Review: Asura’s Wrath (X360)

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Asura’s Wrath is an unusual game. It’s short, at around five or six hours, and heavily scripted with Quick Time Events telling you what to do. It’s a wash of chaos, blinding colors, and cosmic explosions interrupted only by a little story daring to pause the relentless face punching it delivers.

In some ways, it’s also like a series of anime episodes complete with “to be continued” in between each act as its Unreal Engine powered leads ponder their next step before launching into even more over-the-top madness. But with as much hand holding as there is, there’s fun to be found here.
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Review: Kingdoms of Amalur – Reckoning (PS3)

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Bethesda Softworks’ first Elder Scrolls game, Arena, took FRPGs by storm in ’94 packaging an entire continent on a set of eight 3.5″ discs requiring only 25MB of space on your hard drive and experiencing it all in first-person.

The randomly generated terrain and quest system created the illusion of endless adventure spanning a vast wilderness rife with cities, isolated towns, secrets, swamps, and barren deserts. Nearly 20 years later, new entries into the series herald hundreds of hours of lost productivity and countless memes as players take extended vacations into the worlds that Bethesda crafts under its banner.

Others have also tried, with varying success, to emulate that success and now 38 Studios’ freshman effort has boldly staked its own claim. After years in development and with EA taking on the publishing duties on this sandbox, history could be repeating itself.
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Review: The Darkness 2 (Xbox 360)

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Jackie Estacado isn’t your typical Mafia Don. He’s young, brash, and possessed by a gut ripping terror from beyond known only as the Darkness. For him, the voices in his head are all too real.

In the last game, it was an unexpected birthday inheritance that put him at odds with the dark power passed down to him from his father. At the same time, it also allowed him to tear apart his gun toting enemies with ease in revenge for the death of his childhood sweetheart, Jenny.

Two years had passed since then and while Jackie still pines for her, life has gone on. And he has turned his back on the Darkness, suppressing it since then. That’s until someone tries to take him out, nearly killing him in the process forcing him to dip into the Darkness’ bloody well once again.
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Review: Rage (Xbox 360)

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id Software isn’t known for strong, single player storytelling. They usually leave that to others such as Raven Software. Anyone that has played their games knows that they’re more about eye candy and blistered trigger fingers replacing favorite fictional moments with tales of narrowly avoiding your best friend’s missile punch.

But Rage is different. At the very least, it’s very different for id.
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Grand Theft Auto 5 gets a huge logo

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Rockstar greeted everyone hitting their homepage today with a dramatic flourish by revealing a huge, Grand Theft Auto V logo and word that a trailer is coming on 11-2-11.

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that we knew Rockstar was working on it in some capacity and hopefully the trailer will be more than just setting the logo and still shots of the game to music. But Rockstar has been relatively quiet in the last few years on GTA, so any news at this point will undoubtedly set the ‘net ablaze with speculation.

Whatever the case might be, I’m excited. Despite GTA IV’s flaws, it was a ton of fun, though I’m hoping that they add in more worthwhile rewards for collecting things. And an NPC relative who does more than ask to go out bowling.

Review: Shadows of the Damned (X360)

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Suda 51 is not your normal game designer. Just looking at his history, from Killer 7 to No More Heroes, should tell you that he doesn’t go in for formulaic looks, cliched settings, or stories that take themselves too seriously. They’re all about style, pinching the player to wake them up from their reverie of stock excitements, and then splashing cold WTF all over their world when they least expect it.

That’s what makes his games so much fun to play. At the same time, it’s also clear that they’re not for everybody. Being different doesn’t necessarily mean ‘being commercially popular’. Yet to EA’s credit, they’ve daringly decided to bank on his unique take on gaming with Shadows of the Damned.

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Review: F.3.A.R. (X360)

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I remember scrambling through the terror-laden corridors and rooms of the first F.E.A.R. years ago.

Monolith had crafted a place that not only fed the blazing barrels of my arsenal but struck the chords of my spine with every twitching light and flickering shadow of something sneaking by the very edge of what my eyes tried to tell me was there.

It had action. It had a twisted story. And it had plenty of spooky creepiness chortling at my unspent bullets.

The second game felt as if it had less of an edge because now I knew what I was up against. But it still had managed to work in a few of its own bloody surprises turning what was already a deeply disturbed story into a full blown mental schism with its ending. The action, as always, was never far behind and had even been beefed up with big mechs as tuxedos of death for when the occasion needed them.

F.3.A.R. packs even more bullet dances into its narrative. Plenty of furious firefights…without any of the actual fear.
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Let’s finish it – the Gears of War 3 campaign trailer

The campaign trailer for Epic’s upcoming blitzkrieg, Gears of War 3, is out showing off a bit more of what players can expect from the single-player storyline aiming to finish the trilogy.

The last time we left Cole and Fenix, they had managed to drown the Locust with the sea and stop the early extinction of mankind. Now it looks like Fenix’s father is still alive and you can bet that he’ll be doing everything he can to rescue him.

That means it’s going to be an action packed thrill ride to who knows where, one filled with colossal creatures, ruins, and more glowy Lambent. Will you be ready when it emerges on shelves on September 20th? I know I’ll be.

Starcraft II – Heart of the Swarm trailer rolls out, but don’t hope for a release date yet

A short tease was released for the next chapter in the Starcraft II saga, Heart of the Swarm. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that the game might actually be coming out this year. Earlier this month, Activision had their quarterly financial call in which Thomas Tippl, COO and CFO of Activision Blizzard, had said:

“As I mentioned on our last call, given Blizzard Entertainment has not
confirmed the launch date for its next global release, our outlook at
this time does not include a new game from Blizzard in 2011. Should
Blizzard not release a major title this year, we would expect, for
planning purposes, to launch a minimum of 2 Blizzard titles in 2012.”

Of course, that only says that Blizzard hasn’t said anything yet about dates so they’re planning on two Blizzard titles in 2012 if they don’t pull the trigger this year. It’s a safe guess that the two titles could be Heart of the Swarm and the long awaited Diablo III.

One odd thing about the trailer. It was posted on Gametrailers, then pulled. It didn’t take long for it to show up elsewhere, though, with the Gametrailers intro stripped out (but you can still see the watermark). Check it out while it’s fresh.

Developers Feel PSN Downtime Crunch

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Computer and Videogames has a story in which they spoke to the producer of the upcoming action RPG, Dark Souls. Kei Horono admitted that “I would be lying if I said the problems
with PSN hadn’t caused us some problems, but we are in
contact with Sony and are aiming to meet a street date of October 11.”

The team at From Software who are developing Dark Souls had hinted at a larger online component than they the one used to great success in its predecessor, Demon’s Souls.

Andriasang posted the translated points of an interview from Japanese gaming site, 4Gamer, with the director of Dark Souls, Hidetaka Miyazaki, where he stated that he wanted to bring back the feeling of “the old Dragon Quest” games. In that way, he hopes that it will deliver the sense of where everyone feels the struggle of everyone else by sharing tips as they did in the old days. PS3 players saw a taste of this with Demon’s Souls where they could actually leave simple hints – or deceptions – behind that the servers shared with everyone else in the form of text messages.

With PSN down, however, none of that is coming through making the world of Demon’s Souls even more grim than it already is. The difficulties that Kei Horono admitted to above also emphasize the troubles that other developers may be having with PSN’s forced downtime -  especially for those working on PS3 titles with online features.

IGN had posted a story last month in the early days of the outage speaking to one such developer that was directly affected, Open Emotion Studios. The Irish developer was set to release their puzzler, Mad Blocker Alpha, on PSN for the States on April 19th but as everyone knows, circumstances prevented anything PSN related from happening the next day when Sony took it offline. Paddy Murphy, CEO for Open Emotion, said that they have been in contact with Sony who promised extra marketing to help promote their game to help “recoup our potential losses”.

But the days of exclusivity continue to wane with more games appearing on both the Xbox 360 and PS3. Dark Souls will be the first taste of From Software’s unique punishment that Xbox 360 players may have missed if they didn’t have access to a PS3 and a copy of Demon’s Souls. Even with PSN down, continuing development with Live is likely providing valuable lessons useful for whatever networking tricks will be worked into the gameplay for both versions. This may be why Kei Horono seems confident in hitting that October 11th release date.

And why players will have another reason to be afraid of Halloween.