Skylanders Swap Force Released on Next-Generation Consoles

Skylanders.Swap.ForceActivision Publishing Inc. has released Skylanders Swap Force on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One systems in North America on November 12. This version of the game is optimized for next-generation game systems, and features a graphics engine that delivers high-resolution visuals.

Similar to Skylanders Swap Force on other consoles, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions allow gamers to transform 16 Swap Force characters into more than 250 by swapping the top and bottom halves of the toys. Players can also utilize their entire collection of characters from Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure and Skylanders Giants in the new game.

Angry Birds Star Wars Comes to Home, Handheld Gaming Systems

angrybirdsRovio Entertainment Ltd. and Lucasfilm Ltd., in association with Activision Publishing Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard Inc., have launched Angry Birds Star Wars for home and handheld video game systems. Angry Birds Star Wars brings the struggle between the Rebel Birds and Imperial Pigs to new audiences on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Wii and Wii U systems, and the Nintendo 3DSAngry Birds Star Wars will also launch on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Twenty newly created levels join the more than 200 stages already available from the original mobile release of Angry Birds Star Wars. This latest version brings cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes, letting players team up or square off. Moreover, this expansive edition exploits the unique capabilities of each game system to deliver a distinctive experience tailored specifically to each platform, including sharp and colorful, high-definition visuals, achievements and trophies, leaderboards, voice command support through Kinect for Xbox 360, and touch-screen controls on Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, and PlayStation Vita.

The next-generation versions of Angry Birds Star Wars maintain these core features while introducing new play and interface elements exclusive to each system. The PlayStation 4 system’s adaptation makes full use of the DualShock 4 controller’s touchpad to offer precision, touch-screen handling, and full support for PlayStation Move in both single-player and local multiplayer modes. Players can also easily record and share their accomplishments with the world with the PlayStation 4 system’s automatic screenshot and video capture options. [Read more...]

Square Enix Announces Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix

Kingdom HeartsSquare Enix Inc., the publisher of Square Enix interactive entertainment products in the Americas, has officially begun development on Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix. A follow up to the recently released Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix, the title is slated for release next year.

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix is a fully remastered HD compilation of the Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix for PlayStation 2 and Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix for PSP. Both were previously exclusive to the Japanese market, and will be available for the first time in the Americas for PlayStation 3.

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix leads into the anticipated Kingdom Hearts III, which is set to be released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Video Game to Launch Next Spring

Oct14.SpiderManActivision Publishing Inc. and Marvel Entertainment LLC have revealed that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game is planned to launch next spring, alongside the Sony Pictures Entertainment feature film of the same name. Developed by Beenox, the action-adventure video game builds on the story of the previous video game, while taking on events of the upcoming movie. Players will also be given a free-roaming experience through an expanded and virtual New York City.

In The Amazing Spider-Man 2 players will assume the role of Spider-Man, but will choose to be a hero or a menace. Super Hero behavior is rewarded in the game and consequential when crime is not taken care of. The narrative will even give Peter Parker a greater role in the spotlight as he investigates the Marvel menaces threatening Manhattan.

The game will be available on Playstation4Playstation3Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo’s Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS.

NBA 2K14 Now Available for Select Game Consoles

2K.LogoNBA 2K14, the latest installment of the NBA video game simulation from 2K Sports, is now available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows PC.

New features offered by NBA 2K14 include top Euroleague teams, as well as rosters powered by Stats, Inc. 2KSports has also incorporated game play upgrades, such as Pro Stick TM, new signature skills, and offensive and defensive improvements that further balance player interactions.

NBA 2K14 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will be available at retail in North American on November 15 and November 22, respectively.

Skylanders Swap Force Continues the Franchise’s Reputation

This week, The Toy Book got a chance to preview Activision Publishing Inc.’s upcoming Skylanders Swap Force video game and toys at an after-school event in New York City. The original entry in the series, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, pioneered the idea of video games that interact with real-world toys. Now comes Skylanders Swap Force, in which special action figures can be disassembled into top and bottom halves and then reassembled into new characters that are playable within the game.

Skylanders SWAP Force, Stink ChargeThe game itself is as visually rich and immersing as previous entries in the series (although Playstation 4 (PS4) version takes the experience to a whole new level, but more on that later). At the demo, kids and their parents got to preview the levels, “Rampant Ruins,” a creepy jungle graveyard, and, “Winter Keep,” in which the Skylanders heroes have to retrieve a special device called the Illuminator—all while dodging huge flying snowballs. Each level features mini-games that vary in play style, keeping things from ever getting too repetitive. At one point during “Winter Keep,” the game switches from more traditional combat to a race through the sky along “rainbow rails.” [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: PlayStation 4, Early Games Have Something for Everyone

I am, at best, a casual video gamer. I played a lot of Nintendo and Sega when I was younger, but I haven’t been an active video game consumer since the PlayStation 2. Still, I like to keep up on what’s current, even if all the latest controllers vex me with their myriad of buttons, and what really interests me is whether I can download every game from my childhood. So when I was offered a chance to preview the upcoming PlayStation 4 (PS4) from Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. (Sony), along with some games that will accompany the launch, I went after it the way Sega’s Altered Beast would have gone after a shiny blue orb released by the death of a two-headed white wolf – in other words, like it was pretty darned important.

PS4 for commentaryAbout the hardware: Along with the PS4 console looking more squared-off than its predecessor, changes have been made to the DualShock controllers that are intended to improve game play. The thumbsticks, for example, are more comfortable, and the trigger buttons are curved to accompany the index fingers better. More radical changes are the addition of a small touchpad—it’s utilized significantly in Sony’s Killzone: Shadow Fall game, which I demoed, but more on that later—and a Share button that allows players to send in-game images to social media sites including Twitter, Twitch, and Facebook.

Other hardware additions include a PlayStation Camera, which works in tandem with the DualShock controllers to let users interact with certain games by simply moving their controllers through the air. (More technical specifics on the PS4 can be found here.) [Read more...]

Activision’s Call of Duty and Eminem Come Together for Ultimate Fan Offer

Call-of-DutyActivistion’s most anticipated game, Call of Duty: Ghosts and music icon, Eminem’s new The Marshall Mathers LP 2 will both drop on November 5. In collaboration with GameStop, anyone who pre-orders Call of Duty: Ghosts at GameStop will get his or her copy at the launch, which will include a code to download a special edition of The Marshall Mathers LP 2, featuring the track “Survival” plus a bonus studio track for a discounted price.

The ongoing collaboration between Activision and Eminem will continue later this month with a music video trailer featuring “Survival” and Call of Duty: Ghosts, and will extend throughout the launch of the title. The offer is redeemable through Monday, November 19, 11:59 p.m. EST.

The news of this limited-time offer follows additional pre-order headlines from last week, in which Activision and GameStop revealed that gamers who pre-order Call of Duty: Ghosts at GameStop will receive a pack of content that includes the bonus classic Simon “Ghost” Riley multiplayer character. Made famous in the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the return of one of the most iconic characters in Call of Duty history as a playable multiplayer character is a first for the series and is a pre-order incentive only available at GameStop.

Call of Duty: Ghosts will release on Xbox 360 game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system, PC, and Wii U on November 5. The title will also release on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 later this year. Call of Duty: Ghosts is rated M for Mature by the ESRB.

 

EA Sports UFC to Feature Female Fighters

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Electronic Arts Inc. has announced that EA Sports UFC will feature playable female fighters for the first time ever in a UFC video game. This moment is being headlined by UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and top bantamweight contender Miesha Tate.

Starting next Spring, players will be able to “Feel the Fight” in the Octagon and experience the power of Rousey’s signature armbar, the intensity of Tate’s grappling, and many other fighting styles from an esteemed roster of female fighters in EA Sports UFC.

EA Sports UFC is in development at EA Canada in Vancouver and will be available for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. The game has not yet been rated.

COMMENTARY: Licensed NFL Games Bring All the Gridiron Action Home

It’s nearing September, which means the start of the 2013 to 2014 NFL season. Among the major American sports, professional football very easily rates near the top; however, unlike baseball or basketball, the NFL is only broadcast three days a week. This raises the question: What to do on those other days when the ol’ pigskin classic isn’t scheduled to be played? With a little help from the National Football League itself, we have your perfect solution: two officially-licensed NFL board games, plus one NFL video game super-sequel that just hit stores.

NFL GameDayThe first board game up is NFL Game Day from Fremont Die, in which two players (or two teams of players) take turns attempting to score points or stop the other team from scoring. The length of a football field is approximated on a neat magnetic board, and the game features magnetic pieces as well as cards for offensive, defensive, and special teams plays. For the most part, game play revolves around one side plunking down an offensive card, while the other side puts down a defensive card at the same time. Depending on which cards are played, the possibilities range from a five-yard gain to something much bigger, no gain to a huge loss in yardage, or even a turnover.

The game play mechanics are straightforward enough that even football novices can pick them up quickly; however, if you already fancy yourself an expert on football strategy, NFL Game Day has the bonus of effectively putting you in the head coach or offensive/defensive coordinator’s chair. At third-and-five, will you run for the first down, go for a short pass, or opt for the play-action? If you’re on the defensive side, do you play the pass or the run, or maybe even go for an all-out blitz?

NFL Rush ZoneA slightly different, but no less compelling football experience awaits NFL diehards and laypeople courtesy of NFL Rush Zone from Techno Source. Like NFL Game Day, it features a game board with customizable end zones for all 32 teams (and plastic uprights that don’t serve a practical purpose, but look pretty cool), but the game mechanics are dice-based rather than card-based. Each side rolls three dice representing a complete set of downs, but if the total of the defense’s dies is higher than the offense’s, it becomes fourth down and the latter must decide between punting, kicking a field goal, or going for the conversion.

If NFL Game Day represents the coach’s point-of-view, NFL Rush Zone is more like the spectator’s. The mechanics are such that despite being active participants, much of what happens on the field is left to chance; any series of downs can go really well or terribly wrong, and it’s difficult to strategize based on the random rolling of three die. Events will transpire as they will, and isn’t that exactly what watching an NFL game (or most any sporting event, for that matter) is like?

In the game I was playing, my hometown Miami Dolphins were marching on offense, but then my opponent (the Seattle Seahawks, for those who were wondering) got a defensive takeaway by rolling three of a kind. They subsequently scored a touchdown and won, at which point, like any true fan and viewer, I called for the Fins’ head coach to be fired and the team sold to parties based out of Los Angeles. Perhaps NFL Rush Zone represents football from the perspective of the team owner as well?

MaddenNFL25Actually, if any licensed NFL product lets users step into the luxury wing tips of their typical franchise owners, it’s most likely EA SportsMadden NFL 25, the latest installment in the video game franchise. It arrived on August 27 for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, and Playstation 3. New features include an “Owner Mode,” which lets gamers run the organization top to bottom, doing everything from selecting players to setting the prices of concessions, to upgrading the team’s stadium. It’s an intriguing form of escapism—running a corporation worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, Madden NFL 25 retains the more traditional game play mode in which users control avatars of their favorite players, and this time around, the simulated action has an unprecedented level of smoothness and detail.

With these licensed games, NFL fans should be able to get their fix well beyond the coming football season.

For more commentary from Phil, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!