Jan 31, 2009

Future Shop Trade In Promo On Now

Future Shop Trade In PromotionFuture Shop's newest flyer is promoting a $35 in-store credit when you trade in one of 20 select games. This is a decent trade in promo when you see some of the eligible titles (i.e. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Resistance 2) and the fact that the $35 in-store credit can be used towards any purchases made at Future Shop (exception with Calgary stores where the credit can only be used towards the purchase of another game).

The list of 20 games eligible for the trade in promo value of $35 include:

Wii Games:

Call of Duty: World at War
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

PS3 Games:

Skate 2
Lord Of The Rings Conquest
Killzone 2
Street Fighter IV
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Resistance 2
Fallout 3 (BIL)
Need For Speed Undercover
Motorstorm: Pacific Rift
Far Cry 2 (BIL)

XBox 360 Games:

Gears of War 2 (BIL)
Fallout 3
Call of Duty: World at War (EN)
Need For Speed Undercover
Left 4 Dead
Far Cry 2 (BIL)
Skate 2
Lord Of The Rings Conquest
Street Fighter IV
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

For more details on Future Shop's used game trade in program, click here.

For the French page, click here.

Jan 29, 2009

Exclusive Downloadable Content – Friend or Foe?

Guest Post: Josh McPherson

January 27, 2008 Bethesda released some the “Liberation of Anchorage” expansion for the critically acclaimed title Fallout 3 for the PC and Xbox 360 exclusively. As someone who absolutely loved this game, I was left feeling like I was being left out in the cold after hearing the news from Todd Howard, game producer, which stated there were “no plans” for the PS3 to receive this expansion pack.

This got me thinking about the industry and the trends that appear to be forming. Games cost far too much to make them exclusive to just one console (save for first party titles like Resistance or Halo) so where do the console manufacturers go now? The answer appears to be simple. Exclusive downloadable content. Sometimes the exclusive is timed and now with the gaming industry in cost savings mode the cost of development kits may become a factor in the development for DLC content and expansions fully exclusive to one console. The PS3 Developer kit is quoted around $10,250, comparing that to the Wii's developer kit at $1,700, and the lowball quote of $100 from Microsoft for the PC and Xbox 360 developers kit. Likely the higher development costs combined with the new trend in cost savings and layoffs, will drive developers to these lower priced kits as they begin seeking any kind of edge over the competition.

Bethesda isn’t the only company partaking in this new trend. RockStar and even EA have gotten into the mix with Grand Theft Auto and Mirrors Edge. February 17, 2009 RockStar will be releasing the Lost and the Damned expansion exclusively for the Xbox and EA brings us a time trial map for Mirrors Edge in a “Timed Exclusive” form on the PS3.

Part of the reason for releasing DLC, in a lot of cases, is to expand the storyline and keep the game fresh on the minds of gamers and in the gaming news circles long after the release. Of course there’s always the wonderful side effect of generating more money (Rock Band and Guitar Hero have that market cornered right now).

This clearly has a lot of people feeling agitated and unloved. Do the game publishers really have so much money that they can pick and choose who will get to continue to expand and enjoy the games they love or did Microsoft really pay out so much money just to pigeonhole gamers into buying their Xbox 360 console? Do the millions of potential DLC buyers not count in the grant scheme of things?

There have been a few cases where the DLC was only made available to owners of different consoles in the form of a re-release “Game of the Year” edition with the content already included. What about the people who own the original release because they thought your product was that good they had to have it right away? Do you really want to buy another copy of the game?I’m not so sure that I like the way things are going. Not everyone has the ability or the money (especially these days) to own more than 1 console. Is it really necessary to have exclusive downloadable content in the age of fewer exclusive titles? If so, then why not make it a “Timed Exclusive” for a period of a few weeks (ala Resident Evil 5 Demo, Rock Band 2 release)? I feel this new trend is hurting the people who make the difference… The gamers.

What do the rest of you think?

Disney Interactive Lays Off Some Propaganda Staff

First it was layoffs at EA Blackbox, now word from Kotaku is that Disney Interactive Studios will be laying off as many as 35 of their staff from their Vancouver-based Propaganda Games studio. This surely has to be one of the toughest weeks in Vancouver gaming industry in some time.

Steve Wadsworth, President of the Walt Disney Internet Group told Kotaku:
"In response to this challenging business environment, we have examined ways in which we might be able to work more efficiently. We have taken measures to control costs by freezing most open positions, deferring some capital projects, reducing support from third parties, taking significant reductions in travel and entertainment expenses and eliminating other activities. The elimination of existing positions that we communicated today was a necessary step that we had hoped to avoid."
There are rumours that the layed off staff were let go after Disney quietly cancelled the production of Turok 2, a game long thought to be in development but has never been formally announced.

Here's My Rejected 'Gamer's Voice' Review of LittleBigPlanet

It's time to enter the confessional. All you NextGen Gamers out there are probably well aware that I've been thoroughly fascinated with Sony Computer Entertainment Canada's Gamer's Voice promotion for the past few weeks.

Well, I was so motivated this past weekend that I decided that I should dust off the shelved web cam and get my record on. After a little internal debate, I decided to review the PS3 exclusive LittleBigPlanet. My intent was to review the game, upload the video to Playstation.ca, and with luck win a free Sony game.

To my surprise, my video was rejected. I decided to check-out the rules & regulations page to find out why and found this requirement:

[Videos] will not contain, include, discuss or involve, without limitation, any of the following:

-URLs or links to any websites
As you will see in the video, I made the very unwise decision to announce to the world that I am from NextGen Player. Let this be a lesson to us all. Always - Read - The - Fine - Print.

Luckily we have YouTube, so here you go, enjoy the video:


Jan 28, 2009

Still Don't Have The Gold-Plated Lancer Assault Rifle?

Right now on the XBL Marketplace the Gold-Plated Lancer Assault Rifle for Gears of War 2 is free. That's right you heard me - F R E E.

Now you can stop envying your friends that got the codes on launch day, with the purchase of the limited edition game, while you cheaped out (like me) and got the normal box.

Get it here now.

[UPDATE]: Joystiq is now reporting that access to the Golden Lancer was a mistake on Microsoft's part and that anyone who downloaded the lancer during the "free" period will have it removed from their accounts... How Microsoft will accomplish this is yet to be determined. To stop the downloads the Golden Lancer is now priced at 99,999 credits in the Marketplace.

Hat Tip/photo thanks to Platform Nation

Jan 25, 2009

GTA IV: The Lost And Damned - More Details

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost And Damned
The folks at Rockstar Games have recently updated the Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost And Damned website with further details about this exclusive download content for the Xbox 360.

Those of you with a Xbox 360 version of the game, can now mark February 17th on your calendar as the official release date on Xbox LIVE Marketplace. The cost for this download is $19.99 or 1,600 Microsoft Points.

For more details on The Lost And Damned, check out the official site.

Bargain Bin Diving: Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles (DS)

While digging through the Discount bin at my local department store I happened across the title, Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles for the DS.

Being a fan of Assassin's Creed on the 360, and a relatively new DS owner, I am always looking for a new title to build my tiny DS collection.

Jumping right into the game I found I was immediately recalled to the way of the assassin, checking in with the local task master to find my assignment, sneaking over rooftops, picking pockets, interrogating informants and silently killing those that stand in the way of Altair's current goal.

However, gone were the missions protecting the innocents and watching conversations, gone were the tall climbs and the base jumps into bales of hay. Another significant difference is that the open-ended go-anywhere aspect experienced on the console is replaced with a multi-leveled side scrolling view of the Holy Land.

What truly amazes about this title is the innovative use of the DS' unique features. Treasure chests buried in the sand require the player to blow air into the mic to clear the lock and open them. Picking pockets and interrogations require the stylus for timed interaction that simulate pressing pressure points on your target and careful timed sequences to pick your targets pockets for a door key.

For the bargain price of $19.99 this is a title you should consider adding to your DS library.

Halo Wars Goes Gold

Ensemble Studios may soon be closing shop, but before their doors for the final time they've got one last hurrah to give as Microsoft have announced their upcoming RTS, Halo Wars, has officially gone gold.

According to Ensemble Studios founder Bruce Shelley, work on all non-Halo Wars related games were dropped in August so the entire studio could focus on finishing the game.

In anticipation of the launch of Halo Wars, Lead Designer Graham Devine has put together a video documentary series that will explore defining themes of Halo Wars and give viewers a behind the scenes look at the game’s development and some of the people involved in its creation.

The premier episode captures key elements that frame Halo Wars gameplay: the controls, perspective and strategy. The Halo Wars video documentary is available for download on Xbox LIVE and can be viewed at http://www.xbox.com/en-CA/games/h/halowars/.

In addition, the recently announced Xbox LIVE demo for Halo Wars will be available on February 5 on Xbox LIVE in Canada.

In the demo, players will be able to test the control scheme in optional beginner and advanced tutorials or jump right into the action to experience the beginning of the Halo Wars story with the first two campaign missions. The demo will also include “Chasms,” one of Halo Wars’ 14 multiplayer maps, wherein players can battle it out in Skirmish mode vs. A.I., playing either as the UNSC with Captain Cutter’s leader powers, or as the Covenant with the Prophet of Regret’s own unique abilities.

Halo Wars will also come in two editions - the $60 Standard Edition and $80 for the Limited Collector’s Edition, which includes early access to the Halo 3 Mythic Map Pack. The game is expected to ship on March 3, 2009.

'All Your Base Are Belong To Us' Reviews Fallout 3

In A.D. 2009
The Vault was opening.

Paul: What happen ?
Mechanic: Someone set up us the review.
Operator: We hit record.
Paul: What !
Operator: Web cam turn on.
Paul: It's you !!

EletrikNinja: How are you Canadians !!
EletrikNinja: All your votes are belong to us.



Source: Gamer's Voice [Playstation.ca]

Jan 24, 2009

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon Pre-Order Bonus Available in Canada

Nintendo of Canada have announced on their website that the much anticipated Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon for DS will have a pre-order bonus for those who reserve their copy at EB Games.

The bonus for pre-ordering is an authentic, limited edition laser cel from the game (pictured at right).

For those of you who aren't exactly sure what a laser cel print is, ThinkGeek says that:

"Laser Cels are a lithograph technology where the image is actually printed on industrial grade Mylar. Unlike traditional animation cels and paper; Mylar will not fade, chip, crack or deteriorate. Additionally, this synthetic is immune to heat, light and moisture."

So basically indestructible. Maybe that's what they outfit riot cops with. If they don't, they sure as hell should.

Source: Exclusive offer at EB Games Canada [Nintendo of Canada]

Analyst: Game Companies That Attribute Layoffs to Recession are "looking for excuses"


Guest Post: Clinton Ma

Canadian Business Online recently published an article about the financial state of the video games industry. While it offered very few surprises, reporter Bryan Borzykowski encapsulated all the major events that have shaped the gaming world in the last 2-3 months.

The record-breaking sales of the past holiday season were trumpeted once again, further supporting the widespread notion that the video games are at least a recession-resistant, if not a recession-proof industry. Sales in Canada showed remarkable growth, with combined hardware and software sales through last November totalling over $1.6 billion, easily outsripping 2007 totals by roughly $500 million.

Vancouver-based games analyst, Steve Boscka and research analyst, Mike Hickey from Colorado were tapped for their opinions. Both analysts remained bullish on the growth potential for the industry during this recession, citing the high value proposition of video games and the dominant Nintendo Wii's mainstream cachet as strong determining factors. This is in spite of the fact that Microsoft, Sony, EA and numerous smaller companies have announced staff reductions and spending cuts in the final quarter of 2008.

Those grim realities barely fazed the analysts and their prognostications as both men offered sobering arguments to support their claims:

"The industry is seeing great sales right now," says Vancouver-based gaming industry analyst Steve Boscka. "Any company that's attributing layoffs to the economic downturn is looking for excuses, because the numbers don't back it up."
Hickey notes:

"...a lot of companies are making games that suck. Regardless of how good the market is, if you have bad games, sales are going to be limited."
While even the most powerful companies are feeling the pinch and reining in their goals to more realistic levels, running a tighter ship can only increase the likelihood of seeing some higher quality releases, even if the overall output drops in the next couple of years. Sloppy management may have flown during headier times but they won't past muster in a depressed economy, regardless of which sector you're working in. As consumers, we can at least rest assured that the cream will always rise to the top.

On a personal note, I'm gladdened to find such a thorough and balanced story about the video games by a non-enthusiast source. It's also nice to see other analysts give Michael Pachter a break from "playing Nostradamus" now and again (and prophesying some good news for a change).

Jan 22, 2009

PS3 Singstar Fanatic Caught in the Act on Gamer's Voice

Oh yes, there's more where this came from. It seems a careless Playstation.ca Gamer's Voice Singstar reviewer accidentally left his web cam rolling after his review wrapped-up, resulting in a very embarrassing vocal moment. I guess that's what happens when you make such a poor decision as to sing The Cardigans.

What a silly lovefool!

It's Hears(eh): Leaked Memo From EA Canada's GM to Black Box Staff

Today Kotaku is reporting that EA Canada has layed off hundreds of staff members at their EA Black Box studio in downtown Vancouver.

This comes a month after EA Canada slashed it's fiscal year 2010 financial outlook after disappointing holiday sales of titles such as Mirror's Edge and Need For Speed Undercover.

In a company statement in December, EA CEO John Riccitiello wrote:
"Given this performance and the uncertain economic environment, we are taking steps to reduce our cost structure and improve the profitability of our business."
Kotaku is also reporting that they have received, through unoffical channels, a copy of the memo from EA Canada GM Rory Armes to surviving staff at Black Box.

In the memo, Rory states:

"Rest assured that we will be doing everything we can to treat our affected colleagues with dignity and respect, and help them through this transition. It's a tough, emotional day for all of us, but obviously much more so for those who received the news today."
To read the full memo from Kotaku, click here.

Jan 20, 2009

Gears of War 2 Combustible Map Pack Impressions

Well, it’s been just over a month since the Gears of War 2 Combustible Map Pack was launched as a premium Xbox Live download. This map pack includes three new maps named Flood, Fuel Station and Gold Rush. Lucky I was able to get my grubby hands on this map pack for some multiplayer mayhem.

Let’s start with the Flood map. This is a challenging map in that over time, your field of play is slowly reduced to a fraction of its size as Imulsion steadily rises to cover up the edges. It is very important to ensure that you have solid teamwork here to make quick work of you opponents.

Gears of War 2 Combustible Map Pack - Flood Map
As the Imulsion engulfs the playing field, you will be forced to squeeze into the middle of the map where there is little cover and it becomes an open fire fight. Every now and then you’ll hear an eruption and your controller will rumble. This is your cue that the Imulsion is building up...so take notice. If your team hasn’t taken out the opposition by the second or third cue, now’s the time to do so. I thought the overall concept of this map made for an interesting twist on the multiplayer experience and its particular emphasis on teamwork in order to come out on top.

Fuel Station is a fun map and seems to be the most compact of the three. There is a fuel station (hence the map name) located in the middle of the map that can be occupied inside as well as on the roof. You’ll find that much of the battle normally takes place within or just around the fuel station and this makes for some intense close range combat.

Gears of War 2 Combustible Map Pack - Fuel Station Map
You'll want to hone your skills with the shotgun or pick and choose spots around that map where you can spring up on an opponent and surprise them from behind with a good ol' chainsaw attack. From a teamwork perspective, if your team can occupy the fuel station first, then you should have a strong position to fight off the opposition. I've found that placing one or two team members on the roof (to provide a top level view of things as well as good cover fire) and the rest within or around the fuel station works best.

Last but not least is the Gold Rush map. This is my favourite of the three. The setting is an abandoned Imulsion refinery where the map looks and feels quite large in size. The overall design is linear with spawning areas on opposite sides. In the middle is an elevated platform that can be accessed from either ends of the map. This platform is also where you can pick up a Longshot rifle and put your sniper skills to the test on any unsuspecting enemies below.

Gears of War 2 Combustible Map Pack - Gold Rush Map
Scattered abundantly throughout are various structures that you can make good use of for cover. This comes in very handy due to the map's linear and open design. Take advantage of the cover as you spot enemies running towards you from the other side and start firing away or to protect yourself from an overhead attack coming from the elevated platform. The various structures are also very good for planting grenade as proximity mines for unsuspecting foes.

Overall I'd have to say that all three maps are a lot of fun and will provide hours upon hours of additional online multiplayer gaming. In addition, it's something fresh and different especially once you've exhausted all of the existing maps for Gears 2. For the price of 800 MS points, this is one premium download that you'll likely want to have if you are a fan of Gears of War 2, and more importantly a bigger fan of the multiplayer.

And So Our Story Continues? Fable 2: Knothole Island Impressions

Warning: This article contains references to the various endings of Fable 2, as well as some events in Knothole Island. Those who wish to experience the game without spoilers should probably skip this article.

As our Top Games of 2008 post showed earlier this year, the NextGen Player team was quite fond of Fable 2 for Xbox 360. Personally, I loved the art style and humour of the game, but what really grabbed me was the storytelling. I was excited to hear about the planned DLC, especially when Lionhead said they would have it out for the Christmas break, which happens to be the time when many of us have MS points burning holes in our virtual wallets. After the unfortunate delay of the DLC until January, some of my eagerness evaporated as I fell into the clutches of "that other game".

But new content has arrived nonetheless, in the form of "Knothole Island." It seems that your hero has learned of a new opportunity to save the day (or ruin it), and what adventurer worth his/her salt could resist such a call?

At first glance, Knothole Island appears to have a lot going for it. You'll almost immediately be presented with new items to make you taller, fatter, thinner, better-looking, etc. I have to applaud Lionhead here, they seem to have listened to the fans' concerns about character appearance and addressed them with these items. You should be able to give your avatar the look you've been trying to get since the original game. Even your faithful mutt (if he's still around) can look his best with a dashing new bow-tie collar.

Freshly attired, I sought what any great adventurer seeks, a danger-ridden quest to test my skill once more! After speaking with Knothole's town Chieftain, I learned the local residents were experiencing a prolonged bout of inclement weather. I set out at once to a nearby shrine, where I was to obtain an item sure to rectify this chilly misfortune.

The problem with this DLC is that my previous paragraph essentially describes the only quest you'll be doing, albeit with 3 seasonal variations. This ends up feeling a little on the thin side. New items and customization options are nice, but I hope I'm not presumptuous in assuming that what most players want are exciting new quests to tackle. As it stands, you'll probably blow through this DLC in 3 hours or less, which is way too short for the 800 MS points you'll have to pay to experience it.

The real issue with this DLC isn't a lack of quests though. As you may have heard, Knothole Island contains a way of reviving your possibly dead doggie, depending on the ending you chose for the original game. I can understand that potentially thousands of grieving dog-parents are going to be thrilled to hear this, but I say to those people...shame on you for not choosing the dog-friendly ending in the first place! In all seriousness though, I feel it was a mistake to include this feature in the DLC. When Fable 2 was being shown and hyped prior to release, how many times did we hear that the choices we make in the game will have drastic, lasting consequences? What is the point of creating an ending that caused a genuine emotional response in gamers when it can be undone by spending 800 points? Doesn't that undermine the whole idea of action/consequence?

If you've been craving more Fable 2, then go ahead and get this DLC. Just know that you aren't buying a continuation of your hero's narrative, but rather a trip to the mall with some very light questing along the way.

Jan 19, 2009

NextGen Player Review: Left 4 Dead (Xbox 360)

Article by: Josh McPherson

I have seen the zombie apocalypse, survived and turned right back around into the fray, yet I still feel the hunger for more.

Left 4 Dead is a co-op, survival horror, first person shooter for the Xbox 360 and Windows PC platforms. Left 4 Dead thrusts you, one of four survivors, into the middle of a pandemic of epic proportions, pitting the survivors against hordes of zombies as you fight for your life on the way to the escape zone.

The action is fast paced and nonstop, as hundreds of zombies rush you from every direction. As one of the four survivors, you and your teammates must fight for your lives as you make your way through various situations to reach the “Safe Rooms” which break up each story into four sections where you can gather up more ammo (there’s plenty of it in the game) and health.

The enemies are angry, fast, very vicious and plentiful. There’s also a little bit of variety in what zombies you encounter. There’s your typical drone type, The Boomer who spews vomit all over the players and explodes, calling in a zombie horde. The Hunters who stick to the shadows mostly and jump at you, knocking you down as they begin to ravage your body. Smokers who have long tongues that act as tentacles. Witches who are very strong and very fast (try to avoid them at all cost) and my favorite, the Tank. He’s huge, and strong and takes a massive amount of damage before he falls.

While I enjoyed the single player campaign, it was lacking something for me. After I thought about it a little, it came to me. I went through every scenario in less than four hours. For me, four hours just isn’t enough. However, at the request of some friends, I logged online to give the multiplayer a shot. This is where the real fun begins.

Online you play in a 4-on-4 co-op match in one of two scenarios (yes, there are only two levels) where you get to be a member of the horde - i.e. one of the above mentioned special zombies or the survivors. After each section, you switch sides. The scoring is based on your ability to survive the horde or kill the survivors. The fun to be had here is astounding. The only time I spawned as the Tank, I single handedly wiped out three of the four survivors for the big win.

It is disappointing to know that there are only two levels to be played online, however I kept going back for more and can rest easy knowing that Valve is working hard at releasing new maps for our consumption.

All in all this is a good new series. The mostly lackluster single player campaign hurts it a little but the online experience is a lot of fun. They just need to hurry up and get some new maps out because my trigger finger is itchin' for some more zombie action.

NextGen Player gives Left 4 Dead...

Here Are Your Most Wanted Wii and DS Games for January '09, Canada

According to the January edition of Nintendo's News For Canadian Gamers email newsletter, the Top 12 most wanted Wii and DS titles are a strange bunch. Why you ask? Well, for starters you might think it's because twenty of the twenty-four games are littered™ with™ annoying™ trademark™ symbols™.

But that's not why. You see, some of the games on the list are old, as in launch title old, as in 2006 old. I guess it goes to show that Nintendo games never go out of style.

Oh and to those naysayers who say third party titles can't thrive on Nintendo systems, all I have to say is 'look at 6th place baby'!

Wii

1. Wii Music™
2. Animal Crossing™: City Folk
3. Mario Kart Wii™
4. Wii Fit™
5. Super Mario Galaxy™
6. NHL 2K9
7. Wario Land™: Shake It!
8. Mario™ Super Sluggers
9. Super Smash Bros.™ Brawl
10. Big Brain Academy™: Wii Degree
11. The Legend of Zelda™: Twilight Princess
12. Metroid™ Prime 3: Corruption

NINTENDO DS

1. Personal Trainer™: Cooking
2. Pokémon™ Ranger: Shadows of Almia
3. Mystery Case Files™: MillionHeir™
4. Kirby Super Star™ Ultra
5. Crosswords DS
6. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon™: Explorers of Darkness
7. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon™: Explorers of Time
8. The Legend of Zelda™: Phantom Hourglass
9. Brain Age™ 2: More Training in Minutes a Day
10. Professor Layton and the Curious Village
11. Mario Party™ DS
12. Flash Focus: Vision Training in minutes a Day!

Canadians Spent $2.09 Billion on Video Games in 2008

It looks like the predictions were right.

The CBC is reporting that last year Canadians spent a record breaking $2.09 billion on video games and consoles.

Not surprising to any of us was the order in which the consoles placed, in terms of sales figures, for the year. The Nintendo Wii dominated the Canadian gaming market with a 44% market share, while Microsoft edged out at 25% share, leaving Sony in third place with 22% of the pie. 2008 proved once again that the Wii is the current king of the consoles.

Nintendo also dominated the handheld market with the DS ringing in at 76.5% of all sales, while the PSP took the remainder.

Source: Banner year for Canadian video-game sales
Hat Tip: Games Montreal

Jan 18, 2009

The Death of an Icon

Article by: Josh McPherson

In May of 1989, North American gamers were treated to the first issue of what would be a long legacy for the print gaming publication Electronic Gaming Monthly. For nearly 20 years, EGM endured while other gaming magazines, faced with declining ad revenues and strong online competition, had ceased publication. Perhaps it was the mainstays like Dan “Shoe” Hsu and his insightful reviews or thoughts on the state of the industry, Quartermann’s Gossip corner (one of my personal favorites) or the annual April Fools joke. Regardless of what the appeal was, many North American gamers have either read a handful of issues or been a subscriber at one time or another.

Sadly, on Tuesday January 6th, 2009, Ziff Davis (the former publishing company) have decided to sell 1up.com and all the sites associated with the 1up brand, including EGM, to The Hearst Corporation and the UGO network. According to Joystiq, a number of the staff members at 1up.com and EGM have been let go, with only a fraction of the original staff retained by UGO. To what extent they will be used is still not known. So what will happen to our beloved EGM magazine? That I intended to find out.

As a loyal subscriber for the past 10 years, I recently renewed for the maximum term. When I first heard about the cancellation of the publication I took it upon myself to contact the customer service department to inquire what was happening with the magazine and subsequently, the rest of my subscription. The customer service representative I spoke with was very helpful and made sure to take down my comments when I expressed how much I loved this magazine and that I was disappointed with the decision to end the publication. The rep assured me that there was no final decision as to what UGO would be doing with EGM now or in the future but there would not be another issue coming my way in the next 30 days. Instead, the rep informed me that there was a possibility that they may take the popular magazine to an online monthly subscription format. The rep also told me that anyone who had the monthly mail delivery, would get the option to receive a refund for the remainder of their subscription or subscribe to the digital e-Zine format.

If you're a subscriber of EGM and would like to speak with a Ziff Davis customer service rep to discuss your options, contact the customer service department at phone #
US/Canada: 386-597-4371
International: 386-597-4370
Could the recent announcement of EGM shutting down be the death rattle for printed gaming publications? When a magazine such as EGM that’s been around for so long and widely regarded as the best in the business falls, like it or not, it sure looks to be a sign of the times.

Jan 17, 2009

NextGen Player Interview: Discussing WET with A2M

WET from A2M
Recently, NextGen Player released exclusive game play footage of WET - an upcoming game from Montreal game developer A2M (Artificial Mind & Movement). There has been much talk regarding WET's unique and interesting concept and more importantly as to who will publish the game and when it's release date will be. As a follow up to the exclusive game play footage, NextGen Player had the opportunity to ask the team at A2M a few questions about the game and its development.

Enjoy this NextGen Player exclusive (much thanks to Sylvain Awad, Product Manager at A2M for facilitating the interview).


NGP: For those of our readers who aren't as familiar with WET, can you provide us with a synopsis of the background story in WET?

A2M: WET tells the story of Rubi, a ruthless all-action gun for hire problem fixer who one day agrees to find and bring back the kidnapped son of a prominent crime lord. She thinks it’s all cut and dry. The man who hired her isn’t who he appears to be. Double crossed and left for dead, Rubi declares all out war on the man who screwed her over! Leaving a massive body count in her wake, her search spans three continents and is packed with ruthless over the top action. Fast paced “balls to the wall” combat and death defying acrobatics keeps the adrenaline pumping from start to finish.


NGP: We recently showcased exclusive game play footage of WET on our site. A lot of people compared its slow motion gun play to past games such as Stranglehold and Max Payne. How would you say WET differs from them and other similar style games?

A2M: Wet is about seamlessly combining guns, sword and acrobatics in a way that’s never been done before. Players can shoot multiple enemies simultaneously with a split-targeting mechanism while performing death-defying acrobatics before closing in for devastating close-quarter sword attacks. This unique blend of game play ingredients is punctuated by a distinct visual style that will have players engrossed in a postmodern, “Grindhouse-style” experience. Plus we have a few more surprises up our sleeve that will be revealed soon.


NGP: Visually, WET has a very stylized look and feel to it. What was the inspiration behind this?

Rubi in action
A2M: We wanted to capture the vibe of retro 70’s-action and spaghetti-western movies in a modern setting. This set the stage for a highly stylized, over-the-top action adventure with an ironic mix of humor and violence. It’s an unconventional approach that has allowed us to create a universe more conducive to the types of characters and situations we wanted to present, and helped to establish an overall game experience we believe is truly unique and memorable.


NGP: We're seeing a significant rise in lead female characters within video games. Was this trend a factor in deciding the lead character for WET would be a female?

A2M: Actually, no, we created Rubi long BEFORE the trend came about. We faced quite a few skeptics early on, but believed in Rubi as the heart and soul of WET from the very start. She's one of those iconic characters you can recognize just from her silhouette.


NGP: What are some of the other key game features of WET?

A2M: Beyond Rubi’s repertoire of acrobatic moves, she has the ability to shoot anytime and anywhere (from ladders, poles, etc.) along with an assortment of devastating sword attacks resulting in a deliciously high body count. We are also including exotic game play modes which are being kept secret for the moment…

A couple of exciting things we can talk about are that the story was conceived by Duppy Dimitrius, a writer for the “24” television series, also over an hour of original music has already been recorded with Brian Le Barton, music director and keyboard player for Beck, with support from musicians who play with other mega-bands, and with Outkast/Radiohead's Grammy-Winning engineer Darrell Thorp at the controls.


NGP: Recently at MIGS (Montreal International Game Summit), A2M touched on the creation of new tools and processes to enhance data intensive programming for future games. Can you talk more about this and how it was used for the development of WET?

A2M develpment tools
A2M: In comparison to the previous generation of consoles, games for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 require larger and more complex models, shaders and special effects. Drawing upon its previous experience developing game engines in-house, we planned ahead by creating tools to address some of these issues. Some of what we showed recently at MIGS included a visual node-based tool developed to more easily create complex shaders, a special export process for surface detection, a system of flexible render layers allowing more control over rendering resulting in stunning full-screen post effects. These examples are just a fraction of the game development technology we created to bring WET to life.


NGP: What stage of development is WET in at this point?

A2M: We are in full production, approaching an Alpha status.


NGP: The big questions on many people's minds is if you've found a publisher and when this game will be released. Can you give any specifics?

A2M: We are in discussions with publishers and we will make an announcement as soon as is appropriate.

Rubi from WET

NextGen Player Exclusive Interview: Alain Lachapelle

While at the Montreal International Game Summit, Paul had the opportunity to interview Alain Lachapelle, the Director of the event. The interview sheds light on what MIGS is all about, provides insight into the Quebec gaming industry, and touches upon Alain's decision to make this year's Summit open to the public. Enjoy!



Time: 07:51

Web Link

Jan 15, 2009

EB Games Rings In 2009 With January Promos

Just in case some of you haven't noticed, EB Games Canada has some pretty decent promotions going on for the month of January. One is on the purchase of used games and the other is a trade promotion. Both promos end on January 31, 2009.

The first is their Buy 2 and Get One 1/2 Price on select used PS2, Xbox, Gamecube and Game Boy Advance titles.

The second is their trade promo where you can purchase select new PS3 and Xbox 360 titles for $19.99 and select new Wii, DS and PSP titles for $9.99 when you trade in any 2 select PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii titles. If you look at the list of acceptable trade in titles (i.e. My Horse & Me and Kawasaki Quad Bikes for the Wii???), this works out to be a pretty sweet deal.

For more details, click on the promotion images below.

EB Games - Buy 2 and Get One 1/2 Price Promo

EB Games - Trade In Promo

No YouTube For You, Xbox 360

TechCrunch is reporting that YouTube is beta testing a new feature that will allow you to watch videos directly from your TV, via your PS3 and or your Wii browsers. Due to the lack of a native browser Xbox 360 users will be missing out on this new service.

Information from the YouTube US Blog (sadly not available in Canada due to geo-targeting):
Have you ever wanted to just sit on your couch and watch YouTube on your TV? Well, now that's possible via YouTube for Television, initially available through the Sony PS3 and Nintendo Wii game consoles at www.youtube.com/tv. Currently in beta, the TV Website offers a dynamic, lean-back, 10-foot television viewing experience through a streamlined interface that enables you to discover, watch and share YouTube videos on any TV screen with just a few quick clicks of your remote control. With enlarged text and simplified navigation, it makes watching YouTube on your TV as easy and intuitive as possible.
This is great news for those of you reading NextGen Player on your PS3 already. Now you catch the NextGen Player Team YouTube Channel direct from your Gaming Console.

Image thanks to YouTube.

EB Games: Resident Evil 5 We Guarantee it

EB Games is at it again - this time bringing us a gaming guarantee for March's hottest title Resident Evil 5. Guaranteed you'll like it, or your money back, this promotion will reimburse you with full value store credit within 7 days of pick-up (if you pre-order the game). Many of us have taken advantage of these pre-order guarantees before and fans of the Resident Evil saga will not be left out with the dead on this one.

Full details available here. (pdf)

To add to this news, yesterday Xbox and Capcom announced the exclusive one week early availability of the Resident Evil 5 demo on Xbox Live on January 26, 2009. PlayStation 3 gamers will have to wait an extra week for the demo to be available on the PSN Store.

DETAILS:
Resident Evil 5
Release Date: 13/03/2009
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Jan 14, 2009

PGL Heading To Toronto: Feb. 6-8

The Pro Gaming League have announced that Toronto will be the second stop on their 08-09 season. While the location has not been made public yet, the dates for the event will be February 6, 7 and 8th.

For those of you who missed out on PGL's season opener at Festival Arcadia, the Amp Energy Pro Team, North of 49, swept the competition 4-0.

At PGL Toronto participants can compete in the following games:

> Halo 3
> Gears of War 2
> Super Smash Bros.
> Guitar Hero

I hope to be on-hand at the event, so stay tuned for more coverage on NextGen Player.

Jan 13, 2009

It's Official, "Wii" Enters The Canadian Lexicon

You knew it was bound to happen. And it did. Frankly, I'm surprised it took this long.

I was at the Waterpark Place, downtown Toronto last week when I stumbled upon an advertisement for a Wii Fit contest the property managers were running. To add that extra hip factor the ads conveniently swap out the word "we" for the much more contemporary word "Wii". While the editor in me made my brow furrow, the gamer in me thought the ad was absolutely Wiicked!

Jan 12, 2009

VFS Game Design Expo: February 7th - 8th, 2009

Guest Post: Clinton Ma

Budding game creators take note. Vancouver Film School's annual Game Design Expo is less than a month away. Tickets for the industry speaker day on the 7th have sold out in record time, which leaves the open house on the following day available to the general public.

Unlike the industry speaker day, the open house is free to attend and serves as a promotional tool for VFS's intensive one-year game design program. The event runs all day and will be broken up into two overlapping sessions, featuring trial design classes, demos of student games and an interactive showcase of commercial games that VFS alumni have worked on. The open house will also have a series of speakers, with the lion's share of them belonging to a special Women in Games panel.

Even if you have no intention to enroll in the VFS Game Design program, the open house alone should be an eye-opening experience to anyone with even a passing interest in video game development. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet program head, Dave Warfield and gain valuable insight from local industry professionals. You'll get this all for the price of nothing, save a little time out of your typically lazy Sunday afternoon.

Those of you with industry cred or PR acumen can still try to work your way into the sold-out industry day, which boasts an excellent assortment of speakers. Along with Ubisoft creative director, Clint Hocking's keynote address, the day will feature luminaries from Epic Games, Radical Entertainment, Insomniac Games, Microsoft Game Studios and many more.

To register for the free Game Design Expo open house, you can go online or call 604-631-3591.

Jan 11, 2009

Hey Look, These Playstation Gamer's Voice Video Reviews Are Umm...Hilarious

Budding Canadian videographers eager to review Playstation video game titles have been busy preparing short clips to post on Playstation.ca's recently launched Gamer's Voice.

While the quantity of videos is somewhat lacking, the quality is top notch. Don't believe me? See for yourself:





See? I bet you'll never doubt me again.

Source: Gamer's Voice [Playstation.ca]

What Console Do You Play The Most?

The Nielsen Company recently released their Top Ten Lists of 2008 for the US. This report focuses on the top trends in the US of which video games is one of them (ya don't say...).

One of the top ten lists related to video games was specific to video game console usage. Here are the results.

1. PS2 - 31.7%
2. Xbox 360 - 17.2%
3. Wii - 13.4%
4. Xbox - 9.7%
5. PS3 - 7.3%
6. Gamecube - 4.6%
7. Other - 16.2%
*Percentages for each console is the percent of all measured console minutes.

While the top 3 in this list doesn't come as much of a surprise, the fact that the PS3 placed behind the original Xbox is a little unexpected.

That said, NextGen Player is interested to know what game console you play the most? Enter our poll below.

Jan 10, 2009

Street Fighter IV Controllers Revealed at CES

Alright all you Street Fighter fans who are eagerly awaiting the release of the much anticipated Street Fighter IV.

Gamespot is covering the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and have shared details on the variety of specially created Street Fighter IV controllers made by Mad Catz.

Check out the video below. I'm personally going to be placing a pre-order for the Tournament Edition fight stick. Very cool.

NextGen Player In The Raw Podcast - Episode 2

It's here!

Our second podcast is now live for your listening pleasure.

Listen as Paul, Matt, Andrew S. and Andrew G. discuss the following:

- What games we're currently playing.
- Discussing our Top Games of 2008 selections.
- Recapping our recent contest winners.
- What games we're looking forward to in 2009

You can listen to our podcast by subscribing to our iTunes feed here:

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=299133207

Or click here to listen straight from the internet:

http://www.mevio.com/shows/?sId=20013&mId=5946941

Or you can stream it directly using our Flash player:



Enjoy.

Jan 9, 2009

IO: Go Into Games (GIG) Featuring Bedlam Games

Interactive Ontario (io) recently announced that they have launched a new series of speaker sessions that aim to get games industry professionals into classrooms across Ontario.

The main goals of this initiative is to bring together the budding talents of students with the experienced gaming professionals in their local area. The first Go Into Games (GIG) session is taking place at McMaster University on January 14th, 2009, with speakers from Toronto-based video game developer, Bedlam Games.

Featured Presenters: Trevor Fencott - CEO and Jon Paul Schelter - Technical Director of Bedlam Games.

The planned session topics include:
  • Anatomy of a frontline game developer: Code, Production, Design, Art, Management
  • What kinds of things are done at a studio during a project?
  • What different people on the code team do?
  • Development methodologies, tech development, and working with a commercial engine
  • Working on first party hardware (PS3, 360) as opposed to PC
  • Things learned at school most useful in video game development
GIG is part of the larger Game On program run by Interactive Ontario which includes the events gTALK and the Ontario Game Summit. Both of these session ran last year and will hopefully run again in 2009.

About Interactive Ontario:
io is a not-for-profit industry trade organization committed to the growth of the Ontario interactive digital content industry. To this end "io" is an industry advocate within Ontario and nationally as a founding member of the Canadian Interactive Alliance /Alliance interactive canadienne (CIAIC).

To facilitate connections between businesses and stimulate industry growth "io" organizes numerous events throughout the year – including a high-level international industry ICE (www.ice08.com), monthly case studies/panels and networking events.


About Bedlam Games:
Bedlam Games Inc. is an independent, venture capital backed developer of next generation console video games located in Toronto Canada. Bedlam's mission is to deliver original AAA titles borne of exceptional design, fostered by meticulous planning, and realized by a world-class team. The studio was formed in 2006 by a seasoned group of industry professionals from top-tier companies such as Rockstar, Electronic Arts and Ubsoft who are united in their belief that games can be developed differently. (www.bedlamgames.com)


Hat tip: Techvibes

NextGen Player Gears of War Contest Winner Announcement

Hello NextGen Player readers.

Andrew here from NextGen Player. I'm happy to officially announce the Grand Prize winner of our Gears of War Contest.

Our winner is Harpreet Sandhu of Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada.

As the Grand Prize winner, Harpreet will receive:

- 1 (one) Limited Edition Locust Drone Headshot Figure with Metal Cog Tags
- 1 (one) Download code for the gold Hammerburst Assault Rifle for online play
- 1 (one) Gears of War 2 t-shirt (L size)

NextGen Player Gears of War Grand Prize

Congratulations to Harpreet and a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who entered and made this contest one of our most successful to date. The NextGen Player team appreciates your continued support of the site.

Cheers,
Andrew and the NextGen Player team.

Jan 8, 2009

Sony: PS3 Has The Most Features and Functionality Out of the Box

Now this is corporate chest-beating at it's finest. Today Sony Computer Entertainment Canada sent out a media release with the very blunt claim that PS3 features superior technology and a sophisticated design that creates the ideal all-in-one entertainment product. To illustrate their point, Sony included that chart above showing that the PS3 offers the most features and functionality, at the best price, out of the box. All revenue figures are in Canadian dollars.

The differentiators raised by Sony ought to be well known to the core gaming community, such as PSN's free access, no built-in Wi-Fi on the Xbox 360, and no hard drive included with the Wii.

While it's hard to dispute Sony's claims, I'm still surprised that they are focusing on the console's robust feature and functionality set instead of what gamers want most - games. Considering Sony has juggernauts such as Killzone 2, Uncharted 2, Infamous and God of War 3 currently slated for 2009 you'd think they'd be pushing that angle. Well, what am I saying, it's only the second week of January. I'm sure we'll have plenty more corporate gloating in the weeks and months ahead, yippee!

Here's the full press release:

Keeping Gaming and Entertainment Simple

The 2008 holiday season was an exciting time for video gaming and the Blu-ray side of the interactive entertainment industry, and 2009 promises to follow suit. As consumers continue to invest in their entertainment needs this new year, the feature sets of the three multi-functional gaming systems -- PLAYSTATION 3, Xbox 360 and Wii -- become that much more important to consider.

PLAYSTATION 3 has always been about streamlining the gaming and entertainment experience by giving consumers the most features and functionality out of the box, there is no immediate need to upgrade anything to get a rich entertainment experience, as the console comes standard with:

* Built in Blu-ray drive for HD movies and mind-blowing games
* Built in Wi-Fi for wireless gaming and Internet access
* Huge hard drives for storing games, movies, music photos and more
* Free online gaming and entertainment access through PSN
* Ten year's of value with a future-proof system via firmware updates that offer new services and features

The Xbox 360 and Wii offer a set of features in their own right. However, when you take a look at the feature offerings side by side, there is only one true winner in delivering total value and price.

We’ve compared the lowest entry points from each manufacturer -- PS3 80GB - $399, Xbox 360 Arcade - $199, Wii - $279. All prices listed are Canadian.

[The chart above goes here]

The PS3 is the perfect example of a product featuring superior technology and a sophisticated design creating an ideal all-in-one entertainment product. The Xbox 360 requires additional money, multiple upgrades and additional external devices, putting a burden on the wallet and adds clutter to the entertainment center. And the Wii’s lack of enhanced features comes at the expense of a comprehensive entertainment solution. So as PS3 continues to evolve without the need for additional parts or expenses, expect the competition to continue peddling add-ons in an effort to keep up with the Jones’.

Jan 7, 2009

Body Break Episode Features Wii Sports

If you live in Canada then you've undoubtedly heard of the outspoken Body Break duo Hal Johnson & Joanne McLeod. Most of us grew up listening and watching these two preach that a balanced lifestyle, including healthy eating and exercise, can benefit an individual and their families for a lifetime.

Their 90-second infomercials usually involve people eating right and actively playing sports. You know, carrots, basketball and the such. To my surprise, this was all about to change.

During the holidays I was watching tv and was absolutely floored when a Body Break commercial came on that actually had Hal and Joanne encourage the use of video games. I thought I was in the Twilight Zone for a minute. Seriously.

Naturally what they were encouraging was the use of Wii Sports as a vehicle for exercise. I fortunately found the video on YouTube, you should definitely check it out. At the 1:10 mark Hal made the most remarkable statement:

"It's about encouraging you, your family and friends to play traditional and new video games - and you're never too old to have fun!"

Encourage your friends to play traditional and new video games? Yes! That means I can continue to play Resistance 2 on my couch and get fat. This is awesome news indeed.

Anyhow, here's the video. Enjoy.

NextGen Player Review: Space Trader: Merchant Marine

If you had to find a common thread between games that stand out as successes, one possible link might be the feeling that from very early on in the development process, the creators had laid out a path for where their game was going to go, and what the finished product would look like. Since I'm not a game designer myself, perhaps it's even naive to assume predictions of that nature can exist. When a game clearly lacks this sort of direction however, it can ruin the experience as a whole. Unfortunately, such is the case with Space Trader, a 2007 indie release for PC.

Space Trader starts out with a lot of promise. You're introduced to the world of galactic commodity trading, given some cash to play around with and shown how the economies of various markets work. It reminded me of a free game I used to play in high school called "Dope Wars" where your character would run around in various international cities selling illicit products and tangling with the law. If Space Trader had stuck to this one theme of buying and selling goods from merchants, I think it would have been a stronger game.

The problem arises when you are tasked with chasing down random people in a first-person shooter environment. It's as if at some point in the development process, someone piped up and said "hey guys, we're making a game about economics...should we throw some guns in there just in case?" This sort of tacked-on concept can been seen in many games, but it really detracts from the experience in this case because the FPS sequences are very flawed. Within 2 seconds of the start of these sequences, you will likely be shot. Repeatedly. There is no time to familiarize yourself with the controls or movement (which reminded me of a puck sliding on an air hockey table) because you are constantly being reminded that your target is escaping, so these missions tend to turn into "can I gun down the main dude before his thugs kill me 3 times?" There's no reward for stealth or trying to approach a fight creatively, because the AI knows where you are from minute one.

Space Trader didn't need to have FPS sequences. It could have been a small niche title about trading and likely had the same response to the product. I can't see people picking this game up for an engaging combat experience, unless they are completely unfamiliar with bigger-name FPS games. When you look at the game as a whole, you're left with a few positive qualities (the trading itself is enjoyable) weighed down by a myriad of negatives (bland NPCs and environments, terrible voice acting, dated visuals and pointless combat sequences.) As such, it's hard to recommend Space Trader, even at the $10 price point it's currently going for on Steam.

NextGen Player gives Space Trader: Merchant Marine...

NextGen Player News: Scam Alert

It has been brought to our attention that there is an individual, or group of individuals, in Saskatchewan impersonating me [Matt] and selling scamming people into thinking that they are buying a Nintendo Wii on the popular web site Kijiji.ca.

It looks like all the ads have expired or have been taken down for terms of service violations by the kijiji security team - but I'm still receiving notices that people want their Wii...

I'm sorry if you have been affected by this but know that it is not me or any of the NextGen Player contributors.

How you can tell if you're being scammed:
  1. All NextGen Player staff contact info is posted on the NextGenPlayer.com web site (about us page)
  2. All our full-time staff only send email from a NextGenPlayer.com email address not an @gmail.com account.
  3. NextGen Player is based in Ontario and not Saskatchewan.
Know this: Now that we are on to this we are looking at our best options to track and deal with these scammers.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support of NextGen Player.

Jan 6, 2009

Xbox 360 Announces Its Best Year In 2008

Xbox 360
With 2008 having come and gone, Microsoft recently announced some impressive numbers for their Xbox 360. 2008 was historic in sales with more consoles, games and online entertainment sold than any previous year.

Some overall key stats to note:

- Life-to-date unit sales of Xbox 360 systems climbed to 28 million consoles worldwide
- The Xbox LIVE community also grew to more than 17 million active members
- Online consumer spending increased 84 percent from last year
- Since the launch of the Xbox 360 three years ago, more than $1 billion has been spent on Xbox LIVE

Microsoft also noted that the Xbox 360 is setting record sales around the globe, most notably in Japan and Europe where marketshare has been almost doubled. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), the Xbox 360 has now sold more than 8 million units.

"For Xbox, 2008 will be remembered around the world as a pivotal growth year at retail and online — even in the face of tough economic conditions," said Don Mattrick, senior vice president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. "Worldwide, a record number of players flocked to our broadest games and entertainment lineup ever, while the New Xbox Experience thrilled millions of fans by making our console even more engaging. And yet, we've only provided a glimpse into the new world of interactive entertainment that we’re imagining. The best of Xbox 360 is yet to come."

It will be interesting to see what 2009 brings for the Xbox 360 and if they can keep this momentum going, especially with the PlayStation 3 hot on its heels.

Guess What Our Hottest Posts of 2008 Were?

People have asked me in the past how we select our posts to place in the Hot Zone. For those uninitiated, the Hot Zone is located on the right sidebar and contains a list of recent hot posts on NextGen Player.

Well, the answer is simple. It's analytics my dear Watson.

Tonight I had a little peak at our analytics to find out which of our posts were the hottest during the 2008 calendar year. To my surprise Just like I thought, the hottest posts were flamebait, frugality, and plastic guns.

You know what, recession or not, I think we're going to get along just fine in 2009.

Here are our top ten hottest posts from 2008:

10. NextGen Player Reader Review: Fallout 3
9. Which Square-Enix Betrayal Shocked You More?
8. The Lancer Has Arrived
7. Family Fears Boy Lured By Gamers
6. Sony Announces New Playstation 3 Accessories
5. Toys R Us 'Buy 2 Get 1 Free' Deal is (Not Yet) Available?
4. NextGen Player Exclusive: 8 Minutes of WET Gameplay
3. It's Hears(eh): Are These Best Buy's Boxing Day Gaming Deals?
2. 5 Reasons Why Trophies Are Better Than Achievements
1. 5 Reasons Why Achievements Are Better Than Trophies

And The (Final) PLAY! Winner Is...

Well, that's a wrap!

The Come Out And PLAY! Contest has officially ended, and our winners selected.

Congratulations goes out to our third and final winner, Menzies MacAllister. He just won himself tickets for two to see PLAY! A Video Game Symphony performing live on January 9th in Edmonton, Alberta. Thanks to everyone who participated in this contest.

I would like to give a big thanks to our partner on the PLAY! Contest, Eh Button. Thanks a lot for all your help guys!

I also would like to say thanks to Jason M. Paul, Producer of PLAY! for taking time out of his busy schedule for our exclusive interview opportunity.

If you interested in attending PLAY! Edmonton, there is still time to snag tickets. It looks like they just added a "buy two get one free" deal on tickets. Not bad at all. For show information and tickets, check out the Ticketmaster page here:

http://www.ticketmaster.ca/event/11004114E4D3C74E

Also, if you're attending the event please note that they will be having a food drive for the Food Bank at the Jubilee. It would be very much appreciated if you could bring a canned food item to the event. All food will be donated to the Food Bank of Edmonton.

I have also been informed that Nintendo of Canada and Playstation will be there at the event. I hope everyone has a fantastic time at the concert, sounds like it'll be awesome!

For more information on PLAY! A Video Game Symphony, check out their website at www.play-symphony.com.

Jan 5, 2009

NextGen Player Review: Tomb Raider: Underworld

Tomb Raider: Underworld
It’s hard to believe that the Tomb Raider franchise has been in existance since 1996 when the first Tomb Raider game made its debut on the Sony PlayStation. Well, much has changed since then. Tomb Raider: Underworld is the latest game in the series brought to us by Eidos and Crystal Dynamics (same team that also worked on Legend and Anniversary). The story for Underworld centers on Norse mythology and specifically Thor’s Hammer. Lara sets out to find Thor’s Hammer as she believes her search for this relic will also shed light on the mystery of her late mother’s death.

The game’s opening level is a prologue sequence where Croft Mansion has been nearly destroyed and you need to guide Lara safely out (actually, you’ll replay this sequence again about half way through the game). As soon as you complete this level, the game flashes back a week and this is where the story begins.

If you’ve played Tomb Raider: Legend, then you’ll immediately familiarize yourself with Underworld. The control scheme remains the same with the addition of a few new moves in Lara’s arsenal. These include the ability to wall climb, walk along beams and grapple wall run. These added moves provide a new and refreshing way to advance through the games levels. Other new moves come in the form of combat controls. One of the cooler new combat mechanisms is the Adrenaline Headshot. This is a one shot kill that can be activated when Lara’s adrenaline meter is full. Another change is the replacement of the interactive cut scenes (ones where you are prompted to press a certain button on your controller to successfully complete the scene) with slow motion sequences where you have a short amount of time to initiate the correct move for Lara and safely complete the sequence.

Tomb Raider: Underworld
The game’s environments and level design are trademark Tomb Raider. They are large in scale, beautifully detailed, explorative and well thought out. They also present a wide variety of flavours. You’ll go under water, underground, inside Croft mansion, on a shipping vessel, etc. Locals include Thailand, Mexico, the Arctic, the Mediterranean Sea and more. Where Underworld really shines is in the puzzles. All of them are well designed and offer a decent challenge to complete them. They also take full advantage of the large level designs as you’ll find a thorough exploration is required to successfully complete the main task at hand.

Tomb Raider: Underworld
When it comes to combat, Underworld has been toned down quite a bit compared to previous Tomb Raider games. There are far less foes that you go up against and the ones you do encounter don’t present much of an effort to eliminate. There are no actual boss fights either. In the end, the emphasis is placed on puzzle solving and exploration with some gunplay thrown in between.

Amongst all of the good things that Tomb Raider: Underworld does well, there are still some mildly frustrating issues that have carried over from previous versions of the game. These include the regular instances of odd camera angles and positioning. A prime example is when you’re scaling or climbing a wall and you need to leap to an object behind you, but the camera doesn’t swing around far enough to allow you to see where you’re target is. There are also regular glitches where Lara will get ‘stuck’ to various objects within the environment and you’ll need to either fire your weapon or frantically jump until she becomes free.

All in all, Tomb Raider: Underworld is an enjoyable and satisfying game. If you are a fan of the series, then you will not be disappointed with this game and you already will have learned to deal with some of the game’s minor issues. If this is your first encounter with a Tomb Raider game, then you’ll definitely appreciate the puzzle design and the ability to explore and experience some visually stunning and interactive world environments.

Pluses:
- Large and beautifully detailed environments
- Challenging and well designed puzzles
- Addition of new moves add more to overall gameplay

Negatives:
- Previous camera issues have not been addressed
- Combat is too light and easy

NextGen Player gives Tomb Raider: Underworld...

NextGen Player gives Tomb Raider: Underworld a 3.5 out of 5

Jan 4, 2009

NextGen Player Review: A Kingdom For Keflings

I must admit that city-building simulators have a way of capturing my imagination. Perhaps it's the bestowing of god-like powers to create, shape and tailor a civilisation to my liking that I enjoy best. Or maybe it's the reinforcement that comes with experiencing the cause-and-effect results of micromanaging your environment. Unfortunately (or fortunately) A Kingdom For Keflings doesn't quite give you either.

Taken for what it is, A Kingdom for Keflings is a minimalistic, addictive, and stress-free Xbox Live Arcade title. In this sim game you won't encounter any conflict, no one in your city will complain, and nothing catastrophic will ever happen. The premise is simple: you are thrust into the role of a sizable giant, entrusted with the role of directing your peons, or Keflings, to build you a beautiful, sprawling kingdom. One interesting feature of the game is that it's the very first title designed from the ground up use the New Xbox Experience's avatars. Surprisingly it's actually quite fun to prance around your kingdom as a giant version of your custom-designed NXE avatar.

You start off with nothing but a town square, a resource-rich environment and a handful of Keflings. The game features four resource types - rocks, wood, wool and crystals - that must be harvested to build and expand your kingdom. Keflings are incapable of independent thought and so you must direct their every move. They also suffer from single-mindedness and are only able to perform one task at a time. If you want a Kefling to chop wood, you need to pick it up and place it on a row of trees. Then, you need to pick it up a second time and direct it to where you want the resources deposited, typically your workshops and factories.

Once you have collected a supply of resources, your next task is to select a blueprint from your tech tree then go into your workshop and build the pieces one-by-one. Your pieces will queue up and will appear one after another outside your workshop on the main map. Your giant can place the first block anywhere they choose, and the blueprint menu in the top-left corner will show you where subsequent blocks are to be placed. After you have successfully fulfilled the blueprint requirements your building will erect itself while you happily watch from afar. This will generally unlock more buildings in your tech tree, allowing your kingdom to evolve and acquire new technologies.

The game is very straight-forward, almost too much at times. You see, while it's fun to build structures, there really isn't much else to do. There is no micromanaging such as shaping your land, changing taxes or funding, or creating roadways. The game centres almost completely around collecting resources to build blocks and then picking them up and setting them down. Should you need resources, your giant can go out and harvest themselves, but they can only collect one resource at a time so it can be mind-numbingly slow at times. Expect to just sit around and watch your Keflings gather resources far too often.

There is the odd sprinkling of other tasks to complete, such as accepting mayor or king quests. Generally these involve menial tasks such as "bring 50 cloth to the Contractor's Office" or "Paint three houses" and never really add any excitement or sense of accomplishment. The rewards are generally good, such as giving you hearts to grow your Kefling population or new tools to mine resources faster. In addition, there are a number of hearts and tools hidden in resources around your kingdom, giving you incentive to harvest all available resources.

The graphics are adequate and complement the relaxed feeling nicely. The game is bright, colourful and cheery. There are a few weather effects such as rustling leaves during fall and blizzards during winter. Sadly though, these effects are marred with slowdown issues and occasionally brings the gameplay to a halt.

Perhaps the biggest drag to this otherwise happy-go-lucky sim game is the freezing that frequently occurs. During my roughly ten hours of game time I had two major lock-ups, resulting in hard resets. Combined with the fact that there is no auto-save features means one freeze-up can result in plenty of wasted time. The lesson here is save early, save often.

The game also is dragged down by some unnecessary gameplay complications. For example, if at any point in the game you need to relocate a building for efficiency's sake (e.g. if you need to move a stone mill closer to your rock pile), you rather monotonously need to hack your building into it's component parts and then carry them one by one to their new location. Since the map is quite small you'll find that it clutters really fast and often times it's not worth the effort to transport your buildings across town.

Further complicating the mechanics is that each workshop has it's own stockpile of resources, meaning there is no central repository of resources. When you reach the later stages of the tree tech, some buildings require block from multiple workshops thus requiring you keep all workshops resourced. Often you'll find yourself arduously spending time moving wood stockpiles from one workshop to another.

Overall though, I do think that as a pick-up-and-play game, A Kingdom For Keflings fills the role nicely. The low pressure feel to the game is kind of refreshing given the gamut of high stress, high intensity games on the Xbox 360. The game also features a four-player drop in/drop out multiplayer mode as well, further extending the life of the game. The music is okay, but from what I can tell there is only one track in the game that loops endlessly. Thankfully, it's rather pleasant.

If you enjoy carefree sim games and want a charming, ten hour experience then I recommend A Kingdom For Keflings. At 800 Microsoft Points (roughly $12.50 Canadian) the game has enough value to justify admission.