MGS4 demo debunked again… well, sorta.

•January 22, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Ryan Payton, the man in charge of localizing the heavily anticipated Metal Gear Solid 4 for us English speaking audiences, has said time after time that Kojima Productions will not release a playable demo of MGS4. Payton insists that the time required to release a demo would be time away from completing the full game. That doesn’t stop fans from praying their will be one.

For a moment, it looked as if the millions of prayers had been answered. In the current issue of the UK gaming magazine Playstation World, they get some hands on time with a MGS4 demo. At the end of their preview, they say “Want more MGS4? Well, you’ll get it very soon. The stage played here will be out on the PSN store in the next month“. PS3 forums across the web have been on fire lately after the editor of PSW, Ian Dean, confirmed to MetalGearSolid4.net that this was indeed not a typo, and that the demo was slated to appear on the Playstation Network in February.

However, earlier today, MaxConsole contacted Konami and spoke with their public relations rep. They maintained that “We do not comment on speculation, I am afraid”, indicating that PSW’s confirmation was nothing more then speculation.

If you like to play the word twisting game, at least they didn’t specifically say there was no demo… Nonetheless, it looks like we are still in the dark on the issue. MGS fans, keep praying!

More rumors, more price drops

•January 21, 2008 • 1 Comment

Microsoft’s XBox 360 may also be very well in for a price cut. TheBitBag.com recently released a rumor indicating that the 360 Premium may be in for a $50 price drop to coincide with the release of GTAIV. They claim “some unnamed person has tipped that Microsoft will be dropping the price of the Premium 360 another $49 on the same day that GTAIV gets released”.

No doubt that Microsoft has been looking to further distance itself price-wise from the PS3, ever since the 40GB and 80GB PS3s brought it within $50 of their 360’s competitors. This would not only further distance itself from the PS3, but also bring it into range to compete with the Nintendo Wii, especially if the the other 2 models followed similar price cuts. With exclusive content on the 360 and a price drop, Microsoft is making it a no brainer as to which console you should get if you want the most out of GTAIV.

Rumor: PS3 in store for yet another price drop?

•January 21, 2008 • 17 Comments

Several posters at SlickDeals.net are reporting that the PS3 may have yet another price drop towards the end of the month. Many are rumoring that a $299 PS3 will be announced on January 28. SlickDeals.net is a website dedicated to providing consumers with the latest prices in electronics, breaking the news of both of the previous PS3 price drops and the 360 price drop a few weeks early, along with the CheapAssGamer forums.

Though it does seem early for this to occur, Sony did recently announce that the price of manufacturing of the PS3 did drop, from $800 per unit at the launch to $400 currently. This is mainly due to the success of Blu Ray, especially with Warner Bros. going Blu Ray exclusive earlier this month. Now there are also rumors that Paramount found a loophole in their HD DVD exclusivity contract and will be going Blu Ray as well – leaving Universal and Dreamworks as the only remaining HD DVD studios.

Financially, the price cut makes sense, consoles have historically been sold at a loss at the beginning of their lifetime. The only consoles not sold at a loss at launch are the Sega Saturn(sold at the price to manufacture) and the Nintendo Wii(sold at a $100 profit for Nintendo). Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony make most of its money off of game licensing, not the actual console. For every game released, they developer must pay $10,000 worth of licensing fees to Sony(its traditionally been $20,000 for all 3 companies, but this was another cut Sony made to encourage developers recently). They also make a bulk of their profit from peripherals, like memory cards and controllers.

Still, I personally think it may be a bit too early for another price cut.

Updates are available on this story, click here for more.

Game of the Year 2007 – round up and review

•January 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

2007 has been hailed by many as the greatest year for video games so far. Sales numbers further substantiate that claim, with 2007 marking the peak year of sales in the industry, and also setting the record for the most money grossed in 24 hours in any form of media(Halo 3). Blockbuster hits were abundant across all the platforms, from Super Mario Galaxy, Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, Crysis, Uncharted, and much, much more. As 2007 draws to an end, many publications have began running the annual Game of the Year awards. EXGN has decided to round up the GOTY winners from over a dozen various, big name publications. Whats the general concensus as to which title truly was the Game of the Year? Read on…

5. Rock Band(PS3/PS2/360) – Harmonix

From the creators of Guitar Hero I and II comes Rock Band! Now you and three friends can get together and form your own complete band, playing lead guitar, bass guitar, drums and a singer. Despite the hefty $169 price and some initial hardware issues, Rock Band went on to become one of the highest ranked games this year, averaging 93.2% according to Game Rankings. With the availablity of downloadable songs and the ingenuity behind its design, Rock Band is sure to keep gamers busy with their virtual bands well into 2008.

What others said:
… Rock Band is the true evolution of music games. Immersive and just plain addictive experience far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s magic.Wired.com, Game of the Year winner

4. The Orange Box(PC/PS3/360) – Valve

Combining 3 classic Valve games – Half Life 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2 – the Orange Box is not only an excellent deal because of the quantity of content included, but also because of the quality of the content as well. The Orange Box was universally praised by several publications, Portal specifically, and maintains and impressive rating of 96.2$ for both the PC and 360 versions. Even the PS3 version, which suffered some frame rate issues, was still a great pick up if there was no other option. Overall, the Orange Box is well deserving of GOTY crown.

What others said:
Portal isn’t just the best game of the year, it’s a landmark title for the industry whose influence will run as deep as our desire for change, and gives the best proof yet that games don’t need to be long to be great.GamerNode.com, Game of the Year Winner
The game[Portal] is phenomenal in every sense of the word…Joystiq.com, Game of the Year
… the only argument we had in choosing the Game of the Year was whether to give it to the five-game Orange Box as a collection or whether Portal earned the trophy all on its own. It’s that good.GamesRadar.com, Game of the Year

3. Call of Duty 4(PC/PS3/360) – Infinity Ward

After the less then stellar Call of Duty 3(developed by Treyarch Studios), Infinity Ward went back to the drawing board and started fresh. Call of Duty 4 would be the first game in the series to take place in the modern era. This step forward allowed them to breathe a breath of fresh air into the series, updating it with all sorts of new weapons and technology. The 3 different versions for the 3 different platforms all received great reviews, with the 360 version sitting at 94%, and the PS3 and PC versions at 93%. With the superb(if not a bit short) single player, and incredibly varied and in depth multiplayer, its obvious that Call of Duty 4 has raised the bar for first person shooters.

What others said:
Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 4 hit on all cylinders, stunning us with gorgeous graphics, pristinely polished gameplay, and a captivating single-player storyline that hit us with such impact as to leave us breathless.GameSpy.com, Game of the Year
The top slot went to office favorite Call of Duty 4 for its toe-curling action and deep online mode.GamePro, Game of the Year
Not only is Call of Duty 4 winner of Game of the Year, but also stands proudly as game of the generation thus far.MyGEN.com, Game of the Year

2. Bioshock(360/PC) – 2K Games

If I had a dollar for every time I read a “Bioshock to PS3” rumor, I would be a billionaire. Seriously, the quality of a game is obvious when fanboy owners of another console drum up as many port rumors as there have been thus far for Bioshock. At one point, GameRankings had this game at the #1 rated game of all time, and today it still holds at a tight 95% for both versions. My personal choice for GOTY, Bioshock revolutionized the way first person shooters should play. From its beautiful graphics, chilling atmosphere, and open ended gameplay, this game is the total package.

What others said:
Beyond just the superb quality of the package, we all felt there was an experience that transcended basic gameplay. To play BioShock was to experience something that few gamers had ever experienced before. It was this immersive originality that elevated the game above all others.Destructoid.com, Game of the Year
A shooter like no other… One of the most beautifully compelling action games, written for a thinking audience.XPlay, Game of the Year

And finally, the title voted Game of the Year by the most major publications…

1. Super Mario Galaxy(Wii) – Nintendo

Winning by a landslide is Super Mario Galaxy. Mario Galaxy had a lot riding on its shoulders, but it rose to all challenges. It proved that Wii games could use the Wiimote well, and still be challenging and entertaining. It redeemed the Mario name after Mario Sunshine was critically panned for a lack of innovation. Mario Galaxy has bright, pristine graphics that push the Wii to its limits and deep, innovative gameplay that pushes even further. Super Mario Galaxy received rave reviews from all – by GameRankings, its rated as the 2nd best game of all time and then best game of 2007. Obviously, the later rings true, as Super Mario Galaxy earned 9 Game of the Year 2007 titles out of the 22 publications we surveyed. Congrats to Nintendo!

What others said:
… the best overall package of polish, gameplay, and presentation for what it is–a traditional but highly evolved platformerGameSpot.com, Game of the Year
…features more variety then any other game this year.GameTrailers.com, Game of the Year
Galaxy surprises and delights at every turn, placing both familiar and new tasks firmly in its own, distinct, masterpiece of a universe. In short, it’s utterly true to Mario’s roots, and yet is fixed firmly on his future, too.NextGen.com/Edge, Game of the Year
… we loved every minute. Here’s a game that actually feels at home on the Wii, with a control system that’s absolutely superb… Not only did it catapult Mario into the heavens, it did the same to us.Yahoo! Games, Game of the Year

Article written by N.Gasse on 01/02/08.
The grand totals came out to: SMG 9 titles, Bioshock 4, Call of Duty 4 3, Orange Box 2, Rock Band 1. Sources include: GameSpot, GamePro, GameTrailers, XPlay, Kotaku, Joystiq, Edge, NextGen, GamesRadar, GameSpy, CVG, GamerNode, SpikeTV, Destructoid, DPad, Yahoo! Games, PALGN, MyGEN, and more.

The Latest on Quantic’s Heavy Rain

•January 2, 2008 • 11 Comments
Heavy Rain trailer “The Casting”

Not much is known about Quantic Dream’s latest project, entitled Heavy Rain. All the info thats been released on it thus far is a trailer called “The Casting” and a movie poster – neither of which are even necessarily representative of what the game will actually be.

While details on the actual game are fuzzy, Quantic Dream has been more liberal when talking about the technical aspects behind the game. In all of their previous projects, Quantic Dream has aimed at achieving a theatrical experience that could compete at the same level as a Hollywood production. They have always put strong emphasis on using motion capturing technology , which they believe delivers the best sense of realism. Over the years, they went from working with outsourcing studios to developing a specialized in house motion capturing system. With Heavy Rain, they’ve further upgraded their motion capturing system, able to capture even small facial movements.

What this means is that Quantic Dream has moved beyond just needing motion capture actors – they need real actors, people capable of delivering a Hollywood quality performance. Thus, Quantic Dream has been in contact with several A ranked actors, most notably Leonardo Di Caprio. Heavy Rain could very well set the bar for theatrical performances in video games.

As is the case with just about every PS3 exclusive game, many are wondering why QD has chosen to remain with the PS3 exclusively. Outside of the fact that Sony is publishing the game, there are a few other reasons. One of the main factors seems to be that the Cell processor is extremely good at the number crunching mathematics used by the physics system of the game. Guillaume de Fondaumière, co-founder of QD, also mentioned in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz “it’s extremely difficult to create games of the same visual quality on both platforms[360 and PS3]. Even from an economical standpoint, if you really want to give the best shot on both platforms you have to invest far more money than just spending the money on the one platform. Or you have simple ports, which are of less quality”.

As for details in regards of the game itself – its expected to have a noire atmosphere, and will also not have any of the criticized sci-fi elements of Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy. Beyond that, details are slim. Quantic has stated they are working on something playable, so the possibility of demo is there, but they maintain that its up to Sony.

Heavy Rain is due out sometime in 2008, although its doubtful this deadline will be made. Surfer Girl told us that Heavy Rain is “shaping up to be nothing short of astounding”, and from what we know, we are with her. As big fans of both Omikron and Fahrenheit/Indigo, we are heavily anticipating this title, and hopefully we will have some more information soon!

Haze delayed?

•December 22, 2007 • 22 Comments

Free Radical(GoldenEye/Timesplitters)’s highly anticipated next gen FPS, Haze, appears to have been delayed. Originally due out in November 07, the game was pushed back until January 08. Now, it looks like it has delayed further by 3 months. Several online retailers have confirmed this, such as Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, indicating a released towards the later half of March.

No doubt, this will serve as a disappointment to many. Haze was a highly anticipated PS3 title, boasting several innovative new features, and 4 player split screen co-op play. It also was set to be the first big PS3 exclusive of 2008. However, this delay may spell trouble for Free Radical – it puts Haze directly in the wake of SCEA’s monster FPS, Killzone 2(due out towards the end of February 08). Grand Theft Auto 4 is also currently scheduled to release in March 08 as well.

More info to come pending an official announcement.

It has come to our attention that Killzone 2 is not actually due out February.  February was a tentative release date given, and since, the game has also been further delayed.  Our apologies.

Top 5 Failed Game Concepts of 2007

•December 19, 2007 • 1 Comment

2007 stands as a great year in video gaming. With so many blockbuster hits released for each system, the title “Game of the Year 2007” will be a title with a lot of competition. From Microsoft’s Bioshock, to Nintendo’s Super Mario Galaxy and even Sony’s Uncharted, every gamer should have quite a large Christmas list this year. However, 2007 also saw its fair share of conceptual flops. There were several games that had such an awesome concept, but ultimately just fell flat on their face in trying to deliver it. Keep in mind, thats not to say that these games were bad, per say, they just didn’t capitalize on the unique concept at the backbone of their creation. So without further ado, heres EXGN’s list of the Top 5 Failed Game Concepts of 2007.

5. Assassins Creed – PS3/XBox 360(Ubisoft Montreal)

From the developers behind the critically acclaimed Prince of Persia series, Assassins Creed promised to be one of the first true ‘next gen’ titles. With its go anywhere, climb everything gameplay, Assassins looked to be one the definitive action experience. Promising a great story line, a graphically rich world with real, bustling cities, and open ended gameplay that would create a new experience through each play through, Assassin’s Creed was easily one of the most anticipated titles of 2007.

However, when it was released last month, it ran into several criticisms. Assassins truly was a memorable experience through the first assassination, but after, fell subject of extremely repetitive gameplay. The gameplay mechanics often led the AI to act extremely dumb. For example, you can murder a guard in broad daylight and then assume the monk position, and another guard 5 feet away will ignore you. Once you unlock the parry skill, combat becomes excessively easy, with guards attacking you one at a time only to be cut down by the instant kill move. Finally, the game is host to a huge number some of the most annoying bugs and glitches seen in recent years. Also, Ubisoft needs to learn how to make an ending that can leave a game open to sequels, but still provide some player satisfaction.

4. Raw Danger – PS2(Irem)

Raw Danger is the sequel to Irem’s 2002 survival epic, Disaster Report. Finally released in the US close to 2 years after its release in Japan, Raw Danger promises a unique survival experience. Unlike other survival games, Raw Danger puts you in control of 6 different characters trying to escape a man made city succumbing to numerous natural disasters. There are no monsters or opponents, just man against mother nature. With some of the most epic sequences in recent gaming history, 6 playable characters, multiple endings, and varied gamplay, its hard to see how Raw Danger could possibly fail.

However, it does. Perhaps it was just too ambitious of a game to be done on the PS2 platform. To start, the production values of the game are just terrible. The graphics look like a launch title for the Dreamcast. The sound is reminiscent of something you would hear in a Sega CD game. The game itself ultimately boils down to a lot of trial and error. No thanks to the sluggish, unresponsive controls, its almost impossible to avoid a lot of the catastrophes the game puts you up against without knowing in advance where to run to or how to survive them. The gameplay is also subject to massive slowdown because of the large scale of the game. The game offers multiple endings, but you spend such a short amount of time with each character(there is even one character you play as for maybe a half hour, tops) that you ultimately just do not care about the characters or other outcomes. Conceptually, Raw Danger provides a much needed breath of fresh air, however, as a game, it really falls flat on its face.

3. Lair – PS3(Factor 5)

From the creative geniuses behind the impressive Rogue Squadron series, comes the next big concept gone wrong. Hyped for months before its release, Lair was to be the PS3’s first AAA title. Putting the player at the reins of a massive dragon, partaking in massive land and air battles, the game seemed to be on the right track. With Lair, boasting a huge, beautifully detailed world, rendered in full 1080p, stunning, uncompressed audio, and a self proclaimed riveting storyline, Factor 5 looked to have a sure fire epic masterpiece on its hands.

And in the beginning did, it did look like Lair would live up to its hype. About a month prior to its original August release, Play rated the game a solid 9/10. However, conflicting reviews soon came, starting with EGM, giving it a 3 lackluster ratings between 5-6/10 and culminating in IGN’s 4.9 rating, calling it “a mission worthy of swallowing the business end of a shotgun to avoid“. Reviewers across the board criticized Lair for its unintuitive controls and an faulty lock on targeting system. The controls were bad enough that Sony sent out walk throughs to reviewers telling them ‘how to play’ Lair. Combine this with the short 5-6 hour campaign mode, and little reason to replay it, and you have a game that sounded nothing short of breathtaking on the planning board turning into one of the largest flops of the year.

2. Vampire Rain – XBox 360(Artoon)

Developed by Sega legend Naoto Ōshima(Phantasy Star, Sonic the Hedgehog, NiGHTS into Dreams), this game was hyped in Japan as the game that would finally sell the 360. Combining elements from the survival horror and stealth action genres, Vampire Rain looked very promising. You play the member of a government black ops group, brought about to kill some vampires – whats not to like? The game also boasted some unique weaponry, such as a UV knife that would kill vampires in one hit. When the game released in Japan, it received a respectable review from Famitsu, a 30/40 – but thats where the good news ends.

The game put an extreme emphasis on stealth. Once your caught, you will almost certainly die. For a good chunk of the game, the player has no effective means of eliminating the vampires. Combine this with the fact that the vampires are fast and can kill a player in just a single hit and you have an obscenely frustrating game. The level design was extremely linear, the AI was cheap, the controls were bad, the game was overall just a huge train wreck. Vampire Rain averaged a dismal 39% on GameRankings.com – the 2nd worst 360 game released in 2007. How you can screw up a survival-horror/stealth action game with VAMPIRES this badly is just beyond me.

1. Sonic and Mario at the Olympic Games – Wii(Sega)

Gamers over the past 20 years have dreamed of Nintendo icon Mario facing off against his bitter long time rival from Sega, Sonic. In fact, when Sonic and Mario at the Olympics was first announced, many thought it was just an April Fools joke from Sega. However, it wasn’t and gamers old and young salivated at the prospect of Mario and Sonic finally being able to duke it out in a battle for supremacy. Mario and Sonic promised the excitement found in the party games such as Mario Party and an unparalleled sense of nostalgia.

Unfortunately, the game was developed by Sega. Nintendo obviously didn’t notice Sega’s track recent track record, which has developed the reputation for absolutely destroying any franchise it gets its mitts on, including this lovely title. The Olympic events were all entirely too similar, the motion controls were all extremely gimmicky, and the game had an infuriating problem sensing the motions performed by the player. One could only dream of what this game could have been if Nintendo had developed it instead of Sega… Instead, we have Sega’s craptastic game. Looks like we’ll have to wait for the release of Brawl before we can actually ENJOY pitting Mario and Sonic against each other.

And that concludes the Top 5 Failed Concepts of 2007. Remember these games are not necessarily bad. They had a promising concept, but just didn’t deliver it to its maximum potential.