Category Archives: Xbox Live Arcade

SoulCalibur II HD Online Review

SCIIHDOSoulCalibur II HD Online (Available on PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Project Soul
Release Date: November 19th, 2013

Parent Talk: SoulCalibur II HD Online is rated T for teen because of violence, suggestive themes, and mild language.  One look at Taki and you’ll understand why the game’s rated T.  She’s wearing a skin tight spandex outfit with no bra.  Yup, 13-year old men made this game.  Seriously though, it’s rated T because of some of the skimpy outfits, and also because it’s a weapon-based fighter, but there’s no blood or anything like that.

Plays Like: This complex weapon-based fighter is the follow-up to the Dreamcast launch title, SoulCalibur.  Prior to this naming convention the series was known as Soul Edge, and wasn’t anywhere near as popular.  The game features a killer single-player story mode, as well as the usual assortment of arcade and versus modes.  New to this HD remastered version is a competitive online multiplayer mode, but the game retains the same excellent gameplay from the 2003 version.

Review Basis: Namco Bandai sent us a PSN review code, and having played the living hell out of this game upon its initial release in 2003, I simply went through the motions of testing the single player portion, and then headed online and proceeded to get my butt handed to me several times over.

While only a handful of people actually remember Soul Edge, which was released on the original PlayStation way back in 1997, everyone remembers the 1999 follow-up, SoulCalibur, as it was the most polished fighter of all time, upon its release.  It was the first time a home console port actually exceeded the arcade original.  It also happened to be a fantastic fighting game that was extremely well balanced…well except for Kilik with his far reach, but that’s beside the point.  Everyone loved SoulCalibur and it singlehandedly pushed this franchise into the mainstream, so naturally a sequel was inevitable.  When said sequel was finally released in 2003 it featured the same refined gameplay from the original, with an expanded roster, and a sweet little extra.  Each console version, one on the PS2, the original Xbox, and GameCube each had one exclusive character.  Remember this was during a time before DLC, so these characters remained exclusive for the duration of the console’s lifespan.  Everyone I knew picked up the GameCube version because of Link’s inclusion, but naturally he’s not in this version of the game as a Wii U port wasn’t made.  Instead both Spawn (Xbox version) and Heihachi Mishima (PS2 version) join the roster regardless of which version you pick up.  While they’re nice additions, they’re not Link.  That said, how has the rest of the remaster turned out, and has the core gameplay aged well or is this one better off left in the past?

SCIIHDO1The Great:

An all-around fantastic remaster.  Textures are crisper than ever before, character models look extremely detailed, and to be perfectly honest, if it weren’t for hair physics being improved so much during the PS3/360 era I’m sure a lot of people would have assumed the game was made for those consoles.  That’s how much care and attention went into this port.  Level design and overall graphic quality has always been one of the strong points of the series, and it’s amazing how well the overall look of the game holds up some ten years after its original release.  It’s pretty damn impressive, and when you see it in motion it makes you wonder why more companies don’t invest in HD remakes like this.  The audio is equally impressive as the soundtrack and audio effects have all been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sound wonderful.

SCIIHDO2The Good:

+ All the superb gameplay modes you remember from the original make their way back.  Arcade, versus, training, team battle, time attack, and the phenomenal Weapon Master mode all return.  Weapon Master Mode is where you spend the majority of your time in single player and features what would equate to a deep story mode in a modern fighter.  You select your character and tackle various objective-based missions.  Sometimes it’s beat three characters, sometimes it’s complete a round without blocking, and so on.  As you progress you earn points which can then be used to unlock a wide assortment of goodies from additional characters and weapons to costume colors.

+ Gameplay remains as tight as ever.  Not much else to say about it.

+ Great touch adding Spawn and Heihachi to the mix, but it would have been great to see Link make an appearance.  Obviously that was never going to happen, and no one should have expected it, but it would have made a killer Wii U exclusive had they made a version of the game for that platform.

SCIIHDO3The So-So:

+/- I appreciate the inclusion of an online mode for die-hard fighting fans, but it’s about as barebones as you can imagine.  Featuring only a Ranked and Player match mode, there’s really not much to see.  Player match is far too basic to be useful, as if you create a private match, or even a public one, as soon as the fight is over with you are kicked out and placed back on the menu screen.  You can’t create a fight list and slowly work your way through it facing multiple friends, one after another.  There’s also no spectator mode allowing you to watch other fights.  As I said, it’s extremely basic, but at least there’s a way to play online.

+/- Speaking of online play, fighters live and die based on their net code and it’s kind of lukewarm in SC II HD Online.  All the online matches I played featured input lag, making parrying impossible, and blocking a real pain.  If you’re a casual fan the input lag won’t likely be bothersome, but to the hardcore it could be a deal-breaker.

SCIIHDO4The Lowdown:

SoulCalibur II HD Online is a fantastic game for those who loved the original, or are just looking into getting into the series.  While I wish the online mode was improved, the core gameplay and overall package remains highly impressive.  If you’re into fighting games, this is certainly one to check out for $20.

Final Score: 8/10 

Charlie Murder Review

Charlie MuderCharlie Murder (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Beat ’em Up
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Ska Studios
Release Date: August 14th, 2013

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Charlie Murder M for mature because of violence, blood and gore, and the use of drugs and alcohol. You take on the role of one of five punk rockers who fight everything in their path. You can rip off someone’s arm and beat them to death with it. There’s even a scene where someone’s face is ripped off. Sure the game’s cartoony graphics may make you think this one would be suitable for all ages, but don’t make the mistake. This is a game clearly aimed at adults.

Plays Like: If you grew up playing games like Double Dragon or Streets of Rage, Charlie Murder will feel like second nature. You can perform simple combos, pick up weapons and use them against your foes, but the game goes further than that by introducing a leveling system where you can increase your stats, and unlock new combos. There are shops where you can purchase better gear and weapons, and there are even a wide assortment of mini-games thrown in for good measure.

Review Basis: Microsoft sent us a review code, and I played all the way to the very last stage, and played both online and offline.

Beat ’em ups used to be one of my favorite genres growing up. In the arcades I used to spend what little money I had either going to town on the the latest spaceship shooter, beat ’em up, or eventually on fighters. Charlie Murder takes the new-age anarchist punk movement and mashes it with a classic beat ’em up. The results are mostly delightful, although a few sour notes do bring the package down somewhat.

Charlie Muder2The Great:

Charlie Murder is far deeper than you might think. Defeating enemies nets you cash, which can be used to purchase upgraded gear, and power-ups. You can find ingredients scattered around the environment and dropped from defeated enemies, which allow you to create your own beer. Beer grants all sorts of wicked enhancements. Your cellphone also has unique abilities. Emails progress the storyline a bit, and teach new combos. There’s a Twitter-like app which adds humor and a way to show your level progression. There’s even a camera app which allows you to scan the environment for QR codes, which unlock new items.

Charlie Murder1The Good:

+ Story is so ridiculous it works. You play as one of five band mates whose sole purpose is to stop Paul, the sixth and disgruntled member who was ejected from the group right before they made it big. Paul made a deal with the devil and now leads a demoniac heavy metal band, which has had the small side effect of unleashing all hell on the Earth. As any good rock star would do, you aim to fix this mess.

+ Graphical presentation does a great job of helping to break up the monotonous feeling of beating the crap out of endless wave of ninjas, zombies, and whatever else you can think of. Each new location is distinctly different than the last. One moment you might be fighting off hordes of zombies in a snowed in graveyard, and the next you”re taking on hallucinations from someone in a mental hospital.

+ Art style is rough and gritty, which fits perfectly in-tune with the anarchist feeling the developer was going for.

+ Each band member has a distinct class, and therefore their own unique move set. Charlie, the band’s vocalist can learn magical screaming attacks, while Lester, the band’s guitarist acts more like a mage, and can cast spells. Special power-ups are unlocks by getting new tattoos, which was a really nice touch. Having each band member feel different was an excellent decision on the part of Ska Studios, because it encourages players to try all the different playable characters, and also differentiates each character from one another.

+ Co-op is a blast. Grab three friends and enjoy, as there’s nothing like playing with buddies.

Charlie Murder3The So-So:

+/- Even with all the cool special moves, co-op moves, and weapon pick-ups, in time I found myself using the same generic X and Y attacks over and over again because those were the moves I could count on. There are more robust combos players can pull off, but the reward is seldom worth the effort.

+/- There are a wide assortment of mini-games thrown in for good measure, like quick time events, and DDR-inspired music mini-games, but ultimately each one feels tacked on. They help break up the non-stop button mashing of the rest of the game, but occasionally feel uninspired.

Charlie Muder5The Bad:

– At the end of the day, no matter how much variety or added mini-games there are, the core gameplay gets repetitive over time.

– If you play the solo campaign you might have to do some grinding as checkpoints are often very far from where you died. Mid-bosses can also prove quite challenging, but future attempts make you stronger, so either you learn to beat your opponents or you’ll eventually overpower them.

The Ugly:

Some of the animations can be downright nasty, but they’re always humorous in the context of the story. One scene in particular was truly gruesome. An innocent bystander gets grabbed by some pumpkin-head muscle bound freak, has his face ripped off, and thrown at Charlie. The face hits the ice with a splat and then proceeds to slide across the ice. Yummy!

Charlie Muder4

The Lowdown:

Charlie Murder is a far deeper beat ’em up than I thought it would be. It tries a lot of different things, with most coming together surprisingly well. Even with these fresh new ideas it can’t completely remove the monotonous nature of the genre, but if you’re into these types of games you could do far worse. This is a great one to spend an afternoon on with a group of friends, either online or off.

Final Score: 8/10

Pacific Rim: The Video Game Review

PRPacific Rim: The Video Game (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1-2
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Yuke’s Co.
Release Date: July 12th, 2013

Pacific Rim is the perfect example of a quick cash-in on a blockbuster summer movie…that ended up being not quite as popular as everyone had hoped.  Yuke’s Co. created a simple game based around it in the hopes that the franchise name itself would sell the game. What you have here is a product meant only for hardcore fans of the movie and even then that’s pushing it.

The Good:

+ Simple one-on-one monster fighting game. It plays like all those classic monster games we used to play back in the 16-bit days (King of Monsters, etc.), but obviously looks a lot better. If you always enjoyed fighting with giant monsters, chances are you’ll love this game.

+ Multiplayer through Xbox Live means instead of battling the A.I., you can challenge your friends instead, and as we all know fighting games are much better with buds.

+ Leveling-up system adds very basic RPG elements, which allow players to increase their stats.  You can also customize your Jaeger (Robot) or Kaiju (Monster) to a certain extent, however more advanced customization features are locked behind a DLC gate.

Pacific Rim3The So-So:

+/- Energy conservation adds about the only interesting layer to an otherwise dull fighting system.  There are no combos, and most fights break down into a monotonous cycle of block, attack, or wait for your energy to fill up and deliver a power attack.  That’s about all there is to it.

Pacific Rim4The Bad:

– Virtually no effort was made to polish the game.  It looks as though the assets from the disappointing IOS game were used, which is inexcusable for an Xbox 360 game released in 2013. On top of the shoddy visuals, there’s no voice-acting either which means the limited storyline is revealed through a couple lines of text in-between missions.  The story was slapped together for the sole purpose of allowing players to select characters from both sides of the fight.

– Poor collision detection.  Occasionally power attacks you were sure should have connected won’t.

– Repetitive from beginning to end. Kill a monster, pause for a little story progression, and then start all over again with the next creature.

– Makes no sense whatsoever.  You start off as a Jaeger fighter, but then switch over to a Kaiju without explanation.  While it’s understandable the developer didn’t want to follow the movie’s plot in order to allow players to play as both types of combatants, some explanation would have been appreciated.

– There are only three Jaegers and two Kaiju to use in the game’s 12 stages.  Other selectable characters are available, but only through DLC.

– Very little incentive to replay the game after completion, or even finish it. It’s so repetitive because of the simplistic fighting system, and overall generic feel.

Pacific Rim2The Lowdown:

Pacific Rim is a game that could have been so much more had more resources been poured into the project.  This was clearly a game that had a low budget and was meant to earn a nice profit based solely on the name alone.  Multiplayer remains the game’s sole redeeming factor, and offers glimpses of what could have been. If you absolutely adored the movie, you might get a few laughs out of this, but for everyone else, odds are this won’t be for you.

Final Score: 4.5/10

Flashback Review

FlashbackFlashback (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Platformer
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: VectorCell
Release Date: August 21st, 2013 (Xbox 360 version)

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Flashback T for teen because of violence, blood, suggestive themes, and mild language. Unlike the original Flashback, this HD remake uses realistic graphics to depict the futuristic world. As such the violence would be too much for young players.

Plays Like: If you’ve ever played the original Prince of Persia (1989), or Flashback (1992) then you know more or less how this one works. Instead of playing like a modern 2D platformer, the game retains similar controls to that of the original. In other words as you approach a platform above your head, you need to walk up to it and press up on the analog stick in order for Conrad (the protagonist) to pull himself up. You can’t just jump and have him automatically grab ahold of it. In terms of gameplay, it plays much like you’d expect for an action platformer. You move through somewhat non-linear levels taking on enemies and solving puzzles. There are hints of Metroid thrown in for good measure, such as being able to located hidden areas via the useful map system.

Review Basis: Ubisoft sent a review code for the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game. I played through the entire game on Medium difficulty.

Flashback is actually a remake of the 1992 classic of the same name. The original development staff, or at least a good portion of them, actually developed this HD remastered version, and it shows. The game is extremely faithful to the original, although it now features all the modern gameplay enhancements you’d expect, on top of lush HD visuals and a more fleshed out audio score. For anyone that missed out on the original, now’s your chance to experience this landmark title.

The Great:

The setting is one of my favorite elements in the game. While you start off in a jungle, the setting quickly changes to a much more sci-fi setting as you make your way to a futuristic city. From there the environments and locations only get more and more interesting until the credits roll. The game oozes with Terminator, Blade Runner, and other classic science fiction film influences. If you’re into the genre, odds are you’re going to really dig this unique.

Flashback1The Good:

+ Metroid-like exploration is awesome. There’s a map system that hand-holds you to your next objective, but you’re completely free to go where you please so long as you have the right equipment to get you there. Not only can you find extra goodies, but you can also find weird creatures you need to destroy in order to unlock bonus achievements/trophies.

+ Light RPG elements go a long way. As you progress you gain experience which rewards special points that can be used to increase Conrad’s accuracy, technology, and stamina. Depending on where you allocate the points, Conrad’s core abilities change quite significantly. He might have more health, or his weapons will be more powerful. In the end I decided to go with a well-balanced character on my first play-through, but the choice is entirely up to you.

+ Teleportation device is a blast to use, and allows for some tricky puzzles. You can literally throw the device anywhere and then materialize a second later in the spot where it lands. When the game mixes different puzzles types together, it really shines. Take an exit for example. In order to get to said exit you need to shoot the teleportation device in such a way that it lands on a switch, but also misses the incoming lasers which one-shot you. Timing and precision are key here, and it can take more than a few attempts to figure out how to get by.

+ Solid combat. The right analog stick is used to aim 360 degrees around Conrad, which allows for much easier combat than the original. You can either shoot your standard hand gun, or charge it up for a mega blast a la Mega Man. There are also explosives and the trusty teleportation device which can make combat feel much deeper than it truly is.

+ Given how the 3D visuals add different layers of depth, a new ‘highlight mode’ has been added which allows players to make interactive objects in the environment glow.  This was extremely useful in certain areas where it appeared there was no exit.

+ New game plus. I always love when developers give you a reason to come back for more. The new game plus allows you to play through the adventure again while keeping all of your power-ups, and even adds new ones to make you all the more powerful.

+ Including the original 1992 version of Flashback was an excellent idea. Not only does it show how far gaming technology has come in the past two decades, but also highlights just how original the game was. It remarkably holds up better than I expected it to.

+ Comic-style cutscenes do a great job in fleshing out the storyline. The plot remains the same as the original game, you’re trying to piece together your mind by finding flash drives. The more you find, the more everything starts to make sense. At first you’re running for your life, but eventually you’re mankind’s savior. It might sound cliché, but it actually comes together in the end.

Flashback2The So-So:

+/- The gameplay works as well as it did years ago, although I found it a little clunky at times. Sometimes I would want to run and jump to a platform only to have Conrad fall off the edge, or try to grab onto the wrong ledge.

+/- While I appreciate the nice new HD visuals, it’s kind of sad to see the cel-shaded cartoon look of the original replaced by the generic 3D visuals of today. At least the level design is top notch. Players will feel encouraged to keep exploring, and sci-fi fans will love all the nods to classic sci-fi films.

The Bad:

– Voice acting lacks any sort of emotion, and falls flat. This is especially true when Conrad talks of his girlfriend.

The Ugly:

Odd bugs here and there. During a couple of sections you’re tasked with escorting someone to a certain location. I had to reload a previous checkpoint several times because either the A.I. would get stuck under an elevator, or other bizarre bugs would prevent them from doing what they’re supposed to.

Flashback4The Lowdown:

Flashback is one of those games that is fondly remembered because of how original it was when it was first released. While this new version has been given a fresh coat of paint it isn’t as memorable as the original. It falls directly in the good, but not great category.  That said, if you’re in the mood for an action platformer that features solid combat, fun exploration, and an intriguing storyline Flashback might be just what the doctor ordered.

Final Score: 6/10

Irrational Games Reveals Single-Player DLC for BioShock Infinite

Burial at Sea

After what feels like an eternity of waiting, Irrational Games has finally pulled the lid off their story-driven DLC for BioShock Infinite. Ironically enough, the first piece of DLC isn’t story-driven at all. It’s called Clash in the Clouds and is combat-focused, and set in Columbia. It’s out right now on Steam, PSN and Xbox 360, and costs $5 for those who don’t own the $20 Season Pass.

Clash in the Clouds is a horde-based DLC pack, and includes four different challenge maps (The Ops Zeal, Duke & Dimwit Theater, Raven’s Dome and Emporia Arcade). Each map contains 15 waves of enemies, a special challenge and even leaderboards for players to see how they rank. The DLC pack also includes the Columbia Archaeological Society, which acts as an in-game museum of sorts where players can look at original concept art, character models and much more. The pack also extends the lore behind Columbia through unique Voxophones and Kinetoscopes.

The second piece of DLC is indeed story-driven and is called Burial at Sea. It takes place 24 hours before the fall of Rapture. Here’s the official teaser trailer.

Even if you’ve never played BioShock or BioShock Infinite, you’ve got to admit there’s something really appealing to the overall style of the trailer. We don’t have much to go on right now pertaining to concrete details about the DLC, other than the fact that it’s broken up into two parts, and that it will feature a Noir-style Elizabeth. Each part will be $14.99 to those that don’t own the Season Pass, so now might be the time to remedy that. The second part of Burial at Sea will place Elizabeth as the central playable character. We currently have no details on when Burial at Sea will be available, but I’ll be sure to keep you posted. In the meantime my review of BioShock Infinite is finally going up sometime later this week. Yes it’s long overdue, and I apologize for that, but hopefully it’ll be worth the wait!

On Online Professionalism, Transparency, and Critiques – Phil Fish vs. Marcus Beer Debacle

So Fez II got cancelled and Phil Fish quit the industry due to a culmination of a hate parade on him throughout the years, finally pushed over-the-edge by one Marcus Beer of GameTrailers. In this video, I delve into my thoughts in general of what went down and how we should improve ourselves as game journalists and fans alike. Please note that while I’m not taking the favorable way of going completely against Phil, I rationalize why and do fault him for certain things he has done and said. I may not completely know the details of how this beef came to be and neither I do recite the events in full chronological order, but the vital parts are mostly there. Besides, it’s not about the details here; it’s more about how these people acted in public.

Mega Man and DuckTales Return!

Capcom has finally announced a brand new game in the Mega Man franchise, well sorta.  Here’s the scoop.  Today at PAX East Capcom confirmed the studio is in development of a brand new Mega Man game, but failed to release any further information.  Literally all we know is that a new game is in development, and that’s all she wrote.

The second piece of news is that WarForward and Capcom are bringing back the 1989 NES classicDuckTales for a new generation of gamers to enjoy.  Titled DuckTales Remastered the game will be available later this summer for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and the Wii U’s eShop for $14.99.  The game will feature hand-drawn character sprites in a 3D world, and the Disney voice-actors are currently recording their lines, while the classic music also gets the remastered treatment.

We’ll have more info on both titles as we get it.

Updated by Ahmed Mosly: here’s the trailer for DuckTales, guys. Holy crap! It looks freakin’ awesome. I feel my childhood rushing back to me.

Capcom Announces Release Date for Marvel vs. Capcom Origins

Marvel vs. Capcom Origins, which collects Marvel Super Heroes and Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes, will be available to download in North America on PlayStation Network on September 25th for $14.99 and on Xbox LIVE Arcade on September 26th for 1200 Microsoft Points.  I already informed you all of this game a while back, but at least now we have a release date :)  Here’s a little tidbit Capcom wanted me to pass along.

These two classic games are kept arcade-perfect, while adding a host of features sure to tap into arcade nostalgia while meeting today’s online needs.  MARVEL VS. CAPCOM ORIGINS is jam-packed with Marvel and Capcom fan-favorite characters and crazy, beloved gameplay that throws a powerful punch.

MARVEL VS. CAPCOM ORIGINS offers both the one-on-one gameplay of Marvel Super Heroes with its unique Infinity Gem system and the two-on-two carnage of the original Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes, featuring a tag system, assists, and the wild Duo Team Attack. Bringing forth a host of features never before seen in these games, MARVEL VS. CAPCOM ORIGINS adds GGPO-enhanced online play with 8-player lobbies and spectator mode, HD graphical upgrades, dynamic challenges and replay saving.

How many of you are looking forward to capcom’s latest brawler?

Sega Announces NiGHTS into Dream HD! (Trailer inside)

For longtime fans of the original Saturn classic, this is a very special day.  Check out the debut trailer, and then read on for more info.

NiGHTS into Dreams HD will be available on PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and PC sometime later this fall.  Sega hasn’t announced which digital platform the game will arrive on, on the PC, but odds are Steam as the company uses Steam for almost all of their releases.  Sega has yet to announce a price, but I’m going to guess it’ll be $14.99 on the PS3 and PC, and 1,200 MS Points.  That’s just speculation at this point though so don’t quote me.  In terms of the remake, players can expect up t0 1080p resolution, 16:9 display and achievements/trophies.  For those of us old enough to have played through the original version, Sega is including a saturn version for nostalgia.  I highly recommend everyone give it a go in this mode just to see how vastly improved the visuals have been.

Capcom Announces Marvel vs. Capcom Origins (Trailer Inside)

Two of my favourite fighting games of all time are getting the HD remaster treatment and will arrive on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade this September for $14.99/1,200 MS Points.  Which two games?  Marvel Super Heroes and Marvel vs. Capcom!  The compilation will see both games remastered in 1080p, feature online gameplay and a wealth of new gameplay modes and unlockables.

Looks pretty awesome, no?  Capcom’s been getting a lot of flack these past few years for some questionable business practices (multiple releases of slightly tweaked fighting games, on-disc DLC, etc.), so it’s nice to see a little fan service.  While I think it would have been even better to include X-Men: Children of the Atom or X-Men vs. Street Fighter, I’ll gladly accept this compilation.

Who else is interested in this one out there?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard Review

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard (Available on PlayStation 3, PC, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Release Date: June 26, 2012 (360 version only, TBA on PC and PS3)
Price: 1,600 MS Points / $20.00

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Dawnguard M for mature.  The DLC features all the same blood, gore, strong language, suggestive themes, etc. that were present in Skyrim.  As an expansion pack this should come as no surprise, and anyone that wasn’t able to play Skyrim clearly can’t play through this new DLC.

Plays Like: If you have played any of the modern Elder Scrolls games you know exactly what to expect.  This is an expansion to the extremely popular open-world first-person RPG Skyrim, and in my opinion it’s DLC that is well worth purchasing.  You get a massive amount of new locations to explore, new weapons and items to pick up, along with a wide assortment of new quests to complete.

Review Basis: Completed everything the DLC had to offer.  A huge shout out goes to Bethesda for sending along a review code.

Dawnguard is a fantastic piece of DLC.  It feels almost like a small expansion and will likely be adored by fans of Skyrim.  Any excuse to return to this lush and beautiful world is a welcome one in my book.  Bethesda has learned a lot since the early days of horse armor, and thankfully the 1,600 Microsoft Points feels well spent on this twelve-hour adventure.

The Great:

New locations, new weapons and items, as well as a great side-story make Dawnguard a must-download for any fan of Skyrim.  You have the opportunity to traverse a section of the oblivion realm, visit all new areas high atop a mountain range, and take on a great vampire clan.  New locations pop up on your map the minute the DLC is downloaded, and once you initiate the new quest line, a wide assortment of side-missions and other goodies unlock.

The Good:

+ Excellent story.  The Dawnguard are a group of vampire hunters, and depending on how you play your cards you can help them eradicate all the vampires in the land, or play them for fools and aid the vampires is finally getting rid of the pesky Dawnguard forever.

+ Becoming a vampire lord is awesome.  Not only do you gain access to an entirely new perk tree, but you also get all sorts of cool new powers.  You can levitate, teleport short distances, and suck the life out of enemies.  There are countless other surprises that unlock the more you play as a vampire lord.

+ Large amount of quests and variety for the first DLC pack.  From battling huge monsters atop great frozen lakes, to solving puzzles and hours of conversations with NPCs, Dawnguard will keep you glued to your 360 for at least a dozen hours or more.

+ Superb production values.  Sometimes I forget just how beautiful Skyrim is, and let’s not forget about the incredible soundtrack and excellent voice acting.  The new locations in particular are jaw-dropping.

The So-So:

+/- Certain environmental obstacles will force players to transform back into human form because their vampire lord will not be able to fit through these areas.  It’s a bizarre level design choice Bethesda made because this new power is so cool players will want to stay in this form for as long as possible.  Instead you’re constantly forced to switch back and forth.

+/- Aiding the Dawnguard is the ‘right’ thing to do, however you miss out on so much.  I highly recommend playing through the DLC both ways to experience everything it has to offer.

The Bad:

– Bugs remains problematic.  It’s unclear where they stem from (the original game, or this new DLC), but some waypoints are broken, AI companions sometimes turn on you for no reason, noticeable drop in framerate, and certain objects won’t allow you to activate them because the game thinks you’re still in combat even though there’s no one around.

The Ugly:

You can’t play as a vampire lord in first-person, so you see all the gruesome fun in third person, and it looks awesome…except for the innocent villagers you brutally murder.

The Lowdown:

Dawnguard is a fantastic first expansion to Skyrim and one every fan will want to download.  Yes the bugs suck, but the thrilling new storyline, new weapons and items, and loads of interesting and fun quests all come together to make this an experience that you shall not soon forget.  Don’t let it pass you by.

Final Score: 8/10

Debut Trailer & Info for Ron Gilbert’s The Cave

Adventure fans it’s time to get excited.  Ron Gilbert, the main behind some of the most famous adventure games ever made is releasing a new game in early 2013.  It’s being published by Sega, and being developed by the awesome folks over at DoubleFine Productions.  We’ve got the first trailer for your viewing pleasure.

The very first thing you can tell from the trailer is that the game will feature a little of that awesome Metroidvania style everyone loves so much.  Players can expect puzzles galore and a really quirky storyline.  Sega revealed a few hints in their press release:

If you enjoy rappelling, spelunking and dark rocky caverns then be prepared to be disappointed! And then intrigued. And then AMAZED. And then disappointed again, but only for a minute. Then relieved, amused, bewildered, excited, and satisfied. In that order.  Your first clue that The Cave is a place like no other will come just after you assemble your team of three unlikely adventurers – each with their own unique personalities and skills – and stumble across a subterranean amusement park and a medieval castle, not to mention a fully armed and ready to launch nuclear-tipped ICBM.

Ron Gilbert, the main man behind Maniac Mansion, and the first two Monkey Island games had the following to say about The Cave:

The concept of The Cave has been bouncing around in my head for many, many years, and then the little voices that tell me to do things said it was time to make the game. I’m thrilled to be working with amazingly talented folks at Double Fine and ecstatic that the team at Sega believes in adventure games and quirky ideas.

I’m a big fan of classic adventure games, and this one looks really unique so I’m going to check it out for sure.  It’ll be released on PC, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade sometime in 2013.  I’m sure I’ll be updating this story as time goes by so mark my words, this isn’t the last time you’ll hear of THE CAVE!!!