Never say never... winter. After a lawsuit from Turbine seemed to have put it down for the count, Cryptic's rumored Neverwinter Nights follow-up has finally gone official. Based off what little has been said about the game, it appears to be an MMO, but with a potentially game-changing twist – literally. See, as with previous Neverwinter titles, there's a heavy emphasis on world-creation.
Using a “user-friendly content generation system, tentatively codenamed Forge,” you'll be able to become the dungeon master of your own quests and storylines. Sure, the majority of Forge quests will probably resemble forgeries of WoW's Hemet Nessingwary quests – you know, kill 100000 wizard-ninjas, etc – but if the system's as versatile as previous Neverwinter games, there's huge potential for something special.
So, that's the good news. The bad news? If you're the impatient type, Neverwinter's Q4 2011 release date may be a bit rough for you to swallow. In the meantime, though, why not throw together a few missions for Cryptic's first MMO, City of Heroes? After all, what better inspiration for a swords 'n' sorcery yarn than a dude in revealingly tight-fitting spandex who shoots lasers out his face? The tale of “xxxCaptainHulkYashaxxx” is one that needs to be told, regardless of whether it's in underwear-on-the-outside or a chainmail bikini.
Obsidian's taking Fallout to the wild, untamed (or “tamed but then subsequently re-untamed thanks to a nuclear holocaust,” if we're being technical about it) west, so we're doing the same with our preview. Well, kind of. In the spirit of classic Sergio Leone spaghetti western “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” we're breaking down Fallout: New Vegas' opening hour – which we had the privilege of taking for a test run during QuakeCon – into thematically appropriate, self-explanatory categories.
Before we dive into the meat of things, though, let's set the scene. You're... a person. We can say that with a fair deal of certainty. You come to in a doctor's office, which – thanks to wasteland sanitation standards – is about as sterile as your average convenience store toilet, but you've got bigger things to worry about. Apparently, you nearly bit the big one at the hands of some pretty shady customers, but you don't know why. The doc, thankfully, patched up that pesky organ leak that tends to come as the result of bullet wounds, but unfortunately, he can't fill the gaping hole in your memory. He does know this, however: the bastards who did their darnedest to turn you into Swiss cheese were headed toward New Vegas. Well, there are certainly worse places to go for a vengeance-fueled vacation, eh?
QuakeCon may be named after, you know, Quake, but this year, a different multiplayer shooter stole the show. Yeah, Brink’s always sounded great on paper, but so did the N-Gage -- and then it was a taco. So obviously, we walked into our hands-on session with some trepidation. Watching a game stand on the – oh, what’s the word – cusp of greatness, only to fall backward into the Mortal Kombat-style spike pit of mediocrity is generally enough to brew up a tiny storm cloud over our heads, and we wanted so dearly for Brink to be awesome.
Fortunately, we weren’t disappointed. Put simply, Brink works. It’s ambitious, yet practical – complex, yet incredibly accessible. We got to play a couple matches in an area called Container City, and here’s why – days after the fact – we’re still aching to play more.
When you're at the forefront of an emerging trend, you're bound to have imitators. Such is the case with Fallout, a series that's been wandering wastelands and mutilating mutants since long before videogaming came down with an incurable case of post-apocalypse fever. Imitation's a sticky subject, though. Sometimes, it's just a sh**-eating grin away from outright flattery, but other times, it's a lawsuit and a career-in-tatters away from bold-faced plagiarism.
So, the question arises: where, exactly, does RAGE stand? Well, we saw the game in action at QuakeCon, and we decided to run a little DNA test on the post-apocalyptic shooter in order to find out how it stacks up against its closest living – and also Bethesda-published – relative. So, without further ado, let's see what makes RAGE tick.
With its latest PC push, Microsoft is ushering in a bonafied zombie apocalypse of allegedly “dead” PC gaming legends. First up, we’ve got Age of Empires Online, the latest entry in a series that was thought to be six feet under when Microsoft axed its creator, Ensemble Studios. Ditto for Microsoft Flight, the successor to Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series, whose developer went into a fiery tailspin in 2009. And both will appear as part of Microsoft’s Games for Windows brand, a platform that, well, wasn’t really ever alive to begin with.
Granted, if you’re expecting Age of Empires IV and Flight Simulator Whichever One We’re On Now, you might be a tad disappointed. Instead, Age of Empires Online has advanced right into the free-to-play age, which could mean some serious nickel-and-diming – possibly at the expense of balance. Fortunately, developer Robot Studios is made up of many ex-Ensemble staffers, so hopefully they won’t steer the franchise wrong. If you’d like to try before you don’t buy, though, you can head over to the game’s official site and sign up for the upcoming beta.
Microsoft Flight, meanwhile, has lost the “Simulator” moniker in exchange for a second lease on life. Its announcement, however, was buried at the bottom of a press release, so all we know at this point is that Flight will “bring a new perspective to the long-standing genre, welcoming everyone, including longtime fans, to experience the magic of flight.” Sounds… accessible.
Again, that’s all we’ve got to go on at this point, but we’ve gone from replicating every nitty-gritty technical detail of flight to describing it as “magic”? Longtime fans, don’t cry for your series just yet, but maybe you should start stocking up on tissues.
Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat were great and all, but let’s face it: they were basically STALKER 1.5 and STALKER 1.51. Also, for a while, we thought Call of Pripyat was just the Russian version of Call of Duty. Anyway, an all new frolic through irradiated, mutant-packed Mother Russia is finally on the way, but with one major caveat: it’s not a PC-exclusive anymore.
"After the official sales of the series exceeded 4 million copies worldwide, we had no doubts left to start creating a new big game in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. universe. This will be the next chapter of the mega-popular game players expect from us,” said Sergiy Grygorovych, CEO of GSC Game World.
“Completely new multiplatform technology,” of course, is a double-edged sword if we ever saw one. On the upside, the game will probably receive a fresh coat of paint, which the series has been sorely in need of ever since about a year before STALKER came out. But shiny new tech means all kinds of kinks, glitches, and bears – oh my! Well, maybe not bears, but you get the point. So, for now, GSC Game World’s pegged the game for 2012 release. Let the frustratingly long wait commence!
BioShock 2 was great and all, but if you couldn't help but feel a sense of deja vu surge through your synapses as you electrocuted an unsuspecting splicer in a pool of water yet again, you weren't alone. Enter BioShock: Infinite. It's the next game from BioShock creator Ken Levine (who, as a matter of fact, was not involved with BioShock 2's development), and as far as we can tell, it's BioShock in name only.
See, Rapture's completely out of the picture. In fact, Infinite's location is more or less the opposite of Rapture, floating atop the clouds instead of sinking to the bottom of the sea. Columbia, as it's known, is a steampunky testament to early 1900's American ingenuity – bright and optimistic as opposed to Rapture's thick fog of foreboding. However, all is not well. You play as an ex-detective named Booker DeWitt, who's snooping around Columbia in search of a psychic woman named Elizabeth. As previous Ken Levine games have taught us, however, don't expect things to remain that simple.
As for how the game itself works, here's the gist, straight from game design legend's mouth:
“When designing BioShock Infinite, we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if you walked into a room in this game and you didn’t necessarily know the dispositions of the people in it? Are they going to sit there? Are they going to attack you? What might set them off?’ We really wanted to have a notion that not everyone in the city was automatically hostile towards you. Instead it has more of that 'Wild West' feel where you walk into a bar with your hand on your pistol and you’re not sure what’s going to happen to you,” said Ken Levine.
Elizabeth will also function as your constant companion – the psychic, intelligent, actually useful Robin to your Batman. The game will also feature the return of “Daddy”-like enemies, hulking monster men who want nothing more than to escort you off the premises – which, in this case, means a thousand foot freefall.
Sound interesting? Well then, why not see it for yourself? Here's the first trailer. Real gameplay footage, meanwhile, is still a few weeks out, according to Levine and co. Here's hoping our crippling fear of heights doesn't keep us from enjoying it. Now then, we're off to spend two hours slowly working our way up one staircase, frequently pausing to cry and pray to the heavens for safe passage.
Between all the blaring heavy metal music, impromptu Pat Benatar concerts, and five hour-long John Carmack manifestos, you could be forgiven for thinking that QuakeCon is not a place for serious business. And you'd be right. Well, mostly.
Fortunately, we were on hand in an effort to collect whatever scraps of news might fall from id's table, and we came away surprisingly sated. So, without further ado, here's what happened.
Doom 4 Nowhere to be Found, Check Back Next Year -- It was the perfect storm. John Carmack tweeted that he was working on a little something special for QuakeCon, and Todd Hollenshead – who is incapable of lying – said we'd see Doom 4 this year. One eternity in a room with John Carmack later (rumor has it that he's still talking), and here's what we've seen of Doom 4. See it? Right there? Oh, is that a blank space? Huh. Imagine that.
Yep, another Duke Nukem Forever story. But this time around, Duke might just cross the finish line he's been inching toward all these years. Why? Because, according to anonymous sources that spoke with Kotaku, everyone's favorite stripper-tipping ass-kicker is finally getting a much-needed change of scenery. So long, 3D Realms. Hello, Gearbox Software.
Gearbox, in case you've been living under a rock specifically designed to ward off only the best games, most recently churned out co-op smash-hit Borderlands. The developer's also responsible for Brothers in Arms, and was – at one point – designing a Duke Nukem spin-off called Duke Nukem Begins.
The craziest part? We could be taking a demo of the game for a test drive as soon as later this year, since Gearbox is picking up where 3D Realms left off development-wise.
When reached for comment, all parties involved refused to confirm or deny anything, although Take-Two acknowledged that it still retains publishing rights to Duke Nukem Forever – even after the dismissal of its oft-publicized lawsuit against 3D Realms.
However, Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford gave a not-so-subtle hint that we'll hear more about Duke's development switcheroo at the Penny Arcade Expo, which takes place at the beginning of September.
Translation: Get excited. Duke's back, and he may very well be better than ever – which, in this case, means “a videogame that human beings can actually play.”
It's pitch black, and your teeth are chattering so loudly that you barely even notice the three simultaneous heart attacks you're having as you creep through the tall grasses of an open field. Suddenly, the bushes behind you rustle. You jerk your head so quickly that your body nearly doesn't get the chance to follow, as the hulking, foreboding figure of a baby bunny hops out from the bush. Phew. Heart attack number four averted. For now. You wipe the sweat from your brow – which, at this particular moment, is the world's most accurate model of what would happen if the polar ice caps actually melted – and continue onwards.
For about two feet. That's when you see it. Yep, there it is – right in front of you. Oh sweet mother of mercy. No, no – not the sprinting, groaning gray guy who's licking his unhinged chops and eying your neck. I'm talking about the thing behind him. That's right: a thermos full of coffee! Finally! Awesome! Sorry Mr. terrifying zombie man; just a second. You see, I need that coffee for an achievement.
The game in question? Alan Wake, a game quite capable of keeping you on the edge of your seat right up until the moment it spills hot coffee all over your lap. And it's certainly not alone. For the longest time, triple-A games polished their graphics and tweaked their ambient bunny-in-a-bush sounds in pursuit of a holy grail known simply as “immersion.” Gamers wanted it; game developers wanted it – for everything around the player to just melt away. To be utterly, hopelessly, and completely lost in the game world, without even the thinnest bread crumb trail back to reality. These days, though, immersion is about as prized as an airplane seat surrounded by screaming babies with no nearby emergency exit to fling yourself from. Or at least, it certainly seems that way.