Isometric twin-stick shooters are one of the most common and pervasive sub-genres around at the moment. After Geometry Wars refined Robotron's classic control scheme and made a mint, absolutely everyone fancies a piece of the simple, tasty and usually completely unfulfilling pie.
However, just because these shooters are everywhere doesn't mean that they have to lack imagination, vision or artistic flair. Two fantastic examples of were readily available to play at Eurogamer Expo's Indie Arcade - and they stood tall amongst the biggest AAA projects that took over Earls Court last weekend despite both being developed by a one-man team. If anyone tells you that Indie games are just pretentious, arty nonsense... just point them in the direction of the massive explosions, sweet mechanics and unstoppable firepower!
When massive cargo ships fall prey to alien infestation, there's only one team of armoured meatheads worth calling. The Pineapple Smash Crew. These leathernecks are armed for extreme combat, decked out with the most advanced grenade technology known to man and are very, very adorable. You can blame the isometric stylish voxel visuals for that.Click here to learn more about these adrenaline-fueled Indie superstars!
Let's cut the pre-match team talk and walk straight out on the pitch to face this week's digital opponents, shall we? Lining up in goal for the enemy is a game about racing through a 3D world in a speedboat, avoiding the motorised seafarer's most common enemy: the dinosaur.
Sharks also pop up, but sadly they're not a patch on the Megalodon and this doesn't star a rampantly heterosexual John Barrowman suggesting he chew out the nether regions of a wooden co-star.
Anyway, you can choose to either race or, if you're ambitious, build and share a track. Racing is very easy to pick up, but difficult to master, with the arrow keys controlling your craft and the R key restarting should you screw things up.
Before each race, you can see the track being 'built' in front of you, providing a quick chance to plot a course in an attempt to beat your best time, which can then be shared as a “can you do better?” challenge on Twitter, Facebook or via the old school method of copying and pasting a special link to wherever you choose.
Along your way, you can get your speed boosted with handily placed chevrons, crash into the snapping maws of the aforementioned sharks or have the dinosaurs sweeping, bobbing heads knock you off course.
Even without the addition of the social media thing, it'd be addictive stuff, but with it there's a massive incentive to keep plugging away and shaving seconds off your time. And being browser-based, it's very accessible.
So for this reason, we're going to award a totally pointless and irrelevant Game of the Week award to Super Springbreak Speedboat Hero SD.Click here to read more...
The review score itself is of debatable usefulness and importance. It is a divisive instrument: some people love the concise, instantaneous quantification of value, others detest it. I would like to approach that from a slightly different perspective, that is to say that for the reviewer it can be much the same. Assigning a numerical stamp of judgement often forces us to focus in more on a rather binary balancing of positives and negatives. The role of the consumer is such that it essentially embodies a very binary decision: Am I going to spend my time and money on this game or not? Using our own criteria to either warn or recommend can be further refined by consideration of a scalable value judgement.
The converse argument is that review scores can often promote lazy writing. An unfinished review can hide behind the significance of a numerical value and hope that in bringing the two together whatever substance that has been unable to convey through words is conveyed by this generally accepted form. Problems arise, however, when the two seem not to fit properly, often as a result of feeling on the reader's part that the reviewer has not quite justified their score in the main body text.
That happens in every medium, though, so why are games journalists seemingly more positive about their medium than others...Click here to read more...
A virtual car careened around a twisting track... controlled by nothing save the tinest movements of my eyes. Retinal biometry is nothing new, but UK gaming charity SpecialEffect had brought along their latest software and IR tech to this year's Eurogamer expo. It was instantly responsive without being wildly twitchy. Calibration only took scant seconds. As I sat motionless in my chair while attempting to add lap times to a Guinness world record attempt, I started to appreciate - if not fully understand - just how important innovations like this are to those with disabilities. Manipulating a computer is one thing as it unlocks the entire world, and being able to get involved with videogames provides an entirely new arena of social interaction and a playing field that's becoming more level with each passing breakthrough.
SpecialEffect has pledged to continually push the boundaries of accessible gaming technology and software... but how do they actually operate? What do they do with their technological marvels after they're completed deep within their Oxfordshire R&D centre? Will they licence their technology for profit - or is there something more exciting going on? I was keen to know more, and I sat down with founder Dr. Mick Dongegan to chat about the past, present and future of the charity. As it turns out, their goal is set a benchmark, a technological breadcrumb trail and beacon for other companies to follow and to actively help them make our games more accessible. To show that it can be done - and then to explain how to anyone who will listen. For nothing. For everyone.
Click here to continue reading our expose about this sensational charity >>
Regretting not finishing Final Fantasy XIII? Well that probably depends on whether you managed to forgive the linearity and heavily automated combat to push on and finish, or on how adept you are at finding HD cutscene compilations on torrent sites to enjoy what was a cracking story along with some generation-leading CGI.
Either way you better get cracking because there’s every chance that you’ll want to return to Cocoon and Gran Pulse next year with this sequel. Don't worry about your FFX-2 flashbacks; no Dresspheres have been sighted, yet.
Our demo began at the start of Episode 2, dropping the party into a section of a city in somewhere on Cocoon. There's little in the way of scene setting, but they appear from a portal and seem surprised to be on Cocoon. The rather small party consists of Serah -sister of the moody, alluring and enigmatic Lightning- and new boy Noel, who looks like an older version of Sora from the Kingdom Hearts series. He’s all spiky hair and brightly coloured JRPG clothes from the genero-character 3000 distributor. Sadly, there's no appearance from the other XIII members today. We’re not sure what Snow will think about Serah hanging around with...this guy. To be honest, he's not that annoying, not compared to that brat Hope.
Final Fantasy fans, well the girls at least, prepare to squeal with delight (although if any of you do it down my ear again at an Expo, shit will go down), as the Moogles are back and one of them is a member of your party, Kupo. This flying cat/bear/toy abomination flies around with your party and can be used to scan areas for hidden items with a push of R2. This scan will also initiate combat with any nearby hidden enemies.Click here to read more...
Terry Cavanagh, the pioneering independent developer behind smash hit VVVVVV, confused and bewildered the Eurogamer crowds with his new experimental project. At A Distance turned legions of players away after a few frustrating minutes of bashing their heads behind the inexplicable, impenetrable experience... but those who lingered by its two monitors eventually discovered a gaming masterpiece that's frankly beyond comparison. Cavanagh was loathe to give anything away, but discovering exactly what At A Distance actually is proves to be just as rewarding as playing the game itself.
In fact, calling it a "game" is a bit of a misnomer. At A Distance is a piece of interactive art that's primarily designed as an installation for expos, galleries and exhibitions. Frankly, it deserves to stand tall next to the old masters in any art gallery as a testament to the fact that examples of our medium are capable, nay, deserving of being considered as fine art - and it's the Indie scene who will deliver it. Unfortunately, this also means that it's uniquely unsuitable to ever be released at retail.
So here's the problem. At A Distance is all about discovery; all about working out exactly what you're supposed to be doing as well as how to do it. Knowing anything about it will ruin it forever. Those of you comitted to gaming evolution and excellence should make a beeline for it at this year's Eurogamer Expo, and I'll keep you posted about where you can find it over the coming months. For those who want to know - who must know - then read on... in the certainty that your knowledge will destroy an indie gem.Don't click here. Whatever you do.
Eurogamer Expo has never really been about breaking news or hot press events. Instead it's all about giving members of the public hands-on time with upcoming games and recent releases. You are the most important people, in a very real way this one's for you. We get to voice our opinion all of the time, over the last few days we thought we'd let the Expo's attendees take the stage as well. We took to the show floor in amongst spare moments, gauging opinion and finding out what the crowds made of the games on offer.
We asked a few questions to the guys and girls we spoke too asking them which games they were excited for, what their highlights of the show had been, what they did and didn't like about this year's show and what they thought of this year's centrepiece: OnLive. We'll have our own write-ups, previews and a massive OnLive blowout coming up very soon, but for the moment here are a bunch of quick quotes from the showfloor of Eurogamer Expo 2011.Click here to read more...
Remember when Pro Evolution Soccer was the standard by which we judged the beautiful game in videogame form? In the early years of the twenty-first century, PES was a finely-tuned masterpiece, the closest you could come to actual footie without a pitch and ball. In fact, here at Dealspwn we maintain that Pro Evo Soccer 4 is the greatest football game ever made. Regardless of FIFA's technical merits, it can't quite capture the magic of PES 4.
That said, it's a vastly different landscape now. FIFA is top dog, and PES now resembles an ailing star struggling to keep up with its younger, better looking counterpart. However, ass Matt rightly pointed out in his preview from GamesCom, just because FIFA might be ruling the roost at the moment doesn't mean PES is exempt from the genre. Both offer their own take on football; it just usually comes down to which we enjoy the most.
And you know what? While I've been enjoying FIFA's particular delights for the past two years - having once been a PES diehard - hands-on with the latest build of PES 2012 at the Eurogamer Expo yesterday has opened my eyes to an astonishing fact. Has PES finally caught back up with FIFA?
You can’t go anywhere without bumping into a zombie these days; tropical islands, large American cities, the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham… but one thing I took away from my visit to GAMEfest last week was that the undead are going down. In fact, UK developer Double Six are so adamant about it that they have made it very clear in the title of their upcoming multiplatform release; All Zombies Must Die!
With Associate Producer Aaron Yeung beside me (kitted out with some awesome make-up to look like one of the undead minions) I was guided through a hands-on demonstration of the upcoming twin-stick shooter. If you have a feeling of déjà vu about this one so far you need not worry; Double Six were responsible for another downloadable zombie title called Burn Zombie Burn, and while their previous release was more of an arena based game that had a very Gauntlet-esque feel to it, AZMD! takes what made BZB an enjoyable game and expands the experience by adding some RPG-lite elements into the mix, along with 4-player local co-op (no online with this one, but we’ll get to that later on.)
Double Six have aimed to make AZMD! a bigger experience than their previous release, and they done so by expanding the play area from a fixed screen to larger, explorable areas that connect together to form the town of Deadhill. The game has also been given a plot that matches the cartoony art style; for example, the lead character of Jack loves the fact he is in a zombie apocalypse, but he is also very aware he is in a computer game and spends most of the game trying to convince everyone else. This includes his ex-girlfriend Rachel, another playable character, who can’t stand being around Jack but really has no choice thanks to the undead claiming the brains of almost every other living person. The duo eventually comes across another pair, Brian the mad scientist and Luxo the alien, with whom they combine forces to take on the seemingly never-ending hordes of zombies.Click here to read more...
I'm sorry to say this, but most female leads in video gaming are generally rubbish. If they aren't so utterly bland that they're virtually interchangeable with a male lead, they're instead hyper-sexualised. Female role models in gaming are few and far between. Peach is a helpless Stockholm Syndrome sufferer, a perennial victim and simpering girl. Lara has had her entire gaming history built upon the marketing appeal of her rounded assets. Samus played upon the notion that male and female leads were completely interchangeable and her gender was quite literally an afterthought. Unlike Nelly Furtado, Rayne actually eats men, and the less said about Bayonetta the better.
But that's not to say that there aren't well rounded (no, not in the Lara sense of things) female role models out there, it's just that you usually have to dig on past the mainstream fluff to get there. April Ryan (Dreamfall) and Jade (Beyond Good and Evil) are two figures that crop up regularly when such discussions arise, but for me there's another: Cate Archer.
Find why Archer's adventures are so special after the break...
The first game was a surprise hit from the Vigil Games team. Despite being an original creation, the world felt so lived in and like it had a deep past with plenty of scope for further stories, making for a world we’re eager to dive back into.
For the sequel, you play as a different Horseman of the apocalypse, Death. Rather than joining your bother War, immediately after the events of the first game, which would have been a great starting point given the tantalising conclusion, your adventure will run alongside that of your brother's. This parallel story may throw up the odd familiar face, but we're told to expect plenty of new locations, which is definitely better than going through all the old ones with everyone telling you that you've just missed your brother.
The gameplay demo we witnessed showed off the combat, which even at this early stage looks like a huge improvement over the first game. War favoured a very powerful approach, whereas Death seems to have a much more fluid and agile style that makes his brother seem even more cumbersome. Death's main weapon is his signature scythe, but he can split it into two blades to change styles on the fly mid-combo. Attacks are slick and fast, more in the style of God of War’s Kratos than War. He also has a hammer for powerful attacks and we’re told there will be a lot more weapons to come, many more than you’d find in the original Darksiders.Click here to read more...
Halo is a Bungie game no longer. The beloved studio has parted ways with its greatest achievement, setting sail with Activision for a new adventure. As such, Halo has taken up residence with step-father Microsoft, who've set up a brand new home for it, 343 Studios. Made up of some of the industry's sharpest tools, it's a fitting place to begin an all new trilogy and take Halo to the next level.
But with a new home comes a new beginning for John-117. The story picks up two years following the climactic events of Halo 3, but should the fourth game follow in the footsteps of its predecessors, or a forge a path all its own?
While a select few weapons in the Halo armory - the original Magnum, Battle Rifle and Sniper Rifle, among others - feature a scoped reticule, Halo is predominantly a hip-fire shooter. It's no bad thing, and Halo has built its ever-evolving, adaptable gameplay style on the ability to wade into the fray, firing in each and every direction while leaping in the air or strafing right and left.Click here to read more...
Gaming has a bogeyman at the moment; a leering spectre that's often described as "evil" or "unethical" by hordes of disgruntled gamers. I'm talking, of course, about Activision. Bobby Kotick's company has become synonymous with all that's cynical in our industry, and you don't have to wait long for plenty of aggrieved comments to appear on any article or news announcement that features their games.
But we're not sure that this anger and resentment is entirely fair. In fact, we're certain that Activision, at least in this last year, has inconsistently demonstrated a level of consideration and conscience that puts much of their competition to shame. Over the next few hundred words, we're going to explore exactly how our current perceptions of Activision's public image came about... and whether it's actually deserved. We're going to defend the devil.
We need to start at the beginning: the original nightmare that irrevocably tainted Activision's public image. I won't patronise you by rehashing the full details of the sensational firing of West and Zampella from Infinity Ward (you can read the full details here), but there was no excuse for swamping the studio with armed security guards and imposing a "climate of fear." The way in which Activision handled the situation was genuinely horrible - and they deserve to be taken to task for turning their studio into a prison camp - but the scandalous nature of the proceedings did somewhat blind us to the reasons behind it. The why.Click here to continue reading Jon's controversial take on Activision's last year...
In the movies, whenever two characters with towering pride find themselves embroiled in a slightly too public bust up they invariably arrange to meet in a less visible place, later on, where it's just the two of them and they can settle their differences like men. Of course, one of them always brings friends along to the party, resulting in an utter hiding for the poor soul who kept to his word. In somewhat similar fashion, Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is looking to mark something of a triumphant return for the little purple dragon. Only this time, he's brought a whole bunch of friends along with him.
You may not have heard of Skylanders yet, but by the end of the year Activision is rather hoping that, if you're a parent at least, Skylanders will be all you're hearing about. Combining cutesy action-platforming gameplay with tangible collectible toys, Skylanders represents a big project for Activision. While most adult eyes in the gaming world are going to be rigidly fixed upon the battle between Call of Duty and Battlefield, Activision are hoping that they can begin to corner the market for younger gamers in a way that's not really been seen since Pikachu and co. arrived on the seen last millennium.
'The aim behind Skylanders is to bring the two spheres of collectible toys and video games together,' explains Toys For Bob's Paul Reiche. 'The way that works is that you put your collectible figurine onto a 'Portal of Power' and it pulls that character into the gameworld. You can then play as that character in the game world and anything you do - experience you earn, abilities you unlock or treasure you collect - gets saved permanently to the toy's memory. It's completely automatic and you an use those characters across platforms on Wii, 360, PS3, PC, 3DS or anywhere the game is showing up and your character is there.'Click here to read more...
'Do you like to watch? Yeah, I bet you do, watching away, too scared to get involved yourself. You make me sick!' That's what you'll be saying to anyone who plays The King's League, a game in which you play an elderly monarch looking to find an heir to his throne, a task he is looking to complete by inviting brave young things to battle it out for his vicarious pleasure.
The voyeuristic patriarch of this kingdom needs first to recruit units that will serve him and then train them up. Over time you'll get more units coming through of different types – soldiers, archers and so on – all of which need training in one of six attributes.
You have to pay them all a monthly salary, so you can't just hire indiscriminately. After a few days the King's League tournament begins, where you can pit your jolly japesters against those of a rival, let's say, nobleman from the area (no idea, just sounds like it could make sense).
Battle soon commences and you just sit back and do nothing, hoping the troops you've selected have enough of what it takes to win the day.
It's a strange one, really. There's a degree of tactics involves, in that you need to think about what the enemy might throw at you and try to field a balanced force. But, then again, you're not actually doing anything, just basically playing a management game.Click here to read more...
These days, the bulk of our attention is focused on the biggest titles slated for the PS3 and Xbox 360; the big boys on gaming campus who have the graphical grunt and online infrastructure to support the increasingly shiny, detailed and violent videogame experiences that we so desperately crave. The PC receives its fair share of visual powerhouses and innovative indie experiences alike, becoming the platform of choice for those who love to game without compromise.
However, in terms of sales - and in terms of precedent - one console beat them all. The Wii did so without directly competing with Microsoft and Sony, instead creating its very own niche and exploiting that most under supported of demographics: absolutely everyone in the world. Not only has Nintendo's console delivered some of the most imaginative games of this generation... but it redefined what it means to be a gamer. It's certainly not better than any other console, but it isn't designed to replace or supplant them. The Wii is incredibly important, possibly more so than any other console in videogame history.
We love an underdog here at Dealspwn. Allow me to explain exactly why.
We currently live in an age where the word "gamer" is losing its relevance, an era where literally anyone can enjoy our favourite hobby and artistic medium regardless of age, gender or ability. The rise of apps and mobile gaming certainly has a lot to answer for, but it was the Wii that originally proved that everyone can be a gamer. That everyone is a gamer.Click here to continue reading our salute to the Wii...
Remember a time when LucasArts used to not only make games, but made games that didn't suck or didn't come tumbling forth from the bloated uterus of the weary Star Wars cash cow? I know, it's difficult to recall. But it did exist. Once upon a time, LucasArts played the field like a princess amongst stable hands, striking up new IPs with publishers far and wide, and then doing it themselves when they fancied a bit of professional control. LucasArts delivered creative masterpiece upon creative masterpiece, they even learned how to make frankly excellent franchise tie-ins to make sure that Skywalker, Solo and Organa's legacy wasn't completely bastardised.
Of course, those days are long gone now.
But if you cast your minds back to the early 90s, some of you might remember a quirky little Contra-esque game that made its way onto the SNES and Mega Drive (the SNES version was probably the better of the two) in 1993 in the States and arrived here a year later. A B-horror homage that delivered arguably one of the finest co-operative experiences of the decade, LucasArts and Konami (of all people!) had you running around suburban back gardens, dousing the undead with Holy Water from a Super Soaker, all the while trying to rescue your clearly unprepared neighbours from the zombie apocalypse, not to mention knife-hurling midgets and giant babies.Click here to read more...
There were some who thought that this would never see the light of day. Originally announced five and a half years ago, back in February 2006, Nuclear Dawn appeared on our radar and then disappeared two years later in spectacular fashion. The term vapourware got chucked in its direction, people started quoting Queen lyrics about biting dust and we all began to move on once again with our lives. A modification of that most malleable of engine - Valve's Source engine - Nuclear Dawn was built to be a working synthesis that would cross the boundary between two hugely popular PC genres: the first person shooter and real-time strategy.Find out how we got on with the Nuclear Dawn beta after the jump...
After the press session earlier on in the day (if you missed it, you can read the preview here) I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to sit down with Lead Creative Designer Michael Donatelli and Associate Creative Designer Paul Mattson to talk a litte more in-depth about Carbine Studio's upcoming MMORPG WildStar. After sitting through the hour-long presentation I had quite a few questions for them…
Carl Phillips: Right, let’s start off with an easy one; how has Gamescom been for you this year?
Michael Donatelli: Gamescom has been great, better than I expected. I’ve been [in the industry] for over a decade now, and I’ve worked on a lot of IP’s that people know, so I’ve been like “Hey, we’re going out to talk about the game” and it’s an IP that’s already established or been around for twenty years, so you feel confident that there’s going to be a built-in fanbase. But this is our IP, this is something we created, so it was a little daunting, so we came out here wondering if anyone was going to like it, but apparently everybody likes it, so it’s much better now!
CP: Before Gamescom, Carbine had stated they have been taking inspiration from many animation styles while creating the look for WildStar to find the correct balance between fun and drama, using animes such as Full Metal Alchemist and Naruto as examples. As a team, how did you approach this to get the right results?
MD: Well, I can’t really speak [about the] art. I mean, I know you’re talking about the blog from Matt Morcaski, our Art Director, and every time we talk we pretty much talk about pretty much all those things you called out. I think we have one of the best art departments in the games industry, but I’ll let [the art] speak for itself. How we wrapped our head around that was much the same thing. Any time [Matt] talks about some kind of cartoon or anime style, I end up watching it so we’re in the same headspace. As I mentioned before, it’s like Firefly meets Indiana Jones, I watch a lot of these movies, trying to get into the headspace of these characters where there’s this dramatic thing, but there’s always this underlying tongue-in-cheek to the art so we mimic that in the content. That’s what we said about the trailer, which has the same kind of flavour as our quest content. One of the zones that we didn’t get a chance to show you, but would have loved you shown you guys, after you leave zone we used in the demos is called Algoroc.
Click here to read the rest of the interview...
If you haven't already, check out Part One of our WildStar Preview at the link here!
Before we got to see an in-game demonstration in action, the conversation moved on to the topic of combat mechanics. Lead Content Designer Michael Donatelli talked about how in MMOs the combat usually boils down to you and an enemy hitting each other until one of you is dead, with abilities thrown in to make the entire affair a bit more interesting and “fun enough.” Carbine decided to try and make things more entertaining for the player by adding in extra functionality, rewarding the player for smart thinking during combat. A basic example of the system we were given was how a player could double tap S (used to walk backwards) to make the on-screen character dash out of the way of an attack, and if done successfully the player is rewarded with a double damage bonus.
At this point the preview build of the game came on the screen in front of us, and we were greeted by three pre-built character choices that were highlighted in the trailer; the large Grunak Warrior, the bunny-esque Aurin Esper (essentially a telekinetic spell-weaver), and the Mal Reynolds look-a-like Human Spellslinger. We were given a brief backstory on the three races mentioned who are part of a faction called the Exiles; a group of alien races brought together for different reasons to take on the Dominion. Humanity, who were formally a part of the Dominion, broke away and joined together with the animalistic Aurin whose home planet had been destroyed by the Dominion, and have been on the fringes of space ever since. The Grunak, on the other hand, only joined the Exiles because they wanted a good fight to satisfy their hunger for battle. Donatelli was quick to point out that the three pre-built choices were done to avoid people spending 20 or more minutes in the character creation (which, if I’m honest, I probably would have done) and insisted that there would be many other races to pick from at release, as well as other classes.
Click here to read the rest of the preview...