Dec 312012
 

This year was a year dominated by the rise of the Arcade.  Half of the games in my top 10 were 15 dollars or less and that’s a huge testament to how big the Xbox Live Arcade has gotten in the past year. Apart from the ones on my list, other games like Fez, Journey (PS3 download but you get the message), and Trials Evolution are getting major consideration for awards on multiple other websites. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a fair share of retail releases that impressed on multiple levels. Tell that to Sleeping Dogs, Mass Effect 3, Far Cry 3, Assassins Creed 3, and Dishonored and they will prove you wrong. It wasn’t the best year, that’s for sure, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t impress in many ways.

 

10. Hybrid

Hybrid is far from what it appears to be, it’s more than just another multiplayer focused shooter. It gets its “more” from not only the stunning visuals but also the intuitive design around the movement and in game combat mechanics that it executes so seamlessly. It, along with games such as Monday Night Combat, have really proven how great of a service Xbox Live Arcade is for small teams who have a new way to freshen up the increasingly dry multiplayer based experience. That combined with the intelligent overworld that presents constant power struggles between the two games factions in the form of ongoing battles within a certain part of the world are some of the biggest reasons that Hybrid stands tall within a dying genre.

 

9. Mark of the Ninja

Let’s all be honest here, stealth games are usually pieces of trash. Sure, a lot of them have a good heart behind them but actually executing on the ideas needed to make a decent stealth game seem near impossible for most developers. That, combined with the fact that I didn’t like Klei’s previous franchise, Shank, led to some pretty low expectations as I came into Mark of the Ninja. What I got was a fresh and sneaky experience that hasn’t been matched in years. Klei brought their admittedly beautiful art style from the Shank series and combined it with their now brilliant game design aspects that turn Mark of the Ninja into a pleasantly tense experience throughout its five hour lifespan.

 

8. Max Payne 3

I know what you’re thinking; I forgot Max Payne came out this year too. But believe it or not, it did release and again, believe it or not, it was pretty good. It told the depressing alcohol ridden story of Mr. Payne as he traipsed through foreign land trying to save soul after soul, and failing rather miserably each time. The story however was not this Max Payne’s forte as the most enjoyable aspects came from the franchises stapled combat mechanics. The combat revolves around using slow motion and Max Payne’s acrobatic nature (despite his age) to the player’s advantage as cinematic and beautiful moments seem to pop up in every combat section. There’s no doubt that Rockstar did well with the Max Payne series this go around, but it’s clear that it’s time to move on. Bully 2, perhaps?

 
7. Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust is the definition of coming out of left field to be a major success this year. Sure, many had decent expectations approaching the games release but I don’t think anyone expected the experience they got when they starting tearing through that beautiful word. A product made by one sole human in Dean Dodrill, Dust took a cartoony art style and turned it into a key aspect of a rather serious story that hits major emotional undertones near the end. In my original review I stated that Dust may have the best visuals I’ve ever seen and I still stand by that statement. Every inch of every slaved over texture is just as beautiful as the next and never ceases to be the best eye candy you’ll see all year. The story is far from the only thing that shined though as so did the well-executed combo system that let you blast enemies into midair and rack up combo chains that would easily reach 2000+. Dust is just one more reason why I think this year may have been one of the best years Xbox Live Arcade has ever experienced.

 

6. Assassin’s Creed III

Apart from the year Revelations has released, an Assassins Creed installment has taken my Game of the Year for every year one is released. Since Ubisoft had made the horrible decision to annualize the franchise, we all knew it would be a matter of time before the fatigue began to set in and that was unfortunately the case with Assassin’s Creed III. But thankfully, the fatigue only begins to hit near the end as most of the game is a fantastic Assassin’s Creed experience that takes previous mechanics and only heightens their simplicity and effectiveness. The main reason it’s in my top 10 though is due all to Connor’s story and how nicely the Revolutionary War is integrated into the story. Sure, it has its hiccups, like all Assassin’s Creeds do, but experiencing that time period is something I’ve always dreamed of and seeing it realized in front of my face was an unforgettable experience.

 

5. Forza Horizon

Though I own the third, I’ll admit that I’ve never played a Forza game before. I’ve never been a racing game kind of guy and the complex nature of the car customization was really daunting whenever I did have that itch to jump into the Forza Community. I finally took the leap with Forza Horizon and was, simply put, blown away. The visuals are expected to be absolutely fantastic, and they are, but the simple feel of handling each car within the multitude of races was such an immersive quality that I eventually felt like I just couldn’t put the game down. The simplified nature and fantastic design choices that have been so prevalent in previous Forza’s all come to a head and make one of the best racing experiences I’ve had on this generation of consoles.

 
4. Spelunky

People are going to call me crazy, I know, but I never got into Dark Souls nor did I fall in love with Super Meat Boy. Trust me, I tried oh so hard but I couldn’t find the masochistic pleasure that everyone else seemed to bathe in. That masochistic pleasure finally hit me when I played Spelunky, though. Spelunky, originally a flash game, is a well realized and even better executed platformer that sends you throughout multiple levels, only allowing a checkpoint at the end of the current world you’re in. That is, if you have the required loot that the tunnel man desires. It’s hard to explain the degree of difficulty that comes with the task of getting through these worlds but to put it simply, I felt as if I could smash my controller between my hands whenever I would die and have to restart. But I felt like the world heavyweight champion when I would unlock a checkpoint. I wanted to sprint out of my house yelling of my success to any human or animal that would listen. Either way, no game matched the sheer happiness I felt once I reached the final world and at the same time, no game can match the pure horror I felt when I witnessed what the final world was comprised of.

 
3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Oh man, XCOM. If there was an award for uncontrollable addiction that you could not shake, you would be my choice. Apart from the obviously exciting turn based gameplay, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is one of the most well designed games I’ve ever laid hands on. It literally feels as if Firaxis never wants you to put the controller down, so they lay a small carrot (that expands into a huge carrot) down right in front of your face. They then make it seem so easy to reach, but it’s challenging. Just challenging enough to have you keep practicing so you can finally gnaw down on the carrot. With that, so goes ten hours of your life. That describes my experience with XCOM, hard as hell but damn is that carrot rewarding.

 
2. Sleeping Dogs

Leading up to the release of Sleeping Dogs, I couldn’t shake this feeling. The feeling was one of unexplainable confidence. Despite Sleeping Dog’s horrendous development life, I still felt like United Front and Square Enix were both about to churn out a decent product. Once I got my hands on it, I began to realize that a “decent” product did not describe Sleeping Dogs; instead it was a damn fine product. It all starts with the gorgeous visuals that helped bring the streets of Hong Kong to life, though that’s only a small inch of the shocker that is Sleeping Dogs.

Once you get past that positive, you see some of the best things within the package such as the Arkham Asylum-esque combat system that relies heavily on counters. The world itself was littered with side missions that either add to the depth that each character features or instead, are just plain fun. With the exception of those damn racing mission. Sleeping Dogs story is not a particularly new one; it’s a gang story relying on your main character who is an undercover cop. The thing that really elevates the narrative however is the fantastic characters that fill the world of Sleeping Dogs. Not only was Sleeping Dogs by far the most surprising game of the year, it was also one of the best games not only this year, but in the past few years. It’s one of those rare games that could go head to head with any Grand Theft Auto game and in the end, come out a victor.

 
1. The Walking Dead

Speaking of surprises, I think it’s safe to say that before the first episode’s release, no one expected Tell Tale’s latest episodic adventure to blow up like The Walking Dead has. I’ll admit, it was nowhere near on my radar when the year began but once the first episode, A New Day, was in my virtual hands, I knew I had found a piece of gold. Sure, I’ll admit that The Walking Dead is far from perfect; it has some serious visual issues and some occasional shooting sequences that feel like they had been worked on for ten minutes before being installed in the game. But that being said, I’ve never been more emotionally invested into a video game or any form of media like I was when playing through The Walking Dead.

The way it forces you into Lee’s shoes and then makes you feel like you belong there is truly amazing and something I’m sure all games wish they could achieve. But it doesn’t stop there as Tell Tale and their writers introduce character after character that all play an equally important role in your struggle to live. Then came the dialogue choices that were just as good at putting a smile on your face as they were at absolutely ripping your heart out and stomping on it. The terrible decisions that are forced upon you later on in the game only add to the pure horror you experience through your time with The Walking Dead.

Simply put, The Walking Dead is an absolute masterpiece and the best video game storytelling experience I’ve ever laid hands on.

Dec 312012
 

 

(So yea, Gaming hasn’t improved, it has simply gotten simpler so we imbeciles can enjoy it. Right? Wrong!)

Commonly in Video Game culture there comes a discussion of how games today are just far too easy and they’ve developed this way to make it easier for the masses to play games. This idea perpetuates the notion that gaming has only gotten bigger because it has dumbed down so that non-gamers(Whoever they are) can get excited about playing games.

There are two main reasons why these types of ideas are just plain stupid. Firstly it’s actually offensive to gamers to say that more people play now because games have gotten “stupid” enough for the majority of “stupid” society to play along.

Believe it or not, Pokemon, Paperboy, and Super Street fighter were never hard games. It’s true that there are a number of series early on in gaming that were extremely challenging but looking at the “Golden” era of gaming shows a plethora of games you could consider laughably easy.

IF ANYTHING there are MORE challenging games on the market from 2000-2012, then there were from 1988-2000. As gamers grew up, game designers were forced to keep their audience and code for better and better games more centered toward growing audiences. This has lead to more challenge over time rather than more games like Asteroids.

So just to clarify my first point, there were tons of easy games back when Gaming was developing in the golden era which people seem to so greatly cling to. Ignoring them and saying we have too many easy games today is just ignorance about Gaming history.

Secondly, games have gotten more efficient over time and game designers have been working their butts off trying to makes games more approachable and easier to understand for decades. To ignore their hard work in how they seamlessly integrate tutorials into the game or provide subtle hints to push the player forward CAN lead to someone THINKING a game is more easy. In reality it’s Game designers who have become incredibly good at their jobs.

Games that used to stop and teach you a new game mechanic and then force you into the fire may have seemed harder than the current games which slowly ease you into a new game mechanic and only make it necessary once you’ve had time to master it.

This just means games are less frustrating and are fairer, rather than throwing you into the fire randomly or improperly setting up the game. Why would we want to go back to games that were badly designed?

Hard Games have always existed

Now pointing all this out isn’t to say that hard games didn’t exist, they definitely did and the hard ones in the 1990′s are probably harder than the hard ones we have today. But to say that we don’t have games that are difficult now, or to say that people only love gaming because it’s dumbed down is insulting to all gamers. We’re not imbeciles and society as a whole isn’t filled with droves of idiots that like to randomly mash buttons.

Button mashing games exist, as do correctly designed games like Pokemon. Pokemon, just given as an example, is a game that has depth, but can also be easily played by most children. The game design is supurb and explains why it has gone on to sell millions of copies.

Similarly, most current day games have learned the mistakes of the passed, become the wiser, and are more approachable and easier to  get into than games of the past. This doesn’t make them easier, only better built, and this increased efficiency of play is a boon that has lead to many millions more people getting addicted to the gaming bug.

Our Games are as great as they’ve always been, we should recognize that, praise the talents of game designers, and acknowledge that we’ve learned from the past’s mistakes. To simply throw that all away and say games are “easier” is essentially a slap in the face to all gamers; especially when you follow it up by saying gaming only has mass appeal if it’s dumbed down.

Don’t let their ignorance about Gaming’s history taint the hard work of countless game production studios, designers, programmers, and the community at large.

 

 

 

 

 

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www.ImmortalPhoenix.net

Dec 282012
 

Here it is! The fan vote for Gaming Irresponsibly’s Game of the Year Awards! Vote for your favorite nominated Online Game, your favorite games of the year and for one of our Game of the Year nominees! Leave a comment below and we’ll enter you in a chance to win one of the few extra game codes we have lying around!

Don’t forget to take a look at the other award winners! Also, follow us on twitter for updates on the vote!

 

Dec 242012
 

Here we go! The announced winners of the Game of the Year Awards. We haven’t awarded 3 awards as of yet: Online Game of the Year, Reader’s Choice and the much coveted Game of the Year. We are going to need your help with these. So keep an eye open in the next day as we need to prep our poling system! We’d love your feedback on the awards!

 

Horror/Survival Horror of the Game of the Year – The Walking Dead

Telltale Interactive Games unveiled their magnum opus point-and-click adventure in the form of the current super-franchise, The Walking Dead. The game is set in the comic world of the series, before the majority of events that play out after Rick Grimes comes out of his coma. Lee Everett’s quest to survive and also protect the young Clementine creates some of the most emotional and intense moments that you will find all year in any game that was released. One of the greatest things about the game has to be that the decisions Lee makes in the game have long term impact in his story, culminating with a tense standoff that is more or less a monument-of-your-sins moment. If you like good games that you can get emotionally invested in and also get a few scares, The Walking Dead is for you!

RPG/Strategy Game of the Year – The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings Enhanced Edition

Last year saw the release of Geralt’s second quest on PC but fortunately for console gamers, an even better improved edition of the game launched this year on Xbox 360. While the game itself is considerably more adult oriented, The Witcher 2 tells one of the most detailed and thought out stories that can be found in gaming. Geralt is ultimately framed for the murder of his King and embarks on a quest to not only clear his name but also exact revenge for events in his past as well. What makes The Witcher 2′s nomination stand out from the rest of the games in it’s class is that while it is a rerelease, it offers enough new and updated features, along with the amazing original game elements, to create the best RPG available this year!

Sports Game of the Year – MLB 12: The Show

While many sports games are generally lazy rehashes of their prior year offerings, you can tell that the developers behind MLB 12: The Show put their time and love into their award winning franchise to make sure their product was even better than their offering last year. While ‘just a baseball game’, there are also a plethora of different game modes and an RPG-like career mode as well that will allow you to create your own budding Hall of Famer that will have to brave the trials of the draft and minor and major leagues. Boasting impressive visuals, real-to-life stadium experiences, realistic players (none of that plastic crap) and some of the most enjoyable mechanics, MLB 12: The Show easily walks away with that perfect game.

Fighting Game of the Year – Personal 4 Arena

There really wasn’t an overabundance of fighting games this year, yet one of the quirkiest title stood out from that collection this year, Persona 4 Arena. In what could esily be the most creative usage of a franchise tag ever, Persona 4 Arena is actually a direct sequel to the amazing JRPG Persona 4. While it appears that most the elements of the original protagonist of Persona 4′s story is the most canon, Arena gives long term fans of the franchise a way to learn a little bit more about the characters from the last 2 games and how their stories intertwine. While an amazing story and concept, the actual combat in the game is pretty great as well. Controls are very responsive and every Persona User has quite a few moves and combos at their disposal. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t love this game ‘beary’ much!

Action/Adventure Game of the Year – Far Cry 3

What is there to say about Far Cry 3 that hasn’t been said? Well how about this “Far Cry 3 is much better than the movie adaptation” (I Googled it to make sure)! Far Cry 3 took a franchise that pretty much failed on it’s last game and amped up all the good ideas while throwing out the really crappy ones. The end result is a epic action adventure game that has you exploring a massive island while doing everything else you need to survive while the majority of the island’s inhabitants do  everything they can to make sure you die. The story is well written, the graphics are amazing and the characters are unforgettable! I don’t know about you but I’d love to see a theatrical release of a movie based off of this game, then again, I think Uwe Boll still owns the movie rights, so maybe not!

Nintendo 3DS Game of the Year – Paper Mario: Sticker Star

The 3DS spent a majority of this year coming into it’s own and it seemed that every major release for it was better and better. With that being said, two of the last games released this year absolutely stood out Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance and Paper Mario: Sticker Star. While the former was an enjoyable game, Sticker Star embraced everything that players have loved about the Paper Mario franchise and actually added some new and unique elements into the game. While still making use of the 3DS features, Sticker Star took it’s time to remind everyone about the quirky-yet-enjoyable world of the Nintendo RPG. I’m kind of sad that this game was only released on the 3DS, yet with the successful release of the latest of the franchise, we can certainly hope for some Wii-U love!

Nintendo Wii-U Game of the Year: NintendoLand

As I sat down to discuss which game should be voted to be the Wii-U’s game of the year, I spent a ton of time scratching my head on whether ZombiU or Scribblenauts Unlimited should receive the award. While doing this, I was actually playing NintendoLand and the thought hit me, “Why wasn’t I discussing the 3rd game that lead the nominations, the one I happened to be playing at that moment”. At this point, I realized that NintendoLand is not only the best game for the Wii-U currently but also embodies everything that the system set out to accomplish at this point. Great HD graphics? Check. Enjoyable single player and multiplayer options? Check. Nods to some of the strongest and greatest games in the Nintendo library? Check. The game is good and worth the purchase if you got a vanilla model, if you got the deluxe, I am sure you are playing it right now!

Playstation 3 Game of the Year: Journey

Every year there is that one game, the one that is more than a game and more of an experience. This year, Journey has to be that game. Billed mostly as an adventure title, Journey tells a beautiful story that can be interpreted as a tale of destiny, life and death or a post-apocalyptic adventure after the fall of humanity. No matter what you actually think Journey is about, the landscapes you traverse are breathtakingly gorgeous and the fact that you can play with an unknown player controlled character throughout the aforementioned journey itself only to get to the heart wrenching ending says more about the game than words can describe. Journey set the bar for artistic videogames, I cannot wait to see what next year holds for the PS3 (and maybe PS4)!

 

Playstation Vita Game of the Year – Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

So, you may be initially wondering, “Why is PSASBR winning the Vita game of the year and not also for PS3?”. Simply, the game is absolutely amazing on the Vita while the Playstation version of the game more or less feels like an exact port that fails to utilize anything on the full console effectively. With that being said. the game is still freaking amazing on the Vita and even more amazing when you know that you have an opportunity to play alongside those that felt it necessary to play the game on their consoles as well. After all, who doesn’t love the chance to make Drake and Dante fight it out to the death? With perfect handling and optimization on the Vita console, the game plays out as the perfect killer app for the Playstation Vita.

Big Winners

Xbox 360 and First Person Shooter Game of the Year – Halo 4

Halo 4 walks away with 2 awards? Yes. The FPS genre had some seriously awesome competition this year with Far Cry 3 and also Borderlands 2 (I personally LOVE me some Borderlands 2) but Halo 4 took the icing on the cake. What Halo 4 managed to accomplish was to completely reinvigorate the fan base of an amazing franchise while also taking the story and gameplay elements in a very new direction. While the original trilogy focused on humanities battle against the Covenant and the Flood, this new series seems to be much more focused on the man inside the armor. While a new threat was introduced in this game, the main focus was on how deeply flawed Master Chief has been as a hero. Now, the multiplayer aspects of the game are also phenomenal, featuring a spectacular co-op campaign and also a featuring a completely reworked multiplayer matchmaking and ladder system. This is Halo.

 

Holy shit. Hotline Miami is an undertaking to say the least. When we first reviewed the game, it was bug filled yet quite enjoyable experience. We wanted to see things like controller support and a few minor flaws fixed in the game. After the review, they repaired EVERYTHING that was an issue in the game. The game that was left was the pinnacle of PC awesomeness. Simple, yet complex. Vicious, yet elegant. Completely amazing. With an amazing soundtrack and stellar gameplay, Hotline Miami is the type of game you can come back to over and over again. and with it’s secret ending, many collectible mini-cheat masks and the scoring system, Hotline Miami is well deserving of the 3 awards it walks away with. We absolutely love this game!

Dec 202012
 

Annualized sports game is something that never gets the attention it deserves. They’re a nuisance to some and there’s no doubt that they never change too drastically from year to year but as most sports fans will tell you, they change just enough. Though that can’t always be said as some games seemingly churn out nearly the same experience year to year or, of course, have an off year or two. In this feature I will analyze the sports games of 2012 and ultimately decide which sports game did the most to improve, and which did the least. This is by no means determining the Sports Game of the Year category in our annual GiR awards; it’s merely my opinion on the past year’s beloved recurring franchises that often include a ball… or a puck if you want to get real crazy.

NCAA Football 2013
This year’s NCAA Football brought about some much needed changes to the franchise mode while also attempting tweak a few in game controls to make for a smoother overall experience.. The franchise changes were well received and revolved mostly around improving the recruiting experience while tightening up the still unnecessarily complex UI.  The in game changes were mostly insignificant and only noticeable by people that play each NCAA game every year. No newcomer will realize that you can now throw the ball to a receivers back shoulder, nor will they become particularly excited when seeing it.

The biggest addition this year was the addition of a Heisman challenge mode where you take over the shoes of a previous Heisman winner, RG3, Doug Flutie, Barry Sanders, etc., and follow along his footsteps until you too win the Heisman. It’s a simple mode that featured some nice ideas such as giving you a checklist of things to complete that the player himself also accomplished. But in the end, you begin to realize that’s just a checklist and completing those four things are never anywhere near as fun as you might hope.. The biggest issue was the lack of personality from your character that would help you feel more like the actual player, as opposed to just another stud running back who is knocking people over left and right.

MLB 2K12
It’s no secret that MLB 2K, to put it nicely, has been MLB The Show’s little bitch for the past few years but even with that, I’ve always found some kind of enjoyment from it. I mostly enjoy it for its UI, art style, and most importantly, it’s on the 360 so I can get those sweet, sweet achievements. This year MLB really fell on its face as it felt like they introduced almost no new things to their yearly franchise, apart from the generic “gameplay and control tuning.”

The actual changes only slightly went beyond that as the AI and pitching controls were improved, but not quite enough to bump it up to the levels of MLB: The Show. MLB 2K12 is the definition of a rehashed product simply produced to earn a tad bit more money before the franchise dies. That death seems to have come as MLB 2K was left off of 2K’s 2013 fiscal year report, which is also how we learned of the cancellations for both the NHL and College Hoops franchises.

Fifa 13
Fifa seems to taken the same route as MLB 2K did this year, minus the mediocre feel and instead brought about brilliant AI changes that only enhance the remarkable football/soccer experience that everyone comes to Fifa for. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a guy to delve into Fifa’s many modes; I’m more of a home body that sticks to playing quick match after quick match. I think it’s a testament to the quality of Fifa as that’s the only game I’ve ever done that with. The changes themselves are a tad complex but still very welcome, such as players now battling before the ball is in a players possession, this could result in a poor first touch and ultimately losing control of the ball and giving it up to the opposition. Also added was a bit more intelligence in the AI as now when they attack, they’ll use strategies such as running a certain way to throw off the other team and then open up a nice passing lane to split the defense and ultimately have a goal opportunity.

For you crazy people that do dive into the career modes, EA introduced the possibility of becoming an international player/coach. Producer David Rutter stated that it was the most fan requested feature and even from the outside looking in, it does sound interesting. I would love to actually participate in the mode but I become so overwhelmed with the barrage of football info flying my way that I can’t help but step back and say “Oh God, I don’t know what any of this means.” I then resort back to my quick play options, and I see nothing wrong with that.

MLB 12: The Show
The Show continued to dominate the baseball market this year and while it’s pretty apparent that the opposing MLB 2K series will not be around much longer, The Show continued to storm on with a fun and fresh feeling experience. Though it’s becoming harder and harder to do, Sony managed to make the actual in game experience even better by tweaking the at bats and pitches slightly to increase the drama you experience when someone steps behind the plate. They also brought in full Move support, though I’m sure that’s something most will never lay a hand on.

One of the biggest additions was the new Diamond Dynasty Mode where you can create your own fantasy team and take it online to compete with others. It’s similar to the Ultimate Team mode in both Fifa and Madden where you have cards relating to the players and must upgrade their skills while gaining them more and more playing experience. It’s nothing too revolutionary, but it provides a few hours of fun and I could definitely see people getting hooked on building up their perfect dream team. MLB: The Show has always been regarded as one of the best sports games out there, but it’s about time for Sony to make some kind of change to freshen up the experience. Here’s to hoping that big change will come in the near future.

 

Look for Part 2 in the near future. It will reveal the most improved, least improved, and thoughts on the following games:

NBA 2K13
Madden NFL 13
NHL 13

Dec 192012
 

The 1997 Sega Saturn title, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, is finally seeing a localized release date here in the US! A whopping 16 years after it’s initial release, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers will be finally ported to the 3DS. This is exciting news considering the success of other Megami Tensei universe alums Persona 4 (Golden and Arena) and Catherine. We should all be able to get our hands on this exciting title on April 16, 2013. The official press release explains the title, as well as background on the game itself:

Soul Hackers delivers a first-person, dungeon-crawling RPG experience set in a future where technology and otherworldly forces meet in a macabre fusion of cyberpunk futurism and gothic horror. A first-person sci-fi RPG epic, Soul Hackers tells of a city held up as a beacon of humanity’s triumph of technology, but with an infernal secret. In this would-be utopia, a group of hackers takes on a centuries-old mystic society, and a battle for control over humanity’s fate is about to begin.

 In the classic tradition of Shin Megami Tensei, players will have the compelling choice throughout their dungeon exploration to fight the enemy demons they encounter, or negotiate with them in an attempt to turn them into allies and teammates.  Soul Hackers on 3DS includes access to 30 additional demons, a new opening animation movie and theme song, improved controls, and quicker loading times.  Additionally players can use the 3DS’ bottom screen as an auto-mapping function, and engage a COMP hack to change difficulty levels on the fly and fill out maps without walking through.  After clearing the game initially, the 3DS version of Soul Hackers also delivers an extra dungeon, where players will witness the appearance of Raidou Kuzunoha from the previous Devil Summoner games.

So, let me ask you, are you excited to get your hands on this forgotten piece of the Megami Tensei universe? Personally, I am excited to see the handful of extra features that will be accompanying the relaunched title!

 

Dec 192012
 

Gog.com logo

Your Last Chance to Game Before the End?

GOG.COM HELPS YOU PREPARE FOR THE END OF THE WORLD BY PUTTING ALL OF THEIR HOLIDAY BUNDLES ON SALE; MORE THAN 125 GAMES FOR UP TO 75% OFF!

GOG.com, the digital distributor of games for PC and Mac, has just announced it’s preparing for the inevitable End of The World, in true gamer fashion. Whether the Mayans were right and tomorrow spells the end of everything is anyone’s guess, however GOG.com urges the gamers worldwide to remain calm and play games like there’s no tomorrow. Just in case. The End of the World Sale has just started and will last for 24 hours, that is until Thursday December 20 at 14:59 GMT, which should give gamers some time to enjoy their games before the 21st arrives and a wave of fiery pudding engulfs the world.

More than 125 games are offered right now in 17 bundles. Titles in each bundle will be up to 75% off when you buy all games (or if you own some of them and complete the bundle), or up to 50% off individual games if you buy them separately. The incredible deals available on GOG.com include all Might and Magic Madness–all 16 games for $25.89, less than $12 for a colllection of Bullfrog Favorites (Theme Hospital, Dungeon Keeper, Syndicate and more), $9 for the complete Ultima Series. Telltale Adventures are actually being sold seperately from a bundle abd are offered 80% off for each title, which is as little as $3.99 for Wallace and Gromit’s Great Adventure or $6.99 for Tales of Monkey Island.

Anewbeginninggog

GOG.com has also added two new games to its catalog: A New Beginning and Capsized. A New Beginning – Final Cut is an adventure masterpiece from the makers of The Whispered World and Edna & Harvey: The Breakout. More than 100 detailed, hand-painted backgrounds, 40 minutes of animated cutscenes, 52 voiced characters, and over 20 hours of gaming will be a real treat for all adventure fans. The game price is set to $9.99, however, the game is available at GOG.com right now 75% off when bought in the Daedalic Adventures Bundle along with the aforementioned games, Deponia, and The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav.

capsizedgog

Capsized is a retro-inspired 2D platformer developed by Alientrap, in which you control an astronaut trying to get away from an alien planet. The game teems with alien life, and wonderful atmospheric design. The campaign mode, and four ‘Arcade’ modes offer enough entertainment for $9.99 value, but it’s a real bargain when purchased 75% off in the Jumpin’ Indie Action Bundle along with La Mulana, Mutant Mudds, Snapshot, and Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, together for only $14.95.

 

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About GOG.com
GOG.com is the ultimate destination for downloadable DRM-free PC games. The site offers gamers some of the greatest PC games of all time for a low price and free from copy protection. GOG.com is much more than just another digital distribution site, featuring an extensive community component that allows players to rate, review and discuss their favorite PC games, as well as insightful articles from respected game journalists. Visit www.gog.com and start your exploration of the best that gaming has to offer.

Source: GOG.com

Dec 182012
 
 (When you enter the virtual world you want as much of the real you as you can to take part. Asymmetrical gameplay is a way of playing to your strengths and taking advantage of your enemy’s weaknesses.)

Everyone has an intrinsic way they love to fight or compete. Asymmetrical Gameplay takes advantage of that. People that love weapons or magical powers that give them faster attack will gladly play that way even if it means having to play with less health.

Game designers often take advantage of this fact and allow complex arrangements of play to take place each giving one player a distinct advantage and weakness over the others. Although one player may be able to quickly kill the other, his speed may be directly affected. People that love to play those slow tanks, will still gladly do so and slowly trug along, knowing if they can get their hands on the opponent, they will easily make up their lost time and mow through the enemy lines.

Asymmetrical gameplay gives everyone what they want. The players can play with a distinct advantage over others while the opponents can try to take advantage of that players inherent weaknesses. In this way, games like League of Legends, Left 4 Dead, and more recently, Primal Carnage, have thrived.

Asymmetry versus Power Creep

Asymmetrical Gameplay solves a long had problem of Gaming which is power creep. In games that are multiplayer and are constantly played like W.O.W and Starcraft, the developers are always updating the game with new content and are always having to tweak some mechanism, weapon, or object to balance the game.

This is very tedious and sometimes by trying to balance the game you could make a new character the new king and make it very hard to beat that latest character. So how would a developer solve the issue of making characters too powerful over time or accidentally ruining balanced play?

The best way to do that is unbalance the play from the beginning. Allow a number of different weaknesses for each character, and give each character a unique upper hand over the rest. The chaos this seemingly creates causes a very interesting type of harmony.

Although each player is significantly better than the rest, they all each have different weaknesses, and different teams and tactics will be formed to take advantage of these weaknesses. Maybe if a fast character never has enough of a chance to get to the enemy, ranged units can be combined which can pin the enemy down, and then the fast units can go after their pinned foes and easily pick them off.

To defend the other side can try to rally behind 1 tank and break through the ranks of the ranged units trying to then fight 1 on 1 and break up the wall of ranged weapons.

None of this is possible without Asymmetry. Assuming every person was generically good, generically fast, and with generic weapons, you all die around the same period, and it becomes a game about teamwork, rather than tactics using your strengths against their weaknesses.

This explains the Call of Duty crowd, where most anyone has a good enough gun to kill most anyone, at a significant range. This forces people to use Teamwork and tactics based on that teamwork. Although even these games have their level of Asymmetry it’s nowhere near an FPS game like Planetside which gives much stronger advantages to one side over the other.

We’re all Unique

The other benefit to being able to play Asymmetrically is that we’re all unique. Why try to fit us all into one type of game play style if we like playing differently? There is a friend I will never forget that was the greatest Tank driver I’ve ever seen. He was amazing at helping me get good shots off and trying to avoid the enemy, getting us the best chance at winning the base ahead of us.

He didn’t kill anyone and he didn’t care. He would drive and drive for hours just so a better shooter than him could do the extra damage necessary to succeed and push forward. Games that allow players to really take advantage of their hidden potential are games with staying power and games that won’t easily be forgotten.

Some people really love to fly, and even if they can’t do much damage in the air, the reconnaissance they provide along with the transport can really save the day for their team.

A task I hate myself but that’s essential in every RPG is the healer. I hate being a healer, I can’t stand doing it, but every team dies without one. Every so often I meet a person who is an amazing healer and can really turn the tide in battle.

Symmetrical, boring, generic gameplay would never allow these people to succeed. It’s this uneven type of fighting where each wields powerful influence, that allows these dynamics to kick in and a lot of fun to be had.

I’ve already mentioned a bunch of asymmetrical games above but if you get stuck I’m sure there are a bunch more out there you have yet to find. Find your play type, love the role you play, and kick butt doing it.  :)

If anything, asymmetrical gameplay may be the way of the future.

http://img52.imageshack.us/img52/272/immortalphoenixheaderco.png

www.ImmortalPhoenix.net

Dec 182012
 

As the year is coming to an end, I’ve been thinking back to many questions I’ve been asked throughout the year. Many of which have been irrelevant, I was asked one question that had started the gears in my head slowly grinding. This question was; “Who would you be, if you were a Villain and why?”

Now this intrigued me as the normal topic would be about which hero I would prefer to be and the reason that is, but I’ve never really thought about the chaotic nature of the ‘super villain’. Well, I think it’s time we analyse some of the best god-damned villains out there in the world of gaming. Here’s my top 10 villains of all time.

#10 – Bowser – Super Mario Bros.

Keep trying, brah!

Bowser of all the villains in the world, is not the scariest, but I have put him on the list as he’s the most determined. Determined I hear you ask? Of course! During the majority of Super Mario games, he is the main antagonist in the majority of Super Mario games. When you think of the original games, who was it bringing the fireballs at you? Bowser. If it’s not him then it is baby Bowser, the younger counter-part of this old villain. When did Bowser even have chance to conceive if he was too busy kidnapping Princess Peach? Or would we rather just not ask ourselves that question… Either way, I’ve put Mr Bowser in my list for trying so hard! 10 out of 10 for effort!

#9 – Creeper – Minecraft

“Here’s – SSSsss!”

For those of you who have ever played Minecraft, be it the PC edition or the Xbox edition, you have all encountered the vile creatures known as Creepers. For those who haven’t, Creepers as they are known creep around the lands of Minecraft, at night. Now that isn’t so bad if you have somewhere secluded in the sky. But for those who haven’t, you and your structures will be in a world of hurt. There are many predicaments you will somehow end up in, one way or the other and this could be; outside in the when a Creeper is about, building when a creeper is about and being in a dark enough room where Creepers can spawn. So what you say? Well, these creatures have a habit of seeing you and then silently coming up behind you and once they are behind you, exploding destroying a part of your structure or even killing you.  The only way you will ever know when the Creeper is behind you is when they’re one block behind you and start to hiss. This generally ends up with the loss of items and an angry gamer throwing his controller/keyboard across the room. Thank you for your inconvenience, Creepers.

#8 – Ghetsis – Pokémon Black/White

The most evilest of all Pokémon Executives.

In every Pokémon game there is some kind of evil organisation that wants to take over the world in some way or other, be it the genius that is Team Rocket, with their herds of Rattatas and Zubats or be it any other team. My particular villain hails from the depths of Generation 5’s group, Team Plasma. Now, not many villains from the Pokémon have had any deep impact on the game per se but Ghetsis is another story! Ghetsis is one of the executives of Team Plasma and also the adopted father of N, Team Plasmas leader. His plan is to manipulate his adoptive son and leader to force Pokémon trainers to release their Pokémon in order to save them from enduring fights against one another as a sport, all well and good (minus the force). However Ghetsis is using this for his ulterior motive of ridding people of the world of all their Pokémon before conquering it with his own Pokémon and having no one to stop him, pretty evil if you ask me. This is not the only reason for Ghetsis to be on my list, but the villain has a ‘father-son moment’ with N, telling him that he is a pathetic leader and his life so far has been nothing but a manipulation of his own will. That is what makes the Pokémon storyline the darkest written so far, that and he has the intentions to kill the player in the final battle.

#7- Psycho Mantis – Metal Gear Solid

“You like to play Super Mario Sunshine, don’t you?”

Ah, Psycho Mantis. What a villain eh? Having played the original Metal Gear Solid (1998) and the remake Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes (2003), Psycho Mantis is and always will be, my favourite boss battle. With the ability to break the fourth wall and quite frankly, scare the bejeebers out of me by vibrating my control and reading my ‘mind’, this Mantis is pure evil. Unfortunately I can’t put him at the top of my list as, with the mind fuck, came a sense of humour. Even though I found it amazing how he read my memory card, I found it funny as he mentioned the  caption above. An evil character with an almost hissing voice talking about Super Mario Sunshine kind of crosses a line between the boundaries of a villain being evil or coming across cheesy. Which in this case he did. Nevertheless it was an amazing fight to his demise and a very clever way of using the two player port to prevent him from reading your ‘mind’.

#6 – Wander – Shadow of the Colossus

Manipulated all along…

Now, as those who may have read my review of Dragon’s Dogma and The Art of Gaming piece, then you know that I am in love with the game, it’s a beautifully rendered masterpiece in my opinion. Anyway, Wander is on the list as, though he is the protagonist, he is going against all heroic convention though he doesn’t realise it. Now, to explain what I mean by that. Wanda is basically trying to save a young girl named Mono by bringing her back to life. In order to do so he has to save an evil spirit (though he doesn’t realise that it is evil yet) named Dormin by destroying 16 huge colossi and piecing him back together again. Unwittingly Wander proceeds to release Dormin, in turn saving Mono but turning himself into a demon of sorts before being used as a host by Dormin to punish those who sealed him away in the first place.  Now, even though he saves Mono, if you look at it from the eyes of the town where they had originally come from you could see why he has made my list. Wander had trespassed on forbidden land where he proceeded to cut down 16 guardians of the land, before letting himself be possessed by the demonic spirit to crush the town’s guardsmen. All for what seemed to be love, he had endangered people and dabbled in a bit of necromancy. That’s pretty selfish but I’d do the same therefore this young anti-hero has made my list.

#5 Malak – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

One vicious villain!

Some sort of Star Wars character was bound to appear on this list, normally Darth Vader would be the one to come to mind but I’m afraid not. Malak was once a Jedi who had fallen to the dark side along with his Master, Darth Revan during the Mandalorian wars. If you’ve played the game you will know that he and Revan was intent on following a series of star maps to find an old machine capable of building fleets of cruisers in next to no time at all. However on the journey he and Revan had fallen to the dark side and the once heroes became something much more sinister. The reason I chose Malak instead of his master is because whilst fighting the Jedi, Malak decided to turn on his master and destroy the ship he was on, thus killing him and becoming the Sith master. Which we find out later on isn’t so, but still he takes on the title of master. Because betrayal between friends on a scale that you want to murder them is pretty damned evil and not forgetting the destruction of Taris which was ordered by him, well done Malak you’ve made the list!

#4- Master Hand – Super Smash Bros.

“I brought you into this world, I think its rather fitting that I should be the one to take you out of it.”

Well with all the villains we have, none have been the creators. This right hand is essentially the hand of God. The apparent creator of the Super Smash Bros Cast’s trophy forms he is also their destroyer and to me this is pretty evil. What kind of sadistic nature must someone have to destroy what is their creation, their baby, if you will? If anything, the hand reminds me of a child. I mean, I’ve built cities out of Lego and tore them down for sheer fun, there was no right or wrong in the eyes of a child. But when they fight back, there is frustration and that is what seems to be happening here. So in a way, we’re all the Master Hand at some point or another. It’s so metaphorical, it beautiful! As the Master Hand is something that we are in one way or another, it deserves a place on the list of villains!

#3 – Lieutenant General Shepherd – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

“Oorah?”

Now this guy, he’s a nasty piece of work. Commander of both Task Force 141, Shadow Company and the U.S Army Rangers, he serves as support for the characters you play as throughout the majority of the game but turns out to be one of the major antagonists near the end of the game. Spurred on by his hatred for the world, its politics and the loss of 30,000 men he was glad to watch the world turn to shit. Now, I understand the hatred, or at least I try to comprehend the feeling of losing all those soldiers but what has made me put him on this list is the fact that he kills Roach and Ghost. Now, what’s the big deal? Well my personal vendetta is because you play as Roach. You more or less become him and work with the team, there’s a bond. Then Shepherd comes out of the blue, pops a cap in his ass and then sets him and Ghost on fire. The most disturbing and yet brilliant thing about this is that you start to see it through Roach’s eyes. Not many games have done this to me but this particular event brought forth an emotion and a general ‘gutted’ feeling that genuinely moved me. Well done Shepherd, you’re a real bastard!

#2- Alduin – Skyrim

“Zu’u unslaad, zu’u nis oblaan!” – “I am immortal, I cannot die!”

I’m a fan of Skyrim, just like many of you out there, I know that this dragon should be on there because he is one major badass. Let’s start with his other names; World Eater and also the God of Destruction. The name Alduin itself means; Destroyer-Devour-Master in dragon form as well, if that doesn’t shout out evil then I don’t know what does! A God and a dragon that can eat worlds? Bah­­! I wouldn’t want to meet him down a dark alley. Speaking of eating worlds, this beast can go to Sovngarde and devour the souls of all the mortals that make it there to regain his strength. It kills what is dead, how does that even work out?! That’s pretty damn evil! This villain just wants to kill every last mortal in the Nirn and then kills them again! This is a beast among beasts! And one evil son of a gun that is pretty much indestructible. So Alduin my dragon friend, welcome to number 2 on this list, you deserve it!

#1 – The Moon – Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

“Come at me bro!”

Those of you who have ever played this game must really know the terror of the moon. This piece of rock in the space that is being pulled into the atmosphere due to the Skull kid using Majora’s mask. Now I know what you’re thinking, how is this a villain? Those who have played it would know the panic of having to complete the specific tasks within the three days. Three days is not a long time, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re desperately trying to get that damned ocarina! Now, knowing all that and the moon is coming into the atmosphere and the world you’re in is coming to an end, that’s already scary enough but there’s more! This god damned moon has the dirtiest of smiles, looking down at the earth like it wants to molest it with its face. And it will if you don’t remember the Song of Time! Well done for all those nightmares you’ve given me over the years, how I love to hate you. Even though you’re no Alduin, ­­you are the destroyer of the world, crushing everyone in your wake!

Now with everything being said and done, those are my top ten villains that if I had the choice to be I would be. Now, take the time to comment below on which evil-doer you’d be and why? Thanks for reading and I hope to have reminded you of some good villains that you can go back to and take on! Who knows, maybe by going back to them, you may be reminded of some classic games? God speed, heroes and heroines!

 

Dec 182012
 

Ever since the technology first made including music in video games a possibility, music has been an integral part of games. Whether you’re talking about the iconic chip tunes of the ’80s and ’90s or the grand orchestral soundtracks of today, there has been tons of amazing music across the history of video games. With the sheer amount of fantastic music that exists in games, it would be impossible for anyone to create a definitive list of the best video game soundtracks of all time; so I decided to simply count down my ten favorite video games soundtracks with auditory evidence to support each of my picks. This list will be limited to one entry per series, but remember these aren’t meant to represent the best games or my favorite installments in a given series, just the games with the best soundtrack. So, here are my ten favorite video game soundtracks of all time.

10. God of War (2005)

The soundtrack to God of War just perfectly captures the grand and epic feeling of the game. The game is all about intense action on a huge scale, and the music helps set this tone. The soundtrack for God of War is very much like that of a film score, but it works well with the games story and style. The entire trilogy has excellent music, but I chose the original simply because all three games have very similar soundtracks, so I went with the first one.

9. Sonic and Knuckles (1994)

I usually consider Sonic and 3 Knuckles one game because of the lock on feature and the single story, but in terms of music, they each have their own unique feel; and I vastly prefer Sonic and Knuckles. Don’t get me wrong, Sonic 3 certainly has some great music, especially the tracks that Michael Jackson worked on, but Sonic and Knuckles captures more of the that Sonic vibe. Sonic and Knuckles has got some of my absolute favorite level tracks from the series, with standouts being Lava Reef and Flying Battery.

8. Super Mario Galaxy (2007)

The Mario series is full of iconic music, but Super Mario Galaxy moves beyond simple nostalgia with an amazing fully orchestrated soundtrack. The soundtrack consists of both entirely original sweeping orchestrated tracks as well some remixes of classic Mario music. The NES games may have more iconic music, but Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel have great music regardless of your personal attachment to the series, which puts it a step up from most Mario titles.

7. Chrono Trigger (1995)

If you’ve read my “Top 10 Super Nintendo Games” list, you already know that Chrono Trigger is my favorite game for that system, but is also has some of the best music you’ll hear on the SNES. Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu once again showed that he was one of the best when it came to creating a memorable score despite the limitations of pre-CD consoles.

6. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (2006)

Both Persona 3 and Persona 4 are fantastic games and they are very similar to each other in many ways, which has sparked a recurring debate among fans as to which game is best. Each game has aspects that it does better than the other, and in my opinion the soundtrack for Persona 3 is just a hair better than Persona 4. I still can’t decide which game is better, but I feel confident saying that the Persona 3 soundtrack is slightly better.

Dec 152012
 

Eclectic Delights

Eclectic Delights Bundle: Pay What You Want for 9 Great Indie Games


Having obsessively researched the wild and wonderful world of indie gaming, Bundle In A Box returns and is proud to present the Eclectic Delights bundle. It’s a fine assortment of 9 delightful, truly indie offerings everyone can enjoy for the most reasonable price of “pay-what-you-want” over at http://www.bundle-in-a-box.com/.

 

The bundle, a Kyttaro Games (http://www.kyttarogames.com/) effort to promote indie developers and quality games, launched on Tuesday the 4th of December 2012, has so far lasted for 11 days, and will last for 3 more: and offer all games as DRM-free downloads (but not exclusively so; most games are also available on Desura and/or Steam ).

 

The Eclectic Delights bundle is all about …

Stay Dead

… selecting the best and most intriguing games across all genres 


Gamers will get to enjoy a rich compilation of both successful and less known games, that have all made it through the painful, slightly silly, but always thorough Bundle In A Box selection process.

 

…  fantastic indie games.

Adventures of Shuggy

Paying anything above $0.99 will get you:

 

-elegant RTS War of the Human Tanks (Windows/Desura)

-Lovecraftian yet cute platformer Eversion (Windows/Mac/Steam)

-gloriously pixelated adventure/strategy Delve Deeper (Windows/Steam)

-Russian horror offering Fibrillation (Windows /Desura)

-point-and-click mystery Shadows of the Vatican, Act: I (Windows/Desura)

 

War of the Human Tanks

…  even more games.


Beating the average price will allow gamers to enjoy four more excellent games:

 

-award winning platformer Adventures of Shuggy (Windows/Steam/Desura)

-surreal horror game The 4th Wall (Windows)

-FMV rhythm-action-fighter Stay Dead (Windows/Mac/Desura)

-retro-tastique, hilarious maze-‘em-up Flibble (Windows)

…  directly supporting upcoming game developers.


For every 100 bundles sold $10 will be added to our Indie Dev Grant and the whole sum will be awarded to a developer selected by vote; no strings will be attached as to how the grant will be used.

 

… charity


5% of all revenues will be shared with the Hellenic Centre for Mental Health and Treatment of Child and Family.

Eversion

… all sorts of extras.


What’s more, for every 1000 bundles sold new extras will be unlocked for everyone who grabbed the Eclectic Delights offer. Unlockable extras include:

 

-The complete and formerly unreleased soundtrack of forthcoming mobile game Droidscape: Basilica

-The Adventures of Shuggy soundtrack

-Sound of the Human Tanks: the War of the Human Tanks OST

-The Adventures of Shuggy digital comic-book

-The Shadows of the Cathedral soundtrack

 

As an added bonus, all who purchase the bundle will get access to exclusive content for Droidcape: Basilica (http://www.kyttarogames.com/?page_id=384); KyttaroGames’ own upcoming game for iOS and Android.

___

STOP READING THIS AND GET OVER TO THE BUNDLE IN A BOX WEBSITE NOW, To take advantage of this insane offer!

Flibble

Dec 142012
 

Real talk: Do you want to know the definition of insanity? Google Far Cry 3 reviews and see how many mention insanity in the opening statement. Yes, I am aware I just did as well. Now, do you want to know the definition of a good fucking game? Well, we’ve had quite a few this year but if you were looking for an awesome first person sandbox romp, your options have been quite limited this year. Fortunately, Ubisoft came through with the final AAA title of the year, Far Cry 3 and it is easy to say right off the bat that this game is quite different than it’s predecessors. Fortunately, Gamersgate let us take their system out for a spin to get a chance to play the game and fortunately, we didn’t have to deal with Steam’s DRM along with Ubisoft’s one-time online DRM. In other words, I liked this option, it allowed me to play such a massive game without jumping through hoops if I wanted to play offline or on my laptop.

Far Cry 3 is absolutely a cerebral and gritty game. You play the role of Jason Brody, a generic late 20s/early 30s bro-dude that finds his friends and brothers kidnapped after an ill advised skydive onto the Rook Islands. This lovely and scenic island is the home to pirates, drug traffickers, cannibal-rapists and a handful of indigenous natives that are fighting to survive against the unsavory elements of the island and it’s even deadlier fauna. After escaping the deadly and unpredictable pirate-lord Vaas, Jason suffers a tragedy that slowly changes him from a whiny, sniveling punk into a person that is as twisted as the denizens of the island. As the insanity that is the Rook Islands slowly taints Jason’s mind, he must work together with a cast of unpredictable, unreliable and untrustworthy characters that will do what they can to use Jason’s hatred for Vaas to achieve their own personal agendas while furthering Jason’s own.

Jason is quite unlikable, he isn’t what is expected as the typical protagonist in a first person action adventure. I like to think that he was created to be rather unlikable  as a majority of things he does within the first half of the game seem to be very reluctant. Jason Brody isn’t a killer and as his reaction shows at the beginning of the game, he isn’t prepared to take a life under any means. As the player, it almost feels like you control the darker aspects of Jason’s personality and as the game progresses, his overall madness continues to the point where he becomes a willing partner in the death and destruction that you cause. This is huge, because Far Cry 3 is more than “go to point A and shoot X guys, then drive to point B and deliver an item”. Instead you will hunt to survive, forage for supplies, infiltrate and capture enemy camps and do things like occasionally hang glide across the island. There is quite a bit to do on the island, classifying the game as a “Shooter” almost seems to be a crime.

Combat in Far Cry 3 is generally reserved for ranged weapons but with a large collection of weapons available, I found myself mixing it up often and getting creative with my killing tools. I almost always carried around the bow, a small firearm and a rifle as it is much easier to deal with enemies at a distance but if things started to get rough, I had options to fall back on. Far Cry 3 also takes notes from fellow Ubisoft title Assassin’s Creed with a bunch of stealth kills and multi-takedowns that would make an assassin blush. Killing quickly and with creativity is awarded in this game but also gets super interesting when you can do things like eliminate an entire pirate camp without ever making a single noise. While a majority of combat was with human enemies, there is always the threat of the wildlife on the island. Once, running along the shore of a river or wading through the shallows is an easy way to get snatched up by an alligator and instantly be thrown in a fight for survival. Oceans are even more dangerous with opportunistic sharks always looking to get a jump on you. To survive on the Rook Islands, you have to always be watching your back or you will find a bullet in it or a bite taken out of it.

I hate to say this at risk of sounding overly cliche but Far Cry 3 is something special indeed. At the time of this review, it has only been out for a few weeks at most and is already in the same echelon as games like Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Red Dead Redemption. It’s not a matter of overreaction either, there is so much to do than just running side quests and advancing the main story. There are caves and treasures to be found, easter eggs scattered across the entire island and even creative and entertaining challenges that can be attempted. Hell, a few times I found myself just wandering around the island and checking out the scenery while trying to avoid the deadly animals that were waiting for me in the brush. As much as Far Cry 3 is about the insanity of the island, it’s equally about survival and adventure, I did quite a bit of both in my time with the game. I took every option I could to explore caves, abandoned ruins and even tiny islands as there were opportunities to find all sorts of collectibles everywhere.

Graphically, at least on PC, Far Cry 3 is one of the most beautiful games I’ve had the opportunity to spent some time with. Environments outside are usually lush and bright. Water reflects the sun early in the morning and breath taking vistas can be used to chart your next adventure (or plan an attack on a camp). The game is simply one piece of eye candy after another and I was constantly looking forward to visiting a new location to take in new sights and sounds. Speaking of sound, there is a wonderful level of ambiance that is superb! Nature provides a majority of the games soundtrack, while any actual background music isn’t overpowering, it does support any situation you find yourself in.

I played the Far Cry 3 on PC and although I loved the game, there were some crazy things that kept happening on my PC version. First off, there was a bug within the game that stopped me from traversing through certain doorways and small walkways by any normal means. In fact, in order to get into the initial weapon and gear shop, I couldn’t walk through the front door. I had to turn around, crouch and hop to actually squeeze through the doorway. On a few radio towers, there were a few areas that actually required me to jump and hop over invisible obstacles to get to a certain point. Now, in complete fairness, I am sure these issues will be absolutely fixed and I actually expected some bugs after playing enough of the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series. Two other issues I encountered were an occasional issue when aiming that caused me to spin after trigger was pulled and an issue that stopped me from ever changing the volume from over 15%. Both of these issues were actually patched literally as I write this review, but both are equally worth noting.

Interestingly, Far Cry 3 doesn’t stop with just a superb single player experience either. There is a sizable multiplayer experience to be had outside of trying to escape the island. The more exciting element of this is the amazing co-op campaign, while not as well written as the single player, co-op has enough story and killing that I found myself hopping online often to get some time in with it. I do have to say that the gameplay in the co-op feels a little like Left 4 Dead with a tiny splash of Uncharted 3 co-op. both of which are awesome so that is obviously a good thing! The multiplayer mode itself was a bit more like a traditional multiplayer shooter and I found the similarities to other popular shooters to be rather uncanny. In other words, if you plan on jumping into the multiplayer solution, expect for the common 12 year old to be bragging about his sexcapades with your mom. The good thing here is that the mode itself isn’t bad and does nothing to take away from the game. To be fair, it was a welcome escape after spending a considerable amount of time in both co-op and single player campaigns.

There is always that game that comes out every year. You know, the one that critics can’t stop talking about and fanboys fill forums and message boards to sing it’s praise? Well, Far Cry 3 is absolutely that game this year. It’s simply fucking amazing.

PC Game

Graphics

100
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

100

Creativity

100
 

Execution

91
 

Offset

100
    

9.9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Everything! Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. This. Game. Is. Amazing.
Cons:
  • PC version had a few bugs, they’ve been patched.

 This game was provided to us by Gamersgate.com for review purposes. While reviewing this game, we also took their service for a spin as well. It was an awesomely pleasurable experience overall!

Dec 132012
 

Vi stands for Violence! But Vi could also stand for Vigilante, Virulent, or maybe even a name – like Violet. Vi is the 109th champion joining the League of Legends, and she’s a complete badass. Sporting two huge mechanical Hulk Hands, Vi smashes the face of anything that gets in her way. As Vi, you’ll use lunges and fierce melee attacks to bring your enemies forcefully to their knees.

Vi’s back story is yet another example of Riot’s incredible ability to create good lore for their characters. As a kid, Vi often found herself in trouble with the law. She often stole Hextech weaponry from the other residents of Piltover, making her a mechanical mastermind at a very young age. When she turned six, she joined a group of criminals and by age eleven, she was one of the best around. Vi’s time with the criminal syndicate came to an end when a failed raid on a mining facility forced her to choose between saving innocent lives or her own criminal coven. Vi used her mechnical knowlege and removed the fists from a robotic mining rig, fashioning them into Hextech gauntlets which became her preferred weapon of choice. After freeing the mine workers, Vi fled the scene and began to take out criminals as a vigilante, akin to Batman or any other super hero without super powers. The news of her deeds reached Piltover’s finest – Sherriff Caitlyn. Caitlyn decided to extend a job offer to Vi, rather than prosecute her for her crimes, and together they are feared by any evil-doer who might step foot in the lands of Piltover.

While Vi is technically Caitlyn’s partner, Caitlyn finds herself having to baby-sit Vi often, as Vi doesn’t always listen but rather rushes in to take matters into her own (Hextech) hands.

I’ve spent a little bit of time with Vi over on the PBE and I think she feels like a mix between Varus and Warwick. Her passive, Blast Shield,  gives her a sheild, equal to 10% of her maximum health once you activate an ability on an enemy champion. This makes her innately tanky, meaning she’s not immediately reliable on defensive items. Her Q is Vault Breaker, which is a skill you charge up, much like Varus’ Piercing Arrow. Vault Breaker slows Vi as it charges, but then propels her forward striking her target for damage and providing a knockback and applying Denting Blows to any enemies hit. Denting Blows is Vi’s W, and it’s a passive ability that not only grants bonus damage on every 3rd attack (based on a percentage of the target’s max health), but it also reduces their armor by 20% and increases Vi’s attack speed for 4 seconds. Vi’s E is called Excessive Force and it does extra damage on the next target struck, which then passes through that enemy hitting other nearby champions. Excessive Force can be stored up, and you can have up to 3 available at any time. Vi’s ultimate is called Assault and Battery. This ability forces Vi to chase an enemy no matter how fast they run, ignoring crowd control and knocking any enemy that gets in the path out of the way. Once she reaches her target, she does a nice chunk of physical damage and knocks them into the air. While it sounds fairly weak for an ultimate, know that it can keep up with anyone, including a homeguarded, ghosted, Rammus with Boots of Mobility and at the height of Powerball. If you can cast it, it’s guaranteed Vi will catch them and knock them up.

Because Vi is a champion with only three active abilities, she’s fairly easy to pick up and play. She does massive damage against some of the top lane’s most fearsome champions, such as Jayce, Irelia, or Darius. I had a really good time playing her in the jungle. With a machete and 5 potions, her clear time was respectable without a leash though her ganking will mostly be reliant on whether or not Ghost is up. Still, it’s a breath of fresh air to finally have another bruiser who can stand up to those often “OP” champions who snowball with just a little bit of an advantage. Vi’s ready to smash the faces of the competition, and she’s likely the most exciting bruiser we’ve seen in quite some time. Caitlyn and Vi bot lane? Yep, you know Josh, Pierce, and I will try that shit soon.

Dec 122012
 

To some gamers delight, the new Mass Effect (tentatively titled “The New Mass Effect”) has taken one more step to becoming an actual thing by receiving itself a nice little launch window. Today, Mass Effect 3 producer Mike Gamble revealed in an interview with Gamers Syndrome that the new Mass Effect has a tentative release date of late 2014-mid 2015. When asked about why the development was switched from Bioware Montreal to Bioware Edmonton and why they changed graphical engines (now using Frostbite 3), Mike responded:

“While I can’t comment on why it changed studios, fans can expect a similar style of choices and action that they’ve come to know in Mass Effect. Casey Hudson is very much involved in the new Mass Effect game, as well as many from Edmonton. BioWare Montreal is a great studio and they did fantastic with the multiplayer for Mass Effect 3, so fans should know the series is in good hands. The game isn’t far along in development so I can’t comment on specifics because they isn’t any yet, Frostbite 2 is a really good game engine that we are also using on Dragon Age 3. As far as release date, there’s nothing to be announced yet. You’ll hear more about the new Mass Effect game [next year] in 2013.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this installment begins to form as the buzz surrounding Mass Effect hasn’t been very positive since people began to finish the third. That being said, I have no doubt that Bioware can flip the image of the franchise back into the light it deserves and at the same time begin to reform the same rabid fan base they had one year ago. Time will tell, I’m sure we’ll be seeing at least a teaser at E3 this year.

Dec 112012
 

This past week Spike TV once again put on their annual Video Game Award show in Los Angeles, and as per usual the focus of the show was centered squarely on trailers and exclusive reveals rather than awards. I’ve never been a huge fan of the show itself, but I am always interested in the announcements and trailers that come out of it, and this year was no exception, with things like Dark Souls 2 and the possible Metal Gear Solid 5 tease currently known as “The Phantom Pain” being announced. These trailers got me thinking about what my favorite video game trailers of all time would be, and that of course led the creation of this list. Simply because the production quality has gone up along with the increased prominence of trailers over the past several years, this list will consist mostly of newer games. Also, for this list I am going to simply let the trailers speak for themselves, it should be clear why each of these is awesome.

10. DC Universe Online

9. Fallout 3

8. Assassin’s Creed

7. God of War III

6. Halo 3

Dec 102012
 

It’s the end of the year, that means it is time for our annual game of the year awards (tentatively the GIR Awards). Each game you see below was nominated by a member of the Gaming Irresponsibly team and will be considered for honors in their corresponding categories. You may notice that the Reader’s Choice vote isn’t on this list, nor is the actual Game of The Year nominees. Well, they’ll both be released this week, we wanted to do something really cool for them though. Plus, I have to finish Far Cry 3… Ubisoft Pls.

When we announce the winners, we are also going to get the staff’s thoughts on each nominee. I promise that it will be something worth seeing!

Nominees for best RPG/Strategy Game of the year:

Nominees for Horror/Survival Horror of the year:

  • Walking Dead
  • ZombiU
  • Slender: The Eight Pages
  • Alan Wake’s American Nightmare
  • Lone Survivor

Nominees for Sports game of the Year:

Nominees for Best Downloadable Game of the Year:

Nominees for Best Fighting Game of the Year:

Nominees for Best Shooter of the Year:

Nominees for Best Action/Adventure Game of the Year:

Nominees for Best Indie Game of the Year:

Nominees for Best Online Game of the Year:

Nominees for Best 3DS Game of the Year:

Nominees for Best Wii-U Game:

  • ZombiU
  • NintendoLand
  • Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition
  • Batman: Arkham City – Armored Edition
  • New Super Mario Bros. U
  • Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

Nominees for Best PS3 Game:

Nominees for Best PS VITA Game:

  • Gravity Rush
  • Persona 4 Golden
  • Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale
  • Assassin’s Creed Liberation
  • Ragnarok Odyssey
  • Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend

Nominees for Best Xbox 360 Game:

Nominees for Best PC Game:

 

Dec 072012
 

Japanese Role Playing games are nowhere near as popular in the west as they were in the ’90s, but that doesn’t mean there are any less of them being made. The big franchises, like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, are really the only JRPGs that achieve any sort of mainstream recognition in the west, but there are still plenty of smaller niche games being released, like the Atelier series from developer GUST. Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland is the latest entry in the series, and the final installment of the current generation “Arland Trilogy”, which includes Atelier Rorona and Atelier Totori. I hadn’t played any games in the series prior to playing Atelier Meruru, but even so I was able to have a pretty good time with the game.

Most role playing games, Japanese or otherwise, tend to focus heavily on story and character development, and while there is a story in Atelier Meruru, it is by no means the driving force of the game; the plot is paper thin. The game stars Princess Merurulince, Meruru for short, on her journey to become a full blown alchemist and help develop her small hometown Arls into a major metropolis. Instead of being driven forward by the plot, you are given gameplay centric goals with a time sensitive element to keep you moving through the game. Other than some set up very early in the game, the story takes a back seat to the gameplay and character interactions. While the actual plot doesn’t really develop much throughout the course of the game, there is a lot of dialogue, most of it serving no purpose other than to develop the characters.

I enjoy games with a heavy emphasis on characters, and I really did give the game a fair chance to win me over, but I quickly found myself not caring for any of the characters. The writing, for one, is just not very compelling, whether it’s the fault of the original writers or the localization I can’t really say. I’m sure some people will enjoy the character stuff, but I found the dialogue to be extremely annoying, and after many hours of giving it the chance to win me over I eventually found myself skipping most of it. It also doesn’t help that it always feels like conversations are getting in the way of the gameplay. The way the game is structured, you are constantly going back and forth between the town and the outlying areas with a task at hand. Because you are free to do things at your leisure, there is no set time or place for dialogue to occur, so the game prompts conversations pretty much whenever you come back to town. When all you want to do is go buy some items or turn in a quest, the constant interruptions for uninteresting dialogue can get really frustrating.

As I said, the game isn’t really driven by the story, instead using game mechanics to keep things moving forward. Early in the game you are given a long term goal of developing Arls into a major city in 5 years time. You are also given shorter term goals such as development and population milestones at yearly intervals. With these goals in mind, you are given relative freedom to develop how you like by completing various quests and tasks. This creates an easily identifiable game loop that doesn’t really change much over the course of the 25-30 hours you’ll spend playing the game. You first accept all the quests and development tasks that are available to you, go out exploring into the world to complete them, and then return to town and cash them all in for money and development points. When viewed from an outside point of few, it sounds very monotonous, but because you always have lots of simple and easily attainable short term goals, the compulsion to keep playing is strong.

When you leave town to go out and explore, you are first limited to the surrounding areas of Arls, but more areas open up as the game progresses. Even so, the game doesn’t have a whole lot of unique areas to explore, so you’ll be revisiting the same areas quite often throughout the game. The areas themselves leave something to be desired as well. Areas are very small, usually with only a handful of enemies or NPCs each. Further into the game you come across larger areas and even some that could be classified as dungeons, but I didn’t encounter the first complex dungeon until the 15 hour mark.

The crux of the game is development, which is how you grow your population and expand your city. Completed quests will net you money and “popularity” (which increases the rate at which your population increases), while development tasks grant you development points, which are used to build the city. You spend development points on buildings, which each grant their own special bonuses in addition to increasing the overall level of your city and raising your population. The game gives you milestones for development and population to reach at specific intervals, but I never had a problem reaching them. This focus on town building is unique, and gives the game a very different feel from most “save the world” type role playing games.

As I said, the game gives you a lot of freedom with how you want to tackle various tasks and quests, but the main limiting factor is the time passage mechanics. Everything you do takes time, and you can easily find yourself blowing a week a more with poor time management. The crafting system (which I’ll get to a little later) is particularly rough on time, with some potions or items taking multiple days to synthesize. Because all your long term goals are time sensitive, the passage of time is always at the front of your mind, and it can add a bit of frustration to the back and forth nature of the game. Things can especially frustrating when you make a two week journey to edge of the game world, only to find that you need something from town to go any further, meaning you need to make another two week journey to town, get what you need, and then another two week journey to get back. It’s instances such as this that really make the time mechanics seem frustrating.

Unless you make the absolute most of your in-game time, you will undoubtedly reach the end of the 5 year limit before you see all the content in the game. When the credits rolled for me, though I had met all the long term goals, I still had many active quests and even some areas I had yet to explore, which was disappointing. I felt like someone had come in and taken the controller from me and said “you can’t play anymore”. I’d like to have seen all the game has to offer, but I saw the credits, I finished the game. I’m not about to play for another 25 hours just get back to that point in the game. I understand that the design is rewarding you for making the best use of your time, but I don’t see how anyone other than veterans of the series will be able see all the content in the game on their first playthrough, and that’s just an unfortunate element of the game’s design.

Dec 062012
 

One of the things we all love about action/adventure and FPS games are the opportunities to jump into a large combat vehicle and bring havoc and destruction upon your enemies. Think about the joy you have when picking up the Scorpion tank in Halo or grabbing one of the many tanks and Battlefield 3, the feeling of power and control is unmistakable. WarGaming.net set us up with a press account to take their newest 8.1 patch live for their aptly named, World of Tanks. After piloting a collection of different behemoths and blowing up enemies and buildings (while getting junked more times than I’d like), here is what we thought of this wildly popular F2P game.

I spent my first week in World of Tanks driving a little ways up the map and then getting absolutely obliterated by my opponents. In fact, even though we had the full menagerie of tanks at our disposal, fingers and toes could not count the amount that I had wrecked. It wasn’t until I ran into a player that explained to me in a little more detail the process of picking a tank and filling that tanks role, that I was able to effectively start  contributing in battles. Most times, I would join a game, get blown to pieces and then have to immediately join a new game with a fresh tank. Fortunately for me, it seemed that the people I played with were more adept than I was because I won far more matches than I lost.

You see the smaller, faster tanks are meant to zip in and spot enemy units preferably without getting into too much combat themselves, I can almost compare these to support characters in MOBA games as they don’t pack a punch but serve an integral role. Medium tanks tend to supplement the light tanks and pick off opposing light tanks that are scouting the area, while also providing assistance to other units to turn the tide of a firefight. I have witnessed 2 medium tanks and a heavy tank take out an entire team. Heavy tanks are the larger tanks that are build for going toe to toe in combat with just about any other tank, they are also build to take a few solid hits. A good heavy tank seems to push the line while the smaller, faster tanks flank enemies and provide distractions so the heavy tanks can finish the job. The tank destroyers are massive tanks that have huge guns that can hit from crazy ranges. While this is quite fun, their speed and maneuverability make them easily dispatched if a medium tank catches them unaware. Finally, there is the artillery which is more or less the annoying little cousin of the rest of the tanks. These little buggers can cause chaos from almost anywhere yet a glass cannons that can be destroyed with one or two well placed hits. While playing, I spent most time using medium tanks, as the had they control to not get obliterated while actually contributing to a battle.

While there are several different game modes in World of Tanks, but even with these game modes, it was rare that I actually saw an objective completed in the manner it was meant to. Whether it is a capture the flag, territory or king of the hill mode, all the games can be ended by eliminating the opposing force, which  I guess seems easier. While most games ended in a decisive victory by routing your enemies, it was apparent that light tanks also seemed to excel at attempting to capture important objectives as well. I couldn’t help but feel like objectives were an afterthought, although the team would more split into extermination and objective groups at the start of things.

The F2P model behind world of tanks isn’t as revolutionary as it is tried and tested, You can earn in-game currency by completing matches or by buying gold to purchase new tanks, repair destroyed ones or to upgrade equipment. Something I found mildly interesting was the the fact that purchased currency could be converted into in-game currency for specific purchases. This is the first time I’ve seen this in a F2P title.

With a massive collection of many different real-life tanks from a handful of different militarily from around the world, there is always a new tank to take out for a spin. Maps are expansive and feature destructible environments, such as houses that crumble after taking a hit or so and walls that you can drive right over. On a high end machine, the graphics were pretty good and there seems to be a decent enough community to actively have a great time. I do need to clarify that I really am not a tank combat type of person. With that being said, I enjoyed the time I spent in World of Tanks and thought that being able to join multiple battles was an interesting feature. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys tank combat and wants to find themselves in the thick of it. With the 8.1 patch active, there are over 20 new British tanks and even more ways to customize your fleet. Meaning there are many different ways to find exactly what you want to enjoy in this game.

PC Game

Graphics

70
 

Audio

80
 

Gameplay

70

Creativity

80
 

Execution

75
 

Offset

70
    

7.4

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • If you like tank combat and have a computer, you’d be crazy not to be playing this
  • F2P model isn’t pay-to-win
  • Awesome support and cool community

Cons:

  • You are going to junk a bunch of tanks before getting the hang of things
  • Kinda wish that objectives were a higher priority

 

Dec 052012
 

Today I had a chance to interview Olli Mäntylä, one of those fine folks at Ludocraft, a Finnish game development studio who just released the 1.0 version of their multiplayer online vehicle based team deathmatch game known as Airbuccaneers, available for purchase on Steam, Gamersgate and IndieCity. It’s currently only available for Windows computers, but Linux and MAC support will be added in the future.

Airbuccaneers website: http://www.ludocraft.com/games/airbuccaneers/

Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/223630/

Gamersgate: http://www.gamersgate.com/DD-ABHD/airbuccaneers

IndieCity: http://underground.indiecity.com/game/AirBuccaneers

IndieDB page: http://www.indiedb.com/games/airbuccaneers-hd

_____

 

Q: As AirBuccaneers 1.0 came today, I have to ask: will this be the end of the updates?


A: Definitely no. There’s still some early adopter extras we need to provide and there’s also a good chance
of DLC. We are also looking to bring out the Mac and Linux versions very soon, and we’ll of course keep
updating the game.

Q: How are you feeling with the way that AirBuccaneers has turned out?


A: Overall we are all very happy with the way it turned out. After all we basically made it in just one year
with very limited resources. We believe that the finished game meets the fans’ expectations too.

Q: What’s your favourite thing about AirBuccaneers?


A: That feeling when two airships with full crews are pummelling each other with cannon balls and the air is
filled with blocker shots and fire and your ship is just barely hanging in the sky and you know that the
enemy ship is close to going down too. And then your team pulls through and stands victorious. That
feeling of working together and beating your enemies in a very tight spot is the best feeling I’ve ever had in
a multiplayer game.

Q: Have you ever been in one of the famed AirBuccaneers developers vs. fans battles?


A: I’ve been in all of them. You can probably find me in all upcoming Devs vs. Fans Battles too. I’m usually in
there with nick Nobah.

Q: Do you have any crazy stories to do with AirBuccaneers development to share with us?


A: AirBuccaneers was listed on number one spot on Eurogamer Expo website’s What’s On list and at the
same time Polish internet video personality Suchy Kanał made video of AirBuccaneers. The Eurogamer Expo
linking and “Polish Invasion” together crashed our webhost’s servers and also took down their other
servers with them. After this happened we just received a text message from the webhost saying that we
have too much traffic and they are dropping us from their service. Something told us that this was a good
time to change the webhost.

Q: Other than AirBuccaneers, do you have any other projects that you’re working on or going to be starting?

 

A: We have some serious game projects we are working on at the moment but on the entertainment side
we are still focusing on AirBuccaneers. Of course we have thrown around ideas for future game projects
but haven’t really decided what we’d like to do.

Q: I’ve heard unconfirmed reports that you folks at LudoCraft speak Finglish, is this true?


A: Somewhat yes. There are lots of technical terms that don’t really translate well to Finnish or nobody just
knows or wants to use the Finnish term. So our speaking is often a weird mix of Finnish words, English
words and English words bent and pronounced in Finnish fashion.

Q: What other games do you like to play?


A: Personally I’m a big fan of Assassin’s Creed series so the third installment has been in heavy play
recently. But I was literally blown away by how awesome Dishonored is. I also dabble in to the new Counter-
Strike: Global Offensive every now and then. Studio wide people play all kinds of games. I do know for a
fact that we have some very old school XCOM fans among us who enjoyed the reincarnation of the series.
And Guns of Icarus has been in play on our offices every now and then too.

Dec 042012
 

Let’s start this out with a bit of honesty, coming into Wipeout 3 for the Wii U, my expectations were rather low. Low to the point where I had a good feeling this game would be trash before even sliding it into my Wii U. The third sequel in the great Wipeout franchise did not disappoint when it came to matching my expectations. It turns out that coming into Wipeout 3 thinking it’s going to be a straight up turd is actually being a bit too generous.

The basis around this Wipeout experience is almost a carbon copy of the show, you’re a person and you run through seemingly painful obstacles all while wishing you were watching MXC. That’s of course about what you’d expect from a Wipeout game but what you wouldn’t (or maybe you would) expect is the fact that there are only 10 levels to run through. These 10 levels take about an hour and half at max to complete and once you finish them, you’re pretty much out of content to dig through. Sure, you could run through the levels again but why would you? You’ve already seen everything there is to see in that poorly designed section of the game, why see it again? Your fallback option is to find someone else to play it with in multiplayer but you’re a lucky soul if you can find someone willing to dive into this disaster for more than 30 minutes. Further adding to the boredom, you can’t lose the “competition” going on while you’re running through the course. Seriously, I laid the controller down for 15 minutes and still won.

 

It doesn’t help that the controls will occasionally just break and force you to fall off the platform you’re on. I never ran into that issue with the Gamepad as handling your character was only loose and unstable as opposed to just plain broken with the Wii Remote. There were multiple times when my character would just halt in place and start to moonwalk backwards until she fell into the water below. On top of that, the timing just seemed a tad off on the jumps, like there was a delay between hitting the button and actually having your character perform the action you desire. At some point it just went beyond frustrating and turned into one big hilarious experience, to the point where I imagined that was supposed to happen, it makes it seem better.

The most obvious slight against Wipeout is its PlayStation 2 level visuals. Honestly, I’ve seen multiple PlayStation 2 games that look much better than Wipeout, mainly due to the absolutely awful textures placed upon every inch of the environment. The art style is understandably cartoony and not completely ugly when standing still but once the gears start moving, the visuals fade into a horrific abyss. But don’t even think about them improving once you go into the local multiplayer. In the multiplayer I experienced consistent frame rate drops that I didn’t think could exist and actually be shipped out in a product.

That isn’t the only fault with the multiplayer as it’s clear that many of the levels simply were not designed with multiplayer in mind. For example, you and your partner are running through a course, they hit a moving platform that slowly slides forward, you don’t make it in time so you now have to wait for the snail of a platform to shimmy its way back to you and by the time it does, your opposing player is almost a minute or more ahead of you. It’s just poor design at every turn and it doesn’t help that the main option in multiplayer is to just run through the same levels that you ran through in single player. There is a separate mode that can at least bring forth a bit of griefing fun, Trap Mode being its name. In it the gamepad holder controls the activation of the traps such as big cushion that can smash your partner, who’s running through the course using the Wii Remote, right off the linear passageway.

If there’s a few things I can squeeze out that are positive about this game, that would be the fact that the game is fully playable using only the Gamepad, which is something that I could see coming in handy with better titles in the future. Also, there’s quite a bit of dialogue in the game that is recorded by the faces of Wipeout, John Anderson and John Henson. The only problem with that is the fact that the dialogue is about as funny as their banter on the actual show. I was occasionally forced to turn the volume off because I just couldn’t stand another painfully unfunny joke about whatever they keep chatting about.

Nicely put, Wipeout 3 is one of the worst launch games I’ve ever put hands on and with a bit of luck, will be the worst Wii U game to be placed onto the market. It’s clear the development process behind Wipeout was not an easy nor progressive one. I’ll admit I was never offended by Wipeout 3, that’s the last compliment I can manage to purge forward about the short, unsatisfying experience that is this overpriced $50 experience. If you want to play a game of Wipeout, you should purchase the iPhone version at the price of 2 bucks. It’s cheaper and infinitely better than this sad little piece of work.

WII U

Graphics

25
 

Audio

30
 

Gameplay

20

Creativity

25
 

Execution

20
 

Offset

25
    

2.4

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Dec 042012
 

Persona 4 Golden recently came out on the Vita, which is a remake of one of the best JRPGs of all time, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. This release got me thinking about the nature of remakes and their place in the industry, which obviously led to this edition of Top 10 Tuesdays. Like with movies, as long as someone, somewhere in the world remembers a specific game fondly, there will be those that try to capitalize on those feelings by remaking and re-releasing the game. Like with most things, game remakes have the potential to be either genuinely great or a shameless cash grab. In my mind, the best remakes improve the original experience while also keeping intact the elements that made the game great in the first place. The following ten games are what I consider to be the best remakes of all time. Just a note, HD Collections are an altogether different beast, so to qualify for this list the game must have something new, whether that be new content, added functionality or shiny new graphics; as long as there is something new other than simply running in 720p, it qualifies. Also, Persona 4 Golden is too new to be on this list.

10. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES (2008, PS2)

Persona 3 is an excellent game, and Persona 3 FES made some key additions to make the experience even better. The biggest addition is the 30 hour epilogue that may as well be a full on sequel. While most fans agree the epilogue, called “The Answer”, is not quite as good as the core game, the fact that the length of the game (which was already in the 80-100 hour range) was increased by so much makes this one of the most expansive remakes on this list. Aside from the epilogue, FES also had new Personas and social links integrated into the main game. While Persona 3 Portable for the PSP did come out after FES and made some excellent improvements, most notably being able to directly control your party members, the limitations of the PSP hurt the experience. P3 Portable is missing all of the anime cutscenes and has far less freedom of movement, in addition to lacking “The Answer”. So, while P3P had some great improvements, FES is still the superior remake of Persona 3.

9. Metroid: Zero Mission (2004, GBA)

Metroid Zero Mission is a Game Boy Advance remake of the original NES classic; Metroid. The game tells the same story of the original game and takes place roughly in the same locations, but this is so much more than a simple re-skin. Zero Mission is more akin to film style remakes rather than the traditional improved graphics and added features of most video game remakes. What I mean by this is that Zero Mission is a re-telling of the original, but with a more modern production. It takes a lot of the gameplay and design concepts introduced in Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, rather than strictly adhering to the exact gameplay and design of the NES original. The result is a game that plays like a more modern 2D Metroid while still maintaining the feel of the original.

8. Perfect Dark (2010, XBLA)

The original Perfect Dark back on the N64 was without a doubt the best shooter available for that console, but it was still limited by the fact that it was on the N64. The remake released on Xbox Live Arcade took everything that was great about Perfect Dark and removed most the limitations imposed upon it by the nature of the N64. The biggest improvement was the presence of modern dual analog controls, but it had slick new HD visuals as well. Multiplayer was a huge component of the original, both with competitive and cooperative modes, and the 360 version brought all these modes onto Xbox Live. All these additions along with the now constant 60 frames per second made the XBLA version of Perfect Dark far better than the original.

7. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (2011, 3DS)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of the greatest games of all time, and the remake for the 3DS showed just how well the game holds up today. The core game was largely unchanged from a gameplay perspective, with the real standout improvements being the visuals. The completely redone visuals instantly make the game look more modern, but there are more subtle changes as well. This version of the game includes “Master Quest” which is basically a new game plus mode where the dungeons are rearranged and the enemies are more difficult. Other than the visuals, not a whole lot was done to the game, but with a game this good, it isn’t really necessary.

6. Pokemon FireRed/ LeafGreen (2004, GBA)

The original Pokemon entries (Red and Blue) are some of my favorite games of all time, and the remakes on the GBA were a great addition to that legacy. FireRed and LeafGreen were fairly faithful remakes of the first generation of Pokemon games, but with some improvements. The visuals and music were obviously greatly improved over the originals, bringing them more in line with the other Pokemon games on the GBA. The game also included many features that were present in subsequent Pokemon games, such as double battles, and even added in new areas and Pokemon. The core game remained mostly the same, but the improved presentation and added featured brought these classic games into the then current generation.

Dec 032012
 

It’s December yet again and with December means two things: Christmas and near zero games releasing. This year we got a little lucky with the large release of Far Cry 3 and the retail release of The Walking Dead Season 1 collection. Then on top of that, of course, the blockbuster release of Power Rangers Super Samurai and Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade. On with the releases, or lack thereof.

Fry Cry 3
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, and PC
Release Date: December 4th

Without a doubt the biggest game releasing in December, Far Cry 3 finally releases this Tuesday and it already seems like a hit. Early critical consensus is very high and some are tabbing it as a serious contender for Game of the Year. Sadly, I’ve flushed my money into the Wii U toilet and with Christmas fast approaching, it’s going to be hard to scrounge money up for this one. But with the buzz surrounding it, I know I’ll eventually find some way to get my grubby hands on Far Cry 3.

I’ll admit, when they first delayed Far Cry 3 from September to December, I was more than a tad worried. I suppose that I should’ve realized from Sleeping Dogs that delays don’t always prove to be a bad thing. Let’s hope that’s the case this time around as well. From what I’ve picked up, if you want a game filled to the brim with side content and an insane story, Far Cry 3 is right up your alley.

Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade
Platforms: Wii U
Release Date: December 4th

Clearly Nintendo was waiting for December to push their major products as opposed to letting them out on launch day. With games like Family Party, Wheel of Fortune, Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth (Which might not be too terrible), and Jeopardy hitting before Christmas, it’s obvious the holiday push is on and Nintendo is sending out the big guns to entice kids to beg and plead for a Wii U. Internet sarcasm, I’ve been partaking in it since 2007.

But seriously, this game, despite its terrible and nonsensical name, will be an inoffensive family game that one or two people will get a kick out of and then lay it down and never set eyes on it again. Instead they’ll dive into the newest Super Mario Bros until, well, the next Super Mario Bros? Then once they’ve had their fill, it’ll be time for the Wii U to gather its dust and fade away. Please, Nintendo, you made a decent console, now you just have to support it with something that isn’t just another Mario or Zelda game.

Mass Effect Trilogy
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, and PC
Release Date: December 4th

One of the most influential franchises this generation is finally (a whole 9 months after the third installment’s release) getting its own little trilogy package. The biggest question coming into this release was what will happen to all the DLC for the games? Well here’s the scoop, Skippy, straight from the Mass Effect website:

“On PC, Mass Effect will include Bring Down the Sky and Pinnacle Station on disk.  For Mass Effect 2, Cerberus Network will be included which features Zaeed – The Price of Revenge, The Firewalker Pack, Cerberus Assault Gear, Arc Projector heavy weapon, and Normandy Crash site mission.  For Mass Effect 3, Online Pass will be included granting players access to co-op multiplayer.  On Xbox 360, Bring Down the Sky and Pinnacle Station are not included, however they are available as stand-alone downloads through Xbox LIVE.  For Mass Effect 2, Cerberus Network will be included and Online Pass will be included for Mass Effect 3.  Information on PlayStation 3 DLC will be available at a later date.”

Good deal or no, what say you? I, personally, never touched the DLC and didn’t enjoy the first Mass Effect one bit so I’d pass on this package but I’m sure many have still not played the series and will jump in here. My advice? Skip the first one.

 

The Walking Dead
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, and PC
Release Date: December 11th

Now that the first season of the Walking Dead has finally wrapped up, it’s about time for Tell Tale to release it all as one nice package. My opinions on the Walking Dead series have been expressed multiple times throughout my reviews of the episodes but I’ll reiterate a bit here. First up, the art style is a fantastic piece of work to gaze at. Sadly, frame rate and animation issues plagued the Xbox 360 version throughout its lifespan. Though I can’t confirm this one bit, it would be a rather safe bet to say the PC version runs much better than the Xbox 360/PS3 version and therefore may not feature the frame rate issues.

But buying it on the PC means you won’t take part in the new style of point and click adventure that Tell Tale introduces to the console version of the series. On top of the immaculate controls, The Walking Dead features a beautifully told story held across five different episodes. The way the story unravels mirrors your characters mindset as he plows forward through this destroyed world, just hoping there’s happiness around the next corner. Simply put, The Walking Dead is a fantastic experience and if you haven’t taken part in the experience, you better get in while the getting’s good.

007 Legends
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: December 11th

As some may remember, 007 Legends was released around a month ago and was met with a fairly negative review from myself. It was a bland experience that never improved upon itself one bit and instead felt like one big nap. Minus the happy and comfortable feeling that comes with a good nap. I was proud that throughout 007 Legends I only fell asleep with the controller in my hand twice. That’s an accomplishment, folks.

It’s a tad unclear as to what exactly the gamepad will do but I’m going to assume it serves as your mini map and inventory, because that’s what shooters will do from now on. I’m also going to assume that this will not fix the many issues the original game experienced. But hey, this could be the best 007 game ever released, but I’m going to assume not. Someone pick it up and let me know, because I’m going to stay far away from this, based off of educated assumptions.

Also releasing:

Guardians of Middle-Earth Release
Release Date: December 4th

Power Rangers Super Samurai
Release Date: December 4th

Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth
Release Date: December 4th

Resistance Collection
Release Date: December 5th

Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy for Wii U
Release Date: December 11th

Nov 292012
 

How long can a stealth game rely on simply being a stealth game? That is the question I continuously asked myself as we approached the release of IO Interactive’s latest installment in their widely beloved Hitman series. It seems IO was wondering the same thing as they gave us hints at newer, more expansive upgrades to the Hitman template in Hitman: Absolution. They didn’t reinvent the series, but they did attempt to improve it in some interesting ways. But do these attempts work out or do they fall to the wayside and quickly become unnoticed?

Story wise, IO decided to make a smart decision in making this go around a more personal narrative focusing on Agent 47’s ties to his once employer Diana Burnwood, who he’s now been assigned to kill. That interesting premise never goes up from there as their attempts at dramatic moments falter due to the silly characters 47 has to deal with throughout the game. These characters are brought to a whole new level by the voice work of Keith Carradine as Blake Dexter among other performances. Don’t get me wrong, the silliness of the characters is one of the most enjoyable things of the game, but it does nothing for a story that at one point showed some signs of a tight tale. That being said, 47’s story does wrap up well but of course, it’s always left open for a sequel.

Simply the best thing about the previous versions in the Hitman franchise was the stalking and eventually assassination of your set targets. The chances to do that obviously return in almost every mission you encounter and they’re far from diminished in excitement or tension. The wonderful puzzle aspect of finding out how exactly to poison this man’s pizza is still there and provides some hilarious but tough ways to off your targets. For example, this guy pees on a wall every five minutes. Lay a wire there and send electricity through it, and unhappiness begins to flow through that man in a heartbeat.

The ability to disguise yourself as your enemy also returns and plays a large part in keeping yourself incognito from wandering enemies. The Hitman series has always featured some hidden comical aspects that relate to the disguising but they seem to have taken a step back from that this go around, for better or worse. Remaining undetected begins to add to your final mission score which is no more than a high score for your friends to compete with. Though it is that simple, I couldn’t help but always attempt to get the Silent Assassin rank, partly because you feel like a badass with that final grade, partly because I’m an overachiever, but mainly the latter.

One thing IO did add into Absolution was a mode called “Instinct.” You activate Instinct mode by pressing and holding LB and once it’s activated, time slows down and dependent on what you’re disguised as, your enemy’s line of sight towards you may disappear. Say you’re dressed as a cop in a room full of cops. Without instinct, you’re quickly going to be noticed as a man in disguise. With Instinct however, you simply blend into the crowd and the enemies can no longer detect whether you’re in disguise or just another new cop. It’s a supremely contrived system but it works well enough to not break the atmosphere Absolution sets up.

Instinct also presents a very helpful feature which is the ability to see an NPC’s walking path by a trail of fire that appears under his feet, showing you exactly where his current path takes him and where he’ll go once his occasional stop ends. Apart from those two main aspects of Instinct, it also shows you items of interest in the environment and highlights enemies in different rooms by showing outlines of them, similar to Eagle Vision (and many other variations) in the Assassins Creed franchise. Instinct simplifies the stalking in Hitman but doesn’t dumb it down enough to where true fans will not enjoy it. Even if they do have an issue with the bit of help, the higher difficulties drastically limit it and the Purist difficulty eliminates it all together.

Combat has obviously never been a focus in the Hitman series but there’s still something to be said for IO managing to keep the combat up to date and accessible, though most will never participate in a prolonged sequence involving it. The Point Shooting mechanic introduced via the new Instinct System does a lot to make the combat easier to handle and quicker to go through if your current situation does come to that. That being said, you still never want to encounter combat in Hitman: Absolution. It simply doesn’t feel right and most of the time led me to restarting from the last checkpoint.

Though by last checkpoint, I rarely mean an actual checkpoint. That’s not to say there aren’t any checkpoints, there are one or two spots you can run into throughout the level where you save your current progress. But since the checkpoints are highlighted areas you have to walk into and the game is far from linear, you may never run into these checkpoints. This issue can really mess with you if you’re close to perfecting a level but screw up at the end. Even when you do find a checkpoint, it’s rare to find one set in a decent position that doesn’t force you to lose a good bit progress once you restart.

One of the most frustrating aspects in Hitman comes not in the actual mechanics but instead in the graphical department. I ran into an issue where the game would freeze for a second or two then quickly catch back up to itself by playing like it was in fast forward. I attempted to install the game, restart it, etc. but nothing fixed the issue. Thankfully it mostly happens at the beginning of the level but I did notice that before installing it, the issues are much worse and happen multiple times throughout the actual levels. That could obviously get you killed if you’re in the middle of sneaking up behind an enemy or attempting to distract guards by tampering with objects in the environment.  Apart from that issue, the game looks fantastic with a beautiful art direction that shines bright particularly in the more visually rich sections such as a sequence involving a rainy night or a tropical location. The attention to detail on each character is very noticeable and presented in front of your face multiple times. If the hitches didn’t exist, Hitman: Absolution would be a serious juggernaut in the visuals section.

The Contracts section of Hitman: Absolution was possibly the most intriguing aspect coming into its release. The idea behind Contracts mode is to put the player into the mind of a designer. They set you up into an established level and let you roam about it, eventually finding an interesting NPC that you want to set as your “target.” You can then set certain objectives people need to reach in your mission by doing them yourself, such as killing with a certain disguise or making sure you never get caught once by an enemy. The creation aspect is incredibly simple and very easy to grasp onto. The bad news is that the search for your target is made interesting due to the puzzle aspect that goes along with each hunt you take part in. That being said, users cannot recreate those moments, it’s impossible to do. That leads to the many simple “get this guy alone, kill him, leave,” missions that comprise most of the Contracts modes. Maybe users will eventually be able to expand the mode beyond that but it seems unlikely at this point.

It’s clear that the Hitman franchise, like Agent 47 himself, is getting old. I’m not sure how much longer it can ride on its stealth legs but it managed to do so this go around, despite me not thinking IO could manage it. If you’re a Hitman narrative aficionado, you may want to keep to your previous installments but if you want another solid Hitman product that builds upon its previous success pretty well, I have a game for you. There’s no doubt that IO didn’t knock this installment out of the park, but it’s still a good addition to a unique franchise.

XBox 360

Graphics

75
 

Audio

85
 

Gameplay

80

Creativity

75
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

80
    

7.9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Nov 282012
 
Usually, Jonathan White takes the opportunity to address the upcoming League of Legends champions and also add his 2 cents in. Well, boys and girls, what we have here is a support champ and if you have been following any Gaming Irresponsibly commentary, you may know that I main supports. So I am taking the opportunity today to tell you about Riot’s new support champ, Nami.
 
Nami is a support that rewards aggressive play with a collection of amazing abilities that include 3 different crowd control abilities. Her Q is ‘Aqua Prison’, a full fledged stun that lasts for 1.25 seconds AND can hit a group of enemies. The cooldown on this ability is rather severe at low levels but is makes up for this with that nice stun and a fair amount of damage. When casting her Q, there is a delay as her bubble floats to it’s target, so longer shots will need to be timed efficiently. My favorite thing to do with ‘Aqua Prison’ is to catch the enemy carry after successful poke damage from my carry, leaving them open for a deluge of serious damage with no way to escape.
 
Nami’s W is called ‘Ebb and Flow’ and is a Miss Fortune-like offensive/defensive spell. This spell is the key to laning and team fights as it heals your teammates yet hurts your enemies. When you cast it on a target, it either hurts or heals the target and then bounces to other champions that are within range of the original champion. The interesting thing here is that it alternates bounces between targets, slightly losing it’s effectiveness after each bounce. Cast W on an enemy, it will bounce to a friendly champ to heal them and then back to an enemy champ that hasn’t been hit yet or vice-versa. While not a super heal, this ability can change the tide of a gank or help your carry secure a kill safely.
 
The next ability in Nami’s kit is her E, which is “Tidecaller’s Blessing”. This is a target buff that grants bonus magic damage on a champion’s next 3 attacks while also slowing their target. The magic phrase here is “next 3 attacks”, meaning this on-hit ability works with Hurricane and can cause some serious disruption in a team fight as well. Even more so when the enemy team turns tail to try to escape. Carries will love this ability and if, yet it can also be cast on Nami herself, letting her erode her opponents heath as well.
 
‘Tidal Wave’ is Nami’s ultimate and is one of the more interesting R spells in the entire game. If you haven’t seen this yet, imagine a lane-wide Sona ult that knocks up and slows significantly while doing tons of damage™. This spell causes absolute chaos in a full team fight but also allows you to interfere in escapes and ganks as well with it’s awesome range. The longer the wave goes, the longer the target is slowed, so perfect timing and positioning can help you send the enemy team’s hopes down the drain!
 
How does all of this work in actual gameplay? Well, Nami is a bit mana hungry so I rush a philosopher’s stone and then build a chalice of harmony. After building my sightstone and basic boots, I build a glacial shroud for tankiness and cooldown reduction that will eventually be turned into an iceborn gauntlet for endgame. I then build my chalice into Mikael’s crucible for super support mode and buy my boots 3. As this is still on the PBE, I do imagine this will change quite a bit when I get to play with my duo queue partner, the Pentakill master Gammarah. As far as abilities go, I have been building based on my opponents. I usually pick E first, then Q, max W first and then E, while taking R whenever it is available. This gives my lane significant sustain while also allowing my lane partner to have the ability to assist in crowd controlling and positioning.
 
I main Leona, I may be one of the best I have ever seen in game, but Nami is indeed something special. I can assure you that she will likely be the go-to support based on her ability to absolutely dominate a lane. Also, as a bonus, she CAN be played as an AP mid as well… Just saying!
Nov 282012
 

Okay, it’s been over a week and we have been putting in some significant quality time with our Wii U game consoles. With that being said, I’d like to address a few things and also detail the pros and cons of this new system.

Common Misconceptions

Holy hell! This is the actual console!

First off, the curse of E3 2011 is still leaning heavily on this system. It seems that a ton of people I have met don’t understand that the Wii U is a brand new console, not a new controller. It’s not a new fancy portable system either, the GamePad has roughly the same range as an Xbox 360 controller. The system doesn’t play bluray discs, dvds, Gamecube games or anything other than the Wii U and Wii discs. I feel that I have to clarify this as 4 out of 5 times I describe the Wii U to someone in person, their initial response is “Oh, isn’t that the new Wii controller?”.

What is different?

After downloading the SIZABLE update (about 2.5 hours) that I had to complete before playing any games on the system, I was greeted by Nintendo’s brand new social community. While not exactly Xbox Live but way more than the Playstation Network, it’s easiest to describe the Nintendo Network as a massive visual forum that automatically creates a new community for every single title and app available for the console. Users can discuss games, get advice, post pictures or just chat with each other. I expect that this will evolve and grow as time passes, since every other online service has made significant growth since their inceptions. While this is an improvement to the horrible system used by the Wii, it still has a little bit of a learning curve to get the most out of it. I don’t love the Nintendo Network, yet I certainly do not hate it.

Once I actually jumped into a game (holy crap, MORE UPDATES?!), I got to catch my first glimpse of HD gaming, Nintendo style. This was awesomely beautiful and while up to current par with both Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, there was something worthg pointing out. On launch day, this system is up to par with the best offerings of the current generation, that means we can only expect progress from here! I experienced the entire launch day catalog and with the exception of a pair of games, was actually solidly impressed with what I saw. If you want a solid feel for some nice HD graphics, play Rayman Legends and Trine 2. If you want to get creative with the GamePad, play ZombiU or NintendoLand. Either way, there is a little something for everyone on launch day and an impressive library of AAA games to boot.

One thing to point out is that the Wii U GamePad doesn’t have a significant battery life, only lasting about 3.5 hours. This can be frustrating in certain games that can lead to extended periods of play. The charging cable is quite long, which helps alleviate some of this inconvenience but with as much movement that the GamePad requires, my patience wore thin pretty quick.

On the topic of the GamePad, it is a higly innovative controller, some of it’s uses are really unique and creative but a few others are quite lackluster. Understandably, I feel that most of the launch day titles really wanted to create a focus and awareness on the GamePad itself, rather than the ability and power of the new console. My concern with this is that a reliance on the GamePad’s touch screen seems to cheapen the overall experience. I am willing to give the mindset an early honeymoon-period pass, as devs likely wanted to play to the console’s strengths. I am pretty sure that most people will enjoy the ability to watch movies and play games from the GamePad, yet I find it a grand waste when I spend a majority of my time looking down at an 854×480 display, rather than my large HDTV that showcases the beauty of the new system.

Software

I’ve touched quite a bit on the launch day software, I don’t want to hold the system responsible either way for the quality or lack there of so we will be covering the Wii U titles on their own merit. With that being said, the launch titles feature something for everyone and NintendoLand, ZombiU, Scribblenauts Unlimited and Sonic & All‑stars Racing Transformed are all great starter games for the system. If you haven’t been able to get your hands on them previously; Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition, Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 are all worth getting checking out but get yourself a GamePad Pro asap, trust me!

After Spending A Week With the Wii U

Wii U Graphics…

Are we all caught up? Hopefully! After a week of playing with the console for a week, here are my thoughts:

  • I welcome the change of pace that the Nintendo Network offers. However, I don’t feel like it really brings much to the table for a core gamer.
  • One of the weakest Wii U titles is absolutely New Super Mario Brothers U. If you are considering a Wii U, you may want to reconsider making this a day 1 pickup.
  • The Wii U absolutely has what it takes to appeal to the core gamer. Games look great, play great and don’t require stupid amounts of work to play online with friends.
  • The Wii U GamePad… It’s a cool gimmick; it works well with a majority of games, I’d like to see it used less as a crutch and more as a way to enhance gameplay. As of right now, it’s the same gimmick that the Nunchuck and Wii-mote were.
  • The limited battery on the Wii U GamePad is a bummer, it gives me an opportunity to do other things after a few hours of playing. That isn’t actually a good thing.
  • The Wii U has one of the largest launch day line-ups available. Oddly, it’s the 3rd party games that shine. NintendoLand is absolutely the exception to this.
  • I really liked using my Wii U for Netflix and Hulu. The ability to watch a show on my GamePad while my family watches something on the Xbox 360 was pretty cool. In fact, the ability to control my TV with the GamePad is pretty awesome, but not a selling point.
  • By no means does the Wii U reinvent the wheel, it doesn’t even revolutionize it. My biggest concern is that the Wii U catches a case of the 3DS and takes about a year to get going. We need a flagship title (Smash Bros, Metroid, Castlevania, Zelda etc) as soon as possible. Luigi’s Mansion 2 could be that game, as could Lego City Undercover or Pikmin 3…
  • The gaming experience is equal to Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. Since those systems are pushing their limits right now, it’s going to be exciting to see what the Wii U does from here.
  • I hate the fact that the sensor bar is still an integral part of playing with a group of people. There was no other way around this?
  • UPDATES, UPDATES, UPDATES!!! It takes about 5-45 minutes for the Wii U to download updates for every single game the first time I played it!

So, here is the tl;dr – I think the Wii U is a good system at launch, but not great. It doesn’t do anything “better” than the its major competition, although it really doesn’t have to at this point.

 

 

 

Nov 272012
 

This being the first generation with high definition capable consoles, it also marks the beginning of a new trend in re-releasing old games; the HD Collection. Because they ran at much lower resolutions than modern games, rendering games from the PS2, Xbox, Gamecube era in high definition makes them look instantly better at a much cheaper development cost than doing a full remake. Sony has been leading the charge with HD Collections, but other publishers have gotten in on the action too, like Capcom, Namco Bandai, Ubisoft, and Konami. The results can be hit or miss, with some games playing and looking better than ever in HD, while others serve as a harsh reminder of the changing standards and design philosophies. The Zone of the Enders HD Collection, which includes both Zone of the Enders games, manages to simultaneously be both a hit and a miss, making it a great example of how smart improvements and changes can turn a good idea with flawed execution into a great sequel.

Just a note, I never played these games in their original form on the Playstation 2, so I am judging them primarily on their merits as games released in 2012, and to a lesser extent their quality as HD re-releases.

Now, having only a limited knowledge of the series prior to playing these updated versions, I had high hopes for the story. Any game with the name Kojima on it comes with certain expectations regarding the story and presentation, but both Zone of the Enders and Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner come up short in this respect. In the first game, you play as Leo, a preteen boy who stumbles upon “Jehuty”, a cutting edge orbital frame (basically a giant flying mech with guns and a sword), and tries to escape the city sized space station where he lives as it is attacked by an enemy force. The story has the type of cinematic presentation you would expect from a Kojima game, but there are key aspects of the storytelling that really hold it back.

For one, the localization is very poor. Dialogue comes off as very stiff and unnatural sounding, which is done no favors by the terrible voice acting. I was really surprised by the bad voice work, given how good the voice performances are in the Metal Gear Solid games. I found myself frequently laughing at loud at the awful line readings, which is really a problem in a game that keeps a serious tone throughout. The sub-par voice performances combined with poor localization make the story very hard to get invested in, despite a few interesting plot elements. Even if you could get into some of the overall plot development, the annoying main character and lack of any real resolution make it less fulfilling than what you’d expect out a Kojima story.

In The 2nd Runner, you play as a new character, Dingo, who becomes Jehuty’s new pilot. The plot of the second game focuses more on the large scale conflict and universe building than the first game, making it instantly better from a story standpoint. Unfortunately, the same localization and voice acting issues of the first game plague the sequel as well. In fact, The 2nd Runner puts more emphasis on story than the original, so while the plot and characters are better, the unnatural dialogue and poor delivery become more prevalent. However, the story is still much better than the first, with a much clearer plot progression and a definite ending with a satisfying resolution. As a package, the story elements are really disappointing. Even more disappointing is the fact that with this re-release they had the opportunity to improve the localization and re-cast the voice actors, but decided that what was already there was good enough. For the story aspects of these games to be acceptable in 2012, they really should have gone the extra mile and improved the parts of it that they could.

While the story aspects of these two games are pretty much equally disappointing, almost every other aspect is much better in The 2nd Runner than the original game. The biggest failing of the first game is the level design. The whole game takes place on a domed city that orbits Jupiter, which results in almost no level variety. The game only has a handful of levels, which are almost all simply square shaped urban environments. The levels aren’t linear, instead being more like big arenas with the goal simply being to kill every enemy and then move to the next level. Some levels have objectives that require you find an object to proceed, but the objects you must find are usually on an unspecified previous level. This means you have to pick a level at random and then kill all the enemies, hoping you picked the right one. So, what the game boils down to are a handful of levels that you wind up playing 2 or more times each over the course of the game. The end result is a 5 hour game that is sorely lacking in content with far too much backtracking and padding.

Luckily, the level design was vastly improved for the second game. The 2nd Runner completely removes the ability to go back to previous levels, meaning the game is always moving forward; no more backtracking, no more padding and no more square arenas. The levels are much bigger, but the biggest improvement is the overall design of the levels and the more linear progression. Instead of square areas with a set number of enemies to kill, each level feels different, and there are even some big set pieces such as chasing a speeding train through a tunnel and a giant airship battle high in the sky. The second game also has a great deal more content than the first, clocking in at 7-9 hours. Basically, from a design standpoint, the original game is fraught with issues while the sequel is much better executed, still holding up well by today’s standards.

Even with its myriad design issues, I still found myself enjoying the first game, mostly because of the engaging combat. Jehuty is a very capable mech, with both long range and melee options as well as additional “sub weapons” that you gain as you progress through the game. When in combat, you automatically lock onto enemies, allowing you to strafe around and easily target them with ranged attacks. The lock on is helpful, but all too often the camera doesn’t want to cooperate. Switching to the specific enemy you want can be difficult and the camera often gives you bad angles and gets caught up on the environment. Despite the camera issues, both long range and melee combat are immediately satisfying, though not perfect. The main issue is the extreme lack of difficulty (on the normal setting). You can get through the entire game by simply dashing at and killing pretty much every enemy with your sword. The lack of challenge can make the game feel repetitive, especially because there isn’t really much variety in the encounter types. There are occasional boss fights, but they mostly just involve firing until the health bar hits zero, without much need for strategy.

The combat in The 2nd Runner is mostly unchanged from the first game, but there are some key improvements. The biggest improvement is the added element of challenge. AI behaviors are much more complex, making for a much more difficult overall experience, even on the normal setting. You can no longer simply rush every enemy, and knowing the specific tendencies and weaknesses of the various enemy types is key to moving forward. The game demands that you make skillful use of both melee and ranged combat, as well as knowing how to properly use your arsenal of sub weapons and having a solid grasp on the concepts of blocking and dashing. Bosses are also a big improvement in the second game. There are many more boss encounters, and each is unique and challenging. Pattern recognition and quick reflexes are key to defeating the bosses, and you will find yourself trying and failing with different techniques before you stumble upon the bosses weakness. The second game definitely has better combat, but all the camera issues from the first game are still present. Despite some issues, both games are vary enjoyable from a gameplay perspective, but once again The 2nd Runner is the clear winner in this respect.

As one would guess, the biggest area of improvement for most HD Collections is the presentation, specifically the visuals, and this is also the case with the Zone of the Enders HD Collection. In both games, Jehuty and the other mechs look great rendered in HD, but some other elements of the presentation don’t convert quite as well, particularly in the first game. In the first game, the particle effects (fire in particular) look really dated, and the skyboxes look low res. While also just more technically impressive, the sequel really benefits from slightly more stylized visuals. I always find that stylized graphics tend to hold up better over time than those with a more a realistic style, and The 2nd Runner is a perfect example. The graphics have a bit of cell shaded look to them, which makes the environments and effects look much better in comparison to the first game.

Both games utilize pre-rendered cinematics as well as in engine cutscenes, and once again The 2nd Runner is the better of the two. The first game uses CGI cutscenes, and they do not hold up very well. Unlike the in engine cutscenes, the CG cinematics don’t benefit from the HD conversion, which doesn’t do any favors to the already dated looking early 2000s CGI. The 2nd Runner ditched the CG in favor of anime cutscenes, which holds up much better than the CGI. The animated cutscenes aren’t HD either, but obviously anime is a more timeless form of animation than the ever improving nature of CGI. Performance wise, the game runs quite well. I’ve heard the PS3 version has some performance issues, but I can’t personally speak to that. I played the 360 version and the frame rate was almost always smooth during gameplay, though the in-engine cutscenes didn’t run as well for some reason.

Audio wise, both games are a mixed bag. I’ve already detailed the bad voice acting, which is equally bad in both games, but the other elements of the audio presentation fare much better. The music is a perfect fit for these games. They feature a lot electronic music with thumping bass and a fast tempo. The second game features some more low key tracks to accompany the cutscenes, but still has plenty of up tempo battle music. I liked most of the music, and it almost always fit the tone of the situation, which what a good game soundtrack should do.

If you’re a fan of the Zone of the Enders series, you’re likely to enjoy this HD re-release. At least on Xbox 360, this is a competently made update to two classic games. If you’ve never played the games before, I would absolutely recommend this collection if only for Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. The first game has it’s fair share of issues, but the sequel is absolutely worth playing. It’s unfortunate more wasn’t done to fix some of the problems with these games, but as is you’re getting one flawed but interesting game and one excellent game that everyone should play.

XBox 360

Graphics

80
 

Audio

55
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

75
 

Execution

70
 

Offset

80
    

7.5

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Both games have engaging combat
  • Music in both games fits well
  • Visuals look great in HD, particularly those of The 2nd Runner
  • The 2nd Runner adds a welcome level of challenge
  • The 2nd Runner is a fun 7-9 hour experience

Cons:

  • Both games have bad voice acting
  • Both games have sub-par localization
  • Original game is rife with design issues
  • Original game is too easy