Gears Grind On

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The critically acclaimed and much lauded (particularly by the chainsaw industry) Gears of War is about to become a franchise. The news is out and the sequel is on the way. One of the first titles on the 360 to really show us what it meant to be next gen, the latest instalment is touted to hit the shelves in November. We can expect to see more of the excellent co-op play that made this a standout title, but as to the storyline, well, so far the details are thinner than…well, the original storyline.

Check out the teaser trailer below, as well as the tech demo showing way too many locusts buzzing about and being more annoying than a mozzie at midnight.

Review: NHL2k8 (Xbox 360)

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I don’t know what it is about the game of ice hockey, but I felt cooler in several ways just by playing it.

Maybe it was the staring at the icy surface the players use to break their fall and various limbs, maybe it’s just playing a game that, when a fight breaks out, everyone including the referee stands back and enjoys the show. Maybe it was just the knowledge that I wasn’t playing an EA sports title, and that in comparison makes the other version seem like an XBLA game.

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Crysis: Take a Demo for a Spin

It has been the talk of the gaming community, best PC game of the 2006 E3 and runner up in 2007, and most highly anticipated tech demo in recent history. Crysis has transcended being merely another release – it has come to symbolise the advances in PC gaming technology. Being the first of the true Direct X10 titles, well it might. The development stable has sired Far Cry, itself a measure of AI and graphical goodness, and now with the backing of EA the expectation has finally reached fruition in the form of the first playable demo to be released to the public. The expectation has only grown with the controversy surrounding the split between Ubisoft (who kept the Far Cry IP) and Crytek, adding fuel to an already blazing fire. What effect will all of this back story have on the game itself? Will Crytek be able to produce something that the fans have hoped for, or that the critics will tear apart with customary relish? The animals!

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The Last Last Starfighter

“Greetings Starfighter, you have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Zur and the Kodan Amada.”

What self respecting Geek does not know the origins of this quote? The teen boy fantasy flick ‘The Last Starfighter’ took us all of a journey gamers have fantasised about – being so good that an intergalactic army, fighting an evil beyond comprehension to save galaxy kind, recruits you as their top gun. And to top it off, you get the girl… if you’re a big fan, probably your first girl. Although it’s a little far fetched to think that a game could be used as a military recruitment tool…

It seems I’m not the only fan. Some boffin has gone and recreated the game from the movie, and even built an exact replica of the arcade cabinet! The best part is that you can download the game and play it on your home PC. Just make sure you have holidays booked if you crack the high score.

Check out the details here.

ATOMIC LIVE! Held Sunday 21st October.

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One word: Cosplay. I didn’t even know what it was before setting foot into the hallowed tent that is the annual Atomic Live show, held at the Sydney Showgrounds at Olympic Park on Sunday 21st October, but I have been trying to erase it ever since as though it were only a psychotic Episode, Total Recall style. I think the moment I realised that these costumes should be banished to the Live Action Role Playing from which they emerged was when a guy walked past in cammo pants and a blue beret, and I didn’t even think that he might be dressed as Guile from Street Fighter… More frightening was the fact that I KNOW that he didn’t have to purchase a single extra piece to complete the outfit. It was all made from regular daily clothing. Add to that the compulsory Jedi, Chewbacca (“I went to the trouble of buying this costume, so it’s coming out every time!”) and a few others that I didn’t recognise and just gave the benefit of the doubt too, and it spelled BFI (Bad First Impression).

Once past that though, the event had many interesting booths. Atomic Live is based around the high end PC magazine Atomic, published in Australia for Australians, which is reflected in the events and information on the day. There was an impressive amount of activity happening across a broad range of companies such as Asus, NVidia, Auran and Ubisoft. Plenty of prizes were given away and most of the attendees seemed pleased with the day as a whole.

Continue reading ATOMIC LIVE! Held Sunday 21st October.

The Cinema. Coming to a Game Near You.

We all know the story: Little Company (say Brisbane based Pandemic,) gets in on the ground level, putting out great work in a field that is growing and starting to get some mainstream exposure. Little Company hangs on to its pants as all of a sudden the world jumps on to the same bandwagon. Little Company is then consumed by Large Company (for arguments sake, Bioware) through a merger. As the dust settles, Large Company is then acquired by Huge Company (perhaps EA), forming Monolith Entertainment (if you go out and trademark that… damn), consisting of half of the game developing universe and their own film studio.

We’ve already read the report from Jordan about EA’s unheard of deal to purchase Pandemic, now hot on the heels has followed more stagger inducing investments from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Viacom/MTV Networks. Investment into the gaming industry is coming thick and fast, especially from companies already involved in traditional entertainment media. The numbers are mind blowing – $500m (U.S) being channelled by both of these companies to develop their gaming arms. To add some spice to the proceedings, you also have Ubisoft setting up their own CG film studios, initially to make “small animated movies for the general public”. I won’t go on about how Ubisoft were able to do this through the funding made available through the brilliant, heart-achingly attractive and forward thinking folk of Quebec. Or how even though we have some of the best, nay THE best up and coming studios in the world already sitting here looking to expand into a tough global market, the Australian government can’t seem to understand that they need a little help to take that next big step…

Ahem.

These types of stories are not new, and we shouldn’t be as flabbergasted as we are. Unless it’s at the huge wads of moolah, then you should be flabbergasting away like a madman. A quick search for studios that have been bought by Sony recently turned up the likes of Evolution Studios, Zipper and Guerrilla Games. Microsoft had bought Bungie to ensure that the Halo franchise would remain an exclusive to the Xbox360, and then cut them loose now that the trilogy is complete. I don’t even have space to list the studios that EA has a hold on. One you may not know is that EA owns around 25% of Ubisoft, which they have been steadily increasing. In fact, the amount of closing, changing of hands, reforming, being bought and then sold of studios is large enough to say that it is more the rule than the exception. It’s just a part of the publishing industry, like any other where the intellectual property and the strength of the brand are all important.

So what does this mean to us, the all important gamer? The real trend, the actual story amongst this is in the news of the deals that Warner and MTV have made following what will forever be known as EA-Day. The film and music industry has finally recognised that the gaming industry has come of age, it’s hot on its heels and the two mediums must finally come together. We should at last be able to see the end of those amazingly bad gaming cut scenes with their cheesy dialogue and wooden, stilted acting. Gone will be the repetitive, yawn inducing soundtracks. Game storylines will become even more complex, engaging and entertaining as actual screenwriters are included in the development process. It may even mean that film tie-ins actually start being playable! Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have already involved in projects with EA and Microsoft respectively, with more talent sure to follow. The music industry has also dipped it’s pinkie toe in, and you can be guaranteed that one of the next big announcements will be from a major music label or artist.

The good here definitively outweighs the bad. Even with the looming monopoly that is EA, the gaming industry is running the course we always hoped it would, as even they can see where the future lays. It is running, and perhaps skipping a bit, to a place where movies, music and gaming are no longer enemies, but entities that are inexorably intertwined for the betterment of eyes, ears, brains and controller holding hands everywhere.

PC gaming made easy?

It’s time the industry got its act together and made hardware more than a bunch of meaningless numbers… By creating one meaningless number to help us figure out what game will run on our PC.

Why are we not all throwing out our PCs, ditching them in a mix of despair and exaltation as we let go of the need for constant upgrading, the expensive new video cards and processors (now with extra cores!) every time a new title hits the shelves? Is it part of the pleasure of PC gaming when you finally construct the perfect balance of speed, power, temperature and compatibility? The unbridled joy of having Half Life 2 burst forth at 80 unflinching frames per second in a resolution that makes you weep silently at the beauty of the virtual world, only then to find that Supreme Commander becomes a stop animation film?

Let’s face it; no one really likes the process of having to create a gaming rig. Specs constantly change and it’s easy to get burnt. Consider the people who jumped in at the launch of the NVIDIA GeForce 8800, only to find that it will not be backward compatible with the new and improved Direct X 10.1. $800 plus dollars later and they get to boast that they are the proud owners of one of the fastest pieces of hardware to become obsolete in the history of computing. The real problem here is that there is no consistency between hardware and software – the hardware setup that works well with one game will not perform with another. Fortunately, there are steps being taken to rectify the situation.

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Review: 1408

Let me begin with a few tips – this is not the movie for a first date (unless you are dating the Single White Female), a 3am viewing after hitting the 40oz’s all night, or an experiment to see what a flick would be like whilst riding high on the mean green. This is nothing short of a mental nerf gun fight, where the soft, loving nerf missiles have been replaced with bitey, angry, feral cats.

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