Xbox 360 | Medal of Honor Single-Player Hands-On

We go sniping in Afghanistan in EA’s modern Medal of Honor reboot.

 

Time and time again, Medal of Honor executive producer Greg Goodrich says his game–a reboot of the formerly World War II-set franchise–is about “respect” and “reverence” for the soldier. When asked how Medal of Honor, which takes place in modern Afghanistan, handles the current conflict sensitively, he tells us, “It’s not about the politics.” The soldier’s authentic experience is everything, says Goodrich, and “telling the soldier’s story” is key. If the game makers do have a position on the war, other than being a good setting for a game, it seems you won’t find it in Medal of Honor.

The attitude suggests the game equivalent of The Hurt Locker: an action movie set in a modern, divisive conflict but concerned only with its hero’s experience on the ground. The resemblance plays out, at least superficially, in Sniper, one of the campaign missions in our demo that is reminiscent of that film’s desert sniper battle. The mission began in a slow and tense manner as we took on the role of Deuce, a sniper from AFO Wolfpack, who was partnered with his spotter, Dusty, the game’s bearded elite Tier 1 poster boy. The two soldiers were lying on a ridge in the mountains, where they were hunting for dug-in Al Qaeda fighters.

As we looked through the electronic scope of Deuce’s sniper rifle, Dusty spotted three enemies on a rocky slope on the other side of the valley. He gave us directions to the targets, some 1,000 metres distant, and we scanned across to find them. At full zoom, the field of view bobbed wildly with Deuce’s breathing, which could be held temporarily with a left-trigger pull. We picked off the three targets through the steadied scope, with the explosive squelch of the headshots unfeasibly audible from a kilometre away. That aside, much effort has been made to create a realistic sniping experience, with delayed hits and Dusty advising us, counter to our first-person shooter instincts, to go for the centre of mass–the body–and not the head.

As spotter, Dusty gave directions to a string of further targets, advising on direction, distance, and priority. Tapping up on the D pad displayed the active heads-up display, which pointed out the direction of our next kill, though it’s possible–and more authentic–to go by Dusty’s voice directions alone. Wind speed was mentioned, but it didn’t seem as though we needed to correct for crosswind. Among our targets were an enemy sniper, given away by the glint of his scope, and a hidden mortar team preparing to fire, which was made visible with the scope’s heat-vision mode.

The sniping segment ended with a nearby tripwire that triggered an explosion and signalled incoming enemies, so we beat a hasty retreat to higher ground. Out of forced sniper mode, Deuce was packing an MP7A1 submachine gun; as we defended our position from a rocky corner, the enemy pushing toward us, its down-the-sights aim assist was mild but welcome. Then, as the dust settled, Dusty explained the enemy fighters weren’t Afghan (“I hear Chechen and Arabic”).

Dusty was full of helpful pointers; in fact, he spotted a lone injured enemy further on and proposed we use him as bait. Perched up high, we let the injured fighter draw a dozen more into the clearing below before opening fire. We wiped them out and then hightailed it further uphill, squeezing through rocky corridors in the evening sunlight and emerging high above the foreign fighters’ camp, which was scattered with enemies in modern-looking combat gear and hoods. Cue another sniping segment in which we cleared out the camp and then, to end the mission, provided sniper support to a far-off squad of rangers pinned down by enemy fighters on all sides. Heat vision (available in white-for-hot and black-for-hot flavours) was useful against the dusty haze rising off the mountain slopes, helping us pick out silhouettes in vegetation and against rocks.

In our other single-player demo mission, Belly of the Beast, we were with the US Army Rangers, the brute force “sledgehammers” to Tier 1’s elite “surgeons.” Here the player character was Specialist Dante Adams, getting dropped into the Shahikot Valley by heavy-lift helicopter. The intro cinematic began with hooah military bravado, and then, after the Rangers touched down, all hell broke loose. The helicopters were attacked by unseen Taliban fighters as they took off, and our platoon was quickly stripped back to a four-man squad, running for high ground.

With those three fellow rangers for company, we fought down the natural corridors formed by rocky foothills, squaring off against enemies who favoured AK47s and occasional rocket launchers. Adams comes equipped with the M249 SAW, a light machine gun with plenty of power but a long reload. The weapons feel and sound impressively authentic, and the prominent icon that pops up with every headshot is a gratifying touch. The rest of your squadmates are invulnerable, and, thankfully, they don’t make you push forward alone too often and will shout for you to fall back or get into cover if you go it alone or get out in the open. You can request ammo from your squadmates, too, though you can’t trade weapons with them.

The rocky corridors channelled us past abandoned Russian tanks and then into a ruined village packed with enemy fighters. Then, we were on to our objective: a heavily defended antiaircraft machine gun emplacement at the top of a path littered with the crumbling remnants of walls. These walls shattered as we took cover behind them, providing temporary shelter as we ran the gauntlet of antiaircraft gunfire, with enemy fighters crowding in over rocks on the left and low buildings on the right. Cover is destructible, though not nearly as extensively so as in, say, Battlefield Bad Company 2. It’s also worth remembering that Bad Company studio EA DICE is developing the multiplayer action, not the single-player campaign.

The intensity of the assault on the antiaircraft gun underlined how suitably fragile we felt. Out of cover, with walls turning to rubble all around, we felt much more like a soldier than a superhuman. We took one of the rangers forward to suppress the AA gunfire and let the other two rangers plant the red phosphorus smoke marker that would call in a strike on the emplacement. A good dose of suppressing fire quieted the machine gun long enough for the others to get in and pop smoke, giving us a few moments to get clear before the site was convincingly annihilated by air support.

Danger Close, the newly formed Los Angeles studio behind Medal of Honor’s single-player experience, counts a number of a Medal of Honor series veterans among its staff. EA will be hoping these are the safest hands to take a venerable–but dormant since 2007–World War II franchise into new territory. Though making an impact with a modern military FPS is no mean feat in such a crowded genre, this reboot has the heritage to make it a contender come launch time in October. We’ll have details on the all-important multiplayer offering next week.

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Xbox 360 | Medal of Honor Single-Player Hands-On ” was posted by Jane Douglas on Thu, 16 Sep 2010 06:24:01 -0700

PlayStation 3 | Tokyo Jungle Impressions

Postapocalyptic setting? Check. Tough protagonist? Check. A Pomeranian with an insatiable taste for blood? Wait, what?

It wouldn’t be a Tokyo Game Show without the discovery of some slightly left-of-center game whose eccentric qualities make it unlikely to ever see a stateside release. So far, this year’s poster child for that truism is a new PlayStation 3 game from Sony called Tokyo Jungle. We played a demo on the show floor that was entirely in Japanese, but as best we can tell, this is a game set in a postapocalyptic version of Tokyo where animals have overtaken the city and you play as a bloodthirsty Pomeranian capable of killing everything and anything in its path. Yes, a Pomeranian.

It’s hard to pinpoint a genre, but Tokyo Jungle seems to be a side-scroller with equal parts platforming, combat, and stealth gameplay elements. We began the level controlling the cute, fuzzy little dog (who happens to be wearing a flashy orange jacket for some reason) before being quickly introduced to the concept of hiding in a bush and suddenly lunge-attacking a bunny in order to feast upon its delicious innards. For what it’s worth, the game’s tutorial sequence told us to do it.

After killing a few rabbits, our cute little dog had to traverse some fallen scraps on the side of a building in order to progress through the next area. This part of the game was pretty standard platforming fare: you need to jump across gaps and navigate a puzzle of demolished scenery in order to succeed. Oh, and you also have to silently kill chickens.

Eventually, we finished the game in a big fight against a bunch of alley cats of escalating sizes and toughness. The first pair were easy to take down, but the last cat we went up against was at least four times as big as a regular one. It was a hard-fought battle, but we eventually discovered that the trick was to lunge at the cat’s chest and simply chew out its heart. It was an odd sight to say the least, but that seemed to be par for the course with this game.

We don’t have any other information about Tokyo Jungle apart from what we saw on the show floor, so there you have it: a game in which you play as a cute little pup with a slightly unsettling case of bloodlust. Judging by the game’s screenshots, it looks as though you’ll be able to control a number of other animals, but this should at least give you a taste of what’s being shown on the event floor. Look for Tokyo Jungle to arrive on the PlayStation 3 in Japan some time in the future.

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PlayStation 3 | Tokyo Jungle Impressions” was posted by Shaun McInnis on Thu, 16 Sep 2010 05:50:15 -0700

PlayStation 3 | The Last Guardian and Team Ico Collection TGS 2010 Impressions

Team Ico offers up some new information on its upcoming title as well as the HD remakes of its two previous games.

Our most recent look at The Last Guardian was at Tokyo Game Show 2009 when Sony and Team Ico showed off some new footage to the press in an appointment that was more about discussing the game than showing it in action. One year later and we’re back in the same situation; we’ve yet to see a proper gameplay demo of this highly anticipated title from the studio behind Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, but at the very least we’ve been able to see some new video and get a few updates from the developer. And as an added bonus, we were shown a quick demo of the HD remake of Shadow of the Colossus that will be bundled along with Ico in an updated greatest-hits collection next year.

First, a quick primer for anyone not familiar with The Last Guardian. Announced last year, the game stars a small boy and a massive bird-cat hybrid called the Trico. The game explores the relationship between these two characters and is set in a mysterious world of seemingly classical ruins and muted colors, similar to those we’ve seen in Team Ico’s previous works. The new trailer, which debuted earlier today at a Japanese-language Sony press conference, was a more jovial, upbeat video than the trailer that leaked prior to last year’s E3. It featured an upbeat soundtrack with plenty of woodwind instruments, and we saw scenes of the boy and the Trico playing with one another, exploring the environment with some platforming and even engaging in some combat with what appeared to be armored knights of some kind.

Outside of showing this new video, game director Fumito Ueda offered up some new pieces of information in a discussion of the game that was probably a little vaguer than most in attendance had hoped for. First, he wanted to dispel the notion that this game will inevitably feature a sad ending. Instead, Ueda said that it’s more “open ended” than previous games he has made, which seems to suggest the possibility for multiple endings depending on what the player does.

In terms of story, Ueda mentioned that the game begins with the boy and the Trico in a much more uneasy relationship than the trailer everyone had just been shown. He said that you’ll begin the game in a “rigid” and “unfriendly” relationship before eventually coming together as companions. From there, Ueda didn’t want to explore the game, but it seems fair to assume that outside forces and enemies of some kind will come along and put your relationship to the test.

On the subject of why we’ve heard so little on The Last Guardian since it was first announced, Ueda defended the relative quiet by mentioning that this game is being developed quite a bit differently from the studio’s previous two titles. Whereas Ico and Shadow were both begun with the research and development phases kicking off right as the game design got under way, The Last Guardian started with the initial planning phase well before the team got to designing the game. Therefore, there was still a lot of work to be done after all the abstract concepts and basic outline had been decided on. As Ueda said, the team has been in “crunch mode” for some time now.

Though we didn’t get a whole lot of information on The Last Guardian, we did get some pretty concrete information on HD remakes of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus that have been rumored about for a while now. Yes, Team Ico is indeed working on an updated bundle of the two games scheduled to arrive next spring. And as it turns out, The Team Ico Collection (Sony doesn’t have an official title for the bundle yet, so that’s what we’re calling it for simplicity’s sake) is not merely an HD remake of the two games; they’ll both offer full 3D support as well.

In terms of changes to the games, Ico will feature the European ending rather than the US one (which Ueda was never happy with, calling the European version “the complete game”), while Shadow of the Colossus will supposedly be remedied of the inconsistent frame rate that plagued the PlayStation 2 version. Ueda was very specific when he said that the PlayStation 3 will allow Shadow to run at a steady 30 frames per second as the studio originally intended it to. We were shown a live demo of the Shadow remake, and it certainly seems that the game is running smoothly. Ueda also pointed out that Shadow features completely redone textures to go along with the bump up to HD resolutions. Though it was hard to get a sense of the visual fidelity since the game was being shown on a projector, it looked quite good for being a half-decade-old PlayStation 2 title.

So far, the trailers for The Last Guardian have us optimistic about what the full game will entail, and it’s great to see The Team Ico Collection officially confirmed with 3D support to boot. But at this point, we’re more eager than ever to see and play The Last Guardian. Hopefully we’ll have the chance to do that soon, but in the meantime, keep an eye out for more Tokyo Game Show 2010 coverage coming your way.

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PlayStation 3 | The Last Guardian and Team Ico Collection TGS 2010 Impressions” was posted by Shaun McInnis on Thu, 16 Sep 2010 03:08:36 -0700

PlayStation 3 | Ninokuni: Shiroki Seihai no Joou Hands-On

We take Oliver on a walk through the woods in Level 5’s PlayStation 3 version of Ninokuni.

The partnership between Studio Ghibli and Level 5 is an exciting one, given that the animation studio behind films such as Princess Mononoke and the developer (Professor Layton series) excel at what they do. Level 5 announced earlier this year that there was going to be a PlayStation 3 version, built from the ground up. The two games will have the same story arc, but they are quite different from one another. At the 2010 Tokyo Game Show we were able to play both, and because of the PS3’s technical capabilities, playing Ninokuni was very much like watching one of Studio Ghibli’s films.

We were able to get a better idea of the story after playing the Nintendo DS version (you can read that here), but the basic premise is that Oliver gets transported into a reality that is parallel to his own, where he has a chance of saving his mother. There were two areas to jump into for this particular demo, so we decided to pick the one that had a boss battle at the end. It placed us in a lush and breathtaking forest, with cascading waterfalls and blossoming flowers. As Oliver walked along the path with his companion, the male fairy Shizuku (who looks like a giant nose), you could see the subtle details in his movements, which is what Studio Ghibli is known for. For the most part, he’s walking lightly along the worn path, but his steps will change as he hops onto a fallen tree trunk, where he gingerly makes his way to the other side.

The characters in the world of Ninokuni stand out. We were ambushed early on by a creature that looked somewhat like an alligator, and another that was sort of like a rooster. It’s like an alternate universe, where everything is familiar but not. Normally, you’ll see enemies onscreen, and you run into them to initiate battle. Combat is in real time, and you have a bizarre-looking puppetlike creature with a cape that fights with you, or for you, if you prefer to hang back. Oliver has several thought bubbles on the bottom left side of the screen that likely indicate what kinds of skills he can use. We were limited to whopping enemies with our stick and casting spells from a magic book.

Also in our group was a young blond girl whose companion was a fat penguin of some kind. Who she is and how she came to be in our party, we’re not sure, but the more the merrier. By the time we reached a clearing, a massive bull-like beast with abnormally large antlers was waiting for us. The fight wasn’t too difficult, given that the bull tended to charge in a single direction when provoked, so it was easy enough to step out of its way. As it grew more upset, it would toss its weapon and shield aside and continuously charge. Our little buddy Shizuku came in handy–he hopped into the bushes to grab the creature’s shield and toss it right back at him.

The demo ended there, but we are eager to play more and explore the world of Ninokuni. Last year we played with the magic book a little in the DS version, and we had to draw symbols to cast certain spells. We’re curious to see how that functionality will work on the PS3. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more details. Ninokuni: Shiroki Seihai no Joou for the PS3 is set to be released sometime next year in Japan.

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PlayStation 3 | Ninokuni: Shiroki Seihai no Joou Hands-On” was posted by Sophia Tong on Thu, 16 Sep 2010 01:50:11 -0700

PlayStation 3 | Alice: Madness Returns First Impressions

The beautiful Alice is back, armed with her vorpal blade and a new…pepper grinder.

The brief teaser trailer from EA’s studio showcase a few months ago left us eager to see more of Alice: Madness Returns, the sequel to American McGee’s take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. At EA’s Tokyo showcase in Shinjuku, Japan, American McGee revealed another tantalizing trailer, and we were able to get a first look at the game. While it was strictly a hands-off demo, we did see our heroine, Alice, in her signature blue and white dress slash her way through all kinds of demented creatures.

The trailer showed Alice in Victorian London, pale and gaunt, shivering as she walks down the deserted street. She is drawn toward a display of marionettes where she sees some familiar characters having tea. Her dead parents suddenly appear in the reflection, standing solemnly in front of a fountain that is now spilling blood. Before we know it, the display bursts into flames, and she’s yanked into the inferno by a swarm of tentacles. This sets us up for the demo, which places Alice in the Vale of Tears, a beautiful landscape with floating islands, discarded dominoes, and extra-large mushrooms to jump across. This area highlighted the platforming aspect of the game, and we see that Alice can leap as well as double jump to higher ground.

In the next area, Alice comes across a hovering purple potion labeled “drink me” that pours an endless amount of fluid into a lake. She drinks this, of course, which then causes her to shrink, giving her access to new areas as well as the ability to see messages scrawled on the walls. During EA’s presentation, McGee said that in this world, Alice is an idealized version of herself. A more beautiful, stronger, and more confident woman who is able to defend herself physically and mentally. As distorted as everything is already, she brings her own madness into the world, so as her surroundings begin to degenerate, her sanity starts to go as well.

Alice is given some new weapons to help her on her journey into madness. Other than brandishing her deadly vorpal blade, she can now wield a pepper grinder like a machine gun. This allows her to fire a stream of deadly bullets of some kind, while keeping a safe distance. McGee mentioned that each enemy is like a puzzle, and the only way to destroy them is to find their weakness and exploit it. You’re also given a hobby horse and a teapot at some point, but it looks like we’re going to have to wait to see how they work in battle.

Like in the previous game, there is a mix of exploration and platforming along with the combat, where you may need to hit switches to reveal a path to the next area. The game is linear, so there’s no chance of getting lost, but you will need to wander off the beaten path of hidden objects and collectibles.

What made the first Alice so appealing was the gorgeous, dark art style, and that has continued in Madness Returns. Familiar creatures return, like the china-doll-faced nightmare spiders as well as the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter. New characters will make their way in this bizarre world, so it’ll be interesting to see who we’ll run into. We’re looking forward to being able to play the game, as this demo was for our eyes only, and the build was still in pre-alpha. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more information as soon as it becomes available. Alice: Madness Returns is set to come out in 2011 on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

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PlayStation 3 | Alice: Madness Returns First Impressions” was posted by Sophia Tong on Wed, 15 Sep 2010 06:27:59 -0700

PlayStation 3 | DMC First Impressions

Capcom and Ninja Theory are teaming up for a reboot of the long-running action-combat series.

While the 2010 Tokyo Game Show hasn’t officially kicked off yet, that hasn’t stopped Capcom from making a number of announcements regarding some of its current projects. The one underlying theme from Capcom development head Keiji Inafune at tonight’s preshow event was a desire to become a more global publisher than it has been in the past, going beyond just selling games across the world and moving into making them more places on the map as well. Now you can add England to the list of countries where Capcom has staked its flag; the Japanese publisher has announced that it is teaming up with developer Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West) for a reboot of the Devil May Cry series dubbed simply DMC.

There wasn’t a gameplay demo shown at the event tonight, but the audience was shown a brief trailer and given an explanation of the project courtesy of representatives from Capcom Japan, Capcom US, and developer Ninja Theory. While the game is being developed at Ninja Theory, representatives from all over the world seem to have their hands in the project. Producing the title from Capcom US is Alex Jones, who described DMC as the “interactive version of fusion cuisine,” combining European, American, and Japanese sensibilities.

Ninja Theory creative director Tameem Antoniades was also onstage to give the audience some context for the game. Antoniades described DMC as both a “reboot” and a “reimagining” of the Devil May Cry series in which the clock has been turned back and the hero is a much younger version of longtime protagonist Dante. The hallmark signs of youth are all on display according to Antoniades, with Dante flashing more rebellion and attitude, as well as an edgier sense of fashion (which, considering older Dante’s penchant for red leather jackets, seems quite the tall order).

Backing up those claims was a quick but stylish trailer shown to the audience. It begins with a sickly, dark-haired figure chained up in a room with an ominous voice asking, “What’s your name?” A moment later, we’re shown a close-up of that person outside looking right as rain, smoking a cigarette. The camera pulls out and we can see that this person has a ghastly looking creature in a headlock. And that’s about when he puts the cigarette out in the creature’s eye with a cringe-worthy sizzling sound. Then the action picks up and we see that usual brand of extravagant movement and melee combat the DMC series has become known for, including the hero running down the side of a building and effortlessly hurling a car into a swarm of enemies. After that initial question is repeated a few more times, the onscreen hero then answers what his name is: “Dante!”

After all this, Capcom Japan’s Hideaki Itsuno took to the stage. Itsuno most recently served as game director on Devil May Cry 4 and announced to the audience that he will act as supervising director on DMC, completing the full circle of US-Japan-England production and development duties. And though his title sounds very high-ranking, Itsuno made sure to defer to Antoniades, stating that the two of them are “basically codirecting this title.” Itsuno didn’t stop there, however, stating that with this much experience and global reach, “there’s no way we can fail. We’ll most definitely make a great game.”

With that, Capcom wrapped up its presentation of DMC. As you can tell, actual details on the game were rather scarce, with most of the information centering on how the development is structured and how this international organizing will affect the final product. Expect to see more details of DMC coming your way in the future, and be sure to stay tuned for GameSpot’s ongoing coverage of Tokyo Game Show 2010 happening through the weekend.

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PlayStation 3 | DMC First Impressions” was posted by Shaun McInnis on Wed, 15 Sep 2010 06:15:17 -0700

PlayStation 3 | Flight Control HD First Look

We wave our arms around and land some birds with our first look at Flight Control on the PlayStation 3.

Flight Control has been making a slow but steady approach to climbing the gaming food chain. After making a splash on the iPhone and receiving a graphical overhaul for Apple“s larger screen mobile tablet device, the iPad, Australian developer Firemint has traded finger controls for glowing fists. For those unfamiliar with the game, you take control of a top-down map of airspace filled with planes requiring a place to land. Your job is to guide them to safety by matching them with their corresponding coloured lanes (blue planes go to blue landing strips and so on) while avoiding midair collisions.

Launching alongside Sony“s PlayStation Move motion-sensing hardware next week as a downloadable PlayStation Network title, the game mimics the experience it introduced on other platforms but brings with it a few new tricks. The first is support for 3D televisions, and when viewed on a compatible TV screen, it gives the game an additional level of visual depth as planes navigate to their homes. Vehicle models appear to decrease in altitude, zooming away from you as they touch down and disappear. It“s a subtle change, but because you won“t spend long looking at any one spot, the feature doesn“t add much in the way of additional complexity to the gameplay. Other new additions include a handful of new maps, day and night cycles, and level-specific weather effects, like wind that closes airfields at a moment“s notice, forcing you to adapt quickly.

For those after a challenge, two speed settings are available by tapping the circle button, doubling the rate at which planes enter from the side of the screen. Doubling the speed often means doubling the crash, but by tapping once, you can enable the safety of having the game slow to normal speed if it detects an accident in the making.

Those who have played the game previously should make a seamless transition to this version, replacing the need to draw using fingers with an onscreen cursor, which is used to select planes and draw their paths. Pressing the trigger on the underside of the Move controller locks onto a target, and generous automatic snapping makes it simple to get a hold of the right plane, even with a few rudderless jets located in a confined area. Even with tight and responsive controls, you’ll still need a steady hand to rack up the big points. Luckily, if you don“t plan to jump on the Move bandwagon, or you“re a bit shaky, you can still play with a standard DualShock 3 gamepad. This is particularly handy for the new four-player multiplayer mode, as it doesn’t necessitate the need to own several Move devices.

Flight Control HD is out on September 15 on the PlayStation 3, so keep an eye out for our full review soon.

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PlayStation 3 | Flight Control HD First Look” was posted by Dan Chiappini on Thu, 09 Sep 2010 23:57:22 -0700

Xbox 360 | Lucha Fury First Look

If there’s a lesson to be learned from Punchers Impact’s brawler, it’s this: Never steal a wrestler’s energy drink.

According to developer Punchers Impact, masked Lucha Libre wrestlers suffer from a terrible curse: energy drink addiction. It’s no wonder then that a sudden shortage of their favorite beverage makes them a little more ticked off and eager to track down the mysterious evildoer behind it. This leads the wrestlers on a whistle-stop tour of the world, where they begin to uncover a worldwide conspiracy that somehow involves chickens. It’s a ludicrous setup, yet given the over-the-top nature of Lucha Libre, it’s a highly appropriate one.

All of that travelling also gives the wrestlers the opportunity to indulge in their second favorite thing after energy drinks: kicking butt. It’s your job to take control of one of the wrestlers, guide him around beating up locals, and discover what’s happened to the world’s energy drink supply. Gameplay is standard 2D brawler fare, similar to the classic Streets of Rage series. You move toward the right of the screen, beating up anyone who stands in your way. Up to four players can play cooperatively locally or online.

There are three main areas to fight through: Asia, Mexico, and New York, and each has a nighttime mode. The visuals are highly stylized, with bright colors and a cel-shaded look that could have come straight from a Saturday morning cartoon. Enemies share the same cartoon look, with masked wrestlers, possessed locals, and giant pinatas all making appearances along the way. Fighting is a simple affair, with three buttons for jumping, kicking, and punching. Repeatedly punching or kicking an enemy executes different moves, and you can combine the commands to pull off simple combos.

Of course, because you’re playing as a wrestler, you have a host of over-the-top wrestling moves at your disposal as well. These moves are slightly trickier to pull off than the standard ones, requiring use of the triggers and the help of another player. They’re pretty funny to watch, though, particularly when accompanied by the screams of the raging wrestlers. In addition to melee moves, you can pick up objects, such as trash cans, and throw them at enemies. There are also the standard red exploding barrels, which can be hurled at enemies to set them on fire.

To keep things interesting, short platforming sections and boss battles break up the brawler action. One area we were shown required the wrestlers to leap over exploding barrels being hurled down a hill. Once at the top of the hill, they had to battle a muscular barrel thrower by using the barrel thrower’s own projectiles against him. Other sections had wrestlers battling endless waves of enemies while trying to knock down a wall and fighting against a giant pinata. Aside from the enjoyment of wrestling, fighting your way through each level nets you a number of rewards. You can unlock new characters and bonus areas, as well as new costumes that you can show off online.

Though Lucha Fury is based on a well-established genre, the numerous comic touches sprinkled throughout make it stand out from the competition. The unique visuals are also worthy of note, with the cartoonlike art style and chicken-infused violence all adding to its charm. Though it’s early days for Punchers Impact’s first game, from what we’ve seen so far, it’s looking to be a unique addition to the brawler genre. Look out for it when it hits Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network, and PC in early 2011.

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Xbox 360 | Lucha Fury First Look” was posted by Mark Walton on Wed, 08 Sep 2010 06:29:05 -0700

Xbox 360 | Outland First Look

This mash-up of genres wears its influences on its sleeve, but it’s a very pretty sleeve nonetheless.

PAX may not quite be on par with E3 when it comes to major game announcements, but it…s still hard to get through the weekend without seeing a few new titles in the headlines. One of the more interesting reveals from the show thus far has been Ubisoft…s unveiling of Outland, an artistic platformer from the developer behind Super Stardust HD. Outland combines retro 2D platforming with a number of elements from shoot-’em-ups–most noticeably a light-dark dynamic similar to Ikaruga. After hearing about the game yesterday, we took a walk over to the Ubisoft booth, hung a left at HAWX 2, and took a look at the demo being shown for this upcoming downloadable title.

If what they say about first impressions is true, Outland is certainly in good shape. Its slick art design combines stark black platforms with vivid, colorful background scenery. The level we saw had a definite jungle theme to it, with roots curling from the bottom of floating platforms and giant spider creatures skittering along on the ground.

The story diving the game is a simple one: one day you awaken from a strange dream, notice that things around you aren…t quite right, and set out on a quest to speak with a shaman who can heal your ills. This sets the stage for a jungle world overrun by mysterious creatures and monsters. Along with the aforementioned spiders, we saw an imposing boss figure named the Golem. This one-eyed creature towered over the protagonist, wielding a giant club and looking not entirely unlike one of the bosses from Shadow of the Colossus.

What seems like it will ultimately set Outland apart from other pretty 2D platformers is the light-dark dynamic that has been heavily inspired (to put it politely) by the classic arcade shooter Ikaruga. Essentially, there are enemies, platforms, and hazards in the world that can be either neutral, light, or dark. You quickly unlock the ability to fully align yourself with either your light side (a pale blue) or dark side (a deep red). In terms of combat, you can only attack enemies of the opposite color (attacking same-colored enemies will wind up hurting you), while absorbing flying projectiles of the same color will heal instead of harm you. The game encourages clever exploration beyond the required path, often making certain moving platforms usable only when you’re aligned with that color.

The shoot-’em-up comparisons don’t end at Ikaruga’s light-dark system, either. A lot of areas in the game will unleash what feels very much like a top-down shooter’s idea of “bullet hell.” You’ll see waves of flying blips that are actually harmful projectiles. These often come out of the ceiling in semicircles of alternating color, forcing you to both quickly take cover under platforms and rapidly switch sides to keep from getting hurt. Having not played the game, we can’t say how difficult this will be in practice, but developer Housemarque assures us that it’s keeping the difficulty accessible for casual players. These bullet hell areas, then, are more an optional challenge for the hardcore players to defeat in order to earn bonus items and collectibles.

All in all, Outland certainly looks like an interesting platformer. It may wear its influences on its sleeve, but the combination of different genres is at least creative in its own right. We’re hoping to get a chance to play it soon to see just how these different elements come together. Keep an eye out for more coverage.

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Xbox 360 | Outland First Look” was posted by Shaun McInnis on Sat, 04 Sep 2010 18:06:37 -0700