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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Jetstream DLC out today

DLC has players take the role of Samuel Rodriguez in new single-player content.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s Jetstream DLC will be released today on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation Network, publisher Konami has said.

Jetstream will cost 800 Microsoft points on the Xbox 360 and has yet to be officially priced on the PlayStation 3. The DLC has players take the role of Revengeance antagonist Samuel Rodriguez. Konami says the DLC features “multiple hours of all-new gameplay.”

The game’s previous VR Missions DLC is exclusive to the PlayStation 3 in the US, but is available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 across the rest of the world.

A third piece of DLC will also be released for the game, focusing on Revengeance’s knife-wielding, railgun-toting canine robot Blade Wolf, though no release date for the content has yet been made public by Konami.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance scored 8.5 when reviewed by GameSpot in February.

Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima has also said he is open to more Metal Gear spin-offs in the future.

For more information on Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, check out GameSpot’s previous coverage.

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By Martin Gaston, News Editor

Activision teasing next Call of Duty?

Main Call of Duty portal update with cryptic fan mosaic potentially related to next entry in military shooter series.

The official Call of Duty website main landing page has been taken over by a cryptic fan mosaic, potentially teasing the next entry in Activision’s popular first-person shooter series.

Gamers can add their Twitter or Facebook profile picture and a message to the mosaic, in an effort to presumably reveal the next Call of Duty game. At press time, the mosaic is fairly sparse, though it appears to depict a face of some sort.

Activision is rumored to officially announce 2013′s Call of Duty game on Wednesday, May 1. Retailers Tesco and Target have revealed this game to be an Infinity Ward-produced Call of Duty: Ghosts running on a next-generation engine, but Activision has not commented on this.

The fan mosaic on the Call of Duty website does not appear to be an accident, as Activision community manager Dan Amrich is promoting the teaser through his website.

“Something’s up at callofduty.com,” he wrote. “You might wanna check it out.”

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By Eddie Makuch, News Editor

Wizardry Online Review

Wizardry Online is jagged around the edges, but manages to pull off a few interesting tricks.

The Good

  • Combat is varied and interesting
  • Permadeath ups the ante
  • Group finder makes traveling with others much simpler.

The Bad

  • Horrible graphics and textures
  • Lore is explained by one cutscene and walls of text
  • Clumsy user interface
  • Connection issues.

Developer Gamepot’s latest online venture doesn’t sport the refinement of World of Warcraft, the large community of Guild Wars, or the political intrigue of EVE Online. In fact, to look at Wizardry Online, you may be fooled into thinking you’ve somehow tumbled backward in time to the late ’90s, where the low-quality artwork and textures might have been more appropriate. The game has no trouble rehashing tired tropes for its own gain. But for all that it does wrong, it boasts a particular brand of scrappiness that keeps you plugging away, even when the danger of permadeath looms large.

You too can be an adorable tiny thief.

You too can be an adorable tiny thief.

Wizardry Online is an austere fairy tale that falls somewhere between the healthy rigors of Final Fantasy XI and the masochism of Dark Souls. This dark fantasy doesn’t stray far from the trappings associated with standard MMO design, but some interesting decisions keep it afloat, and there’s no admission price to hinder you from fulfilling your curiosity. Unfortunately, none of this is evident in the initial hours. Perhaps that’s why it seems that the aim of Wizardry Online, in keeping with the dungeon-crawling lore of the original Wizardry series, is to give you as challenging an experience as possible while still baiting you to continue.

After installation and several updates, the client greets you with some cinematic, Final Fantasy-esque fanfare. You’re deposited into a seemingly never-ending online abyss after clicking “start.” Once an arbitrary amount of time has passed, sometimes up to 15 minutes or more, you may be allowed onto the server. Using Alt + Tab to multitask while waiting to join a server isn’t an option; you simply wait for the privilege of connecting. It’s a rotten setup, especially when trying to join during what you would assume are the peak hours for play. It’s also extremely frustrating to weather unpredictable wait times only to be booted from the server multiple times in one session, or to endure its lengthy load times, which Wizardry Online struggles with far too often.

The combat system might be fulfilling, but the visuals certainly aren't.

The combat system might be fulfilling, but the visuals certainly aren’t.

A series of shoddy menus and options are waiting once you’ve made it server-side, and they’re riddled with uninteresting color palettes and character models that do little to entice you. In fact, the game as a whole is devoid of any appealing graphics. After you’re subjected to meandering lore and walls of text, it’s time to assign a class. You choose from five different races: humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, and the Tarutaru-like Porkul. The character creation screen shows off unusual character designs, such as the most feminine gnomes you’ll ever see in your life and strangely unappealing elves; it’s almost as if these races’ established qualities swapped places.

After choosing an avatar and settling on a race, you need to select a class and alignment, although there isn’t much choice to be had here. Alignments are nothing more than one additional stat to track and mean little in the grand scheme of things, so your class ultimately decides your fate. Gnomes fit the priest role, dwarves lead the charge as warriors, elves are powerful mages, and the Porkul are sneaky pickpockets. Humans are as vanilla as can be. A roll of the dice completes the package for your character’s stats and can grant bonuses to races that happen to be awful at adapting to particular classes–say, a Porkul as a warrior. If you’re just starting out, you can take chances when it comes to rerolling new characters, but seasoned veterans will want to carefully pick and choose, picking the best class for the race suited for the job. Still, it’s unfortunate that races represent little more than aesthetic value; each character looks and plays practically the same.

Grinding quickly becomes your lifeblood in-game.

Grinding quickly becomes your lifeblood in-game.

Once you’re free to roam the world, you will want to find companions: this is a game you don’t flourish in when flying solo. The in-game group finder goes a long way to ensure that you can always find a few fellow adventurers to complete the traditional tank-DPS-healer trifecta, which becomes invaluable when scouring the various dungeons. Quests and other tasks are assigned via hub worlds, and most of the action takes place deep in the heart of sewers and labyrinthine tunnels rife with puzzles. Considering you’re spending time within smaller cramped spaces populated with high-level players, you’re going to want someone watching your back at all times, and traveling alone is a great way to meet your permanent end much faster.

Combat is where you end up ferreting out the fun, which is often overshadowed by the messy UI and more brown graphics than a desert-themed first-person shooter. Active attack and defense moves are natural and much more kinetic than those of traditional MMO hotkey combat. Though each character class feels the same whether you’re using magic or brute strength to conquer your enemies, having to exercise a bit of skill to land a hit on a rare enemy provides an extra level of immersion. You feel as though you have control to exert over this persistent world, and that’s what ends up elevating this oft-confusing endeavor to a status beyond meager. As long as you can successfully sustain your health and mana (which do not regenerate), you’re on your way to looting other players’ corpses instead of littering each pathway with your hours of earned items and gold.

Wizardry Online is jagged around the edges, but manages to pull off a few interesting tricks.

By Brittany Vincent

Dead Island: Riptide Review

Dead Island: Riptide might look like an idyllic zombie-fest, but it’s little more than a frustrating mess of half-baked ideas and repetitive combat.

The Good

  • Cool blood effects and dismemberments.

The Bad

  • Boring, repetitive missions
  • Weak voice acting and dialogue
  • Soulless, irritating characters
  • Frustrating combat.

It starts promisingly enough: a mad dash off a sinking ship, a military coup, and a zombie horde just aching to be shown the business end of a shotgun. And then, just like that, the promise is taken away. Dead Island: Riptide teases far more in its opening minutes than it ever manages to deliver across its lengthy campaign. There’s no drama, and little excitement. Instead, there’s a rehash of old ideas, combat that’s fun for all of five minutes, and a seemingly never-ending slog of repetitive missions filled with characters that have the emotional depth of a wet sponge. If there were ever a video game equivalent of smacking your head against a brick wall, Riptide would be it.

Riptide’s combat gets very dull, very quickly.

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The story–and that’s using the word generously–is filled with the sort of terrible dialogue, hammy voice acting, and cliches you’d expect to see in an awful zombie spoof, or at best, a trashy B movie. But there’s no sense of humour or self-awareness here: to Riptide’s detriment, it takes itself very seriously. And that seriousness is hard to swallow when you have to look after a bunch of shallow, argumentative characters who utter irritating swears every few minutes and prove so unlikable that you’re willing them to be torn apart by the zombie horde, just so you can have some peace and quiet. Then there’s the plot itself, which endlessly meanders between government conspiracy, sci-fi, and human interest, without even the slightest sense of direction.

This all makes it so very hard to care about anything that happens in Riptide. By the time you drag yourself through to the disappointing ending, apathy has taken over to the point where you wouldn’t bat an eyelid at even the most grand of revelations. And that’s only if you can muster up enough energy to make it that far. Riptide’s sandbox island of Hanoi isn’t filled with the fun zombie-killing adventures you might expect. Instead, there are fetch quests: lots of fetch quests. And within those fetch quests are yet more fetch quests.

Nearly every single one of the main missions and side quests requires you to head over to a part of the island, find an item, and bring it back to base. Often, before you can retrieve said item, the game makes you fetch something for the person who holds the item, thus creating a fetch quest within a fetch quest. What’s more, the narrative reasoning behind each quest is questionable. Why some stranded villager might be after a few measly bucks when the entire island has been overrun with flesh-eating zombies that threaten the very existence of humankind is puzzling.

Even the grisly visuals fail to spice things up.

Even the grisly visuals fail to spice things up.

To make matters worse, the combat that ties the whole thing together remains largely unchanged from that of Dead Island, which is to say it’s massively frustrating. The focus is on melee weapons, ranging from blunt objects like baseball bats and shovels, through to blades like carving knives and sickles. Most can be upgraded using items scavenged from around the island, with hidden blueprints giving you access to wilder designs. And initially at least, bludgeoning a zombie to death with an improvised, nail-covered baseball bat is amusing, thanks to the resulting blood splatters, severed limbs, and grisly sound effects.

The limitations of the combat soon become clear, though. Attacking zombies still feels wildly inaccurate, slow, and very dull, making it difficult to truly master. The result is that the combat quickly deteriorates into a repetitive mess as you kick a zombie backward, flail randomly at it, back off while it attacks, and then repeat the whole process ad nauseam. A stamina bar ensures you can’t just spam an attack–particularly when you’re using heavier weapons that drain the bar faster–but rather than giving the game a more realistic feel, it just further enhances the dull combat.

Dead Island: Riptide might look like an idyllic zombie-fest, but it’s little more than a frustrating mess of half-baked ideas and repetitive combat.

By Mark Walton

Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves Review

A few rough edges don’t keep Sang-Froid’s unique werewolf slaughterfest from being a howling good time.

The Good

  • Great setting and supernatural theme
  • Satisfying blend of tower defense planning and action
  • RPG elements bridge the gap between distinct phases.

The Bad

  • Core combat is thin
  • Some unimpressive visual elements.

When you’re in the remote wilderness of werewolf country, hunkering down and chopping up all manner of horrific beasts night after night doesn’t seem like the smartest alternative to simply running like hell, but Canadian lumberjack brothers Jacques and Joseph are made of tougher, more stubborn stock. Their quest to save their sister from the demonic fanged beings of the night in Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves requires careful planning during the daylight hours and precise execution when the sun goes down. All of the neat ideas at play in this distinct tower defense/third-person brawler hybrid ultimately keep the rough edges at bay long enough to let the cyclical blend of strategizing and action take hold.

Prepping your traps during the day is half of the fun.

Prepping your traps during the day is half of the fun.

Set in the dark, wintry forests of Canada, Sang-Froid revolves around an ill-fated region beset by all manner of lupine kinfolk. Even the devil himself has a hand in things. The aforementioned brothers begrudgingly band together in an effort to shore up their defenses as their seemingly possessed sister recovers from a supernatural ailment. Meanwhile, the forest’s unruly and unholy creatures are growing in number and variety, adding ample diversity to the nightly attacks on your meager fortifications. Throw in some shamanism, a touch of Native American mojo, and some good old-fashioned woodsman’s whisky, and you’ve got a wild ride. It’s a great setup in a fresh, original setting.

Unfortunately, some of that excellent vibe is sapped by weak production. The awkward story dialogue sequences are horribly slapdash looking, though decently voiced, and the overall visual quality falls short both in-game and during cutscenes. Things don’t get much better in battle, either, which frequently plays out across dimly lit, sparsely detailed snowfields surrounded by woods. Despite its promising setting, Sang-Froid is a rather ugly beast at times on the visual front.

Looks aren’t everything, of course, and an abundance of thoughtful gameplay nuances do help ease some of the game’s less visually stunning moments. Sang-Froid’s tower defense strategizing hinges on keeping the scattered structures under your control from getting razed by the local demonic nightlife. The fact that each round is divided into two different phases helps keep things interesting. Foes attack in waves from different points on the map, and the daytime portion of each stage has you spending from your accumulated cash and a limited pool of action points to lay down traps in an effort to railroad and stamp out your foes before they rip your home to shreds.

Clobbering werewolves at night is the other half!

Clobbering werewolves at night is the other half!

All of this happens on a top-down map screen that gives you lots of control over how you plan out your defenses before locking into a specific arrangement. Once they appear, creatures follow a set route to their target building unless they’re diverted or rerouted. Laying down crushing traps, spiked strips, flame barriers, unholy wards, fast-travel zip-lines, and other defensive elements provides a diverse means to strategize prior to the actual assault. It’s cool that you can take different approaches to victory, though failure isn’t entirely punitive, since you can start each level from scratch or resume your strategic tinkering right before nightfall to subtly tweak your plans.

A few rough edges don’t keep Sang-Froid’s unique werewolf slaughterfest from being a howling good time.

By Nathan Meunier

Hawken brings in new mech and map in Technician update

Technician class specializes in support and on-the-fly repairs; Front Line map is a new version of game’s alpha build test maps.

Meteor Entertainment and Adhesive Games have announced a new update for Hawken that features a new mech and a new map for players.

“Anyone called for a mech doctor?”

The mech is called the Technician and it specializes in supporting units in the battlefield, just like the Medic in Team Fortress 2. It comes equipped with a Redox O2 gun that deals minimal damage but coats enemies with damage-over-time debuffs, and a Helix repair torch that both heals friendly units and deconstructs enemy units. Its special ability is a skill called amplification, which increases the repair rate of the Helix repair torch for a short amount of time.

The new map introduced is called Front Line, which is a reskinned version of a Hawken alpha map called Valkyrie. The bright cityscape-tailored map is large and open, but it also has a few alleys and tunnels for players wishing to lay low during skirmishes.

The update is available now. For more information on the game, check out GameSpot’s recent coverage on the title.

By Jonathan Toyad, Associate Editor

Ragnarok Online 2 out now in North America

Game client available on Warp Portal and Steam.

The full version of the free-to-play MMORPG Ragnarok Online 2 is out now in North America.

Fans of the Ragnarok Online series can now enjoy the full game starting today.

Fans of the Ragnarok Online series can now enjoy the full game starting today.

Players can register an account and download the game client using either WarpPortal or Steam. The game’s open beta first started on April 18; players who applied for the open beta early were given special in-game prizes.

For more information, check out GameSpot’s coverage on the MMORPG.

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By Jonathan Toyad, Associate Editor

EA closing Sims Facebook games

Publisher retiring The Sims Social, SimCity Social, and Pet Society on June 14 due to inactivity.

Electronic Arts announced today that it will close Facebook games The Sims Social, SimCity Social, and Pet Society on June 14. The publisher called the decision to retire the games “difficult.”

EA explained that though “millions” played each game initially, user activity has since fallen off. “For people who have seen other recent shutdowns of social games, perhaps this is not surprising,” the company said in a statement.

Players with unspent in-game currency balances are encouraged to spend the remainder of their money before the games go offline. Virtual currency will become “invalid” when the games shut down and it is not clear if players will be able to secure a refund for any unspent funds.

EA will make a “special offer” available to players of the affected titles in the form of an unspecified PopCap game. Further details on this promotion will be made available in-game “soon,” EA said.

Facebook games from EA that will live on include Bejeweled Blitz, Solitaire Blitz, and Plants vs. Zombies Adventures.

The Sims Social was at the heart of a recent lawsuit between EA and Zynga. EA claimed that Zynga’s The Ville was a Sims Social clone, alleging that it represents an act of copyright infringement. Though EA called the suit a matter of principle, the case was settled with Zynga reportedly pleased with the result.

By Eddie Makuch, News Editor

Brutal Legend Review

Brutal Legend’s heavy metal take on real-time strategy makes a solid transition to the PC, though playing with a controller is still the way to go.

The Good

  • New graphical options improve the game’s look
  • Wonderful writing and characters
  • Great soundtrack.

The Bad

  • Keyboard and mouse controls leave something to be desired
  • Short campaign.

The most important piece of knowledge you need going into Brutal Legend has nothing to do with heavy metal music. Sure, a deep love of that genre can play a huge part in your overall enjoyment of the game’s guitar-solo-fueled and star-studded story, but it’s easier to find satisfaction in what the game is when you’re not expecting it to be something it is not. With this PC release of Brutal Legend coming years after its 2009 console debut, it’s easier to prepare for the unique experience it offers while also enjoying it at a higher resolution.

Yeah… that’s a lot of dudes.

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Merely looking at screenshots or old prerelease marketing materials for the game can make it appear to be many things, yet it’s not “Zelda with a guitar,” and it’s not “God of War as told by Black Sabbath,” as cool as either of those things might have been. It’s a real-time strategy game, even though that term may not accurately represent the first couple of hours of the campaign.

Brutal Legend follows Eddie Riggs, a roadie (voiced by Jack Black) with a profound love of classic metal who finds himself transported to an appropriately brutal fantasy land that’s part The Lord of the Rings and part Iron Maiden album art. The game’s strongest qualities lie in its writing, its characters, and its world. The magic (and much of the humor) is in how many fantasy tropes are twisted to fit into a heavy metal world. Basic melee characters, for instance, are literal headbangers who smash their craniums against anything in their way. Roadies are your strong but stealthy units; guitar solos can literally melt faces; and “fans” are your mystical, music-loving resource. This all combines with a well-acted cast of characters featuring voices from the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy Kilmister, and Tim Curry. The story does lose some of its whimsy toward the end, when the plot is in danger of taking itself too seriously, but the over-the-top nature persists through the six- to eight-hour adventure.

The first time you take control of Eddie, you might feel as if you’re playing a rather standard character action game, since mashing out simple combos is your path to bloodily slaughtering groups of enemies. Soon, however, the world opens up, and you may get a strong The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time vibe as you search the landscape for collectibles and play your magical instrument (a guitar, which is, of course, much more hardcore than an ocarina) to perform solos that can summon your trusty car or reveal hidden garages. Just when you feel like this might be what the game is about, Brutal Legend starts letting you give orders to small squads of units, which is when the strategy aspect becomes more apparent. This is a good thing, due in no small part to the fact that an entire game of nothing but Brutal Legend’s on-foot combat wouldn’t be the most pleasant of experiences.

 Both your axe and your 'axe' can make a bloody mess.

Both your axe and your ‘axe’ can make a bloody mess.

It’s a little while before you reach a point where this feels like a more full-fledged (if simple and action-heavy) real-time strategy game. In the game’s stage battles, you are given a single stage (your base), which can be upgraded and which produces all of your units. Fans serve as your band/army’s single resource, and controlling fan geysers spread across the map is key to victory. It’s never possible to amass as large an army as you might be used to in other strategy games, and there is only one simple upgrade path to pursue, but there is a good variety in how each unit behaves, which can allow for many different strategies.

You always control Eddie directly and can get your axe bloody in on-foot battles yourself, but you need to spend a lot of time managing your troops from the air. A simple button press sends you flying into the sky, where you can quickly survey the land and order troops around. If you’re serious about doing damage with your own hands, units at your command have double-team attacks that let you control them more directly, whether by marching with a mosh pit of headbangers, driving a vehicle, or operating a turret.

Brutal Legend’s heavy metal take on real-time strategy makes a solid transition to the PC, though playing with a controller is still the way to go.

By Britton Peele

Analyst: Black Ops II on pace for record sales

Cowen & Company industry watcher says post-holiday sales of latest Call of Duty game tracking better than Modern Warfare 3.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II is on pace to become the best-selling entry in Activision’s military shooter series to date, according to one analyst.

In a note to investors today, Cowen & Company analyst Doug Creutz said post-holiday sales trends for Black Ops II have been “significantly better” than those for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Thanks to this sales jolt, Black Ops II will likely surpass the original Black Ops’ estimated life-to-date sales of 25 million units to become the franchise’s overall top performer.

Activision has confirmed a new Call of Duty game for 2013, but has yet to divulge any details about the project. In an earnings call in February, Activision Blizzard CFO Dennis Durkin said the company does not expect sales of this game to match Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

Activision Blizzard will report earnings for its latest quarter on May 8. Creutz believes the company will outperform guidance thanks to in-line or better-than-expected sales of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Skylanders.

The analyst expects World of Warcraft to have lost as many as 300,000 subscribers during the latest quarter, though this attrition is in-line with expectation. The game had 9.6 million paying members at the end of December.

Creutz described 2013 as a “bridge year” for Activision Blizzard, with strong earnings expected in 2014-2015 thanks to Bungie’s Destiny, Blizzard Entertainment’s Titan MMO, and the new console cycle.

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By Eddie Makuch, News Editor

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