Left 4 Dead 2/Resident Evil 6 crossover DLC available now!

So, it’s finally here – the great crossover of all zombie gamers’ dreams!

Valve and Capcom announced a few weeks ago that DLC would be available from both companies crossing over the latest games from their huge zombie franchises – Left 4 Dead and Resident Evil. The new content went live on April 5. Here’s a trailer showing the changes in RE6 below:

As you can see, you can play as Rochelle, Nick, Coach and Ellis in Mercenary No Mercy mode, and it even uses some L4D monsters such as the Witch, and a ‘Mini’-Tank. It’s very interesting to see the characters move about in the RE engine, and the rolls, flips and shoulder barges that they are now capable of.

On the L4D side, the RE content can be downloaded as a new campaign from Steam. It features the RE6 enemies Ogroman, Lepotitsa and Napad, and Valve are even opening it up to you, the gamers – those who use the L4D2 Workshop can submit ideas for RE6 character skins that may get added into the game! Imagine playing Dark Carnival as Leon, Chris, Ada or Jill…

Crossovers are nothing new, of course, but this is incredibly exciting because it shows an unprecedented level of co-operation between two successful (some may say competing) game developers. Who knows what it could lead to?

This DLC is only available on PC versions of both games for now, sorry. Both sets are available for download from Steam.

SKYRIM: DRAGONBORN DLC

Ever since Bethesda’s much anticipated release of Skyrim in 2011, one key question has been haunting our collective mind: “When are they going to let us fly a dragon?” Fast forward 2 years and it would appear that we have finally reached a compromise. Well, kind of…

The third DLC in the Skyrim roster, Dragonborn returns our chosen hero to the familiar, ash-soaked island of Solstheim – previously depicted in Morrowind‘s Bloodmoon expansion in 2003. On arrival it is discovered that the land has been plagued by a mysterious uprising of ash creatures and has fallen under the will of a second, ancient dragonborn: Miraak. Using a collection of new shouts and the arcane knowledge found within a set of powerful ‘Black Books’, Solstheim’s freedom and the fate of Tamriel lies in your hands.

If you’ve read my previous post on the Elder Scrolls, it’s pretty apparent that I am a big fan of the series and have a fair amount of background knowledge on each title – Morrowind in particular. Needless to say I was pretty excited with the announcement that Bethesda were set to recreate the architecture and atmosphere that I had previously grown so fond of, and they honestly did a very good job of it – ignoring their insistence on blanketing everything in a thick layer of snow, that is. Finally, all those classic armours, items and landscapes in vastly updated graphics – there was even the promise of no Cliff Racers to drool over! So what could possibly go wrong with a setup as flawless as that? Well, uh, quite a few things actually.

Voice acting. What is this weird joke Bethesda have been carrying on through their audio? If all their previous games have set the Dunmer with a deep, rough drawl, where has the inspiration suddenly emerged to equip all our blue-skinned friends with what I can only deduce as a dodgy attempt at a Yorkshire accent? Previous characters throughout Skyrim have certainly been victim to a serious lack of emotion, but Bethesda managed to cross the line into obscurity when they made this production choice final. Disregarding that, the island’s denizens are fairly well crafted, if a little two dimensional.

Ah, but now it is time to explore this Miraak character we have been hearing so much about; this demonic, overwhelming energy that has engulfed the land in darkness. Emerging from the void in a particularly engrossing cinematic, we are treated to a James Bond-esque monologue, detailing his evil plan and why you are too puny to step in his way, fully clothed in flowing, dark robes and one of Dragonborn‘s new Cthulu inspired masks. All in all, Miraak is pretty well placed as a villain, encompassing those dreaded feelings of ‘he’s actually quite intimidating’ and ‘I hope he doesn’t come for me’ in a nice little package. What Bethesda are really pushing for here is that knowledge is power and, as it turns out, Miraak is pretty knowledgeable – he’s even been cheating a little bit with the help of a devious God. This wisdom, though, can equally be acquired by yourself in travelling through the winding passages of the Black Books.

These sections right here are easily the most interesting and original out of the entirety of the DLC. Upon reading each book, the player is transported into the realm of Apochrypha, which is mainly composed of bubbling, tentacle-infested water and, well, books. Each section forms a labyrinthian maze of literature to explore, all the while fending off attacks from the shade-like Seekers and fish-headed Lurkers. Every aspect of this new feature screams Lovecraftian design and horror and no reference made is at all hard to miss. On completion of each Black Book, the player is allowed to acquire one of three unique perks or powers which are certainly very welcome, if a little overpowered. As of writing my current character is level 51, so in terms of necessity there is little – but thank you for the little escape!

If you’ve read this far just to hear my original claim about riding dragons, then I do believe you are in luck. Yes, in Dragonborn you can now, ahem, ‘fly’ one of those winged beasts – but, not exactly in the way that statement should imply. Using ‘Bend Will’, a new shout that allows you to turn enemies into allies, the player can mount and use a dragon in combat, however you are confined into a particularly disappointing sequence of circling the battle area, with commands limited to ‘attack that’, or ‘land here’. It was a bold concept for Bethesda to push out if they had no intention of fulfilling their word on the matter, however understandably so: with so much landscape and detail to render, there would’ve been doubtless performance issues had the player been allowed to roam freely.

In terms of the plot, you would not be mistaken in feeling a little bit of deja vous. The side quests are fairly unique in part, but we’ve come here to fight that Miraak bloke, haven’t we? Already in place is the expectation of fighting your way into the big, final showdown against the nasty, old boss who’s been hounding your progress for ever so long. On playing, however, I was surprised to see that Bethesda chose to, essentially, take the Alduin route and just roll out another ‘you can only reach this place by dragon’, ‘you will not get the glory of winning it alone’ story. In a series that prides itself on intricate lore and detail, re-using tried and tested formats is fairly enjoyable, but certainly not at the peak it could have been.

I’m aware that this review has maybe appeared a little bleak, but that shouldn’t be seen as a deterrent – Dragonborn is unquestionably a worthy DLC and certainly worth shelling out for if you are a fan of Skyrim and its universe. But, as is with all things Bethesda, it has its numerous bugs and defects that should not go undetected. If, like myself, you play this title on a computer, then I strongly recommend checking out the huge number of community-created mods that patch up all the leaks Bethesda left behind. These can be found through the Steam Workshop, or, for a lot more power and depth, it is advised to use the Skyrim Nexus, which can be found with full instructions here. Solstheim itself forms a decently sized addition of explorable land to the vanilla game and introduces a good number of new enemies and items to tinker with, so should not be passed up just because of a few minor shortcomings – for those familiar with Morrowind‘s Bloodmoon, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the much-needed makeover given to those horrid little Rieklings. Overall, let it be said that I fully endorse this DLC, if just to snatch a glimpse of the ashlands once again – a safe and enjoyable purchase.

Dragonborn is available on Steam, Xbox 360 and Playstation

Buy it on Steam here

Visit the offical website here

IT’S HERE: STEAM GREENLIGHT HAS LANDED

So, you might remember me jabbering on about something called Steam Greenlight last month – well, it’s finally here!

Nicely embedded within Steam’s new ‘Community’ feature, you can now vote for your favourite games and in-development projects to be placed directly into the Store, bypassing those long Valve decisions and bringing the power directly to the consumer.

As of this time, Steam Greenlight is running off a rating system that considers up and down votes on an overall total (for example, Dino Run SE, a personal favourite of mine, has a calculated 1% of ratings so far towards its final goal), meaning that developers are going to be heavily relying on the community for any chance of progress – obviously flaunting the features of Steam’s new ‘Game Hubs’ and sharing system.

With 492 games currently taking part, it’s very exciting to see such a chance for indie developers on a mainstream platform – my only worry being, however, that it is essentially a popularity vote. Flashy graphics, or big online communities do not necessarily make one game better than another, so I sincerely hope that people are going into Greenlight without the intention of knocking out their chosen title’s competition (that down vote button is awfully big).

All in all, it should be interesting to see how smoothly the system runs over the next few weeks, and which games manage to find their way to the top of the pile! I recommend giving Greenlight a browse – a couple of clicks of your mouse could be securing the fate of Steam’s next big hit.

 

Visit Steam Greenlight here, or through your Steam Community section.

WORLD OF WARCRAFT’S SUCCESS AND ITS KILLER

Legend speaks of a so called “WoW-Killer”, an MMO so good and well built that it drains Blizzard’s subscription number down to a low amount. Games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and RIFT have been called this, wrongly. After a couple of months, they all fall, and Warcraft remains strong.

 Why?

It’s simple: WoW is a game that has years of content within it. Spanning the original and its three expansions, that’s nearly seven years of constant development and work. So when a new player comes in, he/she has a gargantuan amount of quests, arenas, dungeons and raids to go through. Therein lies the problem. Picture this: The Old Republic comes out, and offers players 50 levels plus a mediocre endgame, which BioWare promises to improve later. Gamers go, grind through the 50 levels, defeat all the bosses in raids, get the gear. And all in less than two months. Then what? The developer is having problems fixing the bugs, and isn’t able to release more than a mere dungeon in the next update. The patch releases, and the players chew it and swallow it. Yet they need more, and there isn’t enough in the game to keep them satisfied. That’s why they go back to Warcraft, because in there, they have at least 100+ hours of game time guaranteed.

The new game that BioWare had just released, is basically the same that Blizzard released 7 years ago. But why play that, when you can play an updated and improved version of it: Warcraft?

Also, Warcraft gives both unexperienced players and hardcore gamers an immersive experience. The game is layered, and although it might seem simple, many complex formulas and strategies exist for those who like a challenge. Let me be honest, I’m not a hardcore MMO fan, and sometimes when I start in a new game I’m just overwhelmed by the complex features, even though I’ve played my fair share of them. Yet in Warcraft everything has been simple from the start.

Will Guild Wars 2 kill it? Perhaps. Maybe it will suck 2-4 million users. But remember, Blizzard is cunning. They know what to do in moments like these. Once it launches, thousands will go to play it. And Blizzard will just smile, because a month later, their own fourth expansion releases. Those couple thousand people that went running to play Guild Wars? They’re going to run back around. Sadly, I think that Guild Wars is not a franchise that is popular enough to dethrone Warcraft. To hit it hard, a huge fan base will be needed, and it does not have it. Perhaps the Elder Scrolls will, once it launches its own MMO, or maybe Dungeons and Dragons online, who knows?

Their numbers are strong. Credit goes to MMOData.net

It’s the ugly truth. Unless developers start being innovative, instead of just trying to do what WoW did, their games are all going to fail. We have to hope that one day, a developer’s light bulb will light up and a Killer will be born.

But to be honest, I believe that the real WoW-Killer is none other than Warcraft itself. With a stunning number of 9.1 million (as of August) subscribers, it’s going to be hard to topple it. That’s why I believe that the fall will come from within. Maybe Blizzard will commit a huge mistake with an expansion, causing its own demise. It seems to me that the WoW-Killer is just a myth, after all. Let’s wait and see.

MISTS OF PANDARIA: CINEMATIC TRAILER AND OTHER NEWS

Ever since Blizzard announced their fourth expansion, Mists of Pandaria, I felt uneasy. “They’re going to include Pandas? They’re not going to be good characters at all!” Trust me, after watching this, I had no doubts that this will be a good expansion.

This trailer might be what Blizzard needed. It seems like many people have now changed their minds. Have you? I certainly have. I’m leaving later to pre-order this, just so I can have it day one. I’ll be writing more reviews and articles about this expansion, once it comes out this September.

Along with the trailer, Blizzard revealed two things: First, that all races are going to be playable, no matter which expansions you own. If you only have Warcraft and Burning Crusade, don’t worry, you can still play a Worgen. You won’t be able to create a Death Knight, though. Even the Pandaren will be available, but no Monks without Mists. It’s likely that the continent of Pandaria itself won’t be available to people who don’t purchase MoP, but the starting area for our beloved pandas will.

The other news is something that excited me a lot. One of the problems that I felt that this pack was going to suffer was the lack of a major threat. Cataclysm had Deathwing, Wrath had the Lich King and Burning Crusade had Illidan. But now, Blizzard told us who’s the last boss now. Watch out, spoilers. It’s no one else than Garrosh himself. That’s right, we’re finally going to be able to kick some Hellscream ass.

Are you as excited as I am for Mists of Pandaria? You can pre-purchase it here, as I have done already.

MERCENARY KINGS: NEW PROJECT FROM TRIBUTE GAMES THAT NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT!

Earlier today, Jonathan Lavigne’s blog, Pixeltao, revealed the future of Mercenary Kings – the upcoming installment from newly-fledged developer Tribute Games (Wizorb). Since its demo showcase at Dream.Build.Play, a lot of people – myself included – have been very excited about this game, which combines the arcade style and fun of Metal Slug with RPG elements of crafting and character customisation. What they need, however, is your support.

With a project just launched on Kickstarter, Tribute Games are looking for $75,000 to fund and create Mercenary Kings, which will include the art of Paul Robertson (best known for his work on 2010’s Scott Pilgrim game, alongside the founders of Tribute Games), as well as local cooperative play (online tba). With hopes for releasing on both PC and console, any donations and backing will all be extremely helpful in bringing this title to our screens and up to its full potential. Credits and rewards are offered for generosity.

LINKS

Tribute Games website

Mercenary Kings Kickstarter page

Pixeltao blog

Paul Robertson’s Tumblr

QUAKECON, CARMACK AND CONSOLES

Whilst everybody was out drinking, making friends and having fun last night, I was watching the QuakeCon livestream with full concentration, eager to hear from the divine wisdom that is John Carmack – legendary developer and head honcho at id Software. With news on such projects as Doom 3 BFG Edition, the highly anticipated Doom 4 and Carmack’s own thoughts on future console OUYA, this keynote certainly had my utmost attention and in no way repentant for being the antisocial bastard that I am.

Firstly, id has announced that it will be putting a halt to its mobile development. Carmack was regretful to state that, due to other projects demanding attention and Bethesda’s own ambitions, it was becoming too difficult to manage further updates on iOS titles, however was interested in returning to the platform sometime in the future. In the same vein, Quake Live, the popular, free-to-play Quake 3 clone, has also had to shed its development team in the light of recent changes in id’s current priorities. Saddening as it is, hopefully this will guarantee much more detail and time invested into upcoming desktop and console releases.

Doom 3 BFG Edition, scheduled for release October 16 on Xbox 360, PC and PS3, has been crowned with a new trailer, showing off its new HD visuals and ‘Lost Mission’ expansion. Included in the pack will be the Doom back catalogue, which will hopefully give the series a full resurrection into modern gaming – having had no new titles since 2008.

Known mainly for its dark atmosphere and jump scares, it seems that Carmack has instead decided to steer BFG in a different direction from its original release – perhaps to cater to a modern market that is not quite so supported by the ‘hardcore’ gamers of old. Doom 3 will now include a lot more health, ammo and (most significantly) a toggled flashlight – a courtesy that was not rewarded so liberally in the past. Personally, I’m not too happy with these changes, as they are essentially transforming a game that was, at one point, considered genuinely frightening into an action fps. Do what you have to, id, but God help you if you’ve removed Nightmare difficulty.

In his keynote speech, Carmack went on to address the new, Android-based console, OUYA, as a ‘longshot’ for developers – unsure of its potential in value: “It’s neat that they want to cater to indie developers, but I don’t think that’s something a business can run on” (ShackNews). Focusing mainly on offering a fresher, cheaper service, it is obvious as to why id would have little interest in this future release, as it gives off more of a sense of being a hardware version of Steam Greenlight, rather than a fully fledged competitor in the modern console market. Nonetheless, I am still very excited about the OUYA project, which you can read about in more detail here.

Image obtained from PixlGeek.com

QuakeCon has left Doom 4 as secretive as ever this year, with little to no information regarding the project being leaked, or any hint at a release date as of yet. The other development teams being pulled into the project is a good sign, however, and may secure a lot more progress for a possible 2013 preview – Carmack’s eternal insistence of ‘we can’t talk about it’ will always cast a shadow of obscurity for the time being.

Overall, QuakeCon appears to be extremely promising this year, with a definite interest in developing for the Oculus Rift – the ‘first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games’. This isn’t something I really care about, as such, but it will certainly be worth keeping an eye out to see the results of these new technologies and if they can really ‘revolutionise’ the current formats of gaming. Honestly, as long as there are controllers and keyboards, this will never be, as PixlBit stated, more than ‘a hobbyist’s product’.

Just keep bringing the zombies and shotguns, Carmack, and you will never go wrong.