Let me just get this off my chest: I wanted to hate Bulletstorm. I really did. And from the moment the game’s relatively short campaign mode began right up until it’s disappointing ending, I felt like Bulletstorm wanted me to hate it too. In fairness, there really is so much to dislike: it’s crass, obnoxious and altogether pretty derivative. So why the hell do I like it so much?
The answer, unfortunately, is not immediately clear. As Bulletstorm’s relatively brief campaign begins to unfold; we’re treated to perhaps the weakest opening hour of any game in recent memory. An overly long tutorial sequence, laced with unskippable in-game cut-scenes and pointless quick-time events, dominates any first impressions the game might leave. This, coupled with an extremely slow progession of weapon unlocks means one could easily mistake Bulletstorm for a terrible, terrible game.
Then, suddenly, everything falls into place. The game’s “kill with skill” mechanic is introduced - albeit justified with some seriously contrived logic – and everything begins to make sense. Though it presents itself as some generic, run-and-gun first person shooter, Bulletstorm really is anything but.Continue →
And we’re back! After an extended Christmas break Chronic Reload has finally returned to once again cover the week’s biggest news in the games industry.
Quite a big week we’ve had! There hasn’t been much in the way of new releases, with Dead Space 2 pretty much dominating the release schedule. The big news this week is Sony’s announcement of their new handheld, codenamed the NGP (next-generation portable). Details are still pretty scarce, but the device looks set to change the face of handheld gaming when it’s released later this year. We also got some bad news from Disney interactive, as the developer announced another slew of layoffs, and some good news from Sony, as their platformer-creating title Little Big Planet 2 was announced to have topped sales charts worldwide.
The successor to Sony’s first handheld has finlly been announced. After months of speculation and rumours, the entertainment giant revealed the NGP in Tokyo earlier today. Engadget have gone into considerable depth in covering the device’s vast array of new features, which include a rear-facing trackpad, twin analogue sticks, a 5 inch touch screen, front and rear facing cameras and motion-sensing technology as seen in the Playstation Move. Though the 3DS will have a considerable head-start in sales, it’s sure to be neck and neck this Christmas as Sony and Nintendo face off with their next-gen handhelds. Expect full coverage of the both launches here.
While Dead Space 2 may have been bar far the biggest software launch of the week, it’s PC release on Steam got off to a false start. Forum threads were full of gamers complaining that their Steam copy of DS2 would not launch, though it appears this bug has since been remedied. EA have also announced the first batch of downloadable content for the title. Details are scarce as of now, but it seems the content will release only on Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Network.
Sadly, Disney this week laid off “between 30% and half” of its 700-strong gaming development division this week. Reported by CNBC, the team responsible for Epic Mickey were given notice of the layoffs after the company recorded disappointing sales for 2010. The November departure of Graham Hopper, a driving force behind the recent rise of Disney’s gaming division, can’t have helped either.
This week also saw a couple of new release date announcements from Take 2. Both LA Noire and Duke Nukem Forever were confirmed for May of this year. The Duke is hitting North America on the 3rd of May and releases worldwide on the 6th, while LA Noire will launch on the 17th and the 20th in these areas respectively. Both are set to be particularily promising titles this summer.
Nintendo’s 3DS hanheld was officially dated and priced on Wednesday of last week. It’s set to retail at around €250, and will be hitting Irish shores on March 25th. With a fairly impressive launch lineup, as well as the current obsession of 3D, the hardware launch should be one of the biggest this year. Only time will tell which of this year’s big handheld launches will come out on top.
And that’s it for this week! See you back here next Wednesday for another weekly news roundup.Continue →
Today, Sony ended months of speculation, guesswork and rumours by announcing what is so far known only by its codename: the NGP. We’ve got the first batch of screenshots of Sony’s new handheld, as well as all the vital statistics and specs you could possibly need. So, without further ado, here’s everything we know so far about the NGP. (more…)Continue →
For a while now I’ve been worrying more and more about the movement of the games industry towards the casual market. The existence of this trend is pretty much indisputable nowadays, with the introduction of the Kinect and the Move lending themselves all too well to that family-friendly genre of “casual” games. Gone are the days when games were too difficult, too inaccessible to merit a broad appeal. For a growing number of gamers, the opposite is in fact the case: games are becoming too easy.
It’s perhaps as a direct result of this phenomenon that I instantly loved Super Meat Boy. Compared with the current norms of playability and accessibility, SMB stands alone as a tremendously, brilliantly, sublimely hard game. There’s no hand-holding, no “auto-steer”, no checkpoints and definitely no Kinect support; there’s just you, the controller and a whole load of excellently-designed platforming levels to play through.
Super Meat Boy’s premise is a simple one: you play as the lovable-though-slightly-grotesque Meat Boy, as he tries to rescue his girlfriend Bandage Girl (who, as the game’s own blurb helpfully describes, happens to be made of bandages). Her kidnapper is the nefarious Dr Fetus, a character for whom the word “prick” was undoubtedly invented. The game sees Meat Boy navigating through levels filled with rotating blades, homing missile launchers, plenty of lava and many unidentifiable monsters. The levels are short, and you can expect to die many, many times before finishing some of the tougher ones. Despite its difficulty, the game is fun, satisfying and above all completely fair.
The game’s graphics are basic. Its cutscenes are low on animation, but still succeed in conveying both hilarious and touching moments with ease. It should be clear by now, but this is a game that depends more on its pure gameplay than flashy visuals or beautifully rendered cutscenes. At times, Super Meat Boy apes the visual style of retro platforms, and this it does perfectly.
Super Meat Boy’s soundtrack is particularly noteworthy. Each world is distinctly themed, and the in-game music plays an integral role in shaping this theme. The music is a brilliantly intense mix of metal, funk, rock and some retro midi stuff. I’d almost say the game is worth buying for the soundtrack alone, with such tracks as the forest boss theme and the cotton alley theme adding so much to an already well-realised game world.
The core conceit of SMB’s gameplay mechanic lives or dies by its controls. In order for a game to rely so heavily on pinpoint-accurate jumps and moment-perfect timing, it needs to have a control scheme that is both intuitive and tighter than tight. Luckily, Super Meat Boy delivers both in spades. I died literally thousands of times playing this game, and not once did I ever feel that my death was the “game’s fault”. The controls are among the best I’ve ever encountered.
As a whole, the gameplay is devilishly addictive. All levels must be completed in a single life, and after you die you’re instantly brought back to the start of the level for another go. When you eventually do complete a level, you’re presented with a replay of all of your attempts played together at once. This is a nice touch that only adds to the immense rush of satisfaction gained from completing any of the games toughest levels.
The game boasts a huge level of replayability, with “dark world” versions of each level adding an even more difficult challenge to those who complete the main story. User-created levels are being added to both the PC and Xbox versions as time goes on, and owners of the PC version will soon be able to create and share their own levels with the new level creator and portal. Add to this the many unlockable characters (each with their own unique abilities) as well as the collectable bandages hidden across the game world, and you’re left with a game that wont get old any time soon.
So maybe Super Meat Boy isn’t for everyone. The game requires a level of dexterity (not to mention patience) that probably wont be found in plentiful supply in casual gamers. Let’s be honest though, they were never the target market here. If you’re looking for a family-friendly, pick-up-and-play, “hey grandma you should try this” type of game, avoid SMB at all costs. However, if you’re looking for a fun, funny, challenging and infinitely rewarding experience, look no further than Super Meat Boy.
Super Meat Boy is available now to download on PC and Xbox 360Continue →
Ahoy! It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for another Chronic Reload Weekly News Roundup. It’s been another week of rumours and promises, with a few bitchy transgressions thrown in for good measure. So without further ado, let’s get to it!Continue →
So here we are again! We’re back with another weekly news roundup, taking a look through all of this week’s major developments in the world of gaming. It was never going to live up to last week’s huge software and hardware launches, but the past seven days have seen somepretty big releases nonetheless. We’ve also had some rumours confirmed, and a few more created. In the run up to the Spike VGAs, as well as Black Friday, publishers are clamouring to build hype for the usual deluge of reveals and announcements we’ll undoubtedly receive over the coming weeks.
There were two big game releases this week. The first was Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, the immediate sequel to last year’s Assassin’s Creed 2. The game bridges the gap between AC2′s Renaissance Italy and whatever era the series will next deal with by offering a “what happened next” account of events taking place immediately after Assassin’s Creed 2. The game has been widely acknowledged as the best AC installment so far; no mean feat for the third in a series of excellent titles.
The second big release of the week was Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. With the past few NFS games failing to perform well in both reviews and sales, it was refreshing to see the franchise returning to its roots, providing the old “cops and robbers” gameplay modes that originally defined the series. The game has reviewed very well overall, although it’s hard to imagine it selling all that well once the long-awaited Gran Turismo 5 is released later this week.
So what else has been happening in the industry? Well…Continue →
Over the past month I’ve been twice to the Game On exhibition in the Ambassador. Before you jump to conclusions: no, it’s not so good that I had to go twice. I brought my little brother along after attending the first time with Heber, more for my bro’s benefit than my own. ANYWAY! The only real question to answer here is whether or not Game On is any good. So… is it?
The answer, quite simply, is yes. Game On offers an extensive overview of the history of gaming, featuring a good amount of software and hardware to try out around the exhibition floor. I’ve a few little thoughts about the whole thing, so in no particular order I’ll be listing them here.
- Steel Battalion is an awesome game. Two joysticks, full foot pedals and a whole array of buttons and switches make this original Xbox release an incredibly immersive experience. Takes getting used to, but utterly worth the effort.
- I finally got to play Rez. It’s as trippy and unique as I expected. I particularly liked how rhythm is implemented into the gameplay. Good stuff.
- Also finally got to play Uncharted 2. I don’t own a Playstation 3; this game is the main reason why I’m so ashamed of this fact. The graphics are really really pretty, nice animations and character models. Didn’t get a whole lot of time with it, but I saw enough to convince me that I definitely need a PS3.
- Going back and playing Goldeneye on the N64 reminded me just how much influence that game had on the first person shooter genre. At the same time, I was reminded of how much shooters have improved and moved on since then.
- The placement of Doom next to Half Life 2 was perfect.
- Games like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text adventure and the Secret of Monkey Island pointed a huge finger at the steady decline of humour in games. Shame really.
- Played a bit of Ocarina of Time. Really amazed me how ahead of its time that game was.
- Played Metal Slug on the Neo Geo. One of the most intensely fun gaming experiences I’ve had. That is a seriously, seriously good game. Nice seeing how it’s influenced modern titles too.
- Several versions of the original pong served mainly to make me thankful for the progress games have made since then. Pong is shit.
- Frogger remains as addictive as it is god-damn hard
- The asteroids cabinet display is incredible.
- Pa-rappa the Rapper: paving the way for the multi-billion dollar rhythm game industry. Plus I like the art style.
- The Dreamcast controller was actually really good.
While there’s a fairly large selection of modern titles at Game On, I tended mostly to avoid them. I guess if I really wanted to play them, I’d go home and do so for free.
I spent the majority of my time filling in the gaps of my gaming history, playing though the early home consoles and cabinets. I was struck by the “pick up and play” nature of the retro games: within seconds you’re sucked in and fully versed in the game’s mechanics. The games are fast-paced and often fiendishly difficult, they test your patience as well as your skill.
These classics stood in stark contrast with the modern games on show. You struggle with complex menus and unintuitive control schemes while the gameplay plods along around you. I suppose this reflects the changing nature of the industry, as gaming moved from one-off, quick play arcades to the more drawn out, permanent existence within the family home. Still, since revisiting all the old classics at Game On I’ve found myself longing for the bygone days of rapid, intense bursts of sheer playability. Hmm…
Anyway that pretty much sums up my experience(s) of Game On. Midweek tickets are €5 euro an hour, which I have no problem saying is absolutely worth it for anyone interested in gaming and its history. The exhibition runs till January in the Ambassador Theatre, Dublin. I’d almost say it’s worth heading along for Steel Battalion alone.
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Weekly News Roundup! This is a new weekly column on Chronic Reload that takes a look back over the past week of gaming news, highlighting the biggest stories and newest trends of the industry. We want your views on all these stories; if you’ve got something to say, leave a comment below!
10th – 17th of November 2010
It’s been a huge week for gaming launches. This week saw the European launch of Microsoft’s Kinect hardware, as well as the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops. Both of these titles sold incredibly well; a seriously, record-breakingly, “that can’t be right” kind of well.
Microsoft have announced Kinect’s first sales figures, and the numbers are pretty damn impressive: 1 million units sold in ten days. Microsoft have upped their projected sales to 5 million by year’s end; at this rate it looks like that figure might even be a little pessimistic.
Call of Duty: Black Ops has made its name as the biggest entertainment launch in history, shifting a ridiculous 5.6 million copies on its first day of release. This breaks the record set last year by Modern Warfare 2, which sold 4.7 million copies in its first 24 hours. Kotaku posted a nice little image that shows just under 3 million simultaneous online players just after the game’s launch. Crazy, crazy numbers people.
The week also brought a few smaller stories:
Polyphony Digital announced yet another release date for Gran Turismo 5 ; it’s looking like they might actually make it this time.
Viacom announced that they were selling off Harmonix, a move that may well signal the beginning of the end for rhythm games in their current form.
A rumour started milling around that Microsoft plans to announce Kinect Support in an upcoming Gears of War game (we don’t know if it’s Gears 3, or even if it’s true at all). I simultaneously hate and love this.
Nintendo baffled everyone by attempting to trademark some of Ice Cube’s lyrics. Looks like you’ll have to think twice before shouting “It’s on like Donkey Kong™!!!” every time you play your Wii now.
And that just about does it for the first Chronic Reload Weekly News Roundup. So what do you think? Will Kinect’s sales hold for the rest of the year, or was it just an early spike? Has COD reached a critical mass, or is the series still just taking off?
We’ll back back next Wednesday with a new batch of gaming news. Till then, hope you’re all “on like Donkey Kong™”… Whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.Continue →
The European launch of the Xbox 360 Kinect is nearly here. Next Wednesday, Irish gamers will finally get their hands on Microsoft’s “revolutionary” new hardware, with its makers anxiously looking on hoping for high early adoption rates. With a marketing budget exceeding that of the Xbox 360 itself, Kinect represents Microsoft’s biggest and boldest move since it launched the original Xbox all those years ago.
So is it any good? Right now the answer depends entirely upon who you ask. More and more reviews have begun to trickle out from gaming’s most trusted sources, with verdicts tending to vary greatly from source to source. Kinect’s best reviews have labeled the device as revolutionary, magical and “a joy to use”. The worst: “limited”, with “plenty of growing up to do”.
Somewhat predictably, mainstream media have been blown away by the new system. USA Today drew that old Minority Report comparison we’ve been hearing since Kinect was first announced, heralding the device as both “surreal” and “marvellous”. Perhaps the most enthusiastic comments were made by the New York Times, which promised a “crazy, magical, omigosh rush the first time you try the Kinect”.
With a launch line-up aimed at a very specific (read: casual) market, it’s easy not to get too excited by Microsoft’s latest effort. This coupled with the device’s prohibitively high price will lead many gamers to ignore Kinect entirely, at least for the time being. However, with Christmas just around the corner it’s hard to imagine Kinect’s initial sales as being anything other than perfectly healthy.
Kinect’s weak launch line-up does little to convey just how much Microsoft’s new motio-tracking camera is truly capable of. From here on it’s up to both first and third-party publishers to release games that live up to and exceed all expectations. Though the reviews vary greatly, virtually all arrive at the same conclusion: Kinect has enormous potential, and only time will tell just how “revolutionary” this new hardware will prove to be.
Chronic Reload will eventually review Kinect… maybe if there’s a pricedrop or if we visit a beautiful family who have one… and a white house with lots of spaceContinue →
Timed to roughly coincide with the release of Microsoft’s Kinect peripheral, today sees the release of yet another dashboard update for the Xbox 360. Users signing into Xbox Live will automatically be promted to download the new update, which adds a small selection of new features and improvements to the NXE dashboard.
For Irish users, the changes are pretty unsubstantial. Unlike North American users, who will from today enjoy ESPN support and revamped Zune and Netflix usage, Irish Xbox owners will continue to lag behind in terms of features and services.
The changes that we will see aren’t all that exciting. Probably the most notable improvement is the audio quality of voice chat, which has received a long -overdue upgrade. The user interfaces for both Xbox Live Marketplace and Gamertag creation have also received some attention, as have the dashboard’s virtual keyboard and the family settings functions.
Obviously, the whole point of this update was to enable Kinect support on as many Xboxes as possible. The upgrades and changes we’re receiving, though somewhat helpful, are nothing more than an afterthought as far as Microsoft are concerned. Still, it’s nice to feel like my gaming experience is slowly but surely improving with each update. Now, if only Games on Demand didn’t suck…
Full Details on http://majornelson.com/Continue →