No G-Cast This Week? That's Inconceivable or Something!

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Yes my fellow G lovers, it is true. This week been full of a slight amount (shit load) of craziness to prevent us from bringing you a brand new episode. I promise I'l make it up to each and every one of you by giving Ivan 40 lashes (seriously, his eyes are going to look lavish!). We will be back with a new G-Cast next Friday. Until then, we suggest going to our Facebook or Twitter or emailing us user questions to drg@drgman.com. As always, thanks for listening!

G-Cast Takes a Couple Weeks Off

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Hello fan! Due to technical difficulties, (cough) Ivan sucks! (cough), we unfortunately wont be able to produce a G-Cast today. To make matters worse for our fans (Ivan's mom) this comes right before our scheduled week off for the holidays. What does that mean? No G-Cast for two weeks :'(. BUT, we will be back and better than ever (or the same) on January 4th, 2013 for our first episode of the new year to discuss our favorite games of 2012. Thanks for the understanding and support, but seriously, if you're pissed off, death threats go to dante@drgman.com. As always, send user questions to Facebook, Twitter, or drg@drgman.com. Have fun celebrating whatever the hell you celebrate and we hope to see you all next year!

Review: Max Payne 3 Brings the Max Payne Too!

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Ready to bring the Payne? The Max Payne? The Max Payne 3? Yeah, that was a bit of a stretch but Max Payne 3 is finally out and ready for gamers to salivate over! It’s been almost ten years since the last installment in the series. A development company by the name of Remedy made the previous Max Payne titles and eventually left the brand to work on Alan Wake. Now, Rockstar Vancouver, makers of the 2006 sleeper hit Bully, has just released the latest installment in the franchise with a brand new multiplayer feature and the same great cheesy writing fans know and love.

Most of the story takes place in Brazil where Mr. Payne, a former New Jersey cop dealing with a heavy pain killer and alcohol addiction, works as a private security guard for a rich family in Sao Paulo. The question of why he’s there is answered via playable flashback sequences throughout the game explaining the motivation behind the drastic move. Like any modern shooter, cut scenes surround the gameplay to further the story and break up the action. Previous installments told story through the use of motion comics but Max Payne 3 goes for more of a hybrid between cut scene and graphic novel. You won’t find any Ken Burns effects here, but words show up on the screen sometimes as characters say important lines and the video will often split into two or three screens much like comic panels.

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This keeps the storytelling modern while still respecting the game’s heritage and breathing new life into the unique way Max Payne 1 &2 did cut scenes. The flashback sequences are interesting and do their job to break up the locales throughout the story. This allows the player to explore a handful of contrasting locations without flying all over the world like James Bond. It keeps the story real and the visuals interesting. Every flashback sequence provides insight into Max’s current situation and the intrigue doesn’t let up until the very end. It’s the perfect way to tell this story and it’s wrapped up in dialogue that is cheesy, but some of the best you’ll hear in a videogame all year.

If you’ve played a Max Payne before, the gameplay should be something you’re already familiar with. It’s a shooter. Plain and simple. Environments are full of walls to take cover behind and guns to kill the crap out of whoever is trying to kill you. The only unique feature in the gameplay is bullet time. This allows you to put the world in slow motion making it easier to dive in and out of cover or take extra long to aim for that perfect head shot.

It sounds bland, but, like any shooter, it’s extremely fun to pick off goons level after level. There are numerous enemies all with different fighting styles, health, and armor. They flank, cover each other, and do whatever they can to put you in a body bag. Normally, artificial intelligence like this would be too difficult for one player to handle. That’s why bullet time is the perfect slow motion rock to their intelligent paper. This gives you the edge over groups of extremely impressive killers and defines itself with gameplay that can’t be found in any other shooter. It sounds rinse and repeat, but it’s so much fun to pop enemies in slow mo, it’s hard to get sick of it.

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For the first time ever, Max Payne 3 features a multiplayer mode. Like any standard multiplayer shooter, you’ll gain XP, unlock weapons, customize load outs, and do whatever you can to kill newbpwnge72 before he/she kills you. You’ll find the usual team death match mixed with a couple of unique modes to keep you busy after the campaign. A few notable modes are Payne Killer and Gang wars. Payne killer pits everyone on the map against one poor online player who looks like Max Payne. Whoever is playing Max eventually gets overrun, but then his killer will immediately become the new Max Payne of the match (think VIP in Halo).

Gang Wars is a collection of five matches played across multiple game types leading up to a final showdown to determine the overall winner. The better you do in each match, the better chance your team has for victory in the end.

Surprisingly, a lot of luxuries from the single player campaign make their way into the multiplayer including the bullet time. “How does that work” you ask? “Quiet! I’m talking!” I might say. After that, I might tell you that the developers have found a clever way of making slow motion work online without it becoming a nuisance. Every time someone activates bullet time, only the people within that immediate area, or in line of site of the person who activated it, is affected. This way, someone’s slow motion won’t affect a couple of guys trying to punch each other to death across the map. It’s a unique feature for online gameplay that will scarcely be found anywhere else.

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Unfortunately, the shooting mechanics aren’t the smoothest you’ll find in gaming. Controls that are slightly clunky are okay when fighting computer controlled enemies, but other human beings are a different story. You’ll often fight with the cover system or sluggish aiming to get a good shot on your evil online counterpart causing you to miss your mark a little more often than acceptable. Shooting mechanics must be smooth and flawless for online battles. This is just a touch under acceptable.

A couple of the multiplayer playlists are unique but really nothing that sets it apart so dramatically that you need to drop Call of Duty immediately. It’s intriguing enough to give it a shot and have some fun for an hour or two, but it doesn’t do much to make you want to hop into multiplayer any longer than that. There simply isn’t enough there to persuade you to play Max Payne 3 online over any other shooter on the market today.

The game suffers from a lack of replayabilty due to its lackluster online and linear Story mode. So, “Why such a high grade for a game with such little replay value?” you ask?  “This is one of the best gaming experiences to be had all year” I say. And stop interrupting me! The action sequences are spectacular and over the top, the bullet time makes anyone feel like an instant badass, and there’s no competition for the deliciously cheesy (and hilarious) one-liners. It might be hard justifying a purchase for a game that will essentially sit on your shelf until some downloadable content is released (or you get a hankering to play it again), but there is no substitute for a story crafted this good with gameplay that is ridiculously satisfying. It doesn’t matter if you rent, buy, or steal, every gamer needs to play Max Payne 3.

Halo 4 Getting Call-of-Duty-ed

It’s been reported on NeoGAF that the latest issue of Game Informer has some juicy details on the newest Halo. Every change sounds very “Call of Duty” and I’m worried they’re attempting to stay cool by copying the popular kid on campus. You will be able to earn Spartan Points every match allowing you to purchase new pieces of armor, abilities, and even new co-op missions. There hasn’t been any mention of Firefight, but the new Spartan Ops mode (sounds familiar) will allow players to join up and fight against A.I. across numerous objectives and maps.

The article also mentions that sprint will no longer be an armor ability. It will come standard with every multiplayer class like some other game I’m forgetting the name of. The jetpack, hologram, and active camo are expected to make a return with a new ability called Forerunner Vision, allowing you to see through walls.

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For whatever reason, Elites will not be playable in multiplayer anymore. So far, they’ve said they are focusing on Spartans vs. Spartans and that’s that. Not too much of a shame on this one. I never thought it added much.

Matches will now be joinable in mid game and hopefully destroys the days of one poor sap, who doesn’t want the penalty of quitting, stuck fighting eight enemies who spawn camp him/her for twenty minutes. You can also forget about waiting to get back into the fight after a death. Halo 4 allows you to spawn immediately after getting killed with a button press. I SWEAR I’ve seen that before…

Finally, what I think is the worst thing to happen to Halo since its inception, weapon spawns are now random. Players will no longer be able to rush to certain locations to hog power weapons and turn the tide of the battle. This was apparently done to even the playing field with newbs. This way, the expert player won’t be able to pwn his worthless enemy as hard as he could if he knew where all the weapons spawned. God forbid the better player wins.

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This destroys Halo. I already found it to be a shame when Halo Reach allowed you to bring a custom gun to the fight. People didn’t hunt for the weapons on the map anymore. Now, with random drops, no one’s going to be searching for guns unless they accidentally trip on one. The map weapons always made Halo what it was. It created choke points. It temped players to dangerous locations. It kept the fights interesting. Those power weapons were important for victory. It added a deep new level of strategy besides just everyone shooting each other.

I was cautiously optimistic about the first non-Bungie Halo, but now I’m getting scared. This information contains gameplay found in a million other games. Nothing popped out as anything unique or interesting. Halo has always lead the genre in new places every shooter dreams of emulating. It pains me to think 343 might turn it into a copycat.

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: 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!

Son of a B 360! Delays. Delays. Delays.

By: David "DR. G" Galanter

Pissed about the delays in "today's" 360 dashboard update? Even more pissed you have no idea why your 360 isn't updating? Well, it seems like the update itself is having some problems getting its ass server side for download. There isn't much info on what's going on, but you can follow Larry Hryb's (Major Nelson's) Twitter to stay up to date.

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The latest update, as of now, states that they're still working to get the new dashboard live and there will be more news about it in the afternoon. It's afternoon now and still no news. There is no mention of the big update getting pushed back to tomorrow (or even later), so hopefully it's still coming today.

Keep an eye on Major Nelson's Twitter for more info. We'll post an update on this story when (or if) the download goes live today.

Some Features Pushed Back in Tomorrow's 360 Dashboard Update

By: David "DR. G" Galanter

Waiting for that sweet 360 Dashboard update tomorrow? Well this might piss you off slightly. Earlier in the year, Microsoft claimed they were releasing an update for their console that would enable YouTube, HBO GO, and a few other apps. When the big M announced a big update for 360 on Dec. 6th, most of us assumed this would be the one to carry all of the fancy new apps. Unfortunately, that's not happening.

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It appears that quite a few apps won’t make it into tomorrow's update. YouTube will launch "later in December" and HBO GO is looking at a release date in "early 2012." About a week ago, we ran a news story about Verizon FioS coming to 360. Unfortunately, this functionality is getting pushed back as well.

Of course, Microsoft never really promised these apps would come on the 6th. We all simply hoped. Seemed like a safe bet considering a lot of these functions were discussed months ago. Guess it's gonna take longer to work out the kinks.

The list below details when each app should be coming (approximately):

Dec. 6:

EPIX. United States

ESPN on Xbox LIVE (ESPN). United States

Hulu. Japan

Hulu Plus. United States

LOVEFiLM. United Kingdom

Netflix. Canada, United States

Premium Play by (MediaSet). Italy

Sky Go (SkyDE). Germany

Telefónica España – Movistar Imagenio. Spain

TODAY (MSNBC). United States

 

Later in December:

4 on Demand (C4). United Kingdom

ABC iView (Australian Broadcasting Corp.). Australia

AlloCiné. France (AlloCiné), Germany (Filmstarts), Spain (Sensacine), United Kingdom (Screenrush)

Astral Media’s Disney XD (Astral Media). Canada

blinkbox (Blinkbox). United Kingdom

Crackle (Sony Pictures). Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United States

Dailymotion. Available in 32 countries globally

Demand 5 (Five). United Kingdom

DIGI+ (CANAL+). Spain

GolTV (Mediapro). Spain

iHeartRadio (Clear Channel). United States

Mediathek/ZDF (ZDF). Germany

MSN. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, United Kingdom

MSNBC.com. United States

MUZU.TV. Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

ninemsn. Australia

Real Sports (Maple Leaf Sports). Canada

Rogers On Demand Online (Rogers Media). Canada

SBS ON DEMAND.Australia

Sky Go (SkyDE). Austria

TMZ (Warner Bros.). Canada, United States

TVE (RTVE.es). Spain

UFC on Xbox LIVE (UFC). Canada, United States

Verizon FiOS TV. United States

VEVO. Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom, United States

Vudu (Wal-Mart). United States

YouTube. Available in 24 countries globally

 

Early 2012:

Antena 3 (Antena 3 de Televisión). Spain

BBC (BBC). United Kingdom

CinemaNow (Best Buy). United States

HBO GO (HBO). United States

MLB.TV (MLB Advanced Media). Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States

Telenovelas/Sports (Televisa). Brazil, Chile, Colombia, France, Italy, Mexico, Spain, United Kingdom

Xfinity On Demand (Comcast). United States

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.

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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.

Review: Halo: CE is Back, But Not Much Else Came With It

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It’s been ten years since Halo: Combat Evolved blew our minds on the original Xbox. The graphics were “bonus” (that’s what the cool kids said), and the gameplay was unprecedented on a console. With a streamlined control system and a myriad of clever weapons and grenades, Halo went on to spawn half a dozen sequels and even more copy cats. After a decade of supporting the franchise it created, Bungie broke free of Microsoft’s grip and went on to go make something non-Halo. However, Microsoft created a new company internally to manage the future of Halo called 343 Industries (named after a bitch character in the series). 343 has created a map or two for previous Halos, but the new studio just released its biggest project yet. Using modern hardware and clever programming, 343 Industries just brought the original Halo into the new generation.

343 wanted to do everything in their power to keep all the gameplay intact while making it look like a current gen shooter. Part of how they were able to do this is because some of the original code from ten years ago is still being used. This ensured the physics, vehicles, and shooting would behave exactly like it did ten years ago. Two graphics engines are running simultaneously at all times. One runs the old game exactly how it was last generation and the other is essentially the same under the hood, but boasts “next gen” graphics. Major benefit? The player can choose to switch back and forth between the old and new graphics any time they want. Pretty fancy.

I played through the game with just the new graphics the first time through. I played Halo to DEATH years ago and was down to look at something new. The outdoor vistas have seen the most improvement. What used to be a flat green floor is now a beautiful collection of foliage and trees that really pop. The indoor levels still bear a slight improvement, but it’s not as noticeable. Sometimes a flat wall can only ever be a flat wall. The new graphics are sharp but still don’t look as good as Halo: Reach or any other modern shooter for that matter. I also ran into some frame rate issues while playing in the Anniversary graphics. If I had to guess, I’d say running two engines at the same time is taxing on the hardware and could be the reason why they couldn’t push the newer visuals to today’s standards.

The new graphics also feature a few new character animations and subtle differences that go a little beyond just a new coat of paint. Unfortunately, some of the new animations still look dated, even though 343 clearly had complete control over them. Also, a few automatic doors don’t blink or light up like they used to when they open, and the HUD didn’t seem to get much of a visual upgrade at all. These complaints are nitpicky, but I expected a little more polish on Microsoft’s biggest franchise.

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Besides the aesthetics, Anniversary also has upgraded 5.1 audio with some re-recorded sound effects. All the voice acting has been kept intact, but some of the guns carry a brand new bang. This was actually my favorite part about the remake. The sniper rifle fires with a heavy bass now and the Needler sounds more alien than ever. Casual observers won’t notice the difference, but it’s a guaranteed rager for anyone who’s heard the old sounds a million times. Plenty of sound effects were untouched (and a few were questionably removed) but the audio director definitely did his job on this one.

The only other addition to the single player mode is Terminals. This is a feature that was present in the past few Halo titles. They’re little easter eggs that can be found around the campaign that give you a deeper understanding of the Halo universe. In Anniversary, any time you are in the updated graphics mode, you’re liable to find these terminals and get more stories that elude to what Halo 4 might be about. It’s a small addition, but the dedicated Halo fan will love it.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary also includes 6 competitive multiplayer maps and one map specifically for Firefight (Halo’s Horde mode). All these maps are redesigned versions of arenas from classic Halos, but they don’t keep the old rule set. They were all built with theHalo: Reach graphics engine and rules. You can either play these maps using the Anniversary disc or the Halo: Reach disc (if you choose to install them to your hard drive). The only nostalgia in the multiplayer’s gameplay is that some game modes tweak the weapon damage, jump height, etc. to make everything behave like it did in Halo: CE. It’s not really the same, but it’s something. Besides that, there’s no way to relive those hectic split screen sessions from ten years ago in this package. Kind of a shame.

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Each map is a beautiful remake and a lot of fun to fight on. There are two versions of every map: Classic and Anniversary. The classic versions mimic the old geometry as best it can to please purists, and the Anniversary versions add tunnels, walkways, structures, etc. to make the map play better with Halo: Reach’s gameplay. These maps offer a new dynamic to online battles (as do all new maps) and keep the online battles for Reach fresh and fun.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is a great package, and well worth it at only 40 bucks. However, out of all the Halo games, this is the lightest package. Halo has been synonymous with content over the years and Anniversary doesn’t quite offer the long legs the other Halo’s have. I understand this game was probably a short development cycle, but even Halo: ODST featured a brand new campaign and the invention of firefight with only a year in development. I recommend this title to anyone who likes shooters. If you haven’t played Halo, there’s never been a better time to enjoy it. If you’re a long time fan, you’re going to love the modern touch, just remember, it’s a $40 Halo in price and content.