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Digital Blend: A deluge of DLC and a PlayStation Store redesign

Welcome back to Digital Blend, our weekly look at the world of downloadable video gaming that exists at the fringes of the mainstream. That means we look at the hottest new mobile game releases, downloadable content drops on consoles and PCs, indie darlings that deserve your love and attention, and the best gaming values under $20.

Keep your comments and feedback coming. We want to hear from you! Did you try something you read about here and enjoy it? Is there a particular game you think we’ve overlooked or news you want to share? Any questions you are dying to ask? Let us know! Your thoughts, feedback, suggestions and (constructive!) criticism are welcome, either in the comments section below or directed at yours truly on Twitter, @geminibros.

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Making headlines…

* Gearbox Software confirmed this week that the first DLC drop for Borderlands 2 will be arriving on October 16, 2012, a day referred to in some circles as “next Tuesday.” Titled “Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty,” the content pack embraces a sand pirates theme, sending players to a dried-up wasteland in search of… well… pirate’s booty. Expect new enemies, new loot, a new form of currency in Seraph Crystals, and a new vehicle: the hovering sand skiff. Looks totally sweet. Scarlett is the first of four planned Borderlands 2 DLC packs, with each one running for $9.99 apiece; a Season Pass is also available, with a buy-three-get-one-free cost of $30.

Borderlands 2 Gaige* In other Borderlands 2 news, the October 16 release of the game’s Mechromancer class was pushed forward a full week, and has been available for download since Tuesday. The Mechromancer was offered for free as a post-launch pre-order bonus, though it’s also being sold for real dollars to those who didn’t get in on the pre-release Premiere Club promotion. It’s a $9.99 / 800 MS Point download if you’re buying it, and Anthony reports that it’s definitely worth your time. Assuming of course that you’re one of the proudly committed Borderlands 2 players.

* In still other DLC news, Square Enix confirmed a release date for the first of two planned content packs for its excellent late-summer open-world action game, Sleeping Dogs. The Street Race Pack arrives on October 17, adding three new race events to the game, as well as a new superbike, and a racing jacket and helmet. The three races mix things up a bit, with the one auto-based street race joined by a motorcycle race and, for the first time in the game, a boat race. The second SWAT Pack DLC is expected to arrive later this month, adding an assortment of new cop missions to the game. The Street Race Pack comes first though, arriving next week for around $4 on all platforms.

playstation network* Sony is preparing a sizable relaunch for its PlayStation Store on October 17. The redesign is the first for the digital storefront in six years, and really the first since it launched alongside the PlayStation 3 in 2006. This is a top-to-bottom refresh, ditching the baby blue color scheme and overall design for a sleeker, darker style. There are shades of the Cross Media Bar in the new design, with shrinking and expanding listings for categories and individual products. The new design aims to offer easier navigation on the user side and a less clunky interface overall.

* Thought you had read the last of the DLC news for this week? Think again. There’s more. Capcom revealed some upcoming changes to Resident Evil 6 that are being framed as “free DLC” but which really amount to a content-related title update. The one that fans should be happiest to hear is that an upcoming update will unlock Ada Wong’s campaign for one and all. Previously, you could only access Ada’s story if you had first played through the game’s other three campaigns; that will no longer be the case. The incoming update also adds a new, more challenging “No Hope” difficulty setting and tweaks Ada’s campaign to allow for co-op play. It’s not clear who she’ll be joined by or if players will still be able to enjoy the campaign in its original form, but we’ll surely be hearing more as the update’s release draws closer. Capcom is also planning some paid DLC releases for RE6, but none of the specifics have yet been revealed.

Top buys of the week…

Retro City Rampage :: PlayStation 3 / PlayStation Vita / PC :: $14.99

After a ridiculous number of years and plenty of hype, Brian Provinciano’s Retro City Rampage is finally here. The NES-style open world action game/minigame collection is a little uneven, but it’s a reference-filled ode to geek culture in all of its beautiful forms. I’ll pull up short of making this my pick of the week simply because it’s going to divide the gaming community. Some people are going to love it for its retro charm and over-the-top sense of style while others will dislike its many mechanical faults and inconsistent design. It’s still quite a hoot, and one Sony buy gets you two, since RCR is playable with cross-saves on PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.

Khyber Strike TransitGhost Recon: Future Soldier – Khyber Strike :: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 :: $9.99 / 800 MS Points

Khyber Strike is the second multiplayer expansion for Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and the third DLC pack for the game released so far. This one is a bit more stripped down than the previous multiplayer pack, adding three new MP maps, one new Guerilla map, a new mode, and a boosted level cap but skipping the added guns. That’s a misstep in my own mind, since Gunsmith is such an integral part of Future Soldier, but Ryan’s review paints a positive picture.

MechromancerBorderlands 2 Mechromancer DLC :: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 :: $9.99 / 800 MS Points

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a rabid Borderlands fan. The new Mechromancer class amounts to 40 or so more hours of playing time for those who feel like working through to the level 50 cap. This one’s a no-brainer if you pre-ordered Borderlands 2 since it’s a free download. For anyone else, yes, $10 is a bit steep for an extra character when we’ve got a big DLC pack coming to the game next week at the same price. All I can tell you is that the Mechromancer is a solid addition to the roster, with a suite of skills that feel markedly different from what the four core characters are capable of. But again, rabid fanboy, right here.

The Walking Dead Episode 4The Walking Dead: Episode Four – Around Every Corner :: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / PC :: $4.99 / 400 MS Points

Pick of the week, right here. By the widest margin imaginable. Telltale Games continues to astound with its Game of the Year-caliber storytelling in The Walking Dead. Episode Four delivers one of the most brutal gut punches yet as it sets the stage for what is sure to be a staggeringly powerful final episode. I can’t speak highly enough of how strong this experience is. If you enjoy video games, or even just incredible stories, on any sort of level and you haven’t tried The Walking Dead yet, then you owe it to yourself to correct that immediately. Check out our full review for all the details.

Crazy Taxi :: iOS :: $4.99

Sega’s classic arcade game is now small enough to cram into your pocket. Crazy Taxi is officially a mobile title in the iOS App Store, and it’s a universal app as well. Take every port of the game that you’ve ever encountered and stuff it into one game, with added touch controls, and you’ll have this port. It’s not quite as fun to control in the absence of a real joystick, but the game modes are all here and the crazed action is the same as it’s always been. 

Mass Effect 3 – Retaliation DLC :: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / PC :: FREE

Here’s a bit of a no-brainer for Mass Effect 3 fans. The newly released Retaliation DLC is completely free and offers a significant expansion on the game’s multiplayer features. There’s an entirely new enemy faction to take on as well as a new Challenges feature, to replace BioWare’s bi-weekly Operations, map-specific Hazards, and some new character classes. The catch is that ME3‘s Galaxy at War multiplayer mode ties in heavily with microtransactions, so you’ll get the content for free but you might feel compelled to spend cash on booster packs. That’s your own life choice to make, but you really can’t argue with adding more layers to multiplayer for the low cost of nothing.

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Digital Blend: Borderlands 2 DLC, Infocom awesomeness, and Steam explodes over The War Z

Welcome back to Digital Blend, our weekly look at the world of downloadable video gaming that exists at the fringes of the mainstream. That means we look at the hottest new mobile game releases, downloadable content drops on consoles and PCs, indie darlings that deserve your love and attention, and the best gaming values under $20.
Keep your comments and feedback coming. We want to hear from you! Did you try something you read about here and enjoy it? Is there a particular game you think we’ve overlooked or news you want to share? Any questions you are dying to ask? Let us know! Your thoughts, feedback, suggestions and (constructive!) criticism are welcome, either in the comments section below or directed at yours truly on Twitter, @geminibros.
Making headlines...
* The Walking Dead is a pretty big deal. I mean... right? It's a multiple Game of the Year-winning effort (including Digital Trends!) for Telltale Games, with the five-episode story amounting to the best execution of an interactive narrative that this industry has ever seen. What's amazing about the game is how, even with the key story beats never changing, anyone who plays is going to have a dramatically different experience, with different interpersonal connections forged based on your interactions with fellow survivors. It's a monumental achievement and a definite gateway drug for future gamers. It's also a COMPLETELY FREE iOS download right now, for Episode One. This is a limited time offer, so grab it now while you can... and then prepare to spend whatever money is necessary to unlock the remaining eps.
* BioWare's free-to-play MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to embrace a bigger galaxy in spring 2013. The Rise of the Hutt Cartel pack is the first, official content expansion for the game, adding a new planet, a new main questline, and a newly boosted level cap (from 50 to 55), among other things. Those who pre-order the $19.99 add-on pack ($9.99 for continuing SW:TOR subscribers) before January 7, 2013 can also look forward to five full days of early access to the expansion when it arrives on an unspecified date in spring 2013.
* The PlayStation Vita just moved up roughly 10 spaces on the "Awesome" scale this week with the news that downloadable PlayStation 3 game Tokyo Jungle now supports Remote Play. That's still a step removed from a truly portable Vita version of the charmingly bizarre JRPG(?), but we'll take what we can get. How many other games let you dress up a Pomeranian in ridiculous outfits and then send it off to wander a post-apocalyptic landscape, where it will hopefully (but probably not) be able to avoid being crunched between the jaws of a hungry velociraptor. THESE ARE ALL THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN IN TOKYO JUNGLE. Pretty nifty.
* Borderlands fans! Great news for y'all. Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt is officially confirmed as the title of the game's third DLC expansion (out of a confirmed four), and it's coming on January 15, 2013. You can get all the details from our extended hands-on preview, but here are your key bullet points: new environment as you explore the Pandoran continent of Aegrus, new enemies of various sorts (not just re-skins), a selection of new loot, and a pair of new raid-style bosses. There's also another vehicle added in the DLC, a fan boat. Great stuff. In related Borderlands 2 news, Gearbox Software also confirmed plans to hike up the game's level cap in Q1 2013. It's not clear how big the bump will be, but it's going to be enough to support a newly added third playthrough option that will be released in tandem. The important thing to note is that these are two separate items: the DLC is coming on 1/15 and the level cap boost/third playthrough is coming in Q1.
* Minecraft: The Story of Mojang is a feature-length documentary from 2Player Productions chronicling the success of Mojang's blocky world-builder and the rise to fame of the game's creator, Markus "Notch" Persson. The movie will finally makes its world premiere this weekend, on Saturday, December 22, 2012, via Microsoft's Xbox Live service. You'll need to be a Gold-level subscriber to check it out.
* Valve's Steam service has grown in some important ways over the course of 2012, including the launch of Big Picture Mode, the upcoming Linux version (now officially in beta), the addition of non-gaming software to the service's product offerings, and the well-received Steam Greenlight initiative. Still, mistakes are sometimes made. The War Z, a multiplayer-focused zombie apocalypse simulator that takes some cues from ArmA 2 mod (and upcoming standalone release) DayZ, arrived on Steam this week riding a wave of controversy. The game's description made content claims that turned out to be untrue, and while Hammerpoint Interactive claims that the words speak to planned features, those who purchased the game -- a large enough number to top Steam's sales charts -- are understandably peeved. The saga unfolded over a period of days, concluding with Valve removing the game from Steam until more work can be done on completing it. Those who purchased the game before it was pulled are free to keep it, though refunds are also being offered due to the falsely advertised content.
Top buys for the week...
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath :: PlayStation Vita :: $14.99
Just Add Water's superior enhanced HD remake of Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath came to PlayStation 3 in late 2011, and now the game makes its debut this week on Sony's portable platform, the PlayStation Vita. This right here is what we need to see more of. Maybe the Vita can't run Uncharted 3, but with Sony shepherding so many HD remakes and HD collections into release, it's shocking that few-to-none come to the Vita. Stranger's Wrath is a welcome addition to the still-growing Vita library, being a killer game in its own right with some nice tweaks and improvements from Just Add Water. Well worth your time and money if you've somehow missed it until now.
The Lost Treasures of Infocom :: iOS :: FREE - $9.99
Let's get it out of the way: clear front-runner PICK OF THE WEEK right here. Infocom is one of the most important publishers in the history of video games, responsible in the early '80s for releasing classic text adventures like A Mind Forever Voyaging, Planetfall, and, of course, anything bearing the title of Zork. The company's two founders will be honored at next year's D.I.C.E. Awards, and Activision makes good on the positive press this week with the release of the iOS-exclusive enhanced port of The Lost Treasures of Infocom. This collection of 27 games is a free app store download, though you only get the original Zork to start with. The rest of the collection can be downloaded in five-game packs for $2.99 apiece or as a full collection for $9.99. Developer Code Mystics went all out too, really enhancing the port with some cool touchscreen-specific shortcuts and features, as well as full access to virtual versions of Infocom's Feelies. This is video game history, folks. Go get it.
Pudding Monsters :: iOS :: $0.99
The light release week is rounded out by Pudding Monsters, the latest iOS-exclusive from ZeptoLab, creators of Cut the Rope. The new effort is basically a sliding puzzle puzzle game. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in charm. You play by manipulating adorable little blobs of pudding around a game board, with the goal of aligning your gelatinous goobers on three star pads. It's an eye-catching game, and a challenging one for those who put the time into nailing 100 percent completion for each of the included 75 levels. Check out our review for a more detailed rundown.
Kinect Party :: Xbox 360 :: FREE (through 12/31)
Our own Nex reviewed Double Fine Productions' latest Kinect-loving toy, and while he wasn't exactly raving wildly about Kinect Party, he also admitted that he's not exactly the target audience. This is a family game, like Double Fine Happy Action Theater before it. It's also more of a motion-controlled toy than a proper game. It's completely free until the end of the year though, and definitely worth a look if you're going to have younger family members around in the coming weeks.

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Digital Blend: Giving thanks on Thanksgiving for the best of 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Digital Blenders! This has been a tremendous year for games of all shapes and sizes, and an especially good one for the sort of digital-only full titles and DLC offerings that I cover here. Instead of running through the usual line-up of big news and releases for the week, I'm using today instead to look back over 2012 and zero in on the best of the best, the favorites that you might want to give a second look -- or a first look! -- as you cower in a corner and wait for the Black Friday hellstorm to pass. 
Mark of the Ninja :: Xbox 360 / Windows :: 1,200 MS Points / $14.99

There were a lot of stealth games released in 2012 and many of them either flirted with excellence or flat-out embraced it. Klei Entertainment's Mark of the Ninja falls into the latter category, and it may well be the best genre release of the year. The 2D side-scroller features the same cartoon-inspired art style and over-the-top violence that marks Klei's efforts on the two Shank games, only you're employing stealth tactics and striking always from the shadows. With a perfectly laid out learning curve, a healthy mixture of abilities and tools to unlock, and a loose, free-thinking AI opposing you, Mark of the Ninja delivers one of the most exciting and dynamic stealth gaming experiences in this or any other year.
Borderlands 2 DLC :: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / PC :: $9.99 / 800 MS Points

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Digital Blend: iPhone 5 revealed, Steam Greenlight games greenlit

Welcome back to Digital Blend, our weekly look at the world of downloadable video gaming that exists at the fringes of the mainstream. That means we look at the hottest new mobile game releases, downloadable content drops on consoles and PCs, indie darlings that deserve your love and attention, and the best gaming values under $20.
Keep your comments and feedback coming. We want to hear from you! Did you try something you read about here and enjoy it? Is there a particular game you think we’ve overlooked or news you want to share? Any questions you are dying to ask? Let us know! Your thoughts, feedback, suggestions and (constructive!) criticism are welcome, either in the comments section below or directed at yours truly on Twitter, @geminibros.
Making headlines...
* The iPhone 5 is official. Earlier this week, Apple held a press conference where it drew back the curtain on its next-gen iPhone. Pre-orders open starting today, September 14, and the new smartphone will be available in stores on September 21. Hidden behind the new 4-inch screen is some powerful tech centered around an A6 processor. This is the first of Apple's phones to offer support for 4G LTE networks thanks to a new wireless receiver. Buyers can also expect to find an improved camera that shoots faster and performs better in low light conditions. We've got tons and tons and tons of iPhone 5 coverage, both from earlier this week and ongoing. Check it all out right here.
* It's been another big week for Steam's new Greenlight service, which is a crowdsourced platform where users can vote on which games should be sold through Valve's digital distribution service. The first round of up-voted games has officially been approved by Valve for eventual release, which means 10 new Steam titles will soon be available on a gaming PC near you. There are some solid picks in there, as you might expect, including Black Mesa, the long-in-development HD remake of Valve's classic FPS Half-Life. The list is pretty heavy on horror titles, notably including The Indie Stone's inventive Project Zomboid. Anthony's report has the full rundown. Also, be sure to check back in on Sunday, September 16, for Anthony's interview with the developers behind the newly greenlit Greenlight title, No More Room In Hell.
* The guy who made Wing Commander is making games again. I'll give you a moment to catch your breath. The long-ignored genre of space flight combat simulators was long, long ago led by Chris Roberts' Wing Commander series. Featuring a rich fictional universe filled with memorable characters and a flavor all its own, the Wing Commander games quickly turned into what passed for AAA development at a time when PCs outpaced consoles much more than they do today. Now Roberts is planning a reveal for October 10, 2012, the same days as GDC Online, and it's something related to his new Cloud Imperium Games studio. It sounds like he's moving in more of an online-focused direction than a story-driven one, but we'll have to wait until next month to learn more. 
* Gamers want some flavor of Borderlands on their PlayStation Vita. Series creator Gearbox Software does as well. Sony? Probably, right? Borderlands is totally a big deal, with next week's Borderlands 2 standing as one of the most pre-ordered games in publisher 2K Games' history. The Vita platform is starved for content, and a Borderlands game would drive fans wild. Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford knows it too, but he's not about to start putting his team to work on developing a new Borderlands for the Vita. He said as much in a recent interview, adding "I think Sony should step up and make that happen." Pitchford explained that he'd be totally okay with his studio's baby being ported to the Sony handheld, but it's a project that would have to be taken on by another developer. Here's hoping all of this talk actually leads to the reality of Borderlands gameplay on the go.
* The standalone version of Dean Hall's Arma 2 zombie mod DayZ continues to be a thing that people are talking about. We already know that the plan is for the Bohemia Interactive-developed DayZ to embrace the same sort of release model than Mojang did with Minecraft, releasing the game in an early and unfinished state at a reduced price, and then using the post-release player base as a testing environment to fine-tune the way it all works. All of which is great, but producer Jan Kunt noted in a recent interview that the PC-focused team is nonetheless aware that there's a big community of gamers who only play on consoles. Will DayZ make the jump? Nothing's set in stone yet, but it's definitely something they want to make happen at some point down the road.
Top buys for the week...
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier - Raven Strike DLC :: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 :: $14.99 / 1,200 MS Points
Ubisoft's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier just got a little bit larger. The newly released Raven Strike DLC pack adds three new campaign missions to the game plus an all-new map for Guerilla mode. The missions are the highlight, as you can read in my review. With support for one to four players, you've got what amounts to more of the same fantastically well-designed cover-shooting steath/action mix spread out over three sprawling environments. It's a bit rough around the edges in some ways and there are missed opportunities for even better content here and there, but the overall package is totally worth it if you enjoyed the original May 2012 release.
Double Dragon: Neon :: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 :: $9.99 / 800 MS Points
WayForward Technologies has done a dynamite job in the past of tickling the game community's love for the old days, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the newly released Double Dragon: Neon. The game is fundamentally the same as its coin-op predecessor on a mechanical level, but the graphics have been spruced up and the systems that tie everything together have been blown out in a big way. It's still just two bro-dudes out to save a pretty lady from the clutches of an evil jerk, but now the action touches on everything from urban back alleys to outer space. It's totally over the top and we wouldn't have it any other way.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth :: PlayStation 3 :: $9.99
This isn't the first time Anomaly: Warzone Earth has been featured in Digital Blend, but this week marks the first time that the game is available via the PlayStation Network. It's not entirely clear why this mobile-spawned gem of a game isn't also available for the touchscreen-enabled PlayStation Vita, but Nex heartily approved of the PlayStation 3 port from 11-bit Studios in his review. For those who aren't familiar, Anomaly is a sort of reversal on the tower defense genre, with players guiding a convoy around a series of maps and taking out various turrets and other emplacements while completing a variety of mission objectives. It's not the most complex game of this sort that you'll ever see, but it's fun, well-designed, and eye-catchingly pretty.
To The Moon :: PC :: $9.99
This week's lone PC offering isn't a new release, but it's new on Steam. Freebird Games' To The Moon is a point-and-click adventure game with a visual aesthetic that resembles classic top-down RPGs like Final Fantasy. There's no action in this game, however. To The Moon's main hook is its story, a well-written piece of fiction that explores the end of a person's life through a sci-fi lens. If stories like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind appeal to you, then this is a game you'll want to check out. Those who already own To The Moon are entitled to a free Steam key. Freebird is also currently working on the game's second episode, which will presumably hit Steam on day one now that its predecessor is there.
Stickman Base Jumper :: iOS :: $0.99
It's a quiet week on the mobile gaming front as well, though Djinnworks' Stickman Base Jumper makes for some great Kleenex gaming until the next $0.99 time-eater comes along. I tend to think that the best mobile games explain themselves more effectively through images than words, and this game is no exception. So instead of reading along as I talk up the game's simple-yet-eye-catching graphics and straightforward, largely trial-and-error-focused gameplay, why don't you just watch the trailer?

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