Wednesday 29 June 2011

CeX Stores in San Francisco, Haight St. & Mission St. now open

The best things come together in pairs, it's just a fact of life. Peace and Love, burgers and fries, peanut butter and jelly, beer and pizza.... all great pairs. Now add Mission and Haight to that list, two new CeX stores, both now open in San Francisco.

CeX 1439 Haight Street, between Masonic and Ashbury, San Francisco 94117 and the just opened CeX 2757 Mission Street, between 23rd and 24th (half a block from Mission 24th BART station), San Francisco are now both open.

CeX 1439 Haight Street, SF.

These join CeX Berkeley in our CeX West Coast triangle. Find your nearest US CeX Store here and remember you can buy and sell online at

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Saturday 25 June 2011

CeX in The Sunday Telegraph

In a feature entitled "make cash from your old gadgets" CeX is noted as a place to sell your old games and gadgets. The Telegraph also make reference to CeX coming out as paying more than anyone else in a recent Which? Consumers Association report.
Read the whole article

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Tuesday 21 June 2011

Game Review – Duke Nukem Forever

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Duke Nukem is an icon--an integral part of video game history and our childhoods. Some of us couldn’t wait to have Duke back on our screens, while others thought reminiscing over Duke Nukem 3D and Time to Kill was enough. Unfortunately here we are, in 2011 Duke Nukem Forever subjects us to what can only be described as a game that can’t decide what it wants to be. On the one hand it is clear that Forever is not to be taken seriously—the sexist and crude one-liners, virtual girls and over-dramatized action suggests we should pick up a gun, crack open a beer and let the ridiculous times roll. However somewhat embarrassingly, Forever also tries to enter the modern market by mixing in pointless car scenes and annoying puzzles—something that no one wanted from a Duke Nukem title. This unfortunate lack of dedication to the Duke Nukem franchise and what Duke does best, has left Duke in deep water with not many wanting to save him from drowning.

Duke Nukem is above-else, a shooting game—which is frustrating considering you don’t do anywhere near as much shooting as you should in Forever. When Duke gets his trademark Desert Eagle in his hand and you start blasting away at aliens and pig cops, you have a good time, there’s no denying that. The game’s frustrating pacing issues are exemplified by slamming on the breaks in-between shooting sections and forcing you to deal with horrifically comprised puzzles and car-segments. This stuff is not needed in a Duke Nukem game and for some reason unknown to me, happens all too often. If Forever was simply a run-and-gun adventure, I think people would have enjoyed it a whole load more—but this filler content does not provide Duke any opportunity to say or do anything entertaining whatsoever. The shooting mechanics themselves, although dated, are simple and fun. The variety in weapons is fairly small, but blasting the heads off of enemies is sweet and Duke does it in style—throwing out his trademark lines while wading through hordes of enemies.

Speaking of being dated; Forever looks like a game that would have been given graphical praise a few years ago. Unfortunately, in this day and age it doesn’t quite cut it. Again, this wouldn’t be such a problem if just some small things were cleaned up. For example, in the opening thirty seconds you can walk in front of a mirror and jump—showing how horribly animated Duke’s (the main character!) body is—with his upper-body staying perfectly still while his legs contract ever so slightly, it’s honestly painful to watch. The ear shattering grunt that Duke bellows every time he jumps is also a testament to how bad the audio in this game is. Then fifteen minutes later we find two school girls talking to Duke—this segment shows the dialogue and script are not only terrible, but the timing of the voice actors is abysmal too—with Duke taking five seconds to respond to the girl’s invitation to a party. Don’t get me wrong, the graphics aren’t bad, but they just aren’t pretty to look at either. Duke Nukem could have been forgiven for being a technical flop if it at least looked great and consisted of simple fun—unfortunately what was exhumed and used for production created a final product that just doesn’t deliver in these areas.

The story is nothing to write home about either—aliens invade, take Duke’s babes and he wants them back. At least it’s obvious that the story doesn’t take itself seriously but you will find that it really doesn’t matter as you stop caring about your final goal relatively early on. Perhaps this is because you start and stop so many times that you just forget—or you don’t think Duke’s reasoning for saving the world is just, whatever the case, shooting aliens in the face becomes your primary function sooner or later.

Forever does provide some entertainment in the online multiplayer. This takes the best bit of single player—the shooting and removes all the pointless filler content, allowing you go mental and dare I say it, have some fun. Lots of crazy weapons, upgrades and unlockables make Forever’s variants of death-match and capture-the-flag quite a laugh and is the highlight of this package. Unfortunately, some technical issues at times can slow this experience down and like the abysmal loading times in the campaign, you can find yourself stuck for quite a long period before a game becomes available—at least from my testing on the Playstation 3.

Ultimately you can say as many bad things about Duke Nukem Forever as you want and it’s apparent that critics globally have been very disappointed by the final product. I however, have respect for Gearbox Software and Randy Pitchford who took the remains of a game that must have been left in pieces over the ten-years of development before picking it up and trying to get it back together. They took an icon that everyone in the video game world loves, and tried to bring him back to us. Sure it wasn’t a great success, but they did it—some people thought that Duke Nukem was cursed and would never come out. Well I for one am glad to see the Duke back and although it’s not quite what I was hoping for and expected—I am still willing to pick it up and live through Duke’s American dream, by kicking ass and chewing bubblegum. Don’t take Duke Nukem Forever seriously, enjoy the experience, enjoy the twelve years of history that have gone into this game and keep in mind the hard work that went in to transform a ravaged idea into some form of a final product. God bless you Duke Nukem—despite all your faults, I still love you.

6.0 Gameplay – Run-of-the-mill shooting fun with Duke—shame that so much puzzle and car filler hampers the pace of the action.
6.0 Graphics – Dated graphics, but what did you expect? Could have been polished better to cover up the age.
7.0 Replay – Duke’s one-liners are priceless over and over—multiplayer is relatively fun too for a while
5.0 Tech – Controller has no issues, audio is pretty bad apart from Duke’s trademark lines. Occasional lag online on PS3.

Overall – 6.0
Igor, CeX UK Contributor
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Monday 20 June 2011

E3 Part 3 – Nintendo Press Conference.

Before this conference Nintendo were suffering--with Wii sales diminishing by the month and the very poor launch of the 3DS, something needed to change. Fortunately, if there ever was a good opportunity to get the masses back on the Nintendo bandwagon, it was during the E3 press conference. Nintendo started slowly with their tribute to The Legend of Zelda’s 25th Anniversary, but stepped up the pace with solid title announcements for the Nintendo 3DS and impressed the crowd with a brand new console--The Nintendo Wii U. Overall it was a well-organised presentation that gave the audience what they wanted, high-profile content.

A beautiful orchestra alongside Shigeru Miyamoto spent the first portion of the conference reminiscing over The Legend of Zelda and its 25th birthday. With the release of Ocarina of Time 3D round the corner and Skyward Sword for Wii due this holiday season, it was a welcome presentation--one that reminded the crowd of all the incredible adventures the series has offered and what is yet to come. The announcement of free downloads for The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and The Four Swords Adventure gave fans plenty of Zelda based content to look forward to.

Nintendo were all about their hot property franchises this E3 and the majority of them will be coming to Nintendo 3DS. Lengthy Mario Kart 3D, Luigi’s Mansion 2 and Super Mario 3D trailers were highlights of the handheld portion of the presentation--showing off brand new ways to play Mario Kart, Luigi capturing ghouls and an all new Mario adventure designed specifically for the platform. Other games of note included Star Fox and Kid Icarus and a highlight reel showed glimpses of Resident Evil: Mercenaries, Resident Evil: Revelations, Tekken and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. More in-depth footage of the above titles would have been very nice at this point.

Of course the final section of Nintendo’s conference concentrated on announcing a new home console and subsequent games. The Nintendo Wii U was revealed to everyone’s confusion--with so much emphasis being placed on the intuitive controller that resembles a Dreamcast pad blended with an iPad, many people assumed it was a peripheral for the Wii. The clever piece of kit has a 6”2 inch touch screen and gyro technology--with the ability to transfer the game you’re playing on the TV onto the Wii U controller being the unique selling point. Wii U revealed full blown HD graphics--while specs were yet to be revealed, HD footage of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was shown off alongside a montage reel of strong third-party title support like Batman: Arkham City, Ninja Gaiden III, Assassin’s Creed, Darksiders II, DiRT 3, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Metro: Last Night, Ghost Recon Online and a guest stage appearance from EA. Perhaps the biggest games announced at conference were Super Smash Brothers for both Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.

These are certainly early days but the scrapping of friend codes and confirmation of a strong online system could allow Nintendo to compete for online dominance. It seems that Nintendo are attempting to capture the more hardcore market while keeping their casual gamers appeased with the Wii U being backwards compatible and Wii-remote enabled.

Overall Nintendo did a good job at their press event--unveiling hot property titles and a fresh machine to challenge for the attention of hardcore gamers. One can’t help but wonder if this machine has come too late however. As next generation projects are underway at Microsoft and Sony, if Wii U is only just more powerful than the PS3 and 360 now--it could find itself already outdated even before launch. We assume that new machines Microsoft and Sony will announce specs that would blow Wii U out of the water. The competition from the PS3 and Vita is already a threat and that is still this generation’s machine from Sony. Nevertheless, it is still early days and I think everyone is fascinated to see how the Wii U will try and change the course of video gaming once again for Nintendo.

Igor Kharin, CeX UK Contributor.
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E3 Part 2 –- Sony Press Conference

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Sony needed a stellar presentation at E3 to make up for the horror show on their Playstation Network. Not surprisingly the conference began with a heart-felt apology from Jack Tretton, promising that the next two hours would re-affirm our trust and faith in a bright future for Sony and its customers. Over the course of two hours we were treated to a great range of highly anticipated titles, a clear push for further Playstation Move and 3D compatibility and the brand new handheld Playstation Vita.

Uncharted 3 was the first game to be demoed and why not begin with arguably the best title Sony have to offer. I am excited for the third title from Naughty Dog and quite frankly, you should be too. It will be very interesting to see how Tomb Raider 2011 compares to Uncharted 3 and if Lara Croft will give Drake a run for his money. I love how the guys from Naughty Dog took inspiration from the original treasure hunter and now roles have reversed once again and the re-creation of Tomb Raider now looks like Uncharted—the irony is fantastic.

Bioshock Infinite was another AAA title shown off and it was obvious from the audience’s reaction that everyone wanted to get their hands on Irrational Games’ horror adventure. I couldn’t help but feel disappointment playing number 2—maybe this was because the original was just so awesome and Bioshock 2 changed literally nothing—here’s me hoping the new setting and environment will force progress and change in the Bioshock universe.

Resistance 3 was the final hot-property franchise demoed and the alien shooter did look fantastic. I want to see the ending of the trilogy anyway but a few tweaks to the online multiplayer could really help the series challenge amidst the top-tier online FPS games such as Call of Duty and the up-and-coming Battlefield 3. This is obviously me with high hopes but I always felt that the Resistance series had a lot of potential and perhaps it will end with a big bang?

Unfortunately Sony seemed to lose count of the amount of games they wanted to show off during the presentation and instead of progressing smoothly onto Move, 3D and Playstation Vita, they kept unveiling games throughout. These included Starhawk, Sly Cooper, Dust 514, Star Trek and SSX—games that while aren’t high-profile, do show off the depth of Sony’s catalogue of games. Nevertheless, it was apparent that this list could literally have been removed from the presentation and more concentration should have been spent on more important announcements.

Focus was placed upon the Playstation Move, but nowhere near as much as Microsoft gave to their motion sensing Kinect. Sony also unveiled the desire to introduce Move to core games including NBA 2K12, newly announced Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest, InFAMOUS 2, Saints Row and Star Trek but I liked that it wasn’t pushed as hard as Microsoft’s Kinect, giving gamers a vibe that implied a choice to use the peripheral as opposed to being forced by Microsoft.

3D is certainly not dead according to Sony, who actually had their audience put on 3D glasses during specific segments of their presentation. It was clear that another push for 3D incorporation was well under way with the announcement of a new Sony branded 24” TV package—allowing gamers to access 3D technology in one neat bundle. There weren’t really any exciting game announcements for 3D, but God of War: Origins and Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection are both being prepared with 3D technology. A 3D trailer of Uncharted 3 was also shown off but I can’t comment on that for obvious reasons.

The star of show was undoubtedly the Playstation Vita, Sony’s super awesome new handheld console. With a fantastic price point and a very impressive roster of games including Uncharted: Golden Abyss, ModNation Racers, Little Big Planet, Street Fighter x Tekken and newly announced Ruin—the Vita is going to hit the ground running. It also seems that Nintendo’s new machine the Wii U and its touch-pad controller could very well be obsolete even before it hits store shelves next year. This is because with its own touch screen and almost PS3-like graphics, the Vita could be the perfect partner for the Playstation 3—doing the same type of things Nintendo hoped their new pad would achieve, but better.

While Sony certainly had plenty of content, the presentation lacked direction at times and it seemed pushing more of the high profile content would have been more effective than trying to fit some of the lesser titles in and around the big announcements. Nevertheless, having too much content can never be a bad thing—that alongside the Playstation Vita and it’s obvious that the future is bright for Sony. I was never a fan of Sony’s handheld machines but I think they have finally found the perfect formula and will be more than prepared to tackle the launch of Nintendo’s Wii U—the Playstation Vita will be vital to Sony’s future success.

Igor Kharin, CeX UK Contributor.

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E3 Part 1 – Microsoft Press Conference

It's that magical time of the year once again when we are exposed to a plethora of video game content from the grand arenas of E3 in Los Angeles. As E3 draws to a close, people begin gathering their thoughts and start scrutinizing every single little aspect of what they saw and heard over the days events. I decided instead of live-blogging the content (which in my opinion was absolutely pointless since everyone interested was either watching live or catching up with archived footage), I would wait until the dust settled and express my opinions on content revealed. In Part 1 of my E3 blogs you will find my opinions of Microsoft and how they handled their content, the dramatic push for core Kinect compatibility and the assortment of high-profile games shown off.

So there was absolutely no surprise that Microsoft pitched their most successful franchises such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3 and Tomb Raider. All three featured lengthy gameplay footage and were arguably the highlights of the presentation. In particular, the beautiful Tomb Raider footage showed off an exciting re-creation of a classic series into a new era of gaming. I can't help but hope that the release of Battlefield 3 crushes Call of Duty--I'm fed up to my teeth with the series and hope it follows in the footsteps of Guitar Hero and just dies out. Gears of War 3 is a slightly different issue because I know the multiplayer won't change, I've made my peace with that--I just want to see the ending of the story.

Microsoft's baby franchise Halo was also a heavy presence throughout with the announcement of a HD remake of Halo: Combat Evolved and an exclusive reveal of Halo 4--you didn't think they were going to let the series go did you? Many people wanted the series to end once Bungie were done but the amount of money Halo makes dictates further installments. So it makes a lot of money, but will it be any good? That's a whole different question.

The emphasis of the presentation was undeniably on Kinect--a peripheral that has tackled the casual market successfully for Microsoft, but is yet to capture the hearts of the console's hardcore market. Indeed this was exactly the point of the presentation--to offer Kinect compatibility to absolutely everything. EA announced that FIFA, Madden, Tiger Woods and a host of other titles will have Kinect compatibility. Bioware's hit title Mass Effect 3 will incorporate real-time voice commands and other options using Kinect, Ubisoft's Tom Clancy: Ghost Recon Future Soldier, Crytek's RYSE, Lionhead's Fable: The Journey, Kinect Sports Season 2, Dance Central 2, Kinect Star Wars and newly announced Minecraft, will all be linked to the Kinect one way or another. On top of this mass Kinect onslaught were the announcements of Kinect Live content and Kinect Fun Labs--both packages designed to enhance your offline and online Xbox experience through Kinect. This massive push I felt was subjecting a demographic of gamers to a piece of equipment that quite frankly, they are not interested in.

So this sudden burst of life from the Kinect seemed to me as an obvious answer to the lack of direct support it received upon launch. Gamers who have the Kinect will be happy to hear that mass content is coming their way and they won't be subjected to only casual games. More intense gamers who have been intrigued by the Kinect but opted to wait and see if support and content would arrive can also be happy--as it is apparent Microsoft are willing to back their state-of-the-art camera all the way.

The problem I have with the narrow path the press event took is we are yet to see something truly intuitive from Kinect, something with a little spark, something that we haven't seen before. These additions, voice-commands, hand-movements are all examples of basic things that we all know the Kinect is capable of. They are also mechanics that aren't necessarily crucial to the gaming experience--Mass Effect 3 for example, will be enjoyed just as much without a Kinect at all. Until we see a truly unique mechanic from the Kinect that changes the way we play and becomes indispensable, I think that core gamers will have a hard time justifying picking up the piece of kit.

Microsoft braved the stage first and came through waving the flag for Kinect. The presentation itself wasn't the best we've seen in the past few years, but I do like that their aims and goals were very clear and to the point. It's simply a shame that I do not agree with their aims or goals. Will the support for Kinect give gamers a reason to pick up the gadget, or are the days of casual gaming stagnating? Only time will tell.

Igor Kharin, CeX UK Contributor.
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Monday 13 June 2011

Game Review – Red Faction: Armageddon

Anyone familiar with the Red Faction universe will be aware of the vast changes the series has gone through over the years. While the franchise has shifted from first-person to third-person, from confined bases to vast environments--what has remained the same is Mars being the perfect stage for thrilling adventures and battles. Red Faction: Armageddon mixes things up once again, this time opting for an alien infestation to be the main cause for concern for our protagonist Darius Mason, grandson of Red Faction: Guerrilla’s hero, Alec Mason. An expansive and fun set of new destructive weapons helps make Armageddon a game full of carnage and excitement, but is still somewhat held back by linear gameplay, repetition and story-cliches.

Armageddon is set post-Guerrilla and you will be happy to know that the predecessor has nothing to do with the sequel, so you can jump in without worrying about prior story. In fact, there’s not really much story here either--Armageddon depicts an alien infestation on Mars and beautifully designed cut-scenes tell a story of your attempts to keep the enemy at bay while trying to escape. Plenty of cliches hinder the story, making it difficult to take the developments and dialogue seriously.

Fortunately, Darius Mason is a man of few words and chooses to express himself with very, very large weapons; seriously, I’m talking like, massive guns. Armageddon is all about destructibility and it is fantastic to see that this unique selling point is implemented so well. Every single human structure can be destroyed in Armageddon and you are given plenty of opportunity and weapons to do so. Large plasma cannons, rocket launchers, dark-hole forgers and a secret unicorn rainbow gun (yeah, you read that right) are just a few of the many different weapons at your disposal to cause utter chaos in the caverns around you. The star of the show in Armageddon is without a doubt the magnet gun. Shooting two separate magnets, this awesome piece of kit lets you to smash together whatever the two magnets are latched on to; allowing you to collide buildings, enemies, vehicles, whatever you hook the magnets to. This unique contraption offers unlimited ways to wreck havoc in a predominantly linear game, creating varied ways to complete goals, destroy locations and kill enemies. If these massive guns weren’t enough, Armageddon also lets you pilot mech units that are pretty much unstoppable and allow for even more destructive fun.

Indeed most of Armageddon is set in underground caves and whilst there is room for destruction, it is impossible not to feel like a few over-ground sections should have been put in to avoid the inevitable feeling of repetition. With the planet being uninhabitable on the surface, it would have been great to see some exploration like levels, allowing developers to really show off the natural destruction occurring on ground level. Nevertheless, the linear caverns hold some thrilling encounters but the bland colouring and dull lighting makes your travels through them seem all too familiar after a while.

It is great then that Armageddon tries to keep you occupied as much as possible and lets the intense action dictate the pace of the game. You certainly need more than just your weapons to beat the infestation and thankfully you are provided with Nano-Forge abilities. These perks, which can be activated and upgraded through a nifty gadget on Darius’ wrist, give you certain abilities and boosts to help you push through the alien hordes. These range from a protective force field, a damage boost and a few other nifty additions. The most exciting of which is reconstruction--allowing you to rebuild anything around you, a perfect way to solidify a defensive structure or avoid losing a particular vantage point. It is a shame that this fantastic mechanic isn’t implemented more often or in a more interesting manner--with its predominant use being your guarantee to get through a destroyed building to your next objective.

While the campaign itself isn’t particularly long, clocking in at around 9 hours, Armageddon does offer replay value in its multi player experience. Strangely there are absolutely no competitive multi player modes present, but instead you can play a horde-style mode called Infestation. This four-player cooperative mode can provide a heap of fun and challenge as you and your friends battle for survival against waves of enemies. The other mode present is Ruin where a single player takes on the challenge of doing as much destruction to the environment as possible in a set period of time. While the latter offers leader boards and quite a chunk of replay value due to the variety in guns, you will find that to score top marks, only a certain bunch of weapons are actually useful. The former game-mode is by far the more enjoyable since you can be partnered with friends and a satisfying difficulty curve can be put in place to ensure the action is always exciting and hectic.

What’s great about Red Faction: Armageddon is that it boldly steps out and says that it is OK to be a linear game, there is no problem with being told what to do and where to go, as long as you are having a great time doing it. Armageddon strings together a good balance of content, action and unique physics to ensure there’s always plenty to do and even more to destroy. While the lackluster story and slight repetition might irritate some looking for a more independent experience, for the rest of us, it’s time to get our magnet guns ready and watch the caverns of Mars turn to ruin.

9 Game play
Fantastic physics and unique weaponry makes destroying the world a whole load of fun.

6 Graphics
Aliens aren’t really impressive and the bland and dull environments get boring pretty quickly.

7 Replay
The almost limitless ways to destroy enemies using the environment makes each new kill exciting. Infestation mode makes you come back with friends.

8 Tech
Great controls, audio is impressive, online runs smoothly for the most part.

7.5 Overall

Igor Kharin, writer

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Wednesday 8 June 2011

Nintendo Announces Wii U

Nintendo's new home console, the Wii U, has been announced. The star of the announcement is the WII U Controller, a joypad that looks like the love child of a Dreamcast VMU that's been down the gym and mated with a Nintendo DS.

What we know so far (Nintendo's brainwashing video after our notes).

-Wii U console is around the same size as the existing Wii console and has a slot for optical media. Wii backwards compatibility unknown.

-Wii U has HDMI, S-Video and composite video output, with support for 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p, and 480i resolutions

-The Wii U comes with a Wii U controller which sports 16:9 aspect ratio 6.2inch/15.7cm screen in controller that can be used as secondary screen for alternative in game views.

-The Wii U controller can also be used as the main gameplay screen if the rest of your house want to watch TV.

-The Wii U Controller's 6.2 inch/15.7cm screen is touch screen, but at present we don't know if the screen supports HD resolutions.

-Front facing video camera above the Wii U Controller touch screen for video calls.

-Motion sensors are built into the Wii U controller, yet it's power source is unknown.

-Wiimote and Wii balance board still used for some games.

-The Wii U is due for release in 2012.

- I want one. Jonathan Cronin, CeX Towers,

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Tuesday 7 June 2011

Sony Announces PS Vita

It's E3 time again. For those who don’t know, E3 stands for the Electronic Entertainment Expo and it’s the biggest annual gaming show in the West. Among the new hardware announced was the Sony PS Vita, the successor to the PSP. This new handheld is powered by a mighty quad-core processor, combined with a PowerVR quad cover graphics chip can only be described as mighty. There's also built GPS, WiFi and a 3G option so we hope the battery can keep up.

Originally codenamed “Next-Gen Portable,” the Playstation Vita looks to fill the gaps the PSP just missed out on. On board features include touch screen capabilities at the front and touchpad at the rear, dual cameras, a microphone and dual analogue sticks similar to those found on the Dual Shock Pad.

Vita, meaning “Life” in Latin, is marketed as blurring the line between entertainment and your day to day business. The vita promises social network style interaction with other Vita users. This may hint at future Facebook and Twitter applications. This is supported by the on-board cameras. The dual cameras promise to emulate an “augmented reality” interface. This suggests a possible a face to face conversation app similar to Skype and Apple's Facetime.

Sony is backing the PS Vita with its key franchises including new versions of Wipeout, Little Big Planet, and Uncharted. As demonstrated at E3, the titles utilise the Vita's touch screen perks in their own unique ways. Much like navigating menus through an I Phone, you'll be navigating Nathan Drake from certain death with your fingers. Unsurprisingly given the quad-core chips, the graphics displayed on the device are better than any handheld to date.

The PS Vita combines the network dependant features of the PSP Go with the interactive control features Nintendo’s DS. The reliance on the Playstation Network may not please all given the recent hacks and resulting outage of a month. There's much to speculate on given what we know of the features. It really depends and what becomes available through the Vita's operating system. This is a device that looks like it wants to do a little more than just gaming.

So far two models have been announced and we only have US only pricing for now: a Wi-Fi Model priced at $249 and a 3G/Wi-Fi Model priced at $299. US release date Winter 2011.

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Monday 6 June 2011

Game Review - LA Noire

There's something unique about L.A. Noire, the new release from Rockstar Games. For a start your a cop, and your trying to be a good one. This game is part sandbox game, part mystery puzzle game, all detective simulation. This is a game that takes a brave decision in stepping back from the norm of frantic all out action we're used to seeing in most games. It favours a more measured approach of investigating crime scenes, following leads and wrapping up cases. This is all brought to life by a neatly realised 1940's Los Angeles. From the car you'll be driving to the locations you'll be visiting, LA Noire is full of immersive details.

You play as Detective Cole Phelps, a recently returned soldier from the Second World War. Awarded the silver star, Phelps finds tries to find his place within the L.A.P.D. Starting out as a beat cop, you guide Phelps through a series of cases that progress him through the ranks. This is achieved through finding clues at a crime scene, to questing and/or interrogating suspects and persons of interest. This is combined with surprise car chase elements and shoot-out sequences. This all interwoven with a dense and overarching plot that remains constant and prominent throughout the game.

The investigative part of a case first places you at the scene of a crime. Being a detective in LA means seeing the ugly side of the glamour. Do not ignore the age rating on the game. There are plenty of grisly scenes where you are up close and personal with murder victims. The majority of the crime scenes are very bloody. Strong stomachs and a lack of imagination may be required. Considering part of the game's inspiration comes from the Black Dahlia murder of 1947, there is certainly a dark tone to match.

After you gathered clues from the crime scene, you set out in finding suspects. This usually involves finding and questioning suspects. Much of the game's case-based structure is logged in a handy notebook which acts as the mission objectives menu seen in most other action games. Within the notebook menu are the questions you pose to suspects. From here you can select whether the suspect is telling the truth, doubt the answer they have given you, or accuse them of lying, With the lying option, you will need to present proof of you accusation. During these sequences I found it very difficult to tell whether a suspect was telling the truth or not. It's not always about what they, its more about how they act. This is where the game benefits from it's MotionScan technology.

L.A. Noire has already got audiences talking about how the game blurs the line between cinema and games. These suggestions are apparent due to the games striking realism in the face-department. Cole Phelps and other characters in LA Noire possess strikingly realistic facial movements. This is achieved using a detailed motion-capture process named MotionScan. From every grimace, to every wrinkle and blink, every character is modelled from a real-life actor. But this isn't just for show. The tech comes into play when questioning these actors. As a detective, it's up to you to spot any inconsistencies with the suspect during the interrogation sections of the game. At their best, the tech serves as a valid addition to judging suspects. At the very least it makes for a good eye-catching cinematic feel. You may not look at other game characters the same way after playing LA NOIRE, simply for the sheer amount of realism they present.

For gamers, there are still plenty of gameplay mechanics to keep you from falling asleep. Some cases have you getting involved in the action orientated sections of the game. The driving and shooting mechanics feel borrowed from Rockstar's recent Grant Theft Auto games. You'll be auto-aiming and taking cover in shootouts, chasing suspects on foot or by car, the latter usually involves ramming the suspect off the road. These sequences may not be the majority of the game, but they are a familiarity that most of us gamers will welcome. The game's only real downside is a slight repetitive structure in the cases. You'll start a case, find clues, question a suspect, and then be thrown into a chase sequence or shoot out without much deviation.

Compared to Rockstar's other recent releases such as Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto 4, LA Noire is an almost entirely different experience. Aside from the familiar action mechanics from those games, this is much more about immersing yourself into the Good Cop role. Most of your time will be spent within the linear structure of the cases giving you less breathing room to roam around. When you do roam around, you are presented with small appetiser missions in the form of shootouts or chases. Unfortunately you can't pull out your gun and cause random mayhem. This is a guilty pleasure for most gamers given a Free Roam option. So once you've completed the cases, you may not have much incentive to do anything further.

With a concept like LA Noire, its in the small details. It combines the glamour and nostalgia of 1940's Hollywood with the gritty, modern conventions of recent crime dramas. You'll question a good mix of Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe wannabes. At the same time, you'll have plenty of CSI-style murder investigating. Forensics and fame have never come together this well in a game. Technically speaking, it manages to combine the ground-breaking MotionScan with a nostalgic art direction and decent graphics with the various gameplay elements to make a tight package. Many gamers will experience a repetition in some of the gameplay mechanics. However the the twists and turns within the cases should keep most dedicated players happy right until the end.

8 out of 10
John Maguire, CeX Contributor
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