Shacknews - John Keefer

We knew Halo 4 was going to be popular, and oh look, it is. "Consumer demand and excitement for Halo 4 is even greater than we anticipated," GameStop president Tony Bartel said in a Microsoft press release. "Day-one sales of Halo 4 make it the biggest Halo launch in GameStop history and the biggest game launch on any platform so far this year in our stores."

(Of course, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 has yet to release in stores...)

According to Microsoft, sales of the game were more than $220 million globally from the first 24 hours of sales. At $60 a pop, that's more than 3 million copies, for those of you keeping track at home. Other numbers released by Microsoft show more than four million players were playing within the first five days, and accumulated more than 31.4 million hours of play.

To keep the momentum going, the second episode of Spartan Ops launched today, with this week's co-op missions focused on releasing the Infinity from the control of a mysterious artifact.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Crysis 3 is helping the "games with bows" initiative that's rocking the country, but Crytek doesn't plan to stop there. The company is already planning for the future of the franchise, and the next game won't be "Crysis 4" in name or spirit.

"[Crysis 3] is the end of the story of Crysis, but it doesn't mean it's the end of the franchise," Crytek's Cevat Yerli told Eurogamer. We are finalizing the story arc of Prophet and concluding in a dramatic way. But we are excited about the DNA of Crysis and of the franchise." The game isn't in pre-production yet, but Yerli says that's because the team wants to look at it more long-term and make a more "radical" shift.

The game doesn't have a publisher or a business model set. Yerli has previously declared the company would switch to a free-to-play model, but says this game might be a hybrid between a retail game and F2P. Still, he's insistent that the model is the 'inevitable future' for the industry, and says that a plan is in place for a F2P version of Crysis. "How this looks and when this will be done, whether this is the next one or the next next one, is to be decided," he said.

It doesn't even have a name, but we know what it won't be called. "I wouldn't name it Crysis 4 at this stage because it would be misleading," Yerli said. "We want to finalize Prophet's story and Crysis 4 would imply the story just moves on."

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Haven't pre-ordered a Wii U? Dismayed by stories of sold-out pre-orders, have you given up on trying to get a system day one? Don't worry too much, Nintendo's Scott Moffitt says. You'll still be able to get your hands on a Wii U--if you get lucky.

"We want product to be available on day one in stores throughout the country. If you line up or get there early, you should be able to get product on day one," Moffitt promised.

Although national retailers like GameStop are already sold out of pre-sales, Moffitt told VentureBeat that they have not sold out on their "day one allocation," adding that every retailer has "held some back so they have product on day one for consumers that come in the door." So if you're willing to wait on line for a system, it's entirely possible you'll be able to get a system like everyone else.

Nintendo also promises that Wii U will be easier to get than Wii because "well have more Wii U units on store shelves in week one than we did for Wii in 2006. We'll also have replenishment much more frequently during the holiday."

Wii U will be available on November 18th. Good luck, if you're attempting to get one then.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Are you a zombie lover? First of all, gross. Second, good news! Activision and Treyarch have announced that the Nuketown Zombies bonus map has been added to the line-up of Season Pass downloadable content. The content will hit Xbox 360 Season Pass owners sometime in December, so you can make some spirits bright by putting a ho-ho-hole in some undead gray matter.

Nuketown Zombies had previously only been promised with Collector's Editions of the game. Those picking up the Hardened Edition ($79.99) or Care Package Prestige Edition ($179.99) will still get early access to it when the game launches tomorrow.

The Season Pass is available for $49.99, and will include four map packs and Nuketown Zombies for $49.99. The announcement didn't share details on when the bonus map will hit PC and PlayStation 3, but if history is any indication it will probably be about a month after the Xbox 360.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Rockstar is releasing a new trailer on Wednesday for the Grand Theft Auto 5, but we know you are having trouble waiting that long, so we have 21 new screens for the game showing off everything from fighter jets to high flying gun battles to speeding sports cars.

If you want to get a good look at what's coming in the game when it comes out this spring, then you'll want to check them out.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Rockstar is releasing a new trailer on Wednesday for the Grand Theft Auto 5, but we know you are having trouble waiting that long, so we have 20 new screens for the game showing off everything from fighter jets to high flying gun battles to speeding sports cars.

If you want to get a good look at what's coming in the game when it comes out this spring, then you'll want to check them out.

Shacknews - Ryan Calavano

Grand Theft Auto 5 is massive, you know. But Rockstar creative VP Dan Houser has let slip another juicy tidbit: One of those characters is the game's main bad guy. Then, if you are a loyal Lara Croft fan, then the traditional disc-only copy of the upcoming Tomb Raider may not be enough for you. Fear not, as Square Enix has revealed a Collector's Edition that will get you plenty of extra goodies for you to fawn over. Finally, we look at this week's new releases, which include Call of Duty and Wii U.

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

Shacknews - Steve Watts

It's a good month to be a fan of quirky puzzle games if you're a PlayStation Plus member. Just in case last week's addition of Resident Evil 5 wasn't quite your style, this week's addition is a bit more cerebral: Quantum Conundrum for free.

Quantum Conundrum becomes the latest piece of the "Instant Game Collection" tomorrow. In addition, PlayStation.Blog tells us members can also get a 30% discount on Machinarium, bringing its price down to $6.99 instead of the usual $9.99.

Both games are well-received by critics. Quantum Conundrum gained notoriety from its association with Kim Swift, one of the creators of Portal. Its first-person platforming puzzles bore more than a passing resemblance to Valve's hit. Machinarium is more of an indie darling, notable particularly for its art style.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is heading into the future for the first time, and developer Treyarch went through careful consideration of how much sci-fi might be too much. Even with all of the future-tech additions, though, a much larger shift comes to the game's multiplayer comes in the form of Score Streaks, which are replacing Kill Streaks. While experienced CoD players can still enjoy their high kill counts, Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia explained how it makes a more welcoming multiplayer environment.

"One of our goals was we wanted to reward players for playing the game modes," Lamia told Shacknews. That was actually the objective, and the good news is that because of the way we designed it, it doesn't penalize people who traditionally have that system just for kills. It's really just an opportunity to support all gameplay styles. Even if you're not a high [kill-death ratio] guy you have an opportunity to do something very powerful."

And that speaks to the future of Call of Duty games. Even spread among different studios, the series tends to iterate between versions. Though Lamia couldn't say whether future Call of Duty games would utilize the Score Streaks, he did note that his studio learns from its predecessors. "From our perspective, we absolutely look at what came before, not just our own game," he said. "It's an online game that a lot of the players like to play every new game that comes out. And so we look at the things that players like. For Score Streaks, it's a game system that makes sense because of something that we were trying to achieve with this game in terms of making sure that there are many play styles that are accounted for."

If the Score Streaks are embraced by the community, Black Ops 2 could end up defining the future of the series in more ways than one. The game is set to hit tomorrow.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

From the moment the 3DS was announced, Paper Mario has seemed like a no-brainer for the system. Its endearing diorama art style should naturally lend itself to the system’s 3D backbone, and I find that simple RPGs are great for on-the-go entertainment. While Paper Mario: Sticker Star makes good on its promise of being a 3D showpiece, I found a few of its gimmicks more problematic than the RPG series deserves.

Paper Mario has always been a stripped down, simplified RPG system. Sticker Star simplifies it even further: removing XP, the associated leveling, and party members. The game still relies on turn-based battles, and series veterans will easily recognize the timed button presses for added damage or blocking. Health upgrades are kept intact by finding them in well-hidden passageways. But it does feel like something of a mixture between the series' RPG origins and its more recent action-platformer focus.

This game adds a wrinkle to the battle system, in the form of stickers. Stickers define Mario's battle actions, from a standard Jump or Hammer, variations on those themes, more powerful Shiny or Rainbow versions, and various other abilities culled from enemies. But Stickers are a one-use consumable, lending a strategy of economy to the game. You might waste powerful stickers on enemies that only have a little health left, and you aren't getting them back. You're limited to one sticker per turn, unless you earn more by spending a few coins on a Spinner for a chance at two or three.

It's a great idea in theory with some serious tactical weight, but it trips over its own simplification. Without XP, the only rewards for battles are money and, occasionally, stickers. Money is too plentiful to matter, and stickers aren't much reward if you're satisfied with your current stock. If you already have a book full of powerful stickers, why battle at all? Too often, the much smarter strategy is to simply avoid fights and save stickers for a tougher battle -- which is a shame, since the core battle mechanics are as active and engaging as ever.

Puzzles join the game's scrap-booking theme as well. Various objects like a fan or a baseball bat (simply called "Things") can be made into stickers. Those stickers can then be used to stick on a stage to solve environmental puzzles or defeat bosses. The solutions have a tendency to be counter-intuitive, though, and occasionally solving a stage is involves meticulously searching for a very well-hidden path. I may have spent more time wandering around stages, attempting to find something I missed, than I did playing through the game properly and simply having fun with it.

The puzzles weren't particularly complex once I knew the solution, but the game was usually poor at pointing me in the right direction. Even the requisite sidekick, a mainstay in modern Nintendo games, would barely ever serve as a helpful remedy for tricky spots. As a result, I almost never felt a sense of accomplishment when I solved a puzzle. Usually my feelings were a mixture of frustration that the game had given me such poor cues, and gratefulness that I was finished with that obstacle. Until I hit the next one.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star

The game isn't without its charms. The writing is always endearing, and in its best moments is incredibly clever and self-aware. The humor takes good advantage of its "paper" setting, with smart visual gags. And as expected, the art style is an absolutely perfect fit for the 3DS, sure to impress anyone still skeptical of the system's gimmick. Regardless, it may be damning with faint praise to credit its personality and visuals, when Mario games usually stand on the strength of their gameplay.

I wish I enjoyed Paper Mario: Sticker Star more. In a lot of ways the game is very likable, but those adorable, charming qualities are mostly superficial. It undermines some of the series' core strengths by making most battles unnecessary and avoidable, and puzzles can be downright maddening in their vagary. As a 3DS showpiece with plenty of personality, Sticker Star is an unquestionable success. As a successor to the rest of the Paper Mario series, it falls flat.


This Paper Mario: Sticker Star review was based on a digital version of the game provided by the publisher. The reviewer spent approximately 15 hours with the game, but did not complete it.

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