E3: Day 2

•June 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Busy day. Busy, busy day. The second day of E3 was one filled with demos, which is of course what everyone comes to E3 to see. Shiny’s nice, but a little hands-on time always goes a long way. This isn’t to say they had run out of announcements, though—there were a number of games making their debuts yesterday, with trailer goodness for anyone interested in having a look.

But remember rule number one of gaming this year: everything’s in 3D.

Seriously, everything’s in 3D. Even Final Fantasy XIV (which, come on, if it’s going to be anything, we know it’s going to be pretty), which debuted Wednesday, is going to be dazzling the public with 3D delight when it releases on the Ps3 and PC later this year. It’s also apparently going to be online, and day 2 offered anyone interested the chance to see their new character creation screens. As usual, this latest installment of the FF series is completely distinct from all others before it, so if you’re missing Lightning and her band of miscreants, sorry fellows, you’re out of luck.

Demos included delightful screen time with Gears of War 3, Bodycount, Star Wars the Force Unleashed 2, Fallout: New Vegas, DJ Hero 2, the new Medal of Honor game, and Dead Space 2. EA even took it a step further with Dead Space: they actually had someone dressed up as their protagonist, Mr. Isaac Clarke, to come and show off to people. Of course, he didn’t do much talking—silent protagonist and all—but the game he brought with him was looking every bit the brutal space shooter we remember. Plus, there’s expanded zero-g segments, with supposedly full 360 movement, which I am definitely looking forward to…and Isaac has jets. Yeah.

Even the discovery channel’s flooding the gaming market these days, though. Man v. Wild and Deadliest Catch are both debuting with their own video games…though I really can’t see these being anything impressive. Oh boy, you get to man your own ship! – and fish. Say what?

Racing fans will be pleased to see the new trailer out for Gran Turismo 5, which is soon to be hitting gamers with flash and style. Silent Hill 8 also made its debut, with a trailer that brings players once more back into the foreboding clutches of the titular town of demonic evil—this time, you’re a convict! Oh the possibilities.

And as for movies, we know if Hollywood’s got a new one coming out, they certainly can’t pass up a video game parallel to draw in those extra bucks. THE LAST AIRBENDER showed off its style Wednesday, without the hands of M. Night Shyamalan coming anywhere near it…though it is based on his movie, so I suppose indirectly…

New announcements included Rift: Planes of Telara, a game about a bunch of planeswalkers, it would seem, that decide the gods aren’t doing their jobs properly. End of Nations (apocalyptic gaming, oh my!) and Warriors: Legends of Troy (oh Helen, you dirty, dirty slut) were also on hand to add to the wackiness.

Another new game included MMO DC UNIVERSE ONLINE…because with the success of City of Heroes, the comic industry just couldn’t stay away. Side with the heroes or aid the villains, at your whim.

Revitalized classics included a heap of new Wii games, such as Kirby’s Epic Yarn (yes, now he has yarn), Rush ‘n Attack (for anyone that remembers that NES gem), Tron, and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Tron looks like Tron always bloody does…lots of glamor, with little substance. Rush ‘n Attack looks to be an entertaining 3D side-scroller, and Castlevania makes me drool a little. Oh how I long to be back stabbing vampires soon. It even has Patrick Stewart narrating.

Dead Rising 2 also offered demos, showing off the zombie apocalypse in Las Vegas. Slot machines and all. And it is looking good, with plenty of death-dealing options for your ambitious zombie hunt. (Between that and Fallout, though, Vegas sure is getting picked on a lot this year.)

Just one more day boys and girls—what will the final chapter hold?

The Kevin Butler Inspirational

•June 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Everybody’s trying to get an edge over everyone else in the gaming business. Fact of life. Fact of E3: pretty much everyone’s showing off hints of games to catch your interest and wet your appetite. Acceptable, even encouraged. Sony’s Press Conference yesterday (which I neglected to mention in last night’s post–do forgive me) was largely remarkable, however for another approach, largely in the form of bringing Kevin Butler up on stage to speak for them.

All Sony seemed to use him for, though, was to bash the other companies. Real classy.

Thank you kindly Sony, but please, do give us something of actual worth. When you spend your time blasting your enemies, it’s just a waste of time. Show us the products, thank you very much, and feel free to toot your own horn, but leave the critiques of your rivals to the public. You just focus on making good games.

E3 Fun: The First Encounters

•June 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The first official day of E3 was filled with pretties. Plenty of hands-on demos awaited eager onlookers, with trailers bouncing from booth to booth and debuts a-plenty to wet the most conservative of appetites. The press demos may have given us a taste yesterday, but today was all about the first-hand looks, with a conference from Nintendo to make up the remainder.

First up: Civilization V. Fans of the series will have been waiting anxiously for this one, and if you enjoy the addictive turn-based strategy that has made this one so popular, you should be seriously salivating. As usual Sid Meier has not only continued with tradition, but enhanced upon it, making what is already satisfying even better. Shogun 2, another classic in the strategy area (one of the Medieval: Total War variety), made an impressive debut as well, showcasing some intense warfare in feudal Japan. Samurai action here we come.

As for Nintendo, they put on quite a show. Most important, the announcement of a new Zelda, which, if you’re familiar with Nintendo, is one of those rare gems amidst a system otherwise focused on the family. They offered a lengthy demo for the game, which is called Skyward Sword—and one better, they gave a launch date for it. This sequel to the popular Twilight Princess is due out in early 2011. So keep your eyes peeled. The only downside is that is doesn’t seem to have the same feel as Twilight Princess did…but Metroid is also apparently set for a new sequel, to be known as “Other M.” Classy. I bet you can guess what the twist is.

Remember Donkey Kong? Well the barrel-tossing ape himself is making a grand and glorious return onto the Wii with Donkey Kong Country Returns. It’s not the only classic making a return either. If anyone remembers the N64 gem GoldenEye 007, then I imagine you’ll have as much of a WTF moment as I did when it was revealed that this classic of multiplayer mayhem is making a comeback, in a revival set for the Wii.

The other big announcement on the Nintendo front was the Nintendo 3Ds. The 3DS sports three cameras, two of which will take 3D photos. It also sports a touchscreen, in the same fashion that made the DS so popular, complete with stylus and everything. It also looks to be sporting a fancy little Wi-Fi system-to-system communication system, which will supposedly transmit data to other 3DS you may encounter in public. Somebody’s going to build a pokemon network.

Amidst a virtual butt-ton of new visuals for Xbox’s Kinect project, there were also glimpses of Project Dust and Uncharted 3, for all those Sony fans out there waiting for some treasure-hunting action.

There was also some Twisted Metal action, but…eh. It didn’t begin to catch my interest.

New trailers included a five minute story promo for the sequel to Star Wars the Force Unleashed (not to spoil anything, but one word sums it up: CLONES!), a teaser promising more trippy travel opportunities in the form of Portal 2, and a look at a new Warhammer MMO, because everyone needs at least one in this day and age. The MMO will be known as Dark Millenium Online.

Ubisoft offered a delicious look at the multiplayer for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and it is looking fine. Capitalizing on the battle between Templars and Assassins in the streets of Rome. Character options seem somewhat varied, and the variety of modes is very tempting. Perhaps most interesting is how the main multiplayer will work. For silent kills, you will get extra XP, and also, each game is going to be run sort of like an assassination contract, with one player marked out for you to try and ice. I will admit I was skeptical about the possibilities of this multiplayer announcement, but so far, it’s shaping up rather nicely.

Mafia 2 also offered a hands-on experience, if people were interested in a slightly more modern version of death-dealing. Tommy guns abound in this one, friends, and while there’s not going to be any multiplayer for this one, the single player looks like it will continue the fine tradition set by the first. Fans of the game shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

And for conspiracy theorists, the new Deus Ex game: Human Revolutions made its grand debut, and from what I understand, it was quite a show. Unfortunately, it was a behind-closed-doors presentation, so the people that actually got to see it were a bit select. Hopefully, some shiny samples will make their way to the main floor at some point.

E3: Day One–sort of

•June 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Welcome to day one of E3!

But not really. The conference officially starts tomorrow, but today was still packed with a lot of new content and exciting unveils for a pre-game. Microsoft, EA, and Ubisoft all gave press conferences, featuring a variety of new games and new products, just itching and ready to have someone playing them.

Rather than go through everything piecemeal, I’m going about this sort of like a highlights reel, for space’s sake. So here’s the scoop:

First up: Microsoft

  1. The big news first: PROJECT NATAL made its debut today, and it was the talk of the town. Amidst a huge showing from Microsoft execs, the project’s potential was shown off through dancing, animals, and yoga. Definitely playing to the family and broader market environments. Impressive showing, set a due date too: should see it make its grand appearance come November. Also, it’s been renamed “Kinect.” How cute.
  2. Alan Wake announced the first of its DLC already, which is just as well, since the game was pathetically short for something that took the better part of a decade to birth. The fact that they’d charge us money for it though is laughable.
  3. Homefront released a new trailer, and despite the sheer absurdity of the plot, the game is coming along nicely. Definitely one of the most anticipated on the E3 list. This one looks like it will be a very satisfying, and thrilling action bout. Plus, it makes you want to start screaming “Wolverines!” every time you see it.
  4. COD: Black Ops really delivered. The game is looking stunning, and that fact was showcased with hands-on-gameplay opportunities and actual gameplay trailers. Very satisfying. Also, they topped the presentation off with a remix trailer for it using an Eminem song. The horror.
  5. Metal Gear Solid: Rising debuted with its first trailer…at the Microsoft Press Conference. Oh dears. Sony fan-drama threatens to consume us all.
  6. Peter Molyneux, master of hyping, unveiled Fable 3, and it’s looking shiny. Plus: Pirates.
  7. Halo: Reach has been thoroughly unveiled now. Because it wouldn’t be Microsoft without a Halo game. Just remember: this is supposedly the last one! Ha. I’ll believe that one when I see it.
  8. Gears of War 3—more grunting, more grinding, and loads more blood. Another unveil, and one that looked grotesquely satisfying.
  9. A new game, Codename Kingdoms, is on its way. It looks like it’s going to be blood-filled, and potentially ancient. The trailer told little, other than there’s going to be corpses and guys with swords. It will be the first game by Crytek on the Xbox 360, so it should be interesting to see what they come up with.
  10. In the latest continuation of the unlimited number of video games the popular fantasy series has spawned, LOTR: War in the North made its debut via trailer, and the CG at least, is looking very cool, though little remains known about the game itself.
  11. Microsoft showed off the latest version of the Xbox 360, and it’s looking slim, touting wifi and a 250gig memory. Plus, everyone there got one for free. Talk about an Oprah moment. Lucky jerks.

Next up: EA.


Dead Space. Dead Space. Dead Space.

…Dead Space. That about sums it up. Oh, and Active Sports 2, but that’s almost inconsequential now isn’t it? They always have sports games…

EA didn’t miss the opportunity to push the upcoming sequel to Visceral’s popular space horror extravaganza: Dead Space. Our look at it was short, but thoroughly action-packed. It showed off new guns, new sites, and new monsters ready and waiting to eat players’ faces off.

Oh yeah, and the game has a release date now: Jan. 25, 2011. Giggidy.

Last but not least: Ubisoft

Ghosts, Rabbids, a little skateboarding on the side and…what the hell is that? A laser tag video game? What the hell is wrong with you people? Trying to get most of the Ubisoft conference out of my mind and…

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Ezio’s back and ready to shank, but this time, he’s brought buddies.

That’s right boys and girls, this time around the series is getting a first in the form of multiplayer, which means potential for coordinated assassinations and more creative mass death dealing. The game itself is going to be a stand-alone expansion to Assassin’s Creed 2, with a new single player storyline.

Fairly disappointing conference, but Assassin’s Creed is looking good.

And my oh my, seperate from the other conferences, I give to you, the latest trailer for Star Wars: The Old Republic. In it, you get to see grunts actually being semi-effective against force-wielders, and of course, a lot of general badassery. This is one to keep your eye on.

E3 and Project Natal

•June 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Gamers, Geeks, and Nerds alike, heed my call: E3 is nearly here at last!

The annual E3 convention is here once again, and for the next few days I will be providing highlights and coverage of events there as they unfold.

To begin: Microsoft.

Anyone remember a little project called Natal? Well, yesterday Microsoft revealed the results of their project, with a brand-spanking new name and everything. The new hands-free motion control system for the Xbox 360 is now known as Kinect. The new system is an attempt by Microsoft to pry their way into new sections of the video game market, but the system will likely bring them into further conflict with rivals Sony and Nintendo, who have already long since touted their own motion systems.

The new system will plug directly into any Xbox 360. It involves a camera, audio sensors and motion sensing technology that is designed to recognize and utilize faces and voices.

Winter is Coming

•June 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The day may still be a year away, but HBO’s upcoming adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s popular fantasy novel series A Song of Fire and Ice has never felt closer.

Last week, a new teaser trailer (the first) was released, showing several scenes from the show and getting all trippy on us. It doesn’t reveal much, just a few glimpses here and there of things we can gleefully anticipate.

The first season will revolve around the first novel in the series, and all seasons thereafter will follow the same theory. Martin has seven books planned for the series (though fans are still biting their nails over a five-year wait on the fifth book: A Dance with Dragons).

The story takes place in the mythical land of Westeros, and follows the story of the noble but intensely unfortunate Stark family, who become intricate parts of the gathering intrigue and drama of the land when the King draws the Stark patriarch, Eddard (played by Sean Bean) in to be his closest advisor. People squabble for the throne, characters fall, and in the midst of it all, the once semi-peaceful land devolves into war-torn madness.

The script for the show is written and produced by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, with Thomas McCarthy (at least at present) directing. The cast will also play host to a number of fairly well-known names, including Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey, amongst others.

The series is going to be filled with necessary pretties, and some serious cash will have to be invested in visual effects—given that we have got dragons, magic, and even giant wolves running around Westeros, all waiting for their moment on the screen. The show is said to be more “character-centric,” but we’ll see how that turns out.

The series is set to premiere in Spring, 2011, barring setbacks. And by god, there better not be setbacks.

Mortal Kombat Reboot?

•June 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The Classic

So last week I recall seeing and posting several twitter updates about a certain “trailer” that was posted to the web. The responses I got were mixed. Is it real? Is it fake?

Well, what is real is the fact that there are a number of real, fairly well-known actors and actresses populating the trailer. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.

And before we go any further: I am talking about the new Mortal Kombat trailer recently posted on Youtube, which has been stirring up questions ever since. Rumors of a movie reboot and re-attempt have persisted since the 90’s, when the originals first came out. My fellow 90’s younglings undoubtedly have fond memories of the thing–although if you look back at them now, you’ll probably be a bit disappointed. The soundtrack remains as epic as ever, but the movies themselves…well, let’s just say, they’re truly “video game movies.”

There have been no announcements about a new Mortal Kombat movie yet. However, the trailer features notables like Jeri Ryan. It also doesn’t look half-bad, even if it isn’t following the original mythology (it does appear, in fact, to be trying to twist a more realistic, if no less gruesome, take into the scripting). It also manages to provoke a lot of memories in the long moments of its playing, delivering in-dialogue references to classic Mortal Kombat phrases like “Finish him” and “Fatality,” while also showing gruesome takes on villains like Reptile and Baraka, and an unfortunate end to at least one classic good guy of the series.

So what’s your verdict? Real or Fake?

Joker’s Disappearing Act

•June 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

For those of you sitting on pins and needles in anticipation of news as to whether or not the Joker will be making an appearance in Batman 3, your fears (or hopes) can now be put to rest.

In an interview with Empire Magazine last week, Christopher Nolan announced that no, in fact, the Joker will not make an appearance in Batman 3 in any form. Still no news on when that gem will actually be coming, or who actually will be in it, but for Heath Ledger fans, this is probably a relief. This means that Ledger’s Joker, which earned him a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2009, will remain forever immortalized by his depiction.

I, for one, think it is a good thing. While Batman fans may argue for the need for a Joker character, I think at this point whoever we might get to replace Ledger would be a sad replacement. Joker’s depiction was masterfully done. New blood would change the character, in however small or large a way, and dull the image that Ledger left behind. Leaving it as is leaves a lasting monument to the actor’s prowess.

Plus, it allows Nolan to showcase some of the other Batman villains, of which there are many. One or two might even survive more than a single movie.

And, in a lasting memento to Ledger, the infamous “disappearing pencil” trick:

Movie Review: The Messenger

•June 9, 2010 • 1 Comment

“I’d like to strap her on and wear her like a government-issue gas mask.”

“I’m pregnant.” “What?” “Oh, I’m just fucking with you. Have a nice life.”

The Messenger is an exceptional movie that offers a truly distinctive experience in a field that is never lacking for movies. War is a big-ticket item for the big screen, always has been, but while The Messenger is a movie about war, it manages to tackle an angle of the market most overlook.

It is a movie about one of the least desirable jobs in the military: delivering the death notices of fellow soldiers to their families, and it is unique in that it is a movie about war that never focuses on the war itself.

It follows the story of two Army Casualty Notification messengers, Will Montgomery (Bill Foster)—a Staff Sergeant and “war hero” recently returned and reassigned from Iraq, as well as his superior and mentor Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson). The film plods along as a series of excruciating events, defined by delivery after delivery, each as agonizing an experience to behold as the last. This is a movie about tragedy, and it cultivates it hauntingly. The space between these tragedies is filled with the interaction between Montgomery and Stone, defining their greatly differing views on what they do and the life of a soldier in general, as well as the budding relationship between Montgomery and one of the war widows to whom he has delivered the terrible news.

Both Harrelson and Foster deliver excellent performances, at times moving, at times sickening, but always powerful, emotional, and painfully thought-provoking. Foster’s character is consumed by his own emotions, his connection, struggling with the role he is forced to serve. Harrelson is the by-the-book military man, desperate to disassociate from the events he must engage. He keeps the world at a distance. Foster is the human, Harrelson is, in many ways, the monster—because it is what he needs to be to see the job done. Both are inherently flawed though, as all people are, with their quirks and skeletons-in-the-closet, and they strike you with their believability, and the emotional connection you will develop to them.

The script is powerful, the characters well-developed, and the movie moves and breathes with its own unsettling atmosphere, nestled up against images of beautiful, hopeful backdrops and endearing, but doomed close-ups of love and redemption amidst the madness. The movie never gets away from or ahead of itself, and the pace never dulls, even if the messages it brings may not make for the most complex and intricate of plots.

The movie itself manages to touch you without the need for any of the explosive, action-raddled moments of heart-wrenching war, and that alone earns it much applause from where I’m sitting. This is a movie about the after-effects, about what happens in the wake of Hollywood’s dramatics—and it is stunning in what it achieves. Such lack of action may sound unappealing, but I assure you, it will keep your hairs on end the whole way through.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Reynolds and Bullock are Most Wanted

•June 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“Now that we’ve done that, can we please go back to normal?”

The Kiss!

Remember the MTV Movie Awards? Well, okay, maybe not—I know I didn’t watch them. Personal preference: I try not to watch MTV whenever possible. At least, not until they stop broadcasting The Hills.

If you did watch them, though, you may remember Sandra Bullock jokingly hinting that she was over my gender with a fake kiss to Scarlett Johansson. Hey, if Scarlett Jo’s down for it, I know the rest of the world would be.

Regardless, though, Bullock’s apparently already back on the male band wagon. In fact, she’s given up the Jo-love for Jo’s husband–teaming up once again with Ryan Reynolds, for yet another romantic comedy. Given the success of The Proposal, then I’m sure it will mint them a pretty gem or two.

The new movie, known as Most Wanted, unfortunately seems to be going along a similar vein as the terribly clichéd Bounty Hunter (which, coincidentally, the world is still trying to forget). Reynolds is set to star as an FBI agent charged with escorting criminal Sandra Bullock to court. Low and behold, some bad guys show up en route to the courthouse and put both Reynolds and Bullock on the run, leading to action, hilarity, and, most importantly, love.

Heard this one before? Don’t worry, we all have. There’s potential for it to be more than a mere rom-com, and the comedy itself could be good, if Reynolds is in one of his “on” moments, but I don’t see this played out tale going anywhere special.

It will still probably do well in theaters, though, regardless of the quality. Hollywood churns out these rom-coms at break neck speed, to disturbingly successful effect. I don’t like what it says about the populace, but I also don’t see the trend breaking anytime soon…