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‘Evolve’ lets you be the monster

- April 13th, 2014

2K Games upcoming first person shooter Evolve gets compared to Left 4 Dead quite a bit, and it’s easy to see why.

Although set in completely different worlds with completely different objectives, Evolve is a competitive first person shooter that only works if four team mates are willing to communicate with each other…constantly.

In the game, four players take on trapper, support, assault, and medic roles as they set off to find and take down a giant monster, who’s being controlled by a fifth player.

As the monster attempts to feast on various wildlife, collecting enough power to evolve through three different stages in order to reach its full level of chaotic energy, the hunters must quickly strategize about the best -and more importantly, fastest- way to kill the giant Godzilla like creature before he reaches the third stage.

Evolve, oddly enough, is both unique and just another title in a massive pack of first person shooters.

It looks like a map pulled from Lost Planet, and it handles like the majority of FPS’ you can pick up off the shelf at a local games store.

Although, it re-imagines itself in so many different venues that Evolve feels like a genre of its own.

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The most fascinating gameplay aspect to the game is the ability to play as the monster, the evil boss at the end of the level.

During the show, attendees had the choice of lining up for any one of the five positions within the game. Let’s just say that while I waited five minutes to play as a medic, the line wrapping around the entire 2K booth to play as the monster was estimated at over a two hour wait.

It was also refreshing to see a first person shooter take players out of the typical barren militia inspired landscape and drop them into an Amazon rainforest like valley.

All of this, encompassed in one of 2K’s only competitive first person shooter titles, makes playing a game heavily reliant on an extremely well operated online system fun again.

From the brief time allotted to play the demo, it was hard to get a good grasp of what the game truly offered, but in that time, 2K had appropriately set the tone of the game and immersed the barrage of players within their realm.

If Evolve takes off it may be one of the game changing titles the industry was looking for, but there are still concerns it will fall in the cracks.

As pretty as it was, it wasn’t memorable. Decently paced, but not adrenaline fuelled by any stretch of the imagination.

It’s innovation won’t be enough to hold an audience over. It’ll feel like a gimmick, being able to play as the giant boss and annihilate friends, and the hype will quickly fade.

At this point, with just over a couple of months until release, 2K has the time to make some quick changes and fix the tiny aspects of the game that take away from its full potential.

Evolve may be one of the best competitive, four-versus-one, first person shooters on the market but it’s just not quite there yet.

Canadian developers conquer PAX East

- April 13th, 2014

One of gaming’s biggest conventions is bursting at the seams as more and more Canadian developers set up shop.

PAX East, an annual expo put on by the all things gaming website Penny Arcade, has become one of the biggest gaming consumer expos around the world, focusing on the array of independent studios that have seen a resurgence in the past couple of years.

At the forefront of the resurgence, and one of the most dominating presences at the convention, are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver’s top developers and studios, taking over an entire section of the showroom floor for their Canuck titles.

“There’s a really strong development scene in Canada, in general, but especially in Toronto,” Nathan Vella, co-founder of Capy Games said. “The small guys are doing extremely well, and the big guys are doing extremely well.”

Vella, who was at PAX to show off the first playable demo for his studio’s newest game, Below, pointed out fellow developers he was surrounded by, friends and colleagues from the great white north.

Including Vancouver native Ryan Clark, lead designer of the heavily anticipated dance controlled, rhythm based, dungeon crawling RPG Crypt of the Necrodancer.

“Vancouver’s community is very close knit and very large. But it wasn’t until recently that a meetup was started called Full Indie where we’d get together, hang out, and play games,” Clark said. “The people have always been there but with the resurgence of the indie scene, we’ve been able to see each other’s work and collaborate together.

Clark isn’t the only success to come out of the west coast city, either. He’s a “member” of Vancouver’s legendary Indie House, a fraternity of indie developers, including Towerfall developer Matt Thorson, that come together almost every night to hang out, talk, and design.

Having a group of other independent developers to showcase games with, Toronto’s Luis Hernandez added, when there’s a lack of AAA developers helps move the scene forward and pushes the community to reach out beyond their city walls.

“PAX is the first time I’m actually seeing people play my game, and it’s an interesting experience. It’s different than I thought it would be, but that’s why I like these kinds of conventions,” he said.

For Christine Love, developer of the Hate Analogue series and a first time showcaser at PAX East, it’s a chance to interact with a community of fans she’s only been able to talk to over Twitter.

“People are really digging it, and it’s great to see that,” Love said. “But look at this entire section. Toronto has taken over the Megabooth,” she said, referring to one of the largest sections of the showroom floor and the spot designated for some of the biggest indie games.

With each new fan, and each distant high five from one local designer to the next, each dev has the same answer to if they’ll be returning to the convention.

“We’ll keep coming back as long as they’re running it. What’s better than watching people play games and hanging with you friends,” Vella said with a smirk. “Besides, our friends list is growing each year with more people coming down all the time.”

‘The Evil Within’ presents bleak and boring picture

- April 11th, 2014

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The Evil Within’s first look is unsurprisingly gory, but surprisingly lacks any traditional “scare” elements.

Bethesda and Tango Gameworks showcased off their first gameplay demo to audiences at PAX East on Friday, and the reaction from most people in the room was a collective sigh of disappointment.

An unsatisfying dismissal the entire community has become far too used to doing.

Broken down into two demos, the first takes place in a rapidly decaying urban city and the second takes place in a basement area resembling a large, Nightmare on Elm Street boiler room.

The demos are very monochromatic, with the only burst of colour coming in either vibrant red or oozy purple blood.

In a way, it’s what the entire experience feels like. There’s no room for anything besides shoot, run, and escape, but without any actual fear driving the need to make your way out.

It’s obligatory; you dash around the corner because you know you need to in order to progress to the next level and move the story forward, but there’s no real incentive for it otherwise.

In the first demo, for example, there are slow moving zombie like monsters who half-enthusiastically chase you until they’re effectively killed, via gunshot and fire.

Even their deaths are timidly boring.

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The only interesting thing about the semi-original monsters is their last moment before they perish. The sound the monsters make, a mix of a shriek and a guttural moan, was fascinating, but unfortunately that was the only thing impressive about the game.

For the rest of the demo, all the main character, Sebastian, does is swim through water and run over rubble, without any kind of background score or major sound effects to make the tedious work enjoyable.

It ends, suddenly, when a gigantic piranha looking fish jumps out of the water, catches Sebastian within his claws, and fades to black.

In the second demo, players are introduced to one of the game’s biggest foes, the keeper.

The keeper is a medley of horror icons blended into one hulking figure.

With the body of Leatherface, the head of Cubed, and an overall presence of Jason Voorhees, the Keeper isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. In fact, it’s all we’ve ever seen.

It’s in the second demo, however, the game decides to get gory. Vivid red blood replaces the purple ooze reminiscent of what made up Ivan Ooze in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.

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Even with the added gore, however, the horror game still isn’t scary. It’s not even disturbing.

It’s more of a caricature of a horror game than anything else.

It’s just as bland as the first demo, too, but with added, mindless violence.

Considering this is the first game from Shinji Mikami’s -creator of the Resident Evil series- new studio, one has to believe what Bethesda showed off at PAX won’t resemble the final product by a long shot.

By a long shot, of course, that means nothing at all.

‘Wolfenstein: The New Order’ hands on preview

- April 11th, 2014

Wolfenstein: The New Order is resurgence of a genre done right.

In the first official hands on demo that premièred at PAX East on Friday, players take control of solider B.J. Blazkowicz who has been tasked with taking down one of the most violent, genetically -and mechanically- enhanced divisions of the Nazi party.

What strikes you first when you sit down to play it for the first time, a pair of headphones secured tightly on your head, is the radiant graphics.

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Wolfenstein: The New Order feels like a next-gen first person shooter that can finally be accessed on both Xbox and Playstation platforms.

The game starts with the player embedded in a fighter jet, blazing through the sky in an epic dog fight.

Like most games, the ranking officer commands Blazkowicz to complete a series of semi-menial tasks in order to keep the plane afloat.

Tedious at points, it’s all worth it for the stunning ten minute dog fight sequence. Between the crisp audio, generous graphics, and decent control scheme, it’s a great intro to the game.

Once landed, however, the game turns into a traditional Wolfenstein game, except for one important element: a lack of shocking, horrifying images.

I’ve only played a couple of Wolfenstein titles, but one of the biggest elements to each game that I vividly remember was the sense of absolute terror hiding around every corner.

It made sense, when the context of each game’s plot was taken into consideration. Nazi games should be scary, and less glorified.

Instead, Wolfenstein: The New Order feels more like DICE’s Battlefield with action elements woven in throughout the demo.

Granted, this was just a demo, and in no way does that account for what the entire game will feel like, but it was one of the biggest concerns I found myself thinking about after I finished playing.

Chances are, there will be horror intricately placed throughout the game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t.

As much as MachineGames, the developer behind the newest Wolfenstein instalment, is going to want to appease the biggest Wolfenstein fans, they’re also tasked with the incredibly difficult job of creating their own game within the franchise.

In fact, Wolfenstein: The New Order is the first title of the nine game franchise that wasn’t developed by Id Software, instead handing the reigns off to MachineGames.

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MachineGames may not be as well known as their Wolfenstein predecessor, but they’re in no way an amateur development team.

Magnus Högdahl, one of the founders of the company, was a founding member of Starbreeze Studios, the development team behind The Darkness, Syndicate, and Pay Day 2.

It’s fair to say Högdahl isn’t a stranger to creating action games, then.

That’s precisely what Wolfenstein: The New Order comes off as. A fiery mix of Battlefield, Syndicate, and just a hint of previous Wolfenstein titles.

It’s a little more colourful than previous instalments, and a little more eyebrow raising, but that’s what made it fun to play.

It feels like an entirely new world moulded into a familiar universe.

Wolfenstein: The New Order will be available on Playstation 3 and 4, Xbox 360 and One, and on PC May 20.

Microsoft is going digging for old Atari games

- April 10th, 2014

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Video game legend has it that in 1983, Atari Inc. buried thousands of copies of the huge flop E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, along with unsold computers, consoles and copies of Pac-Man, in a landfill in New Mexico.

There were news stories about it at the time, but details differed. The E.T.-centric aspect is only a theory, and some skeptics have suggested the whole thing is nothing but an urban legend. But now, Microsoft is setting out to discover the truth.

Become a part of gamer history. Unearth the truth behind the ultimate urban legend. We’re excited to announce that the excavation of the long-rumored “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” video game burial site will occur on April 26, 2014 and will be open to the public. Spectators are invited to watch the team uncover the infamous Atari game cartridge grave.

The Atari Corporation – faced with overwhelmingly negative response to the “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” video game – allegedly disposed of millions of unsold game cartridges by burying them in the small town of Alamogordo, New Mexico in 1983. Fuel Entertainment took an interest in the legend, and in December 2013, with help from local garbage contractor Joe Lewandowski, acquired the exclusive rights to excavate the Alamogordo landfill. Fuel Entertainment brought the opportunity to Xbox Entertainment Studios, and now, as part of a documentary series (developed by Xbox Entertainment Studios and two-time Academy Award® winning producer Simon Chinn and Emmy winning producer Jonathan Chinn, through their multi-platform media company, Lightbox), the team will excavate the legendary New Mexico landfill to reveal the true story of Atari’s bizarre burial.

If you’re in Alamogordo on April 26 between 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., you can head over and watch live as massive corporations attempt to unearth E.T.