Halo Live-Action Series In The Works, Steven Spielberg On Board

Halo is apparently set for a live-action incarnation...just not on the big screen as years of rumors and speculation seemed to indicate. Microsoft's big unveiling today of its new console, Xbox One (an event which, if we still had a staff of videogame journalists, we would have been ALL over) would come with kind of a non-gaming surprise. Directorial deity, Steven Spielberg appeared via video to reveal that he will be involved as executive producer with a live-action Halo TV series, which be available exclusively through Xbox One with the next-gen system's streaming-centric hardware.

Certainly, the Xbox One presentation came across as the debut of a fancy, elaborate, voice-operated streaming TV box that happens to play videogames, if you are so inclined. It's clear that Microsoft really, REALLY wants their hardware to be the centerpiece of your living room. Now, with the announcement of this Spielberg-headed Halo series as the apparent flagship of Xbox Live's broader, quasi-Netflix business model, their intentions have never been more clear. Additionally, the console will distinguish itself from the established streaming services by supplementing shows like the upcoming Halo with interactive content.

As for Halo's live-action possibilities, the games have certainly provided all the necessary framework for compelling serial storytelling from humanity's apocalyptic interplanetary wars with zealot alien invaders, The Covenant to the arrival of a shared enemy in the parasitic race, The Flood. The property has certainly come a long way, especially after years upon years of lallygagging which at certain points in time had names like Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp seemingly set to helm a potential feature film. Instead, the story of the ultimate high-jumping, Warthog-riding Spartan solider, Master Chief and his sexy hologram helper, Cortana will become the centerpiece of a series which arrives by way of a completely redefining medium. With the series in the reliable hands of Steven Spielberg, who will collaborate with the IP's ever-watchful gatekeepers over at 343 Industries, the potential buzz from this series could, ironically enough, provide THE watershed moment for the upcoming videogame hardware itself.

No timeline has been revealed regarding when the Halo TV series will debut, but the console on which it will manifest, Xbox One, will reportedly debut "later this year." (Translation: "Holiday Shopping Line Madness.")

Star Wars Game License Goes Exclusive to EA

It appears that the Star Wars videogame empire will rise again...under the EA banner. After appearing temporarily collapsed when new overseers, Disney shut down the longstanding home-based developer/publisher, LucasArts last month, it has been announced that EA has signed a multi-year exclusive deal with the new Disney-sized Star Wars franchise to develop and publish games on a global basis.

Upon the announcement of LucasArts' demise, Disney's proposed plan was to follow a license-based model. Indeed, today's news fulfills that model with the monolithic company who has published Star Wars titles in the past like the Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic RPG series and Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG. With the developmental and publishing power of EA by Disney's side on the prospective major titles, the empire of Mickey retains rights to the smaller games targeted for phones and tablets.

As EA Labels President, Frank Gibeau muses on the official site:

"Today, The Walt Disney Company has announced that they have chosen EA to create new Star Wars experiences for gamers worldwide. The magic of Star Wars is interwoven into the worlds, characters, planets and amazing battles. It is a universe that lends itself perfectly to gaming.  Our agreement unlocks a whole new future of Star Wars games that will span consoles, PCs, tablets, mobile and more."

Also notable, is that EA will retain the use of teams from its labels, DICE, Visceral, and BioWare on the development of what should be a steady array of Star Wars projects. So, while the fall of LucasArts remains a sad sign of changing times, it may prove more symbolic than substantive. As Gibeau comments on the developmental teams:

"These imaginative teams will make games that may borrow from films, but the games will be entirely original with all new stories.  Powering it all will be the Frostbite 3 development engine – guaranteeing incredible graphic fidelity, environments and characters."

It will certainly be interesting to see what EA has in store for Star Wars fans, or if they may be so inclined to pick up the pieces of the much-mythologized LucasArts shooter project, Star Wars 1313, which was indefinitely shelved by Disney. The specifics will surely be sprinkling in the coming weeks and months.


Gears Of War Movie Revived With New Producer

Gears of War appears to be back on the menu over in Hollywood. In the first bit of movement for the long-in-the-making video game film adaptation in quite a long time, Variety is reporting that producer, Scott Stuber has been brought on board to begin developing a script for the film depicting war-torn planet, Sera overrun by ruthless invading creatures from beneath the ground.

The selection of Stuber, whose existing deal with Universal Pictures may bring the film to them, was the culmination of six months of meetings over at Epic Games to decide who should steer the initial phase of this film project after years upon years of inertia. Stuber, a producer whose works includes an array of comedy projects like the recent Ted, Identity Thief, and sitcom, Whitney, also has had a part in the action genre with Safe House, Battleship (do we hold that against him?), The Wolfman, and the upcoming quasi-historical Keanu Reeves vehicle, 47 Ronin. However, it seems that part of Stuber's task concerning Gears, is to procure a scriptwriter who will work alongside him and Epic Games in hammering out something worthy of the hugely-popular third-person shooter series.

Interestingly enough, it could be the case that the film may not exactly go the direct route in following the exploits of hero, Marcus Fenix and his Delta Squad crew. The Variety report provides possible (I emphasize, "possible") plot details which indicates otherwise.

"The [videogame] story is set on the planet Sera and follows a former P.O.W. who is civilization’s best hope in the fight against the Locust Horde, a race of creatures who emerged from beneath the planet’s surface and are intent on eliminating humankind."

Of course, this description could fit a number of theories. One, that they intend to go the same route as the successful and long-running Resident Evil films of centering on an original character who exists within the established video game canon, with occasional cameos/supporting roles from the game characters. The other theory (and this is entirely possible), is that the paragraph was a layman's attempt to briefly describe Marcus Fenix's story. (He was, after all, in a prison at the beginning of the first game; an aspect that may have caused some confusion, creating the "P.O.W." narrative.) In all likelihood, the latter explanation seems likely, but you never know.

Nevertheless, it looks like Gears of War has revved up its Lancers and tugged back on its Torque Bows for another possible shot at big screen glory. It's a deep, sprawling, and certainly expensive story to adapt, so it will be interesting to see how the project is handled; especially with its ever-watchful game developer making sure it gets treated with respect.


LucasArts Shut Down By Disney: End Of An Era?

LucasArts, the video game arm of the empire which formerly called George Lucas its Emperor has just been put to rest. Current property owners, Disney have announced that staff have been let go and all projects currently in development, including the ambitious new shooter, Star Wars 1313 have momentarily ceased production.

According to the issued statement:

"After evaluating our position in the games market, we've decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company's risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games. As a result of this change, we've had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles."

There's been no shortage of major news centered around the Star Wars franchise since Disney laid down $4.05 billion dollars to absorb it last fall. (A sequel trilogy, one-shot movies, the cancellation of The Clone Wars, etc.) However, this move, perhaps more than anything, may actually reflect how the old, tightly-controlled, self-sustaining business model created by Lucas has truly been disassembled. Indeed, the news represents how the old ways of a grand business microcosm, centralized towards one man in his giant ranch has ended. In fact, Lucas' iconic effects company, Industrial Lights & Magic will also see layoffs, which may not bode well for its potential posterity, as well.

Is it time to panic? Is it time to celebrate? Well, at this point, what Disney announced is pretty much merely an official codification of what has been happening for the last decade or so, since most of their recent significant titles were developed by outside companies. LucasArts, at least the LucasArts that gained its reputation through groundbreaking video game titles (which actually used to publish games that did NOT contain either "Star" nor "Wars") has certainly not been around in any form familiar to those old enough to remember its creative apex.

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Tomb Raider Reboot Movie In The Works

In a move that may not be the biggest of surprises, the Tomb Raider film franchise will be the next to receive the reboot treatment. According to Variety, MGM studio has acquired the film rights to adapt a new rendition with the alluring archeologist, Lara Croft, who was last portrayed on the big screen by Angelina Jolie in two films in 2001 and 2003 that collectively grossed $432 million worldwide.

Gary Barber, head of the recently-resurgent MGM studio who are still counting the money from recent James Bond mega-hit, Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, made the Croftastic announcement and also revealed that producer, Graham King would be bringing his production company, GK Films on board to develop the project.

According to Barber:

“Graham is one of the premier producers in this industry and I am delighted to be working with him on this exciting franchise. We look forward to developing more projects together in the future.”

With the once-stale Tomb Raider video game series getting a much-needed makeover with a younger, survivalist-centric version of Lara in the recent reboot game, it seemed inevitable that Hollywood would come back and strike while the brown-eyed beauty's iron was once again hot. As surreal as it may seem, we are one whole decade removed from the 2003 sequel, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, the second and last film in which Angelina Jolie donned that tank-top and those oh-so-tight short-shorts to play the character. Certainly, there have been reboot efforts that hit with much closer proximity to their predecessors. **cough**The Amazing Spider-Man***cough**

At the moment, no timetables were revealed for the film's release. However, given that the first entry in the relaunched video game franchise has only just hit, one might conclude that a heralded new film may seek the benefit of the still-new video game's sequel as the proper tent-pole for its arrival. So, it may be a few years before this hits theaters.



Gears of War Judgment

Gears of War: Judgment, the 4th game in Epic’s Gears of War franchise, is out this week (Tuesday 3/19) and so far the reviews are mostly positive! Personally I was beginning to tire of the Gears series so it’s great to hear the positive feedback on the new game; most of which complements the tweaks Epic, and co-developer People Can Fly (Bulletstorm), made to the campaign’s structure. Of course, multiplayer is a big part of Gears of War and Judgment’s new mode OverRun is also getting high praise.

Let’s get to the reviews:

Polygon: Gears of War: Judgment provides multiple main player characters for the first time in the series, and each character's point of view and sometimes conflicting motivations for going off-mission are explored enough to flesh them out. People Can Fly do a workmanlike job in building a story that keeps the game moving, doesn't get in the way, and provides for great set pieces that belong, rather than plopping down random bits of bombast.

Those set pieces are oriented around the great, cover-based shooting that's driven all of the Gears of War games so far. You take cover against various surfaces, moving from one position to another with the A button, and aim around corners and the like with the left trigger. In this respect, Gears of War: Judgment is immediately familiar. But it's the additional wings built on top of Gears' now well-established foundation that make things interesting — like the dynamic spawning system. Rather than the static, scripted enemy spawning and positioning of previous Gears games, Gears of War: Judgment adapts to player strategy and play style by mixing up enemy types and tactics based on how you're playing the game.

IGN: Both story and gameplay really come together in the brilliant Declassify system. These optional objectives, which you can activate before most enemy encounters, trigger a challenging variable that handicaps (your) Kilo Squad. If a Declassify variable impairs your vision, adds stronger or more enemies, cuts your ammunition in half, or forces you to use specific weaponry, the way you play the encounter changes dramatically. Each of these awesome combat mods comes with a reasonable narrative conceit, too. An explosion, for instance, may cause a cloudy layer of dust to sweep through the battlefield and reduce your visibility.

Declassified sections also modify another of Judgment’s new wrinkles: the scoring system. Melee executions, explosions, and turning Locust into gibs increases your star rating during each encounter, and activating a Declassify option multiplies the rate at which you earn stars. Leaderboards and arcade scoring are one thing, but this is another of Judgment’s clever ploys to tinker with the way we play Gears. Knowing what scores big points can drive you in a specific direction – if you want to score big, maybe risking an explosive Torque Bow’s limited ammo instead of the Markza sniper rifle’s full clip is worth your while. Judgment’s evaluation of skill is rewarding in its own right, especially when you know you’ve conquered a tough Declassify mission.

Destructoid: This focus on leveling and winning things leads to Judgment's campaign having a lot more of an "arcade" feel than prior installments. Missions are very short, lasting a few minutes at most, which leads to the already basic story feeling segmented. However, the trade-off is a faster, more chaotic, more varied solo and cooperative experience which, coupled with the declassified extras, leads to an altogether different type of Gears that players are used to. Whether fighting in a room covered in thick dust and full of sword-wielding Therons, or defending a position with sentry bots and turrets, Judgment constantly switches things up on the player, and the bite-sized nature of individual missions leads to a feeling of greater replayability.

Eurogamer: What pushes Judgment over the line from "pretty good" to "pretty great" is multiplayer. Not the same old versus matches that have been a staple of the series since 2006, nor the wave-based Survival mode, nor the late addition of a basic free-for-all deathmatch, nor or the King of the Hill variant, Domination. Those are all fine, but standard fare. No, the secret weapon in Judgment's arsenal is OverRun, a hybrid game mode that pulls together the best elements of the series' online play into something epic and satisfying.

At heart, OverRun is a close relation to Battlefield's Rush mode. The COG team is on the defensive, holding back a player-controlled team of Locusts and (hopefully) preventing them from opening sealed Emergence Holes. Fail twice and the humans have to fall back to protect a generator. If the Locusts destroy that, it's all over. Similarly, if the COG can hold the line until the round timer runs out, the Hammer of Dawn fires up and obliterates the monsters.

With a fuss-free class system and tight, well-planned maps, OverRun is Gears multiplayer at its best, combining the strongest elements of deathmatch and survival game types into one nail-biting experience. There's a great balance between frantic action and tactical collaboration, while the addition of some verticality - reachable by the Scout class for sniping duty - subtly changes the ebb and flow. It's a mode where players of any skill level can find room to shine, but only the best will emerge with the medals and ribbons.

Sounds good, right? Is Gears of War: Judgment a day 1 purchase for you? Let me know!

Resident Evil 6 Gets Release Date

The sixth and final entry in the Resident Evil film series now has a release date set. Fans of the venerable video game and film franchise can mark the date, September 12, 2014 on their calendars for the series' dead-destroying denouement.

Certainly, the idea of a sixth Resident Evil film should come as no surprise to fans of the franchise since director and grand maestro, Paul W.S. Anderson previously stated that 2010's Resident Evil: Afterlife (the fourth film) would be the first of a trilogy finale, which was eventually continued with last year's Resident Evil: Retribution, and soon to be concluded with the yet-to-be-titled sixth film.

The success of this series is actually an unsung tale in the modern film industry as it has seemingly garnered so much fan loyalty, evidenced by consistent box-office numbers. While most people (even some of those fans) will attest that they are not masterpieces, each iteration continually defies odds that are usually stacked against films adapted from video game titles. Now, in appropriate fashion, the loyalty of those fans who have made this film franchise a nearly $1 billion dollar cashcow will get a proper send-off. Milla Jovovich's once-again-super-powered shambling-slayer, Alice and company, now in a shaky alliance of mutual convenience with Shawn Roberts' Albert Wesker, will look to finally end this viral zombie apocalypse by physically uninstalling the sinister super-computer, The Red Queen. -- Certainly with twists and turns along the way.

While not much of anything is known about the film's specifics, as evidenced by the previous film's wistful revival of dead characters as clones, this does seem to be a series that's in touch with its own decade-plus history. Thus, the finale will certainly be an epic cavalcade of carnage, while likely looking to bring things full circle back to its roots in certain ways.


PlayStation 4's User Interface Revealed In New Screens

Those who watched Sony's PlayStation Meeting 2013 no doubt spotted a handful of early looks at the fall 2013 console's user interface. Now there are some actual screens pulled from the presentation, shared by Sony. You'll see what appears to be the dashboard, a player's profile page, some looks at the Share interface, and a peek at what might show up on mobile platforms.

Hit the jump for a couple more looks, or head over to All Games Beta for the full load of images.

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Tags: Videogames

Need For Speed Most Wanted's CloudCompete System Announced

Electronic Arts has spent the past year and a half developing an online framework that allows the publisher to track a single gamer's identity (in EA titles, natch) across multiple platforms, as chief technology officer Rajat Taneja revealed in an interview with GamesBeat. From consoles to mobile platforms to EA's own Origin service, your profile and game progress can be tracked and carried over.

"Our strategic vision at EA is to create a single backend system so that we can truly embrace the secular trends in our industry that are creating massive growth for games. And we will be able to embrace all of the new business models that come with that," Taneja told GamesBeat. There's no word on when this new initiative will go live, though planned features include cross-platform communication within your social network and cross-platform game saves.

EA has been moving in this direction for awhile, with 2012's Need for Speed: Most Wanted employing a CloudCompete system that allows players to earn the in-game equivalent of XP for their profile regardless of which platform they're playing on. Taneja offers up quite a bit of info, so be sure to check out the full interview on GamesBeat.

Tags: Videogames

The Last of Us "Development Series Episode 1: Hush" Video »

Dev diaries often fall somewhere between "mildly interesting" and "total fluff," but you might be interested in this behind-the-scenes clip from Naughty Dog for The Last of Us. Little is shown in the way of new gameplay, but the three-minute short takes a closer look at the origin of the game's infected.

The Last of Us is set in a post-apocalyptic world that's been torn apart by a global plague triggered by a deadly fungus. It spreads via spores released by the infected at their most advanced stage, a point at which the human form has become little more than a shell that houses the plague. Cheerful stuff, right?

The Last of Us comes to PlayStation 3 consoles on May 7, 2013.

Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag Confirmed By Ubisoft

The rumors are true: Ubisoft's next Assassin's Creed game is called Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. The publisher confirmed the title and offered a first official look at title art on its Facebook page, promising a more complete reveal on Monday, March 4, 2013, at 12pm ET.

The art jives with leaked materials that were shared by Kotaku earlier this week. One poster offered a look at an Assassin-hooded fellow fighting with what appear to be pirates (a Jolly Roger flag is clearly visible in the background). The reverse side of the poster shows what appears to be a map of the game's world. In related news, All Games Beta shared a trio of box art images that suggest the game is headed to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U; the PS3 version apparently includes 60 minutes of exclusive content as well.


THQ Starts

Folding publisher THQ sold off its biggest and most valuable assets in a January 2013 auction, and now it's been confirmed that the rest of its holdings will be sold off in a second auction. Initial bids must be submitted by April 1 and final bids must follow two weeks later, on April 15. The entire process is expected to conclude in mid-May.

THQ's remaining properties are being divided into six separate lots. Four of those lots connect to a single franchise: Darksiders, Red Faction, Homeworld, and MX. The other two lots amount to "Other Owned Software" and "Other Licensed Software." The former includes titles like Destroy All Humans!, de Blob, and Titan Quest; the latter's highlights include Supreme Commander, Worms, and Costume Quest.

Read more about the auction and see a full breakdown of the assets to be sold in the official press release.

Tags: Videogames

Diablo 3 Demon Hunter Details - Sexy, Mysterious, and Hates Demons

Blizzard Entertainment has confirmed that the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 versions of Diablo 3 won't link up with Battle.net, which means no cross-platform play using your profile on the PC side. Word comes from Blizzard community manager 'Vaeflare' speaking on the Battle.net forums, as spotted by Shacknews.

The post also confirms that there's no plan either to add gamepad support to the PC version of the game. Similarly, the console versions will not support USB-connected mouse/keyboard controls. ShackNews rightly notes that this console take on Diablo 3 is clearly a different game, with new elements such as a dodge move. It's unfortunate that the console and PC versions of the game aren't part of the same, unified network, but it's not all together surprising.

Uncharted 3

It looked very much like Naughty Dog was going to serve up Uncharted 3's multiplayer for the free-to-play crowd earlier this week, and now we can call it official. Multiplayer content in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception has been carved out into its own free-to-play framework, offering fans limited progression and unlimited play.

It's a pretty straigthforward setup: download the multiplayer client at no charge from the PS Store and play all you want up to level 15. While you can continue playing with no problem after that point, profile progression remains locked until you pay to remove the level cap. 

Those who already own Uncharted 3 can just keep playing unhindered, and those who don't also now have the option of purchasing a DLC-packed Game of the Year Edition from the PS Store, for $39.99. If you already have an existing Uncharted 3 profile, you'll also receive a free Naughty Dog Paw rank icon and Naughty Dog Paw t-shirt for your online characters as a thank you gift.

The New Razer Edge Tablet: A Real Game Changer

Razer's gaming-focused Edge tablets are coming soon, with the hardware maker confirming that pre-orders will open for the two launch models on March 1, 2013 at 12:01am PT. The Edge and Edge Pro tablets start at $999.99 for the base model, with two additional options priced at $1,299.99 and $1,449.99, respectively.

The base-level model packs in an Intel Core i5 CPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and an NVIDIA GT 640 GPU, with a 64GB of SSD storage to install your games onto. The two higher-priced models use Pro specs, which means an upgrade to an i7 CPU, 8GB of DDR3, and either 128GB or 256GB of storage, depending on which one you go for.

Razer didn't confirm yet when the Edge will be released, but the company had previously suggested that it was shooting for Q1 2013. With pre-orders kicking off at the beginning of the month, it likely won't be much longer.

Tags: Tech, Videogames
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