Author - MondoPest

THQ Sues Activision Over Baja 1000 Box Art

The legal guys at THQ are going to war with Activision over the box art on their upcoming SCORE International Baja 1000: The Official Game. They consider it to be too close to the box art on their Baja: Edge of Control and could feasibly confuse gamers, resulting in a loss of sales.

Via PatentArcade

Interview on the Pro-Flight Series with Richard Neville of Saitek


We got the chance to interview Saitek Category Manager, Richard Neville, on their line of Pro Flight products. In case you have not heard of these premium flight-sim peripherals, you may want to check out their selection at the official site. We would like to thank Richard Neville as well as Alex Verrey for their assistance in making this interview possible. Check out bigger images of the above products after the break!

Q) So to start, could you tell us how many people you have working on designing the Pro-Flight peripherals???

A) It varies depending on the product! Usually each product is worked on by one of our product designers with occasional design review meetings where everyone else (well… me) gets to influence things.??.. (cont.)

Q) What kind of a design process is used in developing new Pro-Flight peripherals? How much are real pilots used in this process?

??A) Product ideas come from a combination of researching the market and actually talking to simulation fans – most of our customers need no urging to suggest product ideas and features! We also have contacts with a number of actual pilots who we consult with to further ensure we’re keeping on the right track with everything from features to getting the right ‘feel’ for a controller’s movement.

??Q) What are the biggest challenges faced in developing the Pro-Flight line of peripherals?

??A) Probably the biggest challenge is trying to please as many people as we can. Flight Simulation might be a niche market within the wider context of PC gaming, but as you know within that niche you have a number of different sub-categories of aircraft. Just within civil aviation alone you’ve got to try and account for anything from props to ‘heavy iron’ and all the different variants within each of those. That and trying to squeeze as much into a product as we can so the sim fans feel like they’re getting value for their money.??

Q) The X-52 Pro is a nice improvement over the standard model but why create the incremental ‘Pro’ and not move to the next iteration of the HOTAS series altogether???

A) It was purely a reaction to our customers’ feedback. They loved the X52 but wanted even better build quality and more from it – the MFD is a perfect example; people wanted to display information from their sims on the MFD, so we implemented that feature with the Flight Simulator X Radio Stack display. We also included an SDK so that some of those bedroom coders out there would be able to create plug-ins for their own games; it wasn’t long before there were plug-ins available on our forum for Flight Simulator 9, IL-2 and even X3: The Threat??, but don’t think that we’re not looking into how we can further the HOTAS market – there’s already been some feedback from our customers about where we can go next and we have been listening.

Q) How would you describe the flight simulation market currently???

A) It’s in a tiny bit of a lull at the moment, but that’s mostly because it’s compared to the boom of two years ago with the release of Flight Simulator X. It never truly goes away though – there’s always new people discovering flight simulation for the first time or existing simmers looking to upgrade their hardware, and finally being able to run the newer simulators. It should start picking up again next year thanks to the Black Shark add-on for LOMAC and Oleg Maddox’s Storm of War, to name just two. Even the less strictly simulation-based games like Tom Clancy’s: HAWX should serve to interest more people in the genre. Then of course looking further ahead you’ve got Microsoft’s next version of Flight Simulator which is somewhere over that horizon…??

Q) How is development coming on the Saitek Pro-flight Instrument Panel???

A) It’s good thanks. It’s definitely proven to be the hardest thing we’ve ever done but it’s coming along nicely and we should be getting it out there pretty soon.??

Q) Will the instrument panel have an open-source API???

A) As with the X52 Pro we will be shipping it with an SDK that will enable end users with programming experience to create interactions with other sims (or, indeed, any application that they care to).??

Q) What titles will support the panel at launch???

A) It’s supporting Flight Simulator X out of the box and we’re hoping we’ll get support for other titles from the community, as we did with the X52 Pro. Flight Simulator X is the main focus partly because of the amount of the market who use it but also because of the excellent SimConnect part of the sim, which gives easy access to the data we need to hook into to make a product like this work.??

Q) If you can, tell us about the type and capabilities of the screen being used on the panel.??

A) It’s a QVGA TFT screen that can display 256,000 colours and it looks superb!???

Q) Can you guys drop us any hints on the next Pro-Flight peripherals being developed?

??A) Not yet! But be assured that we are continuing to work on a number of projects.??

Q) And last, is there anything you would like our readers to know about that we have not covered here???

A) Sure – just to remind people about the two new Pro Flight products we’ve got coming this year: the Pro Flight Switch Panel and the Pro Flight Headset. There’s some info out there already but look out for the press releases closer to the products shipping this Fall. Also, if you’ve got a suggestion for a product that you’d like to see then we’re always happy to have your feedback. Use our forum at http://www.saitekforum.com and let us know what you think.?

Mount and Blade Review

Usually, we are nothing but excited with sandbox games. The freedom one derives from exploration can be quite liberating. In an RPG it is also equally nice to have some sort of overall quest which ties the whole thing together. TaleWorlds has decided to just keep with the sandbox part of that equation, ditching an overall quest and thrusting gamers into the unknown.

Mount & Blase features a very fluidic and fun combat system. Every weapon acts as you would expect and, while macro-attributes such as damage and speed are effected by your skills, you will actually have to do the majority of the grunt work in combat. You control every swing, movement, and parry of your character. Combat plays out like a tactical event, picking and choosing your moments of attack carefully while also timing your blocks and parries. Even combat on horseback is handled great. While in some ways, using a mount is helpful, it is also more challenging to time your sword swings and archery shots.

Also cool is the large-scale combat you can find yourself in. By recruiting troops from towns and the like, you increase the numbers in your personal army. At one point, I took part in a battle with easily twenty members per side. The battlefield strategy employed in these large skirmishes is vital as one false swing or direction can mean the turn of the tide. Commanding troops is done easily by shouting commands at them. They are fairly basic commands but mirror what a human being would be able to shout while riding into battle. This adds an additional element of realism to the combat, as knights in the middle ages did not have GPS or other high-tech gadgets with which to organize themselves.

Mount & Blade shines like a bright beacon for smaller developers everywhere when looking at the combat system. Unfortunately, where it loses a bit of its luster is in the open-world created by TaleWords. As mentioned before, you are dropped into the kingdom of Calradia which has been broken apart by multiple factions. What you do in this world is entirely your business. You can choose to become a warrior, mercenary, trader, or whatever else you can come up with. While there are quests given by individuals in towns and whatnot, they are not required and will serve only to further your character’s development. This lack of overall story often times leaves the player asking themselves, ‘What now?’

The character development is fairly complex, TaleWorlds taking a queue from Daggerfall in asking you a series of questions to determining your base character. From there, you allocate some skillpoints are off you go. Along the way you level up your character, increasing your skill points and personal wealth.

There are a multitude of armors and weapons to use in the game as well as a good trade system for those aspiring merchants out there. The enemy AI runs from fencepost to challenging, with enemies performing acts of self-preservation as well as selecting their own weapons on the fly and parrying as necessary.

Graphically, the game looks okay. Some scenery comes off as lush and pretty, but the game’s shaders and textures are just not up to modern standards that you will find in other RPGs. In my playthroughs of this game, however, the combat made up for the lackluster graphics. In fact, I wish there was a way to just play various battles out, skipping the rest of the stuff in the game, but I digress…

Overall, we must applaud TaleWorlds for the game’s awesome combat system but must caution gamers that the rest of the game is not nearly as exciting. Not saying that at $29.99 it is not worth picking up, but don’t expect it to be the next Oblivion (although we like M&B’s combat system way better than that mainstream title). Also. the mod community is currently working on enhancing the game as well, so I would not be surprised to see a lot more from Mount & Blade in the future.

Phantom EFX Reel Deal Card Games 09 Review

Phantom EFX has a new edition of their popular Reel Deal Card Games series out. This one, dubbed the ’09 edition, contains over 80 card games for you to experience. While most of the Reel Deal series has something to do with casino gaming and is marketed as such, Card Games ’09 is geared to the average card player. By card player, I do not mean poker necessarily, although that is included within this game too. I mean the player of games such as solitaire or bridge. Even without it being casino-focused, the games featured in this product all have a gambling component. Nothing ventured as the old saying goes! If you are familiar with Phantom EFX’s previous games you should have no problem adjusting to this one. Their UI’s are consistently friendly and show a good degree of forethought.

Some of the games that have been featured in this release are Hearts, Bridge, and Rummy 500. Phantom EFX has gone with a more whimsical cast of characters in this game, and their mood-effecting animations are very humorous. Characters interact well together, even knowing each other’s names.

The online community in which Reel Deal Card Games ’09 interfaces with is by far one of the game’s greatest strengths, as the computer AI can be spotty and it is much more fun to get your friends together for a card game in any case.

By far, the biggest complaint I have about the game is what seems to plague every Phantom EFX game: the resolution. Their titles always seem to run in a smaller resolution, causing everything to look strange on my 1920×1200 display. Also, the title uses the standard Phantom EFX two-dimensional visual style. I hope that Phantom EFX will attempt to make a three-dimensional game at some point (we hear that their Millionaire’s Club may be what we are looking for).

At its $19.99 price point, I would recommend Reel Deal Card Games ’09 to anyone looking for a solid recreation of the games featured within. All of the games can be played in quick sessions or long marathons and should suit most any player.

Cryostasis Website Live

The website for Cryostasis, an upcoming survival-horror/action game from 1C and Action Forms ltd, has gone live for your browsing enjoyment. Due out at the end of this year, Cryostasis puts you on an icebreaker in 1968, fighting the mutated bodies of your crewmates with the most basic of weapons.

Official Website

Official Release:
Leading Eastern and Central European publisher 1C Company today announces the launch of the official website for the upcoming survival/ horror FPS Cryostasis.
1968. Arctic North Circle. Alexander Nesterov is sent to investigate the North Wind, an old Russian nuclear ice-breaker shipwrecked in an icy grave with the crew all presumed dead. Fighting against the intense cold, Nesterov starts to uncover the shocking secrets buried within and relives the horrifying final hours of the crew.

The Cryostasis website – http://www.cryostasis-game.com – teases you with new information about Nesterov’s mental echo ability, the ship’s mysterious history and the crew’s bone-chilling final journey. Detailed updates on characters, weapons and key features can be found in the ship’s logs and there’s a wealth of new screenshots, videos and art to download.

King’s Bounty: The Legend Review

Gather ’round younglings and let me tell you a tale. You may be familiar with turn-based strategy RPG’s such as Heroes of Might and Magic and Disciples. You may have visions of glorious 3d graphics, orchestral scores, and other modern amenities. However, did you know that this genre of game, now taking a back seat (unfortunately) to RTS and FPS games, all started with a little title called King’s Bounty back in 1990? You see, table-top board game creators had started to bring that experience to the personal computer, which at that point was bristling with an Intel i486DX2 CPU and 8 to 12 MB of system RAM. If the phrase ‘vesa local bus’ means anything to you, well, I hope you skipped this part and moved on to the next paragraph.

So with the original King’s Bounty released in 1990, the game’s rich universe cooled its heels while franchises such as Heroes of Might and Magic and Disciples took its place. All of these popular games knew where they came from, and King’s Bounty is even listed as the genesis of the Heroes of Might and Magic series in its third installment! It is now 2008, eighteen years since the release of the original and Atari, 1C, and Katauri Interactive have brought the King’s Bounty universe back to life with King’s Bounty: The Legend.

King’s Bounty: The Legend, puts you in control of a hero general, which you will select from three character classes: Warrior, Paladin, and Mage. Each of these archetypes has benefits and drawbacks which effect the various troop types under your command. For instance, as a warrior, you get no learned spells whereas the more magic-oriented classes will allow you to have magic spells at your ready in the spell book as opposed to just having to use magic scrolls.

Combat is handled on a hexagonal board similar to the table-top board game and is presented in a lush, fully 3d manner. The camera is able to swivel almost about 180 degrees to help you get a better view of the battle at hand. Why they chose not to go with a full 360 degree camera, we are not sure. The troops on the battlefield all roll for initiative to determine the order of movement and the action begins. When one of your units is selected, you may move it, attack the enemy, or use one of its special abilities. These range in complexity from simple bonus attacks to full-on resurrections and are all presented with pleasing 3d effects. The combat is fully turn-based and brings a good deal of that old-school gameplay to the more modern aspects of the game which allow it to feel fun and not stale (often times in gaming, ‘retro’ means stale).

Unlike the Heroes of Might and Magic series, you are free to run your general and his armies about the world-map with relative impunity of action. There are no action points to be spent on moving in this mode (only in combat). Speaking of the world map, you move from zone to zone completing quests and gaining experience as well as items along the way. These items can range from sellable flotsam to unique armors and more. The world map mode is also in full 3d, with a very lush design. It is slightly reminiscent of World of Warcraft in terms of art direction. Along the way you will find different structure which you can not only find the aforementioned quests, but also stores to purchase new troops for your army. Your army is composed of five different unit types. The amount of each unit you can command is based on your Leadership rating. In some cases, you will be able to have more than you can handle in your ranks. These units, however, will act of their own free-will in combat, which is sometimes not a good thing.

One of the issues in the game worth mentioning is the auto-combat AI. Setting your troops to act on their own is a mixed bag. Sometimes you will see your grunts move in front of ranged units to protect them and other times you will see them run away even though they could have easily handled the oncoming enemy. My advice is to keep command of your troops at all costs.

**This issue has an update to it in the Live Updates section. Another issue which I found to be irritating is the game’s auto-save feature which does not save your status prior to a battle. I found this out the hard way when I bit off more than I could chew by attacking an undead castle. I was slaughtered and had to load a game that set me back quite a bit. Manual saving is easily done, however the game is so engrossing you will find that you forget to do it!

One of the best things about King’s Bounty is all the beautifully hand-drawn artwork you will find in it: menu interfaces, character portraits, and more. We have to give some large kudos to the 2d artists of this game.

Also youngsters, in this world where companies would rather have a narrator read text for you, in King’s Bounty, you yourself will need to have the ‘reading’ skill to enjoy the game to its fullest. Yes, there is a lot of voice acting in the game, but there is also an equal amount of text strewn about which is full of incite into the game’s detailed-world and the quests you undertake.

The orchestral score of the game is incredible and enhances gameplay by setting the ‘mood’ of your current situation. Enter a land taken over by the undead and you will be treated to an equally creepy musical selection. It really appears as though Katauri pulled our all the stops in developing the game.

All of these elements combine wonderfully in King’s Bounty: The Legend, which succeeds in bringing the fun of classic turn-based strategy games into the 21st century, improving on them with modern features when possible. It delivers approximately 40 hours of gameplay and you will probably play through the entire game as each of the character types, not to mention all of the different army makeups you could possible have. This kind of replayability makes King’s Bounty: The Legend one of the easiest game purchases you will ever make.

Official Site

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It has been brought to my attention that our reviewer had some issue with the auto-save feature. While it is true that the auto-save feature gets activated upon visiting major castles, the auto-save does not activate before combat as stated in this review.

That being said, there is a ‘quick-save’ feature that can be activated by pressing ‘F5’. The problem, according to our reviewer, is that the game gets so engrossing, you end up forgetting to do this. Having the game auto-save prior to combat would be a very nice feature.

Microsoft Sidewinder X6 Keyboard Review

Microsoft’s Sidewinder line of gaming peripherals has recently undergone a transformation. It initially started with the Sidewinder Mouse and has grown substantially with the release of their X5 and X6 products, not to mention the announcement of the X8.

The X6 gaming keyboard has an ominous, black plastic design with a red back lighting that has to be seen in person to get the full effect. It features two rotary knobs at the back right of the layout: one controls the brightness of the back lighting and the other controls the volume. These rotary knobs actually work a ton better than standard buttons to control lighting and volume as they feel responsive and accurate.

An aspect of this keyboard which I did not find to be at my level of expectation was the keys themselves. I have gotten spoiled by other keyboard on the market with rubberized keys and miss them here. The keys are a hard plastic that do not feel like they belong. Thankfully, their action is nice with a good spring-back. If I had to suggest another feature on the next version of this keyboard, it would be to add a USB and audio port pass-through, something that is featured on many other keyboards in this price range.

The numeric keypad can be placed on either the right or left side of the keyboard and is held in place by some curiously strong magnets. At first I did not think this would be a useful feature, me being a right-handed person. However, as I placed the keyboard on my desk I realized I could make my workspace more comfortable by having the alphabetic keys closer to my mouse (instead of the numeric pad). Hence, I swapped the numeric pad and have realized the joys of having such a feature. Its just not for ‘lefties’ anymore!

Aside from its style, the bread and butter of this keyboard are its macro controls. The X6 features a multitude of ways to record and assign macros. The first being the 30 macro keys which are all programmable. These include the six dual-function vertical keys to the left of the alphabetic keypad as well as the entire numeric keypad (yes it does double duty: number and macros). The next is the button which enables to record macros on-the-fly, even while inside a video game. You press this button, located along the top of the keyboard and then press the series of keys (up to four) you want it to remember. Finally, there is the keyboard’s ‘Cruise Control’ functionality, where you hold down the cruise control button and press a single key you wish to spam to your PC. Then release the cruise control button and it will go to work sending that key signal as if you were holding it down. Say you would like to auto-run in a shooter which does not feature such a key. Simply press the cruise control down, tap ‘w’ and release. Your character will continue running forward until you press any other key.

Overall, this is a great addition to the Microsoft Sidewinder line-up. While there are still has a few issues that need to be addressed, such as the lack of a USB pass-through, its macro-capabilities and stylish design make it a very viable contender in its weight class. The keyboard retails for $79.95 and is available now.

Official Product Page
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STALKER Clear Sky Pushed Back to September 15th

Announced just recently, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is being pushed back to September 15th due to a manufacturing issue. That is all, for reckonry.

Official Release:
Deep Silver, the games label of Koch Media, a leading producer and distributor of digital entertainment products, today announced that due a problem in manufacturing, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky will hit retail stores in North America on September 15, 2008. The digital download release date has not yet been determined.