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.