Author - Jerry Paxton

We Go Vertical with Capcom’s Dark Void


Capcom’s game showings at this year’s San Diego Comic Con were plentiful. From the action-packed Lost Planet 2 to the horror of Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, Capcom did not disappoint. We were also fortunate enough to checkout their upcoming vertigo-inducing action-shooter, Dark Void. Dark Void will transport players into the mysterious ‘Void’ by way of the Bermuda Triangle. In the Void, the player will find groups of surviving humans battling with an alien force known as the ‘Watchers’ which are intent on escaping the Void and enslaving all of mankind. Dark Void is due out September 22nd on the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms.

Making things even more intense in Dark Void is the game’s liberal use of the jet pack which allows the player to transition smoothly between flight and ground modes as well as allowing the player to fight in some very intriguing positions. In many places of Dark Void, players will find themselves fighting straight up or down and battling the different physics found in those angles. Throw a grenade while fighting straight up a tower or something and you will be in for a treat as the grenade will eventually lose speed and head back your way. If it were not for their built-in timers you could be hit by your own grenade! Thankfully the game’s built-in cover system will help you avoid damage as much as possible. Please note, the video cut off about a minute more of footage due to technical problems, however the majority of the footage remains viable.

An Up-Close Demo of Darksiders from the San Diego Comic Con

While at this year’s San Diego Comic Con, we stopped by the THQ show floor booth to checkout Vigil Games’ upcoming third-person actioner, Darksiders: Wrath of War. Due out in January of 2010, Darksiders puts players into the warboots of War – one of the dreaded Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War is on a quest to find out who actually started a premature apocalypse and clear his own name at the same time. Thankfully, THQ’s Waleed Kamel was able to demonstrate the game for us and take us through the devastated landscape of the title.

Achieve New Levels of Cooling With the Cooler Master HAF-922

Not too long ago I was lucky to put together a system into a HAF 932 and instantly fell in love with the plethora of features and details in that full-tower case. Of course when I heard the 922 would be the mid-tower version using the same features and details, I was of course intrigued. I’m not personally a fan of either cases’ look and feel, but even Cooler Master calls it a ‘beastly chassis’ that comes with ‘rugged looks’. Rugged it is, in look and construction. The steel case is heavy for its size and does none of that wobbling around thanks to its wide footprint. That footprint can be a curse, though, if floor or desk space is a concern.

Cooler Master calls this series HAF (high air flow) for good reason. Intake starts in the front with a 200mm fan blowing directly over the 3.5′ bay and into the case. There is an optional side intake fan that is perfect for giving the larger video cards enough air to breath. You can use a large 200mm fan, or even two 120mm fans depending on your desires in that side panel. In the top/rear, there is a 120mm fan to keep your CPU heatsink fresh along with the giant 200mm fan at the top to collect all the heat and push it out. The wonderful thing about the larger fans is the low noise to air flow ratio. This case keeps my test system at the same temperature as an Antec 900, but is significantly more quiet. The power supply is bottom mounted (video review correction, I said ‘rear mounted’ [of course it is!]) with venting at the bottom for power supplies with the large top fans. This way your power supply does not collect warm air from inside the case – just be careful to keep that fan cleaned out regularly.

Speaking of the Antec 900, a good case in its own right, my test system was quite literally crammed into that mid-tower. With a PC Power & Cooling 750w power supply and an EVGA GeForce GTX 280, there was no room to breath. If I wanted to add a new hard drive, it would require disconnecting several power cables and removing the video card to make it fit. In the HAF 922, none of this is a factor. Even with the epic cables of a non-modular PC Power & Cooling power supply, I was able to keep the cables out of the way so air could travel freely through the case. The EVGA GeForce GTX 280 had over five inches of clearance before the 3.5” HDD bays. Even if it was close, I wouldn’t have any issues because of the clever non-tool 3.5” sliding bays that come out towards you as you’re looking in, instead of back over your motherboard. Behind the motherboard tray is about an inch of room to snake cables around without issue and logical holes to bring them back into the motherboard to plug in CPU power. For the larger heat sinks both air and water, there is the large hole right behind the CPU socket to easily manipulate the backplate for the large and heavy heatsinks. You no longer need to cut the hole out yourself if you want to swap a heatsink out without having to remove your motherboard, and I personally believe installing the heatsink while the motherboard is in the tray is much easier.

Several details came along from the full tower version: the non-tool 3.5” and 5′ bays, the ‘rugged looks’ and extreme air cooling without much noise. I was slightly surprised that the non-tool expansion card clips did not come with the case. Although most builders feel uncomfortable with allowing plastic to hold in their many hundreds of dollars worth of graphics cards, I felt the 932 was holding on to the expansion cards without issue and did not feel unsafe using them. The 922 comes with thumb screws, which of course is fine I was just curious why it was excluded. Another small thing was an 8pin CPU power plug extender that came with the 932, but not the 922. Although this is a mid-tower, my test system’s power cable could not reach the plug by going around the rear and instead had to be routed over the motherboard itself. The motherboard tray is also missing several holes for sneaking power cables in and out that could have been incorporated without too much fuss. That said, it’s possible the strength of the tray might have been overly compromised had they included those holes that are really only for the truly anal builders out there. One more small detail, mostly something that comes with the territory of the mid-tower cases, is the single front USB header. My test board only had one, but it’s something worth mentioning for the USB-happy users out there since the 932 has two.

The Cooler Master HAF series has yet to disappoint: solid, heavy-duty construction along with the little details that make the cases so well thought out. For its price-point, I cannot recommend a better mid-tower case plain and simple. Even though I do not personally like the looks of these cases, that opinion is vastly overshadowed by the sheer ease of installing a system and hiding away a monster power supply’s cables. The volume of internal space for expandability, I have not seen in a mid-tower case to date, and the simple upgradability of the case is wonderful. Adding a new hard drive take mere moments, most of that would be hooking up the power and data cables. Adding a new heatsink is a simple affair, able to be done without removing the motherboard from the tray. With room to spare, the 922 has space for SLI and Crossfire, just about anything you can think to throw at it. Cooler Master has done it again with the HAF 922 – I can’t wait to see what they’ve got up their sleeve next!

Video Overview to Accompany this Review:

Play Lost Planet 2 and Fight Epic Creatures, Sometimes from the Inside


I recently got a hands-on look at Capcom’s upcoming Lost Planet 2 from the 2009 San Diego Comic Con. Capcom’s booth was back from last year’s event, a few rows of game kiosks setup around an elevated boxing ring-style platform replete with even more titles. Not nearly as intimate as their E3 booth from this year but definitely more ‘happening’. So I settled on up to their Lost Planet 2 kiosks and spoke with Capcom’s Shawn Baxter, picking his brain on some of the more interesting aspects of Lost Planet 2.

In Lost Planet 2 you will find no cover system like you do in titles like Gears of War or Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. Instead, they have seemingly geared the game to the more action-oriented by implementing a ‘roll system’. Literally, this consists of your character jump-rolling in a direction of your choosing to avoid danger. The interesting thing about this new system is in the way your character’s vulnerability changes throughout the different phases of the motion. In the first arc of the roll you character is literally invulnerable! During the last phase of the roll your character will be dealt double damage by anything that hits you… (cont.)

And if you thought the bosses from Lost Planet were large, you have not seen anything yet. Some of the bosses from Lost Planet 2 are twenty times the size of what you found in the original. In fact, some bosses are so large you can actually fight them from inside their bodies…Eww… The demo we saw had the four players (yes, the game supports 4-player coop in the regular campaign) taking on a very large and slimy beast. Using team-based tactics, two players would shoot at the beasts protruding spike running down its back while the other two would climb inside and shoot the spike from within. This spike being its vulnerable point, of course.

Inside the creature, players were attacked by all manner of digestive juices and other creepy crawlies which aid in the beast’s digestion. It was gross and disturbing at the same time as being extremely cool.

Outside, the environments have come a very long way since the first game. Lost Planet 2 is the first game being developed using Capcom’s new engine framework and the refinements show. Blades of grass reacted to the gigantic beast’s every step. The small shockwaves generated by its gait and even being brushed past by the much smaller in comparison players.

Lost Planet 2’s main campaign is made up of six episodes, each with multiple sub-missions. In each of these episodes you will actually play as a different faction in the game world. However, in Tarantino-esque fashion, these episodes and their respective factions will crossover at times throughout the story.

While Capcom is focusing mainly on the singleplayer with coop modes at the moment, I did manage to find out the game will support some standard 16-player multiplayer modes as well although Baxter would not elaborate any further.

Baxter did say that character customization was being overhauled for Lost Planet 2 and that players could actually choose the weapons they want to be loaded out with at the start of their missions. Also, the vehicle system is being enhanced to better suit the coop mode with larger platforms featuring not only a driver’s position but also turret hardpoints for your buddies to man.

Lost Planet 2 is shaping up to be an excellent title from what I saw at Comic Con and I can’t wait to play it when it launches this fall on the Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms.

Impressions of Dragon Age: Origins for the PC from the San Diego Comic Con


Walking over to the Electronic Arts Gaming Lounge across the street from the San Diego Convention Center on Saturday, foremost on my mind was getting some first-hand time with BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins. Having been a fan not only of BioWare’s Baldur’s Gate series but also their later works, I have been watching this one develop very carefully.

Settling down inside the DA:O area of the lounge (which, by the way, was a brilliant retreat from the show floor booth), game producer Fernando Melo hooked me up with my own kiosk running the PC version of the title.

The first thing Melo and I spoke about was the main character’s ‘origin story’ campaign, which occurs after character creation is complete. This origin story campaign basically sets up your character’s point of view on the world as well as some initial events which happen in the characters’ life. Most amazing to me was that this origin story, according to Melo, will take approximately two hours to complete!

Melo also told me about… (cont.)
(cont.) …the game’s social system, with regards to how you are treated by others in the world, which seems very complex. The main example he elaborated on was when the player chooses the race of Dalish Elves for the main character. In the land of Ferelden, the Humans have a very racist attitude towards them and this racist attitude can cause many to simply NOT speak with you. This, in fact, closes off some of the game’s quests and storylines for good. Of course this can change for some when your Dalish Elf becomes a Grey Warden. Being that you are a Dalish Elf you are reviled but for being a Grey Warden you are respected – humans are so easily conflicted…

For my demo, I chose to play a male Dwarf Noble (the second-born son of the Dwarven King, actually) and proceeded to customize my character’s physical features. The character customization system allows for a plethora of phenotypic variations for every character you create. You can even select the type of voice your character should have, something PC gamers might remember from the old Baldur’s Gate days. Clicking through that, DA:O brought me to the start of my character’s origin story.

Finally achieving his first military command and asked to attend a party in celebration, I decided to first stop by the proving grounds to get some feel for the game’s combat system. Growing up a hardcore PC gamer, I was very use to the control system seen in the Baldur’s Gate series. My concern was that, even though BioWare developed DA:O for the PC first, due to its console versions it would be ‘dumbed down’ or made more ‘x-treme’ (or other corporate adjective they think draws in the younglings). Thankfully I did not find this to be the case at all. Sure, BioWare decided to speed the combat up a bit to accommodate not only different weapon styles but also garner more mainstream attention, however it still has the option to be a tactical game. You can hit the space bar at any point during combat, pausing what is going on and allowing you to assign commands to all your characters that will be carried out as soon as you un-pause the game.

In the proving grounds, it was just my character facing off against a series of opponents, each more difficult than the last. Controlling my character in the 1v1 matches was entirely simple and any modern MMORPG-gamer should be able to pick it up without problem. You select your character and then right-click on the enemy you want them to attack. Each character has an array of skills they can utilize on a quick-bar at the bottom of the screen. Once selected, the character uses the skill and then it takes a certain amount of time to recharge to be used again.

My character started with a very cool shield bash ability that executed smoothly and without glitch every time I used it. BioWare has really made it so that the animation doesn’t miss a step in going from a basic attack to a special one. Seeing my stout Dwarf reel back with his shield and drive it into his opponent really looked like it had a lot of force behind it. My helpless foe would fly back and smash into the ground from the force of the attack. This shield bash leaves enemies stunned on the ground for a short time, giving you the ability to hit them once again when they are down. It is a great way to interrupt an opponent in mid swing. Combat is brutal and full of blood spraying-action. In fact, I even saw that my character had some of the spray on him after a sufficiently-bloody swipe. 1v1 was visceral and I can’t wait to see the carnage which will ensure in a full party battle.

Melo and I also spoke of the difficulties in developing DA:O on the console platforms after it was primarily developed for the PC. Due to the virtually-limitless hardware capabilities of the personal computer, graphics can be scaled up quite a bit unlike the consoles which have a static hardware configuration. This meant the team would have to tune down extraneous graphic elements in order to achieve stable frame rates. Melo said that gamers should not worry though as every effort was made to only tune down things that were in the backgrounds such as extra grass and fauna so that major visual elements such as characters were left, more or less, unaffected.

Apparently work on the PC version of the game is all but complete and the primary job now is finishing up the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions. Also mentioned was that there was a huge number of celebrity voice overs in the game, but Melo proved to be a tough customer and just would not crack under the barrage of my inquiry on the matter. Next time, Melo, next time!

One full playthrough of the game should yield the gamer up to 100 hours of gametime and, even then, you will not see everything the first time through. Like Bethsoft’s Fallout 3, replayability is being built-in on a design level.

From my time with the PC version of Dragon Age: Origins at this year’s San Diego Comic Con, I can safely say that I will definitely be purchasing it on release day. The game should prove very entertaining for both older gamers and younger ones alike. BioWare is not skimping with the story department with Dragon Age: Origins and players will find themselves steeped in a very rich and detailed world.

Dragon Age: Origins is due out on the PC and Xbox 360 platforms on October 20th, 2009.

*I would also like to thank Fernando Melo, Mike Laidlaw, Chris Priestly, and Jay Watamaniuk of BioWare for helping make this preview possible.

GamingShogun’s TwitPic Mega-Coverage Day at Comic Con Tomorrow


Hello out there, Shogunites! As you may or may not know, unlike trade shows such as CES and the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the San Diego Comic Con is a consumer-driven event. Sure, you have you have some announcements released but it is usually nothing as earth-shattering as the aforementioned-events get.

That is why for most of the show we sit it out. Don’t get me wrong, we do our fair share of interviews and meetings but we really try to just stay away from the actual convention center as much as possible. Except for tomorrow – Saturday, July 25th… TwitPic Mega-Coverage Day!

What is TwitPic Mega-Coverage Day? Well it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like! All day, yours truly will be twitpicking his brains out all over the San Diego Convention Center. I may have a few appointments to take as well, so stay with me people, but I promise to have a ton of pics for you guys who don’t want to brave the often times odoriferous (albeit fun – I won’t lie) show floor!

So tune into our official Twitter Account for all the images you can handle starting tomorrow at 10am!

-GS

TRON LEGACY Comic Con Trailer

We learned yesterday that TRON 2.0 was now to be known as TRON LEGACY. A good title, but the title logo was nothing compared to what we have for you today… The Comic Con VFX trailer for the film featuring light cycles and a great look at the visual style of this new film. Just watch and be amazed, again…

Halo Legends Anime Series Debut Trailer Released


Halo Legends will be a series of seven short anime-style films that will be released next year on DVD. However, if you checkout the Halo Waypoint this Fall on Xbox LIVE you will be able to get a sneak preview. Halo Legends is being overseen by the director of Appleseed and Appleseed Ex Machina, Shinji Aramaki.

The Halo Waypoint will be the Xbox LIVE epicenter for all Halo-related news and information and will be launched later this year.

CH Products Pro Throttle Review

The throttle assembly is an integral part of any homebrew cockpit, whether you are building a full-scale replica of a 747 cockpit or throwing some random peripherals together on your home office desk. Most of us fall into the latter category but just because we have limited space and budgets doesn’t mean we necessarily have to skimp on quality.

CH Products, long-known for their flight sim peripherals, has a great option for your throttle-needs with their simply-named ‘Pro Throttle’. Featuring an all-black plastic body the Pro Throttle has the overall curves and design of its predecessor models which used CH Products’ GamePort interface. Thankfully, this throttle uses a USB interface making programming a ton easier (but more on that later). Unique to the CH Products’ throttles has always been their sliding action. Most throttles utilize a pivoting action from a single point on the side of the quadrant. The Pro Throttle controls with a smooth glide forward and backwards on a central track. The feeling is quite natural although I would liked to have seen the option to adjust the resistance.

Also, for the size of the Pro Throttle it is actually quite light, roughly 3lbs. Moving the throttle forward and backwards can make it slide a bit on smoother surfaces, even with the four rubber boots it has to try and stop this motion. I would have preferred to see CH Products fill the base of the throttle quadrant with some heavy elements to give it a more immovable feel. Another option would have been to provide some screw holes in the four corners of the quadrant base to allow sim-jocks to screw the Pro Throttle into a static place.

You may think that I did not like the Pro Throttle with these criticisms. Far from it, actually, as I found the Pro Throttle to be a joy to use in multiple combat simulations, ranging from Wings Over Europe to Lock On: Modern Air Combat.

Installing the Pro Throttle is fairly simple either way you choose to go about it. The first option is to plug it straight into a USB 2.0 port on your PC and allow Windows to register it as a game controller. This allows you to use all of the sticks and axes available. However, you can also choose to install the CH Control Manager as well. The CH Control Manager is a proprietary bit of software from CH Products which can unlock the full potential of your Pro Throttle.

On the throttle handle of the Pro Throttle you will find an array of controls. There are a total of three standard buttons along the front of the handle, a four-way hat for your index finger, two additional four-way hats for your thumb as well as a hat switch and mini-joystick. That’s a lot of controls available to you – 24 control channels to be exact. The interesting thing about the mini-joystick is that when depressed it also acts a mode switcher, allowing you to cycle through ‘green’, ‘red’, and ‘yellow’ controller modes. Each of these modes can be assigned a different function per control via the CH Control Manager. This greatly increases your control capabilities and allows you to do cool things like assign all NAV mode aircraft controls to the ‘green’ Pro Throttle mode and the ‘yellow’ and ‘red’ Pro Throttle modes to A/A and A/G aircraft modes. It is not possible to assign different controls depending on the mode without the CH Control Manager.

However, as a piece of software the CH Control Manager is fairly verbose and may turn-off casual fliers who will be confused in its usage. My advice: Don’t give up and read the help file in the CH Control Manager – it will explain everything to you in a pretty straight-forward manner. One cool thing is that the CH Control Manager works for all CH Products peripherals. You only have to install it once! The CH Control Manager also can combine multiple peripherals into a gigantic virtual controller. This will help out in those titles that only recognize one joystick in the controller stack. Mapping out the different functions will seem confusing at first but, as I previously mentioned, read the help file.

Overall, I would recommend the CH Products’ Pro Throttle to any serious flight sim enthusiast, no matter how serious or casual. It features a really fluid control system and, while a bit light, will give you a ton of control over your aircraft. It is available now with an MSRP of $149.99, however at most online retailers it is markedly less. A bigger question is: What flight stick are you going to purchase to go with it? Technically the whole purpose of a throttle and stick is to create a HOTAS (Hands On Throttle and Stick) setup where you don’t have to use the keyboard at all. While a lofty goal, many controllers just don’t give you enough buttons to accomplish this. The Pro Throttle, I’m happy to say, is NOT one of them. Check six!

Official CH Products Pro Throttle Product Page