Mar 31, 2009

Future Shop: Nintendo DSi Midnight Madness Event In Toronto

Future Shop - Nintendo DSi Midnight Madness Launch Event on April 4th in Toronto
With the Nintendo DSi launch coming this Sunday, April 5th, Future Shop has decided to celebrate with a Midnight Madness Event at its Yonge-Dundas store located in the heart of downtown Toronto.

This will be a great opportunity for those of you living in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) to get your hands on the Nintendo DSi before anyone else. The Future Shop Yonge-Dundas store is the only retail location in Canada that is hosting such a launch event.

Here are the full details:

Who: Hundreds of gaming enthusiasts awaiting the release of Nintendo DSi™ at Future Shop’s exclusive Midnight Madness event

When: Saturday, April 4, 2009 9:00 p.m. – 12 midnight

Where: Future Shop – Yonge-Dundas 351-353 Yonge St. (at Dundas St.)

Gears 2 Snowblind Map Pack Available Today

New Gears of War 2 Snowblind Map Pack
For all of you Gears heads that have been itching for the new Snowblind Map Pack for Gears of War 2, now's the time to get them. Launching today on Xbox LIVE, the new Snowblind Map Pack is available for download for 800 Microsoft Points.

The Snowblind Map Pack consist of 4 maps including:

Grindyard: A massive industrial complex located in a junk-processing plant from the days of Sera’s industrial excess. The office, now gutted, serves as a perfect place to fortify, but if you’re not careful, you’ll end up trapped inside the office with no hope of escape.

Under Hill: Players are taken through snowbound tunnels that were once billed as a feat of Seran engineering. Head for high ground on the bridge and you’ll be rewarded with massive firepower, but be prepared to defend your position and try to escape being cornered.

Courtyard: A wide-open battle royale containing explosive weapons that once formed the heart of Ephyra’s fashionable Civic Center. Lines of sight are far and clear here, and battles tend to focus around the elevated sniper nest. Watch your back and keep a fresh clip.

Fuel Depot: Back by popular demand, Fuel Depot is a “Gears of War 2” remake of the fan-favorite “Gears of War” map, but winter has set in and the depot is now covered in a blanket of snow. Open and unforgiving, it takes a well-coordinated team to cover all the angles here.

Along with this new map pack are also new Achievements totalling 250 points. These include:

Rookie Gear (10 points): Earn enough multiplayer experience to reach level 5 (Public only).
Seasoned Gear (20 points): Earn enough multiplayer experience to reach level 15 (Public only).
Battle-Tested Gear (30 points): Earn enough multiplayer experience to reach level 25 (Public only).
Battle-Hardened Gear (50 points): Reach level 50 and play a match on each of the four Snowblind Map Pack maps (Public only).
Veteran Gear (75 points): Reach level 100 and win a match on each of the four Snowblind Map Pack maps (Public only).
Never Eat Red Snow (20 points): Complete waves 1 through 10 on all Snowblind Map Pack maps in Horde (any difficulty).
Icy Dead People (25 points): Complete waves 1 through 50 on any Snowblind Map Pack map in Horde (any difficulty).
Frigid Body Dynamics (5 points): Play a multiplayer match on each of the four Snowblind Map Pack maps (any mode).
The Weather Outside Is Lethal (15 points): Win a multiplayer match on each of the four Snowblind Map Pack maps (any mode).

Make sure to stayed tuned to NextGen Player when we post our review of the Snowblind Map Pack - coming soon.

PS2 Price Drop in North America

PS2 Price Drop starts April 1stToday Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) announced that the best selling PlayStation 2 would see a price drop beginning April 1st. For Canadians, the new price for a PS2 will be $109.99 and in the US for $99.99. Seeing as how Sony has continued to benefit from the steady ongoing sales of the PS2, this price drop should help to further that trend. To date, the PS2 has sold over 136MM units worldwide making it one of the most popular gaming systems ever.

This price drop should be attractive to PS3 owners with non-backwards compatible systems who've been yearning to play PS2 titles (both back catalogue or new games - as Sony continues to produce good quality games for the PS2). As well, for parents and casual gamers, this becomes yet another alternative in the search for a gaming system that offers a fantastic price point as well as an extensive library of games. It will be quite interesting to monitor the sales of PS2 from this point forward.

Mar 28, 2009

Prototype Trailer Lists Reasons to Play


(This video contains mature content that is not intended for a younger audience. Viewer discretion is advised)

A new trailer has surfaced for Prototype and it's three and a half minutes of beautiful, unbridled carnage. Enumerating ten reasons to play the game, the list runs through its bloody catalog of mayhem, all in the name of whetting our appetites for an open-world experience we haven't seen the likes of since Crackdown. Elbow-dropping tanks, tossing soldiers from and at gunships and tearing a busy street intersection asunder with explosive, shape-shifting powers... it's all here, folks.

Not surprisingly, the trailer has already generated some healthy Internet buzz. My own assessment of the video flutters between dumbfounded amazement and cautious optimism. The amount of action being displayed on-screen is astounding. If the game can render all the wanton destruction while keeping at a steady framerate, Prototype is sure to go down as the technical showcase of 2009.

But then we have the worry, shared already by many a video commenter, that the game is all flash. Great power with no discernible limits is all well and good, but how will it translate into a compelling game play experience? By now most gamers realize that creating an open-world sandbox alone is no substitute for clever game design. Is the marketing team just showing us the most exciting bits or are these videos an accurate preview of how bombastic, and ultimately superficial, the final game will be? This summer will tell how well-rounded of a title Prototype actually is. For now, it's abundantly clear that, if nothing else, this game knows how to rock n' roll like no other action adventure before it.

For the uninitiated, Prototype is an open-world action adventure game being developed by Vancouver-based Radical Entertainment and published by Activision. The game has been in development for quite some time. It is slated for a summer release of this year. When I interviewed Radical president, Kelly Zmak, in February, he all but confirmed a June 2009 release but did not go into any details on a specific date. Prototype will be available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

Source: YouTube

Mar 27, 2009

Xbox Canada Giving Out 'Stickers of Honour' for CMN

Xbox Canada has a community outreach fundraiser happening right now in Canada in partnership with Blockbuster Canada. With a minimum donation of $2 at participating Blockbuster stores, you can score yourself a limited edition Xbox 360 sticker pack. There are a total of 3 sticker packs available, from Rock Band 2 to unique Xbox 360 art work.

All proceeds from the initiative will help support the Children’s Miracle Network.

Better hurry up though, the fundraiser ends on this Sunday.

For more information, check out the Xbox Canada website here.

Ontario Budget 'Clicks' With Game Developers, Says IO

Interactive Ontario (IO) have released a statement today saying that the Ontario budget announced yesterday will improve the province's competitive edge in the interactive marketplace, which includes developers working on video game consoles, the web and mobile phone platforms.

The budget, which includes two significant improvements to existing tax credits, should serve to make Ontario a much more attractive province for new and existing game developers.

Speaking enthusiastically at the tax credit boost, Ian Kelso, President & CEO of Interactive Ontario remarks:

“This budget can leave no doubt that Ontario is very serious about its digital future. It is a tremendous boost to our competitive edge, and I have no doubt the world will take notice.”
The budget proposes to increase the Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit (OIDMTC) to 40% of qualifying expenditures for video game companies that develop and market their own products. Previously, this tax credit was 30% of qualifying expenditures. Overall, IO says that the budget is proposing about $100 million annually in additional tax relief.

Given that the Quebec government has introduced generous tax credits to great success, it's encouraging to see Ontario's already lofty tax credits growing in magnitude.

Now if only the BC government would stop being so stubborn and follow suit.

Blockbuster Promo for Guitar Hero on PS2

Blockbuster Canada PS2 Guitar Hero Promo
Blockbuster Canada is promoting a 50% off all Guitar Hero products for the PS2. The promotion is good for this weekend only from March 27th to March 29th. Get em' while the deal lasts and product is available.

For more details visit Blockbuster.ca.

Mar 26, 2009

iGoogle Does Gaming Themes

iGoogle Gaming Themes
Yesterday Google introduced all new gaming themes for iGoogle. There are a wide variety of gaming themes to choose from including Super Mario, Mega Man, Street Fighter IV, Zelda and Spore. This is a great addition to the iGoogle theme offering and now gives gamers a way to further personalize their iGoogle experience.

Here's a shot of my iGoogle header with the Street Fighter IV theme.

iGoogle Street Fighter IV Theme

For more details, check out the iGoogle gaming themes page.

Mar 25, 2009

Resistance: Retribution Tournament On Now

Resistance: Retribution Tournament On Now
Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), Bend Studio and Global Gaming (GGL) is currently running the $25,000 Road to Resistance: Retribution Tournament. The tournament offers a 2v2 and 4v4 format to enter into. The qualifying ladder portion of the tournament ends on May 10th.

This tournament is open to legal residents of Canada and the US.

Key tournament dates include:

March 18 to April 7 - Open registration and practice ladder play for 2v2 and 4v4

April 8 to May 10 - Qualifying ladder play for 2v2 and 4v4

May 13 to May 31 - Top 64 teams from each ladder advance to two brackets for 2v2 and 4v4


Prizes for 2v2 Competition are:

First Place (2 players): Leather Bomber Jacket (ARV $180), $500 in Sonystyle® Gift Cards, and PSP® TV Prize Pack (32" XBR TV, PSP®-3000, 16GB PRO Duo and Component AV Cables. ARV $1420) for each player
Second Place (2 players): Leather Bomber Jacket (ARV $180), $500 in Sonystyle® Gift Cards, and PSP® Pack (PSP®-3000, 16GB PRO Duo. ARV $370) for each player
Third Place (2 players): Leather Bomber Jacket (ARV $180), $500 in Sonystyle® Gift Cards for each player
Fourth Place (2 players): Leather Bomber Jacket (ARV $180), $500 in Sonystyle® Gift Cards for each player


Prizes for 4v4 Competition are:

First Place (4 players): Leather Bomber Jacket (ARV $180), $500 in Sonystyle® Gift Cards, and PSP® TV Prize Pack (32" XBR TV, PSP-3000, 16GB PRO Duo and Component AV Cables. ARV $1420) for each player
Second Place (4 players): Leather Bomber Jacket (ARV $180), $500 in Sonystyle® Gift Cards, and PSP® Pack (PSP-3000, 16GB PRO Duo. ARV $370) for each player
Third Place (4 players): Leather Bomber Jacket (ARV $180), $500 in Sonystyle® Gift Cards for each player
Fourth Place (4 players): Leather Bomber Jacket (ARV $180), $500 in Sonystyle® Gift Cards for each player

For more details on this tournament and to enter, click here.

Debut Trailer for R.U.S.E., Ubisoft's Deceptive New RTS

Just in time for GDC '09, Ubisoft in Montreal have announced a new real-time strategy IP named R.U.S.E., developed by Eugen Systems, creators of the positively received strategy title Act of War: Direct Action.

R.U.S.E. was demonstrated today for the first time in public at the Intel booth during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

The game plays upon the theme of deception (thus the title), and will test players' ability to fool and outwit their opponents to victory.

Alexis Le Dressay, Eugen Systems Creative Director explains rather excitedly:

"Deception is present everywhere in our daily lives: in media, politics, even relationships, but we also realized how important it was during wartime.

R.U.S.E. is the game where each player uses their intelligence service to anticipate the moves of their opponent; this makes some information available about the enemy. Deception is also a matter of avoiding being spied on: lying, fainting, hiding, and faking…you’re the only one who decided when it’s time to reveal your real forces!!! That’s like poker!!!"
The game also employs a new proprietary in-game engine called IRISZOOM, which according to Ubisoft will allow for smooth, rapid transitions from a birds-eye view of the entire conflict, down into the heat of the battle and vice versa.

For the debut trailer of R.U.S.E., check out the video courtesy of NextGen Player's YouTube Channel:


NextGen Player Review: MLB '09: The Show

NextGen Player Review: MLB '09: The ShowLadies and Gentleman its spring time again and that means the return to America`s favourite past time, Baseball. Along with the grapefruit league you`ll find Sony`s latest installment of the MLB The Show series.

This game brings a little something for everyone offering six different game play options:
  • Exhibition play - for a quick game that will not effect your season
  • Manager Mode - think you can get your team to play better then the real coaches, it`s almost like watching the game on TV.
  • Rivalry Mode - play a double or triple header and see who comes out in the best of series
  • Franchise Mode - can you manage your team all the way to the big dance, take control of everything from the line up, to the business plan on making your team profitable
  • Season Mode - think you have the endurance to play 162 games - this is your chance to prove it
  • The Road to the show - build a custom character and fight for your spot on the roster of your favourite team.
With so many options your going to find more value in this game then you can shake a bat at... (rim shot). Stadiums so real you can smell the potato chips, hot dogs and body odor of the guys sitting at first base. Spending most of my review time in the exhibition and manager modes, where after several full games, I`m still trying to get the controls down. Finding the right pitch, while keeping them in the strike zone but not in the batters sweet spot, or alternatively connecting at just the right time while watching that fastball buzz on bye. It is not as easy as you would think.

The MLB online system is fantastic offering several great features:

  • Player Card - Track your points and your career online stats
  • Leagues - Become the Commissioner of your own league and challenge others
  • Leader Boards - real time statistical tracking of the best players on the MLB network
  • Community Center - Manage your in game mail and message board participation, upload and vote on Sliders (user generated game settings).
  • Headline News - Stay up to date on current events in the MLB hourly feed updates on real games happening around the league
Be prepared for long gaming sessions when firing up MLB `09: The Show, as these virtual games can take just as long as the real thing. I can honestly say I have enjoyed my time and I look forward to the many hours in the future where I will see you at the ball park. Now it is time I head off for the seventh inning stretch and catch the end of the game.

Pluses:
  • Realistic announcers and commentary
  • Fantastic replicas of stadiums
  • Online services are packed with good stuff
  • updated real time roster and news
Negatives:
  • Controls are a bit sensitive
  • Scheduling time is important due to potential length of game
NextGen Player gives MLB '09: The Show a...

4.5 out of 5

Mar 24, 2009

Xbox Announces New Map Packs for Halo 3 and Gears of War 2

Halo 3 and Gears of War 2 New Map Packs Coming
Xbox Canada has announced a couple of new premium Game Add-Ons coming to Xbox LIVE in the form of map packs for Halo 3 and Gears of War 2. Launching on March 31st will be the Snowblind Map Pack for Gears of War 2. This will include 4 new, winter themed maps called Grindyard, Underhill, Courtyard and Fuel Depot - a rehash of the popular map from the original Gears of War. The cost for the Snowblind Map Pack is 800 Microsoft Points.

On April 9th, the Mythic Map Pack for Halo 3 will be available for download from Xbox LIVE for 800 Microsoft Points as well. The Mythic Map Pack consists of three new maps that include Assembly, Sandbox and Orbital. These maps will no doubt be a welcome addition to any Halo 3 addicts out there. As you may recall, earlier in March the NextGen Player team had the opportunity to play the new Mythic maps and also shot some videos of them. Check them out in HD.

Mar 23, 2009

NextGen Player Review: Killzone 2

NextGen Player Review: Killzone 2
When I picked up Killzone for my PS2 years back, I remembered being pretty excited to play this FPS because it looked so promising. Well after a few hours into it, I ended up trading it in at my local EB Games. My main beef with Killzone was that the controls were clunky and inaccurate and overall for an FPS the game just didn’t play well at all. I was quite disappointed. Years have gone by and Guerrilla Games has taken another shot at it with their latest instalment to the series in Killzone 2. Let me just say that they’ve come a long way since the first Killzone.

It would seem that the folks at Guerrilla listened to all the feedback generated from the original Killzone in terms of what made it a subpar game and beefed up the offering in Killzone 2. The graphics are phenomenal – probably some of the best next gen game graphics to date. The controls are responsive and accurate (some people may want to adjust the sensitivity of the X and Y axis controls to better suit their skill set using an analog stick for an FPS). The sound production is solid. And overall the game is just challenging enough to elicit a feeling of satisfaction when completing objectives (keep in mind I played the game on the Veteran level).

Just a quick overview of the storyline for Killzone 2. You play as Sergeant Thomas Sevchenko and are part of the ISA forces that is retaliating against the Helghast by taking to fight to their planet of Helghan. That’s pretty much it. Nice and simple story and not overzealous in trying to make an all out war contain too much substance.

With that out of the way, let’s focus on the game itself. Immediately when you start up the game you are presented with an intro in which the first 10 – 15 seconds really show off the PS3’s graphical processing power. It starts off with a complete close up of Scolar Vasari’s eye and slowly zooms out to show his entire face as he is spewing Helghan war propaganda. The detail in facial movement, texture mapping, texture surface and the lighting used was so well done that I questioned for a second if I was watching an actual actor that had been filmed for the part. As the sequence panned away further and then transitioned into the actual game, I realized it was all CG. Incredible. The entire game from that point forward is a visual buffet. Cut scenes and in game graphics are seamless and transition smoothly from one to the other much like Metal Gear Solid 4. All of the levels exude environments that are grand in scale, interactive and with intricate detail. Just spot a garbage bag lying around and break it open with your melee attack and as the garbage comes out you’ll also notice a number of bugs emerge and quickly skirmish for cover. The colour palettes used are dark tones and nicely contrasted with fiery hues to convincingly emphasize the mood of the game.

NextGen Player Review: Killzone 2
Character models are all superb and what really stands out is the motion capture used to translate movement. A good example of this is when you take down a Helghast with your assault rifle and on impact you can see the various part of their body react accordingly to each hit. Another very cool movement sequence is seen when using the Bolt Gun on an enemy. When contact is made using the Bolt Gun, the enemy is sent flying off the ground and backwards a good distance. If this is done with the enemy standing in front of a wall, they actually get nailed to it. All in all, you really get a good sense for the fire power of the weapons you use as a result of the reactionary movement made on impact. Movement of your character is well balanced. When walking or turning, there is weight to it and it provides a realistic sense of the gear that you are wearing and carrying. Even better is the running. The way in which the camera bobbles up and down and from side to side actually makes you feel like you are running. It’s hard to explain in detail and is something that must be experienced while playing the game.

The sound production is top notch. This game must be played in 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound to really appreciate what was done here. Particularly during a large scale battle sequence the various sound effects such as weapon fire, explosions, screaming voices and the rustling of gear as you run nicely complement the visual experience. Even during boss fights, reliance on sound is important to be able to lock in on your target effectively...especially during the final boss fight against the mighty Colonel Radec. Voice acting is very well done and never seems rehearsed or over exaggerated. The Helghast’s masked synthesized voices are quite entertaining – particularly when you throw a grenade at them and their vocal reaction to it. The musical scores within the game also do a great job in helping to set the emotional tone throughout.

When playing through the game, it never seems complicated or a chore. The default control set up is laid out perfectly so that movement, attacks (firing weapons, throwing grenades or melee attacks), reloading and switching weapons is a breeze. There wasn’t one moment where I had encountered a momentary lapse in having to recall what button did what. Specifically during the many intense firefight sequences with the Helghast, where quick and unhesitant action is required do you really appreciate the ease of the controls. Overall responsiveness to the controls is tight and quite accurate. When moving the analog sticks, the character’s movement and weapon aiming is spot on. Aiming sensitivity is tied in nicely to how slowly or quickly you move the analog stick. No jerkiness here. Using the triggers to fire a weapon or melee attack comes off smoothly. My only knock here is that sometimes picking up or exchanging weapons can be delayed or missed. An additional touch is that the SIXAXIS motion controls have been incorporated into the control scheme for things such as turning wheel shaped valves or to arm and detonate explosives. This adds another dimension to the game that’s worthwhile.

NextGen Player Review: Killzone 2
The list of weapons at your disposal is plenty – both your own and the Helghast. You start off the game with the ISA standard issue M82 – G assault rifle. An extremely effective weapon and more so when you zoom aim and utilize the aiming sight. Although my choice of weapon was the Helghast’s STA-52 LAR assault rifle. For me it felt more responsive and accurate when firing...not to mention that ammo for this weapon is much more available. Other notable weapons – at least to try out – include the Flamethrower, Arc Rifle, STA-3 Light Machinegun, Shotgun and definitely the Boltgun.

As mentioned earlier, this game is challenging. If you’re new to FPS games, especially on a console, you’ll likely want to go through this game on the easiest setting. On the Veteran setting, the game presents just the right mix of difficulty in that you’re never disappointed in terms of ease and never really frustrated in being able to advance through the levels. Majority of the fight sequences are large in scale and very intense with waves upon waves of Helghast coming at you. Much like Call of Duty 4, there are many instances where unless you move forward to the next checkpoint, the enemy will continue to converge on you no matter how many of them you take out. So camping is not an option. The enemy AI is very adaptive and intelligent. In moments where you are forced to hide behind cover, the Helghast will either throw grenades at you to force you out into the open or one or two Helghast will rush you on foot for some close range combat. Either way, you are constantly required to be alert and on your toes. Enemy AI also utilize cover very effectively and at times you have no choice to be more aggressive and confront the enemy head on. As mentioned, there is a cover system present and it is integral to the gameplay as you’ll find that you’ll be using it through most of the game. The cover systems works very well in that you can hide behind all types of structures and make use of much of the game’s environment. You can also peek above or to the sides for added variety in how you emerge to fire your weapon.

Not that the superb single player experience wasn’t enough, you also have a fantastic multiplayer mode to check out. Guerrilla did a great job in creating a multiplayer experience that is a lot of fun and offers variety. One of the most important things for a successful multiplayer is the maps and the ones in Killzone 2 are well designed in both layout and size. The inclusion of multi-levelled buildings, bridges and sub-level structures provide a maze like playing field and as such the need for effective team work is essential. The innovative part of the multiplayer is in the game modes and how they are presented. Online matches consist of a single game in which multiple modes or types are played. These modes include Assassination, Search & Destroy, Search & Retrieve, Bodycount and Capture & Hold. At the end, the team that have won majority of the game modes/types wins the overall game. This is a nice touch that provides different flavours of action all seamlessly and within one session. Levelling up based on a win and as well as your own personal stats during the game can be fairly quick and as such keeps you coming back for more to get to the next rank. The other component that brings variety and strategy to team based play is the ability select a specific class of character. Each class of character brings a specialized skill set that is useful in battle – for example the medic which can revive fallen comrades before they completely die. Multiplayer supports 2 – 32 players and players can be grouped into squads of 4. There is also a clan feature where players can form clans to complete in tournament style matches that can be scheduled via Killzone.com. Similar to Gears 2, there is also an offline multiplayer mode where you can battle against AI “bots”.

Killzone 2 is a next gen masterpiece that sets the bar high for a console FPS. Every facet of the game is impressive and executed extremely well. As such, it begs the question of how Guerrilla can possibly top this effort for the next iteration of the series (the game’s ending no doubt indicates a part 3 to come). Stunning graphics, fantastic sound production, challenging and rich gameplay and various innovative features all make for a game that must be experienced. Although, I will say that I am somewhat disappointed that co-op play wasn't incorporated. Especially seening as how fun this game is, the ability to play through it with a friend would have increased the fun factor tenfold. Only a minor knock. That said, I would put this game easily as a top 10 for 2009 and likely a very strong contender for game of the year.

Pluses:
- Visually stunning
- Challenging and highly satisfactory gameplay
- Responsive and accurate controls
- Engaging and rich multiplayer
- High replay value
- Overall top notch production and quality

Negatives:
- No co-op campaign

NextGen Player gives Killzone 2 a...

NextGen Player Review: Killzone 2 is a 4.5 out of 5

Mar 22, 2009

Newest PSP Greatest Hits Announced

PSP Greatest Hits
Sony Computer Entertainment America(SCEA)recently announced their newest Greatest Hits titles for the PSP. These are a combination of first and third party best selling games on the PSP and will be available at a price of $19.99 beginning April 5th.

The list of new PSP Greatest Hits additions include:

· Fight Night Round 3 (EA)
· God of War: Chains of Olympus (SCEA)
· Medal of Honor Heroes 2 (EA)
· Mortal Kombat®: Unchained™ (Midway)
· Patapon (SCEA)
· SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs: Tactical Strike (SCEA)
· Sonic Rivals 2 (Sega)
· SpongeBob SquarePants: The Yellow Avenger (THQ)
· Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter® 2 (Ubisoft®)
· Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six® Vegas (Ubisoft®)

Definitely all are worthy of the Greatest Hits designation. If you missed out on any of these games the first time around, now is your chance to get them at this great new price.

Mar 21, 2009

NextGen Player Review: Watchmen: The End is Nigh

Full disclosure: I love old-school beat'em up games. I grew up with an unhealthy addiction to Double Dragon, Final Fight, TMNT and Ninja Gaiden. These games and their ilk ruled the arcades in the '80s and '90s. With the arcade scene near extinction today, it would appear the beat'em genre is also on its last legs. Having mutated its DNA to thrive in other specialty genres like the hack n' slash action-adventure, the classic formula of walking through alleyways and elbowing endless mobs of thugs in the face has all but disappeared from the gaming zeitgeist.

This is why I'm all the more thankful for the arrival of Watchmen: The End is Nigh (W: TEIN) to the Xbox Live Arcade catalog. In time-honoured tradition, developer Deadline Games was tasked with rushing out a game to tie-in with a major motion picture release. As if that wasn't a tall enough order, they had the unenviable challenge of cramming some very heavy, intricate source material into a simplistic and creaky gaming genre. In short, the first video game ever made of the most influential graphic novel of all time is a straight up mindless brawler.

Fans of Alan Moore's seminal graphic novel may cry blasphemy and even newcomers to the Zack Snyder film may find this an odd approach given the more mature, unorthodox tone of the Watchmen universe. And looking at it from a strictly gaming perspective, beat'em ups have never acquitted themselves well to being on the forefront of innovative deisgn. Yet despite the unfavourable circumstances surrounding it, Deadline Games have managed to concoct a fun, albeit short-lived action romp through the bleak cityscapes of an alternate reality New York City.

W: TEIN competently pays respect to all the tropes you'd expect out of a standard side-scrolling street brawler. More modern touches elevate the proceedings in the form of absolutely gorgeous graphics. These visuals rival anything available in retail today. They are of such high quality that I wondered whether they were being wasted on a mere brawler. Why not go old school in a different direction and make a point-and-click adventure game in the tradition of those old Sierra or Access classics? Perhaps a missed opportunity that is unlikely to ever bear fruit, seeing as how the content requirement of an adventure would put it out of the scope of an XBLA release. Oh well. On the upside we have what is arguably the most beautiful street beat'em up you're likely to see for years to come.

On the gameplay side of the equation, W: TEIN keeps its ambitions small but squares away most of the basics. Linear levels, easily dispatchable baddies and a drawn-out boss battle are all here. Special attention has been placed on the discovery of unlockable attack combinations and upgradeable special abilities, such as Rorschach's Rage meter. In practice, combos have questionable value since you're given very little breathing room to complete every strike before an assailant sucker punches you from behind. You'll soon learn that the counter-attack technique reigns supreme and it often renders even the most damaging combos obsolete. Enemies who are nearing death will show a random button icon above their heads. Nailing the designated button press when close to these hapless thugs will trigger one of several canned finishing moves. Similar to the Obliteration Techniques seen in Ninja Gaiden II only far slower to allow you to fully savour your kill, these are by far the most satisfying aspects of Watchmen's combat.

Of course, repetition does rear its ugly head, as is the fate of all skull-cracking adventures. Enemy skins change between chapters but their behaviours remain fairly static. The same can be said for the environments. As detailed and well-realized as they are, they're all just pretty backdrops sprinkled with levers and locked gates. Ironically, when the game tries to add variety, it falls flat on its face. The few environmental puzzles are laughably simple to the point of being a time-waster. Meanwhile, there's a nifty lockpicking mini-game that works pretty well on its own but feels totally out of place.

For better or worse, W: TEIN is extremely short and predictably so seeing as it is just the first installment in a planned series of episodes. A single play through will last no longer than four hours and that's a very conservative estimate. Ultimately, the attractivness of the package will hinge on your liking for this style of game, as well as the availability of a willing friend to play the game with in the couch co-op mode. Speaking strictly dollars and cents, it's not quite worth the $20 (1600 Microsoft Points), but I really enjoyed my time with it and can see myself doing it all over again at least once more.


I am horribly biased towards these games, as I've already confessed, so take my generous assessment of Watchmen: The End is Nigh with that in mind. There's nothing here that screams "must buy" but what I see so far is encouraging. Given some more time back at the lab, I can imagine Deadline Games learning from their mistakes and making an even better product for the next Watchmen episode.

Pluses:
- Beautifully gritty, retail-quality presentation in both audio and visuals
- Solid old-school beat'em up gameplay
- Interesting combo, counter-attack and finishing moves combat system
- Local co-op

Negatives:
- Expensive for a short, XBLA game
- Limited replay value
- No online co-op
- Counter-attack and throws are king: standard attacks are almost useless
- Unimaginative levels: few environmental hazards and weak puzzles

NextGen Player gives Watchmen: The End is Nigh a...

NextGen Player Review: Watchment: The End is Nigh is a 3 out of 5

Mar 18, 2009

A Blockbuster Gamer Value Pack Can Be Yours

Blockbuster has recently started a new promo for all you would-be Nintendo Wii or DS buyers out there. Quite frankly given the explosive console sales figures in Canada I'm surprised there are still people in Canada who do not own these systems yet.

All you got to do is pick up one of these systems with a trademarked accessory (Wii), or a trademarked software (DS) and you're eligible to receive a Gamer Value Pack valued at $100. It's not exactly clear what Blockbuster means by trademarked, but I'm guessing they mean an official Nintendo accessory such as a Nunchuk, or a trademarked Nintendo DS game such as New Super Mario Bros.

In any event, the Gamer Value Pack includes:

• Games Pass 30 day trial
• 2 x $5 off any accessory
• 2 x 25% off any used game
• Get $5 off any new Blu-ray purchase
• 2 x Rent 1 get 1 FREE Game
• Trade 3 games get FREE Pepsi and Doritos
• Buy 3 used games and get FREE Pepsi and Doritos
• 2 x FREE Game Disc Repair

This deal is good until April 19, 2009. Ironically enough, the form you need to fill out doesn't ask for proof-of-purchase, so maybe you need to mail in your proof or go in-store for step two.

With awesome games like MadWorld and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles - Echoes of Time coming out this month for Wii, and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and Pokemon Platinum coming out for DS, there really isn't any reason why you shouldn't have these systems by now. Unless of course you're one of those crazy people who aren't into that whole waggling and tapping fad.

For more info, check out the promo page here.

Mar 16, 2009

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Launch Tomorrow (March 17th)

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown WarsAside from the upcoming Pokémon Platinum, the other most anticipated title for the DS this year is likely Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. That day is soon upon us as tomorrow on March 17th, the game will officially launch at game retailers across North America.

Rockstar has announce an official midnight launch event at the Nintendo World Store in New York City. As for midnight launch events here in Canada, none that NextGen Player could find out about. If anyone across this great nation of ours has info on any midnight launch events happening, email us at comments@nextgenplayer.com and we'll update this post with the news.

In the meantime, here's the game's official trailer to wet your appetite.

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

Nintendo Canada
It's already mid March and as usual, the NextGen Player team is here to update our readers with the Most Wanted Games for both the Wii and DS. So without any further ado, here are the Most Wanted Games for the Wii and DS for March 09 as reported to us by Nintendo Canada.

Wii

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

NINTENDO DS

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

Mar 13, 2009

Blockbuster Trade-In Promotion

Blockbuster Trade-In Promotion
Blockbuster is currently running a trade-in promotion where they are giving a minimum $10 credit for any Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii games as well as a minimum $6 credit on all Nintendo DS games.

This promotion runs from March 10th to March 23rd.

Not a bad trade-in deal especially if you have fairly old games hanging around that you'd like put towards a new game. Maybe Resident Evil 5 or Killzone 2? Just maybe...

For more details, go to www.blockbuster.ca

Nintendo of Canada Giving Away Limited Edition Pokemon Figure with Pre-Order

Attention all you Pokemaniacs prepping for the March 22nd launch of Pokemon Platinum for Nintendo DS. Nintendo of Canada has struck a deal with major Canadian retailers to give away a limited edition Pokemon figurine for those who pre-order the game. The figurine will be the dual-type Ghost/Dragon legendary Pokémon, Giratina. Yes, it's obscenely ugly and genderless, but that doesn't mean Girantinas don't crave love and attention. I'm sure it'll look surprisingly pleasant on your knick knack shelf right next to your Wobbuffet.

For a list of retailers honouring this promotion, check out the Pokémon Platinum page on the Nintendo of Canada website.

Mar 12, 2009

ELAN Video Game Award Nominees Announced

The glitz and glamour of this year's Academy Awards are behind us and with it, our celebration of motion picture arts and movie stars. Not to be outdone, our heroes of digital arts, those visionaries behind visual effects, animation and our favourite video games will get their due recognition next month with the ELAN Awards.

Founded and hosted in Vancouver, this will be the 3rd year of the award show as it honours the best and brightest working in the digital realm today. A press conference was held yesterday at Radical Entertainment to announce the final nominees for each award category. ELAN Award producers, Holly Carinci and Jack Weatherell were on hand to coordinate the event. Radical president, Kelly Zmak, kicked off the presser with an affrimation of how important it is during these trying times to take a break from the negativity and celebrate the people in the industry that make it so great.

Following speeches from Zmak and Carinci, the podium was cleared for Victor Lucas, creator and executive producer of "The Electric Playground" and "Reviews on the Run", to announce this year's ELAN nominees and to reveal the statuette -- designed by Abbotsford-based Offload Studios -- each winner will be receiving. There was an overwhelming dominance by 4 games in the major video game categories, namely Gears of War 2, Fallout 3, Fable 2 and Left 4 Dead. Some lower profile projects took the spotlight in other categories while my own personal favourite, Too Human, garnered a surprise nomination in Art Direction, so it was not a complete nominations sweep by the "Big Four".

The full list of nominees for the 3rd annual ELAN Awards are:

VIDEO GAME FINAL NOMINEES

VIDEO GAME OF THE YEAR

• Gears of War 2 -- Epic Games / Microsoft
• Fallout 3 -- Bethesda Softworks
• Fable II -- Lionhead Studios / Microsoft Games
• Left 4 Dead -- Valve

BEST CONSOLE GAME

• Gears of War 2 -- Epic Games, Microsoft
• Fallout 3 -- Bethesda Softworks
• Fable II -- Lionhead Studios / Microsoft Games
• Left 4 Dead -- Valve

BEST PC GAME

• Fallout 3 -- Bethesda Softworks
• Crysis Warhead -- Crytek / Electronic Arts
• Lord of the Rings Online™: Mines of Moria™ -- Turbine, Inc.
• Left 4 Dead -- Valve

BEST SOUND in a VIDEO GAME PRODUCTION

• Gears of War 2 -- Epic Games, Microsoft
• Call of Duty:World At War -- Treyarch / Activision Publishing
• Fallout 3 -- Bethesda Softworks
• Fable II -- Lionhead Studios / Microsoft Games

BEST ART DIRECTION

• Gears of War 2 -- Epic Games, Microsoft
• Fallout 3 -- Bethesda Softworks
• Too Human -- Silicon Knights / Microsoft Games Studio
• Fable II -- Lionhead Studios / Microsoft Games

BEST GAME DESIGN

• Gears of War 2 -- Epic Games, Microsoft
• Fallout 3 -- Bethesda Softworks
• Fable II -- Lionhead Studios / Microsoft Games
• Left 4 Dead -- Valve

OUTSTANDING TECHNICAL INNOVATION

• Gears of War 2 -- Epic Games, Microsoft
• Fallout 3 -- Bethesda Softworks
• Fable II -- Lionhead Studios / Microsoft Games
• Left 4 Dead -- Valve

BEST CASUAL/ARCADE GAME

• Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst -- Big Fish Games
• Defend Your Castle -- XGen Games
• 4 Elements -- Playrix Entertainment

BEST MOBILE/HANDHELD GAME

• Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force (handheld) -- 1st Playable Productions/Disney Interactive
• Planet Rescue: Ocean Patrol (handheld) -- Magic Pockets / Ubisoft
• Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep (mobile) -- Infinite Dreams / Nokia
• Party Island Bowling (mobile) -- Digital Chocolate

The ELAN Awards ceremony will be held on April 25th, 2009 at the Hotel Vancouver and will be hosted by Tom Kenny, the voice behind SpongeBob Squarepants.

For the full list of award categories and nominees, please check out The ELANS press release.

Resident Evil 5 Midnight Launch at Gamerama

Let the Resident Evil 5 launch parties ...err launch party begin!

While our US brethren are enjoying hundreds of Resident Evil 5 launch events, courtesy of Gamestop's Outbreak '09 promotion, up here in the great white north midnight openers aren't so available.

Thanks to an ad on Kijiji, NextGen Player has confirmed that at least one retailer in the Toronto area will be opening at midnight for RE5 sales. The place is called Gamerama, and it's located at 2370 Yonge Street (2 blocks north of Eglinton).

If anyone out there in Canada land knows of any other midnight launches, leave a note of the name and location. Let the zombie slaying fun begin!

Mar 10, 2009

Interview With Jonathan Blow, Creator of Braid

While attending the Montreal International Game Summit in November, I had the opportunity to interview industry luminary Jonathan Blow. He's the guy genius behind the Xbox Live Arcade number one critically acclaimed game of all time, Braid. So why am I only getting around to posting this interview now? That's easy, I'm just so damned lazy. Booyah!

In the interview we explore whether games are moving more towards (or away) from a true artistic medium, a state-of-the-nation discussion on the indie game scene, and of course tons of Braid talk.

While at MIGS, Jonathan Blow gave a thought-provoking keynote speech entitled Fundamental Conflict In Contemporary Game Design and in his typical deep fashion, he proceeded to delve into why gameplay and story in contemporary games naturally fight each other, resulting in structurally unsound experiences.

Jonathan Blow is a real down-to-earth guy and it was a very enlightening conversation. I think you'll really enjoy this interview.



If you're interested in listening to Jonathan Blow's keynote speech at MIGS, you can download the MP3 and the powerpoint slides on the Braid blog here.

Mar 8, 2009

NextGen Player Review: The Lost and the Damned

Ever since Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper set out across America to find their destinies in Easy Rider, the motorcycle and its iconic connection to rebellion and self-discovery have been firmly entrenched in films. Now, Rockstar North has brought the same sense of rule-breaking and friendships formed on the open road to Grand Theft Auto IV with the first DLC addition, The Lost and the Damned.

The Lost and the Damned (LATD) had the difficult task of following up one of the highest critically rated games in 2008, and with the original game having been out nearly a year, the pressure was on all the more to make gamers remember what they liked about GTA IV, and hopefully improve upon it as well.

Rather than continue the story of Niko Bellic from GTA IV, Rockstar opted to start anew with the tale of a biker, Johnny Klebitz. Johnny appeared briefly in a couple of the missions in GTA IV, but LATD is his real showcase. If Niko was a shade of grey on the morality spectrum, Johnny is likely coming from a darker place. This is a GTA game, so it isn't long before you're riding around the city inflicting pain on lowlifes and rivals, but Johnny ends up being a character you can't help but like, even in the worst of circumstances. The balance Johnny attempts to maintain in LATD is a tenuous one, and it quickly becomes threatened by the club President, Billy Grey.

You're likely already familiar with and have formed an opinion on issues like graphical quality, the combat system and other gameplay features. Since LATD doesn't make big changes here, the focus of this review is largely on story and value for the cost of the DLC. I felt that the story was very strong; I genuinely was interested to see how it was going to play out and who would be left standing at the end. The voice acting is particularly well done, with memorable lines throughout and plenty of in-combat taunts. Johnny's story mixes with Niko's in often subtle ways (as well as quite overtly in one case), a real treat for the people who enjoyed GTA IV and wanted to spend a little more time with their favourite Baltic brothers.

When you get right down to it, LATD is another great chapter in the story that GTA IV started. There's a certain feeling that kicks in when you're cruising around Liberty City on a piece of classic American machinery while The Doors "Five to One" plays on the radio. Add to this the camaraderie of your fellow club members, who ride in formation alongside you should you require it and you'll wonder how you ever rode around in cars. These "brothers" as Johnny often calls them are somewhat useful in a firefight, but like most games with AI buddies, you're going to have to do most of the work yourself.

Thankfully, you won't have to do any of the forced-friendship building that GTA IV had, so that feeling of "I'd better call Brucie or I'm going to lose friendship points" is absent. You can still do all that stuff if you like, but the real fun of the game is going to be the story missions, along with optional bike races, gang wars and random people on the street needing some nefarious deeds done. There's easily 8 hours worth of content here, and given what some $60 games are clocking in at time-wise, the price of $20 seems reasonable. More importantly, it's not 8 hours of filler or pointless content. If GTA was a hearty dinner for your gaming appetite, LATD is lunch with an old friend. Personally, I can't wait for a 3rd helping.

NextGen Player gives The Lost and the Damned...

Canadian Studios Honoured in Hot 100 Game Developers List

The heat is on in the games development world. At least according to Edge-Online, there are 100 great minds to be reckoned with this year. Titled "The Hot 100 Game Developers of 2009", the online magazine's exhaustive list of gaming glitterati is a veritable "who's who" of awesome talent du jour. Many names, like Cliff Bleszinski, Will Wright and Sid Meier are by now familiar to console & PC fans. There are many less notable names, although a quick comb through the list should unearth several people who have had a hand in the creation a few of your all-time favourites.

There's healthy representation by Canada games studios too. Some of the companies and developers mentioned (and their ranking) include:

EA Black Box
80. Scott Blackwood, Executive Producer

EA Montreal
76. Chris Ferriera, Lead Designer
68. David Rutter, Lead Producer (EA Canada)

Radical Entertainment
57. Eric Holmes, Lead Designer

Ubisoft Montreal
55. JC Guyot, Creative Director
42. Jean-Pascal Cambiotti, Lead Designer
29. Clint Hocking, Creative Director
4. Trent Ward, Creative Director

BioWare
54. Dan Tudge, Director and Executive Producer

Check out the entire list in all its name-dropping glory.

Mar 5, 2009

NextGen Player Review: R-Type Dimensions

R-Type Dimensions
If you lived out your pre-teen and teen years during the late 80s to mid 90s, then the game R-Type probably brings back fond memories of many hours spent during the summer holidays at the local arcade. Yes...I know I’m dating myself. You’d likely recount the bags of quarters you wasted trying to beat the game. It was definitely one of the more challenging shooter games out at that time. But as frustrating and challenging as the game was, it was FUN.

So now we zoom into the present. 2009. You’re thinking “hey...I would love to play some classic R-Type 'cause that was an awesome game”. Well now you can. For 1600 Microsoft points, you can download R-Type Dimensions from Xbox LIVE. R-Type Dimensions is an offering of both the classic shooters R-Type and R-Type II. Both games have also now been given an updated visual treatment with 3D elements while still retaining the traditional 2D side scrolling game play. A multiplayer component is included to provide co-op play and additional replay value.

If you’ve ever played R-Type before, then picking up the game is literally a breeze (honestly...it should be even if you haven’t played it before). You use the analog stick to manoeuvre the R-9a fighter spaceship. Keeping your forefinger pressed firmly against the RT trigger will activate the continuous rapid fire while the A button allows you to fire shots as needed or if held down will activate a more powerful blast with varying degree of power (defined by a meter at the top that builds up until you let go of the A button). Overall gameplay is smooth and responsive – no surprises here. The real challenge with this game is ensuring that you make full use of the game screen and keep moving your fighter strategically to avoid enemy fire and get good positioning to take out enemies. If you stay too stationary, you’ll end up using a number of continues. For those who want a lesser challenge, or who have no patience to master the game, there is an “infinite” mode that provides you with endless lives. No matter how many times your fighter is destroyed, you’ll keep spawning a new fighter until you finish the game or you decide to exit it.

R-Type Dimensions
Visually you can tap either the RB trigger or Y button to switch between the classic 2D and the 3D visuals. It’s actually an interesting feature as I found myself switching between both visuals at various times because it seemed easier to focus on the onslaught of enemies and projectiles filling up the screen in the 2D graphics and at other times in the 3D graphics. There is also an option in the video settings to switch the 3D camera from normal mode to “crazy” mode. In this mode, the 3D graphics are presented from an angled ¾ perspective. Oddly enough, all the enemies still retain a flat 2D perspective which after a while makes things look very inconsistent and becomes somewhat annoying.


The audio in both games are as classic and fantastic as you’d expect. Great old arcade style synthesized music and sound effects. Thankfully they stuck with this simple but engaging formula for sound because anything else would have been inconceivable.

Multiplayer was one of the new features that I didn’t have a great opportunity to test out because I could not find any matches online (not surprised as I didn’t expect many people to have purchased this game as of yet). C’mon R-Type fans...get online.

In the end, R-Type Dimensions is a wonderful package. Two classic R-Type games presented in either 2D or 3D graphics, great arcade style audio, easy to pick up and play controls, new features such as the “crazy” 3D camera mode and “infinite” play mode and the presence of multiplayer modes. All in all, this package is definitely worth the 1600 Microsoft points as it will no doubt give fans of the series as well as those new to it a great throw back arcade experience.

Pluses
- R-Type and R-Type II included
- Fresh new 3D graphical treatment
- Same great and classic gameplay and audio presentation
- New features such as "crazy" camera mode, "infinite" play and multiplayer

Minuses
- "crazy" camera mode can become odd to look at over time
- Multiplayer games are scarce unless you play with a friend who also has the game

NextGen Player gives R-Type Dimensions a...

Mar 4, 2009

What's Your Favourite Homegrown Game of 2008?

Canada is home to many excellent game developers that produce some of the best games in the entire industry. A recent study by consulting firm SECOR-Taktik found that Quebec is now the sixth largest video game industry in the world, with BC not far behind. Not only that, but Ontario and Alberta also have growing gaming industries with such companies as Silicon Knights, Koei Canada, Rockstar Toronto and Bioware taking the lead.

With all these great developers, the NextGen Player team thought it would be interesting to identify our top homegrown games of 2008. We've managed to narrow the field down to our top eleven, and we're leaving the final pick in your hands.

So, tell us Canada - what's your favourite homegrown game?

Mar 3, 2009

Unboxing Halo Wars Limited Edition

Halo Wars is finally here, and after spending several hours with the Xbox Canada team on March 2 at the Halo Wars launch party where we were treated to 10 big HDTVs, connected via a LAN for 3v3 and 2v2 Halo Wars match-ups. Paul and Andrew Green even had the opportunity to try some 2 player Skirmish matches against AI competitors. This event served to heighten my anticipation to play the full retail version of the game (which I have just got my hands on).

Here for your viewing pleasure is the unboxing of the Halo Wars Limited Edition package. Shown in the photos are the collector's items you can expect to find in the Halo Wars Limited Edition box: Game disc, 6 Character cards (3 UNSC, 3 Covenant), Halo Wars: Genesis and the Spirit of Fire Patch.


Watch for our full review of Halo Wars coming soon. While your waiting, check out our impressions of the Halo Wars Demo.

Big thanks to Xbox Canada and the High Road Team for giving us the opportunity to attend the entertaining Halo Wars launch party event. NextGen Player will be adding some photos from the event to our Flickr account later this week.

Xbox 360 "Best March Break Ever" Tour

With March Break fast approaching, many parents are left with the task of planning a variety of fun activities for their kids to enjoy during this time. Xbox Canada is taking steps to help parents with this dilemma by launching their Xbox 360 "Best March Break Ever" Tour across Canada.

For this tour, Xbox Canada has selected 4 locations with corresponding dates for each event. They are:

• Centre Pointe Claire, Montreal, PQ -- March 5-8, 2009
• Richmond Centre, Richmond, B.C. -- March 12-15, 2009
• Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, ON -- March 19-22, 2009
• Market Mall, Calgary, AB -- March 26-29, 2009

These events will be comprised of four family friendly interactive zones that will feature games such as Rock Band 2, Scene It! Box Office Smash, You're In The Movies and Lips. This highly interactive experience will also include tutorials on various features of the Xbox 360 and it's entertainment capabilities beyond gaming. There will also be a focus on utilizing the Xbox 360's Family settings.

In addition, families that participate in all four interactive zones will receive a $25 EB Games retail coupon for use towards the purchase of a Xbox 360 Arcade, Pro or Elite system.

Families will also have the opportunity to enter a contest for the chance to win the ultimate party with 30 of their family and friends. Xbox Canada will provide the goods to throw the party - which includes an Xbox 360 system, select games, catering and professional cleanup crew. In addition, after the party, the winner will get to keep the Xbox 360 (Pro) system along with the package of games - Scene It! Box Office Smash, You're In The Movies and Lips.

For full details on the event, go to www.xbox.com/marchbreak.

Killzone 2 TV Spots Happening Now in Canada

It begins.

If you've been anywhere near a television the last few days you've probably seen the new Killzone 2 ad running just about everywhere. Coined the “Bullet” commercial, the new ad was rendered entirely using the the Killzone 2 game engine and the PS3's processing power.

Speaking about the advertisement, Hermen Hulst, Managing Director of Killzone 2 had this to say:

"Every single frame of this commercial was directly rendered on a PS3 without the need for additional tweaking or touching up. We're very proud that our game engine technology has reached the point where we don't have to resort to software pre-rendering. In that regard it is a testament to our commitment to deliver on what we promise. What you see is what you get.”

Sony will also be releasing a playable version of the ad, where gamers can control the camera view to explore the behind-the-scenes techniques used to create the ad. This version will also include a director’s commentary explaining the team’s efforts to develop a campaign that was true to the actual gaming experience. Further details of the playable version will be announced in March on the Playstation Blog.

Oh, and in case you've been hiding in a Chocobo Forest the past week, here's the full television spot courtesy of G4:

Dark, Foreboding Canadians Review Some PSN Games on Gamer's Voice

A pair of new Playstation game reviews (from fellow Canadian gamers) have appeared on Playstation.ca Gamer's Voice.

The common thread between the two reviews are dark, ominous lighting and deep, pensive spoken words. I was generally spooked until I realized the second review was done in the guy's kitchen. That's when I did my best immitation of Vincent Price and let out a loud muhahahaha sneer. (Now if only someone would put away all those dishes in the drying rack!)

Oh, and must admit that I agree with Wasted Talet's positive review on SIREN: Blood Curse. I picked up the game last summer and thought it was most execellen-tastic.

SIREN: Blood Curse (PSN)



3 on 3 NHL Arcade (PSN)

Mar 2, 2009

Xbox Canada Introduces XBL 'Deal of the Week'

When it comes to Xbox Live gold account fees - you either dislike them or don't mind them. The dislike them camp generally point out that Wii and PS3's online services are both free. The don't mind them people often cite Xbox Live's better online experience and access to exclusive content as justifying the annual cost.

For people in the first group, Xbox Canada has a new offer to sway you to the other side. They've announced a new Xbox Live Gold “Deal of the Week.” XBL Gold members will receive discounts (between 25 and 50% off) each week on Arcade titles, Game Add-ons, Xbox Originals, and other content.

The current “Deal of the Week” is the Ninja Gaiden II Mission Mode. The add-on is available for only 560 Microsoft points or a 33% discount off the regular price. Not bad considering the quality of the add-on. Keep in mind that each deal will only be available to Gold members for one week.

Coming later this month, Xbox Live Gold members will also have exclusive access to discounts on Game Add-ons for Project Gotham Racing 4, as well as the original Xbox classic title Fable.

Heck, if you buy a lot of XBLA games and DLC content maybe now an Xbox Live Gold membership will pay for itself.

Source: Deal of the Week [Xbox Canada]

Mar 1, 2009

Rock Band Craze Fuels Second Amp National Gaming Tour

NextGen Player followed the Amp Energy National Gaming Tour all summer long last year. We even had the pleasure of getting our asses whooped by one of the Amp pro team members, and won some money for our charity of choice in the media challenge.

Well, we just received a media note that the Amp-wielding octopus is back for another year. This year the Amp Your Game national tour will be featuring Rock Band 2 and wannabe bands will have a chance to compete for a $100,000 first place prize.

A new Canadian poll commissioned by Amp Energy reports that almost one-third (31 per cent) of Canadians play music video games like Rock Band. Among 18 to 34 year olds, that number jumps to 61 per cent. These insights spurred the decision to bring Rock Band 2 as the focal point of this year's tour.

This year, Amp Your Game will visit 40 campuses between February 23 and April 23, providing free access to video game titles on all gaming platforms in the entertainment zone. The playable games include Madden 09 (Xbox 360), Gears of War 2, Prince of Persia (PS3), Resistance 2, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and many others.

Each campus stop will feature a two-hour live Rock Band 2 competition on PS3. Bands in the competition will perform for one of 40 semi-finalist positions.

Semi-finalist performance videos will be posted on the AMP Energy Facebook page where bands will solicit votes. The top four voted bands will qualify as finalists to compete in the Amp Energy $100,000 Rock Off! finale following the end of the tour. The finalist band with a combination of best performance (70 per cent) and game score (30 per cent) will win a guaranteed $100,000 cash prize.

After having a look at the Facebook page, it looks like the next stop on the tour is Brock University (Ontario) on March 2. The tour will also be stopping at other provinces such as Nova Scotia, Alberta, BC, and Quebec. For a full list of unversity/college events, check out the Amp Energy Facebook event page.

For a deeper look into this year's Amp Your Game tour, here's a cool promo video I found:

An Interview with Clint Hocking, Ubisoft

Ubisoft Creative Director, Clint Hocking kicked off the 2009 VFS Game Design Expo with his thought-provoking keynote address, "The Next Generation of Player".

He laid out many challenges facing the game industry in the coming years as the core audience undergoes a seismic, demographic shift. Game developers will also see drastic changes with the influx of fresh-faced talent weaned on Facebook, DS Lite and World of Warcraft in contrast to the somewhat stodgier influences of the reigning generation of video game taste-makers.

I sat down with Clint post-keynote and ran with these ideas. In our interview we discuss the pitfalls of story creation in games, getting too preachy with your "message" and why it might not be such a good idea for young game designers to look up to their older mentors for all their inspiration.

The streaming interview can be heard via Mevio or you can simply subscribe to the NextGen Player feed on iTunes.

Listen to this interview on the NextGen Player Mevio Channel

Subscribe to NGP on iTunes