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Batman: Arkham Origins photo
Batman: Arkham Origins

Everyone wants Batman dead in this Arkham Origins trailer


That must be a depressing feeling
Oct 23
// Brett Makedonski
Much like Washington and his famous trip across the Delaware River, Batman doesn't care much for taking the holidays off. Well, to be fair, he can't. Not when the entirety of Gotham City's underground is trying to kill him. ...
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Troy Baker KILLS it as the new voice of The Joker


Hear him do the monologue from The Killing Joke
Oct 14
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Troy Baker is one of the biggest voice actors in gaming these days. He's been the main voices in Saints Row IV, The Last of Us, BioShock Infinite, and will soon play Revolver Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. A...
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Batman Arkham Bundle brings together the first two games


Plus most of the downloadable content
Sep 16
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Just in time for Batman: Arkham Origins, the Batman Arkham Bundle collects the first two games with most of the downloadable content packs and garbage that were released. For Batman: Arkham Asylum, you'll be getting the Game ...
Rambo game figurine photo
Rambo game figurine

Rambo: The Video Game has Sly pre order figurines


Ramb-oh-no!
Aug 19
// Steven Hansen
Rambo: The Video Game is happening apropos of nothing. The game mashes up First Blood, First Blood Part Two, and Rambo III. The first two get three inch figurines that look a little like Keanu Reeves with pre-order at select ...
Freddy Krueger photo
Freddy Krueger

Now Freddy Krueger is getting an NES-themed figurine


Jason has a playmate
Aug 08
// Tony Ponce
And the world becomes a little bit better. Hot on the heels of NECA's incredible videogame Jason Voorhees, which sold out super fast at San Diego Comic-Con, comes videogame Freddy Krueger. Like his Friday the 13th counterpart...
Rambo photo
Rambo

Rambo: The Video Game gets Rambo: The Trailer


Not by the hair on my chiny chin chin!
Jul 10
// Tony Ponce
I completely forgot that there was a Rambo game, which covers events from the first three movies, coming out for PS3, 360, and PC. It looks so jank. Polish developer Teyon doesn't exactly have the most spectacular of resumes...
Young Justice: Legacy photo
Young Justice: Legacy

This Young Justice: Legacy trailer serves no purpose


It's ThunderCats all over again
May 29
// Tony Ponce
Young Justice was a show about the DC universe sidekicks going on world-shaping undercover missions while the main superheroes battled the much more public threats. Sounds badass, doesn't it? Too badass for Cartoon Network, ...

The odds are against you in Batman: Arkham Origins

May 20 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Batman: Arkham Origins (PC, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360 [previewed])Developer: Warner Bros. MontrealPublisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentRelease: October 25, 2013 (Worldwide) The dangers that await you in Gotham Bruce has been Batman for only a short time when players take control of him in Origins, and he's gotten used to taking on average, weaker criminals. That all changes on this particular Christmas Eve night as Black Mask, the biggest crime boss in Gotham, has hired eight assassins to hunt down the Bat. You'll have to deal with these assassins plus Black Mask himself in a Gotham that's double the size of what we had in Arkham City. That's largely thanks to the fact that Arkham City prison has yet to be built, so you not have two islands offering a lot more vertical gameplay. Deathstroke is one of the assassins after you, but there are more DC characters beyond those you'll be facing in the main story, such as the ones you'll be encountering in the Most Wanted multi-tiered side story missions. One such example is Anarky, a villain who has an obsession with Batman, and he has planted a bomb that you must defuse before it goes off. There are new basic enemy types too, like the martial artists who are able to counter Batman's moves. You can counter their counters, but they can counter again, making for some interesting fights. I also saw heavily armored goons who you have to wear down then strip of their armor before you're able to knock them out. A younger Batman means he can punches faster, throwing off a lightning-quick succession of punches in fights against heavy units. New tricks and skills The natural open world feeling is ever present in Origins, and you'll come across any number of dynamic events as you're trying to complete quests. You'll be able to intercept 911 calls, which are part of the new Crime in Progress system. In the demo, Batman intercepts a call and takes on a bunch of Black Mask goons who had just robbed a bank. Players will get more detailed feedback on their performance after fights as well. You're getting graded on your encounters, showing players what they can do to improve their skills. One new tool is the Remote Claw. You'll first select a location where you want to launch the device, then select a target to hook them. So for instance, you can select a perch on which to stick the Claw, then have the Claw grab an enemy and string him up by his legs. You can hook an explosive barrel that will pull itself into an enemy, instantly knocking them out. You can also use the Claw to create a tightrope path from one point to another. There's also fast travel now via the Batwing, but you'll have to unlock access first. There are radio towers scattered across Gotham under the control by some villain, and only when you've liberated these towers will you gain fast travel options. More emphasis on Detective Mode At one point, a police helicopter finds you and orders Batman to surrender. The cops don't trust Batman at this point in history, but before anything can happen, the helicopter suddenly gets damaged and crashes into the streets below for seemingly no reason. Batman has to figure what happened, and it's here where we see the new Detective Mode feature. Batman heads to where the helicopter crashes, and slowly walks around the crime scene so the Bat Computer can evaluate things. Once you've gotten enough data, the computer can creat a 3D simulation of the events that just unfolded, which you can then replay like a video while searching for evidence. There's not enough data yet, so Batman heads back up to the roof and processes more video. Upon playback of the scene, Batman sees that a bullet had struck the helicopter's propeller. Batman follows the angle of the bullet to find a SWAT cop killed on a nearby roof. Did the cop do it? Upon one final inspection, you see that the cop was actually aiming at Batman earlier, and was killed by another sniper bullet. That same sniper bullet ricocheted off the wall and struck the helicopter. Batman knows that only Deadshot can pull off something like this, and the analysis of the scene will lead you to where Deadshot fired the gun. The new Batman and Joker voices At the end of the demo, Batman rides an elevator up and finds Bane at the top floor waiting for our hero. Bane beats up Batman a little, then tosses him right at the feet of the Joker. There's a row of explosive charges next to Joker, one of which is evidently being used to blackmail Bane. Joker then grabs one of the explosive charges and blows up a building near the one you all are in. You can see the building explode, and the force of the explosion blows open the windows in the room Batman and Joker are currently in. This back-and-forth between the two iconic characters also showcased their new voices. As I revealed earlier, Roger Craig Smith, best known as Ezio Auditore from Assassin's Creed, is Batman, while Troy Baker, best known as Booker in BioShock Infinite, is Joker. It makes sense that younger versions of these characters would be better suited by younger-sounding voices. But while I think Troy is perfect as Joker, I'm not quite feeling Roger as Batman here. Former Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy is involved in the game somehow, but we've yet to learn where he'll appear. It all still feels like an Arkham game There are a bunch of new features and additions, but the core of it all still feels like the same Arkham game we're used to. You're a one-man fighting machine taking on criminals all while being hunted by assassins and the police. I wonder what other villains we can expect. I love that someone like Deathstroke is involved, as it could offer up far more interesting boss fights. I want more of a brawler-type setup over the traditional boss encounters from the past. I hope WB Montreal tries to evolve things in this regard.
Arkham Origins preview photo
Eight deadly assassins are hunting you down
Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel in the Arkham franchise, following a Batman who's more myth than legend at this point in his crime fighting career. This is a younger Bruce Wayne, more agile in combat yet still equipped w...

Batman and Joker have new voice actors in Arkham Origins

May 20 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
[embed]254016:48705:0[/embed] So what about Kevin Conroy? Well, as he revealed this past weekend on a panel at Dallas Comic-Con, he will indeed be in the game, but in what form is not clear. Could an older Batman be narrating while reflecting on his past? We'll know soon enough.
Arkham Origins VAs photo
They're both famous videogame VAs
Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel, and as such developer Warner Bros. Montreal is changing the voices of Batman and Joker. "We went in our game back several years [and] we really wanted to cast people that sounded like t...

Origins teaser trailer photo
Origins teaser trailer

Suit up for this Batman: Arkham Origins teaser trailer


Deathstroke gets his assassin on
May 16
// Chris Carter
Batman battles the relentless Deathstroke in this new teaser trailer for Batman: Arkham Origins, and honestly, that's about all you're going to get. Batman scowls, the sword comes out, and he blocks it with his arm blades li...
Star Wars + EA photo
Disney and EA sign exclusive multi-year agreement
After The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of LucasArts last year, the development house as we knew it was effectively closed. Disney moved the studio into a licensing model, "minimizing the company's risk while achieving a ...

Batman: Arkham Origins announced

Apr 09 // Jim Sterling
Batman: Arkham Origins photo
Latest Arkham title will not be developed by Rocksteady
That distributor of exclusive game announcements, Game Informer, has revealed its May issue cover and unveiled Batman: Arkham Origins in the process. Warner Brothers Montreal is on the project, taking over from Rocksteady.&nb...

Rock Band photo
Rock Band

Metallica Pack 01 removed from Rock Band Music Store


As licensing agreements expire, Harmonix working to minimize effects
Apr 08
// Conrad Zimmerman
If you hopped on to the Rock Band Music Store today, planning to buy "Ride the Lightning," you may have already missed your chance. That song, and the other three tracks making up "Metallica Track Pack 01" have been removed f...

GDC: Digital Extremes' Star Trek isn't looking too hot

Mar 26 // Abel Girmay
Star Trek: The Game (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)Developer: Digital ExtremesPublisher: Namco Bandai, Paramount StudiosRelease: April 23, 2013 Like Army of Two, 2013's Star Trek is built around co-op play. You can solo it of course, but playing with a human partner is ideal. This comes out in the writing quite a bit, with no shortage of friendly banter between the action-happy, smart-mouthed Kirk and the calm, calculated Spock. Both characters see Chris Pine and Zack Quinto reprise their respective roles, as does the remainder of the USS Enterprise crew. Simon Pegg is Scotty, Zoe Saldana is Uhura, and so on. The remainder of Star Trek's presentation is getting the same TLC, with the films' composer Michael Giacchino returning to lead a 100-piece orchestra for the score, and God of War series writer Marianne Krawczyk penning the script. If one thing is clear, it's that Star Trek is certainly not lacking for production values. More than an extra gun, you and your partner are actually reliant on each other, and in more ways than your help-me-open-this-door segments -- though there are plenty of those too. In a GDC demo, I found myself regularly splitting up from my partner, with the actions happening on one end affecting the other. Playing as Kirk, one of the early platforming segments had me racing to the end in order to disable a trap laser my Spock partner had to dodge. We've seen these sorts of co-op moments before, and at the very least they work just as well here. Not working quite so well are the moment-to-moment shooting and platforming. Don't get me wrong its all functional, just not particularly refined. With the exception of some areas that offer two ways to reach an objective, presumably for convenience as you have to wait for your partner to make it across before you can start, the platforming is completely linear. That on its own is not a bad thing, but it's almost funny when the way forward is highlighted by black-and-yellow caution stripes. With the exception of a few hidden paths, literally every claimable ledge was highlighted by these caution stripes. In this particular demo, which took place on a rapidly decaying space station, it became almost comedic as I would often walk into a room, have the floor explode and upended right in front of me, and see black-and-yellow stripes neatly adorned across the scalable rubble. Immersion breaking aside, there doesn't seem to be a great sense of momentum or weight to the platforming, with jumps that feel like canned animations rather than fluid movements. Shooting feels similarly rudimentary in places with aiming that doesn't feel particularity smooth. That grievance aside, the gunplay features some level of variety with 25 different weapons, each with an alternate fire. And yes, there is a phaser, and you can set it to stun or kill. Weapons are also upgradable with XP, accrued from finding collectibles among other actions, improving damage recharge speed and the like. So while Star Trek takes a lot of cues from the better games in the action-adventure genre, I can't honestly hold out hope that they will meld well for this specific title.
Star Trek photo
Beam me up, Sc--actually, no rush
Take a beloved franchise like Star Trek, influences from the heavier hitters in a genre, and you can't go too wrong, right? Well that final verdict of course remains to be seen, but I can't say Digital Extremes' Star Trek makes a good case for itself.

More Warhammer 40,000 photo
More Warhammer 40,000

Slitherine is making a turn-based Warhammer 40,000 game


New deal with Games Workshop announced
Mar 15
// Jordan Devore
Strategy game developer Slitherine has signed a licensing agreement with Games Workshop to make a multiplatform turn-based title based on Warhammer 40,000, it was announced this week. This project will be in line with what th...
Activision layoffs photo
Activision layoffs

Activision expects to have fewer licensed games this year


Approximately 30 full-time employees laid off
Feb 20
// Jordan Devore
Word got out yesterday that Activision had laid off around 30 full-time employees, which was later confirmed by the company. "Like any successful business, Activision Publishing consistently works to align its costs with its...

Aliens games to play that aren't Aliens: Colonial Marines

Feb 12 // Jim Sterling
Alien 3SEGA Genesis1993 I have fond memories of Alien 3. Not the most refined of games, this sidescrolling shooter nonetheless maintains its own unique charm. A nice little soundtrack, an atmospheric (for its time) visual style, and a genuine effort to be authentic as possible within the 16-bit limitations, Alien 3 is worth giving a spin. If you're into vent crawling, ladder climbing, prisoner rescuing and Alien blasting, you'll get your fix right here.  The fact I still remember that stage intro screen after all these years has got to say something!  Alien TrilogyPlayStation, SEGA Saturn, PC1996 Okay, Alien Trilogy isn't that good of a game, and it's here mostly for nostalgia. I played the everloving hell out of it when I was a kid, and I recall many a school sick day spent playing this little number. The music still induces a little shiver down my spine.  Trilogy is a fairly basic little DOOM clone. You run around various stages inspired by Alien, Aliens and Alien 3, blasting Alien warriors, Dog Aliens, and excruciatingly annoying Chestbursters. The game's stingy with its ammo and can be pretty damn cheap, which is why I rarely felt shame inputting the famous password:  1GOTP1NK8C1DBOOTSON. That's, "I got pink acid boots on" for those lacking an eye for subtlety. Great cheat name, and the unlimited firepower was certainly nothing to spit at! You can pick PSOne discs up for peanuts on eBay, and it'll work on your PS3. Worth a spin, if only for reminiscence's sake.  Aliens vs. Predator 2PC, Mac2001 If I'm quite honest, I never really gelled with any of the Rebellion/Monolith AvP games, but AvP2 is so fondly regarded, I'd not be doing my job if it was omitted from the pile. This game is widely considered the last word in terms of Marine-on-Xenomorph-on-Predator action, with its three-way battles designed to make Preds feel badass, Xenos feel insidious, and Marines shit their pants. In many ways, playing as the terrified and powerless humans was the most fun part of the game. You are gonna die, but sometimes it's hilarious to be so utterly screwed. I may not have quite appreciated it the way some people did, but I'd be a fool to contest the assertion that it pretty much codified the idea of what an Aliens vs. Predator game should be, and has not been topped by anything in the field. There just doesn't exist a worthy adversary to this particular installment.  Aliens: ExterminationArcade2006 Anybody who hangs out with me for any length of time will soon learn one thing -- if there's an Extermination arcade machine in the vicinity, I'm going to find and play it. A few places local to me always seem to boast one of these, and I consider it a failure of a trip if I visit one of these places and don't waste at least one coin.  Extermination is a typical lightgun shooter. You grab your plastic pulse rifle and face the incoming horde of screaming Xenomorphs. It's silly arcade fun that never tries to be anything else, and while it looks pretty dated now, it still offers a pretty good commitment to detail and some cool environments. Plus, who isn't a sucker for a solid plastic-gun-holdy-shooty game? Aliens vs. PredatorArcade1994 Aliens vs. Predator for arcade is one of those games that really make me hate the dodgy world of licensing. Capcom made this, but SEGA owns the rights to Aliens games, so the chances of it ever getting a re-release are minimal at best. Still, if you can get a chance to play it, do so. It's bursting with character, is entertainingly ridiculous, and delivers some righteous brawler action the only way a Capcom arcade game can. You get to be either a Marine or a Predator, and face off against an army of increasingly colorful and bizarre Xenomorphs. It's as garish and neon as any nineties brawler could be, and I love it for that fact. The Alien designs are outlandish and strictly nonsensical, but that doesn't stop them from being cooler than they had any right to be. I have a lot of time for this little beauty.  Aliens: InfestationNintendo DS2011 SEGA's run with the license may not be the most glorious chapter of interactive Aliens history, but it is at least responsible for bringing us Aliens: Infestation, a genuinely great scrolling shooter from the fine folks at WayForward. Atmospheric, original, and closer to the spirit of the property than Colonial Marines could ever hope to be, this unique little spin on the Aliens universe is challenging, engaging, and quite a lot of fun. Players get to switch between four Marines at any one time, and there is a small army of 19 heroes to rescue and play. The twist is that once one of them dies, they're gone for good. If you start growing fond of one (which is possible, as they all have their own neat looks and personalities), you may very well find yourself in mourning.  For a retro-style shooter, Infestation is surprisingly scary. Aliens hit hard, and hit fast, while the dismal environments can be genuinely foreboding. While the difficulty can border on the wrong side of unfair, it at least makes Xenomorphs intimidating, credible threats, returning some of the edge they've lost in the transition from indestructible stalker to mindless bug. 
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Xenomorph action that won't ruin your day
Aliens: Colonial Marines is finally out over more than half a decade of waiting, and the disappointment is real enough to lick. It's a terrible letdown, to the point that this particular Aliens fan -- who buys almost anything...

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Batman: Arkham 3 is due for release in 2013 [Update]


Arkhaaaaaaaaw MAH GAWD!
Feb 12
// Jim Sterling
[Update: According to the rumor mill, Rocksteady won't be involved in this one. According to my Twitter feed of random people saying random things, the less-spectacular Spark Unlimited may take the helm. Hmmmm.] Warner Bros. ...
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Walking Dead: Survival Instinct finally gets real trailer


Was it worth the wait?
Feb 07
// Jim Sterling
Activision's tried to put it off for as long as possible, but has finally released a real gameplay trailer for The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. Now the day's finally arrived, I don't even know what to say. In all honesty...
Delayed DLC photo
Delayed DLC

Scott Pilgrim DLC has last-minute delay


After years of waiting, more waiting
Feb 04
// Conrad Zimmerman
Last week, we reported on an announcement regarding long-anticipated downloadable content for Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game posted to the Tumblr of Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O'Malley which vanished into...
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Finally, a new Dynasty Warriors-style Kamen Rider game


Took 'em long enough
Jan 16
// Josh Tolentino
Well, it's about time! Toei's Kamen Rider was a Dynasty Warriors before Dynasty Warriors of a sort, defined as it was by a lone hero in a ridiculous costume effortlessly plowing through hordes of weak mini...
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The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct confirmed for Wii U


Shuffling in ZombiU's footsteps
Jan 10
// Jim Sterling
[Update: The Walking Dead is coming out on March 26 in North America.] The likes of Crysis 3 and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 may be turning their backs on the Wii U, but never fear! Activision never misses a trick, and has...

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct trailer is ... hmmmm

Jan 02 // Jim Sterling
Oh. Looks like I wasn't wrong about the screen tearing.
Walking Dead: SI footage photo
Footage of first-person zombie spin-off fails to impress
[Update: This is a not an official trailer by Activision or Terminal Reality. Rather, it's a fan made video of gameplay clips taken from an interview by IGN Start on the upcoming game.] The Terminal Reality-developed The Wal...

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SEGA/Creative Assembly get Games Workshop license


Total Warhammer
Dec 06
// Jim Sterling
SEGA has inked a deal with Games Workshop in order to start bringing Warhammer games into production. Creative Assembly, the studio responsible for Total War, will be working on the fantasy tabletop IP.  THQ still has th...

Review: Transformers Prime: The Game

Dec 04 // Jim Sterling
Transformers Prime: The Game (Wii, Wii U [reviewed])Developer: NowproPublisher: ActivisionRelease: October 4 (Wii), October 18 (Wii U)MSRP: $39.99 (Wii) $49.99 (Wii U) Transformers Prime is about as basic as a game can get. Its levels typically run between two and four minutes, consisting either of remedial brawling or on-rails vehicular sections. Usually you get about forty to sixty seconds of gameplay buffered by brief and pointless cutscenes, themselves lasting seconds long. The lengthiest stage clocked in at around seven minutes, and only because the final boss' health meter took a long time to drain. The battle itself was as good as won several minutes before then -- watching the health bar reduce was little more than busywork.  Easy, lasting maybe two hours long, Transformers Prime's campaign almost goes out of its way to look, sound, and play like the cheap, disposable cash-in it is. It exists for the sole purpose of making money from fans, and does nothing to hide its intentions. At only a mere 120 minutes, Prime is too long, for as repetitive and slow as it is, a running time of thirty minutes could only improve one's sentiments toward it.  Starring one of several predetermined Autobots, each level consists mostly of simplistic button-mashing combat across a series of tiny, unfurnished arenas. Characters perform uncomplicated attacks consisting of pressing either the A or Y button up to three times in various combinations, and can lock to fire a barrage of weak gunfire with the shoulder buttons, or double tap to charge a slightly stronger blast. An obligatory power meter fills with each attack, allowing a temporary "upgrade" mode which delivers more powerful blows. Due to the lousy targeting, attacks frequently miss, or pass harmlessly through opponents. This doesn't matter, because the game is so easy you'll barely feel pressure to keep up the attack. In fact, some fights can be won simply by locking on and holding the fire button until everything's dead.  [embed]239846:45976[/embed] Every so often, you'll encounter a boss battle against one of the Decepticons, who try to scupper your progress with predictable and repeated attack patterns, or shields that are broken by transforming into a vehicle before performing a melee attack to turn into robot form with a powerful smash. There are also linear vehicular chases which require the GamePad to be tilted left and right in order to avoid sparse obstacles. The motion control is as responsive as the vehicles are fast -- not very. There are many mobile racing games with tighter controls and better paced action, available at a fraction of the price.  Is Transformers Prime for children? Probably. Is it unnecessarily cruel to review it? Perhaps. It did, however, arrive unbidden at my doorstep and so I'm duty bound to do something with it. I don't want to write this review. Do you even want to read it? Like the aforementioned final boss of this game, this review was over as soon as it began, and the droning, monotonous attack simply keeps occurring as a matter of formality. With each word, Transformers Prime's health bar drains, our own remains so full of life that we could only fail if we chose to consciously do so. It's at this point the metaphor falls apart.  There is a multiplayer mode, but before you ask who would waste their time going online with it, don't bother -- not even Activision bothered. The multiplayer mode is local only, pitting two players against each other in mindless brawling battles. A range of both Autobots and Decepticons can be chosen, though their attacks are all randomly imbalanced and the vehicle modes of flying transformers are useless, given how it's impossible to target opponents as a jet. Balance, of course, was not the goal here -- like the game itself, this mode exists for no reason other than its own sake.  Graphically, things look terrible, and I suspect Prime's little more than a sloppily upscaled version of the Wii alternative. It certainly looks like it, with its lack of textures, threadbare environments, and unimpressive animation. Not only is this game a cheap licensed brawler, it's a cheap HD port of a cheap licensed brawler. Now that's some serious respect for the Wii U.  The highest praise one can afford this game is that it's playable. It's not broken, nor is it really that offensive. It's just a condensed exercise in bromidic game design, a brief waste of time squirted out of some mercenary developer's squalid hole. It's not terrible enough to be memorable, not good enough to justify your attention, it's just sat there, a stale dumpling on a dirty plate. I would hope even children are more discerning in their tastes than this, but we cannot know that for sure. All I know is, if your idea of a brilliant joke is hearing a robot say "scrap" instead of "crap" every few minutes, Transformers Prime is for you. Not only does it perform that exact joke with that same regularity, your laughing at it qualifies you as stupid enough to think Prime is worth money. 
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Sloptimus Slime
I'll admit, I've struggled to keep up with the Transformers brand since Generation One. I've played the High Moon Studios games, and loved them, but the TV shows have been something of a blur to me -- be it Armada, Animated, ...

Review: Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse

Nov 20 // Jim Sterling
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Heavy Iron StudiosPublisher: ActivisionRelease: November 20, 2012MSRP: $59.99 If Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse provides one laudable service, it's that it is a nostalgic experience. Remember licensed games from the early 2000s? The ones that provided borderline workable gameplay with visuals that lost something in the transition from 2D cartoon to 3D software? The kind of videogame that regurgitated lines from the show, completely out of context, in the petty hope that we'd remember an old joke and be tricked into thinking it was funny?  Multiverse is exactly that experience. Memories of old Simpsons and South Park games come flooding back in this soporific third-person shooter with substandard cel-shaded graphics that'd look right at home on a PlayStation 2. As Brian states that all he needs now "is a midget with some gin," or as Stewie charmlessly repeats that victory shall be his, it's hard not to feel a little reminiscent glow in the heart. Indeed, this is everything we've come to know and loathe about licensed games, distilled into its purest form.  Any "original" writing found within the game is offensive, and not in the usual Family Guy way. At least on the show, there's a sense the writers were aiming to be funny. Not so in Back to the Multiverse. Nary does a level go by without something being called "gay" or "queer." There's no actual gag to that -- it's just someone calling something gay, and we're meant to laugh. One level set in a world where "it's desirable to be crippled" comes off not as satirical or witty, but as outright spiteful. I love offensive humor, but only if there's "humor" evidenced somewhere in the proceedings. There are no offensive jokes here, there are only offensive comments, coming from a developer that's trying far too hard to emulate McFarlane.  This unfunny dialog is repeated over and over again. If an Amish opponent's banal sex joke doesn't make you smile the first time, you'll be trying to eat your own teeth after you've heard it for the twentieth. Get it, because Amish people don't have sex? No? Get it now? Now? How about now? Over and over again, a tiny selection of character models per level bark the same puerile phrases at you, while the protagonists fire back with out-of-place commentary culled shamelessly from the show.  Gameplay does nothing to make up for the worthless script, either. Played co-op or solo, the campaign puts us in the role of Stewie and Brian as they travel the Multiverse and pursue recurring nemesis Bertram. A sub-standard third-person shooter, our two heroes run from point A to point B, mowing down brainless enemies and occasionally stopping to activate a switch or pursue a short fetch quest. Stewie has access to a range of powerful weapons, such as rocket launchers, laser pistols, and satchel charges, while Brian uses more grounded weaponry including pistols and shotguns. As chapters are cleared, each character can access more guns, but it becomes clear early on that Brian's shotgun is really the only decent weapon in the game. Everything else is either unwieldy or ineffective, while the shotgun's spread and high damage makes up for how terrible the actual combat is to control.  With its floaty physics and imprecise aiming, Multiverse's shambolic combat feels like something dredged up from the N64 era. It's barely even worth aiming due to how erratically enemies run around and how inadequate the weapons are. The only worthwhile tactic is to just take that shotgun and run around in vague circles, blasting the air until the last enemy stops spouting repetitive and unamusing trash. This is more or less how the game is played from beginning to end. Its idea of challenge is to throw more enemies at the player, a tactic mitigated by the fact that dying simply respawns you a few yard back, with no actual penalty. Progress is a matter of attrition, a pointless slog for the few hours it takes to reach its anticlimactic climax.  Special combat items alleviate some of the boredom temporarily. It can be at least mildly amusing to distract enemies with a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man, or summon Ernie the Giant Chicken to combat enemies to the tune of "Surfin' Bird." These may raise a slight smirk once, but only once. If at all.  There's a set of challenge courses that reuse stages from the main game and charge you with special tasks, such as collecting items within a time limit or killing a set number of enemies without slaughtering innocent characters. While the challenges themselves are unremarkable, they do let you use characters other than Brian and Stewie -- all of which seem to be noticeably more fun to use. They all have their own unique weapons that are far more enjoyable to use, such as Lois' salad-spewing kitchen utensils or Quagmire's machine gun. Quite why these superior characters were relegated to a bunch of shallow extra modes is puzzling, because if they were usable in the campaign, it might have made for a better experience.  Multiplayer is also available, but it's local only,  and is really just a series of mundane and trite modes designed to let players run around thoughtlessly shooting each other, just like the rest of the game. It exists more or less for the purpose of allowing Multiverse to say it has multiplayer. In that effort, it at least can be called a success.  Technical issues are naturally in place, to really hammer home how substandard eveything is. The game regularly freezes itself for a few seconds, usually in intervals of two. This can throw the audio out of sync in cutscenes, or screw up your actions as it lags out just when you attempt to input something. As already noted, the visuals are unappealing and dated, especially the poorly compressed cinematics.  Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is crude, archaic, sloppy, and unfunny, but I don't want the show to be blamed for any of it -- not because I wish to defend Family Guy, but because by blaming the show, we let this game get away with being the invidious dross it is. Multiverse deserves is to be judged as feculence on its own merits, singled out to be eviscerated mercilessly, and if we tie it so closely to the property upon which it is based, we allow its burden to be shouldered.  Let Back to the Multiverse drift alone -- naked, ashamed, and floating bereft on a sea of contempt, buoyed not by excuse nor justification. It is not bad because Family Guy is bad, it is bad because it is unfettered, unrepentant swill. 
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Seth McFailin'
Reviewing Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is difficult, because if I were to say it's bland, unfunny, and offensive, a large portion of the audience will fire back with, "Just like the show!" Meanwhile, another portion wil...

Review: Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition

Nov 17 // Jim Sterling
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition (Wii U)Developer: Warner Bros. Studios, Rocksteady GamesPublisher: Warner Bros.Release: November 18, 2012MSRP: $59.99 Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition mostly sticks true to the original incarnation released last year. Mostly. Taking place in an open world populated by Gotham's criminal element, Batman once again finds himself interred in Arkham City under the watchful gaze of Professor Hugo Strange, working as he does to uncover the secret of Protocol Ten, scupper the Joker's latest evil scheme, and punch a lot of things in the face.  From its gripping story to the flowing combat and excellent predatory stealth segments, Arkham City is still good as it ever was when we bore down to its core. The Armored Edition gets its name from new combat suits worn by both Batman and Catwoman, suits that build kinetic energy as either playable protagonist successfully lands attacks on the mooks of Gotham. When the energy icon is full, tapping it on the touchscreen grants the player faster reflexes and extra attack power to finish fights more quickly.  [embed]238794:45814[/embed] It's strange that this feature was not only added, but had the game named after it, since it really isn't a unique or interesting addition. It's not a bad addition, but I can't say I'm grateful for it either. It's just there, and tapping the icon to get a bit of a boost is no different from pretty much any action game with any sort of special power meter. I'm confused as to why this is seen as such a big deal, but at the very least, I can say that it's inoffensive.  The other new changes, however, are a bit less subtle and much less welcome as far as this reviewer's concerned. Outside of general gameplay and combat, Armored Edition makes heavy use of the GamePad's touchscreen to the point of saturation. All in-game menu items, from map usage to leveling up to selecting gadgets, are done on the GamePad itself, and much of it feels like an unnecessary hassle. Leveling up Batman's gear is particularly irritating, as you now have to swipe your way through unresponsive rows of tiny icons and unintuitive screens. Unlike with my previous playthroughs of the game, I've found myself not immediately going into the WayneTech menu to upgrade, because I simply can't be bothered to fiddle with the menus.  Gadgets themselves also insist on using the touchscreen, with the biggest offender being the hacking device. Whereas before, you'd rotated the analog sticks (or press keyboard keys) to solve puzzles, you now have to open up a whole new hacking minigame where you trace your finger on the touchscreen to find the right hotspot while avoiding a red line that intermittently sweeps past. I used to like how quick and efficient hacking was in Arkham City, bypassing the flow-breakage of dreary door-opening minigames found in other titles, but Armored Edition has spoiled that. Another issue is the gyroscope being used to aim Batarangs and the Batclaw. You can use the right stick to aim, but the gyroscope still registers and can throw the reticule off slightly. The remote Batarangs are also controlled via the GamePad screen, and again can be steered using motion or stick input, with similar conflicts. These issues are tiny, never really getting too much in the way, but they help hammer home just how much was changed simply for the sake of change, regardless of whether or not it improved the game. Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition simply tries too hard to be more than the port it honestly should've been. If you can implement new features and controls in ways that make the experience superior, then I'm all for it, but here we have a game that's fallen into the familiar trap of attempting to alter everything without regard for whether or not it actually improves anything. Dragging my finger slowly across a small screen to open a door is not gameplay -- it simply isn't. Fiddling with dragging gadgets to hotkey them, when opening a menu and hitting a button to select them would be quicker, is not an improvement -- it's a detriment. It's making things less efficient than they used to be an effort to impress us.  Arkham City's overall quality is hard to tarnish, and the original product still manages to shine despite the unbroken things that Warner Bros. Studios attempted to fix. While it would have been better had it remained unmolested, Rocksteady's work is solid as stone, and I still found it hard not to have a great time replaying one of the best licensed games around.  In addition to the main game, Armored Edition sports all the content from the Game of the Year re-release, including Harley Quinn's Revenge and the Robin Pack. You do not, however, get the Batman: Year One animation that came with Game of the Year. Even so, you receive a fairly decent barrel of content for your buck, especially if you're a newcomer to the game.  Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition fails to ruin what still is an admirable game, but there's no skipping around the issue of elements being forced in and serving only to render it inferior, making previously simple functions more complicated than they should be and dragging down the game's pace. While still a very good game at its core, this is not as good as the original, purer release. There's no shame in a Wii U title that doesn't shoehorn Wii U features into itself, and if the game would be better off without them, I'd really rather that be the route taken.  Armored Edition didn't take that route. It took things that already worked perfectly and shook them until they cracked. Not shattered completely, but undoubtedly broken, just a little bit. If you only own Nintendo systems and love Batman, this remains a very worthy purchase, one that will give your hours of crimefighting enjoyment. If you've already played Arkham City, however, you'll be better off leaving it, because you already experienced the definitive version. 
Arkham City Wii U photo
Barkham up the wrong tree
For most of this generation, Nintendo existed as its own entity in the market. The Wii couldn't match the technical prowess of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, while third-party publishers famously struggled when attempting to...

Review: ThunderCats

Oct 31 // Jim Sterling
ThunderCats (DS)Developer: Aspect Digital EntertainmentPublisher: Namco BandaiRelease: October 30, 2012MSRP: $29.99 ThunderCats is a simple beat-'em-up-style platformer, and when I say simple, I mean this wouldn't even look advanced in the early '90s. With its substandard graphics, featuring largely featureless character models and muddy, flat scenery, the game looks like a slightly below average SEGA Genesis title, and plays like a dumbed-down Golden Axe.  From its visuals to its distinctly dated music, it's clear Aspect Digital was attempting to evoke a "retro" feel. However, unlike games that use the retro aesthetic to communicate a developer's love for bygone years, ThunderCats exploits it to cut corners, skimp on features, and ultimately provide a bland, tacky series of one-note levels.  Playing as Lion-O (obviously), ThunderCats' victims go from short stage to short stage, mindlessly hacking at identical opponents who attack in a predictable fashion and are more than happy to line up for their own lumps. The cat's sword swings feel totally disconnected from their targets, carrying zero sense of impact as the blade slices in front of enemy character models with only the vaguest trace of an "explosion" effect to demonstrate a strike. The game's idea of challenge is simply to throw as many opponents and bullets at the player as possible, and never does it try to deviate from that path with any nuance. [embed]237751:45625[/embed] Lion-O himself is simply unpleasant to control. He moves slowly, with an awful double-jump that has a pointless delay and palpable lack of responsiveness. His attacks are sluggish and his ponderous animations cannot be canceled, with most player damage suffered due to his inability to adequately dodge or avoid incoming fire. As he fights, he builds up a power meter, allowing him to unleash a blast of energy in a straight line. Its specific direction of fire makes it pointless to use in many situations, though admittedly it can be effective against bosses.  As the game progresses, support characters become available. Three of them (Tygra, Cheetara, and Panthro) unleash powerful attacks, while Wilykit and Wilykat can be summoned to drop healing items or sword power-ups. Support characters are used by spending tokens collected through levels, but Lion-O can only carry up to three at a time.  ThunderCats offers a disjointed sense of progression. Short beat-'em-up stages can precede multiple boss fights in a row, or Godawful platforming sections that expose just how inelegant Lion-O's jumping is and usually cause death (without checkpoints) thanks to how hard it is to tell what part of a platform can be safely landed on, and what our heroic cat will just gormlessly fall through. None of these sections flow well together, especially thanks to how repetitive and boring the boss battles are.  Now is as good a time as any to point out that having Lion-O say, with a poorly compressed voice clip, "ThunderCats, HOOOOO," every two minutes is not very enjoyable.  As mentioned, stages have no checkpoints, and saves between levels are literally a case of pot luck. At one point, I returned to the game to find that it hadn't saved anything for two levels. It was at this point, I must confess, that I decided a better use of my time and the game would be to toss it into a river -- something I plan to do at my earliest convenience.  There's not really much else to be said about ThunderCats because there's nothing else to it. It's a bottom-of-the-barrel brawler that might have been really appreciated in 1985, but is outclassed and humiliated even by the standards of the 16-bit era. It hides behind nostalgia like a coward, attempting to distract from its unpleasantness by convincing the player it's part of the "good old days" of gaming, but nobody exists who could be foolish enough to fall for its ploy.  And this is how ThunderCats ends. Not with a bang, but with a truly disgusting DS game. 
ThunderCats review photo
ThunderCats, HO-rrible!
The ThunderCats reboot was, by most accounts, a tragedy. Unlike most of the property rehashes that account for a worrying amount of modern entertainment, the new ThunderCats series was actually pretty well regarded and, from ...

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New Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse screenshots


Trio of images feature multiplayer in the multiverse
Oct 23
// Conrad Zimmerman
Activision released new screenshots of Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse today, giving a look at the title's multiplayer component. I wish I could muster some enthusiasm for it -- there's split-screen, after all, and I ...

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Jun 27 // Jim Sterling
The Amazing Spider-Man (PC, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: BeenoxPublisher:  Activision Released: June 26, 2012 (August 10, 2012 PC)MSRP: $59.99 Interestingly, The Amazing Spider-Man is not so much based upon the upcoming movie of the same name as it is an epilogue to the film's events. It doesn't spoil much about the plot, focusing mostly on a new story in the aftermath of the Lizard's Manhattan rampage, but do be warned that there might be minor giveaways. Unless, for some reason, you're laboring under the impression that the Lizard defeats Spider-Man at the end of the movie, there's no reason that this game will ruin your theatrical experience.  Curt Connors (the human half of the Lizard) is incarcerated as Oscorp sets about destroying all his cross-species research. Our adventure begins with a first-person walk through Oscorp's science labs, where Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy come face to face with some of the company's more disturbing creations: the half-human Rhino, Scorpion, and Vermin. Naturally, all hell breaks loose shortly after Parker's arrival, and the hybrids escape, along with the highly contagious disease they carry that can turn regular humans into cross-species monsters.  As a story, The Amazing Spider-Man's tale of science gone wrong isn't too enthralling, although it gets points for a rather nice portrayal of Alistair Smythe. Spider-Man's other opponents -- the aforementioned Rhino, Scorpion, and Vermin -- are rather disappointing in that they're not really the same characters from the comic books. They share names and vague likenesses, but they're all mindless monsters that only possess thematic similarities and exist mostly to pad out the boss roster. With that in mind, the game does what it's supposed to do: provide some sort of conflict for Spider-Man that can and will be easily discarded when the movie gets its inevitable sequel.  [embed]230233:44198[/embed] Amazing provides a healthy mixture of indoors and open-world sections, with Spider-Man web-slinging his way across New York and entering interior environments to undertake crucial missions. The simple ability to swing through the streets and skyscrapers of New Work is as enjoyable as it's always been, aided by some surprisingly nice visuals and fluid animations. Aiding the web-slinger in his quest is a new "Web Rush" power, which allows Spidey to zip from walls to ceilings to predetermined locations at the press of a single button. The button can also be held to slow time and more carefully select destinations and enemy targets, who can be rushed into for extra damage. Though Web Rush serves as an interesting new mode of transportation and augments the traditional web-swinging movements nicely, savvy players may notice something familiar about it, and once they do, everything else clicks into place -- this is basically Batman: Arkham City, with Spider-Man standing in for the Dark Knight.  To say the game copies Rocksteady's Arkham games is to put it mildly, as Beenox has essentially scavenged everything it could from Spidey's industry rival. The Web Rush is Batman's grappling hook, but that's just the first similarity. The combat system, too, has been taken wholesale from Arkham, with players button mashing and hitting counter-attacks as soon as they see a visual cue on screen. There are boss encounters mimicking Batman's fight against Bane in Arkham Asylum, there are shielded enemies that must be jumped over and hit in the back. There are even photography sections in which players take pictures based on vague cues, à la The Riddler's challenges. By far the most significant link between Spider-Man and Arkham comes in the predatory stealth sections. Just like Asylum and City, Parker will enter rooms in which heavily armed thugs patrol and must be taken out one by one. If Spidey is exposed for too long, the guards will open fire and he'll die pretty quickly. However, he can hit a quick-escape button to leap back into the shadows -- again, just like Bats -- and resume his hunt as the enemies grow more paranoid and panicky. The mimicry on display is utterly shameless, to the point where Beenox had to know we'd spot it, and just didn't care.  The thing is, though ... I don't much care, either. Unoriginal or not, the gameplay works with the wall-crawler standing in for the caped crusader. With Parker able to crawl on almost any wall and ceiling, he's afforded more flexibility than Bruce Wayne, and it's never unsatisfying to land a sweet stealth takedown, cocooning unwitting opponents and dragging them to the rafters. Fact of the matter is, the same predatory stealth that worked so well for Batman is just as perfect for Spider-Man, and since Beenox has used it pretty damn well, I can't fault the studio one bit.  Admittedly, it lacks some of the polish and tightness of the Arkham games. The camera, in particular, can be quite awkward to deal with, especially when Parker's stuck to ceilings. It can be quite hard to navigate the environments, with no mini-map for indoors environments, and the constant perspective shift as the player traverses multiple surfaces can be rather disorienting. The combat system, too, doesn't do quite so good a job of providing player feedback, and the customary Spider-Sense visual cues can be a bit too subtle and brief to effectively help counter opposing attacks. With Spider-Man's superior flexibility in the stealth arena, some players may find the action isn't very challenging, either. The game rarely provides much in the way of resistance, existing purely to make players feel like badasses, which it pulls off fairly well.  The Amazing Spider-Man differentiates itself from Arkham City in a number of impressive open-world boss fights, as Spidey takes on Smythe's "Spider Slayers" and other twisted machinery. Some of these robots are huge in scale, requiring Parker to swing across entire city blocks as gigantic metal snakes and other creatures smash half of New York apart in an effort to get to him. Again, these battles aren't too hard, and most of them involve repetitive action (shoot webbing, rush to weak point, hammer button, repeat), but the sheer scale of these conflicts still manages to keep each fight exciting and makes excellent book-ends to methodical interior sections.  The main game will take between six and eight hours to beat, but there's plenty of optional content to keep things running longer. The city is full of sick pedestrians, petty crimes, and car chases to deal with, and there are side missions that Parker can trigger in order to find new upgrades for his combat abilities. Bruce Campbell is also on hand to provide some "Xtreme Challenges" consisting of acrobatic displays, timed checkpoint races, and other distractions. There's a wide variety of stuff to do, although many of the tasks on offer are repeated to a significant degree.  The Amazing Spider-Man is a good game, but being chained to the movie painfully holds it back. Unable to introduce any iconic villains in any real context, and forced to work off the back of the film's plot, one gets the constant feeling that this game is restrained and never allowed to be all that it could be. It takes many good things from Arkham, but one aspect it fails to exploit is the deft use of a rogue's gallery. One of the biggest joys of Arkham Asylum and City was waiting to find out which villain would turn up next, or which memorable location would be discovered. There is none of that here, bound as it is by a universe that has only introduced Kurt Connors as a true antagonist. The fact is made even more egregious when one realizes that not a single cast member from the movie shows up to provide any voice acting -- this could well have been its own thing, and should have been, but had to bolt itself onto Hollywood in the name of money.  Money is what The Amazing Spider-Man will make, and some of that cash will be deserved. However, something tells me this game is merely establishing itself as the foundation for a better product somewhere down the line. I will be surprised if Activision doesn't announce a standalone Spider-Man game in the future, taking the elements from this title and putting them in something that can take far better advantage of them, with a more original story and a wider range of characters. The publisher would be stupid not to, as what we have here is fun, and could truly be great if applied to a more flexible title.  At any rate, The Amazing Spider-Man is still a good game, even if it does feel like a wasted creative opportunity. It steals liberally from the Bat, but it does so with a high enough degree of skill and style that it can be forgiven. If you've ever played one of the Arkham games and felt that you'd enjoy yourself more in blue-and-red as opposed to black, then The Amazing Spider-Man will provide you with plenty of harmless fun for a good few hours. Since that's better than most Spider-Man games have done in the past few years, I'm happy with it. Happy, but certainly longing for more.
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When there's a new movie on the horizon, Activision's usually on call to bring us the obligatory videogame tie-in. As is the creed of the obligatory videogame tie-in, the product is rushed, slapdash, visually unimpressive, an...


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