Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Spotlight: Overwatch

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: 2016

Blizzard, best known for Starcraft and World of Warcraft, is looking to tackle the FPS market with their first title; Overwatch.

The game looks like a Team Fortress style of squad combat, with multiple classes and abilities combining together to use teamwork to conquer the battlefield. Teams of six must work together to conquer one of two game modes; Payload which requires escorting a bomb to a certain delivery point, and Point Capture in which the attacking team must attempt to capture points on the map with the defending team stops them.

While the game modes are familiar, the cast of characters at your disposal is what makes this game stand out. Four character roles are established; offense-oriented, defense-oriented, support characters, and tanks. The personalities and character design really stands out the most in this respect, with a wide spectrum of choices from gigantic gorillas to gunslingers, to robot monks.

Unlike most games, you can actually switch between characters in-game following deaths, which is actually encouraged to adapt to the flow of the battlefield.

Though the game seems dangerously close to TF2 clone status, it is shaping up to feature a wider range of abilities and tactics to change things up. The beta is expected later this year.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Super Mario 3D Land Review - Another Dimension

Score: 9.0 / 10
Super Mario: 3D Land
Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 13th, 2011

  • Each level has a unique personality
  • Platforming starts basic but soon becomes challenging
  • Hidden rewards beg world exploration
  • 3D adds a lot to the game
  • No shortage of extra lives
  • Star Coins soon become a necessity for progression

Mario games come with many expectations; you will navigate a world to its finish, you will face challenging platforming obstacles, and each world will culminate in a castle with a Bowser goon at the end. Yet, with the latest Princess Peach kidnapping, Super Mario 3D Land somehow manages to maintain the charm and fun of a Mario game without making it feel like another Mario game that was created for the sake of keeping a standard title per platform.

Bowser, we both know how this ends

The utilization of the 3D technology to add depth to each level is where this game really stands out (pardon the pun). This ranges from the fun of having Bullet Bills fly at the screen or piranha plants that spit goo to blind you, to the more practical use of having platforms stand out and allowance for navigation of the terrain. The camera is fixed in place, allowing the developer to give a forced perspective to enhance the overall intended feeling for each segment of a level. It is a simple concept that makes for a more immersive game all around.

The name of the game is platforming, and it is something of an art at this point. Tightropes, disappearing platforms, and platforms alternating with every jump adorn all eight worlds and push your abilities to their limits. Each level has a memorable aspect or personality to it with a simple trope that is arranged in a multitude of ways. Ghost manor levels will feature a slew of Boo enemies and trick doors, while the castle courses involve navigating stone platforms amongst the lava. If you have a favorite kind of Mario level, you will find an iteration of it in some way with this title.

 Running in circles helps a lot!

Each level is structured to be completed fairly quickly, but exploration is rewarded with a slew of different bonuses. Star Coins are your primary means of progression, and three are scattered in each level. While you will find these to be plentiful enough to continue the main worlds, you may find yourself revisiting levels to find coins tucked away in corners in order to fully complete the latter unlocked secret worlds. One ups, powerups, and shortcuts are plentiful and often trekking away from the straight forward goal will net you a positive reward in one way or another.

Your expected tools are at your disposal for navigating the terrain and disposing of enemies. Fire flowers to quickly stamp out baddies, Tanooki suits to fly over pits, and even Boomerang suits to give the enemies a taste of their own medicine. The Propeller Block works really well with the 3D technology and many stages are tailored for the high flying leaps it provides. After dying five times on a stage, you will find a special Tanooki suit that will assist in traversing the level, and after ten times a P-Wing that will warp you straight to the end. It is a nice crutch for those who love Mario but find the courses too challenging. This only works on the main eight worlds and not the more difficult secret worlds.


There are memorable levels, challenging courses, and some of the most engaging platforming you could ask for in a Mario game. Further proof that Mario is timeless, everything about Super Mario 3D Land just works great. The feel and flow of navigating Mario to the finish and satisfaction on reaching the flag at the end is unmatched, and the application of the 3D technology only makes the finish that much sweeter. Hunting every star coin will take some time, and Luigi is even unlocked for a little added variety, but the secret worlds opened after completion of the main game rehash all of the courses with a different spin to provide the real challenge. Super Mario 3D Land is still the game I expected, but exceeded those expectations in more ways than one.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bethesda confirms Doom Pre-E3

Doom was a game that revolutionized the first person genre in 1993. Fighting through the hordes of demons from Hell, it led to many mods and network modes of play. Since then it has seen a sequel, a movie starring The Rock, and even has its servers populated to this day.

Now Bethesda has unveiled its latest sequel will be appearing at E3 with a teaser trailer.

Doom 3, the last installment by id Software, was a commercial success with brilliant lighting and atmosphere in addition to fun co-operative and single player missions. 

Expect the full trailer for the Doom successor at Bethesda's first conference at E3 on Sunday, June 13th.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Poor Ports: A Generational Gap

For the first time in a long time I have stopped playing a game after a few hours into the campaign. That game is Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Before you grab your pitchfork, allow me to explain.

I purchased this game as a gift for my brother after hearing rave reviews. We are both avid Lord of the Rings fans, but he did not own an Xbox One. Without a second thought, I purchased the Xbox 360 version for him. He did nothing but praise the game, loving the mechanic with warchiefs and easy to pick up gameplay; it was an overly positive attitude about the whole thing. So naturally, I borrowed this version to see what the game was all about.

What I experienced was a gem of a game buried underneath a terribly executed last-gen port.

The gameplay was there, but the technical hampers of downgrading a game meant for next-gen were all too obvious. Even after using an entire disc for installing the game to the console, framerate drops were common when a ton of enemies were on screen at once, textures did not load quickly enough and would leave me running through a muddy version of Mordor, and every moment you pause to inspect the map or navigate upgrades it would take a solid ten seconds to reload your current world and get back to the action.

Still ugly on all three versions...

Digital Foundry's video comparison shows just how noticeable the framerate issue can be when stacked up to the next-gen version.

For a game that had such critical acclaim, I felt like this was not the way it was intended to be played.

This is not the first time I have played a game on last-generation of consoles that had a next-gen edition available, but the only one I have personally experienced with such an abundance of technical hampers. Assassin's Creed: Black Flag launched with a Xbox One version as well. There were smaller nuances missing from the 360 version like the physics of the leaves blowing in the wind or the radiantly shimmering ocean waters, but nothing truly affected performance of the game on the Xbox 360. I never once felt like I was missing out on the experience of the game by playing the version on an older console, and despite the visual tone down it was still a stunningly beautiful game.

 Dragons are our last concern, we must stop these evil screen tears

This is not the only game to experience this issue. Alien: Isolation, Far Cry 4,  and Dragon Age: Inquisition are just a few of many ports suffering from more than just a visual step back. Screen tearing, character glitching, and audio sync issues are a commonality in ports of this nature. Though these nuances seem simple and could be overlooked by people like my brother, these truly detract from the overall intended experience of the game. These tiny problems can combine together as one ugly snap back to reality.

That is not to say we should leave the previous generation high and dry. Playstation 2 games continued to be churned out well after the release of the Playstation 3, and the last console generations are far from aged. Programs like Playstation Plus and Games with Gold have furthered the life of those consoles, offering discounted and even free titles for download.

I am all for last generation ports to open up a game's experience to as many potential customers as possible, but sacrificing core functionality is not the way to do it. There are a few shining examples such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes that are able to tone down the look but keep it the way it should be played.

 Shiny water, exclusively on the Xbox One

We have not quite hit that generational gap, but ports of this nature may have many people finally hitting that wall before churning out big money for new consoles all together. Big name titles like Witcher 3, Batman: Arkham Knight, and Tom Clancy's: The Division are all exclusively next-gen, but there are other big releases keeping tried and true to the older generation like Mortal Kombat X, Battlefield: Hardline, and Mighty No. 9. Research carefully before you dive into these titles, as your expectations may not be met.

Have there been any ports of games that you could not suffer through? Do you feel the old generation has reached it's cap?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Assassin's Creed: Syndicate Revealed

The first reveal for the newest Assassin's Creed shows what looks to be a promising game. Here is what was shown:
  • Taking place in London in the 1800s, you take control of Joseph Fry.
  • Whistling has returned. 
  • New features include vehicle travel with stage coaches and horses. Expect live traffic, including train segments?
  • New weapons include the Kukuri side arm, brass knuckles, and revolver. 
  • Rope launcher will shoot you to the top of a roof, allowing quicker travel over greater areas and even opening up aerial kills.
  • Hand to hand combat has seen an overhaul in animation and execution, with more vicious punches and hits than the stale swings from previous games.
  • The official release date will be October 23rd on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.