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Pandemic Studios closes in wave of EA cut-backs

Pandemic Studios, developers of Star Wars: Battlefront, Full Spectrum Warrior, Destroy All Humans!, Mercenaries, and the upcoming The Saboteur, was shut down by EA as part of their huge cost-cutting undertaking.

About 200 Pandemic employees are now out of a job, while 1,500 total jobs are to be cut from EA’s range of studios and divisions. In hindsight, the signs may have been there throughout the year, when Pandemic’s studio in Brisbane, Australia was closed in February, and The Dark Knight game’s development cancelled with it.

To lose your job just before (or in Ensemble’s case with Halo Wars, immediately after) a major release seems incredibly tough. Hopefully, The Saboteur will turn out to be an excellent final product from the studio.

A “core IP team” were moved to EA Los Angeles, and Pandemic’s branding and franchises will be kept alive.

[via Kotaku]

Uncharted 2 Multiplayer Demo Impressions

Uncharted 2

Through a Twitter give-away from EBGames Australia (from whom I didn’t pre-order, opting instead to receive a neat bag free from GAME), I gained early access to the public multiplayer demo for Uncharted 2. Being part of that small group playing on launch day led to some unfortunately long waits in matchmaking lobbies; the number of players reported as online ranged from 61 to 221.

The demo is fairly generous, offering Deathmatch, Objective, Co-Op Objective, and Co-Op Arena modes, including sub-modes and modifiers such as Deathmatch Pistol and Grenades, or Deathmatch RPG, where everyone spawns with a rocket launcher with 100 rockets. The demo also includes 4 maps: the Village, the Ice Cave, the Temple, and the Plaza. Once the matchmaking lobby is populated, players can vote on which of two levels / sub-mode combinations to play.

In addition, players can use the Machinima mode to mess around and take a good look at their surroundings, and can also view replays of the matches they’ve played, watching from any angle and applying visual tweaks at will. This is not only a nice feature to have in general, it’s also smart to have in the demo as a means of highlighting Uncharted 2’s fantastic graphics, as one can use the free-floating camera to explore every nook and cranny of each level without having to worry about being gunned down. Yes, the visuals are superb. You probably knew this anyway, but wow. The audio, too, is top-notch, with each character offering unique dialogue during battle, and with the sounds of battle satisfyingly meaty.

The gameplay itself is a ton of fun. At this stage it appears as though most people are playing Deathmatch modes, although one quick round of Co-op Arena was great fun, with an unending supply of bot enemies attacking us. The Deathmatch is fairly fast-paced and dynamic, with alternate routes through stages meaning that you always have to watch your back. The game’s verticality is also apparent, and is subtler than “high point = sniper area”.

Multiplayer Uncharted feels natural and controls well. Moving from cover to cover, climbing, rolling, and shooting your way to victory feels extremely satisfying, and seems to be a logical and successful addition to the series. While there were a couple of instances where a game simply would not start (possibly waiting for someone to connect?), these cases will almost certainly be ironed out by release. I had pre-ordered the game already, but this demo has me awaiting mid-October even more eagerly.