connection, that’s a design choice we’ve made. I think people will appreciate it... We did a lot of testing, a lot of consumer research and I think we made a good choice.”
 It seems stockholders would disagree with that assessment, Don. Your stock dipped severely after you made this statement. Sure it will climb back after the shock, but will the people return as well? The internet is abuzz with your disregard for your fans. People should not be forced into something like online connectivity. All of your "exclusive" titles mean nothing to those who wouldn't be able to play them. Are used games such a significant issue that you are willing to give a big old "fuck you" to your loyal fans? People have enjoyed playing on Xbox for more than a decade. Gamers delighted in playing exclusives like Halo or Gears of War, and next-gen gamers were looking forward to continuing that trend. Based on the feedback we've seen, that doesn't seem to be a realistic expectation anymore.

With the recent news that Microsoft may also be deleting youtube vids that address this issue and using PR management to skew online opinion, your credibility is suspect on a great many things. Are the reports of console pre-orders correct? Are there millions of people snapping up the Xbox One almost 6 months before launch? Is the hype real, or is it being forced the same way the applause was during your announcement conference? Your representatives have been contradicting each other in interviews for over a month, and fans are tired of it. Which is it Microsoft? Are you really concerned about your fans and their opinions? Because your statements suggest otherwise. This is not about people who feel Microsoft is trying to "mother" them by calling in once a day. This is about the people who can't.
"We appreciate the passion," Mattrick said. "It's important that people share their ideas, but people are imagining outcomes that we believe are worse than what it's going to be like in the real world.
No Don, we aren't.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tear up the raceway in 'Forza 5'

When the McLaren P1 rose up on stage, viewers immediately sat up and took notice. Whatever this game was, it had a gorgeous car sitting on stage for it. When the trailer opened and Forza 5 came rolling on screen,  fans started cheering immediately. The car’s beauty was matched by the brand new graphics engine that Forza 5 was sporting.

One thing Turn10 knew how to do is arrive in style. That McLaren P1 is one of only two in the world. It’s safe to say that McLaren and Turn 10 are pretty tight.

A new addition to Forza is the "Driveatar" feature. Weird name but the purpose is impressive. Driveatar eliminates the need for AI driving. Data is synced over the cloud and will be used to compete against other drivers, learning how they game, even while your console is off. This allows the game to grow and adapt to make the experience for realistic over scripted AI's.

Next-gen consoles have direct streaming capabilities

With the console war heating up, the combatants bring new features to the gaming table. Xbox One and PS4 both announced that the consoles will allow for online streaming direct from the console itself.
Microsoft announced that it is partnering with Twitch to take their gaming platform to the next level.

“Live broadcasting has continued to grow in popularity, but sharing your console experience has never been this easy,” Emmett Shear, Twitch CEO, said in a statement. “Xbox Live Gold is enabling the ability to both upload your gameplay directly to Twitch and to stream Twitch content on Xbox One. The impact of this level of console integration will be a true game changer.”

Marc Whitten, Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer commented as well stating “Twitch is a premier destination for broadcasters and spectators. Now, with Twitch built into Xbox One, we will deliver breakthrough experiences where any gamer can become a broadcaster. Enabled with Kinect, Xbox Live and Twitch, your voice and video allow for instant streaming, voiceover capabilities and interaction with viewers.”

Sony chose to go with USTREAM to cement their previous business ties to the streaming company.

This will definitely change up how the gaming community will interact with each other. Gamers will no longer need to run capture cards to their laptops or desktops. Instead, everything they are playing will be sent directly to their accounts online for viewers to see. One question remains though. With everyone streaming, who will actually be watching?

Next-gen pricing: European extortion

It’s not uncommon to see higher prices in Europe compared to the United States. This is fairly standard in most areas due to higher import/export costs and higher tax rates. Video games are no exception to the rule and routinely can be at least $10-$15 more per title. Console costs are usually higher as well, but these are relatively slim numbers for the most part, in the area of $30-$40 USD. With the announcement of the next-gen console pricing, the minor gap in price has become a gigantic chasm of which most gamers will likely balk at diving into.

Revealed yesterday, the Xbox One and PS4 have been priced at $499 and $399 respectively in the US. Viewers were pleased to see the PS4 pricing and hope that the Xbox One lowers theirs to compete. However, across the pond in Europe, things are not going as smoothly. The cost of X1 and PS4 over there is €499/£429 and €399/£350. That’s an increase of $160 USD for the X1 and $125 for Playstation. The outrage certainly is there, but where are the reports of it? Are people merely fuming in the comfort of their living room, or are gamers planning boycotts and riots?

The price gouging of these developers is beyond extreme. You’re talking easily the cost of 2-3 games or possibly a high end gaming headset just to get the console. Why is it higher? Does it include extra content? More hardware? Does it ship with a couple of free games or a larger HDD? A jump in price by this magnitude requires some clarification and transparency. There is no discernible reasoning for this large increase and it hurts the already fragile reputations these console makers have.

While the largest population (if considering individual countries) of console buyers is in the United States, the combined countries around the world offer just as much of a market to gamers. Charging those gamers roughly 20-25% more than their American counterparts is absurd.

While it certainly is true that all of the extra costs required just to get the consoles over there, the idea that we are dealing with $150 more in charges is ridiculous. Video games exceed almost any other market in the world for price inflation between countries and it only seems to be going up. Previously, games in the UK might go for $65 or $70 instead of $60. Recently, there were standard titles for $100, showing an even larger jump.

The responses on this announcement have been fairly divided. Some have accepted it as part of the norm and will be buying whatever console they want. Others have been in a state of panic. And even others have been up in arms, discussing how to boycott the purchase of consoles.

“All I want to know is why I get charged more than US”

“My feelings are…….What else is new? I paid $100 for my GOWJ, it’s always been like this. I don’t like it, but taxes and [expletive]….”

One person who asked to remain anonymous remarked that they plan on staging protests at video game retailers to demand a change in pricing.

It’s unbelievable in this day and era that video games cannot be distributed globally without requiring this level of extortion. And that’s what it really is. Extortion. Either pay up or you won’t be getting anything. All we need now is a protection racket brought up for our current generation consoles.

How to share games on the PS4

It's been known that Microsoft has restrictions set on used games and how they can transfer to your friends as well. Sony recently released their instructional video on how to share games on the PS4.

Thrilling stuff.

'Sunset Overdrive' casual but crazy

Taking place in a world suddenly affected by a catastrophe, Sunset Overdrive turns your city into one big playground. The city underwent this catastrophic event resulting in almost the entire city's inhabitants dying or turning into mutants. It's up to you to fight them off. An open world environment, the game takes the term "sandbox" to a whole new level. Go where you want, kill what you want, and turn this giant city into your personal amusement park. Parkour plays an important role in the story so you will see a lot of acrobatic moves, zip lining, running along walls, etc.

Developed by Insomniac Games, Sunset Overdrive is coming exclusively to Xbox One.

'Killer Instinct' returns on the Xbox One

Killer Instinct, widely regarded as one of the best fighting games to have ever been created, is back after almost a 20-year hiatus. Revealed yesterday during the Microsoft global press conference at E3, that Killer Instinct will be introduced to the next-gen consoles on Xbox One.

Original creator, Rare, no longer mans the helm on the revival of it’s slumbering series. Instead, Silent Hill: Homecoming’s developer Double Helix will be taking command. Do they have the goods to deliver a high-end reboot?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ryse: Son of Rome reveal

As launch titles go, Ryse: Son of Rome is an impressive addition. The graphics are astounding and the only register your mind makes between cinematics and gameplay is the camera angle. Edges are crisp and the gore is both brutal and beautifully rendered.

Players control a Roman general whose first task is to storm and capture a beachhead. The action and setting is reminiscent of the Normandy campaign when the allied forces fought to wrest control of France from German occupation. Catapults, arrows, and swords bars the Roman legion from advancing to the enemy position, and your task is to get your men safely through to take out the enemy stronghold.

Mixing hack n’ slash third party mechanics with quick time events makes the combat flow smoothly. The image of piercing an enemy’s neck is hard to shake and the game looks to be a large amount of fun. Ryse: Son of Rome will launch alongside the Xbox One this November.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Microsoft revealed the newest Metal Gear Solid game The Phantom Pain at the MS Global media conference at E3 today. Starting off the show, MGS V shows Snake riding through the desert, kicking up dust and urging his horse on. After speeding up the gameplay a little bit, we see Snake jump into a jeep and head out of the quiet little town in hunt of his newest target.

The graphics, both cinematic and gameplay, were phenomenal. MGS V plays as an open world game, allowing you to travel whenever and however you want. Included in the game is a new breed of stealth for MGS players. That’s right, Snake has grown up into a spy and no longer needs to use his effective box of effectiveness.

With real-time weather and realistic time passage, Konami seems to be upping the ante on next gen gaming.

Xbox One teams up with ‘Dew and Doritos’

Yes, you read that correctly. Mt. Dew and Doritos are apparently teaming up with Microsoft and Xbox One to create an “unprecedented experience.” Microsoft seems hell bent on acquiring any and all commercial companies to advertise for the Xbox One. It almost seems unreal how far they are willing to take this idea. Are they really in need of money that badly?

One thing is for sure, this “partnership” really doesn’t help the stereotype that all gamers do is stuff their faces with Doritos and drink gallons of Mt. Dew all day. Bravo Microsoft. You just set back the legitimacy of the gaming community about 5 years.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Xbox One: What this means for gamers

With the recent news coming forth clarifying Microsoft’s policies regarding the Xbox One, the outcry from the gaming community has escalated to a fervor. There have been many controversial instances in gaming history, but none have seen the sort of discussion the Xbox One has caused over the past 24 hours. Rumors not only were substantiated in some cases, but some came in actually worse.

The first focus is on the used games policy. Allowing 10 family members to access your cloud saved games is a neat addition, but exact details on how those members are verified has not been released. Another missing bit of info to this feature is if family members can access the same games you are playing at that current moment, and if multiple family members can be online using the cloud at the same time.

Another issue with the used games policy is the fact you can loan out a game to your friend. Once. You can’t loan the disc to someone else afterwards, and there is no confirmation if the “one-time loan” means 1 person or 1 time only. A friend may want to finish the game at a later date and then be required to buy the full copy, rather than finish using the same disc as before.

The announcement that loaned and rental games will not be available at launch is a slap in the face to gamers who rely on places like redbox or gamefly to play the newest titles. Not everyone can afford to shell out $60 everytime a new game comes out, and with the restrictions on trade-in policies, this had the potential of being big business for rental companies. Microsoft did say that the Xbox One is designed to work with trade-ins, however a full breakdown of how that system will now operate hasn’t been released.

The second focus deals with privacy concerns. The Kinect demonstration at the Microsoft press conference was impressive. It also raised a lot of concerns about how much the Kinect will register and if the data it collects can be used by outside sources. Microsoft saying it “won’t be collected without your permission” is no real comfort, as more and more our tech is used to spy on us regardless of our personal wishes.

Saying we can turn off some of the Kinect functions does nothing to cool peoples heads about this issue. The important ones are always running the background which Microsoft has confirmed. The possibility of personal conversation or actions done in front of the camera being recorded and possibly uploaded to a company server is a very real concern, one which should not be taken lightly.


The third focus is in regards to the console requiring internet connection to function. Look, the internet is growing, that’s a given. The broadband infrastructure continues to grow every year, but we are not at a point in our technological age where online connection is out there for everyone. Hundreds of millions of potential customers don’t have any access to the internet. Even more don’t have access to a mobile band that they could substitute it with. The Xbox One requires an internet connection once every day. If you go more than 24 hours without connecting online, your Xbox stops playing games. It stops playing games. A gaming console that doesn’t play games is what, class? It’s a frigging paperweight. A sleek and shiny paperweight, but it’s still a gigantic, VCR looking paperweight.

Microsoft and Sony have both put out an extremely large prediction at a billion consoles being sold. There aren’t a billion people in this world that have access to constant, reliable internet let alone a billion who could afford the console in the first place. The world is broke. Not the US, not Europe, the WORLD is broke. With a rumored price of $600 for either console, the odds on selling a billion units is insane. If they manage to sell 100 million in ten years I’ll be impressed, but they are talking 1 billion within 5 years. Maybe these companies haven’t looked out the window in a while. The worldwide economy is in shambles and you expect people to buy a console which won’t even play games without some sort of internet connection?

Look, we get it. Used games can cost the company money. Rentals
get it out to thousands instead of potentially thousands of games being sold. Is losing that small bit of revenue worth risking your entire fan base? The Xbox One is an “all in one” system. That’s great, it really is. But why is it an all-in-one minus the big one the Xbox was built on? This is the next-gen gaming console. Not allowing people to use the damn thing for what it’s main purpose is is absurd. The Xbox is supposed to be a huge innovation of entertainment technology. The demoed “IllumiRoom” tech is astounding and the addition of features like sports streaming, skype while gaming, and uploading your games straight from the console all gave hints to what could possibly be the best thing the living room has ever seen. But those were supposed to be additional features. Making those features the primary goal is going to destroy the sales figures and the console’s overall enjoyment factor.

Microsoft needs to step back and reevaluate what they are doing to the Xbox name, because with the restrictions they are placing on used games, possible invasion of privacy, and the fact that without internet you are basically buying a several hundred dollar DVD player with remote the Xbox One is going to be chewed up and spat out in the next-gen console war.

Microsoft responds to licensing, privacy, and connectivity concerns

After the Microsoft press conference revealing the Xbox One, gamers took note that very few questions had been answered in regards to the rumors that had been circulating the internet for months. Disjointed interviews after that conference held no enlightenment as there were conflicting reports each time a new interview surfaced, even if the interview was with the same person. Even more concerning, were some of the rumors that began to surface because of the press conference. Rumors such as the Kinect being always on and able to detect voice and player movements might lead to recorded and uploaded conversations, and the invasion of privacy that implied. Ultimately the press and fans alike came away with more headaches than reliable facts. Yesterday, Microsoft addressed several of the more common rumors.

Rumor: Xbox One will not support used games.

Microsoft: The Xbox One was designed to work with game trade-ins, as this is such a common practice in today's world. There is no fee to be able to trade these games in, whether you are a consumer, retailer, or publisher.

Games can be shared on the main console with any gamer. Anyone inside your home has access to your stock of games, regardless if digital or disc-based and the system does not require you to be logged in, or even present at the time. Sharing to other consoles is allowed but only for up to ten family members. They will have access to your cloud storage system and will be able to play any of your games without the disc. With regards to loaning out discs or giving them to friends, Xbox One will allow you to grant access to a friend. Restrictions on this practice are two-fold; They must be on your friends list for at least 30 days, and you can only give out the game once.

Disc-based games are required only to install the game and upload it to the cloud. Once the game has been uploaded, you can access your cloud storage on any Xbox One and play your games from there. Gamers can also bypass disc requirements and download the game straight to your console on launch day.

Loaned or rented games will not be available at launch. Microsoft is currently working on an agreement with certain companies.

Rumor: Kinect will be able to record and upload anything it hears or sees to Microsoft.

Microsoft: Privacy is a main focus in regards to the Xbox One. The Kinect must always be connected to the Xbox One, however consumers are in control of what the Kinect sensor can see or hear. There are multiple settings in regards to privacy features in place to prevent any sort of recorded conversations without your express permission.

Customers can choose whether the Kinect sensor is on, off, or paused. If you wish to play a game without the Kinect sensor registering your movements or voice, you can pause the system. To turn it off, simply say "Xbox off" and the system will shut down and will only respond to "Xbox on". That feature can also be turned off allowing players to require a manual start up.

Some games and apps will require a functioning Kinect, however Microsoft assures that that data will never leave your system without your permission. Kinect also is not a requirement to navigate the Xbox One system. Controllers, remotes, or smart devices can be used in place of Kinect.

Rumor: Xbox One will be required to always be connected to the internet.

Microsoft: The Xbox One is designed to be used with a broadband connection. The system utilizes either a gigabyte Ethernet port or an 802.11n wireless connection. The Xbox One uses a 5GHz wireless band which reduces interference from common household devices. For optimal experience, players should have a broadband internet connection of at least 1.5 Mbps. In areas without Ethernet connection, a mobile broadband can be substituted.

The Xbox One does not require the console to be connected to the internet at all times. However, the console does need a connection to the internet at least once every 24 hours to verify if the system requires any updates to apps or games. These updates are automatically downloaded to your system when connected to the internet. The system also checks to see if you have purchased any new titles, or have resold, traded in, or given your games to friends. Any games that require cloud interaction to perform can only be played if the system is connected to the internet.

If the console goes more than 24 hours without an internet connection, the console shuts down the ability to play games until a connection can be re-established. Blu Ray and TV functionality will be accessible during the times when the console will not allow games to be played.

This story will be updated as further information is released.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Major Nelson gives a more detailed look at the Xbox One controller

Highlighting a new Microsoft controller breakdown, Major Nelson gives us the good bits on what we can expect from the new Xbox One controller:
Impulse Triggers – Xbox One’s Wireless Controller sports four vibration motors – a small one behind each trigger that adds precise haptic feedback to the finger tips, and a larger in each grip for large scale rumbles. This gives users a sense of in-game directionality and depth, creating rich, immersive experiences where gunshots, car crashes and explosions can come to life.
Higher Quality Headset Audio – The data transfer rate between the controller and console has been improved, allowing for higher fidelity audio in communication headsets. In-game chat over Xbox Live, according to the team, will be in many cases clearer than talking on a phone.
Revamped Thumbsticks – The thumbsticks are built for precision and comfort. They’re smaller and outlined with a knurled texture for better grip. Competitive gamers will be pleased to hear the sticks require 25 percent less force to move, allowing you to adjust your aim in a first-person shooter or execute a half-circle sweep in a fighting game faster and more accurately. The controller also uses advanced electronics that reduce thumbstick deadzone in the center.
Brand New D-Pad – The old Xbox 360 D-pad is replaced by a new design that pays homage to classic controllers and is architectured to deliver more precision and tactile feedback for gaming. The D-pad’s cross shape is honed to provide accurate cardinal direction input, sweeping movements and combinations – important factors for sports and fighting games, and other experiences.
Buttons, Buttons, Buttons – The A, B, X and Y buttons are lower to the controller with tighter spacing, making the transition between each one smoother. A new, three-step manufacturing process gives these buttons a more premium look, as if the letters on them are suspended in 3-D space. The size and placement of the Xbox button has also changed so the view and menu buttons are more accessible.
Seamless Connectivity – Each controller uses a combination of invisible reflective technology and LEDs to send a patterned infrared signal to your console and Kinect sensor. Not only does this make pairing the devices seamless, but it enables Kinect to associate the controller with whoever is holding it. This introduces innovative experiences, such as player switching, where a split screen display can swap positions on the TV if users change seats on the couch.
Low Power State – If you’re watching a movie or need to step away from the TV, the controller enters a low power state that conserves your battery. The moment you pick it up again, it will be ready for use without having to resynch with the console.
Refined for Comfort – The controller’s design is deliberately honed to the closest tenth of a millimeter to offer the most comfortable fit in users’ hands, and was tested extensively by a broader age group than ever before to ensure it is optimized for as many people as possible. According to the team’s research, this improves gameplay performance and allows comfortable gaming for longer periods of time.
Angled Triggers and Bumpers – The triggers and bumpers are carefully designed for performance and comfort. The specific angling allows for a natural fit for your fingers, and the triggers require a lighter pull, so squeezing it repeatedly is an easier and more precise action.
Internal Battery Cavity –The compartment that houses AA batteries is built into the interior of the controller, providing more room at the bottom for your fingers to grip. Another convenient improvement is that the controller is both wireless and a wired– simply plug it into your console with a mini USB cable and the connection automatically switches to preserve battery life.
Gamers who are in the LA area on Monday can swing by the Xbox Meet Up where they can see and hold the controller first hand.


Diablo III hits consoles on September 3rd

Blizzard has just announced that Diablo III, the continuation of the hack-n-slash RPG saga, is finally making its debut on consoles. Launching September 3rd for PS3 and Xbox 360, gamers can expect a custom-tailored version designed for d-pad interaction.

The UI has been altered to make it more accessible and the dynamic camera addition puts your hero front and center for your battle against the Lord of Terror. Team up with friends over XBL or PSN for hard hitting action, or grab a group to take advantage of the 4 player local split screen feature.

Blizzard's press release has more:

IRVINE, Calif.—June 6, 2013—A new legion of heroes will soon rise up and take a stand against the Lord of Terror. On September 3, Diablo® III will make its console debut on the Sony PlayStation® 3 computer entertainment system and the Xbox 360® games and entertainment system from Microsoft in the U.S., Canada, Spanish-speaking Latin America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

In preparation for the upcoming launch, select retailers in these regions are now taking preorders for the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game, which will be available at a suggested retail price of $59.99. Both console versions of Diablo III will be fully localized in English, German, French, Latin American Spanish, European Spanish, Russian, Italian, Polish, and Brazilian Portuguese. Further release details, including retail availability in Brazil, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia, will be announced at a later date.

The console versions of Diablo III have been custom-tailored for gamepad-driven action, with a dynamic camera perspective that puts your hero front and center, as well as an all-new user interface and an intuitive control system that make vanquishing evil feel like second nature. Players can take on the vile denizens of the Burning Hells alone or in a party of up to four via same-screen local cooperative play or online over PlayStation® Network or the Xbox Live® online entertainment network from Microsoft. In addition, the game supports parties composed of both local and online players. Once gamers experience the rush of Diablo III’s unique brand of hack-and-slash gameplay from the comfort of their couch, Sanctuary will never be the same.

Players who preorder either console version of Diablo III will receive an exclusive in-game item: the Infernal Helm, which grants an experience point boost to any character who wears it, accelerating their progression as they rise in power. Certain retailers will also offer limited-edition preorder bonuses—check with your local retailer for further information.

“Playing Diablo III on a big screen with your friends brings a whole new level of intensity to the game, and with all of the control and interface adaptations we’ve made, it’s extremely fun to play on PS3 and Xbox 360,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “In addition to the fine-tuning we’ve done for the console versions, we’re also including major content and design updates we’ve made to the PC version over the past year, so players can expect an epic Diablo gaming experience when the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions launch in September.”

In Diablo III, players take on the role of one of five heroic characters—barbarian, witch doctor, wizard, monk, or demon hunter—and embark on a perilous quest to save the world of Sanctuary from the corrupting forces of the Burning Hells. As players make their way from the demon-besieged town of New Tristram to the Diamond Gates of the High Heavens, they’ll engage in pulse-pounding combat with hordes of monsters and challenging bosses, grow in experience and ability, acquire artifacts of incredible power, and meet key characters who’ll join them in battle or aid them along the way.

With as much content as Diablo has, $59.99 seems like a very reasonable price. Look for the game on September 3rd and pre-order at select locations now.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fuse review

Have you ever sat and watched a movie you couldn't really get into, but you watched it anyway because you were bored? That's exactly how Fuse is. The game attempts to use the same old "merc gets a heart" formula, which can be an okay idea at times, but without a very strong story behind it the game usually flops.

The game starts off with little backstory. You don't know who you are controlling, what you are supposed to be doing, or even know where you are. All you do know is you have been hired to clean up a mess in a top secret laboratory. The believability of the story fails before it even really begins. I'm not a mercenary, but I'm pretty sure no team is going to go into a hostile environment with no information about what they are being tasked to do, no matter what they are being paid. It's akin to climbing into a barrel of fish and waiting for someone with a gun to walk by. Dead men spend no coin, as the saying goes.
The story gets even more bizarre when you toss in an exotic compound dubbed Fuse. The physics of it are theoretically impossible, but that's where the sci-fi aspect comes into play. Fuse utilizes the age-old "it doesn't have to be real as long as it sounds important" concept. Regardless of what it does, it never gets expanded on what it is. A couple of times in the game it is referred to as alien in origin. Other times it's a byproduct of a failed experiment. It feels as if the story was being penned by two different groups, neither of which were interested in collaboration.

Fuse relies on the common mercenary story idea. Go in to retrieve dangerous item before rival faction of bad guys does, fail to retrieve item first, go hunting for bad guys. It never branches out in any way. Character backstory is practically non-existent beyond a failed relationship with a homicidal maniac and a father who is involved with your rival faction. Both are standard cliches and do nothing to add to the story.
Another large problem with the game is it's personality and atmosphere, or rather, lack thereof. The dialogue between characters is forced and at times is more of a transition from bad gameplay to bad writing. One-sided jabs that really have nothing to do with the situation fall flat, and random comments like "You guys want to get a taco" after cutting someone's eye out really lends nothing to the character interaction. The enemies are not crafted any better. You fight the same 5 types of enemies repeatedly, with an occasional spawning robot. It's not uncommon to get 300+ kills per level, as the enemy will throw itself at you relentlessly. Rather than it seeming like a tough firefight, it only ends up being an annoying series of repetitive movements. The only real change in the enemies is their uniforms change color as the game progresses.

The game had a slightly better chance in regards to the stealth takedowns on certain areas. Using Naya's cloaking ability, players could sneak up behind an enemy soldier, slit his throat, and move to the next one. It's a satisfying way to clear out an entire section of the game. It rarely ever gets a chance to be utilized however, as both the enemy AI and friendly AI are seemingly programmed to force you into a long, drawn out firefight. The enemy AI will suddenly realize you are there if you whittle down the forces too much, even if they aren't looking in your direction. They will walk over their dead teammates and not notice a thing, but that cloaked person in a different room, not in anyone's line of sight? Intruder! Your friendly teammates aren't any better. If you go down, expect to bleed out even relatively close to your teammate. The AI seems more intent on racking up points than saving you. Your team will say "let's do this one quietly", and while you are eliminating soldiers they will start firing, breaking the stealth spell and totally ruining your day as you get caught out in the open. Enemy AI won't even notice your friendly AI unless they are being shot at. Your teammate can assassinate an enemy directly in front of another enemy and the guy will end his conversation and walk away. At one point, a glitch allowed the entire team to view the area as clear and walked straight to the waiting elevator. I was left to navigate the area, eliminating targets as I went, with the occasional friendly "Hey, let's move it," which again, the enemy apparently couldn't hear.
One thing that made the game fresh at the beginning was the robotic boss fight. You were required to move constantly always trying to shoot it in the back to deal the most damage. This worked great the first time, keywords being "first time". Shortly after that first encounter, you will see multiple robot fights, all of which follow the same boring formula. The type changes from rockets to flamethrowers, to chain guns, but essentially it's the exact same battle over and over.

Each environment is setup the same way throughout the entire game. You will have a straightaway corridor with multiple lines of cover littering the area for normal fights, and purely circular areas for boss fights. The only difference is the backdrop, which brings me to the artwork and graphics. There are some rather beautiful areas that are so tempting to explore. The problem is, you can't explore them. You can't even go near them. The rest of the game which you interact with is rather boring and stale and whether you are in an abandoned Sheik's palace in India, or floating on a space station high above the Earth, Fuse fails to separate any of the 6 chapter settings from each other.

The Xenotech weapons are really the game's only saving grace. Turning enemies into crystalline structures that explode is cool. Creating singularities that suck a group of guys into an alternate dimension is fun, and using an impenetrable shield that can catch grenades and ammunition and throw it back at them is enjoyable. Even this neat addition can't detract from the obvious ham job your AI buddies are doing. The team is only really effective when you jump from person to person and control their Xeno weapons.
There are multiple issues with glitches as well. Your character can become glitched in a certain area requiring you to restart a checkpoint. Another glitch involving the "Look" camera left the main character choice staring at the ceiling, unable to aim or lower the vision, and you were unable to switch characters, leading to a loss of roughly 15 minutes of gameplay. One major concern was when the Origin servers went down and I was kicked from my solo, local game. If the game requires you to be constantly linked to the  servers to play when connected to the internet, it causes a severe problem. Origin servers are not known for their reliability, which can lead to some very frustrating moments while your system tries to reconnect to the servers repeatedly. If the game had any immersion to it, these instances would ruin that.

Fuse tried to take a unique approach to a time-tested adaptation and the end result was a game that was frustratingly simple, and at times, just plain annoying. You almost wish Insomniac Games had made a horrible title that you could hate, because at least then you could feel something about the game. With it's repetitive environments, lack of character building, boring gameplay, and overall dismal story execution, Fuse merely just exists. It's not a good sign when the best part of the game is the end credits.