Jun 112013
 

An entire skyscraper fell down! Oh, damn, I was supposed to save that until the end; I guess it all got a bit much for me. Let’s get on with it then, the best and worst EA and Ubisoft had to offer in their conferences.

THE GOOD:

Might as well start with Battlefield 4 I guess. I’m starting to get a little cynical about the continued release of the same title, just with a bigger number on the box. So it’s safe to say that my expectations for DICE’s latest offering weren’t high, and they weren’t made any better by the incredibly cliched gameplay footage that Microsoft spliced into their reveal. It was grey and had been done before, there wasn’t much more to say about it than that, which is probably why they didn’t even bother with a voice over. But when EA took the stage, the whole dynamic changed. They came straight out and stunned the audience with the promise of 64 player online battles, and then delivered right there; the giant screens split, revealing the 64 live gamers who were about to demonstrate what DICE had put together. Now, the focus is well and truly centred on teamwork, and dynamic maps (I’m not even sure there was any mention of weapons or motion capture). The latter was incredible. We had Battlefield’s trademark collapsing walls and ceilings, but the whole experience was compounded by the collapse of a skyscraper. Yes. As set-pieces go, it was spectacular to watch, but then I realised that this wasn’t even a set-piece; it was a real time, unique experience. It wasn’t scripted, it was player developed. Now, gamer control on that level is something worth getting excited about. As for the teamwork? My thoughts on that may well crop up in a different section of this article.

battlefield_4_-_siege_on_shanghai_multiplayer_screens_3_wm

Ubisoft didn’t give us as much in-game footage as I may have liked, but somehow they outshone EA simply with their awe-inspiring game trailers. In fairness to Ubisoft, they’d done all the hard work already; Assassin’s Creed IV and Watchdogs are probably the most anticipated games they’ve ever made. As far as Black Flag goes, I’m sure I won’t be the only franchise fan that is feeling a little relieved after seeing that trailer. I recently wrote an article asking why the last instalment was such a flop, and while there are many issues that left me disappointed, I think the real issue was Connor. Totally bland and reactionary, his departure from the flawed characters of Altair and Ezio was the root cause of the games failure. Judging by the intensely cold demeanour Edward gave off in Ubisoft’s teaser, violently killing captains and starting bar fights, I think that issue has been rectified. The sea battles (a rare highlight of number 3) apparently make their return, which is nice, and the words of Ubisoft’s representatives on stage, “The game is an invitation” are hopefully a confirmation of the game’s return to its roots; open-ended levels, and free choice.

Watchdogs looks INCREDIBLE. I defy anyone to have watched that trailer without salivating. I honestly think we could be in for an utterly flawless sandbox here, a feat I don’t think has been achieved before. It’s a beautifully unique concept that Ubisoft are trying to capture, and for that ambition to be met with seemingly universal praise and not trepidation is truly remarkable. It’s particularly poignant as well; social media is starting to run lives, electronics are becoming more and more ‘organic’, there may be a genuinely sophisticated message buried within this game. Or perhaps this is just a way of convincing me that the ‘Share’ button is actually a good thing. Well, I think it worked.

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Speaking of online functions, Ubisoft’s final reveal of The Division, an online 3rd person shooter or RPG (the format seems to be quite the hybrid) looks like a nice entry in the dwindling survival horror genre. Looking like a strong reflection of Ghost Recon in terms of gameplay, it looks like this could be the game to get the most out of the next-gen online features; design your own character, build  him or her in your own way, adapt to overcome obstacles with your friends. All of this is set in an open-world environment, so presumably players can do their own thing but team up for missions when necessary or desired. Finally, a reason to be able to see another player’s screen! Not simply to watch mind you, but to assess the situation and build an approach together; that’s an idea I like.

Final thought on their good points; EA announced a new Star Wars Battlefront. I don’t care what stage it’s at, the nostalgia of the thought alone is enough right now.

THE BAD:

Both EA and Ubisoft announced new racing games for the next-gen consoles, Need For Speed: Rivals and The Crew respectively. This is a little difficult for me to get excited about at the best of times (driving games don’t normally do it for me), but even so, I thought both announcements fell a little flat. Forget all the customization options, and open-world maps, and consider the online features that both games seemed to hang their hats on. They are strikingly similar; both allow other online players to join games and interact with each other, whether it be cooperatively or competitively. The loss of lobbies and loading screens is great, sure, but driving games have always been born for multiplayer, and yet this is the centre-piece of two next gen games? I feel like they’re trying to make us find it more interesting than it really is, but I’m afraid I haven’t fallen for it.

EA Sports is boring. I’m so sick of it now, basically just releasing the same 5 or 6 games once a year, making sure to dress up an old selling point as new, and update the databases; job done. I almost thought they were trying to personally mock me when they said on-stage (and this is word for word) “Innovation is what drives our FIFA team”. Are you joking!? They got rid of the Be A Pro and Arena modes on FIFA 13 and thought we wouldn’t notice because they put in a new touch system. I struggle to see it as innovation when you are literally taking features out. I fear the case is the same with next-gen titles too; fancy sounding buzz words like ‘BounceTek’ and ‘Living Environments’ are starting to feel meaningless now. I think it’s probably time for EA to realise that their sports franchise doesn’t appeal to the hardcore gamer any longer; it certainly doesn’t to me, and I think we only fire up FIFA when the music is loud and the drink is flowing, which is hardly an immersive experience. Keep selling it, but don’t continue to make a song and dance.

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To go back to my concerns about Battlefield 4‘s ‘teamwork’ based online gameplay, I think the issue can be divided in two. The first problem I think is with the implementation of a ‘commander’ that can survey the map and provide support and communications. Now, at the conference, this was controlled by a man with a tablet, but I fear he was too removed from the action to provide me with entertainment I seek from what is now a goliath in the FPS market. Is anyone really going to want to play like this? I may have missed the point entirely, so use the comment section to voice your concerns, but I’ll probably stick to my guns. Before I point out my next problem, I want to show my appreciation for the fluidity and innovative nature of the team-based combat, which looks both sophisticated and ambitious. Got that? Good. It’s a stupid idea. Have you ever actually played online with someone that was willing to listen to you? I can’t get people in the same room as me to cover me in-game, so I doubt I will have success with international strangers. And I certainly don’t have 63 willing and submissive friends that are willing to play and listen to my every command. Looks amazing, but I fear it lacks something in functionality.

Ah well, certainly more highs than lows, which I guess is a nice surprise. If I had to pick a winner, I’d probably just edge towards Ubisoft, but perhaps it’s unfair to let anything try and compete with Watchdogs. All we can do now is hope for the same quality in finished product as in reveal. Oh, did I mention? I skyscraper fell down!

May 312013
 

Fuse_boxIt’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Insomniac Games. As a pillar of the PlayStation experience, they’ve been at the helm of not only my favorite franchise of all time, Ratchet & Clank, but the extremely underappreciated Resistance. Their constant stream of quality exclusives is a huge factor in why I game on Sony consoles. So when their new multiplatform IP was announced, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit concerned.

Insomniac didn’t exactly help to quell these fears either. Initially revealed as Overstrike, the game had a charming, stylized look and feel. After a long period of little chatter, the game oddly resurfaced as Fuse. Classic internet vitriol ensued. The term ‘generic’ is a trite pejorative slung around far too often. (Case in point: Resistance has been labeled ‘generic’ despite its uniquely old-school design choices, grand extraterrestrial lore, and weaponry that can shoot through walls.) That’s why I try to avoid the term at all cost. But with this redesign, I couldn’t help but feeling that for the first time in their history, Insomniac had created something that would have trouble distinguishing itself from the pack. I even found myself wanting to join the vile scum I had once despised and label Fuse as ‘generic’. However, despite those transgressions, my confidence in Insomniac’s abilities, their satisfying gameplay, and a stellar track record kept me cautiously on board.

Fuse_charactersFuse is built from the ground up as a co-op shooter. The four distinct characters – or better stated, four distinct guns – each bring something unique and fun the experience. Dalton’s Magshield emits a protective barrier which can absorb bullets and project a wide range shotgun blast back at foes. This gives him a very brute, up-close-and-personal feel. Initially tethered to your weapon and movement, shields can later be upgraded and plopped down anywhere. Jacob’s Arcshot serves as a ranged weapon. The scoped crossbow shoots flaming bolts that can pin enemies to surfaces, engulf them in flames, and later detonate to spew liquid death in all directions. The two ladies that round out the team have more all-purpose weaponry that operate similar to automatic machine guns or rifles, and some interesting secondary abilities. Izzy’s Shattergun crystallizes enemies, pulling them out of cover for easier disposal. Its secondary fire can be used to drop a health beacon, which will not only heal allies in its vicinity, but revive downed partners to. Last but not least is Naya’s Warp Rifle. By painting enemies with Fuse, it triggers singularities. These black holes implode enemies and can be strategically chained though large groups. The Warp Rifle can also cloak Naya, allowing for a stealthy approach to many combat scenarios. Each weapon is fun to use, especially when combining or chaining kills, and provide contrasting strategy. While I found myself frequenting Naya and her Warp Rifle, I’d imagine each character will have their fanbase.

There are also additional weapons to use, but for the most part I found them to be largely dismissible. Shotguns, automatics, and a sniper seemed silly to use when the Fuse weapons served similar purposes. With the ability to leap between characters, someone almost always had some Fuse ammo, and even when I’d run out, I’d prefer to run around wildly searching for a replenishment than pull out my boring, normal-bullet-shooting pistol.

FUSE_triton_bossThe campaign, comprised of six lengthy missions was also fairly dismissible. A group of misfit operatives is sent to secure and destroy a failing experimental weapons lab. Raven – the ‘bad guy’ organization – wants to steal this technology and use it for their own evil purposes. The story that follows offers up some early shining moments, with a few solid boss battles, but fails to maintain that brilliance throughout. Varied enemy types keep things from feeling completely bland, but I kept waiting for occurrences to trump those early battles, and they just never came.

Fuse_Raven_Base_MaelstromBeing a guy who primarily plays single player, it’s almost immediately apparent that the game is not designed for me. Partner AI is more of a hindrance than a help. Many times I’d find myself awaiting revival as I bleed out, only to die, resulting in failure and the restarting of the previous check point. The leap feature, which is great for allowing you to play as everyone, is a little clunky. Sometimes, with the team working at my side, transitions were flawless. Other times, when team members strayed, or hung back in previous rooms away from the firefight, it would be disorienting. Odd button mapping didn’t help either. Upgrading characters was a bit of a chore too. Placing points in skill trees could only be done by switching between characters then entering the menus. Had the trees been more unique this would have been a little easier to deal with, but each basically offered the same attributes. Focusing on unlocking secondary powers, beefing up my Fuse grenades with tendrils, and improving Fuse weapon skills meant that I followed almost identical paths for each, despite having to play around with four disconnected menus. 

FUSE_triton_hallThere is also a wave-based Echelon mode that serves up onslaughts of enemies with mixed objectives. With 12 rounds, in my handful of attempts I don’t think I ever even made it past 10. It’s a worthy challenge that requires a lot of teamwork. Thankfully, playing with actual human beings instead of bits of data does diminish some of my former gripes. It’s hard for me to critique or compare it given how little multiplayer I play, but it does feel like a more varied, natural progression from Resistance 2 co-op.

Fuse_IndiaAs expected and feared, the visuals fail to impress. Just as with the story, there are some shining moments. An underwater bunker, a lush, tropical volcanic island, and snow covered mountains are pleasant, and offer up some nice draw distance. But with roots firmly in realism, they aren’t anywhere near as jaw dropping as Insomniac’s past otherworldly works. Insomniac did listen to some of the early critics, and added color to a lot of the drab interiors. This resulted in some bold uses of yellow, blue, and green throughout. But it’s like painting a rock: it may draw your eye for a second, but  you soon realize you’re staring at a boring, lifeless rock.

Ultimately, that’s the game’s downfall. Satisfying weaponry aside, it just lacks that certain Insomniac charm. Without their name attached to it, expectations would be a little different, but I expect more from the studio I’ve happily called my favorite for the last decade. Fuse is in no way a bad game. The gunplay, when considering the four Fuse weapons, is just as good as any of their past titles. The humor from TJ Fixman still finds a way to creep though the more serious tone and offers up a chuckle from time to time. But everything else falls flat. The story and characters are forgettable, the visuals and audio are uninteresting, and the overall experience suffers for it.

FUSE_LedgeWith the co-op emphasis, there is a market for the game. I’ve always been a firm believer that even a mediocre game becomes more fun with some good ol’ couch co-op. While I haven’t sat down for a local session, I don’t think this is going to disprove that theory. Other than that, the sad, creatively-void people who overlooked Borderlands due to its cell shaded look will probably enjoy this. Fans of militaristic shooters may find it more palatable than Insomniac’s past gems. But, with the utmost respect and the heaviest of hearts, it’s hard for me to say that the true Insomniac’s will be pleased.

If there’s one positive to take away from this, it’s that Insomniac owns their new IP. While this first iteration may have shot itself in its anatomically correct, pallid foot, there is a lot of potential for a franchise that Insomniac appears to be in for the long haul. The teaser ending shows promise. With minimal effort, new directions could be taken in both art and gameplay to make the franchise stand out. The Resistance franchise had a few missteps in its sequel, then finished out the trilogy with its strongest entry. Maybe we’re just getting the kinks out in the beginning this time. Call me crazy, but despite the lackluster arrival and disappointment, I still feel cautiously optimistic.

It’s not a horrible game; just a horrible Insomniac game. Presentation aside, its a proficient shooter. But, a seven for them is pretty bad considering all of their past efforts have been amazing in my eyes. It’s a pity since they really could have show off all their strengths and expanded their following by going multiplat. I don’t think they ever get the respect, or sales figures, they deserve. Fuse’s lack of vigor certainly won’t help.

Playstation 3

Graphics

70
 

Audio

70
 

Gameplay

85

Creativity

65
 

Execution

70
 

Offset

70
    

7.2

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Fuse weapons are varied, interesting, and satisfying.
  • Co-op diminishes the game’s weaknesses.
  • Humor provides some quality laughs.
  • Izzy sure is purdy.

Cons:

  • Visuals are underwhelming.
  • The overall package lacks charm.
  • Solo play suffers due to strong co-op focus.
  • Shift in tone leaves a lot of questions as to what could have been.
Mar 082013
 

Almost exactly a year after the initial release, Bioware is wrapping up their post launch support of Mass Effect 3 with the third and final (not counting the day 1 content) single player addition to the game. The first piece of content, Leviathan, added some interesting lore and further expanded on some of the information originally presented in the ending, while offering a bit of a change of pace in regards to its mission structure. The second add on, Omega, consisted of largely unoriginal levels with some interesting character work and some unfortunate presentation issues. The final piece of DLC, Citadel, has been pitched as a way to say farewell to all of your favorite characters, and it delivers on this promise in an incredibly enjoyable way.

Citadel3The most immediately apparent thing about this DLC, and something that was quite unexpected for me having not watched trailers or read too much about it, is the drastic shift in tone from pretty much every Mass Effect experience of the past three games. The DLC is incredibly light in tone, with an abundance of humor, fourth wall breaking, and self parody. To put it bluntly, this is fan service pure and simple, but the strong writing, genuinely funny dialogue, and multitude of fantastic character moments keep that from being a negative. This content felt a lot to me like the 100 and 200 episode specials from Stargate SG-1; that being a completely self aware, canonically debatable piece of content that shows incredible reverence for both the fiction and the fans that love it.

The story content can be broken up into two distinct parts, the mission and the party. The DLC opens with the Normandy docking on the Citadel for repairs, giving the crew some shore leave. While having dinner at a fancy restaurant with Joker, Shepard finds himself the target of mysterious mercenaries and thus begins the mission to figure out who is after him. The mission is very character focused, with pretty much every main character from the game having a major role. The DLC does a great job of really making the crew of the Normandy feel like family, and if you have any investment in these characters you will undoubtedly find yourself with a permanent grin on your face for the majority of this mission, just as I did. The plot is pretty goofy, but it’s a lot fun, with plenty of hilarious moments for fans of the series.

After the two and half hour mission, you are then given some freedom to explore the new hub area on the Citadel as well as Shepard’s new apartment. During this sequence, there are many character moments taking place both in Shepard’s apartment and in the new hub. Every living squad-mate from all three games has at least one conversation or event, and they range from good to fantastic. This culminates in a party at Shepard’s apartment, with every living squad mate from the entire series along with most other major characters in attendance. The party is great, with these character we’ve gotten to know over the past 5 and half years just relaxing and having a good time. Even though it technically takes place before the end of the game, this feels like the perfect way to say goodbye to these characters that so many of us have grown attached to over the course of the series. These character moments range from silly and self parodying to serious and emotional, and it all works.

mass effect citadel dlc lasknWhile the majority of the story content is fantastic, there are a few blemishes. At times, the references to internet memes and running jokes among fans can get a little too much. The “calibrations” jokes in the main game was a little much as is, and I honestly didn’t need a rehash of that here. However, the real issue with the story is how it will it fits into the main game. There is no getting around it, the tone of this content is just about the polar opposite of the overall tone of Mass Effect 3, and I can’t really see this integrating well into a complete playthrough. I just can’t see Shepard and the crew spending this much time goofing around while the galaxy is burning. It is great as a stand alone experience taken as a fun piece of content, but start thinking too hard about how it fits into the story or try to force it to make sense canonically and things start to break down. I don’t know what the official word is on whether or not this is actually canon, but it’s best to just think about it as a stand alone experience anyway, even though you do play it with an active save.

The mission itself is split into four parts, and each has its own unique feel. Unlike Omega, each of the four “levels” has at least one unique aspect that you wouldn’t find in any mission as part of the main game. The first level has some light stealth elements, and has Shepard solo for a brief bit and without armor for the entire sequence. The second level is completely combat free, taking place at a high society charity ball at a crowded casino. The third level is the closest to standard Mass Effect level design, but it stands out for having your whole team (plus Wrex) taking part, split into three squads. The final level can’t really be described without spoiling things, but it’s safe to say it has some really cool unique elements.

As I said earlier, the actual mission part of the content took me about 2 and half hours of in-game time, but that is only the beginning of the content. The character interactions and party took me another 2 and a half hours, resulting in about 5 hours worth of story content for your $15. That’s not the end of the content though, there are also a handful of minigames at the casino and arcade in the new hub area, as well as a combat simulator. The combat simulator consists of wave based survival, similar to the multiplayer, but it has it’s own wrinkles and 8 original maps to set itself apart from the multiplayer. The combat simulator has a decent number of challenges and achievements, as well as the ability to use squad mates from past games that haven’t previously been selectable in ME3. By the time I unlocked the last achievement associated with this DLC, I had put in over 8 hours of playtime, making it by far the longest and most content rich piece of DLC in the series.

Gameplay is largely the same as what’s been in the game thus far, which isn’t at all surprising, but the combat remains fun and engaging. There are a handful of new enemy types in the main mission, but they are mostly just re-skins of typical Cerberus enemy types. The combat simulator however, has some interesting challenges and some devious new enemy types that present tough encounters. The combat simulator is by no means the highlight of the DLC, but if you’re looking for some interesting new combat encounters with a high degree of challenge, you should enjoy your time with the combat sim.

One of the big problems I had with the Omega DLC was the extremely unpolished feeling of the presentation, but luckily this isn’t an issue with Citadel. The environments are all new and up to the standards of the main game, and there are a handful of pre-rendered cutscenes that look great. The content runs at a steady clip and it doesn’t suffer from the missing sounds effects or glitched animations that Omega did. The only technical issue I had was that the game froze twice during play, but the autosaving was such that I never lost any progress. The best aspect of this DLC is without a doubt the audio presentation. Almost every major voice actor returns and they are all just as good as they have ever been. The DLC also makes excellent use of music, both original and familiar.

91

Mass Effect has had some great and some not so great pieces of DLC over the past 5 years, and Citadel is among the best in the series. If you have any sort of attachment to the series, and more specifically the characters, you are likely to love this DLC. It’s a big tonal shift from the rest of the series, but it’s a rare piece of content that had me smiling for 5 hours straight. This is 100% for fans of the series, and being a huge fan of Mass Effect from the very beginning, I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to these character I’ve grown so attached to over the past 5 years.

XBox 360

Graphics

90
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

90
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

80
    

9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Genuinely funny
  • Great character moments
  • Interesting mission design
  • Pretty much every character (and voice actor) returns
  • Great use of music
  • Combat simulator provides a nice challenge

Cons:

  • May not integrate well into a complete playthrough
  • Memes and running jokes go too far in spots

 

Mar 052013
 

This week marks the one year anniversary of the release of Mass Effect 3, and Bioware has chosen today to release the final piece of single player content for the game. Oddly enough, I also recently played through the game again for the first time in over 11 months, so I’ve got Mass Effect on the brain. This recent playthrough was the first time I had played through the game completely with the DLC and extended cut ending fully implemented into the game, and I have to say they definitely improved the overall experience, especially the infamous ending. Playing ME3 removed from the hype of its initial release, I still really enjoyed myself, and I stand by my praise of the game at the time of release. With the Mass Effect 3 saga coming to a close with this last piece of DLC, which I will review later this week, I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to see in the next Mass Effect game. With the core trilogy concluded, there are a million different places Bioware could take the next game in the series, and these are just some of my thoughts about what I’d like to see next.

10. Remove Arbitrary Party Limitations

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Even if it wound up being something a bit different as the series went along, the core idea of Mass Effect was rooted squarely in the concepts of party based RPGs, in particular things like Bioware’s Baldur’s Gate and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Unfortunately, a major concept from that style of game that persisted throughout the series was the idea that your squad could only consist of a limited number of characters at a time. When you have a crew full of highly trained soldiers and experts in a variety of fields, it just felt out of place to leave the majority of the team twiddling their thumbs on the ship while only three of them took part in dangerous missions against dozens of enemies at a time. I understand this is a logistical decision born out of gameplay concerns, but it breaks immersion in a series that is all about narrative and believable universe building.

9. Implement Motion Capture

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I understand the reason that motion capture wasn’t used in any of the Mass Effect games; the financial and technical hurdles involved with implementing motion capture across a 30+ hour game with absurd amounts of dialogue are immense. However, understanding why it isn’t feasible doesn’t make me wish the series had it any less. The handful of canned animations that get used during conversations became more and more noticeable as the series went on, and it would be really great if this issue could be resolved. If they could find some way of implementing motion capture without going over budget or extending development time, the game would really benefit.

8. Better Sense of Scale

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This is an area where the fiction really clashes with the technical limitations of game design, and in some instances, writing to please fans. The galaxy is huge, filled with countless billions of individuals from over a dozen species spread out across thousands of inhabited planets. However, in the games themselves, the galaxy feels small. Hub areas on planets consist of a small map and a few dozen individuals and for some reason Shepard just keeps happening to run into the same people all over the galaxy. I want the galaxy to feel just as vast in the game as it does reading planet descriptions and codex entries, and hopefully with the near guarantee of the next Mass Effect being a next gen release, this is strong possibility.

7. No Need For Human Focus

Mass-Effect-3-Multiplayer-DLC-Batarian-Geth-Justicar

It makes sense for the trilogy to be told from the perspective of humans. When the series began, we didn’t know anything about any of the other races or the political situation of the Citadel and the galaxy as a whole, so it makes sense to introduce us to these things from a perspective every player is familiar with; humanity. However, three games and 90+ hours of gameplay into the series, fans now have a solid understanding of the these things, so the next game doesn’t need to revolve around humanity. I would love to see a game in this universe told from the perspective of one of the other races, allowing us an inside look at things we’ve only observed as outsiders thus far. Whether this means allowing the player to select the race they want to play as with different story ramifications like Dragon Age Origins or simply having the game star a predetermined alien character is fine by me; I’d love to see either of these scenarios.

6. No More Binary Moral Choice

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I think the paragon and renegade system was a step in the right direction as far as moral choices go, for the most part it avoided being straight up good vs. evil, but it was only marginally better than a good vs. evil system. The biggest problem with the system was the idea of earning paragon and renegade points for making choices. It forced you to make decisions based on alignment rather than based on your gut, which pretty much negates the whole idea of choice. I want the outcome of choices to be observed in the story or the world, not on a meter in the menus. Choice in games is the future of storytelling, but only if there is a real choice and not a “good” or “bad” option. To be fair, a lot of the choices presented throughout the trilogy would be really tough if not for the fact that most players just go with the one that matches the alignment of their character.

Mar 042013
 

A few months back, I took a look at the first single player DLC for Mass Effect 3, Leviathan. I quite enjoyed the content, though my main complaint was that it felt out of place as a stand alone experience after having already finished the main game. I recently played through Mass Effect 3 again in its entirety, and I can absolutely say that Leviathan is a much more fulfilling experience as part of a full playthrough rather than as a stand alone piece of content. In addition to Leviathan, I also played through the Omega DLC (released in November), but found it to be a bit disappointing.

Aria-TloakAs with most Mass Effect DLC, the main draw for me is the story, and Omega falls a bit short of past offerings in this respect. The plot of Omega was set up in the main game, and revolves around Aria T’Loak’s operation to take back Omega (the lawless city built into a mined out asteroid from Mass Effect 2) from Cerberus. Unsurprisingly, she seeks out Shepard’s assistance, and what follows is a three to three and a half hour journey consisting of four missions. The plot itself isn’t very involved, and largely just serves to give context for the missions. The story basically amounts to invading Omega, making your way through the station and disrupting Cerberus operations along the way, and then taking down the Cerberus operative left in charge of Omega by the Illusive Man. Where as Leviathan added a lot of meaningful back-story and lore to the series, Omega is a largely inconsequential experience with little lasting value to the fiction.

While the plot itself is inconsequential and frankly, uninteresting, there is some good character work to be found in this content. Aria has always been a fairly interesting character, and it’s nice to see her in very different scenario than what she’s been seen in before. While she is technically Shepard’s ally, it is very clear she is in this only for her own gain. She is a master manipulator, using others (including Shepard) as tools for her cause and nothing more. While Aria’s arc is interesting, the main standout character is Nyreen, the first female turian to be featured in the series thus far. She is the leader of the only remaining gang on Omega, the Talons, and has a romantic past with Aria. You get a few opportunities to get to know her better, and she is the clear high point of the DLC, though she is unfortunately only a part of your squad for about 50% of the content. When she is not in your squad, it is only Shepard and Aria, as this one of those add-ons that gives some contrivance as to why your regular squad mates cannot join you (obviously because they didn’t record any new voice work for these characters).

As I said before, a big problem I had with Leviathan was that is really only felt meaningful as part of the main story, and lost some of its weight when played after the fact. Omega doesn’t have this problem, though it does suffer a bit from the opposite. I played this DLC when it first came out as a stand alone experience and again recently as part of a full playthrough. It worked fine as a stand alone experience because it is largely removed from the reaper war and the events of main game. However, when played as part of the main game, it comes off feeling a bit meaningless in the grand scheme of the game. It actually worked against the main narrative of the game because I had a hard time believing Shepard would waste time helping Aria retake Omega while the entire galaxy is at war with the reapers, even if this is handwaved by Aria saying she will support the war effort with troops and element zero if Shepard helps her.

Gj9RGLeviathan tried some new things from a design perspective with regards to the main game, but Omega does not. The levels are pretty much the same linear environments with cover based firefights and cutscenes strewn throughout that you’ve experienced in the game proper. It’s not as though there’s anything wrong with this approach, it certainly served the main game well, but in my mind the best Mass Effect add-ons have at least one unique element, and Omega simply does not. The only real new aspect of this DLC is the squad members, Aria and Nyreen, and their new abilities which no other previous characters have had. After completing Omega, you will be able to have Shepard equip these abilities through advanced training, and there are also some weapons upgrades you’ll find over the course of the DLC. There are some new enemy types as well, but they don’t really force any new tactics on you or anything like that, they are simply different looking enemies with slightly different abilities.

Much like the design, the core gameplay in Omega doesn’t really do anything new or different compared to the main game, which is again not an inherently bad thing, just a bit uninteresting. The game’s combat is still excellent, and there are plenty of fun and frantic encounters to be had throughout the course of the DLC. The new abilities of the squad mates makes for some variations on the typical gameplay, but not many, meaning the combat encounters feel much like what you’ve already experienced. Again, the gameplay is still as solid as ever, it’s just disappointing that this new content doesn’t feel particularly new.

While the lack of any meaningful additions to the design or gameplay is a bit disappointing, it’s not entirely unexpected for add-on content. What is unexpected, and significantly more disappointing, is the huge disparity in the quality of the presentation between the main game and this piece of DLC. Visually, there are some decent environments and a great looking CGI space battle to open the content, but there are also an abundance of animation glitches and awkward transitions. The graphics look as good as the main game, but the presentation hiccups really hamper the overall experience.

While the visual issues are fairly minor, the audio is another story altogether. The audio presentation simply feels unfinished. There are many occasions where cutscenes seem way too quiet, with a complete lack of background and ambient noise. There are also lots of sound effects straight up missing, making action scenes feel really off. The music is new, and it’s fine, but it didn’t really live up to the main game’s soundtrack. Voice acting has always been a high point for the series, and it remains mostly good here, though again, not as good as the main game. The real disappointment on the voice over front is Carrie Anne Moss reprising her role as Aria T’Loak. I always thought she did a good job in the past, but her performance here feels really phoned in. I know she is capable of better than this, she was great in ME2 and the main game of ME3, but it really feels like she simply didn’t care, and it shows in her performance. The other voice actors are all solid, especially the always great Jennifer Hale as female Shepard, though none of the main cast return outside of male and female Shepard.

mass-effect-3-omega-screenshot-06-aria

As I said back in my review of the first Mass Effect 3 DLC, I had high hopes for Omega, and they were definitely not met. There is some decent character stuff in here, but it’s buried in a predictable and uninteresting story with by the numbers level design and gameplay. Despite the relative sameness of the gameplay, it still winds up being enjoyable because the framework it’s built off of still holds up well. Omega is an enjoyable 3+ hour experience, but it doesn’t reach the heights of the some better DLC in series, nor does it match the quality of the first add-on for Mass Effect 3. The final single player add-on for Mass Effect 3 is due out this week, and it promises to be an emotionally engaging experience featuring all your favorite characters, so hopefully that can send Mass Effect 3 out on a high note.

XBox 360

Graphics

80
 

Audio

60
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

60
 

Execution

70
 

Offset

50
    

6.8

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Interesting character work
  • Gameplay remains great
  • Decent length at 3+ hours
  • Good looking environments
  • Excellent CGI space battle

Cons:

  • Unpolished visual presentation
  • Missing audio, too quiet
  • Uninteresting story
  • Uneven voice over quality
  • Adds little new to the basic Mass Effect 3 framework

 

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!

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.

Nov 102012
 

The Mass Effect series has a rather mixed history when it comes to downloadable content. There have been some truly excellent add-ons like Mass Effect 2′s “Lair of the Shadow Broker” and “Overlord”, but there was also the total waste that was Mass Effect 1′s “Pinnacle Station”, as well as several pieces of content sitting somewhere in between. The first single player addition to Mass Effect 3, “Leviathan”, was released a few months back, and while it isn’t the best add-on in the series, it’s one of the better ones.

Leviathan consists of three missions and tells a very lore focused story. The story basically expands upon some minor dialogue from the main game that referenced a dead reaper the Batarians found in the Dis system. Hackett sends Shepard to meet with an Alliance scientist who has been researching this mysterious “Leviathan of Dis”, which he believed was responsible for killing the reaper several million years ago. As the story unfolds, Shepard learns more and more about the Leviathan, leading up to the reveal of what exactly it is. If you’re a fan of Mass Effect lore, you’re likely to find the revelations pretty interesting, though some story elements may open old wounds regarding the game’s ending.

The biggest problem with the story of Leviathan, and in fact with the content as a whole, is the fact that it is a story that by it’s nature takes place before the end of Mass Effect 3. Obviously there isn’t really room for any DLC to be set after the end of the game, but the fact that the plot revolves around solving the mystery of the Leviathan with the hope (by the characters at least) that this will lead to an ally against the reapers makes it less compelling. I’ve already defeated the reapers multiple times, I’ve seen all the endings and then seen them again with the extended cut. “Searching for an ally against the reapers” is simply not a compelling motivation to experience this story because I’ve already defeated them. Now, if from some reason you’re interested in this content and you haven’t already finished ME3, Leviathan will add some nice context and lore to your experience, but isn’t as compelling having already finished the game.

Like a lot of the Mass Effect 2 DLC, Leviathan is clearly trying to add some unique elements to the established gameplay and design of Mass Effect 3. In keeping with the theme of “Detective Shepard” that is present in the story, the gameplay features several sequences of very light puzzle solving. While puzzle solving is probably too strong a term for what you are actually doing, these sequences are, if nothing else, a decent change of pace from the standard “combat and dialogue” approach to Mass Effect design. The puzzle solving really only amounts to looking around an area to see what things you can interact with, and then interacting with them. These parts are actually quite similar to the opening of Lair of the Shadow Broker, though they are more common and a little more involved. While these sequences aren’t particularly engaging, they do result in some non-combat areas during missions, something that wasn’t really done much in ME3, and is a nice throwback to Mass Effect 1.

During the actual combat segments of the missions, there are also some additions to what you’d find in the core game. There are several instances of mission objectives, such as protecting a repair drone while it fixes the door controls and delivering power cells to charge capacitors. Again, these aren’t earth shattering, but it’s nice to have some more variety in the level design, whereas in the main game you were mostly just moving through levels from cutscene to cutscene. The game also has a pretty cool set-piece at the end, which I won’t spoil, that probably wasn’t as impressive as it could have been, but was still fairly interesting.

One nice surprise was when I realized that they actually got the voice actors back in the booth for this content. Past Mass Effect DLC has been limited to Shepard and new characters in terms of dialogue, but all your squad-mates, as well as Admiral Hackett and Steve Cortez, have new dialogue for Leviathan, and they are all just as great here as the main game. There is also new music as well, which isn’t as surprising as the new dialogue, but still welcome. The music is appropriately ominous, sweeping, and bombastic where appropriate, though I wasn’t quite as blown away with the music in the content as I was with some past DLC. Visually, Leviathan has some nice looking new environments and some stand out moments and overall is of the same visual quality as the main game.

Mass Effect 3: Leviathan is a well made piece of content that tries some interesting things in regards to mixing up the established Mass Effect 3 formula, but ultimately feels inconsequential at a time when most people have already finished Mass Effect 3. The lore revelations are interesting, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this didn’t matter because I had already defeated the Reapers. I have higher hopes for the upcoming Omega DLC, which should fare better given its nature as a true side story with little or nothing to do with the Reapers. Even so, Leviathan is a good add-on for a great game that provides 2 and a half to three hours of additional content.

Reviewer’s Note: While the offset score is meant to represent the reviewers personal opinion of the game, in this instance the offset score is much lower than it would have been. Because our scoring system is designed for full games and not DLC, I used the offset score to bring the overall score down to where I feel it best represents the quality of this add-on.

XBox 360

Graphics

95
 

Audio

95
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

85
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

30
    

7.9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Interesting Revelations
  • What’s Great About Mass Effect 3 Remains Great
  • Some Memorable Moments
  • New Dialogue From Original Voice Cast

Cons:

  • New Gameplay Elements Are Hit Or Miss
  • Feels Inconsequential If You’ve Already Finished Mass Effect 3

Oct 232012
 

Top 10 Tuesday is back! And with its return comes new kinds of lists. Each week’s list is going to be a lot more current than in the past. You can still expect best of, worst of, and this year in gaming to be featured regularly, but there are also going to be a good deal of lists that focus on current events in the game industry and new releases. With the recent release of concept art for Dragon Age III: Inquisition, now seems like a good time to examine the series and count down what I feel will be key improvements that need to be made over the disappointing Dragon Age II if Dragon Age III is to be a success. As always, these are my opinions, and if you want the game to be just like Dragon Age II in every way, you’re free to feel that way.

10. Longer Play Time

Dragon Age III Concept Art

Out of everything on this list, this is the one that I feel is definitely least important. Long games are always a plus in my book, and indeed the 30-40 hours it takes for a 100% completion in Dragon Age II was very disappointing compared to the 70 hours or more it could take in Dragon Age Origins. However, I want to stress that I value quality over artificial length. I would much prefer a tight and polished 30 hour experience over a repetitive and grind heavy 70 hours, though an awesome game that also happens to be 50+ hours is the ideal scenario for Dragon Age III.

9. Better choices

Both of the first two games were filled with choices, but Dragon Age II didn’t have much choice variety. The entire game was centered around the Templar/Mage conflict, which I actually liked since the Mage situation is one of the most interesting aspects of Dragon Age fiction, but the problem arose when almost every major choice in the game could be boiled down do “Hey, who do you want to side with, the Templars or the Mages?” I know for myself, early on I chose a side, so there was little real choice to be made going through the game as I just continued to side with the faction I chose from the beginning. It would be nice if there was some room for actual role playing in the choices in Dragon Age III. Ideally, not all the choices will have a clear moral or faction alignment, requiring the player to actually think about their decisions. Remember, when doing moral choices in games, morally gray situations are always more interesting than the typical “cure cancer and solve world hunger or slaughter 500 puppies and burn this orphanage to the ground.”

8. A More Cohesive Story

Out of all the problems I had with Dragon Age II, the story was near the bottom of my list, but it wasn’t without its issues. I actually enjoyed most of the plot and character work, like I said I enjoy the Mage/Templar conflict, but the story did wind up feeling very disjointed. The game was split into three very distinct parts sets years apart from each other, and oftentimes it felt like there were three completely different stories with very limited connection between each other. The game really felt more like a history lesson in ten years of Kirkwall than cohesive story with a beginning, middle, and end. Hopefully Dragon Age III can manage to tell a less disjointed story than DA2.

7. Better Side Quests

Dragon Age II was a game that was clearly rushed through development much too quickly, and this is evident in many aspects of the game, including the quest design. In my mind, side quests in grand RPGs should feel like little mini stories unto themselves, but the side quests in Dragon Age II felt more like MMO busy work than I would have liked. The majority of the side quests were fetch quests or kill missions. This isn’t inherently bad and is to be expected, I mean, this is an RPG, what else are you going to do? The problem lies in the execution. Most of the time you wind up finding the quest item or killing the enemy before you even receive the quest, so you have a quest marker on your map leading to a questgiver you’ve never met to turn in the quest you never actually received. If side quests are to be worth doing, they need to either have a slightly interesting story to go along with them or take you to an interesting location, which is hopefully something they can improve upon in DA3.

6. More Customization

Dragon Age II really dumbed down the customization options in comparison to the original. In DA2, you could no longer outfit your party members with armor because the developers were more concerned with maintaining a characters “iconic look” than giving the player proper equipment options. Even though the player was still free to customize all aspects of the main character’s armor and weapons, there definitely seemed to be far less available in terms of loot drops. There was basically one set of armor per section of the game for each class for a grand total of three major unique armor sets you could equip in one playthrough. If DA3 wants to win back the loot junkies, this will have to be improved upon.

Oct 012012
 

October is finally upon us. And with October comes a nonstop barrage of games, games, and more game. Though last month kick started video game fever, this month sets it into 6th gear as one week right after another a popular title is releasing. It’s already begun to reduce the money in my bank and the month has just begun. Enjoy it while it lasts because once December gets here, we’ll all be missing this rush we’re enjoying/hating.

Resident Evil 6
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: October 2nd

It’s been over three years since Resident Evil 5 and since then things have begun to change for the Resident Evil franchise and its followers. Most notably is the fact that most of the followers have begun to realize that their desire for more Resident Evil has started to disintegrate. Then when the announcement of an all new Resident Evil game came about, no one was surprised, but everyone was disappointed.

Since then the game has been headed downhill with no end in sight. I finally got my hands on it once the demo released and with my drastically low expectations, I found some enjoyment out of it. But even though I enjoyed chunks of it, the problems with the game were very clear and could become huge annoyances when stretched out into a 10 hour experience. We shall see, I suppose, but don’t bet money on critical success for Resident Evil 6.

Dishonored
Developer: Arkane Studios
Release Date: October 9th

Damn, Dishonored, how you get so fly? I ask myself this question every time Dishonored pops into my little brain. At this point, I feel as if I’ve written a million things involving Dishonored, detailing its story, abilities, morality system, etc. But even though I’ve attempted to cover it exhaustively, my excitement for the final product is still through the roof.

My expectations are at about the same height, as well. If you don’t know, the story revolves around Corvo, a highly regarded bodyguard to a now deceased Empress. Some very unkind folk then blame Corvo for her death and as you would expect, Corvo wants to murder all the unkind folk. Who doesn’t? Arkane’s Dishonored has garnered some very high expectations, now it’s in their corner to deliver on those expectations. Blow us away, Arkane.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Developer: Firaxis Games
Release Date: October 9th

Also releasing on the 9th is XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Firaxis Games’ newest attempt at turning hours into minutes. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a reboot of the XCOM franchise and Enemy Unknown focuses mainly on turn-based tactics. The story remains mostly the same as it’s all based around an alien invasion that forces a group of soldiers to spring into action. The story is far from the intriguing part of XCOM however as it’s everything else about the game that peaks my interest. From the Geoscape to the different bonuses each continent possesses, XCOM is sure to have some deep mechanics that are just dying to be tinkered with.

 
Medal of Honor: Warfighter
Developer: Danger Close
Release Date: October 23rd

No offense to Danger Close games but it amazes me that this continues to be a video game series that gets supported. The last Medal of Honor (the supposed reboot) did its best to go against Call of Duty and failed miserably while also being quite the turd of a game in the process. The story in which EA bragged about so often ended up a non-factor and the poor combat and scripting issues didn’t help matters. Since Danger Close is a new developer, let’s hope it was just growing pains and the newest Medal of Honor will be much improved.

The story in Warfighter will continue behind the previous games’ Tier 1 Operatives while you head into places like the Philippines and Somalia. Multiplayer seems to be one of the biggest focuses this time around as Danger Close has introduced a new system in which you are always grouped with one other teammate. His location is always visible through a silhouette and once you die, you can respond on his location and vice versa. Also, if you get a revenge kill on the enemy that just killed your partner, your partner will respawn immediately. While I’m definitely not going to write it off just yet, Warfighter isn’t looking like the next big game to slap into your console. But it does have a sick Linkin Park song, so buy it.

Assassin’s Creed III
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: October 30th

I will fight anyone that says they are a bigger Assassin’s Creed fan than I am. Assassin’s Creed III is the sole reason why I have not stated that Dishonored is my most anticipated game in October and that’s because Assassin’s Creed takes that honor by a mile. I’m so insane; I enjoyed the first one and played through it three times. Beat that, world.

That being said, I purchased Assassin’s Creed Revelations and was immediately disappointed. The lack of any kind of innovation broke the experience for me and I was unable to even finish the game. But with a new character and hopefully more Desmond/Templar nonsense in the new Assassin’s Creed, I’m right back in. I’ve always loved everything about the franchise, even the controls which some people like to have their grievances with. My love and admiration for the Assassin’s Creed universe knows no bounds and I have no doubt in saying that my love and admiration will only grow come October 30th.
Also releasing:

NBA 2K13 (October 2nd)
Of Orcs and Men (October 11th)
Dragon Ball Z for Kinect (October 16th)
007 Legends (October 16th)
Dance Central 3 (October 16th)
Skylanders Giants (October 21st)
WWE ’13 (October 30th)
LEGO The Lord of the Rings (October 30th)

Sep 282012
 

It has happened yet again, folks. Today, EA announced that their newest basketball entry, NBA Live 13 has been cancelled. To say this is a surprise is a bit of a lie because we’ve seen very little on the game since its announcement and the little we have seen hasn’t necessarily received the highest praise. 

EA’s NBA Live series  has never been known as the “prominent” of the two major basketball franchises and for good reason. But when the 360 released is when it really became known that the 2K basketball games had overtaken the NBA Live games. Minus the butt sweat, NBA 2K also had superior gameplay in every way, not to mention the excellent visuals that laid on top of the 2K cake.
Since then EA has been trying repeatedly to make people care about their NBA Live game and it was always to no avail. They attempted to reboot the franchise with NBA Elite but as I’m sure most know, that didn’t turn out too well. I suppose 2K will continue their butt sweat technology while EA continues to wonder how they do it.
Jul 312012
 

While we all knew it was just a matter of time, Bioware and EA have made it official that their MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. will be going free to play this fall. “Players want flexibility and choice. The subscription-only model presented a major barrier for a lot of people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic(TM) universe,” said Matthew Bromberg, GM of BioWare Austin.”

It’s been clear since the beginning that The Old Republic just wasn’t living up to the lofty expectaations set on it before its release. That issue has only ramped up in the past few months as people have been dropping their subscriptions left and right. There are some bonuses in store for you guys that have stayed subscribed before the free to play enhancement hits, however. The press release announcing this change says it best:

“Current and former players will also find additional benefits as part of this program. BioWare will be increasing the frequency of game content updates, with the first of many new releases coming in August. In addition, current subscribers will receive Cartel Coin grants and qualify for access to special in-game items. Even former players who re-activate now will qualify for special benefits.”

On top of all that, coming this August, you can buy The Old Republic for the small price of $14.99. I think I’m making a safe guess in saying that EA and Bioware really want you to try out The Old Republic, and for 15 bucks, why the hell not?

Jun 042012
 

When I first started playing shooters it was the original Half-Life and never did I think that there would be a game that looks as beautiful as Crysis 3. On top of being one of the most popular and well established franchises to ever grace the genre, Crytek appear to have made the best looking game ever. If you were impressed before by Crysis 2, get ready for this.

Nature has reclaimed this city and the flowing rivers are created by a dam, the trees push towards half decimated buildings on the verge of collapse and everything just looks stunning, the fluid motion of a reload, the way the gun reflects the sunlight as you take a step outside, the way natural light looks natural. Not only is the game incredible looking but it is set to be far more in depth, with the game giving you more choices as to how you want to play, go in stealthily armed with a bow and arrow? Go nuts, fancy smattering everything in site with heavy automatic weapon fire, be our guest just don’t forget, this beautiful world is incredibly hostile and also the environments are destructive so take cover wisely.

With an already great gameplay experience to carry over to the next title, making everything look this god was all that really needed to be done, Everyone loves a sandbox shooter especially when it has been done so well.

Gaming Irresponsibly will be bringing you updates as they are made available for the duration of E3. Stay tuned for more news and happenings from the industry’s largest convention here at GamingIrresponsibly.com! You can also follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter

Jun 042012
 

With Forza having announced Horizon it seems as though we shouldn’t forget the driving games grand daddy that is Need For Speed. While the series had been getting a little old, this new wave of open world driving games look set to breathe new life into the series, especially Need For Speed. This time around you won’t merely be pointed to a race and have to compete in it, Most Wanted is offering up a lifetime score tracker for bragging rights amongst your friends and online and also giving more freedom to the player.

As you play the game you will get Speed Points for doing just about anything and it is these that build up the overall score for players. With all dangerous driving though you are sure to alert the local Police Force which could lead to some problems because they are not afraid of chasing you down throughout the streets. Multiplayer will also feature heavily allowing you and friends to cause havoc on four wheels across the entire city when the game releases on October 30th.

Gaming Irresponsibly will be bringing you updates as they are made available for the duration of E3. Stay tuned for more news and happenings from the industry’s largest convention here at GamingIrresponsibly.com! You can also follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter

Jun 042012
 

Just announced at the Electronic Arts E3 press conference was Madden Mobile. Madden mobile will be more of a social game that can be played on Facebook or a mobile device. It will integrate with other users playing all over the world. FIFA 13 will offer more of a social aspect to its experience. A mobile app will be available to keep you connected to the game with those who want to stay connect with you. FIFA 13 also will tweak its gameplay as it does every year. More dribble moves, better off the ball control and attacking are both things you can expect from FIFA 13.

Gaming Irresponsibly will be bringing you updates as they are made available for the duration of E3. Stay tuned for more news and happenings from the industry’s largest convention here at GamingIrresponsibly.com! You can also follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter

Jun 042012
 

It’d be foolish to have forgotten about Medal Of Honor, one of the oldest and most loved of the war time shooters, the last outing seemed to give a mix response with many feeling that the game didn’t quite make the jump from old time warfare to the modern day as well as some other franchises. This second modern Medal Of Honor looks set to change that.

Building on the realism that everyone looks for in games these days has been a touch call, but using the FrostBite 2 engine seems to be making all the difference, environments are destructable, as they should be in all shooters, and on the whole the gameplay looks solid and pretty good. Rather than giving the choice of America or Russia there is the oppurtunity to play as 14 different nations from Poland to Australia and everything in between.

The best thing about Warfighter? They have building destruction right. When a building collapses across the street it doesn’t just fall, you can see the shockwave, you get a faceful of dust and bricks even at a distance. While it looks good it’s not all realism with the unmanned gun turrets seeming a bit OTT we may have to reserve judgement until we finally get our hands on the game, but it does

look good.Gaming Irresponsibly will be bringing you updates as they are made available for the duration of E3. Stay tuned for more news and happenings from the industry’s largest convention here at GamingIrresponsibly.com! You can also follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter

Jun 042012
 

The original simulation game is set to make a welcome return to PC’s everywhere and Maxis have dragged this ancient love into the modern day of both the worlds you can build and also the way gaming has changed with perhaps the most interesting feature being the multiplayer options. Not only will you be able to build a new, enhanced city but you can also team up with friends and strangers right across the board.

When playing the new Sim City you will not only be able to nurture your creations and your people, but you can have a bad day and go all evil up in this city. You choose whether the people of your city should thrive and survive or whether they should be punished and tortured.

Multiplayer won’t just be about having friends over to your city either, it will be a more in depth experience than that. What you do with your city could affect you neighbouring cities too. If you have more jobs, you’ll get more citizens and if you have the biggest concert hall there will be bigger and better acts choosing your city over those next door.

Gaming Irresponsibly will be bringing you updates as they are made available for the duration of E3. Stay tuned for more news and happenings from the industry’s largest convention here at GamingIrresponsibly.com! You can also follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter

Jun 042012
 

Announced at EA’s E3 press conference, Battlefield 3 Premium. Battlefield 3 Premium will include special dog tags, character and gun camouflages, and advanced early access to the upcoming expansion packs: Close Quarters, Armored Kill, Aftermath and End Game. The service is available today for around 50 bucks, and if you are playing on the PlayStation 3 console, you can access the new Close Quarters expansion right now!More than 20 new vehicles and 10 dog tags will be available for those who purchase Battlefield 3 Premium. Is this something you are interested in purchasing? 

Gaming Irresponsibly will be bringing you updates as they are made available for the duration of E3. Stay tuned for more news and happenings from the industry’s largest convention here at GamingIrresponsibly.com! You can also follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter

Jun 042012
 

The latest addition to the horror game franchise looks terrifying even in coop. The trailer shows us Issac heading toward a snowy planet with a few other crew members before the ship is torn apart and our hero is left alone to face the giant and snowy horrors that wait for him below. Some scens look similar to the previous outings with giant Necromorphs causing some problems when trying to ride the elevator.

Following the trailer, we got to see the games most talked about feature, coop play. While some had said that this would take away from the scares that the game gives, the gameplay seems to suggest otherwise. Even playing with a partner the sudden appearance of the deadly Necromorph’s is still just as terrifying and intense as ever. Whether you play alone or with a friend, it still looks as though we will be in for a fright and one hell of an exciting experience when Dead Space 3 crashes into stores in February 2013.

Gaming Irresponsibly will be bringing you updates as they are made available for the duration of E3. Stay tuned for more news and happenings from the industry’s largest convention here at GamingIrresponsibly.com! You can also follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter

Jun 042012
 

The new Madden announcement came following what was an epic locker room speech by Ravens all-pro linebacker Ray Lewis. The game will feature updated physics that will take in to account multiple factors while playing such as; player size, weight, speed and trajectory. Madden 13 will also feature a more online integrated system allowing more connectivity with users from around the world. The game will also feature an RPG mechanic where completing challenges will reward players with experience points they will use to level up their characters. Madden can also connect to Facebook and Twitter, in game, to show your friends and followers what you are up to in the world of Madden.  So, what do you think? Are these new changes something you are looking forward to? Will this Madden be different than previous installments? Let us know!

Gaming Irresponsibly will be bringing you updates as they are made available for the duration of E3. Stay tuned for more news and happenings from the industry’s largest convention here at GamingIrresponsibly.com! You can also follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter

Jun 012012
 

Similar to that of Call of Duty, EA confirmed that it will offer a Battlefield Premium service for Battlefield 3.  Though the company had plans to announce more details next week, a fact sheet was leaked online detailing what the service will include.

According to the sheet, the premium service will allow players first access to upcoming expansion packs for Battlefield 3, more customizable options for soldiers, and receive a number of exclusive in game items.  The cost will be $49.99, which is a one time fee for the service.  According to the one sheet, the service will be available on June 4,2012.

Some other interesting feature of the premium pack is that players will have the ability to reset score/minute, kill/death, etc.  Also, premium players will get first priority in servers.

The sheet also lists the five expansion packs for the package: Back to Karkand, Close Quarters, Armored  Kill, Aftermath, End Game.

Judging by the long list of features included in the premium service, in all honestly, it seems like a solid deal.  You not only get the expansion packs at a discounted rate, but plenty more with the package.  If the features listed are true, I can foresee the service being quite popular with Battlefield 3 fans.

Source: GamersUnity

 

Apr 272012
 

"Shepard, going up this beam of light will result in your death, and everyone else's confusion.

Now that Mass Effect 3 has been out for a while, and the controversy of its lackluster ending beginning to die down, it’s time we take a look at what future possibilities the popular science fiction franchise may hold. Spoilers for the entire series will be prevalent throughout this article, so if you haven’t finished the Mass Effect games, you have been warned.

At the end of Mass Effect 3, whether you chose to accept it or not, Shepard stops the Reapers one of three ways, sacrificing his life in the process. Of course there is the shot of him taking a small breath if you satisfied certain criteria, but for futures sake, let’s just assume he is dead. It’s not like we haven’t been here before. Shepard died at the beginning of Mass Effect 2, and through the tireless efforts and endless resources of Cerberus, Shepard was resurrected. That would appear to be near impossible to occur by the galaxies current standards, with the Mass Relays having been destroyed and intergalactic space travel came to an abrupt stop. That wouldn’t necessarily mean that resources aren’t available  to bring Shepard back to life, but with Earth spending its recent time fighting against a near unstoppable force, it’s highly doubtful Shepard could return from the dead again. So what does that mean for the next Mass Effect? Well if Shepard is officially dead, it would be hard to think, especially because of recent heat thrown BioWare’s way, that they would attempt to bring Shepard back to life, since it may create more plot holes. If Shepard is truly dead, we can guess that BioWare would select a new hero to become the face of the franchise.

Love is a battlefield, too bad we don't really know what happened on it.

But what if Shepard lives? This is probably the most likely scenario due to the massive amount of fan feedback, but with BioWare saying that Mass Effect 3 was to be the final installment of Shepard’s story, it can be assumed that he would not be the main focus of Mass Effect 4, or even a playable character. We can take from this, the same conclusion as if he were dead, in that Mass Effect 4 will feature a new hero.

So what we have determined is that Shepard is probably alive, and most likely not the main focus for Mass Effect 4. As per the ending for Mass Effect 3, we have also determined that space travel is no longer a possibility for the near future and Shepard’s squad is abandoned on a far away planet. Now, if BioWare wanted to stay within the same universe with Shepard and gang, the next Mass Effect wouldn’t seem to have space travel as a feasible option of travel. It’s not impossible that some one in the galaxy didn’t reverse engineer a Mass Relay, but it is never alluded to in previous games. They are something that was just found and never  replicated. Knowing this, space travel would more than likely prove as another plot hole in a story that has too many to begin with. The idea of rebuilding Mass Relays or the reinstitution of space travel, don’t seem like very attractive ways to lure in a very upset fan base.
Taking all things into consideration, there is one strong possibility that may be possible. The game would more than likely take place near the end of Shepard’s life. The aged and crippled hero could still be featured in the story, as well as some other old friends. This would help keep those attached to the characters from the series happy, as well as allow for a ‘passing of the torch’ between Shepard and the newer, younger hero. It would also allow for the pulling of the heart strings on those comrades that passed away during the Reaper battle. The game would more than likely feel a bit more primitive, as space travel and intergalactic communications have just recently begun to prosper. The reinstatement of the Spectre forces and a new committee of selected councilors would be more than likely as well. It would be obvious that a new enemy would be featured in Mass Effect 4, either hostile aliens still reaming from the recent battles, or maybe something more treacherous than the Reapers. The Reapers did always say it was inevitable that life should end, and that it could not be stopped. Maybe something else could be the reason, who knows at this point.

"I don't always end games, but when I do, I make sure you don't know what the f*** just happened."

There are many directions BioWare could chose to go with the franchise. First Contact Wars, the Krogan Rebellion, a future Reaper Attack, the Prothean/Reaper battles, the possibilities are endless. They have created a rich history and intriguing back stories, so we can assume the next game will be just as great as the last three. The franchise is too popular to let die, and EA would never let a potential profit just go by the wayside. And after the fan feedback on Mass Effect 3′s ending, BioWare probably wants redemption. Regardless of the scenario played out in the next title, it will be a hit and will sell millions, but we will haut have to wait and see what BioWare and EA choose to do with our beloved series.

Apr 132012
 

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This week, Electronic Arts and BioWare released their newest downloadable content pack, Mass Effect 3: Resurgence. The Mass Effect 3: Resurgence DLC features two new cooperative multiplayer maps, six new playable co-op characters as well as a few new weapons to use when battling those who oppose the universe. The best part of the Mass Effect 3 Resurgence DLC? It’s available now and it’s free!

The Content

Lets begin with the brand new maps. First up is Condor. For those of you that have played through the single player campaign, you will notice very well where Condor is located. It is a small base located on one of the moons of Palaven, the Turian home planet. The other map is Hydra, a large dam built on the ruins of an abandon Quarian settlement. Both maps offer a fresh coat of paint for those of you multiplayer fanatics that seem to be getting bored with the same old co-op maps, and the fact that they are offered for free can’t hurt at all. Both maps are well designed and give a little more longevity to the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer expereince.

Also included in the DLC are six, all new playable characters available for Mass Effect 3′s cooperative multiplayer. When you download them, however, you will have to unlock them just as you would previous races and classes. The new characters are:

  •  Asari Justicar Adept
  •  Krogan Battlemaster Vanguard
  •  Geth Infiltrator
  •  Geth Engineer
  •  Batarian Soldier
  •  Batarian Sentinel

As you can see, there are six new characters to choose from, four of which are from new playable races such as the geth and the batarians. So for all you Legion fans, you finally get a chance to play as the ‘collective whole’.

Lastly, there are three new weapons to add to your arsenal. First we have the Striker Assault Rifle. It is a krogan inspired firearm that provides very effective explosive rounds. The other two guns are brought to you by the new playable races. The batarians bring with them a powerful, one shot rifle that can cause bleed-outs or disruptions by the name of the Kishock Harpoon Gun. And the geth weapon of choice is the Geth Plasma SMG, a fully automatic geth standard machine gun. These weapons are available to all characters and are not race specific.

The Review

After having played with the Mass Effect 3: Resurgence DLC, I am quite pleased. The amount of goodies that have been included should make any fan of the multiplayer proud, and considering the price tag of zero dollars, there is really no reason anyone with Mass Effect 3 shouldn’t download this content. The maps are well designed, the characters are fresh and exciting and you get a few new weapons to tote around so you feel like a man. It is a bit shameful that you need to unlock the characters, but it gives you more incentive to raise the levels of your galactic readiness. One can only wonder if Electronic Arts and BioWare are making this content free to the public because of the “terrible ending fiasco” or maybe in light of their recent award of the “Worst Company in America”. It can never be certain why EA has chosen to release free downloadable content for a triple A title, but whatever the reason, everyone that owns this game should most certainly take advantage of it.

 

 

Apr 102012
 

The question has been a hot topic among gamers since the industry has given birth to this generation of consoles. It began with a few maps here, a couple of mission there, and slowly but surely, downloadable content has become an expected part of  a video games life cycle. For most gamers, DLC may not seem like such a big issue, if you don’t like it, then don’t buy it, right? That really is not the issue here. The growing concerns over downloadable content are how it is delivered, what is included, and how companies are using it.

Lets start off by discussing how downloadable content is being delivered. It used to be that when you purchased a game, you were given access to all of the information on the disc, one complete game. Later in a games life cycle, you would then be offered with recently released content, available via download, that would extend the life of said game. This information was created after the game was released, and in no way did you have access to it before hand. With companies such as BioWare and Capcom being recently accused of storing future planned DLC on tangible game discs, some gamers have become enraged. Many believe that when you purchase a game, you are entitled to all of the content on the disc, which is a valid point. But publishers and developers ask that consumers observe the beneficial side of this form of content storage, as it makes downloads quicker and easier. Regardless of how the content is delivered, the main focus is that with or with out it, the game provides a rewarding experience.


That brings us to the next point, what the content includes. There is debate as well, involving what the content is comprised of. A great example of this is the day one DLC for Mass Effect 3: From Ashes. (There are no spoilers here, so feel free to continue.) Before we go on about the problems with the From Ashes DLC, it must be stated that the Mass Effect 3: From Ashes DLC is a must buy if you want the total Mass Effect Experience. This is not being said because it is a great DLC, which it is, but because it is so crucial to the main story. There is no way that this should have been released as downloadable content. This DLC should have been included as part of the game, no questions about it.If you have played it, you know what a huge impact it has in the overall scheme of the Mass Effect series, and if you haven’t, you need to play it. What makes this controversial is the fact that it IS DLC. Something with this much influence over how a story is perceived, should never be an optional, additional charge.

This brings up the final point, how companies use DLC. Imagine you are making a blockbuster game, still using Mass Effect 3 as an example, and you want to ensure that everyone will buy your DLC, what are some ways you could do that? You could include the DLC in a limited number of collector’s editions, essentially charging for it. You could offer it as a day one download, letting everyone that didn’t obtain a collector’s edition the opportunity to purchase it (as well as have it readily available during the time the game is receiving the most hype). Or, you could make sure the content was important to the nature of the story being told. That is where BioWare has run into a problem. For those of you that have played From Ashes, imagine playing Mass Effect 3 with out the DLC. You can’t do it can you. It is that important. And what it looks like from a consumers standpoint is that BioWare used an important part of the game and cut it fact of the matter is,  the DLC was available from the moment you placed Mass Effect 3 in your console, which means the actual physical game and the DLC were developed during the same time frame. If that is the case, out of all of the missions in Mass Effect 3 that do not really matter, would you take something so integral to the Mass Effect series as a whole, and make it day one DLC? It seems more like standard Electronic Arts tactics, than actually attempting to provide the customers with a quality product. out, potentially compromising the stories integrity (which has been stretched out over 5 or 6 years), and sold it for an additional 10 bucks as DLC. Surely we can all see what impact that could have on the gaming industry. Making a game, removing key parts, and then selling them back as “optional” downloads. The

In this article, Mass Effect 3 is just being used as an example, considering the amount of coverage the game has received, as well as its recent release. But you can see the possible complications releasing day one DLC can create. Most people have no problem shelling out a few bucks for a new mission or two, or perhaps a mulit-player map pack, but we as gamers, and consumers, should keep an eye out on what these companies are actually doing. We need to make sure that we are not being robbed of 10 bucks because the 60 dollar game we just purchased isn’t complete without some downloadable content that was available before the disc hit the tray. So what do you guys think? Is DLC getting out of control, or are these just a few bumps in the road that will eventually be paved out?

Apr 052012
 

Business website The Consumerist recently announced that Electornic Arts was named the 2012 “Worst Company in America” by the voting public beating out Bank of America for the “top” prize.  Now, EA has formally responded to the title.

“We’re sure that bank presidents, oil, tobacco and weapons companies are all relieved they weren’t on the list this year. We’re going to continue making award-winning games and services played by more than 300 million people worldwide,”said John Reseburg, a higher up in the company’s Corporate Communications division.

Earning 64% of the vote against Bank of America, it’s no surprise that the software giant was voted the worst by the public.  In the last few years, the company has received backlash from taking over small publishers to their faulty Origin network.

“Readers ultimately decided that the type of greed exhibited by EA, which is supposed to be making the world a more fun place, is worse than Bank of America’s avarice, which some would argue is the entire point of operating a bank,”said the Consumerist article.

EA was the only video game related publisher to be in the contest.  Gamestop as well as Best Buy managed to make the list, but lost after the first few rounds.

Source: Game Industry

 

 

Mar 222012
 

With BioWare’s recent announcement regarding the “unacceptable” ending to Mass Effect 3, the popular developer may have just opened Pandora’s Box. Now, I am not saying BioWare did anything fishy, and I am not implying that the “horrible” ending was planned or that they were going to issue a new ending from the start, I am just simply suggesting that due to the ending change, BioWare may have just shown other developers and publishers something that may be used against us gamers in the future.

"My God, what have we done!?"

First, if you have not yet read the statement from Ray Muzyka, the c0-founder of BioWare, here it is:

As co-founder and GM of BioWare, I’m very proud of the ME3 team; I personally believe Mass Effect 3 is the best work we’ve yet created. So, it’s incredibly painful to receive feedback from our core fans that the game’s endings were not up to their expectations. Our first instinct is to defend our work and point to the high ratings offered by critics – but out of respect to our fans, we need to accept the criticism and feedback with humility.

I believe passionately that games are an art form, and that the power of our medium flows from our audience, who are deeply involved in how the story unfolds, and who have the uncontested right to provide constructive criticism. At the same time, I also believe in and support the artistic choices made by the development team. The team and I have been thinking hard about how to best address the comments on ME3′s endings from players, while still maintaining the artistic integrity of the game.

Mass Effect 3 concludes a trilogy with so much player control and ownership of the story that it was hard for us to predict the range of emotions players would feel when they finished playing through it. The journey you undertake in Mass Effect provokes an intense range of highly personal emotions in the player; even so, the passionate reaction of some of our most loyal players to the current endings in Mass Effect 3 is something that has genuinely surprised us. This is an issue we care about deeply, and we will respond to it in a fair and timely way. We’re already working hard to do that.

To that end, since the game launched, the team has been poring over everything they can find about reactions to the game – industry press, forums, Facebook, and Twitter, just to name a few. The Mass Effect team, like other teams across the BioWare Label within EA, consists of passionate people who work hard for the love of creating experiences that excite and delight our fans. I’m honored to work with them because they have the courage and strength to respond to constructive feedback.

Building on their research, Exec Producer Casey Hudson and the team are hard at work on a number of game content initiatives that will help answer the questions, providing more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey. You’ll hear more on this in April. We’re working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we’ve received. This is in addition to our existing plan to continue providing new Mass Effect content and new full games, so rest assured that your journey in the Mass Effect universe can, and will, continue.

The reaction to the release of Mass Effect 3 has been unprecedented. On one hand, some of our loyal fans are passionately expressing their displeasure about how their game concluded; we care about this feedback, and we’re planning to directly address it. However, most folks appear to agree that the game as a whole is exceptional, with more than 75 critics giving it a perfect review score and a review average in the mid-90s. Net, I’m proud of the team, but we can and must always strive to do better.

Some of the criticism that has been delivered in the heat of passion by our most ardent fans, even if founded on valid principles, such as seeking more clarity to questions or looking for more closure, for example – has unfortunately become destructive rather than constructive. We listen and will respond to constructive criticism, but much as we will not tolerate individual attacks on our team members, we will not support or respond to destructive commentary.

If you are a Mass Effect fan and have input for the team – we respect your opinion and want to hear it. We’re committed to address your constructive feedback as best we can. In return, I’d ask that you help us do that by supporting what I truly believe is the best game BioWare has yet crafted. I urge you to do your own research: play the game, finish it and tell us what you think. Tell your friends if you feel it’s a good game as a whole. Trust that we are doing our damndest, as always, to address your feedback. As artists, we care about our fans deeply and we appreciate your support.

Thank you for your feedback – we are listening.

After reading this statement, I couldn’t help but wonder how will this seemingly eventual ending be released? Will it come to us in the form of a required patch, or will it *gasp* cost us money in the form of downloadable content. You can see the dilemma. The possibility of companies botching critical points of the story, like the ending, and offering a small downloadable package to “fix” the problem, squeezing more money out of hardcore fan’s wallets.

As far as BioWare goes, I do not believe they did this intentionally. I feel as if they loved their ending(s), that it was the right ending(s). A developer as big as BioWare, with such an affinity to great storytelling would not resort to something as vile as releasing downloadable content for purchase in order to give fans what they want. But could it be justified?

Let’s say BioWare made a product they stood by. A product that received such rave reviews as Ray Muzyka claimed in his statement. Would it then be fair to charge those that disapproved of the ending, by offering those gamers a different ending if they felt the need? After all, they delivered an excellent game, a game that the end of a great franchise can be proud of. So, if they decided to charge for this DLC, could anyone actually blame them? After all, you bought the game already, you played it through, and because you weren’t satisfied with the ending, BioWare must go back to work and change it so that the complainers can be happy, free of charge? That doesn’t seem quite fair either, almost nearly as unfair as releasing a subpar series of endings.

The point I am trying to make here is, where is the middle ground? How can we, as gamers, make sure that no companies take advantage of another opportunity to charge us for the games we love, while at the same time not coming off as arrogant bastards that will lynch a developer if we are not satisfied with the story? Do we complain about every ending so that we can get the end results that we secretly hoped for all along? Do we boycott games with bad endings so publishers and developers get the point? At this point, I am not too sure.

"Where do we go from here?"

I will say, however, that I am one hundred percent in favor of developers making amends with the community. If there is a problem, and the community is not pleased, it is up to the developer to please the customers. We saw a lot of this with Battlefield 3 and the community becoming outraged with the delay in content and communication. That is a good thing, but to interfere with the creative process is a completely different story. No one changes the endings of books, songs or movies because people didn’t get the end product they expected, so why should video games be any different? These are the kind of situations that give those that do not take video games as a serious art form fuel for their fire. The problem with this game wasn’t a technical issue; it wasn’t even a content issue. The problem that many people have expressed concern about is the story, the creativity of the writers, the tellers of the Mass Effect story. I am sure some people didn’t like the beginning of UP, but does that mean Disney should just go back and say, “We are sorry, that was some sad shit, and many of you did not like it, so we went back and changed it to a more pleasant situation that doesn’t evoke as much emotion in order to please everyone.”

So tell us what you think. Is this really the right move? Do gamers having the ability to change endings tarnish the integrity of the story being told? Is it fair for developers to give out free content because people didn’t appreciate the creative process and accept the story for what it is?

You can follow Rhillis on twitter @rchillis.

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Mar 202012
 

The beginning of the end.

Earlier this month, many fans of the beloved Mass Effect series began throwing their arms in the air demanding that BioWare change the outcome of Mass Effect 3. I was intrigued by this response. I kept asking myself, “Should video game developers or storytellers in general, change the ending of their story to adhere to the fan base?” The more I thought about this, the more I realized my answer would always be, “No.”

This is not because I love every ending to every story, nor is it because I am on the side of any storyteller. The story will always be what it is, as told by the creator. No matter the ending, fans should never allow their own personal preferences compromise the integrity of the story. By attempting to have someone change the story, you have effectively diminished the story, and the message, that the creators had hoped to convey. Good or bad, love it or hate it, take it for what it is, the end of the story.

Should creators let fans influence stories that they feel are unacceptable?

With that being said, there are tons of great books, movies, games, as well as other forms of storytelling that have ended in not so great fashion. Some have ended abruptly, leaving the user dumbfounded and unfulfilled, while others were dragged on too long, causing the user to become disinterested and bored. That is not a flaw with the ending of a story but more of a flaw with the execution of the storytelling process. Don’t make the mistake of having the same definition of a “bad” ending and a badly executed ending.

Also, the endings to these stories are completely subjective to begin with. Depending on who you are, or what your past experiences might have been, the ending could resonate with you on a more positive level than someone with a different background, or even someone in a different mood during the time of the story ending experience. In that case, is it justifiable to want the creator to change the story to something more fitting to you, when someone else already thinks it is perfect as is? Should fans really expect someone to change the outcome of something they did not create in order to help them accept that the story has ended? No.

In the case of BioWare, they recently stated that they were considering changing the ending to Mass Effect 3. I couldn’t help but scoff at the idea. I understand that they create a product, and they want the fans of the product to love it in as many aspects as humanly possible, but to change an ending strictly to appease a small percentage of players seems ridiculous. There may even be cases of larger publishers and developers slapping something together half-assed, and shipping it out to make a quick buck, but I have to believe that a franchise as highly touted as Mass Effect would have warranted enough thought and execution to create a worthy end to the story. EA may come off as the type of publisher that wants to churn out as many games as they can, but those responsible for creating the game, BioWare, would surely want to make sure that a franchise they have worked so hard on for the past five years would be given a proper exit.

Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Stories are a wonderful thing. They excite us, enthrall us, give us joy, instill sadness and evoke every possible emotion humans have. There are seemingly endless mediums for us to convey these stories to those that wish to experience them, and no matter how the story has been chosen to be told, the end is always just that, the end. Sometimes things end unexpectedly and without warning. Sometimes things end unfairly and without just cause, but they end. We, as a society, need to learn to love the story, enjoy it while it is here, and cherish it when it is over. The creator is the one holding all the cards, and with respect to the one telling the story, we need to accept the way they chose to end it, no matter how it makes us feel. There will always be stories that end in such a way that we become frustrated, but for every case of an angry fan that feels betrayed, there is another, completely happy with the way things turned out.

So, what do you think? Should creators let fans sway the way they tell their story? Should video game developers change an ending in order to appease rabid fans? Let us know what you think in the comment box below.

Mar 112012
 

Ever since Dragon Age 2, the public opinion of BioWare, at least on the internet, has grown more and more negative. While Dragon Age 2 was not nearly as good as Origins, it was still a good, not great, game with some minor and some more substantial issues. This hate for Dragon Age 2 among the more outspoken BioWare “fans” has spilled over to Mass Effect 3, and for a sequel to a multiple Game of the Year award winner, it sure has gotten a lot of hate prior to its release. After having played the game, I am happy to say that Mass Effect 3 is absolutely a worthy entry in the series, and an early contender for Game of the Year.

There will be very minor story spoilers, but nothing that hasn’t been shown by Bioware themselves in trailers and gameplay videos.

Mass Effect 3 is the conclusion to the trilogy, and the finale for Commander Shepard and his/her war against the Reapers. With the change in lead writers, I was a bit worried about whether the story and characters would reach the same heights as the last two games, but Mass Effect 3 is mostly good in this respect. The writing can get cheesy at times, but for the most part it is well done. At the beginning of the game, the Reapers have finally arrived, attacking Earth and dozens of other planets across the galaxy, primarily targeting the home-worlds of the Citadel races. After a very brief segment on Earth, Shepard flees in the Normandy to venture out gather the fleets of the various races, in the hopes of amassing a large enough force for a counterattack.

The majority of the game is spent traveling across the galaxy, requesting help from pretty much all the major Mass Effect races. This stuff is really well done, and it’s great to see the home-worlds for some of the iconic Mass Effect races. Along the way you’ll run into plenty of old friends and enemies, and the game provides satisfying conclusions to the individual story arcs of pretty much every character from the first two games. If you have a favorite character, chances are you’ll be pleased with how their story wraps up. Unless of course you happen to be a big fan of either Zaeed or Kasumi, as they are as poorly implemented into this game as they were in Mass Effect 2. As for squad members, there are only six, seven counting the DLC character, and 4 of them are Mass Effect 1 characters, with James Vega being the only new character to join your team.

One of the defining features of the Mass Effect trilogy, the ability to transfer your saves from one game to another, has been promised to pay off big in the finale, but its implementation is really hit or miss. The game does a great job of letting you know that it knows what you’ve done in the past. There are things you’ve done in the past being referenced constantly, but there are very few occasions where past choices make a big impact. There are many characters that could possibly be dead that have major roles in the game, and I look forward to playing with one of my characters with tons of people dead to see the changes. In other instances though, decisions have little impact. For instance, if you destroyed the genophage cure in ME2, it doesn’t prevent the genophage from being cured, it only adds a minor consequence. Even if the decisions of past games don’t drastically effect the course of the plot, it is cool to past choices constantly being referenced, and it does make your experience feel very personal.

As for the DLC character, if you were one of those worrying about whether or not this character was vital to the game, you can rest easy. While the character is very interesting and seamlessly integrated into the main game (unlike past DLC characters), he is of zero consequence in the overall plot, and serves only as an interesting, but inconsequential addition. I am by no means defending the decision to make this paid content, but it is not at all  necessary to fully experience the game.

The way the game handles characters is actually a big improvement over the past games in the series. The biggest improvement in the character department has to be the way your various teammates interact with each other, both on the ship and on missions. In past games, characters would occasionally chime in during missions, but each character just said a variation of the same things, so the conversations would make sense no matter which characters you happened to have in your group. In Mass Effect 3, there are conversations for any combination of characters. No matter who you bring on any given mission, they will have unique dialogue with each other. On the ship, characters don’t simply wait at one spot all the time, waiting for you to come talk to them. Character may even visit each other on the ship, and you can walk in and listen to them having conversations. Given that, for the most part, teammates only interacted with Shepard in past games, it is great to see more character interactions in this game.

The only thing that really disappointed me about the story was the ending. I didn’t really have a problem with the Deus Ex Machina that was introduced very early in the game, simply because it is more implausible that you would have any chance of defeating the Reapers in a conventional battle, but I did not like the resolution. None of the three endings, nearly indistinguishable from another, provide any sort of meaningful resolution to the story you’ve been creating over the past three games. My biggest problem is the way they try to explain the origins and motivations of the Reapers. I was perfectly content with the explanation Vigil gave in the first game, “The Reapers are alien, unknowable. Perhaps they need slaves or resources, more likely they are driven by motives and goals organic beings cannot hope to comprehend.” This explanation is much better than the contrived and convoluted “answers” we get at the end of Mass Effect 3. I just wish they had left the Reapers as mysterious beings of immeasurable power and intellect. To put it bluntly, the ending sucks, and I think it puts a stain on the series as a whole. Ultimately though, the last 10 minutes aren’t enough to ruin the awesome 30+ hours it took to get there, or the two fantastic games that have come before. The ending certainly gives closure to the main story arc, but it is not satisfying in the least.

Mar 062012
 

Well, it has been one hell of a wait, with the release date being pushed back so far, many fans of the series will have been drooling as the date approached when they could finally get their hands on what is sure to be one of the biggest titles of perhaps not just the year, but this console generation. On the whole, reviews have been astronomical, the response from critics has been incredible and while the game has some faults, you’ll have to look pretty hard to find a review that really does not like this game.

“A spectacular, powerfully imagined and dramatically involving final act to one of gaming’s richest sci-fi sagas” – 8/10 – EDGE Magazine

“Has now become the new pinnacle entry into the trilogy” – 9.8/10 – Xbox Addict

“A great ending to a landmark trilogy” – Metro UK – 4/5

“Has set the bar even higher as the worthy conclusion to one of the finest stories ever told in gaming history” – IGN – 9.5/10

“Satisfying right up to its climax” – 8.5/10 – Destructoid

“Taken as a whole this is arguably the first truly modern blockbuster” – 10/10 – Eurogamer

“The first contender for game of the year 2012″ – 95/100 – GamingXP

“The perfect ending to a masterful trilogy that’s gone from strength-to-strength with each title” -96/100 – X360A

 ”Show it to the next person who maintains games are vacant and unsophisticated, and watch them squirm as they’re forced to acknowledge their ignorance” The Guardian UK

“A wonderful game with tons of content” – 10/10 – Atomic Gamer

“A remarkably satisfying conclusion to a beloved trilogy” – 9/10 – GameSpot

“Even though it doesn’t come together quite as successfully as it did in the previous games, those of you with an attachment to the Mass Effect universe should still play it” – 4/5 – Giant Bomb

“Few who buy it will be left unsatisfied by how the story – their story – ends” – 8/10 – VideoGamer

“From the visceral combat to the excitement of finishing Shepard’s 100-hour fight, Mass Effect 3 is a rare, magnetically engaging treat that’ll compel you to stay up well past your bedtime” – 9.5/10 OXM