Review: Syndicate (X360)

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In 1993, Bullfrog Productions introduced the world to an isometric, future dystopia where augmented “Agents” were used by megacorporate empires to take the battle for market share out of the boardrooms and into the streets.

It was a tactical game spread across fifty cities across the world as you guided your team of four to cripple the competition by any means possible even if it meant using civilians as meat shields. The Atlantic Accelerator mission still gets a nod from me for its ruthless difficulty, and that was before the expansion pack made things even worse.

Since then, it’s become a cyberpunk classic so when EA and Starbreeze announced that Syndicate would reboot as an FPS, more than a few people were upset. For some, it reminded them of what FASA under Microsoft had done with Shadowrun. Even I had doubts. At the same time, it’s also easy to understand why. In a market dominated by Activision’s Modern Warfare, it’s a safe guess that they were trying to answer how to get an audience that may not have even played the original game to give this a shot.

And now after moonlighting as a new Agent, I can safely say that while it won’t knock your cybersocks off, it doesn’t quite leave the operating table littered with leftover body parts from the original, either. 
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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.

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.

Review: Section 8

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Section 8, perhaps inevitably, is going to draw in comparisons to the venerable 1998 PC title, Starsiege: Tribes and its sequels for having much of the same gameplay. Tribes had set the multiplayer world on its ear with its blend of fast paced FPS action, a large selection of impressively vast maps, a wide variety of gametypes, weapon and armor loadouts, a commander option, and jet packs.

That, in itself, is a good thing considering the strong fanbase that the game and its legacy continue to enjoy in the PC world. Unfortunately, the odds that the audience on the console will even know what it is are pretty slim considering the dominance of COD and Halo within its multiplayer space in the years since, but it brings with it a number of interesting options to distinguish it from the competition.
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Study Finds Prosocial Video Games Can Teach Helpful Behavior

Chess may have been used in the past to teach war strategy where the winning move would change history, but psychologists are ready to release a study later this month whose results claim that gaming with others may rub off into real-life outside of the screen.

Listening to the verbal cesspool that is Xbox Live! may say otherwise, but as gamers that live and thrive in multiplayer know, working together as a team to survive the next Locust wave on Gears of War 2 or patching up friendlies in Team Fortress 2 can make all of the difference in winning or losing. And now it looks like it may actually mean more than an in-game achievement.

The main article follows below.
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More Killzone 2: Early multiplayer thoughts

If I’m still up at this time, it means I’ve found plenty to like about a game. Even though I think the single-player campaign was a little stunted, the multiplayer’s got more than enough to keep a person chained to their couch/gaming chair/cushion/worn spot on the floor.

As I write this, I’m attempting to move up in my multiplayer ranking, shooting at the enemy and mostly failing. I’ve got little or no lag in a 32-player game, and I’m really enjoying how mission types are handled. While most games stop and reload after a task is completed, Killzone 2 continuously rattles off one mission after another on the same map, which, to me, speaks to the versatility of the game’s levels. Of course, you’ve got the option to only play one mission on a map, but I like the commitment the “series” approach demands from the players.

OK, I just took a shotgun blast to the face. I can’t end the night like that. The next time I talk about this game, it’ll be in a full review.