Review: Vanquish (Xbox 360)

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Arcades back then were filled to the brim with row upon row of cutting edge excitement, the kind that ate quarters and tokens as if there was no tomorrow.

When new and fancier consoles arrived on the scene from Japan, Capcom, Konami, Sega, Data East, and many others would blister thumbs and recycle gamepads on an almost monthly basis with simple, action packed titles that warranted the price that they were sold at. In those days, it wasn’t so much how long a game would last than it was for simply having that kind of arcade fun at home without having to stand next to someone that hasn’t taken a bath in three days for an open spot.

And that’s what Vanquish has resurrected with its fast, frenetic, third person, kill-em-all action fest filled with ridiculously crazy explosions and a host of mini-bosses that shake the screen with their very presence. This is an unabashedly arcade tour de force for the console complete with online leaderboards and a scoring system challenging all comers to do better.
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Review: Enslaved – Odyssey to the West

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West feels like something I’d have seen in a movie theater and enjoyed. Perhaps that’s the point Ninja Theory, its creator, is trying to make.

The fusion of techniques from the movie world into the creation of games has been a long-pursued subject. Gamemakers have always sought ways to make their works feel more epic or artistic. Some games offer cinematic treatment to their cutscenes, while others blast your ears with high-end sound engineering or dramatic musical scores. Some use their characters as the engine for the whole experience.

Enslaved attempts to do all of the above, using a blend of glorious visuals, exquisite voicework/character development and action, hoping the player will be too busy enjoying the ride to notice any shortcomings.
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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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Review: Castlevania – Lords of Shadow (X360)

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It’s been five years since Castlevania’s last big outing on consoles, Curse of Darkness, whipped its way to shelves for the Xbox and PS2 – two years if anyone wants to count the wish-we-could-forget Wii-only fighting game, Judgement. While portables like the Nintendo DS and Sony’s PSP kept Konami’s storied franchise alive with hits such as Dawn of Sorrow, console fans have been left to wait for their own vampire killer. Now Lords of Shadow has finally arrived, complete with a Shakespearean read-along.
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Here’s the soundtrack for NBA 2K11

Today, 2K announced the track list for NBA 2K11, which is going to have Jordan on the cover. Behold, the music:

* 1. Snoop Dogg – NBA 2K Theme
* 2. Big Boi – Shutterbug
* 3. Drake – Over
* 4. Cassidy – Game Time
* 5. Ron Artest – Champion
* 6. Duck-Down All-Stars feat. Buckshot, Skyzoo, Promise, and Sean Price – Better Than You
* 7. The Alan Parsons Project – Sirius
* 8. Art vs. Science – Hollywood
* 9. Big Rock Candy Mountain – Rocketship
* 10. Brunettes – Red Rollerskates
* 11. Chicharones – Little By Little
* 12. Children Collide – Skeleton Dance
* 13. Constellations feat. Asher Roth- We’re Here To Save The Day
* 14. Dan Black feat. Kid Cudi – Symphonies (Remix)
* 15. Delorean – Deli
* 16. Ev – Home Of The Brave (Instrumental)
* 17. Failsafe – Hope & Only If We Learn
* 18. HOGNI – Bow Down
* 19. Kidz In Space – Downtime
* 20. Middleman – It’s Not Over Yet
* 21. Rakaa feat. Aloe Blaac – Crown Of Thorns
* 22. The Redland – So Far
* 23. The Russian Futurists – Paul Simon & Precious Metals
* 24. Sonny Bones – Rise
* 25. Two Door Cinema Club – I Can Talk
* 26. Yung Autmatik & Bayroot Productions – Go Hard or Go Home
* 27. Dux Jones – Pourin’ It On

I bolded the Ron-Ron track for fans of the defending champs. You guys will get to enjoy the music, and perhaps play a little hoops, when the game comes out Oct. 5.

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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Shaken, but not stirred.

So we might not be getting a new Bond movie in the near future – or even the next year or so – thanks to MGM’s financial fumble to the tune of $4 billion in debt, but that hasn’t stopped Daniel Craig and Judi Dench from loaning their likenesses and voices along with Joss Stone’s to Bizarre Creations’ upcoming take, Blood Stone, due later this year. Bond scribe, Bruce Feirstein, is also on hand to script the story.

Bizarre Creations is more known for the racing game, Blur, along with Geometry Wars and the shoot ‘em up gameshow hybrid, The Club. That also puts them in a position to deliver action and driving, two things that seem to define Bond’s extracurricular activities onscreen, so we might see something along the lines of what EA Redwood Shores had delivered in ’04 with Everything or Nothing.

EoN had a story so good that some would go so far as to say that it could fill in for a new Bond film during the hiatus between Brosnan’s last silver screen outing in ’99 and Craig’s debut in ’04, though Brosnan and Dench would star in the game if not the theaters.

I loved it and totally believed that it could have done the job. It also helped that the game was extremely good, so here’s hoping that Blood Stone will deliver the same punch. In the meantime, here’s the first trailer along with footage from the demo filmed via shakey cam.

Review: Naughty Bear

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Naughty Bear is better seen and heard about than played. To play it invites mental punishment.

At a glance, the concept is intriguing. Take something usually associated with fluff and cuteness and turn it into a vehicle of dark vengeance. It would not only offer something relatively unseen, but it would also administer a possibly entertaining poke at our psyches. Done right, it could be clever.

Clever is not what happens here. Instead, we get the equivalent of spaghetti thrown against the wall, except it’s to the sounds of party favors being stepped on, other bears tottering around in anguish and a narrator who bellows at you like a demented babysitter.

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Review: Transformers – War for Cybertron

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If you grew up in the ’80s, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Optimus Prime. And if you did, you probably thought he was awesome.

Prime is the first name who usually comes to mind when there’s talk of the Transformers, the famed “robots in disguise” who transformed into vehicles and captured the imaginations of kids everywhere decades ago, well before movie audiences saw Megan Fox straddling motorcycles and Shia LeBeouf running for his life.

They remain one of the lasting symbols of 1980s pop culture, and were responsible for kitchen floors, dinner tables and living rooms becoming battlefields.

Transformers: War for Cybertron resonates with those kids, who are much older now and have replaced those household surfaces with a 360 or PS3.

For them, High Moon Studios has crafted a fun trek through an intriguing piece of franchise lore, echoing good action shooters of the past while capturing enough of that ’80s-child joy to mask some of its flaws. It’s not so much a groundbreaking title as it is a dream update of beloved cultural icons.

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E3: A look back on Day Two

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Day Two started off earlier, mainly due to the first day starting at noon. A few appointments were penciled in including another one with Activision who had given us a chance to check out the new True Crime. My brother was ready to hit most of those leaving me to wander the floor to take a look at what else was being shown. The first day was a brief tour in the West Hall. Now it was time to hit the South Hall where the third parties, and Microsoft, was lurking.
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