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X3: Terran Conflict Review

The ‘X’ series of space sims have always been known for their open-universe gameplay and freedom of choice. X3: Terran Conflict upholds this tradition along with bringing the story began ten years ago, in X: Beyond the Frontier, to a close.

For newcomers, you should expect to scratch your heads for many hours while attempting to suss out what to do next. Don’t fear, this is a perfectly normal effect of jumping into an ‘X’ game. The effect will pass in time as you realize that the whole universe is your oyster. You can do just about anything you like within the realm of the game, whether it is to work as a trader, mercenary, or pirate (and a whole lot more). You can even build up a fleet of your own to perform duties while you are away. The game even allows you to build your own business empire by owning factories, stations, etc. The depth in X3: Terran Conflict is so vast, I doubt anyone could do everything the game has to offer. So explore why don’t you!?! Just remember to save often.

For you veterans to the series that have played X3: Reunion, feel happy, as you are in for a treat. Egosoft has enhanced Terran Conflict from its recent predecessor in many fruitful ways. For instance, graphically, the game looks even better than Reunion (and that is saying something). Space is so vast, the word ‘vast’ really can’t do it justice. This feeling of hugeality (my word) is properly infused within the game. No matter how powerful you become, how rich, or how many ships you acquire, you are still just one person in a very humbling universe. Your starship’s user interface, while still full of complex options, has been refined as has controlling your space craft with your mouse (although I highly recommend a flight stick for the ‘full effect’). Navigating the menus is easily done, but make sure you are out of harms way before exploring them, it would be a shame for some pirates to get the drop on you! Based on the new features, it is quite clear that Egosoft has listened to the fans and has brought out a very complete product.

One thing that has bugged me since X3: Reunion, however, is the lack of a cockpit view. In the original X: Beyond the Frontier, your viewpoint was from within a 3d cockpit view as was it in X2: The Threat. In the third game of the series, Egosoft removed the cockpit and provided a view more reminiscent of Freespace 2 (one of the greatest space-combat games of all time, btw). This is, obviously, more a personal preference and I just like to see the ship around me. In its defense, the view does work well and gives you more of an unobstructed view than a cockpit would.

Combat still feels realistic (well, as realistic as I think space-combat should be), even without true Newtonian movement. You can purchase and equip a variety of weapons, from energy-based blasters to torpedoes and cannons. Same goes for ship/station components: there is just a gigantic variety of everything for everything. This hearkens back to the game’s magnificent scope and continues to show their desire to create a truly immersive universe for the player to exist within.

In our interview with Egosoft Founder Bernd Lehahn, he mentioned that his biggest regret with the ‘X’ series was that they were forced to release X3: Reunion early, and in a more unpolished state than he would have liked it to be in. I can safely say that X3: Terran Conflict has not suffered such a fate and will be enjoyable by long-time fans of the series as well as fans of games such as Independence War, Privateer, and Starlancer. X3: Terran Conflict has something in it for everyone. Unfortunately, big-production space sims are few and far between these days and it is very important to support quality work like this.

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Silent Hill Homecoming Intro Movie

The nice folks at Konami have a new video for us from their recently-released Silent Hill Homecoming. This is the intro movie for the survival-horror title. Enjoy…If you dare, muhahaha…Sorry.

Interplay Opens New Website and Adds Chris Taylor to Design Team

Interplay, a legendary game company which was defunct for quite some time, has apparently re-staffed and launched a new website. Chris Taylor, who was one of the designers on games like Fallout and its sequel (just to name a couple), has been signed on to the new development team. They also tease a ‘Project V13’ which is the code name for an upcoming MMO they are working on. Could this be the Fallout MMO? We thought would have fallen in the hands of Zenimax.

Interplay Website

Official Release:

Interplay Entertainment Corp. (OTC BB:IPLY) announced today the launch of an all-new web site at www.interplay.com.

The site, developed over the last several months, is designed to improve the company’s communication with customers, investors, and partners.  The new site includes forums based on past and future Interplay games, a customer support section, detailed information on the company and its products, and much more.

The company also announced that Chris Taylor, a game designer who was a part of the original Fallout game development team at Interplay in 1994, has rejoined the company. Taylor will serve as Lead System Designer for “Project V13,” the working title of Interplay’s next generation Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO) currently in development. Taylor joins other original Fallout team members on staff at Interplay’s internal game studio, which recently opened an office in Irvine, Calif. Additional development staff members continue to be hired as the project ramps-up.

Race Driver: GRID DLC Pack Announced


The first DLC pack for Race Driver: GRID has been announced. Called the ‘8 Ball’ pack, it will contain eight new cars including the Honda S2000, McLaren F1 GTR, and Volvo C30. Also included will be two additional online events to take part in. The 8 Ball pack will be available sometime near the end of this year.

Official Release:
Codemasters today announced the forthcoming release of the first downloadable content pack for Race Driver: GRID™, the summer’s hit game that made racing exciting again, with the reveal of the ‘8 Ball’ pack coming this autumn for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft® and the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system.

Enhancing the award-winning Race Driver: GRID, the premium 8 Ball pack is set to feature eight thrilling new cars to race and two new online events to compete in. Each vehicle is beautifully realised and was carefully selected as a thoroughbred racing car with a unique personality to deliver a stunning race experience.

Spore – A Review

Starting on a new planet in a spiral-armed galaxy, you are presented with a cutscene of a meteor, carrying the building blocks of life, crashing into your planet. The camera follows it down to its ocean impact with a quick camera zoom in to reveal your species emerging from the rock. You don’t look like much at this point, basically a small cellular blob with a flagella, pair of eyes, and a mouth part (you select to be a carnivore or herbivore). Your goal is simple: swim through the waters, eating as much as possible in order to advance to the next level of the stage. This stage is similar in concept to flOw, albeit with much more fleshed-out graphics. Each of these levels in the cell stage increases your creature in size that is accompanied by a very cool ‘zooming-out’ effect by the camera. Blurry (yet seemingly Death Star-sized) creatures and objects that appeared in the background will now be revealed as your size, and even bigger things appear in the background. This in-game commentary on ‘there is always a bigger fish’ is a very cool element to the stage and really gives you the feeling your little organism is growing. In addition to size, you increase in available DNA points with every level increment. This is where the creature editor comes into play. As you collect DNA from either plants or animal life, you will eventually unlock the ability to equip different kinds of defensive and offensive parts to your body. Each of these pieces costs a different amount of DNA from your total pool. Creatures are SO CUSTOMIZABLE it is not anywhere near funny. Objects can be placed just about anywhere and all have their own adjustments as well. With so much variation at your fingertips, it is easy to lose yourself in it for hours just experimenting with different configurations.

So, you have eaten enough DNA and your race of multi-cellular organisms is now ready to move to dry land. A quick trip to the creature creator to add some basic legs to your species and you are all set: the creature stage has begun. This stage, much like the cell stage is all about gaining DNA through food. It was the most intimate of the stages due to the amount of different body parts to configure as well as your only controlling one creature. You control its actions and will be directly responsible for leading your species to the tribal stage. It is easy to empathize with your creature and feel like you are experiencing the world through its eyes (or whatever you chose as sensory organs). With each increase in creature stage level, however, your brain grows a size larger and you gain the ability to add a pack member to aid you. These pack members (a max of three) will mirror your actions. This also marks the first time in the game where you can befriend other species on the map for mutual defense. For you herbivores out there, focus on the peaceful, diplomatic body parts then charm the pants off of those other species!

In the next stage, your creatures form a tribe and you will no longer control just one of them. This stage (as well as the next) plays like a simple real-time strategy game with the focus being your tribes domination of its continent (namely the other tribes thereon) through diplomatic or combative means. Unfortunately, you lose the ability to change your species’ biology at this point and focus on its tribal clothing and equipment (not nearly as satisfying). The tribal stage is a bit weaker on the fun than the previous two, but still entertaining.

After the tribal stage comes the civilization stage and that is where Spore took a down-turn for me. The civilization stage sets your tribe (now in a modern city for which you design the buildings) against the other cities of the planet all rules by other tribes. You will create land, air, and sea vessels which like the creature editor you can get lost in for quite some time. Unfortunately, you can only design one kind of each of these vehicles for the three categories (military, religious, economic). The civilization stage is not fleshed-out enough as far as its real-time strategy elements are concerned to be anything more than a buffer between two otherwise fun stages. In opposition, I could accept the simplistic gameplay of the tribal stage because your people ARE primitives at that point. Also, you no longer get the warm and fuzzies by controlling your individual creature anymore so you have nothing to empathize with.

Thankfully, the space stage brings us back to the realm of ‘fun’ by putting you in control of a spacecraft of your own design. You ‘pilot’ the ship from planet to planet, performing various missions such as seeding, destroying, and scanning. This brings back the intimacy of the creature stage while also allowing you to construct some very sweet-looking space ships. Some people I know have gone so far as construction their own X-Wings in the game. Not very original, I know, but it does show off the flexibility of the editor.

Visually, Spore looks very nice with a slightly cartoonish presentation (thankfully cause had they gone for realism it would be a blood bath). It is not, however, the ‘next big thing’ in graphics as some reviews would have you believe. Sound design is great with plenty of ambient noise to go around. Creatures’ vocals consist of warbles and other cute noises which only serve to make you like them even more. And when they are scared and shrieking while you devour them, it makes you feel a little bad. I still have nightmares…

Another interesting feature of the game is that your creatures can be shared online in the massive ‘Sporepedia’, which is a repository of creatures, vehicles, etc made by the huge number of people playing Spore online. When played in online mode, Spore will grab a random sampling of creatures and what not from the Sporepedia and place them inside your game.

Conclusion: Spore is a fun and addictive game that will provide you with many hours of enjoyment, especially creating species and testing them out in the creature stage. While the game takes a bit of a down-turn in the civilization stage, it rebounds nicely with the space stage and is well worth your time.

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iGames Center Celebrating Warhammer Battle March Launch

iGames centers across the country are hosting launch parties as well as a two week showcase for the upcoming Warhammer Battle March. Battle March is the expansion to the RTS Warhammer Mark of Chaos.

26 iGames centers from around the country will host a launch party on September 6th and over one hundred centers will host a two week showcase of the game.

For more information, hit the official iGames website.

STALKER Clear Sky Goes Gold – Set for Sept Release

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky is now officially gold and set for a September 5th release date on the PC platform. The game, a prequel to the previous game, shows us what happened leading up to the previous game’s events. Players will, this time, take on the role of a s.t.a.l.k.e.r.

Official Release:
GSC Game World, computer games developer, its publishing subdivision GSC World Publishing and Deep Silver, the games label of Koch Media, a leading producer and distributor of digital entertainment products, today announce that S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky has gone gold. The international release date of the game has been set to September 5th of 2008.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is a survival FPS game for PC based on a ‘what-if’ scenario of the second Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident. The game is created as a warning to mankind against mindless play with technologies. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is the official prequel to the renowned S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game by the Ukraine-based GSC Game World studio. The game is set in 2011and brings forth the events to have preceded the third campaign of Strelok to the Zone center. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky introduces an alternative look onto the events of the original game and offers the player to try himself out as a mercenary s.t.a.l.k.e.r. in search of his own path in the world of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Ben There, Dan That Review

Dan Marshall and Ben Ward are the masterminds behind Zombie Cow Studios, and their first project is a point-and-click adventure game aptly titled ‘Ben There, Dan That’.

You control the characters of Dan and Ben as they attempt to repair their TV aerial. As you can probably imagine, things don’t go as planned and it is not long after that they find themselves fighting aliens, zombies, and a whole lot more in an adventure that transcends multiple universes, all in an effort to not miss a re-run of Magnum P.I.

In adventure games of old, right-clicking would normally change the tool icon that was being controlled by your mouse movements. In BTDT so it is the same. You can choose from an eye (to look at something, duh), a grabbing hand, a talking chat bubble, a walking footprint, and Dan’s head. Well, it is not really Dan’s head per se, but a virtual representation of the virtual representation of Dan’s head.This last tool is the most unique, as this is how you get Dan to do ‘stuff’ and is vital in overcoming your journey’s challenges. For example, if you need to throw a switch on one side of the room while doing something else on the other side, you could have Dan throw said switch while Ben works elsewhere. This tag-team aspect of the game is a very clever gameplay element, and the banter between the two characters is very witty.

In fact, I would probably call this the ‘Shaun of the Dead’ of adventure games. I don’t mean that purely based on the fact that the game is set in London either. The game is full of homages to older classic games such as Full Throttle, Sam and Max, and Day of the Tentacle. While it is full of these homages, it does not homage just for the sake of homaging (is that even a word). Ben and Dan also makes a clever commentary on the current state of adventure games (See right). It is rare that an independent developer can make such an inspired, witty, and entertaining game such as Ben there, Dan That. It goes to show, just as the classic adventures that came before it did, that you do not need fancy 3d graphics to entertain, and that message is a welcome site in the age of the multi-million dollar video game. Zombie Cow Studios, we salute you! Did we mention the game is free to download?

Official Site

Eurofighter 2000 for FSX and FS9 Review

Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series has a history of trouble with modeling supersonic flight. Often times, aircraft would just become uncontrollable and wobble to an extent that would crack the spine of any normal human being. With FS9 and FSX, however, this has been largely remedied. This now paves the way for some great jet fighters to be played in the sim. However, Microsoft never seems to add a supersonic fighter to their stock aircraft stable, so it is up to third-party developers to create some for us. Developers like X1 Software.

X1 Software’s Eurofighter 2000 for FSX and FS9 adds the titular aircraft (actually a few variations) to the two most recent versions of Microsoft’s Flight Simulators. We played it out on Microsoft’s latest offering, Flight Simulator X. After installing the add-on, we read through the instructions. There are optimum realism slider settings to achieve the proper flight modeling, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully. Also a good read through is the cockpit guide, but more on that later.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is one of the world’s most aesthetically striking aircraft, with a canard design featuring foreplanes, flaperons, and leading-edge slats along the wings. All of which, and more, are included with this add-on. From the outside, the EF2000 looks incredible and just like its real-world counterpart. There is a two-seater training variant of the aircraft as well as single-seater to play with, so have fun. Especially since with the two-seater you can have someone else be in the opposing seat via LAN or IP.

From the virtual cockpit, we are treated to a very realistically placed array of displays, sliders, knobs, etc – most of which are completely functional. You are even able to fire off your wing-mounted missiles for a cool effect (they don’t really blow anything up though). X1 has even modeled a working radar system into the plane which is a treat to use. When the ATC asks you if you see a plane off your nose at some range, you can very confidently say ‘yes’, even if it is BVR thanks to that baby.

Take a look at this comparison image of the in-game and real-life cockpits of the Eurofighter:

We got the base model Eurofighter on the runway at Nellis AFB, just Northeast of Las Vegas, NV. The foreplans on the bird actually swivel when the brake is engaged just like on the actual aircraft (for a second we thought it was a modeling error before it clicked in our heads). Engaging flaps was smooth and, in fact, every animated surface on the airframe moves very fluidly and realistically. Getting clearance to take off, we moved the throttle slowly to max power and let off the brake. I can only imagine what happened to our virtual pilot that moment but I assume he needed to change his huggies after that takeoff. The amount of acceleration is incredible and you reach your T.O. roll speed almost too quickly. I am unsure how this compares to the real aircraft, but its in-game acceleration is the only thing I was skeptical about while flying around with regards to the flight model.

Racing to a cruising altitude of ten thousand feet AGL (above ground level), the Eurofighter still reacted swiftly and with great agility. I was able to get the aircraft to roughly 1,300 knots (about mach 2) which fits with the Wikipedia spec of the plane’s max speed with afterburner. Super-cruising (supersonic flight without using reheat) is possible and almost feels unreal as it is something you normally do not see in flight simulator aircraft. When making our rounds across the Nevada skies, I noticed that the plane likes to continue rolling quite a bit. I would have to apply opposite stick pressure in order to stop the roll. This inertial effect was quite cool and, even though I do not know how the real aircraft handles, it ‘felt’ realistic.

Landing in the Eurofighter is actually much easier than I thought, as the cockpit heads-up display gives important info like altitude, speed, and a neat little flight path vector indicator. Also, the foreplane braking is all I needed to stop myself once touching down, unlike many aircraft where I have to slam on the parking brake too. Just in case you run out of runway (Nellis has a very large runway), X1 Software has modeled the drogue chute on the Eurofighter as well, which should help slow you down quite a bit.

Also in this add-on are some new missions to fly with your Eurofighter as well as some new European air bases to fly in and out of. The liveries of Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Austria are represented with a few squadrons to select from each nation.

Overall, X1 Software’s Eurofighter add-on gets a big GamingShogun seal of approval (if we had one that is) for its high-grade realism and quality. Available now at various online retailers for roughly $38 dollars, the Eurofighter 2000 is a no-brainer if you are looking for a supersonic fighter in FSX or FS9.

X1 Software

Blockbuster Announces Ten Thousand DVD Rental Kiosks


According to the Hollywood Reporter, Blockbuster has announced plans to eventually roll out ten thousand DVD rental kiosks to combat the threat for the dreaded Redbox, who’s kiosks number six thousand strong around the country.

Blockbuster plans to get major studio backing by ‘as early as fourth quarter’. As of now the DVDs they are licensed to carry are from independent studios only.