Welcome To Earth

The Mass Effect series is on its way to becoming an epic trilogy, perhaps the most cohesive trilogy in games if it achieves what it set out to do. BioWare first introduced the sci fi saga in 2007, with a promise of a story that would span three games, each a self-contained episode of a much larger overarching tale. Moreover, they promised a personalized experience that recognized the player’s decisions along the way and shaped the world and events around those decisions, right up to the conclusion. It was an ambitious idea, a plan that could be easily disrupted by changes in an unpredictable industry. With the sequel making a great start to the year last January, it seemed like they have begun to deliver on that promise, and we’ll know for sure once the final installment arrives early next year.

Mass Effect 3 was announced at last year’s Spike VGAs, along with a teaser trailer that set the tone for what is to come. Check out said trailer below. While the release date stated at the time was “Holiday 2011”, the game has since been delayed and will be out “in the first three months of 2012”. In the meantime, the game is set to have a grand unveiling at E3 this week, with a live demo likely to be shown during EA’s conference. (more…)

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There Is Something In The Sky

E3 2011 is in just over a week, which is just enough time for me to catch us up on some games that I am very much looking forward to. We’re just about halfway through the year and there have been some great titles already, but some of my most anticipated releases are yet to come. We’ll start with one that has recently had a fresh round of press coverage ahead of its E3 showing.

The last time we looked at Irrational Games’ BioShock Infinite, Martyn walked us through the newly unveiled teaser trailer and some of the early details about the game. Not much to go on in this all-too-brief CG video, a finely crafted reveal of the world of Columbia, but the details paint a grim picture. Posters touting the city’s motto describe an ultra-nationalist, xenophobic society, clearly the core philosophical theme to be explored by the game in true BioShock fashion.

Infinite takes place in 1912 on the massive floating city of Columbia. You take on the role of Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, on a mission to seek and assist in the escape of a young woman by the name of Elizabeth. It seems that she is no run-of-the-mill damsel in distress, however: your NPC companion has a mind and will of her own, and a host of supernatural abilities to boot. She will aid you in combat with her various powers, and you can choose to exploit these abilities at a cost not yet fully defined.

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Fractiv, Offsetting

Anybody still fondly recall Project Offset, the FPS/RPG Intel bought for internal development? Unfortunately, this grand and ambitious project got canned by Intel quite some time back. The good news, though? Surprisingly, old members of the Offset Studio have already set up new shop in Santa Clara, California under the moniker Fractiv and have even released their first game, Lane Splitter, for the iPhone and iPad (with Android to follow shortly). As cheesy as its premise is, the game actually looks pretty funny!The bad news, then? Intel does own everything the team produced before and during their stint for the behemoth. Project Offset, their magnum opus, will never see the light of day sans a slew of really cool videos and demo reels. Sniff. Talking to Bigdownload, though, studio leader Sam McGrath didn’t seem all that heartbroken, even if the long development process ultimately resulted in the cancellation of the project.

In the interview, McGrath recounts the early days of the project, telling that before they went to work at Intel, the team

…developed a graphically impressive, fully playable prototype, as well as developing core engine tech at the same time. Due to circumstances out of our control, the publisher we were working with decided to shift their company strategy in a direction that did not involve PC games, and our project was cancelled. Luckily, we had a very good contract with them that allowed us to retain the rights to our IP.

Wow, talk about a close shave there.

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No Deal for Dead Island

That Dead Island trailer – supposedly created by the Glasgow-based animation studio Axis Animation – has already been viewed far over 3 million times on Youtube, with an equal amount of tweets to go. Its popularity has, in turn, turned up quite a fair bit of misinformation that now surrounds the project. As things stand, a clarification to our earlier report is in order: Unlike previously reported, no movie deal for the game has yet to be made.

In speaking to LA Times’ 24 Frames, Koch Media representative Malte Wagener stated that

There are a lot of different stories out there but the bottom line is that neither Union nor Sean Daniel has ever talked to Koch Media. Richard [Leibowitz, of Union] and [game developer] Techland agree there was never any rights.

I personally find it more than a little troubling that so many respectable film websites would report the deal as fact, which in turn leads me to question Koch Media and Deep Silver’s role in the propagation of the news. While I don’t think this sort of misinformation bodes well for the negotiations of a potential adaptation of the game, it’s frankly quite futile to discuss any of this as both the film and the game are still but a ghost in the hype machine. At the time of writing, Dead Island is coming out late 2011.

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Gemini Rue (P)review

Gemini Rue, an IGF 2010 Student Showcase winner under its previous title, Boryokudan Rue, is Joshua Nuernberger’s first full-length commercial title that successfully follows up on the promising path already travelled by the developer’s first adventure game title, La Croix Pan. Dave Gilbert’s Wadjet Eye Games is to publish the game today, 24th of February, and a demo was made exclusively available at GameFront yesterday.

The game, a film noir/sci-fi adventure, is of two separate halves: Players control Azriel Odin, with the help of his partner Kane Harris, sneaking into the colony of Barracus in search of an informant known as Matthieus Howard. Interwoven between Azriel’s sections also figures the mysterious prisoner-patient Delta-Six, an amnesiac confined to and conditioned in a sterile facility with totalitarian, Pavlovian means.

An equal split between the two halves exists not only narratively, but also visually: On the surface of Barracus (a “New Pittsburgh,” as it is described), where habitable conditions are sustained by weather towers, where the constant presence of rainfall plagues the colony, its hammering rattle contrasting strongly with the sterile silence and cleanliness of the facility Delta-Six remains confined in. Where Delta-Six is a silent, worn-down man deprived of his humanity and personality, Azriel is a keen-eyed man of action and freedom, constantly entangled in danger, shootouts and the narrowest of escapes.

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