L.A. Noire out today, more new releases

L.A. Noire (Team Bondi/Rockstar Games) is out today. Tech-Out will have a review soon, but I have to leave the office and actually play it first. A number of co-workers who don’t often play games are familiar with the title, so I’m definitely curious to see if the game lives up to the hype.

(Aside: I was often puzzled by Rockstar’s spelling of “noire,” since the term film noir does not have the “e.” I checked out some comments today on Kotaku and GameSpot and learned “noire” is the feminine spelling and noir is the masculine version. The word is French for black and since “la” is the feminine definite article in French, the title may have a double meaning: “L.A. Noire = “La Noire” = “The Black.”)

Anyway, L.A. Noire is out for PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 and is rated M for such reasons as nudity, blood and gore and drug use. I would write that “games are not just for kids anymore,” but if you’re reading this, you probably already know that.

Today’s other releases include:

  • SpongeBob SquigglePants (THQ). Social game featuring Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants. Rated E and released for Nintendo 3DS. THQ released a previous version of this game for the Nintendo Wii.
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (CD Projekt/Atari) Fantasy RPG. Rated M and released for PC. The official web site has some news on fixing some release date technical difficulties.
  • Fable III (Lionhead Studios/Microsoft Games Studios). RPG. Rated M and now released for PC. Tech-Out reviewed the console version in November.
  • Honest Hearts (Obsidian Entertainment/Bethesda Softworks). DLC add-on for Fallout” New Vegas. Available via XBox Live and Steam. Bethesda reports a PlayStation Network release will happen ASAP.

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PSN Returns

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It’s not a joke. It’s really happening. The official Playstation Blog writes that PSN was phased back into service inside the United States and Canada in the last several hours.

The official Playstation Twitter had even given a play-by-play on which regions were coming up first, apparently starting in the northeastern states and then jumping to California after that. An updating map was also provided and was colored in as PSN came back to life.

PSN will also prompt PS3s to update with newest firmware which was made available several hours prior to the network relaunch on the official site. If you didn’t download it from there, it will prompt you for the update when you try to get back on PSN. It will also prompt you to change your password, so be sure to think of something creative.

I’ll admit, I didn’t feel as affected as some that had gone as far as to trade in their PS3s for Xbox 360s. After updating my PS3 and changing my password, there wasn’t much fanfare after that. Granted, people will finally be able to blast each other in the face in online match ups now that it’s back, but with the Store still down, it’s still a mixed blessing for some that can’t redeem certain codes for DLC through it.

But for PSN’s team of engineers, I’m sure that it has been a long and stressful road to get to even this point. Despite the bad press and further threats against the network, they had pushed on. A lot of the new improvements that Sony promised will be transparent against the backdrop of Fatalities and co-op. There won’t be a virtual ticker tape parade here, other than in watching players sign back in. Yet for Sony and its team, that might be reward enough.

New videos for Hunted and Fear 3

Here are a couple links to new videos for the forthcoming “Hunted: The Demon’s Forge” and “Fear 3.”

Developers working for inXile entertainment talk about creating the villains for Hunted in “At War With Monsters.” The game’s publisher, Bethesda Softworks, released the vid.

The second video, classily titled “F**cking Run,” is for Fear 3, developed by Day 1 studios and published by WB Games. The video shows how players must avoid antagonist Alma’s “wall of death” while playing the title’s cooperative mode. (Obvious strong language in the link. You’ve been warned, folks.)

Modern Warfare 3 teaser trailers released, or, violence is still awesome

Green “night vision” imagery, shouting, gunfire and explosions dominate new teaser trailers for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Activision released the images Friday on the company’s Call of Duty channel on You Tube. America, England, France and Germany each get their own spot, so players can expect to see each country featured in this year’s Call of Duty installment.

Oddly enough, there was no imagery of fighting in Baghdad, Afghanistan’s Helmland Province nor Tripoli. But as far as fake wars go, it looks like Activision and EA Games, makers of “Battlefield 3,” will be fighting a tough battle this year for gamers’ attention and money.

(H/t G4 TV.com)

Developers Feel PSN Downtime Crunch

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Computer and Videogames has a story in which they spoke to the producer of the upcoming action RPG, Dark Souls. Kei Horono admitted that “I would be lying if I said the problems
with PSN hadn’t caused us some problems, but we are in
contact with Sony and are aiming to meet a street date of October 11.”

The team at From Software who are developing Dark Souls had hinted at a larger online component than they the one used to great success in its predecessor, Demon’s Souls.

Andriasang posted the translated points of an interview from Japanese gaming site, 4Gamer, with the director of Dark Souls, Hidetaka Miyazaki, where he stated that he wanted to bring back the feeling of “the old Dragon Quest” games. In that way, he hopes that it will deliver the sense of where everyone feels the struggle of everyone else by sharing tips as they did in the old days. PS3 players saw a taste of this with Demon’s Souls where they could actually leave simple hints – or deceptions – behind that the servers shared with everyone else in the form of text messages.

With PSN down, however, none of that is coming through making the world of Demon’s Souls even more grim than it already is. The difficulties that Kei Horono admitted to above also emphasize the troubles that other developers may be having with PSN’s forced downtime -  especially for those working on PS3 titles with online features.

IGN had posted a story last month in the early days of the outage speaking to one such developer that was directly affected, Open Emotion Studios. The Irish developer was set to release their puzzler, Mad Blocker Alpha, on PSN for the States on April 19th but as everyone knows, circumstances prevented anything PSN related from happening the next day when Sony took it offline. Paddy Murphy, CEO for Open Emotion, said that they have been in contact with Sony who promised extra marketing to help promote their game to help “recoup our potential losses”.

But the days of exclusivity continue to wane with more games appearing on both the Xbox 360 and PS3. Dark Souls will be the first taste of From Software’s unique punishment that Xbox 360 players may have missed if they didn’t have access to a PS3 and a copy of Demon’s Souls. Even with PSN down, continuing development with Live is likely providing valuable lessons useful for whatever networking tricks will be worked into the gameplay for both versions. This may be why Kei Horono seems confident in hitting that October 11th release date.

And why players will have another reason to be afraid of Halloween.

New trailers: L.A. Noire and Honest Hearts

New trailers are out today for “L.A. Noire” and “Honest Hearts,” the next DLC episode for Fallout: New Vegas.

I’m not supposed to embed trailers for Mature-rated games without age gates, so links to follow.

L.A. Noire, from Rockstar Games and Team Bondi, is scheduled to be released May 16 for PlayStation 3 and XBox 360. If you’re reading this, you probably already know the game tells the story of an LAPD detective in 1947 Los Angeles and features highly-touted facial animations. The idea is to let players figure out if suspects and witnesses are telling the truth, and this writer looks forward to seeing how well it works in practice.

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“Honest Hearts” places Fallout: New Vegas players in a post-apocalyptic Zion Canyon, Utah. I have to admit that I’ve barely made a dent in New Vegas, but Utah is an amazingly beautiful state. The DLC is set for a May 17 release for PC, PlayStation 3* and XBox 360 players.

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*This assumes PlayStation Network is back online by then. Sony has not announced a date as of this posting.

Namco Bandai announces “Dark Souls”

Namco Bandai Games announced today that “Dark Souls,” a “spiritual successor” to popular RPG “Demon’s Souls,” will be released in October for North American and European players.

The original Demon’s Souls, released in 2009, came out as a PlayStation 3 exclusive and earned a reputation for being really, really hard. Tech-Out reviewer Reggie Carolipio wrote:

Demon’s Souls isn’t for the impatient. It’s not for people that don’t
want to feel as if they’re inches away from success only to have it
often taken away from them at the last second, pushing them even harder
if they haven’t broken their controller yet. But it’s not so hard so as
to be a masked attempt at humiliating its players. In some ways, it
shares a lot in common with an old-school 2D title on the NES, right
down to the respawning enemies.

Demon’s Souls’ hardcore attitude refuses to coddle you. Death is as
much a part of the festivities as is dispatching the shambling, soulless
things that stand in your way. Its deep character development and
crafting system, open world hub, provide enough glimmers of hope to
string players along and its gothic aesthetics brilliantly stain its
fantasy world with plenty of Prozac inducing gloom while leaving you
crying at the same time for rolling off of the edge of a cliff while
dodging an enemy.

Namco Bandai apparently wants players to expect Dark Souls to be as to tough as the 2009 title. The URL for the game’s website is www.preparetodie.com.

The forthcoming Dark Souls will be released for XBox 360 as well as PlayStation 3, Namco Bandai reported today.

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Gunfights and swordplay featured among today’s new games

Today’s new game releases include Bethesda Softworks, “Brink” a new FPS and Disney Interactive’s “Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game.”

Brink is rated T for Teen and available for PC, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360.

Lego Pirates of the Caribbean is rated E-10+ and on sale for Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 3, Sony PSP and XBox 360.

Also out today:

  • Dream Trigger (D3Publisher): “Arcade shooter” for Nintendo 3DS
  • MX vs. ATV  Alive (THQ) Racing title for PlayStation 3 and XBox 360.

Review: Thor – God of Thunder (X360)

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Movie tie-in games are a staple of the industry along with the notoriety that they often bear as quick cash-ins. Not every movie gets one, though whenever one is made, it’s usually greeted with a mixture of dread and fear by those that know their reputation. Exceptions to the rule are rare. The hope that the next project might break the curse also often disappears almost as quickly as the game does into the bargain bin.

Thor: God of Thunder from Liquid Entertainment tries to shatter that reputation, building on the excitement surrounding the film. Yet even for the mighty Nordic godling empowered by Marvel heroism, it proves to be a fight even he can’t win.
Continue reading

Sony to offer AllClearID Plus protection against ID theft

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Identity theft has been on quite a few people’s minds especially in the wake of the downtime that PSN and SOE have suffered after having personal information put at risk in hack intrusions. Now Sony has the details on an ID protection enrollment program that they are providing as a complimentary offer, free of charge, to Playstation Network and Qriocity members.

Posed here on their official blog, the service is described as good for 12 months and will inform those who subscribe to it of any unusual activity pertaining to their information and put them in touch with a staff of “licensed private investigators and identity restoration specialists”. A special enrollment code will go out to members from Sony that will be good up until June 18th.

I looked the company up (Debix, Inc.) to see who they were. In addition to researching solutions to security breaches, they offer an on-call ID protection service for $9.95 per month. If someone attempts to sign up for credit under your name, an alert contacts your phone allowing you to indicate whether it is fraud or not.

Debix also offers the AllClearID service which is what Sony mentions in their release above. AllClearID has a free service plan that you can sign up for immediately, but Playstation.Blog notes that customers will be getting the AllClearID Plus service which normally costs $9.95 a month – all of which will be covered by Sony for twelve months of monitoring. As of this writing, Sony hasn’t yet emailed the activation codes needed to sign up for it yet, but AllClearID has already made itself ready.

It’s a big, and potentially expensive, step for Sony to make, but it also makes a point on what they are willing to do to rebuild the trust of their customers. As their team begin the “final stages” on the improvements they’ve made to the system, all we can do is wait and see what they do next.