Yesterday Warner Bros. announced that a brand new Mortal Kombat game will be coming in 2011 and is currently in development by NetherRealm Studios. Along with the announcement they released this incredibly brutal gameplay trailer that shows the series going back to its bloody 2-D roots.

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Fallout: New Vegas has just unveiled a few new pre-order incentives for the masses! Currently these in-game items are only available in Northern America, but will be available soon worldwide through GameStop, Amazon, Steam, Walmart and Best Buy. Each pre-order pack is specific to various participating retailers and is as follows:

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With all the craziness that is E3 you can certainly expect a ton of new exclusive trailers to be released, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Mafia II has released its new “The Made Man” trailer featuring Vito, a World War II veteran struggling to make his way to the top of his local crime syndicate. So check out all the gritty Mafia goodness.

In a press release this morning it was announced that Square Enix will team up with Obsidian Entertainment (developers of Alpha Protocol and the upcoming Fallout: New Vegas) to work on Dungeon Siege 3, an action-rpg series originally developed by Gas Powered Games.

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The rumor mill is stirring yet again, and this time Mass Effect is in the mix. According to a recent job posting at the Electronic Arts website, BioWare is currently on the hunt for a new Multiplayer Programmer to “take existing single player user experiences and make them multiplayer safe”. What this means to their existing franchises are unclear, but tons of speculation is looking towards the possibility of Mass Effect 3 going the multiplayer route.

When thinking about combining the action role-playing and stealth genres, one might think “wow, that sounds like a great idea!” and of course they’d be right. But they also might get a bit ahead of themselves and think about guys such as Sam Fisher, Jason Bourne, or even James Bond and start to contemplate how bad-ass they’d be in that fantasy of naivety.

Well, Alpha Protocol combines the action role-playing and stealth genres, but not in the way you might think. In this game you are not a Sam Fisher clone nor are you a bad-ass. At least not right away. Some people may tend to forget about the whole “role-playing” aspect and ignore the fact that it takes work to become the ultimate killing machine. Along with that, there will also be some very important choices to be made.

Not simply the choice between good and evil like the majority of role-playing games, but the kind of decisions that tend to blur the lines and truly test the human condition. These choices become very prevalent within each dialogue sequence. They are presented in such a quick fashion that they should be considered more of an on-the-fly judgment aside from anything else. The “Dynamic Stance System” as it’s properly named, keeps the conversations in real time and you only have a moment to think before you act.

Michael Thorton, kicking guys in the face in Asia…

Unlike the typical good, bad or neutral responses that most RPG games apply, these are more based on aggressive, professional or suave stances, which can all interchangeably be considered as good, bad or neutral responses given the context of a conversation. This dialogue system is an amazing way to keep the pace of a deeply enthralling story and what you ultimately decide to do with these snap judgments can lead to a multitude of outcomes in the world of Alpha Protocol. Multiple endings, branching plot points, or even missing out entirely on meeting important characters are just the tip of the iceberg.

The cast of characters in Alpha Protocol is very well represented with their eclectic and captivating vocal performances. Everything from a promiscuous, yet deadly, German mercenary to the almost stereotypical Russian tank of a boxer (think Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV) it seems as though they have all the bases covered. Nolan North even makes an appearance as a borderline psychotic CIA agent who apparently can’t find his keys.  The soundtrack itself leaves a little something to be desired, but other than that the audio in general is fairly average at best.

The first major decision you’ll be making when you begin the game is concerning your main character’s background. Much like in the way of Mass Effect, you begin by choosing a military history of sorts for the story’s protagonist Michael Thorton. You’re given the task of becoming a Soldier, Field Agent, Tech Specialist, Freelancer, or Recruit. All backgrounds start out with pre-selected skill sets with the exception of the Freelancer and Recruit classes, who both begin with a blank slate.

…and obscure office corridors

The difference between these last two character classes is that the Freelancer receives 31 Advancement Points (AP) to do with as you please while the Recruit begins the game with nothing but alternative dialogue options during your training, which can also greatly affect the game’s final outcome. The Recruit class is a much more difficult path to begin with, but if completed it unlocks the ability to begin a playthrough as the Veteran class. This particular class starts agent Thorton off with additional dialogue as well as three tiers on every skill equaling a total of 120 AP points.

AP points are awarded to you once you earn enough experience points by completing specific objectives during your missions throughout the campaign. It is something to note that not all of these pre-selected skill points are locked in place within each character class at the start of your playthrough. You can essentially remove all skill points from any given class at the start if you have the desire to fully customize your agent to suit your needs.

When you get into the game itself one of the first things you notice is how the cover system works. Initially it may seem like a pretty decent cover-to-cover system that’s comparable to any other game that uses the Unreal Engine, but unfortunately it seems that a few basic fundamentals were left high and dry. There is no way to vault over small bits of cover. This can be forgivable as it’s not always needed in terms of gameplay, but the major disappointment comes from the fact that some doorway entrances won’t allow you to properly snap to cover. It can lead to a disturbing amount of frustration for someone who is trying to go for a more stealthy approach, considering early in the game your stealth skill is more towards the shallow end of the pool.

Unfortunately the combat system isn’t very cohesive even for RPG standards

The shooter aspect is also a bit on the frustrating side if you aren’t able to invest enough AP points early on. But even so, it doesn’t feel all that well executed to begin with seeing as just because you aim your target reticule at someone, it doesn’t mean you’ll actually hit your mark. Each weapon has its own statistical rating of Damage, Accuracy, Recoil, and Stability and it feels almost impossible to find a weapon proficient enough to be accurate in the middle of a long range firefight. You can always go for a “critical” shot by holding aim on a target for a certain period of time, but you never really get the chance unless you sneak up on an enemy and continue on unseen.

Technically the game has a few drawbacks with its random frame rate issues and the ability to see through walls while crouched in cover. It’s nothing that ever really breaks the game in any significant way, but it’s definitely noticeable. The enemy AI also has its problem of getting stuck within pieces of the environment and the fact that they’re just kind of dumb doesn’t help the situation much either. If a battle with multiple enemies occurs, they’ll typically run around aimlessly and barely bother to find cover. When they do that’s usually when they’ll get stuck. Not to mention the “brawler” type of AI that will not even take a shot at you with his gun, but instead charge you head on like a bull ducking and weaving until you finally land a shot and kill him.

Ultimately after all that’s “technically” wrong with the game it still boils down to how fun the game really is. Alpha Protocol is certainly an entertaining and uniquely deep experience once you understand how important the setup is and how carefully you need to craft your own agent Thorton. With every decision you make you’ll be left hoping that you won’t regret those actions later, and it’s that facet that will keep you more and more involved as the story progresses. In the world of espionage there is always a choice to be made. So let’s hope you make the right one.

Valve’s take on multiplayer gaming expands just a little bit further with “The Passing” the first in what is anticipated to be a long and continued support for Left 4 Dead 2. This bit of downloadable content may seem a tad miniscule at first, but actually contains quite a bit of longevity and ambition.

The campaign itself is a very short romp with only three chapters as opposed to the four or five that appear standard within the retail release. The fact that it’s so short is a bit of a mystery and really the only major downside, but it doesn’t necessarily take away from its quality. Everything in the new content maintains the same look and feel of any other Left 4 Dead 2 campaign and you’ll feel right at home with the level of playability right off the bat.

One of the major selling points they had for this piece of DLC was the fact that it will finally bring together the survivors from both the original Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. Although the story has never really been a significant part of this game, it was nice to see that Valve is at least making an attempt to create a little more depth within the cast of characters. They’ve added a bit more personality in the banter between characters in this campaign, but it’s just too bad that it all falls short of what they’re actually capable of when it comes to the storytelling aspect of this medium.

Despite some interesting moments, the hyped narrative elements disappoint

When the meet up occurs during the final chapter of the campaign, the only thing that people are supposed to be aware of going in is that one of the four original survivors is gone. The revelation of the missing comrade is very anticlimactic and feels much more like a marketing ploy than anything else. It’s a good thing that most people who play the Left 4 Dead games don’t really pay attention to these details anyway. Not at least until Valve decides to present them in a better way.

The real reason that fans will be enjoying this new add-on for many months to come will be because of the new “Mutations” that Valve is slated to release on a weekly basis. These new modes will consist of variations on already existing game modes as well as some brand new ones entirely. “Realism Versus” is the first to kick off the events and will continue swapping out with others such as “Chainsaw Massacre” which equips all players with chainsaws and an unlimited supply of gasoline. There are currently over 20 of these Mutations planned and will be playable on all Left 4 Dead 2 campaigns.

Weekly polls will be held in the games menu to figure out which Mutations are most popular and to determine which ones will be thrown back into the weekly rotation. When it comes to DLC not a lot of developers seem to get it right by giving you something that will keep you coming back week after week. They’ll end up giving fans short additions to a storyline or extra maps that will become boring after a while, but Valve seems to have figured out the perfect formula to keep you playing their game for as long as they can support it.

So is this DLC worth the seven bucks, or 560 MS Points, they’re asking? Absolutely. You’ll acquire a brand new campaign with the same amount of sheen as the rest of the game, as well as a new golf club melee weapon and an extremely powerful M-60 machine gun. Sure, the new campaign is short but you won’t be complaining once you step into those DLC exclusive Mutations week after week, which is reason enough for you to grab this add-on as soon as you can.

For a franchise with only one game under its belt, BioWare has successfully ensured that the Mass Effect universe will continue to have as much depth and complexity as ever.  Compared to its predecessor, Mass Effect 2 stands confident as a vastly improved-upon action role-playing game. The presentation of its engaging cinematics, graphics, sound and dialogue sequences, all lend themselves to the game’s polished sheen. Of course, the game isn’t perfect and with only a few missteps it certainly comes pretty damn close.

Taking place shortly after the events of the original Mass Effect, Commander Shepard and his crew are now en route to seek out and destroy any additional geth forces. From the beginning it is noticeable that the game is bleaker in tone and the following events only pursue further down that path. The plot in Mass Effect 2 – in essence – is a suicide mission and not even the hero is safe from what could inevitably be his demise. Also, since the choices you make in conversation could lead to this end result, BioWare has upped the stakes with a new feature to their dialogue system.

Conversations now have an interrupt component in place that will allow you to break up a cutscene with either a renegade or paragon action. This new characteristic takes the scene to a whole new level of fluidity and keeps the feel of the game right where it needs to be. Fast paced and emotionally driven. The voice acting only adds to these sequences and, on a whole, have greatly revitalized what was an epic tale from the start.

The characters in Mass Effect 2 only add to the capacity of the game and, with a combination of faces old and new, you will be gathering ten companions to journey along on your quest to save the galaxy. Granted, some of the crew you obtain throughout the game will be a bit more interesting than others but all will encompass a deeper back-story that will allow you to gain their trust for the mission ahead. Not only will acquiring their trust help you in the long run, but it will also grant you access to an extra ability that each character has available once you complete their given side mission. These side missions are far more interesting and along the lines of the main story when it comes to their presentation and, with that being said, it’s hard to look at them as just side missions. The only thing that makes them so is that fact that they’re optional.

It’s obvious to those who played the first Mass Effect that BioWare has taken into account the amount of criticism they received concerning their combat system. The AI squad mates aren’t anywhere near as inept as they were the first time around. No more charging head on into the line of fire where death surely awaits. Now, more often than not, your crew has enough sense to take cover when coming under fire. However, I did have the occasional problem of this nightmare reoccurring when a squad mate was equipped with a shotgun and couldn’t help but be out of range. A slight oversight that could have been fixed by allowing your squad mates to switch to a more appropriate weapon if needed. Or better yet, by not omitting the squad command to take to the nearest form of cover.

With that being considered, the squad controls have been greatly improved and you can now control the position of each member individually. This greatly improves your strategic performance throughout the game as it gives you a broader range on the battlefield to direct your attacks. One other downside I observed was that the button mapping for the squad didn’t feel as sensitive as I was used to. I found myself having to press the d-pad multiple times in order for them to rally back at my position or to shoot out a quick biotic attack. Be that as it may, this is just a nit-pick and may not be the case for everyone.

The cover system was also very carefully refined. No more running up and hoping that you snap to cover in time before the bullets start flying. This time there is actually a button press involved and it is much more akin to the Gears of War style cover mechanics. However, there are a few aspects that seem to have been overlooked in the process. Case in point; there is no way to crouch. Since combat in this game is a bit more tactical, it would have been nice to maintain just out of reach while trying to flank enemies. Especially considering the higher difficulty settings where these kinds of strategies play a huge role. There is also no blind-fire which seems like it would have been an obvious augmentation from the first game but, alas, it is nowhere to be found.

Bethesda Softworks has revealed in a press release that it will be publishing a new co-op fantasy game created by inXile Entertainment. This new third-person action game is set in a dark fantasy world in which you play as one of two mercenaries, in what appears to be a Gears of War style cover-based shooter. The difference here being that the combat is rooted with swordplay, bows, and magic.

Everything I’ve seen of this game so far just blows me away. Not really because of the gameplay itself, which I haven’t seen much of until this trailer, but mainly because of how vastly improved the CryEngine 3 is compared to all other game engines running today. I have a strong feeling that the CryEngine 3 could very well take the place of the Unreal Engine 3 and the strangle hold it currently has on the industry.

Being able to play before you purchase a game aka demoing, sure has its perks. Unless you’re mind is made up, usually playing a demo let’s you know what to expect when before you make that purchase. You can add Splinter Cell: Conviction to the list of games that will receive a demo, before or after it’s released.

This could very well be the game that Deus Ex fans have been waiting for. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Deus Ex 3) will prequel the series and will showcase stunning CG produced by none other than the magicians at Square Enix, along with development being done by the folks at Eidos Montreal.

Mass Effect 2’s project director, Casey Hudson, demoed a bit of a newly announced DLC entitled “Kasumi’s Stolen Memory” at GDC yesterday. The new content features a brand new recruit — a space rogue — named Kasumi who has a penchant for collecting rare artifacts.

A new trailer for Splash Damage’s upcoming first person shooter, Brink, has been released today and looks to show off some great looking cinematics. If the gameplay can be pulled off anywhere near this slick, then we’ll all be in for a treat when the game finally releases this Fall. Check out the trailer below and you’ll see what I mean.

As I write this review, I find myself having a kind of bittersweet notion concerning Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2. Bittersweet in the fact that this game makes me wish that the original Left 4 Dead didn’t exist; and I’ll explain why.

With all the controversy surrounding Left 4 Dead 2 and its release exactly one year after the original, you can’t help but wonder: Is this game worth it? Is it polished? Does it contain enough content to be its own stand-alone release rather than be seen as an expansion to the original Left 4 Dead? The answer — Yes, but at the cost of a very saddening insight.

Valve kinda made me feel a bit like a chump with this release simply because, after all is said and done, I feel they tricked me into purchasing a Left 4 Dead 2 beta at full retail price last year. This 2.0 version is a much more fully realized game with far superior campaigns, weapons, enemies, and just generally better everything. It’s what the original Left 4 Dead should have been, provided it pushed the release date back and had an extra year of development. All in all, this means it’s nothing really new in terms of game design from the first, and only boasts the addition of new content. In my eyes, this is hardly worthy of being a second release in a franchise; and it makes me very sad that it actually is.

So, with that being said, what makes this one so much better than the first? Throwing melee weapons in the mix is certainly a very welcome component to the game and will make your play through all the more brutal. That’s definitely a good start. It’s very satisfying when you hack off a few limbs with an axe or katana and see all the amusing blood splatter. The frying pan, much like the guitar as well, is a very humorous novelty weapon that can be very delightful to hear clang upside the skulls of the infected. Of course, there are many more melee weapons to be found such as a baseball bat, machete, police baton, and so on; but the real winner of the melee contest is the chainsaw. Being able to march through an oncoming horde with the chainsaw flailing about is definitely a sight to behold.

But it’s not just the melee weapons that round out this newly expanded arsenal. You’ll definitely see some familiar hardware this time around, along with their upgraded equivalents including a better rate of fire and much higher damage. The Hunting Rifle you will of course recognize, but the much burlier Sniper Rifle, which is also semi-automatic and contains a 30-shot clip, is double the size and acts more like an elephant gun with its sheer strength. When it comes to shotguns, there are two weak standards in the Pump Shotgun and Chrome Shotgun with two different fully automatic versions that maintain similar fire rates. Although, the Combat Shotgun appears to have a one up on the Tactical Shotgun in brute force, it also looks much cooler. The trusty M-16 Assault Rifle has also acquired a couple new cousins with the addition of the AK-47, which has a massive amount of power, but a slower fire rate. The Combat Rifle which is a bit weaker, but shoots in a much more controlled 3-round burst, has the highest capacity 60 round mag; as opposed to the M-16 and Combat Rifle with 50 and 40 round mags, respectively. There is also a new .50 caliber Desert Cobra pistol that packs one hell of a punch, but unlike the standard 9mm, cannot be duel-wielded. The Sub-Machine gun is also standard armament for Left 4 Dead, but this time gets a new buddy in the Silenced Sub-Machine Gun which has a great rate of fire and can mow zombies down with the best of ‘em.

There are now also two new ammo types available, if the gun roster alone wasn’t enough. Incendiary ammo is a cool new toy that can light your enemy ablaze with a single shot, leaving them to wander around screaming until they burn to a cinder. Explosive ammo will cause enemies to burst into pieces like you just shot a propane tank around them, leaving other nearby zombies stunned in the process. These new ammunition types are limited in quantity and can take a few seconds to deploy for you and your companions.

With all these new items added to the weapon vault, it makes for far more advanced gameplay. You gain so much more in your tactics while playing the campaign and the various online modes that, once you get acquainted with them, you’ll have a very hard time living without them. But in all reality, none of these additions are really all that far advanced enough to sell me on purchasing a whole new chapter in the Left 4 Dead saga. Sure, they make the game much more fun to play both online and off, but what else ya got Valve? New special infected? Ok, I’ll bite (no pun intended).

The three new special infected definitely add a whole new element in terms of gameplay.  The Jockey, who is named appropriately because of his ability to ride you like a horse, can be absolutely infuriating at times when he steers you directly into the closest form of danger possible. Whether it’s a raging fire caused by exploded gas tanks, a pool of acid left behind by the Spitter, or even just taking you off of a nearby ledge; he will be the bane of your existence, and will laugh manically while doing so. The Spitter, who can launch pools of acidic bile that will drop your health in seconds flat, can be very dangerous if you’re caught by any of the other special infected, and will leave you incapacitated in no time. Last but not least, The Charger, who looks like a mini tank, will attack you like a bowling ball knocking over pins; and will grab the nearest survivor to pummel endlessly into the concrete beneath his feet, a dangerous accessory to an already gruesome list of formidable foes. The old special infected, the Hunter, Boomer, Smoker, and the Tank are still present as well. Playing all these characters, along with the new additions, in a multiplayer match is definitely a blast, as they seem like they were all created with the thought of teamwork for domination in mind. If you can get your online companions to work together properly as the infected, you can be pretty hard to beat in a well-played Scavenge or Versus mode.

Now, Left 4 Dead had the Versus mode, although a bit incomplete right out of the box; as it was only really set up for two of the four campaigns and the Survival mode, albeit a bit late, with the addition of the Survival Pack downloadable content. Left 4 Dead 2 has all of that including a brand new mode. Scavenge, which is another Versus type mode, pits the survivors and the infected against each other in a round-robin style match while the opposing teams take turns in a best two out of three sets. The object, during your time as the survivors, is to collect as many gas tanks as possible for your generator at the starting area on the map, while the infected does everything in its power to prevent it. For such a simple game formula, this is by far one of the most fun game modes, as it requires a lot of teamwork and communication on everyone’s part and can lead to some pretty intense moments.