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Making the Wii Look Stupid
We did catch someone saying "this makes the Wii look stupid." And, actually, it kind of does. The 3DV Z Cam is a minuscule video camera equipped with an infrared beam, roughly the size of a web-cam, that sits on the bottom of your TV. That's where the fun starts. Flash gang signs to change channels or flick various components on or off; have a virtual dance-off outside of a specific square; KO a cartoon boxer with real jabs. But don't just take our word for it, check out the video above.
Guitar Hero's a terrific game, but doesn't do much in the way of teaching. (Unless you want to learn how embarrassingly uncoordinated you can be; in which case, kudos.) Enter a real maestro. Guitar Wizard and the forthcoming Piano Wizard go where few games dare to tread—they claim to make you more knowledgeable. Though initially skeptical, we have to admit, it seems to work. Their spokesperson promised to have web editor Megan Miller playing a song and reading music within 10 minutes. Lo and behold . . .
The Web-based science fiction game Eve Online is getting a major graphics overhaul next month. Eve, which is set in the far future, isn't the most popular massively multiplayer game, but it has set a few significant marks. Its subscriber base, currently over 200,000, is growing consistently, and this past weekend it set a record when more than 37,000 players were online, operating in the same futuristic cosmos at the same time. So, what's the attraction? It's kind of a science fiction geek's heaven. The Eve universe has massive starship fights, rebel factions, powerful industrialists, pirates and, sadly, even taxes. Check out the new trailer, which showcases the revised graphics, here. The fighters, spaceships and orbiting cities are unbelievably cool.—Gregory Mone
Though you'd think the latest gaming console would elicit little more than suspicious looks from grandma and grandpa, according to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, it turns out that the Wii has spurred the elderly set to start asking for turns of their own.
Nearly a quarter of Americans over the half-century mark have played video games this year, up from less than ten percent in 1999. Part of this is marketing. Nintendo, for one, is targeting older groups with games like Brain Age. But the Wii's ease-of-use, along with the active but not too active style of play it offers, has proven especially attractive. The favorite? At one retirement community, bowling is the clear winner. And they don't even have to wear the funny shoes.—Gregory Mone
Nintendo this week released Super Mario Galaxy–the long-awaited debut of the world's cutest plumber on the Wii. The reviews, as expected, have been particularly stellar, and for good reason: the game combines a tried-and-true character, a wholly unique outer-space world (complete with gravity fluctuations) that feels more 3D than anything to come before it, a truly killer soundtrack and the unique control structure of the Wii, resulting in an overall gameplay experience that's among the most addictive Mario's had yet—and that's saying something.
The thing with Mario games, especially Galaxy, is this: sure, it's fairly easy for most gamers to tear through and complete the game—even finishing with all of the hidden bonus goals discovered is an attainable goal for even casual players. But what separates Mario from the rest is just how entertaining it is simply to exist in his world. Beating a level in a Mario game isn't just about getting to the end, it's about getting to the end with style—careening through tiny openings while flipping shells and deftly vaulting off stomped enemies, all at incredible speed and without leaving any coins behind. Or in Mario Galaxy's case, back flipping and long jumping through different gravitational fields, triple-axle-ing over frozen ponds on ice skates, surfing on the back of a manta ray...and so on. Galaxy takes the potential for players to gracefully freestyle through the game into the stratosphere.
Put simply, Mario Galaxy gives us couch dwellers a taste of what it must feel like to do parkour...in outer space. I would not be surprised if David Belle, parkour's grand-père, was a Mario player in his early days; the little acrobatic Italian was truly the first traceur (tracciante?), vaulting and plunging through the Mushroom Kingdom at top speed long before Belle began dancing his way around Paris in the late 1980s. But it's clear the two have a lot in common—both live for the freedom to innovatively propel themselves through interesting environments, and both do it to save the oft-imperiled woman they love from the clutches of a sinister dino/lizard/turtle. Right?
Take a look here at David in action:
Amazing. But can he do this:
For more videos of Mario's Parkour moves from Super Mario Galaxy, click the jump below. —John Mahoney
Finally, after months of anticipation, we can all go back to 1191 and jump into the thick of the Third Crusade as a ridiculously skilled assassin capable of swinging the massive war one way or another. Today—or tomorrow, maybe, since this release date has been elusive—marks the debut of Assassin's Creed, a highly anticipated new game from Ubisoft with some serious AI.
You assume the role of Altair, the aforementioned assassin, and—slight spoiler—you mix it up as a few other characters as well. The game, available on PS3 and XBox360, has created a huge buzz since its trailers first debuted, and according to some reviews, it does not disappoint. So pull up your hood, ready your blades, and get ready to run across some rooftops.—Gregory Mone
The controversial new game Manhunt 2, in which players take the role of a mental patient who has to hack, stab and maim his way out of a deserted insane asylum, will keep its Mature rating, and not be bumped up to Adults Only. The game has attracted attention from the ratings board, and numerous advocacy groups, for its uber-violent content. The game's publisher censored some of the content to keep its Mature rating, but hackers figured out a way to unlock some of that hidden code, and bring back a bit of the banished madness. All the details weren't released, but one of the reported hacks involves removing a blurring-type effect—added in to keep that Adults Only rating at bay—in a certain kill mode. Though this is good news for publisher Rockstar Games, the mediocre reviews probably aren't raising too many cheers at HQ.—Gregory Mone
One of the hottest exhibits on day one of the E for All Expo was for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Its sinister, military-bunker booth was full all day and into the evening, in part because this is the first time anyone's been able to play the game outside of Japan. Also, Kojima Productions tends to be secretive, which has apparently had the desired effect of driving its fans wild for the merest crumb. Today's demo was a lot more than a crumb, though.
The folks waiting in line were about to enter a tiny briefing room blanketed in camo netting to learn how to play before getting an all-too-brief, 20-minute test drive. (I was just starting to get the hang of the 8 different buttons and 360-degree visual scheme when I got the friendly tap on the shoulder).
As for the game itself, the thing that stands out is the meticulous attention to detail in rendering the environment. (The developers mention offhandedly in an earlier demo that the hero's mustache has the same number of polygons as does an enemy soldier from MGS3). Kojima has a staff of 200+ working on the game; even a background team that travels to undisclosed locations in Africa, the Middle East, and South America to take pictures of tiles, surfaces, and buildings that can then be rendered by the art department. In all, the game covers five different geographical regions—although the company won't say which, to avoid angering the various governments that (quite reasonably) think an association with covert war might not be the best thing for their public image.
The goal is make the video game as much like a movie as possible, even if doing so has sent production costs into the realm of what Kojima assistant producer Ryan Payton coyly describes as "tens of millions of dollars." Head designer Hideo Kojima and his team employ color filters to set mood, use discreet blurring behind foreground objects to create depth of field, and build off of the shadow rendering engine native to the PS3 to make the play of light more convincing.
Still, juggling all of the graphical information has required Kojima's programmers to develop their own shadowing techniques in addition. "With the PS3, we have the luxury of more polygons," says Payton. "But it's not much easier to manage the polygons."
A programmer's task is never done, I suppose, but consider my disbelief suspended. The realism of this simulated guerrilla combat comes through spectacularly, to an extent that can even be a bit chilling.—Andrew Rosenblum
PopSci reporter Andrew Rosenblum is currently blogging from the the Entertainment for All Expo, a four day gaming bonanza aimed at industry insiders and gamers alike and currently taking place in Los Angeles.
The Entertainment for All Expo touts itself as a video game show for the ordinary consumer, and that's both a weakness and a strength. The Expo turns out to be more of a marketing event that helps the general consumer get up to speed with what's out there, and initially I was feeling a little let-down about the shortage of genuinely new tech on display. Sure, there was some relatively new stuff like the HP
Blackbird 002 PC, a slightly more-reasonably priced entrant into the custom gamer market with a clever thermal management design and "screwless" insides that allow you to swap in a new drive in less than minute. Also, D-Box, the sit-down car simulator that vibrates when you crash or go off-road, had burly, middle-aged dudes as happy as a 10-year-old would be with the same material. But even these two cool items had already debuted prior to the show.
What is distinctive about E for All is the genuine excitement that a lot of the attendees bring. For the most part, the crowd doesn't consist of cynical journalists, overworked developers, or nervous investors. Instead, these are people who love video games enough that they're willing to plunk down between $50 and $200 just for the chance to learn more about the industry and play some of the upcoming titles.
Speaking of which, one of the biggest coming down the pike is Rock Band, the follow-up to Guitar Hero that incorporates drums and vocals in addition to guitars (release is scheduled for next month). The group captured below isn't going to make anyone forget about Anthony Kiedis, but they do seem to be having fun—just maybe next time the frontman shouldn't try to sing and play guitar at the same time.—Andrew Rosenblum
This is SportsCenter...for gaming geeks. Fans have been posting videos of some of their best kills in the new game Halo 3. One of the favorite genres is the "plasma grenade stick" kill.
There's an art to wielding these fiery-blue weapons, but players can get lucky, too. And just like on sports shows, the improbable scores always get the best response. In one popular clip, a player called BlackShadowMist throws one of the plasma grenades at an enemy and misses, but the explosive lands on a "gravity lift" and gets tossed back up towards the bad guy. Honestly, it's really cool.
If you've never played Halo 3 and wonder what the hoopla's all about, check out the highlight above.—Gregory Mone