Thursday, November 15, 2012

Black Ops Vita Advertising FAIL

So, I've been offline for a while due to how busy I've been at work... but I saw this and I could not resist immortalizing it in these hallowed halls.

To advertise for Black Ops: Declassified, the Call of Duty Vita title launched alongside Black Ops II, they decided to book what is called a Homepage Takeover on Unfortunately for them, the scathing review of the game (with a title calling the game an embarrassment) is smack in the middle of their advertisement.

Better luck next time...

Image below for your amusement!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Unit 13 (PS Vita) - Portable warfare

A few weeks back, I found myself with an itchy trigger finger and an opportunity to take my tactical combat on the go with Unit 13 on the PS Vita. I was intrigued, truth be told. I'm a huge fan of third-person and tactical shooters, even if they are over-saturating the gaming industry nowadays. There are lots of options available to these genres on the PS Vita, especially with its unique with mobility and control options. With my curiosity tickled, I decided to pick up Unit 13 and see what it has to offer.


Cover is your best friend, especially since it's bulletproof!
If you're looking for a tactical shooter, Unit 13 has that aspect locked down on all fronts. Across the board, gameplay is mostly buttoned up. Most of the mechanics are pretty stable. You have your basic movement and shooting controls combined with some touch screen integration for jumping over obstacles, disarming explosives, and picking up objectives. For combat, you have the triggers assigned to aiming and shooting as expected, as well as a button activated melee attack. Additionally, you tap a touchscreen icon to reload or toggle first person aiming mode (with optics, scopes, sights, etc.). Your grenades, claymores, and other equipment are also triggered via touchscreen.

Different characters have different skill bonuses and stats
Unit 13 facilitates the option to build out your characters to fit your playstyle. As you level up different characters, you unlock their attachments for use with the others. For example, leveling up the Commando (Animal) unlocks the ACR assault rifle and the ACOG scope attachment for the other classes. As you start unlocking weapons and attachments, you are really able to tailor your classes to your liking. Additionally, the game rewards your playstyle (whatever it is) by granting you bonuses based on your performance. These bonuses are awarded for a variety of actions, including stealth kills, remaining undetected, chaining headshots, and building a killstreak (just to name a few). To add an additional layer, different classes receive a score boost to certain types of actions. For example, the stealth character (Ringo) gets bonus points added to any stealth action.

Enemies appear on your mini-map at all times
The game consists of a series of missions that you gradually unlock. Some missions are thematic and require a certain playstyle. For example, Covert missions require the player to avoid detection and complete objectives including assassinations and stealing data. Meanwhile, Deadline is a timed mode that encourages you to go loud and hard with light machine guns or shotguns. My personal favorites, however, are the Direct Action and Elite missions. In Direct Action, you have a variety of objectives to complete and droves of enemy patrols and choke points to work your way through. Your playstyle, however, is completely up to you. Elite missions are similar, except your health regeneration is disabled. These missions tend to be more difficult and require an additional layer of planning and execution. There are also a series of assassination missions that send you after high value targets. They're fun, and often times challenging.


While Unit 13 is a competent shooter title, there are several shortcomings that detract from the game's overall quality. I mentioned that controls were mostly polished earlier- the "mostly" is due to some pretty severe control issues that can be caused by the touchscreen button placements. The touchscreen buttons that trigger actions like zooming in or jumping over cover are placed right next to the thumb-sticks. While, in theory, this is convenient placement, the big problem is that you will find yourself accidentally jumping over cover or scoping in when you don't want to. Best case, this is just a small nuisance. More often than not, however, this will cause you to jump right into enemy fire or fall to your death. Poor tactical placement of these major tactical buttons.

Unit 13 features online Co-op
That said, the game's biggest weakness is that it just feels incomplete. One cause of this is that while there are several different game modes and dozens of missions, all of them take place on the same few maps. If you find yourself wondering "Haven't I been here already?" it's because you have been there - there are only about 8 to 10 different maps. The only differences are that the player and enemy spawns are changed and that different doors may be opened or closed. That's about it. Additionally, the enemy AI also seems unfinished. They'll shoot at you and run to cover, sure, but don't expect them to really work together or make it a challenge. More often than not, you'll snipe one bad guy and then his buddy will run to his body and wait for you to shoot him too. 

If you're looking for an interesting story to make these faults worthwhile, you will be sorely disappointed. Yes, there is an enemy organization that you're fighting and running counter-terror operations against, but that is about as deep as it goes. There's no plot, no story, no character development. -it's just a straight up shooter game. Mission start, shoot some bad guys, complete objectives, shoot more bad guys, head to the extraction point. Fortunately, the shooter aspect of the game is pretty well done, but the lack of even a basic Counter-Terrorism plot is disappointing.


Score: 6 out of 10

Unit 13 shaped up to be a decent shooter game, but that is all it shaped up to be: decent. 

The shooter element of the title is well done and fairly polished, but the lack of the story or innovation makes it hard to stay interested in the game for very long, especially given how many different cookie-cutter shooter titles there are in the market.

There's just nothing new or ground-breaking going on with this title, even though the Vita brought many unique possibilities. For example, why not have the first-person aiming feature be controlled by motion control? Imagine how fun it could be to move the Vita around in an attempt to line up your perfect sniper shot. At the end of the day, Unit 13 feels like just another mediocre shooter. That's not to say it isn't fun, because it definitely can be... if that's what you're looking for. Just don't expect it to be a memorable experience.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: Gravity Rush (PS Vita) - Gravity Hasn't Been This Cool Since Newton

I'll be blunt on this one. Gravity Rush is perhaps one of the most fun games that I've played in a long time. That's not to say the game is perfect, because it's not. However, playing Gravity Rush was so enjoyable because it delivers innovative gameplay coupled an intriguing "zero-to-superhero" story.

The game throws you into the heels and one-piece of the mysterious girl, Kat. Unfortunately for her, she wakes up with amnesia in an alley in the floating city of Hekkesville. On the bright side, she's not alone thanks to her strange cosmic-cat that gives her the power to shift gravity around her (hence why she is referred to as a "Shifter" by the city's denizens). As any good amnesiac would do, she decides to use these powers to help the people around her  and become a monster fighting wonder-girl.

Now that the spoiler-free synopsis is out of the way, let's take a deep dive into the Pros and Cons of Gravity Rush.


There were two things that really made me fall in love with this game: 1.) fun, innovative controls, 2.) the rich yet simple story.

The controls and handling in Gravity Rush truly are superb and polished. You have your traditional buttons and thumb sticks that provide you with your basic functionality. You run, jump, kick, interact, and do all the other things that you'd expect to be able to do in the year 2012. In addition to the norm, Gravity Rush also utilizes the functionality of the PS Vita's Sixaxis to motion control the camera angle while Kat manipulates gravity.Additionally, the touchscreen is heavily utilized to initiate the "gravity slide" ability, which lets you slide across your surface (ground, walls, ceiling, you name it) at high speeds. You'll also find yourself tapping the touchscreen during boss battles to initiate your flashy superhero finisher moves. As I mentioned earlier, each of the control features are quite polished, and I seldom found myself experiencing any difficulty driving Kat as she adventured through the city of Hekkesville. There's a bit of a learning curve when it comes to successfully managing the gravity slide ability, but its not terribly steep. This fluid and accessible control scheme made it even easier for me to engage with the story.

Gravity Rush spins a tale that always keeps you curious to find out more. The secret sauce, in my opinion, is that the actual story is very simple. That said, the world that the story takes place in is robust, rich, imaginative, and sometimes confusing. Take the original Star Wars trilogy as a comparison: a cookie-cutter "good vs. evil" story combined with a cast of interesting characters and a robust setting. That's the type of dynamic present in Gravity Rush, it's a basic superhero origin tale that is successful due to its cast and setting.

Kat (left) and Raven (right)
There's a solid variety of characters who each bring their own flair to the story. On one hand, you have simple and quirky characters, like detective Syd and a few other denizens of Hekkesville. On the other, you have intriguing and complex ones like Raven, your rival, and the sinister Alias. Additionally, you have the Nevi, which serve as your primary enemies in Gravity Rush. These are strange monsters that are terrorizing the city of Hekkesville. They're enigmatic, to say the least, and you find yourself constantly wondering what they are and where they came from. This combination of intrigue and mystery lends itself well to Kat's superhero tale.

It's hard to build a superhero story without the setting: Batman is just as much about Gotham as it is about Bruce Wayne. Gravity Rush is no different. The vividly imagined city of Hekkesville is divided into four floating districts that each have their own atmosphere and personality. In addition to this, you travel to other places in (and out of) the world, but telling you any more would leak some considerable spoilers. Overall, it is pretty entertaining exploring each of these places just to see how the world is imagined.


Like I said, Gravity Rush is not perfect. In my opinion, the reason for this is that aside from the main story missions, there's really very little to do. There just are not many side-quests for you to pursue. On one hand, you have several challenge missions that you can do (race modes and time-attack battles), as well as a side quest that has you looking for a dimension-displaced couple (say that ten times fast). Beyond that, though, there's nothing to do after beating the game unless you download the DLC mission packs.You're pretty much left to explore the city (which is actually quite fun). Additionally, there are no enemy encounters outside of the story missions, challenges, and level replays. It's actually a little strange since the game puts so much emphasis on Hekkesville being besieged by Nevi. The lack of open-world enemies takes away from the "world in peril" vibe that the story gives off.

OVERALL RATING: 9 out of 10

Despite having a few flaws, Gravity Rush is a very positive experience and is perhaps the best PS Vita title on the market to date (for what that is worth). Sadly, being on the Vita could be this game's major downfall. I could easily see this becoming a niche title because of its sole distribution on the PS Vita platform. 

I hope this is not the case, as I would love to see future installments in the story. The game's ending definitely hints at a Gravity Rush 2 - an idea that I hope comes true. Right now, there's so much parity in the gaming industry that a unique title like Gravity Rush is a breath of fresh air that reminds you what gaming is truly about: having fun.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut out tomorrow!

Disappointed Mass Effect fans take notice. The highly anticipated Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut is due out tomorrow, June 26th. This downloadable content feature has been highly anticipated since the series' controversial conclusion earlier this year.

Should we make this beam red, blue, or green... fuchsia?
 The description on the Bioware Blog explains that the content pack will " expand upon the events at the end of Mass Effect 3... through additional cinematic sequences and epilogue scenes." Don't expect the Extended Cut to dramatically change the ending, rather it will provide fans with "deeper insight to Commander Shepard’s journey based on player choices during the war against the Reapers." While this all sounds well and good, it should go without saying that there is virtually no way that the Extended Cut will please everyone, a point that Bioware readily admits in the brief documentary video included in the Extended Cut overview.

Dave Thier mentions on that, "Bioware has a lot riding on the ending, but in many ways that damage is already done." There has been a very loud segment of the series' more faithful consumers who have vocalized their disappointment. The blockbuster title received a lot of negative buzz extremely early in their product's life cycle. Thousands of their most dedicated and involved fans rallied together to "hold the line" in an attempt to get a new batch of endings through letter and charity campaigns. Some of these fans may think the E.C. is just the sort of closure that their Shepard's saga needed, whereas others will consider it to be salt poured into the wound. Implementing this content in a way that maximizes the favorable responses and minimizes the venomous ones will be critical for maintaining Bioware's fiercely loyal fan following.

When Mass Effect 3 owners can expect to find the DLC on their platform

The Extended Cut will be available at no additional charge for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 customers. However Playstation 3 customers outside of North America will have to wait until July 4th. Expect a hefty 1.9gb download, which hopefully demonstrates just how much content they crammed into this release. 

In order to access the Extended Cut content, players will need to load a save prior to the final Cerberus related mission.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Final Fantasy 7 is coming to the Vita!

It's no secret, Final Fantasy VII is one of my favorite games of all time. Ask my wife, I've mentioned that to her enough times to drive her batty!

So imagine my delight when I found out that Sony has announced that they've given it the green light as one of the PSOne Classics to be released for the Vita. FFVII isn't the only one being released, of course, but it's definitely the headliner in my book. Other titles include Tomb Raider, JetMoto, and Arc the Lad. PSOne Classics will be available on the Vita sometime starting this summer, though no specific dates were given.

It's not true until you see it on Twitter, kids.

There was no word as to whether or not all of the PSOne Classics would be made available on Vita. There are a few other titles that I'd be interesting in seeing on the Vita, including some of the other Final Fantasy games (V, VI, VIII, IX), Metal Gear Solid 1, the original three Resident Evil games.

What classic PSX games would you like to be able to play on-the-go?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Skyrim: Dawnguard DLC Trailer

After months of speculation, Bethesda has released the official trailer to their upcoming DLC for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Titled Dawnguard, the add-on looks to have a lot of things that should get any Dragonborn feeling giddy in their greaves. There a couple of things that should catch your attention as you watch the trailer. Crossbows, new Vampire feeding animations, Vampire transformation and flying, and a very menacing antagonist who's got a craving for blood and the Elder Scrolls.

See the full trailer below:

Still no word as to when this epic looking add-on will be released. Stay tuned for updates!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: PlayStation Vita - A lot of potential

Due to luck and my wife being a vault of random knowledge, we were able to win a new PlayStation Vita. For anyone who hasn't been keeping up with it, the Vita is Sony's latest venture into the handheld gaming space and is the successor to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) system. Think of it as a PSP that had a sweet, sweet love-child with an iPod touch or a tablet. The Vita boasts two thumbsticks, a multi-touch touchscreen, rear touchpad, Wi-Fi (optional 3G), front and back cameras, microphone as well as several other goodies.

I don't get all that giddy over tech specs, so I'm going to dive right into the Pros and Cons of the system. If you're interested in reading about the rest of the Vita's specs, check out the detailed product page here.


Off the bat, the wife and I were impressed with the quality of the graphics that the Vita can put out. To date, I've played through the Welcome Park tutorials, Unit 13 demo, Uncharted: Golden Abyss demo, a few PSP titles, and the Super Stardust Delta demo... and wow they really do look good for a handheld. Sound quality is also pretty good, both on the actual games, as well as music and video playback. For a handheld device, the volume actually goes up very high and I find myself typically playing on 20-30% volume most of the time. 

It's actually pretty comfortable to hold, despite the size
Another thing that the system has going for it is the integration of the different control options. The touchscreen and rear touchpad are easy to use and are very responsive. For example, you can use the touchpad to manage the zoom of your sniper rifle in Uncharted:GA, use flashbangs in Unit 13. Sixaxis also makes an appearance, and works well based on my experience with the Welcome Park and Super Stardust Delta demo. Even with touchscreen and button control, the Vita is very comfortable to use. Button layout is close enough to the touchscreen that you don't feel like you need ape-hands to use it, and it rests in your hands pretty well, considering the size of the device.

When it comes to gaming, you've got options galore. For hard copies of the game, the Vita can only play Vita games. However, you've got a whole range of titles to choose from on the PlayStation Network. For example, there are many Vita titles and demos that are available via download only. There are also a plethora of PSP and PS Minis titles available for download. In essence, it's sort of backwards compatible (more on this later). Pricing for these games crosses a wide spectrum, with many of the Minis being available for under $10, PSP titles under $30, and Vita titles anywhere between $9.99 (i.e. Super Stardust Delta) and $49.99 (i.e. Uncharted). It is important to note that there are games across the spectrum, but you should expect to pay a bit more for the bigger "blockbuster" titles. You've definitely got some options to keep you occupied.

A very practical app that uses the camera system
In addition to the gaming capabilities, the Vita also offers several extra elements. The web browser is intuitive and allows for you to open multiple windows, save bookmarks, and track your history. As is to be expected, you use the touchscreen for selection, typing, and other assorted activities. Additionally, on a Wi-Fi connection, the Vita's browser has fairly speedy load times for most pages. Beyond web surfing, you can also download apps from the PSN for entertainment and social networking. Your entertainment apps consist of Music Unlimited and Netflix, and your social networking apps include Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Flickr.

While there are several great aspects of the Vita, there are also a few flaws that potential owners should be aware of.


While the control layout is comfortable and responsive, users with big hands might find themselves nudging the touchscreen while trying to use the thumbsticks, or accidentally triggering the rear touchpad while holding the device. While this is certainly not a crippling flaw, it might cause you to accidentally trigger your sniper zoom while in a close quarters firefight on Unit 13 (speaking from experience).

My other complaint is in regards to backwards compatibility. I mentioned that you're able to download select PSP titles off of the PSN. There is intentional emphasis on the word select. There are a lot of titles that have yet to be released on the PSN for the Vita. While there will certainly be more games coming out over the next year or so, it is a little disappointing to know that there's a bunch of already released games that you'll be missing out on in the short-term (including Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and FFVII Crisis Core). Additionally, PSOne Classics are not available on the Vita (yet). Here's to hoping that they become available, as I'd love to have Final Fantasy VII on the go.

Like how this looks? Expect to pay a bit more for it
The Vita can also be a bit pricey. Memory cards, which are required to do just about everything on the Vita, are range from 4GB for $19.99 to 32GB for $99.99. If you anticipate being an avid game downloader, then you might consider going for a 16GB or larger memory card to make sure you have enough room. This decision will cost you at least an extra $59.99 dollars. Also, some titles are kind of expensive as well. For example, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is $49.99. I understand that the game has a higher quality than your typical portable game, but I personally find it a bit sour that I'm going to pay that much for a handheld game. I might as well get a console game with better graphics and performance for just $10 more. It's worth noting that this is a personal objection and should be ignored if you have no problem with that price tag.


Overall, I give the PlayStation Vita a pretty high rating of eight out of ten points. It's an innovative piece of technology that successfully combines elements of a tablet with those of a handheld device. Many of its flaws can be easily updated by new apps and software updates (I'd love to see some sort of YouTube app!). A brief summary of the pros and cons is listed below, for those who jumped right to the end of my review.

Ultimately, the Vita will live or die based on the content released for it. The selection of launch titles is fairly dismal, with some entertaining games and a few decent games. However, decent doesn't justify a $250+ purchase in my mind. That's the downside - the bright side is that there's a lot in the pipeline with a good amount of potential. Gravity Rush is looking to be a phenomenal title, and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale may be an interesting title. Moreover, things can only get better as more PSP and PSOne titles are made available.

Overall rating: 8.0 / 10


  • Crisp graphics and sound
  • Smooth integration of touchscreen, touchpad, and Six-Axis
  • Backward compatable (sort of)
  • Web browser and several handy of apps (Netflix, Skype, Facebook, etc.)
  • Several affordable games
  • Comfortable to use

  • If you have big hands, it's easy to accidentally nudge the touchscreen when using the thumbsticks
  • No flash plugin, no YouTube
  • Not entirely backward compatible, lots of PSP/PSOne Classics games that you can't play yet
  • Memory card system is a bit pricey
  • Some titles are as expensive as a traditional console game
  • No launch titles that really pop out

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

8-Bit Warfare

Every now and again, you find something so nerd-tastic, it causes your brain to melt. For me, this video is a great example of that. Finally, there is an answer for those of us who've wondered what happens when you combine Battlefield 3 with the nostalgia of 8-bit gaming.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut DLC due this Summer

Mass Effect 3 will receive a free ending DLC. Yes, after a month of fan outrage and industry commentary, Bioware has made the announcement that the "Extended Cut" DLC will come out in the summer and offer fans the closure they desire. As many have predicted, the DLC will not change the ending as it is - rather it will feature sequences and cut-scenes that help to explain it and provide closure.

“We have re-prioritized our post-launch development efforts to provide the fans who want more closure with even more context and clarity to the ending of the game, in a way that will feel more personalized for each player,” said Casey Hudson, the series' executive producer."
According to Game Informer, the DLC will be free through April 12, 2014 for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Players must have an account with either EA online service Origin, the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live to receive the DLC free of charge.

Here's to hoping that this DLC will satiate the desires of disappointed fans and the RetakeME3 movement, rather then add more wood to the fire that Bioware and EA are roasting in.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mass Effect 3's nontraditional traditional ending choices

Saw this today and was immediately amused by it - I wonder if foot is a good taste to have in your mouth?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mass Effect 3 fans push for a "sweet" resolution

Any gamer worth his controller pack has heard the buzz surrounding the ending of Mass Effect 3. Many fans felt that the trilogy's ambiguous ending was a colossal let down after over 100 hours of galaxy surfing.

The disappointment has been so potent that fans have joined together to demand a new or extended ending from Bioware. This movement, dubbed "Retake Mass Effect 3," has generated a lot of press from a variety of sources - especially Together, they've raised about $75,000 for the Child's Play Charity - and they are working out a plan to support other charities to be heard. Other disappointed fans have taken different approaches. One extreme fan filed complaints of false advertising to the Better Business Bureau and the FTC.Another took a more savory approach and sent Bioware an assortment of cupcakes that mimic the game's "multiple" endings. The cupcakes, which were funded by donations from other disappointed fans, are either red, green, or blue and all taste the same - a very blunt jab at Bioware for the seemingly shallow nature of the ending.

Public opinion has been all over the place on this one. Mainstream gaming media sources, like IGN and Game Informer, seem to be very quick at to mock and ridicule the fans, meanwhile Forbes seems to be their strongest mainstream supporter. Those against the movement claim that the "protesters" are just being entitled brats, other compare them to terrorists. The main argument is that the fans have no right to impose upon Bioware's "artistic integrity." Touchy subject indeed.

While I think there are a few bad apples among the protesters (like the knucklehead that filed BBB/FTC complaints), I think Bioware should give them what they want, but also take a few artistic liberties at the same time.

Bioware's biggest asset, as a company, is it's die hard fan-base. The fan's that are upset are members of that fan-base: they're the ones who buy the novels, the comic books, and the merchandise. But beyond the revenue directly generated from them, they're also their greatest marketing tool. Word of mouth is one of the most potent forms of advertising, especially in the digital era. Bioware has a legion of fans who are willing to be their advocates for free. These folks are the ones that are your early adopters for new games and series, and will recommend it to their friends and social media followers. Advertisers pay millions of dollars for this type of reach. In addition to the business angle of the fan-base dynamic, there's also the content development assets. Through a variety of fan-fictions and fan-made endings, Bioware has a gold mine in front of them - they know what their audience is looking for. That's thousands of dollars of product development research available to them for free.

Additionally, delivering what their fans so desperately desire is a smooth public relations move. Fans' donations to the Child's Play Charity demonstrates how invested they are. They're willing to commit to a cause and take an upstanding and respectable approach. Why not reward that behavior? Everyone stands to gain from it - the fans get their voices heard, the developer/publishers get additional brand equity, and the needy get helped.

The final reason for "changing" the ending is this: they can do it. Bioware is one of the few studios with an exceptionally capable group of developers that can take consumer feedback and successfully integrate it with their artistic vision. Look at the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC for Mass Effect 2 - they took fan feedback and developed what is arguably one of the best video game add-ins ever made.. While the current ME3 ending may have been a downer, they were able to produce roughly 99 hours and 50 minutes of content that is entertaining and immersible. By examining the fan-made endings, they have the tools to see what their audience is looking for and shape their product to meet that demand. Moreover, I don't think that they need to "change" the ending to do so. Take Fallout 3, for example. Bethesda took fan feedback into consideration and developed Broken Steel. Some arguments against this say that Broken Steel was hokey - but I don't pay those any mind. Like I mentioned earlier, Bioware has some of the best and brightest talent in the industry. If anyone could extend the ending in a non-hokey way, it's them.

Bioware co-founder, Ray Muzyka, mentioned in his statement on the Bioware Blog, we will be getting an announcement in April of the developer's plans to address the ending of their finale. One should notice that he was very careful in his word choice - he only promised "closure." Nowhere in there does he say whether or not that closure will be in the form of new or extended endings. Here's to hoping we get the news at PAX East coming up this week.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mass Effect Launch Trailer: Nothing short of EPIC

Mass Effect 3 looms on the horizon, like the Reaper silhouettes over the ruins of Earth. We're just a few days away from the game's launch and Bioware/EA have released yet another trailer to feed the game's already considerable hype.

Nom, nom?
This trailer covers a whole wide range of what will hit the fan in Mass Effect 3. Over the course of  two minutes and forty-four seconds, there's plenty of hope and hopelessness, danger and combat, drama and intrigue. Trailer highlights include the Illusive Man (with Martin Sheen returning as Cerberus' cunning leader) warning Shepard not to cross him, high octane space battles over Earth, and one particularly irritated Thresher Maw taking a bite out of a Reaper. Does it taste like chicken (or a cold, robotic, chicken sociopath)?

For me, the greatest moment of the trailer was hearing Garrus say, "Go out there and give them hell. You were born to do this." Combined with an excellent choice of visual backdrops and an epic musical score, this one line fully nailed the space opera tone that this series has been building since the original came out in 2007.

Get ready for war when Mass Effect 3 is released this upcoming Tuesday, March 6 for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Demo Impressions

Valentine's Day 2012, a day of love, romance... and intense, biotic combat? That's right, V-Day 2012 meant one thing to Mass Effect fans: the demo for the series finale is live.

I had a chance to tinker with the demo and was pretty satisfied overall. A majority of my playtime went toward the single player demo, but I've been able to get my feet wet with the multiplayer mode.

Single Player Demo

The single player demo takes you through two missions: the introductory mission on Earth and a retrieval mission on the Salarian homeworld.Across these two levels, you get to experience the game's revised mobility mechanics. You can slide over crates, climb up ladders and drop off of ledges, just to name a few things. There are also a few new practical additions, such as dodge rolls and melee grabs around cover. I will admit, there were a couple of times where I felt like I was playing Gears of War with all the dodge rolling about.

Combat feels quite a bit heavier this time around, as weapons have a heavier feel and the auto-aim functions aren't doing as much of the heavy lifting as in Mass Effect 2. At least for single shot weapons like heavy pistols and the Mattock assault rifle, you need to place your shots pretty carefully. The new heavy melee attacks are pretty seamlessly implemented and are quite useful for eliminating (or at least staggering) the unfortunate sod in your path. The new gameplay elements (and the increased difficulty) lend to the "This is War" atmosphere that the Bioware team set out to create.

In order to avoid dropping any major demo/main game spoilers, I won't go into too much detail about the plot elements found in the demo. There are plenty of great Mass Effect moments, some humorous and some dramatic. You'll see some familiar faces that will bring a smile to yours. However, there's also one particular part that hit me in the chest like a ton of bricks. This type of story-telling finesse is what makes the game a true Mass Effect title, even with the vast array of changes the series has seen over the years.

Multiplayer Demo

Single player is all well and good, but the part that longtime fans are skeptically looking at is the new co-op multiplayer. It's a polarizing topic - people either love or hate the idea of adding multiplayer to their beloved series.

Based on my experience with the multiplayer, I love it. You are able to choose one of the main Mass Effect classes (and in the full-version, you can choose your race). Each class/race combination has a different combination of abilities and powers that you can level up. In addition, you can customize your loadout, attach weapon mods, and buy unique items to help you in-mission, including health packs, ammo boxes, and rocket launchers.

When you get into the fray, you quickly learn that Bioware definitely means for you to cooperate. Your primary goal is to survive for all ten waves, occasionally chasing down and completing objectives within a time limit. Enemies are merciless even on the lowest difficulties, and their AI works together surprisingly well to draw you out of cover and into their sights. For example, riot shield and melee enemies may try to herd you out of your cover and into an open area. In order to get through the final waves, you'll need to draw on your team's diverse range of abilities, such as having Infiltrators conduct hit-and-run attacks with their tactical cloak and Vanguards force baddies out of cover. As I've explained, Special Forces is hard work - but pulling together and beating "impossible odds" ends up being extremely fun!

Are you ready for war?

I walk away from the Mass Effect 3 demo very satisfied, despite some of the changes made to the Mass Effect formula. Combat mechanics feel closer to Gears of War than they do to Mass Effect 1, but it all plays very well. Bioware has done a phenomenal job updating and maintaining the series so they're not just releasing a re-shelled clone of the previous title (Call of Duty anyone?).

On top of that, the new multiplayer elements are surprisingly fun and addictive, albeit challenging. However, despite the quality of the game mode, its on-going success depends very heavily on the number of people that continue to play it after they complete the story. It's not something you can successfully do alone.

Nonetheless, even if this does come to pass, Mass Effect 3 looks like it will be able to deliver the same quality level of single player content that the series, and Bioware, is renowned for.

Mass Effect 3 is scheduled to be released Tuesday, March 6 on Xbox360, Playstation 3, and PC.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Looks to Be Action Packed!

The "Adrenaline-Pumping Gameplay" trailer offers Mass Effect fans a look at some of the intense moments to look forward to in the upcoming finale. Most notable, at least for me, is that you're going to be fighting the Reapers on foot! To put it in perspective, that's roughly equivalent to an ant fighting a monster-truck.

Impossible odds? Sounds fun to me!

As if that wasn't epic enough, our friends over at Bioware have also released a "Reinstated" trailer that stars the female version of our favorite N7 Marine. The trailer looks awesome and I can't help but think that "Fem Shep" is the way Mass Effect 3 should be. Jennifer Hale's voice acting in Mass Effect 1 and 2 has been superb, and I  am excited to see (or hear) how she takes command of the character in Mass Effect 3. The trailer also features the new default face for Fem Shep, a major overhaul and upgrade from the series' past versions.

Mass Effect 3 is scheduled to be released Tuesday, March 6 on Xbox360, Playstation 3, and PC.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pre-Owned Gaming

Depending on who you are, you either love or hate pre-owned game sales. Consumers typically love it, since it helps to manage the increasing prices of video game consoles and software. It makes it a feasible hobby for those who have bills to pay. On the other hand, publishers and developers hate  it, as they seldom see a dime from the re-sale. It's a bit of a jumbled issue - people need to be able to afford the game, but developers need to turn a profit on it.

The whole debate has been further agitated with rumors that next-gen consoles, like the Xbox 720, will have built in features to deter used-gaming. The Official Xbox Magazine jokingly explains that this news may be the harbinger of "the End Times, when pipe-wielding mobs roam the streets and rivers run black with publisher blood." Jokes aside, this would hurt a lot of people and companies that rely on this method of distribution. However, this same article does a great job of proposing some alternative solutions to alleviate the problem. The two that I agree with most are lowering/varying the price points and implementing more quality, substantial downloadable content.

Currently, most used console games sell for $59.99 (minus tax) when they first come out. Some titles are worth this amount and offer a lot of bang-for-your-buck. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim boasts an average playtime of 75 hours - that's less than one dollar per hour of game time! Likewise, titles like Mass Effect and Dragon Age offer a similar level of long-term engagement. High profile multi-player series, such as Halo, Battlefield, and Call of Duty, offer gamers an ever-changing and competitive environment as well as a chance to earn new gear, titles, and trophies.

However, every game doesn't offer this type of rewarding experience. For example, Dead Space doesn't have the same value when you've played the single-player levels time and time again. The horror element comes from not being fully familiar with your surroundings, as well as not knowing what's around the next corner. Other horror games, Resident Evil included, fall into this same rut. Other examples include Medal of Honor (2010) and Crisis 2, which offered an entertaining single-player and mediocre multi-player. It's not a bad game, but there's other options out there which offer a much better return-on-investment. Finally, some games are just downright bad! To be polite, I won't name any names...Bomberman Act: Zero. Just as every movie isn't intended to be an Oscar winner, there are some games that aren't shooting for GOTY status. Developers and publishers ought to recognize this and adjust their pricing accordingly.

Having the price make sense is one way to boost your sales, but once people have the game - give them a reason to keep it! That's where downloadable content comes in. My favorite example of a game that poured 110% into DLC is Mass Effect 2. The Cerberus Network did a phenomenal job, in my opinion, providing gamers with a wealth of free and paid DLC: new and unique weapons, new and unique squad members, and new and unique mission packs. I'm being very intentional with the words "new" and "unique" here. I still think Lair of the Shadow Broker was the best DLC content I've ever played because it added an engaging story, as well as missions and content that extends far beyond the immediate mission. Kasumi's DLC pack was fun because she's the only stealth-melee focused squad member. Arrival, while not at the same level as Lair of the Shadow Broker, was still a great piece of content because it added a thrilling and engaging atmosphere. More games need to aspire to this level of quality content. Many people have held onto their copy of this game instead of trading it in, just because the next batch of content is so highly anticipated.

It's still too early to discern what is fact and fiction about the next-gen consoles - the pre-owned ban may just pass to the wayside. Either way, it is evident that publishers and developers need to rise up to the challenge and find new ways to make their products, either used or new, worthwhile for their consumers.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Skyrim Creation Kit is Live

Bethesda has released the much awaited PC mod tools for their smash hit, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. For those unfamiliar with the culture of Bethesda's PC fanbase, this is something just a few steps shy of the Second Coming of Tiber Septim.

In addition to the release of the Skyrim Creation Kit, Bethesda has also released episode #1 of their Creation Kit Tutorial Series, this time around focusing on an overall introduction to the kit. By browsing the popular mod site Skyrim Nexus, one will notice that the modding community has already developed a plethora of user-generated content already without official modding tools. In the coming months, it will be exciting to see how these new resources will spark modders' imaginations in new and unique ways. If the series' previous installment, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, is any indication, there will be a virtually endless stream of new equipment, spells and gameplay overhauls being developed for gamers, by gamers.. Additionally, the Steam Workshop has launched alongside Bethesda's  toolset. This new resource offers modders a place on Steam to share their work with the rest of the gaming community.

The Skyrim Creation Kit is only available for PC can be downloaded through Steam.

How to Win Valentine's Day

Monday, February 6, 2012

Skyrim + Marriage

Last month, my wife started playing Skyrim and has taken to it quite well. Years ago, she used to play Oblivion with God Mode on, but this time around she's actually playing through the game as a mortal. In fact, she's taken it one step further and designed a back story for her heroic Dark Elf character with the soul of a "Dova."

Okay, I need to give her a little slack. It's not like she sat around with parchment and quill. She was complaining about being unable to afford a new piece of armor. Being the helpful sort of husband, I suggested that she join the Thieves Guild or Dark Brotherhood to earn a little extra coin. Each time I suggested this, she passionately exclaimed, "No!" Finally, I asked her, "Why not?"

With her best matter-of-fact voice, she replied, "Well, Artemis is a good Dark Elf girl raised by her father, a self-taught mage, and her mother, a devout Priestess of the Nine. They raised her to live a wholesome, honest life."

Surprised by the depth of her response, I needled her further. "If she's so honest, how'd she get arrested outside Skyrim?"

Without missing a beat, she explained, "Artemis' father always dreamed of going to the College at Winterhold, but never could afford it. Once he saw his daughter's gift for magic, he gave up his dreams and earned enough to send her to the college in his stead. She was making the journey when ended up in the middle of the Imperial Legion's trap for the Stormcloak rebels."

Her story continued to grow the more I pried. Apparently Artemis also had a brother who was killed by the Thalmor for openly worshiping Talos. Also, her mother once worshiped the Daedric prince Azura, but repented and became a priestess of the Nine once her daughter was born.

I'll be honest, I was shocked by how detailed she made this story, especially since it was completely spontaneous! She then turned the tables on me and asked me to explain the back story of my character, the leader of the Dark Brotherhood AND the Thieves Guild. I took a second, then looked her straight in the eyes.

"Well, Undyne was an orphaned Nord who was raised by wolves. He was particularly hungry, one day, when he spotted a tasty looking Dark Elf mage girl on her way to the College at Winterhold..."

"You're just the worst kind of person," she replied.

"I know."

Mass Effect 3 Achievements

Additional Mass Effect 3 info has trickled out and, as with the Special Forces trailer, EA/Bioware continue to string along their eager fan-base.

This time around, we have a list of achievements for the series' finale.Hot entries include winning political stand-offs, learning the origins of a monstrous enemy, and defeating a new type of enemy: the Harvester. There's most likely a few spoilers hiding in the list, so be careful how closely you read if you're safeguarding your Mass Effect 3 experience. Otherwise, check out the complete list here.

Mass Effect 3 is scheduled to be released Tuesday, March 6 on Xbox360, Playstation 3, and PC.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Teasers

After a longer hiatus than I would've liked, the blog is back up and running. Also, I couldn't think of a better topic to be the harbinger of our return - Mass Effect 3.

With nearly a month to go before the release of the grand finale of the Mass Effect trilogy, Bioware and EA have taunted fans with the perfect balance of information and mystery. While they release details about gameplay, they withhold the golden nuggets of the story and squad mates. I, for one, am practically drooling!

One of the biggest mysteries, the new cooperative multiplayer mode, has a new trailer that teases at the variety of classes and playstyles available. The multiplayer mode, called Special Forces, allows players to step into the shoes of the elite commandos supporting Commander Shepard's fight against the infamous Reapers. Based on the trailer, this new game mode promises to be an action packed, brutal, and exhilarating adventure.

Mass Effect 3 is scheduled to be released Tuesday, March 6 on Xbox360, Playstation 3, and PC.