ET: Quake Wars looks like it wants to be Battlefield

Attendees of this year’s QuakeCon (which is still ongoing) have been lucky enough to get the opportunity to play the upcoming Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, a multiplayer game very much along the lines of Battlefield and, more distantly, Team Fortress where you play a distinct role alongside a team of comrades.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars And, as you’d expect, some video footage was taken of the gameplay. Four videos are currently available on IGN, and I must say the game does look like it’s shaping together rather well. Some parts look slightly rough such as the “I am dead, please revive me” animation, but overall I’m rather impressed. I recommend using the “Watch It Now” links on IGN to view the videos straight away via Flash.

But I’m also slightly underwhelmed. Although everyone’s known from the start that I’ll have a lot in common with Battlefield, I wasn’t expecting it to be this similar. Anyone who’s played Battlefield 2 will immediately notice that the game looks, feels and sounds like Battlefield 2 through and through. The parachuting (or whatever they’re doing), the artillery attacks, the ingame promotion announcements — it’s all very “I’ve seen this before”.

Battlefield 2142 I really hope the end game is a little more unique as this literally just looks like a futuristic Battlefield 2. That would be all well and good if EA themselves weren’t already working on a futuristic sequel to the aforementioned game: Battlefield 2142. And while Quake Wars seems like it’s only just caught up with the extremely stellar and popular gameplay of Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142 looks like it’s developed a whole new feel. Largely because you now have to take over giant spaceships rather than ground objectives.

What do you guys think? Am I being a bit harsh on Quake Wars here or is it really as samey as I think? Oh, and for the sake of completion here’s a good video of Battlefield 2142. Personally I’m putting my support behind the Battlefield sequel, not only because of what’s been shown but also because Dice/EA have a lot of experience with the genre and have three full, successful titles in the series under their belt thus far.

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Nintendo 64 kid interviewed; is no longer a gamer

Many people have come across the Nintendo 64 kid video during the past several months. If you haven’t, allow me to describe it in one sentence: a young boy gets excessively excited when his parents buy him a Nintendo 64 for Christmas. Seems innocent enough, right? Just wait until you see the video!

Nintendo 64 kid Some will see bits of themselves in the Nintendo 64 kid, reminded of the days when they too would get excited in front of the Christmas tree. Others will see a deranged child who clearly needs to lay off the smarties. Whatever the case, there’s no doubt that the video is a charming depiction of childhood joy, even if it is a bit worrying.

People were surprised a week or so ago when the Nintendo 64 kid’s original N64 appeared on eBay, allegedly being sold by the Nintendo 64 kid himself — except now all grown up. It looks like it’s the real deal, and DSMeet has taken the opportunity to interview him, asking him all sorts of questions.

One of the most startling revelations in the interview is that the Nintendo 64 kid isn’t a gamer at all, and only used the N64 he got so excited about for roughly a year:

“NO [I’m] not [a gamer] at all actually, haha I spend my time filming skateboarding and short films, editing, working on my website, skateboarding, being with my girlfriend, and what not … I played [on my Nintendo 64] for like a year then got out of it. I still NEVER play video games, cept for 007 golden eye every once in a while.”

Nintendo 64 kid joyful So there you have it. A kid that many assumed would turn out to be one of the most devoted gamers ever doesn’t play them at all, and instead spends his time doing regular teenager things: film editing, skateboarding, and girlies.

I really hope this is the real guy because the auction on eBay currently stands at $1,001, which is quite a pretty penny for an N64 and two controllers! In fact, this gives me a cunning plan. I’ll need my younger brother, my old N64, and a video camera. See you later!

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6 things that’ll make the Nintendo Wii a success

Nintendo Wii As everybody knows, motion sensitive input is nothing new to the console world. Others have tried to make motion sensors a popular part of the gaming experience over the years, including SEGA and Microsoft. And you know what? They failed. Most people of today haven’t even heard of the old devices, and even fewer have ever used one.

History has a tendency to repeat itself, so what’s to stop the Wii taking a few steps and then falling flat onto its face? If past efforts went so badly, why won’t this one? As far as I’m concerned there are six things that when combined will give the Wii the success Nintendo wants.

1. The Wii’s motion sensor device will not be optional

This is probably the most important point of all. Put simply, consumers will get no choice in the matter of whether or not their console supports motion sensor technology. They don’t need to buy anything extra to make it work; it’s there right out of the box.

Why is this important, you ask? It’s all about necessity. People like to spend as little as possible if they can. Think about yourself. You generally buy games and a memory card for your consoles, right? But what about all the other things that’re available? How many of you own the addon for the GameCube that lets you play GameBoy games? What about the EyeToy for the Playstation? Super GameBoy for the Super Nintendo? Just three examples out of dozens.

EyeToy, Super GameBoy and GameCube GBA Addon That’s right: most people don’t bother with extraneous hardware. Anything not included with the main console is almost always discarded as a gimmick. By including the device with the console from the outset, a massive group of people who wouldn’t otherwise bother have been penetrated.

This is why those who say “They might as well just release the Wiimote for the GameCube” are talking garbage. If Nintendo did this, it wouldn’t sell. You know it and they know it. Nintendo understands that the only way to standardise a piece of hardware is to push it as a mandatory component. Nintendo invented neither the D-Pad nor the analogue stick, but by respectively making them an included part of the NES and N64 they standardised both. That’s a fact.

2. Developers will have to cater for the Wiimote
What’s the best way to make sure developers for your console embrace your new input device and make games that exploit it to its fullest? You give them no choice. As many heard around E3 time, the Wii will come with a second controller known as the “classic controller”, designed for playing pre-Wii games and apart from its appearance is basically a GameCube controller.

Classic controller However, a lot of fans have deduced that instead of messing around with the Wiimote, developers will simply use the classic controller and continue doing things as they’ve always done. Even with the Wiimote as a mandatory piece of hardware, it’ll be ignored and point #1 of this list will be rendered redundant.

Problem is, this might not be an option. What’s to say Nintendo hasn’t designed the system so the classic controller can only be used with classic games? Or more specifically, it’ll only become usable when in backwards compatibility mode. This’d mean that even when developing fairly conventional games, utilising the Wiimote would be necessary. Therefore it’d be in the best interests of developers to at least use it well.

But that’s not all. Everybody knows Nintendo has no problem with hardware; they’ve a history of creating superb technology, and have often led the way with graphics. The GameCube was an excellent piece of hardware for its time, as was the N64, SNES and NES. So why does the Wii have hardware with far less brute force than its two main competitors? Why would Nintendo openly let themselves fall behind?

Wiimote Two reasons. The first is of course cost: developing advanced technology requires a lot of money, which ends up falling on the consumer’s shoulder. Because of the Wii’s relatively light hardware, it’ll have an appropriately light price tag, rumoured to be an absolute maximum of $250 but probably less. The second reason is focus: by making sure developers can’t rely on graphics as a major selling point, they’ll be forced into impressing people with innovative gameplay, the Wiimote of course being the most accessible way of doing this.

Developing for the Wii and not using the Wiimote would be bad resource management at its worst. This is a console that makes focusing on graphics impossible, so not making full use of what it does have — a new input device — would be ludicrous. Of course, this could result in publishers simply telling Nintendo to stuff it and working on games for the Xbox 360 and PS3 instead, but since lots have already signed up to work on the Wii this isn’t likely.

3. The Wii will be a lot cheaper than its competitors

The Wii is going to have a massive advantage as far as pricing goes. At the moment an Xbox 360 costs around £280 ($360) and its games go for about £50 ($93) a time. The Playstation 3 is said to debut at £425 ($800) with games more expensive than the Xbox 360’s. If those prices look a bit high to the American readers out there, that’s because we get inflated to pieces in the UK.

They are scary numbers. They’re not the kind of prices your average gamer wants to pay, and definitely not the kind your family wants to spend on a Christmas present or whatever. The Wii on the other hand is as far as I’m aware confirmed to be less than $250 at launch, and Nintendo has hinted it will cost the same as their past consoles have launched at ($200/£130).

I don’t think I even need to elaborate on this point. The Wii’s price will be a lot more attractive to most people, and will at the very least grab their attention.

4. The DS has re-established Nintendo’s credibility

DS Lite The GameCube was extremely damaging to Nintendo. Because of its poor execution, a lot of people lost faith in the company. Even the most supportive of fans couldn’t help but be underwhelmed by the game selection and repressed by the general opinion others had of the machine (“You have a GameCube? Heh, heh, heh!”). Public perception of the Nintendo brand fell to an all-time low.

Then the DS came along. Originally it was discarded as another Nintendo gimmick, or a spin-off of their excessively large GameBoy line. But people couldn’t help noticing that the DS didn’t go away. It didn’t fail. Games didn’t stop being made for it, and they weren’t all ports. The DS was and is a massive success story.

Just to put into perspective how well the DS has done, let’s look at some rough numbers. Since last June, the DS has sold over 21 million units (source). That’s on par with what the GameCube has sold in its entire life (source), and only three million less than the Xbox has sold in its life (source). In other words, a bloody lot of DSs have been sold.

DS With this success has come a lot of good press for Nintendo. People are now a lot more open to the company than they were a couple of years ago, and they’ve managed to shed a lot of their kiddie/softcore gamer image. I’ve seen a lot of Playstation and Xbox lovers embrace the DS, realising that all their friends have one and want to join the fun.

These people are likely to try out the Wii, especially considering that it acts as a Wifi adapter and thus will benefit their DS. Plus it’s inevitable that Nintendo will bring out titles that relate to their DS games, and of course people will want to play the next iteration of a series they love. The DS is basically acting as a stepping stone to the world of Nintendo for those who wouldn’t have even wiped their bum with the brand a few years ago. Nintendo has gained more ground with mainstream gamers.

5. Nintendo aren’t just going for the hardcore gamers

While Microsoft in particular is trying to lessen the way the public perceives it as tailored for hardcore gamers with games such as Viva Piñata!, the fact is that both Microsoft and Sony aren’t seen as something for the older crowd, or even for the particularly young crowd. This is not a good thing.

Man on Wii When reading a website’s comments a while back, I noticed people saying that Viva Piñata is a waste of time and that nobody will play it. Yeah, nobody except the thousands of kids out there who latch onto any decent child-friendly game they can get their hands on because there aren’t enough of them.

Nintendo continually reaffirms that it wants to appeal to even more potential gamers than ever before with the Wii. The aim is to reintroduce those who’ve stopped playing, and introduce those who never did in the first place. If their games and marketing cause this to happen, an absolutely gigantic userbase that Microsoft or Sony can’t even hope to tap into right now will be Nintendo’s. Suddenly the market Nintendo has traditionally fought others over will just be a part of a jigsaw as opposed to an entire canvas.

This will quite simply result in more support for the console from all sides, meaning there’ll be more games, more variety, and more people for you to play with. Heck, it could be the mums in families that want a console instead of the teens. Gaming in general will become that much more mainstream, and head further towards the wide appeal of film and music — something it’ll never do in its current state. Ever.

6. The Wii will be an online-enabled console

I’d be inclined to call this “saving the best until last”. Although other consoles have had online play for a while and indeed the GameCube itself had a very rudimentary ability to play online with certain games, this is the first home Nintendo console to be fully online-enabled. And what’s more, it’ll be totally free.

Wifi Although the implementation of online play on the DS isn’t perfect as I discussed earlier, it’ll almost certainly be sorted out by the time the Wii comes around and in fact has been markedly improved for newer DS titles. So what we’ll have is an online-enabled home console with motion sensor input. I don’t know about you, but that concept gets me pretty damn wet.

Anybody who’s played a “party game” on the GameCube can probably understand my perspective here. No matter who you are, those games are freaking fun when you’ve got real people to play with. Whether it’s the Wacky Races madness of Mario Kart, the basic musical play of Donkey Konga or the randomness of Mario Party, when playing as a group this type of game is awesome — even if rubbish in single-player mode.

So take that incredible potential for fun and apply it to online play and you’ve got a serious winner on your hands. I can’t really describe how exhilarating party games can get when you’ve got real people around, but I can at least promise you they’re excellent. Assuming that Nintendo can implement them well with online play, I can see people being sat in front of their TV all day and night.

But of course, classic online play could also be fantastic with motion sensitive input. While first- and third-person shooters are a given, what about real-time strategy? Imagine being able to simply point on the screen to make units move around. Drag a box on the screen to select multiple units. Move around the map by making broad strokes in a particular direction. Finally, an opportunity for those genres that’ve never really worked too well on a console due to their mouse reliance to make a splash.

Conclusion

Nintendo Wii This article was largely just me having a think about what could elevate the Wii to a land of success, so I apologise if it’s a little unstructured. And don’t get me wrong, there’s also plenty of potential for the Wii to seriously mess up and damage Nintendo irreparably, but perhaps I’d better save exploring that for another article. :)

If anybody else has some thoughts on what could define the Wii’s success or failure, please leave a comment! I hate to be the only one musing.

Update (Thursday, August 3rd, 2006 at 8:15pm GMT+1):

This article has been dugg, so I’d just like to personally thank all those who’ve dugg my article and welcome you to my blog! And if anyone’s interested, there’re loads of additional comments on the post (some are harsh — ouch!) over on digg.

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New Super Mario Bros selling for £19.99 on CD WOW

You’ve seen the adverts. You’ve read my review. You’ve heard the talk. You want New Super Mario Bros. But at a cost of between £24.99 and £29.99, is it worth it? You bet it is.

New Super Mario Bros cloud level If you’re one of those types that need an excessively awesome offer to win you over though, you’ll be pleased to discover that CD WOW is now selling it for £19.99! And what’s more, delivery is free. I’ve never used the company myself, but British Gaming Blog seems happy with them. A quick search on Ciao also indicates that they’re kosher, so it’s probably safe to proceed.

If you fancy New Super Mario Bros, which you really should, now’s your chance. And while you’re at it get Mario Kart DS and leave a comment with your friend code. Mine is 3737-3561-8152. ;)

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E3’s cancellation very possible within 48 hours

In a move that’s sent shockwaves across the games community, Next Generation has dropped the bombshell that E3 might be a goner in its current form. With an official cancellation expected within 48 hours, the article states that “Publishers believe the multi-million dollar budgets would be better spent on more company-focused events that bring attention to their own product lines rather than the industry as a whole”.

E3 building One thing’s for sure: this isn’t news that a lot of people want to hear. From a consumer perspective E3 is a very wild time of year, with endless videos, announcements and screenshots hitting the web at an almost impossible rate. It’s presumably similarly exciting for those attending and covering the event too, albeit stressful Not to mention the parties that’re supposed to take place afterwards!

But as Joystiq points out, is the event no longer existing as it does now such a bad thing? I personally don’t think so. The problem with E3 is that it comes, and several days later it’s gone again for a whole year. The publishers let out everything they’ve got in one big explosion that’s impossible for any one man to keep track of and then all stays relatively quiet for ages. Is this model really that good for those on the receiving end of all the coverage?

Inside E3 Without E3, smaller shows would get a chance to exist. What about a purely Nintendo show? Perhaps there could even be genre-specific shows. Plus the ESA might want to arrange these smaller shows, resulting in what’s like a number of miniature E3s all through the year instead of just one massive event. From a consumer standpoint this would be ideal. Not only would there be a more even supply of information throughout the year, but it’d be easier to keep track of what interests you by only paying attention to those events that’re relevant to your own needs.

As long as the ESA doesn’t totally bottle it and cease doing any kind of events period, I think we’ll be all right.

Update: According to Opposable Thumbs who have a number of sources close to the ESA, E3 will not be cancelled. However, it will be downsized dramatically, presumably taking it back to the more exclusive days. This’ll almost certainly mean harsher entry requirements and less extravagant booths and whatnot. Be sure to read their article for the full lowdown.

Update#2: The downsizing has been officially confirmed.

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My review of Nintendo’s New Super Mario Bros

The box art Having preordered New Super Mario Bros, I received my copy the day it came out. However, after hearing comments about it being a bit short I decided to take it slowly and only do a little bit per day. This game has already done the reviewing rounds for the most part, but I’m so impressed that I feel obligated to write one anyway.

The first thing that hits you when you begin playing is of course the graphics. Originally I was a little underwhelmed by the visuals, not really feeling the mish-mash of 2D and 3D at all. But then I saw it in motion, and everything changed. The fact is that this game is beautiful. The character animation is incredibly smooth, and somehow manages to make walking mushrooms, athletic overweight plumbers and turtles walking on their hind legs look completely natural. Every single character, enemy and object is lovingly created in 3D, but given a 2D edge by having textures on them occasionally change as if they were sprites (eg: Thwomp’s face). If you’re turned off by the screenshots like I originally was, at least watch the five-minute video on YouTube before completely dismissing the game.

Plains level As good as Mario looks, he’s nothing in comparison to the environments you’ll be having him plough through. There are eight worlds in New Super Mario Bros, and each has its own unique theme: plains, desert, tropical, forest, snow, mountains, sky, volcanic. As you can see the selection is very reminiscent of past Mario adventures, and some of the worlds do indeed greatly resemble their earlier counterparts. For example, many comparisons can be drawn between the forest world and Super Mario World’s Forest of Illusion. Likewise, the sky world is a lot like Super Mario Bros 3’s Sky Land.

As you’d expect, each world has its own set of level themes that are beautifully crafted. Miyamoto’s team has basically taken the most outstanding elements of similar levels in previous games and combined them all to produce extremely atmospheric locales. The traditional plain grassy levels are full of foliage and strange hills in the background. The castle levels feature an amazing contrast between the dark stone of the structure and the glowing orange lava, with fiery particles slowly floating through the air. The sky levels are full of clouds that completely surround you and cushion your weight should you land on them. Put simply, the levels look and feel astounding.

Underground level Of course, what you really need to know is what the gameplay’s like. Some have said that New Super Mario Bros introduces nothing new to the series, and as such will never be remembered as a classic. That is absolute rubbish. Although there’s no denying that the game draws a lot from its ridiculously successful predecessors, it also introduces a lot of new elements. Irritatingly though, actually describing these elements is difficult.

The easiest thing for a reviewer to do in this situation is to just list the new items, of which there are three: the blue shell that basically lets you turn into a koopa, complete with invincible sliding; the mega mushroom that makes you almost as big as the entire screen, allowing you to smash the level to pieces; and the mini mushroom, which simply makes you the size of a goomba’s foot, letting you fit down small pipes and jump a bit higher.

Water level Sadly, it’s these three power-ups that are the most underwhelming of New Super Mario Bros’ offerings. Although they are fun when you first get hold of them, as you’ve no doubt heard from countless other people they’re just not that useful. The blue shell almost always results in you accidentally flying down a bottomless chasm, while the mega mushroom isn’t suited to navigating most levels and you end up getting stuck. The mini mushroom is a bit better, but you’re incredibly weak while in this state.

So as always, the innovation comes in the level design. There’s no doubt about it: Mario games have good levels. They’re fun to explore, fun to look at, fun to experiment with, and fun to complete. New Super Mario Bros is no exception to this rule — the levels are fantastic. The ghost houses are tricky as always, requiring a little more exploration than usual to find the exit. The castles get increasingly fiendish, and almost had me in frustration-induced hysterics towards the end of the game. Each level introduces its own gimmick, meaning that no two are alike. Not constantly playing this game is actually pretty hard because you know there’ll be something new to see every time you progress through to a new level.

Fighting Bowser Bosses are no letdown either. The structure here is pretty much the same as Super Mario Bros 3’s, where you fight a moderately difficult boss halfway through each world and then progress to fighting something more serious at the end. The difference is that the halfway boss in New Super Mario Bros is Bowser Jr, and the end-of-world boss is usually some regular enemy on steroids. Kind of like Yoshi’s Island, except with Bowser Jr doing the magic instead of Kamek.

There are some exceptions though. The game starts off on a high note by allowing you to have at Bowser in the first world, where he appears almost exactly as he did in the original Super Mario Bros: on a platform, suspended over lava, breathing fire at you. Get past him to hit the switch and you’ll send him flying down into the lava where he’ll brutally perish. The game’s final boss encounter is also absolutely fantastic, and is definitely worth striving for.

My only disappointment with the gameplay is the secrets: they’re just not good enough. Many are quick to point out the fact that two entire worlds are ‘secret’, but really, finding your way into these is a no-brainer and they’re already on your map. Even with the two secret worlds included, it comes to no more (or less) worlds than in Super Mario Bros 3. There’re three big coins hidden in each level that must be found to finish the game properly, and they are fun to track down, but they’re nowhere near as exciting as the two whole hidden worlds full of ridiculously hard levels in Super Mario World, or the two hidden levels in each Yoshi’s Island world.

Mountains level Actually playing New Super Mario Bros is a breeze. There are literally just three inputs required 99% of the time: the D-Pad, Y, and B. These respectively control your direction, your speed, and your jumping. You can also use L and R to move the screen left or right, but it’s usually unnecessary. The actual movement is typically perfectly done, although the fact that Mario now has actual weight to him may catch some off guard. This weight is good though as it not only makes Mario feel more realistic, but also gives him momentum; this can be applied to all sorts of gameplay situations.

Move-wise, Mario’s got a whole bag of tricks on hand. Most of them are simply implementations of the moves introduced in Mario’s 3D games such as the butt stomp, triple jump and wall slide/rebound, but there’s also some new stuff like the ability to hang onto ropes and edge across/hang from cliffs. Using all these moves almost seems like second nature, and as somebody else said: it really does feel like the controls are motion sensitive at times.

Tropical level Sound effects and music are two things that are always good in Mario games, and the tradition continues here. Retro sound effects are used plentifully to let you know this a true Mario game, but there’re also many new sound effects carefully placed throughout that spice things up a bit. For example, Mario himself makes a lot more sounds than in his past 2D outings when hurt and whatnot, and generally expresses himself more. It’s subtle, but this adds a lot to the experience. Similarly, the music is as melodical as ever and suits the levels perfectly. Unfortunately, they managed to knock a lot of the music down a notch or two by continuously using an irritating vocal-like effect as an instrument, which you can hear in the five-minute YouTube video. Is it just me who really doesn’t like it?

All in all, this game is brilliant — you’d be a serious fool to not buy it. It’s great for those new to the series, great for those who’ve played them all, and is surprisingly challenging unless you’re excessively good at Mario games, unlike me who still gets arseholed countless times when replaying Super Mario World. I really hope New Super Mario Bros’ high sales prompt Nintendo into developing a sequel or a New Super Mario World, although I guess the latter is technically on the way in the form of Yoshi’s Island 2.

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Summer of Merchandise: Mario Party figurines

Princess Peach, Donkey Kong and Wario figurines I think this is pretty much the end of my Summer of Merchandise. So far we’ve had a Yoshi plushy, a Donkey Kong themed fake GameBoy, and a posable Banjo-Kazooie model. I do have some Psychonauts goodies lying around (loads actually; they were a gift), but I can’t be bothered digging those out.

So, I conclude the series with my Mario Party figurines. I think they’re from Mario Party anyway. They were originally a gift my parents got for my sister, but since she’s a bit odd and doesn’t love her Nintendo that much I decided to keep them safe. And by safe I mean I threw them into a box and left them there for an eternity.

Princess Peach, Donkey Kong and Wario figurines There’s a Mario and a Luigi somewhere too, but they don’t appear to be in the box. I hope they’re in another box since although the magnificent Wario is present (clearly the best Nintendo character in history), you just can’t have a set of Nintendo figurines without Mario and Luigi. It’s like having some bread and butter without Marmite, or trying to learn to play the Mario soundtracks by ear: madness. I guess I could always carve some replacements out of a potato if it comes down to it.

Note: This post is part of a series. If you enjoyed it, consider reading the whole series!

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