May 182011
 
If you have been following any of the big gaming sites or even mainstream media, you probably already know that L.A. Noire is receiving glowing reviews and universal praise.  I decided to give it a shot and after just a couple hours with the game, I can see what all the excitement is about.

I hadn’t paid much attention to the game during its development cycle, and not a whole lot of news had come out about it to know exactly what to expect.  Of course, you see the name “Rockstar” on the box art, so immediately you think of GTA and Red Dead Redemption, just in a 1940’s setting.  You would be wrong.  True, there are a few small elements that may loosely compare to those games, but only in the most general sense.   As a quick disclaimer, I wasn’t much of a fan of any of the recent GTAs or RDR, but I am definitely a fan of L.A. Noire.

L.A. Noire is a crime solving game that is broken up into cases.  The cases are nice sized chunks of game play that have a beginning and end to them, and depending on how well you do on each case determines your character’s overall progression through the ranks.  As you level up, you can unlock more intuition points to help you find more clues and help you out when you get stumped.

The general case layout, at least in the first part of the game, is that you start out by investigating a crime scene, looking for clues and evidence.  A big part of the game is interviewing witnesses and potential suspects, and while you are doing that, you have to try and read their facial expressions and mannerisms, then compare it to any evidence you’ve gathered to decide if they are lying or telling the truth, which drives how to proceed.  The amazing part is that it actually works really, really well.  L.A. Noire has some of the best “face tech” we’ve seen in games, so you really have to pay attention to interviewees.

The few items that may only slightly resemble a GTA or RDR game is the driving and combat.  The combat is not a large part of the game, and your character cannot pull out a weapon at any time.  There are only specific instances that fit the context where you can draw your gun, and even then, you probably don’t want to shoot if you don’t have to.  The controls for that could be a bit tighter, but it’s forgivable given the fact that this game isn’t really about shooting and plays a small roll.  Most of the game is looking for and examining evidence along with engaging in dialog with your partner, witnesses, suspects and other persons of interest.

The driving in the game is probably the only part I find a bit unpleasant.  The amount of the city that you can travel in L.A. Noire is impressive, but I found the driving controls to be a bit too floaty.  Of course, being a cop, you actually don’t want to crash into other cars or objects, and if you do it enough, it can really hurt your case “score.”  Thankfully, they accounted for this, and in most cases, you can let your partner do the driving which results in what basically is “fast travel” to the destination of your choosing.  I expect to let my partner do the bulk of the driving for the remainder of the game.  There are some small side missions that you can take on while driving, which are radio calls requesting officers to respond to different events that you can accept or ignore, which could involve chasing down a suspect or diffusing a hostage situation.

The game’s presentation is some of the best I’ve seen.  They nailed the 1940’s setting completely (or at least my perceived image of it) with sharp visuals, period specific music, top notch voice acting and great dialog.  The game looks phenomenal and from what I’ve read, the PS3 version edges out the 360 version in graphical quality.  Also, the PS3 version has the advantage of being contained on just one blu-ray versus three DVDs on the 360.

So if you were on the fence about L.A. Noire and are looking for a great story-driven crime game, definitely check it out.  The game unfolds like a good crime drama and could definitely make for a good game to play with a significant other or friends.  Working together to analyze the evidence and talk about possible motives or suspicions of lying make it an interactive game for non-players too.  I’m definitely excited to dive back into the world of L.A. Noire and take on some new cases.

Looking to pick up L.A. Noire?  Check it out at [amazon_link id=”B002I0J5UQ” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon and get a $20 credit[/amazon_link] for a limited time.

May 042011
 
consolidatedconsoles

A bunch of recent news tidbits from console-land worth mentioning. First a few price drops. The Wii will be dropping to $150 and include Mario Kart with a wheel starting May 15th. Not all that surprising since it seems that the Wii has finally hit its ceiling after running away with the console sales race and all the news swirling around about the Wii 2. Not sure who was holding out on the Wii because of the price, but hey, cheaper stuff is good, right?

Secondly, you’d have to assume an Xbox 360 price drop is imminent, probably around E3 time, as many retailers, including Amazon are selling all flavors (including Kinect bundles) of the 360 with a [amazon_link id=”B003O6JLZ2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]$50 gift card as well as a $20 Microsoft point card[/amazon_link].

Not to leave Sony and the PS3 out, but PSN is still down, Sony Online Entertainment (MMO games division) was also hacked, with mostly non-US info and credit cards stolen. Don’t worry though, DC Universe Online players will get free Batman masks for their trouble. Most everything else in wait-and-see mode when PSN comes back online this week sometime. Don’t forget to change your password when it does come back.

Next up, I wanted to briefly mention the Red Faction: Armageddon demo up on XBL and eventually PSN at some point. After enjoying Red Faction: Guerrilla a bunch, I was eager to check out the direction Armageddon was going in. I hadn’t really followed much press coverage on it to this point, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The demo offers about 30 minutes of game play and retains a lot of the destructive abilities of the previous game. While Armageddon still is played from the third person, it takes a more over-the-shoulder perspective, like Gears of War, than Guerrilla’s Grand Theft Auto pulled-back style. Still, it seems to work pretty well. In the demo you get to use some unique weapons like the magnet gun and something that shoots mini-black holes. Also, there is a new gameplay mechanic in that you can actually repair some of your destruction, that kind of reminded me of the TMD from Singularity. It was really hard to get an overall feel for the game in the demo, but it seems like it will end up a bit less open-ended than Guerrilla. If nothing else, the demo left me interested enough to look and see what sales are available for the game’s preorders. [amazon_link id=”B003P9C6QY” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon is doing a $10 credit for a future THQ game[/amazon_link] (an unusual restriction for Amazon preorders) along with a free download of Red Faction: Battlegrounds; a top down car combat game that gets mediocre reviews. Amazon’s deal applies to the console versions only.

Our own Suibhne points me to this great video, related to Armageddon:

Last up, a deal for Portal 2 that can’t be passed up. [amazon_link id=”B002I0JIQW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon is offering Portal 2[/amazon_link] for $30 on the PC and $35 on the consoles. A great price for one of the better games to come out this year so far.

Mar 072011
 

Here’s an unscientific, fairly lazy list of gaming-related titles that caught our eye for 2011. Inclusion in this list is not a stamp of approval. We’ve listed hotly-anticipated titles right alongside games that we absolutely dread, games whose mere prospect may knot our guts in a clenched ball of searing terror.

We do our best to keep this updated as new games or release dates are announced, but feel free to post any corrections – or suggestions of games that we missed.

 

2011 hardware!
Nintendo 3DS: 3/27

Confirmed
Released:
Lost in Shadow (Wii): 1/4
Little Big Planet 2 (PS3): 1/18
Dead Space 2 (PC/PS3/60): 1/25
Breach (PC/360): 1/26
Magicka (PC): 1/26
You Don’t Know Jack (PC/PS3/60): 2/8
Dungeons
(PC): 2/8
Bulletstorm (PC/PS3/60): 2/22
Killzone 3 (PS3): 2/22
Dragon Age 2 (PC/PS3/60): 3/8
Shogun 2: Total War (PC): 3/15
Yakuza 4 (PS3): 3/15
Homefront (PC/PS3/60): 3/15
Okamiden (DS): 3/15
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (PC): 3/17
Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime (PC/360): 3/18
Crysis 2 (PC/PS3/60): 3/22
Battlefield Play4Free (PC): 3/31
Darkspore (PC/PS3/60): 4/1
Hoard (PC/OS X): 4/4
Magicka: Vietnam (PC): 4/15
Sanctum (PC): 4/15
Portal 2 (PC/OS X/PS3/60): 4/19
IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover (PC): 4/19
The Conduit 2 (Wii): 4/19
SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs (PS3): 4/19
Section 8: Prejudice (XBLA): 4/20
Outland (XBLA): 4/25 (and to be released for PSN once service is restored)
Mount and Blade: With Fire and Sword (PC): 5/3
Section 8: Prejudice (PC): 5/4
Hydrophobia: Prophecy (PC): 5/9
My The First Templar (PC/360): 5/10
Brink (PC/PS3/60): 5/10
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (PC): 5/17
Fable 3 (PC): 5/17
L.A. Noire (PS3/60): 5/17
Dirt 3 (PC/PS3/60): 5/24
Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale (PC/PS3/60): 5/24
Hunted: The Demon’s Forge (PC/PS3/60): 5/31
Red Faction: Armageddon (PC/PS3/60): 6/7
Infamous 2 (PS3): 6/7
Operation Flashpoint: Red River (PC): 6/7
American McGee Presents American McGee‘s Alice: American McGee’s Madness American McGee Returns (PC/PS3/60): 6/14
Outland (PSN/XBLA): 6/14
Duke Nukem Forever (PC/PS3/60): 6/14
Dungeon Siege 3 (PC/PS3/60): 6/17
Might and Magic: Heroes VI (PC): 6/21
F.E.A.R. 3 (PC/PS3/60): 6/21
Shadows of the Damned (PS3/60): 6/21
Air Conflicts: Secret Wars (PC): 7/1
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon (PS3/60): 7/5
Panzer Corps (PC): 7/11
Bastion (XBLA): 7/20
From Dust (PC/XBLA): 7/27
Limbo (PC): 8/2
Section 8: Prejudice (PSN): 8/2
Bastion (PC): 8/15
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (PS3/60): 8/16

Upcoming:
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC/PS3/60): 8/23
Tropico 4 (PC): 8/30
Rock of Ages (PC/XBLA/PSN): 8/31
Dead Island (PC/PS3/60): 9/6
Resistance 3 (PS3): 9/6
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (PC/PS3/60): 9/6
Rage (PC/PS3/60/iPhone/toaster): 9/13
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad (PC): 9/13
Sengoku (PC): 9/13
Saint’s Row 3 (PC/PS3/60): 9/15
Defenders of Ardania (PC): 9/27
Gears of War 3 (360): 9/30
The Darkness 2 (PC/PS3/60): 10/4
Dark Souls (PC3/60): 10/4
The Cursed Crusade (PC/PS3/60): 10/11
Batman: Arkham City (PC/PS3/60): 10/18
Battlefield 3 (PC/PS3/60): 10/25
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (PS3): 11/1
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC/PS3/60): 11/11
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii): 11/20

Unconfirmed dates (roughly in order)
Amy (PSN): September 2011
Hard Reset (PC): September 2011
Trine 2: September 2011
Nuclear Dawn (PC): September 2011
Warp (PC/PSN/XBLA): Q3 2011
Serious Sam 3: BFE (PC/PS3/60): Q3 2011
Sword of the Stars 2 (PC): Q3 2011
Orcs Must Die! (PC/XBLA): Q3 2011
Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC): Fall 2011
Dyad (PSN): Fall 2011
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (PC/PS3/60): November 2011
Need For Speed: The Run (PC/PS3/60): November 2011
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (PC/PS3/60): Winter 2011
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2011
Final Fantasy Tactics (iPhone): TBA 2011
Torchlight 2 (PC): TBA 2011
Dungeon Defenders (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2011 (“First Wave” already out for Android and iOS)
Toy Soldiers (PC; XBLA already out): TBA 2011
Elemental: Fallen Enchantress (PC): TBA 2011
Dear Esther (PC): TBA 2011
The Shadow Sun (iOS): TBA 2011
Tribes: Ascend (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2011
Renegade Ops (PC/PSN/XBLA): TBA 2011
ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection (PS3): TBA 2011
Scivelation (PC): TBA 2011
The Witness (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2011
Jagged Alliance 2: Reloaded (PC): TBA 2011
Lego Star Wars III: Begun These Clone Wars Have (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2011
I Am Alive (?): TBA 2011
X: Rebirth
(PC): Q4 2011
Trenched: TBA 2011
Red Orchestra 2: Rising Storm (expansion; PC): TBA 2011, after RO2 (duh)
Half-Life 2: Episode Three (PC/360): TBA 2011…or 2012…or…
Alan Wake (PC): Never – unless you think MS is full of hot air and will end up releasing a shoddy PC port for extra cash monies in 9 months, after they’ve convinced everybody possible to buy the 360 version

Confirmed for 2012 or later
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (PC/PS3/60): 2/7/2012
Mass Effect 3 (PC/PS3/60): 3/6/2012
XCOM (PC/360): 3/12/2012
Planetside 2 (PC): Early 2012
Max Payne 3 (PC/PS3/60): March 2012
Secret World (PC): April 2012
Aliens: Colonial Marines (PC/PS3/60): Q2 2012
Bioshock: Infinite: TBA 2012
Far Cry 3 (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2012
Dishonored (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2012
Spec Ops: The Line (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2012
God of War 4: War Harder (PS3): TBA 2012
Mirror’s Edge 2 (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2012
Beyond Good and Evil 2 (?): TBA 2012
A Valley Without Wind (PC/OS X): TBA 2012
Age of Decadence (PC): TBA 2012
The Last Guardian (PS3): TBA 2012
Blackout (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2012
Prototype 2 (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2012
Silent Hill 2 and 3 HD (PS3/60): TBA 2012
Hitman 5
(PC/PS3/60): TBA 2012
Dead State (PC): TBA 2012
Zone of the Enders 1 and 2 HD (PS3/60): TBA 2012
Metal Gear Solid Collection HD (PS3/60): TBA 2012
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2012
Darksiders 2 (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2012
Metro: Last Light (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2012
Fallen Frontier (PC/PSN/XBLA): TBA 2012
Prey 2 (PC/PS3/60): TBA 2012
STALKER 2: TBA 2012
Diablo 3 (PC): TBA 2012
Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm (PC): TBA 2012

Lost in Shadow (Wii): 1/4