What the California video game law could mean to gamers everywhere

Postal-21It all began in 2005 when California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that banned the sale or rental of “violent video games” to minors, effectively treating it like pornography. According to the bill, “violent video games” are games “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being”. Retailers that do not comply with this directive would have to pay a fine of $1,000.

The legislation was struck down as unconstitutional more than once before it took effect. The dispute was pushed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last November 2, the oral arguments in the case were heard. If you reside outside the United States, then you probably think this issue doesn’t concern you.

Think again. The approval of this legislation has far-reaching effects that could possibly stretch beyond America’s borders.
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Diablo III coming to consoles?


When asked a couple of years ago if Blizzard would bring Diablo III to consoles, lead designer Jay Wilson said the company didn’t have any plans. Twenty-nine months and millions of consoles sold later, it appears that things have changed. According to the Diablo III community site, Blizzard is looking into bringing the wildly popular action RPG to presumably the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

We’re exploring a Diablo-related concept for consoles and are currently looking to fill a few senior console-related positions on the Diablo III team. As we’ve said in the past, with proper care the gameplay could suit the console platform, and we’re interested in seeing what talent out there might be interested in such a project.

However, there is a disclaimer: this is not an announcement of a console version for Diablo III. Blizzard said it is developing the game primarily for Windows and Mac computers.

Considering that Diablo III is expected to arrive in the “next few years” on Windows and Mac, there’s no point getting too excited over a possible console version, which is likely to be released at a much later date. Nevertheless, it’s reassuring to know that a console edition is being mulled over.

Make it happen, Blizzard.

Heavy Rain Review

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The ability of video games to elicit strong emotion from its audience has long been discussed since Final Fantasy VII started tugging the heartstrings of gamers everywhere. Heavy Rain seeks to do the same with its brand of “interactive cinema”, which hopes to change how we play games. This change Heavy Rain is aiming for isn’t limited to the way the story unfurls; developer Quantic Dream has also devised a novel control scheme to complement its unique dramatic thriller.

Because of its ambition, Heavy Rain faces several  difficult and exceptional challenges: Does it succeed in engaging its audience emotionally? Does Heavy Rain avoid being a mere story-driven, quick time event-type of game and instead provide compelling and substantial gameplay?
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Hulu Plus to be available to all PS3 users

According to the PlayStation Blog, Hulu Plus will lift the invitation-only availability of its ad-supported streaming video service. Hulu Plus was originally exclusive to “select” PlayStation Plus subscribers, but beginning this week, the service and its application will be accessible to all PlayStation Network subscribers.

Hulu Plus’ subscription service covers full season runs of popular TV shows from NBC, Fox, ABC, and several other networks and studios. The catch: To use the application, you need to subscribe to Hulu Plus by shelling out $9.99 per month. Users paying for this premium are not exempt from advertisements.

Next Resident Evil to be made by SOCOM’s developer?

There has been speculation that Six Slant Games, the current developer of the PlayStation-only SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs franchise, is working on the next Resident Evil game. The reasons for its speculation, says Kotaku, are the following:

  • A document forwarded to Kotaku indicates that a new team-based Resident Evil game titled or code named “Resident Evil: Raccoon City” is currently in development at Slant Six Games.
  • According to the Six Slant website, the developer is at work on “an amazing new project” that is yet to be announced. The site further states that Six Slant Games is working with “a new publishing partner on a world-class franchise.”
  • Several Six Slant employees (current and former) have listed an unannounced “multiplayer action game” for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on their LinkedIn profiles.
  • Last March, Six Slant looked to hire a “Japanese translator/interpreter”.
  • Of late, Capcom has been outsourcing development duties for several of its franchises to game studios outside Japan. Examples include GRIN, who worked on Bionic Commando; Blue Castle Games, who developed Dead Rising 2; and Ninja Theory, who is currently making the Devil May Cry reboot.

What does this mean to the average gamer?
Aside from being handed to a developer known for its tactical shooters, the description of the (presumably) next Resident Evil game says it all: it’s going to be team-based. This rumor is also consistent with how Resident Evil 5 turned out to be: more action, more shooter than survival horror.

Here’s another idea to consider: Would Capcom hand over one of its most popular franchises to a popular developer only to produce a “lesser” (read: subtitled) iteration of Resident Evil? If this rumor is true, there’s a possibility that “Resident Evil: Raccoon City” is actually a numbered installment.

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Madworld Review

Madworld11There’s nothing quite like Madworld. It may be considered unique when compared to the other games in the Wii where everything is typically colorful, wholesome and kid-friendly. However, Madworld is still exceptional even when compared with other games in the two HD consoles. The streets of Madworld are painted black, white and red, while every word uttered contains either an expletive or intent to butcher. Madworld thrusts you in the thick-heeled boots of Jack, who must survive a quarantined city-turned-twisted game show. At its core, Madworld is an old-school brawler whose violence is more akin to Itchy & Scratchy instead of Rockstar Games’ Manhunt. Forget what the “mature” rating says, there’s absolutely nothing grown-up about Madworld, and that is what’s so great about it.

Gems

The Unique Aesthetic
In the fictional Varrigan City, everything is in black and white with some shades of gray in between. The only real color is red and it’s shown whenever blood is shed—which is often. Beyond the color (or lack of it), Madworld’s art style looks exactly like a comic in motion, with each level having its own distinct charm. Surprisingly, this unique Sin City-like style is never difficult on the eyes. The lack of color works to great effect, providing Madworld with a distinct visual punch.

The Satisfying Combat
Madworld seeks to overwhelm players with waves and waves of enemies, which learn new tricks as you progress through the game. Your job, as the protagonist, is to grind and smash each foe in the most gruesome way possible. The more creative your methods, the more points you get. The basic fighting moves do get old a bit fast, but the satisfaction lies in using the environment to lay the smackdown. You can stab enemies on the face with signposts, thrust them repeatedly on huge spikes, hurl them against rotating fans and fling them into speeding trains, among others. What makes the combat fun is its variety—throughout Madworld, you’ll keep on running into new weapons, deadly environments and Bloodbath Challenges that would provide you new ways and opportunities to obliterate your foes.

The Humor
What’s especially charming about Madworld is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. The comical onscreen violence itself is so outrageous that it’s hilarious. The humor isn’t limited to the carnage, however, as the running commentary is juvenile, coarse and tongue-in-cheek. The initial shock of Madworld’s brutality might eventually wear off, but the humor somehow persists. It’s hard not to laugh at the absurdness of it all.

The Motion Controls
It’s possible to overlook Madworld’s well-implemented motion controls with all the craziness happening onscreen. Wagging the nunchuk and Wii remote may get tiring when the game requires you to go full-swing ahead in certain sequences, but it feels consistently responsive. The control layout feels intuitive as well.

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The Difficult Camera
Cramped areas can be a problem in Madworld, thanks to the bothersome camera. The least concern it would likely cause is not provide a good view of the surroundings. However, it gets worse: when you’re in a tight space, you might not be able to see where the foes are. There’s also a chance it could go out of control in the worst possible time, like while fighting a level boss.

Madworld21Occasionally Tedious
How could Madworld be varied and occasionally tedious at the same time? Consider that there are a limited number of lives and you have to earn them. The game may save your progress, but it also saves the number of lives you have left. If you lose your last life during a boss fight, which could happen more often than you think, you have to restart the entire level. That means you have to fight the same enemies, earn the same amount of points to unlock the same Bloodbath Challenges, hear the same crude jokes, and outlast the same stage boss all over again.

Vague Objectives
Here’s another odd design decision that puts Madworld dangerously close to becoming tedious: For some reason, developer Platinum Games left out cues telling players what to do next. Without the proper direction, there’s no way to know why nothing seems to be happening after fighting off the umpteenth respawning foe, even if all you had to do was score a certain number of points.

Verdict
One can plow through Madworld in six or so hours. The encounter may be rather short, but it’s time well spent. Beneath Madworld’s unflinching gore, coarse dialogue and stylized, Sin City-like visuals is a visceral, engaging and enjoyable old-school brawler that provides a viable option to core gamers looking for something other than Mario on the Wii. We can’t say it’s a terrific purchase at full price though, considering its short length.

Then again, don’t sell Madworld short by merely renting it; we think the game deserves a permanent spot in your shelf so get it during a sale. Either way, one thing is certain: Madworld must be experienced.