Review: Slightly Less Mass Effect

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Mass Effect was one of my favorite video games of the past ten years. BioWare has never struggled to make a compelling universe I would love to spend 40 hours in and they’ve been at this for almost twenty years. Mass Effect 3 marks the 3rd chapter (surprise!) in an original Sci-Fi trilogy they started on the Xbox 360 back in 2007. With the promise of importing saves, streamlined combat, and online multiplayer, it was hard to see how it could disappoint. Now I can see it very clearly.

Mass Effect’s story starts where the last game left off. You dealt with the collectors and the council is finally ready to accept your warnings about the Reapers now that they’re already on earth making humanity their bitch. The Reapers are a race of machines who show up to harvest all life in the galaxy every 50,000 years for some mysterious reason. After reiterating what a thick skull the government has for not heading your warnings about this impending doom earlier, you decide to help anyway for the sake of mankind and you’re off to save the galaxy once again.

It becomes obvious quick that you’re not going to kill an army of machines the size of skyscrapers by shooting at them, so you and your crew set off to find an alternative method. You find plans for a device called the Crucible left in some ruins by the last civilization destroyed by the synthetic jack asses. They didn’t have time to finish building it before the pwnge, but evidence shows it could be a weapon used to destroy the Reapers and break the cycle for good. It’s the only chance you have and there’s no way you’re winning this war conventionally.

While a thousand overworked and underpaid contractors are building your deus ex machina, it’s your job to travel as an ambassador to every planet in the galaxy and unite everyone’s army against our mechanical foes. This is the most interesting part of the game and really shows off the decisions from the last two titles. Every mission has something to do with collecting resources for the Crucible or recruiting armies for the war effort and there’s a past decision behind every one of them. Old friends (the ones you didn’t get killed) show up to help, entire armies respect and listen to you depending on your reputation, and you’ll find yourself enjoying hours of gameplay that wouldn’t be there if you made one wrong move in the last game.

It’s a surprisingly simple plot for such a complex universe. Build the device to kill the machines. The simplicity of the plot is a bit of a disappointment if you were hoping for something a little more complex than what all the commercials are showing. This narrative also lends itself to a lot more action which might be sad news to players who were more interested in the RPG aspect of the game. Fortunately, the simple story also leaves a lot of wiggle room for side missions allowing you to tie up a lot of loose ends with past characters. Even though it’s a much lighter serving this time around, you’ll still get your RPG fix.

As previously stated, shooting takes a much bigger role in Mass Effect 3 than in past installments but it’s also the best shooting mechanics the series has ever seen. The cover system is taken straight out of Gears of War but is a definite improvement over ME1 and 2, allowing you to dive into and out of cover from other pieces of cover around it. This makes fighting much smoother and allows you to concentrate on the battle instead of the controls.

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Unfortunately, Bioware managed to turn this strength into a weakness with a little too much confidence. Every battle is easier and more interesting than before, but also way too long and repetitive. It’s okay to pull more focus on combat after the mechanics have been improved, but every battle seemed to have ten too many enemies in it and last twenty minutes too long. It’s especially saddening since it feels like every extra battle is replacing an interesting conversations or some clever role playing that could have been.

In an added attempt to make the combat more streamlined, the game now includes Kinect support, allowing you to shout commands at your squad members and respond in conversations by just saying the words. I imagine it’s supposed to bring you closer into the experience to be able to shout at your army like you would during a real battle, but like most hardcore games with the inclusion of Kinect, it feels like a gimmick. There are very few times you’ll want to “say the words” instead of just clicking a button. In fact, yelling at my T.V. numerous times to try to get my squad to listen to one command takes me out of the experience more than any button press ever has. At the most, it seems to serve as another bullet point to be slapped on the back of the box as a marketing tool. Speaking of marketing tools, Mass Effect 3 also comes with multiplayer for the first time in the series.

The online battles play exactly like horde (fitting, since that’s where the game took its cover system). You and a few friends get the chance to fight against numerous waves of different enemies and level up your powers to make subsequent battles a little easier. It’s disappointing they didn’t do more with this feature. The game is an RPG at heart and the multiplayer pretends to be a shooter. There are some elements of leveling up still present, but it would have been nice to go on missions or have conversations with friends to extend my single player experience.

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As it stands, the multiplayer doesn’t affect my opinion towards the game because I was just fine playing the first two with zero multiplayer. I’m just sad they wasted time on it when more resources could have been applied towards the campaign. If they had done something more interesting than be Gears of War (with less maps and a rougher cover system), than maybe I would have paid more attention to it.

For a long time fan of the trilogy, Mass Effect 3 is full of let downs. It’s very easy to point to every aspect of the game and say ‘they did that better in ME1 or ME2.’ However, this is still a great game that deserves to be bought, especially if you’re importing your save file. It will be extremely satisfying to see your decisions finally pay off and the story is still better than 90% of all RPGs out there. Bioware set the bar high and fell a little short on this one, not to mention the lackluster ending, but it’s still Mass Effect. It’s Still quality. It’s still a must buy.

Review: Multiplayer Mayhem in Gotham

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Do you like First Person Shooters? Do you want a Batman game without Batman? Do you want to an inexpensive online experience because you’re out of money from the holiday? Then I have a game for you. Gotham City Impostors has come out and is showing off its unique weaponry. From Bear Traps to Roller Skates to Bows and Arrows, you can’t get more unique than this. These unique weapons are equitable to your Custom Classes. There are three game-types and five maps to prove your Class is the best. Every game-type is team based so you are put on either the Batz or Jokers team.

The three game-types are Team Death Match, Fumigation, and Psych Warfare. Team Death Match is just killing enemies, getting a point per kill, until a team reaches fifty points. Fumigation and Psych Warfare are the objective game-types. Fumigation is about capturing three machines called Gasblasters, pumping the gas of whoever owns it into the air. If the Batz own a Gasblaster, it sprays out a gas that attracts bats to attack the Jokers. If the Jokers own a Gasblaster, laughing gas is ejected into the air. Owning multiple Gasblasters will fill the air with your gas faster. Once the air is one hundred percent your gas, you win. Psych Warfare, my personal favorite, is all about grabbing a battery and hooking it up to stereos. These stereos play propaganda that will demoralize the other team. While demoralized, they can only slap, and not use their guns, but they can attack the stereos to shorten the time they are demoralized. All of these game-types play the same on all the maps. The maps just help with seeing new scenery after awhile.

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Creating your own Custom Class is the main focus of Gotham City Impostors. The unlock keys, how you unlock things to customize your class, keep the game from becoming a grid to complete challenges and more about playing the game how you want in order to grow levels. Every feature of your character can be customized such as weapons, clothing, and calling cards. Calling cards pop up on enemy screens when you kill them. It is a quick way to show your personality and for players to remember you. Clothing is bought using costume coins that you get depending on how well you did in a match. The clothing can also be bought with real money if you don’t want to wait. There are even some things that can only be bought with real money. There are a lot of weapons to choose from for your custom classes. You can have two guns per class with mods on each gun. Depending on which gun you have equipped, there will be different mods. My favorite mod, which is on most guns, is the Body Oder Sniffer. It “sniffs” out enemies and will show you when they are hiding around corners or behind walls. There are also different ammo and scope types or you can expand your magazine size.

The Support Items and Gadgets are some other customizable pieces that play a big part in game-play. Support Items are more offensive tools giving you advantages in combat. Some Support Items you have to plan for and set up in advance, like Bear Traps, but there are others that are more instant, like Impact Grenades. Gadgets help with movement mostly. A Glider Rig, Spring Boots, Inflatable Shoes, and a Grapple Gun help get you into high places while Rollers Skates and Ninja Smoke Bombs let you get places fast or undetected. Targeting Goggles are a Gadget that would be more for Support Classes or Healers. Targeting Goggles let you spot enemies through walls. Spotting enemies will cause them to glow brightly for everyone on your team and if someone kills the person you spotted then you get kill assist points. Support Items and Gadgets are fun but the Body Types play a bigger part in the balance of Gotham City Impostors.

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The heavier the weapon, the more it slows down your character. If you have a bigger character the less of a movement penalty you receive from your heavy weapons. The different character sizes change how fast your character moves and how much health you have. The bigger characters are slower and have more health while smaller characters are faster with less health. The Body Type you start with is the Tough class, which has balanced health and speed. It lets you get used to the game before getting too crazy on you. Other fun customizables are the voices. There are different voice types to pick from and each has different sayings along with the ability to change the pitch of your voice. Sometimes the voices can get annoying but overall it is funny.

With Body Types giving you health or speed, Fun Facts can give you other perks. Some are still just more health or speed but others give you buffs against certain weapons and items. The Fun Facts are passive bonuses you can give yourself. Rampage is a special ability you can activate for completing kill streaks or death streaks. You can choose to do more damage or absorb more damage. Your character even has a Psych Profile, which effects how you gain experience. Some actions will give you more experience but other actions will be penalized. All of these different features add into one amazingly unique game.

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The gameplay is fast paced with lots of explosions. The weird weapons that you use in new ways help make this stand out from other games like Call of Duty. There are plenty of close calls and “Did you see that!” moments. The unlock system lets you unlock items when you want to, so, making your dream class is just a few levels away.  There have been some network issues, but in today’s industry, every game is released with issues they patch up later. Not saying I agree with this thought process, but it is what it is. March is going to bring some free DLC and some fixes to these problems. While fast paced shooters aren’t new to the industry, Gotham City Impostors keeps things fresh with its comedy and extreme customizing.

Review: More than meets the License

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Transformers: Fall of Cybertron has been announced and is looking awesome. Fall of Cybertron is the follow up to 2010’s War of Cybertron. They say it’s not a direct sequel but it takes place in the same universe. War of Cybertron was a smash hit and ties in with 1st generation Transformers show. You get to play as all the greats: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ironhide, Starscream, Soundwave, and Megatron. The campaign has you play as both the Autobots and Decepticons, giving you a rich, full experience. Multiplayer is fast and balanced even with custom classes. There is even a Horde mode game type called Escalation.

The story mode has ten chapters. You can start at Chapter One in the Decepticon Story or Chapter Five as Autobots. They do this so you can jump right into playing as Optimus, but trust me, start with the Decepticon side for the complete story. You will see classic Characters, Weapons, and Locations from old school Transformers. There are plenty of new things brought into the Transformers universe as well. There are some boss battles, but most aren’t memorable. My personal favorite Transformer, Starscream, gets an origin story and I love all the history that ties into the series.

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The three-player co-op is a nice but doesn’t add much to the game. You can select what character you want to play before every level and each one has different abilities and weapons. What really adds to the experience is the Co-op Versus mode. It plays like Left 4 Dead versus; three people play in a campaign level and three people try to stop them. Correctly using characters, weapons, and abilities will bring success against your enemy.

Escalation mode is yet another Co-op mode where you fight wave after wave of demented avengers (Pink Floyd Reference). It is like Horde mode with a twist. For each kill, you get points and you use these points for weapons, ammo, shields, and opening doors. The best part about these are multiple people can pay for one thing, so if you don’t have enough points, ask your teammates for help. Some of the best weapons are locked behind the more expensive doors. The DLC available for War for Cybertron adds Multiplayer maps and Escalation Maps. There is enough content to keep you busy for awhile but when you get bored, the DLC will help.

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The Multiplayer was the most addictive part of War for Cybertron. Being able to transform anytime brings a very unique aspect to online shooters. With four different character classes and different weapons, abilities, and perks for each class, there are many choices to make. Each class can be leveled up to 25, unlocking things along the way. After getting every class to 25 you can do Prime Mode where all ranks are reset and you get a nice icon next to your name. Even with all that content in the mix of Multiplayer, it is all well balanced. At a low level without all the fancy unlocks I didn’t feel weak against the higher-level players.

One shall Stand. One shall Fall. War for Cybertron does not fall and, along with Batman: Arkham Asylum, shows just how licensed games can be good. Fall of Cybertron is bringing Dinobots and Constructicons to the battle. Such iconic characters with a rich history and amazing gameplay make this a must have for any fan. Also, if you aren’t a fan, there has never been a better time to jump in. Go out, buy War for Cybertron, and get ready to experience one of my most anticipated games of 2012. Fall of Cybertron doesn’t have a release date yet but expect it close to the holiday season.

Review: Sonic Generations Offers Some of the Old With Too Much of the New

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Everyone loves Sonic!... Ten years ago. Lately it’s been pretty rough if you’re a Sonic fan (if there’s any of you left out there). Back in the day, plenty of ten year olds fought over the superiority of Mario and Sonic the same way 50’s kids used to argue if Superman or The Flash was faster. Mario has ruled the past ten years with no contest considering the huge slump Sonic’s been in. Sonic Generations is attempting to win back old fans with an emphasis on 2D gameplay and classic stages with a graphical upgrade.

Early in the game, Capt. Smoke Monster (or whatever he’s called) flies into our world via a space vacuum and trolls Sonic’s life. He grabs the slightly pudgier Sonic from the 90’s and throws him into present day with 3D Sonic and his entourage of backward characters. I understand the narrative in a Platformer isn’t exactly key to its quality, but Sonic always had a few cool characters you wish someone would take advantage of. Unfortunately, it’s not happening in this outing.

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Every level has two acts. The first act is played exclusively in 2D with Classic Sonic on stages remade from past titles. The graphics are prettier and add some depth to the former 16-bit environments, but sometimes the new visuals can be distracting. Visual pizazz confused me for a workable platform a few times, causing me to fall to my death. Still, it’s a great way to revisit some of your favorite stages from 15 years ago.

The second act claims it’s in 3 dimensions, but it’s really kind of a hybrid.  The playing field switches back and forth between dimensions to give you a bit of the old and a bit of the new. They are meant to be a reimagining of the old 2D levels if they were done today. Unfortunately, today’s Sonic developers don’t quite have the skills they used to. This causes every second act to be a little bit of a disappointment.

The mechanics are everything in this genre. If it doesn’t feel good to hop around on a ton of enemies while feeling like a total badass, you might as well hang it up. Not everything feels as good as it did in the past. There seems to be a slight lag in every jump and controlling Sonic with the joystick isn’t as tight as it could be. When playing a game about speed and timing, these are a few small inconveniences that turn into huge problems during gameplay. It just aint what it used to be.

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All the original content in the game is very underwhelming. Every recycled boss requires the completion of a few drab challenges, and every spruced up classic stage is followed by a modern uninteresting one.

The game only has nine levels and makes for quite a missed opportunity. A couple of the levels are even pulled from some of this generation’s Sonic library, and trust me, no one wants to revisit those. All development could have been geared towards more classic levels and it would have made for a better game. Too much time was wasted on the uninteresting story, boring challenges, and 3D stages. With downloadable stages, this might turn out to be a pretty way to enjoy sonic in 2D again, but as is, it’s not a whole lot of content and it’s not all peaches.

Review: Bastion's Traditional Gameplay Never Sounded So Good!

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Top down RPG’s have been around since role playing made its way into video games. They all have quite a few similarities, but every so often one comes along with a few unique twists that will make even long time role players turn their heads. Enter Bastion, a game with traditional mechanics, but a unique art style and some amazing audio you won’t get anywhere else.

The first thing you’ll notice when playing, is the eye candy (not like that sicko). Everything looks like it’s part of a painting. The ground builds itself piece by piece as you step closer to the edge of the environment and every detail looks like it was carefully drawn by a talented artist. The character models are less abstract than the worlds you traverse, but the mix of styles works well and creates some pretty sweet vistas when you’re slicing baddies apart.

If you’ve played any RPG at a bird’s eye view, nothing should surprise you here. Every level comes baring gifts of new weapons, enemies, XP, and currency that can be spent at the local shop. All weapons are upgradeable and leveling up gives you a bigger health bar and bonuses towards critical hits, currency collection, weapon power, etc. These mechanics are essential to any RPG, but you can’t help but feel like you’ve seen it all before.

Bastion was made by Supergiant games (I hadn’t heard of them either) and if there’s one thing this company can do, it’s audio. The music is mellow and perfect for the beautifully coated landscapes. Build That Wall, one of the game’s repeating tracks, was honored at the VGA’s for Best Song over Portal 2’s Vilify by The National and hilarious closing tune by Jonathan Coulton. Not an easy task.

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The narration is also top notch. Every action you perform in the game is dictated by a powerful voice. No more out of place hints that remind you you’re playing a video game. If you seem lost, the narrator will always have a piece of dialogue up his sleeve leading you in the right direction. This lets you learn everything in the game without once being taken out of the experience.

Like any game in its category, there is a hub world. This area is called the Bastion (fancy that). The Bastion is a place to switch up your arsenal, upgrade weapons, and build a better tomorrow. You heard me. Bastion allows you to build multiple structures in the hub world that will help you along your journey. The order in which you build them affects the gameplay since you can only build one structure in between levels. Build an arsenal first, and you’ll be able to switch your weapons, but you can’t upgrade them. Build a forge first and you’ll be able to upgrade them, but you can’t take advantage some level up bonuses.

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The game also takes quite a unique approach to difficulty. The main screen only gives you two options: super easy and normal. If you want a challenge above that, you’ll have to build a shrine on the Bastion. This allows you to make the game harder in different ways (enemies that are faster, stronger, etc.) and lets you collect currency and XP bonuses for the extra effort. Think Halo Skulls. It’s a unique approach to difficulty and certainly allows the player quite a bit more control than just asking for a harder experience.

Bastion deserves praise for its sophisticated story line, gorgeous levels, strong narration, and fantastic music. This makes the traditional gameplay all the more perplexing. It’s a fun ten hour experience but you’ll wish Supergiant took as many chances with its gameplay as it did with everything else. I recommend everyone plays this game. Everything it did wrong is easily forgiven, but everything it did right is something I guarantee you haven’t seen in years. 

Review: Go Back to Karkand, and Never Look Forward.

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Battlefield 3’s launch has been everything but smooth. Servers didn’t work properly for a solid week or two, the multiplayer was riddled with glitches, and the maps didn’t seem nearly as destructible as past installments. With such big tech issues and graphical disappointments, I found it hard to believe that Battlefield 3 would ever have legs as long as its predecessors. Almost two months after the game’s launch, DICE released a new map pack, called Back to Karkand, including classic arenas from previous titles. New content for a broken game isn’t usually news, however, this return to form might be just what Battlefield 3 needs to win back its fans and recover from its rocky start.

There are four maps in the new update: Strike at Karkand, Wake Island, Sharqi Peninsula, and Gulf of Oman. Each one is a remake of past Battlefield maps. They look slightly different and some of the structures have changed, but they’re all a fairly accurate representation of the original version. This should please longtime fans of the series because there’s a reason why they’re called classics.

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Every map embodies everything that’s great about Battlefield. Everybody chooses a class, defining their role in each match. A great map gives everyone a chance to play the role they want and have fun doing it. All four maps provide this variety of gameplay and nail that Battlefield experience. There are wide open areas for snipers, plenty of vehicles for engineers, and close quarters combat for assault and support classes. This makes every player feel welcome on this visit back to the most loved maps of the series.

Also, every map is more destructible than any other Battlefield 3 map to date. Rubble piles into the street and buildings collapse if too many walls are blown out. This was standard on past Battlefields, but was strangely absent in a lot of the on disk maps. It was possible to destroy almost anything in Bad Company 2, but Battlefield 3 launched with stagnant environments that had only a few destructible walls. It’s still curious why this happened, but at least the new maps are a huge step in the right direction. They’re still not 100% destructible like BC2, but it’s enough to give you that great feeling of leaving a huge crater where you just had a firefight.

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Back to Karkand also introduces Assignments. Pulled directly from Call of Duty’s Challenges, Assignments are little goals for you to accomplish in multiplayer that will earn you new weapons for every class. There are only about 8 assignments, which is quite low considering what Call of Duty has, but it’s a nice addition and gives you a few more goals to strive for when pining for those addicting unlocks.

I was weary to hop back into a game with so many issues, but this DLC made me a believer again. Every map is infinitely playable and the technical updates have turned a frustrating online shooter into a solid multiplayer experience. I can’t wait to get back in and start unlocking more weapons. Of course, it’s not quite perfect yet. Squads still don’t work properly and it’s not completely free of glitches, but it’s definitely enough to give this game another go before you decide to drop it for another shooter. Oh, and did I mention, if you have the limited edition, this map pack comes at no extra charge! Download and enjoy.

Review: Kick some Ass. Explore the World. Play Trine 2.

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Get ready to kick some goblins in the NUTS. After you’re finished trashing the Republican Presidential Debates, you should sit down and play some Trine 2Trine was released a couple years ago on the PC with stellar graphics and satisfying combat. The game was pretty well received and offered a new look to the classic genre of 2D action titles. With the promise of online multiplayer (a feature only available offline in the first), Trine 2 went into production looking better than ever. The time has come to throw down 15 dollars and once again enjoy 2D action at a quality that is second to none.

The adventure begins reiterating the function of an artifact called the Trine. It has the ability to link the souls of 3 people, allowing each one to live as long as the others are still kickin’. In this case (same as the first), a thief, a knight, and a wizard are joined by the mysterious relic to save their kingdom from… darkness or whatever. Each person can only exist physically one at a time, allowing the player to switch between each character and their abilities. If you’re playing co-op, all three can exist at once. The story doesn’t really explain this, but I don’t question how the hell two Master Chiefs are possible either.

The story is light and no one should care. This game is about leveling up, solving puzzles, and exploring beautiful environments. Thankfully for all of us, Trine 2 nails most of these.

In this shit kicking fiesta, dead enemies reward you with XP, but the game doesn’t hand it out like candy. XP is present in the form of collectable bottles that can be found on evil corpses, but not every baddy will drop one. However, XP bottles can also be found in random nooks and crannies around the environment that might require a little creative exploring or puzzle solving to obtain. This is quite ingenious because it encourages you to explore the gorgeous scenery knowing there could be a gem towards leveling up behind any alcove. Every 50 XP bottles earns you a skill point to be spent on one of the character’s skill trees.

Each character plays differently: The wizard can conjure up boxes to help get across gaps, The thief can shoot arrows and use a grappling hook, and the knight can really murder the hell out of some minions with a good old fashioned sword and shield. There is a separate skill tree for each, but they’re all relatively small and haven’t changed much since the last game. The wizard can be upgraded to conjure more boxes, the knight can get a more powerful sword and shield, and the thief can unlock icy, fiery, and explosive arrows. Each one can unlock these traits (and more) to help complete the challenge at hand. It’s kind of a shame there isn’t much for people who already saw it all in the first trine, but the small skill trees fit the shorter length of the game (about 8 hours) and are still fun to unlock and unleash on some nincompoops.

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Every new skill you unlock also helps you with the many puzzles peppered (more like peppered and then the cap fell off) in the environment. Unfortunately, this is the weakest part of the game by far. Each puzzle I completed made me feel like I was doing it “the wrong way.” I don’t know if there is a sure fire way to complete every brainteaser, but each one lacked the “ah-ha” moment present in every quality puzzle title. I felt like every challenge was barely solved with a lot of luck and a little craziness.

I was also surprised all the solutions involved skills you unlock via XP. I often wondered what would’ve happened if I had decided to choose something else on my skill tree. However, I found hints of other ways to solve each puzzle using different abilities. I appreciate the talent required to design every puzzle in a way where anyone can solve it no matter what skills they chose, but the puzzles themselves lacked intrigue and satisfaction to the point where they were nearly pointless. It wouldn’t be a problem if the puzzles were few and far between, but as I said earlier, the game lays them on thick, sometimes rewarding you for solving a puzzle with another puzzle.

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The graphics in this game are phenomenal! Trine was a beautiful game and if there’s one thing they topped themselves on, it’s visuals. Not only is every detail perfect, but almost every type of weather and topographical feature you can think of is represented in the game. You’ll be fighting enemies in icy mountains, lavish jungles, and dark claustrophobic dungeons. Each location is breathtaking, and before you can breathe again, the game throws you another gorgeous set piece to knock the wind out of you again. One of my favorite levels includes swimming under water in order to dodge the storm of thunder and rain above. The water illuminates ever so slightly on every strike, revealing flashes of the ocean life you’re swimming with. It’s jizz in my pants material. It’s been a long time since I can remember graphics this good in a 2D adventure and very well might be because it’s the best.

Trine 2 offers an experience every gamer should enjoy. The puzzles are a bit shoddy and the skill trees leave something to be desired, but its combat is satisfying, the exploration is wondrous, and the graphics are damn sexy. The game also includes a few extra features like online co-op, which is essentially the same experience with a couple other friends playing the other characters. It makes puzzles a little easier to solve and you can tell the developers made this game with co-op in mind. You can even plug in an extra keyboard (or 360 controller) and kick some ass offline. It may be on the low end of an A, but this game deserves to be played. Get the republican nuts off your foot and enjoy Trine 2!

Review: Revelations Offers Few New Additions, But Plenty of Entertainment

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I’ve never been a huge fan of yearly releases for video games. Sequels are feeling less and less like sequels nowadays and I miss seeing major changes/improvements in new franchise installments. Not every game needs a whole lot of development time and I do like a few yearly titles, but most of them lack the innovation of a 2-3 year development cycle. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is another title in an annual franchise. Most games with a yearly cycle are much simpler and don’t require loads of story or level development. This is an open world game with a brand new city, new missions, and an online component. Is it possible for a game to tackle so much in one year without it falling flat?

In every Assassin’s Creed, you play as Desmond Miles, a present day drifter who straps into a matrix machine called the Animus that allows him to relive the memories of his ancestors. The majority of every game is spent in the Animus, exploring cities from hundreds of years ago. After a slight hiccup at the end of the last game, Desmond seems to be stuck in the world of the animus and must continue the adventures of one of his ancestors, Ezio Auditore.

The game takes place in Constantinople during the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s. Ezio travels here after he learns of a powerful weapon that Altair (another ancestor of Desmond’s) hid somewhere in the city. The Templars (the baddies of every AC game) have arrived in Constantinople and are looking for the weapon as well. Ezio and his group of assassins are determined to find the weapon before the Templars do, fearing whoever finds it will win the war permanently. Besides the initial introduction, the story isn’t laid on too thick for the rest of the game.  There are plenty of quests and a handful of side missions that will keep you busy and entertained without worrying about the overall plot.

Out of all the Assassin’s Creeds, this is my favorite city. Getting around in the open world environments have always been about the free running mechanics for me. Other titles in the series required some horse riding to get around to more populated areas, but these were always the more boring parts of the game. It wasn’t nearly as satisfying as jumping from rooftop to rooftop to get to your destination. The city is much denser this time around and features no barren cornfields that can only be crossed on horseback. This allows you to constantly use your skills as a city free runner with one more trick up your sleeve.

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Revelations introduces a new mechanic called the hook blade. It slides out of your sleeve like the hidden blade and provides a few more options while traversing the city. You can use it to slide down zip lines, reach higher ledges, and screw with guards in combat. It’s a small addition, and probably could have been a later upgrade, but I was happy to get around the city faster than I ever could before using its abilities.

The biggest change in Revelations is the notoriety system. In past Assassin’s Creeds, killing guards made your notoriety meter rise and the authorities more likely to recognize you as you passed by them. Now, performing illegal tasks will still fill the meter, but never make the fuzz any more likely to chase you on sight. In fact, nothing happens until the meter is all the way full. At this point, one of your assassin’s dens can get attacked by Templars at any time and you’ll have to go help. The only way to prevent this is by paying Heralds or killing public officials (lowering the meter), or just making sure the meter never fills to the top. Unfortunately, It’s much easier to “perform illegal actions” in this game because every purchase around town fills the meter a bit (buying up large amounts of weaponry naturally makes the authorities suspicious). Worrying about the meter after every purchase can be frustrating, but at least you can neglect it until its 90% full.

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The game does sport a few questionable sequences. There are levels that can be played as Desmond in first-person were you hop around in the animus dream world, full of walls that look like computer code and a few other random pieces of geometry. I would call these levels “not fun”. The first person controls were a mess and the levels themselves didn’t add anything interesting to the game’s story. It felt like they wanted to give you something to do if you wanted to take a break from controlling Ezio. Playing one of these levels once made me never want to take a break from Ezio again.

The game also has a few RTS sections that have you commanding troops to stop waves of enemies from getting through your defenses. These sequences are short and not as clunky as you might think in a game like this. I wasn’t eager to play these battles over and over, but they were interesting and kept me entertained. It didn’t hurt the game in my eyes, but probably wasn’t needed.

Transient

The online component in this game is clearly an afterthought, but does provide some entertainment for people who are looking to have a bit more fun after the campaign. There are a handful of maps and modes but the one that really stands out allows you to stalk one player while another is stalking you. It’s a simple concept that provides nerve racking matches where you’re constantly looking over your shoulder as you’re trying your best to hunt down your target. I didn’t get to play the multiplayer as long as I would have liked because of the game’s online code requirement that’s becoming so popular with publishers recently. This title, at least, had a three day trial, but the overall principle is the same. If you want to play online, buy it new, or don’t touch it at all.

Assassins Creed: Revelations isn’t very different from its predecessors, but is still fun and has a few extra goodies to merit its existence. I have no idea how Ubisoft was able to build this much in one year, but they did it. The credits show that it was clearly “all-hands-on-deck” to get it done. It seems like every Ubisoft developer under the sun touched this title. Regardless of a few questionable additions and a game that hasn’t evolved much in a few years, I still had a really good time with it. I wouldn’t call it a “must have” but I think it was as good a game can be without transcending into the world of great. Buy it if you’re already done with every Triple-A title that came out this year, but no matter what, rent it. It’s an enjoyable piece of entertainment. Purpose achieved.

G-Cast Ep. 14: It's What's for Dinner! (Don't Over Think It. Makes No Sense).

Welcome to G-Cast Episode 14! Waiting for that Assassin’s Creed: Revelations G-Cast? Well, unfortunately that comes next week, but I BET you’ve been waiting for the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary discussion! Unfortunately, that comes next week too. Because of the volume of games coming out this month, we’ve had to push back a few games. This week, Landon, Ivan, and David sit down and review The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Listen and find out what we thought of the most popular fantasy RPG on the market today as we debate every aspect of the game and grade the title overall. Click “Email Us” to tell us what you think! Subscribe to us on iTunes here! Tune in next week when we discuss two games: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Thanks for listening!

Skyrim: Fight Dragons… and other things

The game you have been asking about for years is finally here. Oblivion came out over five years ago and its last piece of DLC came out just a year after that. Many gamers have been eagerly waiting for the next installment in the Elder Scrolls series. The wait is over. It’s in stores now. RPGs have evolved a lot over the past 5 years. With the Dragon Age and Final Fantasy ruling the RPG market is there any room for Elder Scrolls? Have the enhancements in Skyrim stayed up to date with the industry standards? Are you going to be mad because I’m not giving this game a perfect score?

Skyrim is a beautiful game. It has amazing textures and is very detailed. Not to mention a draw distance that surpasses all others. The sights found in this game leave me speechless. Whether you are on the highest peak or in the lowest valley, you will remember your time here forever. Detail is a big part of these visuals. From how the snowfalls onto the ground or how a wolf’s howl warns you not to get closer, never before have I felt like a real citizen of a virtual land.

The AI is something else. It interacts with you and each other more than real people do (if you don’t get out much). Animals will watch as you pass, giving warnings to not step on their turf. Trust me you won’t be able to take down all the beasts you encounter. The AI have their own lives inside this virtual world. You can even ask the Inn Keeper if anyone needs help nearby. He/she will tell you someone was complaining about the bears around the city. Quest time, speak to them and get a quest to kill the bears. Battles can get really intense with the intelligent AI. They switch up combat strategies on the fly and don’t mind chasing you for as long as it takes.

The combat has changed from Oblivion. The triggers act as your right and left hands. You can equip just about anything to each hand: spells, swords, and shields. I stuck with spells for my left hand and a one handed sword for my right. Bow and arrows were a nice back up if I needed space. Remember to save often. I can’t remember how many times I would be hiking up a hill for hours to complete a quest and run into a Frost Troll. Those things are tough and when you die you go back to your last save. The enemies are strong but let’s face it, there’s only one type of enemy you want to hear about. The Dragons!

The Era of Dragons is upon us and it’s up to you to save the day. You fight your first dragon early in the main quest. It is an experience that I won’t soon forget. The dragon flying through the sky, landing only to kill the soldiers as you run for cover. I stuck with my Bow and Arrows for that fight. It was so intense I was yelling at my TV for the soldiers to get into cover. Why do they never listen? After finally killing the beast, somehow, you absorb its soul. The survivors say it’s because you are Dragon Born (I don’t know how a Dark Elf was born from a Dragon but hey, it works). Your adventure will continue but I don’t want to spoil anything, as you need to experience it yourself.

Skyrim has many things it did right and a few it did wrong but they are still there. Facial expressions aren’t up to par with other games. Menus can be trouble to navigate. Roads can be hard to find, and essential, when the nav point will say “go there” but a mountain blocks your path. Dungeons are better than ever with the new AI and graphics. Many games are grabbing for your money this holiday season. Skyrim should be near the top of your list. A- and that might be a little harsh, but the facial expressions bugged me a lot.

XIII

This is the podcast you’ve all been waiting for! It’s the episode where we finally act professional! Intrigued? Good, cause I lied, but now that you’re already halfway through this paragraph, you’ll be happy to know this is the episode where we talk about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and debate if it deserves your dollars over Battlefield 3. Landon, Ivan, and David are fully prepared to choose their sides and explain in detail which game they would choose and why. Click “Email Us” to tell us what you think! Subscribe to us on iTunes here! Tune in next Friday for another episode of G-Cast when we talk about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim!

Modern Rehash 3: This Time it's Impersonal!

The time is now. The war is in full swing and it’s time to choose your side. Battlefield or Call of Duty. Choose damn you! Oh. You might want to know a little something about Call of Duty first. Valid desire. Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 are very different games. It’s important to remember this. Someone might lean naturally towards one or the other because of their gameplay differences. Call of Duty has always been quick and fast (giggity) and Battlefield embodies a slower, more strategic theater of war. Of course, the style of game isn’t the only deciding factor. If the quality of one is leaps and bounds above the other, you might want to think about switching. Is Modern Warfare 3 good enough to make Battlefield players give it a shot? Find out now! OMG the suspense rager!

The single player campaign picks up right where the last Modern Warfare ended. If you haven’t played the last game, spoiler alert (and wtf man? Are you alive?).  Vladimir Makarov is still the bad guy and you’re forced to immediately deal with the knife wound Soap earned himself at the end of the last campaign. After tending to soaps wounds, you’re immediately thrown into the action. Russia is still at war with the U.S. (a popular choice for the modern war game) and New York is under attack. The beginning of the game reminds you of the climax of a lot of war games. A big city and lots of explosions. I can understand why they’d want to open this game in a big way, considering the success of MW2. Seeing this immediately got me thinking about what they might do to top this throughout the campaign.

Unfortunately, they don’t do much. The campaign has you hopping to every major city in the world to fight off Russian attacks without a whole lot of explanation. After a while, the game starts to feel like a collection of encounters rather than a game. Each city looks impressive, but your mission is always the same. Kill some Russians and enjoy some explosions. This is fun for the first hour or so, but it really starts to wear on you by the end of the game. There was no sense of pacing. There weren’t enough emotional peaks and valleys to keep it interesting. Whoever made this game seemed to think the more explosions, the better the game.

The first couple Modern Warfares took pride in having plenty of missions with a calmer tone. It really gave them that “it” factor that allowed them to transcend above “just a war game.” I expected I would be able to shoot a hundred guys in the middle of a major intersection, but I never expected I would get to control the cannons of an AC-130, or wear a ghillie suit and hunt for targets in a ghost town. These were all some of my favorite sequences from MW1 & 2, but moments like these are few and far between in this new installment. The game still has one or two memorable moments, but a hundred that fall flat. Most of them were complete copies of what you got in the previous games and didn’t create any emotions you haven’t felt before.

The developer of this game (Infinity Ward) went through a bit of drama a couple years ago with its publisher, Activision. A couple of the founding members of Infinity Ward (Jason West & Vince Zampella) were fired for mysterious reasons shortly after Modern Warfare 2 came out. Some of the details are still undisclosed, but the rumor is Jason and Vince held meetings with EA that breached their contract. The two developers were also suing Activision, claiming the publisher didn’t pay Infinity Ward the royalties they deserved for MW2. Since their firing, our unemployed entrepreneurs created a new company called Respawn Entertainment with the funding and support of EA. Since then, the majority of the people at Infinity Ward have left to join Jason & Vince at Respawn. It would be easy for me to blame the loss of campaign quality in MW3 on the lost talent, and That’s exactly what I’m going to do. In all seriousness, whoever made the campaigns so memorable in the last two Modern Warfares, clearly left.

Fortunately for Activision, a large population of shooter fans won’t even touch the campaign. The multiplayer is back with everything you expect, and nothing you don’t. The gameplay hasn’t been shaken up at all, and for some long-time fans, that’s a good thing. You can shoot the crap out of your friends across 10 modes (even more if you consider the alternates) on 16 maps. This may sound like a strong selling point when you consider Battlefield 3 only has 2 modes with around 10 maps. However, a lot of MW3’s maps are ripped right out of the campaign and aren’t nearly as big as battlefield’s.

PvP is still just an infantry affair with no vehicles, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Call of Duty has always taken pride in having really fast paced infantry combat. Shooting your friends in a hectic environment with no respawn times can be fun, but it’s the exact same fun you can still get with Modern Warfare 2. A few things have been added (kill streaks work a little differently and you can now attach two scopes on one weapon), but this does very little to create a new sense of enjoyment. It’ll feel like you’ve already been playing this multiplayer for the past two years. This conservative approach might please some who just want the same game with more unlocks, but frustrate others who waited this long for something different.

Spec Ops also returns with a new mode. You can play the mission mode which will allow you and a buddy to complete objectives together against the A.I. (identical to MW2). The new mode is called survival. This is essentially the Modern Warfare 3 version of a horde or zombie mode. You take on wave after wave of enemies earning cash to build turrets and other defenses. It’s pretty generic and seems to only exist because it’s the law if you are a shooter right now. Both modes are challenging and fun, but it suffers from the same déjà vu as the rest of the package. You’ll feel like you’ve already played it over and over again.

Modern Warfare 3 is a good game, not a great game. It’s missing the surprise and quality that made the previous titles must-haves. I’m giving it the same grade as I gave Battlefield 3, but for different reasons. Battlefield’s glitches held it back, MW3’s gameplay is its hang-up. Which one should you buy? It just depends on the type of fighter you are. Are you slow and strategic (Battlefield 3) or quick and ruthless (Modern Warfare 3)? I tend to be slow and strategic. Battlefield is my choice. I would have even given Battlefield a higher grade were it not for the technical problems (glitches and server outages). They both weren’t as good as I was hoping, but Battlefield won my purchase this year. If you’re still addicted and need your fix, go for MW3. If you don’t want to play the same game for 60 more dollars, give battlefield a try. If you haven’t played either… Good lord man.

Gotham City Impostors Release Date!

Get your skates and grapple hooks ready. Load up your shotgun and put on a cape. January 10th is going to be one hell of a day. Gotham City Impostors is almost upon us. With a closed PC Beta last month and an open Xbox/PS3 Beta next month, Monolith is working towards making an amazing game. So many things are customizable and it all affects gameplay, such as: Weapons, Clothing, Gadgets, Appearances, and even player movement. I can’t wait to jump into the shoes of Gotham City’s unsung heroes, The Bats, and blow away crazy people, The Jokerz.

Gotham City Imposters supports 12 player verses modes. Monolith Productions, the mad men and women behind F.E.A.R., Condemned, and Aliens vs. Predator 2 bring us out of Batman’s suit into the streets of Gotham and its more insane citizen’s lives. Sign up for the Beta at http://www.gothamcityimpostors.com/

6,000 copies of Modern Warfare 3 Stolen in France

A major heist was reported yesterday by a French site TFI News. Two masked crooks crashed into a delivery truck in south Paris carrying around 6,000 copies of Modern Warfare 3. The robbers then used tear gas on the driver allowing them enough time to steal the contents of the truck. The stolen items are estimated to be worth 400,000 Euros (about 550,000 U.S.D.).

It's curious that the theives decided to knock over this truck in particular. Anyone who follows the news knows that playing video games before their release dates can get you banned from playing online. The games were also only stolen a day before release, so it's not like each copy has an extra ordinary value attached to it.

Hopefully these questionable weirdos will be caught soon. I can't imagine them easily being able to sell all of that without suspicion. As long as you pick up your copy from an actual store, you should be safe.

G-Cast's Eleven

The Cast of G for the 11th time! This week, it’s Battlefield 3. We talk about the first game to be released in one of the biggest rivalries in the industry: Pop Tarts vs. Toaster Strudel. Kidding! That’s no rivalry. It’s Toaster Strudel hands down. On a more serious note (albeit less important) the Call of Duty vs. Battlefield brawl has begun! We talk in detail about the multiplayer, campaign, and co-op to aid our loyal/nonexistent fans into a buying decision. Also, look out for a little something new at the beginning. I think you guys might like it…. I hope. Click “Email us” to tell us what you think! Subscribe to us on iTunes here! Thanks for listening! Next week: Uncharted 3!

Battlefield 3: Best Online War Experience, If You Can Play it

Author Note: This review will be covering the console version of the game. The PC version differs too much in graphics and gameplay to judge them equally. Things like map size and player are all effected.

 

One of the biggest rivalries in the video game industry has begun. Battlefield and Call of Duty have been fighting for modern war supremacy for years. Call of duty is consistently the winner, but the battlefield games have gained quite a bit of ground. This year, Battlefield 3 will square off directly With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Battlefield 3 has landed the first punch. The Swedish developer of the Battlefield series (DICE) hopes to win consumers over with grander battles and vehicle gameplay (absent in its Call of Duty counterpart). Call of Duty still has a lot of followers, but it will be the first game Infinity Ward has made since the massive firing/departures. DICE is hoping between that and their growing fan base, Battlefield will finally take the crown this holiday as the best-selling war game.

Battlefield’s single player campaign lets you drive tanks, ride in jets, and do some good old fashion shooting. The story starts out on an exciting subway highjack. After about five or ten minutes of gameplay, you are shot back in to the past in order to explain the events leading up to it. Two suits are interrogating a soldier from the front lines. Our soldier in custody recounts stories to answer questions that turn into the missions you play. The interrogation is happening to find out where a group of terrorists are hiding a nuke that will go off in New York City. Yeah. It’s pretty much as generic as it sounds. The narrative is bland and offers nothing interesting. There isn’t one character you’ll care about or any sequence that will really get your heart pumping. There are a few cool set pieces and scripted moments, but not nearly as much as you would see in any modern single player campaign.

In other words, the single player is very underwhelming. However, the majority of consumers buying this game probably won’t mind. Most Shooter fans probably won’t even realize there’s a single player option. Unfortunately, it does degrade the overall value of the product. If you look at any other quality shooter from the past ten years, every single one has a memorable story mode worth playing over and over again in different difficulties and in co-op. The Story even rips plot points and dialogue directly from the last Modern Warfare game, proving DICE relies on its competitors to figure out how to do single player. It’s a shame. Considering some of the crazy moments that happen during multiplayer, a good Battlefield campaign has so much potential. You just won’t see it this time around. For now, the Single player is essentially one huge training mission for multiplayer.

The meat of the game is built in the battles you’ll fight online. 24 players can duke it out in a single match (64 on the PC version). Everything found in war can be found here. Tanks. Jets. Guns. Defibrillator packs. Health Packs. Backpacks! Yeah. Shit gets crazy online. You can fight in a few different modes across nine maps. Every mode is recycled from other games in the series. The two main modes you’ll be selecting the most are Conquest and Rush. Rush is a classic attack-and-defend mode where one team defends two pieces of electronic equipment, while the other team tries to blow them up. Conquest is a mode that’s been around since the first Battlefield. Each team attempts to capture and hold areas on the map for victory (much like Territories in other shooters).

If you’re worried about getting tired of playing the same modes over and over again, don’t be. Every match has so many close calls and crazy “holy shit!” moments, boredom is not issue. Part of this is because of how much is at your disposal. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a ton of vehicles to explore and items to unlock. This allows every player to fight the war in any way they want. You could play entire matches without firing a bullet if you’d like. There’s a place for people who want to just repair vehicles, revive teammates, or supply ammo for squads. Best of all, the game will still reward you handsomely for all these non-combative alternatives. Every action earns you points. Every point Earns you rewards. This makes for an extremely addictive multiplayer that can be played for ages without getting stale. Also, if you have a 5.1 system, crank it up. This is what you bought it for.

Unfortunately the multiplayer experience isn’t all peaches. Server issues and glitches have been plaguing the game since launch. In the first few days, the Xbox 360 servers were down completely, reducing our copies of Battlefield 3 to a paperweight. Connection issues are still ruining the experience a week and a half after launch with frequent disconnects and a temperamental Quick Match option. Any high selling game might have a few issues during the first week, but this beyond anything else I’ve seen. It is such a shame that I’ve been stuck having a few horrible experiences simply trying to play the game, and it has nothing to do with the gameplay. DICE crafted one of the best multiplayer experiences this year, and simultaneously ruined it for everyone.

This was a tough game to score. I would feel awkward telling people it’s a must-have when the servers aren’t active all the time. When they are, it isn’t exactly what I would call “fully operational.” This is a game that would get an A in my book were it not for the troubles I had trying to play it. A month or two from now, after they come out with a patch or two, I’m sure they’ll sand away the issues and leave behind the gooey filled center of an amazing game. Unfortunately, none of us knows when that will happen. If you’re already done with Gears and desperate for a new shooter, go for it. If you can wait until Modern Warfare 3 launches, find out if any of the Battlefield issues have been fixed by then. If not, you might want to look into our Modern Warfare 3 review.

The Ten G-Cast-Ments!

The podcast of the century is upon us!!! Way better than the one that’s gonna air in 2048 about how aliens should fix their own planet so they’ll stop invading ours! This week: Batman: Arkham City! David, Landon, and Ivan talk for a solid hour about the new story, city, gadgets, and upgrades in the sequel to one of the best comic book games of all time. Ivan also FINALLY comes through with a jingle! Will it suck? Probably, but tune in to find out for sure! Support our Podcast and not some shitty futuristic Podcast! You wouldn’t wanna piss off those aliens. Trust me. Did you see Battlefield LA? Course not. No one did. But imagine how bad it must be! Click “Email Us” to tell us what you think! Subscribe to us on iTunes here and tune in next week when we discuss Battlefield 3!

Batman: Awesome City! (Lame Title. I Know. Suck It.)

Welcome to a very small world of quality licensed video games. Batman: Arkham Asylum surprised everyone a couple years ago by not only surpassing expectations for a Batman game, but also earning itself a handful of Game of the Year awards alongside the cream of the crop franchises of this generation. No one expected the developer (Rocksteady) to produce such a gem when they only had one game under their belt (and not a very good one). A couple years later, here we are in glee for the sequel to one of the best comic book games of all time. New villains. New Gadgets. New city. Peggy, hold my calls for the rest of my life. What do you mean no one ever calls me?! You’re fired! No, wait! Resign. I don’t want you to get unemployment money. That’s how good Arkham City is!

Sit back and pop in your Arkham City disc, because you’re gonna be playing as… Dun nan a na na na na na Catwomaaaan…? Yes. The very first thing you do in AC is play as Catwoman. Odd. You would think players would want a chance to get used to walking in Batman’s shoes again before learning a new character. The disappointment quickly disappears after you find out how awesome she is to play. She can’t glide like Batman, but she can use that dominating whip of hers to latch on to rooftops and billboards in the environment. It’s surprisingly effective and almost doesn’t make you miss the cape. Catwoman also has thief vision (her version of Batman’s detective mode) that allows her to see the heat signatures of enemies. Unfortunately, it isn’t as robust as detective mode. It doesn’t give you a detailed analysis of the fight like its Dark Knight counterpart (total enemies, which thugs are armed, etc.), but still helps a little.

Combat works slightly differently with Catwoman as well. She’s faster than Batman and can use her whip (instead of a cape) to stun enemies. Beyond that, it’s pretty similar. You’re still pressing the same buttons to punch and counter as you would in Batty’s shoes. Starting the game on such a different note than its predecessor is pretty ballsy, but it was still a really fun sequence and doesn’t last too long. There are about 3 Catwoman sections in the game, but you won’t be playing any of them unless you scored an activation code from buying the game new, used from GameStop, or renting a copy with an unused code in it (I Win). If you want to hop strait into our masked hero’s suit, it’s almost better you don’t have the code, but the Catwoman sections are short and a lot of fun if you give it a chance.

Now you get to play as dun na na na na na Robiiiin! No, kidding. Fuck that. BATMAN! Well, Bruce Wayne. Close enough. The story starts with the explanation of the game’s title. Every prisoner in Arkham Asylum has been moved to a new district of Gotham called Arkham City. Led by Hugo Strange, Arkham City is a Gated mad house of Batman villainy. Strange arrests Bruce Wayne at the game’s opening and throws him in Arkham. The tutorial teaches you the basics as you bust out of captivity and call Alfred to send you an aerial drop of your goods. Time to suit up.

Toiling around in the city, Batman discovers that Joker is alive but not well. He was exposed to quite a bit of Bane’s Titan formula in the last game and is now feeling the effects. It’s killing him. In 24 hours, the Joker will be dead. Lucky for him, he captured and infected you with the same poison, knowing you’d be forced to find a cure now. At the same time, Strange is constantly making announcements over the city’s loud speakers saying “protocol ten will commence in 9 hours.” What is protocol ten? Will Batman find a cure to save his life in time? Who else will get in the way? Tune in next paragraph!

Every piece of the story is logically and expertly crafted. Mr. Freeze gets involved because he is an extremely talented scientist and the perfect candidate to cure Batman and Joker. Freeze tells Batman he needs a sample of blood that has been exposed to the toxin for longer than Batman and Joker has had it. Batman then rushes to find Ra’s al Ghul. Ra’s has been exposed to it for centuries and never dies because of his Lazarus Pit. He’s perfect. I’ll stop there because I don’t want to give too much away, but every villain has a motivation that fits in the games story perfectly. Rocksteady allows you to enjoy fighting a handful of major Batman villains, without compromising the narrative. Tough to do, and amazing to experience.

All your favorite gadgets return. Batarang. Grapple Hook. Line launcher thingy (technical term). The game is mostly full of familiar tools, but there are a few new toys to play with. You now have a device that can disable enemy weapons in a room from a distance (limit two baddies per fight). This makes for a new level of strategy when tackling rooms full of armed guards. There’s also a new device grabbed from Mr. Freeze that allows you to create a floating platform of ice in any body of water. From there, you simply hop on and use the grapple hook to pull yourself to your destination. Leveling up also returns, allowing you to upgrade most of your gadgets and even your suit. Again, some of the upgrades are repeats from the last game, but there’s plenty there to keep you hooked on beating the crap outta henchmen to gain XP.

The city isn’t quite as fleshed out as a Grand Theft Auto or a hand full of other open world games. There aren’t a whole lot of landmarks and recognizable buildings to help you remember where you’ve been. Thankfully, an effective map and waypoint system help you forget this flaw quickly. You can glide around the city to get everywhere. Clinging on to Helicopters also works as a mode of quick travel, but you won’t use them often. There aren’t too many in the sky and it’s hard to tell if they’re ever taking you in the right direction. Gliding is surprisingly fast and you can zoom around pretty quick using the grapple hook too. The city is small enough that you won’t really miss a more robust quick travel system.

Arkham City is an amazing video game. Comic book fans will get an enormous nerd-rection from the clever story and characters. Gamers will enjoy an awesome open world experience with satisfying combat and varied missions. If you’re a comic book fan and a gamer, get ready to change your pants every 5 minutes. It isn’t a perfect game. Some of the repeated gadgets have lost their luster from the last installment, and the map could have marked building entrances to avoid pointless door hunting. It got slightly annoying to search around huge structures for a tiny vent or passageway. However, these are complaints are small and are quickly forgettable. The only thing bad about this game being so good, is not being able to use the article title “Batman: Arkham Shitty.” After a very satisfying experience, I must say, worth it!

Hydrophobia, I Just Love Water!

I hate the concept of drowning. It's terrible. It's awful. It's a morbid demise. My teeth clench, skin slithers, and every moment spent around water as it fills an entire room to the brim are agonizing. My hand shakes. My breath shortens. I can feel my lungs collapse. Oh how I hate drowning…. Is what the main character must be thinking! (Did you like that?)

Hydrophobia is a game centered on a sinking ship named Titanic, and the protagonists Jack and Rose.... No wait. Oh my goodness, no! The ship's name is Queen of the World, and the protagonists are Kate and Scoot. How silly of me, but oddly enough they hail from the same United Kingdom as the Titanic (coincidence?). The first game for Dark Energy Digital, and available for XBLA, PSN, and PC.

The premise is that the world has gone to Hell, and the ocean has engulfed all known land mass, forcing people to live on boats. The Queen of the World is a city-sized ship refuging thousands of citizens from Mother Nature (score one more for humanity!) so people can continue to toil in their daily lives. At least until terrorist who call themselves the Malthusians attempt to hijack said boat and begin to slaughter everyone. They proclaim: in order to save the world some people must die so others may live, hence their motto, "Save the World, Kill Yourself".

Kate works as an engineer, and Scoot is her boss. One day she receives a call from Scoot saying there is a malfunction on the lower decks. Innocently skipping all the way there, she checks on the situation… and that’s when shit escalates! Malthusians! Lots of them! EXPLOSION! “Scoot! What’s happening?” “I don’t know! I just work here!” EXPLOSION! “Water everywhere? How could this happen?” “Do I look like Miss Cleo?!” “Let it go Scoot! Miss Cleo wasn’t psychic!” Well, something like that. Kate is thrust into a situation where in order to survive she must halt the hijacking. Scoot plays the part of control center and assists Kate via radio. Together they reluctantly uncover the Malthusians’ plot, and attempt to thwart them.

Game play is cover based third person shooter type of deal with a heap of platforming. One weapon is used throughout the campaign with a variety of ammo pick-ups, five in all: sonic, gel, semi auto, energy, and rapid fire rounds- look for them in specially marked cereals!- and a  cool compact hacking mechanism called a MAVI that can decrypt encoded systems, or hack far away consoles. The game starts you bare (No, not like that you sickos! Bare as in no weapons, and no MAVI!), and pick-ups are introduced as Kate progresses. The hacking mechanism becomes more elaborate with distorted frequencies, or encryption keys hidden in wall panels only the MAVI can detect, and near the end of the game Kate is trying to hack doors underwater!

Combat is diversified by having Kate fighting underwater, or shooting panels off the walls to surge baddies with water, or shooting combustibles to burn baddies, or shooting electrical systems to fry baddies (would you like your baddie braised, barbequed, or smoked?). The five ammo pick-ups work well, and can even be chained to cause major damage. I ran through the game using only the initial Sonic Rounds, totally missing the point of the four other ammo types, but that’s why developers must hate me so much! I got lost many a time trying to run through a corridor to avoid being drowned, but it would always happen. Then I’d have to sit through Scoot yelling, “NOOOOOOOOOO!” in his terrible voice, and repeat the process.

The acting isn’t all too great (especially Scoot, sorry!), and was pretty short (only three acts with three chapters), and I didn’t experience the “mastery of water” (some magic mumbo jumbo where Kate can manipulate water), and the ending was sad (not as in teary-eyed, but pitiful), the overall game was surprisingly an okay experience. Although the game boasted its Hydroengine superiority of water mechanics, I failed to see what was so awesome about the flowing water, or the ripples it made. It did, however, piss me the hell off every time I broke a panel to flood an area so I could get the achievement to knock three baddies with water, and the water would only lightly dampen the baddies, but would knock my character off her ass instead! (Deep breaths… remember your Karma.) B. Not a C. No, that would dissatisfy all those who worked hard on this title, and are still working to perfect it! So if ya’ll would excuse me… I need to see a therapist, because I have a phobia… of spiders.

RAGE: No Bordered Lands in this Fall Out

It’s always nice to see older developers come out with something new. id Software, the company credited with creating the first-person shooter genre, has come out with their version of a post-apostolic future. RAGE takes place after the real life asteroid, Apophis, hits earth and wipes out almost everything. Yes, Apophis is a real asteroid but its not going to hit Earth, just past really close in the year 2029. RAGE takes place in 2135; you awake in your Ark and are quickly saved from a group of bandits by Dan Hagar (voiced by John Goodman). RAGE’s bread and butter though, is shooting and killing.

I haven’t played a shooter this polished in years. It may take a few minutes to get used to the controls but after that, it’s smooth sailing. You start off with only the pistol if you didn’t get the Anarchy Edition, so make sure to loot every body so you don’t run out of ammo. There are many different bandit tribes; some are more acrobatic while some build RC Bombs. Mutants are the more generic enemy. These guys can be killed easily, but give no loot. The Authority is the new government and has the best weapons and armor. There are so many different enemies, weapons, and ammo types, the combat will stay fresh for a while. Sadly, there are a lot of weapons but you can only equip four at a time. I found that I stuck with my Crossbow, Double-Barrel Shotgun, Machine Gun, and Sniper Rifle.


The Level Design was very unique. At first glance, it seems very linear. With most doors being locked, you might feel trapped on a single path. id Software did this on purpose, closing off some path ways then opening them on later levels makes it feel like a new area to explore. The Wasteland is where they bring in the vehicles. For the most part, vehicles are only used to get from quest to quest but they are fun to drive. At first you start with an ATV. It doesn’t have guns on it but you do need it for an achievement. Later you get a buggy that you can upgrade with machine guns, rockets, and pulse weapons. In towns, there are races you can do for extra cash, but you will find that most of that cash will go towards your vehicles to do more races and make more cash. It’s a vicious cycle. Towns also have plenty of places to gamble your money away.

With so many good aspects in RAGE, it’s easy to over look the bad, but it’s there. The only competitive multiplayer is demolition derby. You have to race from marker to marker collecting points while shooting others. It’s a nice change of pace from all those games that just throw multiplayer in to get sales. The co-op is a fun but short experience for you and one friend. The missions are different than single player but you play through the same areas. The co-op also keeps track of points so you can be competitive if you like. With everything id Software did right in this game, I find that the small problems fade after you realize you’ve been playing for five hours already. A great game that I will be playing over and over, but it’s not perfect.