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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Review: God of War 3

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God of War 3 is a revenge tale, and not the kind with the happy ending that leaves you feeling fuzzy about everything that happened. This is dirty, nasty payback, fueled by the kind of single-minded rage that can take even the noblest of heroes to a dark place.

Sony Computer Entertainment’s latest (and presumably last) installment of its famed franchise is also its most ambitious, exploring the powers of the PS3 as much as the mental and physical odyssey of its hero, Kratos.

It accomplishes both tasks in impressive fashion, giving players an grand action-fest with bloody fun, guilty pleasures and even some brains — as in smarts, not what ends up smeared on the wall.

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Hands-on: God of War 3

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Revenge is a dish best served cold, and there are few chefs better at preparing it than Kratos, the protagonist of the God of War series. Roughly a year ago, I talked about how his blend of bravado, skill-tempered power and pure rage helped him stand alone as Sony’s Computer Entertainment’s alpha dog and helped craft a franchise that aimed to reshape the concept of scale in game design. With the full power of the PS3 behind God of War 3, Kratos’ debut (and possibly lone appearance) on the system needed to be something special.

A few days ago, Sony gave us and others a big taste of Kratos’ vengeance … and it was good. WARNING: I talk a lot about the first 30 minutes of the game, especially some but not all highlights of what I saw … if you find that to be spoiler-worthy, be careful if you choose to read on.
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A Holiday Gaming Guide

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So it’s another year of holiday gaming as parents try and figure out just what they should get their kids (or themselves), and I’m willing to bet that a console might be on the minds of those willing to camp out storefronts in Black Friday or battle each other for the last copy of Super Mario Bros. Wii left on the shelves.

With Sony’s new pricing policy for their PS3, Xbox 360 bundles, and the Wii joining the moneymaking fracas, it’s as if it were launch day all over again.

A few days ago while browsing, couple had asked me what kind of games they could get their thirteen-year old daughter on the Xbox 360 and told me what kind of titles she loved to play. They were buying an Xbox for her because her brothers were living elsewhere and wanted to keep her connected, but were wondering what she could play on her own.

After hearing them gush about Guitar Hero, I pointed out Beatles Rock Band. They said she already had it for another system. I asked if she liked to play first-person shooters or sports games and they said no.

I didn’t know what to tell them, only that it was tough finding something for their daughter’s tastes on the Xbox 360 that wasn’t a first-person shooter or a sports game…both of which they said she was not interested in it, but her brothers were. In the end, they opted to get a flat screen TV instead. But if she had been a huge shoot ‘em up fan like her brothers, she’d find more than enough to be happy about on the system.

Her particular needs were very specific, but the question remains the same for many parents and newcomers unfamiliar with all of the gaming jargon that kids, and perhaps as many adults, speak as a second language.

So here’s a little help from Tech-Out on what to look for when you head out into the busy shopping season and are trying to decide which console, and what extra games, you want to bring home.
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Not an issue

I love Sony’s new ads featuring Kevin Butler, the VP that wears as many hats as Sony needs him to and with plenty of style to boot.

On that note, and in view of Red’s review of the amazing Uncharted 2 (I’ve played it,too), here’s a little example of what I’m talking about. Enjoy!

And don’t forget, it’s also fun for the whole family!

Is the Death of the Controller Coming?

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Ever since the Wii appeared on the gaming scene it appears that the other 2 console giants are looking to emulate the success of Nintendo’s oddly named white box with their own tentative forays into the world of motion control.

Sony showed more of it’s light up, wand like controller at TGS, demonstrating that it wasn’t just a dubiously shaped sword analogue, but that it could be used to manipulate environments in titles like Little Big Planet and thus add another level of play to such games. Whereas Microsoft is being slightly more adventurous with it’s Project Natal which promises to open players up to a whole new dimension of gaming by doing away with the controller completely, allowing players to use there bodies to interact with the gaming world.

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The new PS3, tiny and bold

In case you haven’t hear, there’s some news from Sony at Gamescom in Germany — a smaller, less pricier version of the PS3. The PS3 Slim is real. Even the price is smaller, checking in at $299. You can hear SCEA lead dog Jack Tretton give a rundown of the system over at the PlayStation blog.

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I like the design. I like the price, especially since I got my original monolith PS3 bundled with Uncharted and Motorstorm for a heap of cash. However, I also like being able to play stuff like God of War, Vagrant Story, Shadow of the Colossus, Okami and a bunch of other PS2 classics. It was actually a big selling point for me. I imagine a lot of people are going to see this as the tipping point to go and get one. (or, perhaps 360 owners are sick of worrying about their system red-ringing every time they turn it on). However, I’m also curious to see what happens in regards to trade-ins. Anger? Rage? Or a silent resignation that you wanted to be an early adopter, succeeded, and probably knew something like this was going to occur?

Other highlights: It uses less power, which means it’s not going to make as much noise as the earlier black fortress edition that everyone has. Thing is, compared to the 360, the PS3 is practically the Red October in terms of silent running. So that’s not really a major selling point for me — besides, are you really going to notice system noise when Kratos is disemboweling centaurs in HD? The volume’s not going to be up for that? Other cute tech bits include “Bravia Sync,” which enables Bravia TV’s XMB (cross-media bar) to be controlled through the PS3. There’s also a feature that turns off the PS3 when the TV shuts down, because apparently we can’t have people mustering the energy to push another button.

We’ll get to see how this plays out, starting Sept. 1. My original PS3 is staying where it is, unless our new dog does something menacing to it.

Review: inFAMOUS

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We love superheroes, mainly because they can do things we can’t. They fly, have metal claws, control things with their minds — but at some point, they had to choose whether or not to fight for others or just start tearing everything up.

That’s the same choice game players face in Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS, a brilliant bit of comic-book fantasy about a free-running courier who wakes up with the ability to control electricity.

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E3: Heavy Rain

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I’ve seen a lot more than this game, but it had a high spot on my mental checklist. I loved Indigo Prophecy, so I felt the need to see how this game was coming together.

If you’re not familiar with Heavy Rain, here’s a general story rundown. It’s about the perspectives of hour people looking into the phenomenon of the Origami Killer, a murderer who leaves a little origami piece at the bodies of his victims. There was a playable demo on the show floor featuring Norman Jayden, an FBI profiler, but Sony’s breakout session about the game revealed a new female character named Madison, an insomniac photojournalist who likes to rest in motels. The scene we saw was at a nightclub called the Blue Lagoon, where she had to find a way to talk to the sleazy club owner for information. The direct approach doesn’t work, so she had to doll herself up and dance on a small platform to get invited to this guy’s private room.

I found the placement of the QTE icons interesting … they work within the flow of the scenes rather than being layered on top of the actual visuals. You’ve got button icons near heads, elbows, feet. Thought processes and decisions orbit the head of the player and get harder to read the more stressed out the player becomes. This was wild to see in a non-combat situation, where we saw how one can control everything from how Madison put on her makeup to having to strip off some of her clothes for the odious, gun-toting club owner, who orders her to strip or die. We saw her strip, nervously, try to figure out how to buy time while stripping (her thoughts are very hard to read at this point), work her way into position to grab a lamp (by shaking her booty in his face), and then smack him with the lamp to knock him out. My favorite part, but also the most painful to watch, was how she extracted information by taping him to a chair and then squeezing his … well, the things on guys that aren’t supposed to be squeezed. This is all player controlled of course, so you have to mash on a button and use whatever controller motions are available to you.

It was made very clear to us that Heavy Rain is going to be more grounded than Indigo Prophecy, so you’re not going to see aliens or any other extreme weirdness. Also, there’s no such thing as a game over screen. If one character dies, his or her death becomes part of the story, and you move on. If all four characters perish, it’s simply how the story ends. This is essentially the game’s way of making sure you play it over and over again, looking for stuff you missed and seeing how the story evolves. I also think it’ll be a challenge to my own gaming sensibilities, which run hot and cold on the concepts of QTEs.

Hands-on with “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves”

After much speculation and conversation, today is the day that I can confirm that “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” will have multiplayer. I can also confirm that the multiplayer is a heck of a lot of fun.

I was among the first people outside developer Naughty Dog to get to play the sequel to the 2007 PlayStation 3 exclusive “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune,” and the new game builds on the success of the original. Naughty Dog unveiled “Uncharted 2″ at a press event in Hollywood last week, and I’ve been itching to talk about it ever since.
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