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Friday, December 24, 2010

Looking Back at 2010: The Year in PC Games

PC Games seem to be the red-headed step child of the video game world. Some people (like me) love PC games, while others just think they're not of the same caliber as console games. But as it turns out, 2010 had some of the best PC exclusive releases ever, and two tiny Blizzard games set some incredible sales records.
I'm here to break down this year's highs and lows in PC gaming, but before I do I want to make one thing clear: This list is only going to include PC exclusive titles. I know that games like Mass Effect 2, Fallout: New Vegas, and Call of Duty: Black Ops are fantastic and maybe even more fun on the PC (allegedly), but they won't be making an appearance this time around. Now, with that little tidbit out of the way, get ready, crank up your APM, and let's start looking at some games.

FEBRUARY


Star Trek Online
The year's first big PC exclusive title was an MMO, and a relatively decent one at that. Set in 2409, Star Trek Online allowed trekkies and newcomers to the Star Trek universe a chance to command their own starship as either a Klingon or Federation Captain. While the space fighting in STO was pretty fun, the repetitive missions got the better of it. Overall though, the ability to customize not only your avatar, but your ship and its crew as well was fun.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat is the post apocalyptic sequel to 2007's S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. In this scary yet suspenseful first person shooter you play as a Stalker named Degtyarev as he uncovers the secrets behind The Zone. The game was able to iron out a lot of the unfortunate bugs that Chernobyl was faced with and, ultimately, was met with success from both fans of the series and FPS lovers alike.




MARCH

Command and Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight
A reinvention of the beloved series, Command and Conquer 4 thrives on replayability and innovation. Instead of trying to wipe out your opponent's base, this time around the game focuses entirely on holding and capturing bases and nodes instead. The game's single player was also pretty unique as it had two entirely different campaign paths. But, as is true with most RTS titles, the game truly thrived in the multiplayer area and fans of the series generally seemed to like the direction taken with the game.

The Settlers 7: Path to a Kingdom


One of the most difficult RTS titles out this year, Settlers 7 didn't offer very much innovation but it certainly was fun. In order to win, you had to achieve a military, science, or trade victory by using different tactics and units for each path. Along with the single player campaign, Settlers also offered an online multiplayer mode where you could play with or against other players. Aside from being an intense strategy game, Settlers didn't bring much of anything new to the table.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising
As the expansion to Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, Chaos Rising introduced new units to the RTS/RPG hybrid series as well as a brand new race: Chaos Space Marines! Awesome. The best part of the expansion, while a bit buggy, was how when your units were stained with Corruption they got to use some of the most overpowered moves in the game, and that's always fun. Met with generally positive reviews by the diehard Warhammer 40K fans, this expansion was a success.
MAY


Age Of Conan: Rise Of The Godslayer
Rise of the Godslayer was a hit expansion for the MMO Age of Conan and was met with favorable reviews. It introduced both new low and high level content within the mythical zone of Khitai, as well as a new race called the Khitans. Fans of the game finally got what they were asking for with this expansion: end game content. But aside from that and a few other new implentations including the alternate advancement system, some fans were generally upset that the new zones were so fantastic while the level 40-79 experience remained exactly the same.

Heroes of Newerth
Based heavily on Warcraft 3's Defense of the Ancients custom map, HoN was the successful continuation of the series and the first game in what's now called the "DotA genre". With gorgeous graphics, hundreds of different items, over 70 different heroes to choose from between the Hellbourne and the Legion, each equip with their own sets of moves, strengths, and weaknesses, fans of DotA couldn't have asked for much more with this strategic title. My favorite hero? Arachna. She's so damn good. Bubbles is pretty fun too, and the things he says are hilarious.
JUNE



APB: All Points Bulletin
Probably the biggest disappointment in recent MMO history and definitely in PC gaming this year, APB tried to be the MMO equivalent to Grand Theft Auto. Some of the best parts of the game revolved around the customization behind not only your character, but your car, clothing, and music as well. One amazingly innovative thing about APB was how if you sold items in game you could use that money to buy game time, thus alleviating the need to pay actual money for subscription costs. Good for the users, sure, but bad for the company, because as of September the servers shut down due to financial woes. The good news (kind of?) is that APB will be back as APB Reloaded in 2011 thanks to K2 Network as a free to play game. Yay?



StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty 
Voted the winner in our fan favorite Videogame Deathmatch competition, StarCraft 2 is an RTS of epic proportion. While the game did take ten years to make, the polish and craftmanship behind Blizzard's space epic is commendable. The game had a fun campaign and it also added a slew of brand new units and features to the series. Where the game excelled the most however, was with its online multiplayer. Offering various levels of ladder play, as well the ability for anyone to create custom maps, the title thrived on creativity and various strategies. Minus no LAN support (seriously, Blizzard??) and a few balance issues, the title was met with general praise on all fronts.

AUGUST


Elemental: War of Magic
While a promising premise, Elemental: War of Magic fell extremely flat in a year when other RTS games soared above our every expectation. To win in Elemental you had to achieve victory through conquering or allying with opponents or by rebuilding the Forge of the Overlord. The A.I. in the game is, to put it lightly, stupid, and the graphics are bad too. Most of the units look the same, the races are practically identical, and overall the game just feels incomplete. And while an interesting take on the RTS genre, trying to add elements of action amidst building your empire, it was a poorly executed attempt on innovation.
 
SEPTEMBER


Sid Meier's Civilization 5


One of the best RTS titles to come out this year, Civ5 expanded on its well established gameplay elements in all the right ways. It added exciting new features like city-states to keep fans of the series wanting to come back all over again and again. Truly the epitome of "Just one more turn!" games, Civ5 was all about playing the leader of a civilization and expanding it through military, research, or diplomatic means in order to attain victory. With its countless tutorials, Civ5 welcomed both newcomers and veterans of RTS games to try their skills in either single player or multiplayer. This is the type of game I like to see, because not only is it intensely fun, but it's innovative and expands the genre to fantastic new heights.






Amnesia: The Dark Descent 
Good survival horror games are few and far between lately. Amnesia: The Dark Descent filled this gaping hole with enough terrifying puzzle-filled action to keep you coming back for more. You play as Daniel, a man with no memory of his past, who finds a note he wrote to himself instructing him what to do next. The game kept you on your toes in a couple of ways. First off, you didn't get weapons even though there were gruesome, scary beasts trying to eat you. Second, aside from a health bar you also got a sanity bar. The sanity bar depleted if your character was in darkness for too long, saw too many scary events, or stared at monsters for an extended period of time. As you lost sanity, you began to hallucinate more and more until monsters could find you more easily, forcing an element of strategy between being in darkness and light based on the limited amount of fuel available for your lantern.

Final Fantasy XIV Online
What could have been the start to a new, unique, and beautiful MMO came crashing to the ground with Final Fantasy XIV, the second Final Fantasy MMO by Square Enix. Initially, the game was trying to be so innovative that it honestly took a giant step back for the genre in terms of what current gen MMO players are looking for. With no player economy (aka an auction house), poor quest restrictions, a boring profession system, among a slew of other things, the game truly failed to deliver at release. Recently, the game has been through several patches that have taken measures to fix these problems and the future for the title is finally starting to see a glimmer of hope. One of the biggest disappointments of the year.

Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale


Once in a while a little indie gem of a game comes along that you can't help but fall in love with, and that's exactly what happened with Recettear. In this quirky JRPG title you play the owner of an item shop, and it's your task to stock the store with items in order to pay back your father's debt. You can hire different adventurers to take you through randomly generated dungeons ala Diablo style. You get all the loot and your adventure gets all the levels. It's such an original and cute little title that shouldn't be missed.








OCTOBER

LEGO Universe
This game is aimed towards children, but sometimes grown ups just want to have fun too. Probably one of the most graphically innovative MMORPGs ever, LEGO Universe is exactly what you'd expect. In LEGO Universe, when you kill enemies they drop blocks just like every other LEGO video game. This time around, you can use the blocks to build whatever you can possibly imagine, and then other people can marvel at your awesome creations. That's about where the fun factor starts to wear off though. Riddled with bugs and lack of content, I think they're still trying to put this title together.

NOVEMBER

The Ball
If you loved Portal, and let's face it, everyone loved Portal, then you'll love The Ball. The objective of the game is to roll around a huge ball in order to solve complex puzzles and figure out the mystery behind this ancient round artifact. It doesn't sound that exciting at first, but in later levels your Ball turns into a spike Ball of death used to pulverize a bunch of evil mummies, and well, maybe you can start to see the appeal. The puzzles are fairly in depth, varied, and most of all: fun. It's a shame that games like The Ball, completely innovative and off the map, don't roll around more often.

DECEMBER


World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
The third expansion to Blizzard's flagship MMO series gave WoW fans everything they wanted and more. Implementing a new guild advancement system, rated battlegrounds, increasing the level cap to 85, and overhauling all of their classic content, Blizzard definitely had their work cut out for them with Cataclysm. While most of the expansion was a success, new things like archaeology failed to impress in an otherwise fantastic addition to the series. Blizzard may not be the leader when it comes to innovative gameplay, but they know what works, what doesn't, and, for now, World of Warcraft will continue to rule as the king of the MMORPG hill.


Now, I am fully aware, beloved readers, that this list didn't include every single PC title that came out this year. I just tried to include the ones that were more or less the most interesting. So if I forgot your favorite indie Steam game, I'm sorry. But, I figured that even though I didn't include any other games in alpha or beta it would be crazy of me to not include the one PC game that had everyone and their mother talking this year, and that is, of course, Minecraft.

Minecraft
Minecraft, which went into beta only three days ago, already has 2.5 million registered users. Minecraft got so popular this year based on the fact that you could, with enough imagination, create whatever you wanted to in this sandbox style action game. The game has two modes: Beta and classic. Beta, which can be played in single or multiplayer mode, has players mine for their own blocks and use them to create all sorts of weapons and armor as a means to protect themselves against monsters. In Classic mode, players are given unlimited amounts of blocks and can place them anywhere they wish in order to create intricate and mind blowing structures, like the Star Trek Enterprise for instance.
As far as innovation goes, Minecraft certainly takes the cake in 2010. Allowing users of all skills to literally create whatever they want with a simple block and keep them entertained for hours with such a simple concept is commendable. It will be very exciting to see where this title takes us in 2011.
And with that, I think it's safe to say that 2010 was a pretty awesome year for PC exclusive games. Sure there were a few duds here and there, but overall, the amount of passion and creativity seen in some of these titles gives me hope that 2011 will be another great year for the few of us PC lovers out there. Personally, I'm most excited for Diablo 3, Portal 2, Guild Wars 2, and some small Star Wars MMO that might be coming out too. What about you guys? Any PC games you can't wait to play next year?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Test Drive Unlimited 2 developer diary

Cenega company sent in to us before when the first developer's diary, which is devoted to the game, Test Drive Unlimited 2nd The video footage reveals the scenes production and the world that they want to give producers.

Test Drive Unlimited 2
We already know a lot because on some issues, you'll see a repeat of the previous news. However, you'll be interested to a large number of interesting points about social games. Enjoy.

It is worth recalling that, in Test Drive Unlimited 2 will be two islands. Ibiza and Oahu. The first will be basic, and another unlock after reaching an appropriate level in the game. The island of Oahu has been properly designed, and to reach it you will need to use the airport. Besides, it was confirmed that the rain was washing will be dirt and mud from vehicles, the weather changed from sunny to thunderstorms, and even the storm and the possibility to walk around their homes. The game will see the Lancia Delta Integrale car. Will also be implemented with the new physics of cars and a new menu to the left shows the overall progress and information on the profile, and on the right side displays the details of what has been done, etc..

TDU 2 will be primarily focused on having fun online. The title is in fact determined by the manufacturer, as a MOOR (Massively Open Online Racing). This means that at any moment we can get going through the network. The company points out, however, that there is no need to pay additional fees for on-line game, because it will be an integral part of this title.

Eden Studios also betrayed that Test Drive Unlimited 2 will have a beta version, but unfortunately, no one knows when it appears. The manufacturer gave no as to whether it will be for all platforms, or only for the elect.

DC Universe Online Preview

GamePro editor AJ Glasser chronicles her first few hours in the DC Universe Online Beta on PS3, crafting a sultry heroine and smashing thugs along the way.

Entry 1 - Install
The DC Universe Online beta requires a heavy-duty 15 GB download to PlayStation 3s, which took my internet connection three days to manage. I suspect this has something to do with my Bit Torrent-happy roommates provoking Comcast into snipping our internet. The download froze twice before I got fed up and used a second beta key on a friend's PS3 - his system snagged the beta in only three hours. Eventually, I got the beta up and running smoothly on both systems - but I was a little terrified for my home PS3 when the developer announced a patch. It wasn't so bad a download, though, which really brought it home for me that the retail version of DCUO on PS3 is supposed to come on a Blu-ray disc.

Entry 2 - Setting the Scene
The opening cinematic was more DC fan-service than I've seen in my life with a much, much darker edge than I expected. Lex Luthor throws down with the Justice League in a ruined Metropolis in a frantic fight scene that moves so fast, I actually couldn't identify all of the DC characters on screen. Mark Hamill's Joker made a very prominent appearance for pretty much the only laugh in the whole game (thus far), while the rest of the voice performances scored a "decent" or above from the peanut gallery (friend and roommates).

About the time that Superman faints, having discovered kryptonite chunks crammed in Wonder Woman's mouth, my hardcore DC fangirl roommate remarked, "Damn. Shit just got real." She groaned when the scene cut to "present day" with Luthor explaining to Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman that that's his past but their future. So, it turns out that the Lex Luthor (who kicked so much ass in the cut scene) went back in time to warn the present-day Justice League that he shouldn't have pwned them because Brainiac took over while they were distracted. We're not huge fans of history jumps in DC because it usually results in a lot of new characters we don't like. I guess this time we can deal with it because the players are supposed to be the new characters.

Entry 3 - Character Creation: Artemissy
After a quick explanation from future-Luthor about humans becoming super heroes and villains to fight Brainiac, a screen prompt guides users through character creation. The game wisely walks you through basic choices like male/female and good/evil before asking you to pick a mentor figure - it turned out to be a heady nerd experience for me to pick a hero to follow. Also, the costume customization options are wide enough to be overwhelming even without all of the features live yet.

I created a small-statured magic-using archer named Artemissy. I had some drama around picking a Movement Mode type. Acrobatics, Flight, or Super-Speed all essentially do the same thing - help players get to new places on the map more quickly - but the animation styles are so different, it has a real impact on how you see your character. Acrobatics, as it turns out, are more primal and animal-like; flight is more graceful, but cumbersome (especially if you're trying to keep the camera clear of wings you may or may not have); Super-Speed makes you look like a normal human, only sped up three times over. I went with Acrobatics for Artemissy, but I kind of which I'd chosen Flight to back up the character I envisioned her to be.

Entry 4 - Magic User Tutorial Mission
I chose Wonder Woman as my mentor figure (choosing magic over strength or gadgetry), so that I'd have a chance to encounter Zatanna on missions. The first magic-user-specific tutorial involves you rescuing Zatanna from some minor villain bent on brainwashing people with dark energy totems. The yellow arrow icons on the mini-map helped me cruise through Metropolis toward Chinatown to complete the missions, but I kept getting distracted by "Thug" non-playable characters that I could sometimes beat up and other times not for reasons I don't understand.

My primary mission was almost all beating down brainwashed thugs. A small quest component also had me destroying 20 totems, which took longer than it should've because I had to wait for totems I'd just destroyed to respawn in order to get up to a count of 20. As I understand it, this part of the quest was pretty typical early-level grinding work - but I really didn't mind so much because the PS3 controls reduce grinding to very simple button mashes and the animations were pretty.

About mid-way through the Zatanna tutorial mission, I got in over my head with some low-level bad guys and wound up "Knocked Out." When that happens, pressing Triangle makes your character "Flee" to a checkpoint that appears to be chosen by how close it is to where you were - which is nice. But this particular checkpoint put a PvP zone between me and Chinatown, which was bad. At only level 5, the level 8 players went through me pretty quickly, which I suppose is a reasonable balancing of levels.

Finishing the Zatanna mission was the real payoff for playing DCUO as opposed to some other MMO. After entering a Chinese theater, I actually got to rescue and fight alongside Zatanna against a group of baddies. I was a little sad to find that when she cast magic spells, she didn't seem to be talking backwards (which is how her character casts magic in the comics), but it could just be a beta bug...

AJ Glasser doesn't normally care for MMOs, but she wanted to give DCUO a shot because she loves DC and because the game runs on PS3.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Greed Corp review

It’s not often that strategy games make it to the console market before their natural habitat, but that’s the case with Greed Corp.  Xbox 360 and PS3 owners have had their mitts on the game since the start of the year, and now it’s finally made the jump, entirely intact, to the PC. This first effort from W!Games is certainly worth a try, but it may be a little too shallow for some.

There’s a story here of sorts – four greedy corporations have exploited the resources of their planet so much so that its literally begun to crumble apart, leading, through inevitable videogame logic, to a conflict that causes even more death and destruction. There are a few attempts to shoehorn some extra narrative in, but for the most part, this back story does nothing but inform the art style and the gameplay.

Then again that’s all it needs to do. You’ll be checking this game out for the quirky, intriguing strategy that’s quite unlike anything else out there. Playing on a series of hex-grid maps, anywhere from two to four teams take it in turns to construct buildings and units in order to take over their enemy’s territory. However, in order to gain resources, players must build harvesters which pummel the ground until it collapses, creating a very interesting tactical situation where players must seize ground only to destroy it. By the end of a match most of the map will have disappeared, leaving only a few lone hexes wobbling precariously above the abyss.
There are only a few buildings and units to take care of, but these produce a surprising amount of variety. The only moveable unit is the walker, which is used to seize enemy territory and defeat other walkers. The rules are fixed with no probability or chance involved – walkers are one-shot weapons that are used up in destroying a single foe. So, three walkers can defeat two, but will lose two of their own. Equal numbers means total destruction for both sides, but the attacker gains control of the contested hex. These simple rules make Greed Corp more like a board game or a chess match, where thinking ahead is everything.

Aside from the harvester there’s only one other building, the walker-building armoury. The last options left are the carrier which can transport walkers anywhere on the map in one move (useful at the end-game when most territory has been destroyed), and the cannon. This fixed weapon can blast walkers apart, but more importantly it can damage the terrain, possibly causing a chain reaction that can crumble numerous tiles. It’s great fun to back your opponent into a corner before using a well-placed shell to destroy his little fortress.

W!Games have done very well to create such an interesting game with such a small amount of options, but it’s not perfect. Getting to grips with the game is fun and scoring that perfect win with every move planned in advance is highly rewarding, but after completing a few missions the effect starts to wear off. The opening moves of a match change game-on-game, but too often these moves result in matches of attrition, with teams gradually wearing down each other’s supplies until one finally overwhelms the other. It’s certainly not always the case, especially in matches with more than two teams, but the irony of the game is that its main mechanic, the destruction of territory, leeches the strategy out of many situations.
The single-player game features one campaign for each of the four teams: the Freemen, the Cartel, the Pirates and the Empire. The difficulty is progressively upped along the way, but given that the only difference between the teams is their appearance, the single-player mode gets old fairly quickly. Multiplayer options help to flesh out the game and improve its longevity, since human unpredictability nearly always helps to improve strategy games.

It helps that the game looks and sounds great. The visuals are well designed, particularly with regard to the look of each team. From the grey, armour-clad Empire to the rustic wooden Freemen who are depicted as hippy tree-huggers, but yet still smash the land apart – story, bah! The soundtrack is also a pleasant surprise, with scratchy gramophone-jazz tunes accompanying the quirky destruction. It’s a shame that the gaps between tracks are so long, but that is hardly worth moaning about.

By all means grab a demo and give Greed Corp a go. It’s a very interesting take on turn-based strategy that will really appeal to some. W!Games have devised an intriguing system and done a really good job embellishing it with cracking visuals and sound. It’s a very accomplished product for its price, though whether it’ll keep players in for the long run is questionable.

James Bond 007: Blood Stone – Crush! Frag! Review!

Despite the nostalgia felt for the Nintendo 64′s GoldenEye (it’s not as good as you remember), 007′s only had one truly great video game adaptation: 2004′s Everything or Nothing (it’s better than you remember). Oddly enough, it was a third-person shooter, kicking the precedent set by previous Bond titles — Tomorrow Never Dies for PS1 not withstanding.

Upon the announcement of Bizarre Creations’ new take on Daniel Craig’s version of James “Blonde,” my mind raced back to sitting on my parents’ basement couch, spending way too much time replaying that pesky stealth mission and going head-to-head with an anachronistic Jaws, and I hoped that some supernatural force would shine its light down upon Blood Stone and take me back to those happy days. But it turns out that the light was shining up from below, and that the supernatural force was, in fact, the Devil.
A more appropriate name for Bond’s new mission would be something like “Straight Line: The Game.” Not only are levels nearly impossible to get turned around in, but if Bond could set down a skateboard and ‘dude’ his way through the stereotypical super villain hang-out zones, Blood Stone might resemble Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam. There are points, namely during chase sequences, when the player-controlled protagonist literally cannot fire any bullets until the game lets him. Even then, there’s hardly any aiming required and whatever the computer lets you shoot at always explodes in the most convenient fashion.

The case could certainly be made that the game’s creators simply wanted you to feel like you’re in a James Bond story, complete with those epic, destructive set pieces we’re all so familiar with from the films. That’s fine, as long as you don’t mind watching the game control itself during those awesome moments and wondering not only, “Why am I not doing this?” but also “Boy, I’m sure tired of looking at his back. Another camera angle would be nice.”
During those precious times when control over 007 is yours, opportunity arises to murder hundreds of innocent guards without any moral repercussions. Taking up any seemingly endlessly supplied peashooter will provide that violent outlet, especially since there’s no difficulty in doing so. Pulling back on the left trigger will line up the poor sap and the right will do him in. Easy squeezy. If you really want to decimate the playing field, however, using the never-failing X button while up close will slice and dice an enemy faster than you can say “Slap Chop!” Doing this provides “Focus Aims,” which are essentially a knock-off of Splinter Cell: Conviction‘s “Mark and Execute” moves, except here it’s just “Execute.”

Never fear! Bizarre made Project Gotham Racing and Blur, right? The driving must be plentiful and great! While the former is certainly true, the Rule of Straight Lines applies here more than ever. Remember all that slick dodging and weaving Bond does in his nifty rides? You get to do that! And if you don’t, expect numerous, painful, and lengthy ‘Restart to Checkpoint’ situations. Other cars manage to fly right in front of you, around you, and sometimes above you in an effort to push your skills to the limit! Thanks to the punishing restarts and “Hey man, you’re too slow!” fail conditions, these sequences sometimes feel like a Stuntman rip-off — and no, that’s not good, you idiot Stuntman lovers.
James Bond 007: Blood Stone is the most disappointing game I’ve played in a long while. I had considerably high hopes for another solid Bond adventure to scurry through, but this isn’t it. The multiplayer mode isn’t even worth trying — if the network can sustain a match long enough for you to get a kill, that is. It’s a sad, miserable package — and I’m not just talking about James Bond’s junk, either (there’s not even any sex in this game — blasphemy!).

Things We Liked: Acceptable shooting mechanics. Gives the “feel” of a Bond movie at times. Melee combat is stylish and cool.

Things We Disliked: Extremely linear. Takes control away from the player at nearly every opportunity. Frustrating chase sequences. Combat is for babies.

Target Audience: Babies for the shooting. Masochists for the driving. Moms who want a “clean” James Bond experience – no sex here! Stuntman-loving jerk holes.

Developer Confirms Kinect Is Coming To PC

A Korean developer has told IncGamers that Microsoft is definitely bringing Kinect to PC, confirming its latest online title will feature support for the device.

GamePrix, based in the Republic of Korea, has launched a new, PC-only MMORPG that promises to ‘resemble console games’ by featuring a combat mode similar to that seen in Tekken as well as Kinect support.

Describing Divine Soul, the firm writes: “the game's support of gaming pads make it resemble console games even more, and is scheduled to support Kinect, a new control system of Xbox360.”

The firm’s Jason Lim told IncGamers: “Kinect will soon be available as a new controller so it might be supported like joy pad mode in the future.

“Currently in MS, there are many game companies that are trying to apply for
this system.”

Discussing the new combat mode, Lim said: “We added PvP combat mode among the contents in online games. In fact, we do believe that this certainly has an advantage as an online game since many players can fight in a tournament and global tournament will be also available.”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Video game awards for 2010

Todd Kenreck writes:These are the games that push the art, the industry, and the gamers further than before. Here are the In-Game msnbc.com video game awards for 2010.

Best multiplayer: "Battlefield: Bad Company 2": 
The game busted into the first-shooter genre with guns blazing and great level design and intricate multiplayer strategies that allowed gamers to grow their skills, not just their achievements. Battlefield Bad Company 2 wins our award for best multiplayer game.

Best graphics: "God of War III": 
Tearing down Mount Olympus turned out to be a beautiful thing; God of War 3’s violence may have only been surpassed by its amazing and seamless visuals. "God of War III" is our pick for best graphics in 2010.

Best sound: "Starcraft II:
 Wings of Liberty": Gurgling Zerg, bass-heavy Protos, and gun-toting Marines made for a rich selection of ear candy. "Starcraft II" gets our award for best sound.

Best character: John Marston:
Rarely does a character define and anchor a video game as much John Marston did in "Red Dead Redemption." His relentless bad ass nature, ability to capture the spirit of the old West, and the fact he was just plain fun to play makes John Marston our best character this year.

Best art direction: Limbo:
Limbo surprised us with some very spooky levels, important visual cues and surprising depth that made you forget you were playing a simple two-dimensional side scroller. "Limbo" gets our award for best art direction.
Best cinematics and score: "Heavy Rain":Though the plot line may have been flawed, the cutscenes in "Heavy Rain" gripped us and didn’t let go. "Heavy Rain" felt like one big interactive movie where your skill and choices determined the outcome. Solid dialogue, pacing, editing, and nerve-racking gameplay earned "Heavy Rain" best cinematics in 2010. Not only that, few scores were as immediately recognizable as the theme from "Heavy Rain" which turned out to be one of the most of beautifully haunting scores we’ve heard in a video game.

Game of the year, best actor, and best writing "Mass Effect 2":
 The one game that pushed the boundaries of gaming like no other this year, they let you create your own story, explore exotic planets with a fantastic cast of characters, actors, music, writing, and addictive gameplay . "Mass Effect 2" is our much-deserved game of the year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Star Wars: The Old Republic Preview

I dream of a world where MMORPG players aren't considered cretins; where fans of the genre haven't been occupying the bottom of the gaming totem pole since the days of Everquest. Instead we live in a cruel world, one where there's a rib-cracking riposte ready to be delivered whenever World of Warcraft gets mentioned. Even with the broad demographic that Blizzard has sucked in, the genre has an image of being as weird, insular and hardcore as it is tediously lazy in design. The MMO design standards have barely moved forward since WoW was first released in 2004, and those were standards put in place in the nineties by Everquest. It's not a genre that's been great at evolving beyond the basic treadmill levelling system.

But in the last year MMOs have gone through a few structural and stylistic changes. Massively Multiplayer titles are beginning to experiment with tropes that typically you'd only see in other genres. Specifically, they're attempting to fulfil the 'role-playing' part of their namesake by developing narrative-led questlines and events.

Don't worry about whether you're interested in MMOs. This is an incredibly interesting time to be watching their progress, regardless of whether or not you have a bias against them. Between the upcoming Guild Wars 2, the unfortunate Final Fantasy XIV, and Star Wars: The Old Republic there has been an incredible change to the basic formula. Story is being used as a motivator for the gameplay; it's being used to develop your character, immerse you in the universe and to give context to your quests. Ambitious, considering this is BioWare's first venture into MMORPGs.

Needless to say, The Old Republic takes place well before Attack of the Clones. It begins 3500 years before the rise of Darth Vader. The Sith Empire has only just emerged from deep space to attack the Republic and its Jedis. Chronologically, this puts the game a good 300 years after the events of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which concluded with the disappearance of Revan into unknown space in search of the threat of the Republic in the form of an expanding Sith Empire led by a mysterious Emperor. Revan never came back but the Sith Empire has, and now after years of war a truce is established between both factions but the events that unfold in the game are slowly leading them back into a full-on war.

The game gives you eight stories to pick from, naturally based around your playable class, be it Bounty Hunter, Sith Warrior, Imperial Agent, or Sith Inquisitor for the Sith Empire, or Trooper, Smuggler, Jedi Knight, or Jedi Consular for the Republic. Unlike older MMOs these classes aren't limited to your standard Healer/Tank/Melee DPS/Ranged archetypes, and instead can be customised by the user, meaning any character can fill any role in a party – something that the genre has been moving toward in the last few years.

In classical BioWare style this story system functions similarly to what you find in the Mass Effect series, with interactions with NPCs bringing up a full dialogue system of possible response/reactions that can permanently open or close possible storylines and affect the conversation of NPCs. Actions and choices that you make have a direct influence on your character's personal story, and their moral standing based on how you complete quest lines.
Many a jaded MMO player has scoffed at the idea of shoving stories into the system of a persistent world – they're opposing ideas. But the glimmer of hope for it working well is that there truly is a blurry line between the forces of the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire.

That can be as simple as deciding whether or not to tattle on other NPCs. In fact one of the more interesting early quests has you tracking down two Padawan to find out whether they're in love, a bit of an issue when you forswear all emotional attachment to become a Jedi. Your choice is to tell their tutors, destroy their relationship but remain faithful to the Jedi code, or keep it a secret, let their relationship flourish, and let them bribe you with a crystal that will be used in the construction of your light sabre. It's a basic Episode II premise but strangely manages to have more of an emotional bearing, especially when you're the one making the decisions.

On the other hand it can work on a slightly larger scale in the story. In the Bioware Dev Diary on the development of Ord Mantell the planet has gone from being the setting for a basic Empire-against-Republic rebels story to being a much more morally vague tale of a planet under Republic control, led by less-than honourable leaders, and areas full of ill and malnourished citizens. So it's far less clear who has the planet's best interest in mind, and shows the game's potential beyond Horde vs. Alliance, Good vs. Evil.

It isn't re-defining the genre so much as taking the next logical step. Even WoW has attempted to incorporated a fuller story arc in its expansions, even Guild Wars has a relatively versatile class system. But The Old Republic combines the natural steps and natural innovations in an impossibly polished package. It will just be interesting to see how similarly it ends up comparing to the Guild Wars sequel which is working from a very similar angle.

Best and Cool PC Games

From cherished classics to recent releases, we take a look at some of the best games for the oldest and most versatile platform of them all: the humble PC.

The PC remains the most versatile platform around. Not only does it play the best of today’s games (and at better resolutions than the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360), it also carries the largest—and most critically acclaimed—back catalog of all video-game platforms.

So, how does one narrow down the best games for the platform? It’s a subjective process, and we’re sure that the list will create debate (not to mention some angry "You forgot my favorite PC game" comments). We encourage debate on the list, and we hope that the list helps you find some great games—either recent releases or beloved classics. We'll also continue to add to the list, taking community feedback into consideration, so please, share your favorites with us.

And, remember: Even after you beat these games, don’t forget to extend their life by checking out their online communities. Many have mods, player-made scenarios, levels, maps, and so on that provide hours of additional enjoyment.

Editor's note: GamePro Media owns GameDownloads.com, a digital-download service that's a competitor of Steam, Impulse, and Good Old Games.


Unreal Tournament 2004
Epic’s Unreal Tournament series of futuristic first-person shooters was already a mainstay among PC gamers when what’s arguably the best game in its series hit: UT2004. It introduced vehicles and the popular Onslaught game type, which allowed for large-scale multiplayer battles. The game also carries an extensive list of mods; one of the, Red Orchestra, a total-conversion mod that turns the game into a battle on the Eastern Front of World War II, became a retail item on Steam. Another, Alien Swarm, is also available from Steam. UT2004 may be found on Steam and Good Old Games.com.



The Sims
This life-sim series is likely the most popular PC game of them all. Spawning three main games, 18 expansions, numerous “stuff” packs, and spinoffs on console and handheld platforms, the Sims lets players “sim” the life of a virtual person (or people) living in a suburban community. You can play the game straight, seeing how the lives of your Sims turn out, or you can make the life of your poor Sim a living virtual hell. It’s all up to you. The PC has a genre of strategy games called “god games,” but in the Sims, you are god.


Sid Meier’s Pirates
The oldest game on this list, 1987’s Pirates broke significant ground in PC development. Not only is it the first of many games to bear ├╝berdeveloper Sid Meier’s name, it also introduced dynamic changes to a game environment: diplomatic shifts among the four countries vying for control of the Caribbean (the English, French, Spanish, and Dutch) help make each game of Pirates! different. The players’ actions also left a lasting impression on the game world. The ship combat, in real time, remains fun. Firaxis issued a remake of the game in 2004 that remains available at some retailers and many digital-download services.


System Shock 2
This first-person shooter from Irrational Games is one of the most influential games of all time, merging RPG elements with shooter gameplay and telling an interesting, sometimes frightening story. With character classes and skills, System Shock 2 allows for multiple replays by allowing players to build different skills each time, bringing much needed variety to the shooter genre. The game also built the foundation for BioShock, Irrational’s 2007 hit. The game also has a number of interesting and excellent community-made mods available online.

World of Warcraft
The biggest massively multiplayer online role-playing game on the market (not to mention the most popular game for PCs), World of Warcraft is now going into its third expansion, Cataclysm, which recasts the world of Azeroth after the dragon Deathwing rips through its extradimensional prison and devastates the world, affecting nearly every corner of Azeroth. The expansion introduces two new races as well—the wolfmen Worgen and Goblins—and it remains an MMO that offers addictive play for small groups, large groups, or the solo player. It’s also the MMO that countless others have unsuccessfully tried to replicate.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

DEAD SPACE ANIMATED MOVIE TO RELEASE ALONGSIDE THE GAME

Electronic Arts and Anchor Bay Entertainment today announced that a new Dead Space animated movie, "Dead Space Aftermath" will be available on January 25 to coincide with the release of the videogame.

Coming from the award-winning game development team and the 2008 animated feature production company, Dead Space Aftermath will feature several internationally renowned animation directors that use their unique and bold visions to explain what happened during the first-responder mission to Aegis VII. The directors will do this through the perspective of four survivors in this fast-paced horrifying thrill ride that stretches the limits of time and space.

In Dead Space Aftermath, the year is 2509 and not only has Earth lost contact with the USG Ishimura and Isaac Clarke, but also the USG O'Bannon, which is the first responder ship sent to rescue them. Four crew members of the O'Bannon have survived, but no one knows what happened to the rest of the crew, what they were doing, or what secrets they may be holding.

Dead Space 2 will be available on Jan. 25, 2011 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and the PC.

The Big Games of 2011: A visual guide to the year's jam-packed video game release schedule.

2011 is shaping up to be one of gaming's biggest years ever. Practically every month next year will see at least one or two blockbuster releases. To make sense of the madness, we've put together a handy list of all the game announcements that have a specific release date or seasonal window.

Games coming in 2011 with no other specific release information were left off for now until we hear more. Wondering where The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, X-Com and your favorite 3DS games are? Once their publishers commit to tighter release dates, we'll update our timeline to include them. Yeah, we're playing hardball.

We'll be updating this list throughout the year, so make sure to bookmark it and keep checking back.

Europa Universalis III Divine Wind released today

                       “Tens of thousands of bones will become ashes when one general achieves his fame”
                                                             - ancient Chinese proverb

Paradox Interactive have today released Europa Universalis III Divine Wind, the fourth expansion for the award winning historical Grand Strategy game Europa Universalis III set in the ancient Far East. To celebrate the occation, a release trailer for the sweeping new expansion Divine Wind has been released!
Enhancing every aspect of the original game to create an even deeper and more rewarding experience, you play as one of four major daimyo’s in Japan vying for influence over the Emperor and control over the Shogunate. Other additions include improved diplomacy, more realistic development of trade, multiplayer for up to 32 players and over 50 unlockable Achievements.
Divine Wind is now exclusively available via digital download on all leading digital distribution platforms with a recommended retail price of $19.99/€19.99/£14.99. Please note that the Divine Wind expansion requires Europa Universalis III Complete as well as the Heir to the Throne expansion to play.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Review:

The story of WoW: Cataclysm follows the leader of the black dragonflight, Deathwing the Destroyer, as he ascends into Azeroth. Hundreds of years ago, Deathwing was a serious threat to all of the inhabitants on Azeroth. Such a threat in fact, that the other dragon Aspects used their powers to force him away into the elemental plane of earth, Deepholm. In Cataclysm, Deathwing is finally reemerging from Deepholm, and when he does he shatters the earth down its very core, thus causing "The Shattering," an event which forever alters the face of Azeroth, leaving fiery devastation in its wake and changing the world as we once knew it. On the bright side, this catastrophe leads to an improved experience for both new and veteran players alike, as fresh and inventive quests, re-tooled rewards and destroyed zones have taken over the land.

With World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, Blizzard has perfected their quest model, taking it to brand new heights. Gone are the days of every single quest sending you to gather crap off the ground, or kill five random beasts. Now you’re flying fighter jets and taming lions, or killing thousands of gnomes with a fiery ball of death. The questing experience in Cataclysm is truly one of the best parts of the entire expansion, and it all starts with the new and improved starting zones.

Starting All Over Again…Again

With Blizzard's last expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, one of the most highly praised implementations in the whole expansion was the Death Knight starting experience. It was phased brilliantly, fun, offered great rewards, and really taught players how to use the brand new class. With Cataclysm, Blizzard introduces two brand new playable races: Goblins for the Horde and the werewolf-inspired Worgen for the Alliance which both have starting experiences that easily rival that of the Death Knight.

In particular, The Goblin zone houses one of the most hilarious series of quests where you ride around in a hot rod, pick up friends, play some Goblin football, and even attend a party. All before the volcanic island you’re on begins to erupt. The Worgen area takes you through the story behind your character's transformation from a Gilnean citizen into a cursed werewolf-like creature. As you are helping the citizens flee the Worgen infested city of Gilneas, you get bit by one of the rabid beasts and become a target yourself. While not quite as gimmicky as the Goblin starting zone, the Worgen experience is fantastically told.

However, it's not only the Worgen and Goblins that get new starting experiences. Every race has been revamped with a much more streamlined opening to start you off in the right direction. In Cataclysm, every zone in the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor has been overhauled and updated with brand new content. Not to mention both of these continents are now fully accessible on flying mounts.

The amount of alterations in the zones varies, but for the most part all of the zones for level 1-55 offer a much better experience. Gone are the days of traveling across continents for one measly quest. Now, players will receive a few quests from NPCs and then be "bread crumbed" to more areas to get new quests, similar to how it works in the Outlands and Northrend.

Quests integrate vehicles and scripted events into their chains, making them feel more like dynamic events. A great example of a zone that has been completely revamped is Silverpine Forest. As you go through Silverpine, you start out as a worthless Forsaken, recently brought back to serve Sylvanas, the Banshee Queen. Eventually, you’ll progress through the zone, learning about the Worgen, and helping Sylvanas bolster her forces to push back the Worgen threat with the help of some new allies. One quest called “The Waters Run Red…” puts you in the driver seat of a cannon and you have to kill 50 invading Worgen that are coming across the river. It’s gruesome even for WoW standard, but by this point you’re so enveloped in the story that you really feel like you’re doing a good thing by keeping these Worgen out. I won't ruin the end of the story, but let's just say it's worth doing. Instead of grinding out levels, you actually feel like you're part of the lore now. It's finally fun to quest again.

The Journey to 85, Now With 450% More Seahorses

Beyond the 1-55 changes, the new level 80-85 zones introduced in Cataclysm offer players brand new experiences with very interesting mechanics as well. Each zone is completely different from the next, with one in particular standing out: Vashj'ir. Vashj’ir is a level 80-82 zone that is played entirely underwater and is unlike anything else you’ve ever seen in WoW. Blizzard also invented an anchoring technique to help you get around as well. When you land on the sea floor, you get anchored to it and walk very fast, and then you can jump up to begin swimming again. To get around faster in this massive zone, you’ll also get a seahorse mount (I named mine Pickle).

Vashj’ir as a zone  is gorgeously designed with kelp forests, coral areas and some inspiring Naga ruins. It's truly the best looking zone in all of World of Warcraft, and holds some very fun quests. In one series you get to transform into a Naga in order to watch the unfolding of history and do quests for the Lady Vashj's minions.

Another great zone is Uldum, Blizzard's take on Egypt which plays out like an Indiana Jones movie. Amid pyramids, oasis, and hidden artifacts, you assist famed archaeologist Harrison Jones in uncovering the vast secrets of this once hidden land. There are tons of in game cut scenes all throughout the zone, and it's like playing in a mini WoW movie. One quest in Uldum has you fighting off fighter jets in a turret while Harrison pilots you away from the enemy encampment. This is the type of content that is all over Cataclysm's new and overhauled zones.

What’s Your Arena Rating?

Finally, Cataclysm also adds a new rated battleground system where players can make teams of up to 25 players and venture into battlegrounds together. This means more vicious PVP players can team up and face off against people of equal skill, rather than play with (or against) players that just give up when they see they're facing off against a pre-made team. There are also two entirely new battlegrounds to go along with this system: The Battle for Gilneas and The Twin Peaks.

The Battle for Gilneas is a 10v10 map that is somewhat reminiscent of Arathi Basin. Players have to control points on the map to accumulate resources, and the first team to 2000 resources wins. In Twin Peaks, it's another version of Warsong Gulch. In this 10v10 map, whichever team captures the flag 3 times first wins. The map is a lot bigger than Warsong, and it's much more balanced this time around because of its size.

There's also Tol Barad, which is the Cataclysm equivalent of Wintergrasp. Every few hours up to 160 Horde and Alliance get to duke it out for control of the zone. Whoever wins will then gain access to a daily quest hub and an Archavon type raid called Baradin Hold. Baradin Hold has bosses that drop both current tier PVE and PVP loot.

Closing Thoughts: Deathwing Just Wants A Hug

While Deathwing did bring with him a slew of new features for Cataclysm, some things were left out. With WotLK, Blizzard offered players an entirely new melee class to play with the Death Knight. This time around, it would have been nice to see a new caster Hero class, or a new Hero class in general. Also, there's no in game atlas for the bosses like what was mentioned at Blizzcon this year. Plus, where's my fricken dance studio? I want to get down!

But really, if the worse part about Cataclysm is that it didn't implement a new class or give me my dance studio, I can't complain that much. Blizzard did something that no developer has ever really done before in this expansion: they permanently erased their five year old content in order to bring  their players something new. And what they’ve created, while a massive undertaking, has proven incredibly successful. Nearly all of the additions to the World of Warcraft are clever, tuned and fun, and different enough to invite exploration from the players. And in the end, we have to remember that playing World of Warcraft is supposed to be a game, and games are supposed to be fun; Cataclysm succeeds on all fronts.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Scarface: The World is Yours Cheats ( XBOX)

Decrease Cop Heat:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
FLYSTRT

Decrease Gang Heat:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
NOBALLS

Fill Balls Meter:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
FPATCH


Increase Cop Heat:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
DONUT

Increase Gang Heat:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
GOBALLS

Kill Tony:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
KILLTONY

Max Ammo:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
AMMO

Refill Health:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
MEDIK

Black Suit Tony:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
BLACK

Blue Suit Tony With Sunglasses:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
BLUESH

Gray Suit Tony:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
GRAY

Gray Suit Tony With Sunglasses:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
GRAYSH

Hawaiian shirt Tony:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
HAWAII

Hawaiian shirt Tony w/shades:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
HAWAIIG

Music Track: "The World Is Yours":
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
TUNEME

Repair Tony's Vehicle:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
TBURGLR

Sandy shirt Tony:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
SANDY

Sandy shirt Tony w/shades:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
SANDYSH

Spawn Ariel MK III:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
OLDFAST

Spawn Bacinari:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
666999

Spawn Bulldozer:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
DOZER

Change Time of Day:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
MARTHA

Toggle Lightning:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
SHAZAAM

Toggle Rain:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
RAINY

White suit Tony:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
WHITE

White suit Tony w/shades:
Pause the game, choose CHEATS and enter the following:
WHITESH

New Batman: Arkham City screenshots

Warner's released these two Arkham City screens following the debut airing of a new trailer for the game at the VGAs over the weekend. Like the excellent new trailer - which you can see here - one of the screens shows off Dr. Hugo Strange, a newly revealed villain in Rocksteady's highly anticipated sequel, which is due for release next year.

TRON: Evolution Review

TRON: Evolution mixes free-running platforming with simple but engaging combat and is a fun if slightly repetitive trip back into the digital world of the Grid.The silent system monitor known simply as Anon runs through the computer world of TRON: Evolution like a leather-and-neon-clad Prince of Persia, smoothly defying gravity in a digital display of free running. This movie tie-in title, too, shows some deft touches, mixing up extended sequences of wall jumping and chasm leaping with combat that's appealing if a little simplistic. It doesn't quite have the gameplay or visual variety to battle off feelings of repetitiveness, but for the most part, TRON: Evolution is a smooth ride through one of science fiction's best known worlds.


The Good
Some exciting free-running sequences   Good references to the original TRON   Light cycles are fun in multiplayer.

The Bad
Platforming and combat can get repetitive   The locales in the Grid all look the same.


TRON: Evolution doesn't tell the story of the new film, TRON: Legacy, but instead, it acts as a prequel, bridging the narrative gap between the original film and its sequel. The hero of the first movie--Kevin Flynn--now lives full time inside the computer world of the Grid, and it's a rocky time for him and the Grid's digital dudes. A new form of sentient life has appeared--the Isos--and many existing programs are distrustful of the new race. An aggressive virus led by the villain Abraxas is also sweeping the world, turning both programs and Isos alike into nasty, green-tinted creatures with an unexplained penchant for dreadlocks. You play through this corrupted code base as Flynn's trusted system monitor Anon, a completely silent avatar that lets his acrobatic moves and light disc carry him through most conversations. As a mute protagonist, Anon doesn't do much to pull you into the story of TRON: Evolution, and the narrative itself isn't that intriguing. Fans of the TRON universe, though, will get a kick out of references to the original film, and all of the voice actors (including an impressive Jeff Bridges sound-alike) do a good job of bringing the Grid to life.

Anon's only real expression in the game is through his actions, and when it comes to movement, Anon has a wide vocabulary. The system monitor is extremely nimble, and tight controls make it easy for you to take him on extended acrobatic runs along walls, over environmental hazards, and across wide gaps. Free-running takes up a large chunk of TRON: Evolution, and when you get on a smooth run, it's fun to take Anon though some seemingly impossible obstacle courses. The controls do a good job of making you feel like you're in charge of Anon's every movement, and when you do miss a jump or a ledge, you always feel like it's due to your own lack of skill rather than any control failing. That said, the challenge here isn't particularly hefty; there's never any confusion about which path to take as its clearly delineated via conveniently placed markers, the puzzles are all rather basic (find all the not-at-all hard to find switches to open a door), and there are only a few truly difficult platforming sections to clear. Even the tough sections won't bother most, thanks to TRON: Evolution's extremely generous checkpoint system. A mistimed jump usually results in instant death in the Grid, but frustration never gets a chance to set in because you're only a few leaps away from a save.

Combat is much like platforming; fun but light when it comes to challenge. Anon uses a light disc, a projectile weapon that gets imbued with different properties (such as more damage and the ability to explode on contact) as the system monitor gains levels. As you'd expect from one of the most iconic weapons in science fiction, the light disc is an effective damage dealer, and Anon wields it with a lot of panache, flipping, twisting, and twirling acrobatically with every combo. There are several combos available, but you can get through the game using only a few because most enemies don't offer much in the way of resistance. Some enemies near the end of the game do put up more of a fight, but for the most part, numerical superiority is the only advantage your foes have, and even that is diluted by the fact that health strips (sections of a wall that Anon can run across to regain health) are in plentiful supply throughout the Grid.

Easy as it might be, there's still some fun to be had in traversing the world of TRON: Evolution, even if the action gets a little repetitive about halfway through the five or six hours that the single-player campaign takes. Free-running routes seem to be echoed and enemy encounters start to blur, but to its credit, TRON: Evolution breaks up this flow with the occasional ride in a light tank or light cycle. Of the two, the light tank sections fare better, purely because of the wanton level of destruction you're able to cause when at the helm of this bulky vehicle. Light cycle levels, on the other hand, are dull, providing little sense of speed and even less challenge. Forget about the crazy 90-degree turns and edge-of-your-seat manoeuvring light cycles are best known for--these sections are simple point-to-point runs where the only challenge lies in avoiding fast-approaching obstacles in your path. For PlayStation 3 owners, you can use a Move controller to play through these light cycle sections by holding the Move on its side and steering it like a handlebar, but it feels far less responsive than sticking with a controller.

The only place to get some true light cycle action is in the game's online multiplayer. Up to 10 players can compete in TRON: Evolution's variants on classic Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, and Capture the Flag modes, with four maps available. Two of the maps are small, while the others are larger and have both light cycles and the occasional tank available. Although you're not forced to use vehicles on the larger maps, matches on these typically end up being light-cycle-heavy affairs, with the ability to do quick 90-degree turns that force enemies to crash into your trailing light barrier making for a haphazard, fast-paced, and fun experience. But even on the smaller maps, the multiplayer in Evolution is enjoyable, if a little limited due to the small number of modes and maps on offer.

TRON: Evolution is a good-looking game, but like its gameplay, it suffers from a serious case of sameness. Anon and the various friends and foes he encounters all look good decked out in leather and various shades of neon piping, and Anon moves with an attractive fluidity. The way the system monitor leaps and lunges from platform to platform, shifting his weight and moving his limbs to gain momentum, is impressive to watch. The various environments of the Grid, though, all look rather similar, despite the different cities and locales through which the game moves. Tron City, Arjia, the Bastrum Colony, and even the innards of a gigantic ship all seem like they're the same place, albeit with different dominant color schemes.

You don't have to be a fan of the TRON universe to enjoy Evolution. Running through its digital world provides plenty of fun, and while its combat isn't too taxing, there are still enough good moments to make the experience worthwhile. It may lose steam well before its downbeat ending, but TRON: Evolution is a still worthwhile trip into the realm of the digital.