Author - Jerry Paxton

Interview with Valve’s Doug Lombardi on Left 4 Dead 2 at E3 09

While at Valve Software’s ‘confidential’ meeting (thanks for spoiling the surprise Microsoft Press Conference) for Left 4 Dead 2, we got the chance to speak with Doug Lombardi once again on the upcoming game. I say ‘once again’ as you may or may not remember that last year at E3 we spoke to him about Left 4 Dead.

In this follow-up interview a year later, we talk about what improvements we will see in the game as well as the short dev cycle between the sequel and the previous title.

Half-Life 2 fans, know that I did ask him about episode three and you can hear his response towards the end of the interview.

Operation Flashpoint 2 Video Preview from E3 09

While at the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles the other day, we were treated to interview Codemasters Executive Producer Sion Lenton about their upcoming Operation Flashpoint Dragon Rising.

Aside from the interview below, I got the chance to ask him if the compass and other UI elements means that the game was ‘dumbed-down’ from the original. He said that the demo they showed us was set to ‘easy’. On the harder difficulties these elements goes away – even the targeting reticule!

Parachutes and Grappling Hooks: A Behind Closed-Doors Look at Just Cause 2

I must admit that I was not really hyped about Just Cause 2 when we arrived at the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo a few days ago. Its not that the game did not seem like it would be entertaining or well-done, I just had so many other games on my mind at that moment it was pushed aside. However, after seeing Just Cause 2 at the behind closed-doors presentation with Eidos I am salivating for more. (cont.)
We took our seats inside the small presentation room Eidos had setup to show off Just Cause 2 and Lead Game Designer Peter Johansson began to talk about the game. When Just Cause 2 finally did show on the screen we were treated to a stunning vista from a peak on the fictional island of Panau. At the edge of the peak was the game’s protagonist, Rico Rodriguez. After spinning the camera about a few times to show off the incredible draw-distance and scope of the island, which measures roughly 400 square miles in area, Rico jumped from the peak and began plummeting to the island below.

His target: some random military encampment. At a thrilling (and dangerously low) altitude the devs popped Rico’s shoot and guided him towards the base, spraying the caught unawares enemies below with machine gun fire from above. Then, Rico deftly kicked off his shoot and began what can only be described as a ‘spree of destruction’, the likes of which we have never seen. The developers pushed Rico in an etxremely deft manner all around the base unleashing hell on the enemy.

Rico’s method for unleashing this hell? His stunt parachute and grappling hook arm. The combinations of tricks and stunts one can pull off using these instruments is really bewildering. The player can shoot his grapple at a distant location, begin pulling himself towards it, then disengage the grapple and engage the ‘chute. This instantly puts the player in the air and not only gives the death from above advantage but also allows Rico to travel quickly and get a better vantage of the terrain below.

Another thing which the developers showcased was Rico’s ability to tether two objects together with the grappling hook. In another scene of the presentation, we were treated to a thrilling car chase with Rico on the roof of a beat-up SUV. The driver was a man he had just rescued in a thrilling high-rise action-fest which ended with Rico pushing both of them out the window into a free-fall. Thankfully, Rico had his chute or they both would have been a little splat soon after. Back to the car chase: so with enemy Humvees gunning down on them, Rico could do all sorts of action film-style tricks to dispatch his foes. Using the tether feature of the grapple-arm, Rico connected an enemy Humvee at the side of his vehicle to a bridge arm. This caused the enemy Humvee to come to a very quick-stop and fly backwards into the air towards the bridge arm in the opposite direction. It really felt like we were watching some 80’s Schwarzenegger movie.

Rico can even tether enemies together to prevent them from escaping a grenade he lobs their way. This gameplay element seems well-implemented and, coupled with the re-usable stunt parachute, brings a whole new element to the third-person shooter.

In order to end the violence taking place on the island of Panau, Rico must cause as much ‘chaos’ in the enemy ranks as possible. This ‘chaos’ level is how Rico decreases the enemies’ sphere of influence.

One eye-opening feature of Just Cause 2 is just how many places there are to visit (and destroy). The area of gameplay which the developers showed us was displayed on the in-game map. We could see the peak where Rico started as well as the enemy camp and bridge. Places to disrupt the enemies’ influence are displayed as icons on this map. Well the developer began zooming the map out and it became startlingly apparent just how large this sandbox-style game really is. The area os the map which filled the screen just seconds before was now just a small spot on a much larger map showing hundreds of location icons.

Just Cause 2 is set to release in 2010 on the PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3. I might not have been hyped at the beginning of E3, but I most-certainly am now and can’t wait to play this one.

Details from THQ’s E3 09 Media-Only W40k Space Marine Presentation

If you had a media pass at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, or were just really lucky, you could stand in line to get special look at THQ’s upcoming Warhammer 40k: Space Marine. We have enjoyed THQ’s W40k offerings before, but this game represents a break with tradition in taking the series to a third-person actioner, and we were really looking-forward to seeing it up close. (cont.)
The four and a half minute presentation began with the E3 trailer and was followed up with some random video clips of the game and a question and answer session with the on-hand developers.

The most interesting things we learned during the Q&A was not from what the developer’s would say, but from what they wouldn’t! The way a person phrases a ‘no comment’ statement can say quite a bit. When asked about multiplayer modes, the developers came back by asking us to look at other THQ Warhammer products’ multiplayer features. The dev also let slip that ‘[Space Marine is] not a solo game’.

Another reporter at the presentation asked about character customization. While the developers replied by saying that has not ‘been confirmed’ at this time, we could plainly see in some of the random game clips a screen showing a level 5 sergeant and his stats which looked upgradeable to us. So, we are presuming from this that you will be able to upgrade your character(s).

When I asked about how the single-player missions would be doled out, and if it would be selectable like the Dawn of War II missions are, they responded with another ‘nothing has been confirmed’ statement. There was nothing more to glean from the way they said this but a more dynamic story would not surprise us after how succesfuly it was in DoW2.

Vehicles and Dreadnaughts were brought up in one person’s questioning and the developers slyly responded with a ‘no comment’ and one actually verbalized ‘wink wink’. While a Space Marine actually has to die to become a Dreadnaught, thus not making it likely to be a ‘dread’ in the title, it would seem that they (or perhaps just APCs) will be in the game to some degree – perhaps simply one a supporting fire mission.

One of the issues many gamers seem to have with the E3 trailer for Space Marine is the focus on the space marine chapter known as the ‘Ultramarines’. While most of the ad material for the game also supports their being the central focus on the game, the developers stated that there has never been any confirmation on that fact and that since Space Marine is the beginning of a ‘new franchise’ we should not presume this to be true. Perhaps they are creating a new chapter for this title?

After the presentation was over, I ran into a will-remain-nameless person on the team I know. I inquired as to what game engine the game uses as many believe it to be the same as DoW2. He replied by saying it is actually not the same engine but looks similar as many of the same artists are worked on both titles.

No one would confirm a release date but the game will be coming out on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 (hopefully a PC version will be announced at some point). Stay-tuned as new details are released about this game which looks quite intense with some seriously-fun action.

A Behind Closed-Doors Look at SEGA’s Aliens Vs Predator from E3 09

A big highlight of the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo was being able to check out SEGA/Rebellion’s upcoming Aliens Vs Predator. After all, Rebellion scared the bejeezus out of us when we were younger with their first AvP title and brought a healthy dose of action to the scares with its sequel. This, their third entry into the series looks to be an extremely intense roller-coaster ride.

We hiked to SEGA’s meeting room at the convention center and checked in at the press desk. We would like to thank their Senior PR Manager, Tali Fischer, who got us all squared away and into the proper queue to see the game up-close… (cont.)
(cont.) When it was our turn to see the demo, we were led into the small, dark room where we met some of the game’s development team including Tim Jones, the head of art & design on the project, and Paul Mackman, the game’s producer.

They introduced the game and began presenting the demo which featured the colonial marines’ side of the conflict. Set thirty years after the events of Alien 3, the colonial marines have been sent to yet another United Systems’ colony where xenomorphs have taken over.

The first level we were shown was bereft of xenomorphs but did feature claustrophobic hallways and a lot of acid burns through floor and ceiling grates. It resembled the colony on LV-426 from Aliens in art design had was very richly detailed. A big focus was placed on telling us about their in-house Asura game engine and its ability to render real-time shadows. A marine throwing a flare behind a stairwell gave way to a beautiful array of light and shadow. Even the marine character’s flashlight yielded realistic, real-time shadows from the surrounding environment.

The HUD for the marine character is very spartan, leaving the player with more room to enjoy the brilliant visuals. To the lower left corner of the screen is the player’s motion detector with its constant sonar-like pinging of the area. To the bottom right is the player’s weapon info (ammo count, etc).

In another level, we were shown the marines setting up sentry turrets and locking down an area of the colony, to lick their wounds we imagine – they all looked pretty messed up. After the marine character spoke to some of his fellow brothers (and sisters) in arms, they were under siege by xenomorphs. Eventually, the xenomorphs managed to cut the power to the locked-down area and breach the perimeter. What followed was a very intense firefight with a few scattered xenomorphs. One fellow marine was even pulled up through the ceiling by one of the alien creatures to his inevitable death (or impregnation).

The xenomorphs move a lot more fluidly than in the last two entries of the series. Their design looks based on those of the creatures in Aliens (which we found to be the most appealing even over the design of the original Alien) and seeing their carapaces crawling across the walls and ceiling is very unnerving.

Eventually the marine character had to evac the locked-down area and move into one of the entrance tunnels which was under-guard by a sentry turret and a make-shift barricade. Aliens began swarming toward the marine, eventually overwhelming even the turret. Thankfully, the developers spared us a horrific death and ended the demo at that time.

One cool gameplay element we saw was that xenomorphs can jump onto the marine character and begin their ‘inner-jaw penetrating your skull in a grotesque fashion’ sequence seen in the film series. While they were still working on the control system for this, the marine character could kick the xenomorph off and onto the ground in front of him (or her) allowing the marine time to blast it with their upgraded M41 pulse rifle.

Yes, being 30 years since Alien 3, the United Systems Colonial Marines have definitely upgraded their equipment. Their armor is a bit more futuristic in design and their weapons also look slightly modified. How much of this is due to the events of Aliens is unknown as is if the United Systems had covered the event up to the colonial marines, leaving them again unawares. Whatever the case, I am sure the evil Weyland-Yutani corporation will fit into the story somehow.

While no confirmed date was revealed to the GamingShogun and his intrepid crew, an early 2010 release seems probable for the PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3 platforms.

GamingShogun E3 09 First-Look: Dexter iPhone Game

Yesterday at E3 09 we got the chance to get an up-close look at Showtime/Marc Ecko Productions/Icarus Studios’ upcoming iPhone game based off the popular television series, Dexter. For those of you who do not know about the show, its titular character (Dexter) is a man driven to brutally kill those who he finds guilty of heinous crimes of their own. This, all while working with the local police department as their blood-spatter analyst… (cont.)
(cont.) In the iPhone game, players are tasked with not only carrying out the brutal acts that Dexter commits in the name of his own version of justice, but also on the investigations that lead to them. This adds a lot of variety to the game by giving players other things to accomplish besides killing.

For instance, a major part of the game tasks players with evidence gathering. From following a suspect to sneaking about their residence on the search for clues, Dexter will put together a picture of their guilt or innocence.

Thankfully, a lot of Dexter is voiced by the actual actors from the television series including Michael C. Hall, who plays Dexter. You may remember Hall from his role in the critically-acclaimed Six Feet Under as the homosexual funeral home owner with many inner-demons to battle. This authenticity adds a lot to the overall experience in making it seem like a part of the television series.

The Dexter iPhone game will eventually be an episodic adventure that actually follows along with the television show. For instance, in one of the game’s investigative moments, Dexter is tasked with searching a suspect’s residence for clues. This is not seen in the series episode it parallels, so now gamers and fans of the show know what happened ‘in between’ those critical events. It helps fill out the overall Dexter mythos in a way that only an engrossing game can.

Once your suspect is succesfully abducted, Dexter will proceed with interrogational techniques which would make even the toughest CIA agent flinch in discomfort. He will cut on his suspect and more while goading them into confessing their ‘sins’ (Dexter does not kill those he considers innocent). Once they do, Dexter dispatches them with a killing blow. This is accomplished by a swipe of the finger against the iPhone’s touch screen in the case of a knife or similar object but can be different patterns for varying instruments.

Dexter features very nicely-rendered 3D graphics which give many PSP games a run for their money. Controlling the Dexter character can be accomplished by using a virtual joystick on the screen or the iPhone’s accelerometer (although that method seemed to need a bit more fleshing-out.

Overall, Dexter for the iPhone looks to be a great addition for long-time fans of the series as well as people who have little knowledge of the TV show at all. The Dexter iPhone game will be released later this Summer. Current, its price point is still being determined.

GamingShogun Previews Sega’s Alpha Protocol at E3 2009

The fine folks at Sega were nice enough to give us a preview of their upcoming spy shooter, Alpha Protocol at E3 2009. I hesitate to generalize or limit this game by calling it just a shooter because it’s so much more. Before, and even during missions, your actions and interactions with other characters determine how you progress through the game.

The player is based at one of a number of safe houses all over the world. At these safehouses, the player can purchase new weapons, select new missions, even view trophies from previous missions. One interesting feature is a dossier set on all main characters the player meets in game, including notes on techniques to deal effectively with the character… (CONT)
A player can choose either a stealth or commando skillset for each mission.  Prior and during missions, the player will encounter and interact with other characters.  The player is then presented with a choice on how to deal with this character (friendly, diplomatic, honest, evasive, aggressive, etc…), and these choices and the player’s actions in the mission will affect the player’s reputation with that character.  Rub that character the wrong way too often, and they will be less helpful, or downright hostile, changing the course of the game.  The devs we spoke to really hyped the reputation system, and replayability.  Make different choices and experience an entirely different gameplay experience.

In missions, the player can select from four classes of weapons (pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, and assault rifles), and they can all be extensively modified/customized. Each weapon will have four different upgrade slots  for the player to make use of. The amount of customization is really incredible, not only to your weapons but also to the rest of your equipment and appearance.

The developers also stated that the player will gain numerous perks as he gains experience and levels.  These perks are automatically selected based on the skills the players in-game decisions/actions.  We asked how far player can expect to level in the game and were told that if a player does all missions and maximizes experience, he would reach level 20 or so.  As players level, they gain points to put in any of the 9 different skill attributes (small guns, martial arts, etc…).  To maximize every skill would require approximately 200 levels of points, which, with a soft-cap of 20, will never happen.  Therefore the player has to be very particular where skill points are placed. This also makes it fun for players to go back through and play the game, multiple times, from different character types and actions. In fact, the developers mentioned the classic and brilliant PC title ‘Deus-Ex’ as one of their inspirations for Alpha Protocol.

While Alpha Protocol is not the most ground-breaking title we have seen in terms of visuals, it is very attractive and has a crisp style. This is somewhat refreshing as opposed to many titles out there using all manner of filters and overlays to ‘enhance’ their looks. Movement and game play seems typical, though we were not able to get a hands on demo to confirm.  Sega is shooting for a Fall 2009 release date on all platforms.  Visit Sega’s Alpha Protocol site for more info!

GamingShogun Previews Parabellum, a Free2Play Title From GamersFirst

GamingShogun got a quick moment this morning to preview GamersFirst’s Parabellum. The title is a multiple play on words, with 9 mm parabellum ammunition being one of the most common caliburs, but also part of a phrase in Latin ‘Si vis pacem, para bellum’ which means ‘If you wish for peace, prepare for war.’

Parabellum is an online, first person shooter, akin to Counterstrike. Player avatars are highly customizable, and the instance-based missions seem engaging. Parabellum, like other titles from GamersFirst, is a Free2Play game. There is no cost to either download or play the basic game, however, certain customizations and weapons must be purchased… (Cont)

The developer we spoke with claimed that, on release, Parabellum will only have about 10% of their final intended content.  This means gamers can expect regular updates, items, and maps. 

Parabellum just entered closed beta, and the devs are shooting for an August 09 release date.  Check out the official Parabellum site for more info!

First Look At Bethesda’s Brink from E3 2009

GamingShogun met with Bethesda on the first day of E3 2009 to preview their upcoming water-wasteland title: Brink. Brink is being developed by Splash Damage (makers of Return to Castle Wolfenstein).

Set about 40 years in the future, global warming has caused the oceans to rise, flooding most of the surface. The last refuge for humanity is the Ark, a floating city which originally built and designed as a social engineering project… (Cont.)

Movement within the world of Brink has a new feature.  In addition to the standard controls, Brink introduces S.M.A.R.T. movement.  S.M.A.R.T. stands for Smooth Movement Around Random Terrain.  Simply point your character in the direction you want to go, hold the S.M.A.R.T. button, and your character will take the ‘smartest’ route towards that point.  Sometimes this means walking around obstacles, sometimes it means jumping a ledge, grabbing a bar, and swinging up a level.  Without a hands-on demo, it’s hard to tell whether this feature will be a novelty, or will dominate how you move through the game. When engaged it is very reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge movement system (only automatic).

There are two main playable factions in Brink:  refugees, and the security forces attempting to maintain order for the social elite living on The Ark.  Characters are highly customizable, allowing each player to make a truly unique avatar.  One truly unique feature is the ability for gamers to take their single-player mission character and continue their campaign in multiplayer mode.  Need help on a mission?  Call a friend!

The preview highlighted a mission to Container City (picture a shanty town made of lego stacked cargo containers).  The developers showed us how selecting different objectives mid-mission can help guide your team through the action.  If an engineer is needed, but there are no engineer NPCs in the mission, the player can change classes on the fly to fill whatever role is needed.

Action seems intense, and the storyline engaging!  Stay tuned or visit Splash Damage’s Brink site for more info!

E3 2009 – Live Blog of Konami Press Conference

At 2:55pm, tune-in to our coverage of Konami’s E3 2009 press conference courtesy of CoverItLive. This will be our second usage of the live blog system and we hope you enjoy the streaming coverage of the event. Also, feel free to post questions to the reporter on-hand during the show.