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