Developer – Bioware
Publisher – Electronic Arts
Release Date – 26 January 2010
I finished Mass Effect 2 earlier this year but for some reason never took the time to do a write up. You don’t need me to tell you that this is a great game, I didn’t like the direction the series has gone but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good game. While I would’ve liked if Bioware kept the RPG aspect intact instead of toning down the amount of weapons and items, the story & conversation systems is still something no other game does just as well.
I do like how Bioware try to forward the RPG genre by increasingly meshing it with a third person shooter, it makes sense to make it all seamless. The real strength of the game to me was the interesting characters which now you have a whole new crew you recruit and take side missions from. The conversations are as important to the experience as the game play and aren’t static since you have the option to make moral choices and choose the tone of direction. Action is fun enough with the variety of powers you have at your disposal but there is still something missing that doesn’t make it as fun as other shooters, maybe the shooting mechanic is just not refined enough than games that solely focus on this.
Bioware are making the best modern day RPG’s right now and with Mass Effect 3 coming up early next year it’s a good time to play and finish ME2 if you haven’t already done so.
I rarely buy games the day they are released, in fact I don’t think I’ve bought a game made in 2011 this year (only Portal 2 had me tempted but I haven’t gotten around to buying it yet). But Deus Ex hooked me and after playing it for a couple hours it was well worth it.
In the many times the game was previewed in the past couple years, I was interested mainly due to the near future (2027) cyber punk setting but I didn’t think I would be compelled to pick it up immediately. There were mixed previews of the game, probably down to critics ready to pounce on any minor flaws due to the universal acclaim of the original, but any sort of open world games are hard to preview (which is why Rockstar is so selective with preview coverage of their games). It wasn’t until the critical praise of the game by critics a few days before release that I started to get excited.
What makes this games so great? The combination of a whole bunch of game genres (FPS, RPG, action, adventure, open world) but the main selling point for me was that it is very much a stealth game which rewards you for being creative and patient in the way you tackle the missions. You have freedom in the way you want to play and the levels are designed so well that you can do this without any compromise. It is a stealth game that doesn’t just filter you arbitrarily from room to room, you have an objective and you can approach it anyway you want.
The last game that tried to do something similar was The Darkness but it was no where near as polished or ambitious. Other stealth games like MGS4 and Splinter Cell Conviction where just expected upgrades of a very familiar game play ideas (I still love these games but Deus Ex actually evolves the genre). I’m still fairly early in the game (I haven’t got to any of the much maligned boss battles yet) but look forward to multiple post breaking down different aspects of the game in the coming weeks as I slowly play through it.
Right now if you are a Playstation Plus member you can download and play the Resistance 3 multiplayer beta for a few weeks before the public gets access to it. I had fun playing the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta but the multiplayer in Resistance 3 is a much bigger selling point for the game and could make or break a buying decision. The game was not instantly fun but once I got familiar with the layout of the maps and the special abilities I could see a place for it in the heavy FPS lineup at the end of the year. The key is the crazy weapons and abilities that Resistance is known for mixed with low respawn times making it more action packed that previous Resistance games (I’ve only played the first Resistance multiplayer).
The two sides you can play as are Human and the Chimera, each play slightly different and have different abilities but nothing that special that makes it unbalanced. For example the Chimera melee attack is a lunge while for humans it is the standard weapon butt. There are 2 types of abilities you can equip (support & tactical) and 2 types of attributes (personal & combat). A support ability is a deployable (bubble shield, ammo beacon) while tactical abilities are for example the ability to create a doppelganger to appear next to you confusing opponents or a lightning shield around you to stun enemies. Personal atributes range from larger ammo clips to showing enemy footprints or the annoying leapers that burst out of you when you die. Combat attributes are things like allowing 2 starting weapons or increasing health.
There is a levelling system which allows you to spend skill points into upgrading a weapon’s abilities. The M5A2 Carbine for example has upgrades for a bayonet attachment and an options to alt fire 3 grenades at once. There are also kill streaks which can be used in combat if you get a certain amount of kills in a row, and unlike COD they don’t disappear when you die. So you can get a 3 kill streak, die and still have the option to use the kill streak ability which is a cloak for Chimera and a shield for humans. The 6 kill streak is the powerful rail gun like Augur. I haven’t encountered more than 6 yet but I’m sure there is more.
After about 4 hours I can say that I really enjoyed my time even though all the additions make it feel very much like Call of Duty. But the setting, weapons and abilities make it different enough that I think Insomniac Games will find a dedicated multiplayer audience base. This might even be a day one purchase for me if the single player holds up.
Developer – 2K Marin/Australia and Digital Extremes
Publisher – 2K Games
Release Date – February 9 2010
The first Bioshock was one of those classics that help defined the current generation of games. The fascinating story and design of the game made it unique and its open ended FPS gameplay got a lot of people interested. The original developers of Bioshock (Irrational Games) instead of making a direct sequel are now making the highly anticipated Bioshock Infinite which garnered plenty of positive buzz at this year’s E3. So instead 2K Games decided to get the project done with the help of a couple of different game studios. 2K Marin was the lead with help from 2K Australia and China while the multiplayer was developed by Digital Extremes (Unreal Tournament, Ps3 port of Bioshock and the upcoming Darkness 2).
Going into it I was expecting it too be more of the same with some minor improvements and that’s what Bioshock 2 turned out to be. I really enjoyed some aspects of the games, in particular the later levels, but there is a lot of repetition here that gets old quickly. It lacks the same sense of mystery that the first had which was expected but is does a decent job setting the story up even though it unfolds in a fairly predictable way. You play as the original Big Daddy, Delta, who awakens to the out of control world of Rapture and is out to find his daughter who is being held by Sofia Lamb.
Playing as a Big Daddy changes up the game a bit but doesn’t change up the core Bioshock gameplay as much as you would expect. Instead of a wrench you have your drill and your other offensive options are the usual weapons and plasmid powers. The big change in the game is the addition of trap weaponry such as deployable turrets and trap sensors which are there to help you deal with defending a position which you will need to do a lot in this game. Every time you pickup a little sister you escort them around to collect Adam (what you spend to upgrade and buy plasmids and gene tonics) and this causes splicers to attack you in waves. The game is still fun and unlike most FPS out there as the choices you have are varied with plasmids still enjoyable to use and the shooting still solid (although a tad dated now). Although the graphics of the game is unimpressive and doesn’t make much of a leap from the original.
The most interesting part of the game was learning more about the history of Rapture and how everything started. The best level of the game for me was Fontaine Futuristics, the company that created all this steam punk tech and the creator of it all Gil Alexander. Alexander created the Big Daddies and when we meet him he has been overload with too much Adam and through videos he instructs you to take him down. Up to this point in the game I wasn’t excited about anything story wise but this level was great. I also look forward to playing the DLC level Minerva’s Den which people have told me to be another great standalone level.
Multiplayer in this game is alright and would be better if the underlying shooting mechanics was better. But you can use plasmids which makes it interesting and the levels are pretty well adapted for multiplayer. It is neat but I don’t think I’m going to regularly play it. I picked this game up for cheap just a few months after release and now it must be around $20, a good price it you want more Bioshock.
Developer – Ninja Theory
Publisher – Namco Bandai
Release Date – October 5 2010
Ninja Theory’s follow-up to 2007’s Heavenly Sword is a loose adaptation of the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West where instead of being set in ancient China the game is set in a post apocalyptic future. People no longer inhabit the big cities which are now overgrown with vegetation, and robots are roaming the land enslaving any human they encounter. The game itself is like Ninja Theory’s past game, an action adventure game with a heavy combat focus but still fairly shallow when compared to Japanese developed action games.
The big draw of the game is the story which was written by film screenwriter Alex Garland (Sunshine, 28 Days Later) with motion capture by Andy Serkis. The game has great production values but doesn’t reach the heights of video game story telling that you would expect from such talent. Not much really goes on throughout the game and although there is an interesting ending I felt there was a lack of scope. The story succeeds more on a broader level in terms of the contrast between tech and nature.
The voice acting and motion capture however is top notch with some smart audio design decisions. The art direction is also consistently appealing giving a perfect sense of an overgrown post apocalyptic world devoid of human activity. The game starts off on a slaver ship which the two lead characters (Trip and Monkey) barely escape from. Trip was abducted from a self sufficient wind powered colony while the origins of Monkey are unknown. When they crash land Trip puts a control device on Monkey compelling him to obey Trip’s orders. When Trip dies, Monkey dies so Monkey is forced to help her return to her colony. The game play hook here is that Trip is capable of distracting enemies but is out of the way when combat occurs. Trip serves as a guide for the most part moving you along on a linear path.
The combat of the game starts of pretty basic and while it does get better there isn’t much variety and depth I have come to expect from character action games. As Monkey you have a staff which you can use for physical combat or shoot projectiles from. There are counters, charge attacks and evading but even playing on hard I just relied on blocking while waiting for an opening to attack. The platforming of the game is similar to Uncharted in that there is a lot of climbing with the same sort of cinematic style. And for a twist Monkey has a hover board (which Monkey calls a cloud in reference to the source material) which he uses later in the game to change up the platforming game play.
While this game was lamented as one of the most overlooked game releases of last year, I could see why there wasn’t much momentum behind the release. It isn’t a blockbuster game and the lack of depth in the combat let it down. It did however deserve to sell better and not fall to deep discounts a couple months after release. I still have good confidence in Ninja Theory and hope they will truly make a critical and commercial hit with their next game, a reboot of the Devil May Cry series for Capcom.
Developer – Team Ninja
Publisher – Tecmo
This is a game I should have gotten around to playing much earlier as it is 100% what I enjoy about action games. It is challenging requiring quick thinking and fighting game level button combinations and timing. There are definitely some unnecessarily tough enemies but most of them are fair and it is up to you to adapt and learn how to approach enemies differently. I actually didn’t finish the game, I got to the last battle but can’t beat the final boss (unless you’re an expert you need to stock up on healing items which I failed to do).
From the start I can see how this game has built up a reputation of being extremely challenging. There is no combat handholding and you are instantly thrown into a fight which you could easily die from. It took me some time to get a handle of combat system as it requires precise timing, patience and combo learning but it was very satisfying once I got it. The enemies can be unpredictable at first but you learn how to best defeat them after dying multiple time and playing sections over and over again. The bosses are crazy and I got through them by relying on items to heal.
There are some antiquated game aspects that make it identifiable as an Xbox game published in 2004 which make it more frustrating than it should be. You can’t really press start quit to the menu and load a save point, you have work around this by purposefully dying. You also can’t change the difficulty and I got myself locked into a lower difficulty (ninja dog) around 3/4 of the way through the game.
I was surprised about how open some sections of the game is, allowing you to move around finding hidden items or weapons. I was also surprised with the platforming sections which mostly utilising your wall running ability which was a nice change of pace. It is also a pretty long game irregardless of having to play sections over again. If you like challenging action games this is a must play.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma is the PS3 version of Ninja Gaiden Black (Xbox 360) which itself was a re-release of Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox. This version adds higher res graphics along with a new playable character (Rachel) and levels.
One thing that I have notice from all the games shown at E3 this year is that the traditional control method (twin sticks, 4 face buttons, d-pad and triggers) is being replaced or augmented by a range of new control paradigms. Last year’s E3 saw the introduction of the MS Kinect and PS Move, and this year both companies reaffirmed their commitment to the future of how we will control games.
Now I’m not saying traditional controlled games will be obsolete (they will still be ever present), but I do think developers are thinking of ways to allow people to more easily interact with games in new ways. Seeing the way voice commands are being used in Mass Effect 3 utilizing Kinect, or hearing Bioshock lead developer Ken Levine talk about the ways he will use PS Move in Bioshock Infinite, I see a definite trend of developers taking up the challenge of advancing the way we control games. It is no longer just a gimmick, it is the future of video games.
And I haven’t even mentioned Nintendo yet, with their next console they will continue the path of motion controlled games and will add the next big thing, tablet touch pad controls. They are taking the success of their portable systems and mobiles devices like the iPad/iPhone to create a system that will encourage developers to think of new innovative ways to design games. These new methods of control allow a wider range of people to pick up and instantly understand how to play certain games. It also makes gaming a more involved and fun looking endeavor which is necessary to continue growing the industry.
Nintendo had a true hit with the Wii by innovating the way games are played but their approach had it’s flaws. Nintendo looks like they have learned not to abandon the core gamers by creating a system that developers are excited to work on with powerful processing and graphics capabilities. Hopefully this would lead to more games being released on the Wii U than the Wii and I’m excited to see how games like Assassin’s Creed play on the Wii U.
Also I hope more developers take advantage of the capabilities of the Kinect and PS Move as we are at a point where the technology is there but we just need the games. The key is finding the right mix and making control decisions that make sense, enhancing the gaming experience rather than making it seem gimmicky. From what I’ve seen at E3 this year I feel confident that the industry is moving in the right direction.
P.S. 3D gaming is also here to stay and video games are the perfect medium to get the most out of it. The technology is improving each year and developers are doing a better job of implementing it in their games. It’s time to stop grousing about 3D in video games, if you don’t like it you can still play your games in regular 2D.
Nintendo Official Videos
- Nintendo Media Presentation
- Trailers – Luigi’s Mansion 2, Mario Kart, Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword, New Super Mario Bros Mii + other video content.
Electronic Arts Official Videos
Ubisoft Official Videos
Here is a list PS3 games and features announced today at Sony’s Press Conference for E3 2011. After a montage of games and Playstation properties, the event started with Jack Trenton CEO of SCEA first apologizing about the recent PSN outage. 3D, Playstation Move and the PS Vita are all heavily showcased with the big news that the PS Vita will be USD$249/299 for Wi-Fi/3G model.
- Already announced games featured – Uncharted 3 (release date 1st November 2011), Resistance 3, NBA 2K12 (Move Support), Infamous 2, Starhawk, Bioshock Infinite and Star Trek.
- 3D Game Remasterings – God of War Origins Collections and Ico and Shadow of Colossus Collection.
- Playstation Branded 3D Monitor announced – 24 Inch screen with unique feature of allowing split screen co-op games to display a full screen for each player. USD $499 for monitor, 3D glasses, HDMI cable and Resistance 3.
- Bioshock Infinite – Move support and Bioshock 1 pack-in. Also a Bioshock on NGP teased.
- More Core Games Move Support – Bioshock Infinite, Saint’s Row The Third, Star Trek and better move support for LBP 2.
- EA’s PS3 Exclusive Game Content – SSX (Mount Fuji exclusive level), Need for Speed on the Run exclusive cars and Battlefield 3 comes with Battlefield 1943 pack-in.
- New Games Announced – Sly Cooper Thieves in Time, Medieval Moves: Deadman’s Quest from the developer of Sports Champions and Dust 514 (Playstation exclusive MMO FPS from Eve Online developer CCP Games).
- NGP Name Announced Playstation Vita – Rumours are true the official name of the NGP is the Playstation Vita. AT&T announced as exclusive 3G partner in the US. More than 80 titles in development. Out this year, wifi model $249 and 3G model for $299.
- PS Vita Games Shown – Uncharted Golden Abyss, Ruin (action RPG, loot based, social features, PS3 compatibility and cloud saving), ModNation Racers (easy track creation, access to user generated content), Little Big Planet (game changer, easy to create levels or game types utilising all the features of the PS Vita), and Street Fighter X Tekken (Cole from infamous is a playable character).
The PS Store is back up today and immediately when you boot it up you’ll see the free PS+ games for download and the big surprise is Burnout Paradise. Since all PSN member get a free month of PS+ it is available to all members but access to the free games will disappear if you do not choose to renew your PS+ membership. The free games right now are (For EU & AUS regions):
- Burnout Paradise
- Magic The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers
- Streets of Rage 2
- And the PS One game James Pond 2
- And a couple of PS Minis, The 2D Adventure of Rotating Octopus and BABEL The King of Blocks.