Xbox 360

On the Eve of War – Destiny Taken King

Here we sit on the eve of The Taken King finally landing on our consoles and I find myself very excited. I have taken Wednesday and Thursday off work even. I’ve spent the weekend working on the new subclass quests for my Warlock with my clan. We also had a bit of a go on the new Crucible mode called Mayhem. For those who may not know, Mayhem is a new mode where your super and grenades recharge very fast. I only ever play Crucible with my clan, because they make it fun, and Mayhem was fucking awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in The Crucible. Supers and grenades going off everywhere; bodies flying all over the place. It was great. I must thank my awesome clan, the Guardians of Sarcasm, for making Crucible fun. I never would’ve gone in there without them. Thanks guys.

 

Bungie did a series of live reveal streams on Twitch as well that allowed us to see some of the strikes and public events. They have done some serious tweaking to the Strikes that looks great. Bosses that tag team and then double team you. The new public events look really interesting. They’ve added in a some variables that should keep the events fresh and fun. I can’t wait to play then with the guys. So here you are, below are the videos from the Bungie live streams.

Enjoy and I’ll see you on the other side of the release.


E3 2015 – More of my Destiny (The Taken King)

After the last expansion bringing us into the Reef and closer to the Awoken, I was hoping we’d get more in the next expansion. My character is an Awoken so I have a vested interested, but they’re also very mysterious and that makes me want to know more. Instead though we get to see Crota’s daddy come for revenge. Not the most original plot device, but I’m sure it will be fun nonetheless.

~Donna


It’s My Destiny

It will come to no one’s surprise that I’ve been playing Destiny. I did play it for a while when it first came out, (as well as the PS4 Alpha & Beta), but then I put it aside for a couple months while I dove into the holiday games and became an assassin for a couple of months. Before I turn into a sackgirl I’ve been taking a break and playing Destiny. After the full on story of AC:Unity, I just wanted to play something  that was simple for my brain to process; point and shoot.

Simple isn’t really something Destiny does. Gameplay-wise, yes it’s straight forward, but the story keeps confusing me. You would think by now, I’m level 26, I’d be able to remember which are the Cabal and which are the fallen, but I keep getting my bad guys mixed up. I don’t know why I keep doing it, but I do. It could be that all of the aliens aren’t very alien. The only aliens I can consistently remember the name of are the Vex, but they’re all robots. Still, all of our invading alien races are humanoid in shape. I think this is what keeps confusing my brain. I’m sure the confusion is just me, but that aside I do wish the aliens were more alien. There are a couple of exceptions, but on the whole they’re humanoid. For once I’d like to see aliens that really look alien. My own character’s race is an alien, but I’m looking rather human-like.

The human shaped aliens and my goober brain aside, I do really like the story and the world. I like that for once it isn’t just a single bad guy come to take over the Earth. The enemies in Destiny not only don’t like us, but they don’t like each other as well. There are many times in the game when you’ll come across them fighting each other and paying you little mind until you decide to shoot them in the head. This gives a new dynamic to the conflict. The Earth isn’t just being invaded; it’s become a battlefield for these other races as much as it’s an invasion. Obviously when it comes to the gameplay in a situation like this you get the chance to use this to your own advantage and play them off each other to your advantage. With all this conflict going on I’m really excited to see what comes next and how the story evolves.

Speaking of the gameplay, this isn’t rocket science. The controls aren’t hard to memorise and they do have several different button layouts to choose from. I stuck with the default layout though and found it worked fine. A good button layout is one of my top priorities in a game. If I can’t re-map keys then there had better be options. I have giving up on games where the layout just didn’t work for me. Dark Souls was such a game where this happened to me; the buttons just didn’t work for me and made it harder for me to play. No problem here though and the button combinations for specials are easy to handle as well.

 

This is an FPS, so no shock that you’re in first person perspective shooting at things. Now, I am utterly shit at aiming on a console in first person, but once I got used to it I was pretty much okay. I do use a big gun that shoots a lot of bullets, so I do manage to hit things. The closest I get to a sniper rifle is my rocket launcher; point and boom. Destiny is the polar opposite of Borderlands 2 in their approach to the gun types available. There is a small selection of gun types and the power differences are minor. The main differences in power are between the rarity types; basic, uncommon, rare, legendary and exotic. I’m sure you’re all smart enough to understand the rarity scale.  You’re able to equip 3 weapon types for a variety of situations and preferences. You have your primary, special and heavy weapon. Basically it’s like this; kill, fucking kill, blow it the fuck up. One big perk with the weapons is that any weapon can be used by any class. So you truly get to use the type of weapon you like to use best. It’s the best approach a game can have to enable catering to different play styles. I personally favour the Auto Rifle for my primary, the Fusion Rifle for my Special and as mentioned the Rocket Launcher for my Heavy. If you shoot enough bullets fast enough you will eventually kill what you’re aiming at.

Combat can get a little frenzied at times and I must admit that after a couple of long intense missions my hands need to be pried off the PS4 controller. Some of the big strike missions feel like you never stop shooting and you’re always all tensed up shooting and running and shooting and hiding. Sometimes during these big fights I may scream, but they are really so much fun. The story missions are more paced and not the constant killing spree. The Strike missions are bigger and involve other players in co-op with yourself. These missions on average take around 30 minutes to complete and they are usually 2 or 3 stages of intense fighting. It’s in these that I get all amped up and clutch my controller rather tightly as I shoot everything in sight.

 

It could be that some of my tension comes from playing a Warlock. There are 3 classes; Titan, Hunter and Warlock. The Titan is the tank and big hitter, i.e., a fighter. The Hunter is the quick medium powered fighter, i.e., a rogue. The last is the Warlock which is the “magic” user, i.e., the weakling. During the alpha/beta I played a Hunter and I loved it a lot, but when I bought the game I went for the Warlock, because I didn’t want to be the fighter/tank class and I wanted something different. In my experience the Warlock is weaker in armour, but once you know that and adjust your play style you’re good to go. They have good ranged combat, such as awesome grenades, and you can get the ability to revive yourself. The Hunter is a very quick fighter with medium armour. Hunters are a good middle ground class. As mentioned, the Titans are the big bad fighters. They have good armour and can hit really hard. If you like running up and smacking the shit out of your enemies then you might want to play a Titan.

Destiny is a MMO though which means there are other people around, but the game mechanics allow for this and work well. You can choose to play through the main story with friends or on your own. When you’re out in the world you will see other players but you don’t have to talk to them. Same goes for the PUG Strike missions that require 3 players to play; you don’t have to talk to them if you don’t want to. Sometimes you get good random groups and sometimes you don’t, it’s always luck of the draw. The console servers are split, so Playstation and XBox. The Playstation servers aren’t region split, e.g., UK can play with Canada. Most likely the XBox servers aren’t region split either, but as I don’t own the game on the XBox I couldn’t tell you for sure.

As you go through the game you get 2 transport modes. First is your ship that you go between planets in and the other is your Sparrow. The sparrow is kind of like the speeders in Star Wars. You use the Sparrows for zipping around on the planets’ surfaces. They’re great little things for getting places fast and they’re a lot of fun to ride. The big spaceship you have for going between planets is just cosmetic unfortunately. You can find or buy different ones, but currently they don’t do anything. It would be fun if Bungie created space skirmishes to use the spaceships in. I would suck fighting in space, but I think a lot of people would enjoy it and it’d be another game aspect to broaden the appeal. On some planets and in the PvP there are temporary vehicles you can use that also have weapons on them. Always be careful on any vehicle. You never want to be on it when it explodes; it hurts a lot.

To wrap up all this meandering through Destiny I’d like to touch on the PvP. As a general rule I don’t do PvP, but I have dabbled a little. There are 4 types of PvP so you should be able to find your favourite kind here. The one I usually opt for is Control and this is a 6 person per team based capture the flag type of scenario only there are multiple flags to capture and the other team can take them back and vice versa. You also have Clash; 2 teams of 6 competing for the most kills. Similarly you have Rumble which is a 6 player free for all everyone kills everyone scenario. The last is Skirmish and involves 2 teams of 3 players in a variation of team deathmatch. I don’t really enjoy PvP and prefer the co-op Strike missions, but the option is there for those who enjoy it. You can enjoy without ever touching the PvP and not be missing out.

Overall I am very happy with the game. Great action and story thrown into some beautiful environments. The videos and screenshots above are mine and I loved making them. If someone like me who is terrible at FPS games on the console can get to grips with it and enjoy it, then I think others will as well. Sure there is some grinding for gear, but that’s hardly unexpected for an MMO. For me even the grinding is fun though as I get to go through the bounties and revisit areas I barely survived through the first time.  The first DLC, The Dark Below, is already out and the next should be coming soon. I only get time to play on the weekends really, but feel free to add me if you’re playing on the PS3 or 4; just mention the site so I know how you found me.

~Donna


Fuck Yes More Borderlands!!! (Pre-Sequel)

I was watching the Borderlands Pre-Sequel E3 trailer again for like the millionth time and I realised I had said absolutely nothing about it here. So, new Borderlands coming in October. If you think I don’t have it pre-ordered then clearly you don’t know me. Not even caring that it’s on the PS3, it was ordered the second I found out about it. At first I kind of wondered why they had released it on previous gen, but then I got to thinking about it and figured it made sense. Your games linked together so it makes sense that the third likely would as well. I’m not sure it matters really where they release it, but just that they do.  I lost count of the number of times I played through Borderlands 2 with the hubby. I know that game inside out.

So being a highly anticipated game, I’m practically counting the days until it’s released. For Borderlands I would return to my PS1 if it meant I could play it some more.

Watch the videos; the first one has a Moon Dance!

~Donna


Coming Back to Raid Tombs and Kick Ass (Tomb Raider)

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Like so many franchises, Tomb Raider has gotten a reboot. I went into this high hopes for the story since it was written by Rhianna Pratchett. While I will never forgive her for Mirror’s Edge, she did write the Overlord games which were wonderful fun.

I was not disappointed.

Rhianna gave us a believable beginning to an iconic gaming woman. A story that builds on the genius that is a young Lara that isn’t so self assured. From the beginning we are presented with someone who is not only smart but also insecure. She knows she’s right, but she doesn’t have the years of experience behind her to be the confident Lara we’re all used to seeing. I like this a lot. It shows a humble, if smart, beginnings of the confident woman. As we travel through to very well crafted story, she becomes more sure of herself. By the half-way point we’re seeing that familiar Lara and by the end you know she’s gotten a taste for something that she’ll never turn away from again.

I will say one thing about the whole “threat of rape” thing that was spinning a few months back. Yes she is threatened in this way, but she’s threatened with horrible-ness through the whole game, including murder. So yea, she is threatened, but it’s nothing to write home about.

TR Bow

Gameplay is what you would expect. Plenty of running and shooting and climbing ever surface in sight. The controls are all very easy to use straight out of the box. There are some quicktime events, but they’re unobtrusive and not a pain in the ass to do. I’m notoriously terrible at aiming shots in games like this but he aim assist saved me. So even if you’re rubbish at aiming, like me, don’t worry. I used the fucking hell out of the bow & arrow too. That thing was so awesome to use as an alternative to guns. One of my only complaints is that here really just wasn’t the amount of puzzles that I’ve come to expect from a Tomb Raider game. There are puzzles that are integral to the game, but it just felt a little lacking for me. You could tell what your upcoming tools would be simply by having a look around at what you couldn’t climb. Sure it was a little predictable, but I can forgive it this one thing.

I really liked the music and sounds of the game. They conveyed mood and drama very well. I didn’t find annoying, repetitive or boring. There’s not a lot I can say about the music than that.

TR Behind Scene

Visually the game is stunning. You have this deserted island full of mystery and wonder surrounded by this impossible storm. The world around you is rendered in a very believable way and really has been thought out and deigned nicely. It felt like a lost island filled with a mythical ancient story just waiting to be discovered. Also, video games have had hair issues for a long long time, but this has made some great improvements. On the PC version you get to use the TressFX engine which is a special engine for just rendering the hair. Just wish it had been in the console versions too.

Ya know  really did like he prequel a lot. My only gripes are the lack of more complex puzzles and it really felt kinda short. Even with doing a lot of exploring and completing about 90% of the game extras outside the main storyline; I only got about 16 hour of play from it. I know that’s pretty much normal these days, it still feels like it’s too short. This isn’t uncommon for me though, I don’t want the goodness to end.

Go get the game. It’s definitely worth it


On The Border of Borderlands 2

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I originally bought Borderlands 2 for The Hubby as he was a great fan of the first game. This time though he managed to rope me into playing it through with him using the co-op.  So we played through it together even though he’d already finished it and maxed his character and all that jazz. I very fast found myself becoming addicted to this game. We easily clocked up a good 20 hours of play that first weekend.

Many games have multiplayer, but usually it’s over the internet only. Not a lot of games have same machine on screen co-op and I’m always so happy to find ones that do so that me and The Hubby can play together. Although I have no idea how people with normal sized TVs do this. Ours is 50 inch and it’s barely big enough. TV size may be a post for another time. So, the fact that there was a co-op on same screen/system in the game made me happy. It was there in the first game too, but for some reason the first game just didn’t grab me like this one did.

Borderlands-2-screen1RS

So we’ve finished it now and we’re currently on our second run through on the harder setting and it’s proving to be quite the challenge. On normal mode with 2 players, the game already scales things to be harder since there is more than one player. This is actually rather impressive. I watched The Hubby play it on solo and compared it with what we’d seen in normal and harder modes; there’s definitely a difference. The first thing is the amount of bad guys for you to kill, but also their toughness is subtly more hard to kill if you’ve got 2 players compared to one. In the Vault Hunter hard mode there are very obvious differences. The Badasses really are badasses and make you earn the XP you’re getting from them. The un-armoured Maniacs who run at you are suddenly Armoured Maniacs and a bit more of a challenge.

It’s brilliant. Seriously, Gearbox are fucking brilliant. The co-op is absolutely masterful.

I don’t know if I can explain the intelligence that the developers have coded into the co-op and the difficulty differences. They didn’t just decide to throw more bad guys at you just because there is 2+ people playing or to just crank up the hardness of those you gotta kill. No, they gave it some thought and it really makes the game that much more fun to play.

Intelligent difficulty instead of fucking hard for the sake of being fucking hard.

This intelligent design carries through all that they’ve done with the game. The button mapping (at least on the PS3) is smart and easy to use and remember. The inventory/mission/maps/etc screens are simple and easy to use. Something that made me extra happy is that they made it easy to compare weapons.  Nothing annoys me more than not being able to easily see if the big gun I jsut picked up is better than what I’m using.  With an easy interface, everything falls into place wonderfully for Borderlands 2.

The above would be nothing though without all the other bits and bobs that make a game great, like the sound and video.

Gearbox have taken that extra step with the graphics that leads you so much further from the photo realistic-ness of so many games out there. Yes it’s cell shaded and beautiful, but it’s also very stylised. This stylised approach really helps with world immersion and looks rather fabulous to boot. I really cannot fault the visual style and approach.

Now I really can’t say how much I like the music choice for the game. The title song is by The Heavy and is a song titled Short Change Hero. This song sets the scene well as the unlikely hero for the game and has this funk blues thing going on. The composers did a good job of integrating little riffs from the title song throughout the gameplay. You’ll end up humming this song hours after you’ve stopped playing. Of course the downside of this is that while you’re in the middle of your work day humming the song, you’ll end up really craving the game. I speak of this from experience as I’ve bought the album with the title song on it and now it keeps getting stuck in my brain.

So for the story we’re looking at the repercussions of the vault being opened in the first game. Your primary nemesis is Handsome Jack, but like any bad guy he’s a bit of a nasty character. Generally I’d say the story is a “World Domination” scheme, but getting there is so much fun and very not run of the mill. You can expect Killing, great characters and plenty of car driving action. I don’t want to give any of the story away. Even though I didn’t play the first Borderlands game I had no problem getting stuck into the story of this instalment.

Seriously, if at this point you think I have anything but a massive addiction and obsession with Borderlands 2, then you’ve not been paying attention. The game is fun, has a great sense of humour. It looks fabulous with a very well done cell-shaded art style. The gameplay is easy even if, like me, you’re a bit shit at FPS games on consoles. The game is very well put together and Gearbox should be very proud of what they’ve done here.

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One Simply Does Not…

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…Walk into a Lego game.

Oh, alright – yes, one does. After all, Lego has something of a reputation now for picking up licences and turning them into cool (if increasingly expensive) toys and highly enjoyable computer games. And to be honest, there’s not a lot new here that we haven’t already seen before.

There is, however, something we’ve not heard before: actual film dialogue spoken by the mini-figs during cut scenes. I must admit, I was incredibly sceptical that this was going to add anything to the gaming experience, and was quite frankly concerned it would lead to a degree of programming laziness if the designers no longer had to rely on visual gags and some clever lateral thinking to get the point across.

Fortunately, I needn’t have worried: there are still some warped moments of silent comedy joy (Boromir’s death scene being one of the highlights, along with Peter Jackson’s cameo appearance), and the overlaid dialogue is kept to a minimum. They’ve also done remarkably well in getting people who can grunt and argh in convincing impersonations of the original movie cast.

There are, as ever, two methods of play: story and free, along with an incredible open world that you can smash to buggery. The backgrounds are beautifully rendered and there’s plenty to break in your quest for cash and glory (trust me, there’s something deeply satisfying about wrecking Tom Bombadil’s domicile and beating the bejeebers out of Rivendell). Fortunately, everything’s quite close together, so you won’t have to walk too far to satisfy your thirst for wanton destruction.

There’s also a rather fascinating split-screen technique in two-player mode that enables you to handle the action when things begin to fall apart. And I don’t mean split-screen in the way it’s worked in previous games (although that’s still there, too): no, in this version, the story literally splits, with Player One on the left hand side controlling a character running through a completely different (though often parallel) storyline to Player Two’s on the right hand side. The only downside to this is that you inevitably end up missing part of the plot because you have too much to concentrate on on your side of the screen, but you can always swap over during freeplay and see what you were missing.

Lego has a tried and tested formula which they really haven’t altered for this latest release; after all, they dealt with the worst glitch in the Star Wars games fairly early on (the one where one player could drag the other player off the screen to their death if you got too far apart). Sadly, this means that the hit-and-miss jumping issues still remain, and until you buy the Fall Rescue red brick, you’re at the mercy of dodgy camera angles and falling off things because you weren’t pixel perfect in your aim. And it’s probably best if you’re really nice and calm before going through the Dead Marshes in the open world, because there are some truly evil bits of jumping that will have you cursing lily pads for the rest of your days, otherwise.

As well as completing the story, quite a major part of the game is questing for mithril bricks and blacksmith’s plans, from which the baldy dwarf in Bree will make you allsorts of insane weapons and toys, including a carrot bow, a squeak sword and a disco light phial that makes anyone near you dance to what is a truly terrifying theme tune dialogue rap mash-up. Many of these items are required to get access to the red bricks which give you extra powers, all the way from the very useful (Fall Rescue and Invincibility) to the downright silly (8-bit music and animals pooing studs when you ride them).

All in all, this is another fun game from Lego and Traveller’s Tales. It’s so much fun, in fact, that for the first time ever we kept on coming back to it until we’d won all of the in-game and X-box achievements (including the almost obligatory Boromir meme one). There is DLC available: 2 character packs (one includes a miniature Balrog, which I really hope is as cute as mini-Sauron) and a weapons and magic pack, with possibly another character pack on the way. I’m not sure I entirely approve of Lego DLC, but I suppose you can’t blame them for trying to rake as much cash as possible from our tiny, battered hands…


Just Dance 4

Considering that I’m such a lazy gamer, I’ve been infected with the sudden need to dance, and party, and just be lively. After meeting the Ubisoft Reflections guys in Newcastle, I got a shot at Just Dance 3 for Xbox 360 and it was a barrel of laughs! Still unsure of whether I should venture out and grab Just Dance 4, I took a trip to the Metro-centre where the same guys were helping GAME celebrate it’s release. I had a blast there too, and quickly decided to rush out and buy the latest instalment of Just Dance.

Song List

Like any music game, the songs available are important to the player. Previous Just Dance games failed to disappoint with songs such as Funky Town, Barbra Streisand and Party Rock Anthem. The new game also has a great range of songs, making playing JD a great addition to any party. I’ll name a few I can think of:

Las Ketchup – Asjere (The Ketchup Song)

One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful

Flo Rida – Good Feeling

Maroon 5 – Moves Like Jagger

Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give you up

So there’s a few of the songs available and it keeps to the tone that was set by the previous titles. There are a few songs that I wish weren’t there, but that’s all down to personal preference. I don’t quite understand Skrillex for example, but I’ll still give it a go.

Some songs are better with more people

Dance Move Precision

Like all dance games, they ask you to complete a few moves and they grade you with an overall star rating and a mini grade for how you pull off each move. Whereas Dance Central make their grading of moves a little more visible (around the dancers feet and glowing limbs if you do it wrong) JD places it above your character and next to your dance-card.

You do get better scores for better precision, naturally. However, when the game has you twirling, ducking, weaving, and more it’s very hard to see what you’re meant to be doing, and you start to ignore your grades.

Just Sweat Mode

Just Sweat is the JD equivalent of a dance workout. There are multiple classes in which to choose from, sorted by the style of music they use, and add in a few extra short routines specifically for the workout such as stretching. There are a few workout length choices too, ranging from 10 mins to 45 mins, and I’m sure I saw a 1 hr workout in there somewhere. Nevertheless, I tried them all out in a bid to get fit for Halloween…

They are pretty good I must say. I started at 10 mins but it didn’t seem like long enough for me. I was only just working up this sweat that the mode had so promised me, but was soon to regret choosing a 45 minute cheerleader workout. My shoulders are still sore now, probably has more to do with the fact I’m rather unfit. The routine was great, it lets you know when they are cool down sections and intense sections, and tells you the calories you’ve burned at the end. My only issue with the calorie count is that, unlike DC where they ask you for weight, this game does not, so it makes me wonder how it’s calculating this…?

Downsides

I can’t really think of the downsides of this game, but if I had to share what I thought was bad…

– I couldn’t play this on the Wii because every time I do, I seems to whack myself with the Wii-mote. It’s hardly a complaint but when you do hit yourself it really hurts.

– Playing certain songs by yourself allows you to realise how lonely you are. Barry White’s song is a 4 player dance group and you can look really silly doing it alone. The same with Asjere, Time of my Life and Time Warp. Forever Alone 😛

– Justin Bieber (but that’s down to preference)

– With bigger dance groups you need more space otherwise it becomes difficult. The Wii doesn’t have so much of a problem, but the Kinect needs to see everyone and they all need to be in the right place otherwise it goes a bit nuts.

– Not enough DLC songs but I suppose the developers need a little more time to add them.

– There’s also the problems that accompany most motion gaming, such as calibration of the sensor, which can become a little irritating but it’s not a major issue.

Quite a fun game

In conclusion I’d say that Just Dance 4 is a great party game and is a lot more fun when with friends, as you can have a laugh at each other whilst doing the silly routines they have planned out for you. It’s still good as a 1-player game but it feels a little more like a chore after a few songs. Plus, after a while a few of the songs you’ve never heard before start to grow on you. Just need some more songs to dance to and I’ll be happy.


Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Friday Sept 14th was a special day for me. There was a birthday in the family, it was Friday, and my 2 year wait for a new Tekken game was finally over! Sure, Street Fighter x Tekken was also a “Tekken” game, I found it had more Street Fighter influence, so getting my hands on Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was a great feeling!

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is finally here!

I got an early feel for the game whilst competing in a tournament to celebrate the game’s release. My local GAME store held a Time Trial tournament, clocking how fast I could finish one fight with 2 rounds. I managed to clock a time of 51s and came 4th overall, losing out to a great 36s attempt. After hearing I qualified for an elimination heat, I couldn’t get home quick enough with my game to get some much needed practice with the game.

Familiar Faces

I was greeted by some familiar faces when I started up Tekken for the first time in a few months. I was glad to see some old veterans such as Nina Williams, my favourite Irish assassin, Kazyua Mishima, my not so favourite Japanese murder machine, and the almighty Yoshimitsu! I was also happy to see my good friend Steve Fox was still there, meaning I was set for my playthrough of Arcade mode. There a few new faces, but by new, I mean I hadn’t seen them since Tekken 2/3 where they made an appearance but disappeared after that, like Ogre and more notably Jun Kazama and Kunimitsu. There is one new character, Jaycee. She’s a mysterious masked wrestler, or so they say but I think I’ve worked out who she actually is… *cough* Julia Chang *cough*

Gameplay 

My first match on TTT2

I’m not very good at formulating combos so I’m not going to pretend, but I get pretty close with Steve, so I picked Steve and choose Lili as my partner and set out to try out the gameplay, mainly the Arcade mode. Gameplay is like any other Tekken game, only they elaborated a fun element of Tekken 6, and made it easier to use your equipped items as weapons. I’ve had great fun picking up the handgun and shooting away at Kazuya or Devil Jin in the hopes of hitting them. I can’t wait to try out the pineapple I’ve just unlocked! I’ve even come across a cat as a weapon? Apparently it’s meow hurts but I’m not sure how much… I won’t let it hit me!

Whilst using items has become easier, the ghosts have not. They still have their own rank, and you can still promote your characters. In fact, you can finally get past 2nd Dan offline (Tekken 6 only let you advance your rank further by playing online) so you can now attain the coveted Tekken Lord rank, not that I’m getting there anytime soon. Ghosts past 5th Dan are rather difficult to defeat, unless you’re very good, whereas I’m just lucky. This is probably why I won’t play online. Last thing I need is a Pro player in Japan kicking my ass every minute.

Narrow escape against a bot! Not ready for online yet….

I’ve only figured out 2 Tag moves so far; Tag Crashes that are helpful if your on the ground and need a very quick tag, and Tag Throws which are just fun to do. I know there are more Tag Moves that can be done, but I haven’t figured them out yet. Fight Lab has helped out a little but I’m still not confident using the other tag moves on offer.

Return of the Unknown

She’s back!

Of course one of the biggest things for me was the return of the boss from the first Tekken Tag game. She’s been revamped, she lost the silly floaty wolf thing similar to that of Z.W.E.I from Soulcalibur V, and she now utilises her environment instead, which looks so much better. This mysterious character is of course Unknown, and yes that is her name.

I got confused when they showed Jun Kazama as the final stage, rather than Unknown, but they cleverly crafted a cutscene to go between rounds, provided you stick to the conventional 2 rounds set as default. Upon defeating Jun once, she transforms into Unknown and somehow turns from rather skilled martial artist into someone almost completely different and can destroy you in 2 simple moves, one of which includes a hand rising from the floor and flattening you. That wipes the majority of your health bar away, so you’re screwed if you’ve already taken a beating from her.

Flaws?

No matter how much I may seem to like a game, it always has flaws, whether it be issues with the story, graphics, etc. Tekken Tag 2 has a few that have really stuck out. First off is loading issues during gameplay. I understand that when playing online that some lag can occur, depending on internet connectivity, but when I’m in offline mode, sometimes my game has an effect similar to lag and it always results in me either losing or getting close to. I’ve seen it happen a few times which is a little annoying, especially when entering a combo, the game “freezes” temporarily then anything I press after that didn’t count, therefore ending my combo. Saddens me a little, but I’m working past that on the hopes that it’s just the old console giving up and not an issue with the game.

I wasn’t really a fan of online play either. I haven’t played much of it, but I found it rather irritating and frustrating, but that might be because I’m rubbish at online unless it’s Guitar Hero, then I have a fighting chance. But even when watching my brother who is probably always going to be 10x better than me play online, even he found it irritating and he was on a 5 win streak! Maybe it’s because I will always prefer standing/sitting next to the person I’m fighting against so I have a little prejudice, or maybe it’s because no-one told me that you could have 2 controllers and have 2 people play! Would have been so much easier. Personal issues aside, the online is smooth, no huge connectivity problems, and the “Team” option (similar to Clans on Call of Duty) is a pretty cool feature too.

After 3 online matches…


Last but not least, this new feature in the game added another element of story, but was really complex and a little vague. Fight Lab is a tutorial, there to teach you how to fight. I was hoping it mostly teach you about Tag functions, but one stage 5 shows you that. Fair enough, the other stages teach new players how to play, but even those stages were a little complex and took me a little while to figure out, and I’ve been playing Tekken for over 10 years! *Shame I’m not getting any better at it*. By the time I reached the tag functions I was pretty much at the end of my tether, frustrated with all the aerial combos that wouldn’t register. Eventually I reached the end, only just otherwise I’d still be sitting trying to complete it.

The combos didn’t register correctly as I was trying to complete Tag Throws, Combot’s move-set wasn’t ideal and it took almost 20 minutes to realise the colours of the suits of people I was fighting signified which move I had to use. For a tutorial, it seemed a little vague and unhelpful, however I do now know how to use tag combos so I suppose it did what it was supposed to do… eventually.

Overall…

I love this game. Plot aside, its a great game. I can’t compare to Street Fighter, due to lack of experience playing it. Some people are either into one or the other, and in my case this is true. Tekken was the first game I ever played, back when I was only 4 years of age. I’ve watched Tekken grow into what this is now. It’s challenging in all the right places, and pretty easy to pick a favourite character or two. I wouldn’t say it was the perfect game, as like most fighters it becomes monotonous, and eventually boring.

Whilst the game is still pretty new and shiny, I’ll be playing it, but who knows how long that will last. Possibly until Assassin’s Creed 3 is in my hands this October…


Heart of Darkness – Spec Ops: The Line (PS3 / 360 / PC)

Normally, I steer clear of shooters. I’ve never been that great at them and I find the storylines to be more about making the military seem like an amazing occupation, rather than showing people the horrors of war and the devastation it can cause. So, when I started hearing reviews of Spec Ops : The Line and its different approach to the modern military shooter, I decided “what the hell” and picked up a copy myself.

Made by Yager Development and Published by 2K Games; Spec ops : The Line is set in Dubai 6 months after a cataclysmic sandstorm has destroyed the city. You play as Martin Walker, the  Captain  of the Delta Squad, which is comprised of Walker and his two partners Lieutenant Alphanso Adams and Sergeant John Lugo. Their squad is sent out to Dubai on reconnaissance in order to confirm the status of Colonel John Konrad, commander of the 33rd Battalion of the US Army, and any survivors, then radio for extraction. But as they make their way through the ruins of the city they discover that the 33rd Battalion has gone rogue and is committing increasingly harsh and brutal crimes against the civilian population with the stated intent of maintaining order.

The gameplay is very similar to most modern shooters, get to cover and shoot. Your squadmates each have their own unique skill; Lugo will snipe any  enemy you point at, whereas Adams will throw grenades, which can be helpful sometimes, but most of the time it’s easier to shoot them yourself as the AI has got fairly bad aim. There’s also a sand mechanic which, whilst interesting, is rarely needed. Some enemies will be taking cover near or under windows, shoot the glass and sand will fall on top of them and clearing the path for you. You can only carry one gun at a time, picking up new ones from enemy soldiers. Also, ammo is scarce, leaving the player to make every bullet count. The moral choice system is very clever, giving players the option to deviate from the standard good vs bad dialogue options and make their own choice. The aesthetics are well done as well. Despite being set in a war zone, some of the scenery is stunning and paired with the use of both an original score and licensed music sets the tone perfectly.



There’s also a multiplayer mode made by Darkside Game Studios. It is set before Walker and his squad were sent to Dubai during the initial war between ” The Exiles” and “The Damned” 33rd infantry . There are several different maps and competitive game types, as well as community leaderboard’s and challenges. There is also a class system  with four standard classes and a class that’s specific to the faction you pick : Officer , Sniper , Gunner, Medic  and Scavenger for the Damned or Breacher for the Exiles.




Overall  I found that Spec Ops : The Line to be a very interesting game. Unlike a lot of shooters that make you feel like a hero for gunning down wave after wave of enemies, the game will make you think about your actions and what you could’ve done to avoid killing that enemy or how you handled that situation. In the end  Spec ops was a pleasant surprise, full of interesting plot twists and a storyline that portrays Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and  dissociative disorders very well. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys their shooters, but would like to see them evolve beyond the stagnant state they’re currently stuck  in.


Assassin’s Creed 3 – Some Tempting Videos

I’ve never been one to hide my obsession with the Assassin’s Creed games. Every year I’ve bought the new AC game, although I got Brotherhood a bit later due to misconception of its gameplay. AC is one of those October/November games that rapes my bank account for all its worth too and this year it’s twice as bad. This year there are 2 games.

The first is Liberation, which is the Vita game, and we get our very first female assassin. I think you might not know just how happy and excited this makes me. I loved Altaïr and Ezio to bits and I’m sure to love Connor just as much, but it’s not the same. Aveline will be different though and yes some of that has to do with her being female. The sheer amount of FemSheps out there should be a testament to how much women like to play kick ass women in games. Given AC thus far, I think Aveline will deliver on the kick ass part at least.

Liberation is out on October 30th. Now if you’re in North America you’re going to get AC3 the same day. I will at least have a 1 day breather, not that this helps much, as it appears in the EU on the 31st. Know what makes it even worse? October 30/31 is in the middle of the fucking week. It’s enough to make a girl scream. Guess I should book my days off now…

Got two great videos for AC3 for you. Both of these show off the new game very nicely.

First the AnvilNext engine trailer, then a nice little walkthrough of some of the newness of AC3 and Connor.

 


The Late, Mass Effect Trilogy review

*note that I do not review the multiplayer element of ME3, as I’ve barely played it, hopefully someone else can cover it – I did find it mildly enjoyable, however!
*also note that whilst this review is as spoilerfree as is humanely possible, links to videos and the like will not be!  The key reason of this review is to convince the 6 remaining people in the world who havent played any of the series – especially women – to play it!

Now, let me be clear.. up until recently it was not entirely certain where that comma in the title would be placed… because it was only very recently that Mass Effect 3 (and by association the entire trilogy) was truly finished. Also because prior to the “little” addition of the Extended Ending brought about due to fan outcry it could be classed as “late” as in dead.. dead to me and dead to many of its fans.  The addition of the extended ending (in my opinion) saves the series and makes replaying it viable. It is frankly baffling that they thought the original ending was satisfactory in any way.  However, I get ahead of myself, lets talk about the games first, and then after we’ll talk a little about the debacle that was the conclusion to the series.

The *real* Commander Shepard, looking badass.

Mass Effect was launched in 2007 exclusively on the Xbox, though it was later – thankfully – also released on the PC, and the subsequent sequels on PS3, PC, and Xbox.  It has to be said that PS3 players have got a bit of a raw deal with Mass Effect. No first game, 2nd game delayed by a year, third game’s extended cut released nearly 2 weeks after everyone else got it.   The game was a departure from Bioware’s staple of RPG style gaming, aiming as it were to introduce shooter elements, along with squad management and resource/weapon modifications.  It was also a brave new move for the gamestudio, as here was a completely new setting featuring original characters in a wholly new created sci-fi story world.I picked up the first game cheaply in 2009 on the Xbox (not my preferred gaming platform) and after initially grumpily grumping about the controls quickly warmed to it, though I largely ignored the whole weapon upgrading and squad special power management thing.  I was hooked on the whole RPG element of the game, especially due to the option of playing as a female protagonist in a world where the gender of the lead character was completely irrelevant = equality, feminist fans 😀

There is something just so cool about wandering the corridors of a military starship that you are the Executive Officer of and seeing the crew salute you as they encounter you.

BAD REAPER! BAD!

The story was an interesting one; in some ways it reminded me of Halo, in that it almost felt like you were being plunged into an already started storyline, and you have to pad out your knowledge of the world you’re exploring.. well.. by exploring it.   2183: The Human race struggles to find its place in a vast galaxy governed by a stern and suspicious multi-cultural Alien council at the apparent onset of war with an invading ancient force known as “Reapers”.  Characters are well defined, superbly animated with lots of emotive behavior complimented by superb voice acting.  Later on in the game there are some pivotal choices to be made that cause genuine pause when the player is confronted with them.

So… about those head tentacles…?

The repercussions of those decisions are felt not just within the game itself, but ultimately in the sequels too; hence the importance really of playing all three.  It is because of these decisions shaping branching personalized elements of the plot, that so endears the games and their characters to its fanbase – making some events so desperately affecting later on.  This level or attachment to game characters was something very new to me I have to admit.

Is it still a big fall if it’s in zero-gravity?

Mass Effect 1 ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, but most satisfactorily so, in a way that meant that even if it never got a sequel, it had a definite feeling of self-contained closure.

ME1 Gameplay summary:
RPG, lots of shooty, lots of pickingup/buying resource management, lots of squad power management,  some puzzles (mostly doors)

WooHoo! Mass Effect 2 begins and everything’s hunky dory!

The sequel was released in 2010 (which I bought on day one this time!) and introduced a few changes to the game dynamic.  Many of the micromanagement elements of the squad and special power/weapons were simplified; good for me, but perhaps less so for others.

Another feature that was dropped: the “Mako” sections from the first game, essentially an awkwardly controlled vehicle used to explore and travel between areas.  I for one missed this, as I thought it added a larger open exploratory element to the game. Though ME2 had a much more linear plot direction.  The game has an incredibly dramatic start that re-introduces you comfortably to your familiar setting and characters from the first game before violently taking them away from you (and vice versa).

THIS kick-ass girl band’s gigs are worth seeing..

What follows is essentially a “magnificent seven” style building of a new squad/crew that may or may not feature characters from the first game.  One interesting plot device element is the removal of your love interest (if you developed one) from the first game, leaving you to either develop something new with someone new or remain faithful to your original love interest, in the hope of reuniting later.

This second iteration of the series introduces many new characters and elements, now all very well established in the narrative’s universe, with even better performances from the leads. Martin Sheen puts in a fantastic performance as the shadowy puppet master “The Illusive Man”.

The second game also introduces much heavier repercussions to decisions and/or lack of development of resource finding. The latter being quite an unnecessary nuisance I thought, but again, I was never one for the whole resource management/finding/buying stuff… I would go on to quite painfully regret this at the conclusion of my first run of the game!

Some of the characters introduced new in the 2nd game are somewhat two dimensional, others prove to be very interesting. Jack, the fierce biotic jailbird being one and Miranda the seemingly cold, perfected human being another.  Characters met in the first game returning get much better fleshed out, BessyMate Garrus, I’m looking at you 😀

Miranda’s bum was unavailable for comment at the time of this review.

Some new elements introduced this time around prove to be a little annoying, I was often very concerned that Miranda seemed to be talking out of her improbable arse a lot of the time, as in literally,  simply due to the amount of camera-time aforementioned derriere got.

ME2 proves to be quite the successful sequel, with a gripping conclusion that has multiple branches (including one where you – the lead character – die!) albeit giving a portent of what was to come with a sort of colour coded finale.  Another welcome new introduction are the “loyalty” missions that you do or don’t, these determine how close a relationship you develop with your crew members, which may or may not affect the conclusion of the game, and its final chapter.

I’m sorry, did I break your concentration?

One thing I will confess is that I found the shooty element of the 2nd game quite fatiguing… so much so that 2/3rds into the game I took a several month break from playing it, as I was genuinely tired of some of the relentless sections in the lead up to the final “suicide run”.

ME2 Gameplay summary:
Lots of RPG, too much shooty, less weapon/resource pickup, but mining/planet searching element added and tied heavily to ship upgrades, more puzzley bits.

You lookin’ at me, Punk?

…which brings me to 2012 and this finale of the series which introduced a “Story Mode” to a joyous me.  Story mode removes the reliance on shooty bit proficiency in order to progress the story, and features much more story development *during* those sections, as opposed to the previous game’s “talkalot,shootstuff, talkmore,findstuff,shootstuff,talkalot” apparent structure.  What Story mode effectively offers the player is a heavily dialog involved version of events that means you don’t have to be so good at shooter style games in order to get through the game, a real welcome option for players like myself.  The other two options available hopefully fulfil other player’s desire for full-on action with little dialog, or a “normal” mix of the two.

I’m going to need a bigger gun…

Mass Effect 3 starts ominously, darkly, pulling no punches, and featuring a sequence of events before even the title appears that had me having to be consoled by one’s otherhalf, as I was a blubbing mess!  Once the preamble of the story is set in motion, the game falls back into fairly comfortable shoes treading the path defined in the previous game – exploring, team building, plot development.  The linearity of the plot is tightened further than the previous game, but still allows for going off the beaten path.. though this is problematic due to the overall plot-spine being so strong – you feel that sidemission “fetch” quests and the like are stupidly unimportant in the grand scheme of the things, so I felt that there should be a talk option along the lines of “What?! Are you mad? There’s a war on! Find your own damn <object> !” – however, at least this time around they have the conceit that doing these wee tasks contributes a small part towards the greater war effort by adding to your “Effective Military Strength” or “War Assets”

This… cant be good…

It is ME3’s action setpieces where some truly awesome plot development occurs and how these events play out is often highly influenced by decisions in the previous games.  There are some parts of this final chapter that present some squeamishly difficult choices to make, and it is a testament to the quality of the writing and story that they are so difficult to make at times.  At one point such a dramatic moment occurred that I could not bear the thought of continuing with that decision/event made canon, that I went back a whole series of saves to try and “correct” it – only to learn that the game was effectively giving me – to throw a Star Trek reference in – a “Kobyashi Maru” – a no-win scenario… how ever I played it, there was going to be some form of terrible repercussion.

You’d be upset too if you couldn’t get your hair colour to stay the same between games!

For me, this is why Mass Effect 3 is the strongest of the trilogy, as by now you are familiar with the characters, the environment and the illusion of your choices creating a unique and personal story to you creates a player/game involvement that I have never before encountered.  I found it very difficult to objectively review this game, as to me it seemed to transcend the definition of “game” into something beyond the kind of emotional investment that a really good movie might engender in its audience.  You might say that the Mass Effect Trilogy as a whole was a synthesis of the medium of cinema and videogames. Ha!

I’ve got a bad feeling about this…

ME3 gameplay summary:
Player tailored, but as it pertained to me: Lots RPG, perfect level of shooty, zero *required* resource /squad management, minimal puzzles. 90% plot/character interaction driven.

One of the game series’s other controversial (at least if you happen to be FOX news) features was the Love Interest.  In the first game it was possible to romance one of 3 characters, this was expanded in the 2nd and 3rd game, allowing for faithfulness to the first game’s LI or not.  The first two games featured the option of lesbian relationships which were nice enough, though likely mainly for male titillation, as it would not be until ME3 that gay male relationships would be an option.  I’ve watched how these unfold via youtube (does this count as watching porn?!) and think they are lovely, though the option of recently bereaved shuttle pilot Steve as a potential Male-Shepard conquest annoys me!  I’m amused at some player’s love triangles they have created themselves throughout the course of the games.  The actual lovemaking scenes themselves are (I think) very tastefully done and, certainly in the case of the third game (I can’t speak for ME2 – Monogamous Kate Shepard, see), add to the emotional gravitas of the story.

Star Wars eat your heart out…

It was therefore a tragedy to me (and a large number of ME fans) that the last 10 minutes of the trilogy finale seemed to throw a leftfield turn of direction with a seemingly abrupt nonsensical ending filled with more questions than answers, which was very much the opposite of what was promised by Bioware in the very high profile marketing campaign leading up to the release of the game.

I think even Bioware underestimated how invested in the story their fanbase was and how actually emotionally hurt they were by the game abrupt ending.  This feeling of loss spawned some great things though, with enterprising players dealing with the very real feeling of grief they were experiencing by advancing the story through art and storytelling; there are some absolutely stunning fanmade works out there, I’ll put some links at the end of this article.

Hmmm. Must be injured more than I thought, my arm seems to have shrunk.

Now, there’s no doubt that either through a bizarre overinflated sense of “artistic integrity” Bioware decided to create a very ambiguous set of endings that leave story threads blowing in the wind,or they rushed the game out in the end to meet deadlines.

I for one believe it to be the latter, as there were many other little inconsistent failures in quality assurance in this final chapter at launch.  Throughout the trilogy one of the most important and awesome features is the ability to import your save from the previous game, continuing your “universe” based on your choices previously in the series, as well as your own custom appearance.  The import worked in ME3, but not the appearance part; forcing you to redefine your appearance as best as you could.  This was not fixed until well after a month following the game’s release,  by which time the majority of players had finished the game and were probably suffering PME3TSD.  There were also other glitches that affected gameplay and player story immersion.  Getting stuck on bits of scenery, terrible terrible character animation clipping and an increase of “uncanny valley” factor in NPC performances with some very notable exceptions (love interest characters in particular are so emotive in their face animations it hurts! – though aforementioned bugs caused my love interest to disappear mid-snog at one point!)  If there was one thing that was definitely a mistake on Bioware’s part it was that the last words you essentially see at the end of the game are “PURCHASE DLC”  – it was like after wooing you with 100’s of hours time invested in an involving story… ABRUPT ENDING! Hahahah! Buy more DLC!

On the subject of DLC; ME1 had a few bits and bobs of DLC, nothing particularly earth shattering (so to speak).  ME2 had some very notable packs; most especially “Lair of the Shadowbroker” and “Arrival”, but ME3 caused controversy by having day one, on the disk DLC that arguably should have been core content in the first place.

Who’s the bloke in the middle?

So it seemed that Bioware were so taken off guard by the subsequent huge outcry (most of which was valid, though there were a few that really were hurt and wanted a genuine 100% happy ending) that they relented and announced a forthcoming “Extended Cut” version of the ending would be released for free.  This unprecedented announcement was treated with hope by many of us and disdain by others. I would hazard a guess that the disdain mostly came from those who played the game as shooters first and foremost with little emotional investment in the story.  Around this time talk of the fan-based “Indoctrination Theory” was at its most intense and whilst I admit to being disappointed that in the final analysis it was rendered nullified by the EC, I think that what we got restored my love of the series and made the thought of replaying it genuinely viable. Whereas without the EC it felt as no choice in the entire series ultimately mattered, so why bother to replay?

*no caption due to author bawling*

With the EC DLC in place the 3 original endings that were 95% similar in content have been replaced with a possible 5 key iterations with subtle further variations within each based on player’s choices throughout the entire series, as well as some small other additions to the story in the run up to the finale, including a beautiful if improbably set farewell to your love interest.  Also, very importantly each of the choices becomes an actually viable choice with “lots of speculation” as to its repercussions beyond what is now fully expanded in the new endings – a previous choice that was largely written-off as “BAD” seems to now have captured fan’s attention for its possibilities beyond what the game actually shows.

So, I can now say unreservedly say that the Mass Effect trilogy is to me,  the finest, most involving, emotional gaming experience I have ever had, and that description is a disservice to it.  As I’ve already mentioned I feel it transcends interactive media as we know it, it is more than game, more than a film.  The combination of solid writing, a good sci-fi story, stellar performances, cinematic sound and music design elevates it to a level beyond anything I’ve seen before, as long as you get “into” the story and those characters, which both my partner and I did through the associated audiobooks, and comics.

Oh, the music… ME1 and 2 had some fantastic music, memorable themes, but by the third game the ante had been upped to such an epic level, the involvement of cinematic composer Clint Mansell working with the existing composers raised the bar highest of all.  Even now, listening to the soundtrack as I write this, I feel myself welling up when certain tracks play.  When it comes time to vote for Game of the Year, I might find myself umming and aaahing about ME3 the game, but the music+sound  will wholeheartedly get my vote.  This is the year that a Reaper’s “HwAAAAAAAAAAAM!” may match R2-D2’s warbles for zeitgeist familiarity!  That was something I wrote about in my own blog, in that Mass Effect may have become a new generation’s Star Wars, but I feared it might have been similarly struck down by its original ending as Star Wars was by a director with CGI OCD!

Before the EC DLC, the idea of playing pay DLC set during the story arc leading up to the end was unthinkable “Whats the point?” being a common reaction amongst players, but now it seems like a much more viable option. Rumour of elements from a forthcoming DLC being stealthily delivered as part of the EC DLC only fuels interest.

Across the stars

And thats the important difference, we are now left wanting more, as opposed to sitting in baffled, hurt silence needing more, in terms of an explanation.  Mass Effect was never meant to be a bleak 70’s style sci-fi with an atonal soundtrack and a huge “?” final frame.  Bittersweet, emotional – yes.  Twin Peaks or LOST – no.  Its also worth noting that even with the EC, several of fans’ complaints still won’t have been addressed; and by that I mean collected War Assets – only the key biggest ones feature in the end game, when likely some will want to see them all, but these are minor complaints given what they have fixed.

I now outwardly firmly place myself in the “battleworn, sad, but content” camp now its over.. but secretly I’m a very upset geeky fangirl that I wont be witness to any new adventures of Commander Shepard (I will miss Jennifer Hale’s voice performance in particular), and not be around to raise any little blue children with Dr. Liara T’Soni :*(

Fan-made content of note:

Koobismo – maker of the fantastic alternative timeline ending comic: Marauder Shields – his Audiobook version is a thing of awesomeness.

Neehs – maker of animations and stills that fulfilled many a player’s emotional needs post-game! Linked picture is still my wallpaper across all my devices! His Alternative-ending video was a truer bittersweet end before the EC was released!

#femshep on Deviant art and femshep.com – for all your fabulous Ms. Shepard artistic and narrative needs!

My own mass effect music playlist on youtube


Assassin’s Creed 3 VIP Event, Newcastle

I’m a huge games fan and, like most other people, got super hyped at the Assassin’s Creed 3 footage screened at E3 this year. So like any fan, when the opportunity arose for me to attend an Assassin’s Creed event in my hometown of Newcastle-upon-Tyne I jumped at the opportunity.

My VIP event invitation

As VIPs we were entitled to a few goodies, such as AC3 t-shirts, pin badges, posters and lanyards which were pretty awesome. Lots of people put their t-shirts on immediately but I was already wearing an Assassin’s Creed hoodie, so I didn’t switch. I did put my lanyard on though, makes you feel more like a VIP.

The room was appropriately decorated with both American and British flags, and loads of AC3 boxes which I really wanted to take home. There were 12 operational consoles, all of which sporting at least one of the past four Assassin’s Creed titles; from Assassin’s Creed, all the way to Revelations. There was such a big turn out, the viewing had to be split into two, so we made ourselves at home on the consoles as the first half of people made the first showing. We were treated to pizza and drinks, the largest order of Domino’s Pizza I’ve ever seen, and then made our way down to the VIP viewing area, which meant down our own little red carpet.

Josh Winward (@JRWinward), the Field Executive for Ubisoft, introduced himself and seemed super excited to be there. He was looking forward to showing us some of the new features. He proceeded to show off 3 different demos for us, 2 of which were seen at E3 and the third I had never seen before.

The first was the footage we saw during the Ubisoft conference at E3 early last month; The Frontier. Josh explained how difficult it was to walk through the deep snow in the woods, and demonstrated how running through the trees was a much more viable means of transportation. That doesn’t means there’s no horses! Connor still jumps on a horse to cover the large distance between the camp and the fortress. Josh also talked about runners, the people who try and sound the alarm and warn your target of your prescence, then nicely executed him with that rather beautiful tomahawk. A quick demonstration of how easily distractions work in aiding a more stealthy approach to your target and that was the first demo complete!

The second demo was seen at Sony’s E3 conference and that is the exciting concept of Naval combat. Josh informs us that you can take full control of the ship, have 360 degree camera control, and access to a range of weapons. To demonstrate, he sails a boat into the rapidly changing sea, and utilises a few weapons, including the ships main cannons that aim to sink other ships, a cannon which is much more precise and can deal huge amounts of damage, and of course the Chain shots which he uses to take out the ship’s masts and enables Connor to board the enemy ship.

Then the final demo emerged; Boston 1775. This was an opportune moment to show how the evasive techniques have adapted and changed. Firstly, I was impressed by the moving hay bales on the back of the NPC’s carts, and how you can assassinate from it, maybe because it looked like so much fun! Josh then moved on to complete a side-mission to help a woman get her husband from the Red-Coats. Connor is now able to use buildings as cover, and uses the woman to gain the guards attention, unaware that he was walking to his death. Connor then utilises the Rope Sling as a distraction for the other guards, and sneaks past to free the husband. Now, he is no longer incognito, so Josh shows us how it is easier to blend within the crowds, and how you can use your surroundings to assassinate guards, by driving a Red-Coats head through a pitchfork. We are shown that Connor can use open windows as a means of escape, by running through an unsuspecting lady’s house. We are also shown that your fellow assassins can now be summoned in disguises to allow passage through guarded sections, pretending to have Connor as a prisoner. To end the demo, Josh grabs a bayonet and drives it through a couple of guards on a boat, pushing the third overboard, then climbing the mast to show us that the game still has vast landscapes to explore.

(from left to right) Myself, Josh Winward and Andrien Gbinigie

Overall it was a great day, and watching the footage made me run to the game shop and pre-order the game, and free pizza is always a plus! I also got to meet Josh Winward and Andrien Gbinigie (@EscoBlades), Microsoft Xbox MVP, Deputy Editor for XboxGameZone and Machinima Partner & Director.

I’m really excited, so I better finish off Revelations quick! Release date is October 31st 2012.


Lollipop Chainsaw

Image

I promised poor Donna that I would write a post umpteen days ago about Botanicula; the truth is, I haven’t finished the game yet. I started it when I was visiting family – and things got busy. My grandfather was ill. So first it was I-has-a-sad (he’s much better, don’t worry) and then it was I-has-a-new-job and then it was – honestly I am just a horrible person and I have no excuses.

So here’s a review for an entirely different game!

Most of Lollipop Chainsaw was lost on me. By “most”, I mean boobs. I am unfortunately straight as a plank, and could not appreciate the eye-candy laid out (heh. heh.) before me. It was designed by the flashy exuberant sexy-obsessed Suda51 (Goichi Suda), of Shadows of the Damned and No More Heroes fame, and James Gunn (PG Porn), and was originally written in Japanese – as an English-speaking straight girl, I am entirely not the audience for this game.

Here are the things that didn’t get lost in translation:

1) The zombies actually talk. OMG! And everything they say is amusing. Congratulations to all concerned: translators and scriptwriters both.
2) Juliet is such a sweetheart. And her voice actress is amazing. Really spot-on.
3) Zombie concepts were so good! I loved the fact that different bosses got different levels based around different musical styles.
4) The music for this game includes The Human League, which, given my obsession with New Wave, means the game gets one billion bonus points. Also, Jimmy Urine is involved, and don’t you even start dissing MSI. The first guy I ever fell in love with introduced me to them – I will always be a fan.

The sentient A.I. I live with – slash my other 1/2 – reports that the fighting system is complex enough to warrant replay in the harder difficulties. (I suspect this translates from straight man into “SO MANY BIKINIS,” but I digress.)

Pictured: so many bikinis

Pictured: so many bikinis

Plus, you get to kick righteous ass with a sparkly chainsaw. Alas that you can’t choose what flavour of kawaii decorates your gore in the US version, but I thought the pink hearts were a nice touch.

Pictured: kicking righteous ass

Pictured: kicking righteous ass

I thought the story was a little short, and the graphics weren’t really up to par. Seriously, loves, you can do better; I know you can, because I played Shadows of the Damned a few months back. Sentient A.I. defended the length of the storyline (“BIKINIS”), and the graphics were playable (unlike the E3 gameplay preview for Dishonoured, wtf, welcome to 2004) – so I’m going to give it a 7/10 for people uninterested in boob physics, and an 8.5/10 for those who get the upskirt trophy without knowing there is one.

~ Alice M.


E3 The Tomb Raider Trailer

Okay so I missed posting this earlier in the week. This is a gameplay trailer of the new Tomb Raider game that is actually more of a prequel and an origin story. Looks fucking awesome. My only annoyance is the the first DLC will be first available to the Xbox. Making DLC first available on the Xbox isn’t going to really influence those who own both consoles or make PS3 owners buy an Xbox.

I won’t be buying it for my Xbox.

[youtube http://youtu.be/2pLzSSv1Qfg?hd=1]

E3 Ubisoft Conference

Okay so the Ubisoft conference has just ended at E3 and we’ve got some awesome things coming. The highlights for me are Assassin’s Creed 3 and the new game, Watch Dogs.  Also, new Spinter Cell and Farcry 3 to come, plus some new shiny stuff for the Wii-U.

Assassin’s Creed 3 looks super sexy. Timeframe-wise we’re in the American Civil War era, so lots of wilderness and snow and wild animals, plus you get to run through the tree tops. How kool is that. Have a look at the video.

[youtube http://youtu.be/gZrklEy9ohQ?hd=1]

Then we have a completely new IP called Watch Dogs. Personally I think the name is a bit lack lustre, but I’m willing to forgive if it’s as awesome all the way through as what they’ve just shown us. Have a look.

[youtube http://youtu.be/0dTOnyp58NM?hd=1]

Now I’m waiting for the Sony conference, but have a look at the whole of the Ubisoft presentation for yourself. (Jump to the 18min mark for the beginning)

[youtube http://youtu.be/aKRWubusKBU?t=18m]

Saints Row the Third – Addendum!

When I was prepping for the review I *knew* I had made a video showing me “strutting” the town to that oh so notable BeeGees song…  of all days today on the day that Robin Gibb passed away, I find it again.

So here I present to you my little tribute to both Robin Gibb, Saints Row, and totally awesome fashion sense that I would so very much rock in real-life if I could afford the LouBoutin’s 😀


Saints Row the Third + DLC

“How long until the helicopter gets here?”

“Oh… about two waves of SWAT guys, I guess?”

That little exchange right at the beginning of Saints Row: The Third gives you an example of the tone, self-deprecating humor, and.. so very anti-Grand Theft Auto this game is. Not anti as in antagonistic, merely that it goes out of its way to show how different it is from what would be a possible natural first impression of the game. I know it was mine!

I played a lot of – but never finished – GTA:Vice City, wooed by its apparent comedy, completely awesome (to this child of the 80’s!) soundtrack and open sandbox gameplay. I skipped an installment and picked up GTA:IV upon release, and whilst I was agog at its visuals and scale; I was left cold by its story and niggling friend/cousin micro-management.  So I barely played it at all.

So… in 2011 Saints Row the Third arrives on the scene with some completely “whacky” adverts on the TV and, most crucially of all (to my personal tastes), a full campaign co-op multiplayer mode! I love co-op in games, especially those with big story arcs to follow, it just makes such a difference to be able to play through a game with a friend in this way. This is exactly what SR3 allows you to do, but that alone doth not a great game make, fortunately it manages to be that too.

As I alluded to earlier, the game takes the basic gameplay style of GTA, (driving, shooting, gangsters city exploration), and does away with any attempt to paint it in any kind of gritty realism in favour of bright day-glo colouring, larger than life characters, story, and events.

I am…. a toilet.. ?

The game allows you to play as male or female, (and um, change that if you so desire later in the game!), with full performances from the player-character for each. In fact, somewhat bizarrely you have a choice of voice-performance style to choose from at the start. (for female: default, Easter-European accented, or NEW YAWK accented !) These options are all defined about half-way through the (playable) intro with the usual character appearance customization, which is quite detailed in this particular game, I spent the usual half-hour or so tweaking it – I would later discover you can change your appearance in-game!

Now, I approached this game not having played any of the previous SR games, so I was initially a bit baffled by the characters and setting, but quickly warmed to it – especially when early on your co-gang member Johnny shouts “PROTECT THE BOSS!” – and I was all looking for the boss, until I realized it was me! This seemed all the cooler due to the simple fact that here was “Me”, the apparent female leader of this gang.

What follows is a rollercoaster action ride of the first 20 minutes of the game which forms the basis of an introduction, after which you’re in sandbox territory and, unlike GTA, the entirety of the city is at your disposal from the very beginning.

Head out on the highway…

As you explore, your map populates with shops, services and notable locations. Want to fly a plane? Head to the airport. Want a change of clothes? Find a clothing store. Fancy a bit of plastic surgery, a tattoo or pimped vehicle? – Just find one of the many places on the map that offer the service you want, right off the bat.

You pick up the primary story arc through interactions with your homies via your phone (which doubles as your GPS/map) as well as sideline quests of the usual escort, assassination, and fetch ilk.. and some slightly more unusual events.

The basic premise of the story is that by this installment of the game The Saints Row gang are celebrities, not really doing much gang-work, more into public appearances and product endorsement. During a bank-robbery “stunt” featuring the star of a Vampire-related TV show, it all goes wrong. The Saints are locked up and then taken to the leader of a crime Syndicate who expresses their intention to take over the Saint’s assets. This sets the basis of the story, The Saints reclaiming their mojo, taking on the Syndicate, and taking over the City of Steelport.

“This is some rescue!!”

This is an adult game, make no mistake, both in terms of language, content, and most certainly violence. If anything its more violent than GTA, with yours and other gangs at war with each other, the police, military and government. The violence is offset by the day-glo colour scheme, comedy, and sheer absurdity of it – but from a purely superficial standpoint it can look very violent, especially early on. Perseverance pays though, as you soon not so much get used to it, but are laughing at the ridiculousness of it. Weapons including a baseball bat with a huge purple dildo attached, the hilarious sound-effects of the Genki mind-controlling reluctant octopus launcher, (no, really), and the Land Shark launcher soon had me guffawing at it, not to mention the “car” chase played out with gimpsuited sex-slaves pulling carriages which, yes, as is customary, explode upon crashing! Did I mention this was an “adult” game?

Just another day in Steelport…?

What really sells this is the tongue-in-cheek performances of the actors, as well as some really good animation, and I absolutely *love* the fact that the characters interact with you “the Boss” the same regardless of your gender, this makes for a really satisfying experience playing this as a female, much the same as Mass Effect, there’s really Zero instances of “hey, sweet cheeks” – and when there is it is there regardless of the character’s gender – as my male co-op mate found out to his dismay in one scene where you’re drugged and staggering about the place naked (humorously “pixelated” bits, of course!)

There has been some comment however on the other females as depicted in the game, and I will put my Feminist hat on and say that yes, there is a huge element of scantily clad “bitches and ho’s” who seem to be mere objects and scenery in the game, but I’ll say that this is offset by the strength of the primary lead characters as written in the game – the player, and Shaundi, your right-hand-woman. Its likely something that everyone thinks, but I can’t imagine the game playing out with anything other than a female lead as the boss, and this is a good thing. One thing that did bother me was in the character creation – for some reason the developers think that anyone over the age of 10 has some serious wrinkleage, when I put in my actual age I was horrified at the apparent wrinkley face I supposedly must have if my character was anything to go by. Perhaps its all that sunny weather. On the other hand I was all ready to be incensed about the “Sex appeal” slider being the Boob-size adjustment, but upon checking I found that the same slider affected the size of the male sausage compartment, ha!

Also, there’s a good share of male objectification in the game too. Another nice touch is that you can choose the “uniform” of your entire gang so if you want your girls and boys running around scantily, or sensibly, you choose so yourself.

I’d be lying if I didn’t mention the fact that I absolutely loved the whole “dress-up” nature to this game which is one of its selling points. You can inexplicably walk around the city green-skinned, with a mustache, wearing a space helmet, Lady GaGa-esque couture dress, and combat boots. The clothes shops are simply and comically themed (“Let’s Pretend!” – cosplay fun, “Nobody Loves Me” – Goth/emo fashion, “Leather & Lace” – well.. you can imagine)

Today I will mostly be… Steampunk

As I’ve mentioned the game is very bright, colourful, and graphically very nice, though the characters suffer a lot from the “Uncanny Valley” – I guess we’ve been spoiled by other games recently with character emotion depiction as SR3 is definitely not the best at this, but it hides this with unsubtle exaggerated design.

The game itself was just a pleasure to play, and replay in single player as well as co-op. The winning factor is its sense of fun. I frequently found myself laughing or staring agog at the screen with incredulity.

I picked up the game not that long after release cheaply including a “season pass” to DLC, and the DLC has been a mixed bag of “costumes”, vehicles, weapons, and missions. The missions vary from being small little diversions, to fairly large chunks of standalone fun. I’ve seen the game only (no DLC) this week for sale online for £7 for the PC version (reviewed) which I bought as well so that my niece(teen) and I could replay it for this review.

Posing, casually, but awesomely.

If you can laugh at toilet humour, comedy sex, innuendo and tolerate people being shot (a lot) then I think you’ll enjoy this game very much.  The game has lots of little nods to films, other games, and even ye olde retro text adventures at one point.

Special mention for the soundtrack, that whilst featuring the usual assortment of in-car radio stations (though not as full of character as GTA’s) also has some real standout work, including a song sung by the lead characters, a Michael Bay-esque orchestral score for a scene involving… Well, the shooting of a movie… and a totally left field (but oh so wonderfully appropriate) turn of music for the very unusual finale!

Finally, merely listing the keywords associated with the game should provide you some idea of its bizarre nature:

Guns, shooting, gimps, pimps, zombies, Burt Reynolds, sky-diving, toilet,  gangstas and spaceships.

~K8bit

Gangstas…. in SPAAAAACE!


The Generation Gap (Sonic Generations, XBOX/PS3

Sonic, Sonic, Sonic. A while ago, you and I used to be friends. Do you remember what happened?

I’ll tell you what happened – Sonic and The Secret Rings happened, buddy boy. And I found your gameplay stilted, the story and characters charmless and somewhat tired, and despite a passable attempt to shoehorn a Mario Party-esque multiplayer minigame into what was already a hugely drawn-out yawnfest of a game, I went off you pretty quickly. The release of Sonic and The Black Knight with the same clumsy, frantic motion commands only served to rub salt in the wounds. My head was turned slightly by the time Sonic Unleashed was…erm, unleashed, and I felt you’d taken a small step back towards the welcoming, fun (and thankfully mute) Sonic of yesteryear.

So when I heard about Sonic Generations, I was dubious. Was I ready to let Sonic back into my life?

Like a former addict, I hit the streets in search of leads, determined to know what I was getting myself into.

“The ultimate celebration of 20 years of Sonic gaming, Sonic Generations delivers the definitive gaming experience for Sonic fans new and old,” bleats SEGA.

Well, I guess I count as the ‘old’ Sonic fan, seeing as though I’m old enough to remember the original games. And I’d quite happily admit, hand over fist, that I much preferred them to any of Sonic’s recent fare. I finally bit the bullet when my fiance brought the game home shortly before Christmas. If this couldn’t endear me to the speedy blue sodhat once more, I vowed I would give up.

The intro video begins with a party. Yay! It’s Sonic’s birthday! Forgive me for not bringing a gift. Everyone’s favourite critter pals (and Amy Rose) are here. But something is amiss. A giant hole is torn in the fabric of space and time, and our friends (and Amy Rose) are sucked into it, only to reappear in a vapid white wasteland. But what’s this? TWO SONICS?!

On one hand, we have Old Sonic. Side-scrolling super speed platforming, ring-collecting, Robotnik-bashing Old Sonic. No need for half the forest to lend him a hand or gimmicky plots ripped from Arabian Nights, he just knuckles down (no pun intended) and gets on with it. On the other, New Sonic. With his entourage of buddies, aerial move-busting and ‘cool’ streamlined design, New Sonic looks like that kid on Facebook with 500 friends and a profile picture of himself on a skateboard in mid-air. And they’re going to have to team up if they’re ever going to restore their homeworlds. “Aha!”, I thought. “This is the test. This game is either going to be a fantastic blend of the best parts of every Sonic game, or it’s going to be like waxing: painful and unnecessary.”

The game is firstly split into Acts One and Two, playable in any order. Act One, as you’d expect, is Old School Sonic. With all the momentum and heady speed of the first games including the original music, it’s easy to forget I’m playing this in 2012, which is bliss. I’m interrupted now and again by a Chao bleating helpful tips at me such as “If you lose all your rings, YOOOOUUUU’LL DIIIIIIIIIIEEEE”, but then I remember there will be some gamers out there who have never played a Sonic game before. As I whizz through the first level with its impressive graphics, I’m quite happy that this will be some people’s first impression of Sonic. It beats the hell out of Secret Rings. There’s a good selection of vintage levels, and the artwork reminds me of the gorgeous design of Donkey Kong Country Returns or Rayman Origins – almost. Sometimes there’s a little too much going on, which can be distracting.

Act Two plunges us into ‘3D’ Sonic. The levels consist of forward scrolling at an impressive (and sometimes distracting) pace – you really have to concentrate: miss one move and you’re toast. This causes the most upset in our household when we keep dying at the same point in each level. “This isn’t what Sonic’s about!” cries my fiance. “You don’t get stuck in a Sonic game!”  I’m mostly inclined to agree. A lot of the forward-scrolling play is about timing, as seen in a level which heralds the return of Silver the Hedgehog, who angrily flings debris at Sonic as you pursue him. Miss a move or two and you’re out. This can be a source of irritation for people who aren’t fans of repeating an attack sequence over and over and over to win.

As with most Sonic games, your performance gets a rank at the end of each level. Obviously, faster times and higher scores get you As and Bs, which in turn gives you unlockable content such as concept art, songs and character bios.

But the majority of the unlockable content is gained through ‘Challenge Gates’, which are exactly what the name suggests – levels with a unique challenge. Sometimes you have to race your doppelganger, sometimes you have to get to the ending holding only one ring, and more often than not you have to call on the expertise of your friends. This is quite a good idea: especially since I was not looking forward to endlessly having to deal with a barrage of irritating ‘Verb’ The ‘Noun’ critters which I assumed would dog you throughout gameplay. The Challenge Gates are an excellent way of utilizing each pal’s abilities – for example, Vector the Crocodile can toss you across large gaps, or Amy Rose can extend jump height by walloping you with her offensively large mallet (there’s a lot to be said for PMS power).

Since this game came out almost alongside Sonic Colours, the ability-enhancing sprites make an appearance. Since I hadn’t played Colours, I was a little un-nerved to see Sonic suddenly turn a nasty shade of cyan and start flinging himself about. Some of the abilities were a little hard to pick up on, and I kept forgetting that you could only use them once before you had to ‘refill’. To be honest, it put me off Colours a little bit. I could barely remember where the jump button was: how was I supposed to remember that light blue gives you a rocket ability and yellow makes you breathe fire and magenta makes you skilled at archaeology and green makes you…blah blah. I almost thanked God for the Chao yelling instructions in my ear. (Which you CAN turn off, something certain other games could do well to notice. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Navi.)

So we have the short, pudgy and mercifully quiet Sonic of yore, and the wise-cracking, chilidog-scarfing Sonic of recent gaming: and they seem to mesh fairly well together. The barren wasteland becomes smattered with colour as you play, collecting more chums and places to visit. The whole thing seems rather celebratory (as well it might, after all it was Sonic’s birthday), as if the goal was to applaud Sonic’s best efforts all along. I feel like I’ve actually achieved something, instead of feeling like I’ve been cheated as I had done in recent years.

Overall, the game is easy to pick up and get into. It’s not too hard or too easy, so it won’t alienate gamers old or new. It’s like a grab bag in the sense that certain gamers will find some elements superfluous – Generation One gamers may be frustrated by the game’s efforts to introduce new gaming aspects such as the Colours cameo noted above or Sonic’s animal pals, whereas New Generation gamers might not particularly care about the collectible content or the aesthetic of the Act One levels, but none of the niggles are enough to make either want to stop playing. Your personal mileage may vary, and you’re more than entitled to disagree with me if you want to.

Happy Birthday Sonic, and thanks for the invite.

(I will point out one more thing – sometimes, the ‘order’ of the game can get confusing. My other half is still missing the last Chaos Emerald and for the life of him can’t figure out where it is. Hasn’t stopped him playing it though.)

~NeetyNeet


I Love Final Fantasy

My love affair with Final Fantasy started a good 15ish years ago. With each one I’ve fallen more in love than I was with the previous incarnation. Sure there have been some that were better than others.

With each release I get all excited like I’m a child again and ya know this time is no different. I think you know where I’m going with this so I’ll let the vids do the talking.

~Donna

Environment

Characters

Shiny

Interview and more shiny


Ever Dance With the Devil in the Pale Moonlight? (Batman: Arkham City)

Okay so pretty much everyone I know who played Batman: Arkham Asylum has been looking forward to Arkham City. All the information we were fed about Arkham City was meant to tease and tempt us. So much lovely artwork and little pieces of gameplay videos. I knew that if it was just as good as Arkham Asylum, then Arkham City was going to be amazing. They promised us the world. Slowly they revealed that not only would we have Batman as a playable character, but we’d also get Catwoman, Nightwing and Robin. The Catwoman DLC is already out so if you didn’t get it with your pre-order, now’s the time. It’s worth getting, playing at Catwoman is completely different to Batman.

I don’t want to give away the story, but suffice to say, you’ve got an old face and a new face in your primary villains for this out of Batman. You’ll get to see many old familiar faces from the comics and cartoons. Most are short appearances and side missions, but it’s kinda nice to see all the cameos. It’s fitting and it works. Of course through it all you’ve got the Riddler with his trophies and antics all over the place. As you’d probably guess The Joker is a primary adversary, but then that’s to be expected. I’ll leave the other as a surprise for you to find out.

The primary storyline revolves around sorting out Arkham City, and it is the size of a small city in game terms, which is the successor of the Arkham Asylum. As you’d expect everything is in disarray and the career criminals are reeking havoc and scheming. All the evil doing makes for some good story and much unexpectedness. I won’t give you any more than that so I don’t spoil it. Suffice to say I was reasonably happy with the story and it was fitting. Basically you have to fix the fucked up place, but Batman is a hero after all.

Speaking of story, there are a few side quests with their own little stories. Some are okay and are natural branches, but others don’t make much sense. Unfortunately several of them are just busy work to simulate the game being longer. The Riddler side mission is the worst perpetrator of this and actually annoyed me after a while. Previously I’d enjoyed the challenge of the Riddler trophies and riddles, but this time they’ve been tied into the Riddler side mission and there are 400 of them. And maybe this is a minor spoiler, but I’d feel wrong not telling you. You will need to find all 400 Riddler trophies in order to complete the Riddler side mission. This didn’t make me happy and I haven’t finished it out of frustration and irritation.

The side missions are for me the only major downside though. My only other problem isn’t so much a problem as a personal disappointment. I finished Arkham Asylum in about 16 hours including the Riddler trophies. This was the low point for me, I really wanted to keep playing for longer. I was really hoping for Arkham City to be longer, and it was; a little. To me this is a disappointment because I was really enjoying the game and really wanted to keep going and not just faff about with the Riddler trophies. On an up side to these side missions, many of them really do focus in on the whole “World’s Greatest Detective” bit of Batman; and I enjoyed that a lot.

As to why I wanted to just keep on playing; it’s the gameplay. The flow and ease of the fighting from the first one is again present with some little modifications for the weapons and fighting different types of bad guys. There are some special moves that need timing but generally you just don’t have to think as you fight all those bad guys. To me sometimes simple controls only improve the gameplay.

The area that you get to run around is so much bigger than previously, there is a lot more roof activity and climbing.  I would say that Rocksteady Stuios’ devs have definitely had a good look at the Assassin’s Creed games. As you run across the roofs you’ll see how smooth you can go from gliding to running to grappling. If you’ve played the Assassin’s Creed games you’ll notice the similarities and the missed problems that the first AC games ran up against. This for me made moving around Arkham City a smooth and enjoyable experience. Rocksteady was definitely paying attention.

Outside of the primary story you’ve got the challenge maps which are essentially maps from the main story with objectives on how and what to do and a couple options like being timed and ranked. They’re okay, but I actually got bored with them pretty quickly as they’re pretty pointless. Otherwise you also can unlock character bios and 3D renderings as you progress through the game. The 3D renders are actually kinda nice and you can have a good up close look at the different characters.

Overall, I say get it now. It’s an astonishing game despite the foibles as they are few and minor. I really do love the game and wanted to keep on playing forever.

~Donna


A Heavenly Feast for the Eyes

With all the AAA games being released at this time of year it can be easy to miss the smaller titles. It’s a shame because it can mean that more inventive or eclectic titles don’t get the attention they deserve. I think this is probably going to be the fate of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron so I’m glad I got the chance to play it before I become distracted by Batman: Arkham City and Battlefield 3.

El Shaddai is inspired by the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Enoch is the great-grandfather of Noah and the book describes the story of the Watchers. The Watchers are fallen angels who created children with mortals; the Nephilim. The plot of the game is very simple. Enoch must defeat seven fallen angels and the Nephilim in the Tower of Babel in order to prevent God from issuing a great flood to destroy mankind. The Nephilim are odd yet cute looking creatures who have the unfortunate habit of eating one another until they become flaming giants. It’s difficult to follow what is happening at times. It doesn’t matter very much though. The truly stand out feature of this game is how it looks.

You can’t talk about El Shaddai without talking about the visuals. The environments of each level are astoundingly diverse. Each level in the Tower of Babel looks like it was pulled from a different game and all of them are beautiful. You will find yourself in realms that look like they were made from fireworks, levels that bleed cutting-edge future tech, places that feel like you’ve been transported into a candy-striped Super Mario World and worlds that are ethereally breathtaking. Seriously. Take a look.



The fallen angels that inhabit the Tower can create any worlds they want and each level is a reflection of them. Imagination runs rife through this game and the visuals are important. You won’t find a Heads-Up Display on your screen to tell you how much energy you have left or how close you are to gaining an Overboost attack – these things are also represented visually by how much armour you have on or how…on fire you seem to be. Every so often you’ll run into Lucifel (basically Satan before he stopped being on speaking terms with God) who is chatting away about how you are doing on his mobile phone to God. He acts as your save point and narrator. At one point he even cheekily tells you how long it’s going to take you to complete the game…if you’re good enough, that is!

The gameplay is split into two parts. You have your platforming segments and your combat segments. The platforming is a lot of fun. It feels like a throwback to games of 15 years ago and is varied and tricky enough to be enjoyable. Sometimes, however, the heady visuals of the game can impair how well you judge distances and you will find yourself leaping into thin air when you were sure you were going to land on solid ground. This can be annoying but most of the platforming sequences are well designed.

The combat is based on a rock, paper, scissors mechanic. You have three weapons – the arch (offensive melee), the gale (distance projectiles) and the veil (defensive shield) and will need to switch between them in order to defeat the enemies who will be weak to a specific weapon. However, you can only carry one weapon at a time. To switch you must steal your opponents’ weapons! You also need to keep an eye on your weapon’s “purity” because if the weapon becomes corrupted the damage of your attacks will drop to nothing. Despite Enoch’s attacks being basically mapped to only one button do not think that you can get through the combat simply by bashing. You will need to learn to delay, to combo, to counterattack and defend in order to exploit your enemies tactics. I hard won battle can feel extremely satisfying.

Unfortunately there is not much change in the enemies. You will meet the same ones through-out the game – in later levels there is normally just more of them. The boss battles are mainly a matter of observing the pattern and figuring out when to hit them and with what. The battles aren’t easy but it feels like there is a lack of imagination in the combat. This is a shame since it feels like the rest of the game is over-abundant in it. It doesn’t stop them from being fun but it does make the game feel somewhat lacking.

I would still highly recommend renting or picking up this game if you have the time (it’s only £17.95 at Zavvi right now). It’s a bit of an odd and disjointed experience (there is one particular boss battle I will never get out of my head!) but it will be an experience unlike anything else you’ve played this year. It’s not perfect but it is unique. And that’s worth a lot.

JenJenRobot


October is Here!!

It’s October again, but this year it’s not quite as bad. This year though I’ve double and triple checked the releases for the month and I am pretty sure I haven’t missed anything. So provided nothing get’s announced in the next week; I’ve only got 2 games on pre-order this month. (We’ll keep schtum about November for now)

So in just a few days Rage comes sailing into my hands. I hadn’t planned on getting this until I played it at the the EuroGamer Expo and it was kinda awesome.

So after a couple of weeks playing Rage the much anticipated Arkham City comes out. I have predictable purchased the Collector’s Edition. I absolutely adored Arkham Asylum even if it was a bit short. This one promises to be in all ways so I’m very excited.

We’ll talk about the toll November is going to take on my bank account when the time comes….

~Donna


Rose Petal Blood – Bayonetta (Xbox360)

Right has everyone got a drink? Good then let’s begin!

Bayonetta was released in Japan back in 2009 (and everywhere else a year later) with Sega as its publisher and Platinum Games  as its Developer (or Nex entertainment if you own a PS3). I should probably say that to call Bayonetta an”Overly sexualized character ” would be an understatement. Everything about her, from her BDSM attack moves right down to that tiny lollypop she’s always sucking on , looks like something out of a teenage boys wet dream.

Whilst I thought that fanservice would bother me, after about an hour of play I noticed how little it phased me. It was actually  funny watching bayonetta use a spear as a stripper pole as she kicks and shoots anything that comes near her like some kind of  super powered burlesque dancer.

The storyline can be a bit hard to follow at times, but its an interesting story none the less.

Bayonetta is a witch; which in this game seems to mean that she runs around strapping guns to her boots and wears a cat suit made out her own hair…yeah eww. She wakes up after a 500 year slumber to find herself in a stone tomb that’s at the bottom of a lake, and for some reason she has amnesia,brilliant!. Anyway, we then seem to be jumped forward 20 years and join bayonetta again as she searches for a mysterious object known as ‘ the right eye ‘ which apparently will help with her memory loss, but the Angels and Virtues are getting in her way.

There’s also two factions of magic users called Umbrian witches and the Lumen sages who are something to do with this right eye object. There’s also a left eye and together they make the ‘eye’s of the world’ which summon the creator who  apparently can bring heaven, hell and earth together.

I could go on but its more fun if you play it and see for yourselves, and don’t worry if you can’t understand what’s going on right away, the plot gets clearer as the game progresses and until then there’s always good old-fashioned violence to keep you entertained.

While the angels will come at you in swarms like ants to a sugar cube, they aren’t much of a threat and with a few torture moves even the mightiest angel will fall. Even the mini boss battles with an umbrian witch called Jeanne are fairly straight forward. The real challenge is the virtue Boss battles.

With up to  6-7 health bars and a plethora of attacks to beat you down with, the virtues are a force to be reckoned with.

But luckily bayonetta has a few tricks up her own cat suit sleeves; one of which is known as witch time.

Pressing the dodge button just as the enemy strikes is what sets of this particular skill; during which everything except bayonetta comes to a complete stop. Thus allowing the player to inflict some major damage on the enemy without worry of loosing any health points, but don’t get too used to this ability because it only lasts for a short time; so make sure to get out of the way before time returns to its normal state, or you may end up on the other end of a spear.

I’ve mentioned a lot of good points, but no game is perfect and the cutscenes are where bayonetta falls short. The majority of cut scenes are still images pasted to a movie reel animation; and the all the rest are filled to the brim with quicktime events which are frustrating at the best of times. But these ones always jump out at you just as you begin to lose interest, and they give you a minuscule amount of time to react before the game sends Bayonetta hurtling to the ground before making you watch the same scene all over again.

I’m going to stop myself here before I begin to rant. Overall Bayonetta is an entertaining game, the sheer level of sexual innuendo is so bad its funny. The boss battles are challenging yet fun at the same time. While the story is a little hard to follow at first , once you get the basic plot it becomes an immersive tale with some fairly well written characters.

~HeadphoneGirlZ