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Microsoft STILL Attempting to Add Snake to its Lineup? *Update 2*

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I really hate to add to what was a dead rumor but sometimes you see something you simply cannot ignore. Aaron Greenberg (Xbox group product manager) currently has his MSN status set to “Xbox 360: Metal Gear Solid 4″ in faux Xbox 360 status. He’s obviously not playing the game on 360, but is this potentially a sign of things to come? Or maybe just pulling my leg?

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Thanks to the XCW for help with the image!

Update 3:24 PM PST: The official word from Mr. Greenberg is the standard line, “I cannot comment on rumor or speculation”. Not that I was expecting the earth shattering exclusive story here, but it’s a standard comment.

Update 3:33 PM PST: Okay, debunked straight from him. Just a leg pull. Oh well, I took the bait.

Gears of War 2 Impressions

Gears of War is the first exclusive that really stuck the Xbox 360 on the map post launch. At the time the game’s visuals were so jaw dropping that everyone was enthralled. The game deservingly received numerous awards and remained at the top of Xbox live’s most played list. Now will the sequel deliver?

Yesterday in San Fransisco, Design Director for Epic Games Cliff Bleszinski demoed Gears of War 2 for approximately 30 minutes. He came into the demo with one simple theme: Gears of War 2 is going to be bigger, bloodier, and more bad ass. The two minute trailer that was released was the tip of the iceberg. That trailer came from an entire level that was demonstrated to us. Needless to say, when the demo finished the room had the sense that Gears 2 was going to deliver on his promises.

Gears 2 starts out 6 months after the original game and opens on the last day of Fall. The locust have come back in full force not just using emergence holes, but by creating holes that are devouring entire cities. Humanity is backed into its last bastion of hope which is above ground believed to be too thick to penetrate by the locusts. In this desperate hour, humanity has decided it is now time to take the fight back to the locusts. To do that they must take a grind lift that can carry 2 cog soldiers into enemy territory underground. The only problem is that they’re so big you need a special truck called a derek to transfer them to the proper coordinates. The demo took us through an entire convoy of dereks attempting to deliver grind lifts. Your favorite Gears characters are back such as Baird and Epic is introducing some new ones. There is an unforced conscription occurring for humanity. Families who are desperate for food and protection can agree to send their father to war so that their family may be fed and sheltered. This is how you come to meet a new character named Dizzy. Dizzy sounds like your typical country boy from the south and he is piloting one of the dereks throughout the mission. I think we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot from him in the coming months toward release.

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Fable 2 Exclusive Hands On

If there is one game this year I am looking forward to, it’s Fable 2. There is just something about Peter Molyneux’s presence as a developer and visionary that you just have to admire and respect as a gamer. Where everything from combat to the dog have been covered in the past, yesterday’s presentation focused on story and the roleplaying aspect of the game. Warning, spoilers ahead. The opening cut scene to Fable 2 with the bird flying around through Bowerstone just had that amazing cinematic movie feel to it. It’s that feeling you get when you know you are about to play (or see in this instance) a special game. The opening fly through in the world of Fable 2 looks photo real. In typical Lionhead fashion, the opening game cut scene actually ends quite hilariously with the bird you came to admire five seconds before poops on your head. Visually I immediately noticed Bowerstone had received some hefty visual upgrades since last E3. Everything seemed more polished visually.

But alas, this presentation is to start around the story. In Fable 2 you open as a child who is powerless. Molyneux this time around really wants to give the player the feeling of going from a powerless child to hero in a as true as can be simulation of a real life. This time around story was a huge point for him because he openly classified the story in Fable 1 as “rubbish”. Without spoiling to much the story seems a bit like something you have seen before but where the dog comes in story wise really makes sense as to why he is now your life long companion. To enhance the story in Fable 2 the game will feature interactive cut scenes and morphing. While Molyneux openly admits interactive cut scenes aren’t anything new in a game, what makes Fable 2’s unique is that your reaction to those cutscenes changes the way the cutscene plays out. For example, if someone is being mean in a cutscene and you make a gesture to them the cutscene changes to react to you.

The entire Fable world will morph over the course of your game and it never should morph the same twice. Your choices early in life will reflect later on in the game. When you are young, there is a quest to retrieve 5 arrest warrants that seem to have been misplaced. When you find them you have the choice to either turn them in to the police or to give them to the bad guys. If you decide to turn them into the bad guys, you will come back later in life to find the town a thieves den. If you turn it in to the police, the town becomes a legitimate trading post free of villainy.
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Too Human Hands On Impressions and Video

Denis Dyack was on hand yesterday at the Microsoft Showcase event to show off Too Human. Of all the games on the show floor, I spent most of my time with Too Human which is saying something. Too Human is set for its August 19th release date and the build I played yesterday seemed pretty close to a final build. Too Human is going to feature 2 play seamless cooperative play. While this is a controversial change from the original promise of 4 players online Dyack explained that the game in their testing just seemed to fit the 2 player coop model better. With four the action became too frantic and disjointed. The game is supposed to be more about quality of game play rather than quantity. Dyack and another Silicon Knights representative showed off the cooperative aspect of Too Human and some of the stylistic kills you can pull off together. There is real depth behind Too Human that is going to take players a long time to master. In the demo, one player was more a melee heavy class and another more a ranged class. To perfectly work together, Dyack flicked the right thumbstick twice when attacking to initiate a toss of an enemy into the air while his coop partner shot him with his stronger ranged attack. He also claimed playing as a Beserker class may be the fastest an action RPG class in a battle has gone ever. During the play session, both coop and single player were available.

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Banjo Kazooie Hands On + Video

Banjo Kazooie’s return to consoles is something fans of Rare have been looking forward to for a very long. The wait will finally be over this November according to representatives from Rare at the Microsoft Showcase. When screen shots surfaced a few weeks back there was a buzz that it may have been a kart racing game. It turns out, vehicles are a major part of the game play in Banjo for both single player and mutliplayer. But there’s so much more. Rare has gone to great lengths to provide gamers with the freedom to build anything. No joke, anything. You can build a car, a helicopter, a plane, a space shuttle, and even a submarine if you wanted to. It all comes to shape in a realistic and revolutionary vehicular design garage in Banjo. Your imagination is the limit of what you can make.

The garage starts you off with a very basic blue print of parts you can choose from. There is a science to building your vehicle of choice and I think in this game almost more than any other the smartest player is going to be the most successful. When building a vehicle you have to account for weight, aerodynamics, and fuel use due in part to the game’s use of the Havok physics engine. When you enter the garage you will start with a basic engine, body, and weapon choices. From there you can start to build your creation into anything you want. The preview build present yesterday had 15 pre made designs for us to choose however we were free to edit them if we wanted to. You of course will not start Banjo with the best parts but as you play through the campaign you will gain access to better and better parts. The vehicle design is extremely important. Design a vehicle that isn’t well balanced and you will run out of fuel in mid game or your vehicle may be easily defeated and pushed around. But fear not, you can test your newly minted machine in the car park which is sort of like Banjo’s idea of a half pipe except for vehicles before taking it out and challenging the world. Friends can also join you in the car park and you can show each other your vehicles. Another cool feature of the game in the single player portion at least was starting with a very basic vehicle and as you gain parts throughout the 5 lands in Banjo being able to upgrade on the fly. As you can see in the above video you can go from a vehicle on wheels, to a helicopter, then with the proper engine located in the back a jet. A thinking man’s game of how to best approach a challenge or situation.
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