Review: Call of Juarez – The Cartel (X360)

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Call of Juarez: The Cartel is a game that likes making you wait.

Health regeneration is usually a fast and painless way to get back into the thick of things, but not here. In-game cell phone calls can’t be canceled even if you’ve heard them before, and that problem carries over to multiplayer co-op where everyone has to wait until their scripted personal time is finished.

If there’s an explosion nearby, expect to get knocked on your ass and being forced to wait as you get back up. There’s a reason most FPS shooters don’t do this to the player, and it’s not because of realism issues. If you’re thinking “because it’s not fun”, you’re already ahead of this game. 
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The Secret World reveals…more secrets

Funcom has released a new trailer that delves into the shadowy stories and conspiracies making up its backdrop.

Everything from the Tower of Babel to the Ark of the Covenant are being used as potential jumping off points for this new MMORPG. In it, players will take part in a secret war for the fate of the world as three factions will vie for supremacy using magic, technology, and mythology. Sounds like it could be a winning combination.

Review: Medal of Honor (X360)

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When Call of Duty first set out to take on EA’s Medal of Honor series in 2003, few would have guessed at the time that the ‘me too’ WW2 shooter would not only go on to trounce its rival but evolve expectations on what an FPS can deliver – especially online. Reinventing itself as Modern Warfare, the series then became something of a benchmark by which any contender to the throne purchased with the pixelized blood of countless Nazis and enemy mercenaries would be graded against.

But that didn’t stop EA from resurrecting the Medal of Honor series with a reboot, one that ripped its content from today’s headlines by taking players to Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda as a Tier 1 Operator. For longtime fans, that’s not so far from when it had started out as Allied Assault on PCs years ago before devolving its formula into boss characters and floating icons.
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Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days Public Demo

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…hit the Xbox 360 on Live and PCs on Steam. The PS3 slice of this crime caper hits tomorrow on Tuesday. This is the public demo, meaning that you don’t have to sign up, text a phone, or do anything else to appease the marketing gods in trying it out.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d even be wasting the bandwidth on it given how I wasn’t looking forward to the sequel after the first game, but like it, it does have a few interesting ideas that may make me think twice on where it’s going.

For the sequel, the designers opted to view Kane and Lynch’s third-person Shanghai through the lens of a digital camera. The way how light and color stretches onscreen, pixelizes, and otherwise seems imperfect (polys notwithstanding) puts a nice twist on seeing the game – similar to how Pandemic’s black and white take on The Saboteur had delivered.

Oddly enough, though, with as much lead thrown around, the demo was bloodless (other than your own splattering onto the screen to indicate how close you are to death) making it feel weirdly sanitized. Another sly dig at the digital medium where anything can be edited, or just more marketing censorship? Probably the latter.

Part of the story is told in the single-player part which sets both guys up to escape from a restaurant under assault from the authorities who aren’t there to order dumplings to go. Wooden walls blow out, cover disappears under a blast of lead, and a regenerating health system tries to keep you alive as you and Kane fight your way out. Lynch still talks to himself.

Multiplayer focused only on Fragile Alliance where you go in with a few other players as criminals on a heist stealing cash and hoping that none of your friends decides to gun you down for your share just as in the last game. Fellow thieves killed respawn as cops who are sent to stop you and whoever gets away with as much loot as they can steal is a winner.

Performance was…pretty wonky with character models sometimes moving around onscreen like stiff-limbed chess pieces. Hopefully this will get straightened out before release next month, but it works decently enough in that it didn’t crash out and die on me. And it was pretty fun.

For more single player pics, hit the jump. The full game comes out next month on the 17th for the Xbox 360, PS3, and the PC.
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The Cold War Lives – World in Conflict

The Cold War, aside from hanging the threat of nuclear annihilation over everyone’s heads, had also given birth to James bond, chilling thrills for Tom Clancy’s fans, Tetris, and plenty of tactical fodder for armchair generals to duke it out in the Fulda Gap between the former East and West halves of Germany.

During that time, a wealth of PC titles dedicated to military scenarios built around WW3 filled store shelves from shops such as SSI with their “When Superpowers Collide” series to shoot ‘em ups such as Access Software’s “Raid Over Moscow“. Although it’s no longer around, its indelible presence on history continues to provide developers ideas on where to take their own stories and answer several “what-ifs” of their own, even if it means fighting Russian ultranationalists as the new bad guys with Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare.

One particular title had asked the question of what would have happened if the Soviet Union hadn’t fallen, if the Kremlin had decided that war was the only way to survive inevitable collapse. Massive Entertainment’s “World in Conflict” was an incredible RTS released in ’07 focusing on an invasion of the United States in 1989 and which had an expanded re-release in ’09 which included the Soviet perspective. It’s an RTS with a good story, too, focusing on the soldiers and even the letters written to their families.

It was slated to come out for consoles, but the plans were scrapped last year. It could have made a great compliment to other RTS-type titles on the Xbox 360 alongside Halo Wars or the PS3 but whether Ubisoft, the new owners of Massive Entertainment, will ever revisit the IP is hard to say. I wish they would, though. The game ends on something of a cliffhanger.

Trailer: World in Conflict – Soviet Assault (WARNING: Some graphic violence)

Manipulator? Purveyor? Warrior?

Funcom has updated its site promoting their new PC MMO-in-the-works, “The Secret World”, with a test to see which of the three secret societies you might be best suited for. It also gives you a chance to be a part of the upcoming beta which should be more than enough of an incentive for fans familiar with writer Ragnar Tornquist’s work with “The Longest Journey” and its sequel, “Dreamfall”.

If you don’t know what it is about, “The Secret World” takes place in real world locations such as New York and London as it pits players in a secret war against the forces of darkness. Those myths that go bump in the night? The Boogey Man? Atlantis? Cthulhu? They could be real. The question is, will you fight to keep these secrets buried? Use them towards your own ends? Or sell them to the highest bidder as part of a secret agenda? That’s about what this sounds like. It sounds pretty intriguing, especially when they say that the gameplay is classless without leveling.

Think about that one: no leveling, no classes. My RPG sensibilities had to chew on that for awhile. It sounds almost as welcome as when 4ed D&D rid itself of Vancian magic memorization, but I need to see how it could work first before I get too excited.

Anyways, I took the test which was a mix of unique visuals and odd questions making it feel as if I were being grilled in the backroom of a fortune teller’s shop in Chinatown…the kind that Eddie Murphy in the Golden Child might have visited.

As for the faction it picked out for me, well, I’ll be keeping that as my own secret, but it’s not fixed. At the end of the test, would-be beta testers can opt to pick from the three societies offered: the Templar, the Illuminati, or the Dragon. Once you do, you’ll get an e-mail and a kit that you can download to show off your affiliation. The layers are finally peeling away from Funcom’s latest game, adding a bit more detail to what was teased in the trailer below.

Update 9.4.09: The second trailer has been added below. It looks like the trailers are covering each of the societies in turn. The first looks like it’s showing off the Dragon. The second one, I’m guessing, is for the Templars.

The Civil War, Antietam, and an AR 55 assault rifle. One of these things does not belong with the others.

8monkeylabs and Phantom EFX have released a demo for Darkest of Days, a time traveling FPS which casts you as a survivor plucked from certain death in order to serve as an anonymous guardian of history thanks to advanced technology. Although history remembers you as a dead man making you prime material for recruitment, you’ll soon be on the front lines in defending the timestream from someone else’s idea of history.

The demo knows how to get things started with a bang and the engine wasn’t kidding about boasting about filling the screen with lots and lots of soldiers (i.e. targets) for you to fend off. It includes the intro battle in which you relive your final moments at Custer’s Last Stand, a training level, and a jump to the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War to save someone who shouldn’t be in the fight.

And because you’re working for a highly advanced group of time travelers, you might also have to take care of things the old fashioned way: with superior firepower…such as an assault rifle for breaking through Confederate lines…

Oh yes.

By the way, that circle thing that winds up around the reticle and the green block? That’s the game’s version of “active reload”. By hitting the reload button as the bar passes through the green area, you finish reloading your weapon much faster. It varies depending on what you have, but in the case of the Springfield rifle, it cut roughly 2/3s of the time needed to get it ready for another shot.

But along with that awesome moment, the demo also has a few iffy things…some of the voice acting is a little bland and there are some invisible walls that are a bit too obvious…but the overall atmosphere in staging a big battle piece if great stuff. That, and this is only a small piece of a game that will take you from Antietam to Pompeii to WW2. The game is due out for both the PC and the Xbox 360 in September.

Achtung! Wolfenstein leaked! And the PC pre-order leaves nothing to be excited about.

On Wolfenstein’s official forums, id Community Manager, Pete Sokal, has posted up news that a build of the Multiplayer portion of the game has been leaked. From the announcement, he says:

It was brought to our attention on Friday, 7/31 that a build of the Wolfenstein Multiplayer was leaked and is now being distributed illegally through breach of NDA and mirrors posted on the internet. I must warn anyone involved that Activision’s legal department is taking this matter very seriously.

In short, if you see it out there, do your best to resist the temptation to grab it. On the other hand, it would be nice if PC players were given another, more legal, kind of handout in the form of a decent pre-order incentive, or even a Collector’s Edition.

PC gamers have apparently gotten a lot less love than their console peers when it comes to pre-orders. Console gamers can look forward to goodies such as early access to upgrades and two thousand pieces of gold with which to purchase others in multiplayer. PC players receive the obligatory Gamestop guarantee of getting the game by August 18th if they opt for overnight shipping…just like everyone else. I remember when the CE edition for RTCW came in a collector’s tin with a cool poster and a neat patch.

Come on. On Bioshock’s release, its CE came with a Big Daddy and a free replacement was quickly offered in case it was broken, not to mention the downloadable art and music that were made available to everyone. I’m not asking for a B.J. Blaskowicz action figure, but something other than the box and manual would be nice.

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Bioshock gets a Big Daddy statue, Modern Warfare 2 comes out with night vision goggles, and Wolfenstein comes with this cool action figure…not.