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Arkham City – the most anticipated game of the year?

With E3 fast approaching, buzz is once again starting to circulate around the newest Batman game; Arkham City.

Developed by Rocksteady, Arkham City is the sequel to the smash-hit that was ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum.’

So what do we know so far?

The Story

The game will pick up one year after the events of AA. Former Asylum warden Quincy Sharp is now Mayor of Gotham, and has turned one part of the city into a maximum security facility, housing the worst criminals Gotham has to offer. The rival super-villains (including Two – Face, The Joker and The Penguin) that inhabit the city have divided it up into sections, with each bad guy commanding their own personal army of jacked up goons with itchy trigger fingers, all who would be more than happy to pump the Dark Knight full of lead. We also know that Catwoman will feature in the game at some point, but to what extent is anyone’s guess.

*Chains and whips excite meeeeeeeee........*

The main villain has been confirmed as Hugo Strange, and it was revealed in the first teaser trailer that he knows Bruce Wayne is Batman. Again, the extent of Strange’s involvement and influence in the game, but I would expect him to appear in cut-scenes throughout the narrative, and then appear for a physical encounter towards the end of the game.

Gameplay

Rocksteady has already confirmed that the action will take place in a sand-box environment, and have promised a world 5x bigger than that of Arkham Island. Whilst the core combat will remain essentially the same, the development team have stated that ‘detective mode’ will be used a lot less fequently than in the first game. This was a main concern with the original title, as players felt that using detective vision decreased the difficulty of the game.

Who stole my washing?!

This time around Batman will have the ability to glide and grapple through the dark and murky skies of Gotham, using both his grappling hook and that trusty cape of his to navigate the massive world Rocksteady has created for us to play with.

One thing is for sure, Arkham City is shaping up to be a real Game of the Year contender. The original was outstanding, and if Rocksteady delivers what they are promising us, it will undoubtedly be a good year to be a bat-fan. For now, here is the first gameplay trailer to help wet your appetite for Autumn of this year.

No Bungie at E3?

Last Friday, Bungie, the publishers behind the all-conquering Halo series, announced that they would not be showcasing any new content at this year’s E3.

This will come as a disappointment to many fans of the developer, as they have been teasing us for months with their new project, which is supposedly a far cry from the Halo franchise.

No show - Bungie will be absent from this year's E3

The announcement has led to speculation that Bungie do not want to overshadow something that Microsoft already has in the works, which many reports suggested was the Xbox 360’s successor, the “Xbox 720”. These rumours have since been debunked by a Microsoft source. 

Wishful thinking - There will be no new Xbox at this year's E3

So what can we expect from E3 this year? Do you think that it is still too soon for another new Xbox? Or will you be dusting off the ol’ Mega Drive and getting your money’s worth out of Sonic & Knuckles??? Sound off in the comments below!

Ubisoft go to the Movies

Video game publishing giant Ubisoft are making the leap from consoles to the silver screen.

The publisher has launched Ubisoft Motion Pictures, with the view of adapting their franchises into films and television shows.

*Insert roaring lion here*

The company’s studio will be based in Paris and will be ran by Jean-Julien Baronnet, the former CEO of Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp. Producer Didier Lupfer will be the head of production and development, and former Disney France executive Jean de Rivieres will oversee marketing and international sales.

So what does this mean for it’s most popular franchises? We have already seen a Prince Of Persia film, which was met with mixed reviews but performed well financially. Personally I would love to see a big screen version of Assassin’s Creed, and Splinter Cell is ready and waiting to be made into a bourne-esque flick. Time will tell, but it looks like we will be seeing more video game adaptations hit our cinema screens in the very near future.

George Clooney as Sam Fisher? FTW or epic fail?

Project Café: What do we know?

A couple of weeks ago, rumours started to circulate that we would be seeing a new home console from Nintendo much sooner than any of us anticipated.

The “Wii 2”, or to use it’s super secret codename “Project Café”, is set to make it’s debut at this year’s E3 expo, with a projected release date of some time in 2012.

So what do we actually know about this new console? Below is a list of what we know to be true, and what at this point is typical internet speculation.

What is Nintendo cooking up?

The Controller

According to numerous sources, the new Nintendo controller will feature dual analog sticks in addition to standard d-pad and trigger buttons. It’ll mirror a Gamecube controller in general function but not in specific form. Sources have confirmed that the new controller will allow players to stream entire games to the device from the console, saying it’s like a miniature television. The screen size on the controller is also confirmed to be six inches in size. The price of course depends entirely on how much Nintendo is willing to invest into the development of this ‘Wii 2’, which will ultimately determine the retail price. Initial reports have suggested that the console will sell for up to $500 (around £300).

Could this be the new controller for Project Café?

The Hardware

Again, there is no definitive answer from Nintendo at this early stage, but many reports have suggested that the new console will be “significantly more powerful that the PS3 and xbox360, and will also be capable of running HD AND 3D games.

The console is also said to be backwards compatible with both Wii and Gamecube games, allowing those of you with an abundance of Wii games to keep playing them until your hearts content.

Obviously the HD speculation is completely understandable, and that will probably be a given when Nintendo finally announces the specifications, as the graphic capabilities of the Wii are most definitely outdated and obselete when compared with those of the PS3 and X360. The more interesting report however, is the one suggesting that the console will be capable of running 3D games. Again this is just specualtion, but Nintendo are known for being innovators in the field, what with having introcued the first 3-dimensional game in the form of Super Mario 64, and revolutionising the way we play games with the Wii. It is not too far a stretch of the imagination to believe that Project Café will have 3D capabilities, but again this will most certainly be reflected in the retail price, and let’s face it, 3D technology ain’t cheap.

One can’t help but think that Nintendo is finally looking to recapture the ‘hardcore’ gaming market from Sony and Microsoft. Fans of the Wii have been left wanting when it has come to hardcore titles, and the novelty of Nintendo’s revolutionary console only lasts so long.

Whatever Nintendo is planning, it’s shaping up to be a big reveal come this year’s E3, and it could be the shake up that the games market needs.

For now, here is IGN’s video report on the Wii 2.

New Need For Speed game announced

Prepare for “The Race for Your Life.”

An EA representative has officially confirmed that the developer will release a new Need For Speed game in November of this year, entitled “Need for Speed: The Run”.

Details are sparce at this early stage, but retailer ShopTo.net has already added a listing for the title, including a teaser trailer and official box art.

Official boxart for "Need For Speed: The Run"

The future of gaming……..

Two weeks ago at GDC, Unreal debuted their new update to their Unreal 3 graphics engine, giving us a glimpse into the future of gaming as we know it.

The trailer for the update, entitled simply “Samaritan” as  showcased the potential for Unreal Engine 3 and DirectX 11.

So what does this update mean? Epic released pictures and videos illustrating the potential of the engine, and displaying it’s already impressive capabilities.

“Image-based reflections that allow surfaces of any shape to reflect an approximate version of scenes, with varying glossiness across surfaces, anisotropic HDR highlights and anti-aliasing.”

Reflections are hard to pull of in games. They require a lot of complex algorithims and equations to get right, and if they’re not done properly, the end result can look sloppy and unconvincing. Epic’s solution to these problems is to take a simplified version of the scene around a reflected image, like your character reflected in the surface of  water, and add all of the different effects that you would want to see on top of it. The picture below illustrates what they mean.

[courtesy of IGN]

The graphics look amazing, and I think it’s safe to say that they are the most realistic I have ever seen. Epic went on describing the new technology and its applications, continuing with “subsurface scattering” (SSS).

“Subsurface scattering (SSS) that simulates the light that scatters inside semi-translucent materials (this makes character skin come alive).”

This will mean that the skin of, say, a character in a game, will behave like skin does in the real world. Light isn’t simply reflected off of it; some of it is absorbed as well and eventually reflected back. Think of the difference between the plastic skin of a doll and your own, and that is what Epic are pertaining to.

“Anti-aliased masked materials that super sample the edges of masked and alpha-tested materials (this makes hair more look realistic than ever before).”
Put simply, aliasing is the appearance of jagged edges in game graphics. Hair up close, for exampl, often looks like a lot of horizontal jagged lines joined together, as if someone had created it in Paint on a PC. Epic claim that this will be a thing of the past.
This will mean far more realistic looking characters and environments, something that can decide if a game is a roaring success, or if it is destined for the bargain bin.
The update was released on March 9th, and anyone can download it from www.udk.com.
For now, here is the Samaritan trailer, showcased at this year’s GDC. Enjoy.