Review: Shank

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Shank is a game you play with beer, chips and a dumb grin on your face, the kind of grin you get when the hero’s sole responsibility is leaving a trail of kicked asses in his wake.

Such is the simple, barbaric pleasure in Klei Entertainment’s short offering to the beat-em-up genre.

It’s an artistic, bloody and whimsical exploration of the art of thug killing, carrying hints of films like “Desperado” or “Kill Bill” and merging them with the essence of side-scrolling attack-a-thons like the 8-bit Ninja Gaiden. It’s simple, brutal and joyfully un-epic fun.
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Xbox Live to be more expensive

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I kind of had a feeling that this would eventually happen.

The more successful Xbox Live has gotten over the past year had also made me think that maintaining all of that fancy hardware was going to eventually get very expensive. What I didn’t like was how laissez faire Major Nelson was in announcing this change.

I think he’s done a great job as a community face that we can look up to for the latest Live news, but I wish he was allowed to say more than this on why the change is necessary before we simply pay up. But this part struck me as particularly funny as if it were a concession to the rest of the world:

This price increase only affects Xbox LIVE Members in Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom or the United States.

Only? Considering that the countries named also happen to be within the largest regional markets for Live in the first place, that’s kind of like saying the common cold only affects people with a pulse. Having little other than the usual boilerplate that “Xbox LIVE Gold membership will continue to offer the best value in the industry” to work with, I can understand the fury from the posts in his announcement thread.

If you need an idea of where the prices are headed, here’s the chart that’s expected to go into effect on November 1st of this year:

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So how is this going to affect you? For regular subscribers, probably not too much other than the queasy feeling of not knowing just why its going to be more expensive. And with attacks on the used gaming market by EA and THQ, it’s going to be an expensive hobby for those of us that want to keep playing while watching our wallets at the same time.

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – The Game

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By Brittany Vincent
Contributing Writer

Scott Pilgrim did more than meet the girl of his dreams. He met her in them. Ramona Flowers, a delivery girl for Amazon, is beautiful, mysterious, and changes her hair color weekly.

Unfortunately, there are seven major problems standing in the way of their happiness together: Seven evil exes.

These are failed suitors who want to keep Scott from dating her, all of them organized under the greatest ex of all, Gideon Graves. It’s up to Scott to finally find the power of love within himself in order to conquer Ramona’s jilted partners and nab a “good” ending for the both of them.

In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, an adaptation of the comic series and feature film, you’ll take up the mantle of Scott, Ramona, or one of the members of fledgling band Sex Bob-omb on a raucous and thoroughly retro-licious journey to take out six evil ex-boyfriends and one evil ex-girlfriend.

Like the comics and movie from where this violent rainbow sugar rush of a side-scrolling beat-em-up came, this release relies on old-school gaming sensibilities and cheeky gaming references to create one of the better and more enjoyable book/movie tie-ins of all time.

Unfortunately, it’s not one of the best video games you’ll get your hands on. While this 8-bit brawler practically oozes style and classic gaming goodness, it doesn’t quite make up for its plentiful problems.
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Review: Kane & Lynch 2 – Dog Days (Xbox 360)

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My problem with Kane and Lynch’s first outing was its heavy handed and clumsy take on making these two guys reprehensible bastards at nearly every turn.

There’s the kind of cool badness that Robert DeNiro can deliver onscreen, and then there’s the annoyingly preachy kind that has to remind you with every line of dialogue just why a character has had a maladjusted life after making that point several scenes earlier. Both Kane and Lynch fell into the latter category.

That, along with a lame boss fight against a giant dump truck, trashing its gritty start with a sudden about-face as a jungle shooter, and its weak multiplayer, Kane & Lynch felt squandered like so much loose change at the toll booth. So now we have the sequel, but while it improves a few things, it also manages to commit new criminal acts along the way.
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Review: Madden NFL ’11

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Pro football and the Madden game franchise have been part of the same sports/pop culture fabric for more than two decades. You don’t spend that kind of time together without learning how to evolve.

The real thing has witnessed the growth of ideas like the West Coast Offense, spread formation and defensive schemes. The games have withstood everything from passing windows to passing cones to the ProTak animation system.

But in the end, it’s still about how good the football is, and in the case of “Madden NFL 11,” some of it’s better than it’s been in years.
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Come with me if you want to be animated

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The next Terminator feature might not be live action, but a 3D, PG-13 rated animated feature called Terminator 3000. A number of sites are reporting that distribution company Hannover House had allied itself with Red Bear Entertainment to produce the movie budgeted at $70 million.

Story details are under wraps as usual, but they are also thinking about reducing the violence to keep it under PG-13. How soon we forget the last stab at making Terminator a PG-13 feature with the sleep inducing Salvation. I’m still trying to forget the ending.

But seeing it as an animated feature? It’s different, but it could work. In the right hands and with the right story, it could get past that PG-13 stigma and give us something great. The Secret of NIMH is rated G, but watch it today, and you might think twice about that.

Then there’s G.I. Joe Resolute which managed to be a mature update to the franchise that turned out to be a fantastic move. With examples like these, there’s some hope for this fan that it could turn out better than I expect. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed on this one, especially if it has the potential to bring an animated Governator onscreen.

UPDATE (8.14.10): According to Deadline, there’s a future war brewing over the film. Pacificor, the outfit that owns the rights to the Terminator franchise, apparently didn’t know about this until the announcement by Hannover House and so have sent a cease and desist letter. Hannover House, in turn, claim to have certain rights that allow them to make an animated film outside of a live feature. Who is right? I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next.

Bioshock Infinite website live

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Today, the wraps come off of Irrational Games’ next big project, something that has been cloaked in secrecy on the official site, whatisicarus.com with a countdown clock locking it away until now. Bioshock Infinite is on its way.

That it’s another Bioshock title wasn’t too surprising. That it takes place in 1912 in a floating city was, turning the “Bioshock” brand into more than something that takes place underwater. According to the main site, the story (set in 1912) goes something like this:

“Former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt has been sent to rescue Elizabeth, a young woman imprisoned in Columbia since childhood. Booker develops a relationship with Elizabeth, augmenting his abilities with hers so the pair may escape from a city that is literally falling from the sky. DeWitt must learn to fight foes in high-speed Sky-Line battles, engage in combat both indoors and amongst the clouds, and harness the power of dozens of new weapons and abilities.”

But looking further ahead, what Irrational seem to be hinting at with this change of venue is that the series could be extended into other interesting historical periods where aberrations in technical know-how embrace the social strata of each in surprising extremes.

We had a taste of the 1950′s with Andrew Ryan’s Rapture. Now we’ll get to see what Ken Levine and his crew have planned for the year that the Titanic sank, Queen Victoria was still on the throne, and which stood at the beginning of a decade that would change a world where the spirit of discovery remained stronger than ever.

I’m already psyched over steampunkish take shown off in the first trailer below. Weird science and psychic powers? Irrational is such a tease. The only thing that would probably make it better is a cameo by Edgar Cayce. Or an actual release date.

Yakuza think Kazuma Kiryu dresses like a punk

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They also think that Kazuma Kiryu walking around and getting into as many fights as he does is just bad for business.

Boing Boing has a piece by Jake Adelstein and fellow writer, Lisa Katayama, asking actual Yakuza to sit down with Sega’s beat ‘em up and share their thoughts on it.

Jake Adelstein is the author of Tokyo Vice which covers the time he spent as a crime reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun after he had passed their entrance exam, surprising himself as well as his employers when he showed up. It’s a great book that gives an inside, and deeply personal, look on his twelve year journey into Japan’s underworld as a Westerner working the crime beat in Japan’s largest newspaper. Today, he works as a consultant on the yakuza and does his part in Polaris Project Japan to help fight human trafficking.

His career had also put him in touch with a wide variety of colorful people who prove that truth is stranger than fiction. People like the yakuza who were willing to play the game and call Kazuma Kiryu a guy who dresses like a punk.

The article is both interesting and hilarious at the same time, especially on what was said on the fighting and the look of Kazuma Kiryu, and well worth a read especially if you’re a fan of the series.

Review: Risen (Xbox 360)

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Risen sets the player loose to die at their own peril in their quest to save the world. That is, if the bugs don’t eat them alive first.

I’m not talking about the giant bugs that can kill you in seconds. I’m talking about the kind that can turn your screen yellow, make the ground invisible, or respawn you in the ceiling of a big room after reloading a save forcing you to drop to your death. I hope you save often.
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