Wednesday, August 31, 2011

September Gaming Releases - So it Begins...

September 6th

Driver: San Francisco

PS3 - Xbox 360 - Wii - (PC 27th)
Developer: Ubisoft Reflections
Publisher: Ubisoft

Warhammer 40k: Space Marine

PC - PS3 - Xbox 360
Developer: Relic Entertainment
Publisher: THQ

Dead Island

PC - PS3 - Xbox 360 - OnLive
Developer: Techland
Publisher: Deep Silver

Resistance 3

Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

September 13th

Hard Reset

Developer: The Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Steam

NHL 12

PS3 - Xbox360
 Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports

The Gunstringer 
Xbox 360 Kinect 
Developer: Twisted Pixel Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios

September 20th

Gears of War 3

Xbox 360
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft

September 27th


PC - PS3 - Xbox 360 - Wii
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts


X-Men Destiny

Xbox 360 - Wii - PS3 - Nintendo DS
Developer: Silicon Knights
Publisher: Activision

Monday, August 29, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution - More than Human

Score: 8.75/10
Deus Ex: Human Revolution

PS3-Xbox 360-PC
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: August 23, 2011

  • Various methods to progress through each room
  • Takedowns that never get old
  • Slew of choices personalize the experience
  • Whether the combat or stealth approach, the result is satisfying
  • Customization to tailor the character for your own playstyle

  • For a game offering variety, stealth is encouraged
  • Boss battles seem an inconvenience more than an experience
  • Very long load times
  • Enemy AI is questionable

The original Deus Ex was released in 2000 on the PC and received critical acclaim. No other shooter could combine RPG and adventure experiences and meld them into gameplay. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is no different, as the large amount of choice and gameplay elements meld together to make an enjoyable and personal experience.

Robot in Disguise

Acting as a prequel to the first Deus Ex, you are Adam Jensen; security lead at Seraph industries that works in cybernetic augmentations. The latest discovery is cut short as a terrorist attack puts you in intensive care and gives you cybernetic enhancements of your own. With your new abilities, you must uncover the truth behind the attack. While the story starts slow enough, it soon hooks you in as you delve deeper into the chaos. Having not played the first Deus Ex, there were moments missed that original fans are sure to find entertaining, but nothing story wise is too dependent upon playing the first game to piece together.

The world itself is an interesting one of conflict. There are the pro-cybernetic crowds against anti-cybernetic crowds, mixing political and social conflict. It is a world alive with scandal, chaos, and corruption, each ensnaring the characters in the game.You always feel like there is something deeper going on behind each mission you take up or character you interact with.

Visually the game, while not a benchmark in pushing detail, is enjoyable. The overall futuristic ambiance is alive as a slew of dark and yellow tones through the game greet you, amplified by a synthetic soundtrack. Though some character models and textures look a bit rougher than the typical game and Jensen's dialogue reminds you of Christian Bale's Batman, it's nothing to detract from the overall impression. The only part to truly distract you are the rough character animations that look much less alive than the world that surrounds them.

Silent in the Shadows

The gameplay in Deus Ex is a complex one, as it mixes a plethora of game types together into one cohesion. The main idea is a first person shooter, but as you take cover behind walls it shifts into a third person view. Then there are interrogations to sway conversation to your liking, and a RPG leveling system. It's like someone took Fallout, sandwiched it between Gears of War, sprinkled LA Noire on top, and stuck it in a blender. While different at first, you soon get the hang of the transitions.

Most of the time you will be asked to move from point A to point B, but it's up to you to choose how to go about it. You can go in guns blazing with the third person cover system and shoot the place to high hell. Those inclined to keep it quiet can stealth their way in, picking off guards one by one. There are even those who choose to mix both together.

This is where Deus Ex shines; choice not only in social interaction, but choice in gameplay. The variety in paths and abilities really personalizes the experience for the player. Countless times after I cleared a room, I stumbled upon a vent or explosive barrel or hackable terminal that I did not initially notice and thought, that would be a clever way to get past them. This factor encourages you to try different tactics and methods to fit whatever situation is thrown your way. The majority of the time, if something is blocking your path there is always another way to approach it.

We Can Rebuild Him...

There are benefits to being a totally awesome cyborg, and these are what you will be pumping upgrades into to better improve your abilities. As you progress you are awarded XP which warrants you a Praxis Point. These can be spent on varying abilities to suit your play style.

If you are more the combat hardened character, there are some abilities to boost your overall armor and reduce recoil. The stealth-savvy will enjoy the short term cloaking and ability to run without making noise. Even the hackers have ability trees that make it easier to hack doors and even gain the ability to turn sentry turrets against their fellow man.

Though limited in provision, Praxis points can be bought or kits can be found which allow you to spend a decent amount without overpowering your character. You will be strong, but never a one-man army.

Conversation Starter

Most missions and side missions will only be acquired through conversation. As you traverse the hub world you will run into many colorful characters that could use assistance. Some missions are placed in your path, while others are found only by those looking for a quest. The only downside is that you cannot truly "backtrack" and must finish these side missions before continuing the main story.

As stated before, along the main game you will encounter "interrogation" or persuasion pieces. These can alter the outcome of a situation in your favor. In one case you need to convince a hostage to be released. Talking rationally gets the job done 90% of the time, and I found that if I approached each conversation as if it were actually taking place in the real world, the outcome was in my favor. It's a smart, well done aspect of the game that can let you avoid fights all together.


Despite the great positives the game provides, there are some negatives that hold it back from greatness. The AI in this game is pretty stupid when it comes to investigating a noise. If I was ever caught, there was always somewhere I could go that the AI could not. I am not talking about on top of a crane or something out of reach, I am talking about walking into another room 5 feet from their position where I have been pelting them with bullets.

The boss battles in the game end up lacking any real enjoyment. Most of them require the run and gun strategy, and most could be spammed by the Typhoon ability for a quick victory. In a game offering choice and diversity, these encounters felt forceful in tactics.

Though the hardest difficulty provides some challenge, the long load times really put a hamper on things when you die. We are talking a good 30 seconds or so of waiting before hopping back into the action. Though a patch is en route for PC to address this issue, consoles suffer the worst. In an age where load times are masked by slow opening doors or slow moving elevators, it just feels like a huge inconvenience.


If you can wait out the dragging load times and challenge yourself to go through the game stealthily, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a blast to play. It is one of those games that you can pick up, stare at the clock, and realize you spent an hour deciphering that one room correctly. If you are debating what to pick it up for, PC is the best experience for it all around. It is a solid standout of a title, and a nice end to the summer gaming drought.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bastion Review - The Kid is Alright

Score 9.25/10

Xbox Live Arcade
Developer: Super Giant Games
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: July 20, 2011
Cost: 1200 MS

  • For an arcade title, it has an impressive presentation
  • Stellar soundtrack
  • Gameplay is fast and easy to pick up
  • Array of weaponry at your disposal allows you to customize to your liking
  • New Game+ gives replay value to the game
  • Targeting can be hectic when multiple enemies are on screen
  • Fixed camera can occasionally make it difficult to determine where a platform ends

Bastion is another title that has received great word of mouth and promotion during the Summer of Arcade. At 1200 MS points, most have been reluctant to purchase the newest title from Super Giant Games. Once you start Bastion it soon becomes obvious that this arcade title is unlike any you have played before, and may be the best Xbox Live Arcade experience you can have.

Welcome to the Bastion
The plot and story telling for Bastion is done through an ominous narrator. His deep, boding voice unfolds the story as you progress with original and fresh dialogue. It gives off the sense of being a recalled tale, rather than one that is playing out in real time. While the voice do not seem to fit at first, you eventually grow to love his commentary on your actions.

You play as The Kid, who awakens to a world destroyed by an event simply known as "The Calamity". Through artifacts and stage progression you slowly peal away the layers to find out what happened and restore your hub world of The Bastion, bringing it back to its glory days.

When firing up Bastion I got the sense of throwing an SNES cartridge in my Xbox, as the shading and style of the game feel like a classic throwback. Though the images by no means contained super detailed textures, it went along with the theme and feel of the game. As you walk the world unfolds before you, giving it a dungeon crawler ambiance and ever present ignorance of what could lay ahead.

Terror of the Tiles

The game at its core functions as an action/adventure RPG. You start in the hubzone of Bastion and from there, shoot off to other areas to explore. Fighting nets you experience,  which you use to level up your weapons and skills.

Combat is simple, and easy to pick up. You get a button to attack, one to block, and one to use a special ability. Though simple in layout, the combat is not a standard hack and slash with waves of enemies. Some take priority in being struck first, some cannot be attacked directly, and some are handled best at melee or ranged. The constant shuffle of enemies keeps thing interesting and challenging enough to keep you from getting bored.

In addition to the main questline there are specific side objectives for each weapon. Tasks such as hitting as many targets with the bow with as few shots as possible, to navigating a maze with the polearm are welcome distractions from the main story. Exploration is also encouraged in each level as artifacts are littered throughout for you to collect.

Only a few minor nuances really get in the way. When mutliple enemies get on screen, it can be tough to target the specific one you really want as you dodge incoming projectiles. Plus, once you are leveled up enough you do seem a bit overpowered, but none of these truly detract from the overall enjoyment.

Level Up!

As stated before, the RPG elements come into play when customizing your loadout at the Bastion. An array of six buildings litter the hub world, each offering something to improve or challenge your character.

Each weapon you get can be customized to perform better with items from the store and exploration. The most interesting part is how the weapons can choose one of two paths, being switched at your convenience. An upgrade could warrant a more powerful shot or a faster shot, depending on personal preference. It's this simple inclusion that really makes it feel like I am tailoring the weapon to fit my play style.

There are also additional "spirits" you can assign to boost personal health or damage with each level, and a room that awards additional experience upon completing certain requirements. The most interesting Bastion addition is the altar, where you can invoke the wrath of the gods to increase the difficulty in certain areas but have enemies yield higher experience.


Something that impressed me the most about Bastion was not the gameplay or the look, but the music. The soundtrack to this game is phenomenal. Each track captures the feel of the moment; be it frantic combat or somber self-reflection.

The most standout tracks at the songs performed by the games' few characters you run into along the way. Their somber melodies combine with original lyrics to really convey the hopelessness and struggle the few surviving citizens are coping with. Even if you never play the game, just listening to the soundtrack can impress the biggest non-gamer.


Bastion is not only one of the most impressive titles this year, but one of the greatest Xbox Live Arcade titles on the market. A compelling story, addictive combat, and incredible sound design combine to create a truly remarkable game. With a New Game+ mode and hours of content, you get plenty of bang for your buck.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Best Voice Actors in Gaming

Making the look for a great and iconic character in gaming is one thing, but it is the voice that can truly bring characters to life. While many appreciate a good looking game with stylish gameplay, I am always impressed when a voice actor can really deliver a performance that not only powers the story, but leaves me in anticipation of their next lines of dialogue. Here are a few of the voice actors that lend their voice to the gaming industry the most, and excel with each new character.

Nolan North

Notable Work:
  • Nathan Drake - (Uncharted, Uncharted 2)
  • Desmond Mile - (Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed II, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood)
  • The Prince - (Prince of Persia - 2008)
  • Space Core / Fact Core / Adventure Core - (Portal 2)
  • Nathan Drake - (Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception)
  • The Penguin - (Batman: Arkham City)

It is not a voice actor list without first mentioning the man himself; Nolan North. If you check his IMDB, the list is endless of various games/cartoons/animated shorts that he has loaned his voice to, showcasing his ability to adapt to a multitude of roles; be it the cocky hero or dastardly villain. His most iconic role of Nathan Drake made him a personal favorite of gamers everywhere. No other voice actor could have fit the role better, as Nolan brought Nathan Drake's witty, charismatic personality to life through his carefully timed voice delivery and mocap. Chances are that if you have ever played a video game, you have heard the him in some role.

Jennifer Hale

Notable Work:
  • Commander Shepard (Female) - (Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2)
  • Ophelia - (Brutal Legend)
  • Trishka - (Bulletstorm)
  • Bastilla - (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)
  • Commander Shepard (Female) - (Mass Effect 3)
  • Satele Shan - (Star Wars the Old Republic)
Jennifer Hale is a female juggernaut of voice acting. With a hefty amount of cartoons and animated features under her belt, she also sports a slew of video games characters. Her role of Bastilla in KoToR stuck with me the most, as her voice exemplified the confident, yet caring nature of the Jedi who stood by your side. There is an unmistakable inflection in her voice that makes her noticeable and easy to identify, yet it never detracts from making each character she portrays different and unique.

Ali Hillis

Notable Work:
  • Dr. Liara Tsoni - (Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2)
  • Lightning - (Final Fantasy XIII)
  • Dr. Ariel Hanson - (Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty)
Upcoming Work:
  • Dr. Liara Tsoni - (Mass Effect 3)
  • Lightning - (Final Fantasy XIII-2)
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic

Leading her voice to such games as Mass Effect and Final Fantasy XIII, Ali Hillis is a stand out among gaming voice talent. Her role of Dr. Liara Tsoni in the Mass Effect titles was the most impressive, as the lower register in her voice leaves a seductive, yet innocent tone to the character. Her portrayal of Lightning was equally affected by this lower voice, in providing a stern and strong female lead.

Troy Baker

Notable Work:
  • Snow - (Final Fantasy XIII)
  • Vincent Brooks - (Catherine)
  • Alec Mason - (Red Faction Guerilla )
Upcoming Work:
  • Two-Face - (Batman: Arkham City)
  • Booker Dewitt - (Bioshock: Infinite)
After making a mark in cartoons, Troy Baker has steadily emerged as a gaming voice regular. His lively, eccentric voice breathes life into every character he portrays. His performance as Snow from Final Fantasy XIII proved to be one of the best in the game, as the typical hero showed signs of losing hope through well delivered dialogue. With his future appearance as the lead role in Bioshock: Infinite, he is sure to become even more well known and appreciated.

Jen Taylor

Notable Work:
  • Cortana - (Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3)
  • Princess Peach - (Everything Since Mario Kart)
  • Zoe - (Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2)

Upcoming Work:
  • Cortana - (Halo 4)
Turning words into a savory song, Jen Taylor has one of those voices that can make you melt. Her iconic role of Cortana showcased her ability to transform an AI, something assumed so boring and monotone in every form of media, into one of the most charismatic leads of the Halo story. She even became a personal favorite choice in Left 4 Dead for her lively portrayal of Zoe. 

Claudia Black

Notable Work:
  • Morrigan - (Dragon Age: Origins)
  • Chloe - (Uncharted 2)
  • Admiral Daro'Xen vas Moreh - (Mass Effect 2)
Upcoming Work:
  • Chloe - (Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception)
  • Sam Byrne - (Gears of War 3)
Claudia Black's Australian dialect is easy to recognize, and always vivacious. Her portrayal of Chloe in Uncharted 2 was a welcome addition, but it was her role as Morrigan that made her stand out the most. Here was a character that was morally gray and seemed out for herself, yet was given a hint of compassion that was amplified by Claudia's delivery.

Steve Blum

Notable Work:
  • Grayson Hunt - (Bulletstorm)
  • Grunt - (Mass Effect 2)
  • Jack Cayman - (Madworld)
Upcoming Work:
  • Grunt - (Mass Effect 3)
  • King Bouris Ulgo  - (Star Wars: The Old Republic)
Another titan in voice work, Steve Blum's rugged voice can make an incredible impact in a character. The gritty register has empowered foul-mouthed mercenaries like Grayson Hunt, but still differentiate from the cooler, collected nature of Jack Cayman. With an impressive IMDB roster and an infinite amount of possibilities ahead, Steve Blum is a welcome addition to the list.

Quinton Flynn

Notable Work:
  • Axel - (Kingdom Hearts II)
  • Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider - (World of Warcraft)
  • Raiden - (Metal Gear Solid 2, Metal Gear Solid 4)
Upcoming Work:
  • Raiden - (Metal Gear Solid: Rising
  • Silver the Hedgehog - (Sonic Generations)
With another distinguishable voice, Quinton Flynn is able to breathe life into each character he backs. His most iconic role as Raiden from the Metal Gear Solid series produced a notable change from the second to the fourth installment, and Quinton's performance helped to showcase it vocally. With a voice tailored to animation, he is yet another addition to the list that is well worth a nod.

Robin Downes

Notable Work:
  • Doc/ Various- (Bulletstorm)
  • Medic - (Team Fortress 2)
  • Sagacious Zu - (Jade Empire)
  • Travis Touchdown - (No more Heroes)
Upcoming Work:
  • Talbot - (Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception)
  • Joseph Capelli - (Resistance 3)
Not only can he give a personality to a doctorial profession in Team Fortress 2, but the man's IMDB showcases a multitude of roles over several years of gaming. He is most known for being the voice behind Travis Touchdown, where even his vulgar words made necks explode. To transition to that from his calmer role of Sagacious Zu, backs his ability to adapt to any role.

Honorable Mentions

Mark Hamil

Notable Work:
  • The Joker - (Batman: Arkham Asylum)
  • The Watcher - (Darksiders)
Upcoming Work:
  • The Joker - (Batman: Arkham City)
David Hayter

Notable Work:
  • Solid Snake - (Metal Gear Solid series)
Upcoming Work:
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fruit Ninja Kinect Review: Frigid Fruit

Score 7/10

Fruit Ninja Kinect
Xbox Live Arcade: Kinect

Developer: Halfbrick Studios
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: August 9th, 2011
Cost: 800 MS Points

  • Great pick up and play Kinect title
  • Leaderboards to compete against your friends
  • Unlockables are a nice incentive to play more
  • Mistakenly judging a slice happens far too often
  • Main Menu is a chore to navigate
  • Co-op can be physically painful
  • Not a lot of content considering the price

In the latest Summer of Arcade title, Fruit Ninja Kinect brings the hit OS App to the consoles as the newest Kinect game.

Go Ninja Go Ninja, Go!

The basic idea of Fruit Ninja is a simple one; whack fruit and score points. Slicing in a direction with your hands slices the fruit. Hitting multiple fruit with one swipe warrants a combo, and thus, a higher score. With most gametypes featuring bombs that hurt your time or lives, it's a game you want to be accurate and efficient in performing.

This is mixed up with the various game types. There is an Arcade mode that throws a timer in the corner and bombs that lower the timer if hit. There are also power ups like "Freeze Time" or "Frenzy" that work to assist you. Zen mode does away with bombs and has you working to improve your combo with fruits alone. Classic offers your 3 lives and costs you a life with each fruit you miss.

Fans of the OS game will feel right at home with the rules and regulations, and noobies are quick to gather how it works. It's a simple premise with easy execution.

Buddies and Bonuses

Fruit Ninja with a friend is another interesting feature added to the game. There is a co-op and battle mode available, depending on how you view your friendship at the current time. The co-op is much like Arcade, and boasts powerups and a timer. It's the battle mode that proves the most interesting with colored fruit specific to which side you are on; blue hits blue and red hits red. It's unfortunate that the space is so small for these modes, as with almost every game, my friends and I ended up smacking each other in the arms more often than not.

In addition to co-op the game offers unlockables. These can range from new backgrounds to new shadow effects, to new blade types that are unlocked through specified requirements. Basically playing the game will gradually unlock them, though a few require some tact. It's a small incentive that keeps you playing to unlock all that is available.

Kinect Woes

For the basic idea of things, Fruit Ninja works decently enough for the Kinect. It proves to be pretty enjoyable and that "one more try" effect most OS games possess is present. Though the Kinect lag becomes obvious at the start, you soon tailor your movements and make it work, using the reflected shadow in the background to track your movements. That does not mean that Fruit Ninja is not lacking in a few areas.

Accidental slices make navigating the menu and staying accurate a chore. You must "slice" your option to open it, most of the time missing or hitting the wrong thing. Occasional miss-swipes would occur in-game that made it hard to build up combos or the accidental swipe of a bomb would end your streak. In a game that demands precision to excel, this hurdle gets in the way.

Then there is the pricetag. Sure it's not the 1200MS points like previous titles, but 800MS points for this game is a bit much to ask. I am usually not one to complain on price, but 10 bucks for an essential OS game to Xbox Live Arcade port is a bit much to ask, even if it is Kinect. Slicing fruit can only hold your attention so long...


Fruit Ninja Kinect is an interesting addition to the Kinect library, but one that is too short-lived. Though bound to be a hit for a weekend with the usual group, the novelty eventually fades along with your arm strength. At a 800MS point price tag, it is tailored toward the die hard fans with Kinect only...all 8 of you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Counter Strike Returns Q1-2012

Counter Strike was a mod that took the PC world by storm around 1999 and has had several releases since. The newest sequel, Counter Strike: Global Offense, was confirmed today for a Q1 2012 release date.

Expect to see many new features including:
  • New Gameplay mode
  • New Maps and Revamps of Classics (Dust, Aztec)
  • New Weapons
  • Matchmaking and Leaderboards
  • New character skins
The game is being developed by Valve and Hidden Path Entertainment, who also worked on previous CS titles. We should hear more as the weeks progress, but until then, here is a teaser trailer for the game. CS:GO will be released for PC, Xbox 360 Arcade, and the Playstation Network.

Source: Platform Nation

Monday, August 8, 2011

From Dust Review: A Dusty Diety

Score: 8/10

From Dust
Xbox Live Arcade/PC/PSN
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Cost: 1200 MS Points

  • Environmental physics that never get old to see
  • An arcade title that trumps most retail titles in look
  • Intriguing gameplay that keeps you on your toes
  • Challenge maps to further the play value
  • No one way to complete a map
  • Camera can be tedious
  • No true way to control the tribesman besides setting pre-destined waypoints
  • Grabbing the right element or object can prove frustrating at times
  • Villager AI is incredibly stupid

The second title available from the Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade is From Dust. Ubisoft's latest arcade title is for those archaeological strategy enthusiasts...all six of you.

Sovereign Sphere

On the face of it, From Dust is a strategy game. Yet it is much more about controlling the elements than the actual villagers you seek to flourish. You assume the role of a god-like sphere entity that must guide villagers to establishing a civilization.

It only takes a level or two to truly appreciate the look and physics of the game. It never gets old to pick up a pile of sand and redistribute it, as the swirling vortex of particles is hypnotizing to behold. It was when a tsunami was thwarted by my villagers that I truly saw the level of detail shine through, as a wall of water cascaded around my village and trickled to the valley behind me. Materials behave as they normally would, with water slowly eroding insufficient barricades and fire spreading as it would among brush. It is like watching a Discovery channel special in HD, and being able to pick up parts of the erupting volcano.

The early civilization influence is apparent as your villagers perform tribal dances and speak in a language similar to an ancient ancestor of the Sims. Each tribe member is adorned with a single expression mask that gives the game a cartoonish feel. The only true story is narrated by a tribal leader, but holds no real interest or emotional attachment to the villagers...which is good because when they die from your accidental removal of a sand barrier, you do no feel so bad about it.

The Power to Move Mountains

The gameplay works from a typical overhead view of the terrain. The basic goal is to get your villagers from totem to totem, establishing a village and populating the area with vegetation. There are also additional side missions you can attempt such as getting vegetation to spread throughout the region and discovering small "memories" that are essentially text logs. The beauty of the game is that there is no one method to completing a map. You can sit there for hours building a sand maze if it gets the job done.

You control the snake like cursor that is able to pick up and place various elements around the area. You can pick up sand and redirect a river's stream for your tribesman to cross, pick up lava to form new mountains to protect from tsunamis, etc. You can also have villagers retrieve knowledge and memories from certain waypoints to repel certain hazards.

You are not restricted to just picking up and placing elements, as various powers are in place to assist you as you progress. With each totem populated, you gain one power. These can range from turning elements to jelly, thus freezing the water, to being able to place infinite amounts of earth at one time.

In addition to a story mode, there are a slew of challenge maps unlocked as you progress. These mini-maps give simple challenges like escorting villagers through a series of rivers, to dousing out a fire before it burns down a village. No real medals are given, just a time record to beat.They still add some interesting scenarios and can be pretty fun to attempt.

A Tsunami of Troubles

What starts as a simple pull and place soon becomes a frantic race against mother nature. The problem with this is the simplistic controls of the console eventually give way. There is no real way to jump the camera from totem to totem. You must sluggishly glide along the map, only realizing your village is in trouble by the frantic screams and panic of villagers. The camera is either too far in or way too far out most of the time.

Villagers in this game are very....very...stupid. This is not helped by the fact that you cannot set them waypoints like, "Hey wait here, I'll clear this out for you." Once you assign them a task they will become drunk with purpose and strive headfirst toward their target. They consider lava a mere twig in the road, and laugh as you try to desperately clear their path until they vanish in a puff of smoke. Villager waypoints can constantly shift, and on some occasions your villager will not go down a desired route. It's a much bigger issue on the later levels, and led to much frustration.

Other smaller nuances hold From Dust back from greatness. The maps feel limited in size due to console constraints, and you always feel like you are emerging into another box world with the same parts moved around. The Challenge maps, though interesting to tackle, prove short-lived with only a "fast time" to flaunt. Potential for a level editor is great in this game, and oddly absent.


From Dust delivered a decent strategy game experience for an Arcade title. If you can get past the basic feel of the game, it truly is one of the more visually appealing arcade games to play. The potential was there for greatness, but nothing was delivered but the basics.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Why I Still Own a Kinect

I purchased a Kinect last November with Dance Central and the packaged Kinect Adventures. I played both games at a relatively normal pace, showcased the technology to friends, and had a generally good time with the hardware.

It has been at least six months since I have genuinely played anything Kinect associated. Besides the occasional voice command items while doing chores, it sits quietly and collects dust.  And yet, I am hesitant to sell the device.

It's not due to the current lineup, I will be the first to admit it. Let's face facts, the software released with the Kinect left a lot to be desired. Though Dance Central proved to be the best use of the tech and most enjoyable title I experienced, it only lasted so long before the appeal faded. Kinect Adventures was much like that of Wii Sports, and was a series of mini games that held my attention for a day at most.

Future Software for Kinect?
  I initially held on to the hardware for E3's showcase. I thought to myself, surely they have some top developers throwing something incredible our way. With each title unveiled, my optimism dwindled. The Star Wars game every one had hoped for looked lag ridden and dull (Though in its defense is looking to have improved functionality since E3). The Fable Legends title looked like a rail shooter that might hold my attention for a few days, and seeing that I have no children (that I am aware of) Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster had no appeal at all.

That's not to say there are not a golden few Kinect titles that hold potential. Ryse is a first person hack and slash game from the fine individuals at Crytek (Crysis 2) that puts you in the shoes of a roman warrior. Sega has a first person survival horror game in the works known as Rise of Nightmares. Even arcade titles such as Twisted Pixel's Gunstringer look like fine use of the Kinect technology. They just do not look like titles that I would drop a big game for...

So why do I still have this thing? What is keeping me from taking it back and throwing it toward one of the dozen big name titles coming out this Fall?

It is the big name titles themselves that are holding me back.

A handful of games are featuring Kinect support for a few elements of gameplay. Mass Effect 3 will make use of the voice recognition technology that allows you to speak the dialogue options aloud. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary has already admitted to including some Kinect function in their game. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier showcased a bit of how they will integrate menu navigation and working gameplay to the Kinect.

I don't expect to use these features all the time, nor do I expect them to work perfectly; but the inclusion alone is a big check in the win column for the Kinect. The potential of the hardware to enhance games we already love is something I have been hoping for since release. A small inclusion of issuing squad base orders by voice or maybe solving a puzzle with motion control could prove an interesting addition. Though I am skeptical as to the functionality of the Ghost Recon gameplay (see below), the Minority Report inspired navigation of weapon customization blew me away. Regardless of the functionality, I like the direction developers are taking in providing some support for the hardware.

I would not go out and purchase a Kinect right away just because a big title is including an option to offer voice recognition, but it is something that has persuaded me to hold on to the hardware a bit longer. It's much like choosing to see a movie in 3D instead of 2D; you get the same product in the end, but that 3D can make things look awfully spiffy...or inexplicably burn your retinas.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The EVO 2011 Impact

In case you missed it this past weekend, the EVO 2011 Championship tourney was underway at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas. Thousands of gamers both young and old put their skills to the test as they battled it out over Super Street Fighter 4, Marvel vs Capcom 3, and more.

I have heard a lot about EVO over the years, but never actually sat and observed the games...and man are they are intense. Just watch the clip below to observe one of the most exciting matches of the Marvel vs Capcom 3 tourney:

It is such a unique thing to observe two competitors, dedicated to a single game with hours upon hours of practice, duke it out in front of fans and fellow competitors. There is a certain energy in the crowd that amplifies what gaming is all about.

You have to have a new found respect to those that compete as you watch the matches. These are individuals who have dedicated their lives to a single game, with the sole purpose of becoming better than the guy next to them. Every move is analyzed, every strategy studied and tested, and every scenario evaluated.

Yet it is when they are on stage that the true pressure is felt, even from a spectator's view. You can see each opponent studying each other, trying to figure out patterns. All the while one single slip, one single missed move, or one failed combo can make or break a fight. At certain points, I was on the edge of my seat as one competitor's health bar dwindled and the other was moving in for the finisher.

Despite the tourney's competitive energy there is, whether intentional or unintentional, a certain interpretation of this social gathering. It is much like that of Comic Con or E3, a celebration of a medium we make a part of our lives through competition. When you think about it, it is basically a room full of people cheering on two guys playing a video game. Rather, it seems like a meeting of like-minded individuals, celebrating a game's impact in their lives by showcasing their dedication for the world to see. A winner is crowned in the end, but EVO seems like an experience that even the loser feels good about in the end.

Needless to say there were some exciting battles at EVO 2011, and it showed dedication and skill I had never seen in a simple online match. I am not one who can usually watch some one else play video games, but this was a huge exception. Here is to the competitors on a well fought tourney, that I will be sure to keep my eye on in the years to follow.