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PS3, April, 2010: GTA IV: Episodes from Liberty City and Super Street Fighter

Submitted by on Monday, 3 May 2010No Comment

What would you consider to be a highlight in your gaming month? Would it be that sequel to your favourite triple-A game or some surprise new IP that’s redefining its genre? If so, April wasn’t good for you.

After all, would you get excited about DLC for a two-year-old game? Of course not and neither would you get all hot under the collar for a re-release of a year-old title just because it has a few extra features and characters.

What if that DLC meant you got over 20 hours of new content for one of the biggest games ever, Grand Theft Auto IV, and that nifty rebranding meant the greatest fighter of them all, Street Fight IV, just got a lot better? When it’s phrased that way, April starts to look a lot better.

Gritty or Flamboyant?

Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City has been getting some serious play time at Attitude Towers. We can never resist an excuse to delve back into the world of Liberty City.

The first episode, The Lost and Damned, had us cruising through the streets as Johnny Klebitz, the skinhead biker of The Lost gang. As you would expect from an episode surrounding the events of biker gangs, the mood is typically macho, tough and dark. It’s so manly you can even arm wrestle. TLAD is all about attitude and it has it in abundance, especially with garage rock legend Iggy Pop DJing on Liberty Rock Radio.

TLAD has a lot of excellent game-time to offer, but as much as we enjoyed it, we never felt it added that much new to what was already there in GTA IV. More GTA IV isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is a great game, but TLAD’s inability to differentiate from the main game does, however, make it an inferior product to its partner in crime, The Ballad of Gay Tony.

This has a completely different feel. You play Luis Lopez, the pleasure-seeking bodyguard to party king Gay Tony Prince, owner of the two hottest nightclubs in Liberty City – these are the regular haunts for Liberty City’s hottest celebrities and tragic socialites. Tony is in debt to the mob and his empire is starting to crumble. It’s up to Luis to keep it together. Meet Luis in the trailer below…

TBOGT is a joyous return to the series’ mischievous roots; it has BASE jumping, dancing games, cage fighting and a clutch of over-the-top weapons to wow us – from electric shotguns to sticky bombs. With crazy characters and fun mini-games, TBOGT  is like classic GTA. Its playfulness is a far cry from the often serious tone of the main game and TLAD.

The two episodes can be bought on Blu-Ray or via the PSN as DLC. Each episode offers over ten hours of gaming, it’s extraordinary value for money.

The episodes are an example of how to do DLC right. Rockstar North has put a lot of care into developing them, and they have been priced just right by publisher Take Two. It shows up Activision for their handling of the Modern Warfare 2 DLC which has been a complete shambles.

MW 2’s Stimulus Pack contains five new multi-player maps, two of which are reused from the first MW, and it’s likely to be retailing at over ten pounds. We are looking forward to getting our hands on these maps but this certainly can’t be described as value for money. It smacks of avarice the way Activision are squeezing out ever last drop of revenue from the Call of Duty franchise. More on them later.

The king is dead. Long live the king.

Maybe we’re misunderstanding Activision, just like we did with Capcom for their handling of Super Street Fighter IV. It seemed obscene that Capcom would continue their Super strategy of re-releasing Street Fighter games, especially when this generation of gaming has the PSN and Xbox Live. Our initial thoughts were that this new content should have been distributed as DLC at an affordable price.

This was before we realised just how much work Capcom had put into this content. As news on the new features and characters started to filter through, it became apparent that this wasn’t just a minor incremental update, Capcom had improved on SFIV on almost every level. Check out Delriach’s essential review for a thorough analysis, but here are some of the key points that you should know about SSFIV:

  • Ten new fighters have been added with every fighter at your disposal from the off
  • Fighters have new devastating Ultra Combos to terrorise their opponents
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the fighters have been rebalanced to make fights more competitive
  • The car destroying and barrel smashing Bonus Rounds from SFII have made a return. Hurrah
  • There are four new combat stages
  • Loading times have been drastically improved

It’s an impressive list. The most significant changes, however,relate to the game’s online play. Lobbies can now support up to eight players with winner stays on and a team battle option is now available which supports 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4 matches. The biggest disappointment from SFIV was that it didn’t make the most of the online community. With these changes, the community is buzzing.

New character Juri is simply insane

Probably the best new feature is the ability to watch matches online with the Replay Channel. It’s an essential tool to help you understand the different playing styles used throughout the community. Using this can help to improve you a better fighter.

SFIV was showered with praise upon its release and it was justifiably crowned the true king of fighters. It clearly had the best fighting around, but on reflection it’s clear the whole package wasn’t quite there. It now feels complete with SSFIV. The king is dead. Long live the king.

Industry News

Much of our time in April was spent trying to keep up with an overload of industry news. The focus of attention is still on the fallout between Infinity Ward and Activision following the sacking of Vince Zampella and Jason West at the beginning of March. The sacked duo have since started their own studio, Respawn Entertainment, which will be supported by EA.

It’s an interesting turn of events because Activision are of the belief that Zampella and West were planning to defect to EA while at Infinity Ward, they used this as one of their justifications for sacking them. Is this defection evidence that the duo were indeed plotting all along or is it their way of sticking two fingers up at Activision? It’s a messy affair and it’s being played out in the public eye so we will probably find out the truth one day, if we can handle the truth. EA are one of the few developers with the budget to support the big budget titles that Zampella and West are masters of, so going to EA was an obvious destination.

At this moment, 16 ex Infinity Ward employees have joined Respawn and more are likely to defect in the future. The team’s first project is unknown, but the likelihood is that it hasn’t been decided yet. With the rights to Modern Warfare franchise still to be decided in court, it’s likely the team will wait until a verdict is reached before committing to any projects. Either way, expect to wait a few years before seeing what Respawn are capable of.

To make matters worse for Activision, they are being sued for allegedly not paying MW2 royalties to 38 current and former Infinity Ward employees. The lawsuit is “without merit” claim Activision, but with this much spite being shown to the company from its own employees you would wonder who would choose to work with them, never mind a studio of note.

Nevertheless, there were further twists and defections before the end of the month with the news of Bungie signing a ten year contract with Activision. This is fantastic news, not only for Activision, but also for PS3 owners because Bungie will now be developing for the platform. Their only console experience to date had been on the Xbox 360.

They are the influential developers of the Halo franchise, the trophy child for the Xbox 360. They may be finished with Halo now, but we can still look forward to seeing what they are capable of producing. It’s likely to be superb no matter what direction they take.  Bungie specialise in FPS games and are masters of multi-player. While they haven’t  developed for the PS3 before, they are fully confident they can handle the beast.

Halo is full of generic space marines but it's still amazing.

The talk of the town is that – with Infinity Ward now practically caput – Bungie may take on the Modern Warfare baton should Activision retain the rights. It’s just speculation but it hasn’t been ruled out.

With this remarkable development, the situation over at Activision doesn’t appear quite so desperate now. The deal has apparently been on-going for nine months. If we were wearing our tinfoil hats we would likely consider whether this has had any influence on the Activision vs. Infinity Ward chaos. There’s nothing like a good conspiracy theory.

Bitch about the opposition

Who cares about MW2 anyway? It was an “immense disappointment” after all, at least according to Richard Morgan, the sci-fi author behind the script for Crysis 2. In an interview with CVG, Morgan got tore into the game:

“[The storyline] made no sense. It was totally implausible. It doesn’t resolve. Basically, all the things that bad storytelling does. I just think they were way too impressed with themselves and that’s always a danger. It’s just unfortunate.”

The question is can Crysis 2 do better? The first game was renowned for its great graphics that tortured even high-end PCs, but it fell well short in story and gameplay. Crytek believe they have rectified these issues with the sequel; getting a famous writer onboard always helps.

We seen the first trailer this month. it’s set in the ruined remains of New York, New York – it’s looking beautiful. Crytek believe its CryEngine 3 is the best engine around and they are confident of wiping out the opposition. Can the PS3 hold together under the strain? You bet it will. It’s even showing better performance than the Xbox 360 at this stage.

You stole my Other OS

Speaking of the PS3. It has had a bit of tweaking this month on the software and hardware front. Controversially, Sony removed the “Other OS” option during a firmware update at the beginning of the month. Its removal now means that Linux isn’t available on the system. It’s a decision that has upset many.

Sony has since apologised to those effected, but they say it is important to “protect the integrity of the console.” It’s clear Sony believe the Other OS option made the system vulnerable to hackers but the removal could find Sony in trouble with a class action lawsuit having been filed against them by a Californian man.

There seems to be a lot more PS3 Linux users nowadays than before Sony announced plans to remove it. While we’re not happy to lose a feature, neither are we particularly upset over the loss because it was a rarely used feature that appealed mostly to hackers. How many PS3 owners actually knew of its existence?

The PS3 also received firmware update 3.30 which readied the system for 3D, something we’ll certainly be talking about more in the near future. Other nifty updates included a new sorting options for the trophy menu.

Changes have also been made to the hardware with a new console iteration now available. It’s lighter, and more efficient. Consumers won’t notice a difference between it and the current Slim model, but it could well mean that Sony will finally make a profit on the hardware they sell. It’s better late than never.

April has been an eventful month with lots of games and industry news to keep us talking. Now it’s time to start enjoying what new games May has to offer, assuming we can put down Super Street Fighter IV for long enough.

What we’ve been playing