Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Mobile games are no stranger to unnecessary celebrity collaborations, and weird brand tie-ups. Hell, Angry Birds Star Wars makes no sense besides the fact that it combines two things that make a lot of money into yet another thing that makes a lot of money.

However, Imangi Studios has tapped into something so sensible with Temple Run 2 that it merits a story. Six-time Olympic Gold medalist Usain Bolt joins the game as the first branded character in the game's history.

"I am a big fan of Temple Run. I travel all over the world and travel time gives me lots of opportunity to play Temple Run at airports or on car journeys," Usain Bolt said in the announcement. "It's exciting to see myself represented within a game I already play."

Bolt will be a premium 99 cent in-app purchase "for a limited time only." And like in real life, his virtual character will be gifted with special powers, "allowing him to boost ahead at a record-breaking pace while activating the coin magnet at the same time." Just like real life.

Look, he's so fast:

Shacknews - Kat Bailey

As my tiny force of Roman soldiers marched on the Samnite forces laying siege to the city of Capua, I zoomed in to look at my individual soldiers, wondering what I would see. Fear? Excitement? Fatigue?

I wanted to see if Total War: Rome 2 could make good on its promise that the fortunes of battle would be etched on the faces of combatants on both sides. I had been told that there would be speeches, and that soldiers would mourn their fallen comrades. I didn't see any of that though; my little band of warriors looked stoic as ever as they hurried to meet the Samnites. I'm not sure it would have mattered either, because Total War: Rome 2 has much more going for it than it's supposedly Saving Private Ryan-like depiction of soldiers on the battlefield.

In my time with Rome 2, the one attribute that stood out the most to me was pure scale. Put simply, the battlefields around Capua are huge, made all the more evident as huge armies shrink when the camera pulls back. The increased scope is there to accommodate the even greater importance of naval vessels, which can now bolster armies on the land. The side effect is that battles are now truly massive, hardware-taxing affairs, and on the right computer, they are impressive to behold.

In a similar vein, Rome 2's world map is also much bigger this time around, encompassing everything from the northern tip of Scotland to the Horn of Africa. To put things into perspective, it's roughly four times the size of the map in Shogun 2. Aware that Rome: Total War was one of the most popular entries in the series, Creative Assembly is going all-out with Rome 2.

I was most aware of Rome 2's scope during the preview build's first scenario: the aforementioned battle at Capua. As the Samnites laid siege to the gates, I snuck around the side with my little company of Romans, attempting to hit at their flank. To get into position more quickly, I had my army double-time it--a new feature in Rome 2 that allows soldiers to get into position more quickly at the expense of increased fatigue. When it came time to attack, it looked as if my army was a company of ants. Almost immediately, they were surrounded by the numerically superior Samnite units, and a pitch battle ensued, all while the siege continued in the background. Eventually, the Samnites began to disperse and flee, and I was able to turn my sights on the siege on the nearby hill. When it came time to attack the main body of the Samnite army, my Romans joined up with Capua defenders on the bridge, and an impressive battle ensued. Well, in the grand scale of Rome 2, it wasn't much more than a skirmish over one city, but it certainly did the trick.

Later, I had to rebuild my army and position them at a mountain pass, and I was reminded of just what an oddity Total War really is among grand strategy game, combining top-level empire management on a traditional turn-based map with a real-time battlefield where the bulk of the action occurs. 

It's an interesting mix, even if the transition can be a bit jarring at times. Its main benefit is that it can feature the epic sort of battles that made Sins of a Solar Empire so special without sacrificing the depth of a traditional 4X game.

This is apparent once again in Rome 2, where tension built as a Samnite army crossed the map to attack Rome while I frantically tried to build up enough of an army to head them off at the pass. When the Samnites arrived, they sent javelins ahead to pick off my shield bearers, but I was able to sneak a group of cavalry through a nearby forest and pick them off with a well-timed charge. It was all very tense and satisfying; the scale was hampered somewhat by the fact that it all took place in a relatively narrow mountain pass, but the spectacle of two large armies clashing and fighting still managed to be interesting to watch in the relatively confined space.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any of the other new features that Rome 2 gets to bring to the table, like the apparently much-improved diplomacy, which will no longer be prone to suicidal declarations of war. The main point was to give me a taste of Rome 2's battles, and I have to say, I like what I see. Shogun 2 and Empire: Total War were solid games in their own right, but the much-expanded Rome 2 has me interested in the series again for the first time in a while. 

Rome 2 has a keen understanding of its roots: encapsulating the scope of its conflicts. Bigger doesn't necessarily make something better, but in this case, Total War lives up to its name.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

The Ace Attorney series is set to make its 3DS debut with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies. But as the series' trademark anime-style visuals may suggest, the change from 2D to 3D models wasn't an easy one.

"The 'trouble of making it 3D' was actually very problematic," producer Motohide Eshiro told Game Watch (via Siliconera). "Simply taking the original 2D screen’s perspectives and camera angles and tossing in 3D models ended up making it appear completely different."

One of the most notable changes will be Phoenix Wright's famous pose, which will come with a changed perspective. This will allow Phoenix's hand to appear larger in 3D. "Without making it larger, it ended up looking like a very bitter pose, which lacked intensity," Yamazaki said. "So, before the finger pointing hits, we've used a regular court-purpose model, then the moment he sharply points, it switches to a specific model that serves the single purpose of the pose with large hands."

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Guild Wars 2 is celebrating a milestone for their royal family. The Queen's Jubilee update arrives on August 6 and will feature a majestic anniversary, as well as some gladiatorial combat. Are you not entertained?

The Queen's Jubilee update will celebrate ten years of Queen Jennah's reign by taking players via hot air balloon to Divinity's Reach, capital of the human nation of Kryta, for the opening ceremonies. Players will be able to compete in ceremonial combat at the new gladiatorial arena for the queen's amusement, because nothing says "Happy Anniversary!" like a fight to the death.

As part of the two week update schedule, the Queen's Jubilee will also add some new features. Watchwork technology will be added to new crafting recipes, a new account wallet will make accessing currencies across all characters simpler, dungeons will feature new bonus rewards, and players will be able to choose new permanent Finishers. Those looking for an early preview can check out a livestream with ArenaNet on August 5.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

DICE's upcoming take on Star Wars: Battlefront is aiming for a 2015 release, EA confirmed at a recent financial call. The reason should be obvious: to coincide with the upcoming new trilogy produced by Disney. "This will most likely come out around the same time as the Star Wars movies start to come out, probably in the summer of 2015," CFO Blake Jorgensen said.

The game's debut at E3 was rather vague, undoubtedly due to the early nature of the game. For now, the game is being called "DICE's interpretation of what Battlefront should be." Here, watch this CG trailer again:

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Quick! Name Capcom's five best games from this generation. You probably wouldn't include Resident Evil 6, but it's nonetheless part of a collection that Capcom claims is "Essential."

Originally leaked by a retail listing, the publisher later confirmed the bundle's existence to Joystiq.

The forthcoming five-pack of games will be available on PS3 and Xbox 360 this October for $60. The "Capcom Essentials" include the aforementioned RE6, Devil May Cry 4, Dead Rising 2, Super Street Fighter 4, and Mega Man 10.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

How many childhoods were spent crossing the Oregon Trail? Generations were defined by hunting for buffalo, dying of dysentery, and learning the hard way that you should never ford a river. What those legions of players may not know is that The Oregon Trail was created in only two weeks.

Mental Floss tells the story of creators Bill Heinemann, Paul Dillenberger, and Don Rawitsch, all student-teachers at Carleton College in 1971. Rawitsch originally envisioned The Oregon Trail as a board game, meant to engage his eighth grade students. Heinemann was the first to suggest bringing the game to computers and was able to complete it in just a short two week window, just in time for Rawitsch to begin the school year.

The Oregon Trail would go on to sell 65 million copies and inspire generations of game creators, including the zombie-themed Organ Trail.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

A new generation of consoles means a era of console war. While it's widely accepted that PS4 will have the edge over Xbox One due to its faster RAM and more powerful GPU, how might that translate in terms of real-world performance? Digital Foundry's Richard Leadbetter attempts to find out in a fascinating experiment.

Of course, with neither Xbox One nor PS4 out in the wild, Leadbetter had to make PC approximations of the two upcoming consoles. Ultimately, the site equipped their "target Xbox One system" with a Radeon HD 7850, while their "PS4 surrogate" has a 7870 XT. The difference in compute units should replicate the gulf between the AMD tech in the two consoles: about 50 percent more computational power from PS4's GPU versus Microsoft's.

Although PS4 has a 50 percent advantage when it comes to the GPU, Leadbetter concludes that "more computer cores doesn't result in a linear scaling of performance." By testing various PC games at 1080p at the higest settings, it appears that the PS4 target system results in an average boost in framerate of about 24%.

Ultimately, without having access to final production consoles, it's hard to know exactly how different the two consoles will be. The target systems cannot account for a number of other factors that go into the new systems. Digital Foundry seems to express concern over Xbox One's memory bandwidth, especially as the report points out that "it's almost as important as raw computer power."

There are technical tricks that can be unlocked on Xbox One, and while PS4's memory is based on familiar "established technology," Xbox One's ESRAM is a "big unknown." Digital Foundry's test gave it "the benefit of the doubt" by equalizing it with PS4, "but clearly this is in no way guaranteed." For tech nerds, the upcoming console war will certainly be fascinating to see play out.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Microsoft wants to make Xbox Live on Xbox One a better place. Following the reveal of Xbox One, the company promised an updated Reputation system--one that promises to track player behavior and attempt to separate hostile players from the more sportsman gamers. But how exactly will it work?

Xbox Live's Micheal Dunn explains that the new system is centered around "direct feedback," with actions like "block" and "mute player" going into an algorithm that was "created and validated with a Microsoft Research PhD to make sure things are fair for everyone." Kid tested, doctor approved!

Reputation will be visually represented by traffic lights, with Green meaning "Good Player," Yellow meaning "Needs Improvement," and Red meaning "Avoid Me." Most players will have the green light, but disruptive players will fall into the yellow zone. "Before a player ends up with the 'Avoid Me' reputation level we will have sent many different alerts to the 'Needs Improvement' player reminding them how their social gaming conduct is affecting lots of other gamers," Dunn writes in an official blog post.

The algorithm is flexible enough that gamers won't be penalized for the occasional bad report, allowing good players to receive "a few" reports each month before getting warned. The system will weigh where reports are coming from. For example, the system checks if players actually played with each other. In addition, the reputation of the person reporting will also be checked--meaning nasty players won't be able to troll other players through the system.

"The system will be as good as you make it, so all you need to do is report the players that are abusive, cheating or causing mayhem and their reputation will reflect that," Dunn adds.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Nostalgianauts, today you get to play in blood and guts galore. Throwback FPS Rise of the Triad launched on PC today, bringing back the classic shooter series with all its dual-wielded pistols, rocket launchers, supernatural baseball bats, dog maulings, nets, magic powers, gibs, gibs, and gibs, as the launch trailer demonstrates.

The new RotT is available from the usual places for $14.99.

Fun fact: developer Interceptor Entertainment was behind Duke Nukem: Reloaded, that (scrapped) fancy 3D remake of Duke Nukem 3D which wowed people in 2010. Interceptor has claimed Gearbox only allowed it to make the game--not actually release it--though Gearbox disputes that. Still, it's clearly doing all right for itself with classic FPS revamps.


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