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South Park: The Stick of Truth Review

SPSouth Park: The Stick of Truth (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: March 4th, 2013

Parent Talk: The ESRB has rated South Park: The Stick of Truth M for mature because of…do you really need to know the rest?  South Park is extremely vulgar, with countless swear words, tons of nudity, and everything else mature-themed you can think of.  Under no circumstances should children be allowed anywhere near this game.  It’s really that simple.

Plays Like: Imagine Paper Mario for light-RPG gameplay, mixed with shades of Knights of the Old Republic II when it comes to weapon and armor upgrades.  The story is wickedly delightful, and the humor is often offensive, but hilarious.

Review Basis: I played through the PC version of the game.  I finished it, and will return one day, as the legends have foretold.

Could South Park: The Stick of Truth be a near perfect game?  Is it possible that it could make me laugh non-stop for hours on end?  The answer to both of those questions is yes, South Park: The Stick of Truth is one of the very best videogames of the generation, and hands down the best licensed game ever made.  I knew this looked good when I first saw it at E3, but having completed the game, I never imagined it would be this incredible.

The Testicular:

Having the balls to do what no one else has done before.  The show has always pushed new ground in satire, and now Matt Stone and Trey Parker have done the same for videogames.  You have never played a videogame like this before, I guarantee it.

SP2The Great:

Over the years there have been a few licensed games that have been spectacular and genre-defining like GoldenEye 007, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and ET the Extraterrestrial for the Atari 2600…ok maybe not that last one, but there sure have been some awesome licensed games.  More often than not though these types of games are quick cash-ins that completely suck, or are extremely disappointing.  South Park: The Stick of Truth is absolutely, 110% the absolute best licensed game I have ever played in my life.  It not only uses the property in smart and unique ways, but it actually feels like you’re playing through a mini-series devoted to South Park.  I’m not joking either, I haven’t watched a South Park episode in years, and yet I couldn’t help but laugh at all the dick jokes, or be amazed by just how wonderfully intelligent this piece of satire is.  If you have any doubts about this game or its quality, you can rest assure you have nothing to fear here.  The Stick of Truth is brilliant!

It’s not just the fact that the property has been used so well, it’s the core concept itself that is fantastic.  What’s more normal than a group of children trying to save the universe from their very own backyard?  I used to do this all the time with my brother.  So in essence you have a videogame wrapped around an imaginary setting created by a group of foul-mouthed children.  It couldn’t be more perfect.

SP1The Good:

+ The story and satire are pure South Park.  Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of the show, or haven’t watched it in years, you’ll come to appreciate almost everything this game has to offer.  The story is epic, ridiculous, and awesome all at the same time.  Sure the dick jokes can get old if that’s not your thing, but in the end you’ll actually care for these characters even if you aren’t a fan of the universe.

+ Great gameplay.  The battle system is easy to understand and works much like the Paper Mario series.  When you see enemies on the street, you can flick them with your sword which will draw you into a turn-based encounter.  From there a very simple radial command system allows you to attack, use magic, perform summoning spells, and more.  Real-time elements have been added in order to make the action feel more interactive.  All the key moves you can perform from attacking to using special magical attacks will require you to press certain buttons at key moments in order to boost your attacks, or prevent severe damage from incoming attacks.  It works so much better than I thought it would, and while it does take some getting used to for the timing, once you get the hang of it, battles almost always feel fresh.

+ There’s also a great enhancement system in place, which works much like KOTOR II.   Weapons and armor both have sockets, which you can fill with special offensive and defensive bonuses.  These include being able to gain a 10% HP bonus on a pair of gloves you happen to have equipped, or a fire damage bonus on that shiny new sword you just got.  Being able to easily mix and match enhancements is great because you always feel like trying something new.

+ Some of the most epic boss battles you’ll ever face.  I wish I could go into detail about just how epic these battles are, or who you’ll face, but doing so would ruin the game for a lot of people.  Instead I’ll just say that it’s often not just the characters you face off against, but the setting.  There’s one battle in particular that had me in stiches because not only did I have to contend with a mighty foe, but also the incredible power of one man’s…well…you’ll see when you play the game.

+ While you explore the ‘overworld’ you can actually defeat enemies without ever engaging in battle because of magic farting abilities you learn.  Yes, that’s right, you learn to control the mystical power of the fart.  If you happen to see enemies near a candle, you can unleash a powerful fart which will ignite and kill all those enemies around the candle.  Using your environment in effective ways because a great way to avoid fights, and a clever way to reaching areas you didn’t even realize you could get to.

+ There are four classes available, Fighter, Mage, Thief, and Jew.  How many other games would actually have the balls to do something like that?  Anyways, while the classes each have their own unique abilities, none of them use different weapons.  This was done to stream-line the experience in my opinion because the whole concept here was to keep things simple, and imaginative, and by having the classes similar to one-another, they allow for players to get sucked up in the world, and not have to worry about equipping the wrong type of armor or weapon.

+ Quick party system allows you to take one, and only one, active party member with you at any point in time.  Why this is good is because you have the ability to easily swap any member from your roster of teammates.  You don’t need to worry about leveling them up, or equipping them with armor or weapons.  You just pick the one you like the most and go to town.  Each will have their own abilities and skills, which makes certain characters better against certain types of enemies.

+ South Park: The Stick of Truth may just be one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen.  You really have to sit back and take it all in to realize just how impressive the game is.  It looks exactly like the cartoon, and I mean exactly.  The entire town has been officially mapped out, so it’s awesome just going into all the different homes and exploring every single inch of South Park.  I could go on and on, but honestly this is a true gem and playing the PC version means I didn’t notice a single dip in framerate.

+ All your favorite characters are here, with their authentic voices.  The music is all based on the show, as are the sound effect.  It’s brilliant and a fan’s wet dream.  Some of the classic songs from the series’ past are also featured, and put to very good use.

SP3The Lowdown:

So long as you’re not easily offended, this is a game you have to play.  It’s currently the best game I’ve played in 2014, and one of the very best games released in the PS3/360 generation.  It’s intelligent, humorous, and often outrageous and it is without a doubt the funniest game I’ve ever played.  Never have I laughed out loud as often or frequently as I have here.  Obsidian you’ve created a game for our time, and you should be extremely proud.  Don’t let the source material fool you, this is a brilliant effort and the best licensed videogame of all time.

Final Score: 10/10

South Park: The Stick of Truth- Best Console RPG you’ll play this year?

Wow, last Tuesday, on the 5th of March to be precise, South Park: The Stick of Truth was released. For some reason, I completely forgot about this game. I remember it from last E3, but somehow confused it for Family Guy (Back to the Multiverse,) which has already been released. Jarrod started playing it, and when he told me about it, I went on a road-trip and bought the game immediately. I just completed it mere seconds ago, and I must say right off the bat, this one’s gonna end up as a high pick in my 2014 Game of the Year feature. It’s simply an incredible game and one totally deserving of your money.

I compare the experience to past classics like Knights of the Old Republic II and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year-Old Door. For starters, it’s made by Obsidian, the guys responsible for KOTOR II. You’ll find a similar equipment system with excellent customizable options. The fighting system itself is based more on the Paper Mario series, which is fantastic as its more action-based and doesn’t feel as tedious as some classic turn-based role-playing games. The biggest advantage of Stick of Truth is the game’s license. The humor is just unmatched and you’ll have plenty of laugh out loud moments during the 15 hour adventure. Be warned however that the game doesn’t care whether it might shock you or even offend you. It’s comedy is brutal and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I just wanted to write this quick little article to tell you all that if you’re worried that this is just another license-based game, don’t be. It’s an awesome videogame on its own, but also manages to capture the spirit of the show flawlessly. Jarrod should have a review up on Wednesday for those that still have doubts. Be on the lookout for it as it should prove highly entertaining!

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!

Jarrod and Steven Play Resident Evil 6 (Part 2)

Sit back, grab some popcorn and enjoy some truly horrific gameplay from me.  Thankfully Steven comes to the rescue more often than not.  If you want to laugh, this is a good video for you.

For those that missed out on the first part, here it is in all its glory. Sorry for the cut sound on the first part, we fixed it for the video above, although Steven was whispering the whole time.

At the end of the day, we’re doing this all in fun, and having a blast actually. Hopefully you’re enjoying watching these videos as we are making them.

Tomb Raider Review (Updated with Video Review)

Tomb Raider ReviewTomb Raider (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Action
Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: March 5th, 2013

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Tomb Raider M for mature because of strong language, violence, and blood and gore. You can shoot an arrow through a person’s head. That should be enough to tell you this one isn’t for minors. It’s a much more adult-themed Uncharted, with scatterings of curse words here and there when appropriate.

Plays Like: There’s no two ways about it, Crystal Dynamics took inspiration from the Uncharted series, and that’s great news for fans of the series. Lara has never controlled better, featured smoother gameplay, or had such an emphasis on exploration. There are even some Metroid-like elements whereby Lara can upgrade her items to traverse previously unreachable areas.

Review Basis: Finished the single player game in a dozen hours, and then tried the multiplayer.

Tomb Raider is the result of what happens when you take a talented studio and challenge them with the task of reinventing Lara Croft for today’s modern gamer. It’s visually powerful, thought-provoking, and above all else it’s incredibly fun to play. Crystal Dynamics has done a superb job in creating one of the very best action games of 2013, and one no one should miss out on playing. Here’s why.

Exploring will take you to all new heights.
Exploring will take you to all new heights.

The Great:

Hands-down the audio visual presentation is incredible. From the superb use of its orchestrated soundtrack, to wonderful and strong sound effects, the audio experience enhances the true masterpiece, the graphics. This is one of the most stunning videogames released this generation. Every single graphical technique is used at one point, sometimes all at once. From breathtakingly lush forests, to a giant mountainside, the environments are varied and mind blowingly detailed. Towards the end of the game there’s one scene where you’re overlooking the ocean and thinking to yourself how are graphics like these are possible, only to realize moments later that you’re about to actually head down there for a little exploration time. It’s just out of this world how impressive looking this game is, and how much fun it is to explore.

He won't feel a thing.
He won’t feel a thing.

The Good:

+ Very strong storyline. While not flawless, seeing an innocent Lara marooned on an island and forced to do whatever it takes to survive is great way to relaunch the franchise. The story only continues to darken as players progress. It’s a very serious tale about one young woman’s fight to survive, and it rules.

+ Phenomenal combat system. Lara can use cover naturally, without having to hit a button and it works perfectly. While only a handful of weapons are featured in the game, each can be upgraded by scavenging parts scattered all throughout the environment.

+ Exploration is so much fun. While there’s a set path to follow, the game allows you to go where you please. From leaping, to climbing and puzzle solving, players have to master all of Lara’s abilities in order to access hidden areas. The main path is always clear, but some of the secret areas are extremely well hidden and because of that you get a true sense of accomplishment when you discover them.

+ Exploration is rewarded. While not forced, players that do take the time to explore are given more experience, which is used to increase Lara’s skills such as being able to execute a stun maneuver on enemies, or being able to gain bonus parts from scavenged goods, etc. Exploration also enhances the storyline by filling in the blanks not revealed in cutscenes and other in-game communiques.

+ Metroid-like system where new items unlock previously unreachable areas. Hidden tombs are also scattered throughout the game, which only the truest explorers will find, and offer some truly challenging and intelligent physics-based puzzles.

+ A.I. will always try to flush you out of hiding spots, and if you’re not careful you can easily get flanked.  While Normal difficulty never proved frustrating, playing this on one of the harder settings would be quite challenging.

+ Survival Instinct mode highlights key objects Lara can interact with in the environment. Some may find this cheap, but it does help new players ease into the game, so I welcome it. For the hardcore, don’t use it as it acts as the ultimate hand-holding mode.

Stylized menus keep you connected to the game at all times, even while you make a few upgrades.
Stylized menus keep you connected to the game at all times, even while you make a few upgrades.

The So-So:

+/- The first hour is nothing more than an extended cutscene with quick-time events thrown in for good measure. It can be a little off-putting, but after the first hour the game opens up and players are free to explore the island.

If you're too anxious to run and gun, you can easily be surrounded.
If you’re too anxious to run and gun, you can easily get surrounded.

The Bad:

– While the storyline and character progression are great, there is one jarring issue. We’re meant to care about Lara and really feel for her when she’s forced to kill for the first time. It’s a very powerful moment which is spoiled when three seconds later she mows down a dozen or so enemies. One second she’s crying over killing someone, the next she’s a stone-cold killer.

One of the most breathtaking portions of the game.  What lies just around the corner is incredible.
One of the most breathtaking portions of the game. What lies just around the corner is incredible.

The Ugly:

Completely forgettable and unnecessary multiplayer. Four game modes offer standard fair, team deathmatch, free-for-all, and two objective-based modes round out the package. This game didn’t want, or ask for multiplayer, and after a few rounds you’ll never bother with it again even though there are rankings and tons of unlockable goodies.

You aren't prepared for the adventure that lies ahead.
You aren’t prepared for the adventure that lies ahead.

The Lowdown:

Of all the remakes and reboots we’ve seen over the years, this is my personal favorite. The Tomb Raider series has always come so close to greatness, and this time it finally achieves it. By taking the combat system from Uncharted, and customizing it to meet their needs, Crystal Dynamics have recreated an aging franchise for a brand new generation of gamer. If you’re a fan of action adventure games, this is one of the best currently available on the market. Buy it right now!

Final Score: 9/10

The Incredible Return of Lara Croft

I recently picked up three games I plan to review over the coming weeks, Crysis 3, BioShock: Infinite, and Tomb Raider. I decided to start with TR because I enjoyed the original back on the PS1. While the full review will hit sometime later this week, potentially even tomorrow, Steven said it would be cool to have a little write-up on what my initial impressions are, or a little history piece, etc. So I decided to write this article instead.

Stunning only begins to describe this game.
Stunning only begins to describe this game.

First off, let’s discuss my history with the Tomb Raider franchise. I played the very first Tomb Raider on the original PlayStation way back in 1996. I’ve been a longtime fan of the Indiana Jones movies, and thought this was as close as I’d ever get to actually playing a videogame in that universe. While I enjoyed the original’s environments and setting, I never really liked the controls. From what I recall they were exactly the same as the classic Resident Evil controls. While those controls may have worked well for RE, it was a slow-paced game. Replicating them in a fast-paced action game never felt right. I also vividly remember always hopping over ammo I needed because of Lara’s weird hop to run mechanic. That always aggravated me.

While I looked into the next 160 Tomb Raider games, I honestly never had that same feeling again. The series became more and more action packed, and I felt it was becoming more Syphon Filter than Indiana Jones. I also didn’t like the fact that Lara’s chest had become the staple of the series. Sure a little eye candy never hurt, but I have always been into the setting and gameplay more so than anything else.

Every graphical trick in the book is being used here.
Every graphical trick in the book is being used here.

When Naughty Dog announced Uncharted for the PlayStation 3, I felt that the time had finally come for me to play through an Indiana Jones-inspired videogame that actually played well, and that’s exactly how I walked away feeling once I had finished the game. Funny how everything always goes back to those movies. For the longest time I thought Uncharted would remain my action adventure fix, but that changed when I saw the first gameplay footage of this year’s franchise reboot, Tomb Raider. It finally looked like the developers got it right. That the emphasis would now be on the character and setting, and not on her mammaries. Gameplay looked like it had been ripped direction from the Uncharted series, and that for once, Tomb Raider would live up to its name.

I’m currently on chapter 20 of 22, and I can tell you right now this is a game you should all play, especially if you’re like me and love the Uncharted series, or the Indiana Jones movies. Lara has become a real person in this game, not just some buxom beauty. While her character development is a little flawed, the game itself is fantastic. The core concept is also excellent, how she’s marooned on some exotic island and how “a survivor is born.” I really love that concept, and it makes her feel that much more human. Being a franchise reboot, what an excellent way of revealing Lara to the world for the fist time. The setting itself also begs to be explored, which is something the other games never really had. Here, you can go back and revisit previous areas as you find new gear to help you traverse areas you couldn’t reach before. Yes, it actually has some Metroid flavor added.

It's time to start exploring.
It’s time to start exploring.

Action is also fluid and natural, feeling very close to that of the Uncharted series. There’s a solid upgrade system that allows for progression based on your exploration. Just want to plow through the game, that’s an option, but if you spend a little time going back to previously visited areas you can max out your shotgun’s abilities, for example. This is done by finding spare parts scattered around the island. You can also hunt local wildlife for experience, which rewards skill points. Skill points allow Lara to become a better hunter, a better killer, and more well rounded overall.

I don’t want to give anything else away, but of everything, it’s the audio visual presentation that have been the most impressive. This island feels alive. Time hasn’t been kind to it either. The island was used as a bunker during World War II, and the game takes place many years after that, so you can imagine how everything is falling apart, or well used. The lighting and environmental effects will leave you floored. I’m playing the game on max settings and with an Xbox 360 controller on PC, and have been utterly shocked by some of the key scenes. Again, don’t want to spoil anything, but damn does this game look absolutely gorgeous.

A legend is born.
A legend is born.

If you haven’t played Tomb Raider yet, I highly recommend you pick it up for whatever console you’re currently gaming on. It’s available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360, and I’d imagine that it’s just as impressive no matter where you play it. It deserves to be played though. It sold 3.4 million copies and Square-Enix said it failed to meet sales expectations. I’m not sure how many copies they planned on it selling, but I consider this the best franchise reboot of the generation, and one any action adventure fan should play.

Gears of War Judgment Review

Gears of War JudgmentGears of War Judgment (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 10
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: People Can Fly
Release Date: March 19th, 2013

Parent Talk: This should come as no surprise, but Gears of War Judgment is rated M for mature because of blood and gore, intense violence, and strong language. To put things into perspective there’s a gun you can use that has a chainsaw attached to it that you can use to saw a Locust in half. That should be enough to make you realize this isn’t for little Timmy.

Plays Like: I’d love to say this one plays exactly like the other games in the series, but that would be a lie. Developer People Can Fly took some bold risks and made some rather significant changes to the core mechanics. While you still have to use cover and the game retains it’s third person perspective, you can no longer plan your attacks ahead of time. Gears has changed.

Review Basis: Completed the campaign and tried the various online modes. Microsoft was kind enough to send a review copy prior to release so we could get this review up ASAP.

Gears of War Judgment takes everything that worked with the original trilogy and adds an entirely new dimension of gameplay elements into the mix. As a result the series feels fresh again, and while some may not like the new direction, I personally believe this is the best thing to happen to the series since the original hit the scene. This universe still has a lot of secrets yet to be revealed.

Gears of War Judgment1

The Great:

The new Declassify system allows players to choose whether to keep the fight going as usual, or to add a new twist into the mix, that ties directly into the storyline. For example, if you activate the system right before an encounter the narrative might say “suddenly there was a big explosion” and then for the rest of the encounter visibility will be reduced therefore forcing you to use cover better than had you kept things going as they were. It’s an outstanding addition that completely changes the dynamic of the game.

Gears of War Judgment2

The Good:

+ While some story elements are cliched, it works. Cole left a life of luxury to protect what he feels he must. Baird disregards orders to protect his home, therefore destroying any possible future he might have had with the military. These are young men doing what they feel is right, instead of what they’re told. They aren’t the battle-hardened warriors you remember from the original trilogy, and because of that you can sympathize with them at a much more personal level.

+ New arcade scoring system ties the declassify system and risky gameplay into a fun and rewarding experience. New content is unlocked based on how well you perform.

+ Level design is radically different than what you’re used to. Gone are the linear hallways, replaced with massive non-linear areas. Players can choose how they want to tackle not only cover, but also where to place protective sentries.

+ New randomized spawn points keep you on your toes. If you die in an encounter and try it again, the system knows if you’re using the same tactics you did before. As such the Locust spawn in different areas, forcing you to constantly change or tweak your strategies.

+ Online multiplayer is about what you’d expect from a Gears game. The new OverRun mode has five player groups going after each other, and alternating between being a COG and the Locust. Each side has its own advantages and disadvantages, and only by mastering both will you start to earn impressive kill numbers.

+ Survival mode pits players against 10 AI-controlled waves of Locust as they do whatever it takes to make it out in one piece.

+ This is without a doubt the nicest looking Gears yet. Gone are the gray hallways and, mundane look. Because the storyline takes place so many years before the original game, the world apparently still has color left in it. Spectacular environments, stunning animations, great lighting effects and more round out a superb package.

+ The soundtrack is equally powerful. It’s quiet when it needs to be, yet emotional during key scenes. Sound effects are also rip-roaring and strong.

Gears of War Judgment4

The So-So:

+/- Non-human controlled partners haven’t become any smarter than they were in the past. Often you will require reviving only to bleed out while your teammates continue the fight without you.

The Bad:

– The final boss battle is anti-climatic and downright disappointing.

The Ugly:

Playing the Gears of War 3-inspired multiplayer mode and then going back to play the campaign. It feels a little jarring to see all that gray again.

Gears of War Judgment5

The Lowdown:

People Can Fly took a lot of chances with Judgment. It could have backfired or ended up becoming a huge disappointment, but the end result is a fresh and invigorating Gears of War that longtime fans will love. It breathes new life into the series, and shouldn’t be missed.

Final Score: 9/10

Dead Space 3 Review

Dead Space 3Dead Space 3 (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Action
Publisher: EA
Developer: Visceral Games
Release Date: February 5th, 2013

Parent Talk: Dead Space 3 has been rated M for mature because of intense violence, blood and gore, and strong language. As a survival horror franchise, players should expect some fairly grotesque images, terrifying situations and pulse-pounding action. This series isn’t for the faint of heart, and under no circumstances should children be allowed anywhere near this one.

Plays Like: Light puzzles elements, and tons of action against some truly nasty-looking creatures make this latest DS just as thrilling as the others. A new weapon-crafting feature adds a new layer of strategy to an already deep experience. The new co-op mode also adds a new dimension, because if you decide to use it, the game is not only more fun, but far less stressful.

Review Basis: Finished the game with a friend.

The Great:

Flexibility is the name of the game. Do you enjoy the feeling the feeling of isolation from the previous games? If so, it’s available for you to experience again. If you’re someone that wets the bed, grab a buddy and treat the game more as a straight-forward action romp. Unlike so many other games that have tried to do something like this before, if you opt to play by yourself, you don’t have a buddy character running alongside you. It’s for that reason why Dead Space 3 can feel like almost two entirely different experiences, both that kick ass.

Dead Space 3_4

The Good:

+ A superb weapon-crafting mechanic allows players to scavenge for parts and modify their weapons in any way they please. Add a flamethrower to their plasma cutter, or acid grenades, etc. While it takes some time to master, this new system is why the game feels so much more strategic than its predecessors.

+ Excellent use of enemies. From intense melee creatures that do nothing but run towards you, to more intelligent ones that use their environments as well as players do, everything works as you’d imagine.

+ Side missions and extra quests fill in some of the larger missing story elements and also extend the gameplay by quite a few hours. These short, but fun diversions are well worth picking up.

+ Incredible action pieces and stunning environments ensure the pace is almost always at a fever pitch. From wide open arctic mountainsides to confined corridors on a derelict spacecraft, the sheer variety of locations ensure players keep coming back for more.

+ The audio-visual presentation is just as impressive as ever. A solid surround sound set-up is required in order to get the most out of the game, but it’s well worth it. From odd and unsettling noises to stunning lighting and environmental effects, Dead Space 3 hits a home run.

Dead Space 3_3

The Bad:

– The series’ storyline has always been rather complex, especially as the franchise has expanded. Now we can officially say we’re entering the bizarre. Too many new characters are thrown to the shredder for little to no reason, and the storyline never develops enough for you to care about what’s going on. As a whole it feels like one convoluted mess.

– Some new gameplay mechanics don’t work as well as others. Scaling an ice-mountain may have sounded like fun on paper, but in execution it gets old really fast. Sadly you’re forced to use this mechanic over and over again.

The Ugly:

Shooting off a necromorph’s legs and watching it slowly crawl it’s way to your feet, only to be met with a kick to the head, decapitating it. Yummy.

Dead Space 3_2

The Lowdown:

Dead Space 3 is a really fun and enjoyable game, but misses the mark with some of the new gameplay mechanics that feel rushed and are completely overused. The story also could have used far more time in the oven. As complex as Dead Space 2 felt at times, it doesn’t hold a candle to this one. Sometimes adding new gameplay elements just for the sake of it doesn’t always make the game better, and that’s exactly what happens here. When the spotlight is on fear, or when you and a friend are busy mowing through hundreds of necromorphs, Dead Space 3 is a sheer delight, but some of the other elements bog down the experience. If you consider yourself a fan of the series, go ahead and pick-up DS3 now as I’m fairly certain you’ll have a really good time with it.

Final Score: 8/10

Far Cry 3 Review

Far Cry 3Far Cry 3 (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 16
Genre: FPS
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: December 4th, 2012

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Far Cry 3 M for mature because of blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, and use of drugs. This isn’t a game for minors in any way, shape, or form.

Plays Like: You assume the role of vacationing Jason Brody. Things go horribly wrong when pirates kidnap his companions and he’s forced to unleash hell on all those around him. While doing so, all from a first-person perspective, Jason’s mind begins to deteriorate as he comes to terms with the monster he is slowly becoming. From the outside in, it plays very much like your typical modern-day fps, but once you get involved, you realize it’s much more.

Review Basis: Ubisoft sent over the PS3 version of the game, and I played the PC version as well. Finished the single-player campaign and tried all the different multiplayer options.

Far Cry 3 is an excellent first-person shooter that grabs hold of players from the moment it begins and very rarely ever lets them go. It features a disturbing storyline, tries new things, and only has a few shortcomings that prevent it from becoming a modern-day classic. All things considered, this is one you’re going to want to play.

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The Great:

An open-world you actually want to explore. The Far Cry series is known for featuring lush and super realistic environments that beg to be explored. The same is true here. There are two incredibly large and detailed tropical islands for players to sink their teeth into. These islands are filled with wild life, enemies and so much more.

Story missions have you progressing the story in a natural way, but once you let loose and venture off into the wild, anything goes. You can take out command posts so you can eventually quick travel to different locations or top off your ammo, you can liberate animal hostages, take out radio towers and so much more. It all comes together in a wonderfully accessible and fun package.

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The Good:

+ Excellent storyline that focuses on Jason’s inward journey instead of his shallow and one-dimensional friends. There are some truly deep and disturbing moments players will live out over the course of the game.

+ Make use of your surroundings or prepare to die. It’s a great feeling being given a bunch of seemingly useless tools, only to realize that each one serves a purpose. Don’t use stealth properly, or fail to jam a radio transmitter and you’ll find yourself taking a dirt nap.

+ Incredible variety of activities and missions. From driving an ATV to hunting wildlife, there’s almost an endless amount of things to do to keep you busy outside the main storyline. These unique missions almost never feel forced, they simply flow with the setting and the situation Jason finds himself in.

+ RPG elements are light, but work well. As you earn experience new upgrades unlock giving Jason access to more health, skills and unique abilities.

+ Cooperative missions help flesh out the campaign, with up to four players taking part, and the online multiplayer is exactly what you’d expect. One nice addition is the multiplayer map editor, where players can go absolutely wild.

+ A wonder for the senses. Not only is the music sweeping and majestic, but the visuals are just incredible. The PC version requires a powerful rig, but is the best option to see just how stunning the game can look. That said, the console versions are extremely detailed, and are clearly pushing the aging hardware to their limits. The art design is also top notch.

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The So-So:

+/- Freedom is great, but when the game tries to convince you to move on to the next objective it reaches Navi-level irritation. How many times do I really need to hear the exact same phone call telling me to go to such and such location.

The Bad:

– Some odd design choices are frustrating. One of the worst is dying, re-spawning and making your way back to where you just fell, only to realize all the enemies are back, but all the ammo you had picked up is gone.

The Ugly:

Always-on DRM for the PC version can be extremely annoying. While playing the offline campaign expect to get booted from the game because the online servers have gone down for some reason. Gah that’s frustrating!

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The Lowdown:

Far Cry 3 is one of the best shooters from 2012. The single player campaign is superb, and while some bizarre oversights keep it from becoming an instant classic, it will be remembered for many years to come. If you have a PC strong enough to run the game with “high settings” I highly recommend going that route, but the console versions are impressive if that’s your main platform of choice. Whatever you do, give this one a spin. It’s excellent.

Final Score: 9/10

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Official Trailer Released!

All you Halo fans out there, sit back and enjoy the first official trailer to Microsoft’s hour and a half commercial for Halo 4.  OK, maybe not, but the whole objective of this live-action web-series is to get you ubber excited forHalo 4.  I want to know if it worked!

So what do you think? Some of the acting is a little questionable, but it’s nice to see Anna Popplewell (of Narnia fame) again, and seeing Master Chief is always a plus.  So does this pump you up for Halo 4, or were you laughing through the whole trailer?  I want to hear your thoughts!

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?

Prototype 2 Review

Prototype 2 (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release Date: April 24, 2012

Parent Talk: Prototype 2 clearly defines the M rating.  Civilians can be killed without consequence; blood splatters everywhere as protagonist James Heller shape-shifts his limbs into all manner of horrible killing weapons.  Couple that with constant f-bombs, and you’ve a game aimed squarely at the 17-and-up crowd.

Plays Like:

When the first Prototype hit, another open-world,  ‘use the city as your personal gym’ type of game released: inFAMOUS.  The titles battled it out to be best of the sub-genre. They played almost identically, the differences being the setting, maturity level of the story, and content.  Anyone who played the original Prototype or inFAMOUS series knows exactly what to expect.  The city is open for your pleasure; your powers evolve over time, and your choices determine whether you’re perceived as a hero, or some kind of twisted villain.

Review Basis: Finished the game.

What happens when you take an open-world concept, add a wealth of collectibles to hunt down, position the original game’s hero as the antagonist, and add new elements to make players feel like they’re transforming into a demi-god?  You get an awesome action game that’s marred because of a lack of challenge and aging formula. Oh and the f-bombs don’t help either.  If you’ve played everything released in this sub-genre, chances are you’ve already picked P2 up.  If you’re making you’re way in, Prototype 2 is a decent place to start.

The Great:

Free-roaming. The second you control James, you can run up a building, glide from one rooftop to another, grab an enemy and fling him like a bowling ball into an unsuspecting group of his friends…or be a vicious monster by grabbing civilians to absorb their life force for much-needed health.  The possibilities feel endless, which is the point of an open world.

The Good:

+ Presentation. Lush visual effects, fantastic art…everything comes together as a living, breathing city that encourages exploration.

+ Refined controls. Using James’ more powerful attacks is much easier.

+ Combat. It’s gruesome, and strangely rewarding. You can attack while scooting along the side of a building, while on the ground with hand-to-hand techniques, or any combination while interacting with the environment.  There’s no shortage of means to mass-murder everyone around you. Sadistic? Indeed. Fun? You betcha.

+ Collectibles. Looking for them offers a nice break from the campaign, because they’re actually fun to find.

The So-So:

+/- Workable, but unimaginative story. James Heller is on a quest to hunt down those responsible for quarantining his city after purposely unleashing a virus on its citizens. He’s out for revenge and has his sights on Alex Mercer. It’s time to murder your maker, as the box elegantly puts it.  The premise works, but the execution is unimaginative and generic only a few hours in.

+/- Camera lag. The camera has trouble keeping up with the action. It isn’t constant, but frequent enough to notice.

+/- Been there, done that. Missions are balanced and the pacing is great, but don’t expect Prototype 2 to reinvent the wheel.

The Bad:

– F-bombs =/= maturity. Why do developers think that constant f-bombs make a story more ‘mature’? It doesn’t work here, and I think it distracts from the experience. Does anyone alive really cuss this much?

– Choices, really? After coming off Mass Effect 3, it’s hard to play a game where your decisions bear little weight.

– Easy. The streamlined controls and improved accessibility help players far overpower any threats. If you like challenges, Prototype 2 won’t provide.

The Ugly:

When the outbreak comes to a head and things start to go south, some civilians look nasty. Growing in power, you won’t believe what you’re eventually capable of. The poor people have no idea what’s coming to ‘em.

The Lowdown:

Prototype 2 does nothing new, but is certainly approachable by players just now enjoying open-world games. I would’ve enjoyed more impact from my decisions, and a protagonist that doesn’t cuss every two seconds, but P2 is still a fun game. How James evolves, the overall story and mission variety completes a solid fifteen hour offering for players.

If you enjoy games like inFAMOUS, Prototype 2 is a pretty easy recommend. If you want a profound story and consequences, perhaps this isn’t your next buy. For those in the middle, Prototype 2 offers a lot of fun in a not-so-perfect package.

Final Score: 7.5/10