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Preview: Eurogamer - Xbox

Eurogamer is the largest independent gaming website in Europe, providing news, reviews, previews, and more.

Published: Thu, 22 Feb 2018 13:12:39 +0000

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Criterion shooter Black now part of the EA Access vault

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 09:57:00 +0000


Black, the first-person shooter from Burnout studio Criterion, is now available as part of the EA Access games vault.

If you're an EA Access subscriber on Xbox One you can now download and play the 2006 shooter at no extra charge. (Black was never released for PC, just PS2 and Xbox, so don't expect to see it on the PC service Origin Access.)

What is Black? "It's just shooting and buildings falling down," Aoife, who played it very recently, told me. "But it's great." In fact, you can watch Aoife and Ian play the game together just below:

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BioWare had a really cool idea for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 08:00:00 +0000


How do you follow a game like Knights of the Old Republic, the most famous original Star Wars tale a video game has ever told? Forget about Obsidian's sequel for a moment and imagine it was BioWare staring at a piece of paper wondering how to follow a twist like Revan's. Because once upon a time BioWare was - and it came up with an idea.

Yoda. Not the actual Yoda, because canonically he's untouchable, but someone a bit like him; we know so little about Yoda's almost nonexistent species even someone in his likeness would have the same effect: trust. "We felt like Yoda was the ultimate - everyone trusts Yoda," James Ohlen tells me, lead designer of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

James Ohlen was also lead designer of Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, Neverwinter Nights and Dragon Age: Origins, and director of Star Wars: The Old Republic, the online game. These days he's creative director of BioWare Austin, and he's working on Anthem. He's BioWare through and through.

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Original Xbox Star Wars: KOTOR downloadable ahead of back-compat launch

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 14:58:00 +0100


UPDATE 2.45pm: Microsoft has now confirmed the below 13 games will launch on Xbox One via backwards compatibility tomorrow.

IGN lists the baker's dozen as having 1080p resolution, improved loading times and frame-rates.

If you still have your original Xbox One discs you can simply insert those to begin downloading and playing the game. Digital licenses will carry over, or you can buy the game afresh from the Microsoft Store.

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Noodle stands and acid rain: four decades of gaming's urban dystopias

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0100


It's becoming increasingly hard to remember a time when we visualised our metropolitan future differently: no rain-polished streets reflecting the glare of neon signs, no fetid slums nestled snugly around imposing high-rises, no collective mass of humanity wearing the marks of economic oppression and state-sanctioned violence in their purposeless haste, their hunched postures, their fearful silence. In other words, it's becoming increasingly hard to remember how we imagined urban dystopias before the iconography of Blade Runner gatecrashed our collective consciousness and etched its initials on the concept.

Given the momentous impact of Ridley Scott's film and our medium's affinity for science fiction, it may seem a little odd that video games didn't rush to exploit this grimy, evocative setting. For comparison's sake, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial was theatrically released within the same month as Blade Runner, June 1982. Whereas the former was adapted (albeit disastrously) before the year was over, we didn't get the chance to play Deckard until 1985 and, though nowhere near as infamous, CRL's effort wasn't much of an improvement, its "replidroid" chases requiring an impossible combination of split-second decisions and pixel-perfect accuracy to switch safely between crowded pavement and oncoming traffic in order to keep up with your quarry. Why the delayed response, especially in the unregulated wildlands of early '80s game development where acquiring legal rights wasn't necessarily a priority?

Taking a closer look at some of the more enduring tropes associated with the film, the reasons we have virtually no dystopian games from the first half of the decade become evident. Blade Runner did not feature a single overarching catastrophe, a war or an alien invasion, forcing a clear distinction between enemies and allies. An illusion of social stability is essential to urban dystopias; whatever threat we have to deal with, whether a replicant or a corrupt politician, typically comes from within. The challenge lies not so much with neutralising it, as with identifying it. Moreover, the introspective nature of the subgenre, an obvious debt to its film-noir roots, almost invariably leads to its most characteristic twist: a questioning of (and usually shift in) allegiances.

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Fable Anniversary now backwards compatible on Xbox One

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 10:51:00 +0100


Fable Anniversary is finally available to play on Xbox One, via the console's backwards compatibility service.

Anniversary is the enhanced re-release of the original Fable 1, which launched all the way back for the first Xbox in 2004. Anniversary then turned up a decade later, in 2014.

Xbox fans have been asking for Fable Anniversary to be backwards compatible since the program's introduction. Microsoft has never said why it has taken so long, but it's good to have it now.

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A glimpse at an early version of Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 14:23:00 +0100


If you ever played 2005 Mortal Kombat spin-off Shaolin Monks, you'll remember it was a co-op focused beat-em-up with four playable characters: Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Sub-Zero and Scorpion. It looked like this:

Well, Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks didn't always look like that. To celebrate the series' 25-year anniversary, Mortal Kombat development chief Ed Boon took to Twitter to release an image of Shaolin Monks before it became a co-op adventure and featured only one character: Raiden.

The image shows Mortal Kombat's famous Thunder God at the bottom of the screen facing a waterfall. I played Shaolin Monks on my original Xbox and thought it was pretty good for a fighting game spin-off. At the time, the main Mortal Kombat series wasn't in a great place, so Shaolin Monks did well to keep me interested in the series. And so Boon's tweet serves as a cool glimpse at an early version of the game, which ended up selling over a million copies across the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox.

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Microsoft's final sales pitch for Xbox One X falls flat

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 10:00:00 +0100


As the allocated 90 minutes clocked up and we all began to think about the few short hours left until we drag ourselves up for the Monday commute, it was hard to make head or tail of what Microsoft's Gamescom show had set out to achieve. In an hour and a half of reheated E3 trailers and recaps, there was perhaps one announcement of a genuine exclusive for Xbox: a vertical console stand for the day one edition of the Xbox One X, as unpackaged by Major Nelson in an abandoned office on the other side of the world.

Whether this was a conference or not was neither here nor there, for Microsoft had requested the attention of an audience hungry for anything after a lacklustre E3, and staring down the barrel of an unconvincing Q4 for Xbox. This was an opportunity to convince the world that the Xbox One X was going to be a worthwhile bet this year, perhaps the last before the console's launch, but when the pre-orders went live at the close of the show it was difficult not to feel that the sales pitch had fallen a little flat.

The remasters announced to coincide with the Xbox One X were a curious bunch - there was ReCore, the loveable but slightly skewiff double-A adventure from last year, whose Definitive Edition's big boast was that a campaign that was clearly rushed out for last September might finally be finished, with one of the stars of the box art who was curiously absent in the original restored. There were true 4K editions of Disneyland Adventures, Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure and Zoo Tycoon, all perfect for the discerning seven-year-old in your household who throws a hissy fit at the mere mention of checkerboarding.

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Watch: Johnny plays Jedi Academy for the first time, instantly turns to the Dark Side

Fri, 30 Jun 2017 17:52:00 +0100


I think everyone who has ever seen a Star Wars film has taken the time to wonder whether they'd make a good Jedi. Do they have the discipline required to complete their training? Would they be able to resist the lure of the dark side? What's with the whole celibacy thing?

In an attempt to answer the first two questions and leave the third completely alone, Chris made me play Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy for the first time for this week's Late to the Party - it being a game of which he has particularly fond memories.

But, is Jedi Academy still a good game? Has it withstood the ravages of time? Again, what's with the whole celibacy thing? You can find answers to the first two questions - and decidedly not the third - in the video below.

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The E3 Bulletin: Thursday

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 13:06:00 +0100


E3 is still happening. E3 has always been happening. But today, finally, is the beginning of the end, as the brave troops overseas prepare themselves for a final trip round the show floor. Further reports suggest that the public access is putting things under strain, with a steady stream of "oh god the crowds" updates on social media that have been greeted with thousand-yard-stares by anybody who has ever been on the public floor at Gamescom.

Wes and Tom have been busy hanging with the big dogs. Jim Ryan shaded Microsoft with the observation that a $100 price premium has not been historically successful. Pikmin 4 is still happening and "very close to completion" according to Miyamoto, who would know. Reggie, meanwhile, wants to get more into esports, and Nintendo also found time to announce another 3DS game, although it is merely batshit insane rather than featuring a classic franchise, so we're not sure if it counts.

Every Metroid fan-site admin (2017)

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Original Xbox games coming to Xbox One via backwards compatibility

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 14:20:00 +0100


UPDATE 12TH JUNE: You didn't throw away your old Xbox discs did you?! Quick, go find them in your local time-warp video game store, because old Xbox discs will work in Xbox Ones. Not only that but digital licenses will carry over and you can system-link across all three generations of console too.

ORIGINAL STORY 11TH JUNE: Microsoft has announced original Xbox games are coming to Xbox One as part of an extension of the backwards compatibility feature.

Xbox boss Phil Spencer took to the stage during Microsoft's E3 2017 media briefing to announce Crimson Skies as the first OG Xbox game to come to Xbox One.

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Phantom Dust launches free today on Xbox One, Windows 10

Tue, 16 May 2017 09:35:00 +0100


The new re-release of Phantom Dust will launch for free today on Xbox One and Windows 10, Microsoft has announced.

A four-player action game with combat customised by collectible cards, Phantom Dust was originally arrived on the first Xbox back in 2004. It also hosts a single-player campaign.

Sound confusing? It is a bit. Helpfully, Microsoft has published the following explainer:

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Peter Moore bids farewell on his last day in the video game industry

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 22:30:00 +0100


Back in February industry luminary Peter Moore announced that he'd be leaving the video game industry to become the CEO at Liverpool FC. Today is his last day.

In a heartfelt farewell to the industry that occupied 18 years of his life, Moore celebrated the time he spent at Sega, Microsoft, EA, and all the friends he's made along the way.

"From the advent of online gaming (albeit via a 56K modem), to the 'console wars,' and now to games as 365 days a year, live experiences, I have been fortunate to have borne witness to the amazing growth of this, our wonderful gaming industry," Moore said in his farewell.

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All work and no play

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 08:00:00 +0000


Few video game protagonists keep to strict working hours, and how could they? When there's a war to win, a world to save, a lover's heart to ensnare and all the other grand and arduous problems that a game designer asks us to solve, it would be practically irresponsible to clock off a five for a pint of lager, a packet of crisps and a prestige TV box set. Even if they did have time to unwind then, just as we rarely see Tony Soprano bobbing away at the urinal, or Donald Draper questingly exploring a nostril, surely these parts of the game would be first for the editor's chop. What Lara Croft does to relax (eating caviar off her butler's extended arm while listening to Brahms, I like to imagine) is rarely relevant to the story at hand. Aside from the indulgently barmy Final Fantasy XV, what your character eats for dinner rarely has a place in the core gameplay loop.

Not so, says Yakuza 0, a Japanese game that takes a more holistic approach to virtual existence. In his job as a promising Yakuza underling, your character Kazuma Kiryu has heads to knock, territory to protect, errands to run and his good-ish name to clear. Despite the pressing demands, he still manages to make luxurious space to unwind each day. You have the chance to chase all of the usual post-sundown Tokyo pastimes: wailing bravely through a karaoke hit, trading war stories at the bar over an Old Fashioned or hammering the Sanwa plastic through a slew of classic Sega hits -- Space Harrier, Outrun, Super Hang On or Fantasy Zone - at the downtown arcade.

Beyond these routine distractions, side-missions are where the game's true jewels are to be found. The game positively encourages you to slow down, as these vignettes pop up semi-randomly, while sauntering the streets. Will you help the boy who has had the video game he just bought snatched from his hand by an opportunistic thief? Will you stand in as a stunt double for a stroppy actor who won't shoot a degrading scene? Will you meet up with a girl you chatted up over text for a stop-off in a love hotel? Yakuza 0 is a game that not only encourages but also actively rewards players who take some time out from the drama.

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Broken dragons: In praise of Morrowind, a game about game design

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 10:20:00 +0000


The appeal of Morrowind for a first-time player today is surely that of getting lost. The game's once-breathtaking Gamebryo engine may creak with age, and its brittle, RNG-heavy combat may seem relentlessly archaic, but Morrowind's relative shortage of navigational aids now feels positively radical.

Most currently prospering open world RPGs are littered with waypoints and breadcrumb trails, their treasures and secrets tagged for consumption once you've accosted the relevant NPC. Approach somebody about a quest in Morrowind, by contrast, and you'll be handed a list of directions. There are no omni-visible floating diamond icons, no distance-to-arrival readouts - just a series of landmarks and turnings, scribbled down in your increasingly unwieldy journal. Returned to after a decade's worth of Assassin's Creed and Far Cry, it's all rather terrifying, like sobering up in the middle of a busy motorway.

The directions aren't even universally reliable, or exact. Sometimes you have little to go on beyond the name of a region - there's a mission to locate somebody near Red Mountain that plays out like a Hunter Thompson rewrite of Christ roaming the wilderness, in which you fend off screeching winged vermin while combing the dunes for your quarry. Due to be resurrected this summer as an expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online, Morrowind isn't a particularly large or impenetrable world - its roads well-signposted, its towns clustered close together - but having to actually look for the place you're looking for is invigorating, a show of faith in both the player's patience and the environment's intelligibility. And my, what an environment to get lost in - with its balding purple hills that reveal themselves to be enormous toadstools on closer inspection, its Dunmer citadels that evoke the stepped sandstone mounds of Angkor Wat.

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DF Retro: Halo - the console shooter that changed everything

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 15:00:00 +0000


Every so often a game comes along that changes everything. Games like Doom, Super Mario Brothers and Half-Life aren't just incredible games in their own right - they helped shape the gaming industry as a whole. Halo: Combat Evolved is one such title. As a game, Halo evolved and refined the first person shooter, making it work on a console like never before. As a product, it helped define the first generation Xbox and help Microsoft become the juggernaut of today and, as a project, it lifted its creator, Bungie, into the history books as one of the most revered developers of all time.

At the time of release Halo was cutting edge not just in terms of game design but also in terms of technology, storytelling and features. But the path to release was a long one fraught with challenges and changes that resulted in a product very different from what was first envisioned. To understand its beginnings we need to jump all the way back to 1998 - following the release of Myth: The Fallen Lords, development of a secret project got underway while the rest of the studio toiled on Myth II: Soulblighter. This project was first known as 'Monkey Nuts' but Jason Jones, one of Bungie's co-founders, decided that he wouldn't be too keen on explaining this title to his mother thus it was changed to Blam! - with an exclamation point, of course.

Blam! Started life not as a shooter, rather, as a semi-sequel to Myth - an overhead real-time strategy game focused on tactics as opposed to action. Unlike Myth, however, the engine had evolved to the point where it was possible to utilise fully 3D polygonal models. As detail was added, it became clear that the engine could support more than a simple overhead view, inspiring the team to begin experimenting with third-person shooting.

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The amazing story of how Lionhead silenced a troll who threatened the studio

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:02:00 +0000


When Lionhead was developing the first Fable game back in the early 2000s, it attracted the attention of a determined group of trolls who managed to snag internal images and a list of planned future games that were never intended for release.

In a BAFTA Games panel discussing the impact of fan communities on the development process (reported by the BBC), ex-Lionhead community chief Sam Van Tilburgh recounted the time the now-shuttered developer fought back.

The person involved managed to steal a number of images, one of which was of the Fable hero stabbing a boy in the head. The image was never intended for release.

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The cancelled Metallica game looked like Mad Max

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 09:01:00 +0100


In 2003 a Metallica video game was in the works - but it never saw the light of day.

Damage Inc. : Metallica was the work of Black Rock (then called Climax Brighton), the studio that would go on to make racing games Pure and Split/Second. >Damage Inc. was set to come out for the PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox, but it was cancelled before it was even announced.

In the video, below, PtoPOnline reveals gameplay from an early in-development version of the game. It shows off vehicular combat and a Mad Max-style aesthetic. There's a day / night cycle and the ability to get out on foot and hijack vehicles.

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Cancelled Star Wars games: a Dark side Rogue Squadron and Chewbacca action adventure

Mon, 15 Aug 2016 12:34:00 +0100


Which Star Wars game would you have preferred: a Dark side Rogue Squadron, called Dark Squadron, or a Chewbacca action adventure?

That's exactly the dilemma publisher LucasArts faced in late 2003, according to a new video by DidYouKnowGaming?. On the one hand there was Factor 5, developer of the Rogue Squadron series, and on the other, LucasArts' internal development studio. The latter prevailed but never saw the light of day, because George Lucas himself canned it, apparently not keen on the idea of Chewbacca leading a game.

The Chewbacca game concept followed his life as a bounty hunter between Star Wars films 3 and 4 - his journey from a warrior on homeworld Kashyyk to co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon and best bud of Han Solo.

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Gamertags to expire after five years of inactivity

Mon, 25 Jul 2016 19:24:00 +0100


Xbox Gamertags will soon expire after five years, should you go that long without signing into Xbox Live.

This stipulation was snuck into the changes made in Microsoft's new service agreement.

"Notice that Xbox now requires that you sign in at least every five years to keep your gamertag active," the company plainly stated. "If you don't sign in during this time, we will assume your Microsoft account is inactive and will close it for you."

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The recently revealed original Xbox controller prototypes keep up a fine tradition of absurdity

Tue, 28 Jun 2016 10:59:00 +0100


Recently revealed prototype controllers for the original Xbox keep up the longstanding tradition of absolutely bonkers game-pad mock-ups.

Seamus Blackley, one of the designers behind the original Xbox proposal in the late 90s through to the console's release in 2001, revealed the prototypes on his Twitter page (and picked up via Gamasutra), showing off designs that look markedly similar to the controller used by Sega's Dreamcast. They all feature housing units for what looks like a VMU - the memory card with its own LCD interface that the Dreamcast employed - and perhaps my favourite detail is how all sketches are accompanied by a character from Capcom's Power Stone, one of the Dreamcast's high-profile games.

Perhaps all that shouldn't come as a surprise - as Blackley later said, the Dreamcast was king at the time (even if history has diminished its impact), and Microsoft already had close ties with Sega.

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Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered is coming to PS4 in July

Fri, 17 Jun 2016 18:49:00 +0100


Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls developer Quantic Dream is releasing a remastered version of its 2005 sci-fi thriller Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy, as it's known in North America) on PS4 18th July.

Priced at $14.99 (so about £9.99 in the UK), Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered will feature 1080p resolution. And if it's anything like the Steam version of the remaster, it will be based on the uncensored European version of the original game, which contains an extra sex scene.

Fahrenheit uses Quantic Dream's familiar choose-your-own-adventure design wherein players assume the role of a man who ostensibly killed someone but has no memory of it, and a detective investigating the murder.

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Phantom Dust is getting an HD remaster next year

Tue, 14 Jun 2016 00:46:00 +0100


Two years ago Microsoft announced a remake of Phantom Dust, the 2004 Xbox-exclusive card-based action-strategy game from Panzer Dragoon director Yukio Futatsugi. That project was cancelled last year shortly after Microsoft severed ties with the game's developer Darkside Game Studio. But now Phantom Dust has returned, albeit in a different form.

As revealed during Microsoft's E3 livestream, this new Phantom Dust is merely a remaster of the original game. Entitled Phantom Dust HD, this restoration will launch sometime in 2017.

Here's a brief snippet of how it's coming along:

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The Wind Waker inspired me to build a boat

Sat, 04 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0100


Playing The Wind Waker inspired me to build a boat. There, I've said it. It still sounds a little silly - to me at least - and I'll get to that. But can we at least acknowledge that the game made a convincing case for the joys of sailing?

In it, the sea-breeze blew in curlicue swirls and the ocean was a rippling, rolling blanket of azure blue. Seagulls clustered, waves crested, and distant islands sat perched on the horizon like mist-wrapped, unexplored gifts.

So I spent two days one summer sawing and nailing, refashioning old garden panels and abandoned flat-pack furniture into a vessel. One fit for seafaring and sea creatures (read: the nearby lake and the ducks). I made the boatiest thing I could.

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Speedrunner sets new world record for Doom... 3?!

Fri, 20 May 2016 03:15:00 +0100


With all the hullabaloo around id Software's shockingly sterling Doom reboot, folks have been revisiting previous Doom titles. One such series fanatic, YouTuber Corpseflesh, even set a new world record for blazing through 2005's Doom 3 in record time.

Playing through the game's easiest Recruit setting, Corpseflesh sprinted through Doom 3 in 64 minutes and 58 seconds.

This is an "any per cent run", mind you, so they're not snagging all the secret goodies.

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Watch: Aoife plays Max Payne for the first time

Fri, 13 May 2016 15:08:00 +0100


Max Payne is one of my top ten games of all time. There's something about the scrunchy-faced hero's first rampage through New York City that's stayed with me ever since I first played it in 2001. Aoife, on the other hand, had never played Max Payne until this month. Imagine growing up without ever knowing the joys of bullet time, hammy narration or a crippling addiction to painkillers; it's too cruel to contemplate.

Eager to bring justice to Aoife - and the streets of New York - I sat her down with and waited for her to fall in love with Max Payne like I did all those years ago.

Things did not exactly go to plan.

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Chaos Theory creator plays Splinter Cell's greatest ever level

Tue, 10 May 2016 10:41:00 +0100


In honour of the Panama Papers leak, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory director Clint Hocking has recorded a Let's Play of what's regarded as the best level in the entire stealth series - the Panamanian Bank.

"In honour of all of the assholes who don't pay their taxes around the world and f*** ordinary people who, you know, are gamers, we thought we would play the Panamanian Bank level of Splinter Cell," Hocking said in the video.

He's joined by Mathieu Berube who made the level, which Hocking believes is "the best level in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory". The pair talk about how the level and game were made while they play.

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John Carmack to get this year's BAFTA Fellowship award

Thu, 24 Mar 2016 10:49:00 +0000


Legendary and maybe part-machine programmer John Carmack will receive this year's BAFTA Fellowship award, joining the likes of Gabe Newell, Shigeru Miyamoto, Will Wright and many others. He'll receive the award at the BAFTA Games Awards 7th April in London - an event happening alongside EGX Rezzed.

Carmack co-founded id Software and was instrumental in the creation of Doom and Quake and Wolfenstein - games that defined an industry - and was the architect of the engines that powered them. It was the Quake 2 engine, with its out-of-the-box hardware-accelerated graphics support, that really kickstarted the whole graphics card arms race. Anyone own a Voodoo2?

Carmack was also instrumental in the rise of virtual reality. He struck up a relationship with some bloke called Palmer Lucky that led to that E3 2012 VR demonstration of Doom 3 BFG Edition running on a prototype headset that turned out to be an early Oculus Rift. The rest is history.

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Star Wars fan project aims to remake Free Radical's Battlefront

Fri, 18 Mar 2016 15:12:00 +0000


It is a period of civil war. Star Wars followers finally have EA's new Battlefront to play, but other fans still long for something else: the cancelled Battlefront project once in development at British studio Free Radical Design.

Free Radical's Battlefront was canned a decade ago this year - despite being nearly completed - but is still fondly remembered for the hugely ambitious gameplay it originally promised.

TimeSplitters developer Free Radical was building huge maps which boasted seamless ground to space battles - something missing from DICE's new release.

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The lost worlds of Lionhead and Bullfrog

Sun, 13 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000


With Lionhead Studios facing closure this week, we thought it would be a good moment to revisit this piece, originally published in October 2012, tracing all the intriguing games that never quite made it out of the Guildford studio and its predecessor, Bullfrog.

With a brace of Fables behind his old studio and the Curiosity project edging closer to release, there's a danger that future generations may never know the sweet, salty pain of a Peter Molyneux-hyped project that fails to materialise. Bearing all that in mind, it seems like a good time to pick over a few of the most interesting Lionhead and Bullfrog games that never made it to shelves - and maybe shed a tear or two along the way.

Here's the important thing, though: getting cancelled isn't the only things these fascinating projects have in common. They all share a certain wayward ambition and an eagerness to take players somewhere genuinely new. They're a testament to two studios where designers and artists have always been encouraged to think about the medium in different ways; given the potential round of between-projects redundancies hitting Lionhead this week, it's a great time to celebrate the team's creative legacy.

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A celebration of Lionhead's finest games

Thu, 10 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000


The best games create stories as well as telling them, and when you ask people about a Lionhead game there's usually a good one. A friend told me how, when playing Black & White, he'd found his inscrutable cow-god familiar taking a dump in the village's food supply. He went to punish it, mis-clicked, and instead petted the beast. From then on the cow went out of its way to poo on food, and no amount of beatings would dissuade it. My friend persevered with his save for days before, finally, admitting defeat and starting over - left only with the memory of handing out monotonous beatings to a bewildered, unhappy, constantly-befouled creature.

Lionhead's games were never all sunshine. The news that Microsoft is gearing up to close the studio is desperately sad, especially so for those affected but also for the millions of gamers who - over two decades - have come to expect something a little different from the Guildford-based developer. It's not so much that the studio always delivered, with several of its most-hyped games eventually canned, but along the way it has made ambitious games, original games, maybe the odd duffer and a handful of solid-gold classics.

Lionhead was founded in 1996 by Steve Jackson, Peter Molyneux, Tim Rance and Mark Webley. Molyneux would become the focal point for much of the company's history, and his ability to promote gave Black & White - the studio's first title, released in 2001 - an enormous media profile that the finished product just about survived.

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A different creed: the legacy of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Sun, 24 Jan 2016 08:00:00 +0000

The Assassins were supposed to protect the Prince, not steal his crown. If you're a fan of courtly intrigues, or at least courtly intrigue as a metaphor for franchise evolution, I recommend reading up on Prince of Persia: Assassin, a Sands of Time spin-off that was in pre-production at Ubisoft Montreal across 2003 and 2004. Eschewing the storybook morality of its predecessor, the game would have cast the player as a hooded bodyguard armed with pop-out wristblades and a repertoire of vicious grappling moves, escorting an AI-controlled princeling through Jerusalem. This bloodthirsty mixture had promise, but was seen as too severe a departure for the franchise, so Ubisoft greenlit Assassin as a new IP. Thus the seed that produced the 70 million-selling Assassin's Creed series - and through Assassin's Creed, the open world action-adventure genre of the present day.It seems an unwitting piece of socio-political allegory - the transfer of power from an aristocratic hero to an everyman killer, lurking in the crowd - and indeed, the Prince's downfall from Ubisoft's perspective was perhaps his station. "The problem is that a prince isn't an action figure," creative director Patrice Désilets told Edge in 2012. "A prince is someone who's waiting to become king." I feel this misses the point slightly - the appeal of a prince as a fiction archetype is that he has all the status but few of the responsibilities of a king. It's that blend of glamour and relative freedom to go out on a limb (or a ceiling beam) that makes him such an attractive lead for an action game. But discussion is, of course, academic. The Prince of Persia has gone the way of princes in general, not aided by the Heavy Metal misstep that was Warrior Within, while the Assassins have risen in power and splendour, becoming property owners, guild leaders and sea captains, attracting a vast entourage of tailors, carpenters, bankers and celebrity hangers-on. There is, surely, nothing left to learn from the antics of a blue-blooded daredevil who has fallen into obscurity.Or is there? Among the things I find most fascinating about latter-day Assassin's Creed is its failure to entirely leave the shadow of Sands of Time, the game that created and, you could credibly argue, perfected the blueprint for framing, animation and control in Western third-person action games this side of 2000. Sands of Time may be a fading memory, but its fingerprints are all over the industry: every fluid transition from jump to ledge grab, every expert automatic camera adjustment during a platforming sequence, every light-tinted handhold and of course, every wall-run owes something to the Prince's journey through the crumbling palace of Azad.Read more…[...]

The link between Kylo Ren's Lightsaber and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Mon, 18 Jan 2016 14:43:00 +0000


A possible link between Kylo Ren's Lightsaber in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the decade-old Knights of the Old Republic video games, has been found. If the link holds true it would seem to cement those games in Star Wars film canon.

I'll get to the link after I explain why being canonical in film terms is a big deal. It's because the Star Wars films always stood aloofly apart from the myriad Expanded Universe stories. Decades of books and comics and games - including KOTOR - explored all corners of the Star Wars universe but were unified and ruled by the sacrosanct stories of the films - which paid little, if any, heed in return.

In the lead-up to the new film trilogy Lucasfilm made this stance explicitly clear.

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Pick up 10 Double Fine games for £15.19 this weekend on Steam

Sat, 12 Dec 2015 00:22:00 +0000


Psychonauts and Brutal Legend developer Double Fine has discounted its 10-game bundle by 80 per cent this weekend on Steam, bringing the total to £15.19 / $19.99.

Usually the bundle goes for £75.99 / $99.99, which is already much cheaper than buying each product individually, which would run one up £134.84 / $184.22.

The Double Fine Bundle includes the following games:

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Max Payne rating leaked for PS4

Tue, 08 Dec 2015 00:17:00 +0000


It's looking like the original Max Payne will be getting the PS2 Classic treatment on PS4, according to an ESRB listing.

While not officially announced, this seems very likely as Sony just released eight PS2 games on its latest console, including Rogue Galaxy, Mark of Kri, Dark Cloud, and some Grand Theft Auto games.

Furthermore, these titles were leaked for PS4 ports via the PEGI ratings board, so it wouldn't be surprising if history were repeating itself here.

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Psychonauts 2 is really real, launches a crowdfunding campaign

Fri, 04 Dec 2015 02:42:00 +0000


Double Fine's debut 2005 adventure Psychonauts is a game about dreams. On the surface, it's about actual dreams as your pre-pubescent psychic commander Raz hops inside the subconscious of others like a benevolent Freddy Kruger, but it also represents a dream for fans. Psychonauts may have been a critical darling upon its release a decade ago (it even snagged Eurogamer's highly coveted Game of the Year Award), but it failed to sell very well and any hopes to see a sequel were almost immediately stamped out.

Back in 2012 Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson offered to front $13m, the cost of the first game, to Double Fine in order to fund a sequel. This ended up not happening, mostly because Notch made this offer the day before Double Fine was to launch its now famous Kickstarter campaign for Broken Age (then codenamed Double Fine Adventure). What began as an experiment to fund a tiny flash game suddenly raised $3.3m, leading to a project that would consume Double Fine founder and Psychonauts creator Tim Schafer for the better part of three years. Needless to say, Psychonauts 2 was put on the backburner.

But now Broken Age is out and Double Fine has outlined an opportunity to fund this sequel many grew convinced simply wasn't possible.

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Jade Empire is free on Origin

Wed, 02 Dec 2015 10:08:00 +0000


BioWare's kung fu role-playing game Jade Empire is free on Origin today. Apparently it's in celebration of the game turning 10 years old - 10 years old!

Jade Empire first came out on the original Xbox in 2005, and was BioWare's follow-up to the revered Knights of the Old Republic. But Jade Empire struggled to have the same effect. It had a lovely sunny disposition, all gentle flowers and ancient Chinese landscapes, and trod the well-worn BioWare path of story, companions, dialogue, good and evil, and saving the world, but its combat was thin.

Whereas Knights of the Old Republic used a deeper, albeit diluted Dungeons & Dragons approach with obvious rounds of combat, Jade Empire opted for a real-time combat system with abilities for use whenever they cooled down. It turned out to be a half-way house: slow for an action game but not deep enough (especially after many hours) for a role-playing game. Simply, it wore out before the end.

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Watch: Are we getting tired of re-releases?

Sat, 21 Nov 2015 09:00:00 +0000


Beyond: Two Souls is getting a new PS4 version on the 26th of November. I don't want to sound like I'm down on the idea, but I have no earthly idea why that's happening. It feels a bit soon, no?

Digital re-releases make up for a lot of the titles currently available on PS4 and Xbox One. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, but are we seeing too many games repurposed for current gen? I put the question to Tom and Aoife in this week's Eurogamer Show which, conveniently enough, you can watch below.

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Here's the official, Halo lore explanation for why Cortana is naked

Fri, 30 Oct 2015 15:25:00 +0000


Halo franchise chief Frank O'Connor was asked recently why Cortana is naked. It turns out, developer 343 has thought about this, and there's an actual lore explanation.

O'Connor says Cortana chooses to appear naked in order to gain the upper hand during conversations.


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Watch: Aoife forces Johnny to play Final Fantasy X

Mon, 19 Oct 2015 17:01:00 +0100


Shadow of the Colossus. Half Life. Shenmue. The Legend of Zelda. Everyone's got at least one classic, universally beloved game that - shamefully - they've never played.

Now, while I'd hate to establish some kind of literary canon for video games, there are undoubtedly a number of titles people feel you have to have played; games that make people yell WHAT across a noisy pub when you admit to having never even touched them.

Rather than wallow in faux-Catholic guilt over our own personal piles of shame, however, we decided to do something about it. So, it gives me very great pleasure to introduce you to our brand new series, Late to the Party.

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Rare reflects on its lost Conker game, Gettin' Medieval

Tue, 29 Sep 2015 01:12:00 +0100


Rare has revealed all sorts of info about its cancelled Xbox game, Conker: Gettin' Medieval.

In development after Conker: Live & Reloaded launched in 2005, Gettin' Medieval was to be an online multiplayer third-person shooter.

The main character would have been Death, while Conker was set to have a guest appearance. Many of the characters were going to be medieval versions of Future War characters. For example, the Sky Jockey would have been the Sky Knight, the Demolitioner would have been the Battle Mage and the Long Ranger was turned into the Musketeer.

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See the unreleased South Park game discovered on an Xbox debug

Mon, 28 Sep 2015 11:31:00 +0100


An unfinished and forgotten South Park game has been unearthed on an original Xbox debug.

The debug console, designed to run unfinished game code for testers and press demos, had a working version of the South Park game installed on it at some point.

Originally discovered by Nintendo Age forum mod qixmaster back in August, the build has now been given a thorough investigation by HappyConsoleGamer (thanks, Kotaku).

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The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction was super, smashing, great

Sun, 23 Aug 2015 08:00:00 +0100

The first issue of The Incredible Hulk was published in May 1962, written by movie cameo addict Stan Lee and featuring spectacular art by the great Jack Kirby. The cover depicts a familiar-looking but grey behemoth looming over a skinny, scared guy in a lab coat. "Is he man or monster or... is he both?" asks the blurb, clearly in rather an existential tizzy. In the five decades since, the Hulk has survived various character evolutions and a series of hard reboots. But if we know anything about Marvel's brawl-y green giant, it's that the monster and the man co-exist, or at least time-share. An aggravated Hulk will kick the tar out of baddies all day long, but once his famous anger dissipates the big guy visibly deflates like a parade balloon with a slow puncture, returning to his other, slightly less imposing form: puny Bruce Banner.The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction took this absolute cornerstone of the character and cheerfully binned it. Poor Bruce has no juice: in Radical Entertainment's 2005 game you are all Hulk, all the time. The classic Jekyll-and-Hyde squall of internal conflict is completely stripped away or, more accurately, repurposed as externalised conflict, the sort of conflict that video games do very well. Anger is an energy, and at its best, Ultimate Destruction lights up the screen with sensationalised, ring-a-ding pyrotechnics, like a pinball table plugged directly into the National Grid. It doesn't fetishise violence, but it certainly aestheticises it, spotlights it, rhapsodises it. It's a sandbox game in the truest sense, in that it presents you with an elaborate clump of sandcastles disguised to look like skyscrapers and puts you in control of the world's largest, greenest, tantrum-iest toddler, ready and eager to stamp all over them. Once you've earned enough Smash Points to start digging properly into Hulk's surprisingly large repertoire of unlockable abilities, Ultimate Destruction becomes a freestyler's heaven, like parkour for Godzilla. Even for a game released a decade ago, Ultimate Destruction's open world can seem basic rather than bustling. The Badlands is a Death Valley-style desert of sandy canyons and towering mesas, a generally featureless map broken up by hardscrabble towns, isolated military bunkers and the occasional longhorn steer, moo-ing as you roar past. In the anonymous city, the processing emphasis is on how concrete, glass and tarmac will crumble, crack and explode as Hulk lurches around rather than recreating an absorbing clockwork simulacrum of modern urban living. There are a pockets of foot traffic, but presumably most of the civilians are using the city's extensive public transport network: it's very common to skid round a corner and be faced with an entire street bogged down with a traffic jam composed entirely of buses. At this point it's incredibly difficult to resist the temptation to slam down on the sprint button to see what happens when Hulk charts a path throu[...]

What makes Shenmue 2's open world so special?

Sun, 05 Jul 2015 08:00:00 +0100


There's so much of it, it feels impenetrable. Shenmue 2's Hong Kong isn't the biggest of open worlds, and unlike the Yokosuka suburb that preceded it, it can hardly claim to be the densest. Yet AM2's Hong Kong is thick with character and purpose: an overwhelming city where you sink into a gentle rut amidst its wider rhythms, where human life flows through its streets, ebbing in from the harbour before it splashes down sidewalks and sends slow, chattering oxbows around cluttered alleyways.

It's a common banality to mark Hong Kong as a city of contrasts; where the stiff-lipped colonies clash with traditional Chinese culture, where east meets west and tradition meets modernity. That's all hokum, though, and Shenmue 2's not one to deal in such platitudes. It gets down to a greater truth about not only this city, but all great metropolis: the unknowable sprawl, where the urban space is painted as eternally indifferent.

Shenmue 2 came to the Dreamcast less than a year after the original - in Europe, at least - yet it offers a steep shift in scale and tone. Having slowly tracked your father's killer Lan Di through Yokosuka and beyond Japan, as Ryo Hazuki you find yourself on the shores of Hong Kong, taking up the quest in typically ponderous fashion. Like Shenmue before it, this isn't a game about revenge, or even one fuelled by bloodlust. Its essence is something more pedestrian, more profoundly ordinary.

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Urban Chaos: Riot Response was Rocksteady's pre-Batman crime crackdown

Sun, 21 Jun 2015 08:00:00 +0100


Bruce, almighty. As widescreen summer entertainments go, Batman: Arkham Knight is big, brash and badass enough to mix it with any of 2015's movie blockbusters. It's even been marketed as the conclusion of an epic trilogy, equating London-based developers Rocksteady with popcorn auteurs like Christopher Nolan or Peter Jackson and positioning Arkham Knight as the capstone to some grand, overarching mythos. (This also conveniently sweeps 2013's snowy Arkham Origins, the competent but slightly underwhelming prequel developed separately by Warner Bros Montreal, under the bat-carpet.)

But before Batman: Arkham Asylum rubber-stamped Rocksteady as major industry players in 2009, they'd already created a game where one man attempts to save a beleaguered city from eccentric criminals using a combination of hi-tech gear and down-and-dirty street-fighting. Eidos published Rocksteady's first game in 2006, two years after Sefton Hill and Jamie Walker established the studio. During development, it had been codenamed Roll Call. But when it arrived on PS2 and Xbox, it was rebranded Urban Chaos: Riot Response, which certainly sounds like an exciting collection of words. (The Urban Chaos part was lifted from a forgotten PS1/PC game Eidos had previously published; the Riot Response bit was essentially the player's job description.)

To continue the auteur theory: before you go and see the new Fantastic Four movie, you might rewatch Chronicle, Josh Trank's previous film as writer/director, to see if it helps you get a handle on his reboot. Similarly, the rapturous reaction to Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World could send intrigued dino-fans back to the director's first movie, the low-budget time-travel tale Safety Not Guaranteed, to try and work out what impressed Spielberg so much he handed over the reins to a beloved franchise. In that spirit, I wanted to return to Urban Chaos: Riot Response - in search of any Batman breadcrumbs. The core Rocksteady crew that created Urban Chaos had a major hand in Arkham Asylum three years later. Could rugged riot cop Nick Mason be a proto-Bruce Wayne?

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Sir Christopher Lee dies aged 93

Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:06:00 +0100


Screen legend Sir Christopher Lee has died aged 93.

The actor died on Sunday at a London hospital after being treated for respiratory problems and heart failure, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Lee made his name with 1950s Hammer horror films, but he also famously played Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man (1973) and Scaramanga in James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). More recently, Lee found a new audience after playing Saruman in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films, and Count Dooku in the last two Star Wars films.

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Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee is coming to mobile

Mon, 08 Jun 2015 20:45:00 +0100


Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee is getting a mobile version on iOS and Android devices, the game's original developer Oddworld Inhabitants has announced.

The port is being handled by Square One Games, who previously ported Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath and The Bard's Tale to mobile platforms.

Munch's Oddysee marked Oddworld's first foray into 3D gaming in 2001. It followed the tale of the last Gabbit, a frog-like creature fished to near extinction. He and series stalwart Abe team up to take down the evil corporation that has slaughtered their brethren.

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Bill Paxton to play Jack Thompson in BBC GTA drama

Wed, 22 Apr 2015 11:11:00 +0100


UPDATE 22/4/15 10.55am: BBC Two has now officially announced Game Changer, the newly-titled drama that will detail development of Grand Theft Auto.

As expected, Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe will play Rockstar co-founder Sam Houser, while Bill Paxton will play disbarred lawyer Jack Thompson.

The Beeb describes its tale as "arguably the greatest British coding success story since Bletchley Park".

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GameStop to experiment with retro game and console trade-ins

Wed, 15 Apr 2015 23:51:00 +0100


GameStop is going to experiment with accepting and selling used retro consoles, accessories and video games.

The popular retail chain revealed this upcoming trade-in program to IGN, where it noted that this will begin as an experiment across roughly 250 locations in New York City and Birmingham, Alabama.

IGN reported that starting on 25th April participating locations will accept video game goods dating all the way back to the NES era. If the program is successful, GameStop hopes to expand it nationwide by the end of the year.

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Daniel Radcliffe in talks to play GTA producer Sam Houser

Thu, 09 Apr 2015 00:51:00 +0100


Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe is in negotiations to star in the BBC's upcoming drama Grand Theft Auto, a feature-length programme about the popular game series' creation.

As reported by the Hollywood Reporter, Radcliffe would play Rockstar co-founder and president Sam Houser. The programme will focus on the drama between Houser and Miami lawyer Jack Thompson, who often sought restitution from Rockstar when violent crimes were committed by folks who also played Grand Theft Auto. Thompson was later disbarred in 2008 for 27 cases of professional misconduct.

The drama is going to be directed by Owen Harris, who directed that episode of Black Mirror where a woman builds an android replacement for her late husband, and that episode of Misfits where a dude wreaks havoc by telekinetically controlling dairy products.

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Microsoft mulled idea of giving away original Xbox free

Wed, 01 Apr 2015 10:22:00 +0100


Microsoft considered the idea of providing the original Xbox console for free.

That's according to Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning, speaking in a new interview with

Before the launch of the original Xbox, while Microsoft was still attempting to nail down its plans for entering the console space, the company had an idea that its new gaming hardware should be provided without an upfront charge.

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