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About fantasy: Please let there be a dragon extinction

Jun 27 // Ryan Perez
Sending all elves to the back of the class wouldn't be a bad idea. The thing about fantasy that lends itself best to creativity is that no rules exist ... literally. At no point does anyone see a mage fire a bolt of lightning from his finger and say, "Wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense!" The genre, at its core, only requires one thing from the person experiencing it: to leave their disbelief at the door. More often than not, people forget to bring it with them from the start. Fantasy is simply make-believe; the unreal and illogical fabrication of things that likely cannot and often do not exist in this thing we call "real life." Essentially, it's a creative mind's wet dream. The very nature of fantasy should beckon the most insane ideas ever concocted for aesthetic and narrative pleasure.  If Japanese entertainment retains one quality that I do admire, it's that they completely understand this flexibility. Fantasy is a subgenre that is so widespread and standard throughout Japanese games, manga and anime that few people even bother identifying its elements at all. Some of the country's most memorable entertainment franchises have tossed bits of illogical fabrication into its sci-fi, historical fiction, and even American-inspired Westerns! Our Eastern brothers know more than anyone that this genre welcomes with open arms whatever crazy shit our minds can come up with. So then my annoyance should be at the endless amount of fantasy that's impossible to distinguish and keep track of, yes? Unfortunately, that's not the case with our side of the industry. The reality is that, if you've experienced one American or European fantasy title, you've pretty much experienced them all. The key reason for this, as I hope most of you are aware of at this point, is the genre's emphasis on Western mythologies -- Scandinavian, to be precise. Most others will gladly point out that this is, duh, the Western world, and that such a natural interest in European shit should be a no-brainer. To which I reply: We play Japanese games on a regular basis (some of us even prefer them), so such an excuse is simply stupid. One would think it's common sense to encourage the stretching of this young industry's already atrophic legs. Samanosuke Akechi: Part samurai, part demon slayer, all Japanese. While we do get a few decent exceptions and mold-breaking titles from time to time, the fact remains that the majority of these mystical worlds we experience often feature a lot of the same things over, and over, and over again. But why do we as an industry perpetually gravitate towards the now mundane world of Scandinavian mythology, when we've been provided so many examples of how great settings can be when they've been inspired by Eastern cultures? A core fundamental in fantasy is world building based on reference. The genre is all about taking bits and pieces from specific cultures and blending them together with supernatural elements, unique customs, fabricated life forms, and funny words that readers never manage to pronounce correctly. The potential for unique and intriguing settings should be endless, considering how history provides us with a considerably large variety of foundations to choose from. Hence my frustration with Skyrim; I had the chance to be thrust into a foreign world, and be completely engrossed in it, both by the boundlessness of the game and the unknown setting around me. Unfortunately, you couldn't have put me in more familiar surroundings if you based the game in downtown San Francisco. I remember a moment in Skyrim when I was conversing with a Redguard, and thinking to myself, "Wait a minute, I want to go wherever the fuck you're from!" With his dark skin and his baggy, desert-conscious attire, I couldn't help but assume that his home of Hammerfell was based on Islamic culture (though I could be wrong, as I've never seen it). How much do I know about Middle-Eastern society? Jack shit. Considering how little I've been exposed to that part of the world, it should go without saying that wandering about an arid world and conversing with cultural beliefs, mannerisms and aesthetics completely unlike those of European societies would intrigue the hell out of me. This was the reason I preferred the second acts in both Diablo II and III. and the reason I'm looking forward to ... um, you know, all those other impending games with Middle-Eastern stuff in them. So many come to mind, you know. "This creed of the desert seemed inexpressible in words, but never in videogames." -T.E. Lawrence The 2005 Xbox title, Jade Empire, was interesting to me for this very reason -- fantasy based on an unfamiliar cultural foundation. After viewing the game's "making of" feature, I was overwhelmingly excited about how much time and effort BioWare put into researching Chinese history, religion, and mythology. And it really showed, so much that the game has burned more long-lasting imagery into my brain than almost any other title in the past 10 years. The moment I entered heaven and spoke to the elephant demon, Shining Tusk, I was already preparing to throw my money at a sequel. Alas, not enough people bought it -- due to the lack of green-skinned meatheads with underbites and tusks, I'm assuming -- so BioWare will probably never touch the franchise again. And yes, I know JE also had dragons in it, but it doesn't take a genius to see the difference between the Chinese type and the reptilian fire-breathers that we're used to. The one in Jade was literally a goddess. It's a damned shame that games like these are often overlooked, though, and lost in an ever-deepening sea of clichéd concepts, generic routine and ball-numbing repetition. Again, if you really broaden your perspective of this industry, you'll learn that this "hardcore" market we so proudly consider ourselves a part of suffers from a lot of the same issues we snicker at Hollywood for. People were really excited for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and my first reaction was, "You have got to be kidding me." "No, no," their reply often was. "It's like Fable, but better. It's what Fable should have been." If Amalur was influenced by something like, say, Indian culture/mythology, then they would have had a point. I would have agreed that Fable should have been that very thing, and Amalur is worthy of anyone's financial support. As far as I could see, though, they were suckered into buying the same make and model of automobile, simply because the newer one had a different antenna ball. Jade Empire's demons were nothing like those of my culture, which interested me all the more. Of course, most people are going to chime in with the expected, "Well, if that's what we the market want, then that's what you're gonna get." Yes, that's entirely true, but that doesn't make it good ... or even acceptable. I don't usually try to be openly antagonistic, but if you're a proud member of this particular, "I'll eat whatever is in front of me," demographic, then you're one of the contributors to this problem. For us individuals who aspire to experience the endless creative potential that this medium holds, you types are one of the reasons we're sometimes prevented that pleasure.  Honestly, how many goddamned McNugget Happy Meals do you need to eat before you'll try some other restaurant on the block? It's a big freakin' neighborhood, in case you haven't bothered to look yet. I apologize for being so crass, but this actually does kind of piss me off. It's like visiting a gym that only ever plays Katie fucking Perry ... yeah, you bet it's going to drive me crazy after a while. And I'm very aware of the vast number of you who share my sentiment, considering that I'm practically repeating concerns of yours word-for-word. The problem with you guys is one that actually bums me out more than the aforementioned folk: You too perpetuate this banal market. Really, you guys have no problem buying every little piece of generic Western fantasy crap that comes out, even though you're openly bored with it all. In reality, all you have to do is stop buying the shit. I know, it's an odd concept, this "not buying something because I want it different or better," but it does work. Has nobody yet told you that a free market acts much like a democratic system? Yeah, your dollar is basically a vote. Not enough votes means Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak doesn't get elected again. This is why we'll never see Jade Empire 2 in office; dunderhead conservatives keep voting Scandinavian. Despise DRM? Don't buy games that have it. Want Nintendo to branch out of their usual first-party franchises? Stop paying for every mother-sexing Mario game they fart out. If you don't spend money on it, companies tend to change their product or try something new ... sometimes for the better. Of course, the potential for them to discontinue it altogether does exist, but that's a risk we're willing to take, right? Right. I find it hard to distinguish Twihards from lovers of generic Western fantasy. I'll admit, I did buy Skyrim, but it was the only fantasy game I bought of this entire generation (besides Diablo 3), and mainly due to the overwhelming mainstream success it achieved. Really, if you're like me and you are fairly burnt out on Dragonworld #5,143,234 ... simply don't buy the next one. It truly is as easy as that. Trust me, you're not missing a whole lot. Perhaps with enough of us refusing to throw our votes at every AAA scrap that's thrown our way, we can enjoy some real variety, not only in the one-trick pony that is fantasy, but in the medium as a whole. So now I'm stuck at a crossroads. I have this game, Skyrim, that I do want to play, because it really is fun doing the things I get to do in it. Creeping in the shadows and assassinating baddies with my ridiculously lavish bow is an absolute blast. Also, ever since playing Fallout 3, I've fallen madly in love with Bethesda's open-world style; it's like an MMO, but all the assholes are NPCs. The problem is that I find myself dozing off whenever someone starts yammering on about this Dovacrap, though I suppose it's a credit to the game that its talking dragons aren't Scottish misogynists. Oh well, perhaps I need to take the good with the bad for now. Or at least hold out until Bethesda sets an Elder Scrolls game in Hammerfell.
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One of the hardest things for me to understand is whenever someone belittles a "casual" game (whatever that may be to them) by claiming it's either unoriginal or lacks any sort of cutting-edge quality. I find this funny, beca...

The 'geek' question: hobbyist vs. intellectual

Jun 20 // Ryan Perez
Gamer? My theory is that hobbyist geeks (gamers like us) tend to force a relation between themselves and scientific minds because both parties can sometimes live reclusive and socially awkward lifestyles, and also because intellectuals are generally admired by society during their adult years, whereas gamers are still usually seen as lazy and indolent. Because of the former, the temptation to adopt the latter is more prevalent. Albert Einstein used to piss his pants because he was too busy solving an equation, whereas I pissed myself because I was too busy wearing down that 2+ million HP boss. Score! We're so much alike! This is obviously something not exclusive to geek lifestyles. Plenty of people constantly associate themselves with other sources of admiration, whether or not they have a direct connection to that source. The truest form of this could be considered nationalism -- feeling a sense of pride for the accomplishments of individuals sharing your national identity and/or country of origin. If a term for this kind of behavior exists, I don't know it, so I'm just going to make one up for the sake of this study: Michael-Phelps-ism. It actually rolls right off the tongue, when you say it quickly. So the Michael-Phelps-ism regarding gamers/comic lovers and science geeks carries a rather obvious distinction. A hobbyist geek is someone who typically adopts pastimes and means of entertainment that are not only manageable without any sort of social interaction but also sometimes encourage it. The term "single player" is difficult to find in other avenues besides gaming. This is why the general public will often shy away from these hobbies (at least for now), no matter how fun they are. Plenty of evidence exists to back up the assumption that these hobbies can and will become mainstream eventually, but for the sake of this study, let us all agree that we're still the minority here. An intellectual geek, on the other hand, is someone who dedicates the majority of their personal time to study within one or several scholarly and scientific fields. Yes, this lifestyle often doesn't require anything past solitude as well, and sometimes encourages it, but we must not forget that it's easy to be a gamer, whereas it takes a lot of hard work to be a genius. Just because they have one or two things in common does not make them directly linked to each other. To sink down to my natural level here, I have a penis that works fairly well, but I'm not going to even pretend I could handle being a porn star, even if we have the same equipment. Therefore, I humbly tip my hat to the Bob McHawks and Richard McCrackins of the world and openly admit that they can do what I cannot. Just because I'm American doesn't mean I get to pat myself on the back for World War II. I may be ambidextrous, but that doesn't mean I can feel gratification over any of Shigeru Miyamoto's accomplishments. You get the idea. This was his reaction after Hamza and Niero invited me to join Dtoid. You'd think that would be enough, right? To many of you out there, I'm stating something as obvious as "birds fly, fish swim." But because hobbyists find a lot of comfort and validation in relating the effort it takes to play a game to the effort it takes to learn differential calculus, as well as the lifestyles associated with them, people will often ignore common sense to protect their reassuring views. Since critical thinking and deductive reasoning shatter these views, and since I love ruining people's blissful assumptions about life, I figured I'd take this a step further and gather some hard evidence. As stated before, I proposed two questions to the people at E3, be they exhibitors or attendees. The first set of questions were basic trivia that any typical gamers would know. Some examples: - In the popular puzzle game Portal, what are the two colors that your portals appear in? - What is the name of the main protagonist in Metal Gear Solid for the original PlayStation? - What is the common term for the diving suit-clad behemoths in the game BioShock? I know, these questions make you smack your forehead. You have to remember, though, that to know them requires us to be somewhat steeped in gaming culture -- especially if we've never played these games before. So anyone who doesn't really care about gaming (i.e. our parents), won't know what the hell a "Big Daddy" is ... besides some mothers, but that's a different story. On the flip side, however, I also asked these same people basic trivia that anyone mildly knowledgeable in the sciences would know. These are questions that the average person might forget by the time they exited high school but that an intellectual would know due to their learned lifestyle and the proximity of their peers. Examples are: - What is Newton's third law of motion? - What is the measure of acceleration of Earth's gravity? - What does the acronym "DNA" stand for, and what are the names of its four nucleotides? I know, some of you are smacking your foreheads again. But I must remind you that, while some of us gamers have retained this knowledge from our school days (those currently in grade school need not apply), the majority of people in the world require general scientific knowledge in the same sense that someone in New York City requires a car to get to work. If it's not necessary to get on with life at its most basic level, most individuals won't bother giving a shit. If I can't add or subtract in 2012, I'm pretty screwed, but if I can't name every element on the Periodic Table, what concern is that of mine? This fact is only more prevalent when I tally up the results of my E3 experiment. Gamers might know what this is from, but they sure as shit don't know what it means. I asked a total of 193 people one of the 15 questions in both categories. Why 193? Because I was at E3 doing the whole journalism thing -- going to appointments, demoing games, interviewing people, etc. -- thus I didn't have a lot of time to indulge this little experiment of mine. And because 194 can kiss my ass. We're not on good terms. Of the 193 people, 176 of them answered the "hobbyist" question correctly. Oddly enough, the most missed question was the one pertaining to the portal colors ... even though the answer is on the cover of Portal 2. Eh, people are weird. Among those same individuals, only 36 answered the "intellectual" questions correctly. The most commonly missed question of this category: Approximately how old is the planet Earth, according to modern science? Good thing Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn't read gaming blogs. He'd probably be a bit disappointed at that result, especially considering the common geek's love for time travel and planetary matters. So what does all this mean? Well, essentially, they are not us and we are not them. As much as we love to consider ourselves the same as the weird, quirky academic champions who the majority of the world respects, we simply have less in common with them than we like to assume. The necessary fundamentals that make up a gamer and a genius are just too different. It doesn't take smarts to be a gamer, any more than it takes dexterity to be a theoretical physicist. This is also not an asthma inhaler, even though lungs are involved. It's not difficult for one to see how such a misconception can exist, though. Plenty of us gamers are old and passionate enough to have had childhoods where we were constantly criticized and belittled for our geeky hobbies on a regular basis. It only makes sense that plenty would develop the habit of looking at venerated scholars who likely suffered similar childhoods and thinking, "He too was teased yet ended up awesome. I must be as well." Also, at one point, the very nature of science fiction (before it became more mainstream) appealed to the aspiring scientific minds of the future, regarding what they could eventually accomplish and create. So some of what we gamers love today did previously appeal mainly to actual bookworms. Unfortunately, that just doesn't seem to be the case these days. Now, the expected thing for me to do here is go off on anyone who consistently falls into this habit of misguided association. As easy as that would be (plus, I think I sort of already did it at the head of this feature), that's not really the point of this article. Feeling some small sense of pride for other people's accomplishments -- though a bit dishonest -- doesn't really hurt anyone. In fact, most athletes enjoy a good fan club (it usually results in a higher paycheck). No, I'm not here to be a complete dick by calling everyone out on their bullshit; I'm here to be a half-dick by proving that their bullshit is indeed bullshit. I merely wanted to uncover a particular aspect of the gamer/geek identity, and, what the hell, I also wanted to provide a bit more perspective on the constituents of this young and ever-growing industry. My theories are indeed still theories, and there's no way for me to prove exactly why gamers act the way they do most of the time. But I do think I've provided some decent evidence that we're not so much like the inquisitive individuals who we revere so much and a lot more like the basic, average folks whom we attempt to distinguish ourselves from. We just happen to enjoy a relatively unpopular pastime at the moment, that's all. Get rid of the gaming paraphernalia, and you can fill in the blank with anything. Finally, before any of you ask, "If your goal was to affiliate gamers with 'normal' people, then why didn't you ask the general population these same questions?" That wasn't my goal, though I did consider that. I then thought to myself, "Wait a minute, what if the walking accidents at the Pinkberry and Apple Store know the correct answers to the science questions?" A lot of gamers would probably find that rather depressing, including myself. In fact ... if you'll excuse me, I need to go Google whatever the fuck Newton's third law is.
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The one thing that has always bugged me the most about sports is the use of the word "we." As in, "We won!" No, you didn't win, John Sofaturd from Nothingsville, Ohio. You didn't do anything except sit on your ass and obtain ...

Raven's Cry has pirates that don't act like bilge rats

Jun 11 // Ryan Perez
The great thing about Mr. Raven is that he doesn't take any crap from anyone, but dishes it out nonstop. Raven's Cry features a dialog system not unlike those we've seen in the games of late (Mass Effect, The Witcher 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution), although those games either provided a choice between morally ambiguous decisions, or between being a saint or a complete dickhead. RC is very aware that a vindictive pirate has little need for politeness or cordiality, so virtually every interaction Christopher has with an NPC is unsavory. Don't worry, you still get to choose what to say and how to react, but, in the end, you're still going to be a jerk. For instance, one scene had Christopher strutting into a tavern and speaking to an unfriendly sot for information on someone. When the patron balked, two choices were presented: Either point your gun at the guy's face, or staple his hand to the table with your knife. Too bad they left out a third option: pluck out one of his eyes with your finger, then piss in the hole. Part of me wonders if the consistent dickheadery will get a bit old (and funny) after a while, but it's still nice to see a genuine antihero in this age of plucky, upstanding protagonists ... who kill men by the dozens. Though the majority of the game looks pretty dated, the locales are at least somewhat pretty to behold, and are indicative of the period and areas where piracy was the most prevalent. I was shown two settings, one of which was the infamous Port Royal. It was night, so not a lot was going on while Christopher walked through town. When certain things did happen, though -- like a pirate dragging a screaming wench back into her whorehouse -- the developers pointed out that such moments will mostly be uninterrupted by Chris, due to his "character." While that makes sense, part of me wonders if this also a way for the team to cut some corners and save some development time on side quests. Not that I'm complaining, I rather enjoy the thought of a game that doesn't require my character to retrieve an apple, a bottle of milk, ten paperclips, and the ass feather of a cancerous chicken to some old woman baking a pastry. The rest of the game, however, is a bit lacking. While the minimal HUD is a fantastic idea that I never really tire of (especially in story-driven games), the combat and gameplay seem a bit static and, for lack of a better word, constipated. The motions of each character have a fluidity that can best be compared to action games from two generations ago. I was even shown some "stealth" gameplay -- where Christopher is able to hide behind crates and boxes -- but when it came time to kill a guard, he simply stood up, walked up behind the enemy, and then did his killing. Hiding behind things seems a bit redundant, in this case. I will admit, though, seeing the main character rip the guard's throat out with his hook hand was kind of cool. In the words of Jim Sterling, "We need more damned pirate games." And while he happened to be talking about a different game entirely, I couldn't agree more. Buccaneers are cool, if murder and theft are your thing (which they are absolutely mine). Even though I had some concerns about the gameplay in Raven's Cry, I'm still going to keep a watchful eye on it, for the very reason that pirates > zombies. Get your pillagin' on when Raven's Cry hits the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sometime next year.
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As a fan of 17th-century pirate history, it has always been kind of a bummer to watch the romanticization of the sea dogs into that of chipper, lenient, morally moderate sailors who merely look grizzled. Edward Teach's Jolly ...


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Overheard at E3 2012: Sh***ing in the dark edition


Jun 11
// Ryan Perez
One of my personal favorite things about E3 is the eclectic crowd that it attracts. Considering how accessible videogames are these days, it's not hard for anyone to think that people from all walks of life will migrate to th...

E3: Gorgeous free-to-play shooting all over your Warface

Jun 10 // Ryan Perez
A blatant reason why Warface is so great looking exists: It's being developed with CryEngine 3. It's arguably the most technically advanced engine to date, so that says something for a game that will actually cost you nothing to experience. A lot of the CryEngine 3's trickery can be seen in the game: HDR lighting, real-time weapon customization, displacement mapping, etc. You may be wondering why this even matters. Well, plenty of people still exist who seem to have a bias against anything free to play; they instantly associate games under this model as cheap or low quality. Also, plenty of gamers still judge the quality of a game (at least at first) by its visuals, alone. With that said, if you're one of those people, and need better graphics than Warface to be convinced that F2P games can be worth your time, then I'm sorry to say that you're screwed. This is about as good as they can look right now, and anything better can just be considered the natural graphical progression of the medium. Sorry, bub. Some gamers don't always judge games based on their looks, though, but rather the quality of the experience they provide. (We tend to also call these gamers "humans.") Still, a general stigma remains around F2P games as having poor production values and low development times. Well, I hate to ruin their preconceptions as well, but even Warface busts that theory. The game is just as strong of a shooter as those you find in retail stores, and even does some great things with the genre that got me smiling and saying, "That's pretty cool." The shooting is quick, tight and precise; I just want to get that out of the way right now. Players can pull off some decent moves, such as long slides behind objects -- or towards others to rack up a nice melee kill -- as well as boosting and pulling teammates up to high ground. For a game that's based solely on multiplayer, I had to conjure up all my past MP experiences to critique it and, quite honestly, it held up very nicely. What made it even better was that, instead of it merely being MP in the player-versus-player sense, the game will also feature daily alternated co-op missions for teams to complete for in-game currency. Essentially, four others and I faced off against the game's AI to reach specific checkpoints. It wasn't until later in the game that we realized how much smarter it would have been for one of us to have played at a medic, however. Thankfully, Warface lets players purchase "coins" to resurrect themselves and get back into the action. These are available in co-op only, though -- wouldn't want to make things too unfair against others. I loved this PVE mode, as it sets this game apart from the others who only provide a PVP experience. One of my favorite features that Warface offered was its clever way it implemented RPG elements. Like most other shooters these days, the game provides several weapons and gear to unlock via stacking kills and leveling up. The difference here is that Warface not only requires that you choose one of three categories per match to level up (weapons, armor, equipment), but the items you unlock on those categories are randomly selected. Why is that cool? Because now you're almost guaranteed to not have to grind your way to the max level in order to get that one gun you've been looking forward to. Remember your favorite weapon being attained at level 15 in one CoD, yet attained at level 60 in the sequel? Yeah, no more of that crap. To sum things up, Warface looks like a solid -- and pretty! -- shooter that not only provides some decent alternatives to gameplay, but it also costs you nothing to try. Many are saying that this E3 was the "year of the bow," but I say free shit was more prevalent ... and I'm not talking about all the T-shirts. This is one of the best times to be a gamer, because, when you really look at it, we have more opportunities to play on a budget than ever. Prepare to download your copy of Warface on PCs later this year.
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To say that a lot of free-to-play games were at the show this year would be an understatement. Though they weren't all of the same genre, I saw a holy God crap-ton of F2P titles everywhere. This model is spreading like a wild...

E3: Blending in with Bostonians in Assassin's Creed III

Jun 09 // Ryan Perez
Assassin’s Creed is one of my favorite series of this generation, solely because of its fun factor. Few games manage to retain the illusion of feeling like a badass, without sacrificing it all for the sake of “challenge.” AC has never been one of the most difficult games in the world, but it certainly is fun, and this third chapter in the series looks no different. Now, assassinating the unjust is more fluid and satisfying than ever. Boston revealed a multitude of changes in the way you take out your enemies. First, and most importantly, Connor uses a bow. I know, about five other games at E3 have this, but AC3 is where it makes sense the most; because bows are silent, and, well, this is a game all about killing people without drawing too much attention. Of course, ammunition is quite limited, so this isn’t always available for players to easily take out baddies. Another cool addition is the ability to blend in with the brush of your surroundings. When players enter tall grass or foliage, they go into a sort of stalker mode where Connor crouches down, out of sight. Players can then more easily sneak up to suspicious NPCs and drag them down to their death. Or, if you’re a bit of a pacifist and would rather kill as few redcoats as possible, then the brush is an easy means of sneaking straight past guards, without them ever knowing you were right behind them, breathing down their neck. Not every assassin is perfect, though, as sometimes you will be spotted while you work. The first choice is typically to run away and hide, which Ubisoft has completely retooled for the modern cities of colonial America. One popular choice of evasion is to lose the sight of the alerted guards, then blend in with the city’s denizens. Instead of finding a pack of folks and awkwardly standing in the center of them, Connor now simply walks into a crowded area. When he starts to blend in, a small icon appears above his head, and he pulls his hood down to cover his face. No more turning gray; Mr. Kenway doesn’t stand for any of that achromatic bull crap. A neat little metagame addition is side-quests that players can do for city dwellers, gaining their trust and a small perk as a reward. In the demo I saw, Connor helped a young woman whose husband was unjustly imprisoned by the local redcoats. Afterwards. She provided a nice little shortcut for him during heated situations. The next time Connor gained the antagonistic attention of the city guards, he was able to cut through the top window of her house and break the line of sight much easier. I can’t wait to see what other perks players can receive from the game’s troubled American citizens. Another thing that Ubisoft has reworked is how guild mates aid the player. Instead of being nothing more than a cheap, simple means of assassination, guildies can help Connor sneak into certain places. For instance, he was charged with the task of taking out a few officers who were stations on a docked frigate. Instead of sneaking in the old-fashioned way by hurdling over the rooftops, he called on his assassin buddies -- dressed in the red garbs of British soldiers -- to act as a crowd around him, as he snuck past a group of guards. A regular feature to the series is haystacks, which are often used as hiding spots -- after the iconic “leap of faith” -- and also as quiet assassination tools whenever enemies venture too close. What they’ve never been, however, is mobile. In AC3, horses now sometimes pull large bales of it, making retreating from pursuing guards or silently dispatching a certain enemy that much easier. Times exist where one must stand their ground and fight, however, and AC3’s combat system has gone through some slight changes. For one, bolting past guards to get to a target no longer requires the player to stop in his tracks, take out people in his way, then move on to the next person. Now, Connor never stops moving; as he runs past enemies, he can easily take them out with a tomahawk to the face, roll over them, and continue on his path. I’m glad they addressed this, because I never enjoyed seeing unwanted enemies as brick walls in the way of my goal. Out of all the cool additions to Assassin’ Creed III, what I wanted to know the most was some context behind Connor’s ethnicity. So, naturally, I wasted no time asking Ubisoft about his background and how he’s affected by a time where Native Americans weren’t seen in the best light. Connor Kenway (known by his tribe as Ratonhnhaké:ton) is a half-Mohawk man who was born in a very reclusive village. While growing up, he learns of his roots, and trains in the ways of assassination with hopes of ridding the world of injustice and resurrecting his long-lost guild after his home is attacked. The great thing about Connor’s character is that he’s completely foreign to all of the game’s locales, not to mention the conflict going on around him. I like this narrative tool, because, while it’s easy to assume most North American gamers will be familiar with the game’s locations, people in other countries across the pond may not be too familiar with them ... not to mention the American Revolution. Also, although Ubisoft didn’t provide me with any specific examples of the bigotry that Connor will experience, they assured me that it’s in there and will be quite prevalent during his adventure. I’m assuming they didn’t want to give away too much of the narrative. I am incredibly excited for this game, and what I saw at E3 only made that anticipation more fervent. I’m psyched enough to write a 1,000+ word preview of the game, during a time when I really should prioritize. But I can’t help it! I love American history, and I love Assassin’s Creed. Look forward to Assassin’s Creed III hitting store shelves this October. Prepare to meet another one of Demond’s 512 ethnic backgrounds.
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Even though some other games piqued my interest at this year’s E3 (*cough* Watch Dogs), I must shamelessly admit that I was ultimately excited about Assassin’s Creed III more than anything. I even whimpered and sq...

E3: Scuba-on-scuba action in Arma 3

Jun 07 // Ryan Perez
Arma 3 strips down all of the flash and flair of the typical first-person shooters that make us feel like a badass meathead (and those that actually feature meatheads), and keeps things closer to the level of combat simulators. The great thing about this third installment is that it quells a lot of the user friendliness issues that its predecessors suffered from. While it does remain a bit less intense than other shooters, and features a large emphasis on strategy and tactics, the menu system, controls, and mission system have been streamlined to be more easily accessible to people who might not enjoy steep learning curves. Players are provided a base camp, where they can receive all of their missions, set up their equipment, and even do a bit of training. For such a large and persistent game, it’s a good idea to have everything center on a home base where it all can be managed. It even looks cool for such a glorified “main menu,” retaining the semblance of a forward command post in the middle of the boondocks. This all leads to combat that really doesn’t have much in common with anything you’ve likely played. Soldiers run at the medium-brisk pace that an actual person would, and don’t reload their guns like they’re trying to break some Guinness record. Missions take place in maps that go on for several miles, and don’t provide any clear direction on how to approach the target area. So imagine you’re an actual soldier that has to infiltrate some small town in the middle of nowhere, and you’ll have an idea of how this game plays. The combat is great, though. Guns recoil no more or less than someone experienced with firearms would expect, and actually take down enemies (and you) in only a few hits. That’s right, Arma 3 doesn’t let players take ten bullets to the chest, then hide around a corner and shake it off -- like they’re playing as Wolverine or something. One or two hits will basically finish you, and I really liked it that way. I sort of miss the days of Rainbow Six when getting shot with a freakin’ gun actually killed you. Because, you know, that’s kind of supposed to happen. My favorite part of the game was the underwater combat. You read that correctly: some missions actually take place beneath the waves. Players will don scuba gear, wield a prototype water-functioning assault rifle, and drive around one of those classy miniature submarine things that Navy SEALs drive. It’s an interesting thing to be the first shooter (that I can think of) that has gunplay in the ocean. I will admit it was a bit odd that enemies just sat there and floated about in their own scuba gear, waiting for me to arrive. Honestly, who guards shit underwater by actually being underwater? Nonetheless, Arma 3 was an interesting change of pace. If you’re a bit tired of the traditional Hollywood-style gunplay that virtually every other shooter at E3 has to offer, then perhaps this game should remain in your sights. Heck, I’ll admit that even I’m going to keep an eye on it, just because it’s such a shift from what I’ve been playing for years. Expect Arma 3 to occupy your PC later this year.
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Bohemia Interactive Studio is showing off a few complex sims at E3 this year, one of which is Arma 3. To its credit, even a slowly paced, open-world shooter can provide enough unique variety to get a tired editor smiling and ...

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E3: TopWare announces Sacrilegium, with screens


Jun 07
// Ryan Perez
Creepy religious symbolism: cool. Survival horror: awesome. What happens when you put them together? Heck if I know, but TopWare Interactive is uncovering this mystery with its newest title, Sacrilegium. Known best for its po...

E3: Crysis 3 has guns that shoot 500 rounds a second

Jun 06 // Ryan Perez
First, I have to talk about how insanely beautiful this game looks. I know you’ve seen the vids, and I know you’ve played Crysis 2, but you haven’t experienced either on a 72-inch screen, at high resolution, with the variety of color that Crysis 3’s level design offers. It’s easy to assume that jaw-dropping leaps in graphics are a thing of the past, considering how great games look these days. But all of this game’s DirectX 11 features are leaps beyond most, if not every other game out right now. About the level design: Everything in the city of New York has been overrun by the flora and fauna. How plants have managed to so quickly suffocate modern civilization is beyond me, but it’s everywhere and looks pretty, nonetheless. The contrast of NY’s achromatic grays, browns, and blacks against the greens, blues, and reds of the natural surroundings provide a visual dynamic that few shooters bother to provide, let alone games built on such technically advanced engines. My biggest issue with advanced engines today is that they don’t flex their chromatic muscle enough. While the U3 engine had the privilege of being commercially successful, therefore being utilized differently by others, most developers misunderstand the use of color by mudding the look of their games for the sake of “grit.” Crysis 3 is not unlike most other shooters, but at least understands the aesthetic power of emphasizing colors. I cannot stress this enough, for more reasons than just technicality: This. Game. Is. Gorgeous. As previously stated, though, this is a shooter, and it has a lot in common with others of the genre -- minus the badass suit. And if you’ve played Crysis 2, then very little about this third installment will be foreign to you. You retain a lot of the same equipment, abilities, and weapons, with the exception of a bow that makes John Rambo's weapon look like something recreational archers use. As expected, what makes the bow a valuable tool is the different ammo types it uses. Some arrows have explosive tips to them that act as a sort of timed grenade. Another type will electrocute enemies, but also fry several, if a crowd of baddies happens to be standing in water. My favorite, though, would have to be one kind of arrow that explodes above an area, reigning death down on enemies in a cloud of gray smoke. Think of Prophet as Hawkeye, but with a suit worth millions of tax payers’ dollars. But, BUT, this arrow shit pales in comparison to the gun that fires 500 rounds a mother-humping second. It’s big, it’s bulky, it sounds like a combination of bees and tearing cloth, and the end result is a cluster fuck of bullets that produces more sparks than I imaging the average processor can handle. If videogame particle effects had parents, this gun (known as the Typhoon) would be the violent, alcoholic father. Say hello to the BFG of Crysis. I figure that anyone who has a beastly rig already plans on getting this game. It’s the perfect title to flex your system’s hardware. If you plan on upgrading, though, then Crysis 3 is definitely a game you want to keep on your radar. Be prepared to paint New York in alien blood this February, 2013.
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Again, that’s 500 rounds a goddamned second. Surprisingly enough, hands-off demos behind closed doors are typically boring, with a static crowd sitting around, watching in a cold, sound-proof room. Very rarely does that...

E3: Outrun the coppers in NFS: Most Wanted for iOS

Jun 06 // Ryan Perez
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation Vita, iOS [previewed], Android)Developer: Criterion GamesPublisher: EA MobileRelease: Fall 2012I didn’t get to experience a whole lot of this game, but what I played seemed pretty solid. I’m not even going to bother adding “for a mobile game” to the end of any declarative statement here. I think it’s safe to assume that market has reached a decent peak in recent years, so I tend to regard all of them no different than I would a 3DS game. Really, this game looks damn fine. It’s hard to imagine a game built for the meager screens of the iPhone and iPad being blown up on a TV and looking just as nice, but that’s the case with Most Wanted. Even the aliasing is minimal, which only makes the reflections, lighting, and particle effects pop more. The game also has physics implemented into all the crashes and messy events of each race. Things being destroyed in a semi-believable fashion is just as entertaining as extreme speed, I agree! The controls, though, were just OK. I think this is just a general issue with most mobile games, based on the nature of the hardware’s core design. Trying to steer a car with a gyroscope that likely wasn’t 100% designed with games in mind is not an easy task. After watching Destructoid staffer Steven Hansen bash the shit out of his Porsche into guardrail after guardrail, I had keep the steering corrections small when I eventually picked up the game. Though the controls were a bit unresponsive and unintuitive, the gameplay was simple with no learning curve.  Really, all you have to know is two commands: swiping up to activate your boost, and tapping the bottom left corner to brake. Cars constantly accelerate themselves, so Most Wanted requires very little brain power to pick up and start breaking traffic laws. Overall, the experience wasn’t too bad. I don’t have an iPhone -- or iAnything, for that matter -- so part of me kind of envies the quality games that are constantly appearing on these devices. So anyone with an iOS gadget has yet another decent game to look forward to, especially if they enjoy going really, really fast. Keep an eye out for Need for Speed: Most Wanted when it launches on iOS and Android this fall.
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I know, these Need for Speed subtitles are getting a bit confusing, but the games are anything but. People seem to find something appealing about driving sexy, nasty cars that break the $100K mark, and playing chicken with th...

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E3: Kill viruses and repair DNA in Transcripted


Jun 05
// Ryan Perez
It’s not always necessary for games to have any sort of ultimate meaning or context, but when they do, they’re made a bit more satisfying. When you’re given a role, are required to shoot specific anomalies, ...

Preview: Double Fine ventures into The Cave

May 24 // Ryan Perez
The Cave (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [previewed]) Developer: Double Fine Productions Publisher: Sega Release: TBA 2013 First, I want to clear up what this game isn't: It's neither a point-and-click style game, nor is it in old-school 2D sprites. Can you at least handle that? Please do, because everything else that is so loved about this genre is certainly here, and in the cherished style of one of the genre's pioneers, Ron Gilbert. For those of you who don't know who Ron Gilbert is, well, I feel a tad sorry for you. His body of work consists of some of the most cherished games in history: Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, and more. I'm pretty sure he also invented driving on two wheels while blasting Sabbath (screw it, might as well give him a little more). I'm an infant in this industry, compared to my peers, and even I've experienced this man's games. So an adventure title being made by a man such as Gilbert would be like an epic biopic being directed by Orson Welles, were he alive today. It's the creator making another of his divine creations. The Cave started off exactly how I expected, charmingly funny. An ominous voice explained how he has been a source of hope and desire for people throughout the ages -- those who simply seek for their greatest of wishes to come true. We were then introduced to the Cave. Really, it was a talking cave. Don't laugh at him, though. As he stated, "It's hard enough dating, as it is." Players are given the choice between three of seven character archetypes: the wise Monk, the daring Adventurer, the slack-jawed Hillbilly, the methodical Scientist, the stalwart Knight, the rift-bending Time Traveler, and the creepy-as-shit Twins. All of these characters, as expected, have their own personality, story arcs, and special abilities. How you combine them, though, is where the real meat of the experience lies. After picking a combination of three characters, players are thrown into the depths of the Cave, where they must solve a variety of zany and kooky puzzles -- in that familiar Gilbert fashion -- to reach that specific area of the cave where a particular character's wish will come true. Double Fine was pretty light on the details of each character's wish and quest, but after being told that the Hillbilly's ultimate goal is to find love, I can tell that plenty of gratifying heart, humor and hubris will be present in each character's journey. Stuff like this is where Double Fine excels, after all. Did I mention the game is kooky? One of the puzzles shown consisted of the Scientist, Knight, and Hillbilly. At a particular area of the Cave, a giant, fire-breathing monster blocked their path (discovered after the lovelorn yokel was fried to a crisp). Just before the monster lay a spiked pit filled with bones, and above it hung the giant arm of a crane, which lowered into the pit and hoisted up whatever remains it could grab. To lure the monster to the pit, though, the Scientist had to reactivate a vending machine (which read "OMDOGGG!") with a bucket of water, subsequently providing a plump, juicy sausage. She put the frank on a spike in the pit, the monster began gnawing away at it, and then bam. The crane pulled the then-yelping and squealing beast out of harm's way. Another such puzzle was from the Knight's storyline, where a large coin had to be retrieved from a deadly dragon, and then traded for a princess's tiara. Obviously, a head-on approach resulted in a flame-broiled archetype, but the Knight's special ability -- a magical aura that protected him from harm -- was the perfect distraction as the Scientist snuck into a gate behind the dragon with the words "Do not leave gate open" written beside it, nabbed the coin, and then ran off with it. Unfortunately, she didn't close the gate behind her, and as she ascended towards the princess, the sounds of chaos and bloody murder could be heard. One random voice even screamed, "What idiot left the gate open?!" When the Scientist reached the Princess's tower, though, her highness dangled from the gnawing jaws of the escaped dragon. No worries, though; the beast coughed up the tiara after he gulped her down. These two puzzles are but a taste of The Cave's many different puzzles that are indicative of the adventure games that inspired it. They never really made much sense, logically speaking, but they sure were funny and a blast to figure out. A lot of you are probably wondering how the game looks and plays, though. As I stated before, it doesn't look as old-school as many fans would have liked, but it is still in 2D. Or rather 2.5D, to be specific. The game is being built with 3D graphics, but on a two-dimensional plane, based in a seamless environment (no more going from room to room, static screens and all). Nonetheless, it looks great, as is expected from the fantastic art direction that Double Fine typically provides. With all that said, The Cave handles much like a 2D platformer. While no balancing acts or quick actions are required, the camera constantly follows whichever character is being controlled. Like I mentioned in previous examples, up to three archetypes are chosen at any given time, which requires the players to switch between them, depending on the situation or puzzle that is present. Basically, The Cave is an adventure game at heart, with some of the trappings of more modern titles. Considering that the game will also be available on consoles, it only makes sense that such a control scheme would be present. So there you have it. As countless eyes have been gazing at the activities of Double Fine, they've been slowly but surely working with a genre that many people have long considered "dead." Obviously it's not; publishers have just kept it caged for many years. Thankfully, companies like Double Fine have enough faith in their fans and the genre to let it run loose for a little while longer. And yes, if you caught the rumors from earlier this week, this is also being published by Sega. Weird, right?
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Double Fine is one of those rare anomalies that carries a truck-ton of admiration from its fans, almost no scorn or distaste from anyone in this industry, and yet it has still experienced a fluctuation of moderate monetary s...

Preview: Ghost Recon Commander shoots you in the Facebook

May 21 // Ryan Perez
Ghost Recon Commander (PC) Developer: Loot Drop Publisher: Ubisoft Release: TBA (Currently in BETA) Not that I have anything against housewives, but, let's just face the truth here: A blatant distinction exists between the games on Facebook and the ones we play on consoles. Thankfully, Loot Drop recognizes this distinction and aims (no pun intended) to tap into a relatively untouched Facebook market ... people who like to shoot things. And yes, Commander lets you shoot plenty of things, including poor, defenseless chickens -- to my personal gratification. For those who don't know, Loot Drop is headed by one of the founding fathers of shooters, John Romero, and possibly the most articulate and insanely attractive woman I've met in this industry thus far, Brenda Brathwaite, who is best known for her work on the Wizardry series. Let me tell you, I've met plenty of fervent designers, but these two retain an enthusiasm for game development that I originally thought was exclusive only to college students and aspiring creators. So what does this mean for Ghost Recon Commander? Well, a lot of passion has gone into the project. So much that Brenda actually bothered asking for direct feedback from the press while they were present. It's rare enough that the typical game journalist will surrender passivity enough to constructively criticize a game in a preview, but it's nearly unheard of for a developer to actively seek such information. Most developers see previews as a mechanism of marketing; these people saw them as a means of taking notes. This approach is very admirable, honestly speaking, and it shows in the product. Ghost Recon Commander is an isometric shooter that takes place in the sunny, drug-riddled paradise that is Venezuela. Players take control of up to three soldiers, and embark on missions that entail everything from rescuing hostages to securing mounds of good ol' Columbian crop dust (AKA a shit-ton of cocaine). Players are given a choice between six missions, all of which are repayable later on harder difficulties. The premise is simple enough, but customization and upgrades are a key component to the gameplay. Players are given a "camp," a sort of home base that acts as a centralized upgrading hub where every new object or structure purchased translates directly to better, stronger soldiers. Buy medical tents and hammocks to make your freedom fighters more durable on the field. Set up some training targets to ensure that every shot from your boys finds its mark. Basically, camps provide the typical Facebook game appeal of building things, though in this case it's only a minor aspect of the gameplay as a whole. Speaking of gameplay, Commander is actually turn-based, but you wouldn't really notice it if you played it. Facebook has redefined the term "casual" by allowing people to leave their shit running, without anything actually happening in their absence. As "hardcore" as Loot Drop intends Commander to be, they realized that ignoring the game at a whim is something the platform's audience wouldn't want to give up ... and it'd especially piss them off to return to a squad of dead soldiers. So every click is essentially a turn, and enemies will only ever move when you do. Since there's no "end turn" button, though, everything flows quite nicely and gives the illusion of a real-time experience. One thing that really stood out for me was the game's sound, courtesy of Loot Drop Sound Designer Dren McDonald. Facebook titles are typically bogged down by the limits of web media, so sound often suffers as a result. At times, I find online games so fucking obnoxious that I just mute the damned things. Ghost Recon Commander actually kind of shocked me with the quality of its effects. Guns actually sound like real guns; soldiers confirm orders with the intelligibility of actual humans. I recommend paying attention to all of the audible effects the game has to offer, because it's obvious that McDonald knows what he's doing. The one thing most of you are probably wondering is what relation Ghost Recon Commander has to Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. The answer? Not much. Both games are stand-alone titles, featuring their own type of gameplay, story, and characters. However, playing one does unlock new content for the other, which is a neat feature that I enjoy seeing Facebook games provide more of. Acquiring specific guns in Commander will make them available in Future Soldier, which is good news for people who like to expand their gaming experience ... bad news for anal-retentive neurotics who have to unlock every single thing a game features. Nothing a little Prozac can't fix, though. Overall, Ghost Recon Commander is actually starting to look like a decent distraction from office duties. One of Ubisoft's PR reps asked me for some feedback, and one of my responses was, "Well, I kept playing, even when I knew I didn't have to." That's not because of the cheaply addictive Skinner-box qualities that Facebook games tend to have (see here), but because I was actually having fun shooting up the game's drug cartels. Mind you, I do so on my own time, so that perhaps had something to do with it. The great thing is, you don't have to just take my word for it. The Commander BETA is actually playable on Facebook right now, so go check it out for yourself!
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Woah, a Facebook game! I don't think I've played one of these for a while. In fact, the last Facebook game I played was over a year ago, coincidentally another one linked to Ubisoft -- something about castles that my girlfrie...

Preview: Kinect rules with Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor

May 11 // Ryan Perez
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor (Xbox 360) Developer: From Software Publisher: Capcom Release: June 19, 2012 I need to get this out of the way right now: Heavy Armor is the first Kinect game I've ever played where I didn't feel like a complete idiot while doing so. No simple balancing act or acrobatic feat is required during the fun. In fact, the majority of the experience requires you to be comfortably seated. Fat people, rejoice, for we have secured our victory against active gaming. From Software was quick to state that their primary goal was to make a Kinect game for the hardcore audience, and push the add-on away from the regular mini-game titles that plague anything with motion controls. Their first principle: While hardcore gamers might be intrigued by the concept of gestures mimicking actions, the majority of their dedicated gaming lives have been experienced via the controller ... and there's no reason to completely get rid of that. In Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, you control what is essentially a tank. In the not-so-distant future, silicon-consuming microbes have completely devoured the world's digital technology, reverting us back to the basic combustion tech of yesteryear. Your mech, unlike the peppy, agile ones we're used to seeing come out of Japan, controls more like a big, bulky, powerful machine actually would ... slowly and ungracefully. The developer put a lot of research into how the tanks of today feel and control, and it definitely shows. Your mech consists of several features with their own useful purpose, all accessed by very accurately associated gestures and movements. Reaching up and pulling down activates your periscope, which provides a nice alternative to the measly viewing window to your front. Fires may spark in the cockpit, which require you to reach to your side, open a small panel, and open the vents so you and your crew don't suffocate. Certain moments require a better full-scale view, so standing up will open your top hatch and pop your character out of the cockpit. Putting your hand to your face then activates your binoculars, which are easily controlled by the right thumb stick. Every command makes absolute sense, and never feels out of place or conflicting with the controller in your hand. That's the best thing about this game; while your tank contains a variety of Kinect-controlled features (camera monitor, engine and weapon controls, etc.), the general gameplay is actually manipulated by that thing in your hand that Peter Molyneux deemed a nuisance. Yep, when you're trudging the landscape and blowing away enemies, expect to do so like in any other shooter: with the 360 controller. For me, what stuck out the most when it came to the controls and features is that they're intuitive enough to actually lend themselves quite well to the action of the game. If you suck at console shooters (like yours truly), then chances are your blast window will take enough hits to become completely shot out. At this point, any intense action will often require you to reach forward, shut the viewing hatch, and then reach up for the periscope. Failing to do so will inevitably result in a bullet flying through the port and killing either you or one of your crew. Sometimes, during an intense battle, footsteps will be heard trotting atop your mech. Quick, sound action means standing up, opening the top hatch, pointing and shooting them. Slow action results in them opening your hatch, tossing in a sizzling grenade, and you hopefully grabbing and throwing it out the bottom hatch. The heat of battle provides several natural and scripted instances that make the entire experience feel very immersive, and can be designated as one of the few instances where motion controls actually aide in the immersion. I'm not a fan of Kinect, so every new game I play is like learning how to walk all over again. With Heavy Armor, though, everything quickly became second nature. This is all tied neatly into a bow by the game's World War II aesthetics. A quick look at the box art is a fine enough example, but to delve deeper, fellow soldiers don the iconic green, netted helmets of 1940s American soldiers, as well as the earthy toned attire. Even the mechs resemble beat-up Sherman tanks: faded and scuffed paint, parts falling off, and pure, raw metal. Overall, the game was definitely not what I was expecting. Considering the track record of Kinect games, I had a preconception of Heavy Armor before even seeing it at all. The moment I heard "is played while seated" and "controller," though, I was instantly intrigued. And then when I played it, well, I didn't want to stop. The bastards got me all hot and bothered with a sexy game, and didn't even have the decency to let me finish. If you own a Kinect (and I know some of you do), then there's little doubt it's experienced a bit of neglect. Or perhaps you love it do death and play it regularly, I don't know. If you are one of those people who slightly regrets their purchase, however -- I know plenty of you exist -- then you're definitely going to want to keep an eye on Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. This time around, it doesn't cost you an arm and a leg, and doesn't come with a peripheral the size of a Shriner mini car.
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It's somewhat difficult to deny at this point that the whole motion controls movement has been a bit of a bust. Developers never quite figured out how to properly implement them into already established genres. The traditiona...

Preview: Steam and spirituality in Civ V: Gods & Kings

May 10 // Ryan Perez
Civilization V: Gods & Kings (PC) Developer: Firaxis Games Publisher: 2K Games Release: June 19, 2012 No matter your stance on the subject, religion has played a significant role in the history of mankind, and the formation and growth of the world's cultures. In the Civ series, religion plays a pivotal role in not only the wellbeing of your populace, but also your relations with neighboring cultures. In Gods & Kings, players eventually choose a religious set of beliefs that are unique to their civilization. While we're quite familiar with some of the choices (Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism), players have the ability to rename their chosen faith to whatever they please ... which is great, because people like me can then fantasize about Fatassism actually catching on. Each religion provides its own tree of benefits, from the economical to the martial, and it's up to the player to utilize his or her spiritual guideline in a peaceful, diplomatic way, or as a means of aggressive expansion. Utilizing religious units such as prophets and missionaries will not only help players slowly convert the population of an enemy town, but also provide justification whenever you decide to invade and "liberate" converted followers in that location. An interesting dynamic to the religion system in Gods & Kings is how simply adopting another civilization's beliefs can provide unique and beneficial perks. As a "follower," players are granted their own tree of upgrades that the founder can't access, granting them not only the potential for better relations with the other faction, but better, more-intuitive means of eventually conquering them. The system is quite thorough, and contextually fascinating, if you know anything about religious history. It can still be a bit strange to see a Buddhist Ireland, but how the religion is merely adopted and utilized is incredibly intriguing ... and fun! Espionage has also found its way back into the game. Once the renaissance hits, players can recruit spies to do some dirty work from the shadows. While spies are now a limited unit, their role is as beneficial (or detrimental) as ever. Not only can they provide information on what enemy civilizations are currently doing, but they can also tell players what enemies are planning. Know of an impending attack from one civ on another? Sell the information to the latter for a boost in favor and a little extra dough. Or, do what I normally do and attack the one while its attacking the other; an invading country is a country undefended, after all. Spies can also rig elections, bleed an enemy of resources via the art of sabotage, and even stage a coup d'état, resulting in a territory becoming automatically allied with you. Forcing a new government on a given region tends to have that wonderful effect, after all. Knowing what an enemy is doing and screwing with them beyond their perception has always been an integral part of strategy games, so it's no surprise that spies in Gods & Kings are a valuable asset to prosperity. What's a videogame without a little fabrication, though? Firaxis has decided to have a little fun with the series and add the "Empires of the Smokey Skies" scenario. No, it's not about the American automotive industry, but rather an alternate take on the centuries proceeding the renaissance -- as is the case with most steam punk. This scenario gives players a new look to not only their cities and towns, but also their military units. Be prepared to utilize giant, iron-wheeled tanks that blow the nuts and bolts off of other steam-powered behemoths. My personal favorite is the sky fortress, a giant dirigible that acts as an aircraft carrier, sending a squad a biplanes to wreak havoc on those silly enough to challenge it. Imagine turning a bunch of Wright Brothers planes into weapons ... freakin' sweet. A new technology tree is also open for players to customize. While the majority of it did seem like aesthetic redressing, such cleverly replacing computer advancement with "Difference Engine," some nifty and interesting additions have been made. Like Tesla coils? Well, Gods & Kings lets you have plenty of them. For those who aim to win under technological conditions, the tree all culminates to the "Grand Idea." Overall, fans of cyberpunk should be very happy with the tribute that Firaxis pay with this particular scenario. Civilization V: Gods & Kings has a lot going for it, when it comes to a stand-alone expansion. Sure, plenty of people are likely to complain that the religion aspect should have been in the original version, but what is here is indeed solid. Considering everything else that I didn't get to see, such as the "Fall of Rome" scenario, owners of Civ 5 have a lot to look forward to. In a world ripe with DLC and incremental upgrades, expansion sets like these are a dime a dozen. At least Firaxis provides enough new content to justify the purchase.
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Few games actually require no introduction, and this is certainly one of them. This long-winded, turn-based strategy series has persistently delved deep into the core of human history, and what it takes for a nation to start,...

About the 'art' debate: Please shut the f**k up

May 04 // Ryan Perez
Unsurprisingly, this was in the first page of image results when I Googled "art." Who cares? I don't mean that in the passive teenage sense. I actually want to expose the types of people who so hope for videogames to be universally accepted as "art," and why it's so important to them. And just to be clear, I am not one of those people; so, if you are, then please leave, because I will unapologetically offend you ... most likely. "Art" is mostly important to the individuals who have hijacked the term and turned it into a safety net, a self-reassuring title that provides a spiritual (and unverifiable) sense of worth where there likely is none. I stopped calling myself an "artist" a long time ago, because, as I learned in college, any cunty hipster can (and usually does) pick up a Polaroid camera, snap a few shitty photos of their feet or the old Asian guy who owns the corner store, and then call themselves ... well, you get the idea. The SF Museum of Modern Art has entire canvases painted one goddamned color. One of my art instructors in college presented a photo piece of a "renowned artist" with a bullwhip sticking out of his ass ... I kid you not. This is all because of two important factors: "True art" is completely subjective, and most people will admire the living fuck out of anything with that title. Hence why so many individuals bestow upon themselves the handle of "artist," and hence why I so obnoxiously feature the word in quotes. Gamers, as I've come to learn, are no less immune to developing this douche disease. While I studied plenty of fine art in college, most of my curriculum centered on technical art (I majored in animation). For this reason, a lot of my fellow students were game design and programming majors. With the time I spent around these individuals, I learned the most passionate of students proudly considered their vocation the end all/be all of creative mediums. As my career in journalism progressed, I learned that consumers felt just as passionately about gaming as a hobby. This would be a giant plaster cock. Apparently, it's supposed to mean something profound. So what's that have to do with all this "art" ballyhoo? Well, anyone with such a fervent relationship with games will naturally aspire to legitimize and validate the medium as a job, hobby, competitive outlet, etc. I now refer to my aforementioned point: The most obvious way to add validity to anything you do is by somehow associating it with "art." This is not to assume that gamers can't enjoy the medium without such validity (a point of mine I'm about to make), but, come on ... why on Earth would anyone give a shit when a non-gamer says videogames aren't "art" if gamers somehow didn't feel that the assumption made the hobby seem less significant? Simply put, the word "art" is merely a synonym for "something inexplicably awesome," so telling a diehard gamer that his or her hobby doesn't fit that definition is like telling a person of extreme faith that God is an asshole.   Calling McDonalds "gourmet" wouldn't make it taste better. Let me propose a hypothetical question: If, by some freakish turn of events, the entire world accepted videogames among the admirable essence of Caravaggio paintings or Wilhelm Richard Wagner compositions, would you then enjoy playing them more? Would that designation alone make them more engaging, intriguing and resonating? Obviously some of you will have different reactions than others, so I'll leave you to your own conclusions. Seriously, though, the correct answer is "no." With the exception of technology and application, few things about this medium have changed in the past couple of decades -- especially market trends. In fact, videogames are one of the few mediums that can humbly state that it has made a distinctive image of its own, birthed from the eclectic (and sometimes monotonous and predictable) world of geek culture. Geekery has never been regarded well within the more pretentious world of fine arts (I can confirm this by experience),  yet still -- and we should be proudly claiming this whenever this "art" crap comes up -- we've enjoyed comics, genre fiction, tabletop RPGs, videogames, etc. without the slightest bit of remorse or regret. In fact, I've seen plenty of pen-and-paper RPG players in the heat of a raid; they are quite blissfully shameless. And adorable, to boot. Try calling these "chips." I'm sure that'll help. The reason all of us enjoy such idiosyncratic activities is because of their emphasis on fun. Such personal enjoyment, and believe me when I say this, is not really an aspiration of the "art" world. Art is often a hands-off avenue, and one could argue that an emphasis on artistic integrity would be quite detrimental to that which has caused us to enjoy videogames for these many, many years. Now, that's not to say a more focused and "emotional" approach towards videogames (namely their stories) should be avoided at all. In fact, I advocate the medium as a means of social commentary and evocative narration. Does that have anything to do with videogames being considered art, though? Again, no. Some would make the argument that considering games as such would influence our speech regarding the medium, not to mention our respect for it and how we apply creative decisions towards it. Forewarning: Do not ever make this argument in my presence, because it will require every ounce of my strength not to drive my arthritic "artist" fist into your fucking face. If a sudden, worldwide consensus was reached and games were considered art, I can guarantee you that we'd still be shooting zombies, roping dragons, and gawking at the latest titty physics. This industry isn't waiting for some "games are art" bell to go off, so everyone can finally start wearing berets and asking each other, "So what underlying theme did you feel was present when you learned that Andross was really a brain and a pair of eyes?" Those who have any real impact on this industry and the medium have made up their minds a long time ago when it comes to this "art" debate, so pushing it any further is incredibly pointless. Trust me, nothing would change if everyone else reached the same conclusion. It's supposed to evoke the question: What is art? Something you piss on, I always assumed. Actually, scratch that, one thing would change: You'd play a game that was nothing but a white screen ... and many keen artistic minds would argue that the point all along was for you to get up and blow into your CD feeder. Fuckin' deep, man.   Just shut up and keep doin' what you're doin' Let me make one important thing clear: As cynical as I am by nature, there's absolutely no way I could completely discredit the entire history of the art world. I come from a creative background, so it's impossible for me to deny the significant impact that certain forms of art and specific art pieces have had on world cultures and the human condition. The best of art has brought the most rigid of grown men to tears, and has inspired a lot of us to do either what we do today, or what we aim to do in the future. Still, I would make the argument that such works were significant because they were skillful representations of whatever influenced their creation, not simply because they were ever considered "art." Caravaggio was a pretentious sot with a reputation for sword dueling (yes, dueling), who created The Crucifixion of Saint Peter because he wanted to craft something admirable and make decent money in return, not because he wanted the now-worthless title of "artist." The games industry is full of similar people, and I would be willing to bet my first-born child (that I never plan on having) that the Caravaggios, Kubricks, Schafers, and Levines of this world would have made the exact amazing things they did, with or without the "art" stamp of approval. The point of this article is not to argue whether or not games are art; my point, if you haven't figured it out yet, is that it doesn't matter. Games are what they are, and no mere single-syllable designation is going to change that. Therefore, you can be assured that further debate on the subject in the future is probably just as pointless as the individual who couldn't think of anything better to discuss. I know that's a blatantly hypocritical statement, considering everything I've just written, but please consider this nothing more than a declaration of my hope that this meaningless debate dies a sudden and permanent death. I keep seeing random articles pop up about this stinking subject; enough is enough.  [embed]226826:43578[/embed] Mere "artists" don't make powerful scenes like these. Incredible talents and perceptive minds do. This is where I tell any perpetuators of this debate to refer to the title of this article. In fact, I would absolutely adore it if others tossed that little sentence into the next "10 Reasons Why Games are Art" feature they see. Not that I want to start some silly movement; so no need to attach my name to such a benevolent statement, if you ever do make it. Just a simple "Shut the fuck up" will do nicely. Then perhaps we could move on, onto more important things: such as focusing on making good games. Calling something "art" doesn't make it good, it just makes it a collector's item for some asshole who will never bother to truly appreciate it. Oh, and if you're one of those people who still can't seem to get over the implied significance of videogames (as art or otherwise), Sir Anthony Hopkins once said, "If none of us ever acted again, the world would not come to a stop. If I never acted on stage again, so what? Who cares?" If such a revered talent -- a master and undeniable respecter of his craft -- can so openly admit his chosen profession, as amazing and fun as it can be, is completely irrelevant to the welfare of human life, then you, as a hobbyist, can do the same. So, please, shut the fuck up, smoke a bowl, order some Chinese food, relax, and just play some freakin' games.
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The greatest comment I've ever read from a community member anywhere was, "Son of a s**t-eating Christ, not another 'games as art' argument. Excuse me while I alleviate my pain by shooting out my left ball." Nope, I'm not mak...

Preview: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

Apr 30 // Ryan Perez
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (3DS, PC, PlayStation 3 [previewed], PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360) Developer: Sumo Digital Publisher: Sega Release: TBA 2012 Upon selecting a racer, more than one moment saw me pointing to a character and saying aloud, "Oh yeah, I forgot Sega made that game!" Of course, the expected Sonic cast was present: Tails, Knuckles, Dr. Robotnik (I don't call him "Eggman," because this is America, goddamnit). Joining them, though, were characters whom I had forgotten even belonged to the Sega family: Amigo (Samba de Amigo), Beat (Jet Set Radio), and B.D. Joe (Crazy Taxi). It was at that point that I realized Sega actually had a shit-ton of variety and eclecticism within their body of work, and this little racing game was, in a lot of ways, a testament to that. Now, even though I've had my fair share of Sega consoles (everything except for the Sega CD), I can't call myself a "Sega kid." I got my hands on every piece of hardware I could while growing up, no matter the company. Still, that didn't keep the warm feelings of my childhood from brewing in my gut, especially once I took to the roads of the Panzer Dragoon course. While I did play the game in a relatively early state (alpha, to be exact), it was little snippets of nostalgia like these that made me realize that Sega fans were going to be in for a real treat. Considering how much of the company's history the previous All Stars Racing game encapsulated, I can only imagine this follow­-up will provide more of that iconic imagery. "Shit yes," says my 13-year-old, malnourished inner-self. So the nostalgia is a great hook, but how does it play? Well, the "Transformed" in the subtitle actually has significant meaning. During each race, courses will change their structure after every lap. So, naturally, each character's vehicle morphs into the appropriate form. On the Panzer Dragoon course, the first lap had me clattering over a creaky wooden bridge -- a favorite in professional racing, of course. On the second lap, though, a fuckin' dragon burst out of the water and destroyed it! No worries, because B.D. Joe's cab flipped its wheels and presented a nice set of propellers for the water below. Upon reaching that area for the third time, instead of sloshing into the lake, Joe's Chevy Impala took to the skies like Doc Brown's DeLorean, but with less time traveling and more ... well, craziness, I suppose. The elaborate changes in courses not only provided a fresh pace to the otherwise-bland genre of "kart racers," but they also quelled the boredom that can sometimes present itself after the third lap on the same track. Seeing as how I only got to try out two courses (the other being a downhill Super Monkey Ball-themed one), I'm anxious to see what other creative twists Sumo has added to the track selection. Amidst all of this reverential Sega imagery and the nostalgic glow it emanated, I couldn't help but feel a bit of remorse in the end. Seeing the diversity of Sega's franchises under one roof (or skybox) sort of brought to light the tragic reality that, well, while the company has a quality portfolio, it has continued to face more and more hardship. I mean, Transformed featured a roster of characters from games that had absolutely nothing to do with each other -- all of them great, to boot. It now makes less sense to me than it ever did why Sega has taken such a tumble down the staircase of this industry. Goddamned Nintendo has thrived on the same names and faces we've known since the late 80s, yet they have managed to accumulate an Olympic-sized pool of gold bullion. Mascot-themed games provide a rather decent retrospective of a company's history. Super Smash Bros. showed us Nintendo's backstory, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale will compile Sony's, and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed does that very thing for Sega. The result is a relatively fun and robust experience that makes you think, "Wait a minute ... if they made that game, then what the hell is the problem?" Oh well, perhaps I don't have the full picture. In fact, I know I don't. For all I know, the Sega execs of old might have blown all the company's money of cocaine and classy hookers. What matters is that, while Sega has taken hit after hit, despite all rules of logic and reality, games like Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed show that they can still make a fun and engaging title ... complimented by a cast from their own great games. Sumo Digital has put a lot of care into making this game its own great experience, even going as far as building the engine from the ground up, as well as implementing their own physics into the gameplay. Transformed plus liquor is a combination that's bound to be worthy of a friendly, split-screen gathering ... err, I mean "fun for the whole family." By the way, this preview taught me one important fact: Max Scoville is rather graceless at competitive racing games. So if you find yourself at a bar with him, and he's downed a few slippery nipples (yes, that's a real drink), the handheld version of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a sure way to win a "wager of the pantsless variety" with him. You didn't hear that from me, though.
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Few developers have a large enough catalog of praised franchises that they can make entire games featuring a variety of their own iconic characters. Nintendo is obviously the leading company that has made a habit of doing th...

Preview: Fun with guns in Max Payne 3 single/multiplayer

Mar 29 // Ryan Perez
Max Payne 3 (PC [previewed], Xbox 360 [previewed], PlayStation 3) Developer: Rockstar Studios Publisher: Rockstar Games Release: May 29th Our old friend with nothing to lose Max Payne made its original debut on the PC, which was also where I was first exposed to the series, personally. Since then, I have continued the tradition, playing its sequel, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, on the same platform the first day it launched. After having seen the series' third installment in action on NVIDIA's new 680 hardware, I can't see this PC trend breaking anytime soon for me. Rockstar stressed that Max Payne 3 was not a PC port. The game has been developed from the ground up with this platform in mind, even incorporating several DX11 features -- which is still oddly uncommon in a lot of games, for some silly reason. So any of you PC elitists who yearn for the days of old when console games were the afterthought, rest assured that MP3 will have plenty more than what the 360 and PS3 versions can offer. As for the actual single-player experience, all I can say is, "boing." The original Max Payne set so many standards with regards to action shooters, and MP3 certainly doesn't skimp on the quality that its predecessors were known for. The action is consistently fast and frantic, with slight interventions of dialogue and exposition. The stage I witnessed had Max and his buddy Passos blazing their way through a large gang-controlled stadium. Tight concession areas saw Max doing his signature slow-mo dive into small groups of enemies, littering the area (and his foes) with bullets. The level even provided a nice sniping diversion, where Max escorted his pal from afar, taking out any enemies in Passos' way. At one point, Passos backed away from an ascending stairway with his hands raised, where a gang member walked down with his gun pointed. As the enemy barked orders, Max lined up the perfect killshot; the bullet, presented in glorious slow-motion (à la the original Max Payne) flew cleanly through the gangster's head. Afterward, Passos could be seen slumping over, exasperated, as if to say, "I'm getting too old for this shit." Even the non-gamers at the event chuckled. It's great moments like these that have made the Max Payne series one of my all-time favorites. Presentation has always been a main focus in Rockstar's titles, and MP3 is no different. The series' familiar graphic novel-style narrative is back, but rather than still panels and voiceovers, cutscenes are edited in real-time into a sort of motion comic, much like you see in a lot of comic-inspired films. The result looked like a great way of keeping things moving. Even important expository information is presented at the bottom of the frame in the game's main typeface. For instance, if a character says something along the lines of, "First, we need to hurry and defuse the bomb," then the words "defuse the bomb" pop up on screen. It's a pretty nice way for the game to give the player their objective while retaining the pace. Max Payne 3 uses Rockstar's familiar RAGE Engine, and though one would expect that it'd be blatantly showing its age at this point, that's not really the case with MP3. Character models look better than they ever have, and some nice effects are produced during heated firefights; my personal favorite was the Matrix-style blurry tracers from bullets after Bullet Time had been activated. PC users can even expect features like Tessellation; I'll admit, I was a bit surprised to hear that the RAGE Engine was still capable of such feats. Like many of Rockstar's other games, MP3 also utilizes Natural Motion's Euphoria Engine. For those who don't know, Euphoria is a character behavior program that accurately calculates the reactions and animations that NPCs have during certain situations. Red Dead Redemption fans will recognize Euphoria from whenever Marston stumbled drunkenly out of a tavern, or by roping bandits and dragging them along while on horseback. In Max Payne 3, enemies react accordingly to gunshots to specific areas. They'll limp around when shot in the foot, or stand dead-armed after taking a round to the shoulder. To me, Euphoria's procedural programming has always felt more fluent and lifelike than predetermined animations or ragdoll physics. I only need to point to games like Max Payne 3 for proof. Overall, MP3's PC rendition looks damned sweet. Rarely has Rockstar ever disappointed us with their single-player experiences. After having seen Max Payne 3 in action, I don't think "disappointment" will be a term any of us will hear when the game launches in two months. I'm leaving to pre-order my copy for PC the moment I'm done with this preview, no bullshit. Brazilian brawls with buddies Even Rockstar agreed with me when I said this: It's almost as if it would make more sense for multiplayer in games like GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption to suck. Both games have such insanely well-made solo experiences, that multiplayer should be some sort of shitty afterthought. Anyone who has played either of the two games online can tell you that that's certainly untrue. Rockstar has developed the habit of tailoring multiplayer almost directly to the single-player. By this, I mean that whatever themes are accentuated in the core solo experience are brought over to multiplayer in the form of unique modes or features. GTA IV is about gangsters and the mafia, so it's multiplayer has a mode where a team of "Crooks" must get their boss to safety, while a team of "Cops" tries to take him down. Red Dead Redemption is influenced heavily by spaghetti westerns, so Rockstar thought, "Fuck it, let's have a Mexican standoff at the start of each multiplayer deathmatch." They followed this same philosophy in Max Payne 3. Sure, the game does have the obligatory free-for-all and team deathmatch modes ... some of us just want to shoot things, after all, right? I even played through a mode called Payne Killer, similar to King of the Hill, where two players take on the rolls of Max and his buddy Passos, giving up those roles once they are killed. The player with the most time alive as either character wins the match. The one mode that Rockstar was proudest to show off was called Gang Wars. Basically, it consists five consecutive rounds, each a different mode than the others, which all change according to the outcome of subsequent rounds. For instance, if one round requires a team to retrieve a particular package (in this case, a bomb), and they win that round, then the following match will see that same team delivering that bomb to a target location. This particular touch makes Gang Wars seem very dynamic, and provides a bit of a narrative aspect to the multiplayer experience. This mode, along with the ability to form personal gangs and have rivals with other groups, will certainly provided a worthwhile experience in its own right. Max Payne 3's multiplayer also features some considerable depth and customization. Players will have the ability to create loadouts, all with their own guns, items, and skills that are unlocked by acquiring cash and XP. The difference between other games with this feature, though, is that your character becomes slower with every new gun or item you equip him with. Believe me, it makes a difference, because I thought I'd go into each match packing heat like Rambo. Instead, I ran around like a fat asshole with knee issues. Now, I imagine a lot of people out there are particularly curious about how Bullet Time works. I myself imagined multiplayer consisting of a constant barrage of slowed time, no matter where you are on the map. Fortunately, Bullet Time is actually based on line of sight. If I can see you, then activate my BT, you slow down. And if you can see anyone else while you're slowed, they too are affected. This not only rids us the annoyance of being slowed every five seconds, but actually creates an interesting dynamic to the multiplayer's strategy. Anyone caught out in the open during Bullet Time is pretty screwed, but, if players are near a corner or doorway, all they have to do is simply break the enemy's view of them. Then, after waiting a few seconds, turn BT back on them. So, simply put, Bullet Time in multiplayer is freakin' awesome. In fact, one of my most cherished memories will always be watching a Rockstar employee dive at me, time slowed to a crawl, only for me to club him in the face with the butt of my gun and kill him ... before he hit the ground. Bullet Time is but one of the many extra abilities that you can take into combat. These abilities are known as "Bursts," and range from granting you and your teammates health boosts to forcing members of the opposing team to see each other as enemies. Can you imagine how pissed certain people are going to be, once they're gunned down by a teammate during a pivotal moment of the round? I certainly can. One particular multiplayer feature that I liked was the ability to create a "vendetta." If a member of the enemy team kills you twice, without you killing them once, you can basically flip them the bird by forming a vendetta, which creates a large, distinguishable marker above their head, and also yields more cash for killing them. Unfortunately, I didn't win a single goddamned vendetta, but I can imagine the enemy players got some joy out of my failure -- and the bonus dough I granted them. I do love brightening up people's already awesome days. I have to give credit where it's due: Max Payne 3 certainly does not feature your run-of-the-mill multiplayer. Its modes are fun and varied, it features more depth and variety than most people will probably anticipate (you can even completely customize your in-game model, hipster glasses included), and its gunplay is fast, frantic, and incredibly fun. I can already tell I'm going to enjoy multiplayer in MP3 just as much as I did in GTA IV and RDR.
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I'm going to slip on my flamboyant fanboy hat for a second here and say that I adore the Max Payne series. Ever since the third installment was announced about 63 f*ckin' years ago, every morning has felt like a lie to me; th...

Preview: Darksiders II is inspired by the best there is

Mar 26 // Ryan Perez
Darksiders II (PC, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360 [previewed]) Developer: Vigil Games Publisher: THQ Release: June 26, 2012 Players take on the role of the Horseman Death, whose hobbies include ripping monsters to pieces, donning haggard armor, wielding unreasonably large scythes, and long walks on the souls of your ancestors. After his brother, the Horseman War, is accused of conspiring to start the Apocalypse before its due time, Death embarks on a disobedient quest to prove his brother's innocence any way he can. I suppose if you're a fan of the scary part of the Holy Bible, then DSII's narrative will probably appeal to you ... or it'll offend you, depending on how you look at it. I can't say I personally found the first game's story to be all that intriguing, but it does make the lore of the sequel a bit easier to absorb. I'll admit, it is nice to see developers utilizing tapping something other than Greek mythology for once. As for the levels, Darksiders II has a very dungeon-based style of progression. Players will make their way from room to elaborately designed room, defeating waves of monsters, solving slightly challenging puzzles, and attaining keys to unlock other areas. Like I said before, the game feels a lot like Zelda, as backtracking is a common occurrence and treasure chests are numerous. No flamboyant men cavorting around in green unitards, fortunately. I'll admit that some puzzles do throw you for a bit of a loop. Their solutions aren't always obvious (as they shouldn't be), and solving certain head-scratchers provides a real sense of accomplishment. At times, frustration might rear its fat, ugly head, but it's totally worth those moments when you slap your forehead and think, "Ah, of course!" I won't lie, though -- other moments may include your dropping the controller and saying to yourself, "Are you fuckin' serious? That's what I had to do?" Combat is of the fast hack-'n-slash variety, with numerous combos and special moves to clear out several enemies at once. One move I utilized frequently was Death's ability to send a scythe spinning into an area in front of him, stunning and dealing steady damage to enemies in its proximity (bigger monsters didn't budge, though). Death's scythes prove to be very versatile weapons and could easily rival Kratos' Blades of Chaos as some of the most kickass game weapons around. Also, much like during the fights in God of War, a button prompt, which triggers a finishing move, appears above the heads of nearly defeated enemies. Wait until you see him change into his traditional Grim Reaper form as a result -- one of the game's finer "holy shit" moments. For players who enjoy customization, Darksiders II features some pretty decent RPG elements. Monsters and treasure chests provide loot in the form of weapons, armor, and items, all which can be applied to Death for stat boosts. Every set of boots, greaves, or shoulder guards I slapped onto Death provided a different, more menacing look than the last. Even his scythes got a nice visual upgrade each time I found a better pair. By the end of the demo, my Death looked like something off of a heavy metal album cover -- how very appropriate that THQ decided to play Metallica during the event. In regard to how cool Death looks, my favorite aspect of the game is definitely the art. The locales have a very otherworldly feel to them, but not so much that they are completely void of any practicality. Giant wood and steel mechanisms decorate larger areas, providing a sense of age and primitiveness to the setting, as though some ancient, ethereal civilization built everything you see, only to leave it to the ages and let it all rot. At the end of the demo, I encountered one of the game's several bosses. I know I'm not the first to suggest this, but the giant, rock-like creature I battled (known as the "Guardian") reminded me a lot of Shadow of the Colossus. As I rode atop my mighty white steed, I was forced to time my hurdles and sprints in order to dodge its slow, powerful attacks. In order to defeat it, I had to target specific weak spots on its body after certain attacks. While the fight was certainly difficult -- I have horrible timing during these types of battles -- it was also very exhilarating, and a testament to the kind of variety that Darksiders II had. Overall, Darksiders II carries all the elements of a strong sequel to a decent action title. Even with its very blatant inspiration, the game does offer some intriguing and unique creativity, which gives the narrative and its world just enough believability to pull you in. The story and characters are somewhat interesting, the combat is fast and fun, the RPG elements provide some nice depth and variety, and the visuals are pleasurable to gawk at.
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Though I never brought myself to complete the first Darksiders, I did enjoy it for the length that I played. It was nothing phenomenal in its own right, but it was still a fun experience, due to retaining enough good ins...

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Correction: 1C's Men of War and King's Bounty not F2P


Mar 24
// Ryan Perez
A recent preview I wrote (published earlier this week) regarding 1C Company titles contained misinformation on two of the three games featured, Men of War: Condemned Heroes and King's Bounty: Warriors of the North. In this pi...

Review: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680

Mar 22 // Ryan Perez
[embed]224337:43139[/embed] NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680Manufacturer: NVIDIARelease: March 22, 2012MSRP: $499 Important GeForce GTX 680 specs: CUDA Cores: 1,536 (Three times more than the 580) Base Clock: 1006 MHz Boost Clock: 1058 MHz Memory Clock: 6008 MHz Interface: 256-bit Total Memory: 2048MB GDDR5 Total Memory Bandwidth: 192.26 GB/s Texture Filtering Rate (Bilinear): 128.8 Giga Texels/sec Connectors: 2 x Dual-Link DVI, 1 x HDMI, 1 x DisplayPort Recommended Power Supply: 550 Watts Thermal Design Power: 195 Watts (244 Watts for 580) Power Connectors: 2 x 6-pin (One 6-pin and one 8-pin for 580)  My general PC specs: Windows 7 x64 (cards are already compatible with Windows 8) Intel i7 2.80 GHz 8GB DDR3 SDRAM I'm just going to get straight to what most of you want to know: How it handles games. The reason I posted my rig's not-so-uber specs above is actually a way of pointing out that my 680 has been taking a lot of the stress with all of the graphically heavy games I've thrown at it. It's all for the card. Believe me, I would have gladly neglect mentioning my specs, as mentioning your lackluster PC to techies is like showing your four-incher to a porn star. The first game I tested -- and the most obvious -- was Battlefield 3. An important note about its Frostbite 2 engine is that it's very efficiently built to run on an adequately powered rig. My old 560 Ti (always overclocked) could handle ultra settings at around 40 to 50 FPS, minus VSync or anti-aliasing. So it's obvious that a 680 would make short work of this game's demands. However, even on powerful rigs, framerate drops are common during heated battles with an abundance of particle effects (smoke and explosions) and game models crowding the screen. To test this out the best I could, I played through several "Conquest Large" matches on BF3's biggest maps available, all on completely maxed-out settings. Even when a team had only one point captured, and the player focus was centered on that entire area, I didn't witness a single drop in smoothness. I mean I literally kept my eyes on the framrate as the sh*t was hitting the fan, and noticed no fluctuation at all. I then tested the 680 on an engine that isn't very efficiently built. The Witcher 2's RED Engine has turned quite a few heads due to its looks, though it's no secret that maxed-out settings require an overall top-end PC. More specifically, the "Uber Sampling" feature is typically what kills the game's performance, as it renders each scene several times over to provide a smoother image quality. Most people turn this feature off, as the slight visual improvement doesn't justify the hardware demands. On my 560 Ti, you could swear I was playing some game I received from ten years into the future; a whopping 15 FPS was the best I got out of it. With the 680, though, it ran at a very stable 40 to 50 FPS, with almost no drops below that 40 (even during combat). Mainly due to the RED Engine's cumbersome features, The Witcher 2 was one of the most technically demanding games I could test on it. A close equal was Crysis 2 with its DX11 upgrades, which ran surprisingly better than Witcher. Out of all the games I tested on the 680 (others include Skyrim, Rage and Just Cause 2), the most rewarding was undoubtedly Crysis 2. The Frostbite 2 engine looks beautiful because of it versatility, but the CryEngine 3 looks incredible because of its cutting-edge features, and the 680 handles them all brilliantly. Displacement maps, high-quality HDR, real-time reflections, and particle motion blur all look absolutely fantastic. My 560 Ti could barely handle Crysis 2 on max settings at around 30 FPS. My 680 laughs at it, with a strong 60 FPS, only dropping to near 50 during moments of extreme action (lots of explosions and particle effects). After all of this, I can't say I'm surprised that the 680 performed the way it did. Many people may remember the Unreal Engine 3 Samaritan Demo from last year's GDC. Well, that demo, mind-bogglingly beautiful as it was, originally required three GTX 580s and a power supply the size of a small child. When I was first presented the 680 at NVIDIA's Editor's Day event during GDC 2012, the same tech demo was shown ... running on a single 680 and nothing else. NVIDIA wants this card to really mean something to the gaming community, not only by being ultra powerful and providing us with longevity, but also via the cutting-edge features that are idiosyncratic to NVIDIA cards alone. A lot of you might have been wondering how I got such close framerate fluctuation with VSync presumably on (it was). Without getting too technical, a big issue people have with VSync is that it forces the framerate to drop by positive integers, based on your monitor's refresh rate (i.e. a 60Hz monitor dropping by 60FPS, 30, 20, 15, etc.) all for the sake of preventing "screen tearing." We gamers can see the obvious problem with this, as the drastic drop in framerate results in "jittering." To combat this, NVIDIA has developed what's known as "Adaptive VSync," which automatically turns off global VSync whenever the framerate needs to fall to anything below your monitor's max refresh rate. No more jitter and no more screen tearing. As another means of providing a smoother gaming experience, NIVIDA is aspiring to do away with MSAA (Multisample anti-aliasing) by providing their own FXAA, which can be activated within the card alone and be applied to any game. They're also providing the upcoming TXAA, a new film-style AA that is at least 4X more effective than MSAA. The result is a welcome addition, as we've been long overdue for an upgrade in this area. Another great feature that we're all becoming acquainted with is PhysX, NVIDIA's proprietary physics engine. PhysX has been steadily appearing in a lot of high-quality titles, providing great rigid and soft body dynamics, as well as fluid and cloth simulations. At NVIDIA's Editor's Day, Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford showed off Borderlands 2 and how it implemented PhysX. Fluids pooled and flowed in complete real-time, and even reacted to explosions -- splashing about into numerous smaller puddles. Cloth materials reacted accordingly to foreign objects, and could even be torn and shredded when fired at. It was quite incredible how these effects could be handled with such relative ease in real-time, when just five years ago it took me several hours to render them for 3D animations on a high-end PC. The last upgrade I'm going to mention is, in a lot of ways, more of a downgrade, but sold me on the card merely due to my living situation. As stated before, the 680 is a very efficient card, and that applies more than anything to its power consumption. The 680 is so streamlined that it actually draws less power than its predecessor, the 580 (see the specs above). What does this mean for me? Well, as a city that desperately tries to retain some sort of bullsh*t identity, San Francisco is adamant about holding on to their Victorian architecture of the 1920s. This includes the f*cked up power distribution systems that came with them. With that said, I can only have about two appliances on at any one time, before I cause a power surge and my place goes completely dark. When it comes to PC gaming, this presents a problem. I actually used to SLI two 560s, but had to get rid of one if I wanted to game with my heater on -- enduring cold San Francisco nights is definitely not worth an extra 560 Ti. So you can imagine that a card like the 680 fairs well for someone with my situation, if not also for people who dig the environment or like saving money on bills. Not only does it consume less power than the best of last generation, but its TDP is only 25 more than my freakin' 560 Ti. After seeing the Samaritan demo and what it took to run it last year, I don't know how they accomplished what they have with the 680. It's like someone sold their ass to the Devil to make this thing. To really explain every notable change and addition with the GeForce GTX 680 would take so much more time. This new line of graphics cards is leaps and bounds beyond the 500 series. This review alone is obviously not going to convince you to throw down $499 on a new card, but I do hope it drives you to do a little more digging into the fine details of the 680 ... especially if you plan on upgrading. PC gaming is slowly but surely making a comeback, and the GeForce 680 is the card to welcome it with open arms. Several games are in development right now with this very card in mind (others shown at the NVIDIA event were Max Payne 3 and The Secret World). If you yearn for the time when you filled your PC with the best of the best tech in preparation for the hottest-looking games to come, then the time is certain now, and the tech is certainly this card. Oh, and before I go, all of you hardcore NVIDIA fans are probably going to want to watch this: [embed]224337:43138[/embed]
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For some of us, upgrading our PCs with the best hardware and enjoying the most jaw-dropping games in all their glory is a not-so-distant memory. Even though I've consistently owned beefy rigs my whole life, I've spent less an...

Preview: Three 1C Company games worthy of a gander

Mar 19 // Ryan Perez
Men of War: Condemned Heroes, King's Bounty: Warriors of the North, Royal Quest (PC)Developer: 1C-SoftClub, Katauri InteractivePublisher: 1C CompanyRelease: TBA 2012 Men of War: Condemned Heroes It seems like everyone with a gun is "of" something these days. The interesting thing about this particular WW2 strategy game is that your troops are members of what were known as "penal battalions." Apparently, whenever Russian soldiers faced a court-martial, they were aften relocated into these particular battalions and sent on some of the most hazardous missions that our Russian allies had ever seen. Admirably enough, even members of these arguably punishing squads were deemed heroes within the war. So Men of War surprisingly features a controversial subject from Russian WW2 history. I've read about strapping bombs to dogs and training them to "find food" beneath tanks, but this one certainly tops my list of intriguing WW2 trivia. All of the missions players embark on are based on historical reference, which should make some of these soldiers' no-win scenarios even more interesting and inspirational. Too few games feature this sort of attention to non-fiction, so titles like Men of War: Condemned Heroes have their own appeal over the competition, from my point of view. As for the gameplay: It's what you'd expect from a tactical strategy game. Players are given a set amount of troops, and are tasked with accomplishing particular goals and objectives.  The graphics are on par with most other games in the genre, and the combat has some admirable depth to it (even giving players the choice between context-specific squad formations). The Men of War series is a pretty successful franchise for 1C, so check out Condemned Heroes if you dig strategy and are curious about the Russian side of the Great Patriotic War. King's Bounty: Warriors of the North I can't say I've had many chances in my life to play strategy-based RPGs. The genre doesn't exactly top the charts, after all. That hasn't stopped companies like 1C from trying to grasp a bit of that audience with the King's Bounty series, which is actually one of their top-selling franchises. Warriors of the North takes the genre into a European direction, featuring Nordic and Saxon-based armies -- everything from Vikings to, well, more Vikings. Players build armies that move around the continent (map) independently and engage in turn-based battles with other armies. Each battle consists of a grid where combatants move their units around to destroy each other. It's that simple. Those who are fans of strategic RPGs will feel right at home with King's Bounty. You build bases, upgrade troops, maintain morale, and basically wipe the other player off the map. Considering the raping and pillaging that Vikings often did, some might consider this a "game for the whole family." One thing grandma would definitely like is how you can summon a valykrie to destroy your enemies. A f*ckin' valkyrie! Royal Quest If there's one genre that the free-to-play market has plenty of, it's MMOs. They are easy to monetize and last about as long as people are willing to play them. For companies that are anxious to make some decent profit, never-ending games with microtransactions are like foreclosed homes to a Wall Street banker. I present to you: Royal Quest. To be fair, Royal Quest may look a bit on the cheap side, but it features plenty of variety that often make these F2P games worth trying out. Players choose one of three class types (melee, ranged gunman, or magic user) and embark on a journey of leveling, looting and lollygagging with other players. If you're at all familiar with MMOs and point-and-click RPGs -- I'm assuming most of you are -- then Royal Quest will be familiar territory. The game is simple, but it does have a decent emount of content that keeps it interesting. Players can expect no shortage of items and gear to add to their characters. Even gameplay has some nifty elements to it, such as certain enemies requiring specific element-based attacks to be defeated (i.e. fire monsters requiring water). Overall, Royal Quest seems like a decent diversion, wrapped up in a friendly, free-to-play package. 1C games might not be the topic of most conversations among gamers, but they do retain enough fun to generate an audience worth noting. 1C is technically the largest publishing company in the world (by product volume), and the company even has its own retail chain in Russia. So if you're curious about how these games have retained such a substancial constituency, try them out for yourself when they release later this year.
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[UPDATE: It has been brought to our attention that factual errors have been made with regards to this preview, and that only one of 1C's titles, Royal Quest, will be free to play, whereas the other two mentioned titles will b...

GDC: Conquering worlds for free in PlanetSide 2

Mar 07 // Ryan Perez
PlanetSide 2 (PC) Developer: Sony Online Entertainment Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment Release: TBA I got your disease. The only way I could get my hands on Mass Effect 3 today was by trading in four other games. Honestly, since I've been living the vagrant lifestyle of a college student (though I graduated f*ckin' years ago), the idea of playing a game at no cost has been getting sweeter and sweeter. In fact, free-to-play MOBA games took up more of my time in 2011 than any other genre. So you can imagine my ecstasy when I learned that PlanetSide 2, a game I actually anticipate, won't take a single dime from me (unless I want it to). The only things that will require cash are the usual experience boosts and custom skins -- that's it. Like a lot of other developers out there, SOE doesn't believe in "pay to win," so any of us poor sods won't be at a disadvantage against the other responsible people with real jobs and a steady income. If you've ever been curious to experience first-person shooters on a grander scale, or if you're a fan of MMOs and would like to try something a little more persistently chaotic, at least now you know that you won't have to sell your other kidney to do so. It's tough to say whether or not there's a market for MMOFPS games, because ... well, there technically isn't one. The original PlanetSide didn't do terribly well, so the genre never went anywhere subsequently. What followed was missed opportunity for companies to capitalize on a fairly obvious and brilliant idea. Thankfully, SOE is taking another shot at it (pun intended), and cult fans will be pleased to know that plenty of what made the original game great will be in this follow-up. Players will pick from one of the original three factions: the authoritative and tyrannical Terran Republic, the rebellious and crafty New Conglomerate, or the tech-savvy and cult-like Vanu Sovereignty (mine). All three groups not only feature their own visual identities, but the hardware they sport provide distinguishable gameplay elements; Conglomerate weapons pack a punch but suffer from bullet drag, whereas the Vanu utilize energy rounds that travel straight to their target, however don't do as much damage as traditional ammo. Speaking of hardware, vehicles play just as large of a role in PS2 as they did in the original game, if not larger. While infantry are required for the inner-workings of a base or capture point, an entire fleet of tanks can make short work of outer defenses. Believe me when I say "fleet," because players can freely creep up to enemy strongholds with squads of gunships -- dozens of them. Queue "Ride of the Valkyries." What makes such epic possibilities even more appealing is the fact that PlansetSide 2 features a completely persistent world map. Each continent provides several marked, resource-laden areas for enemy factions to invade, capture and control -- distinguished by the color of the faction that owns them. Attack and defend as you please; nothing is planned or scripted. This made the conflicts in the original game much more personal than most other shooters around today, and I can imagine the same will be said about this upcoming sequel. I can't completely ignore what other, more confined shooters did right that the original PlanetSide did wrong. Games like the Modern Warfare series ushered in a new standard for online shooters with customization and RPG elements. It added a new degree of depth to online play, and was the main reason so many people kept going back for more. Likewise, such elements have made their way into PlanetSide 2, where they feel even more welcome. Over the course of the game, you acquire both experience and in-game currency that go towards new weapons, vehicles and upgrades. While the typical additions can be expected (red dot sights, different ammo types), infantry can benefit from varying armor classes, stat-boosting implants, special abilities, and a variety of large and small firearms. I'm anxious to see if roles play as large of a part in PS2's gameplay as they do in other MMOs (i.e. tanks, healers, straight DPS). Customization also extends to vehicles, as well. Airships can either be outfitted with missiles to make short work of ground targets, or use fast-firing rail guns to help keep the skies clear. Tanks can be equipped with better armor, heavier-hitting shells, or better innards for speed sake. Before you know it, SOE might give players the ability to name their beasts of destruction. I imagine "Bertha" would be a popular pick. PlanetSide 2 is definitely a game for people who have wanted to take the fast, action-packed gamelpay of first-person shooters onto an even more vast battlefield. As someone who enjoyed the first game, I can say that fighting a war without barriers is something that really can't be replicated in any other genre. While my thirst for open-world warfare was nary sated over these past several years, it's good to know that SOE decided to provide fans like myself with a tall drink of water. Anyone else with a dry mouth and a desire for something new and refreshing should definitely keep an eye on PlanetSide 2.
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First-person shooters lend themselves incredibly well to vast, open environments, so it's almost criminal that we don't have more games taking that to the level the original PlanetSide did. A normal session of gameplay involv...

Preview: Fighting an evil U.N. in End of Nations

Mar 01 // Ryan Perez
End of Nations (PC) Developer: Petroglyph Games Publisher: Trion Worlds Release: Fall 2012 Freedom is indeed free I'm just going to get this out of the way, because plenty of people still think that "free" is synonymous with "cheap," especially with regards to game design. However, anyone who has played games like League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth can tell you that that's completely untrue. Also, anyone who has played Trion Worlds' previous MMO, Rift, can testify that this company certainly makes quality games. End of Nations is completely free. Yes, you read that correctly; you don't have to pay a single cent to experience all of the game's content. That's a pretty sweet deal. So if you're on the fence about whether or not to give this one a try, at least you aren't risking anything by doing so. I know you're probably thinking, "How do they plan on making any money?" Simply by providing anyone with time constraints (i.e. actual adults) the choice to buy experience boosts and other types of handicaps so they can enjoy the later content of the game a bit sooner than us leeches. That's all ... no pay-to-win crap that people usually complain about when it comes to F2P games. So freakin' relax. War has changed From what I played, I didn't manage resources or build bases of any kind. Matches were won by meeting a set of pre-existing conditions, or simply by outlasting the other player. Players start off by choosing one of two factions -- the Liberation Front or the Shadow Revolution -- before entering matches with their "squads," customizable sets of units that each player controls. As they progress through the game, players earn points that go towards upgrades, new units, and better super weapons ... pretty self-explanatory stuff. The first mode I played was creatively named "Last Man Standing," where I and another press member battled against waves of enemy forces -- both of us at separate ends of the map. Before the match, we picked a squad of units, and were tasked with defending our capture point for as long as we could; whoever lasted the longest won the match. The best part about this mode (and what led to my victory) was that I could send "gifts" over to the other player's blockade. In this case, "gifts" translates to clusters of mines that I dropped directly into his units. Other modes were a bit more directly competitive. At the event, the opposing side of the table consisted of Liberation Front players, whereas my side (designated as "Team Stinkeye" by yours truly) was nothing but Shadow Revolution. After starting at opposite ends of the map, both teams fought for control over different points on the battlefield; some points granted a bigger cash flow to repair units and buy super weapons, whereas others depleted enemy reinforcements at a faster rate. We lost, unfortunately, though Team Stinkeye shall never be forgotten I must say, having each member of the team control their own set amount of units is a rather interesting approach to RTS multiplayer. While most players at the event controlled their squads as a single entity, rather than splitting them up, I'm curious to see what strategies are formed with this different style of gameplay. The smell of napalm in the morning For those who don't know, the developer of End of Nations, Petroglyph Games, was founded by ex-employees of Westood Studios. Anyone familiar with Westwood surely knows of their flagship franchise, Command & Conquer, which is now seeing decent success under the guidance of Electronic Arts. So with End of Nations being developed by key minds behind one of the most influential strategy games ever, you can bet your war bonds that I'm enthusiastic. Also, it should come as no surprise that End of Nations features a similarly epic, baroque style that Command & Conquer had. Global conflict, evil military organizations and odd technologies are but a few of the features that'll make you Brotherhood of Nod fans feel right at home. The conflict itself is particularly familiar. Basically, some jerk decided that the United Nations wasn't living up to its intended purpose, so he decided to form the Order of Nations. Their goal: to wipe out all of the world's individual governments and replace them with a singular one. Unfortunately for all fascist regimes, people don't take too kindly to control these days, so, as a result, the two aforementioned factions were formed to combat this evil empire. To make things more interesting, both factions happen to dislike each other a bit ... hence FedExing landmines to my opponent. The overall conflict is a bit crude and cartoonish, but it does fit well with the game's number of modes and locales. These types of games never really lend themselves to plausibility, anyhow. Just fun. ...Only who is left End of Nations is an idea that I've always been interested in. Social titles like Empires and Allies have shown that strategy games work nicely with open and seamless communities, so I'm anxious to see how crazy the clashes in EoN will get. I won't lie, it is a different kind of RTS. If you're some sort of RTS god (or if you're Korean), then End of Nations is going to be unfamiliar territory for you. Still, that's no excuse to not give this game a shot when it launches this fall. Your wallet will remain untouched. Your pride, however, is another story. Later in the event, every member of the press teamed up against the Trion Worlds QA department. To say we were massacred and humiliated is a gross understatement. Jerks.
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I've never had much of a knack for strategy or warfare. I'm not relentlessly evil enough to be a dictator, and I'm not selfless and stalwart enough to be some sort of freedom fighter. So when the big WWIII hits, I'm probably ...

Preview: Getting in deep with the Triads in Sleeping Dogs

Feb 17 // Ryan Perez
Sleeping Dogs (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [previewed]) Developer: United Front Games Publisher: Square Enix Release: August 2012 A police story with a super cop It pleases me greatly when I play a game from a developer that openly places narrative high within their development process. I had a chance to speak with Lead Producer Jeff O'Connell, who stated they put a lot of effort into featuring an intriguing and gripping story. "I think as far as a real, gritty -- whatever other adjectives you want to throw on top of it -- mature cop story; we've achieved that," he told me. "You can do the sort of Charles Bronson 'I'm a cop and I kill everybody' story, but we wanted to be more respectful of our source material than that." I like the sound of that. Not only does the subject of triads fascinate me immensely, but I'm even more intrigued if some degree of realism is incorporated within the portrayal. While this is a game, and action is very abundant within the gameplay, at least certain elements of the experience were subdued for the sake of the subject matter. What's even more gratifying to hear is that actual research was done from real Triad members. "We sent our writer to Hong Kong and he met with a guy who used to be in the Triads," O'Connell said, "and he hooked our writer up with some friends of his who are still members. They took him to different clubs and restaurants, and answered basically every question our writer had." Jeff informed me of some interesting misconceptions people have towards Chinese organized crime, so I can't wait to see how they incorporate all of this into the game. From what little I saw of the story, I can tell that people into Chinese crime and action films will be drawn in. Hard boiled and heavy hitting Speaking of Chinese action, Sleeping Dogs certainly has taken a lot of inspiration from the mordern-day martial arts films of Hong Kong cinema. The gameplay emphasizes a lot on hand-to-hand combat and utilizing the environment to subdue enemies ... because, from what Jeff told me, Triads are more keen on beating or cutting people to "send a message", rather than just killing them. Punches connect with such brutal audibility, that mere blood splatter sounds like a small cup of juice being poured onto the floor. Counter moves result in either a kick to the face or a broken arm, followed by a gut-wrenching squeal from the opponent. The environments, though, are where the real payoffs lie. Enemies' heads can be slammed onto table edges or in between car doors. They can be thrown and impaled on sharp objects jutting from the ground. My personal favorite, though, has to be shoving someone's face into the fan of an air conditioner, resulting in a crimson mist of meat and flesh. It's the little things in life that you treasure, really. Some may ask, "What's authentic about that?" Well, anyone who enjoys Hong Kong cinema can tell you that exaggeration is a key component to the composition. If protagonists aren't throwing enemies into things, smacking them in the head with random objects, or kicking them hard enough to let the power powder fly (the dust you see whenever people land blows), then you're probably not watching a Chinese action film. What's Hong Kong action without some automotive escapades, though? As expected, Wei utilizes several different vehicles to make his way through the open world streets of the city. Also, he can have a little law-bending fun with some street racing. One of the levels I played involved that very thing, against one of Wei's criminal cronies. It was fast and very arcade-like, and reminded me greatly of the Need for Speed Underground series. Though most people seemed to fail once or twice, the racing was fairly well done for a side feature. Hopefully they loosen up the vehicle handling a bit before the game launches. In short, though, the gameplay was fun and satisfying. End of story. Internal affairs of United Front Games Sleeping Dogs has had a bit of a rocky development. It first started off as an original IP, however Activision (the owner at the time) decided that the True Crime name would help the game sell, so it then became True Crime: Hong Kong. Unfortunately, that project was eventually canceled, though it was adopted soon after by Square Enix during their spell of swooping up western companies and franchises. I got to sit down with Lee Singleton, General Manager for Square Enix London, as well as Stephen Van Der Mescht, Executive Producer at United Front Games, and ask them about the relationship between both of their companies. "[Square Enix] is basically a dedicated team of designers and producers," said Singleton, "and we have a little acquisition group who knew a couple of people at UFG. We heard about what had happened -- how they were left with no game coming out -- so we spoke to Activision, we spoke to the guys at UFG, and we did a deal to make it work." It's never a bad story to hear whenever a company gets to continue with all of their hard work, and Van Der Mescht assured me that the relationship between the two companies couldn't be any more coalescent. "There was an immediate shared vision," Van Der Mescht stated. "[Square Enix] had experience with open-world games with Just Cause 2, so what we were doing became quite clear to them, as did our goals. So there was a perfect match." Both men were very confident about their work together and the project itself. As they should be, because I'm definitely interested in what else Sleeping Dogs has to offer. It's a shame that certain titles face the grave before they're even born, but at least Sleeping Dogs is now happily in development and seeing its eventual release. Singleton concluded with, "I can't really tell you why Activision let [Sleeping Dogs] go, but I can tell you why we signed it; it's an awesome game." A  better tomorrow So it seems that Sleeping Dogs will see the light of day, and I can't wait. While I'm not allowed to unveil all of the details of the demo just yet, I can assure you that the game looks great. Hong Kong is realized with vivid detail and life, the game's soundtrack is a beautiful mixture of ancient Chinese wind and stringed instruments, and it features a subject that I'm sure most of you would love to experience. If you love modern Hong Kong action flicks, intense cop stories, and the seedy underworld of organized crime, then be on the lookout for Sleeping Dogs.
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I'm so glad this game has shaped into what it is now, because when I first heard that Sleeping Dogs was originally titled True Crime: Hong Kong, I thought to myself, "Damn it, hopefully this will be a short demo." Once I saw ...

Surviving the haste and chaos of Resident Evil: ORC

Feb 16 // Ryan Perez
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [previewed]) Developer: Slant Six Games Publisher: Capcom Release: March 20, 2012 The action It's all over the place. From the start of each mode, you're thrust into the middle of zombie-infested locales -- streets, labs, random complexes. Of the three modes I played, the brainless baddies were never the main focus, but more of an obstacle in between main objectives. I won't lie, gunning down an enemy opponent while he's occupied with a group of flesh-eaters is very, very satisfying ... not to mention incredibly messed up. The zombies were insignificant compared to the real threats during each round, dropped from the sky via Umbrella Inc. helicopters. Deathly fast Hunters and even the infamous Tyrant (Type T-103) make their way into the fray. Let me tell you, the moment that big overcoat-wearing brute appeared, it didn't matter what team you were on; everyone laid every last round they had into him until he went down like a sack of potatoes...then they started shooting each other again. Not only did seeing these gigantic B.O.W.s bring back some fond memories, they also changed the gameplay dynamic significantly. Once this game is released, I can tell that plenty of people are going to take advantage of others during such moments. The modes themselves were a mix of stuff you can find in any shooter these days, just with a dash of Resident Evil flavor. A capture-the-flag variant known as "Biohazard" (creative, I know) has players collecting different samples of the G-Virus and transporting them to designated points. In "Survivors," you have to ... survive, fighting off hordes of zombies and B.O.W.s until a rescue helicopter arrives. "Heroes Mode" is basically the expected team deathmatch, however with iconic Resident Evil characters (Leon, Claire, Jill, etc.). Nothing about the multiplayer features that I saw really stood out to me, but the gameplay is indeed fun and engaging. Anyone who has enjoyed the over-the-shoulder shooting introduced in Resident Evil 4 will certainly enjoy Operation Raccoon City. Also, if you've dreamed about playing as S.T.A.R.S. or Umbrella forces, then this really is your game. The reaction Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is indeed fun. Then again, a lot of games are "fun" these days. It's difficult to pick up one of these action-packed games of the series and then put it back down, but for the sake of pure adrenaline-inducing fun, we've sacrificed the one thing that made the series a gem: horror. These games just aren't scary anymore, and while one can find tension aplenty in Operation Raccoon City, a large distinction can be made between "What's around that corner?" and "Holy sh*t, lots of things are running at me from around that corner!" Within the small room where Operation Raccoon City was presented, I had the chance to mingle and chat with fellow press members about their impressions of the game. A fellow Destructoid lackey (who shall remain Max Scoville) said to me, "The game has become so convoluted over the years. I lost track of what's going on a long time ago." I couldn't agree more. Since Umbrella was eighty-sixed from the series' canon, I don't really know or care about what's happening. I asked others at the demo if they knew who the new "evil company" was in the series now, and they just shrugged. I looked it up; they're called Tricell. Yeah, f*ck if I know who they are too. An associate of mine, Vincent Ingenito from totalplaystation.com, mentioned that he was never too thrilled about the series' changes. "It was one of the few games that really had its own identity," he said. "Not many games really took from it directly. Now we have a plethora of over-the-shoulder action shooters, so [Resident Evil] has become just another game in the pile." These were pretty profound words coming from someone who actually liked the game. Pretty much everyone I spoke with at the demo made similar comments. People's feelings towards this franchise are an odd case; they enjoy the games and find them fun, however they can't get over the fact that they just aren't the same ... sort of like the Star Wars prequels, but less zombies on screen. Dawn of the dying genre? Really, it's tough to argue that survival horror has lost the popularity it once had. Oh, the appeal is still there, as plenty of horror titles make their way into homes, but the genre has definitely lost some steam. If anything, the life of horror titles is a bipolar one -- full of ups and downs, highs and lows. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a prime example of some of the lengths that a publisher will go to keep a sinking franchise afloat. This isn't a really a full Resident Evil game, to be honest, but rather a half of one. If you feel like taking a trip down memory lane, then you really can't go wrong with this game. It's got Umbrella, S.T.A.R.S. members, Raccoon City, Tyrants, the G-virus, and numerous other pieces of Resident Evil flare. If you feel like being terrified, then look elsewhere. Games like these that allow you to karate chop zombies just don't have that. Still, if you don't give a damn and crave more non-stop action, then be sure to keep tabs on this one.
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The name Resident Evil conjures up a lot of fond memories for most of us gamers. For me, it was my very first experience with the original PlayStation -- as it was for many other people. This slowly paced and macabre series s...

Preview: Street Fighter X Tekken through a noob's eyes

Feb 11 // Ryan Perez
Street Fighter X Tekken (PC, PlayStation 3 [previewed], PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360)Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease: March 6, 2012 Something about competition and skill After a few whiskey sours, my overwhelming anxiety amidst the crowd of warm, odorous bodies began to die down (yeah, I'm a freakin' mess at public events). I eventually snuck away from my fellow Dtoid peons and proceeded to watch people play the game then interview the losers as they gave up their spots. After one particularly close game -- close enough to evoke a roar from onlookers -- I asked the loser, Daniel, about those moments after a defeat. "Sometimes you get a rush that, win or lose, you walk away from feeling pretty pumped," he told me. "Sometimes, though, it feels like your five-year girlfriend has just broken up with you ... leaving you with a broken heart." Although I haven't dedicated much time to this genre, I could see where Dan was coming from. These guys aren't button mashers. They've studied these games to the point where certain characters are like extensions of themselves. "You basically pick your pony and roll with it," Daniel added. "After enough practice, everything becomes second nature, and you focus more on the other player than yourself." I've never really had anyone explain this genre's gameplay in that way before. Any gamer can understand what it's like to know a game so well that you don't even notice your own actions -- you just do things impulsively. I've gotten great at games that require a lot of time to attain that sort of intuition, which includes those "hell yes" moments upon victory. The appeal of Street Fighter X Tekken was starting to dawn on me. A one-of-a-kind clash At the same station, Daniel's victor had lost the subsequent match. As the woman, Jessica, walked away with a bit of a satisfied grin, I asked her something I had asked Dan: What's the most attractive thing about these games? "Are you kidding?" she exclaimed. "Where else do I get the chance to beat the crap out of other guys?" After I took a step back, I asked her to elaborate on her statement. "Fighting games don't have much in common with others," she continued. "I mean, other games sometimes have fighting gameplay, but they don't have the kind of depth or all-out aggression that games like Tekken have. I can't really find other games like these." What Jessica said made perfect sense to me. Once you look at the medium as a whole, fighting games really are a standalone genre. It's easy to find minute similarities between other types of games, but ones like Street Fighter X Tekken are about as pure as they come. Fighting games haven't changed much and that's exactly their appeal -- no extra baggage that others have accumulated over the years. This, to me, seems like a big a reason why these games have held on for so long. While other genres have slowly melded together into a lineup of little distinction, series like Street Fighter and Tekken have retained what made them appealing from the start. Because such an undiluted experience can't really be found elsewhere, fighting games have managed to retain a substantial following. Another point goes to Street Fighter X Tekken for appeal. Eye gouging me with good looks Street Fighter X Tekken's aesthetics are basically a throwback to the old sprite-based graphics of the genre's earlier years. Whenever other franchises try this approach, though, the results are usually either overly simple toon shading that looks boring or the exact same visual style from that genre's inception. Thankfully, this is not the case with Street Fighter X Tekken. Sweet cinnamon-swirled Christ, this game is gorgeous. The textures on character models and backgrounds have a very painterly feel to them, breathing new life into a medium that's overloaded with technical trickery. Most other titles use straight power to cover up their shitty art, but this game lets the talent of its visual designers shine through. It's especially interesting to see the Tekken characters with such colorful personality -- at times, Heihachi looks like a cute, huggable elder. The slick art direction is greatly complimented by smooth animation as well as vibrant and striking particle effects. Fighters' moves connect with a sort of fluidity and flare that makes them actually seem like they're doing some damage. Ultra combos are presented in the type of exaggerated style only found in Japanese animation; some of them even got me laughing at how insane they were. In this age, it's getting more difficult to dazzle people with visuals. Fortunately, Street Fighter X Tekken doesn't try to make the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 sweat via shaders and maps. It knows exactly what it's trying to be -- an insane roller coaster of dropkicks and haymakers -- and doesn't pull any punches whatsoever, no pun intended. You are definitely going to anticipate every character's different moves, because each one is pure sex for the eyes. Can someone lend me $60? As a previewer, my job is to remain objective about each gaming experience and only deliver the facts. I'm not here to sell a game; I just state what I found interesting and worthy of keeping tabs on. But, son of a bitch, I've sort of already made up my mind about Street Fighter X Tekken. After speaking with two more gamers following Jessica, it was my turn to play. I looked around to make sure no coworker or associates were watching, and then proceeded to have my own digital testicles handed to me. While losing is never a great feeling, I had a blast playing a genre that I haven't been into since the 90s. I found it particularly nice that certain moves from Ryu and Guile were just as I remembered from older days. So I kind of want this game now. I'm flat broke, but I'm definitely going to try to pick it up some time after it hits the shelves. I have no doubt that most fighting fans out there have already decided to pre-order Street Fighter X Tekken, but those undecided folks who like fast gameplay, beautiful visuals, and crave an untainted old-school experience should definitely be on the lookout for this title.
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A friend once told me he thought fighting games had cool characters. After he wiped the blood from his head, he quickly apologized to me and said, "Perhaps I should rethink that statement." Then miraculously, out of a nearby ...

Preview: Play with yourself in Blades of Time

Feb 09 // Ryan Perez
Blades of Time (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Gaijin EntertainmentPublisher: KonamiRelease: March 6, 2012 Sorry, no science here I hate to burst this bubble early on, but Blades of Time's narrative doesn't seem to be much about actual time travel. Any geeks who are expecting the obligatory pulp sci-fi to accompany this tale will be a bit disappointed. As time travel is just a gameplay mechanic, its role in the overall story is nothing more than a wizard's wand or a Jedi's Force -- a useful tool but not the main focus. Gamers will take on the role of Ayumi, a loathingly attractive woman who finds herself conveniently trapped on an island riddled with conflict and turmoil. While in the middle of a clash between the island's inhabitants and some ambiguous evil, Ayumi begins to uncover and harness the secret powers that the island holds in order to escape. It's a bit of a bummer that Gaijin Entertainment (yes, that's their name) decided to go with a fantasy approach, rather than feature the expected sci-fi themes, but ... well, if you're not necessarily interested in the fine details of time travel, perhaps the narrative could grow on you. To be real, it's got a hot woman with minimal clothing and large cutlery; nobody's expecting H.G. Wells here, obviously. Two heads are better than one This is the interesting part: the time-travel mechanic. While Ayumi hacks away at her enemies in the oh-so-popular God of War fashion, she can rewind the action to give herself a nice advantage. This isn't Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time logic, though, where the player is forced backwards with the flow of time. Instead, time rewinds around the player, and they witness an alternate version of themselves being affected by it. Think of it as The Time Machine versus Back to the Future. In the former, the "Time Traveler" himself moves within a single dimension of time and space, whereas in the latter, Marty McFly finds himself in alternate universes where different versions of himself exist. What does this mean in terms of Blades of Time's gameplay? Once you've turned the clock back a bit, players get to fight alongside that alternate version of themselves until that moment they decided to go back. This means using that older version of Ayumi as a second pair of blades, or even a nifty distraction at times. Some enemies are so swift that circling around them to hit the weak spot on their back is impossible. Reversing everything a few seconds gives "Ayumi A" the opportunity to circle around the enemy, all while it's hacking away at the front by "Ayumi B." I was quite surprised by how well this mechanic worked. From a design perspective, I couldn't imagine how much of a pain it must have been to program and implement it into the game. When I asked Gaijin Entertainment co-founder Anton Yudintsev about it, he merely answered, "It's actually more difficult to design a concept than it is to make it." Well I'll be damned; I learn something new every day in this industry. A multi-dimensional ... MOBA? Yep, Blades of Time features a mode much like League of Legends or Defense of the Ancients, known as "Outbreak Mode." Basically, players can face off against each other or computer opponents; both sides are given a few lines of turrets and a steady supply of spawning minions. The goal: destroy the enemy's main tower. I was a little perplexed when I was first told about this mode. Once I played it, though, I actually enjoyed it. Any fans of MOBA games (I myself am addicted to League of Legends) will feel right at home, as the same rules apply in Outbreak Mode. For example: turrets will attack you unless you let minions rush in first, and players are even given their pick of two special abilities with their own cooldown times. Part of me wonders what fans of this genre will quit their actual MOBA games for Blades. The mode is pretty fun, and the third-person perspective is an interesting twist on the genre, but it still is a bit too simple. Then again, MOBA games aren't exactly rocket science, themselves. Perhaps some people will love the shit out of Outbreak Mode. I certainly enjoyed it. Time is on our side I won't lie, Blades was nothing like what I expecting; the fighting mechanics are deep and fairly intuitive; the weapon selection is considerable; and taking advantage of time is a fun addition to the gameplay. All that's left is for me to have more than an hour with the game, then I can make some real judgments. If you dig straight fantasy, fast combat and amusing gameplay features, then you should keep an eye on Blades on Time. Doubling the attractive protagonist is an enticing concept, after all.
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Geeks seem to love screwing with natural order. Whether it's by creating biological weapons that breed a form of undead human, or by using ugly '80s cars to go back in time and narrowly escape sex with a younger version of th...

Preview: Shank 2 makes killing joyful

Jan 25 // Ryan Perez
Shank 2 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Developer: Klei Entertainment Publisher: Electronic Arts Release: Q1 2012  While the world of digital downloads may be fairly crowded with hack 'n' slash games of the 2D variety, it's not difficult to spot the talent and effort that has been put into games like Shank 2. Drawing first blood The first thing I have to point out is that this game looks great. The color scheme lends itself wonderfully to what looks like its Southeast Asia-inspired setting. Enemies pop out from the background well, and even elemental effects like fire and smoke are graphically pleasing. One thing that really stood out to me was the animation. In this age of 3D realism and motion capture, the idiosyncratic qualities of 2D animation have been lost with the times; even sprite animation, while still used to this day, is seen as somewhat novel. Shank 2 features countless examples of well-done animation fundamentals with exaggerated poses, squashing and stretching, and great secondary and tertiary actions within run cycles and attack animations. I have an animation degree -- however, I'm terrible at 2D animation -- so I can better appreciate the skill involved to produce a game that looks like Shank 2. Nonetheless, any gamer that can step outside the perspective of his/her own limitations should be able to admire how fluid this game's art is. The thrill of the kill As stated before: Shank 2 is humorously violent. The carnage isn't presented in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, but rather with such unapologetic brutality that it ironically gains a bit of class in the process. It's just humbling to shove a baseball bat into someone's mouth and then stomp on it ... like watching the birth of a baby giraffe. Every weapon provided in Shank 2 features its own blood-laden counter attack, which influences the desire to try them all. When an enemy swung his machete at me only to have his neck slashed open by Shank's crude blades, the result was a crimson mess that forced a smirk across my face. As if that wasn't gratifying enough, once I got the chainsaw ... holy sh*t. Shank proceeded to jam it into attacker's mouths, and I proceeded to laugh out loud. Am I a messed up person, or is there something to shoving weapons into people's mouths? It's like some ultimate insult. Next stop: a nuclear bomb. I didn't get to try out every weapon, unfortunately, but Shank 2 presented a variety of savage kills to satiate the sick f*ck inside of me. Certain stages even provided trap doors, which dropped enemies into some sort of grinder apparatus -- and then carried the bloody mess through its compilation of cogs and gears. All I could think was, "Yes, I agree with that result." A natural selection It seems like it's becoming standard to have a mode in action games where waves of enemies come at you. I usually skip over these modes because they've always seemed like filler to me, but Shank 2's Survival Mode was actually somewhat enjoyable. Players start off by choosing a variety of Shank skins, each with its own unique set of attributes and weapons. Those who prefer brute force can choose the Shank skin that's high in strength, and comes equipped with a sledge hammer and sawed-off shotgun. I'm a gun person, myself, so I chose the model with high ranged skill and dual pistols. This particular skin was also black and had an afro, which I found peculiar. I can sense a great and inappropriate racist joke in here, somewhere. The gameplay -- which can be enjoyed with a friend -- consists of timed waves of enemies that attack players, as they move between two different levels of platforms. The catch, though, is that enemy bombers will arrive at times to plant explosives on stockpiles of munitions, which players must protect at all costs. The combination of fighting for your life and protecting objectives adds a nice degree of tension to the experience; this is especially true when large bosses make appearances. Thankfully, the game provides a currency system for you to buy health, finite specialty weapons, turrets, and even war boars (yes, you read that correctly). Another handy tool is the familiar trap door at the center of the stage. Just be wary of your partner before using it. I fell into the damned thing on more than one occasion. You don't just turn it off Shank 2 is shaping up to be a pretty addictive game. Once I witnessed the satisfying effect of a counter attack, I wanted to see more. Unfortunately, my time with the game was limited, so now I must wait for its release like everyone else. Here's hoping the whole experience is just as fun as the short amount of time I spent playing it.
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Shank 2 is a lot nastier than I was expecting. That's the good kind of nasty ... the kind that makes you think, "I am so freaking glad I did that move." Anyone who has an odd attraction to exaggerated cartoon violence should ...

Preview: UFC Undisputed 3 turns me into a bro

Jan 19 // Ryan Perez
UFC Undisputed 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)Developer: Yuke'sPublisher: THQRelease: February 14, 2012 (North America) / February 17, 2012 (Europe) Practice makes perfect: Like many other career modes in individualistic sports games, players will start their journey at the bottom of the barrel. After creating their own fighter, they'll train in the game's basic controls (and basic strategy of the sport) and partake in several local bouts before entering a professional league and facing off against known fighters. Players' professional careers won't just span one organization, but several -- from WFA to Pride -- as they lay claim to the championship title of each league. Before attaining complete fame and glory, though, players will hone their skills via training regiments and drills (unless you're already good at this sort of thing). UFC Undisputed 3 features several new exercises to help refine those martial arts skills; fighters can jump into the practice ring for a traditional sparring match, touch up on specific jabs, punches, and combinations with a personal coach, or develop their reflexes through a number of simple mini-games . All of these training features not only provide gameplay instructions, but also teach newcomers the fundamentals of the sport, which makes for an enthralling experience, overall. Speaking of which, another welcome addition to the game is the ability for players to attend six actual training camps, such as Greg Jackson's, and even join one of their choosing. While I didn't have much time to explore this, personally, I'm aware that these camps play a large role in the careers of professional  fighters, and UFC fan will undoubtedly get a kick out of having Greg Jackson rooting for them in their corner. Satisfying those manly instincts At times, I find myself surfing through YouTube videos of drunken bar fights and one-hit knockouts (don't judge). I fancy myself an educated and "enlightened" man, but something about traditional fighting turns me into a barking ape and makes me think, "Fuck yes!" It's as basic of a male emotion as I can muster, and UFC Undisputed 3 is yet another of those things that brings out my suppressed but oh-so-enjoyable primitive side. As THQ presented the game in front of the press, two of the company's community managers faced each other in an exhibition match. When one fighter got the other in a headlock and began to ferociously knee him in the face, I emitted a slight chuckle of amusement -- loud enough to draw the attention of the game's director standing close to me. Every punch, kick, and slam is presented with the right sound and animation; brutal is a word that only barely describes how some fights turn out. The right blow to the face can even send fighters into a daze, encouraging a spell of panic as players struggle to block incoming attacks until the dizziness wears off. Continuous body shots will bruise and discolor ribs. Blood will splatter from one fighter onto the other. The whole experience can be pretty nasty, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It's arguable that the majority of videogames are masculine in nature and ripe with cheap machismo, but not many games indulge fighting for the sake of fighting. As THQ's employees duked it out, and the observing press audibly stated their displeasure with each perfectly landed haymaker and high kick, it became abundantly clear that cage fighting (both real and in game form) appealed to some raw form of the average guy. I don't think I've been this intrigued by something new in a long, long time. No more number crunching: I've always found it somewhat surprising that sports games have become so quantified; such a large aspect of the experience is about stats and averages. While such features are expected and commonplace in certain genres, I personally don't want to play an RPG while I'm living out my athletic fantasies -- especially if they involve turning my opponents into potatoes. Thankfully, UFC Undisputed 3 has toned down the numerical management. Undisputed 3 gives players the choice to let the game automatically distribute skill points to their fighters, which means less time spent juggling numbers and more time spent redecorating opponents' faces. If players do want to get deep into their fighter's stats, the option is there, of course. But I myself am one of those people who often failed math in school, so I'm going to do myself a favor and avoid rekindling those memories of shame and disappointment. This automatic management option, on top of the removal of Stat Decay (which I'm assuming was meant to simulate a fighter's aging process) creates a faster, more arcade-style pace that will surely be preferred by people who want to get right into the action. Getting stronger UFC Undisputed 3 is shaping up to be the strongest in the series. With its tight controls, robust career mode, attractive graphics, and emphasis on action, fans of the series have a lot to look forward to, and newcomers will undoubtedly find something worth their attention.
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I'm not an athletic person. To me, exercise if the farthest thing from fun, and exhausting myself half to death is akin to self flagellation. Even the never-changing world of sports is something that I find quite uninterestin...


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