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?).