Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gears of War 3 Review

 The reason this is late is because this was supposed to be a joint review. Unfortunately, stuff. Yes, that is the official explanation. Anyway, I have taken it upon myself to do everything, because why the hell not. Let's start with the campaign, shall we?

Oh, the campaign. What an exciting romp through gore a drama. Before you begin this endeavor I would suggest you crank the difficulty up. Normal is, by and large, too easy. Your AI partners will do all the work for you while you sit back and sip iced tea, or whatever it is you do. I sip scotch because I have a problem. Anyway, once you take on the challenge of a higher difficulty you are mostly guaranteed to have fun. Lancers, gnashers; all the old amazing guns are there for you, along with new additions such as the sawn-off shotgun and retro lancer (among others). If you've played Gears before you know what to expect. It's messy, it's tight, and it's full of chest-high walls. The addition of 4-player co-op can only add to your experience and the lambent only add a new kind of challenge. In short, I enjoyed it immensely.


The story itself comes to a decent concision. It answered a question I never thought I had  to ask while ignoring one I have had since the beginning. Some characters meet an expected fate while others... well, actually it's kind of predictable. But I refuse to spoil anything. The script is fantastic and a particular moment where you assume control of Cole Train is kind of amazing. But I know you. You don't play Gears for the story alone. I merely suggesting that the actual plot tends to be entertaining from time to time.

But what of multiplayer? Admittedly, I didn't play a lot of Gears 2 online. In fact, I wouldn't have at all if it weren't for my blogmates. My experience in 2 was a practice in frustration. "What's the point of shooting if he can just roll away," I asked. Well, the retro lancer fixed that problem for me. The impressive thing, in my mind, is that this solution was one that suited me and others like me. Fans of the old weapons have stuck to their guns, so to speak, and are still highly effective. Epic has managed to add new weapons that are more conducive to other styles of play without destroying the effectiveness of people who are fans of the old weapons. I can respect that, even as a relative new-comer to online gears.

Just stay away from anyone who has one of these.

My true love, however, is Horde 2.0. I couldn't tell you how many hours I've already sunk into that mode of gameplay. The increasing difficulty, the raising of money to build fortifications, decoys, silverbacks,  and turrets, the adrenaline rush of boss fights; I simply cannot get enough, I have just purchased 4 Disney movies and I plan on getting the Team Ico Collection tonight and I still have every intention of getting a round of Horde in before I go to bed. It is the absolute test of teamwork, and it works. While a bad team will absolutely destroy your experience (I'm looking at you people who quit after the first boss wave) a good team will make you want to play until things are absolutely hopeless. It has become a drug of sorts, and I have actually no qualms about being addicted.

Warning: Results comparable to that of cocaine.

This brings us to Beast Mode. As much as I like it, it almost represents a lost potential. The objective is basically a reverse of Horde, in that you play as the locusts attacking a group of AI humans with increasing fortifications. It's fun, especially once you progress far enough and earn enough money to play as incredibly strong units (a freaking berserker). The issue for me is that it becomes too easy and a game will not last nearly as long as Horde. What I meant by "lost potential" is that they could have easily taken a page out of Valve's Left 4 Dead book and made Beast Mode, or at least another mode, a PvP sort of thing. Imagine one team of players having to hold off the locusts and keep them from earning new units while the locust do their best to break through the defenses. You know you want that. I mean, who wouldn't? Probably communists... or vegans. Or communist vegans! My word, this has devolved.

As long as we have bacon, we have hope.

All of this adds up to Gears 3 being (arguably) the best in the series. Yes, some things went unanswered and the lag online is kind of awful at times, but there are so many fun games modes built off such a solid foundation that it begs to be critically acclaimed. It's not worth missing.

10 out of 10

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Quick Catch-Up (Two Mini-Reviews and an Explanation)

Okay, we admit it. We haven't done a hell of a lot lately. So to cover what we've missed and to explain our ridiculous posting rate I'm going to give an update on everything I can within reason. Thus, I'm not going to cover the myriad of trailers that came out at Tokyo Game Show. Most of it seems redundant anyway. I will give a quick two cents on both Dead Island and Resistance 3, though.

Two cents isn't enough for a joke, however.
 So why have we been gone? A stream of bad luck would not be an overstatement. School not withstanding, two of us have been sick and one I guess was just uninterested in everything.

But at least we have plenty of medicine
A more entertaining event, I should mention, is the fact that I've had to prepare to possibly take the owners of my previous residence to court. There's also this whole LSAT thing, whatever that is. It's been hectic to say the least.

So in summation of the last two things I mentioned, gavel.

So Dead Island. As far as unfinished games go I guess you could say it's a good one. It gets remarkably difficult around 30% in and a solo playthrough is quickly becoming more and more unlikely. A remarkably simple yet good idea, Borderlands with more realism and zombies (I know Borderlands DLC has zombies), just not brought through to it's own potential. Yes, there are glimpses of greatness, but the problems are just to frequent and numerous. The voice acting is atrocious, modified weapons still have a tendency to disappear from your inventory to never be seen again, and if I hear one more NPC yell at me, "wait, where are you going," while I'm fighting in front of him to save his ass I'm going to lose it. However, if I manage to secure other players I can honestly see myself have lots of fun, and isn't that one of the main goals of a game? Now if only my weapons didn't degrade 10 times faster than they should. And one more thing. Why do I need money to upgrade, fix, and make weapons? I find all the supplies I need to complete such tasks and it's all done at a workbench. Who on earth am I paying? The bench? It has no need for currency.

Trust me, workbenches will show nothing but quiet indifference to monetary contributions.

On the opposite end, we have Resistance 3. I say opposite because one is a first person shooter and the other isn't possibly that at all until later. Hell, if you choose Logan in Dead Island I would consider it almost a first person thrower. But I digress. Resistance, in short, blew me away. I wasn't even intending to get it until I heard the good buzz. After all, I was thoroughly unimpressed by the first two. It's not at all hard to love this game, especially if you love old school shooters. Yes, it has the appearance of the modern FPS with all it's cinematic set pieces and dramatic cutscenes, but it's guts are all old-school. Healthpacks restore your life and you get to carry all the guns at once. What more do those who yearn for games of yesteryear want? I would almost say Bulletstorm, which I adored, could have benefited from these implementations.

Unlike this chimera's face that does not benefit from a punch.

 Resistance 3's weapons almost seem to blast forth pure gaming joy, each with an ability to be upgraded twice (that is to say, to level 3) with use. The second you upgrade your Bullseye completely and tag three enemies at once all while shooting wildly in any direction you'll understand what I mean.  Wrap all of that up in a campaign about, as Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade put it, mittens and there's plenty to love. If I were giving scores in this post I would be tempted to give it a 10. You know, if I was.

Hopefully, that catches us up to the present. Later, I'll be dragging my sleep deprived posterior over to gamestop to pick up Gears 3 at midnight. I'll be reporting on it's quality a lot sooner than I did with these two games. Unless, you know, I can make Stephen do it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

First Max Payne 3 Trailer

Looks like we finally have a glimpse of some wonderful, wonderful Max Payne 3 goodness in full-motion glory. More importantly, with it comes some answers to questions I've had. Looks like Max will start out with a full head of hair and then shave it off at some point. For why I don't know (it's either symbolic or it's just too damn hot in Sao Paulo). Also, it looks like James McCaffrey WILL be returning to voice Max again. Happiness abounds.

Basically, prepare yourself for cynical simile.

Anyone else get chills when the classic Max Payne theme played at the beginning? Max Payne 3 is set to release March of next year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Star Fox 64 3D Review

These reviews of retro games are a bit tricky. There's not much you can say about these games that hasn't been said all ready. All you can really do is judge it on improvements and how well the game holds up. Then you have those special cases, as is this one, where the starting price tag is a factor. Put your anti-nostalgia goggles on, and then prepare to take them right back off. This won't take long.

So, it's Star Fox 64. It looks prettier and it's in 3D. As a game it still holds up. Everything works and plays as it should. It's also still a lot of fun. Sure, the new voice actors are even worse, but I can still quote almost everything. You've also got time attack mode which is... well a time attack mode, and the old 4 player versus match. Unfortunately, there is no online support for that so you have to be in the same room with someone else. That you means you have to know someone with a 3DS (I know one) and a copy of Star Fox 64 3D (I know me). So that requirement probably puts a nail in the coffin of multiplayer for a lot of people. 

There's also this asshole
The new intuitive control scheme (you can also play with the N64 control scheme) works well. It took some getting used to at first because I have the the old way drilled into my head so well, but it eventually became, well, intuitive. Like I said, everything works and brings out the original, core experience well.

So you can easily do barrel roles all the live long day.
 Here's the thing. Anyone who played the original knows how short the game is. If you manage to not die (and you probably will at least once if you play on the original N64 difficulty) you can probably finish a run through in an hour or so. It's definitely one of those games that is fun to pick up and play every now and then, but are you willing to pay $40 for a better looking version of a good, short game from the 90's? That's up to you.

7 out of 10? Yeah. Sure. Why not? Excuse me. I might have a legal battle to prepare.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Max Payne 3 Confirmed for March 2012 Release

The return of Max Payne has been a long wait. When I finished Max Payne 2 in 2003 I doubted I would have to wait until freaking 2012 to play the next one. I mean, that spans from the end of middle-school to the end of college. It seems like Rockstar (Remedy doesn't seem to have anything to do with this one) is acknowledging this, however, as the game will take place roughly a decade after 2.

Along with the release date being slated for March, we've also been graced with a new screenshot which is only viewable below if you possess at least one eye.

What's confusing is the existence of earlier screens which depict the idea that Max will look like the angry offspring of Jeff Bridges from Iron Man and Bruce Willis in 10 years. There was fan outcry (and a lot of personal internal strife on my part) and so far all the new screens show Max with a full head of hair and a body that less resembles a younger Orson Welles. What does this mean, exactly? I have no idea. Either they changed the character model, or we're looking at scenes from an in-game flashback. Personally, I'm hoping it's the former.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ESRB Accidently Leaks the Whole Devil May Cry HD Remake Release

Screenshot from the ESRB's site.
ESRB may have made a minor clerical error today, rating games that have not been announced yet.
We are all very aware of Capcoms habit of releasing HD new-gen versions of older games, and making us re-live beautiful nostalgia with having have to suffer through anus graphics.

Well, it would appear it's happening again.

On the ESRB's website, you can find ratings for Devil May Cry, Devil May Cry 2 and Devil May Cry 3 for Xbox360 and Playstation3. Since those games most definitely did not release on those platforms, it's logical to believe we are going to see HD remakes of these titles for out new fancy HDMI compatible super boxes/stations.

Oops, but yay!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ryan Payton leaves 343

Ryan Payton, one of the creative developers, tasked with creating the Halo 4 plot (alongside franchise director Frank O'Connor), has announced he is going to be leaving 343.

In an interview with Kotaku, Payton discusses that he no longer felt the franchise inspired him, saying

"The Halo I wanted to build was fundamentally different and I don't think I had built enough credibility to see such a crazy endeavor through."

"For somebody who loves this industry as much as I do and know how lucky I've been, I never thought I'd get to a point where I was so drained," said Payton. "That was when I knew I had to do something else."

According to Kotaku, Payton was diagnosed with severe depression, and for a while found it difficult to even get up to go to work each day.

Payton does make it quite clear that he holds no grude or malcontent with Microsoft, or 343.

"I don't regret one day of it. But after a few years, there came a point where I wasn't creatively excited about the project anymore." 

Payton has high hopes. He is a man who has made creating video games his life, and he is devoted to making a game that will shock and amaze people more than any blockbuster movie, or bestselling book.

"Some people say I'm crazy, but I want to make a game that one billion people play at once, and it's something that hits them harder than a great book or film."

Payton has already started off in his endeavor, creating his own studio under the name Camoflouj, and has already begun the process of creating two new titles.

In this writers opinion, this spells shaky news for 343, but good news for gamers.
While it's not my place at this point to project on how sucessful Halo 4 will be or not, losing someone who appears to have huge ideas, grand hopes, and such a devotion to gamers, just feels like a huge loss to the franchise.

That being said, I think we can expect good things to come from the Camoflaj studio. With the vision Ryan Payton has, a path to greatness should fall into place under the force of such strong ideas. We at the O&E wish you the best of luck Mr. Ryan Payton.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

We had our collective eyes on Deus Ex for a while, and while it seemed promising there were a couple of things that had us concerned. One was the history of the franchise. The first game was an amazing achievement which did things not many had seen before. It was loved by critics and consumers alike and it has cemented it's place in gaming history forever. The sequel... not so much. On the other hand, it has been years since the second game and they've certainly had time to improve on it, but that leads us to our second concern. Why were we barely hearing anything about it until about a month before release? We were conflicted! We were concerned! We wanted to know what the hell was up! Well, after finishing my play-through (all the while dealing with the aftermath of a minor wreck) I know. And I am immensely pleased.

Before I get to the heart of the matter, I need to weigh-in on it's epidermis. It's polished. In fact, it might be one of the most polished games I've ever seen. The yellow/gold lights and atmosphere bring a certain amazing aesthetic that must absolutely be experienced to be understood. The objects, buildings, and rooms have all been designed to look like they belong in the future and reflect the taste of those who own them. One amazing example comes from a moment where you break into the main office (palace) of a company's CEO to find her. The statues, furniture, and floors all look like a custom designer job that fit the character perfectly. Offices have different patterns of papers strewn everywhere reflecting the busy-body nature of some of the scientists you run into. If you told me that the game was playable over a year ago and that they spent all that remaining time putting the polish on I would absolutely believe you. It's obvious that they loved their project and wanted everything to stand out and fit. And it does. It absolutely does. But how does everything else hold up to this high standard?

In proper Deus Ex fashion, it's a first-person shooter/RPG hybrid. I use the term first-person shooter only due to the lack of a better term, mainly because, with the exception of the boss fights, you don't have to shoot anyone. If you spec just right, and trust me when I say it shouldn't be a problem, you could sneak past every enemy in the game without touching them. Granted, this approach would take the patience of a saint. That's why you also have the option to take down your opponents, whether by lethal or non-lethal means, and hide the bodies ensuring those guards never bother you again. However, you'll also have cameras, turrets, and security robots to contend with. Of course, you could also just rush in guns blazing and kill everything that moves. The choice is up to you. The great thing is, is that the game doesn't punish a certain style of gameplay. While you will gain experience from taking out troops, you will also gain experience from finding hidden paths around them. I'm not quite sure what happens when you kill everyone (or anyone), but getting through a level completely undetected leaving nothing but knocked out bodies in my wake granted me tons of experience upon the completion of an objective. Basically, if you choose a path and execute that path well you will be rewarded. This is most welcome in an RPG these days.

Pictured above: Not stealth.
 In terms of abilities, there are plenty of great ones. Invisibility, making your footsteps silent,  taking out two people at once: this is all just the tip of the iceberg. The thing that I liked, that I sort of mentioned earlier, is that upgrades aren't overly rare. If you preform well and complete the side missions you will receive upgrades. Earning money is also essential, as you can buy two upgrades per chapter from your local L.I.M.B. clinic. If you do all these things, you will have more than enough upgrades to go around. By the end of the game, I had done enough to not only make myself the perfect stealthy, non-lethal machine that I was, but I also had several contingent abilities completely upgraded just in case things went wrong. The only options I had left were completely useless to how I was playing the game. Even as a stealthy character who could turn invisible and detect anyone around me, I could still walk into a room and wipe out everyone if I needed too. If you play well, the game rewards you by making you nearly as powerful as possible and I appreciated that immensely.

In the future, we'll all have lung and liver augments... and life will be wonderful.
On the subject of things I appreciate, the system you use to convince people to do what you want is better than most games I've played. Instead of you being good enough to charm or threaten people automatically, you actually have to observe a person's behavior and read a personality file to select the right things to say. If you get the pheromone upgrade, then you can even see what kind of personality type they are and convince them to take certain actions accordingly.  It adds an extra layer of gameplay to the dialogue which I've been waiting for.

Unfortunately, there are a few things that keep it from being as good as the original. For one, it's a little more linear than Deus Ex. Granted, the areas you play each chapter in have plenty to see and explore (you can break into rooms you're never told to go to and find cool stuff). This is only a minor concern, though. The big issue is that you have no choice but to engage bosses in direct combat. Sure, this is no problem for people who have leveled their character for such things, but by the first boss fight I was mostly prepared for hacking, non-lethal take-downs, and sneaking. Needless to say, this unavoidable boss fight was a big pain. Other than that, I feel like a few more side missions were called for, but that might just be me.

The price for looking up porn at work is also high.
So it's not quite as good as the original, but that is hardly an insult. The first Deus Ex was such an amazing new idea that just being close is an amazing feat. Human Revolution is so deep, so polished, and has so much to do, that I easily sunk over 40 hours into it. Trying to uphold my sneakiness near the end got a little old, but for the most part I enjoyed my time in the 2020s immensely.

10 out of 10

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Borderlands 2 Gameplay Footage Leaked

14 minutes of gameplay footage for the much anticipated Borderlands 2 was leaked today on YouTube. Check it out!

We here at the O&E don't know how long this will be available, but we'll try to keep it on the site as long as possible. Borderlands 2 is slated for release in 2012.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Star Trek Online Going Free to Play

It seems to be a growing theme in the massive online gaming world. More and more subscription based MMO's are getting closer and closer to the free to play model. Games like LoL have perfected this method, allowing players to play the game completely free. What these games do to make money is get you into the game, by virtue of being free. Then, you want stuff... cool stuff. Awesome stuff that you can buy, with teh monies.

You tell yourself "I mean.... I didn't pay anything for it... if I had bought this game.. I would have spent $40-$60. What's $20?" and boom. Money made.

Star Trek Online seems to be following similar method. Players will be able to play the game for free (potentially with optional subscriptions, that will yield fancy paid player only goodies.). When this change will take place is up in the air, but word is, it will take place by the end of the year, says Perfect World, the (now) new owner of Cryptic Games.

We have seen that Cryptic can make the free-to-play model work with their success with Champions. Personally I'm intrigued and will probably being trying it out, once the game goes free.

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