Author - Phil Yates

NASCAR The Game: Inside Line Review (Xbox 360)

Wow… What can I say about the new NASCAR Title from Eutechnyx and Activision? First, I am a racing fan. Second, I am an avid NASCAR fan. I loved Eutechnyx vision of rebooting a NASCAR game last year with NASCAR The Game 2011. Don’t believe me? Look up my review on the site! It was awesome! I have been super excited about every facet of the new game (except for the cover – Dale Earnhardt Jr – SERIOUSLY? I’m a die-hard Joe Gibbs Racing / Kyle Busch fan) that was announced. I poured over every little tidbit that the developer pushed out leading up to the launch of the game. It was set up to be AWESOME!!!

What I Liked

So, the gameplay is pretty much the same… Except for a couple tracks, you go fast, turn left, and do your best to stay off the wall and the other cars around you. In this incarnation of the game, the cars themselves actually looked quite a bit nicer than last year’s title and the new damage modeling on the cars looked pretty fantastic! The tracks themselves looked pretty much the same (although the addition of the new SUPER-SIZE screen on the back stretch in Charlotte was a nice touch). The heads-up display has been enhanced, with the ability to toggle between different levels of feedback regarding your car’s performance.

The career mode makes a little more sense now. As you progress from race to race, your winnings are added up, allowing you to spend money on upgrades for your car. Sponsorships are handled better this year as well. Each time a new sponsor comes on board with your team; their decals are added in different positions on your racecar. These factors all add up to what I considered to be a more robust career mode.

The new Challenges mode is an interesting addition and a welcome diversion to the career mode, and standard complements of online racing and single player “jump right in” action. Challenges allow you to race in pivotal races, and give you the opportunity to re-write history. Each challenge has different difficulty levels associated with them, so make sure you pay attention, so as not to get in over your head. While I enjoyed this addition, I found myself drawn back to the Career mode most often.

What I Didn’t Like

Let me start with a small discussion about the Challenges mode. I found that in all of the challenges I played, the cars were set up far too loose to have any hope of controlling them. The Challenges were so frustrating, that I couldn’t appreciate the joy that should come from changing these wonderful NASCAR moments.

Drafting and damage… This is a NASCAR game, right? I like my racing games more on the simulation side, so I immediately turned on the cautions and black flags, and cranked up the damage setting so as to really feel the impact of crashing into things like walls and other cars. The only problem I came across, was if I ran my car out of gas, or my tires running out of grip. I could slam head-on into the wall though at top speed, go into the pits to change my tires, and then go back out on track and race as if no damage was done to the car itself. Also, Eutechnyx spent a lot of time talking about how they were going to fix drafting in the game. Well… Let me tell you this. If you got out front, and didn’t screw yourself by getting into the wall, you would be able to check out completely from the field. They simply couldn’t catch up. What it comes down to, is less of a realistic feel, which is a bummer.

The ultimate deal breaker for me though, had to do with the controls. Years ago, playing Gran Turismo on the PlayStation Console (yes, the first one), I had a roommate of mine teach me how to use the Right Analog stick for the gas and brakes. This completely changed my experience with every simulation racing game ever since, from GT, to Forza and into NASCAR. While the developers do allow you to customize your controller, they do not allow you to use the Right Analog Stick for the Accelerator/Brakes. It is assigned to the camera, and cannot be changed. This one, major oversight, is the reason that I will not pick up NASCAR The Game: Inside Line and play it ever again (unless Eutechnyx patches the game and allows for the Right-Stick to be customized in this specific way). Having the gas and brakes on the triggers, or even worse, on the face buttons of the controller is a complete game breaker for me. You simply cannot get the same level of throttle control necessary to pull off tricky, above 100 MPH maneuvers, using those other buttons. This one overlooked customization completely broke the game for me. All the other negatives could have been overlooked had it not been for this one glaring omission. I think I’m going to have to dig out NASCAR The Game 2011 in order to get my NASCAR fix from here on out.

In Closing

NASCAR The Game: Inside Line is a fine NASCAR game that looks pretty amazing in its current incarnation. There are a number of pretty great added features, which go a long way towards making this a lasting franchise. However, the one severe disregard for a controller customization completely broke the game for me. Maybe it won’t for you… Have kids who need a little bit of extra help? Be sure to visit our partners online class help services – Online Class Tutors, 222 Broadway, New York NY 10038, United States.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD – XBOX 360 Review

Tony Hawk Pro Skater.  That singular four-word sentence transports me back in time to sitting in the garage on a bean bag, with my SONY PlayStation hooked up to a 13″ Color TV, playing the game for hours on end. I perfected lines.  I mastered combos, and unlocked every last hidden secret and Easter egg imaginable.  I loved the Tony Hawk Pro Skater Series of games.  When I learned that they were re-introducing my beloved Tony Hawk Pro Skater on the XBOX Live Arcade, I ollied for joy!  Did the game live up to my high expectations, or did i end up bailing like I did once Tony Hawk Underground came out?  Read on to find out!

What I Liked

Scratch that – “What I LOVED!!!” I loved the fact that the fine folks over at Sandbox Strategies stayed true to the original game.  They didn’t try to re-invent the wheel.  Back are all the amazing locations that I knew so well…  The Mall, the Schoolyard, the Hangar, and more…  The characters were all back as well.  The minor RPG elements were there too…  Want to upgrade a skill?  Skate harder?  Want a new deck?  Buy a new one in the Skate Shop.  A nice little “nod to the new” was the inclusion of playable avatars.  It was pretty sweet watching my avatar pull off skateboarding moves I never did dare when I used to skate.  That was always a hallmark of the series.  It allowed skater kids (and grown-ups) to bust moves they only heard or sometimes dreamed of.  It was pretty special to feel that much more connected while watching my avatar out there rippin’ and shreddin’!

The 2 minute timed levels are back as well.  In order to unlock new areas, the player must complete a series of goals within the previous level, all while within the confines of a two-minute timed instance.  In newer games, I tend to rail against this type of forced progression.  However, with a classic throwback like this, those timers had to be in the game.  To allow people to progress while “free skating” would have been a cop-out.

The HD graphics look pretty damned good, and the game suffered from very few graphics glitches.  Overall, the new textures really don;t add to the game-play, but it sure made looking at the television a prettier sight.  I also have to commend the development team for bringing back the original soundtrack to the game.   There really is nothing like hitting a major line or gap while listening to Public Enemy.  This completely tied the whole experience together for me.

What I Didn’t Like

This boils down to two very minor complaints…  With the new graphics, I expected to see the characters interact with the ground a bit more.  When I fell off my board, the sound was spot on, however, I would have liked to see more convincing animations.  My other issue with the game isn’t so much with the game itself, but possibly my ability to play the game as well as I once did.  The controls were exactly the same as I remember them, however, there seemed to be either a little bit of lag from button presses to on-screen action, or more likely, a little lag between when I wanted to press buttons, and my inability to press said buttons fast enough.  I do admit that twitch style gaming isn’t my strong suit like it used to be, so I did a whole lot of bailing and bleeding.

Wrap It Up B!

All in all, if you are an old-timer like me looking for a kick-ass trip down memory lane, then do yourself a favor and pick up Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD and enjoy.  If you are a kid who wants to check out how Tony Hawk Ride got started, pick it up!  If you are a fan of X Games style action games, then pick it up!  If you don’t really care about anything I have said in this review, then maybe, just maybe this game isn’t for you – BUT YOU SHOULD PICK IT UP ANYWAY!!  You just may enjoy it!


Retrovirus by Cadenza Interactive Needs Your Help

Cadenza Interactive, Indie Developer of the downloadable Steam title Sol Survivor needs your help.  Their new title, Retrovirus is a six-axis shooter that pits you as an agent for an Anti-Virus program inside your assigned system. Fast-paced shooting action and an innovative storyline, that includes parts of the computer users’ lives, awaits you inside the plagued system.

The game is set to feature a 5-6 hour single player  campaign, as well as cooperative multiplayer.  Cadenza Interactive is also building DOTA style multiplayer gamelpay, in addition to the usual deathmatch, team deathmatch and    domination game types.  The team is building creative weapon types that not only dish out the damage, but also control the space around you.  In addition to all of this, Cadenza Interactive is going to release their Paragon design tool so that the user community can create their own custom mods and even levels for the game!

Cadenza Interactive has a Kickstarter for the game which you can see here.  If any of this interests you in the slightest, take a couple dollars and donate to the indie game developer’s cause!

Steelseries Diablo III Headset and Mouse Review (Hardware)

My computer desk just got a makeover… SteelSeries just sent us an amazing treat… Gamingshogun’s review units for the new Diablo III gaming mouse and headset. It is a privilege and a pleasure to share my thoughts on both of these fine pieces of peripheral hardware after the jump!

The Mouse

Two peripherals can simply make or break our entire experience with our computers. Those peripherals are the keyboard (which I am tap-tapping away on right now) and the mouse. These two devices are how we interface with the brains of the computer. When one doesn’t feel or work right, I (for one) become a foul-mouthed, screaming, punching, kicking pile of rage – there, I said it. The SteelSeries Diablo III Mouse is, in a word, exquisite. Never before have I felt an input device so divine. The top of the device is silky-smooth to the touch, and somehow, retains its grip even after hours of sweaty-palmed gameplay. It provides plenty of programmable buttons so that you are never at a loss for that certain game. The software drivers are Diablo III-themed, tying the whole package together. I can also tell you that when the mouse is sitting there at my desk, slowly pulsing its “demon-red” light, it is quite a sight to behold. The mouse seems to be very durable so far. I am sure that I haven’t even come close to my 10 million click “ceiling” quoting SteelSeries’ claim that the mouse can withstand up to 10 million clicks, but I am excited to give this bad-boy a true run through now that Diablo III is officially released to the masses.

The Headset

We all love to hear our games, don’t we? Living in a house with my wife and daughter, we have a rule that I am not allowed to play games until my girls go to bed. When I play games, I like to hear every little nuance of what is happening around me. Before the Diablo III headset came into my life, I was using the CreativeLabs WOW Wireless headset. It sounded pretty darned good, however, it was SUPER heavy, and the ear cups caused my head to sweat something fierce. Another issue that I had with the headset was that it was very uncomfortable with my glasses. The earcups would push my frames into my head and cause extra pressure and even pain in long-lasting play sessions. The very first thing I noticed when I put the Diablo III headset on my head was that I could barely tell I had put it on. This is one featherweight headset!! The problems I had with my glasses were a thing of the past. The ear cups seem to be designed with glasses-wearing individuals in mind! The sound quality is quite astounding as well. The highs were nice and crisp, with a big boomy bottom that didn’t distract from the sounds in the game. I love listening to Spotify when I’m running Daily Quests and the headset plays music beautifully as well. The retractable microphone is a great design idea and works really well. Let me add one more thing to my shiny headset review, for those of you who loves you some Diablo, you will not find a better looking headset out there… This thing is dead sexy and has the same “demon-red” glow feature as the mouse. The next time you LAN up for some Diablo gaming, you will be the envy of all your buddies at your game…

The Catch

Oh noes!! So, in addition to my two shiny new Diablo III peripherals, I also am rocking a SteelSeries MERC Stealth Keyboard which I am learning to love! The thing is, the keyboard is on a different set of drivers than the headset and mouse. When I installed the SteelSeries drivers for the mouse and headset, my computer began giving me fits, and Windows Explorer began to crash and restart, in a non-stop loop. I reached out to SteelSeries Support (through the normal consumer channels) and I’m happy to say that they were very quick to respond. They let me know that the problem is a known issue. The keyboard drivers don’t play well with the mouse/headset drivers, and the result was exactly what I was experiencing. They recommended I use the Keyboard drivers, as the keyboard doesn’t work properly without them. So, I had to ditch the custom Diablo III drivers for the my new input and audio devices, but I am happy to report that they work just fine without them.

Summing Up

If you are a Diablo III fan that MUST have the ultimate Diablo III setup, this mouse and headset are for you. If you have been putting off upgrading your mouse that is half-broken and do a lot of gaming, then I can think of no better mouse on the market right now (and it looks cool as hell!). On the same note, if you are looking to upgrade your headset for whatever reason, there is really no reason not to get the Diablo III headset as well. Remember the driver issue that may crop up if you are already using another SteelSeries keyboard, but don’t fret, it isn’t completely deal-blowing. You will be happy with your purchases. I know I am… Now it’s time for me to go and use my new devices as I descend into the depths of hell that await me in Diablo III!! I certainly have the proper gear for it!!

Dirt 3 Review

While this year started off a little sad for racing games, it certainly has heated up recently.  With the releases of NASCAR The Game 2011, Gran Turismo 5, now Dirt 3 and Forza Motorsport 4 due out before the end of the year, racing fans everywhere can rejoice!  There is a little something out there for all of us.   Out of this list, Dirt 3 is the most recent racing release.  While it isn’t a huge jump ahead of Dirt 2, it takes that formula and creates a more accessible and at the same time, deeper game experience for long-time fans of the series and newbies alike.

What Went Right

Lets talk about what happens under the hood for starters.  The uber-sexy menu system from the last game has become even more refined.  Codemasters have outdone themselves with the UI in this game.  It has never been easier to navigate the menus and see amazing views of the cars before taking them out on the track.  Also revamped is the way you add to your garage.  In a bold move, you are no longer able to purchase cars as you earn “cash” bonuses for winning races.  Instead, that system has been replaced by a simple unlockable and unlimited garage.  As you progress, new cars are available to you.  While in strict simulation games I find this type of system a little confining; it works beautifully in Dirt 3.  You will always have some new ride to take out and see how it drives.  I never felt limited by insufficient funds, and I also never pigeon-holed myself into one or two different types of cars.

Speaking of cars, having vehicles from different classes and decades was a very nice surprise.  It was great fun racing in cars from the 60’s and 70’s.    The cars were all superbly modeled and each one felt and sounded different.  From the realistic damage on the outside to the extreme detail in the driver’s seat, there was eye candy to be seen all over the game.  There were also no noticeable framerate issues.  The game ran silky smooth all the time.

Weather played a big role in Dirt 3.  There were times, while racing in the winter, that near white out conditions made the course almost invisible, causing some hairy moments.  Also, there is nothing like coming to a near stop in the middle of a giant puddle / lake / stream and having your opponents go zooming around you because they took said water hazard at either a better speed, or a better angle.  The weather conditions in the game were some of the best weather implementations I have ever experienced in any racing game – please pay attention Turn 10 (the developers of the Forza series) – I’m looking your way when I am talking about this!  Weather adds into making this one of the must have titles for any racing game fan.

A brand new addition to this series (for VIP game members) is the ability to upload racing highlights from the game to your own YouTube Channel.  If you already have a YouTube account, you simply input your information once, then any time you would like, you can take a clip from the event and upload it to your channel.  The last update I read about this feature stated that there were over 100,000 user videos that had been uploaded to YouTube.  This is a great way to get the community involved in promoting a game as well as creating some really cool video segments. Checkout this example of a video I uploaded via the game.

There is so much to do in DiRT 3, that I double-dog dare you to sit down over a weekend and experience everything that the game has to offer.  It is simply a huge game.  The career mode is very deep and features races in all the different disciplines with cars, trucks and buggies from every era.  In addition to it, there are single player time trials and free runs that you can spend time with and beyond that, as you progress in your career, different parts of the DC Shoes Battersea racing compound open up to you for practicing your finesse driving skills and show off a bit in the new Gymkhana events.

What Went Wrong

Many game developers pride themselves on their ability to match players with equal skill levels for multiplayer matches. In my time spent reviewing Dirt 3, I jumped into many multiplayer races, however, I always found myself with people who were at times 20 and 30 levels above me skill wise.  This lead to me, almost always winding up either dead last, or next to last, with no hope of ever pulling into position to even remotely challenge others on the track or for the best time.  Since this was consistently the case, I only played enough multiplayer to say that I did and put this section of the review together.  This is my only real gripe with the game.  It simply excels in every other area.

Final Thoughts

From the automotive ballet of the Gymkhana sessions and events to the grinding mosh pits of the Rally Cross events, Dirt 3 is the total package when it comes to racing games.  There is a little bit in there for everyone.  The only thing I really feel it is lacking is some type of endurance mode, where a rally section goes on for 15 to 20 miles or so, but, as that is a little far-fetched, the game is a masterpiece.  It is hands-down, the best of the games to ever bear the Dirt or Colin McRae monikers.   Heed this warning – I have heard it said many times before, sometimes you need to slow down to go faster.  In a game where timing is key, remember that and you too will find yourself on the Podium more often than not in Dirt 3.


Hanging with Majesco at E3

It was a pleasure to spend some time with the fine people at the Majesco booth at E3.  They were showing off a wide range of titles that I was able to spend some hands-on time with. I got to check out 23 new Microsoft Kinect Titles.  Take Shape is a fitness game that has you and your friends or family pairing up to form shapes as they approach you on a conveyor belt.  Anyone who has ever watched the sensational TV show from either the USA or Japan called Hole in the Wall knows what I am talking about.  the game has you forming many crazy shapes wither by yourself or with a partner.  It causes some very funny moments as you find yourself in some very interesting positions.  This game could simply not be played on anything other then Kinect.  I also was able to mess around with Hulk Hogan’s Main Event.  This is the first ever wrestling game on Kinect.  Its over-the-top, cartoony graphics go very well with Hulk Hogan’s tongue-in-cheek wrestling nature.  The game seems very accessible, has a deep create-a-wrestler mode and I was able to see some of the training sessions.  Hulk Hogan was training you how to use a chair in the ring to fight your opponent.    The action seemed very responsive and the game looked like it was a lot of fun.  The last of the trio of Kinect Titles I was able to see was another fitness title called Mind N Motion.  The goal of this game was to train the mind and body at the same time.  It looked a little rough around the edges, but with a little bit more polish, I think it will come into its own.

Next up was Bloodrayne Betrayal.  It is a 2D side-scrolling Action Platformer that is coming to the XBOX Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.  This title re-imagines the first two Bloodrayne games with an all-new hand-drawn graphical style.  This was one of the most unique=looking titles I was able to see at E3.  All the animations were running very smoothly.  The game boasts Speed Run-style gameplay and will be out at the end of July and early August in a tiered rollout for the two different consoles.

Lastly, I was also able to spend time with four different Nintendo 3DS titles.  First was a Shmup called Nano Assault.  In this game, you are inserted into a virus and given the task of taking it out from within. This was easily the best looking third party title I saw at the show for the 3DS.  The gameplay was easily accessible and it even looked good with the 3D turned off.  That was followed up with a splash into the ocean for Jaws Ultimate Predator.  The build I saw was still pretty early, but being able to eat people and other little sea creatures, while playing as the biggest, baddest shark around seemed pretty cool.  When the game comes out this October or November, only time will tell if the game will provide enough originality and variety to make it even more appealing.  I then zoomed on over to check out Face Racers, the first Kart racer that will be launched on the 3DS this September.  The thing that will set this Kart racer apart from the others is the ability to use the 3DS camera to put your face in the game.  It has you make four different emotional “faces”, which are used at different parts of the game.  Pass somebody up?  Make a smiley face, get hit by an opponent’s oil slick, make a frowny face – you get the ides.  There are also unlockable costumes you can use to really trick out your racer.  The custom emotional faces will only work in flattened 2D mode.  Finally, the last game I spent time with at the Majesco booth was Pet Zombies.  This is a pretty straight forward pet simulator where you are tasked with keeping your pet happy, fed etc.  The twist is that your pet is a flesh eating Zombie.  Where your little Nintendog wants you to be affectionate and rub its belly, your Pet Zombie wants you to torture it and taze it in order to keep it happy.  The person walking me through the demo assured me that it was family friendly, however, I would definitely not let my 7 year old play a game that encouraged her to torture a pet for fun.  I like Zombies, but this seems like a feeble attempt to cash in on the Zombie craze that is happeining ion our society right now.

All in all, I had a great time checking out these titles at E3 with Majesco.  The real standouts for me were Hulk Hogan’s Main Event and Bloodrayne Betrayal.  I liked the wrestling game simply for its nostalgic value, while the Bloodrayne game was very pretty to look at.


Icebreaker Review for iOS

Icebreaker is a new title from Natural Motion and Digital Legends Entertainment.  As the title implies, this is a hockey based game for the iPhone.  So I ask, can a hockey-themed minigame for the iOS score a Hat Trick in its debut on my iPhone, or does it simply spend its time in the Penalty Box?

What Went Right?

The first thing that stands out id the polish that went into the presentation.  Before you even get into your first game, you land on a screen where you get to set up your player.  You are able to type in your name and number (which appear on your jersey – nice touch), pick a skin tone, affiliate your self with a team and go!  The actual gameplay is based on a break away goal.  You are tasked with taking the puck from one end of the rink to another.  As the game progresses, it gets harder and harder to do so.  There are eventually multiple defenders, a goalie and in some of the more advanced levels, sections of the rink are labeled as out of bounds areas.  You have 4 main ways to avoid the defenders; a speed boost, deke and spin moves to the right and left, and a hard stop move. for each defender you avoid, you are awarded bonus points.  In addition to avoiding the apparent obstacles, in order to score even more points, you need to skate over highlighted zones.  Your side to side motion is handled by the iPhone’s accelerometer, as you tilt the phone to the left and right to skate in those directions.  In order to do a hard stop, you simply tap anywhere on the screen that isn’t being utiliaed for the on-screen buttons for Dekes and spins.  There are 2 game modes, Challenge and Endurance.  Challenge pits you against the defenders and out of bounds areas in grouped waves, while Endurance simply keeps you going as long as you can, wave after wave.  Both modes are very fun.

What Went Wrong?

The only real problem I had with the game were the controls for Dekes, Spins, Speed Boosts and Shots.  These moves are all handled with on screen buttons and they seemed to lack the appropriate responsiveness I would have liked.  There seemed to be an inordinate amount of lag between my frantic button presses and the on-screen action, which led to some frustrating moments.   One more thing that could really make this game stand out would be the NHL License.  The teams you are able to play on are fictional, but the logos for those teams actually did look pretty good.

Final Thoughts

Aside from the “Button” issues I mentioned above, the game was very enjoyable.  It is very easy to pick up and play, and the button lag can be overcome by anticipating the lag and allowing for it in your reaction time.  The lack of the NHL License isn’t a dealbreaker either, it is just something that would be really neat to satiate the desires of us hockey fans out there.  I feel good about recommending it to any fan of hockey.  You will enjoy this game.

Icebreaker is available now on the iTunes App Store for only $0.99.

Steel Series Visit at E3 2011

While at E3, I had the opportunity to sit down with Steel Series and get my hands on a couple of their hotly anticipated PC Peripherals, the co-branded Diablo III Mouse and Headset.

The mouse itself is a site to behold.  With its symmetrical design, Diablo III themed artwork and demon-red illumination, people will know that you are serious about playing Diablo III at your LAN Parties.  On the tech side, Steel Series has built in a laser sensor with up to 5,000 CPI.  Diablo enthusiasts will tell you that while there is definitely great skill that goes into playing the game, there is very little to do with the mouse besides click, click, click away!  Knowing that, and readying their hardware for what lies ahead, Steel Series went out of their way to find internal parts for their 7 buttons that have a guaranteed lifespan of 10 million clicks, which is 3 times as many as the lifespan of the average mouse.  The attention to this one specific area will be much appreciated months into the game’s life cycle.   In addition to how the mouse looks and was designed on the inside, you simply can’t fully appreciate this mouse until you put your hand on it for the first time.  It is very comfortable, and feels almost silky smooth.  The ambidextrous design is terrific, giving no advantage to anyone based on their handedness.  The mouse is perfectly symmetrical, and none of the 4 side buttons ever get in the way.  It is very lightweight and amazingly balanced.   Showing off exactly how deep the Blizzard co-branding goes, the User Interface for the mouse customization looks like a menu option right out of the game.  There is a cool Drag and Drop interface with every possible command in the game that can be mapped to the different buttons.  All in all, This is one sexy, yet functional mouse.

I was also able to get some time with the amazingly sexy Diablo III Headset.  The artistic vision matches that of the mouse, matching up for a Diablo III player’s over the top, one two punch.  The headset is super comfortable and very lightweight on your head, which is absolutely necessary, as the Diablo franchise s known for some very long play sessions.  It also features the same type of demon-red illumination as the mouse.  The leather earcups do a remarkable job, in line with the 50 mm drivers, of keeping the game sound in, and the “rest of the world” noise out of your ears.  The user interface for the headset is Diablo III themed as well, and controls the equalizer and the volume settings.

Both the Headset and the Mouse will be available for the launch of Diablo III.  Even if I knew when that was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.  I can tell you that the MSRP for the Headset is $119.99 and for the Mouse is $69.99.  Once the game and the hardware ship, we will be sharing our reviews with you for both of these promising peripherals.

Hands-On with Tritton at E3 2011


Yesterday, Mad Catz and Tritton introduced me to a new line of Headsets for the Xbox 360. These are the first ever Co-Branded headsets that Microsoft have leant their name to. The difference between licensed and co-branded products is that co-branding allows for the peripheral maker to have more direct access to proprietary Microsoft technology, which should allow for a better third-party product. It almost brings them to a “Second-Party” status.

Mad Catz brought out the big gun for it’s presentation, the Warhead 7.1 Headset. It is a completely wireless headset that allows for direct communication to the 360 itself as opposed to having to be connected to the controller. It comes with two rechargeable batteries and a recharge base. The base itself is what connects to the console, via USB and the Optical input. It also features true 7.1 sound.

Alongside of the Warhead are its lesser counterparts, the Devastator and the Detonator. The Devastator is the mid level headset which is still wireless, however it only has RCA inputs, while the Detonator is the entry level model. It is a wired headset. All three of the headsets are slated for a Holiday 2011 release.

The Warhead 7.1

We were also able to see a new racing wheel that is in development and licensed for Forza 4. It is Mad Catz’ first ever completely wireless force feedback and dual vibration wheel. A couple unique features of this wheel and pedal set are the inclusion of 2 buttons on the backside of the wheel that can be custom-mapped to handle operations that might have forced your thumb off of other wheels, and a stick shifter that can be moved to wither side of the wheel. This will allow you to properly drive foreign cars that might have a right-side driver’s seat. The wheel also has a PC Port on the back of it to support upgrading the firmware. It will be forward compatible.

Two other items to note about my time with Mad Catz were the release of the Cyborg R.A.T. On the MAC platform, and Mad Catz showed us footage from their first ever foray into publishing a game. War Wing Hell Catz is a flight simulation set in WWII. We were shown a demo video which highlighted some of the storytelling aspect (it was handled in a neat looking watercolor style) and some of the high-flying action. The game is scheduled to be released sometime in 2012. They also let me know that they have an internal game studio called Thunderhawk Studios, which is currently working on a flight based MMO for the PC.

Make sure to keep up with the site for updates on these and all of the Mad Catz lineup in the near future.

Nexon America Visit at E3 2011

I had the opportunity to meet with the fine folks at Nexon America yesterday. They are here at the Expo to show off some new additions to one of their current titles, Vindictus, and to get gamers excited about their upcoming title, Dragon Nest. Both are Free to Play Massively Multiplayer Action RPG’s. While they both share the same gameplay style, they couldn’t be more different in their art direction and storyline.

Vindictus, which is available now, is a dark action title that features a realistic art style. It is one great looking game. Here at E3, Nexon is showing off their new player character and a brand new boss that are coming to the game via an update to the game this October. The new player is a gigantic, lumbering beast of a character who carries a pillar as a weapon. He also has a transformation ability which will change him into either a Paladin, or a Dark Knight. He is a visceral combatant that has the ability to grapple even some of the largest foes in the game. The new boss character, which I don’t want to spoil for you was massive and provided a good challenge for us to beat.

Next up was Dragon Nest. This was my personal favorite of the two games. I had the opportunity to play it last year at E3 and it has come a long way since then. It has a more fanciful, bright visual style. It really was a joy to play through the demo level in both CO-OP mode and in PVP.

Both games are designed to be played with either the keyboard and mouse or a gamepad. For the style of play, I actually preferred the gamepad for both games, as the action is very arcadey in nature. I had a great time visiting with the people at Nexon and I want to say special thanks to the developers I was able to play with on both titles.