Mar 30, 2010

PS3 Firmware v3.21 Update - No More Other OS Feature

By Andrew Shin

Sony Computer Entertainment has announce the next PS3 firmware update (v3.21) will be available this coming Thursday, April 1st (JST). The most significant change for this latest firmware release will be the disabling of the "Other OS" feature that was available on the PS3 systems before the newer and slimmer versions.

The "Other OS" feature allowed PS3 owners to install an operating system on their systems, but due to security reasons as SCE explains, they have decided to disable it through the v3.21 update.

Those who currently use the "Other OS" feature have the option to not upgrade to the v3.21 firmware, however as a result the following features will no longer be accessible.

- Ability to sign in to PlayStation Network and use network features that require signing in to PlayStation Network, such as online features of PS3 games and chat
- Playback of PS3 software titles or Blu-ray Disc videos that require PS3 system software version 3.21 or later
- Playback of copyright-protected videos that are stored on a media server (when DTCP-IP is enabled under Settings)
- Use of new features and improvements that are available on PS3 system software 3.21 or later

For those who are currently using the "Other OS" feature but choose to install the firmware update, to avoid data loss they first need to back-up any data stored within the hard drive partition used by the "Other OS" as they will not be able to access that data following the update.

Additional information about PS3 firmware updates click below:
http://us.playstation.com/support/systemupdates/ps3/index.htm

PS3 owners who have further questions should contact Consumer Services:
http://us.playstation.com/support/ask/

800-345-7669 (800-345-SONY)

Mar 26, 2010

Final Call For Canadian Videogame and Digital Arts Awards

By Andrew Shin

DigiBC (Digital Media & Wireless Association of BC) is reminding members of the Canadian digital media industry that the deadline to submit nominations to the Canadian Videogame and Digital Arts Awards is March 31, 2010.

Who qualifies for nomination you ask? Well that's a good question. Here are the details.

All awards are for work completed in Canada by December 31st 2009. This includes products that were certified gold during the 2009 calendar year.

Many exciting nominations have already come in including work done on: Assassin's Creed, Wet, Dragon Age, Prototype, Dawn of War II, Punch Out!!!, Skate 2, District 9 and many others!

Please note: videogame upgrades, expansions and mission packs are not eligible.

To submit a nomination, click here.

The 1st Annual Canadian Videogame and Digital Arts Awards will take place in Vancouver, BC Canada on May 5th, 2010 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Mar 23, 2010

MIGS 2010 Call For Speakers

By Andrew Shin

The Montreal International Game Summit (MIGS) is one of North America's largest industry conferences for gaming. The yearly event attracts industry professionals, media, students and gamers from all over the world for two intense days of informative and insightful sharing of industry knowledge and experiences.

NextGen Player has been covering MIGS for the past two years and we can honestly say that the conference is fantastic and never disappoints. The 2010 event will mark MIGS' 7th and will be held on November 8th and 9th in Montreal, Quebec at the Hilton Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Montreal.

MIGS has now officially made the call out for speakers for this year's conference. The Advisory Board is looking for industry professionals interested in speaking within one of the following areas of expertise: Visual Arts, Business, Design, Production and Technology.

The committee is especially interested in proposals regarding the following topics:

- Motion and gestural control
- Digital distribution and new business models
- Production methodology implementation and process optimization
- Driving innovation and creativity under constraint
- Advanced animation techniques and new art styles
- Real-time play metrics and instrumentation
- Cutting edge technology and latest coding tricks

Presentation slots are 1-hour total, including any audience Q&A. To provide quality content that meets the expectations of organizers and delegates, the MIGS Advisory Board will review all submissions.

So if you fit any of the above criteria, then this is a great opportunity to speak and share your insights at MIGS. To submit your application go to www.migs.ca. Applications must be submitted no later than March 31st, 2010.

Mar 21, 2010

Here's Your Chance To Get Pwned

By Andrew Shin

Yes, you read that correctly. On Thursday, March 25th Xbox Canada will be holding its Game With Fame session with none other than Pure Pwnage's Jarret Cale AKA Jeremy on the show. As most of you may know by now, Pure Pwnage's huge success and following has culminated into what is now a weekly TV show on Showcase.

To have the opportunity to play with Jarret you'll have to send a friend request to the gamertag PurePwnageGWF and be online half an hour before (7:30pm) the session takes place at 8pm. If you're lucky and get chosen, you'll have the opportunity to get spanked by Jarret playing NHL 10. Oh, and you have to be a Xbox LIVE Gold member of course.

For complete details, check out Xbox Canada's Game With Fame page.

Mar 17, 2010

God of War III Media Preview Event, In Photos

By Paul Hunter

So, a game called God of War III came out yesterday, have you heard? Alice and I had the privileged opportunity to attend Playstation Canada's media preview earlier this month and were given an early sneak-peak at the game.

Sony invited Edmonton native John Palamarchuk, Lead Cinematic Artist on God of War III from their Santa Monica Studio who was available to discuss his involvement with the game. We'll be posting our interview with John later in the week.

In the meantime, I encourage you to check out my full event write-up over on the Future Shop Tech Blog.

For those of you who dig photos, here's a collection we took at the God of War III preview event.

Crowd shot


Shaun Hatton from Electric Playground playing God of War III


Paul standing beside a male Greek statue mime


Alice standing beside a male Greek statue mime


Paul standing beside a female Greek statue mime

Mar 16, 2010

ASTRO Gaming's New ASTRO A30 Cross-Gaming Headset

By Andrew Shin

When it comes to online gaming, it's important that you own a very good pair of gaming headsets. If you're an avid online FPS gamer, then you'll take this to heart as sporting a good pair headsets could very well be the difference between dominating or being dominated. The challenge however is being able to find a good pair of pro quality gaming headsets at a reasonable price. There are a few notables on the market such as the Turtle Beach Ear Force X31/PX21 and the Tritton AX180.

Now you can add another to the mix. ASTRO Gaming has announced their new ASTRO A30 Cross-Gaming headset. The A30 is a professional grade cross platform headset. Cross platform meaning that it works with the Xbox 360, PS3, PC as well as iPod and even smartphones such as a Blackberry. That's pretty versatile. The one caveat to the A30 is that if you want to be able to communicate over online gameplay on your console, you'll also need to purchase the ASTRO MixAmp system. The A30 retails for $149.95 US or as a bundle with the ASTRO MixAmp for $229.95.

The A30 looks to combine high quality and performance with great design and aesthetics. And to take the A30's looks to the next level, you can create personalized speaker tags online and swap them with the stock speaker tags. For more details on the ASTRO A30 Cross-Gaming headset, visit the ASTRO Gaming website at www.astrogaming.com.

Mar 14, 2010

Ontario Technology Corridor Courting Developers at GDC 2010

By Paul Hunter

Anyone with an interest or stake in the Canadian video game industry will want to take note of this. I received word early last week that the Ontario Technology Corridor (OTC), an economic development group that travels around the world presenting video game investment opportunities in the province, went to GDC 2010 along with Canadian heavyweights Digital Extremes, Ubisoft, FileCatalyst, and Frozen North Productions to convince developers that Ontario is the #1 place in North America to open up shop.

Prior to GDC 2010, I had a chance to catch up with Larry MacKinnon, Director of Business Development, Technology at the London Economic Development Corporation, to discuss the OTC's objectives.

I wrote a very in-depth article about what this means for Canada over on the Future Shop Tech Blog. From the article:

"For starters, MacKinnon pointed out that Ontario offers a highly educated workforce, with 55% of Ontario residents aged 25 to 64 possessing advanced education certificates, diplomas or degrees -- compared to 51% for Canada as a whole and 39% for the U.S. Ontario has also an ethnically diverse, loyal and motivated workforce, clustered around numerous technology hubs ranging from Toronto, London, Ottawa, Waterloo and the Niagara Region. Each hub has a unique make-up, ranging from large metropolitan to mid-size to smaller communities, giving developers wishing to settle in Ontario plenty of variety to suit their particular business interests."

For the full write-up, check out the post here.

Friends Help Blind Ontario Teen Beat Legend of Zelda

By Paul Hunter

Here's an interesting story I posted earlier today on the Future Shop Tech Blog. An Ontario teen by the name of Jordan Verner beat The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Sure a lot of people have accomplished the same, but what's amazing is that Verner's blind.

From the article:

"The 19-year-old from Thunder Bay, Ontario, was born with a condition known as optic nerve hypoplasia -- the underdevelopment of the optic nerve -- leaving him blind since birth.

Jordan Verner was first introduced to gaming as a kid and ever since he beat his first video game -- N64's Bass Hunter -- he's been in love with gaming. Looking to take on a more complex undertaking, Verner decided to take on The Legend of Zelda using a combination of audio cues and step memorization."

To read the rest of my article on this incredible story, visit this post on the Future Shop Tech Blog.

Mar 13, 2010

New Super Mario Wii Tops Canada Sales for February 2010, Sony Wins Top Seven

By Paul Hunter

Seems like I've been complaining for years now that the NPD Group Canada does not release Canadian video game sales data often enough. In the U.S., video game retail reports are published the second Thursday of every month at 3:30 p.m. PDT. Up here in Canada we're lucky if we get updated once or twice a year, and when we do, they numbers aren't nearly as comprehensive. As a result, every month it's a guessing game -- who knows what's selling well here in Canada!?

Fortunately for this month Sony's Public Relations Manager, Kyle Moffatt, tweeted to me the top three software titles for the month of February. And the winners are:

1. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)
2. Bioshock 2 (Xbox 360)
3. Heavy Rain (PS3)

Kyle also mentioned that four out of the top seven software titles are for the PS3, with two for the Xbox 360, and only one (New Super Mario Bros. Wii) for the Wii. No breakdown of the positions 4-7 were provided, however, let's take our best guess shall we?

Let's start with the Xbox 360 since that's an easy one, the other Xbox 360 title in the top seven is most likely Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, or possibly Mass Effect 2.

As for the other three PS3s titles, my guesses would be Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Dante's Inferno and Bioshock 2. MAG and White Knight Chronicles would be other potentials, but I have my doubts that they made the top seven.

The fact that we need to guess like this is just pathetic. I understand that the NPD Group Canada is a business and has financial reasons for withholding information, but come on now, why can't we get equal access to data like the U.S. has? I'm starting to get steamed.

EB Games Also Also Hosting God of War III Midnight Openings

By Paul Hunter

EB Games will be joining Future Shop and Best Buy Canada on the God of War III midnight opening bandwagon.

Two of the retailer's store locations will be calling in the Sony Big Rig Events Truck to entertain gamers in line waiting for the stroke of midnight. The locations are:

Square One -- Mississauga, Ontario
9PM - 12:30 AM

Coquitlam Center -- Port Coquitlam, British Columbia
9PM - 12:30 AM

In addition, there will be giveaways including a draw for a Playstation prize pack which consists of a 250GB PS3, a Red Dual Shock 3 controller and the God of War Collection (GOW 1 and 2). There will be two prize packs per location.

For a list of all the EB Games that will be open across Canada this Monday, please go here.

New Brink Trailer

By Andrew Shin

Bethesda just released the latest trailer for their upcoming first person shooter Brink. Brink looks to be a unique FPS experience because it will allow players to play through the game's main story in either single player, co-op or multiplayer in a seamless manner. Brink is set for release this fall for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Check out the new trailer below (WARNING: This video contains content not suitable for children).




For more details on Brink, check out the game's official website.

Toronto-born Actor Corey Haim Found Dead at 38

By Alice Stancu

I picked up a local newspaper yesterday and was shocked to see that my first video game crush, Toronto actor Corey Haim, had died at the age of 38.

The article discussed his life and long-term drug problem, and somewhat distastefully claimed that he'd been a “lost boy” his entire life after starring in The Lost Boys. There were mentions of his recent reality show, The Two Coreys. But the article never mentioned what endeared him to me as an 8-year-old gamer – his appearance in the classic cinematic mystery, Double Switch.

Double Switch was my favourite game for ages; it was challenging, lots of fun, Egyptian-themed, and the production values were top-notch by interactive cinema standards. Corey played the central character, Eddie – a techno-savvy, stripey-hatted, slightly insane nerd – basically, my dream guy. The game featured a full singing and dancing cast of mobsters, hot college girls, rock & roll stars, secret society assassins, and the lead singer of Blondie dressed up as Cleopatra. If it wasn't so hard to find a copy of it nowadays, I'd recommend it to everyone who played Heavy Rain and thought it was pretty neat.

I'd long hoped that Corey Haim would return to the gaming scene once interactive cinema experienced a revival. Of course, technology has now reached the point where real actors are no longer necessary; the idea of making a video game with live-action footage seems terribly passé. But I'll never forget Corey Haim and how great he was in this iconic game.

Mar 12, 2010

Prepare to be Spanked: Pure Pwnage TV Starts...Tonight!



By Paul Hunter

Tonight's the night folks. Pure Pwnage will be spanking audiences across Canada starting at 10pm ET/PT on Showcase. Tell the noobs, bring the l33ts, this is the premiere we've been waiting for.

When you're willing to take a break from playing God of War III, you know it has to be for something good. Something damn good.

My God of War III Surprise: Kept Me Dry While Lookin' Oh-so Fly

By Paul Hunter

Today, it's a rather dreary day in Toronto. Outside looks gloomy, it's pouring rain, and the wind is biting. I was in a rush to get to work this morning and forgot my umbrella; needless to say I was wet, cold, and seriously dreading the trip back home. But then something unexpected happened, a package arrived at the office, and the contents would make my return voyage enjoyable. Much more enjoyable.

Nothing screams snuggly like a God of War III hoodie. Kratos would be so proud.

More Than 2 Million Pokémon Games Sold In Canada

By Paul Hunter

Speaking of Pokémon news, buried in a press release I saw on CNW's website was a little nugget of sales date on the retail success of the Pokémon series in Canada. According to Nintendo of Canada numbers, Pokémon games have sold more than 2 million copies in Canada since the series' debut over a decade ago.

It's great to see the franchise flourishing in our home and native land. Kind of gives me warm, jiggly feelings inside.

NextGen Player Review: Heavy Rain

By Alice Stancu

The last 15 years of gaming have seen a dramatic fall in the popularity of interactive cinema. The Sega Mega-CD brought us a slew of few full-motion video classics like Night Trap and Double Switch, but hardware limitations, uninspired gameplay, and poor acting led to the demise of the genre. Quantic Dream's previous game, Indigo Prophecy (a.k.a. Fahrenheit) was the first step toward the revival of the genre, and now we have Heavy Rain which comes out on top of its predecessor and surpasses most of the historical shortcomings of interactive cinema.

For starters: Heavy Rain is not a game for children, or even for teenagers. There is some gratuitous nudity and a lot of very graphic violence, but the game earns its mature rating for the intense emotional trauma that it may cause the player. There are some kill-or-be-killed scenarios, and some of the decisions that you will have to make throughout the game will not be easy to make. The game comes with a tagline of “How far are you prepared to go to save someone you love?” and this is repeatedly put to the test. Would you put yourself in danger? Would you put others in danger? The choice is yours.

Heavy Rain draws a lot from the hardboiled detective fiction genre in its gritty portrayal of violence and sex, as well as from the style and cynicism of film noir. Every scenario is breathtaking, whether it is the ominous and ever-rainy city or a meticulously detailed apartment. While it is nice to lose yourself in the environments, many of the challenges are time-based (or at least feel that way) and do not allow for environment exploration. The motion-capture is flawlessly executed and it comes through in every scene of the game; from dynamic action to everyday walking around, every slight nuance of natural human movement is reproduced. Even NPCs milling about the various scenes blend completely into the background through their realistic actions and gestures.

The game starts you off with about an hour's worth of cheerful mundane tasks – showering and shaving, preparing for a birthday party, and play-fighting with your kids. At risk of giving away too much of the plot, let's just say that it soon takes a dark turn, and stays that way for the remainder of the game. The game's lighter elements – preparing an omelet and taking care of a crying infant, for example – are necessary to prevent the bleak mood from becoming unbearable. A five-minute non-stop action sequence can be so intense that half an hour of wandering around trying to find clues seems like a naturally essential buffer. There is definitely nothing traditionally “fun” about this game; rather, it's an intensely emotional story.

The player takes part in just about every decision that characters make in the game. Most of these choices don't affect the ending, but they make the characters and the overall story more personal. You can choose to be a doting father or a bad cop; you can even let all the characters perish if that's what you'd like to see. Some decisions must be made in a split-second and much like in real life, you might make the “wrong” choice because there isn't enough time to examine the options – and at times these options can be extremely vague. To make it even more challenging, if your character is in a situation in which they are scared or nervous, the on-screen buttons and corresponding actions start shaking and become very hard to read, adding to the pressure of deciding what to do. Failing just one quick-time event can alter the course of the entire story, especially in the later sequences of the game – and quite unusually, a character's death does not lead to a “game over” screen. Even if a main character is killed, the story will adapt and continue without them.

While the quick-time events that make up the majority of gameplay are very well-done, actually moving around is the main element in which Heavy Rain is lacking. Open streets and long hallways pose no threat to the two-button movement system (one to turn, one to walk), but once you enter a cramped office or living room, turning to face that desk drawer or filing cabinet can become a more formidable feat than beating up thugs in the action portions of the game.

Most of the characters are realistic and believable – Ethan is a concerned father, Shelby is a gruff but kind private investigator, and Jayden is a calm and dedicated FBI agent. The exception is Madison Paige, an underdeveloped protagonist who isn't terribly necessary to the story other than as a potential love interest. Her inclusion in the playable cast appears to be solely to add some gender diversity while functioning in a pretty limited support role, much like the female white mages of classic RPGs.

Another drawback to the game is the voice-acting, which is absolutely awful at some points. I understand that Quantic Dream is based in France and that they hired native English speakers for the main roles – Shelby and Jayden especially sound good – but there is no excuse for the assortment of cheesy accents sported by secondary characters. On top of that, the script has a tendency to occasionally dip into Hollywood-style cheesiness when it should be more subtle. Luckily, the music does redeem the overall quality of sound in the game – the soundtrack is memorable and seamless, with catchy themes that play during appropriately dramatic moments.

While it's been often said, it's true – Heavy Rain is a groundbreaking gaming experience that should not be missed. The tale is incredibly moving and leaves a lasting impression long after the credits roll, regardless of whether your ending is tragic or satisfying – because in the end, the story that unfolds is the story that you chose for yourself. I'm hoping to see other interactive movies coming up in the next few years; after all, if nothing else, Heavy Rain has shown us that breaking all the conventions of gaming can still result in a fantastic experience.

NextGen Player gives Heavy Rain a...

Mar 11, 2010

Nintendo of Canada Celebrating Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver Launch In Style

By Paul Hunter

Next week marks the beginning of March Break for Canadian public schools and the timing couldn't be more perfect for young Pokémon fans. To kick the launch of Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver into high-gear, Nintendo of Canada issued an invite today for Pokémon fans to come out and celebrate the new games the afternoon of March 14th. The company will be hosting launch events in Toronto and Montreal which will feature demo stations, a Pokémon character colouring zone, and a Pokémon photo booth.

Guests will also have the chance to win a Nintendo DSi system and copies of Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver versions, along with other giveaways.

Here are the location and event details:

Toronto, ON -- Sunday, March 14, 12pm - 5pm

Wizard World
Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place
195 Princes' Blvd, Toronto

Montreal, QC -- Sunday, March 14, 12pm - 4pm

Pepsi Forum
Centre Ice Atrium
2313, rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest

Oh one more thing, guests will also have a chance to test out the new Pokéwalker accessory which is described as "a special pedometer that you carry with you that lets you take Pokémon fun wherever you go".

Wait, isn't Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver on Nintendo's portable handheld?

Best Buy Canada Also Hosting God of War III Midnight Openings

By Paul Hunter

It looks like Future Shop isn't the only retailer getting ready for the impending release of Sony's blockbuster God of War III. Enter Best Buy Canada.

The national retailer have announced on their website that six of their retail stores will be open at 12:01am on March 16. They are:

1. Cambie Street, Vancouver
2. Coquitlam, South Edmonton
3. Deerfoot Meadows, Calgary
4. St. James Street, Winnipeg
5. Bay & Dundas, Toronto
6. Heartland Town Centre, Mississauga

Best Buy Canada will be giving out free God of War III t-shirts for the first 100 people who line-up at each of the above locations. As added incentives, the retailer will be awarding triple Reward Zone points from March 16-18, and giving a $15 discount on the God of War Collection for those who purchase God of War III.

So, Best Buy is open at 12:01am, Future Shop at 12 midnight, anyone out there brave enough to take 11:59pm? I didn't think so.

God of War III Midnight Madness at Future Shop Happening This Monday

By Paul Hunter

Get ready Spartan warriors -- the final chapter of the epic God of War series is coming out in a mere five days. If you expect that a PS3 exclusive of this caliber would receive a retail midnight madness launch event -- you assumed right.

On March 15, Future Shop is inviting gamers out to their God of War III midnight madness events, taking place in five of their largest national retail locations. Gamers hungry to get in on the action early can start lining up at 9:00pm and be among the first in Canada to play the game.

PlayStation's street team will be out to entertain the crowds at select locations through demoing the game as well as awarding gift card prizes.

The five retail stores are:

1. Nepean, ON (Merivale) – 1695 Merivale Rd. (at Basil MacDonald Way) – PlayStation street team feature

2. Toronto, ON (Yonge-Dundas) – 325 Yonge St. (at Dundas) – PlayStation street team feature

3. Edmonton, AB (South Edmonton Common) – 1320 99 St. (at Parsons Rd. NW)

4. Calgary, AB (Northlands) – 5111 Northland Dr. NW (at 52 Ave. NW)

5. Richmond, BC (Lansdowne Centre) – 5300 #3 Rd. (at Alderbridge Way) – PlayStation street team feature

All midnight madness events will run from 9:00pm - 1:30am, with doors opening at midnight.

I'll be at the Toronto Yonge-Dundas location, hope to see you there!

Mar 10, 2010

Sheridan College Creates 3D Game That Does Not Require 3D Glasses



By Paul Hunter

Not convinced that Canada is the coolest gaming country in the world? Aside from the, you know, hundreds of news items discussed right here on NextGen Player, how about this -- Sheridan College has created the first ever real-time stereoscopic 3D video game that does not require 3D glasses. Oh yes, it's true. Read on.

The game, called IC3D (get it, "I see 3D", har har!) was a showpiece on display in the Ontario House Pavilion at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, and was used to introduce Vancouver guests to some of Ontario's most well-known tourist attractions.

"The cutting edge technology of Sheridan’s 3D Game showcases our province’s tourism icons like never before. The world will see in a unique and innovative way that there truly is no place like Ontario to live, visit and invest,” said Michael Chan, Ontario’s Minister of Tourism and Culture.

So how does the technology work? A Toronto-based company called Spatial View has built its own proprietary 3D displays which creates a glasses-free 3D image with a special stereoscopic overlay on display screens. The technology allows for up to five channels of video to display concurrently providing an authentic 3D experience.

Using a BlackBerry smartphone as game controllers, players are required to assemble 3D puzzles of the popular Ontario tourist attractions. The pieces of each attraction appear scattered within the 3D environment and up to five players can work collaboratively to assemble the attraction. Once the puzzle is solved, a multimedia presentation of the attraction is displayed on each player's handheld device.

Nifty eh! Check out the clip above to see it in action.

Source: Metro News Toronto

NextGen Player Review: Dante's Inferno

By Clinton Ma


The action-adventure genre is a tight-knit little club. It's also a place that increasingly caters to the hardcore niche and is ruled over by some long-established heavyweights. So it takes a special kind of game to come on to the scene, get our attention and become a contender to the genre's crown.

Visceral Studio's Dante's Inferno is not that game.

What it is, however, is a solid execution of everything we know and love about modern button-mashing, action-adventures. Sadly, it's also a reminder of the genre's worst excesses and the net result is a game that does little to rise above those well-worn conventions.

Read on past the jump for the full review...

Dante's Inferno is very loosely based on The Divine Comedy, the epic 14th-century poem written by Dante Alighieri. Video game Dante is not a poet but rather a brawny knight of the Third Crusade who descends through the 9 circles of Hell to rescue the soul of his dead wife, Beatrice. With the poet Virgil as his guide and the Grim Reaper's scythe as his weapon, Dante must not only face the ravenous hordes of the underworld but also his own litany of sins that have brought him to this grim predicament.

If you can put aside the outcry over the crass handling of a piece of classic literature, I think Alighieri's work serves the purposes of this game very well. Sure there are a multitude of video games that send players through hell-like environments or to battle throngs of demonic creatures, but when you get right to down it very few of them actually send you to "Hell-with-capital-H". Furthermore, no self-respecting gamer would want to visit Hell as a helpless, tortured sinner forever impaled on a spike or boiling in a lake of blood. So why not pay a visit to Lucifer as an angry, scythe-wielding knight? The industry is still not mature enough to the point where I so often demand much more from my games than a license to kick unholy ass. This simple fact seems to have been lost amid all the controversy and the frankly bizarre PR stunts pulled by Electronic Arts leading up to the game's release. A more thoughtful interpretation of The Divine Comedy is certainly possible; the sad truth is we as the game-buying public are probably not ready for something quite so radical.


So the version we have now is definitely the easy road, and it's a road well traveled by some very storied franchises such as Ninja Gaiden, God of War and Devil May Cry. Dante's Inferno adheres to the rock-solid formula to a fault: use a combination of light and heavy attacks to eliminate waves after wave of enemies then either jump through a few hoops, solve a simple puzzle or watch a lavish cutscene before fighting the next wave of boogeymen. The cycle is punctuated by dramatic, screen-filling boss battles where pattern recognition and quick reflexes are the order of the day. And before you die of curiosity overload: Yes, there are finishing moves, upgradeable skills and quick-time events. Rejoice!

Some may be very happy to see all these feature boxes checked while others may roll their eyes at yet another example of uninspired game design. Originality may be in short supply here but it's in the execution where Visceral has mostly hit the mark. As Dante, you start the game with some powerful moves and you only get more formidable as your descent into Hell gets deeper. Orbs dropped from fallen foes provide you with experience points that go towards unlocking dozens of skills divided into "Holy" or "Unholy" disciplines. In a nice game play twist, Dante has the option of punishing or absolving his enemies, with the result of each action yielding a bounty of corresponding holy or unholy points.

There are new attack techniques as well as unique magic abilities that can be mapped to the face buttons. In addition to the skill tree you have a finite number of slots in which to equip special relics found along the way. These relics confer a variety of bonuses ranging from the more pedestrian damage-dealing types to some very exotic, specialized functions. Let it be known that most of these skills are useful: Dante's Inferno is not such a button masher that you can simply hammer on the X button and expect to reach the end without any problems. Different skills work better for different situations and it's a testament to the thought put into properly balancing this aspect of the game.

Another highlight of Dante's Inferno is, surprisingly, the story. It's a bit deceiving since the premise is so straight forward. Dante himself comes off as a very one-dimensional meathead at the game's outset. He even becomes increasingly unlikable through the first half of the game but there came a time when my impression of Dante did a 180-degree flip. By learning of Dante's many sins as a mortal I developed a great deal of sympathy for his cause. This was also helped along by some of the slickest cinematics in any current game. The in-game stuff may look clumsy but the combination of the traditional cel-animated flashbacks and the extremely glossy, pre-rendered cutscenes drives home the impact of the story.

Well you saw this coming: Dante's Inferno has some downers. For a game that never bothers to be original or to reach for the stars, you would think it would at least nail the execution of all its standard mechanics. Sadly, the game blunders in a number of areas, beginning with its reliance on puzzles to break up the action. Whether it be the dreaded jumping puzzle or something involving levers, gears or switches, none of it is especially satisfying to complete. Certain areas of the game, like the circle of Greed, are jam-packed with environmental challenges and it's hard to consistently enjoy a game that so actively avoids playing to its own strengths.

When the puzzles cease and you finally come up for air, you're hit with a late-game section (Fraud) that blatantly recycles enemies through a grueling series of battle arenas. The term "play time padding" definitely went through my head a few times as I grimly slogged through this unnecessary evil.

This area also made me realize the overall lack of a sense of accomplishment that pervades the game. The unforgiving difficulty in some spots paired with the poorly designed puzzles combined to create a game that often felt like work more than play. I wondered if I would have felt compelled to even finish Dante's Inferno if not for the opportunity to see the next cutscene or discover the next twisted new corner of Hell to fight through.

Like so many entrants into the action-adventure genre before it, Dante's Inferno is very much a mixed bag. A technically engaging combat system is dragged down by far too many pace-killing puzzles and repetitive enemy designs. The potential of rendering a fantastic game-version of Hell is cut short by a visual aesthetic that wears out its welcome long before the last cut scene rolls. And most curious of all, the game is fairly challenging but it so rarely lends a sense of accomplishment for surmounting its trials. Instead of a joyous fist pump there's only a heavy sigh of relief and a thought of "phew, I hope I never have to do that again".

This may be Hell but somehow I'm not sure the developers wanted to take gamers that far into the abyss.

Pros:
- Stylish cinematics and evocative art design
- Fun combat system: great combination of melee, ranged, magic & passive abilities
- Two-branch skill tree full of useful, unlockable powers
- Technically rock solid: no crashes or unsightly frame rate drops
- Some educational lip service is paid to the source material

Cons:
- Repetitive enemy designs
- Unrewarding and frustrating jumping/environmental puzzles
- Time-padding combat challenges
- Story "twist" can be seen coming hours & hours ahead
- Unimaginative "copy cat" mechanics like QTEs, life & mana orbs, etc.
- Weird difficulty spikes

NextGen Player gives Dante's Inferno a...

Mar 8, 2010

Scribblenauts 2 Announced

By Andrew Shin

Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment has announced that Scribblenauts 2 will be released in Fall 2010. This sequel to the highly successful Scribblenauts promises to offer more creative ways to interact and a significant increase of words to use within the game. The game is developed by 5th Cell.

In this new game, players will need to solve puzzles to help Maxwell obtain the 'Starite'. In this new game adjectives can now be used with words to modify objects such as a change in colour or size as well as elements or behaviours. Additionally, numerous adjectives can be combined to allow for greater creative possibilities.

"The next Scribblenauts broadens the players' experience from the first Scribblenauts through more creativity, innovation and in-depth gameplay," said Jeremiah Slaczka, Creative Director and Co-Founder of 5TH Cell. "All of these enhancements give players even greater control over how they want to play the game."

I've had my fair share of fun playing Scribblenauts on the DS and all the while I've thought to myself how much better this game could be with an added level of flexibility in gameplay options. Sounds very much like part 2 may deliver just that. I'm definitely looking forward seeing how Scribblenauts 2 turns out.

EB Games Canada Hosting Final Fantasy XIII Midnight Madness Launches

By Paul Hunter

The Final Fantasy XIII launch is upon us, and by the looks of it EB Games will be having some midnight launches across Canada.

Check out this PDF file for all the locations.

Anyone else know of other Canadian retailers hosting midnight launches?

Watch SomeGirlFromCanada Kill Zombies, Shake That Derriere



By Paul Hunter

I was on Twitter the other day and ran into a user going by the name of SomeGirlFromCanada who mentioned she loved gaming and had an "in-action" clip of her playing Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles posted on YouTube. I found the short 90 second video last night and was so enamoured by her post-victory booty shake that I just had to share with you all.

Come to think of it, I play a lot of on-rail shooters, maybe I need my own hip-shaking victory dance. Maybe I'll ask SomeGirlFromCanada for some wiggle waggle tips.

Mar 7, 2010

Pure Pwnage Production Blog Episode 7: How Crunchy Are Your Pickles?



By Paul Hunter

With each passing Pure Pwnage production blog I'm looking more forward to checking out the show when it debuts this month on Showcase.

In this episode Jeremy gets his very first assistant and makes him uhh...organize his pickles. I won't say any more than that, check out the video above.

Pure Pwnage recently updated their website with a brand new look, in case you've missed any of their previous production blogs you can view them here.

Assassin's Creed 2 and FIFA 10 Nominated for BAFTA GAME Award

By Paul Hunter

Two high profile Canadian-developed video games have been nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award -- Ubisoft Montreal's Assassin's Creed 2 and EA Canada's FIFA 10.

The second annual award show, presented by GAME (Europe's leading PC and video games retailer) and BAFTA, will held on March 19 at the London Hilton. The event begins at 8:45pm and will be live streamed on the BAFTA GAME Award website.

Voting is open to the public and you can register your selection here. In total, ten video games are in the running for the BAFTA Game of the Year award.

Best of luck to the Canadian developed games!

Canada Has a New Video Game Award Show

By Paul Hunter

Canada has a brand new video game award show that's set to debut this May, just prior to the second annual Game Developers Conference Canada. Called the Canadian Video Game and Digital Arts Awards, the event is being supported by some of the biggest names in the Canadian video game industry including Reboot Communications (presenter of GDC Canada), Greedy Productions (producer of Electric Playground and Reviews on the Run) and Seven Group (a world leader in digital media technology). The award ceremony will be taking place in Vancouver, BC, on May 5, 2010 at the award-winning Vancouver Convention Centre.

Best of all? The show will be broadcast on television across the country on G4 Canada through the Rogers Network.

Check out my post on the Future Shop Tech Blog for more details on this exciting new award show.

Toronto's Rock Band Jam Session, In Pictures

By Paul Hunter

Last night NextGen Player and a legion of Toronto gaming bloggers and enthusiasts invaded Rocky Raccoons for a raucous Rock Band Jam Session. The bar was packed from wall-to-wall to watch wannabe rock stars, myself included, perform live in front of a roaring audience. Some acts were tempered, some bawdy, all were thoroughly enjoyable.

This is what transpired, in pictures.


NextGen Player's Alice Stancu, Paul Hunter and Electric Playground's Shaun Hatton

NextGen Player's Alice Stancu drumming

Shaun Hatton from Electric Playground

Dillon Andrews from Ve3tro, Dave Waisglass from A Couple of Gamers, Michael Gardash from DD Game World

NextGen Player's Leif Conti-Groome

NextGen Player's Alice Stancu, jefftheworld, and Chris Trickey

GameShark's Jeff McAllister

A Couple of Gamers' Andrew Carreiro


That's but a small sample of the photos that were taken last night. For the full Flickr album go here.

Mar 6, 2010

Reminder: Tonight is Toronto's Rock Band Jam Session

By Paul Hunter

Tonight's the night Rock Band fans. If you live in or around the Toronto-area come on out to the Rock Band Jam session, hosted by Eric Brazier from semisolidmedia.

I'll be there along with fellow NGP staffer Alice Stancu and a whole host of local gaming bloggers and gamer enthusiasts. Electric Playgrounds newest correspondent Shaun Hatton will be making an appearance, along with Will Perkins from Dorkshelf, Dillon Andrews from Ve3tro, and Lori Dance and Dave Waisglass from A Couple of Gamers.

The Rock Band event will be held at Rockie Raccoons, located at 2579 Yonge Street in Toronto (just north of Yonge and Eglinton). The event kicks off at 9:00pm and runs until 2:00am.

Check out the Facebook event page for more details and to RSVP.

See you there, ROCK STARS!

Interviewed on Global News to Discuss Sony's Heavy Rain

By Paul Hunter

On February 23rd, to coincide with the release of Heavy Rain, I was interviewed on Global News to discuss the new PS3 exclusive interactive drama. The clip can be viewed by clicking on the picture above or by clicking here.

I recently posted my full review of Heavy Rain on the Future Shop Tech Blog, you can check it out here.

Expect a full review right here on NextGen Player from our very own Alice Stancu very soon.

Brütal Legend $14.99 *New* at The Source

By Paul Hunter

The Source has a huge clearance on brand new video games going on right now, including Tim Schafer's music-inspired RTS, Brütal Legend. The game is retailing for a mere $14.96, which is a cool $55.03 off the regular price.

Both version can be seen here on The Source's website:

PS3 version
360 version

Dozens of other video games are similarly on clearance for all consoles (Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, PSP, DS, PS2). All clearance games can be looked at by going to the clearance homepage here. Click on whatever console or handheld that suits your interest on the left.

There are a handful of PS2 games on sale for $4.96 including MLB 09: The Show, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, and Madden NLF 09.

With so many great games on sale for so cheap there something for everyone here. Better hurry though, clearance means once they're gone, they're gone.

Mar 5, 2010

Bioshock 2 Tops Rogers Top Rental List for Week Ending Feb. 28

By Paul Hunter

The latest Rogers Plus video rental numbers are in and 2K Games has another runaway hit with Bioshock 2 topping this week's list. The game appears twice in the top ten rentals for the week, with the Xbox 360 taking the gold and the PS3 version landing at number 5.

On the retail sales side, Bioshock 2 is already looking like a trailblazer for publisher 2K with the game surpassing 3 million units sold worldwide across the Xbox 360, PC and PlayStation 3. For comparison purposes, the original Bioshock has sold 4 million units to date.

For sake of interest, the full Rogers top rental list can be seen after the jump:

1 BioShock 2 (Xbox 360)

2 New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Nintendo Wii)

3 Heavy Rain (PlayStation 3)

4 Dante's Inferno (Xbox 360)

5 BioShock 2 (PlayStation 3)

6 Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360)

7 Aliens vs. Predator (Xbox 360)

8 Dante's Inferno (PlayStation 3)

9 Army of Two: The 40th Day (Xbox 360)

10 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360)

Source: Winnipeg Free Press

Survey: Art Institute of Vancouver Ranked #6 Best Game Design Progam (U.S. & Canada)

By Paul Hunter

The Princeton Review and GamePro magazine have selected the 50 best U.S. and Canadian undergraduate institutions where students can study game design. The top eight programs were ranked, while the remaining 42 were listed in alphabetical order.

The 50 programs were selected based on a 2009-10 survey completed by administrators at undergraduate institutions offering a game design program. The selection criteria included "the quality of the curriculum, faculty credentials, facilities and infrastructure as well as data on scholarships, financial aid and career opportunities."

Of the top eight game design programs, Canada had one entry with The Art Institute of Vancouver ranking at 6th place.

It appears that no other Canadian institution made it on the list (which can be seen here), which tells me that although Canada is now the 3rd largest video game producer in the world our educational programs do not seem to be keeping pace, at least according to the surveys methodology.

Wake up educators, Canada is a gaming nation and it ain't slowing down anytime soon!

Source: The Princeton Review

Infinity Ward vs. Activision: Legal Battle Heating Up

By Paul Hunter

For days now a massive legal battle has been brewing between Call of Duty series creator, Infinity Ward, and their parent company Activision. The trouble began on March 2nd when a G4 report stated from a source close to the developer that "bouncer types" has entered the facilities announced.

As the story unfold we learned that Infinity Ward's President, Jason West, and CEO, Vince Zampella, had been fired from their positions with Activision citing "insubordination" as the cause.

I summarized the latest news on this developing story over on the Future Shop Tech Blog on Wednesday, here's a snippet from the article:

"According to the G4 source, earlier in the day Infinity Ward's President, Jason West, and CEO, Vince Zampella, had a meeting with Activision and the pair has not been seen by staff since.

An SEC filing issued by Activision the same day contained a paragraph stating that the company is in the process of "concluding an internal human resources inquiry into breaches of contract and insubordination by two senior employees at Infinity Ward." The original G4 report described the relationship between Infinity Ward and the publisher lately as "tense", and rumours of creative differences have painted a hazy picture of ongoing disagreements between the parties."

To read my full write-up on this breaking news, check out the Tech Blog article here.

Wii May Speed Stroke Victim Recovery: Canadian Study

By Paul Hunter

We have long heard about the potential benefits of using the Wii as a means of physiotherapy, and a recent Canadian study seems to further corroborate the research.

Researchers at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute had 20 recent patients aged 41 to 83 who had suffered mild to moderate strokes play the Wii eight times, for 60 minutes each session, over a two-week period. The games played were Wii Sports (tennis) and Cooking Mama.

A second group of stroke patients were asked to perform non-video game recreational activities such as building Jenga towers and playing card games.

Dr. Gustavo Saposnik, Neurologist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, said that patients in the Wii therapy group showed changes in fine and gross motor functions, as seen in their speed and grip strength. More significantly, the randomized Wii group experienced a seven-second difference in motor performance over the recreational group, which Saposnik described as "meaningful."

Stated differently, that seven second difference means that an activity that took the Wii therapy group 20 seconds to perform, would take, on average, 27 seconds for members of the recreational activity group.

The doctor cautions that these findings are preliminary and that a larger study on the effects of Wii therapy on stroke patients is already underway.

I have to say, saving seven seconds on each daily activity sounds pretty impressive. Call me biased, but playing Wii is clearly more fun than playing with wood blocks. Next time somebody tells you to play Jenga you tell them you'd rather play some Boom Blox instead. And hey, if they persist, at least you'll have seven seconds to escape the situation before they notice.

Source: CTV News

God of War III, Final Fantasy XIII Receive Gamestop Gaming Guarantees

By Paul Hunter

Continuing Gamestop.ca's / EB Games long history of Gaming Guarantees, the company have advertised in recent fliers that upcoming games Final Fantasy XIII (Xbox 360, PS3) and God of War III (PS3) will also be given the guarantee treatment.

To recap, a GG promotion means that if you pre-order the game you may return it within one week of in-store pick-up in exchange for full in-store credit. Keep in mind that pre-order is the operative word, you cannot purchase the game in-store on opening day and be eligible for the guarantee. Upon returning a GG promoted title, you will receive in-store credit on an EB Edge Card and can then use the card to purchase other in-store products.

Final Fantasy XIII has a release date of March 9th, and God of War III comes out the following week on March 16th.

These games follow a long line-up of games that have received the GG promotion, including Uncharted 2, Halo 3: ODST, and Resident Evil 5.

And remember -- these guarantees are valid only in Canada!

Mar 3, 2010

Sony Acquires Media Molecule


By Andrew Shin

Now here's huge news in the gaming industry. Sony Computer Entertainment(SCE) announced yesterday that it had acquired England based game developer Media Molecule. Media Molecule is the company that developed the award winning PS3 exclusive LittleBigPlanet. As a result of the acquisition, Media Molecule will join SCE Worldwide Studios - SCE's global development organization.

This is a significant addition for SCE as it surely represents a strengthening of its footprint within the gaming industry. Media Molecule is a world class game developer that will bring a great deal of added experience and creativity to SCE's game development operations.

”Since they burst onto the gaming scene, Media Molecule have proved to be a truly exciting and innovative studio, who have proved their world-class credentials with the creation of the incredible LittleBigPlanet,” said Shuhei Yoshida, President, SCE Worldwide Studios. “SCE WWS is all about creating ambitious, innovative and ground breaking games, traits that Media Molecule clearly have. To bring them into our family proves our dedication to creating fantastic new experiences that we believe will cement our position as industry leaders.”

"Since Media Molecule's inception, we've had a uniquely close relationship with SCE. Over the years they have consistently shown their dedication to Creative Gaming and Media Molecule, not only through their support of the company, but their willingness to take risks and embrace our often unusual approach and ideas," said Alex Evans, co-founder of Media Molecule. "What we've achieved already with LittleBigPlanet has proved this to us and we're excited by this new chapter of innovation and creative gaming, for all involved.”

It will be interesting to see what unfolds in the coming months and how SCE will utilize Media Molecule in developing new exclusive properties.