It’s been roughly three years since we last saw any addition to the Medal of Honor series. Well known for their World War II perspectives, the developers, Danger Close, have firmly staked their claim in the realm of first-person shooters. For the first time in franchise history, they step foot into a modern-day setting, but not without a bit of controversy. Their look into the War in Afghanistan took media outlets by surprise when they announced players would assume the role of the Taliban in multiplayer. Electronic Arts saw pressure from varying branches of the military, which led to some bad publicity. They slightly remedied the situation by renaming the opposition in multiplayer to the “Opposing Force”. This change was merely cosmetic and fortunately didn’t affect anything in terms of the story or its gameplay.

In the campaign, players follow the affairs of several Tier One Operators within the US military. An elite special operations unit, these small battalions work under the standards of the Nation Command Authority. During our time in Operation Enduring Freedom, aka the current War in Afghanistan, not many people have really seen what is actually taking place on the frontlines. The general plot in Medal of Honor gives you an in-depth look into their everyday operations, inspired by real events, and the harsh reality that our soldiers face on a daily basis.

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It would be an understatement to say the story is intense. You begin in the role of Rabbit, a member of a Tier One squad who is trying to secure special intelligence from an Afghan informant. After being ambushed by a group of insurgents, your squad becomes separated and a multitude of events slowly begin to unfold. The player will also take control of three other military personnel throughout the campaign, and eventually all stories combine to reveal a bigger picture.

The all-to-real scenarios in the plotline almost play out like you’re a war journalist loaded for bear. It’s a very refreshing take on a war game, considering it strays far from action-film gimmicks like other franchises in the genre. It stills manages a great sense of drama, with the push and pull between government and frontline officials, and the action is still very present. The story seems to focus on showing the truth of the matter, which is far more exhilarating and even more terrifying.

While the plotline can surely hold its own in a gaggle of war stories, the combat in the game is very refined as well. Targeting is precise even on the most difficult setting when there is no snap-to ability. There is also a very smooth slide maneuver for use when obtaining cover. This makes shootout scenarios very fun when charging the lines of an assault.

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The AI squad mates are also very capable in battle situations. There is a great line of communication, as they tend to call out enemy locations, and you always feel like they are watching your back. Unlike most AI teammates, they’re also very handy at taking down opponents. Your squad is very accurate when it comes to shooting and can handle themselves in hectic circumstances. Enemy AI is also very efficient during a skirmish. They can pull off the same moves the player can, sliding into cover, peek around corners, and have great shooting accuracy as well. Although there were a few moments of quirkiness, for the most part the AI is solid.

Unfortunately, the multiplayer doesn’t feel as well thought out as the single-player campaign. Known for their work in the Battlefield franchise, EA Digital Illusions CE developed this aspect separately from the Danger Close studios. Their initial hopes were that it would be able to compete with the Call of Duty franchise in multiplayer success, but it falls very short of the mark. Simple aspects that play a great role in single-player are no longer present. There is no quick sliding move, no leaning in and out of cover, and not even the allowance to go prone. It feels like the slickness of the game was completely removed from multiplayer for no apparent reason.

In addition, the classes are also very basic and have a poorly executed upgrade system. No matter what class you choose, you’re severely unbalanced from the get-go. Other players are like bullet sponges with your weak starting weapons, and scoring kills will most likely only come through headshots. There are also plenty of lag-issues to go on top of it. Death animations come a bit later than expected, and just as you think you’ve ducked behind cover in time to dodge a bullet, it’s already too late.

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The map variety is also a bit disappointing, not to mention the ones available are all very small. There is only a handful when playing through any given mode and the repetitiveness will come early and often. Granted, the Combat Mission mode is the only one that strays from this formula. This mode allows you to battle through five different sectors on a map, one at a time, either defending or attacking an objective. Matches can become pretty fierce as the attacking side tries to storm through each point, but it’s hardly enough to go along with other modes that feel very similar to one another.

Although the game looks very polished in some aspects, there are still plenty of frame rate issues to deal with. Large explosions during the campaign cause drastic stutters, but fortunately it’s never severe enough to halt the game. The textures and facial animations are all very well done, and the backdrops can look pretty phenomenal. They also made use of a modified Unreal Engine and decided to go with full-motion video cut scenes, rather than keeping it all in-game.

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Medal of Honor certainly put forth a valiant effort with this attempt to reboot the franchise. The campaign looks and feels great with its many slight hints at realism. After an unexpected attack and smoke blinds your vision from an explosion, you almost get a sense that you’re fighting ghosts. Even as the player begins to speculate an ambush, you get an overwhelming feeling of tension as you walk through a decimated village. All these subtleties only add to the experience, not to mention the impeccable audio and music to go along with it.

If the game didn’t lack true polish because of its frame rate problems, or contain a regrettable online component that neglected cues from the campaign, this could have been a game to look out for. However, neither is the case and it leaves Medal of Honor feeling stale when compared to other games of its kind. The single-player is its only saving grace, and fans of the genre might not warrant a purchase without an equivalent online experience to back it up.

When first setting foot into the world of Hydrophobia, it’s very hard to determine what kind of experience you’ll be in for. Water is obviously a big part of this game and the developers at Dark Energy Digital (formerly Blade Interactive) wanted to make sure their use of it would be impressive. They spent three years developing what they call the HydroEngine. The engine fully captures the physics concept of fluid dynamics for the first time in a game. This means they could effectively model flowing water and other liquids to be much more life-like than ever before, and the effects of these moving liquids would never be repeated. Water can be a pretty terrifying force of nature and can provide great setpieces in a game. However, fancy water effects don’t mean much if you don’t have a good story to back it up.

The game is set during the year 2051 in which the world has succumbed to the unsavory plights of the Great Population Flood. An inevitable scenario that lead to the world’s population surpassing its ability to sustain agricultural resources. This incident was delayed by many technological advances, but was eventually overcome when the world was preoccupied with a drastic climate change that was also occurring.

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Kate Wilson, a security engineer, is the reluctant hero of this story who resides aboard an enormous floating city vessel, the Queen of the World. She awakens from a horrifying watery-vision to find that security on the ship has been breached and is under attack by a group of extremists known as Neo-Malthusians. These revolutionists, inspired by the works of real world political scholar Thomas Malthus, believed that the only way to control the current world-crisis was to cleanse it of the population’s majority.

The plot of Hydrophobia seems to be fairly in-depth and has plenty of potential to be something great. Unfortunately, its narrative is presented in a terrible manner. There are sparse instances in which you are provided with any real character development or a means to learn about backstory, other than reading it in the game’s menu. It’s all meant to be pieced together through collectible documents and objects you find scattered throughout the game’s three acts. The supposed “cliffhanger” ending only makes you feel cheated into thinking you played a 3-4 hour demo, because nothing actually happened. This is a very broken way to convey an overarching plot, especially since the developer intended the game to be episodic.

The gameplay itself is also very run-of-the-mill and is driven by very mediocre platforming and shooter elements. Climbing is essential in order to reach various vantage points throughout the ship, but is clouded by very temperamental controls and buggy environments. Water levels became a problem at certain times when ascending the surroundings. While climbing a ledge and the water started to rise, the game couldn’t tell if you were trying to climb or swim. It wasn’t so bad if the area was dry, however there were many instances when it was a chore to escape a flooding area.

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The shooting aspect wasn’t horrible, but it certainly wasn’t great either. Its only saving grace was effectively adding water as an obstacle and strategy element. The basic principles of combat in the game seemed more focused on using environmental opportunities rather than straight-up gunplay. The pistol you acquire in the game comes with unlimited Sonic rounds to give you the ability of charging shots for weak and strong attacks. This allows you to move explosive barrels into place before actually setting them off or breaking through glass and weakened wall-panels to flood an area to your advantage. It’s certainly an interesting take on environmental combat, but if you try to play it out like a standard third-person shooter then you won’t have much fun.

Battles can even be taken under water, but the underwater controls ruin everything. If you only use the analog sticks to determine your motion everything feels fine. However, the second you start using the face buttons to ascend or descend is when the trouble starts. Those buttons completely lock you into an either upward or downward motion with no axis control, and trick you into thinking they are much faster movements. In fact, they actually double your swimming time and can cause more harm than good when going up and down crowded elevator shafts or navigating other tight spaces.

Hydrophobia really had the aptitude to be something fresh and unique, but wound up becoming an unfortunate mess. The water physics are really the only thing this game has going for it. If it were solely intended to show off what the HydroEngine could do, then mission accomplished. Unfortunately, there is a game somewhere in there and it’s a pretty bad one. There is no real sense of urgency throughout, as rooms sometimes never completely fill, and it makes the action feel dull and lack tension. There is even a Challenge room, which can be unlocked after you beat the game that shows off Kate having Jedi-like water control powers in a “Horde Mode” style game setting. As to why this isn’t featured in the main game, I have no clue. If it’s a hint of things to come, then it’s too little too late.

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Hot off the release of the highly anticipated Kane & Lynch 2, IO Interactive has just given us some details concerning three new multiplayer packs coming at the end of the month. The Multiplayer Mask Pack, Alliance Weapon Pack and Doggie Bag Pack will introduce more “tools of the trade” and some brand new heist locations. “Given the history of Kane & Lynch, we expected overwhelming interest, and the initial acclaim solidifies the ever-growing phenomenon and attraction gamers have to the characters and story,” said Niels Jørgensen, general manager of IO Interactive. “And we are proud to be able to extend the experience in the coming weeks with more maps, weapons and toys to heighten the tension and pressure of pulling-off a high profile heist.”

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It was announced today that none other than rock-god Alice Cooper recently went into the studio to exclusively re-record the track “No More Mr. Nice Guy” for the upcoming Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. Not only that, but The Runaways also went in to re-record their hit “Cherry Bomb” for the game as well. These tracks will accompany the 20 other previously announced songs to make up a 90+ track set list, the largest on-disc set list for a Guitar Hero game to date.

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Today we get to take a look behind the scenes with the developers of Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, who explain the reasoning behind their revamped visual-style and gameplay in this newly released video. After playing the demo which was released just yesterday, I can definitely say that they’ve achieved what they were going for in the looks department. Also, there is an option to turn-off the shaky-cam aspect in the menu, which is good considering most people might not be able to handle it in the drastic form that it is. It certainly made me a bit dizzy with all the running.

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The recently announced Transformers: War for Cybertron Map & Character Pack has just been released to the public for your downloading pleasure. This new DLC contains five new playable characters in addition to four all-new maps for multiplayer modes. “The fans have spoken and the response to Transformers: War for Cybertron has been colossal,” said David Pokress, Head of Marketing for Licensed Properties, Activision Publishing, Inc. “Our number one goal since the launch of the game has been to support the rapidly-growing online community, and we recognize the need for these characters and maps to continue the blistering multiplayer gameplay they have come to know and love”.

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If you haven’t already added it to your queue, now’s your chance to experience some intense and gritty action with the new Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days demo. With a totally revamped visual-style, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is looking to add a whole new sense of tension to the action-shooter genre. “Kane and Lynch face the consequences when a simple job gone wrong sets off a desperate and frantic struggle to escape the entire Shanghai underworld. Ground- breaking art direction, relentless action gameplay and innovative multiplayer redefine the action shooter experience and positions Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days as the standout shooter of 2010.”

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38 Studios recently announced an all-new single player RPG experience entitled Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and have just released a reveal trailer and screenshots for the game. This new open-world role-playing game is set in the world of Amalur, a mysterious new fantasy world brought to life by the New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore. This new world will feature a visual style created by none other than Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, and will be developed under the guidance of Ken Rolston who was the lead designer for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

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A video interview series featuring “Dusty”, a real-life Tier 1 Operator, has been released to shed a bit more light on this mysterious group within the U.S. military. In “Part Three: Hammer and Scalpel”, Dusty goes over the type of person a Tier 1 Operator needs to be in order to succeed within the most dangerous and difficult missions. A small group of these elite soldiers, including Dusty who also appeared on the box-art of the game, were used as consultants in the production of Medal of Honor to make the game into a very accurate and relevant portrayal of their combat experiences.

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We can never see enough of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and lucky for us Ubisoft has released a brand-new multiplayer trailer straight from Comic-Con. If you’re not excited about the new multiplayer aspects of Assassin’s Creed, then maybe you should check out the previous multiplayer trailer from E3 that gives a fairly detailed walk-through of the “Wanted” game mode. If that’s not enough, then I suggest you look at what the single-player campaign has to offer. If you’re not a believer after that, then I’m pretty sure you never will be. But that’s ok, I forgive you.

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If you’re looking forward to the new Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions then it’s time to get a mop & a bucket, because you might need them after seeing what we’ve got in store for you today. Activision has released a whole slew of assets from Comic-Con showing off none other than your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. We’ve gotten a hold of three all-new trailers, two being short vignette’s featuring Scorpion 2099 and the unstoppable Juggernaut. Not to mention a bunch of gameplay screenshots that show off all four drastically different art-styles of the game and a few new details. So what do you think? Is this going to be the Spider-Man game we’ve been waiting for? As a fan of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler himself, I certainly hope so.

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High Moon Studios have been hard at work on a brand-new downloadable content pack to be released next week to the ever-expanding community that’s building under Transformers: War for Cybertron. The new DLC will include two new characters, Scattershot and Onslaught, who will be playable in Escalation mode and have chassis available in traditional multiplayer. Three characters who were previously retail-exclusives, Shockwave, Demolishor and Jazz, will also be available in the aforementioned modes as well, along with the addition of four new maps. Be sure to check out the screenshots and trailer to see these new characters in action.

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Ever wanted to know the inner-workings of the man behind the Vault Boy? Obsidian’s latest “Inside the Vault” developer interview features none other than the creator himself, Brian Menze. Here he explains the details on what it’s like to work at Obsidian, tips on breaking into the industry and info about the many other games he’s had the pleasure of working on.

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If you’re anything like me, then you remember that somber moment in Red Dead Redemption when you just cross the river for the first time, jump on your horse, and realize you’ve still got a long ways to go to get your revenge. Jose Gonzalez and his eerily soothing voice suited that moment perfectly with his song “Far Away”, which invaded your ears at just the right second. Gonzalez did a live performance of this song earlier this summer on the rooftops of the Rockstar offices, and lucky for us, it was all caught on film.

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It’s been announced that DJ Qbert will be the newest addition to the crew in DJ Hero 2. The San Francisco native who’s been claimed to have “revolutionized turntablism” and has been crowned king in many world championship competitions, will be featuring two all-new mixes to accompany the game’s already impressive soundtrack. “As a pioneer of his craft, DJ Qbert’s one-of-a-kind scratch and battle skills made him an amazing partner and prefect [sic] representative of DJ Hero 2’s new multiplayer modes, especially the unique DJ vs. DJ battle mixes,” said Tim Riley, Vice President of Music Affairs, Activision. “We’re bringing together the biggest and best DJ’s from around the globe, having already announced Deadmau5 and David Guetta as part of our incredibly talented crew, and having DJ Qbert cut up records in his signature style will help us put an indelible stamp on the DJ Hero 2 soundtrack.”

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2K Sports has recently revealed “The Jordan Challenge”, an all-new game mode in NBA 2K11 that will allow you to relive 10 of the greatest moments in Jordan’s legendary career. Fans of the series can take part in Michael’s “self-described greatest game by torching the Cavaliers by 69 points in March of 1990″, as well as play as some of the greatest teams in NBA history, including many of the championship rosters from the Chicago Bulls franchise. After his announcement as being the games cover athlete it’s no surprise that 2k Sports decided to make use of his persona in-game and, according to Jason Argent of 2K Sports, “there’s still a lot more to come”.

Awakening in a dark and dreary forest can be an extremely frightening and disorienting thing. The deafening silence and the overwhelming feeling of being alone in these circumstances can be enough to drive most people mad. Particularly for a child it can be downright traumatic. This is all you’re left with in the opening of Limbo – a small boy, alone in a dangerous place with a bleak optic-only narrative to guide the way.

The game stands apart visually with its unique black & white two-dimensional art style and is reminiscent of a classic silent-film with a modern avant-garde twist. The backgrounds and foregrounds are like charcoal drawings come to life and bring a wonderful feeling of depth to the calm and speechless world. The silence of the game plays well with your reflexes and allows you to be truly captured in a moment. Surprises come around almost every corner and with only the sound of your footsteps as a beacon, it’s hard not to get caught off-guard. There are occasional moments of ambient sound as well as a bit of a musical score hidden within, but they blend so well that you tend to feel it, rather than actually hear it.

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Another thing you tend to feel quite exuberantly is your inevitable demise. Giant bear traps and large tumbling boulders are only a couple of ways to tear your body into pieces. For the most part, death happens in an instant. Before you realize how twisted the occurrence actually was, you’ll probably have made some sort of bewildered gasp before letting out a burst of absurdity. Death in Limbo certainly is laughable because it feels like it was meant more for entertainment than for consequence. Checkpoints are plentiful, and thus you only start a few moments from where you met your grisly end.

The melancholy nature of this game is hauntingly dark, yet surprisingly not as gruesome as one might think. There are moments that will tear down hopefulness and gleam on despair as you catch background glimpses of murder and apparent suicide, yet a distinct lack of blood is present and left only to the imagination. It’s a game that tugs well on the strings of psychology and gives you plenty to think about when you dissect its title and the practices of Roman Catholic Theology.

The gameplay itself is very standard for a puzzle-platformer and does nothing significantly different in that realm. The rag doll physics make a mockery of death and yet they are fine-tuned enough to keep the platforming pretty solid. However, it is fairly odd to see a child with the upper body-strength to hoist himself from ledges with ease. The puzzle elements are fairly mediocre early on, but become progressively harder as you persist through the game. They have a very ingenious way about putting you in situations where you’ll need to think quickly. Some of these enigmas may leave you scratching your head at first, but a little determination, a few experiments and maybe even a bit of luck will help you solve the riddle in a pinch.

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Roughly five hours of gameplay does feel a bit short for an experience with this much mystery and I do wish that death had more relevance, seeing as how the game is based upon an aspect of the afterlife, but Limbo does manage to maintain the perfect marriage between simplicity and complexity within its short span. I certainly wouldn’t be caught dead saying that this is the greatest game of all time, but it is of a certain caliber that I tend to expect from my Xbox Live Arcade titles. There are very few games on XBLA that come to mind when I think about a great downloadable experience. Limbo is most definitely one of them.

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One of our most highly anticipated here at TalkXbox. The new world of XCOM takes this strategy franchise into a completely re-imagined first-person shooter realm. This incredible and enigmatic E3 trailer takes a dark look at this new game spawned by the creators of the BioShock series. Don’t forget to take a look at our E3 Preview of XCOM for more information and check back often for continuous updates on this new IP from 2K Marin.

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Codemasters released some pretty impressive “work-in-progress” gameplay footage of their newest IP, Bodycount, to show-off at this year’s E3. This pre-alpha build demonstrates their widely destructible and ever-changing environments, along with introducing their new “Psycho-Tank” AI who is a mini-gun wielding lunatic that will break down walls just to get at you. This will be the first game created by the team at Codemasters Studios Guildford who’s Creative Director, Stuart Black, is responsible for the award-winning 2006 shooter, Black. You may recognize this as an Xbox Originals title that was re-released to Xbox Live back in 2008.

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We’ve recently gotten a hold of a few new Mafia II screens that give a slight glimpse at the game’s HUD and cover-system. If you’ve seen the latest E3 Trailer then you’ll know how far improved the game looks than it’s predecessor. That’s all thanks to 2K Czech’s brand new Illusion Engine that was built from the ground-up, specifically for Mafia II. Don’t forget to keep checking back regularly for more details. We’ll soon be posting a preview of the game with everything that we saw, coming straight from E3.