Who the Hell is Alan Wake?

.....apparently this guy is.

.....apparently this guy is.

I remember first hearing about this game back in 2006 in Game Informer magazine. At the time, all they had to go on was a couple of screenshots and the assurance of Remedy Entertainment that this would be the most epic of all games. Ever. And, since the Finnish company is the same development studio to bring Max Payne and bullet time into the world, we all believed them.

Fast forward to 2009. Not much has been heard about Alan Wake. There is an official website with a handful of screenshots and video. But more interestingly, there is the back story. It seems Mr. Wake is a writer of thriller novels. Like many published authors, he is suffering from writer’s block. To fix this problem his wife takes him to a small town in Washington state where he can get the creativity back. Yeah, because nothing bad can happen in a middle of nowhere town that’s surrounded by zombie fog twenty-four hours a day. Seriously, Washington state is getting a reputation for a bad business. But I digress. To the complete surprise of no one (except maybe Alan), his wife goes missing, the novel he is writing starts coming true and soon the world of darkness is coming for him.

Remedy Entertainment has promised throughout a scattering of interviews that Alan Wake will utilize light and darkness in a new and dynamic way. Translation: you won’t be running and gunning like you were in Max Payne. No, this game will be more psychological. Much like the Silent Hill series or Eternal Darkness: Sanity’ Requiem. You’ll fight, just not all the damn time. Strategy people.

A quick pop over to Xbox’s website gives a few more kernals of information about gameplay. They say it will have:

  • Episodic content: The mission-based structure of Alan Wake creates an episodic narrative similar to the very best of dramatic television. As the episodes progress, gameplay evolves to introduce new elements and characters, drawing the player deeper into the experience.
  • Realistic environment: Experience an immersive reality like never before, as weather and light changes affect gameplay. Explore every aspect of a hyper-detailed Pacific Northwest town as you look for the truth behind the horror around you.
  • Massive world: Explore and roam free in an open environment as you investigate the mysteries of Bright Falls. Pay close attention to detail as you look for clues scattered through the town.
  • Brutal combat: As night falls, creatures begin to attack, and the longer Alan spends in Bright Falls, the longer the nights get. His enemies seem to draw their power from the darkness, and light soon becomes his greatest ally. Combine use of light with more conventional weapons to drive back the forces that hide in the dark.
Need more convincing that this isn’t going to turn out as some horrible cheap knock off of the horror game genre? Yeah, me too. Let’s see if the trailer released last October can alleviate some of this doubt.
So, it’s a combination of Silent Hill, Insomnia and the Johnny Depp movie Secret Window. I can live with that. But where’s the gameplay video? Surely after three years Remedy has some sort of demo to show for all their hard work. Not on the official site. Hmm. Here we go.
Keep in mind this is leaked footage and from 2007. Not the best quality picture and I’m sure they’ve come a long way since then. But based on the above video my curiosity is at least piqued. It will be interesting to see if they’re able to pull off the lighting as a major game element.
Remedy Entertainment has bitten off a lot in the making of this game. Large open world content, weather patterns and a day/night cycle that affect gameplay, promising a psychological thriller on par with classic movies. They’re doing a great job of keeping their head down and not throwing out an arbitrary release date. Which either means their hard at work or afraid to unleash a demo to a remorseless gaming public. However, bearing in mind that this IS the studio that spawned the excellent Max Payne series, I for one am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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Microsoft Takes Xbox Off Life Support


According to their official website, Microsoft announced that as of yesterday they were cutting off out-of-warranty support for the original Xbox. This came as a shock to many gamers, who already assumed that Microsoft had hit their original console in the head with a shovel and buried its remains in an unmarked grave. After all, the signs were all there.

The last game to be released for the Xbox was almost a year ago when Madden 2009 came out. And that was with little fanfare. In fact, in most places you had to special order it. It was like the unicorn of Xbox games.

Then, as recently as last month, retail gaming giant GameStop announced that they would stop taking original Xbox games in as trade on February 9th and would be begin the process of phasing the games, systems and accessories out of their stores.

So pardon this blogger for being more surprised that Microsoft was STILL repairing out-of-warranty Xbox’s until yesterday. That being said, there is still hope out there. Microsoft put up an official website that “…will host a wealth of previous and new how-to, troubleshooting, and configuration content that has been revised and updated to meet our customer needs and current support model.” So if you need a fix it or a repair for the old black brick, there appear to be step-by-step instructions.

From that same website, it appears that Microsoft does still have Live up and running for users and are offering an upgrade to the 360 (no word on price of course!) for anyone who still has an Xbox under warranty. Who the hell would that be? They stopped making this system three years ago and I’m pretty sure warranties only last for a year. Am I missing something here?

So let us all take a collective internet moment here to bow our heads in silence at the passing of this once great behemoth of a system. Rest In Peace, Xbox.

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Undead Invade Industry Undetected

7748_dead-rising01The zombies are coming! The zombies are coming! Err wait, they’re already here…and no one seems to mind. Awesome.

At least this is the only logical conclusion I can come to. In the last year the game industry has been literally overrun with zombie games, ranging from gory to silly to thought provoking. Don’t believe me? Well then Mr. Skeptic, here is a partial list I came up with off the top of my head after staring at my computer screen for ten minutes.

1. Teenage Zombies: A tongue in cheek DS title that slipped under the radar last April.

2. Left 4 Dead: One of the top Games of the Year. Easily spotted.

3. Resident Evil 5: Zombies go on safari.

4. House of the Dead: Overkill: Wii exclusive prequel to the original title.

5. Zombie Infection: Even your cell phone isn’t safe. Contest for tickets to Comic Con make this flash game even more dangerous.

6. Call of Duty: World At War: Nazis? Zombies? NAZI ZOMBIES?! We can’t kill these things fast enough.

7. Dead Rising: Chop til You Drop: Wii exclusive. Self-explanatory title.

8. Fallout 3: I’m counting the Ghouls here. They’re zombies by another name.

9. Dead Space: Creepy mutated space zombies still count.

10. Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers: Yes, this is real. No, I’m not kidding. Also available on 360!

11. Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ: Contra style Gameplay + fairy tales + zombies = bizarrely entertaining DS title.

The two iffiest in that list, as my husband so kindly pointed out, are Dead Space and Fallout 3 since technically neither are classic zombies. But neither species in either game is living or not actively decaying, so I’m counting them. Take that as you will.

The question then becomes why the sudden glut of zombie killing goodness? After all, the oldest title on my list isn’t even a year old. Sure, there were zombies around before that, but mostly in rail shooters in the arcade or in the staple Resident Evil series. So what happened? Oh, lots of things. Some have suggested our renewed love of zombies stems from the repetitive mindlessness of modern living, such as Shagtee’s opinion . Interesting read there, by the way.

I think the release of Shaun of the Dead in theaters and Dead Rising on the 360 brought a sharper spotlight to the shambling undead. After all, people may feel some remorse killing another human…be it mobster, Nazi or random ninja #78, but killing the undead not only feels good, it feels damn good! But what kind of undead can mere humans kill like so many lemmings? Certainly not vampires, as proven by the ill-fated Vampire Rain for the Xbox 360. Even Alucard and the other, ever-expanding cast of Castlevania can’t keep a good vampire down.

Enter the zombie. The red shirt army of the fantasy world. He doesn’t ask for much. Just a road to shamble down, a brain to eat and maybe a shadow to lurk in. With most games needing a fall guy for the hero to mow down, the undead are a masterpiece of ‘false difficulty’. They might all have one hit point, but there’s two hundred of them. Now what, Mr. Only-has-three-rounds-left? Mwa-ha-ha-ha.

Ahem. Sorry about that. So whether it’s our own masochistic need to destroy a strawman of modern living, our need to satiate our bloodlust without remorse or the visceral thrill of fear at the thought of being eaten alive, the game industry has found that nerve and is going to poke it for all it’s worth. I, for one, couldn’t be happier. Braaaaiiiinnnssss.

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Nintendo Dominates December Sales

npdlogoNumbers released this month by the NPD place Nintendo as the clear cut winner in December game sales. Six out of the top ten belong to them.  Five for the company’s Wii and one for the handheld DS.

Microsoft came in second with three titles in the top ten and Sony trailed behind with only one game ranking in at number nine.

Below is the list of December’s best selling video games as rated by the NPD group along with how many units sold.

1.   Wii Play w/ Remote (Wii)                     1.46M
2.   Call Of Duty: World At War (360)     1.33M
3.   Wii Fit (Wii)                                                999K
4.   Mario Kart (Wii)                                       979K
5.   Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii)            850K
6.   Gears Of War 2 (360)                             745K
7.   Left 4 Dead (360)                                   629K
8.   Mario Kart (DS)                                       540K
9.   Call Of Duty: World At War (PS3)     533K
10. Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)     497K

Resident Evil 5 Demo Explodes on Live

Microsoft announced on February 2nd that the highly anticipated Resident Evil 5 demo had shot of over 1.8 million downloads on Xbox Live. The demo, released exclusively over Live on Monday January 26 for Gold members, garnered 1.3 million downloads in just three days. Once the zombie shooter was available for all members of Xbox live, that number jumped to almost 2 million. All this in just the first seven days. But don’t despair if you don’t have a 360. Playstation 3 owners can also get in on the action as the demo goes live on Playstation Home starting on February 2.
Capcom offers up the first two levels of the game in the demo, letting you fight your way through hordes of the undead and solve a few puzzles. Once downloaded, you can either play single player with a computer controlled team-mate, hop online to play multi-player over Live or the holy grail of co-op games, play split screen with a friend.
After the runaway success of last year’s zombie games and with the blockbuster name Resident Evil attached to this title, forecasters are predicting over 3 million copies to be sold when the game reaches store shelves on March 13th.

Halo 3 incites teen to murder? WTF?!

Seriously, wow. I’m minding my own business perusing the news section of gamespot.com in search of information for a new article when I stumbled across this gem.

This leads me to question the addictivness of games. Not whether or not people can and do get addicted to the point of craziness, ie: shooting your parents for telling you to get off the damn Xbox, but whether or not it was inevitable for these poor people.
For example, if the teen had been ridiculously obessed with say, the works of Shakespeare, to the point that he no longer functioned as a member of society would they have blamed Hamlet for his actions? Or would they have just said he had an addictive personality and was mentally unstable?
Which he clearly is. I mean, even the judge said it. Why does the fact that he snapped over Halo 3 and not say, being told he couldn’t go to the football game cause this type of sensationalism? The public fascination with watching video games crash and burn is odd.

So, the question is…are video games really more detrimental or addictive than any other vice? Or do they just get a bad wrap because they’re easier to target than cigarettes or alcohol? Or because video games are marketed to children? Though you’d think finding out you have a problem with addiction at the age of seven might keep you from snorting cocaine off a public toilet seat at twenty.
But I digress. Though this was a tragic event, I have to wonder how it got to that point. The article clearly says the boy planned the murders for weeks in advance. Was he acting perfectly normal during all this? Or, like many parents, did they simply take this as a “phase” and dismiss his behavior? All I know is I’ll be sleeping with one eye open once the kiddos hit puberty.
P.S. Question…why was there no trial for this kid? Seemingly the judge made the ruling without the aid of a jury of peers. Any readers out there in the legal business that could answer that?