Month: August 2013

CGMPodcast Episode 71

CGMPodcast Episode 71

This week on the CGM podcast, talk about how uncool the 2DS is leads to talk about how cool Oculus Rift is. There’s also discussion about BioWare’s unique solution to carrying over decisions in the Dragon Age series, thoughts on new games like Killer Is Dead, Final Fantasy XIV, and answers to reader questions. All this and VR porn on Episode 71 of the CGM podcast.

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After The Bomb: B is for Bomb - These Warriors Are Terrible

After The Bomb: B is for Bomb – These Warriors Are Terrible

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Campaign Description: In a world where a mutagen bomb desolated the land and mutated mankinds DNA with the DNA of animals, the world is struck with a massive disease where animal/human hybrids now must live a Post-Apocalyptic life. Every mutant has to survive at any cost. Some live life as best as they can within small communities, others live for the bigger lifestyle. There is even a legend of a Gang of Four hiding in Gatorland surviving on their own terms. While others must fight to survive and fight for the little guy, but when Plan A fails…you call Plan B. Plan B Solutions that is. In this new series, our Terrible Warriors, Steve, Erika, Brad, Julian and Brendan are Plan B Solutions, mercenaries for hire. With Justin as our GM, in our first episode, Plan B is literally chasing down a job that only with the help of Gravedigger do they have any chance of completing. Listen to find out what happens!

Also, are there any settings or RPG systems you’d like the Terrible Warriors to visit? Do you have your own shameful, awesome or just plain silly RPG adventures? Tell us with a comment below or e-mail us at [email protected]. With your permission we’ll share these stories and play your suggested settings for upcoming games for the Terrible Warriors.

GM: Justin Ecock
Players: Steve Saylor, Erika Szabo, Brad, Julian Spillane, Brendand Frye
Location:  Toronto

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Nintendo 2DS Hits Stores October 12 1

Nintendo 2DS Hits Stores October 12

The Nintendo 2DS, an all-new handheld device and latest addition to the DS family, will launch on Oct. 12, Nintendo announces today.

The handheld device will be retailed at $129.99 and is available in two colours—red and blue. Players would be able to play all 3DS and DS titles, but in 2D. The Nintendo 2DS is unique in the sense it adopts an unhinged, tablet-like, slate appearance. Dual cameras are featured to take photos or record videos. Nintendo describes the 2DS as an “entry-level dedicated portable gaming system”.

Carrying cases for the Nintendo 2DS will be sold at $13. Pokemon X and Y will be released on the same day as the Nintendo 2DS.

The introduction of the Nintendo 2DS is part of Nintendo’s campaign to offer consumers “unprecidented levels of value and variety this holiday season”. Included within Nintendo’s holiday campaign are the following: a limited edition Wii U bundle featuring The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD coming Sept. 20, and a $50 price decrease for the Wii U Deluxe Set. Effective Sept. 20, the Wii U will be sold at the suggested retail price of $299.99. Considering Nintendo’s disappointing sales regarding the Wii U, this price cut might device’s retail sales up to speed.

Nintendo of America’s president and chief operating officer Reggie Fils-Aime says in a statement his company is dedicated to making experiences with Nintendo products more accessible and affordable. “However you play and whatever you play, Nintendo has got you covered,” Fils-Aime went on to say.

Check out the trailer for the Nintendo 2DS:

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The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (PS3) Review 3

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (PS3) Review

Part of the fiction of the XCOM franchise revolves around an extraterrestrial invading force who have arrived to Earth after enslaving entire alien civilizations, monkeying with their DNA to shape them into an effective, if abominable force. When the creators of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified speak of being inspired by their turn-based source material, this could well be what they mean, as game has sucked up a bunch of tropes and mechanisms from other titles, cobbled them together in a slap-dash fashion, and arrived at a squad-based shooter that’s effective overall, though crude and inelegant every step of the way.

The Bureau trades the globe-trotting, near-future setting of XCOM: Enemy Unknown for a plot set in early Cold-War America, and casts the player in the shoes of William Carter, a sanctimonious browbeater whose constant presence on screen undermines any inclination to root for humankind. Carter is immediately recruited into the nascent XCOM organization: a top secret task force founded to prepare for Soviet invasion, and he spends his time visiting the slices of Americana that the aliens are chewing through kicking alien ass.

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The 1960s aesthetics are prevalent throughout the adventure, with XCOM HQ looking like space-race era NASA Mission Control, and the agents’ offices looking like sets from Mad Men. The characters are decked out in period-authentic garb and hair, and the idyllic small-towns are painted in nostalgic technicolor hues that really sell the era. Despite this wonderful set dressing, the game fails to capitalize any of it. It seems like the narrative designers had a checklist of 60s vibes to nail, so a few secondary characters make sexist remarks, and a few memos show off McCarthy era paranoia persists, but the main characters neither seem limited nor influenced by the period in which they live.

The Bureau is most in its element when in the thick of battle, which looks on the surface like any other competent third-person cover based shooter from this generation. Two agents with abilities from four different classes are brought into each mission and are controlled by a Mass Effect style radial menu. Much like the Brothers in Arms series, the most effective way to progress is to spend the majority of the time issuing commands rather than lining up headshots. The enemies come in multiple varieties, and will flank, retreat, and push forward appropriately, forcing you to adapt your strategy on the fly. Orders can be queued to great effect, and setting up the various one-two combos between different classes is hugely satisfying. Time slows to a crawl, but doesn’t stop when bossing around allies, which means the intensity doesn’t let up. Every now and again a heavily armoured enemy will be dropped into the arena, which leads to inevitable moments of time-dilated panic as you’re forced to revise best-laid plans under hails of plasma fire.

The frequency with which battles can thrill vindicates transplanting the familiar XCOM concepts into a more immediately gratifying perspective, but not all of the series’ staples are adapted as effectively. Much like Enemy Unknown, soldiers can be renamed and customized, and combat experience is rewarded with new abilities, but the threat of permadeath is diluted when the player character’s death results in restarting from a checkpoint. Given the trade-off, I’d rather have fleshed out characters to chat with on missions, rather than disposable automatons. The XCOM base is available to explore in between missions, but instead of serving as a means to manage limited resources and influence R&D, it’s spent doing fetch quests for bloviating NPCs, with little reward for the patience expended. The base is a beautifully designed diorama, but the amount of aimless wandering that takes place there makes the time in between missions a chore.

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At times, it feels as though the teams working on the game weren’t talking to one another. Key characters stress the importance of acquiring alien technology, and issue stun weapons to bring enemies in alive, but weapons can be picked up from dead enemies with little aplomb, and the only live capture happens in a cutscene. The abilities of the squaddies frequently veer into superhuman without explanation, and the technology available in gameplay appears well before the scientists in the story acknowledge them. There’s foreshadowing with no payoff, plot threads that peeter out without warning, and the story manages to be guilty of being too bloated when dealing with inconsequential matters while simultaneously glossing over important plot points.

It’s strange to witness a game so beautifully presented, and yet feel so hastily assembled. Important sound effects are conspicuously absent during cutscenes, characters will respond inappropriately to dialogue choices, and there are issues with the basic combat controls that ought to have come up in the very first QA session (using the same button tap to reload or pick up a weapon is bonkers considering how much time is spent killing enemies behind cover, then using that cover for yourself). It’s tough to reconcile these basic issues with the loving detail in the first two missions, wherein Carter’s dapper fedora can be knocked off by heavy attacks, and retrieved with a button press (I haven’t got this excited about a hat-losing feature since Super Mario 64).

The Bureau: XCOM declassified lumbers between thrilling battles and tedious waffle too often, and the combat designers have run out of new tricks by the time the endgame comes some 15 hours in. As a prequel story for those eager to lap up more XCOM, it fails on all metrics, divulging no interesting information on the organization, nor explaining why Earth was so ill prepared when the aliens came back with the exact same battleplan some 50 years later. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of a game, and even if you were able to just sift through and pick out the pieces worth experiencing, ultimately there’s no soul.

Gone Home (PC) Review 1

Gone Home (PC) Review

Gone Home is the first release from The Fullbright Company, an independent developer from Oregon composed of a small team of industry veterans with previous credits on titles like Bioshock Infinite and Bioshock 2‘s critically acclaimed Minerva’s Den downloadable content. Gone Home, being experimental, highly polished, and extremely effective, serves as a validation of the studio’s apparent goal: using videogames to tell stories without relying on the traditional crutches of combat or puzzle-solving. The resulting gameplay is reminiscent of thechinesroom and Robert Briscoe’s Dear Esther, another title that uses first-person environmental exploration as a storytelling method. The two games may seem similar on a surface level, but differ greatly in their execution. Where Dear Esther was purposefully vague, Gone Home‘s plot is much clearer. The narrative here is not inferred through brief snippets of dialogue and obscured hints, but is drip-fed through much more deliberate pieces of information like family portraits, notes written in all the plainness of ordinary people, and a series of voiced journals from Kaitlin’s younger sister, Sam. The protagonist may start her journey confused as to what has happened to her mother, father and sibling in her absence, but neither she nor the audience stay in the dark for too long.

The Fullbright Company intelligently offers enough immediate context to make their story feel grounded from the start. Only a handful of minutes after stepping into a vast foyer filled with moving boxes, Kaitlin begins discovering clues that fill in the information the player needs in order to care about Gone Home‘s characters and plot. A trip through her father’s office describes twenty years of a man’s career through stacks of books, a few magazines, and a couple of typed pages that have been crumpled up and thrown in a trashcan. This same storytelling method — an interactive take on the “show, don’t tell” principle that informs most good fiction — is used to create a believable framework for the game’s family and their individual motivations. We know what kind of religious beliefs the Greenbriar parents have by riffling through their bedroom nightstands, not by having a character explain it outright. In a few great instances we learn that a character is invested in the mid-’90s riot grrrl culture by leafing through an underground zine she has created and putting mixtapes made by her friend into nearby stereo systems. Fullbright, in light of the team’s Bioshock-related pedigree, is obviously experienced in world-building. This strength becomes most apparent in just how effectively the developer builds a cast of characters that the audience can become attached to.

Gone Home (PC) Review 2
Gone Home – Review Images Provided by Fullbright

If the comparison to Dear Esther‘s pioneering brand of slow, walk-and-look gameplay mentioned above makes Gone Home sound a bit dry, it should be noted that experiencing the game firsthand is anything but boring. Fullbright is remarkably economical with their approach to narrative. Kaitlin may be able to open an oven with nothing in it from time to time, but the various bric-a-brac strewn about a given room is never placed without a reason. Each object is used to create a place that feels real; that feels as if actual people have eaten, slept, argued, and cried in it. For every one drawer that opens with nothing in it there are another two nearby that provide crucial bits of plot information. The ultimate result of this refusal to waste space (and, of course, the audience’s time) is a brisk and consistently interesting game.

The efficiency of Gone Home‘s pacing is furthered through the occasional voiced narration by Kaitlin’s sister, Sam. Just when the player could begin to tire of piecing together exactly what the many legal forms, books, and crumpled papers they’ve examined actually mean, Sam begins to contextualize everything through audio diary entries. These moments are placed at regular enough intervals that they maintain a constant connection between the handwritten notes primarily used to tell Gone Home‘s story and the people who actually held the pen. The dialogue also offers a nearly constant series of revelations as to what exactly has happened prior to Kaitlin’s return home.

It’s difficult to talk with any kind of specificity when describing just how effective these moments of clarity are without ruining the sense of discovery that makes Gone Home as special as it is. Suffice it to say that arriving at the end of the game feels quite a lot like completing a well-made puzzle. The story is a masterful display of writing that evokes exactly the dramatic tones, sense of wistful nostalgia, and emotional response it aims for. Videogames have long been criticized for a general failure to provide players with narratives that are as complex or intellectually satisfying as other forms of media. In recent years things have begun to change, but they’ve done so slowly. Journey and Dear Esther shrugged off traditional storytelling techniques in order to envelop audiences in specific moods and suggest plots that are more felt than clearly understood. The Walking Dead and Kentucky Route Zero demonstrate how player choice can influence how a plot unfolds. Gone Home is the next major step forward in proving that videogames are a viable narrative medium with the potential to change how we experience stories. It tells a tale that would not have been more effective if conveyed via a book or film, and it does so in a way that feels natural. This is an incredible accomplishment made even more impressive due to the fact that Gone Home is The Fullbright Company’s first release.

Gone Home (PC) Review 3
Gone Home – Review Images Provided by Fullbright

Some may be put off by the game’s short length (roughly two hours) and the lack of any clear objectives other than “explore a house,” but these factors shouldn’t stop them from experiencing one of the most interesting titles in some time. Gone Home is a big moment for the medium — one that is likely to be talked about for a long time to come — and it deserves the attention of anyone who finds the continued advancement of videogame storytelling something worth getting excited over.

Shadow of the Eternals Kickstarter Unsuccessful 1

Shadow of the Eternals Kickstarter Unsuccessful

Shadow of the Eternals, Precursor Games’ spiritual successor to Silicon Knights’ Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, has failed to reach its funding goal on Kickstarter.

 

The final hours of last Friday’s deadline did not help Precursor at all, as they only raised $323,950; the goal was to raise $750,000.

Ever since Precursor announced the campaign for Shadow of the Eternals in May, the journey has been quite rocky; much to the point the trials and tribulations Precursor experienced implicitly foreshadowed the game’s demise. Crowdfunding campaigns were launched on both Precursor’s official website and Kickstarter page, in hopes to reach funds well over $1 million.

In June, the campaign for Shadow of the Eternals was temporarily halted. Shawn Jackson, Precursor’s chief operating officer, revealed on Reddit the chances of Shadow of the Eternals’ development would be unlikely if the funding goal of $1,350,000 is not realized.

Precursor revamped the campaign for Shadow of the Eternals in July; this time, the funding goal was lowered from $1,350,000 to $750,000. There is also a crowdfunding campaign on Steam Greenlight (though it might be at risk for cancellation).

But despite the plight, Precursor was unable to make Shadow of the Eternals a reality.

“We here at Precursor Games would like to thank everyone who were involved in supporting, developing and promoting Shadow of the Eternals and its Kickstarter campaign,” Precursor wrote on the project’s Kickstarter update. “It’s unfortunate that we were unable to crowd-fund [sic] this project at the time, but we have not given up. We intend to pursue other avenues with the ultimate goal of having our games come to fruition.”

Shadow of the Eternals was slated for a 2014 release for the Wii U, Windows PC and PlayStation 4.

 

CGMPodcast Episode 70

CGMPodcast Episode 70

The CGM Podcast makes its return with episode 70. This week, the gang weighs in all the changes coming to the publication, discusses the developments to the PS4 and Xbox One policies since E3, covers some news out of Gamescom in Cologne, Germany and finally talks about the many games that have been played during the hiatus. All this and electrolytes too, on the CGM podcast.

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The World’s End (Movie) Review 1

The World’s End (2013) Review

Through Spaced, Shaun Of The Dead, and Hot Fuzz this dynamic duo created a style of filmmaking unto themselves that reinvented genre parody/homage as personal storytelling. Spaced filtered twenty-something listless irresponsibility through the pop culture quotations that tend to define life at the time. Shaun Of The Dead explored the challenges of accepting 30s adulthood through the challenges of facing a zombie apocalypse. Hot Fuzz thrust stylized buddy cop comedy conventions into the genteel British village lifestyle they grew up in. And now The World’s End uses apocalyptic sci-fi horror to examine the pain of nostalgia and perils of conformity. That the movies also represent some of the finest examples of their genres in the last decade and offer some of the biggest laughs of the era makes them extra special. It’s sad to think Wright and Pegg won’t have another movie coming along any time soon, but at least they’ve gone out with a satisfying finale. It’s certainly their most mature and thoughtful effort to date, if not their most polished and already feels like one of the finest movies of the year.

Once again playing a role unlike anything he wrote for himself before, Simon Pegg stars as a deadbeat drunk and drug addict whose life peaked in high school. Specifically, things never got better than the night he and five friends did a 12-pint pub-crawl across their hometown. Of course, they never finished it, and it’s one thing that’s always bothered the character through the years of failure that followed. For no particular reason, Pegg starts showing up at his former friends’ doorstep demanding they get the gang back together for round two. Since the former buddies are played by an all-star lineup of British comedy specialists and character actors in Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, and Martin Freeman they thankfully all agree. Soon they are back wondering the streets where they grew up for the noble goal of getting sloshed. Something’s wrong though and not just the fact that five grown men are behaving like teenagers. No, everyone in the town seems different; Invasion Of The Body Snatchers different. And so as tends to happen in Pegg/Wright joints, the movie gearshifts halfway through from character comedy to genuine genre oddity and somehow pays off all the competing styles and plot threads before the credits roll.

What’s most surprising about The World’s End is how genuinely dark and thoughtful it turned out to be. It’s still very much a comedy, and yet the weakest bits are probably the goofiest gags and one-liners. All their previous movies have been personal, yet this one really seems to resonate. As if simply by getting back together to make one more movie almost a decade after Spaced got them thinking about nostalgia and getting older, which ended up being more exciting material to the filmmakers than the movie in-jokes, fisticuffs, and decapitations. Surprisingly, it all works and is quite a strong evocation of the theme, even if it’s expressed through comedy and sci-fi horror. These guys are of course no slouch at laughs and thrills and deliver plenty (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Pegg attempt to fight off a variety of attackers without spilling his pint). The supporting cast is stellar (especially Nick Frost, playing straight man to Pegg’s buffoon for once) and filled with cameos from almost every actor they’ve worked with over the last 14 years. As usual, the duo throw every joke and idea they have against the wall and not all of it sticks, especially the weird coda that seems to be there only to satisfy the promise of the title. But more than enough of the laughs and ideas stick to make the film work, in fact it damn well soars.

Despite checking all the boxes of expectations for a Wright/Pegg film and delivering exactly what everyone loved about Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, there’s a nice sense of maturity here for the pair as filmmakers. Pegg ditches his bumbling nice guy comfort zone to play a genuinely annoying failure of a human being and proves to have the range as an actor to pay it off. Wright still whips up visual wonders every few seconds, but the movie doesn’t suffer from the occasional directorial overkill of his early work that often felt like an unnaturally talented fanboy trying every trick he’d loved in movies all at once and in every scene. As writers, for the first time their plot, character, themes, and emotions are more compelling than the winks and set pieces. It’s sad to think the two are splitting up for a while after this movie since they only seem to be getting better. But chances are that just means that when they reunite it will be to make something quite different since they are developing more diverse interests as their careers move on. The only downside to dialing back the excesses of their work is that at least on first viewing, The World’s End isn’t quite as breathlessly entertaining and jolting as their previous flicks. Maybe it’s one that gets better on repeat viewings or maybe it’s because they seem to be slightly losing interest in the style of filmmaking they created. Either way, this is hardly cause for concern and condemnation. The World’s End is an absolutely fabulous flick and easily the greatest horror/sci-fi/anti-nostalgia/manchild-coming-of-age/apocalyptic/personal comedy ever made. So that’s quite an achievement for the history books, if nothing else.

 

DC Comics Announces the Launch of Justice League Canada

DC Comics Announces the Launch of Justice League Canada

As Fan Expo Canada is well underway, DC Comics will announce at the event Friday afternoon that its flagship superhero ensemble, the Justice League of America, will migrate to the Great White North, according to the Toronto Star.

Torontonian comic artist and writer Jeff Lemire will pen the comic book series. Well known for his moody stories with that humanistic flare, Lemire has been revered as DC Comics’ top writers. DC Comics will launch Justice League Canada in the spring of 2014, and a new Canadian character will fight alongside some of the world’s famous heroes.

The presence of Canadiana has indeed dominated comics— most notably The X-Men’s Wolverine, independent superhero Captain Canuck and Marvel’s Alpha Flight. Generally, with any cultural representations, the hope is centered on the accuracy of that particular culture. That is, no Canadian comic fan would want to be introduced to a superhero whose power stems from Tim Horton’s coffee. (Super Double-Double, anyone?)

Positively, in speaking with the Toronto Star, Lemire wants to promote a Canadian identity by situating Justice League Canada in Toronto and Northern Ontario and refraining from Canadian stereotypes. The Canadian comic industry is most certainly flourishing and successful, creating a sense of pride. And with DC Comics’ slated production of Justice League Canada, Canadian fans would have another reason to stand on guard for thee.



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