Saturday, January 30, 2010

Halo: Reach - Noble Team Performance Reports

Interested in finding out some details on the Spartan-III's and Spartan-II that makes up Noble Team?

Bungie gives us a performance evaluation on each Spartan of Halo: Reach courtesy of a report from Kurt to Mendez right here.

Quite the interesting read, and the official site has also been updated with a whole lot of new info, such as high resolution screenshots, concept art, renders, and much, much more. It's like a Grunt birthday party!

Mass Effect 2 Media Updates

Everyone is talking about Mass Effect 2. It's out and receiving rave reviews across the board and thanks to the Cerberus Network, it already has more DLC than the original Mass Effect in its first few days!

So another week, and another slew of media updates, each one tastier than the last. Firstly, check out this video highlighting Zaeed Massani, and new Squad Mate you can pick up thanks to his DLC now available on both PC and Xbox 360.

The second is another character video showcasing the Salarian scientist Mordin.

For those of you with copies of Dragon Age: Origins, you can use your Blood Dragon armour in Mass Effect 2, and this video shows exactly what Shepard looks like all decked out in it.

And if the above wasn't enough, the last Sci vs. Fi: Mass Effect 2 episodes have also been added.

All the above videos can also be viewed on the official Mass Effect 2 site here.

Aliens vs. Predator - Predator Gameplay Trailer

In just over two weeks, SEGA will release Aliens vs. Predator, and earlier this week, they released a cool Predator gameplay trailer which you can view below.

Very cool. The "distract" mode looks interesting, and they seemed to have nailed down smooth jumping mechanics, which will be very important for capturing the spirit of playing as the Predator. It also looks like this trailer is taken from the Xbox 360 version of the game, and graphically speaking it's looking very good.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fallout 3: The Pitt (Xbox 360) Review

The second DLC released for Fallout 3 is entitled "The Pitt," and it's the second of the five DLC add-on packs that I've decided to play through. Varying greatly from Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage, Fallout 3: The Pitt is much closer to the traditional gameplay we've come to know and love.

During the Great War, Pittsburgh was spared the horror of having bombs dropped on them directly, however the three nearest rivers became highly irradiated bringing sickness and mutation to any survivors in the city. Now 200 years later, it has been renamed the Pitt and it has evolved into an industrial town ruled by Lord Ashur and his band of Raiders who force Slaves into labour, toiling in the local steel mill.

Like all the DLC, it can be used with a new or existing character, and once it's downloaded and installed you'll shortly receive a message telling you that Wernher's distress signal has been picked up and following it will lead you far to the north of the Capital Wasteland. Once you meet up with Wernher, you'll learn that he's an escaped Slave from the Pitt and he's looking for help to free his people from the Raider's oppressive heels. After a quick sequence of events, Wernher will lead you into some old train tunnels and you'll immediately travel to a new hub: The Pitt.

Note that similar to Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage, once you enter The Pitt you can not leave until you complete the Quest there, however just like the last DLC the game will create a save independent of your other save games just before you head out, just in case. Once you arrive you'll need to gain access to the city's downtown, which is a very straightforward task, and then you'll begin the real Quest of trying to help free these slaves.

Note that once you approach the downtown area, the Raiders will relieve you of _all_ your items, however this is normal. Your items are _not_ gone for good and you'll get everything back later.

The Pitt is a fair sized map with several districts to explore, and yes, you really can take your time and explore them this time around, and you can interact with objects, pick up items, and loot corpses in traditional Fallout 3 fashion. Personally, I really liked the design and layout of the Pitt, as its tone and art style reminded me of a darker, more twisted, and less pretentious City 17. The Raiders, in the way they act and even the way they dress (many wearing gas masks and full body suits due to the high levels of radiation) really reminded me of the Combine, and the slaves are a group of oppressed people who can't breed looking to you as their saviour. In the Pitt, however, you don't have a Crowbar, you get an Auto Axe.

The Auto Axe is a concrete and steel cutting tool that resembles a chainsaw but has three spinning blades on its end instead, and even with a low Melee skill you'll find it very handy. You'll quickly find yourself exploring the abandoned Steelyard looking for Steel Ingots, abandoned that is save for an infestation of Trogs and Wildmen just begging to get acquainted with your new cutting tool. Trogs are people horribly mutated into bipedal creatures who will rush you, pouncing and dealing lots of damage, and they're very silent often letting them get the drop on you. They actually reminded me a good bit of Half-Life 2's Fast Zombies without the howling. The Wildmen are people who've lost their higher reasoning and are turning feral due to the radiation, but who haven't twisted into Trogs, and they'll attack pretty much anyone outside of their group. These are the core of the new enemies you'll find in Fallout 3: The Pitt, and there's additional new weapons and armour, including variations of traditional items, kicking around.

One of the major differences with Fallout 3: The Pitt when compared to the rest of Fallout 3 is the moral ambiguity with the Quest. The Pitt is very shady and downtrodden and there really is no clear right or wrong. Ultimately you're going to need to make a very important choice that will affect the fate of the city, and it's not as clear cut as you'd think. I applaud Bethesda for doing this as in real life there's far too many grey choices for us to make, and it's nice to see moral complexity reflected in the game.

Once again we're treated to a complete lack of new music, but the new sounds, voice acting, and ambient noises are great and very atmospheric, meshing well with the darker, grittier atmosphere the DLC is going for. There are three additional Perks to earn which are given over the course of the main story, and we also get four additional Achievements to pad our Gamerscore. The first three are awarded simply for completing the DLC, and the last is given for finding all 100 Steel Ingots in the game. As of this typing, I've found 87 and know where 3 additional ones are, so there's just 10 more to go.

Which regrettably brings me to the huge negative with Fallout 3: The Pitt: the bugs, and I'm not talking about those damn jumpy Trogs. The Xbox 360 version of the DLC was so buggy at launch that it had to be pulled and later re-released. While it's now stable and playable, there's the chance you'll find areas of the game world where clipping issues occur, mainly in the Steelyard. The Steelyard allows you to climb to the highest point in all of Fallout 3, but good luck getting there as one roof you need to run across will often see you falling right through to your death. These clipping issues seem to _mainly_ be caused by Fallout 3: Point Lookout, the 4th DLC released for Fallout 3, and deleting that will usually fix things up. Some players have had luck deleting and re-installing Fallout 3: Point Look Out and Fallout 3: The Pitt will work just fine, but for me, I needed to remove it completely and I'll re-install it once I'm done.

In addition to the above clipping issues which should have been patched long before now, I've also encountered the occasional audio stutter and towards the end of the final Quest, I was also experiencing minor pausing and slow down. A few times while playing Fallout 3: The Pitt, my Wireless Controller also just randomly disconnected, pausing the game, and after a few seconds it reconnected on its own. While this might have been a coincidence, it should be noted I've never experienced this with any other game or DLC before. Fallout 3: The Pitt also reminded me of how annoying running and jumping is across gaps, as the game often doesn't register that you've jumped and you'll just drop, though this isn't exclusive to the DLC and is present in the main game as well.

I also found it frustrating that you don't have access to a good vendor for some hours into the DLC. While I never found myself short on items, I often wanted to sell loot I'd gathered, but I've been forced to stash it instead. I now have lots and lots and _lots_ of items that I'm slowly moving back to Megaton to ultimately sell.

So is Fallout 3: The Pitt worth your time and Microsoft Points? Assuming you can put up with the bugs and you don't have any important items from Fallout 3: Point Lookout that you'd loose by removing that DLC and then loading up your save game, then yes, 800 Microsoft Points is a fair price.

Fallout 3: The Pitt took me about 7 hours to playthrough, and unlike Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage, there's some real replay value here as there's multiple ways to complete this add-on, so if I venture to the Pitt once more with an additional character I can do things differently. I also very much enjoyed the darker tone of this DLC, and thought its Quest was very well thought out. Considering I got this on sale for 400 Microsoft Points, it was a real steel.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mass Effect 2 Cerberus Network and Media Round Up

We're just a few days away from Mass Effect 2's release now, and to tide you over there's an interesting new video up entitled "N7 Development Diary" which goes over some basic gameplay mechanics. You can watch it here or below.

BioWare and EA have also announced the Cerberus Network. With each new copy of Mass Effect 2, there will be a token included which the player can enter at the game's main menu. This will allow them access to the Cerberus Network, a portal for Mass Effect 2 news and free DLC. That's right, any DLC released via the Cerberus Network will always be free, and the first of this DLC will be available on launch day.

For players who buy the game used, they can purchase a token separately to gain access. Traditional DLC will also be available via Xbox LIVE Marketplace to all gamers.

Full details on the Cerberus Network can be found on the official site here.

Lastly, Mass Effect 2 has once again been featured on Sci vs. Fi, and the first two parts of the episode can be found here or below. Minor spoilers within.

Aliens vs Predator Media Roundup

This week saw two new videos released for Aliens vs. Predator. The first is entitled "Kill Moves," and showcases the brutal ways you can take out opponents using either of the three species. Ridiculously graphic and true to the source material.

The next is a ViDoc entitled "Heritage," in which the developers discuss the evolution of the game from their original Aliens versus Predator shooter released on the PC in 1999, and how they've tried to take that excellent experience and expand on it.

Not only does it show they've put a lot of thought behind the game's development, it also shows some great contrast between the old and the new, and how shooters have come a long way in the last decade.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage (Xbox 360) Review

During the 2009 holiday season, the Xbox LIVE Marketplace saw many deals and discounts offered to gamers, and their Boxing Week sale featured 50% off for all of the Fallout 3 DLC on Dec. 27th only. At that cost, I decided to bite and pick up all the DLC for 2000 Microsoft Points ($29.00).

Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage is the first of the DLC that was made available to gamers, and it also happens to be the first one that I've played through. 200 years prior to the start of Fallout 3, a nuclear war happened between the United States and China and the world was plunged into devastation and nuclear winter. Shortly before that, communist Chinese forces occupied Anchorage, Alaska, and the US waged war to set it free.

Flash forward to the exploits of the Lone Wanderer, and once the DLC is downloaded and installed onto your Xbox 360's HDD, you'll pick up a new Radio Signal (available immediately to existing characters and right when you exit Vault 101 for new characters) on your Pip-Boy 3000, a call for help from the Outcasts and a new map marker for you to head towards. Once there you'll discover the Outcasts under attack by the Super Mutants, and once your done a nice little battle lending them a hand, you can enter the outpost that they've set up.

The Outcasts are jerks, and while they weren't exactly the friendliest bunch of the Wasteland in the retail game, in Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage they make it clear that they really don't like "locals." That being said, they need your help thanks to your owning of a Pip-Boy. You see, this outpost of theirs is set up inside an old military training facility and there's a locked armoury with a whole lot of advanced tech that hasn't been touched in about 200 years. They want it, but they can't get that door open and the only way to do so is to climb into the simulator, kind of like a Holodeck, and fight through the liberation of Anchorage. The only way to interface with the simulator though is with a computer, like the one you have in your Pip-Boy.

Of course even as a simulation it won't be easy as the safety protocols are disengaged, so if you die in the simulation, it's Game Over in real life. Except if you fall of a cliff, then you're fine. Apparently the US military didn't consider death-by-cliff a legit means of dying, so you can leap off as many of those as you want and you'll magically reappear on solid ground. I suppose no one said it was an accurate simulation, but anyway, here we go.

Inside the sim you loose all of your Wasteland gear (and get it back afterwards) and you're provided with the tools you'll need to take out the Chinese with extreme prejudice. The gameplay is rather different than what you'd find in the core game. You still have an inventory, access to your Pip-Boy 3000, and V.A.T.S. still functions however Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage is more like a first person shooter than an RPG with FPS elements. You can no longer interact with almost any item in the game world and your path is fairly linear. Enemy and ally bodies fade from the sim instead of waiting around to be looted (and you can't loot them even if you reach them quick enough), and health and most ammo is replenished by dispensers in the field. In fact, any special object you can interact with, Health and Ammo dispensers, computer terminals, and Intel Packages that you can collect will all shimmer red and make an identifiable tone, making them very easy to locate.

So the gameplay is rather simplistic from what we're used to in Fallout 3, but there are a few cool new changes not available in the retail game. Once you make it to the US Base Camp, you can select and requisition the kind of weapons you want, basically choosing from standard Infantry, Grenadier, Sniper, or Heavy Weapons (Missile Launcher), and your weapons degrade so slowly that you simply won't notice or suffer any performance drops. For one Quest you also get to lead a squad, and you can determine the kind of soldiers that the squad is made up of. Loose a few along the way, and once an objective is achieved you can request a few more. Fun! Regrettably, leading a squad of several soldiers is about as large scale as you're going to get. While you often do feel like you're part of a war zone, shells exploding all over, your Controller vibrating with each impact, you're never going to be able to charge headlong into battle with dozens and dozens of battle hardened troops at your back.

Graphically, the winter tileset looks very nice. It's a great change of pace from the traditional, drab depressing grey of the Wasteland, and the winter camo theme on the American's Combat Armour and Powered Combat Armour looks real nice. There's a visible border to the game world, preventing you from wandering off and exploring, but it looks very cool and resembles the Animus effects from Assassin's Creed. Audio wise, the DLC's voice acting is good and the sound effects are pure Fallout 3, but there is no new music to speak of and we're left with the same tracks we've listened to for the last 100 hours or so of gameplay. That was a bit of a letdown, though it's not game breaking.

So of course you're wondering if the DLC is worth your hard earned Microsoft Points. Well, Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage didn't take me too long to complete, clocking in at about 5 hours of play time on Normal. There are 4 new Achievements to earn that you'll get simply by playing through the DLC, and you can gain a few unique weapons to take with you into the Wasteland upon completion, as well as one new Perk. So is this all worth 800 Microsoft Points ($11.60)?

Honestly no, it's not. Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage is fun and I certainly enjoyed myself, but it's very linear and doesn't really enhance the overall experience of your journey through the Wasteland. It's essentially a glorified side Quest, and while it's very cool for Fallout fans to be able to visit such a pivotal battle of Fallout lore, 800 Microsoft Points is very steep to ask for something with such basic gameplay and low replay value.

At the sale price of 400 Microsoft Points ($5.80) though I did get my money's worth, more or less a buck an hour, and I personally have no complaints. If you're dead set on liberating Alaska from simulated communist Chinese, I'd wait for the next sale.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Halo for Haiti

Most of you have probably heard about the disaster in Haiti by now, and people everywhere are doing what they can to raise money to help. Bungie, the developers behind the Halo trilogy, is no exception, and they've created a special edition Superintendant t-shirt available via the Bungie Store. For every shirt purchased, 100% of the profits will be donated to the American Red Cross.

This is a great cause, and I tried ordering a shirt however I was unable to select any shipping options or complete the order. I'm not sure why, and perhaps they simply don't ship to Canada.

So, for those people unable to order a shirt for one reason or another, Bungie is rallying their community to play Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST for the cause! This coming Wednesday and Thursday, change your Emblem to a Heart with a Circle background, red Heart, white Circle, and play either Halo 3 Multiplayer or Firefight in Halo 3: ODST and Bungie will donate money!

For every thousand gamers that participate, Bungie will donate $100.00 (US) to the American Red Cross up to $77,000 (US), and all you have to do to help make it happen is play Halo! Now that sounds like one of the best reasons I've ever seen to play a game, and I'll be putting in as much time as I can on Wednesday and Thursday.

For full details, including the proper way to change your Emblem, check out Bungie's Weekly Update here. For those looking to simply make a donation, you can do so with the Canadian Red Cross here.

Update: The Bungie Store ships to the US only, so those of us in Canada can not order a shirt.

Mass Effect 2 Media Updates

Another week, another batch of Mass Effect 2 updates! We've got three videos this week. The first of which details the Solider class, the second is the Subject Zero "Psychopath" Trailer, and the last is the "Fight for the Lost" Shepard trailer.

You can watch them all here or below.

Lastly, the Arsenal has been updated with two new weapons, the M-490 Blackstorm Projector and the M-622 Avalanche, and several sets of armour including the Terminus Assault, Inferno, Collectors', Blood Dragon, and N7 Armour. You can check out the weapons here and the armour here.

BioShock 2 Audio Logs and Screenshots

The Audio Logs scattered about Rapture played an important story telling devise in the first game, and with BioShock 2 less than a month away, The Cult of Rapture is hosting an exclusive first listen at some of the Audio Logs we'll be able to discover this time around.

Minor spoilers, of course, but if you're interested, head right this way.

Also, TeamXbox is hosting a bunch of new screenshots for BioShock 2 right here.

Mass Effect: Retribution Announced

BioWare and EA have announced the next Mass Effect novel, entitled Mass Effect: Retribution.

To be published this coming July, Mass Effect: Retribution will focus on the Illusive Man and his desire to unlock the Reapers' secrets by implanting their technology in a living human host. That host just happens to be Paul Grayson, an ex-Cerberus operative who betrayed the Illusive Man in the last novel.

Sounds like an interesting way to expand the game's universe.

Left 4 Dead 2 Sold

Finally got around to selling my copy of Left 4 Dead 2 (Xbox 360) today. I tried the game a few times, but as far as I'm concerned it's another lackluster product courtesy of Valve Software.

Interestingly though Best Buy wouldn't take it. The UPC number on my case didn't match the general one in their system, so it was a no-go. I went to Deja Vu Discs and sold it there, and I surprisingly got very little for it, only $16.00. I could have taken the time to sell it for more privately, but time is at a premium for me these days.

I think the lower resale cost has to do with the newer trend of retailers briefly selling new titles for around $40.00. It's great for the launch week that it happens, but the resale value of the game immediately plummets as a result.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Halo: Legends Impressions

We may not be seeing a Halo movie grace the silver screen anytime soon, however 343 Studios, Microsoft's Halo-themed studio, has commissioned several Japanese companies to create a series of anime shorts for the small screen. With the launch of Halo Waypoint, a portal for Xbox LIVE Gold members to check out content on all things Halo, 343 Studios has had a "theatre" for limited screenings to showcase what Halo: Legends will offer fans.

Halo: Legends will feature seven shorts, six of which are canon to the Halo universe and the other being a parody. Over the last several weeks, we were treated to an episode, or part of an episode, each of which had a limited one-day run.

One thing I need to bring to the forefront right now is that I don't like anime. The art style has never appealed to me what-so-ever, and I like more realistic 3D pieces. I would have much preferred Halo: Legends to be completely CG (think the Halo Wars cutscenes, which were epic), however having said that, I do like the Halo universe and I like Halo fiction. I found the concept of several short stories worked very well for the recent novel, Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, and generally, in terms of story telling, I've found Halo: Legends to be more-or-less up to snuff. Though talk about starting on the wrong foot.

The first episode previewed was entitled "The Babysitter," in which a squad of ODST's is hot-dropped to a Covenant controlled world to eliminate a Prophet. The catch for them is that a Spartan-II has also been assigned to their mission. 343 Studios hoped to show the tension and rivalry between the ODST and Spartan-II ranks, something readers of the novels already know about but players of the games alone wouldn't. To keep it brief, the Master Chief killed some ODST's right after being cybernetically and genetically augmented and he wasn't punished for it, so ODST's hate Spartan's. In this episode the squad's sniper, O'Brien, is put on a support role as the Spartan-II is meant to do the actual target elimination.

So, as we all know, humanity nearly lost the war, and throughout it's entire 27 year course we were pretty much getting our asses handed to us by the Covenant. Now I know why: Because we have idiot cry-baby's like O'Brien in our elite special ops squads who sport non-regulation hair cuts that just wouldn't work in a standard ODST bucket! Instead of a mature, brooding dislike of the Spartan for taking his place, O'Brien gripes, complains, and even whines like a juvenile idiot. Some tough-as-nails soldier he is. The rest of his squad is alright, and Dutch makes an appearance as well, but seriously. Same goes for the dumb naval crewman who kept wanting to sit with the ODST squad on the ship. Stupid, just stupid and in such contrast to the established Halo-fiction that's been going on for years in the novels. I simply can't like "The Babysitter," it's a kiddie, Saturday morning cartoon version of Halo that happens to feature anime-style blood and violence, and it fails on pretty much every level leaving a very sour taste in my mouth.

Thankfully, the next episode showcased, "The Duel," redeems things in my eyes. The visual style is unique, and not what I've come to expect from anime. It's more like a painting in motion, and while I didn't love it, I didn't hate it either, so I suppose that's a plus. "The Duel" takes place long before the Human-Covenant War, and shows the effects the Covenant are having on Elite society. Unlike the craptastic "The Babysitter," "The Duel" actually features mature storytelling with a distinct Japanese flavour, and it features a wealth of new information for Halo fans.

For the first time ever we get to see the Elite homeworld. Their structures and architecture, their training regime, and one of the most fascinating pieces of info of all, how the role of Arbiter came to be what it is within the Covenant by the time of the Halo trilogy. Both well done and entertaining, the Arbiter of this time rebels against Covenant dogma, and the Hierarches are not too pleased at all. The only thing I'm not sure of is the timeline of this piece. From what I can gather, it takes place earlier on in the formation of the Covenant, yet in a large battle, the majority of the Covenant races we know are present, save that they shouldn't have even been discovered yet. Despite this possible inconsistency, I was quite impressed with "The Duel."

The next episode previewed was split into two parts. Entitled "The Package," it takes place roughly midway through the way and sees Blue Team, lead by Master Chief, taking on an entire covenant fleet to retrieve a captured asset. What I found most interesting about this episode, however, is that it's in 3D, and while not Halo Wars cutscene quality, it was the best visually thus far.

The first part focused on ship-to-ship combat, as the Spartan-II's attempted to locate which vessel contains the asset, and it was rather cool to finally put faces to Kelly and Fred, Spartan-II's who've been with the fiction since the beginning. In this first part, they use Booster Frames to navigate and fight through space, and while this part of the episode was good, I personally found it bland and stereotypical. It was good, but nothing I'd care to see again. The second part however, taking place on board of Covenant ship, was exceptional. The pacing, direction, and selection of camera views (the use of HUD POV was superb) just blew me away, and I watched this one again and again. Not only that, but we finally get to see an extremely important character visually for the first time, and while she didn't look like what I would have expected, the story tie-ins with her are interesting.

The last of the previewed episodes is the first part to "Origins," a more traditionally animated piece in which Cortana tells the story of the Forerunner's war with the Flood. This episode was okay, though a little slow for my liking and it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know (save that Cortana mentions she was created 7 years ago, so unless her and the Chief have been drifting in space for years after Halo 3, this simply can't be as she was only created a few years prior to the games). The war with the Flood was exactly what we've all come to expect, and the "cool" factor for "Origins" comes in the first viewing of the Forerunners themselves. We never see their faces, mind you, they're always completely dressed and often wearing their combat skins (armour), but we now know more-or-less what the Forerunners looked like.

In addition to the episode previews, we were also treated to "Making Of" documentaries for each, all of which were well done and really explained what the teams set out to do with each episode. It's quite interesting to see where each episode drew its inspiration from, such as "The Duel" being based on an actual legendary Japanese samurai.

Halo: Legends launches on February 16th on Blu-ray Disc, DVD, On Demand, and digital download. So, based on the previews from Halo Waypoint, will it be worth your cash? Well, we've already seen about half of what the package has to offer, but so long as it's about $20.00, I'd say yes. It contains enough entertainment value, even for a non-anime fan like me, and "The Babysitter" aside, each episode does expands and enhances the wonderful universe that is Halo. For me, I'll be comparing costs of the 2-Disc DVD and digital download to see which is cheaper and more practical for my use.

Over the coming weeks, look for trailers of the non-previewed episodes to be showcased on Halo Waypoint.

Mass Effect 2 Media Updates Gallore

Lots of new news on Mass Effect 2 was released last week, so let's get right to it!

Two new videos are out and about, the first showcasing the Vanguard class that players can choose to play as, and the second being a character video of Miranda. You can view them both here or below.

Next up, the Arsenal has been updated with two additional pieces of weaponry, the M-23 Katana Shotgun and the M-100 Grenade Launcher. You can read about them here.

Lastly, the officially screenshot gallery has been updated with some beauties, and you can view them here.

16 days.

Friday, January 01, 2010

20,000 Gamer Score Reached

And with my second completion of Batman: Arkham Asylum and the unlocking of the "Biggest Bang" Achievement, I've now reached over 20,000 Gamerscore for my Gamertag.

This personal milestone took me just over 3 years to reach, and I guess my next Gamerscore milestone would be 25,000. Give me another year or so to make that one.

Batman: Arkham Asylum 2nd Playthrough Completed

Just completed my second playthrough of the phenomenal Batman: Arkham Asylum, and what an experience on Hard. Almost exclusively, the game was balanced very nicely so long as you properly Countered and used Take Downs, with most battles feeling tough but not unachievable or designed to be ridiculously hard for the sake of being ridiculously hard.

There are, however, a few battles that fall into that unfortunate negative category, mainly because for all the game's polish and its supreme, fluid, freethrow combat system, the dodge system is sluggish and clunky. So many times I tried to dodge out of the way of a Titan Henchman, only to be smacked anyway. There was a lot of frustration in this regard, particularly in the battle with Bane (that took several tries and a whole lot of cursing), the battle when leaving the Caves after preventing the poisoning of the water supply, and the game's second final battle. Especially the game's second final battle!

While I loved the combat system, it's rich, fluid, and very satisfying, I was often annoyed when I was knocked out of finishing a Ground Take Down and more than once, much more than once, I wished there was a quick finisher available. Some battles against multiple foes just dragged on without one, and some battles, like Poison Ivy and Titan-Powered Joker, where much harder than they should have been because of this.

Still, these short comings and the crying orphans from all my swearing aside, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a superb game with exceptional pacing, story, and voice acting. It was also incredibly addictive, and I found myself playing in 4 hour sessions, which I never do anymore.

Hats off to Rocksteady Studios for developing such an exceptional product, and I'm really looking forward to details on the sequel.

Mass Effect 2 Assassin and Savage Trailers

To end off the year, EA and BioWare bring us two new story themed trailers for Mass Effect 2 featuring Thane and Grunt entitled "Assassin" and "Savage," and you can watch both of them here or below.

I like Grunt already. Sounds like he gets results.

Happy New Year!

We here at Arbiter's Judgement would like to wish you and yours a very safe and prosperous New Year, and here's hoping we see a versatile gaming year and some stronger titles on the silver screen.

Do anything special last night? Still hung over? Me, I actually spent it with family until the evening, then took a quiet night home. When the ball dropped I was kicking Harley Quinn's ass in Batman: Arkham Asylum. I always celebrate on New Year's day, and have some friends coming over in a few hours.

All the best, and thank you for reading our blog!