Review: Alan Wake

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Few processes of the mind can be as thankless and mind-bending as writing. Unless you’re Alan Wake. Then it’s a matter of life and death.

Remedy Entertainment’s long-awaited tale of a novelist fighting dark, ghostly elements in a secluded town reeks of romanticized elements about the power of the written word, the essence of artistic vision and the struggle between light and darkness.

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Review: Nier (Xbox 360)

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Nier will mess with your head, make you laugh, introduce some of the most bizarre characters you will ever see in a game, and share the unflinching love of a father for his dying daughter.

And that’s only during the first time through it before inviting you to to try for the second ending that makes you feel bad about everything that you’ve done.
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Review: Just Cause 2 (Xbox 360)

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There’s nothing wrong with having as much stuff to do as there is in Just Cause 2. As a sequel, Avalanche Studios have trumped the first game in nearly every way by a factor of a hundred. Flying from one end of the map to the next in a fast jet can still take several minutes in real life to do so and every inch of this exploding third-person garden of action has been stuffed with juicy targets and activities for causing Michael Bay-sized plumes of fiery chaos.
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Rollercoaster Tycoon is going to be a movie

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The Heat Vision blog for the Hollywood Reporter notes that Sony Pictures Animation has bought the rights to Atari’s game, Rollercoaster Tycoon. From what the article says, it’s going to be a “live-action/CGI hybrid”, which immediately reminds me of the Wachowski’s Speed Racer.

Hollywood has been testing the waters with a buying binge of rights related to games despite the stigma of fail that they’ve been trying to get away from. But, once in awhile, something actually pans out. Just look at the Resident Evil series. Story-wise, they have little to do with the games, but you can’t really go wrong in mixing together Milla Jovovich, bullets, and zombies. Most other adaptations, though, only enforced what gamers have always known.

Not every pick had made sense, either. For example, there’s Universal Studios having picked up the rights to Asteroids last year. Asteroids is a vector-based game involving one ship shooting rocks in space leaving more than enough room for a creative scriptwriter to fit a story in there somewhere. But by itself, a movie? Really?

And now we have Rollercoaster Tycoon which is a sim-type game where you manage and build a roller coaster themed fun park. How is that going to turn into a movie? I suppose it can expand in any number of directions, though. Like Asteroids, there’s a story somewhere eager enough to star in it.

If Super Mario Bros. has taught us anything about Hollywood, it’s that it will always find a way to make it work.

EA Sports…it might not be in the game.

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Starting in June with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, EA Sports titles for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 will come with an Online Pass that is required for online multiplayer, dynasties, and free goodies such as “a new driver in Tiger”. The punchline is that if you buy a used copy and find that the code has already been used, it’ll cost you $10 USD to get your own pass. You can find the juicy details here if you’re curious.

It’s not too dissimilar from what was rolled out with Bioware’s Cerberus Network pass that came with new copies of Mass Effect 2 earlier this year (also published by EA). With quite a bit of free content offered on the Network, the odds of finding a used copy of the game with an unused pass were about as good as finding a Golden Ticket.

The difference between the Cerberus Network and the Online Pass, however, seems to be in what they offer. With the Cerberus Network, it rained free DLC for those that bought into a new copy and the game could be completed with or without it. With the Online Pass, it seems that you will need one regardless to simply play online, a feature that had been a free staple of several titles in EA Sports until now.

Given that, at least in the US according to one study, 46% of game sales made are part of the used game market, it’s easy to see why a company like EA wants a bigger piece of its property in the aftermarket. Gamers that buy new won’t have anything to worry about, but budget gamers looking for a deal on a used title now have to consider whether or not an Online Pass is worth it.

One would think that Gamestop would be upset at this news, but looking at the Q&A linked above, players can buy an Online Pass for a used game via “Sony cash cards and Microsoft points cards at their stores and through their website.” So it’s still something of a win-win for both sides if not, necessarily, for competitive gamers looking for a decent deal.

It also remains to be seen just how Gamestop will price used sports games based on the impression that they may no longer have a working Online Pass code. Hopefully, it will be better than what they’re doing for used copies of God of War III. Or leave room for a lawsuit over a used game with missing DLC.

I Watched a Movie: Iron Man 2

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Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) life as industrialist-turned-wisecracking superhero hasn’t gotten any easier after his debut as Iron Man. He’s still the bad boy playboy industrialist and he’s even worse in the sequel for good reason.

Stark is dying. The miraculous invention that had saved his life in the first film is also killing him and the genius inventor of the Iron Man suit has no idea what to do to stop it. He’s tried everything and has told no one since he’s, after all, Tony Stark. If he can’t figure it out, then what’s the point of asking?

And that’s where the fun begins.
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Ninja Theory’s Enslaved has a new trailer

From the makers of Heavenly Sword comes Enslaved, inspired by the Chinese novel “Journey to the West” and updated to a post-apocalyptic level of action and adventure. Although it was announced awhile back with a few screens, here’s the first official trailer that actually shows off gameplay.

The story is being penned by 28 Days Later scribe, Alex Garland, and looks to have put a nice twist on an old legend from what the trailer has shown. Some parts of it come off with a few familiar elements from Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia with the intertwining mechanics between Elika and the Prince, now between the characters of Monkey and Trip who controls him, though it sounds like there will be more of an emphasis on protecting Trip than in relying on her to keep rescuing you.

I’m going to wait until I see more on this one, though. Heavenly Sword was fun, Andy Serkis was great, and Ninja Theory has the imaginative chops to create fun environments. But gameplay-wise, I wasn’t as blown away by its lackluster action as I was by its well written characters. Still, I’m willing to give this one a little leeway and see just where this legend is going to take us.

Recruit Hideo Kojima

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The upcoming MGS game on the PSP, Peace Walker, will allow players to capture and recruit mercs they encounter in the game. And according to Andriasang, one of them will be series creator, Hideo Kojima, who is apparently called a “god” by other NPCs in the game.

According to his stats, he’s a god that’s really good at intelligence gathering and healing, but not so much at cooking or fighting. The article also notes that his profile states “”My body is made up 70% of movies. You can decide what to do with the remaining 30%.”

That actually makes sense given Kojima’s love for film early in his career and the influence it has had on his work, not to mention the heavy emphasis on technical geekery that his titles love to inject into their dialogues.

It also makes me wonder what other games would be like if their designers did the same thing. For example, would John Carmack moonlight as a secret designer of uberweapons in Rage? Or would the discovery of Shigeru Miyamoto in Mario Galaxy 2 unlock a galaxy containing all of his games as a bonus? We can always hope.

Gears of War 3 teases with more info

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Translated bits of an expose on GOW3 by a Russian mag had cropped up on Epic’s forums before disappearing, but not before quite a few sites had gotten their mitts on the info.

You can catch the highlights on pretty much any site out there from Kotaku to VG24/7 so if you want spoilers galore, head on over to the article. GOW guru, Cliff Bleszinski, has Tweeted that a lot of it is “false info” so take what you read with a big grain of emulsified salt.

One of the things mentioned, and which might be just as false, is the idea that GOW3 might have its difficulty lowered because a whopping “60%” never bothered to finish the single player. But, believing for a moment that this might be a piece of info that is true, isn’t that what difficulty levels are for?

Even then, I think that it was simply people opting to jump online to play multi or co-op. How many friends do you know have picked up Modern Warfare 2 for the multiplayer and not so much for the single? If the four-player co-op that Epic has planned for GOW3 can work out, I’d suspect that more people might want to forgo going at it alone to play with friends instead.

GOW3 is slated to come out next year in April and there’s a good thread over on the official forums that’s tracking whatever info the fans can glean about the game including a link to an interview that Bleszinski had given Techland that lays out quite a bit on where they’re headed.

And yes, it will have female Gears this time around. Not the kind that wade out into battle expecting a halter top to stop bullets. Looking at Anya in the pic above, more like the Ripley from Aliens. Or Vasquez.

Is the Internet the new Colosseum?

Jeffrey Zaslow of the Wall Street Journal writes on just how pervasive the ‘net has become especially when it involves our personal lives. He also asks if the accessibility of a worldwide forum has made us more vicious in humiliating others thanks to how anonymous it can also make us, turning embarrassing photos into a sort of “blood sport”. Has it?

There’s a reason why people say that when it appears on the internet, it’s forever, especially if it’s been preserved on someone’s hard drive or appears on something like the Internet Wayback Machine.

Phone cameras, blogs, Facebook, Myspace, Google, and a whole host of social tools have created a privacy nightmare. I would be pretty amazed, and depressed, at how many people would tell me how cavalier they were when it came to how much personal information they had posted on the ‘net. Today’s family picture can easily become tomorrow’s viral sensation with a few cosmetic changes.

And with more prospective employers looking at social networks to gauge potential employees, taking care in how you treat your life online is becoming increasingly important when you step away from the usual anonymity that the ‘net allows.

It’s certainly come a long way from having to use Notepad to hash out HTML thanks to easy-to-use tools provided by sites such as Facebook or Youtube allowing anyone to become their own star on the ‘net for better or worse. Yay! I’m famous!

Or is that infamous? That’s entirely up to you.