Xbox 360 dashboard update beta in October

Microsoft is getting ready to launch a major update for its Xbox 360 dashboard later this fall, with beta testing to roll out in October. The revamped interface will mean easier, faster navigation, and integration of more Kinect voice commands to search for movies, music, games, and more.

VentureBeat got an early preview and had generally positive things to say: “Overall, it’s a big improvement on the user interface.” The upgrade is all about making the process of accessing content much faster and making content more discoverable. This is especially important because of the growing amount of content on the Xbox 360, which has already gone way beyond just games.

The interface redesign looks like a step towards merging Xbox LIVE with Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8. The new dashboard interface uses large tiles that are reminiscent of the Windows Phone 7 Live Tiles and the scrolling is sideways rather than up and down, similar to what we’ve seen with the Windows 8 tablet UI.

The update also brings more Kinect integration for improved speech and gesture commands, a new Beacon feature for non-expiring game invitations to friends, a more integrated and less restricted Microsoft Bing search, and YouTube support.

2012 The Best Of Games Pt. 1

It’s about that time when I start thinking about which game will be crowned as my game of the year. 2012 has had some shining moments for gamers and even boasts the addition of two new consoles to our repertoire, Sony’s Vita and Nintendo’s WiiU. However there’s not one that has clearly led the way and several who weren’t initially on my radar that came out of nowhere and just blew my mind.

Over the course of a few articles I would like to discuss some of my favorites before I decide on that one game that gave me the most entertaining experience this year. At this point I’m not even sure what game I would consider GOTY but interestingly my best of 2012 is radically different from what I thought it would be and for the first time includes a PSN only title.

The first game that I will mention came out in February but has still held on to being one of my favorites of 2012, The Darkness 2. While I enjoyed the first game it was nothing compared to its sequel. Back in the lead is our favorite anti-hero Jackie Estacado, a mob boss who possesses a supernatural power known as the Darkness. Jackie struggles with the grief of having lost his beloved girlfriend Jenny as well as keeping his supernatural powers at bay but a failed hit on his life sets the motion of the events of The Darkness 2 in place.

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The game is a first person shooter but the supernatural twist and slight role-playing elements gives the game a unique edge. The look of the game is also stunning and achieved with a cel-shading technique that gives it a style that compliments its graphic novel origins. Gameplay is smooth and responsive and a big improvement over the first game. And who doesn’t love a game that offers you the ability of quad-wielding weapons.

In the end I feel the story suffered a little from the not so perfect conclusion thus keeping The Darkness 2 from the coveted game of the year title but even still it was a worthy game and one that earned a spot on my best of 2012 list. So geeks, as another year comes to a close which games were your favorites or not so favorites of 2012?

Xbox 360 Dashboard update pictures and hands-on

Bing search, Metro-styling and more…

Microsoft is set to release its most ambitious Xbox 360 Dashboard update in the six-year-old console’s life to date, and Pocket-lint was invited to a swanky location in the heart of London to test the new features.

Available for download globally from 6 December (tomorrow), the new update is a complete refresh for the user interface and brings the experience in line with the styling of the company’s Windows Phone 7 operating system, and the front end of the forthcoming Windows 8.

It adopts the new Metro-style interface, offering a tiled aesthetic, and splits content categories into tabs that run across the top of the screen. There’s some that are familiar, some not so, and all have been simplified.

Video and Games are still present, obviously, but new to this update are entire categories for Social, Apps, TV and, possibly the standout new feature, Bing. The latter brings about a new way to search for content, whether it be a movie, game, music video or such-like, and it can be accessed or controlled via the joypad or, as we experienced, Kinect – using the microphone and our voice.

In essence, the new Bing search functionality comes across a bit like Apple’s Siri software found on the iPhone 4S, and has already been advertised on UK TV. However, the feature is much more impressive in the flesh. It’s not a fully functioning version of the Bing in-browser search engine, and technically can only find content that’s available to play, download or stream on or to your Xbox 360, but it is revolutionary in the way that you can access it all through speech.

If you have a Kinect plugged into your console, all you have to do is say “Xbox. Bing. Search…” and choose a term. In our demonstration, we performed several searches, including “Xbox. Bing. Search Batman” and “Search Christian Bale”, and both of which came up with plenty of entertainment suggestions. “Batman”, in fact, came up with the game Lego Batman, some of the full length cartoon series and Batman Begins, both available to rent. Additionally, some of the new content partners that come with the update also have content that will be displayed after a Bing search, as well as those that are Microsoft-hosted. And, as more join up, the results will become farther reaching still.

You can search for common titles, actors names and directors, and, like with Siri, half the fun is finding out what works and what doesn’t. The Kinect certainly recognises a hell of a lot of vocal commands, and can now be used throughout the new Dashboard experience too (not just in-game or in a Kinect-specific menu). The same is true for motion control.

The other major non-cosmetic additions to this update come in the form of the aforementioned new content partners. Along with new zones and an easier to understand menu structure, come video apps for Lovefilm, 4OD, blinkbox, Demand 5 (Channel Five’s VOD service), YouTube, Dailymotion and MSN. And, unlike on rival platforms, Microsoft has made a clever move in getting them to ditch their own front ends and user interfaces in favour of the Metro approach. On the PS3, for example, the Lovefilm app looks nothing like Sony’s XrossMediaBar – it uses the same UI as found on Samsung Smart TVs, et al. Not so here.

Instead, while it is the same streamed movie content found on all other Lovefilm streaming platforms, it is a seamless experience, looking like the Xbox’s own new Dashboard with minor colour changes. You’ll still need a streaming-enabled subscription, but you won’t feel like you are leaving the Xbox arena at any time.

The same is true with all of the other content partners, including music service Muzu.tv. Even 4OD shows are offered through a Metro-style interface, although the font has been changed to Channel 4 s.

Remarkably, Pocket-lint was also told that, when it arrives, the BBC iPlayer application will sport the same Metro aesthetic. Seeing as how much the Beeb is protective over its branding and styling, this comes as a massive shock, and much kudos to Microsoft if it manages to pull of such a coup. We were also told that, because of this, and contrary to former rumours, iPlayer will not be available on the Xbox 360 until 2012. The same is true of ITV Player.

The big M won’t end there either. It told us, in our one-to-one briefing, that it plans to release around 15 applications before the end of 2011, and has a healthy roadmap for the introduction of many more throughout the coming year, month-by-month.

Some of those will be social too, although there’s no word at present on Skype integration (considering Microsoft now owns it), but Twitter and Facebook are already present (as before). There will also be new features for social gaming, such as leaving a beacon for friends who are not online. As soon as they log in, that beacon will ask them to join you in a game. Plus, as Gamertag information will be stored in the cloud from now on, rather than locally, you can even log into your account from a different Xbox 360, and play as yourself rather than a guest, with all your achievements and information being accessible.

At this juncture, it’s worth pointing out that some of these new services are only available to Xbox Live Gold members. Silver members still get the new look, the search functionality, and voice and gesture control through a Kinect (if they have one), but will not be able to access a vast amount of the content.

We haven’t been told of an exact time for the Dashboard’s release in the UK, but it is totally on track for this Tuesday. And, given our initial viewing, we reckon it’ll blow your socks off.

No BBC iPlayer for Xbox 360 Dashboard update

Delayed until 2012

The Xbox 360 Dashboard update hits tomorrow (6 December), but while it comes with plenty of new features and applications for content providers, including 4OD and Demand 5, the much-touted BBC iPlayer won’t be one of them. Yet.

Pocket-lint has been told, in a one-to-one briefing, that the iPlayer app is unlikely to be available on the platform this year, with a 2012 release date much more likely. This is because both parties, Microsoft and the BBC, want the functionality and look of the service to be as good as it possibly can be, and to feature complete integration with the new features offered by the refreshed Metro-style interface:

“We are working with them to deliver their application, probably in 2012,” said Pav Bhardwaj, Xbox Live UK product manager. “We are working to make sure that the app that we deliver for the BBC is the best app that we could possibly deliver. That it is seamless. That it is a great consumer experience. That’s what both the BBC and Microsoft want to deliver.”

However, at least this means that the iPlayer app for Xbox 360 will feature search through voice control, for example:

“That’s what’s most important. Rather than rushing it through, we’re going to make sure it’s a quality app,” he added.

“What’s important about the BBC is that they have such rich content. They’ve got so much content that’s it’s really important that we bring the whole Bing experience, the whole Kinect experience, and the whole search and gesture control functionality correctly to that application. And that it works seamlessly.”

Additionally, the company is working with the other major UK terrestrial broadcaster ITV to bring its ITV Player service to the platform in 2012 too:

“They are one of the partners we’re looking to work with,” Bhardwaj said.

A Geeky Review- Tomb Raider

Every once in a while a game comes along that completely reaffirms my love of gaming. The recent reboot of Tomb Raider is one of those games. I had expected great things from Lara Croft‘s “rebirth” but what I got was quite a lot more awesome than I had planned. Tomb Raider is a near perfect game from start to finish and will leave you wanting more from our heroine, Lara, who finally got the game she deserves.

Through the years I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Tomb Raider franchise. Being a female myself I was instantly smitten with the idea of controlling an intelligent female protagonist. Despite her extremely short-shorts and well endowed chest, Lara had credibility as a dual gun wielding action/adventurer who became an icon in the “boys club” of memorable video game characters. Unfortunately for Lara, she was always kind of one-dimensional and through the years lacked character development and was slowly forgotten as her male counterparts progressed and became multi-dimensional.

As we moved into the current generation of consoles I hadn’t given Lara much thought, that is until I started playing Uncharted Drake’s Fortune. Not only did I think, this is the game Tomb Raider should have become, Uncharted finally succeeded in giving me the female video game character I’ve been seeking. While Elena Fisher is not Uncharted’s lead, she has become as beloved as our hero and main man Drake. All of Uncharted’s characters were created with love and depth as was the gripping cinematic quality to the franchises stories. I largely credit this with Naughty Dog’s, Amy Hennig, who is the main creative director and writer to the Uncharted series.

Amy Hennig is a legend in the games industry and previously worked for, Crystal Dynamics. As you may or may not know Crystal Dynamics took over development of the Tomb Raider franchise in 2003 and are also responsible for the current reboot of Tomb Raider. At one point during her time at Crystal Dynamics, Hennig wanted to reboot Tomb Raider but the task was given to someone else. Hennig eventually left Crystal Dynamics and joined Naughty Dog, and a legendary series was born. In a recent interview Hennig has stated that she was disappointed she didn’t get the opportunity to revive Tomb Raider. However, I feel Ms. Hennig is largely responsible for Lara’s growth as its apparent Crystal Dynamics took more than a few pointers from her groundbreaking Uncharted series.

When we first meet the new Lara Croft, we find a young woman and recent archeology graduate about to embark on her first expedition to the Yamatai island in the Dragon’s Triangle which is off the coast of Japan. It’s here that an unsure girl will be forced to overcome a bevy of trials and tribulations that will mold Lara into the iconic heroine the character has earned.

Lara and her crew set off to explore the mysterious Yamatai and the legend of its queen known as Himiko or “Sun Queen”. Legend has it Himiko had shamanistic powers in which she could control the weather. A storm is what sets off events of the adventure which leaves the crew torn apart and stranded on the strange island that is inhabited by the Solari Brotherhood, a dangerous and violent cult. Throughout Tomb Raider’s campaign an interesting and well written story unfolds but I would be doing you a disservice to elaborate on events that are responsible in transforming a young Lara who is unsure of herself into a fledgling hero, poised to take the reigns of the Tomb Raider franchise.

Not only does Lara’s character develop throughout the game, her abilities are honed as well. Early on, when you are required to walk across a narrow beam, Lara is cautious and almost clumsy about it, but later she expertly finds herself able to cross similar scenarios with ease and confidence. When Lara is forced to kill for the first time, it’s an emotional moment you won’t forget and expertly conveyed by Lara’s voice actor, Camilla Ludington.

Initially I played Tomb Raider on the 360, but I recently scored a free PC copy through a promotion with AMD Radeon when I replaced my video card with one of theirs. The graphics of the 360 version looks great but the PC version is stunningly beautiful. AMD created a cool little feature for the PC version called TressFX Hair, and let me tell you Lara’s hair looks fabulous! If you have a rig that will run Tomb Raider on Ultra settings, I highly recommend the PC version. However if you are interested in the multiplayer portion I’d go with a console version as the PC community seems to have less interest in MP for this game than console fans do.

Speaking of MP I’ve mostly enjoyed it, which is a good thing as it was recently announced that for now, any planned DLC for Tomb Raider will be Multiplayer based. I do so hope Crystal Dynamics changes their mind on this because I would love some more single player Tomb Raider even if it’s just a few new tombs to explore.

Tomb Raider is available now for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. It was developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. I can’t recommend this game enough, it is truly an epic experience. Look out The Last Of Us and Bioshock Infinite, a “contender is born”.

Gears of War: Judgement – Review

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Gears of War: Judgement is the newest edition to the Gears family and is set before the events of the trilogy, following the events directly after Emergence Day. It follows Kilo squad which is the home of Baird and Cole from the original games as well as introducing two new people, Paduk and Sofia. All of whom you will play as during the campaign learning about each character as they tell their testimony through game progression.

Being an avid Gears fan having followed the story from the beginning in Aspho Fields during the Pendulum Wars to the end in Azura, it was nice to be able to play and see what happened with some of the characters before they were the saviors we expected. Having said that I know I may seem biased and that I will not be giving a fair review, but this game has quite a few downfalls so hear me out. I will keep this as spoiler free as possible.

GoW Kilo Squad

What I liked about this game is that you have options for how the campaign will play out. You play as all four characters learning about their experiences while chasing down Karn, the antagonist in this game. But while you are doing this there are what is being deemed “declassified missions” where you will use different weapons or the enemies will be given different weapons, they can also be made harder or come in larger groups, there are also a few declassified missions where your vision or health regeneration is impaired to ramp up the difficulty. The reason this is cool is because the game plays as an interactive narrative while the squad tells their testimony in court so the “declassified missions” are allegations that would have otherwise been omitted. Though this serves no real purpose, it feels like a cool add-on.

Also they have included what feels like DLC for Gears 3 called “Aftermath” which is a small set of missions set in Gears 3 time and it has you playing as Baird with Cole and Carmine in a squad. They go in search of a boat and backup for their landing in Azura and decide to seek Paduk back in Halvo bay. This was a nice glimpse into what was unknown and looked over in 3 and is appreciated from both a fan and consumer stand point as it was not paid DLC, even though you can tell that was its original purpose.

Something else I like is that the weapons have been slightly redone so they feel more evenly powered, the first one that comes to mind is the sawed-off. In Gears 3, the sawed-off was introduced as a super powerful one shot weapon that will do maximum damage at very close range. While this is accurate I never felt like it was quite right until I got a hold of it in Judgement, it has been redone and now offers two shots while still feeling super powerful at a close range.

The new Overrun mode in the multiplayer is awesome, I love objective based multiplayer where you jockey with a team for control over something tangible. Also the new Survival mode is fun as hell, it is pretty much horde mode in Overrun and now that I have said that I feel a bit cheated.

So in this new iteration in the franchise there have been a rather large number of changes. The major of which (at least for me) is that the four weapon system is now gone so you only have a primary and secondary instead of being able to equip three guns and grenades. While grenades are still there, the third gun being taken away feels wrong. Though many people probably never got around to really using the pistol that was equipped it just feels wrong not to have it there. The game seems to make up for this by offering more ammo especially if the declassified mission you accept has the locusts using COG weapons then ammo is plentiful.

A few of the multiplayer modes have been removed as part of the changes like Horde and Beast mode. While Gears feels (to me) to have really defined the Horde mode I cannot seem to wrap my mind around why it is not included in the game, this mode has been one of the most influential from Gears and not having it in this game just seems, wrong. Since Gears 3 had introduced an awesome new mode that lets you play as the locust against AI COG opponents we all kind of expected to have it included with the new game, I even expected it to be better since most games upgrade with new versions being released. Overrun mode does let you play as the locust and break the fortifications and all that but it just does not have that same awesome feel that beast mode did.

One major downfall for the game is that it feels terribly short. While the Gears franchise is not exactly known for having super long campaign play, this just felt exceptionally short. While you play through the testimony of the Gears depicting what happened leading up to the court hearing, you catch up to modern time entirely too fast and the game ends shortly after.

Another issue I have is the character choice. Paduk and Sofia do not resonate with me what-so-ever, not that they feel tacked on or added in as fluffer to make to story longer or anything, they just seem temporary and like the relationship just does not matter. You play through each person and get to know them and their agenda (Paduk is an ex-UIR soldier and Sofia is an Onyx Guard cadet) and while that is a good aspect for the narrative and fits it well, you cannot really connect with them knowing that they have no other place in the storyline outside of this particular game.

My personal most hated thing about the game was that they included new enemies. While it was good seeing the Kryll again since it was dated before the lightmass bombing, I felt that adding new enemies did not fit into the series well because it raises questions such as “Well where were they in the other games?” and “How were those specific types killed off?” The new additions did add a bit more variety and that was fine but from a purist view I cannot justify their existence in this universe as there is no answer to the questions posed.

The main enemy you chase after is named Karn, as we learn from Paduk he is a very powerful and feared general of the locusts. But his great power is never actually shown, he is seen commanding a few groups of locusts but his destruction is hidden so he just seems like some guy riding a big bug. There are a few more issues I have with the addition of Karn but I want this to be spoiler free so I will just leave it at where it is for now.

I actually have a bit of a large probelm with Sofia. Before I delve into that though I would like to preface it with the fact that the person writing the Gears games and books, Karen Traviss, did not pen this one and boy does it show. The story throughout the games has been overlapping and arcing to show you what happened in older more important times as well as present day so you know what is going on when old battles or hardships are referenced. The characters always feel real with their distinct personalities and you can level with them on a few levels.

Judgement however, is not like that. Judgement was penned by two new guys and it shows, it shows in a bad way. The always hilarious and level-headed Cole was mostly silent until you played his testimony and even then he just did not feel like the same guy, he just seemed dry and unattached, almost broody. Baird, known for his razor tongue and quick sarcasm was more friendly and cheerful, that just is not the Baird we all know and love/hate. Then we have Sofia. Rather than incorporate one of the already established female characters (Anya, Bernie, Sam) the writers chose to go with a new conventionally attractive red-head who wears a skin-tight black catsuit under her armor; unlike Anya, Sam, and Bernie in Gears 3, Sofia does not cover much of her lower body with pockets or accoutrements, so the player gets a nice view of just how tight her pants are.

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The most notable thing about this feisty red head is not her looks but that she is an inexperienced cadet that always seems to be needing a talking-to from another character. Everyone else in the game outranks her, out-ages her, and outweighs her by well more than half and yet she still tries to make her naive opinions heard. This theme continues up until the last lines of the game, which I will not give away.

Gears are meant to be strong and resolved in their actions and she just seems out-of-place constantly being corrected and letting her emotions get in her way, this is not what women Gears are meant to be. It is demonstrated that she has a history of letting her emotions get in the way, in the campaign you find yourself tracking down something to help with your objective that leads you to the mansion of one of her old professors whom had a crush on her even though he was married and had kids. Anyway so everyone gets into the mansion and find the professor dead which sounds like it would be a cinematic moment for Sofia right? Wrong! Not even a little bit, it is like there is a scene missing or something, she just moved on with no care to the man’s demise. Maybe the writers were trying to show that she can be tough and not as cliche as she seems but they missed the mark by not acknowledging it at all after the lead-in. Or maybe we are just supposed to believe that she is now interested in someone else, perhaps an older man in the squad, perhaps Paduk.

Without getting into a complete diatribe over the whole situation, I dislike this premise because it is so very cliche, woman with a troubled past falls for squad-mate whom she is not supposed to be with blah blah blah. This feels like a step backward. Gears of War 3 gave multiple women guns, agency, and personality. Gears of War: Judgment gives its one woman a gun, an old lover who seemed like a jerk, a new lover who seems like a jerk as well, and then … off-screen torture, fade to black. All in a pair of sexy, skin-tight pants. I don’t expect that much of my military shooters, but Gears 3 had knocked the bar up a few notches. Judgment failed to meet the level that its predecessor set. Had Judgment included at least one other woman (or more!), Sofia’s hackneyed story-line might have stuck out less. I have no issue with women being sexualized in games, that is a certain style that people like including myself on occasion. But Gears is not the place for that.

Okay moving away from the sexism and cliche’s to a final verdict! Overall I would say I like Judgement, I had fun playing the short campaign and plan on playing through it again on Insane and playing the multiplayer for a while as well. If you are interested in the story then it is a solid buy, if you are only kind of interested then wait until it drops to the $30 price.

The Phantom Pain is indeed Metal Gear Solid V!

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So here we are, official confirmation that the game previously known as The Phantom Pain is the fifth chapter in the Metal Gear Solid franchise. The initial trailer fooled just about no one, the internet was a blaze with MGS theories mere moments after it was shown at the Spike VGAs. Nice try Kojima!

There’s a new trailer to help fans understand what’s going on but man I gotta say I was more confused after watching it than I was before! The basic premise is that Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain are both elements of Metal Gear Solid V and what we see is the aftermath of events that transpired in Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker.

The best news is that those of us not looking forward to scraping up cash to play the game on a new system won’t have to. Metal Gear Solid V is going to release (date TBD) for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360! Hit the break to peep the full press release and hit the MGS site here to watch the 6 minute trailer.

KONAMI ANNOUNCES METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN

Next Chapter of METAL GEAR SOLID Franchise is Revealed in All-New Trailer

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – March 27, 2013 – Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. today announced the next chapter in the METAL GEAR SOLID franchise, METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN, will be released on the Sony PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system and the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. To reinforce the announcement and address all the questions fans have been asking all year, Kojima Productions unveiled a brand new trailer for the new title at this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco.

“Following the success of METAL GEAR SOLID 4: GUNS OF THE PATRIOTS, we have extremely high expectations for METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN,” said Tomoyuki Tsuboi, President of Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. “We hope to expand and revolutionize the METAL GEAR SOLID franchise utilizing the FOX Engine, while providing fans the high-quality and immersive experience they have come to expect from Kojima Productions.”

First unveiled in METAL GEAR SOLID: PEACE WALKER, the new METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN trailer shows the fall of Mother Base and provides visual hints that unveil the connection between METAL GEAR SOLID: GROUND ZEROES and METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN. The trailer also showcases the FOX Engine’s exceptional level of visual quality with seamless integration of gameplay and cut scenes.For the newly released METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN trailer, please make sure to visit:www.metalgearsolid.com.

METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN will be released on the Sony PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system and the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft.

For more information on METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN, please visit:www.konami.com

“PlayStation” is a registered trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.

Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE are either registered trademarks or trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies.

About Konami Group
Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. is a leading developer, publisher and manufacturer of electronic entertainment properties. Konami’s titles include the popular franchises METAL GEAR SOLID, Silent Hill, DanceDanceRevolution and Castlevania, among other top sellers. The latest information about Konami can be found on the Web at http://www.konami.com. KONAMI CORPORATION is a publicly traded company based in Tokyo, Japan with subsidiary offices, Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd. in Tokyo, Japan, Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. in the United States and Konami Digital Entertainment GmbH in Frankfurt, Germany. KONAMI CORPORATION is traded in the United States on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol KNM. Details of the products published by Konami can be found athttp://www.konami.com.

A Geeky Review- Bioshock Infinite (No Spoilers)

I’ve been anticipating the release of Bioshock Infinite for quite some time. Often when I place such high regards on a game, I’m disappointed. It’s not necessarily the games fault either but rather the unrealistic bar I set for it.

Bioshock Infinite arrived in my life shortly after midnight on Tuesday March 26. The next 48 hours would be filled with sleep deprivation and obsession. Seriously, I played Bioshock Infinite every chance I could and when I wasn’t playing, it’s all I could think about. Even upon completing my first play through my mind has been swimming with thoughts of what I experienced in Bioshock Infinite.

I recently started my second playthrough. I often play games more than once, rarely immediately after completing it for the first time. Bioshock Infinite is darn near perfect. A bold statement I know but I’d even go as far as saying it just might be the best game I’ve ever played. I’m haunted by events that took place in Bioshock Infinite. The game takes place in a fictional 1912 but presents the player with social commentary that could be applied to present day events.

It’s also worth mentioning that the poignant story is not presented with a heavy hand. If you game for the sole purpose of escapism, Bioshock Infinite also has much to offer in the ways of fun gameplay, gorgeous graphics and intriguing characters. The heart of the story is the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth. Both characters will go down as some of the most memorable gaming has to offer. The fact that Elizabeth is non-playable never deters from her charm. And for once the tag along NPC character you must look after, isn’t a thorn in your side. In fact at times Elizabeth is downright useful and never gets in the way.

It’s difficult to fully discuss the events of Bioshock Infinite without being spoilerific, so I won’t even try. I think it would be a crime having this game spoiled in even the slightest. I implore every player of this game to stop and think about the ending before judging it. I myself played the last part which is largely cutscenes a few times before I was fully able to process what just happened.

Hidden clues are found amongst the voxophone recordings as well as the sightseers that are scattered around Columbia. Speaking of Columbia, it’s easily one of the most beautiful worlds to ever grace gaming. For all its beauty and lightness, Columbia masks an underlying darkness of racism and civil war. At the forefront of this hatred and exceptionalism, is the self-proclaimed prophet, Zachary Comstock, Infinite’s answer to Andrew Ryan.

Fans of the Bioshock series will be familiar with the gameplay but I found it a little less challenging than the previous two endeavors and would suggest playing the game one level of difficulty higher. Finishing the game will unlock the 1999 mode which is an increasingly tougher mode with limited ammo and stronger enemies plus respawning will cost you $100. Should you not have enough money to pay the toll, you are sent back to the main menu.

It’s kind of bittersweet that the current generation of consoles is being ushered out by the masterpiece that is Bioshock Infinite, considering Bioshock helped kick it off. Kudos to you Ken Levine and Irrational Games. Bioshock Infinite just set a new standard in the world of games.

PS4 Details Will Possibly Emerge This Month

Rumors are abound that Sony is set to reveal more details about the much-anticipated PS4. It was widely believed that they would use E3 to finalize details or at least give us more info but now speculation is that Sony will make an announcement as early as this month. Sony likely wants to keep the hype train rolling in their favor after the not so surprising PS4 announcement this past February.

My own personal opinion is that Sony wants to have all details available and perhaps even start taking pre-orders before Microsoft announces their next console. In January Microsoft posted a countdown to E3 on its blog which most people assumed was to be taken as a countdown to the NextBox. However there’s still a chance Microsoft will also preempt E3 with their own standalone announcement. Both consoles could possibly release by the end of 2013.

Eventually I will own both consoles but my first choice and the console I will pre-order in hopes of getting my hands on at launch will be the PS4. I think a lot of gamers have similarly made up their minds regardless of announcements. So geeks, what’s your thoughts on the impending next console generation? We’d love to hear your thoughts on what will undoubtedly be a competition that in the end can only end in a win for us gamers.

Ride to Hell coming this summer, going to put the hurt on!

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Our awesome pals over at Deep Silver just pulled the curtain back on a trio of vengeance fueled games centered on the moniker Ride to Hell. Ride to Hell: Retribution stars lone bad-ass Jake Conway, a man on a mission to decimate the vicious, depraved members of the Devil’s Hand Motorcycle Club. Jake must bludgeon, blast and bleed out various degenerates in a gritty Grindhouse feeling world. Watch the trailer after the break to get a small idea of what you should expect. Retribution is expected to grace the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 on June 25th.

Gamers looking for a bit of small-sized fun can play Ride to Hell: Route 666 or Ride to Hell: Beatdown. Route 666 is an arcade game for XBLA or PSN that tasks players with recruiting fellow bikers on a quest to conquer the infamous highway. The game will also be out in June 2013. Not much is rightly known about Beatdown except that is a mobile “rock’n’roll brawler”. Once we get more details, we’ll hit you awesome geeks in the brain hole with the info.

After watching the trailer, I can’t wait to see more about Retribution! It reminds me of a underlooked gem by the name of Wet, published by Bethesda. We’re talking babes, guns, blood shed and intense shooting action! Retribution is on my “Must See More” radar now. Hit the break, peep the press release and watch that awesome trailer! Oh yeah and screens!

Time to start your engines: Deep Silver is going to take you on a non-stop Ride to Hell this summer

LARKSPUR, Calif – April 4, 2013 – They say there’s no freedom like the open road, and no bigger badasses than bikers. Deep Silver is proud to take gamers deep into a world of bare-knuckle violence, seedy strip clubs, and rip-roaring motorcycles with the Ride to Hell universe, revving into homes starting June 2013.

Ride to Hell: Retribution tells the story of a lone rider, Jake Conway, a man with either a gun in his hand or a girl on his lap (and on more than one occasion both!). He’s on a merciless path of revenge against a brutal biker gang called The Devil’s Hand, armed to the teeth with an arsenal of deadly weapons to enact his vengeance on foot and on bike. The only law Jake answers to is his own. Hit hard, ride fast and leave ‘em in the dust on June 25, 2013, in North America and June 28, 2013, in the rest of the world for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, Windows PC, and PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system.

Looking to lead your own pack of fearsome bikers? Ride to Hell: Route 666 is just for you, taking the player on a journey to conquer legendary Route 66. Players will recruit and lead a gang of bikers from Chicago to Los Angeles, fighting for every mile of the road using both brain and brawn. Fast paced arcade combat combined with easy to understand tactics – anyone who understands team sports will be able to dive right in to commanding their gang. Get ready to rule the road with Ride to Hell: Route 666 in June 2013 on the PlayStation Store, Xbox LIVE Arcade for Xbox 360 and Steam.

Last, but certainly not least, the Ride to Hell universe will be rounded out withRide to Hell: Beatdown, a rock’n’roll brawler set to light up the mobile space, on the go! More details on this title will follow soon.

Ride to Hell: Retribution is developed by Eutechnyx, Ride to Hell: Route 666by Black Forest Games.

For more information about the Ride to Hell universe, please visit one of the following official sites:

Web: http://www.ridetohell.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/ridetohellgame
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RideToHellGame
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/deepsilverhq

About Deep Silver
Deep Silver develops and publishes interactive games for all platforms, seeking to deliver top-quality products that provide immersive game experiences driven by the desires of the gaming community. The company has published more than 200 games worldwide since 2003, including the critically-acclaimed, best-selling zombie action game, Dead Island . Upcoming titles include the side-scrolling arcade brawler, Sacred Citadel, the isometric action RPG, Sacred 3, and the next game in the Dead Island franchise, Dead Island Riptide. Deep Silver, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Media, GmbH. For more information, please visithttp://www.deepsilver.com or follow us on twitter at @deepsilver.

About Eutechnyx
Eutechnyx is the world’s leading independent racing game developer. The company publishes a number of game brands including NASCAR The Game (console, PC and mobile) and Auto Club Revolution (PC free-to-play) . With a history spanning over 25 years, the studio has won numerous awards for its million-plus selling titles and garnered exceptional acclaim in the business sector. As well as its headquarters in the UK, the company has studios in Hong Kong, Chengdu and Charlotte, USA.

For more information, please visit http://www.eutechnyx.com

Auto Club Revolution and Eutechnyx are registered trademarks of Eutechnyx Limited. All rights reserved.

About Black Forest Games
Founded in 2012, Black Forest Games is an independent game studio focused on high-quality video games. The studio is based in Offenburg, Germany, and currently employs a team of 40 international industry professionals who specialize in building games for all major game platforms. For more information on Black Forest Games please visit the official website at http://www.black-forest-games.com

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