Tuesday Feb 22, 2011
Although it was mentioned last week, it’s worth a reminder: Bayonetta is out right now on Microsoft’s Games on Demand service for Xbox 360!
The game’s been covered and I said my piece on it in last week’s article but still, it’s worth mentioning, this is a hell of a game. Sprawling and epic with levels and boss fights on a fantastic size and scale, the game is both dramatic and has a delicious, tongue-in-cheek sense of fun.
I’ve been playing through it just recently. I was delighted to find that towards the end of the game is an extended and spot-on homage to After Burner Climax, one which perfectly integrates Bayonetta’s style and gameplay with the arcade-adrenaline of After Burner. Bayonetta is filled with winking references to other games, but its style is inimitably its own.
At this point the awards and accolades should speak for themselves. Games on Demand makes the game even easier to get. This is as challenging and dynamic an action game as you could possibly hope for on a console — have at it!
Tuesday Feb 15, 2011
Some exciting news for you — Aliens vs. Predator is available now — right now! — on Microsoft’s Games on Demand service, and coming next week, the smash-hit award-winning Bayonetta will be joining it (Bayonetta releases on February 22nd)! If you haven’t had a chance to play these terrific games, or just want to add them to your digital library, now is the time. And, what a marvelous coincidence: I’ve been spending more time recently with both these games.
Aliens Versus Predator
I elaborated on my love for the Aliens mythology pretty extensively when the game was coming out. Both Aliens and Predator are kind of fantasy-horror benchmarks and there’s a reason various companies have thrown the two iconic beasts together for several decades now (with humans stuck in the middle, the squishy pink meat in the Aliens/Predator sci-fi horror sandwich).
AvP gets down to the very nitty-gritty first-person-shooter style that enhances the game’s science-fiction/horror aesthetic. The three campaigns are interwoven stories and the true coup of the game is in delivering three completely different styles of play — both for multiplayer matches and for single-player, the Marines, Aliens, and Predators have virtually nothing in common except the challenge of mastering their particular strengths and weaknesses.
The Marines are the most traditional — stuck in godforsaken environments with little more than a pulse rifle, a pistol, and the occasional flame thrower. Multiplayer modes such as Survivor require teamwork as a group of marines work to fend off Aliens, and Infestation mode pits a progressively shrinking band of marines against a progressively growing hive of aliens.
Predators are, well, predators. The game places a premium on using stealth to stalk your prey, and you can learn to use deception and misdirection to gain an advantage while waiting to execute a brutal finishing move to turn your prey into a grisly trophy. While the Predator gameplay is probably closest to my preferred style of play — sneak up in a cloaking field, rip someone’s spine out, disappear, repeat — the Aliens (as you could guess from my link above) are nearest and dearest to me. They also represent the most radical difference in approach of the three classes, where learning to navigate the walls and ceilings and dark corners of a space aren’t just a tactical advantage, they’re essential to survival.
I’ve always loved that playing as an Alien and playing as a Marine — especially through story mode — have such radically different feels. Being an Alien means being part of the “hive”, and learning to survive on the ceiling and, for once, being the hissing monster inside the ventilation system. As a Marine — well, this is one of the few games that has actually physically scared me. Wandering through a dark corridor and having the telltale sound of your motion tracker go off in the pitch dark is a shock to the senses, and a trick Aliens versus Predator pulls off beautifully.
Bayonetta will be hitting Games on Demand this February 22nd. Convenient timing: I played this game when it came out, naturally, but haven’t really blazed through it until just recently. This is a pretty incredible game and I feel just fine saying that, without hyperbole, regardless of the fact that I work for SEGA. Everything about Bayonetta is over-the-top and yet, somehow, it all coheres; Platinum Games made a truly spectacular action game here which somehow manages to be one of the sexiest, most difficult, and most fun games of 2010, and in quite a while, period.
Enough with that hyperbole though; by this point you’ve probably heard most of Bayonetta’s accolades. If you haven’t had a chance to try this game, designed by Hideki Kamiya (Devil May Cry), hopefully Games on Demand convinces you (and there’s still of course an Xbox Live demo available). The game features upgradable weapons, hosts of new combat moves to learn, and a high-fidelity gameworld that looks consistently imaginative and spectacular. For all the boasts about difficulty — and it is difficult, forcing you to actually unlock anything above “normal” — the game also welcomes newcomers or those just wanting to tear around and have fun, with the “easy” and “very easy” modes making it no problem to simply tear through enemies and have a grand time doing so.
I tried to explain the game’s over-the-top antics to a friend the other day: “You fight a boss that’s hundreds of times bigger than you, and the boss is a gigantic upside-down face, and the face has wings and dragon heads, and you have to fight the dragon heads while reversing time, and then your body-suit which is actually made of your hair turns into a giant demon and eats the boss.” I’d say “spoiler alert” but I don’t think even that description prepares you for the battle itself.
All that “over-the-top” action actually feels intuitive because Bayonetta’s combat system is so fluid and refined. You pick what kinds of moves you want to learn and how you want to deploy your weapons, and there’s few “wrong” ways to go about it. The game is punishingly difficult to perfect and at the same time will reward your gaming instincts for exploration and perfecting a method of fighting. I can’t speak highly enough of this game and I’m prouder than proud that it’s there in the SEGA stable, earning accolades and gunning down gigantic upside-down-face monsters.
Tuesday Aug 03, 2010
Great news for fans of one of SEGA’s longest-running franchises: our fantasy-action MMO on the Xbox 360, Phantasy Star Universe, has now made its way to Games on Demand!
One of the biggest reasons this is significant is that Phantasy Star Universe simply hasn’t been widely available for some time, with mostly used copies available on Amazon and eBay. The download is now available for 1600 MSP / $19.99, and combined with recently making the Ambition of the Illuminus Expansion free (not to mention the release of GUARDIANS Advanced Content), there has never been a better time to get in on the action.
On a more personal note — and as a GM for PSU — I’m very happy to see this available. This is a game which has been supported by a very dedicated, very engaged fanbase. Having an opportunity to make this unique game available as a digital download is definitely a win for our community.
And the game is unique — an action/RPG MMO with all the pedigree of a dungeon crawler and the unique look & feel of the Phantasy Star franchise. The game gives users a spectacular array of customization, as well — from your character’s weight & height to the countless in-game outfits, to the 15 different class types and all the available weapon types to master, you can spend hundreds of hours sculpting a totally unique character. The game also has an excellent “My Room” and shop system, where you can decorate your own player room, use it to store items, and set up a player shop to sell goods to other players.
While all of this is familiar to longtime players, there’s still a whole “universe” for others to discover, and the game has been more lively recently than ever before — while the game has always had lots of updates adding additional missions & events, the recent GUARDIANS Advanced Content release adds unprecedented customization & options to the game, giving even players who hit the level cap a chance to continue to develop and customize their character’s abilities and powers.
Check out Phantasy Star Universe over Xbox Live and download the expansion for free — even if you don’t get in on the online action, offline mode has an epic single-player “story mode”. Online mode has a subscription fee but doesn’t require a Gold Membership in order to use — whatever way you pick to play, now’s a great time to check out the Universe!
Tuesday Aug 11, 2009
The Xbox LIVE Games on Demand service launches today with 30 games, including Sonic the Hedgehog and SEGA Rally Revo. (Xbox LIVE Marketplace links) Sonic The Hedgehog is available in the US and Asia, and SEGA Rally Revo is available in Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Because Games on Demand is new, here’s some information on how it works.
Games on Demand lets you download and play Xbox 360 games right from your home, with 24/7 access. You’ll be able to purchase games with Microsoft Points or with your credit card. Download times are based on your connection speed and the size of the game, but Microsoft estimates that you can download a typical game on a high-bandwidth connection in 2-3 hours. You can also download game manuals — just locate the game in the web marketplace and select “see game manual”.
Each game is 4-6GB, so you might need a bigger hard drive if you’re planning on downloading a lot of games. You can buy a 60GB LIVE starter pack or a 120GB hard drive as separate accessories. Or, you can delete a game and re-download it again later if you’d like. If you don’t have enough space on your hard drive, you can still buy the game but it won’t download until you clear enough space. If you don’t have a hard drive at all, you’ll receive an error message instead of your game.
As for SEGA, we’ve got two games available today (Which one is available to you depends on where you live)– Sonic the Hedgehog and SEGA Rally Revo (Xbox LIVE Marketplace links) — with more coming soon.
Updated to add territory-specific information for the games.
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