Trailer: Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One

Here’s a new trailer for Insomniac Games’ “Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, which is scheduled for an Oct. 13 release for PlayStation 3.

And here’s a flashback from the ad campaign for the original Ratchet & Clank game, which boasted one of the best video game commercials of all time:

Evo2K11 – Always in search of the next fight

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Two competitors, one from Japan and another from the United States, face off against each other for the final matchup of the world championships at Las Vegas. Both have brought their own weapons to the stage; fighting sticks set in a flat panel studded with buttons and polished with long hours of steady practice and sacrifice.

As the fight begins, they each know that only one of them will walk away as the victor. That night, all of their hard work will be put to the test in the space of only a few minutes.

Another Evo2K has come and gone, but it was also one of the most exciting bouts ever to tear across the ‘net with plenty of anguish-filled defeats and thrilling comebacks. To those that only see a bunch of guys playing video games, one look at the videos being broadcast live from the Rio in Las Vegas filled with thousands of cheers and jeers easily demonstrate that those that have come to watch are as every bit as passionate as any other fan.

Fighting games have undergone a stunning revival in the last few years with Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Mortal Kombat setting the pace. And thanks to today’s high-tech arena and years of effort in getting that ever so valuable netcode just right, players have turned the globe into their own personal arcade, pitting their skills against each other as they used to years ago when spots were reserved by placing your token on the cabinet.

And at Evo2K this year, the crowd has only gotten larger and the excitement even more infectious. I don’t even play fighting games, but in watching players from every walk of life take part (anyone can sign up and play, even an eight year old named Noah who lit the screen up with incredible skill), I couldn’t help but cheer for my share of underdogs and sit in stunned disbelief when Japan’s Daigo “the Beast” Umehara was knocked out into fourth place by Korea’s own superchamp, Poongko, otherwise known as “the Machine”.

Watching these pros move their characters across the screen was like watching a ballet of sight and sound with every move, dodge, block, and feint as both players tried to read into what their opponent would do next. Some wore poker faces, others brought their own music to block out the world, and one or two would even do a little dance with their fists in the air or their body moving to the motion of their character onscreen. Some would bury their faces in their hands after losing a round. Others would just walk as quickly as possible from the stage in bitter disappointment.

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The final fight for the Street Fighter IV crown went to Japan’s Fuudo who defeated Brokentier Latif (Brokentier is the team that Latif plays for), who had himself defeated Poongko in another stunning upset. Though Street Fighter was a huge focus for many, Evo2K had also held contests for Mortal Kombat, Blazblue, and Tekken 6 to crown the champs for each of those as well.

It wasn’t all fighting games, either. Panels were also held over the three days of Evo2K’s action, Namco Bandai had also shown off a little Soul Calibur 5 action to the crowd, and a few screeners were also present to help the crowd decompress. Capcom’s Seth Killian had also come down to help with the great commentary from the Evo2K crew, but in the end it was clear that the winners were not only those that flew thousands of miles to be there, but everyone who could be a part of it either by being in the crowd or watching it online.

It’s one thing to think of video games as “pushing buttons and sticks” to do stuff onscreen. But when events like these can level the playing field and invite anyone to join in where even an eight year old with enough skills can get the crowd behind him, it’s even harder to turn as much of a blind eye to that kind of awesome.

If you’re interested in reading up more on Evo2K and the fighting game circuit in general, you can hit up their official site along with Shoryuken which has all the latest including pics such as those above.

Sega announces Aliens: Colonial Marines under consideration for Wii U

“Aliens: Colonial Marines,” an FPS based on the Alien movie franchise Sega and Gearbox Software, is being “prototyped and considered” for Nintendo’s announced Wii U console, Sega announced during E3.

The game is presently scheduled for Spring 2012 release for PC, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 platforms.

“We are extremely thrilled about the potential of the Nintendo Wii U and are honored to be a part of the earliest efforts for research and development on the platform with the Aliens: Colonial Marines project that is so perfectly matched with the platform’s unique and exciting new capabilities,” said Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford said in a press release. “As more details about the Nintendo Wii U emerge, Gearbox Software is equipped and motivated to engage and support the platform and its customers.”

Nintendo’s announced Wii U console features a tablet-like controller with its own screen. I’m imaging Gearbox’s crew is thinking up some kind of gameplay elements in which players blast aliens on their main television screen while tracking their xenomorphic enemies on the handheld monitor.

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Tecmo: Ninja Gaiden returning to Nintendo

Tecmo’s insanely difficult Ninja Gaiden series made its North American debut on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989, but its latest versions have bypassed Nintendo consoles.

Ninja Gaiden 3 is set for an early 2012 release for PlayStation 3 and XBox 360, according to Tecmo Koei. The company announced during E3 that the game and its protagonist, Ryu Hayabusa, are also set to appear on Nintendo’s forthcoming Wii U console for a version of the game being developed under the working title of Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge.

Nintendo’s Wii U console is scheduled for a release some time in 2012. Nintendo tends to release home consoles later in the year for its North American customers, so I’m guessing the Wii U will be out in time for a fall or holiday release.

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.

Sony’s PSN Press Conference – What was said

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Sony held a press conference at 2PM (Japan time) to answer questions on the PSN breach. Kazuo Hirai, CEO of Sony, headed the panel with two other officers from the company: Senior VP, Shiro Kambe, and CIO, Shinji Hasejima. Together, they answered questions and provided some explanation for what has been happening. After a short introduction and an opening statement, all three then deeply bowed in a formal demonstration of sincere apology.

Much of what was said was already generally known such as the involvement of the FBI and Homeland Security. However, it was mentioned that the passwords were hashed (giving them some protection) and that Sony reiterated their ongoing efforts to strengthen the network along with their deepest apologies for the inconvenience that this has caused everyone.

They also covered a timeline detailing events from when the intrusion was made between April 17 – 19th and when they shut PSN down on the 20th once detecting it, finally engaging an unnamed “top” security firm in the United States on the 24th to help with their investigations.

Shinji Hasejima, Sony’s CIO, explained that the exploit had gone in appearing as a normal transaction and left the system in the same way, avoiding the conventional security measures they had in place. As with Kazuo Hirai, he promises that stronger measures will be implemented. SNEI (Sony Network Entertainment International) manages the PSN servers’ data center located at an AT&T facility in California.

Kazuo Hirai had also stated they they are not certain that Anonymous is to blame for this breach, referencing only the problems that they have had with the hacktivist group in the past. They still have not determined who the actual perpetrators are. To that end, they are working with law enforcement officials in various countries as the investigation expands.

At one point, it had been mentioned that Sony will cover the fees associated
with the re-issuance of credit cards (presumably such as those a card company may charge for a replacement). When pressed for further details by the press, it was then explained that while there is no clear evidence of leaked credit card info or improper use, if there is illegal usage and the customer suffers damage, then Sony will deal with it on a case by case basis. According to a statement earlier in the conference, there are approximately 10 million
credit cards registered on PSN (out of an estimated 77 million accounts).

A “Welcome Back” program was also mentioned for when PSN returns which includes a thirty day trial period of  PS Plus along with a number of other incentives from their Marketplace as an apology to all affected users.

Update (5.01.11): Playstation Blog has updated with a review of what was stated in the conference as well as noting that PSN and Qriocity services will be rolling out worldwide in phases. Also updated the original article above to reflect that the passwords were actually hashed. If you want to watch the whole thing (which is more than an hour and a half), it’s located here.

Today’s Big Story: Sony confirms user data breach

Sony Computer Entertainment confirmed today that the hacker (or hackers) who broke into PlayStation’s Network and Qriosity systems accessed users’ personal information.

PlayStation 3 owners have not been able to access PSN or Qriosity services for about one week. A GamePro
editorial accuses Sony of an “astounding breach of trust” for the delay
in acknowledging the compromise of sensitive information.

The following is from Sony’s  letter to customers  to acknowledging the data breach:

“Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we
believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following
information that you provided: name, address (city, state, zip),
country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password
and login, and handle/PSN online ID. It is also possible that your
profile data, including purchase history and billing address (city,
state, zip), and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security
answers may have been obtained. If you have authorized a sub-account for
your dependent, the same data with respect to your dependent may have
been obtained.”

“While there is no evidence at this time that credit card
data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided
your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, out of
an abundance of caution we are advising you that your credit card number
(excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained,” the letter continued.

Sony shut down PSN and its Qriocity video and music streaming service on April 20. The data breach happened sometime between April 17 and April 19, Sony reported.

Additional coverage:

PSN still down. Skynet not to blame (yet).

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According to the TV series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Skynet was supposed to become self-aware and launch its attack on humanity on April 21st of this year. It’s come and gone, but to members of Sony’s Playstation Network, it’s as if it’s actually happening.

PSN, the free service linking PS3 users together in multiplayer as well as providing the virtual space for Sony’s marketplace, has been down for the past few days. Also affected in the past week was Amazon’s cloud service hurting anything out there riding on top of it, such as certain websites. It’s back in business, though the same can’t be said for PSN which is still down as of this writing.

You might have also heard about a hacktivist group called Anonymous upset over Sony’s heavy-handed handling over PS3 hacker, George Hotz, whose case was settled before going to court. At this point, they haven’t taken responsibility for it and have gone so far as to issue a denial appropriately titled “For Once We Didn’t Do It“. And it’s not like they’re the only ones gunning for Sony nowadays.

All we do know is that Sony has finally admitted to an “external intrusion” of their systems and have taken them offline in order to investigate the issue. As for when they’re coming back, or what that entails exactly, your guess is as good as mine keeping everyone that bought Mortal Kombat and anything else with multiplayer in the past week for the PS3 raging for awhile longer.

Personally, I’d bet on the rogue AI installing itself on everything with a CPU causing this mess. But that’s just me…and anyone named John Connor.

Death on the Sunset Strip: An Early Look at Resistance 3

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WEST HOLLYWOOD – “Resistance 3″ lets players imagine humanity’s last stand as a lonely boat ride along a river swarming with murderous aliens.

Game developers Insomniac Games and Sony Computer Entertainment showed a preview of Resistance 3 to reporters who gathered Tuesday at Andaz West Hollywood. The new material included a level that puts new series protagonist Joseph Capellion a boat with scientist Dr. Fyodor Malikov navigating a murky river in an alternate 1957 in which the alien Chimera have taken over the United States.

The boat’s route takes the player past the hulking corpse of a Chimera kraken. A host of leapers feast upon the monster’s body. Malikov advises the player not to shoot. This isn’t a war, the characters just want to survive.

“We’re telling a different story than we did in Resistance 1 and 2,” lead developer Drew Murray said. “It’s about having lost, and (Capellion) having to slip through America to carry out his plan.”

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The Agency is no more…along with over 200 jobs

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The Agency was supposed to be an MMO based on spies and a worldwide theater of covert ops. It was hugely ambitious with real-world cities to be used as hubs for missions and teams defending the world against other players determined to steal it. It sounded awesome.

Unfortunately, it seemed to exist only as vaporware with the occasional screenshot or video released every few months to remind players that it was barely alive. And now we’ll never know if we could have been in like Flint, or as slick as James Bond.

That’s because the project was canned along with most of the people working on it. According to the news over at the Hollywood Reporter, Sony Online Entertainment had also announced shuttering three studios – all of which were involved with the Agency along with a number of other projects.

Over 205 employees are to be laid off in the restructuring as Sony focuses more on two other MMOs: reviving the action shooter MMO, Planetside, as Planetside: Next, and continuing to build atop one of the oldest MMORPGs out there, Everquest.

It’s not the first time that a promising project like the Agency has been shuttered. The game industry is, unfortunately, filled with more than a few stories of canceled titles due to a number of reasons ranging from a lack of funds, corporate restructuring, or simply losing focus or interest in the project. Hopefully everyone affected will be able to quickly land on their feet elsewhere.