impressions

Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem ForeverDuke Nukem Forever
Available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Game Developer: Gearbox Software, 3D Realms, Triptych Games,
Publisher: 2K Games
Release date: June 14, 2011
Official website: dukenukem.com


Game rating: 3.25 out of 5

Review summary:
The long-awaited return of Duke Nukem is bittersweet. Duke Nukem Forever is filled with crass jokes and some humorous pokes at other games. What holds the Duke back are the lower quality graphic details when compared to current generation Unreal Engine based games and especially long in-between level and game continue loading time. Still, there is only one place you can go to get this level of humor and over-the-top action, and that is from Duke Nukem. A few environmental puzzles and some knuckle-blistering boss battles are among the best offerings. Unlockables provide concept art, clips of an older version of Duke Nukem Forever, and a nice history of the struggles of bringing Duke Nukem Forever to fruition. Multiplayer gameplay also extends the game life with an experience system and a penthouse to decorate with unlockable prizes. Players who won’t get flustered by the juvenile jokes will have fun with an action hero stereotype from the 80′s/90′s and let loose with Duke Nukem Forever.

Read the full review here.

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OnLive Game System

A new game system just launched as of last week. The OnLive MicroConsole Game System just started shipping Thursday, December 2nd. OnLive is a ground breaking new gaming system, which is run off a cloud-based gaming service. There is no disc slot or hardware storage used with the OnLive Game System. Full-blown games are delivered through an internet connection, with very little loading time and nearly instant gameplay access. The backbone of OnLive is internet connectivity, which OnLive recommends at a minimum of 3 Mbps.

OnLive pretty much calls its MicroConsole Game System a “TV adapter.” The OnLive game service was previously available to PCs and Mac. Now there is no need for any computer with the use of the OnLive MicroConsole. It invades the space of the current Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii in your entertainment center. The OnLive MicroConsole has the smallest footprint and the lowest entry cost from all of those game systems. For $99, you get a high definition, single-player or online multiplayer gaming system.

OnLive MicroConsole Game System

Here is what is included in the OnLive MicroConsole Game System box, for $99:

- OnLive MicroConsole™ TV adapter
- OnLive Wireless Controller
- Cables and accessories:

  • HDMI cable
  • Ethernet cable
  • Power adapter
  • Rechargeable Controller battery
  • 2 USB play and charge cables (one long, one short)
  • 2 AA alkaline batteries and battery compartment

Things that the OnLive MicroConsole Game System offers out of the box that other game systems do not:

- HDMI cable
- Record and playback dedicated buttons on controller (for gameplay capture)
- Controller with rechargeable battery (with exception of PS3 DUALSHOCK)

WiFi capability is not included with the OnLive MicroConsole, but it does support use with a WiFi bridge. Also, if you do not have an HDMI supported display, an OnLive Component Video Adapter is available for $29.99 from the OnLive store.

OnLive MicroConsole Game System

The OnLive MicroConsole is easy to hookup. Plug in the AC Adapter, HDMI cable, ethernet cable (and optional audio out cables, depending on your speaker setup) and you are ready to play. There may by an update on the initial boot up, but after you sign in with your OnLive account, access is pretty much instant. The OnLive MicroConsole is fairly hot to the touch (even when not in use), so do not place it on top of other game consoles or electronics. A fairly vented area is recommended.

Included with the OnLive MicroConsole Game System is a wireless controller. The form factor is much like the Xbox 360 controller, with d-pad and thumbstick layouts similar to the PS3 DUALSHOCK controller. Looking at the underside of the OnLive controller, it practically looks like a mold from an Xbox 360 controller. Four illuminated indicators show to which player the controller is assigned to. It feels sturdy and of quality like you will find in other game console controllers. The OnLive Controller has both a glossy and matte finish. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the OnLive Controller. Dropping wasn’t tested (just yet), but it definitely feels solid.

OnLive MicroConsole Game System

The cost of OnLive games vary. Full games are available from the OnLive Marketplace and are priced from $4.99 to $49.99. Games can also be rented in 3-day or 5-day PlayPasses (varies from $2.99 to $8.99). One of the most attractive gameplay purchasing options for OnLive is the newly announced PlayPack. For $9.99 a month (starting in January 15, 2011) unlimited access to 40+ games will be available. A beta is being offered now to those who purchase the OnLive Game System (so you can play select games for free!), until January 14, 2011. Free 30 minute trials are available for just about every game. Several great deals have been offered by OnLive in the past, so you can count on sales occasionally (I picked up Trine for $5). OnLive also has released games at 12:01am, so OnLive will be the place to purchase and play new games first. No need to wait in line at midnight! What is great is OnLive games can continue to be played on your laptop or computer when you are away from home. All the game saves and progress is stored remotely. This is something no other game console currently offers. Some OnLive games support keyboard and mouse controls as well. See the available OnLive games and their pricing here.

The OnLive MicroConsole Game System package is a great deal at $99. The controller feels solid, connection and power options are generous, and the presentation is quality. Pricing of games and game rental options are very competitive. Ultimately, it is the games that make the system, so OnLive has to deliver a greater selection in their gaming library. Upcoming games such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Two Worlds II, Red Faction Armageddon, Homeworld, and more games are currently being showcased in the “Coming Soon” section. Game availability can only increase should players show interest in supporting it. OnLive is a game changer and could potentially shake up the gaming industry with enough backing. At the current $99 and free game deal, the OnLive MicroConsole Game System is highly recommended and is a solid gaming platform. More questions and answers about OnLive are below, so hopefully they answer anything else you may be wondering about the OnLive MicroConsole and OnLive game service.

OnLive is now available for ordering, only online, at www.onlive.com. A free game of choice (Unlimited Access) is included, as well as free access to the PlayPack Beta games until January 14, 2011.

Here are a few questions and answers about OnLive from the @GamingBits Twitter community:

@DarkAngelRafael asks: “How are the graphics? Are the settings maxed out? Any lag issues? How’s online MP?”

OnLive’s graphics look great in HD. There are no individual graphic settings on the games themselves like you will find on PC counterparts (other than brightness/contrast). The graphic settings are similar to what you would find on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, not like the optional texture, resolution, graphic detail, etc. that you would typically need to adjust on a PC based on its performance power. You are getting high performance, HD quality through OnLive. However, compression artifacts and lag all depend on your internet connection. Here is what OnLive recommends for internet connection speed: “You’ll need a wired broadband connection near your television (3 Mbps required, 5+ Mbps recommended for best performance). As a general rule, we recommend 5 Mbps for TVs 40 inches and larger, 4 Mbps for 30-40 inch TVs, and 3 Mbps for smaller.” I am running at about 10-15 Mbps, which varies depending on network usage in my building. I experienced two drops during a weekend of play. The good news is you don’t lose where you were at in a game, should you lose connection. Multiplayer performance depends on internet speeds too, but overall it was great. Sessions can be joined quickly and really never have a shortage of other players to play with (in Unreal Tournament III where I tried it). In OnLive, you can also instantly jump in and spectate on any current games in session to see a preview of it. Some players also record and share bragging rights (you can imagine what you will find in the Mafia II bragging rights section!).

@TheRedKirby asks: “All you need is to buy the OnLive and you have access to a full library?”

The OnLive game library offers rental, or full purchases, of games. OnLive pricing plans include 3-day plans, 5-day plans, full purchases and the newly announced PlayPack Plan ($9.99 a month for full access to 40+ games; available starting in January). There are also 30 minute timed demos available for the games. So you have a good amount of time to try before you decide to rent or buy.

@NY2Nowhere asks: “How is the controller? Does it feel like any other gaming system controller?”

In feel, the OnLive Controller is more like the Xbox 360 controller than the PlayStation 3 DUALSHOCK 3 controller. What it has similar to the Xbox 360: Button labels, trigger and shoulder buttons (more on that in next question), concave thumbsticks, and a removable battery (or rechargeable) pack. What is similar to the PS3 controller is the d-pad and thumbstick layouts. The OnLive controller is definitely inspired by both. Notably unique to the OnLive controller are the additional recording and playback features on the bottom of it, for capturing gameplay video bragging rights.

@gadgetman007 asks: “How do the triggers on the controller feel compared to 360/PS3?”

Somewhere in between the Xbox 360 and PS3. The OnLive Controller triggers are more like the Xbox 360 triggers in form (although nearly twice as wide), rather than inward sloped like on PS3 controller. From all three controllers, the OnLive controller triggers have the most resistance, although it is not a considerable difference.

@The_Yardbird asks: “Does onlive have anything to reward you for playing like achievements or anything to make you feel rewarded?”

OnLive currently does not have a common achievement system in place. Some of the PC games that supported Achievements or Awards (ex: Defense Grid Awakening, Unreal Tournament III and Red Faction) show and reward achievements in the game itself. Hopefully OnLive comes up with some kind of cumulative achievement/trophy/awards system.

Thanks to those who sent in questions! If you have any more question about the OnLive MicroConsole, leave a comment below and I’ll try my best to get an answer for you.

See detailed pictures of the OnLive MicroConsole Game System package and contents below (or here):

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Thanks to OnLive for making the OnLive Game System review and pictures possible.

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Bethesda Softworks and Splash Damage have been working on BRINK for a while now and we have never really gotten our hands on it outside of certain outlets.  The game was one that I was looking forward to, but I did not think I would like it as much as I did.  The game is a team based shooter with objectives that your team must achieve.  What I did not realize was how good the game looks and plays.  In my one 25 minute round with several other journalists, I had a great time.  We were the good guys, trying to get a bomb diffusion robot to a part of the map to pick up a package and bring it back.  This sounds derivative, but the experience was far from it.

BRINK is able to keep every objective fresh because only certain classes can complete them. Included within these objectives are primary and secondary goals.  I found myself trying to finish the secondary ones because they give your team added bonuses like boosts to health, improved damage and more.  Our team actually had to work together to complete some of these objectives.  Once the game is released it should be a change from the lone warrior style of many other popular first person shooters. Rewards for those that are not destroying the other team in terms of sheer kills may just help BRINK find success in the crowded FPS market.

For those concerned, the game looks great and has a slightly realistic art style with a cel shaded twist. It’s the movement and weight to the weapons that make the game unique.  BRINK does feature a system that allows you to perform parkour style moves in first person, which seems strange in theory but in practice is simple.  I was able to move from certain ledges with ease to help complete objectives and avoid enemy fire.  The problem that I had with the game during my play time was the shooting and reviving mechanics.  Certain classes have the ability to heal and revive characters that are “downed.”  The healing part is not the issue, it is fully killing the enemy while they are in the downed state.  I found myself having to shoot them extra just to make sure they were dead.  It’s a small issue, but it caused me to die a few times which felt cheap

Without playing any of BRINK’s single player campaign, developer Splash Damage has sold me on the game. I had more fun during the demo than I have had during any Team Fortress match or other first person shooter match in a very long time.  I think that BRINK brings more fresh ideas and mechanics to the genre than anything else I played at PAX.  This was one of my top games of the show.  BRINK is coming early next year and should please those who love team based shooters and want something different from what is currently available on the market.

For more info on BRINK, visit the official site here and keep checking back for any new developments.

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I remember a time on the Super Nintendo when Donkey Kong was one of the best looking games on consoles.  Not only is DK one of the most iconic game characters in history but his games are just plain fun, even if they can be difficult.  After we learned at E3 this year that Nintendo was bringing Donkey Kong Country: Returns to the Wii, I really wanted to get my hands on the game.  I was able to play through a few levels, co-op, with a random person at PAX.  We went through one of the more complicated levels that Nintendo was showing and I died a lot but was having fun through every jump. For those who are familiar with the DK franchise, the same mechanics do apply but the game’s graphical fidelity and level design have greatly improved.  On the Wii, Donkey Kong Country: Returns still has the wacky environments and animal enemies, but this time around the levels are deeper.  Not deeper in length and design, but there are actually multiple viewpoints.  Some have vertical sections while others have a foreground and a background.  The other fan favorite that has returned is the mine cart levels.  In talking with the PR people they stated that the developer, Retro Studios, tried to add a bunch of mechanics and still keep the gameplay familiar to fans.  This means that there are some waggle controls, but the game does support all of the control schemes available including the classic controller.

In my short time with the game what I was able to see looked good. Coming out this November 21st, Donkey Kong Country: Returns is in very good hands with Retro Studios.  They have proven that they can be trusted with some of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises.  This game should easily be a hit with the family around Thanksgiving time and will be worth your time without a doubt.

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One classic non-digital game that I have played for a very long time is chess.  In video game form chess has gone through hundreds of innovations and iterations across every console imaginable.  However, I think we have come to the pinnacle of virtual chess games with Battle Vs. Chess developed by Topware Interactive.  In my short time with the game, I was shown a few of the dozens of modes available in the final version and I have not had more fun with a chess game.

One of the first modes that I was shown was one where you try to take an opponent’s piece. When you do this a hack-and-slash mini game is triggered and you have to defeat the majority of enemy pieces to just take one.  Along with this, there are a ton of different puzzle modes that range from super easy to impossibly hard.  The developers have thought of everything with this title, especially one that I spoke to who was on the original Battle Chess team.  Let’s just say, the team knows what makes a great chess title.

Battle vs Chess is undoubtedly a niche title but it should not be overlooked.  If you have an affinity for chess at all, this game should be on your radar.  The game obviously isn’t a graphical powerhouse, but it does keep the boards and pieces interesting.  Battle vs Chess is coming soon so stay tuned to Gamingbits.com for more news on the games slew of modes.

If it already wasn’t sweet enough the game is being released at budget price of $40. For more info to hold you off, visit the official Battle Vs Chess site here.

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