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Hands on: Fallout 3

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Some things must be made clear. One, I played Bethesda's Fallout 3 today. Two, I have never played a Fallout title before, so I can't judge it based on the merits of the series. Joystiq will detail the differences between Fallout 3 and its predecessors in its hands on preview llater this week. With that out of the way, let me just throw this on the table: Fallout 3 is Oblivion with guns. It's a short analysis, but I stand by it. If one were to expand upon this analysis, one might say that Fallout 3 is a post-apocalyptic Oblivion with guns. Having said that, allow me elaborate that this is a compliment. Oblivion fans will understand this. Upon hearing my analysis, our own Xav de Matos noted, "I think I need a cigarette.... that sounds awesome."

Continue reading Hands on: Fallout 3

X3F Impressions: Deer Hunter Tournament

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Donnie Clay crawled as quietly as possible through thick lines of vegetation. He paused as his head broke free of the brush. In front of him was a jumble of hoof tracks that criss-crossed in every direction. Smiling, Donnie pressed a button on his Xbox 360 controller. "There's a tracking system in Deer Hunter Tournament," he said. "If you find deer tracks and aren't quite sure what they are, you can press a button which will orient you to the track."

Now set on the proper course, the producer of publisher Atari's Deer Hunter Tournament rose to his feet and continued to creep quietly forward. His high-caliber rifle, gripped in gloved fists, was equipped with a thermal scope.

A tracking system, and a scope capable of reading heat temperatures? Yes, Bambi appeared to be doomed -- so long as Donnie was able to claim him faster than legions of other eager hunters.

Continue reading X3F Impressions: Deer Hunter Tournament

X3F TV -- X3F Impressions: Nascar 09 Demo

While not as timely as our other X3F Impressions features, today we're bringing you our take on the Nascar 09 demo that dropped earlier last week. While we showoff some of the new installments features, we also take a look back at Nascar 08 to compare how the two titles stack up graphically. With a significant boost in graphics and gameplay, Nascar 09 is a top-notch entry in the long standing series. While we can't say general racing fans will enjoy the experience, we are confident Nascar fans will finally be pleased after last seasons abysmal showing.

"20/20" by (De La Vega) Ivy League

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X3F TV -- X3F Impressions: Crash Time demo

Some people might get to play Ninja Gaiden II and talk about it, but then others (I call them the lucky ones) get to put some quality time in with the new arcade racer, Crash Time. Is it just us or did this game just get announced about five seconds after the demo hit Xbox Live Markeplace? We know it wasn't but all we're saying is the demo caught us off guard! So here are our impressions wrapped into yet another new episode of X3F TV.

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X3F TV -- X3F Impressions: Ninja Gaiden II demo

Don't ask us how, but we managed to lay our hands on the coveted Ninja Gaiden II demo today. Sure, we could have used it solely for selfish purposes. We could have kept it to ourselves to play over and over again (which, come to think of it, we already have). But no! Rather than hog the demo, we've encapsulated our impressions in a new episode of X3F TV. Check out our impressions in the video above (hint: Ninja Gaiden fans will be pleased).

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X3F Impressions - Too Human

Too Human is a strange beast. The futuristic Norse dungeon crawler is planned to have a massive story with trilogy spanning themes and complexities. In listening to Dennis Dyack talk at the event, he seemed genuinely enthusiastic as he discussed his favorite pop culture sci-fi and fantasy sagas (he's a big Battlestar Galactica fan).

While the game's potential quality without the vaunted four-player co-op is debatable, the underlying mechanics really aren't. Too Human's ability to feed the player with loot while keeping them engaged and responding to the battle conditions and leveling up is well-tuned and feels similar to the Dreamcast's Phantasy Star Online games.

Continue reading X3F Impressions - Too Human

X3F Impressions - Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise

The first Viva Piñata was a somewhat divisive game. The visual look turned off many initial players, but those who stayed found an engaging and deep sim. Unfortunately, those two things were usually at odds with one another and given that it was a new IP it perhaps wasn't best to turn away the player base that was most likely to get into the deeper side of the game. So for Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise, Rare is looking to somehow split the bar, raising it for the hardcore and lowering it for those who are in fact pulled in by the game's look.

Like many sequels, VP2 isn't much different in its basic mechanics and most of its changes consist of refinements and streamlining that allows for the gameplay to pass much faster and in many new ways. Things like co-op, the camera support, and the UI refinement all make the rest of the game's additions that much easier to use.

Hit the Pinata after the break. Get it? We're a scream.

Continue reading X3F Impressions - Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise

X3F Impressions - Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts

Alright fanboys, time to get the difficult news out of the way first. Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts is not much like its predecessors at all. The main gameplay focus is still on platforming, only it's now platforming with vehicles too. Like most platformers, the specific objectives you have to complete are slightly varied, but are mostly different takes on collecting items.

To do so, you'll have a massive tool kit at your fingertips. The vehicles seen in the gallery can all be broken down into various pieces, and a large portion of the gameplay stems from mixing and matching vehicle parts to suit the task at hand. Or y'know, to just suit messing around with infinitely customizable vehicles in a physics playground. That playground can be taken online as well, and the game's multiplayer is very physics-focused and custom-content heavy.

Hit the break for more on Banjo.

Continue reading X3F Impressions - Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts

X3F Impressions - Penny Arcade Adventures

While the visual look of the game has been well known for some time now, the details of the long winded Penny Arcade: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness have been a bit sketchy. Admittedly, we are Penny Arcade fans, but we were skeptical of the game, mostly because we didn't know of what it consisted. Turns out the game is a meld of Japanese RPG and old-school adventure.

The exploration, battle setup, and nested menus are straight out of traditional RPGs, but the cutscenes (if they can be called such) consist of a partly animated Penny Arcade comic. Albeit a Penny Arcade comic set in (*checks press release*) the deranged 1920's universe of New Arcadia. While the RPG elements have been updated for the times and are designed not be be slow, there isn't much here to hold you if you don't enjoy the Penny Arcade style of writing and humor. If you like the writing and are looking for something a little deeper and more involved, but just as funny and wrapped in a good RPG, give this a shot.

More details and impressions after the break.

Continue reading X3F Impressions - Penny Arcade Adventures

X3F Impressions - Ninja Gaiden 2

At an event in which the majority of the games were continuing franchises, Ninja Gaiden 2 didn't appear at first glance to be the game which had changed the most from its predecessors. From afar and to an untrained eye, the game appears to be exactly the same as the first, but the closer you get (right up to and including sitting down and playing the game) the more you notice, and the more you see how crazy over the top that Tomonobu Itagaki and Team Ninja have gone with their latest game.

Upon picking up the controller the first thing we noticed was just how much faster the entire experience was. The increased responsiveness, the increased enemy speed, the replacement of the roll with the dash and many other little things all work together to make NG2 a much more fast paced, relentless game than the original.

Much, much, more after the break, and be sure to read the rest of our impressions from Microsoft's Spring Showcase as they go live over the course of the day.

Continue reading X3F Impressions - Ninja Gaiden 2

X3F TV -- X3F Impressions: Bourne Conspiracy Demo

A few hours ago, Xbox Live Marketplace was treated to an early demo of The Bourne Conspiracy, the High Moon Studios developed title based on the best-selling novels by Robert Ludlum. We thought this was a great time to debut a feature X3F readers have asked us for in the past, video impressions of demos for retail Xbox 360 games.

Ordinarily we have a catchy (or what we think is catchy) name for our video features, but this time we drew a blank. Have an idea for what this feature should be called? Drop your name idea in the comments and tell us what you think of The Bourne Conspiracy demo yourself.

Music Credit:
"The Truth About These Outlaws" by Critical Mood

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X3F Impressions: Sierra XBLA Round-Up

At the Sierra event we attended XBLA games weren't exactly the main attraction. Despite the fact that four games were there, the area was rather empty in comparison to the rest of the games' booths. True, it was a bit hidden toward the back, but there were never more than a dozen people there at a time (including the devs!) On first glimpse of the XBLA titles listed on the cardboard display, it appeared as though the place was being avoided for good reason, but upon further inspection there was indeed some potential in the available games. Plus, Sierra had a few small pieces of XBLA swag that we'll give you guys the opportunity to get your mitts on in a short fanswag giveaway tomorrow.

The four games on display were Assault Heroes 2, which is something of a known quantity, Zombie Wranglers, which was (and is) largely unknown, Sea Life Safari, which has the appearance of Finding Nemo, and Gin Rummy, which is ... well, y'know, just Gin Rummy. So we couldn't exactly blame our fellow attendees for wanting to see Ghostbusters and Prototype instead. Still, that doesn't make the XBLA titles bad, and what we saw look quite good for what it was. Hit the break for the individual game impressions.

Continue reading X3F Impressions: Sierra XBLA Round-Up

X3F Impressions: Ghostbusters

How long has it been since the original Ghostbusters hit theaters? It was over two decades ago you say? Well then, it sounds like the perfect time to revive the franchise, capitalize on nostalgia, and of course churn out some crappy video game tie-ins. What's that you say there? Ghostbusters the game actually looks good? Really? Really. It does. With a fresh approach to the license based around manipulating the environment, and with an entirely in-house engine, Terminal Reality and Sierra could be looking at the best licensed game since Riddick.

As a third person action-adventure, you're the newbie on the team in a story written by some of the property's original writers. The gameplay is mostly based around the backpack (Proton Pack), and the game uses it and the many colored lights and meters on it as the equivalent of your HUD. We weren't able to see much gameplay (just a section of a single level), but we were shown some impressive tech demos which showcased some very impressive physics. After the advent of middleware and Havok, impressive physics aren't something you see much anymore, but when witnessing over a thousand Gamecube sized blocks moving and bouncing independently a la those crazy videos of Crysis, all you can possibly think is impressive physics.

Gallery: Ghostbusters (360/PS3/Wii)

Continue reading X3F Impressions: Ghostbusters

X3F Impressions: 50 Cent Blood on the Sand

When the first 50 Cent game was released, it wasn't exactly to critical praise, and many didn't think that it would be anything other than a footnote in the history of licensed games. Surprisingly, the game sold over a million copies and has a sequel well into development. 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is following in the footsteps of its prequel with its focus on the characters and gunplay, but everything else seems to have been left behind. Despite the commercial success of the first game, it's reported that 50 Cent was unhappy with the first game, and wanted an entirely new team to work on the second game. Hence, Swordfish Studios took the reins on development, with the goal to create a game that was easy to pick up and play in a fun and arcady fashion.

Our first impression upon being shown to the seats was "Wow, this looks a lot like Gears." And not just because both games are running Unreal Engine 3. The base gameplay of Blood on the Sand is almost an exact copy of Gears in every way, right down to the cover mechanic and melee activation. The movement is faster overall (to keep up the arcade feel the devs are shooting for) and you're definitely not in as much danger as you are in Gears. While there is a cover mechanic that allows for crouching, firing from behind cover, peeking around corners, and everything else you would expect out of a Gears clone, it's mostly unnecessary as the bulletproof vest your character wears is MUCH tougher than it looks (at least on the default difficulty).

Continue reading X3F Impressions: 50 Cent Blood on the Sand

X3F Impressions: Prototype

Despite being overshadowed by the presence of the Halo 3 multiplayer beta, Crackdown and it's online co-operative were critically and commercially well received. When the news came that there was no sequel in the works and that the devs were at work on a wholly different project, many lamented the lack of the open-world co-op genre on the 360. Thankfully Prototype looks to, at the very least, satisfy the open-world aspect of the genre when it releases this fall. While we had reported that the game's co-op had been scrapped, we heard at the Sierra event that the devs are looking at bringing it back, but it's not something they'll miss ship date for.

Whether it has co-op or not, Prototype is definitely the spiritual successor to Crackdown. Unlike Crackdown however, we were immediately struck by the movement of the character, which was highly acrobatic and felt surprisingly natural (as natural as someone running up building faces can be). And the super-powered nature of the character means that the exploration and movement aspect of the game is much more important and complex than the simple "jump good" of Crackdown. Your character, young hotshot scientist Alex Mercer, has a wide variety of powers at his disposal, usually revolving around shapeshifting and absorption. If you've ever seen the comic character Carnage, you'll have an idea of Alex's powers in-use.



Continue reading X3F Impressions: Prototype

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