Eurogamer


Discounts on Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas DLC make up the third day of Microsoft's 12 days of Christmas promotion.


The following add-ons have been reduced down to 400 Points a piece, but hurry - the offer changes tomorrow morning:

Fallout 3:

  • Mothership Zeta
  • Operation Anchorage
  • Broken Steel

Fallout: New Vegas:

  • Honest Hearts
  • Lonesome Road
  • Dead Money
  • Old World Blues
Eurogamer


UK TV network Sky has launched a new two-part show devoted to 3D gaming.


Titled 3D Gaming Review and presented by Eurogamer's very own Mr Johnny Minkley, it debuted on Sky 3D earlier today. It does pretty much what it says on the tin, picking apart the latest 3D-enabled releases, in full 3D.


Games featured include Super Mario 3D Land, Uncharted 3, Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Batman: Arkham City.


You can catch it again on 24th and 27th December and then throughout January.


"Gamers are early adopters of new technology so it's no surprise to see that video games play a big part in driving interest in stereoscopic 3D in home entertainment, just as they did with HD," commented Minkley.


"Sky 3D is the perfect platform for showcasing 3D gaming where it belongs: shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in TV and film.


"To my knowledge, Sky is the first major broadcaster to highlight it in this way, capturing 3D footage directly from consoles to show games as they're meant to be seen. It's still early days for the technology in gaming, so this is a timely opportunity to give people a taste of what 3D can bring to interactive entertainment."

Eurogamer


PC shooter ArmA 2 gets a massive Christmas update today encompassing all expansions and DLC, Bohemia Interactive has announced.


New additions include an FXAA anti-aliasing mode for Operation Arrowhead, alongside a number of performance tweaks and bug fixes.


See a list of selected highlights below.


Bohemia's FPS originally launched to critical acclaim back in 2009 - see Eurogamer's ArmA 2 review for details. A sequel is due out some time in 2012.

Operation Arrowhead patched to 1.60

  • New features: FXAA Anti-Aliasing mode, user-definable memory allocators, new scripting commands, new commandline options
  • Multiplayer is much smoother, no more warping, includes a number of fixes, optimizations and improvements
  • Netcode, VON and dedicated server fixes plus configuration additions in place
  • Singleplayer received visual states smoothing and prediction (notable e.g. on distant units)
  • AI is improved, especially (but not only) in combat, AI has received numerous bug fixes
  • Aircraft & Helicopter simulation received slight improvements
  • ARMA 2, ARMA 2: OA, ARMA 2: EW campaigns and stand-alone missions received special treatment to get rid of most annoying bugs
  • Numerous other small bugs/glitches fixed

Arma 2 patched to 1.11

  • Numerous bug fixes, multiplayer code tweaks and mission fixes
  • ARMA 2, ARMA 2: OA, ARMA 2: EW campaigns and stand-alone missions received special treatment to get rid of the most annoying bugs

Arma 2: Free patched to 1.11

  • MP Code brought into line with Arma 2 for compatibility

BAF patched to 1.03 and PMC patched to 1.02

  • Several stability and game saves fixes as well as mission tweaks, also new BAF missions included.
Eurogamer


All Zombies Must Die!, the spiritual successor to developer doublesix's 2009 PSN effort Burn Zombie Burn!, launches on Xbox Live Arcade on 28th December.


It will set you back 800 Microsoft Points.


A PlayStation Network release follows on 4th January, but there's no mention of a date for PC gamers.


As you can tell from the festive-themed trailer below, it's a four-player top-down shooter with a few RPG trimmings, such as character leveling and weapon crafting.


"All Zombies Must Die! has taken twin-stick shooters to another level with persistent RPG elements, awesome new weapons and all new crazy zombies," commented creative director Jim Mummery.


"All Zombies Must Die! adds its own unique ingredients to the genre, with weapons-based arena combat, weapons crafting, character development and a whole lot of questing, all mixed in with a huge portion of zombie action."

Eurogamer


NES games are the latest format to be added to the 3DS eShop in Japan.


As reported by Siliconera, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda on its download service this week priced at ¥500 (around £4).


Of course, Nintendo offered 3DS early adopters 10 complimentary NES games as part of the compensation package following the drastic hardware price cut back in July. However, until now the general population have not been able to get their Famicom fix.


There's no word yet on when NES titles will be available in Europe, nor whether Nintendo intends to offer any of the GBA games also given away in the Ambassador scheme at some point as well.

Eurogamer


2011 was the best year for games since 2007, BioShock creator Ken Levine believes.


It's "a year to be proud of," the Irrational Games chief told Eurogamer.


"I always make time for games," Levine said.


"That's important. If you're not playing games you're compromising your ability as a game developer to make good games.


"It's been an interesting year. It's the best year since - and I'm not just saying this because of my game - 2007. A lot of great games, like Portal, came out that year. It's the best year in a very long time.


"There have been a ton of games I've been playing. I play more games right now mostly because there's just so much good stuff to play."


2011 has seen the release of Portal 2, Uncharted 3, Skyward Sword, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Batman: Arkham City, Gears of War 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Levine's favourite: Skyrim.


The critical acclaim these games received has been met by blockbuster sales - with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 breaking not just video game sales records, but entertainment launch records.


2007 also set sales records and saw the release of a number of critically acclaimed games, including the ground-breaking Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Bungie's Halo 3 and Super Mario Galaxy, and the introduction of a number of new IPs, including Valve's Portal (bundled with The Orange Box), Mass Effect and, of course, Levine's own BioShock.


"[2011] is a year to be proud of our industry," Levine, currently working on 2012's BioShock Infinite, continued.


"It's a year to be proud of the Uncharted guys. It's a year to be proud of Epic. It's a year to be proud of the Call of Duty guys. It's a year to be proud of everybody because people are delivering this year in a way the industry hasn't delivered in a very long time."

Eurogamer


EA will this weekend knock 50 per cent off the PC version of Battlefield 3 at digital platform Origin.


Under the promotion the DICE shooter will cost £20. It normally costs £40 on Origin.


The offer begins on Saturday and ends on Christmas day, 25th December.


Today, though, launches EA's Origin "buy two or more selected titles and get 50 per cent off" promotion.


The games included in the offer are Crysis 2, Alice: Madness Returns, Need for Speed: The Run, Sims 3 and up to three expansion packs (including Sims 3 Pets), FIFA 12, Battlefield 3, Mass Effect 2 Digital Deluxe and Dragon Age 2.


This offer ends on 8th January 2012.

Eurogamer


One of the less popular trends of 2011 was the ramping up of the retailer-exclusive in-game extra. You know the sort of the thing - pre-order a title from Game and get a couple of extra character skins, choose HMV and get some weapon unlocks, or give your money to Zavvi and get early access to a map.


Depending on where you stand, it's either a nice bit of added value or a nuisance that prevents fans experiencing absolutely everything a game has to offer. Until recently it's been fairly easy to ignore. But things took a left turn with the release of Batman: Arkham City earlier this year, when UK supermarket giant Tesco secured a significant slab of DLC content all for themselves - a separate set of missions called Joker's Carnival Challenge Map. A sign of things to come, perhaps?


With that in mind we approached a number of UK retailers, publishers and developers to find out more about the process, why it happens and whether gamers are doomed to suffer as a result.


First things first, it's worth noting that almost every retailer we approached declined to comment. Read into that what you will. However, Tesco's games buying manager, Jonathan Hayes, did offer the supermarket giant's perspective, insisting that it's just a way to offer customers a little more for their money and incentive to commit to a pre-order.


"Retailer-exclusive content is all about adding great value to the customer," he said. "If you can work with suppliers then you can give the customer something that is really important to them and rewards them for ordering before the release date."


Hayes added that he had some sympathy with gamers complaining that they can't access all of a game's available content, but pointed out that in most cases that content eventually becomes available to all.


"I can see why that may frustrate customers," he conceded. "Sometimes you will be able to get all of the available content by working through the game. By having different retailer exclusives you are offering the customer a choice of which added element to have first.


"However, there was on offer on Red Dead [Redemption] that gave a selected number of retailers extra content which was free to the customer. However, they then also offered all of the content in one pack which cost an extra £5. In the future this may be a model that is looked at again if it is clear that it is this that customers want."


A separate source close to UK retail, who wished to remain nameless, suggested retailers have a rather less altruistic motive in offering customers these added extras. Essentially, times are tough on the high street and retailers need all the help they can get making their particular offering stand out from the competition.


"They need to make sales and they need to offer a unique package to be able to do that," said the source. "It's a difficult market at the moment. Prices are high. People don't want to spend their money. So you have to offer them something they can't get anywhere else."


Our source added that that these additional scraps of content are now an integral part of the development process for most big games and are factored in at a very early stage.


"When DLC first came out it was bits of the game that didn't make it in. Now people plan DLC before they've even got past the pre-production stage. DLC can now be offered as exclusives.


"Although they're planning for DLC, you can plan for extras, such as Avatar props, or Themes. You can throw in tiny little extra bits that are hardly any money but offer that unique value for each retailer. You'll find the bigger titles will now start to do more and more of this extra content.


"It's going to make the product more attractive, depending on what you're after. It's a way of each retailer getting their own version of a game, but it's at no cost to the publisher or the developer because this is already stuff they've planned in."


Andy Payne, UK games industry veteran and boss of distributor Mastertronic, argues that, for the most part, this is all a good thing. It's an opportunity for retailers to maximise their potential profit, while gamers get a more diverse marketplace in which they can choose the type of content they want.


"If you look at the history of all this it goes back to packaged goods in a big way," he told Eurogamer. "Retailers have always tried to get an advantage on each other by having different sorts of offerings outside of price, whether it be a special edition or a limited edition or some kind of added value. So crudely, it might be that retailer A gives away a T-shirt, retailer B gives away a poster and retailer C gives away a set of false teeth. And I think that has lead to more specific digital offerings.


"I think it's a really good idea as it helps the retailer and it should help the consumer, and that's healthy. It keeps the consumer concerned in terms of the choice.


"One offering, one SKU sold at one price probably leads to quite a bland world," he continued. "I think from a consumer's perspective that's not great, and from a content creator's perspective that's not great. So having different ways of at least making the product different and having differentiation between retailers can only be a good thing.


"The proviso is always that the signposting in terms of how customers find this stuff has got to be done properly."


Payne highlighted another reason why gamers might want to give retailers a little slack. If it wasn't for these digital purchase incentives, the only way for retailers to compete would be on price. Great, you might think. Well, think of the developers making the games you love to play. They are the ones who suffer in that scenario and the less return they see, the fewer risks they'll take on innovative content.


"If it's a single, one size fits all offering - a black Ford or whatever - then it's a race to the bottom in term of pricing, and that can only be bad news for the content creators," he pointed out.


Similarly, he argued, it's in all of our interests to support traditional high street retailers and ensure the industry doesn't go digital-only. Any initiative that helps them out can only be a good thing.


"It's important to keep things fresh and interesting," said Payne.


"I think that without bricks and mortar retailers playing a part in the way that games are sold and marketed it would be a worse world for us all. If it's entirely digital then discovery definitely becomes more challenging.


"There is a place for the retailer and these kinds of innovative ways forward will help retailers retain their market share and maybe even grow it."


The bad news for dedicated games retailers - and consumers who value the broader range of stock they offer - is that deals such as Tesco's Arkham City offering, in which supermarkets get the nod ahead of Game and the like, could become the norm.


"Warner Bros. was trying to make a statement by going with Tesco as the first announcement," explained our retail source.


"I think they went with Tesco just to say, we don't have to go to the traditional retailer route. We'll go with who can do the best for our product. Supermarkets will only list and showcase the biggest games. They have a top 10, but it's the top 10 games they sold last week. They will have the biggest games out this week and any leftover stock they will have on the bottom two shelves.


"If you go with Tesco on this particular product, you know you're going to reach a particular audience at a particular time and you will reach somewhere in the region of two to three million people across the country, which obviously has a lot more input in terms of return of investment than it would if you go with Game. You would be lucky if you had half a million people walk into every Game store across the country."


God of War creator and current Twisted Metal director David Jaffe offered a developer's point of view on the debate. He echoed Payne's suggestion that retailers and publishers deserve some leeway in such a testing financial climate.


Jaffe insisted that encouraging customers to pre-order a game is more important than ever, and these little digital incentives are a big help in achieving that end.


"I'm torn on that. I get what you're saying, but pre-orders are important. That's what a lot of fans don't see," he said, when asked whether he sympathised with disgruntled gamers.


"Pre-orders really drive the success of games now. My understanding of it - and this is me speaking as a layperson - is that the pre-order numbers end up motivating other stores for their own pre-orders.


"You are seeing more gamers coming into the industry but they're not necessarily coming into the $60 dollar industry," he continued.


"They're renting from RedBox for a buck a night or they're playing an iOS game for 99 cents. The $60 gamer is not necessarily expanding. Because of that, there's a lot of things that the people who make and finance these games have to do in order to hopefully guarantee a profit or at least get their money back from these huge investments.


"If one of those things they have to do is motivate other retailers to pre-order more based on where the pre-sales are, it just has to be done. Especially when those retailers are making a lot of money and fans are getting great deals on used games that the developer and publisher isn't seeing.


"I know, I know, you're probably going to get 1000 comments on that, with people going 'oh, developers are f****** greedy'. Dude, I'm not greedy. C'mon. My mortage isn't paid up, I've got to figure out how my kids are going to go to college.


"This idea that we're greedy developers - no, I'm sorry. It's a free society, I'm a fan of regulated capitalism. We all want to do well for our efforts but the idea is that we're having to, as an industry, adjust. There are used games, there are rental games - that's where you see the rise.


"The games industry gets pushed on all the time like we're just a bunch of greedy f**** because we're trying to adjust to the fact that if we don't make these changes a lot of us are going to go out of business."


It's hard to say where things go from here. Are character skins and weapon unlocks just the tip of the iceberg? Will, say, Street Fighter 5 split fighters over five different SKUs, or Battlefield 4 divvy up its maps between Amazon, Play, Game et al? Neither retailers nor publishers were willing to share how they see things developing.


However, Andy Payne did offer one note of reassurance for those gamers fearing the worst. If a publisher does something you don't like, you can always vote with your wallet.


"Again it comes down to the customer making the decision. If Capcom decides to go down that route and they feel that route is a fair route and the sum total is that the product sells for the same price as it's always been for a full edition, then that's great.


"However, if it's wildly different then customers will go 'I'm not going down that route as it doesn't appeal to me. Yes, I might want Street Fighter 5, but actually I might go and do something else.'


"That's the risk that any content creator takes - if they try and slice the salami too many times and take the consumer for a ride then the consumer won't play. They'll say we can't afford to do this and someone else out there is giving us an alternative product so that's what we'll go with."

Eurogamer


BioShock 2 launches on Mac in Janaury 2012 as a boxed game and a download - nearly two years after it launched on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.


The Mac edition, courtesy of Mac specialist publisher Feral Interactive, includes a separate multiplayer game, The Fall of Rapture, set prior to BioShock. You play a mutated test subject for plasmid manufacturer Sinclair Solutions. Yummy.


BioShock 2 on Mac costs £24.95 in the UK, €29.95 in Europe and $34.95 in the US. Expect it to be sold online from the usual subjects, the Mac App Store and Feralinteractive.com.


The minimum system requirements are: 2.0 GHz Intel Mac with at least 4GB RAM; Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, and 256MB of graphics memory.


The following graphics cards are not supported: ATI X1xxx series, ATI 2400, NVIDIA 9400, NVIDIA 7xxx series and Intel GMA series.


The following cards require require 4GB of system RAM: NVIDIA 320M and Intel HD 3000.

Eurogamer


Poor Kirby. Mass Attack has the dubious honour of being Nintendo's last DS effort as the developer ditches the format for platforms new. Released without fanfare at a busy time a couple of months ago, this DS swansong slipped by almost unnoticed - by our reviews department, anyway.


But, in 2011's last days, it's time to set that right and salute a fitting send-off for the great handheld. Because those who do pick up one final game for the ageing device will find a showcase for some of Nintendo's best uses of the DS touch screen.


European gamers have never really taken to Kirby, yet 2011 could have been his year. Mass Attack is one of three games released in the past 12 months to star the pink puffball, alongside Wii adventures Epic Yarn and Return to Dreamland. Nintendo even saw fit to give Kirby his own anime channel on the Wii this summer. And while Return to Dreamland was a step back to the series' enemy-swallowing staples, Epic Yarn offered an imaginative take.


Mass Attack takes a similarly tangential approach, dividing Kirby into a flock of 10 smaller clones and tasking players with marshalling their Kirby collective to swarm enemies en masse.


Like Kirby's first DS outing Canvas Curse (some six years ago, how time has flown), gameplay is entirely controlled with the stylus. Mass Attack won't even let you past the start screen with a button press.


You can tap the screen to direct your Kirbys, a bit like Animal Crossing, or double tap to make them run. Tapping on an enemy or obstacle causes your Kirby group to attack, while individual Kirbys can be flicked into hard-to-reach spots. You can also gather your Kirby cluster up and move them as one, allowing them to float over obstacles for a limited time.


There's a decent variety of enemies, with foes that must be attacked from a certain angle to avoid spines, or that can only be fought in short bursts, your Kirby crew needing to be recalled to safety with a prompt tap of the stylus.


Kirby is strictly vegetarian this time. By munching on fruit dropped by downed enemies you can regularly max out a points bar, which then bestows another Kirby for your pack. You can have up to ten Kirbys in total at any one time, with further fruit bonuses then converted into points.


Kirby's initial segmentation comes during the game's opening cinematic at the hands of evil sorcerer Necrodus. I have always imagined this is how the Kirby race reproduces, each member's cheerful round-bodied blob splitting asexually as if it were a wriggling single-celled organism under a microscope. Instead, Necrodus' magic means that players start off the game with just a single Kirby, much weaker than his usual form, meaning you'll need to quickly amass a healthy brood.


Players move from level to level on a Mario-style world map, each course coming with an entry requirement of a certain number of collected Kirbys. Initially it is easy to corral a full quotient, but as the levels grow harder it is easy to lose a straggler or two along the way.


When hurt, a Kirby will turn from pink to blue. If that Kirby is harmed again it will then perish and float off-screen as a winged Kirby angel. Flicking another member of your troupe to rescue said spirit will revive the Kirby, albeit just in his damaged blue form. This mechanic adds a welcome layer to the fairly simple platform levels, making traversing the later trap-filled courses perilous.


At a time when Mario games are getting Super Guide features and invincible Tanuki suits, Mass Attack is comparatively unforgiving. There are no check point flags, and if you fail a level at its boss, you'll have to do the whole thing again from scratch.


This is especially troublesome when you have risked life and pudgy limb attempting to snatch the level's collectable coins, devilishly secreted throughout courses in a New Super Mario Bros. manner. There are varying numbers for each level, but every one holds a special rainbow-coloured version, and you'll need every one of these to progress through the game's final world.


Collecting coins, and indeed replaying levels to hunt out the ones you've missed, might not appeal to all. But acquiring the Mass Attack's selection of mini-games, unlocked individually after amassing various coin amounts, is a huge incentive.


There's Brawlball, a competent Kirby pinball game with levels and bosses that span the hero's history. Or Dash Course, a sort of Dance Dance Revolution affair where you must hit the right on-screen symbols to run.


Even more accomplished is turn-based RPG Kirby Quest, where your Kirby posse grows and fights by launching correctly timed attacks. Then - firmly reaching the level of quality where I would happily spend good money to buy this separately from the eShop - there's Strato Patrol EOS, a lengthy Kirby-themed shmup spread across six levels. It's strewn with cameos, including, in a rare transmedia reference, the villainous Customer Service from the anime.


The selection is definitely more hit than miss, although there are a few stinkers. Kirby Curtain Call, for instance, where you are tasked with counting the number of on-screen Kirby characters hidden amongst a hoard of other clutter. But there are plenty more extras to uncover. Mass Attack includes a large list of achievement-style Awards, unlocked for fulfilling various criteria. There are also many, many hours to be had accomplishing the best rank for each level.


Gaming platforms rarely go out with a bang. But the DS, at least, can end its Nintendo-developed life with its head held high. 'Best of 2011' lists may star Mario and Zelda, and rightly so, but that's no reason to ignore a strong effort from one of Nintendo's second-tier heroes in this little gem.

8
/
10

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