Friday, April 29, 2011

May Releases - Stylish Gunplay, Criminal Investigations, and Splosions!

May 10th

PC/PS3/Xbox 360
Developer: Splash Damage
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Brink looks to bring the fun of a class based shooters to the consoles with an added twist of parkour. You choose from one of four classes: Soldier, Engineer, Medic, and Operative. Along with character customization, Splash Damage developed the SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) System. The goal is to allow players to maneuver around complex environments without complex input by analyzing their position and judging what they are trying to do.
May 17th

LA Noire
PS3/Xbox 360/PC
Developer: Team Bondi/Rockstar Games
Publisher: Rockstar Games

After tackling big cities and western vistas, Rockstar is heading back in time to 1940s LA. You assume the role of Cole Phelps, an LAPD officer rising through the ranks of the department. The game blends investigative elements, crime solving, and  fast paced action sequences from chases on foot to car, as well as gun-play. Rockstar has had good marks in games the past few years, and this title looks just as intriguiging as the rest.

May 24th (Pushed to June)

PC/Xbox 360/PS3
Developer: Day 1 Studios
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive

F.E.A.R has been about two primary things - slow-mo shootouts and things scaring the crap out of you. F.E.A.R. 3 is to include new features such as co-op, an evolved cover system, and more scares than ever before. Grab your controller and an extra set of underwear.

May 31st (Pushed to June)

Red Faction: Armageddon
PC/Xbox 360/PS3
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Publisher: THQ

The fourth installment in the Red Faction series, this title promises to bring the boom. All the Red Faction titles thus far have featured an incredibly destructive environment, and the team at Volition promises to deliver it yet again. New weapons, new co-operative modes, and new enemies will make this a title to watch.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Heisman Winner Nabs NCAA 12' Cover

After a few weeks of voting, fans have elected 2009 Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram to grace the cover of the latest NCAA Football installment. Ingram was able to beat out Auburn's Nick Fairley and Oklahoma's running back Demarco Murray.

More than 140,000 people voted in the bracket of EA's Facebook page during March. Ingram told an AP in a phone interview:

 “It’s a tremendous honor. It’s a game I’ve been playing since middle school all through high school and even in college. Just the fact that I have a chance to be on the cover of a game is a blessing and something that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

NCAA Football 2012 will be on sale Tuesday, July 12th for all you Bama fans.

Portal 2 Review - Let's Have Fun with Science

Score: 9.25/10

Portal 2

PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve
Release Date: April 19th, 2011

  • Clever writing and voice acting, unrivaled by any other game
  • Improved visuals and clear, fluid animations
  • New elements make the puzzles as fun and challenging as ever
  • Co-op works well and gives some memorable moments
  • A bit shorter than desired for some
  • Load screens become a norm
  • No Challenge Rooms?

Portal was one of the most original games of 2007. It was a first-person shooter that required you to think instead of pull the trigger, with complex physics puzzles and one of the best antagonists to ever grace a video game. It raked up awards and recognition, and fans waited impatiently for a sequel...and then purchased a ton of indie games to make it come out even faster. After years of over-quoting "The Cake is a Lie!", finally the most anticipated sequel of the year has arrived.

Still Alive

Portal 2 follows Chell, the heroine from the first game that escaped Aperture Labs and destroyed GLaDOS, the rogue AI that took over the facility. You awake in a secured room and are greeted by Wheatley, the friendly robot and caretaker to the test subjects. The same lab you escaped before is deteriorating after GLaDOS was destroyed. Through a serious error on Wheatley's part, you inadvertantly restart GLaDOS; who drops you back into the labs for further testing.

Story has been somewhat of a second thought with Portal. It was rarely ever laid out in front of you, but rather hinted at through markings on the walls and discovered lab notes on a marker board. It was this sense of never truly realizing exactly what happened that gave Portal a sense of mystery and intrigue. This game has much more dialogue, and even with GLaDOSs' intentions already revealed from the last game, there are still some surprises thrown your way. Some a bit more predictable, some absurd, and some that leave you scratching your head. Though a little less cryptic than the first, it's still enough to hold your interest.


Despite taking place in the same lab, the rooms are barely distinguishable because of the incredible visual improvement the game offers. With GLaDOS rebooted, the rooms begin to fix themselves before your eyes. Seamless animations and play on lighting make it a sight to behold. There were rooms I encountered that made me scratch my head as to how my computer was still running everything so smoothly. You subtely transition from a decomissioned facility to a slighty more improved one, and even back to how it all looked before without even noticing. Little touches like the presentation of how turrets are assembeled piece by piece were enough raise an eyebrow. Noticing the smaller details helps to show how much work went in to improving an already great game.

When the eye candy isn't distracting you, the voicework is making you laugh. Stephen Merchant's addition as Wheatley is a welcome one; his hilarious mumblings and observations will cause you to take a break from the action to just laugh. The timing, emphasis, and addictive accent will make him an easy favorite. Ellen Mclain somehow manages to up her previous performance as GLaDOS, skimping the formal introduction of the previous game and instead jumping straight to sarcastic mockery. Even J.K. Simmons voicing Cave Johnson was a welcome surprise to encounter. The writing is original, fresh, and delivered flawlessly.

Maybe if I...No That's Not it

Portal gameplay consists of you working your way from room to room, solving each physics puzzle to pass into the next. What starts as a simple "Place the box on the button" soon becomes a complex series of switches and portal placement to continue to the next room. Some you will figure out pretty quickly, some will require you to take a moment to step back and look over the whole room, and some will have you trying things over and over until you realize the solution. Completion of each room is always satisfying as the solutions for most of the puzzles can be relatively complicated on later levels.

Along with the return of a few room elements, plenty of new ones make their way to the scene. Faith plates act as spring boards that shoot you in a direction. Redirection Cubes redirect lasers to hit certain objects or enemies. Beams of light will form walkways that can be redirected. Coupled with the Portal gun of shooting an entrance and exit portal, these elements can become chained together to open a door or dispose of a turret. Just when you start to think you have seen it all, some element will be thrown in to mix things up.

The most complex elements to be thrown in are the gels, which can be spread along the floor. Repulsion gel will bounce you to an equivalent height, Propulsion gel will speed you up and launch you off ramps, and Conversion gel will allow surfaces to host portals. One at a time these aren't too bad to get a hold on, but in the later puzzles when they all come together it can get pretty complex. I was not as big a fan of Conversion gel, as it created too many variables in a puzzle. I wound up painting an entire room trying to figure out which way to turn, as the previous rooms were much more linear in what you were intended to do.

Portal Buddies

Co-op is a new territory for Portal, and one that proved most enjoyable. In co-op, each player takes control of one of two bots that GLaDOS is testing; Atlas and P-Body. Each player gets a portal gun and progress from room to room, much like in the single player campaign. Teamwork is essential and communication is made through pinging different portal locations to get your message across non-verbally.

Figuring out the rooms with a buddy over the mic is the best way to experience the game. I played with someone who was also new, and found that thinking with 4 portals in mind is much more challenging than 2 portals. Puzzles require timing, coordination, and patience. Having voice communication worked wonders in laying out an overall goal, but there are elements in place to communicate non-verbally if the situation arises.

To Be Continued?

The biggest complaint you hear about the game is the length. The single player campaign can take you roughly 6-9 hours depending on how fast you figure out the solution to the puzzles. With co-op, you can tack on about a good 4-5 hours. This adds up to about a good 10-14 hours of gameplay. I felt like the game was long enough in terms of a general campaign, being careful not to overstay its welcome.

It's the lack of any additional options that surprised me. Single player and co-op is all well and good, but the potential for challenge rooms like the first installment was great; and would have been a nice addition. Once you play through what is offered, the only real incentive to go back through again would be for achievements, hidden easter eggs, and developer commentary.


Portal 2 delivered on all my expectations, even exceeding in most areas. Clever puzzle design led to many great "Ah-Ha!" moments, witty retorts led to many "Ha Ha" moments, and failing to time that jump correctly led to many "Ahhh!" moments. It is an incredibly fun single player experience that I am sure I will revisit time and time again.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Nintendo Console in 2012

Nintendo has been slacking on Wii title releases lately and the reason seems to be coming to light. A new console has been confirmed to be showcased at E3 this year.

The unnamed console, according to Kotaku:
Furthermore, we've heard that the machine will be more powerful than current-gen systems, meaning Nintendo, currently backing a Wii that is weaker in horsepower than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, will be showing a new console that is more powerful than those current competitors.

So what does this mean for the console? Besides being more powerful, will it actually set a new trend like the Wii did in motion gaming? Or will it simply amaze everyone with visuals never before seen as possible?

E3 kicks off June 7th, until then it is merely speculation. Let's all just cross our fingers, and pray that friend codes die off with the Wii....

Source: Kotaku - New Nintendo Console Debuting at E3,...

Beyond Good & Evil HD Review - Diamond in the Rough

Score: 8.75/10

Beyond Good & Evil HD
Xbox 360 Arcade/ PSN(May 11')
Cost: 800 Microsoft Points
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: March 2nd, 2011

  • Despite being 8 years old, gameplay still holds up well
  • HD Visual touch ups give it a much more polished look
  • Fantastic soundtrack
  • Only 800 Microsoft points
  • Classic Save System requires visiting a machine before stopping
  • Camera becomes useless in tight spaces
  • With a port, comes the occasional glitch

Beyond Good & Evil is one of those games that only a few of your friends played, but bragged endlessly about as you ignored them. While being flooded with titles, this little gem from Ubisoft snuck in under the radar around November of 2003.  The underground success and word of mouth has helped the game live on, until a remastered HD version hit the Xbox Live Arcade for a mere 800 points. Having missed it the first go around, I thought it would be worth a look.

They Don't Make Em Like They Used To

The biggest question you can ask about the game is if it still holds up to today; the short answer being, Yes. The story, characters, worlds; it all has a unique touch that allows the game to shine. Being a completely new game to me, it felt like an authentic arcade release title.

After completing the first few missions it became clear as to why this game was a success; it was well ahead of its time. Open world exploration, side-quests, set pieces, an intriguing cast of characters; the game has it all. There were points in the game where I could imagine my surprised reaction eight years ago. Though the impact is lessened nowadays, it still was enough to raise an eyebrow.

Cop Drama in Space!

The game follows Jade and Pey'j, two unlikely characters looking after orphans on the planet Hillys. Under the constant threat of attack from an alien source called the DomZ, they begin to notice how the world's local law enforcement arrives after the threat has passed. Desperate for money, they take up contracts that slowly peel away layers of corruption and secrets being kept from the general public.
The story is a truly enjoyable one, and becomes more interesting as the cast of characters expands. Favorites are quickly chosen, from the lovable angst of Pey'j to the hilarious physical comedy of Double H.

Little of This, Little of That

The gameplay acts much like any action/adventure you have picked up. You will do some fighting, lots of collecting, and tackle the occasional puzzle. The game shifts these elements enough to make sure nothing becomes too stale for too long. The additional stealth rooms also serve as breaks in the button-mashing action.

The world functions like a typical open world game, in which your hovercraft navigates to points of interest. Trecking off the beaten path warrants hovercraft races, photography potentials (netting you cash), and chase segments; all of which rewarding your curiosity. You'll soon find yourself scouting new areas, checking every corner for a possible photography setup.

You progress by upgrading your hovercraft with pearls. Adding on weapons, a boost, and a jump can unlock additional areas. It's lenient enough to allow you to sweep through the game and skip some of the side content if you choose.

A larger surprise turned out to be the relative difficulty of the game. While the beginning had me under the impression that I was in for a simple breeze through another title, the latter portions of the game provide some truly difficult stealth rooms and battles that require more than the conventional button mashing to surpass. It is a challenge that can still make the most confident of gamers sweat.

Your biggest enemy: The Camera Man

The only real gripes with the game lay in the aspects that have not aged well. The biggest problem being the camera. In any tight spaces, you are basically blind. The camera will zoom in too far if pushed against a wall, struggle to help you peek around corners, and hover in a position to insure you never see any of the action. It's something that has been addressed by Ubisoft and a fix is in the works, but at the time being; the camera remains your biggest enemy.

Other small troubles include a save system that requires you to check into a machine to save. In lieu of the traditional checkpoints we have become accustomed to, this becomes a bit of an inconvenience and it loses the pick up and play feel.


If you can manage to suffer through the camera, Beyond Good & Evil is a surprisingly enjoyable game. It has aged well, and acts as a nice break from the slew of other titles available. I can safely say that after playing it, I wished I had managed to pick it up back in 2003.