Putting The Sentinels In The Shade

Though it’s not quite clear what Mamoru Oshii‘s role will be, he’s somehow involved in a new, live-action movie based upon his anime series Patlabor. I’m hoping that his former colleagues at Headgear, co-creators of the series and its manga incarnation, are also involved somehow.

Though some CG animation is inevitable – not least because the film is being produced by the computer animation company Omnibus Japan – it seems that a practical, and full scale mech has been built for the shoot.

Here’s a series of pictures of the big fella out and about in Yokohama City. These were compiled by Anime News Network but various snaps can be traced back to Nobu-G Kakutani, MASA-SHI, Hiroshi.O, Vito Plahuta, Brian Ruh and Yū-sama. Good snooping, people.

This new Patlabor movie is set for release in 2014, though we’re waiting to hear what kind of release it will receive in the West.


Comments (0) - Posted on Monday, August 5 @ 1:42 PM by Kuronosu

Hands-on preview: Remember Me

Welcome to Neo-Paris, where even the robots wear tight pants.
I find Capcom's particular style of making games fascinating (even games such as this, where Capcom was only a publisher). They don't necessarily shy away from dark material, wildly different genres or just plain strange situations, but there's always something Capcom-y about it.

I think there's two elements that are in nearly every one of their games. First, characters will spout a serious line of dialogue then immediately switch to some audio or visual slapstick, changing the tone completely. There's nothing wrong with this – it's probably a crossover from their Japanese development sensibilities. Second, there is the games' obsession with the female buttock. I can't think of a single Capcom game that hasn't had at least one gratuitous butt-shot. Remember Me has both these elements in abundance.

The game takes place in a dystopian future where memories can be accessed, stored, stolen and erased. This leads to all sorts of problems, such as memory addicts and memory theft. From a sci-fi perspective, it's fascinating and poses some interesting ideas about the validity of a memory that can be fabricated and sold.

You play as Nilin, the best memory thief/spy in the world. Unlike everyone else, she has the ability to actually change someone's memory without them even knowing. This makes her a dangerous asset.
At the beginning of the game you've been captured and just had your memory erased. The prison Nilin is about to be admitted to erases the memory of the prisoners so they don't even know the outside world exists. It's brutal and unnerving but you escape – with the help of a mysterious disembodied voice who claims to be the leader of the resistance – into the sewers below Neo-Paris.

Much hullabaloo has been made over the fact that Remember Me has a female protagonist. It's a sad fact that games focused on a male character sell more, on average. Apart from the suspiciously low, third-person camera angle, Nilin is as competent and interesting as any male character. (If we stop making a big deal out of it and just buy good games regardless of the protagonist's sex, the dominance of male protagonists will die.)

I got to play through the first four to five hours of Remember Me and the thing that immediately hit me was how rich and fascinating the world was. Before we go into the rest of the game, we have to stop and talk about this. Anybody who reads this section regularly will know I love my sci-fi and the world of Remember Me hits most of the right notes. However, from what I got to play, it felt like a lot of the interesting elements were set-dressing and mere background elements. This does help the world feel more real, but for the story to really take advantage of the setting I would have loved to have seen some more situations that could only happen in Neo-Paris.

The prison scenes are a good example of this as seeing insane, terrified people with no knowledge of anything except "The Bastille" makes me shudder.

Going with the suitably macabre theme, you burst from the coffin in which you escaped and are greeted by the half-melted face of an insane memory-junkie mutant. You're first shown the bad side of Neo-Paris. Seeing the bad before the good makes the fancier burrows all the more jarring, but we'll get to that.

You're almost immediately introduced to the combat as those pesky mutants are definitely not friendly. Remember Me liberally appropriates the combat style introduced in Arkham Asylum, which everybody seems to be stealing these days, and introduces its own little twist. All moves are accomplished with the X and Y button (my preview was on a 360), but your combos are limited to the ones you've unlocked. I had only unlocked three by the end of my preview.

"Pressens" can be assigned to each button press however you like, which changes the alternate effect of the move. The basic attack is X, X, X and some players might make each button-press carry more damage, but you can switch them up to lessen the cool-down on the super moves or regenerate health.

This provides a bit more of a tactical experience as players can play to their own style, but doing the same three combos again and again for the first half of the game makes the player roll their eyes whenever a new wave storms into the room. I did get very good at them after hour four though.

So you kick those poor mutants right in the face then traipse off to a bar to meet a contact. You're simultaneously introduced to the world and environment traversal. While the combat takes cues from Batman, the climbing reeks of Uncharted. Some of the sections are quite fun, especially when the environments look so nice, but there's no real danger or urgency. Once you get the feel for the climbing it's mostly just a matter of finding out where to go next and pressing jump and move.

At least if the environment traversal doesn't change the world, the actual world is a delight to inhabit. After the muddy dilapidation of the poor district, the game sends you to the affluent, other side of town. Things here are very I, Robot pristine, but after seeing how the other half lives, you can't help but root for the rebels.

This was my favourite element of my time in the game. The world that's been created obviously has as many influences as the other aspects of the design. But the elements combine to make a pristine, insidious veneer of civility covering a mutated pustule of an underground, and it's a delight to see where the game takes you next.

One of the more lasting images was when I stumbled across the Arc de Triomphe, half sunk in the mud propping up a shanty town.

Remember Me's other strength is in the sections where you actually get to alter a person's memory. Considering how much of the rest of the game is clearly lifted from other popular games, I'm surprised they haven't put more of an emphasis on the thing it has over everyone else. When the first video of Remember Me came out at E3 last year, the thing that really got me excited was trying to convince a police commissioner that he had killed his girlfriend by manipulating small details in how his memory of the event plays out. You zoom into his mind through an Animus-like interface and can rewind and play his memory at will. Take the safety off the gun he has on the table and put it closer than the empty whiskey bottle and maybe he'll threaten his now-ex with that instead of throwing the bottle as she walks out.

This seemed to be a fantastic new idea with tons of potential. It still is, but the mechanic is clearly more limited than was first implied. There is really only one way to complete the scenario and it comes down to trying the different elements in different orders. A bit of choice wouldn't have gone amiss, but I understand that to give players multiple solutions at these points would increase the work for the development team ten-fold. Sadly, considering these were the most original sections, there were only two of these situations in the first five hours of my playthrough.

Remember Me is a curious beast. It seems unashamed about taking elements from other games. I find it hard to comment on the success of a mechanic when it's lifted from an already good game. The mechanic is fine, but can we really praise it when it's almost a re-skinned version of something that already exists?

I suppose the question then becomes, does it at least make it its own? For the most part, no. But when the game hits on something great you find yourself forgiving the other parts. The fact is that during my playthrough I enjoyed myself. Little about the game is inherently bad, but I suppose the biggest shame is that the opportunity for a truly original, exciting game was wasted in favour of a "safe" design that's been done before.

Remember Me is released on June 6 on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.


Comments (0) - Posted on Saturday, May 25 @ 6:01 AM by Kuronosu

Congress to Google: Glass Privacy Issues Must Be Taken Seriously

Given one's ability to inconspicuously take pictures and record video while wearing Google Glass, it was only a matter of time before lawmakers demanded answers concerning people's privacy. That time has come.

Eight members of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus have sent a letter to Google chief executive Larry Page asking what "proactive steps is Google taking to protect the privacy of non-users." The letter comes as Google hosts its I/O developer's conference in San Francisco this week.

The committee's concerns about privacy go beyond using Glass to simply take pictures and video of people without their express consent. The letter points to the eventual possibility of using facial recognition technology to "unveil personal information about whomever … the user is viewing." It also inquires about Google's plans to address privacy issues when approving new apps for Glass and how the device could collect and store people's private data.

“We are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues," Google said in an emailed statement. "Our Glass Explorer program, which reaches people from all walks of life, will ensure that our users become active participants in shaping the future of this technology.”

A recent Wall Street Journal article also raised privacy concerns. "It will be only a matter of time until you’ll be able to aim the lens of your [Google Glass] device at his or her face, and using face recognition technology get the individual’s address, work history, marital status, measurements and hobbies," the article said.

Google Glass can also provide users with directions when traveling and even translate foreign languages via a display that sits above the wearer's right eye. Winners of Google's Glass Explorer contest are testing the computerized glasses, but the device is not yet available for purchase to the general public.


Comments (0) - Posted on Sunday, May 19 @ 4:37 PM by Kuronosu

Freeman on a free OS: Half-Life 2 now available on Steam for Linux

You already know that Half-Life 2 for Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and OS X is excellent, but have you tried it on Linux? Well, yes, technically speaking, you couldn't actually play that version until this week when it launched on Steam for Linux, but our question stands! Yeah, that's what we thought. Now that that's straightened out, we might warn you about the beta nature of HL2's Linux launch. Like other Valve titles recently released to Steam for Linux, Half-Life 2 is merely a beta for now. Should you already own a copy for another platform, it'll show up in your Steam library as available for download like any other crossplatform game. Of course, you're probably too tied up with Half-Life 2's recently added Oculus Rift support on PC to think about a plain old keyboard/mouse experience. And hey, we can't blame you for that.

Interestingly, Valve's internal Steambox is powered by Steam's Linux version; it wouldn't be hard to imagine Valve scaling up its Linux game library ahead of the retail debut of various Steamboxes (or Steamboxen, if you will). That remains to be seen, of course, as Valve's made no official announcement regarding that project's availability.


Comments (0) - Posted on Sunday, May 12 @ 2:52 PM by Kuronosu

Beyond: Two Souls Wants You to Know It's a Film with Exclusive DLC

Beyond: Two Souls, the PS3 exclusive game coming from Quantic Dream was an official selection at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend, and presented this, its official trailer. It's a big deal for a video game to get that kind of serious treatment, so the trailer goes all out in presenting itself as a serious film.

And then you get the pre-order come-on and the Gamestop-exclusive DLC notice.

I don't know if festival goers actually saw that part (this was uploaded by the PlayStation YouTube channel) but still, after 2:30 of doing its damndest to make you think Beyond: Two Souls is a film-festival movie, it only needs 10 to remind you it's still very much a video game.


Comments (0) - Posted on Monday, April 29 @ 2:18 PM by Kuronosu

Hundreds queue for Nintendo 3DS and Apple iPad 2

Launch for the Nintendo 3DS on Oxford Street

Technology fans were kitted out with foil space blankets to beat the chill outside the HMV store in Oxford Street where the first Nintendo 3DS was sold in the UK at a minute past midnight.

There were similar queues outside the Apple Store in Regent Street, London, where the iPad 2 goes on sale at 5pm on Friday. The first Apple fans arrived at 7.30am yesterday – more than 33 hours early.

At the front of the queue for an Nintendo 3DS at HMV was Marwan Elgamal, 21, from Wembley, north London.

The student, who slept on the street outside the store on Wednesday, was also the first person to officially buy a Nintendo Wii when it was launched in the same way in 2006.

He said: ''I'm just really passionate about the consoles and I think they are amazing and just make me want to play.

''Wednesday night was really cold but it will be worth it to get one and I can't wait to get home and play it.''

Comic Russ Kane and rapper turned soul crooner Plan B also attended the launch event in London.

Around 100 stores are opening at midnight including shops in Aberdeen, Belfast, Dundee and Liverpool.

The console, which has two screens, a built-in motion sensor, three cameras and can also double as a pedometer, claims to offer glasses-free 3D technology.

An HMV spokesman said: ''The release of Nintendo's 3DS is shaping up to be the biggest launch ever for a games console – we've already seen massive demand through online and in-store pre-orders in recent months, and now it looks like tens of thousands of gamers will have been queuing for midnight launches all around the country.

''Demand will, no doubt, just keep building in the months ahead – appealing to serious gamers and casual players alike. The 3DS is a groundbreaking piece of technology that will not only take gaming to the next level, but will help to lay the foundations for 3D to become a standard entertainment format – it's a real game-changer.''

Reports from Japan, where the console has already been launched, said it is able to tell if users are playing bootleg copies of games and disable itself.


Comments (0) - Posted on Saturday, March 26 @ 1:43 PM by Kuronosu

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