May 2011

Ready for this year’s E3? We aren’t, but we’re getting there! We thought we’d help you too with a look at the Big Three. Today, we’re taking a look at what Sony could have in store. 

What we know

The company’s new portable, codenamed Next Generation Portable, is slated for a holiday release. This means we’ll hear an actual name, price and release date at the show. We’ve seen blockbuster franchises in the works for the system, including versions of Uncharted and Killzone. Speaking of Uncharted, Drake’s Deception is also slated for the holidays, and we’re also prepared for releases of a new Twisted Metal, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One and Resistance 3.

What we think we know

Sony doesn’t just sell games and systems. They also sell TVs. That in mind, we’ll see more support for 3D TVs in almost every release. They’ve gotten flack for just tacking it on in games, and they’re out to prove that it’s a thing people want. We also expect anything simple they can do to make fans happy, as they’ll still be crawling back from the PR nightmare that was the PlayStation Network data breach and subsequent outage.

What we want to know

We haven’t seen the second generation of games for the PlayStation Move peripheral. Will we? It’s make-or-break time for the Move, and we’ll see either a full push or radio silence. Mostly, though, this will be the NGP show, and just like the 3DS, there’s a difference between the games in development and the games available at launch. What will the holiday season lineup look like? More importantly, will this device launch at a reasonable price?

We’ll know for sure next week, as we keep you informed from L.A. Let us know what you want to know about!

Arcade racing is a tough genre to create a game in. Car handling has to be easy without being automatic, tracks have to be challenging without being too punishing, and the whole package needs to be accessible. Sega Rally Online Arcade manages to be accessible, and they nail the handling, but the same track design and easy handling that help make the game approachable by all comers also make it too simple to keep coming back to when hard drives all over the landscape have copies of Dirt 2 and/or Burnout Paradise stored on them.

And that’s really Sega Rally Online Arcade’s biggest fault – playing it makes me want to play other games. The easy handling pushes me toward Sega’s own OutRun while the rally tracks push me toward Dirt 2, and the lack of damage modeling makes me want to start up Burnout Paradise and wreak some havoc with fully deformable cars, big ramps, and the ability to make my car blow up over and over again.

Discounting the fact that when I play SROA I immediately am drawn to other games, what Sega offers up here isn’t bad; it just feels like an arcade game from a few years ago. The options are pared down from a retail game, the graphics are flat, the sound work is generic, and the racing never feels frantic and dangerous like rally racing ought to. Different race surfaces change how the car handles, but while slamming into a mountainside to help navigate a turn slows you down right then it has no permanent effect on your car’s performance. And you can’t leave the track; fighting to stay on the track is one of the things that makes rally racing so interesting, and it’s just not here.

It is fun to run championship mode races where you start in 22nd place and have to fight your way to first over the course of three two-lap races in order to unlock a special one-on-one event. The selection of cars is nice (though I find myself unable to select cars that aren’t made by Subaru or Mitsubishi), but the number of tracks is very limited. There are five different locales, and each of them has two or three tracks. Variety is the spice of life, and for a racing game that means I expect plenty of places to learn every corner of to shave another second off of my lap time.

The cars handle well although the presentation takes some getting used to. The camera is fixed behind the car so no matter what is happening the car is facing forward while the world seems to turn around it. This takes some getting used to, and it never does feel quite right. Corners are easily navigated, and I didn’t need to really let off of the gas until I encountered U-turns, even when my navigator called out for hard turns. This makes sense, arcade racing is usually more about steering than speed control, and needing to seldom use the brake means that SROA maintains a good sense of speed while you’re playing.

SROA is strictly a middle of the road game. Nothing really stands out as horrible, but nothing really stands out as wonderful either. I never was able to find an online opponent, but online races look to function the same was as quick races against CPU opponents except (presumably) more challenging. If you have either another rally racer or another arcade racer, there’s no great need to add SROA to your collection, but if you don’t have any racers and don’t want to spend a lot of money, $10 isn’t a bad price for what you get here.

Pros: decent car selection, fun championship mode

Cons: makes me want to play other games, no car damage, cannot leave the track


Ready for this year’s E3? We aren’t, but we’re getting there! We thought we’d help you too with a look at the Big Three. Today, we’re kicking things off with Microsoft. 

What we know

Gears of War 3 is releasing September 20 and will anchor the company’s pre-holiday lineup. Turn 10 Studios is working on Forza 4, and last year we saw some added Kinect functionality to shake up the simulation racing series. Besides that, what we know is mostly about the system’s multimedia capabilities. Hulu Plus functionality was just added, and Microsoft’s purchase of Skype seems like it would result in Kinect support.

What we think we know

Activision’s Modern Warfare 3, out in early November, will likely follow the series’ trend of making downloadable content available first on Xbox 360. Microsoft likes making a big deal out of that, as, well, it makes them quite a bit of money. 343 Industries, the developers taking over the Halo franchise from Bungie, have been working on something, and most think it’s a remake of the original Halo. Whether that’s ready for this year or not, Microsoft doesn’t want to go a year without at least showing it off. 

What we want to know

Where are they going with Kinect? We expect Dance Central 2, but this is really the year they need to show the camera peripheral has staying power. Is the technology shown in Lionhead’s Milo demo, where players could talk to a little boy, ready to be used in a full product? Could they also make a hardware announcement? There are faint rumors of a system upgrade, but we think that’s unlikely. They’re going to need to fire off quite the software lineup to keep the mindshare from going totally to Sony’s new NGP and Nintendo’s hardware announcement.

We’ll know for sure next week, as we keep you informed from L.A. Let us know what you want to know about!

It’s a special E3 conference Speculator Lightning Round! We go through each of the Big Three’s conferences in a rapid-fire rumor-fest. The panelist with the best rapid-fire performance will have bragging rights for the rest of 2011. Let’s get going!


At Microsoft’s event

Monday, June 6, at the Galen Center. Very little’s confirmed.

New Halo: Gerry 50%, Andrew 70%, Graham 82%, Shawn 95%

On-stage Modern Warfare 3 demo: Gerry 15%, Andrew 95%, Graham 92%, Shawn 85%

360 Skype integration: Gerry 75%, Andrew 80%, Graham 64%, Shawn 100%

Dance Central 2: Gerry 50%, Andrew 90%, Graham 91%, Shawn 100%

New 360 SKU: Gerry 10%, Andrew 20%, Graham 17%, Shawn 20%

Next-gen console: Gerry 15%, Andrew 5%, Graham 4%, Shawn 15%

Handheld announced: Gerry 0%, Andrew 5%, Graham 1%, Shawn 5%



Ted Price, Insomniac: Gerry 50%, Andrew 50%, Graham 12%, Shawn 10%

Gabe Newell, Valve: Gerry 0%, Andrew 20%, Graham 3%, Shawn 25%

Hideo Kojima, Konami: Gerry 0%, Andrew 40%, Graham 52%, Shawn 75%

Felicia Day, The Guild: Gerry 38%, Andrew 50%, Graham 8%, Shawn 50%

Some sort of musical act: Gerry 50%, Andrew 50%, Graham 31%, Shawn 75%


At Sony’s event

Monday, June 6, at the LA Memorial Sports Arena. We know we’ll learn more about the NGP, and we’ve heard about a lot of big fall PS3 titles.

NGP named: Gerry 80%, Andrew 90%, Graham 99%, Shawn 95%

…and it’s just the PSP2: Gerry 10%, Andrew 80%, Graham 43%, Shawn 80%

NGP dated: Gerry 35%, Andrew 90%, Graham 97%, Shawn 80%

NGP priced: Gerry 40%, Andrew 90%, Graham 97%, Shawn 70%

The Last Guardian: Gerry 25%, Andrew 75%, Graham 18%, Shawn 100%

Sorcery: Gerry 80%, Andrew 55%, Graham 47%, Shawn 65%

New Play-Create-Share IP: Gerry 80%, Andrew 65%, Graham 53%, Shawn 70%



Kevin Butler: Gerry 100%, Andrew 70%, Graham 40%, Shawn 100%

Hideo Kojima, Konami: Gerry 35%, Andrew 40%, Graham 28%, Shawn 90%

Cliff Bleszinski, Epic: Gerry 50%, Andrew 70%, Graham 20%, Shawn 10%

Anyone from Bungie: Gerry 10%, Andrew 65%, Graham 38%, Shawn 60%

The Respawn guys: Gerry 20%, Andrew 20%, Graham 47%, Shawn 70%


At Nintendo’s event

Tuesday, June 7, at the Nokia Theater. We know we’ll hear a lot about Project Cafe, and we’re assuming we’ll hear about the next batch of 3DS releases.

Project Cafe named: Gerry 80%, Andrew 70%, Graham 93%, Shawn 35%

Project Cafe out this year: Gerry 45%, Andrew 5%, Graham 8%, Shawn 5%

Screen in the controller: Gerry 50%, Andrew 50%, Graham 84%, Shawn 65%

Xenoblade or The Last Story’s US release: Gerry 10%, Andrew 70%, Graham 61%, Shawn 70%

3DS Super Mario this year: Gerry 65%, Andrew 75%, Graham 47%, Shawn 80%

New Pokemon: Gerry 20%, Andrew 55%, Graham 34%, Shawn 80%

Screen of third-party logos: Gerry 65%, Andrew 80%, Graham 99.8675309%, Shawn 100%



Shigeru Miyamoto: Gerry 80%, Andrew 90%, Graham 98%, Shawn 95%

Charles Martinet: Gerry 25 %, Andrew 50%, Graham 10%, Shawn 40%

Hideo Kojima, Konami: Gerry 0%, Andrew 40%, Graham 45%, Shawn 65%

Anyone from Epic, Valve, Bungie, Respawn or Insomniac: Gerry 25%, Andrew 55%, Graham 20%, Shawn 60%

Ravi Drums, for some reason: Gerry 100%, Andrew 5%, Graham 0.0000001%, Shawn 5%

Let us know what you think! 

Dying for more news on when the next chapter of Starcraft II will be released? Is the urge to release the Zerg swarm on an unsuspecting campaign getting irresistible? Well, if the answer to those questions is yes, then we can’t help you. However, we can make things worse for you, with this short teaser trailer Blizzard released yesterday for Heart of the Swarm. READ MORE