July 2010

It has been ten years since the immensely popular Worms 2: Armageddon was released on the PC, and now developer Team17 is back with an all new fully loaded turn-based helping of Worms mayhem, entitled Worms Reloaded. READ MORE

According to Bloomberg Japan, Nintendo will be announcing when they plan to start selling their hotly anticipated 3DS portable as well as its price and initial shipment numbers on September 29. Only two months to go!

This week we’re taking the pulse of the game industry with Nintendo’s Vitality Sensor, Respawn’s first title, and another revision of the PS3.

Current score

Andrew Passafiume: +270

Graham Russell: +174

Eric Schabel: +70

Shawn Vermette: +245


Respawn’s first title to be a sci-fi shooter

Little, if anything, is known regarding the project that Respawn pitched to EA when they signed up with the EA Partner program; however, at least one analyst believes that rather than directly take on their own creation, Call of Duty, Respawn will take on the other 800 lb gorilla- Halo.

Andrew: We’ve been hearing rumors about Infinity Ward tackling some kind of sci-fi shooter for a couple of years now. There were rumors about the next Call of Duty game being a futuristic shooter, among other things. But those rumors were all forgotten about as soon as Modern Warfare 2 was announced early last year. Since then, Respawn Entertainment has formed and it is safe to assume that whatever their next project is, it will be something they’ve wanted to work on for a while now.  85%

Graham: I’m punting on this one. Would a sci-fi shooter be a good idea? Sure. EA has a few similar titles in its lineup, though, so they may be wary. Then again, it’s Respawn, and EA would probably take whatever they offered. It certainly won’t be a Call of Duty-like game, since Medal of Honor is on EA’s plate, but if they wanted to make a similar game, that would have made the defection less likely. Could they be going away from the FPS genre completely? But…then why would they name the company Respawn? See, I’m really wishy-washy on this one.   50%

Eric: I think this rumor has a fairly high probability of being true, given the people involved. Sure, there is already a glut of sci-fi shooters on the market, but that certainly hasn’t stopped the genre from continuing to be a best seller. Respawn is a new studio but the talents behind it are proven hit-makers and they are undoubtedly willing to dive into sci-fi if they so choose. 75%

Shawn: As amazing as the talent is at Respawn, I think that, given the current market’s penchant for ignoring new titles in favor of familiar ones, Respawn would be smart to stay away from Call of Duty style games for the time being, until they make themselves a household name yet again. However, with the distinct lack of a really good sci-fi shooter series on the PS3 (No, I don’t consider Killzone to be a great sci-fi series), I think the time is ripe for a company with Respawn’s talents to fill the void with their own sci-fi shooter.  80%

Sony prepping a 500GB PlayStation 3 next

Sony has already gone through 7 hardware revisions in 4 years with the PlayStation 3, but rumor has it that with the release of the Xbox 360 Slim, Sony started work on yet another revision. This time, they plan on releasing a 500GB PlayStation 3 Slim in order to once again claim the title of largest hard drive in a console.

Andrew: We do know about the bundle that is happening with the PS3 console and the Move, but another bundle in the same timeframe? I suppose I see it happening, but I think consumers have been plenty confused by the many, many bundles Sony has put out over the years for the PS3. It’s just difficult to say putting out a new system with a bigger hard drive will really be that advantageous for Sony, but it could still happen. 50%

Graham: That’s a big hard drive for a console. Only the most hardcore power users would need that much space…is there even 500GB worth of downloadable content on PSN? (And is the movie service really that popular?) The kicker here: next. If they announce some other console variation first, this one’s dead. Knowing how schizophrenic their SKU strategy has been, I’ll take my chances.  20%

Eric: As this rumor states, the PS3 has already gone through numerous hardware revisions since its release, so we know Sony is anything but shy about doing it again. I question the necessity of having a 500GB drive at this point in the game, but I suppose if Sony and Microsoft are truly planning to extend the lifetimes of their systems for another four or five years as they say, this upgrade is probably inevitable—it just might take some time. 80%

Shawn: This one is a little tough, just because of the specifics of the size involved. Will Sony release more revisions of the PS3? Absolutely, they’ve averaged 2 changed per year since releasing it! Will the very next change introduce a 500GB hard drive? That, I’m not as sure about. It is the next logical amount to put in a system (other than 320GB, which doesn’t seem worth the change), but when has Sony ever been logical? 55%


Nintendo to reveal fate of Vitality Sensor by end of 2010

Nintendo announced the Vitality Sensor to much surprise and confusion at E3 2009, yet it was absent from Nintendo’s E3 2010 conference and booth. Nintendo said at the time that it wasn’t the right time or place to discuss the Vitality Sensor, so now rumor has it they will announce just what the heck they plan to do with it sometime before the end of 2010.

Andrew: I would definitely expect to see something official about it from Nintendo later this year. I believe they do hold another press event sometime around TGS, so then (or at a similar time) would be a good way to confirm or deny whether or not the Vitality Sensor is actually dead or not. But at the same time, I do think Nintendo wouldn’t actually reveal anything about it again until they know they have some software to back it up with.  65%

Graham:  If it’s dead, we won’t hear about it for a while. That’s how Nintendo does things. But Cammie said it’s still in the works at E3, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they hold some silly normal-person event like they’ve done with Wii Fit in Central Park and such. It needs a killer app, though, and if they don’t have one, they need to keep it under wraps. 55% 

Eric: This is a tough one to gauge. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, no one represents unpredictability better in this industry than Nintendo does. If E3 was not the right time to unveil what the Vitality Sensor will actually be used for, I can’t imagine when they do plan to discuss it. In other words, it’s a crap shoot. 55%

Shawn: Didn’t Nintendo sell this to Ubisoft? I could swear I saw it at Ubisoft’s press conference…truthfully, I think Nintendo realizes this hardware is a little far off the beaten path, even for them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they buried it and never spoke of it again, unless Ubisoft’s version somehow takes off. 35% 

DarkStar One: Broken Alliance is a port of a PC game from four years ago, one that was referred to as the next “Privateer” or “Freespace” game upon its initial release. The basic premise of DarkStar One, Privateer, Freespace or any similar space simulation game is about you building up a ship, collecting money from completing different jobs, traveling to several new galaxies, and pretty much having free reign over their characters in a massive space setting. DarkStar One is definitely similar in that regard, although its execution is lackluster, to say the least.

What sets DarkStar One apart from the Privateer (or Freespace) series is its lack of a truly compelling story, narrative, or even setting. The game stars Kayron Jarvis, a rookie space pilot who, upon learning of his father’s death, inherits the legendary DarkStar One spaceship. Soon enough, he seeks to find out the truth behind the events leading up to the demise of his father.  

The story seems intriguing at first, but you find nothing that is really worth exploring in this very massive universe. Nothing about the characters, the different planets, galaxies, or races are compelling. The story meanders off for a while near the middle part of the game, and you find no reasons to relate to anything that is going on. The terrible voice acting and the lack of any clear direction in the narrative is what really drags this game down.

There is plenty of information to learn about each different system and galaxy, but that information almost never seems important during the majority of your travels unless it is dealing with the main story. You’ll find out about the different governments of each system, but it never means anything to any aspect of the game. The developers just flooded the screen with a ton of information, but most of it seems rather pointless. You are never immersed enough into this setting to find any of what you learn about each system necessary, and the game never tries to tell you why it might be. 

You would think that a game as open as this would have lots to do, right? Well, there certainly are a lot of places to explore, plenty of missions to do, and a wide array of ways to customize the DarkStar. But with all of that being said, the places you can explore all seem the same. When it comes down to it, you never find yourself going on any of these nice planets you see, and it doesn’t take long for you to realize that space looks about the same no matter which galaxy you are exploring. Oh sure, there are plenty of ships flying around, but they pretty much ignore you unless you are engaged in combat with them. 

The customization is definitely above and beyond what I expected from a game like this, and it really does show that the developers put plenty of thought behind just how many ways to customize your ship. You will also find different artifacts scattered around the many galaxies, and they are used to increase your ship’s power and essentially level up your vessel. 

There are also a lot of missions to take on, and each one relates to a specific “class” your character could belong to. You could lean more towards being a mercenary, a pirate, or just find yourself fighting for the law of that galaxy. None of it ever seems to have a bearing on anything except how certain, minor characters react to you. It’s just another missed opportunity, on that could have been explored a lot further. 

My biggest complaint with DarkStar One is just how sluggish everything feels. The space combat is never exciting, as enemies just fly around you in circles attempting to hit you with no real sense of tension or thrilling moments. The more you upgrade your ship seems to do next to nothing as you find yourself just flying in circles the majority of battles after the brain-dead enemies. The simulation aspects of DarkStar are cool, but the combat never feels like it improves beyond what seems to be a slow and tedious game of tag.

I hate to say it, but nothing about DarkStar One: Broken Alliance is all that captivating. Whenever I found something about the game I enjoyed, there were five other things that proceeded to drag down the experience. This is not the next Freespace or Privateer game, and not once did I find myself at all excited or enthralled by anything happening on screen. 

Pros: Plenty of customization options; lots of mission variety; many places to explore

Cons: Terrible voice acting; lackluster story with a very poor narrative; uninteresting characters and world; sluggish gameplay


For anyone who’s played the Heroes of Might and Magic or King’s Bounty games, Disciples III will be very familiar. More familiar than, say, Disciples II. While the original games kept the combat simple in contrast to the genre’s typical hex-grid tactics-fests, the latest one gives in to peer pressure. 

Which is unfortunate, since those games are very good, and that makes for tough competition.

Disciples III: Renaissance puts you in control of a fantasy hero, moving via a turn-based interface over the land, collecting resources and treasures and weapons. If you run into an enemy, though, you’re put in control of a fantasy hero, moving via a turn-based interface over the land. Except this time you’re usually hitting monsters in the face.

You do have help, though, and that’s where the battles are interesting. You raise a team of archers, mages, giants and such, and these guys also get to hit monsters in the face. (Usually. Not all monsters have faces, after all.) All the while you’re taking over castle cities, building structures to enhance your team and recruiting up to two other heroes to raise their own face-hitting armies.

If you’ve played games in the genre, you should have a pretty good idea how this goes. Renaissance does have its differences, though. Unlike most games in the genre, you level up your team RPG-style. Rather than collecting a stack of 62 archers, you shape and improve your one archer with stat boosts and abilities. It’s quite intricate, and you’ll need a high tolerance for micromanagement to take care of everything.

Disciples III is a good-looking game — though the team certainly knows it and shows it off just a bit too much. Many interfaces are dominated by carefully-rendered creature art. It looks nice, but with a game this complex, the extra screen real estate could have made things clearer and more intuitive. With a title like this, though, you’ll play long enough to get used to everything. The sound, on the other hand, is just painful. You’ll want to turn off the unit talking, as they say the same thing every turn and you have about four or five units at once. (Heck, the goblin just says “Goblin” when it’s his turn. Seriously, guys?)

The game includes multiple single-player campaigns and online play, as well as a limited hot-seat mode. The campaigns focus on the game’s three factions: the humans, the elves and the nebulous evil faction of hellfire and brimstone. There are some subtle differences between the three, but it’s not a large change in strategy between the three. Each has their back-line casters and their front-line beaters. The difference comes in upgrading the units through branching paths, but most can be shaped similarly to suit one playstyle if that’s what you want.

Disciples III is not simple. It takes real commitment to grasp the game’s many controls and systems, but it’s eventually a rewarding experience for those who’ve exhausted the latest King’s Bounty. Part-time gamers stay away: this is one for the true believers.

Pros: Full of strategic depth, lush worlds

Cons: Just not as tight as King’s Bounty