Jun 29, 2009

Are You a Retro Game-a-Holic?

By Paul Hunter

This weekend I was invited over to a friend's house for a 'retro marathon' gaming session where we fired-up a number of classic video game consoles such as the Master System, NES, Genesis, SNES, and N64. It was great fun and the experience brought back nostalgic moments from my childhood where I spent countless hours in front of my computer screen.

From time-to-time I must admit that I get these retro cravings to plunk down an old 8-bit and 16-bit game cartridge and re-live some classic moments in gaming.

[Read the rest of this article]

This article appears on the Future Shop Tech Blog where I contribute three times weekly.

Jun 28, 2009

VFS Awards Its First-Ever Women in Games Scholarship

By Paul Hunter

Most days I'm so busy attending gaming events and writing articles that sometimes some Canadian gaming news can slip right through my fingers. Take for example the announcement last month from the Vancouver Film School (VFS) that they have awarded their first-ever Women in Games Scholarship.

The scholarship covers the full tuition to the one-year Game Design program at VFS and is valued at $30,000.

The scholarship was launched in early February at Game Design Expo 2009 as a means to support and foster talented female game designers in an industry traditionally dominated by male gamers and designers. A 2009 report conducted by the VFS found that women now make up 20 percent of the workforce, up 17 percent from 2004

The winner of the full tuition award is Shannon Lee from Vancouver, BC. Shannon will have the opportunity to experience one intensive year learning every facet of game design, from game theory to level design to game interface design.

“It is an honour to have been chosen, and I am so thankful for this chance to fulfill a long-held dream of mine,” says Shannon. “I cannot wait to start the Game Design program at VFS and to take advantage of the opportunities that the Women in Games scholarship has afforded.”

In addition to the Women in Games Scholarship, VFS also awarded six other scholarships, ranging from $2,500 to $7,000, thanks to the contribution by a number of Game Design Expo 2009 sponsors. Five of the six recipients of these scholarships are women.

Congratulations to the following scholarship winners:

Katharine Craig, Vancouver, Canada. – $7,000 G4techTV scholarship
Jessica MacGaul, Surrey, Canada – $5,000 EA scholarship
Denver Thomas, Parsippany, U.S. – $2,800 Big Fish Games scholarship
Thi Bao Vo, Hanoi, Vietnam – $2,500 Annex Pro scholarship
Sara Moore, Ottawa, Canada – $2,500 Obsidian Entertainment scholarship
Bunthita Nijathaworn, Bangkok, Thailand – $2,500 Crystal Dynamics scholarship

Interviewed by the Georgia Straight

By Paul Hunter

Last week I was interviewed by Christopher Poon, a reporter for the Georgia Straight, Canada's Largest Urban Weekly publication.

The topic was Fight Night Round 4 and we spent a good twenty minutes talking about our impressions of the game. We also made some parallels and contrasted the game to May's hugely successful mixed martial game UFC 2009 Undisputed.

I was quoted several times in the write-up and if you're interested in checking it out, you can view the article here:

Electronic Arts' Fight Night Round 4 pulls no punches

I also did a lengthy write-up on Fight Night Round 4 on the Future Shop Tech Blog that touches upon the new features in the game as well as my impressions. The article can be found here:

Fight Night Round 4: The Champ is Back

Jun 27, 2009

Video Commentary: Rock Band Spawns Real World Violence

By Paul Hunter

While I've shown you all the interview and performance videos I took at the AMP Rock Off event last Saturday, there's one part I haven't discussed yet. During the performances a few abrupt and violent brawls erupted resulting in bloody noses, plenty of security and even a stretcher.

For a gaming event intended to be pure entertainment, it was a sad sight to behold. I was at the front of concert and right next to all the physical attacks. I literally thought my camcorder was going to be smashed to bits before my very eyes. It was insanity, and I expected a lot more from the gamers in attendance.

I hope this is an anomaly and not a disturbing trend we'll see at future virtual band concerts.

Rogers Plus Games Trade In


By Andrew Shin

Looks like Rogers Plus (formerly known as Rogers Video) stores are getting into the business of trading games. It was likely inevitable given that all the major game retailers such as EB Games, Future Shop and soon to be Best Buy have a game trade in program.

I'm a big supporter of this move as it creates a greater competitive market that will ultimately benefit the customer. Game retailers are fighting to get your business and dollars and that means offering up some great deals and values for trade ins.

Currently Rogers Plus is offering a couple of great trade in deals. One is trade in two eligible games and get Prototype free. The other is trade in 3 eligible titles and get a select title free (quite a few to choose from).

The list of eligible games is fairly extensive. But don't take my word for it. To get the complete details, visit the Rogers Plus website.

How Long Can The PSP Last?


By Andrew Shin

Good Saturday NextGen Player readers. I'm actually sitting inside on this fine summer day so that I could put forth another edition of our Mind Games feature. This is where we turn the stage over to you the reader and let you speak your mind.

For this week's segment, I want to pose the following question.

How long can the PSP last?

Why this question? Well, with the announcement of the PSP Go to be released later this year, there has been plenty of buzz regarding it's enhanced digital features and specifically the elmination of UMD media on the device. It's all about the internal hard drive (16GB built in to be exact) and downloading games and other media content. Sony has stated that it plans to support the exisitng PSP platform and UMD media. While Sony has shown the ability to support two generations of consoles at the same time with the PS2 and PS3, it`s a much different scenario with the PSP. In my opinion, the current PSP and UMD media days are numbered. Exactly when that will be, I'll give it between 2 or 3 years. But that's enough about me...let us know what you think.

How long can the PSP last?

AMP Rock Off: Performance by Tactical Hands

By Paul Hunter

Here's the last video performance from the AMP Rock Off. This video features Tactical Hands representing the University of Calgary.

In case you missed the interview we had with the guys prior to their performance I definitely encourage you to take a look.

They were the only band that brought props onstage and for that I have to give them, umm props. I love their outfits, certainly the most flamboyant of the group. It's a fun video, check it out:

Jun 26, 2009

AMP Rock Off: Performance by Chemical Toilet

By Paul Hunter

You've seen the interview, now you can finally watch the performance. May I present to you Chemical Toilet, a band representing Bishop's University.

This video was shot right in the heart of the mosh pit so you'll have to excuse the bumpy ride and jeering noises from the very animated crowd. You can tell that the band invited all their friends to cheer them on as the ruckus was deafening. In fact sometimes it's hard to hear the band over all the "f*** yeahs!" There's even one guy that was beside me that I swear was having an orgasm during the whole performance. To each their own. Enjoy!

AMP Rock Off: Performance by Meta Casa

By Paul Hunter

The interview is up, and now it's time to present to you the performance. This is Meta Casa and they are here representing the University of Winnipeg.

You'll notice right from the minute the performance starts that something is awry. No, it's not their performance (which was quite amazing), but the crowd. You see, if there is one thing this experience has taught me, it's that university students (not sure if they're all gamers) can be full of disrespect, maybe even flat out contempt. It was a little appalling, if not disgusting to hear all the booing and sneers.

Despite this, Meta Casa was impressive and I enjoyed every minute of their performance. I hope that you will agree:

New PSP? Yep, it's a Go

By Paul Hunter

Make no mistake, this year's E3 Expo was full of surprises. But for every surprise there was at least one leak, including perhaps the worst kept secret of E3 '09 -- the PSP Go. Ironically enough, the source of the leak was Sony's own June issue of Qore that tipped off mainstream game media and set the blogosphere on fire. Sure there were indications that a new handheld was in development even before this video surfaced, but the Qore issue confirmed our suspicions.

So now that the word is officially out, I thought we could take a look together at just what this new device will offer.

[Read the rest of this article]

This article appears on the Future Shop Tech Blog where I contribute three times weekly.

Jun 25, 2009

Interactive Ontario gTALK Event - June 29th


By Andrew Shin

The very popular and informative gTALK series is hosting its next speaker event on June 29th. For those of you not familiar with gTALK, it is a game industry speaker series where gaming related topics are presented by established industry professionals.

For this upcoming event, the topic is The Business Model For Publishers. Richard Wan Kan, the founder of Canadian based DreamCatcher Interactive Inc., will be speaking about how publishers make decisions on games. For those of you who are getting into or are developing games, this will no doubt be an informative session for understanding the mindset of a publisher and how to get your games noticed.

Event details:

Date: Monday, June 29th
Time: 3pm - Presentation and Q&A, 4:30pm - Networking
Location: Ontario Investment & Trade Centre, 250 Yonge Street, 35th Floor, Toronto
Fee: $25 plus GST

To register online, click here.

AMP Rock Off: Performance by GSpot Boyz

By Paul Hunter

You've seen the interview, now it's time to watch their performance. There $100,000 winning performance I might add. Yes, it's true -- the GSpot Boyz are your official AMP Rock Off winners Canada!

[Note: I will try to have the remaining performance up this weekend. Patience my friends!]


NextGen Player Video Review: Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent

By Paul Hunter

Shondra that most epic girl gamer really seems to bringing NextGen Player into new territory. And thank heavens because like Canada -- we love diversity.

It is my great pleasure to present to you NextGen Player's first ever video review (sorry but this farcical one doesn't count). The game she reviewed is Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent. Consider this a complimentary bonus to her written review below.

NextGen Player Review: Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent

Guest Post - Shondra Kayd

Cute, cute and more cute! Atlus, the makers of Neo Steam, are well known for cute games, and this is no different. Just fresh out of the beta box last week, I got the happy news that my Lyell (the cat people race) was not deleted! Enough about my kitty and on to the review.

To start with a biggie, this game is free to play! You have the option to pay for quicker leveling, less death penalties and other interesting things, as well as many vanity options like costumes etc, but if you have no cash, well you don't suffer at all, it is still fun and free.

You start by picking a side, I myself chose Elerd for their whimsical magic and kitty people, but you can always chose Rogwel too. You then continue to choose a race and pick from a fair number of adorable characters which you customize. Then pick one of 4 classes, which branches into more options later at level 10. This is a basic layout for many MMORPGs. Really this whole game is a basic MMORPG. So if you're like me, that’s a great thing. If you want something truly innovative, this is not your game. The one new thing this game brings to the table is that it is “Steampunk”. Set in a world where electricity was never invented, you must rely on this steam powered technology to power your skills, your gear and your crafting. The mounts and vehicles this technology provides can be pretty cool too. Who doesn't love hot air balloon rides?

The tutorials are very simple to follow; the controls are basic and easy to understand. This game is simple to start and has a lot of potential to delve in deep and get creative with your options. Examples of this are how pets are a big deal in this game. How you raise and which type of pet you choose can change your style of gameplay, from healing, stealing and dps types. Skills are also very important, especially in the pvp areas, as not only does your class choice affect your skills, but the technology you choose can change skills, and can make your character play completely different from those in the same classes as you. The options are pretty endless for what you can do with a character in pvp, and you never know what to expect from an opponent. This keeps things very fresh and interesting.

Once you're out of the starter zone there is a massive world to explore. Thankfully the community seems very kind and helpful, as well are the NPCs who are willing to point you in the right directions. The map and mini maps are easy to follow with large markers to make everything clear as crystal. So follow the quest arrows and start the grind. And grind it is! The quest rewards aren’t always the best, so I hope you enjoy killing adorable big eyed critters. As you level up the real fun lies in the PVP. PVP can happen anytime and anywhere and once you get the hang of the game it can be a great source of fun. With all the options for players in gear and skills and pets, you never know what you're going to get and you can customize your character a great deal.

As you're grinding you'll easily notice the beautiful terrain. Unfortunately the graphics of the characters aren’t equally amazing. Also, everything seems a bit too glowy to me on the higher settings, and too pixelated without the glow. Make sure you're patient while waiting for the visuals however, as load times can be a bit long. You'll get your chance to stare a lot at yourself while doing any click quest, as items seem to have a “use” time, sometimes over 30 seconds, which for me was unacceptable. While waiting I usually have to turn on some music, as the game music is too elevator and laid back for my tastes.

So what does all this jabbering boil down to? It is a fun, simple, MMORPG that’s free. What more can you ask for in a time killer!? My vote is to try it out. It can't hurt to since there’s no cost. If you don't like it you've lost nothing, and if you like it, there are 110 levels and a massive world to explore.


Pros:
-the game is FREE
-lots of PVP options
-huge world to explore
-easy to learn and play
-lots of costumes and vanity features to play with

Cons:
-load times are too long
-load times on quest items pointless and annoying
-graphics not the best
-can be a bit of a grind
-elevator music

NextGen Player gives Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent a...

Jun 24, 2009

NextGen Player Review: inFAMOUS


By Andrew Shin

Whenever it comes to open sandbox games, there are typically two experiences. One is rich with massive environments, high level of interactivity, fantastic gameplay and great content. On the flip side is just the opposite of the aforementioned type, which without having to explain in any detail, results in a shallow and forgettable experience.

So how does inFAMOUS fare? Without a doubt, inFAMOUS is a very good game and it delivers well in many aspects from graphics to overall gameplay. inFAMOUS has you take on the lead character Cole and his inheritance of superpowers that makes him a fearsome weapon of electrical fury . This all comes about due to a massive explosion that levels all of Empire City and in effect renders its citizens helpless. This chaotic event also spawns a gathering and formation of various gangs that take advantage of the situation to seize control of the entire city. As you progress through the game, the direction of the story and game will depend on moral choices you make frequently throughout.

In fact, right from the beginning you are presented with a first situational moral choice where you have the option to execute either a good or evil act. There are quite a few of these instances in the game and it definitely brings about a lot of variety. Depending on your choice, you will be awarded with either good or evil Karma. This is a great aspect to the game because you can go through the game clean or to mix it up and throw in some negative actions. It also provides good replay value as you can decide to go through the game again but in an opposite direction. Another nice touch is that the distraught citizens of Empire City will react accordingly to your Karma level. Act like a choir boy and they’re on your side. Do the opposite and you’ll get no sympathy and likely some aggression. Ahh, but when you possess the ability to project destructive electricity from your body, does it really matter?

Other instances that affect your Karma level are all of the main and side missions. There are plenty of them scattered around all three districts of Empire City. The main missions obviously take you through the game as you complete key objectives. The side missions offer up a variety of activities with two main outcomes. One is to affect your Karma level (for good or for worse) and the other is to gain back control of territories within the city’s districts. Fortunately the side missions are actually fun to play, enough so that you’ll likely put in the effort to complete all of them so you can gain complete control of all territories. I got much enjoyment out of the satellite uplinks (get from point A to B within the allotted time and hit all the checkpoints in between) and the prisoner escort missions.

The gameplay mechanics in this game are crisp. The control scheme is simple and quick to pick up. As you build up your skill set and abilities, you’ll find that eventually you will utilize pretty much all of the buttons on the controller. Even then the way the layout has been set up it doesn’t affect the gameplay and in fact provides a seamless and almost mindless effort to execute all of the various moves and combos available. Speaking of moves and abilities, even with your superpowers you start off with some basic skills and as you progress through the game, you will learn new abilities to use to your advantage. There are a finite set of abilities you can gain and additionally you can level up these abilities as you gain XP points. Unlocking all abilities and maxing out their levels will not only acquire you a Trophy, but will arm you with a complete and for a lack of a better term, kick ass arsenal of superpower moves at your disposal. My absolute favourite ability is the using the shockwave to launch enemies into the air and then pick them off with a lightning bolt – it’s very reminiscent of skeet shooting. Good fun. The game also has a cover mechanic. I found it useful only in a few instances and at many times had some difficulty to get it to work when I needed it most. It seemed inconsistent as to when and where you could effectively utilize it.

Another shining attribute of this game is the interactivity with your environment. Being that Cole possesses superpowers, he can scale buildings and other objects, leap from and between buildings, glide on power lines and rails, destroy various objects such as cars and sidewalk benches, watch TV, protect or attack people on the streets and drain electricity from power sources to replenish his power gauge. You also have the ability to interact with injured citizens and enemies with the choice of three options. Either bio leech them (basically you suck the life out of them – literally), restrain them or you can revive them (citizens only) by using your two hands as a defibrillator and jolt electricity through their body. Much of the way in which the interactivity was executed reminds me of games like Assassin’s Creed and Crackdown. A couple of great games in their own right.

Other production values in the game from graphics to sound get high marks. Visually, the game is very detailed. Character animations look smooth and natural. Cole’s character movements specifically bring about a combination of stylized and yet rugged nature that fits just right. In addition, many of Cole’s moves are as fun to watch as they are to execute. The voice acting is very good as well. All of the key characters in the game sound believable and certainly establish a sense of personality for who they are. Zeke, Cole’s best friend and sidekick is entertaining to listen to and he’s been fitted with some humourous one liners for added substance. The sound effects and music work well to bring about the atmosphere. You really get a sense for this in some of the game’s intense battles. I recommend the use of a surround sound system here to get the full benefits. There’s nothing like hearing cries and explosions coming at you from all directions as you maintain to fight off waves of enemies coming at you. Another nice and effective touch was the use of freeze motion animated sequences that were rendered in comic book style artwork to help progress and reveal more of the game’s plot.

Amongst all these great attributes there was just something about the game that I felt was lacking in some small way. It wasn’t until I finished the game that I came to the realization at how quickly and easily I was able to complete the game. I suppose this speaks volume of the fact I had enjoyed all aspects and features of the game so much that I overlooked this.

This small detail aside, inFAMOUS brings much of the goods to the table. If you want a game that has variety, is well produced and is addictively fun to play, then I fully recommend this game. The team at Sucker Punch did a great job in ensuring inFAMOUS would be a gaming experience unlike any other on the PS3 system.

Pros:
- Massive and highly interactive environments
- Flashy and fun arsenal of moves to execute
- Lots and lots and lots of fun to play

Cons:
- Not as challenging in difficulty
- Game can be finished in a fairly short amount of time

NextGen Player give inFAMOUS a...



Fight Night Round 4: The Champ Is Back

By Paul Hunter

It's been nearly ten years since the ear-chomping pugilist "Iron" Mike Tyson has appeared in a video game but he's back and looking badder than ever. Of course I'm talking about Fight Night Round 4, the latest game in EA's venerable franchise and the reigning champion of the boxing genre.

Since the game is hitting store shelves today I thought there is no better time than to give everyone here a good overview of what you can expect in the game. I'm trying a new format this time so hopefully you like the presentation.

[Read the rest of this article]

This article appears on the Future Shop Tech Blog where I contribute three times weekly.

Jun 22, 2009

NextGen Player Review: UFC 2009 Undisputed


By Clinton Ma

Get your hands up and tuck in that chin, because it's time to enter the octagon and make your mark as the ultimate cage fighter. UFC 2009 Undisputed has been on store shelves for a few weeks now and this review is for you. You, the casual gamer who wants to blow off some steam by knocking heads but who also isn't familiar with the sport of MMA. You, the dyed-in-the-wool Street Fighter master who's never given much thought to the UFC or any kind of sports fighting simulation. And you, the hardcore UFC fan who, for whatever reason, has not pulled the trigger on what I'd like to think of as the real debut of MMA simulation in video games.

Well son, it's time to get off your duff and trade some punches with me: UFC 2009 Undisputedd is the real deal in sport fight sims.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the biggest, most successful mixed martial arts promotion today. Under the care of its charismatic, sometimes abrasive president, Dana White and the Zuffa corporation, the UFC has evolved from an obscure pay-per-view freakshow carnival act into a burgeoning mainstream phenomenon.

Like its real-life inspiration, the UFC video games have experienced a bit of a rocky history. The first UFC branded game was released way back in 2000 on the Playstation and Dreamcast, with four successive iterations over the years. By all accounts, these initial five UFC games were miserable, hobbled by poor controls, poor feedback and shallow career modes.

It's no surprise then that with the rise of UFC's mainstream popularity, we see them partnering with THQ and Japanese developer, Yuke's, to rebirth the troubled MMA series and set a new bar for sports fighting games. Yuke's is steeped in fighting game experience and are best known for their work on WWE Smackdown!. With a pedigree like that, does this new UFC game deliver on all counts?

First, we need to cover the bullet points. UFC 2009 Undisputed is a very feature-rich title. A wealth of single-player options are available to you, including Career Mode, Exhibition matches, Tutorial/Practice mode and the intriguing Classic Fights. Career and Exhibition should explain themselves, with the added wrinkle of a Create-a-Fighter feature (CAF) which allows you to build your own cage warrior from the ground up, establishing physical traits, fighting styles, skill attributes and even the number of logos appearing on their custom trunks.

Plan to spend a lot of time in the game's comprehensive Tutorial mode. So detailed is this tutorial that I've heard players spending upwards of 30 minutes going through each individual lesson. It really is a crash course to the world of MMA and is essential for both fans and neophytes to the sport. Of course if you're impatient you can take your lumps and jump into any of the other modes, as well as online play and just learn as you go. But take heed, it will be a rather sharp learning curve. The Classic Fights are particularly interesting as they allow you to re-enact notable fights through out UFC's history. These matches require you to finish the fights as they happened in real-life in order to be successful and are bookended with background commentary and archival footage of the event. It's a great bit of fan service and serves a dual purpose in educating newcomers on the various fighters, rivalries and their milestone victories and losses.

Mechanically, UFC 2009 combines the thumbstick twiddling of EA's Fight Night Round 3, the button mashy-ness of a typical pro wrestling game and the quick reflexes and tactical considerations of a 2D fighting game. Picking up the game for the first time is bound to intimidate some players. As someone who has followed mixed martial arts for a few years, I was stumped as to how anyone could translate the subtley of grappling, submission holds and counter strikes to a pick up & play video game. Consider me un-stumped. Yuke's has done a remarkable job of translating nearly every facet of the sport into a fun and rewarding video game experience. The vast commands list and control scheme is intially stupefying and will require an investment of time to learn, however, the Yuke's team has to be commended for mapping these controls as logically as possible. No button is wasted, the button layout makes sense and I'm hard pressed to imagine an alternate set of controls that could do a better job of putting the MMA experience into gamers' hands.

The experience is furthered by the game's excellent visuals. Over 80 real life fighters are represented across the UFC's five weight classes and they are all rendered to perfection, with few exceptions. The audio is more of a mixed bag. In-game menus are overlaid with a playlist of licensed, overbearing hard rock/rap tunes and repetitive loops of "hip-hop muzak". On the flip side, the in-fight commentary by Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan is great and just varied enough to feel realistic.

I think UFC 2009 Undisputed really benefits from its self-serious tone and leanings towards simulation versus arcade action. This approach, however, does not do any favours for the career mode, which is dry, procedural and a little bit unforgiving too. The career mode sees you grooming your custom-made warrior from his early days as a rookie to a division champion to eventual hall of famer. Players step into multiple shoes as fighter, coach and manager. The action between fights is largely menu-driven, centered around a calendar that allows you one action each week, whether it be training at the gym, sparring with a training camp partner, attending a special training camp or doing any number of PR-related gigs like photos shoots and autograph signings. These ancillary tasks reward you with experience points to sink into your fighter's stats and skills, RPG-style and also earn you cred points that can be used towards upgrading equipment at your gym.

This may sound very intricate and cool to play, but really it is a lot of busy work that grinds down the career mode to an interminably slow pace. Options to automate skill point distribution or sparring would sped things up a lot and allow you to play through multiple careers much faster. It's a strange mode since you'd expect it to introduce you gently into the play mechanics yet it can be horribly unbalanced. It's perfectly easy to train yourself into a corner if you don't know how to distribute your points (with no option to respec) and while the lower or middle ranked fights are not too much trouble, the difficulty ramps up considerably once you start to crack the top ten bracket. You'll square off against fighters with much higher stats and much more aggressive AI. The challenge is nice, but eventually you feel like the deck is stacked against you, sending you back in defeat to waste more hours grinding away at the gym and feasting on fighters you've already beat two, three or four times already. It hearkens back to the worst in RPG design and definitely needs a rethink for the inevitable sequel.

The action inside the octagon is better but not all that it could be. Every fighter shares the same stock body movements, depending on their fight disciplines. Kickboxers move and attack exactly the same, as do Brazilian jiu-jitsu artists and so on. Footwork can be summed up in one word, and that is: slow. Every fighter, regardless of their size or style, controls a bit like a truck, with the ability to sprint giving you an inkling that these guys can actually be pretty nimble on their feet. The game play as a whole does have a sluggish feel to it and misses out on the "snap" of a faster 2D fighting game. Given the complexity of the controls and the various stages of combat, standing up, in the clinch or on the ground this is still acceptable as it allows transitions and counters to be conveyed in time for players to react accordingly.

There's also an organic, random element to the game that reflects the unpredictable nature of real MMA. Flash KOs -- unexpected knockout wins -- are not uncommon and can prove to be a pleasant surprise or a real pain in the ass depending on who's on the receiving end. The same applies for submission wins, which seems to be depend more on stamina levels and behind-the-scene die rolls than the furious twiddling of the right thumbstick. It's here where the wrestling game roots of Yuke's show through and it sort of sullies the technical, precise nature of the fighting system they're working so hard to have you buy into.

It's a tricky balancing act, one that Yuke's still manages to nail. With the addition of things like cage tactics, southpaw stances, head movements and more defining characteristics for each fighter, UFC 2009 has some real potential to be the most complete fighting game out there. Career Mode could use a major retooling, with the prospect of The Ultimate Fighter reality show integration being the most promising addition to future installments.

The online play is where this game has its legs and it's pretty much what you'd expect. The net code is solid and you have the usual quick match, create game, ranked and unranked options. The cumbersome menu interface extends into the online experience unfortunately, so we're left with no lobby support. It's very much a "love'em & leave'em" style of player matchmaking. Fans of ranked multiplayer should be warned that rage quitting is alive and well. A update to resolve this issue is supposed to be in the works but until that happens, be prepared to have some wins snatched away from you by unsporting players how can't bear the thought of a tarnished fight record.

My critiques may be fast and furious against UFC 2009 Undisputed but the fact remains that it is an amazing convincing portrayal of MMA and it packs in an overwhelming amount of depth and replayability for the $60-$70 asking price. The combat system, while not perfect, is a wonder of painstaking authenticity and it truly is an onion that will unravel layer after layer with each hour you put into learning it. For most fighting game fans, there isn't much more you could ask for. Newcomers will feel welcome too, with the adjustable difficulty levels, expansive practice modes and tutorials and the Classic Fights to keep them busy. The career mode is a bust but nearly everything else about UFC 2009 Undisputed shimmers with love and respect for the sport of mixed martial arts.

Pros:
- Feature and content-rich fighting game
- Comprehensive tutorials and a practice mode
- Finally, an awesome translation of MMA fighting to video game form
- Realistic, mostly fluid graphics and animation
- Solid online play
- More simulation than arcade
- Just plain addictive

Cons:
- Fights look stilted and robotic sometimes
- Missing aspects of MMA like cage tactics, stances, unorthodox styles
- Horribly designed and optimized menus
- Tedious and slow career mode
- Unforgiving to newbs: complex controls and flash KO randomness can frustrate
- No safeguards to curb early quitting in online play

NextGen Player gives UFC 2009 Undisputed a...




Jun 21, 2009

AMP Rock Off: Interview With GSpot Boyz

By Paul Hunter

Our last band is GSpot Boyz and they represent York University. The band members are:

Malik Diaz, 19, Burlington, ON
Ramsey Aburaneh, 19, Cambridge, ON
Brandon Rowe, 20, Hamilton, ON
Ryan Rowe, 19, Hamilton, ON

This GTA-based virtual rock band had plenty of time to practice this year with the 85 day York faculty strike in 2008/09. They were very enthusiastic about the interview and asked Alice to interview them from *the middle* to which she humbly accepted. Definitely a memorable interview to say the least!

Enjoy:

AMP Rock Off: Interview With Tactical Hands

By Paul Hunter

Our third finalist band is Tactical Hands representing the University of Calgary. The band members include:

Jason Chehade, 19, Calgary, AB
Matt Kurceba, 18, Calgary, AB
Brett Sieben, 19, Calgary, AB
Mark Hickaway, 18, Calgary, AB

These local Calgary students described their band's journey to us as a "roller coaster ride" and the band approached the $100,000 Rock Off grand finale like a professional gig. The team enlisted the help of a choreographer and got their campus to host a media day to generate support.

The band was a lot of fun to interview and kind of made me wish I grew up in Calgary. Enjoy the interview!

AMP Rock Off: Interview With Chemical Toilet

By Paul Hunter

Next up we have Chemical Toilet, a band representing Bishop's University. The band members include:

Alex Inch, 21, Burlington, ON
Billy Laidler, 21, Port Moody, BC
Jackson Gair, 22, Kilworthy, ON
Mark Kingston, 20, Oakville, ON

The team met while playing lacrosse together and have received tremendous support from fellow Bishop students, faculty, friends and family. I was in the front row during their performance and I can definitely vouch that there was a sizable fan base in attendance.

Check out the interview to hear some cool insights about the band:

AMP Rock Off: Interview With Meta Casa

By Paul Hunter

First up is Meta Casa representing the University of Winnipeg. The band members include:

Adam Brown, 18, Winnipeg, MB
Remi Moore, 19, Lockport, MB
Brad Kimball, 18, St. Andrews, MB
Landon Phelps, 19, Lockport, MB

To prepare, the band practiced every chance they got, perfecting their choreography and guitar moves to woo the judges and voting audience. They sure as heck were great to talk to -- and I laughed considerably.

Check out the interview, you'll love it:

AMP Rock Off: Massive Coverage Kick-off!

By Paul Hunter

Yesterday was the much anticipated AMP ENERGY $100,000 Rock Off. It was probably the most fun I've had at a gaming event to date -- and that's saying a lot.

The event also marks the debut of NextGen Player's newest contributor - Alice!


The AMP Your Game National Gaming Tour stopped off at 39 colleges and universities across Canada to find the country's top virtual Rock Band groups.

We had an opportunity to interview all four finalists on Saturday night. I'll try and get all the interviews up tonight!

Canadian Gaming Flyers: June 21st Edition

By Paul Hunter

We all know that Xbox's Summer of Arcade is currently in full effect. For those people who are not currently Xbox owners, and missing out on all these great summer downloadable titles, then you really don't have a reason not to when you consider this week's Canadian gaming deals.

For one week only Best Buy, Future Shop and Wal-Mart are selling Xbox 360 Arcade units for $149.99. Considering these units debuted two years ago with a $279.99 price tag, that's pretty significant savings.

Future Shop also has a nice PS3 deal with a free copy of LittleBigPlanet and MLB 09: The Show thrown in when you buy a 160GB PS3 Uncharted bundle ($499.99). That's $20 off the regular price of $520, plus two free games. Makes me kind of sad because I bought a Metal Gear Solid 4 80GB PS3 bundle last year for $499. A year later you can get a PS3 with twice the hard drive space and three solid games.

Oh, and for those people who were in a black hole the last 9 years, Wal-Mart is selling a PS2 unit for $79. With a "how low can it go" mantra, this week sure resembles a party-size game of limbo.

Many more flyers highlights after the jump.

Best Buy

80GB PS3 with Killzone 2 $399.99
Transformers PS3/360 $69.99 with "Exclusive" unlockable Gen 1 Starscream in game character.
Two PS3 Dual Shocks for $90
inFamous PS3 $69.99
Logitech Driving Force wirless wheel PS3 (doesn't say which one but it looks like this one)
Metal Gear Solid 4 $29.99
Rachet and Clank $29.99
Grand Turismo Prologue $29.99
Prototype PS3/360 $44.99
Xmen Wolverine $39.99 save $30
60GB 360 with Prince of Persia and Chrome Hounds $299.99
360 Arcade $149.99
UFC $69.99
360 Wireless controller $49.99 save $10
Wii with Mario Kart $279.99
Resident Evil Archives $34.99
Conduit $54.99
Wii Wheel $9.99
Wii 2000 Points card $19.99
My Sims Racing $44.99
DS Lite with free Brain Age $139.99
Guitar Hero Modern Hits DS $59.99
Rock Band Unplugged $39.99
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite $34.99
Rockband complete Kit 2 360/PS3/Wii $149.99 save $40

Future Shop

Fight Night Round 4 PS3/360 $69.99
Transformers PS3/360 $69.99
Transformers Wii $59.99
160GB PS3 Uncharted bundle with Little Big Planet and MLB 09: The Show $499.99
Metal Gear Solid 4 $29.99
Rachet and Clank $29.99
Grand Turismo Prologue $29.99
inFamous $69.99
Lego Batman PS3 $19.99 (universal price drop)
Buy 2 select Blu-Rays get a free PS3 Remote, 17 to choose from
Wii with Mario Tennis and a Wii Hat $279.99
Wii Fit with EA sports active and a Wii Hat $164.99 Save $0
Wii Motion Plus $24.99
Mario Kart $59.99
Ghostbusters Wii $54.99!!!!
Ghostbusters PS3/360 $64.99
Tiger Woods 10 Wii $59.99
Tiger Wood 10 PS3/360 $69.99
DS Lite with The Price is Right $139.99
The Legend of Starfy $34.99
Pokemon Platinum $39.99
Trade in deal get a extra $10 on select trade in games must have a $10 trade in value.
60GB 360 with Hellboy $299.99
XBOX 360 Arcade $149.99 save $50
Riddick 360 $49.99
Wolverine 360 $49.99
Fallout 3 expansion $24.99
PSP Rockband $199.99
Loco Roco 2 PSP $19.99
Patapon 2 bundle PSP $34.99
MLB the show 08 PS2 $9.99

Walmart

360 Arcade Unit $149
60GB Starter Kit $99
Wirless Adapter $69
PS2 $79
Metal Gear Solid 4 $29.83
Rachet and Clank $29.83
Grand Turismo Prologue $29.83
Guitar Hero World Tour PS2 $169.99
My Sims Racing Wii $44
My Sims Racing DS $34

[Thanks Princess Zelda!]

NextGen Player Review: The Sims 3

By Andrew Green

100 million. That is the number of games sold in the Sims franchise in the last eight years. Try to let that number sink in as we contemplate how you possibly follow up two of the biggest PC games ever made in the third iteration of the smash franchise, The Sims 3. Prior to the release of the game, much was made of the new focus on interaction with your Sims rather than the meticulous micromanagement which characterized the first two games. Did this new direction for the series result in a more enjoyable experience overall, or did EA take a game already perceived as casual and turn it into a cakewalk for even novice gamers? The full review (thankfully not in Simlish) after the break.

We like to assume a certain amount of videogame savvy on the part of our loyal NGP readers. Perhaps this assumption is at our own peril, but I'm willing to bet you've have had some exposure to the Sims franchise along the path of your gaming lives. It stands to reason that you have likewise established opinions about what a Sims game is, and what it offers. What I can tell you about the Sims 3 that remains true no matter what your previous experience is this: the same core gameplay that has been there since the first iteration remains, and if you're one of those cynical people who demands a franchise reinvent itself every time, then this game may not be for you. The Sims 3 does not seek to reinvent the wheel, it attempts to polish the chrome until it shines. By and large this has been accomplished.

One of the issues from the previous games that EA has rectified in this version is the amount of micromanagement needed to carry out the day to day activities of the Sims. Tasks like showering and taking a Sim-dump took far too long, eating up precious time needed for maintaining the social relationships required for job advancement. Menial tasks have seen a reduction in time consumption, with all but a few of the chores feeling close to an appropriate amount of time spent in their undertaking. I did feel that the amount of sleeping they have to do (governed by the energy bar) was a little more than necessary, but that might be my own night-owl tendencies speaking. This can be countered by the purchasing of Lifetime Rewards, but we'll get to those later. The decision to reduce the amount of time needed for the less entertaining aspects of the game (cleaning, eating, etc) goes a long way in allowing the player to enjoy the new features The Sims 3 has to offer. So too has the amount of mandatory social interaction decreased, and it is no longer as closely tied to job advancement, removing the need to have your Sim constantly inviting over friends or chat on the phone. Now, you can choose to build relationships or ignore them, with less cost to your Sims happiness. There is still a social status bar to maintain, but it is far easier to keep it on the positive side.

So you have all this new found time on your hands, but that would be useless without somewhere to spend it, right? Luckily, The Sims 3 has given the player lots to do both around the house and outside it. In your house, you'll have all the usual activities like watching TV or chatting on the computer. One of the best changes to the game as far as I'm concerned is the ability to place objects diagonally rather than the right angles you were limited to in previous games. It sounds like a small change, but it is something that Sims fans have been asking for since the first game, and it makes houses look far more like lived-in spaces rather than random rooms with various items in it.

Where the game really starts to shine is when you venture out beyond your front door and into town. There have never been more destinations available to you, more places you'll want to check out rather than just firing up the chessboard for the 15th time. You can go grocery shopping, hit up a restaurant or bar, visit a park, attend classes that will raise your skill points and even discover new career options that you won't find by reading the newspaper. These destinations can be walked, biked or driven to, though you might enjoy setting out on your own and seeing what you stumbled across, since there is bound to be interesting gems, seeds or insects that your Sim can collect and catalog. There's limited "gaming" reason to do this stuff, but The Sims has always been marketed as a sandbox experience, and these collection items help in creating a world where exploration is encouraged. Sure, you can play the game just advancing up the career tree and get a nice house, but you'll miss a lot along the way if you do. What interests me about this is the game essentially becomes a reflection of your own life philosophy. Are you the type to put your head down and grind out the hours at work, or do you stop to smell the flowers? For the first time in the series, it feels like the game offers you a fun experience either way.

Character creation is another key aspect of the series, and it has also been refined in this edition. You will have access to plenty of customization options to give your Sim the look you want, and the online community is fully supported, as custom creations are easier to import than ever before. In fact, the online community has been expanded to include both free and paid downloads (purchasable with "Sim Points"), the latest in a line of confusing currencies designed to make you forget how much you've actually spent on hairstyles and imaginary swag. I blame Microsoft for these, as MS points are deliberately hazy in their value, but that's a rant for another day. Thankfully, if you choose to ignore the online features, you'll still have plenty of options to make your Sim look their best. I managed to create some of my friends with a fairly reasonable amount of visual accuracy, and it didn't take ages to do so either. I can only imagine the stuff people who pour hours into character creation are going to come up with it. If someone wants to whip up a Jennifer Garner Sim, I certainly wouldn't complain.

Some other points worth mentioning are the Lifetime Rewards, perks that will allow your Sims to sleep less, or go longer without eating without suffering hunger pangs. These rewards are unlocked by accomplishing tasks suited to your Sims personalities, so if you have one who demands cleanliness, something as easy as washing the dishes would give you points to spend as you please. This is where you'll feel like the game offers you some structure objectives, but again, it's entirely optional whether you want to pursue them or not.

I feel like there's more we could get into, but part of the fun of Sims 3 is going to be in discovery, and I hope you'll give it a shot even if you've passed on the earlier games in the series. There's never been a better time to find out why the games are loved by so many, why not see for yourself?

NextGen Player gives The Sims 3...

Guitar Hero: World Tour Complete Bundle For $99.99. Wait...What?

By Paul Hunter

The RedFlagDeals Forum is currently ablaze with discussion over the Best Buy Canada Summer of Savings promotion that is on from now until July 16. The way it works is that there will be a sequence of deals that will be offered one after another for a limited time (each deal runs for three or four days). There are plenty of games and consoles at marked down prices.

Guitar Hero: World Tour complete bundle for $99.99? inFAMOUS for $29.99? Oh yes, it's true. But wait, there's more:

June 19-22
Free Mario Kart Wii with the purchase of a Wii console

June 23-25
Resistance Retribution 14.99 (save $25)
Patapon 2 9.99 (save $10)

June 26-29
two free games with the purchase of a 80GB PS3 399.99
(image shows Resistance and Metal Gear Solid 4)

June 30 - July 2
inFAMOUS 29.99 (save $40)

July 3-6
two free games with the purchase of a 60GB Pro Xbox 360 299.99
(image shows Prince of Persia and Too Human)

July 7-9
Guitar Hero: World Tour complete bundle 99.99 (save $100)

July 10-13
two free games with the purchase of a Nintendo DS
(image shows Brain Age 2 and Crosswords DS)

July 14-16
free Xbox 360 wireless controller with the purchase of an Xbox 360 Wireless Network Adapter

Source: HOT!!!Best Buy Summer Deals (Infamous at 29.99!!) - RedFlagDeals Forum

Jun 18, 2009

Up Close and Personal With Donna Mei-Ling Park

By Paul Hunter

Last year at MIGS I had the privilege of meeting Donna Mei-Ling Park, the Co-Host of The Electric Playground. It was my first experience at a major international gaming event and I was a little nervous and very excited to meet Donna (she was great company!).

Recently I had the rare opportunity to turn the mic around on Donna (she's so used to running interviews!) and ask her a few questions about her work at EP, as well as a bit about her personal life. It was a really fun interview to do and I'm sure everyone here will enjoy it!

[Read the rest of this article]

This article appears on the Future Shop Tech Blog where I contribute three times weekly.

WANFEST 2009 Now Open For Registration


By Andrew Shin

Newegg has returned with its Summer Wanfest online tournaments with registration now open to Canadian and US residents. The great thing about this event is that it's absolutely free to enter and compete in, with over $25,000 in prizes available to be won.

There are a total of six tournaments to enter which include:

- NHL ’09 (1v1) on Xbox 360 starts June 29th
- Street Fighter IV (1v1) on Xbox 360 starts June 29th
- Counter-Strike 1.6 (5v5) on PC starts July 6th
- Dawn of War 2 (1v1) on PC starts July 6th
- Gears of War 2 (4v4) on Xbox 360 starts July 13th
- Left 4 Dead (4v4) on PC starts July 13th

For more details on the tournament and to register, click here.

A complete list of prizes can be found here.

This is a great opportunity to participate in some competitive online gaming and potentially win some great prizes...all the while having some fun of course. Game on!

Jun 17, 2009

Blockbuster Canada Gaming Deals


By Andrew Shin

NextGen Player is continuously on the hunt to discover great gaming deals for our readers to take advantage of. In keeping with this endeavour, we have found some good gaming promotions being advertised at Blockbuster Canada.

There are 2 deals at the moment.

1. PS3 Father's Day Promotion - From June 19th to June 21st, purchase a PS3 80GB system for $369.99. That's approx. $30 off the retail price.

2. 50% Off Sports Games - Receive 50% off the purchase of any previously played sports game when you rent any New Release or Favourite Game. Promotion runs from June 16th to July 6th.

For more details, you can visit the Blockbuster Canada website.

Happy game shopping.

Jun 16, 2009

Made-In-Canada Games Among the 'Hottest' at E3

By Paul Hunter

Since I've had ESAC on the brain lately, I thought it would be interesting to discuss a press release the industry group issued earlier this month that reports on the major impact Canadian game development studios made at this year's E3 Expo.

It's interesting when you look at the line-up and notice the sheer quality of the made-in-Canada games on display at the event.

[Read the rest of this article]

This article appears on the Future Shop Tech Blog where I contribute three times weekly.

Shondra, The Epic Girl Gamer: gPotato MMORPGs

By Paul Hunter

Sheee's back!

I'm not sure how we managed to convince a gamer girl to send us vlogs of her gaming exploits -- but we're so glad that we did. I've been wanting to do vlogs on NextGen Player for quite some time and I think it's a great new addition to the site.

In Episode 2 Shondra, the truly epic gamer girl, discusses her adventures in gPotato land, the free-to-play MMORPG game portal.

If you like the video, please drop Shondra a note in the comments section. Enjoy!

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


By Andrew Shin

Good day loyal NextGen Player readers. The June 2009 edition of the Nintendo Canada newsletter has been released and with it the most wanted Wii and DS games for this month.

And look how much a difference a month can make. Wii Music was at the No. 1 spot last month for the most wanted Wii games and this month has fallen to the last spot. In its place? Well, have a look at the list below.

Wii

1. Punch-Out!!
2. Animal Crossing: City Folk
3. Mario Kart Wii
4. Wii Fit
5. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
6. Super Mario Galaxy
7. New Play Control! Pikmin
8. New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis
9. New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
10. Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree
11. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
12. Wii Music

NINTENDO DS

1. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
2. Personal Trainer: Cooking
3. Personal Trainer: Math
4. Pokémon Platinum
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!

Jun 15, 2009

AMP ENERGY Reveals Judges For $100,000 Rock Off

By Paul Hunter

The semi-finals are over, the finals date is set, and on this coming Saturday four Canadian Rockband "bands" will compete for the ultimate glory of walking away $100,000 richer.

One of my colleagues commented that real Battle of the Band competitions rarely (if ever) give out so much prize money for the winning band. I guess in our modern gaming-obsessed society it pays to play plastic instrument over, you know, the real thing.

I received a media note not too long ago from the AMP ENERGY folks to let me know they have selected the three judges that will be scoring Saturday's massive event at the Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown Toronto. They are:

* Ian Thornley, lead singer of the Juno Award nominated rock band, Thornley

* Rob Lind of the NXNE Saturday night headlining band, The Sonics

* Nelson Triana, professional video gamer and captain of the AMP ENERGY Pro Team, North of 49

When asked about the his thoughts going into the judging, lead singer Thorney had this to say:

“This is the first time I’ve judged performances by virtual musicians so I have no idea what to expect, but I’m ready to be surprised and entertained. As a performer I see how music inspires people to get off their seats and I guess games like Rock Band provide another outlet for fans to get into the music and I’m all for it. Plus, a hundred grand for the winner is a pretty cool bonus.”

Considering that Guitar Hero is a $2 billion dollar franchise and Rockband has topped $1 billion, yeah I guess so.

The judges will choose their favourite band based on a combination of best performance (70 per cent) and game score (30 per cent). Performance (70 per cent) is made up of both judging criteria and Facebook votes. The band with the best score out of 100 will be awarded the prize.

The final four bands hail from University of Calgary, University of Winnipeg, York University and Bishop’s University campuses and have names like Chemical Toilet, Tactical Hands, GSpot Boyz and Meta Casa.

Interesting ...uhh, names. I used a chemical toilet once or twice in Fallout 3 and it was quite the irradiating experience. Let's hope the band's performance isn't as toxic.

Jun 14, 2009

Amazon's Summer Blowout: They Ain't Kidding

By Paul Hunter

Admission time: I really don't like the word ain't, probably because it ain't supposed to be used in written form. Sometimes though, it's great for emphasis -- such as this time!

It looks like Amazon.ca currently has a video game "Summer Blowout" happening now through June 20, 2009. There are plenty of DS, Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3 games on sale, and surprisingly there are some great games on sale.

Here are few samples:

Silver DS $99


Animal Crossing $24.97


Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon: $24.97


Pokemon: Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time: $12.97


Wario Land Shake $34.99


Wii Music $29.97


Forza Motorsports 2 Platinum Hits $15.97


Super Smash Bros. Brawl $24.99


There are plenty more games on sale, most of them at very reasonable prices. The website says that the savings on select titles are "available only for a limited quantity of inventory on-hand" and that "offer good while supplies last".

I'm not sure if it's a marketing ploy to give us a sense of urgency or if it's legit, but I if you're interested, I would suggest jumping on these deals quickly just to be on the safe side.

To check out the Summer Blowout, drop by the Amazon.ca website here.

[Update] First Images of Canadian PSN Cards

By Paul Hunter

Well that piece of news certainly spread fast. It looks like the Official Playstation Forum and the GameTrailers Forum are buzzing with our scoop that PSN Cards are finally coming to Canada.

A member on the GameTrailers Forum by the name of i-Lo has posted what appears to be the first high-quality photographs of the PSN Cards.

To see the images, click on the links below:

Frontal Image

Front Close-up

Back Image

Now to plan my outing tomorrow to grab one of these myself before they're all snatched up.

Canadian Gaming Flyers: June 14th Edition

By Paul Hunter

It looks like I'm a bit late posting the gaming flyers for this week. I did a charity walk this morning and I've been knee-deep sinking hours into the Uncharted 2 beta -- so I hope you forgive my tardiness.

It would appear that this week brings us a pair of good Guitar Hero deals with Best Buy taking $25 of Guitar Hero Metallica, and if you buy the Guitar Hero World Tour band kit they'll throw in a free copy of Guitar Hero Smash Hits.

If you're a Ghostbusters fan you'll be happy to know that for one week only the Real Canadian Super Store will be slashing the price of all versions (DS, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360) by $10.

For the full list of Canadian gaming flyers, hit the jump.

Walmart

Ghostbusters 360 $64
Ghostbusters Wii $44
Prototype $68
Tiger Woods 10 with Wii motion plus $68
Grand Slam Tennis $54
Wii motion Plus $24
Transformers 360/PS3 $68
Transformers DS $39
World of Warcraft Battle Chest PC $34

Best Buy

60GB 360 with a COD4 $299.99
Guitar Hero World Tour Complete Band Kit with a free copy of Guitar Hero Smash Hits (360) $169.99
Guitar Hero Smash Hits (PS3/360) $69.99
Guitar Hero Metallica (PS3/360) $44.99 Save $25
icon Rock thrown (Drum seat) $19.99 save $12
Riddick (360) $49.99 Save $10
360 60GB Hard Drive starter kit with headset and 3 months of Live $99.99 save $10
Ear Force X1 headphones $59.99 save $10
Ghostbusters (PS3/360) $59.99
Ghostbusters (Wii) $44.99
Wii with Nights $279.99
Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip $39.99 Save $10
Punch Out!! $59.99
Wii Fit $99.99
Wii Nyko Charger $24.99 save $10
Wii fit Battery Pak $14.99 Save $5
Nyko Wii Wand Controler $39.99
Wii Fit skin $14.99 Save $6
DSi $199.99
DS Lite with Club Penguin $139.99
Mario Kart DS $39.99 Save $5
New Super Mario Bros $34.99 Save $5
Mario sonic at the Olympics $34.99
The Legend of Starfy $34.99
Brain Age 2 $14.99
Brain Age $14.99
Flash Focus $14.99
Cross Word DS $14.99
PSP Core 3000 $149.99 Save $20
PSP Rock Band Bundle with game and 4GB Memory $199.99
Patapon 2 $14.99 Save $5
Rock Band Unplugged (PSP) $39.99
Tiger Woods 10 (PSP) $44.99

Future Shop

Wii with Battle of the Bands $279.99
Indian Jones and The Staff of Kings (Wii) $49.99
Virtual Tennis $44.99
EA Active $64.99
Tiger Woods 10 $59.99
Wii Motion Plus $24.99
Nights (Wii) $9.99
80GB PS3 with Condemned 2 $399.99
UFC (PS3) $69.99
Killzone 2 (PS3) $59.99
Infamous (PS3) $69.99
Motor Storm Pacific Rift (PS3)$39.99 Save $20
MLB the Show 08 (PS2) $9.99
60GB 360 with NBA Live 07 & NCAA 07 $299.99
Guitar Hero:Smash Hits (PS3/360) $69.99
Guitar Hero (Wii) $59.99
Rock Band 2 Drums (PS3) $89.99
Cheap Off Brand Wireless Guitar (PS3) $29.99 Save $15
Ion Drum Kit (360) $299 Save $100
Prototype (360) $69.99
Terminator (360) $59.99
Tiger Woods 10 (360) $64.99
Riddick (360) $39.99 Save $20
DS Lite with Brain Age $139.99
My Secret World (DS) $19.99
Dark Messiah Might and Magic (PC) $9.99

Real Canadian Super Store

Coupons are in the Flyers
Buy a 80GB PS3 $399.99 save 50% off one of these titles with coupon: Motorstorm 2, Little Big Planet or Resistance 2.
Buy a Wii $279.99 get a Wii budget title ($18.98) for free with coupon
PSP Rock Band Bundle with game and 4GB Memory $199.99
Guitar Hero Smash Hits (PS3/360)$69.99
Guitar Hero Smash Hits (Wii)$59.99
Infamous $69.99

Ghostsbusters The best deal at RCSS Save $10 this week only!
Wii $29.99
PS3 $49.99
360 $49.99
DS $24.99

Amazon.ca also has some great games on sale. The thread is here http://www.cheapassgamer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=226927


[Thanks for the flyer info Princess Zelda!]

PSN Cards Finally Immigrate To Canada

By Paul Hunter

Pre-paid Playstation Network Cards have been available in the U.S. as far back as April 2008. As of last fall the cards started appearing at major big box U.S. stores including Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Sam's Club -- signally a nation-wide roll-out. Up here in Canada though, we've been waiting patiently with no concrete date from Sony as to when they will land on store shelves.

After 14 long months it looks like the wait is finally over.

Although we still haven't heard a peep out of Sony, PSN Cards have started popping up at EB Games stores across Canada. The denominations that are currently available are $20 and $50. There is no tax on the cards since you pay the tax when you make purchases through the Playstation Store. I contacted EB Games and was told that the cards have been available in Canada since June 12.

The cards work the same as Xbox Live cards and Wii Point cards and allow you to buy PS3 and PSP content in the online PSN Store. All you have to do is enter the printed code found on the card to fund your online wallet.

For us patient Canadians this is great news indeed. Now we won't have to use our credit cards for every purchase and these cards make great gifts. Let's just hope it doesn't take 14 months to process the PIN codes!

[Thanks for the tip Klipz-Wish!]

Jun 12, 2009

The Legendary Starfy Trailer: Come Meet a Mysterious New Friend

By Paul Hunter

Meet your new, mysterious friend. He's 7 years old, 36cm tall and is described as a relatively easy-going, friendly character. His name is Starfy and he's the star (no pun intended...well perhaps a smidgen) of Nintendo's long-time Japanese franchise The Legendary Starfy.

This Mario/Kirby-inspired series made its debut back in 2000 when developer TOSE created a prototype for the Game Boy Color; however, this title was canceled due to the release of the Game Boy Advance. Seven years later, and four sequels later (in Japan), the franchise has finally arrived here in North America.

[Read the rest of this article]

This article appears on the Future Shop Tech Blog where I contribute three times weekly.

Jun 10, 2009

The Anatomy of Canadian Gamers: An Inside Look

By Paul Hunter

For the last two years the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC) has been releasing its "Essential Facts" annual guidebook for the Canadian computer and video game industries. This annual guidebook provides trending and statistical data for publishers, distributors and retailers on the Canadian computer and video game landscape. It also happens to contain a lot of data that I think many of you would find extremely interesting.

So how about we take a few moments and learn about ourselves? Come on, it'll be fun!

[Read the rest of this article]

This article appears on the Future Shop Tech Blog where I contribute three times weekly.

E3 2009: Sony Impressions


By Andrew Shin

Last week I shared my impressions on Microsoft’s and Nintendo’s E3 media briefings. Today I cover Sony’s media briefing. So let’s get to it.

Jack Tretton, President and CEO of SCEA (Sony Computer Entertainment of America) was the MC for the entire media briefing. Jack always puts on a good show in my opinion. He keeps it simple, to the point and limits the jokes. Jack started with an introduction telling the media crowd that he was thankful people showed up to the briefing considering all of the media leaks that had gone on leading up to E3. This comment got a good chuckle from the crowd. He also touched on some light sales figures and stated that 2009 would be Sony’s best year ever. I’ll reserve judgement on this statement at the conclusion of this article.

First up on the agenda was the PS2. Jack mentioned the recently lowered price point at $99 (US) and that the PS2 outsold nextgen consoles in the month of April. Not sure if that is a good point to be made considering that also means it outsold the PS3. Isn’t the focus to sell more PS3s? He also stated that Sony is committed to the PS2 as long as consumers want it. Committed indeed as Sony has plans for 100 new PS2 titles over the course of the year. Jack then went on to say “today’s PS2 owners are ultimately tomorrow’s PS3 consumers". I’m sure Sony is hoping this happens sooner than later.

Next Jack touched on the PS3 with some console sales figures. Specific points made were that sales grew 40% in fiscal 2008; global install base is currently at 22 million and sales in Latin America tripled in 2008. All fairly impressive numbers that show the PS3 has been gaining momentum over the past year. In addition, Jack mentioned that the PSN had grown to 24 million members worldwide.

With all the numbers boasting out of the way, the best part was to commence. The games. It began with a few exclusives. First Jack touched on inFAMOUS and that it is one of 35 exclusive titles in 2009. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was announced next along with a demo of the single player campaign. As I watched the demo it was apparent that Naughty Dog didn’t miss a beat with this game. The visuals look great and the gameplay action is a good mixture of intensity and exploration. This is without a doubt going to be one of the titles that will bring the PS3 success this year. MAG (Massive Action Game) by Zipper Interactive was demoed as well. This is another game that I’m eagerly looking forward to. Being a big fan of online FPS gaming (my favourites right now are COD 4: Modern Warfare and Killzone 2) I was in awe of the sheer massiveness presented in MAG. To be able to have an online game with 256 players just seems ridiculously awesome...yes ‘awesome’ is the only way I could describe it.

The PSP was touched on for a brief moment where Jack talked about its media capabilities such as internet radio and compatibility with Skype. He also ran off a number of new games in its line up for 2009 includes Rock Band Unplugged, Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines and a Hannah Montana bundle to which the crowd humourously applauded. Jack then went on to introduce Kaz Hirai the President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment.

This was the portion of the briefing where Kaz introduced the PSP go. Obviously the PSP go was one of the worst kept secrets leading up to E3. The important thing to note as Kaz mentioned was that the PSP go would not replace the PSP 3000 and the UMD media format. Sony’s intention is to support and sell both systems. The positioning for the PSP go was described as being for consumers that live a digital lifestyle. I suppose that means those of us who are constantly on the go (no pun intended) and want to be able to have a portable device that will give us access to all our digital entertainment needs from listening to music, playing games, accessing the internet and watching movies and TV shows. My feeling is that the PSP go will likely sell decently when it releases on October 1st, but will be touch and go for many PSP owners who will likely weigh the pros and cons of upgrading. At the same time, if retailers like EB Games offers a trade-in deal on old PSPs to upgrade to the PSP go, this would help in the decision.

Grand Turismo PSP was then announced as a game that would be available as a launch title when the PSP go is released. This was followed up with a trailer for the game and it looked beautiful. I’m expecting some good things with this game. It certainly sounds impressive with the large number of available vehicles, multiplayer mode and being a full scale game that runs at 60 FPS.

Things got even better with the introduction of a new Metal Gear Solid game for the PSP called Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Hideo Kojima made an appearance to talk about the game. This of course got a great reception from the audience. And why wouldn’t it? Kojima labelled this game as the true sequel to Metal Gear Solid 3. The game takes place in the 70s, 10 years after the events of MGS 3. Kojima will be deeply involved in the game as both writer and producer. A game trailer was played that revealed what seemed to be a co-op play feature. So one thing I immediately thought of when Kojima made the statement that this game was the true sequel in the Metal Gear Solid franchise was that Microsoft got the short end of the stick with their Metal Gear Solid title. Meaning that MGS Rising for the 360 was Kojima’s way of appeasing Xbox 360 gamers with an MGS title while Sony supporters would get a new MGS game with Kojima’s direct involvement and also that of the team that worked on MGS 4. But hey, that’s just my view of things.

To end the PSP coverage, Jack came back on stage to run off another list of new games coming to the PSP. Notably Resident Evil Portable, LittleBigPlanet, SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo 3 and Motorstorm Arctic Ridge.

The focus was then turned to the PSN. Again, some numbers were mentioned regarding total members, amount of content that has been downloaded and the number of exclusive titles available. The most interesting and exciting news for me in regards to the PSN was that announcement that Final Fantasy VII would be one of 50 PS One classic to be released on the PSN in 2009. I can’t wait for it as FFVII is one of the most definitive games in RPG history. PS Home was touched on as well but there really wasn’t anything new to make note of.

It was PS3’s turn to be showcased next. It began with a video that provided a glimpse of recently released and upcoming titles. Cameos included Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, inFAMOUS, Final Fantasy XIII, MAG, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Brutal Legend, Ghostbusters, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, WET, Heavy Rain, The Saboteur and Fight Night Round 4. A new Rockstar property called The Agent was revealed as an exclusive for the PS3.

Patrice Desilet and Sebastien Puel from Ubisoft came out on stage to demo the upcoming Assassin’s Creed 2. The demo showed off very detailed and interactive environments as well as a variety of new weapons and techniques to use in the game. It appears Ubisoft has stepped it up for the sequel as the game looks absolutely fantastic. The game will be available Holiday 2009 along with Bloodlines for the PSP.

Jack continued on with a trailer for Final Fantasy XIII. Ok, so nothing really new here. However, what came next was a complete surprise and in my opinion a big announcement for the PS3. Final Fantasy XIV: Online would also be coming to the PS3 as a console exclusive and also to the PC. What? Did I hear this correctly? First FFXIII and now FFXIV. This was definitely one piece of news that didn’t get leaked out at all. FFXIV is a massive multiplayer online game. I’m predicting this will be a significant title for the PS3 when it does release and will generate a lot of sales and revenue for Sony and Square Enix.

Next was the motion controller technology for the PS3. A live demo was conducted with a prototype motion controller. There were various in-game applications covered from painting to first person shooting and archery. After having seen the demo my thought is that this form of motion controller will allow Sony to provide a new experience to hardcore gaming. Where Microsoft’s Project Natal seems to be for very casual gamers with no need for any physical controller and the Wii Motion Plus is to enhance their motion control mechanics, Sony’s motion controller technology comes across as something that can appeal to casual gamers but at the same time will cater to hardcore gamers as well. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing more about this technology leading up to its scheduled release in Spring 2010.

Another new exclusive game called Mod Nation Racers from United Front Games (Vancouver, BC studio) was featured. To sum it up, this is a game in the same fashion as LittleBigPlanet. It's an arcade style kart racer that has an extensive amount of tools and features to allow players to fully create and customize everything from cars, characters and tracks. Creations can also be shared online with other players in a community style environment. From everything I saw, the game appears as entertaining as LittleBigPlanet. Good to see another Canadian studio in the mix.

A few more trailers were shown with The Last Guardian and then Grand Turismo 5. The more interesting of the two being The Last Guardian. The trailer was the exact same as the one that had been leaked onto the internet but with the addition of some in-game footage. This has to be an important title for the PS3 as there are many gamers who’ve played and are huge fans of ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. Both titles were developed by the same team that is working on The Last Guardian.

And finally, to end the briefing was a demo of God of War III. What more is there to say about this game other than it looks absolutely incredible. It’s classic God of War mayhem with sheer brutality and engaging quick time sequences for finishing off certain enemies. The game is scheduled to launch in March 2010 and I’m anxious for it. Good thing there will be a number of games to occupy me between now and then. I have full confidence that God of War III will end the trilogy triumphantly and with style.

To sum it all up, Sony did their usual good job at E3. Of all the media briefings, Sony’s tends to be my favourite because it’s well presented. There are no oddly rehearsed segments or too much focus on sales figures and corporate gloating. For me, it’s all about the games, new technology and improvements to the overall gaming and interactive experience. Sony did well on all these fronts. The announcement of a number of great new exclusive titles and 3rd party titles brings much needed excitement to the PS3. The introduction of the motion controller technology has opened eyes to what is possible to take gaming to the next level. The only area where I felt lacked some lustre was on the online front. Where Microsoft announced some significant partnerships with Facebook and Twitter, Sony didn’t offer up any comparable news. So after all that, will 2009 be the year that the PS3 shines and exceeds all expectations? That remains to be seen. With more significant titles in the line up this year compared to last, it should definitely help Sony have their most successful year.