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Nintendo Wii by
published Thursday, Oct 24th

Wii Availability In Europe Drawing To A Close

Nintendo of Europe confirmed Thursday that Wii availability is soon set to dry up, with European imports of the console now discontinued.

Earlier this week, Nintendo of Europe told Gamebrit that they had no specific announcements for Europe regarding Wii production”, however in a statement today the company confirmed that stock will in fact no longer be replenished.

Nintendo of Europe confirmed to Gamebrit that “Wii imports to Europe have been discontinued.”

NoE continued by recommending their alternative home consoles, the Wii U and Wii mini:

“[…] there are still a variety of options for consumers to enjoy Wii games and the Wii gameplay experience.

“Wii U, which is Nintendo’s latest home console, is backwards compatible with nearly all existing Wii games and accessories, so you can enjoy a vast library of disc-based and downloadable Wii games and Wii gameplay experiences when you switch to Wii Mode on Wii U.

“Wii Mini is also now available across Europe offering Wii gameplay experiences at a great value. Wii Mini puts the focus squarely on games with over 1200 existing disc-based Wii titles to choose from.”


Wii by
published Tuesday, Oct 22nd

Wii Production To Continue In Europe

UPDATE: Nintendo of Europe have now confirmed that the Wii has been discontinued in Europe.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Nintendo Japan quietly updated their website recently noting that production of their fifth home console, Wii, would soon come to a halt. However, the widely successful machine is still currently being manufactured here in Europe.

Following the short announcement on Nintendo Japan’s website, which simply read “manufacturing is scheduled to end soon”, Gamebrit contacted Nintendo of Europe to find out whether the end of Wii production was a global matter — especially considering the debut of the Wii mini, which was only released in March, a mere seven months ago.


Wii Mini by
published Tuesday, Feb 26th

Wii Mini Will Launch in UK, Arriving Next Month

Nintendo’s redesigned Wii console, the Wii Mini, is set to launch in the UK on Friday, March 22nd.

The Wii Mini, first released in Canada last year, is a cut-down, budget version of Nintendo’s Wii home console. In the box you get the redesigned console, along with a red Wii Remote Plus and matching Nunchuk controller — however the console lacks internet connectivity, has no SD card slot, or a bundled game.


Wii Mini by
published Wednesday, Nov 28th

Nintendo misses big with Wii mini

Much to everyone’s surprise Nintendo announced a smaller, redesigned and cheaper version of their Wii home console this week.

Known as the Wii mini, the tiny machine is set to debut in Canada on December 7th, sporting a fun new look, supporting a back-catalogue of over 1,300 games and launching at an attractive price point of just $99. So, what could go wrong?


by
published Monday, Jul 12th

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 Review

So you want to play golf? From novice to pro, EA’s Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 may just fit the bill. If you’ve played previous versions of this already popular software then you’ll soon be aware of the new features packed into this version. EA have skillfully managed to preserve the best of the old and also introduce new features that make it an even better golfing experience.

Mastering the basics may seem daunting at first but persevere and work through those early exercises. Trying out your new skills and developing will earn points that later affect your playing experience. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 has four new functions helping you all the way; you can initially select your gameplay difficulty from the standard easy, normal, hard or expert, you can even develop your own unique customized combinations style from this menu option giving you better control of the game configuration.

Other new features include True View that gives you a first-person perspective of the course, Experience Levels which collects and analyses your game play so watch out as playing a poor game can result in you losing points and the Focus System allows you to exploit and focus a single attribute in your profile for each round that could earn you a couple of point boost. What can be difficult to master is putting. Make sure you learn how the software works and again practice is paramount. You may also need the enhanced Wii MotionPlus accessory for certain game options. These new features are an enhancement to previous versions in the series, and build on an already good training interface to speed up the learning process for newcomers.

The various screens are packed with icons given you vital clues on the conditions you are pitting your wits against, so get use to using this information, again practice is essential to develop your strategies when playing.

EA have also enhanced the visual experience with the addition of features that show you how your aiming selections and playing style will affect the flight of the golf ball even before you strike the ball. True View for instance gives you a first-person perspective just as you would see it on the course. With many famous golf courses available in exotic locations, you are spoilt for choice and can easily be convinced that you are actually there on location. Of course you can never substitute a simulation for the real thing but this game offers an alternative experience. With little effort and at relatively small cost you can experience the next best thing. The enhanced visuals are a great improvement on previous editions giving you a better feel of what it might look like, just as if you were there.

After building your golf skills you may want to try your hand at the PGA Tour or the new Ryder Cup Tournament, this is new to Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 and gives you the chance to play for either the USA or Europe building your own 12 man team to bring home one of the ultimate golfing prizes, the Ryder Cup. If you want to play the traditional games, you can opt for a series of different games all designed to enjoy and be played with family or friends, the variety makes golf fun to play. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 also includes Party Modes and Mini-Games giving you something for everyone, getting you further and further into playing golf. Getting bored is not an option with this version, as there’s so much to choose from.

If you have never dared to play online, now is the time to do it. Be brave and improve your game by playing and competing with the some of the best online players. If you are used to playing other games on-line, then this is no different. However you do have to be registered with EA games with your own account and be 13+ years. Once you have signed up then you literally have access to an entire world of online golf gaming community and this is where the real action takes place. There is no substitute for pitting your wits against other ‘real’ opponents in a game such as golf. This is where Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 really scores here. Once online you can set up and take part in a number of golfing challenges such as Head to Head and Live Tournaments. What’s new in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 is the additional 2 to 4 player simultaneous Stroke Play giving you the options to play a variety of game plays suiting your team’s collective skills and style.

Being online also gives you access to the aforementioned Live Tournaments where you can play with the best in a daily or weekly match. The aim of this is to compete to get to the top of the leader boards so the whole world can see that you are the best of the bunch! You also have the option of playing with the Pros where you compete and your score is streamed into the online tournament scores. EA also provide EA Messenger allowing you to create your own ‘buddy lists’ keeping in contact with other Wii gamers.

The game is packed with tips and advice on how to use the new features with plenty of practice modes to help you develop your style. Left-handed or right-handed it doesn’t matter, what matters is that through patience and dedication together with lots of practice, you too can improve your golfing skills. Perhaps even to a level where you may want to form your own Ryder Cup Team with your friends, play other teams or even go online and pit yourself against a worldwide golfing community all eager to prove they or their team are the best. Considering how expensive real golf can be, this game is worth every penny.


by
published Sunday, Mar 14th

Why The Wii Will Beat Project Natal And PlayStation Move

Waggle Battle

Waggle Battle

So, motion controllers? Are they really the future of gaming, or just a big fad that only kids and grandparents enjoy? Without being able to travel twenty years into the future to pass judgement, you can only hazard a guess that neither of those two statements prove to be implicitly true. Motion-sensing controllers may well be integrated into all future gaming systems in the same way analogue control, force-feedback and wireless handsets have been in today’s generation.

Nintendo’s bold attempt at widening the market with its fantabulous motion-sensing Wii remote has so far paid off and, inevitably, the competition are not far behind. At the same time however, traditional controllers aren’t going to be completely eradicated, at least not if gaming companies want to avoid the largest flaming campaign since internet records began.

So if they are here to stay, which of the three efforts will be seen to be the most successful in years to come? Hopefully you’ve already read our previous articles on Natal and Move – now it’s the turn of the Wii and Motion Plus!

The biggest reason why Nintendo will stay ahead of the game is that it’s already been there, done that, worn the T-Shirt and banked millions of dollars in the process. Being the first to a new market is incredibly important, and if things go your way, it can make your market share unassailable. Nintendo had already poured millions into R&D for the DS and Wii before Sony and Microsoft started to follow suit. They even had time to refine the motion-sensing technology, in the form of motion-plus, before any rival system was available. For Microsoft and Sony to get to the same point, tech-wise, they must have spent huge amounts of dollars – money that would surely have been siphoned from ‘core’ development. In the end, the R&D bill would have been far more than Nintendo’s outlay due in part to the need to ‘beat’ Nintendo’s technology but also, crucially, due to the extra costs hi-definition development brings with it.

This is another key point, at least from a developer’s point of view; on the Wii, costs for an experimental title aren’t far off those for a PS2-gen title.

It was pretty clear, especially in the first year of the Wii’s life, that publishers weren’t keen on taking a risk and pouring large amounts of money into developing for an unproven platform, judging by the poor-looking works from Ubisoft, EA etc. Those that did take a chance and tried to do something interesting with the new technology got their fingers burnt. Just look at sales of Zack & Wiki, Pro Evo and Mad World for a hint at the general apathy such experimental titles faced at retail. Now imagine a publisher’s reaction to having to take the same risk but with the additional costs of hi-definition presentation thrown in. The flip-side of this argument is that nicer graphics could equal bigger sales, and this is very much a great unknown factor. It’s very possible that the core demographic would pay more attention to a hi-def natal bowling game, or a key franchise updated with built in-motion controller support (such as the upcoming Resident Evil 5 for PS3). The trouble is, unknown factors don’t sit well with those having to front the cash.

Costs associated with early Wii development were offset to an extent by developing multiplatform versions alongside a Wii game. The same can be said for 360 and PS3 development. There is no such luxury with Natal and Move; it’s pretty much all or nothing. You can’t even co-develop between the platforms, as the technologies the two are using aren’t easily compatible (Natal has no associated physical controller for example). So far, there hasn’t been a torrent of games announced from developers, and you shouldn’t expect many to be revealed until either of the new peripherals start racking up the sorts of numbers Wii/Motion-Plus/Wii Fit has accumulated, making exclusive titles a viable option.

Speaking of numbers, Nintendo has this aspect tied up already. For every gamer obsessed with having the coolest, most powerful machine, or the one with the technical intelligence, there are millions of regular people who don’t have a clue what a polygon is, or why having lots of them is so important. All they want to do is have a little fun. It’s this crowd that Nintendo has already won over with Wii and it’s this mass popularity which will ultimately make them the winner of the motion-sensor war. No matter how good Natal or Move are from a technical standpoint, to the untrained eye they are just another rip-off of the Wii.

They are both, undoubtedly, very impressive pieces of kit, but can you see all those casual gamers who have long since put the Wii on the shelf (if some cynics are to be believed) forking out for yet another expensive ‘fad’?


PlayStation Move by
published Saturday, Mar 13th

Why PlayStation Move Will Beat Project Natal And The Wii

Waggle Battle

Waggle Battle

The Nintendo Wii has shown the masses that motion controls are popular. Not just for those who already class gaming as a hobby, but also for people who have never even played or enjoyed a games console before. This has led to the Wii being the current leader in sales followed by the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Naturally both Microsoft and Sony have seen this success and now want a piece of the motion based pie. This has culminated in Project Natal, a camera based option, and the PlayStation Move combination from Sony, featuring a camera alongside Wiimote and Nunchuck style devices. So with both vying for the crown of the motion controlled world, which one has what it takes to topple the Wii? My money is on Sony’s offering, and this is why.

Unlike Microsoft, Sony are no strangers to the concept of motion centric controllers, with experience ranging from the EyeToy of the PlayStation 2 era to the forgettable sixaxis motion features in current PS3 controller. While neither of these truly redefined the way people played games, they gave Sony plenty of practice in the ways of the waggle and have led to the next big thing in gaming immersion – the PlayStation Move.

As you can see from the trailer below, the device works using the collective power of the PlayStation Eye camera and the motion stick to track movements on a 1 to 1 basis. This means wherever you move the controller the camera will track the glowing ball on the stick and tell the PS3 the angle of the device, the distance away from the camera, as well as the where it is on the x and y axis i.e. how far up/down and left/right it is. When you see it in action, it’s truly amazing how smooth and accurate it all is.

PlayStation Move

PlayStation Move

Some people will likely prefer the feeling of having a physical gadget in their hands and it’s clear that the Wii has inspired Sony in this respect. While this may not be a bad thing you can expect plenty of protests that it simply copies Nintendo’s idea while adding high definition graphics. This is true, but Sony’s level of motion matching is far superior with the inclusion of distance tracking through the camera. This means that no longer will people be able to get away with bowling through a quick flick of the wrist while sitting lazily on the sofa. The camera also allows players to feature in the games and can even overlay graphics so it appears on the screen as though that huge sword is actually in the real world. Combine this with the future 3D gaming and TVs to lead to a level of immersion that simply hasn’t been seen before.

Naturally all of this comes from viewing videos and reading up on other people’s feedback, but nothing will be definite about the way both Project Natal and Sony’s PlayStation Move feel until they are released later this year. Even then the success will be mostly defined by the games that support them as well as the publicity both receive. Microsoft will undoubtedly market the hell out of Project Natal (or whatever it ends up being called), but Sony will really have to raise the bar and not only get people excited for their product but also excited for the PlayStation 3 as, despite its progress, it still finds itself as the underdog in this generation of console wars.


by
published Friday, Mar 12th

Why Project Natal Will Beat The Wii And PlayStation Move

Waggle Battle

Waggle Battle

Project Natal was announced and demonstrated with expectation at Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2009. Preceding the event was rumor, spreading like wildfire, that both Microsoft and Sony would try and breach the ‘casual’ market where Nintendo’s Wii had done so well. However, there is one major difference between Microsoft’s Project Natal and what Nintendo and Sony are offering.

Both the Wiimote and PlayStation Move have something physical that can translate a user’s movement to a motion on-screen, whereas Project Natal does not. Natal uses a sensor ‘camera’ to achieve the same, without the need or cost of multiple controllers. “Though that was accomplished with the PlayStation 2’s Eye Toy” – I hear you cry. This is a crude comparison, because it is not just a camera, but also a three-dimensional sensor that can track the slightest of movements efficiently, even in questionable lighting environments. Not only this, but the technology can detect objects in the surrounding environment, be it gestures, voices or even people’s faces.

Statistics following the E3 event is that Natal is capable, so far, of tracking up to four people at one time, at 48 points on each body and at a rate of 30-frames per second. Not only was the potential made clear, but proof came from Lionhead Studios in an interactive application named Milo and Kate.

Milo and Kate was met with scepticism and was immediately mocked for its seemingly naive appearance, but the fact remains that if true, it is astonishing technology. There has been sufficient artificial intelligence technology, especially in games, for human-realistic recognition, processes and response for years. The problem is in the hardware; there hasn’t really been any break in the gap between AI and human intelligence, outside of research and development in Japan and Germany, and definitely not at a consumer level. Peter Molyneux, after having the hardware for ‘months’, was able to produce the Milo character and his interactive world within that time for presentation at E3. Molyneux seems to have masterminded a personified system that can do everything that has come to be expected with artificial intelligence. Only this time with real people and environments, rather than digital characters and objects within the confines of the game world.

There are other examples of applications with Natal even used to log into Xbox Live, and animate an Avatar, with an exact replication in real time. The sports games shown at E3 presented the movement in 3D space, recognized in conjunction with detailed object and sound recognition, presenting no limitations.There are no controls for the player to learn or for developers to program into the game, which perhaps paves the way for more disability friendly gaming environments. Project Natal is simple and seamless.

A number of developers have given their support of natal, with between 70% and 80% of publishers worldwide working on a Natal based game of some kind. Microsoft has created a business model with great contrast to the of Nintendo in particular. Microsofts’s Robbie Bach has said, in an interview with the Financial Post, that their model is “about third-party publishers making money. [Nintendo makes] most of their money from first-party games. It is a great business model, but it makes it hard for third-party publishers.”

Nintendo are doing well as a business, but are hindering outside-developers in the process. Microsoft has made a point of ensuring that developers are heading down the right path in terms of bringing “new ideas, new innovation, and new concepts to the marketplace”. Names like Turn 10 and Capcom have made it clear that Project Natal is definitely not a gimmick, it is something original and unique.

Peter Molyneux is prominently at the front of the charge with Natal based developers. Lionhead are not only leading the way with Milo, but this year’s Fable 3 will also feature motion control in some fashion. Speaking with Gamereactor, he voiced his prediction on Natal changing interaction like the mouse, “The mouse was the real revolution of the PC — not the Intel processor. And who’s to say Natal couldn’t end up creating something you and I can’t even imagine now. It forces us to approach technology in a completely different way. Before the mouse, we only had the keyboard.”

The PlayStation Move might be smooth and accurate, but that doesn’t detract from the stick with a giant glowing ball in your hands. The most impressive aspect of Project Natal is it’s intricacy. The subtle transition between movement and interaction, especially in a concept such as Milo, is key to what is to what developers want to achieve with immersing gameplay. Microsoft is bringing innovation to the table, and developers with it.


by
published Sunday, Feb 07th

Tatsunoko Vs Capcom Review

When Capcom announced they were working on a new instalment of their ‘vs’ crossover fighting series, the chances of a western release were somewhere between slim and none. Firstly, the game would be matching Capcom’s popular fighting roster with those of manga powerhouse, Tatsunoko – a company with very little exposure outside Japan. Secondly, the Wii, a format not known or built for traditional beat-em-ups, was chosen as the sole home platform. To cap it off, the amount of effort involved in localising the title, including sorting out the tricky issue of licences, appeared too great for Capcom to bother with.

But Capcom have realised (more than any gaming company this gen) that listening to the whims of your fan base can reap big rewards, and Tatsunoko vs Capcom generated a lot of interest from western gamers when it was first announced. To cut a long story short, Capcom have gone through all the necessary hoops and here we are, with the PAL version sitting in our excited laps.

T vs C uses the same gameplay elements as previous versus titles like Marvel vs Capcom; it’s a 2-D fighter with 2 v 2 tag-team bouts. Characters can be switched on the fly or brought into the battle for a single ‘assist’ attack or a larger combo attack. Attacks are performed using three buttons (high-medium-low) instead of the six used for Street Fighter and similar titles. Despite appearing simplified on the surface, there are still the usual combos, specials, hyper specials and counter moves you’d expect from a fighting game. Capcom have succeeded in creating a control system that is both accessible to newcomers and yet deep enough to satisfy hardcore fighting fans. Button bashers may get a few cheap wins against lower level foes but to really excel against good players it takes quite a bit of time and effort to master the move sets and apply them in the heat of battle.

The list of combatants available is very impressive, despite the unknown roster on the Tatsunoko side, with 26 in all. Capcom themselves have got some iconic characters from franchises like Street Fighter and Mega Man, plus a few unexpected appearances, like Viewtiful Joe, Frank West (Dead Rising) and Soki from Onimusha. The Tatsunoko characters may not be well-known over here, but that doesn’t mean they are weaker fighters. Far from it actually – give them a few minutes and you’ll find them to be just as accessible and fun to play with as any of Capcom’s famous faces. Ryu and Ken the Eagle will soon feel as natural a pairing as peanut butter and jam. Overpowered characters were one of the concerns in the Japanese release but this has been tidied up considerably in the western version – the result is almost on a par with Street Fighter 4 in terms of variety and balance.

The same can be said about the game’s presentation, which replaces the 2D sprite art of previous versus titles with something a little closer to Street Fighter 4’s stylised 3D look. Character models have a soft cel-shaded, almost comic book, look to them which happily accommodates both the realistic characters and Tatsunoko’s manga style. The arenas are also very detailed, impressively capturing the look of the various games they have been plucked from.

We couldn’t end a review without mentioning the online modes. In a nut-shell, the online experience is far and away the most pleasing of any Wii game we’ve tried so far. Battles have been completely lag-free and setting up matches against friends or random challengers are mostly pain-free. Capcom have shown Nintendo how to handle online fights, putting Smash Bros Brawl to shame, and the only let down is the inclusion of friend codes, but then that is more an issue from Nintendo’s side. Capcom have also come up with a novel idea to stop people quitting before ranked matches have ended, a problem rife in SF IV. Persistant quitters will find themselves pitted against other quitters when they try and start another ranked match. This makes us smile inside.

Capcom really can do no wrong at the moment and this is yet another high moment. The game is a series of triumphs; the excellent control system, the near-perfect character balance, the wealth of extras and the solid online modes all make this a true success story. Wii owners who are itching for a decent fighter should look no further, and fans of SF IV or the previous versus games really ought to pick this up as it is hands-down one of the best fighters of this or any generation.

The story of this game’s journey to a western release has been a long and intriguing one. Hopefully Capcom will get the happy ending they deserve and we’ll get the chance to get our hands on a sequel.


by
published Monday, Dec 21st

Dead Space: Extraction Review

With LCD and Plasma TVs making traditional light-gun games virtually impossible to play, it has fallen to the Wii and its trusty sensor bar to provide a suitable home for arcade-style shooters. We’ve already had some great re-releases in the shape of House of the Dead 2&3 and Ghost Squad, plus new additions to established franchises like Resident Evil and the first House of the Dead. Even traditional FPS games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor have included the option to be played ‘on-rails’. If you’re a fan of the genre, the Wii is clearly the console of choice. With this in mind, EA have got in on the act with this prequel to last year’s classy horror title, Dead Space.

Set on a derelict deep-space mining vessel The USG Ishimura, Dead Space cast players in the role of an engineer battling for survival against an alien virus that re-animated the corpses of dead crew members. It featured a number of innovative gameplay elements and coupled with tremendously effective art direction and sound design, quickly became one of the surprise hits of the year. Dead Space: Extraction is set just prior to the events of the first game, when an alien obelisk is uncovered on the planet Aegis VII, unleashing the Necromorph virus on the mining colony. It features several characters that only made cameos in the first game via the Ishimura’s video recordings, fleshing out their individual stories.

Much has been made of the switch from third-person to first-person on-rails for this Wii outing. Although the decision has been unpopular among certain vocal groups of gamers, it doesn’t end up detracting too much from the experience and is actually helpful in some aspects. Pacing and plot exposition in particular benefit from the rigid structure, and keep the action as tight and intense as the original.

Visceral Games were acclaimed for introducing a bundle of innovative features to the survival horror in Dead Space. Some of those have had to be jettisoned for this title, like the health-bar and HUD-less display, but the impressive graphics, and use of sound are still present. It should be noted that this is one of the most impressive looking Wii games available, and a lot of care has obviously been taken to bring Extraction as close to the graphical fidelity of its predecessor as possible.

Like most games in this genre, Extraction is pretty easy to pick up and play. For the most part, it’s just a case of pointing at bad things on the screen and hitting the trigger to blow their ugly brains out. As you’d expect, the Wii remote is great for this type of game, and Visceral have tried to utilise some of its extra functions to shake things up a little. There are very few ‘waggle moments’ thankfully, but the tilt-sensor has been put to somewhat good use – tilting the remote 90 degrees initiates your weapon’s second function, a good idea but impractical in practise as it’s not easy to do so without losing your aim for a vital second or two. Aiming in general can be problematic, as the unpredictably shaky camera can be very annoying when you’re lining up a shot. The effect can be toned down, but strangely can’t be turned off completely – a major oversight seeing how much it affects the game.

Gamers who refuse to try out this game, and focus on what is isn’t rather than what it is, are really cutting off their nose to spite their face. Based on its own merits, Extraction is an exhilarating experience; one that is full of stand-out moments. It is also a great addition to the series and something that fans of the original should seriously consider purchasing. Hardcore Wii owners need to start showing games like this some support, before publishers are permanently put off from pouring money into bringing similarly well-made, mature titles to the console.

Visceral Games have clearly put a lot of effort into delivering Wii owners a unique and fulfilling title. However, will those gamers who are so vocal about the format’s lack of good third party support acknowledge that fact and put their money where their mouths are?