In all honesty, I don't think any of us are ready for this hell about to be brought down on perpetrator's heads by this former Double Dragon boss turned loveable-and-murderous father.
In all honesty, I don't think any of us are ready for this hell about to be brought down on perpetrator's heads by this former Double Dragon boss turned loveable-and-murderous father.
The past two weekends were spent by many gamers perusing the worlds of Star Wars: The Old Republic though 'beta' invites distributed by EA. The term beta applies loosely, this was more of a server stress test than anything else, with the floodgates open to just about anyone to get in the world and create a Sith, Jedi, or otherwise. Invitations were given away liberally; with just about every major gaming website having thousands to throw at its faithful, so you know BioWare and EA were in straight up 'COME AT ME' mode.
Both weekends found the servers to be thoroughly slammed, as you can imagine. Many servers were open for the first weekend, and most of them had queues of up to 45 minutes before entry, or so we were told by the server information panel from within the client. A server I found which stated to have an 11 minute wait let me through the turnstile in under a minute, so take those queue times with a grain of salt. The second weekend's invites, which I believe were randomly distributed only by EA, featured about a quarter of the servers that were available on the first weekend, and what I would assume to be a quarter or less of the players invited to play during that initial weekend, though the servers were still heavily populated. Despite the sheer amount of players allowed to brandish blasters and lightsabers, the game experience was not adversely affected. Lag was minimal, crashes and server boots were non-existent, and the game zipped along as well as it possible could on my severely dated PC.
Multiplayer conversations: fun and competitve
The Old Republic is very well polished, as it should be a mere two weeks from release. As MMOs tend to go, SWTOR borrows much of its core basics from World of Warcraft, the gold standard of the genre, but makes many noticeable improvements. The most obvious, and well documented change, is the strong focus placed on storytelling. Cut scenes grab you and don't often let go, as the mix of character expressions, superb voice acting, and dialogue choices do well to keep the player involved. Of course if you're in a rush, you can hastily move these scenes along by tapping the spacebar, but why would you want to do that? There is much to learn about the deep world of the Old Republic, so take your time and enjoy.
As mentioned, the voice acting is a pleasure to listen to, and cut above much of what I've heard from any game on the market let alone an MMO. Most if not all NPCs are voiced, and I don't know if I heard the same voice actor twice between quest NPCs. To put this in perspective, a game as massive as Skyrim (which I've been a slave to in the past few weeks) has a total of maybe 20 unique voice actors. Though I'll never understand why the Empire's denizens have snazzy English accents, while most Republic characters are unaccented. Oh well.
I would like to speak on the graphics, but I'm running a 3-year old GPU and CPU on a like-aged motherboard with 3GB of RAM. Crippled much? Third time is certainly not a charm when it comes to PC tech. Though despite my elderly specs, The Old Republic ran respectably, after turning most graphical sliders to the lowest setting, of course. Even still, the game ran smoothly without looking like Rancor feces, so fear not if you're in dire need of a system upgrade. Just be sure you have the latest drivers for your video card, as my neglect of driver update was a source of frequent BSODs before I realized what the issue was. Enough tech talk though, let me tell you a bit about the characters I had the pleasure of playing.
Body type and hair style customization options suck, but who cares when you can look like this?
My first character was a human Smuggler, chosen to play alongside my roommates Soldier. There's no job a blaster can't handle, right Han? The Smuggler combines an interesting mix of cover-based play with big firepower to handle opponents. I didn't encounter many melee opponents, which would be a Smuggler's bane, so the class seemed a little overpowered in the early going. The cover system is supposed to allow you to avoid incoming blaster fire, but I don't know if that's 100% the case. Whether it be bad timing, latency, or pre-launch blues, I'm pretty sure I took damage more than a few times while hiding behind cover. Certain attacks - many of the powerful ones - can only be launched while in cover, so the Smuggler is assed out if he's caught in the open; not good if an enemy gets the jump on you in PvP.
The Smuggler's early quest line revolved around chasing down and recovering his stolen ship, which is the Smuggler's second best friend, next to credits. It was an interesting chain of quests, and quite fun to play a morally 'bluish-gray' character without feeling bad about it. This was the only character I was able to take to the advanced class, available at level 10. I chose to be a Scoundrel, who has the help of stealth and meds to survive many a tricky situation. I feel as if Gunslinger, the more firepower driven advanced class, would have been more fun, though perhaps I did not play deep enough into the Scoundrel to appreciate his wide range of abilities.
Sing-along with the Sith Inquisitor
My second character was a pureblood Sith Inquisitor, played in part by my girlfriend who logged more time in The Old Republic than any other game not named Civilization. The Inquisitor mixed a bit of melee with dark Force powers, clearing enemies with a couple of lightning attacks when the vibroblade just wouldn't cut it. While I was able to successfully solo groups of same-level enemies with the other classes I played, the Inquisitor didn't quite seem up to that task. In addition, the class quest line seemed to move noticeably slower than other classes. For these reasons, I chose to cut my experience with the Inquisitor a bit short, though I was later assured that the Inquisitor becomes a powerhouse with an excellent story a bit later in the game, so those early woes may pay off if you stick with it.
Third was the Chiss Bounty Hunter, a class I really enjoyed using in brief at New York Comic Con earlier in the year. Much like the Inquisitor, the Bounty Hunter seemed to have a case of early level blues when it came to combat. Granted he survived much longer than the aforementioned Sith, his early combat options simply were not compelling. A few of his precious abilities at the low levels were damage-over-time, attacks that I personally choose to avoid at all costs unless fighting higher level competition. This meant using the same few attacks over and over again, in addition to the standard auto attack: it wore thin. Though with experience playing a later level Powertech - a Bounty Hunter advanced class - I can say that it gets better. Though at what point, I'm not sure.
The Bounty Hunter's quests may have been the best of the bunch, with a couple of early twists and some Mandalorian chasing to keep things interesting. In addition, the Bounty Hunter may have the best of all companions I was able to sample. You see, companions are NPCs that assist you on your journey, making life easier in a plethora of ways. Help in combat, crafting, and selling goods when you're overburdened, companions are a game-changing addition. The Bounty Hunter's initial companion, Mako, is a stark difference to the hunter. A bit more animated and bubbly than you're used to seeing in scenes that feature Boba and (the vastly inferior) Jango, Mako adds a fresh voice to the Bounty Hunter's daily operations, without becoming annoying or overbearing. The early worries I had with the Bounty Hunter's combat shortnesses was remedied by his awesome story.
Never negotiate with a Bounty Hunter
Finally, I dabbled with a Miralukan Jedi Consular, the Republic's parallel to the Inquisitor. In comparison, the Consular seemed much more powerful than the Inquisitor from the start, with a few beefy melee attacks to go along with some short-ranged Force powers. Ripping a chunk of rock from the ground to hurdle at an enemies face was quite pleasing. Also, for whatever reason, I received a shocking amount of green loot upon defeating enemies, which means my Padawan looked a bit more respectable in the early going, as opposed to the 'crazy guy in pajamas' look. For these reasons I enjoyed doing battle with the Consular. Unfortunately, I can't speak much on the story arc for this class, due to my time being cut short. It was a busy pair of weekends outside of my self-contained gaming den, which sadly limited my time with The Old Republic. Though at the point I had to bail, it seems like the Consular's quests were moving in a great direction.
If I didn't already pre-order this baby back in July, I would be pre-ordering right now. I came away from my time with Star Wars: The Old Republic extremely impressed; it's one of the primary reasons I'll be upgrading my ancient gaming rig in the next month or so. I planned on using this stress test as a field to reap my primary character of choice, though I still can't make a decision. Each class feels exciting and nuanced, and each have a unique and dynamic string of quests and companions to keep the game fresh, even after you've created 5 other alts. Early access begins on December 15, with the game releasing on December 20. I'm frothing at the mouth with anticipation of the date.
I hope the title has properly confused you. If what I've gathered is correct, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has something to do with bloody socks and Spawn. Alright, not really, but former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and comic book legend Todd McFarlane are driving forces behind this new IP, as developer 38 Studios' founder and art director respectively. Can you tell I'm not too familiar with this title?
Marketing has been stealth at best, and what has been shown off was never enough to pull me in. Maybe it's because I'm an extremely dismissive person by nature? Whatever the case may be, the Oblivion-sized Reckoning has finally released some footage worthy of my dwindling attention span. COMBAT! While many of the story-specific combat elements seem a bit convoluted (whut is a fate shift kill?), the action looks lovely in motion, doesn't it?
KoA:R, I will now try my best to pay attention to your press releases within my collapsed quarry of an inbox. Don't screw this up!
Max Payne is back for the third time, and he brings bullets and time. But that's old news. With Rockstar at the helm of the fabled action series, the forces driving Max Payne 3 is the big story. Targeting, animation, enemy intelligence, pimpin'! I had the chance to see some of this in person, and it was pretty damn impressive. Now, you can see it too! Though more a developer diary than a full on trailer, these 3 minutes of Max are as lovely as they are informative. You want neck shots? You got it. How about Max bullet-diving into the side of a bus? Gotcha covered.
Max Payne 3 is looking as smooth as a bald head so far, and it'll probably continue to. My worries begin and end with how deep the gameplay will be. Shooting dudes in the eye while diving backwards down a flight of stairs never gets boring. Or does it? Rockstar better figure out a way to teach this old dog some new tricks.
Did you know that Tim and Eric teamed up with Saints Row: The Third to make a reality out of the fictional Professor Genki and his Japanese inspired game show wack house? It's true. And it's actually pretty good. Normally, not even the Chains of Olympus could keep me in my seat for an entire 12 minutes of YouTube video, but I can honestly say I watched Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax from start to finish, without any forwarding of the timeline. Highly amusing!
If you're a fan of Tim and Eric's offbeat sense of humor, this video is made especially for you. Even if you're not a fan of the ambiguous duo, this "game show" has enough gratuitous skin, fried chicken, and tall cats to keep you entertained, and perhaps coax a $60 purchase of Saints Row: The Third. As if the game didn't look like enough of a wacky romp. My question is, when will we see Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax on weekly network television? Not soon enough.
Preordered Saints Row: The Third yet? Get off your ass and do it, you'll get $10 of Amazon credit and the Genki Pack, which includes a Professor Genki suit and Man-A-Pult Car. Praise Genki!
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 releases on November 8. Hey, that's this week! Preorder now, if you haven't already. That is of course, providing you're not content with your purchase of Battlefield 3. Or not planning to throw every waking hour of your winter away on Skyrim.
This fall's somewhat-but-not-quite similar military shooters are vying for your attention (and money). As much as people like to believe that these two games can coexist, they simply cannot. They are too much alike. Have you ever walked down the street and spotted someone who looks sort of like you? At the moment where the two of you glance at each other, the intergalactic threads of time and space begin to unravel and bolts of plasma rain down upon the ethereal plane; instant enemies. Yep, that's exactly what happens each time a copy of Modern Warfare 3 crosses paths with Battlefield 3.
One releases in a few days, one in a few weeks, but both have released newish 'launch' trailers to get you hyped up and get your wallet open. So readers, where will your money go, Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3 or both? Personally, I could go either way, but will probably buy Modern Warfare 3, as more friends of mine will be throwing their money at Activision as opposed to EA.
If you have never played Max Payne, buy and play it right this instant, then come back and read this post. Go on, I'll wait.
Right then, Max Payne is one of the most revolutionary action games to date. A disturbing, multilayered story coupled with the first uses of 'bullet time' created a winning product, no doubt. When Rockstar announced Max Payne 3 - 8 years after the second entry - I raised an eyebrow. That was all. I didn't expect the newer, older Max to be of any interest to me, but after watching 15 minutes or so of gameplay.. Well, let's just say I've underrated Rockstar, again.
Max Payne 3 is set several years after the conclusion of Max the second. Max is now an older, fatter gentleman who continues to deal with the traumatic events of his past by turning to the bottle. The demo starts with a flashback to Max's time in New York, to help to illustrate how he came into his current situation as a bodyguard for one of Sao Paolo's most politically powerful families. James McCaffrey's return as the voice of Max, together with hints of Max Payne's iconic theme sets things off in the right direction. A ghost from the past has shown up at Max's doorstep with an army of mobsters, seeking consolation by way of bullets. As the mafia mobs Max's misshapen manor, the bullet ballet begins. Right now, the HUD almost exactly resembles its previous incarnation. A white silhouette represents health, with a number within to note the amount of painkillers carried. Next to these is the bullet time meter. Max can wield either one or two one-handed weapons, or one two-handed weapon, quickly accessible via weapon wheel.
Players familiar with the series will already know what Max is capable of, however Rockstar has done its best to add something fresh here and there. Bullet time, as I hope you know, slows the world around Max, while allowing him to aim at normal speed. You're also less likely to be hit by any incoming bullets when this mode is active, providing you don't just stand around like a lame duck. The best course of action in bullet time, is always to activate and dive, which not only gets results, but looks cool as hell. As you would expect from Rockstar, all sorts of attention to detail has been paid to animations, assuring that Max looks as realistic as possible when completing a dive, after which he has full 360-degree aiming control while on the ground. On the topic of animations, get this: the motion capture process was so thorough, Rockstar created full scale sets to mimic the environments found in game, so every fence-climb, every median-vault, and every dash for cover is preformed by Max & company with unparalleled realism.
After the flashback in New York, Max is now in current day Brazil, looking a bit on the haggard side. This scene begins with a new take on the graphic comic style of storytelling the first two entries in the series used. It's been described as a motion comic, but it seems more along the lines of an interlude scene from 24: full video clips occurring in multiple panels, with more cross processed color, and less Jack Bauer. I am not a fan, but should they keep this style in the final product, I'm sure I'll get used to it. Max is accompanied by a lovely young Brazilian woman, whom it seems he is tasked to protect. Of course, the duo is then assaulted by waves of men possessing body armor and assault rifles. Here is where the combat shines. Max is now able to take cover behind objects to help shield him from harm when bullet time is not an option. In past titles, having to rely solely on bullet time instead of cover encouraged an aggressive play style, whether or not the cover system will detract from that remains to be seen. Environments contain a high level of detail, especially when being shot and blown up. Just about everything comes crumbling down as it soaks up the hail of bullets and explosions, and I wouldn't have it any other way. When the last enemy of each wave is set down, bullet-cam makes its glorious return. As the enemy is shot, the camera takes a unique, dynamic angle to show the bullet exiting the barrel of Max's gun. As the bullet heads toward its final destination in slow motion, you have a great deal of control, including increasing or decreasing the speed, so you can savor that final kill any way you'd like. My words don't do this much justice, it looked pretty damn good.
I was slightly skeptical about this title before, but Rockstar has done well to ease many of my concerns. Many, but not all. With no sign of deviating from the classic Max Payne formula, will this title lack depth to the game mechanics? Lips were sealed tight regarding multiplayer, but rest assured it will be an integral part of the title, however in what form is completely unknown. Max's internal monolgue is in tact, and we were told Remedy Entertainment - developers of MP and MP2 - like what they've seen and have given their blessing. Max Payne 3 is still a ways off, but from what I've been shown, Rockstar appears to be on the right track. Will a vicious Valkyr addiction ruin Max's return to glory? Stay tuned.
BONUS: Free T-shirt Giveaway
Leave a comment below for a chance to win a spiffy Max Payne 3 T-shirt courtesy of the loving folks at R*. Let me know what intrigues you most about Max Payne 3, or just say "I want free shit." Winner to be announced on Friday October 17, so get on it!
By and far, one of the most underrated and underappreciated aspects of gaming is the sound. Whether it's developers thinking players won't notice second rate sound effects, or gamers thinking their TV speakers are adequate, these atrocities must end! Ears need love too.
I adopted a Turtle Beach Ear Force X41 surround headset early this year and haven't looked back since. So when asked if I wanted to check out the Turtle Beach wares at New York Comic Con, I didn't hesitate to say "hell yeah!" TB had a nice assortment of existing products on display at their large booth, allowing players to test a range of wired cans with directional sound sensitive games such as Black Ops. Call of Duty being the cash cow it is, TB had a few Modern Warfare 3 skinned versions of their current range of cans; the Z6A, PX21, PX3, and PX5, with the latter being the most impressive. The PX5 variant, called the Ear Force Delta, features such perks as an actual Army Ranger letting you know which preset you've switched to, for those of you who are truly enamored by the whole military combat thing. Infinity Ward has even lent a helping hand, designing a few MW3 specific presets that will be exclusive to the Ear Force Delta.
The preset profiles are stored in the headset and can be changed on the fly, meaning when it comes time for you to camp, you can switch to the built-in footstep focus profile to be better prepared for those sneaky sniper slayers. I was told creating your own presets could be a little complicated, but that's a caveat of having fine control over what you want to hear, and is well worth it. For the non-experimental, Turtle Beach has plenty of presets available online for you to grab and go with, as well as the high possibility of a forum area dedicated for user-created preset sharing.
As the proud father of an X41, I cared mostly for the next generation in gaming sound; wireless surround sets. We spoke a bit about the existing PX5 and yet to be released XP500. These two headsets are mostly identical, and feature a slew of slick shit: multiple preset profiles, the ability to create and fine tune your own profiles, and dual-band radios, which means bluetooth support. A Bluetooth dongle is packed in with the XP500 - it can be purchased separately and used with the PX5 - to negate the need for any wires when chatting on your X360. Bluetooth also means effortless PS3 chat connectivity - a far cry from the X41 - in addition to pairing to your mobile phone to field calls right in the midst action. That's what I'm taking about, Turtle Beach is keeping us in the game.
The XP500 releases in about two weeks at a price of $269. For owners of the PX5 ($249), get your X360 Bluetooth chat on with the wireless dongle for $29. The Delta, Bravo, Charlie, and Foxtrot will retail for $299, $149, $129, and $99 respectively. Unfortunately, the Turtle Beach boys had their lips sealed when I asked about future products. Looks like were just gonna have to keep our ears open for news, stay tuned.
The saga of Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer has been a sweet harmony of he said she said discord, where some media outlets kept saying “yup!” others maintained a solid stance of “nope.” As of last night, the fans have finally received a solid word from the Twitter of Mass Effect overlord Casey Hudson himself.
Fans, rejoice! Or don’t. Multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 brings the series’ downward spiral to a to a fitting anti-climax. Mass Effect embraced RPG elements and a more deliberate pace of gameplay. Mass Effect 2 stripped away much of that RPG feeling and replaced it with tighter shooting mechanics, bringing the game more in line with titles such as Gears of War and its ilk. The additions to Mass Effect 3 include continued idiot-proofing, an increased focus on melee combat, and now, multiplayer. This post on the BioWare forums from a team staffer has all the details, but let’s touch on some of the points.
So what exactly will the multiplayer of Mass Effect 3 entail? What’s been detailed at this point is four player online co-op (no mention of local), where players will “fight to liberate key territories from enemy control.” Sounds a bit like the increasingly popular horde mode, done ME style. Dashing the hopes of the uninspired, it’s been confirmed that you will NOT be playing your Commander Shepard in multiplayer, nor will you use the likes of Garrus, Thane, Liara, or any other occupants of the Normandy who play a large role in campaign. Instead, you will create a character through different combinations of class and race, combining skills and racial traits with your allies to wreck shop. Customization details are limited at this point, however players will level up, characters will progress, and weapons will be upgraded.
Expanding on the omnipresence of decisions and consequences throughout the series, Mass Effect 3 features something called “Galactic Readiness” which comes into play in the campaign, specifically when engaging the Galaxy at War mode. While not tied specifically to multiplayer, Galaxy at War will pool much of Shepard’s actions and decisions to calculate Galactic Readiness, which will no doubt culminate at the end-game, where the free galaxy will most likely do war with the Reapers. There are several ways to impact your Galactic Readiness, with multiplayer being one of many. BioWare has stated multiplayer is NOT a necessity, so in the event you do not play nice with others (or you just plain suck), your Shepard's story will not be altered.
In complete honesty, I’m worried. I always assume the worst when multiplayer is shoehorned into a single player game, and though BioWare is adamant that co-op will not detract from the single player experience, nor will it have any impact unless the player deems it so, it’s easy to be jaded. We know Shepard’s story will end with the trilogy, but perhaps BioWare is testing the water for a continued Mass Effect experience with a greater focus on multiplayer in the future. Or maybe not. Maybe EA brought the hammer down and forced multiplayer into third installment of the series in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience, bolster sales, and justify the god damned online pass, which renders used sales near pointless. This announcement is still green, and Mass Effect 3 is still months away, but my fingers are crossed that BioWare and EA haven’t fucked up one of my current favorites.
What say you faithful reader, yay or nay on ME3 multiplay?