EA has taken a lot of flak recently for its microtransaction model. First, there was the highly unpopular “lawnmower tax” in Plants vs. Zombies 2, which required players to repurchase any lawnmowers lost in the course of play. Previously lawn mowers would respawn at the start of each new level. Then Peter Molyneux vocally expressed his disdain for the pay-or-wait mechanic in the recently released free-to-play version of Dungeon Keeper.
Join Gamespot as we play Titanfall beta with Call of Duty pro gamer: Tyler “TeePee” Polchow and Halo Pro Gamer: Brett “Naded” Leonard to discuss its competitive future. We will also be giving away beta keys! Join us on February 18, starting at 11 AM PT.
Reinventing an arcade classic presents unique challenges that few developers can rise to. Finding a balance between the spirit of the original and the lessons of modern game design is a tricky task that often results in disappointment. But TxK is a masterful example of doing it right. Though it is technically only a sequel to Atari’s Tempest in spirit, this Vita shooter sports the same vector-style visuals, the same tube-based gameplay, and even the same yellow player ship as the 1981 original, all refined into a stunning modern interpretation.
The extent to which TxK is Tempest on steroids cannot be understated, because its mastermind, Jeff Minter, was responsible for Tempest 2000 on the Atari Jaguar. TxK takes everything great from T2K and amplifies it, delivering an adrenaline-heavy arcade experience that stays remarkably close to its classic roots.
If you’ve somehow avoided Tempest over the last few decades, its basics are simple: Your ship sits at the top of a plane (traditionally cone-like, though TxK also features flattened, curved, and jagged shapes), with enemies coming up to get you from below. You want to destroy them before they reach you, because they attempt to grab you and pull you down into the abyss from whence they came–unless they simply blow you up first.
At the start of every short level, you are limited to basic movement (left and right along the plane) and shooting, as well as a single smart bomb, dubbed the supertapper (like Tempest’s superzapper), which blows up all enemies onscreen. Holding the L button locks you in place and allows you to “lean” into the lane to your right or left, which can be useful for destroying enemies while simultaneously dodging projectiles. By collecting power-ups that come toward you along with the enemies, you can upgrade your weapon speed, earn an AI drone to fight alongside you, and, perhaps most importantly, gain the ability to jump, allowing you to dodge many would-be fatal enemy encounters. But when the level ends, all those upgrades are gone, and you start from scratch again, with a single smart bomb and little else.
When the action ramps up, all of this can become hard to follow. The visuals are beautiful, but busy, mimicking the simple vector graphics of the original Tempest while throwing a lot more psychedelic effects, colors, and general noise onto the screen at once. This includes seemingly unrelated bits of text on occasion, so using a smart bomb might mean the phrase “Eat your vegetables” is thrown in your face for a split second. Why? Who knows. While the quirkiness has some charm, it can be one of TxK’s faults. In later levels especially, there is so much happening at once that the visuals are overwhelming to the point of being disorienting, and it can be frustrating when the screen is so cluttered that you fail to see what kills you when you lose a life. In an effort to ramp up the difficulty, some levels not only twist and fold into each other, but also start twisting and turning as you’re trying to play. With so much happening onscreen, it becomes very easy to lose track of where you are and what direction you’re moving in.
That said, TxK’s difficulty curve is sufficiently gradual, allowing you to improve your skills without even realizing it. You forget just how much easier the first 10 levels are compared to the final 10 until you go back and play them. And you will want to go back sometimes. Unless you’re playing either Pure mode (seeing how far you can get starting at level one) or Survival mode (also starting at level one, but with extra lives and bonus levels disabled), you can freely select any level you’ve unlocked. But TxK takes replaying older levels one clever step further than most arcade games. You don’t save your progress, nor do you simply have the option of starting a new game from the highest level you’ve reached. Instead, anytime you select a level above level one, you begin with the highest score and highest number of lives that you’ve ever had upon reaching that level previously.
…an adrenaline-fueled arcade experience that stays remarkably close to its classic roots.
For example, say you reach level 40 for the first time, but you get there with only two lives to spare. The game lets you start back at level 40 with two lives anytime you want. However, if you go back earlier in the game and reach level 40 again, this time with a higher score and a total of six lives on hand, you can now always start the game from level 40 with six lives. It’s a smart system, and it provides incentive to replay earlier levels in the hopes of performing better.
The sound is as amazing a mix of old and new as the visuals and design. Catchy techno beats underscore different groups of levels with intriguing vocal sound samples sprinkled throughout, one of which sounds as if it were taken from a news story about old game consoles. Meanwhile, many of the effects you hear as you play sound like they were ripped straight out of other arcade and Atari classics (the jump sound, for instance, might be straight out of Pitfall).
Despite the occasional frustration of visual pollution, all the aspects of TxK come together to make it a wonderful merger of what made an arcade classic fun and what makes modern twitch-based games enthralling. It’s topped off with local and online leaderboards to encourage you to play long after you’ve finished all 100 levels, and the Classic Mode’s clever use of saving your best performance gives that high-score chase a unique twist. TxK is an example of the right way to reimagine and remaster a classic, and it’s easily one of the better digital games in the Vita’s library.
[UDPATE] Following the publication of this story, Halo voice actor Steve Downes and Microsoft issued new statements to GameZone.
“It sounds like I was ‘confirming’ [an] H2A edition, which I most certainly was not,” Downes said. “I’m in no position to do that as I have no knowledge of it. I was only mentioning what I had seen on line about it.”
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s statement for Downes reads: “I think you’re ahead of yourself on H5. I have read some things on line that you can look forward to a H2 anniversary edition maybe this year, but I have no official information one way or the other.”
The original story is below.
The voice of Master Chief has stated that Halo fans should expect a new entry to the series to drop next year.
Speaking in a recent interview with GameZone, voice actor Steve Downes said, “I think you may be ahead of yourself on Halo 5. I wouldn’t expect anything until 2015.”
It was not revealed what consoles the game would be released for, or which studio would be taking the lead on development.
Downes also confirmed that the anniversary edition of Halo 2 would be launching this year, marking 10 years since the game’s first release. A Microsoft representative told GameSpot, “We can confirm your next Halo journey will begin in 2014, but beyond that, we don’t have any details to share at this time.”
New research from Oxford University indicates that playing action games can help people better manage dyslexia, a common learning disability that makes it difficult for people to read, write, and spell. As reported by NPR and FOX News, though many programs that aim to help people with dyslexia focus on words and phonetics, the Oxford researchers say dyslexia is actually rooted in attention.
Therefore, approaches to helping those struggling with the disability should focus on training the brain’s attention system, which video games can do quite well.
“These video games require you to respond very quickly, to shift attention to one part of the screen to another,” experimental psychologist and lead study author Vanessa Harrar said. The study, “Multisensory Integration and Attention in Developmental Dyslexia,” was published this month in Cell Biology.
One well-known side effect of dyslexia is a person having difficulty looking at an image and then shifting their attention to a sudden noise. In the study, researchers tested the reaction times of 34 people by asking them to press a button every time they heard a sound, saw a dim flash, or experienced both.
The half of the group that had dyslexia had slower reaction times compared to the control group–and this makes sense, Harrar said.
But when it came to reacting to a visual cue following a sound cue, the dyslexic group had similar reaction times compared to the control group. Researchers said this might be because the sound cues came from the same point of origin as the visual cues.
This conclusion led the Oxford researchers to suggest that video games could be helpful for dyslexic people. Specifically, these games would help them become accustomed to switching more easily between audio and visual cues.
“The idea is to train with some kind of video game that trains the eye movements to different locations to add in that multisensory component,” Harrar said.
It’s important to note, however, that researchers have only hypothesized so far that video games could be useful; they have never actually tested to see what kind of effect video games might have.
Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford has said that the developer isn’t working on Borderlands 3. Not yet, anyway.
In an interview with Polygon, Pitchford shot down the idea that the team was quietly cooking away on a sequel. “We are not working on Borderlands 3,” he said. “That is unqualified. We have more to do in the franchise, but no there isn’t a Borderlands 3.”
“When you think of what Borderlands 3 should be, it should be massive,” Pitchford said.
How massive? “It should be bigger and better than Borderlands 2. It should carry forward the story. It’s probably crazy multiplatform, depending on timing. It would have to be a next-gen game and a current-gen game, if it was coming at any time in the reasonably near future.”
We’ll see more of the Borderlands universe soon in Telltale Games’ adventure game series–and maybe a few other projects, suggests Pitchford–but as for a traditional sequel, well, it sounds like Gearbox is still working it out.
“We love Borderlands, and we know customers do too. So we will be doing more in Borderlands. But the thing that, when you think of what Borderlands 3 should be… No. We are not developing that right now. We don’t know what that is yet. We can imagine what it must achieve, but we don’t know what it is yet. I’m not going to f**k around with you like Valve does with Half-Life 3. Look. We know we want it and we know it should exist, but we don’t know what it is yet. But we are doing things in Borderlands that we’ll announce soon, that are good, and that I think people will be really excited about if you love the franchise.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Pitchford detailed what the studio was currently working on: Furious Four (which Pitchford insists has not been cancelled), a new Brothers in Arms game, remastered versions of the original 2 Homeworld games, a brand new Homeworld title, and two unannounced titles that are new IP. Crikey.
Major League Gaming is expanding. The leading eSports organization today announced a partnership with Grupo Águia to launch MLG Brasil, the group’s first international initiative. Grupo Águia is a specialized travel group based in Brazil that has “decades” of experience working with global sports and tourism initiatives like this year’s World Cup.
MLG cofounder and president Mike Sepso said in a statement that Grupo Águia’s “extensive experience” made them the “perfect” partner and teased further expansion plans.
“MLG has long been focused on growing the competitive gaming scene and we quickly recognized the tremendous opportunity to create a strong presence in the largest economic market in Latin America,” Sepso said. “This is the first of many international franchises we plan to roll out in the coming years and we are excited to provide South American gamers with the ultimate platform to compete on a global scale.”
MLG’s expansion into Brazil comes in the company’s 11th year of operation and follows partnerships with international leagues to increase its foothold in Europe and Asia. MLG Brasil’s first initiative will be the Call of Duty Championship Brazilian Online Qualifiers on February 16 and 23.