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GAMESCOM 2010 GAMING UNION PREVIEWS

Back in August I visited Cologne, for Gamescom 2010. The first big trade show I’ve ever attended, Gamescom was a blur of appointments, ad-hoc interviews, amazing games and lovely people. It was both a massive priviledge and utterly exhausting.

But the real work didn’t start until I got home. I had to write about it all. By the time I was finished I had knocked out 22 previews, 4 big interviews and a whole bunch of news stories. In total it all came to around 30,000 words.

So, because Collect is for collecting, it’s all going up here. But rather do individual posts for each article, I’m consolidating them. Below the jump you’ll find links to all the previews I wrote for Gaming Union, along with some flavoursome snippets.

I’ve put the Gaming Union interviews and the Play.tm previews up separately.

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CRACKDOWN 2 REVIEW
August 9, 2010, 7:06 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: ,

I’m falling.

I had been making my way up the face of a high-rise, carefully negotiating my way from ledge to windowsill in search of the neon orb perched at the top of the structure. But as I made my penultimate jump, reaching out to the window frame just a few short inches from the roof, my fingers failed to find purchase. So now I’m falling, seven stories, straight down. Funny, it really looked like a surface I could hold on to.

You should get used to this sinking feeling.

A decade on from the events of Crackdown and Pacific City is in ruins. The familiar landmarks remain, but they have crumbled in the face of wide-spread anarchy. By day, militant rebels the Cell fight running battles with police across the city, aided by armoured cars, heavily defended strongholds and Gatling gun encrusted trucks. By night, however, the mutated light-sensitive Freaks shamble out from their subterranean lairs, taking to the streets by their thousands. It’s an entirely unwelcoming place.

Stuck in the middle of all this is you, a genetically engineered Agency super-cop referred to only as “The Agent.” The storyline, such as it is, centres around “Project Sunburst,” a mission to destroy the Freaks and bring order back to the streets of Pacific City.

(Read more at GamingUnion)



ANCIENT TRADER REVIEW
August 9, 2010, 6:56 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: ,

As a child, Peter Levius would sit in his local public library, enthralled by the tales of exploration, strange creatures and undiscovered lands that lined the dusty racks. Growing up in Soviet controlled Czechoslovakia, he found escapism in the imaginative leaps made by those to whom the world was marked by a sense of the mythical and fabulous.

At home he spent hours exploring and trading in the limitless universe of Elite on his Didaktik M, a socialist clone of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

It’s this child-like sense of adventure that fuels Levius’ debut game, Ancient Trader, a little gem that popped up unheralded on Xbox Live Indie Games recently. It’s a real discovery.

(Read more at GamingUnion)



WHY MICROSOFT ARE LOOSING THE EXCLUSIVES BATTLE

At E3 2008, Square Enix’s Yoichi Wada shocked the gaming world. Taking to the stage at Microsoft’s press conference, he announced that the latest in a series long associated with PlayStation would no longer be exclusive to Sony. Final Fantasy XIII was hitting Xbox 360.

It was a huge surprise, perhaps E3 2008’s only true megaton, an increasingly rare phenomena for an event beset by pre-show leaks. Comments threads and forums around the world exploded with rage.

The news was heralded as yet another example of the US giant’s spending power and increased market share. PlayStation were no longer the dominant force. One by one, the strong relationships Sony had developed with publishers over more than a decade were being eroded by the prospect of increased revenues that only Microsoft could offer.

But as well as nibbling away at Sony’s exclusives, Microsoft had also proved more than adept at securing their own. Indeed, their efforts dwarfed that of their rivals. By the close of 2008 a massive 205 titles were available exclusively on the Xbox 360. In comparison, Sony’s PlayStation 3 had merely 60.

Microsoft had quality on their side too. The Halo, Fable and Gears of War series were among the industry’s very hottest properties, and they were all on Xbox 360. Add titles like Crackdown and Mass Effect, timed-exclusivity on Bioshock and the GTA IV episodes, and Microsoft’s position looked strong. Unassailable, even.

Yet the intervening years has seen a shift in power. Franchise mistreatment, disappointing sequels and over-familiarity have tarnished the impact of Microsoft’s line-up. Now, in 2010, it’s Sony that have the upper hand.

(Read more at GamingUnion)



INDIE, BEATING THE MAINSTREAM AT ITS OWN GAME

This is the golden age of indie. The past few years has seen an explosion of astounding independently developed games. Around the world, bedroom coders and small teams of devs are producing some of the most exciting, innovative and just plain fun experiences available. And what’s more, with the maturation of digital distribution on consoles, PC and handheld devices, they’re reaching ever larger audiences.

It’s never been easier to make them either. Tools such as Flash, the Unreal Development Kit, Game Maker, Unity and Microsoft XNA have made development ultra-accessible. The creation of videogames has been democratised. Now anyone with an idea and a little skill can realise their dreams in videogame form.

And what dreams they are. The indie scene is awash with interesting, challenging, charming and joyful games. While the mainstream seems intent on either playing it safe with endless franchise sequels or going after the Wii buck with motion-controlled casual titles, indie games are taking more and more risks and reaping the rewards.

It’s a notion that has been echoed elsewhere, but the current state of videogames echoes that of Hollywood in the ’60s and ’70s. At that time the major studios – the likes of MGM and Universal – were a factory, pumping out film after film, sticking to tried and tested genres in order to recoup the huge expense of production. It was filmaking as industry, not as an art.

However, the rise of a group of independent directors and producers revolutionised the system. The likes of Scorsese, DePalma, Altman and Peckinpah rejected or subverted the established norms, creating relatively cheap, experimental films that rejuvenated cinema. The boundaries had been destroyed and it had a trickle-up effect on the entire medium. The big studios couldn’t help but take notice.

Independent developers are beginning to do the same thing for videogames.

(Read more at Gaming Union)