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Archive for the ‘Previews’ Category

Exclusive game play previews, demo reviews, etc.

Lord of the Rings: Conquest Demo Now Available

Posted by haunt506e on January 4, 2009

ConquestSo after checking all my feeds and news sites for something to blog about, I happened upon word of a demo for LotR: Conquest being available on Xbox Live.  I figured it might be worthwhile to check out, as, if you’re a listener of the show, you’ll recall us discussing the game earlier on in.  So after the long download, I jumped into the training mission of the demo.

This segment was done pretty well actually, letting you know how to play while also putting you into the action from the start.  LotR: Conquest’s tutorial puts you into the first final battle with Sauron (don’t know what it’s called, I’m not a Lord of the Rings buff), and allows you to choose between four classes, which are focused on throughout the tutorial.  The warrior, my personal favorite class, is introduced first.  He can chain together some pretty cool combos and use a fire sword ability to dish out some major damage.  Unfortunately, it gets boring somewhat rapidly, and you’ll soon be stuck waiting for more goblins to spawn because you are killing them off too quickly.

Conquest

Tree Ents are one of the many player-controlled vehicles of the game, and can only be taken down by executing a series of randomized button presses, akin to God of War.

The next class introduced is the archer, the basic ranged unit.  He can’t do too much, and has to attack from afar with his poison, fire, and multi-shot arrow attacks.  His only melee attack is a weak kick, serving only to push enemies backwards so you can kite them around.  Next up is the scout, a rogue-like class that can stealth himself and assassinate enemies.  He’s pretty fun in the tutorial, and also in the multiplayer, but, aside from his assassination attack, he seems a bit useless.  The mage, playable lastly, is a fireball throwing, shield conjuring, shockwave master.  In short, he sits back and cast spells, which may seem fun at first, but due to the clunky gameplay (to be explained later), even the mage’s otherworldly powers become dull fast.

Now, these classes may or may not seem fun, but what killed this game for me was the clunkiness of this game’s actual game play.  This clunkiness first makes its appearance to us in the menus, where in order to play a multiplayer match, you must register with EA.  I mean really, this is Xbox Live people, we shouldn’t have to register with a third-party company just to play a game.  And its even worse because EA only uses these accounts to spam out previews for all the sub-par sequels that they’re publishing.

Regarding actual game play, two battlefields will be available in the demo: Minas Tirith and The Shire.  These environments are pretty well constructed, and, while the level designs could have been better, they offer a nice balanced field of play.  When fighting with large amounts of players on the screen, the game gets clunky, and not in a frame-rate-dropping-sort-of-way.  When I mean it gets choppy, I mean that when characters attack, their combos are so “cinematic,” that you could be executing a lengthy 5 or 6 button combo when suddenly, mid-combo, your character gets knocked flat by some random arrow and must lay around on the ground, rolling around for a few seconds, before he can get back and restart his combo.  By that time, the person you were fighting will have either finished you off or will have fallen victim to the same sort of interruption.

The game is like trying to play a fighting game with 16 fighters instead of 2.  The combat is slow and clunky, and the combos take entirely too long to pull off, resulting in slow moving characters that have to stop for an unimaginably long amount of time just to swing their sword at an enemy.  With a game like Starwars: Battlefront under their belts, you’d think Pandemic would be able to not only make this game chaotic, but also fun to play and somewhat face-paced.  Lord of the Rings: Conquest is just chaotic.

I realize that this is only a demo and therefore I’d like to remind you that this is just a demo review/ game preview, and that no final opinions have been disclosed in the above text.

Tips N4G

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Halo Wars Gets a Delayed Release Date

Posted by haunt506e on December 8, 2008

Halo WarsHalo Wars, Ensemble Studio’s last project as Ensemble, takes the Halo franchise to the real-time strategy battlefield, where players assume control of hundreds of units, rather than just one single character.  If you haven’t heard of Ensemble studios, you’ll perhaps recognize them by their flagship franchise, Age of Empires.  While Age of Empires has lost its appeal and steam over the past few years, Halo Wars has done nothing but gather up its own layer of hype.  It always astounds me how the gaming community gets so excited for each successive Halo release, yet get pissed off at the developers when the game finally releases.  It doesn’t make much sense to me, but maybe gamers should just stop setting their hopes up so high.

Halo Wars Screenshot

Originally intended as an RTS, the Halo franchise finally makes its way into the strategy genre in Halo Wars.

Anyways, an earlier post here at The Update has outlined the game’s various release packages, the two of which are aimed at the casual gamers and hardcore collectors, respectively.  The game, while exclusive to the Xbox 360, is shaping up to be one hell of a purchase, for RTS fans or Halo fans alike.  For those interested, Halo Wars delves further into Halo’s rich lore (most of which has been developed over time in the Halo novels), and puts you in command of different units from the Halo universe, some of which are taken from the novels in addition to the games.

There have already been several videos posted up around the net on Halo Wars, as well as a few trailers posted up on the Xbox Live Marketplace.  If you’ve got the time, I encourage you to check them out, there’s several good ones in there, including a lengthy game play preview.

So yes, Halo Wars is coming out, but now, the reason for this blog post.  Halo Wars was originally slated for a release date near the end of February.  The U.S. release has now been delayed, however, and Halo Wars’ release has now turned into one of the only times I have seen the European players get the game before the U.S. players (in Xbox 360 releases that is).  For those interested, Halo Wars will debute on February 27th for European players, and on March 3rd for U.S. players.  The game is pretty high up on my list of games to buy for 2008, so I’ll have to see how well it turns out.

Posted in News, Previews, Xbox 360 | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Left 4 Dead Prerelease Preview

Posted by haunt506e on November 17, 2008

Left 4 Dead Prerelease PreviewZombie RushAre you a fan of post-apocalyptic zombie survival games? Do you enjoy first person cooperative shooters? Do you enjoy the though of combining these two questions into one? If you have answered yes to any of the above questions, and you’re a gamer, you will have no doubt heard of Left 4 Dead, Valve’s next big release.

The game revolves around 4 characters – Francis, Bill, Louis, and Zoey – who are stranded in either one of four locales. Your job as one of these characters is to make it to safety, with or without your team (trying to attempt the latter will result in almost immediate failure). At its core, Left 4 Dead emphasizes teamwork. If you get left behind, you will quickly get picked off by one of the game’s 5 zombie bosses, each requiring a team member’s help to defeat. On the way, in addition to fighting off hordes of fast, intelligent zombies, you’ll pick up health, ammunition, and various explosive items, as well as additional weapons. Each locale, also called a campaign, features 5 unique stages, or maps. These maps are loaded separately but are meant to be played one after the other.

Sounds cool right? Well, it gets even cooler. You might think that after beating the game’s 4 campaigns, which each take from 45-90 minutes to complete, depending on difficulty settings, the game is over. Well, thanks to Valve’s AI “Director,” each game is guaranteed to be different. Not only do zombies spawn at different places and attack at different times from different directions, each round features different weapon and health locations, and the Director will even change the sounds and lighting to fit the mood. Every game play experience is different. I’ve played the demo’s 2 maps (2/5 of a campaign) well over 10 different times, and I could still go back and play them some more. The point is, the AI “Director” ensures that no game is the same, and gives this game a ton of replay value.

Zombies in the Woods!Maybe that’s still not enough for you. Maybe you’re a multiplayer fan? Left 4 Dead’s got that too. In the Multiplayer Versus mode, 4 human survivor players face off against 4 human-controlled zombie characters in addition to the AI-controlled horde, diversifying the experience even more. It’s the same game as before, only this time the zombies will communicate and act together, setting up ambushes and traps in order to defeat the survivors. For those without live, split screen modes are available as well, with AI bots taking the place of the otherwise human survivors.

Valve also plans on releasing downloadable content packs in the form of new campaigns, characters, weapons, items, and boss zombies to its customers. The Left 4 Dead DLC will be, as far as I know, available for free for PC owners as soon as the DLC is released, but Valve has had some difficulty with Microsoft over releasing this same content free of charge on the Xbox 360. Whatever the case, I won’t mind paying $5.00-$10.00 on additional content for Left 4 Dead, especially when the game has such an incredibly high replay value.

Left 4 Dead comes out tomorrow, November 18th, in the United States and on Friday, November 21st, in Europe for the Xbox 360, PS3, and the PC. If you haven’t already preordered or reserved your copy, hit the stores quickly for your copy, this one’ll be big.

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New Xbox Experience Installation Video

Posted by haunt506e on November 15, 2008

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m getting kind of excited about this whole “New Xbox Experience” thing.  I could care less about the little Avatar Mii whatever things, but what really has hooked me is the new party system, inspired by games like Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 (and 5). Whatever the case, there’s something for everybody in this new update, and more will be added later on down the road.  This video is Xbox Live’s very own Major Nelson explaining how to install the update, and gives a brief, very brief, rundown of a couple of features.  Enjoy and get ready to download the update in 4 days, November 19th.

This quote, like the video, has been taken from Major Nelson’s blog.

Since we’re less than a week out from the launch of the New Xbox Experience on November 19th, we have a video that shows you just how quick and easy the install will be. For many of you, the download and install will take just a few minutes and you’ll be back to gaming before you know it.  If you’re in the preview program, feel free to let others know what to expect.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Left 4 Dead Demo Review

Posted by haunt506e on November 11, 2008

Left 4 Dead, Demo Review

If you haven’t downloaded the Left 4 Dead demo yet, this is your final warning.  Seriously.  The game will be coming out for the PS3, Xbox 360, and the PC in just a matter of days, and if the demo is any clue as to what the rest of the game is like, I’ll be buying this one for sure (not sure about when though).  The demo gives you two segments of the game to play in, meaning two safe houses that your characters have to make their way to, fighting against hordes of zombies along the way.

The demo runs very smoothly, and is extremely entertaining.  While it only takes about 20 minutes to complete the two provided segments, that time is basically one big adrenaline rush, especially on the first run through.  As I’ve said before, the game works by pitting a group of 4 survivors (hence the name) against huge groups of blood thirsty zombies.  You pick up ammo and different weapons along the way, in addition to med kits, pain pills, and either molotov cocktails or pipe bombs.  Once on the way, you’re confronted, in addition to the ravenous groups of mindless horde zombies, by several special zombies.  These include: The Hunter, a quick agile hunter that pins down group members and slashes the hell out of them; The Smoker, a zombie that will use its huge tongue to strangle allies; The Boomer, a fat zombie that will explode when shot and puke on you when still alive, not only blinding you but also attracting the horde to your bile covered body; The Tank, a giant badass that will pummel you to a bloody pulp if you don’t work as a team to take him down quick; and finally, The Witch, who will pretty much kill you instantly if you piss her off.

While this is all fun and good in the first play through, what has Valve added in to boost up the replay value?  Well, not only does the game give you the option to play online scenarios where players control the zombies as well as the characters, the game’s AI Zombie Controller (this is what is used during the campaign mode) is programmed to randomly spawn zombies in different areas, at different times.  You may clear through a building quite easily one game, but the next you get swarmed in that very same building.  The AI Controller sets up different ambushes in different areas, and, at least with my experience of the game, it seems to do a great job of keeping the game play varied.

So if you’re looking for another game to pass away the time this holiday season, I strongly (strongly) recommend checking out Left 4 Dead.  It comes out November 18th in the United States and November 21st in Europe, I know I’ll be getting it soon after the release, and look forward to playing it with my buds online.

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Gears of War 2, PreRelease Preview

Posted by haunt506e on November 6, 2008

For those who are purchasing Gears of War 2 tomorrow for the Xbox 360, you may or may not know about the additional bonus maps that will come with the game.  Yep, that’s right, a map pack from day 1.  EPIC is including a code that you can use to download 5 additional maps for Gears of War 2, all of which are simply Gears of War 1 maps that have been re-imagined for the sequel.  I’ll post up some comparison pictures to show the differences, most of which are pretty subtle, but make the maps more diverse.  The re-imagined maps look great, as do the 10 maps that will be shipped out on the actual disc, and I look forward to playing with my buds online.  If you hover your mouse over the picture, it’ll tell you which one is the original Gears map and which one is the re-imagined map, but, if you’ve played the game before, it shouldn’t be too difficult to discern.

 

 

One more thing I’d like to bring up is a preview on the various game modes in Gears of War 2.  Most of the original Gears of War modes, such as Warzone, Execution, and Annex, will be making an appearance on Gears of War 2, with the addition of a few new game types, all of which have been very well received by the community.  The Capture the Flag game type joins the game, with a twist.  Now, instead of carrying a flag, you must capture a gun-wielding stranded, who’s not all that happy about a bunch of COGs pushing him around.  In Wingman, you and a buddy participate in large battles of five two person teams pitted against one another in a sort of Execution variant.  Horde takes the cake as the best new game type, especially when played with your friends.  In Horde, you and 4 other players face off against wave after wave of AI controlled Locust bots, which increase in number and difficulty over time, and should make for some very challenging and interesting game play scenarios.

 

Lastly, I’d like to talk about the new party system that will be featured in Gears of War 2.  In Gears 1, it seemed a pretty big hastle to play a match with your friends, even in Player matches (in Ranked matches it was near impossible).  Now, EPIC has added a party match-making system, not unlike that of Halo 3.  While the party size is limited to 5 players for Gears of War, you will still be able to enter into a playlist with your friends and match up with a similarly ranked team to compete in whichever game type you’ve chosen.  The Veto feature will also be present, allowing you 2 vetos instead of just one.

 

Expect all of these great features, and maybe even a few surprises, when you pick up Gears of War 2 this Friday (that’s tomorrow).  I’ll be online duking it out with the rest of the Gears of War community, and expect me to have a full review up in a few days. IGN has posted a video with the comparisons if you’d like to check that out, I would have embedded it here but the html on wordpress wasn’t coming up right…  Regardless, check back for my first impressions tomorrow.

 

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November Previews

Posted by haunt506e on November 4, 2008

Now comes a little segment in The Update in which I like to preview a few of the big hits of the month.  Don’t feel obliged to read all of them, but rather, just pick out the ones you like, and if you feel the need to comment, let me know which section you’re talking about.  Thanks and enjoy!

This month’s update will preview…

-Gears of War 2

-Little Big Planet

-Left 4 Dead

-Call of Duty: World at War

Gears of War 2

If you’re gonna call yourself an Xbox 360 gamer, then no doubt you’ve heard of the Xbox 360 exclusive title, Gears of War.  It created quite a following for itself back when it was released in 2006 for the Xbox 360, shortly after the console’s launch.  It’s time now for the next installment in the rumored trilogy, Gears of War (yes, you guessed it) 2.

Boasting a few new weapons, characters, enemies, vehicles, maps, locations, buttons, bugs, chainsaws, and more, Gears of War 2 is shaping up to be one of the biggest blockbuster hits of this year.  It’s got everything any serious gamer could ask for, killer weapons, gritty warzones, gruesome enemies, and a pretty well thought out campaign.  To differentiate the title from the original Gears of War, EPIC has added in a few new features.  In addition to the new campaign and singleplayer levels, the game introduces several new game modes, seamless cooperative drop-in support, 5 training missions for players new to the game, and offline bots for offline skirmishes or practice.  This game’s release date, set exactly two years after the first game’s, will reach us in just 3 days.  While it won’t be as hectic as Halo 3’s launch, Gears of War 2 will hopefully live up to its predecessors, and, judging by the reviews already out there, it already has.

Noteworthy Features:

-Most of the original GoW game mechanics return.  If you enjoyed the first title, chances are that you’ll enjoy this one as well.

-A few new game mechanics and weapons, such as the ability to grab enemies as human shields.

-New multiplayers modes and maps.  As far as the modes go, you’ll see modes like horde, a 5-player cooperative fight to the death against waves of AI-controlled Locusts.

-More singleplayer levels to play and an enhanced coop mode, allowing players to drop into their buddy’s game seamlessly.

If you’re interested, pick up Gears of War 2 this Friday (Nov. 7th) for the Xbox 360.  I will be reviewing it shortly thereafter, so stay tuned for my first impressions (minor update) and my full review (major update).

Little Big Planet

I’m not a PS3 guy so I’m not gonna try and act like one, but I’ve come across some news (relatively old news actually) relating to the game.  For those that don’t know, Little Big Planet was recently pulled from store shelves due to some music that it contained in one of its levels.  The music was apparently offensive to the Islamic religion because it contained certain lines from the Qur’an.  The game was expected to ship out again no later than I think this week (that’s the week of Nov. 3rd), and as far as I know, most stores have been selling the game for a few days now.  Just a few comments on this action, I think Sony made a pretty good move, I mean, they lost a ton of money by having the CDs re-stamped, but putting a kids’ game out with disrespectful song lyrics wouldn’t have looked all that great on their part.  A “day one” patch might have worked, but it wouldn’t have fixed the game for those players without Sony’s online service.  Whatever the case may be, it was a controversial deal and Sony did a good job of righting itself, disrespecting any religion is not something that should be taken lightly, even if accidental.

Just a note, I’m currently looking for a writer to help out with PS3 news and reviews, as I don’t own a PS3 and won’t be able to cover anything more than PS3 news.  Check out the Opportunities page for more information.

Noteworthy Features:

-Puzzle Platformer, doesn’t redefine the genre, but rather refines it.

-The Sackboy, who doesn’t love ’em?  (Extensive opportunities for customization).

-Incredible graphics and physics engines, as well as great audio.

Left 4 Dead

Alright, Left 4 Dead time.  I wasn’t really looking into this game a whole lot until quite recently, after watching some videos and reading some news reports on the games, I got hooked to it.  It is expected to ship and be in stores by mid-November, I apologize for not having the exact date, and it is looking to be a killer title for the Xbox 360 and PC.  For any of you all that play CounterStrike or CounterStrike Source, Left 4 Dead runs on the Source engine, and pits up to 4 “survivors” against hordes of the living dead.  Each match takes place on a scenario type map, where the survivors start at one point, make it to point B, then C, and finally D, where they have to hold out for several minutes until an EVAC Chopper arrives to rescue them.  Sounds simple enough, but when you combine this with the hectic action resulting from wave after wave of swarming brain-eating zombies, things start to get pretty intense.

A random AI Computer will control the zombies in cooperative mode, and it has been made so that each encounter will be randomized and different, so that even though you may play the same scenarios multiple times, no single game will be the same.  Zombies will come from different areas, ambushes will be set in different choke points, and bigger, badder zombies might come at different times under different circumstances.  I think (not 100% sure here) that in online play, up to 4 other players may also control the zombies, but I can’t confirm this for you, as I’ve only heard this from a few friends.  Regardless, the AI itself ‘ought to make for some entertaining coop experiences, and should increase the longevity of this title by a long shot.  I’m looking forward to its release later this November, and am definitely gonna have to pick it up.

Noteworthy Features:

-It’s a zombie survival game, you’re basically playing out a movie.

-Random encounters create re-playability.

-Focus on cooperative play allows for more relaxed play sessions, while at the same time creating a hectic situation in which players have to rely on each others’ strengths to proceed.

Call of Duty: World at War

Call of Duty: World at War, more commonly known as Call of Duty 5, is perhaps one of the more well-known non-exclusive games that will be hitting the market this holiday season.  Running on the same engine as the smash hit Call of Duty 4, we’re told that World at War will deliver the same stellar performance at its big brother.  By making only a few changes to the original formula, Treyarch hopes to bring the same chaos and exhilarating battlefield combat from Call of Duty 4 to the World War II era in Call of Duty 5.  I actually got into both the Xbox 360 Beta and the PC Beta, so I can talk with a small amount of experience on the matter.

*I didn’t have enough room to keep all the box arts on one line, so I omitted the PS3 box art.

Let me just go ahead and say that I’m not really all that intrigued by the Call of Duty 5 beta.  Why?  Because no matter what I’m doing in that game, no matter my weapon, kit, map or game mode, I feel like I’ve done it before.  Not only that, but because I’ve played Call of Duty 4 to such a great extent, Call of Duty 5 just seems stale to me.  It’s the same game with different weapons, but even the weapons feel the same.  The light machine guns in Call of Duty 5 shoot like the sub machine guns in Call of Duty 4, the sniper rifles fire the same way, and even the rocket launcher seems to fire similarly to Call of Duty 4’s RPG.  On the positive side, because Call of Duty 5 has already been done before, there aren’t really a whole lot of balance issues, which is pretty good.  You’ll still get the whiney little kid complaining about the Juggernaught perk or Martyrdom, but that’s why they made the mute button right?  In short, it’ll be an undeserving big hit, just because all of the Call of Duty 4 fanboys will migrate to Call of Duty 5, and will whine there a bit before moving onwards to the next mainstream title.

Noteworthy Features:

-Play Call of Duty 4 and you’ll have played Call of Duty 5.

-WWII setting, meaning instead of modern maps, now you’ll be playing on WWII-themed maps.

-If you like WWII better than modern, it’s definitely worth looking into.  If not, just stick with Call of Duty 4, I suspect there’ll be people playing that game for a long time to come.

And so ends the first monthly preview segment, this has been Haunt, please comment and spread the word, and thanks for reading!

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