[UPDATE: Wugga gave his 2c at the bottom of this post]

Last week, we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the third instalment of what has become this generation’s third-person action juggernaut: Gears of War.  Microsoft invited Buttonmasher to play the first couple of hours of the campaign.

The build we played wasn’t the final article, but it was as slick and polished as we’ve come to expect from this franchise.  At the risk of damning it with faint praise, I have to say that Gears 3 is pretty much exactly what I expected.  It’s like Gears of War 2, only bigger, shinier, and more explodey.  There’s less of what annoyed me in number 2 (manning a turret on a big silly truck for too bloody long, shooting at asteroidal artillery blobs of whatever) and more of what I liked (exploding ugly, vaguely humanoid critters with a variety of small arms and personal explosives).

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Fresh from a lantern run on the Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, our podcastronauts return to Earth to talk about things to do with videogames, like griefing in Lego Harry Potter, Le Mans things, the singer from Maroon 5 being awfully slow, and plenty more.

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I guess nothing like this should surprise me anymore, with the amount of cross-merchandising that the big franchise games enjoy these days, but I wasn’t predicting a Gears Of War board game available for pre-order to greet me at Mighty Ape. The description states that it’s for 1 – 4 players, and the tiles make me think of Hero Quest. There doesn’t seem to be a role for a player to control the Locust horde though, with “AI Cards” taking the place of the Dungeon Master. It’s estimated to be available on the 28th of September (just over a week after GoW3,) but the only appealing thought that occurs to me is that there’s a better chance I’ll get a headshot with the sniper rifle if it involves rolling a D6 to do so.

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Microsoft have just dropped a couple of press releases regarding the much-anticipated fourth game in the (deservedly) uber popular Forza Motorsport franchise.  The releases themselves follow after the break, but here are the vital details:

Turn 10 and the American Le Mans Series are cooperating to bring new content to the game.  It looks like the cars, teams and tracks will feature in FM4.  The tracks listed; Sebring, Road Atlanta, Road America and Laguna Seca were all included in FM3, and it’s unclear whether we’ll see other tracks from the series (many of which are street circuits).  The new cars will be a welcome addition to the stable, though the series isn’t super relevant to us in this part of the world.

FM4 will be available to play at ALMS events prior to release, which is again nice, but not particularly useful to us in New Zealand.

The official RRPs for New Zealand will be $99.95 for the regular edition and $129.95 for the collectors’ edition.  Bonus car packs will be given to those who preorder either edition, though supplies are “limited.”

The official launch date for New Zealand is October 13th.  Damn, but that is going to be a busy month for games.

There’s also a little more hype for the Bernese Alps track that will debut in FM4; a road track across Europe’s highest mountain range, boasting a wide variety of challenges for the keen racer.  Personally, I find that the most interesting bit of news here; the Bernese Alps look spectacular and I can’t wait to have a blast around them in something with more horsepower than is sensible.

Check out the official site for pretty videos and screenshots.

The full press releases follow:

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I didn’t really need another reason to be looking forward to Arkham City, but getting to see, or rather, hear, the prolific videogame voice actor Nolan North playing the role of the sinister, fish-breathed Penguin is just another to add to the list. While the gravely, slimey voice of the Penguin is a far cry from the typical ‘dashing rogue’ character that Mr. North is best known for voicing, it’s not the first time outside of those boundaries. In fact, reading his portfolio is like a list of game voices that I wasn’t aware was voiced by him. I didn’t think it was possible for me to think he was even more prolific than my original estimate, but there you go.

All has been pretty quiet with me over the last few weeks, a fair bit of snow, a trip to Rotorua, a compressed femoral nerve, and plenty of Lego Star Wars are probably the highlights of my recent past. My ever increasing pile of ‘cheap’ games continues to ever increase and the gaming time lost to my growing son is also increasing. It seems a bit hypocritical to be always kicking him off the Xbox considering how much time I spend on it but, hey, I’m the Dad and with that position comes privilege.

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“The Kid read down the page in anticipation. He ain’t one to wait around. Like most folks, he needed to know just how good this Bastion game really was.”

One of the first things you’ll discover in Bastion is the narrator; an omnipresent smooth rumbling of words which could only belong to an old cowboy past his prime. This isn’t just several cut-scenes either. The narrator will be with you throughout your journey from start to finish. He will give you back-story on the places you visit, sage combat advice, and of course narrate your in-game actions.

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resistance3bannerGenerally speaking, jumping into a franchise at the third iteration can be a daunting prospect for any medium, be it literary, film, or videogames. The characters are already well fleshed out, the setting and past events have been set up or disclosed; so you have to pay close attention to the cues that reintroduce things to those that are familiar but maybe not entirely in lock-step just yet, so that you can acclimatise yourself. The unfortunate flipside is that if it’s easy to pick up these things, then it’s all pretty shallow and maybe not worth your time. Resistance 3 manages to find a loophole in all this, by presenting a new playable character and essentially resetting the narrative and presenting a fresh look and entry point to the gruesome, desperate splendour of mid-20th century, extra-terrestrial war-torn Earth.

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Dinosaurs. Nazis. Guns. Dinosaurs. They’re in our podcast. Well, really they’re not, but we talk about a game which has them all in it. We also talk about a boatload of other stuff, like racism surrounding the outrage over the selection of the ‘official’ FemShep and the crazy 3DS price drop. What you won’t find, is how I’d been playing the latest Castlevania game, listening to the narration by Patrick Stewart, and giggled a little when he said something about “oblivion”. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, it’s because you haven’t been paying enough attention over the past seven years or so.