Feature | Beyond the Cube (October 2011)

By Calum Peak 11.10.2011 8

Beyond the Cube: The World Outside Nintendo

Welcome one, welcome all to Beyond the Cube, Cubed3's foray into the world outside Nintendo. Last month we covered the Call of Duty XP and PAX Prime 2011 expos, as well as the glorious release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This month we're going to shake things up a little; instead of the news we usually report, we will be focusing on previews, courtesy of the Eurogamer Expo which took place in London's Earls Court at the end of last month. Read on to find out more about Skyrim, Battlefield 3, PlayStation Vita and OnLive, as well as in-depth review of Dead Island.

Previews

Battlefield 3

(EA :: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 [multiplayer beta tested] / PC [multiplayer beta tested])

Somewhere in the distance I can hear rockets flying past seeking their targets and the tat-tat-tat of Russian and American weapons firing at each other. That's good, it means they haven't seen me...yet. We only have 30 attackers left to destroy the two MCOM sites and I know the majority of the team are clustered around point B as there have been failed arming attempts already. I know exactly what to do, and a team mate that spawns near me quickly catches on. We crawl very slowly through the undergrowth towards point A, and as we draw closer my new partner drops a mobile spawn point; smart man, as it means our entire squad can jump straight back in if we are taken out. I hear another attempt at arming B in the distance, and take this as my cue. I check my weapons, take my chance and sprint to A, arm it and find a nice spot to go prone. I hear my teammates semi-automatic rifle go off behind me no doubt taking out guys who are trying to diffuse, and he spots a few whom I pick off. One, two, three. A stray grenade lands next to me. Ouch. I'm dead; they manage to diffuse the objective. But that's OK, it had the desired effect. As it disrupts their defence and B gets planted again, I use the mobile spawn point and go for A once more. Now the real fun begins, and the enemy team has to decide which to diffuse. I defend A with a SMAW rocket and two full squads around me and we manage to destroy both objectives with only five attackers left. Talk about close. Our team proceeds into the subway tunnels, and that, that is a whole different ball game.

Battlefield 3 is all about combined force, as opposed to the lone wolf approach you can take in Call of Duty. Kills mean nothing here unless it is for the objective, and it is very difficult for one person to carry a team through to victory with such a large number of participants; with 24 players on console and up to 64 players on PC, it's hectic. Unfortunately players of the console beta didn't have access to Caspian Border, a huge conquest (Flag Control) map that features jets, tanks and all manner of vehicles in between, but on PC it plays really well with only a few bugs here and there - well, it is a beta - and on all platforms the title looks absolutely gorgeous. Whilst the beta for consoles lacks the graphical finesse of the PC version, DICE have been keen to tell players that if they install their copy onto their console, they can take advantage of high resolution textures on the disc, making it look a whole lot better.

I also had a chance to try out a single player level on PlayStation 3, 'Operation Guillotine', which was hectic, fast paced and damned brilliant. I won't go into specifics - the video below shows off the mission - but several things stood out, in particular the audio and lighting effects. From the glare of flashlights catching the mud on your goggles, to explosions that cause your body to shake from bass, it feels complete and exhilarating without going for the full on adrenaline fight effect. Battlefield 3 launches later this month on PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360 and is a title to look forward to for long-time fans and newcomers alike. Expect the full review next month.


 

OnLive


These impressions are based on OnLive experienced through an OnLive Micro Console on a fibre optic 20MB/s Internet connection. The Micro Console was provided free as part of a giveaway at Eurogamer Expo.

Cloud gaming is something that I have been very sceptical about. I never thought it could work, and it's still tough to believe that it does. But OnLive does work, it really does, and that's a scary thought for both myself, and the gaming industry as a whole; it has the potential to change everything. Courtesy of the friendly guys from OnLive, I walked away from Eurogamer Expo with my very own (free) Micro Console which retails at around £70 in the UK. The package includes everything you need to get started: the Micro Console itself (which is more like a glorified router), power, Ethernet and HDMI cables, as well as a substantial controller and the option of a rechargeable battery pack or plain old batteries (both in the box).

Set up is nice and quick, and the interface overall is very snazzy, featuring little thumbnails of what everyone else is playing at that time - a cool Arena mode allows you to zoom into anybody's game and spectate at any time, too, unless they've restricted access through their privacy settings. I booted up a trial of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. My jaw dropped once it loaded and I nudged the analogue stick to move my character. There was no noticeable input lag from the controller at all. I was playing a game that was stored on a remote server somewhere, flawlessly, with all the bells and whistles attached, and it looked good. You won't be getting 1080p resolutions with OnLive (though they are working on it), the highest current resolution being 720p, and there is a bit of blurring, perhaps slightly better than watching a 720p YouTube video in full screen. Whilst that may sound bad to some, when you are sitting on a couch away from your TV you don't notice it at all. It's also worth noting at this point that multi-platform games at OnLive's launch will be the PC version. What is nice about that is that you aren't limited to the proprietary controller; you can stick a USB 360 pad or any other controller, or a mouse and keyboard, into the Micro Console and it will work flawlessly. This is a good option for people that don't feel like using the standard controller, though it is comfortable in its own right. OnLive have taken all the best bits from the 360 and PS3 controllers and married them up nicely into something that anyone can use. Add to that media controls, used to record Brag clips to share with friends whenever you like, and you are all set to go.

My main issue with the OnLive service, however is the game library. Tere is a lot to choose from, but they are all older titles other than Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Duke Nukem: Forever. The only notable shortly upcoming release on the platform is Saints Row: The Third. Where I can see the service really starting to shine, however, is within the indie market. As the games are streamed, all piracy associated with the service is eliminated due to the lack of actual download. You can also purchase PlayPasses to allow you to play games for a certain amount of time instead of paying the full price to 'own' the title. OnLive is like LoveFilm's streaming service, but for games.

[a name=awesomenauts]

Awesomenauts

(Ronimo Games :: Xbox Live Arcade (Xbox 360) [tested] / PlayStation Network (PlayStation 3)

Ronimo Games proved themselves adept at the real time strategy genre with Swords & Soldiers, and their side-scrolling war of tribes has been the recipient of many awards since its release on WiiWare, PC, Mac and PlayStation 3. While Swords & Soldiers focused on simpler times of gold and barbecues, Ronimo's new title Awesomenauts is flung far into a future of insane Russian monkeys, space cowboys and froggy thugs.

Awesomenauts is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena title. Each player takes command of one of the crazy characters in three-on-three battles, departing from the towers at opposite ends of the level to inevitably do battle in the centre of the stage. Killing each other is not the main target, however; the sole aim is to destroy your opponent's base before they do the dirty on yours. Getting in your way are, obviously, your rivals, enemy drones and defence systems such as laser walls that must be brought down before you can get anywhere close to your objective.

One of the most interesting aspects of Awesomenauts is the upgrade system that allows players to alter their character repeatedly throughout a match, adding new abilities, changing strategies and pulling in plenty of variety. This is particularly good as matches tend to last a good ten minutes or longer, based on our playtest at Eurogamer Expo, but the regular additions keep things fresh. At the beginning of each battle you are able to select several powers from a huge range, the amount depending on your experience. You might start out, as we did, with a jet-packing, laser-firing chimp, but keep on collecting credits to spend in the shop in your base to unlock the potential of the chosen powers, and soon said simian shall be shooting slowdown beams, laying landmines and generating healing energy fields, ensuring irritation to others. The longer you play, the more formidable and annoying you will become towards your opponents - just as they do the same to you.


 

Drones for each side patrol the arenas, attacking any rivals in their way. They're easy to dispatch, but a total necessity in laser turret assaults as they are more resistant to the lasers than the main characters. As such, you'll want to keep your drones operational so that you can hide behind them, allowing them to take the damage while you fire upon the threats from a safer vantage point. Should you die - and you will - then worry not, as you'll be entertained by a victory song cawed out by your murderer. A short mini-game accompanies the respawning process, sending you hurtling down through space to collect some easy credits before you crash land to rejoin the fray.

Awesomenauts is really set up to be an online title for six players, but Ronimo Games have thankfully included local multiplayer and single player modes too, plus the option to skip straight into a game without waiting for a full roster of players. Here, any empty slots will be filled by AI players, but if more people want to join later on then they can slide right in and replace a CPU character; vice versa if somebody needs to leave. It's all looking very promising, with plenty of strategies to uncover through the upgrade system, and we thoroughly enjoyed our playtest. Awesomenauts will be released on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in the near future. - Mike Mason

LittleBigPlanet

(Sony :: PS Vita)

After a forty five minute wait I was not in the best of moods when I finally got to try out Sony's latest handheld. Those who tested the system drew a card at random to determine which game they would be playing, and luck was shining on me when I randomly picked the card that had a picture of Sackboy, LittleBigPlanet's main mascot - the perfect antidote for grumpy press. The smiles started as soon as I picked up the console and turned it over in my hands. Vita is somehow both smaller and bigger than I imagined, as it feels and looks small, but the huge OLED screen that stretches across its face makes it seem larger than life, with an equal size touch pad on the bottom; something that I have been sceptical about ever since they announced the touch functionality.

The world select screen feels natural, completely operated by touch, the planets rotated to find levels. Moving into the stages, the analogue sticks used to move Sackboy are smaller than imagined, but no less accurate; they're comfortable and a damn sight better than the PSP's analogue nub. The touch-screens on the console suddenly made sense upon meeting the first obstacle, a wheel spun by a flick of your finger, used to lift Sackboy to higher levels, and also a cable cart which had to be dragged along the screen. But what about the rear touch pad? Sony had prepped for that too. I came across a series of blocks set back into the level, not unlike a child's play toy, and had to make steps out of them. I tried tapping them and nothing happened. Baffled, my fingers started fidgeting and I hit the back touch-pad by accident and a block popped out. Ding. I started pushing blocks in using the front screen and pushing them towards me with the back screen; so simple, yet so intuitive.

That was the end of level unfortunately; however that simple playtest gave me a glimpse of how many applications that this could be used for, and not just puzzle games. The combination of two touch panels has the odd sense of interacting with 3D space without actually being 3D, it certainly has a lot of potential.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

(Bethesda :: Xbox 360 [tested] / PC / PlayStation 3)

There is something about the Elder Scrolls series that consumes all my time and makes hours flash by. When the booth man told me I had twenty minutes to do whatever I wanted in the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim demo, I immediately knew that wouldn't be enough time to even scratch the surface of the game. When he told me to get off it felt like only five minutes, and it took all my resistance to put it down instead of having him prise the controller from my hands to keep me from playing.

In my short time with Skyrim, I meandered along a river path, following the flow of the water as it rushed past me; this beautiful moment was soon interrupted by a pack of wolves. Pulling out my sword I set to work hacking at the pack; whilst effective, they had a habit at pouncing at me from a distance, so equipping a flamethrower spell in the other hand seemed to be the logical choice. This combo quickly cut down the pack with a brutal finisher. It's obvious Bethesda have put a lot of work into the combat since the days of Oblivion, as it flows much nicer and allows players to play how they want, short of strapping swords to their feet (I'm calling that for Elder Scrolls VI right now). Being able to equip spells and swords, two swords, sword and shield, two spells and anything in between in either hand just feels...right. For instance, slightly later on I died against a mace-wielding bandit in a dungeon. The second time around I equipped a restorative spell in my left and a short sword in my right, as it was impossible to avoid close combat, which allowed me to replenish my health and keep attacking with my right. It was a furiously close match, but the success of winning was more than worth it; I added a nice shiny mace to my collection.

My time ran out too fast, and there isn't much you can do in twenty minutes against the three hundred hours of content that has been poured into Skyrim. Everything has polish, the intricate detail that has been wrought into the world is impressive, from the macro to the micro. Skyrim is definitely a title to get excited about when it launches in November... along with every other title releasing at that time, we are more than spoilt for choice.

Reviews

Dead Island

(Deep Silver :: Xbox 360 [tested], PlayStation 3, PC)

It's that time of year again. The leaves are falling, students are starting back at school, winter is coming, and...oh, there appears to be an undead gnawing on the underside of my arm. That can't be good. About this time last year we had Dead Rising 2 bite through our consoles with gusto, so what happens when you combine the weapon customisation from Dead Rising, the co-op madness of Valve's Left 4 Dead series and RPG elements from Borderlands? The answer is Techland's Dead Island. Does it survive the onslaught or does it get its intestines pulled out through its nose? Let's see...

After a heavy night of drinking and partying in the hotel resort, you awake to an eerily quiet corridor with not a soul to be seen. It quickly becomes apparent that the other resort guests aren't entirely normal either. Past the prologue and into the main game you are set on collecting items, saving people and finding new strongholds whilst uncovering the truth behind the infection on the island... they swear it isn't Umbrella. The island itself is glorious to behold as well; it's so bright and colourful, yet very, very deadly.

You pick one of four characters that all have special abilities; gun master, blade specialist, blunt specialist or a Jack of all trades class. Dead Island is designed to be played online either with friends or strangers, and Techland have made it easy to do so. You can hop in and out of other players games who are at the same stage you are, and they, you. This is a very good thing as Dead Island has an uneven difficulty curve that may deter some people, but death is expected and you are only penalised a percentage of your currency. Playing with a group of mates makes the game much more enjoyable; when assaulted by the hordes you can fend them off much easier, and should you fall, you can be revived again.

Weapons in Dead Island take a leaf from Dead Rising's book of mad contraptions. You can take your standard baseball bat and stick a load of nails through, turn a katana electric or give your sledgehammer a bit of extra oomph to send zombies flying. Weapons level up with the character, which stops trading between higher and lower players, but at the same time, the undead level up with you, always presenting a challenge, particularly when the special infected turn up. In essence, they appear to match Left 4 Dead's tougher counterparts: there's a Ram (charger), Thug (tough dude), Suicider (boomer) and the Butcher (berserker) which all take a little more effort to take down, especially when you are being assaulted by walkers and infected at the same time.

There are however some pretty major problems with Dead Island, the main one being that it doesn't feel finished. There are glitches everywhere, quest people disappearing, dodgy self-shadows, buggy maps and your magical extendable leg that doesn't seem to have a predetermined length. The quests also get pretty tedious with the majority of them being fetch quests with variance few and far between. Whilst the quests themselves can be fun, accepting missions can be painful; characters talk for far too long with very bad dialogue which leads to skipping through until you can accept the quest and reading what you need to do that way. That's not to say Dead Island is a bad game, it's just very rough around the edges in places.

Dead Island is a very enjoyable game and its easy enough to sink thirty plus hours into it as you play either by yourself or with your friends. There are plenty of quests to do, weapons to find and upgrade and a huge area to explore that takes you through a holiday resort, towns and rain forests. Whilst there are some problems with voice acting and some glitches here and there, if you can look past that you will have a very good time with this indeed. Now, where did I put my sledgehammer that was given to me a nun that I upgraded with shark teeth? I've got more zombies to kill... 7/10

Well done if you made it this far! It's been a complete preview blowout this month; next month, however, may be the complete opposite with a lot of reviews hitting the page. Hope you enjoyed this month of Beyond the Cube and we'll see you next month!

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Comments

Jman (guest) 11.10.2011#1

I've got to try Dead Island. Looks pretty good.

"The only notable shortly upcoming release on the platform is Saints Row: The Third"

Magicka is coming soon (though not listed yet) which is really nice game.

Also, dont dismiss the older titles. The PlayPack is great value for the indie titles alone. (some fairly recent just not so known)
--

As for Little Big Planet. Its good, but no where near as good as Little Big Adventure.
Now THATS a great game Smilie

$6 now too;
http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/little_big_adventure

( Edited 12.10.2011 15:54 by Darkflame )

http://www.fanficmaker.com <-- Tells some truly terrible tales.
Last update; Mice,Plumbers,Animatronics and Airbenders. We also have the socials; Facebook & G+

Darkflame said:
"The only notable shortly upcoming release on the platform is Saints Row: The Third"

Magicka is coming soon (though not listed yet) which is really nice game.

Also, dont dismiss the older titles. The PlayPack is great value for the indie titles alone. (some fairly recent just not so known)
--

As for Little Big Planet. Its good, but no where near as good as Little Big Adventure.
Now THATS a great game Smilie

$6 now too;
http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/little_big_adventure


You have to remember though, Magicka is an older game. I was talking about new games that are releasing on it. The play pack is really good, but games need to keep being added to it to keep it fresh. Not to mention that the UK doesn't have a load of games that the states have, such as Split/Second.

You got quite a tight definition of old.
Magika came out this year!
January 25, 2011 according to wikipedia.

Its too new for my GPU anyway Smilie

( Edited 12.10.2011 19:53 by Darkflame )

http://www.fanficmaker.com <-- Tells some truly terrible tales.
Last update; Mice,Plumbers,Animatronics and Airbenders. We also have the socials; Facebook & G+

Darkflame said:
You got quite a tight definition of old.
Magika came out this year!
January 25, 2011 according to wikipedia.

Its too new for my GPU anyway Smilie


Let me rephrase, there are no notable 'new releases' coming out for onlive other than Saints Row.
Darkflame said:
You got quite a tight definition of old.
Magika came out this year!
January 25, 2011 according to wikipedia.

Its too new for my GPU anyway Smilie


Not really, but in terms of 'new' releases then magicka is considered an 'old' game. And when it comes out you will only be able to use a keyboard and mouse combo for it I guess, its a PC game. When I say new, it means games that have yet to be released on any platform Smilie

Skorrr (guest) 13.10.2011#6

Why is Dark Souls not up there? Smilie

...or was that already listed elsewhere? >.>

*currently playing the heck out of Dark Souls*
*loving every minute, though sad that the Gravelord Covenant is broken as all heck... have to wait a looong time for a patch*

Skorrr (guest) said:
Why is Dark Souls not up there? Smilie

...or was that already listed elsewhere? >.>

*currently playing the heck out of Dark Souls*
*loving every minute, though sad that the Gravelord Covenant is broken as all heck... have to wait a looong time for a patch*


Because it had only just come out when I submitted this! And I have to fund all the games myself!

( Edited 13.10.2011 21:27 by Echoes221 )

June (guest) 21.10.2011#8

Battlefield looks good, can't wait to get my hands on it... I've been sustaining too long on BF2. In fact, I'm so obsessed with Battlefield that I've been trying to get my loadout IRL! I found a bunch of the guns for this game, as well as a bunch more here

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