Batman , ...

Geeking Out Over Batman: Arkham City

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

Yesterday, our prayers were answered; the Dark Knight is coming back next year. Yes, fall 2011 will bring us Batman: Arkham City, the follow-up to the award-winning Batman: Arkham Asylum from 2009. It's a sequel we've been frothing at the mouth for since the game's debut trailer, but there's one major problem: we didn't know that much about it.

Thankfully, that's about to change. Yesterday's announcement came with art depicting Catwoman and Batman in all sorts of trouble. The news that accompanies those images can't be far behind. However, it's not here yet, and rather than sit and stew in our own dismay, IGN's gathering the comic book geek power of Hilary Goldstein and Greg Miller to talk about what the new art might means, where they think the game is going, and how hot Catwoman is.

Greg Miller: So, Hil, Batman: Arkham City. Hell yes.

Hilary Goldstein: About time! I remember when the trailer came out a while back, we wondered what it meant to see the Arkham sign inside of Gotham proper. Now we know.

Greg Miller: Uh, do we? What the hell is going on? Did Arkham relocate and explode? Did a section of Gotham get so nuts they quartered it off?

Hilary Goldstein: Now we know, Greg.

Greg Miller: We know nothing! To me, Arkham's "move" doesn't look planned. In the video, it's a makeshift wall around what used to be a thriving city. In the artwork, it's smoking like a bomb went off.

Hilary Goldstein: But now we can make wild assumptions. Even with the trailer, I'd say that it looked like Arkham had to be relocated in Gotham City. So maybe something happens to Arkham, they have to set up a temporary version in the city. And that could lead to some stuff taking place even outside Arkham. This will be awesome!

Greg Miller: So, do you see it being a massive free-roaming thing? The walled off area in the video looks rather large. Can you go anywhere at any time? Will it be a large area that's slowly opening to you like the first game?

Hilary Goldstein: I imagine it will use that same sort of Metroid-style system where as you get upgrades you can access different areas. What's really interesting is that if Arkham is now in part of Gotham, there are opportunities for even more cool Easter Eggs. Could Crime Alley be inside this new Arkham?

Greg Miller: Meh. I was already there in the first game. I'm more interested in getting into the Penguin's club and brawling in the streets. How do you think Catwoman fits into this thing? Lots of people are saying co-op...

Hilary Goldstein: Ugh. I mean, I am glad to see Catwoman in the game -- and it would have been a real force to get her into the first game since it was all in Arkham -- but co-op? Yech. Why can't people be satisfied with a good single-player experience? I think co-op completely destroys the story for games. You just can't enjoy the story the same way with someone else nudging you along. And the first game was all about atmosphere. That gets ruined if I have to hear some idiot going "Oh man, turn Catwoman to the left. Oh yeah, baby."

Greg Miller: True, but I think the folks at Rocksteady know what they're doing. Now, I've been burned by saying that before -- Bryan Singer with Superman Returns, Sam Raimi with Spider-Man 3, etc. -- but I think it'll hold true here. If Catwoman means co-op, I have to imagine it's like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves co-op. You have an awesome single-player story and then specific, out-of-canon co-op quests.

Hilary Goldstein: I hope that is it. I mean, the combat rooms and stuff in Batman: Arkham Asylum weren't bad, but there's definitely a lot more bonus missions that could be added. Hopefully Catwoman isn't some awkward clone of Batman but is actually nimble. OK, so -- Robin? Think he will show? I wouldn't be opposed to Nightwing either.

Greg Miller: Hmm. Putting me on the spot. Earlier this year, that IMDB listing slipped and made it seem like Robin would be in the game. That's where the co-op talk got kicked up. I say it's 50-50. If he does show up, it'll be in a non-playable role. Maybe something like Oracle in the first game. There's such a devotion to this universe and so much was crammed into that first title that I find it hard to believe Robin and Nightwing won't make some kind of appearance -- even if it's just a bio or suit in the Batcave. Do you think they'll make the cut? Would you be fine with them appearing in co-op as well -- again, like Uncharted 2 where you have several people to be.
Hilary Goldstein: I think Nightwing makes sense as a combat option for an arena mode. Maybe even as an exclusive (like how the Joker was only on PS3 at launch). I'd be fine with that. I think Robin could be really interesting as part of the gameplay in Arkham City. Like if he were a smart AI-controlled character who could gain access to areas Batman couldn't or was able to back you up in combat. Again, not co-op -- but as an AI character as integral to Batman's success as he is in the comics. Unless they use Jason Todd as Robin. Then I'd like to be able to bash his head in with a crowbar and blow him up.

Greg Miller: I like that idea for Robin -- as long as the AI isn't stupid as hell. Now, what do you think of the fact that the released artwork is black and white? Could game be black and white like Batman Black and White? Some people are talking about it being a replacement for Detective Mode. Do you think it's just a cool look for the debut art?

Hilary Goldstein: I think it probably will fit into the gameplay in some way. And I hope it is part of the new Detective Mode. Why not make the art style at least look unique and cool in a mode, rather than the whole wireframe thing of Batman: AA? They could also be taking a page from Splinter Cell: Conviction (that's an Xbox 360 game, Greg). When Batman is in the shadows, the game loses its color so you know you're hidden. Such a brilliant way to handle stealth -- I hope they are "inspired" by it.

Greg Miller: Oh, I've heard of the Sexbox 360, Hill don't you worry. Speaking of which, how about Catwoman in that chain bondage? ME-OW!

Hilary Goldstein: I hope the gameplay is just like that crappy EA Catwoman game.

Greg Miller: Well, now you've broken my heart. What about the role of the other villains? Joker was in the trailer, but Two-Face is the one on the poster behind Batman in the Game Informer art we have.

Hilary Goldstein: Oh yeah, there are so many cool Batman villains were didn't really see in the first game. Two-Face is probably both the best and worst Batman villain, depending on how he's handled. I mean, I've seen him really be this tortured man who basically is Batman gone wrong. And then I see other times where he is just so frigging dumb and corny and lame. Do you have, like, three villains you really want to see?

Greg Miller: Two of the ones I want have all but been shown (Mr. Freeze and Two-Face), and I'd like to see the Penguin show up as just a reformed crook running a club. Still, give me Talia al Ghul. Let her bounce off of the Catwoman/Batman relationship. Introduce Damian so that the third game can be him teaming with Jason Todd to take down Bats, Robin and Nightwing. Go all the way down the comic book rabbit hole, Rocksteady!

Hilary Goldstein: I'm not sure you are aware, Greg, but I'm a pretty massive Batman fanboy. I've read something like 200 Batman graphic novels. And I have to say, Ra's al Ghul can be the absolute best Batman villain when done right. (Read Birth of the Demon, Son of the Demon, and Bride of the Demon.) But for him to work, he has to be the main orchestrator; he can't be a bit-player. So unless he is the kingpin of this, leave him out. But Talia is juuuuuust fine to include.

Greg Miller: Exactly. And she's hot. Drug Batman again and let her have her way with him. Again. Game of the Year.

Hilary Goldstein: Oh, and can we have Bat-Mite in the game? Just kidding, Bat-Mite is so friggin' stupid.

Greg Miller: Oh, dear lord, no. Please no. Outside of wanting more ladies in leather suits and no goddamn joke characters, what do you want to see on the gadget front this time around? Do you want the same stable of items? You want to drive the Batmobile this time?

Hilary Goldstein: Yeah, if they can make it fun to control, I am down for the Batmobile being part of the equation. They got a lot of Batman's key gear last time. I just hope I don't start at zero again. I hate games where it's like, every time they have to find a way to make you have no gadgets and work up. Start with Batman's usual assortment and then improve and add from there.

I do kind of hope there is a surfing contest so I can use that shark repellent exclusive pre-order bonus from Gamestop.

Greg Miller: Hmm. I'm betting you're starting at near-zero again. That's how the Metroid-style you want works. I bet you get a batarang and grappling hook to start with. From there, I'm sure they'll have a bunch of crazy crap I can't even think of.

Hilary Goldstein: And maybe like an explosive Boy Wonder to throw at walls?

Greg Miller: Or a real one. Have Batman just strapping exploding capes to the street kids he finds in the quarantine area.

Hilary Goldstein: One last question for you Greg. We've talked about Batman allies and villains. But what about other DC guest stars. Should we be expecting any guest appearances from other DC Comics characters?

Greg Miller: No. It breaks the game if you do. Batman's world is so dark and hopeless to an extent. If Superman or Flash pops up with their bright colors, why don't they just solve the problem Batman's facing in the blink of an eye? This has to be a "man versus the freaks" type of thing. If it wasn't, they'd call it a JLA game, it would be set in space, and it would probably suck.

Hilary Goldstein: True enough. Though everyone reading this just screamed out, "The Dark Knight Returns," which really should be the next game Rocksteady makes.

Greg Miller: No. Make a Superman game that doesn't suck, Rocksteady.

Hilary Goldstein: How to make a great Superman game is a topic for another time, Gregerino. I'd say that means we're just about done here.

Greg Miller: OK. Back to my cryo-sleep until they release DC Universe Online.


Last Game Played

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StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void

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Well, after nearly 24 hours the StarCraft 2 beta is creating some pretty positive impressions all around. Everyone expected Blizzard's "when it's ready" philosophy to pay off in terms of polish and consistency and the beta is proof that this approach can pay real dividends. Yesterday, Charles wrote up some impressions of the front end, explaining some of the finer points of the lobby and exploring some of the tools for post-game analysis. Today we thought we'd bring you a look at how the game actually plays. Of course, since this is a beta, things are still subject to change, but it should give you a good idea of the pace and feel of the long-awaited sequel.

For this first go round, we're going to be looking at the Terrans and taking them through a match on the Blistering Sands map. This 1v1 map has players facing off against each other across a rocky field. Things start off just like they did in the old StarCraft. You've got your Command Center jammed into one corner of the map near a field of minerals and some vespene gas vents. Your SCVs are put to work right away building refineries and harvesting minerals so you can get your economy up and running.

With resource income assured, you'll soon be faced with the crucial decision of what to do next. Do you use your meager resources to create a few military units to send out to raid the enemy? Do you build more SCVs and capture the three resource piles on your side of the map? Do you keep pumping out SCVs to work at your current Com Center and hope that the enemy leaves you alone for a while?

I'm a classic defensive player when it comes to StarCraft, but I didn't want to cede the middle of the map to the enemy just yet. With a sizable group of SCVs working around the first Com Center, I sent a few out to the furthest resource node that was still on my side of the map and set up a new Com Center. I dropped down a barracks nearby so my reinforcements could be closer to the chokepoints, and hoped that I could hold back any early attack from the enemies. With the barracks done, I churned out a couple of marines and sent SCVs off to create bunkers along the enemy's three possible approaches to my base.

Marines are pretty cheap but they're the only thing you can build at the start without having to dish out extra resources for upgrades or new structures. A few extra supply depots gave me a little more room at the top of the unit cap to fully staff the two bunkers I'd built but before I could manage that, the Zerg marched in and smashed their way through the more distant bunker and made a beeline right for my base. Now not only did I have to divert units back to my main base to eliminate the attackers, but I still had to keep marines heading for the broken chokepoint to stop the Zerg from getting any more units through. And of course, this also meant taking SCVs away from resource collecting to build another barracks and drop down a sensor tower to help give me a little more notice of a future attack.

The recently completed Engineering Bay not only gave me access to the sensor towers, but also anti-air missile turrets and a few other attractive upgrades. In time I was able to get a nice first line of defense that included a full bunker, a sensor tower and a missile turret that would stall any enemy long enough for me to send new units to defend against the Zerg attack.

Despite their frequent recon flights over my forward Com Center, the Zerg seemed inclined towards a direct attack, rather than hitting the less defended pass and marching straight through to my relatively undefended main base. It's a good thing too, because the extra marines I was able to send to the point of attack helped to hold the enemy off long enough for me to construct a third base and a vehicle factory to pump out the flame-spouting Hellion scouts. I wasn't exactly rich, but I had enough cash to buy the upgrades required to unlock some new units including my favorite, the Thor assault mech.

Personally, I don't see why anyone would build anything but Thors. Sure they take up a lot of room in the roster and, yes, they're slow and expensive, but just a couple of them were able to fend off just about anything the enemy sent my way. Of course, to make the most of the experience, I tried a bit of everything else too, from the Reaper raiders to the massive Battle Cruisers, which are nearly as cool as the Thors once they're upgraded. As the enemy continued to send larger and larger waves my way, I was able to chew them up while also boosting the size of my own forces a bit. As the smaller and weaker units fell in battle, despite the presence of Medivacs, I used the extra space in the unit cap to pump out, you guessed it, more Thors.

At this point, there was really nothing left to do but send my Thors and Battle Cruisers, accompanied by a diverse array of additional units that did not look nearly as stylish, through the other side of the chokepoint and take out the Zerg bases. The defenses were well prepared but not up to the task of fending off a handful of my most powerful land and air units. While they pounded the enemy base to pieces, the rest of my units engaged the Zerg defenders. As first one base fell and then another, we made our way slowly but surely to the main Zerg base in the opposite corner of the map. They never stood a chance.

All in all, the experience took little more than half an hour, with some extensions for note taking and exploring all the units and techs in the game. There was surprisingly little down time when there wasn't an interesting decision before me or a sense that the battle was progressing. The post-game build order was particularly revealing in terms of how the enemy and I approached the game. Where I had opted to boost my economy a bit, he had decided on a more aggressive early attack. It gave him the chance to take out one of my bunkers and actually wipe out all the SCVs at my main base, but by then I was earning enough resources to wipe out the attackers and establish a stronger defensive position along that line of approach. By the time he tried to probe my other defenses, I had enough momentum to hold him back until the Thors could turn the tide.

There's obviously a lot more to be said about the Terrans and the other two races, so stay tuned to IGN for even more coverage of the beta in the coming days.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 -- Vietnam

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

Battlefield is going back to Vietnam, this time for a downloadable expansion to the well-received first-person shooter Bad Company 2. The add-on, due out this Winter for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, delivers four new maps, a rematch of sorts between the North Vietnamese army and the United States, and a change in the weapon and vehicle options to match the setting. I got my first taste of this huge expansion at an EA press event on the eve of the Tokyo Game Show.

If you've played Battlefield: Bad Company 2 before, then you know exactly what to expect out of the Vietnam expansion. The base game remains unchanged. Sure, you get different tools of destruction and new achievements or trophies to unlock, but the modes and basic approach to a shooter follow the guidebook laid out by Bad Company 2's multiplayer. That means a focus on team play, some objective based gaming, and wide open maps filled with destructible buildings and plenty of vehicles. Squint your eyes a bit while playing the Vietnam expansion and you can imagine you're still playing the original base game.

That, however, would be missing the point. Vietnam is the perfect setting to show off the power of DICE's Frostbite engine. Little straw huts crumble under the might of tank shells. The landscape is lush with trees and shrubs, all of which can be mowed down through machine gun fire. When making a game that puts such an emphasis on destruction, Vietnam is the ideal locale.

I got to play a Conquest game on a map called Phu Bai Valley. Here, each side was fighting over three locations of interest while doing their best to take out the opposition. Helicopters and tanks were in heavy rotation, though I also found that snipers have a ton of places to hide amidst the trees and huts. My favorite moment came when I crashed a helicopter into an armored vehicle, hopping out just before impact. That was a pretty great explosion.

I only got to play a couple of rounds, but what I played was fun. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is still a fantastic looking and handling game and this download is going to do a nice job of reminding everyone of just that. New maps are always a welcome addition to games with such a heavy emphasis on multiplayer modes, but this download is going well beyond simply adding new places to fight. It flips the script and puts a fresh face on a game that millions have already tried.

My quick impressions thus far tell me that fans are going to eat this expansion up. If you've grown tired of the Bad Company 2 gameplay, this won't do a ton to get you excited again as the core isn't changing. That said, this is a great way to reinvigorate the community during the holiday flood of new games

Crysis 2

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Today at Gamescom we got our first taste of Crysis 2's multiplayer component. Developer Crytek is going for a complete multiplayer experience that feels like its own game in addition to the single-player campaign. There are supposedly around 80 hours of multiplayer gameplay with plenty of stuff to unlock. A few of us IGN Editors played a couple rounds and had a good time. We played Crysis 2 on Xbox 360.

One of the unique aspects of Crysis that sets it apart from other shooters is the nanosuit you wear that grants you powerful abilities. In multiplayer you can activate two abilities at any time: Armor or Stealth. These modes let you play the game stealthily or in a guns blazing Rambo style. You can also select a variety of modules that will further modify your abilities.

Crysis 2 takes place in a bombed-out New York City. Being surround by crumbling tall buildings provides many opportunities for vertical exploration. Your nanosuit also makes you more agile that your average first-person shooter hero, allowing players to be more mobile than most games of this sort. A Crytek representative described it to us as "parkour with guns."

There will be six multiplayer modes in all, but today we were shown just two: Team Instant Action and Alien Crash Site. In each mode, your dealing with two warring factions: Marines vs. Cell.

Team Instant Action is a standard team deathmatch where you try to rack up more kills than the opposing team before time runs out. You've got a radar in the bottom left of your screen that will point out enemy units as red dots. We played Team Instant Action on a map called Impact. In the wake of the disaster that his NYC two buildings have crashed into one another. Impact sets you loose on the mixed guts of these two skyscrapers. One building is much older than the other, so you'll see much contrasted interior decorating styles as you move about. It's a great idea for a multiplayer map.

After our game of Team Instant Action (which my team lost) we played a game of Alien Crash Site (which my team won!). Here, alien dropships fly by and eject some sort of pod that essentially becomes a capture the flag location. Your team will want to make its way to the pod first and hold it as long as you can before the other guys show up. You'll earn points as long as you control the site.

We played Alien Crash Site on a map called Rooftop Garden, which should be pretty self-explanatory. The rooftop setting provides a nice opportunity to glance around the skyline and take in the view of a detonated NYC.

During a match, if you pull off a skillful kill (a headshot, for instance) the enemy will drop a dog tag. You can pick these up for Support Bonuses like increased radar range or the ability to see bullet trails from enemy fire, cluing you in to their location.

There are preset classes like Assault, Sniper, and Ranger (around five or six in all) that have individual weapon loadouts and you will unlock custom classes that you can tweak to your liking. During a multiplayer game you can switch classes whenever you respawn if you desire. There are 80 ranks to achieve, over 20 suit upgrades, over 20 weapons, and over 250 dogtags, all earned by racking up experience points during matches. At the end of a game you'll be given XP based on your style of play. For example, players who use their nanosuit's Stealth function a lot will earn more stealth points than those that prefer Assault.

Crysis 2 is being developed by Crytek UK, which consists of former members of Free Radical, the team responsible for the excellent Time Splitters games. Crysis has always been about technology over style, and we do think it's a fairly generic looking shooter. It felt good to play, though, and has a nice sense of speed. We were definitely enjoying ourselves, particularly during the interesting Alien Crash Site game.

Gamescom: Electrifying Enemies in Star Wars: The Old Republic

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Settling in at a demo station in EA's booth at Gamescom 2010, I had my first opportunity to play as a lightsaber-wielding class in BioWare's upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. I was lucky enough to play a Sith character, an Inquisitor to be exact, which was preferable because, as we all know to be true, "Good is dumb." He wasn't a full-fledged Sith yet, unfortunately, just a trainee of sorts. Though his face was most definitely evil, filled with spikes and ferocious markings, he only had a training sword instead of the iconic electric death blade.

This was just following a presentation where BioWare explained to a crowd all the features of its big budget online game. It's a fully voiced MMO, which means when you talk to NPCs to accept quests, they actually talk to you through cut scenes with what seems to be quality voice acting. Your character will even talk back when given a choice in the conversation, establishing more of a sense of motive and personality, unlike in some other MMOs where you collect quests like you're stealing pies from windowsills.

Later on in a character class' life cycle a specialization can be chosen to open up more varied modes of play. For example, with the Inquisitor you can choose to go the path of the assassin and use double-bladed sabers while taking a more stealthy approach to combat and walloping enemies with high burst damage, or can go sorcerer to more effectively singe targets with lighting from a distance.

BioWare also made mention of the space combat in the game, which sounds like it won't exactly be free-roaming, but will allow you to do things like soar through asteroid fields, blast enemy fighters, and flee from capital ships. Since every player can acquire and customize a ship, this should hopefully be a nice diversion to the more traditional on-foot gameplay, and it's tough to say more without getting some hands-on time with the ships.

Back to my Inquisitor character, he was initially tasked with proving his worth by finding a certain NPC located nearby the starting area on Korriban. By roaming outside I found myself in a red rock valley along the sides of which were carved huge, ominous figures. I trotted around and checked out the skill bar. It wasn't very full yet, the character was very low level, but could still pull off a few useful attacks. Saber strike could be triggered at close range for a boost in melee damage played out across a flurry of strikes. Shock functioned as a simple ranged electrical attack, and lighting drain was a channeled ability that damaged, restored force, and slowed targets. If a fight proved to be especially tough, there's also the option to meditate to quickly restore health and force over time. With a cooldown of one minute, it seems like this ability is meant to be used pretty often, keeping downtime between battles to a minimum.

Out in the valley with a large pyramidal temple off in the distance, there was plenty to fight. A number of insect-like creatures were roaming the orange-red terrain, and it wasn't long before I cut a number of them down, inadvertently fulfilling a bonus objective on my original quest to prove I'm worthy of being a Sith. Then into the underground I went, where more of the creatures roamed. An NPC was standing down there too who wanted more of the creatures killed, and through a fully-voice series of cut-scenes gave me the task of blasting apart a room filled with the eggs of the creatures. Further in to the cavern network, a datapad sitting on the ground had additional instructions for wiping out bands of looters and robbers down in the tunnels, which I did and was awarded with a few bits of fancier armor. Finally I discovered the NPC that I was originally tasked to find, and he instructed me to kill or be killed in a fight against his minions to show that I'm properly prepared. How very Sith-like.

That's where the demo ended, and it'll be interesting to see how a higher level character with a wider range of skills might play out, especially in a group. If you haven't already, you should probably head over to our video page and watch the space combat trailer, and then join the rest of us in hoping this game might be ready for launch sometime soon.

BioShock Infinite Takes to the Skies

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Last night at the lavish Plaza Hotel just off central park in Manhattan, Irrational Games announced its next project. It's been almost three years since we've heard a word from the Boston-based developer on how it would follow up the critically acclaimed hit BioShock. Now we finally know. Prepare to enter the floating city of Columbia in BioShock Infinite.

Studio head Ken Levine was on hand at the event to introduce his latest project through both a trailer and an extended demo. The trailer is something of a tease. It begins by showing what looks like the ocean's floor and a city suspended under water. But the image turns out to be an illusion, as viewers are simply seeing a piece of memorabilia from the World's Fair in Chicago through the eyes of the protagonist as he is being drowned in a fish tank.

The camera follows his gaze as he is thrown to the ground and then out of a window by a hulking, mechanized creature that looks like a precursor to the Big Daddy. As the character falls we're shown a beautiful panorama of a floating city held aloft by massive hot air pouches. The character crashes atop a zeppelin and struggles to cling to its canvas sides before losing his grip and plummeting downward.

His fall is stopped by a floating bed of roses being controlled by a beautiful, dark-haired woman on the balcony of a passing building. She reels him in through force of will before being grabbed from behind by another one of the mechs, leaving the character in the trailer to fall to his death. Like the original BioShock trailer that showed viewers a grizzly version of their own death in that game, this world isn't looking to treat you any nicer.The setting for BioShock Infinite may seem even more fantastic and technologically advanced than rapture, but it's set in 1912, years before the events of the first game. In this adventure you play as Booker DeWitt, a disgraced former private detective who's picked up a new case. Your goal is to find a young woman who's gone missing and return her unharmed. The only problem is that she's being kept on the flying city of Columbia.

In 1900, Columbia is unveiled as a symbol of America's success as a nation. It floats around the world as a traveling World's Fair, a marvel of human innovation. But an international incident involves the city and it turns out that the airborne metropolis is also heavily armed. A confrontation occurs, and Columbia disappears into the clouds. DeWitt's lead in the case knows how to find Columbia, and how to find Elizabeth. The problem is that the city's inhabitants aren't that willing to let her, and her very strange abilities, just walk away.

The demo that followed the trailer was so packed with action, so dense with hints and nods to what we might experience in this game, that it was difficult to process it all. The first thing that is readily apparent is how visually impressive the title is. The same shiny water effects, sharp textures, and impressive art design as in BioShock, but there are improvements everywhere. The most significant of these improvements is the sense of scale. No longer are you trapped in small claustrophobic settings. Columbia is massive, and the separate floating city blocks drift through the air all around you. It's just one of the things made possible by the completely new engine developed for the game.

As the demo begins, DeWitt walks through the cobblestone streets of Columbia. Sun plays off of the buildings, leaves float through the air, and the view smacks of an early Americana. But like Rapture, something awful has happened here and death is just around the corner. A despondent man drives by in a half broken down carriage and a horse lies dead in the street as crows pick at its flesh. A separate section of the city floats just above, then shrugs and collapses in front of DeWitt, nearly crushing him. Another man sits on a park bench surrounded by the same black birds.

DeWitt follows the sound of a political speech to a town covered in picket signs. The messaging is clear, the citizens must take up arms to protect their rights from the anarchists. Wooden barrels filled with guns line the gazebo that a politician named stall is stumping from. As DeWitt approaches Stall, the man's eyes flare red, the air around him vibrates and he calls upon the citizens of Columbia to attack.

DeWitt goes for one of the weapons and comes up with a sniper rifle just as the man from the park bench unleashes a flock of attacking crows at him. DeWitt fights back and sends him careening over a railing as Stall latches onto a floating rail system and heads for another section of floating city off in the distance. DeWitt peers over the edge to find the crow man dead on a platform below, but he psychically pulls a tonic called Murder of Crows to his hand, takes a gulp, and gains the ability to control the birds. A blood covered raven perches on his hand with pieces of meat still hanging from its beak.
The previous sequence goes by in a flash, but it highlights some important features of BioShock Infinite. DeWitt can seemingly psychically push and pull almost everything around him. There are gas containers, pots and pans, and most importantly weapons, all of which he can manipulate at will. In one scene, he yanks a shotgun from a man's hands from a distance then turns it around and pulls the trigger. Also, when Stall turns tail, DeWitt tracks him for a moment with the sniper rifle, showing off just how large the city is. Mere specks in the distance are targetable and can fire back.

The aforementioned rail system is called the skyline and it connects all of Columbia's floating islands. It was constructed as a way to transport cargo but now the citizens of Columbia and DeWitt use a grappling device to slide along the rails at a break-neck speed. And this isn't just "grinding" ala Ratchet and Clank. Players can change rails and direction on the fly, engaging in combat as they ride the roller coaster-like tracks.

Stall has escaped to a part of the city equipped with gigantic canons, and he takes aim at DeWitt. The city explodes around DeWitt and forces him to hop onto the rails, riding first upward then accelerating down and around a bend. A deranged citizen comes at him on the opposite rail and DeWitt readies a hammer, pummeling the man through the air and into the side of a building, leaving a bloody splotch as he bounces off and downward.

DeWitt lands back on solid ground and enters a tavern to an audience that becomes almost immediately violent. What follows is a flood of combat that shows DeWitt psychically disarming characters, blasting them with gunfire, and releasing swarms of crows on a crowd of enemies. The sequence ends with a familiar lightning power used to fry enemies in their boots. When DeWitt confronts Stall a second time he stops one of the mortars fired at him with a wave of his hand, then turns it back on the gun and blows it to hell.

It's at this point that the attacking city folk start looking like a mob. The new engine can currently throw about 15 enemies at players at the same time. It's a good thing players will have some help. At this point in the demo DeWitt is joined by Elizabeth, the woman he's been sent to liberate from Columbia and she has some powers of her own.

Not only does Elizabeth react to the combat, she helps by using her own powers to add elements to the environments. In one sequence, she sends a rain cloud over a mob of enemies giving DeWitt's lightning an extra kick if he decides to use it. And he does have a choice. Elizabeth's actions will never directly kill people off, so she won't do all of the work for you. And according to the developers she won't get in the way either as players can choose to ignore her actions and handle threats themselves.

As DeWitt and Elizabeth head toward a bridge, they get pinned down by gunfire behind stacks of what look like kitchen supplies. Elizabeth somehow turns the metallic cookware into a cyclone and then fuses it into a molten ball of metal, instructing DeWitt to launch it at their enemies using the game's version of a Force Push. The plan works, but it's at this point that the two are introduced to BioShock Infinite's version of a Big Daddy.

These creatures have a human head set atop a large mechanized body. Their visible heart is encased in glass and their oversized bodies have something of a steampunk aesthetic, only slightly less advanced. Bullets don't seem to do much to the behemoths so Elizabeth and DeWitt try to bring down the bridge around the threat. She shoots a beam of light at the top of the structure (perhaps the same heat ray she used on the pots and pans) and DeWitt sends an explosive towards it to bring the whole thing down. As the hulking enemy tries to claw its way off the collapsing bridge a few more shotgun blasts send it into the abyss.

Elizabeth collapses in exhaustion after the encounter and a trickle of blood runs out of her nose. Her actions are extraordinary, but they also drain her physically. She needs DeWitt's help if they're going to take on the entire city.

DeWitt exclaims that the "thing" is what had been chasing Elizabeth. She corrects him and points towards the sky, at a much larger, much more ominous threat. A giant mechanical bird-like creature swoops down from a building, crushing DeWitt, leaving the screen black and ending the demo.

The demo showed off quite a lot for a game's debut. It gave us a look at a completely new setting among the clouds and a BioShock game with two compelling characters. Levine promises that by introducing two well-defined main characters, BioShock Infinite will make a huge leap in storytelling when compared to its predecessors. Though there was nothing revealed about the economic elements of Infinite or any hacking puzzles, this was just a first look. There's a lot more still to be revealed.

BioShock Infinite is scheduled to be released in 2012 for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC so it may be a while before all of the wondrous secrets of the flying city of Columbia are known.

Guild Wars 2 Goes Mobile

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

Massively multiplayer games already have a reputation for eating the lives of the millions of players who play them. They're immersive, addictive and time consuming by design. Often, when you're not playing them, you're thinking about playing them. That's why ArenaNet may be the most evil company in the world after announcing what they call their "Extended Experience."

The Guild Wars 2 Extended Experience is basically one or more mobile apps (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android etc...) that allow you to stay connected to Guild Wars 2 while you're out buying mountain dew. We spoke to the team working on it, and while they were reticent to reveal any details, we do know a few things.

This isn't the first time mobile apps have been developed for an MMO, of course. World of Warcraft has a couple very popular ones. This is more than just a standard Armory or Auction House app, though. Players will be able to communicate both within and outside the game with the app. "Initially we're targeting communications features because that's what MMOs are all about - being social," the developers told us. "As for how easy communication is; when you are in-game, your friend will appear 'online,' which doesn't mean they are necessarily playing, it just means they can be reached. For example, if you send them a whisper to a friend, you won't have to worry about how they are connected; your whisper will reach them. Currently we're investigating custom chat clients, texting and how we can support various instant messenger clients."

There's more to it than that, though. The Guild Wars 2 map, within the game, is interactive -- you can click and drag it, look at important locations and set markers. The Extended Experience will move this to your phone too, letting you look around the game's map in real time. This isn't all that impressive until you realize that the game's map tracks the locations of NPCs, who move in accordance with the game's dynamic event system.

Likewise, you can watch (to some extent, anyway) as the dynamic events themselves unfold, and even alert your friends to the latest via a message, and ping the map to show them the location. It has the potential to allow guild leaders to still be active even when they're not near their PC.

Of course, this is both awesome and horrible. From a technological and conceptual standpoint, this lowers the boundaries between the game world and your everyday life, which is cool. On the other hand, it lowers the boundaries between the game world and your everyday life. Like we needed another way for MMOs to permeate deeper into our daily habits. Luckily, the team insists that if you don't want to be pestered at work by guildmates, you won't be. It will be very easy to control how and when people from within the game can contact you.

This whole Extended Experience thing may trigger hopes inside of you of one day being able to play a game like Guild Wars 2 -- in its entirety -- from your phone, and it seems like that's the direction the team eventually wants to head in. " Ultimately, our plan is to provide as much of the PC experience as we can on mobile devices," they told us. "While it won't be the same experience until (and if) mobile platforms reach hardware parity with gaming PCs, there are many compelling games on mobile devices today. There's no reason why there shouldn't be a compelling Guild Wars 2 experience also."

Despite my brain telling me that this is what will ultimately be my downfall, I'm actually very excited to try this out, and to see how mobile platforms can be used as a tool to enhance the social-side of the MMO experience.

What are your thoughts on the Guild Wars 2 Extended Experience? Let us know in our comments section below.

Dragon Age II: Going RogueIt's

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

It's no secret that BioWare has made some drastic, and in my opinion positive, changes to Dragon Age 2 – faster attack animations, a distinctive art style, an adapted version of the Mass Effect conversation wheel plus a fully voiced main character. The updated combat is my by far favorite, as I found the formerly sloth-like animations to be downright dull.

I've seen the revamped warrior and mage classes in action but haven't seen much of the rogue despite its presence at community events like PAX. Luckily, I received some dedicated hands-on time with the final character class and got a peek at a pants-less party member. Here's a breakdown:

Strike Swiftly And True
Not designed for a tank role like the warrior or damage and support class like the mage, the rogue is more of a one-on-one fighter. Great for tackling bosses, the rogue is armed with the speed and nimbleness of a jumping spider. Aggressive, but stealthy, a rogue aptly navigates crowded battle zones with stun bombs and can backflip away from danger or can teleport directly behind an enemy, depending on their skill set.

Practice Makes Perfect
The rogue, like other classes, can be built out to enhance certain traits. Assassin, Shadow and Duelist are all specializations available to the rogue, and each offers a unique way to slay enemies.

Assassins are trained in the Antivan traditions, so they are able to mark their foes and call out a target's weaknesses to their allies, which helps increase the party's damage against enemies.

The stealthiest of all the rogues, Shadows are able to slip away at any moment in battle, lay low in the dark and then wait for the perfect time to strike.

The Duelist, though not as stealthy as the Shadow or as accurate as the Assassin, is extremely difficult to hit, so you can feel free to taunt your enemies while you hack away at them.

Getting A Face Lift
The first area BioWare showed off to the press and fans was the Blightlands, and it sure wasn't pretty. A brown color palate topped with burned tree stumps and rocks, the new "art style" didn't seem promising.

This time, I got to see a bit of Kirkwall. The entire city, though structurally impressive, has a rough populace. My party was exploring a portion called High Town, which is a nicer area but still seedy. Despite Kirkwall's less than stellar reputation, it proved that Dragon Age 2 will be a much better looking game than Origins. The buildings all shared a similar clean architecture, but there was a foreboding feel that lingered.

But the streets were nothing compared to the Chantry, adorned with giant solid gold statues and blood red candles, it reeked of religious worship.

Practice Makes Perfect
The rogue, like other classes, can be built out to enhance certain traits. Assassin, Shadow and Duelist are all specializations available to the rogue, and each offers a unique way to slay enemies.

Assassins are trained in the Antivan traditions, so they are able to mark their foes and call out a target's weaknesses to their allies, which helps increase the party's damage against enemies.

The stealthiest of all the rogues, Shadows are able to slip away at any moment in battle, lay low in the dark and then wait for the perfect time to strike.

The Duelist, though not as stealthy as the Shadow or as accurate as the Assassin, is extremely difficult to hit, so you can feel free to taunt your enemies while you hack away at them.

Getting A Face Lift
The first area BioWare showed off to the press and fans was the Blightlands, and it sure wasn't pretty. A brown color palate topped with burned tree stumps and rocks, the new "art style" didn't seem promising.

This time, I got to see a bit of Kirkwall. The entire city, though structurally impressive, has a rough populace. My party was exploring a portion called High Town, which is a nicer area but still seedy. Despite Kirkwall's less than stellar reputation, it proved that Dragon Age 2 will be a much better looking game than Origins. The buildings all shared a similar clean architecture, but there was a foreboding feel that lingered.

But the streets were nothing compared to the Chantry, adorned with giant solid gold statues and blood red candles, it reeked of religious worship.

Rogues are also blessed with the talent of archery, and they can equip either a bow and arrow or dual daggers. Not too shabby.

Rolling With My Homies In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood's Campaign

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

A couple of months back IGN's own Daemon Hatfield got the initial look at Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood's campaign. In his preview he detailed several new elements such as the ability to use your own group of assassin's to do your bidding, or how a major component of the game is taking out towers in Rome, but through it all we could only guess how much fun it would be to play. That all changed recently, though, when I went hands-on with the first couple hours of Brotherhood's campaign, putting Ezio through is paces in a gorgeously rendered Rome.

Yes, the game is as pretty as ever.If you haven't been following it, here's what you need to know about Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. It's the third entry in the Assassin's Creed franchise, and it once again places you in the shoes Desmond Miles, who is going through his genetic memories to relive the lives of his assassin ancestors. While the game will include parts where you'll directly control Desmond, the bulk of the game has you playing AC2's hero (and Desmond's long-deceased ancestor), Ezio Auditore. And while AC2 ended with Ezio in a position of power, Brotherhood turns this around quickly, forcing him to fight for his very life and build up a new society of assassins in the city of Rome.

The bulk of the gameplay is very similar to AC2. Players still use Ezio to lithely jump around the environment, scaling any and every surface around them in order to get the drop on enemies. All the stealth mechanics also return, with players using crowds, benches, and the bustling nature of the city (read: hiring prostitutes) to disguise themselves. AC2 fans will feel instantly comfortable, as Brotherhood recycles enough of the last game to feel like it's more AC2.5 than AC3. That might sound disappointing to some people, I know, but I can't imagine anyone that played 2 is going to be sad to play a new story with largely familiar mechanics.

Not that everything you'll experience in Brotherhood is old though, with the biggest change coming in the form of your brotherhood. Through some twists of fate I won't spoil, Ezio ends up in Rome. Here his influence is limited, but he's out to hurt the reigning Borgia family any way he can. To this end Ezio assaults Borgia towers, killing the commander of the tower and then burning the structure to the ground. As you do this you'll slowly gain influence over the city, opening up new quests in liberated areas, and often giving you access to new assassins. Once you complete a quest to get the new assassin -- which can be as easy as saving them from some guards -- you recruit them into your brotherhood.

OK, so Ezio saves some guys and recruits them into his assassin's guild -- now what? Now is when you get the chance to use them to kick some serious ass. Recruits can periodically be used directly in the game for assistance in combat, and they can also be used to do missions around the world. Using pigeon coops around the city, Ezio doles out tasks to his underlings that make them temporarily unavailable for his direct use, but will give them valuable experience, as well as gold for the brotherhood.

Once recruits gain enough experience they'll level up, giving them access to better equipment, and making them even more valuable when you need to call them to your side. Experienced assassins are invaluable: at several points in the latter portion of the campaign I played they saved my life, providing either the distraction I needed to escape a high-profile assassination, or even helping me fight off a seemingly insurmountable group of attackers.

The downside of having assassins that you get to build up into on-call killing machines? They can die. It's strangely tragic to watch a character you've built up fall to an enemy, and the game takes this into account by giving you the chance to hear your recruit's final words. Granted, it's not something you have to listen to if you don't want, but it helps to build your investment in the characters and world you're playing in.

Another significant addition Brotherhood brings to the single player game is a whole lot more time with Desmond. While the other games let you wander around a couple of environments as the assassin's descendant, Brotherhood is the first that will let you see what he's learned from his ancestor's memories. I don't want to get too far into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say Desmond's got some moves, which you'll get to see a little here and there when you're not getting all stabby with Ezio.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is shaping up well considering how soon it's releasing -- just one year after AC2. Not all the changes in Brotherhood will be as dramatic as creating your own guild of assassins(players can expect to do a ton of the same type of side-quests), but it'll no doubt be more than enough to satiate fans who've been dying to know what became of Ezio and, more importantly, his descendant.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Goes 3D and Gets Bot Support

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

The three-dimensional craze isn't going to stop any time soon as Activision announced that Call of Duty: Black Ops will be 3D compatible on every system (Xbox 360, PS3 and PC with the proper NVIDIA chipset) when it launches on November 9.

I got the chance to swing by the W Hotel in San Francisco last week to check out Black Ops in 3D. While I'm not a huge fan of having to wear glasses to get the 3D effect, there's no denying that Call of Duty uses the technology as well as any other game I've seen.

An Activision representative showed me two campaign levels in full 3D glory: WMD (a level that we've been seeing since E3) and Numbers (something brand new). If you haven't seen WMD, then you probably haven't seen much from Black Ops at all. It features the SR-71 spy plane and a bit of recon elements as you direct troops from above, but the benefits of 3D didn't make themselves known until later in the level when the player-controlled character landed on the ground. There were two instances that really wowed me when it came to showcasing 3D. The first was when the scoped crossbow made its first appearance. The effect of the scope was so awesomely pronounced that I felt like I could actually look see inside of it when the gun was in the standard "fire from the hip" position. The glass was noticeably recessed from the metal encasing of the scope and the depth was a cool showcase.

The other instance occurred during explosions. Particle effects really do jump off the screen given the right situation. Sparks and bits of shrapnel looked great in my time with the game and given how many explosions there are throughout any Call of Duty game, I'd say that's a pretty important effect to get right. Thankfully Treyarch seems to have done exactly that.

Now, I could go into a lot of detail about the new level called Numbers, but I won't. I don't want to spoil any of the story for you diehard fans out there. So instead what I'll do is give you a teaser of the tone that Black Ops is trying to set. The beginning of Numbers opens with an interrogation. More accurately, it begins with a player-controlled interrogation. As you beat on your prisoner trying to pry information out of him, your character notices a glass window to his left. An on-screen prompt appears so you can interact with the panes, which I immediately assumed would allow your character to smash the prisoner's head through the glass. Not so. Instead, pressing the left trigger allows your character to punch the glass himself and remove a single shard. "Maybe he's going to cut the captured soldier ever-so-slowly", I thought. No, instead he inserts the shard into the poor bastard's mouth and proceeds to bludgeon either side of his face as the razor sharp object slices the inside of his mouth causing him to shriek in pain. It was gruesomely awesome and set the stage nicely for the rest of Black Ops' intensity.

Finally, I was shown a mode called Combat Training. Essentially it allows you to build your multiplayer experience points without heading to the rigors of true online play. Combat Training employs bots rather than real people as your competition and allows you to tweak the AI of the opposition. Having trouble prestiging for the third time? Hop into Combat Training, set the AI to easy and go on as many killing sprees as possible. Oh, and in case you're wondering, Combat Training (along with every other mode in Black Ops) runs just fine in three dimensions.

The few detractors I found with the 3D visuals had to with the overall quality of the images on-screen. Since images need to be rendered twice when you have 3D turned on (you can turn it on or off at any time during gameplay) the developers at Treyarch had to scale the visuals back a bit in terms of overall quality. Thankfully the framerate was always sturdy despite the almost constant frenetic action. The other downside to the 3D capability was that some background images seem to distort to looking like the screen sans glasses (despite them being firmly affixed to my face), but that will hopefully be remedied by the time Call of Duty: Black Ops hits shelves.

Call of Duty: Black Ops was my first experience playing a AAA title using the 3D capabilities of an Xbox 360. I saw no qualitative differences in comparison to the PlayStation 3's 3D abilities, but neither a PS3 nor a properly-equipped PC were available for my demo. Call of Duty: Black Ops launches on November 9 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. Stay tuned to IGN for move coverage leading up to launch.

WoW Cataclysm: Digging Deep into Deepholm

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

Whenever we post a story about World of Warcraft, we invariably see two responses time and time again in our comments section. The first is how ugly it looks with its six year old engine, and the second is how easy it is and how horrible all the players are because of this. Deepholm, the level 82-83 zone in the upcoming World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion seems a stark contrast to our commentators' ideas of the enormous MMO.

Set within the plane of the earth elementals, Deepholm held the injured and shamed Deathwing as he recovered from his defeat at Hyjal. His presence there, and then his subsequent escape to Azeroth, has shattered the world pillar and opened a rift between Azeroth and Deepholm. This rift has the potential to destroy both worlds, so shortly after you arrive, you are told you need to help repair the pillar.

What follows is a series of quests with a story arc that brings you to all the areas of the circular zone. Playing through, I came into contact with some very important lore figures, from Thrall, who keeps the rift adjoining the worlds as stable as he can, to Therazane -- the Stonemother and the leader of the earth elementals (basically the earth equivalent of Ragnaros). There is also a surprising amount of voice acting within this zone. A fairly simple quest atop an Alliance airship turned into a fully voice-acted interrogation between two characters.

I had already played through the majority of Mount Hyjal and large portions of Vashj'ir before I began my journey in Deepholm, so I was expecting something around the same difficulty level. This is not at all the case -- at least, not at this point in time. Deepholm, and all its denizens, are tough. As a mage, I now have around 40,000 HP thanks to a change Blizzard made to close the gap between tanks and their enormous amounts of health, and every other class and spec. This, combined with all the tools I have at my disposal to get me out of danger, made me virtually invincible in the other zones. Here, enemies dealt about 4k damage per hit, with some spells hitting me for upwards of 10k. Oh, and they all had well over 50k health, with important enemies having double that. Even using all of my dirty tricks, I found I was typically only able to slay two, maybe three enemies before I would have to sit and munch down on some restorative food.

Whereas the other zones had a lot of mini-game quests, like Hyjal's bird-back jousting series, where gameplay consisted of amechanic that wasn't really tied to your character's skills, Deepholm was very much combat centric. The great majority of quests were your standard "kill X, gather Y, talk to Z" that many of you are probably very familiar with. However, there were also typically a few interesting quests in each quest chain that made the chain worth doing.

One quest chain had me luring out a dragon so that I could lay waste to it. The dragon was a strong opponent and would, under normal circumstances, require a group to kill. This dragon, however, had been snared and was incapable of chasing me, instead being able only to turn on its haunches. It would continuously shoot magical attacks where I was standing, so I had to constantly be on the move, or else I'd get hit for heavy damage. Occasionally, it would charge up an attack that would hit anything in the open and give me just enough time to duck behind a pillar to avoid its shadowy blast. Another fight combined this constant-movement mechanic with what amounted to a chase throughout a winding cave, while another had me fighting an enemy while flying on the back of a drake.

Some of these encounters were pretty easy, while others managed to decimate me multiple times. The way the story unfolded was surprisingly interesting, and phasing (where the environment changes depending on how far along a quest chain you are) was used to great effect in several areas, especially during the elemental raid, and the showdown at the temple.

Deepholm looks extremely pretty at times and has some stunning set pieces. Therazane's throne takes its cues from the oft-ignored dungeon Mauradon, which is fitting given the relation of Mauradon to Therazane (there's a solid chance that if you played through Mauradon, you wiped Therazane's daughter, Princess Theradrass, off the face of the map). The brightly colored crystals throughout the zone shine against the darker hues of the walls that encompass Deepholm. It's the first zone in World of Warcraft that is essentially fully enclosed, and the sensation of being deep in the bowels of the earth is effectively portrayed. When I first began exploring the area, I noticed that, like most of World of Warcraft's zones, the ground was littered with detail. On closer inspection, however, I discovered that I wasn't simply looking at a 2D rock-sprite, but thousands upon thousands of fully 3D rock fragments. It's a small, almost negligible detail, but that's the sort of thing WoW is known for -- the little details that surprise you long after you ought to have noticed them.

It's entirely possible that Deepholm's difficulty will be toned down, but it seems more likely that Vashj'ir and Hyjal will be made more difficult. To those who say WoW is too easy, or looks ugly, I say "Behold Deepholm."

Be the First in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

The launch of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is just a little over a month away. This time around, players can preload before the official launch at midnight December 7th. By being able to download the game in advance, players will be able to start blowing through the new content the minute it goes live.

To take advantage of the preload, players need to buy the expansion online and log in at least once to initiate the download.

Blizzard is only selling the standard version online, however. If you want the Collector's Edition, with the art book, sound track and pet, you'll need to purchase through traditional retailers.

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

Hear the call of duty once again with this seventh entry in this blockbuster first-person shooter franchise. Call of Duty: Black Ops takes you deep behind enemy lines into the world of deniable operations as a member of an elite special forces unit engaging in covert warfare, classified operations, and explosive conflicts across the globe. With access to a variety of exclusive weaponry and equipment, your actions will tip the balance during the most dangerous time period mankind has ever known.
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Online Play: 18 Versus/ 4 Co-op
Release Date: November 9, 2010
MSRP: $59.99
Also on: DS, Cell, PS3, Wii, X360
RP-T+ for Rating Pending, Targeting a Rating of Teen or Above

Medal of Honor

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

Medal of Honor's "overwhelmingly positive" sales just became a little clearer.

Combined sales for the game in the United States, Europe, and Asia through the first five days on sale have reached over 1.5 million copies sold, EA announced this morning.

"Medal of Honor is one of EA's most storied franchises and we're thrilled to see that fans worldwide have embraced it. In this ultra competitive category, Medal of Honor stands out from the pack," said Frank Gibeau, President of the EA Games Label.

EA also announced it will release a new multiplayer mode on November 2 called "Clean Sweep" that's playable in the Bagram Hangar, Khyber Caves, Diwagal Camp and Kabul City Ruins maps.

The mode will be free to download on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network to those who registered the game's Online Pass.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

It doesn't have the words "tomb" or "raider" in the title, but Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is the best Tomb Raider game in a long time. This is a very different adventure for Lara. She's still spelunking for treasure, but Guardian of Light finds her playing cooperatively with a partner, introduces fun new arcade features, and gives players a new perspective on the iconic British action heroine. The result: you're going to fall in love with Lara all over again.

The story is mere fluff designed as an excuse for Lara to run into traps and encounter monsters. She uncovers an ancient mirror in South America, an evil demon is released, and The Guardian of Light, Totec, wakes up to help Lara save humanity. Story and dialogue are definitely the weakest parts of this game. Any time a giant monster or trap appears Lara offers up a "one liner," but they are entirely unimaginative and always made me cringe. It's also pretty ridiculous to watch Totec, who is supposedly an Aztec deity, running around puncturing fools with an M-16.

Story moments are delivered with animated cut scenes -- except the opening and ending moments, which are presented with that comic book pan-and-scan style that downloadable games are so fond of these days. It always looks a bit cheap to me. An intro is supposed to draw us into a game and the ending is a reward for playing all the way through, so I don't see why these important moments were the ones to miss out on animation.

This game is gorgeous, though. The environments are intricately detailed and there is a lot of verticality so you can often see new areas or some you've already visited in the distance. Because the game looks so good, I think I notice the faults more than I normally would. Many objects are destructible and look great as they explode, but then the pieces may immediately disappear when they hit the ground. And during a boss fight with a demonic T-rex, the collision detection felt a little wonky so that Lara would be warped into its mouth. Not a major buzzkill, but it did momentarily take me out of this beautiful world Crystal Dynamics has created.

But, that's about where my complaints with Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light end. I had a blast with it from start to finish and several IGN Editors who I rounded up for co-op sessions did, too. Crystal Dynamics is really onto something here and I would much rather see more of these types of adventures for Lara than the traditional Tomb Raiders that have become stale over the years.

Fitting for an arcade game, Guardian of Light is about racking up high scores and enjoying some friendly competition with a partner. Finding treasure and killing enemies earns you points and you can compare scores with everyone on the worldwide leaderboards. You may find yourself good naturedly trying to grab gems before your buddy does or stealing their kills in order to boost your own score. Earn enough points on a level and you may receive a new weapon or upgrade. Each stage has optional Challenge Tombs that will offer up valuable artifacts and relics if you can solve the puzzle. Artifacts and relics can be equipped to your character in order to significantly enhance their skills. And then there are the many Reward Challenges in each level that grant weapons and items for completing random tasks like "destroying all the columns in the stage." There are many, many hooks here to keep you interested.

Speaking of weapons, there are loads to find and you can customize your character (Lara or Totec) with four at a time. Guardian of Light is sort of a dual-stick shooter that has you running around with the left stick and aiming with the right. The action is very satisfying and it's fun to experiment with the many weapons.

The puzzles have been cleverly designed to require the particular talents of both Lara and Totec. Lara has a grappling hook she can extend that Totec can then walk across like a tight rope. Or Totec can throw his spear into a wall for Lara to jump to. You encounter puzzles, start experimenting and trying different approaches, and then you eventually solve it -- together. If you ever had a friend watch you play a Zelda or Resident Evil game and offer advice, it's a lot like that, except in this game your friend is playing with you. It's great fun.

Over the course of the game the puzzles develop from simple one-step exercises to elaborate conundrums and you'll find that two heads really are better than one. Those Reward Challenges I mentioned become significantly more complicated than just destroying all the pillars, too -- but the artifacts and relics you can earn later in the game will turn Lara and Totec into super heroes.

Impressively, Guardian of Light remains a good time even if you're flying solo. The game doesn't give you an AI partner -- instead, you'll encounter slightly tweaked versions of puzzles that are possible to solve on your own. Since the single-player and cooperative games differ significantly, drop-in drop-out play isn't possible. All of your equipment carries over from single- to multiplayer games, though.

I should also point out that, at launch, Guardian of Light does not offer online cooperative play. That feature will be patched in later.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a great adventure, especially if you're playing co-op. Despite the silly story and dialogue, I had more fun with it than any Tomb Raider in recent memory. With a great new look, clever puzzles, and loads of fun stuff to collect, this is an extreme makeover for Lara of which you will surely approve.

FIFA Soccer 11

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

The PC version of FIFA has been a little behind the curve when it comes to getting the latest and greatest technology the soccer series brings to its big brothers on consoles. Well, all of that is changing with FIFA 11, as PC players can now enjoy the same game engine that has been on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for the last few years. It might still be lacking some of the features that console fans know and love, but there's no question that this year's FIFA on PC is a big step in the right direction.

When you first hop into FIFA 11 on PC the differences are immediately evident when comparing it to last year's version. The 360-degree dribbling that was introduced in FIFA 10 on consoles makes its way into this year's game, so moves feel much more under your control than they have in the past. You can make finite moves with players like Lionel Messi and every other athlete on the pitch feels a bit freer for impressive runs when not confined to the eight directions of old. This also helps the general realism of the action which only ups the excitement level in the various stadiums.

The other most obvious upgrade is the visuals. Depending on the specs of your system, FIFA 11 has the potential to look pretty damn good. Our system was an Alienware laptop with a Core 2 Duo running at 2 GHz with 6 GB of RAM and 2 GeForce 260Ms running under the hood. It's not quite state of the art anymore, but it was more than enough to churn out a smooth framerate and nice player details. The single lacking portion of the visual presentation was the general lack of the advanced physical interactions that are in FIFA 11 on consoles. There's still some jostling going on during gameplay, but it's not at the same level as what's seen on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

The bigger downfall of the PC version is the slightly limited feature set. While everything works just fine and the online performs very well, its list of modes is pulled from last year's FIFA on consoles. You get Manager Mode, Tournament Mode, Virtual Pro where you can create your player and stick him on your favorite team and then develop his skills, and Be A Pro to go along with standard online gameplay (for background info on all of these modes, read our full Xbox 360 review. Pro Club Championship is here and accounted for and allows for the same five-on-five (consoles allows for full 11-on-11) that you'll find in Online Team Play. LAN support is also included, which will likely make FIFA PC tournament players happy.

The list of modes might not be as lengthy or as innovative as what’s seen on consoles, but there’s no question that there’s a lot of fun to be had with the traditional Manager Mode and Be A Pro: Seasons. Just don’t expect them to deviate all that much from what you remember from last year’s console game. But hey, at least PC gamers will now be able to enjoy the same game engine as the rest of the next-gen FIFA world. It’s a huge improvement over the last few years of PC offerings, but it still isn’t quite up to par with the big boys of the FIFA world.


Posted by Xtrem Gaming

Zoom all the way out from one of RUSE's World War II battlefields and you'll see the edge of the strategy table in the commanding Allied general's war room. Desk officers work silently in the background; troops are colourful blue and red counters inching across a map of Europe, their movements delineated in bright, wide arrows.

Zoom all the way in, and you can hear the artillery fire, watch foot soldiers set up an ambush in a French village square and see a tank battalion inch along forest paths whilst a recon unit scouts ahead through the trees, on the lookout for hidden enemy soldiers. You can command the battle as if you're on the ground, or from a strategist's eagle-eyed viewpoint, and you'll need to make use of both. Pivotal moments in battle play out in letterboxed cinematics on the edges of the game screen, showing you a squadron of incoming bombers or the moment of defeat on another front.

RUSE's challenge comes from strategy and planning to outwit the opposition, moreso than any competitor on the RTS scene. It's a precise, ponderous game; it demands careful thought, forward-planning and preparation for all eventualities, not quick reactions. Overpowering the enemy by sheer force of numbers or speed of action is never a possibility. The game plays out significantly differently on each of its three difficulty settings – reinforcements that back you up at crucial moments simply don't show up on higher difficulties, and easy secondary objectives turn into death-traps.

The story follows an American chap called Joe Sheridan on his journey from a Major in Tunisia to a General on the front line in the closing stages of the War, guided by a charming, mustachioed British ranking officer. Unfortunately, Joe is a tiresome dude, a big-headed frat boy who often seems more concerned about his rivalries within the American army or the attentions of his attractive assistant than with the war at hand. The plot focuses on tracking down a German intelligence source, Prometheus, but frankly it's not a gripping war epic.

The opening mission gives you a tantalising glimpse of the scale and variety that you'll be playing with later, teasing you with a German battlefield full of looping fighter planes and bombers and tanks on all fronts. After that, though, the game takes all of that away for a good few starter missions. It flashes back to Tunisia in 1942 and takes quite some time to get going again. As the war goes on and Joe climbs the ranks, access to new units, base building and the titular Ruse techniques slowly opens up, but it's hours before you're really allowed to stretch your legs on the battlefield.

Those opening hours crawl by at the speed of one of the game's heavy tanks. Battles are slow and steady, relying heavily on your ability to predict the next enemy movements and defuse their attacks with ambushes and strategic unit deployment rather than meet them head-on. Crucial to this approach are the Ruse intelligence techniques themselves, which allow you to decrypt enemy transmissions to determine their movements, send spies behind their lines to see exactly which units are hiding there, speed up your own deployment and movement speed and boost your chances in various other helpful ways. In higher forms they even allow for dummy attacks, feinting your forces one way while in reality attacking from another. In multiplayer, the ruses evolve into devilish mind games and panicked gambles.

Knowing which Ruse mechanic to use at which time is crucial to success. RUSE isn't easy on strategic mistakes. You must remember to put your bombers under radio silence to protect them from fighter planes, or hide your infantry in towns or forests, or your vital, limited units will be wiped out. Make a mistake during the earlier missions and you're almost guaranteeing yourself an instant restart – oddly enough, things get a little easier later on, when the game finally starts allowing you to build your own bases, establish your own supply lines and deploy and position your own units. Once Joe is a general, you can always manufacture some extra tanks to make up for your strategic mistakes.

The slow pacing never changes, though. RUSE isn't a fast-paced RTS, but it's not a dumbed-down console port either (apart from a bizarre inability to redefine the controls, smartly laid-out as they are). It has its own tension; watching masses of Axis troop counters creep slowly and inexorably towards your base whilst you deploy defenses at the limited speed allowed you is just as tense as the frantic, unpredictable battles of other games in the genre, in its own way.
RUSE takes a while to warm up, but once it does, it's cracking stuff, as the game's unfailingly proper British generals would no doubt put it. The Ruse mechanics do much to breathe fresh air into the genre, allowing for a pleasing game of tank-based poker. Its faults – that slow, slow pacing and yawning, sluggish start – are largely the result of this approach, and we're inclined to forgive them for the focus on the original psychological gameplay it creates.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 is immediately engaging. It's strikingly beautiful, with fantastic vistas and superb character animations. Sadly though, its pretty face can only carry it so far when the rest of the game is comparatively weak. Repetitious combat and level designs, a shoe-horned in story, and a lack of depth to the experience overall keep this from being anything more than an adventure for the most hardcore of fans.

The levels themselves are beautiful and immediately capture the same sense of grandeur and scale that Star Wars has done so well with the environments in the films, but the stages quickly feel redundant. Each level feels like it's been artificially extended, with repeated buildings and environmental portions that make it feel like a copy/paste job. I understand and appreciate the need for a world to feel coherent, to have environments feel uniform in theme and look, but TFU2 takes it past this point and right into generic territory after just a few moments in any stage. It's a shame, too, because the artists responsible for the worlds are obviously passionate about capturing the look and feel of the Star Wars universe.

The Force Unleashed's combat is fun at the start, but begins to feel very uninspired as the hours go by. I mean, look, the inclusion of dismemberment is awesome, and the first few times you blast some Stormtroopers off a ledge with Force push, or send a trooper to his doom by convincing him to kill himself with Jedi Mind Trick are exactly what I'm looking for in this sort of game. It's just that there isn't enough outside of the combat to break up the pacing. Starkiller is always just mashing into wave after wave of soldiers, and it gets surprisingly mundane kicking so much ass all the time.

Variety is something LucasArts attempted to address in combat, and the developers accomplish this to an extent, but it doesn't go deep enough. The first Force Unleashed had a ton of enemies who were varied in appearance, but not in how they fought, and LucasArts sought to address this by having fewer, more differentiated enemy types.

Unfortunately, though, this too is underdeveloped, with combat mostly boiling down to realizing "enemy X can be killed only with lightsabers, while enemy Y can only be killed with the Force." They combine these enemies in ways that occasionally present a challenge, but eventually they repeat this formula over and over again that it becomes more tedious than new and exciting.

Not that any moment in The Force Unleashed 2 lasts all that long, as it's surprisingly short. I'm not one to complain about length normally, as I think games can be short if the experience is tight and consistently inventive, but despite taking less than six hours to complete on Normal, TFU2 manages to be demonstrably repetitive. The world's that Starkiller visits in the game are beautiful, and make me want to know more about the cultures they represent, so it's a shame I don't get anything more than a cursory look at them.

This is awesome looking, but a little too good for killing groups of enemies.
Other problems arise from TFU2's brevity as well, namely it doesn't feel all that rewarding or make your character progression feel as worthwhile. Your character starts out with a lot of the powers he had to earn in the first game. The end result is that Starkiller is a bit too much of a badass too quickly, and that leveling up your force powers – done by spending experience points you earn via combat – doesn't feel anywhere near as important or as game changing as it did in the last game.

Starkiller can take on anything and everything with ease on the Normal difficultly, with most enemies serving little purpose other than to go sprawling from endless waves of Force push. I understand the need to empower the player, and yes, I certainly felt empowered, but the lack of skill made me less like a Jedi Master and more like wandering, overpowered monster.

James Bond 007: Blood Stone

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

There's one James Bond game coming out this year that's got 007 fans cocking their golden guns in anticipation. Then there's Blood Stone 007. While Wii and DS owners are being treated to a re-imagining of one of the most beloved console shooters of all time in GoldenEye 007, PC-owning Bond fans have to make do with a consolation prize in the form of a third-person shooter from Project Gotham Racing makers, Bizarre Creations. And as far as consolation prizes go, this is about as comforting as an open-mouthed kiss from Dame Judi Dench.

Dench and Daniel Craig reprise their roles of M and Bond in Blood Stone 007, while pop singer Joss Stone steps in as the token Bond girl Nicole Hunter. And those are basically the only obligations to the Bond license that this game fulfills. Otherwise there are no memorable villains, no signature gadgets – even the Bond theme music doesn't properly play until the final credits roll – and the only moment even vaguely resembling any form of fan service is the time you get to briefly step behind the wheel of the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, albeit for no apparent reason. Otherwise this could be any other bog standard third-person shooter with Daniel Craig's expressionless face smeared across it.

The plot has you chasing biochemical terrorists across a handful of exotic locations in Europe and Asia, and at times the game can be quite visually striking – like when you're escaping an exploding oil refinery in Siberia, or chasing a monolithic earth mover across crumbling highway overpasses in Bangkok. Unfortunately such moments are both fleeting and few and far between, and Blood Stone's five hour campaign is mostly padded out with repetitive firefights against brainless henchmen with the odd interactive cutscene to spice things up every now and then.

Aside from the use of explosive barrels to take out your opposition – which comes direct from chapter one, page one of the FPS textbook – the main hook to Blood Stone's otherwise generic cover-based combat is the Focus Aim feature, which is basically a carbon copy of Splinter Cell: Conviction's Mark and Execute system, only in this case it doesn't really present any genuinely strategic benefits to the gameplay. For every context-sensitive melee takedown you perform on an enemy (Bond smashes their face into a table top and/or cuddles them into a deep sleep) you're awarded a Focus kill – and you're able to store up to three of them at any one time. When activated the Focus Aim mechanic allows you to swiftly dispatch enemies with a few quick button taps/mouse clicks.

On the game's lower difficulty levels, Focus Aim is entirely unnecessary thanks to the Call of Duty-style targeting that automatically snaps to an enemy each time you zoom in, making it easy to pull off headshots without the need for any further assistance. But even on the higher difficulty levels there's no tangible gameplay rewards for being stealthy, so whilst Focus Aim might be a slightly quicker and more stylish way to dispatch enemy goons it's far from essential, and at times we forgot it was even there.

Bond's smartphone can be used to display your current mission objective in the HUD, along with the location of enemies in your vicinity even if they're concealed behind walls, as well as scan for evidence and hack keypads and the like. Too bad it doesn't also let you play a copy of Angry Birds, because the smartphone is the closest you'll come to getting your hands on any kind of gadget from Q branch, otherwise your only tools are an assortment of samey assault rifles and shotguns, and the odd grenade launcher. Fair enough the Daniel Craig Bond films haven't featured many gadgets either, and Bizarre has tried to ape the style of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, but when the lack of gameplay variety as a result is detrimental to the overall experience, we think the developer should have been afforded some artistic license. Strictly as a shooting experience, Blood Stone can only be described as uninspired.

But when you're not shooting cookie cutter enemies or idly staring at your smartphone like a bored teenager, you're speeding along in sports cars and powerboats in one of the handful of vehicular sections in the game. These high-octane interludes are easily the standout portions of the single-player campaign, and although they're slightly unforgiving in terms of the instant deaths caused by head-on collisions and wrong turns into bodies of water, they at least kick start your flat lining enthusiasm levels as though each vehicle is packing a set of the glove box defibrillators from Casino Royale.

Sam Fisher's Daniel Craig mask was the hit of the Halloween houseboat party.

Unfortunately the cars and boats are entirely absent from the game's online multiplayer component, which consists of just three uninspired shooter game types – Team Deathmatch, Objective and Last Man Standing. You can level up and unlock new character skins, but otherwise there's very little gameplay meat here. Some Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit-style car chases with friends would have been appreciated, but as far as multiplayer experiences go, Blood Stone's seems very much like a last minute afterthought and is unlikely to extend the lifespan of the game by more than an hour or two at best.

Blood Stone won't just disappoint fans of 007, it will also frustrate those familiar with just how capable a studio Bizarre Creations is. The British developer consistently excelled with its acclaimed Project Gotham Racing series, and subsequently displayed versatility with The Club, an underrated yet fast paced and addictive shooting experience. And yet here we are with a game that combines dangerous driving with third-person shooting – clearly two of Bizarre's strengths – and the studio has come up well short of greatness. We're not sure if it's due to the restrictive nature of working with the Bond license, or if the game has been focus-tested within an inch of its life – completely stripping it of any real depth or innovation in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator – but Blood Stone is a shallow and short-lived husk of a game. It won't keep you entertained for an afternoon so much as it will merely pass the time.

We should point out that the PC version of Blood Stone doesn't feature the same graphical inconsistencies as the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, and is certainly the most visually appealing version of the game. However, some compromises have to be made in terms of the controls. A mouse and keyboard is naturally best for the on-foot shooting, but driving an Aston Martin with the WASD keys just feels too clumsy. Ultimately we settled on playing the game with a USB gamepad, forsaking a little of the targeting precision that only a mouse can provide.
Blood Stone is not a bad game: it's just a painfully average one. There aren't any majorly broken elements to it, but just because this Stone is relatively polished, doesn't make it a gem. There really isn't anything at all remarkable about it, and even though it's extremely short it still manages to wear out its welcome thanks to its extremely repetitive design. If GoldenEye is indeed the Sean Connery of 007 video games, then Blood Stone is the George Lazenby; not bad, but not good either, and forgettable in almost every way. At just five hours long and lacking in any real innovation or challenge, it won't leave you feeling shaken nor stirred, just shortchanged.

VIPRE Antivirus

Posted by Xtrem Gaming

VIPRE Antivirus + Antispyware is a new PC security software created by Sunbelt Software. We created VIPRE to be faster than most traditional security software like Norton or McAfee. VIPRE will not slow down your PC and it is highly effective at preventing and curing PC Infections. We would like your help promoting VIPRE to the public.

Antivirus Software


Posted by Xtrem Gaming

Producator: Tigon Studios
Platforma: PC Xbox360 PS3
Gen: Action
Data lansarii: 27-Mar-2009
PC recomandat:
CPU 2GHz, 2GB RAM, Video Card with 512 MB

Wheelman is an apparent undercover mission in Barcelona starring Vin Diesel. I say "apparent" because the story is pretty much never explained with the exception of a short cutscene at the beginning of the game. Vin just meets some dude from an agency who hands him a folder of info and vaguely mentions a world-ending thing that's in Spain. From there, you're Vin's undercover persona Milo, a no-nonsense driver for all sorts of bad guys. Throughout the game, you'll tear through the streets of Barcelona chasing a document in a tube, a guy named Felipe and more, but you'll never have any idea why the hell you're doing this thanks to the nonexistent story this game packs.

Seriously -- I'm an undercover agent, but I have no idea what group I'm working with. I get profiles of characters from the RAI between missions but I causally told some dude I worked for the CIA at one point. Who am I really working for? Who knows! Why
would the CIA come to Barcelona? Who cares! All I know is there are three factions of bad people in the city and I need to work with them all to find the big thing. That's it. These are pretty big storytelling flaws.

Making this feeling of detachment even worse is the fact that this is a botched take on the open-world environment. See, you can get through the so-called story of Wheelman in about eight hours, but this is designed to be like the sandbox world of Grand Theft Auto. OK, that's a lie; it seems like this game is designed to be a direct knockoff of GTA. When you pull up the world map on your PDA, you'll see green icons for story-based missions and then a number of colored icons for the seven categories of side missions -- stuff such as driving people to certain places in a Taxi, taking out your opponents in Rampage and escaping your pursuers in Fugitive.

What makes this feel disconnected is the fact that these things just pop up without any rhyme or reason. When you choose to do a cabbie mission, you just teleport into a car that's already got a passenger. Why are you smashing into other cars? Just because you want to, I guess. Sure, the missions can give you upgrades and such, but how does that make sense in this world? There's no in-game economy, so you're not earning money for these tasks; you're just doing them to do them and get the best rank. You don't feel like you're a part of this city. It's just a bunch of random instances in a sun-bathed Spanish town.

One of the greatest things about any of the GTAs was connecting with the city you were inhabiting -- knowing shortcuts, tight turns, or where people lived. You'll never get this in Wheelman because you can just jump to any mission you feel like. You pull up the PDA, select the mission you want and you can be warped to that spot. You don't need to drive there; you can just travel through space and time. This leads to you not knowing or caring about the city, but honestly, there's nothing to know or care about. Barcelona is colorful and bright, but it's wholly forgettable. Every street looks like the one before it with a few notable landmarks here and there. Just about everything's destructible, which is a nice touch because you'll be smashing through all sorts of crap, but none of it looks that good. In fact, when I was tearing through a patch of dirt, the mud my rear tires kicked up was so blocky that I could've sworn it was pulled from a PlayStation 2 game.

Yeah, I wouldn't want the moped either.Still, Wheelman isn't a complete failure -- there are some fun parts once you accept there's no story and the city is dead. What the game actually has going for it are a few completely over-the-top, unrealistic elements involving its vehicles. When Milo's barreling down the street and coming up on a car, you can hold down the Airjack button and watch a red arrow appear over the vehicle in front of you. When that triangle turns green, you let go of the button and Milo will leap from your ride to the new car in slow motion. That's right -- he's jumping forward from a speeding car to another vehicle that's going slower. Either upon impact or (oddly) after he's already jumped through the window, you'll see some shattering glass and Milo will be behind the wheel. It's completely unbelievable and it looks hilarious, but this is the kind of goofball crap I was expecting in Wheelman. This is actually fun.

Another ludicrous idea the game employs but can actually be a cool is Vehicle Melee. Here, the right joystick acts as your car's hit stick. When you're rolling down the street, you can jerk the stick left, forward, or right to perform a body check in that direction; it's like your car's wheels turned 90 degrees and you're driving sideways. Sure, it could never happen in real life, but for a videogame starring Vin Diesel, I'm behind the moves. If you wear down a car, you can pull off a finisher where the camera will follow the rolling ball of flame that used to be your enemy.

Sadly, the AI you'll go up against in Wheelman will quickly drain the fun out of these nifty moves. See, everyone in Barcelona is mentally challenged. Let's look at a simple example: there's a Trophy/Achievement for surviving a five-star wanted level for five minutes (yup, they stole the star system and achievement type from GTA). When I first started my quest to get this, I'd shoot a civilian for a while to get my level up (you can't kill police or innocents in this game) and start driving when the cops gave chase. My first few times, the cops caught up to me and took down my ride in a hail of gunfire (Oddly, there's never a car to Airjack when you need there to be one in these situations.).

Then, I remembered that I was up against idiots and tried getting out of my car and running from them. This strategy worked for a few minutes because every time the cops would get close to me, they'd climb out of their cars to chase me on foot but that animation gave me enough time to get far enough away that they'd climb back in their car to chase me and repeat the process. Finally, I got cocky around the three-minute mark and tried backtracking and they shot me. On the attempt that actually scored me the honor, I just drove in a circle around a courtyard. That's right; for five minutes, I drove in the same circle around a Barcelona fountain and the game's AI couldn't figure out a way to stop me.

This idiocy bleeds over into the hackneyed on-foot combat as well. Yeah, Milo can get out of his car whenever he wants to and he's going to have to do it a lot seeing as how a ton of Wheelman missions are "drive to destination, get out of car, fight dozens of bad guys, get objective, fight back to base." These are the types of mechanics that grate on my nerves. It's not that these tasks were tough; it's that they're so goddamn boring. You start at the alley entrance, crouch behind some boxes and pop up to shoot. When you've cleared all the red dots off your radar, you move forward and suddenly some new dots materialize a ways in front of you. It's your job to just mow down wave after wave of these dudes and it's not hard.

Health's regenerative in Wheelman, Milo's pistol ammunition is unlimited and there are a few secondary weapons he can pick up such as the shotgun and assault rifle. Comically, Milo'll store the secondary weapon on his back, but there's no strap or anything to hold it in place. It's just inexplicably stuck to the small of his back like he's got double-sided tape back there. I guess this shouldn't surprise me because I've seen Milo do a number of flat-out amazing things in this game -- he takes phone calls in his head without holding a phone or owning a Bluetooth; when you tell him to jump out of a moving car, he'll sometimes phase through the seat and just be standing where he was driving a second ago; if you see a car you want in the distance, you hit the button and Milo telepathically stops the car and jogs over to jack it; and he walked away after getting hit by a car, where he got bent in half to the point where his heels touched the back of his head.

When the bad guys get in cars, the action isn't much better. One mission had me facing off against a gang in a circular construction site and I needed to take out the leader in five minutes. However, once the leader and his cronies climbed into their vehicles, they just drove around the site in a circle. It wasn't until the five minutes were up that the bad guys tried to leave the site. Why they felt like they'd toy with Milo for five minutes when they could just take off was beyond me, but I don't think the AI thinks out any of its plans in this game. Keep in mind that you're working for three different gangs in Wheelman so that you can... um... get info on this "device" or whatever.

Anyway, you're helping one gang kill another gang and then immediately turning around and helping the one gang you just hurt. During the one cutscene where a gang leader called Milo on this fact, the wheelman brushed it off by saying he was just a driver. That satisfied the leader, but I'm pretty sure that's not how it works in real life. This one boss who runs a casino didn't even know I was working with the other gangs -- even after I led a lone assault on the casino that killed dozen's of the boss' men. Did he think there was another bald American who runs like he pooped his pants killing people in the streets of Barcelona?

For lots of the missions, you'll be going after a certain car or trying to get away from a group. This means that you're in a match with a handful of other vehicles and you'll need to clean their clocks using your vehicle melee skills as well as the few super-moves you have via the turbo gauge. As you pull off moves like "speeding" and "handbrake turns," a gauge in the bottom left corner will fill with juice; you can use this power to boost or perform two types of trick shots. The first slows down the action, coats the screen in black and white, and puts you in the driver's seat so that you can shoot 180 degrees. Circles appear on the enemy vehicles during these moments so you can pull off some instant explosions and the results can be pretty satisfying.

The second move does everything I just wrote about, except this one spins the vehicle 180 degrees so that you're now face-to-face with the slow-mo enemies coming right at you. This is great for taking out bad guys who you've gotten a bit of a lead on. It usually ends with you whipping the car back to the front and crashing into some obstacle that's popped up in front of you, but it still can be cool... except for the times vehicles exploded before my bullets even got to the gas tanks.

Crrrrrazy taxi. Except not that crazy, fast, or fun.Problem is you won't get that many leads as the game goes on. For some reason, when you hit your boost, it always seems the enemies hit their's as well. This means you rarely get the chance to get way ahead of the pack and deal out some damage. Hell, in the final missions, you're just SPAMMED with enemies. You'll be on the trail to taking out these gang leaders who are holed up in one vehicle, but whenever you get the slightest chance at popping the boss, three fricking underlings will t-bone you or knock you out of your turn. It's infuriating.

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