Shacknews - Steve Watts

(Continued from Dawnguard Diaries: Plight of the Lizard Wizard)

I accepted Lord Harkon's offer, and he came at me like a bolt of lightning. Everything went fuzzy and dark, and I woke up in a part of Volkihar Keep that I didn't recognize. Harkon was waiting for me, apparently having watched me sleep. Vampires are creepers, you know. He guided me through my vampire powers: the ability to change forms, turn to a swarm of bats, and so on. Truth be told, I was really hoping that my vampire form would be some sort of lizard-vampire, but alas I look like any run-of-the-mill Vampire Lord.

Harkon also explained that feeding on humans will sate my new-found hunger, but take away the strength that grows from it. Feeding on vampires, on the other hand, enhances my powers. It seems a little short-sighted for a small, power-hungry clan to have cannibalism perks, but I shrug it off. Surely no vampires will try to feed on me. I'm all gamey and lizardy.

He tasked me with using a special chalice, to fill with an underground red spring and the blood of a deceased vampire. At this rate, it seems like the Dawnguard could just leave us alone and then take out whichever one is left standing. This chalice is said to enhance the powers of the vampires, so whatever Harkon has planned must be big. Harkon also mentioned, offhandedly, that his ex-wife is the one to have taken his daughter. I have a sneaking suspicion I'll be meeting the ol' ball-and-chain.

As I explored the cave, I toyed around with my Vampire Lord form. Each time I triggered it, it's as if I was looking outside my body. I was powerful, especially when hovering above ground, but my movements felt a little more awkward. Worse yet, when I would try to revert back to my lizard state, I would turn to a swarm of bats before realizing how to conjure up the spell to turn me back.

After filling the chalice, a few vampire up-starts tried to kill me. How convenient! I needed some blood anyway. After dispatching them handily, I reported back to Harkon. Apparently this chalice mission was to enhance our collective vampire powers, so we can darken the sun. Wait, aren't we going to have a serious food shortage when all the humans die? But Lord Harkon's mind is made up, and I'm not the leader of the coven. I can only hope my cold Argonian blood doesn't mean I freeze to death in record time.

I rejected the monster's offer, and my eyes were filled with blue light. I woke in a haze just outside the Keep -- apparently he was good to his word, at least enough to tell his followers not to snack on the easy prey unconscious outside. I'm not sure exactly what's happening that coven, but I just delivered them a vampire princess, and I'm almost certain she was holding an Elder Scroll.

Uh oh.

I sped back to Fort Dawnguard to report to Isran, their leader. Before I could step in the door, however, the castle was attacked by vampires. Isran concluded that they're getting more bold, and my revelations about the Elder Scroll only reconfirmed his suspicions. He gave me a verbal drubbing about not taking out any vampires while I was in their castle, and was probably more than a little unreasonable about my odds against a dozen or so blood-suckers. But eventually he relented and turned his thoughts to strategy.

Obviously, we needed more Dawnguard soldiers. He asked me to track down two old friends of the clan: Gunmar and Sorine. I found Gunmar easily enough. Using the crossbow provided by Isran, I helped him stalk and kill a wild bear in exchange for his allegiance. Four bears, actually. I was a little indiscriminate with my bear killing, to be frank. On the bright side, I have a lot of pelts now.

On my way to Sorine, the sun rose and my blood began to boil. This day just keeps going from bad to worse. In Dimhollow Crypt, I must have sustained a bite without realizing it. I shrugged off the hunger for blood for the time being, and tracked down Sorine. After some cajoling (and help finding some missing mechanized parts), she agreed to join the Dawnguard too.

We all met with Isran at Fort Dawnguard, and he used some kind of incantation to check if we were vampires. The man is nothing if not thorough. Also, probably a little paranoid. He discovered my vampirism straightaway, but (thankfully) didn't murder me on the spot. Instead, he gave me one more chance: go find a healer and be cured, to prove I would be loyal and, more importantly, safe in the Dawnguard.

Shacknews' ongoing Dawnguard Diaries follow Steve Watts' journey through Skyrim's "Dawnguard" downloadable content. It was played on a retail Xbox 360 copy of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, with a DLC code provided by the publisher.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Early access to the MMO The Secret World has opened today, letting those who pre-ordered jump in sooner than later. If you aren't a member of that exclusive club, you can still pre-order before the proper July 3 launch date and get in early.

A brief beta test just ended, but if you didn't make it into that and want to pay your way into the game you can now. The MMO market is a bit overstuffed lately, but developer Funcom is hoping that a modern world with a clever mythical hook will attract players where various others have fallen short.

"With 'The Secret World' we are showing gamers as well as the gaming industry that MMOs can be taken into new, exciting directions and that innovation in this genre is definitely not dead," said Funcom SVP of marketing Morten Larssen. "Judging from the fantastic feedback we have already received from hundreds of thousands of beta testers, innovation is clearly the way forward and Funcom is excited to be breaking new ground."

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

While many scoffed at Battlefield 3's late-arriving competitor to Call of Duty Elite, it seems to have worked quite splendidly for the publisher. More than 800,000 players have signed up for Premium in its first two weeks of availability, EA Games' Patrick Soderlund revealed.

Although Premium less a "service" like Elite and more of a DLC Season Pass, the $50 asking price does include a lot of content. Namely, Premium includes access to over $75 worth of content, making it a "value" for hardcore fans of the series.

Speaking to USA Today, Soderlund said that "we are very pleased with the performance so far." When asked if this strategy is something EA will pursue with future games, he said: "We're actually only two weeks into it, so it's a little early to tell how this is going to pay off. It certainly it looks very promising right now."

Call of Duty Elite currently has over two million paying subscribers, a number which took about six months to reach.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Sure, the rest of the world is waiting for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, but Mac gamers will finally be able to get their hands on the original Treyarch shooter later this year. It will be the first Mac Call of Duty since the original Modern Warfare. Neither Modern Warfare 2 and 3 were ever ported to OS X.

Mac specialist publisher Aspyr Media is handling the port, and is aiming to have it available at both retail and online later this fall.

The initial announcement doesn't reveal a price of minimum spec requirements. However, Aspyr's port of Call of Duty 4 retails for $40 (currently "on sale" for $20).

Curiously, it appears the numerous DLC packages released following Black Ops' launch may not be included with this years-late re-release. In a separate bullet point, Aspyr notes that "all four packs of Call of Duty: Black Ops DLC are scheduled to arrive on the Mac later this year. More details to be released soon."

Shacknews - Garnett Lee

After visiting with its designer last week, Spec Ops: The Line stands for inspection. Adam Sessler and Paul Semel join Jeff and Garnett in the discussion that looks at the game both on its surface as a shooter and its underlying ambitions to seriously address the carnage of a "heroic," one-man rampage. Along with the discussion of violence, the conversation also turns to the sustainability of the big-budget console game. Halo 4's commitment to episodic content and the demise of Radical Entertainment lead the news discussions. And of course, it all wraps up on Finishing Moves.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 119: 06/29/2012

Subscription Links:

Here's a handy pop-up player so you can listen from right here on the page. Let us know how it works for you.

If you're viewing this in the GameFly application, you can play Weekend Confirmed Episode 119 directly.

Weekend Confirmed comes in four segments to make it easy to listen to in segments or all at once. Here's the timing for this week's episode:

    Show Breakdown:

    Round 1 00:00:38 â€" 00:30:19

    Whatcha Been Playing Part 1 00:30:58 â€" 01:01:38

    Whatcha Been Playing Part 2 01:02:26 â€" 01:31:24

    Listener Feedback/Front Page News 01:32:33 â€" 02:00:30

Jeff Cannata can also be seen on The Totally Rad Show. They've gone daily so there's a new segment to watch every day of the week!

Follow the Weekend Confirmed crew on Twitter, too!

Weekend Confirmed @WeekendConfirmd

Garnett Lee @GarnettLee

Jeff Cannata @jeffcannata

Jeff Mattas @JeffMattas

Adam Sessler @AdamSessler

Paul Semel @PaulSemel

Remember to join the Official Facebook Weekend Confirmed Page and add us to your Facebook routine. We'll be keeping you up with the latest on the show there as well.

Original music in the show by Del Rio. Get his latest Album, The Wait is Over on iTunes. Check out more, including the Super Mega Worm mix and other mash-ups on his ReverbNation page or Facebook page, and follow him on twitter @delriomusic.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The PlayStation 3 Move Racing Wheel is coming to market this fall, and Sony has detailed the peripheral and some of its supported games. It will launch this fall for $39.99. You can use it to race through the upcoming LittleBigPlanet Karting, as well as already-released titles like Gran Turismo 5, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Burnout Paradise, and Motorstorm Apocalypse.

We first caught wind of the peripheral with a patent, but it looked too bizarre to be a reality. Then Sony surprised us by announcing it formally at E3. Check out the video tour below for a look at the wheel in action.

Shacknews - Paul Semel

There's a cliché about real estate that says it's all about "location, location, location." As it turns out, it's true for games as well. Take Spec Ops: The Line, a modern military third-person shooter set in Dubai after that Middle Eastern city has been devastated by a massive (and still recurring) sandstorm. While its gameplay is solid, it's also nothing we haven't seen before. But it's where the game is set, and how that changes the vibe of the gun battles, that make this more engaging than similar shootouts.

Set six months after the initial storm, you lead a three-man squad into the city to find some fellow soldiers who may or may not have survived the storm. But after being ambushed by some refugees who think you're the bad guys, you quickly realize something is amiss.

It is here, during the first encounter, that you'll notice how the game's mechanics feel familiar. You can duck for cover, have regenerating health, and can even command members of your squad to shoot specific enemies. Even the way the buttons are configured will feel familiar to anyone who plays shooters on a regular basis.

What makes this first battle, and some that follow, feel unique is the setting. The ambush happens on a highway riddled with broken cars and dead bodies. But it's also full of sand dunes and a bright sun that almost gives this a look of a day at the beach, and the contrast between the violent and harrowing gun battles and the summer-style setting makes this feel like it's not just another shootout at the oh-this-again corral.

Something similar happens when you get into an encounter on the top of a skyscraper. Again, mechanically, it's nothing we haven't played before, but being that high up on a clearly damaged building gives these moments a rather precarious feel. Similarly, when you're shooting it out during a vicious sandstorm, and visibility is cut for both you and your enemies, it improves what could've been a rote moment by giving it an unnerving sense of uncertainty.

It's just too bad that these moments don't happen more often. For a lot of the game, you're battling it out inside damaged buildings, some of which have make-shift shelters. In these moments, Spec Ops feels like just another post-apocalyptic shooter. Sure, a good post-apocalyptic shooter -- since the gun battles are frantically fun -- but another post-apocalyptic shooter all the same.

It's not just the locations that set Spec Ops apart, however. There are times in the game when you'll have to decide how far you're willing to go to complete your mission. At one point, for instance, you have the option to use a weapon that will eliminate your enemies rather quickly, but also rather inhumanely. However, the game doesn't gloss over the consequences of your actions. Instead, it shows you, in vivid detail, exactly what you've done. It even has one of your squad, who disagrees with your decision, bring it up again later in the game.

It's a move that some will feel is bold, others will feel is manipulative, while those who don't like being reminded of the human cost of war will feel like they don't want to play this game anymore. But as someone who knows that it's just a game, that I didn't just kill real people in a really gruesome way, it's just part of the mission.

Along with the campaign, Spec Ops also boasts online multiplayer, complete with the usual modes (Deathmatch, some objective-based ones) and leveling up additions (perks, loadouts). Though, again, it's where these modes are played that gives this its edge. Not only are there occasional sandstorms, but the outside maps have the same sunny vibe as the campaign's best levels. There's even ziplines and rappel cords.

But the best thing about playing online is that you don't start off as an easily-killed wimp. Instead, even those who don't play online much will be able to hold their own, maybe rack up a couple kills, before being taken out, which will make you feel more like a skillful soldier than an overweight, middle-aged dude sitting on a couch.

In fact, the only truly disappointing thing about Spec Ops is that the campaign was rather short. But, for me at least, its short story is of little consequence since -- thanks to its solid controls, harrowing gun battles, and interesting locations -- I found this so effortless and engaging that, long before it was over, I'd already decided that I wanted to play it again. Though where I'll do that remains to be seen.

This Spec Ops: The Line review is based on a retail Xbox 360 game provided by the publisher.

Shacknews - John Keefer

CCP has been investigating the circumstances surrounding a get-rich-quick scheme in EVE Online that gained trillions of ISK for a group of players after they discovered an exploit in the recent Inferno update revamping Factional Warfare. After weighing the options, the developer has finally come down hard on the wallets of the offenders.

The five players will have their accounts rolled back to remove the ill-gotten gains in ISK (in-game currency) and LP (loyalty points), according to CCP's dev blog. They will remain in good standing, however, since they did report the exploit (albeit two weeks late). The first player who reported the exploit will still be rewarded by the developer's PLEX for Snitches program.

The developer has always encouraged out-of-the-box thinking by its players and has rarely stepped in to interfere in the emergent game play of EVE. However, the developer said that, after a thorough investigation, the actions here were considered an exploit, in part based on a chart showing the spike in LP earned (and the underlying data that went with it) over the two-week period before the exploit was reported and closed.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Orcs Must Die! developer Robot Entertainment is bringing its iOS hit Hero Academy to PC via Steam, complete with a team of Team Fortress 2 characters. The asynchronous multiplayer tactics 'em up will support cross-platform play with the iOS edition, too.

Hero Academy's about turn-based grid-set tactical combat between two teams with various units and abilities. The PC edition will come with a team based upon Valve's lovable mercenaries as well as the Council side. Following the iOS model, you'll have to pay for extra teams, but any unlocked are shared across both platforms. Yes, including the TF2 team. As a bonus, each team you buy unlocks a cosmetic item to wear in TF2.

Hero Academy is due on Steam on August 8. Hit the announcement for more information.

Shacknews - John Keefer

A recent hotfix to Diablo III has increased the drop rate of high-end items in Act III of Hell difficulty and beyond, while ensuring that bosses will definitely drop at least one rare item when a player has four-plus stacks of Nephalem Valor.

The new drop-rate percentages were detailed on the Diablo III blog, increasing the drop chance implemented in patch 1.0.3. A couple bugs were also squashed in the hotfix.

In addition, the recent 1.0.3a patch removed the caps on players who purchased a digital copy of the game. The restrictions, which confined players to Act I of the game and a level cap of 13, appeared in the 1.0.3 patch, but were an unintentional side-effect of security measures to ensure against credit card fraud. It was originally reported that players were confined to the Starter Edition of the game, but Blizzard later clarified the report.