Jay Malone

Apr 032013
 

After a pretty heavy hitting March, a dry April has finally arrived. A dry spell might not be the worst thing however as I know I’m not the only one needing time to catch up on some of the releases in the past few months. That and I just want to keep playing more MLB The Show 2013, that combined with the start of baseball season only means more late nights that involve me cursing at my television. Despite the lack of heavy hitters in April, there are still a few titles that deserve your attention.

Defiance Box Art SmallDefiance
Release Date: April 2nd
Developer: Trion Worlds

Let’s be honest here, I don’t think anyone has any particularly “high” hopes regarding Defiance. It’s an MMO, it’s on a console, and it’s based on an upcoming SyFy television show. These three combinations make for what sounds like an awful experience. But I say forget your assumptions, Defiance introduces you to an alien infested San Francisco. Your character, which is entirely customizable, is enlisted by a man named Karl Van Bach as an “Ark Hunter.”

Ark Hunters scour the Bay Area looking for Alien technology. The invasion began when a major terraforming event took place on Earth. Once this happened, animal and plant life was destroyed and aliens began to take the Earth for their own. That led to a war between humans and aliens which further hurt the planet. Eventually, aliens and humans began to live together. Does it sound like a whole bunch of SyFy nonsense? Yes it does. Is it a whole bunch of SyFy nonsense that at least hold a little bit of promise? Yes it is.

Injustice_Gods_Among_Us_Cover_ArtInjustice: Gods Among Us
Release Date: April 16th
Developer: NetherRealm Studios

Ah, Injustice, I’m so indifferent to your existence. On one hand, I’ve never been a big fighting game guy and I didn’t enjoy Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe upon its release back when NetherRealm was still Midway. Then again, I loved the newest Mortal Kombat as NetherRealm simplified many of the characters combos which increased accessibility immensely. On top of that, they created one of, if not the best, single player story in a fighting game.

NetherRealm obviously hopes to recapture that magic in a bottle with Injustice and they seem to be heading in the right direction. The roster spans from the obvious Superman and Batman inclusions all the way to lesser known superheroes/villains such as Solomon Grundy. It’s going to be incredibly interesting to see what their writers do with this diverse array of characters that both DC and Nether have put together. Hopefully the accessibility of Mortal Kombat will enter Injustice and help make it one of those rare fighting games that I love.

deadisland-riptide-all-all-packshot-xbox360-esrbDead Island: Riptide
Release Date: April 23rd
Developer: Techland

With the recent release of The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, I began craving a good zombie survival game. Obviously Walking Dead was not going to be that experience, so I began turning my eyes to Riptide. Techland’s original Dead Island had its problems, there’s no arguing that, but it succeeded at what it set out to accomplish: Establish a zombie infested world and make it fun to tear through. Who do you voodoo?

Since Riptide’s originally unveiling, it’s been fairly clear that no drastic were coming to the original Dead Island formula. That has only been further lamented by the fact that there has been more talk about the game’s pre order bonuses as opposed to new features within the game. Don’t get me wrong, I remain fairly excited for Riptide, but I’m far from convinced that it will receive the same love that the original held so highly.

Star_Trek_Front_of_Box_-_XBoxStar Trek: The Video Game
Release Date: April 23rd
Developer: Digital Extremes

Oh hey, this game is finally coming out. It’s a tad odd that it isn’t releasing the same week as the new Star Trek: Into Darkness movie but hey, what do I know about marketing. The story for this upcoming Star Trek game will take place between JJ Abram’s 2009 Star Trek adventure and the aforementioned Into Darkness sequel. I may be speaking solely for myself but as much as I loved Star Trek (2009), I felt fairly fulfilled with the story and how it transitioned into the possible sequel.

As I’m sure many of you can guess, you will play as either Spock or Kirk in this co-op heavy third person shooter. I’m incredibly excited for the new movie, but I, like many others, remain very skeptical to the quality of this bridge between the two recent Star Trek movies. Hopefully it’s great, hopefully it gives us everything we wanted that the Star Trek MMO couldn’t achieve, hopefully, hopefully, hopefully. Time will tell, but Star Trek: The Video Game looks as bland as the entire month of April.

Other Releases:
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (April 2nd)
Painkiller Hell & Damnation (April 15th)
We Sing: UK Hits (April 19th)
Dragons Dogma: Dark Arisen (April 23rd)

Apr 012013
 

Despite what you may think of the sequel, we can all agree that Irrational struck pure gold in Bioshock upon its release back in August of 2007. The atmosphere and city of Rapture was unlike anything we’d seen in a video game before. This obviously set up some incredibly lofty expectations for Irrational’s next adventure, Bioshock Infinite. Those expectations only heightened once information begin to roll out and we realized that Rapture had been ditched for a new city, a city that existed high up in the air. Thankfully, Irrational and co-founder Ken Levine have become rather talented at taking expectations and exceeding them to a point that not even we perceived possible.

If you played Bioshock, you remember the intro. The plane crash, the elevator ride down, the broken glass, the imagery, everything, and it was without a doubt one of the best intros in the history of gaming. Irrational took that “one of” part seriously and decided to smash that over their knee by creating an intro that is so effective at inserting you directly into  a new world, you can’t help but call it the best intro any video game has ever produced. From slight hidden nuggets to the skyscraper esque buildings surrounding the beautiful city of Columbia, this is an intro that will be absolutely impossible to forget.

Columbia, the actual city itself, meets all the same notes Rapture did. It’s a visually stimulating environment filled with different little touches that demand your exploration. I’ve never been one to wonder around a city aimlessly but I found myself doing that multiple times throughout Infinite. Then you begin to realize that the more you wander, the more you learn of Columbia, which just makes you want to learn even more. Turning the setting of a game into a character in and of itself is an insanely difficult thing to achieve, though that hasn’t stopped Irrational as they’ve managed to do that multiple time now.

Bioshock Infinite

A lot of the character found within Columbia comes from the gorgeous visual design of every aspect in the city. There’s a certain level of attention to detail found in the smallest things, like a simple newspaper laying on the sidewalk, that you just don’t see in other games. It’s a testament to just how hard the art team for Infinite wanted to bring this city to life, and they succeeded with flying colors. However, one of the few complaints regarding Infinite comes in the form of the frame rate. Frame rate tends to take a dip whenever things begin to get heated which can dull the experience slightly. But you ultimately begin to ignore it as the story continues forward.

As for the actual characters, both Elizabeth and Booker are nothing short of spectacular. A lot of hubbub was raised over the inclusion of Elizabeth, a character that would remain by your side for a large part of the game. The obvious scare was what if the whole game felt like one big escort mission? Irrational quickly lays that to bed once you realize just how helpful Elizabeth is within combat. Throughout your many heated encounters, Elizabeth will provide you with items ranging from ammo to health. Her helpful nature is so useful that the few times you don’t have her by your side, you miss her tremendously.

That goes without mentioning her actual personal characteristics, which rival her helpfulness in combat. She, along with your character Booker, are set up with some unsettling mystery surrounding their existence and what led them into the beautiful city of Columbia. As the story goes on, those mysteries begin to unravel and unlike most things in life, the answer to the mystery was actually better than the mystery itself. While Booker is a fine character, I feel it necessary to point out that the connection you establish with Elizabeth is something that few games have ever achieved. I’ll be shocked if she isn’t strong in the running for best character come December 2013.

Bioshock

The real cherry on top of Elizabeth and Booker’s characters is the voice work performed by Courtnee Draper and video game voice actor professional, Troy Baker. Baker has obviously been around the block a few times as he voiced characters in Brothers in Arms, Red Faction, Persona 4, and many others. His experience shines through as he does a raw but effective performance of the emotionally scarred Booker DeWitt. This is only Courtnee Draper’s second appearance, however, as before taking on Elizabeth, she appeared in Kingdom Hearts II. That being said, I think Draper has found her calling if she so chooses because she brings Elizabeth to life like not even I thought possible. Expressing emotion through reading into a microphone is a tough thing to do, Draper makes it seem impossibly easy.

Elizabeth and Booker would both be nothing without a tremendous overarching story and Bioshock Infinite has just that. While the original Bioshock had its fair amount of insanity, Infinite tops that by a mile at almost every story beat. The game begins and seems like a simple tyrannical dictator needs to be overthrown narrative but that story quickly evolves into a whole new beast. I suppose we shouldn’t expect any less than stunning material from the guys that brought us the previous two Bioshock’s but hot damn did they out do themselves this time around. Infinite also features an ending that manages to feel “right” but also leave you scratching your head for hours after the credits roll.

Bioshock Infinite Xbox360

The combat is where Bioshock Infinite very clearly becomes a Bioshock game. You have a special power in your left hand, this time called Vigors, and a wide variety of weapons to choose from that you may insert into your right hand. This go around you gain power to unleash your Vigors by collecting salts, something that you’ll quickly realize needs to be used wisely. Not because salts are a hard thing to collect but instead because you always seem to run out of power as the worst possible time. Gunplay remains mostly unchanged, the real variety comes in the form of transit rails that you’re able to grind upon thanks to an object that Booker intelligently places on his hand early on in the game. Though it’s a rather small change, grinding around a combat area adds even more life to some already exciting combat.

I think we all knew Bioshock Infinite would at least be a memorable experience upon its release. What we didn’t know was just how memorable it would be. There’s no aspect of Infinite that won’t have a lasting impression on me in some way. Irrational has managed to stun even me by releasing not only one of the best games this year, but one of the best games to be found on this generation of consoles. Remember back in 2005 when we were all dreaming of what next gen games could achieve? Bioshock Infinite is the game we’ve been dreaming about for all these years, and it has finally arrived.

XBox 360

Graphics

95
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

95

Creativity

100
 

Execution

100
 

Offset

95
    

9.8

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Mar 252013
 

Gears of War has become the poster child for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 ever since the original’s release way back in November of 2006. With this generation of consoles quickly winding down, it’s only fitting that Epic and Microsoft release one last Gears of War before focus shifts to whatever the next Xbox will be named. But still, even with that “fitting” nature, many people still wondered if Gears of War Judgment was necessary. But more importantly, with it now being a direct spin off from the previous games, would it acquire the same passion and care that the last three installments so eloquently flaunted?

The Locust invasion story has never been a particularly fascinating one in the Gears universe. It’s been the constant string tying all four installments together but the storytelling mostly relied on your care for the main four COG members: Marcus, Dom, Baird, and Cole. With the ending of Gears of War 3, it was abundantly clear that Marcus and Dom’s stories were over, meaning placing them in a subsequent sequel would feel forced and unnecessary. To avoid that, Epic and People Can Fly decided to delve into the previously untold backstory of Cole and Baird. It’s been alluded to that they were on trial before meeting up with Marcus and Dom but the actual ins and outs of that trial have never been elaborated upon. In Gears of War Judgment, all your questions regarding that trial are answered, although the answers may be much less interesting that you had once thought.

Judgment introduces two new characters that join Cole and Baird on their journey, Padduk and Sophia. These characters are given slight backstories but never anything that propels them up to what you already know about Cole and Baird. Despite some of People Can Fly’s efforts, Cole and Baird are the two characters you ultimately care about. I’ve always had a slight admiration for Baird, though I understand that isn’t the popular opinion regarding him. That being said, him and Cole are especially reserved this go around, never really exerting their standard “hoorah” bravado. The actual story is told almost exclusively in flashbacks from the four characters, with you taking control of that character each time they give their “testimony.” Sadly, the trial itself is incredibly uninteresting and never becomes anything more than a platform to propel the next gameplay section forward.

Gears of War Judgment

The Unreal Engine has been a staple of the Gears series for years, and it’s beginning to show. The same grimy nature of the enemies and busted buildings still exist. On top of all that, the color palate remains rather bleak, apart from some surprising use of the always allusive blue color near the end of the game. That doesn’t mean that there’s a complete lack of variety however as some of the more open areas flaunt some really nice scenic views. These shots are few and far in between but when they come up, it makes you want to stop moving and just examine this ravaged world.

One of the biggest question marks heading into Judgment was how in the world the developers could make this single player campaign engaging yet again. Epic managed to hold our attention for three straight games but at the end of Gears of War 3, I felt more than done with Gears of War’s single player. With development now shifting to the Polish studio, People Can Fly, odds were stacked against them in their hopes of making their first Gears campaign an interesting one.

But they’ve managed to overcome those odds mainly due to the addition of a “declassified” objective that is available before the start of every section. These declassified objectives can vary from forcing you to use certain weapons all the way to giving you a time limit that forces you to hurry through the current section. The time limit contrivance can be a bit annoying but every declassified objective manages to add an interesting layer that otherwise would not exist. Also thrown into the campaign are horde mode sections that force you to fend off two or three attacking waves of Locust. The additions People Can Fly installs into the single player work brilliantly in revitalizing what seemed to be a lifeless experience prior to release.

Gears of War Judgment Review

There are a few fundamental changes that Judgment inserts which were not in previous installments. For example, instead of using the d-pad for weapon changes, you now tap Y to alternate between your two weapons. It’s a tad frustrating at first due to the removal of one of your weapon slots, but you quickly learn to get used to the new Call of Duty esque weapon swapping. With this change, you now use LB to throw grenades, which led to me using grenades much more often than I previously did. Now instead of being forced to swap out of your weapon mid firefight, you can simply tap LB and let whatever modified grenade you have in your inventory fly. It’s a smart but subtle change that goes a long way in making the Gears experience more accessible and easy to handle.

The lifeblood of the Gears franchise has forever been its expansive multiplayer. I remember many of nights spent playing Gears 1 and 2’s online multiplayer until I could see sunlight creeping back through my window after long hours filled with Coca Cola and Cheese Puffs. That magic had worn off slightly when Gears 3 released but that didn’t mean the multiplayer was any less impressive. By far the most bewildering part of Judgment’s multiplayer is the lack of any kind of Horde mode. If you remember correctly, Horde was the wave based survival mode focused on upgrading turrets and barriers. It was a widely loved feature that somehow did not make it into Judgment.

Instead, we have received a mode simply called “Survival.” Survival is also wave based but instead of having fifty waves, it only has ten. Also instead of being able to upgrade barriers and such, you can simply repair them after the Horde does their damage. You begin Survival by choosing between four classes: Medic, Engineer, Soldier, and Scout. Each class has its own special ability such as the engineer can repair barriers whereas the soldier can throw out a grenade that refills your teammate’s ammo. Survival is an acceptable mode that provides a few thrills, but never anything on the level of Horde. Due to that, you’re left feeling immensely unsatisfied after each round comes to a conclusion.

gears of war

Not all the new modes are unsatisfying however as People Can Fly combined both the Beast mode from Gears 3 and the aforementioned Survival mode to form Overrun. Overrun involves two teams taking turns at attacking emergence holes that have been covered up by COG soldiers. As the horde, you’re choosing between multiple classes and pushing forward in hopes of breaking down enemy barriers and ultimately opening up room for an all-out rush on the E-Hole. Once you do destroy the cover on the E-Hole, the COG falls back to another area and the process begins anew. Once you destroy the covering yet again, the COG falls back to their generator which is the last line of defense. If you destroy that generator, that round is over and you transition to the COG side as you try to fight off the invading Horde. It may sound a bit tedious, and it does become a little tiresome after multiple hours of playtime, but it’s still a very fun mode to dive yourself into.

The head to head multiplayer feels mostly unchanged in the grand scheme of things. The biggest change is due to the new way you switch weapons, it forces you to only have one main weapon. Thankfully, you do get to choose what weapon you want before the match begins and there are still larger weapons strewn across the maps. But it seems as if everyone selects the Gnasher Shotgun as their one weapon, leading to a mostly shotgun dominated multiplayer experience. Possibly my biggest complaint regarding Judgment’s multiplayer is in regards to the lack of maps. There seems to be around four maps that are played on religiously, which gives me the bad feeling that if you want more variety, you better get ready to pay for some DLC.

I’ve never been a fan of Halo nor the Call of Duty franchises, but for some reason I’ve always had a love for Gears of War. That being said, I did not expect Judgment to be the tight little bow I had hoped would wrap up this beloved franchise. I, like many others, felt like Judgment was simply one last cash grab from Microsoft before the Xbox 360 ultimately rode off into the sunset. Thankfully, I was wrong. While Baird and Cole’s story isn’t the most interesting, the gameplay mechanics surrounding it make up for the dull storytelling and the multiplayer remains interesting, if not a little dumbed down from previous installments. Gears of War Judgment overachieves, which is something many did not expect, but it’s become clear that the series deserves to be put to rest.

Bulletstorm 2, anyone?

XBox 360

Graphics

80
 

Audio

85
 

Gameplay

80

Creativity

85
 

Execution

85
 

Offset

80
    

8.3

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Mar 212013
 

If you remember correctly, developer Giant Sparrow released their incredibly surreal and artistic adventure “The Unfinished Swan” way back in October, which also happened to be the first project they had created as a studio. Unfinished Swan was met with a pretty positive reception and due to that, Giant Sparrow quickly became a developer to watch as we all hope their next experience is just as obscure and original as their debut product. These hopes are starting to ramp up as the studios has officially announced their newest product, entitled “Unannounced Giant Sparrow Project.” Seems pretty catchy, huh? That obviously will not be the final name and little details are currently known regarding the product but the Giant Sparrow website does reveal a tiny bit in their announcement article:

“When you make games about evoking a sense of discovery and wonder the publicity part of it is a little tricky. If we don’t say anything then no one knows the game exists, but if we talk about it too much then no one is going to be surprised when they actually play it.”

edith_finch_mirror1

It continues… “That’s why for our next game we’re going to start talking about it early but in broad strokes. Our last game took us a little over 3 years to make so as you can imagine we’re still in a very early phase on this new one. We’re pretty excited about it though and wanted to share some of that enthusiasm along with a piece of concept art (see above).”

Okay, saying they revealed any kind of information is stretching the truth a bit. But on a side note, the name of the image file in the announcement article on their website is called “edith_finch_mirror1.” Edith Finch is an author from many years ago… A clue, perhaps? Joystiq reported that the name of the game will be Edith Finch, which would make sense, I suppose. We shall see in the coming months!

Mar 212013
 

As I’m sure many know, The Walking Dead has become quite the hit series these past few years. It all begin with the graphic novel that was beloved by many, and it then transitioned into an equally well received television show. A video game was obviously the next stepping stone in this sequence of events and Tell Tale took care of that last year as they released a point and click strategy game of the same name. This strategy game was one of the highlights of last year and even won my personal Game of the Year award. This all begs the question, why did Activision and AMC decide to release another Walking Dead game?

Even after playing through Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, I cannot answer that question. Its existence remains bewildering due to the lack of any kind of marketing push by Activision, which signifies even they do not show a great deal of confidence in this silent product. Thankfully, I can report that not all is terrible with Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, which is about as positive a statement as I can make. If you didn’t know, and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, you play as Daryl, the likable asshole from the show. The game was pitched as being a Merle and Daryl focused experience but Merle appears for hardly an hour before disappearing for nearly the rest of the game.

4143The_Walking_Dead_Survival_Instinct_screen_7

The choice of playing as Daryl seemed to be a good one to begin with but it became clear as the game trudged along that Daryl isn’t the most likable nor is he the most charismatic character. Sure, his character on the show is good, but it also relies heavily on influences from others around him. You spend most of Survival Instinct by your lonesome, which leads to Daryl whispering a whole lot of slightly offensive obscenities. It also doesn’t help that the voice work performed by Norman Reedus, a fine actor, is subpar at best. The cast around him is far below subpar however.as some border on unlistenable at times.

The story itself does nothing to rectify its middling characters as you march forward through environments, doing exactly what you expect in a stereotypical zombie game: Look for others, look for guns, look for vaccine, look for evacuation ideas, etc. My interest behind the story before playing the game relied solely on seeing the development behind the Merle and Daryl relationship, which as I previously stated, is nonexistence apart from one or two lines that reference how they lived before the outbreak. It’s a forced, convoluted story that never builds up any kind of momentum for its underwhelming ending.

Development on The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct has been quite the head scratcher ever since it was announced. Like I previously mentioned, there’s always been the “Why?” question floating around it but another questions leading up to its release is just how much time was given to develop The Walking Dead? A few months back, a “fan made” trailer for Survival Instinct was released and to put it kindly, the game looked like trash. The visuals are definitely better than what the trailer showed off but not by much. You could put these visuals against some Xbox 360 launch titles and hardly find any kind of difference between the two. The most frustrating aspect of the visuals is by far the constantly repeating environments. There seems to be around four different environments to search through, apart from the main story missions, and five or so set patterns for each room you enter. Lazy art design at its finest, there’s no excuse for the lack of visual variety in Survival Instinct. That all goes without mentioning the consistently bad frame rate and uninteresting art that does appear.

The Walking Dead Survival Instinct Review

If you know anything about the Walking Dead universe, you know that making a full guns blazing action/adventure game was not an option for developer Terminal Reality. Instead, they had to turn enemy interactions into mostly stealth based experiences, sneaking around corners, executing walkers, and doing your best to never fire off a weapon around a large herd. This is when one of the more hilarious issues comes up as you unveil the horror that is the melee combat. In games similar to The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, like Dead Island, you have a weapon and can control what part of the body to attack, which means you must develop a strategy for nearly each enemy. Walking Dead throws that idea out the window and decides your best course of action is to simply bang on the walker’s face until he caves over backwards into a limp death animation that is sure to garner a few giggles. The banging on the face consists of taking whatever melee weapon you have equipped (hammer, bat, knife, etc.) and tapping RT until the previously mentioned death animation rears its ugly head.

That isn’t to say the combat is all bad however as once you begin to stockpile some ammo, you realize using the firearms is much more enjoyable than using the standard knife. Blasting through a ton of walkers with pistol, all while trying to navigate your way to some more fuel for your vehicle, is a lot more enjoyable than simply sneaking around until you get caught and are then forced to partake in the melee combat. My biggest complaint with the firearms, though I’m not sure it is considered a “firearm,” would be the lack of Daryl’s crossbow. Sure, you get it eventually but for over half the game you remain crossbowless. Which only becomes more frustrating once you realize the crossbow is probably the most enjoyable weapon in the game.

The Walking Dead

Arguably the most interesting feature Survival Instinct possesses is the group mechanic idea, an idea that never feels fully fleshed out. The concept is simple, you rescue people while you’re scouring around desolate towns and then add them to your group. Before going out a mission, you choose if you want these survivors to go out and find more food, gas, ammo, or simply stay at the vehicle. In Survival Instinct, supplies are everything and that becomes apparent by how hard the game pushes you to constantly search around your environment. While searching, you find everything from fuel (obviously very useful for traveling, which is done by a simulated sequence usually used to propel the narrative) to ammo or newer melee weapons if you become so lucky. The search for newer and better items is a lustful one but it is also one that has been done much more successfully in Dead Island and Zombie U.

I know this will surprise very few but The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is not a good game. It obviously had a very low production budget and was green lit simply to rake in some easy cash for Activision. That likely assumption is a bummer for developer Terminal Reality as I truly believe with more time and money, they could have made a fine Walking Dead experience. Instead, Terminal did their best with what they had, they produced a poor man’s Dead Island. A poor man’s Dead Island is a hard product to recommend but if you need your zombie fix and can’t wait until Dead Island: Riptide, I have a mediocre product for you.

XBox 360

Graphics

40
 

Audio

50
 

Gameplay

55

Creativity

35
 

Execution

50
 

Offset

50
    

4.7

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Mar 132013
 

Words cannot explain my current state of shock. I have found two, yes two, games that are worth your hard earned dollars this week. Right now is a pretty hectic time for releases as Tomb Raider and God of War Ascension spin around in peoples consoles, with Bioshock Infinite looming just around the corner. But in what little downtime you can manage, I’ve found a digestible chunk of pixels (and voxels) that could be enough to suit your fancy.

procrastinating squrrelProcrastinating Squirrel
Developer: Daivuk
Price: 80 Microsoft Points

Ah, the idea of a procrastinating squirrel. It’s that simple imaginative thought that made me purchase Procrastinating Squirrel and looking back, I regret nothing. In this overlong adventure, you play as a squirrel who is readying up for the forthcoming winter. Before winter comes along he must gather 300,000 nuts which he does by digging in all directions, picking up cashews, frozen cashews, strawberry nuts, acorns, and other assorted nuts. The idea of Procrastinating Squirrel is obviously very simple and widely used, but due to the price tag and likability of your poorly animated squirrel, I couldn’t help but enjoy my hour or so with the game.

The carrot on the stick that pushes you forward are the enticing upgrades you gain by spending your accumulated nuts. Those upgrades include a better shovel, a bridge, and larger storage space. After a while (and by while I mean around twenty minutes), however, digging up and down the map looking for nuts becomes a boring task to continue. Apart from the eventually tedious gameplay, Procrastinating Squirrel features some very distinct music. Sadly, distinct doesn’t always mean good. At first, the harmless chimes and hums are quite pleasing to the ear, but the more you play on, the more these repeating tracks begin to feel like nails grinding on your ear drums. Procrastinating Squirrel is the most fun I’ve ever had with a squirrel, take that for what it’s worth.

voxel runnerVoxel Runner
Developer: Dizzy Pixels Ltd.
Price: 80 Microsoft Points

Voxel Runner is a pretty well-known game around this crazy thing we call the internet. Thankfully, developer Dizzy Pixels decided it would be smart to place their product on the Indies marketplace, a move that made my job a bit more enjoyable. In Voxel Runner, you are a simple man running from left to right, making jumps and slides to eventually reach the next checkpoint and unlock whatever ability the game has under its increasingly larger sleeve.

Similar to Procrastinating Squirrel, Voxel has some very unique music that integrates into the gameplay very well. Similar to the recent release of Runner2, the jumps you are forced to make in Voxel are all set to the pulsing beat being pushed out of your television. Unlike Procrastinating Squirrel, though, Voxel Runner’s music only adds to the energetic adventure that you are forcefully pushed through. Voxel Runner isn’t something you can spend too much time with, you know, seizures and all, but it’s definitely something that provides a good deal of fun in condensed play sessions.

ballguyBall Guy
Developer: Kinekid
Price: 80 Microsoft Points

Look, I know at this point to never expect much heading into any indie game. But I’ll admit it, coming off these past two indie games, I had some excitement bubbling up that I may be able to write an article where I enjoyed all three games I purchased. Ball Guy was not having an inch of that positivity. In Ball Guy, your beloved protagonist is of the rounder shape and must venture into the forest to… Pick up scrolls or something? There’s a story, it has poorly written dialogue and even worse looking art. I’m sorry to disappoint, folks.

Ball Guy’s idea of a puzzle is simply battling the poor d-pad controls to navigate your way around the screen and collect scrolls. Navigation is performed by flying around on your jetpack, which relies on the aforementioned d-pad. The scrolls, obviously, contain interesting facts that we all desire. For example, the smallest and dirtiest man hasn’t bathed in 58 years. Oddly enough, these scrolls are the only interesting thing to be found within Ball Guy. I’ll admit that at times, I even worked a bit harder to see what the next irrelevant fact contained within the next scroll would be. I think that’s a positive?

Pick ‘em up: Procrastinating Squirrel (80 Points) and Voxel Runner (80 Microsoft Points)

Mar 042013
 

Today, TimeGate, co-developer of the massive failure Aliens Colonial Marine, and their President (Adel Chaveleh) confirmed to Polygon that layoffs had hit their studio. No number was mentioned by Chaveleh but it is rumored to be around the 25 mark. The layoffs were said to be due to a publishing contract that fell through but I’m sure the quality of their latest project had a little to do with the loss of jobs as well. Losing jobs is never a good thing, but hopefully this will lead those 25 or so developers into a better company that hopefully spawns projects more impressive than Aliens: Colonial Marines.

alines colonial marines

Adel Chaveleh had this to say regarding the layoffs: “Today, we had to make the difficult decision to let go of some great game developers. This is never easy, and we’re doing all we can to assist those developers affected,” He continued by saying: “TimeGate is preparing, as is the entire industry, for the transition to next-generation consoles and new business models. As part of this reinvention, all projects and strategic initiatives continue to move forward at the studio.”

Many of Colonial Marines’ issues were blamed in part to the games dual development featuring both Gearbox and TimeGate studios. Thankfully, layoffs seem very unlikely to hit Gearbox due to their vast amount of projects they currently have taking place. Let’s all hope TimeGate can rebound and avoid the sad death that many studios have recently faced.

Mar 012013
 

Tomb RaiderTomb Raider
Developer: Crystal Dynamics Inc.
Release Date: March 5th  

After the four hundredth Tomb Raider release, Crystal Dynamics has finally decided to reboot the series and start anew. I’ve always had a love for Tomb Raider in my heart, like most people I’m sure, but the recent games never hit the spot for me. Sure, that the Guardian of Light was quite good, but it just didn’t seem to fit in the Tomb Raider universe. The reboot of Tomb Raider seems similar in that it isn’t a direct copy of the PS1 installments that we all fell in love with.

This go around, Crystal Dynamics seems to have went in the more traditional third person style, similar to Uncharted. Which is still rather close to the original Tomb Raider as many called Uncharted “Tomb Raider with a male protagonist.” One of the more intriguing aspects regarding Tomb Raider is that this is the first in the series to receive an M rating by the ESRB. One of the scenes described has Lara healing herself by popping her bones back in to place, Far Cry 3 style. Hopefully with the new rating comes a more mature, fully developed experience.

God of WarGod of War: Ascension
Developer: Sony Santa Monica
Release Date: March 12th

Hey guys, there’s another God of War game. I know, I know, I’m as shocked as you, I just didn’t think they’d do it again. But here we are, and here it is, but this time is going to be a bit different. Whether that difference is for the better or not has yet to be determined. For starts, this go around you will be playing as a not so angry Kratos. That is because you will be playing a prequel to the previous God of War’s, where you find the root of Kratos’ pulsing anger that he just cannot seem to shake.

Next up, there’s a multiplayer. I know. In this newfangled multiplayer, you’ll be doing normal online duties like killing friends, being killed by friends, and gaining/losing points while doing so.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been a God of War fan, but even I know adding multiplayer to this franchise is going to be a terrible idea. But I suppose I won’t judge it until I play it, which will be never.

gears-of-war-judgement-box-artGears of War Judgment
Developer: Epic/People Can Fly
Release Date: March 19th

Speaking of yet another game in a dying franchise, Gears of War Judgment is sneaking its head out the door come mid-March. Unlike God of War, I’ve always enjoyed the Gears of War franchise and I don’t necessarily expect that to change with the new installment. That doesn’t change the fact that this series is getting old and because of that, my 360 is a bit tired of running Gears of War games.

New to the series is the fact that Marcus is no longer the main protagonist. In Judgment, you’re taking control of Baird (I call him “The Asshole”) just one month after the original E-Day. Similar to God of War, you get to hear Baird and Cole’s backstories leading up to their eventual meet with Marcus and Dom. A backstory that includes being charged with desertion, cowardice, theft of experimental COG technology, and treason.

The Walking DeadThe Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
Developer: Terminal Reality
Release Date: March 19th

If you read my top ten list from last year, you know I have a strong admiration for The Walking Dead adventure game. That being said, I was not expecting that quality from the impending Survival Instinct that was announced by Activision. Here lately, I’ve managed to somehow garner a bit of excitement, but I’m not so sure that excitement will pay off. On one hand, Terminal made Def Jam Rapstar, and I love me some Def Jam Rapstar. But on the other hand, they made Kinect Star Wars. Need I say more?

Another source of my excitement is the focus on TV characters Meryl and Daryl, the two stars of the game. Obviously, Survival Instinct is set in the TV show’s world as opposed to the graphic novels. You’ll be playing as Daryl as you traverse the wild lands of Georgia in your pursuit of reaching Atlanta, which is said to be safe. Gameplay will feature stealth mechanics and encourage players to scrounge for the scarce ammo spread across the mostly open-ended environment. Man, I just want this game to be good.

Bioshock InfiniteBioshock Infinite
Developer: Irrational Games
Release Date: March 26th

Bioshock Infinite has been my most anticipated game of 2013 ever since it was pushed back last year. My love and admiration for the Bioshock series knows no bounds and has been waiting to be fed ever since I completed Bioshock 2’s campaign. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Bioshock Infinite will be different from previous Bioshock’s in that the game will not take place underwater. Instead, the setting will be in a cloud based city named Columbia. Columbia was built by the Americans as a sign of their growing power and technological ingenuity.

There are a few worries that I’ve had on my mind, however, such as the constant AI character that follows you around throughout the game. Irrational has promised over and over that the character, named Elizabeth, would not be a hindrance of any kind. Time will tell on that aspect but one thing that seems to be shaping up nicely is the plot and integration of the new setting. The mystery surrounding the previous game’s location, Rapture, was arguably one of the most compelling things to be found within Bioshock. That mystery isn’t all there this go around due to us knowing the origin of the city, but I’m sure there will be multiple tidbits of information appearing throughout the game that will suggest that there is a little more than meets the eye to be found within Columbia.

Army of Two: The Devil's CartelArmy of Two: The Devil’s Cartel
Developer: Visceral/EA Montreal
Release Date: March 26th

I may be one of the only people in the country that feels this way, but I legitimately enjoyed the first two Army of Two games. Sure, the “broness” of the first game was corny as hell but the combat and customization both made up for that flaw. With the second one, the broness was relished by the writers as it turned from corny to just plain funny at spots. Main characters Salem and Rios even got into a heated discussion on who the best Wu-Tang member was… All while a combat sequence was happening. You just can’t beat that.

My excitement for this installment has been admittedly very limited due to the fact that not only has the developer changed, now made by Visceral, but so has the main characters. In The Devil’s Cartel, Visceral decided it would be best to kick Salem and Rios to the curb in favor of two new guys named Alpha and Bravo. I’ll withhold judgment until I see them in game but if they don’t fist bump or discuss 90’s rap, I’m out. As I’m sure many know, EA/Visceral Montreal was immediately shut down once the game was green lit for release. Hopefully this product will show off their hard work and lead them into bigger and better products in the future.

Also Releasing:

MLB The Show 2013
MLB 2K13
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3
The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition (Wii U)
Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 (I remain unconvinced that this game will ever release)
LEGO City Undercover
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2014
Naughty Bear: Double Trouble! (Pretty sure this isn’t coming out either)

Feb 202013
 

So begins the next generation of consoles. Today Sony unveiled their upcoming console, the Playstation 4, answering one of the biggest questions coming into the press conference called by the company near a month ago, which was what would the name be. What exactly would happen during the press conference has obviously been the other big question, would it be a standard E3 esque conference or would it simply be a get together announcing the new console and possibly unveiling a title or two? Well, the smoke has cleared and here is all you need to now regarding Sony’s PS4 and the announcements made today:

  • Press conference starts out with Sony touting the hardware specs, on par with all current high end PC’s
  • Controller design is unveiled, small screen on controller, improved rumble, head phone jack, and a bar that tracks the movements of the controller.
  • Original IP, Knack, announced, third person action game.
  • A simple button press will put the PS4 into a low power mode, making saving and loading seem irrelevant.
  • Downloading games now to be done in the background, ability to play the game as it downloads.
  • Also shown off was a “predicted” feature, where the console can predict and download the next title you may want. It seems a bit farfetched and needs more explanation but if it works the way they say, it could be something special.
  • Sony wants to make all PS4 titles playable on Vita. Knack is shown on Vita, looks worse than PS4 version but not by much.
  • No backwards compatibility, Sony says that they hope “one day” all Playstation 1, 2, and 3 titles will be playable on PS4.
  • Games begin rolling out, first up is a new Killzone. Despite the sadness of yet another Killzone, it manages to impress visually, showing a lot of color. That being said, it seems as if just another, granted prettier, Killzone.
  • DriveClub feature announced, seems like one big social item for racing games. Was too distracted by the car porn talk.
  • Infamous: Second Son announced.
  • Jonathan Blow appears and shows the first trailer for his upcoming title, The Witness. The game looks great and will be coming first to the PS4.
  • Some faces are shown off by David Cage, sadly no Beyond gameplay nor trailer.
  • Capcom unveils Panta Rhei engine, uses Deep Down (Working Title) to show off the engine. The “game” looks fantastic but I’m far from convinced that was actual gameplay.
  • Finally, what I personally have been waiting for, Watch Dogs appears and steals the show. Looks absolutely incredible and only reinforces its position as my most anticipated next gen game.
  • Blizzard appears!… And announces Diablo III for PS4/PS3. Definitely underwhelming, Blizzard’s appearance should have been more than showing a logo for an already released PC game.
  • To end the show, Bungie comes out and shows off some of their upcoming project, Destiny, which they are very happy to be releasing on both the PS4/PS3. Biggest item of note was the exclusive content announced for Sony, assuming exclusive DLC?

Those were it folks, my notes taken during the conference compressed into some hopefully readable news tidbits. Sadly, no price point nor an actual box being shown off. I’m assuming we’ll have to wait until E3 to get those two pieces of information. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more on the PS4 in the weeks to come and we will obviously be keeping you up to date with every news item we catch wind of.

Feb 132013
 

Back in the yesteryear, fast paced arena combat games (Quake, Unreal Tournament, etc.) were actually a beloved odd little genre. But as time has passed, so has that style of game. It’s crystal clear that games such as Battlefield and Call of Duty have established the new standard in multiplayer shooters, spawning off way too many carbon copies that attempt to suck the multiplayer focused game nipple dry. Insert Zombie Studios and their newest creation, Special Forces: Team X. Special Forces is a multiplayer based third person shooter that has speed and nonsense similar to Unreal Tournament, but the upgrade system of a Call of Duty. That was the pitch, at least, but could they pull this feat off?

It all begins with the combat, there’s no arguing with that fact. This is also when you begin to realize that Special Forces may not be able to achieve that lofty goal previously stated as the combat never feels “right.” It begins with the weak sound design on the weapons and doesn’t stop there by any means. It’s a hard nuisance to explain but the slippery feel of every sprinting movement you make really begins to become tiresome after a while. It helps speed up the gameplay, for sure, but it makes the cover system feel very misplaced. The combat isn’t awful however, as the speed of the game can lead to some intense firefights while the cover system can result in certain areas becoming a hotbed for action. The issue is when the two attempt to work together, those are two LEGO pieces that do not fit together.

Speaking of the weapons, the upgrade system is arguably the biggest issue within the game. On its face, it’s a simple upgrade system; you achieve a red dot sight, new grenades, etc. The issue is how slowly the nicer weapons are rolled out, with it taking up to ten hours to finally achieve a customized class with all unlocked content. The upgrades themselves aren’t a lot to brag about either as one of the better upgrades you get is simply the ability to throw a smoke grenade.

Special Forces: Team X

In a game with a leveling system, it always has to be a priority that you consistently dangle a delicious carrot in front of the players face that will encourage them to continue progressing. Instead, Zombie Studios decided to dangle a Brussels sprout on a stick, and while some people may be into that sort of thing, I’m not down. In all seriousness, if you can stand for some rather mediocre upgrades, there are a lot of them and leveling to the cap could take 30+ hours.

Saying Special Forces: Team X is visually stimulating would be a drastic understatement, for better or worse. The cell shaded look works for plenty of games but in Special Forces case, it’s a bit of a turn off at first. The bright visual contrast can really knock you back once you start playing but after a while, your eyes begin to adjust and you begin to realize that although the textures are grimy, there are some nice looking things to be found within Special Forces. Sadly, there are quite a bit of frame rate drops that hit particularly when firefights begin to heat up, which can obviously become a huge bummer if you’re in the final minutes of a match.

The randomly generated levels are arguably the most interesting thing to be found within this package. Before the match begins, you vote on three different sections of the map. Once those three sections are voted on, they form together in their own map. It never changes too much, mainly because people tend to choose the same combinations, but it’s definitely an interesting addition for which Zombie Studios deserves some acclaim.

Special Forces: Team X Review

If you follow my reviews on Gaming Irresponsibly, you know that I reviewed Guardians of Middle Earth a few weeks back, a game that was plagued with matchmaking issues. That has become an increasing trend in smaller, online focused games. Thankfully, Special Forces avoids that as getting into a game is possible within one minute of hitting play game on the Xbox 360 Dashboard. The only real issue with the matchmaking is the lack of a host migration feature that many have adopted to navigate around the issue of having a host leave mid match. It’s a problem you run into, but it isn’t a game breaking one by any means.

Last year was arguably the best year XBLA has had in its increasingly elderly lifetime. That being said, 2013 will need to do a lot if it wants to even compare to 2012 and Special Forces: Team X is not that “a lot.” It’s a decent game with its own share of annoying problems including lackluster combat, but the fast paced gameplay provides enough of a thrill that I still have the urge to go back. But in the end, that speed cannot fix every problem and those problems are the ultimate reason why Special Forces: Team X is just another forgettable third person XBLA shooter.

XBox 360

Graphics

65
 

Audio

60
 

Gameplay

60

Creativity

70
 

Execution

55
 

Offset

60
    

6.2

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Feb 112013
 

The path leading up to Dead Space 3’s release has been a rocky one for Visceral Games and EA, both of which have received a tremendous amount of hate for diverging away from the original horror aspects that made Dead Space so famous. I, for one, was never pulled to one side or the other, I honestly thought the direction of the series was changing but I also believed Visceral Games was too good of a developer to let their pet project produce a mediocre installment. That combined with the already high quality of the Dead Space franchise led me to believe that no matter how hard EA pushes the co-op, Dead Space 3 was going to be just fine.  I really wish I would have been correct.

You begin Dead Space 3, yet again, as Isaac Clark but this time around we see a much different picture of Clark. The picture is a grim depiction of Isaac, a drunkard now living alone in an apartment. If you’ll recall correctly, Dead Space 2 ended with Isaac and Ellie together, that obviously has changed since the credits rolled as Ellie left Isaac to further pursue destroying all the markers and the hell they bring forth. From there, Isaac is taken away from his apartment by two men who let it be known that Isaac is the only man with enough knowledge to fully destroy the markers.

The progressing narrative throughout Dead Space has always been one of the best things the series has possessed but that come to a screeching halt in the third installment. It all begins with the one-dimensional characters that are forced upon you within the first four hours of gameplay. No matter if it is your co-op partner or Ellie’s new lover, each character introduced does nothing but add a dull new talking head that pounds useless information into your brain. The only interesting dialogue to be found is between the already established Ellie/Isaac relationship, a relationship that develops quite nicely though their conclusion is a bit underwhelming.

Dead Space 3

The overarching fiction gets a bit more complicated as the religion aspect becomes a rather important segment of the story. Your continued quest to destroy the markers is obviously at the forefront of the storytelling but the religion mention does add another intriguing factor to the already peculiar story that the Dead Space franchise has so elegantly created. The new pieces introduced are sadly brought down by the aforementioned porous characters and also an incredibly lackluster ending, something that shocked me due to the previous two game’s success at creating a tension filled final scene. We usually go into a third installment looking for some kind of closure, which is something we did not get in Dead Space 3.

One thing that has been very noticeable through trailers and developer diaries is the unsurprisingly beautiful visuals. The environments are by far the most gorgeous aspects of the whole game. There haven’t been many games this generation that have produced a more beautiful experience than simply floating around in space, staring down at a mostly unknown planet as ship fragments float around aimlessly. That all goes without even mentioning the snowy environments introduced halfway throughout the game, which look equally beautiful.

Even though the story is rather disappointing, it is far from the worst thing about Dead Space 3. The worst parts are the simple game design flaws that ultimately lead to the Dead Space 3 experience becoming a frustrating mess. Take for example: Designing a rather elaborate, poorly explained puzzle that requires you to run around a room using your Kinesis powers. The idea is decent enough, but add in twenty charging necromorphs and you have one unbearable experience that diminishes the quality of the game. These design flaws are much unexpected, especially from a fine studio like Visceral. Honestly, by the end of the game it becomes hard to even fathom the fact that Visceral created Dead Space 3.

Dead Space

That frustration only heightens due to the fact that Dead Space 3 really drags on as you go deeper into the game. Drags on is putting it nicely, there are multiple times when enemies are thrown your way just to extend play time. I understand having enemies at almost every corner, that’s what Dead Space does, but having thirty when you should have ten is just insanely annoying and only gets you angrier as time trudges forward. Another factor in the present frustration is the predictability that begins to arise. After two sequels, you know when enemies are going to pop out of vents and you know that eventually you’ll be split up from your group and have to make your way back. Boring is one word I never thought I’d use to describe a Dead Space game, but it fits the final five hours of Dead Space 3 perfectly.

Arguably the thing most people were excited for headed into Dead Space 3 was the brand new weapon crafting system that Visceral has been so highly touting. The general idea is you can create any weapon you want as long as you have the parts. The parts typically consist of an item that judges whether it’s a one-handed or two-handed weapon and obviously what attachments are placed upon the stock. The finer details of the crafting are never really explained, leading the player to bang their head against the pretty menu design until they realize exactly how every part works. That being said, once you figure out how it works, the crafting becomes pretty damn fun. I had a lot of frustrating experiences throughout Dead Space 3 but none of that mattered as I sat down and created a rocket launcher that has a shotgun attached to the bottom. It was a brilliant addition by Visceral that improved the combat tremendously.

Dead Space 3 Review

That is up until the game becomes a third person shooter and you begin to wonder “why?” There are multiple sections where Dead Space 3 turns into a carbon copy of your standard third person shooter, poor cover mechanics and all. Throughout all of the egregious additions to the newest installment, this was the most depressing for me. I’ve always had a deep admiration for the Dead Space combat, noting it as some of the best of this generation. But when you take a combat system focused on dismembering limbs and turn it into a cover based shooter, you get a forced and incredibly uncomfortable experience.

The much-lauded co-op is, as expected, just fine. It is far from the best co-op around but it gets the job done with the biggest slight against it being that the co-op character, Carver, is an unlikable asshole that enjoys making terrible decisions. Some of the oddest things regarding the co-op appear in the single player experience, such as Isaac referring to himself as “we” when he is by his lonesome. The game was clearly designed with co-op in mind as suit kiosks and hacking minigames appear side by side, though that doesn’t affect the overall experience. Despite the oddities, playing single player is more than acceptable in Dead Space 3.

It isn’t fun to start the year out with a downer like this but Dead Space 3 is definitely going to be in contention for Most Disappointing Game come December. Maybe it was my over confidence in Visceral, or maybe Visceral just made a bad Dead Space game, either way, Dead Space 3 is a heart breaker and not in any of the ways that fuel an enjoyable experience. It’s becoming more and more clear that the further Dead Space diverged away from the horror genre, the worse the series became. Maybe Visceral and EA will step back and reassess the franchise before popping out Dead Space 4; because it may be time to let this series rest.

XBox 360

Graphics

80
 

Audio

70
 

Gameplay

60

Creativity

65
 

Execution

55
 

Offset

60
    

6.5

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Feb 052013
 

CD Projekt RED is at it again, now announcing the third and final installment in their beloved Witcher franchise. The franchise has been running since October 26th, 2007 and according to Projekt, will be ending in 2014 when the newest installment, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, launches on “all high-end platforms.” Adam Bedowski, head of CD Projekt Red had a lot to say in the press release announcing the new game: “People may ask if this is really going to be the last Witcher game. Yes, it is. Why? Because we believe that we should end the series on a high note.”

witcher

“Imagine playing a dark fantasy game with the same great nonlinear story as in the previous Witcher titles, but now told in a world you can explore freely with no artificial boundaries. The war-ravaged world is so huge that to reach further places you will need to ride a horse or sail a boat to get there. A world where your choices have truly epic consequences. From the development side, this goal is extremely demanding. Our team had to make significant design changes and our tech had to be rebuilt. But we believe that this will lead to a completely new level of nonlinearity and a whole new, richer gaming experience. As a gamer, I would love to play this kind of RPG and I think this is what many players are waiting for. This is our dream come true at CD Projekt RED, and we hope it will be the same for you!” Bedowski continued.

After deciphering through the salesman talk, it’s still clear that Bedowski and Projekt RED are very excited about the upcoming release, and who could blame them? They’ve put out some of the best Action RPG’s of the past decade with their creations of The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. One thing is for sure, if you want to dip your toes into the Gerald of Rivia story, you better hop on now because time is running out.

Feb 012013
 

It’s beginning to be that time of the year again, the time where games begin to roll out and don’t slow down until May or June. January was unsurprisingly boring and provided a whole lot of depressing news to go alongside two decent video game releases in The Cave and Devil May Cry, only one of which may be on our mind come late December and awards begin creeping up on us. Hopefully February will be better; I’m willing to bet it will be just that.

600full-dead-space-3-coverDead Space 3
Release Date: February 5th
Developer: Visceral Games

Starting the month off with a showstopper… Or are we? Many would say we are not due to Visceral and EA’s increased focus on co-op instead of the horror for which the series is so clearly well known. I, for one, am still very much on the fence as I went through this issue with the last Dead Space. Leading up to Dead Space 2’s release, I was worried they were putting way too much focus on multiplayer and not the single player. I was obviously proven to be wrong as Dead Space 2 was one of the best games released in 2011.

I’m beginning to get the feeling that this go around will be no different. It comes down to this: No matter how hard EA pushes other features, Visceral is too good of a developer to watch their series decrease in quality. That being said, there’s a strong chance that this Dead Space will either be the last or be the one that helps EA and Visceral realize that it’s time to put the series down. But then again, how great would a new Dead Space be on new, drastically improved hardware?

OMERTA_US_XBOX_360_OWP_v6.0_ANNA.inddOmerta: City of Gangsters
Release Date: February 12th
Developer: Kalypso

I don’t know why this exists, but damn am I glad it does. I’m unsure of its final quality but I really don’t care, the idea of the Tropico geniuses putting out a gangster themed strategy game is just too good to pass up. If you don’t know, Tropico is a Sim/Strategy game focused on running your own island as the El Presidente. You can be a corrupt president, you can lead your island into financial heaven, you can find the Chupacabra, and obviously achieve many other extravagant insanities.

Now onto the game that is actually releasing, Omerta puts you in the position of an up and coming gangster fighting through the ranks to ultimately control a crime mob. You then recruit henchmen and deal with law enforcement on your way to building an empire and controlling a whole region. The game obviously won’t end there though as you’ll continue to grow your empire by sending your henchmen out to take part in warehouse raids and gang turf wars. I get this good feeling just thinking about Omerta and its potential; I just hope it lives up to my expectations.

crysis3x360pftfront-630x855Crysis 3
Release Date: February 19th
Developer: Crytek

Silently but most assuredly, Crysis 3 is slowly sneaking out mid ways through this month. There hasn’t been a lot of buzz regarding Crysis and there’s probably a reason for that. Crysis is going through what I previously said Dead Space may go through, the release of the third installment that shows the franchise is struggling and on its last leg. Like I previously said, time will tell but that seems to be the growing feeling within myself and many others. That being stated, don’t expect Crysis to be some piece of trash, I’m sure it’s going to be just fine. But do expect the sales numbers to spiral downwards, due partly to the competition it is releasing against…

 

mgsrrnaba_610Metal Gear Rising Revengeance
Release Date: February 19th
Developer: PlatinumGames

Oh Metal Gear Rising, your existence is so mind boggling in my mind. You were announced years ago at a Microsoft E3 press conference, then went silent until a new trailer appeared, highlighting Raiden’s amazing ability to slice watermelons. Since then the lack of information on what Revengeance will be has turned many people off of the product, assuming that Konami’s lack of push is somehow related to the game’s quality, which is an understandable worry. But really though, with PlatinumGames at the helm, it’s a safe bet that at least the insanity factor will be in full effect.

Rising was originally supposed to be developed by the standard Metal Gear Solid team but after having issues with combining the standard stealth of MGS and Raiden’s sword abilities, the project was cancelled. It was then later revealed that instead of leaving it to die, they put it in the aforementioned PlatinumGames’ hands and said do what you will. Revengeance is arguably going to be the most interesting release of February as everyone is curious as to how this project will finish out. I have some high expectations, but I’ll be the first to admit those expectations may come back to bite me in the ass.

raymanlegendsRayman Legends
Release Date: February 26th
Developer: Ubisoft

Although I probably shouldn’t be, I’m shocked at Nintendo’s inability to keep Wii U products rolling out up to this point. To put it nicely, they’ve done a terrible job and that’s one of the main reasons why I haven’t put a Wii U game into my console in near a month and a half. If it wasn’t for reviewing Wipeout, I wouldn’t have put one in since three days after the console’s launch. To only add to that sadness, I hopped into the Wii shop today and found it to be unnecessarily difficult to navigate. The fact that there was near nothing on the store to purchase is also kind of a bad thing, especially if Nintendo enjoys money.

Now onto Rayman itself, as many remember, Ubisoft released Rayman Origins in 2011 to critics and the populous’ delight. They then immediately begin work on what was originally supposed to be a Wii U launch title, Rayman Legends. I’ll admit, I’ve never been a Rayman lover but I’m willing to dive in on this installment as not only does it give me an excuse to play my Wii U, it also gives the Wii U a shot at flexing those highly touted HD graphics. Now if only Nintendo could figure out how to put more than one game out every few months that collects people’s attention, then they’d be doing something right.

Also Releasing:

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
Special Forces: Team X
Aliens: Colonial Marine
Painkiller Hell & Damnation
Serious Sam Double D XXL
Naughty Bear: Double Trouble!

Jan 282013
 

The name Ron Gilbert comes with a specific assumption when it is attached to a new product. That assumption being that whatever the game is, whatever the platform, it’s going to have some sharp writing and possibly struggle in the more complex design elements. One of his more recent efforts, Deathspank, didn’t even hit that first bullet point as it was painfully unfunny at almost every turn. That along with the clunky and outdated design only set the game back even further and that is proven now by how forgettable it has become.

Approaching the release to his newest pet project, The Cave, excitement was beginning to rise as it seemed like he was going back to what Gilbert does best: A simple puzzle game. The idea behind The Cave is you choose three of seven drastically unique characters and descend into a cave, a cave that just so happens to have a mind of its own. The cave talks to you religiously throughout your spelunking, often providing witty tidbits regarding your characters and their respective stories. Your journey rages on through multiple large scale puzzles that once completed propel you forward into the next confined area.

The Cave

One of the major talking points regarding The Cave is how depending on what characters you choose; the cave and your journey will be different. After playing through it multiple times with multiple different characters, I’m sad to report that the changes are not as unique as you would expect. Each character you choose has their own unique level design and story but apart from those three puzzle areas, nothing is different. That isn’t all bad, however, as the puzzles themselves are rather fun and endearing the first time through. Sadly though, I did run into the maddening puzzle game contrivance of the characters not being able to talk. I had a situation where I had to tell a man that he had forgot his dog before getting on the boat, and since my characters cannot speak a sound, I had to find his parrot, use crackers on him, get a bone, have the dog bark, make the parrot hear the dog bark so he could mimic him, then run to the man and let him hear the parrot. Because, you know, puzzle games.

The best puzzle situations are by far the ones drawn up for each individual character, mainly due to the story behind them. The characters in The Cave are intentionally all horrible stereotypes, yet somehow, Double Fine and crew managed to turn them into a somewhat interesting piece of the grand puzzle. Though they don’t speak nor interact in any way, you begin to really grow close the characters as you learn more of their story, whether be through their own unique puzzle or just by the paintings you find throughout your exploration of the dark depths in the cave. This is partly why The Cave somehow manages a very memorable and climactic ending that I don’t think anyone could have expected. It manages to put a nice, tight little bow on the often times disturbing tales that are ready to be told within The Cave.

The Cave II

Of course none of this would be as effective if the writing wasn’t expertly done, and don’t fret, like many other Double Fine games, the writing is near flawless. It all starts with The Cave and his well-timed chime ins that so often rear their head. He always manages to push the story forward in some way while also putting a smile on your face. His self-loathing and jokes about, well, being a cave boast some of the biggest laughs to be found within the game.

Some of the biggest issues in The Cave sadly revolve around the platforming mechanics that are necessary in 2D puzzle games. It mainly comes down to the jumping and lack of precision with each jump. Though that is only one small thing, it’s still an issue that popped up multiple times throughout my time with The Cave. I couldn’t count how many times I attempted to jump on a block and instead hit the corner and slid off. Also a lingering annoyance was the amount of backtracking that was forced upon the player. As I mentioned earlier, you are confined to one area in each puzzle encounter and you’ll find yourself running back and forth in each area multiple times, constantly banging your head against the wall attempting to figure out what to do next.

Hillbilly

The Cave definitely has a nice artistic flair to every environment you run into. It’s really interesting to see how each characters story is captured in just the surrounding environment. That being said, the characters themselves all have a great design around them. They’re just bland enough to maintain the stereotypical feel but also have that one thing that makes them unique and likable. For example, that damn Hillbilly running animation gets me every time. Unfortunately, frame rate drops do become a tad bit of an issue at times but never hurt the overall look too badly. It won’t make your eyes pop out of your head, but it will give them something pretty to stare at for six or so hours.

Ron Gilbert has made yet another Ron Gilbert game, this one being a bit better than the last few. It’s a generic word to use but nothing describes The Cave more appropriately than the word “fun.” From the puzzles to the deciphering of each characters story, it was hard not to enjoy my time with The Cave. It’s far from perfect as it has a few nagging issues but The Cave is a great way to start out a year that I’m sure will only get better. In the meantime, crack open a beverage, find some unhealthy snacks, plop down on a couch, and begin your descent into The Cave. I know that Joey did

XBox 360

Graphics

80
 

Audio

85
 

Gameplay

70

Creativity

80
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

80
    

7.9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Jan 232013
 

It’s one of the most painful things I’ve had to write, but it’s now safe to say, THQ is no more. Yesterday, January 22nd, THQ hosted an auction where their biggest companies and franchises were bid on by a multitude of other publishers. We figured that we wouldn’t hear any details regarding where the studios would go for at least a week or two but that has not been the case. Today we learned not only what studio went where, but also the prices paid. Many thanks to DDInvesting for the financial figures.

  • Koch Media, parent company of Deep Silver, purchased arguably the biggest product in Volition and the Saints Row franchise – $22.3M. Along with that, they also purchased the Metro series which cost them $5.8M
  • Take-Two takes control of Left 4 Dead developer Turtle Rock Studios’ Evolve after spending $11M.
  • Ubisoft purchased THQ Montreal and South Park: The Stick of Truth for a mere $2.5M
  • Sega now owns the Relic and Company of Heroes brand — $26M
  • Surprisingly, Crytek has bought the Homefront brand for only $500K

If you’re keeping score, that leave Vigil, developers of the Darksiders franchise, and Yukes/WWE License without a home. I’m shocked that Vigil went without a purchase, though I’m sure they’ll be working again here soon, they’re too good at what they do. Hopefully every person affected by this auction and THQ collapse will land back on their feet eventually.

We knew it was coming, but we hoped so desperately that it wouldn’t.

Jan. 1, 1989 – Jan. 23rd, 2013

Jan 222013
 

MOBA’s are an expanding genre that is only getting more and more popular as time trudges forward. Due to games like DOTA and League of Legends, there’s really no end in sight for the massive amount of potential this genre possesses. But by far one of the biggest issues for many is the complex and daunting nature of the gameplay. Many people aren’t interested enough to take a deeper look and instead only see videos of the high level play, leading them to think they will never be near the level of the experts so they back off and retreat to their single player experience.

Monolith, developers of the beloved Condemned series, has decided to dip their toes into the MOBA business and attempt to introduce something the genre hasn’t seen before: a simplistic, console focused experience. The first step to achieving this is obviously designing an intelligent and informative tutorial that explains the concepts within a MOBA while also introducing you to the new features that Guardians of Middle-earth originates.

Sadly, Monolith only hit one of those bullet points, introducing the MOBA genre. They guide you into the simple concepts before slowly introducing the more complex aspects of a MOBA, such as towers, creatures,  etc. While explaining the complex genre is a big plus, Monolith still stumbled on introducing their individual features such as the relics and gems system. There was no explanation for what these parts of your character accomplished and that forced me into banging my head against the menu screens until I finally understood at least partially why they exist. Despite that stumble, it’s still quite the achievement that Monolith managed to compress a deep genre into one twenty minute tutorial.

Once you’re in a game that is where Monolith’s true work begins to shine. It’s clear the amount of effort they put into rounding out each corner of their well-crafted experience. Granted, it is still a MOBA, using many of the standard MOBA concepts such as lanes, but the real marvel is how well the experience translates onto a gamepad. With some intelligent use of the triggers and face buttons, Monolith made Guardians of Middle-earth feel flawless on the console. It’s becoming more and more clear that this genre will not be relegated only to the PC for much longer.

One nice addition that comes with Guardians of Middle-earth is the one lane mode. In your typical match, you would have two teams marching towards one another, splitting across three lanes and destroying apposing towers as they march onwards. This obviously spreads out the action, making things much more strategic in where your player characters should attack. But in the aforementioned one lane mode, all five players are fighting in one lane, creating a hectic back and forth power struggle until one team finally gives out. This is a great addition into the genre because it manages to remove the strategy concept that some may find a tad scary to jump into. Also, the pure havoc that happens when all players meet in one lane is something that glues your eyes on the screen up until the last tower has fallen.

Any time a game is both multiplayer focused and console based, you instantly have to worry about whether or not connectivity will hold up in the long run. This is when an otherwise fantastic experience in Guardians of Middle-earth begins to crumple apart. It all starts with the horrible connection times, which, when lucky, will only take three minutes to get through. On its worst days, however, you can expect upwards of an eight minute long wait before you finally connect. One of the best modes in Guardians is the Elite Battlegrounds mode, a standard three lane game that guarantees all guardians will be actual players instead of AI bots. But, every time I’ve loaded up this mode it has taken around eleven minutes to get a game going. Of course, minus the one time I was extremely lucky and managed to connect in only seven minutes.

This issue would be easy to overlook if the actual in game combat didn’t have any connectivity issues. As you can probably guess, that is not the case. Let’s say you manage to get an Elite Battleground game going, I can almost guarantee you that half the players in the game will disconnect before the end of the match. Whether that is due to them manually quitting or just server issues is beyond me, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating in the long run. I ran into multiple games where my team was on a roll, about to destroy the last tower before we attack their base, and out of nowhere two of my players disconnect and we’re quickly out manned, something that is near impossible to overcome in a MOBA.

I’ve yet to mention the most frustrating aspect which is when you’re booted from a game entirely, forcing you to lose all progress you made, no matter how far you were into the game. By booted I don’t mean kicked by the host, I mean somehow, someway, you lost connection and must now start the eight minute wait for another game all over again. Most games take upwards of twenty minutes to complete, you can imagine the frustrations that come with playing fifteen minutes and immediately having It erased for an unknown reason. Unfortunately, that isn’t a problem that appears once in every ten games as it happened in almost half of the games I took part in.

I really wanted to love Guardians of Middle-earth. I’m far from a MOBA expert and thought that maybe this could be my stepping stone into the genre. It definitely was that as after spending hours within this world, I can’t wait to step out and check out other games like the widely loved League of Legends. But in the end, Guardians of Middle-earth could have been so much more than it was. With improved connectivity and servers, it could have been a MOBA that would live on for a year or so as the approachable but deep experience that brought the community together. Instead, it is no more than a stepping stone into bigger, more technically thought out experiences.

Playstation 3

Graphics

70
 

Audio

70
 

Gameplay

65

Creativity

80
 

Execution

65
 

Offset

65
    

6.9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Jan 182013
 

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these features but with no releases except Devil May Cry hitting for the next two weeks, and with the issue many are experiencing (including myself) of not having much money due to manic Christmas shopping, I figured it’s time for a cheap game bonanza. This time around I have a shockingly good game, a horrific zombie shooter, and a nice little Storage Wars clone. I was rather surprised this go around by the amount of games that managed to catch my eye. Hopefully that trend keeps up as the year goes on because actually having a decent selection makes this feature a tad more enjoyable. Then again, I have an odd affection for awful games so I’m happy either way.

Zombie Splatter
Developer: Matt Mitman
Price: 240 MS Points

Zombie Splatter is an aptly named first person shooter that revolves around you awkwardly sliding your way around a graveyard while killing all the spawning zombies that come into your line of sight. In between the waves of zombies you can buy ammo, purchase new weapons, or refill your health. Visually, Zombie Splatter is on par with what I imagine grabbing a handful of manure and slinging it onto a wall looks like. The controls however work just fine; it’s a first person shooter so messing up controls is more of an achievement than a worry.

Apart from that, there’s a King of the Hill mode that takes place in the same graveyard and forces you to move around into different circles and you guessed it, kill the attacking flesh eaters. One of the things that originally caught my eye about Splatter was the addition of a 3D mode, something I don’t remember ever seeing in an Indie game. The 3D seems to work but within the first ten minutes of using it, I felt like I was about to regurgitate my dinner. For a one dollar price tag, I would actually recommend Zombie Splatter just to experience the insanity that is the actual game but with a three dollar tag, there are multiple games out there that are much more deserving of your hard earned currency. Such as…

The Runner
Developer: Coda Panda
Price: 80 MS Points

I have struck gold, folks. This is my third Indies Gone Wild and about the thirtieth Indie game I’ve ever

played and finally I’ve hit a game that I would happily recommend to any breathing soul out there. The Runner is an incredibly simple concept that takes some cues from The Impossible Game, mainly in the fact that it is nut smashingly hard. You control two hedgehogs (?) as they constantly move forward and attempt to avoid pesky spikes. The hedgehogs (again, ?) are placed with one on top of the screen, one on bottom. To help avoid spikes you must press LB or RB, RB assigned to one animal and LB assigned to the other, just before they hit the spike. The combinations of moving them at the same time and keeping an eye on their landing and upcoming spikes is a difficult one that takes hours upon hours to get the grip of, while mastering it is a seemingly impossible task.

Also In this tight little package is a mode that lets you go through some of the crazier parts of the game the developer thought up in his menacing little mind. The situations you run through are only heightened by the insane level design that involves your two little monsters switching sides of the screen multiple times in the span of five seconds. I would also be insane to not mention the pulsing music that increasing in tension as the level goes on, something that also helps in the timing you need to achieve your movements perfectly. The Runner is expertly designed and one of the best Indie games on the marketplace. If you enjoy having fun while simultaneously wanting to chuck your controller at the television, I have a game for you

Storage Warfare
Developer: 24KT Studios
Price: 80 MS Points

I’ll start this out with the obvious; this is a game that is a straight up copy of the hit A&E television series Storage Wars, minus the unbelievably made up drama. I’ll also sadly admit that at one time I was, in fact, a Storage Wars addict; I watched the entire first season within the span of about a week. Here lately, I’ve fallen off of that addiction but have still always thought a Storage Wars game would be intriguing, and I refuse to play the Facebook game based on the show. Once I spotted Storage Warfare in the cluttered Indies marketplace, I knew it was made just for me.

Once you press start you’re greeted by one of the most annoying characters in the game, the man’s voice is as painful as nails on a chalkboard and his god awful, unrecognizable accent doesn’t help matters as he shrieks “Ah yeaaaa, Storage Warfare, yeahhh.” That is only the beginning as the annoying tidbits of dialogue come fast and heavy while at an auction. You start the game with $1500 and from there you choose what auction to attend and ultimately what units you want to go after. The items you collect turn into cash and are then transferred immediately into your bank account. The auction houses are split up into three separate places, one being the “expensive” auction house, one being the regular and one being the cheap house. The biggest issue arises when you find yourself with only $100 and purchasing a unit becomes rather impossible. Ultimately, Storage Warfare is an inoffensive piece of content that recreates the storage unit experience well enough to warrant the dollar it desires.

Pick ‘em up: Storage Warfare (80 Points) and The Runner (80 Points)

Jan 162013
 

Acclaimed mad man Suda 51 has unveiled some new  information regarding his upcoming release, Killer is Dead. Suda’s previous effort, Lollipop Chainsaw, was a bit of a miss but the same can’t be said for his work on Shadows of the Damned and No More Heroes. One of the biggest pluses about Shadows of the Damned was the work of his partner (and the father of Resident Evil) Shinji Mikami who helped tighten up the gameplay elements that Suda has become so famous for, let’s say, not paying enough attention to.

The setting sounds like the typical Suda madness, protagonist Mongo Zappa (yep) is called to work by the Execution Office to do some, you know, executin’. Zappa travels around the world killing folk that desire their death. It will be focused mainly around meeting your boss Brian Roses and dealing with his many odd clients and presumably performing whatever task they need completed.

Gameplay is really the make it or break it part of any Suda game and so far, Killer is Dead is sounding like the type of Suda combat insanity we know and love. As of right now, combat seems focused mainly on sword based attacks. Also at your disposal is an arm that has a drill and gun (again, yep) attached to it which you can upgrade and transform into other death bringing weapons. You can also transform people into dark matter, something that no one can argue with.

As of right now, Killer is Dead is shaping up to be a straight up Suda game, whether you hate it or love it. Maybe some gameplay love will be shown but if not, I think it’s still time for some good old nonsensical and idiotic story beats so it’ll be on my radar either way. Killer is Dead will release for the Xbox 360 and PS3 this Summer.

Jan 142013
 

It’s becoming that time yet again, folks. It’s time for the next gen hardware rumors to start swirling about like a Disney Channel character’s hair. This time around the rumor is being surfaced by a group that seems to know their business, Baird Equity Research. Colin Sebastian, a Baird representative, took his time to gather up all the rumors that have been floating around for the past year and has concluded (somehow) that both Sony and Microsoft will reveal their consoles just prior to E3 in June. Here are some direct quotes from Sebastian:

“Our checks suggest that next-generation console hardware will be largely built from ‘off the shelf’ high-end PC components, along with hybrid physical/digital distribution models, enhanced voice controls and motion sensing (Kinect integration with every Xbox), and broad multi-media capabilities,” he stated.

He also said: “Moreover, a PC-based architecture (Intel chips in the case of Xbox) should have a number of advantages over custom-developed silicon: for one, the learning curve for software developers will be shorter than completely new technology. Second, the cost of production and retail price points should be lower than prior console launches.”

Also predicted was that Sony would release their console in October while Mirosoft would release the new Xbox in November. Perhaps one of the best tidbits was that both consoles are expected to be $350-$400, a price point that is significantly lower than the PS3’s original $600 price tag.

As of right now this is all one groups prediction, with no real facts to back it up, but it does seem likely in the grand scheme of things. We shall see if Mr. Sebastian is correct in just a few more months as E3 begins to slowly creep upon us.

Source

Jan 092013
 

When you think of horror games, the one franchise that pops into everyone’s mind is the Dead Space series that began so surprisingly back on October 13th, 2008. Dead Space gained tons of attention pre-release for its copious amounts of blood and gore which, though very creepy, was created from photos of car crash victims that the art team studied. Then once the game finally released and we all got our greasy hands on it, it was quite clear that the game was more than a gore heavy third person shooter. It was instead a stressful and nerve wrenching horror experience that we had not known existed up to that point.

With that critical acclaim, it’s no shocker that a sequel was green-lighted and expected to be churned out within just two short years. One of the biggest worries that began to surface at the top of everyone’s mind was can Visceral do it again? Can they recreate the horrific experience in a new but still thrilling way? Not only could they recreate the experience, they could build on it and improve on tiny issues we hardly noticed in the first game. It won multiple Game of the Year awards and only furthered the franchise as one of the biggest media darlings of the past ten years.

And now, here we go again. Visceral Games revealed the third installment nearly one year ago and the vibe surrounding it has only worsened as time as time has continued to pass on. Story wise, Dead Space 3 is beginning to seem very similar to the previous installments. There’s a girl (Ellie), she’s lost, go find her, and don’t forget to go through ten hours of necromorphs. Thankfully, there will be some new necromorphs to strategically dismember such as the “giant insect-esque Nexus.” I don’t know what the hell that means but it sounds like I need to stay away from it.

One of the first major changes that had Dead Space lovers up in arms was the reveal that Isaac and newcomer Sgt. John Carver will be able to dodge around and take cover. This obviously contradicts one of the best things about Dead Space which was the heavy plodding movement that Isaac always performed so gracefully when exploring around an environment. Visceral Games has described the cover system as “organic” in nature; for example, the player does not need to “walk up to certain tagged things and press the cover button; Isaac or Carver just does the action that is appropriate for the given situation.”Simply put, that does not sound like the Dead Space I know and love.

Next up on the piss Dead Space fans off agenda was the fact that Visceral (or more likely, EA) decided to focus entirely on the new drop in/drop out co-op at the public E3 demo. They then slowly began to reconcile some of that negativity by reviling such nifty features as each character experiencing their own story elements due to the dementia both Parker and Isaac are suffering from. Similar to other co-op games, the story with your partner beside you will be a tad different than the story you’re experiencing by your lonesome. Visceral has said that if you do play alone, you will run into Carver at certain points within the story but for the most part, he will not be there.

Of course, those are far from the only new features being added to Dead Space 3. In particular, there’s a brand new weapon bench that will allow you to not only get your hands on previously nonexistent weapons, but also combine weapons to make an even more dangerous and disturbing murder stick. Also, instead of just purchasing the weapons with currency found throughout the game, you now have to build them with items scattered across the in game world. Visceral has also thrown in some human enemies and new, absolutely gorgeous visuals; if you need a good dose of eye candy, watch this developer diary EA released showcasing the co-op and single player aspects of the story.

I’ve always been a Dead Space fan, due partly to my uncontrollable love for the horror genre across all forms of media but mostly my love is all a credit to the back breaking work Visceral puts into their projects and there’s no doubt it shows. But you can’t help but wonder whether or not this new Dead Space will be what we want, which is just more horror in my mind. Visceral Games has stated over and over again that their focus on co-op will not affect the single player in any way, but who really knows? In all honesty, it’s hard to imagine EA and Visceral releasing a Dead Space product that they did not think met the high marks set by previous games in the series. Despite the questions surrounding it, no one can stop me from waiting on the edge of my seat for the new Dead Space to arrive at my house.

My excitement will culminate on February 5th when the game finally hits store shelves/lands inside a well packaged, bubble wrapped Amazon shipping box.

Jan 042013
 

Annualized sports games are something that never gets the attention they deserves. They’re a nuisance to some and there’s no doubt that they never change too drastically from year to year but as most sports fans will tell you, they change just enough. Though that can’t always be said as some games seemingly churn out nearly the same experience year to year or, of course, have an off year or two. In this feature I will analyze the sports games of 2012 and ultimately decide which sports game did the most to improve, and which did the least. This is by no means determining the Sports Game of the Year category in our annual GiR awards; it’s merely my opinion on the past year’s beloved recurring franchises that often include a ball… or a puck if you want to get real crazy. It’s time for arguably the best three sports games this year!

Madden NFL 13

This year’s Madden delivered one of the biggest changes the franchise had ever went through in the installation of the brand new physics system which made near ever tackling animation feel unique. There’s no doubt that the installation was far from perfect as awkward, buggy moments were not far in between one another but that’s to be expected in the one year turnaround. The fact is, the new physics system feels really good when it goes well and it creates true lifelike tackles, unlike the stoic and clearly structured tackles of old. I never believed this until I went back and played NCAA Football 13, which does not feature the new physics, and found it near unplayable as I’d become spoiled by the unpredictable Infinity engine in Madden.

On top of that, they also improved franchise mode by fleshing out the previously installed scout system where you look at players you could take in the upcoming draft and determine if they’re worth your pick or not. Apart from the engine, the gameplay itself is mostly unchanged which is a tad disappointing. One thing that needs improvement here soon is the near five year old animations that happen when you snap the ball. Whether it’s the blocking or the wide receiver running routes, it just feels dated. Lets hope for some decent upcoming changes and Infinity engine tweaks, but I’ll admit I’m pretty damn happy with what I got this year.

NHL 13

Similar to many sports games I talked about in the last installment, NHL 13 mainly only tweaked certain aspects of their gameplay and then called It a day. That isn’t to say the actual NHL experience is any less fantastic because of that however. One of the biggest and easily the most accessible change is in the form of the “true skating.” True skating, similarly to Madden is a physics heavy skating system that introduces a ton of new animations. Also added is much smarter AI that will react to everything happening on the ice, not just what is in front of you. Playing the game remains as exhilarating and hard hitting as games previously released in the series.

NBA 2K13

Though yet again EA Sports did not release a basketball game, 2K continued to churn out their fantastic 2K series. This time with a lot of Jay Z all up in it. Apart from the Jay Z, they also added new features to their already fantastic My Player mode. The mode is largely heralded as one of the best My Career modes out there mainly because of the attention to detail. That detail continues to shine as they added small new additions such as deeper contract negotiations, controlling off court activities, clothing sponsorships, etc.

As far as in game changes go, the attention was on the right stick as 2K allowed the stick to be allocated for dribbling purposes. The execution works pretty well and doesn’t feature any major issues. The change ultimately became one that fell to the back of my head as I took place in the finely tuned and impeccable four quarters of basketball that NBA 2K games so eloquently produce. It really seemed like NBA 2K relied a bit too heavily on throwing out the Jay-Z name as a producer. I’m sure that was a marketing decision but it was a bad one, and that’s coming from a guy that enjoys himself some Jay-Z. Overall, it just seems a tad too in your face and seems like more attention should have been spent elsewhere.

Least Improved: MLB 2K12

Simply put, it’s time for this series to lie down and go out peacefully. That became even clearer with this year’s installment and it seems like the developers are realizing it as well. The changes were almost nonexistent and 2K was clearly just attempting to cash in their last check and create their last MLB game they were forced to do due to a clause in their original contract with the MLB. We’ll see if this was the last year but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the MLB 2K franchise will not be in my Analyzing the Annualized: 2013 Edition.

Most Improved: Madden NFL 13

First off, it was not the best year for drastic changes and that’s obvious from my choice for most improved. Overall, it felt like a lot of games, especially the already established and loved franchises (NBA 2K, MLB: The Show), rode solely on their already fantastic features and did so without shedding an ounce of sweat. This isn’t always the worst thing as that usually means great changes are ahead for the current sports juggernauts. Either that or they’re going to continue to not change much and I’ll continue to love them, I’ll be happy either way, I suppose.

Now for Madden, I’ll be the first to admit that the new physics feature is a bit funnier than it is effective at times. But that hilarity is an occasional annoyance which only slightly hampers one of the biggest changes Madden has ever received. The obscene amount of animations for tackling is refreshing in many ways, especially for people that have played Madden every year the past six years. Thankfully, for every comical mishap, there’s a big hit or crumbling pile of defensive lineman reacting exactly how they would if you were watching a game on Sunday.

The smaller franchise additions are also very welcomed but it’s still missing a few things if it wants to establish itself as a flawless feature. Namely, it needs more in depth decisions on the team, such as removing starters and them being pissed, better rookie evaluations before the draft, trade demands, and somehow make the on field content while in franchise mode at least a little different than every other exhibition game. Don’t even get me started on the abysmal Superstar mode, it has many issues and needs a complete overhaul to even be remotely interesting. But for this year and the little time they had, EA Sports did a remarkable job refining their franchise mode and more importantly, adding in a physics system that revamps every tackling animation within the game. The animation will only get better as time goes on, as will the game itself.

Jan 022013
 

Like most other January’s, this upcoming month is going to be quite the bore in the video game department. We luckily have Devil May Cry but no one is really sure on how that will turn out but at least that’s one game to be excited about. Also possibly coming at the end of the month is The Cave which could easily be the best game to release this January if it does appear on our virtual markets. But don’t forget, Sniper: Ghost Warrior… Could be a sleeper hit, folks. Right?

Anarchy Reigns
Release Date: January 8th
Developer: Platinum Games

If you’re like me, you’ve heard the name Anarchy Reigns but never really dug deep enough to figure exactly what the game is about. After some digging, I have discovered that Anarchy Reigns is in fact a third person action beat ‘em up that features a vast multiplayer mode. The game is developed by the chaotic geniuses known as Platinum Games. You know, the mad men behind games such as Bayonetta and Vanquish? Another game they had a hand in creating was the Wii exclusive Mad World, released a few years back, and Anarchy Reigns is supposed to be a spiritual successor to that as characters such as Jack, Blacker Baron, and Mathlida return.

I’ve never been a beat ‘em up kind of guy but once you attach the Platinum tag to a title, you at least have my attention. But what gets more than my attention is the aforementioned multiplayer the game is heralding so high. Throughout a match, random events such as a black hole appearing and a tsunami rolling in will happen regularly. Most impressively, the game will feature six modes, ranging from a free for all fight to a simple one on one cage match. Sounds like the sort of insanity that Platinum Games is so well known for.

Devil May Cry
Release Date: January 15th
Developer: Ninja Theory

Since the original announcement of the new, revamped Devil May Cry, people have been up in arms about many things, specifically the new design for the beloved main character, Dante. On the more technical side, the new Devil May Cry was revealed to be running on the Unreal Engine, an engine that restricts games to a 30 FPS limit. This was obviously a huge worry as the gameplay in previous Devil May Cry’s has been heavily reliant on a smooth, quick combat system. Thankfully, Capcom has stated that they chipped in during the development to ensure the fluidity within the combat.

But once that early chatter died down, it became rather clear that the new Devil May Cry was going to be, unsurprisingly, very similar to the previous game in the series. The game will focus on the combo heavy combat and will encourage varying up your fighting styles by giving you higher style ranks based on your effectiveness and unpredictability. I’ve never been a huge Devil May Cry fan but I did play through the third one and rather enjoyed it. Because of that I’ll definitely be checking out Ninja Theory’s reimagining of the franchise.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2
Release Date: January 15th
Developer: CITY Interactive

I don’t know, man. There isn’t anything coming out so why not talk about Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 for a second. Similar to Anarchy Reigns, I knew nothing of this game, so I went to work. I scoured the web and went in every crevice and corner to try my best to bring you the hard hitting Sniper information you all desire. I ultimately fell to the GiantBomb page for Sniper, where I found near all I needed to know: “Other than it will run on CryEngine 3, nothing else is known about the game.”

But ultimately, I was not satisfied. So I then headed to the last place any one would look, some website entitled “Wikipedia.” (Going to be a PR nightmare for people who want to market that website) There I found out that Sniper was indeed about being an elite sniper and would feature realistic bullet physics, something we’ve all craved. Multiplayer will feature hotly contested sniper duels as well. Hell, I don’t know, it could be alright.

The Cave
Release Date: January
Developer: Double Fine Productions

I shall preface this by saying January is not a confirmed release date but from what I’ve read, it seems likely that The Cave will release either late January or early February. We shall see but either way, I think I speak for many in saying I hope The Cave comes out this month. Not only because this month is incredibly dry in terms of video games but also because The Cave just seems like damn good fun.

If you’re unaware, in the Cave you choose between three of seven very varied characters and then head into a 2D based cave. The cave itself then serves as a narrator providing consistent dialogue throughout your journey. The journey consists of solving puzzles that are somehow directly related to the characters own personal issues. The Cave will fit the Metroidvania style as some areas will not be accessible without certain items that you can find within the environment. Also, it’s being developed by the geniuses over at Double Fine, so high quality is to be expected.

Also releasing:

Painkiller: Hell and Danmation (January 22nd)
Hitman: HD Trilogy (January 29th)

Dec 312012
 

This year was a year dominated by the rise of the Arcade.  Half of the games in my top 10 were 15 dollars or less and that’s a huge testament to how big the Xbox Live Arcade has gotten in the past year. Apart from the ones on my list, other games like Fez, Journey (PS3 download but you get the message), and Trials Evolution are getting major consideration for awards on multiple other websites. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a fair share of retail releases that impressed on multiple levels. Tell that to Sleeping Dogs, Mass Effect 3, Far Cry 3, Assassins Creed 3, and Dishonored and they will prove you wrong. It wasn’t the best year, that’s for sure, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t impress in many ways.

 

10. Hybrid

Hybrid is far from what it appears to be, it’s more than just another multiplayer focused shooter. It gets its “more” from not only the stunning visuals but also the intuitive design around the movement and in game combat mechanics that it executes so seamlessly. It, along with games such as Monday Night Combat, have really proven how great of a service Xbox Live Arcade is for small teams who have a new way to freshen up the increasingly dry multiplayer based experience. That combined with the intelligent overworld that presents constant power struggles between the two games factions in the form of ongoing battles within a certain part of the world are some of the biggest reasons that Hybrid stands tall within a dying genre.

 

9. Mark of the Ninja

Let’s all be honest here, stealth games are usually pieces of trash. Sure, a lot of them have a good heart behind them but actually executing on the ideas needed to make a decent stealth game seem near impossible for most developers. That, combined with the fact that I didn’t like Klei’s previous franchise, Shank, led to some pretty low expectations as I came into Mark of the Ninja. What I got was a fresh and sneaky experience that hasn’t been matched in years. Klei brought their admittedly beautiful art style from the Shank series and combined it with their now brilliant game design aspects that turn Mark of the Ninja into a pleasantly tense experience throughout its five hour lifespan.

 

8. Max Payne 3

I know what you’re thinking; I forgot Max Payne came out this year too. But believe it or not, it did release and again, believe it or not, it was pretty good. It told the depressing alcohol ridden story of Mr. Payne as he traipsed through foreign land trying to save soul after soul, and failing rather miserably each time. The story however was not this Max Payne’s forte as the most enjoyable aspects came from the franchises stapled combat mechanics. The combat revolves around using slow motion and Max Payne’s acrobatic nature (despite his age) to the player’s advantage as cinematic and beautiful moments seem to pop up in every combat section. There’s no doubt that Rockstar did well with the Max Payne series this go around, but it’s clear that it’s time to move on. Bully 2, perhaps?

 
7. Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust is the definition of coming out of left field to be a major success this year. Sure, many had decent expectations approaching the games release but I don’t think anyone expected the experience they got when they starting tearing through that beautiful word. A product made by one sole human in Dean Dodrill, Dust took a cartoony art style and turned it into a key aspect of a rather serious story that hits major emotional undertones near the end. In my original review I stated that Dust may have the best visuals I’ve ever seen and I still stand by that statement. Every inch of every slaved over texture is just as beautiful as the next and never ceases to be the best eye candy you’ll see all year. The story is far from the only thing that shined though as so did the well-executed combo system that let you blast enemies into midair and rack up combo chains that would easily reach 2000+. Dust is just one more reason why I think this year may have been one of the best years Xbox Live Arcade has ever experienced.

 

6. Assassin’s Creed III

Apart from the year Revelations has released, an Assassins Creed installment has taken my Game of the Year for every year one is released. Since Ubisoft had made the horrible decision to annualize the franchise, we all knew it would be a matter of time before the fatigue began to set in and that was unfortunately the case with Assassin’s Creed III. But thankfully, the fatigue only begins to hit near the end as most of the game is a fantastic Assassin’s Creed experience that takes previous mechanics and only heightens their simplicity and effectiveness. The main reason it’s in my top 10 though is due all to Connor’s story and how nicely the Revolutionary War is integrated into the story. Sure, it has its hiccups, like all Assassin’s Creeds do, but experiencing that time period is something I’ve always dreamed of and seeing it realized in front of my face was an unforgettable experience.

 

5. Forza Horizon

Though I own the third, I’ll admit that I’ve never played a Forza game before. I’ve never been a racing game kind of guy and the complex nature of the car customization was really daunting whenever I did have that itch to jump into the Forza Community. I finally took the leap with Forza Horizon and was, simply put, blown away. The visuals are expected to be absolutely fantastic, and they are, but the simple feel of handling each car within the multitude of races was such an immersive quality that I eventually felt like I just couldn’t put the game down. The simplified nature and fantastic design choices that have been so prevalent in previous Forza’s all come to a head and make one of the best racing experiences I’ve had on this generation of consoles.

 
4. Spelunky

People are going to call me crazy, I know, but I never got into Dark Souls nor did I fall in love with Super Meat Boy. Trust me, I tried oh so hard but I couldn’t find the masochistic pleasure that everyone else seemed to bathe in. That masochistic pleasure finally hit me when I played Spelunky, though. Spelunky, originally a flash game, is a well realized and even better executed platformer that sends you throughout multiple levels, only allowing a checkpoint at the end of the current world you’re in. That is, if you have the required loot that the tunnel man desires. It’s hard to explain the degree of difficulty that comes with the task of getting through these worlds but to put it simply, I felt as if I could smash my controller between my hands whenever I would die and have to restart. But I felt like the world heavyweight champion when I would unlock a checkpoint. I wanted to sprint out of my house yelling of my success to any human or animal that would listen. Either way, no game matched the sheer happiness I felt once I reached the final world and at the same time, no game can match the pure horror I felt when I witnessed what the final world was comprised of.

 
3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Oh man, XCOM. If there was an award for uncontrollable addiction that you could not shake, you would be my choice. Apart from the obviously exciting turn based gameplay, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is one of the most well designed games I’ve ever laid hands on. It literally feels as if Firaxis never wants you to put the controller down, so they lay a small carrot (that expands into a huge carrot) down right in front of your face. They then make it seem so easy to reach, but it’s challenging. Just challenging enough to have you keep practicing so you can finally gnaw down on the carrot. With that, so goes ten hours of your life. That describes my experience with XCOM, hard as hell but damn is that carrot rewarding.

 
2. Sleeping Dogs

Leading up to the release of Sleeping Dogs, I couldn’t shake this feeling. The feeling was one of unexplainable confidence. Despite Sleeping Dog’s horrendous development life, I still felt like United Front and Square Enix were both about to churn out a decent product. Once I got my hands on it, I began to realize that a “decent” product did not describe Sleeping Dogs; instead it was a damn fine product. It all starts with the gorgeous visuals that helped bring the streets of Hong Kong to life, though that’s only a small inch of the shocker that is Sleeping Dogs.

Once you get past that positive, you see some of the best things within the package such as the Arkham Asylum-esque combat system that relies heavily on counters. The world itself was littered with side missions that either add to the depth that each character features or instead, are just plain fun. With the exception of those damn racing mission. Sleeping Dogs story is not a particularly new one; it’s a gang story relying on your main character who is an undercover cop. The thing that really elevates the narrative however is the fantastic characters that fill the world of Sleeping Dogs. Not only was Sleeping Dogs by far the most surprising game of the year, it was also one of the best games not only this year, but in the past few years. It’s one of those rare games that could go head to head with any Grand Theft Auto game and in the end, come out a victor.

 
1. The Walking Dead

Speaking of surprises, I think it’s safe to say that before the first episode’s release, no one expected Tell Tale’s latest episodic adventure to blow up like The Walking Dead has. I’ll admit, it was nowhere near on my radar when the year began but once the first episode, A New Day, was in my virtual hands, I knew I had found a piece of gold. Sure, I’ll admit that The Walking Dead is far from perfect; it has some serious visual issues and some occasional shooting sequences that feel like they had been worked on for ten minutes before being installed in the game. But that being said, I’ve never been more emotionally invested into a video game or any form of media like I was when playing through The Walking Dead.

The way it forces you into Lee’s shoes and then makes you feel like you belong there is truly amazing and something I’m sure all games wish they could achieve. But it doesn’t stop there as Tell Tale and their writers introduce character after character that all play an equally important role in your struggle to live. Then came the dialogue choices that were just as good at putting a smile on your face as they were at absolutely ripping your heart out and stomping on it. The terrible decisions that are forced upon you later on in the game only add to the pure horror you experience through your time with The Walking Dead.

Simply put, The Walking Dead is an absolute masterpiece and the best video game storytelling experience I’ve ever laid hands on.

Dec 202012
 

Annualized sports game is something that never gets the attention it deserves. They’re a nuisance to some and there’s no doubt that they never change too drastically from year to year but as most sports fans will tell you, they change just enough. Though that can’t always be said as some games seemingly churn out nearly the same experience year to year or, of course, have an off year or two. In this feature I will analyze the sports games of 2012 and ultimately decide which sports game did the most to improve, and which did the least. This is by no means determining the Sports Game of the Year category in our annual GiR awards; it’s merely my opinion on the past year’s beloved recurring franchises that often include a ball… or a puck if you want to get real crazy.

NCAA Football 2013
This year’s NCAA Football brought about some much needed changes to the franchise mode while also attempting tweak a few in game controls to make for a smoother overall experience.. The franchise changes were well received and revolved mostly around improving the recruiting experience while tightening up the still unnecessarily complex UI.  The in game changes were mostly insignificant and only noticeable by people that play each NCAA game every year. No newcomer will realize that you can now throw the ball to a receivers back shoulder, nor will they become particularly excited when seeing it.

The biggest addition this year was the addition of a Heisman challenge mode where you take over the shoes of a previous Heisman winner, RG3, Doug Flutie, Barry Sanders, etc., and follow along his footsteps until you too win the Heisman. It’s a simple mode that featured some nice ideas such as giving you a checklist of things to complete that the player himself also accomplished. But in the end, you begin to realize that’s just a checklist and completing those four things are never anywhere near as fun as you might hope.. The biggest issue was the lack of personality from your character that would help you feel more like the actual player, as opposed to just another stud running back who is knocking people over left and right.

MLB 2K12
It’s no secret that MLB 2K, to put it nicely, has been MLB The Show’s little bitch for the past few years but even with that, I’ve always found some kind of enjoyment from it. I mostly enjoy it for its UI, art style, and most importantly, it’s on the 360 so I can get those sweet, sweet achievements. This year MLB really fell on its face as it felt like they introduced almost no new things to their yearly franchise, apart from the generic “gameplay and control tuning.”

The actual changes only slightly went beyond that as the AI and pitching controls were improved, but not quite enough to bump it up to the levels of MLB: The Show. MLB 2K12 is the definition of a rehashed product simply produced to earn a tad bit more money before the franchise dies. That death seems to have come as MLB 2K was left off of 2K’s 2013 fiscal year report, which is also how we learned of the cancellations for both the NHL and College Hoops franchises.

Fifa 13
Fifa seems to taken the same route as MLB 2K did this year, minus the mediocre feel and instead brought about brilliant AI changes that only enhance the remarkable football/soccer experience that everyone comes to Fifa for. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a guy to delve into Fifa’s many modes; I’m more of a home body that sticks to playing quick match after quick match. I think it’s a testament to the quality of Fifa as that’s the only game I’ve ever done that with. The changes themselves are a tad complex but still very welcome, such as players now battling before the ball is in a players possession, this could result in a poor first touch and ultimately losing control of the ball and giving it up to the opposition. Also added was a bit more intelligence in the AI as now when they attack, they’ll use strategies such as running a certain way to throw off the other team and then open up a nice passing lane to split the defense and ultimately have a goal opportunity.

For you crazy people that do dive into the career modes, EA introduced the possibility of becoming an international player/coach. Producer David Rutter stated that it was the most fan requested feature and even from the outside looking in, it does sound interesting. I would love to actually participate in the mode but I become so overwhelmed with the barrage of football info flying my way that I can’t help but step back and say “Oh God, I don’t know what any of this means.” I then resort back to my quick play options, and I see nothing wrong with that.

MLB 12: The Show
The Show continued to dominate the baseball market this year and while it’s pretty apparent that the opposing MLB 2K series will not be around much longer, The Show continued to storm on with a fun and fresh feeling experience. Though it’s becoming harder and harder to do, Sony managed to make the actual in game experience even better by tweaking the at bats and pitches slightly to increase the drama you experience when someone steps behind the plate. They also brought in full Move support, though I’m sure that’s something most will never lay a hand on.

One of the biggest additions was the new Diamond Dynasty Mode where you can create your own fantasy team and take it online to compete with others. It’s similar to the Ultimate Team mode in both Fifa and Madden where you have cards relating to the players and must upgrade their skills while gaining them more and more playing experience. It’s nothing too revolutionary, but it provides a few hours of fun and I could definitely see people getting hooked on building up their perfect dream team. MLB: The Show has always been regarded as one of the best sports games out there, but it’s about time for Sony to make some kind of change to freshen up the experience. Here’s to hoping that big change will come in the near future.

 

Look for Part 2 in the near future. It will reveal the most improved, least improved, and thoughts on the following games:

NBA 2K13
Madden NFL 13
NHL 13

Dec 122012
 

To some gamers delight, the new Mass Effect (tentatively titled “The New Mass Effect”) has taken one more step to becoming an actual thing by receiving itself a nice little launch window. Today, Mass Effect 3 producer Mike Gamble revealed in an interview with Gamers Syndrome that the new Mass Effect has a tentative release date of late 2014-mid 2015. When asked about why the development was switched from Bioware Montreal to Bioware Edmonton and why they changed graphical engines (now using Frostbite 3), Mike responded:

“While I can’t comment on why it changed studios, fans can expect a similar style of choices and action that they’ve come to know in Mass Effect. Casey Hudson is very much involved in the new Mass Effect game, as well as many from Edmonton. BioWare Montreal is a great studio and they did fantastic with the multiplayer for Mass Effect 3, so fans should know the series is in good hands. The game isn’t far along in development so I can’t comment on specifics because they isn’t any yet, Frostbite 2 is a really good game engine that we are also using on Dragon Age 3. As far as release date, there’s nothing to be announced yet. You’ll hear more about the new Mass Effect game [next year] in 2013.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this installment begins to form as the buzz surrounding Mass Effect hasn’t been very positive since people began to finish the third. That being said, I have no doubt that Bioware can flip the image of the franchise back into the light it deserves and at the same time begin to reform the same rabid fan base they had one year ago. Time will tell, I’m sure we’ll be seeing at least a teaser at E3 this year.

Dec 042012
 

Let’s start this out with a bit of honesty, coming into Wipeout 3 for the Wii U, my expectations were rather low. Low to the point where I had a good feeling this game would be trash before even sliding it into my Wii U. The third sequel in the great Wipeout franchise did not disappoint when it came to matching my expectations. It turns out that coming into Wipeout 3 thinking it’s going to be a straight up turd is actually being a bit too generous.

The basis around this Wipeout experience is almost a carbon copy of the show, you’re a person and you run through seemingly painful obstacles all while wishing you were watching MXC. That’s of course about what you’d expect from a Wipeout game but what you wouldn’t (or maybe you would) expect is the fact that there are only 10 levels to run through. These 10 levels take about an hour and half at max to complete and once you finish them, you’re pretty much out of content to dig through. Sure, you could run through the levels again but why would you? You’ve already seen everything there is to see in that poorly designed section of the game, why see it again? Your fallback option is to find someone else to play it with in multiplayer but you’re a lucky soul if you can find someone willing to dive into this disaster for more than 30 minutes. Further adding to the boredom, you can’t lose the “competition” going on while you’re running through the course. Seriously, I laid the controller down for 15 minutes and still won.

 

It doesn’t help that the controls will occasionally just break and force you to fall off the platform you’re on. I never ran into that issue with the Gamepad as handling your character was only loose and unstable as opposed to just plain broken with the Wii Remote. There were multiple times when my character would just halt in place and start to moonwalk backwards until she fell into the water below. On top of that, the timing just seemed a tad off on the jumps, like there was a delay between hitting the button and actually having your character perform the action you desire. At some point it just went beyond frustrating and turned into one big hilarious experience, to the point where I imagined that was supposed to happen, it makes it seem better.

The most obvious slight against Wipeout is its PlayStation 2 level visuals. Honestly, I’ve seen multiple PlayStation 2 games that look much better than Wipeout, mainly due to the absolutely awful textures placed upon every inch of the environment. The art style is understandably cartoony and not completely ugly when standing still but once the gears start moving, the visuals fade into a horrific abyss. But don’t even think about them improving once you go into the local multiplayer. In the multiplayer I experienced consistent frame rate drops that I didn’t think could exist and actually be shipped out in a product.

That isn’t the only fault with the multiplayer as it’s clear that many of the levels simply were not designed with multiplayer in mind. For example, you and your partner are running through a course, they hit a moving platform that slowly slides forward, you don’t make it in time so you now have to wait for the snail of a platform to shimmy its way back to you and by the time it does, your opposing player is almost a minute or more ahead of you. It’s just poor design at every turn and it doesn’t help that the main option in multiplayer is to just run through the same levels that you ran through in single player. There is a separate mode that can at least bring forth a bit of griefing fun, Trap Mode being its name. In it the gamepad holder controls the activation of the traps such as big cushion that can smash your partner, who’s running through the course using the Wii Remote, right off the linear passageway.

If there’s a few things I can squeeze out that are positive about this game, that would be the fact that the game is fully playable using only the Gamepad, which is something that I could see coming in handy with better titles in the future. Also, there’s quite a bit of dialogue in the game that is recorded by the faces of Wipeout, John Anderson and John Henson. The only problem with that is the fact that the dialogue is about as funny as their banter on the actual show. I was occasionally forced to turn the volume off because I just couldn’t stand another painfully unfunny joke about whatever they keep chatting about.

Nicely put, Wipeout 3 is one of the worst launch games I’ve ever put hands on and with a bit of luck, will be the worst Wii U game to be placed onto the market. It’s clear the development process behind Wipeout was not an easy nor progressive one. I’ll admit I was never offended by Wipeout 3, that’s the last compliment I can manage to purge forward about the short, unsatisfying experience that is this overpriced $50 experience. If you want to play a game of Wipeout, you should purchase the iPhone version at the price of 2 bucks. It’s cheaper and infinitely better than this sad little piece of work.

WII U

Graphics

25
 

Audio

30
 

Gameplay

20

Creativity

25
 

Execution

20
 

Offset

25
    

2.4

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Dec 032012
 

It’s December yet again and with December means two things: Christmas and near zero games releasing. This year we got a little lucky with the large release of Far Cry 3 and the retail release of The Walking Dead Season 1 collection. Then on top of that, of course, the blockbuster release of Power Rangers Super Samurai and Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade. On with the releases, or lack thereof.

Fry Cry 3
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, and PC
Release Date: December 4th

Without a doubt the biggest game releasing in December, Far Cry 3 finally releases this Tuesday and it already seems like a hit. Early critical consensus is very high and some are tabbing it as a serious contender for Game of the Year. Sadly, I’ve flushed my money into the Wii U toilet and with Christmas fast approaching, it’s going to be hard to scrounge money up for this one. But with the buzz surrounding it, I know I’ll eventually find some way to get my grubby hands on Far Cry 3.

I’ll admit, when they first delayed Far Cry 3 from September to December, I was more than a tad worried. I suppose that I should’ve realized from Sleeping Dogs that delays don’t always prove to be a bad thing. Let’s hope that’s the case this time around as well. From what I’ve picked up, if you want a game filled to the brim with side content and an insane story, Far Cry 3 is right up your alley.

Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade
Platforms: Wii U
Release Date: December 4th

Clearly Nintendo was waiting for December to push their major products as opposed to letting them out on launch day. With games like Family Party, Wheel of Fortune, Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth (Which might not be too terrible), and Jeopardy hitting before Christmas, it’s obvious the holiday push is on and Nintendo is sending out the big guns to entice kids to beg and plead for a Wii U. Internet sarcasm, I’ve been partaking in it since 2007.

But seriously, this game, despite its terrible and nonsensical name, will be an inoffensive family game that one or two people will get a kick out of and then lay it down and never set eyes on it again. Instead they’ll dive into the newest Super Mario Bros until, well, the next Super Mario Bros? Then once they’ve had their fill, it’ll be time for the Wii U to gather its dust and fade away. Please, Nintendo, you made a decent console, now you just have to support it with something that isn’t just another Mario or Zelda game.

Mass Effect Trilogy
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, and PC
Release Date: December 4th

One of the most influential franchises this generation is finally (a whole 9 months after the third installment’s release) getting its own little trilogy package. The biggest question coming into this release was what will happen to all the DLC for the games? Well here’s the scoop, Skippy, straight from the Mass Effect website:

“On PC, Mass Effect will include Bring Down the Sky and Pinnacle Station on disk.  For Mass Effect 2, Cerberus Network will be included which features Zaeed – The Price of Revenge, The Firewalker Pack, Cerberus Assault Gear, Arc Projector heavy weapon, and Normandy Crash site mission.  For Mass Effect 3, Online Pass will be included granting players access to co-op multiplayer.  On Xbox 360, Bring Down the Sky and Pinnacle Station are not included, however they are available as stand-alone downloads through Xbox LIVE.  For Mass Effect 2, Cerberus Network will be included and Online Pass will be included for Mass Effect 3.  Information on PlayStation 3 DLC will be available at a later date.”

Good deal or no, what say you? I, personally, never touched the DLC and didn’t enjoy the first Mass Effect one bit so I’d pass on this package but I’m sure many have still not played the series and will jump in here. My advice? Skip the first one.

 

The Walking Dead
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, and PC
Release Date: December 11th

Now that the first season of the Walking Dead has finally wrapped up, it’s about time for Tell Tale to release it all as one nice package. My opinions on the Walking Dead series have been expressed multiple times throughout my reviews of the episodes but I’ll reiterate a bit here. First up, the art style is a fantastic piece of work to gaze at. Sadly, frame rate and animation issues plagued the Xbox 360 version throughout its lifespan. Though I can’t confirm this one bit, it would be a rather safe bet to say the PC version runs much better than the Xbox 360/PS3 version and therefore may not feature the frame rate issues.

But buying it on the PC means you won’t take part in the new style of point and click adventure that Tell Tale introduces to the console version of the series. On top of the immaculate controls, The Walking Dead features a beautifully told story held across five different episodes. The way the story unravels mirrors your characters mindset as he plows forward through this destroyed world, just hoping there’s happiness around the next corner. Simply put, The Walking Dead is a fantastic experience and if you haven’t taken part in the experience, you better get in while the getting’s good.

007 Legends
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: December 11th

As some may remember, 007 Legends was released around a month ago and was met with a fairly negative review from myself. It was a bland experience that never improved upon itself one bit and instead felt like one big nap. Minus the happy and comfortable feeling that comes with a good nap. I was proud that throughout 007 Legends I only fell asleep with the controller in my hand twice. That’s an accomplishment, folks.

It’s a tad unclear as to what exactly the gamepad will do but I’m going to assume it serves as your mini map and inventory, because that’s what shooters will do from now on. I’m also going to assume that this will not fix the many issues the original game experienced. But hey, this could be the best 007 game ever released, but I’m going to assume not. Someone pick it up and let me know, because I’m going to stay far away from this, based off of educated assumptions.

Also releasing:

Guardians of Middle-Earth Release
Release Date: December 4th

Power Rangers Super Samurai
Release Date: December 4th

Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth
Release Date: December 4th

Resistance Collection
Release Date: December 5th

Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy for Wii U
Release Date: December 11th

Nov 292012
 

How long can a stealth game rely on simply being a stealth game? That is the question I continuously asked myself as we approached the release of IO Interactive’s latest installment in their widely beloved Hitman series. It seems IO was wondering the same thing as they gave us hints at newer, more expansive upgrades to the Hitman template in Hitman: Absolution. They didn’t reinvent the series, but they did attempt to improve it in some interesting ways. But do these attempts work out or do they fall to the wayside and quickly become unnoticed?

Story wise, IO decided to make a smart decision in making this go around a more personal narrative focusing on Agent 47’s ties to his once employer Diana Burnwood, who he’s now been assigned to kill. That interesting premise never goes up from there as their attempts at dramatic moments falter due to the silly characters 47 has to deal with throughout the game. These characters are brought to a whole new level by the voice work of Keith Carradine as Blake Dexter among other performances. Don’t get me wrong, the silliness of the characters is one of the most enjoyable things of the game, but it does nothing for a story that at one point showed some signs of a tight tale. That being said, 47’s story does wrap up well but of course, it’s always left open for a sequel.

Simply the best thing about the previous versions in the Hitman franchise was the stalking and eventually assassination of your set targets. The chances to do that obviously return in almost every mission you encounter and they’re far from diminished in excitement or tension. The wonderful puzzle aspect of finding out how exactly to poison this man’s pizza is still there and provides some hilarious but tough ways to off your targets. For example, this guy pees on a wall every five minutes. Lay a wire there and send electricity through it, and unhappiness begins to flow through that man in a heartbeat.

The ability to disguise yourself as your enemy also returns and plays a large part in keeping yourself incognito from wandering enemies. The Hitman series has always featured some hidden comical aspects that relate to the disguising but they seem to have taken a step back from that this go around, for better or worse. Remaining undetected begins to add to your final mission score which is no more than a high score for your friends to compete with. Though it is that simple, I couldn’t help but always attempt to get the Silent Assassin rank, partly because you feel like a badass with that final grade, partly because I’m an overachiever, but mainly the latter.

One thing IO did add into Absolution was a mode called “Instinct.” You activate Instinct mode by pressing and holding LB and once it’s activated, time slows down and dependent on what you’re disguised as, your enemy’s line of sight towards you may disappear. Say you’re dressed as a cop in a room full of cops. Without instinct, you’re quickly going to be noticed as a man in disguise. With Instinct however, you simply blend into the crowd and the enemies can no longer detect whether you’re in disguise or just another new cop. It’s a supremely contrived system but it works well enough to not break the atmosphere Absolution sets up.

Instinct also presents a very helpful feature which is the ability to see an NPC’s walking path by a trail of fire that appears under his feet, showing you exactly where his current path takes him and where he’ll go once his occasional stop ends. Apart from those two main aspects of Instinct, it also shows you items of interest in the environment and highlights enemies in different rooms by showing outlines of them, similar to Eagle Vision (and many other variations) in the Assassins Creed franchise. Instinct simplifies the stalking in Hitman but doesn’t dumb it down enough to where true fans will not enjoy it. Even if they do have an issue with the bit of help, the higher difficulties drastically limit it and the Purist difficulty eliminates it all together.

Combat has obviously never been a focus in the Hitman series but there’s still something to be said for IO managing to keep the combat up to date and accessible, though most will never participate in a prolonged sequence involving it. The Point Shooting mechanic introduced via the new Instinct System does a lot to make the combat easier to handle and quicker to go through if your current situation does come to that. That being said, you still never want to encounter combat in Hitman: Absolution. It simply doesn’t feel right and most of the time led me to restarting from the last checkpoint.

Though by last checkpoint, I rarely mean an actual checkpoint. That’s not to say there aren’t any checkpoints, there are one or two spots you can run into throughout the level where you save your current progress. But since the checkpoints are highlighted areas you have to walk into and the game is far from linear, you may never run into these checkpoints. This issue can really mess with you if you’re close to perfecting a level but screw up at the end. Even when you do find a checkpoint, it’s rare to find one set in a decent position that doesn’t force you to lose a good bit progress once you restart.

One of the most frustrating aspects in Hitman comes not in the actual mechanics but instead in the graphical department. I ran into an issue where the game would freeze for a second or two then quickly catch back up to itself by playing like it was in fast forward. I attempted to install the game, restart it, etc. but nothing fixed the issue. Thankfully it mostly happens at the beginning of the level but I did notice that before installing it, the issues are much worse and happen multiple times throughout the actual levels. That could obviously get you killed if you’re in the middle of sneaking up behind an enemy or attempting to distract guards by tampering with objects in the environment.  Apart from that issue, the game looks fantastic with a beautiful art direction that shines bright particularly in the more visually rich sections such as a sequence involving a rainy night or a tropical location. The attention to detail on each character is very noticeable and presented in front of your face multiple times. If the hitches didn’t exist, Hitman: Absolution would be a serious juggernaut in the visuals section.

The Contracts section of Hitman: Absolution was possibly the most intriguing aspect coming into its release. The idea behind Contracts mode is to put the player into the mind of a designer. They set you up into an established level and let you roam about it, eventually finding an interesting NPC that you want to set as your “target.” You can then set certain objectives people need to reach in your mission by doing them yourself, such as killing with a certain disguise or making sure you never get caught once by an enemy. The creation aspect is incredibly simple and very easy to grasp onto. The bad news is that the search for your target is made interesting due to the puzzle aspect that goes along with each hunt you take part in. That being said, users cannot recreate those moments, it’s impossible to do. That leads to the many simple “get this guy alone, kill him, leave,” missions that comprise most of the Contracts modes. Maybe users will eventually be able to expand the mode beyond that but it seems unlikely at this point.

It’s clear that the Hitman franchise, like Agent 47 himself, is getting old. I’m not sure how much longer it can ride on its stealth legs but it managed to do so this go around, despite me not thinking IO could manage it. If you’re a Hitman narrative aficionado, you may want to keep to your previous installments but if you want another solid Hitman product that builds upon its previous success pretty well, I have a game for you. There’s no doubt that IO didn’t knock this installment out of the park, but it’s still a good addition to a unique franchise.

XBox 360

Graphics

75
 

Audio

85
 

Gameplay

80

Creativity

75
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

80
    

7.9

  

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Nov 272012
 

After being everywhere the past few weeks due to the Wii U launch, Nintendo has decided that isn’t all it has to show for this holiday by unveiling a new Wii Mini. The Wii Mini is tallied at $99.99 by Nintendo will feature everything you need in a Wii, including:

  • Wii Mini Console
  • Wii Remote Plus Controller
  • Nunchuk Controller
  • Sensor Bar
  • Power Adaptor
  • Standard Composite Cables

Oddly enough, this deal is currently only available in Canada though it’s a rather safe bet to say it’ll expand into at least the States. It’s a tad surprising to see another SKU of the Wii appear but when you think about, I’m sure Nintendo will make a killing this Christmas off of people who don’t have the money to shell out for the rather pricey $300.00 Wii U

What say you, folks? Seems like a great gift for a niece or nephew.

Nov 262012
 

This review contains spoilers for episodes 1-4 of The Walking Dead.

It’s been a long journey to get here but it’s finally time for season 1 of The Walking Dead to conclude. This season has been building anticipation about as often as it’s been breaking hearts. It seems like only weeks ago when I was just meeting Kenny and his family, getting to know them while settling in on Herschel’s farm. Things are far from that simple now and in the newest episode, No Time Left, you learn that early and often. The story angles are finally all coming to a head and while we sit and hope for a happy conclusion, we all know that in Walking Dead land, no story ends happily.

Though it compromises the review a bit, honestly, you already know if you want to play The Walking Dead or not. In No Time Left, the puzzles and point and click aspects are few and far between as most of the episode is simply dialogue and story conclusions. That’s to be expected with a final episode and it’s definitely not a flaw as all the dialogue reflects the situation you’re in perfectly and only manages to suck you into that desolate world even further. The voice performances by the entire cast remain immaculate and are only hindered by the occasional sync issue with the mouth movement.

 

This episode obviously begins where the last left off as you and whoever wanted to come with set off to find Clem and along the way begin to experience a few hindrances yourself. Though the narrative up to this point has been near flawless, I was admittedly scared how they would wrap up the stories of the remaining individual characters. I was afraid they’d cop out and leave it all open for the (hopefully) inevitable season 2. Tell Tale did far from that, giving each character a solid ending, even if their endings are not necessarily happy ones. They also introduce a new, absolutely fascinating character who is only around for a scene but he manages to capture that scene while telling a disastrous yet relatable story.

With this being the season finale the decision making is at an all-time high as game changing choices seem to present themselves every 15 minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever been so emotionally affected by choices in a video game. There were some choices that made me squirm in my seat with nervousness that I may be making the choice that hurts not only me but my whole group. One brilliant thing Tell Tale did was add in cards at the end of the episode for each character in the game and on the cards are all the major choices you made relating to them. It’s a really nice bow on an unforgettable series.

One issue I ran into countless times throughout episode 5 and throughout the series were frame rate drops and animation hitches everywhere I turn. That issue was stepped up to another level in this installment as one entire section was a big frame rate drop for me. It wasn’t even a graphically intense section, it was simply Lee attempting to climb up a ladder. The actual art style that The Walking Dead has is still brilliant and they introduce some nice, zombie filled environments in No Time Left. Thankfully, the story and dialogue help you easily look past the occasional graphical frustrations.

It hasn’t been the best year for games but if there’s one thing that hasn’t disappointed since its original release, that thing is The Walking Dead. I’m not sure Tell Tale could have done a better job than they did with this already hit series. Could they have fixed some of the graphical issues and removed the shooting mechanics? Sure they could have but in the end I doubt it would have made me love this series more than I already do. With the Xbox 360 nearing its death, The Walking Dead has managed to appear and provide a fascinating storytelling experience while also revolutionizing the point and click genre on consoles. If you would have told me this time last year that I would be getting ready to name The Walking Dead series my Game of the Year 2012, I would have called you insane. But here I am, and there it is.

Bravo, Tell Tale. Bravo.

XBox 360

Graphics

80
 

Audio

95
 

Gameplay

100

Creativity

100
 

Execution

100
 

Offset

95
    

9.5

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!