Are you a Lilith-a-like?

When Crystal Dynamics started feeding us information for the new Tomb Raider game, I applauded them for dropping the dated promotional campaign of hiring models to look like Lara Croft. For too long, most of the focus felt like it was directed towards the models instead of the game she was meant to be advertising.

Gearbox Software has announced a similar campaign for Borderlands 2 and are asking via their website (spotted by Kotaku) for any Lilith look-a-likes to step forward. Where this differs from what Eidos where doing up until only a few years ago is that whoever is picked to portray Lilith will actually become part of the game as an NPC that players (presumably) interact with. The request on Gearbox’s site is as follows:

Do you want to be a character in a video game? We’re looking for someone to become Lilith from Borderlands. If hired, you will appear in the game, Borderlands 2, as the live action version of the character. Additionally, you may be invited to participate in promotional events and trade shows.

It’s not a competition either, the developer will pay the live-action Lilith a thousand bucks per day and state this is a job opportunity for anyone – well, any lady – aged between 18 and 30. I fit within the latter category but certainly not the former. Not with this beard! My hope is that the chosen model will be able to properly represent Borderlands 2 and be a purposeful inclusion within the storyline, so any promotional material – and we’re bound to get plenty – this casting call produces will be relevant to the game instead of simply ‘some chick in tatty clothing with funky coloured hair’. I’ve always had a soft spot for Borderlands and indeed the character Lilith as I thought the way she spoke and laughed during combat added a real human quality to the character. This could certainly further that feeling. Then again, it could easily just become ‘some chick in tatty clothing with funky coloured hair’.

GoldenEye 007 Reloaded is real, people

UPDATE: Activision put out a press release today confirming the existence of the game and how it’ll be running on a brand new engine. But the graphics won’t be the only new aspect. Here’s the most interesting chunk of the press release: GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is a contemporary James Bond experience featuring HD visuals and realistic environments running at 60-frames per second, akin to today’s elite action games. Additional to the legendary story campaign, the game introduces the brand new ‘Mi6 Ops Missions’ – new, distinct levels separate from the campaign that span the varied environments from the story and challenge players to complete different Assault, Elimination, Stealth and Defence objectives. GoldenEye 007: Reloaded also takes multiplayer to new heights, maintaining and improving its renowned four-player split-screen action and adding full, adrenaline-pumping 16-player online matches with more maps, weapons, characters and game modes than ever before.”

ORIGINAL STORY: A good few weeks ago there was some stirring online about something called GoldenEye 007: Reloaded which slipped out from Activision. Suffixing and name with Reloaded generally means some form of upgrade when it comes to video games and in this case, it looks like last year’s neat remake of an N64 classic is to be remade all over again.

GoldenEye 007 for the Wii was a fun FPS that took the original ideas from the iconic N64 launch game and amended them to fit within the contemporary Bond timeline. As always, there was grumbling from ‘hardcore’ fans who were desperate for the ill-fated HD port of Rare’s GoldenEye to become a reality but since that simply will never happen (too many companies hold separate chunks of the IP for it to ever come out) GoldenEye 007 was considered a suitable alternative. I enjoyed it and like the glory days of my youth, its multiplayer component was hugely entertaining. From the screenshots bagged by Videogamer.com, Reloaded appears to hoik up the graphics for a release of the remake onto PS3 and Xbox 360. But little more is known of the project just yet with more details said to be coming in the next few days at the San Diego Comic Con so there could be more additions other than sparkly new visuals (interestingly enough, the Wii game used the same heavily altered IW Engine which ran the SD Call of Duty games. This could mean the HD GoldenEye 007 would use the original IW Engine).

Even though I already own the Wii version, I may have to pick this one up too. Like I said, I really enjoyed playing it on the Wii but it came at a cost; the controller. Choosing not to re-learn how to play an FPS using the Wii remote and nunchuck, I bought a Classic Controller which did work well but still not as comfortable as an Xbox 360 pad and subsequently shortened my playtime. My fingers are crossed that the transition to HD consoles brings with it a tightening of controls on the relevant pads. And anyone grumbling how GoldenEye 007 Reloaded still won’t be close enough to the N64 version, this is probably the closest you’re ever going to get.

Free Mass Effect comics!

Next week is San Diego’s Comic Con and among the cosplayers and artistry will be a couple of dudes from BioWare and Legendary talking about the Mass Effect movie. With no cast or director officially on board the expectations are possible announcements of who these will be and maybe even a few pieces of concept art. Something a little more substantial regarding the extended fiction of Mass Effect is happening today however with every digital comic based off the franchise being available for free on the Dark Horse website. The offer ends tonight at 11pm BST which may seem like plenty of time but the scurry of fans trying to download their freebies has actually caused a few issues with the site. At the moment, it’s only partially loading though so you may want to keep refreshing now and again for that magic moment of calm before another inevitable storm of interest.

I already have one of the comics series, Redemption, set before Mass Effect 2 telling the story of Liara and her ill-fated partner who becomes part of the Shadow Broker storyline in the game. The second series on offer is Evolution following the rise of the Illusive Man though without Martin Sheen’s voice, I wonder if he’s as cool. Lastly – yep, there are only three bundles of comics so far – is a seven-page teaser of Invasion, a series linked to Mass Effect 3. The full comic will be out later this year but Dark Horse and BioWare felt like wetting our whistles with a peek.

Novels and comics based on video games goes back as far as I can remember but the newer books, especially the Mass Effect tie ins, are the most worthy of reading. After finishing the first game I picked up Revelation written by Drew Karpyshyn, head writer at BioWare and really enjoyed the tone and pace of the book. Since then I must admit, I’ve not invested as much time video game books as I’d like so a promotion like this, giving away easily digestible chunks of story is greatly appreciated.

Bayonetta, the western way

Everything about Bayonetta, the game, was ridiculously Japanese from the crazy soundtrack to anime-inspired art style. I loved it. But would the leading lady, who shares the same title as the game, have developed such a cult following globally if her appearance was more westernised? Despite her psuedo-posh English accent and moderately-sized bust, Bayonetta was very much a product of Japan. Hair so animated it could be alive and a wardrobe that wouldn’t keep her warm let alone protected from killer angels could have been plucked from any popular Manga but concept artist Wesley Burt proposed to Sega a number of western orientated alternatives for Ms. B while the game was still being developed (via Kotaku). As history states, none where picked up or changed the finished product one iota which is a shame because they’re pretty cool. Especially the belted badass top left of the image above.

I’m not sure how jarring, if at all, having a very westernised character in an incredibly Japanese infused game would be though. And while Bayonetta wasn’t particularly original she did have a few unique qualities about her whereas some of the designs above could be better suited for id’s Rage or a fantasy MMORPG. But they’re still awesome and raise some interesting questions about character art and the big difference between regions. One thing that stays the same no matter what territory it seems is the appeal of a woman in glasses as Burt’s designs show. I doubt they’re prescription lenses though…

The spirits within Mass Effect

I must be in a very small group of people who actually enjoyed Square Enix’s CGI flop, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within but at least some of the people in my gathering include BioWare’s art team. Derek Watts, Mass Effect 3’s art director, chatted with Xbox World 360 magazine about the franchise’s influences which pretty much owes a lot to the 2001 movie.

“Yeah, you know we actually reference a lot from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. We used a lot of their GUIs and the way they did their ship – that was kind of like in some of the early designs for the Normandy.” Of course! It’s so obvious once it’s pointed out! The funky holographic GUIs on Shepard and his (or her) compadres look a lot like those in the film. Blade Runner is the usual comparison but come to think of it, that’s a bit too gritty. Watts wasn’t shy of just how much he and his team use Final Fantasy as a well for concepts: “Our attack helicopters are loosely based off that movie. There’s some great stuff, especially their glowing GUI screens; we used those a lot. I keep a folder of that stuff and I still actually tell the guys ‘just go back and look at that. Change it like that!'”

What particularly tickles me about an off-shoot of the Final Fantasy franchise is how the end of Mass Effect 2 made me cancel my pre-order of Final Fantasy XIII. I completed an incredibly action orientated sci-fi space opera that still resinates to this day and shortly after began watching a new trailer for the Japanese RPG. The complete difference in style and execution left me wondering if a traditional JRPG was the kind of game I wanted to play at that moment in time (I have played it since then…). So to think one of the reason why I love the Mass Effect series – its art – is so heavily influenced by a frequently ridiculed aspect of Final Fantasy amuses me so!

Crysis averted

When the first Crysis game was released, I didn’t have a hope in hell of playing it. My PC would have probably struggled with Minesweep let alone such a graphically intensive shooter. So the announcement that Crysis 2 was on its way to consoles pleased me to no end. I mean, the hallowed Crytek engine was coming to my platform of choice, what could be better? And earlier this year it did just that, playing brilliantly on my Xbox 360 and looking rather splendid in the process. Aside from the occasional moronic AI and frustrating glitches, I, the console gamer, was happy however some hardcore fans of the first game weren’t so chipper. A supposed dumbing down took place in order for it to run on consoles plus a shift in story and gameplay didn’t help matters. Worst of all for the die-hard crowd was the lack of Direct X 11 and 10 support opting to go with DX9 instead.

That meant Crysis 2 wasn’t the power hungry beast Crysis was and although looking gorgeous on places, it never truly tested GPUs. Crytek ceo, Cevat Yerli spoke with Gamasutra about the change and the upcoming patch saying: “Crysis 1’s intention was, if I were to play it three years later, it looks great. And it does, actually, it fulfilled that. But it made it difficult for entry-level players. So with Crysis 2, we took a different direction, and it backfired a little bit.” It’s unfortunate the a developer making a game more accessible in this way gets their wrists-slapped for doing so but the fans know what they want and it sounds as if they don’t want just any old gamer playing Crysis 2. The patch, coming in a couple of weeks, adds things like HDR motion blur, displacement and parallax occulsion mapping among other things which will no doubt make an already good looking game even more pretty but it really is just a peace offering of sorts to appease a certain crowd. Crytek will make no money by producing the patch as they don’t believe it’ll gin any more purchases. But ironically, the company are again trying to please everyone even though the original changes and omittance of DX11 were made in order to please everyone (my head hurts…)

“This is much more like a gift to the high-end community,” Yerli said. “And I think gamers will appreciate that. It lifts up Crysis 2 and gives a sneak peak of how PC gaming will evolve in the future, if you support a high-end preference.” It’s great that Crytek are tweaking the game so it can last a good few years but the annoyance apparently comes from PC fans wanting an upgrade over the console on release not months after. Which I can totally understand, Crysis 1 gained popularity by being intensive and why shouldn’t the sequel be too? One commenter on Gamasutra pointed out that the mainstream market wasn’t so happy with their rigs being pushed to the limit. He also pointed out a Steam survey which showed only 5% of users had a DX11 card with the majority using a DX10/11 one. That means only 5% would reap the benefits of high-end DX11 visuals and such a small number isn’t one a developer can economically focus all their attention on.

Not being a PC gamer I won’t fully appreciate the significance of the ‘degrade’ of Crysis 2 and subsequently its upgrade to DX11. But, as much as I enjoyed the game, it was the aforementioned questionable AI and bizarre glitches that spoilt Crysis 2, not the graphics.

Oh crap, here comes Phelps

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Rockstar’s L.A. Noire has made a name for itself as one of this year’s top games because of the commendable risks Team Bondi took and more importantly, because those risks paid off. But that doesn’t mean the game is faultless, far from it, a clunky combat system and inconsistencies in the acting and ethics of leading man Cole Phelps removes the shine of an otherwise gleaming title. Comedy site Funny or Die have made a parody of L.A. Noire and pin point exactly some of these issues. Like how Phelps may begin a conversation casually only to begin a tirade of anger towards his interviewee. Or the somewhat troublesome navigational mechanics. But FoD’s mimicking of Phelps’ investigatory activities is just hilarious and affectionately pokes fun at the game’s best moments. Enjoy!