Shacknews - Steve Watts

EA has revised one particularly sticky bit of its account suspension policy, which previously restricted single-player games for bad behavior in multiplayer modes. Under the revised policy, players can still access their campaigns regularly by opting to play offline.

A statement from the company (via GameSpot UK) details how to access your single-player games if your account has been disabled. "For PC games you will need to enable Origin's offline mode to play games with a disabled account," it reads. "Go to the settings tab in Origin (the gear icon) and select Go Offline."

The statement goes on to note that most punishments are temporary, and you can check the length of your suspension by checking out the e-mail address associated with your account.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Trent Oster has been a man possessed since the announcement of Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition. The president of publisher Beamdog has been on Twitter tirelessly answering questions from fans while giving out little unannounced tidbits here and there to the swarming masses.

Among the more interesting items:

And that was just within the last 24 hours. Other tidbits from last week:

Considering his track record, Oster will continue to tweet out the details even before the official announcements are made. So keep watching if you are a fan.

Shacknews - Alan Tsang

Portable first-person shooters haven't had the best reputation. A good number of them appeared on the PSP, but the lack of a second analog stick prevented any chance of widespread critical acclaim. Of course, the Vita now allows for full dual-analog gameplay. Will the upcoming Resistance: Burning Skies be the game that will give on-the-go gamers that console-style FPS experience they've been craving?

At a Sony preview event last week, I had a chance to play the first-ever playable version of Burning Skies' online multiplayer. Playable via Wi-Fi only, the game will include three modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and an as-of-yet announced mode called Survival. The game will support up to 8 players for 4 vs. 4 games as well as 2 vs. 2 games across six maps set in various locales of New York City. As is now standard for online FPS games, players can accumulate XP through kills, with killstreaks offering XP bonuses. Progression allows players to level up characters and unlock new upgrades for their weapons, of course. Voice chat was not available during the demo, but I was told Vita's built-in microphone or Bluetooth headset can be used.

The event featured a relatively straightforward eight-player deathmatch. The game controls quite nicely; the shooting mechanics are responsive and movement controls are tight and fast. And to no one's surprise, the second analog stick improves aiming tremendously and definitely helps to complete the FPS experience. I am not a big fan of huge maps and the one I was placed in was just the right size, especially for an eight-person match.

What I am less enthusiastic about are the touch controls. Some implementations are harmless, like the ability to touch the weapons wheel. Melee is also assigned to the touch screen, with a simple tap. However, other actions, like double tapping the rear touch pad to sprint felt unnatural and awkward. Throwing grenades with the front touch screen may seem fun at first, but ultimately it takes your hand off the main buttons--which can be quite disastrous in practice.

After getting my hands on Burning Skies, I am inclined to agree with Sony. This might just be "the first true FPS experience on a portable console." But, what I've seen is also incredibly bare-bones, offering little innovation and very little content. And while the controls impress, the game's visuals do not, easily missing the standard set by Uncharted: Golden Abyss.

Resistance: Burning Skies will be available on Vita on May 29.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Just in case you're one of those people who need to obsessively check on his or her Battlefield 3 stats while waiting for the bus, EA has released a Battlelog app for iOS devices. The free app is now available, and keeps track of your friends' activity, leaderboards, and news.

The App features list the "full-fledged Battlelog platform." That includes a Battle Feed for notifications when your friends unlock weapons or awards, a Com Center to check who's playing and on what server, your own personal stats, leaderboards, and updates from DICE.

Reviews seem fairly positive for the app, which at the moment is only on iOS devices. The Android store doesn't have its own Battlelog yet, so you'll have to rely on the various third-party stat apps if you happen to use a Droid phone.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

There's good reason to be skeptical of The Amazing Spider-Man. Because it's a licensed movie game, it inherently draws suspicion. But there's even more reason for doubt: it comes from Beenox, whose last game (Spider-Man: Edge of Time), was critically panned. Even worse: this game comes mere months after the release of the last game--and is far more ambitious to boot. So how are we supposed to expect that this new release from Activision isn't just a cash cow?

By throwing Edge of Time under a bus, of course.

An Activision rep tells us that The Amazing Spider-Man has been in development for over two years. Although the Beenox name has been attached to every Spider-Man game since the franchise was annualized by Activision, there are two teams at the studio. Once development on the relatively well-received Shattered Dimensions was wrapped up, that team (lovingly nicknamed the "Amazing" team) moved on to start working on The Amazing Spider-Man. However, with Edge of Time also shipped, "pretty much everyone" at Beenox is working on finishing the game before its planned June release.

With that in mind, maybe there is some hope for the game. And based on an early hands-off demo I attended recently, I'll say that Beenox has a chance of doing right by gamers.

As with most recent movie adapted games, the game is not a direct translation of the events of the movie. In fact, it takes place after the movie, which affords Beenox the ability to introduce additional villains from the Marvel universe, such as The Rhino. The developers are quite pleased with this, as it tasks them with the responsibility of crafting new origin stories for these characters for the rebooted franchise.

Obviously, the biggest draw of The Amazing Spider-Man has to be the ability to free-roam in Manhattan, a feature that's been long-missing in Spider-Man games. The entire city island is available from the beginning of the game (but don't try to go to the outer boroughs--Spider-Man won't let you). It's a decent recreation of the city, with iconic landmarks and locations scattered throughout--but it's still no Grand Theft Auto IV. The city feels less detailed and less "alive."

In addition to a number of collectibles scattered throughout the environment, there will be side missions that pop up whilst swinging through the city. For example, one mini-game has you chasing an escaping vehicle. You must stop the car by landing on its hood and webbing it before it can reach one of the bridges out of town.

While the open world will be a much-appreciated return to form, Beenox is changing up many of the core gameplay elements to make Amazing feel drastically different from previous games. Taking a page from the Batman: Arkham series, the camera is pulled much closer to the character. Combat, for example, looks to be a direct rip of Rocksteady's "FreeFlow" system, where you can easily move from enemy to enemy. Given the success of the Arkham games, that's certainly not a bad model to follow.

In fact, moving around the environment can seem reminiscent of the Arkham games. Stealth is heavily encouraged, and in one sequence I saw, I saw Spider-Man jumping from corner to corner, performing stealth takedowns on unassuming thugs. Through a feature called "Web Rush," Spider-Man can slow down time and scan his environment for interactive objects, such as explosive gas canisters and heavy things that can fall on enemies. Essentially, you too can be swinging around, scaring your enemies for fun.

Web Rush is undoubtedly Beenox's greatest innovation with The Amazing Spider-Man, and it certainly shows a lot of potential, especially outside of combat. When navigating the environment (indoor or outdoor), Web Rush activates a cursor which shows a silhouette of what Spider-Man will do at the pointed spot. No matter where you aim, the game will figure out a way to navigate you to that point "in a way that only Spider-Man can do." For example, you can point at the side of a building, and Spider-Man will swing, run atop a moving bus, jump onto a streetlight, and land on the building. The animation is always dynamically generated, and is definitely impressive.

Without getting hands-on time with the game, it's impossible to gauge if Beenox's latest effort plays well. There's certainly a number of good ideas; Web Rush being only one example. Another nice touch I appreciated: a fake Twitter feed that appears during loading screens. In addition to the typical inane comments you're bound to see online, you'll see how civilians are responding to your actions. It's a cute touch that makes you feel like a greater part of a living world. However, there were still some clear issues with the game: the visuals are rather disappointing, and the dynamically generated Web Rush animations looked a bit unnatural at times.

The Amazing Spider-Man will be available on PS3 and Xbox 360 on June 26th. Activision offered a "no comment" about a possible PC release.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

A sequel to the cult action game Rune may happen after all. So far we only have a few vague teases to go on, but that's at least a sign that developer Human Head is weighing the possibility.

"We are considering a sequel to the cult hit classic Rune!" reads a note on the game's Facebook page. A poll also asks for the preferred platform, and unsurprisingly PC/Mac is in the lead by a wide margin. Consoles are in a distant second, followed by mobile devices in third place. No one wants to play Rune as a web browser game, apparently; it's in fourth place with zero votes.

This doesn't mean we'll see Rune 2, of course, but Human Head must be looking at its next projects as it starts to wrap up Prey 2. Gauging interest is the first step to making it happen, so let them know if you'd plunk down your money for more Rune.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit! is everything that Arkedo's previous games wasn't. In contrast to its handheld puzzle games and cute indie platformers, the tale of a vengeful bunny is crude, outrageously violent, and surprisingly witty.

Watching the game being played at PAX East 2012 and playing it for myself were radically different experiences. The tutorial stage shows our anti-hero Ash, skeletal rabbit and prince of Hell, quickly acquiring a giant circular saw to serve as both his vehicle and primary weapon. Watching others play with this tool looked floaty and imprecise, but controlling it myself made me a believer. The deadly machine controlled responsively and felt completely natural when I was at the helm.

Ash is on a quest to murder over 100 denizens of Hell, who are mocking him after compromising photos were released by his nemesis, Fat Rabbit. In practice, this means that each stage has several special, adorable enemies to gruesomely kill with special death animations, which unlocks new pathways. Arkedo promises unique murder methods for each and every one of these enemies; in the demo that merely boiled down to different forms of timed button presses. The method of activating the grisly deaths may have been simplistic, but I have to give the studio credit for making each kill uniquely cringe-inducing. Think Happy Tree Friends meets Jhonen Vasquez.

Like the vehicle controls, the humor is more than meets the eye. I expected to be turned off by the humor after watching the announcement trailer, but the dialogue between Ash and his faithful servant actually made me smile. Hell Yeah! is clearly invoking the over-the-top spectacle of revenge films, made even more ludicrous by the fact that this one happens to star a demon bunny.

The setting imagines Hell not just as a place of fire and brimstone, but a pulsing, blood-red soaked landscape full of irregular angles and deadly spikes. Over the course of the full game, I can imagine the saturated, vibrant red color making for tired eyes, so I hope the full game will mix up the palette a bit.

Indie platformers are fairly commonplace, but Arkedo has proven itself with smaller projects and is hitting on something special with Hell Yeah! The humor, setting, and sheer fun of shredding hapless minions combine to make one of the more interesting games at PAX East, so it's certainly one to watch when it launches on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this year.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

EA has denied reports of widespread layoffs, after rumors circulated over the weekend that the company was preparing to let go of 500-1,000 positions. Even in its denial, though, EA seems to make room for some amount of job losses as studios and projects shift.

Startup Grind reported that the layoffs would impact 5-11% of the company, and were previously set for last Monday. The report blames lower-than-expected sales of Battlefield 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic for the downsizing.

However, EA has denied the report. "There are no lay-offs as such, we always have projects growing and morphing," the company said in a statement to MCV. "At any given time there are new people coming in and others leaving. EA is growing and hiring and building teams to support the growing demand for digital games and services."

The statement seems very carefully worded, including an "as such" statement that could imply planned layoffs won't be quite as widespread as the report claims. We'll keep an eye out for more developments and update as information becomes available.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Capcom's open-world action-RPG Dragon's Dogma looks jolly interesting, so how splendid that it's getting a demo before launch. That'll arrive on Xbox 360 and PlayStation on Tuesday, April 24, Capcom confirmed today. As mentioned before, it'll let you try two classes across two missions.

The first demo mission is from the prologue, Capcom explains on its blog, sending you through underground tunnels as a Fighter to take on a Chimera. Then there's a mission as the rogue-like Strider class, pitting you against a Griffin in open fields. You can play with the character customization to make your own character and main Pawn (NPC buddy), then import their looks in the main game when it launches.

Dragon's Dogma is scheduled for release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on May 22. Producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi recently told 1UP, "If the PC users out there really are vocal about having this game, then we can definitely consider it." There's a PC support thread on the Capcom forums if you fancy making some noise.

Here's what you can expect from that naughty Chimera:

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Getting older. Taxes. New Mario games on Nintendo hardware. Some things in life are simply inevitable. So, forgive us for not being surprised when Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto revealed that a new Super Mario game will be headed to the company's next home console, the Wii U.

"Mr. Miyamoto confirmed that a new Super Mario Bros. game for the Wii U system will be shown at this year's E3 Expo," a Nintendo spokesperson said.

"We'll have more to announce about our plans for the E3 Expo at a later date," the company told Eurogamer.

The new Mario game will have to showcase the benefit of Wii U's unique tablet-like interface. Other games coming to the Wii U include a new Pikmin title, which Miyamoto claims will "take advantage of the new HD screen resolution."

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