Review: Prototype 2 (X360)

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When it’s the moment for designers to pick a city to maul, New York often has the bad fortune to get its ticket punched. Worse still, the first Prototype had already smashed it up and now the sequel continues to pound on what’s left in what often feels like a do-over.

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BF3 Beta impressions (Xbox 360)

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Playing the BF3 beta was a little confusing. The game is due out in a few weeks, so putting it into beta this close to release seemed bizarre.

It covers only one multiplayer map, Metro, which takes place in a subway tunnel in France along with a little above-ground action for plenty of close quarters shooting. It’s also objective based meaning players will be switching roles between defense and offense. It also means that it’s a map with no vehicles which can be a bit disappointing to some.

Technically, beta tests are handled a few months in advance of finalizing the code for release so that if anything critical crops up, it can be fixed before hitting retail. At least that’s how it’s ideally supposed to go. Though in today’s world of “0-day” patches and broadband speeds, that probably doesn’t mean a hell of a lot.

Likely, the “beta” for BF3 was to test multiplayer stress on the network to better prepare for when it goes prime time on October 25th. On that count, it seems to be doing okay even with the occasional  128-player hack floating around in PC Land.

I also hope that some of the other issues won’t show up in the final game such as prone clipping, or falling through the map and getting stuck leaving suicide the only escape. I was killed on one map by someone trapped this way because they were able to shoot me from below the objective I was attacking.

One thing that stuck with me was how familiar it felt. Coming off of Bad Company 2, BF3′s beta felt like I was heading back for more of the same with a new set of maps. That’s not entirely a bad thing, especially if you couldn’t get enough of the game. And I’ll admit that I had some fun while shooting through Metro’s wrecked venue.

The demo also cuts loose with a large number of unlocks and, from what I could see, no level ceiling, so if anything, it’s a nice, free multiplayer shooter. Some players have also really taken to it – I’ve seen a few leveled into their twenties and thirties already though I doubt any of that will carry over into the full game.

If I weren’t a fan of the series before I doubt this would have convinced me as much as the trailers had worked so well to, but I’m sure that the full game – with actual vehicles – will be a lot more exciting when everything comes together near the end of this month.

E3: Sony’s Press Conference

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Sony held their press conference at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena with over 6000 attendees waiting to see what they had to offer up this year, especially in light of the PSN outage. Though they didn’t drop too many bombshells, Sony did their best to get people excited for the Move and their new handheld, the PS Vita. 

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Quick Review: Battlefield Play4Free Beta (PC)

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So what’s not to like about EA’s free FPS? It’s cheap, disposable 32-player fun that’s good for a quick bite of action, though it won’t replace your copy of Bad Company or Modern Warfare 2.

It’ll be supported through microtransactions which means that you’ll need to pony up real-time cash to buy things like extra soldier slots (you start out with only two freebies) and permanent weapons outside of the generic stock that classes start with. It’s also still a Beta which means glitches like the one where I had lost an entire level’s worth of experience after being dumped from the game. I hope they fix that.

If you want to live free, that’s okay, too – experience for levels and training points for skills are still  earned. Vehicles cost nothing, other than having the skill to actually use them – especially in the air – and the maps offer plenty of places to use for cover, snipe, or face to face time with heavy armor. All in all, a fun fix for FPS junkies that doesn’t require anything more than a browser and a decent internet connection.

Kim Jong-il doesn’t exist in Japan’s version of Homefront

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He’s gone, really, according to gaming blog Andriasang, because of the rules that CERO has in place for every game. CERO is the Japanese equivalent of the ESRB, the ratings board over here in the States, though their requirements are a bit different from ours. For example, two of the rules they have against “scenes deemed malicious to an existing person/country” have apparently replaced North Korea with “A certain country in the North” and Kim Jong-il with “Northern Leader”.

If you’re not sure what Homefront is, it’s THQ’s new shooter that’s headed to retail in March. It features the somewhat sketchy premise of North Korea’s successful unification of the peninsula and its preparation in the years since for war, culminating in half of the United States falling for a surprise invasion. The story puts players in the shoes of a grassroots resistance movement in occupied America as they take up the fight. With the tensions between Japan and North Korea, it’s probably not too hard to understand why this might be a somewhat sensitive topic.

It’s also not the first time a game coming in from the States has had to go through the wringer in order to enter certain markets. Australia’s somewhat draconian rules have made headlines over the years for their handling of titles such as Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 which only entered the country via a German version that was already edited for content. Typing in “video games banned” in Google brings up “video games banned in australia” as an auto-complete term.

Even the United States has its own funny rules on censorship. One example that jumps out is how the NES’ port of Bionic Commando originally pit the player against Nazis complete with Hitler at the end – until it was whitewashed when it came over here. The Japanese fought a vast, neo-Nazi empire while we got – Badds and Master D. Now, more than twenty years later, it sounds as if they’re getting the Bionic Commando treatment. Of course, the difference is that one game was based on history and sci-fi; the other more on speculation on current events.

Things have somewhat relaxed a bit since then, even for Nintendo, and I’m also sure the Japanese audiences looking at the game know exactly who Homefront’s story is really pointing to. THQ is also apparently okay with it leaving it to Spike in Japan to handle the distribution there. As long as the gameplay itself proves to be just as interesting, a relatively small change like this shouldn’t keep Japan’s gamers from finding the same amount of fun that other gamers elsewhere are hoping to get from Homefront.

The Dream Machine

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From Sweden comes this charming, Flash-based adventure game that you can play in your browser. It’s unique in that instead of using flashy graphics or fancy 3D to wow players, the creators instead used cardboard sets and claymation characters to dress it up giving it a special look reminiscent of Wallace & Gromit.

It’s also a finalist at the Independent Games Festival and feels as polished as any game that you might find on a shelf. The first chapter is free to play. After that, you have to pay to see the other episodes in this five chapter series. As for the story, it follows a couple who move into an apartment and later discover a secret that turns their world upside down. The puzzles aren’t difficult with one exception in the first chapter, but they’re fun and the characters are as entertaining to watch onscreen as their dialogue is to read.

As something that can be a negative to some prospective players out there, you also have to be online to play it since the whole series is designed to be played from your browser. On their development blog, they’ve stated that this was necessary to protect themselves from piracy seeing as they don’t have the kind of protection that a publisher could have provided them with. They’re just indies who want to make a good game, but it’s also clear that there are those out there that really don’t care as long as they can get their product for free.

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Because it’s all online, it uses its own cloud system for saves though you will have to create an account to make the most out of it. But this also plays into another reason for why they chose this delivery method: you can play the game from any machine that can support the site, whether it’s a Linux box, Windows, or a Mac.

So give this a shot if you’re hungry for something that’s a little different. And when you do, be sure to pick up everything that isn’t nailed down. There’s no telling when that hangar might be useful. Give it a try at their official site here.

Review: Tron – Evolution

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Tron: Evolution is the “prequel” to Tron: Legacy, Disney’s big sequel to the eighties movie that stunned crowds with its stylized idea of a world within your computer.

Evolution preps fans for the film by explaining a little of what happened since the eighties in the Tronverse making it something of a spoiler for what it reveals, but not so much that it lessens your enjoyment of the film. I still got a kick out of it and as a fan, the extra lore was great stuff.
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Transformers: War for Cybertron Multiplayer trailer

I’m not someone who goes bonkers over multiplayer features, but it’s Transformers. From the looks of it, this finally – finally- could be the Transformers game experience that actually nails the essence of the legend. If Activision makes good on blending the atmosphere of war with all of the goodness that comes with being an Autobot or Decepticon, the results could be scary good. I plan to crank “You’ve Got the Touch” while online and see how it feels. That’s my test. The game comes out June 22.