Friday, March 30, 2012

April Gaming Releases - A Storm of Swords

Highlighted Release
The Witcher 2: Assassin's of Kings Enhanced Editions
Xbox 360 - PC 
Developer: CD Project Red
Publisher: Warner Brothers
Release Date: April 17th, 2012

My personal Game of the Year for 2011 is headed to consoles with all new content to boot. The quality looks to be sustained in the port from PC to Xbox 360, suffering no loss to the incredible visual appeal. Console owners will finally be able to get their hands on an RPG unlike any other, and the new content will have PC owners diving back in for another play through.

*** If you wish to watch a trailer for the game, simply the click on the game cover art. Enjoy!***

April 3rd

April 12th

April 24th

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Journey - Video Review

Journey Review - Don't Stop Believing

Score : 9 / 10
Playstation Network
Developer: That Game Company
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: March 13th, 2012

  • Visual masterpiece that melds flawlessly with soundtrack
  • Different experience and feel in co-op and single player
  • Every minute is as engrossing as the last
  • Steep price for what is offered
  • Camera tied to six-axis tends to hurt more than help

It's hard to put a game like Journey into words. Journey is much more of an experience than an actual game. There are no leaderboards, no kill/death ratio, and no competitive multiplayer. Much like That Game Company's previous titles of Flower or Flow, its much more about an interactive world that evokes emotion rather than something that is meant to be challenging and adrenaline inducing. Journey continues that trend, by providing a beautiful simplicity in a market strewn with high scores and complexity.

You begin the game plopped into the middle of a desert. There is no spoken dialogue and not a word of text. All you are given is a goal, a mountain in the distance with a beacon of light adorning its peak. Each segment of the game is broken up to reveal a little about the world around you through tapestries depicting events that shaped the realm to its current state. While a basis is established for the backstory, much of Journey is left to self interpretation. Your nameless entity passes by lands filled with graves, living organisms that respond to your pulse, and intimidating robotic monstrosities that attack you on sight; it's an expansive and mysterious world that pushes you forward to discover what is next.

The overall mystery drives you forward, but the visual appeal of Journey will have you engrossed in the game from start to finish. Every segment of the game is akin to walking through a painting, ranging from vast deserts to a frozen wasteland. In addition to the gorgeous cel-shaded polish, subtle touches like the free-floating scarf and resonating trail your character leaves in the sand help make Journey one of the best looking downloadable titles to grace the PS3. Accenting the amazing look is a thoughtfully crafted soundtrack. Each melody compliments its surroundings, adding to the haunting and beautiful scenery you explore.

Gameplay is stripped down to the basics, with one button to jump and another to send out a pulse that ignites life around you, which expands depending on how long you hold the button down. Your scarf acts as your gauge for how far and long you can sustain a jump, and this gauge is recharged by the lively cloth scattered around the path. The scarf can be further extended by discovering enchanted cloth scattered around the levels. The game boils down to a platformer, with a few stealth segments and environmental hazards mixed between. Despite the limited variety, the simplicity of using cloth to boost jumps and encouragement to string glides together to gracefully soar along the path never loses appeal.

Co-operative play is automatically incorporated as soon as you drop into the world. There is no voice chat, and the most interaction you can have are small song notes that you can send out with the pulse. Staying close together will recharge your scarf, encouraging you to take on Journey with a friend at your side. With no notification of a player joining, it's as if you stumble upon a fellow traveler along the road and embark together toward your goal. There is even a list of all the players you encountered at the end credits, adding names to the faces you encountered along the way. The anonymity is a nice touch, and with those experienced players on their fifth run through, it can feel like a wary traveler is guiding you to your destination.

While Journey is a wonderfully crafted experience, the simplicity has its drawbacks. For a $15 price tag and game that has been in development since 2009, Journey is a short-lived experience; clocking in at around 2 and a half hours depending on your play style. The camera for the game is tied to the six axis controller in addition to the right thumbstick, and movement of your controller as you scratch your head can distort your camera from its original position.

Though a short-lived experience, Journey is an unforgettable one. It's one of the few games that can drop the mentality of defeating an enemy and exchange it for a straightforward adventure of pure enjoyment. It's a title that sticks with you well after the credits roll, and the enticing world will soon draw you back in for another visit. If you are looking for a break from the typical, Journey will not disappoint.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mass Effect 3 - Multiplayer Statistics

That is a lot of dead Phantoms. I expected Vanguards to be the most popular class, so I am surprised to see the soldier reigning in online. Impressive stats to kick off the co-operative multiplayer.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mass Effect 3 - Video Review

Mass Effect 3 Review - Take Earth Back

Score: 9.5 / 10
Mass Effect 3
PC - PS3 - Xbox 360
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date:  March 6th, 2012

  • Pushes each platform with stunning visuals
  • Combat holds up well, and new enemies keep it fresh
  • Original dialogue and compelling narrative will drive you forward
  • Variables in moral choices and consequences offers broad scope of outcomes
  • Melee combat lacks finesse
  • Friendly AI leaves a lot to be desired
  • Ending provides little closure and raises new questions

Mass Effect 3 marks a close to a series that has been going strong since November of 2007. Bioware has crafted a space epic that has been shaping choices through two major titles, and is looking to close the trilogy out in style. It's hard to say goodbye to this expansive lore, but Bioware manages to deliver a compelling narrative that starts off strong and rarely slows down.

It All Comes Down to This

The third installment picks up with Commander Shepard's recent disbarment from the military landing him/her on Earth and right at the start of the Reaper invasion. Shepard escapes and must now assemble every asset possible to retake Earth, while hatching a plan to stop the Reaper's endless cycle of wiping out human life.  The burden of becoming a glimmer of hope falls heavy on your character, and the sense of dread intensifies as each world falls to the Reapers. The feeling of despair in seeing buildings toppled and hearing the cries of fallen troopers over the radio as you progress never lessens, and drives you to push onward. Between a memorial of the lost on the wall of the Citadel to the growing number of Reapers on the galaxy map; you get the feeling that time is running out before the last stand.

The emphasis on loss is heavy in this game, as showcased in the opening somber melody that accompanies the invasion of Earth and Shepard's haunting visions. It's an emotion filled powerhouse, as characters you have come to know and love over the span of two titles stand at your side with each one having the potential to fall. Those captivating scenes of sharing a last moment with a companion can melt even the hardest of hearts, and devoted fans of the series that have been with their Shepard since the beginning will find themselves fully invested in every line of dialogue.

Empowering this space epic is top notch production value. Even in war, Mass Effect 3 showcases its beauty with some of the most incredible backdrops to grace a game. The lively backdrops make it feel as if you are simply a small part of a much bigger conflict as battles are waged in the distance. Sharp textures, vivid lighting, and cinematic action sequences make ME3 one of the best looking games out there. Complimenting the look is an original soundtrack, mixing electronic melodies with movie-quality symphonic overtures. Coupled with a perfect voice cast and satisfying sounds in everything from firing a weapon to the bass-inducing Reaper warcry; and this game is downright marvelous to behold.

Assemble the Fleet

In the end, Mass Effect 3 is shaped by your own choice. The sheer possibility of variables that is now three games in is impressive, and most players will have a unique experience depending on the outcomes they obtained in previous titles. Major decisions from the past will come to fruition, and you begin to wonder "what if" as their events resonate to the current situation. It's enough to warrant a few additional play throughs, just to see how some situations play out differently.

The crux of the Mass Effect gameplay is conversational choice and cover based combat. You travel from planet to planet looking to recruit every alien race you can to your cause, each with varying outcomes depending on your Paragon or Renegade choices. Each recruitment nets you a war asset, and you soon find that even the slightest actions can boost your armada. Decisions from the previous titles can even impact your assembled army, with such simplicities as choosing to save Zhu's Hope adding resources to your regime. With each new addition you begin to see your army grow, and with it, your anticipation to see everything come together for the final assault.

Amassing a great army proves addicting, but the finale to the game fails to really showcase all your hard work. While the impressive fleet number will have you smiling with pride as they allow you to punch through the Reaper forces, you have no real control over your assets or even your additional squad mates. It's disappointing, considering the second installment had you issuing orders to your team to utilize their strengths and made you feel like a commander. The final missions for this game simply feels like another mission with an influx of baddies.

When not on missions you will be touring around your ship or the Citadel to engage in the popular conversational dialogue. Your crew mates will wander about the ship and even the Citadel itself, warranting a few visit to see what they have to say in different surroundings. They still default to the robotic "Shepard" reply when they run out of issues to talk about, and some conversations have been completely cut out in lieu of gaining quests or picking choices by eavesdropping. There aren't many new faces, with the only new party members being James Vega or the DLC character of Javik; but the previous cast holds up well and their interactions and emotional heart to hearts are worth a break in the action.

While the game sets you on a distinct path, side missions can be acquired that vary from well thought out operations to tacked on fetch quests. The bigger side missions will usually involve you helping out a previous squadmate from your suicide objective in the second game, and these prove the most enjoyable way to gain additional war assets. The majority of side missions acquired will involve planet scanning, which has been reworked to scan a remote area instead of individual planets. Scanning an area too much calls in the Reapers, and if they catch you it's an immediate game over...which can just easily be reloaded and doesn't act as much of a penalty.

Future Fighter

Combat has seen little change, but it carries over well. Mass Effect's combat utilizes cover based shooting combined with an ability wheel. Calling up the wheel stops the combat, allowing you to use class powers and plan your next move. Your most common abilities can be mapped to specific buttons for immediate response. Bioware has even utilized the Kinect, which despite its occasional misread, can help keep you in the combat and out of the menus.

New enemies help to add to the variety the game offers. A developer at Bioware clearly thought what Mass Effect was missing were dragons and they threw those in this time around. Cerberus Phantom troops close in for deadly melee strikes, smoke grenades shroud the field of view, and Reaper indoctrinated Rachni pummel you from afar with a barrage of missiles. Topping it all off are the Banshees, which apart from their piercing shriek, can teleport around and devastate you at close range. The new enemies essentially drive you out of cover and force you to stay on the move, something the friendly AI is incapable of performing without assistance. There are occasional times that you will run from a Brute, while Garrus attempts to stay and shake hands.

The melee combat has received a slight rework, but still proves mundane compared to the shooting mechanic. Oftentimes you will end up overshooting a charged hit or coming up short, in addition to completely missing an opponent if they are stunned on the ground in front of you. While there is an overall satisfaction in landing a hit or pulling an enemy over cover for a one hit kill, it doesn't have the natural finesse that really makes it work.

Your enemies may be bigger, but your arsenal is sure to match up with some minor tweaks. A slew of weaponry will be at your disposal, and each weapon is upgradeable with various attachments to personalize them to your preference. Weapons now have weight, and the more weapons you carry the more time it takes to recharge your powers. This offset works well in freeing up the gun type you prefer, no matter the class. Armor can also be customized like before, with new pieces boosting certain stats or complete suits for a full package. There is enough customization offered and variety available to outfit your squad into your ideal deadly force.

Galactic Readiness

New to the Mass Effect franchise is the co-operative multiplayer. Players choose from the same classes offered in single player and work to survive ten waves of either Cerberus, Geth, or Reaper enemy types with a final evac wave to close it all out. Wave objectives will vary, with some demanding pure survival and others more objective based that require eliminating specific targets or hacking various devices. There are also different levels of difficulty, ranging from Bronze to Gold level challenges with bigger and better rewards from each mission accomplished.

At the end of each game you will procure experience and credits to spend on upgrades. The leveling system is akin to the single player and allows you to customize each class to strengthen your favorite abilities. The credits can be spent on one of three packs, each more expensive than the last. The packs almost act like trading cards, providing random in-game bonuses. unlocks, and weaponry to give you an edge in your next battle.

While the item procurement adds an addictive element to the game, the multiplayer remains a decent experience. Increasing the difficulty can make for an enjoyable challenge, but the waves of enemies soon grows stale. The same limited enemy types make their reappearance, and the base weaponry you start out with will makes you feel like a kid shooting robots with a BB Gun. There is incentive to play for a boost to your military effectiveness in the single player game, but once that is achieved the lack of variety may have you jumping back into campaign. It's fun if you give it a chance, just don't expect anything that will revolutionize the co-operative experience.


Mass Effect 3 has a few technical issues here and there, but provides an impressive close to the trilogy. It has been quite some time since a game has carried such an emotional impact, and the experience is tripled if you've stuck with your commander from the beginning. This lore-enriched world is hard to say goodbye to, but Bioware makes sure that the last goodbye is one filled with joy, tears, and utter bliss. I'm Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite game on the Citadel.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Halo 4 Spring Showcase 2012

Assassin's Creed III Announcement Trailer

SSX Review - It's Tricky!

Score: 7.75 / 10
PC - PS3 - Xbox 360
Developer: EA Sports
Publisher: EA
Release Date: February 29th, 2012

  • Feel of carving down a mountain is unmatched
  • Pulling off insane tricks are simple and appealing
  • Great sense of competition with Global Events and Rival scores
  • Bass thumping soundtrack fuels you to land every move
  • Single player is a lonely, desolate experience
  • No game lobbies mean little chance of playing in real time with a friend
  • New "Survive It" stages put a hamper on the fun 
  • Character personalities have been deduced considerably

SSX was all about insane tricks, gravity defying physics, and a stellar soundtrack while carving down a mountain. With the last true title being released around 2005, it's been some time since we have heard from the series. Now SSX has returned, with a new look that has an overall darker feel. The result is the familiar over-the-top tricks the series if famous for, hampered by the vision to make a more realistic game.

We Came to Rock Around

SSX is not one to focus on story, but EA has attempted to set some precedence for these band of riders to face death defying cliffs. Team SSX was formed to entertain, but one of their members has defected and brought the fan base and glory with him. Now it is up to Team SSX to regain their fans and take down Griff's spotlight through deadly runs down infamous mountains. Though the game tries to hold your attention with brief introductory cutscenes and comic book panel of character profiles, it fails to really establish a basis for a plot. This is disheartening, considering the once colorful cast of characters have been deduced to lifeless husks with little personality besides occasional quips when riding.

While the story remains pointless, the intensity and feeling of SSX is still very much alive. The overall sensation is as close as one could get to carving down a steep mountain and landing an insane trick. This is in no small part due to a fantastic presentation. The sound of ice crunching under your board, the glistening sunlight off of a patch of ice, and the camera shake as you boost to a jump all combine to give off a feeling of speed and adrenaline.

Also making its return is clever track design. SSX is set in a way so that if you miss a jump or bail a trick, there is always another opportunity lying in wait. Tracks are littered with rails and ramps and its ultimately up to the player on their optimum path down the slopes. These work well at times, but later tracks can be downright cruel as the amount of crevices and cliffs has increased. Even with a Rewind feature at your disposal, the penalties are steep for missing a jump or turning the wrong way and you can find your incredibly high combo trashed with the flick of the thumbstick.

With SSX, comes a memorable soundtrack; and this game is no different. There is plenty of variety offered; ranging from the alternative sound of The Naked and Famous to the ever persistent dubstep of Nero. An updated version of Run DMC's "It's Tricky" even returns to accompany your ability to achieve Tricky status. While I found myself yearning for a few classics to return like Yellowcard's "Way Away", the soundtrack is solid, and you will be quick to pick your favorites. 

Hit the Slopes

The single player campaign aptly named "World Tour" spans nine countries, and acts as a tutorial for the basic features of the game. You will compete in the three base game types; Race, Tricky, and Survive It. Completing each event will unlock more tracks on top of netting you a base amount of currency to spend on improved gear. There are no medals awarded in the single player, and it is either pass or fail.

The new Survive It mode is the prime focus of the single player experience, and despite mixing up the expected gameplay, it ends up detracting from the core of what SSX is about. The need to press a button to supply oxygen or watch your health and armor while careening down a mountain come off as less of a challenge, and more of a chore. The most frustrating addition is the new Avalanche mode, in which controls are reversed and the camera is placed in the most unfortunate angle you will ever experience. Not all of them are terrible, as the wingsuit's use to cross gaps or the pulse goggle's outline of terrain in whiteout conditions have potential outside of their intended use.

The only real incentive to play the campaign is to unlock what is offered and move on. Besides a few character unlocks and comic inspired panels establishing character backstory, there is no real reason to dive into this mode considering the amount of content awaiting you just one option down. The fact that you can actually skip an event if you fail it too many times and still net all the credits and unlocks offered just adds reason to stray to other features.

Let's See You Beat That!

The "Explore It" mode is where you will spend most of your time, and there is plenty of content available to keep you busy. In this mode you compete in either Race, Tricky, or Survive It and are awarded a bronze, silver, or gold medal depending on your performance. The gold medals are no pushovers, and will require a bit of effort to place your name at the top.

The competitive nature of upkeeping a score is further enhanced thanks to the online competition. Your friends' best times and score will appear for each track, and the game even offers a bounty for overcoming their records. Any of your personal records broken are alerted to you when you first fire up the game, and seeking bragging rights will soon have you returning to perfect a run.

Credits earned from races and events can be spent on gear. The customization has also taken a step down, with the only true character outfitting being a single suit choice. Credits become plentiful and it will take no time at all to outfit a character with a fast board and glowing suit. Credits can also be earned from laying down "Geotags" that you can scatter in hidden places on the course for other players to pick up.

Global Domination

The real appeal of SSX arises from the competitive multiplayer, and the Global Events do a fine job of providing an interesting way to play with others. There are no game lobbies, no long queues; the game just drops you onto the slopes and lets you get to the action. During your run you will see ghosts and images of players actively playing the same map at the same time as you, giving a welcome populated feel to the lonely mountain in a manner akin to Dark Souls.

Global Events have set "brackets" that offer rewards. Player scores and times shape these brackets, and depending on your performance you are put into a range from Bronze to Diamond. Getting into a higher bracket and staying there will net you a hefty amount of credits, with the total increasing with each range.

These events can last anywhere from minutes to days, and the variety and amount offered will promise rewards for practically anyone competing. There are even some events that require you to ante up a couple thousand credits before entering to further weed out a few riders. Whether you are pro or noob, there are events out there that can promise rewards.

The entire multiplayer setup is a double edged sword. On the one hand, you have no real wait times to get right to the action besides a load screen. On the other hand the only way to simultaneously play with a friend online is to time your drops together, though once you being your run you are quickly separated as you each follow a separate path. The most disappointing feature that remains absent is the lack of splitscreen, even in offline mode.


SSX makes a great return where you would expect, but the added realism and lack of single player focus hampers the game from making its mark. The nostalgic feel is there at times, but usually fades the second you retry a race for the fifth time or careen into a cliff. Fans of SSX will have plenty to enjoy, but may be left wanting more.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Assassin's Creed III Revealed

Gameinformer has unveiled the latest Assassin's Creed title as their cover story. ACIII will take place during the American Revolution. From the official site's post:
"The game that emerged is Assassin's Creed III. Set in the latter half of the 18th century, we'll see the war between the Templars and the Assassins escalate as it crosses over to the New World of America, and witness firsthand the events of the American Revolution. Caught in the conflict is a daring new hero in the Assassin's Creed franchise."
I am looking forward to Benjamin Franklin crafting some night vision bifocals!

For the full story, visit Gameinformer's Official Post.