Last Chance to Get NBA Live 07 Achievements

January 30, 2010 by Andy Giff  
Filed under News, Xbox

The servers for many of EA's sports games are soon to be closed down, meaning that some Achievements will be locked forever

The last big effort to get the achievement for having 1000 players online simultaneously on NBA Live 07 will be held tomorrow by Xbox360Achievements.org.

The attempt will be held tomorrow at 6pm GMT (1PM Eastern, 10AM Western for the US) and was announced following the news that EA will be shutting down servers for many of its older sports games. This would of course mean that any achievements that require online play would become impossible to unlock.

So if you want to be one of the people who has this achievement before it’s too late, then head over to the thread on X360A.org here to learn what you need to do. I know I’ll be online (I haven’t bought the game for the occasion, I have actually had it all this time).

Good luck!

Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

January 30, 2010 by Thomas Mulrooney  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox, Xbox Live Arcade

Overview

Title: Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

Release date: 13 January 2010

Developer/Publisher: Croteam/Majesco Entertainment

Genre: FPS

Platform[s]: PC, Xbox Live Arcade

I have fond memories the original Serious Sam: The First Encounter. I played through the entirety of the game a couple of times over LAN with a friend. Those hours sat at two computers were probably the most fun-filled co-op experience I’ve ever had, and making me incredibly jealous that I didn’t have a good enough PC to play it myself.

Since those days plenty of FPS games have been released; some of them wowing,  like the multiplayer mayhem of Timesplitters 2 (being in the same room as your opponents will always be the best way to experience those games), and some of them stinking to high heaven, such as the awful Daikatana. So, with that in mind does the HD re-release of Serious Sam: The First Encounter live up to preconceived standards? I returned to what used to be one my favourite FPS games to find out.

Storyline

This is one of those games where the storyline doesn’t really matter, as you won’t really be paying much attention to it but you need some kind of justification for doing the things you’ll be doing. Basically Sam gets sent back in time to defeat Mental, an enemy obsessed with eradicating humanity, and alter the course of history so humanity was never attacked. The setting for the ensuing mayhem caused by Sam’s appearance is Egypt, and you’ll be going from one monument to do the next while fighting off hordes of Mental’s strange but deadly army.

Gameplay

The game is packed with a host of fun weapons and weird enemies. You’ll be using the usual assortment of machine guns and shotguns (which pack quite a punch) but you will eventually come across a laser gun and a cannonball gun that fires large cannonballs and squishes your enemies into a nice gory mess. In the latter stages of the game you’ll want to be using a gun that can cut through hordes of enemies with ease, such as the minigun, or you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. Thankfully ammo is abundant, but you’ll often get ‘rewarded’ for picking up items through the game spawning another wave of enemies to throw at you. So, you’ve just picked up all that health and ammo and then you have to use it all on a wave of enemies without making much progress through the level. That’s Serious Sam for you, and it’s something you’ll quickly become aware of and end up actually backtracking while the enemy draws ever closer;  although there are times when this is impossible as the game closes you into space, which is sometimes confined or will be when the enemy completely surrounds you.

The enemies are a mixture of your common soldier (although ‘common’ in the sense that they’re actually dead and they carry their heads in one hand), armed with rocket launchers, chainsaws or grenades depending on the type (or just holding bombs and running towards you screaming before they blow themselves up, which starts to get highly annoying), to flying winged beasts that remind me of Flash Gordon and gigantic walking fish armed with lasers or rocket launchers. All of these enemies may look strange but they hold nothing back – and by god are they brutal!

In fact the whole game is brutal, and even on normal difficulty you’ll find yourself dying a lot (I haven’t tried it on co-op or a harder difficulty setting, but it’s my understanding that even more enemies are thrown into the mix). Thankfully you can just hit Y for a quick save, which arguably makes the game far easier than it should be. I still lost count at how many times I had to restart the game though, especially at one particularly nasty part of the game. This consisted of being attacked by hundreds of galloping skeletons while I was quickly running out of ammo. You could cut down twenty and they’d just be replaced by more, so it required some quick thinking other than just standing there and pumping bullets into the masses. I’ll let you figured it out for yourself.

The last level of the game is, quite understandably, a mass of enemies and bullets flying around everywhere. However, the best is definitely saved until last and when I and my friend originally saw this beast our jaws dropped. The appearance of the final boss is still one of those ‘wow’ moments even today, but I won’t go into the technicalities as you really have to see this for yourself.

Graphics

For its time Serious Sam: The First Encounter was a pretty good looking game. Of course, it’s nothing by today’s standards and Croteam wasn’t content with just re-releasing the game in its original form to make some quick cash. Instead they put the time in to upgrade the graphics to HD, and while it’s still not going to wow you by any means they’ve still done a great job with it. Everything is shiny, with some work done on the lighting effects and the look of water (although this is no Bioshock), but the fact of the matter is you won’t have much time to appreciate when you’re getting charged at by hordes of bulls. You’ll still appreciate that it looks better though, even if it’s only to get a better look at the bull that’s about to knock you halfway across the level.

Audio

One frustrating thing about the game is that you’ll often be attacked from all sides and you can’t really tell when you’re going to get attacked until it’s up in your face. The audio goes some way to fixing this, as you’ll often hear the scream of, for example, suicide bombers getting closer to your position as the scream gets louder. This allows you to figure out what direction they’re coming in without spinning around all the time when you’ve got other enemies to contend with. Sometimes this gets lost in all the gunfire and sounds of other creatures though, so you still have to be constantly aware of your surroundings.

Music wise it’s nothing special, with the dramatic rising tempos kicking in when you’re about to be attacked. Due to this you will always know when something is still alive in your area due, but the periods where the music stays at the same sound level are few and far between.

Overall Score & Replayability

The problem with this re-release is that it doesn’t try to be anything other than a slightly better looking version of its original form. There’s no extra meat here, with nothing included in the XBLA release that wasn’t already in the original. In fact the XBLA version of the game has been is slightly inferior to the PC version in that only four players are supported in co-op, with sixteen on the PC version. There’s also no competitive multiplayer, but that probably isn’t a bad thing as I don’t think the game would have grasped people’s attention long enough for them to stick around.

However, none of the above makes it a bad game and for what’s on offer it’s certainly worth the price. For people, like me, who have played the original it’s a nice little blast from the past where FPS games were far simpler, but also a lot tougher. Those who haven’t played it get a glimpse at what FPS gamers enjoyed in the past, and it may also make them delve deeper into gaming history. For everybody it’s an fun-filled action packed ride that never gives you a breather. It’s a pure arcade game at heart, and that’s precisely the type of game that suits XBLA.

Classic Activision Games Coming to Good Old Games

January 28, 2010 by Thomas Mulrooney  
Filed under News, PC

For the last week Good Old Games have displayed a countdown towards a ‘big announcement’ on their home page. Today the countdown ended, and it was revealed that GOG have secured an agreement with Activision to bring their back catalogue to the site.

So, what do this mean? Well there are two games on the site right now, with plenty of more to come. First up is RPG Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura, followed by the point-and-click adventure game, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. With games like Battlezone and Hexen belonging to Activision it won’t be long before we get some great classics in the GOG library.

“Signing the agreement with Activision is the biggest thing that’s happened at GOG.com since the actual announcement of the service. This is a huge step forward for our site and for digital distribution as a whole, as Activision is one of the biggest publishers in the world with a long history in the games industry,” said GOG managing director Adam Oldakowski. “We’re even happier to bring Activision games back to gamers, as GOG.com is the only place right now, where you can grab the announced titles. We’ve also managed to work on those titles to provide full compatibility with modern operating systems.”

I love GOG.com, and I’ve bought quite a few games from there, so my excitement for a massive publisher like Activision joining the site is sky high. The games are also incredibly cheap too, so you really have no excuse to check the site out.

Nintendo “Turned Down” Chance at Project Natal Tech

January 27, 2010 by Thomas Mulrooney  
Filed under Nintendo, Xbox

CVG has learned that Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata was shown an early demo of what would become Project Natal, but he dismissed the technology as he didn’t believe it could be launched at a mass-market price.

An anonymous source revealed that 3DV Systems – the firm apparently behind the technology Project Natal utilises – showed the technology to a gathering of Nintendo execs in 2007. The company was later purchased by Microsoft, paving the way for Project Natal.

“Iwata-San only ever invests in something he can guarantee will work for a Nintendo audience,” the exec told CVG.

“3DV showed off a camera that detected motion in 3D, and had voice recognition – but Iwata-San was unconvinced he could sell it at a Nintendo price point. He also had some worries around latency during gameplay.

Microsoft has never confirmed that Project Natal uses technology gained from the purchase of 3DV, but this revelation means it’s highly likely that this is the case. The source insists upon this.

“Honestly – I’ve heard Iwata describe the prototype he saw at length, and it’s definitely Natal,” added CVG’s source.

Does Nintendo have any doubts?

“We remain unconvinced Natal will deliver on the more sophisticated elements of what Microsoft is promising at the price they’re aiming for.”

I guess not, but I suppose the bucket loads of money they’ve made from the Wii pretty much says it all.

It’s not the first time Nintendo has decided not to pursue a new form of technology for consoles, as they famously cancelled a deal to jointly develop a CD-Rom add on for the SNES with Sony and Phillips. This technology would later be developed into the Playstation, and that’s one major cash cow that Nintendo missed out on.

Darwinia+ Arriving On XBLA Next Month

January 27, 2010 by Thomas Mulrooney  
Filed under News, Xbox

Xbox Live Arcade has been getting some great indie-developed titles during its existence, and now it’s about to get another indie gem in the form of Darwinia+.

Introversion is releasing the PC strategy game as its first ever console release on 10 February, bringing the much loved original game to XBLA with a host of new features (hence the ‘+’). It’s being called the “Director’s Cut” of Darwinia, adding new tutorials, control options, a new user interface and Avatar Awards.

The game will set you back 1200 Microsoft Points, which may seem like a lot but I assure you that it’s worth it. I didn’t play the entirety of the original, but I loved every second of the bits I did play. It’s a ‘must buy’ for me, and it should be making your list too if you want to start experiencing the best of what the indie game community has to offer.

For more about the game check out its Wikipedia article.

Xbox Live Marketplace Upcoming Releases

January 26, 2010 by Andy Giff  
Filed under News, Xbox

Splosion Man is a great platformer on XBLA from Indie developers Twisted Pixel released last Summer

Major Nelson has posted another blog post detailing some of the biggest releases on Xbox Live Marketplace in the next couple of weeks.

There’s some cool stuff on there, like the Halo 3 Mythic Map Pack 2 for those who didn’t buy ODST, and a few more Games on Demand, but the highlight for me has to be Splosion Man as the deal of the week. If you haven’t downloaded this neat little platformer already (why not!?) then 400MSP is an absolute steal. I would highly recommend at least downloading the trial with a view to a purchase, as it is probably one of the most fun games on XBLA.

Here’s the list:

Xbox LIVE Deal of the Week:

Feb. 1: Splosion Man, 400 Microsoft Points

Xbox LIVE Games on Demand:

Jan. 26: Dead Rising and Halo Wars

Feb. 2: Medal of Honor: Airborne

Xbox LIVE Arcade:

Jan. 27: KrissX, 800 Microsoft Points

Feb. 3: Chime, 400 Microsoft Points

Xbox Avatars Marketplace:

Jan. 28: Assassin’s Creed
Feb. 4 : Valentine’s Day and Carnival collections

Game Add-Ons

Jan. 27: Pinball FX Excalibur Table, 240 Microsoft Points

Jan. 28: Assassin’s Creed II: Battle of Forli, 320 Microsoft Points

Feb. 2: Halo 3 Mythic 2 Map Pack, 800 Microsoft Points

This Week’s New Releases (24-31 January)

January 25, 2010 by Thomas Mulrooney  
Filed under News, Nintendo, PC, Playstation, Xbox

There’s only one release I care about this week, and that’s Bioware’s sci-fi epic Mass Effect 2. I haven’t been this excited about a game since GTA IV (and, no, it wasn’t a letdown for me) and it’s kicking off what is sure to be a great year for gaming.

Since PS3 owners are missing out they have the 250 player FPS MAG to provide some satisfaction. You can’t really compare the two games because they’re completely different genres, but I’m not stupid enough to think that everyone likes an RPG like Mass Effect 2.

If you don’t fancy either then there’s always Forklift Truck Simulator (ha ha), which our very own Sky Taylor wrote about over on her new website. If you’re getting that over either of the aforementioned games though then I think you seriously need to get your head tested.

Here’s the full list of this week’s releases:

  • BC Kings (PC)
  • Dark Fall 3: Lost Souls (PC)
  • Eco Shooter: Plant 530 (Wii)
  • Exodus from the Earth (PC)
  • Forklift Truck Simulator (PC)
  • Garden Party World (PC)
  • MAG (PS3)
  • Mass Effect 2 (PC, X360)
  • Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter (PC)
  • Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars (Wii)

Mass Effect 2 DLC Details Surface

January 25, 2010 by Andy Giff  
Filed under News, PC, Xbox

The DLC that launches with Mass Effect 2 will reward players who purchase the game new

A few tasty details have surfaced in the last few days about the Mass Effect 2 downloadable content ‘confirmed’ to coincide with the game’s launch.

Well now they have been 100% confirmed, and there’s plenty there to look forward to. There will be an in-game portal for Mass Effect 2 where players can receive new pieces of DLC as well as news about the series. This feature will come in the form of a one-use redeemable code with new copies of the game. Players who buy the game pre-owned will have to pay a small fee.

There are a few pieces of downloadable content already published on Xbox Live, including weapons, armour and what I assume is a bonus mission, which you can get queued up to download ready for when the game launches. Here’s the list with links to their locations on Xbox Live Marketplace:

Plenty to look forward to on top of the game itself which is already averaging a 97 on MetaCritic, and launches at the end of this week.

Assassin’s Creed II First DLC Dated

January 22, 2010 by Andy Giff  
Filed under News, Playstation, Xbox

Ubisoft have specified a release date for the first DLC package for their hit sequel to Assassin's Creed

The first piece of downloadable content for Assassin’s Creed 2 has now been dated and priced.

The DLC, entitled “Battle of Forli”, will be released on January 28th on both Xbox Live and PSN for 320MSP and £3.99 respectively. There will be new missions contained in the add-on, and it is to be followed up by a second piece of DLC, “Bonfire of the Vanities” next month.

Epic Have No Regrets About Making Gears MS Exclusive

January 22, 2010 by Andy Giff  
Filed under News, PC, Playstation, Xbox

Gears of War is one of the biggest exclusive franchises on the Xbox 360

Industry analyst Michael Pachter claimed in a roundtable discussion with GameTrailers that Epic Games “regret” making Gears of War a Microsoft exclusive franchise. He said that they were probably “itching” to bring the games to the PS3.

Well Mark Rein, Vice-President of Epic Games today responded to that claim, and denied it. He said that Epic has a “great relationship with Microsoft” and that they “have no regrets”.

Given that Gears of War is a massively popular franchise already (Gears 2 was behind only Halo 3 and the Call of Duty games in the top games on Xbox Live in 2009), it is hardly surprising that Epic would feel this way. Without the financial backing from Microsoft (remember that “Mad World” trailer for the first game?) it is highly unlikely that Gears would have met the success that it did.

Either way, if you’re waiting to play Gears of War on your PS3, don’t hold your breath…

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