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I must admit to a healthy amount of skepticism surrounding F.E.A.R. 2. After all, at E3 2007, Warner Brothers was showing off Project Origin, which was developed by Monolith, the developer of the original F.E.A.R. At the same time, Sierra, the owner of the F.E.A.R. IP, was showing F.E.A.R. 2. A few months ago, when Activision closed down Sierra, Warner Bros. picked up the IP and rebranded Project Origin with the F.E.A.R. 2 name.

Now, I was excited to hear that Monolith would be continuing their work on this franchise. I’ve always loved their work in the past (No One Lives Forever, Tron 2.0, F.E.A.R., and Condemned, to name a few), and I have high hopes for their future releases as well. Still, I held my enthusiasm in check pending the arrival of the PC Demo of F.E.A.R. 2.

Well, it arrived shortly after lunch today. After a quick download (1.76 gigs – about 35 minutes from FileFront here), I jumped right right in. I was quickly rewarded with the type of gameplay one would expect from a F.E.A.R. title: gunplay with slo-mo and a variety of specialized grenades.

On the hardest difficulty, the demo is still fairly simple to complete. There’s only about 25 minutes of gameplay, but what is there is all the tension, fun, and goose-bump inducing interludes that you’d expect. Nothing gets the heart rate up quite like having a flash of light reveal a zombie-like female stalking you and eventually grabbing you, only to vanish again.

Combat remains virtually unchanged. You kill a variety of Replica soldiers, all of whom seen genetically enhanced to take massive amounts of damage before succumbing to your assault. Of course, you’ll get a chance to peruse a wide range of weaponry, including shotgun, submachine gun, assault rifle, rocket launcher, sniper rifle, and even a handheld laser gun. They even toss in the powered-armor mech suit that has been featured so prominently in the trailers.

All in all, this demo is just a small taste of the game, but I have to admit that it has assuaged a lot of my trepidation about F.E.A.R. 2. Now, I’m looking forward to the game’s release on February 10th with anticipation instead. Hey, isn’t that what demos are all about?

I’m sure that unless you’re living under a rock somewhere you’ve seen the news coverage of the amazing plane crash story in New York today. Well, to be fair, it wasn’t so much a crash as a controlled water landing.

While it’s a little off the topics I usually talk about, I couldn’t watch that coverage today without being astounded at the professionalism and bravery shown by all those involved.

First, the plane’s crew. The pilot, a 29-year veteran of US Airlines and a former F-4 fighter pilot for the US Air Force, made a landing that many would have called impossible, based on the design of the aircraft he was piloting. Keeping the engines out of the water until the last possible minute, he managed to bring the plane down not only in one piece, but on top of the water. Then, he left the cockpit, oversaw the evacuation of the plane, and then walked the plane twice to make sure everyone was off. Of course, all of this was assisted by the copilot, who should receive equal praise.

Second, the flight crew, who kept everyone calm and facilitated an orderly evacuation, which no doubt saved many lives.

Third, the first responders, both official (NYPD, FDNY, Coast Guard, and Port Authority Police) and private (ferry operators). These people leapt into action without orders or questions. They took their boats right up to fuselage of the plane and pulled everyone of those passengers and crew members off the plane and out of the water.

Least you think these things are small ones, realize that a matter of a few minutes in water that cold (35-40 degrees) can be the difference between life and death.

Today we saw an amazing feat of courage, skill, and to be fair, more than a little luck. My hat is off to all of them, and if I ever make it up to New York, I’ll be hunting up some of these people to buy them all a drink. I recommend you do the same.

Anyone besides me tired of the complete and utter lack of good games over the past month? If you ever listened to the old Gaming Today File-N-Forget Podcast, I know you’ve heard me rant on this topic before. If so, you’ll just have to excuse my pummeling of this deceased equine beastie.

Why is it that game companies try to jam every big title of the year into the 3-4 weeks before the holidays? Honestly, it has to hurt sales more than it helps. Sure, if you have the #1 title of that period, you’re going to do well, but that title will do well anywhere in the year, not just around the holidays.

I also understand that traditionally, summer releases don’t sell as well, based on the theory that people are actually outside their houses doing things when the weather is nice. While there may be some small grain of truth in this theory, can anyone who plays a lot of games actually convince me that their game time drops off by a significant amount in the summer? Sure, you play less during the day, but if you’re a gamer, you don’t just stop playing games because the weather changes.

Furthermore, the game companies are actually hurting one another with this practice. Let’s face it, these days entertainment dollars are harder and harder to come by, and everyone is much more selective about what they do purchase. Stacking all these games up over one release period simply ensures that games that would normally attract some interest are lost in the shuffle.

I think gaming as a hobby has grown to the point that we now can simply release these games when they’re ready, regardless of the time of year. We’ve all heard stories of games being rushed to completion before the holidays (and the inevitable bugs that result), as well as those that are held for holiday release.

If I could say one thing directly to the publishers of the gaming world, it would be this: We realize that you have always done things this way; however, you should realize that the average gamer is now in his mid-to-late 20’s, and doesn’t need Mom & Dad to buy him the new game you just released. We can all drive now, so we will go to the store and pick up our copy, regardless of when it comes out (provided of course that the game doesn’t suck).

Just imagine a world where big game releases happen once or twice a month, instead of being crammed into one or two weeks a year. Ah, bliss.

Like many of my friends and colleagues, I spend a fair amount of time playing games of all types. Lately, the object of my obsession has been surviving the zombie apocalypse in Valve’s Left 4 Dead.

Now, I’ve never been much for grinding out achievements (or trophies, or whatever you call them) in games. I’ve always been of the mindset that if I get them, that’s fine, but I won’t go out of my way to earn them. For some reason, L4D has gotten me working harder for achievements than I ever have. I guess that’s a testament to the game itself.

At any rate, as much as I am enjoying the game, I find myself getting overly frustrated at some of the bugs in the achievement system. One of the more difficult achievements is to beat a cooperative campaign on Expert difficulty, and the most difficult is likely beating all four campaigns on Expert. Together with some friends and coworkers, I’ve been playing L4D a few nights a week to try and obtain both of these achievements.

The first time we completed an expert campaign, no one in our group received the achievement. We had a player or two with connection issues, so we chalked it up to that and soldiered on. This scenario replayed itself several times over the next couple of weeks, at times with one of us receiving the achievement. Last night I finally received the achievement, even though no one else in our group did.

I often wonder what sort of restrictions are placed on these achievements, and if it times they aren’t overly onerous. After all, even in these technologically advanced times, people will get disconnected mid-game. It’s inevitable. Is it really fair to disqualify them because they dropped one too many packets, or their connection reset?

I guess it’s a topic for debate; I just know that at times the elation of completing these difficult challenges is offset by the frustration of not receiving the achievement you worked so hard for. Hopefully this will be something that will be addressed in the future.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Warhammer Universe, especially the 40k timeline. Because of this, it should come as no surprose that I am eagerly looking forward to Dawn of War II, the sequel to the arguably best strategy game ever made.

Every trailer merely increases my desire, but the latest one, featuring the Tyranid race, is quite possibly my favorite thus far. Just imagine a race of Starship Trooper like bugs, without the weakness displayed in that poor excuse for a film. These bugs are armored, can tunnel right under you, and will attack you with all the restraint of a Left 4 Dead zombie horde that can smell Boomer bile.

Seriously, I’ve embedded the trailer here, but if you really want to enjoy, go download it.

Dawn of War II `Tyranids` Trailer (720p)

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