Tag Archives: Live

One of the best WWE Promos/Shoots is not on TV…It’s Videogame-related!

We have an interesting situation upon us. For everyone who has been watching American pro-wrestling for the past two decades, it’s obvious how it has changed for the worse for most hardcore followers. Reason being is that it’s aiming for PG most of the time. For people like me who have grown up with the WCW/NWO era and WWE’s Attitude era, I miss the old storylines which blur between reality and real-life conflicts. Also, the wrestling back then was definitely a lot better and more technical than today’s short matches. There are a few exceptions though. CM Punk, one of today’s top WWE wrestlers, is such an exception. He has shown a lot of talent in the ring and on the mic…reflecting the Attitude mid-90s era of WWE. He would’ve fit so well with the likes of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. So everyone keeps asking, “What If?”. That’s where the brilliance of this promo video and upcoming videogame shine.

Wrestling games are definitely included in the rise and fall of the fandom for me. Nothing beats AKI’s n64 wrestling games; WCW/NWO World Tour, WCW/NWO Revenge, WWF No Mercy — man, the gameplay mechanics were simple to learn yet hard to master. The multiplayer was extremely addictive. I’ve fallen out with the Yukes-developed games…and believe me, I’ve tried a lot to like them…but I always end up disappointed. Flash forward to the recent revamp of the games, starting off with WWE ’12. I skipped on it, but heard a lot of good things. It truly tries to recapture some of the classic moments of videogames and wrestling, but I’ve always felt it was missing something. Well, WWE ’13 seems to know what is has been missing — the Attitude Era. Yeah; there’s a whole mode and roster of wrestlers dedicated to the old days when everything was cool. Additionally, pitting the old-school against the new-school is a brilliant way to grab an audience. This clash rarely happens in today’s real pro-wrestling as the Attitude wrestlers have moved on with their lives (with the exception of last year’s The Rock vs. John Cena). This video is simply brilliant from a marketing and actual WWE reality TV standpoints as it brings CM Punk and Stone Cold Steve Austin face-to-face to shoot at each other and talk about the “what ifs” of the game. They also manage to make the tension between them very life-like, yet not too over-the-top and cheesy like current WWE programming. It’s a balance that’s very delicate, subtle and extremely hard to attain…because this shoot promo shows that both of them respect each other, yet they don’t mind to shoot jabs at each other for the sake of promoting the game itself. In a word, brilliant. Simply brilliant. While it’s a huge oversight that current WWE TV programming did not take advantage of having a promo similar to this viral YouTube one (current WWE TV ratings are in an all-time low), I’m happy that gamers and videogames are actually getting the attention they deserve. It goes to show you that whoever’s in charge of marketing WWE’s games and online-related media outlets are a lot more competent than WWE’s current writers and bookers, including Vince McMahon himself.

After watching this promo, WWE ’13 has certainly gotten my attention. The TV writers would be stupid to skip out on the opportunity to make Stone Cold vs. CM Punk a reality after the awesome chemistry they’ve shown in this video.

Mass Effect 3 Review

Mass Effect 3 (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Players: 1-4
Genre: RPG
Publisher: EA
Developer: BioWare
Release Date: March 6, 2012
PSN/Xbox Live: Online Multiplayer

Parent Talk: The Mass Effect trilogy has been rated M, not for gore or blood, but partial nudity and adult themes.  The mature subject matter has also been the cause of controversy over the years.  All this is to say children shouldn’t play this game.

Plays Like: Any BioWare RPG since Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic (KOTOR).

Review Basis: Completed the Xbox 360 version on Insanity difficulty; invested about a dozen hours in the multiplayer.

I purposely waited about a week after completing Mass Effect 3 to present our review. The reason: the ending. I’ll discuss it later, but know that what you’ve heard is basically true; ME3’s ending is disappointing. However, I wanted to let the controversy sink in and see what I thought after stepping back a bit. Now, I’m still playing. It’s the culmination of a series that redefined gaming. How is it? Well, read on to find out.

The Great:

Everything. It’s hard to pinpoint one aspect that surpasses all others, but I’ll choose the world BioWare created here. Everything since Mass Effect is linked, making this truly feel like your Shepard’s story. You really believe that you’re shaping what happens, and likely different than your friends. Amazing, no?

Mass Effect 3 concentrates on all the different race conflicts. There are so many wonderful chapters that it’s tough not to spoil anything. The Krogan has always been my favorite alien race because of its underdog status. Everybody hates them because they’re fearless warriors. That’s why the Salarians created the Genophage: to forcefully eliminate Krogan reproduction. A great example of the deep story is that you can cure the Genophage. That decision is yours, and depends on your choices from the previous games. You might feel differently about the Krogan. There are countless other examples where in the end you must recount your decisions to determine how things finish.

When I thought it couldn’t be better than the Genophage chapters, ME3 re-introduces the Geth-Quarian conflict. Wow! Now we understand what that was about in Mass Effect. That’s all I will say. I can’t stress enough; everything you’ve done before playing ME3 impacts the final adventure. No other developer has supported this kind of endeavor. It’s an incredible achievement.

The Good:

+ Remove the plot and BioWare magic, and Mass Effect is still a blast. If you like shooters, this is a top-notch cover-based one that adds a multitude of powers to the mix. Like action games? Pump up the difficulty to Insanity for one heck of a thrill ride. What about RPGs? You’re covered. And now, there’s a lot more customization as you earn experience accomplishing tasks. (Mass Effect 2 leveled you up after every mission.) You can then spend money and experience on upgrades and different weapons. Mass Effect 3 is for gamers, period.

+ The Paragon/Renegade system. I hate when I’m asked whether I played Paragon or Renegade. I don’t understand that. ME isn’t meant to be played like that, but with your heart and mind. If you play making only Paragon or Renegade decisions, you’ve missed the point. Mass Effect is about personality and creating your own adventure. It’s like politics; you can’t please everyone. There’s not always a right or wrong option, and I think ME3 captures this perfectly. I thought that trying to be perfect wouldn’t make me the Shepard I needed to be in order to be a strong leader and save the galaxy. I also really like the different choices. There’s a General at one point who’s fixed on killing some Geth, though I was still on the ship. I was angry about that and wanted to punch him out. Lo and behold, that option comes. If you play as though you were truly Shepard, much fun will be had.

+ Multiplayer. It being co-op and not competitive sold me. I’ve invested well over a dozen hours just in the multiplayer. I didn’t expect much, and only started it once I finished the campaign. It’s basically Gears of War’s Horde mode. With three others, you must survive waves of enemies. It’s fun because of the different classes and leveling up, which proves Mass Effect’s core formula. A varied team is also important for the harder missions. Biotic powers are a must, along with heavy firepower. Worst-case, you don’t have to play this. The solo portion doesn’t suffer at all. Those who get into though enjoy significant value.

The So-So:

+/- Romance options. I went for Miranda in Mass Effect 2, and got screwed in 3. I won’t spoil, but say you get the short end of the stick with some characters.

The Bad:

– An annoying bug. It’s not frequent, but frustrating. Basically, an enemy becomes frozen in time and invincible. When that happens, you must restart from a previous save. It’s worse in multiplayer, as you’re forced to quit the match and forfeit all your experience.

– The ending. It almost made me cry. It’s sad that this is how one of the greatest gaming franchises ends. The promises about different and unique endings weren’t fulfilled. Is that horrible? No, it depends on your passion for the series. Some have told me they thought the ending was fantastic. Most of those people are casual fans. There’s hope however, thanks to logical theories out there that I won’t speak of due to spoil risk. I think future DLC will add more closure and possibly redeem BioWare’s damaged reputation. Those that don’t want to spend more money, or don’t have internet access, will have to deal with the ending they experience. Everything is awesome until the last 15 minutes. Did someone outside BioWare write the endings?

The Lowdown:

Fifteen minutes of essentially a 130-hour adventure (the trilogy) doesn’t ruin the franchise. Sure, I want a better ending, as it still hurts. But, everything else is incredible. As a gamer and a person, I’ve grown with BioWare since KOTOR and Jade Empire. It’s something about how far they pushed this genre. If you game, there’s no other way to look at it. Mass Effect should be experienced by all, and my very first perfect score goes to the whole series, not just 3. Heck, this is the first time that I’m excited for DLC! Now that’s scary.

Final Score: 10/10

(But seriously, the ending blows…)

Warp Review

Warp (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: EA
Developer: TrapDoor
Release Date: February 15th, 2012

Parent Talk: While Warp features an adorable little alien, it also has tons of gratuitous violence, strong language and blood and gore.  Yes sir, this was rated M for mature for a very good reason.  Keep children as far away as possible.

Plays Like: Warp plays like a stealth action game, a la Metal Gear Solid, but with heavy puzzle elements.  It also has a very familiar Portal feel to it at times.  That’s sort of expected as you’re warping from room to room, and from one object to another.

Review Basis: I finished off the story mode, and tried a few time trials, which proved to be way too difficult for me.

How many times have you played a game where an alien visitor comes to Earth only to feel the might of our strongest army.  Be it a first-person shooter, third-person action game or whatever else you can think of, the poor aliens always seem to get the short end of the stick.  Well not this time!  Warp features a lovable alien that is captured by the evil humans who experiment on and cut him open while he’s still conscious!  Trapped in an underwater facility, the alien quickly regains his powers, and with your help makes his way through corrupted scientists, guards and anyone or anything else that stands in its way as it tries to escape.

The Great:

Not at all what you expect.  What begins as such a cute-looking game quickly turns dark and never looks back.  Once your alien counterpart is on the loose, he can warp through walls, and into any object, including people.  By rotating the left analog stick he can then cause said objects to explode from the inside out.  This causes a large pool of blood to spurt everywhere; thereby making your jaw hit the ground.  It may only be shocking the first time, but you won’t soon forget it.

The Good:

+ Excellent gameplay.  By warping into different objects, people or anything else, you try and traverse each area as quickly and quietly as possible.  You’re also rewarded for taking out as few people as possible.  For those asking why don’t you just warp out of the facility, you can’t as the alien can’t touch salt water or he temporarily looses his powers and remember you’re in an underwater facility.

+ Puzzles can be solved in multiple ways, further adding to the variety.  You can typically use stealth to make your way through, or kill everyone.

+ Exploration is encouraged as you can find hidden grub worms, which are a form of currency.  These worms allow your alien to unlock new abilities, such as being able to shoot projectiles or create copies of yourself to throw guards off the trail.

+ Leaderboards help connect you to your friends.  Once you perform a certain number of tasks your overall rank is measured against your friends, making the replay value higher than anticipated.

The So-So:

+/- Not the most technically impressive arcade out there.  All the lab techs look identical, all the guards, etc.

The Bad:

– The final boss is a bit of a letdown compared to the rest of the game.  Don’t want to spoil it, but TrapDoor should have rethought this.  There are also a lot of technical issues that pop up during the final battle for one reason or another.

– Identity crisis.  Sometimes the cute look is a little too jarring from all the vulgarities being thrown your way.  While the game never takes itself seriously, I found the mish mash didn’t always work as intended.

The Ugly:

“Sometimes I cry when I masturbate” – Yeah that’s an actual line you’ll hear.  Imagine what else follows something like that.

The Lowdown:

Warp is a really fun game, but goes a little over the top sometimes with the language and violence.  I suppose it’s part of the game’s charm, but some might find it a little excessive.  If that doesn’t bother you, then Warp should certainly be checked out.  I caught myself laughing quite a few times, and by the end I wanted all the humans to pay for what they’d done.  I’m sure you will too.

Average Score Scale: 7.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: If you’re looking to finally have the chance to get revenge on all those evil humans for torturing aliens for countless centuries, this is a game for you. 

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: If you can’t get into the cute yet murderous style of the game, it’s easy to be turned off.  That said, the gameplay remains exceptionally tight and addicting. 

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare Review

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Remedy
Release Date: February 22nd, 2012
Price: 1,200 Microsoft Points (~$15)

Parent Talk: American Nightmare is rated T for teen because of strong language, violence suggestive themes and blood.  I’d also add scary images just in case you’re one of those that think the T rating is suitable for younger kids.  If you fail to follow the ESRB guidelines, it’ll likely be your children who will end up having nightmares.

Plays Like: If you’ve played the original Alan Wake you know exactly what to expect, as the core mechanics are largely unchanged.

Review Basis: Finished the story mode, and tried what amounts to a horde mode.

Alan Wake was something of a mixed bag when it was originally released back in May 2010.  We all agreed that the combat was interesting at the beginning, but quickly become stagnant.  The storyline was well written, and the setting was unique, but because the combat never evolved, the entire package suffered as a result.  Read through Justin’s review if you’re interested in all the finer details.  Now Remedy is back, and this time they’ve taken their hero down south, placed more emphasis on combat and made this a digital-only release.

The Great:

For an arcade release there’s certainly a lot of bang for your buck.  There’s a four to five hour story mode, and a Horde-style Fight Till Dawn mode where you take on wave after wave of increasingly difficult Taken for ten minutes.

The Good:

+ The same visual prowess the original game enjoyed makes its shocking return here.  The fact the same lighting, textures and character models were able to fit in this digital download is extremely impressive.

+ New open environments lose the claustrophobic feeling, but make combat much more engaging.  As do the new enemies.  New weapons can also be unlocked by finding manuscript pages scattered everywhere, which help add a little variety to the gunplay.

The So-So:

+/- The storyline no longer focuses on madness and terror, instead changing into a pulp novel of sorts.  While the change of pace is appreciated, the lack of continuity with the original feels jarring.  We’re not told why we’re in Night Springs, or why we’re trying to fix reality.

+/- The main gameplay twist in the story mode is having to replay the same sequence of events over and over again until Alan can fix reality.  While original at first, it gets repetitive fairly quickly.

+/- Fight Till Dawn mode would have been so much better with online coop.

+/- Previously on Alan Wake is no longer featured; meaning new players won’t understand what Alan’s current mind frame is.  Then again, because this is a side story it might not matter all that much.

The Bad:

– The great atmosphere from the original has been completely changed.  While there are certainly some creepy moments in the game, this is no longer a survival horror and because of that many will feel let down.

The Ugly:

At the end of the day, even with the refinements, the combat feels exactly the same as it did in the original.  You shine your light on enemies to knock down their defenses and then blast them away.  No matter what you do to enhance that, the core mechanics are always the same.

The Lowdown:

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is a fun arcade game, and for around $15 it’s certainly worth the price of admission for fans of the series, but it doesn’t do enough to help push the franchise forward.  The atmosphere and setting were the two best features from the original game, and those have been replaced with an emphasis on combat…the one area that never really came together.  If you love everything about Alan Wake you’ll really enjoy this one, but everyone else will likely be disappointed thanks to the genre change, the side story, and overall feeling this combat system never evolved as it should have.

Average Score Scale: 7.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 6.5/10 (Deflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: If you’re a really big fan of the series and loved the original combat system.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: If you really enjoyed the original’s setting and focus on storyline, you will likely be disappointed. 

SoulCalibur V Review

SoulCalibur V (Available on PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1-2
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Project Soul
Release Date: January 31, 2012

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates SoulCalibur V T for teen because of Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, and Violence.  As a fighting series with no gore, the T rating is logical and practical.

Plays Like: Any other SoulCalibur.  Other 3D fighters such as Tekken and Dead or Alive.

Review Basis: Played everything the game has to offer.  Tried online battles, messed with the create-a-character, and played story mode.

SoulCalibur is back, and some might say better than ever.  Featuring a huge cast of fighters, a refined battle system that incorporates 2D weapon-based combat mechanics, SoulCalibur V is as simple or complex as you make it. Even the newest challenger can grab a controller and be lost for hours in this wonderful game.  That is, if they can figure out how everything works.

The Great:

The Critical Gauge. This addition dramatically changes the game, whether you like it or not.  Taken from 2D fighters, the two-bar gauge slowly fills as you fight.  Each participant can execute one Critical Edge move, a flashy mega skill that deals incredible damage at the cost of one bar.  Brave Edge attacks, which use less gauge, are enhanced standard attacks that allow for extended combos. The Critical Gauge also supports defense, such as to parrying. As a whole, SoulCalibur is a much more in-your-face fighter than ever.

The Good:

+ Critical Gauge limitations. Given the new gauge’s usefulness, Project Soul was wise to ensure that players can’t abuse it. You have to earn the power to use it.

+ Offensive focus rebalances defense. Block too much and your character automatically drops his/her guard, leaving you open to attack.

+ Eight-way movement returns. It’s also joined by the ability to side-step attacks by pressing up or down twice.

+ Interesting new characters. What’s not to like about having Assassin’s Creed’s Ezio join the fun?  He’s balanced, making him the best third-party character to join the SoulCalibur ranks. Other fresh faces borrow movesets from other characters, but they’re still fun to play.

+ Create-a-character returns. It offers an assortment of customization options: selecting a fighting style, altering your fighter’s appearance, etc. Creations can’t be used in the story mode, but work perfectly otherwise.

+ Refined online play. From smooth, lag-free gameplay (as long as you have a four or five-bar connection), to a spectator mode, profile cards and much more, SoulCalibur V proves it has the muscle to stay competitive.

+ Sensational animations, superb backdrops and all-around amazing visuals. SCV is the nicest-looking entry in a series that only continues to see refinements with each iteration.

+ Equally-impressive audio. From the crushing sound effects to the beautiful soundtrack, it’s all great.  Then again…the voice acting is cheesy as usual.

The So-So:

+/- Somewhat shallow modes. There’s something for all to enjoy, just don’t expect to stay engaged for long because the content is basic compared to other fighters. SCV at least brings variety to the table in the form of arcade, battle, story and online modes.

The Bad:

– Story mode.  Players are tasked to battle mostly forgettable challengers over and over through an equally forgettable plot. Where are the intricacies we enjoyed in SoulCalibur II and IV?

– Where are all the other favorite fighters? One must wonder if this was an intentional move designed for post-release DLC.

The Ugly:

All the changes made to an already technical fighter series means you need a solid tutorial to ease players into everything. SoulCalibur accomplished this through the story mode progression.  Now you’re on your own unless you consider a screen of text a tutorial.

The Lowdown:

SoulCalibur V reinvents the series.  Many of the new features can actually be traced back to Soul Edge.  The focus on offense, the penalties for playing strict defense, everything…comes together perfectly. If it weren’t for the poor story and lack of a proper tutorial, this would be a hit. For now, SCV is another excellent series entry with one of the deepest fighting systems devise, just not as well-thought-out.

Average Score Scale: 7.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: You can master the new mechanics quickly.  

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: You stumble and fail because of the potentially overwhelming changes.


Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Review

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Players: 1-8
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: November 15, 2011
PSN/Xbox Live: Online Multiplayer

Parent Talk: Revelations is rated M for mature by the ESRB because of strong language, blood, violence and sexual themes.  We highly recommend parents not to let their young ones play this.

Plays Like: The previous Assassin’s Creed games.

Review Basis: Finished the story and played some online multiplayer on the PS3 version, which also exclusively includes the original Assassin’s Creed.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations fantastically says goodbye to some old friends. Ezio and Altair have helped shape this generation, and their legacy ends on a high note. Not every new element is a hit, but the overall package provides an excellent time-kill this holiday.

The Great:

Revelations is just that, a storytelling revelation.  The cutscenes naturally flow and grip you as the story is shaped. By the time Ezio and Altair appear for the last time, you’ll feel more attached to them than ever. Desmond also returns with a unique and twisted tale all his own.  There’s a great balance between the plotlines, and Revelations doesn’t disappoint with the fan-expected AC “whoa” moment. Where the series goes from here in anyone’s guess, but Ubisoft seriously upped their game.

The Good:

+ Same great gameplay.  Accept a mission, then enjoy the playground of the city as you run, climb, jump and stalk to another assassination.

+ Epic scale, grand adventure.  From a river chase to exploring a deep, dark cavern, the large set pieces are exhilarating and the game’s best moments.

+ Refined controls.  A tweaked input layout gives you immediate access to primary and secondary weaponry. This allows for better stealth in assassinations, and more varied combat.

+ Fresh, improved online multiplayer. New modes, a tightened user interface and abundance of options entice players to come back. There’s even a story wrapped around multiplayer; how cool is that?

+ The nicest-looking AC. You might be surprised by the more detailed character models and environments. Constantinople never looked this good.

+ Subdued, but tense music. The soundtrack injects excitement into key scenes. The voice acting is equally impressive, making this a pleasing adventure for the eyes and ears.

The So-So:

+/- Desmond’s segments are like his mind, fractured and bizarre.  In first-person, you navigate a strange Troninspired world by creating a series of blocks.  This actually helps reduce the monotony of assassinating, but players may be thankful it’s optional because of how off-the-wall it is.

+/- Have we played this before? Non-fans of Assassin’s Creed won’t find enough variety here to be brought on board. Long time fans will be pleased.

The Bad:

– Tacked-on, useless tower defense. When Ezio overtakes new areas of Constantinople, he’s challenged for ultimate control.  Guards pour down a street, and Ezio must command rooftop troops to hold them back. It’s useless, and most of the time I just wanted to drop down and finish the invaders myself.

– Familiar, though less frequent problems. Case in point, redundant assassinations.

The Ugly:

Diving off a rooftop and missing your target, only to watch him kill you.  Assassin…I think not.

The Lowdown:

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is the best AC, but proves that yearly iterations can be problematic.  If you like the series, pick this up for the holiday break. The refinements and excellent online multiplayer make this a wonderful conclusion to Ezio and Altair’s colored history. If assassinating isn’t your thing however, there won’t be enough new here to change your mind.

Average Score Scale: 8.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8.5/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: You’re an AC fan and enjoy a great story.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: You’ve tired of the AC formula and seek significant improvement over before.

Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi Review

Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi (Available on PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1-8
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Spike
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Xbox Live/PSN: Online Multiplayer

Parent Talk: Ultimate Tenkaichi is rated T for teen because of cartoon violence, mild blood, and mild language.  The cartoon nature of the game helps it be unoffensive. Parent discretion is the best course of action.

Plays Like: Any simple button masher.  Combos are easily chained, and the melee system is more luck-based than skill-driven.

Review Basis: Completed the story mode and sampled the others.

Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi is the nicest-looking DBZ game.  It perfectly captures the quick movement, ferociousness and splendor of the anime. Unfortunately the gameplay doesn’t hold up as well.

The Great:

The most alive Dragon Ball Z I’ve ever played. Everything is silky smooth and in many ways looks better than the original TV show.  Hand-to-hand combat plays as you remember it, and the crazy energy projectiles are even better. Fire an energy blast, and a canyon appears in the environment, displaying the power of the attack. It looks incredible.

The Good:

+ Many different modes. There’s an extremely long story mode that covers each DBZ universe, a tournament mode, and an online versus mode.  Online matches work mostly well.

+ Basic create-a-character tools unlock your imagination.  This was long-requested by the DBZ community and it works great.

+ Impressive boss battles.  Some almost fill up the entire screen.

The So-So:

+/- Simple combat allows super speed.  Because combos are so easy to execute by anyone, there should be no trouble learning the system. Button mash, and presto, a lengthy combo is achieved.  While this is great to match the show’s battle speed, there’s little satisfaction for mastering such a simple formula.

+/- Special gauges for offense and defense. When both are full, an assortment of more advanced techniques are possible.  The problem is that basic combos are so simple to pull off that there’s little incentive to experience the fighting’s true potential.

The Bad:

– Damage doesn’t stick. Tenkaichi is a sadly-scripted affair, so attack damage is quickly reversed by the environments.

– The fighters sport the same move sets. They individually look different, but handle the same.

– Reversals are about chance.  You choose one of two on-screen options, and if your selection is different than the opponent’s…your combo continues. Choose the same option, and your opponent automatically reverses and counterattacks.

– Long load times.  What’s bizarre is that there are many ways to hide loading within cutscenes, but instead the game employs dull loading screens.

The Ugly:

You should see my funky character.  Toriyama Akira would shoot me if he was aware of my mess.

The Lowdown:

Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi had the potential to be more.  It nails the look and feel of the show, but the fighting isn’t robust or deep enough to keep players entertained. Rent it and decide if you agree with my sentiments, or believe it’s a better game.

Average Score Scale: 6.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 6/10 (Neutral)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: You adore everything DBZ.  The look and feel do the show justice.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: Lackluster combat leaves you craving more.

GoldenEye 007: Reloaded Review

GoldenEye 007: Reloaded (Available on PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1-16
Genre: FPS
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Eurocom
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Xbox Live/PSN: Online Multiplayer

Parent Talk: Much like the beloved N64 classic, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded features minimal blood, but remains a shooter all the same.  It also contains mild language, suggestive themes and violence.

Plays Like: Any modern FPS.

Review Basis: Finished campaign and participated in multiplayer.

GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is an HD remake of the Wii reimagining of the legendary N64 GoldenEye 007.  Got that? Thankfully this remake is an impressive shooter that doesn’t rely on nostalgia alone to deliver a fun and engaging FPS. If you’re at all tired of the military shooters available, Reloaded may be just what the doctor ordered.

The Great:

Stealth is emphasized, but not forced. Want to be a spy? Try to stealth through the campaign. It changes the dynamic of the game, and heightens the experience.  Not only are you rewarded for staying quiet, but it can also be necessary for survival. It’s your choice. If blasting through everything sounds more appealing, no one is stopping that.

The Good:

+ Not your father’s GoldenEye.  Instead of just slapping a fresh coat of paint on from the Rare-developed original, Eurocom built this from the ground up.

+ Variety of missions that span ten hours. From vehicle-based, to stealth or all-out action, there’s something for everyone.

+ Objectives that count.  You don’t merely plant bombs or eliminate targets, you must take pictures, gather intelligence, hack computers, etc.  Puzzles are also interesting and require a little thought to solve, like gaining access to an area that looks impenetrable.

+ Difficulty changes everything.  Like the N64 classic, the higher difficulties both heighten the enemy AI and force players to complete more tasks.

+ Playing on the hardest difficulty closely matches the original 007 because it removes health regeneration. Instead you must hunt for armor packs.

+ Weapon variety.  You’ve got shotguns, handguns, and much more.  Each has a specific use, and it’s fun determining which work well and when.

+ Excellent multiplayer.  Online features an assortment of classic Bond characters and a slew of modes. New weapons, equipment and modes unlock as you play more. The offline mode allows players to customize the game in about any way they see it, and includes 4-player splitscreen.

+ Mi6 Ops is a fun diversion.  Comprised of 40 levels inspired by the multiplayer maps, this solo mode tasks you to complete a single objective as efficiently as possible.

+ PS3 Move support allows for more precise aiming compared to the standard sticks, but both work well.

The So-So:

+/- The story. Unlike the N64 original, based on the movie, Reloaded is completely original and only retains certain elements from the film.

+/- Graphics are improved over the Wii reimagining, but still pale in comparison to other shooters this year. Overall it’s a big jump over what we played last year though.

The Bad:

– I was behind cover, I swear.  Occasionally enemies detect you despite being 100% hidden. Thankfully these occurrences are few and far, but can mean the difference between life and death.

– Quick-time events don’t work so well. Instead of instant feedback from your button presses (God of War/Uncharted), there’s a delay that drags down the experience.

– Where’s Time Trial? For some reason it was omitted in the HD remake, lowering the replay value somewhat.

The Ugly:

Seeing Jaws in HD, wow.

The Lowdown:

GoldeneEye 007: Reloaded is a fun FPS for those looking for something different this holiday. It may not enjoy all the refinements of a Call of Duty or Battlefield, but it didn’t have the budget. Eurocom should be commended for a job well-done in taking a different approach to remaster a gaming classic.

Average Score Scale: 7.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: A different shooter this generation. Difficulty affects the AI and changes the entire game.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: If you only enjoy epic, state-of-the-art FPS games, Reloaded won’t be polished enough.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Available for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Players: 1-18
Genre: FPS
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward & Sledgehammer Games
Release Date: November 8, 2011
Xbox Live/PSN: Online Multiplayer

Parent Talk: Modern Warfare 3 is rated M for mature because of blood and gore, drug references, intense violence, and strong language.  This is a war game, simple as that.

Plays Like: Most FPS games since the first Modern Warfare hit the scene four years ago.

Review Basis: Activision sent us the Xbox 360 Hardened Edition.  It comes with the game and free year of Call of Duty Elite.  Experienced all the multiplayer maps, most of Spec Ops, and finished the campaign.

Modern Warfare 3 reminds us why Call of Duty remains the most lucrative franchise of the generation.  While instead of each iteration being an innovative departure, but a mere refinement, MW3 yet offers countless hours of fun with one of the tightest multiplayer experiences. Fans won’t be disappointed.

The Great:

The online multiplayer.  It’s been refined to the point of insanity.  It will be familiar to any CoD player, and may not innovate enough for some, but no one can deny it’s fun.  Loadout menu changes and Call of Duty Elite integration give more control to players. It goes as deep as you want it to.  You can view so much metadata, ranging from your k/d ratio, to your overall number of bullets fired…the list is overwhelming.

Kill Confirmed. This excellent addition forces you to pick up enemy dog tags in order for a kill to be official.  Other tweaks to kill streaks and weapon upgrades need to be digested, but are all for the better.

The competitive multiplayer is likely to devour your free time. We have staff who’ve done nothing but engage multiplayer since purchasing the game.  It’s addictive.

The Good:

+ A tight, explosive campaign. Picking up where MW2 left off, gamers travel the globe in search of Makarov.  Intense battles play out wherever you’re thrust, be it London or New York.

+ Finish the fight.  MW3 completes the Modern Warfare canon with a satisfying climax that should please long-time fans.

+ Impressive, large-scale environments.  There’s little like fighting through a city on the verge of collapse.  These out-of-control scenarios are awe-inspiring and a delight to experience.

+ 16 excellent Spec Ops missions. They’re a blast to conquer with a buddy, or all by your lonesome. The missions are loosely based on the campaign, but offer more variety (stealth, anarchy, etc.) They’re easily completed on lower difficulties, but purists will leap right in to Veteran.

+ Survival mode.  Wave after wave of increasingly-challenging enemies swarm the competitive multiplayer maps. Win by any means necessary with your friends.

+ Rewards for just playing. Spec Ops and Survival will improve your profile and help in the purchasing of weapons, attachments, and other toys. The never-ending progression is satisfying, no matter your skill level.

The So-So:

+/- Dwindling excitement.  The campaign presents many exhilarating moments, and some are a shock to experience. Veterans however will realize that it’s just more of the same.  MW has groomed us to expect the unexpected, thus most of the intended surprises don’t reach their full potential.

+/- A top-notch, but struggling-to-improve presentation. The same engine that powered MW2 is showing its age in some areas.

The Bad:

– Campaign often feels like an afterthought.  Given the vast multiplayer refinements, the campaign tends to be too familiar. It plays great and is extremely satisfying, but I think more could have been done.

– A convoluted plot. Don’t expect to fully grasp what’s going on.  I often didn’t know who I was, nor did I really care. The time devoted to the characters doesn’t allow much opportunity for personal attachment.

The Ugly:

Time to move on. I’ve said it before with yearly series; each new game makes it more difficult to spot innovations brought forward.  That’s now happening to CoD. Perhaps a third developer needs to be brought onboard so new entries can enjoy three years of work instead of two?

The Lowdown:

Modern Warfare 3 is another excellent FPS in the series that completely changed gaming.  If you enjoy competitive or co-operative online multiplayer, this one’s a no-brainer.  If you crave a deep solo campaign, disappointment may be looming. MW3 offers a more refined experience than an innovative one.

Average Score Scale: 8.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8.5/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: Fun campaign. Excellent Spec Ops and Survival modes. One of the most refined competitive experiences for consoles.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: For those only interested in the campaign, odds are it won’t be enough.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Review

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Players: 1-16
Genre: FPS
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: 343 Industries / Saber Interactive
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Xbox Live: Online multiplayer

Parent Talk: Do you remember Halo: Combat Evolved?  If so, you know there’s a lot of blue and green blood, and tons of aliens to destroy by any means necessary.  The ESRB rates Halo Anniversary M for mature as such.

Plays Like: The original Halo and most other FPS games available.

Review Basis: Finished the campaign with a buddy, and tried what amounts to the new Halo: Reach map pack.

Halo Anniversary is wonderful fan service for everyone that enjoyed the original 2001 Xbox masterpiece. My goodness, has it been ten years already?!  Newcomers and old-timers alike can enjoy Anniversary, but a few refinements would have helped in completing the reimagination of the original classic.

The Great:

Finally, online co-op arrives in the campaign that started it all. After ten years, it’s wonderful to grab a friend, head online and play Halo. That’s where this HD remake shines the brightest because it’s a feature players asked for since Live originally launched.

The Good:

+ Original mystery still holds up.  The story is minimal, which is what makes it so great.  You don’t really know what’s happening, and when you do it’s too late…events are already set in motion that will change the future forever.  I loved reliving this excellent tale.

+ Nice extras.  Hidden skulls are added to each campaign mission, new terminal videos reveal more detail about the plot, and other tidbits here and there make Halo Anniversary a slightly more enhanced HD remake than you’re probably accustomed to.

+ Love and care.  Unlike most remakes that just upscale the resolution to 1080p, 343 Industries stepped up and used the Saber engine to bring Combat Evolved to life like never before.  While not as detailed and rich as modern shooters, the attention marks this as one of the best HD remakes we’ve seen thus far. 343 should be commended.

+ Switching between the original visuals, and the enhanced version. It shows you how much nicer the graphics truly are. There’s a slight delay while switching, so we don’t recommend doing so during a heavy gunfight.

+ The map pack is excellent for the online community. 343 essentially wrapped Halo maps around the Reach engine, thus this isn’t really Combat Evolved. The original multiplayer is nowhere to be found.  Some of our Halo and H2 favorites are featured, but it’s Reach’s gameplay. Furthermore, achievement progression for this pack goes towards Reach, and not Anniversary. Achievements for the remake deal only with the campaign.

The So-So:

+/- The campaign.  Huh?  Most of the campaign is a delight, but Halo hasn’t aged as well as some would like to think.  While still fun, it’s also repetitious.  The environments blend, especially towards the end.  Anyone remember the Library?  It’s even more annoying than it was ten years ago.

+/- Kinect support works well while watching the terminal videos, but fails to impress during gameplay.  You can shout commands such as “grenade” to lob a ‘nade at an enemy, but it’s a problem when there’s a delay between speaking and Master Chief actually throwing. It’s much easier to just press a button.

+/- Some say don’t mess with a classic, but the franchise’s overall improvements show how dated Halo can be.  There’s no dual-wielding or plasma swords, and really some of the additions should have been included in a “Remix” mode or something similar.  As it is, I feel Anniversary didn’t go the distance. Some will argue that you’re paying for an HD remake. In that regard, the game delivers.

The Bad:

– All the original issues are still there: repetitive level design; loose Warthog controls and questionable AI.  You expect this in a remake, but just be warned.

The Ugly:

Conquering the Library after all these years.  It’s ugly alright…

The Lowdown:

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is intended for those looking to experience Halo with a fresh coat of paint. There’s not much to dislike about a $20 cheaper-than-retail price and the inclusion of a fairly deep Reach map pack. I would have appreciated a few more refinements to the gameplay given all the improvements made to the visuals.  The best new feature is the online co-op.  This is an easy recommend for those wanting to re-experience a modern shooter classic.

Average Score Scale: 8.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8/10 (Neutral)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: If you can’t get enough Halo, there’s enough here to keep you occupied for the next month or so.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: If you’ve played Combat Evolved a thousand times and want more modern refinements.

SNK Playmore Attempts To Reclaim The Throne

Take a look at the latest trailer for SNK Playmore’s The King of Fighters XIII for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Atlus is publishing and everything is looking extremely stylish and downright awesome.  The game will be released on November 22nd and features a full rosters of characters, a story mode as well as nine other console-exclusive modes.  What’s there not to like?

So fighting fans, will you be giving The King of Fighters another chance?

Forza Motorsport 4 Review

Forza Motorsport 4 (Available only on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: E
Players: 1-16
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Turn 10
Release Date: October 11, 2011

Xbox Live: Online multiplayer
Kinect Compatible

Parent Talk: Forza Motorsport is a sim racing game featuring no violence or adult subject matter.  Parents can confidently allow their youngest car aficionados to play without fear.

Plays Like: Gran Turismo, previous Forza games, DiRT, etc.

Review Basis: Played tons of events, online multiplayer and tried all the modes available.

Forza 4 is Turn 10’s latest sim racer for the Xbox 360 and anyone who enjoys the genre owes it to themselves to pick this game up ASAP.  I haven’t played a racing game that feels as complete as this.

The Great:

The whole package.  I can’t decide if the improved AI, better car control, more customization options, smoother online experience or incredible Autovista mode impress me more.  Though it’s really everything put together that makes Forza 4 such a wonderful videogame.  It oozes excellence.

The Good:

+ The cars.  They feel more responsive, drive better, the interior views are shockingly detailed and the AI opposition is fiercer.  The whole of the car mechanics haven’t been better.

+ Anyone can play. Like Forza 3 before it, 4 offers a wealth of driving assistants that transform even the most challenging vehicle into a tricycle.  While the hardcore will want to turn off all assists, it’s a wonderful feature that helps newbies ease into the simulator.  The handy Y-button reversal also remains, which is a personal favorite.  Mess up, then press Y to rewind time a few seconds for a second chance.

+ Revamped World Tour.  Players are hand-walked throughout the world as they compete in races, but event types depend on the cars in use. Thus you don’t have to play events over and over using the same lackluster car.  The freedom that World Tour offers is incredible.

+ Thanks for the gift!  Forza 3 awarded a car to players who reached a certain level, but 4 lets you choose between five. Thanks to this system I rarely wanted to buy cars. I could save for the ultra-rare and more expensive ones quicker.

+ Making a car your own.  You can tune your car as much as you can imagine…and then some.  This has been a Forza staple, and only continues to improve. Decal, fine-tine [the engine] to an absurd level…virtually anything you want.

+ Variety is the spice of life.  While most events set you against opponents, others include time trials, obstacle courses and my personal favorite: car bowling.  This greatly reduces repetition, a common problem in sim racing games.

+ Wonderful online experience. The online multiplayer and overall community are fantastic.  Up to 16 players can compete, old modes return as well as a wicked new one called Rivals.  There are leaderboards; players can take pictures of their cars and upload them to forzamotorsport.net…the list goes on.

+ Rewarding fans.  It’s very cool how Forza 4 recognizes your Forza 3 save file and awards a slew of cars and money based on past accomplishments. Giving kudos to your fans is always a good way to start a new game.

+ Autovista is a pleasure of the senses.  I’m not a big racing fan, but man does this mode blow me away.  It features some of the best cars in the world, helping you learn everything you could ever want to know about them, from their wheels to their emblem(s).  You can even pop the hood and check out the engine for yourself.

The So-So:

+/- The new leveling system isn’t connected to the car you’re driving, but instead to the manufacturer. Are you a big Ford fan, how about Toyota?  Whatever the case, just stick with the brand you enjoy most and prepare for a wealth of cars and bonuses.  Problem is that by affinity level four, all parts are 100% off.  That makes upgrading too easy.  It’s a wonderful introduction, but needs tweaking for Forza 5.

+/- Kinect support.  It works, it’s kind of cool, but nothing amazing.  I think once Turn 10 gains more experience with the technology, things will improve. For now, it’s just a little extra something.

The Bad:

– Been there, done that.  With only five new tracks, not much appears different on the surface between Forza 3 and 4. If it wasn’t for all the additional features and improvements, this could have been a deal-breaker.

– Money has no value.  Turn 10 has included support for Microsoft Points. Couple that with the easy affinity system, and the in-game currency is basically useless for those willing to use real-world money to gain an online advantage.

The Ugly:

What’s up with the weather?  Where’s the rain, or better yet, the night?  DiRT and Gran Turismo feature these conditions, why not Forza? For everything the series does right, it feels really dated in this regard.

The Lowdown:

Forza 4 is a sensational racing game that players shouldn’t miss.  It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but proves Turn 10 hasn’t just been sitting around for the past two years.  They’ve taken a wonderful simulation and upped it to the next degree.  Wonderful job Turn 10; simply awesome!

Average Score Scale: 8.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 9/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: If you enjoy top-tier racing games, you’ll adore Forza 4.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: With only a handful of new tracks, some might believe not enough has been added here.

Gears of War 3 Review

Gears of War 3 (Available only on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Players: 1-5
Genre: Shooter
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Epic Games
Release Date: September 20th, 2011
Xbox Live: Online multiplayer

Parent Talk: Gears of War 3 is rated M for mature.  It features gratuitous violence, gore and disgusting situations.  Under no circumstances should minors be allowed to play this game.

Play Like: Any other tactical shooter with a heavy cover system. Gears’ combat mechanics are similar to those seen in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series.  Gears of War is the evolution of Namco’s PS2/Xbox classic Kill Switch.

Review Basis: Microsoft sent us a pre-release copy.  Finished the campaign on Normal difficulty and tried Arcade, Horde, Beast mode and played a bunch of online maps on Versus mode.

Gears of War 3 is the culmination of years of hard work.  Quite literally, everything has led to this.  The campaign storyline is the best of the series, the multiplayer is the most ambitious and the additional two co-op modes are superb.  There’s even an Arcade mode that allows players to tackle the campaign in a new and original way.  Unquestionably, this is the Xbox 360 exclusive of 2011.  Gears of War 3 is a serious Game of the Year contender list.  It’s really that good.

The Great:

The campaign is without equal.  The plot is dramatic, but not overdone, the action never lets up and the pacing is pitch-perfect.  I haven’t played a campaign this well-rounded, and it’s surely the best effort Epic has put out to date.

The Good:

+ The story.  Both the humans and Locust are on the verge of extinction.  Something new and more powerful is spreading throughout Sera.  A blast from the past may hold the key to stopping the madness once and for all.  With this foundation, the campaign kicks off and never lets up until it ends.  Superb!

+ Witnessing the past.  The coolest plot element is visiting areas that are dear to each member of Delta squad.  This is important as it shows the player what the world used to look like before E-Day.

+ Different perspectives.  You not only play as Marcus, but also Cole Train. By jumping back and forth between them, the story flows much more smoothly and is more cohesive.  Each shift to a new location makes perfect sense in the context of the characters.

+ The series remains tight and responsive.  Gears employs some of gaming’s best cover mechanics, and that hasn’t changed.  You can easily move from one cover to the next, blind fire, pop out and attack, and then pop back into cover.  Everything you enjoyed from before is perfectly intact.

+ Environments that test you. You’ll encounter claustrophobic, linear paths and huge vistas that allow you to flank the Locust as you see fit.  This variety forces players to adapt on an almost constant basis.

+ Fantastic co-op and enemy AI.  Increase the difficulty and witness enemies circle around you to attack from the rear, and other madness.  Thankfully you’re partnered with three extremely smart AI buddies.  These folks do whatever they can to keep the Locust and Lambent at bay.

+ Nothing beats human partners.  Grab three Xbox Live friends and prepare for all-out insanity.  If online co-op isn’t your thing, you can always invite a friend over for two-player splitscreen.

+ Arcade, Versus, Horde and Beast modes are excellent.  Each of these adds hours upon hours of gameplay.  Versus features your expected multiplayer modes (Team Deathmatch, Execute, Capture-the-Leader, etc.).  Arcade allows you to work together to earn big points, and customize the experience to make it easier, harder, or plain wacky.  Horde and Beast work the same, though opposite sides of the same coin.  Horde has up to five players enjoy the mode that Gears 2 introduced. Killing enemies earns you money which can be redeemed for stronger defenses between rounds.   Beast mode puts you in Locust boots to pursue the Cogs, all the while earning money to upgrade themselves.

+ Superb audio-visual package.  Gears of War 3 shows off the most stunning Xbox 360 graphics to date.  You will be touched, blown away or just awe-struck.  The same is true for the audio.  Play the chapter “Brothers to the end” and tell me the music doesn’t add to the experience.

The Bad:

– Remember Gears and Gears 2?  Unless you’re a fanatic, there’s a strong chance you won’t remember much.  The “Previously on…” clips are nice, but don’t go far enough to bring players up to speed on the events of the previous two games.  Something meatier would’ve been much better.

The Ugly:

For whatever reason the Unreal engine can’t seem to soak a highly detailed polygon character in the rain. The characters always look flashy instead of drenched.  It comes off ugly as can be, especially compared to everything else.

The Lowdown:

Gears of War 3 is the best entry in the series, and perfect way to say goodbye.  I’ve played many shooters this generation and would say this campaign is one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever played.  The package is oozing with quality.  The volume of content should keep players connected to their 360s for a long time.  While it’s sad to say farewell, I’ve sure enjoyed the ride.

Average Score Scale: 9.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 9.5/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: Incredible value, best campaign in the series, great multiplayer.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: If you never liked the series, it’s the same formula only enhanced.

Big News – Microsoft Buys Skype For $8.5 Billion

What would you do with $8.5 billion burning a hole in your pocket?  That’s right, you’d buy Skype!  You know Skype, yes that’s right, that Skype.  The app that let’s you talk to people all over the world.  It seems like only yesterday when Skype launched, but today there are so many people that use this application on their home computers and mobile devices that it boggles the mind.  They also use it on their Xbox 360s and Kinect sensors.  Hey, wait a sec.  After today’s announcement they’ll be able to do just that.  It would appear Microsoft has very big plans for their new purchase.  Here’s what the company announced earlier this morning.

Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities.

For all those out there that use Skype on devices such as the PSP, Microsoft will keep those applications running…at least for now. It’s kind of funny how there’s now an app on the PSP that Microsoft will be in control of. What a crazy and wonderful world we live in, isn’t it?

What do you all think of this news?