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The Verdict: Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2

Zombie slayers, rejoice! Then find a damn good hiding place or a gun with a spare bullet for yourself because the “The Sacrifice” DLC for Left 4 Dead AND Left 4 Dead 2 is pretty brutal. 

This campaign shows the fateful events leading up to the crossover DLC “The Passing” (Read our Left 4 Dead "The Passing Review) and the demise of chain smoking Vietnam vet, Bill. That said, Bill doesn’t have to die here: any one of the survivors can sacrifice themselves to save the team...if they can survive long enough.

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The Verdict: Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Guitar Peripheral

There was a point when my plastic guitar collection was reaching increasingly higher into two-digit numbers, until I scrapped almost all of them. All of them except the outdated Gibson X-Plorer wired controller for GH2 on 360, because I still think it’s the best guitar to date.

That’s why I’m happy to report that the new Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock guitar is probably closest in feel to the X-Plorer than any instrument that’s come out since. The strum and whammy bars feel comparable though, aesthetically, flames aren’t my first choice of decoration for anything; however, the design -- very in step with the graphical look of the game -- is inoffensively campy.

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So, a couple weeks ago, while previewing HAWX 2, I had the opportunity to try flying a SIAI Marchetti SF-260, a small fighter plane introduced in 1966. Sure, I wasn’t responsible for take-off or landing because, I’ll just throw this out here, it probably isn’t the thing you can learn in one afternoon with no prior training other than some experience in flight sims on the PC back in the mid-nineties, no matter what Snakes on a Plane might make you think.

Beforehand, my hilariously salty co-pilot Nails, a retired Navy and commercial pilot, taught me many important lessons like how to use a parachute, where the barf bag is located, never to take my eyes off my opponents plane and the term “d*ck-skinners” (look it up). Nails is awesome. Following the safety briefing, it was time to go hands-on…with a freaking fighter plane!

 

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 All Access Preview »


 

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Alan Wake

I was initially skeptical about the idea of DLC for a game so self-contained and consciously edited as Alan Wake; however, The Signal does a fine job continuing the story as Wake takes a journey through his own twisted psyche. Glimpses of the real world show Alan in the care of Doctor Hartman, giving some indication of the reality behind the nightmare, but the actual story is a twisted recap that meets a bit of self-exploration in the depths of Alan’s mind.

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Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Onslaught Co-Op Mode Dated

There’s a touch of controversy surrounding “Onslaught Mode,” Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s DLC, that needs to be cleared up. Yes, the download is a mere 956 KB. No, you’re not paying to unlock disc-based content. It’s part of the Multiplayer Update #2 patch that you’ll be automatically prompted to download when you start up the game. Is it odd that, should you never buy “Onslaught Mode,” the content will still eat up precious space on your harddrive? Yes. Now, if you weren’t someone angrily posting on a forum, sorry for the PSA.  Keep reading to learn more about the mode in action.

“Onslaught” is a 1-4 player co-operative mode that plays like a hybrid of “Rush” and “Conquest” with players securing flags as copious amounts of AI enemies defend the area. After a point is taken, your team progresses to the next one, and so on, until all enemy bases have been captured. You’ll fail the mode if all teammates are killed but as long as one is still alive, you can keep spawning (after a short delay) onto your squad.

If you’re the solo’ing type, you’ll quickly notice that the suggested “1-4 players” is a bit of a stretch. You can play alone, but since there’s no difficulty scaling, it’s an exercise in frustration and futility. Since each map employs a variety of vehicles and infinitely respawning (though not brilliant) AI, it’s tough to be classed appropriately for each encounter with just one, or even two players. The only concession the game makes for single players is to allow infinite respawns rather than ending the game, but that doesn’t make it any more fun. In short, “1-4 players” really means four people utilizing every available class, especially if you’re playing in the brutal hardcore mode.

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Borderlands DLC: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx

Borderlands is the game that keeps on giving, and The Secret Armory of General Knoxx is no exception. In fact, Armory is the best DLC to date, and possibly better than the core game itself. How can it be so good? The writing, strategy, missions and characters are unmatched by anything Gearbox has released prior. Add on the crazy amounts of XP you’ll get, plus the treasure trove of weapons and mods Armory has to offer and you’ll end up feeling like the baddest thing in the wastelands…until you meet Crawmerax.
 
A quick note for those about to load up the new content: Armory doesn’t scale to your character’s level, so players middling about in the 40’s have the problem of being overpowered (on the first playthrough) or cannon fodder (on the second playthrough). Even starting out on playthrough two at level 50, you’ll want to recruit some friends to help; some of the bosses cap out at level 64, so even when you reach 61, the new level cap, you’ll be too underpowered to fight it out alone.

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Style Savvy might be the best game this year that was reviewed least by the games industry. As Editorial Manager for X-Play, I tend to acquire large piles of games on my desk, and not the ones everyone wants (those disappear quickly). I get the ones that don’t get reviewed for one reason or another, generally because they don’t fit our demographic. Just like many outlets struggle to find staff members who specialize in racing or sports titles, it’s hard to find a video game reviewer who specializes in fashion (or is even remotely interested in it).

Style Savvy

One of the top selling franchises for Ubisoft has been the Imagine series, which I have also played out of curiosity. Style Savvy, Nintendo’s entry into the subject matter, is a more detailed and complex version of those games but geared to a slightly older audience. One look at the box art, though, and you’d never guess the game could be as deeply satisfying as it is.

In fact, it’s been hard being on the Style Savvy defensive here. I’ve heard a lot of “Abbie, what are you doing?”, “Seriously?”, and received a lot of blank stares when I claim “Really guys, it’s awesome.” But it is!

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  • News
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  • News
    (4)
  • Previews
  • Review
  • Videos
    (2)
  • Screenshots
  • Cheats and Walkthroughs

Hooray! Your requests (there were none, actually) for a Style Savvy review have been answered! In short, this game is a joy and it’s a shame no one can embrace their inner girly girl long enough to appreciate it. Well, I’m here to act as your inner girl-child for the day and tell you exactly what makes Style Savvy so great. Did all those games push their release dates in fear of Modern Warfare 2…or were they really worried we’d all be caught up styling our mannequins while gearing up for the platinum fashion contest? Okay…probably the former, but don’t dismiss Style Savvy just yet…watch.

Style Savvy Review with Abbie Heppe »


 

 

Left 4 Dead Direct-Feed Survival Mode - The Last Stand »


Can it, whiners! Easily the most common complaint leveraged against Left 4 Dead was that it had too little content and on April 21st players are getting a FREE download with plenty more zombie shooting action. Did I mention it’s free? Xbox 360 users hardly get anything for that price, except refurbished red-ringed consoles. The DLC adds three significant changes to the game, the melee fatigue already introduced on the PC, the inclusion of Dead Air and Death Toll in versus mode, and the addition of Survival Mode with 16 maps, 15 borrowed and one new.

Nasty, Brutish and Short


Survival mode takes all of the areas, 15 in all, from the original Left 4 Dead maps where you call the horde, like at the elevator in No Mercy and at the crane in Dead Air. There’s also the brand new lighthouse themed, “The Last Stand” with the apt tagline “it doesn’t end well”, because, despite being the level loaded with pills, explosives, ammo and health…well, good luck lasting long enough to use any of them. There’s no rescue in sight for Survival mode, just a never-ending flow of zombies and the crushing feeling of impending doom (or a tank beating you into the pavement). Apparently, the team at Valve hasn’t surpassed the 10 minute mark, and our fairly skilled crew topped out at a little over four minutes in Death Toll’s drains, earning a bronze and falling nearly three minutes short of a silver ranking. For comparison, my first lighthouse run relying solely on AI lasted a whopping two minutes and forty-one seconds. That’s longer than some of my attempts with human players, but don’t expect to set any records with the AI in tow.

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GDC 2009: Game Design Challenge With Kelly, Haro, And Meretsky

Each year, GDC challenges select game designers to create a game based on a difficult theme -- whether it's creating a game that could win a Nobel Peace Prize or be inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem. This year, contestants Sulka Haro (lead creative on Habbo Hotel), previous winner Steve Meretzky (notably of Infocom) and duo Heather Kelley and Erin Robinson were asked to design a game based on their own experiences with sex, hence the apt “My First Time." Notably absent from the panel was Kim Swift, creator of Portal, who was apparently asked not to participate thanks to the um, controversial nature of the topic. What the topic inspired, however, isn’t so much controversial, as humorous, voyeuristic and slightly self-deprecating.

As a last minute replacement for Swift, Heather Kelley and Erin Robinson paired up and created their game in under 36 hours rather than the several weeks allotted to everyone else. What they came up with is a WarioWare-esque minigame foray into the intricacies and awkwardness of that special night including shaving legs, choosing the right LP (you know, old school iTunes), unbuckling the belt and counting all the Terry Pratchett books on the shelf (a more humorous take on counting ceiling tiles, amirite, ladies?). Your score (oh, the puns just flew around in this session) is based on how high you can get your humiliation meter without actually reaching the point of abject failure.

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GDC 2009: 'Warhammer Online's' Paul Barnett Talks Creative Direction In Games

When a GDC session kicks off with the speaker announcing, "I don’t like GDC" and expressing his frustration at being contractually obligated even to do the session along with a PowerPoint slide of a gun to his head, you know it’s bound to be good. Similar to the living embodiment of a schizophrenic brain to the point where my notes read something like "Beatles, Lester Bangs, optical illusions, E.T.," creative director on Warhammer, Paul Barnett presented a delightfully scattered, but incredibly inspiring rant on creative direction in games which I will now try (and most likely, fail) to bring justice to in print.

Where do Creem, the Smiths and Joy Division fit into creative game design? Well, he makes a good point that from discs and CDs and now downloadable content, music and video games have shared many platforms for dispersion to the masses. But better than that, he points out that "things are new and exciting when you discover them." When England was in a golden age of depressing music, Paul discovered his own golden age with the Commodore 64 and computer games. "Your history is only of interest to you" Paul says, "but your culture defines you and England was fueled by a lack of resources." From the popularity of pirating and sharing games in grade school, Barnett says he played about 7,600 games at a young age. That’s a lot of games, but I’ll believe him because he kept a list. He then blames consoles and the love of hardware (it’s true!) for the demise of that golden age and the death of accessibility to designing your own game, something that Wii Ware, XNA and Flash games have now made possible again sparking a second Golden Age of games.

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