Halo 3 Championship Tournament to begin March 11th…

It looks like Bungie has concocted a way to compete with all of the top of the line games coming out over the next two months. A tournament of unparalleled scope. Open to players in the U.S. (except Vermont and Maryland, for some reason??), the tourment details can all be found on Xbox.com.

The following information is from the website:
Register via Xbox LIVE Marketplace by downloading the free Halo 3 US Championship Gamer Picture before March 17. To download the Gamer Picture:
Sign in to Xbox LIVE Marketplace
Select Game Store
Select Themes and Gamer Pictures
Select All Gamer Pictures
Select U.S. Army & Halo 3
Select Halo 3 U.S. Championship Gamer Picture and select Confirm Download

The tourney will be comprised of three rounds, culminating in an 8 man. The top eight players from the semi-finals round will meet on or around May 3, 2008, to compete in the Championship Round of the Tournament on-site in New York City.

Put down that Grand Theft Auto IV, soldier… there’s Halo 3 to be played, prizes to be won, and celebrity status to be established! At least, that’s what Bungie wants you to think!

Slow in the wake of GDC? Let's catch up…

I admit, my posting has been a bit lacking after GDC. I have been crushed with work, and various technical problems with hardware at home (seems like everything from my laptop to my cell phone turned on me this week!). But that’s no reason for you to suffer, is it? This post is going to be a bit more editorial in fashion, just trying to cover a broad range of topics.

X3F: Misguided April Fool’s looks foolish?
So, after this weeks fiasco of Ask X3F (Xbox 360 Fanboy), there has been a small community backlash. It seems it’s a bit early for April Foolery. Many people found humor in the moment, but a lot of others were disgusted when Dustin hijacked the segment and intentionally tainted the image of many X3F’ers. “My Ask X3F hijacking is going to be rude, crude and so very un-helpful (is that even a word?),” he wrote. A user by the name of Graham even commented “X3F lost a lot of credibility when David Dreger left.” His comment was voted down, but I can’t help but think that, no matter how light and humorous the intention was, that a “professional blog” (if there is such a thing?) such as one under the umbrella of Joystiq should never intetionally “ruffle feathers” like this.

Gears of War 2: Where’ve you been all my life?
People have been suggesting that Gears 2 feels “rushed.” Well, fear not. Much like the first Gears, portions of the game are being “contracted out” to partner developer teams (certain multiplayer game types, map designs, etc… [side note: man I wish Psyonix would get a better webmaster!]).

CliffyB’s announcement that the first game was “a set up” to introduce you to the Gears universe is quite believable. While Gears 2 may feel rushed, if it were planned quite a while ahead, it could potentially live up to all things expected of it. Remember, the engine may have changed, and they may update a few textures and what have you, but for the most part, the game is built. It’s running on the same hardware, which they’ve already pushed the limits of once, expecting them to do so again is maybe expecting too much. Still, with some fine tuned mechanics and an even more involved story line, we are entitled to expect a lot from Gears 2!

LucasArts: Thank you.
Yes, we all know about Force Unleashed, but I would like to bring to your attention another LucasArts game that was recently announced and completely overlooked, Fracture. The story line is a little rough, but should prove to entertain. The game has the graphics and the setting that makes you feel like you are early in the history of the Mass Effect universe. And with their new “terrain deformation” mechanic, I think this game is going to be extremely entertaining. Oh, and incase there isn’t enough linkage today, here’s just one more for Fracture.

[Update 2]: Gears of War 2 confirmed: Due as early as October!

Updated: link included.

The press release has leaked early. The announcement due at the end of the Microsoft GDC Keynote (happening as I write). What you’re not gonna hear in the press papers? CliffyB has been strangely very hands off this time around. You didn’t hear it from us.

The GoW 2 video played at GDC, and as Joystiq described it: CliffyB burst in and leaves us with a quick piece of info. Gears 2 in November 2008, only on Xbox 360.

MajorNelson’s Flickr has some fun pictures of he and CliffyB playing with the fun Lancer of Cliff’s. Major also tells us to watch XBLM for a trailer of GoW2 later today!
Still don’t know what’s behind the XNA curtain.

War: It's good for video games (2 of 2)

In January, I had a chance to check out the Frontlines single player demo. It gave a nice cinematic intro, and a brief “the story so far…” moment. Today, I finally took the time to try the multiplayer demo which has made its way onto the Xbox Live Marketplace.

Frontlines, again, has an amazing story concept, and very good combat execution. Allow me to share with you what I posted on Unscripted360’s forums back in January. The following, about the Single Player demo, was my micro review of the game.


I think the game is going to be pretty damn good. Then again, the Demo for Blacksite: Area 51 made me drop $50 on that the week it came out, and I sold that four days later!

Still, the graphics are impressive, the story line is eerily plausible, and the idea that the game is acted out by the player as a soldier, but told from the point of view of an Associated Press writer is pretty freakin’ brilliant (English major geekyness coming out!).

I love Squad Based combat games, where you don’t really have to rely on the squad or direct them. Much like Halo. You get the feeling of a large battle, lots of people fighting along side you, but you don’t have to worry about giving them orders like in GRAW or Rainbow Six. Area 51 was similar, where you could give a few orders here and there, but a lot of it, the AI handled themselves. I like that.

The graphics are certainly “this gen” – not much has been spared here, save for a bit of dynamic lighting, which might be nice… then again the level is broad daylight in a desert-city, so maybe ‘night-time’ missions will be a bit more impressive.

All in all, I’m fairly excited about what I’ve seen so far, and will certainly consider picking it up!

After reading a few people’s comments, I think I can counter a bit of it. The game does indeed feel a little slow, but some of us are used to Halo, where we’re playing a super soldier. This is still supposed to be contemporary combat – think of the “America’s Army” games. I thought that demo had even slower player movement than this.

Similarly, with the ‘sluggish’ tank controls… I’ve never driven a tank, but I don’t see them changing much in the next fifteen years. I don’t think a tank is intended to speed along the way they can in other games (again, Halo?). It takes a few seconds to get it going from one direction to another… but if you hold down that ‘sprint’ button (RB, by default), like you’re running, it gets a bit of a boost. I did have some awkward troubles with it only wanting to turn one direction, even after I pressed the opposite, but I figured I just had to learn the controls a little better.

Also, as far as the AI goes, I’d like to see a bit more of it. Just because it’s not ‘aggressive’ doesn’t mean it’s no good. If I were in battle and saw someone jump out in front of me, I might instinctively turn and run, too. I had a few instances of it running from me while I was in the open, and a few instances where I was getting tagged, and I couldn’t tell from where!

Now, onto the more recent multiplayer demo.

Frontlines: Fuel of War’s multiplayer demo menus are clear and easy to navigate, but the lack of a clear lobby is very confusing. I was suddenly presented with a battlefield. No clear description of the map, or level – just “do you want to join this game?” I pressed a to join the game. I then chose a class (a weapons loadout), and deployed. Deploying seemed to take an inordinate ammount of time, considering the match was already udner way. In some instances I pressed the deploy button several times, only to go back to the loadout screen! Then I saw a smoke signal and headed right for my first objective.

Upon arrival I expected instructions for capturing the site, or at least a timer, showing that if I stayed in a certain area long enough, it would capture the zone… but nothing. I get the capture point, get killed, then stay dead for a few minutes, until it’s the end of the match and I’m back at the main menu.

Upon joining another match, my lag is so bad that pressing the dpeloy button multiple times, again, does nothing. I change teams, then deploy, and it works – but every step I take sends me backwards ten.

Finally I connect to a relatively lag free server. The smoke points actually were capture points, and there are other communication stations you capture by standing infront of a computer and holding the X button. It sure seems like a dangerous thing, especially with the lack of communication I was experiencing from my team, but it worked out pretty well in the end.

The fun part comes as the “front line” of the war changes. When the game starts, the map is dividied in half, with capture points in the middle. The team that captures those expands their control of the map, and more capture points, deeper in the losing team’s territory, are assigned. You are fighting for the front line, that is all. It does no good to run to a capture point that is not active and unguarded. It was a very smart use design that allows them to use these large scale maps, but localize the battle, rather than having it spread all over.

Match lengths can be anywhere from five minutes to an hour. Seems a bit overkill – let’s hope somebody simply WINS in that ammount of time… I’m not the kind of patient person that wants to play an hour at a time, on one map… I suppose with the right company, it could be fun, but I would need to understand if and how they have implimented a party system a little better, when the full version comes out.

As a sort of bonus, the multiplayer demo also includes more of the “story so far” in a Field Guide. You can learn more about the nations involved in the war, weapons, vehicles, loadouts, and role equipment. My favorite little feature is the War Timeline. A quick read of that shows just how much thought went into this universe. While I may have found a few typos and inconsistencies in what was written there (English major geekyness strikes again!), I assume it will be fixed when the game launches, and I believe it is that story that is going to sell to a sometimes forgotten niche market, those who love storylines in their shooters!

All in all, I enjoyed the demos, but I honestly expect that I will be picking this game up shortly after launch, if not at launch. But I have to admit, I think it’s mostly because of the single player storyline!

War: It's good for video games (1 of 2)


I have been hearing a lot about these new war games lately, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, and Frontlines: Fuel of War. Today, I intend to talk about both.

Turning Point: Fall of Liberty takes a very Command and Conquer “Red Alert” approach to things. It is a “what if” universe, that rewrites history as we know it. The demo opens with a Nazi bombardment of New York City, circa 1940. As you, a construction worker climbing the I-Beams of an finished building, witness the first wave of the attack hit the Statue of Liberty (an ominously threatening act to open a up with) and come ashore with fighter planes, Zeppelins, and paratroopers, you are immediately thrown in to the action.

Without so much as a “ready, set, go” you are off, trying to make your way down the building. Your first encounter with a Nazi soldier is quite simple: press B, then press up on the d-pad. Take him out, and take his gun. Then you can proceed to have fun picking off paratroopers and making your way through New York’s city streets and buildings. That’s… really? That’s about it. The demo just ends in a plume of smoke squeezing its way down the streets, with a visual eerily reminiscent of 9/11 footage.

The demo doesn’t take you very far, and doesn’t really leave you with much of a cliff hanging desire to play more. The combat mechanics are pretty straight forward, nothing too – a big feeling of the first condemned game, when using the d-pad to execute ‘finishing moves.’ The graphics aren’t on par with many of today’s titles, which is a shame, considering it’s using Unreal Engine 3. In fact, it feels like a budget title – like (I hate to say this, because it’s not that bad) King Kong. I certainly don’t see myself spending $60 for it, and this is why I’m a huge proponent of games that take the “value pricing” approach to things… for instance, when Project Sylpheed launched at a realistic $40, instead of $60.

Turning Point: Fall of Liberty has some very interesting story concepts, and has their imagery right. The concept of attacking America, and New York City in particular, is still something that will get under the skin of many. If I were Codemasters, I would do something to play the controversy card: that might sell a few extra copies of the game. The smoke funneling through the streets, bombing of the “Statue of Liberty” – these are powerful, powerful images. The unfortunate problem is the game engine is so basic that these images don’t hit home with the cinematic oomph that they should.

All in all, I want more of the game, more of the alternate universe, more of the feeling that I’m Joe construction worker and I’m America’s last line of defense. But in all honesty? I’m not about to pay $60 for those feelings. It may be a long while before it’s in the bargain bin for $20 or less, so this game is on my “pick it up used” list.

Want Uno? Find "360" in the wild! Our first giveaway!

It’s been years since I’ve been in the position to have giveaways. On my previous website, I had a huge double prize pack, with T-Shirts, PC software, and all kinds of things. Well, I’m working my way up to the top again, and you have to start somewhere. This is WinBreak.com’s first giveaway, and we’re glad you can be a part of it!

The Prize: We’re just getting started, so at this time, we will only be giving away one copy of Uno for the Xbox Live Arcade.

The fine print: I don’t think there is any!! 🙂 We will be giving away a code for Uno – this allows me to make this open internationally! Anyone can enter! As far as I know, the code will work anywhere, even Europe, the Middle East, Asia… everywhere!

The ultra fine print: If the code doesn’t work over seas, we will give the code to the 2nd place contestant, and we will GIFT the game to the first place winner! If you were the first place winner you will get your prize, even if I have to jump through hoops to do it!

The background: I was at work this week, and was seeing the number “360” everywhere… paperwork, client numbers, serial numbers, everything I looked at, everywhere I looked!

Here’s how to enter: We want you to “360” in the wild. Find it on a menu at a restaurant take a picture. Find it on the subway and take a picture with your phone. Find it online and take a screen shot (press the Print Screen key and PASTE it into MSPaint or something!). Just take pictures of the number “360” or “three sixty” or “three six zero” or anything like that! See what you can find, you’ll be surprised! Submit your entries to contest@winbreak.com. We encourage multiple entries.

We will post the pictures of all entries deemed appropriate, and the winners will be announced after they have been contacted. Your pictures will be judged by WinBreak.com crew and friends. Your pictures will be judged on various things, including the originality and location! Update: Oh yeah, a few more details… we’re currently planning to hold the judging and announce our decision around noon EST (GMT -5) next Sunday. Also, while we are well aware of the power of photoshop, we want our entries to be in the spirit of competition and fun! Please just do what you can to find 360 in the wild!

If you have any questions, just use the contact us link on the right side of the page, or send an email to the contest email address. I can’t wait to see your entries!

Preview: Turok demo

As the United States finally gets a chance to play The Club demo, WinBreak has finally obtained our demo version of Turok. We enjoyed this (very) brief look at the game, and here are our first impressions.

Let’s begin, as Lewis Carroll had said, at the beginning. The game gives you a paragraph of back story, then drops you into a cave. Essentially as meaningful as the plot I recall from the Nintendo 64 version of the game, putting you into a comic book, or a dream, or a bolt of lightning… okay, I admit, I’ve forgotten, over the years. Still, here in the demo, you get essentially nothing but game play – let’s hope the retail game is a little more interested in making you can and uderstand why you’re fighting both humans and dinosaurs.

The game has interesting play mechanics. It is, of course, the traditional first person shooter… but a bow and arrow can make you a deadly assassin. This powerful yet silent weapon is certainly to be feared, as you rampage through this level of caves and jungle, killing man and animal alike. Something that I noticed and was quite impressed by was how herbivores had a tendancy to leave you alone, unless provoked, and even the most docile animals will attack you if you destroy their eggs. Quaint details.

The weapons I have quickly gotten my hands on so far include a shotgun with an alternate fire of shooting flares, and an assault rifle of sorts, which includes a silencer. These can be dual wielded and assigned to either hand, for dominant-finger-trigger-domination. Fend off reptiles with the rapid-fire shotgun while long-shooting those mood-goggle wearing bad guys. Whoever they are.

The AI can be a little annoying. Wandering around, useless, then all of the sudden snapping to attention, and leading the way, like they’ve known where the exit was the whole time, and were really just kidding when they said they were affraid of the dark. Then, you’ll get to a point, and they’ll stop like the invisible wall infront of them just gave them a concussion, and it will be your turn to lead the way. But you have to get a good distance ahead before they’ll start following again – if you turn around, they might as well stare at you like a cocker spaniel. They won’t start walking again until you cross another invisible line. It’s a tad annoying, and very unrealistic – they should’ve called up Microsoft and asked about Gears of War, and believable squad AI.

The already well known Unreal 3 engine does not disappoint. Graphics are stunning, though, at times, a little lack luster. Creeping through grass, you get to watch blades and branches bend down infront of you. But they’re still very sprite based, and look the same from any angle. The textures on most objects are still amazing, but I think we can thank Epic studios for that. The sounds are impressive, and quite helpful… you can tell when an enemy soldier is splashing through the water. You will know enough to stand still behind the rock you’re using for cover. The voice acting (a pet peeve of mine) is neither awful nor superb, which already makes it far better than most games I’ve played.

So far, the demo seems kind of ho-hum, so-so. Like it’s been done before. But let me tell you where this game shines. Two points. First, melee combat. Creep up behind someone and do a silent kill with a knife. It’s always a good time! Give it up for… Native American Army Space Marine Combat Training! Or something. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. I don’t need a story line, or cheap weapons, or a super fast shotgun… as long as I can slit the throats of every dinosaur that tries to sneak up on me. A quick dodge and a tap of the right trigger, BAM! A third person view of me, doing in a creature three times my size, with ease. It never gets old! And I can’t wait for others to get their hands on my game, so they can understand my “no dino too cute” policy. Knife’em all!

Second, the game can, at times, give you a genuine sense of helplessness and panic. While the caves never made me feel claustrophobic (more just lost in the dark), I was actually more impressed with the flood of raptors that happened at one point. I was in a large circular clearing in the jungle. The problem with that large clearing? Dinosaurs could come from any angle. And they did. After killing them all off, I still sat in the center, pivoting, and spinning, unsure if more would come out of the tall grass. Was that a gentle breeze, or a scaled killing machine? You turn in circles, wondering what will come next, and a genine sense of fear may rush over you. It’s quite fun!

So, there’s a little of what to expect, if the game does come to the U.S. Hopefully you get a chance to experience it before it launches, though. If nothing else, the exit screen of the game says you should be able to get busy decimating dinosaurs as early as February 5th.

Preview: The Club demo

A while ago, we shared with you that the demo for The Club had been delivered to Microsoft. Little did we know that the game would be released to many other countries before we got it. Well, according to ads on the marketplace, in the next three days the demo should launch in the United States, if not all of North America.

I was able to get my hands on the demo a couple of days ago and have been playing it. I have been looking forward to this game the first video I saw of fast paced shoot’em up.

The game reminded me of playing Doom all over again. I mean, the original. I couldn’t wait to play The Club, because it looked just like the rapid pace first person shooters used to have. Suddenly you were able to play through the game at a rapid pace, beat a level in a matter of seconds, 2 minutes tops.

The Club brings this feeling back. As we all know, there is a point system, which rewards you for fast paced killing, as well as finesse. Headshots, shots from great distances, well timed shots, shots after dodging or rolling. The only playable character in the single player demo is Renwick (the cop). A good all ’round character, and well balanced. The game puts you into the setting of the Newhaven Prison Cells (one of eight locations where you’ll be able to take the fight). You are then presented with two of the in game missions available for that level. One is a simple ‘sprint’ objective, entitled “Escape from Newhaven.” The goal here is to achieve a target score (among 4 different difficulties, Casual, Reckless, Insane, and Real) of 61,000 to 6,000,000. The other event is Time Attack (called “Doin’ Time”). With this you have a target score of 35,000 to 6,100,000.

Timed Mode, here, gives you a set course, where you have to do a specified number of laps before the timer runs out, killing all the way. If you fail to do so, “the micro explosives you have been injected with will detonate” in rather anti-climactic fashion. The clock starts with 30 seconds and you can add time by killing (3 seconds), and collecting five second time bonuses throughout the map.

Multiplayer, as exciting as it sounds in the marketplace advertisement, is limited to local split screen multiplayer. The the in game menu tells that play over Xbox Live and systemlink will both be allowed.

The multiplayer game mode is Hunter-Hunted. We gave it a shakedown here at WinBreak Central Command. The game play is very interesting. Much like oddball, Hunter-Hunted mode is a game where the first person to make a kill becomes “the hunted.” The hunted achieves a point counter on his or her screen. This point counter increases rapidly until one player achieves 15,000 points. The hunters each want to kill the hunted for their share of the points. First to 15,000 wins. After thoroughly getting my butt handed to my by our resident console-hater, I called it a night and went back to writing.

All in all, I’m very excited for this game. Game play (so far) seems pretty bug free, but that’s a hard thing to determine, as I found out wit Blacksite: Area 51, a game I thought would turn out to be way better, until launch day when I paid for it.

Graphically The Club is very pleasing. Framerates never stutter, which is key to the atmosphere this game is setting up. The environments are well detailed and little extras, such as furniutre in rooms that can be knocked over when running by, are nice little details. The sound is nothing spectacular, but it doesn’t detract from the game either, save for the Quake III Arena announcer voice.

While the bottom of the screen constantly reminds you that it is a “work in progress and should not be considered as representative of the quality of the final product” I wouldn’t worry too much about it getting worse. If nothing else, the game will be long. If each of the eight locations has six events, and each of those has four difficulty settings… and you want to play through with all eight characters. It could be the only game you have to buy in 2008.

So, this is what you can expect in the demo coming in the next few days, and let’s hope it’s a fair representation of the final game. It might not be on everyone’s must have list, just yet, but I have a feeling that fast paced addiction is going to take a lot of gamers by surprise.

WBX: More Xbox Originals Confirmed…

WBX:WinBreak Exclusive
I announced Peggle several days ago. Four days later it’s picked up by other sites and it took them even longer to confirm what we knew all along. Don’t doubt WinBreak, please. It’s embarassing to you! 😉

In keeping with WBX tradition, here are two more un-announced Xbox titles which we have confirmed will be released on the American Marketplace (and perhaps others) as Xbox Originals.

At this time, we don’t know when these will hit the marketplace, but we don’t expect it to be along side Burnout 3 Takedown, slated to come out January 14th.

The Club demo coming to XBLM, soon!

One of my most anticipated games this year, The Club, has pushed their demo out to Microsoft, and is pretty much just waiting on them to officially put it on the Xbox Live Marketplace.

I have hoped this game would be as exciting as it looks, this will be our chance to see if it’s really worth dropping the cash. I love when demos hit before the games go retail!

The launch of The Club will also be a very proud achievement for the Bizarre boys… they will have successfully launched a game in yet another genre, as if casual games, rhythm games, and racing games weren’t enough! They are really turning into one well rounded studio, and have certainly done everything right by the fans so far. Let’s hope The Club is no exception!