It’s raining BAFTAs

Quantic Dream took quite a risk with their new approach to video game design and story telling in Heavy Rain but it was one that paid off both financially and critically. At last night’s BAFTA’s, David Cage’s melancholy drama left with three awards; Best Original Music, Best Story and Technical Innovation. Not bad for a game whose overall credibility is still being debated. Though I whole heartily agree with all three victories and like many other fans find it even more frustrating that we’ll probably never get to explore the world any further by way of DLC.

Back in June 2010, Guillame De Fondaumiere of Quantic Dream spoke of the three planned DLC, known as Chronicles, were to be put on hold while the team focus on developing PlayStation Move controls into the game. Later, David Cage revealed how the DLC was no longer on hold but effectively cancelled because revisiting Heavy Rain would have delayed their next game.

Implementing Move into Heavy Rain hasn’t really done wonders for its sales figures. Before the patch (and re-release), the game had sold over 1.5 million units worldwide and now the estimated total is 1.65 million. It’s difficult to gauge the profitably of DLC but the potential would have been 1.5 million customers downloading three add-ons for, say, £4-5 each. That opportunity is all but gone now though so no real point moping about it, just hope that after such success, Sony will convince Quantic Dream to find some time and finally develop the add-ons since they persuaded them to focus their attentions to Move. My breath is not being held, however.

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Gears of War: Exile?

Just what exactly is Gears of War: Exile? Epic Games have filed a trademark and registered a logo (via Siliconera) that points to some new kind of Gears of War game. The fact that it has no number would suggest that it’s to be an side story rather than direct follow on from the Marcus Phoenix narrative. When you think of the word exile you think of expulsion and banishment. Maybe part of Gears of War 3 has you play or support a Locust fighter whose changed sides. Like the Arbiter of Halo and Exile is a spin off of that. Or maybe this is some kind of prequel featuring to Marcus Phoenix’s father who was hinted to having links to the enemy at the end of Gears of War 2 when the Locust Queen spoke of him quite favourably. And could Gears of War: Exile have been the game Cliff Bleszinski was supposed to announce at last year’s Spike VGAs? At the last minute, Epic decided not to show anything because “the timing wasn’t right,” and to be honest, I would be surprised if we hear anymore before the release of Gears of War 3 this Autumn since all marketing focus will be on that game. Unless Exile is a downloadable supporting Gears 3. Yeah, okay, I’m speculating like crazy now so I’ll just stop. But I am pleased that more Gears is on the way, whatever it may be.

Christmas and canines come to Fable III

It’s no secret that Fable III had one or two issues. Starting like a dream and ending with a whimper, the one constant feature throughout the game was its dog. Not as much of a star as your faithful companion in the second game but still a loveable addition. If you’re still playing Lionhead’s third romp through Albion and find the choice of canines a tad tiresome, the Dog Breed Pack DLC could offer a helping hand. Or is that paw? No, that’s a terrible pun… Anyway, the add-on costing 240 MS Points (£2.06/€2.88/$3) turns that pooch into either a Doberman, Poodle or German Shepard. I don’t imagine this being a hugely popular download nor do I think anyone would ever use the Poodle for anything other than comically ironic purposes but the Doberman looks menacingly cool.

For the game’s King or Queen, a free Santa hat is available now to spread a bit of Christmas cheer to your citizens. Though it would need a hell of a lot of cheer to bring smiles back to my loyal subjects. They hate me! That’s what I get for being the good guy huh?

Review: Fable III, Understone Quest Pack (DLC, Xbox 360)

Instead of being the revolutionary experience we were lead to believe it would be, Fable III‘s final moments left a sour taste in a lot of gamers’ mouths. However something about it and the whole game for that matter, did gel together rather well. The combat. So when I finished the main quest I was in dire need of some fun and the promise of more rhythmic battling in the Understone Quest Pack for only 400 MS Points was an alluring one indeed. How wrong I was.

Translating this into real money, the pack costs £3.43 but is hard to justify that price. You get one mission and two mini-games, all of which are as short on entertainment as they are on time. The mini, or rather micro, games are another bash at Reaver’s Wheel of Misfortune and a shooting range courtesy of the mercenaries. Both these experiences have appeared in previous Fable games as part of the main game so why they are paid DLC is beyond me. Especially when you thing how giving Lionhead were when Fable III was released, offering free bonus content from day one. Saying that, I did quite like the shooting range for the prizes it dishes out like any fairground marquee. But instead of almost dead goldfish in plastic bags, the mercenary who runs the range rewards you with gold or items. The lock-on targeting that Fable III has did take away some of the fun though and boredom began to set in fast. The Wheel of Misfortune was something that I found equally tiresome when I played it as part of the main quest so having a second crack at it did little to excite me. There are also a couple of new weapons to be found in the add-on but since I played it after completing Fable III, the weapons I already had were far superior.

What of the new mission? The actual Understone Quest? It’s essentially a bunch of small arenas that are populated with zombified hobbes and wolves. Without spoiling the story, they’re part of a security system that you must overcome. And you’ll be overcoming the same thing over and over again. Once that is taken care of, your hero will arrive at the town of Understone, a community living under Bowerstone with new shops and houses to exploit. One resident helps you continue the mission and once more you travel from one arena to another, fighting swarms of the undead. Like I said earlier, I really liked the combat in Fable III so this kind of thing should be just what I wanted from an add-on. True, it should have been but it was far too easy for a maxed-out king and over all too quickly. At the very end there is a moral choice to be made and one that I thought by picking the good option, would resolve one of my major problems with Fable III‘s end game. It didn’t. Bugger.

If any of the above sounded interesting to you then I’d say go for it, the Understone Quest Pack is right up your alley. On the other hand, if you’re left thinking that this DLC doesn’t sound like great value for money, then for you, it really won’t be.

Verdict:

Okay
But not a lot more. Hardcore fans of the franchise/genre maybe a little more forgiving of its issues.

Note: I’ve recently changed my scoring system for reviews. Click here for more details.

Alan Wake: The Writer ends the nightmare for good Oct 12th

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Every journey has an end. And though it’s a little saddening that after only the second batch of DLC for called The Writer, Alan Wake will finish. I say a little saddening because I actually want some closure on the enjoyable but convoluted story! On October 12th,  Microsoft and Remedy will release what has become the final extension of AW‘s story line and quite possibly the last we see of Mr Wake and his light avoiding ghouls. From the trailer above, it’s clear that the add-on will conclude matters and much like its first DLC, The Signal, will be packed full of action – something that initially excited me but wasn’t as fun as it could have been. I really like the shooting in Alan Wake but not so much being harassed by cheap enemies. Nevertheless, an end would be nice and I’m once again looking forward to delving into the twisted mind of a troubled novelist when The Writer is released on October 12th for 560 MS Points (£4.80/€6.72/$7).

BioShock 2 Minerva’s Den release date

Right after the upcoming bank holiday comes the Minerva’s Den DLC for BioShock 2 reports Joystiq. Priced at £6.80/€9.60 or 800 MS Points, the add-on will be released on all formats on Tuesday August 31st and is the final piece of downloadable content for BioShock 2. The pack was first announced at this month where 2K president Christop Hartmann claimed it will be “a substantial addition” giving away more of the seemingly ever growing story line and another area of Rapture that has never been seen. There’ll even be a new type of Big Daddy to admire and ultimately take down along with some new weapons to do so.

Minerva’s Den is available on August 31st for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Morrigan’s whereabouts discovered in final Dragon Age DLC

The last hurrah for Dragon Age: Origins DLC is coming September 7th (like another popular BioWare RPG) and deals with one character who left a lot of left a lot of questions behind. Morrigan. Set a year after the end of Dragon Age, Witch Hunt gives players the chance to confront Claudia Black’s vocal incarnation, hopefully revealing why she disappeared and what drove her to join your crew in the first place – other than being a cool team member.

Witch Hunt will take you back to Ferelden where Morrigan was first encountered, unlocking powerful rewards for use in both Origins and Awakening. What those rewards are hasn’t been made public knowledge but BioWare is promising big things out of quite possibly the final DLC before Dragon Age II hits on March 11th 2011. Seeing as I’m lagging considerably behind in my efforts to complete the first game, I best get my act together!

Witch Hunt will be available on all formats on September 7th for £4.80/€6.72/$7 or 560 MS Points