Friday, April 27, 2012

Sony Finally Reveals Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

After being rumored for months, maybe even years, Sony finally shows off their Smash Bros-like game, called Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. It premiered on GameTrailers TV last night as new developer Superbot is at the helm. They claim they have a fighting game background and it shows in the first footage for the game. Plus it doesn't hurt to have some fighting game community folks involved in the project as well. Anyway, six characters have been revealed so far as they are Kratos, Sly Cooper, Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal, Radec from the Killzone series, Fat Princess, and Parappa the Rapper. Superbot has also said they will have third-party characters in the mix too, so there is endless potential who will make it into the game along with Sony's first-party cast. Even the stages look crazy so far as one of them is a LittleBigPlanet stage that keeps building up as the fight progresses. Then there is a Patapon stage where Hades from God of War III beats them up. There is even a Buzz level where he will quiz you at times, which is nuts.

As far as gameplay is concerned, this is indeed a straight up Super Smash Bros game except that it is HD and potentially have better online. Each character will have their own super moves as they are tied to a meter, so meter management may play a role in the action. In addition, all of the chaos will be 60 frames per second too. The reaction to finally seeing it has been mixed obviously because of fanboy wars being in full effect, but I have my high hopes and excited to play it. Expect more Playstation All Stars Battle Royale stuff at E3 in six weeks as it is currently slated for release this fall only on PS3 (No plans yet on a Vita version, but I don't mind seeing that either).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Story, New Characters, Same Old Walkers... The Walking Dead: Episode 1 Review

TellTale Studios is no stranger to the point and click adventure genre lately. Their last efforts into licensed properties where Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. While their Back to the Future series was pretty good, Jurassic Park was a bit of a disappointment. TellTale is back on the adventure game once again with another popular franchise, especially it being a recent phenomenon. What I'm referring to is the Walking Dead series. This is a beginning of a new story that is a prequel to the comics, not the TV show that is AMC, and only the first episode of five that will come out monthly. This first episode, titled A New Day, does a great job establishing the main story of the outbreak and characters along with setting things up for future episodes. Just by the end of this episode, I already feel attached to these characters and I eagerly await what is next for them especially with the choices I made.

You play as Lee Everett, who was in a cop car because of a killing, but the walker outbreak begins as the cop crashes into one causing an accident to occur. From there on, Lee is on his own trying to survive this whole mess. Along the way, he meets Clementine, a young girl surviving alone because her parents were on vacation. Of course Lee doesn't want to leave a kid alone, so she joins along hoping she finds her parents. Throughout this whole season of the Walking Dead, we will see how the relationship of these two characters will be improving. As you meet more survivors (some of them will be familiar from the comics and the show), there are Walkers just wanting to ruin the party at any spot you're staying at. There will be intense moments throughout this season and already in this first episode, which are as intense as the comics and the TV show, as Lee has to be willing to make the quick tough decisions when things get hairy.

If you're familiar with TellTale's past adventure games, you'll be fine when playing The Walking Dead. This is not just another zombie action game as this is a traditional adventure game with story as the big emphasis. Another major factor with these games are the decisions you will make. During dialogue trees, you only have a limited time to come up with an answer and some quotes can affect your relationship with the other survivors whether for good or bad. This ain't Mass Effect where can you think all day if you're not sure what to say during a dialogue true. This game will force you to make tough decisions during intense moments and they will stick throughout the whole season. If a certain character is dead because of such decision making, they're gone for good and  you have to live with it for the rest of the season. At least there are multiple save files if you're willing to experience different sides of the story saying different lines or keeping certain characters alive. This style of intense decision making is something I like a lot as it did put me in a tough spot unlike other games that have similar dialogue options.

When you have control of Lee, you do move him around, but it is still pretty point and click heavy when interacting with objects and other characters. There will be times that he has to deal with Walkers, as one wrong move means death as you go back to your last checkpoint. These scenes with Walkers are basically quicktime events as you wait for that timed button press to take them out. Adventure games like this are also known for their puzzles as this episode of the Walking Dead doesn't have much of them, but there are things that happen in a certain order because of getting the necessary items to proceed on. One major improvement from past TellTale games is that there is a reticle now on the fight stick like any shooter out today for Lee to look around to interact with objects faster.

Since this game is more related to the comics than the TV show, the graphics in the Walking Dead are cool as TellTale went with the comic book/cel-shaded like art style. The characters look great and their personalities do show during dialogue-heavy sequences. Even though the game runs at a consistent framerate, it does suffer from stuttering issues when they transition from scene to scene as if it is going to freeze at some point, but it doesn't. The voice cast is also remarkably good as well as the music when something crazy is going to happen.

TellTale has something special with The Walking Dead just by the first episode alone. They did a great job establishing the main plot and characters. You do feel for Lee as even though he might be a bad guy since he starts the game in a cop car, he is not that bad of a person trying to do things right. Now that he has to take care of Clementine, it just puts more pressure on him to survive and make the right decisions even though some of them will be tough. I love the decision making process in this game as it forces to be at a tough spot with limited time to come up with a response or an action that will affect relationships with other survivors or even keeping some of them alive. This episode is two hours long and will probably be that long for the other episodes, but you're eager to know to what is next for Lee and company once you're attached to this cast. I hope the performance issues are fixed in future episodes, but other than that, TellTale is off to a superb start with the Walking Dead and I can't wait for episode two next month.

Score = 9/10


  • Great start to the whole season establishing the plotlines and characters to the point I'm attached to them eagerly wanting to know what is next
  • Intense and gripping moments that allow the tough decision making to work wonderfully well
  • I also like the fact these decisions you make will stick throughout the whole season
  • Some performance issues, mainly stuttering during transition scenes, but nothing game-breaking

Sonic Finally Gets His Groove Back... The Sonic Generations Review

Sonic The Hedgehog has been through some tough times this console generation. First there was the disappointing and abysmal 2006 "reboot." Then there was Sonic Unleashed, where half of the game was good, but when Sonic turns into a werehog, things turn for the worst. The Wii exclusive Sonic Colors though gave hope that the franchise is slowing getting its groove back. At this rate, Sonic fans just want to play as Sonic without any gimmicks or distractions from other pointless characters. Sega's answer is Sonic Generations, where you can play as two versions of Sonic, and it is easily the best Sonic game in a long time as I had more fun than I thought I would have.

The story this time with Generations features a birthday party for Sonic by his friends until a mysterious monster crashes it and kidnaps them in time warps. It is up to Sonic to save Tails and the rest of his friends from this unknown creature, but as he runs into a familiar foe, he does meet up with the classic version of himself that does not speak as expected (because he's old school). They team up as they travel to levels they experienced from the past along with try to figure who is behind this whole plot, but you can make a good guess who is up to no good again. The storyline as a whole is not much, but it gives a reason why there are two Sonics and you're revisiting levels from past games again.

Each mainline game in the Sonic franchise gets a level represented in Generations from the iconic Green Hill Zone in the original, the board escape stage in Adventure 2, and even recent games out this console generation like Unleashed and Colors. Each stage gets two acts, one by each Sonic, and there are some similarities in terms of the scripted events. The selection of the levels in this game is fine as the order is from the original to Colors. The level design is also faithful to the original stages as it was great to see the Genesis stages in a HD setting. With only nine stages of two acts each, it seems like the game is not that long to beat and that is true. Yeah, there are boss fights and rival battles to go through, but there are also challenges that spice up the gameplay for both Sonics. Even doing the minimum requirements of the challenges still makes Generations a short game, as you can blaze through it in an afternoon. Despite how short it is, completing all the challenges, and getting all the collectibles does give the game a bit more replay value. Speaking of collectibles, there is a great amount of fan service with the unlockable music tracks from all Sonic games and artwork throughout the 20+ years of this franchise. There is also an online mode, which is pretty much time attack on all of the levels as you can compare times with other people by the game's leaderboards.

The whole point of Generations along with being a current-gen trip down memory lane is playing as two versions of Sonic. Classic Sonic plays like his Genesis days with spin jumps and spin dashes to transverse through his acts while modern Sonic plays like he was in Unleashed and Colors with boosting, homing attacks, and being able to trick off certain ramps to increase his boost meter. As you progress through the later levels, modern Sonic gets reacquainted with his other abilities such as the lightspeed dash, wall jumping, and stomps. Despite those abilities, more skills can be acquired for both Sonics by buying them in a shop or getting collectibles. These skills range from elemental shields for classic Sonic to more speed and acceleration for modern Sonic, etc. While classic Sonic feels fine and it is faithful enough to the old school audience, I had more fun with modern Sonic since he has more moves as his disposal and his levels just have simply more going on than the classic version of the levels. Sega and Sonic Team finally nailed down the controls for both hedgehogs, but there will be some moments of platforming frustration where precision is required to go into certain paths especially going for collectibles. I also didn't have any significant problems with the camera in my time with the game.

Graphically, Sonic Generations looks great. As mentioned earlier, it is great seeing the Genesis stages recreated in HD and it is also interesting seeing the classic versions of the later stages since they still have to stick to it being 2D gameplay-wise. The characters look fine as well with both Sonics looking different as they should since classic Sonic is pretty short. My only disappointment with the graphics is that the framerate is at 30 frames per second as this game would have been perfect for 60 frames as Sega has done that in past Sonic games, so I wonder why they decided to go with 30 for Generations. As for the sound, Sonic Team did a great job with the music especially the remixes of the tracks for all the stages. The modern versions of tracks sound like your traditional stuff you'll hear in more recent Sonic games, but the classic versions do their best to be reminiscent of the Genesis sounds, but for the later levels, they don't sound as different as the modern versions. If you played Sonic games as of late, you'll probably sick of the voiceovers, but they're okay here in Generations even though the tutorial voice can be a bit annoying if you don't turn off hints.

It feels great to say that Sonic finally gets his groove back in Sonic Generations. I had a fun time blasting through memory lane of levels from the franchise as both classic and Modern Sonic. The level design is great being faithful to their original incarnations. Despite being a short game can be beaten in an afternoon by doing the minimum requirements, there is enough replay value from getting 100% by completing all the challenges and getting the collectibles along with an online time attack mode if you want to compete for fast times against other players. The game looks great, but running at 30 frames per second instead of 60 is a bit disappointing. Music is good as expected for the franchise as Sonic Team did a great job with the remixes of tunes from the various levels. The amount of fan service to Sonic fans is also great with the unlockable tracks and art from the years. Sonic The Hedgehog fans past and present should not miss out on Generations and it is also a great platforming game in general to get too.

Score = 8.5/10


  • Faithful recreations of levels throughout the Sonic franchise
  • Both versions of Sonic play well even though modern Sonic is more fun just by how much more is going on for his levels
  • Great amount of fanservice for fans past and present (oh the first Sonic The Hedgehog is unlockable here too, but the port is not that good especially in the sound department)
  • Framerate is a bit disappointing at 30 frames per second. Even though its consistent at 30, 60 frames per second would have been way better
  • There will be moments of platforming frustration when trying to be precise
  • Pretty short game as it can be beaten in an afternoon with the minimum requirements

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Oops... Amazon Leaks the new God of War announcement

Sony was supposed to announce a big game tomorrow, but looks like Amazon jumped the gun early it is a new God of War game. Titled God of War: Ascension, this is likely going to be another spinoff as Kratos than being a proper God of War IV (probably save that for PS4?). Here is the teaser for now before it gets taken down, but expect more official stuff tomorrow. Since this is also a teaser, wait till E3 for gameplay footage for this new God of War.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Captivate 2012 Roundup

Its Capcom's annual big press event time, aka Captivate, and of course there is a lot of expectations for them to deliver the goods. At least we're getting more of what upcoming games we don't know that much with DmC and Resident Evil 6, but there is a surprising sequel announcement that seems questionable for now.

I'll start off right away with the showstopper that is Resident Evil 6, which now has an October release date. More story details are revealed in this new clip and teased a little too much such as the Leon vs. Chris showdown at the end. Sherry is confirmed in now even though she was in the first trailer as well as Alex Wesker, who is a key figure in all this madness. The villain seems to be Ada Wong, but Capcom themselves didn't say who she is from what I read. Other details off the press release confirm that Mercenaries and co-op are back too. I'm still hyped for RE6, but I'm entirely not sold on the gameplay yet as I think I still need to see more of that. At least Famitsu had some new in-game screenshots, which is a start.

The new trailer for DmC (Devil May Cry) is a little NSFW, so you are warned. Anyway, it is been a long and rocky road for this Ninja Theory game because of the hatred for Dante's new look. There are still the haters out there, but the game is looking better than I thought. More gameplay footage is on Capcom Unity if you're interested. DmC is still slated to come out later this year and I'm willing to give it a chance since its original announcement.

Capcom's big new announcement is a surprising sequel, which is Lost Planet 3. Not only the last game was bashed critically, a western developer is handling this new one, which is Spark Unlimited. Spark themselves don't have the best track record of games, but I'm curious how they can change up Lost Planet. The trailer does show off what makes Lost Planet the franchise it is from snow, mechs, and big creatures to kill. Good thing it is still ways off as it is coming out next year.

Fighting game fans are disappointed that Capcom didn't announce a new game from their other franchises as the only fighting game related thing at this year's Captivate was the PS Vita version for Street Fighter X Tekken. Of course the big thing is the new characters that are DLC eventually on console (oh wait, you can already play as them somehow). PS3 owners of the game can get the new characters for free if they buy the Vita version, which is cool I guess. Of course there is the online stuff as you can play PS3 players from the Vita version. Meanwhile on the console side, the online sound issues are finally fixed in today's patch along with the quick gem selection on local versus games.

I haven't been paying attention to Dragon's Dogma, Capcom's big western-like RPG out next month, but here is some new gameplay footage. I'm not sure of Capcom going all in with this game business-wise and who knows if they can get the Skyrim crowd into liking this one. All I have to say is that this could be their biggest flop this generation and who knows what the future of the company will be if that happens.

Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is out on June for Kinect and it looks fine to me. From Software knows what they're doing since they are no stranger to mech games, so I'll leave it at that.

That's pretty much it from this year's Captivate event. Lost Planet 3 being the only new game there is a little disappointing, but wait till E3 if Capcom feels like announcing more new games there.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Young Money Music Video Blowout

Drake ~ Take Care Feat. Rihanna from OctobersVeryOwn on Vimeo.

A double dose of Drizzy videos went up on the interwebs yesterday starting off with the radio hit and title track "Take Care" with Rihanna. While "Take Care" looks pretty simple at first glance, it is more than you think. The "HYFR" video, on the other hand, is a completely different story being a little more ridiculous especially Weezy's outfit. Other than that, I say hell yeah hell yeah hell yeah, well you know the rest.

Drake ~ HYFR Feat. Lil Wayne from OctobersVeryOwn on Vimeo.

While that is it for Drizzy, there is Young Money's queen especially that her sophomore album came out last week...

I guess I can use this post to share some thoughts on Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded album. It is easy to hate this album because well it is Nicki Minaj and her gimmick is getting a little tiresome for some folks already, but this is easily a banger for the mainstream audience filled with radio hit after radio hit that we will hear for the next year. I'm surprised there is a video for "Beez in the Trap" as I expected none of her rap heavy stuff to get the single treatment as she is more known for her poppy stuff now. The "Starships" video should be coming out soon as her poppy stuff is more catchier than I thought. Then again, it is more clubby pop especially with "Pound the Alarm" and "Automatic." Another possible single from the album is her song with Chris Brown, but the rest of the cameo appearances are in the rap half of the album with Nas, Cam'ron, 2Chainz, and of course Weezy. As of now, this album is my early contender for mainstream album of the year as Nicki is going to have a big year with numerous singles, but we will see what other artists can match up.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Dance Central in my Star Wars!?!? Uugghh...

Kinect Star Wars continues to be an abomination before its release on the 360 tomorrow and the Dance Central-like mode is proof of that. The R2-D2 360 console is still cool and all, but damn, way to ruin the franchise more LucasArts. Of course, this is a kids game at its core, but cmon even Star Wars fans that are getting suckered to buying this know how much of a disservice this game is gonna be.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Some Epic Mickey 2 Stuff...

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two was announced yesterday and getting the big premiere tonight on GameTrailers TV. No longer a Wii exclusive, this is also showing up on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 when it comes out later this year. Here is an Associated Press video already showing off the sequel and also Warren Spector talking about what is new with Mickey too. I do remember the original being great, but definitely flawed as hopefully Warren's team can make the necessary improvements and of course being on PS3/360 is a big deal too.

Who Needs Sackboy Jumping Now That He Races...

Another rumored Sony exclusive title is now official as a trailer for LittleBigPlanet Karting appeared on the interwebs earlier today. Also true to the rumors is the developer for Sackboy's next game, which is United Front Games, the folks that brought you Modnation Racers. If you played or seen Modnation Racers, it is basically the LittleBigPlanet for kart racers, but now we have a new game with the franchise slapped on it. From the trailer, you can tell it looks like Modnation, but now more catered to the LBP style especially having the starting pod from those games and tons of customization options with the karts, tracks, etc. We'll see if LBP Karting is more beyond a Modnation clone when it comes out later this year only on the PS3.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Another One Bites The Dust... Zynga buys out OMGPOP

I had to add the Queen reference because Zynga, mobile game giant, bought out OMGPOP today for 200 million. If you don't know who OMGPOP is, they are the makers of Draw Something, the hottest mobile game out now on iOS and Android devices. The game got crazy popular in the past couple of weeks because of its simple Pictionary-like gameplay especially on a social level. People can upload photos from the game to social networks like Facebook, hence why they also ask for your Facebook account info if you want your drawings shown there. It has become such a quick phenomenon that the big company Zynga has expressed interest that quickly and now they own them. What does this mean for Draw Something or even OMGPOP themselves? Who knows for now even though the OMGPOP staff will be part of Zynga's New York City division.

Zynga has had a notorious record for buying out their competition and even ripping off competitive games for their own on mobile devices. It is kind of crazy considering they are the makers of Farmville and the "With Friends" series (Words With Friends, the new Scramble with Friends), yet they have to resort to such tactics. Of course there is the everyday saying that this is all business at the end of the day and money does talk, which is indeed the case here. It is no surprise that this acquisition happened, but it is still a surprise how quickly they were able to snatch them especially they are just riding off their success in these past couple of weeks. Were OMGPOP willing to "sell out" because of the offer Zynga threw at them? We will see in the coming months how things will shake out from all of this, but for you Draw Something fans, enjoy the game as it now because it may not be the same in the future.

Some Thoughts of the "Last?" Saints Row: The Third DLC

The Trouble with Clones is the last DLC from Saints Row: The Third's season pass and they have been getting progressively better, but this latest offering is just as good as Gangstas in Space. A hardcore Saints fan takes an experiment a little too far creating a Johnny Gat clone that seems uncontrollable and it is up to you and Pierce to calm him down preventing him from destroying Steelport. Even though it feels like story missions, you're still getting the usual Saints Row flair of insanity especially in the last mission where you get cool powers for a limited time. If u see the trailer above, Saints Flow allows you to have super speed, power punches without the Apoco-Fist (if you have that weapon from the Murderbrawl mission), and launch fireballs Street Fighter style at enemies. Unfortunately, these powers only last for that mission only and it sucks you can't keep them when you're just roaming around wanting to cause some chaos. Just like Gangstas in Space, Trouble with Clones is only a hour long and its seven bucks like the past DLC.

Also similar to Gangstas in Space, The Trouble with Clones has a grainy effect when it comes to the graphics. This time things look a little more scientific and green, which is okay. It is probably because the fan is narrating the events of this DLC and all of this still being some experiment gone wrong. The same approach goes for the music too as well. There is also the same signature humor Saints Row: The Third has been known here too, but not much of it compared to the other two big downloadable offerings.

Now that the Trouble with Clones is out concluding the season pass, is this it for Saints Row: The Third? It seems so as Volition has not said anything regarding more mission-based DLC. Plus, considering the state THQ is in as of late, it is probably for the best to save things up for Saints Row 4. The DLC offerings have been from just okay to good, but they could have been so much better considering how wild the main game was. Most of these missions have one time use weapons as well and it is unfortunate they are not unlocked for use just to mess around as some of the rewards haven't been worth it. Fans of the game should get Trouble with Clones despite the short length and seven dollar price because the cool moments are good enough to experience.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Don't Stop Believing... The Journey Review

Note - The following gameplay videos will likely contain spoilers, so watch at your own risk if you don't want the game spoiled.

Every now and then, the whole "games as art" discussion is out there for people to argue about as there have been recent examples that can prove that point right even though the industry is still dominated by the Hollywood blockbuster philosophy of how games should be. Thatgamecompany has been one of the forerunning developers with that "games as art" mindset creating unique yet memorable experiences this console generation with Flow and their last downloadable hit game, Flower. Jenova Chen and his team are back again with Journey, another original downloadable title exclusively on the Playstation Network. From its initial announcement a couple years back, I knew Journey was going to be something special and indeed it is from beginning to end. This is one experience you cannot miss and it is one of the best games I played in a while.

Even though it seems like a mysterious and unique game, there is actually a simple premise to Journey where you play as some unknown creature with a scarf that can grow and all you have to do to go to some tall mountain with light coming out of it. It is called Journey for a reason as you will transverse through few environments that spices things up later on through the game until you reached that destination. It is also not a game purely set at a desert because of how much a role sand plays into it, but things do take a turn in the second half and where it becomes more a video game like Flower was in its second half. Despite the simple premise, it is the actual experience that counts and the emotional investment you can take in as you trek along is an one of a kind feeling that most games never do.

I never felt so emotionally invested and attached into a game like Journey because it definitely fits the title well. There will be moments of fun such as surfing on the sand for a good few minutes, yet there are some of struggle too when there is a snake-like monster watching over certain areas and you can't be caught along with dealing with the weather elements. The way the game shows and tells all of this though it is simply amazing. It also goes to show that the game is not that complicated to play due to the control scheme and the platforming puzzles are easy to complete as well. Sure, the game is short like the developers' past games as you'll be able to complete the journey in two hours at the most, but it is one memorable trip worth taking over again and again especially with another person via online co-op. Collectable symbols, glyphs and hidden easter eggs are spread throughout the game as well, which adds along to its replay value.

Another reason why Journey is so unique and memorable is how they handle online co-op. Even though the whole game can be played alone, another person can just join in at an instant as long as you're signed in to PSN. However, this ain't your typical co-op experience because the person you're with is anonymous until you reach the players met screen after the ending. There is no invite system and voice chat as the only form of communication with another player is the chirping button that tends to be the main button in completing puzzles and activating doors to the next area (Circle button in this game). That limitation however is why the emotional investment and attachment works beautifully in this game because of the fact you can provide memorable moments beyond what the game provides. Plus, that satisfaction of completing the whole journey together as other players will wait for you if they get a little ahead of you to catch up for instance is unmatched compared to most games today.

What completes Journey as an unique and original experience is how stunningly beautiful it looks. This is quite arguably the best looking PS3 game I have ever played and that is saying a lot considering the other exclusive games on the system like God of War and the Uncharted franchise. It is the best usage of sand I have ever seen just by how it flows and moves especially when you're surfing during one level. Some shots and camera angles of the game, specifically during certain times of day, are also breathtaking being among some of my new favorite moments of gaming ever. Journey also has an amazing soundtrack, sorry not full of the band Journey's songs, especially during the tense and buildup moments where the music picks up. It is one technological achievement that cannot be missed.

With all of this said, Journey is quite simply a masterpiece. It is an unique experience unlike any other despite the simple premise. I don't know if I would ever get the same emotional investment and attachment in a game ever again as much as this did because how much of an actual journey it is dealing with moments of pleasure and even struggle. The game's unique idea of online co-op also goes along with how emotional this game can be because how special certain moments can be with another anonymous player. It is also arguably the most beautiful game I ever played in recent years and certain shots are just too stunning. Don't let the game's short length and fifteen dollar price point prevent you from experiencing this masterpiece because it was the best two hours of gaming I had in a long time.

Score = 10/10

  • This game is simply stunning and beautiful to look at, especially some specific shots and camera angles
  • The emotional investment and attachment is unparallel compared to any other game out today
  • Simple premise to understand along with a simple control scheme
  • It truly felt like a journey where there are moments of fun and struggle
  • Great use of online co-op
  • Yeah, its two hours long, but don't let that the main reason you would pass on such an amazing game

Monday, March 12, 2012

One Epic, Yet Flawed Finale... The Mass Effect 3 Review

Note - This review may contain spoilers, so you are warned if you haven't beaten the game yet.

It has been a long five years for BioWare's Mass Effect franchise as it seemed like crazy talk back with the first game that this was going to be a trilogy and the fact your decisions you made will matter in the big finale. Here we are now with Mass Effect 3 as everything you did in the last two games, assuming you played them, has led up to this point where it is up to Commander Shepard to save the galaxy and end the Reaper threat for good. I have my own expectations on how things play out for Shepard and company, but there is also multiplayer support to go along with the campaign. Does Mass Effect 3 end the franchise with a bang? It is surely one epic, yet flawed finale that is still worth playing through.

There is actually a simple core storyline in this conclusion as the Reapers are invading Earth hard and it is up to Shepard to persuade the other races of the galaxy to save Earth and eliminate the Reapers. Along the way, there is Cerebrus to worry about as well as the Illusive Man still has his own agenda of controlling the Reapers. Besides all of that, it is also the little things that count throughout Shepard's journey to rally the races together as they have their own issues with themselves and obviously the Reapers too. Traveling the galaxy again is worth it in attempt to take Earth back with as many war assets as you can gain throughout the game, but the ending is not something I expected and it will be a heated topic once more people finish the game.

Your squad in the last two games are back as some of them actually return with you in your quest to rally the races as the rest, pretty much most of the ME2 cast (assuming they survived the ending of that game), are there in cameo appearances during side missions. In other words, most of the cast in the first game are back with you assuming they survived the events up to now as Ashley/Kaidan, Garrus, Tali, and Liara come back to the Normandy. There isn't much new guys that join up your squad as the most significant newcomer in Mass Effect 3 is Alliance soldier James Vega. Despite that, I'm glad that I was able to spend my time with characters I have been attached to throughout the games and it definitely shows in the little yet memorable moments Mass Effect 3 provides. I mentioned in my Mass Effect 2 review how much of a character study that game can be and I can say that is reinforced here in Mass Effect 3. My favorite moments of the game come from these little moments with your squadmates sharing their stories of the war and maybe even act out of character sometimes in certain cases. This is all of course played with imported saves as newcomers playing this game only are not going to get that same character attachment as folks who started the franchise from the beginning.

Playing through Mass Effect 3, I felt that BioWare played it safe on most things, especially the mission structure, where it is similar to the last game as there is a prologue section and when the game opens up having control of the Normandy through the various clusters to do missions. The same thing goes for the story as mentioned earlier where you are basically traveling throughout the galaxy to gather up your squad and war assets in preparation for the final stretch. They did however make some changes for the better regarding the fetch-like side quests. Exploring every planet and cluster is not much as a chore as it was in ME2 getting minerals, but you're still launching probes to get certain items to complete side quests. There is a twist when exploring clusters as Reapers can disrupt your travels to the point of getting that mission failure screen if two of them catch you.

The same safe approach can be said also for the game's core combat where it is not as significantly changed as say from the first Mass Effect to the second game. There are still some little changes such as the health and shield bar systems being more like the first Halo, meaning you still have regular shields, but you have five health bars though. Despite that, the combat is pretty much the same against enemy forces with the cover-based shooting, use of powers, and so on. If you have been playing the previous games, the various changes didn't receive any significant changes either, so your Vanguard as an example plays the same as he or she did in the past. I would say the big difference from ME2 is the customization options as BioWare tried to balance this out as a mixture of the past two games. Armor and weapons can be modded (these mods can be bought in stores or mostly found during missions) for boosts on certain stats. In addition, stats of your powers can be altered when leveling up your Shepard and squadmates as there is a branching tree whether or not you want to increase its damage, or range for instance. The combat still plays fine in Mass Effect 3, but don't expect it being a big leap from the last game.

It was only a matter of time when the Mass Effect games get multiplayer and of course there is the whole discussion of why is BioWare putting this in and not putting more work in the campaign? The way they handled multiplayer in this game is actually not that bad even though it is unoriginal. In a nutshell, it is just another wave-based survival mode, but with the Mass Effect touch. A maximum of four players play a map to defeat ten increasingly difficult waves of enemies (either Cerebrus, the Geth, or the Reapers) using the various races and classes. Not all races though play similarly as they get a different power or two depending on the class. There is also a quick command item system that consists of more ammo, instant revive, and missiles that are mapped on the d-pad when you're in hairy situations. Weapons, mods, and more characters can be unlocked by buying random packs as if you're opening a Magic the Gathering booster pack hoping you get something rare and good. Team coordination is key in surviving these maps especially on harder difficulties, so it is best to have a gameplan in mind attacking these enemy waves. Random objectives will also pop up during matches as it is just another thing to do such as killing certain enemies or getting into certain territories for more credits. Playing multiplayer does factor into the campaign a little bit with the Galaxy of War status as long as that is high enough. Even though it feels another Horde mode, Mass Effect 3's multiplayer is fun and has tons of replay value especially with leveling up various characters and playing the maps on harder difficulties.

My biggest problem with Mass Effect 3 from my personal experience, is that it is filled with technical bugs and issues (keep in mind this is the PS3 version I'm talking about). Sure, the game's graphics still look great especially seeing all the various locales, but it is the performance that bums me out a lot. The franchise has a history of various technical issues, but personally for me, this is the worst of the three in terms of bugs, framerate slowdowns, random loading prompts, etc. In addition, the game crashed on me a few times too even on not the most heated moments, but it did during cutscenes and the squad selection screen as examples. Then there are the awkward bugs where one of the squadmates completely disappeared as if I have only one guy instead of two and also the sound tends to lose it sometimes too (Good thing the autosave system is there to reset things if you run into any of these). Speaking of sound, the game's voice acting is still as top notch as it gets when it comes to AAA franchises as most of the cast throughout the franchise return. The same goes for the music too being great as it has been for all the three games.

So does Mass Effect 3 live up to the hype and ends the trilogy right? Unfortunately, it is both yes and no as it is nice to play through this finale, but the flaws really put a damper on it being a game of the year contender. Despite that, it is still the Mass Effect you know and love especially if you played the previous two games. Plus, it is best to have an imported save because when things do come together connecting them, it is a good thing to experience as BioWare did live up to that promise of continuity throughout the franchise. The characters are still as great and lovable as they have been as I don't know if I will ever get that same attachment that I had with Shepard and his squadmates over the years in another franchise. The little moments with these guys remain as my favorite memories of the game other than the big story reveals. The ending will not be what people expected as it will be a heated topic of discussion in the coming weeks and months as well as I definitely felt like I didn't get the one I wanted. Multiplayer is a nice inclusion to round out the package adding more replay value and of course there is downloadable content in the future with more missions and likely more maps too. What is the most disappointing to me though with this game is the numerous technical issues I had to deal with from hard crashes, random bugs, and other problems I mentioned earlier. Mass Effect 3 is still worth playing especially for fans to finish up the franchise, but it is still a flawed experience the whole way through.

Score = 8.5/10

  • BioWare's promise of continuity in terms of the big decisions you made throughout this trilogy definitely came through
  • Being attached to this set of characters is still amazing as the little moments with them are my favorite parts of the game
  • Multiplayer is not that bad as you first thought when it was announced
  • Audio production is still top notch as it has been throughout this franchise
  • BioWare definitely took a safe approach with this game in terms of core ideas (Mission structure and core combat are pretty much to similar to ME2)
  • The ending is not what I expected it to be
  • Major technical issues from random bugs, hard crashes, etc.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3X???

So this picture above looks interesting... Capcom has been denying as of late regarding future plans for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 beyond the costume DLC, which all of them are out now. Perhaps they are saving for a big announcement at Captivate, their big yearly press event, for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3X. According to rumors (pic and source is from NeoGAF), eight new characters are in this update being SSFIV AE size for 15 bucks, but also can be bought in a new retail disc out in July. With something like this, take the rumor with a grain of salt obviously, but I won't be surprised if it is true as we will hopefully find out either next month or May.

Then again, April Fools is around the corner too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

SimCity Gets Rebooted...

After being talked about for the past week, EA and Maxis officially announces the SimCity reboot simply titled SimCity for a PC/Mac release next year. This brings flashbacks and memories spending countless hours with the older games (mainly the original, 2000, and 3000) when I was a kid. I'm a little surprised no console versions were announced because its EA and you know they like money, but SimCity is one of those franchises that are meant for PCs only. Then again, people are still nostalgic for the SNES version of the original, but I'm glad Maxis is back with what made them successful in the first place (yeah, before the Sims phenomenon began).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Has Capcom Really Crossed the Line? The Street Fighter X Tekken Review

Street Fighter X Tekken feels like a dream fighting game that fans have been clamoring for years so they have can answer the obvious questions that who would win a fight between characters from these franchises. Now these can be resolved in Capcom's latest filled with gameplay systems completely new and controversial depending on how you spin it. Like most people, I was a little worried how this game will turn out with all these additions, but it turns out that I should not be worried anymore. Right from the get go, it is telling that Capcom wanted to makes this fighter as accessible and friendly for newcomers to play as this is their most accessible effort yet. However, there are still lingering and nitpicky issues that they haven't learned yet preventing this game from perfection.

A huge roster of over 30 fighters from these franchises awaits players as stalwarts such as Ryu, Ken, Guile, and Chun-Li are in as expected from Street Fighter. The Tekken cast are also filled with favorites like Kazuya, Nina, Hworang, Law, King, and Paul. This game also has Final Fight characters as Rolento and Hugo return, but now Poison makes her fighting game debut. Exclusively on the PS3 version is Infamous's Cole, Playstation mascots Toro and Kuro, Pac-Man on a Mokujin robot, and the return of "bad box art" Mega Man. As of this review, Pac-Man and Mega Man aren't available yet as they will be next week. Then there is the whole DLC fiasco of more characters, which I will not mention here. There is actually a storyline in Street Fighter X Tekken as a mysterious box from space lands on Earth filled with the power of Pandora as the fighters go after it for their own reasons. Shadoloo and the Mishima Zaibatsu are also after the powers of this box, so M. Bison and Jin Kazama have their own little rivalry going. In addition, boss characters Ogre and Akuma are around as well with their own agendas regarding Pandora. Overall, the cast has your favorites from both franchises and some oddballs, so if any fighter that you wanted in the game that didn't make it, they are probably DLC on a later date.

Since this is a Capcom game, this is a 2D Street Fighter game at its core with the inclusion of Tekken characters. One of the big questions about this game is how will the Tekken characters translate to a game like this? Capcom did an amazing job with the Tekken cast making them playable in 2D and have tons of options once in close range. It makes you wonder hey, the Tekken guys don't have projectiles what shot do they have against the likes of Ryu or Ken throwing out hadoukens like nobody's business? Well, if you played the Tekken games, some of the cast have ways of getting in such as Kazuya having the mist step to go through fireballs in this game for example. Most of the characters' signature strings have made in this game too as well as their special moves now with quarter/half circle or charge commands like the Street Fighter cast have. In addition, the Tekken cast's ability to juggle combo and bound also transitioned well to Cross Tekken too, but they are the not the only ones that can do it. The Street Fighter folks for the most part play as the same as they are especially since the Street Fighter IV series. With the juggle mechanics though, they have more tools to dish out the damage as much as the Tekken cast. It might be daunting to use the Tekken characters because their move lists are huge compared to the Street Fighter guys, but it is worth the learning curve since some of them are pretty good particularly in a style of game like this.

While the core fighting feels like Street Fighter where there are special moves, EX moves that cost meter, and supers, there are a ton of gameplay systems in this game, but maybe perhaps there are too much for some to grasp. The goal of winning in this 2v2 format is like the Tekken Tag Tournament games where if one of the teammates lose all their health, you lose the round. You can tag out your partner in a variety of ways as the normal way is both medium punch and medium kick, but it is not the safe way to do it. A more safer way is during a blocked move or pulling off a big combo costing one part of your meter. Another way is using the Cross Art, which is basically the team super of the game. The main crux of offense is linking your combos and also using chains. Linking is similar to the Street Fighter IV games, but since this is a new ballgame, the frame timing is different so your combos that worked in Street Fighter IV easily are a little harder to pull off here. Chaining is a little easier to do because it is basically a magic series as seen in the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 games and you can do a launcher after a chain to tag in your partner to finish off the combo. While comboing is easier to do in this game for the guaranteed damage, if you want to do deal more damage, linking is the way to go especially for tourney-level players.

While I just discussed the basics of some of the gameplay systems in Street Fighter X Tekken, the other systems are not as useful as they should be and often been debatable why they are in the game at all. Cross Assault is simply your two characters on the screen at the same time as your opponent for a limited period of time as this is similar to dramatic battles in the Alpha series and a mechanic in the first Marvel vs. Cacpom. Then we got Pandora, which at first seemed to be the "comeback mechanic" of this game when it was first introduced, but it is more of a desperate gamble. You sacrifice your character on screen for your partner to have eight seconds to win the round with infinite meter. There are some ways to use Pandora effectively, but at the end of the day it is not really that useful of a mechanic. The more debatable or controversial addition in this game is the gems system. Before the start of a match, you can have gems assigned to your characters that increase their damage, defense, or speed as examples when certain actions are done. Then there are gems that allow you block or tech throws automatically at a costs one use of meter. These assist gems are good for newcomers that want a get out of jail free card the easiest way possible. The gems system is another reason why Street Fighter X Tekken is Capcom's most accessible fighting game yet and it is not bad as you thought it would be.

The modes are your standard fare if you have been playing Capcom's fighting games lately. Arcade mode is your normal eight stages culminating with boss battles against Bison/Juri or Jin/Xiaoyu and then either Ogre or Akuma depending on which franchise your point character is from. Character endings are handled in a weird way they are team specific even though your point character's ending will be in text after the credits roll. For instance Ryu and Ken have their ending together, Chun-Li and Cammy, etc. Trial mode is self-explanatory since it is the same as Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter IV. Mission mode allows you to fight with certain stipulations such as special moves only do damage as an example. There is actually a tutorial mode that teaches you the fundamentals and the systems that this game offers too, which is a neat touch for newcomers to start up. Training is also self-explanatory and now you can have a second player join in as well to practice up. Speaking of having a second player in a 2v2 game, you can team up in versus mode and even online to fight against the competition. While you can play 2v2 normally with a teammate, the Scramble mode allows all four combatants on screen at the same time to fight as the teams share their own health bar. Scramble mode is basically a fun mode to have around because of how chaotic and frantic it is.

Street Fighter X Tekken's online handles similarly to the Street Fighter IV games with ranked matches and endless battle lobbies, and replay channels, but the performance of it in action so far has been disappointing. The main disappointment is that there are sound issues throughout the matches I played so far. The sound effects get cut off and I can clearly say that is the Capcom's worst online effort performance wise and they had a history of having sound issues with their fighting games online. Sure as of this review, the game is not yet and who knows if Capcom is gonna patch it day one (There was already a patch when I got the game but didn't address this issue). On the latency front, most matches play fine as long as you have a good Internet connection, but when you play laggy matches, the game does become pretty laggy, but not unplayable. As mentioned earlier, four players can battle in one match either by regular 2v2 or Scramble mode. The sound issues though along with the camera not cutting into the launcher animation are a bummer and it goes to show maybe Capcom really rushed this out in crunch time.

If you have seen the game since its initial announcement, you may notice that it is too similar to Street Fighter IV because it is as it runs on that engine. Most of the assets from that game carried over to X Tekken meaning most of the Street Fighter cast pretty much look identical to their SF4 counterparts. The Tekken cast looks great with this graphical style as they manage to translate their overall looks well here. Some of the fighters' faces like too crazy and animated on the character select screen like Paul, Law, Zangief, and others, but that is expected if you have seen their facial animations when getting hit by ultras in SF4. There are only a handful of stages as some probably hoped for more, but it is okay as the locales range from the Mishima Estate, a hideout where the Mad Gear gang hangs out, a warzone where the big robot from Tekken 6 is lurking, and more. These stages are filled with cameo appearances by non-playable characters such as Yun and Yang hanging out at the half pipe. The soundtrack is your expected mix of fighting game stuff and there are some character specific themes that play during certain moments of the game such as Jin's theme song from Tekken 3 when you're fighting him in arcade mode. Character voices are also fine as some of them speak English or Japanese.

So has Capcom really crossed the line with Street Fighter X Tekken? The answer is both yes and no as the game is great to play in general, but I have my nitpicky issues. The Tekken characters made the translation to a 2D game amazingly well as some of them are really fun to use. The 2v2 core fighting feels fine, but the some of the gameplay mechanics introduced here like Pandora are not that useful. The gems system will continue to be a hot topic whether or not it is worth it at the end of the day, but it does not seem that bad during fights. It is however Capcom's most accessible fighting game yet being the most friendly to newcomers with a decent tutorial mode to get started and certain gems helping them get out of hairy situations. Plus, the simplified offense of chaining normal moves is nice to have too, but linking will still separate high and low level players right away. The online performance however is the game's most disappointing aspect to me preventing it from being the perfect fighting game package to get this year. If you're still itching for more Street Fighter or fighting game action in general especially if you're tired of Capcom's past releases, Street Fighter X Tekken is worth your money.

Score = 8.5/10

  • Capcom's most accessible fighting game yet with tools to make things easier for newcomers
  • Core fighting feels great and offensive-heavy with the chain combos as an example
  • Tons of fighters to choose from either the Street Fighter or Tekken side
  • Major online issues (laggy matches, sound effects getting cut off)
  • Some of the new gameplay mechanics like Pandora aren't that useful at all
  • Maybe too many gameplay systems as if Capcom putting it in just for the hell of it

Finally... First Gameplay Footage of Halo 4

Halo 4's announcement at E3 last year was shocking considering what we thought that his story is done after Halo 3 and the fact Bungie is no longer working on the franchise anymore. Here we are today with the first gameplay footage and initial goals said by 343 Industries on how they think Halo 4 is gonna be the best Halo yet. Master Chief has a new look now and the Battle Rifle is making a return as well. Multiplayer is also being reworked according to 343 with all new, original maps separate from the campaign as they showed off two of them in the clip above. The graphics overall are also looking way better and arguably the best I seen in the franchise so far. This is definitely the 360 exclusive to get this year and with the new console waiting around, perhaps Microsoft is ending the 360's era with a bang this fall.

Templars in the American Revolution?? The Assassins Creed 3 Trailer

The big trailer of the day has to go to Ubisoft's Assassins Creed 3. After details have been leaked out as well as its box art, at least Ubi is quick enough to put up the first trailer for the next entry of this successful franchise. This is a whole new ball game for the Templars as things take place during the American Revolution. Nothing drastic has been revealed in this clip other than the protagonist and the setting, but after three games dealing with's Ezio trilogy, it is refreshing to see Assassins Creed go on a new direction. Hopefully, there will enough new mechanics to make this sequel worth it besides the setting and I'm not sure if multiplayer is confirmed yet, but if I'm a betting man, it is gonna be in. Assassins Creed 3 is shaping up to be one of this fall's big releases and Ubisoft is betting big on this one to be their marquee title of the year too.

DOA x VF Getting Warmer Now...

Its GDC week in the world that is the video game industry and new trailers are rolling out like crazy. Here we got the clip for Dead or Alive 5 featuring Ayane and Kasumi duking it out, but that's not all. The big reveal is a special cameo appearance by Akira from Sega's Virtua Fighter franchise. It is not as weird as a crossover as you think because this one actually makes sense since DOA and VF have been reputable 3D fighting game franchises throughout the genre's lifespan. Akira makes the transition to DOA well with his signature VF moves and style intact. Team Ninja has teased some weeks back that a Dead or Alive vs. Virtua Fighter game is a possibility and this looks like a start towards making that a reality, but who knows if Sega is down as well to make it happen. Also in this clip, the fighters do take cosmetic damage, so you'll see parts of clothing wear off or get dirty as seen in Tekken Tag 2 and Mortal Kombat. Dead or Alive 5 is slated to come out this fall on PS3 and 360 as we'll see if Team Ninja has more surprises like this ahead in the coming months.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Owning the Planet One Mountain at a Time... The SSX Review

After a six year hiatus, SSX is finally back and rebooted for the current generation of consoles. It has been a long time coming for this franchise to debut on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 and even before its announcement, I was wandering if we ever would see it again and now it has returned being better than ever. The extreme sports genre of gaming is also going through a drought of sorts even EA's Skate series kept things going until this release. It is actually great and refreshing to see a game like this back in the gaming world because it proves a lot of things. SSX takes snowboarding games into a whole different level on all aspects from the fast racing, the insane tricks, and in general capturing the feel of being a snowboarder in these treacherous mountains.

This new SSX is broken up into three main modes: World Tour, Explore, and Global Events. You first start up automatically in the World Tour, which is basically the "campaign" of this game. It is short, sweet, and even prepares you for the other two modes. In addition, there is actually a storyline in World Tour as you play as the various riders of team SSX to conquer the nine deadly descents spread throughout the planet before Griff, who betrayed the team for the sake of doing things his own way, gets them done. World Tour also does a good job of letting you play as all the characters so you can get accustomed to their personalities and styles. Their personalities though are summed up by comic book-y cut scenes explaining their hobby besides being in team SSX. Zoe is one of the co-founders of the team and also a motocross rider, Alex is a model and one of the new characters in this game, and so on as examples. Other franchise favorites such as Mac, Kaori, and Psymon also return in this new iteration. Difficulty wise, the World Tour is not that hard to beat, but it can get hairy near the end especially with the later deadly descents, which I will talk about more later.

The Explore mode is the main crux of SSX because it is filled with so many events (159 to be exact on the PS3 version that has Mt. Fuji exclusive). This is traditional SSX at its finest with set times and scores to get for the gold medal as well as surviving as long you can in the "Survive It" mode, which is mainly known for the deadly descents. Ghosts can also be saved for friends to beat as well if you think have a tough time or score to beat. Most events in Explore require credits to be unlocked along with gear requirements, which also be mentioned later on. Most of the goad medal scores and times are doable as long as you have the right line and maintaining your trick combo for the whole run, but one small mistake and you're just itching to restart even though there is a rewind mechanic. The rewind mechanic in SSX is nice to have, but it comes with a price as points are being subtracted from trick events, lose precious time in races, and you have a limited use of them in survival events. For trick events though, rewinding is still worth it to a certain extent to keep your long combo, but it was way better and satisfying to nail off a full pull.

EA did something different with SSX in terms of multiplayer. What I mean by different is that there is no actual head-to-head multiplayer meaning you're not seraching for matches to play against people as you would in most games out today. The best way I can describe SSX's online multiplayer is the Global Events mode. There are set events held at the various peaks with certain money and gear requirements and last for a limited time. If your time or score falls within a certain bracket (diamond, platinum, gold, silver, bronze) by the end of the event's timespan, the certain amount of money you can earn. Usually with events filled with hundreds of players, the pots get bigger to the millions and even billions. Despite the limited time these events have, they can be played as many times before they end. When it comes to the gameplay screen though, it does feel like you're playing online against others that are playing the same event with you, but you can't interact with them by knocking them down. Global Events in a nutshell have that Trackmania vibe and I believe it does work for a game like SSX, but I can see why no head-to-head multiplayer is a bummer for some people.

The big question in this SSX is does the gameplay still hold up and be as fun as its past iterations? The answer is an easy yes. Pulling off full runs of crazy uber tricks never felt so satisfying as well as barreling down a mountain with infinite boost for a short period of time. The sense of speed once you have your tricky meter at gold is amazing and feels very Burnout-ish too. You can still knock out your opposing AI competition during races, but not with your fists like in previous games. Races have become more of trying to find the best and fatest line down a course, which is a good thing adding more intensity even though you still have to pull of tricks to get that tricky meter up and running for boosting. Trick It runs are basically trying to do as many tricks as you can to rack up your combo also seen in past iterations with ubers, grinds, signature tricks, and so on. Then there are the "Survive It" events that are new to this SSX. As mentioned with the deadly descents earlier, the goal is to basically survive in a track as long as possible as your measured distance determines your medal placing. This mode is also where the gear and customization come into play as well as certain regions of the world require certain equipment to increase chances of survival. For example, an oxygen tank is required at Mount Everest, a wingsuit from most of Patagonia, etc. Speaking of the wingsuit, it is a neat addition to have in SSX where you're just temporarily flying around to go past big gaps. These survival events are also interesting that you have a health meter, so you can't bail or fall into bottomless pits, but you can equip armor to increase that, which is also useful in avalanche stages. There are control options that players are get accustomed to depending on their style. The default controls work fine as you can map tricks to the face buttons (my personal choice) or the right analog stick. For those that preferred the old school approach of past games, the classic controls are there to use as well with the tricks mapped on the triggers. I had a tough time however adjusting to spinning in the air being mapped to the d-pad, so that is why I went with the default controls. Even though most of the time you may feel like you're going on autopilot, SSX is still as fun at it was back in the last console generation. If you have that perfectionist mentality like me however, expect to press that restart button numerous of times, but it is more satisfying once you get the run that you wanted.

Graphically, SSX is a beauty to look at. The various regions throughout the world feel varied considering there are tons of mountains to transverse along with the various obstacles these locales obtain especially for the deadly descent events. Another beautiful thing is that the framerate never or rarely hitches down at any point, which is remarkable for a game like this. It is also telling that EA took their sweet time with the locales because of the topographical mapping they used to get the courses right. Sure, it is not filled with neon lights and fantasy-like environments as seen in past games, but the realistic approach to the levels here worked out well. The SSX franchise is also known for pumping out great licensed soundtracks and this new one is no exception. From rock, hip-hop, electronic, and dubstep, SSX's soundtrack is varied and of course there is the new "Its Tricky" remix that plays for a bit whenever you get your tricky meter gold, which is good too. The voice acting is also fine for the characters even though you're focused on the action at hand.

SSX is definitely worth the long wait and it is nice in general to see this franchise back again with a genre that is on a drought as of late. Hours and hours of content await you from the World Tour "campaign" to get things started, cranking out the hundreds of Explore events, and taking your skills online with the Global Events. In addition, there is the addiction of RiderNet stacking up your times and scores against your friends to make yourself keep going too. The signature and stylish feel of SSX is still intact from past games pulling off insane tricks from big jumps. Races are fast and furious at all times with an amazing sense of speed. The new survival events are a great addition as well to spice things up if you need a break from the other stuff this game contains. These deadly descent runs alone are also very intense and you just know you can not mess up once at all. Despite the lack of actual competitive multiplayer, SSX is a must get for snowboarding fans and those who loved the past games.

Score = 9/10

  • Hours and hours of content to the point it can take you months to complete everything
  • World Tour is a good campaign and warmup for what is come in Explore and Global Events
  • Interesting take on multiplayer having that Trackmania vibe
  • Great graphics with smooth/consistent framerate and soundtrack
  • Importantly, it is still SSX at its finest
  • Lack of actual competitive multiplayer is a bummer for some
  • Better have a friend list that play this game to take advantage fully of what RiderNet offers, because it can be addicting to try to beat your friends' times and scores

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dance Central 2 Brings All The Boys To The Yard...

Last week's DLC for Dance Central 2 was "Milkshake" by Kelis and it was a reminder why this song was crazy during my high school years. Mainly, I still remember it because it had an insane beat for the time. Anyway, enjoy the clip above and this week is finally shuffling with LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" unless you already have the song because you bought a copy of DC2 this month at some stores.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Taste of Snowboarding Heaven... Hands-On with the SSX Demo

Snowboarding heaven arrives next week with the new SSX and EA was able to release a demo on Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Network earlier this week. The demo contains two tracks with one being a race against CPU opponents at the Rockies and the other being trick-based at New Zealand. There is also a tutorial at the start to get players used to the controls as it defaults to standard, but can be changed to classic like the PS2 games were. However, the classic controls don't feel as classic as they should. Even though the tricks are mapped to the L and R buttons, spinning in the air is only on the d-pad and it can be tough to adjust to that with the left analog stick as regular movement. Sometimes, you will forget that you have to spin with the d-pad during big jumps missing big scoring opportunities. The standard controls, on the other hand, also took some time to get used to after so many years with the classic controls. Tricks can be done with the right stick or the face buttons as I went with the face buttons and they feel fine even though after a hour or two of hammering those buttons during jumps, my fingers were definitely taking a beating. Once you find a control style of preference after some runs, you'll be fine as you progress through the game.

The developers took the racing seriously this time around in this new SSX. Taking the right line really matters as it makes a big difference between being first and second place. The combat mechanics from the previous games are taken out, so you can punch people next to you to take them out for a short period of time, which is why I like the strong emphasis on the actual racing. It took me a while to find that perfect line through the Rockies course as I keep getting 2nd because sometimes following whoever is in first and trying to pass is a not the best idea. I also have to keep in mind that it is still a race and I can't be crazy high in air pulling off sick tricks, but you have still to nail enough of those to infinite boost going on your tricky meter. Speaking of boosting, SSX does a great sense of speed when you get a good stretch going really fast down the mountain. I would also compare it to the Burnout franchise once you go blazing. Then there is the RiderNet feature, this game's version of Need for Speed's autolog where you compare times and scores against your online friends and the leaderboards, but I won't get that much into that until my review of the final game.

The "Trick It" section of the demo is about getting a high score for the gold medal as most of those events go in the previous games. Just like the racing, a planned out line is definitely recommended to get that score, but at the end of the day, you're just going to find whatever ramp closest and try to get as many points as you can out of it. The tricky meter is similar to the uber meter with two levels of tricks. Once your tricky meter is golden, you can do the next level of tricks and even signature ones as well. Keeping that meter golden is the big key in doing well in these Trick It events because ending the combo will reset the multiplier. One of the exploitable tactics in past SSX games was to nose/tail press by any means necessary when you can't find a nearby jump and that still works to a certain extent in this new SSX. Another new mechanic in SSX is ability to rewind especially bailing during a big combo. I'm glad the developers decided that rewinding feels like a punishment as it subtracts points from your score and during races, opponents will just pass you. With that punishment mentality in mind, players like me won't use it that much and rather restart from the beginning of the course to get that perfect full run going.

I should not be talking more about this demo because most of this is gonna transfer over to my review of the final game, but damn I'm totally in love with the new SSX. If the demo is any indication how next week will turn out, this is gonna be arguably my most played game of the year. Plus, its nice to have a trick-based game out again because it seemed like the extreme sports genre of gaming of dying because of the Tony Hawk franchise's downfall and EA's Skate series did well enough, but not enough for that mainstream success. The strive for perfect full runs and trying to dominate RiderNet against online friends is gonna keep players like me going for a long time. I can already tell just by resetting multiple times during races and trick runs to try again (shoutouts to Siglemic). The graphics and soundtrack are also amazing just by the demo alone and I believe they will hold up in the final game. Man I can't wait for Tuesday which is when SSX is coming out on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

First Gameplay Footage of Sonic 4: Episode II

Sega finally shows off gameplay in their new trailer for Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II. After the disappointment that was Episode I, hopefully Dimps can turn it around here. Will the physics be changed for the better? It seems early to tell from all the quick cuts of the clip. At least the levels seem different and not unoriginal versions of past stages which Episode I had. One of the zones might be another version of Sonic 2's Aquatic Ruin Zone, but I'm not exactly sure. Tails seems to have a bigger role than people thought of in the first place as there are team mechanics to transverse through the acts, so at least he is not an useless sidekick. This is coming out in the Spring and after playing through Sonic CD again (which I didn't review, but get it since its still five bucks), I hope Episode II can make this whole Sonic 4 thing something legit than a desperate attempt of a comeback.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Taking Gangstas Back Into Space with Saints Row: The Third's New DLC

Even though Genkibowl VII was a disappointment to many last month, THQ and Volition are back with another set of DLC missions with Gangstas in Space. The big difference this time that this pack is actual story missions than activities seen in Genkibowl. The length of beating them is still the same as you'll be done with Gangstas in Space in a hour or two. This does not have any relation to the main campaign, but you star in a new movie directed by Andy Zhen. Your sidekick is a girl named Jenny playing as Kwilanna as the director gives her a tough time as if she is just an extra throughout the DLC. The missions themselves are scenes from the movie being shot and they are only three of them, hence why this DLC is over right away. Most of the scenes do take in Steelport as you blast away the army, alien intruders, and even alien spaceships to save Jenny. Like Genkibowl, Gangstas in Space does come in its own trophies and the unfortunate thing about them compared to Genkibowl is that you can't replay the missions with the same character over again if you missed a trophy or two (a patch will come out that will resolve that soon) . For trophy whores, better have a second character ready just in case you skipped getting one of them even though most of them are simple and can be beaten normally. The one achievement/trophy you'll likely miss the first time around is the collectable one as there are collectables spread throughout the movie set to get.

There is some other nice touches about Gangstas in Space. A film grain is used for the most of the missions giving it that feeling that you're actually shooting a movie. Also, the trademark humor the game has been known for is still intact from the cutscenes and even the trophies such as the "Do A Barrel Roll!" one. Additionally, I loved the usage of music in this DLC as it is the generic movie type of soundtrack you would hear when watching a summer blockbuster and it works in a game like this. The unlockables are not that bad and probably not gonna be used again when roaming around, but you get a spaceship, a new homie, and new laser weapons. Despite all of that, Gangstas in Space is seven bucks and for one hour or two of content, seven bucks is still too much for some, but this is better than Genkibowl because of the fact these are actual missions with a storyline. Hopefully next month's DLC (I think this is the last one planned) is even better than the two out now.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Ocarina of Time's "Ganonless" Glitch

Watch live video from Cosmo-OoT on TwitchTV
As if The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was a broken game already if you have seen the numerous speedruns of it over the years, there is a completely new glitch that was discovered just last weekend that skips the whole finale of the game. It is known as the "Ganonless" glitch and it requires some insane stuff for it to happen that I can't even describe here. It has been known that the game can be beaten in under a hour using the RBA route (aka random bottle adventure I think), but with this huge glitch, things are definitely gonna pick up now in the world of OOT speedrunning. You do the trade quest as normal, but there is lots of bottles, bugs, and fish involved that I can't even explain how that is done either (oh yeah bombs and deku nuts too). Along with that, you have to beat Dodongo's Cavern without getting the stone which is where the glitch has to go down. The ending is even crazier being all broken as I'll let the video above show that. It is still amazing to me that there are still glitches discovered so many years later after their initial release.

Hands-On with Mass Effect 3's Co-Op Demo

The online co-op half of the Mass Effect 3 Demo has been out for nearly a week even though everyone was able to access it by last Friday. It is no surprise that this co-op is a wave-based survival mode, but with the Mass Effect twists, it turned out better than I thought. I was going to write it off as just another Horde mode, but you can tell BioWare took their sweet time making it as a legit multiplayer mode than another tacked on bullet point to sell more copies. There are two maps to play in this demo as one takes place in a Noverian base while is at a more urbanized environment. Even for a demo, there is tons of replay value with the amount of unlockables you can get and it provides a good taste of the action in the final game.

One of the major reasons that co-op is more deeper than what people expected is the amount of characters you can play as and level them up. For the demo, you start as humans with the variety of classes the franchise has been known for from Soldier, Vanguard, Engineer, etc. As you buy starter/veteran packs with credits earned from playing matches, you gain more characters of different races, weapon modifications, extra health/ammo items, and more. A Turian Soldier for example would have different powers and stats than a human soldier, so BioWare did a good job of mixing things up with their races and classes so they don't feel one-dimensional. Leveling them up is the same traditional Mass Effect fashion with powers and stats along with the new branching trees introduced in this game when you reach level four with certain abilities. However, there are multiple characters with different classes to mess around with compared to customizing what the campaign gives you. It is also easy to level up quickly in this demo as a long game can guarantee that especially when you are just starting out.

There is a finite set of enemy waves players have to beat to complete the mission. For the demo, they are set at ten, which didn't seem much, but these games go longer than you think (almost a hour if you go deep). Hopefully the wave count can be customized in the matchmaking options of the final game. There are also difficulty settings that are significantly different in terms of the enemy count and types of enemies they throw at you as Bronze is the easiest, Silver is basically normal difficulty, and Gold is the hardest. Even on bronze difficulty, beating the ten waves with a full team of four is not a cakewalk as one wrong move will lead to failure. Teamwork in general is a key factor in beating these missions as going nuts without any sort of a gameplan is a bad idea especially with enemies that can kill you fast. At some waves, another objective would open up for players to complete than just clearing out objectives. These range from getting to certain chokepoints of the map to hack software or killing specific targets. More objectives just add along for things to get done while enemies are still out there to kill you, which is a good thing.

As far as the gameplay is concerned, it is still Mass Effect, but with more human controlled players in a certain area. Being that it is online co-op, the power and weapon wheels are not used since you can't stop the game during an online match, so you have to rely on quick commands to switch weapons, use powers, and items. It is highly recommended that the group you play with for this mode is diverse in terms of the classes as going in with four soldiers or four vanguards for example is not a good idea. The various classes are still true to themselves as they were in the campaign as having a variety of them in one map definitely helps. An engineer for instance would use drones in certain parts of the map to mow down enemies while soldiers and vanguards can finish the job with their damaging powers up close. Players can be revived if they're down, but can be curb stomped or bled out if you don't come in time to rescue them. Playing the maps with a varied group of classes does prove that co-op Mass Effect works as they have their roles to complete the mission.

Even though it is another wave-based survival mode at its core, Mass Effect 3's online co-op is actually fun to play especially with a group of players that use a variety of classes. There is a ton of replay value that can be as much as the competitive multiplayer juggernauts out now with the amount of characters and classes you can play as. The maps feel fine just by the demo so far as it is crazy seeing an Atlas mech roam around a small indoor environment at times. However, I hope the online matchmaking improves as load times can be long going in and out of games in the final game. Even when not finding matches, the load times are longer than normal even going back to the multiplayer menu. All of being that said, this is Mass Effect multiplayer done right as I don't think a versus mode would work out as well as this co-op, but who knows. We'll see if the online co-op still holds up when Mass Effect 3 is out in two weeks on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.