Devil May Cry 4

The Devil May Cry series has been a smash hit on the Playstation 2 and now Dante is to make is “next-gen” debut.  There’s something different this time:  Dante has stepped down, and a new-comer named Nero has taken his place as the leading man.

Nero is a member of the Order of the Sword, a group of warriors who worship Sparda.  Something happens to Nero and his arm becomes possessed, becoming what is known as the “Devil bringer.”  Dante makes his first appearance by entering the Order’s catherdral and slaying the legendary warriors.

As Nero, you will go through the game hunting down Dante and trying to kill him after Dante mysteriously came in and killed Nero’s partners.  Nero will control in a way like Vergil (Dante’s twin brother) did in DMC3SE.  You will control Nero’s Devil Bringer arm with the style button much like Vergil’s Dark Slayer style.  Nero will also support a large customized sword known as the Red Queen and a single revolver known as the Blue Rose.

Dante, the son of the legendary Dark Knight Sparda, is known as a Devil Hunter and follows in his father’s footsteps by protecting the human race.  You will play as Nero throughout the game but at some point later on in the game you will finally be able to play as Dante.  Dante will be a copy and paste of his Devil May Cry 3 counterpart but will have his own levels and part of the story unlike Vergil  did in the special edition of DMC3.

Dante has a few new additions to his move list, such as his famous Round Trip; the move was missing in action in Devil May Cry 3.  Dante also has a more powerful Drive attack that was first introduced in DMC3, where Dante charges up the power in his sword and sends a shockwave of energy towards the enemy.

A new addition to Dante that many fans are excited about is the on-the-fly style switching.  Dante’s fighting styles are the way you have access to most of his moves (you can’t use a Sword Master technique while in the Gun Slinger style). The fighting style system was first introduced in the third installment of the series. Many people were frustrated that you could have use one style at a time, since you’re only allowed to switch styles between stages or at save points.  While in the middle of a battle in one style, you can press the d-pad and Dante will instantly switch to a different style such as Royal Guard, which allows you to block enemy attacks.  This addition will make veterans of Devil May Cry very happy.

Throughout the game, you will do many things to complete levels.  You will have to defeat a boss in most levels or solve puzzles, but the game will be filled with intense action and focuses mainly on the action.  You will also visit many places, like the massive city of Fortuna where Nero and the Order of the Sword resides, and even a Gothic castle on top of a snowy mountain, which was first seen in the E3 2005 trailer. The game will have a similar Gothic style like the first Devil May Cry and the music will be similar to the first games, so fans of the first will feel right at home and new comers will love the Gothic settings.

This is the first Devil May Cry to appear on another console besides the Playstation.  Devil May Cry 4 will release on both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 and will both contain the same features, so you get the same experience on both consoles. Fans will even get a PC version of the game a few months after the console versions are released. The game is expected to be ready for a Fall 2007 release date.

Mass Appeal: Mass Effect Previewed

Gamers all over the world know that Canadian RPG developer BioWare has a reputation for creating some of the best RPGs around. As the creators of beloved classics like Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire, BioWare has proven time and again that they know how to create deep game play experiences, and millions of fans await their next offering with bated breath. And for good reason… Bioware’s upcoming action RPG Mass Effect appears to be the developer’s most ambitious project ever.

BioWare titles have always been deep and satisfying affairs, but graphical quality has generally played second fiddle to both narrative and game play. The graphics have never been bad; mind you, just not the main attraction. Until now, that is. Judging from screenshots and videos from the Mass Effect Website, one can easily place Mass Effect toe to toe with the best looking games on the Xbox 360. The characters’ faces plausibly convey a wide variety of emotions, environmental designs are dramatic and varied, and special effects permit spectacles impossible on last-gen hardware. Finally the visuals appear to be on par with the game play.

See the Difference

And speaking of game play, Mass Effect looks to expand upon BioWare’s tradition of excellence in terms of how players control the characters. The majority of BioWare games have been turn-based in nature, often requiring players to pause the game mid-battle and queue up moves for their party members. BioWare experimented with a more hands on action oriented approach with their last release Jade Empire, which featured real time combat and took emphasis off of party management, indicating that the team was interested with expanding upon its turn-based roots.

For Mass Effect, BioWare has seamlessly blended their traditional turn based combat mechanics with real time third person shooter action producing an experience that should appeal to fans of both tactical shooters and RPGs alike. For the first time in a BioWare game, players will aim their ranged attacks using an over the shoulder view, similar to Gears of War. If things get hairy, players will be able to pause the game mid-battle and queue up a list of actions they would like their party members to perform, or simply let the AI control their squad mates if they just wish to focus on controlling the games protagonist, Commander Shepherd.

Conversing with NPCs has always played a big part in BioWare RPGs, and has traditionally consisted of a player choosing one of several text-based replies each with their own consequences. Although it worked well, your character didn’t actually vocalize the reply you selected, and as a result the games weren’t as immersive as they could have been. For Mass Effect, you now chose between different emotional tones (mean or kind, for example) instead of the variety of written dialogue choices. Upon selecting a desired tone for your response, Shepherd will reply appropriately and audibly, making the game have that cinematic feel lacking in many RPGs. Adding another layer of depth to this new emotive conversational system, you can choose to interrupt a character by making your choice while the NPC is in mid-sentence, effecting their reaction and producing a wider variety of reactions. The result is one of the most fluid and immersive conversation schemes ever created fore a video game.

Instead of choosing Characters from a fixed set of choices, as was the case with every BioWare game prior to Mass Effect, players will have complete control over their appearance using elaborate character creation tools similar to those found in games such as The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07. This level of personalization also applies to the player’s ability to alter their land rover, called the MAKO, which can be deployed to the surface of the many planets you will be visiting in your adventure. By building or purchasing different equipment, BioWare promises you will be able to upgrade your rover to suit a wide variety of circumstances making the MAKO more like another member of your crew than just another way to get from point A to point B.

As a commander of a space ship, players will be given the opportunity to explore areas of space off the beaten path of the game’s main adventure, and although BioWare has yet to confirm the total number of ancillary quests, they promise that there will be plenty. You can ignore the main adventure altogether and wander the galaxy stirring up trouble or saving entire civilizations at your discretion. There are consequences for your actions, however. Since you are playing as the first humans to travel on an interstellar level, you will be an ambassador of sorts. As such your actions will determine the future relationships between humanity and any new alien species you should encounter, and since Mass Effect is slated to be the first game in an epic trilogy, the consequences of your decisions could conceivably echo throughout multiple games.

Tentatively scheduled for release this coming September, Mass Effect will likely be released within mere weeks of heavy hitters Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV. With so many high profile releases scheduled in such a short time, the problem isn’t which game to get, but how to find the time and money to play them all.

 

Call of Duty4 Modern Warfare

 

Although the recently released Call of Duty 3 was well received by the media and public alike, discerning gamers knew that although it looked and played similar to the first two Infinity Ward titles, Treyarch’s Call of Duty 3 maintained rather than raised the bar set for historical first person combat.  With Call of Duty 4, Infinity Ward is back in true form and poised to blow our minds all over again, and this time, they’re taking the fight to the modern battlefield.

Why should you care?  For starters, Call of Duty 4 features some of the best graphics you’ve ever seen, and amazingly these jaw dropping visuals never dip below 60 frames per second.  This is no mean feat considering that the game’s characters and environments contain tiny details unimaginable in most games.  For example, begin a mission at the break of dawn, and you’ll be treated to a glorious digital sunrise demonstrating the game’s authentic day and night cycles.  After the sun appears, things literally begin to heat up, and characters visibly perspire as they bask in volumetric rays of light chocked full of dust and other debris.  Want to know when the sun will go down again?  Just approach any NPC and check their functional wrist watch to see what time it is in-game.  And when you take cover in the shade of a parked car, know that your enemies are still able to shoot through it and hit your scrawny ass, demonstrating Call of Duty 4’s fully destructible environments made possible by a rich physics engine.

Players will get to experience combat from a variety of roles, including the local rebels, U.S. Special Forces, and the British S.A.S. Commandos (shown here.)

 

The main reason Infinity Ward decided to abandon the World War 2 setting for a more contemporary battlefield was to give players access to the technology and weapons available to today’s soldiers.  As a result, Infinity Ward is including a much broader arsenal of weapons, gadgets, and gear… roughly double the number available in Call of Duty 2.  In addition to the new high tech guns, all soldiers have night vision goggles.  These goggles not only help players by illuminating the shadows, they allow players to easily identify friendly soldiers, (all of whom have glint tape on their helmets,) as well as identify enemy positions by revealing the ultra violet lasers equipped to all of the game’s firearms.  So if you should roll around a corner and see a bunch of lasers heading your way, you know there’s going to be trouble ahead.  Finally, in addition to being able to call in armor and air strikes during the game, Infinity Ward promises numerous vehicle segments giving players command of powerful munitions mounted on Abrams tanks and AC130 gun ships.

But single player portion isn’t the only thing getting totally overhauled… Call of Duty 4 will offer a much deeper multiplayer game than fans of the series are accustomed to.  Apparently, Call of Duty 2’s multiplayer code had problems because Microsoft changed firmware at the last minute, forcing Infinity Ward to scrap much of their net code.  In order to finish the game in time for the 360’s debut, the team had to throw together a rudimentary online offering that was fun, but relatively bare bones and plagued with latency and connectivity issues.  Having freed themselves from such time constraints, Infinity Ward has expanded upon their original multiplayer concepts, and the result is exciting for fans of class based shooters like EA’s Battlefield series.  Players will now be able to choose from a selection of classes, and eventually unlock the ability to create a custom class to suit any play style.  Custom classes are created by choosing 3 perks that enhance particular abilities.  Perks include: Double Tap, (an increased rate of fire that quickly burns through ammunition; Deep Penetration, allowing bullets to penetrate barriers using the game’s physics engine; Last Stand, which grants a fallen player a few seconds to either commit suicide or fire off a few desperate shots from his pistol; and the self explanatory More Gear; GPS Jammer; Increased Damage; and Stealth.  Call of Duty 4 will support up to 16 players online, and should be every bit as exciting as the single player campaign.

One look at Call of Duty 4 and it’s easy to see why numerous E3 attendees have declared it to be the most visually impressive title shown at this year’s electronics exposition… it’s got high tech weapons, drop dead gorgeous graphics, and innovative game play both online and off.  Look for it this holiday season on PC, 360, and PS3.

(Xbox 360 owners should consider registering at the official Call of Duty Website for a chance at participating in the open beta scheduled for later this year.)