Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Hottest Games of Summer 2009 - Part 3

So we continue to review The Hottest Games of Summer 2009. Here is Part 3:

'The Conduit' -- Expected June 23

The Scoop: "The Conduit"; Genre: First-person shooter; By: High Voltage Software; From: Sega; For: Wii; Rating: Teen

Info: Blast your way through a post-apocalyptic rendition of Washington, D.C., in the wake of an alien invasion.

Matt: Take "Metroid Prime," add a glaze of you-can't-do-that-on-the-Wii graphical hype, and mix -- out pops "The Conduit." It's High Voltage Software's attempt to make a decent-looking Wii game. Who cares if the Wii can output Xbox-quality visuals eight years late -- what about the game play? This game looks like typical first-person fare, save for a little wrinkle called the "All-Seeing Eye," which lets you probe your surroundings for traps, enemies and invisible doors. Does that sound like the Scan Visor in "Metroid Prime"? Yep, and no one is really denying the homage (hey, you could do a whole lot worse). Otherwise, you're fighting a race of bugs called The Drudge (no relation to the Internet gossip mogul … I think), which is ostensibly brainier than your average brand of creepy-crawly sci-fi insects.

Darren: If all you have to sell me on a game is purty graphics for a first-person shooter (on the Wii), then I'm already out the door. I'm tired of people trying to cover up been-there, done-that game play with a fresh coat of graphical paint. Now if they can deliver a couple of innovations, I'm still in for the ride. The modern-day conspiracy-theory and alien-invasion plot could work. What about some innovative control use? Well, High Voltage scrapped the Wii MotionPlus support it boasted about last year. At least the developers are sticking to their guns with WiiSpeak, allowing for team trash-talk on a speaker phone while playing. This is one of those titles where I'm staying skeptical until the game is in my hands.

'Fight Night Round 4' -- Expected June 30

The Scoop: "Fight Night Round 4"; Genre: Boxing; By: EA Sports; From: Electronic Arts; For: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360; Rating: Pending

Info: EA's latest, greatest boxing simulation packs major punch -- delivering more moves, career parameters and boxing licensees.

Darren: The graphics in "Fight Night Round 3" kicked open the doors for what we could expect from a next-generation boxing game. Is the champ back in top form, three years later? Well, the animations zoom at 60 frames per second when you want to float like a butterfly -- and the graphics still look good. Mike Tyson won't have any head-munching special moves, but at least he isn't looking like some greasy action figure. More than that, EA seems to be expecting some more punch-drunk players.

Used to be you were trying to read the signs to block high, low, left and right. In the new game, you're blocking up or down -- and eyeballing a blocking strength meter. Yeah, it sounds like the whole ebb and flow of boxing mechanics is being simplified, but I'm optimistic that it just means I'll have to switch up my strategy. (Translation: You can't use your patented "Not in the face!" blocking for the whole match, Matt.)

Matt: My brother couldn't shut up about "Fight Night Round 3," and I can't say I blame him. To watch this series in action is almost like being ringside. That's in part because -- with only two players to render -- EA can pour all the processing oomph into tweaking crazy micro stuff like the viscosity of sweat as it beads on or trickles down contenders' corded necks and bulging chests. "Fight Night Round 4" ups the boxer count and smoothes out the frame rate, but controversially nixes directional-pad combos in favor of analog thumb-stick twiddling, and I'm not sure I dig the idea of making blocking less realistic with an abstract meter. (Why not enhance the visual cues instead?) There's also more of a focus on your boxer's public image, meaning that how you fight significantly impacts your boxer's career. (Translation: No more ear-biting -- within the game or out -- Darren!)

'Champions Online' -- Expected July 14

The Scoop: "Champions Online"; Genre: MMORPG; By: Cryptic Studios; From: Atari; For: Windows, Xbox 360; Rating: Pending

Info: A massively multiplayer online superhero role-playing game based on Hero Games' "Champions" license, tailored for cross-platform play on Windows or Xbox 360.

Darren: Only one other game has attempted to create a modern MMO that puts you into bunchy superhero spandex -- and the guys behind "Champions Online" created that as well. As in "City of Heroes," you'll be able to design your alter ego from the ground up. Think of "Champions Online" as taking the idea to the next level, improving on lessons learned the first time around. This is a more action-centric online role-playing game that is not only coming to the PC, but is fully playable on the Xbox 360 as well. That last sentence right there truly scares me. Add in the fact that the servers are prepped for cross-platform gaming, and all I can say is that I'm in store for a lot of trouble with my wife.

Matt: Anyone else confused and wondering why the guys who did two of the best superhero MMOs are doing another based on someone else's third-party license? OK, I won't cry "work for hire" just yet, but I will confess to being a trifle concerned, especially with Cryptic working all-out on "Star Trek Online" and "Champions" being published by the financially troubled Atari. That said, "Champions," the pen-and-paper game, is legendary in role-playing circles, and the cross-platform angle is definitely appealing. (The fact that we've waited this long to see a new console MMO post-"Final Fantasy XI," frankly, is shameful). Will I sign on to play? Probably, though I may need hypnosis and/or therapy to pry myself away from Turbine's magnificent "Lord of the Rings Online."

to be continue...

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