Xbox 360

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.

Advertisements

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.