Epoch-olypse

I have often expressed my disinterest in Smartphone and tablet games that try and replicate traditional buttons virtually. Very few have worked and even less have had any kind of lasting appeal for me. Simple finger swipes and taps are what work best and with the App Store crammed with awkward on-screen controllers, it’s always nice when a game comes along that promises something different. Uppercut Games are doing just that with their upcoming shooter, Epoch, which will be available from November 10th.

Epoch has been developed on the ever popular Unreal Engine and if one mechanic is synonymous with that engine it’s a cover system and Epoch is all about taking cover and taking out enemies when it’s tactical to do so. The post-apocalyptic setting may not be the most original and the Gears style combat is often mimicked but from what I’ve seen of Epoch, the fun comes from the aerobatic manoeuvres of the robot you control as it works its way through various arenas battling the hordes of approaching enemies (check out the pre-launch trailer here). I do like a good horde mode in any game so one that is boasting the ability to do this on the go with simple and intuitive controls has got me interested. The story? the press release states Epoch definitely has one but “Uncovering the mystery is part of the fun, so the best way to find out more is to play the game.” Uppercut Games aren’t discussing whether Epoch is to have in-app purchases or multiplayer but the fact they’re not giving an outright ‘no’ would suggest that both will be coming at some point.

EA’s mass tweaking

After the news that Mass Effect 3 will be delayed until next year and to coincide with the release, a handheld/mobile version is also in the works, EA boss John Riccitiello spoke to investors yesterday (via Eurogamer) about the franchise and his plans for the third game. Some may interpret it as dumbing down and others opening up Mass Effect 3 but either way, I’m not sure what to make of it: “One of the things that Ray Muzyuka and the team up in Edmonton have done is essentially step-by-step adjust the gameplay mechanics and some of the features that you’ll see at E3 to put this in a genre equivalent to shooter-meets-RPG and essentially address a much larger market opportunity than Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2 began to approach.”

Considering Mass Effect 3 is supposed to end the trilogy for Shepard, trying to broaden the franchise to a larger audience seems a little odd. I guess a lot more people will potentially by the game regardless if there are anymore to come. Like Mass Effect 2 on the PS3, it’s said to come with a digital summary of the previous two games so you don’t necessarily need to play them to get the full story. But you’ll be greatly missing out if you don’t. It’s hard to imagine what else can be done in order to tweak it even more to the genre of RPG shooter since Mass Effect 2 tread the lines between the two blurring them as it went along.

One thought is that Mass Effect 3 will include a multiplayer component, often denied by BioWare but with EA hungry for the Call of Duty pie, anything is possible. Another idea could be the inclusion of motion controls by means of Kinect and PS Move but where would that leave PC gamers? Depending on how it could be implemented, they may not even want motion controls. EA has previously spoke of a desire to have some kind of connected experience in all future games with Frank Gibeau saying how the publisher’s job is to ‘inspire’ developers to “edit and tweak [their creative vision] so it’s a bigger commercial opportunity.” Sounds familiar huh? Who knows, maybe Facebook integration will be a part of Mass Effect 3 but without any more details, we’ll just have to wait until E3 when EA will reveal how they plan to extend (or insult) the franchise.

Keep preying

The end of early Xbox 360 FPS Prey left the (portal) door wide open for a sequel. With nearly five years passing by, it seems now Bethesda will be responsible for publishing Prey 2, announced in French gaming magazine, Joystick (via Kotaku). 2K Games had the honour the first time around but Bethesda Softworks secured the rights to the franchise which follows native American Tommy as he fights off an alien invasion, getting to grips with their gravity shifting and seldom used portal technology.

Prey wasn’t an outstanding game but did prove popular due to the time it was released. It appeared when the 360 was still young and lacked games so owners would gravitate to whatever happened to be coming out. I was one of those people and luckily had a blast with Prey though the treatment of death wasn’t all that fun. The idea was cool, how you don’t die but are taken to another realm where you have to shoot spirits to replenish your health and are then transported back into the real world. It did’t quite work because it made the threat of death somewhat inconsequential. I’d quite like to see if this gets rectified in the sequel which is yet to have a release date but probable for late 2011, early 2012.

Kinect just got Epic

One of the reasons why Microsoft’s Kinect has been so very popular is because of the family focused games but as if to counter that, it’s also been the reason why the core audience has shied away from the device. Rumours have been circling the web about the possibility of Microsoft’s hardest of hardcore titles getting a Kinect game but as of yet, a hands-free Gears of War is still steeped in speculations. Today, they’re getting one step closer to reality with a trusted source telling Kotaku that a Gears game is coming to Kinect and it will be an on-rails shooter. An image has even been sourced of an early concept using Gears of War 2 assets.

Trusted sources can always be taken with a pinch of salt but Kotaku aren’t the kind of site to follow up empty leads and there has been a few anomalies regarding Gears in the last few months. At last year’s VGAs, a surprising Gears of War reveal was planned but pulled at the last minute because the timing wasn’t right. When the rumours about a Kinect game first came about, Cliff Bleszinski tweeted there would be “No Kinect in Gears of War 3,” though didn’t rule out the existence of another Gears specifically for Kinect. As of last month, Epic own the trademark for something called Gears of War: Exile but haven’t announced anything or even confirmed such a thing.

But is Gears of War suited for a controller-less experience? If it is on-rails chances are the game will be a shooting gallery of sorts though the famous cover mechanic would be an interesting implementation. Physically ducking in and out of cover may work like it has done for certain arcade shooters and if done correctly, chainsawing Locusts could be very satisfying. Though to be honest, I’d prefer if it were something different altogether, something new to gaming like Kinect, or rather its success at being a hands-free controller. Classic on-rails shooters are great but this device has the potential to treat the genre in brand new ways. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

The dead space in iDevices

If you go down to the App Store today, you’re sure of a big surprise. A big mutated, scary-as-hell surprise. Dead Space has creeped its way onto iPhones today for £3.99 (or £5.99 on iPad), bridging the first and second console games and explaining why the hordes of Necromorphs have reappeared. Early reviews on the App Store say it’s every bit as freaky as the HD versions even with its 12+ age rating. Maybe the full voice acting and disturbing sound effects pumped directly into your ears via headphones – a method recommended by EA – is chilling enough. Exploring the mines of Titan is your mission and dual-thumb tapping and swiping controls Vandal who takes Isaac’s place in this game. This isn’t an on-rails shooter, it’s a full blown adventure complete with upgradable weapons and skills plus the ability to unlock content in Dead Space 2 for the Xbox 360, PC or PS3. I have to admit, games like this disturb me more than I’m happy to say but it’s only four quid so if my playtime is consists of frequent underwear changes, at least my wallet hasn’t been abused even if I have. But there’s no point playing a game like this in the middle of the afternoon, it must be savoured in the dark with the only light source being a haunting glow from my iPhone… Oh man… I’m beginning to have second thoughts!

Duke Nukem isn’t forever after all

Write the date in your diaries but do it with a pencil; Duke Nukem Forever has been given a release date of May 3rd in North America and 6th in Europe (via Gamespot). Gearbox obviously believes this is an achievable timescale as they must be aware of how DNF has become somewhat of a joke amongst gamers. Not because of the content but for 13 years, vague and sometimes solid release dates for the game have come and gone so the developer wouldn’t want to add their date to that list. Duke Nukem Forever has to have a flawless release in order to silence the critics and the promised pre-release demo should help towards that – a demo that was playable at PAX last year receiving a decent amount of favourable previews.

There you go, Duke Nukem Forever has had one hell of a development cycle but the recent changing of hands from 3D Realms to Gearbox appears to have given the game the boost it needs for completion. Well, we hope anyway, like I say, I’ll be pencilling in May 6th rather than committing to ink.

Gloomy fodder

Over 16 years since the last game in the series was released, Cannon Fodder 3 has been announced by Russian developer GFI with a rather sheepish Codemasters clinging onto the press release. Why? Perhaps it’s because they’ve merely licensed the game out to GFI and aren’t actually dealing with it themselves resulting in Cannon Fodder 3 only being available in Russia and the CIS. Bummer huh? In a statement this morning (via VG247), a rep said “In 2008 Codemasters licensed the Cannon Fodder IP to GFI (www.gfi.su) for a one-title project. Under the agreement, GFI is designing and developing a new game based on the series for release in Russia and the CIS territories. Codemasters understands that GFI’s plans for distribution and release outside of Russia and the CIS have yet to be announced.”

A worldwide release would sell like hot cakes, especially when you factor in its PC and Xbox 360 exclusivity. Such a title is perfect for the PC (as was the originals) with the style and quirkiness suited for Xbox Live Arcade. GFI put out a statement detailing the kind of things we’ll be missing:

“You have a small army which consists of only “cannon fodder” soldiers, who are ready to rush into fight with the enemy, sparing neither effort nor oneself. The player will have to pass several episodes full of cartoon violence among different locations, and the Earth is not the limit – it’s time to go into open space and show the enemy “who’s daddy”. You’ll get classic isometric environment in full 3D, weather effects, change of time, destructible environment, physical water – all this and a lot more you’ll find in Cannon Fodder 3.”

The original game was a darling of the 90’s gaming era spanning multiple platforms with a unique element not seen a video game; the remembrance of fallen soldiers. On missions, if any of your troops were killed in action – and a lot of them were – the level would end with a roll call of all who lost their lives for a disturbingly kitsch approach to military casualties. An ironic addition when you think how jovial the deaths were treated on the battlefield and the whole mood of game for that matter. Still, a cute and interesting inclusion if not anything else. The game’s creator, John Hare, was known to be trying to bring Cannon Fodder to iOS devices (despite a clone called Grunts already existing) but little more has come of that. Fingers crossed the plans for distribution outside Russia which Codemasters speak of isn’t far behind the initial release.