Oct 242013
 

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-Error reading from ESRB datastream-
Please visit ESRB.org for rating information.

The Hero of Winds has a special place in my heart, as he is by far my favourite Link and when Wind Waker HD was announced I had a slight apprehension that the charm that so easily captivated me back in 2003 would be lost in this make over. Though it seems that my fretting was for nought as Link and the rest of the cast are still as enjoyable to watch as ever.

 

 

 Facial expressions a side, what does Zelda & Link’s first HD journey look like? Well stunning, although it can be argued that it probably always would be a great looking game, but seeing looking at the original and then at this addition you cannot go back; from the vibrant and lively colours of the sea to the crisp character design this further enhances the reason why in my opinion  Wind Waker is the best looking Zelda game, as its just so much fun to look at. With the coming of HD there are a few aspects that have rather been left out, the most noticeable of these is the contrast in the game. It seems in the redefining of the game, it has lost quite a bit of its cel shade due to the brightness of the game. This does not however detract from the fact that this is still a beautiful game.

Zelda-Wind-Waker-HD-01

The Combat has thankfully remained the same and with the Wii U gamepad it makes swift work of changing items and checking dungeon maps. The swordplay remains the best in the series and feels satisfying with every swing, and all of the controls feel very natural on the dinner plate that is the game pad. But by far the most useful thing is the fact your sea charts are ready for you on the touch pad, which does make sailing to locations very enjoyable and with the addition of the fast sail it makes things a little less tedious, but still quite long.The dungeons and quest remain as fun and perceptive as always; the puzzles that stumped me 10 years ago still managed challenge my memory when playing through them again. The enemies and bosses are some of the best designs in the Zelda world, and in HD they look great (Ganondorf and Helmrock King I was especially pleased with)  A few welcome additions to the new version incorporate miiverse in the game. This player interaction is an interesting and unique idea, and allowing Link to take selfies makes for some humorous monuments within the game.

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Overall this is still the great adventure that it always was, and the new graphics just makes all the more better. This game is a true triumph of what a Zelda game should be about; from combat to level design and character charm. Wind Waker was a drastic change for some back in the day, but many people came to love it, and for me it represents something that has been somewhat lost in the past two console games: Charm. Hopefully Wind Waker HD is the sign of more good things to come in the next console game, but in the meantime this is definitely a Zelda game everyone should play.

WII U

Graphics

97
 

Audio

95
 

Gameplay

95

Creativity

95
 

Execution

95
 

Offset

95
    

9.5

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Review copy supplied by Nintendo UK. 

 

Sep 102013
 

Screen shot 2013-09-06 at 19.55.43

So as it turns out I’m a sucker for aesthetically bizarre and beautiful indie games, and MirrorMoon EP is one of those games. As you set out to make your mark in this abstract galaxy you’ll find yourself perplexed in some situations, or taking a screenshot to put as your desktop wallpaper. 

Screen shot 2013-09-06 at 19.37.39

The premise MirrorMoon EP lays its self to being one of solidarity, which you certainly do get as you try to wrap your head around the control panel of your ship and wondering what are those dots on that screen, Planets? Eventually you’ll figure this out; just as well this is a game of exploration. You’ll start off on a red planet and work yourself around the problem that faces you, all while staring at this odd moon in the sky, then suddenly you will have found how to make your way through these simplistic but nonetheless exquisitely barren worlds. But as you emerge from the planet and set your signature on it, I found that the galaxy so infinitely big in imagination is a lot smaller than one you have imagined.

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 After all MirrorMoon EP sets out with the notion of placing you in an isolated place, however this is in fact a collaborative experience, as you and many others are discovering more and more planets with each click, and thus ensues a vast amount of planetary names that NASA would love to be allowed to use.  As an explorer in this game you are continually searching for new planets to name and explore, as for me though there wasn’t as much fun in traversing to a planet which someone else had discovered and as I log on I find that 97% of the B side has been explored, this left me thinking “where do I go now?” Not every planet you will find has a puzzle to solve; some are just rather striking things to look at, such as red rain falling on a white surface against the black the sky.

Of course the main component in this space tale, which rather sums up to encapsulate the games ambition is the music. The music was the first thing that truly hit me about being alone. The otherworldly quality really sets you into the scenery and your journey into space, it truly is alien. But as you continue through space you are reminded that you are not alone, as a cracking message plays out through the cacophony of space.

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 Through its harshness of colours, chaotic symphonies and original gameplay MirrorMoon EP has left me feeling elated over what this video games today can be, and more importantly what they leave and evoke. Many people feel that the saying “games can be art” is rather cliché as A: art is in the beholder and B: Video games are not just art. However MirrorMoon EP is something rather different in terms of video games, it is fresh and new.     

PC Game

Graphics

90
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

80

Creativity

90
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

85
    

8.8

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Aug 232013
 

caution

Everyone suffers from a bit of frenzy when they seemingly cannot do something correct. But it is the gamer who probably sees this frustration the most.

 

My housemates’ boyfriend has ridiculous gamer-rage over FIFA; I’m talking about full on stomping the floor, chucking the controller and punching the wall. The view of Gamers has obviously changed from angry fourteen-year-old boys throwing tantrums to more generalised acceptance as everyone has a smartphone or tablet with “games” and therefore can be considered a “gamer”. But what has been evolving in the past 2-3 years is how easily consumers can get in contact with developers with social media sites. Indie developers rely on such platforms as kickstarter and Steam Greenlight to get interest and money and in return we get access and a greater say than ever before whilst games are in development. But it is the development of how the Internet works and what people can now do with it that has lead to this unprecedented amount of abuse and rage in some cases. I take the most recent example of this being the happenings around Fez developer Phil Fish. It’s unfortunate that Fish took this action but this gamer hate quite simply doubled when he announced that he was stopping Fez 2.  However in contrast Gamer rage has been a force of decent means, such as in the inclusion of SMB Melee in Evo 13, in which the backlash from social media sites (including their own) was enough to make them revoke their action. We can also say that Gamer rage has also taken form in the fan bases of games; you think that Mirrors Edge 2 would be in production if it didn’t have the large out cry for it to happen?

 

With regards to fandom comes the rage that stems from “console fan boys” a rather retro term to use now days but still relevant and a somewhat important aspect of the industry, as it has led to the Mass effect 3 change and the Microsoft’s backtracking one the Xbx one. As we full well know the biggest console showdown  is just around the corner and you can be sure that the marketing is going to be huge this year, put into perspective that this kind of competition hasn’t happened in a very long time, and as a result the gamer hate on forums and sites is particularly more extreme than it usually is. This kind of argument (lets call it that) is based on many years of gaming but also in the information we digest from the Internet, honestly did I really bother about the technical spec when the Ps2 came out, no.

The information that we can attain instantaneous means that we have a better view of what we are purchasing or what topic of news we are talking about. This in turn affects how games are made for us, because we can say if a gamer is rubbish and it’s because of this we have (in my opinion) a saturation of FPS games as this is what consumers tend to buy the most of. When we walk into a store we already have a preconceived idea of what the game is, and is it any good all this from things we have read. Very rarely would you now go in store and take a chance on a game in which the information you have been on the back of the disk case. This is a consequence of the times, however the way we vent our rage and in some cases hate, may mean that we are limiting the variety of games we can pick up from the shop. So when you are next in the shop take a chance at something you don’t know much about, because it might end up surprising you (or you could just whine about it).    

Aug 132013
 

After about 20 hours of gameplay, I’m able to say two things about Black Rock Shooter. Combat is just about the only rewarding part of the entire game, and I am horribly confused about what is going on. It’s very rare for me to stare at a game’s end credits and ask what the hell it was I just played through, but this is definitely one of those experiences. The story is all about aliens that have come to Earth and are exterminating human life as we all know it. Ok, I’m with you so far. The military has funded the creation of super soldiers called Greys, who for some reason are young, hardly dressed, girls and the main character, B.R.S, is a 16 or so young girl who is some kind of super bad-ass. Oh, and her eye will randomly explode with blue fire. Yeah, it was right about this point that I was confused as to what was going on. Well, might as well buckle in and see how much more it can throw at me.black_rock_shooter_the_game__lost_all_stella_brs_by_xxnekochanofdoomxx-d65bfy9

I assume watching the Anime that this game is based on of would help a lot, because just looking at the story provided in the game, it leaves a lot to assumption. The alien’s are constantly talking about Neblading, which is a process that is never once explained in the game, except that it somehow gives the victims memories to the person doing said Neblading. Also there is a lot of talk of the colors White and Grey, something else that isn’t really explained is what a White is. The mysterious General of the aliens is looking for this White, and they assume that B.R.S is this White. From what I can assume on my own and what I was given, a White is the perfect clone of the original specimen that the Grey’s were made from. A little more explanation would have gone a long way in this game, but shock and awe were the tactics they decided to go with instead.

video-black-rock-shooter-the-game-comes-to-psp-on-tuesday-34610-2Combat isn’t anything too exciting, but it really is the only redeeming quality this game has going for it. After about ten battles in you realize that you’re doing the exact same process over and over. Shoot, dodge, super move, rinse and repeat. The super moves are pretty cool looking, so the first couple of times it’s interesting to see the new move you got and what it does. There aren’t a whole lot of enemy types, so that’s also feeds into the repetitiveness that the combat oozes. Most of the areas are completed with a simple go here and kill all these enemies orders, and it never really gets more exciting than that. Boss fights are really the only things that manage to have made me pay attention to the combat. They’ll mix up moves and give themselves stat boosts, and I can honestly say I had to retry on one or two of them. There’s one level that has a motorcycle part in it, but it’s not really rewarding enough to get any real attention. Visually the game is pretty bland, the backgrounds dull and unimpressive to look at. Character design was paid a little more attention to, but you would do well to remind yourself that you’re playing a PSP game and this is one of the lesser graphical titles.

All in all this game wasn’t too impressive. It offers a lot of replay value, letting you replay each level to find hidden enemies and recover some of B.R.S’s black-rock-shooter-2memories. Even then, the only memories you’re recovering are the events that occurred in the level for viewing in the gallery at the main menu. The game also offers some different endings after it’s been played through once, which also adds some game time if you’re really invested in the story. The main story was a little depressing, and watching the last bit of humanity die around you or hear about how entire animal species went with them doesn’t do much to improve the mood. If the PSP is going to be kept alive by any stretch of the imagination, a little more time is going to need to put into the titles. This game isn’t the best, but it can be entertaining for a short while by even the most veteran of RPG buffs.

Just fives. All across the board fives.

Playstation Portable

Graphics

50
 

Audio

50
 

Gameplay

50

Creativity

50
 

Execution

50
 

Offset

50
    

5

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Aug 062013
 

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

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

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

Happy adventuring!

Jul 242013
 

Neverwinter_Brightened_Logo_FinalAt one time, I really had ridiculous amount of hype built up for Neverwinter. At PAX East, I had a chance to play it along side The Elder Scrolls Online, and I personally enjoyed Neverwinter far more despite being two different games in completely different points in development. After PAX East, I spent quite a bit more time with Neverwinter while it was still in beta. I wrote quite a lengthy preview, describing a whole of different things you could do, encounters to expect, and things I really loved about the game. Now that Neverwinter is officially live, I went back into Neverwinter for some extended time adventuring and leveling. Does Neverwinter still stand as one of the best Free-to-Play MMOs on the market?

Neverwinter_Screenshot_JeweloftheNorth_012513_jpeg25I eagerly hopped back into Neverwinter, opting to build a Drow Rogue because the option was finally available to me since the Drow race wasn’t available during beta. I never found much of a reason to care which race or deity you chose, because there’s not really anything that impacts your decisions. The races all have some general stat bonuses, but you can typically choose one that’s favorable to your chosen class. Again, I don’t think your choice in Deity matters at all, as I had the same outcome regardless of choice across numerous characters. Classes really don’t have much of a unique feel to them either, as you’re either doing melee damage with a warrior or rogue type, or you’re basically doing ranged arcane damage with a cleric or wizard. This pretty much means play whatever you want, because in the end it won’t really matter anyway, though I can tell you that the Rogue will have an easier time leveling solo – but you’ll read more about that shortly.

Blowing through the tutorial again, now slightly more streamlined, I made my way back into the city. I decided I’d work on making this character a tradeskiller instead of going straight into adventuring, in an attempt to experience the game from a completely different perspective than I had originally approached it during the closed beta. I really like how crafting is done, giving you the option to log into a web portal to manage your crafting, so you can continually improve your skills without really ever needing to be at your computer. Because crafting is essentially clicking a recipe and waiting the time limit for it to finish building, having it available on a web portal is really a genius idea. You can also buy components for recipes from the marketplace with astral diamonds, but the biggest problem is the inability to purchase common items (like thread) without being logged into the game and purchasing more essential components from an in-game vendor. Hopefully that’ll be expanded on and improved as Neverwinter gains more active players.

neverwinter_controlwizard_1__mediumGoing into adventuring, the Rogue plays considerably different than the Cleric did. The Cleric worked better as a Paladin type, being able to throw heals on himself while tanking mobs and doing AoE damage. The Rogue does a ton of damage and can easily blow through a group of enemies, but he’s fragile; so unless you’re sure you can blow through the entire pack, you’re dead. This results in the Rogue being able to solo most quests far faster and far more efficiently than almost any other class. The Wizard does fine until around level 26, and then he can’t do enough AoE damage to survive encounters. The Cleric does fine until he also slows down on AoE, and the poor Warrior classes don’t ever have much of a chance to do much of anything without a group or a partner. What this means is there’s basically no class worth playing solo except the Rogue, which is completely broken from a balance perspective. Hopefully solo content will be addressed in future patches.

While I praised Neverwinter highly at PAX East, diving back into Neverwinter was sadly alarming to find out how much my initial adoration had already faded. The leveling grind is essentially the same thing from start to finish. You’ll go through one area, level up, and then do it again once you get to the next area. Repetition is fine, but when the quests barely change and the dungeon crawls are mediocre at best, it’s very hard to stay interested in the level grind. Once the game went live, the game became considerably more populated – which was great for social aspects and marketplace availablity. Unfortunately, that also opened the flood gates to spammers, astral diamond farmers, and of course the typical grievers who like to sit in town or in public channels and spam stupid comments. It was essentially “Barrens Chat” from World of Warcraft, which sadly just about ever public channel in every MMO ever inevitably devolves into. Does that ruin the experience? No, not really because you can always leave the city or turn off (or ignore) public chat channels.

491ecbaaac89bbe4b251af02f4d597721370571768You can somewhat customize Neverwinter to be whatever type of experience you want it to be, but it comes with a price. You’ll get all sorts of little Nightmare boxes to open up, which drop far more often than anything you’ll really be able to use. These boxes offer a chance to get some rare loot or something really great like an epic flaming mount. Unfortunately, it costs nearly a dollar per key to open these boxes, and because these boxes are not only fairly common but their contents are completely left up to chance from the good ol’ RNG (Random Number Generator), you could spend one dollar to get something useful, or you may spend over $100 and never get anything worth a dime of in or out of game currency. Because of these things, Neverwinter has had absolutely zero staying power for me. I quickly fell out of love for it, opting to choose scratch my for an MMO by playing something more traditional because all Neverwinter made me do was wish it were better. Unfortunately, without some major changes, it’s stuck in the same boring rut that other titles have been stuck in since the launch of World of Warcraft, and that’s not only sad for Neverwinter, but for the MMORPG genre itself.

PC Game

Graphics

80
 

Audio

80
 

Gameplay

50

Creativity

45
 

Execution

35
 

Offset

65
    

5.9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Neverwinter is available to play free of charge, however we were provided with a content code which allowed us to access some locked items such as the Drow race.

Jul 192013
 

Capcom’s Monster Hunter series has always been something that I have shied away from. Every time I threw myself into it, I found that I had no idea what was really going on. I had a bad feeling in my stomach that was how this experience was going to go as well, but my fears were put to rest less than half an hour after starting up my 3DS. My half an hour of playtime quickly turned into almost a full day poured into slaying monsters and scrambling to find the materials I would need to make the newest armor or the most deadly weapon I could. Once the fervor of this game hits, you’ll have to pay attention to make sure you’re remembering to eat and sleep regularly, and remind yourself that it’s a game and you have to put it down sometimes.

sand_barioth_wiiu_m_001_bmp_jpgcopy_24874.nphdMonster Hunter works surprisingly well on the 3DS, which was another thing that worried me. Some would say a handheld experience is not as rewarding as having a console to sit down with, but this game works great with it. The option of being able to pause mid quest and put your 3DS in sleep mode until you can pick back up at a later point is great. The combat isn’t over complicated, your light attacks mapped to the X button and heavy to the Y with the inclusion of either a block or a special ability for the right trigger depending on which weapon you’re using. The weapon types are varied, each one giving pros and cons that you Monster-Hunter-3-Ultimate-1024x682really just have to pick up and try to see what works best for your play style. To make that a little easier, you start with the starter weapon for each type in your inventory as soon as you start the game, which eliminates the waste of money on a weapon you’ll never use again. The materials to start making your weapons are never too hard to find, most monster base sets only needing you to slay the monster once or twice rather than having to material grind the quest over and over. The game also has a crafting system which isn’t complicated, being able to stash items into an item box and combine different items into another. For example combining a net with a trap tool will yield a pit trap or such.

Most of the game will take place in the areas assigned for monster killing or Moga village, the small village you’re tasked as a Hunter to protect from monsters. You’ll find a store for weapons, a blacksmith, cook, general store, and eventually a farm and naval area. You can task the Felynes (Small cat people who have become renowned from the series) to farm you certain herbs and such, as well as run an insect breeding box. Once you get higher up in the Guild rankings, you’ll be able to send ships out to different areas to gather rare goods that are hard to come by normally. The multiplayer aspect of things is accessible from the bottom screen of the 3DS when you’re wandering around Moga village. You’ll have to head to the Tavern and switch your game to Multiplayer, where you can meet up with your friends and tackle some missions that normally may be too hard for you on your own. The game was fairly balanced as far as single player difficulty went, with the exception of egg missions. Missions which require you to steal an egg and waddle back to the starting area to deposit it without getting hit. As soon as you’re hit, the egg drops and shatters. This caused more swearing and pulling of my own hair than I’d honestly like to admit.

Monster-Hunter-3-Tri-Wii-U-Screenshot-3The game does a good job with its larger monster hunts, each monster giving the feel that I needed to pay attention to what it was like before I ran head long into combat. After a few minutes of looking things over and testing your boundaries it’s easy to remember which parts of the monster are going to fend off your attacks and when you should roll or block. Some of the bigger hunts made me hesitate and a little jumpy, things like the Gobul which will wait under the dirt deep in the water to spring up and bite at you, or the powerful Lagiacrus which will sock you across the room with an electrified tail swipe. Eventually you will get two small allies of the Shakalaka race, each one able to join you on your quests and help out with dances that increase your health or other stats based on the mask they are wearing. The addition of these two really seems to lighten the load of the enemies you face, drawing the attention away from your hunter long enough for you to get key hits in.

Another great addition to any potential 3DS collection, this game will give you plenty to do. Everything from spending time fishing in a non-hostile area to doing battle with a fire-breathing Rathian alongside your friends, you’ll never be left wanting. This game is definitely worth picking up and spending some time with just to say that you sold part of your soul to the Monster Hunter universe like myself.

3DS

Graphics

90
 

Audio

85
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

85
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

85
    

8.8

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Jul 102013
 

 

 NintendoDirect

 

 

As some of you may know there is a petition going on at the moment to get Nintendo to make their current devices region free (which has at the time of writing 20,000 signatures). This has also affected me most recently with trying to review an eshop game for this site, which turns out I cannot do because ALL Nintendo related software is region locked. With Sony and Microsoft hardware now being region free it’s hard for them to put up any argument regarding why there should be a need for locking, especially in this day and age. In an interview with IGN Satoru Iwata states that:

 

“There are many different regions around the world, and each region has its own cultural acceptance and legal restrictions, as well as different age ratings. There are always things that we’re required to do in each different region, which may go counter to the idea that players around the world want the freedom to play whatever they want.” (Though it is to be noted that this interview was conducted before Microsoft announced region free for their console)

 

To me this is absolutely ridiculous; he must be stuck in the 90s for this kind of thinking. Doesn’t he know about the Internet? People are sharing their own cultures every day, even on their own social application ‘Miiverse’. Individuals from different nations are conversing with each other every second of everyday, as we do not live in such a restrictive world compared to 15 years ago in terms of communication. The Internet has made it possible for me to communicate with YOU even though you may not reside in the UK, even though our cultures and customs may be different. However we have one very important thing in common, we’re interested in games (and understand English, OK two then). Don’t get me wrong there are linguistic issues present, and living in the E.U I understand this greatly, but because the games are going to get released eventually across regions surely it doesn’t matter if a few of the more eager import from abroad, because as we know the majority of releases happen in N.A before the E.U. So if you haven’t noticed Nintendo many on the continent can understand English, so why are you stopping me from getting a game a few (if not more, Shin Megami Tensei IV I’m looking at you) months earlier just because I’m in a different region!  

 

I really do question Nintendo’s logic sometimes (and since the release of the Wii U even more so) their philosophy is same as twenty years ago, the major difference is that back then they were on top and could dictate what goes where. But now they struggling to get messages across, especially for the Wii U as they relied on the huge Wii base to take note of this console, but they didn’t (they could have eluded a whole lot of trouble if they just called it the Wii 2). 

 

Maybe this whole region locking business is to with sales, maybe they are afraid that if people just import games, those games won’t sell enough in that region. But my argument is that only a few groups of people will do this, and isn’t it through these ‘hard-core’ gamers that others get the information from, so isn’t this a good thing?  Though not to undermine localisation, it is incredibly important that games make sense in the respective country of release, as what makes sense in Japan may not make sense in France without prior knowledge of culture and customs. However with the recent announcements made by the other big two is it really viable for Nintendo just to carry on?

Your thoughts? (I think that they will carry on, because no one does stubborn like Nintendo)

(on another note) Just as soon as I have put the finishing touches to this article Nintendo seems fit to deny Evo 2013 permission to broadcast Super smash Brothers: Melee (IGN) after these guys have raised $95,000 in aid of breast cancer research foundation for Melee to be included in the tournament. I don’t know about you guys but I think they have lost it. I mean what are Nintendo trying to protect, through them doing this what they have attained is a lot of negative press. Nintendo have gone beyond conservative to ridiculous. (Update: Nintendo have changed their minds, so Melee will be broadcast at Evo 2013)

 

(so get on Miiverse or twitter and say WTF!)

Jun 182013
 

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

frontburnr-newlogo-RETINA

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 252013
 

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

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

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

Gears of War Judgment

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

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

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

Gears of War Judgment Review

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

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

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

gears of war

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

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

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

Bulletstorm 2, anyone?

XBox 360

Graphics

80
 

Audio

85
 

Gameplay

80

Creativity

85
 

Execution

85
 

Offset

80
    

8.3

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Mar 212013
 

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

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

4143The_Walking_Dead_Survival_Instinct_screen_7

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

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

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

The Walking Dead Survival Instinct Review

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

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

The Walking Dead

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

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

XBox 360

Graphics

40
 

Audio

50
 

Gameplay

55

Creativity

35
 

Execution

50
 

Offset

50
    

4.7

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Mar 132013
 

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

procrastinating squrrelProcrastinating Squirrel
Developer: Daivuk
Price: 80 Microsoft Points

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

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

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

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

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

ballguyBall Guy
Developer: Kinekid
Price: 80 Microsoft Points

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

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

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

Mar 012013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also Releasing:

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

Feb 112013
 

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

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

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

Dead Space 3

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

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

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

Dead Space

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

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

Dead Space 3 Review

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

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

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

XBox 360

Graphics

80
 

Audio

70
 

Gameplay

60

Creativity

65
 

Execution

55
 

Offset

60
    

6.5

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Feb 052013
 

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

witcher

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

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

Feb 012013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

raymanlegendsRayman Legends
Release Date: February 26th
Developer: Ubisoft

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

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

Also Releasing:

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

Jan 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 202012
 

LittleBigPlanet was one of the best new IPs this generation. I can’t even begin to fathom how much time I’ve spent with it. The sequel – which at first, like many, I was unsure was needed – was even more impressive. ModNation Racers was also a game I picked up, largely in part to its incorporation of the genius ‘play, create, share’ ideology. While it wasn’t as astounding as the LittleBigPlanet franchise, it did establish itself as a solid kart racer with some rather robust creation tools. Naturally, when news came out that Media Molecule and United Front had teamed up to created LittleBigPlanet Karting, I thought we’d get the best of both worlds. Sadly, the game just doesn’t live up to its potential.

The Good

Infusing the world of LittleBigPlanet into a kart racer is a great idea. Sackboy and his world are iconic. All the elements that make LittleBigPlanet such a success are here. Users will instantly feel at home navigating their Pod, Pop-it, and the traditional menu system. All of this is vastly superior, and a much needed improvement, to the navigation hub and wheel in ModNation. Stephen Fry reprises his role as the witty narrator, which will leave you chuckling on multiple occasions. Cutscenes play out just as they would in LittleBigPlanet, with gibberish and absurdity. The background music is still phenomenal, combining some old favorites with new, equally catchy songs. Mechanics from LittleBigPlanet, like bounce pads, the grappling hook, and the ability to slap are also nice inclusions.

The track creator is probably the best representation of mixing the good from both franchises. Tracks are still created by simply driving the paint roller, while the terrain can be sculpted into any shape with a bit of work. To top that off, a large portion of the powerful creation mechanics from LittleBigPlanet also appear, like emitters, logic gates, and much more. Textures can also be painted on the terrain, giving even the most mundane environments that classic, whimsical LittleBigPlanet feel. All these tools and goodies breathe extra life into the tracks, easily one upping ModNation.

Crafting a simple track can be done in minutes, while creating elaborate tracks may take hours. Because there are so many toys to play with, controlling and manipulating everything is a bit complex, but that’s a testament to just how much there is to tweak. I haven’t spent a huge amount of time with the creation tools, but there’s no doubt, like all of the ‘play, create, share’ installments, that the community will create some great tracks.

[Edit: I've now spent quite a bit of time with the creation tools. My first level, Volcano Island 2.0 - a recreation of my concept from ModNation - is the result of hours upon hours of playing with all the tools. I'm having a lot of fun creating, but sadly its excellence is only part of the whole. A user on Gamefaqs was making youtube videos with his impressions, so I jumped on the offer. While he had a fair share of complaints, I think the concept and level design show how much work I put in, and what the game is capable of. Give it a look: Volcano Island 2.0.]

Also worth noting, for those of you familiar with ModNation, the loading times are exponentially improved. While this was one of my biggest concerns pre-launch, after spending some time with the game, I’d gladly take back the insanely slow loading times if it meant I’d enjoy the overall experience more.

The Bad

Despite the increase in beauty and charm provided by the influx of LittleBigPlanet ingredients, somehow the world felt hollow. I don’t know if it’s just the transition to 3D, but I was never as impressed with the visuals or ancillary characters. The flat cardboard cutouts, and simplistic creatures put together with a couple wobble bolts, were boring compared to the likes of quirky characters like Larry Da Vinci, Avalon Centrifuge, Clive, and Dr. Higginbotham. It also didn’t help that in an effort to promote online play, races were filled with a group of identical looking Hoard adversaries, then topped off with a group of generic Sackbots.

As for that Hoard story, it also just wasn’t as impressive as the Collector or the Negativatron. (Plus, while grammatically acceptable, the Hoard was referred to as a plural unit…or I should say the Hoard were referred to as a plural unit. I’ve always opted for the singular form, so this ‘were’ a minor annoyance.)

Character and kart customization, while holding true to the LittleBigPlanet universe, ironically don’t allow for as much creativity. I spend a good chunk of time creating characters and karts in ModNation. While the customization options are proficient, and there are some really nice unlockables, I can’t help thinking what could have been had I been able to further customize my Sackboy, kart, or create something entirely from scratch.

The Ugly

Track design seemed either rushed or lazy. Where ModNation had expansive tracks, with all kinds of switches and shortcuts, these tracks were often straight-forward and extremely short. Three lap races were usually completed in under three minutes. Battle mode played out the same, with three minutes of frantic chaos – and I mean that as a pejorative. Never in my wildest imagination would I have predicted that I’d have actually liked the world of ModNation better. That’s not to say the level design is all bad. Some of the optional tracks and challenges change the formula for the better. There are a few lengthy checkpoint races and a boss battle that are extremely enjoyable. Plus the RC tracks, with their aerial camera and simplified mechanics, prove that things don’t have to be complex to be fun. But for every concept or track that is great, there are countless others I could do without.

The kart racing itself also felt like a step backwards. Karts seemed lethargic and weapons have devolved. Gone is the choice to save a weapon to upgrade its power. That could have been acceptable had there been two weapon slots, but that’s not the case. This annoyance is only compounded by the fact that the independent shield from ModNation, which was linked to a boost meter instead of weapon slot, has also been abandoned. After losing multiple races due to my lack of defensive measures – which could instantly take you from a qualifying position to dead last – I decided to just hoard my weapons to protect my rear. Even then, I often found myself successfully blocking a projectile only to be hit by a second one seconds later before even being able to resupply.

All of these gripes compounded to form an experience that seemed to favor luck rather than skill. All the strategy that made ModNation great was ditched for a casual, simplified experience. Towards the end of the story, I found myself replaying levels in a desperate effort just to get third. When I finally did, I didn’t feel accomplished; I felt lucky.

I hate to be a Negativatron, but the game seemed much more like a chore than a joyous experience. What could have been a brilliant collaboration of two ideas, turned out to be inferior to ModNation Racers, and a blemish on the otherwise perfect LittleBigPlanet name. That’s not to say that there weren’t brief moments of glory; they were just few and far between. People who never played ModNation may find blissful ignorance. Others, who favor couch co-op and online multiplayer, may avoid a few of my complaints. However, repeat customers are doomed only to see the game’s regression. Had United Front simply taken the strengths from ModNation, like the solid mechanics and  level design, and merged them with the charming LittleBigPlanet universe, they’d have had a sleek, shiny muscle car. Instead, they tweaked way too much under the hood, and ended up spinning the tires on their 92 Geo Metro.

Playstation 3

Graphics

75
 

Audio

90
 

Gameplay

70

Creativity

65
 

Execution

50
 

Offset

70
    

7

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • The charm of LittleBigPlanet is still present, even if it’s a bit inconsistent.
  • Loading times are minimal.
  • ‘Play, create, share’ mean endless content.

Cons:

  • Almost all of the great mechanics and creation tools from ModNation Racers are absent.
  • Tracks are short and uninspired.
  • Single player suffers to encourage multiplayer.
Nov 062012
 

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has been one we’ve watched grow larger and larger ever since the first installment was released all the way back in 2007.I know I’m in the minority in saying that I really enjoyed the first Assassin’s Creed upon its release. I recognized the issue but not even they could diminish the smooth combat and fantastic storytelling. 2 years later is when the series really took off though, with the release of Assassin’s Creed II, arguably one of the best games on this generation of consoles. Ubiosft then annualized the series and released two more games, Brotherhood (right there beside ACII as one of the best) and Revelations. Brotherhood being one of the most technically sound games in the series and Revelations existing only to provide extra backstory to Desmond, Ezio, and Altair.

With this year’s release comes a whole new experience, one that diverges away completely from Altair and Ezio and instead inserts you back into the animus in place of a man named Connor. Connor is a Native American who is going through the struggles of living on his land but having it slowly taken over by the Europeans. A nasty run in while he was young vaults the story forward and leads on an emotional tear through the colonies to find the people you are so desperately searching for.

Assassin’s Creed III takes a very interesting risk in its presentation to the story, beginning the game with you not in Connor’s shoes, but instead a man who is heading over from England to carry out some soon to be revealed business. This little mini story has its own twists and turns and ultimately fits perfectly into the overarching Connor story and helps wrap it all up in a tight little bow. Diving into the Revolutionary era was an incredibly risky move on Ubisoft’s part, one that could have tarnished the whole experience if it didn’t work out correctly. Thankfully, the folks at Ubisoft Montreal continue to prove they can turn any risky story into an immaculate one.

Like I previously mentioned, the combat is one of the best things about the entire series. The flow and gracefulness that your character achieves in between sliding back and forth from enemy to enemy, ramming blades into whatever part of their body he can reach, is something no game can even come close to matching. If you’ve played an Assassin’s Creed games before, you know what I mean when I say most of your time in combat is spent holding down RT and waiting for your enemy attack. Ubisoft has took it upon themselves to alter that this go around, removing that for a more Batman-esque combat system where you press a counter button once your enemy attacks. From there the game goes into a slow motion effect and allows you to either attack, throw, or disarm an enemy. All of which are effective in their own way.

With this change, the combat loses no luster and only gains some as it makes it less complicating and much more accessible. Also added were double counters for when two enemies are coming at you at the same time. The animations for these events are, well, simply described as “badass.” Badass is one moniker that you could use to describe every combat sequence in Assassin’s Creed. Another feature that Ubisoft tampered with was the traversal controls. Now instead of holding A+RT to get around everywhere, you simply have to hold RT, and only A when you need to jump. This also feels much more accessible than the previous version’s climbing did but it’s far from a drastic change. If you hated traversing the world in ACII, you’ll hate it in ACIII.

One thing that made Brotherhood such a fantastic game was the introduction of the brotherhood mechanic that allowed you to have a team of Assassins and the ability to use them in separate ways. Assassin’s Creed III takes that concept and both dumbs it down while expanding on it. On one hand, they add classes to each Assassin, allowing them to perform different tasks (marksmen, lure soldiers away, straight up assassin, etc.) but they also lower the impact of calling them in as instead of getting a group of soldiers, you get one man who can take down one, maybe two redcoats opposing you. You still have the ability to send recruits out on their own missions, which will simultaneously level up your recruit while earning you some spending cash on the side.

Speaking of spending cash, Assassin’s Creed III really attempts to tout its economic features, with minimal success. Eventually, a feature is rolled out where you can control stockpiled items, send out items on a convoy to sell to merchants, and even craft your own unique items. This is an unarguably fantastic idea, but the execution falls short which becomes one of the biggest disappointments in a game that is lacking almost any other misstep. For example, you must have certain artisans to craft items, but how you get those artisans is (to my knowledge) never explained. I picked up one from a local homestead mission where I simply did what he asked and then recruited him. I eventually recruited a few more people but never an artisan, which is the heart and soul of the entire operation. It’s a frustrating aspect that I attempted to bang my head against for hours hoping and praying I would find what I was missing. I never succeeded.

In last year’s Revelations, tower defense was added into the Assassin’s Creed world. The execution of that idea was about as poor as the idea itself. It led to a barrage of tedious and unnecessary sections that only further frustrated me and made me wonder “what the hell am I doing?” That being said, my immediate gut reaction to hearing that there would be naval combat missions in the newest Assassin’s Creed was not a positive one. But oh how I was shocked to find that these sections are arguably the best parts of Assassin’s Creed III. The challenge of having to manage between full sail and half sail to maneuver your ship into a certain spot is something I’ve never experienced before and really helps make you feel like you’re controlling a two ton ship

It isn’t just the controls though as watching the opposing ship get torn apart is just as enjoyable as well.  The visuals in Assassin’s Creed have been something that’s only been improving between every release and that continues on in the newest installment. It remains clear that the game is far from perfect as it does have more than a few frame rate drops but the future, computerized style still works five years later and makes for some interesting little images on screen.

Some of the technical issues that plagued the previous Assassin’s games return as well such as the awful horseback riding, particularly in tight places. I even had one section (involving Mr. Paul Revere) completely break on me because I got on the horse at the wrong time. It’s something that most people won’t run into but damn was it frustrating. But when the game finds it necessary to break out a chase scene on foot, all bets are off as to whether it will be fast and frantic or just plain frustrating. I ran into a couple that really showcased the acrobatic abilities you have at your disposal but there were also more than a few that were just a frustrating mess thanks to Connor occasionally feeling like he should climb up something you clearly did not push him towards. This wouldn’t be such a heart breaking issue if it didn’t completely diminish one final chase scene that was supposed to be a climactic emotional moment. Instead of that, it quickly became a test of will and how many times you want to bang your head against it to figure out the correct pattern.

Also introduced in Brotherhood was the very surprising multiplayer that took ideas from games like The Ship and installed into an Abstergo training program. The changes to the multiplayer this time around are not drastic in any way, only altering it slightly. The gameplay itself remains mostly the same, and by the same I mean just as nerve wracking and intense as it was when you last left it. There’s still a strong triumphant feeling that comes from stalking an opposing player, seeing him make one slight move that shows he’s not an AI, and swooping in for the perfect kill.

The biggest change to the multiplayer is a new four player mode called “Wolf Pack.” In Wolf Pack, you and three friends must execute specific targets assigned at random and while doing that you’ll keep a timer going that extends your play time. The more you kill, the higher level you achieve and more time you get, similar to Horde mode. It’s not as surprising or as fun as the standard multiplayer but it’s worth a few thrills here and there, especially if you’re playing with friends and not with random folk.

Not only does Assassin’s Creed III tickle my inner history buff fancy, it’s an incredible game on top of that. The intelligent people over at Ubisoft Montreal continue to churn out a fresh new experience that will easily consume thirty hours of your life within a week. It genuinely amazes me how deep and at times lovably insane the world surrounding the whole Templar/Assassin’s story is yet they continue to make me hang onto every word said by their leaders. Sadly, it is becoming clear that the series is falling a bit slim on new ideas. For now though, Ubisoft has created another piece of video game gold that is worthy of everyone’s sixty bucks.

XBox 360

Graphics

90
 

Audio

95
 

Gameplay

95

Creativity

90
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

90
    

9.2

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Nov 032012
 

Today we are going to record our first Gaming Irresponsibly podcast for your listening pleasure.  Whilst we slave away over microphones and try to think of a snappy name, we want to get the finished product out to as many gamers as possible.  As such, we’re going to do a little giveaway, for the fantastic Legend of Grimrock!

See what our UK Editor, Sean Judge, thought about Legend of Grimrock in our review here

Once we hit 1000 Facebook likes, one lucky winner can take on this guy and his friends!

To be in with a chance, you need to visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/GamingIrresponsibly and hit like.

Share the page and get your friends to do the same.  Comment on the top post on the page (the one about the giveaway, duh!) and get your friends to do the same.  Once we burst through 1000 likes, then we’ll pick one of the commenters at random and the lucky winner will receive a copy of the game that can be redeemed on GOG.com

Oct 172012
 

Shanghai-based developer, SpicyHorse, has announced that their latest title, BigHead BASH is out of Beta and available to play.  Why should you care? BigHead BASH is a fully realtime multiplayer deathmatch with a difference.  Players can take up arms and head into battle from a variety of web platforms such as Facebook, Kongregate, Armour Games and the developer’s own ‘Spicy World’ (Not to be confused with the dire Spice Girls movie..)

The best part? No matter where you launch the game from, players will be entering games hosted on shared servers.  That’s right, Kongregate users can take on Facebook players and more.

The game features a number of player characters as well as the introduction of some loved (and not so loved) popular characters.  Currently there are US Politicians (Bionic Barack!) and there are incoming packs featuring Hellboy and the members of pop-rockers Linkin Park.  I’ll be the drummer, ‘whatshisface.’

If you’re interested in checking out BigHead BASH you can find them on the sites mentioned, or by checking out www.bigheadbash.com

 

Oct 082012
 

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Borderlands 2

PS Vita

Contains: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.


The original Borderlands will forever be known as a hallmark in video game history. Sure, it was far from perfect but it brought about one of the best loot systems and combined it with exciting combat. The result was something no other game could provide. Nothing has topped it since then in those categories so with the release of Borderlands 2 came a lot of expectations that Gearbox, developers behind the Borderlands franchise, must meet in order to please their ever expanding fanbase. Meeting those expectations is one thing, exceeding them is what you hope for, though. Gearbox managed to only meet those expectations, but is that really a bad thing?

Borderlands 2 picks up five years after the events in the original with you selecting between four new vault hunters. All the characters are new but it’s clear that their classes all take some cues from the first game. As a Commando you can lay down a turret, Gunzerker can wield two heavy weapons, Siren can lift people up and freeze them for a few seconds, and the Assassin can make himself disappear while laying out a holographic decoy. I ended up playing through the game with the Siren class and found it to be perfectly acceptable; no class seems to have a distinct advantage over another. But the issue is that no class really pops out, either. The ideas behind them are great but the repetitiveness of using the same special move for 30+ hours really dulls down some of the impact it has on the combat.

This is obviously where the skill tree should come in and liven things up. And while the menu itself looks quite good, no skill within the menu packs the oomph you’re really looking for out of a XP based game. There’s no doubt that more than a few of the unlockable skills have their own uses but that doesn’t mean they add a pound of excitement on the side to the already fantastic combat sequences. It’s far from a game killing issue but it’s definitely disappointing that the skills were not a tad more varied across the board.

One thing the original Borderlands was known for was the exciting, at times insane combat that squeaked itself into every 20 minutes of the game. That combat returns this time around and only improves upon its original success. While the skills are not drastically exciting, they get the job done and with even more loot to gobble up this time around, you’ll quickly become addicted to offing every enemy that attacks you just so you can see what glowing item pops out of them. Then after you’ve put them in their place, the urge to search every inch of their camp for a weapon is just too great to ignore. Everything in Borderlands 2 just feels flashier and more exciting, partly due its beautiful world and partly due to the ridiculous weapons (and weapon combinations) you use throughout the game. No matter what you’re always on the hunt for your next main weapon and once you find that weapon, you never want to let it go.

Borderlands cartoony art style is another reason why taking the disk out of your console was a difficult task. It seems as if Gearbox recognized their issues (or lack thereof) with the visuals and did their best to tweak them in all the right ways. It mostly works out as the world around you and all the enemies look incredible. But the downside is that frame rate drops remain prevalent throughout the whole game, especially when you’re playing co-op your friends. It seems as if Borderlands chokes any time something big begins happening on screen.

The story in Borderlands 2 all revolves around one villainous character, Handsome Jack. Throughout the main story line, he will chime in at random intervals to let out his own little asshole remarks. Your characters goal throughout the game is to stop Jack and his attempt use the vault key and unleash all kinds of madness upon Pandora. In all honesty, story is clearly not the main reason you come to Borderlands and that is apparent throughout the game’s 20+ hour story line which ultimately concludes in one of the most lackluster endings I’ve seen this year. If you want to avoid the story you can always indulge in the plethora of sidequests that are always available. The amount of sidequests spread throughout Borderlands 2 seem endless and completing every one of them is a task that I won’t believe possible until I see it for myself. The quests themselves can range between a multitude of tasks, some being funny, some providing more insight into Handsome Jack, and some being just damn interesting.

A staple of the first Borderlands was the dry, at times hit or miss comedy. That hit or miss aspect returns as phrases like “teabagging” and “cool story, bro” are tossed around and are about as unfunny as you would expect. Claptrap attempts to bring about some laughs but he wears out his welcome rather quickly. He isn’t the only character that wears out their welcome as so does almost every other character that is pushed into Borderlands for comedy reasons. Most of the comedy in Borderlands 2 is a bit hidden, mostly through side quests or hidden collectibles. Like the first Borderlands, laughs are not something it shoots out repeatedly but when it does, it’s always a clever laugh. Except for the character that is Scooter’s sister. That’s one fine woman.

Something that came as a bit of a surprise in Borderlands 2 was the frustrating and inconsistent difficulty. Boss battles within the first Borderlands were stupidly easy and Gearbox knew that, but it seems as if their fix to that issue was to make things just plain unfair in spots. Be it making a boss much more powerful than its level entails or just throwing a humongous boss into a rather small area, frustration is something I came by quite a few times in my journey throughout Pandora. These issues are avoided by doing one of two things, however. You can either play co-op or do a ton of side missions before story missions. These are two things that I’m sure Gearbox expects of their players but it’s still disappointing to see them do their best to force you into one of two play styles,

Truth be told, Borderlands 2 is exactly what I and many others wanted before its release, that being more Borderlands and more loot for us to sink our teeth in for at least 30 hours. Gearbox delivered upon that and provided even more on top of it to keep things fresh and fun throughout. The combat and loot system remain some of the best on consoles today and are only enhanced in this sequel. While Borderlands 2 is just more of a game you played three years ago, it’s still a great game that can easily give you 50+ hours of entertainment. 

XBox 360

Graphics

85
 

Audio

90
 

Gameplay

80

Creativity

85
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

80
    

8.3

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Oct 032012
 

Ubisoft has announced a few new tidbits regarding their upcoming blockbuster release, Assassin’s Creed III. First off, Ubisoft announced a season pass that will total up to 30 bucks, a 25% saving off of buying the packs individually. Assassin’s Creed III’s DLC packs have not all been detailed but Ubisoft promised new single player experiences but also “downloadable content (that) will feature new maps and characters for an even more expansive multiplayer experience.”

“History is our playground – and AC teams have always loved playing with historical facts and their consequences as a way to better understand a time period,” said Sebastien Puel, Executive Producer at Ubisoft. “While Assassin’s Creed III concentrates on history as it happens, we wanted to take some liberties with this DLC and tell you how things ‘could have happened.”

Who?

That brings up the next announcement Ubisoft made, a downloadable content pack that will feature the rule of “King George.” But not one of the King George’s you and I know of, but instead the King George that we know as President Washington. As Executive Producer Puel said, “History is out playground,” and they’re proving that by tweaking George Washington’s reign by turning him into a power hungry tyrant.

I don’t know about you but I find the idea of Ubisoft taking segments of history and tweaking them into a “What if?” situation a possible endless pit of interesting stories. Let’s just see where this goes, though I’ve got faith in Ubisoft to not disappoint.

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 252012
 

Earlier this year, we kicked Diablo’s ass and enjoyed the hell out of doing it. Unfortunately, a few months later, many of us had lost interest in the game, it was good but just not as good as it’s predecessor. We turned our eyes towards the distant gaming horizon, Torchlight 2 was already in beta and it would be coming soon. Then we were sent some codes to get our hands on the game to review it. The big question that  we kept asking ourselves though was “Can the game offer us something we haven’t already been playing for the last few years?“. Easy answer, that text below tells you.

Now, I loved Torchlight, it was the first ARPG that I felt really “got it” since playing Diablo 2. There was tons of loot and smashing of many thing but even though it was an awesome game, it still felt a little linear. Ultimately, the game felt like a mad dash to the bottom of the mines, and while the game wasn’t the biggest ever, I just wanted more. Runic Games, fortunately, employ some sort of dark magicks or mind reading gypsies though because that is the first thing you will really notice about Torchlight 2, a large map just waiting to be explored. You know what was on that map? Tons and tons of loot. You know who got it? This guy, right here!

Character creation in Torchlight 2 is limited, thankfully in this case, to simple cosmetic changes to your character. Do you want them to be male or female? What class do you want? Which hairstyle do you want? Head? Pet? (You’d better pick that papillon, every other answer is wrong!) After going through this process, you name your character and pet and then get thrusted right into the story. No adjusting the depth of your chin or the saturation of your hair color, just the basics and then off you go!

Once Torchlight 2 gets started, it hits the ground running and never looks back. It feels like loot is much more frequent than the previous title, and with the open world approach, you will always have something different to do. Now, I started the game with my first character on the normal difficulty but after tearing through the first 2 major dungeons and fighting a pair of major bosses, I decided I needed to play the game on a harder difficulty. I wanted to feel that I was actually in some sort of peril when I was fighting, although I may have been simply really effective with my character. After getting into progressively more difficult modes, I felt that the demand and focus on gear was even higher, which is completely cool since this is what these games are all about.

The game’s story is rather simplistic, yet told in such a way that it doesn’t overburden any of the gameplay as well. More or less, the heroes from the original Torchlight have had a few inconveniences arise and evil has returned to the world, so new heroes need to step up and kick some ass in their stead. Like I said earlier, this isn’t just a one dungeon campaign either, Torchlight 2 is a global affair that will take you all over the world and feature many different sights than before. Did I also mention that the campaign is significantly longer? Well, it is and it is awesome!

Combat isn’t overly complex, although after leveling extensively, I was very glad to be using a gaming mouse since I could map abilities to the extra buttons. Clicking on your targets and burning them down with skills and auto attacks is the name of the game here and while it may sound boring, the numerous types of weapons really keep you coming back for more. I had a ton of fun with the Outlander, as  some of the guns that could be used were simply amazing. The feeling of fighting a cluster of enemies and then blowing them clear away from me with a cannon or shotgun brought a smile to my face. That isn’t to say that every other class doesn’t have it’s perks. In the multiplayer mode, this is even more entertaining, since positioning and combining attacks can have some interesting outcomes.

… Some harder to kill than others.

With that being said, let’s take a minute to talk about multiplayer. This was something that the original Torchlight lacked, and while it wasn’t absolutely necessary, it could have made the original even better. Well, no more bellyaching about not being able to play with friends now, because Torchlight 2 features an entire smorgasbord of online co-op awesomeness. Feel like playing with a couple of friends? Create an online game and up to 5 buddies can join you. As a fair warning, the more people in the game, the more hectic things can get. A few times, in smaller environments, it felt a bit cramped but even this wasn’t so bad since loot is dropped separately, so even if I am trying to figure out what the hell just happened, I can still get my precious loot. Torchlight 2 also features the ability to play via LAN, so no more logging into an external server if you want to quickly set up a game with a few friends in a more personal environment.

So what makes Torchlight 2 different from Diablo 3? Torchlight 2 is absolutely a better sequel! Everyone at Runic Games paid attention to what the players liked and disliked and painstakingly made the rare “better than the original” sequel that most games fail at. While Diablo 3 was indeed a good game, it pales in comparison of it’s predecessor. Torchlight 2 says “Remember all that bad ass stuff you loved about the first game? Well, we brought all that stuff to this party and we brought buckets of new stuff too!”. Yes, buckets. Also, a certain wheeled robot that is quite annoying.

PC Game

Graphics

80
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

100

Creativity

95
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

100
    

9.4

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Flexible multiplayer
  • A great improvement upon the original game
  • Graphics that can run on almost any PC, yet look great
  • Beautiful soundtrack

Cons:

  • You may need to look for a challenge to get things started, yet will probably regret that decision later.

 

 

Sep 192012
 

Though Darksiders 2 only released around a month ago, it’s already time for some DLC. Today Vigil announced their plans for their first little piece of DLC, entitled The Argul’s Tomb. It’s interesting to see where Death goes from the end of the second game because, without spoiling anything, he didn’t seem like he was in the best spot to continue along a journey.

In Argul’s Tomb, you will experience the following:

· Two icy new dungeons

· New legendary loot

· Challenging new boss battles

None of which are West Nile Virus symptoms, by the way. To simplify things down a bit, if you enjoyed you some Darksiders II, keep your eyes peeled for Argul’s Tomb. If not, keep calm and play more Borderlands 2. To be fair, that’s currently the solution to every problem I experience in my life.

Argul’s Tomb will release on September 25th and cost a solid 560 MS Points, or seven bucks in human terms.

Sep 172012
 

Today, Bioware’s Mark Darrah confirmed the existence of a Dragon Age III and while not much was revealed, we did get enough to wet our whistles for a little while. First and foremost, the new title is called Dragon Age III: Inquisition. In a blog post written by Darrah on the Dragon Age website, he stated that Bioware didn’t “want to hide from them,” with them being the recent rumors of a Dragon Age III.

He went on to state that Dragon Age III is being developed by a lot of the same team that worked on Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II. But he did state that there are some new faces developing Dragon Age III along with the old veterans. Apart from that, the biggest reveal, apart from the game itself, is the new engine Bioware is creating. It is said to “deliver a more expansive world, better visuals, more reactivity to player choices, and more customization.” Their foundation for this engine is based off of DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine, which is not a bad place to start.

Dragon Age II was hit with some pretty mixed reviews upon its release, with opinions on it growing more and more negative as time went on. I, for one, enjoyed it quite a bit but not even I thought another Dragon Age was necessary. What about you? You ready to assemble a party and do some more fighting?

Aug 152012
 

The question of whether or not Metal Gear Solid Rising would come out has been something that was up in the air for multiple years now. Hideo Kojima revealed Metal Gear Solid Rising at E3 ’09 and a new subtitle later, we finally know that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is coming out and it’s hitting store shelves on February 19th, 2013.

Konami describes Rising as having “elements of pure action and epic storytelling, all within the expansive METAL GEAR universe.  METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE introduces Raiden as the central character; a child soldier transformed into a cyborg ninja, equipped with a high-frequency katana blade and a soul fueled by revenge.”

As you know if you’ve followed Rising/Revengeance throughout its development cycle, it’s based solely on the swordplay of Raiden. This brings about the obvious issue of Rising possibly not featuring any kind of stealth, a staple of the Metal Gear franchise. Though on the other hand, some could argue that Metal Gear Solid 4 featured little stealth as well. But knowing that Platinum Games, the folk behind Bayonetta and the ridiculous third person experience that was Vanquish, gives us all a bit of confidence in the game, even if it may not reach the narrative standards set so high by previous Metal Gear Solid games.

Either way, we know it’s coming out! Are you excited? Below is a trailer for Revengeance released at Gamescom.

 

Aug 142012
 

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Sleeping Dogs

Windows PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Contains: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.


Life for the United Front (developers of Sleeping Dogs) folks and life for Sleeping Dogs’ main character, Wei Shen, have something in common, both have been hell. United Front has been working on Sleeping Dogs for about five years now and multiple name changes and a publisher swap later, we’re finally able to get our hands on the product they’ve been slaving away at. Usually, when a game goes through a situation like Sleeping Dogs has, it either never releases or gets lucky and gets released by a publisher that doesn’t really believe in it and is only after some quick profit and the ownership of the name. Most of us assumed that was what would be happening with Sleeping Dogs. Thankfully, United Front has stepped up and declared us all wrong.

Like I previously mentioned, in Sleeping Dogs you are an undercover cop named Wei Shen. You’ve lived in America since you were ten but have now been relocated to Hong Kong to work within the Triad, attempting to take one group down from the inside out. The issue is that Wei has personal ties within his Triad, making him a bit more involved than the police had originally hoped. This opens up the narrative of Sleeping Dogs as it evolves further from there, leading Wei to do things that both the cops and his gang would not approve of. While it isn’t the most unique story, Sleeping Dogs delivers a strong experience that keeps you hooked mainly because of the well thought out characters. The personalities exuded by every character are truly a treat to watch and eventually set up some twists and turns you may not expect.

 Because it is Hong Kong and because you are working within the Triad, people are going to die. Sleeping Dogs does not shy away from that, killing off main story characters one after one, all with good reason behind them. It starts off with a few deaths, nothing too significant to Wei, but eventually escalates into personal vendettas that simultaneously rip your heart and Wei’s heart out. While it may all just be typical gangster fair, Sleeping Dogs has some story beats that are shockingly effective in whatever emotion they want to arise, whether it’s happiness or anger. Thanks largely to its characters and some nice writing; Sleeping Dogs brings out a good fiction, something most open world games cannot achieve.

Something else open world games struggle at getting right is the driving. This is another problem Sleeping Dogs avoids as the controls for navigating around the city are tight and make you feel very in control. Your car never feels too out of your control and it’s always possible to turn around on a dime. On top of that, smart design choices like slowing down time when you want to shoot while driving only heighten the experience.  The driving isn’t necessarily the most realistic experience to ever be put on a console but it undoubtedly rivals GTA and Saints Row as some of the best.

The only issue that arises from the driving is that the framerate likes to take a few dips along the way. It isn’t just the framerate either as screen tearing also hampers the experience. These problems seem to be persistent throughout Sleeping Dogs which is a disappointment as the art style is rather nice and extremely effective in setting up a great atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re right in the heart of Hong Kong. Bright lights shine intensely in the Hong Kong market as people rumble around looking at goods and merchants yell at you for your attention. Walking through all of this is a unique experience to say the least.

Unlike most everyone’s favorite open world game, Grand Theft Auto , Sleeping Dogs prefers hand to hand combat as opposed to using guns. It features a Batman like fighting system, encouraging counters (shown by highlighting enemies that are attacking with a red aura) and using simple X and Y combos. That isn’t all though as Sleeping Dogs also encourages you to perform environmental kills such as throwing people in dumpsters, beating them in the head with a payphone, or the crowd favorite, ramming your enemy’s head into a spinning table saw. These brutal executions are a quick way to take out thugs and although this may not be something I should say, they’re pretty fun to take part in. The game does still feature some gunplay and it’s handled well but it’s also clear that United Front focused mainly on hand to hand combat. Depth is added to the combat by way of an upgrade system that slowly feeds you more and more powerful combos.

 There are multiple upgrade systems in Sleeping Dogs, though as you also gain experience for working with the Triad and with the police. You gain Triad experience by doing environmental takedowns, using weapons, counters, etc. While you earn police experience by not harming innocents, not tearing up the city of Hong Kong, and by helping eliminate drug dealers throughout the city by hacking camera in certain locations and then using the camera to spot a drug deal. From there you highlight the dealer and cops swarm after him in a heartbeat. There are other ways but those seem to be the main courses of action to attain experience. These systems lead to some nice upgrades such as the ability to grab a gun from the back of cop car or to simply make it easier to disarm an enemy.

It’s telling of the quality of a game when the biggest complaint about it is the graphics. While a good portion of the game has no problem, there are nagging issues with the frame rate and wonky animation that holds it back from being a technical marvel. But in all honesty, you don’t have to be a technical marvel to be a great game and Sleeping Dogs proves that. It won’t set the world afire but the fact that we almost never got to play it is a terrible thought. Thankfully, Sleeping Dogs has arrived and thankfully, it’s pretty damn good.

XBox 360

Graphics

80
 

Audio

85
 

Gameplay

95

Creativity

90
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

90
    

8.8

  

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