Call of Duty: Black Ops’ Escalation Map Pack Review

15 06 2011

Treyarch has set an industry standard for downloadable content (DLC) in the past with Call of Duty: World at War. They have continued that tradition for their hugely successful follow-up Call of Duty: Black Ops initially with First Strike and now their newest map pack titled Escalation, which released on June 10th 2011 for the PlayStation 3.

Like their previous iterations Escalation features four new multiplayer maps – Stockpile, Convoy, Hotel, and Zoo – along with yet another zombie map/mode called Call of The Dead.

Similar to First Strike Escalation features a wide array of interesting locales which are meant to cater to the varying styles of multiplayer gamers. However it seems Treyarch had decided to focus more on medium to long range skirmishes this time around as all of the maps are large. For instance there is no map like First Strike’s Stadium or even Nuketown where the action is much more focused and hectic.

But what Escalation does provide over First Strike is the level of detail present in the game and their environments. I previously felt the team was getting lethargic with their map design and ideas but it is noticeably better in Escalation in my opinion. This wave of maps have much more detail and the level design is more complex not to mention the interactivity that is present such as the working elevators in Hotel or the storage doors in Stockpile. These elements allow additional tactics to be used in the various game modes resulting in much more variety prolonging your map fatigue.

Of the four Hotel and Zoo will probably take precedence as the fan favorites because of the variety in both design and visuals as well as tons of opportunities for a mixture of long to short range combat. Zoo has striking visual similarities to Modern Warfare 2 Resurgence pack’s Carnival but yet again the overall flow and level layout is superior. If Zoo is comparable to Carnival then Hotel probably closely resembles another Modern Warfare 2 map, Highrise. This is not to say that either Convoy or Stockpile are less interesting, they just feel like the many maps that we have seen before.

All of the different maps provide their own challenges and strengths. However once a player gets use to these maps they can develop their own tactics and easily learn how to play to the maps strengths while overcoming the challenges. Even though these maps may be focused on larger range combat each map presents a multitude of opportunities for every type of player from the sniper to the run and gunner. These new maps also visually look better than previous maps and besides Stockpile are not just the dingy gray and browns we are use to but actually have a lot of bright visuals that again add to the appeal.

But that’s not all Treyarch also released a map for the ever popular zombie mode yet this time with a unique twist. The player controls one of four actors – Sarah Michelle Gellar, Robert Englund, Danny Trejo, or Michael Rooker – who are on the set of George Romero’s latest movie that is being filmed near an ominous shipwreck in the snowy wastelands of Siberia. Of course a real undead outbreak occurs infesting George Romero forcing the all-star cast to band together and drive back wave upon wave of zombies while an angry undead Romero follows them around.

Call of The Dead uses this unique twist in the same vain as the bonus presidential map that is unlocked in the main game. Besides this Call of The Dead introduces new perks and guns as well as loads of extras and unlocks that the Call of Duty zombie faithful crave. But at it’s base it is the same core gameplay we all have come to enjoy.

Let’s be frank, these maps don’t bring with them any new mechanics only interesting changes of scenery meant to prolong an already enjoyable experience. Not to sell these maps short, they are visually pleasing and well constructed with a variety of terrain that offers the player multiple options during a firefight. Much less the zombie map is one of if not the best the series has to offer and capable of stealing countless hours. But if you have already moved past Black Ops then this most likely will not rekindle your dwindling flame.

However if you are one of the millions upon millions of fans who helped contribute to Black Ops extraordinary sales numbers and still crave more then Escalation; including the time sink that is Call of The Dead, is well worth the experience.

Are you going to pick up the Escalation map pack? Maybe you already have, if so what are your thoughts?





MLB 11 The Show Review

22 03 2011

Introduction

For the past few years the MLB The Show franchise has been regarded by most sports fans as the diamond performer of the baseball simulation games. Despite battling repetition, like all sports games, the developer over at Sony San Diego have consistently put out a stellar product each and every year. They hope to duplicate that success this year with numerous upgrades and revisions. the most notable being the addition of analog stick controls to the series.

With that said can MLB 11 The Show continue its current dynasty run at baseball supremacy or will this years installment simply strike out? Continue reading to find.

Single Player

Although I haven’t played a baseball game since Bases Loaded on the NES I am a huge fan of sports in general. The fact that my T.V. is almost exclusively tuned to ESPN and that my SMS tone is the SportsCenter theme should be proof of that. I mention those facts to reiterate that despite being a sports fan I have found that most sports games have become unplayable to the casual fan due to the level of detail and control the player must posses.

While MLB 11 The Show has that minute level of detail and management sports fans enjoy it does not over complicate how it is carried out. For example the new analog pitching gives you much more precision which is vital for success but is also more fluid and immersive than the traditional face button controls. These new analog controls are challenging and realistic but can be mastered with some experience. The pitching controls aren’t the only thing being converted, all of the controls now have an emphasis on analog controls.

While it did personally have a steeper learning curve than pitching I have similar praise for the analog hitting as well. Simply pressing back on the analog stick to transfer your weight back then pressing the stick forward to time your swing with the pitch again just feels more natural than simply pressing a face button. These motions let you feel the pace of the game more intimately resulting in a greater engagement of the game. I did not however enjoy the analog controls for fielding as I found it much easier to keep jumping and diving mapped to the right stick and use the face buttons to control which base to throw to.

That said because each player will have different preferences and strengths you can easily mix and match your analog and button control scheme to fit your play style which is a huge plus. Better yet this customized control scheme will carry over to all game modes including online.

Speaking of game modes The Show is packed full of options and all of the traditional sports game modes are present including exhibition, franchise and season modes. These modes are fairly self explanatory for instance in exhibition you choose your team and play against another player or the CPU whereas in franchise mode you pick an organization and control everything from ticket prices to concession prices. Then obviously in season mode you again choose a team and play through the grueling 162 game season with hopes of playing into October.

The mode this series is best know for however is The Road to the Show which is basically a create a player mode. As you start up you create a player to man any position on the diamond. Once you manually adjust some sliders regarding the type of player you want its off to double A. Here is where you will develop your player through training modes and in-game performance in hopes of making the transition through the minor leagues to one day playing in the big show under the bright lights. The way The Show has chosen to develop a pro seems more sensible and accurate than previous games. As an example instead of just rewarding specific milestones in-game like RBI’s or homeruns you instead get training points based on each at bat. Let’s say you strike out but it took 10 pitches to do so instead of not getting any points like you would before you know will be granted a small amount under the new system since you made the pitcher work. The training modes also seem more purposeful in developing a useful talent. All of this adds up to a much more realistic and enjoyable way to have your player progress than I have previously seen.

A problem I’ve had with other sports titles was establishing a sense of place and time. The stadium or sports complex never felt lively or changed with the flow of the game. The Show was able to fulfill this illusion in multiple ways. First off graphically the game looks amazing but the small details like all 30 stadiums having their real life jumbotrons realistically placed and represented and the stadium specific chants adds an authenticity while also allowing each individual stadium to have a personality all their own. This attention to detail really adds to the level of engagement and realism and is what further sets this game apart from its competition.

Multiplayer

Due to the amount of skill and dedication to play sports games I was never a huge fan of playing competitively online. Unfortunately MLB 11 The Show provides no incentive to change that. While it technically works besides a few occasions were I ran into lag issues I would have just rather played against a computer or buddy sitting on the couch next to me.

The one bright spot in my eyes for multiplayer was the addition of the unique Challenge of the Week. It’s an interesting incentive to not only perfecting your skills but to compete with friends in a controlled arcade style fashion via online leaderboards. In this mode you are given one free try a week to score as many points as possible in a scenario based event such as Joe Mauer hitting against CC Sabathia. Each week winners are awarded real-life prizes like authentic signed jerseys. If your not happy with your first score you can play an unlimited amount of times at a cost of $0.25 per attempt. Hopefully this mode can breathe some life in an otherwise stale online mode.

Overall

The baseball game genre has taken some big strides since Bases Loaded and MLB 11 The Show appears to be the pinnacle so far in that aspect. The new analog controls provide precision and depth but are not impossible to use for the newcomer. The Show also provides an abundance of different modes that can please each type of fan with a compelling, engrossing and custom fit baseball fantasy that is unmatched in any sports game to date.

The MLB season doesn’t officially start until March 31st but don’t tell Sony San Diego that as MLB 11 The Show is the closest replication to Americas favorite past time as you can buy. If your a fan of baseball or sports games altogether then I believe The Show is a game you should definitely pick up even if you have been away from the genre for awhile like myself. Play Ball!

MLB 11 The Show for the PlayStation 3 was provided to me for reviewing purposes by Sony Computer Entertainment. I played through an entire 162 game season as the Texas Rangers and ended up making the playoffs. I also subsequently played a handful of games online and competed in the Challenge of the Week while obtaining 8 of the available 36 trophies. MLB 11 The Show was developed by SCE San Diego and published by Sony Computer Entertainment and was released on March 8th 2011 exclusively for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 2 systems.

To read about our stance on the review process click here for more answers. Find all of other reviews here; better yet bookmark that section so you won’t miss any of our future reviews as well. If you would like other information to be included in the reviews give us some feedback and let us know, or if you would like us to review a specific title drop us a line we welcome and encourage your feedback. Enjoy!





Call of Duty: Black Ops Review

30 11 2010

Introduction

Black Ops is Treyarch’s third installment (seventh overall) in the Call of Duty franchise and is a sequel to their previous title World at War. Although Black Ops is still a first person shooter running at a crisp sixty frames per second Treyarch has changed the traditional Call of Duty campaign, although you still control multiple characters in several different exotic locations such as Russia, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam the story is focused around one main character and one main plot progression unlike previous Call of Duty games. Staying true to its name the missions revolve around many black operations carried out behind enemy lines while attempting to gain more information about an experimental Soviet chemical weapon codenamed Nova-6. Call of Duty Black Ops was released worldwide on November 9th 2010 for the PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and DS systems.

Can Black Ops help Treyarch close the perceived gap between them and Infinity Ward and end up being a critically well received game, or is this proof that Infinity Ward is the better Call of Duty developer? Continue Reading to find out.

Single Player

The constant comparison between Treyarch and Infinity Ward is inevitable whether either team deserves it. After each iteration both teams attempt to take the positive points from the previous game and add in their own wrinkles in an attempt to make a successful game which neither team has had a hard time doing thus far. However in the past single player was not the traditional avenue to distinguish themselves as both studios followed the same path. Yet in this installment Treyarch has decided to branch off of that thinking and take the single player campaign into a different direction. While the staples of a Call of Duty single player campaign like on screen objectives, stellar graphics, multiple locations around the globe and exceptional audio stay the same Treyarch has made some tweaks that pay huge dividends.

One of the major and most notable differences was that the story was centered and revolved around one main character and one topic. But since much of the story is told in flash backs through the characters eyes it still allows the game to cover a wide range of time while also allowing the game to flow at an excellent pace. Even during the times when you do play as a different character the story is still focused around the main character. This cohesion allowed me to have an attachment to my character that I have never had in previous Call of Duty titles. This cohesive story also made the story much easier to follow and much more rewarding to follow as well.

Treyarch also grounded the story in some truth this time around instead of the completely ridiculous story of Modern Warfare 2. Even with this unity and truth based story Black Ops still showcased stellar larger than life scripted events with nonstop action but was more believable due to the way the story fit together. For those that played Treyarch’s previous title World at War you will see some familiar faces that come back to play an important role in Black Ops however knowledge of the previous story is not needed to understand or appreciate the current story.

All of this praise does not mean Black Ops doesn’t suffer from some of the same faults that Modern Warfare and other Call of Duty titles suffered from as well. Specifically the enemy and friendly AI or more importantly the lack of enemy or friendly AI. On more than one occasion the enemy AI was completely clueless leaving me to fend for myself in an onslaught of never ending enemies due to the return of endless enemy respawns. The enemy AI wasn’t much better as they would walk right up to a friendly AI player or myself showing just how scripted there movements are. Overall the game is very well directed except in one particular part of the game where most of these errors reared their ugly heads resulting in me having to break the game in order to pass it.

Overall I found the 6.5 hour single player campaign to be much better than that of Modern Warfare 2. The story was ambitious and provided a variety of gameplay keeping the game fresh and fun to play. Add that to the effortless controls that are now a genre standard as well as crisp smooth graphics and stellar sound that we expect from every Call of Duty title. This makes Black Ops definitely worth picking up and experiencing just on the single player campaign alone without even mentioning the multiplayer.

Multiplayer

Speaking of Multiplayer Treyarch followed the same successful plan as it did with single player; employ some modifications that again pay huge dividends allowing the game to feel fresh. Again much of the successful framework is still intact like gaining experience based on kills and in game objectives to gain levels and eventually prestige.

Some of the guns from the previous titles make a return like the M-16, Skorpion and AK-47 to name a few but Treyarch also added a few new ones as well like the Galil, Commando  and Spectre. Perks were also slightly altered the biggest exclusion being Stopping Power and Death Streaks instead adding others like Ghost and Hacker.

However the biggest change is most likely the addition of COD points which takes the place of the tier unlocking system of the past. COD Points are earned in-game like experience points and are used to purchase all aspects of your load out including gun, attachments, perks, equipment, killstreaks and character customization. Some of the guns are still locked until a certain level however once you reach that level you can immediately unlock and attach any reticule you choose instead of having to get a certain amount of kills to unlock.

I personally like this change as it allows me to choose the perks, equipment and gun combination I want from the very beginning instead of wasting time with those I don’t. To help players maximize their earnings Black Ops also adds contracts which are specific objectives or challenges beyond that of winning the overall game you can purchase and if you successfully complete these objectives can earn additional COD points and/or bonus experience points.

As if that was not enough Treyarch chose to add stat tracking that is so in-depth it easily rivals any multi-platform game to date. From your combat record you can replay your last 20 matches from any person’s view in the game or from a free flowing camera as well. You can then choose to record a snippet of any game and easily upload it to share with the community. If you find yourself dying on a certain map too much you can see exactly where you and every person has died in a match or get comprehensive statistics on all of the guns and equipment you have used as well.

This freedom is also expanded to your character where you can customize your character’s face paint, gun reticule, clan tag or his overall appearance by selecting different perks. The options available are extensive so much so that I am sure I have even missed a few here. But Treyarch didn’t stop there as they also followed up with the extremely popular Zombie mode as well. I find the co-op zombie mode to one of the most fun and addicting activities to engage in with friends. This mode has been further fleshed out and honed with minor adjustments that make this mode even more enjoyable.

Overall

The allure of all the Call of Duty single player campaigns is the feeling of being in a huge summer blockbuster action flick. Not only did Black Ops retain this feeling I believe Black Ops did better in that aspect than any previous Call of Duty title. Treyarch captured this feeling while still having the game be ambitious, diverse and unlike previous titles which says a lot.

I definitely think Treyarch took a leap forward with Black Ops especially considering the array of options they have included. However at times they seemed so focused on adding options they lost some of the polish we have been accustomed to in the past. Those slight imperfections in my eyes are a small price to pay for the countless additions and revisions that positively affect the replayability and ultimate make this title refreshing and fun to play.

It is difficult to say who the better Call of Duty developer is since by now they share so many fundamental ideas and core beliefs. But what I can say is Black Ops is definitely not an inferior product to Modern Warfare 2 and unquestionably should be experienced for the thrill ride that is the single player along with the highly addictive and in-depth multiplayer whether or not you are a fan of either Infinity Ward or Treyarch. In simpler words, go get it.

Call of Duty: Black Ops for the PlayStation 3 was purchased for full price on the release day. The games single player campaign was completed on the default setting in 6.5 hours. I subsequently spent a multitude of hours playing the multiplayer while obtaining 24 of the available 51 trophies. Call of Duty: Black Ops was developed by Treyarch and published by Activision and is available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and PC systems.

To read about our stance on the review process click here for more answers. Find all of other reviews here; better yet bookmark that section so you won’t miss any of our future reviews as well. If you would like other information to be included in the reviews give us some feedback and let us know, or if you would like us to review a specific title drop us a line we welcome and encourage your feedback. Enjoy!





Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days Review

23 08 2010

Introduction

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a gory and violent sequel to the 3rd person shooter Kane & Lynch. Like its predecessor Kane & Lynch 2 is developed by Square Enix owned Danish developer IO Interactive who is also known for their popular Hitman series. In Kane & Lynch 2 which was released on August 17th 2010 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC you control Lynch a psychopathic war criminal who along with Kane have the entire Shanghai underworld looking to kill them after a simple deal goes wrong. Your only bet is to escape China but not before you stop for a few revenge visits along the way.

Most gamers will agree that Kane & Lynch had many fundamental problems that plagued the title, can Kane & Lynch 2 diagnose and solve those problems or is the series still in critical condition? Continue reading to find out.

Single Player

It’s apparent from the moment you start the game the goal of Kane & Lynch 2 is to showcase its raw visual style instead of providing a magnitude of content. The entire game from the loading screens to the cut scenes and even the gameplay look and function as if it were shot from a hand held camera and you were watching online. Its intent is to provide an added layer of intensity and realism and fundamentally it works but is inconsistent. At times the graphics look superb yet other times it appears as if all of the visual effects like lens flare, frame rate dips, shaky cam and wild camera angles are present only to hide the real unfinished product.

This visual theme adds grit to an already violent, explicit and gory visual. While this didn’t necessary bother me I did find the language and content to be excessive since it was thrown in my face however that is reminisce of the Hitman series. I also would have bought into the effect a lot more if there were a reason story related or not to explain the visual style.

Now speaking of content and depth of content Kane & Lynch 2 severely lacks in multiple areas as well. For instance game length, I don’t want to debate the price versus game length argument here but I think most can agree that 4 hours for a full retail game is not enough despite the inclusion of multiplayer. Not to mention the lack of depth doesn’t stop there the story also lacks any considerable immersion or encouragement to progress. Take Kane & Lynch as an example, the two main characters of the game had little to no interaction despite their history.

Even though the story was only 4 hours long I constantly repeated the same monotonous tasks to the point where it felt the game carried on way too long only to abruptly end. Not to mention the bland environments that existed to simply funnel the player to the next room of enemies didn’t help that feeling.

As far as gameplay goes Kane & Lynch 2 is a traditional 3rd person cover based shooter with a heavy emphasis on cover. Your actions throughout the entire game is simple, press a button to take cover, lean out to kill enemies who are also in cover then rinse and repeat for 4 hours. Wait, the occasional propane tank or fire extinguisher can be thrown and exploded by you which is actually done quite well. But move out of cover at your own peril as you will be quickly gunned down by enemies with militia trained aim. If you choose to fire back you will struggle due to the inaccurate controls and on the rare occasion you do strike your opponent they simply soak up bullets before dying. Thus making what could be a mindless and visually distinctive shooter into a laborious task.

Not all can be considered negative the entire single player campaign can be played cooperatively which is the much better way to play considering the lack of intelligent AI. Also despite the lack of depth I did feel a connection with Lynch and his actions throughout the game. The story was so basic that it felt more believable than other more grandiose stories. Ultimately Kane & Lynch were attempting to escape instead of standing and fighting against the odds which a lot more people can relate to.

Due to the realism IO Interactive wanted to portray there are no collectibles in the game, nor is there any reason to attempt a higher difficulty setting since IO Interactive’s solution is to just throw more enemies at you. Therefore the campaign doesn’t offer any sort of replayability which is unfortunate.  In addition the trophies for Kane & Lynch 2 are just as lackluster and generic as the overall game again leaving you under whelmed.

Multiplayer

The multiplayer has four different game modes; arcade which is basically a practice mode for Fragile Alliance with computer AI, Fragile Alliance which is like the mode in the original Kane & Lynch where you attempt a heist with others online against computer AI however if you die you respawn as a cop and attempt to stop the traitor. The other two modes are a variation of Fragile Alliance, Undercover Cop is set up like Fragile Alliance except at the beginning of the match one person is notified they are the undercover cop and must stop the others from completing the heist. Lastly there is Cop and Robbers, again it is like traditional Fragile Alliance yet everyone is player controlled and is the closest to the conventional team deathmatch. Based on your performance in these modes you can level up and buy new guns as well as earn a label based on your actions if you are a traitor, faithful, travel with the pack, or like to be a lone dog.

In general I had a lot of fun with the multiplayer yet again the depth of content was just not present as it only had these 4 similar modes and cycled through just six maps. In addition there was no variation within those limited maps, for instance the AI placement was static making some of the modes tedious. But multiplayer was definitely a step above the single player campaign however my only concern is that the multiplayer is contingent on others not only purchasing this title but also sticking with what is ultimately a team based online feature when there are others who do that much better. My general consensus is that the multiplayer feature has refreshing game modes mixed with interesting concepts but is constrained by the same awful shooting mechanics as the single player.

Overall

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a traditional generic third person cover based shooter with bad shooting mechanics and no other interesting component to pull you through or engage you with an otherwise lackluster story. While it does have a unique visual style that adds some realism to the title along with a multiplayer feature that can be fun as well as introduces some interesting concepts despite being slightly team dependent the simple lack of content both in the amount of gameplay and depth of gameplay severely hinders this title. IO Interactive establishes some great building blocks that if refined may eventually develop into a successful title, but so did the original Kane & Lynch.

Due to these issues I can not recommend purchasing Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days at full retail price. However due to the summer let-up in releases and since you can easily complete this game in one sitting or more casually over a weekend I suggest renting this title to experience the distinctive visuals, raw story and innovative multiplayer for your self.

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days for the PlayStation 3 was provided to me for reviewing purposes by IO Interactive. The games single player campaign was completed on the medium setting in 4.25 hours. I subsequently spent another 5 hours playing the multiplayer while obtaining 19 of the available 52 trophies. Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days was developed by IO Interactive and published by Eidos Interactive and is available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC systems.

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To read about our stance on the review process click here for more answers. Find all of other reviews here; better yet bookmark that section so you won’t miss any of our future reviews as well. If you would like other information to be included in the reviews give us some feedback and let us know, or if you would like us to review a specific title drop us a line we welcome and encourage your feedback. Enjoy!





Transformers: War for Cybertron Review

28 07 2010

Introduction

Transformers: War for Cybertron is a third person action adventure game that was recently released on June 22, 2010 for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 and developed by High Moon Studios; who previously developed The Bourne Conspiracy and Darkwatch. In this title you can control a multitude of Transformers from either the Autobot or Decepticon factions through out ten chapters which are broken up in two distinct but related campaigns. In the single player campaign which is set years before the actions of the animated cartoon, these factions are waging war on one another over the control of their home planet Cybertron.

Can this title be a success and live up to the standards put forth by fans of the animated cartoon or will it simply fall under the radar to never be seen again? Continue reading to find out.

Single Player

High Moon Studios had a lot going against them when making this title, for instance not much success has been established by developers using a licensed property. Not to mention the nostalgia most feel in my age demographic regarding the animated cartoon. Put all of that together with their relatively lack of experience and most would say High Moon Studios was destined to fail. Transformers: War for Cybertron just goes to show that a developer without huge previous success can take a licensed product that is revered so highly and make a high quality game while still staying true to the old fans and simultaneously introducing new ones.

This quality wasn’t apparent from the beginning however, upon inserting the disk I was tasked with a very lengthy mandatory install and the first chapter was one of if not the worst chapter in the game. Not much was explained and I found myself fumbling around the terrain while I familiarized myself with the controls. Luckily I didn’t have to familiarize myself with the terrain too much considering much of the first half of the campaign was repetitive and reused. However the interesting story and the fulfilling combat was enough to carry me through and good thing since the rest of the Decepticon campaign and the entire Autobot campaign was fresh and fun.

Speaking of the two campaigns I enjoyed how the two were functional when they stood alone but connected to each other. In other words you were able to play as the “bad guys” during the Decepticon campaign along with the “good guys” in the Autobot campaign but successfully win during both opportunities. The entire 10 chapter campaign didn’t feel rushed as it took me roughly 12 hours to complete on medium difficulty. Each campaign had interesting yet challenging boss battles along with nods to hardcore fans but not too much that would make a newcomer feel out of the loop. The campaigns story was interesting and intriguing but ultimately boiled down to Megatron’s quest for the energy source Dark Energon and the resulting destruction and eventual rise to power of Optimus Prime that caused these two factions to fight over the fate of Cybertron.

Transformers: War for Cybertron is fundamentally a good as well, the graphics while they won’t make you gasp are detailed enough to enable you to vividly see all the detailed moving parts of each Transformer. The audio while also not a stand out does play well within the game. Also I found the voice acting to be authentic as the characters banter between each other during the missions further assured you of their character and the attention to detail put forth. The combat appears to be specifically tailored as you can transform at will allowing for almost limitless possibilities during combat which the game certainly expects and encourages you to do. The later levels promote these possibilities of combat that is unique for each Transformer making for fantastic and fun gameplay.

While it’s a solid title it’s certainly not perfect. Even though the 25 minute mandatory install at the beginning is becoming more normal in today’s game it is still a major inconvenience. Not to mention even with this install the game still had a significant amount of loading during the game. Other issues were the occasional dip in frame rate, mainly while loading, along with the inconsistent play of both the enemy and friendly AI. At times the friendly AI was helpful and actually shot at the enemy while you posed as a distraction while other times they proved to be completely inept. This same inconsistency seemed to be apparent in the enemy AI as well — again at times enemies would tactfully try to attack you while other times they ONLY focused their shots at you no matter how hard you tried to hide, since there is no cover mechanic, or where your allies where. This caused certain difficulty spikes throughout the game that again were frustrating.

In most games there is not much reason to replay the single player campaign as most of the replayability comes from the presence of or the lack there of a multiplayer, Transformers: War for Cybertron is different. The entire campaign can be played cooperatively with up to three people online and with different characters to choose from each with a different fighting style I found the campaign can be satisfying to replay multiple times. During these multiple play throughs you can try out the challenging difficulty settings or try to obtain all of the trophies which help promote the game by challenging you to play using different strategies. Overall I was surprised at the amount of replayability that existed just in the single player campaign before I even delved into the multiplayer.

Multiplayer

After completion of the single player I was excited to jump into the multiplayer which is rich with features, plus who of us hasn’t dreamed of a multiplayer shooter with Transformers and thought it would be rad. The first mode I tried out was High Moons Nazi-zombie mode called Escalation; it’s a four person co-operative mode where you select a specific Transformer and try to survive waves of other Transformers while simultaneously purchasing health, ammo, weapons and unlocking new areas of the level by using the points you earned from kills. This mode was both hectic and rewarding – I found I easily grasped the concept considering the gross amount of time I have spent playing the Nazi-zombie mode in Call of Duty: World at War. The fundamentals are similar, you frantically run around while continuously fighting progressively more difficult masses of Transformers. Team work is mandatory if you expect to get to a higher wave but if you die you only have to wait until the next wave, if your team survives, to respawn.

The other aspect of the multiplayer was the traditional 10 person online customizable class based shooter with all of the conventional game types including team deathmatch, free for all, capture the flag and headquarters. I was eager to try out this mode but whether or not I over sold myself I was under whelmed with the overall experience. First off even when I tried playing during prime hours the multiplayer was barren this is not the games fault but it took several minutes to even find a game. Upon finding a game I had hopes of picking one of the several iconic characters from either the Autobot or Decepticon faction only to find out I had to choose from a bunch of nameless Transformers under four different classes, Soldier, Leader, Scientist and Scout. These certain classes can be customized with certain weapons and abilities that unlock based on your level however each class is leveled up individually.

Upon entering the match I found the combat was no fun at all. The combat was chaotic, frustrating and unbalanced with no real direction or tactics involved but relied more on luck. The player is never rewarded for being tactical but more importantly all that appears to matter is having the better class setup which requires a higher level. The shooting felt inaccurate and took way too many bullets to kill an enemy leaving me frustrated when I would tactfully move around the symmetrical map to a better position to only unload an entire clip and die.

Granted I may just be bad at this particular type of multiplayer option but these are not my only complaints. I was often times disconnected from the online games or the host would leave either way I would have to restart from the lobby in an attempt to locate other players in a desolate online mode. Lastly more of a personal opinion I was let down by the amount of customization that was available, while there was some High Moon could have taken it a lot deeper than they did. For the most part the multiplayer feature had all of the pieces to be a successful component but in my eyes these pieces just didn’t fit together properly. This doesn’t make it a bad option but rather an option that’s not for me.

Overall

Overall I think Transformers: War for Cybertron does a fantastic job at creating an origins story that old fans can applaud and newcomers can enjoy. But when contrasted against other 3rd person shooters in its genre it’s rather generic and has quite a few growing pains despite the historic rivalry that is presents. While certainly not a bad title I do believe its thought of more highly, by me included, because the Transformer named is so revered by fans and the names of these Transformers are so nostalgic not to mention the complete lack of even a competent Transformers game in the past. Don’t get me wrong there is truly some shinning moments in this title and I believe High Moon Studio has built a solid foundation and should be applauded for their effort and respect of the subject matter when developing this ultimately enjoyable game.I just think when it’s all said and done Transformers: War for Cybertron is just a good short term diversion and nothing more.

During the summer lull of releases its difficult to find any game to play let along a quality game therefore if you’re a Transformers fan or just looking for a quality game to play during this down time then no doubt I think Transformers: War for Cybertron presents enough of a value to purchase and play through. However if on the other hand you don’t have the same fond memories of Transformers or have a healthy backlog to play then I suggest you don’t purchase this title but feel its at least worth a rental at some point in time.

Transformers: War for Cybertron for the PlayStation 3 was provided to me for reviewing purposes by Activision. The games single player campaign was completed on the medium setting in 11.5 hours. I subsequently spent another 8 hours playing the multiplayer and co-operative features while obtaining 24 of the available 51 trophies. Transformers: War for Cybertron was developed by High Moon Studios and published by Activision and is available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC systems.

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God of War 3 Review

26 06 2010

Introduction

Santa Monica Studios latest installment to the action adventure God of War franchise, God of War 3, was released on March 16, 2010 exclusively for the PlayStation 3 system. God of War 3 picks up immediately where God of War 2 left off, with Kratos riding on Gaia’s back as she ascends Mount Olympus in an attempt to assault the gods. As like all of the previous installments you control Kratos in a third person view as he unleashes his fury upon the world with combos and gory impalement’s and dismemberment’s.

Can God of War 3 be revered and have the sort of impact on the PlayStation 3 that the previous games had on the PlayStation 2, or has the series lost its luster over the years? Continue reading to find out.

Single Player

If you are worried that Santa Monica Studios changed the formula for God of War 3 this generation then don’t. I am here to say that God of War 3 hits all of the desired bullet points: satisfying combat, check – familiar controls, check – puzzle solving platform sections, check – quick time event boss battles, check – angry Spartan looking for revenge, check. To some leaving much of the basics unchanged may seem like a monumental failure but as a fan of the series I am happy that the development team is confident enough in their skills to realize while many games have tried to copy the God of War formula but nobody quite fulfills that promise like Santa Monica Studios. Granted while most of the core aspects have remained the same enough additions and revisions were introduced in God of War 3 to definitely make the experience feel entirely different and new.

These additions and revisions vary from subtle new weapons or items to use like the Bow of Apollo or the Head of Helios to the much more noticeable and over the top gruesome combat or innovative camera angles. The developers certainly didn’t stop there either as they apparently revamped the entire feel of the game to a much grander scale and much darker tone. As a player now more than ever you begin to feel the sense of scale that the game portrays and realize just how big these obstacles are that stand in your way. If you thought Kratos was a vengeful blood thirsty killing machine before then you are in for a surprise as the combat is much more gory and gruesome than in the previous games.

Just as in the previous installments God of War 3 truly presents itself in amazing fashion. For instance the environments are meticulously laid out with a surprisingly amount of detail that is showcased by the stunning graphics and smooth framerate. Even the pace of the game and the careful mixture of combat, exploration, platforming and puzzle solving is perfectly balanced never making the game feel redundant. These aspects all come together to present a fun and fluid gameplay, this fluidity in turn makes you feel like you are actually accomplishing these momentous tasks and performing these stunning acts. The story while it does not play an integral part in the allure of this type of title also isn’t as throw away as some other titles. However I believe the story has enough substance to keep you invested in the progression and eager to see it unfold.

Despite this apparent love affair God of War 3 did in my opinion a have a few faults. Although they are small complaints I personally felt the game gradually lost momentum over the course of playing. I still found the entire game to be enjoyable and satisfying but think because the opening sequence was so epic and memorable that the rest of the game gradually lost that momentum that was captured at the beginning. This may have been due to the fact that its difficult for any game to continue on from such an impressive first 15-30 minute opening that cements such a lastly feeling throughout the game. My only other problem were occasional issues with traversing the world that could have just as well been my fault as the games however those sections could have been more clear.

If you remember I discounted Dante’s Inferno on its replayability because the only option was the single player campaign and even though God of War also only has this one option I don’t feel the same way. My problem with Dante’s Inferno was not that it only had one mode but that the single player was not memorable enough that I wanted to play through it again, God of War 3 in my eyes doesn’t have that same problem. However since its still only just a single player campaign the replayability is slightly hindered but with the thoughtful inclusion of different difficulty modes, collectibles, and unlockable challenges as well as attainable yet rewarding trophies there is plenty to do if you so desire.

Overall

God of War 3 had just enough similarities that while it felt familiar it also felt completely new and adventurous. The presentation was amazing and while you were recovering from the fast paced yet rewarding combat you were continually wowed by the gigantic set pieces that all culminated into momentous events and puzzles. God of War 3 allows you to participate in a heroic clash and journey of remarkable proportions that I didn’t want to end but was satisfied when it did.

I believe this current installment will have the type of lasting effects and will be looked back upon in a positive manner like the two previous titles on PlayStation 2. If you haven’t yet picked this game up its totally worth your purchase and I whole-heartedly recommend that you do, you won’t be disappointed.

The Wife’s Take: God of War 3 in my eyes is overly gory and gruesome and the pristine graphics help illustrate that message more effectively. Therefore as a mother and due to those reasons listed above this is not a game that I would want my younger children playing without first speaking with them or some adult supervision.

God of War 3 for the PlayStation 3 was purchased for full price on the release date. The games single player campaign was completed on the default setting in 9 hours. God of War 3 was developed by Santa Monica Studios and published by Sony Computer Entertainment and is available exclusively for the PlayStation 3.

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Dante’s Inferno Review

9 05 2010

Intro

Dante’s Inferno which is loosely based on the poem ‘The Divine Comedy’ was released on February 9th 2010 for PS3, Xbox 360 and the PSP systems. The game which was developed by Visceral Games, known more for the critically acclaimed Dead Space series, is a third person action adventure game in the spirit of the God of War series. You play as Dante who attempts to tract down and free the soul of his beloved wife Beatrice. During this journey Dante must ultimately face his own sins and family past as he descends into the depths of the Nine Circles of Hell.

Can this title break free from its stigmatism and ultimately be a success or is it simply condemned from the start? Continue reading to find out.

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