The Game Life

Learn all there is to know about games and the people who make them by Roberto Campos.

Mr Music Snob

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's with the new Xbox 360 dashboard?

The annual Xbox 360 update is here and has received a less than stealer greeting by many fans.

Hit with problems right out of the gate, the new 360 dashboard has received a face lift that many gamers can't experience fully yet. Upon download there have been reports all over the web about not being able to connect to Xbox Live, errors while downloading apps, video issues and bricked consoles. While the update may have missed the annual release date not all is bad with the update, Xbox Support says they are aware of these issues and they're working to fix the bugs...so that's good news, right?

Now I don't know if I'm lucky but when it comes to issues with games I never really experience any. The Skyrim patch caused me no problems and while playing with the new dashboard update last night I only came across the occasionally error when downloading an app. But overall, with issues put aside, I'm really pleased with the new dashboard update.

The new dashboard looks fantastic, it has a modern look to it and its tabs have been simplified and well organized. Getting ride of the old design of navigating the dashboard vertically and changing it to where you navigate each tab by panning left and right was a brilliant idea. It lays everything out in front of you so you don't have to wonder how many times I have to go up or down to find the place to launch your game, you simply scroll over to the Game tab and walla everything to do games you've played are there. The use of the bumpers on the control lets gamers navigate through the dashboard at mach speeds and is also a really nice addition to the dashboard.

Now to the niddy gritty.

Cloud Storage is biggest thing about this update. Allowing gamers to save 512 Megabytes on to a cloud network is something I am really excited about. It is a nice feature for those gamers that play in lots of different locations. If I want to play Modern Warfare 3 my account with all my saved information I can just save it to the cloud and log in to my account at a friends house and it's all there. I haven't experienced any problems with the cloud yet and I'm hopping it stays that way... god only knows what would happen if someone lost their Skyrim character that they spent 100 hours playing.

Another cool feature is the Bing Search Engine that allows players to search their Xbox for content. Working a lot like the iPod, gamers can scroll all the way to the left tab to and search keywords and find content that matches the search. Typing in cheerleaders, don't ask me why, brought up content centered around that topic through the form of apps, downloadable content and other content  that Xbox offers through its many multimedia services. Search for Downloadable Content, avatar items, themes for your dashboard, if Xbox provides it then it's there. Basically it gets ride of you even having to go through all  the tabs to find what your looking for, just pan all the way to the left and search to your heart's content.

The Social tab on the dashboard has two cool new features are worth mentioning. An activity log has been added so you can see what your friends have been up to. Kind of similar to the news feed on Facebook. It also keeps track of your recent activities you've done on Xbox Live, like what you've been playing or watching. The other feature is called a beacons. What beacons all gamers to do is their friends that want to preform a certain activity, like play Modern Warfare 3, and ask if anyone wants to play it with them. The beacon is sent out and your friends can see it, a beacon can also be sent through social media as well as Xbox Live. It is a pretty cool feature and I can see myself using it in the future since I'm a pretty lonely gamer.

However there is one thing that this update ousts and that is premium themes. Premium themes were the cool thing in last year's update, but with the simple design that this update brings premium themes look like regular backgrounds now. When you go to your friends on the dashboard it will show the premium features, like mine has Master Shake next to my friends, but besides that premium themes look like normal themes now. So for those extra dollars you spent on premium themes last year are pretty useless this year.

While the Dashboard update has been met with problem it has a lot going for it. The new features definitely make up for the problems that it has face and I can't wait to experience them when all the bugs are fixed. The general theme of this update is simplistity and that is something I thoroughly.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Buyer's Guide

With out a doubt this has probably one of the best years that the gaming industry has seen in it's history.

With a plethora of major titles that have come out throughout the year it's been hard to keep up. That means there's a lot to ask for this Christmas so I'm going to help you out and the essentials that you might have missed this year.

Multiplatform Games

Dead Space 2: 
A title that was released at the beginning of the year, Dead Space 2 might have flown under your radar but it's a game that deserves your attention. Although it may not be as scary as the first game, Dead Space 2 explores a different way to play the survival horror genre by making it more action packed. You may be able to walk around most corners without having a heart attack, but Dead Space 2 will have you fighting for your life as waves upon waves of Necromorphs try to tear you limb from limb. With Dead Space 3 pretty much confirmed, and the possibility that this may be the last game with Issac Clarke as the game's protagonist, this game is a most own due to its great gameplay and ever expanding narrative. It's not necessary to play Dead Space 1 because 2 does a great job bringing you up to speed on the events of the last game. Dead Space 2 is available for PC, 360 and PS3.

Retail:
$29.99 (new) - Best Buy & GameStop
$24.99 (used) - GameStop

Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3:
Ok your either in the middle about both these games or your a hardcore fan of one of them and you believe your game rains supreme as the best shooter of 2011. I'm not here to argue which one is better I'm just going to say that both of these games are viable options to buy, if you don't have them already. If your looking to save money and only buy one shooter this year I'm going to have to say go with Modern Warfare 3...I'm probably going to be scrutinized for saying that. Modern Warfare 3 has a better story mode and more addictive multiplayer experience. You're going to get your money's worth with it game and it will last you a while. If your still not sure on which one to buy read our review of both games. Both games are available for PC, 360 and PS3.

Retail:
$59.99 (new) - Best Buy & GameStop
$54.99 (used) - Modern Warfare 3 at GameStop
$47.99 (used) - Battlefield 3 at GameStop

Batman: Arkham City and Assassian's Creed: Revelations:
Both games are very similar in style but vary in story  and that's not a bad thing. Both games are sequels and continue a story line that gamers have grown to love. Both games are similar in game play and in style, the real selling point is do you want to kick ass as a caped crusader or an assassin. If you've kept up to date with the Assassin's Creed franchise there is no question that this game is the way to go. It furthers Ezio's and Desmond's story and takes you to Constantinople to take on the Ottomans. Arkham City takes Batman to a sectioned off part of Gotham that has expanded Arkham Asylum and has made it a city. Applying a more open world aspect to the game, players get to venture on a more nonlinear path and explore a villain filled city as the Dark Knight himself. If you haven't kept up with the Assassin's Creed franchise you may find yourself lost so that is one negative aspect to Revelations. So I'm going to recommend playing Arkham City, it's new, has great gameplay and story and is overall more friendly to new players since there are only two games in that Batman franchise.

Retail:
$49.99 (new) - Batman at Best Buy
$59.99 (new) - Assassin's at Best Buy and GameStop
$54.99 (used) - Assassin's at GameStop
$49.99 (PC) - Assassin's at  GameStop

Playstation 3

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception:
If any game gives players a movie going experience it's Uncharted 3. Filled with action packed moments and gameplay, this game makes you feel like Indiana Jones. Uncharted 2 was a great game but Uncharted 3 steps it up a notch. Although the premise of the game is fairly similar to the last to games it still manages to create a story that is just as fun to play as it is to watch. You don't have to play the last games to enjoy this one because each one is its own story that continues Nathan Drake's adventure as a treasure hunter. If you own a PS3 and don't own this game this should be on the top of your list.

Retail:
$59.99 (new) - Best Buy & GameStop
$54.99 (used) - GameStop

Killzone 3:
Killzone 3 is the PS3's best exclusive shooter...I loath Resistance I don't care how many good reviews of it I see for it. Story wise the game picks up right after the events of Killzone 2. The story to Killzone 3 isn't as strong as Killzone 2's, focusing less on the characters stories and developing its narrative and more on action packed moments. The multiplayer is the best the series has seen yet and is brings a unique feel to sci-fi shooters. If you combined Battlefield 3's multiplayer with sci-fi that's what Killzone 3 is. Killzone 3 is a game you shouldn't pass up, but with all the shooters out their to choose from it is going to be a tough choice.

Retail:
$39.99 (new) - Best Buy & GameStop
$29.99 (used) - GameStop

Xbox 360

Gears of War 3:
The conclusion to an epic trilogy, Gears of War 3 combines everything great that made up Gears of War 1 and 2 to create something that ends the series on a high note. The story gets personal and that is a good thing, let using in the minds of the Gears that face to inhalation. While the story gets wrapped up in the end it doesn't mean more story ends. Downloadable content (DLC) is a staple for shooters, but Epic is taking that further by using the opportunity to expand the story. DLC is lined up for the next year and with that much more content coming out for the game it is going to be something that gives you something new and exciting for months to come. Something to note is that the multiplayer has been fixed is the best the series has seen, on rare occasion with you experience the problems that has hindered this series in the past.

Retail:
$39.99 (new) - Best Buy & GameStop
$37.99 (used) - GameStop

The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim:
Before you tell me that this is not a 360 exclusive there is a reason I put it here. Skyrim is a game that I recommend purchasing on the 360. Not only has it suffered a lot of issues on the PS3, same goes for the 360, but DLC for Skyrim is going to come to the 360 a month before any other platform. That makes all the difference because if your like me you don't want to spend 100 plus hours with a character and have the DLC come out and have to wait a month to play it. If you don't mind waiting a month then it is of course available for PS3 and PC, you'll just have to wait a month to experience a new chapter in Skyrim.

Retail:
$59.99 (new) - Best Buy & GameStop
$54.99 (used) - GameStop

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary:
If you've never experienced the game that started it all here's your chance in its revamped glory. Halo: CEA doesn't try to be something better than the classic, it brings new technology and graphics to a game that was ahead of its time. Its a perfect way to relive a great game. Development of the game fell between two studios and they also took this chance to bring multiplayer to a game that came before Xbox Live. The multiplayer is rewarding and is a fun way to relive maps that only four people used to be able to play on. Halo: CEA is a game that is worth your time and takes you back to the game that propelled to the gaming industry to where we are today.

Retail:
$39.99 (new) - Best Buy & GameStop
$34.99 (used) - GameStop

Wii

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
The Wii sales, there's no doubt about that, but it's games have left something to be desired. The Wii has had its share of great games but The legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword may be its crowning achievement of its life time. Preached as the best Zelda game yet, I don't know if I would go that far, Skyward Sword is an amazing game. It took the old Zelda formula and threw it out the window and its a very good thing that it did. Giving Link a voice and more back story between him and Zelda, Skyward Sword combines the darker plot that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess brought and combines it with the adventure that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker achieved. The dungeons are redesigned and are different from any other Zelda game before it which brings a fresh new feel to the series. Out of all the Wii games that came out over the course of this year this is the one you HAVE to own.

Retail:
$49.99 (new) - Best Buy & GameStop
$44.99 (used) - GameStop

2011 has brought us some of the greatest games in one year that a generation of consoles tries to achieve in a life time. With so much out there and so many hours to spend playing these games the holidays are the perfect time to get your game on, of course family is important too, but you know you want to spend your time slaying dragons and pwning noobs. Hopefully this guide helps you navigate the sea of games out there and buy for your friends, loved ones or even yourself.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What the Hell is Skyrim Counterpoint

Video games have never really received the created they deserve. Since I was five I can remember my mom adhering to that philoshopy as she yelled has yelled "quite playing those violent video games and do something productive."

First off I want to start off this article with a quote from the great Chris Brown and say "Look at me now"...I'm writing about video games, so there's something productive mom. Secondly, I get where Dave's article. Often when media enjoys mainstream success such as video games, it's hard to distinguish between what's all out there. The reason that is the video game industry, like music and movies, is out to make money. Video games are a multi-billion dollar industry and work with formulas like music and movies to make money.

When Call of Duty  4: Modern Warfare came out it took the gaming community by storm. If you didn't own or play the game you were in the minority. Because of the franchises continued successes we've seen countless modern day shooters come out and have seen success: Rainbow Six: Vegas, Battlefield 3 and Medal of Honor just to name a few. When Nirvana hit the music scene the music industry scrambled to sign bands from Seattle in hopes of a repeat success. Call of Duty is like Nirvana and publishers want to put games out there that have a similar style of game play in hopes of replicating sales and its success.

To answer Dave's question Skyrim is a game about a hero that finds out he has an incredible power harness dragon souls and must use those abilities to choose the fate of Skyrim. There is of course more story to the game seeing as the game has more than 100 hours of gameplay, but Skyrim is more than your average game. Bethesda, creators of Skyrim, has made a game that breaks the mold of the mainstream gaming industry. It does that by going back to the basic and focusing on what made a game like Metal Gear Solid so great which is a great single player campaign that has an even greater story.

Today's gaming industry is mostly focused on one thing, multiplayer. To reach such mainstream success you have to appeal to a broad audience and your broad audience consits of mostly of casual gamers. A casual gamer may not necessarily want to put 100 plus hours into a game, rather they would like to play a quick 10 minute match facing real people on Call of Duty. It is hard to find a game now-a-days that doesn't have multiplayer in it.

That's how Skyrim breaks the mold, there is no multiplayer to be found here. A represented at Bethesda was quoted saying that they didn't included player because they wanted to focus on their favorite part which was a great single player experience. It goes back to what made 90's and 00's games like The Legend Of Zelda: Orcarina of Time so great and that's what makes a game like this so great. When a game like this comes out gamers are overcome with joy because it is a game that has no multiplayer and acts like games that came before the existence of an "online experience." It is a nostalgic feeling that I think gamers who grew up in the rise of this industry feel and appreciate. Skyrim goes against the current of a colossal industry fixated on giving the world the ability to play together and for some reason it is met with great success. I believe this is because gamers consciously and unconsciously understand that this game is different than your mainstream games.

Skyrim is one of the best games of all time, it indulges you with an experience few games can offer. It's hard to describe the experience that it gives you other than it's addicting because it encapsulates you in its world. I often find myself thinking about what I want to do next in Skryim when I'm away from it. The last game to do that to me was Fallout 3 and that was years ago and seeing as I'm a hardcore gamer that's quite a few years to not experience something like that.  Years from now I'll still be playing Skyrim and still be experience it in a new way throughout those years.

Games that make up the list for the best of all time are timeless and engage you in experiences that you feel emotionally. The Legend of Zelda is the first series to make someone feel an emotional connection to the story and its characters. Like a good book or a great movie, great video games tap into our human emotion and have you clinging to the game until the end to find out what happens. Sometimes I find it hard to go back to those classic games because they are dated, to this day I can't fully complete Final Fantasy VII, but we remember the experiences that we had with those games and why we loved them so much. Skyrim is going to be one of those games because it goes against the curve and gives players something that they haven't experienced in a long time, a great story. Media will always become dated go, Pokemon: The First Movie is not as badass as I remember, but well always enjoy the great movies, albums and games we play.

I recently walked in to several college dorms and every guy was glaring at their T.V. playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The video game industry is here to stay and I think it will always be something that is mainstream. Hopefully they will not get to the mainstream level that music has and go for cheap gimicks to get sales, god I couldn't stand for a game to suck as much as Justin Beiber.

Video games engage people in an experience music and movies can never dream to accomplish. Video games engage players in three of the five senses, if you're checking my math here it's sight, sound and touch (you use the control with hand-eye coordination), which helps draw you into their world. Technology has advanced to a level where games can look as good as an animated and have soundtracks that are on par with movies and have great sound quality.

Some people will never understand video games and write them off, but doesn't ever art have that? I still don't get how people enjoy Country Music, but for the people who enjoy, like video games, we'll always love them for what experiences they give us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is my favorite game to come out in 2011. I am going to go as far as to say it is the game of the year and one of the best Role Playing Games (RPGs) of all time.

Bethesda Game Studios out did themselves with Skyrim, listening to what their fans wanted, fixing the combat and many many more things that I could spend hours talking about. Bethesda has created a game that is as complex as they come and has a story that will compel players to play the more than 100 hours long game to the end. I entered into The Elder Scrolls franchise at Elder Scrolls III: Morowind, and it has come along way since then.

What makes Skyrim so different and enjoyable from its predecessors is you no longer have to make important character decisions at the beginning of the game. Skyrim allows you to experience the world it offers first and then decided what skills you want to focus on. Those decisions would have been made at the beginning of the previous games and could prove to be detrimental later on the game if you made a wrong decision. It is an aspect that lets new players get the feel of a game that massive, and at sometimes overwhelming, and build their character and not be punished for lack of knowledge. This handicap is very beneficial because there are many important decisions you'll have to make over the course of the game and this allows you to not make most of them all at once.

For people who are familiar with the franchise it is just a different way of accomplishing the same task, character building. I like this new way of leveling better because it has actually inspired many ideas of how I want to play other characters that I make in different savings.

The coolest addition to this game are the dragons. At the request of the fans Bethesda looked into adding dragons in the Elder Scrolls universe and the addition is amazing. Every time a dragon flies around you as it is about to attack you is wonderful treat and never gets old. Having dragons adds to the difficulty of the game, having the ability to show up at anytime is something really cool and really makes each players experience very much individualized. I have found that they get in the way of current quest that you are on and tack on a difficulty that is enjoyable and not annoying.

With the addition of dragons came dragon shouts. Shouts are abilities you can acquire throughout  the game by finding words that are carved on walls and scattered throughout Skyrim. To use the words you've found and unlock shouts you have to obtain dragon souls which are gained by killing dragons. It's something that will have you roaming Skyrim for dragons and words so you can unlock abilities like breathing fire. With dozens of shouts to be sought after, it will add to you gameplay hours that will already be breaching the stratosphere.

Combat in Skyrim is much improved. You no longer feel like your slicing through air and when you hit an enemies shield your weapon bounces off and feels pretty real. The detail to you weapons and your spells also look amazing. Each weapon is just as beautiful to look at as the last and when used get blood on them. Being able to duel wield weapons and spells is also a great addition to this game and gives the player a plethora of options when customizing their weapon layout.

The last thing that I find so great about this game is dynamic quest. I stole some items from some persons house and later down the road while on a quest I was attacked. I killed the men and looted them and found a letter from someone who requested me roughed up because I stole from them. This may be something little, but it is something that is very unique because every little decision can affect how you game unfolds and how you experience it. You decide to kill a traveler, that can affect quests and conversations down the road. It makes you think twice about how you play.

Skyrim has one of the most expansive story lines out of any game I've ever played. Not only does the game give information from the main story line and side quest, but most books in Skyrim hold information about past games and offer knowledge about what's happening in the present game. Personally I've only spent 4 hours on the main story line, the other 70 hours have been spent exploring Skyrim and its side quest...if that gives you any idea about how massive this game is. There is so much to learn and experience in Skyrim that it really feels like its own world. It is the first game in a long time that has had me thinking about what I am going to do in the game outside of the game. Even when you are not immersed in the world in the back of your mind you'll be thinking Skyrim.

The only thing I don't like about this game is how finishing kills look. Bethesda made the popular game Fallout 3 and the finishing in Skyrim are exactly like Fallouts. Both games are great on their own, but having this cross of executions between franchise is kind of a turn off. I would have liked to seen a difference since they both look, sound and use the same slow-motion effect.

Final Verdict:

To summarize this game in three words...Buy this game. It is more than worth the $60 with the amount of content that it has and that will be added through downloadable content. This game is a prime example of what a excellent RPG should be and will have you playing for months...literally.

10/10

Monday, October 10, 2011

The End is Just the Beginning for "Gears of War 3"


I wonder what guns they used steroids on.
By Roberto Campos 

Sept. 20 marked the end of Epic Games’ highly anticipated and fastest pre-selling exclusive title for the Xbox 360, Gears of War 3. But does the end of this highly successful trilogy really live up to its predecessors, and the hype it’s been given?

The campaign to Gears 3 is astonishing. Cliff Bleszinski, the creative mind and lead designer to the game, claimed “summer movies don’t end until Gears of War 3 comes out”. And it’s safe to say his claim was right.

The game starts two years after the previous installment, and the human race is facing impending doom. Marcus Fenix, the story’s main protagonist, and the rest of the human race are all stranded on an earth-like planet called Sera. The government has collapsed and humans are making refuge where they can, but the future doesn’t look too bright for them.

The humans and the Locust, an underground humanoid species who were originally your only enemy, are now trying to survive against a new enemy called the Lambent – which are basically exploding locust.

The first two Gears of War games were fairly simple in terms of story. The characters had little depth to them and the theme of the game was to survive against impossible odds. If you’ve never played a Gears of War game, video option catches you up on any kind of story you’ve missed thus far.

Who invited them to the party?

You can expect the same kind of game play from the previous installments in this game. The difference here is that battles are going to be on a much larger scale than they’ve ever been before. You’ll face colossal monsters and see beautiful post-apocalyptic environments. At points in the game I found myself looking at the scenery in awe of the detail to the game and its landscapes. Of course you’ll have some more toys to play with too.

The big difference between this game and its predecessors is how much attention it pays to individual characters. Epic Games really focused on telling a story in this game. At points you will be playing other characters than just Fenix. You’ll learn more about the characters in Fenix’s group, known as Delta Squad, and get a feel of where they came from and what they’ve lost in their struggles.

Throughout the campaign when waves of enemies are coming at you and on cut scene after another leaves you wondering what’s going to happen next, the empathy you have for these characters if palpable, which is a quality that has been lost in a lot of campaigns for similar type games of late.

With a bigger campaign, the new addition of four player co-op mixed with multiple difficulty levels, the Gears of War 3 campaign will have you coming back for more.  When you add that third or fourth player the difficulty of the game spikes, adding more intelligent enemies that will have you on your knees quicker than you could hope to beg for mercy.

But that’s not all Gears is about. When Gears 2 arrived, it came complete with a lackluster online experience. It was difficult to find games to play, textures wouldn’t load, and it was simply a bad experience. Epic Games learned from their mistakes and, last spring, held a beta for their online gaming feature and let players comment on ways to improve game play. It was the best decision they could have ever made. Gears 3 stands in polar opposite to its predecessors.

Multiplayer wise, Gears is a totally different shooting game than anything out right now, and it’s not just because it’s a third-person over-the-shoulder game.

If you’ve never played Gears of War, the weapon of choice gun with a chainsaw attachment for hacking your enemies to pieces. It’s not your Halo or your Call of Duty. When you kill someone with a shotgun, they explode. When you headshot someone, there is no head left. Epic Games has always been creative when it comes to the ways you can kill in the game, and with the addition of flamethrower executions and bayonet executions, you’ll find yourself constantly trying to pull off these moves to humiliate opponents.

Take a shower... You look like shit.

The multiplayer maps is this game are fairly balanced. Some maps, like Sandbar, which is a very open map, offers two sniper rifles, so you’ll have to deal with ranged kills while trying to get up close and personal with your enemies. Trenches, which is one of the smallest maps in the game, is a map which puts you up close and personal to your enemies for the duration of the whole game. The maps offer good variation in play style and offer fun combat experiences - unless you’re the one being killed. Customization is something that seems to be pushed in this game.

My only gripe about the multiplayer is the addition of a sawed-off shotgun. To put it lightly, it’s a noob weapon and everyone is using it for its cheap purpose. To kill someone with the sawed-off, all you need to do is get close to them and it’s a one shot kill. The old shotgun from previous games can’t compete with the sawed-off when it comes to close range combat. The only tactic I have found that works against it is to make distance between you and your enemy and hit him at afar. Most people will chase after you, so shoot them early because a distance shot with the sawed-off isn’t fatal. 

Horde Mode, a series of levels which increase in difficulty,  has been revamped and works more like Call of Duty’s zombies game mode. You can buy weapons and barbed fence to defend locations in hopes that you will survive all 50 waves of enemies. It works better than Gears 2’s horde and is more addicting with all the options you are given in terms of defending. It also allows you to play with up to five friends or random people online.

Multiplayer mode is called Beast Mode. Essentially its horde, but instead of being humans you’re the Locust. It’s addicting because of the variety of Locust that you can be and it’s a change good change of pace if you’re burnt out on a certain mode. Plus, who doesn’t want to be the bad guy?

Epic has added the ability to customize your weapon skins out. It’s actually a pretty cool feature because you can have a gun that’s literally on fire. With 43 different characters playable online, but are unlocked by playing, you’ll never get bored playing just one character.  The controls to this game are superb. Everything is so fluid and reacts perfectly to the moves that you want to perform. You don’t feel big and bulky anymore, like the previous games. Reverting back to the other Gears games is no longer an option as Gears 3’s controls make game play effortless.

Gears 3 is an amazing game. Epic Games crams so much into this game that it’s actually a bargain at $60. Four downloadable content updates were announced to come out over the next year that will add to the campaign and other modes. Every game type has so much replay value on it and so much to do that you’ll be coming back to it for months. 

If you have an Xbox 360, do yourself a favor and at least rent this game. In my opinion it’s a must own.

GRADE: 9.5 / 10

Click Here For A Video Showing Some of the Features Discussed in the Review.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Portal 2 Review

“Portal 2,” the highly anticipated sequel to the 2007 “Portal,” delivers an experience unrivaled by any other. Developed by Valve, a game maker known for titles such as the “Half-Life” series, “Counter-Strike” and “Left 4 Dead,” “Portal 2” is a first-person puzzle shooter that creates a mind-bendingly fun experience that is also insanely hilarious.
Like the first installment, in “Portal 2” you find yourself in the Aperture Science Labs, which have remained untouched by human hands for some time.
In the first game, this facility was run by GLaDOS, an A.I. who loved to test human subjects, but you killed her at the end of that game.
Chell just doin' what she does best
After being awakened from a cryogenic sleep, you come to find that GLaDOS is still dead and you need to escape the rundown facility.
While trying to escape, you accidentally awaken the once-dead character.
GLaDOS then forces you to test, which involves solving complicated puzzles using the portal gun.
You have to solve a puzzle set in each test chamber before you can move on to the next.
Sounds simple. But that's not the case.
“Portal” forces you to think outside the box and creates a challenging environment in which you must defy the laws of physics.
“Portal 2” introduces new puzzle elements like the light bridges and propulsion gel that help and further complicate each test chamber.
I she misses GLaDOS wouldn't mind
What I love about this game is that Valve could have made a super complicated game, but instead opted to make a challenging game that never feels unwinnable.
The balance of complexity is unparalleled, forcing players to think, but never pushing players to the point of utter frustration.
Co-op gameplay adds to the complexity of the game, allowing four portals to be created at a time.

You and your partner will be this close by the end of co-op

You and your partner will be forced to work together to solve harder puzzles, so teamwork is a must in co-op.
This playing option expands the story, but I recommend finishing single player first.
The voice acting in “Portal 2” is the best the game industry has to offer.
The voice cast includes J.K. Simmons, seen in movies such as “Spider-Man” and “Juno,” and Stephen Merchant, seen on the British version of “The Office.”  Ellen McLain reprises her role as GLaDOS.
These three create a comedic experience that will keep you laughing throughout the entire game.
There’s not much I can say to describe the witty humor… it’s something you'll have to experience.

It drives the story forward as you will be anxious to hear what will come out of the characters' mouths next.
“Portal 2” is a must own and is available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
In an industry that is ruled by violence, Valve has created a game that provides little violence and is just as enjoyable and addicting as games like “Call of Duty.”
I give “Portal 2” a 10 out of 10.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What Japan Has Given Me

Like I said in my last post, this blog is about my favorite things about Japan.

I'm just going to cover my two favorite things that I love about Japan, then I'll give you a top three from those.

So, in no particular order my favorite things from Japan are video games and anime.

These are the things that have given me an intreset in Japan and are reasons why I donated to Japan.

I hope in some way this will make you think about the connections you have to Japan and hopefully you'll consider donating.

Top Three Japanese Games:


The characters as they've grown over the years 

1. Legend of Zelda Series

I know that in my post about my top 10 favorite video games I mentioned that Legend of Zelda: Orcarina of Time was my favorite game of all time... as of now.

But Since it is a game made in Japan it has to be in my list.

I really can't pick a particular game out of this series, besides Orcarina of Time of course, so I'm just gonna say my number one is the series.

As a kid this was one of the first games I ever played. I remember playing Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo.

If that's not a name drop I don't know what is.

For the gaming world this series has captivated its players. This series was one of the first in the video game world to generate a story worth telling.

Its proven time and time again how video games can not only create highly addictive and fun gameplay, but a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

As video games continue to grow more sophisticated we have seen the stories do the same. This fall we have Mass Effect 3, Elder Scrolls Skyrim, and Gears of War 3 coming out.

These are all games that are heavily story driven and they owe thanks to the Legend of Zelda series for paving the way for story driven games.

Not just games that have senseless violence...but we like those games too!



This is one women I wouldn't mess with
 2. Metroid Prime 1

This game was awesome! Gamecube didn't have the best reputation among the gaming community, but personally I think it put out a multitude of great games.

And this is one of them.

Not gonna lie this game kind of scared me as a kid. Those Space Pirates just freaked me out and when you went into thermal vision, well I just said f*** that and turned off my console.

I was not the bravest child.

But this game was awesome, it really revived the series and gave Samus a new image.

The game had a very sophisticated look to it. It was combined old school metriod with next generation console gameplay.

Areas were still connected by elevators and you could still roll into a ball. All the elements that made Metroid were there, it was just looked a lot sexier and gameplay was smooth.

One thing I will say about this game though is that it was difficult. This game took me forever to beat.

It was one of the first games I played were I had to read a 3D map and figure out where I was going. But leaving the linear gameplay was nice for a change.

This was a must own for anyone who owned a Gamecube. If you missed your chance and didn't get to play it, don't fret.

All three Metroid Prime games are availabe for the Wii.

But you better hurry up because Nintendo is going to be releasing a new console soon....when more information comes out I'll cover that.


This is probably my favorite side scroller ever



3. Donkey Kong Country
  
Well, Donkey Kong Country may not have been developed in Japan, Rare Studios was a second party developer at the time and were British, but I count it because it was released by Nintendo and they're most certainly from Japan.

This game took hours away from my life as a kid.

Not only was this game difficult, at least at the time... I haven't played it in a while, but it was insanely fun.

I enjoy side scrollers, but this is by far my favorite one... something about the monkeys just did it for me.

With all the different environments and awesome soundtrack, Donkey Kong Country was a game that was over the top.

Personally riding the swordfish was a dream come true, and don't get me started about riding the rhino.

Although this game was one of the last good side scrollers to come around and didn't revolutionize a genre, I think this game deserves credit.

Nintendo has done a great job at reviving its famous characters for each generation of consoles.

They even revived Donkey Kong Country for the Wii.

With that said Donkey Kong Country takes my number three spot.

Top Three Japanese Anime (All Animes Are In English):

1. Death Note

I know anime has a bad reputation sometimes, but what I love about anime is the stories that many of them have.

And Death Note is no expection.

Like every boy growing up in the new mellinium I watched Dragon Ballz, but I never really grasped the concept that it was Anime.

But Death Note was the series that got me back into anime.

This is one of the most interesting stories that I've come across in the anime world.

Basically, this kid, Light Yagami, finds a notebook that can kill people by just writing their name and face in it.

So, like any other 18 year old honors student would do, he takes it upon himself to ride the world of evil by killing all the criminals that inhabit it.

But another super genius wants to stop him, named L, and the two are forced to try and find each other. With both of their lives on the line there is not telling what could happen.

This anime has no fighting in it. It is all story driven.

It may sound boring, but I dare you to watch one episode and not be addicted.

Throughout the whole series there are a massive amount of twist and turns that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Think Steven Hawking vs. Albert Enstein.

That is a bad example.... but it's people with their IQ battling it out to see whose sense of justice is right.

This is by far one of the best animes I have ever seen, so watch it because what else are you going to do with your lives...read?

2. Fooly Cooly

So this anime only has six episodes, but it's some of the best six episodes I have ever seen.

If I had to describe this series in one word it would be over-the-top.

The story is coming of age story where Naota, the stories protagonist, is hit by a guitar by a women who rides a Vespa named Haruko.

The hit from the guitar creates a bump on Naota head.

Through that bump objects come out from a medical facility. I can't really explain much of the plot because I don't want to give it away.

But watch the first episode, the style the anime is written and the interactions between the characters are odd, in a good way though.

The style creates an interesting vibe that keeps you coming back for more. After the six episodes you will want more.

Something that really grabs my attention about this anime is the music. Most of the music is are songs by the Japanses band called The Pillows who have an indie sound.

It gives the anime a hipster feel and carriers the mood of the anime through the course of its six episodes.

Overall this is a really cool anime and for six episodes it is really worth your time.

It's different, unique, funny, and has a great story.

3. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (English it's Gurren Lagann)

I'm going to be straight up with this one...the name is just as ridiculous as the anime.

But this is good.

This anime will have you using words like bro all the time. This show has more testosterone packed in it than a juiced up baseball player...we can think people like A-Rod for that joke.

The story follows Simon, the main character,  a girl with a huge gun named Yoko, and a man with arguably the biggest ego ever Kamina.

These three fight in mechas against there oppressor, The Spiral King, who wants to keep all the humans below the Earth's surface.

This anime is a coming of age story where Simon has to gain the confidence to be the man everyone knows he is.

There is only one character you will hate and its because of the story, but every character is great in their own way.

This series will have you laughing, pulling for the main characters, and may even shock you at times.

Throughout the entire anime the way they the characters fight and do things may not make sense, but it adds to the series.

At points you will be like, "did they really do that," and "there is no way that happened...not even in anime."

So, if you bored of Gundam for your mecha animes try Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.

Concluding

All of these things are reasons why I love Japan.

Japan has given so much in terms of culture. It has given more than just video games and anime.

You may not have a family member or loved one in Japan, but I think many of us have a connection to Japan.

I think as gamers, anime lovers, and people we should contribute whatever we can to help out in these hard times.

Lets give back to the nation that has given us so much.

Give to Japan, do your part to help.

Aid for the Far East

I know that the Japan earthquake and nuclear fallout is old news, but I'm writing this blog entry because I believe that people are starting to put this catastrophe in the back of their minds.

So, hopefully this blog post will remind people that they can still give to Japan and help them in their time of need.

This post is dedicated to give information on how you can donate and help Japan recover.

This link is to the Facebook page for the Red Cross,

They have information on how to not only donate to the Red Cross,which if you don't know helps out everywhere, but you can donate to the Japan Relief effort.

There's a number that you can text to donate $10, which may not seem like much, but if you have the means to donate it could help in more ways than you will ever know.

To understand the impact that this earthquake has caused Japan there's also a link to an infograph that provides great information/statics.

INFORGRAPH- http://www.digitalsurgeons.com/japan-earthquake-tsunami-infographic/?v=1&sms_ss=blogger&at_xt=4db90fba4d511ade%2C0">[Infographic

From programs that CNN and other news stations ran I thought, in a slim way, I could fathom what kind of tragedy had accrued.

But that infograph really drove the point home.

Websites like IGN.com and G4tv.com pushed for their viewers/readers to donate to Japan. Both of those websites, as well as G4 being a cable channel, deal with video game culture.

The Tokyo Game Show is held there, I want to go...
My blog is focused around the video game culture and like G4 and IGN, I believe we as gamers should give back to the country that has given us so much.

Kevin Pereria, host of G4's Attack of the Show, posted a video on G4's website that urges people to donate to Japan.

On that page there is additional information on how to donate to Japan in different ways. One way you can help is to donate to the doctors that are in Japan.


Hopefully in some way this blog moved you to donate to Japan if you haven't already.

As citizens of the world we should do are part, no matter how small it is, to give back to our community, global and local.

This Blog post is one of two blogs dedicated to Japan.

The next post will be a celebration of my favorite things about Japan.

This is a link to a video coverage the tsunami and is pretty powerful reminder of what happened.

If you would like more information about the Japan earthquake I did a story on a local event at my school that delt with it.


Thanks as always for reading and lets hope for a speedy recovery for Japan.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gotta Catch Em' All, Again?

Sorry it took me so long to post this. I've really busy with school work, but now that the school year is almost over expect loads of content to hit the this page. This summer you can expect movie reviews, game reviews, previews to games, and much much more! But that's all later, here's my Pokemon Black and White Review.
 
Back in the day there were only 150 Pokemon, and catching them all was and arduous task.
Nostalgia, remember the first episode


With the total now at a whopping 649, how are we going to catch them all?

We all know that there are people up to the the task and people will catch them all, but is it really worth it anymore?

With the Pokemon Black and White games now out, we have five generations of Pokemon.

We've spent more than a decade with this franchise, so where are we now with the Pokemon.

We've got a crappy anime plus games that play the same as the original, and some people are left wondering, why am I still playing this game?

The New Starter Pokemon
Well, Pokemon Black and White is the answer to your question.

Every new game to the Pokemon franchise brings something new to the table.

If its just how the game looks, adding 3D with the DS games, or new gadgets that you can play with, Pokemon games always offer a reason to come back and play the new game.

Pokemon Black and White is different though.

I've played these games since they've been released and the new Pokemon game gives long time players of the franchise something to be happy about.

First off, throughout the story of the game you can only play with the new Pokemon.Only after you beat the game can you play with the full 649 Pokemon roster.

This allows you to fully embrace this new generation and forcing you to adapt to this new region and the trails that await you.

With that aspect of the game in mind, it really makes the game feel like a brand new experience. Granite the game still has the typical Pokemon story line, but it gives it a brand new feel.

It may be Japanese, but you get the picture
The second thing that I think is really cool about the new game is the ability to battle with three Pokemon.  

Hey... bigger is better, and bigger battles mean more new tactics, harder combat, and a lot more things you have to worry about.

Plus there are rotation battles that constantly rotate what Pokemon you're battling with and against, which adds more strategy to the game.

The last thing that I love about this game is how story driven it is.

Team Plasma is a team that actually matters in this game. They are consistent throughout the story and  play a role in where you go throughout the game.

Much of the games interface looks different thanks in part to the C-gear, which replaces the poketech, and is on the second screen of the DS.

Yup, that's a honey wall, and yes it's the bug Gym leader
The Gyms are more exciting than ever now.

The puzzles are more difficult and fully utilize the 3D angles that this Pokemon game creates.

The are honey walls and roller coaster like rides in gyms that add a much needed refreshing  feel to the gym experience.

The gym leaders are also more important to the story of the game. Instead using them just to get their gym badges they will actually play a role in the story.

I wont tell you how, you'll just have to play the game....sorry I'm no spoiler.

Overall this new Pokemon installment is awesome.

It feels new, plays like new, and is the perfect example of what a Pokemon game should be.

If you have a DS and don't own this game, I feel like should question why you own a DS in the first place.

As a kid I used a master ball to catch a Magikarp
Nintendo hand-held systems and Pokemon games go hand and hand. If you don't have this in your game collection I highly recommend you purchasing these games.

I give Pokemon Black and White a much deserved rating of  9 master balls out of 10.

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