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"It’s a F**cking Video Game!": Microsoft @ E3 2014

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Somebody must have tasked Phil Spencer with two missions yesterday when he took to E3’s stage in Los Angeles: 1) Avoid showing off anything regarding, related to, or even remotely reminiscent of TV apps and 2) Slowly strangle anyone who dares utter the word “Kinect” while staring into their eyes as their soul fades from their body like a light dimming.

I say this because Phil made damn sure the only thing that took center stage besides camera-shy, stammering game developers was the games themselves. What ensued was probably one of the better conferences held by the company in quite some time — Microsoft wasn’t going to let Sony blacken their eye again like at last year’s event.

Below, I’ve collected (almost) every title named at the Xbox presser. Be sure to click on each game’s name to peep an accompanying trailer.

See, don’t I take care of you guys?

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>Adr1ft: A Deeply Personal Game About Being Stranded in Deep Space

In a way, you could say >Adr1ft is a disaster game borne from a real life disaster — albeit a personal one.

Before last April, you probably didn’t know the name Adam Orth, then a Microsoft Studios creative director. One Tweet later and Orth became a household name and, thanks to one tasteless hashtag — the now immortal #dealwithit — unwittingly assumed the role of the internet’s pincushion; supplying a face to the contemptible “Always-Online” debate.

The effects on Adam’s professional life were devastating, forcing him to resign from his position at Microsoft. More scathing were the repercussions on his personal life, as well, with some vitriol escalating to as high as death threats made against him and his family. Adam receded from the hate wave of the internet, and seemingly from the world too.

Now, Orth is trying to come to terms with his self-inflicted turmoil through creative expression. >Adr1ft is his way of dealing with it.

The game is being developed by Three One Zero, a Southern Cali studio started by Orth and a handful of trusted colleagues. While the team members were forged in the fires of big budget, AAA development, they wish to distance themselves far, far away from the games they used to create — multi-million dollar shooting galleries the likes of Medal of Honor and Call of Duty: Black Ops.

>Adr1ft demonstrates this wish almost immediately. You control an astronaut that awakens to a damaged and deserted space station. Your crew is missing, likely dead. You haven’t the faintest idea what the hell has happened. You’re alone and your oxygen is depleting.

A core gameplay conceit is finding more breathable air. The lower your current tank is, the more labored and panicky your breathing is. Your vision may even begin blur without enough air. Anxiety settles in not just for your character, but the player.

The game is set in the first-person perspective but bares no resemblance to the first-person shooters dominating the market. There’s nothing to kill and nothing is chasing you. Your biggest enemy is the environment. And, for being the bad guy, it’s rather beautiful. Serene even.

The game is equal parts tension and relaxation. Orth likes to describe it as a mixed salad featuring the exploration of Journey, the immersion of Half-Life, and the caught-in-space disaster scenario found in Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity. It’s a gorgeous, ambitious project steeped in intimacy — namely, the alienation Orth has been unable to exorcise from his life since last April.

The game, while massively impressive at this stage, is still in prototyping. Three One Zero is looking for a backer, but given the response to its demo at Vegas’ DICE Summit (bolstered by the use of the Oculus Rift to immerse participants), it shouldn’t be long before a publisher takes the bait. >Adr1ft will probably be seeing a PC release first, but Orth has expressed interest in seeing the game grace next-gen consoles.

Read Polygon’s >Adr1ft interview with Orth hereabouts.

Isolated

Fun fact about Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation — the game is playable from start to finish. With the core experience laid out, the developer is using the time between now and the game’s Q4 release date to polish, tweak, and refine the game.

I’m feeling pretty good about this one. It helps that it looks phenomenal. But I feel especially good that CA is approaching the material at a different angle and that, all around, even on Sega’s part, Isolation is being handled with the same meticulous care you’d show a newborn baby. Or a bomb capable of leaving a crater the size of Nebraska.

Check out more screens hereabouts.

The Red Herb’s Top 10 Games of 2013

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This year’s bulb is almost out, folks. And what a goddamn year it was! If it wasn’t enough that a high profile title hit market just about every other week, 2013 also saw fit to usher in a new generation of home consoles, bringing with it a wave of innovative, game-changing releases— Nah, I’m kidding. They just ported over some shooters and racing games.

See, despite the starter pistol having gone off for the next-gen race, 2013 belonged to the current-gen. Through years of strife and growth and learning, developers were able to forge some of the best games we’ve seen in a while, leaving gamers with a slew of graceful sendoffs to a generation in its twilight. Here are my favorite games of 2013 (that I got around to playing… really important to remember that).

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Red Herb Review - Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

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Black Flag quickly ranks as my favorite Assassin’s Creed. It’s everything an open-world game should be: enormous, addictive, and completely worth pouring hours into…

Ubisoft does a magnificent job of making you feel like a high seas hardass. The development team didn’t lightly nudge into the pirate theme, it tackled it full-on.”

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VGX Gaming Highlights

Spike’s rebooted VGA’s, now inexplicably called VGX, has come and gone, leaving a pungent trail of awkward memories and flat jokes face down on the floor.

Seemingly slapped together in twelve minutes, the formerly televised, now streamed video game awards show ran close to three uninterrupted hours in which a strikingly disinterested Joel McHale lazily mocked gaming culture and industry guests while Game Trailers’ Geoff Keighley apologetically made “He Who Smelt It, Dealt It” faces in between fruitless spurts of holding the broken shards of professionalism together.

So, no, not much has improved over the VGA format. On the upside, there were plenty of neat game announcements and pretty footage of next-gen titles to oogle. I took the liberty of gathering them here.

Tomb Raider Reboot, Rebuilt

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Crystal Dynamics, though nearly foiled by an Amazon listing, officially announced a next-gen port of Lara Croft’s 2013 re-imagining. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is heading to both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 28th.

Owning 4x the resolution of its current-gen incarnation, TR: Def’ also features a remodeled Lara and new effects technology that better simulates realistic, free-flowing hair. Just in case you were curious why the price point still rests at $59.99. Rest assured, you’re paying for a better head of hair (and all the multiplayer DLC you won’t touch).

[trailer]

Telltale Tells Borderlands Tales, Games Up Game of Thrones

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A property chewing beast, Telltale added two new universes to its adventure game repertoire.

The first is a percolating collaboration between themselves and Texas-based think-tank Gearbox Software. Telltale’s creating a choice driven spin on the Borderlands mythos in the episodic Tales From the Borderlands. Assets by Gearbox, gameplay by Telltale.

Their next adaptation is recent rumor made titillating fact: the studio is taking on Game of Thrones. Interestingly, the game is confirmed to be based on the HBO series as opposed to the novels, meaning we can expect the visual design and narrative approach to tie-in closely with the show. No solid details to go on besides a projected 2014 release.

[TFtB trailer] [GoT trailer]

See the Universe, All of It in No Man’s Sky

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A surprise reveal that genuinely raised everyone’s collective eyebrows impossibly above their hairlines comes from Hello Games, the indie team that brought us Joe Danger.

No Man’s Sky is a sci-fi game that ditches space marines for explorers. Your discoveries will span planets and galaxies. You’ll run into procedurally generated life reacting to organic worlds. The trailer showed us an explorer surveying life from within an ocean, hopping to the shore, jumping in his spaceship, and flying straight through the stratosphere into star craft populated space.

Stars in the distance aren’t merely lighting effects; they’re far reaching celestial bodies within their own solar systems, huge planets revolving around them (planets you can also traverse to). No Man’s Sky is a vastly ambitious next-gen undertaking that, insanely, is being developed by only four people.

[trailer]

And the Rest…

Broken Age [Elijah Wood featurette]

Tim Schafer returns to the adventure game (good time for it; ask Telltale). Brings with him a talented cast (Elijah Wood of Wilfred and only Wilfred fame) and a quirky art style.

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Destiny [gameplay trailer]

Bungie has the “shooter” part down pat. Now they’re trying to redefine “epic.” You had me at “Gunfights on the Moon.”

The Division [snowfall trailer]

Gameplay? No, no. You’re obviously more interested in the wondrous engine being utilized to breathe life into a Tom Clancy post-apocalypse… that Tom Clancy didn’t actually write about. Still, impressive effects. Watch as the next-gen further advances the technology we use to realistically deface cop cars.

Dying Light [gameplay trailer]

I loved Dead Island, which is, according to reviews, too much praise for the open-world zombie stomper. This spiritual successor looks to approach the formula with a new, free-running centered bent. It’s zombie carnage, only faster.

Quantum Break [trailer]

I… I don’t know about this at all. I should trust Remedy Games, especially after two rad Payne's and Wake's, but this whole TV-meets-gaming crossover garbage makes me want to shrug hard enough to dislocate a shoulder. “Time is fucking broken!!!” is a premise that could go dangerously camp real bad.

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Titanfall [Stryder trailer] [Ogre trailer]

Respawn introduced two new classes of Titan. I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything beyond that — I was in a trance watching hulking, anthropomorphic metal husks decimate ground troops. Which… How am I supposed to enjoy any part of this game not spent in a Titan? This game’s strength could be its metallic Achilles’ Heel.

Red Herb Review - Batman: Arkham Origins

"It may feel like the Basil Karlo interpretation of Arkham — giving itself away as a mere copycat when pressure is applied — but Origins is still adept at capturing that empowering sensation of being The Goddamn Batman.”

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5 Horror Movies That’d Make Killer Games

Halloween is just hours away, folks! While some of you are out there meticulously preparing a wickedly spooky costume to spill keg beer on, us introverts are lining up a marathon of murder, madness, and the macabre. That’s not some alliterated threat I’m making. I just mean we’re going to burn up the devil’s birthday watching horror flicks in the anti-social solitude of our darkened apartments.

As a habitual gamer, though, I grow restless passively watching blood and guts tossed about. I also like to take part in the blood and guts tossing (this article will be used against me in court someday…). I like to keep in season with a rotating program of horror video games. From Silent Hill to Dead Space to that one about the mid-western cops in a zombie filled mansion (why the hell can’t I remember that game’s name?), I just find interactive scares far more stool loosening than the static frights movies hold.

So, here I am, between a tower of Carpenter and Romero flicks on the one side, a separate stack of survival and action horror games sitting on the other. And, thusly, I had my peanut butter cup moment. We’ve already got ourselves some examples of horror films brilliantly adapted into games (2002’s The Thing hurt in all the right ways) but the industry’s still missing out on some killer properties to mine for inspiration. Here’s my top picks for a few more genre classics that deserve to cross mediums:

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The Order: 1886 - First Screens and Story Details

This game has become my most anticipated next-gen title practically overnight. Game Informer’s feature in their November issue made sure of that.

Revealed at E3, Ready At Dawn’s trailer for their third-person shooter debuted devoid of info. Only two things permeated in the public’s mind: “It looks like Victorian Gears of War" and "Those can’t really be in-game graphics.”

Well, they are in-game graphics; brought to you by the stunning horsepower beneath the PS4’s hood. And, yeah, “Victorian Gears of War" is a tough comparison to shake, but The Order's concept is wickedly cool and fresh on its own merits. While the game's history closely mirrors our own, the key division revolves around the genetic split between us, humanity, and the “half-breeds,” a new sub-species of human beings that have taken on more animal-like traits.

Though we share the same gene family, the difference is enough to put both factions at bloody odds for centuries. Jump to The Order, or more famously, the fabled Knights of the Round Table. Instead of crusading for the Holy Grail, however, the Knights of this alternate history seek to protect humanity from the half-breeds.

Part of their calling requires these holy agents to imbibe a rare substance; “black water.” Drinking black water is just south of gaining immortality, allowing knights to serve for years beyond an average human’s lifespan. The result is highly tested guardians shaped and hardened by centuries of experience. Your character, Grayson, is one such veteran — the third man in history to bear the moniker Sir Galahad.

Galahad and his team’s fight is aided by a pivotal point in human achievement: the industrial revolution.  But with the war against half-breeds nearly won yet still in play, technology blossoms in volatile ways, meaning this version of 1886 sees you equipped with gatling guns, thermite tossing launchers, and electric arc guns that can cut an enemy down before they’re afforded a chance to blink.

RaD’s imaginative, gritty, and strangely captivating mix of real world history and grim fantasy are the right ingredients for a head-turning, new IP. An in-house engine capable of astonishing feats of real-time physics — like bending metal and wood that splinters and cracks before breaking — also make for some strong arguments in favor of next-gen tech. I can’t wait to see more. Really, though. I can’t wait. It verges on painful.

The Order is scheduled to hit in 2014, exclusively for the PlayStation 4.

Glitch Gaming Apparel Needs Your Help
Hi, guys, my name’s Kevin. I spend my spare time plaguing the internet with my gaming blog The Red Herb. It’s okay if you haven’t heard of it; I made it and I’m barely familiar with it. The rest of the time, though, I work for an incredibly unique company called Glitch Gaming Apparel. When it was founded six years ago, the philosophy behind Glitch was to create a branding specially tailored for gamers; a name that people would immediately associate with awesome gaming wear.
Glitch began with just four original t-shirts and my boss’s garage. Today, Glitch does officially licensed merchandise for franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Borderlands, Portal, and Bioshock. If you’ve been to a major convention in the past few years — be it SDCC, NYCC, either PAX, AnimeExpo, etc. — you might’ve seen the Glitch booth. You might even already own one of our shirts! Despite partnerships with juggernauts like Valve and 2K Games, and despite a nationwide presence, Glitch is still a relatively small company, kept aloft by a skeleton crew of workers (myself included) that have to wear many hats to fulfill the day-to-day.
Here’s where you can help us dramatically.
Chase, in partnership with Google, is awarding just 12 small businesses a $250k grant. This grant would be an astronomical boost to Glitch, allowing us to expand and strengthen our business. We’d finally be able to pull our website out of the dinosaur age with a redesign, dormant projects would instantly be funded (extending our available product line), and, most importantly, we’d be able to create jobs, opening our doors up to dedicated, creative, and game-crazy individuals that want to help Glitch grow into the gamer’s brand it was envisioned to be.

Vote for Glitch right here!

The whole process above takes no more than thirty seconds. If you can find the time, your support would be monumentally appreciated. We’re already working on several ways we can give back to you guys out in the web-space, so be sure to keep an eye on The Herb and our friends Galaxy Next Door in the very near future. 

Glitch Gaming Apparel Needs Your Help

Hi, guys, my name’s Kevin. I spend my spare time plaguing the internet with my gaming blog The Red Herb. It’s okay if you haven’t heard of it; I made it and I’m barely familiar with it. The rest of the time, though, I work for an incredibly unique company called Glitch Gaming Apparel. When it was founded six years ago, the philosophy behind Glitch was to create a branding specially tailored for gamers; a name that people would immediately associate with awesome gaming wear.

Glitch began with just four original t-shirts and my boss’s garage. Today, Glitch does officially licensed merchandise for franchises like Assassin’s CreedBorderlands, Portal, and Bioshock. If you’ve been to a major convention in the past few years — be it SDCC, NYCC, either PAX, AnimeExpo, etc. — you might’ve seen the Glitch booth. You might even already own one of our shirts! Despite partnerships with juggernauts like Valve and 2K Games, and despite a nationwide presence, Glitch is still a relatively small company, kept aloft by a skeleton crew of workers (myself included) that have to wear many hats to fulfill the day-to-day.

Here’s where you can help us dramatically.

Chase, in partnership with Google, is awarding just 12 small businesses a $250k grant. This grant would be an astronomical boost to Glitch, allowing us to expand and strengthen our business. We’d finally be able to pull our website out of the dinosaur age with a redesign, dormant projects would instantly be funded (extending our available product line), and, most importantly, we’d be able to create jobs, opening our doors up to dedicated, creative, and game-crazy individuals that want to help Glitch grow into the gamer’s brand it was envisioned to be.

Vote for Glitch right here!

The whole process above takes no more than thirty seconds. If you can find the time, your support would be monumentally appreciated. We’re already working on several ways we can give back to you guys out in the web-space, so be sure to keep an eye on The Herb and our friends Galaxy Next Door in the very near future. 

Red Herb Review - Mortal Kombat: Legacy Season II

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Much to my unwittingness, last week’s debut of Mortal Kombat: Legacy's sophomore season didn't just see the first episode posted online — the whole damn ten part arc launched at once. I was of the expectation that it'd once again have the staggered release schedule season one did.

To hell with my expectations. You’re able to down the whole affair in one sitting, like I did, starting with Episode One.

To reiterate, Legacy's first run of episodes impressed the pants off me. I didn't care about blasphemous character reinterpretations or sudden budgetary dips. The series was stylish, thoroughly chocked with TV-MA action, and got way closer in spitting distance of the source material than 1995 and '97's royally cheesy film adaptations.

So. Is Legacy’s second season a flawless victory? Short answer: no. Long answer: hit that Read More.

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The Red Herb Roundup: The Phantom Herb

9/21/13

This week’s most percolating gaming happenings that you may have missed. If you didn’t miss them, congratulations. You’re better than I am. But now that you’re gloating about it, you’re worse than I am. O, how quickly your vanity carried you to ruin, my former liege. Anyway, welcome back to the Roundup. Leave your shoes anywhere.

In Tech

  • Sony is bent on selling five million PS4’s by next March. I’m bringing you one unit closer to your goal, guys. You don’t have to thank me. But you do owe me.image
  • Fun fact: the PlayStation 4, a console owned and created by a Japanese company, is delaying its Japan launch because there aren’t enough Japanese games for it. A sign that Western developers have overtaken the gaming scene this generation? “Nah,” says Sony figurehead Shuhei Yoshida. Japan is a “portable-heavy” market is all. So you say.image

  • "The Steam universe is expanding in 2014." A tease of promises untold or a thinly veiled threat of world dominance? When it comes to Valve, cryptic sentences usually result in both. The Bellevue, WA geek kingdom, a company that has subtly but surely influenced industry sweeping trends, is teasing three announcements for next week, beginning Monday morning. What’s the deal? Gabe “The Man” Newell hinted “hardware opportunities” for bringing Linux to the living room will be revealed soon. Steam Box anyone?image
  • The RetroN 5 is upon us, old school fiends. Hyperkin, one of the foremost manufacturers of video game clone devices (we’re adults here; I mean “knock-offs), has dated their wondrous, cartridge eating console for December 10th, 2013. The RetroN 5, to those unfamiliar, is a plastic portal to the past that allows you to play NES, SNES, Famicon, Genesis, Mega Drive, Sega Master System (B.Y.O. Power Converter, though) and Game Boy carts all in one machine. Essentially it’s the universal remote off retro consoles. Classic kicks will cost you $99.

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VG Trailer Park

The video gaming industry is a unique one, all right.  Relying on burgeoning technology, industry professionals are able to actually record short gameplay experiences from titles that haven’t even been released.

What the hell do you even call that?  Before-Plays?  Precognitive Product Viewings?  Hands-Off Game Watchings?  Unplayable View ‘Em’s?  I’ll narrow it down later.  In the meantime, welcome back to the Trailer Park.

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Call of Duty: Ghosts - Multiplayer Reveal

Why mess with a good thing, especially when that good thing is Call of Duty's airtight FPS formula?  Well, we've had about six consecutive “good things” in a row without much variation.  You can call that consistency but, lately, I've taken to calling it boring.

Ghosts, however, is looking to shake up the military shooter’s status quo with a number of tweaks and improvements.  Vaulting and peeking around corners aren’t new to the genre but mixing them into CoD's twitch-heavy cocktail certainly raises an eyebrow.  An impressive customization suite allowing you ten soldiers to deck out — male or female — featuring over 20,000 equipment and appearance options, paired with a retooled perk system, and 20 new killstreaks look to carry the series into the next generation with as much polished grace as possible.

It was the RPG influenced stat system that catapulted the first Modern Warfare into the throes of mass addiction, and it may just be that extra mile of RPG-ness that’ll keep this franchise afloat for years to come until, finally, Call of Duty sequels will mark a full year instead of rotations around the sun.

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Dying Light - 12 Harrowing Minutes of Gameplay

Whereas Techland’s surprisingly fun effort in Dead Island was met with a cheap, expansion-disguised-as-a-sequel in Riptide, Dying Light looks to pick up the true successor torch and run like hell with it.  Literally.

Branching from Dead Island's notion of a melee-heavy, zombie infested open-world, our first injection of Dying Light is enthralling.  Our main is seen leaping around a dilapidated, rural environment minutes before day winks out into night.  Being able to climb objects like light poles and trees in order to get to (or get away to) where you’re going opens up the playing field greatly.  Lateral thinking will come in handy since next-gen horsepower allows a significantly upped number of zombies on-screen at once.

Similarities to Techland’s previous tango with the dead come to a startling halt once night falls and we watch our main forced to haul ass across the cityscape, cutting through buildings and circling around alleyways so that the fast-footed dead — empowered by the nighttime — don’t turn him into a screaming buffet.  It’s about time a zombie game gave us a reason to fear the dead again.

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Grand Theft Auto Online

Grand Theft Auto IV brought the series online, now GTAV seeks to perfect the experience.  Los Santos is host to you and fifteen other of your friends’ completely customizable characters.  From there, the world is yours.

Reminiscent of Red Dead Redemption's stellar multiplayer, you can lone gun it in the city — completing missions (which Rockstar will continually generate), buy property, and deck out your character with new weapons, upgrades, and pretty, pretty things to drive and crash — or you can team up with a squad of fellow ne'er-do-wells and paint Los Santos red as you earn that green.

But Rockstar understands you’ll want way more than what their people can feasibly pump out.  That’s why they’re giving players a content creator that lets you design missions, races, and all sorts of custom chaos that you’ll be able to share with friends and vice versa.  Rolling out two weeks after GTAV's mid-September launch, Grand Theft Auto Online, if successful, may even outgrow the disc its coded onto, says Rockstar.  Where it goes from there?  Who knows?  This is just the beginning of something far bigger.

Resident Evil 2 Director Admits He “Messed Up in a Big Way”

Hideki Kamiya is a man with a storied career in video games.  Straight from his own studio, Platinum Games, his directorial credit lies on The Wonderful 101 and, more famously, the tightly wound ball of hack n’ slash insanity, Bayonetta.

But a sizable chunk of Hideki’s resume comes from his time working at Capcom.  During his tenure at the Osaka, Japan centered company, he coordinated critical and cult hits such as Viewtiful Joe, Okami, and the original Devil May Cry.  Once upon a time ago, Hideki even worked under Shinji Mikami as a system planner for the very first Resident Evil.

That fabled gig led to a project I could honestly give Hideki an open-mouthed smooch over if the timing were right and he was open to it.  Yes, I could only be talking about my most personally affecting, favorite fucking game of all time: Resident Evil 2.

As perfect as I’ll loudly and embarrassingly try to convince you the game is, Kamiya admits that, behind-the-scenes, RE2 was a veritable shit circus. 

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