Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bioware Bazaar

Just thought i'd post this here in case people want to help me get some Bioware tokens.  If you have a link just let me know the URL and i'll click it.

http://social.bioware.com/brc/58392

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dragon Age Origins: Awakening - Review

Dragon Age: Origins Awakening
In the age of DLC we get these rare artifacts called expansion packs and what they are is a significant amount of game content that offer enough enjoyment to be called a game on their own. Now the real question is whether or not Dragon Age Origins: Awakening deserves to be called an expansion pack. My resounding answer is “Yes this is an expansion pack!” Whether it’s worth its weight in gold (cash) is subjective on how much you enjoyed the original game.


Story wise this game takes place not too far in the distant future of the original game. You can be a new Orlesian Grey Warden or import your character from Origins. So you are on a quest to rebuild the Grey Wardens and you become the new Arl of Amaranthine. So you’re in charge of this province and must hear out the peasants and nobles while making decisions that will affect your outcome against an impending darkspawn threat. This threat is different because they are more intelligent and coordinated than ever before. Without giving away too much of the plot the Awakening is about these new darkspawn with free will and you must get down to the source and find out what’s going on. You get some cameos from key characters of the original game but don’t expect them to make a huge impact on the story. The most interesting part of the game would be finding these new Grey Warden recruits and they can be quite memorable sometimes. Each character is unique but won’t hook you in like the Origin’s cast. Sometimes I think Anders the mage tries too hard to crack jokes and they are only funny about 70% of the time. The other characters seem to have their own charm and vice at the same time but there is some depth in their own stories that flesh out their personalities. If anything the expansion is more like an epilogue and adds some closure to your original character’s story if you chose to import them.

Visually the game is well designed and each area has a unique look. Vigil’s Keep looks like a fortress that you can wage a war in, Amaranthine is a fairly large city that you can roam around. The areas you travel while on your quest to find new wardens are massive in scope compared to some in the original game and you can wander for hours in these sections of the game. There are new models of armor and weapons that look absolutely cool. Then there are a few new creature models that look menacing and frightening. Bioware definitely put in some work without having to recycle too much from the core game.

From a gameplay standpoint the mechanics haven’t changed too much. The game is still Dragon Age Origins and you use the same interface and most of the same skills. The main difference is that there is a new level cap and two new specializations for each class with new level 20 skills that weren’t in the original. You also get to spec into three specializations instead of two. You don’t have to worry about speccing your character wrong because you can buy manuals of focus and these will reset your character’s stats, specializations and abilities. If you were into crafting there is a new added profession called Runecrafting and you can make runes to fit into your weapon and armor slots. The quests are fairly standard and you can find a few amusing ones out of the bunch of stale ones. Monsters aren’t too challenging but you encounter them in droves and the Boss fights are difficult since they test your tactical expertise. They felt very satisfying to kill on the hardest difficulty setting and yes there are epic dragon fights in this game that will take you some planning beforehand in order to kill them. The game isn’t without flaws as I have found quite a few bugs. I found quite a few quest breaking bugs and definitely broke my immersion with the game at points. If you don’t have a save before you break the quest then you are stuck being unable to complete them. These are unfortunate bugs but I don’t feel it ruins the game completely.

For forty bucks you get about 15 hours worth of game which seems small compared to what you got with the core game. But 15 hours is a lot more game than most retail games out these days and if you liked Dragon Age Origins then this expansion pack is definitely worth picking up.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 PC Review

Battlefield Bad Company 2
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a new installment into the Bad Company series that started off as a console game but now DICE has developed part two with the PC gamers in mind. The end result is a game that doesn’t feel like the quality has been dumbed down because of being multiplatform. This review will concentrate more on the PC version rather than console comparisons in order to be more precise in this review. I’ll start off first by saying that this feels like a product that is a true successor to Battlefield 2 that was released 5 years ago on the PC. Those who have not played a Bad Company game before will notice that with the Frostbite engine the game brings environmental destruction as a core gameplay mechanic and can dynamically change strategies deployed on the battlefield. If you have not read a review by me I divide it into multiple sections that talk about story and single player campaign, multiplayer, graphics, controls, and sound. This allows me to analyze each section to say what I do and don’t like about the game so the reader can get a better grasp at what I’m trying to dissect from the game. Just one minor note, I did not play the first Bad Company game on the console so I won’t be comparing any type of changes from that game.


Story and Single Player Campaign:

You play as Preston Marlowe and you go through the campaign with three other characters named Sweetwater, Haggard, and Sergeant Redford. The characters do have some personality and have chemistry with each other. Throughout the game you will hear them talking to each other which brings in some comedic relief from the otherwise tense war vibe you are supposed to get. The campaign itself starts off sometime during World War 2 and puts you in control of a soldier that you really won’t care about during that time. This part seems to be there so you can get a sense of the danger of this Scalar weapon that seems to be the driving force of the story itself. So somehow your squad gets mixed up in all this and you travel to various destinations like Russia and mainly South America. It’s linear and straightforward and you can’t really deviate from the path game sets upon you. There is a desert level where you can drive to different destinations and do them in a non linear order but there is nothing that changes the outcome of the game completely. The campaign in short and I think I clocked in about 5 hours before completing it all. The game isn’t all that challenging, as I played on hard difficulty and got through just fine without too many deaths. There are some weapons to collect and when you pick one up you can outfit your load out in these crates throughout the campaign. I would have liked to see some more squad customization and outfit your crew in different weapons but they seem to have the same weapons throughout the game. The squad AI is also not too great, you can’t order them at all, and they either help or they don’t so you’re basically stuck doing most of the dirty work in the campaign. The campaign is fast paced and has its moments but you probably won’t remember it in a week.

Multiplayer:

Multiplayer is probably why you will buy this game. The Battlefield franchise has a long history of being multiplayer exclusive and with good reason. They make a damn good multiplayer game. If you haven’t played a Battlefield game here’s the quick rundown. It’s a class based teamwork oriented shooter, which basically means that you specialize in a particular class for example the medic will heal up other players and resurrect dead players with defibrillators, while the assault class are front line soldiers who will resupply you with ammo. So basically it helps to play with a variety of classes to help the team win the round. The class structure is a lot more streamlined than previous battlefield games and has condensed them into four focused classes which are Assault, Engineer, Medic, and Recon. Assault is the backbone of a squad and provides the most firepower with various assault rifles and 40mm grenade launchers while being able to resupply teammates with ammo. Engineer is your anti-vehicle class because they are provided with rocket launchers and anti vehicle mines. You can also repair teammate vehicles to score points and keep that tank holding the line alive. Medic I have sort of described already but they complement any squad they are on. They have the least firepower but the light machine guns aren’t firing pellets either. Recon is basically your sniper class; they mainly stay in back of the front lines and try to keep people off objectives and spot enemies before they are on top of your teammates. Recon are also mini UAV’s because they have motion sensors that they can throw in an area that tracks enemy movement and points them out on the map. The class structure seems a lot more focused and easier to know what your role is. One major change that you will find in Bad Company 2 is the squad spawning system. If you’re a lone wolf then you will be missing one of the greater conveniences in the game. Basically you get to spawn on your squad mates if they are still alive. This alleviates one of the major complaints about Battlefield games in the past where you have to run long distances to get back in the battle. The game has a ranking system and you earn points per class. Each class can be upgraded and you will unlock new weapons and gadgets per class. The way you earn these points are to basically do your role and kill enemies. Ammo resupplies, spotting enemies, medic heals and resurrections all earn you points. You will then be able to customize your character and add any attachments to weapons to your desire. This gives a little more variety to players who like to customize their weapons certain ways. Vehicles are back in a few flavors, you have your tanks, helicopters, humvees, atvs, and boats. Vehicle combat is probably the best you’ll find that isn’t a focused simulator. UAV’s are also handled a bit differently since you can now use them to shoot missiles and can upgrade to eventually have a machine gun alternate fire on them. Bad Company 2 has a few different game modes this time around. Conquest is about capturing flag points on the map and holding them until the other teams tickets run out. Rush is an objective based mode where you must destroy two m-com stations on the map, once you destroy them, the enemy falls back and you must destroy another two m-com stations and so forth. Squad Rush is the same as Rush but you play it as a four player squad against another four player squad, I have not played it much at all and I would assume that the pace is quicker. Squad Deathmatch is basically a free for all but you play with three other players and you basically have to kill all other player squads for points. This mode I found to be the most fun and hectic in the game. You will want to play this when you don’t have much time on hand and want to get a quick session going. With all this being said there are a few flaws, there are some balance issues that you can see right off the bat. Some weapons are a bit too strong and you will probably find people using these weapons exclusively. I also found a problem with the knife in the game because it seems to auto target any player in front of you and lunges forward giving you an easy kill. Assault can also grenade spam because they can resupply themselves. Vehicles also spawn extremely fast because once you kill one it only takes maybe 30 seconds to a minute before another spawns and vehicles can be very hard to kill. There’s also the “imma sniper syndrome” where you will probably find a team of recon not going for objectives and just sitting back and sniping. Unfortunately you can’t patch idiots so you’ll probably see this type of game once in awhile. There also have been problems with EA servers providing the necessary bandwidth to keep the servers up and running. So the first few weeks have been rocky and I’ve spent some days offline because of these issues. Another complaint I could find is that the server browser is very unsatisfying; it takes a long time to load and doesn’t have many filters. It does not have real time updates to the server list so you can sometimes spend a few minutes looking for the right server only to be denied because the server is full already. Problems aside this is a very polished online shooter and will only get better as problems are squashed.

Graphics:

The game does look very good and scales very well with hardware. You can finally see that games are finally catching up to Crysis which set the benchmark in looks a few years ago for the PC. Animations are well done and the environmental physics are pretty awesome. The game engine seems to handle destruction and large levels very well without straining most systems to a crawl. I think the only gripe I have is that shadows could have been better because they seem very blocky and distracting in some ways. I don’t know if it’s a Nvidia problem or just the way the game handles the shadows but self shadows were very distracting at all quality levels.

Gameplay and Controls:

Bad Company 2 is a slower paced shooter than let’s say Unreal and Call of Duty games. It does try to bring in some realism and that can be seen with all the weapon physics in the game. Physics are a big part of the gameplay and bullets will travel distances. It’s not so much a point and shoot game but more of a lead the sights a little in front of the target so that when the bullet travels it hits the target. This is especially true for sniper rifles, the further away you are from the target the more time it takes for the bullet to get there. At the same time the bullet is also affected by gravity and starts to fall after a certain distance. So it takes some time getting used to the mechanics of the game but once you get the hang of it you start learning to deal with the game physics in real time. You have options to use a controller in this game instead of the mouse and keyboard but this is all personal preference. Most people find a controller to work better for vehicles than the mouse and keyboard.

Sound:

The sound for this game is very high quality. Weapons sound very authentic and you get a sense of distance of where the action is. There is a sound option called War Tapes and it just makes everything sound very epic, just a warning it may blow out your ear drums if you’re using headphones. I don’t speak Russian so I can’t say for certain that their voices are authentic during multiplayer but the American soldiers do sound like they are in a war. It can get repetitive but it doesn’t really harm the game in any way.

Conclusion:

Although it was announced that Battlefield 3 was in development this game in particular does feel like a successor of Battlefield 2. It is a game that will make many veterans of the series get back in the groove and feel nostalgic about the old days. The single player will not win any awards for being the best in genre but serves as a good tutorial for what is the meat of the game which is the multiplayer. If you’re looking for a multiplayer shooter that will eat a few months of your life or keep you occupied until Battlefield 3 then I highly recommend this game because it may be the best of the year.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bad Company 2, Final Fantasy XIII

So i picked up Battlefield: Bad Company 2 over the past week and have been playing it quite a bit, I've logged in about 24 hours in the multiplayer so i think i have a good impression of the game and will write a review soon.  Also have Final Fantasy XIII coming out this week which will keep my weekend occupied.  Stay tuned for a review of that in about a week.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Infinity Ward Heads Chopped Off

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 
So looks like some of the higher ups from Infinity Ward were fired, let go, whatever yesterday.  It shall be interesting to see if some sort of revolt occurs with employees still working there and whether or not a new studio forms from the fiasco.

Source G4

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mass Effect 2 - Renegade Interrupts

 Mass Effect 2
One of  the new features in Mass Effect 2 is to interrupt the conversation with either a paragon or renegade action.  These are all fun to use and is one of the best ideas in gaming in my opinion.  I compiled most renegade interrupts into a video for your viewing pleasure.


Mass Effect 2 - Suicide Mission Video Survival Guide - No One Left Behind Achievement

 Mass Effect 2
To get the No One Left Behind achievement requires that you do a few things in the game properly in order to have a flawless mission.  Follow the list below and watch the videos to find out how to earn this achievement.
  • Make sure the Normandy is fitted with all ship upgrades
  • All crew members should be loyal which means you should do all the loyalty missions before the Reaper IFF is ready
  • Crew fights should be settled with paragon or renegade dialog options or you will lose loyalty from one of them
  • Tech Specialist should either be Tali'Zorah or Legion
  • Secondary squad leader should be Garrus or Miranda which occurs two times throughout the mission
  • Normandy crew escort should be Mordin or he's susceptible to a random death
  • Biotic specialist should either be Jack or Samara
  • Final boss squad can be anyone in particular
Note if you do not have loyal members going into the mission, they can and will randomly die.  Easier difficulty settings allow for a higher chance of surviving random deaths if you are stuck with non loyal crew members.

The following section is a video walkthrough i created to demonstrate these choices put into effect.






Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review

In the world of gaming we have third person shooters and then we have the Uncharted series of games. If you have not played an Uncharted game before it is a hybrid third-person shooter that mixes platforming, puzzle solving and cinematic gameplay all in one package. Uncharted: Drakes Fortune was a very ambitious game and showed glimpses of what was capable of the PS3 hardware. Nevertheless it wasn't perfect yet this gave Naughty Dog the experience to refine the gameplay and fully utilise the hardware to the limits for the next game in the series which is the birth of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. It's one of those games that make you go WOW, OOOH, and AHHHH. It's a technical masterpiece with an immersive story and the most cinematic experience you can find in games to date. That only describes the single player and the other half is a highly addictive online multiplayer that will only drain hours of your life away.

Story:

You are once again Nathan Drake and it wouldn't be an Uncharted game without a massive treasure hunt. So this time around you meet some old colleagues and find out someone is looking for Marco Polo's lost fleet. Without giving away too many plot details you find out this bad guy Lazaravic is after the Cintimani Stone which is assumed to still be in the lost city of Shambhala. The main motivation of Nathan Drake is to find the stone before Lazaravic gets his hands on it. So with the help of his friends Chloe, Elena, and Sully he tries to find clues throughout various parts of the world to find Marco Polo's trail back to Shambhala. The story is very well written and has a great pace throughout the entire game so that it doesn't get irritatingly boring and holds a decent amount of humor to keep the player entertained. Cinematics don't plague the game because they are short and get to the point, also at the same time many of the cinematics are interactive that they are integrated seamlessly into the gameplay itself which is awesome.

Graphics:

The game is beautiful looking from top to bottom. It clearly is the paragon of a PS3 game utilized to the full potential of the hardware. The game uses allot of motion capture so the character movements are very life like and the facial animation is some of the best in the games business. If there is anything to nitpick it would only be that it 1080p isn't fully supported and maybe Chloe's eyes because they are too sparkly blue.

Gameplay:

Uncharted at its core is a third-person shooter that uses a cover system extensively. Although you can probably run and gun your way through the game at easier difficulty levels, cover is almost essential to use at hard and crushing difficulties. The most improved aspect of the game over its predecessor is that it is now easier to sneak around in cover and then grab an enemy while they are not looking and taking them out. If you’re clever enough you can skip long waves of enemies just by getting through certain areas using stealth attacks only. You can grab enemies around the corner, enemies near ledges, enemies behind and it all feels natural without being a headache for players to perform. The platforming portion is also improved from the first game because there are portions of the game that are moving dynamically whether it be a moving train or death defying ledge jumping on moving gears. The puzzles are not terribly hard but they are also bigger in scope as they can span an entire large room in a level. The AI is good and enemies will flank the player quite often from multiple sides so you can’t just camp enemies for easy kills in one spot. Hand to hand combat is also a bit more refined and enemies can counter the player for a dynamic button melee sequence to determine the winner. Having all these mechanics together in one game may be a nightmare for any developer to create a control scheme but Naughty Dog has made controlling all these actions very simple and effective because the player can focus more on the game rather than clunky controls which complements the total experience of playing the game. If the story itself is not enough for you then you can hop on multiplayer and duke it out with other players using almost all of the abilities you gain in the single player campaign.

Sound and Music:

The dynamic music scores and atmospheric sounds give the game an almost epic feel throughout the game. The voice acting is superb; Nolan North gives another A+ performance in portraying the trials and tribulations of Nathan Drake to life. Every action and interaction with objects and other characters seems real and some of that is due to real live action performances caught with motion capture to bring this game to life.

Multiplayer:

This is a new addition to the series and a welcome one it is. Everything that is great about the single player game is almost intact here in multiplayer. The game has various different multiplayer modes which are competitive multiplayer, co-op story, and co-op survival. In competitive multiplayer you can play with 10 other players in 5 vs. 5 matches in team deathmatch, elimination ( I call it the counter-strike mode), plunder which is similar to capture the flag but with a treasure as the focus, chain reaction which makes player capture certain points on the map before they can proceed to the next one first team to control all five win, turf war which players battle to take over three areas of the map in order to score points, and king of the hill which randomly selects areas of the map that need to be controlled to score points. During these matches you gain money for medals you obtain and money will rank you up while at the same time allow you to purchase new multiplayer skins, weapons, boosters, and even taunts. Boosters enhance your character and can either increase your accuracy with certain weapons or let you move faster with treasures or heavy weapons. You may only have two boosters at a time to enhance your character but give you some sort of customization to work with. If that is not your cup of tea then there is co-op for you to try. In co-op story mode you can play with a friend to get through a side mission which gets pretty intense as you have to get through a level with waves of enemies coming at you. Then there are the co-op arena modes where you waves of enemies keep coming at you and then they get progressively harder after each round. These modes are all very fun and great to play with friends. Multiplayer is definitely not perfect, the matchmaking can use some tweaks and the playlists need to be a bit more segregated to allow people to play what they really want to play(plunder hah). Some people may also be turned off by the ungodly amount of punishment the characters can take before they actually die. The multiplayer is definitely good enough that it is almost a separate game and I would possibly rate it an 8 on a scale of 10 if that were the case.

Conclusion:

Uncharted 2 is the total package and if you do own a PS3 this is a game that you definitely do not want to miss playing. It is probably one of the most epic single player campaign’s that you will ever play and the multiplayer holds its own with games more focused on the multiplayer department. Buy it or rent it, either way just do it!

Introduction

My name is Mike and my main goal with this blog is to bring in a perspective of video games from someone who has been around playing them for over 20 years.  I've played games on the original Nintendo Entertainment System and almost every console from SEGA, Sony, Microsoft that has been released since then.  Beyond consoles i do have extensive experience in PC gaming so i don't have any particular bias against any type of game system that is out there.  I play the games and give you my honest feedback on them.

My Youtube Channel: Analogmarz
My Twitter Account: @marz311