Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Most Anticipated Game in History Eh? The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

The Call of Duty phenomenon is no joke in today's world of gaming and the impact every new game brings is huge. This is the franchise that has established numerous standards in this current generation of consoles whether we like it or not. To be honest, Modern Warfare 3 is the first Call of Duty I had extended time playing through and even though I knew what the fuss is all about, having that extended time is worth it to see if it is really worth all the attention it gets. This year's entry in the highly successful franchise has a lot to live up to considering it is handled by most of what's left of Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games. Magic does strike again from the over the top campaign, improved Spec Ops, and the multiplayer still as addicting as it has been since the first Modern Warfare. It is still the king of multiplayer shooters, but the formula is starting to get tiresome.

Another short campaign (around five to six hours normally, but longer on harder difficulties) awaits in Modern Warfare 3 as the game takes place immediately after the events of Modern Warfare 2 with Soap killing Sheperd and in bad condition as Captain Price and Nikolai escort him to safety. Makarov is still on the loose while the war between the United States and Russia is getting heated to the point other countries becoming battlefields and targets for Makarov's World War III scheme. As with these Call of Duty games, you play as multiple people in various locales of the world from Frost of the Delta Force and Yuri, who aides Price, Soap, and Nikolai to try to take out Makarov once and for all. Frost does start the show at a ruined New York City preventing the Russians from taking over. From the beginning to the finale, this is Call of Duty at its finest with its scripted scenes, lots of vehicular sections, and numerous OMG events as if you're watching a Michael Bay movie. Big things do happen throughout the game at various locales if you thought the beginning was crazy.

The campaign is filled with memorable moments, but also some flaws as well. At numerous times, I felt like I can't tell the difference between the opposition and those on my team. In certain situations, I just hope my comrades' A.I. can get the job done clearing out areas even though relying on them does not work all the time. Players still have to do nearly of the work as your teammates can get dumb and useless. In addition to the friendlies, I sometimes get away with friendly fire and while at the weirdest and stupidest times, I get the friendly fire is not tolerated notice resetting myself back to the nearest checkpoint. Speaking of checkpoints, the checkpoint system is as generous as it has been in past Call of Duty games, so there is no need to worry about dying a lot when stuck in a certain area. Another issue I had with the campaign is that there were too many vehicular sections throughout the campaign. If I had to guess how long I spent in a vehicle shooting down enemies, whether it is a tank, helicopter, AC-130, or a jeep, I would say these sections take a good third of the campaign. It is cool and all that these sections are there, but I felt the developers went a little overboard with that. Similar to Modern Warfare 2, there is a moment where you can skip if you think it will be offensive, but this moment in MW3 does not have the same impact as MW2's offensive scene.

Of course, the Call of Duty games are not just about the single player campaign as a Modern Warfare staple, Spec Ops, returns this year. The new thing with Spec Ops this time around is the addition of a survival mode. Survival is basically Call of Duty's Horde mode with waves of enemies to defeat while staying alive as long as you can. You don't start out with your multiplayer loadouts as the leveling up system is separate from that. Instead, your starting weapon is a pistol and you can buy better weapons, explosives, and air support as you progress through a game. The enemies do get tougher and tougher as expected as you keep going as the waves can get crazy. Juggernauts will come in at certain waves and later on they're mixed in with other soldiers and even helicopters to come and ruin your parade. Survival can be fun for what it is if you're willing to challenge yourself besides the campaign and in later waves, smarter strategies are preferred to keep going. The mission mode is still there in Spec Ops as well as they're pretty much the same as Modern Warfare 2 as you with survival, they can be played alone or co-op with another player locally or online.

Then there's the multiplayer, which is the main reason people are getting and have been playing numerous hours. The core of it didn't get changed dramatically from setting up custom classes, perks, and kill/deathstreaks, but there are little changes for the better in some aspects. The killstreaks for example are now consisted of three different packages. Assault is more offensive with airstrikes, helicopters, AC-130s, and other similar air support weapons. Support is a little more defensive with counter UAVs, SAM turrets, and recon drones. Unlike assault, the support package does allow killstreaks to continue even after dying, so if you're someone that can not maintain a double digit killstreak getting the big toys, maybe the support class is for you. The specialist package is a different beast as certain killstreaks grant you certain perks that you normally use. There is a killstreak package for everyone and it is change that works. The leveling up system is still addicting as it has been with accolades, challenges, and more along with your weapons leveling up as well to unlock attachments and more customizable things to mess around with.

The modes are also pretty much the same as Call of Duty games in the past despite some of the new modes that were introduced in Black Ops are not in this one. The standouts like Team Deathmatch and Domination will obviously be played a lot, but there are a lot of others that are underrated such as Kill Confirmed and franchise favorite Headquarters. Most of these modes are 6v6 even though there is a big team-like playlist for 8v8 matches in the dozen maps available out of the gate. The maps themselves are fine for the most part and I didn't really have any issues with them. Of course there are downloadable map packs coming soon and discounted if you have the Call of Duty Elite subscription, which that contains more packages fans will like.

While Modern Warfare 3 still looks good, the graphics engine they have been using for numerous years is showing its age, Some effects won't look as good as comparison to other shooters, but the game overall still looks fine especially running at 60 frames per second. There might be little buggy stuff here and there, but nothing worth game-breaking. However, there might be moments where I felt like I have to turn the brightness up to see what's going on specifically in the nighttime levels. As far as the sound is concerned, the production is still top-notch as expected. The theatrical soundtrack is great and the voice cast makes you feel like you're in a Hollywood blockbuster especially with all the crazy moments throughout the campaign. The sound effects are also impressive as if you want to play this loud in a theater setup.

In a nutshell Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is a great game and worthy of the franchise, but does it live up to the title most anticipated game in history? My answer is no as even though it is still filled with memorable moments and goodness fans know and love, the formula Infinity Ward has stuck with is starting to get old and tiresome as we'll see how they try to shake things up on the next game they're working on. Then again, with the franchise as successful like this, why even try to change it at all if billions of players are playing it right now with no signs of slowing down unless the fans really do fear change for the franchise. There is no denying that Call of Duty is a juggernaut that can't be stopped right now and after finally playing one for an extended period of time, now I know why it is the hot thing in the gaming world today even though it is not as superb as it can be.

Score = 8/10

  • Its still Call of Duty at its finest and that alone is enough for fans to buy and play it for hundreds of hours
  • Survival mode for Spec Ops is a great addition
  • Multiplayer still pretty much the same, but the little changes are worth it
  • Various campaign issues from too many vehicular sections and having a hard time telling who is who at certain times
  • Graphics engine starting to show its age
  • The whole formula is getting tiresome after sticking to it for four straight years and games.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Recap on the 2011 Spike VGAs...

Spike's 2011 Video Game Awards were on last Saturday and still nothing has changed from last year to this year in terms of how it was structured. Basically it still feels like a joke at best being an entertainment spectacle than a legit awards show and let's face it, this is how games are pretty much treated when seen on television being an easy target for jokes and all that. The folks that worked on the show tried hard to lessen that, especially the host Zachary Levi from Chuck, who did okay at hosting for the most part, but cmon even this award show feels like a laughing stock towards to the medium. It is really a shame that once again that games are not getting the respect they deserve compared to other forms of media as much as people are saying games are bigger than ever before. Yeah that is true to a degree, but shows like the VGAs prove once again feel like a step back for the gaming industry.

As expected like last year, the VGAs were never a real award show in the first place as they only handed out like five awards within the two hours they were on. It is always been about the spectacle and the debut trailers of big upcoming games for the next year or two. They were definitely bombshells at this award show even though some of them were leaked before the show started, which kind of blew away how bombshell-y they were. On the award side of things, I was happy Skyrim won game of the year (Still haven't played it though!!) and "retired" Shigeru Miyamoto accepted the Hall of Fame award for the Legend of Zelda franchise. Anyway, let's move on to the main highlight of the show, which were the exclusive reveals.

Arguably my personal favorite reveal from the show and this was during the pre-show too (lol), Tony Hawk announced a return to the franchise's roots with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD. This is a downloadable HD remake of the first two games as the levels you know and love are remade in HD (The Warehouse level from the first game as an example on the trailer above). No more skateboard controller nonsense as seen in the last two games, Ride and Shred, but the developers of those games, Robomodo, are developing this title. The levels will stay intact and the skater roster will consist of guys from today including the Birdman himself of course. The big question is whether or not the licensed soundtrack from those two games will return as they were one of many reasons why those games were memorable to many people especially me. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is coming out on the summertime for downloadable platforms at around fifteen bucks.

Another pre-show reveal was a new trailer for Hitman: Absolution. Agent 47 returns in this latest offering and it is funny seeing the words "The original assassin is back" during this clip as a jab at the Assassins Creed franchise.

Namco Bandai announced a holiday 2012 release for the console versions of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, which is indeed ways off but fine with the arcade location tests going on my home area of SoCal. I have been playing that version since it came out last week and I'll have a preview of that soon. I'll also have a review of Tekken Hybrid, which I have now, later this week as well.

On the main show reveals...

The first bombshell of the night belonged to Sony and Naughty Dog announcing a new original game called The Last of Us. After coming off Uncharted 3, the folks are at again next year with a compelling title like this. I'm excited to see how this turns out especially how they deal with survival and the father-daughter relationship (the girl being Ellen Page... or not?).

BioWare had some stuff to show off with a new gameplay clip for Mass Effect 3. We seen in the new sprinting in action and it looks great in the crazy sequence above. Besides ME3, BioWare's bombshell is announcing that they're working on the next Command & Conquer game with Generals 2 on the Frostbite 2 engine (made famous in Battlefield 3). This is gonna be interesting from them diving into RTS territory as if EA needs to find some reason to continue that franchise in a different direction.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Patriots is on track for a 2013 release as you can find out more about the game on a previous Game Informer cover story. We'll see how this Rainbow Six goes especially with the stiff competition in the shooter genre these days.

Transfromers: Fall of Cybertron is the sequel to War for Cybertron, both made by High Moon Studios. That game was a sleeper hit and the best Transformers game in a while. I'm curious to see how things are improved for this sequel as it could only get better, but who knows when the game comes out next year.

It is no surprise that there is an Amazing Spider-Man game to coincide with the big movie this summer as Beenox hopes to turn things around after this year's disappointing Edge of Time. As with Spidey games that come out along with them movies, its more than just the movie plot that the game will contain as I don't think this Oscorp robot invasion is the main enemy in the movie, but a sub-plot in the game.

Blizzard accepted the Gamer God award and showed off the opening cinematic for Diablo III. As with these trailers have been all about, this is not an indication of how the gameplay looks like, but fans surely already know what to expect especially if they have been playing the closed beta lately.

Epic Games were also there to announce a new IP as CliffyB introduced FortNite to the world. At first glance it looks like Team Fortress 2 with zombies along with some tower defense as well. More details will be revealed in the coming months as we'll see if it turns out to be more than what I just mentioned.

A new trailer for BioShock Infinite was at the show as well being a montage of stuff seen in the same level we have been seeing for months. I'm curious if we'll see more variety soon besides the roller coaster-like railing stuff and the shooting, but I'm still hyped for the game being one of the big ones to get next year.

The main event reveal of the show was the truth being revealed about Metal Gear Solid Rising. Turns out the rumors were true and the game got rebooted to being called Metal Gear Rising: Revengance and it is now being developed by Platinum Games, the folks that made Bayonetta and Vanquish. Raiden is still the star of the show, but the slower pace seen in the trailer above is gonna be interesting for Platinum to work with, but the melee combat can still as crazy as seen in those games. The slashing sequences remind me of No More Heroes a little bit and of course the boss battles will be memorable as well. It is finally cool to see a different developer make a completely new Metal Gear game (Silicon Knights doesn't count) and at least its a fan favorite developer like Platinum doing this. Metal Gear Rising: Revengance is a gonna be a big one being another hit game for next year.

That's it for the VGAs this year as some of the reveals were good and while others were whatever since most of them were basically announcement trailers not showing any gameplay. Obviously the award show part sucked as it is still has a long way to go towards being a legitimate awards show on television. At least this is on TV, but the entertainment spectacle part of it has to be lessened to a certain extent because the humor is getting old. You can get away with the usual gaming jokes for a little period of time, but pulling the same tricks over and over again is just tiring. I'm for happy for Skyrim winning the big one as I see it being game of the year for a lot of gaming sites in the coming weeks.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The new South Park game = Potentially Awesome...

The new Game Informer issue's cover story is about the new South Park game published by THQ and developed by Obsidian. Obisidian making this means it is a RPG as they are no stranger to the genre with Fallout: New Vegas, Neverwinter Nights 2 (I think), and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2. Plus, this ain't just another South Park game as the creators themselves, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, are heavily involved with the project trying to make the script/storyline as good as seen in the TV show. The main cast of boys from the show are of course in big capacity, but the main character is a custom-made guy you make at the start of the game moving in to the town. The GI cover story has more info about how the project started, interviews with Parker and Stone, what the gameplay is shaping up to be so far (somewhat similar to the Paper Mario RPGs), and what the humor will be like. There is no official subtitle yet for the new South Park game as it is currently slated for a 2012 release.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 2011 FGC Majors Preview

The year is coming into the close, but its ending with a bang if you're a fighting game fan itching for more stream monstering and high level action. I will now break down the majors and special events for this month.

NEC 2011 - December 3/4

Northeast Championships has always been a fighting game community staple for numerous years and this year is no different with the best of East Coast and some West Coast folks visiting to duke it out. One reason why NEC is pretty big is that it is the first major for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Lots of crazy and new technology will be shown, but probably also more of the same old goodness that vanilla MvC3 provided. Be prepared to see lots of players get "Wesker-ed" (referring to level 4 Dark Wesker) and maybe the same old Phoenix sheninegans too? It is going to be interesting too to see whether players will stick to their old guns from vanilla or maybe they're confident enough with some of the new characters from Ultimate. From what I seen so far, Nova, Hawkeye, Vergil, and Frank West have been the new rising stars, but don't be surprised to see some blowups by others from the new cast like Phoenix Wright, Firebrand, and Strider. As I mentioned earlier, the best from the East Coast will be there along with some visitors from the Westside such as EG Justin Wong and Broken Tier's Clockwork. I think there are more WC players coming too, but I'm not sure exactly who's going. Anyway, Ultimate MvC3 will likely be the hypest thing at NEC, so definitely check that out. This weekend will also be the last major for Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition as the 2012 update will be out in two weeks. I still expect good stuff from that tourney as well as Mad Catz's Wolfkrone and Dieminion are my picks to win that one. Of course there are other games as well like Mortal Kombat and King of Fighters XIII, but NEC is going to be some sick stuff.

The first stream of AE 2012 hosted by iPlayWinner - 12/3

For those who can't wait for SSFIV: AE 2012 wanting to see what's new, there is a special event hosted by iPlayWinner at Southtown Arcade in San Francisco. NorCal's best from EG Ricky Ortiz, col.CC Filipino Champ, and more will be there going at it and also showing off the new changes for this version. The changelog is out there on SRK, Eventhubs, and Capcom-Unity if you want to know if your character got nerfed or buffed or see if the twins got hammered badly. Since its at Southtown Arcade, it is indeed the arcade version that gets the update first while consoles still have to wait for another two weeks.

The return of Bar Fights!!! - 12/11

Col.CC Gootecks is bringing back Bar Fights next weekend at Los Angeles. If you remember how these go, its basically concept matches of first to 5 or whatever in a certain game among the best players. The only concept match revealed so far is Finger Cramp's Jago against col.CC Mike Ross in a first to 5 in Ultimate MvC3. The finals of Beyond Gaming's Rise of the Web Warrior tournament will also be happening there as (its kind of funny) it is a SoCal vs. SoCal matchup between shglbmx from the OC and Steinmania from the Box Arena at San Diego. I expect most of the other details will be revealed on Cross Counter Live this Tuesday by the man himself on For us LA folks, it is free entry, but seeing how past events like this went, come early to beat the crowds because it is gonna be packed at the new venue Gootecks picked somewhere in LA. I'll likely be there as I know its gonna be good times.

SoCal Regionals 2011 - December 17/18

Level Up is back again for SoCal Regionals as it takes place at UC Irvine. Most of the SoCal communities are running their specific games from Test Your Might doing Mortal Kombat, Dream Cancel with King of Fighters XIII, Level Up Your Game/Avoiding the Puddle for Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (yeah the arcade version of TTT2!), etc. It is also another big major for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 as we will see the best of the West Coast along with some EC visitors going for the crown. This is also the first major for Super Street Fighter IV: AE 2012 being its the first weekend after its console release, so expect big things from this one especially from the international players that are competing (there should be a few coming, but nothing official yet from the Level Up crew as we'll found out in a matter of days). In addition, some of the fighting games out next year will be playable at SCR too. Street Fighter X Tekken will likely be the big one there as maybe a new build will be present that will include everyone's "favorite" thing to talk about, aka the gem system. Namco Bandai is also there with Soul Calibur V (out in the end of January) and Tekken Tag 2. Skullgirls will also have a big presence there as well if you have seen recent Wednesday Night Fights streams with people showing that one off.

Yeah, its a big month ahead for the fighting game community, so whether you're a player, spectator, or a stream monster, things are gonna be hype as we're ending the year strong.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Unleashing the Ultimate Nine Months Later... The Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Review

Note - Most of the videos you'll see in this review will showcase high level gameplay as seen in the fighting game tournament scene.

Earlier this year, fighting game fans finally got what has been a long time coming with Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. It was a great game then filled with lots of potential and ideas only limited by imagination in terms of having that certain team combination that can wreck the competition. As the game's lifespan went on in just a couple of months, there were definitely some things that held it back especially from a high gameplay level perspective. Certain characters were too good and the X-Factor comeback mechanic became more of a problem especially in the hands of tournament players. It was supposed to give casual players a chance to come back from a huge deficit, but as these modern fighting games go with these comeback mechanics, putting that in the hands of tournament level players is a different story. Nine months after its release, we get already get a new version with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Basically, its the same game, but balanced better and bringing back the creativity that was missing from the original's late months despite retaining some of the original's flaws.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is pretty much is similar to Super Street Fighter IV on how they improved their original iterations (well before Arcade Edition screwed things up for Street Fighter IV folks) besides both games being 40 dollars. New characters, new stages, and more online options are just some of the many additions to this new release. The new characters are pretty fun to play with as most of them have potential to be viable threats throughout this game's lifespan. Other than Capcom's favorite ninja Strider-Hiryu returning to the gaming world and Dead Rising's Frank West making a second appearance, the rest of the new characters in UMvC3 are their first appearances in a fighting game. From the Marvel side is an odd mix of characters from the comics at first, but they're a blast and worthy of being in a game like this. Popular guys such as Ghost Rider and Hawkeye are great to have, but seeing folks like Doctor Strange and Iron Fist give the Marvel cast more variety. Even characters that people most likely don't know that they exist like Nova and Rocket Raccoon are also a breath of fresh air too. Meanwhile on the Capcom side, Devil May Cry franchise favorite Vergil can finally unleash more beatdowns as seen in third game of that series. Nemesis from Resident Evil 3 is among one of the tallest fighters in the game alongside Sentinel, but still slow yet deals insane damage if you get hit. The rest of Capcom's new fighters are oddballs you don't expect, but I'm glad they're in. Firebrand from Garogyle's Quest and gaming's favorite lawyer, Phoenix Wright's unique playstyles from their respective games are implemented extraordinarily well as seen with some of Capcom's characters in the original too. With the new characters, Jill & Shuma-Gorath still being DLC, and the original cast being changed up a bit for balance purposes, the unique roster is at nearly 50 and it is just the limit of your imagination coming up with teams and setups with assists to dish out the business.

The core gameplay in this Ultimate version is still the same, but some system additions do spice things up a bit differently than the original and for the better. X-Factor as a comeback mechanic is an interesting idea, but it was a problem especially in level 3 when certain characters such as Dark Phoenix (Phoenix still has to be at five bars of meter before dying for that to happen) become too powerful. It has been toned down as if you can't do 100% combos if given the opportunity in earlier levels, but still retains that threat that anyone can comeback from behind. A new addition in Ultimate for X-Factor is that it can be activated in the air as it is great to avoid certain situations or keep air combos going for more damage. Blocking during air dashing has been taken out here and it is more noticeable to see team aerial exchanges. Matches are still fast and frantic, but they're a little longer than the original due to the toned down damage on most characters.

One problem I had with the original game was the lack of modes to play. Other than the standard arcade, training, and mission modes, there's isn't much variety in single player modes to play and that still has not changed for Ultimate. There is a downloadable free Heroes & Heralds mode coming soon, which is a crazy version of the game with trading cards that mod up certain things. That is still not considered in the review though as the previous modes I mentioned earlier are still the same. Arcade mode is seven stages culminating in a boss fight against Galactus with most of the original characters retaining the same endings as the last game, training mode retains the same options as seen from the original, and mission mode is basically Street Fighter IV's trials with all the characters. The bonus that people got from having an original MvC3 save is the ability to play as Galactus in arcade mode out of the gate than unlocking it later on, but its a throwaway feature. Its been more noticeable in these Capcom fighting games that there is flat out no legit tutorial to get beginner players started.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3's online gameplay was okay at best with its occasional laggy matches. The lack of a spectator mode and a replay system was a big problem though, but now that is included in Ultimate. The netcode was also supposed to be better than the original as Capcom said, but in my personal experience so far, it has been the same with some good matches, but laggy ones every now and then depending on the connection to your opponents. Online still functions the same way with quick and custom matches whether ranked or not as well as lobbies with up to eight players. At least the matchmaking has been improved as if you don't find a match after searching, you don't go back to the the main online menu screen as it was in the original. The competition is already stiff out of the gate as well because of the fact we have been accustomed to the core gameplay for nearly the whole year.

Graphically, Ultimate looks the same compared to the original. It still looks pretty good seeing crazy stuff happen all the time from the beams, lightning, and other projectiles characters throw out. The menus and the character select screen look different as well as an intro cutscene that features the new characters. There is also a comic that starts up after pressing start, which is cool to see. Sound-wise, at least the theme songs when browsing the menu screens and selecting characters are remixed and the "Take You For A Ride" remixes are still there in training mode too. As with the original, both the original and new characters have their own background theme when on screen, but you can also change to the stage music if you're tired of those.

I was a little skeptical at first about Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 coming out just nine months after the original because I thought it was too quick especially compared to the thirteen month gap between Street Fighter IV and its Super incarnation. However, Ultimate is what the original should of been as if it was rushed out in an unfinished state. As we exploited that game, certain glitches became familiar and now are taken out in this new iteration. Good thing it is priced at 40 dollars than the standard 60 because paying full price again would of have been a hard sell for casual players that either missed out or didn't like the original. Fighting game fans should still get this as it is the definitive version of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 with new characters that are a blast to play as with their unique playstyles, balance changes for the system and the original characters for the good so far (despite some characters getting nerfed too hard and most of the original cast getting way better with more damaging options), and supposedly better online. Some problems from the original are still a factor from a lack of modes despite Heroes and Heralds coming soon as free DLC, no definitive tutorial for new players to jump in and learn, and online play still being the same to me. Other than that, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is still a fun and amazing fighting game that got things fixed for the better even though things can be patched up as hopefully we don't see another retail version next year.

Score = 9/10

  • All of the new characters are a blast to play as once you learn them and their unique playstyles are implemented extraordinarily well in a fighting game like this (Phoenix Wright being a specific example).
  • Balance changes to the system such as X-Factor and original characters are have been for the better so far, but of course we'll see after a few months how tourney-level play is going.
  • Spectator mode finally in this version to watch online matches
  • Online matchmaking has been improved
  • 40 dollars!!!
  • Still a lack of modes as the they are the same as the original.
  • Online play was supposedly better, but it has been the same for me personally with the occasional laggy matches.
  • No in-depth tutorial to get new/beginner players going as mission mode is still basically trials mode from the Street Fighter IV games

Sunday, November 13, 2011

One Reason Why Skyrim Is Awesome...

Words cannot describe how amazing this is from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Advance Music Roundup for 11/14/11 aka the "Talk That Talk" Edition

Another year and yet we have another new Rihanna album out next week with Talk That Talk. After last year's Loud album being a big success with numerous hit singles such as "Only Girl (In the World)," "What's My Name" featuring Drake," and "S&M," its not surprising that the pop megastar's hit machine continues with her latest with similar results. Talk That Talk is filled again with potential hits that radio stations will abuse playing for the next few months till RiRi decides to continue the yearly streak. I might as well say it, she is basically the pop music's version of Call of Duty right now. Its easy to hate her crazy success and the fact she fills the airwaves with her singles as if you're hearing it every few minutes. However, you can't blame that she and her production crew are able to still pump out the catchiest songs on a consistent basis.

Talk That Talk does have its hits and misses like her previous album though. I'm already not a fan of the newly announced second single, "You Da One," which starts off this album and also being played abusively on mainstream radio stations. The first single, "We Found Love," is just one of those songs you just want to go crazy and dance, which I had a similar feeling with last year's "Only Girl (In the World)" too. Other highlights from the album for me so far are the second track, "Where Have You Been," arguably one of Rihanna's best songs in a while and you just know it is going to be a hit single eventually. Also, the solid title track features a Jay-Z verse and just another of her groovy tunes to jam to. There are a lack of slow tempo songs too, in other words, ballads as I consider "We All Want Love" and the last track "Farewell" filling in that void. Speaking of the word love, I wish there was a little more originality with the song titles as a third of the album ends with that word, but that's my nitpicky side coming into fruition. Rihanna comes out swinging in the first half with the songs I mentioned above, but the second half won't be as memorable even though some of it is underrated such as "Drunk on Love." and a return to her roots with "Watch & Learn." "Roc Me Out" almost sounds like my favorite song out of Rated R, "Rude Boy." "Birthday Cake" as an interlude is a little disappointing as it could of been another banger if it was longer.

In a nutshell, Rihanna's Talk That Talk is more of the same poppy RiRi pop music fans have been used to with its hits and misses. The hit machine was able to come up with her bangers that you'll hear on KISS FM, Amp Radio, and whatever other station that plays mainstream music for another few months. I'm hoping she takes a different direction in her next one even though this formula for her catchy songs has been working for a while now. Even though the last time she tried a big departure was Rated R, which I didn't like that much, so it will be interesting to change things up if she decides to do so. In the meantime, get ready for another year of Rihanna dominating the airwaves whether you like her or not.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Music Roundup for 11/7/11 aka the "Take Care" Edition

One of the more anticipated mainstream albums this holiday season is out there in the wild, which is the latest from Drizzy aka Drake. Honestly, I was a little disappointed with his debut album, Thank Me Later. I had a certain set of expectations being more rap than R&B as it was the other way around. At least I know this time what I'm getting with Take Care in terms of how things balance out. There's definitely more R&B than rap, but it is better than his last album easily. So far, I'm already loving more tracks in Drizzy's newest compared to Thank Me Later as the production is very good as expected from an album like this. My personal favorites are "Crew Love" featuring The Weeknd, an amazing group by the way (their mixtapes are awesome), the title track "Take Care" featuring Rihanna as it is shaping up to be a big single for Drake off this album, "Underground Kings," and "Lord Knows" featuring Rick "Rozay" Ross. Also, Take Care is more thematic and it shows in his R&B songs. The album does start off with a slow tempo, but it kicks in faster tempo songs where he raps halfway through. As I mentioned earlier, there are definitely songs for Drizzy fans that either prefer his R&B side or his rapping style. There is even a nod to Juvenile in the "Back That Thang Up" sampled song, "Practice." Young Money cohorts Lil' Wayne & Nicki Minaj also have their features in this album as well as well as cameo appearances from Andre 3000 of Outkast and even Stevie Wonder. In a nutshell, Drake's sophomore album Take Care is better than his debut effort even though it is more of the same old Drizzy with a good mix of R&B and rap. There are some misses, but overall this is a satisfying album fans will like especially with the potential bangers Drake decides to use as singles.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mortal Kombat on blast!!!!

Yup.... literally on blast lol.

Insert "Mortal Kombat theme goes with everything" joke...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Just Another Call of Duty Commercial...

The "most anticipated game in history" is out Tuesday and here's the live action commercial featuring Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill. Its pretty much an encore of the Black Ops ad with the same promo line of there is a soldier within all of us. Now that I seen most of the campaign in action, I'm obviously not sold about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 living up to the title I mentioned earlier. Yeah, it is still going to sell gangbusters and people will log on numerous hours of multiplayer that didn't change significantly.

Mass Effect 3 Beta Leaks... Gets Taken Down in Hours & Now the Story Leaks Too

Last night, fall Xbox dashboard update preview owners got a nice treat, or in other cases, a leaked beta for Mass Effect 3. This beta is obviously not meant for release publicly as it is meant to be only internal and it shows. Some spots look pretty rough and unfinished as it got taken down by Microsoft and BioWare in a matter of several hours, but it is still playable with the sections it showed off. There is an earth level you start with, which is likely the beginning of the game, as you reunite with Captain Anderson to survive the Reaper assault and find survivors. The next segment of the single-player demo has been seen in press events as it takes place in the Salarian homeworld as more characters return from the previous games (Wrex, Liara, Garrus, and Mordin assuming they're alive by the end of the last game). Here, Shepard and Wrex have to save arguably the Krogans' last hope for survival from the Salarians except Reapers and even Cerebrus show up in attempt to ruin that.

The big reveal out of this beta for single player is that is three modes of approach to the final game as they consists of action, story, and RPG modes. It pretty much comes down to preferences how people would play the game as the story mode for example lets you play the game for the story and have an easier time in combat sections while those who like the combat sections would go with action mode. However, it seems to be that RPG mode is the one to go with if you played the previous games and want all hands-on on what's going from the dialogue trees and key story decisions. Gameplay-wise, it is still Mass Effect with the improved combat as you likely seen Shepard's improved abilities from melee attacks and rolling to evade. The recently revealed co-op, Galaxy at War, is also there in some way too, but there's not much to say with that if you read previews on various game sites.

Mass Effect 3 is still coming on March 6, 2012 and this beta leaking out reminds me I need to play the last stretch of Mass Effect 2 again to keep my vital characters alive for this finale (I did let one die, which sucked). More videos of this beta are blow courtesy of NeoGAF.

UPDATE - The videos are taken down for obvious reasons, but that's not all. This private beta did more damage than just leaking out as even a script of the whole story was leaked out as people were messing around with the beta's files. Yeah, the whole story of Mass Effect 3 is out there in the wild filled with spoilers galore. It still sucks that something as big as this gets leaked five months before release, but BioWare claims some of the story details in that script are not final. Those who read it though have a pretty good idea how the main game will play out now.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Greatness from Small Beginnings... the Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Review

Note - The gameplay videos and some things I'll talk about will likely contain spoilers, so watch at your own risk!

Nathan Drake's amazing adventures for treasure and lost cities continue in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Lots of expectations have been set for this sequel to top the last game, Among Thieves since it was able to set new standards for the third-person shooter and gaming in general. Naughty Dog elevated things up to eleven last time as it seems like they're trying to turn it up to sixteen with the new scenes Nate has to survive if you have seen glimpses of them in trailers. While the campaign is still filled with memorable moments that are unmatched in most games today, I do have little issues with it that prevent it from perfection. Despite that, Uncharted 3 is still the one of the best complete gaming packages you'll get this year with improved multiplayer and better co-op.

The story in Drake's Deception is a little more personal this time as it centers around Drake and his mentor Sully's friendship as someone they knew from their past, named Katherine Marlowe, is after the same thing they're going after which is the Atlantis of the Sands. It is up Nate and his crew to get to the lost city before Marlowe and her bodyguard Talbot do, something that even Sir Francis Drake did not achieve back in his days. Along the way, you'll have your supporting cast travel to various locations as you'll run into Chloe and Elena at certain points of the game. Their roles are not as significant as they were last game, so if you're wishing to see more of them, you're not going to get that as this is more about Drake and Sully (you got a lot of them last game). Their friendship and banter is just one of the many special things in this new entry as Naughty Dog once again did a great job with the character interaction being more human than what games allow them to be. You can't just help but love the characters for who they are and how fleshed out they are as if they are better than most characters you see in Hollywood movies today. The storyline does have its crazy twists and turns as certain scenes are still something the developers can only pull off extraordinarily well even though it does follow a similar structure if you played previous games in the franchise.

The core gameplay in the campaign is still the same as Uncharted 2 as there are platforming and climbing sections, puzzles to solve, and of course the shooting. Melee combat has been improved as they feel more like Hollywood-like brawls with normal punching especially against big enemies and groups. What I mean by Hollywood-like is that even though Drake will have certain moves, some animations of the melee feel more normal than just resorting to game logic. Platforming and climbing sections didn't really improve that much, but I do have an issue with them more in this game than last time. Usually these sections are pretty linear as there is only one way to transverse through. Sometimes, there will be moments where you can just jump down because it is not that high of a jump, but in the campaign at certain times, you'll die because you didn't use a ladder or edges to climb down. This got annoying to me as they got more scripted even though I know the developers are so cinematic when it comes to certain sequences. This is not an issue in multiplayer, which I'll talk more about it later, as you can take a pretty big leap and not die as dumb as you can sometimes during the campaign.

Then there's the shooting sections as they are still fine for the most part. It has the same progression of weapons to use as you start out with normal pistols and an AK-47 till more of the power weapons kick in later in the game as well as certain situations. Personally, I didn't have any problems with the aiming as some claimed have as there is some input lag. Cover is still useful in the campaign compared to multiplayer especially when you're in a bad spot or just taking out enemies on a methodical pace rather than rushing in like a maniac with melee attacks (There's vertical cover segments straight out of Dark Void too). The firefights obviously get a little more difficult later on as you have to be smarter and patient tackling these. The enemy AI will flak and move in on you when they can even in on normal difficulty and there are tons of armored guys that will have lots of bullets to kill in the later half of the game. In a nutshell, the firefights will make you work and that's still a good thing to me being a challenge. Of course there are the crazy, memorable sequences to deal with as well as they are still amazing, but some of them are feel like they did them before, but with some slight twists. For example, remember the train level from Uncharted 2? Okay, let's try to replicate that in a boat level and a plane level too. Another example would of a certain sequence from the last game being somewhat replicated here is the level with multiple trucks as horseback gets thrown in the equation too, which is still a cool scene to play through, but it still felt like I did this before. Despite my issues with the campaign, I still had a great time with it as it is still one of the best single-player experiences you'll play this year, but the formula that was set in Among Thieves is starting to feel a little too familiar.

Besides the campaign, Uncharted 3's multiplayer and co-op elements have been improved significantly. The developers have learned some lessons from the last game and most of them have been fixed. They made as feature-heavy as they can to complete with the other shooter juggernauts out this holiday season from competitive loadouts seen in Call of Duty games, the leveling up system making a return (Sidenote - stats from the Subway beta will carry over and campaign stats are not factored in here like it was last game), weapon mods, replay and party systems, boosters and kickbacks that are basically perks, sprinting, Facebook support, character customization, and more. While they have able to fit in all these features to make it robust, the multiplayer still feels like Uncharted with the climbing and cover. Good thing Naughty Dog released two betas before the game's release to get it right as there were problems especially in the Subway version. Blindfire arguably was better than just aiming as you can rush in on a guy Rambo style and then rifle butt them to finish them off. Firefights became more chaotic than the developers intended it to be I guess as balance to me seems to be fine so far in the final version. Aiming still works to get kills and blindfire when things get tense and up close. No booster or kickback (you earn kickbacks by attaining a certain amount of medals doing specific tasks) combination doesn't feel overpowered and most of the maps are fun to play. The modes are still the same from the standard team deathmatch, team objective, plunder, hardcore, and so on as there is still that diversity if you're tired of playing one mode consistently. Co-op is also better with a five-level adventure mode that has its own storyline takes place in different versions of levels seen here and past games as well as past villains being up to no good again. There's also co-op arena, Uncharted's horde mode with its own twists, and hunter too as ways to get lots of money to level up. Competitive multiplayer and co-op is still a blast to play as more is to come in the future with downloadable maps and patches if Naughty Dog works on them.

It probably an understatement that Uncharted 3 looks gorgeous and jaw-dropping as it was expected to be. From the characters (maybe some characters look a little off as they were in UC2), the various environments, the water/sand effects, and sequences you're thrown in, it is one of the best looking games in this generation of consoles. There are certain moments where the camera pans out seeing how big the area you're in and how crazy the situation you're in, which is also a nice touch and pretty much only seen in Sony's first party games, mainly also in the God of War franchise. In addition, the urban environments are unmatched in terms of interaction of the surrounding characters with Yemen being the specific example. The sound production also remains unmatched compared to most games today as well. Nolan North again reprises his role as Nathan Drake as he delivers another amazing performance along with the rest of the voice cast that has worked with the franchise. The voice acting here is still better than most Hollywood movies too along with the soundtrack too.

It is pretty safe to say that Uncharted is arguably Sony's number one franchise now and it shows in Drake's Deception with Naughty Dog's development. This is as a blockbuster game as it gets being the complete package from the amazing campaign even though it sticks to a familiar formula that was established in the last game, the feature-heavy multiplayer that can stand up to the other shooter juggernauts, and improved co-op. I do have my nitpicky issues with the campaign, but the memorable moments you play through that feel like cutscenes but they're not and character interaction still overshadows them. Multiplayer is still a blast even though I have been playing it for months with the summer and Subway betas. The graphical and sound quality is still as top notch as it has been for the whole franchise as well. While it is another home run yet not a grand slam, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is still one of the best games you'll play this year and even this generation, so do not miss this one at any cost.

Score = 9.5/10

  • Memorable moments throughout the campaign, still one of the best single-player experiences this year
  • Great and lovable characters as expected from Naughty Dog
  • Core gameplay still great and improved melee combat
  • Better multiplayer and co-op from last game (very feature-heavy too)
  • Graphical and sound production/quality unrivaled
  • Nitpicky issues with the campaign as it sticks to a familiar formula and structure (same goes for the story too). Some sequences feel like retreads from the last game but with a slight twist and the platforming/climbing sections are a little too scripted.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

This HD Collection is Keeping It Stylish...

The HD collection train continues next year with Capcom's Devil May Cry franchise. The first three games will be bundled together for release early next year on PS3 and the Xbox 360. Its also another way for fans to warm up for Ninja Theory's reboot of Dante even though the hardcore franchise fanboys still wouldn't give it a chance. Anyway, here's the trailer for the Devil May Cry HD Collection as its going to be interesting to revisit one of my favorite series of last generation (DMC4 was okay, but DMC3 is still the pinnacle of the franchise for me). The one inclusion that will be curious is obviously the weak link of the franchise, aka Devil May Cry 2, and how it will probably be hated again.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rockstar brings GTA back to LA...

The long awaited trailer for Grand Theft Auto V is here (well not really long awaited since we knew how official it is a week or two ago) and Rockstar North is bringing it back to Los Angeles. Maybe in their own words, it would be Los Santos from San Andreas. Glimpses of places to visit range from the Vinewood sign, mountains that remind me of the Angeles National Forest, the wind plants straight out of Palm Springs, a look-a-like of Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, and more. It is still early to tell how big this version of Los Santos will be as it could be the whole LA vicinity (imagine that folks!) with its freeway system, but I don't think its going to be San Andreas all over again with San Francisco and Vegas thrown into the mix.

Oh yeah I forgot, we do have a sense who the main protagonist (some Frank West look-a-like) is with no name other his voice probably narrating the clip of wanting to live a certain lifestyle.

Anyway, watch the trailer multiple times as Grand Theft Auto V should come out next fall on 360 and PS3 (maybe day and date for PC version too?).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rocket Raccoon and Frank West UMvC3 Clips...

Happy Halloween everyone as Capcom finally shows off the last two characters yet to be seen in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which is out in two weeks.

There is a lot of hype for Rocket Raccoon, a Marvel character that was unexpected and hope he would continue a certain tradition. I'm not sure if that tradition is back, but this raccoon definitely has his own bag of tricks to be not the joke character some feared he would be. The burrowing concept for instance is somewhat new for a fighting game like this, but he has projectiles and traps that can OTG. Being a small character means he'll probably won't do that much damage, but if you want to style on dudes, give Rocket Raccoon a shot on your main team.

Frank West from the Dead Rising series returns to the fighting game world after his debut in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. For those thinking he will be the same from that game, think again as he has some differences. Taking snapshots with his camera increase some level for something (perhaps more damage?). He doesn't have a level 3 hyper move, but his three level 1s have their uses. His cart hyper is OTG (the other OTG move is a sweep, which is probably crouch H), a rush-like combination hyper that can go through projectiles if timed right, and an anti-air giant swing where he puts on the Servbot head on you.

There's more what these two characters are capable of than my descriptions as I will update this post with the match videos as soon as they get up on the interwebs. Maybe I'll just the man himself Seth Killian demo these guys off for the IGN folks.
UPDATE - Match videos below! (What's up Chuck Greene Chris & Ken, oh wait its just Ryu with Ken colors)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Let's Go Away, Let's Go Away... The Daytona USA (PSN) Review

One of Sega's greatest arcade games finally gets the downloadable port treatment on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network, which is Daytona USA. Back in 1993, this was a game that started a train of arcade racers by Sega and the one setting standards for the genre in general. After numerous disappointing ports on the Sega Saturn, PC, and the Dreamcast, Daytona finally gets a proper home port it deserves even though it is based on a HD re-release back at arcades called Sega Racing Classic, which was basically the same game without the name due to rights issues. Sega now has the rights back to use the Daytona name for this PSN/XBLA port and while they have done a lackluster job with their Genesis game ports on these consoles, they have done way better with their arcade games as this one was no exception. Daytona USA is still as good and fun as it was back in 1993 and easily worth your ten dollars.

The same arcade game is intact in this version from the three courses, the catchy soundtrack, and the intense racing action. This was arcade racing at its finest as it is the same infamous Hornet car, automatic or manual transmission, and overtaking the opposition, whether its the CPU or online opponents. Daytona was also one of many racers back then that had a pick up and play mentality, but deeper than you think gameplay once you learn more of the tactics especially drifting in sharper turns, drafting as seen in a NASCAR race, and boost starting at the harder courses. There is a rewind feature new to these versions, but its one of those unnecessary things to have even though today's racers have something similar. Besides the main arcade mode, there are actually some extra modes to keep players going for a bit solo on these new home versions. Besides the standard time trials, there are challenges to complete ranging from mastering the game's tougher turns at the various courses to learning the tactics I mentioned earlier. In addition, survival mode lets you stay on the track as long as you can till the timer runs out as you extend time performing certain tasks. Then there's the karaoke mode seen in the Saturn version where you can recite the lyrics of the game's catchy songs while driving, which is a neat bonus for fans. Even though it doesn't seem to be enough content considering it is still the three courses and their mirrored versions, there is online multiplayer to round out the package.

Online multiplayer is maxed out at eight players as getting into games are done by simple lobbies. There are options to mess around with when hosting matches such as whether or not to include non-player cars, race in the mirrored versions, and turning tire fatigue on or off especially in longer games. My gripe with the lobbies is that sometimes that if not all the players are readied up (tends to be two of more players though), the lobby resets to the join in screen making matches longer to start than they should. As far as how matches go, they feel great with minimal latency issues. Opposing cars might be slightly not moving as normal as they would due to their connection. Other than that, these races are as intense as they were when racing against seven other players at those big car setups at some Dave & Busters. Even if you had a bad crash at the beginning of a race, there is still an opportunity to come back and no lead is ever safe at any of the courses even if you're doing well. My only disappointment with the online multiplayer is surprisingly a lack of online leaderboards in the menus to track down who are the best players as you're just there racing for fun even though that seems to be enough for most people. The leaderboards only consist of the best times in time trials and distance traveled in the survival mode. The other major missing feature in this port is local multiplayer despite this still being the arcade version as it would been nice to some splitscreen too.

In terms of how HD this version of Daytona USA looks, this is not some full-fledged HD remake with the visuals. It is the same 18 year old game (or bascially Sega Racing Classic), but with widescreen and cleaned up textures. The framerate is consistently smooth with no slowdown at all as seen in past PSN/XBLA releases by Sega's AM2 port team. The soundtrack is still as catchy and memorable as it was back in the day. The intro theme hearing "Daytona... let's go away" is a great nostalgic trip as well as the rolling start at the start of the beginner course. The sound effects and voice overs also remain the same with no issues at all.

Even though it feels like a trip down memory lane, the PSN/XBLA port of Daytona USA is arguably Sega's best downloadable effort on these consoles. It is finally the proper home port fans have been waiting for numerous years after experiencing disappointing versions in the past. Besides the extra single-player modes, the fun and addicting online multiplayer will keep players going for a while despite not noticing any leaderboards for that. The game still looks great despite how old it is compared to today's racing games and the catchy soundtrack is as memorable as it was eighteen years ago. If you're itching for some good old-fashioned arcade racing, Daytona USA is a blast and easily worth the ten dollar price.

Score = 8.5/10

  • As arcade perfect as it gets (the best port of this game)
  • Racing as still as fun and intense as it was back in the arcade days
  • Extra single-player modes and online multiplayer to increase replay value
  • The catchy soundtrack
  • I didn't see any online multiplayer leaderboards tracking wins or ranking (only for time trial and survival modes)
  • Online matches sometimes take longer to start if not all players are readied up when the countdown goes to zero.
  • No local multiplayer

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Best Superhero Game Gets Better... The Batman: Arkham City Review

Note: The following gameplay videos might contain spoilers, so watch at your own risk.

Batman: Arkham Asylum came out of nowhere in 2009. Yeah, it has Batman in it, but no one expected it to be that amazing considering the track record with games based on popular comic book heroes. Not only the developers Rocksteady created something special with that game, they set new standards with its combat system and nailing down how it truly feels to be the Caped Crusader. They're at it again with Arkham City to make things bigger and better. It is basically a by-the-numbers sequel with incremental improvements, but it doesn't mean it is a bad thing. Those who loved Arkham Asylum's presentation and storyline will be at love with Arkham City from beginning to end as Rocksteady does it again nailing down the important thing that matters with games like these: actually being Batman and the badass he is.

Arkham City takes place six months after the events of Arkham Asylum as the prisoners have moved to a new prison closer to Gotham, which explains the title of this sequel. Hugo Strange has big plans for this new location being the owner of it as the beginning starts off with a twist that I won't spoil. It is up to Batman to stop Strange's Protocol Ten plan from going down, but with his infamous villains such as The Joker, Penguin, and Mister Freeze still roaming around the area, he has his work cut out for him as you figure out how all these villains are connected to the main storyline. Then there's also Catwoman thrown in the mix as well as she is playable only you downloaded the online pass that comes with new copies of the game. Those without an online connection are out of luck seeing how she fits into the equation as the whole issue surrounding that can be debated in another time. Playing through the entire story is one crazy experience seeing how all these villains are thrown together into one huge game and its filled with unexpected twists and turns I didn't see coming. While some villains might not get some attention or have a bigger role as much of other villains as some of them just make a cameo appearance, its still nice to see them in some capacity in Arkham City.

The core gameplay that Arkham Asylum established is still intact in this sequel. The freeflow combat system is still as good as it was, but the little improvements are great additions to Batman's disposal. You can still mash your way through these fights, but keeping your multiplier alive still makes it deep when you mix things up. What I mean is when you use your gadgets and other special takedowns than just normal strikes. Timing critical strikes is key and quickfiring your gadgets have been improved significantly. As you progress through the game, enemies will get better with their weaponry from knives to guns as when encountering armed foes, Batman needs to be more careful as a smoke pellet can do only so much when escaping. Even though most of his gadgets are unlocked from the get go, the game does a good job of telling you when its the right time certain items are used in battle or just to transverse to the next area. Grappling and gliding from one area of the city to another is fun as well with some improvements done to those mechanics as well such as dive bombing to extend your glide. Along with the freeflow system, there's also the predator combat system as well returning from the last game. One of the flaws from Asylum was about detective mode and how it became essentially a win button of sorts when picking off enemies one by one grappling from one gargoyle to another. Detective mode is still in and the same, but you don't need it as much as you would back in the original. You can still use to plan out your attack and check how the environment can be your friend as well. Eventually enemies will become smarter in later encounters when detective mode can not be as useful and them using thermal vision to track your whereabouts. There is no other franchise than this one nailing down what it is truly like to be the Batman and with the little improvements, it just gets better.

One of the big things promised in Arkham City is supposed to be how more open-ended it was to be than the original. Asylum was also remembered for being Batman in a Metroidvania-like game (structured like Metroid Prime & Castlevania: Symphony of the Night), but in 3D. The structure still holds true here in a sense as there are side missions and collect-a-thons to distract you from continuing the main story, but turns out it wasn't as open-ended people hoped it would be tackling different areas in a different order. The main path is pretty linear if you focus just on that and beat the game in normally a dozen hours. Of course, it takes longer to 100% the game with the Riddler trophies/challenges to collect and side missions to deal with. There's also a new game plus option once you beaten the game to start off with your gadgets intact, but the counter indicators from enemies is off. As with the last game, challenge rooms are back in Arkham City for combat and predator sections. Along with that, there are campaigns that mix the two together in a string of events to add into the absurd amount of replay value.

Graphically, Arkham City looks as good if not slightly better than Asylum. The character models are great from top and bottom especially seeing Batman's status of his suit change from the beginning of the game to the end. The urban environments are a change of pace compared to the island from the last game as you can only go inside certain buildings that are significant for the main story and side missions. While the framerate is consistently smooth at 30 frames per second, I did run into numerous freezing issues during my time with the game where I had to reset the console (it even froze during the last boss fight for example). The sound is still as top-notch as it was last time from the amazing voice acting to the soundtrack. Kevin Conroy reprises his role as Batman from the animated series as well as Mark Hamill's amazing job voicing the Joker, but the rest of the voice cast is great too as fanservice. At this rate, it is never a Batman game or even the cartoon unless Conroy is voicing the Caped Crusader himself.

While Arkham City feels like a by-the-numbers sequel that kept it safe, the little improvements and change of setting still made the best superhero game better. The freeflow combat system remains unmatched by most action games in the market today as well as nailing the true essence of being a character like Batman. The replay value is just absurd with the amount of collectables, easter eggs, new game plus, and challenge rooms to complete that will keep players busy for weeks and even months with downloadable content of more playable characters. Some promises however didn't come as people expected and my personal freezing issues prevent it from pure perfection, but it is still one of the best games of the year and a masterpiece you can't miss out on.

Score = 9.5/10

  • The true feeling of being Batman gets better
  • Freeflow combat system still as good as it was and unmatched compared to most of today's games
  • Storyline full of unexpected twists and turns making it one of the best single-player experiences I played through in a while
  • Crazy amount of replay value that will keep players busy for weeks
  • Not as open-ended as some hoped it would be (still structured similarly to Asylum)
  • Game freezing issues I personally experienced
  • The Catwoman online pass debacle - if you don't have an online connection, you're out of luck.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Some Dance Central 2 Vids for your Sunday...

Some folks have Dance Central 2 early and most of the songs are up on YouTube (hard difficulty), so here's some of them.

David Guetta feat. Akon - "Sexy Chick" (Arguably the hardest song in the game tier-wise)

Britney Spears - "Toxic" (NOTE - This is a cover as if we're back in 2006 in terms of rocking cover songs on games. Harmonix I guess didn't get the rights to use the actual song... makes you wander if Britney is really that hard to get in games like these).

Willow Smith - "Whip My Hair" (no surprise that song is in the game)

Lady Gaga - "Born This Way" and "Bad Romance" (Gaga is one of a handful artists that have at least two songs in the game)

More soon... still the Kinect game to get this holiday season (well if you want 4-player dancing rather than two here in DC2, u can get Just Dance 3).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

BF3 vs. MW3 (Launch Trailer Showdown)

The big first-person shooter face off begins Tuesday with Battlefield 3's release while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is still two weeks after. Launch trailers seem to be another new trend in the gaming industry these days as Battlefield's came out yesterday and Activision had to follow suit with their launch clip for MW3. Anyway, here they are...

If you've been following my stance on which is better, you should know by now who I'm still repping.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Soul Calibur V's Guest Character Finally Revealed

Soul Calibur V's guest character has been rumored for a week, but looked like that came true as Ezio from the Assassins Creed franchise is officially in the game. So far, Ezio is pretty much the only guest that has made sense to appear in a SC game compared to Link, Heihachi, Spawn, Darth Vader, Yoda, and Kratos. Those characters (Link and Kratos being the exception I guess) are a little too crazy to have, but nice for the sake for fantasy. Ezio has retain most of his moves and gadgets from his games in the Soul Calibur world, but as with guest characters in general, don't expect him to be high up in the tier list. Supposedly, Soul Calibur V is coming out as early as January, which is a little surprising, but we'll see when Namco Bandai makes an announcement regarding that soon.

SSX Comes Out on Valentine's Day

EA finally announces a final release date for SSX, which is February 14, 2012 (aka Valentine's Day). Along with this announcement is another new trailer and I'm still pretty excited for the return of my favorite snowboarding franchise. I'm assuming a demo will come out a month prior, so keep your fingers crossed for that soon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

PSN Demo Showcase for 10/19/11

Today's PSN Demo Showcase features the latest iterations of two long-lasting franchises with one featuring hedgehogs and the other with cars.

First up is another demo for Sonic Generations as this time it features both classic and modern Sonic in the Green Hill Zone. The classic Sonic's level is the same as the 20th anniversary demo except with an annoying Chao being some sort of tutorial. New on the demo landscape though is modern Sonic's Green Hill level. For those who don't know, modern Sonic is based on the 3D games (Adventure, Heroes, Unleashed, Colors) with speed boosts and homing attacks. If you especially played Sonic Unleashed (not for the disastrously Werehog levels), you will feel right at home with modern Sonic's controls. The level is a longer than classic Sonic's version and features a rock remix of the infamous Green Hill theme, something you would hear from one of the recent 3D games. For Generations, modern Sonic seems fine to me even though I had an easier with classic Sonic because I played the older games more than the disappointing new ones (Colors being an exception). Sonic Generations is out on November 1 and hopefully this breaks the Sonic Cycle once for all, but there is a feeling that it won't somehow knowing Sonic Team.

The other featured demo this week is Need for Speed: The Run, EA Black Box's return to the franchise after their last disappointing effort with Undercover. After last year's success of Hot Pursuit, EA seems fine with attaching autolog to all their high profile games now with this one being no exception. This is your Standard Need for Speed demo with two cars (Porsche Carrera S and the Lambo Gallardo) to choose from and two tracks available to race through. Both of the tracks are point-to-point and require a certain amount of cars to pass through to complete the race. None of the new features such as the debatable on-foot sequences are in this demo as it is straight up racing in Death Valley and a snow environment. The snow track is more interesting since there are avalanches popping up everywhere throughout the race against just one car as you attempt to pass it along with avoiding any hazards. Getting wrecked does allow rewinds to go down as seen in previous Need for Speed games as it rewinds you to the last checkpoint you crossed rather than the turn before. The graphics of this demo definitely show it is from an early build, so we'll see how the final game looks when it comes on November 15.

Grand Theft Auto III Celebrates 10 Years

This Sunday is the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest games of all-time, which is Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto III. It was a game ahead of its time changing everything we knew about games how open-ended it was, the controversy it caused, and the amount of insanity you can cause. I remember the day I getting the last copy at a Toys R Us during my PS2's first month and experiencing firsts of many. For a week or two, I didn't care about progressing through the main story as I rather try to cause as much chaos as I can till I die. Throw in cheat codes into the mix and it was crazy times back in October 2001. Then I realized that the main storyline was worth it after all with the crazy amount of twists and turns till the finale. Liberty City and gaming in general wasn't the same for the next ten years looking where we are now.

It would be interesting to see what if GTA III didn't come out and set the standard for modern games. Would Japan remain its dominance in the gaming landscape even today or other western developers took this idea for their own? Let's face it, that game did pretty much changed everything as it was the start of a new era and direction for the industry as well as a gateway for more Western developers to follow suit.

Happy 10th anniversary to Grand Theft Auto III and thanks for flipping the game industry upside down to become what it is today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

EA Sports Goes From Jamming to Blitzing...

Fresh off NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, EA Sports is also bringing back the arcade football classic NFL Blitz to the current generation as a download on January 8, 2012. Jam announcer Tim Kitzrow returns for this new Blitz and Tiburon is handling development (the Madden folks). After seeing how great of a comeback NBA Jam was for EA, I'm expecting the same level of goodness for Blitz too and I think fans will get that.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

This Video = I Have No Words

This is too funny yet so dumb at the same time... thanks Marvel 3!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Street Fighter X Tekken at NYCC

Besides Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Capcom is also showing off the latest details with Street Fighter X Tekken as it now has a release date of March 6, 2012 (same day as Mass Effect 3). There's also a special edition confirmed, but I'll probably be suckered to getting it even though it could of been better. The big gameplay feature being revealed is the gem system, which seems be another questionable addition like Pandora, but I'll still wait till the final game if things work out together after all. The gem system allows for stats buffs for a limited time, but customizable before starting a match. More character teasers are also up for certain Tekken characters and after being seen in a previous trailer, Rufus is confirmed playable too. Its going to be interesting how tournaments will handle the gem system, but with another crazy gameplay system out there along with the rest of the other crazy business, there's a lot to think about in this game.

Anyway, the character teasers are below.

One Reason Why Light Gun Games are the Best

Maybe these guys take light gun games way too seriously. Then again, that's probably why they're the best.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Here Come The Men In Black... on Current-Gen Consoles

One 90s movie franchise returns to the gaming world as Activision announces a new Men in Black game for a 2012 release on current generation consoles. There is Men in Black 3 coming out next year I think or even 2013, so this new game will probably coincide with the movie or perhaps it will be an original storyline. Activision and a movie license usually means bad results and the developer doesn't seem to have a good track record of games worked on, but you never know. Even these first screenshots don't look that impressive and I don't see Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith doing voice work for this too.

At least this gives me a good excuse to post the infamous Will Smith song and video.

A New & Lengthy Final Fantasy XIII-2 Trailer

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is still probably not the sequel everyone wanted, but its still coming out in January 31, 2012 for PS3 and 360. Oh, this trailer also spoils the first game's ending in case people didn't play it yet as this sequel begins right after it. I'm not sure the story makes any sense yet, but I guess folks that liked XIII's gameplay will be fine with XIII-2. For the non-Japan versions, Charice does the theme song called "New World" which is sort of better than Leona Lewis's "My Hands" for XIII. Anyway, we'll see if Square can turn things around in January.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at New York Comic-Con

New York Comic-Con is this weekend is its no surprise Capcom is there using the event for their latest character reveals for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. One of the most anticipated fighting game characters is finally being shown off as well as another of Marvel's lesser known heroes.

Everyone's favorite ace attorney Phoenix Wright finally makes it to a fighting game and boy he lives up to the hype. Even though he seems to be sheninegans-based, he just looks simply fun to play throwing out paper, delivering objection hammers, and a OTG level 3 that looks too good. He has another meter above the hyper meter to store his evidence, as who knows how that is utilized (more damage? he needs three or four pieces of evidence to do his level 3?). Capcom added a lot of the effects that have appeared in the Ace Attorney games as they did another great job translating one of their beloved characters into a different genre.

Nova is one of Marvel's lesser known heroes and another character that can hit hard once he gets going. Along with Taskmaster, Storm, Spider-Man, and some others he doesn't have a level 3 hyper move, but the hypers he has will get the job done. He has lots of wall bounce and OTG capabilities, so I'm sure he'll be fun to mess around with.

There is only Frank West and Rocket Raccoon left to reveal out of the whole roster, which I think Capcom will save that for the end of the month. As expected with these videos, more match footage is below.

UPDATE - Well here's your perfect screen in UMvC3 (This didn't happen in vanilla)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let's Go Away on October 25/26

After teasing it a couple weeks back with a contest, Sega officially announces Daytona USA for Xbox Live Arcade on October 26 and Playstation Network a day earlier for ten dollars. The same game that you loved at the arcades is finally getting a proper port on consoles (Saturn and Dreamcast versions were disappointing from what I seen). Widescreen support is in as seen in Sega Racing Classic (the same Daytona without the name) as well as online multiplayer with up to eight players on the three tracks. Extra modes are included such as the karaoke mode from the Saturn version. As I said back from the teaser blog post...

Rrrolllliiinnnggg Sttaaaaaaaarrrttt!!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Next Big Thing Returns in WWE '12

This is pretty surprising when I first read about it, but now it is happening. Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar returns to what made him the beast it is today. He is a playable legend in WWE' 12, which is out next month. Considering what you have to go through is get this approved from the UFC, this is pretty big. Dana White has said on numerous occasions that him and Vince McMahon are good friends and not competitors, so I guess Dana decided to let Brock appear in a wrestling game again. Of course, it doesn't mean The Next Big Thing will return to the actual WWE as he has a big fight against Overeem in December for the UFC, but its still nice to see him back in a WWE product.

Here Comes the Pain indeed (I'm not sure about his remixed entrance music as the original is still pretty good)

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Dance Game Battle Begins This Week!

Tomorrow begins this year's dance game battle as Just Dance 3 releases on Wii, 360, and PS3 while Dance Central 2 is still on track for October 25 exclusively on Kinect. I actually saw the Wii version at my local Target last weekend (Target has two exclusive songs) and was tempted to get it at its 40 dollar price, but good thing it was only temptation. I still expect this to sell gangbusters this holiday season as here's one of the songs in full that is everyone's favorite song on radio this year. Its cool that LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" is in it, but its missing one important thing: Shuffling!!!! To be fair, Just Dance 3 doesn't really include actual chereography to certain songs as Dance Central 2 has been doing for the most part in some of their songs.

Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer Pretty Much Official...

Mass Effect 3's multiplayer has been rumored even since the game's original announcement last year, but looks like its going down after all according to next month's Official Xbox Magazine cover story. The issue comes out next week and probably the embargo on everyone else will be up by then to spill the beans on what BioWare has been up to. Even they announced it early on their Twitter about confirming some sort of multiplayer component. No official word what it is actually going to be whether its the standard competitive modes, co-op through the campaign, or a horde style mode as of yet, but I guess we have to wait till next week for the info along with plans for downloadable content (An online pass has been rumored as well). Personally, it is inevitable Mass Effect 3 is getting it and also probably one of many reasons it was delayed to March 2012. The big campaign is what still matters at the end of the day as we determine the fate of Shepard in the conclusion of this epic trilogy.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Who Needs the Lockout, Its Boom-Shakalaka Time!!! The NBA Jam: On Fire Edition Review

EA's NBA Jam reboot last year was a great return to form for the arcade basketball classic. Even though it was a retail release, this year's On Fire Edition is download only on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. NBA Jam being download only is for the best since you're getting a better value for a decent amount of content. Some new gameplay additions and online features are introduced for this year's version, but its still NBA Jam at its core, which what matters importantly at the end of the day. From ridiculous dunks, Tim Kitzrow saying boomshakalaka numerous times, and tons of unlockables, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is a great downloadable package that is worth your fifteen bucks.

The classic NBA Jam gameplay is still intact in this version sticking to the signature 2v2 format. Games are fast and intense with easy scoring, but as sports goes, a great defense equals a great offense. Defending is key to success with the classic pushes, stealing, and timed blocks. Players on offense can still use their elbows like the original to avoid pushes, but that can only do so much. Scoring still consists of normal shooting, crazy dunks, alley oops, and being on fire to do insane over the top dunks. The new gameplay additions are great adding along to your ways to score. Team Fire allows both teammates to be on fire by scoring three alley oops in a row then the ball goes on blue fire. There is a time limit with team fire, but the opposing team can distinguish it with an alley oop of their own. Razzle dazzle brings some style to the mix with tricks straight out of NBA Street even though it is just a way to show off and crazy shots you normally don't see in a real basketball game. Tag mode is simply controlling both teammates instead of one human and one CPU AI the whole game. Having that on has its advantages and weaknesses, but at least it makes Jam feel somewhat modern to the simulation b-ball games. The core gameplay is still fun, pick up to play, and a blast especially against local friends, where it can get pretty competitive once good games get going.

While last year's reboot has numerous modes that spiced up things from boss characters and other crazy stipulations, On Fire Edition sticks straight to the point of good old fashioned NBA Jam taking those out even though they were decent ideas at the time. Other than the standard Jam Now mode, you're going to spend most of your time in the game's Road Trip and Online Arena. Road Trip is the main career mode as you have to face all the teams at least three times to complete it. The first time will be against current stars while the second time is against a team's legends (some teams don't have legends though). It gets harder at the second half of the campaign as the AI gets better at defense pushing and stealing at will even though you can breeze through teams' current stars. Even though it can be played alone, Road Trip is a grind being longer than you think becoming repetitive even though the AI steps up their game as you progress. At least if you're tired of grinding it out alone, it can be played co-op locally and even online.

Speaking of online, On Fire Edition's Online Arena is deeper with lots of stat tracking, challenges to complete (also counts for Road Trip). The Jam challenges are self-explanatory performing certain tasks to accumulate Jam Points to buy the game's unlockables. Online specific challenges are there as well as your friends list that play this game can help achieve them even though they function the same. The big feature with Online Arena is that there is a time period to accumulate wins and racking medals every week. This is neat to have pushing players to keep playing online matches against the world. Other than that, be prepared to deal with players that like to spam three pointers as unless you can defend that, online play is going to be frustrating and it has been personally. In addition, there are ragequitters that will not finish games if they are behind by lots of points. It still functions fine with minimal lag during my experience so far, but it is rare to have a fair game of NBA Jam going against online opposition. There will be intense moments during close games as you just want to scream out loud pulling off a double overtime win to yelling curse words in defeat.

If you seen the graphics of last year's NBA Jam, On Fire Edition basically looks the same with accurate faces to current stars and legends. There are some missing legends probably because of likeness issues (Michael Jordan being in NBA 2K12 is obviously an exclusive thing), but it is still pretty much a who's who of basketball players from the 80s and 90s. The crowd looks fine for the most part and the unlockable teams are obviously a nice treat in a game like this. In traditional Jam fashion, Democrats and Republicans are unlockable as well as mascots and characters from other EA games that I won't spoil (unless you saw that launch trailer above). I also like the soundtrack in the game with beats that gets people going in-game and the menus. Tim Kitzrow's commentary is still as good as it was back in the 90s with his classic lines even though he can ramble too much and when he throws out references from today's times, they're cringe-worthy at best.

For fifteen dollars (1200 Microsoft Points), NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is as good as it gets when it comes to arcade sports games. Being downloadable is a great thing as you're getting lots of replay value out of it for that price from the lengthy Road Trip mode and playing against other people locally or online. The classic gameplay is still as fun and a blast to play as it was in the 90s along with the craziness the franchise has been known for. The numerous unlockables and completing jam challenges are also keep players going for weeks and months to come along with downloadable content and updated rosters. At this rate, who needs the NBA lockout when you can go boomshakalaka on your foes with this latest NBA Jam.

Score = 8.5/10

  • The core NBA Jam gameplay is still fun and a blast especially with the new gameplay additions
  • Tons of replay value and numerous unlockables
  • Sticks straight to the point taking out the gimmick modes
  • Lengthy career mode
  • Deep online focus will keep players going
  • Some of the commentary could of been better (Kitzrow can ramble too much at times)
  • Online competition can be frustrating to play against (opponents that love to spam three pointers because they have a player with a high 3pt rating and ragequitters if they are down by a huge margin)