Shacknews - Steve Watts

BioWare is revving up the engines for its next bit of Mass Effect 3 downloadable content, having recently teased it with a pair of screenshots. A title update has now reportedly leaked some more details, including an intriguing multiplayer mode that brings in progress from the single-player campaign.

Eurogamer reports that a Clevernoob forum user data mined the update, which hints at a multiplayer mode that uses your campaign save data to factor in your paragon/renegade values, reputation points, and game progress. The details align with a Reddit leak, which promised co-op story missions, a new co-op mode, four new maps, and harder variations on earth maps.

A greater focus on story would make sense of BioWare's remarks that all eight writers are chipping in for this one. These details aren't confirmed, but BioWare has had several of its Mass Effect 3 DLC packs leaked from data mining in the past. The company is expected to share more details later this month, as we approach the one-year mark since the release of the game.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

CD Projekt RED announced the latest iteration of its open-world RPG engine today, REDengine 3. It will make its debut in the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, as the engine has been crafted specifically to support CD Projekt's style of open-world, non-linear stories popularized in The Witcher 2.

The first engine was used for The Witcher 2, in fact, and the second for its Xbox 360 port. The latest version boasts face and body animation systems, various tricks to make more detailed visuals, and an updated REDkit editor with a focus on building branching quests.

"If we look at RPGs nowadays we find two approaches, one which emphasizes the story but limits the game world and one that builds a vast open-world but hampers and simplifies the story," said CD Projekt head Adam Badowski in the announcement. "With the REDengine 3 we combine the positive aspects of both approaches for the first time, creating an open environment with a complex, multi-thread story. Together with believable characters, a captivating tale and a world where players can roam freely without loading times, we will be able to move gaming to a new level with a realistic feel and full player immersion."

Shacknews - John Keefer

Sony CEO Kaz Hirai's comments about the competition going first in the console wars may have been nothing more than a smokescreen. Sony is teasing "See the future" on the official PlayStation site with an event date of February 20 at 6 p.m. ET.

All indications point to the reveal of the next generation console dubbed Orbis. We've received our invite to the New York City shindig and we'll keep you posted as we learn more.

Shacknews - Tyler J. Smith

Thursday, January 31, 2013 is over with Late Night Computing.

Goodness, it's been awhile since I fired up Starcraft II. I figured there might be a patch or two to download, only to find nearly two gigs of updates. That's....impressive. Still, I'm going to replay through the campaign before Heart of the Swarm comes out in March. It's not the best writing or story, but I'm a sucker for the lore.

News bits:

  • Play Wordament and earn Xbox Live achievements in your web browser, for free! [via Xbox]

  • John Riccitiello of Electronic Arts denies any link between violent video games and "actual violence." [via BBC Technology]

  • What would happen if you were granted a super power? Would you use it for good, or for evil? Researchers attempt to figure out just that. [via Popular Science]

  • The New York Times weathered four separate attacks by Chinese hackers over the last four months as their reporters find that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has silently built a fortune. [via New York Times]

  • As the number of Android apps eclipse the number of iOS apps, which of the two marketplaces host the better quality apps? Find out. [via ReadWriteWeb]

Chatty posts of the moment:

Make sure you log-in and check your filters if you can't see the following:

  • "What are some of the best games out there that don't have violence? Every once in a while I try to come up with a good list of these types of games and they're almost always relegated to puzzle games. That makes me sad as violence is such an easy game mechanic to exploit that it makes people not try for other things." [by Ecks]

  • "Chivalry patch today?! just noticed mine is updating and its a pretty big one, this could be epic :D" [by InfectedSoul]

Nightly file:

    Galaxy in Flames: The Crucible 01.00.00 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. "An HD remake of the always fun Asteroids! Now with missiles and pretty particle effects! The first game in a series of games set in the Galaxy In Flames universe." Download the client for Mac, Linux 32-bit, Linux 64-bit, Windows 32-bit, or Windows 64-bit.

Media:

Star Trek: Online Third Anniversary trailer:

Star Trek: Online celebrates three years of interstellar travel with new ships and missions.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 shows off new gameplay enhancements with a new trailer, Grand Theft Auto V releases a gallery of new screenshots, SimCity shows off its limited edition in new screenshots, and Grid 2 wants you to pre-order with screenshots of exclusive content.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Sony Santa Monica has unleashed the Manticore from God of War: Ascension in a new nine-minute "making of" trailer showing how the massive monster came into being from concept art to animation, and footage dating back to 2010.

Entitled "The Manticore takes Flight," the video chronicles how the team created the first "flying apex predator monster" in the series. Izzy, the game's lead concept artist, talked a bit more about how the creature was created by answering some fan questions on the game's official site.

The game comes out on March 12, exclusively on the PlayStation 3.

Shacknews - Nikole Zivalich

First up, mark your calendars, open world crime fans. Grand Theft Auto 5 has been given an official release date of September 17 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but a fairly long delay from its previously announced spring release. Next, Kratos is coming again to PlayStation 3 in God of War: Ascension on March 12, and he is bringing with him all his previous incarnations in a special Legacy bundle and a limited edition Garnet Red 500GB PlayStation 3. Finally, the original BioShock wasted no time confronting you with bunny-mask wearing psychopaths to dispatch in the crumbled dystopia of Rapture. BioShock Infinite seems to be taking a different tack, letting you explore the flying city of Columbia in a more peaceful setting for a while.

You can also watch this episode on YouTube. And, don't forget to subscribe to get the latest episodes as they go up.

Shacknews - John Keefer

THQ's demise was not something that happened because of bad luck or a changing marketplace, but more a result of a "sea of bad decisions," with the uDraw tablet at or near the top of the list, according to company president Jason Rubin.

"THQ had every chance to survive had it not made massive mistakes," Rubin told MCV UK. "Unfortunately, the mistakes that were made long before I joined, like the incredible losses attached to uDraw, massive wasted capital in the unpublished MMO that was cancelled, sticking with children's and casual titles far after mobile and tablets had killed the business, bad, late, or otherwise inferior titles like Homefront, and a generally haphazard and inefficient approach to deal making, left the company with too much negative hanging on its books."

Those decisions ended in THQ's assets being divided up piecemeal in bankruptcy, ending any hope of that the embattled publisher would emerge from Chapter 11.

"I think that luck plays a role in success and failure, but THQ's decisions and execution were the major reason for its failure," Rubin said. "It would be a cop out to say that bad luck was the predominant force. Could Homefront have caught a nerve and sold 10m copies? It's possible I guess, but probably not without better production. And it's hard to attribute a cancelled MMO to bad luck. That was simply a bad decision in a sea of bad decisions."

Crytek recently opened a new studio filled predominantly with former employees of Vigil, which was unclaimed in the bankruptcy auction. Also, Platinum Games is reportedly interested in the Darksiders franchise, while Take-Two could be picking up the WWE license.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Update: EA Sports says an official announcement is coming on Friday.

Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner, and in addition to parties, cookouts and a Baltimore Ravens victory, this is also the time when new Madden games get announced. And the pregame hype has already begun.

The official site for the Madden NFL franchise (via Polygon) teases a Madden 25, with details coming soon. The game, whether a rebranding of the franchise for the 25th anniversary of the series or just a special edition commemorating the event, already has a release date of August 27. If an actual rebranding, it would make future titles in the franchise a bit awkward. Madden 25 NFL 14 sounds like a game score.

Madden NFL 13 was a financial success for EA, and the company said during its earnings call yesterday that the franchise is one of the top 10 franchises in its current stable of games.

A spokesman for EA Sports said an official announcement will be coming tomorrow.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Killzone: Mercenary doesn't have to do much in order to be the best first person shooter on Vita. The bar has been set so low with Resistance: Burning Skies and Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified that merely being competent would make Mercenary best-of-class on Sony's struggling handheld.

Well, Guerrilla Games has gone above and beyond that bar. Killzone: Mercenary is absolutely gorgeous and is arguably the best-looking game on Vita so far. It's also pretty fun.

It is unquestionable that Mercenary's biggest selling point is its graphics. The Killzone games have always been lookers on PS3, and it's amazing how much of that experience has been translated onto the Vita. Guerrilla says it's the same engine from the PS3, including all the visual tricks you'd expect from a home console game: HDR, dynamic lights, volumetric fog, etc. It's not quite a PS3, though. Character models obviously use less polygons, and there are fewer enemies on screen at any given time. While it may make the battlefield seem less hectic and chaotic than in Killzone 2 and 3, it's nonetheless very impressive.

Another selling point of Mercenary: it actually has a campaign mode. Guerrilla promises it will be about an 8-10 hour single player adventure, one with a continuous narrative that goes through some of the big moments in the Killzone universe, such as the liberation of Vekta and the invasion of Helghan. While the title suggests a disjointed series of replayable missions a la Black Ops Declassified and Unit 13, I was told that Killzone is not quite like that. In fact, in one of the levels I played, I was escorting a child--suggesting that key NPCs will make the story progress in meaningful ways.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Killzone game if it didn't have online multiplayer. Mercenary's offering isn't quite as robust as the console game, limited to 4v4 matches across six maps and three modes. One of the returning modes is Warzone, which has teams going after alternating objectives over five rounds. This proved to be a fan-favorite on PS3, but will it be as fun when only four players can be on each team?

Vita's dual analog sticks are put to good use, and I found it rather easy to jump into the game. However, there was one quirk: running and crouching are both mapped to circle, and I often found myself crouching when I wanted to sprint and sprinting when I wanted to crouch. There's definitely a learning curve here, but I'm sure there could've been a more elegant solution (perhaps using the rear touch for one of those functions?).

Thankfully, Mercenary doesn't rely too heavily on gimmicks like most Vita-exclusive games do. The touch screen is used, but quite sparingly. When meleeing enemies, you'll have to swipe the screen based on an arrow that appears. I actually quite like this addition, as it no longer guarantees a kill when you're near other enemies. If you're too slow (or swipe incorrectly), you're left vulnerable. Some of the gadgets from your "Van-Guard" may also take advantage of the hardware--but these don't seem to distract from the core gameplay. These tools, which recharge as you kill more enemies, are reminiscent of the remote drones you control in Black Ops 2. One particular one I used let me fly around, lock onto enemies, and claw at their skulls (ouch!).

One concern I have about Mercenary is that each level might be too long. Unlike Vita's other FPS games, these are not "bite-sized" missions at all. Given how lengthy they are, it's a good thing that Vita has such an excellent sleep mode. There are some concessions made to increase replayability. For example, once you complete a mission, you'll unlock "special contracts" that will have you performing specific actions during replays. You can also go for a higher score. Every action, every kill earns you cash--and cooler kills (like stealth takedowns and headshots) give you a lot more money. Stylish play will help you earn more money and unlock better gear faster. Best of all, money earned in single and multiplayer will go to the same pool.

The brief time I've spent with Killzone: Mercenary is, for better and for worse, a more robust experience than any other FPS I've played on Vita so far. Given the dearth of software on Sony's handheld, many are likely to settle for whatever they can get their hands on. However, Guerrilla Games' next has the potential to be much more than adequate-enough--it could even be great.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Now that the holiday season has run its course, the Indie Royale bundles are a little less festive and a little more abstract. Such is the case with the "Evolved" bundle, which seems to be a thin excuse to use adorable turtle hatchlings as its banner. But it still packages together five indie games and some soundtracks, so no complaints.

The bundle includes Unmechanical, The Path, Krater, Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory, and OIO, along with soundtracks for The Path, Krater, and Sugar Cube. The current minimum is hovering around the $5 range, but paying more than $8 will also net you the album Slipstream by Cold Storage.

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