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LittleBigCockUp October 17, 2008

Posted by Mike in Articles, Console, Games, News.
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An Edge 10, a rapturous Beta reception… what could possibly go wrong? Well, in the case of classic-in-waiting LittleBigPlanet, it’s religion. Careful launch plans have been scuppered, and the game will now not be released on Friday October 24, following a surprising worldwide recall of the title this afternoon.

According to an official Sony statement: “LittleBigPlanet will be remastered in order to remove a track from the game that contained two expressions found in the Qur’an. Whilst shorter expressions from the Qur’an are sometimes used in Nasheeds, we are aware that the mixing of musical instruments with recognisable extracts from the Qur’an is offensive to Muslims. Therefore, we have taken immediate action to rectify this. We will confirm a new launch date shortly.”

While Sony’s swift action here is commendable, strangely it seems that the furore began because of a single user posting on a couple of forums, including here

That a single forum post can inspire such wild panic is not only pretty unprecedented in the videogames industry, but also rather controversial. As a result of Sony’s actions, certain videogame forums are already awash with posts full of unpleasant racist overtones directed towards Muslims.

Hopefully the delay to LittleBigPlanet’s release will be small, but this incident will no doubt cause the industry to further look at its practices regarding its relationship with religion. I personally find it rather ironic that an industry that has always railed against censorship of any kind is now falling over itself to remove a game that may be offensive to a small group of people. I find it unlikely that the vast majority of Muslim players will either notice the said music track in the game, or be offended by it.

I suppose that, where religion is concerned, Sony have to be seen to tread very carefully, as so many other companies across the world in varous fields have in the past few years. The music track in question’s existence on iTunes, however, suggests that who is offended by what, and with what consequence, is far more open to interpretation than Sony’s swift action to withdraw the current version of the game from worldwide markets might make us believe.

And please spare a thought for Media Molecule, whose triumphant development of LittleBigPlanet is in danger of being overshadowed by a truism that may leave many people shifting uncomfortably in their seats in the 21st Century: religion still equals power.

UPDATE – Media Molecule has said the following: “We learnt yesterday that there is a lyric in one of the licensed tracks which some people may find offensive, and which slipped through the usual screening processes. Obviously MM and Sony together took this very seriously. LBP should be enjoyable by all. So within 12 hours of hearing about this issue involving a lyric (in Somalian, I believe!), we prepared an automatic day 0 patch and had a new disk image ready; however a decision was made within Sony that the right thing to do for quality and support of people with no on-line was to replace existing disks. They assure us that they are doing everything in their power to get things straightened out as fast as possible, and will announce dates soon.”

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F.E.A.R… what’s in a name? September 9, 2008

Posted by Mike in Console, Games, News, PC.
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Genero-game-titles are one of the most exciting features of the current console generation. Call of Medal of Underground Honour In Arms: Frontlines… where will it end? What will be the drabbest name come the End of Days (which is tomorrow, incidentally, if you believe the Hadron Collider conspiracy theorists)?

Monolith ponied up with the clear winner in this particular wall of shame a few months back: Project Origin. The amusing thing about this is that the name was actually chosen as the winner in an online competition to title up the heart-stoppingly exciting unofficial F.E.A.R. sequel. Yes, the imagination of the general public was to blame! It could have been called something brilliant, like “Alma-Getting-Outta-Here”, or my personal favourite, “N.O.L.I.C.E.N.C.E.”

Instead, the painfully average Project Origin was chosen (rather suspiciously, there are lingering rumours that a better name actually won in the polls but corporate shenanigans played a part in the final result) and instantly made any gamers who heard the title fall asleep for a hundred years. As a result, Paul McKenna is currently in therapy with feelings of profound inadequacy.

Thankfully, sanity has prevailed. Monolith today announced that the F.E.A.R. name has been bought from Vivendi’s home of Activision/Blizzard, bringing to an end one of the more bizarre licensing issues of modern times. (As you may recall, upon splitting with Vivendi, Monolith kept the concepts and the world from the original game, while Vivendi got to keep the name.) Give a cookie to the clever fellow who decided to splash the cash. What this development means for the proposed separate Vivendi-developed F.E.A.R. 2 is, at present, uncertain.

The promising Monolith shooter is now entitled F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin and will be released in February 2009 for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. The new moniker is hardly perfect, but at least the game itself now stands a chance of being scarier than its name.

Samba Wii Maracas August 22, 2008

Posted by Chris in Console, Games, News.
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If you like rhythm games which have about twelve songs with ‘mambo’ in the title, then chances are you’re probably looking forward to Sega’s Wii remake of its DreamCast classic Samba de Amigo. Recent previews have suggested that the controls DO indeed work, and now it looks like it’s going to be even more faithful to the original with the release of these maraca shells from Amazon.com.

Here’s hoping there’s another set of shells for those wanting to play with two remotes, as that’s almost certainly likely to provide a more authentic Samba experience. And you’ve no chance of accidentally whacking yourself in the nose with the nunchuk wire when you strike a pose, too.

We’re back! August 17, 2008

Posted by Chris in Miscellaneous, News.
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Hurrah! We're back!

Yes, after a rather extended hiatus punctuated by illness, apathy and too much ‘proper’ work, Press Start Online is risen, like a phoenix from the proverbial flames of oblivion – here once again to provide regular gaming related scribblings for your delectation and delight.

We’ll be updating regularly during the week, with the occasional weekend post chucked in for good measure. And that’s a promise this time. We won’t be your typical reviews/previews/gossip blog: instead we’ll be dissecting the news and bringing you our genuine opinion on the current state of the gaming nation. We’ll write thought-provoking features and interesting reviews that aren’t simply seven-page checklists of a game’s features with several paragraphs listing what each button does. And – if one of us can figure out how to set it all up – we may even bring you a PSO podcast in the not-too-distant. That’s the hope, anyway.

We’re currently still decked out in our faintly musty WordPress clobber, but we’re looking into purchasing some brand new duds so we’ll look a little smarter (and smell a little less funky) in the near future.

We hope you enjoy the new site, and feel free to bookmark us and tell your mates if you like what you read. After all, the more of you we see regularly on here, the more we’ll want to impress the hell out of you.

Enjoy!

The Press Start Online editorial team.

Guitar Villain December 20, 2007

Posted by Mike in Articles, Console, Games, News.
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Ever heard the old saying, “Power corrupts”?  Of course you have, and unfortunately the latest example is gaming giant Activision, which is still resisting calls from consumers asking them to allow Guitar Hero 3 controllers to be made compatible with the PS3 version of EA’s Rock Band game.

Harmonix – the developers of Rock Band – has developed a patch to allow this compatibility, but Activision quickly spat out their dummy and point-blank refused to allow it to be uploaded. (more…)

Not-so-Sensible Soccer December 19, 2007

Posted by Mike in Games, News.
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Gremlins is an undeniably brilliantly evil Xmas film.  Unfortunately it seems that those pesky little monsters have made their way into the Xbox Live Arcade machine today, as the most heavily anticipated game to appear on the service all year (the perenially delayed Sensible World of Soccer) has fallen victim to some gremlins of its own.  Having been finally released, it was taken down from the service only a couple of hours later due to extreme problems with the game’s online mode.  Problem: you couldn’t access the online mode.  Indeed, the game immediately signed you out of Xbox Live as soon as you loaded it up.  Whoops.

Just before he collected his P45, a Microsoft spokesperson had this to say on the matter: “It has come to our attention that an incorrect version of Sensible World of Soccer was made available on Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft® which has since been taken down. This version incorrectly disconnected users that attempted to connect to Xbox LIVE.

We are currently investigating the issue and will have a correctly functioning version of Sensible World of Soccer available soon.

Any users that have already downloaded Sensible World of Soccer will need to delete their copy of the game and download it again when the correctly functioning version is available in order to enjoy online play via Xbox LIVE. Following this process does not incur any additional charges.

Please look out for the fully functional version of Sensible World of Soccer soon. We thank you for your patience.”

It’s amazing how problems continue to dog SWOS like disgruntled Welshmen at a Leon Jackson gig.

Now that the gestalt entity known as Press Start has returned from its hiatus, expect a review of the updated Sensible World of Soccer some time after the Microsoft monkeys learn how to press the right upload button.  (Don’t feed them after midnight, kids.)

All New Sam & Max! November 13, 2007

Posted by Jevan Moss in Games, News, PC.
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Somewhat lost in the melange, season 2 of Telltale’s Sam & Max episodes launched yesterday. I’m currently a fair way into the first installment, Ice Station Santa, which is proving as entertaining as ever. Within minutes I was facing off with a giant, cheesy pop-song quoting robot, before driving off to the North Pole to investigate an unusually murderous Santa Claus. Excellent.

Some critics took issue with the length and relative simplicity of most of the first series, but personally I think a lot of people really missed the point. Each episode lasted only a few hours, and its puzzles were rarely tough enough to keep most people stuck for long. In short, they actually worked as episodes, each with a self-contained plot building up season-long arc. It was by far the best attempt at episodic gaming I’ve seen, and it looks like season 2 could easily repeat its success.

Oh yes, there’s a demo too. It can be downloaded from Telltale’s blog, while everything else can be found on their Sam & Max page.

If all that wasn’t good enough, you can now download an entire episode from the first season for the princely sum of £0.00, with the help of Steam. It’s my personal favourite as well, so thanks, Telltale.

Thelltale.

Xbox classics soon to be downloadable via Live? November 13, 2007

Posted by Mike in Console, Games, News.
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Don’t you just love it when articles exclusively revealing shiny new things from MS, Sony or Nintendo mysteriously vanish shortly thereafter?

Well, it’s just happened to a piece on CVG, which talked about new developments in the Xbox 360’s long-anticipated Fall update, allegedly due to pop up on 4 December. Apparently a new DLC strand is set to make its bow, offering up classic Xbox titles (Halo, Crimson Skies and Burnout 3, among others) for download, as well as 720p movies on demand (rental only) from the likes of Warner Brothers and other studios. The games will cost 1200 Microsoft Points, while the films will come in at around a fiver’s worth of the same pretend-but-it-isn’t money.

So, now that the piece has been pulped (and P45s presumably demanded), it remains to be seen whether it was nixed due to inaccuracy, or because of a too-itchy trigger finger on the part of the writer. My MS points are on the latter.

Assuming that the news is correct, it’ll be very interesting to see whether these old Xbox offerings are plain vanilla, or if they’ve had strawberries and cream (in the sense of Achievements and online functionality for Halo, for example) added. The prospect of Live-enabled Halo 1 is rather nice, given the near-perfect balance of this non-dual-wielding classic multiplayer, but we’ll just have to wait and see. It would make sense in terms of giving the new service a lift-off, but I’m unsure whether it would be possible (or considered cost-effective) to fiddle with the existing code to such an extent.

On the surface, this downloadable service would compare very favourably with Sony’s PS1 offerings on the Playstation Network, but the effective need for a larger hard drive – given the potential download sizes – may prove unsatisfactory when you consider the present price of the 360’s 120GB add-on, which is a bigger rip-off than Peter Crouch removing the Elastoplast from his legs a few days after sliding in on a Russian plastic pitch.

FIFA 08 gets 5 vs 5 online update November 8, 2007

Posted by Mike in Console, Games, News.
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Well, this one snuck up on us from nowhere. The promised 5 vs 5 online mode on FIFA 08, which introduces Be A Pro: Online Team Play, has just been added as an update available free on Xbox Live. It’s the first step towards EA’s promised full 11 vs 11 matches in the year 2010.

As expected, everyone’s running after the ball like headless chickens at the moment, but with a bit of tactical nous, future thrillers are guaranteed.

Just load up your copy of FIFA 08 on Xbox 360 to receive the update. (Presumably this new mode will also be available on PS3 in the near future.)

Press Start will report on how the matches hold up in terms of lag, and also whether you get automatically kicked out at the end of every game (like the other online modes – which would prove… well… five times more frustrating here) in due course.

UPDATE: While there’s no official list of additional tweaks made in the upgrade yet, unless I’m going stark-raving bonkers there’s a real improvement in framerate and responsiveness in the main game. Additionally, the game speed has been increased. Cutscenes aren’t jerky, and the replays are simply slo-mo, rather than slo-mo + jerky. Now, this may be put down to seeing things that aren’t there in the frenzied excitement of an update, but have a try yourselves and see what you think!

NPD no more November 6, 2007

Posted by Mike in News.
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Bad news is reaching us from the other side of the pond (that’s the United States of America, geography fans) that the monthly NPD figures – which are argued over, dissected, and generally provide useful analysis of the current trends in the videogames market – are to be severely restricted from the October 2007 figures onwards.

No longer will we be receiving monthly hardware sales figures.  We’ll only get details of the top five in software sales, as opposed to the top ten.  More detailed figures will emerge quarterly and annually, but for now it seems that the official information is to be severely curtailed, and instead the arguments will centre on which leaked numbers can be trusted.  Expect sales figures debates to become even more heated as a result… there’s nothing like a group of forum-goers who don’t like the figures in front of them and will use any excuse to discredit them.

From my point of view, this news is immensely disappointing, and I hope that the NPD Group rescinds this decision as soon as possible.  Having detailed official sales information available in the public domain was an invaluable tool for those who enjoyed following the market.  I can’t help but feel that its loss will make the quality of debate across the Web nose-dive, and that’s a real shame.