Saturday, April 24, 2010

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty "Tidings of Doom" Cinematic

Alright, I admit it. This cinematic gave me one hell of a sense of nostalgia and sure makes me want to pick up and play StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty's Campaign right about now.

Aside from Halo Wars, I haven't played a good RTS for about six years now, and some epic matches on sure sounds like a good idea. Too bad my old account is years gone.

Blizzard Entertainment Concept Art Gallery

Blizzard Entertainment is a company that needs no introduction, and their IPs have shaped a great deal of the gaming industry we know and love today. All of their influential projects, however, started in the conceptual stage, which of course means that their concept artists have poured their heart and sole into their beloved universes for more than 15 years.

This week, Blizzard Entertainment opened up a new section of their site specifically showcasing the concept art for the majority of their games past, present, and future. You can check out nearly 30 pages of amazing artwork beginning right here.

Looking at all these great images, specifically many of those from their earlier days, really takes me back to when I was first discovering the magical and gritty worlds that would be such a strong part of my life for just under a decade. Thank you Blizzard Entertainment for all the great moments and more specifically, the fondest of memories.

Halo: Reach Multiplayer ViDoc - Carnage Carnivale

To round out our news on Halo: Reach this week, Bungie has released a new ViDoc showcasing a whole lot of things Multiplayer, including Invasion and Generator Defence!

You can check it out both here and below, and don't forget to read my beta preview right here!

Halo: Reach Editions Officially Announced

Like Halo 3 before it, Halo: Reach will launch this fall in three various editions.

Halo: Reach Standard Edition - $69.99
- Contains the game disc and the manual.

Halo: Reach Limited Edition - $89.99
- Collector's case of an ONI black box.
- Exclusive in-game Elite armour for Multiplayer
- An artifact bag containing Dr. Halsey's personal journal as well as other classified documents (I find this one amusing as Dr. Halsey was not the kind of person to keep a traditional pen and paper journal).

Halo: Reach Legendary Edition - $149.99
- All items from the Halo: Reach Limited Edition
- Noble Team statue created by McFarlane Toys.
- UNSC custom packaging.
- A flaming Spartan helmet in Multiplayer.

You can read Bungie's official announced here (which lists the US pricing), and Xbox Canada's official announcement here.

I'll be picking up the Halo: Reach Limited Edition. Like the Halo 3: Legendary Edition, $149.99, the cost of two retail games, is a lot to ask for any collector's edition, especially considering the Noble Team Statue is the only other item of real worth in that collection.

I personally think an additional $20.00 is a little steep for the Halo: Reach Limited Edition, however I realized that the standard edition will likely come in those new, flimsy, "environmentally sound" cases that everyone hates, so I guess you're also footing the bill for a quality case. That is assuming Microsoft Game Studios learned it's lesson from last time.

Halo 3: ODST Viral Marketing Campaign Video

Last September, shortly before the launch of Halo 3: ODST, Xbox Canada held a viral marketing campaign for the game where those who solved it gained early access to the Toronto launch party.

At the time, Mister Switch and I worked like crazy trying to figure it out, as did thousands of others on various forums and communities across the globe. The viral campaign was eventually cracked, and the launch party was a great time.

Now, several months later, Xbox Canada has posted a video detailing the Halo 3: ODST viral marketing campaign. Why so late? Perhaps they're beginning to hype for another viral campaign that'll be related to Halo: Reach.

We can only hope, and until we know for sure, enjoy the video here or below.

And yes, both Mister Switch and I are in the video.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Halo: Reach Beta Preview

On Wed. Apr. 14th, we saw the end of an era. That was the day that support for original Xbox games via Xbox LIVE was removed, and that was the day that we bid a fond farewell to Halo 2's Xbox LIVE multiplayer. The single most popular original Xbox game of all time had finally been retired, and while Halo 3 continues to be played regularly the world over, something new is in the air. Bungie, the developers behind the Halo first person shooters, are hard at work on a prequel to the Halo trilogy entitled Halo: Reach. The multiplayer beta for Halo: Reach kicks off on May 3rd, however on Wed. Apr. 14th, myself and a select group of others from the Canadian community were privileged to be granted some one on one time with a pre-beta build of the Multiplayer portion of the game.

Quietly held in a downtown Toronto press office and under a strict embargo that has now lifted, Jeff Rivait, Product Manager - Xbox Games and Accessories, gave us our initial "tour" of the beta with an as yet unreleased promotional video and then allowed us to take a crack at the pre-beta itself.

Set up in a conference room were eight LCD TVs with eight Xbox 360 consoles all system linked together for some multiplayer carnage, and there were game types both old and new. Before I get into those, however, let's talk a bit about controls. The standard layout you're used to from Halo 3 has been changed once again, specifically in the use of three different buttons. Reload/Use is now back on "X" where it belongs. I wasted so much Equipment in Halo 3 trying to reload with the proper button, and shame on Bungie for moving it in the first place.

So what's Right Bumper used for? Melee. This one's going to take some getting used to, but when you want to mash your opponent in the jaw or assassinate them from behind, you hit Right Bumper. So if Right Bumper now delivers a fist full of hurt, what does "B" do? Toggles your grenades, and we're back to basics here as well. In the pre-beta build we got to tangle with, you have Frag and Plasma Grenades, that's it. To be honest, while I'll miss Incendiary Grenades, the Spike Grenade always seemed redundant to me, so that one's fine to go. With only two Grenade types, your capacity has been increased to four per Grenade.

So if "B" switches Grenades, what does Left Bumper do? Well you can forget about duel-wielding, as that's right out. Yup, you read correctly: You will not be able to duel-wield in Halo: Reach. Instead, Left Bumper now uses your ability tied to your Load Out, and Load Outs add some nice variety to the game.

Some game types have Load Outs, some don't, and in this pre-beta build, every game type I played had a Load Out. So what is a Load Out? They're sort of like a character class for your Spartan. After you get past the pre-game lobby, as the match loads, you can pick between whatever Load Out is offered for that game. There were usually four choices, and they dictated starting weapons and Grenades as well as your ability. This ability could be Sprinting, a Jet Pack, Armour Lock, or Active Camo.

As you hold Left Bumper and use your ability, its metre, located above your Motion Tracker, drains, and when it runs out, you need to wait for it to recharge before you can use that ability again. During the course of the evening and the games I played, I used three of the four available. Sprint is just like you'd expect, allowing you to cover distances quickly but you're less maneuverable and unable to fire while doing so. Active Camo not only cloaks you, but also jams the Motion Tracker of yourself and every other player in range. If someone's using Active Camo close to you, you'll know, but the Stalker themselves needs to be careful as the faster they move, the easier they are to visually see. Armour Lock was my favourite of the Spartan abilities, as when you use it, you crouch down and are invincible for its duration. Not only are you impervious to damage, but you're also building up an EMP pulse. Release Armour Lock and anyone close to you gets hit with the pulse and loses their Shields, giving you one last chance to cap them before they finish you off. I never actually used the Jet Pack myself, but saw it used enough and it clearly makes traversing the environments faster and easier in short bursts, giving players a great tactical advantage.

Which brings us to the environments themselves. We became intimately familiar with both Powerhouse and Sword Base, and both maps were very detailed, and very different. Powerhouse has a lot of open areas around the ring of the central structure, giving a decent blend of indoor and outdoor combat. It's a gritty, industrial map in terms of its art style with a few different elevation levels, while Sword Base is very vertical with an open ground floor lobby and tight, multi-leveled hallways. There are bridges and levels to jump around, shafts to expedite moving from one level to another, and the whole environment is clean and polished in its art style. Personally, I preferred Sword Base over the two as I always enjoyed corridor crawls more than open areas, keeping combat close, which bring us to the weapons.

I already went over the Grenades above, and they function like you remember (though Frag grenades seem to bounce more), but let's talk guns. In each match, I always started with the Assault Rifle and the Magnum. The Assault Rifle functions more or less like you remember despite its cosmetic uplift, and the Magnum has a scope making it a great mid to close range killer (got tagged in the head a few times with this baby). As soon as I could though, I'd replace it with the Designated Marksman Rifle. Replacing the franchise's Battle Rifle, the Designated Marksman Rifle is a single shot, 12 round per clip weapon, scoped of course, and it's a thing of beauty. When I first tried using it, I tried going all gung-ho against my opponent and got creamed because unlike the Battle Rifle, it's not your standard fallback weapon, but keep yourself at mid range and you'll be capping opponents before they can reach you.

Both the Grenade Launcher and Sniper Rifle were present as well, but I never got to make use of them so I can't comment on their effectiveness or changes.

While that's the extent of the human weapons I toyed with, the Covenant aren't lacking in the ordnance department by any means. I love the Plasma Repeater. Replacing the old Plasma Rifle in multiplayer (though the Plasma Rifle is still expected to be in Campaign), it's essentially the Covenant's version of the Assault Rifle only it seemed to eat through Shields quicker and was my preferred close range weapon. Reloading it vents any heat it's built up, so make sure to do so between firings to avoid overheating at an inopportune moment. The Plasma Pistol functions just like it always has, and the Energy Sword seemed to require a little more finesse to lock on to an opponent, so I found myself dumping it for the Plasma Repeater instead.

For longer range, the Focus Rifle was absolutely devastating. Zoomed in, I fired on and killed my opponent in a matter of seconds to cries of "What was that!" Very powerful, very impressive. It really did feel like a Sentinel Beam with a scope, but with a deeper sound effect. I have to admit that I wasn't too impressed with the Needle Rifle, though I was originally trying to use it more like an Assault Rifle, which the weapon clearly isn't designed for. The original Needler is back and works in traditional fashion, and the Plasma Launcher is sort of like a Covenant Grenade Launcher on overdrive. You charge it up and at max charge, let this baby fly and four balls of Plasma race out at the target, attaching to them and detonating. Not so great to use in close quarters since you need to charge it up, but with some maneuvering room, your opponent is dead without cover and I imagine this'll be an amazing anti-vehicle weapon.

I say I imagine because regrettably, we didn't get the opportunity to try out any of the pre-beta's vehicles, simply because they weren't in any of the game types we played.

So yeah, let's talk about game types. Headhunter. I loved Headhunter! Kill an opponent, they drop Skulls. You walk over the Skulls to collect them, as many as you can, and then get to the drop-off point to add to your score. You're not actually holding the Skulls like in Oddball, you have your weapons available at all times and the number of Skulls currently on you is displayed via a counter towards the bottom of the screen.

We played Headhunter the most, but speaking of Oddball, we played that to and just so you know, with Oddball and Capture the Flag, using any of your new fancy abilities drops the item, so no Sprinting away once you have the Ball. Slayer and Team Slayer are all the usual fare, and we played several matches of those, but I wanted to play something we hadn't seen before, so I asked if we could see some Elites. We tried to get a game of Invasion going, but it wasn't working out so this sadly didn't happen.

Now, when you're waiting in the game lobby, there's no longer a Veto option, instead three game types are listed, and you get to cast your Vote for the one you want to play. Don't like any of them or the maps they're on, Vote for None of the Above. While looking at one group of choices that Matchmaking gave us, we saw a new game type we hadn't seen before: Covy Slayer. We assumed that meant Slayer using only Covenant weapons, so we loaded it up and were pleasantly surprised.

Elites! We got to play as Elites for that game, and they look very, very cool. There were two Load Outs to choose from, one with the Plasma Repeater and Plasma Pistol, the other with the Needle Rifle and Plasma Pistol. Regardless of which Load Out you chose, your ability was Evade, and it was my favourite ability bar none. You can use Evade a max of twice before it needs to recharge, but it's great for closing the gap on your opponent or for getting out of a tight situation. Simply being able to roll around opened up so many options, and I loved it!

Unlike the previous entries into the franchise, Elites are no longer just differently skinned Spartans, they actually play differently. Elites move faster than Spartans and they also have more Shields than Spartans. So what exactly do Spartans have over Elites?

I asked Jeff this very question, and he told me that Bungie's always working to keep things official to the universe itself, and as you all know, humanity is losing the Human-Covenant War simply because the Covenant are tougher and have better technology. So to answer your question, Elites > Spartans.

This is why Elites are only available in certain game types and can't be used in any game like before, and though we didn't get to play any Invasion games or Generator Defence games, Jeff tells me that Spartan players will need to be more crafty and make solid use of team work to overcome their opposing alien adversaries.

So what about Brutes? The Gravity Hammer was also present in multiplayer, but no other Brute weapons were available and no info about the Campaign was given, so whether Brutes and their items will make an appearance or not remains to be seen.

Graphically, the environments and character models are far more detailed than what we've seen before. The game features motion blur, including a soft blur around the edges, and of course HDR lighting. It's not perfect yet, this is still a pre-beta build so some textures did look flat and some areas could use improved lighting, but my overall impression is very, very positive.

As you play you earn Credits that you can use to purchase new armour permutations for your Spartan, which includes not only pieces like new Helmets, but also additions for that Helmet, such as a shade like the Master Chief has, or other attachments on the side. It was also confirmed that the credits you earn in the Beta will _not_ carry over to retail, so make sure to spend all your beta credits while the beta itself lasts.

So how long will the beta last for? Well, we don't quite know yet, as this will depend on how testing goes, but this will be announced in advance so you can grab as much Halo: Reach beta goodness as you can.

Taking many elements of classic Halo titles (Two grenade types, Health/Medkits, Magnum with a scope), refining them, and upping them with new game types, weapons, and experiences is what Halo: Reach's multiplayer is all about. Having spent several hours enjoying this pre-beta build, I can honestly say that I was impressed and am very, very excited not only for the upcoming beta, which of course is a pre-release testing product, but for the true, polished retail game due out this Fall.

The Halo: Reach beta will start on May 3rd, and you get access via the main menu of Halo 3: ODST, so you'll need a copy of that game to enter.

I'd like to thank Xbox Canada for hosting the Halo: Reach beta preview, and for allowing my fellow guests and I the opportunity to experience Bungie's latest offering in advance. The beta's nearly here kids, so get set for your combat drop!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fallout 3: Point Lookout (Xbox 360) Review

After taking a break from Fallout 3 for a time, I recently went back to play through another DLC offering, Fallout 3: Point Lookout. Set in the swampy remains of Point Lookout, Maryland, Fallout 3: Point Lookout offers players an environment not yet seen before in the Capital Wasteland.

Like most of Fallout 3's DLC, the Lone Wanderer receives a message upon leaving Vault 101 about a mysterious boat found on the southern shores of the Capital Wasteland, starting the DLC's initial Quest and allowing players to venture there with a brand new or existing character. Once you make your way to the boat, the Duchess Gambit, players can buy a ticket and travel to the new location.

Unlike most of the previous DLC, Fallout 3: Point Lookout is open ended and closely resembles the traditional gameplay of the core title. Point Lookout itself is a large area to explore, between one fifth and one sixth the size of the Capital Wasteland itself, and contains the boardwalk "town" that players are first introduced to, as well as the exterior swamp areas and additional key locations and random landmarks. Players are also free to return to the Capital Wasteland whenever they wish, though they do need to purchase another ticket to do so.

Initially, once players arrive at the Boardwalk, Tobar the ferryman suggests going to check the nearby mansion for treasure and fortune, thus properly beginning the DLC's main Quest line. Of course, in traditional Bethesda Game Studios' fashion, players are more than welcome to ignore the main Quest and venture about the swamps as they wish, seeking side Quests or simple exploration. There are the usual fare of merchants to be found throughout, as well as enemies new and old to fight.

While Maryland wasn't hit directly with any bombs, like much of the area around the Capital Wasteland, it's been exposed to extensive amounts of radiation which wrought its own changes on the survivors and wildlife. Mirelurks thrive in the coastal area of Point Lookout, and are brought to us this time in the Swamplurk variety (mainly just a skin change), and Feral Ghouls are ever present. Fallout 3: Point Lookout was actually my first introduction to the new Feral Ghoul Reaver, a foe more deadly and resilient than a Deathclaw (shudders).

This increased difficulty comes as no surprise, as being the first of the DLC add-ons to be released after Fallout 3: Broken Steel, which was originally going to be the last of the DLC available for the game, Bethesda wanted to make sure that Fallout 3: Point Lookout would challenge veteran characters who could be as high as Level 30. To this end, enter the locals of the swamps of Point Lookout: the Swampfolk. Coming in several varieties, the Swampfolk are mutated, inbred hillbillies who use Double-Barrel Shotguns, Lever-Action Rifles, Axes, and Shovels to butcher any trespassers on their land, and without any exaggeration, they are very challenging opponents.

I entered Point Lookout around Level 15 on Normal Difficulty, and my first encounters with Swampfolk ended with me victorious but heavily damaged, and on several occasions they'd kill me outright. I simply could not believe that a skinny hick with a Shovel could cause so much damage when I'm wearing Power Armour and am able to go toe-to-toe with the technically advanced Enclave. I mean, I understand that Bethesda wanted to challenge gamers, but I honestly found that I couldn't suspend my disbelief here. While I ultimately found it best to use V.A.T.S. to target and knock out the Swampfolk's weapons so I could finish them off, their durability and shear power simply doesn't fit into the rest of the universe, and regrettably, Fallout 3: Point Lookout suffers from several other odd imbalances of this nature.

Smugglers, Point Lookout's version of Mercenaries and Raiders, were more traditional enemies until I passed Level 20, and once I did so, I not only began finding them randomly appearing on the Boardwalk, what's supposed to be a safe haven, but appearing with superior weapons like Plasma Rifles! Again, it just doesn't fit, and hurt my overall experience for the DLC.

The main Quest itself is alright, as you do find something very interesting up in that mansion, which launches you on an adventure involving Tribals of a cultist like nature, and a twisted experiment of bygone years. Once the main Quest is completed, you'll have gained some good Perks and have access to some decent weapons (I was very disappointed with the slow rate of fire and reload of the Double-Barrel Shotgun and it's uselessness against Swampfolk), but there wasn't anything overly spectacular, not compared to previous DLC at least, and the main Quest's story was average at best lacking the real moral dilemma or even the charisma of the story found in Fallout 3: The Pitt.

I can honestly say that the side Quests offered by the DLC were generally more interesting, and one of them, depending on how you approach it, can even lead you back to the Capital Wasteland to one of the more unique buildings there that was simply a place to visit before. That was a cool little tie-in that I quite enjoyed.

Visually speaking, the art design of Fallout 3: Point Lookout is all new, with the Boardwalk looking like the rundown amusement park that it used to be, and the swamps looking properly marsh like, but still drab and grey. I suppose this is to be expected, as Maryland is in ruins as well, but after spending so much time in Fallout 3 I'd very much like to see a little colour added here and there simply for a change of pace. You also won't be hearing any changes in the DLC's music, as like previous entries, there's no new music what-so-ever, so be prepared to listen to the same tunes once again for hours on end. The voice acting, however, is up the usual standards for the rest of the franchise, which is a very good thing.

Another downer for Fallout 3: Point Lookout is that it contains many annoying bugs. Not only does this DLC's addition add in a frustrating clipping bug to Fallout 3: The Pitt (so it's best to remove Fallout 3: Point Lookout if you can while playing through that earlier adventure), but there's some new texture loading issues I experienced. On multiple occasions, I had a new mud texture fail to load properly, which rendered certain parts of the ground as a basic, flat, brown/grey texture. I also had some water textures in the swamps fail to load immediately, causing me to look at an off-orange flat texture with stuff bobbing in and out of it for about 15 seconds before the water would load in properly. One of the side Quests, the one I mentioned involving heading back to the Capital Wasteland, can also be randomly bugged where a certain character will not appear, leaving you with officially one option mentioned to complete the Quest, and this happened to me. Thankfully, you can still complete the Quest the other way, you just need to consult an online guide to find what to do.

All in all, I spent about 15 hours traversing the swamps and bogs of Point Lookout, so in terms of a time factor, I certainly got my 400 Microsoft Point sale price's worth. Despite that sizable amount of time, the same as many retail games, would I recommend you pick up this DLC? At a full 800 Microsoft Points, you will get your money's worth, but personally, I simply did not enjoy Fallout 3: Point Lookout. The overpowered enemies, while understandable from a gameplay perspective, just didn't fit into the universe and the extra bugs present helped to suck a lot of the fun out of the DLC. Fallout 3: Point Lookout is my least favourite DLC yet, and I'd recommend you take a pass at it unless you're desperate for some more Fallout 3 goodness. If you do decide to pick it up, I strongly recommend veteran characters only given the level of difficulty present from the outset.

Alice in Wonderland Review

I've been a fan of Tim Burton for the longest time now, and his latest offering, Alice in Wonderland, is filled with his unique style and fairy tale wonder.

Growing up I knew the basics of the general plot of the tale, that Alice falls down a rabbit hole and enters a fantastical world she called Wonderland, but I've never read the book or knew much more than that. So I was pleasantly surprised that Burton's film isn't really a retelling of the tale, nor is it a proper sequel but rather his version of a sequel.

The film opens with Alice as a little girl (Mairi Ella Challen) having bad dreams about this magical world, and her father consoles her, telling her the most gifted people in all the world are mad. Flash forward several years later and her father has passed on, and Alice (Mia Wasikowska) and her mother are on their way to an aristocratic party.

Alice and her mother are already arguing about her style of formal dress, showing that Alice does have a rebellious streak and keeping in theme with Burton's reoccurring motif of important characters going against the social norm. Through a series of events that lead Alice to try and get away from the party, Alice follows a peculiar rabbit (Michael Sheen) and falls down a rabbit hole.

The events of Alice in Wonderland have already happened when she was a little girl, however Alice believed them to be nothing more than a dream. Now she finds herself back in this mysterious world, and though she refuses to believe it's not all in her head, she can't help but become attached to the people she meets.

As with most of Burton's work, his version of Wonderland is darker and gothic. The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) is in power, and she's gripped the land in fear. Her favourite saying of "Off with his head!" is the standard punishment for all who cross her, and while her card soldiers maintain her semblance of order, it's her creature, the monstrous Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee), that everyone fears. The oppressed people of Wonderland look for a champion who can slay the beast and set the deposed White Queen (Anne Hathaway) back upon the throne, and they believe this champion to be the reluctant Alice.

I would say the most regrettable aspect of Alice in Wonderland, which is a complete visual splendor with unique and wonderful characters and a world full of the flare and style we've come to expect from Burton, is that it does shift from being very fantastic and spontaneous to becoming rather predictable, as the film begins to follow a more standard narrative to a generic climax with an ending I felt to be unsatisfying.

Still, this did not take away from the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed Alice in Wonderland and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, enjoyable film. Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter is, as always, spectacular, bringing the character to life with whit and charm, and instilling him with a great deal of depth. Depp is truly an actor capable of flawlessly performing such a wide range of rolls that he's always a treat to behold.

On one hand, thanks to his usual involvement with Burton, Alice in Wonderland reminds me a great deal of Burton's earlier film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). Both are extremely fun and enjoyable films, and Depp provides an outstanding performance in each, but each film isn't a blockbuster that's a must-own.

That said, however, Alice in Wonderland provides a great means for audiences to escape the everyday for a time, and to delight in a well crafted world. With both character, charm, and Burton's classic fairytale morality, Alice in Wonderland is a film that you should certainly see.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dead Space: Martyr Prequel Novel Announced

Earlier this week, I received a press release from Tor Books announcing that this July, they'll be publishing a prequel novel to EA's successful Dead Space franchise.

Taken straight from the release:

Tor Books and EA team up on Dead Space literary prequel!


Edgar Award finalist and Horror Sensation Brian Evenson to write epic novel

New York, NY – April 13, 2010 - Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC—the largest publisher of science fiction in the world—and Visceral Games, a studio of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS), today announced Dead Space™: Martyr (A Tor Trade Paperback; $14.99; July 2010), the first novel based on the award-winning Dead Space videogame franchise. Dead Space: Martyr delves into the back story of the fiction including the history of the Church of Unitology, the discovery of the enigmatic “Black Marker” and the mysteries behind an alien artefact of unknown power. Dead Space: Martyr will be available in July 2010 at select retailers worldwide.

When geophysicist Michael Altman learns of a mysterious signal emitting from deep within the Chicxulub crater, he cannot resist the lure of an undiscovered artefact. He soon learns that being in close proximity to the artefact causes strange occurrences - visions of the dead, vivid dreams, and violent murders. Altman’s experience with the alien artefact leads to this crucial first chapter in the Dead Space saga.

“One of the most compelling storytelling aspects of Dead Space has been the Church of Unitology: its origins, power, and role in Dead Space,” says Tor editor, Eric Raab. “Writer B.K. Evenson gets into the terrifying aspects of mob mentality like no other writer today. This isn’t only a great story within the Dead Space universe; it’s a great novel on its own.”

“The Dead Space world is incredibly vast and rich -- expanding its fiction into a novel lets us share parts of the story that just can’t fit into videogames,” said Steve Papoutsis, Executive Producer of Dead Space 2. “We hope Dead Space: Martyr will be the first of many books to let fans dive deeply into Dead Space’s secrets and immersive lore.”

B. K. Evenson is the award-winning author of Last Days, voted best horror novel of 2009 by the American Library Association and The Open Curtain, a 2006 Edgar Award finalist and Time Out New York best book of the year.

Originally launched in 2008, Dead Space quickly became one of EA’s top rated wholly-owned intellectual properties. With close to 100 industry awards and an average critic score of 89*, Dead Space became a hit with horror and videogame fans worldwide. In 2009, EA launched Dead Space Extraction, a prequel to the original game and will continue to expand the fiction with its stunning sequel, Dead Space 2.


* According to and

Very interesting, as the background on the Church of Unitology is something that I was really hoping the game would have expanded upon more. I'll be keeping my eye on this novel closer to publication.

I'm also waiting for Tor Books to send me the cover image of the novel. Once I have it, I'll add it to the post.

Update: Cover image now provided, courtesy of Tor Books.

XCOM Announced

Well this is an interesting surprise. 2K Games has announced XCOM, a reboot of the turn-based strategy classic of yesteryear. Being developed by 2K Marin, the developer behind the successful shooter BioShock 2, the catch with this reboot is that, like almost everything else these days, it's a shooter and not a strategy game.

X-Com: UFO Defence is one of the greatest games ever made. I lost track of the countless hours I spent beating back the alien invaders in turn-based glory on my father's monochrome PC laptop, and I can't say I'm too keen on the franchise being brought back as a shooter; it's just not the same.

I'm also not impressed with the only screenshot released thus far (pictured above). Well, it's still very early in the development process, so we'll see how this one pans out, but I'm not going to get my hopes up.

Originally spotted at ActionTrip.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gears of War 3 Officially Announced

The current story arc for the Gears of War franchise will indeed be a trilogy, and Epic Games has officially announced Gears of War 3.

Set for a North American release on April 5, 2011 exclusively for the Xbox 360, Gears of War 3 will highlight Delta Squad and humanity's last stand in their desperate war for survival. Not only do they have the remnants of the Locust Horde to face, but the Lambent as well.

You can watch the announcement trailer, "Ashes to Ashes," below, and read the official press release here.

I'm curious if all those "ash" corpses were left over from humanity's original use of the Hammer of Dawn network when they burned Sera, or if it's something much worse. And for those unsure, yes, the female Gear appears to be Anya.

Friday, April 09, 2010

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Collector's Edition Announced

These days, I usually find most collector's editions not worth the extra cash, but Blizzard Entertainment's latest announcement looks to be the exception to that rule.

Blizzard Entertainment has announced the StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Collector's Edition, which will launch along side the retail game in-stores only. The Collector's Edition will contain:

- The Art of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, a 176 page art book.
- Jim Raynor's "Dog Tag"USB Drive, 2GB in size and preloaded with Starcraft and Starcraft: Brood War.
- Behind the Scenes DVD.
- Starcraft Issue #0 Comic.
- Soundtrack, featuring 14 orchestral pieces as well as bonus tracks.
- In-Game World of Warcraft Pet of a Terran Thor.
- DLC such as avatar portraits and unique in-game Terran Thor skin.
- Oh, and a copy of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty for PC and Mac.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty's release date has yet to be announced, however the retail version of the game will sell for $59.99 and the Collector's Edition will retail for $99.99 (US).

For full details, you can check out the official page right here.

Xbox 360 System Update Released

This past Tuesday, a new System Update was released for the Xbox 360, adding USB flashdrive support as a storage option to the console.

In a nutshell, you can use any Flashdrive 1 GB or larger, format it on your console, and use it to store game saves, your Profile, or even install/download games onto. Each drive is capped at 16 GB for use with the Xbox 360, however, so keep that in mind if you plan on purchasing a drive. You can have 2 x flashdrives plugged into your console at one time, which means you can increase your storage space by up to 32 GB at once, and of course you can swap out additional flashdrives as needed.

Microsoft has also partnered with SanDisk to create a specific Xbox 360 USB flashdrive, which comes in the sizes of 8 GB or 16 GB, pre-formatted for the Xbox 360, and includes a 1 Month Xbox LIVE Gold membership. The drive will be available in May, and retail for $34.99 and $69.99 (US) respectively.

You can read Xbox's official FAQ on the new USB support here.

Note: Above photo is not a link.

Halo Wars' Campaign Completed for the 4th and 5th Times

Well, sort of. I played through all the missions in a mix and match again, earning both the "OMG BFF FTW" and "Detour the Great Journey" Achievements.

Played through Chapters 1 to 5 on Co-Op Legendary, then Chapters 5 to 15 on Co-Op Heroic. Then I played through Chapters 6 to 15 solo on Legendary to get that Achievement. So yeah, some back and forth, but great fun either way.

For both playthroughs though, I needed to have the positive buff Skulls enabled. I can do Heroic solo, but Legendary would've been too tough for me.

Now, the only retail Achievement I need is Running the Show. If I get it, that'll take a while...

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Announced

The next Spider-Man game, entitled Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, has been announced, and you can check out the trailer below.

Noir Spider-Man certainly looks interesting, but the last several Spider-Man titles haven't exactly been amazing (Ha, get it!) , so I'll wait for more details before passing judgement on this one.

Halo: Reach Multiplayer Details

Over the last week, Bungie has released a host of details for Halo: Reach, which is less than a month away to beta!

The first is an April Fools trailer of the changes they're implementing to the standard multiplayer formula used throughout the franchise. Take a watch here or below.

Moving onto some real news, last week's and this week's Weekly Updates features a host of info on the weapons, both UNSC and Covenant, that you'll find in the beta, as well as some of the maps you'll be causing carnage on. There's also details about Load Outs, which is sort of but not quite like character classes, and some of the tried and true vehicles with their new modeling.

Overall, some of the new weapon and vehicle models I really like, others, like the Assault Rifle, not so much. Personally, I think the Assault Rifle doesn't really look like one anymore, and that makes me a bit sad. The environments though are looking absolutely gorgeous, and I can't wait to take the beta for a test drive!

Another interesting point mentioned is that Dual Wielding is, once again, right out, and we won't be seeing regular Plasma Rifles in multiplayer (though they will be in Campaign). That's the reason the Plasma Repeater was invented.

Design Origins of the Flood

Last week, Bungie released a very cool article for fans of the Halo franchise detailing the design origins of the Flood, from when Halo was originally in development as an RTS to the Flood's debut in Halo: Combat Evolved, to their further evolution with each title in the franchise.

Featuring some cool concept art and shots you may not have seen before (though some has appeared in art books), you can read the whole thing right here. It's also interesting to note that some concepts which never made it into Bungie's titles did make it into Halo Wars, like Grunt Combat Forms (concept art pictured).