There are always little symbols to look out for that can help you figure out if a game's going to be worthwhile. Once upon a time it might have been Nintendo's seal of quality, or maybe the logo of your favourite developer - back in the day it was Treasure's magic box, perhaps, or more recently the glimmering P of Platinum Games. In recent years, there's another logo I've always kept an eye out for, a symbol that's a guarantee of quality, and a certain little spark. Quite often, though, you have to look really hard for it.
A snapshot of Sumo Digital as it prepares to step out of the shadows.
Episodes from Liberty City, SSFIV, SEGA All-Stars Racing, Superstars V8, Dead to Rights and AVP.
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Aliens: Colonial Marines was one of Sega's best-selling games last financial year (ended 31st March 2012) despite being absolute pants.
The shooter, made by Gearbox Software - oh really? - shifted a successful 1.31 million copies, according to Sega's annual financial report.
Nevertheless, Colonial Marines remains a sore spot for Sega, having been pelted with critical scorn and even class action lawsuits about misleading advertising. And rumour has it that TimeGate Studios, the team thought to be responsible for the bulk of Aliens: Colonial Marines, has now been closed.
As we reach the quarter-century of cross-platform Face-Off features, we thought it was time to do a little spring-cleaning on the format itself. The idea was to supplement the already vast range of video and screenshot assets with additional analysis and data.
The reasoning was that while we love telling you what we think, the more information you have, the more informed your purchasing decisions will be and the more discussion points there are for the inevitable post-article comments pile-up.
So what's new? We've ignored the superior range of surround sound options possessed by the PS3 for too long, so for those of you who have their consoles hooked up to a decent amplifier capable of multiple audio decoding options, now you can see where PS3 employs less compression or additional sound channels. While Xbox 360 games are standardised at max quality 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1, PlayStation 3 supports the same format and also 5.1 lossless PCM, 7.1 lossless PCM, plus fan-favourite DTS. This is now highlighted for each game.
Is there any other game that has dominated its field so conclusively and with such tenacity? Super Mario Kart is seventeen years old yet it remains the touchstone and the benchmark for its peculiar subset of the racing genre. Crash Bandicoot came tantalisingly close to taking the plumber's crown in 1999 with Crash Team Racing, but its otherwise been a one horse (and kart) race.
What's surprising is that it's taken SEGA so long to offer up its take. Less surprising is the fact that, like so many others, it has produced something that lives almost completely in Nintendo's shadow, copying the Mario Kart template, pasting SEGA stuff over the top and doing almost nothing to move the core ideas forwards.
For the elements that are new we can thank Sumo Digital, a developer that understands SEGA racing well thanks to its loving work on the recent OutRun games and also has prior form in the "all-star" format following SEGA Superstars Tennis. Unfortunately, the bold ideas here begin and end with one word: drifting.
The Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing demo is now available for download from Xbox Live Marketplace.
SEGA has signed a three-year deal with Alton Towers, the UK's most popular theme park.
Sonic & SEGA's All-Star Racing will be released for DS, PC, PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 on 26th February.
SEGA's just announced that Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing will allow Wii owners use their Miis as drivers.
According to 1UP, SEGA and Microsoft have announced that Banjo-Kazooie and Xbox Live Avatars will be playable characters in the Xbox 360 version of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing.
SEGA has announced Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing for DS, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii, due out in early 2010.
It sounds a bit like Diddy Kong Racing: SEGA characters including Sonic, Eggman, Tails, AiAi, Amigo and others race each other in cars, planes, motorbikes and, in AiAi's case, a banana mobile.
As well as the requisite shortcuts, obstacles, power-ups and weapons, there are also All Star moves for each character, including Super Sonic, Banana Blitz and Tails Tornado.