Microsoft Xbox 2010 2011

Mass Effect 2' DLC enjoys big discount on Xbox Live
Today is a good day to mine Xbox Live's Marketplace for some cheap downloadable content for BioWare's intergalactic role-playing game Mass Effect 2.

Microsoft revealed it is offering all three paid pieces of DLC for Mass Effect 2 for 200 points each ($2.50).

"Kasumi's Stolen Memory" introduces players to master thief Kasumi, "Overlord" adds five extra levels and Hammerhead missions, and "Lair of the Shadow Broker" features a series of missions linked to squadmate Liara.

For those who haven't played Mass Effect 2, they are missing out on one of the year's best games (as a side note, Game Hunters will have much more on 2010's top games in the coming weeks).

Readers, have you checked out the Mass Effect 2 DLC? What did you think?


First impressions: the 'Dead Space 2' demo
Aren't churches supposed to be a sanctuary, a safe haven to escape the dangers lurking outside its doors?

If video game players were hoping for shelter from the Church of Unitology, prepare for fewer inhabitants waiting with open arms and more gnarly foes eager to vomit on your face.

On Tuesday, Electronic Arts released a demo for its horror title Dead Space 2. After taking a tour of the church and other areas in the city called Sprawl, there is definitely plenty of content to thrill and frighten players.

The story once again features Isaac Clarke, an engineer fresh off a harrowing visit to an abandoned mining ship in 2008's Dead Space. Clarke is now at Sprawl attempting to stop an outbreak of mysterious creatures called Necromorphs.

Beyond the environments, the demo only featured a couple new but very interesting options for players. Clarke uses a Javelin Gun, a one-shot, one-kill weapon that impales enemies when hit. One of the bright sides of the Church of Unitology are its long walkways, and watching Necromorphs fly across the room never grew dull. Clarke also has other signature weapons such as the plasma cutter and pulse rifle.

The demo also included zero-gravity gameplay, as Clarke floated in space and dodged fan blades to reach a platform within Sprawl.

Along with an arsenal of mining tools doubling as weapons, Clarke retains his telekinesis and stasis (slows enemies and objects) abilities, which players use in a simple puzzle section early in the demo.

For Dead Space veterans, the sequel's demo delivers a lot of the elements that made its predecessor so scary. The audio sounds chilling, as the slightest creaks and moans add lots of tension. Enemies seem to pop up out of nowhere, which should keep players on edge. And Dead Space 2 continues to hammer home the philosophy of "strategic dismemberment," where players must wisely pick apart Necromorphs in order to survive.

For those curious what to expect from the demo, GameTrailers has footage EA unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The video starts at roughly the demo's halfway mark. Dead Space 2 hits stores January 25.

Readers, have you played the demo? What did you think?

By Brett Molina


Portal 2' dropping into stores April 21
Electronic Arts has worked out a deal with Valve Software to publish and distribute disc copies of its upcoming first-person adventure Portal 2, which will reach store shelves April 21.

The game will be available for PC, Macs, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 both in stores and through Valve's online game download service Steam.

Originally slated to debut this holiday when it was unveiled in March, Portal 2's release was pushed back to February 2011. Last month, Valve announced a second launch delay for the game to April.

Portal 2 features test subject Chell revisiting the Aperture Science, which has been largely destroyed since the events of 2007's Portal title.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Chell carried a gun that created portals allowing her to teleport anywhere within a test room. Portal 2 is introducing some cool new gameplay features, such as Aerial Faith Plates and Thermal Discouragement Beams. Check out our preview for more details.



Five things you didn't know about 'Dead Space 2'
If you're a regular Game Hunters visitor (and we certainly hope you are) then you've no doubt read a lot about EA Games' upcoming Dead Space 2, slated for a January 25 launch on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PCs.

We've recently written about the Dead Space 2 demo, now available, and we've posted the latest trailer to the game, too. And our first impressions hands-on preview is here.

But we know you want more, so we tapped art director Ian Milham to give us a few other goodies about the game to look forward to.

Falling to pieces. Enemy parts sometimes make the best weapons. One of the best strategies in Dead Space 2 is to use the Necromorph's dismembered talons against them. A very good player could use one shot from his plasma cutter to cut off the spear from a Necromorph slasher, and then use his TK (telekinesis) ability to pick up and fire that spear at the Necro to finish him off. This greatly conserves ammo, which is a huge advantage in a game like this.

No product placement. More than 20 fake brands and products were created, along with their logos and advertising campaigns, to populate world of "The Sprawl," the city in space in which Dead Space 2 takes place. From "Lightspeed Hard Bar" the futuristic snack cake, to "Lemon Gun" the refreshing drink bar to "Levitations," the telekinetic bed company, all the brands the player sees on the billboards had to be created from scratch. Most of them are based on inside jokes for the team. The woman pictured in the poster for "Kitty Kitty Bang Bang" is actually one of the voice actors for the game. Posters for the movie "The Clogger" came from team drama about someone …er…. breaking the social rules of the men's room.

Head case. Isaac's helmet was a single solid piece in the first Dead Space, but in Dead Space 2 he needs to talk and emote, so a fully-folding helmet for each suit was engineered. His Advanced Suit helmet features over 40 pieces. If you look closely, you can see little arms extend from his suit and pull the helmet parts down for storage.

You're so random. If you think you'll get the jump on the Necromorphs by playing through an area again after you die, think again. They don't always come from the same "boo!" points this time around. Necros choose new areas to come bursting out of different times.

Get yer goat. Among the expenses incurred in the making of the game: a goat. The artists bought a butchered goat, which was used for reference and filming to provide flashes of imagery for Isaac's nightmare sequences.


Top Tech Gifts: Last-minute tech accessories
There's still time to get those last-minute holiday gifts for techies.

Skooba has a variety of smart carrying bags for those who need to transport their gadgets. The new Techlife Netbook/iPad Messenger bag ($49.95; http://www.skoobadesign.com/) has more than a dozen intelligently-placed pockets including spots for your smartphone and water bottle. If someone on your gift list likes to cart around more devices, opt for the Digital Daypack ($99.95) with 18 pockets.
Give that Kindle lover on your list a gift that bookish feel with the DODOcase for Amazon.com's eReader device (starts at $49.95, http://www.dodocase.com/).

CAPTIONBy DODOcase

The San Francisco company has added the Kindle carrier to its iPad holders, all handmade with classic bookbinding touches by local artisans. The lightweight holder is made from bamboo; an elastic strap holds the devices in their tray.

Diehard video gamers would appreciate the KontrolFreek adapters for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 controllers. For the Halo and Call of Duty lover, get the FPSFreek ($9.99; http://www.kontrolfreek.com/). Basketball-shaped and football-shaped thumb pads are available for sports video game lovers, as is a U-shaped SpeedFreek attachment to make driving games easier.


Six things you didn't know about 'Dungeon Siege III'
The third game in the beloved Dungeon Siege series is well underway by Obsidian Entertainment, slated for a 2011 launch on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PCs.

To learn more about the upcoming action-role-playing game (RPG) hybrid, we caught up with Nathan Davis, producer on the game at Obsidian Entertainment.

"When you fire up a franchise after a few years, you are blessed twice over," begins Davis. "This may seem counterintuitive to some, but we've found a lot of benefits to doing so [as] we get a rich world and gameplay tradition to start from and we get the freedom to make the game truly our own."

"When we talk about Dungeon Siege III, we like to talk about how we are bringing the series into this generation of platforms and specific action gameplay mechanics," adds Davis. "But here are some facts about Dungeon Siege III that have nothing to do with that stuff!"

East meets west. Dungeon Siege III is the first Western-style role-playing game to come out of Square Enix. At Obsidian, we are all big fans of Square's RPG library and it's an immense privilege for us to be work on this pioneering project with them.

Start your engine. This game is the first to use Obsidian's proprietary Onyx game engine. Dungeon Siege III is a perfect opportunity for us to show what we can do with our own internal technology. While Onyx is fine tuned for RPG production, it also is graphically powerful and was built with our art director's vision in mind.

Power of ancestry. When you start a new game, you can choose to play as one of the descendants of The Farmer, the hero of the first Dungeon Siege. There are a number of nods to the original game throughout Dungeon Siege III, including the opportunity to adventure in a memorial built in honor of the player's character in the first game.

Ehb and flow. Our Creative Lead Designer, George Ziets, created a large Ehb Sourcebook (reminiscent of the Forgotten Realms Gazetteers for all of you Dungeons & Dragons nerds out there. You know who you are!). He took all the lore that he could find from the first two games and advanced the land of Ehb over 150 years. He built this tome in consultation with [series creator] Chris Taylor who was responsible for the original Dungeon Siege games. Richness of story and setting has always been a hallmark of Obsidian games and Dungeon Siege III is no exception.

Sounding off. Barry Dennon, the voice of the Venerable Odo, the player's mentor, was also the voice of Chamberlain in Dark Crystal. We are excited to have him on board and have co-opted him into being the voice of our narrator where appropriate.

Loot, there it is. In Dungeon Siege III, players will have access to over 15,000 pieces of equipment. In an action RPG like ours, extensive loot is key, and we strive to make sure that players will get the pleasure of finding items throughout the entire game.


New maps coming to 'Call of Duty: Black Ops' in February
Activision and studio Treyarch will release the first set of downloadable maps for first-person shooter Call of Duty: Black Ops on February 1.

The DLC, which will be available first on Xbox 360, is titled First Strike, and features four new multiplayer maps and a zombie map.

Treyarch online director Dan Bunting revealed the DLC during an episode of Major Nelson Radio, hosted by Xbox Live programming director Larry Hryb.

First Strike will sell for 1200 Microsoft points ($15).

The four downloadable maps are Discovery (an abandoned Antarctic research station), Kowloon (based on a level in the Black Ops campaign), Berlin Wall and Stadium (an athletic complex and hockey rink in the U.S.).

Bunting says the goal for this map pack was to introduce a greater variety of weaponry and "a lot more verticality."

Bunting did not offer any details on what to expect from the lone map for the game's Zombies mode.

The maps will release on Xbox 360 first before likely making their way to PC and PlayStation 3 players. When Activision released DLC for 2009's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Xbox 360 players had the maps exclusively for roughly a month before they debuted on PC and PS3.

Readers, looking forward to the new maps? What would you like to see added or removed?


Developer tips and tricks for 'Crazy Taxi'
Based on the original Sega Dreamcast game, Crazy Taxi is now available at Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points (about $10) and PlayStation Network ($9.99, or $7.99 for PlayStation Plus subscribers).

While retaining the arcade look and feel of the original, SEGA has added a few new enhancements, including high-resolution visuals and surround sound.

If you need a little help behind the wheel, who better to turn to than Ben Harborne, brand manager for Crazy Taxi at Sega of America and Kenji Kanno, original producer on the game?

"In Crazy Taxi you are pitched in a frantic race against the clock, trying to scare up the most fares by performing 'Crazy Combo' maneuvers before the time on the meter runs out," explains Harborne. "Here are some techniques that'll shave valuable seconds off each of your fares and ensure that you earn that elusive CRAZY license (yes, this is better than both the "Awesome" and "S" licenses)." "Coincidentally, over half of the Crazy Taxi dev team did not own a driver's license while they were working on this game...that explains a lot," Harbone adds.

Buckle up, here we go:

1. The Crazy Dash: One of the most useful techniques for saving time is the Crazy Dash. This makes your taxi accelerate much faster than it would normally – great for that stop and go traffic. You can perform the Crazy Dash by releasing the accelerator and the brake, then shifting into drive and hitting the accelerator at the same time.

2. The Crazy Stop: Where would you be without the Crazy Stop? Probably halfway through someone's living-room wall, or at least several yards past the passenger you were trying to pick up. Crazy Stop pairs perfectly with the Crazy Dash by allowing you to stop on a dime. Pull off a Crazy Stop by throwing the car into reverse and stepping on the brakes at the same time. For an even faster stop, do a Crazy Stop immediately after a Crazy Dash. Fun fact: Although Crazy Taxi draws scenes from San Francisco nobody on the Crazy Taxi dev team had even been to San Francisco when they began production on the game.

3. The Crazy Drift: Not only is the Crazy Drift the most convenient way to speed through sharp corners, but it is also the only move covered here today which gets you "Crazy Combo" points. It's a little known fact but the entire sport of Drifting was actually made popular by this one maneuver. To perform the Crazy Drift, simply release the gas pedal, throw the cab into reverse, then throw it back into drive, hit the gas, and turn sharply. Occasionally you can slam into a building during a Crazy Drift, which results in your cab popping a side-wheelie and racking up a huge combo bonus – cha-ching!

4. The Limiter Cut: Professor Einstein always said that speed was relative, and in Crazy Taxi that particular law of physics remains untouched. If you want to go faster relative to the other cabbies then you can perform a maneuver called the Limiter Cut. This removes your top speed limiter momentarily, allowing for a short burst of speed. To remove your limiter, perform a Crazy Dash, a Crazy Drift (without the sharp turn), then a Crazy Dash again. These can be executed in quick succession for a quantum layering effect, which allows you to rocket around at close to the speed of light! Warning: after mastering the limiter cut, regular driving will feel as if you're stuck in an ultra slo-mo replay.

5. Unlock each Character's "Special Taxi": With all the hubbub about going green today sometimes you have to stop and ask yourself, "how eco-friendly is my cab?" Nothing says "I'm the greenest cabbie around" quite like a human powered Rickshaw, which emits close to zero grams of carbon a year – depending on what you had for lunch. In Crazy Taxi you can unlock a special Rickshaw for each character by completing all sixteen Crazy Box levels. Once unlocked, the Rickshaw is selectable in Crazy Box, Arcade, and Original modes. To select the Rickshaw in Crazy Box mode, scroll to the right of Gus at the character selection screen. To select the Rickshaw in Arcade or Original mode, press Up at the character selection screen. Speaking of characters, Axel is the name of Kenji Kanno's dog. He likes breaking his cage to escape.



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