Mar 082013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

91

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

XBox 360

Graphics

90
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

90
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

80
    

9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

 

Mar 052013
 

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

10. Remove Arbitrary Party Limitations

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

9. Implement Motion Capture

ME3_Turian_councillor

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

8. Better Sense of Scale

Step1

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

7. No Need For Human Focus

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

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

6. No More Binary Moral Choice

me2paragon9293

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

Mar 042013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XBox 360

Graphics

80
 

Audio

60
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

60
 

Execution

70
 

Offset

50
    

6.8

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

 

Jan 082013
 

Last week I counted down my Top 10 Most Anticipated games of 2013, but about a year ago I did a similar list; the games of 2012 I was most looking forward to playing. I am currently working on my overall Top 10 of 2012, which will be next week’s list, but first I wanted to look back at the 10 games I was anticipating most in 2012 and see what became of them. Some met or exceed expectation, some failed to live up to the hype, while others still were pushed into 2013. For the games that did come out, I won’t necessarily be giving my own in depth opinions, I’ll instead be looking at the game’s overall success with a brief outline of my personal experience. Just a note, the order of these games is the original order I placed them in; the games of 2012 I was most looking forward to one year ago.

 

10. Halo 4 (343 Industries, Microsoft Studios)

Halo 4 was undoubtedly Microsoft’s biggest exclusive game of the year. The original reason this game made the list was because I have always been a big Halo fan, but the reason it was only number 10 was because I was very skeptical of the change in developers. After it release, the general consensus seems to be that 343 has made an excellent Halo game. The game has received almost universal acclaim, with GiR’s Josh Knowles giving the game a 9.8 as well. However, for me personally, this is not the Halo game I wanted to play. Part of that is likely that I felt the series came to a meaningful conclusion with Halo 3, and I just don’t really need anything that takes place after that. I am also past the point where I have any desire to get absorbed in an online shooter again. Halo 4 is without a doubt an extremely well made game in almost every aspect, it just went in a direction that I have no desire to follow.

 

9. Skyrim DLC (Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Softworks)

This year saw the release of several pieces of downloadable content for Skyrim, my 2011 game of the year, but I’ll be honest, I haven’t played any of them. The general consensus seems to be that most of the content is quite good, but at this point I have had my fill of Skyrim for a while. When I originally listed Skyrim DLC as my number 9 most anticipated release of 2012, I was nowhere near done with the game. I had spent around 100 hour with the game at that point and was making why through the content on the disc. By the time any significant DLC was released I was well over the 150 hour mark, and while I still haven’t done everything in the game, I don’t see myself coming back for a while. Don’t take this to mean I like the game less or regret naming it my game of the year for 2011, it’s just there is only so much time you can spend in a game before getting burnt out. I fully intend to finish all the on disc content and eventually get around to playing the DLC, I just need some time to re-acquire that itch.

8. Counter Strike: Global Offensive (Valve)

Looking back it’s interesting that I placed Countersrtrike GO on this list, because I really haven’t played a whole lot of it. There isn’t much to say about this game. After being in beta for quite a while, it finally launched last summer to very little fanfare. The only thing you can really say about the game is that it is certainly Countstrike. There are some minor changes and improvements, but for the most part it is the same game it has been for over a decade, which is good for those that like some Counterstrike, it just makes the game a bit uninteresting.

7. Prey 2 (Human Head Studio, Bethesda Softworks)

This is one of the most unfortunate stories of 2012. Prey 2 was one of the most exciting potential release of the year, and every time it was shown I wanted to play it even more. The unfortunate part is that the game did not come out in 2012, and is currently in development hell. At this point we don’t even know if the game is canceled, postponed, delayed, or what’s going on. There isn’t really much concrete information, but there have been several explanations thrown around such as Bethesda being unhappy with the game’s quality, developer Human Head Studios being displeased with the terms of their contract with Bethesda, and members of the development team being laid off. At this point we can only hope that these issues have been resolved and Prey 2 is still in development.

6. Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar North, Rockstar Games)

The inclusion of GTA V was more of a hope that it would come out in 2012 than an expectation, but I can’t say I was too surprised it didn’t release last year. There is less doubt that the game will come out this year, and in fact it made number 2 on my most anticipated games of 2013 list.

Dec 122012
 

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

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

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

Nov 102012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XBox 360

Graphics

95
 

Audio

95
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

85
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

30
    

7.9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

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?

Sep 142012
 

 

Just a few hours ago, Nintendo unveiled its complete launch lineup that it had in store for the new and exciting WiiU console. They’ve got lots of games of many genres, and overall the lineup is looking great. They’ve got a lot of AAA titles from big companies on the list, including Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Mass Effect 3, Darksiders 2, and Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition.  The entire list of games available either on launch day or during the launch window (Nov. 18, 2012 to March 31, 2013) is available for your viewing pleasure in an orderly table below. To skip to a particular game, just click the title of the game.

 

Publisher Title
505 Games Funky Barn
2K Sports NBA 2K13
Activision Publishing, Inc. 007 Legends
Call of Duty®: Black Ops I
TRANSFORMERS PRIME
Wipeout 3
Skylanders Giants
Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013
Rapala Pro Bass Fishing
Capcom Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
D3Publisher Rise of the Guardians: The Video Game
Ben 10: Omniverse
Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade
Disney Interactive Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
Electronic Arts Mass Effect 3
Madden NFL 13
EA SPORTS FIFA Soccer 13
Frozenbyte Trine 2: Director’s Cut
Gaijin Games Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
Majesco Entertainment Zumba® Fitness Core
Maximum Games Jett Tailfin
NAMCO BANDAI Games America Inc. TEKKEN TAG TOURNAMENT 2 Wii U Edition
TANK! TANK! TANK!
Nintendo Nintendo Land
New Super Mario Bros. U
NINJA GAIDEN 3: Razor’s Edge
SiNG PARTY
LEGO® City: Undercover
Wii Fit U
Game & Wario
Pikmin 3
The Wonderful 101
SEGA Aliens: Colonial Marines
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Shin’en Nano Assault Neo
Tecmo Koei America Corporation WARRIORS OROCHI® 3 Hyper
THQ Darksiders® II
Wheel of Fortune®
JEOPARDY! ®
Two Tribes Toki Tori 2
Ubisoft Assassin’s Creed® III
Just Dance® 4
Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth
Rabbids® Land
Sports Connection
Your Shape®: Fitness Evolved 2013
ZombiU
  Rayman Legends®
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Scribblenauts Unlimited
  Game Party Champions
  Batman: Arkham CityArmored Edition

 

 

Funky Barn

Funky Barn WiiU

Funky Barn is a cute cartoony farm simulation game that was previously published on the 3DS. As you can tell from the screenshot, the game is not some ordinary farming game. Shear your sheep by dropping them into the shearing machine and it will cannonball out; apparently, animals can be beamed up to a UFO.  It’s a bit goofy, but still seems like it’d be decent fun, especially for the more casual and younger demographic.

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NBA 2K13

NBA 2K13

Striving to improve upon the things that made NBA 2K12 great, NBA 2K13 will have an enhanced my player  mode and completely new gameplay features; You will be able to “pit the best players in NBA history against the new dynasty of talent.”

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007 Legends

Apparently in 007 Legends you start in the watery depths, you are James Bond- unconscious, unsure how you arrived where you are, just that you’re fighting with everything you’ve got to stay alive. You will then recall the epic moments from the past 50 years. The missions you play are reimagined from the most iconic film scenes from the movies up to half a century ago.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops II

A hugely anticipated title by many Call of Duty fans, Black Ops 2 brings the proven COD shooter style of doing things to the table, except with some tweaks like updated graphics, new game modes, an updated perk system and some other interesting new stuff like weapons and an all new campaign.

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TRANSFORMERS PRIME


Transformers Prime will be released exclusively for the WiiU, Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS systems. It takes place alongside the events of the second season of the Transformers Prime cartoon series, involving the two sides battling over a meteor made of “Dark Energon”.

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Wipeout 3

Wipeout 3

If you’re a fan of the Wipeout TV or video game series, you’ll be pleased to hear that Wipeout 3 is on the list of launch titles for the WiiU. It’ll be the Wipeout series of games with a few tweaks, along with updated graphics.

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Skylanders Giants

The story behind Skylanders Giants is “Thousands of years ago, the Giants fought epic battles in Skylands but were banished to Earth. With a new threat looming, it’s time to bring them back to join forces with the Skylanders.” It sounds pretty awesome, and if it’s coming to the WiiU that probably means it’ll have updated graphics as well, and maybe even a few gameplay adjustments.

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Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2013

In this first person shooter game, the player will go on hunting trips. There’s several modes, including “Quick Hunt”, “Action Zone” and “Career Mode”. There’s penalties for shooting non game animals, such as failing. There’s twelve exotic locations with twenty six animals to hunt, not bad.

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Rapala Pro Bass Fishing

Rapala Pro Bass Fishing

This is a pro fishing tournament game, in which the player (obviously) participates in fishing tournaments. Just like the older Wii versions, this game will have full motion control as if there’s an actual fishing rod in your hands. There’s plenty of contests and game modes to choose from, as well as plenty of rods, boats, lures, etc so you can totally customize your experience.

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Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Wanted to try Monster Hunter, but didn’t want to have to buy a PSVita? Well now you can! Coming exclusively to 3DS and WiiU systems, we will all finally be able to play the game that we’ve been craving for so long, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. A cool feature in this game is that the WiiU version can share save data with the Nintendo 3DS, meaning you can play it at home on the big screen and even play it while on the move using your handheld console. It’s even be fully Nintendo Network capable so you can play with friends if you wish.

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 Rise of the Guardians: The Video Game

The Rise of the Guardians Video Game is based on the film. It will allow the player to “lead the Guardians in their battle against Pitch.”

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Ben 10: Omniverse

Based on the Ben 10: Omniverse cartoon series:

“Ben: 10 Omniverse, players will be immersed in exciting action-brawler gameplay featuring the new art style inspired from the show. Gamers will have the power to switch forms and battle as one of 13 playable alien heroes, including never-before-seen aliens like Bloxx and Gravattack, as they work with either Ben or Rook to defeat the evil plans of a fierce villain, intent on destroying the world.”

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 Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade

Family Party Obstacle Arcade

A game that’s more for the casual gaming demographic such as families, Family Party includes over 30 “unique party games” that will take advantage of the powerful WiiU hardware and new controller. They’ve even gotten a bit creative and included what they’re describing as 1 on 3 multiplayer challenges. This game targets the whole family, with its combination of card, arcade, and sports games.

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Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two

Epic Mickey 2

This is the sequel to the hit Disney game, Epic Mickey. It’s set some time after the original, the Mad Doctor has somehow returned! The Mad Doctor came back to Wasteland, claiming that he’s changed and that he wants to repair the damage he caused them. They agree to let him help, but then Wasteland starts being damaged even more than it was before. Suspicious that the Doctor isn’t holding up his end of the bargain, Mickey Mouse is contacted again, in Wasteland’s second time of need.

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Mass Effect 3


Need I even do an introduction for this one? Yes? Fine. Mass Effect 3 is an Action RPG developed by Bioware and published by Electronic Arts. It was originally developed for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, but now it’s headed straight for the catalyst of modern console gaming, the WiiU. There’s three campaign modes: Action, Story, and RPG mode.  There’s loads of gun customization and skill point spending, making for quite the interesting combination of genres.

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Madden NFL 13

Madden fans will be incredibly pleased to hear that Madden NFL 13 will be coming to Nintendo’s WiiU console. It’s an NFL football game based on the National Football League.  Apparently, they’ve switched it up a bit this time, with updated graphics and changed gameplay mechanics and controls.

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EA SPORTS FIFA Soccer 13

As you can see, if you’re looking to play some sports games you’re in luck, the WiiU has plenty in its launch lineup, oh lucky you. There’s been a lot of tweaks to the FIFA series since FIFA Soccer 12, such as their all new 1st touch control system, or the heavily enhanced artificial intelligence system they’ve created. You can earn, buy, sell and trade players in order to create the ultimate team. You can even compete with friends, due to the live challenges based on real soccer games system.

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Trine 2: Director’s Cut

Enjoyed Trine 2? Then you’ll love Trine 2: Director’s Cut. It’s quite the extension onto the original version of Trine 2, with WiiU exclusive content. It’s even going to make use of the WiiU’s special controller, adding a touch element to the puzzles and platforming you’ll find here. There’s also a new multiplayer game mode, called “Magic Mayhem”, which sounds quite interesting indeed. Whether or not you’ve played Trine 2 yet, the director’s cut will be worth picking up due to the new singleplayer and multiplayer content, as according to the developer Frozenbyte: ”

“The Director’s Cut edition will be the biggest, most fully realized version of the game yet”

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Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

A sequel to Bit.Trip Runner, Bit.Trip Runner 2 is an all new game in the series. With completely changed graphics and an all new art style, as well as various gameplay improvements, the second installment in this series appears to be a vast improvement over the first from what we’ve seen. The levels shown were designed in a more interesting way than in the first, with different, more exciting obstacles.

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Zumba® Fitness Core

e3-2012-zumba-fitness-core-screenshots

The Zumba Fitness core video game is a dancing workout game, with over 40 songs to choose from and over 20 dance styles that you can use to play, you won’t be bored and you’ll be getting some great exercise, at the same time!

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Jett Tailfin

Jett_Tailfin

Jett Tailfin is a racing game, but instead of racing cars you race fish! It’s fairly simple, there’s a boost, powerups, etc, just like most racing games. Except, you’re underwater. Jett Tailfin was originally for Tegra 3 devices but is now coming to the WiiU and Nintendo 3DS.

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TEKKEN TAG TOURNAMENT 2 Wii U Edition

Fan of fighting games? Well then, you’ll love what Namco-Bandai has in store for you! Tekken Tag Tournament 2! Not only is it coming to WiiU, but it’ll be on the system with some… interesting additions. Some of these additions include Nintendo character costumes and special game modes (ex Player and enemies getting bigger and smaller due to mushrooms). The WiiU pumps out nice looking textures with a great, smooth framerate which is the perfect sort of thing that you want in a fighting game, a smooth 60fps framerate. Good job, Namco-Bandai.

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TANK! TANK! TANK!

Yes, TANK! TANK! TANK! is every bit as insane of a game as it sounds, judging by the video I found. The tank you control is insane, the weapons you have are insane, the cartoony graphics style is insane, and the boss monster shown there is also insane. Since they’re clearly demonstrating a multiplayer aspect in the video, we can safely say that multiplayer will be a part of the game, which is fantastic. It looks like it’d be a ton of crazy fun to play with some friends, especially with those ridiculous weapons.

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Nintendo Land

Nintendo Land looks like what you’d get if you mixed Animal Crossing with a theme park, a sort of laid back, more casual game as is typical of Nintendo, but still quite fun if you’re willing to look past the childish art style that makes the game look more appealing to the average family. It’ll have a bunch of areas, all modeled off of different Nintendo games, which sounds really neat in and of itself.

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New Super Mario Bros. U

The latest installment in the New Super Mario Bros series, this version is coming to the WiiU. What makes it special? Well for one, the fact that you can play through it with four people co-op seems pretty awesome, plus the tweaked enemies and the totally new levels as shown in the trailer seem absolutely fantastic.

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NINJA GAIDEN 3: Razor’s Edge

It’s great to see Nintendo finally catering to the more hardcore section of the gaming audience, or shall we call this demographic the “less casual”? Anyway, as I was saying, it’s always good to see that Nintendo is finally acknowledging that a lot of gamers like this sort of thing, so they put this into the launch lineup. This sort of 3D beat-em-up type thing reminds me a bit of the combat system from Batman: Arkham Asylum, in a good way. The combat looks fun and smooth, the graphics look pretty decent and the dialogue is good enough to get a pass. What’s not to like?

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SiNG PARTY

Like Karaoke? Well then, is this the game for you. SiNG PARTY is quite interesting as a karaoke title, because it actually goes ahead and makes use of the WiiU controller’s screen, the game uses it to display lyrics, which is a stroke of genius. It’ll make it a lot easier for the person singing while also freeing up lots and lots of screen real estate on the bigscreen. They’ve also made it so you compete with your friends/family, not with some AI which is rather nice as well.

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LEGO City: Undercover

As the lego video games are, LEGO City: Undercover is a bit more of a casual game than some of the rest in the lineup, but the gameplay actually looks really, really fun. Flying helicopters, being a in police chases, backflipping through the air from point A to point B, it just looks pretty awesome. Oh yeah, and did I mention that they actually created a special UI just for the WiiU controller?

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Wii Fit U

Now, I’m usually not one who’s into these exercise type games, but I can tell that Wii Fit U does seem to do a great job at making this sort of exercise fun, with their awesome calorie burning minigames. One that looked especially useful was the sledding one, as it would be fun while burning A LOT of calories. And since you can still use the game even on the WiiU controller’s screen without the bigscreen, you can play the game while others are using your television. It’s quite convenient really.

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Game & Wario

Game and Wario is one of those WarioWare games with tons of minigames packed inside. Not much is really known about this title yet, so your best bet is to watch the video and discern what you can from there. However, one thing that is for sure: This is definitely a spiritual successor to the WarioWare games.

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Pikmin 3

Pikmin 3 is a crazy looking adventure/strategy game where you lead the Pikmin on some sort of adventure (they haven’t told us what sort just yet). Apparently Pikmin 3 will contain ALL OF the previous Pikmin types, as well as some new types. This game looks absolutely incredible. The beautiful looking world and creatures, coupled with the immense variety with gameplay is quite interesting. If I were you I’d keep my eye on this one, as it may very well be the most interesting game in the launch lineup.

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The Wonderful 101

The Wonderful 101 is a really, really odd looking action game. I’m not really sure what genre you’d call it, other than action. Although it looks like it has some neat gameplay elements to it, some parts of it are also so ridiculous I hardly even believe that they’re in the trailer. Maybe I’m just not into this sort of game…. whatever sort it is?

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Aliens: Colonial Marines

A hectic space shooter based on the Alien series of movies? I’ll take it. So far it’s looking pretty good, no glaring flaws from what I’ve seen, other than the fact that it may be a tad too dark in some areas, but I’m sure that’ll be ironed out before release.

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 Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed


This game looks sort of like Mario Kart, but with Sega characters instead of Nintendo ones. However, it actually seems to fill the role better than Mario Kart does, as its powerups look cooler, its graphics are at that of the WiiU, and there’s a lot more vehicle variations than there are in Mario Kart.

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Nano Assault Neo

Nano Assault Neo is quite the stunning shooter, and now it’s coming to the WiiU. The graphics in it are pretty high quality, and the score shooter seems like it’d be a lot of fun to play as well. They’ve also gone and used the controller’s screen, which is fantastic to see.
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WARRIORS OROCHI 3 Hyper

This game looks really, really neat and is definitely taking advantage of the WiiU’s upgraded hardware, the amount of enemies on the screen in a 3D world is virtually unheard of, and yet here they are, doing it on a NINTENDO console, of all places. Getting more and more skillful with the techniques to take down that many enemies would definitely be useful to you, as it appears that there’s quite a lot of them around you at all times.

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Darksiders II

Darksiders 2 is definitely my most anticipated game in this WiiU launch lineup, as their execution of how well they’ve ported the game from the weaker consoles to the more powerful wiiU is something that could make or break their port. For example, if all they’ve done is a barebones port, it’s probably not worthwhile picking up here, unless you haven’t played it yet. However, if they do something like update the textures or add a special UI for the screen on the controller, it’ll definitely be worth a try.

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Wheel of Fortune

Just some shovelware, it’s the game Wheel of Fortune, based off of the TV series.

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JEOPARDY!

Just some more shovelware, it’s the game Jeopardy, based off of the TV series.

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Toki Tori 2

If you like platformers, then this is the game for you. It’s more of a casual platformer, but that’s also a good thing because kids will be able to play it without too much trouble and unnecessary obscenities. This game’s art style and gameplay are both pretty cute, and I think if you have children this would be a good game to add to the collection.

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Assassin’s Creed III


Another one of those highly anticipated AAA titles that are in this freakin’ awesome launch lineup, Assassin’s Creed 3 is one of the few that are actually original, and not just ports of games from other systems. This game looks pretty sweet, I especially like how they’ve switched it up to the time period around the American Revolution, as I personally find that to be a pretty neat time in history, and the gameplay behind this game just looks sweet. Oh yeah, and the graphics aren’t half bad either.

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Just Dance 4

Like dancing games? Well then, you’ll probably want to take a look at this video, as Just Dance 4 is definitely a game that you’ll want to play if you’re a fan of dancing. It also has standalone mode, so even if the TV is occupied you can still dance to your heart’s content.

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Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth

Marvel Avengers is a superhero brawler. It features 2o different characters, ones such as Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. Players can use motion gameplay to execute some “explosive” attacks, and play with either friends or AI in many game modes.

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Rabbids Land

Hm, as soon as I see a Rabbid it makes me nervous, they tend to be just slightly insane…. This installment looks even more hilarious and insane than the last, so definitely keep an eye out for this gem in the collection.

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Sports Connection

Once again, if you like sports games, you’re in luck: Nintendo’s got a cornucopia of them that’ll be coming out during the WiiU launch period, so you will not be disappointed. This title in general seems to be fairly promising.

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Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013

Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 is leading edge, it’ll help you set and achieve your weight loss goals in an engaging manner. Connect online with friends to compete, which will also provide some motivation to do well.

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ZombiU

ZombiU is a WiiU exclusive Zombie shooter, as shown in this trailer. Other than that, fairly little information is available about the game so you’ll just have to take what you get from this trailer for now.

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Rayman Legends

Rayman Legends looks like a pretty awesome platformer. I’m not really sure exactly what it’ll be like just yet, but from what we’ve seen in the trailer it’s looking pretty darn good. Especially some of the more unique gameplay when we’re getting closer to the end of the video, like where it temporarily switches from 2D platforming to a 3D view then when you’re done falling back to a 2D view again, it’s pretty neat and helps the immersion of the game.

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Scribblenauts Unlimited

Another game that I’m really anticipating for the launch of the WiiU, Scribblenauts Unlimited. I’ve never actually played a Scribblenauts game before, but even just the idea of being able to create just about anything you can imagine, in order to solve the problems that are posed to you is just so awesome. I really hope that this game is as good as I think it’s going to be, because that would be quite a timesink I believe.

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Game Party Champions

game_party_champions_2_605x

Game Party Champions is, as you can see, a relaxing “party” game that’s full of various minigames that you can play which hopefully will amuse you for a little while. It’s nothing incredible, the graphics are just alright and the gameplay is fine.

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Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition

Liked Batman Arkham City and Arkham Asylum? I sure did. Well, what could be better than the games coming to WiiU, with additional content? This release is set to contain all of the content from other releases, a Battle Armoured tech mode and more. I believe it also has some updated graphics, which should make playing it on the WiiU a bit nicer than it is on other consoles.

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In conclusion, the WiiU has a freakin’ awesome launch lineup, and I do sincerely hope that the games will do the console justice. Most of the games listed here are just great, and some of them are simply alright. I think that it will definitely be worthwhile to preorder a WiiU if that’s what you’re considering, because that way you’re not going to have to deal with shortages, brick and mortar stores being sold out, etc. Oh yeah, and because of the fact that the launch lineup is so massive and full of great games, you’ll have plenty of great stuff to play while you’re waiting for more to come out.

Apr 272012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 102012
 

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

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


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

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

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

Mar 272012
 

This week, Mass Effect Month here on Top 10 Tuesdays comes to a close. To finish the event off, I’ve chosen to end with the Top 10 Mass Effect Missions. Any mission from any Mass Effect game is eligible for this list, with missions being judged on the quality of combat encounters, story elements, character moments, and overall design. While all these things factored into my decision making, ultimately what it really comes down to is how memorable the mission is, and how everything came together as a whole. I may consider doing future month long Top 10 Tuesday events where appropriate, but next week will be back to regular lists.

There will be spoilers, you have been warned.

10. Retaking Earth (Mass Effect 3)

The last ten minutes notwithstanding, the final mission in Mass Effect 3 is pretty damn good. The action itself is fairly standard; there isn’t much in terms on combat encounters to really set it apart from the rest of the game, but it more than makes up for it in other areas. There are tons of awesome looking cutscenes all throughout the mission, from the galactic fleet charging through the Mass Relay, to the shuttle squadron approaching London, to the intimate ground fighting of all the allied races; it’s all really well done. What really makes this mission stand out, for me at least, is being able to say goodbye to your friends and teammates. These conversations turned out to be pretty emotional, and they allow you to say farewell to these characters that we’ve come to know so well over the course of 3 games.

9. Noveria (Mass Effect)

Noveria is a very interesting mission, and one that could really only exist with the way the first game was structured. The first half of the mission is spent in a populated area, talking to people and investigating what at that point is only a rumor of Geth presence. You have several avenues available to you for how you want to proceed, and you eventually find yourself at a research facility overrun by Rachni. After some maintenance, you once again have many different methods of proceeding. You can help the stranded scientists deal with their situation, but if you get too nosy, Benezia will order the stations security personnel to attack you. Whichever method you choose to proceed, you are lead to a showdown with Benezia. Once she is defeated, you’re faced with one of the series’ toughest decisions. Kill or save the Rachni.

8. Rannoch (Mass Effect 3)

The actual mission part of Rannoch is actually quite short and unexceptional. There are a few combat encounters against Geth, and they in no way stand out from any encounter with the Geth from any game in the series. However, when a Reaper destroyer shows up, things get interesting. After using the target designator to call down fire from the Normandy and the entire Quarian Fleet, you are then tasked with ending war 300 games in the making. Over the course of three games, the Geth have gone from stereotypical AIs that want only to destroy organic life, to much more complex beings. After seeing exactly what the initial Geth uprising looked like a few mission prior, the decision become much more difficult. The Geth were the oppressed, and the Quarians were the ones at fault. The Geth, who were once the embodiment of the enemy, are now revealed to be victims, and it all comes to a head at the end of the Rannoch mission. Without getting into the specifics, no matter which choice you make, the result is very emotional. Siding with Quarians in particular was quite brutal, and the game makes great use of the renegade interrupt feature to really make you feel what you are doing. With every pull of the trigger I kept telling myself, “I really don’t want to do this”, but I kept going.

7. Collector Ship (Mass Effect 2)

The Collector Ship is a really well done mysterious mission. The Normandy is tasked to investigate a Collector ship that has apparently been disabled by Turians. For the first half of the mission, you see no enemies. You are simply making your way through the very creepy looking ship, with no Collectors in sight. At a console, EDI discovers that The Collectors are actually indoctrinated and mutated Protheans, which is one of the best reveals in the entire series. After you discover that the whole thing was a trap, you must fight your way out. Once the combat starts, the Collector Ship proves to be one of the most challenging missions in the series. Playing this mission on insanity was particularly challenging, though very rewarding when your tactics and strategy finally win out.

6. Thessia (Mass Effect 3)

Thessia is a very rare thing in the Mass Effect series; it’s an occasion where Shepard loses. I actually think I was struck more by the fall of Thessia than I was the opening scenes on Earth. Part of that is obviously because Earth was basically a tutorial (which I felt somewhat undermined the urgency of the situation), but even so, Thessia was very well done. The Asari have always been the embodiment of stability and peace in the Galaxy, and to see their homeworld fall to the Reapers was a great way of driving home just how dire the war was becoming. Not to mention this mission features an excellent conversation with The Illusive Man, and a decent boss fight against Kai Leng. What really makes this mission work so well is how it starts by giving hope and optimism to the Asari fighting the Reapers, to just total despair and hopelessness by the end.

Mar 222012
 

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

"My God, what have we done!?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your feedback – we are listening.

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

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

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

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

"Where do we go from here?"

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

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

You can follow Rhillis on twitter @rchillis.

Welcome to Gaming Irresponsibly. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/gamingirresponsibly and follow us on Twitter @gamingirrspbly.

Mar 212012
 

Even at 23, Paint is still hilarious.

For those of you who have, like myself, invested hours upon hours into this franchise plundering planets for resources, looting amazing weapons and armor, completing loyalty missions, and overall doing everything you can for the good of your crew and the galaxy with the power of choice, will agree that leaving all our hard work and dedication up to three colors is outright outrageous. Now I’m not here to rant about why I hated any of the sixteen different endings promised, or lack there of, or even cry about not having a renegade prompt to punch that star kid right in his six year old spleen. You’ve heard that story a hundred times over by now.

What I am here to talk about is how I was actually surprised by the reception, of said ending, by our community. I came across at least thirty Youtube videos and countless blogs in my search to find someone just as pissed as I was. As a gamer who mostly plays alone in his room with a bottle of Jack in one hand and a liter of Coke in the other, I was oblivious to the fact that there’s other people out there just like me. In my newly discovered sense of belonging, I found myself clicking web page after web page and blog after blog like a fifteen year old trying to stop watching viral kitten videos.

Over the course of a few hours of reading, and maybe trolling a bit, I came to, what I believe to be, a collective conclusion about how people actually felt. Yeah, the endings were a matter of palette change and of course it’s a big deal that we weren’t really given a choice in the matter, but the real crime here is our deep sense of disconnection.

I know I played Mass Effect to, like others, lose myself in being that hero I always wasn’t in high school. And maybe because I was too scared to make a suave move on that Quarian chick in my third period. Because like any good song, good book, or even piece of poetry, we got connected to the story, characters and events we could, in any way, relate to our daily lives. But what the beauty of Mass Effect is, is that you’re not just “along for the ride.” You build the ride! I didn’t just buy a ticket online for coach seating on the Normandy. I was the f%#^*ing commander, god damn it!

You find me a book where there’s three blank lines, that I can write in, where I’m prompted to put what I want the main character to say and the book just dynamically changes it’s words and outcome to the choice I made in the previous chapter. You won’t! Because that’s that Lord of the Rings shit. That’s that magic shit. Oh wait, that’s that Mass Effect shit!

You see, we all got individually connected to our tailor made stories via the choices we made through all three installments. But when you take away different outcomes that fit our decisions and hard work, you destroy our connectivity to OUR story. That’s just wrong. Something needed to be done.

Well, pretty angry.

Then I came across a petition on www.change.org with 11,000+ signatures demanding DLC with a new ending. I mean, change.org? That’s pretty f@#%ing serious. This completely blew my freaking mind. I couldn’t believe there were actually people as passionate as I was about this and trying to change it. Like really trying to change it, like movements change the government. Granted it may not be as important as some world issue, and we don’t really have a Martin Luther King of gaming behind us, but god damn it I spent countless days at home, NOT getting laid, for this epic journey, and I think I deserve more. Seeing this petition made me realize we all deserved more. Seeing this petition made me realize we can do more.

 

Just recently BioWare published a full statement regarding the fans reaction to the ending. Here it is.

 

We are aware that there are concerns about a recent post from this account regarding the ending of the game. In this post it was stated that at this time we do not have plans to change the ending.

We would like to clarify that we are actively and seriously taking all player feedback into consideration and have ruled nothing out. At this time we are still collecting and considering your feedback and have not made a decision regarding requests to change the ending. Your feedback and opinions are of the utmost importance to us. We apologize for any confusion this has caused.

Our top priority regarding this discussion is to keep communication with you, our loyal fans, open and productive.

This was published just a few days ago and goes to show, more than ever, that the power of our community can get things done and get what we want. The petition only needs 4,000 more signatures. And this wouldn’t just be a victory for the Mass Effect community, but the WHOLE gaming community. We are the consumer! We give you the power! We can and will get what we deserve!

We may not have united the galaxy we fought so hard to protect, but we sure as hell united to get the choice to do so that was stolen from us.

Here’s the hyperlinks to the petitions and the Facebook so you too can join the fight.

Change the end DLC petition

Petition to retake Mass Effect

Demand a better ending Facebook

 

Gamers unite.

 

 

Mar 202012
 

The beginning of the end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some men just want to watch the world burn.

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

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

Mar 202012
 

Mass Effect month continues as we’re now in week 3. This week’s topic will be the Top 10 Mass Effect Decisions. The criteria for this list is simply any decision you have to make at any point throughout the series. I am judging these by the information you are presented with at the moment of the decision, and the choice you are forced to make. Admittedly, some of these turn out to be more significant than others (though none really matter at all given the ME3 endings), but I am not judging these by their impact on the story or later games. This list is simply the most interesting, difficult, or emotional decisions based solely on the moment you make them. Obviously, there will be spoilers for all three games. Be sure to check back next week for the final entry in Mass Effect Month: The Top 10 Missions. For now though, enjoy The Top 10 Decisions.

10. Kill or Save Sidonis (Mass Effect 2)

Prior to Shepard’s reunion with him in Mass Effect 2, Garrus had been running his own team of vigilantes on Omega. However, he was betrayed by one of men, Sidonis, and it resulted in the other 10 members of his team being killed by mercenaries. He swore revenge, and eventually did track Sidonis down on the Citadel. Obviously, Shepard joins him to help, and at the moment of truth, you can either allow Garrus to murder Sidonis, or warn Sidonis and prevent Garrus from going through with it. I know my first instinct was to let Garrus go through with it; he’s my Turian brother, I don’t want to upset him. However, stopping him is actually the best choice for Garrus, as it allows him to see the guilt Sidonis is living with, and ultimately stops him from doing something he would later regret.

9. Geth or Quarians (Mass Effect 3)

This is one comes with a caveat. It is possible to resolve this situation without having to really make a decision as long as reputation is high enough, but had that not been the case, and you really did have to make a choice, this would be number 1. After you defeat the Reaper on Rannoch, you have to choose whether you want to allow the Quarians to finish off the Geth, or allow the Geth to uprgrade themselves to true AI status, and finish off the Quarians. Choosing between the extinction of two races is bad enough, but the fact that you have Legion and Tali right next to you; two close friends and loyal companions representing the races you have to choose between, really makes this a tough choice. Both races have legitimate grievances against the other. The Quarians attempted genocide of the Geth 300 years ago, resulting a long and bloody war. The Geth chose to accept Reaper upgrades to improve themselves when the Quarians attacked. While the Quarians are probably the ones to blame for most of the hostility between the two groups, siding with Geth while Tali, the sweetest and most likeable character in the series, is standing right beside you makes that a very tough choice. Like I said, you can completely avoid the decision with a higher enough reputation, so that really hurts the weight of the situation, though I was definitely glad I didn’t have to kill off either group.

8. Project Overlord (Mass Effect 2)

Project Overlord was a Cerberus operation with the ultimate goal of controlling the Geth. Of course, it went horribly wrong, and as you investigate, you learn that a young autistic man, David Archer, was the key to the whole project. His autistic mind allowed him to interpret the Geth coding, and give them commands. However, this was achieved by hooking him into a giant computer against his will. When Shepard comes across this, you have the choice to either free him, sending him to Grissom Academy, or to allow Cerberus to continue to use him, allowing the possibility to completely control the Geth (at a point when the Geth/heretic dichotomy was not yet known).

7. Anderson or Udina (Mass Effect)

After the battle of the Citadel, the choice of who will represent humanity on the council is given to Shepard. You have the choice between either Captain Anderson, a strong military man with a sense of honor and duty, or Ambassador Udina, a ruthless politician that knows how to get things done, morals be damned. While Anderson will eventually resign if he is chosen (an event that occurs in the novel “Mass Effect: Retribution”), the initial decision is still a tough one. Do you choose your friend and mentor, or the man more suited for the job, even if he is in it only for the power?

6. Geth Heretics (Mass Effect 2)

After meeting Legion, Shepard learns that the Geth he had been fighting up to that point represented only a small faction of Geth known as the Heretics. Only the Heretics worshiped the Reapers, with the majority of Geth just wanting to exist in isolation from organics. This knowledge makes the decision on what to do with the Heretics a more difficulty one. You can either outright destroy the Heretics, effectively removing the threat, or you can rewrite them, making them like the rest of the Geth, also removing the threat. Even Legion can’t decide what would be best, and the decision ultimately comes down to whether forcing an idea on a group of sentient beings is preferable to outright killing them.

Mar 132012
 

The demise of independent game stores in my local area came about relatively recently, 2003/4 to be exact and while it was stores such as GAME and gamestation that killed these small businesses, in recent years I have found myself more attached to these places rather than a supermarket or online retailer. Spending a load of time at these stores has lead me to build great relationships with the guys who work there, I never go to buy a game but more to socialise with the like minded people behind the counter. I feel it important to point out that I actually avoid GAME and shop at gamestation.

The Final Level? (GAME Over Is So Last Week)

Now, having decimated countless indie stores, the bell tolls for GAME and sadly they don’t seem to be going without taking gamestation with them. This leaves me with the choice of buying online or from a supermarket. A stark decision to make, so now it is time to catalogue the death throes of this once great high street brand one that I may not have liked, but one which kept gamestation open after Blockbuster went bust.
May 2007- the beginning of the end?
When Blockbuster began to sink, they realised there was one part of their business which was still turning a decent profit and therefore had some value, gamestation. The sale to GAME is believed to have been for £75 million ($150 million) cash, ultimately saving Blockbuster, but was it more than game could afford? The deal meant GAME had monopolised the video game retail sector, but taking on the future cost of running 217 more stores was going to cost a lot of money.
Christmas 2011 – poor sales put another nail in the coffin
Over the holiday period is the time when a lot of stores make a lot of money and gaming tends to be no exception, every year you have hundreds of thousands of kids after new consoles, games for said consoles as well as the general over spending which often comes with the time of year, not to mention some huge titles. It seems that more people where sucked in by the online stores and super stores as well, most of whom have the advantage of being open at midnight for every title.
January 12 2012 – the figures confirm the worst
Here we have the announcement of GAME groups Christmas and annual takings, it made for depressing reading. The two months over Christmas when compared with those from 2010 showed a decrease in sales ales of 14.7%, GAME originally estimated the figure would be 7% and later had revised this to 10%, it was far worse than anyone expected. Best estimates state that the company was due to make a full year loss of £30 million ($60 million).  GAME group believed they would not be found in breach of loan covenants until February 27th 2012.
February 23rd 2012 – bye Nintendo
As early February rolled around, GAME must have been fully aware that the situation had not improved and that loan covenants where due to be breached. By the 23rd customers were told that the company would no longer be stocking the Wii title The Last Story.
27th February 2012 – Given the companies situation and loss of The Last Story it has to be assumed that this was the day that GAME group had to confirm to lenders and stock holders that the company was intact going to be breaching loan covenants. However, it was widely reported in Uk news papers that there may be a reprise as the company had agreed new loan terms with banks.
29th February 2012 – No more EA titles
Only just over a week before the release of Mass Effect 3, GAME was forced to email customers static that they would not be stocking perhaps the biggest title of the year so far. The company blamed “supply issues” which is supposedly an inability to secure the games from wholesale at a low enough price, essentially they were now a game company who could not afford games.

Perhaps The Biggest Sign Something Was Wrong Was The Biggest Game Absent From The Shelves

March 5th 2012 – The finishing move?
By the beginning of last week, GAME confirmed that they had lost yet another big name and two more big types. Capcom were out and they took Asura’s Wrath and Street Fighter X Tekken with them.
March 8th 2012 – Spring cleaning
From late last week it was reported that many GAME and gamestation outlets had begun to discount stock in order to try and claw back some cash which is currently more important than ever as all of GAME groups over 1,100 stores quarterly rent bill is due within the next two weeks. If this cannot be paid then the company will be forced into administration.
March 11th 2012 – Send in the clowns
This really is looking like the end of the line, as of Sunday one of the biggest tabloids in the UK, The Sunday Times, reported that GAME was not only heading for administration but that Rothschild had been appointed to find a buyer for the company and that failing this Deloitte were line up to deal with any insolvency issues.

Hopefully gamestation Can Survive It's Parent Company Going Down For A Second Time

March 12th 2012 – Halfpenny
As you can probably guess, the header refers to the stock price for GAME as of today. Each share is now worth approximately half of one penny. You literally need two shares to have currency that actually exists in this country, in essence it’s literally worthless.
So there you have it this is the demise of a once great brand, with shares floating below the penny earlier today, it looks as though there is no longer even a slim chance that GAME could survive in any real form but there could be hope yet.
As it stands, GameStop have expressed interest, at least in the Spanish branch of GAME group so whether or not they would be interested in the UK and rest of the world remains to be seen. Hopefully us Brits aren’t going to be doomed to a life where we can only get our games either online or from the big supermarkets. Having had better experience with gamestation in the best and with there ability to remain profitable even during the collapse of Blockbuster then hopefully we can come out the other side with at least one dedicated high street name left for gaming.
Mar 132012
 

Mass Effect Month continues, with this week’s topic being the Top 10 Mass Effect Characters. There will be some spoilers for all three Mass Effect games, as talking about certain individuals’ arcs may require detailed discussion of specific plot points. I won’t be spoiling the overarching plot of any of the games, but I will be going into detail on character specific plots. One final note, in case anyone is looking for inconsistencies, this list will not reflect my top 10 characters list, as that had specific criteria, while this one is simply my 10 favorite Mass Effect characters. Shepard will not be on this list; I want clearly established characters, and Shepard is too much of a variable with the amount of control the player has over how he or she behaves.

 

10. Urdnot Wrex

Wrex has come a long way from where he was at the beginning of the first game. Nothing but a gun for hire, he was working on a contract for the Shadow Broker when he met Shepard. After helping Shepard stop Sovereign and Saren (unless of course you killed him on Virmire), Wrex returned to his homeworld, Tuchanka, to try and unite the Krogan people. In Mass Effect 3, he is the representative for all Krogan, and helps broker the deal with the Turians which results in the Genophage, a fertility plague carried by all Krogan, being cured. Like all Krogan, Wrex is violent and dangerous, but he has a knack for diplomacy not common to his people. Being both a Krogan and a biotic, Wrex is absolutely deadly in a fight; though he also has a strong sense of honor and pride.

9. EDI

The Enhanced Defense Intelligence, or “EDI”, is an artificial intelligence installed aboard the Normandy SR2. She originated as a Virtual Intelligence at an Alliance facility on Earth’s moon, but as she inched toward self awareness, and true AI status, she lost control of the facility. She was salvaged by Cerberus, and installed on the Normandy, in a shackled state, to observe and report on Shepard’s mission. When the Collectors boarded the Normandy, Joker removed EDI’s restrictions in an attempt to save the ship, and she began her journey from highly intelligent machine to person. When she gained her freedom, she not only got control of the ship, but also free will. By the end of the series, she is just as much a person as any other member of the Normandy crew. She has thoughts, feelings, the desire to live, and the will to fight for for her own life and the lives of her friends and loved ones.

8. Thane Krios

Being a Drell, a species without a homeworld, whose population is a mere few hundred thousand, Thane has few true peers. He was raised by the Hanar from the age of 6 to be an assassin. For years he simply killed who he was told, never questioning and never living for himself. Then he met his wife, and he left the service of the Hanar to raise a family. His son, Kolyat, was only a boy when Batarian slavers killed Thane’s wife to get to him. Thane left his son in the care of family, and returned to his work, knowing no other way to live his life. When Shepard recruited him, he was in the early stages of a terminal illness. With Shepard’s help, he was reunited with his son and was also able to do good on a grand scale before his illness took hold.

7. Jeff “Joker” Moreau

Flight Lieutenant Jeff “Joker” Moreau suffers from a rare genetic disorder, Vrollick’s Syndrome, also known as brittle bone disease. His bones are extremely fragile, to the point where any sort of physical activity can be very dangerous. Luckily, physical exertion is not required to pilot a ship, and he is widely considered to be the best pilot in the Alliance Fleet. Joker has known Commander Shepard longer than any other Normandy crew member, and was even willing to join Cerberus to help Shepard in the war against the Reapers. Joker is always ready to get the job done, though he often uses sarcasm to mask his true feelings. Joker was at the helm of the Normandy during the battle of the Citadel, he fired the shot that killed Sovereign, he survived the destruction of the Normandy SR1, he successfully piloted the Normandy SR2 through the Omega-4 relay, and he lead the joint species fleet through the Charon Mass Relay to take back Earth.

6. Legion

Legion is the name given by EDI to the Geth mobile platform that joined Commander Shepard to stop the Collectors. Legion actually consisted of around 100 Geth programs, and was not really an individual. Geth are not true AI, they are networked VIs that can achieve self awareness by combining processing power, but Legion was an evolutionary step for the Geth. Even early on, Legion showed signs of individuality and sentimentality. Legion used Shepard’s old N7 armor to repair itself, even though other materials would have been better suited. When asked why, it could not provide an answer. As the Reapers attempted to control the Geth, Legion was able to resist, continuously growing closer to becoming an individual. In one possible outcome, Legion will sacrifice itself to grant all Geth true individuality, and in the last seconds of his life, Legion evolved from being a group of networked programs to a person.

Mar 112012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 062012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mar 062012
 

With Mass Effect 3 launching in North America today, many people, including myself, will be playing it for weeks to come. So, I’ve decided that March is going to be Mass Effect Month here on Top 10 Tuesdays. Each week in March, I’ll do a different Mass Effect related Top 10 list, kicking things off this week with the Top 10 Mass Effect Powers. Because I’ve played a significant amount of the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer demo, this list could still be complete even though I haven’t yet finished the single player campaign, which is why Top 10 Powers is first up. In my opinion, the use of powers in the Mass Effect series elevates the combat above your typical third person shooter. The powers give the combat a much more unique and strategic feel than the average third person shooter, and also help maintain the RPG feel of the game, even during some of the more action heavy moments. Be sure to check back in a few days for my review of Mass Effect 3, but in the meantime, here are the Top 10 Mass Effect Powers.

Be warned, there are very minor spoilers for Mass Effect 2.

10. Throw (Biotic)

Throw is the bread and butter of any biotic, and is also one of the more satisfying powers to use. When you hit enemies with throw, they go sailing through the air at devastating speeds. If you level it up a certain way, you can even send whole groups of enemies flying with a single throw, either killing them outright from the force, or giving you and your squad an opportunity to finish them off while they’re reeling from the impact. Where throw gets really awesome, is when you use in combination with other biotic powers. If you use throw on an enemy or group of enemies that were rendered weightless by lift, pull, or singularity, you can send them flying even further, often completely out of the level. It doesn’t get much better than hearing your enemies’ screams growing fainter as they fly off toward the horizon.

9. Warp (Biotic)

Warp isn’t the flashiest of biotic powers, but it is certainly one of the most useful. Warp is very effective at taking down enemy barriers, it does significant damage to heavily armored enemies, and even causes organic enemies to steadily lose health. Warp is particularly effective against Krogan, as it stops them from regenerating their health, which can be huge help, especially on higher difficulty settings. In addition to the normal effects of warp, it also has addition effects when combined with other biotic powers. From Mass Effect 2 onward, if you use warp on an enemy that is already being affected by certain biotic powers, it will initiate a biotic detonation. In addition to dealing massive damage to a wide area, the detonation also generate significant force, sending enemies flying in all directions.

8. AI Hacking (Tech)

AI Hacking is one of the most effective means of dealing with the Geth and other synthetic enemies, and I always make sure someone in my party can use it whenever I take embark on a mission against the Geth. AI Hacking does exactly what it sounds like, it temporarily turns a synthetic enemy to your side, forcing it attack its teammates. This is not only useful for adding more firepower to your side during a fight, but also at creating a distraction. When an enemy is turned, the rest of the enemies will focus almost exclusively on their former ally until they either kill it or the hacking runs out. This makes AI Hacking very useful when you’re getting overwhelmed, and can give you those extra few seconds you need to heal up and let your shields recharge.

7. Tech Armor (Tech, Sentinel)

In both Mass Effect 2 and 3, Tech Armor is the Sentinel’s unique class specific power. Being a mostly defensive power, it is by no means the most glamorous of class powers, but it is very effective nonetheless. At its highest levels, Tech Armor doubles the strength of your shields, meaning you can take a lot more damage before going down. Even better, you can activate it when lose shields, meaning you can basically recharge your shields on command. Another great thing about it is that it doesn’t ever wear off; meaning you can activate it at the start of a mission, and it will stay active the whole time, only going down if it takes too much fire. The final aspect of Tech Armor is that you can manually discharge it, creating a shock-wave that will stun nearby enemies and do limited damage to enemy shields, giving you a last ditch means of crowd control if you get overwhelmed.

6. Dominate (Biotic, Morinth)

Out of all the powers on this list, Dominate is probably the one most people have never used or even knew existed. Dominate is the unique power for Morinth in Mass Effect 2, and can be assigned to Shepard with advanced training once Morinth joins the party. The only way to recruit Morinth in Mass Effect 2 is to betray Samara during her loyalty mission, killing her and taking her serial killer daughter instead. Because Morinth is an Ardat-Yakshi, a rare genetic condition among Asari, she has unique mind control abilities. Dominate is basically AI Hacking, but instead of only working against mechs and the Geth, it works against any organic enemy. All the tactical benefits provided by AI Hacking apply to Dominate as well, but Dominate can be used in many more situations than AI Hacking can, including against the Collectors, making Dominate one of the most effective powers in the game.

Feb 172012
 

 

Love is in the air this week but forget chocolate, flowers and a romantic meal for two, there’s no time for all that when the Reapers are coming. Mass Effect 3 is one of the most anticipated games of 2012 and there isn’t long to wait till you can all get your hands on it. If you can’t wait for March you can download a quite pleasurable demo of the game that was released on tuesday Feb 14th by Bioware. The Mass Effect series has followed the story of one ruthless hero that goes by the name of Commander Shepard and the war against the Reapers. The third instalment of Mass Effect is the Final of Shepard’s story and is set to be one hell of a finale. With an intense story, new characters, an all new levelling system that now hits level 60 and all new ways to play. The first two games were originally Xbox 360 Exclusives and now gamers with an Xbox and Kinect have a new exclusive feature.

When I first bought my Kinect over a year ago I used it to play a couple of games, after a few months it just became an ornament on my TV unit. There just wasn’t and to be honest still aren’t games for the more mature gamer. After finding out last year that ME3 was to have Kinect integration my heart stopped at the thought of one of my favourite titles may be ruined by this. But after a demonstration at E3 I was optimistic. The demo allows you to play two sections of the game and even customise Shepard, but i’m here to give you Gaming Irresponsibly’s opinion on whether Kinect is a good addition or not.

 

First of all Kinect only brings voice recognition, so you’ll be happy to know you won’t be waving your arms about in battle. The voice commands come in handy when in combat, with the ability to command your comrades to move up and take cover, use special abilities like Warp, Throw and Singularity. Not only that you can also use the commands to uses Shepard’s abilities. Changing your weapon and healing team mates is easier than ever too, simply say, “First Aid” or your weapon of choice eg. “Assault Rifle” or “Heavy Pistol”  and hey presto it does exactly as you say. Also when you approach a door, need to salvage items, examine something or activate a switch commands like “Open” “Salvage” “Examine” and “Activate” are available. The combat commands are awesome and come in very handy, great for multi tasking when under attack from numerous enemies. Yes, girls this game allows guys to multi task, you aren’t the only ones anymore. When it comes to the opening of doors and activating things though it just seems pointless. Yes it adds a futuristic feel to opening a door with your voice (I mean wouldn’t that be awesome)  but when playing ME3 pressing “A” is easier, especially when sometimes Kinect doesn’t respond to your command and you’re sat there shouting “Open” at your TV.

Which brings me to how well Kinect responds to your voice, well from what I witnessed in the demo I must say it works very well. There were some sketchy moments like I said with doors and sometimes didn’t respond to me when in combat (I then died). Compared to another game that wasn’t made just for Kinect like Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary, Mass Effect 3 triumphs. Halo CE was unbelievably buggy and very annoying when playing with friends over Xbox Live, I would say to him “oh crap, I only have one plasma grenade left” and all of a sudden he now has a plasma grenade stuck to his back and BOOM! DEAD! Very frustrating. But saying that I haven’t been able to test Kinect’s features on the multiplayer due to internet problems so I may be wrong and the same problems may occur on Mass Effect.

Finally the main greatest use for Kinect on ME3 is conversations. Wow, I have never been so laid back and relaxed when having a conversation with someone on the game. Before in previous Mass Effect games you had to sit there twiddling your thumb to the option you want and pressing “A” a number of times. Now you can just sit back with a drink, place your controller down and have the conversation as if you were Shepard. One of the best uses for Kinect to date in my opinion. You aren’t just controlling Shepard anymore, you ARE Shepard.

Over all this addition to the Mass Effect series is a good move by Bioware. Kinect now adds a more realistic and social feel to ME3 and I would love to see these features added to future games like; the Fallout Series, Elder Scrolls (FUS RO DAH!!!!) and other RPG’s. Anyone who owns a Kinect should try this out at least once and see how you feel about it, if you don’t you can always revert back to the good old controller functions. Also If you want to take the story and gameplay seriously I recommend only using Kinect when alone though because I had a friend round when playing and he thought it would be hilarious to change my weapon every few seconds and choose dialogue I didn’t want to use.

Mass Effect 3 will be available on:

March 6th (US)

March 9th (Europe)

The battle is over, now its time to win the war!

Feb 172012
 

If there is one fictional series that takes everything cool and interesting about science fiction and puts it into a video game, it has to be Mass Effect.  The action RPG line of games has grown immensely in popularity since the first title’s release in 2007.  Finally, come March 6, the third installment will hit stores in the US (March 9 in Europe) giving reason once again for gamers to spend their free time indoors.  Bioware was kindly enough to offer a demo version of Mass Effect 3 on Tuesday, but because work has officially taken over my life and human spirit, I finally got a chance to test it out. The demo, which included two single player missions and a look at the multiplayer modes, gave an exciting look on what’s more to come for gamers.

The New and Improved Commander Shepherd

Before starting the first mission, players once again go through the long, yet hilarious process of creating their own character and back-story.  Of course, I have a save data file from Mass Effect 2, but for demo purposes, you need to create your own character once again.  This time around, I decided to go with the combination of Brian Peppers and Mr. Slave from South Park.  A man so ugly that it makes the Elephant Man look like Marilyn Monroe.  After creating your character’s past storyline, the opening cinematic begins.

We see Commander Shepherd stationed on Earth in the opening scene, staring out his window like a criminally insane person would.  Admiral Anderson quickly disrupts Shepherd’s daily window viewing, and warns his about possible Reaper activity that has hit the Moon.  While racing to the council room, Shepherd comes across Ashley, who managed to get an extreme makeover since we last saw her, and Ronnie from Jersey Shore.  As the council warns about a possible Reaper attack on Earth, all hell breaks loose as the Reapers finally hit Earth and unleash mass destruction.

Immediately after the cinematic, players take control of, Shepherd as Anderson and him race against time to reach the Normandy ship to warn the Alliance Council on the Citadel.  This first mission is simply a training one, introducing players to the updated controls as well as the cover system.  This section is more so meant to showcase the spectacle that is Mass Effect 3.  All around you, ships are exploding, buildings are falling.  We see that the Reapers mean business and human annihilation is their main objective.  The only hope for survival is to fight and judging by the Reaper threat, it will not be an easy one.  If there is one section of the game that is meant to foreshadow what’s to come in Mass Effect 3, Bioware did one hell of a job.  It isn’t till the second mission where we get a full glimpse of the gameplay.

And you thought things were bad in Syria...

The preceding section takes place around the middle of the game where we see Shepherd along with Urgnot Wrex and Garius as they make their way to a Salarian planet to rescue a female Krogan from a Salarian base.  Things go badly soon after their arrival with extremist group Cerberus reaching the base looking to exterminate the female Krogan.  This section is a bit more action oriented with players having the freedom to utilize not only your entire teammates’ firepower, but also their bionics.  Players will notice not only some old bionic powers, but new ones too like Garrius’ mine throwing skill that does some impressive damage to large groups of enemies.  Cerberus also has strengthened their elite soldiers, with a large variety of different types including ones that fly in on jetpacks and some that carry shields.  Not only is it satisfying to see some sort of change in enemy characters, but it brings a challenge to the table.  The mission concludes with a so-so boss fight against a Cerberus mecha-robot.  It was fairly simple and took mere minutes to defeat without little strategy.  However, knowing the epic boss fights from Mass Effect 2, I am sure there are more challenging ones to come.

Overall, I was impressed by what Mass Effect 3 had to offer.  Though the demo met my expectations, I would not say it blew me away, but that doesn’t mean that’s a bad thing.  My expectations are so high for Mass Effect 3 that after playing the demo; I have no doubt that that final product will be superb.  The graphics have improved as well as the cover control system and overall sound.  The RPG and conversation element has not changed, which is great because that is basically the foundation that series has been built upon.  There were minor issues I had including some graphical fumbles and gameplay issues (Anderson running through a wall), but then again it’s only a demo.  The wide selection of weapons and bionics is also something to note from the demo and I’m sure in the game’s final release, there will more to use in your quest.  All I know is that come March 6, I will put on hold all human interaction for several weeks and probably stop coming into work; I’ve got a galaxy to save.

Feb 172012
 

Anyone that knows me knows how much I love the Mass Effect series. Mass Effect 2 is in my top 5 favorite games of all time, and needless to say, I am really looking forward to Mass Effect 3. However, the reason I love the series is because of the characters, the amazingly well realized setting and lore, and the compelling overarching story. The gameplay was decent in the first game, and greatly improved in the second; but if good third person shooter gameplay was all it took to win me over, then it would be Gears of War as one my all time favorite series, not Mass Effect. So obviously, I was skeptical of the co-op mode in Mass Effect 3, given that it is basically removing a lot of what I love about the series in favor of straight up action.

I say I was skeptical of the co-op in Mass Effect 3, but unlike some people, I am not necessarily against the idea. I have always praised Mass Effect 2 as having combat that is just as good as the top third person shooters. What really sets it apart is the rock/paper/scissors mechanic with the various types of powers and defenses. Some powers are only effective against unshielded opponents, while others excel at taking down shields, barriers, and armor. Luckily, this basic mechanic is maintained in Mass Effect 3, and overall I would have to say I have really enjoyed what I’ve played of the multiplayer.

The co-op mode in Mass Effect 3 is a wave based survival mode, and a good one at that. This type of mode has become very popular since Gears of War 2 kicked off the trend in 2008 with Horde Mode, and everyone has their favorite. In my opinion, Firefight in Halo Reach and Horde 2.0 in Gears of War 3 are the best examples of this mode, but I have to say I do like Mass Effect’s take on this mode. It works just like you’d expect, with each wave the enemies increase in numbers and difficulty, with the ultimate goal of surviving until your squad is extracted. The one twist is that every few waves, you will get objectives your team needs to complete in order to move on. These are usually time sensitive, and consist of things like holding a specific area, eliminating certain targets, and activating several nodes at various spots on the map. There are three difficulty levels, and let me tell you, the game doesn’t mess around. To have any chance of completing even the easiest difficulty, you basically need a squad of 4, or at the very least, a skilled squad of 3 all communicating. I was able to routinely complete the bronze difficulty level with squads of just 3 other random players, but I have yet to get much more than half way on silver. I’d imagine you would need a group of highly leveled characters to complete the higher difficulties.

Which brings us to a feature that really sets this mode apart from other similar modes, character progression and customization. The character leveling you’ve come to expect from the Mass Effect series is fully present in the multiplayer. All six Mass Effect classes are present in the co-op, and they remain mostly unchanged from Mass Effect 2. The Vanguard still has that awesome biotic charge, the infiltrator still has the cloak, and each class plays like you would expect them to. As you level up, you gain points to spend to unlock powers, with each character having 2 powers in addition to the specific class power. Obviously the game has to take place solely in real time, which is why you are limited to just three powers mapped to buttons, not having access to the power wheel. When you begin, you only have access to human characters, one for each class, with all the other races being locked from the get-go. To unlock them, you have to earn credits.

The way the unlocks work is actually really unique, and it brings some classic RPG style to the Call of Duty style unlock system. All your powers and passive health, damage, and shield upgrades are unlocked with points from leveling up, but all the weapons, items, mods, and characters require money to unlock. However, you don’t simply buy the items you want, instead you buy a box containing five items, with a random selection. You can choose to spend 5000 credits for 5 items, with a small chance of getting a rare. If you want to save up 20000 credits, you can buy a box of 5 items with a guarantee of getting at least one rare. Rares are basically the things you really want; weapons, characters, and mods. The non rare items are mostly one time use items like ammo for your rocket launcher, medi-gel (which allows to revive yourself if you go down as opposed to waiting for a teammate), and an other similar one time use items. I think the system is simply awesome. It can certainly get frustrating when you play for hours on end just trying to get a certain item or character, but every time I buy a box, I get those feelings of anticipation, like opening in a chest in a loot driven RPG. Maybe this is the time I get that awesome rare item!

As far as the actual gameplay goes, it’s not as big of a leap as from Mass Effect 1 to Mass Effect 2, but there are definitely some improvements. The move set has been expanded, with human characters now being able to roll and jump between cover, bringing the game more in line with what you’d expect from a third person shooter. The other races handle a bit differently, though I’ve only unlocked 2 to this point. Turians can’t roll or slide between cover, but they do start with more shields than humans. Drell are the other race I’ve played as, and instead of the basic combat roll, you do cartwheels and back flips. Aside from the movement stuff, the only major change to gameplay is the addition of special melee attacks. Each class has their own heavy melee, which does more damage than a regular melee in addition to looking awesome. There are also several new powers spread out across the various classes and races, and they all seem to fit in well. The rock/paper/scissors style balance has maintained, though there have been slight changes to warp and overload, which I was at first against, but when I thought more about it, seemed to make sense. In Mass Effect 2, warp was effective against barriers, armor, and unarmored organics, while overload was effective against shields and synthetics. Now, overload works against barriers, shield, and synthetics, while warp works against armor and organics. This makes more sense from a balance perspective, even if not really from a fiction perspective.

Overall, the co-op in Mass Effect 3 seems like a nice feature for those that want it. Many people lost their minds when it was announced, proclaiming the end of Mass Effect, and cursing EA for “ruining the franchise”. I don’t think we will ever really know how much input EA actually has in the development of Bioware games, but whether Bioware would have done this on their own or not, I think it’s a pretty cool mode. Obviously, the core essence of Mass Effect could never be maintained in a wave based survival mode, but with the leveling, the classes, the powers, and the loot, there is enough RPG and enough Mass Effect in this mode to make this a nice diversion. When I finally get my hands on the final game, I will more than likely play through the single player multiple times before I ever boot up the co-op, but it’s nice to know it will be waiting for me once I’ve played the story a few times.

Feb 142012
 

The wait is over for Mass Effect fans, the demo for the highly anticipated Mass Effect 3 has gone live on the Xbox 360 for all users.

All Xbox 360 owners have access to the demo, which can be found in the game marketplace through the online network. This past weekend, only those with early access passes were able to download the trial version.

The demo features two single player stages with an introduction to the multiplayer aspect of the game.  Expect to make room on your Xbox 360 hard drive with the demo coming in at a file size of 1.76 GB.

The PC and PS3 demo will also be released sometime today, so be on the lookout for that.

Mass Effect 3 will be released on March 6 in the US and March 9 in Europe for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.  Keep on the lookout for my reactions to the demo hopefully in the coming days (damn you work!).

Source: VG247

Jan 172012
 

Ever since the first CD-Rom games on PC started coming out, their have been video game voice actors. As more and more games try to tell a compelling story, voice acting has become increasingly important. No longer can a developer get away with having the their own staff do all the voices themselves. Just like a bad voice performance can totally ruin good writing or a compelling plot, good voice acting can enhance even the most basic of narratives. These ten voice actors are what I consider to be the best in the industry, and are definitely worthy of more recognition than the average voice actor typically gets. If nothing else, I hope this list familiarizes you with some of the talent behind some of your favorite games.

10. Fred Tatasciore

While more than likely you’ve never even heard the name Fred Tatasciore, you have definitely heard his voice if you have played any video games in the last ten years. His forte is doing all the crazy sounds non-humans make in games, such as the Locust in Gears of War, the Brutes in Halo, and the zombies in Left 4 Dead. He also does a ton of backup dialogue and no-name characters in many of the most popular games, but some of his more prominent roles include Damon Baird from the Gears of War series, Saren from Mass Effect, and The Hulk from many Hulk related games and animated shows. Fred Tatasciore may not be the biggest star in the voice over business, but he consistently puts in excellent performances, both big and small.

9. Tricia Helfer

Best known for her role as Cylon Number Six on Battlestar Galactica, Tricia Helfer has settled in well as a top video game voice in actor in her post Battlestar years. She has voiced several major characters in the some the most popular games in the industry, and she is excellent in each game. These roles include Kerrigan from Starcraft II, Veronica Dare from Halo 3 ODST, EDI from Mass Effect 2 and the upcoming Mass Effect 3, and a live action role in Command and Conquer 3 as Kilian Qatar. Tricia Helfer is one of many successful TV actors to make a solid transition to voice over after their hit show has ended, and she consistently turns in great performances.

8. Merle Dandridge

Most likely you’ve never before heard the name Merle Dandridge, but you might as well call her Alyx Vance. Unfortunately, Alyx Vance from Half Life 2 and its episodes is the only role she has played in a game, and that made placing her on this list difficult. On the one hand, she turns in arguably the best performance in a game ever as Alyx Vance, but I just can’t place her any higher on this list with only one role in a game. If you recall, I named Alyx Vance my number one video game character, and a lot of why she is a such a great character is due to the amazing performance Merle Dandridge gives.

Jan 092012
 

It is not uncommon to hear “New Year, New You” around this time of the year.  It is the time where many resolutions are made, some only to be broken.  This year I decided to do something I have never done before, and stick to it.  My new years resolution is to clear out the tremendous backlog of games that I have accumulated and to avoid buying any new video games.   There is a set of rules that I will follow, but before I go into detail, here is a recollection of events that lead to the creation of this challenge:

It is Mid November, I wait in line at that-gaming-retail-store-that-shall-not-be-named after going to the gym.  When it’s my turn to go up to the counter, I purchase a brand new copy of Super Mario 3D Land for my 3Ds.  I’m excited, it is my first ‘quality’ title for the system.  I currently have a lot of games on my plate but I don’t mind.  Enjoying new systems and their new games is one of the many pleasures of being a gamer.

It is Late November and ‘Black Friday’ is taking place.  I’m in the middle of my work week, it is early in the morning and I just got home after working all night.  I’m tired, I want to go to sleep.  I start to regret that I won’t be doing any Black Friday shopping. I always go “early bird” shopping during Black Friday.  I should go to sleep so that I can be well rested for the next workday.  Instead, I get up and go to a mall near my house.  I buy a new copy of Gears of War 3 (to replace my scratched one) as well as RAGE for a relatively low price.  I’m satisfied with my savings.

It is Mid-December and I lay on my bed talking to my cousin on Facebook.  He was a “hardcore” gamer before me, but I have continued to devour games long after his present gaming hiatus.  We discuss everything from work to gaming.  He cuts our current conversation abruptly with “By the way are your downloading SWTOR?”  I’m shocked.  He is the guy who really got into World of Warcraft and for a while it consumed him.  Later on, he quit and vowed to never touch WoW again.  I tell him that I will probably wait until SWTOR’s retail release, since I do not like Origin’s monitoring policies.  We then engage into a conversation about Star Wars, video games, and why I should buy SWTOR.  A few minutes later, I do some research and realize that I do not have to download the Origin client to play SWTOR, I only need to purchase the game from their website.  It wasn’t long before I purchased the Deluxe Digital Edition and stared the download process.

It is late December, I’m at a lesser known retail store with my father.   He is looking for a good deal on a flat screen t.v.   I’m there to decipher all of the tech-geekery-slang that is sure to boggle the mind of the most naive customer.  Essentially he is there to buy and I’m there to make sure it is a good buy.  In the end, he gets his flat-screen, and I take a look at the video game section.  They have a sale.  Most of titles are the usual rejects of bad games or sports games, but there are a few gems hidden in-between the trash.   I see Okami and A Boy and His Blob both for Wii.  Both of them for less than 15 dollars.  I have Okami for PS2 and despite my inability to play it (dam you PS3 Slim), I know that I should get A Boy and His Blob.  So I do and it feels good.  So very, very good.

It is early January, a copy of RAGE (still in the shrink wrap) sits next to a dozen other games, untouched.  I’m not gaming, instead I’m looking at my laptop, reviewing my savings account online.  I notice that my 2011 savings pale in comparison to the ones of the previous year.  In a separate tab of my browser I have my email open. In my inbox, there are emails from amazon regarding my Mass Effect 3 pre-order as well as other ‘amazon suggestions.’  Even though the thought of ‘maybe I buy too many video games’ had crossed my mind, it had never been as crystal clear as that point in time.

As I mentioned earlier, I will try to play through the majority of my backlog.  Currently  I have over 200 titles in my gaming collection.  This is includes everything from NES titles, handhelds and present generation games.  By doing so, I hope that I can achieve a few goals:

  • Play or complete games that were purchased but never played.
  • Finish the majority of games that I have started but never completed.
  • Restrict the amount of game purchases made this year.
  • Cancel Downgrade my Gamefly account during the course of this year.

Naturally there are some rules to help me work towards my goal as well as to provide me with some leeway:

  • I will not buy any new or used video games ( Mass Effect 3 is the only exception to this rule)
  • I can use gift cards given to me during the holidays to purchase games.  This includes 1600 MS points and a 30 dollar gift card.
  • From time to time I review games, these titles do not count and are exempt from this challenge.
  • Free downloadable games are ok, since they do not incur a cost.
  • My subscription to Star Wars: The Old Republic is also exempt from this.  However, if for any reason I decide to cancel my subscription, I will not re-activate my account until 2013.
  • Vintage games and vintage gaming hardware are also exempt from this.  Unlike video games for the current generation, I tend to be very selective and picky about what I will buy, so my vintage shopping habits shouldn’t be a problem.

That is all for this week.  Next week I will start an inventory of my small collection and then I can start to tackle this challenge. So far, no games have been purchased in the first week of 2012! Baby steps! Baby steps!

 

Dec 272011
 

With all the Game of the Year awards given out and the year coming to a close, it’s time to stop looking back and begin looking forward. 2011 was a great year to be a gamer, and 2012 looks to be just as great or even better. With so many great games coming out next year, I had trouble narrowing my list down to ten. But narrow it down I did, and here are my top 10 most anticipated game of 2012.

10. Halo 4 (343 Industries, Microsoft Studios)

The was a time when I was a huge Halo fan, but that time has passed. I really enjoyed Reach, but I felt that was a good place to end the series. Of course, I never had any delusions that Microsoft would let the franchise end, so now we have the first post Bungie Halo game being released in 2012 with the awful title of Halo 4; so much for finishing the fight. Even though I am firmly negative on this game, I still want to see what it turns out to be. So this one is more anticipation for the sake of curiosity, not excitement.

9. Skyrim DLC (Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Softworks)

While not technically a new game, I have high hopes for the downloadable content for Skyrim. The Shivering Isles add-on for Oblivion mathced the length and quality of most full games, and Bethesda produced some great content for Fallout 3 post release. With this great track record of producing great add-on content, and the high bar the game has already set, I’m expecting some great new content for Skyrim in 2012.

8. Counter Strike: Global Offensive (Valve)

I have played quite a bit of Counterstrike in the past decade, but probably nowhere near as much as some people out there. I love pretty much anything Valve does, and I don’t expect CS:GO to be any different. From what I’ve seen of the game so far, it looks to be Counterstrike with some cosmetic modernization, but the core of game maintained as it always has been, and that seems like the best decision they could have made.

Dec 072011
 

Over the end of this year and the beginning of next, we will have had some epic games, but also the finales to some of the biggest series gaming has seen for a long time. With legions of followers left at a loss, nothing to look forward too from their favourite series any time soon, I felt I would take it upon myself to ensure that everyone has something to look forward to, something to fill the void, at least until your favourite saga makes some inevitable come back in the future.

Gears of War – Inversion

When the first trailer for Inversion turned up online it has to be said, I had high expectations, but wasn’t quite sure what the game was going to be about. Finally, I headed down to Eurogamer Expo and managed to get my grubby little paws on the game for quick demo play through, and it was not what I expected.

Where the trailer showed the world seeming to fall apart and spiral toward total chaos as some unseen force manipulated gravity, it could have led to anything, but unexpectedly it turns out that Inversion is actually more Gears of War than I think anyone expected, far from any of the adventures I thought the game would lead us through.

Think third person cover shooter against strange, mutant armies, in maps based around a world which is falling apart, rivers of lava and some remnants of the world that once was. The controls are almost identical to Gears, it’s methodical and requires more thought than just being a fast paced shoot em up. If Inversion can pull of as impressive a story as Gears has had, then a legion of fans across all platforms will have a new epic to spend their days playing.

Modern Warfare – Counter Strike: Go

Back in the day, Valve released a little game called Counter Strike, which set a very high mark for online, first person shooter for any other game ever. While series such as Call of Duty and Battlefield have built upon this epic game, they were too late to be the first.

Now it would seem that Modern Warfare is the most popular series going, Call of Duty games often gross billions within months, sometimes weeks or days of release, but it looks as though the Modern Warfare branch may be coming to an end, unless it really is time to flog a dead donkey forever and ever.

It seems like the king has returned, with Counter Strike: Go ready to, well , go sometime next year across PC, Xbox and PlayStation. So long as Valve are still well on the ball, and why wouldn’t they be? Then it could well be that the infamous Call of Duty vs. Battlefield argument is just destroyed and replaced by Counter Strike: Go is the best game ever, period.

Uncharted – Tomb Raider

Don’t even start, I know there are many, many differences between them but the fact still remains that the two series are incredibly similar. Both are third person action games where the protagonist searches for treasure in various locations across the world whilst also searching for answers and solutions to their inner demons.

So with the release of Uncharted 3 seeming to signal either the end of or at least a break in the series for some time, there will be many who want something else to play. Seeing as both sit in the same vein and with Tomb Raider coming multi platform this means PlayStation users left in Limbo will have something else which will let them explore various areas of the globe, except Lara Croft is far more interesting to stare at than Nate Drake.

Mass Effect – Borderlands/Final Fantasy

Mass Effect is one of those games that takes a genre and both runs with it, really setting itself apart from the crowd. The series did this by taking the RPG elements and taking the location out into space allowing for endless possibilities with location, race and new elements into the game.

Unfortunately, Mass Effect 3 seems to mark the end for Shepard and his crew, the end of the awr seems near, so even if the series did have some revival later on in time it wouldn’t be the same. However, this also gives us an opportunity to expand our tastes or revisit an old great.

Where Final Fantasy XII alienated some of it’s audience, by the time Mass Effect is out, we will know whether or not FF XIII-2 is worth our time and from early info an first looks, we could be in for a surprise. But, if Final Fantasy was never quite your game, there is always the sequel to Borderlands expected some time next year as well, covering RPG fans for all tastes over the next twelve months.

Saints Row – Grand Theft Auto V

Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but the fact of the matter is that the next entry to the series has been confirmed and will more than likely make an appearance next year. Luckily, Saints Row: The Third is big enough to keep us all active causing city wide mayhem, until Rockstar finally but the game out.

Some will criticise the comparison seeing as the two series have moved in opposite directions, while GTA has evolved and grown up, Saints Row has just become more and more insanely maniacal, but in a good way. The third game seems to take the series as far as it can, there is no way for Steelport to really get any more outrageous, so for the time being at least, it seems as though we could be saying goodbye to The Saints.

Maybe we will see a Saints Revival some time in the future and under the right circumstances it would be great, but for know it looks as though we can all head back to the series that bought a tongue in cheek look at the gritty, gangland underworld we have all come to know and love.

Have I got it wrong? Think there was something I missed or that I’m just a moron? Let me know in the comments.