Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wiiware - The Vegetarian Option

IGN have some incredibly bad news for those of us waiting for the WiiWare version of the excellent Super Meat Boy. Due to WiiWare's paltry game size limitation, SMB's developers have announced that fitting it into 40MB is nigh-on impossible without stripping out a ton of content and have instead decided to cancel it altogether. For comparison, the PC version of Super Meat Boy clocks in at a substantial 300MB.

This is particularly gutting considering that Super Meat Boy started life as a WiiWare title. I guess we'll just have to be satisfied with the already released PC and Xbox360 versions.

There's a small chance that Super Meat Boy might see the light of day as a full retail release, but that seems like a long shot at best. I can understand the developers not wanting to burden Wii owners with a sub-par version of their game, but once again we seem to be getting the short end of the sausage.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Skyrimming

A lot of games were unveiled at last week's Video Game Awards, including Uncharted 3, Mass Effect 3 and, most importantly for me, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.



That's not to say that I'm not excited by the prospect of more Mass Effect or Uncharted, but in my heart of hearts I'm an RPG gamer. I was absolutely captivated by Oblivion's huge and dynamic world and must have played it for hundreds of hours. The excellent Shivering isles expansion pack added a good deal more content, but I eventually tired of it and have been searching for a suitable replacement ever since.

If you look at the current gaming landscape, there's nothing quite like the Elder Scrolls titles. Fallout 3 and New Vegas are obviously very similar, but they are a lot less ambitious and take themselves far less seriously. Bioware's Mass Effect isn't really a true RPG experience and I personally found Dragon Age to be rather dull. I'm also not big on grind-heavy MMORPGS like World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings: Online.

Bethesda didn't have much to say on Elder Scrolls V, other than the above teaser, which seems to speak of an approaching dragonpocalypse in the northern region of Skyrim. One other bit of news revolves around the game engine, which will not be ID's Tech5 engine as many had speculated, but their own new in-house solution. As long as they drop the ageing, creaky Gamebryo engine that did such a poor job of running New Vegas then I'm happy.

To Tamriel!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Quick, Someone Light A Patch!


Fallout: New Vegas' long awaited 1.02 patch has finally been released for PS3 and will arrive on Xbox360 and Steam a little later in the week.

It's taken Obsidian and Bethesda a pretty long time to get this out and I very much doubt they've fixed everything. Still, anyone who was hanging on until the bugs had eased a little may want to give New Vegas a try now. I'd still be wary, though and would reccommend you make a lot of seperate saves so you can go back if (and when) you hit a broken quest.

The full patch details can be found here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shepard's Pie In The Face

In what looks to be a bit of a cockup on EA's part, the rumoured reveal of Mass Effect 3 at tomorrow's Video Game Awards show has inadvertantly been confirmed by a seemingly accidental leak on their online store.

Mass Effect 3 briefly appeared as available for pre-order, featuring a price tag of $59.99 and the following illuminating plot blurb.

'Earth is burning. Striking from beyond known space, a race of terrifying machines have begun their destruction of the human race. As Commander Shepard, an Alliance Marine, your only hope for saving mankind is to rally the civilizations of the galaxy and launch one final mission to take back the Earth.'

Many had assumed that the next game would be the rumoured multiplayer Mas Effect spin-off, but this appears to be a sequel proper. Given EA's recent comments about single player games I suppose it makes sense that the Mass Effect franchise would also get the multiplayer treatment.

Although I'm a little concerned that multiplayer doesn't really belong in a Mass Effect game the leaked plot synopsis sounds really, really cool. I hadn't expected things to be quite so cataclysmic right off the bat but since it's supposedly the last of the Mass Effect trilogy it makes sense to go out with a bang.

We'll all know a lot more after Mass Effect 3 is officially revealed tomorrow.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Resisting The Urge

One of my biggest regrets about choosing an Xbox 360 over the PS3 is that I never got a chance to play Insomniac's Resistance 2. I played the first Resistance game, Fall of Man all the way through on a friend's PS3 when it first launched; It was my first taste of 'Next Gen' and I absolutely loved it. The graphics weren't quite as amazing as I'd hoped, but the frame rate was totally slick and solid (something you don't see much these days) and the weapons were totally bad-ass. I still fondly remember the thrill of hitting and killing someone through a solid wall with the Chimeran Auger rifle.

Resistance 3's launch is now 'only' a year away and I'm wondering if I'll get a chance to play it either. Without knowing what happened in Resistance 2 I'm not even sure how much sense things will make, or even if I'm still playing as the Chimera/human hybrid soldier guy from the first game.
Is it still set in the UK? Obviously I'm biased, but it was cool playing a game recognisably set in my own green and (un)pleasant land rather than it happening in the US or some random sci-fi planet like most shooters.

I suppose I should find these things out myself, but considering that I may not even be able to play it, is there any point getting myself all worked up?

If you are lucky enough to own Sony's increasingly delicious looking black box then you may want to check out this new smattering of concept art and IGN's latest gameplay details.

If You Like To Be Alone You're On Your Own


IGN just posted this article talking about EA's current thinking on dedicated single player-only games, and if you ask me it makes for pretty grim reading.


EA's new strategy is basically that all of their games, regardless of the setting or suitability will get online multiplayer or major online features. I'm assuming they're not talking about DLC, either as it's been standard practice for over a decade for almost every big single player game to get some sort of expansion pack.

While the promise of extra online multiplayer 'stuff'' in all our games may sound good, making it obligatory just seems ridiculous. Unless this extra content is well made and actually fits the game in question, it could instead have a detrimental effect, cheapening the overall quality of the product and stealing development resources away from more important things.

A recent example of an inappropriate, shoehorned-in multiplayer mode was this year's Bioshock 2. A great game, indeed, but for some reason the developers tacked on a Modern Warfare 2 style online component that was admittedly decent but seemed completely out of place and was ignored by pretty much everyone. Few people expected or saw the need for multiplayer in Bioshock so few people even tried it. Those who did play began jumping ship almost immediately and less than a year on it's basically dead.

Is that really something to aspire to?


Evidence of this new approach can be seen in EA's own Dead Space 2, which is set to get the multiplayer treatment in the form of a engineers-versus-necromorphs mode that bears an uncanny resemblance to Left 4 Dead's own versus. While I can't judge the multiplayer without playing it myself, I honestly can't see any reason for it's inclusion. Dead Space never struck me as a game that needed online multiplayer, and if I want to play something like Left 4 Dead, I'll just play Left 4 Dead.

If previous experience of multiplayer has taught me anything it's that dedicated multiplayer titles like Team Fortress 2, Unreal Tournament and Left 4 Dead almost always deliver a better service than predominantly single player games that include a bit of a multiplayer as an extra. While you may be able to play any multiplayer game indefinitely, unless things are kept fresh and exciting by regular patches and content updates few people will stick with them for very long. Most dedicated multiplayer games are simply better focused on this and as a result enjoy far greater success and longevity.

Taking the risk of retrofitting a single player franchise with online in order to sell a few more copies in the short term seems like a strategy that might backfire and ultimately dilute the very things that distinguish carefully paced, story-driven games like Bioshock and Dead Space from their adrenaline fuelled, quick-fix multiplayer brethren.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Matter Of Control

When I'm gaming on my PC I almost exclusively use the trusty keyboard and mouse. What it lacks in ergonomics it more than makes up for in the sheer level of control you can achieve with so many buttons and the precision of a good quality laser mouse.


That said, there are some games that simply feel wrong on a keyboard and mouse. I played through the whole of Batman: Arkham Asylum on the Xbox360 and later the PC, and while both were equally usable, Arkham isn't a game that requires much in the way of precise aim and a gamepad just fits it so much better.

I initially tried to play it using my regular PC gamepad, but unfortunately Arkham Asylum will only work with an Xbox360 controller. It seems like a ridiculous limitation, but developers are increasingly using Microsoft's new Xbox360 Xinput controller standard instead of the classic DirectInput for their PC ports.

Many other modern PC games, particularly those distributed through Microsoft's own Games for Windows also require you to use an Xbox360 controller. It's annoying, but it wouldn't be quite so bad if it weren't for the 360 controller's frankly horrible directional pad. One of my main uses for a PC controller is on 2D platformers that require super-precise input and the idea of playing Super Meat Boy or Braid on the 360's flakey, unresponsive pad is really not nice. There is also the problem of Xinput-based controllers not being 100% compatible with DirectInput, which could potentially cause it's own set of issues with some older PC titles and emulators.


The solution? Well, so far I've only found one that seems to address all of the problems. Logitech recently released a new line of controllers that support both Xinput AND DirectInput for PC gaming. The most basic of the three, the F310 will set you back about as much as a wired 360 controller and while it lacks rumble, it does look to have a much better d-pad. The F510 has built in rumble for compatible games and the F710 has both rumble and wireless.

Please don't read this as an endorsement or review of these products as I haven't use any of them. That said, Logitech is a good brand who usually make quality gear, so if you're in the market for a new pad you may want to consider one.

I'll probably drop some cash on the F310 or F510 in the new year and let you guys know what I think of it. Also, if you have any suggestions of your own, please let me know!