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MARCH 2011

Review Interview History


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put that title deliberately to cause a reaction because I don’t mean to suggest that there is no innovation in gaming. Far from it, I think there’s lots of new stuff happening, in software as well as hardware. But after attending Sony's Playstation Experience in London for a few days I can't help but feeling that franchises dominate and new IP is not being produced and brought to market in enough volume. The gathered media could try out Ratchet & Clank, Killzone, inFamous, Uncharted, SOCOM, and many more. What they all have in common is that they are sequels to very successful titles. Don't get me wrong, all the games I tried in London will be successful and scores of gamers will buy them and play them for hours on end. And I have nothing inherently against existing IP as companies obviously invest a lot of money in coming up with a new IP as well as maintaining it. In fact, some of my favourite games of all time have been sequels. But still I feel like the industry is stuck in rehashing old ideas instead of coming up with new ones. Perhaps it's the case that it has run out of ideas for cool, truly innovative ideas; perhaps it's just that our expectations have gone up dramatically and we expect more and more all the time. One exception to this franchisefocus at the Playstation Experience was Journey from Thatgamecompany. Read our interview with the founder

of Thatgamecompany in or November 2010 issue. First, Journey is not a sequel and second, it's a very unique and new gaming experience. The game may borrow elements from other games but it puts them together in a new way and presents something truly spectacular to players. From the way your character floats around in a desert landscape, leaving a trail behind in the sand despite lacking feet, to the way graphics are simple but at the same time convey complexity and feeling rarely seen in games. Clearly, Thatgamecompany has put in a lot of thought into Journey and I'm excited to see what the final game is like. Although I tried it briefly in London it's arguably a game you have to spend considerable time with to understand, enjoy and appreciate. And although I went "wow" trying out Killzone 3, inFamous 2, Uncharted 3, and other games, it was a different sort of reaction. These games, the sequels, obviously have a history to follow and respect and they can't in the same way as Journey just start afresh. There's a familiarity in that, both for developers and gamers, that promises that revenue is more secure as is gaming experience. However, it would seem to me that currently, game developers are getting a bit too comfortable relying on existing IP instead of truly innovating.

Magnus Nystedt Group Editor March 2011 | | 7


Killzone 3 ISA Training Event in Dubai


ne night in February, a tough training camp for ISA (Interplanetary Strategic Alliance) soldiers took place in a secret location in Dubai. Participants, dressed in grey jumpsuits, got a lesson in basic fighting tactics and how to beat the evil Helgast Empire. The Helgast soldiers are tough and not to be underestimated, but with the right temper, skills, weapons, and team mates, they can and will be defeated. May El-Husseiny, Marketing Manager at PlayStation division, Sony Gulf, said about the ISA Training Camp

event that the idea was to do something different, something exciting and at the same time get people to try out the game. Killzone 3 builds on the best of the franchise’s history and adds exciting gameplay as well as 3D and Move controller option, she said, adding that Sony is excited to bring Killzone 3 to gamers in the Middle East. Sony clearly is backing Guerrilla, the makers of Killzone 3, quite considerably and hope that the latest instalment in the ISA versus Helgast saga will be a big hit with gamers. Judging from the interest at the

8 | | March 2011

event in Dubai, Killzone 3 will be another big hit in the series. At the Playstation Experience event in London recently, representatives of Guerrilla said that Killzone 3 is taking advantage of pretty much everything the Playstation 3 console has to offer, and presumably this means it’s getting harder for developers to find the processing resources necessary for the increasing demands from gamers. El-Husseiny did not want to comment on this point but arguably Sony is seeing the Move controller and 3D as ways to extend

the lifespan of the Playstation 3 console. The Killzone 3 game landed in the UAE on February 23 and is be available in the following editions: Standard Dhs 269 Collector’s Edition Dhs 299 (tin box) Helgast Edition Dhs 549 (Collector’s Edition copy of the game + artbook + model of the Helgast helmet + Helgast sniper action figure) Special Edition Dhs 399 (With specially coloured PS3 controller, not to be confused with PS3 Move Sharp shooter) PS3 Move Sharp Shooter Dhs 199


Okamiden The sequel to 2006’s critically hailed (but financially unsuccessful) Okami continues the unique vision of its predecessor and offers a few twists as well.


hile universally praised by critics, Capcom’s Okami tanked on the PlayStation 2 when it released in 2006, leading to Clover Studio’s unfortunate shutdown. With its sequel, Okamiden, Capcom hopes to reinvigorate the franchise on the DS by crafting a story that’s much easier for players to actually relate to. “The story is set 9 months after the events of Okami. That game ended with Amaterasu leaving Nippon after restoring peace to the land,” Okamiden Director Kuniomi Matsushita says. “Unfortunately, the land has come under attack again by evil spirits, and that’s when Amaterasu’s offspring, Chibi-

terasu, appears heroically to save the day. Chibiterasu also receives aid from different partners as he tries to restore peace to the land, and the game has a lot of familiar faces for fans of the original.” Though Okamiden follows a similar “white wolf-god restoring peace to the land” story-line as the previous game, Okamiden’s writers have crafted the story to help players connect better with the tale, and they are employing more useful partners to interact with throughout the game. “Even when solving puzzles, Chibi needs to partner up with his friends and cooperate with them,” Matsushita explains. “Sometimes, Chibi fights his partners, and other times, he becomes separated from them. Through these up and downs, players can feel both Chibi and his partners are growing up together with the narrative mainly focused on Chibi and his partners. The partnership Matsushita mentions drastically changes the gameplay seen in the original. While exploring Nippon, players utilise the wolf Chibiterasu as well as various partners who aid in puzzle solving and combat. Chibi can carry partners on his back, but at certain times, the player must separate from them to solve puzzles. Dragging the

stylus across the touch screen to a set location causes Chibi’s partners to run there; this comes in handy when you want to open an unreachable chest or hit a switch. Partners also play an integral role in the story, as Matsushita hints at, and their young age helps convey the developers’ focus on adolescent conflict. Speaking of adolescents, fans of the original should recognise many of the beings that visit Chibiterasu throughout the game (they’re pictured throughout this article and in the Spawn Point opener), but like the young white wolf, these beings are also the younger offspring of Okami’s deities. Like those in Okami, the beings gift Chibi with a variety of powers, such as the ability to bring dead trees and barren fields back to their natural luster. They also grant abilities that open up new paths, like a slash move that can breach rock walls, as well as combat techniques over the course of Chibi’s journey. The story’s focus may be changing for the sequel, but many of Okami’s gameplay mechanics remain intact. The original’s beautiful watercolouresque art returns, which in addition to looking great on the DS’s small screen plays an important role in how players interact with the world. The celestial brush is one of the central mechanics in Okami, tasking players with literally painting the world back to life. “We chose the Nintendo DS because we thought the Celestial Brush mechanic would be a great match for the touch screen, and the DS’s mobility provides a great convenience to our fans,” Okamiden Producer Motohide Eshiro says. “They can go on adventures in the Okami world whenever and wherever they are.” Fans of Okami clamored for years for a sequel, and they’re finally getting their wish. We don’t know if Okamiden can produce strong sales and save the franchise, but the developers have certainly put a huge amount of effort into maintaining everything that’s endearing about the original. And with the game right around the corner, gamers can soon explore the vibrant world of Nippon for themselves.

March 2011 | | 9

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I’m going to buy the 3DS.

15% I’m going to play 3D games that don’t require a 3D TV.


I’m not going to be playing any 3D games.


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Guillermo del Toro and an undead bloodsucker from his 2002 action-horror movie Blade II smile for the camera.

Guillermo del Toro’s We examine the acclaimed filmmaker’s body of work to determine what to expect from his horror-game trilogy. WORDS BY PATRICK SHAW “ I just hope Guillermo del Toro realises that making a game is very different from making a movie and approaches it with the right mindset. That said, I’m pretty excited by the storytelling chops he’s bringing to the table. He’s shown that he can create memorable setpieces and fantastical characters, so I’m fairly optimistic that the game will at least look fantastic. I just hope it’s actually fun to play. ” —Tae Kim, Senior Editor GamePro 12 | | March 2011

s game journalists, we often hold off on writing stories about new games until we have enough concrete information to put something substantial together. But talking about games we don’t know a lot about can make for some of the best discussions, because their potential is limitless. These amorphous games could influence the design of video games; they could also turn out to be absolute trainwrecks.

A Filmmaker’s Approach to Game Design Unveiled at the 2010 Spike Video Game Awards, Insane is a survival-horror game from the mind of influential filmmaker, producer, and author Guillermo del Toro. His most notable movies include Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy series, which he directed and feature original creature designs that del Toro’s powerful imagination helped shape. While both of these movies blend visual elements of fantasy and horror, del Toro has also created movies that classify as pure horror: 2001’s chilling Spanish-language ghost story The Devil’s Backbone, and his directorial debut, 1993’s Cronos, which is about an alchemist’s deadly device that promises eternal youth. He’s also attached to upcoming film adaptations of classic horror literature: H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The kind of stories del Toro gravitates to—he often infuses nightmarish visuals into the fantasy world he creates—are important in determining what kind of video game we can expect from him. The Hellboy franchise, for instance, presents a vision of life on Earth where the paranormal—like the series’ benevolent demon hero, occultists, and an immortal killer Nazi—and the everyday coexist. Del Toro has repeatedly exhibited his ability to populate worlds with vibrant, immensely interesting

SPOTLIGHT characters, which will likely lend itself to making his Insane trilogy resonate with gamers. Games dreamed up by moviemakers, however, are a mixed bag. They can turn out great, like Steven Spielberg’s collaboration on 2008’s Boom Blox, or abysmal, like Clive Barker’s Jericho in 2007.

S e l e c t e d Wo r k

by Guillermo del Toro

A Trilogy of Terror The premise of del Toro’s Insane is largely unknown—though its name suggests the plot involves the loss of sanity (but we don’t know who or what is insane; it could very well be the player themselves). Insane’s cryptic teaser trailer reveals little, but it does hint at the morbid tone of the new game as agonised cries and eerie whispers echo throughout. There’s also a glimpse of a sharp instrument moments from puncturing a human eye. Del Toro states that he’s creating Insane as a video-game trilogy, with the intention of taking players to “a place they have never seen before,” suggesting that like Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the director is likely building a fictional realm that’s unlike anything we know of on this planet. He also adds that “every single action [in Insane] makes [players] question their own senses of morality and reality.” The “reality” del Toro

Hellboy’s title character is proof that superheroes don’t always have to look like Clark Kent.

mentions is particularly interesting, as it seems to suggest that the twisted world of Insane could be the object of the protagonist’s warped mental state.

2013: At the Mountains of Madness Director 2013: Insane (video game) Creative Director 2012: Frankenstein Director

Volition’s Stab at Horror

2009: Splice Executive Producer

While del Toro maintains creative control of the project, Insane is developed by Volition, Inc. The studio is new to the horror genre, but they’ve proven their proficiency in crafting riveting action experiences with both their sci-fi action franchise Red Faction and the irreverent open-world Saints Row series.

2008: Hellboy II: The Golden Army Writer and Director 2007: The Orphanage Producer 2006: Pan’s Labyrinth Writer, Producer, and Director

Insanity’s Arrival The first chapter of del Toro’s Insane trilogy is currently slated for a 2013 release for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.

2004: Hellboy Writer and Director 2002: Blade II Director 2001: The Devil’s Backbone Writer, Producer, and Director 1997: Mimic Writer and Director 1993: Cronos Writer and Director

One of the most imaginative creatures Guillermo del Toro is known for is the “Pale Man” from Pan’s Labyrinth, a saggy-fleshed, child-eating monster.

March 2011 | | 13

14 | | March 2011


Analysis p.16 Interview p.18 Review p.24

March 2011 | | 15

Jammer is one of the new female characters joining Sev and Rico’s fight against the Helghast war machine in Killzone 3.

More Variety

Guerrilla Games learns from Killzone 2’s lack of variety by taking you to diverse new locations on planet Helghan. BY EMANUEL MAIBERG

16 | | March 2011


The Helghast return in Killzone 3, and some of them sport fancy new armor like this trio.


espite all of its technical accomplishments, Killzone 2 falls short as a visual spectacle. Game reviewers often make the distinction between the horsepower of a game’s engine and the artistry with which designers sculpt that engine into something beautiful. Guerrilla Games have proven they’re more than capable of delivering on both of these fronts. The problem with Killzone 2, however, is that players can only make their way through so many war-torn futuristic alleys and factories before they all become one big, sepia-toned jumble in their head. Killzone 2 had both the iconic imagery (namely, the franchise’s red-eyed villains, the Helghast) and the technological capability to be one of the best-looking games out at the time, but its environments lacked something important: variety. Scampering through luscious digital jungles might be a feast for the eyes at first, but a few hours of jungle later, you’re yawning at yet another waterfall. There’s a reason why the games we remember most for their visuals are those that diversify their palate. We can make fun of the tired tropes of ice levels and lava levels, but these exist for a reason.

Thankfully, Guerrilla’s ensuring that Killzone 3 has a wider range of settings. The arctic environment they’ve already shown has given Helghan (the Helghast homeworld) a much needed breath of frosty air, and one of the new environments coming to Killzone 3 features some of the only vegetation we’ve seen on Helghan. Expansive lore available on the official website details the world of Killzone, and it makes it clear that the fiction has plenty of existing locations to tap into. Killzone 3 proves that Guerrilla’s mixing up the game’s range of environments, but they’re not straying too far from the Killzone aesthetic of sepia tones and crumbling, war-damaged structures. Killzone 3 stands apart from the Call of Duty school of controls for firstperson shooters as well. Killzone 3 features a much more methodical pace that hinges on the game’s peek-and-shoot cover mechanic, but

it’s also a lot faster and more fluid than Killzone 2, which at times feels cumbersome. From being pegged as a “Halokiller” to trying to live up to that infamous E3 2005 trailer, the Killzone franchise has always had to deal with the burden of a reputation Guerrilla Gamers weren’t responsible for in addition to the difficulties that face any ambitious game. With much of the technological and publicity issues under control, the release of Killzone 3 might be the first comprehensive expression of Guerrilla’s abilities as a developer.

March 2011 | | 17


Guerrilla Games Guerrilla Games Managing Director Hermen Hulst discusses how Adolf Hitler, Mother Nature, and James Cameron helped shape the creative direction of his video game, Killzone 3. BY PATRICK SHAW


or a while, it looked like our world-exclusive story on Killzone 3 might not happen. Along with the usual panic that ensues when an issue of the magazine approaches deadline, another disaster took place: a volcanic explosion. A few days prior to my planned flight to Amsterdam —the home of Killzone developer Guerrilla Games -— a volcano in Iceland known as Eyjafjallajökull (good luck pronouncing that) erupted, spewing massive plumes of caustic ash into the sky. This fallout can essentially peel an airplane as if it were a banana, and it turned every Northern European country into a “no fly zone,” including the Netherlands. Costing airline companies hundreds of millions of dollars a day-the single largest financial loss for the industry since the

18 | | March 2011

terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001-the colossal mushroom clouds billowing above Europe would make an unknowing onlooker think World War III had begun. It’s perhaps fitting that my introduction to Killzone 3 falls under the shadow of such a dire event given that the game takes place on the planet Helghan, a war-scorched world perpetually ravaged by its own slew of natural disasters, including lightning storms and poisonous clouds. As I witness Mother Nature’s wrath unfurl on the news, I learn that the Killzone team took advantage of the natural disaster in Iceland. They studied highdefinition footage of the volcanic eruption as a form of research for creating visual effects in their game. Absorbing as much reference material as possible, be

FEATURE it from history or from nature, is part of their creed. While this exercise is fascinating, I still faced the issue of nailing down this story. Fortunately, Sony has offices on this side of the Atlantic. And even though I wasn’t able to experience Killzone 3 on its home turf in the NetherlandsGuerrilla’s studio sits literally blocks away from Amsterdam’s notorious cannabis shops and red-light district -- it’s still a big deal that I’m one of the first people outside of Sony to not only see the game but play through one of its early missions -- and even experience the game in 3D. It’s also a strange coincidence that the day I’m seeing Killzone 3 happens to fall on the day after Adolf Hitler’s April 20 birthday. I’d be reluctant to even mention the connection in most circumstances, but it’s clear that the Helghast -- Killzone’s menacing race of gas-maskwearing fascists -- share much with the Nazis, from the emblem resembling a swastika adorned on their flag to the inflammatory speeches of their fascist leader, Scolar Visari. The relationship between the villains in Killzone and Nazi ideology is no coincidence. Hermen Hulst, managing director at Guerrilla Games, explains that the similarities between history and their fiction are not only intentional but serve as the foundation for Killzone’s story line and universe. “That’s one side of the story,” says Hulst, who describes his job as kind of a guru who works closely with everyone involved in Killzone 3, from the artists to the level designers. “We knew we wanted to create something that’s instantly recognisable to a lot of people. We’ve all grown up with the images of the Second World War and the Cold Warwhat happened in communist Russia and Nazi Germany is permanently burned into our consciousness. With Killzone, we

set out to step into this shared cultural memory to really create something that anyone can look at and recognise as something evil that needs to be eradicated.” Hulst explains that the Helghast were born out of a desire to have a more complex enemy in their game, with a tangible explanation as to why they are evil. To help shape their iconic villains, Guerrilla looked to history for inspiration. “A lot of video games have rather one-dimensional enemies that will kill you for no better reason other than the fact that you’re the player,” Hulst says. “We wanted a conflict that’s deeper than that. This is where the idea of Killzone emerged. A big part of this is the story of the Helghast and their ideology, which stems from the greater conflicts of the 20th century. That’s where the franchise began.” The idea that an imbalance in power can often lead to war is pervasive in the history of humanity. From this notion Guerrilla built the conflict between the people of planet Vekta and planet Helghan. Hulst provides an overview of the history of the hostilities between the two races in Killzone, explaining that the early Helghans originally ruled both planets. The Helghan quickly became rich, industrious, and powerful, but Earth and other colonies saw their sudden rise in power as a tremendous threat. The growing tensions eventually inspired the Helghans to secede from Earth and become an independent state. Earth saw this move as the insurrection of a rebellious colony and struck Helghan hard with police actions and diplomatic embargoes. This resulted in bloodshed during the first Extrasolar War. The Helghans couldn’t match the military might of Earth, and soon Earth exiled the Helghan leaders from their Eden-like planet of Vekta. The humiliating defeat and the subsequent loss of Vekta

-- a planet the Helghast see as theirs -- is still a painful memory for all Helghast. This story parallels the aftermath of World War I for Germany. The Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to relinquish their control of land in the province of West Prussia, Alsace, Lorraine, Northern Schleswig, and other territories. Not only was this a devastating blow to the national pride of the Germans, it also helped fuel the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party before World War II. In order to develop the backstory of the Helghast as well as

the Killzone universe, the team conducts extensive research while examining “hundreds” of sources. They even study propaganda such as Walt Disney’s anti-Nazi World War II films and Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous Triumph of the Will, which Hitler commissioned to bolster the image of the Third Reich (his name even appears in the film’s opening credits as producer). Hulst says that while you can view the Helghast as the embodiment of Nazism, they aren’t the epitome of evil. In fact, the Helghast actually see themselves as victims. They hold the human race responsible for the mutations suffered by their people, which force many of them to wear gas masks in order to survive Helghan’s toxic atmosphere. After World War I, the Germans also felt victimised

March 2011 | | 19

by the losses of land, prestige, and prosperity as well as the rampant inflation caused by war reparations. This all played an instrumental role in Hitler’s rise to power. “Although the Helghast are physically still human, they consider themselves superior to the human race in terms of society and culture,” Hulst explains. “They possess a mentality that’s similar to how the Nazis viewed those not part of the Aryan bloodline. Helghast look down on humans as weak, lying, and spineless. “In Killzone 3, we show that even the Helghast have some humanity left in them,” Hulst says. “We’re weaving a story that has more shades of gray than the trite representation of ‘good vs. evil.’” Hulst adds that the story even calls into question the merits of the ISA when they begin to evaluate the righteousness of their invasion of planet Helghan. “We explore the notion that even honorable soldiers have to make debatable decisions at times for the greater good -- or simply for their own survival.” After learning how history molded the creation of Killzone -- as well as how it continues to influence the evolution of the Helghast and the ISA -- I see one of the missions in Killzone 3’s single-player campaign. But before I even pick up the controller, Hulst provides context as to where I am in the game. One of the central themes at this particular point in Killzone 3 is the disconcerting feeling of being

20 | | March 2011

in a place far away from home, outnumbered by people who want to kill you. While the Killzone back-story is largely grounded in science fiction, parallels exist between the strife depicted in the game and real war. This demoralising feeling of being outnumbered in a strange land is similar to the situations faced by veterans of World War II, Vietnam, and the current war in Iraq. “On the surface things seem to be a pure case of good against evil,” Hulst says, “but underneath, there’s a lot more ambiguity, just like there is in real war. I don’t think any of the recent conflicts are any different from this. “With Killzone 2, the story was centered on the massive invasion of Helghan. You’re facing this giant war machine and doing your best to outgun the enemy. This time around, however, it’s a great deal more like Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglourious Basterds,” says Hulst. Tarantino’s movie spins a fictional tale from World War II about a band of renegade JewishAmerican soldiers dressed as Nazi SS troops that infiltrate Germany in order to slaughter as many Nazis as they possibly can. While the differences are obvious between Inglourious Basterds and Killzone, they share the idea of being overwhelmed in the face of a powerful enemy. As Hulst explains, it’s a story that’s as old as the Bible. Consider the Old Testament’s Book of Samuel, which tells of a young warrior named David who slays a Philistine giant. “You’re left there on the

planet, and the Helghast have regrouped. They have the upper hand as well as the technological advantage. They outnumber the ISA, so you must rely on your mates to survive. Killzone 3 is about harnessing every single bit of creativity you have to get out of hell alive. It’s the story of David battling Goliath, but this time you are David. That’s the big shift in going from Killzone 2 to Killzone 3.” If you played Killzone 2 and reached its somewhat anticlimactic ending (if not, you may want to skip the next two paragraphs), you know that instead of pulling the trigger to assassinate the Helghast’s fascist leader, Scolar Visari, one of your squadmates, Master Sergeant Richard “Rico” Velasquez, steps in and finishes him off. Hulst says that leaving you out of Visari’s murder was deliberate. “There were several sides to that decision. First off, we thought it would be too predictable if it was you, the player, pulling the trigger on Visari. But more importantly, it would be out of character for Sergeant Tomas “Sev” Sevchenko to commit a crime of that magnitude against his orders. Rico, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of loose cannon that would do whatever it takes to get the job done.” Hulst stresses that another dramatic shift is the new areas of planet Helghan, which offer more variety than the previous game. He describes them as vibrant places that contrast sharply with Killzone 2’s rather bleak, crumbling settings ruined by the constant warfare that took place


during that game. One of these new locations is a sprawling arctic level, which I play shortly after Hulst introduced it. Home to oil rigs embedded in enormous moving glaciers and shipwrecked tankers with massive tears in their hulls, Frozen Shores is the fourth mission in Killzone 3, and it looks radically different than anything featured in the previous game.

“An important landmark located in this level is the Stahl Arms Facility, a Helghast weapons lab that’s surrounded by ice,” Hulst says. “ISA Captain Narville is also imprisoned here, so part of your mission is to rescue him. To do that, though, you need to wipe out Helghast forces.” The level begins with a playable on-rails sequence where Sev and Rico fly around a frozen enemy base on an Intruder infantry dropship. You may remember these hovering vehicles from the opening of Killzone 2, when Alpha Team storms the beaches of Helghan in a mission that reminds you of the Allies’ landings on D-Day in World War II. Assuming the role of Sev-who’s also the protagonist in the previous Killzone -- you use a powerful chain gun mounted on the Intruder to mow down Helghast soldiers that are stalking the ice and surrounding oil rigs. “A playable version of the landing sequence from the beginning of Killzone 2 was something a lot of fans have cried out for,” explains Hulst. “That’s why we open up Frozen Shores with it.” He notes that the damage you can inflict in this brief scene is equivalent to the destruction players deal out in the entire first level of Killzone 2. After cutting down enemy infantry with the chain gun, you can blast vulnerable points on

the oil-rig platforms, collapsing the structures into the freezing water below. A crash landing occurs when you’re shot down by a Helghast antiaircraft gun. But once you smash into the ice and get off the burning Invader, the action doesn’t cool down. Helghast stormtroopers engage you in combat the moment you set foot on the glacier, and taking them out is not easy given that a ferocious blizzard’s raging and obscuring the battlefield with snow (the scene really gets crazy when you put on a pair of 3D glasses and the snowstorm appears to be literally blowing into your face). The combat in Killzone 3 remains relatively unchanged from its predecessor. You start with a M82 Assault Rifle -- the default ISA weapon -- as your primary firearm and a standardissue pistol as your backup. Just like the previous Killzones, you can swap your primary gun with weapons you pick off the bodies of slain Helghast. Hand-to-hand combat, however, is a new endeavor; you can now unload a string of different (and often brutal) attacks on stunned enemies instead of the basic melee strike of past Killzones. Whenever a glowing orange fist icon appears on the screen, timing your melee attacks correctly allows you to do things like stomp on an enemy’s face with your boot or bludgeon them mercilessly with the butt of your rifle. “With the third game, we’re really hammering into everyone’s heads that ‘a Killzone inch is a Killzone inch,’” Hulst says. When asked what he means by that, Hulst elaborates: “Everything in the game this time is a lot more spread out. As you can see from exploring this arctic setting, a significant change going into Killzone 3 is the scale and size of levels -- everything is bigger this time.”

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Aside from larger levels, Guerrilla is focusing on providing plenty of interesting weapons and gear. One of the most remarkable new pieces of equipment is the jetpack, which doubles as a weapon-a machine gun’s conveniently attached to it. Moments after clearing out the first area on the glacier and entering a jagged hole in a nearby oil tanker’s ruptured hull, several Helghast wearing jetpacks descend upon you. If you aim carefully and shoot their jetpacks, they launch into the sky and explode like Roman candles. After this encounter with the flying Helghast, you can pick up one of their jetpacks and conduct your first test flight. Similarly to how the mech in Killzone 2 felt surprisingly lightweight and agile, Killzone 3’s jetpack is easier to maneuver compared to the sluggish incarnations of the gadget found in other games. You can activate bursts of speed in midair, propelling yourself to further distances; it’s a trick that aids in aerial combat against jetpackwearing aggressors. Soon after acquiring the jetpack, you must cross the frigid ocean by launching yourself from glacier to glacier. As Hulst notes, the actions brought on by the jetpack resemble something you’d do in platformers such as Super Mario Bros. or Uncharted. “Killzone will always be about scorching, intense action, no matter where we take it. But as the shooter genre evolves, Killzone too evolves,” Hulst says. “Killzone 3, in particular, embraces elements that aren’t necessarily native to first-person shooters, such as vehicle-based combat and this sequence on the glaciers that was influenced by platforming video games.” The final highlight of the Frozen Shores mission is something you receive toward the very end of the level: the

Wasp, an almost absurdly devastating weapon. “We call it our ‘portable weapon of mass destruction,’” Hulst jokes. Once you have a Wasp, you can discharge a flurry of rockets, which look like a swarm of robotic insects when they eject out of your muzzle. Switching the Wasp to its secondary fire mode allows you to blow your entire clip on a target, which instantly reduces Helghast tanks and dropships to ashes. After completing the mission, Hulst assures me that while Frozen Shores effectively illustrates how they’re bringing new settings into the Killzone experience, “snow levels” aren’t something we’ll see a lot of in Killzone 3. He suggests it’s only one of many examples of a locale that breaks the repetitive flavor of the settings in Killzone 2. “The Frozen Shores mission demonstrates how Killzone 3 will take you to places you’ve never been to before in past Killzone games. But this doesn’t show off all the ways we’re bringing variety to the settings.” Hulst adds that Killzone 3’s diverse locales not only help give each section of the game its own personality, but they also nurture the designers’ desire for the player to learn more about the Helghast. “Since one of our main goals for Killzone 3 is to dig deeper into the Helghast culture, we figured what better way to get to know them better than to have you visit an array of places that are important to the Helghast,” Hulst says. To exhibit one of the ways they’re continuing to develop the identity of their villains, Guerrilla points out the strange language that appears on Helghast propaganda posters and street signs. The Helghast’s written language isn’t a load of nonsense, as you might suspect. The team created an entire alphabet for the Helghast, and you could

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actually learn it if you were so inclined. According to Guerrilla, it isn’t based on English and has syntactic structures that are similar to the Korean alphabet. Before concluding my time with Killzone 3, I boot up the level once more -- only this time it’s to experience what I just played in full 3D. Playing the game in 3D is entirely optional, so those who have an aversion for 3D entertainment can experience the game without the glasses. Using a pair of wireless 3D glasses synced with a Sony Bravia 3D TV, I restart the Frozen Shores mission and play from the beginning. With this particular setup, it’s important to center yourself in front of the TV to get the optimal 3D experiencesensors on the 3D-enabled Bravia track the glasses. Even though I know exactly how the mission plays out, in many ways switching over to the game’s 3D mode makes for a fresh experience. As you might imagine, certain things jut out of the TV screen more than others, such as enemy bullets that whiz by your head as well as your weapon when you’re zoomed in on a target. Other things when viewed


in 3D, such as the snowcapped mountains and your surroundings, are more subtle. Oddly enough, what stands out the most are the thousands of snowflakes showering down on everything. You really notice the realistic winter effects once you take shelter because the snowfall stops abruptly. When talking about a game so rife with violence and over-the-top action, “snowflakes” are a strange thing to walk away with. But it’s true: The snow effects in Killzone in 3D are stunning. “3D is a true game changer for Killzone,” Hulst asserts. “It not only changes the way you play the game -- it also alters how you interact with your environment since you’re experiencing a brand-new level of immersion. You’re much closer to the action. We want the player to have that sensory overload, where you have to catch your breath at times.” When asked if he believes Killzone 3 has the potential to do for video games what James Cameron’s Avatar did for movies, Hulst is modest about the progress they’ve made with integrating 3D into Killzone in a way that doesn’t feel forced.

“I’m flattered by the comparison to James Cameron’s film. Avatar wasn’t the first movie in 3D, but it’s the first one that got it absolutely right. In that context, we share his ambition of not doing it unless it can be done right.” Following our discussion about how history feeds into the evolution of their franchise and how the Frozen Shores mission showcases many of the new ideas Guerrilla has for Killzone, Hulst talks about what it means to be a game developer in Amsterdam, growing up in a liberal nation near the Iron Curtain’s shadow. “Amsterdammers are known for speaking their minds, and we’ve created a culture here at Guerrilla where they can,” Hulst says. “Everyone’s opinion counts, and everyone is expected to contribute to the creative process. I think it is really beneficial for a creative environment if no one has to guess what the other guy is thinking. You won’t find much paralyzing passiveaggressiveness here, although to new joiners our guys can come across as bluntly aggressive. But they get used to it quickly.

Internationalism and collaboration play not only into the working environment at Guerrilla but also in how they approach their games. Hulst describes their organisational structure as a flat consensus model and insists that they are very much a “community” first and a developer second. He explains that he personally interviews “every single soul” that Guerrilla hires. “Just as Amsterdam has been a melting pot of people from all over the world, Guerrilla is a very international team, with over 20 different nationalities. Foreigners have been flocking to Amsterdam since the 16th century for economic reasons and to enjoy the freedom of a liberal society. You see much of that reflected in the culture at Guerrilla today and in the games we make.” This freedom established by Amsterdam’s liberal society, something that draws people from around the globe, is exactly what the Helghast -- and past tyrants like Hitler and the Nazis -- seek to crush under their boot of intolerance and hate.

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adly, I don’t think Killzone 3, which is the best one so far, is going to change how I perceive the franchise. Titles like Half-Life, the ‘Shock games (System and Bio), and Deus Ex will still spring to mind first as the games that define the FPS genre, and when I do think about Killzone, it’ll still be in that “Oh yeah,” sort of way. Relegating a big name franchise to second class citizen status might seem odd to some of you (especially you concerned PS3 owners who are already crafting your hate e-mails in your minds), but the fact is, Killzone isn’t as good 26 | | March 2011

as those other franchises, and it doesn’t define the genre in which it competes. I don’t expect every game to innovate -- the truth is that only a handful do, and the rest work almost exclusively with proven ideas -- and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with something being derivative, as long as it exudes a tangible level of quality and polish, which Killzone definitely does. But the thing that bothers me about Killzone, and it’s an issue that’s exemplified by this third installment, is that it all feels just a little too rote and formulaic. It’s almost like the developers kept a checklist of popular genre conventions in hand to make sure they didn’t miss a trick. The game plays like a greatest hits compilation of FPS “moments”: there’s the ubiquitous stealth level (bizarrely enough, you’re paired up with a companion who looks exactly like Dusty, the Tier 1 operator from EA’s Medal of Honor reboot); a sequence where you take

control of a giant mecha-robot; loud levels that take place on a massive battlefield and see you running from objective to objective in a mad scramble; an appropriately thrilling stand-off against a towering boss; and, in a sad indictment of the current state of the FPS genre, an ending that drops you off a cliff without providing any real sense of closure or a poignant commentary on the events that just led up to it. At its best, Killzone 3 can be thrilling and fun, and it does hit some high notes. I absolutely love the meaty bullet impacts -- I think Killzone 3 does rent flesh better than any other FPS I’ve ever played. The jet-pack level also stands out as one of the better levels I’ve played in recent memory, and I really appreciated the fleeting glimpses at the power structure of the Helghan high command. Again, the portrayal literally screams “These guys are just like the Nazis!” but watching the fascist leaders bicker was by far more interesting than anything that


occurred between the game’s actual heroes; the game’s main villain is also memorable to the point where I almost wanted to like the slimy bastard, which is a high compliment considering how cookie cutter game villains are these days. Unfortunately, the game peaks infrequently, and the vast majority of your experience is composed alternately of low points marked by frustrating, repetitive battles which are reminiscent of the worst levels Call of Duty had to offer -- dying endlessly until you either figured out the “right” way to tackle the enemies or you brute forced your way to a checkpoint -- or middle-of-the-road skirmishes that don’t stand out from anything you’ve done in the million other games you’ve played before. There are also some bizarre design choices which, considering the maturity of the genre, come across less like quaint eccentricities and more like deep-seeded personality defects: there’s a decent cover system, but you lack the basic ability to go prone; and there’s no functional grenade proximity indicator -grenades do beep loudly and flash, but it doesn’t work in the heat of battle, and it’s ridiculous for an

entirely different reason: why would you give your opponents warning that there’s an explosive nearby? Every weapon also takes a calendar year to reload; the control schemes are awkward; and most enemies take good advantage of cover, which turns most battles into peek-a-boo affairs -- yet strangely, there aren’t very many weapons with a decent scope, so you often waste bullets by the ton in a vain attempt to hit something (good thing there’s plenty of bottomless ammo boxes lying around). And that ending: yikes. I hate to say it, but it might be one of the worst game endings I’ve experienced in a long time. It absolutely does nothing with the weighty implications of the game’s final Event, which definitely deserves the capital E. But despite witnessing, and helping to cause, this horrific outcome, the main characters just sort of shrug their shoulders, the screen fades to black, and a credits sequence begins to roll; my befuddlement was momentarily counteracted when the “real” ending cinematic started, but it manages to be even more contrived because it’s basically a recycling of the proverbial “hand emerging from the grave” bit.

I know I’ve spent the majority of this review ragging on the game, but as strange as this might sound, I never found myself hating Killzone 3. I was just sort of underwhelmed by it, mostly because it doesn’t ever rise above the level of a good popcorn movie. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that -- I shamelessly enjoy movies that fall into this category all the time -- but then again, there’s really nothing memorable about it either.

What about the multiplayer? As is often the case with games reviewed before release, I didn’t get to fully test out the multiplayer before writing my review. I did take into consideration the fact that it exists and that it adds value to the overall package when deciding on my score -- it didn’t exactly move the needle, but it helped. There were review sessions set up for members of the press, but the sessions I sat in on weren’t fully populated, so it didn’t feel fair to use that experience for the purposes of reviewing the online modes.

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is Nathan Drake?: The Rub’ al-Khali desert (one of the largest in the world), plays a big part in Drake’s Deception for one reason: It’s been rumoured to be the home of Iram of the Pillars, an ancient, forgotten city supposedly buried deep beneath the Saudi Arabian desert. One of the earliest mentions of the city is in the Quran, the Islamic holy book, which tells of a city of “lofty pillars.” According to legend, it was destroyed by God (à la Sodom and Gomorrah) because its people defied him.

Sand, sand everywhere, and not a grain unaffected by the finely tuned physics engine in Uncharted 3.

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Shooters! Have you played one? If you aren’t born in the late 90’s, then you probably grew up playing one. And no, I’m not talking about Halo or Call of Duty. I’m talking about those games that involve moving on a 2D axis and shooting whatever enemies that appear. Of course, if you read the title, you should be able to tell I’m going to talk about a sub-genre of shooters rather than shooters in general.

What is it? You might have heard about manic shooters under a different name such as Bullet Hell, Danmaku (Japanese name meaning Bullet Hell), and Bullet Curtain. So what are they? In a nutshell, take a regular shooter like Gradius or Raiden, multiply the amount of enemy bullets appearing onscreen by 100 or more, with a huge focus on dodging that oncoming sea of bullets rather than just simply destroying your enemies, and you’ll end up with a manic shooter With that amount of bullets, dodging and surviving are the main keywords here. Your

hitbox, or the area where bullets get to hit you, is usually 1/8 the size of whatever you’re playing, and with the usual amount of bullets onscreen, weaving your way around what little space there is between each bullet with precise calculated moves. To add to the dodging, you still have to shoot down whatever is in front of you, so not only you’ll have to look where you’re going, but also where to shoot. Unsurprisingly, this usually overwhelms many newcomers. Depending on the game, enemy projectiles come in two flavors (or just lumps them together): slow and many, or fast and little. Some games also make some beautiful patterns with the projectiles, usually being quite predictable, while some other usually just spam the screen with them, usually being very random. The games very reminiscent of those NES games in the days of old, the time where everyone made unforgivably hard games (Ninja Gaiden, anyone?), in a sense that you need all the patience, skill, and a little bit of luck to make it to the end.

How it All Started In the early 90’s in Japan, 3D games started to rise in popularity, and the shooting games scene already had too many people making games, so in response, In 1993, Toaplan (now defunct) made Batsugun to take the genre in a different direction and to wow players with all the bullets. After Toaplan closed, its employees formed Cave and released DonPachi in 1995. Around the same time in Japan, independent developers (called doujin, meaning a group of people sharing an interest) also started making similar games. From there, the genre very slowly grew in popularity, and quickly became more and more refined than it used to be.

As with any other genre, there are a ton of manic shooters available on the internet for free by indie developers, though you might have to dig around some Japanese websites to find some of them. In the case of paid games from Japan, you can usually find them through online shops, but do be careful not to end up ordering games that have some improper content. Lately, shooters, including bullet hell ones, are starting to pop up on touchscreen-based phones such as the iPhone or Android. Personally, I’d rather stick to keyboards and controllers rather than touchscreens for better controls, but that’s just me.

Manic Shooters Today While this genre’s popularity is nowhere near where I’d like it to be, you can still find a good number of games and fans if you bother to look for them. You can find most of the games these days are obtained by downloading them, because it’s much cheaper

Lochal Archade is a Dubai-based video game community, concentrating on underrated or underappreciated games. Instead of just covering the latest and greatest, they go out and find good games that may not have been in the headlines. On the Web site www. you can find their podcast, discussion forum, blogs and more. 30 | | March 2011

to put up smaller games for download than to release them in boxed copies.

RECOMMENDED GAMES: - Ikaruga (XBLA) - Geometry Wars (DS, Wii, 360) - Touhou series (PC, import) - Cho Ren Sa (PC) - rRootage (PC, iPhone)

Ryan Rigney looks at how gaming on Apple’s tablet has drastically changed since its launch a year ago.


hen the iPad debuted last year, more than 900 games were already available on the App Store. The flood of releases was both a blessing and a curse: For every good game, the store held 20 stinkers, a problem that iPhone and iPod Touch gamers had already become well acquainted with. But that wasn’t the only thing familiar about the iPad launch. Quantity was high, and quality was low. The App Store had a few bright spots, like Flight Control HD, but many early iPad games looked like an assault on the iPhone by a steamroller.

A Modest Launch Most of the iPad games in the initial batch of releases were nothing more than upscaled versions of iPhone games. Sold as “HD” apps, the quality of these games frequently hinged on the amount of work developers had actually put into the iPad port. Flight Control HD represented the best of the HD apps available at launch, largely because developer Firemint had taken advantage of the iPad’s larger screen to add same-screen multiplayer and new, larger levels. The HD version was a redesign, not a port. Then you had games like N.O.V.A. HD; the game’s set of virtual buttons and sticks work well enough for iPhone, but Gameloft made almost no changes to make the controls more intuitive on the far larger iPad. This made it nearly impossible to play N.O.V.A. HD and other games like it comfortably. Another launch disappointment was Drop7, which had been freshly updated to support both the iPhone and iPad.

Drop7’s a fantastic game on the iPhone, but blurry, pixelated graphics greet iPad owners who boot up the game. The game looks essentially identical to the way it would if it hadn’t ever been updated at all. Plenty of Drop7 fans felt betrayed by the lazy port job, as evidenced by the negative reviews covering the game’s official page on the iTunes App Store.

iPad Gaming Today Epic Games’ flagship iOS title, Infinity Blade, reflects several trends in iPad game development, not the least of which are the massive graphical leaps that gamemakers are making with iOS development. Infinity Blade sports a well-designed button layout, looks gorgeous, and runs beautifully across all of Apple’s mobile devices, iPhone 3GS and higher. It owes much of its visual impressiveness to the Unreal Engine, which Epic has begun licensing for use by other developers who want to make awesome-looking iPhone and iPad games. Another major strength: Infinity Blade is a Universal App and represents a growing tendency by developers to release apps that work well across all Apple devices instead of splitting games into a standard app and an overpriced “HD” app. The release of PC cult hit World of Goo a week after Infinity Blade’s debut is another triumph for the iPad, both from a technological standpoint and as a beacon for mass-market “hardcore” games on the iPad. Developer 2D Boy delayed the game several times after its initial announcement to make sure that the iPad version ran the way they

intended it to. And as a result the game feels like it’s always been meant for the supersized touchscreen device. Perhaps the biggest change in the iPad development scene occurred when gamemakers realised that games developed for the iPad don’t automatically have to also fit the iPhone (and viceversa). Indie-developed titles like Erik Svedang’s Shot Shot Shoot represent some of the first iPad games that could only work on the larger, more powerful device.

A Bright Future The iPad still isn’t quite as established in the gaming world as other platforms, but slowly and steadily, games created by people who understand this changing industry are emerging— and flourishing—on the App Store. Independent developers are leading the charge to create distinct, iPad-specific game concepts, and major studios such as Epic are pushing the limits of what the iPad can handle without relying on ineffective and ugly compromises like virtual D-pads or joysticks. The shovelware is still lurking, but the ratio of good-to-bad games has improved, and as more talented developers set their sights on the iOS platform, the games should continue to improve. 2010 was the year that the iPhone came into its own as a game platform; 2011 is the iPad’s year.

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Report: Sony Playstation Experience GameWorld Middle East spent a few days in a rainy and cold London trying out some of the latest and upcoming games for Sony Playstation 3. Here are some of the games we experienced.| |January March 2011 2011 32 32 |



On top of gorgeous visuals, genre-breaking gameplay, and nonconventional approach to multi-player, Journey comes across as truly innovative. And though it’s not meant as a competitive or co-op experience, players can engage in impromptu races or get assistance from more experienced players.

Infamous 2

Infamous 2 feature user-generated missions, with customisable levels and various tools that players can use to stylise anything from escort missions to puzzle-based challenges. This new addition to the gameplay was created in order to address the biggest problem of the first game -- that at some point, it ended.

MotorStorm Apocalypse The special effects-strewn setting seems like the perfect complement to the impressive visuals and physics tech the franchise is already known for. This sequel couples the series‘ solid track record for delivering over-the-top, arcadey racing with a premise that makes Split/Second‘s destruction-filled environments look like kiddy go-kart tracks. 34 | | March 2011


Resistance 3

Resistance 3 is easily one of the sharpest looking games I’ve seen for the PS3. Insomniac Games clearly paid attention to polish this time around, and the gorgeous single-player demo looks great despite the usual gritty war-tone type of area that fills the first-person shooter scene.

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RAZER STARCRAFT II GAMING PERIPHERALS Razer makes a lot of different kinds of hardware for gaming, like mice, keyboards and headsets. Recently they decided to make a set built for playing one game in particular: Starcraft 2. In order to try them, we had to fire up StarCraft 2, play a few games and see how much advantage the hardware gave us.

What’s different? Razer likes to make their hardware glow with a calming blue light. This set comes with very similar blue lights but these lights change according to what happens in the game. Razer likes to call this feature “The APM (actions per minute) System”. The idea is that it adds a dimension to the gaming experience and can alert you to things going on, in addition to the inputs you already have like the display and the sound. The colours of the lights also change depending on what’s happening and you

can modify the colours to suit your needs. Although it’s a cool feature I didn’t feel it added much to my experience. Perhaps if it could be tied more into things I don’t clearly already see on the map, like what’s happening elsewhere in the game, it would prove more useful.

Razer Spectre (The Mouse) $79.99 The Spectre looks noticeably smaller than other Razer mice and a lot more conventional looking too. In looks, it doesn’t look much like a step up from those first generation mice with a click wheel and a few lights around its sides thrown in. There are fewer buttons that you’d expect on a gaming mouse, but for a game

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like Starcraft 2, you don’t really need that many mouse buttons to begin with. The mouse is very comfortable to the hand, but seems to be a little too sensitive. It happened that I held the mouse and it would jitter, making it very difficult to control troops around the map, especially in times where I completely zoom out. Rating: 3 out of 5

Razer Marauder (The Keyboard) $119.99 Like the Spectre, the Marauder is noticeably smaller than its counterparts. I was kind of worried that I wouldn’t like it, mainly because I’m more use to using mechanical keyboards and going back to a membranebased keyboard, like the Spectre, would be very disorienting. Pleasantly surprised, I quickly found out that wasn’t the case. The Marauder is

an impressive keyboard, though the size is rather small it doesn’t sacrifice key sizes and everything is accessible and reachable. Among the three accessories, the Marauder had the most visible APM, mainly because it was right there in front of me. It’s a very solid looking and feeling keyboard. Rating: 4 out of 5

Razer Banshee (The Headset) $119.99 Despite the fine looking design of the Banshee, this headset is the lowest scoring piece of hardware of the Starcraft 2 set. The Banshee does suffer from many problems; chiefly it’s a very uncomfortable headset to wear. Adding to the discomfort is that the right headset tends to heat up the remote device

is in the left headphone and that becomes irritating after a while. Another problem is the inexplicably short cable. I have used many USBpowered headsets before and all of them came with abundantly lengthy cables. It baffles me how have a cable this short would be a good idea. Unlike many gaming headsets, this is only a stereo headset, which can be a turn off for some. To be fair, Starcraft 2 doesn’t have support for surround. It also has the least visible APM lights in all of the Starcraft 2 accessories since the lights will only be seen at the very corner of your eyes. I am disappointed to see this much problem for a headset with that price. Rating: 2 out of 5

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Wii Remote The Memorex Wii remote is one among many alternative remotes out there in the market. This Wii remote will not win any beauty contests as it is made out of cheap looking and feeling materials. It boasts bigger buttons for “easier pressing” but the spring mechanism isn’t that comfortable and some buttons even jam. The dpad works better than it looks. I was expecting a nightmare when it comes to platformers but it turned out it to work just fine, but still very uncomfortable to use. The battery cover comes ribbed with the purpose of preventing any slipping of the Wii remote from the

hand, but it doesn’t seem to give that much effect since the higher quality plastic on the regular battery cover doesn’t feel very slippery in the first place, regardless of the rubberized jacket that the wii motion plus that it comes with. Even with the insignificantly cheaper price tag you are better off with the regular wii remote. The Memorex remote has a noticeably stronger vibration, which may appeal to some, but other than that I don’t see any reasons to buy it. Rating: 2 out of 5

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Sensor Bar Being wireless seems to be a big advantage if the Wii is in a large room as you can move it around. It says the designs improves the rang on the box, but there isn’t any noticeable change it also says there’s a usb slot for it to work without batteries yet it doesn’t seem to have any slots anywhere. Better off with a regular sensor bar. Rating: 2 out of 5

Being a solid alternative to an already useless prephrial, it ironically fits the regular Wii remote better than Memorex’s own Wii remote. Has a questionable slot for the Wii Motion Plus, that doesn’t make sense since there’s only one game in the entire Wii catalogue that does steering with the Wii Motion Plus and is irrelevant since it’s a water skiing game. Rating: 1.5 out of 5



’m a big fan of the first LBP, and I’ve spent a good amount of time playing online with my friends. And I have to admit that LBP2 is probably one of the most anticipated games of 2011. So was it worth the wait?

More Tools Of the great things about LBP were the creation tools. Anyone could build their own levels using the tools, and this led to an explosion of homebrew worlds that anybody could access online. The developers’ main focus for LBP2 was these tools, where they’ve expanded on these immensely. These give the user more control over their creations, and gives them the ability to deliver even more complex worlds. I won’t go into those tools here, since that has been the primary concern for most reviews out there. What I will talk about is how those affect the average player. However, I will say that the online community is more organised and everything about it is more developed. For example voting is made of your Sackboy with 2 choices, happy or sad. It can’t get simpler than this.

More Developed Media Molecule says it’s used the same creation tools to build their own worlds. And with a quikc glance you can see that everything in the game has matured in comparison to the first one. Cut scenes are more extensive, with the characters actually talking, and then followed by the bubbles that we’ve seen 40 | | March 2011

in the first one. Even though the worlds are made from the same “materials”, they have much more happening in them, especially in the background. Characters are more complex and way more over the top this time around. The characters are themselves creative references, with “Larry Da Vinci” being the most central and amusing of the team. This time the story has you gathering key characters with a growing ensemble called “The Alliance”, rather than progressing from one character to another. I have to admit, however, that I feel that some of the charm that was a key ingredient is lost on this version. The storyline in the first one revolved around regional cultures, with the worlds based on themes taken from these cultures. Probably something that can’t be repeated. But in part, the worlds’ simplicity had contributed to its charm. The worlds and the characters were a sort of collage, made from common materials (fabric, foam, cardboard, etc.), the new worlds seem to be too complex for these materials, with the exception of Victoria’s kitchen world where everything is made of pastry.

More Tools A major part of the gameplay is the new tools and weapons you have at your disposal. I won’t go too much into these as not to spoil the game. But I’ve found some of these to be references (if not copies) of other games and franchises; the grappling hook was very reminiscent of Spider Man, and the Grabinator of the Hulk. Another key tool is the sackbot, which is a small AI

based characters that interacts with you and assists you in your tasks. This is an interesting way to give the game a bit more depth, even though it is essentially the same as pulling levers and a machine reacting in some way, since you have no control over what they do.

More of The Same If you haven’t tried the first Little Big Planet, or if you were a huge fan of it, then you’ll love this one. But if you’ve had your fill with the first one, or if you were on the fence, this isn’t going to offer anything more. At the heart of things, it’s pretty much the same. You start with the Pod (which uses a PS3 controller to control your world, and adds perspective to the Sackboy’s size). You still do what you’ve done in the first. But there is enough in there to keep both a fan and first time player entertained.

Conclusion It’s hard to follow up on the success that was Little Big Planet. The developers, Media

Molecule, have done a great job with this new version, but it’s important when you get this one that you keep in mind that this is more an evolution, than it is the revolution that the first one was. Fans of the game will get more levels to play with using more tools and weapons. Newcomers to the franchise are greeted with a charming and creative world. But if you are one of the few that for some reason didn’t like this game, there is nothing here to change your mind. This is one of the most anticipated games of 2011 on the PS3, and it is worth the wait.

GAMEWORLD RECKONS PROS: Probably the best game creation tools to complement one of the best online communities. CONS: Lost a bit of its charm.

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Interview: SID MEIER


id Meier’s seminal Civilization series is one of the most important and influential game franchises of all time. Now Meier is poised to make the leap to social gaming platforms, as his former cofounder at Firaxis Brian Reynolds (the lead designer of Civilization III) did when he developed Frontierville. GameWorld asked Meier about the challenges of developing for this new platform and how he plans to conquer the virtual world of Facebook with Civilization World.


developing Civilization World for Facebook differed from traditional game development and design? SID MEIER: In terms of the development process, our team has used the same iterative approach to game design that we’ve used for our traditional

The Godfather of Computer Gaming has a new racket: Civilization for Facebook.

games. We start with a prototype and play and improve as we go. Since we’re taking Civilization in a new direction with this game, there were lots of new ideas we had to try out, and it took testing with many people over a lot of time to pull out the best ideas. We’re able to do things we’ve never done before, like collaborative gaming with friends, and really focus on the social aspect of gameplay.

GW: From what we’ve heard,

you’ve taken a very hands-on approach for Civ World. How has the experience been coding and designing the game? SM: I’m the luckiest guy in the world to be able to come in and write code for games every day. It’s what I love to do, and thankfully, I’ve been able to do it for a long time now. Yes, I’m very hands-on with the design and programming for Civ World. I created

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the prototype and have been working with our very talented team of programmers and artists here at Firaxis to bring the game to life. It’s been exciting taking the Civ experience that we’re all so familiar with and making a game that will deliver a new way to play for Civ fans and a new kind of social game for Facebook gamers.

GP: How will players be able to team up with their friends to work as nations within the game? What kind of Facebook functionality makes this possible?

SM: You can form a Civ with friends and acquaintances to build a powerful nation while you all compete against the other players in the game. And you can use all the tools of social networking to organise a sneak attack on another nation or alert your teammates if some great new opportunity


has opened up, like a new wonder or a really cheap unit on the market. Civ World is a persistent game so players will be able to pop in and out of the game as their time permits to manage their city and touch base with the other players in their nation. Players can chat in-game and send messages via Facebook to strategise with their team.

on this platform. We’ve got wonders and technology and armies and different paths to victory, etc. As far as complexity goes, the game consists of some basic concepts which are easy to learn, and the complexity arises from working in collaboration with others toward a common goal. You’ll need to think strategically if you want to win a game.

GW: How will gameplay in Civ

GW: Facebook has helped

World cater to the Facebook crowd? What are some elements that should entice more hardcore Civilization fans into playing it? SM: Each game of Civ World will have an end, so there will be distinct play sessions with a most successful nation and a player with the most Fame points at the end of each game. We feel that people want to work toward a meaningful victory in their game. Much of the design is based around collaboration with your friends and other people in the game. Civ players will feel very at home with the addictive strategy game elements, and Facebook gamers will have a chance to experience a deep, collaborative game

create a push for the casualgaming market. How do you feel about casual gamers vs. hardcore players, many of whom are Civ fans? Is it hard to cater to both? SM: Facebook has opened up a new place to enjoy games, and we think that’s a great thing. We feel that the Civilization experience can be delivered in fun and meaningful ways on many different platforms and that all kinds of games and gamers can happily coexist. Civilization on the PC and consoles is different than the one we’re bringing to social networking, but players will recognise many of the elements that have been in Civilization games before.

Even if your time is limited, you can still contribute to the success of your nation. And by the same token, if you want to spend a lot of time in the game, you’ll have plenty to do.

GW: Since the Facebook plat-

form allows for seamless game updates, can we expect that Civ World will be an ongoing project for you and the rest of the Firaxis team? What can we look forward to down the line? SM: That’s one of the great things about making a Facebook game. Once we launch Civ World and can talk to players and find out what they like, what changes they’d like to see, new content they want, etc, we’ll be able to deliver it right away. We’re very excited to see what directions the fans want us to go with the game and we have some ideas of our own we’d like to add down the road.

March 2011 | | 43


s hardware and technology advances, so do video games. One genre that had shown rapid advancement (technically) is the first person shooter. While first person shooters have become immensely photo realistic and require a more specific learning curve in order to use your weapons and maneuverability more efficiently, they lost a certain charm, they’ve become more style and less goofy (in a good way). No longer are they as fun and easy to get into like Doom or Quake. Bulletstorm seems to

go more towards the direction of those old first person shooter games that I adore. It doesn’t take itself seriously, the weapons aren’t your conventional weapons, and the game is just more about the fun of shooting them rather following certain disciplines on how to aim and shoot realistic guns. You play Grayson Hunt a soldier in exile who went rogue against a power hungry general. After running away in space for several long years with a bounty on his team’s heads, he bumps into the general’s battle ship and

44 | | March 2011

decides to attack it, in the process destroying his ship and half of his team. Hunt later crash lands on a planet full of barbaric bandits and mows his way through the barren planet’s landscape to find the general and put an end to the man that ruined his team’s lives. The story can be a bit on the boring side. It’s hard to find a first person shooter with a notable story nowadays, though Bulletstorm has some witty writing when it comes to dialogue. Grayson and the other characters are very chatty during the game but they

always seem to have something notably funny to say. The thing about the game is that it has been poking fun at other shooters before its release with the help of marketing and little game that parodises Call of Duty called Duty Calls, but even after release there are these little details that make fun of the whole genre is what gives this game charm. Take the skill point system for example, it’s suppose to motivate the General’s army to work more effectively. In case you didn’t get the joke, it’s suppose to

REVIEW be mocking the usual scoring system in most military multiplayer FPSs, how people get rewards for their performance in multiplayer games. These points are used to upgrade your guns in the game. The points system does a good job of marking your every move and making it very satisfying in racking up points, there are many ways to inflict hurt onto your enemies and it does encourage you to be creative, which is something not a lot of games do these days. You get this energy leash in the game that does add more to the game, you use it to pull enemies and items towards you to make your attacks easier and gives you that much control in the battlefield. Did I mention that this game is all about the big silly guns it throws at you? This game literally takes all the real weapons military shooters use and throws

them out of the window, but then when there’s a quad barreled shotgun, a revolver that fires flares, a sniper rifle with remote controlled bullets and a rocket launcher that fires rockets with spinning drill tips. There’s so much to play with your imagination on how you use these weapons, each with their own specific skill points. Weapons and the leash aren’t the only ways to kill in this game, the environment does give you a ton of options too, from your usual exploding barrel, parasitic blobs and even man eating plants. Controls are very well implemented, even though I do prefer mouse and keyboard over controllers when it comes to first person shooters. In Bulletstorm however, the controls work great and not for a second you’ll feel hindered by the limitations of the controller, I was able

to react responsively and take on myriads of enemies in one consistent stream of attacks. Another cool thing about the game is the action set pieces that you experience while going through it. This game does not shy away from giving you some entertaining scripted events, whether they are genuinely funny or just fun to go through. The game seems very generous when it comes to check points, so when you die you’re not very far from where you left off. However the problem is that loading the game does take some time. I’m not one to complain about long load times, but you do get into the game that these load times kind of mentally disconnect you from the game. Another problem in the game that near the end you will face some pacing problems where some bits feel either too short

or just too long. What makes this problem worse is that you will end up in some places out of bullets with no points to spend on ammo, and forced to use your least favorite weapons at times when they’re just ineffective on the enemies of whichever part of the game you’re in. Writing does go through weird inconsistencies where the writing is humorous and suddenly flips super serious all the sudden. Bulletstorm isn’t a serious shooter, it’s a look back at when first person shooters were about nothing but dumb carnage fun goodness. Think of it as a mindless action block buster, mindless fun all the way.

GAMEWORLD RECKONS Pros: Interesting and fun weapons; Funny dialogue; Fighting system gives you many options on how to kill your enemies; Fun scripted events. Cons: Inconsistency in story; Pacing can be a bit slow in some bits; Corny story; Long load times.

March 2011 | | 45


s gamers we usually stick to the familiar, I have said this time and time before. It’s very normal and human thing go for the safer decision. People stick to certain series, people stick to certain platforms, and don’t look far beyond the games they are familiar with, not wanting to play anything new. But there are some people that will complain that there is nothing worth playing and get disappointed at their favorite series and just complain. It even winds me up when someone (especially some PC gamers) refuses to play a console exclusive game. Sure I do have fun being the usual PC snob since PCs usually have the far more superior ports of many games (and have the convenience on being up on services such as Steam), but when a game is only released on a console or (in some cases because the developer was too lazy) has a better console port, I think it’s fair to just play the game on the system that the game was intended to be played on. I am fully aware that controllers cannot hold a candle next to mouse and keyboard’s gasoline and burning tire fueled bonfire when it comes to precise control (especially in shooters), but dismissing a perfectly good game (or console) because it is console only can be a bit silly. Some people even avoid games that require motion controls like the plague.

JUST PLAY THE GAME Control and hardware aren’t the only victims in this issue, games and developers fall under that gaping hole that gamers throw in excuses to overlook games. Excuses can span millions of reasons about the game being too easy, too difficult, the creator didn’t work on the game, the publisher interfered too much with the process of the game’s development, the game didn’t need a sequel, the sequel is much too different to the original game, or even someone in the developing team didn’t pick their nose enough to in the making of the game. I’m no different. Yes, I dismiss entire overmilked or overhyped franchises (see Halo, most of Final Fantasy, Call of Duty and postSymphony of the Night Castlevania) on a daily basis and feel smug when one game didn’t turn out as well as people hoped for. Not because I enjoy seeing people in dismay because their favourite series isn’t “as good as it use to be”, but because I know I did the right choice keeping my video game tastes broader than the average Joe. That being said, I will not overlook it if a game of a popular series turned out to be very good and fun (Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII is a fantastic game if you dismiss the Chippendale nonsense of a story). More people need to realise that

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some games are more than just skin deep, it’s not just graphics or your favourite franchise scribbled on an irrelevant game with crayons, sometimes people just need to play games for what they’re worth and stop complaining about petty and silly things. I sometimes buy games I have never heard of, which means I have stumbled on my share of abominations but in the same time an abundance of very pleasant surprises. Maybe we just have far too many expectations when it comes to games that prefer to play it safe and just stick to things we’re familiar with and ruffle our feathers whenever we see change.

Mohammad Alhuraiz wishes he could give up his day job to just focus on gaming and other forms of tech. He likes finding and playing under appreciated games, which didn’t necessarily capture the big headlines. If he’s not hanging out at www. you can catch up with Mohammad on Twitter as @ asatiir.

March 2011 | | 47

GameWorld Middle East March 2011  

This is the March 2011 issue of GameWorld Middle East produced by CPI in Dubai.

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