Shacknews - John Keefer

Now that Trion Worlds has taken over development of End of Nations, Petroglyph Studios is moving on to other projects, confirming that 19 people have been let go as a result of the end of its involvement with the free-to-play MMORTS.

Petroglyph said in a statement to Shacknews that it "has concluded its work as developer on End of Nations for publisher Trion Worlds. As a result, Petroglyph has reduced its workforce by 19 employees." But to remove any doubt that the studio is in trouble, it announced that more than 90 people are still working on other projects "across different genres and platforms, both internally and externally funded, with releases planned through 2014." One such project is its upcoming MOBA, Battle for Graxia.

End of Nations had its open beta indefinitely delayed at the end of last month, and rumors surfaced that the developer had laid off up to 30 employees. Trion took the MMO over to create "a more polished game."

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

This weekend's top PC download deals in Hotline Miami for $5, Geometry Wars for $1, Trine 2 for $4, Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit for $4, Portal 2 for $5, Castle Crashers for $5, FTL for $6, Mark of the Ninja for $10, Hitman: Absolution for $30, Far Cry 3 for $39, and oh so many other wonderful bargains. If you thought last week had more bundles than you could comprehend, this week will blow your pretty little mind.

Here's our selection of this weekend's PC deals:

GameFly

Amazon

  • Alan Wake (Steam) - $7.50 (75% off)

  • Aliens vs. Predator + Binary Domain + Condemned: Criminal Origins + Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit + Viking: Battle for Asgard (all Steam) - $19.99 (81% off)

  • Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg + Jet Set Radio + Renegade Ops + Renegade Ops - Coldstrike DLC + Virtua Tennis 4 (most Steam) - $14.99 (75% off)

  • Crazy Taxi + Jet Set Radio + Sega Bass Fishing + Sonic Adventure DX + Space Channel 5 Part 2 (Steam) - $4.99 (89% off)

  • Endless Space (Steam) - $14.99 (50% off)

  • Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit - $3.74 (75% off)

  • Hotline Miami - $4.99 (50% off)

  • LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Steam) - $10.19 (66% off)

  • Magicka Collection (Steam) - $5.00 (75% off)

  • Port Royale 3 - $13.59 (66% off)

  • Rome: Total War Gold + Rome: Total War Alexander + Medieval II: Total War + Empire: Total War + Napoleon: Total War Imperial Edition + Total War: Shogun 2 + TW: Shogun 2 - Rise of the Samurai DLC + TW: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai + Total War Battles: Shogun + Viking: Battle for Asgard (Steam) - $23.75 (84% off)

  • Sega Genesis Classic Game Pack (Steam) - $4.99 (87% off)

  • Sonic Generations (Steam) - $7.49 (75% off)

  • Sonic Generations + Sonic Generations - Casino Nights DLC + Sonic the Hedgehog + Sonic 2 + Sonic 3 + Sonic 4: Episode 1 + Sonic 4: Episode 2 + Sonic CD + Sonic 3D Blast + Sonic Spinball + Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing - (Steam) $24.99 (80% off)

  • Tropico 4 - $19.99 (50% off)

Bundle in a Box

Pay at least a dollar to get Delve Deeper plus DLC, Eversion, Fibrillation, War of the Human Tanks, and Shadows of the Vatican Act:I. Beat the average to get The Adventures of Shuggy, zany FMV game Stay Dead, Flibble, and The 4th Wall too. Some can be activated on Steam.

Bundle Stars

Pay $6.68 for Men of War: Vietnam, Off-Road Drive, Reign: Conflict of Nations, Death to Spies: Moment of Truth, Death Track: Resurrection, Star Wolves 2, Real Warfare 1242, and Real Warfare 2: Northern Crusades. All must be activated on Steam.

GamersGate

Get Games

Get any two of the following games for $15, or the whole lot for $30.

  • Anno 2070

  • Assassin's Creed Revelations

  • Driver San Francisco Deluxe

  • Heroes of Might & Magic VI Deluxe

  • Rayman Origins

  • The Settlers 7

GOG

Green Man Gaming

Get 25% off most games with the voucher code GMG25-CZPYL-D5MQ6, which you'll need for the prices below. GMG is also offering a 35% off voucher if you pre-order certain games.

Groupees

Pay at least $1 for Eschalon: Book One, CeVille, Paranormal, Monarchy, and Men of War: Condemned Heroes. Over $5, you'll also get Dawn of Fantasy, Worms Reloaded, Two Worlds Epic Edition, Gorky 17, and Earth 2160. Some can be activated on Steam.

Humble Bundle

Pay what you want for Darksiders, Metro 2033, Red Faction Armageddon, Company of Heroes, CoH: Opposing Fronts, and CoH: Tales of Valor. Beat the average price to get Saints Row: The Third and Titan Quest too. All must be activated on Steam.

You can also Pay what you want for some of Double Fine's prototype games. Beat the average price for a bonus prototype.

Impulse

Indie Gala

Pay what you want for NecroVisioN: Lost Company, Imperial Glory, and XIII Century: Gold Edition. Beat the average price to also get Men of War, Men of War: Red Tide, Cryostasis, Star Wolves 3: Civil War, King's Bounty: The Legend, and another two mystery games. Most can be activated on Steam.

Indie Royale

Pay what you want for Greed Corp, Hamlet, BIT.TRIP RUNNER, Conquest of Elysium 3, Leave Home, and They Breathe. Most can be activated on Steam.

MoaCube

Origin

Steam

Subset Games

Shacknews - Kat Bailey

In revealing Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel back in March, Electronic Arts promised a reboot of sorts that would introduce a "more intense, mature, and grittier tone." Well, the setting may be darker than before, but the gameplay certainly isn't. As shooters go, Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel has more in common with classic arcade games than whatever EA envisions as mature and intense.

Its demo takes place in the small Mexican town of La Puerta, where it introduces the new player-controlled characters Alpha and Bravo as well as the original protagonists Rios and Salem. Their mission is to rescue a girl from the clutches of a drug cartel. They try to keep it quiet at first, but the scene soon erupts into violence and bloodshed ("Best stealth mission ever," cracks one of the characters in the middle of a firefight).

This is where the arcade-like quality of Devil's Cartel becomes apparent. Everything from rescuing your partner when they go down to shooting down Cartel members in tandem is worth points. At the end of a mission, Army of Two presents a report card that's meant to serve as bragging rights for one side or another.

There's also a super mode of sorts called Overkill. Killing Cartel members and earning points fills up a bar that can be activated when full. In Overkill mode, Alpha and Brave are invincible and have unlimited ammo. It's a time-honored action game trope that doesn't feel entirely out of place in Army of Two--it's rather fun to toss an unlimited number of grenades into crowds of hapless enemies--but it's a bit of an odd fit for a game that's supposedly trying to add a bit of gravitas to its story.

Not that Army of Two is completely lacking in drama. At the end of the demo, after mowing down half a cartel's worth of soldiers, the four mercenaries finally find the object of their mission dead. However, Salem finds a young Mexican girl cowering in the back corner, and he decides to rescue her. This triggers a brief argument with Rios, but Salem silences his partner by growling, "She's an innocent."

According to one EA representative at the event, this moment is meant to highlight some of the differences between Rios and Salem, as well as tell a deeper and meaningful story. But coming amid Overkills, combo points, and fist bumps (yes, there are still fist bumps), it feels a bit odd. It seems like Army of Two would do better to simply embrace the fact that it's widely seen as a rather silly action series and simply go crazy with the action. With additions like the Overkill mode, they're halfway there already.

On the whole, Army of Two seems to be shaping up to be an adequate if not particularly interesting shooter. The Frostbite 2 Engine, so impressive in Battlefield 3, seems oddly flat in Devil's Cartel. Neither the textures, enemies, nor the gunfire are particularly impressive. That said, Army of Two does play around a bit with Frostbite 2's signature feature--destructible environments. Specifically, the cover around La Puerta can be destroyed, which in turn lends the action a chaotic, unpredictable element that feels welcome in a game like this.

The town of La Puerta itself, however, is actually rather boring. Little more than a long, winding corridor of buildings with destructible cover thrown into the bargain, it's at its most interesting when the two characters are forced to split up and take different routes through the town to get to the same objective. The EA rep proudly notes that their research shows that players have more fun when they split up and eventually come back together; but in Army of Two, it doesn't feel all that organic. To be honest, it feels like it was added in from focus test feedback.

And so, once again, we have a third-person shooter that seems to take itself too seriously while seemingly embracing the genre's hoary design clichés. Once again, Army of Two's main saving grace is its co-op, which is capable of being pretty fun at times. One gets the sense that if Army of Two were to actually embrace the madness that seems to be bubbling below the surface, it could be wildly entertaining. Why are Salem and Rios and the rest even fighting drug cartels anyway? Given mechanics like the Overkill mode, it feels like they should be fighting robots or something at this point.

Instead, the direction that EA has opted to take is serviceable, but it feels like an odd fit in the context of Army of Two's actual gameplay. Based on the demo, it seems as if Army of Two will be far from the worst shooter ever released. Like its predecessors though, this "gritty" shooter is apt to be quickly buried by the competition when it arrives on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on March 26.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

BioShock Vita's fate has been cast in doubt. Irrational had put the game in a holding pattern to finish BioShock Infinite, which is now coming out on March 26. Series creative director Ken Levine says whether or not the game is made is currently out of his hands.

"That is in the hands of business people right now," he told IGN. "It's something I'm still interested in, and people ask me that all the time. Right now I'm just sort of waiting to see what the business people come up with, and that's sort of out of my hands at this point. That's something that I think has a lot of potential. The game idea we have has a lot of potential. It's just a question of [if] their stars all align."

The business considerations Levine is referring to probably involve whether it will be worth it to put resources into a Vita-exclusive game that won't even start development until March of next year. Sony's handheld has struggled with sales, which could be making Take-Two nervous about the prospect.

If the game does come out, though, it may not tie directly into either of the existing BioShock settings. Asked if it would take place in Rapture or Columbia, Levine remarked: "I actually never said where it was going to be set. I just said it would be in the BioShock franchise."

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Noteworthy game developer Chris Hecker generated quite a bit of controversy when he famously described Wii as two Gamecubes duct-taped together. While Wii's graphical prowess has become less of a point of contention over time, similar debates seem to be rising over Wii U's equally-underpowered specs. This time around, it isn't an outspoken developer that's bringing the duct tape--it's Nintendo themselves.

In the latest edition of Iwata Asks, Nintendo's president revealed this early prototype of the Wii U, which literally tapes together two Wii Remotes and a monitor. Not only was the early GamePad prototype conceived in such a practical way, Nintendo's Tatsuya Eguchi noted that early software simulations for Wii U simply used two Wii consoles.

Takayuki Shimamura from Nintendo's EAD studio revealed that "about 30" software prototypes were developed using this prototype device. Some of those games eventually led to the development of Nintendo Land's various mini-games.

Wii U's precursor

The GamePad was inspired by yet another odd prototype: a Wii Zapper with a screen attached to it (seen above). The genesis of this concept was the desire to have gameplay using both a small screen in your hands and the television screen. According to Eguchi, that was "the start of two-screen gameplay" for Nintendo's internal teams.

"We tested gameplay that involved moving the Wii Zapper and having images from the Wii move in sync on a monitor in your hands. It was fairly well received," Shimamura described. "Thanks to this prototype, however, we were able to explain the structure of Wii Uâ€"having a screen in your handsâ€"and it became more compelling."

Given Nintendo's success with the Wii U so far, perhaps duct tape isn't such a bad thing after all.

Shacknews - Jeff Mattas

Today's episode of Weekend Confirmed brings together Garnett Lee, Jeff Cannata, Jeff Mattas, and special guest Nikole Zivalich, and naturally, many videogames are discussed. Cannata delivers some early (and glowing) impressions of the first couple of hours of Bioshock Infinite, Far Cry 3 gets some more time in the spotlight, and the first console MOBA, Guardians of Middle-earth, gets a bit of scrutiny. Before Finishing Moves and the post-show TailGate, the crew also chats about how best to handle Weekend Confirmed's Game of the Year awards. If you've got some feedback, a preference, or some ideas about how you think it should be handled, make yourself heard in the show comments.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 142: 12/07/2012

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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 - 00:15:51

    Round 1 Part 2 â€" 00:16:49 â€" 00:29:33

    Whatcha' Been Playin Part 1 - 00:30:15 - 00:58:51

    Whatcha Been Playin Part 2 00:59:24 - 01:28:33

    Listener Feedback/Front Page News - 01:29:08 - 02:05:07

    Tailgate - 02:05:53 - 02:12:18

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Weekend Confirmed @WeekendConfirmd

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Original music in the show by Del Rio. Get his latest Album, Club Tipsy 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 - Andrew Yoon

So far, the Wii U eShop has a lone demo: FIFA Soccer 13. But, if football isn't quite your fancy, you'll be glad to know that next week, the eShop will be updated with a demo for the Wii U-exclusive platformer, Rayman Legends.

One of the stand-out Wii U games at E3 this year, the Ubisoft-developed platformer takes advantage of the touch screen on the GamePad in a number of ways: from taking out enemies, to rotating platforms, and more. We thought it better than New Super Mario Bros U--which turned out to be wonderful, by the way.

The full game will be available on February 26, giving you ample time to get the system--assuming you don't have to Jingle All the Way to get your hands on one.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel is a reboot with a new studio, new engine, and new story. Clearly EA wants to revitalize the name, so it's taken the next logical step toward that goal: hip-hop.

The company announced today that hip-hop artists Big Boi and B.o.B. will be featured not only for the game's official song, but as characters who play into the story as well. The duo will play Charles "Chuy" Randall and Anthony "Baker" Barnes, respectively, and will help the players take down Mexican drug-runners. You'll also be hearing their tones in the theme song, titled "Double or Nothing." Oh yes. This is happening.

If you pre-order from participating retailers, you'll also get a Hit-Makers Kit to play a Contract mission as the characters themselves, and get some "custom masks and weapon skins designed by the artists." This is on top of the Overkill Edition bonuses that you'll get for buying a copy of the game's initial run.

The game is due for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on March 26.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The Frostbite 2 engine gained a strong reputation for realism after it was used in Battlefield 3, and started branching into other genres, such as EA's racing titles. But we might see what it does with a completely different art style too, under the care of PopCap.

A job listing dug up by Superannuation asks for a software engineer with Frostbite 2 experience to work at PopCap. The project is called a "AAA console title" and specifically mentions experience working on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Signs point to this being related to the unconfirmed Plants vs Zombies shooter that we heard about in August. It makes sense for EA to use its proprietary engine and show off its flexibility to boot, but Frostbite 2 wouldn't have been our first guess for the backbone of a cartoon art style.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

BioShock Infinite stunned game critics at E3 2011. The demo introduced us to an imaginative world, where a giant robot bird chases a magical girl through floating islands connected via magnetic sky rails. Set in an alternative 1900s America, Irrational Games' latest certainly showed no shortage of creativity. It had won our hearts.

And then it disappeared. And then came troubling news that key members of the team had departed. Suddenly, there were doubts if the year-old vertical slice we had seen could be sustained through a full game. Given the number of disparate elements--from vigors to tears to sky-lines to Elizabeth and more--could BioShock Infinite even feel cohesive?

The answer is "yes." After playing the first two hours of the game, my confidence in the game has been more than restored. Nay, the same inquisitive excitement I felt when I first saw the game has been renewed.

There are so many reasons why Infinite's opening moments captivate. Key to the experience is what creative director Ken Levine calls the "living world" of the game. Unlike the first BioShock, which was drenched in atmospheric somber, Infinite is a boisterous world, with an overwhelming amount of things to see and do. When you're first introduced to the floating city of Columbia, you're thrust into the middle of a carnival. Here, you're free to look at videos detailing the city's history, test your might in some mini-games, or simply overhear the conversations of the denizens around you.

While creeping through the underground city of Rapture made the first BioShock reminiscent of a horror game, there is still something unsettling about Infinite. Its Pleasantville exterior is already suspect, but as you progress through the opening moments of the game, it's clear that something is gravely wrong. The religious zealotry of Columbia's citizens, and the increasingly-obvious racist undertones, make Infinite go into territory games rarely venture to.

The story may seem to be a hodgepodge of disparate elements, but Irrational manages to weave its narrative in such a compelling way that it's easy to go along for the ride. The game presents many mysteries: why does Columbia even exist? How does it exist? What is Elizabeth? What do the tears mean? And what is the significance of Booker's flashbacks? Infinite proposes a truly interesting mystery, but given how complex the story is shaping up to be, I also worry that it could end up a bit like Lost.

Infinite already offers a compelling design before you even get to meet Elizabeth. The world is rich enough, and the gameplay exhilarating enough. Infinite does a great job of slowly introducing new mechanics over its intro: from melee combat, to gunplay, to your first encounter with vigors (Infinite's equivalent of tonics). At its core, combat in Infinite should be familiar to players of the original BioShock.

But those sky-lines really change things up. Once they're introduced into combat, you have a whole new way of interacting with and approaching situations. You can still go guns-blazing, but you can also try to get to a higher vantage point by taking advantage of the sky-lines. Also, they are not as intimidating to use as one might expect. You don't have to gauge your jump to connect to one; instead, you simply aim your cursor over where you want to connect, and simply press the Spacebar. Switching tracks and landing on platforms (or foes) is as simple as aiming and clicking once more.

Whilst mid-air, you can fire at other enemies, change your speed, or even go in reverse. While enemies don't chase you on the sky-lines in the early parts of the game, I can already envision later battles ratcheting things up.

The core tenants of what made BioShock's combat so satisfying return. You can use "Possession" to remotely take over an enemy turret, for example. (You can also upgrade it to take over human enemies, as well!) With Devil's Kiss, you'll be able to set up a fire trap against a teleporting enemy. However, having Elizabeth join your party introduces even more options for you to consider in battle. For example, in one point in the game, I was able to choose between having hooks to grapple onto, or a turret to blast at enemies. I chose the latter, only to realize how valuable getting a better vantage point would have been.

Elizabeth not only provides color commentary for the world Booker is in, but she can be a rather useful ally at times, throwing ammo, health, and money your way whenever the situation calls for it. And don't worry about having to "protect" her; it appears that is not a concern (at least in the beginning portions of the game). Not only does she not get in the way of fights, it doesn't appear any enemies want to directly attack her, either.

It's not often I find myself so captured by a world. However, Irrational has crafted something truly extraordinary with Infinite. Even after two hours with the game, I know I'm barely scratching the surface, and I cannot wait to see more. It's going to take quite a lot to make all these disparate elements come together--but if Irrational succeeds, the payoff will be truly extraordinary.

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