Sunday, August 31, 2008

PAX 2008: It Was the Best of Times...

We're recovering from two full days of PAX 2008, and now that we've safely secured our loot in a Secret Hidden Location away from the mad crowds, we'll take a moment to give you a quick, overall impressions of the Big Bash, with specifics to follow once we've had time to decompress. We need to chew on it, ruminate a bit, digest and then...regurgitate all that stuff back up. Frankly, we're just not ready to re-enter the real world yet.

So, without further ado, here's our take on the Best, and the Worst, PAX had to offer this year.
We'll start out with the highlights.


Best Exhibit in the Expo Hall: Hands down, Bethesda Softworks Fallout 3 booth wins this one. From the shiny happy family milling contentedly around the old camping trailer to the twisted, desiccated ruin it becomes and the Protectron robot guarding its charred remains, this booth was the one to beat. Swag available at the booth included a vault-dwellers guide complete with helpful tips from Vault Guy, pure retro genius.

Best Forum:
Again, and we don't mean to sound sycophantic and obsequious (thought a little smarminess is certainly in keeping), the guys from Bethesda rocked PAX with their highlight play-through of Fallout 3.

Though we weren't allowed to film it, here are some of the features worth mentioning from the Fallout 3 Play-Through:

  • Malcolm McDowell lends his voice to the character of the US President, while Cole Porter's music was licensed to create that authentic 40's ambiance.
  • Many many many character customization options, including lots o' hair styles, even facial hairstyles with eerily appropriate though out-of-the-ordinary names, courtesy of three-in-the-morning-crazy-exhaustion-genius (Emperor Chen muttonstache, anyone?).
  • Drugs make you smarter! Note: Fallout 3 is no longer banned in Australia.
  • VAX system lets you pause time, isolate body parts and demolish your enimies, though it takes a serious toll in action points.
  • Focus on deeper, richer, more three-dimensional NPC's makes you at least a little sorry when you inevitably screw them over.
  • Water, though thirst-quenching and healing in the short-term, will eventually cause radiation sickness, which is deadly (though meds are available to slow its progress).
  • Slick weapons now include pneumatic gloves to pulverize your opponent's face, or rail guns that rip through his heart and may even pin it to the wall behind him.
  • Vault Protectron robots, once activated, make helpful assistants. Sometimes.
  • Take on stealth mode and pick locks or pockets to take other character's loot. Or, for extra-special evilness, try leaving a live frag grenade behind.
In addition to the fun play-by-play, the Fallout 3 guys came through on a promise to present lots of swag for the PAX crowd.

Cards were distributed with various attributes: intelligence, stamina, endurance, etc., with corresponding swag for each attribute. Intelligence, for example, earned the recipient a nifty Vault Guy hand puppet. One (there can be only one) lucky attendee with the corresponding Luck attribute card was awarded, *in addition* to a t-shirt, hand puppet, signed poster and "viewmaster" style player loaded with Fallout 3 screenshots (all the other swag combined): 5 years of Xbox Live Gold membership, the Survivor's Edition of Fallout 3 (including the metal lunchbox, artbook, Vault Boy bobblehead and Pip Boy 3000 alarm clock), and 16,000 Xbox Marketplace points. Oh, yeah, and an Xbox Elite.


Left 4 Dead was SO crowded we never even got close to playing the game, but word at the convention was that it is rivalling Starcraft 2 and Fallout 3 as one of the top most-anticipated games by those that DID get a chance at it.

Raffles offered PAX attendees who didn't make it in to the keynote or the Fallout 3 play-through or other EXTREMELY popular venues (check out our WORST report for more on that) a chance to win uber-cool stuff like hard drives and gaming headphones (or, more likely, a Prince of Persia t-shirt).

Gunnar optical wear for gamers, designers and developers are going to be HUGE. Designed to cut down on ambient glare from your monitor, keep your eyes from drying out and reduce eye strain, they let even those who work on computers all day long come home to a night of gaming free of headaches and overload. These guys are going to make millions. You heard it here first.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tennis, Anyone?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

We're Stoked for Destineer's Latest Offering

If your dream is to become the world's next Snowboarding phenom, thne Destineer's got you covered this fall with their latest offering for the Xbox 360, Stoked, and open-world dynamic snowboarding title that promises lots of bang for your buck.

Destineer set out to do Stoked right, partnering with developer Bongfish and snowboarding movie creator Absinthe Films in an effort to really capture the maverick spirit of the pro backcountry boarders, with always changing, never predictable dynamic backcountry backdrops. Says Patrick ("Brusti") Ambruster, co-founder of Absinthe, "Developing a snowboard video game has always been a dream of mine. There are endless synergies between a snowboard film production and a game developer that were just waiting to be activated. Bongfish and Destineer have realized this potential, and have shown a real passion for snowboarding, and together we’ve worked to bring snowboarding luminaries from across the planet together for this project."

And just who are these "luminaries? The sport's top professional snowboarders, including Travis Rice, Nicolas Mueller, Wolle Nyvelt, Annie Boulanger, Romain de Marchi, Tadashi Fuse, Gigi Ruef, and Bjorn Leines.

And that's not all, Stoked has also lined up 30 of the sport's authentic sponsors, familiar names like Burton, Dragon, Arcus, Von Zipper, Eleven, 686, Billabong, DaKine, Electric, LibTech, Nitro, Northwave, Oakley, Quiksilver, Ride, Hart, Rome, Salomon, TechNine, Vans, Volcom, and more.

Stoked promises a game that relies "more on style and finesse" than button mashing, allowing you to customize your own style while riding five famous mountains and ove4 45 square miles of open terrain in each location. You can discover new drop points by helicopter, be challenged by ever-evolving weather conditions, and track conditions tha suit your own individual taste.

Team up with friends for cooperative and competitive plays, then head to Xbox LIVE to face other riders in sponsored events to boost your fame. Own trick spots, show up rivals, and build your reputation. Take pictures of friends and capture video of your best moves to win the kind of attention that lands you on the cover of a snowboarding magazine.

With all that Stoked has to offer, the attention to detail, key names in the industry and dynamic backcountry environment, Destineer's latest offering, expected on shelves in November, promises to be a hell of a ride.

Trailer Released for Natsume's New Princess Debut!

Natsume, the group who brought you Harvest Moon, have released the trailer to their latest endeavor, Princess Debut, for the Nintendo DS. You can find the trailer here in Quicktime format.

Princess Debut is like an anime version of Cinderella: players (naturally, the game is geared towards young girls) have 30 days to prepare for the big ball where they will meet not one but six handsome Princes (this is apparently a multi-nation ball) and win him over. Because of course that is the dream of every young girl, right?

How to 'prepare for the ball'? Master your dance moves, of course! You can practice for the dance and, "meet and woo the princes through the game's large, branching storyline and exciting event system." So, no one-size-fits-only-the-perfect-girl glass slipper required, and fortunately you don't have to slave away for a cruel stepmother and stepsisters while you are waiting.

Once the player convinces a prince to be their dancing partner (this is a family game, so I'm assuming there's no hanky-panky involved), it's time to go out on the dance floor!

This is a really neat feature of the game: utilizing the Touch Screen on the DS lets you guide your character gracefully across the dance floor in time with their partner's rhythm. And the dance moves are real, taken from moves the professional dancers use. According to Natsume, this makes the game as much fun to watch as it is to play, like watching your friends trying to keep up with Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

And there are 18 dance styles to choose from (including Tango, Latin, Waltz, etc.) as well as a myriad of costume choices for your aspiring Princess.

Princess Debut is scheduled for release sometime this fall.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Game Announcements

More details on the upcoming PC first-person shooter Crysis Warhead, including the release date and multiplayer options.

The stand-alone Crysis Warhead, a first-person shooter from EA and Crytek, ships to stores September 16 in the US (Euros will get a September 12 release). The game retails for just 29.99. Pre-Order online through EA and you will pay only $24.99. The latest version of Crysis will include a new multiplayer mode , "TeamInstantAction." Also included are 21 maps, 6 of which feature InstantAction/TeamInstantAction play, and a new PowerStruggle map.

PC strategy game publisher Paradox Interactive announces, "Elven Legacy," a new Fantasy Strategy game scheduled for release during the first quarter of 2009.

From the press release, "Elven Legacy delivers a world filled with magic...a thrilling nonlinear storyline... Through an epic quest to restore the former glory of the Elven race, this fantasy strategy game offers both depth and scope, all in colorful and inspirational settings."

Players can choose between an elf or human character in the two primary campaigns, while
bonus missions include gameplay as Orcs. Players can also use the accompanying tools to create their own missions and campaigns and then share them through multiplayer play.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Play ball! Madden NFL '09 is Out

The long wait is over. Maden NFL '09 hits the shelves today.

That's right, Brett Favre is back, dominating the field like a general commanding his troops in battle.

Except, you know, without the hacked-off limbs and decapitated heads.

Unless of course you wanna really play Madden-style football.

And you know what's really cool about EA? How quickly they reacted to the whole Favre situation. Because although you can still play as Favre with the Packers if you want, or download EA's extra content to put him in his new Jets uniform.

Madden NFL '09 is out on the shelves today, and here are some of the innovations that make this version even better than its predecessors:

  • Play in online leagues with up to 31 of your closest friends (sucks to be you, player #33)
  • Create winning strategies with new combination plays
  • Play against AI opponents that learn adapt to your strengths and weaknesses
Madden NFL '09 is available for (deep breath): Xbox 36o, PSP, PS2, PS3, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS.

Coming soon: A special 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition (Xbox 360 and PS3 only).