"This is by far the largest and most ambitious XBLA game ever made. No question," Undead Labs CEO Jeff Strain said matter-of-factly of State of Decay when we spoke at PAX Prime. Though XBLA Fans has been unable to verify that claim, my brief time with the sandbox zombie game proved this much, at least: it's huge. To put a measurement on it, Undead claims the overworld is 16 square kilometers.
In the demo, the player arms himself with a pistol and walks outside into deserted Anytown, USA. It is quickly apparent that not all living(ish) creatures have actually vacated the municipality. A few zombies shamble towards the player, as zombies are wont to do. Years of zombie games have prepared gamers for this situation; unloading a few shots into their noggins should eliminate the threat with little drama. Indeed it does, but they've got friends, and my, what big ears they have. There are small clusters of the undead doing their shambling thing on every block in sight. The unmistakable sound of gunfire alerts a couple of groupings of the town's 99 percent, and, not the least bit concerned over the prospect of parting with the rotting lumps atop their necks, they quickly converge on the player's location.
The first ones on the scene go down easily enough, but they just don't make pistol clips big enough for this sort of job. Thankfully, Detroit was kind enough to make bumpers for just such an occasion. Jumping in an abandoned car, I stomp on the throttle and attempt, unsuccessfully, to make a controlled turn around the block. True to real life, the '70s-looking muscle car is uncontrollable in anything other than a straight line.
Attempts to regain traction don't go so well — not for me or for the zombies who thought it was a good idea to hang around in the middle of the road just past the intersection where irresponsible drivers are wont to swerve through, not the least bit concerned about braking for pedestrians. Zombies fly like bowling pins, inspiring another go at the group a bit farther down the road. The Undead Labs representative recommends motoring right on by to the side of them and hitting B. The car's door is kicked open, and more zombies meet their end. At this point, it wouldn't have been surprising if State of Decay's zombies began chanting "Braaaaaakes!" instead of "Braaaaains!"
No Supercross or Skill Games this week, it's all raw Trials courses. There's nothing too difficult here, so if you're a more casual player you'll still be able to enjoy these little gems. Each one is themed, and each theme has that charm that'll put a smile on your face. Do yourself a favor and put Borderlands 2 aside for a few minutes to take a spin on these great Trials Evolution tracks.
To download these tracks by entering Track Central, selecting Get Tracks, then pressing X to search. Enter the gamertag below to find the track. Be aware that the search is case sensitive. A big thanks to the Trials Evolution community for the borrowed videos. Hit the jump to see this week's picks.
It didn't rain in Seattle during PAX Prime earlier this month. It's a little odd that the city didn't get any of the precipitation for which it is so well-known. Stranger still, however, are the weather patterns in The Walking Dead that Telltale Designer Harrison Pink told Perry Jackson and I about when we caught up with him on the second day of the show. Zombie storm fronts, you see, are an accepted, regular occurrence in the game world. Unusual weather phenomena aside, Pink had plenty to share about the first Walking Dead season. So break out your shotgun umbrella and prepare to weather the storm.
You guys just recently released The Walking Dead: Episode 3. What has the reception of it been like? Are you happy with it?
Harrison Pink: Oh yeah, it’s been awesome. It’s blown me away. You know, you get so head-down on finishing an episode, after a while you get really myopic on it, and it just gets like all you can see are the flaws, like ‘Aww, we left that on the table. Awww, we really didn’t have time to fix that.’ So, I’m really glad that releasing to the world has been such an awesome reception. I’m really glad that everyone has been loving it slash hating it.
I felt like Episode 1 set up the story, Episode 2 kind of wanted to go for that shock value and Episode 3 really just wanted to hit it home to your heart. It felt like a nice middle moment to the whole series so far.
Pink: Yeah, that was kind of the idea. I mean, you know, Sean [Vanaman] and Jake [Rodkin], the leads on The Walking Dead had the story sort of planned out way in advance. Even before the first line of dialogue for The Walking Dead was written, they already knew how the story was going to end and sort of where the middle is and all the events that are going to happen.
So, these sort of events are the kind of thing you have in The Walking Dead. Right? Like these things happen in The Walking Dead, so people kind of knew going in what we could push it to, and so this is exactly where the halfway point makes sense in the story.
Personally we're still fuming over the death of Mega Man Universe. That would have been the greatest XBLA platformer of all time.
After a two month hiatus Trials Tuesday returns. To download these tracks by entering Track Central, selecting Get Tracks, then pressing X to search. Enter the gamertag below to find the track. Be aware that the search is case sensitive. A big thanks to the Trials Evolution community for the borrowed videos. Hit the jump to see this week's picks.
On July 25th, 2007 Wing Commander Arena released on XBLA. It was never the greatest game in the world, but it’s far from a terrible game. It’s heavy reliance on online multiplayer carrying the torch for any sense of value in the title was ultimately the reason behind its swift downfall for most gamers. Single player was extremely lacking and four players were required for any online games to actually start. Unfortunately, even on release day it was a fairly tall order to find four players in any game modes. But a very niche community of gamers managed to make Wing Commander Arena possess one of the best communities that any XBLA game had seen at that point and make the four player requirement a non-issue.
Where this title lacked was also where the game managed to make its most cherished contribution to XBLA. Wing Commander Arena was the first XBLA title to allow up to 16-player online matches. And with that also came one of the first achievements that brought a wide range of competitive XBLA players together. The achievement was called TCS Tiger’s Claw and all it required was to compete in a 16-player Capital Ship game. Back then achievements like that were fairly unheard of and it took some serious scheduling on the Xbox.com forums to set up the boosting sessions in order to unlock this achievement.
In those 16-player Capital Ship games shined quite possibly the greatest feature to date in any XBLA game. 16-player simultaneous chat sessions were born and the value in that feature alone made Wing Commander Arena boosting sessions one of my favorite memories during my time in XBLA competition. Keep in mind that when this game released, Xbox LIVE was still operating on the Blades dashboard where private chat was the best way to communicate with other gamers. Due to this, most competitive XBLA gamers had split off in to teams of two. There was Lucas & Zerium, Smally & Johnny, Karnage & myself and many more duos present at each boosting session. We all had our partners, but Wing Commander Arena brought those teams together and helped foster a better sense of community among competitive XBLA gamers. Friendships were born.
It's not a remake; it's a reimagining, Majesco Entertainment Assistant Product Manager Pete Rosky told XBLA Fans at PAX Prime a moment before handing over the controller. Having taken a trip down memory lane with the original Double Dragon at Philadelphia's Barcade only a month prior, I was in prime position to discover the truth behind that statement. As it turned out, Double Dragon: Neon plays remarkably like the game that launched the franchise a quarter of a century ago, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Wayforward Technology's take on the series might have trouble impressing younger gamers, but the PAX demo was an enjoyable romp down memory lane.
Players take control of Billy and Jimmy, with their simultaneously awful and amazing hair and begin whomping on every street tough in site. There's a fantastic new coat of paint on this aging '80s muscle car, thus the subtitle, but every curve has that old familiar look and feel. The combat system has a couple of new tricks up its sleeve in the form of throws and special moves, but the kicks, punches and melee weapons are essentially ripped right out of the original. What is presumably either Billy or Jimmy's girlfriend gets mercilessly slugged and kidnapped in the beginning and the duo brawl through those same old streets on a collision course with the original's first boss, Abobo, who looks as if he's sampled more than his fair share of steroids since his last showdown with the boys. And then you walk into a pagoda that turns out to be a spaceship that rockets Billy and Jimmy into space. That, as Rosky explained, is where Neon departs from the original. No kidding.
Bigger hair, bigger bosses, brighter colors and longer distance travel may or may not be enough to justify the reimagining label — you'll have to wait for our forthcoming review of the full game for that ruling — but they certainly establish a new theme. It's a completely silly and ridiculous theme, and that feels completely appropriate for an homage to an '80s brawler that was a lot of things in its day, but never serious. That doesn't mean the approach was an obvious one for the team to take, though.