March 14, 2012
Mass Effect 3 Review
In 2007 Bioware unleashed a gaming phenomenon in Mass Effect, an action RPG in which the choices you made would affect the outcome in future titles. It’s now 2012 and we have the third title in the planed trilogy, Earth is in ruins, the Reapers are spreading galactic extinction, and only Shepard can unite the galaxy under one banner, does your version of him or her have what it takes to “take Earth back”? I must admit, writing this review was a huge undertaking. I have never been so emotionally involved in a medium to the point of despair, feeling a sense of humanity out of digital characters, and to shed tears of sadness. It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, to get me to cry and well, this game accomplished that. Well done Bioware, well done.
The game takes place a few months after the conclusion of the Arrival DLC from Mass Effect 2. The Reaper threat is very real as within the first 20 minutes Earth comes under attack and the dark and desperate tone of the game hits hard. Shepard is charged with the daunting task with uniting a feuding galaxy against a common enemy. What unfolds over the next 30+ hours, including side quest, is a brilliant story, which is well written and has superb voice acting; Hollywood should be taking notes here. There is a real sense of emotion and humanity with these characters. There is a particular part in the middle of the game that shows the human side or influence if you will, in each of the species that shows a real connection with your Shepard that has spanned 3 titles. I did have gripes toward the zero hour of the games finale, but they are really small gripes in the grand scale of an amazing tale, and who can argue with a game that has some of the most spectacular space battles of this generation.
The tight game play and fantastic cover system return from ME2 with sight improvements. There are now directional arrows for easy cover to cover maneuvers. They have now implemented a weight system and it affects your load out and powers accordingly. Each weapon has its own weight, which can be deterred by upgrading the weapon, add to many weapons to your load out and your powers will recharge at a much slower rate. Equip only one weapon, or below the designated line on the weight gauge and gain a recharge boost. It is a nice implementation; it adds a nice balance to the different classes. Soldiers can carry more and not really worries about powers were as my Vanguard was lightly equipped so I could instantly use my powers again. The conversation system is back and I have mixed feelings about it. While the dialogue is better than ever, there are only two clear cut choices. You either have a heavenly glowing paragon, or a tough as nails, rude renegade. In the previous titles there was a nice middle ground where you weren’t the guy everyone liked yet not the guy everyone wanted to kill. The melee system that was taught over is fine and well as long as you’re not trying to aim a strong attack. The camera backs off to give you the full effect of our force blast or stab but the aiming mechanics go out the window as well; just hope they are right in front and don’t plan on moving. The only other game play gripe I have is the back button functionality (I played the 360 copy since that’s where my Shepard has been since day one). In ME2 it would holster your weapon while not in combat to give you a better view while you searched for objects in the environment and so you did not look so stiff while traversing the terrain. Sadly this has been removed in favor of a quick save feature, which I can see the point of but I just hate the fact Shepard can’t put his gun to his side to pick up an upgrade it looks robotic now.
I have given some serious rage to the Unreal 3 engine in the past; the bugs that are prevalent in most games using the engine, the awful network coding, TEXTURE POPPING, and the slowdown that can occur if it has to stop and think about something. Good news everyone, the game is 90 percent free from all of this. The game is gorgeous and texture pop in is almost nonexistent. The visuals are the best in the series and really convey a war torn galaxy and the skyscraper like Reapers have a huge intimidation factor. The game can feel a little clunky at times, the same problem with the Gears of War series, but when it works its silky smooth. I am proud of Bioware being able to get a working multiplayer going on this engine, they should be commended. Yes, the multiplayer is a version of hip horde mode everyone is doing, but it works and has little connection and lag issues. Gears of War can cripple itself under the weight of its own engine, Mass Effect may not have the glamour textures of GoW but, it runs without a hitch. Speaking of the multiplayer, there were skeptics when this was announced and I was one of them. I am happy to say, it works and works quite well. In the demo that was released, I had easily put 20+ hours with friends and co-editors into the multiplayer and the demo contained a fourth of the content. It is worth checking out and can have a small effect on the single player, but if you don’t the N7 missions take its place.
The game is an epic achievement on Bioware’s behalf. The choice and game play designs are top notch and they found a great mix between ME1 and ME2. Despite what I am giving this game it is not perfect. It is receiving this score because the game is a fantastic package. The single player is great, while the story hiccups towards the end, 99 percent of the game outweighs the off-putting 1 percent. Like I stated in the opening paragraph, I have never been so emotionally involved in a game before. I would love to see more of these types of games in the industry, ones with good stories and with more choice, even though there were issues with choice in this entry. Mass Effect 3 is brilliant, and if you have had reservations about jumping on the hype bandwagon, now is the best time to dive in. You can get lost reading the universe’s lore in the codex, scouring the universe to complete side quest, and have a blast with friends in the multiplayer; without a doubt get this game! This maybe good bye to Shepard and crew, but not to the Mass Effect Universe, I am excited to see what becomes of the series next.
Editor’s note: I did not get a chance to play the game with a Kinect. I do have one and will update the review if it would change my opinion of the game at all, if not this is our definitive review.
October 17, 2011
This title has had tons of publicity and hype built via the internet and with a lot of hype comes a lot of high expectations. Dead Island failed in no way to deliver. Dead Island brings all the fun of destroying zombie hordes with the ability to create and modify your own arsenal of weapons and skills. In this review I will be going over the pro, the cons, and the downright awesomeness of this release.
Let’s start with the bad.
Graphically speaking, the terrain is somewhat spectacular, I know that seems like a good, but where the terrain looks good other aspects lack. Primarily the zombies themselves and the vehicles are a bit simple. For a game this far into the graphically amazing generation that we game, this point cannot be overlooked. I believe that the developers had been using a platform with lackluster performance so as to make the game viable on a large array of systems and the only way to keep size small they didn’t want to make a multitude of different texture packages for each individual zombie. More on this in the good section as it ties with a great aspect.
The bad also continues with a bit of a bug PC version wide. The gamma adjustment setting for the game is off by a long shot making people play the game with a severely over saturated effect. Leaving the gamma default makes some parts of the game a bit too dark but quells the saturation effect drastically. This may be a bit of a hindrance for PC folk, however, it does not seem to affect people running Dead Island on consoles as bad.
The last bad is a bit from player error but it should not be this superfluous in a persistent environment. When you throw a weapon at an enemy and the weapon lays on the ground after its usefulness has been employed, if you die… the weapon is lost forever as the area “resets”. In a game where you are able to throw any and everything you can pick up why would you employ this feature? Ok, maybe I am not thinking within normal boundaries here but to be fair one of the Characters is a Thrown Weapons Specialist. If you throw a weapon you maxed out in upgrades and was a very rare find and you happen to back too far away or die, you have just completely lost your primary hardware for defeating enemies. This may not be a big deal in the early game but later it becomes a bit of a big deal as weapons can cost a lot of money.
Now on to the good, and for every bad I can name at least 10 good aspects. That is a pretty good ratio if I do say so. First and foremost, the environment, I find that the world itself is beyond beautiful. There are a ton of winding pathways and back alleys. There is always at least two ways of reaching your destination, if not more. With that being said, you need a great graphics processor to really enjoy the vast beauty that is Dead Island. With max settings the game looks almost like a window to the outside and that alone is worth the investment. Even on the lowest settings the game is graphically very impressive as it only drowns out some foliage and other non action oriented items.
With this world being as big as it is you need a variety of enemies and with Dead Island it is delivered it ways other imagined. In other games where the world is rather large you find that many of the enemies are just a recolored or reskinned hatchling of a low level mob. Not here, there are so many different enemies that just walking through the game you would think it almost a reality to have so many “people” running around. With this aspect comes the fact that you cannot reskin each mob to reflect multiple levels of graphical detail. The rendering is softened by option but it leaves them looking a bit less than premium at max due to this. Either way, this makes you as a player feel much more involved in a real world situation than a repetitive hack n’ slash style genre.
Weapons weapons and more weapons. Have you ever since “Shaun of the Dead” thought of the multitude of ways to destroy a zombie? This game gives you that and so much more. You can pick up almost any item and use it as a weapon against the hordes of murderous brain eaters or even take some of them and give them a bit of a more lethal edge, for example taking a bat and adding nails to the end. If you really don’t care for that why not jump up and drop kick your opponents and then kick their face into the dirt. The ability to decapitate and dismember these piles of meat via anything sharp makes for a fun gathering of friends by the beach. As for guns, yes there are some, why bother grabbing those up except in the event that your sickle should break or your 2×4 piece of lumber snap in half and already have been thrown at the enemy? There are an array of guns though for those wanting to snap off a few well placed shots and see heads explode into a gory mess behind their target.
Characters, the different style of play are not restricted to the chosen character though each have their specialty they can wield anything you want them to. That being said lets have a bit of an idea of each one shall we?
- Sam B as the Tank-class of the group has the ability to sustain heavy damage and handle numerous foes at the same time. His special ability is “Fury,” which is achieved by filling up a bar by killing zombies. He is also an expert in blunt weapon usage. During a Fury attack Sam can one hit kill zombies with his bare hands. The three branches of his skill tree are Fury, Combat, and Survival.
- Xian Mei is the assassin of the group with a particular predilection toward bladed weapons. The three branches of her skill tree are Blood Rage, Combat, and Survival. Her special ability is to enter a rage mode to deal extra damage to opponents with her knife.
- Logan Carter is the jack of all trades within the team. He specializes in thrown weapons and some blunt weapons. His rage mode allows him to throw an infinite amount of knives at nearby zombies.
- Purna is the support within the team, and a firearm expert. When her Rage mode is activated Purna has unlimited ammo with her Revolver.
The RPG element is very well done. It is similar to Borderlands in that you level up and select a skill under one of three trees and progress further as you add points to a tree. You can mix and match and make your character completely unique to the style in which you play said character and to me that is a huge plus. Dead Island does not let you get behind whatsoever. When you level the enemies in which you encounter are as well your level and thus makes the game progressively harder whether or not you quest or grind your way to max level.
All in all I give this game a 9. It could not go lower but no higher either as some elements of bugs here or there make the game a bit non user friendly. That being said I would highly recommend getting this title and start your trek across this island full of insane mutilated killer corpses. Pick up a copy for your friend or family member as the game is co-op and makes for an even funner adventure. You can get a PC copy of the game from our friends at IntKeys.com. They are trustworthy and truly top tier for online key purchasing. Use our promo code for an even higher discount: 224c76cae8
October 7, 2011
AVAILABLE FOR: PC, PLAYSTATION 3 and XBOX 360
RAGE is an action FPS with some RPG elements, developed by id, that thrusts you into a post apocalyptic world that has been ravaged and destroyed by a giant meteor. You take on the role of an ARK survivor, one of a select group of people chosen to guide humanity and rebuild society after its destruction by a planet killing meteor.The only problem is a military commander sabotaged the project causing ARKs of his choosing with his people to open before any other ARK in an attempt to rebuild as he sees fit and become mankinds supreme dictator, as a result you awake from your stasis pod over 100 years after the impact.
Society is divided between bandit outlaws with a thirst for blood, mercenary groups, small cities/towns that have created a base of civilization and the traitorous military group known as the authority. As an ARK survivor you have been given some biological enhancements, such as your ability to utilize a defibrillator built into your chest when you die, and automatically heal when hurt through the use of nano tech.
RAGE is primarily an action FPS game and fits the genre well. The combat is fast paced and brutally satisfying, RPG elements come into the game in the form of accepting missions from key characters and being able to choose side quests from a job board, much like in borderlands, and also in the ability to communicate with most people in towns and cities. These RPG aspects do a nice job of accentuating the game as an action FPS and throw a unique twist to it. The world is large and semi open, its not entirely open world but also alot has been left open should you wish to explore outside of completing quests. Your main mode of transportation are vehicles, you are set up with a starter vehicle and obtain more throughout the game by winning them in races. The vehicles are customizable and can be outfitted with weapons such as dual mini guns or dual rocket launchers. The vehicle weapon system has been developed quite well, when in vehicle combat you have a certain field of view that enables an auto aim so you arent worried about driving and aiming your weapons at the same time, this method works extremely well and makes vehicle combat simple and enjoyable. There is no quick travel but the world is just large enough to have a massive scale but is set up so that traveling doesnt take forever and drag out. Ground combat is a bit limited as far as weapon selection, but makes up for it with good customization options and a good amount of power that varies on ammo type. Another perk is the ability to obtain “recipies” and engineer ammo, first aid, adrenaline enhancers and so on by collecting components as you complete missions and find things throughout the world. Even useless items such as empty bottles will get you cash at a vendor in town, so it pays to pick up everything, and as far as i can tell there is no limit as to how much you can carry. So a mission can bank you quite a bit of cash for ammo, gear and upgrades.
The graphics are seemingly outdated with DX9 which is welcome news for those with outdated systems who cant afford the outrageous cost of bleeding edge PC components. Regardless id has definitely worked a good deal of magic with DX9. The textures are most noticeable as being DX9, however the textures still reflect alot of detail and the lighting and shadows look amazing. DX11 would have been ideal to bring out the detail in the game but all in all the use of DX9 has been implemented beautifully and has been polished to a high degree. Stability is solid and glitches are at a minimum and have little to no impact on gameplay, which is saying alot for a newly released game. My only gripe really is that the player doesnt have advanced graphical options, you simply have resolution, brightness, gpu transcoding, and anti-aliasing. The id tech implemented adjusts the advanced options automatically based on your system specs and takes full advantage the resources available to optimize the game for 60 frames per second, this isnt a deal breaker as it does an excellent job of auto detecting specs and adjusting accordingly and will also come as a breath of fresh air for those who are less tech savvy and simply want to install and play. However the majority of the PC community likes to tweak it their way and not have it done for them with software. But not to fret, advanced graphics options should be made available in the first patch from Bethesda that is currently under development.
So far I have put just over 15hrs into RAGE, with quite a bit more to go. This is one game wont be held back by short gameplay. As far as replayability goes, I dont see that there will be much value in that, while its a packs alot of fun and intensity, its lack of full RPG elements such as leveling and complete customization will likely hinder its replay value. The only reason to go back and play it again would be to complete side quests not undertaken the first time through.
To break it down, RAGE is intensely fun with great gameplay and good mechanics and a gripping and intriguing story line, the graphics are implemented using older tech but done so expertly creating a beautiful world and characters with rich detail. For a new release is quite solid and and for the most part glitch free, a few patch releases and any noticeable glitches should be taken care of.
October 4, 2011
Hellgate – The Revival Of A Lost Treasure
Hellgate London (Now Free to play check it out here.)
What can be said about this amazing game that has not been said in a million other ways? This game is the best bit of true RPG left in what used to be a great company named Blizzard. Flagship Studios, a smaller group formerly known as Blizzard North, created this title under their own newly created name shortly after their major production known to most by the name Diablo 2. This was to be an unofficial release of a futuristic Diablo setting. Most people figured it for the Diablo 3 that so many people sought after years of waiting for Blizzard to do anything with the still strong franchise. I was one of these people and thus went out in 2007 on release day and bought it in the collectors edition format which netted me a nice BIG box that all the contents came in as well as an awesome comic book that told the story of the start of Hellgate London. In synapse, think of the Paladins guild of Diablo 2 finding openings of gates to hell much as were seen in act 5 of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction. They are now banding together and gathering new recruits to fight against the droves of minions spawning from the hole out of hell.
Now on to my review:
The game being released in 2007 has some last generation graphics being stuck in the realm of late DX9 to early DX10. That being said, the graphics are exceptional for the platform and date. They take the world into a dark and almost steampunk feel early on into an apocalyptic hell later. Blending the old world with the new has long been a hard concept for developers to make happen in a way that is acceptable and revered. Flagship Studios did this amazingly.
The view of the items and paperdoll are strikingly similar to Diablo 2 as seen in the following image here.
The game functions as it should, with years under its belt many of the original bugs have been found and fixed. Hellgate is great in its own ability to be playable even on low end machines. It bolsters the ability to both look amazing and wretched but still retain all of the playability any one person could want.
With this, you have a choice of how to play the game, in FPS mode or 3rd person. The ability to change play style on the fly with a flick of the mouse wheel makes the game that much more diverse.
The storyline while full with quests here and there feels much the same as it did with Diablo 2, lacking. After going through the game on Normal mode you find that you were very easily able to note the storylines plot almost word for word. Though memorable it feels stagnant, in the way that it has all been done miserably before.
The best part of Hellgate has always been its multiplayer. It is very similar to that of Guild Wars in that the quest hubs are open to all players together and the venturing parts of the game are instanced. This makes questing so much nicer since trolls cant easily train you or steal mobs. This also makes it so that you can play alone when you want to and not be bothered by others while questing if you choose.
September 4, 2011
The Witcher 2
Back in October 2007 relatively unknown developer, CD Projekt with Atari released The Witcher. The original provided one of the most authentic, original and captivating RPG experiences ever to land on the PC or any platform for that matter. The game was not without its problems however as it contained many graphical glitches, extremely long loading times between sequences and a censored version released in North America. The company responded to these issues by not only releasing an updated version of the game but adding in new quests, graphical enhancements and reduced loading times but providing it free to customers who had already purchased the game. In fact CD Projekt spent over 1 million dollars resolving the issues its customers presented to them. Ever since The Witcher was released fans have been anxiously awaiting a continuation of the epic story which was The Witcher.
The wait is finally over and The Witcher 2 has arrived and the question on everyones mind is “is it worth the wait”. The answer to that is most definitely yes. The Witcher 2 picks up immediately where the first left off and we take up our role as Geralt of Rivia as he travels the lands attempting to clear his name after he is wrongly accused for the assassination of King Foltest.
Before we begin let’s get the bad, and yes there is some, out of the way. The biggest issue this game suffers from is the ability to break quests. You can do things in such a way that you will actually break key part of the quest to where you will have to reload the game and start over. Remember the gamers montra “save often and love it”. This can be incredibly aggravating when you have spent 45 minutes doing things around the world only to find out that you have to repeat them. I actually found myself having to do this. The difficulty in the game seems to be… off. Even on normal I found myself getting trashed early on in the game to the point where I had to switch the difficulty to easy just to pass a certain stage. We also have the problem that ATI/AMD owners have run into where there are numerous graphics problems abound. Most of these issues, assuming the company follows its trend, should be fixed shortly in an upcoming patch this week.
Sorry Crysis 2, step aside, you are not the graphics king on the PC. With the possible exception of Metro 2033, The Witcher 2 is probably the best looking game on the PC or any other platform for that matter. Some of the long distance visuals you encounter during your travels will leave you breathless. The sun filtering through the forest tree tops will make you stop and admire the visuals. The burning fires you will see while you move through the game looks freakishly like the real thing. The Witcher 2 steps up the graphics across the board. PC enthusiasts will be in for a treat as The Witcher 2 offers a wide range of graphical settings that you can tweak and set to your heart’s content.
The story as with the original is top notch and the decisions you make are just as important as they were in the first game if not more so. The story is so captivating that you will find that you have been playing for 5 hours and not even realize it. The game has multiple beginnings, ways to progress and over 16 different endings depending on how you play the game. The Witcher 2 does not have good or bad choices like your standard RPG and it can make some of the decisions that you make incredibly difficult and in some cases you may regret them *remember the gamers montra*. The decisions you make not only affect the immediate situation but changes the way the entire game plays out. RPG fans will not be disappointed with this.
You are able to import your previous save game, however if you are like me you probably don’t have it anymore since you’ve probably upgraded or changed computers since them.
The biggest standout in this game for me was the voice acting. It’s top notch all the way through the game. From the passer by comments you hear while walking down the street to the scream on the battlefield the voice acting is superb and that combined with the superior graphics and top notch story The Witcher 2 offers a really captivating and immersive world for you to get lost in and trust me you will get lost in it.
The Witcher 2 improves upon everything that made The Witcher 2 and in my opinion is a better game than the original in many ways. Anyone who is on the edge about buying The Witcher or The Witcher 2 I would urge you to do yourself a favor and pick them both up as you will not be disappointed. The Witcher 2 is a fantastic game that should not be missed and it is one of the best games on the PC platform. I should also note that this is a PC exclusive release and that is rare these days. If you are looking for an excuse to build a new computer then The Witcher 2 is that excuse. So tell your girlfriend goodbye, drop out of your classes and say goodbye to your social life as The Witcher 2 whisks you away to another world.
I should note that this is NOT a kid friendly game. If you are a parent and considering to get this for your child I would urge you to not as this game is brutal and violent and has several sexually explicit scenes throughout the game.