Josh Knowles

I wear many hats. Most importantly it's my job to keep Gaming Irresponsibly afloat. I've played games since I can remember and passed the love of gaming down to my kid as well. Working to make a name for ourselves out there in the industry.

Nov 112013
 

strike5-lead            The Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 gaming keyboard is a veritable fortress of customization and flexibility. While it serves as an absolutely perfect tool for RTS, MMO, and MOBA gaming, the maddening array of options and special features may prove useless for someone simply wishing to play the latest FPS or indie title, and thus it might not prove the validity of its hefty $200 price point to the average gamer.

madcatzstrike5keyboard3When I first opened up the box for this keyboard, I was quickly intimated by the vast number of parts, spare screws and cables, and other attachments that are provided for you. Luckily, Mad Catz must have hired the people from Ikea to do their instructions, and you can easily discern all of the various combinations available to you. Want to have your keyboard and your numpad really far apart? No problem, here are the cords for that. Wanna play with just the numpad, have the keyboard on the right side and the numpad on the left, or just plain ditch the numpad all-together? You can do all of those things easily, and this customizability is one of the highlights of this keyboard, as it can adapt to almost any desk-space without losing its functions or ergonomic ability.

strike5_03_lg            After playing with this keyboard for about a month, I can honestly say that it is one of the best gaming keyboards I have ever used. Graduating from a simple Microsoft wireless keyboard to this, I was impressed by it’s reliability and ease of use more than anything. Keys are extremely easy to hit accurately, and as long as you maintain the proper hand position (as you should with any keyboard) you should not have any issues of accidentally hitting the wrong key in a desperate situation, which I am all too familiar with in my time with other keyboards. The keys just feel nice (especially the spacebar, which has a great “bounce” to it), and I can play for long amounts of time without feeling any soreness in my hands at all. Unfortunately, I’ve found that for some reason, my words-per-minute is a bit lower on this keyboard then it is on other keyboards, especially my laptop, where I can type about twice as fast as I can on the Strike 5. I can’t necessarily describe why this is, but it just feels as though the same key-design that makes this keyboard great for gaming also makes it hard to type very quickly, as I somehow feel a bit more resistance when quickly cycling through keys. So if you’re a college student who writes a ton of papers every week, this keyboard may serve as a bit of a hindrance, but it honestly isn’t too big of a deal.

0000574_madcatz-strike-5-pc-gaming-keyboard-height-adjustable-palm-rest-2-wrist-rests-programmable-buttons-mOne of the biggest features advertized for this keyboard is the E.Y.E., a small display and keypad which essentially serves as the hub of the keyboard. From the E.Y.E. you can adjust some small media features (stop/start, volume mute, fast forward/rewind), set macros on the keypad, switch between three different macro profiles for the rest of the keyboard (including differing backlight colors if you prefer), and disable the Windows key. From the display itself, you can program quick-access to various shortcuts (I have mine set to launch League of Legends, Steam, or Battlefield 3), as well as changing your volume, mic volume, backlight brightness, and various respawn timers that can be customized to your will. The problem with this is that although these features are all nice, many of them are just simply not more convenient than simply performing these actions the “normal” way. You would have to take your hand completely off the keyboard in order to hit the keypad, or set one of the respawn timers, so it is often easier to do these things the old-fashioned way. Still, it is visually quite impressive, and it does have its uses when used outside of a gaming situation.

The S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 is a great piece of machinery, but unless you often play games that require a lot of macros, such as RTS or MMO games, it may not justify its price. If you want a solid gaming keyboard that looks great, has great durability, and can adapt to any desk-space situation, this keyboard is an excellent choice, as long as you don’t mind spending a little extra. 4.5 out of 5

Written by special guest writer and Uber-ADC Pierce Dignam

Oct 292013
 

extralife2012Think about this, every few minutes, 62 kids will be rushed to a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. As a parent this is a daunting and scary number. The thing to note is that some of these children may have been in serious accidents, while others need relatively procedural treatment.

My experience with All Children’s Hospital in Saint Petersburg, FL wasn’t a horrible one. My (now 5 year old) son had some horrible issues with his tonsils and his adenoids and needed to get them removed pretty quickly. We brought him to All Children’s Hospital and were pretty much amazed at the quality and care they showed there. In fact, they made the stress of having a young child put under for invasive surgery much less than it really could have been.

all-childrens-bldgHere is the thing, these networks of hospitals need our help. As private hospitals, the don’t get a lot of the benefits that general hospitals receive. If there were ever a place deserving of my charity, Children’s Hospitals are at the top of my list. What I’ve decided to do is team up with FRONTBURNR.net to participate in the Extra Life campaign. I’ll be streaming game play from 9am Saturday to 9am Sunday, that is a whole 25 hours. Throughout this time, I’ll have a few guests over and we will be doing a few giveaways as well.

All that I ask from you, the reader, is that if you can, you donate something towards our cause. I set the goal low, $250, but I would love for nothing more than to raise at least $1000 for Saint Petersburg’s All Children’s Hospital. To do so, I am going to need your help!

I’m also going to need all sorts of snacks, junk food and distractions to keep me from falling asleep. I have some help there, and I will probably be doing some laps and pushups to keep the blood flowing!

What does gaming and fitness have in common? Gamma Labs. Gamma Labs provides gamers the top tools like their energy drink G Fuel and their all natural testosterone booster Gamma-O to keep gamers in tip top shape. Whether you are playing Kinect Sports or Wii Fit, gamers around the world are using Gamma Labs products to stay in shape! They’re going to helping make sure I make it through the 25 hour marathon!

Sep 272013
 

jinx_splash_10League of Legends is showcasing their new ADC/Marksman that will be heading to the Fields of Justice soon. Jinx: The Loose Cannon appears to be the sister of the popular Bruiser/Jungler Vi. Jinx really has the potential of breaking the mold of the traditional (Caitlyn/Vayne) ADC role by having 2 forms of auto attacks and a slew of arsenal at her disposal. Here is a look at her skills:

Passive: Get Excited!

Jinx gains a massive movement speed boost whenever a champion or tower that she’s recently attacked is killed or destroyed. This boost decays over time.

(Our take: This passive allows Jinx to either escape conflict if she can pick off a turret of champion or chase down and finish a fleeing champion quickly. Looks promising!)


Q: Switcheroo!

Jinx swaps weapons:

  • Fishbones, the rocket launcher: Jinx’s basic attacks consume mana but gain increased range and deal increased damage to her target and nearby enemies.
  • Pow-Pow, the minigun: Jinx’s basic attacks grant attack speed for a short duration, stacking up to three times. Stacks fall off one at a time once Jinx stops attacking.

(Our take: It’s like an always active Tristana Explosive Shot or Quinn’s secondary passive. These abilities are killer poke options)


W: Zap!

Jinx snaps off an electrical blast that deals damage to and slows the first enemy hit.

(Our take: Rumble is going to be pissed! This actually works like a much more efficient version of Lucian’s Q. This will be Jinx’s pursuit/retreat option and well have some real lane utility early game)


E: Flame Chompers!

Jinx throws out a line of snare grenades that detonate after a few seconds, lighting nearby enemies on fire. Enemy champions who walk over a grenade will cause it to detonate early, rooting them briefly.

(Our take: This is really cool. Damage over time and a root? Junglers beware! This ability paired with Zap! could really help Jinx rack up the kills.)


R: Super Mega Death Rocket!

Jinx fires a global rocket that gains damage as it travels. The rocket explodes on the first enemy champion hit, dealing damage to the target and all nearby enemies based on a percentage of their missing health.

(Our take: This is going to be cool. Let’s be serious, this ult is going to be devastating in team fights or when trying to disrupt a Baron fight.)

Champion 115 was Lucian and to be blunt, he isn’t very good at all. Jinx has the classic ‘all-in’ marksman feel but also has some super creative ways to harass her lane during the laning phase and into the teamfight phase.

We are pretty excited about this one, what are your thoughts on her?

Sep 182013
 

Recently, we published a news piece about the new Siberia Elite headsets from SteelSeries. Well, we have just been informed that the headset is now available for pre-order.

Siberia_Elite_HeaderHere is the info from the release:

Available for $199.99, the headset delivers the newest generation and highest-quality SteelSeries audio drivers, the Siberia Elite headset is equipped with Dolby® technology for realistic 7.1 virtual surround sound. Siberia Elite’s amplified design includes extra-large memory foam ear cushions, SteelSeries’ signature Siberia self-adjusting suspension system connected to a steel arc, and illumination with a choice of 16.8 million color options that radiate from each earcup. Dials on the earcups power the Siberia Elite’s audio and microphone-mute controls, while new levels of customization are supported by the newest version of peripheral configuration software, SteelSeries Engine 3. The new software will enable users to select illumination and equalizer settings, activate microphone features and more all through an intuitive and easy-to-navigate layout. Built for gaming and entertainment across multiple devices, the Siberia Elite offers limitless connectivity through its swappable cable system making it instantly compatible for PC, Mac®, tablets and phones.

sib1

 

I have a feeling that this is going to be a pretty big deal, SteelSeries has always offered great headsets and I am sure that the Siberia Elite will be no exception! Make sure to get your preorder in!

Aug 222013
 

Siberia Elite Black Artwork.jpgI’ve personally been using SteelSeries headsets for the last 2 years. They have always performed well and have always been a great alternative to products from more expensive models. However, SteelSeries just announced at Gamescom the new Siberia Elite Headset looks to be the model that will challenge even the best and most expensive versions from other companies.

Siberia Elite White - Side shot.jpgHere is what we know on this bad boy as or right now:

  • Dolby upconversion to 7.1 surround sound
  • Dolby Prologic IIx - upgrades audio into a new surround sound experience. Offers conversion from a true 5.1 signal into a full 7.1.
  • The now signature retractable mic
  • available in a black or white design
  • Massive ear cushions made from memory foam that offers passive-noise isolation
  • The fan favorite led optimization will now allow for color customization
  • Dial-based controls build into the earcup. (Anyone who has used an ASTRO headset knows this is awesome)
  • A built-in light on the mic to indicate when the mic is muted

On top of these new features, there are a handful of amazing nuanced items as well. The Sound Share port from the FLUX series headsets will make a return and the flat cable from the FLUX In-Ear models makes a return as well.

Siberia Elite White - Angle shot.jpgThe Siberia Elite will be using the SteelSeries Engine 3 as well. This is a brand new engine that will allow much more optimization for audio and the following features as well:

  • Specific game-specific audio profiles and presets for different genres.
  • Mic settings that allow users to choose to modify  Active Noise Cancelling (everyone says I need this), Auto Mic Compression and Mic Feedback.
  • The colors on the headset via LED (16.8 million options and also effects that accompany them.

The headset will be available for pre-order in September for $199.99. We’ll take a look at it and let you know how it stacks up!

FYI – No comment when I asked about next gen compatibility. Hmmmmm :)

 

Aug 192013
 

I grew up with games like Castlevania or Metroid, the entire ‘platformer-adventure’ game thing has always been part of my core. A friend told me about a particular game that he thought fit my interests and that is how I first heard about Rogue Legacy, but it wasn’t until GamersGate hooked us up that I was able to see if this rogue-like platformer was worthy of the praise it had been receiving.

RL1What exactly is Rogue Legacy? Well, as in any rogue-like game, the levels are randomly generated along with th content of each screen. Every time you enter the castle, your experience will be completely different. I find this particularly interesting as the game pretty much offers an infinite amount of replayability if you are the type of person that loves to adventure. To make things particularly interesting, each time you select a character (a descendant of the one you had that just died) you will get a randomly generated class with different strengths and weaknesses. These traits can be things like dementia to irritable bowel syndrome and will change the way you play every time.

Now the variety of the castle and the characters are nice but there is actually a skill tree system that can offer up a few perks as well. There perks can allow you to do things like have better class benefits, carry heavier gear or even become stronger and hit harder. You will not be able to kill the bosses in the castle without spending some serious money in the skill tree. There won’t be any chances for saving up for skill points you want though, every time you enter the castle Charon will force you to pay a toll of all the gold you have on you. Spending it outside the castle is a must. Fortunately, you can also blow that hard earned gold on items and enchantments as well, so spending money should not be any sort of problem.

RL#Gameplay isn’t too different than your traditional platformer. When you are first starting, you can jump and slash your way to gold and relics. As your characters learn new class skills and collect new runes, you will also be able to do things like fly and dragon-shout.. Once again, gathering these abilities will be imperative for subsequent runs in the castle. The funny thing is, you really do not have successful castle runs in Rogue Legacy, you just work to make progress time and again. Improving runs are the name of the game in this platformer but as the castle is different each time you step foot in it, you will continually have a new experience (as I noted before).

As you journey through the castle, you will find journals that will detail the actual story of what is actually going on. It’s no epic story but worthwhile enough to stop and check out each time you come across one of the discarded journals. Interestingly enough, the castle features a collection of special rooms as well. These rooms are everything from mini-games and developer rooms to random teleporters and special items pickup areas. Some runs, you will fail to encounter a single special room, other runs you may find several linked together. I really liked stumbling across them as they gave a needed break from the nail-biting danger you will find in every other castle room.

rl2Graphically, Rogue Legacy isn’t groundbreaking. The Retro-ish style graphics are reminiscent of the old 16-bit era and the soundtrack easily accompanies this. Everything is very smooth and there aren’t and issues with a ton of enemies on screen or anything that should be a concern. While the soundtrack does fit the game, after about 50 or so runs, I did find myself playing my own music in the background. Hearing the same 5 songs really does start to wear on you a bit.

Rogue Legacy succeeds at exactly what it wanted to accomplish. It is a great rogue-like platformer that can be played for 5 minutes or for 5 hours. There may be a few minor issues with repetition but there is absolutely enough variety that players can keep changing up their adventures each time the get killed. They will get killed quite often!

PC Game

Graphics

70
 

Audio

70
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

90
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

90
    

8.2

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

GamersGate.com provided Rogue Legacy for review purposes. Feel free to buy the DRM-free version of the game for (currently) $14.99 USD.
Aug 142013
 

This is going to be a doozy. Before I get started on all the juicy tidbits about Saints Row 4, let me explain something. Saints Row 4 was one of the first game in quite a while that I played and had fun with. Not that a game like Tomb Raider wasn’t fun, but Saints Row 4 was like hanging out with an old friend and just having a great time. It seems like so many games have been so… heavy as of late. Saints Row 4 has to be the exact polar opposite of a game like The Last of Us. Not only is this a good thing, it is what defines the franchise now.

wh_shaundiSo, the game, right? Let’s kick things off with the story itself. So, the 3rd St. Saints have conquered Stillwater and Steelport and have captivated the world as celebrities. What is there left to do? Well, apparently black ops, because that is how everything kicks off. Long story short, you save the world, get an Aerosmith tribute and become the President of the United States. Now, since that concept would be a pretty boring game, the alien Zin empire attacks and captures most of the notable members of the Saints and their friends Matt Miller and Asha Odekar. After getting captured as well and then being tossed into a computerized world, you team up with Kinzie to get revenge… Saints style.

This revenge road trip has you picking up all sorts of awesome super powers along the way. I’ve played so many sandbox style games these days that being able to super run, jump and glide to my destinations is an extremely welcome change to things. As you advance in the game, you will collect data clusters that will allow you to purchase upgrades to these super powers. Yes, tons of collectibles but also a solid reason to actually run around seeking them out. The game makes it a habit of making you depend on your super powers and then yanking them away and forcing you to climb Satan’s Ladder with a standard depowered character. Most of the time this will happen when you are working to save a fellow Saint, because in doing so you will have to enter their own private simulation.

wh_hallway_battleThis was one of my favorite features of Saints Row 4, busting the other Saints out. With the was the game is set up, all the time in Virtual Steelport is cool but it is even more awesome to get a shot at seeing new and old locales and being tossed into crazy situations. I mean, fighting a 50-story tall can of Saints Flow? I guess it is better that than Donkey Beer. Each Saint has their own simulation, which really allows you to take a break from a world I spend a solid 20 hours in. With that being said, Johnny Gat’s is the best. In fact it is so good that I was very disappointed to find out I could never go back and play through it again. It was that fun. Now, I won’t spoil it for you but the overall mission will be one of the most memorable in sand-box game history.

After characters are saved, you will be offered to do loyalty missions with them as well. These missions often times start with you being depowered but having your fellow Saint along with you. During these missions, it is amazing to see the chemistry between the characters and also find out a little more about what makes them tick. I really liked the Pierce mission the best, once you play the game you will know what I mean.

SR4_SuperSprint01While you don’t spend a lot of time using them, many of the vehicles can be customized and the called upon for use later. This comes in handy for aircraft because sometimes you just cannot beat flying when your target is on the other side of the city. Almost every weapon in the game has customizable options too. I turned my assault rifle into one of the original 90′s era Super Soaker guns. Every time I got my hands on a new weapon, I would swing by the gun store to make sure I was able to see what I could turn my new weapons into. There are quite a few weapons and super powers can only get you so far, so I found myself getting the right guns for the job often at later parts of the game.

While the game was incredibly enjoyable, there seemed to be some major flaws to the Xbox 360 version of the game. Some of these bugs were small, such as when I changed the sex of my character and for some odd reason wasn’t able to actually put any clothes on her, even after buying her a new wardrobe. Another was that after collecting audio files detailing the back story of characters in the game, sometimes their audio wouldn’t play, only for it to play when I loaded the game back up later. Some of these bugs were a little more annoying, it seems like there is massive frame rate drops or even freezing when the game saves while you are rushing around the city. This got incredibly annoying in combat situations and even resulted in me having to restart my Xbox a few times. One of the biggest, and most game breaking issue, was during one of the last missions of the game. I had a hard freeze, I needed to restart the entire system by turning the Xbox on and off. When I loaded, I kept falling through the world, into a purplish abyss while the words “The Saints Need You In Steelport!” appeared on the screen. After reloading a few times, I didn’t fall through the world anymore but once I started the next mission, the camera became disconnected from my character. I kept trying to reload to fix this but I couldn’t do anything about it. I ended up getting myself killed and then being able to have the camera attached to my character again. The whole ordeal was about an hour-long and I almost completely quit playing. With all that being said, I was informed that there will be some major patches to help with this issues specifically, so I am not going to ravage the game’s score over it. If we can overlook issues in Fallout and Skyrim, we need to be fair.

shaundisCo-op in the game is pretty fun as well and there are enough special co-op missions that are available. I found myself putting together my own challenges as well though. Several times, we would climb tall buildings and see who would jump the farthest or race to out next objective. While fun, I didn’t play co-op until I had beat the game and I do not regret that decision at all. Co-op has become a staple of Saints Row 4 but it isn’t really a necessity. It honestly didn’t add nor take away from the game at all.

Saints Row used to be what we would call a GTA-clone. After Saints Row: The Third, it was almost impossible to say this. After Saints Row 4, you should be slapped in the mouth for making that type of comparison. Saints Row has embraced what a good video game can be, silly and over the top while keeping a serious and engaging story. The soundtrack (from what I heard of it) is absolutely great and the effects on all the weapon variations was totally cool. Bugs aside, Saints Row 4 is a great game and one that should probably be part of your collection… as long as they patch out the bugs and glitches.

XBox 360

Graphics

75
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

95

Creativity

100
 

Execution

75
 

Offset

95
    

9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • After 20 hours of play, there are still new things to try out
  • Super powers keep things fresh
  • Tons of different collectibles and challenges to fill your time

Cons:

  • Bugs, bugs everywhere
  • Aliens are a bit generic
  • Cars are fun, it kind of sucks that the become obsolete in the first hour of the game.

 

Aug 062013
 

1364224244-dragons-crown-logoSo Dragon’s Crown just hit stores today and you and your buddies are ready to team up and beat up all the enemies in the game! Well, you are going to have to wait for a little bit before that happens.

Before you get to play multiplayer, you have to clear all the dungeons in the game. There are 9 levels and the process will take about 3 to 5 hours to complete.

The reasoning behind this is that once multiplayer starts, you will fly through levels incredibly fast. Without spoilers, the last boss fights are single player and recruiting other players’ AI records is very important to your success in that battle. The multiplayer aspect will help your character grow very quickly and prepare for the final showdown.

Happy adventuring!

Jul 312013
 

I spent more time in front of my PS3 and on my Vita than I have since The Last of Us came out. For some reason, I just can’t seem to find much on the console that I want to play. Well, Atlus sent us both versions of the fantasy beat-em-up, Dragon’s Crown, and things soon changed. We got a chance to take both versions out for a spin and the result was an entire weekend of an awesome game.

Dragon's Crown Screenshots (50)Dragon’s Crown for the most part functions like a classic beat-em-up title with strong RPG elements thrown in. Off the top of my head it reminds me of a super beefed up version of the classic arcade game, Knights of the Round. You end up choosing your character, battling your way through dungeons, forests and other fantasy themed environments, picking up treasure and finding all the secret rooms you can. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well this is only the tip of the iceberg on this one.

You start things out by picking which one of the 6 characters you want to use. Each character has their own strengths and play styles, so I would absolutely recommend making one of each character in the long run. I started off with the Amazon but worked my way through the first storyline with the other characters as well. The game feels much different as you play different characters and I found myself experimenting with what they could do often. Here they are:

amazonAmazon: She is big, burly and doesn’t have a ton of clothes. Her power lies in taking huge risks in combat, with stat boosts for having low heath or staying in combat for extended periods of time. Her power move causes her to lose her axe, but when she does she gains a much faster brawler style attack. Her moves all link together and she handles a lot like a fighting game character, in fact she even has flying kick move. She is ultimately what you would consider a beserker.

elfElf: She is quick and nimble. In my opinion she is one of the most varied characters with the entire game because she has melee attacks, ranged attacks and even very light magic. Her arrows do very heavy focused damage to her targets but she only starts out with 10 arrows at a time. They are easy to find, but her strength lies in avoiding direct combat as much as possible. If things get hairy, she can use weak magic to do a little extra damage alongside her kicks.

fighterFighter: He handles pretty much exactly the way that the characters from the old beat-em-up games in the arcades used to handle. He has strong defense and a solid offense, with plenty of special moves that compliment his play style wonderfully. His special attack also causes him to slam his weapon into the ground, leaving his offense crippled until he can pick it back up. He is probably the easiest character to get yourself started with just based off of his flexibility and ability to take a considerable amount of punishment.

dwarfDwarf: This guy pretty much shares the Fighter’s stats, although he is slower and much more susceptible to magic based attacks. Ironically, he is the most durable character in the game and has a few attacks that allow you to hit multiple enemies at the same time. The dwarf’s special feature is that he can pick up enemies and hurl them around the screen or he can also pick up objects like boulders to use against bosses. He along with the fighter are the 2 easiest characters to play.

wizardWizard: The strongest magic user in the game. He can equip multiple spells and use them in conjunction with one another to create massive and deadly combos in combat. He is a “glass cannon” so to speak so he doesn’t take physical or even magic damage the well at all. However with his large catalog of high level magic at his disposal, it isn’t unreasonable to expect to be able to kill enemies before they really get close enough to mess you up. I found he is most susceptible to enemies with crossbows.

sorceressaSorceress: If you have been following any of the game’s coverage, you already know who she is. The Sorceress is extremely busty magic user that offers all sorts of different types of spells to take out enemies and assist the team. She can hold her own quite easily but she also has spells that can protect her party and even create healing items for her to use. I tried to make it a habit of keeping her around because her assist magic can be the difference in the harder difficulties.

There is another character that you kind of get to control, Rannie the Thief. Rannie is able to pick locks that you will find within the game and open the treasure chests that will award you with the sweet loot that will allow your character to become stronger from one level to the next. If you stay on a screen long enough, Rannie will also make sure that he picks up any treasure that you may have left lying around. You control him by clicking on the chest or door that you would like unlocked and then you have to protect him while he does his work. You can click by touching the display on the Vita or using the right thumbstick on the PS3. This can also be used to select magic runes or find hidden treasures as well.

dragons-crown-vita-1One of my favorite things about Dragon’s Crown was the fact that every level has its own “gimmick”. There will be some sort of secret passage or special method of transportation to uncover, which really helps break to monotony of holding right and killing everything that appears on the screen. On top of that, many quests that you can receive from the Adventurers Guild will require you to keep a keen eye open so you can complete the sometimes awkward requests for your quests.

I really loved the audio and visual presentation of Dragon’s Crown. The art and characters all appear to be straight out of paintings and quite frankly blend together very well. Even large enemies fit into the scene quite amazingly and don’t look goofy or pixelated as they do in some other games. The game’s soundtrack is impressive as well, sounding like it came out of a Peter Jackson movie. There were never any situations where I heard a song and thought “this seems out of place” and the sound effects really match their actions well. They did a great job with the presentation of the game and there isn’t any slow down on the PS3 version of the game. Now on the Vita, I do have to admit that the game seemed to hang a little when a bunch of stuff was going on at one time.

Dragon's Crown Screenshots (47)When I realized that there are only 9 levels within the game, I was concerned. I didn’t know how many times I’d be able to run through the same experiences over and over. Fortunately there are B routes within each level that will allow you to take a much more difficult and different paths. These levels unlock after a certain point in the game and will shake things up a bit because quests will still ask that you visit both routes. The game will also scale from normal to hard to insanity as you complete the game, however you are awarded with a little more story progression each time. You also get a few more places to visit that will continue to keep things fresh, including a super dungeon and a coliseum. I don’t know I why I was surprised by it but each character actually has their own personal resolution story at the end of the game.

My biggest and immediate complaint within the game was how I kept hearing about multiplayer but wasn’t able to find it within the game. After a certain point in the story, this will unlock and allow you to jump right in to other players games all over the world. A really cool feature with this is that you can actually recover the bones of players you have played alongside, allowing you to have them as AI controlled party members to fight with you when you are playing single-player or during the last boss. The game will also generate generic heroes as well that you can resurrect, I think I kept a fairly large roster available at all times. In order to stop you from meeting some very strong characters and using their summoned counterparts to cry through the game, character durability will drop and once their items break they will become pretty useless overall. So save the strong people for extreme measures.

Dragon's Crown Screenshots (26)The skill tree system is also pretty cool. It allows you to flesh each character out to your own choosing. When I played the Amazon, I didn’t really invest in her special skill based abilities and put more into her direct combat abilities. Skill points are earned by leveling up or by completing quests in the Adventurers Guild. This system worked really well and gave me a great reason to continually go back and complete the quests there.

Unfortunately, Dragon’s Crown is not a CrossBuy or CrossPlay game. This seemed surprising, since the game is exactly the same in both versions. HOWEVER the game supports a CrossPlay feature that allows you to upload a save on one version and download it on the other, effectively allowing you to still pick up where you let off. This is pretty cool but it is important to note that each version of the game is its own separate version. This means they each have their own list of trophies, so if you’d like, you can really game the system on it. With the PS3 version running $49.99 and the Vita version going for $39.99, it costs slightly more that an typical game to get both versions. Trophy hunters, keep this in mind.

Dragon's Crown Screenshots (49)I ended up with about 30 hours sunk into the game at my last check. I made it to insanity with the Amazon and had rushed through the main story with almost all the other characters. What I have learned is, if you want to complete everything 100% you could easily spend upwards of 200 hours into Dragon’s Crown. To me, that is a fairly big deal because I am a sucker for replayability. The repetition would be horribly stale if not for the multiplayer and the ability to create new characters but I did find myself coming back to the game time and time again. If you like this type of game, you’d be crazy to not check this one out. It could be the best game of it’s genre since Castle Crashers, while rivaling that in quality as well.

Playstation 3

Graphics

100
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

85

Creativity

100
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

95
    

9.5

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Playstation Vita

Graphics

80
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

85

Creativity

100
 

Execution

75
 

Offset

85
    

8.8

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

 

Jul 302013
 

Hotline Miami Logo SmallMy character is in the police station. There has to be at least 30 to 45 cops between the man that put a bullet in my nameless character’s face and took something much more dear away from him. I rush into the police station, knocking out the nearest cop and sending his baton flying away from him. The other police see this and rush to his aid, all brandishing their nightsticks. I rush into the room I entered from, they can’t flank me there and I can mow them down. I dispatch each of them and knock over the officer that had gotten the door treatment earlier. This time I slam his head repeatedly into the tile floor until he’s dead. I rush though the rest of the floor, the nightstick is faster than guns and far less noisy. One final cop catches me off guard as I am hunting him down, I throw the nightstick and knock him against the wall. I end him with a swift boot to the head and hop into the elevator to the next floor. 3 minutes later, I’ve killed the killer and apparently a majority of Miami’s police force. Overall, it took me about 5 minutes to create this carnage. My best time was a little over 4 and 1/2 minutes. I took to long on the first floor.

HLM PS Screen 1That is what you can expect from Hotline Miami, Gaming Irresponsibly’s 2012 Game of the Year. But why are we taking a second look at a game we have already reviewed so highly? Well it turns out the the game has come out on the PS3 and Vita and features a few new toys to boot. Now we originally reviewed the PC game just after launch, it was rough and glitchy. That hurt the score quite a bit. However, patches and gamepad all sorts of bugfixes have happened now so let’s jump back in to Hotline Miami!

Soundtrack:

Hotline Miami’s soundtrack is completely intact in both versions of the game. In fact I’d swear they did some balancing to a few of the songs because the PC version was rough! There was improvement here.

HLM PS Screen 2Graphics:

The original rating we had for Hotline Miami on PC criticized a few graphical glitches that kept happening. The game ran smoother than ever on the PS3 and Vita versions. The Vita version actually seemed a bit smoother but may have been due to the better camera controls. Revisiting the PC version, the PS3 is spot on with it. Edge to the Vita here.

Gameplay:

So, what if anything is different in this go around? Russell, for starters. A brand new mask is available from the massive collection of the first game. Russell adds a MadWorld-esque monochrome aspect to the game where only blood is the only thing of color to show up. It’s bad ass. On the Vita, there is a touch-based lock-on feature. This makes the game much more quicker and allows you to move from room to room with pinpoint accuracy. The controls on the PS3 seem a little harder to get the hang of than there were on the PC. I put massive amounts of time into that though trying to figure out the right strategies to get through levels. Practice probably makes perfect there. There are also leaderboards now that can tell you how your times stack up against those of your friends and the rest of the world. I’ve seem some crazy ones already with really dumb masks, it certainly adds a much more competitive element to an already great game.

So here is the deal, Hotline Miami is CrossBuy, so that means if you buy one game you get both. There is literally no imaginable reason why you shouldn’t do this, however take a look at our original review as well because the great things from there still stand true in both versions of the game.

Playstation 3

Graphics

80
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

80

Creativity

100
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

90
    

8.8

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Playstation Vita

Graphics

85
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

80
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

90
    

8.9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Jul 162013
 

221631_10153009191945436_221745290_nAs a newcomer to the Shin Megami Tensei core universe, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with Shin Megami Tensei IV. I’ve heard the comparisons to the core series being more or less demonic Pokemon with a story the is determined by your alignment to Chaos and Order. Honestly, that is a pretty fair description but it doesn’t shed light on how the series as a whole features some of the stronger storylines in the RPG world.

image 1You first meet your main character in a dream/nightmare (where I chose the default name, Flynn) and quickly thereafter meet 2 entities that introduce themselves as Walter and Jonathan. I am then introduced to Eastern Mikado, the country that Flynn lives in and the massive social divide that exists there. ‘Luxurors’ are the noble class and are wealthy and influential while the ‘Casualries’ are the lower class laborers and downtrodden. This social divide is extremely prevalent and there is a distinct animosity between the two classes. It seems that the only way a Casualry can move into a Luxuror class is by being selected as a Samurai, a defender of Mikado.

image 3After going through the Gauntlet Rite, a ceremony where 18 year olds put on a digital gauntlet (which seems odd) and are selected by Samurai if it activates. Flynn is selected and is soon greeted by his fellow Samurai class members: Jonathan, Walter, Isabeau and Navarre. It is here that you quickly learn that Jonathan, as a Luxuror, easily represents Order, as he is kind yet believes that everything has a purpose. Walter on the other hand was a Casualry and is much more emotional and brash, yet kind and willing to do what he can for his friends. Isabeau is definitely neutral and offers assistance as needed but mostly stays out of any squabbles over class or rank, as she primarily wants to become a good Samurai. Navarre is a dick, no one likes him.

Smt4_burroughsWhile running a series of errands and typical RPG fetch-quests, you are introduced to Burroughs. Burroughs may actually be one of the most enjoyable characters in the game. Thing is, she isn’t actually a character, she is the dynamic AI within Flynn’s computer gauntlet. She is clever and quirky and actually is a little humorous when it comes to certain quest commentaries. Perhaps it is because you spend a significant time with Burroughs, but I really did find myself enjoying interacting with her far more that talking with Jonathan, Walter or Isabeau. I won’t go as far as saying that they are poorly written characters but with the speed at which the story moves, there isn’t a massive amount of time to spend learning more about their own personal motivations.

As you complete the quests, you should be building your army of demon servants slowly but surely. You do this by negotiating with them while in combat. The process itself escalates about as quickly as an interrogation in LA NOIRE but incorporates a bit of psychological combat into the game as well. Failing to recruit the demon during negotiation can result with the demon becoming enraged and becoming even tougher to kill in combat. Demons that are recruited can be fused with others to make interesting and new demonic party members with awesome new abilities that fit within the rock, paper, scissors traditional combat mechanic.

image 4After meeting a few mysterious characters, the Black Samurai and Stephen Hawking, Flynn ends up pursuing an enemy into the land of the “Unclean Ones” which turns out to be post-apocalyptic Tokyo. It is clearly obvious at this point that everything you’ve known up until this point is definitely not as it seems. From this point, Flynn will make choices that send him down the paths of Order and Chaos and ultimately decide the direction the story will go. I did discover that you can offset one decision by completing tasks that represent the other path, resulting in a neutral (and awesome) outcome.

image 3 (2)A majority of the story is told through still images the change out in typical JRPG fashion, which is ok and most cutscenes are done in a motion comic style. Even without true full motion video, the cutscenes look great and the character art is hand drawn and looks fantastic. When you are in a dungeon or other areas, you directly control Flynn and are able to initiate combat by striking demons with your weapon. While almost every dungeon is very corridor-like and slightly bland, they are still put together very well and there are usually multiple options to getting to the goal of the dungeon. I like to jump down all the holes.

Combat is turn based and is pretty much portrait vs portrait where you select your attacks and let the combat go at it. Getting a critical hit or hitting an enemy with a weakness can result in a character getting an extra attack in combat. This strategy is very important if you want to be successful as this will be the way you can dish out mountains of damage in a single combat round.

If you see this screen, you will truly know rage…

While a very good game, there was a single issue that made me walk away from the game over a handful of times. Shin Megami Tensei IV is not an easy game by any stretch of the word. When you die, you are greeted with a very slow cutscene that results in Charon (the ferryman of the River Styx) offering to take a bribe of play coins or Macca to allow Flynn to return to the land of the living. As the game is difficult, you will see this scene often and the fact that this scene is absolutely unskippable has had me put down the 3DS and do something else if my team falls in combat. It is absolutely aggravating and it really shouldn’t be.

Ultimately, Shin Megami Tensei was a return to the hardcore RPG for me and really did offer enough sidequests and ‘collectable’ demons. The story was rather intriguing but also a little predictable and the characters themselves really didn’t have much backstory yet I did find myself drawn to them. If you are a hardcore RPG fan and haven’t been able to scratch that itch for a while, Shin Megami Tensei IV is a game worth picking up.

By the way, did I mention that the game has 4 endings? Yeah, good times!

3DS

Graphics

80
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

90
 

Execution

85
 

Offset

90
    

8.9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • The game is certainly hard to put down and a dream for completionists
  • Lots of strategy and customization
  • Quests are great, if only for Burroughs’ silly commentary. Also her habit of making something like “going to sleep” a quest.

Cons:

  • Don’t die. There is like 3 minutes of straight bull to deal with if you do.
  • Newcomers to the frachise could find the difficulty and pacing of the early part of the game discouraging.
  • I’m pretty sure recruitment is 100% based off of chance
A copy of Shin Megami Tensei IV was provided to us by Atlus for review purposes.
Jul 092013
 

image

Interwave Studios, the team behind the popular game Nuclear Dawn, have been busy in their free time. Their next project, Dark Matter, is now in a working build and they are doing all they can to draw attention to it through channels like Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter. After getting our hands on the working build of the game, we decided we should throw our hat in the ring and make sure you know a little bit about Dark Matter as well. They are looking at raising £50,000 to move production forward, it would pretty much be criminal for it to not be able to do so. That is because Dark Matter feels like a fusion of the atmosphere of Super Metroid mixed with the game play of Shadow Complex, or maybe more along the lines of those really cool Aliens games for the SEGA back in the day. That is to say that Dark Matter is actually an action/adventure title worth enough to be compared to these great titles.

image

Long story short, you play as the nameless survivor of a space station the has been attacked by aliens while you were in cryosleep. You are awoken by the ship AI and informed that an alien infestation has killed off the ship crew and that you are the AI’s only hope to make it off of the now doomed station. Immediately after getting the necessary tools to navigate and defend yourself, you learn that light effects the alien swarm if different ways. Sometimes, light will drive them into a rage and make them harder to kill whereas some other areas of infestation actually become much more dangerous when exposed to light. This is a very interesting concept because in order to survive, your mind is equally as important of a weapon as the actual killing tools you find on the ship.

image

While playing the game, there really didn’t seem to be too many collectibles around for me to discover, but with that being said, I could have been missing some. Scattered all around the station are diary entries that allow you to get a glimpse into what exactly happened while you were in cryosleep. These stories manly detail how quick the infestation took over but also drop hints as to where extra items can be found. I oftentimes found myself trying to venture off the beaten path to find out more info on what is going on.

image

Things get progressively more complex as you find that you need to make sure you are crafting enough ammo for the right weapons while also making sure that you are using your light correctly. Most aliens also hit you like a ton of bricks, so making sure you have enough medkits at all times is also very important. When it came down to it, the higher difficulty really does make this a much better game.

image

The big thing is, Dark Matter in its current state does still feel incredibly unfinished. The whole goal of the Kickstarter campaign is to actually get more funds to put into a much more polished release. The game is by no means broken, but in truth it has a lot of room to become far better. The controls seem moderately over complex for a gamepad and keyboard seems to currently be the way to go. I am not the biggest supporter of Kickstarter in general but it seems like a huge waste to leave a game that has so much positive potential in such an unfinished state.

If you have been looking for a game that captures the essence of survival-horror or just a pretty fun action-adventure title, Dark Matter really is what the doctor ordered. Make sure you fill the prescription though by dropping a few bucks on their Kickstarter because the more work they get into it, the closer it’ll be to the greatness of the games that have obviously inspired it.

Jul 032013
 

Saints_Row_IV_logoRecently, a preview build for Saints Row 4 showed up in our inbox. We didn’t know what to expect, would it be everything we have experienced so far? How finished would this build be? Would I finally get a crack at the super powers? Turns out, it was the beginning of the whole freaking game. So with that being said, THERE ARE ABOUT TO BE SPOILERS ALL UP IN HERE!

SERIOUSLY. IF YOU DO NOT WANT THE BEGINNING OF THE GAME TO BE SPOILED, SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PREVIEW.

wh_hallway_battleSo, the story kicks off with an obvious nod to Conan the Barbarian, while the narrator explains how the Saints have grown in power and notoriety to a point where they are not so much a gang but now a global entity with their roots firmly planted in the good ol’ US of A. As Steelport is now completely under Saints command, the gang has moved on to bigger and better things, black ops. The story starts out with Pierce, Shaundi and yourself dealing with a terrorist threat. After a nuke is launched, you jump on to the rocket and proceed to manually disarm it while the gang says their goodbyes via intercom and Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” blasts in the background. You finish disarming the bomb, jump off and fall back to earth, breaking through the White House’s roof and landing in the President’s chair. Queue the character creation menu.

Instantly, I noticed that a majority of popular character customization options were instantly available when creating my character. I ended up rolling with the default build but when I saw the personality options, the last one just blew me away. You can play the game as Nolan North. Not just as him voicing the leader of the Saints but as Nolan North the voice actor. Interestingly enough, the normal voice acting is so good that it almost requires a Nolan North playthrough and a normal playthrough.

So, after an entertaining intro as the new President of the United States, the White House is attacked by aliens. One by one your cabinet are abducted and you get to try to hold of the alien invasion with the brand new defense system. It doesn’t go all as planned and you too end up abducted and put into the Matrix Zin virtual reality.

wh_shaundiYou eventually will find yourself within a virtual Steelport that has every reference to the Saints removed. After a bit of playing the game with the classic style of stealing cars, you are thrust into a boss fight that upon completion allows you to earn two super powers. From this point, the game absolutely opens up and becomes so much more awesome. Super speed allows you to run through the streets faster that any vehicle could, while knocking any obstacles out-of-the-way. Super jump allows you to leap city blocks within a single bound. Once these abilities are unlocked, brand new collectibles become available and a whole new way to fight enemies come into play. The abilities can be upgraded as well, allowing you to do things like run up walls or glide after jumping.

I seriously spent about five or six hours just exploring Steelport with my new toys. After this, I went back to the main quests and was introduced to new optional objectives I was allowed to take part in. Climbing massive alien towers, killing of glitches within the system and also good ol’ rampage modes where I have to cause mayhem and destruction within a set time limit. With special new toys to make that happen, they were an absolute highlight of the  preview. I also scoped out the costume shop and while there saw a few costumes that parody very popular themes like Star Wars, The Watchmen and even Doctor Who. At the end of the demo, I escaped the simulation and escaped via a StarFox-like escape sequence (that didn’t neglect to reference its source material a handful of times). Upon escaping, I was notified that my preview experience had ended, which was a major bummer.

SR4_SuperSprint01Upon wrapping up the demo, I am pretty sure I can consider myself a Saints Row 4 expert. So here are some cold hard facts from the preview: Although super powers are a big deal, the game will still have you resort to stealing vehicles and buying all sorts of guns. Those guns and weapons are absolutely awesome. There are a metric ton of collectibles within the game and there are good reasons to go out of your way to actually collect them. Leveling up abilities is done in a way that you can choose how to augment your character, allowing your experience within the game to be very flexible. I spent about 10-12 hours playing the preview, within that time I was only able to complete about 10% of the game itself, which means that if the counter is accurate, this will be a very long and enjoyable title (that is also what she said).

It needs to be put out there that Saints Row 4 is an absolutely silly game. It’s light-hearted and pokes fun at itself and pretty much everything else in pop culture as well. I couldn’t help but sit back and marvel at the enjoyment I had while playing the demo after dealing with The Last of Us. Saints Row 4 is on the opposite side of the spectrum and will constantly remind you of this non-stop. I would have to say that after playing the entire series, this is the first time that the Saints Row series has had an opportunity to come into its own and actually distance itself from being a “GTA clone”

I really can’t wit to take a crack at the real deal in August. Until then I may jump back into the preview and continue to jump-glide around Steelport and beat people and aliens to death with my massive tentacle club. Also, Keith David is freaking awesome.

 

 

Jun 182013
 

Plan on picking up Capcom’s Action/Adventure brawler Remember MeWell it appears that the website Frontburnr has teamed up with Toys R Us to offer an exclusive deal on the game and also the sharpshooter move accessory. It appears that the deal is set with a coupon, and $30 off on the sharpshooter or a $10 giftcard with the purchase of Remember Me is definitely worth taking a look at. It also appears that Frontburnr may actually be launching a new website that will have more exclusive offers soon.

frontburnr-newlogo-RETINA

Jun 032013
 

Growing up, I spent a lot of time playing city-building sim games a la Sim City. I had exited the genre well before Anno first surfaced. I briefly was pulled back into the fold of this genre when my wife wanted to play some of the social gaming on Facebook. It was horrible, I was pretty certain I wanted nothing more to do with any other online social city-building sim game. Then I was asked to preview Anno Online.

AO_smallVillageI found Anno Online to be quite interesting. While the game is definitely a beta, I was able to jump in for a little and start messing around with things when I had a little free time. As an online/slightly social(later on) game I found that the tutorial is very clean. I was easily able to get the hang of things quickly. There is a group chat, imagine Barrens Chat from WoW but actually helpful, that I used when something would happen that stumped me.

AO_Cider_PioneerThe thing that stood out to me the most about Anno Online was that this isn’t some Facebook style game that is powered by likes, shares and timeline spamming. This is a real game that has you actually fleshing out a rural township into a massively packed shipping town. Now, from my experience, mostly everything can be done on the free side. You work to collect the right type of resources to grow your town. This is actually pretty cool because when I played, I didn’t have immediate access to some of the materials I needed. Fortunately, I had some in-game currency to keep me moving. If I hadn’t, I could have still moved forward, it would just have taken some time.

AO_City_CenterAs you sped more time managing your town’s resources and population, it will grow and prosper. The look of the town will change and you will find yourself replacing dirt roads with stone ones. You will start building ships and be able to buy, sell and trade resources with other towns. All the while, you must manage the needs of your people and also the productivity of the workers on your island as well, since their success plays right into the growth of your small empire.

AO_CathedralIt seems that the entire Anno experience is simplified down and presented in a nifty, casual package that is great for those people out there who can’t invest tons of time into a game. The ability to quit at any time or just log in for a moment to manage something quickly is very nice. I liked that you could be rewarded with certain unlockables as you progress as well, allowing you to further customize your Anno Online avatar.

If you are reeling from the loss of the Sim City Social game and really like these city-building sim-type games. Anno Online is currently in open beta and is probably worth checking out. It’s actually way more of a game than Sim City Social ever was and probably way more enjoyable. We will return later to the game to give it a full review, but for now, be sure to check it out. You may actually have a fun time!

May 292013
 

I have a 5 year old son that is absolutely obsessed with the game Angry Birds. I played the original a little bit too but ultimately lost interest early on and moved on to bigger and better things. When I heard that CastleStorm was a lot like Angry Birds but with some actual semblance of gameplay, I figured it would be at least worth checking out. Zen Studios has been spot-on with their Zen Pinball series, I figure if someone can get the concept right, it should be them.

CastleStorm43CastleStorm starts off with a story that explains the history of war between the Kingship and the Barbarians. After much bloodshed, the Goddess of peace gave each side a crystal that granted eternal life and everyone went on to do their own thing. Sir Gareth, Protector of the Realm, does what he does best when the peace is shattered and takes to his Ballista to protect his castle, command his troops and cast devastating magic from atop the castle wall. That is actually a little different from the way the game was originally described to me. Sir Gareth can also take to the battlefield as well to help dispatch your enemies, incorporating actual hack n’ slash methods into the game too. The concept may not be 100% original but there are enough curve-balls that it isn’t really easy to tire from playing quickly.

CastleStorm18

Before I get into much of the game itself, there were a few things that really kind of irritated me. These types of games are supposed to be about knowing how to deal with specific situations using the items available to you. Unfortunately, in a handful of levels, there seems to be a bit of probability thrown into the game that makes you have to feel more lucky than strategist. My first run-in with this was in an early level where I had to capture the banner at the middle of the map. A bonus for the level was to never use the Ballista during the level, I had gotten quite good at using the troops so I figured it would be easy. Unfortunately, the pacing enemies at the middle had a bad habit every few attempts of immediately picking up the banner and heading back to their home base. No soldiers can catch them in time and unless I use my Ballista 30 seconds in, I failed the map. As a completionist, this got on my nerves quite a bit. Other than that, extended periods of play can wear on you a bit.

CastleStorm Heavenly SwordSo let’s talk gameplay. CastleStorm does it’s best to keep you on your toes. Oftentimes, the story will explain that Sir Gareth has to defend the castle on his own or there is some sort of stipulation to the level that makes you have to think a little more outside of the box. On top of that, each level also features a bonus goal. These goals can be simple, such as don’t let the enemies through the gates, or very difficult like kill 20 of the 28 enemies with head shots. I appreciate the amount of skill it actually takes to beat a level with a high-ranking while still meeting the bonus objective, in fact there are a few levels I still need to go back to to make sure I get 100% on. As I mentioned before, there are 4 types of ways to defend your castle. The Ballista allows you to shoot javelins and all other sorts of oddities that are effective against either the enemy troops of the enemy castle. The soldiers can be summoned to combat enemy troops and siege their castle if they make it across the map. The magic can assists in attacking enemies, buffing the troops or even bolstering defenses. Finally, Sir Gareth can be summoned o the battlefield where he will use his bow and arrows and sword and shield to hold off enemies. Gareth comes in handy when there are an access of enemies in one spot that need to be killed quickly.

While the story in the game is pretty much chock-full of tired cliches, the humor in the cutscenes are quite appreciated. There are quite a few nods to fantasy pop culture, such as a part where dire wolves attack and a Game of Thrones reference is thrown out immediately. If you get tired of story related missions, there are also side missions that will pop up that can allow you to hone your talents with different abilities as well. The campaign isn’t the longest though, and can be beaten in a solid session of play. That is a bummer, right? Good thing there is a decent multiplayer setup as well!CastleStorm Castle Editor 2

There are a few game types in multiplayer, versus, survival and hero survival. Versus is your traditional match, build your castle, kill your opponents troops and lay siege to their castle. Survival sounds like exactly what it is but also offers a unique co-op twist that has one player use the Ballista while the other commands troops. Yes, friendly fire is on. Finally, hero survival has you summon your hero and run to the middle of the map to battle it out in a last hero standing match. After a rather surprisingly short campaign, the multiplayer offered enough options to make me feel like this made up for it.

At 800 MSP, CastleStorm is a pretty cheap solution to a good time. While I had enough fun myself to warrant a purchase, it is definitely the type of game that you may want to check out the demo on before moving forward. For everything that CastleStorm does right (which is mostly everything), it still seems like they come up a little short. Hopefully they can throw some free DLC or challenge maps out there in the near future because my biggest complaint is that I just wanted more.

XBox 360

Graphics

80
 

Audio

80
 

Gameplay

70

Creativity

85
 

Execution

70
 

Offset

70
    

7.6

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

A copy of this game was provided for review purposes from Zen Studios.

 

May 212013
 

Our very first gaming headset review was the Turtle Beach DX11, and even at 2 years ago, it is still one of my favorite headsets. While we were at PAX East this year, we happened to see the new and improved lineup of Turtle Beach headsets, it was insanely loud but it was also easy to see that the headset quality persisted from the older generations. We were offered to have a unit sent for a a more intimate review, which leads us to the Turtle Beach Earforce PX51 headset.

PX51 is my third run-in with a true wireless headset and was easily able to go toe to toe with their primary competition, but we will talk about that later. I had to say that the overall design of the entire unit itself is very badass. The system has built-in bluetooth tech hooks up to my consoles very easily. I was also able to have it connect to my tablet with no issue at all. While I am no stranger to the Turtle Beach line, this headset reminded me why I enjoyed their products from the very beginning.

Screenshot_1Of all the headsets I have ever used, the PX51 is the most comfortable model I have ever used. As a person with a large noggin, many headsets fit snug on my head and can actually feel fight over a period of time. The PX51 was pillow-soft on my head and ears, yet there wasn’t a sacrifice of audio quality as some may expect. I used them in a few marathon sessions and didn’t have any issues with the weight or heat after extended use. The mic disconnects from the headset and is completely flexible, so it was very easy to find a sweet spot for voice communication.

A word to the wise, while using it, I had some horrible issues with feedback and noise while trying to play on Xbox Live. After taking some time to figure out where the issue lies, I began to give up hope and thought that there may be some sort of issue with the connection to the Xbox itself. As I was about to hang it up, I rechecked the actual mic connection again. The mic connects via a standard pin but actually clicks into the jack twice, which is a little surprising. I pushed it all the way in again and was informed that the noice had quit and actually sounded amazing after the fix. So heads up, users really need to make sure everything is completely plugged in or issues will show up.

I spent a majority of my time playing Dead Island: Riptide and also Metro: Last Light. These games feature very immersive audio experiences and my time with the PX51 made them all much more intense. The depth of audio was very impressive, and I was easily able to pinpoint the direction of enemies and audio signals. Even when the audio was in standard stereo, the Dolby Digital system worked as intended, making wearing the headset completely worthwhile. I had a few instances where there was a little static, which I have noticed before in a few other models of headsets but besides that I was completely satisfied with all levels of audio.

The PX51 offered an impressive charge as well, I played for about a complete day without having to plug the headset in to charge. Even when I was forced to, the USB cable that charges the headset  is long enough that I could comfortable sit down without having to sit next to my tv is I wanted to use the headset while charging. When I was using bluetooth, it seemed that the unit offered a little less life on the charge but it wasn’t anything that actually ended up handicapping the device.

Overall, I really dug the the blue on black look of the headset and I also liked the fact that the receiver actually holds the headset, so I didn’t have to look for it every time I put it down. Turtle Beach easily showed me that they not only still make amazing quality gaming peripherals, but they also are one of the premiere gaming audio companies still. It’s good to know that they easily can go toe-to-toe with ASTRO and Mad Catz for the king of audio. With a price point  of $269.99, the PX51 won’t be a solution for everyone. If you are looking for a high-end audio solution though, check there babies out!

We give the Turtle Beach PX51 Wireless Headset  4.5/5 Stars

TBPX51

 
 
Turtle Beach provided review content to us to us so we could review them for you cool folks!

 

May 132013
 

I am running through a mutant-spider infested metro tunnel. The only thing that is keeping these man sized arachnids at bay is my shotgun, which does little to no damage to them, and my flashlight. I find an unlit lantern on the ground and light it so I can get a moment to compose myself and charge my dead battery with a hand operated battery charger. The lantern illuminated the spiderweb filled tunnel and a giant spider that has been stalking me falls from the ceiling. I panic. I fire my shotgun at the overturned spider, spraying guts all over my gas mask but the buckshot also hits the lantern, causing it to explode. I’m left in the dark with a dead battery and an empty shotgun. I can hear the spiders and scorpions skittering along the ceiling and walls. I pull out my charger and desperately start priming it as the skittering noises are now directly over me.Metro_LL_TGS11_5

Metro: Last Light is freaking intense.

I’ve spent 14 hours in the post-apocalyptic of a war-ravaged Russia. I’ve dealt with communists and the Fourth Reich Nazis. I hunted bandits that preyed on refugees and became the hunted by deadly mutants. The world of Metro is equal parts beautiful and deadly, but the sum of both parts is how awesome this game is. I like to think that I spent my time with Metro: Last Light playing the game the way it was meant to be played. I finished the game with the Shadow Ranger achievement, meaning I killed no human beings unless being forced to. I also played the game with above optimal settings on my PC, the game is breathtaking to say the least.

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The surface is as breathtaking as it is deadly.

In Metro: Last Light you once again take the role of Artyom, the Ranger now known as the savior of the Metro. At the start of the game Khan shows up and informs Artyom that scouts have encountered a Dark One near the Botanical Gardens. This is concerning as Artyom believes they were wiped out in the missile strike that he orchestrated  and has felt guild over. While Khan believes that Artyom needs to reach out and contact the Dark One, his superiors would rather see a bullet in it’s head and give the order to Artyom himself to make sure it happens. From there, a wild ride that includes betrayal, duty and humanity takes off that will decide the fate of the Metro as we know it.

Numerous times, while playing the game, I needed to stop and admire the beauty of the environment around me. Be it above ground, in a ruined city, or underground, among the remains of the Metro system, there seems to always be something worth stopping to look at. The world seems to have a story to tell, every character, every room, every corpse and every piece of equipment seems to have it’s own background. Even though it is a first person shooter, your enemies are finite and each has their own story. After I was done playing, most had concussions as well.2013-05-10_00005

While the game boasted some of the best visuals that I have seen on my PC, I couldn’t help but find myself continually pulled into this world. While I strived to make sure Artyom did not take any lives, I also did my best to make sure any and all innocents were safe as well. While cruising along in my rail-car, I heard a cry for help from a woman that was about to be raped. I jumped out of the car and ran into a room to see the woman and her attackers, I snuck up behind them and dispatched them, but not fast enough before for a third man to spot my car and decide to see what his buddies were up to. The woman was inconsolable, so I had to leave her, but I made sure that this third man was at least unconscious before I left. I couldn’t help but hope that somewhere in the game’s code, she is programmed to run back to the safety of the rest of the refugees. Metro: Last Light elicits some seriously strong emotions. There is a massive betrayal that happens early in the game, when the time comes for revenge, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of guilt as well. Literally an “I’m sorry that it had to come to this” moment.2013-05-10_00003

Metro: Last Light is at it’s core a first person shooter with some pretty awesome optional stealth mechanics. While stealth may not be the way people want to play, you can also Call of Duty your way through the game and give any opposing people bullet sandwiches, but ammo and weapons are slightly limited so running around with weapons blazing isn’t going to do much more than let every person in the Metro know where you are. After spending a long period of time playing Last Light, I found myself quite aware of lights on in my house and ALMOST killed the lights in each room before I entered them. Doing so in Metro is quite beneficial. The game also features some of the coolest cinematic action sequences I have seen in video games. There is an escape from trouble that ends up rivaling the “Stand” moment in the Medal of Honor reboot. ‘Boss’ fights are nerve racking and absolutely make you feel nearly hopeless whenever you are thrown into a situation where the odds are not in your favor.

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Everything has a story. Did the bomb get this family? Mutants? Rats? Illness?

While a great game (go buy it, seriously), there are a few things that I ended up a little disappointed with. First off, every stealth kill/knockout it exactly the same. I don’t really understand why I have to punch every person in the face to knock them out, I can’t punch them in the back of the head, pistol whip or asphyxiate them? There are also a few moments that are ‘trial-by-error’ which if you have been reading reviews and stories around here, you know I dislike quite a bit. On top of that, while playing PC there were a few inexplicable moments where I had slow down. These moments didn’t happen to during moments where a ton was going on, and at least a few times during empty hallways. These were not gameplay breaking moments, but were slight inconveniences and the game ran phenomenally outside of those moments. The most aggravating thing in the game has to be the fact that I have to hit X to knock someone out but if my gun has any empty bullets, a reload takes priority over a stealth knockout. This lead to quite a few moments where I snuck up behind someone and proceeded alarm them by noisily reloading my weapon. I had to reload way too many times because of this.

Metro 2033 was considered a fantastic game by most standards but Metro: Last Light takes the base concept and ups the beauty, intensity, fear and fun. I enjoyed the hell out of my time playing the game and will absolutely find myself playing through the game multiple times to try to unlock all the other achievements in the game. Metro: Last Light easily features one of the best single player first person shooter campaigns within it’s genre. Are you looking for some chills and thrills? Check this one out.

PC Game

Graphics

100
 

Audio

80
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

90
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

80
    

8.7

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

EASTER EGGS

Apr 302013
 

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Call of Duty, Battlefield, Counter-Strike – these are all big names in the FPS market if you are a PC gamer. The thing is, these games are all cut from the same cloth. Military games, the person with the better weapon and more time spent grinding games, the better advantages you will probably have. I still play these games, yet I find it difficult to be engaged with all these interchangeable titles. Fortunately, I was thrown quite a curveball at PAX East and the experience evolved into one of the better FPS games I’ve had an opportunity to play!

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When I got my hands on ShootMania Storm, the most obvious thing I noticed was that the learning curve is relatively low right out of the gate. I had already started to grasp the basic ins and outs by the time that my first full game series ended. What did I walk away with? Well for starters, this is absolutely, positively NOT your cookie cutter FPS game. There are no weapons scattered all over the map, so there is no arms race. There are no real choke points or lopsided maps, your own skill will dictate your success. There isn’t any real ‘camping’ either. The game moves at a breakneck pace, standing around will get you killed faster that running into the tornado. Tornado? Yeah, we are about to talk about that.

ShootMania plays more like Laser Tag but still has a collection of weapons that you can use in the game. With that being said, weapons aren’t picked up. In fact, you get different weapons based on where you are standing. Different areas and platforms allow you to have different types of shots but as soon as you move from the area, you are back to the standard vanilla. In fact, the motto of ShootMania Storm should always be ‘location, location, location’ because once you really get the hang of it, you’ll find yourself always moving towards the best areas.

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On the topic of moving around, I spent a majority of my time actually playing the Royal game type. This game type takes King of the Hill and mixes it with a traditional Free for All style. The whole point of the match-type is to have players rush to the center of the map and activate the node at the center that causes a tornado to slowly close in on the playing field. If you touch the walls of the tornado, you are instantly out of the game. It’s quite fast paced, and honestly way more fun than I have had in most other FPS games.  There are also game modes like Melee, Team-Battle, Elite, Heroes and Joust. The cool thing is, ShootMania Storm has a little something for any type of player, including the competitive ones.

I play a lot of PC games in my free time, often games like League of Legends. The beauty I’ve found with ShootMania Storm is that there is little time commitment to have fun. You simply need to jump in, choose a game type and then get into a match. I’ve played by myself and with friends and to be honest it’s always quite fun.

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Unfortunately, there are still those people who will try to go out of their way to ruin other people’s experiences as well. While everything is extremely balanced for the most part, players can earn extra points for doing things like staying alive. While still pretty rare, I’ve been stuck in games with people who find it humorous to play down to 2 people and grind the clock down until they are forced to end the game. That isn’t fun at all but it seems that these issues are dealt with quickly, so many trolls will be out of your hair after their first offense.

Even in my free time, I find myself coming back to ShootMania Storm. I like to throw a game in between articles and reviews and love that I can do it without having to stress about it. If you are looking for a FPS game that is different, yet still very enjoyable, ShootMania Storm is exactly that game!

 

PC Game

Graphics

90
 

Audio

90
 

Gameplay

85

Creativity

95
 

Execution

85
 

Offset

90
    

8.9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Apr 262013
 

 

Fans of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue franchises now have something special to look forward to. Today, Arc System Works announced that they have officially launched their North American website today. The website will function as an information and social networking hub for Arc System Works’ operations in Northa America. Content from the site will be made available on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube and will allow visitors to browse Arc System Works’ upcoming catalog of products.

President of Arc System Works, Minoru Kidooka, said “We have a very passionate and vocal fan base in North America, so we wanted to give them a direct link to our organization that we’ve never had before.” He also stated, “Our hope is that gamers become part of the dialogue as we begin developing our latest titles with their input in mind.”

Wait, what?!

Hold on.

Let’s make some noise and get Arc System Works to look at doing a Guilty Gear vs. Blazblue. I need that in my life!

Apr 222013
 
dead-island-riptideI reviewed the original Dead Island almost two years ago. I thought it was a fun game, a few flaws held it back from absolute greatness, but ultimately a ton of fun. I had just purchased a PC version of the game when I heard the announcement about the spinoff/sequel Dead Island Riptide. I had reasonable hopes for the game, after all the first game was buggy but I am sure there was a lot to do in another game.

The Bad:

deadisland-riptide-all-all-screenshot-036-mines (1)I want to explain early that there are some glaring areas of improvement in Dead Island Riptide. The absolute worst issue I encountered is a glitch I was able to continually cause. Whenever I decapitated a limb or head from a zombie when they were in water, the game flows down to about .5 frame a second. It’s pretty bad because they game itself doesn’t actually slow down, this means that if you get the massive slowdown glitch, you are a sitting duck for the undead hordes for a few seconds. It isn’t a 100% sure thing when you kill zombies in the water, but when it happens, it is real bad. The other issue I really had was that there are oddly placed spawn points that seem to get stuck in a constant reset. In chapter 3 there was a spawn point for 3 infected that was pretty much on an infinite loop, if you killed them they would come right back. Needless to say, they made it incredibly difficult to get anything done in the immediate area. Finally, when you use the instant kill attack that can be used when you are above a zombie, you will sometimes miss and end up floating vulnerable for a few seconds. Other than that, I encountered a few audio glitches and enemies getting stuck in walls or underground. Outside of the water issue, nothing else was really infuriating. The interesting thing here was that texture issues from the first game have been completely remedied and the characters look a little better than they did in the first game.

The Good:

5d84ceb33b6f62686c7779cc3e5f4255I played this game alone and I played this game with friends, the game plays almost completely different in both situations. In single player, it feels more like a survival horror game than anything else. The music is intense, the zombies and enemies show up without any notice and fighting without a plan will lead to an easy death. I had my share of moments where I jumped when I would get a surprise boat visitor or a zombie grabbed me when I least expected it. I was able to notice the improved AI and difficulty more in this mode as I didn’t have anyone to watch my back. The fact that you encounter the different types of zombies much earlier means that you have to stay on your toes constantly, I got ambushed my butchers far too many horrific times.

When I played in co-op, we had tons of fun. Everything aside, we had some amazing moments where we would pull off amazing saves or killer combos when fighting enemies. The strategy in multiplayer made things way more enjoyable as well. Often times we would add mods to certain weapons to work well with each others gear. We did learn that thrown weapons like deo-bombs and molotovs do have a horrible habit of hitting teammates. In fact, I died a few handful of times to explosives that my friend had thrown. Laughs ensued.

I felt that the game was way more difficult, which was nice because Dead Island got way too easy once things got moving. The crafting seemed to take more work as well, I needed to actually seek out certain items that I didn’t immediately have access to. I really liked all the extra areas and special ‘named’ zombies that you can encounter as well as the many island residents that will always be around to ask for help.

The Verdict:

11ffb1d752ee7a0e5e08fe9d07d7f3b4Is Dead Island Riptide a perfect release? No, not at all, although I really wish it was? Is it better than the first game? Yeah, by all accounts I have to say it is. The story may be quite a bit more stale than the first game but the actual exploration in Riptide feels so much more worthwhile. The game provides a great looking backdrop to the carnage and the sense of despair and hopelessness almost is palpable while playing. Single player is a challenging experience that actually has a few scary opportunities while multiplayer is an amazing experience if you can get a few people together. When playing with more people, the game is all about teamwork and watching each other’s backs. It’s what a zombie game should be.

Is Dead Island Riptide the best zombie game ever? Mmmm, nah it probably isn’t. Is it the best multiplayer zombie game that is out for $50? Hell yeah it is. If I hadn’t been sent a review copy of this game, I would still purchase it. Ultimately, here are still some major issues that are in Dead Island Riptide, but the amount of enjoyment I have gotten out of the game itself far outweighs the cons.
XBox 360

Graphics

75
 

Audio

90
 

Gameplay

85

Creativity

85
 

Execution

65
 

Offset

85
    

8.1

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

 

Apr 152013
 

While at PAX East, we had an opportunity to get an in depth look at the game Watch Dogs. Yes, the hype train is correct, this game looks to be every bit of awesome that you have seen in previews, sneak peeks and trailers all over. What we saw at PAX, however, was an exclusive look at some of the mechanics within the game and also a little background on the games protagonist, Aiden Pearce.

We were ushered into a small theater, where we saw an introduction video from the team behind Watch_Dogs. They explained how the new system works, what ctOS is and why Aiden can use it to control most aspects of the city around him and also the ways in which you can get around the city. They also explained that players could use the internet and other internet enabled devices to access info and manipulate things in the game. While the presentation was great, the information we got was awesome as well.For all we knew about Watch Dogs, the ARG aspects are something almost completely new to me, although we knew there would be some sort of multiplayer experience that would be involved. Here are the things we know for sure:

  • Aiden Pearce has a checkered history, something from his past hurt his family or has put them in jeopardy. He isn’t playing that game, he isn’t afraid to kill.
  • The way that you handle situations in the game will reflect in other events and maybe even the ending.
  • Aiden Pearce has access to over 30 weapons, not counting his access to the ctOS. There are many different ways to deal with confrontation.
  • There are over 65 different vehicles in the game the Pearce can use. Each has it’s own physics and the studio behind the Driver series, Ubisoft Reflections, put the vehicular aspects all together.
  • This is real world Chicago, the streets and building will be familiar to those that know Chi-town. Building are more than just decorations as well, yes you can enter them .
  • Everything is real time, want to mess with traffic so you can use it to your advantage? Go on ahead!

The other major thing we saw was how everything works together. We saw Aiden track a potential crime victim and stop a crime that could have escalated into a murder. We also saw ctOS respond to the prediction of this crime and send the police out to try to intercept Aiden Pearce as well. In the demo, Aiden used his environment and ctOS hacks to escape the police without casualties. Gameplay itself understandably resembles Assassin’s Creed slightly, with a little free running thrown in.

It isn’t a stretch to consider Watch Dogs to be one of the most anticipated games of this year. With what we saw, it damn well should be.

 

 

 

 

Apr 022013
 

I’ll be 100% honest here, I hate Kickstarters for the most part. With the exception of a few situations, They’ve been filled with empty promises and smoke and mirrors. Now, with that being said, I have no problem backing a Kickstarter on a project I have personally seen, know it works and actually exists.

Stinkyboard, that foot controller that blew my mind at PAX East, is starting it’s Kickstarter today and if prior experience proves accurate, this is a wagon worth getting on. The Kickstarter rewards consist of a considerably cheaper purchase of the Stinky, a limited edition fire-red Stinky (OMG, WANT!) with 4 soft springs, and various Stinky merch. I believe in this, hopefully you will as well and shoot them a little love!

Mar 292013
 

Did you know that the RTS game series, Blitzkrieg, just had it’s 10 year anniversary? No? Well fortunately for you GOG.com is celebrating Blitzkrieg’s ten year anniversary by discounting Blitzkrieg Anthology and Blitzkrieg 2: Anthology 60% on GOG.com until March, 31st. But what is this? You are broke? You aren’t sure if you like this classic RTS series? Well these cool folks also let us give away 10 bundles to fans. What do you have to do? Follow the directions below and we will give them out Sunday afternoon. I know you all like free stuff, get cracking!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mar 272013
 

A week before PAX East, I received a quirky email detailing how a controller that could be used with only your feet would be at PAX East. I initially put it with the rest of the clutter in the ‘follow-up if I have time pile’ but then another email came through that said something to the extent of ‘Not a Prank! You Have to See to Believe!’. With such persistence, I figured I should at least humor these people and swing by to see this oddity. What I didn’t know was that the decision I just made would pretty much make my PAX.

Stinky-FootboardI swung by the Stinky Footpad team at our agreed upon time and immediately noticed that this really wasn’t just a tool for disabled gamers. This was an actual peripheral that had the ability to give a gamer an extra edge during games. You see, the Stinky Footpad is a board that has 4 mappable keys or macros on it that can also be set with various degrees of sensitivity by using different springs. Want to trigger a key? Step on that area of the footboard and you are cooking. This durable piece of metal and plastic was about to blow my mind.

I sat down to try to play Battlefield 3 with the footboard. I could still use my mouse and the keyboard, yet the controller gave me quick access to four additional keys without having to leave the WASD setup. The Stinky had sprint mapped to the top part of the board, crouch to the back part, knife to the left and dive to the right. The board effectively allowed me to access those 4 abilities without ever-changing the positioning of my fingers on the keyboard or mouse. Since crouch and sprint are toggles, I could also hold them while I did whatever else I needed to with either hand. While there was a bit of a learning curve to get used to actually using your feet while playing a game, I found myself getting the hang of it pretty quick.

317191-stinky-footboard-topAfter learning a little bit more about the Stinky, I discovered that it was built to take an absolute beating. I was shown a video where the team ran over the board with a truck and then was shown that board in person, the only damage it had was friction damage. It was also explained to me that the Stinky is resistant to spills, so if you were using it and happened to dump a drink on it, it is built to keep undesirable things like liquid out of the board. Two things definitely came to mind almost immediately, how come no one had thought of this yet and what other games could it help with?

I started theory-crafting in my head, mapping keys in League of Legends would be absolutely amazing! How about HAWKEN? Yeah, secondary fire, heal and dash would also be nice to have quick access to. How about productivity? I already have programs mapped, how freaking awesome would it be to open them with a simple press of my foot? The Stinky Footpad opened up a myriad of different opportunities. However, I was also told about a gentleman that had visited the Stinky team while at PAX. He had an issue with a hand and was easily able to use the Stinky while playing Team Fortress 2 and was “kicking ass” while doing it. That reminded me of how the Avenger Controller was built to make console games more accessible, the Stinky Footboard could easily be poised to do the same for PC.

After expressing my enthusiasm about the board, I was told that their people would be in touch with my people, but one thing was for certain. The Stinky Footboard absolutely knocked me off my feet. Kudos to the Stinky Team, you guys easily deserve the best tech at PAX! We can’t wait to take it out for review!GIRPG

 

Mar 272013
 

tomb_raider_13618309244950I was hardly a fan of the Tomb Raider franchise. I did play a majority of the series but I would consider ‘playing’ to be finding the highest point I can make the polygonal Lara Croft swan dive off of that would result in a painful death. The way I looked at it, the character was a play to get us 13 year-olds excited over a busty character. Game play was as stale as their character design, when Uncharted came out, the series was obsolete. Then GamersGate hooked us up with the new Tomb Raider for PC, I had high hopes but I didn’t expect the game to deliver like it did.tomb raider gp1

Let’s jump back to last June, I was sitting in a small private showing room at Square-Enix’s watching some of the first live-played footage of the upcoming Tomb Raider title. i was initially apathetic towards it, but by the end of the show I realized there was some serious potential there. By the end of E3 I realized that it was probably the best game I had the luck of seeing there. The longer I waited for the game to release, the more excited I was to play it.

Unlike prior Tomb Raider games, this Lara isn’t the over-the-top eye candy that seemingly ventures through caves and cliffs in nothing more than tank tops, booty shorts and pistols. This is a shipwrecked young archaeologist that is probably more afraid of her situation than anything else. While the characters in the game are blatant tropes, you can’t help but like most of them, and when a ‘twist’ takes place, there really isn’t any surprises. Yet, with that being said, I found myself pushing to get the story advanced, as I just wanted to see what Lara and the crew of the Endurance were going to have to go through next. The story is told masterfully and the amount of over the top visceral moments that Lara is thrust into will keep any veteran player on their toes.

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The game play itself has several very important bullet points that absolutely need to be mentioned. First off, the game plays like a Metroid game, with many things hidden away in plain sight and only accessible once you have unlocked a certain item or upgrade. Lara also ‘levels up’ in the game, survival points allow you to actually purchase or augment abilities to make Lara’s 1 v 1000 odds much better. Finally, exploration offers many different rewards throughout the game, from small collectibles to massive tombs that you can explore. It’s like they took the concept of what an action/adventure game should be and followed it to an exact T, something that everyone tried to take a creative direction with up until this point. The game seems to provide the exact right amount of content for the situation, without overdoing it or undercutting the experience.

Tomb_Raider1I can write tons of commentary on how the game plays and feels, or how the sound effects are absolutely stunning but when it is said and done Tomb Raider was one of the first games that actually upset me when I knew it was drawing to a close. Lara and I were on an adventure, we fought off crazed cultists and deadly animals. We climbed mountains and ventured through dark and dangerous caves. When I saw the message “You will not be able to fast travel to any other location on the map after this camp”, I was sad because I knew that it was all coming to an end. I cared way more for this Lara and this Tomb Raider than I ever had for any in the past. This isn’t only the best Tomb Raider ever, this very well may be the best action/adventure game ever. Move over Nathan Drake, Lara Croft has come back to show you a few things.

PC Game

Graphics

100
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

100

Creativity

100
 

Execution

100
 

Offset

100
    

10

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • This new Lara is much more human than the old, it was a treat to watch her become a survivor
  • Combat is great, do you hear me? Excellent even!
  • Fast travel and exploration make the game worth coming back to, even after you have beaten it.

This game was provided by the kick ass folks at GamersGate.com, don’t be a jerk and check them out!

Mar 222013
 

While at the Mad Catz Unleashed in Boston, we had the opportunity to speak with a VERY reliable source that said that Tropico 5 will be unveiled at Gamescom. If you are unfamiliar with the Tropico series, it is a construction/political sim that is a very tongue-in-check experience. While our source has asked to remain anonymous, the team at Project Frontburnr can corroborate this news.

Mar 132013
 

Castlevania is one of, if not the most, beloved franchises to me. When Lords of Shadow came out, I died a little inside, the game was hardly a title worthy of the Castlevania namesake. When Konami announced that they planned sequels to the reboot, I began to make funeral arrangements for the franchise as a whole. When I was at E3 last year, a PR rep excitedly showed me Mirror of Fate at the Konami booth. She told me that all the action of Castlevania would be available on the 3DS, but as I watched the character on-screen hack and slash his way through enemies I couldn’t help but feel that this wasn’t my Castlevania.

Interesting orbforward to nearly a year later, Konami sends my review copy over and I prepare to jump into the game. Names like Trevor Belmont, Simon Belmont, Sypha Belnades and Alucard start to pop up pretty damn quick, all these characters are major players in the original Castlevania timeline. Trevor and Simon relatively their retro counterparts, while Alucard didn’t really look that different at all. I needed to know more about these characters new roles within the new Castlevania universe.

As a continuation of the Lords of Darkness, the game quickly establishes that Trevor is the son of Gabriel and Simon the son of Trevor. It turns out that Trevor’s birth was hidden by the Order from Gabriel because they knew he was tainted goods. When Trevor is of age, they tell him about the truth of Dracula and he decides he needs to kill the tyrant to redeem the Belmont name. Ultimately, it doesn’t look like he is very successful because quite some time later Simon comes to the castle to exact his revenge.

Come hereI do have to say, off the bat I was impressed by the story of Mirror of Fate. It seems they wanted to find a way to create the Belmont v. Dracula rivalry without a crazy retcon involving alchemy and some other craziness. Quite simple, the Belmonts want to kill Dracula because he has destroyed their family. Trevor because of the shame it brings and Simon simply to avenge his family. The story itself progresses in cell-shaded animated cutscenes that are very well done. Although the majority of dialogue is not synced at all (hell, characters mouths don’t even move sometimes), scenes are delivered flawlessly and I looked forward to seeing how the story advanced.

The most important thing to note about Mirror of Fate is that while the combat feels a bit more like Lords of Shadow, everything is on a 2D plane and very quickly feels like another legendary Castlevania title. Yes, castle adventure is back and while it doesn’t feel like the size of Symphony of the Night’s castle, it certainly is a welcome addition. As you play through each of the 3 characters (Simon, Alucard and Trevor), you will unlock abilities and items that will allow you to access areas of the castle that hadn’t been accessible prior. So yeah, Metroidvania is back, even if it is slightly different.

image2012_1026_1341_0I had 2 complaints about the game, well actually 1 complaint and an observation. All movement controls are on the circle-pad. While this isn’t a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination, controls were certainly less precise that I would have preferred in many different situations. Unfortunately I fell to my death way more times than I would have liked due to an awkward press of the pad. The good news is that you get used to these quirks for the most part. The other issue is that the game is actually difficult. Truthfully, it’s not so much bad as it is a challenging learning curve. Taking a hit from an enemy has heavy consequences, unlike the prior games on the Nintendo DS, in fact it feels much more like Super Castlevania IV than anything else. If you expect to plow through enemies while taking the stray blow or two, you are going to have a bad time.

So you have classic Castlevania gameplay, a great story line and reboots of 3 of the series’ main characters… What more could you want? How about the best graphics I have seen on a 3DS game so far and an amazingly atmospheric soundtrack. While the audio isn’t up to par with some of the best Castlevania games, it is certainly far better than any other 3DS offering I have encountered so far. Graphically  nothing on the 3DS has even come close in quality, my only complaint is that the characters and traps are so small on the display.

Guilotine on the animated armourAfter playing through the entirety of Mirror of Fate, I ended up being a little upset. I played through Lords of Shadow grudgingly, simply because of the Castlevania name attached to it. After Mirror of Fate, I know that I am now going to get sucked into playing Lords of Shadow 2, because the story was so well delivered that I just HAVE TO see where the series goes next. If you were a Castlevania loyalist like me, you are in for a surprise, it turns out that this Castlevania game is one that is certainly worth playing. In fact it is likely the best 3DS game I have had the chance to play so far. With that being said, the ball is in your court Konami. Can you deliver on this level one more time?

3DS

Graphics

100
 

Audio

90
 

Gameplay

95

Creativity

90
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

95
    

9.2

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Great story
  • Castle adventure is back!!
  • The new Simon may actually be more bad ass than Classic Simon

Cons:

  • Circle pad can get annoying at times
  • The major twist is easily predictable
  • A little on the short side
Mar 062013
 

We’ve certainly given the Wii U and it’s launch lineup some time to sink in. While there hasn’t been a massive catalog of games available as of yet, we figure it is time to actually discuss the initial launch titles. One of the most intriguing titles had to be Ubisoft’s Scibblenauts Unlimited, the puzzle game that pits logic and your vocabulary against all sorts of crazy scenarios.

Scribblenauts-Unlimited-Wii-UThis was actually my first Scribblenauts title, so I obviously spent the first part of my adventure experimenting with what sort of oddities I could create. Adjectives made this much more interesting, allowing me to make my solutions to these puzzles much more… creative. I quickly discovered as well that many puzzles in the game could be solved with a dead baby, however we will talk about that later.

The Wii U version of the game boasted a multiplayer mode that was amusing and gave me the opportunity to create my own objects in the game (I made my own fully functional Metal Gear Rex) as well as share them with other players. Nintendo licensed characters were also able to be used, but mostly functioned in the same way that normal people did within the game. I ignored most of these special additional features and usually just added the adjectives “speedy, flying and invulnerable” to Maxwell so that I could progress through things much faster.

scribblenauts_unlimited_screen_1It seems that the part of Scribblenauts that make the game so magical is the fact that every puzzle offers a plethora of different solutions. Need something heavy to hold down a button? Try a heavy stone (or a dead baby). Need to the cannibal something that he likes to eat? There is always the good old human arm (or a dead baby). It seems that this mindset is incredible normal for Scribblenauts players, while initially solving puzzles with the most innocent and obvious answers, you will find yourself answering with more colorful and twisted answers. Scribblenauts Unlimited ultimately became a test to see how far I could push the envelope.

While things can be quite creative, I also quickly found out that as I advanced further in the game, I couldn’t shake the `been there’ done that` feeling that started to linger at about 75% completion. That was the issue, after getting so far in the game I really didn’t feel like there was a viable award for actually completing any puzzle. The story is simplistic at best and after the basic introduction, does not serve any purpose other than to provide the semi-comical cutscene on occasion.

On it’s best, Scribblenauts Unlimited is an entertaining play-as-you’d-like puzzle game and a childish and vanilla lesson in mediocrity on it’s worst. If the game had awarded players for actually answering questions in a creative matter, I think that I ultimately would have felt much more fulfilled. Instead, I was given the same pre-canned reaction no matter if I solved a puzzle with the large hadorn collider or a dead baby. I do recommend the game for Wii U owners as the game operates fully off of the Wii U Gamepad and will absolutely provide a weekend of entertainment but after that, most enjoyment will be had by playing the game in short bursts. If you are looking for a revolutionary game that justifies the purchase of a Wii U, this really won’t be it. Fortunately, it is still fun in the end.

WII U

Graphics

85
 

Audio

85
 

Gameplay

60

Creativity

90
 

Execution

70
 

Offset

70
    

7.7

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Puzzles and gameplay can be approached at any style of play
  • Hey, the game is pretty cute
  • Multiplayer and object creation inspired even more creativity

Cons:

  • Puzzles so simple that my 5-year-old son could solve most of the game on his own
  • No reward for creativity
  • Gameplay gets incredibly stale about 3/4 through.
Mar 052013
 

As I sit here writing this, 3 major releases sit on my desk; Tomb Raider, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate and SimCity. It’s been 15 years since the last truly good Tomb Raider, 10 years since the last true SimCity game and up until today, I refused to acknowledge the existence of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, making Order of Ecclesia the last Castlevania game back in 2008. That is 30 years of mediocrity and money milking since these series’ last awesome releases.

Tomb Raider RebornI feel the need to point this out because for all 3 of these titles, these are their second chances at relevancy. For example, you cannot convince me that Lords of Shadow was originally written as a Castlevania title. It was far more likely that it was a game that was modified to fit a reboot of the series. It was ok, but it was also far from the series I had come to love. Tomb Raider has had absolutely horrid releases ever since its first sequel and after several lukewarm sequels, the series was rendered irrelevant by the Uncharted series. SimCity? Well outside of Societies, the last SimCity release was SimCity 4, a solid game but also 10 years old. The introduction of the Sims franchise just seemed to make everyone forget about the Maxis title that made this all happen.

While working on reviews for these games, I feel the need to explain why you should be so excited for this release week. Last year at E3, I sat in a small private theatre and watched the first private gameplay demos for the new Tomb Raider. I walked out of that theatre absolutely amped for the reboot, I’ll talk more about it in my review. Castlevania was a little bit of a different experience. I sat at a table with PR for Konami, they asked me why I didn’t like the new Castlevania direction. I told them that the new God of War direction goes directly against what had made the series great since the day I first played the original on my NES. I was then shown gameplay video of the 3DS Mirror of Fate, I wasn’t sold, it still looked hack and slash. Finally, I waited in line to see the first videos and demos of SimCity, a series that I spent numerous hours playing during middle school and early high school. It looked great and seemed to embody everything that had made the original series run great. Well, guess what? Right, wrong and probably wrong.alucard

As I was downloading and installing Tomb Raider and SimCity, I played Castlevania. I had a really good time. SimCity was done first. I couldn’t play it though, there was a queue to enter the server so I could play single player. This was oddly reminiscent on Diablo 3 last year. Finally, this morning, I played the opening act of Tomb Raider and headed out of the house highly satisfied. I know that I need to keep SimCity up in the air as to where we stand, but 2 out of 3 isn’t bad.

This gives me hope for future series’ reboots. After the release of DMC last month, I am feeling quite confident for reboots in general. You should too, and the best way to say that you support these decisions and creative directions is by getting your hands on these worthwhile titles. We should have the reviews available for these titles throughout this week. Until then play hard and be sure to drop a comment or two once they hit. We love the feedback!