[Level Up! Blogfest] Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

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Two Metal Gear games talked about in rapid succession? This Metal Gear game I’m going to be talking about is not only my favorite of the series, but my favorite of all time for the Level Up! Blogfest event. This event is being hosted by Jaimie Gibbs at Mithril Wisdom and Allison at Geek Banter and was supposed to be done on the 20th so I’m a bit late, but I couldn’t pass up on the chance so here is my part.

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The game I consider as my personal all time favorite is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The game came out back in 2004 for the Playstation 2 and was re-released as a remake in an HD collection for the PS3/Xbox 360 and as a title for the Nintendo 3DS. The ’04 version is enough in my opinion to sell a person on this game. The game is everything that makes Metal Gear fun an interesting with a James Bond-like setting, interesting multidimensional characters, engaging and emotionally charged plot and some of the best gameplay I have ever had to chance to experience.

So the setting for this game is Soviet Union 1964. You are a CIA agent codenamed Naked Snake who has been deployed to help Sokolov, a Soviet Military Scientist who wants to defect. You are charged with infiltrating a Soviet installation crawling with soldiers undetected and extracting the scientist to be taken back with you to the West. Helping you in this mission is your team composed of your friend Major Zero, the mission’s health expert Para-Medic and your mentor The Boss. After infiltrating the area and finding Sokolov you discover there’s a lot more going on than what you initially knew and eventually the whole mission goes south.

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The plot itself makes a solid amount of references (most being to  old movies from the 60s) with a lot of scenes feeling like they’re some sort of homage. As well as the references the game contains a large number of themes the Director, Hideo Kojima, felt important like Nuclear Deterrence, technology, science’s effect on war, the arbitrary nature of war and much more. The game manages to be profound on a number of levels with layers of depth for those wanting out of a game’s story. Snake Eater and as well as the rest of the series are easily some of the best examples of why video games can be so mature and complex. Of course the game does have intentionally silly moments.

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The game of course is very well-crafted outside of the plot, with a number of gameplay aspects at your disposal. As the main character Naked Snake you have at your disposal weapons, items and camouflage you must use in any way you see fit as you infiltrate deeper and deeper into the Soviet installation. Sneaking around, waiting and hoping the patrols cannot find you can be intense. Another aspect of the gameplay is surviving with hunger being being the main concern. Additional to the surviving aspect are traps, deadly animals and other hazards you must avoid to live. Despite your encounters with crocodiles and poisonous animals the most dangerous enemies, however, will not be the wilderness.

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Snake Eater is  gem of a game that excels on all fronts with fun gameplay, great controls, and an engaging plot with depth.  In terms of visuals the game looks decent even now. Altogether the game’s various components come together to give you it’s greatest selling point. Immersion. When sneaking into the Russian Weapons Lab knowing the only thinking stopping all-out Nuclear War is you and you feel the pressure you can’t help but get immersed. When you beat the game you’ll leave attached to not the playable main character, but with the interesting supporting characters and antagonists who are more than just “the big bad Russians”. For those of you hesitant still because it’s “3” in the series, fear not as the game a prequel and you’ll not be left behind on the story at all. For those with an interest in videogames and the ability to play this game, trust me when I say it is an experience you’ll feel would have been Oscar-winning (if videogames could compete in that) and you should pick up this game whenever you can.

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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

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When two kinds of games or styles come together in a single game the result can be surprisingly fun, magical even.. For example, Assassin’s Creed is a combination of gameplay mechanics from Prince of Persia (another Ubisoft Franchise) and Grand Theft Auto’s freestyle Open-World. The resulting game is now a franchise loved by many. So when my favorite developers Platinum (those magnificent gentlemen who gave us Bayonetta) and Kojima Productions (the people behind the complex but fun Metal Gear games) combined their talents for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance I was interested and not just for that game’s title. This team-up between the two developers combines the best of their respective worlds into a title that is a fast-paced adrenaline ride filled with entertainment.

Metal Gear Rising finds itself just after Metal Gear Solid 4’s ending continuing the story Raiden and catching us up to his life after the end of that game. The manipulative Illuminati-like Patriots and their manipulations from the last game are gone, yet not all is well in the aftermath of their downfall. Much of the technology the Patriots kept a leash on, including cyborg technology, has been leaked and have found themselves in the hands of PMCs. Raiden, a cyborg soldier, works for the Private Military Company Maverick; who been contracted by a recovering African nation to protect it’s idealistic president N’mani. In the beginning of the game N’Mani is target by assassins another Private Military Company. Raiden, as his personal bodyguard tries to protect the President but ultimately fails and in the process loses most of his body including with his left eye in a fight with cyborg soldier named Sam Rodrigues (also known by the awesome nickname Jetstream Sam). Barely surviving the attack Raiden learns the organization responsible for President N’mani’s death and his body’s destruction was the PMC Desperados. Now armed with a brand new superior body and the backing of Maverick Inc., Raiden is out to get his revenge. Story-wise as a Metal Gear game the plot have its share of themes, bringing up complex issues like Child Soldiers, the morality of killing, even if for noble intentions, and memes however when compared to previous games of the series like MGS4, it is by no means as complex. Even still the plot is pretty interesting with still the same intrigue and drama as a normal Metal Gear game but with slight bit of that Platinum craziness.

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The gameplay with Raiden is reminiscent of Bayonetta in a number of ways. You start off with one weapon, the High Frequency Blade, and eventually move onto to others like a Sais or a staff that also transforms into a whip. Each new weapon brings with it a new set of moves to use in addition to your own. Listed for your convenience in the start menu as well is a lengthy listing of all the combos you can perform with the various weapons. So as I said, similar to Bayonetta and other games of the Hack-and-Slash genre. In addition to your weapon move lists you have a block and parry function to protect yourself along with a few moves that you can use to dodge some attacks. Further added to your characters abilities is Blade Mode, in which you the player can decide the direction that Raiden’s sword will cut and in many cases what part of an enemy or obstacle you would like to cut. All these aspects together just really give you the feeling that YOU are the Cyborg Ninja now, you’re now Frank Jaegar/GrayFox or you’re now Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 4.

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A full game run-through will probably come to around ~6 hours counting cutscenes and assuming you’re not a perfectionist or doing any of the VR missions. With VR missions, unlockable weapons, rankings and two higher tier difficulties, however, you can easily waste more time should you seek to enjoy the game to the fullest. The game does have some quick-time events though I’m not big on. In fact some of them seem outright impossible for me to succeed at and was the source of a lot of frustration. The portions where the game allows you to use stealth are kinda “eh” but this game’s primary focus isn’t stealth so I’m not too terribly bothered by it. The camera during combat can also have a mind of it’s own and ruin fights you’re in if you aren’t careful. As well sometimes it felt as if cutscenes were missing with a lot of the time a situation developing that I ha to piece together informaion to figure out what was going on.

Despite it’s flaws, the game did charm and win me over with it’s over-the-top gameplay, naturally flowing combat. The controls themselves are fantastic and I found the deeper parts of the story interesting, even if not on the level of Metal Gear games past. You do get to find out what’s been going on since Metal Gear 4 and it’s kind of intersting to see a post-Patriots world. Overall the game is pretty good. You finally play as the Cyborg Ninja from the Metal Gear series its pretty fun. I truly felt enjoyment from running around deflecting bullets then cutting those enemies shooting at me into tiny pieces. The whole Blade Mode aspect as whole just feels cathartic to use, even on the cuttable objects you come across. As a game that apparently was in trouble until Platinum came to help I’ve very pleased with the end result. If you’re a fan of Metal Gear and Platinum you probably already picked this up, if not I suggest you do so and enjoy. If you enjoy the idea of playing a Cyborg Ninja who can cut everything into a 1000 little pieces with a sword with a little bit of silliness thrown in occasionally go pick up this game immediately and have fun.

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WildStar, the Ambitious Upcoming MMORPG

I’ll be frank on the state of the MMORPG genre. To me stagnating, and it’s stagnating hard. World of Warcraft has been on top of the MMORPG pyramid for some years and it’s led to a market trying very hard to replicate their formula and failing. If there is ever going to be a game to topple the Warcraft giant it is going to need a lot of content for both leveling and endgame that isn’t boring and is innovative enough that it’s not the same old stuff we’ve seen day after day in other MMOs. We really need something new

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The people at Carbine Studios think they know how to do just that. Enter WildStar, one of the upcoming games to try and seek success in the MMORPG market. WildStar is a Sci-Fi MMORPG set on a Planet called Nexus being fought over by two factions, The Exiles and the Dominion.

The Dominion are the Militaristic, Prideful and Iron-fisted faction that intend to assert control and dominance over the Exiles, as well as everyone else, in order to create their Dystopian Empire

The Exiles represent the a Firefly-eqse laid back, headstrong and rebellious faction who wish simply live freely as possible and away from the control and influence of the Dominion.

Each faction has it’s own races and basic aesthetic simplified to order versus freedom in cartoony-way like Ratchet and Clank. In fact a lot of the style of this game reminds me of Ratchet and Clank and I like it.

But aside from visuals, the studio is planning for much more to entice people to their game. They know of the frustrations with modern MMORPGs  and have offered some interesting ideas on how to be different. To begin with, more solo-player content in the endgame.  Monthly Story content updates to advance the plot and get players involved in the plot of the game even if they’re outside of the group PvE scene

In terms of questing or exploring around the zones of the game there’s to be dynamic elements. Animals attacking other animals, NPC patrols, and random events pop up demanding attention from the player and make the zone pop-out and feel more alive. Different classes also promise different experiences in the zones with things like hidden tunnels containing secrets or building up a hub to have new vendors or better accessibility. Thus with a mix of dynamic and maybe some scripted things a zone experience can hopefully feel unique and special.

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Carbine plans to have raids as well but with dynamic raids that change from week to week, ranking systems, differing rewards for different sized groups or those who display speed and resourcefulness in an encounter. Something that promotes creativity in genre that’s been especially rigid as of late with most of it’s games, oh man it’s what I’ve always dreamed of.

For PvP the only really known info thus far is custom battlefields. The idea is for battlegrounds to be designed and created by players with  help from the player housing system (yes there is in-game housing). Other ideas include capturing monsters to place on the battlefield and unleash.

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As was hinted before, another big aspect of the game will be player housing. The ideas for it are centered around having really nifty customization and design option for your houses with examples gardens to tend to or places to have encounters with enemies all on your property. Placement of the home will be decided by the player with the possibility of you, friends and guildmates moving your homes within proximity of each other allowing you to become neighbors.

So then abilities, combat and mechanics; what of those? Combat will be familiar to MMORPG veterans. Push a button and your ability happens to a target much like it is in a lot of games. The combat though will still have a little bit of spice. Encounters with enemies that go well or enemy attacks that are avoided will result in a small boon to the player giving them a buff for combat. As well combat will also center around the concept of telegraphs. It’s the WoW idea of “Don’t stand in the red/black stuff” kicked into overdrive. Red overlays will fill the ground to “Telegraph” the attacks about to be performed warning you things are going to happen in that area.

So we got a lot of ambitious stuff here that WildStar is trying to pull off. If Carbine Studios can even pull off half of these things this should be a really great game to shake things up in the MMORPG market. So when can we expect this game? The plan is to have it out before 2013 but Executive Producer  Jeremy Gaffney is repeating a phrase we heard often from Arenanet regarding Guild Wars 2, ” When it’s ready”. And personally, I want them to take all the time they need to get these features in. It would be better to have this game come out later than expected than with incomplete and glitchy forms of the game we were promised. Until then check out the WildStar website for information and beta sign-up and maybe get the word out since WildStar as been surprisingly doing little to get the hype out about itself. Here’s to hoping we’re treated to a game that delivers on its promises and hopefully with the Beta we’ll see and known more.

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Sources for this article: Joystiq and Gamespy

A Look at Aliens: Colonial Marines from an Observer

How the Alien reacted to Aliens Colonial Marines

To the misfortune of everyone how bought or preordered it, the game Aliens: Colonial Marines was released to the public yesterday on the PC, PS3 and the 360. I say to the misfortune as this game is being regarded by the majority of people as completely horrible. Being a game I completely managed to miss I will simply try to discuss only the things I do know. Aliens: Colonial Marines from multiple accounts of the game I’ve heard has a multitude of problems that range from apparently bad level design to bad enemy A.I. to numerous glitches. In videos I’ve seen people complete a level on the hardest difficulty without firing a single shot.

Not one shot fired. Apparently the way to survive a Xenomorph attack is to just walk fast. In all honesty this should be unacceptable, no matter the difficulty. The original Alien movies are filled with tension and horror as human struggle against brutal and violent Xenomorphs. In this video and what I’ve seen of the gameplay I’ve seen nothing like that. Hell if the video above is anything to go off of there’s nothing scary at all since a you can briskly jog pass every enemy. In terms of setting, which I can easily grasp upon from a video, it completely fails in giving a good backdrop to scare or creep a person out. Look in that video how offhandedly the first alien is thrown out you. The horror and tension of the series is absent in this game it seems.

That is the game “The Last of Us” showing how to make a tense setting that instills a sense of fear properly. An effective tense game the game has to affect both your eyes and ears to help feed into your feelings of dread and fear. Look at the ruined structure and building you’re in that creaks and shudders while the enemies wander it making inhuman sounds to add to it. All the while you’re forced to sneak around them with the reminder that most of those enemies clicking and walking around will kill you with one hit. So what there is the clear sense that you ( or your character rather) is in imminent and constant danger and if you’re not alert and reactive you will die. That is how you create tension.

If for some reason this isn’t an acceptable enough comparison then compare it to Halo’s first flood level.

This is a tense and scary level. You get the never-ending impression of something being wrong with little hints along the way. You have once again the clearest sense that as you progress through level you come close and close to danger. The idea of a clear and present threat  is sense by you the player and the feeling of tension is felt. Eventually the Flood are revealed as Alien-zombies and the game throws tons of them at you but you still feel threatened enough by them. The Flood has got numbers, they’re tough, they can even attack you at a range, you think you’ve killed them and they get back up. I don’t get that feeling of threat really from Colonial Marines’ Aliens. Enemies don’t seem tough and it seems like even if you’re not attentive really you can effectively deal with them. Maybe the game is different when you’re playing but to me the game looks laughably not scary.

But by all means don’t take this a a review (despite me putting it under the review category) just an observer’s opinion (the hell I’m buying this game). To me the game doesn’t look enjoyable and accounts I’m hearing about the game agree with my assessment. Besides the complete failure to create a tense and scary setting that the Aliens franchise is know for the game just looks…bad. It has issues with clipping and framerate while as well the colors in the game just put me off. It’s too dark and brown for my tastes and looking at that for however many hours while putting up with the games other faults? Maybe someone out there enjoys this game and finds it interesting but it’s not for me at all. Not with all the it lacks in gameplay and setting and especially with all it’s bugs. It is my opinion that the game is not worth buying at all for all those reasons. But at the very least Aliens Colonial Marines has provided these interesting videos.

Multi-News: Journey Wins Game of the Year at DICE Summit, World of Warcraft subscribers at 9.6 million,

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Last year a simple indie game by the name of Journey was released amazing this person and many others with it’s stylistic beautiful settings and calming gameplay. It was fantastic in a unique way that I feel anyone willing to give it a chance will agree with and make them sing it’s praises too. The people at DICE seemed to share my sentiment and have given Journey their Gamer of the Year Award as well as several others. The developers of Journey, thatgamecompany, describe their goal in their games as having them evoke feelings and emotions in a person to be good, and it looks like it’s working. In a day and age where games use primal violence or juvenile humor to gain an audience it is refreshing to have a game that tries something new and creative that to make something truly special that can inspire and show everyone there’s more to games than Call of Duty or World of Warcraft style gameplay.

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Speaking of World of Warcraft, Activision-Blizzard has reported in a press release that the game has 9.6 Million subscribers, a drop from the 10 million subscribers the game had at the onset of Mists of Pandaria which was a rise from 9.1 million subscribers it had in June of last year which itself was a drop from the 10.2 million the game had from March of that same year. So what exactly is going on here? With a game like WoW this rollercoaster resemblance of sales makes sense when you consider the jumps in subscribers are after the release of an expansion or a patch, but in the the time between these expansions and patches the game can get boring and stagnant and lose subscribers. As it is in my experience with World of Warcraft can start feel like stagnant considering much of the game is a grind and you often will repeat many tasks or activities in the game weekly or even daily. When patches or expansions are announced it promises new things and a change to make the game feel less dull and maybe remove that sense of a daily grind. After release though the polish and shine of the new expansion start to wear off and the game starts to feel like it did before, dull and stagnant. Chances are when the next major content patch is released we’ll see another jump in subscription numbers and then a little later it’ll fall back down again. Knowing this I don’t expect WoW to plummet in sales but unless some serious innovations to the game are made instead of some new paint it will probably hemorrhage more and more subscriptions whenever there’s a long wait between new content and that’s not good, especially for an area industry that been dominated by one game for so long and needs less stagnation.

New Assassin’s Creed Title in the Works

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IGN reports that Ubisoft has begun work on a new Assassin’s Creed Title. Reportedly, CEO Yves Guillemot has stated the next Assassin’s Creed game is in the works with a new time period setting, a new hero and a completely new team. and will be “another major leap forward for the franchise”. The games is predicted to be released sometime before 2014. No other specifics like which team is the one working on the new title or what the new time period is are given.

Assassin’s Creed III’s DLC “The Tyranny of George Washington” part 2 comes out within two weeks on the 19th of this month, the DLC being an interesting “What if…” scenario where George Washington becomes King of America. It’s an interesting concept since for a time after the revolution Washington was so beloved by everyone he very well could have taken power for himself. However, I don’t own Assassin’s Creed III so I don’t think I’ll be getting this DLC. When I first saw Assassin’s Creed III with it’s protagonist and setting in American I had low expectations and found the game unappealing in the ways that the last games appealed to me the most. In Assassin’s Creeds I, II, Brotherhood and Revelations we’re showing interesting places during dramatically tumultuous points of history, the 3rd Crusade, The Renaissance, Constantinople in the aftermath of it’s fall to the Ottoman Turks. In Assassin’s Creed III, although the American Revolution is an interesting time, it is hardly a big turning point in human history for anyone except the United States. The American Revolution really is overshadowed later by the much larger French Revolution which changed Europe and even the Americas, yet Ubisoft ignored it for the American one. It seemed to make no sense to me in a larger scheme and with the game making no visible changes to the AC formula I just abstained from buying what I felt was the weakest of the AC titles. I will probably get it eventually when Tyranny is completely released but as it is the game doesn’t interest me.

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This latest announcement though gives me hope for the next title. We’ll no doubt see another historical event that completely changed human history with the level of attention and detail they give every setting. But with a newer team and protagonist hopefully we’ll see not only a repeat of the mechanics from previous games, but an improvement that the newbloods can potentially bring making sure the series doesn’t get stale. Assassin’s Creed is wonderful blend of history and entertainment that I as a self-described history buff hopes continues and develops more.

In the Wake of THQ’s Fall

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The Drama of THQ’s bankruptcy is final coming to a close with the formal termination of the CEO Brian Farrell, President Jason Rubin and Chief Strategy Office Jason Kay on the 30th of January but made public on the 5th of February. With this and sale of all the assets THQ held the book on the game company has begun to close and we that we must begin to look to the future. Though THQ will be gone some of their studios and many of their game franchises will continue on.

Last month we saw an auction of all THQ’s assets that had many wondering if their favorite game franchise or studio would continue to exist in the future and for some people it would decide if they would keep their current jobs. In the end unfortunately not everything at the auction sold.  The end result of the auction was:

  • Studio Relic and along with it the Company of Heroes series was bought by Sega.
  • Volition and the series Saint’s Row were acquired by Koch Media, however the Red Faction IP was not.
  • The Metro license was also acquired by Koch Media
  • THQ Montreal found itself bought by Ubisoft along with a project codenamed 1666 and another codenamed Underdog
  • Ubisoft also bought the licensing rights to South Park: The Stick of Truth
  • The current developer of Homefront 2, Crytek, bought the rights to Homefront allowing them control of the series
  • Take-Two acquired the rights to a co-op multiplayer action game codenamed Evolve

Meanwhile subsidiary Vigil Games, developer of the Darksiders series, found itself with no offers and has been defunct as of the 23rd of January. Though Platinum Games would show interest developer and it’s IP, Crytek instead picked many former Vigil employees and with them created Crytek USA. However, the Darksiders IP was not picked up and with these employees with the Crytek President saying “We didn’t want to continue with Darksiders 3, since that doesn’t fit with our strategy.”

So overall what does this all mean? Well for starters with the recent development with Crytek and the Vigil Employees it looks like we won’t be getting any more Darksiders and the second game is the last one. Platinum Games picking up the IP and the employees would have been the best of the situation. The Darksiders series as a hack-and-slash games could have benefited greatly from being collaborated with the staff of Platinum, many who were responsible for Devil May Cry 3, arguably the best of the hack-and-slash genre. We won’t be getting that or any Darksiders title anytime soon now though, but at least some Vigil Games people have jobs. In the area of Homefront being bought by Crytek, not much at all has changed as Crytek UK was already the developer of the game and Crytek has no plans to change that.

Koch Media buying Volition and the Saint’s Row series means we’ll likely see a Saint’s Row 4 and the series will continue as a direct competitor with Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto. In the area of Red Faction though it seems there will no longer be anymore games in the series considering THQ found sales of it’s latest game too low to continue and likely few other places will think otherwise. This one will be a real shame to lose as the first Red faction series really brought some something new to the FPS table with the idea of completely destructible environments and tried to center gameplay around the idea. Yet, some games have been following suit and make one of their prime features destructible environments, so perhaps in time we’ll see another FPS fill the void of Red Faction.

Sega and it’s acquisition of Relic is interesting since relic has been the developer of much of the Warhammer games that have come out lately while Sega’s subsidiary Creative Assembly recently announced last year it formed a partnership with Games Workshop to create. CA, being the creator of my favorite series, the Total War games and Relic creators of the Dawn of War could mean collaboration between the two on the next Dawn of War game. The potential for a truly epic in scale Warhammer game is certainly there with the idea that the Total War team could help. Just imagine a Warhammer game done in the style of a Total War game with battles over planets and in space.

Aside from the Warhammer, Relic is also bringing with it to Sega the fantastic Company of Heroes series. Sega with It’s kind of money and funding could make advertise the game and get it far more attention than it previously did and maybe make it an RT to even rival the popularity of Starcraft. With CoH already big in the E-Sports are I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Sega naturally promoted the game to be fierce competitor with Starcraft.

The final interesting bit worth discussing are the secret projects that THQ’s fall and asset auction alerts to about. 1666, Underdog, and Evolve, what are these projects gonna be? All we know about Evolve is that the project is to apparently be a shooter and as well as a co-op action game. As for 1666 the public only knows Patrice Désilets, creative director for Assassin’s Creed I and II (who left Ubisoft in 2010 only to end up back in the company again), is involved. So it could do with history but the only things on that year I can turn up are Naval battles between the English and Dutch and the Great Fire of London. So who knows what 1666 is really about. Project Underdog however is a complete unknown with it’s existence only being leaked because of the auction. These three projects will have to be followed closely for any new details.

We’ve lost THQ and some good IPs maybe along with it, but at least we can all come away happy with the knowledge at least some things were saved. To THQ I say it was a good run and I enjoyed my fair share of your games, you will be missed.