Saturday, July 31, 2010

Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project (Xbox 360) Review

Eight years ago, Duke Nukem made his return to PC gaming, but not in the form everyone expected. Duke Nukem: Forever was (and still is, laughably) in development hell, and people had long since stopped waiting for it. Instead, this was a time when gamers were playing the latest shooters, real time strategy games, and consoles were slowly coming into their own. So when Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project came along it was regarded as something of an oddity. It was Duke Nukem in a 3D engine for the first time, but the game was a shoot-em-up side scroller, not a first person shooter.

Despite getting solid reviews, the game did poorly at retail simply due to its genre; gamers didn't really care for side scrollers. About a year after its launch, I was able to pick up a copy dirt cheap and I found myself pleasantly surprised. Developed by the now defunct Arush Entertainment, Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project really did capture the spirit of Duke Nukem in the form of babes, bullets, and bombs, and it actually proved to be a very entertaining title. I played through the game a few times, and then traded it in for something else. Now we flash forward to summer 2010, and 3D Realms has ported the game to Xbox LIVE Arcade. So how has Duke held up? Not too bad.

Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project sees New York under attack by Mech Morphix, a mad scientist who has developed a substance called G.L.O.P.P that mutates animals into killer mutants. Not only that, but he's strapped bombs onto a bunch of busty babes, and of course, only Duke can save them and crush Morphix's mutants under foot, literally.

The game takes Duke through several locals beginning on the rooftops of Manhattan, to Chinatown, and other expected and gritty Big Apple settings. The game looked good then, and taking into account its age, it looks good now in proper widescreen. The environments are colourful, Duke and other character models are crisp and clean provided you don't get too close, and stuff still blows up good.

Duke picks up a variety of weapons along the way to deal with the baddies, including his signature Pistol, a Shotgun, Pipe Bombs, etc. Like earlier games, Duke can even use his Mighty Foot to kick or slide kick enemies, and stomp on them once they've been de-mutated. In many respects, the general mechanics you recall from Duke Nukem 3D are all present, save that your moving left and right on a fixed path in third person.

I remember when I was first playing the game years ago, I was rather impressed with how the side scrolling was handled. You moved left and right, of course, but the levels could have you moving in interesting directions instead of just the usual back and forth. Duke can climb ladders, duck, double jump, and there are some even more unique or situational specific scenarios with some of the boss battles at the end of each chapter. There's also a reasonable amount of interaction in the levels. See cracks or holes in walls? Blow them open with a Pipe Bomb to reveal secret areas that may contain Nukes. Collect enough Nukes and Duke's Ego (health) goes up as does the max ammo he can carry. Each area has 10 Nukes so be sure to keep your eyes peeled.

Not only are you looking for Nukes, but you must find and free the Babe in each level, as well as find the keycard to exit the area. Also scattered across the levels are three different kinds of power ups that you can use for a limited time: A Jetpack, Shield, and Max Damage. All of them are placed in areas where you can quickly use them to get the most out of each item.

Of course, what would a Duke game be without Duke Speak. His signature comments and witty one-liners are so bad they're great, and I couldn't help but smile at the tactless humour and stylized voice. They just don't make heroes like Duke anymore. The game's music gets pretty repetitive rather quickly, but the rest of the sound effects and basic voice acting is well done.

One thing that really irks me about the Xbox LIVE Arcade version is the lack of a Quick Save, which I'm sure the PC game did have. Sure, it auto-saves whenever you reach a key point or move to a new section of the level, but that doesn't always help when you're trying to jump over a stupid spike in platformer fashion, only to nick it and horribly die. I forgot how ridiculous collision detection in some of these old games are; very, very frustrating. The gameplay of Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project also gets rather repetitive after a bit. Sure, you're in different environments and there are some clever puzzles around, but when it comes down to it you're really just shooting the same enemies through similar levels. It's not horribly repetitive, mind you, but I honestly found the game could have been a little shorter to get rid of this feeling.

Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project also features two Gamerpics to unlock, as well as two Avatar Rewards in the form of an Avatar T shirt and a Jetpack Prop. Not too shabby. You can also earn all 11 of the 12 Achievements in a single playthrough if you do things right.

So how does Duke's trip to Manhattan rate? Well, it's generally fun, humorous, and cheesy, and due to it's genre some will like it and some won't. My advice, try the Trial version to see if it's your thing. If it is, you'll really enjoy yourself for the bulk of the game. If not, pass and save your Microsoft Points for something else.

As for me, it was a great trip down memory lane that lasted several hours, so I certainly got my play time out of it.

Halo: Reach "The Battle Begins" Campaign Trailer

That's right boys and girls, Bungie and Microsoft Game Studios have released another lovely little trailer for Halo: Reach, this one showcasing the Campaign (obviously minor spoilers in this one too)!

They've kept it clean and there's no game-specific dialogue, so if you've been following the game's development you won't be spoiling much for yourself. Damn though, does the game look sweet. The scale of some of those battles looks quite impressive.

You can check out the trailer here or below.

All Halo: Reach Achievements Revealed

In yesterday's Weekly Update, Bungie revealed all 49 Halo: Reach Achievements, complete with descriptions and icons (minor spoilers, obviously).

Some of them are standard fare, some look fun, and others, well, let's just say they sound like they'll be one hell of a challenge! Looking forward to giving them a whirl!

You can step on over here to read the complete details, as well as a whole bunch of other Bungie goodness.

BioShock 2 Title Update Coming Aug. 3rd

Just in time for the next DLC release, BioShock 2 will receive a Title Update (patch) this coming Tuesday, August 3rd on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The PC's patch is still in the works and will be released at a later date.

Doesn't seem like the Title Update addresses much, really, just a bunch of fixes related to DLC.

You can check out the official release notes at The Cult of Rapture here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty "Ghosts of the Past" Trailer

If you actually need me to say anything in this post, then we have nothing to say to one another.

Halo: Reach Unboxed and Limited Edition Console and Accessories Announced

On September 14th, Halo: Reach launches, and like Halo 3 before it, a special edition Xbox 360 console will also be released.

The Xbox 360 Limited Edition Halo: Reach console will retail for 399.99 (US), and come packaged with:

- An ONI-themed Xbox 360 S 250GB console
- 2 x ONI-themed Xbox 360 Wireless Controllers
- Halo: Reach (standard edition)
- Exclusive Elite Armour
- Halo: Waypoint Avatar Gear
- Halo: Legends episode "The Package"

For those who don't need to replace their existing console, the Wireless Controller will be available separately ($59.99 US) and feature an Avatar Banshee Prop, and an ONI-themed Xbox 360 Wireless Headset ($49.99 US) will also be available.

Bungie has released a video not only showing off the custom console, but also the unboxing of both the Limited and Legendary editions of the game.

You can check it out here or below.

Unlike the current black Xbox 360 S consoles, I personally think this ONI-themed console looks very, very slick.

Halo: Reach ViDoc "Forge World"

Undoubtedly, Forge is a huge success in Halo 3, allowing players to create their own in-game environments. For Halo: Reach, however, Forge is expanding exponentially.

Welcome to Forge World.

A few more details here.

Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC Announced

Personally, this is something that I thought would have been a key plot point for Mass Effect 3, but why wait when you can milk "premium" DLC! BioWare has unveiled the next Mass Effect 2 DLC, entitled "Lair of the Shadow Broker."

No release date or cost as of yet, but Shepard returns to assist Liara in confronting this dangerous information broker. Three screenshots of the DLC are available here.

Seeing as how this plot point is being developed (and possibly resolved) in DLC, which means I likely won't experience it since I'm not a fan of DLC add-ons, I'm glad I dumped Liara for Tali since Liara's clearly all about exploitation now. There, I said it. I feel better.

Fans Choose Whether Carmine Lives or Dies in Gears of War 3

In Gears of War, players were introduced to Anthony Carmine, a Gear who died rather quickly thanks to a sniper round through the head. In Gears of War 2, his brother Ben joined Delta Squad, and he also met an even grislier fate.

In Gears of War 3, Clayton Carmine will make his debut, but unlike his unfortunate brothers who came before, fans will determine the fate of this rookie soldier. Beginning on Tues. Jul. 29th, the Avatar Marketplace will have two t-shirts added and fans can cast their vote by purchasing one of the shirts. "Save Carmine," or "Carmine Must Die," it's up to you.

The best part: All proceeds from these Avatar t-shirts goes to charity.

You can read the full details, including how to purchase a real "Carmine" t-shirt here and here.

Karen Traviss Signed on to Pen New Halo Novels

Earlier this week I received a press release from Tor Books, and the news has me very, very excited. Karen Traviss, my current favourite military sci-fi author, has been signed on to write new novels for the Halo-franchise, beginning with a follow-up to the excellent novel, Halo: Ghosts of Onyx (pictured).

You can read the full press release below.

Tor Books announces new Halo novels with #1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Traviss

Veteran author of bestselling Star Wars and Gears of War novels to follow up her contribution to the “Halo: Evolutions” story anthology with an all-new series set in the Halo Universe

New York, NY – July 20, 2010 - Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC—the largest publisher of science fiction in the world is excited to announce that Karen Traviss, who has penned number one bestselling novels in the Star Wars universe, as well as bestselling novels for the Gears of War franchise, will be writing the successor novel to Halo: Ghosts of Onyx in the first part of a multi-book deal to explore the Halo Universe in the wake of the final events of Halo 3. Halo novels published by Tor have sold over a million combined copies to date, and in 2010 Tor will also publish the first in a new Halo trilogy by science fiction icon Greg Bear. The highly-anticipated Xbox 360 video game “Halo: Reach” is scheduled to release September 14.

Traviss, whose first foray into the Halo Universe came with “Human Weakness,” a short story from Fall 2009’s New York Times bestselling Halo: Evolutions anthology, says of the opportunity:

“When I was invited to write Halo fiction I already knew it’d be right up my street; not just because military fiction is my specialty, but because there’s also huge unexplored depth, grey areas, and really uncomfortable moral dilemmas that underpin the Halo story, and that’s like catnip to a writer like me. I write what’s known as tight third person – that is, I get right inside each character’s head and see the world as they see experience it – and Halo offers some terrific chances to explore some fascinating psyches caught in complex situations.”

“Halo fiction fans are incredibly passionate about the fate of the Spartans of Onyx and the state of the Halo universe in the aftermath of the game events,” adds Frank O’Connor, 343 Industries Director of Franchise Development. “We know that Karen has the talent, skill and passion to not only bring those stories to life, but also bring her experience a fresh new perspective too.”

#1 New York Times best-selling author KAREN TRAVISS has received critical acclaim and award nominations for her Wess'har series, as well as regularly hitting the bestseller lists with her Star Wars and Gears of War novels. A former defense correspondent and TV and newspaper journalist, she lives in Wiltshire, England.

Very, very excited to see what Traviss will do for the Halo-franchise!

Xbox 360 S 4 GB Console and Kinect Pricing Officially Announced

Over at Major Nelson's site here, the Xbox 360 S 4GB console has officially been announced. Priced at $199.99 (US) and launching August 3rd, the Xbox 360 S 4GB console will be the Xbox 360 brand's new entry level model, featuring 4 GB of flash memory, built-in Wi-Fi, and a matte black finish.

Kinect will launch this November and be priced at $149.99 (US), bundled with the game Kinect Adventures. A Kinect Holiday Bundle has also been announced. Priced at $299.99 (US), it will feature the Xbox 360 S 4GB Console and Kinect all in one package.

Kinect doesn't interest me at all, but personally, I'm extremely disappointed with the Xbox 360 S 4GB console. With the inability to use your original HDDs with the new design and no upgradable HDD, the only way you can expand this console's storage is via USB Flashdrives. And while you can swap in and out as many as you need, this is still a hassle compared to a proper HDD.

This means that when my current Xbox 360 Pro console dies out of warranty (and notice I didn't say if, thanks to the Xbox 360's stellar hardware reputation), the Xbox 360 S 4GB console is not an option for me, and I'm not spending $299.99 for a new Xbox 360 console.

Gears of War 2 20X XP Weekend

This weekend, ending tomorrow at 8:00 pm EST, Gears of War 2 is giving 20x XP! That's right, 20X!

To add a little more spice, Waves 1 to 9 of Horde feature a Boomer family reunion. You'll square off against Boomers, Butchers, Flame Boomers, Grinders, and Maulers. Wave 10 features some special unannounced guests.

If you're looking to boost your rank, now's the time! Only 4 more levels until 50 for me!

Full details about the event right here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wireless Controller Beats Cocktail Table

This past Thursday, I was working my way through Ryan Amusements in BioShock 2 on Hard, and it is proving more challenging than the original on the same difficulty (though no need to use a Vitachamber just yet!). When I was done for the night, I stood up to log out and shut my Xbox 360 down when my Wireless Controller slipped from my hands, turned upside down, and smashed onto the corner of my cocktail table.

I immediately snatched my Controller up and started using it, making sure nothing was damaged. There was a little smudge of brown around the casing of the D-Pad from my table, but it came off okay. The Controller itself seemed to be working fine, all the sticks and buttons worked, so I breathed a sigh of relief. Until I looked at my cocktail table.

Four nice little gouges on its edge where the D-pad hit and the unit bounced. That's the first major damage to this table, just over a year old, and I never would have thought that my Controller could do that. Maybe I can find some kind of a filler, or a repair crayon to try and cover it up, but that mark's there forever now. Adds character, I guess.

The moral of the story: If only the Xbox 360 console itself was as durable as their Controllers.

Robot Entertainment's Site Updated

A few days ago, Robot Entertainment re-designed their site, truly making it functional. For those not in the know, Robot Entertainment was formed by members of the defunct Ensemble Studios, and they're presently responsible for maintaining Age of Empires III and they created the horrendously overpriced DLC for Halo Wars.

One of the most interesting updates from an information standpoint is their Games section, where we now see that they have two unannounced projects in the works. There's no info at all about the second, however the first is being published by Microsoft Game Studios.

Halo Wars 2 perhaps? Let's hope so! Once an announcement is made, expect an update.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Hyperion Preview

During the Single Player Campaign of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, players will have access to three unique sections of the Hyperion, Raynor's command ship (which he stole in the Terran Campaign of Starcraft, as you might recall). These sections are the Armoury, Cantina, and Laboratory.

The Armoury allows you to purchase many upgrades for both units and buildings. The Cantina allows you to take out contracts to hire various Mercs during missions, and the Laboratory allows you to take advantage of research for even better upgrades.

Of course, you'll need Credits to purchase all this nifty stuff, and you'll need to complete side missions to earn them (and to get the materials needed for Research projects).

For full details, check out the Hyperion preview right here.

Fallout: New Vegas Screenshots

Four additional screenshots have been added to Fallout: New Vegas' official site, which you can check out right here.

Still planning to pass on this one at launch, since I still need to finish Fallout 3: Broken Steel. I'll just wait for the inevitable Game of the Year edition a year later with all the fancy DLC included.

Halo: Reach Achievements Revealed

Well, not all of them, but since Achievement leaks are inevitable, Bungie decided to take this Weekly Update to showcase the artwork for Halo: Reach's Achievements, and to also break down and discuss a few of them.

In brief, there are 23 Campaign, 7 Firefight, 4 Multiplayer, 6 Training, and 9 Player Experience Achievements. That's a total of 49 for those who've run out of fingers and toes. Some of the training Achievements can be earned in both Campaign and Firefight.

For full details, check out their Weekly Update here.

Dead Space 2 E3 Trailer and New Enemies

How the hell did I miss this? The E3 2010 trailer for Dead Space 2, complete with release date of Jan. 25, 2011! The trailer is awesome, and you can check it out on the main site or below. Nice to hear Isaac talking, for a change.

In addition, the main site has also been updated to include three new enemies you'll find in Dead Space 2: The Puker, the Slasher Monk, and the Pack.

Nice and twisted, just what I'd expect from the series!

Dead Space Ignition Announced

Earlier this week EA announced Dead Space Ignition, a prequel to their upcoming survival horror sequel, Dead Space 2.

Dead Space Ignition is set just before Dead Space 2 begins and sees players struggling to survive the initial Necromorph infestation of the Sprawl, the space station that's the sequel's setting.

Told comic book style and featuring puzzles and choose your own adventure gameplay, Dead Space Ignition will be available on Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Store this Fall.

Not too much in terms of detail, but the title warrants watching and will include unlockables for the full retail game. You can check out the official press release right here.

Bungie Day "Deja View" Video

The seventh day of the seventh month of each year is Bungie Day, the day to celebrate all things Bungie. This year, in addition to allowing players in Halo 3 to equip the Bungie chest plate on their multiplayer Spartan-II's for that day only (which just so happens to provide the player with a flaming head), Bungie enlisted the aid of Rooster Teeth to create a very special video.

The recruits from Red vs. Blue are in for a special surprise, they're going home and we'll get to experience this blast from the past in just over two months once Halo: Reach launches.

To find out what the heck I'm typing about, watch the video entitled "Deja Vu" here or below.

Mass Effect 2 Aegis Pack Released

Earlier this week, BioWare released another little add-on for Mass Effect 2, this one entitled the Aegis Pack. The Aegis Pack adds the M-29 Sniper Rifle and Kestrel armour to your Armoury and Locker; Kestrel armour being made up of five pieces, each with specific bonuses.

The Aegis Pack will run you 160 Microsoft Points or BioWare Points if you're interested, but personally, I'd recommend saving your Points for something useful.

More details here.

Fable III E3 2010 Trailer

I believe I forgot to post this about a month ago. For those interested in the upcoming Fable III, you can check out the game's E3 2010 trailer here or below.

A host of new screenshots can also be found on the "Screenshots/Artwork" section of the site here.

Me, if I play it I'll do like Fable II and wait for it to go on sale or drop substantially in price.

Monday, July 05, 2010

5th Anniversary

This Thurs. Jul. 8th marks the 5th anniversary of Arbiter's Judgement! "5 years. 5 long years..." Just kidding. It's been a wild ride and a lot's happened since I first started this blog up.

Heavily inspired by ActionTrip, I went with a friend's suggestion to create my own site to talk about "games, movies, and other useless crap." I also recruited the Staff to help out and together Telly and I posted a lot of inane nonsense to keep you all entertained.

Along the way the Staff got real busy with real life so we don't see him around as much anymore, but his contributions, both past and future, are greatly appreciated. For the last few years, it's pretty much just been me one-man-armying this place, and 1,965 posts and a layout change later you can clearly see how my writing style has evolved.

I also started taking things a little more seriously (though not by much) and really focused in the gaming direction, and as a result the blog has been mentioned on such sites as Bethesda Softworks, The Elder Scrolls, Halo.Bungie.Org, Planet Doom, as well as several independent blogs and sites and a bunch of other places that I'm forgetting.

In addition, I've also gained the attention of Xbox Canada and have been privileged to be invited to several premieres and launch events, and I've also got the personal honour of being one of the first 8 Canadians not employed by Microsoft to play Halo: Reach.

Along with all this recognition, some of my work has been published on Xbox Canada's site, and in the Fall of 2008 I entered into an agreement with Ready Up Live to write for them as well, the best community on the web!

So humble reader, I want to thank you for visiting, for reading my reviews and ramblings, and for helping to make this blog what it is today. I hope you've enjoyed reading it all as much as I've enjoyed writing it, and here's to many more years to come!

Mass Effect 2 Second Playthrough Complete

This past Sunday I completed Mass Effect 2 for the second time, and it's truly one of the greatest games I've played on the Xbox 360.

I played a new Commander Shepard: Female, Adept, Renegade, and the whole playthrough took me about 43 hours. I also reached Level 30 and took Slam as my bonus Talent.

I really enjoyed the strong character development in the game, even from the Renegade side, and some of the choices you get to make are really, really wild. The story itself is weaker than the original, but the great characters really make up for it. I'm still surprised that the default Shepard seems to have taken a Renegade stance for the end of the original game, which puts humanity in a darker light for the sequel than I would have expected.

I also made use of a lot of the free items from the Cerberus Network, and played through on Veteran difficulty. Honestly, I didn't find it that much harder than on Normal, and the Cerberus Assault Armour really just saved me from having to spend a lot of Credits on armour additions. The Arc Projector was alright as well, but wasn't overly effective against the final boss; my sub-machine gun was surprisingly a better choice.

Regardless, Mass Effect 2 is an exceptional game with great characters, mission variety, and areas to explore. I eagerly look forward to an additional playthrough, which I'll likely do in a few months time.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Happy Belated Canada Day

Got a little busy and missed posting on the day of, but Happy belated Canada Day to you all! Hope you had a blast of a day, a slacker Friday, and are having a great holiday weekend!

Now wave that flag, drink some beer, and enjoy one of the greatest countries in the world!

Gears of War 2 8X XP Weekend

A little late in posting this, but there's still time for you to take advantage of it. From now until 9:00 AM on Tuesday, July 6th, you'll get 8 x XP for Gears of War 2.

In celebration of both Canada Day and Independence Day, every first to ninth Wave of Horde has been populated with Tickers, and every tenth Wave is full of Boomers (with the occasional Ticker thrown in for good measure).

Not only will this make several Horde-based Achievements even easier to get, but play through all those Tickers on Insane and you'll rank up very quickly.

Full details here.

BioShock 2: The Protector Trials Announced

The next DLC for BioShock 2 has been announced. Entitled "The Protector Trials," this DLC is Single Player only and arrives on all three platforms on August 3rd for 400 Microsoft Points or $4.99 (US), respectively.

The concept behind this DLC is presenting the player with extreme challenges in protecting his Little Sister. Set within six different areas from the Single Player game (though redone as their own separate maps), "The Protector Trials" will basically be BioShock 2's survival mode as you have to fend off wave after wave of Splicers with very creative uses of your weapons and Plasmids.

The DLC will also feature three different difficulties, several new Achievements/Trophies, and access to new unlockables.

Personally, it all sounds far too much like a stripped down version of the regular Single Player experience to me; all protecting and no exploring, but we'll see. Until then, watch the shiny trailer below.