Hello and welcome to Cross-Contaminated Media, a short series on video game franchises that have taken their fictional settings and expanded them into books, comics, and film. As the video game industry becomes even more wide-spread, we’re seeing a lot of companies try their hand at developing their intellectual properties by taking them off of a game disk and put them into forms of media that are less graphically intensive, but require more attention on the story and characters.
Of all the companies currently trying their hand at pursuing different avenues of story-telling, Halo is the one that stands out to most people as the current leader of this pack. When we popped Halo: Combat Evolved into our X-Boxes for the first time, we were vaguely aware that there was some history behind this game, at least according to the small preface in the manual. There was some planet named REACH that had been destroyed, Humanity was fighting a losing battle with a genocidal alien hegemony, and the character you were going to be controlling was the last of his kind, a genetically engineered super soldier.
But why had these events come to pass? The story of Halo was preceded by 25 years of brutal warfare and intrigue, and those of us who were engrossed by the game’s universe could only scratch at the surface of the story. Microsoft, perhaps being aware at the great selling power their new IP possessed, had had the foresight to employ Eric Nylund to write The Fall of Reach, which told of the beginnings of Master Chief’s career as a soldier and of the destruction of REACH. The Fall of Reach went on to be a New York Times Bestseller, and the stage was set for a variety of Halo licensed media to continue the story outside of the games.
I’ve had one hell of a couple of weeks. I’ve been busy, tired, and working like crazy on a number of things. But in the middle of it all, I managed to get in a playthrough of Batman: Arkham Asylum, and boy was it worth it. As a few of you know, especially those that read Mitch’s review, the game is a blast, has an excellent story and some quality stealth gameplay. But something about it bothered me: its length.
While I think the game is maybe one of the best of this year, it is just simply too short for the money that people are expected to pay for it. To me, the game is totally worth $30-$40 simply because of its quality, but $60 is just asking too much for a game that only takes about 8 hours or so to beat. Sure, there is replay value in the challenges and Riddler puzzles, but does anyone else see this as an issue in terms of rising game costs?
To me, this is exactly why people tend to gravitate towards sequels and multiplayer games- the $60 price point is just too much for an impulse buy, or for a game that will only take one weekend to finish. So, what do you guys think about this issue? Go!
If there’s one classic video game mascot that has his fans clamoring for a return to the days of old, its Sonic the Hedgehog. The speedy blue Erinaceidae has suffered more than his share of bad games over the past few years, and every time Sega has tried to change Sonic by adding new game-play mechanics and annoying side-kicks, the more it seems obvious that Sonic does what he does best in a simple side-scroller. Indeed, the most enjoyable parts of Sonic Unleashed were when you were controlling Sonic as he speeds through the day-time stages, whipping past beautiful vistas.
The new Sonic game, which is tentatively titled “Project Needlemouse”, is due for release in 2010, being built from the ground up in an all new HD 2D engine. No systems have been confirmed yet, but a PSN and an XBLA release is safe to assume. Check out the teaser, and get ready to have your hopes dashed once more.
If there’s two things I love, it’s Star Wars and shooting people in the face. Thankfully, a nice group of modders calling themselves blackMonkeys shares my love of sci-fi warfare and are hard at work on a total conversion kit for Call of Duty 4 called “Galactic Warfare”, which takes the silky smooth game-play of CoD and fits it in with classic Star Wars imagery.
The trailer for the mod showcases Stormtroopers and Rebel fighters battling it out in Mos Eisely, and it looks like everything that I hoped Battlefront II would be. With the future of the Battlefront series in limbo, I’m looking forward to trying this out when the mod is complete. Check out the video:
This may be the first time that I can remember that I tuned in to specifically watch what is essentially a very elaborate commercial, but this is probably worth it. Who else is going to be watching this?
Poor Valve, they just can’t seem to catch a break. Hot on the heels of the Left 4 Dead 2 boycott debacle and the newly brewing Team Fortress 2 item-deletion snafu comes the news that the new Left 4 Dead campaign, Crash Course, is going to be free for PC users, but will cost 560 Microsoft Banana Bucks for 360 users.
Is Valve heading for another ill-deserved boycott? Maybe not, says Left 4 Dead writer Chet Faliszek. According to Chet, the decision to charge for the X-Box 360 mission lies solely with Microsoft. As Mr. Faliszek tells it, Steam is Valve’s distribution platform, so they can charge whatever they want, even give stuff away for free. Microsoft of course owns LIVE, so pricing for downloadable content there is a whole different ball game.
I think that we can all agree that piracy sucks. The worst aspect of this type of digital high seas shenanigans is that companies are forced to punish legitimate customers to make sure that their games are harder to pirate. Most recently, EA tried to regulate piracy by forcing all copies of their games to include SecuROM, possibly the most draconian form of copy-protection currently available (with the notable exception of the Sony BMG CD copyright scandal).
The most infamous of the SecuROM stories was that of EA’s Spore, Will Wright’s procedurally-generated creature creator simulator from last year. The digital lock-down on Spore enforced a three-install limit upon the game, much to the lament of the internet savvy. As a result of this heavy-handed maneuver, Spore ended up being the most pirated game of 2008 with over 1.7 million downloads.
So, what did the games industry take away from this horrendous back-fire?
We like to do a lot of gaming social activities around these parts. Random questions throughout the week to find out more about what’s going on with you guys, the occasional “Would You Rather”, etc. Well, there are a few simple questions that we’ve never asked to really find out what makes you gamers tick, going all the way back to the beginning and most simple of queries.
One game that seems to be slipping under everyone’s radar this holiday season is Dead Space: Extraction, an on-rails prequel to last year’s surprise hit. Visceral Games is making every effort to ensure that their Wii based outing is set to match up with the chills and thrills that players felt when they explored the USG Ishimura as Isaac Clarke.
On-rail shooters definitely play to the Wii’s strengths, and the transfer from the 360 and PS3 doesn’t seem to have affected the awesome atmosphere of the derelict ship we all know and fear. Check it out:
Infinity Ward has released another Modern Warfare 2 multi-player footage video, and I can’t believe how amazing this game looks. The user interface has been completely changed, and the new blood splatter effect that replaces the traditional pulsing red screen when you’re wounded is pretty slick. The guns also look a lot more detailed, and the player models have gotten a complete over-haul. With a good engine in place from CoD 4, it looks like Infinity Ward went a little wild, and we all get to reap the benefits.
Just like the last multiplayer video IW released, this preview is chock-a-block full of little hidden clues as to what you can expect when the game launches November 10th. Keep your eyes peeled after the video “ends” for a nice little surprise.
Here’s something I’m wondering, though. With Modern Warfare being released on three platforms (360, PC and PS3), will it outperform Halo 3:ODST on sales, or will the power of Halo continue to shine through?
I’m sure that many of you are at least somewhat familiar with Red vs Blue, the popular Halo machinima series from Rooster Teeth. Well, it seems the guys got a bit of time to do a ODST crossover with their series. Check out the first segment. As I’ve said before on this site, I’ve been mostly unimpressed with this game until very recently with the “firefight” footage, which is basically horde mode from Gears of War 2. It looks awesome.
Why are super-hero games so hard to get right? You’ve got tailor made settings, abilities and bad guys that you can just lift straight off the funny pages. Seems like an easy sell, right? Well, if you’ve been paying attention to the number of below-average super-hero games this generation, this task seems like a trickier prospect to pull off than at first glance.
The problem with most super-heroes is that they’re just that: super. When you think about it, every comic book character is practically invincible. Superman only has kryptonite to fear, and Spider-Man has his astonishing reflexes to fall back on. Only one comic book crusader has the right amount of limitations to make a challenging video game: Batman.
He’s almost perfect for a developer to take a hold of. No super-strength, no bullet-proof skin. He’s only got his wits, his body, and a handy assortment of gadgets. Many studios have tried to make the lightning strike with Batman, and now it’s Rocksteady’s turn to put the Dark Knight through his paces.
Are you eagerly awaiting Final Fantasy XIII but still aren’t too clear on its new combat system? Here’s a nice little video out of Gamescom that gives a short and sweet overview of the fighting mechanics of the next Final Fantasy. The English localization is still being worked on, but I’d imagine that this game is (finally) close to being done.
I’ve never actually played a Final Fantasy game, so I’m excited to give this a whirl. Who else is going to sink their time into some J-RPG goodness?
It’s time for our monthly “what are you playing” quiz, so you all know what that means.
Right now, I’ve been working my way through a couple of games: Batman: Arkham Asylum and Shadow Complex. The interesting thing about those is not only are they two of the better games I’ve played all year, they are actually very similar in style. I know there was a big discussion about the cliche term “Metroid-vania” (or Castleroid if you’re feeling saucy), and these two titles definitely fit the bill.
They both function in the same way, letting you explore a large complex, gaining access to it more over time as you learn new abilities or find new weaponry. It’s actually very interesting to see the juxtaposition between them, as one is 3D and one 2D, and both equally as enjoyable.
So, have either of you guys gotten try these out yet? And what are you playing as of this weekend?
Christmas has come early for you Modern Warfare fans, as some considerate soul has put up a minute and a half of juicy single-player footage. It’s off-screen, unfortunately, and the music is placeholder, (it’s actually the track Scorponok from the Transformers film), but it’s a good indication of the changes from Call of Duty 4. Take a look:
Is this “Sony does everything right month” or something? After a few years of bumps and bruises, the company that built the Playstation and Playstation 2, two of the greatest consoles of all time, finally seem to have gotten their act together. Not only have they dropped the PS3 to a nice and enticing $299 and have tons of awesome games on the horizon, but they’ve also released these terribly self-aware and hilarious ads about it. Nice to see that they can poke fun at themselves.
Bundled releases seem to be a growing trend this fall with Gears of War 2 joining the Metroid Prime Trilogy and Fallout 3 as an all-in-one package that includes the downloadable content (DLC) released for the “stop-and-pop” shooter since it first went on sale last year. This includes all the map packs as well as the cut level for the single-player game.
While I’ve heard mixed reviews about the cut level and the multiplayer continues to be spotty, I really can’t complain about the price tag, which is a nice reasonable $39.99. Considering that the game originally launched as a full priced title, and you’re getting all the DLC included (which ran at about ten bucks a piece), this is quite the sweet deal. If you’ve been on the fence about Gears 2, or you just haven’t gotten around to picking it up, September first is when this bad boy drops into stores.
I can’t quite seem to recall Gears 2 actually winning any Game of the Year awards, but I’m certain that it’s sold enough copies to warrant a bundled version. Who’s going to treat themselves to some Gears of War, and what do you guys think of re-releases that package DLC?
With that out of the way, let’s get down to the details, shall we? Shadow Complex is an Xbox Live Arcade game created by Chair Entertainment and released August 19th, 2009. It retails for for $15, whatever that translates to in Microsoft magic money. I’m sure most folks have at least heard of it by now. Per Major Nelson’s site, it was the top selling game on XBLA this past week as well as the #8 most played game on Live. That’s pretty impressive. I suppose this review is for those of you still on the fence about buying it.
Still sceptical about Halo 3: ODST? Well, let all-around bad-ass and ten time consecutive winner of the Aliens Character Look-Alike contest Sergeant Major A.J. Johnson walk you through FireFight, ODST’s new co-operative mode. The thought of Halo having a Horde-like mode appeals to me greatly, as I’ve always found the enemy designs in Halo to be fantastic; just one look into the crowd of enemies lets you know your chances of survival. Seeing the hulking silhouettes of two Hunters ambling through the bushels of Grunts is clear indication that now would be a good time to panic.
I’ve been sold on the ODST expansion since it was announced at the Tokyo Game Show last year, but I know that some people aren’t as stoked about this as I am. After seeing the dearth of information about this game, who’s had their mind changed, and who’s sticking to their guns?
Well, this is a fine how-do-you-do. Looks like Blizzard’s plan to charge for custom maps is starting to make a bit more sense. This beast of a map editor was unveiled at BlizzCon, and is probably the most powerful editing tool ever released alongside a game.
Besides being able to make your vanilla strategy maps, the map editor demo given at the Starcraft 2 panel displayed its robust abilities by showing off an Action-RPG and a Galaga-type shooter. StarCraft: Ghost was even brought back to haunt the audience thanks to the fact that the main character’s model is included in the editor.
This is really exciting news in my opinion, but what do you guys think? Are you willing to pay money for some LittleBig StarCraft action, or do you think that maps made by the community should be doled out for free?