Whet Your Appetite with ME2 Videos

We’re less than four weeks from the release of Mass Effect 2, and I know that several O514 regulars – myself, Dak, PH and Rusty – are looking forward to January 26th. How to pass the time? By watching neat videos:

Here’s the trailer, featuring Illusive Man, Miranda, Grunt, Thane and Commander Shepherd:

And here’s a look at some of the new abilities available to the 6 different classes:

Curious to know who’s lending their voice to ME2? You might be surprised:

Do you like music? The ME2 Official Soundtrack is available on iTunes. Check out some of the tracks.

And let’s not forget what made the first game so great:

Dead Space Review

 

I dislike having nothing new and exciting to play. We seem to be in the middle of a bit of a slump in terms of exciting new 360 content, particularly if – like me – your living arrangements prohibit getting onto Xbox Live.

 The lack of anything highly anticipated has caused me to skew my leisure balance heavily in favor of books and films. The change has treated me well – I’m working my way through the Black Triad Trilogy, and have recently moved on from The Taqwacores to Kazuo Ishiguro’s excellent Never Let Me Go. Summer is coming, and sitting around reading is starting to feel like the most natural state of being.

 That said, I don’t think I can play another minute of Fallout 3 and RE 5 has unsurprisingly worn out its welcome. Desperate for digital stimulation, I recently picked up a used copy of the 2008 horror/shooter Dead Space.

 There isn’t a lot to say about the game that others haven’t already; the combat system doesn’t get old, the plot is average but serviceable sci-fi horror fare, the main character is a little too tabula rasa (not tabula rasa, but tabula rasa – sorry). With that said I think there are a few things worth pointing out.

 The dismemberment system is a lot of fun. Rather than just shoot monsters in the head, Dead Space requires you to clinically dismember them with re-purposed mining tools. If that sounds bad-ass… it is. Tanith got a fine taste of it just 20 minutes into sampling the game when a disgusting necromorph leaped agilely towards him, intent on chewing his face off. Our resident storm trooper calmly quartered its movement speed with his stasis module and used a plasma cutter to cut off all its limbs, and when I say “all,” I do mean everything. Tanith didn’t leave that poor corpse-monster with any blood in its body or any of its flexible joints intact. Whoever designed Dead Space has hit upon the robust pretense that sawing up blood-soaked monsters in space is cool. They’re right.

It looks like theyre hugging... but theyre not.

It looks like they're hugging... but they're not.

 Hacking up monsters in dimly lit corridors does not automatically make for a good game; I ran out of patience with Doom 3 after about five hours of game play. Superficially Dead Space seems similar, except that every once in a while – right when you’re starting to get tired of hallways – the game throws some sort of awesome sci-fi vista at you. Whether you’re gazing through a hull breach into the infinite crushing infinity of space or watching an asteroid shower through the bridge windows, Dead Space constantly reminds you that you inhabit an alien setting. Those two examples are the very least of what DS has to offer; this is the only game I’ve ever played that actually let me walk through a magnetic field into outer space, and the area in which you fight the final boss is so completely spectacular that I’m not going to spoil anything by describing it.  

This kind of this actually happens.

This kind of thing actually happens.

 The game sparkles particularly brightly when it lets you get outside the stricken USG Ishimura. Zero-G and vacuum are handled exceptionally well, and can occur independently or in concert with one another. At least one boss fight happens in zero gravity, and environmental challenges make fine use of both mechanics throughout the game. The game’s audio design in vacuum is particularly good; making everything sound like just enough noise is making it through your environment suit to create a queer echo.

 Dead Space runs a bit long at 12-16 hours for single play-through on the medium difficulty setting, but I never found myself plodding like I did in Doom 3. Replay value will likely be limited to a solitary new game + run as Dead Space curiously does not let you change the difficulty setting on subsequent play-throughs. Despite these issues and a few plot short-comings, Dead Space in an enjoyable experience, and easily worth the $35 I paid for my pre-played copy. A must for anyone who wasn’t thrilled – and wanted to be – by Resident Evil 5.

7.9/10

Metal+Games = Guitar Hero: Metallica, Brutal Legend

It seems that Guitar Hero: Metallica is coming together and should be ready for release in Q1 2009.

According to Internet rumours and Game Informer magazine, the expansion pack is nearing completion. GI‘s preview stated that GH:M will feature 45 songs, including 28 by the headline band. Assuming this expansion follows the model set by Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, players can expect the remaining tracks to be from bands inspired by or who have played with Metallica.

The Metallica songs confirmed so far include:

Enter Sandman
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Fuel
Hit The Lights
King Nothing
Master of Puppets
No Leaf Clover
Nothing Else Matters
Sad But True
The Unforgiven
Wherever I May Roam

There are also reports that GH:M will include a new, Expert+ mode!

Other bands expected to feature on the disc include Lynyrd Skynyrd, Foo Fighters, Queen, Judas Priest, Mastodon and Slayer. So far the Metallica song list doesn’t look too bad, and there’s still room left for  songs from Ride the Lightning, …And Justice For All and Kill ‘Em All. Fingers crossed!

In related gaming news, we have word that  Tim Schafer’s heavy metal-inspired action adventure Brutal Legend has found a new publisher. The game was originally slated to be released by Sierra in 2008, but was dropped during the Activison-Blizzard merger. Now it seems that EA has picked up the title, and are expecting to release it on Xbox 360 and PS3 in Fall 2009. You can find more details on the search for a new publisher here.

Brutal Legend tells the tale of Eddie Riggs, a heavy metal roadie dragged into a fantasy world based on rock culture. Armed with his lifelong knowledge of the subject, Eddie calls forth an army of “axe-wielding rock-strocities” to restore the world to its former glory. The game features Jack Black as the voice of Eddie, as well as voice talent from Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and Ronnie James Dio of Dio and Black Sabbath.

Schafer says that the game world is “a combination of every single thing I’ve ever thought was cool in the world altogether in one place.” Here’s a neat interview with Tim. And here is a more recent trailer. Rock on!

Mirror mirror, on the wall…

… who will catch you if you fall?

Inside EA

I’ve just talked with the PR Manager for EA Games, Johnathan Goddard. (He was in my office for a presentation and I nabbed him after.) Remember that cheeky reference to the Pirate Bay in that trailer? I was wondering about that, so I asked him how much piracy affected the movement towards free-to-play.

“Massively,” he said. “Piracy is the single biggest force in the move towards free-to-play and the microtransaction model.” He said that effectively, the move towards microtransactions means that EA is providing an ongoing service, not a product – and you can’t pirate a service.

I think the game industry is doing well with this sort of thing. The music and movie industries have totally failed to capitalize on the potential of online distribution. Their failure is so complete, that music sales decreased 14% last year alone, following a whopping 20% drop the year before. Meanwhile, the music publishers are suing their own customers. Can you say FAIL?

Also, re: power-levelling. The interesting thing about the BFH multiplayer is that it auto-sorts players into online groups of equal skill. So you’ll never get pwned by the addicted 15 year-old.  You’ll always be playing with people the same skill level as you. Ergo, a good challenge level, ergo more fun.

Unless all your friends are in a different skill group. That’s where the power-levelling comes in. You can catch up to them.

Interesting. I’ll hold all further thought on this until I have actually played the damn thing.

Battlefield Heroes: Trailer, Evil?

There’s a trailer, folks:

The trailer is a bit lame, if you ask me, but it does explain the game concept fairly well. I laughed at the reference to these guys.

And there’s an article in Gamasutra where the designer talks all about it. Turns out there’s more to it than just buying customizable character bits, people – you can also buy power levelling. Here’s a quote from Ben Cousins, senior producer on Battlefield Heroes:

we think there are two areas where people would be interested [in buying things]. First is your customization items, to change the way your character looks. Maybe you want the gold helmet and a huge mustache, or something like that; maybe a monocle. Those will be micro-items.

The other thing is what we call convenience items: So let’s imagine that the two of us are playing the game, and you’re playing the game every night for four hours, you’re leveling up your guy really fast, but I’ve got like a wife and kids, and only play the game a couple evenings a week.

But I want to catch up with you, so maybe I’ll buy an item which gives me double the experience points for a couple of days. So I’m still playing the game, I’m still having to be skilled at the game, but I’m just leveling up my character slightly quicker. So those are the two categories.

Hmm. Powerlevelling for $$$? What do you say to that?

EA Microtransactions display worrying signs of Evil

We’ve posted about microtransactions before on Objective 514. That post spawned quite a bit of discussion. Most of you seemed cool with paying for stuff – snazzy hats, for instance – as long as the stuff you bought didn’t actually affect game performance.

Well, guess what – the barely-established taboo has already been broken. By EA, no less. Same guys who are bringing us the free-to-play, financed-through-microtransactions game Battlefield Heroes.  Now they’re taking one more step – charging for special, unlockable weapons in the upcoming release Bad Company. See the full story in Xbox 360 Fanboy magazine. Comment here!