Review: Sleeping Dogs (X360)

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Sleeping Dogs might never have come out if Square-Enix hadn’t snagged United Front Games’ latest project after Activision axed it. It was a bold move. The relatively young development house had only ModNation Racers to their name and they were working in territory urban sandbox specialists Rockstar and Volition called home. It wasn’t hard to see why Activision suddenly developed a case of cold feet over its prospects -  even when some of UFG’s members had cut their teeth within those same studios. But then again, no one thought that Rocksteady could pull off as legendary a take on the Dark Knight not once – but twice – with about as much on their resume, either.

UFG’s crime drama takes players to Hong Kong as Wei Chen, an undercover cop on loan from the States working to bring down the Sun On Yee triad. Having grown up along the city’s rough and tumble side streets before his family moved to America, his early education with the swagger and bark of its worst before graduating grade school make him a valuable weapon to his new HKPD boss. 
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E3 Video: Agni’s Philosophy – Final Fantasy Realtime Tech Demo

Square Enix had this to show at E3 to wow audiences with. It’s new tech, not necessarily a game, that this bit of footage shows off in realtime. In other words, none of this is pre-rendered.

Servers didn’t slave over hours to push out pixels frozen in film. Everything in this clip was happening, as the title says, in realtime until someone captured the demo to post on the ‘net. Which means that one day, possibly very soon, you might be playing a game that looks as good as this.

Review: FFXIII-2 (PS3)

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Square Enix’s FF13 was a controversial title to a number of longtime fans of the flagship series. Much has been made of its heavily linear area designs, overly long tutorials, shallow world, and its twitch-centric combat system. To more than a few, for a game expected to carry the series forward, it seemed to be heading in the wrong direction.

FF13-2 wants to change all of that. Or at least head back in a direction that won’t burn as many bridges behind it. Boasting a new story packed with all of the ludicrously beautiful visuals that HD televisions squee with delight over, Square Enix took much of what was criticized about the first game by focusing on hammering out the rough edges.

It’s not the first time that they’ve followed up on one of the series’ major chapters in this fashion as FF10-2 can testify, but it is probably the first time that the changes aren’t so much experimentation as they are a belated do-over of what didn’t work as well the first time around.
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Review: Kane & Lynch 2 – Dog Days (Xbox 360)

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My problem with Kane and Lynch’s first outing was its heavy handed and clumsy take on making these two guys reprehensible bastards at nearly every turn.

There’s the kind of cool badness that Robert DeNiro can deliver onscreen, and then there’s the annoyingly preachy kind that has to remind you with every line of dialogue just why a character has had a maladjusted life after making that point several scenes earlier. Both Kane and Lynch fell into the latter category.

That, along with a lame boss fight against a giant dump truck, trashing its gritty start with a sudden about-face as a jungle shooter, and its weak multiplayer, Kane & Lynch felt squandered like so much loose change at the toll booth. So now we have the sequel, but while it improves a few things, it also manages to commit new criminal acts along the way.
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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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Review: Nier (Xbox 360)

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Nier will mess with your head, make you laugh, introduce some of the most bizarre characters you will ever see in a game, and share the unflinching love of a father for his dying daughter.

And that’s only during the first time through it before inviting you to to try for the second ending that makes you feel bad about everything that you’ve done.
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Review: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)

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Final Fantasy’s reputation for reinventing itself with every major release as well as spreading its brand name into other genres has made it a powerhouse series since it had saved a struggling Square in the early eighties. While some developers may choose to standardize on a set of systems for their own games, Square Enix’s ongoing efforts in designing a new battle system, set of characters, and an entire world to put them in with every title say as much for their imaginative talents as it does for their efforts in keeping the franchise fresh.

FF13, the latest in the franchise’s long line of major RPG entries, raises the same stakes and is part of a huge celebration of Final Fantasy that Square-Enix has termed Fabula Nova Crystalis. FF13 is only the first “13″ title to emerge in this series, but it is considered the flagship title of the new compilation. It’s a huge game that easily clocks in at sixty or more hours of fantastic adventure.

Whether they’ve also fit in enough actual gameplay, however, depends on how much tunnel vision you want to endure for the story that it wants to tell.
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E3: Day Three means that I have no more feet…

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It’s the end of Day Three at E3 and I am exhausted. Completely and utterly wiped out. So many games, so little padding left on my feet meant that the end was actually a welcome event. Kudos to everyone at all of the booths that continued to repeat the same spiel again and again all day long over and beyond the three days of the conference. They’re the real heroes.

With that said, I did a final sweep of the halls to see what there was to see and get in a little more play time with the titles that I could get to. So here we go…
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