May 13, 2011
PES 2012: Real Football Simulation Announced

Konami have today confirmed that Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 is on its way. We have the official announcement trailer as well as some screenshots. For non-football (soccer) fans these annual releases for what is effectively the same game with updated rosters, kits and stadiums may seem senseless, but for football (soccer) fans these are essential purchases.

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Each year it is a two horse contest between FIFA and PES for the title of best football game and it has been a fiercely fought contest in recent years.

Do you expect PES to regain its crown this year or will FIFA continue to dominate?

Let’s get onto the details that we know so far:

"For me, the ultimate aim in the ongoing PES series is to match what people see when they go to a match or watch a big game on TV with what they experience on their console," explains Shingo ‘Seabass’ Takatsuka, the Creative Producer of the Pro Evolution Soccer series. “As such, in consultation with football fans across the globe, we have been working non-stop to isolate and determine how to make our game marry in with how real football is played. This is key to PES 2012, and key to providing the ultimate football experience within a console title.”

To this end, PES 2012 continues KONAMI’s determination to work with fans of both the PES series and football in general, to create a truly realistic, immersive and utterly playable take on the modern game. Thus, the focus in PES 2012 is the instinctive way the game can be played and on teamwork in particular. Seabass and his Tokyo team have worked to recreate the very essence of top-level football, ensuring the new game’s AI engine has undergone a major overhaul and provide an experience akin to being part of a real team.

Attacking play is a cornerstone of PES 2012, and the new game benefits from a more open approach that allows users to dictate the pace of movement, with all-new AI elements incorporated so team mates make runs and offer support in one-on-one situations. Players make useful dummy runs to draw defenders, and this offers users greater options to move the ball around when they are being closed down. Thus, the team works together a more cohesive unit, reacting to the movements of the player with the ball, and working to force the opposing team into mistakes.

Zonal marking and positional defending are also massively enhanced; ensuring players are forced to work harder to split the opposition defence. Meanwhile a new cursor switching system has been implemented using the right analogue stick to switch to any player on the field. This allows users to pick a team mate anywhere on the pitch, thereby allowing players to react to threats faster, and to shut down attacks more quickly. Hold up play is being tweaked to give even greater control. AI defenders are able to hold a much tighter defensive line, position themselves better and track opponents more efficiently. The off-the-ball switching also extends to key set pieces, such as goal kicks, corners, free kicks and throw-ins, and allows users to target a specific player and send them on runs or to drag defenders out of position, and allows for quick breaks and space to be exploited more easily.

The physicality of top-level football is represented as PES 2012 extends the jostling system of its predecessor. Defenders rely on their strength and stature to force a player from the ball as strikers and play makers make use of unique attributes to beat their markers. Tighter, more accurate collisions see players tumbling dependent on how they are knocked off the ball. Crucially, control is not lost, allowing the stumbling player to be brought directly back under control.

The result is a game that, more than ever, truly represents the key attributes of the world’s greatest players, but without sacrificing balance and allowing single players to waltz undefended through a game. Coupled with heavily tweaked animation, more detailed lighting techniques, a wider variety of player styles, improved dead-ball situations, expanded tactics and a new customisable pass feature, means that PES 2012 truly captures the essence of top-flight football.

“Team work is what separates the world’s greatest teams from their peers, and is the hub of everything within PES 2012,” added Takatsuka. “PES 2012 focuses on the core elements of top-level football: attacking play, freedom of movement, the creation of space, and working together as a unit both up field and in defence. These elements combine to create a game that flows and ebbs like a real match, with individual shows of brilliance changing a game, and more control over every aspect of play within a wide-ranging yet instinctive control system. PES 2012 will turn the heads of fans everywhere.”

KONAMI will be detailing further key enhancements to PES 2012 in the coming months, and make sure you stay tuned to Platform Nation as we will bring you all the PES 2012 news as we get our hands on it.

PES 2012 will be released for PlayStation3, Xbox 360, Windows PC, Wii, PSP and PlayStation2 in Autumn, 2011.

May 9, 2011
The Witcher 2: Living World Trailer

PC exclusive The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings arrives May 17 on store shelves.
Leading up to the release of this awaited RPG, we continue to see tantalizing glimpses into the witchers world.
This new trailer is a bit more then just a glimpse, giving us a pretty complete rundown on the living world the makers are hoping to promote. Making a game immersive is a goal of any video game designer, but I have to wonder if The Witcher 2 can deliver on the depth it promises.
Don’t mistake my skepticism for cynicism, The Witcher 2 is clearly trying to accomplish something in which no RPG before it has managed to do, by creating real, working community’s to form a living environment that envelopes the player from the start of his/her journey up until the end.
I still have to wonder, given the limitations of time devoted to any video game’s creation, whether or not this living world will hold up to the expectations. Do the characters cycle through the same dialogue, telling their friends for the 8th time that day about their shoes? Does the butcher take a smoke break every 2 hours during daylight?
My excitement and curiosity will have to wait until May 17th. In the meantime you should watch the latest trailer and draw your own conclusions on The Witcher 2’s Living World.

May 24, 2010
“Dream Teams”: 5 Gaming Collaborations I Would Love To See

So I guess my brain’s been in a weird list-centric mode recently, as this is my second one this month.  Apologies to those of you who are weary of the format (God knows there are enough of them on the good ol’ interwebs): sometimes ideas just lend themselves to little numbered bullets.  Anyway, enough of my prolixity.

Sometimes, in any genre, there are supergroups.  When two or more accomplished and beloved creators team up to weave an otherworldly tapestry of pure delight, integrating their work together seamlessly and elevating their art to new levels in the process… or that’s the goal / expectation caused by rabid hype, anyway.  Actual mileage varies quite a bit: for every Cream or Good Omens there are a baker’s dozen of disasters where the artists in question never really click together, or all the different elements just don’t fall in place correctly.  Examples in the gaming world might be Crono Cross on the good end, and Brutal Legend on the not so good.  So, I realize going into this that collaborations between high profile (or really any) artists can be fickle things, and the end product might not always be what people had in mind.  Nevertheless, a man can dream, and so these are my top 5 pie-in-the-sky fantasy team-ups in the gaming world.
5. Valve + Irrational Games: Between these two developers we’ve seen some of the greatest single-player FPS experiences of this or any generation.  Half Life.  System Shock.  Portal.  BioShock.  Not only do these games present something original and innovative in their gameplay far beyond that of the usual run-and-gun, but they also raise the bar for immersive and just plain good storytelling.  They also make you think more (or at least, on a more abstract level) than the average shooter, whether you’re setting up elaborate Rube Goldberg-style traps in BioShock or figuring out a particularly difficult momentum-based puzzle in Portal.  Outside of some slight RPG inclinations on the Irrational side, the two companies seem to have their goals in the same places, and they consistently achieve them year after year.   For this reason, I think they’d work well together.
4. Tim Schafer + Golden Age Rare: Okay, so not only is this one impossible given that Rare’s time in the sun has passed, but I’m suggesting a legendary Tim Schafer team up after dismissing Brutal Legend?  What can I say: I believe in second chances, and Rare in its heyday (which I’m defining as roughly Donkey Kong Country through Banjo Tooie) could do no wrong in my young eyes.  Pumping out excellent, expansive, and comedic platformers like clockwork, they sparked a renaissance on the aging SNES, and almost single-handedly justified the purchase of an N64 console.  Playing through Psychonauts is somewhat reminiscent of games like Banjo Kazooie and DK64 due to it’s rock solid platforming and irreverent humor, but it has even better presentation, playing like a lost Saturday Morning cartoon classic.  Neither Schafer nor Golden Age Rare limited themselves to one genre, of course, lending their considerable talents to adventure games, shooters, racers, etc., but it’s the common bond they share in this matchup, and where they truly shine.
3. George R.R. Martin + Bioware: Perhaps the predominant name in fantasy literature today (if you somehow haven’t heard of him yet, HBO will ensure that you do soon), and arguably the leader in storytelling in the gaming world.  They even have similar tale-weaving techniques, fleshing out a wide variety of characters, dealing with more gritty material than the usual scifi / fantasy norm, and working in a fairly episodic (but also epic) form.  Hell, Dragon Age: Origins was directly inspired by Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, and wears this influence on its sleeve.  Bioware has a fantastic team of scene and character writers working on material familiar to Martin - the man himself helming the story development of one of these games sounds like a recipe for success.
2. Masahiro Sakurai + Arc System Works: Let’s face it: Yes, the Super Smash Brothers titles are some of the most entertaining and unorthodox fighting games ever to grace the genre, but they are also woefully unbalanced and chock full of exploitable glitches.  This is in part due to the difficulties raised by a physics based system and the strange Smash Bros. damage modifier, but it’s also because the folks at Nintendo are aiming towards a casual audience.  Arc Sys, on the other hand, creates some of the most original and fun character designs found in a 2D fighting game, and does so while serving its competitive community first and foremost.  Yes, their latest BlazBlue franchise is more casual-friendly with its slower speed and Easy Specials, but it never oversimplifies things at the sacrifice of upper end play.  It’s a top-down model that makes more sense to me - develop for the harder-to-please competitive community first, and then include things that allow the newbie to join in and learn, having fun at an introductory level as well.  ArcSys is a slave to the arcade scene, watching the strategies that dominate and tweaking their power in future installments to ensure the continued growth and balance of the gameplay.  Combine the pure, unadulterated fun-in-a-bottle feel of Smash with the unparalleled devotion to balance and competition that ArcSys delivers, and you’d have a fighter like no other.
1. Shpongle + The Team Behind Rez: Perhaps a strange one for #1 pick, but I’m standing by it.  It’s no secret that I love synesthetic games, and Rez is one of the best (though the team behind the Bit.Trip games would be almost as good), and unmatched in its enthusiasm to draw the player into the experience in cool and strange ways.  The trance vibrator should stand as evidence to this.  All wired up, your game interactions are translated musically, and you feel the musical beats physically.  Combined with the trippy, abstract visuals, it’s a feeling that stimulates some primal pleasure center of your brain.  It’s awesome.  Enter Shpongle, kings of psybient music.  It’s electronic / trance that’s incredibly layered and complex, not to mention bizarre as hell.  It makes no attempt to conceal its hallucinogenic inspirations, rather striving to be a sort of sonic representation of such experiences.  What better soundtrack for a game that hopes to evoke synesthesia than that of a band that’s been doing this on a purely musical level for years?  Such a pairing would be fascinating to me because I wouldn’t be able to wait to see what the two teams would come up with a common mindbending goal in mind.  But even samples from Shpongle’s back catalogue would trounce the electronic examples found in Rez.  Imagining such a game set to beats from a song like Dorset Perception or Nothing is Something Worth Doing makes me happy on a deep, deep level.

So those are my picks.  Agree?  Disagree?  Have any fantasy match-ups of your own?  I would love to hear ‘em - drop a line in the comments.

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