The Undead Rise (Agian) on Kinect

I’m certainly not the first person to say that the zombies video game has been done to death. I think I’ve killed more zombies in video games, spin offs and bonus levels over the past couple of years than Romero ever could have dreamed of. So it’s easy to think that the genre has done somehting the undead hordes would never do, get a little tired. So that’s why it’s more important than ever to do something new to keep zombie games alive (undead?).

Years ago the whole genre was shaken up thanks to 28 Days later introducing a new kind of zombie, and the gaming industry was quick to adopt it with games like Left 4 Dead. faster than you could groan “Braaaiiins” zombies were everywhere, in shopping malls, in Nazi bunkers, and even your backyard. Recently Dead Island got everyone’s survival instincts tingling with a fantastic trailer, and the game play shown has seemed to live up to the hype.

But just when you thought you’ve killed zombies in every imaginable way, Sega comes along with Rise of Nightmares. Brought to us by the publisher behind the classic “House of the Dead” series, Rise of Nightmares shakes things up by being a Kinect game. Not only that, but it also is one of the first kinect games to give the player freedom of movement without a controller.

You walk by putting your right foot forward, and rotating your shoulders takes care of turning. The real fun however, comes when you get a weapon and start hacking down undead monstrosities. metal pipe? swing that sucker back and forth, chainsaw? Hope you brought a raincoat. But best of all, shears, remember that scene in Zombie Land? well imagine doing that until your arms fall off (either becuase you’re tired, or you too have turned into a zombie).

It’s an awesome idea with a lot of potential, and like I’ve said before, the hardcore market is wide open for Kinect games right now. So here’s hoping Rise of Nightmares can provide a fresh experience that will reanimate both the zombie and motion gaming genres.

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Wii U is the future, discards it’s own past

This week Nintendo showed off it’s new system the Wii U. like it’s predecessor, it certainly is trying some new things. it’s Nintendo first HD system, and it’s controller has more features packed into it than your cell phone.

But one thing I was thinking about is that, other than the name and overall look, there aren’t very many similarities between the systems. The Wii touted a revolutionary new interface and play style to gaming, motion control. It also courted family and accessible games to the more mature blockbusters of this era.

What we’ve seen from the Wii U has been quite a bit different, showing off M rated games like Gearbox’s Aliens Colonial Marines and some impressive technical specs it seems like Nintendo is finally ready to join teh HD era.

Not to mention the Wii u’s controller, It includes two analog sticks, four trigger buttons, a front facing camera and a six inch touch screen. It offers a lot of possibilities for games, some of which are detailed by Kotaku here. But one thing missing from it all is what the Wii was famous for, motion gaming. Sure the Wii U has a gyroscope, but it seems like Nintendo has all but abandoned the core mechanics of their previous system.

It’s a little ironic considering Nintendo’s competitors have jumped on the motion gaming trend in hopes of stealing some of the Wii’s market, with varying degrees of success.

So it seems that after dominating motion control gaming, Nintendo has decided it can move on to the HD arena. Which leaves us with the question of the future of motion gaming. Both Microsoft and PlayStation have said they plan on another 5 years in this system cycle, thanks to their motion gaming systems.

It will be interesting to see what the Wii U can do, not just because it’s a new console, but becuase of that it means for the future of gaming, motion and otherwise

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Kinect gets a new shooter, inevitable controversey

With E3 in full swing, all the heavy hitters of the industry are showing off their trump cards. So it can be easy to miss titles that offer something different and new. So maybe that’s why 505 games decided to get a big, recognizable name to help promote their new Kinect title Blackwater. Yes that Blackwater, the worldwide Mercenary group linked to killing civilians and some other pretty serious shit.

So it’s a little surprising to see 505 go after the Blackwater name, considering the company it’s named after has changed its name and tried to distance it self from its history. It’s almost certain to court controversy for the name alone, which is unfortunate given that the game it self has been sounds fun and fills a pretty big hole in the Kinect game library.

Drew Cohen of kotaku saw it at E3 and explains how you play a shooter with no controllers

Your movement through each environment is automated, and you’ll find yourself pausing before multiple props against which you can take cover. Stepping to the left will cause you to take cover behind the left-most surface; step to the right you’ll cover at the right-most surface. You use one of your arms to aim the cross hairs of your firearm. Instead of mapping a particular movement to the firing of your gun, the designers have opted to have your gun fire automatically when it hovers enough over an enemy target.”

It certainly sounds like it could work and since the only other shooter announced for Kinect is about a gunslinging puppet, 505 has an opportunity to carve out a new market for Kinect. With controversy almost certain and as Cohen points out, the story isn’t all that important, it begs the question of why even include the name? it could easily be a generic mercenary game, but like I said before, with all the big names in the industry showing off their stuff, it often takes a little something extra to make a name for your self.

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Wondering what the next big thing is?

The high tech industry has seen some truly incredible jumps in what’s possible over the last decade. With touch technology going from PC screen, into out pocket and on our table to 3D technology dominating Hollywood and invading our homes. With so many new advancements it makes you wonder just what will come next.

Well fear not, it looks like Microsoft has been hard at work creating a new frontier for interactive media. Microsoft’s research division has taken a look at both touch technology and 3D and wondered, what do we do next. The answer is to do away with the traditional methods of using touch and 3D.

The next big thing is touch technology you don’t have to touch. and 3D without the stupid glasses (although, presumably, the outrageous prices will remain).  And combining this technology with Microsoft already amazing (and so far, under utilized) Kinect sensor, the 3D effects can be tailored to specific people in the room.  For gamers, this could mean that your roommate’s days of screen watching are numbered.

Of course, the best part is, the coolest things this technology can do probably hasn’t even been thought up yet.  All we need now are some precognitant triplets and jet packs and we can officially declare we’re in the future.

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What makes a gamer violent? Turns out, it’s not the games

Video games can do many things, tell stories, improve memory, entertain, and socialize, but most of the time you hear about video games, it’s becuase they’re being linked to violent behaviour.

Studies have come up with all kinds of answers, games increase violent tendencies, they decrease overall crime, they promote, they promote anti social behaviour. Despite the variety of conclusions, the question has been the same, what does the game do to the player?

That’s where Christopher J. Ferguson and his team at Texas A&M comes in, he thinks we’ve been looking at thee problem the wrong way. In his paper Personality and media influences on violence and depression in a cross-national sample of young adults: Data from Mexican Americans, English and Croatians Ferguson does more than just look at how violent media affects the subject, but how the subject’s personality affects their behaviour.

And as the title suggests, he sampled youths from Croatia and England as well as Mexican American young adults. It’s also important to note that both male and female subjects were used, after all if violent video games caused violent behaviour, the females should be affected in a similar way.

Yet when the subject’s personality traits were taken into account, any correlation between violent media and violent behaviour disappeared. Not only that, but the Croatian sample actually showed a decrease in violent behaviour when exposed to games, while exposure to television predicted an increase in violence.

It’s here that Ferguson brings up an interesting point about the nature of games vs television,

“It may be possible that video game players turn to violent games to reduce their anger over life stress, whereas a wider population of television viewers are not similarly motivated. Although controversial, there has been some research to indicate that young adults do use video games to reduce anger and stress”

The bottom line for Ferguson however, is that violent media can’t be used to predict even a casual link between exposure and behaviour. Instead it turns out (predictably) that the best indicator of an individual’s behaviour is their personality.

Which isn’t to say you can ignore your roommate when he screams death threats into his television while you’re trying to study (Sorry Megan), but you should really only have to worry about it if they tend to act out aggressively in other facets of their life (Which I don’t, you can relax now)

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Who watches the Watchdogs: how accurate are media reports on video games

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about this blog recently and I just want to say I appreciate all of it.  Some of the best  feedback I’ve gotten has been from people who are self confessed game haters, so it’s really cool that they find my blog interesting and fun to read.

One of the reasons I stated writing this was to change people’s ideas about what being a gamer is all about.  Unfortunately most media coverage about games goes the other route.  Rarely do you hear media outlets praising the achievements of new games, unless they include a gimmick like plastic guitars or motion controls.  Most of the time when ever gaming comes up in the news it’s becuase some one cries foul claiming that games caused a murderer to murder, or a rapist to rape.

So I was really encouraged when I read What They Play, a web site dedicated to helping parents understand the games their kids play did a little digging into how the media reports on games and how accurate their reports were.

Among the most high profile stories are reports linking gaming to school shootings, both Columbine and Virginia Tech while following up on the dubious evidence support these claims. But Topics also range from sex in video games (and how it’s pretty much a non issue) and gaming addiction.

What the web site as a whole, and this article in particular is trying to do, is to remind the public that there is more to video games that what you hear on the news. It just so happens that in these cases the media reports were mostly wrong. Most of ten the problem stems from unconfirmed information that comes out right at the beginning of a story that is never backed up or investigated. It’s really unfortunate becuase it’s the media’s job to make sense of this information for us, but as this article shows, their track record isn’t very good.

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Staying Up all night to earn Trophies that aren’t even real…but ARE!

It’s a bit of a snowpacalypse outside my house today, which makes me wish it was summertime. A time when you can ride bikes in T shirts, or complain about the glare coming in through the window at your TV. Summer also means E3, the annual electronics entertainment expo where all the major gaming companies come together to show off their new toys.

Sony’s press conference last year had an added bonus of having their TV spokesperson, VP of seemingly everything, Kevin Butler. The best part about it was, even though KB is the poster boy for the PS3, he made his speech about what it means to be a gamer of any kind, or system.

“Gaming is having a ridiculously big TV in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment.” or my favourite “Gaming is staying up all night to earn a trophy that isn’t even real … but IS.” It’s that statement that gets me the most. It’s almost embarrassing (ok, IS embarrassing) How much time I’ve put into getting some particular achievements.

So naturally I’m going to have rank them. Here’s my top 5 most memorable achievements based or difficulty, satisfaction for completion, and overall nerdiness of the journey.

A Monument to all your Sins

Game: Halo Reach

This first achievement is the most recent one on the list. It requires beating the excellent, and sometimes devilishly hard campaign on Legendary difficulty by your self. It also holds a special place for me becuase this was the last Halo game made by Bungie. So they made sure to go out with a bang and created one of my favourite campaigns in any shooter I’ve played. It was tough, frustrating, and wholly worth it by the time I destroyed that covenant carrier and allowed the Pillar of Autumn to escape planet Reach with Humanity’s last hope aboard (Nerd Alert!)

Zombie Genocidest

Game: Left 4 Dead

This one has a little bit of background.  This achievement is a nod to another zombie game, Dead Rising.  That game challenged you to take down 53,594 zombies in one play through.  The guys at Valve, not to be outdone, tasked you with taking down 53,595 undead ghouls in the course of your zombie splaying career.  It took some commitment, a lot of pipe bombs and untold machine gun rounds to put em all down.  But it was totally worth it.

Save this Film

Game: Halo 3

“Save this Film” holds a special place for me for two reasons.  First, a perfection in Halo 3 is getting at least 15 kills, and not dying once in a slayer game.  So it’s hard enough to begin with, making this unlock all the more satisfying.  However, this was also the last achievement I needed before getting 100% completion.  Keep in mind, I got this game when I got my xbox two years ago. I finally heard that beautiful “achievement unlocked” pop just a few days before Halo: Reach came out.  It was a nice way to end one game jsut before the final chapter was about to be released.

What are you trying to Prove?

Game: Left 4 Dead

Heading back to L4D for a minute, this little gem asks you to beat every mission in the game on the hardest difficulty.  The difficulty where even the lowly infected zombies can massacre all four survivors in a matter of seconds in you loose your concentration for just a second. That’s not even taking into account the boss infected, it all adds up to some tough missions.  It also kind of reverses the dynamic of the game.  On easier difficulties, it’s the four of you slaying zombies, but on Expert difficulty, you feel like the prey. Unlocking this required a lot of help from my roommate and fellow zombies slayer Jeff, as well as literally leaving some survivors behind as I raced to rescue. not my proudest moment, but c’mon, when the chopper’s here, it’s every man for him self.

Mile High Club

Game: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

The Mile High Club is more than just a dirty joke in CoD 4, it’s a bonus level that was invented to punish anyone who tried to play it.  It tasks you and your team of SAS counter terrorists to clear out an airplane filled to the teets with terrorists in sixty seconds.  And did I mention all these terrorists have it out for you, as in they will only shoot you in the face and never miss.  Once you’ve murdered everyone in sight, you still have to carefully head shot one last terrorist holding a hostage, before parachuting out of the plane just as it explodes.  It was punishing, frustrating and unfair, but once I heard that pop, it felt good to know I was one of the 2.8% of players who actually got this one done.

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