Shacknews - Steve Watts

Puppeteer from Sony's Japan Studio was one of the standouts when it was announced at Gamescom this year, but we haven't seen all that much of the game. A new trailer dropped today gives us another look at the title, and appropriately enough highlights the world of Hallowee Ville. No, not Halloween. Hallowee.

The game is already a little bit scary, because let's face it, marionettes are little wooden pieces of nightmare fuel. But this trailer (and world) focuses specifically on classic monsters like Dracula, the Grim Reaper, and a pumpkin-head. You're probably already reading this as you sit on the couch waiting for the doorbell to ring for obligatory candy distribution, so give the trailer a watch to pass the time. The game is due in 2013.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Halloween is upon us, and soon we'll all be handing out candy and attending parties to distract us from the depressing inevitability of death. But the spooky holiday also marks a prime time for trailers about macabre games, like the upcoming Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate.

The one problem with the trailer is that it's taking place on a small 3DS window inside the video frame, which makes it more than a little difficult to see the action. This is common practice for 3DS trailers, since the system is low-resolution, but the action is so small here that it's a bit hard to make out. Regardless, it's a spooky advert for a spooky game, which won't hit until 2013. Check out the trailer below.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Halo 4 is due out in less than a week, and you'll be able to hop onto a game on Xbox Live and hear insults you didn't even know were still in use. Gendered insults are among the popular past times on the service, and developer 343 wants users to know that is not cool. In fact, you guys shaming ladies are flat-out "jerks."

"I've seen many of the sites that have documented some of the more gender-specific slanderous comments," 343 Industries head Bonnie Ross told GameSpot. "This is behavior that is offensive and completely unacceptable. I'd like to think most of our Xbox Live players don't support this kind of behavior."

Executive producer Kiki Wolfkill took it a step further. "It can be dangerous to give adolescents a broadcast mechanism," Wolfkill added. "There are always going to be jerks out there, and if you give them a way to express that side of their personality without being seen, you're going to see this type of behaviour manifest itself."

She added that developers have a "personal responsibility to think about how our games come across," which came up during the development of Halo 4. "We were very deliberate in thinking about who should be female and who should be male in the game, and if we came off stereotypical, we went back to the question what we were doing and why."

Obviously, the game heads calling out sexism isn't likely to curb sexism, but good on them for making the attempt to get through to jerks. Halo 4 is due November 6.

Shacknews - Jeff Mattas

Developer Criterion Games is no stranger to making solid arcade racers. Its latest, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, delivers much of what fans expect from their games: white-knuckle races at breakneck speeds, gorgeous presentation, and solid (albeit familiar) driving mechanics. As in Burnout Paradise, Most Wanted has players racing around an open world: Fairhaven. And once again, the sandbox nature of the setting provide a fertile foundation for some outstanding multiplayer, even if it's at the expense of the single-player experience.

As expected of the genre, Most Wanted centers around winning races, while taking down opponents in the process. The list of ten "most wanted" drivers that the player is tasked with beating in the single-player experience is the closest thing to a narrative structure to be found in the game. Unlike The Run, this year's game simply relies on compelling driving mechanics to motivate players from one race to the next, not some cheesy storyline--and the game mostly succeeds in that respect.

Of course, it is a Most Wanted title, so cops show up regularly to try and shut down speeders. Police chases and roadblocks offer up some of the game's greatest, most intense moments in the campaign. Sadly, players are always pursued, never allowed to play as the long arm of the law. Though it's entirely possible we'll see playable police vehicles appear via some kind of DLC, their exclusion from the roster is a bit disappointing.

Seven vehicle classes comprise Most Wanted's playable cars, meaning that players should be able to find cars that suit their particular tastes. In single-player, rather than requiring players make their way through a ladder of events to unlock new cars, procuring a new ride is as simple as finding one of the city's many "Jack Points," pulling up next to the vehicle parked there, and hitting a button. It's an interesting design decision, because it circumvents the common trope of placing a progression barrier between players and their most coveted rides. However, it has the unintended effect of removing some of the motivation to play solo.

There are a lot of cars to unlock, which are each fun to drive, but in single-player, the amount of time you spend driving a given car will likely hinge on how long it takes you to upgrade it. Each vehicle has a handful of specific races associated with it, and placing first or second in these events nets upgrades--like nitrous that can be applied to the car on the fly. These short lists of races vary from car to car, but there's only a small handful of these events to best on a per-vehicle basis before they're all unlocked. "Pro" versions of the upgrades can also be unlocked in both single-player and multiplayer by achieving set milestones. New paint and mods, for example, are milestone-based unlockables in multiplayer.

Speed Points are the overarching currency of progress in NFS: Most Wanted, and can be earned by doing just about anything in both single-player and multiplayer modes. Point prerequisites must be met to unlock the ability to race the ten ranked cars on the Most Wanted list. In single-player, this means that it's often necessary to switch up vehicles to obtain the giant chunks of Speed Points one gets for placing or winning those races. Re-racing events with the same car only provide cursory Speed Point gains, once they've already been beaten. It's a great way to force players to experiment with other vehicles, but it's another choice that diminishes the importance of each individual vehicle within context of the whole experience.

Clever asynchronous competition with friends can be had by doing things like racing past speed cameras as fast as possible, or smashing through billboards littered throughout the city, and the game's Autolog feature offers up car-specific milestone challenges and rewards for besting times in events raced by your friends. The real star of Most Wanted's multiplayer, however, are SpeedLists. Once in a multiplayer match, a SpeedList can be created by the host. (You can also jump into a SpeedList game with random players using the Quickmatch option.) Comprised of five random (or custom) back-to-back events--often with vehicle-type requirements--SpeedLists mix things up a bit more than the standard races you'll find in single-player. Races are there, to be sure, but you might also be tasked with odd assignments like parking on top of a specific building for as long as possible while everyone is trying to knock each other off. Or you might be asked to compete for the best jump at one of the game's numerous ramps. Some challenges are even cooperative in nature, such as when I had to simultaneously drift around a landmark with five other racers, or accrue a number of "near misses" by playing chicken with other players in a cross-section of pipe in a construction yard.

The variety of SpeedList events keeps things from getting stale, though admittedly, some of the event-types aren't nearly as exciting or fun as others. Races are still the most exciting. And despite the parameters laid out by each SpeedList and event, obtaining Speed Points is still king. If you struggle during an event or two, it's still possible to come out with the most overall SpeedPoints if you're good at taking down your opposition. It's great, because it (along with the non-racing events) keeps players in the game, even if they're not the first across the finish line.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted ends up being a really fantastic multiplayer racing experience, and if burning up the streets of Fairhaven while competing with friends sounds exciting, it's fair to say that you'll probably enjoy the game immensely. That said, the single-player experience in Most Wanted feels a bit hollow by comparison. A limited number of challenges-per-vehicle must be undertaken to earn the SpeedPoints and vehicle mods necessary to take down the 10 most wanted racers. The minute-to-minute racing is still fun and exhilarating, but structurally, I quickly became wary of becoming too attached to any one vehicle, given that the game's constant nudging to move on to new cars in order to maximize my SpeedPoint accrual. There are a lot of racing events to complete by one's self, but the world of Fairhaven is much better experienced online with your fellow racers.


This Need for Speed: Most Wanted review is based on the Xbox 360 retail copy of the game, provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC, PS3, and Vita.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The highly-regarded classic RPG Dragon Quest VII is getting a fresh coat of paint on the 3DS. The port is set to hit Japan next year, and will feature a 3D overhaul and a full orchestrated score. ArtePiazza, the studio that handled the various DS remakes of classic Dragon Quest games, is taking on this one as well.

Japanese magazine Jump gave a glimpse of the upcoming game, and Siliconera reports it's scheduled for February 7 in Japan. The Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra will be performing the score for the game, and it will feature three save files on the cartridge.

No US release plans have been announced. But considering we received the various DS Dragon Quest remakes, it's a fairly safe bet we'll get this one too.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Square Enix took a gamble when it took over Activision's canceled True Crime game. At the time, Activision VP of developer relations and acquisitions Dan Winters explained that it was a good game, and could be "a very successful mid-tier opportunity for someone."

Unfortunately, the gamble didn't really pay off.

Square Enix has revised its profit forecasts for the half-year ending September 30, now projecting a loss of $5.4 billion yen (approximately $68 million). Square Enix cited sluggish sales and setbacks in various departments as the reason behind the revision, chief among them slower-than-expected sales of the now-rebranded Sleeping Dogs.

Gamasutra reports that "sluggish" sales of arcade games from Square Enix subsidiary Taito, and the delay of Square's social games service, were also cited as factors in the revisions.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Gangs are cool, we all know. Little in life is more enjoyable than getting together with your chums, slapping yourselves with tags and symbols, then performing acts of unspeakable violence. When StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm launches, you'll be able to form the video game equivalent, clans, and show the world just how rough, tough and ready The Warriors are. Or Th3 Warri0rz, if someone else takes that name.

Clan support was announced a while back but details were scant. Now that they're going live in the closed beta's patch 2.0.1 this week, Blizzard has explained what exactly it'll add.

Clans will get their own little corner of Battle.net with a private chat channel, news updates, a roster, and a little info section to share voice chat server details, your own trivia quiz, or perhaps the recipe for your signature clan cocktail recipe.

Members will be automatically tagged in-game with your tag, because it's important to rep. Players can be given ranks, which is always important to know who's in charge of hosing the blood away. Clans are limited to fifty members, though, so don't think you can make a big group for everyone you know in the world: you want your meanest mates who'll have your back when the heat is on.

If you want to get together and hold hands and dance in circles, you'll want to create a group rather than a clan, a more vague gathering of people brought together for any common interest. Groups will come to the beta later and, like clans, will be available in Wings of Liberty too.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

One of the pre-order bonuses for the upcoming BioShock Infinite is a mini-game called BioShock Infinite: Industrial Revolution. This side story will offer unlockable items for Infinite and will also serve as a prequel, set 12 years before the events of Infinite. It's made by indie developers Lazy 8 Studios, who some may recognize as the creators of Cogs. We found out more about this effort by speaking with Lazy 8's founder, Rob Jagnow.

"BioShock Infinite: Industrial Revolution is a Web-based puzzle game where you play as a factory worker in the sky-city of Columbia, constructing and repairing the machines that manufacture weapons and supplies for the city," said Jagnow. "With each manufactured product, you get to choose whether you will stay loyal to Columbia's Founders or if you'll divert the supplies to a rebel faction known as the Vox Populi. The decisions you make impact how the story is told to you and will always leave you second-guessing your decisions."

Side with Columbia's founders or the renegade Vox Populi

Industrial Revolution bears a strong resemblance to Lazy 8's previous work, Cogs. In particular, Jagnow says the team has focused on players' favorite aspects of their last game. "Cogs players have consistently said that the gear puzzles were their favorites," he explained, "so Industrial Revolution gave us a chance to take the best parts of Cogs, expand on those mechanics, and create some challenging new puzzles with the same tactile, Steampunk feel."

Cogs has its share of fans and among those are the crew at Irrational. "Irrational Games approached Lazy 8 Studios very early in the development of BioShock Infinite," said Jagnow. "They already had some ideas about a mini-game that could help tell a deeper story of Columbia's history. Several folks at Irrational had played and loved Cogs, so they thought Lazy 8 Studios would be a good match for development and puzzle design. The long development cycle gave us tons of time to really polish Industrial Revolution into the finely-tuned, lithograph-styled game that you see today."

Industrial Revolution includes 59 puzzles and can be completed in a couple of hours. In order to add a sense of emotional impact to the game, Lazy 8 has made it so that all choices in the game are permanent. While players can replay puzzles at any time, they cannot change their minds on which faction they choose to support. Beyond lending their support to one of the factions, Industrial Revolution also gives players three different Gear items for BioShock Infinite--the Handyman Nemesis, Sugar Rush, and Fleet Feet. Players can also complete Industrial Revolution puzzles for in-game cash to be used in Infinite.

With Industrial Revolution now finished, Lazy 8 Studios is ready to move on from the Cogs formula and begin work on their next game. "We're currently working on an absolutely crazy game called Extrasolar that we believe will be the first in a new genre. It draws from both traditional video games and Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) to build a player experience that will probably feel more real than any game you've ever played."

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

You'd think that the recent release of Resident Evil 6 would have slowed down sales of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. However, fans are proving that they love terrible Resident Evil games. In its latest financial report, Capcom noted that Slant Six's shooter "enjoyed steady growth in sales." Additionally, the game's "stable popularity" has contributed to "improved profit" from the game's numerous DLC expansions.

The Resident Evil franchise shows no sign of slowing down, with Capcom having shipped 4.5 million copies of its latest game, Resident Evil 6, the highest ever for a Capcom game. In addition, the Resident Evil: Outbreak Survive social game on GREE now has two million registered members, with fans hungry for even more RE content.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Prepare yourself for even more XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Described as a "commercial success" by publisher 2K Games, the company has announced that it will continue supporting the Firaxis-developed strategy game beyond the two DLC packs already announced. In fact, "additional content" for the game is planned for 2013 as well.

Before year's end, we'll see the Slingshot DLC, coming "soon." The new Council missions will see your squad "meet an enigmatic Triad operative, divert an alien ship's course, and do battle with the aliens in the skies over China." Another DLC pack is scheduled for later this year, although details have not yet been disclosed.

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