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DS Tokyo Beat Down 7.1
Xbox 360 Fracture 8.0
MOVIE The Unborn 0
PC Left 4 Dead 8.7
Xbox 360 Mirror's Edge 8.5
MOVIE Dead Space Downfall 3.5
MOVIE The Day the Earth Stood Still 0.5
PSP Super Stardust Portable 9.7  CHOICE PICK
PSP Need for Speed Undercover 2.8
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Friday, December 28, 2007

Game Review: Ultimate Mortal Kombat

Boon to newbies and nostalgic gamers, but bane to veterans.

There seem to be a handful of classics making a return to the DS this year, including Contra 4 and the games in Namco Museum DS. Ultimate Mortal Kombat is another one of those games, packing in arcade classic Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Puzzle Kombat from the more recent Mortal Kombat Deception. Having experienced neither the original arcade UMK3 nor the puzzle game in Deception, I must say that Ultimate Mortal Kombat is really my first brush with the long-running Mortal Kombat franchise – it is a fresh experience. And it turned out quite well.

Essentially a 2D fighter, UMK3 still holds up well after so many years. There is a great selection of characters available with some unlockables to boot. Typical of conventional fighters, controls are made up of convoluted combined button presses, which I am not too fond of. It should be a breeze for Mortal Kombat veterans, but for newbies like me, Other Ocean Interactive, which handled both this DS port and the Xbox Live Arcade version, has thoughtfully dedicated the top screen of the DS for display of all the moves available to the particular chosen character and button presses which are needed to execute the moves.

For the most part, UMK3 is challenging. While your first few opponents are considerably manageable, the challenge grows in leaps and folds as you approach the end. The bosses are especially hard to beat and do well to provide ample training for anyone before hitting multiplayer. Speaking of multiplayer, Other Ocean Interactive has done well to include single-card play, multi-card play and online play over Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service, which is fast becoming a standard feature in today’s DS games. With multiplayer, Ultimate Mortal Kombat feels like a more wholesome package and its replayability, extended. Unfortunately, online play often has lags, to the point where the gameplay resembles a PowerPoint presentation. When it comes to online competition, however, Ultimate Mortal Kombat is full of it. To date, Ultimate Mortal Kombat is one of those games that I have played that has one of the most numbers of readily available online opponents. All in all, UMK3 is great component to be had in the package if you haven’t already experienced the original.

Puzzle Kombat is the other component in the package, providing a refresher from all the fighting action if need be. Like UMK3, Puzzle Kombat has got single-card play, multi-card play and online play for multiplayer. If you have played Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo before, you would feel at home with Puzzle Kombat – because it applies the same design, just with Street Fighter characters replaced with those from the Mortal Kombat universe. For those not in the know, blocks of random colors drop into a playfield much like Tetris, but instead of eliminating blocks by placing other blocks of the same color together, Puzzle Kombat employs another different element altogether. Basically, you have got to place what I will call the elimination gems together with other blocks of the same color as a particular elimination gem, wiping out adjacent same-colored blocks. While not an original concept, the gameplay is addictive and would appeal to all types of gamers. In the case of Puzzle Kombat, the upper screen it utilized for the showing off of some really cool animations, including fatalities, which are my favorites.

The ability to keep records of both single-player and multiplayer win/losses and the like for UMK3 and Puzzle Kombat, as well as the record of the execution of fatalities, rounds off the entire package, and while Ultimate Mortal Kombat may be a boon to new players or more-matured players who want a shot of nostalgia, ultimately, it a rehash of older Mortal Kombat games and this may turn off the franchise’s veterans.

Final Comments
Ultimate Mortal Kombat packs in both the arcade classic UMK3 and Puzzle Kombat from Deception, a pair of brilliant games that can still stand on their own feets today. If those aren’t incentives for you to play, then consider the added multiplayer, with local wireless and online play, and Mortal Komabt’s trademark blood splatter, gore and fatalities. The variety of selectable fighters stands at the high end of the table and that’s excluding unlockables. Moves are aplenty and the top screen's display of the move list and their required button presses compensates the fact that the moves are generally difficult to pull off. UMK3 is also challenging. Rounding off the package is Puzzle Kombat, an addictive puzzle game that everyone should try out. It is a pity that beyond UMK3 and Puzzle Kombat, there isn’t much more.


The Good:
- 2 great games, UMK3 and Puzzle Kombat, in one
- Added local wireless play and online multiplayer play
- Great selection of fighters for UMK3
- Complicated button presses needed to pull off moves, but move list shown throughout gameplay
- Online competition is endless
- Puzzle Kombat is addictive and appealing
- Ability to keep records

The Bad:
- Online play often has severe lags
- Essentially a rehash of old games. This fact is enough to turn off veterans of the franchise.
- Could have used a few more games (or mini-games) in the package

Monday, December 24, 2007

Foward 2008: DS Gaming in 2008

A general look at DS gaming in 2008, the trends, what to expect, personal commentaries, rumors, and wishes and hopes for the DS in 2008.

2007 was a consummate example of Nintendo’s dominance of the gaming handheld market. With the DS Lite constantly topping the sales charts throughout the entire year, there is no doubt that the handheld is the hottest gaming device in the world right now, and will still be the hottest in 2008. 2007 is coming to a close, but you can be sure that 2008 is going to be another great year for DS and DS Lite owners.

Since the inception of the DS platform in late 2004, there haven’t been many third-party hardcore games for the handheld outside of the occasional RPGs from Square Enix and other smaller publishers, but that’s understandable since the underpowered DS isn’t built for the hardcore crowd, but instead, geared towards the more mainstream audience. For months after the launch of the DS, it was not a surprise to hear someone say that the DS wasn’t capable of more than a bunch of kiddy games. The potential of the DS’s unique touch-screen functionalities weren’t fully realized as well. But all these have been changing rapidly in the past several months, with third-party developers and publishers having understood the DS hardware more and knowing what the DS is really capable of. This was clearly evident towards the end of 2007 when some third-party multiplatform games made their debut on the DS, among them Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008. Call of Duty 4 is one of the rare FPS games on the DS, and for a debutant, it fared considerably well, and was certainly a first step in the right direction. Hopefully, Call of Duty 5 would be on DS and improve on its predecessor. WWE, though making full use of the DS’s touch-screen functionalities, did not impress me as it was turn-based, but I would welcome a 2nd WWE game on DS, perhaps eradicating the turn-based formula and going for a more real-time approach.

The trend: More third-party hardcore games on the DS in 2008.

This trend is the one to watch out for in 2008. For one, Assassin’s Creed would be coming to the DS. I am really excited about the prospect of such a game being on the DS and would like to know how the developers are planning to execute Assassin’s Creed on the handheld. Hopefully, Assassin’s Creed wouldn’t turn out to be a 2D side scroller game on the DS because it would be a wasted opportunity. Surely, the delayed Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword has shown that the DS is indeed capable of intensive 3D action games and I would like to see Assassin’s Creed becoming another Ninja Gaiden DS. Another hardcore DS game gunning for a 2008 release is Blue Dragon Plus, the DS version of the already-released Blue Dragon game for the Xbox 360. Though promising in name, speculations currently running around the Internet prove otherwise. There is a possibility that Blue Dragon could turn into a card battle game, but reports by other gaming websites are reassuring, suggesting that Blue Dragon for the DS could be a turn-based strategy game. However, what is sure is that Blue Dragon Plus follows the same storyline as that in the Xbox 360 game and that there will be cut-scenes similar to the ones on Xbox 360. Sounds thrilling? You bet.

Checks on the schedule list revealed another shock debutant on DS in 2008. Console strategy game Tom Clancy’s EndWar is coming to the DS. While I aren’t sure what’s EndWar going to be exactly like, there is no doubt that EndWar could be another game that will push the graphical limitations of the DS and make use of the touch-screen functionalities. The last Tom Clancy DS effort was Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, courtesy of Gameloft, Ubisoft’s handheld games department, which also did Brothers in Arms DS (another good hardcore game there). The other hardcore games coming to the DS are your usual ones, including a bunch of Square Enix games, one of them the much-anticipated Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Rings of Fate, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Alone in the Dark. If you’re a hardcore gamer and own a DS or DS Lite, 2008 will be the year for your DS or DS Lite to satisfy your taste.

Hardcore games are just second in quantity to casual games on the DS, it seems. Wait a moment. Have you noticed that how recent casual games for the Wii and DS always seem to have their titles ending with a ‘z’? Say, Petz: Horsez 2, or Catz or Dogz? Expect a flood of such games in 2008 as well, with Homie Rollerz, more Bratz games, and more Ubisoft Petz series coming. Also, more mini-games collections are in the offing.

New DS model to be officially announced next year? Maybe. But ... ...

It has been 2 years since Mario Kart DS came out, and I wouldn’t mind Mario Kart DS 2. Could we see another Mario Kart game for DS in 2008? Probably no. But hearing some sort of announcement on the said game? Maybe. But I am sure nothing will be bigger news than the rumors of Nintendo having completed a new DS model that has wider screens, internal storage (and that Nintendo is preparing some sort of content download service) and one that does away with the GBA slot, making the new DS model slimmer than the DS Lite. It has also been reported that Nintendo will not release the new DS model until sales of the DS Lite begin to drop worldwide, which I think wouldn’t happen for a while - not at least in 2008. What does this mean? From the details given, it is probable that the new DS model could be a whole new platform and while it could be compatible with the older DS games, GBA games are no longer a go on the new DS model, unless of course, Nintendo puts GBA games up for download on the download service. My hopes for better graphical capabilities are still unfounded, though. Will we see an official announcement addressing this in 2008? Well, maybe. But that will probably make people stop buying DS Lite and wait for the new DS model instead. Hmm ... ...

All in all, the DS should produce another fantastic performance in 2008. Do expect surprise game or hardware announcements and what better place and time to announce something other than at major gaming events? E3 2008? Look out for it. Mario Kart DS 2? It’s anybody’s guess.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Game Review - Hot Wheels: Beat That!

Hotly Terrible: Smash That!

Perhaps it was my liking for racing games, or perhaps it was my time spent with Hot Wheels toys during my childhood that prompted me to have a go at Hot Wheels: Beat That! Whatever it was, the game is the closest virtual experience you can get to playing with real Hot Wheels toys. Yes, Hot Wheels: Beat That! is authentically Hot Wheels, so you can be sure of that nostalgia shot if you ever need one, but does it necessarily mean that the game is hot?

Surprisingly bare-bones, there are only 3 options that you can select upon booting up your copy of the game. The Challenge mode is basically your career mode that can be found in any other racer, while you can view the unlockable concept artworks in the Media Gallery. Options allow you to tweak the sound and that’s all.

The Challenge mode is fairly linear, and although there are 3 game types, namely Quick Race, Eliminator and Rampage, you are forced to progress through all the 12 tracks in the game, each with the 3 aforementioned game types respectively, in a way that is considerably boring. In an attempt to add variety to the game, the developers have implemented a points system. Reach a certain amount of points (known as flames in the game) and you will be awarded with extra vehicles and concept artworks. A 1st place finish earns you 3 flames. Besides completing 1st in each race, there are also secondary objectives to be accomplished, but while these add an extra layer of challenge to the game, they are in fact primary objectives. 2 ‘secondary’ objectives will be given in each race and completing 1 will award you a flame. So, it means that to progress, you must complete both ‘secondary’ objectives and finish 1st in a race to earn all 5 flames that are available for grabs in an event, essentially making the ‘secondary’ objectives become primary objectives. The ‘secondary’ objectives don’t offer you extra flames afterall, but instead, form part of the requirements for progression. Feeling gypped?

Of course, there still isn’t much variety and the game is still relatively boring. And that’s where the 3 difficulty levels come into play. You have Turbo, Nitro and Inferno in ascending orders of difficulty, but before you celebrate, be informed that completing a single difficulty level doesn’t warrant the completion of the entire game. Instead, you have to pull through all 3 (and collect all flames) to officially complete the game. As if that wasn’t bad enough, each proceeding difficulty level after the Turbo level is merely a rehash of the difficulty level before it, WHICH MEANS you must play through all the same 12 tracks again, each with the same 3 game types respectively. The only exception is that the game’s so-called ‘secondary’ objectives become increasingly harder to accomplish. Seriously, I can’t recall another game where I need to play through the contents of what an entire game has got to offer 3 times before I can officially complete the game. So, the 3 difficulty levels are just a ruse to get you involved in the game. Feeling gypped - twice?

Hot Wheels: Beat That! does have its ‘high points’, though. As mentioned, the game is authentically Hot Wheels, so be sure to expect the trademark orange tracks that run around the environments, which include bedrooms, bathrooms, underwater worlds, attics among others. Also, expect all vehicles to handle the same, with all of them turning on a central pivot. The statistics that you view about each vehicle on the vehicle selection screen are essentially throw-aways since performances from vehicle to vehicle are imperceptible. The exception is speed, but even then, you won’t have a very great sense of speed while racing. If your vehicle is faster, it will pull away from other vehicles in no time and vice versa – now, that’s the game’s way of letting you know the speed performance of your vehicle, which I think isn’t one bit realistic. While the Hot Wheels authenticity may please hardcore Hot Wheels fans, the game may leave non-Hot Wheels fans befuddled and subsequently, unhappy.

Fortunately, the game offers some fun in the form of power-ups, among which rockets, boosts, electric shocks, mines and invincibility. But just as the fun comes in, you realize another thing: This game is just so damn ridiculously easy – no really, this is the easiest game I have played to date. Hand it over to a 3 year-old and I am sure he/she would have no problems winning races. The graphics are acceptable, but why is the same music track repeating itself over and over again – it is not as if this game has tons of content and no space for more music tracks, right? It doesn’t even have multiplayer, but that’s alright, because I doubt anyone would be interested.

Final Comments
This game is terrible in almost every aspect. It is bare-bones. It cheats you into believing that there are actually secondary objectives in the game when in fact, they are primary objectives. It is the first game that forces me to play all its content 3 times over to officially complete the game. Each vehicle handles similarly. The game is ridiculously easy. The same damn music track repeats itself over and over again to the point where you will pass out. Need further proof to demonstrate why the game is so bad? And no multiplayer? This game feels totally rushed – totally.


The Good:
- Varied environments
- Power-ups
- Acceptable graphics

The Bad:
- EXTREMELY bare-bones
- Secondary objectives are in fact primary objectives
- 3 different difficulty levels merely a ruse to get you involved
- Game forces one to play all its content 3 times over to officially complete it
- Each vehicle handles similarly; statistics of each vehicle ignorable
- Game is damn ridiculously easy
- Same music track keeps repeating itself over and over – and over – and over
- Multiplayer is absent

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Forward 2008: Personal Commenatries ++

Personal commentaries on each console, predictions, more on what to expect, juicy tidbits and speculations.

Xbox 360

Suffice it to say that the Xbox 360 will remain comfortably in its current position through 2008. While I wouldn’t dare say this 2 years ago when Devil May Cry 4, Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War, Grand Theft Auto 4 and the like are still PS3 exclusives, they are not now, and there is even a chance that the Xbox 360 versions of these games may even better their PS3 counterparts – think extra downloadable content and you will know what I mean. The launch of Home on the PS3 may change this, but that will take some time for details to be worked out and for that period of transition, the Xbox 360 will have that all-important edge.

Microsoft needs Final Fantasy 13 on the Xbox 360 to increase Japan sales.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the Xbox 360 is still not doing well, though Japanese favorites like Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, Ninety-Nine Nights (N3), Eternal Sonata and Blue Dragon are already out on the system. The truth is harsh, but what Microsoft really needs is a heavyweight like Final Fantasy 13 to go multiplatform for its Xbox 360 to even stand a chance of grabbing more market share in Japan. Creating some casual games for the Japanese market would go some way to help the console too, as demonstrated by the phenomenal success of the Wii and its casual games.

Microsoft is targeting casual gamers. Could we see another such SKU in 2008?

Speaking of casual games, Microsoft has been making an effort to capture mainstream audience. Viva Piñata, released in 2006, is one example, while its follow-up, Viva Piñata: Party Animals, a party game, made it through just this holiday season. Those games, coupled with the launch of the Xbox 360 Arcade SKU and Scene it?, further elucidate its side aim. With the launch of the Xbox 360 Arcade SKU, which is essentially a souped-up Xbox 360 Core system, Microsoft wants to make the Xbox 360 a part of the living room, perhaps as far as to being placed alongside the Wii. By packing in a 256MB memory unit together with a disc containing some Xbox Live Arcade games into the Arcade bundle, Microsoft is assaying to position the Xbox 360 as a family console. It will not be a surprise to see more of such casual games or even another family-friendly (and price-friendly) Xbox 360 SKU coming in 2008. As much as I like Microsoft’s strategy, I have to say that I am not a casual gamer afterall and I am not a fan of Xbox Live Arcade games either.

Prediction: 2008's system seller for the Xbox 360.

In the previous Forward 2008 article, it was mentioned that more RTS games are arriving next year for the console. One of the games that I am most interested is Supreme Commander, simply because I didn’t get to complete the game when it came out on the PC earlier this year, but yet, I wanted to finish the game so much – and that’s why I wouldn’t mind buying the Xbox 360 version when it hits the store in February 2008. The action on the LCD monitor appeared to me like a PowerPoint presentation when I played Supreme Commander on PC earlier this year, especially in the last few missions of the game. Well, that’s just my weak rig, isn’t it? I haven’t played any Xbox 360 RTS games before, but I sure hope that the console Supreme Commander works out well (*Fingers-crossed*). I will also feel compelled to try out World in Conflict and Universe at War. Gamers who don’t own a strong PC, but yet want to play RTS games in their full glory, will prefer a Xbox 360 over a PS3 and that’s another area where I feel that the Xbox 360 will edge out the PS3. Before I forget, Halo Wars, an RTS based in the Halo universe (duh!), is also calling by in 2008, and to some extent, yes, Halo Wars will be a system seller for the Xbox 360 next year since the Halo franchise has done a good job in establishing a huge fan base, which will undeniably be tapped by Halo Wars.

All in all, Xbox 360 should see another blazing year in 2008. It helps that numerous exclusives are coming, including Alan Wake and Fable 2, not mentioning more downloadable Xbox 1 games (well, isn’t that similar to the Wii’s Virtual Console and the PlayStation Network’s downloadable PSP and PS1 games). Is there a chance that Gears of War 2 will get announced? Well, why not?


A year ago, Sony said that its mighty PS3 will sell like hotcakes based on its cutting-edge hardware alone, with the internal blu-ray player being the leader of the pack. For once, I thought that that was going to be true – that the PS3 will indeed outsell the Xbox 360 and the Wii. But fast forward to the present and the said proclamation seems more like a facile remark. How will PS3 comport itself in its new, albeit unwanted, position in 2008?

While Sony has wised-up in recent months with the introduction of the 40GB PS3 and price cuts of higher-end models, as well as the re-induction of the rumble functionality into the controller, the fact stands that the PS3 has lost many third-party exclusives to the Xbox 360 in 2007. It is no longer appropriate for Sony to depend on third-party exclusives to aid in selling the PS3 and that’s why there has never been a better time for first-party development and publishing to pull up. The signs have been encouraging so far with a host or great first-party stuff already released, including Warhawk, Folklore, Heavenly Sword, Ratchet and Clank: Future Tools of Destruction and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. The release of Eye of Judgment is nothing short of a bold step, to say the least. It is innovative, creative and original and it is exactly the type of game that Sony will need more of in 2008, but do keep the tried-and-tested games coming too. Keep it up and there’s no doubt that Sony will at least close the gap between the PS3 and Xbox 360. The launch of Home and Little Big Planet is entirely crucial to the PS3 and all the more important that they deliver.

A price cut on the day of the release of MGS 4 could sell more PS3s.

Sony’s big guns will be unleashed this year with Metal Gear Solid 4: Gun of the Patriots coming out first before … … Final Fantasy 13? Well, hopefully so. And imagine how much of an impact the release of MGS4 will have if coupled with another price drop of the PS3 (no matter how minor). That may not be the elixir of the PS3’s woes, but I believe that that would be a great opportunity for non-PS3 owners to get into the bandwagon and for the PS3 to pull even closer to the Xbox 360.

Wondering why RTS games aren’t on the PS3? I am wondering too.


2007 is a huge year for the Wii, but 2008 is going to be even bigger. 2007’s just the beginning, isn’t it? As highlighted in the previous Forward 2008 article, the 2 epic casual games, Wii Fit and Endless Ocean are coming out – in the same year! But neglecting the hardcore crowd has never been on the mind of Nintendo and 2008 is going to be a very special year for the hardcore followers. Another hardcore game of equally epic proportions, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, will be making its way to the store shelves in February and I don’t know how the Wii could have a better start to the New Year than that. As if that wasn’t enough, 2008 will also see the release of both Mario Kart Wii and Mario Superstar Baseball. If you aren’t an owner of the Wii yet, then 2008 would be the best year to jump right into all the Wii-ness. All these games will more than ensure that the Wii will stay firmly in the pole position through the year.

Pick a color for your Wii.

Also in 2008, there could be a possibility of a new Wii peripheral arriving. A Wii headset for voice chat – if I would say. The piece of small gadget is long overdue and would certainly enhance the online experience for Wii owners, especially in the face of the impending release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Meanwhile, there are also speculations making their rounds on the Internet that new colors for the Wii are coming. Um, fancy a pink Wii, or a crimson Wii, or a green Wii? While these are purely speculations, it doesn’t hurt to predict that these new colors for the Wii will be coming out in 2008, does it? Ultimately, these will propel the Wii to greater heights (*ahem* if Nintendo can sort out the shortage of Wii in some countries). Recent news reports revealed another interesting tidbit to chew on. Nintendo is aiming to launch the Wii in China by year-end 2008. So, what does that mean to you? That Nintendo will build another production facility? That there will be no more shortages of Wii? Regardless, this piece of news should be seen as something positive and one that signifies Nintendo’s aim to produce more Wiis.

Nintendo is playing catch-up with Xbox Live Arcade.

Nintendo is finally realizing that downloadable smaller (or newly-made smaller) games play a nig part in the console war too. All one needs to do is take a look at the Xbox 360 camp and see what Microsoft is doing with its Xbox Live Arcade. Sony has got some downloadable games as well, including Calling all Cars! and flOw. Wii Ware is Nintendo’s answer to all these and we may well see better days for the new Wii Channel.

In a nutshell, the 2008’s going to be Wii’s year again. But I do hope that there will be more hardcore games for the console.

NEXT on Forward 2008: DS Gaming in 2008

Monday, December 17, 2007

Foward 2008: The Newcomers

The newcomers (non-sequels), the trends, and what to expect next year in the 1st article of Forward 2008!

The year 2007 can be seen as one of the greatest year in gaming with various big hits being released, including Halo 3, The Orange Box, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Super Mario Galaxy and Mass Effect. But now that 2007 is about to end, any gamer would be wont to go into a contemplative mood with the thought of what games 2008 would deliver or even what games one would add to one’s ever expanding library of games. The answers, it seem, would be far from being simple as a check on the scheduled-games list revealed a number of sequels on the way. You name it – almost every well-known franchise has got a sequel (or follow-up) coming in 2008. Resident Evil 5, Silent Hill 5, Devil May Cry 4, Soul Calibur 4, Grand Theft Auto 4, Metal Gear Solid 4: Gun of the Patriots, Guilty Gear 2 Overture (if it ever gets translated into English), Grand Turismo 5, Fable 2, Mario Kart Wii, Street Fighter 4, Burnout Paradise, Call of Duty 5, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. For the sake of continuity, I shall not name any more games, but I am sure you can think of more by yourself. Now, if you would take away all those numbers and turn your attention to the new kids on the block, there would be a wide variety of games as well. Don’t believe? Read on.

It is a bizzare world.

From the PC side of things, 2 of the more prominent games coming out next year would have to be Starcraft 2 and EA’s really ambitious Spore. But wait, Starcraft 2 isn’t a newcomer. Spore is, however and there is huge chance that Spore is a type of game that you have never encountered before. Yes, it is huge in scale, and as if taking a Wii-like approach, the visuals are cute and the gameplay will appeal to both casual players and hardcore players. But what actually is it? For those not in the know, Spore basically allows you to ‘build up’ your own creatures, right from the very beginning where you create yours from a simple DNA to the point where you are put in control of an entire civilization or society. ‘Creatures’ doesn’t necessarily mean that only creations of present animals are allowed – it literally means that you can create any creature you have in your imagination, so start racking your brains now and get creative! It would not be pure conjecture to say that tons of user-generated content would be made available within weeks of the game’s release given Spore’s potential of having a large online community.

Another PC newbie is Left 4 Dead, courtesy of Turtle Rock Studios of Counter Strike Condition Zero and Counter Strike Source fame. Co-op seems to be all the rage these days as evidenced in Gears of War, Halo 3, forthcoming Army of Two and on a lighter side, Lego Star Wars. And yes, Left 4 Dead is another co-op game. The premise of the game is a world overrun by zombies and working with 3 other human survivors, you must repel the marauding heaps of flesh-eaters and complete each scenario successfully. Left 4 Dead emphasizes teamwork, so doing a Rambo won’t get you anywhere. The unique thing about this game is that players can also take control of the zombies, adding an extra layer of welcomed challenge to the game. As if that wasn’t enough, there are 4 variants of ‘boss’ zombies that can also be controlled by players.

More RTS action for 360: Control the Cybran on your console!

Okay, so we know it’s all going to be bright for PC gamers, but hey, console owners won’t need to feel left out too. In 2008, the console war will heat up – in a real big way. First up is Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which has quite an eclectic mélange of games. Shaking up post 2007 year-end blues will be Mistwalker’s RPG Lost Odyssey for the box. Seriously, ordinary DVDs are no longer ample for games as demonstrated by Lost Odyssey’s 4 disc set. Like most other RPGs, the game possesses an out-of-this-world storyline where you play as Kaim, who well, has been slapped with a sentence of 1000 years of life, going through with him multiple generations of battle. Will Lost Odyssey finally make people buy more Xbox 360s in Japan? For sure, there is a ray of hope for Microsoft in the said country, but not too much, what with the ridiculous success of Wii and the phenomenal sales of Wii Fit. That said, all’s not bad for Xbox 360. It doesn’t take an observant eye to notice that RTS games are fast becoming commonplace on Xbox 360. Already, there are Lord of the Rings: Battle for MiddleEarth 2 and Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium War on the console, but come next year, there will be more! World in Conflict, Universe at War, Command and Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath and surprise game Supreme Commander will be making Xbox 360 their home. Gamers who don’t have a very strong PC, but yet want to play these games, and have a Xbox 360, take note – your best days are coming!

Little Big Planet: Little success or big hit?

While the Xbox 360 has its fair share of exclusives, the PS3 will have something up its sleeves too. Well, I can hear you hollering Metal Gear Solid 4: Gun of the Patriots and Killzone 2 now, but come on, there are more. The first one is not a game – the delayed Home, the PS3 version of Second Life, and also PS3’s answer to Xbox Live. Alright, let’s just say it is Xbox Live 3D-ed and elements of Second Life combined, which if you pause for a moment and think, is mind-blowing. Taking a leaf out from Wii’s book, you can create your avatar and customize it to suit your personality. You can also invite friends into your virtual homes and throw a party, go into a games room and play mini-games in an arcade-like environment, go to the theater to watch movie trailers among others. The second PS3 subject that will probably bring in more sales will be Little Big Planet – simply because, Little Big Planet, like Spore, is an experience that you probably haven’t encountered elsewhere. In the game, you will need to manipulate the various objects in an environment in any way you deem fit to meet the objectives in a particular level, which calls for some creativity. As you progress through the game, more objects will become obtainable. Tapping the online PS3 community, Little Big Planet also allows you the ability to share your custom-made environments with everyone else. These 2 subjects (Home and Little Big Planet), while brimming with endless capabilities and promise, will be accompanied by a couple of other PS3 exclusives coming down the line to make the console a better candidate for next year’s console war.

No beauty, only beast.

Numerous multiplatform (mostly Xbox 360 and PS3) titles are also arriving next year, but that should come as no surprise to anyone. With development costs hitting the roofs, it is no longer plausible for developers and publishers alike to make games for only a single platform. Among the multiplatform newbies are Frontlines: Fuel of War, The Club, Hei$t, Saboteur, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, Sega Superstar Tennis and Legendary: The Box, the last of which has an intriguing plot and one that is built for ‘One of the Best Games of the Year’ award. All hell breaks loose when you accidentally open the Pandora’s Box, which then unleashes all kinds of mythical beasts into the modern world. It doesn’t do any good when these mythical beasts aren’t your pals – you have to fight them. You, being the one who opened the box in the first place, are culpable for all the mess. Equipped with some powers as a result of the box’s opening and some mean weapons, you have to silence the creatures you come across, as well as put down pesky mercenaries sent to collect your blood. Among some of the creatures that you will have opportunities to engage with are werewolves and gryphons. Drooling now? That’s understandable.

The last candidate in the console war that everyone should be cognizant of by now is the Wii, Nintendo’s money making machine. It is surprisingly, really, to see that within a year, the Wii has proliferated all over the world, even overtaking the Xbox 360 to be the current leader in the ongoing console war. To be fair, the Wii and the Xbox 360 and PS3 are almost disparate systems altogether as the former caters to both the casual/non-gamer crowd and hardcore crowd while the latter 2 are mainly for the hardcore gamers. That being said, there will be still hardcore games stopping by the Wii, namely Tecmo’s Rygar: Battle of Argus, PS2 remake Bully: Scholarship Edition, which is also coming out for the Xbox 360, Atlus’ Baroque and Ubisoft’s No More Heroes, the said being one of the few M-rated games on the Wii and one which introduces some serious sword slashing gameplay in an open-world environment (ala Grand Theft Auto).

EPIC casual games, Wii Fit and Endless Ocean will be big hits.

The main system seller will still be the casual games, however, as astronomical sales figures for released Wii casual games have shown. Generally, casual games are selling better than hardcore games, with Wii Play nabbing the top position for Wii’s 2007 best selling game. The next few games in the list of Wii’s best selling games for 2007 are Twilight Princess, Mario Party 8, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Paper Mario and Guitar Hero 3, but outside of these few hardcore games, others have seen poor sales. 2008 will finally open gamers to Wii Fit, which is another casual game of epic proportions, much like Wii Play, and one that will single-handedly help sell another few million Wiis in a month, judging from sales in Japan, where the game has already been launched. Being an exercise game, it is definitely family-friendly, and that pretty much says it all – that almost everyone who owns a Wii is going to get a copy of Wii Fit. Another casual game in the offing is Endless Ocean, one game which has been out of the limelight for a while, but certainly unforgotten. Using the Wii’s online functionality, players can engage in dives together in co-op mode – now, that’s rare in Wii games and unequivocally one feature to look out for. Explore the ocean, discover new fish and build up your collection with Endless Ocean, which comes out Q1 2008. With the onslaught of a conglomeration of hardcore games and epic casual games, fancy betting against the Wii not retaining its top position (or even widen the gap between the Xbox 360 and PS3)? Of course, with quality casual titles, come crap casual titles as well, as highlighted in one of the SUPER Rant articles, but that’s the way for the leading console, where everyone wants a bite of the pie, right?

So now, you have got a big picture of what 2008 will be like. Xbox 360’s emerging RTS games and more Japanese RPGs are coming. Xbox Live is going to have more and more content and don’t be taken by surprise should Microsoft release another Xbox Live update to enhance its already-excellent service. Sony has got a couple of exclusives arriving, but perhaps more important is the release of the much-anticipated Home, which will offer some competition for the much-coveted online space and also Little Big Planet, which is in part creative and innovative. For the Wii, the oncoming hardcore games will keep the traditional Wii gamers smiling, while the 2 EPIC casual games, Wii Fit and Endless Ocean, will pull in buyers as quickly as water gushing out from a tap at full strength. Oh right, the PC will still remain the most powerful gaming machine to be had and more user-generated content will be shared online in the coming months. With all those in mind, just ensconce yourself in that armchair now and finish this year’s brilliant games before the packages from 2008 come knocking.

NEXT on Forward 2008:
Read my personal commentaries on next year’s console war, be it unforgiving and stinging comments on 2008 in gaming or heaps of éclat. Check back soon and look out. Happy holidays.

Friday, December 14, 2007

SUPER Rant: An Equation Unequalled

^ Pictorial Mathematics

The ubiquitous equal sign is represented by a set of double parallel lines. That’s simple for the naked eye to interpret. But just like looking at bacteria using a microscope, it takes one a while to digest what a particular equal sign really means. The above image may seem a tad confusing. What does that equal sign mean to you? Does it mean that Offroad Extreme Special Edition costs as much as 4 pairs of Big Mac Value Meals or a Brain Age 2 game and a DS Lite Smart Case? Or would you say the quality of Offroad Extreme Special Edition is comparable to that of the Big Mac Value Meals or the DS game and DS Lite accessory? Or does that equal sign annotate that the time spent to complete the Wii game is as much as that spent to consume all 8 Big Mac Value Meals? Whatever your interpretation is, the above equal sign is used to indicate cost. In other words, an Offroad Extreme Special Edition Wii game can cost as much as (or almost as much as) 8 Big Mac Value Meals or a Brain Age 2 DS game and a DS Lite Smart Case in my country. However, the moment you interpret the above equal sign as one which has a relation to quality, the entire equation will be erroneous. Call it an equation unequalled.

I was browsing through the shelves of my local game retailer yesterday when I came across the Wii section of the store. Slotted between Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Sonic and the Secret Rings, it appeared to me as if Offroad Extreme Special Edition was placed at the wrong location. The price tag on Offroad Extreme read: $48. A check on the website of another local game retailer turned out this result: Offroad Extreme - $49. Granted, that is a budget price for a budget title (well, even the box art reeks of the word budget). But isn’t $48 too much to ask for – especially for a game like Offroad Extreme, or Counter Force, or Mini Desktop Racing, as far as budget Wii titles published by Conspiracy Entertainment go. To ease dubiety, the currency attached is Singapore dollars. A conversion shows that Offroad Extreme costs US$33 at my local game retailer, which is a little higher than the recommended retail price of US$29.99 in US itself, but that’s forgivable given the import cost. For the record, I don’t own a Wii. But based on reviews on gaming websites, it can be noted that Offroad Extreme is a really bad game. Of course, I can’t actually comment much on a game that I haven’t personally played, but Offroad Extreme is an exclusion. Excuse me if you have played Offroad Extreme before – and find it entertaining, but screenshots don’t lie. However looked at, the screenshots taken from Offroad Extreme more or less resemble vomit – by today standards. No, they aren't even better than last-gen games because trust me, I have played last-gen games before, and they all look better than Offroad Extreme.

Perhaps the screenshots aren’t the most irritating (or anger-inducing) subjects. The price tag is. For $48, I could get 8 Big Mac Value Meals ($6.20 each). For $48, I could get Brain Age 2 ($39) for my DS and buy a DS Lite Smart Case ($9.90). Pardon me if the prices are wrong because the costs depend on where you purchase your gaming goods from. There is no denying that those 8 Big Mac Value Meals are more satisfying than Offroad Extreme. Or if you prefer comparing games to games, I have to say that Brain Age 2 has better visuals, is of better quality than Offroad Extreme, but yet, is more affordable than the aforementioned – and with spare cash left to spend on a DS Lite Smart Case as well! Combine quality, affordability and usefulness or taste, quality, satisfication from the 8 Big Mac Value Meals into one and what you get will make Offroad Extreme seem like trash – because it offers you nothing beyond a DVD box. But if you have already gotten Offroad Extreme or gotten it from someone as a gift, the best you can do will be to take out the disc and discard it, remove the amateur box art, fold it into a paper aircraft and give it to your younger siblings, and after which, utilize the DVD case for your holiday photo CD. Nice.

^ How to turn a Wii into a Vii.

Now, that was my first time seeing trash cost so ridiculously, but as mentioned, this problem isn’t solely with Offroad Extreme. Another check revealed that Counter Force costs $48. You know, that game with the lamest box art – the one with that Gundam-esque robot holding a weapon and shooting it at you (as if telling you: OH HAHA! YOU SHOULD BE SHOT FOR BUYING THIS GAME!). Well, it’s right, isn’t it? Buying these effortlessly-made games only encourages Data Design Interactive (the developer which makes all the budget Conspiracy Entertainment Wii titles) to design more of such absolute nonsense (obsolete graphics included) and allow Conspiracy Entertainment to publish them. Money can be better spent elsewhere. Stop the support for these types of games before the Wii turns into a Vii.

Now, you may ask: What was I doing at the game store? Did I buy Offroad Extreme Special Edition as a gift to someone? No, of course not. I did not buy anything from that game store, but I ended the day with a purchase of Assassin’s Creed for Xbox 360 (from another game store, that is).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Powerplay Megabytes #1

Welcome to this new section, where 2 random gaming files like game demos, game patches, maps, wallpapers and others will be uploaded in each Powerplay Megabytes post for your download pleasure! Some downloadable content will be self-created by the Powerplay blog, while other files will sourced from other websites. Do look out for frequent Powerplay Megabytes sections appearing on this blog. Check out the contents for this post.

::: Xbox 360 Games Box Art :::

Like game covers? Then this file is for you. Tons and and tons of game covers for your appreciation.


::: flOw (Free Game) :::

If you didn't get to play flOw on the PS3, then grab this chance to play it on your PC. Guide your creature as it dives deeper. Your objective is to consume other smaller creatures and allow your own creature to evolve. Try it out today.

- Use Mouse Cursor to guide your creature
- Hold on Left Mouse Button to accelerate


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