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Hands-On Preview: Need for Speed: Undercover

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301w ago - It's a sobering thought that when the original The Need For Speed came out in 1994 - on the ill-fated 3DO, no less - the original PlayStation wasn't even on shop shelves. The series is now over 14 years old, which makes it one of the oldest racing franchises that's still active today; Only Mario Kart and Ridge Racer are longer in the tooth.

Over the course of the past decade the Need For Speeds have adopted several different styles and forms, but they reached a new level of popularity after the release of Need For Speed Underground. The sequel introduced a free-roaming element and the series never looked back, making its debut on the current crop of consoles with Most Wanted.

It is to these instalments, prior to the disappointing ProStreet, that Undercover harks back, with a strong emphasis on criminal goings-on and baiting the police in the manner of the borderline motor-porn that is The Fast and the Furious.

As it goes, this latest Demand For Velocity outing will feel closer than ever before to the petrol-soaked antics of Vin Diesel and chums. While we were only shown a brief cut scene during our recent rendezvous with EA, it's clear that the devs at Black Box have stepped up their efforts when it comes to the game's back story. Unless you've been avoiding Undercover news like the plague,...
 

Tokyo Game Show 2008 Hands-On: Spelunker for PSN

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301w ago - Spelunker is a remake of the NES classic from Irem. Does it look familiar to you? Do you remember the game from way back in the day, 20 years ago?

If you do, it's probably because the aesthetics haven't changed much. Though boasting updated, modern graphics, the game's visuals retain a retro-stylized feel. The 2D characters are still there.

The lifts and ladders are still in the places they would've been. Overall, it looks like an interesting title for those old-school gamers looking for a blast from the past.

Of course, the question is: How does it play? First off, the controls are simple enough. It's a 2D game with a focus on platform jumping, with other actions including: riding down elevators; leaping over pits; climbing ladders; and dodging fire, steam, and toxic liquids.

You can collect items such as bombs to demolish obstacles in your way, or keys in order to progress through locked sections of a stage.

It all sounds very simple, familiar and arcadey -- in other words, a perfect fit for a PSN game. Right?
 

PSP Firmware 5.0 Hands-On: PlayStation Network on the PSP

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301w ago - Ever since the introduction of the PlayStation Network, I have been complaining about the PSP's inability to support its use. Well it looks like Sony is finally going to make me eat crow, as they announced full PSN integration into the newest PSP firmware update.

Details on PSP firmware 5.0 had been lacking, but Joystiq was able to get hands-on time with the newest update while attending the Tokyo Game Show:

"PSP firmware 5.0 ushers in the PS Store for PSP. With the exception of a separate video storefront, it is functionally identical to the PS3's PS store, including the option to enter PSN Card numbers and voucher codes from within. The final content categories are still being finalized, but the build we tried featured sections for downloadable games, UMD Legacy games, themes, video, and music. SCEA isn't saying whether it plans to offer digital releases all future UMD-based games day-and-date via the service like SCE Japan is.

The rest of the PSP updates are fairly low-key. PlayStation Network now has its own spot on the PSP XMB, just as it does on PS3. (This is where the PS Store lives.) There's now a sleep timer function for music playback and a new XMB background theme - basically a...
 

Hands-on: Red Baron Arcade for PlayStation 3

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306w ago - Many of you wisely noted in our debut trailer for the upcoming PSN game Red Baron Arcade that it looks fun, in spite of its antiquated graphics. After playing a few missions from the downloadable title, I'd have to agree with that assessment.

Red Baron Arcade is true to its namesake: it provides a very arcade aerial combat game, one which is easy to pick up and play. The simplistic nature of the gameplay is part of its appeal, but also limits the depth one may come to expect from a genre like this.

Planes are incredible maneuverable, able to turn at a moment's notice. Obviously, these planes aren't meant to handle like their real-world equivalents. Various evasive tactics, like U-turns and barrel rolls, are done easily with a single press of a button. While this makes it very easy to jump into the game, it also makes everything feel completely unnatural.

While the controls are far from realistic, they do get the job done during the massive dogfights featured in the game. Even the first missions had dozens of enemies to shoot down. Your opponents will go down rather easily, allowing you to dominate the skies. Various power-ups and collectibles are scattered throughout each level, making it easy to restore your health, energy and bombs.

Anyone that has played an arcade shooter like...
 

Hands-On - MotorStorm: Pacific Rift for PlayStation 3

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306w ago - We had a chance to check in with MotorStorm: Pacific Rift once again. An "80% complete" demo we played gave us access to four different levels: two single player and two split-screen races. Easily the most impressive level we played had to be the Wildfire level.

This level takes everything that's good about MotorStorm and amplifies it to the extreme. Pacific Rift's play on hot versus cold goes into full effect here, in this dark volcanic level. It's unlike anything we've seen from the game so far, and it's a terrific contrast to the usual lush greens of the game.

With deadly lava and fire everywhere, this is quite possibly the most dramatic level in the MotorStorm series so far. Of course, with the heat so high, your vehicle will have a rather easy disposition to overheat whilst boosting -- we even went so far as to explode our bike. Ouch!

Thankfully, there are numerous showering stations scattered throughout the branching course, which will cool down your vehicle and take out any fire which may still be clinging to your vehicle. The constant switch between molten lava and refreshing water is not only visually arresting, but creates a very good gameplay balance. Do you opt to take a shorter route to shave a few seconds off your time, or do you go headstrong through the water to cool down your...
 
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