Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mortal Kombat Legacy Episode 9

The final episode of Mortal Kombat Legacy, featuring Sektor and Cyrax, premiered at this year's Comic-Con, and you can view it here or below.

Very impressive, and definitely one of my favourites. I thought it started out a little bland, but the special effects on the cyber ninjas themselves is absolutely excellent, and I love the nod to Dead Space 2 in how their helmets are donned.

I do hope that a second season ends up being produced down the line, and that we get to see some more characters featured. Reptile, Jade, and Smoke would all be interesting choices to me!

Mortal Kombat "Kenshi" Vignette

For some strange reason, Kenshi's vignette was never added to the official Mortal Kombat YouTube Channel or posted to the site's front page.

I did just find it in the official forum's "Announcements and News" section, however, and here it is belatedly below.

Not bad, though honestly, the character doesn't interest me much at all. As a huge fan of the original trilogy from when I was really playing and obsessing over Mortal Kombat, it's the original characters who always capture my attention.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Walking Dead Season 2 Comic-Con Trailer

This week at Comic-Con, AMC showed their trailer for the upcoming second season of The Walking Dead. You can check it out here or below.

While I did feel the first season struggled a bit in the last few episodes, overall I was hugely impressed by The Walking Dead. Excellent production values and story telling, and I'm looking forward to more. If this trailer is any indication, they certainly seem to be on the right track for bringing the show back up to excellent quality!

Mortal Kombat "Freddy Krueger" Gameplay Trailer

The final DLC character for Mortal Kombat has been revealed, and it's Freddy Krueger. No, I'm not joking. You can check out the official Gameplay Trailer here or below.

The reaction to this announcement has been mixed, with fans of Krueger rejoicing (and also asking for Jason to be added) and pure Mortal Kombat fans outraged.

While I'm not outraged myself, as it is optional DLC after all, I confess I am disappointed with Freddy Krueger's inclusion in what's clearly a Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment shameless plug instead of providing a proper character from the Mortal Kombat universe.

I have no issue with crossovers, mind you, but only when they work within the universe. Kratos, for example, he fits with Mortal Kombat. He's an ancient Greek warrior who raged against the gods and is known for violently hacking and slashing his way through opponents. That works.

Freddy Krueger, on the other hand, is a legendary horror film character who stalks his opponents in their dreams, murdering them violently. He doesn't fit into the whole combat atmosphere inherent with Mortal Kombat. Hopefully if they decide to do additional DLC characters in the future we'll see more traditional ones or better crossovers.

At least everyone will get free Klassic skins with the release of Freddy Krueger next Tuesday. Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat 3 is rumoured (unmasked), and I'd also bank on Mileena's Mortal Kombat II outfit being included.

Batman: Arkham City "Penguin" Trailer

Making his first gameplay appearance to this series, the Penguin is featured in the latest trailer bearing his name for Batman: Arkham City.

You can check it out both here and below.

Not bad, not too bad at all. The sequel sure seems to be keeping with the strong character development and story telling that I so loved in the original!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Campaign Demo

Releasing this November, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will bring the classic shooter into HD. A Campaign Demo is now available for viewing on Halo Waypoint, and you can check it out here or below.

Can I be honest with you? I really have an urge to play Halo: Combat Evolved right now. So many memories, and while I don't want to pay $39.99 for this, I really do hope I can find it for cheaper when it launches this November.

Halo: The Essential Visual Guide

This is news to me, but apparently DK Publishing has announced and released Halo: The Essential Visual Guide.

The book covers the events of all the games, and is a follow up to their previous book, Halo Encyclopedia - The Definitive Guide to the Halo Universe.

While I'm sure the book will have some nice visuals, as you can read in my review here I wasn't too impressed with DK Publishing's previous effort and I'd be careful in purchasing this one.

If you are interested, however, you can read the official announcement on Halo Waypoint here.

Xbox 360 Limited Edition Kinect Star Wars Bundle

Last week, Xbox and LucasArts unveiled the Xbox 360 Limited Edition Kinect Star Wars Bundle. Coming this holiday season, the bundle will include:

- a custom Xbox 360 S console in the likeness of R2-D2 with custom sounds and a 320 GB HDD
- a custom C-3PO themed Xbox 360 Wireless Controller (and that looks like the transforming D-Pad to me, though I could be wrong).
- a white coloured Kinect sensor
- Kinect Star Wars
- Kinect Adventures

A few other items are included as well, and the whole bundle will retail for $449.99 (US).

You can read the full release on Major Nelson's blog right here.

Mortal Kombat "Rain" ViDoc

The latest DLC character for Mortal Kombat, Rain, is now available, and the developers discuss his creation process and the return of some of his classic moves in this ViDoc here or below.

If I do ever decide to by one of the DLC characters for the game, it would likely be Rain, though I wouldn't do so without a Deal of Week or some kind of sale.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

BioShock: Rapture on Shelves Now

I received word from Tor Books today that the prequel novel, BioShock: Rapture, is on store shelves today!

You can check out the official press release below:

BioShock prequel novel in-stores today!


New York, NY – July 19, 2011 - Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC—the largest publisher of science fiction in the world— today announced the publication of BioShock: Rapture by John Shirley (A Tor Trade Paperback; $14.99; July 19, 2011), the first novel based on the best-selling, critically acclaimed “BioShock” video game franchise. BioShock: Rapture is available at retailers nationwide.

BioShock: Rapture tells the story of Andrew Ryan, a great dreamer with a vision: a utopia free from government, censorship, and moral restrictions on science – where great men and women can get what they give. So begins the origin story of Rapture – the majestic, shining city beneath the sea, an underwater utopia…destined to suffer great tragedy. This is the story of how it all came to be, and how it all ended.

John Shirley is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Black Butterflies and cyberpunk classics City Come A-Walkin', Eclipse, and Black Glass. He also famously penned the script of the acclaimed dark noir classic film The Crow, along with other film and TV projects. Shirley’s terrifying and inventive stories range across the same dark, dystopian, and imaginative thematic landscape as the acclaimed BioShock franchise, making him the perfect fit for this project.

Originally launched in 2007, the first BioShock game was lauded as one of the most unique original properties on modern consoles and took home a number of major industry awards, including “Game of the Year” from BAFTA, GamePro, X-Play, and the Spike TV Video Awards. The critically acclaimed cross-platform follow-up, BioShock 2, came out in 2010. The eagerly anticipated third entry in the franchise, BioShock Infinite, which won 39 awards for “Game of Show” at E3 2011, is currently in development.

About Tor Books

Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is a New York-based publisher of hardcover and softcover books. Founded in 1980, Tor annually publishes what is arguably the largest and most diverse line of science fiction and fantasy ever produced by a single English-language publisher. In 2002, Tor launched Starscape, an imprint dedicated to publishing quality science fiction and fantasy for young readers, including books by critically acclaimed and award winning authors such as Cory Doctorow, Orson Scott Card, and David Lubar. Between an extensive hardcover and trade-softcover line, an Orb backlist program, and a stronghold in mass-market paperbacks, books from Tor have won every major award in the SF and fantasy fields, and has been named Best Publisher 24 years in a row in the Locus Poll, the largest consumer poll in SF.

I know that when I'm done reading this novel, I'll want to fire the first game up. I've spent a lot of time with BioShock 2 over the last year, but haven't touched BioShock itself in nearly three years.

Halo: Primordium Announced with Cover Art

Today our friends at Tor Books have sent along the announcement for the second novel in Greg Bear's Forerunner Saga. Entitled Halo: Primordium, the novel will be published on January 3rd, 2012 and be released alongside the audio edition.

You can check out the full press release below and the cover art to the left:

Tor Books reveals title, cover art, and release date of the second Halo novel by legendary science fiction author Greg Bear

Book two in the New York Times bestselling Forerunner Saga

A long time ago, I was a living, breathing human being. I went mad. I served my enemies. They became my only friends…

New York, NY – July 19, 2011 – Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC – the largest publisher of science fiction in the world – is excited to reveal the title, cover, and release date for the second novel in the Halo Forerunner Saga, HALO: PRIMORDIUM, written by legendary science fiction author Greg Bear. Book one of the Forerunner Saga, Halo: Cryptum, is currently available in hardcover, and will release in trade paperback this fall. Book two, HALO: PRIMORDIUM, will release January 3, 2012 alongside a simultaneous audio edition.

The New York Times bestselling Halo® series, based on the hugely successful Halo videogames franchise for the Xbox 360, has sold millions of copies, part of a global phenomenon that has dominated the science fiction landscape over the last decade.

In Halo: Cryptum, Greg Bear began a three-book arc set in the era of the Forerunners, the ancient and enigmatic creators and builders of the Halos, that continues in HALO: PRIMORDIUM. In Halo: Cryptum, a young, rebellious Manipular began a dangerous search for artifacts of the Precursors — long-vanished superbeings of unknowable power and intent — setting off a devastating chain of events that nearly ended the Forerunner empire. Now two humans, former companions of the Manipular, find themselves captives and strategic pawns in a cosmic game whose madness knows no end — a game of ancient vengeance between the powers who seeded the galaxy with life, and the Forerunners who expect to take up their sacred Mantle of duty to protect all living things.

“I’m having great fun working through the action and growing mysteries in HALO: PRIMORDIUM, as humans engage in an epic odyssey across a damaged, war-torn Halo, facing the Flood, rogue AIs, and the stunning testament of the Last Precursor,” says author Greg Bear. “This is classic SF territory for me, and it’s a terrific opportunity to work with the 343 team, and to contribute through these books to both future games and the Halo universe in general.”

“In Cryptum, Greg began an exploration of a vast and imposing part of the Halo universe,” says Frank O’Connor, Franchise Development Director for 343 Industries. “In PRIMORDIUM, he takes that story closer to the ground, exploring characters, motivations and mysteries that began in Cryptum and continuing a journey that’s fascinating, horrifying and inspiring, all at once.”

Tor Books has proudly partnered with Microsoft and 343 Industries to publish every book set in this iconic universe. Along with the first two books of the Forerunner Saga, Tor has also announced another all-new Halo trilogy penned by Karen Traviss that will explore the Halo Universe in the wake of the final events of Halo 3. Traviss’s first novel, Halo: Glasslands, will come out October 25, 2011.

The Halo franchise is an award-winning collection of properties that have grown into a global entertainment phenomenon. Beginning with the original “Halo: Combat Evolved” for Xbox in 2001, the rich fiction of the franchise has since inspired a series of blockbuster Xbox and Xbox 360 video games, New York Times best-selling novels, comic books, action figures, apparel and more. To date, sales in the Halo franchise have eclipsed $2.3 billion. Microsoft recently dropped a bombshell on Halo fans at E3 with two big announcements. Coming Nov. 15 2011, Microsoft will release “Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary,” a spectacularly remastered version of the original “Halo” campaign bundled with some of the most beloved multiplayer maps in “Halo” history – all created in celebration of the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest franchises in gaming history. Also announced was “Halo 4,” the hugely-anticipated next blockbuster installment that will mark the beginning of a new Halo trilogy when it releases in-stores during the 2012 holiday season.


Friday July 22 from 10 AM to 11 AM — “Writing in Videogames: In-Game, Novels, Comics, and Other Franchise-Building Offshoots” (Room 32AB)

Panel featuring Greg Bear, Karen Traviss, Frank O’Connor, & Kevin Grace

Friday July 22 from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM —“Halo Universe” (Room 6BCF)

Panel featuring Greg Bear, Karen Traviss, Frank O’Connor, & Kevin Grace

Friday July 22 from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PMGiveaway and signing of Halo: Evolutions books, totebags and posters with Greg Bear, Karen Traviss, Frank O’Connor, & Kevin Grace in the Tor Books booth (#2707)

Please call or text Justin Golenbock at 781-801-6629 (cell) to arrange an interview on the show floor

About Tor Books

Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is a New York-based publisher of hardcover and softcover books. Founded in 1980, Tor annually publishes what is arguably the largest and most diverse line of science fiction and fantasy ever produced by a single English-language publisher. In 2002, Tor launched Starscape, an imprint dedicated to publishing quality science fiction and fantasy for young readers, including books by critically acclaimed and award winning authors such as Cory Doctorow, Orson Scott Card, and David Lubar. Between an extensive hardcover and trade-softcover line, an Orb backlist program, and a stronghold in mass-market paperbacks, books from Tor have won every major award in the SF and fantasy fields, and has been named Best Publisher 24 years in a row in the Locus Poll, the largest consumer poll in SF.

I'm really looking forward to this second novel. The original was quite interesting and, as I've mentioned in the past, the least Halo-feeling novel I've yet read but not in a negative way at all. There is some retcon happening, but I'm very interested to see how Bear furthers the overall story ark and how he'll bring things closer to the story we all know.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Pre-Order Bonuses Revealed

343 Industries has revealed the pre-order bonuses you'll be able to get should you pre-order Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.

Looks like two things thus far, the first being Master Chief Avatar Armour, which will allow you to dress up your Xbox 360 Avatar in John-117's Mark V Mjolnir Armour. The second is an exclusive Skull to the game: the Grunt Funeral Skull. It's basically the Grunt Birthday Party Skull on crack, and you can check it out via the video here or below.

Now, exploding Grunts aside, what I loved about the video above was how nice the graphics really look, and how the Assault Rifle is now a proper MA5B model and not the MA37 model featured in Halo: Reach; better overall continuity.

I also confess that I am quite interested in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, but thus far I'm seeing it carry a price tag of $39.99 and I personally feel that's far too much for a simple HD remake. Should I find it for $29.99 or with a Best Buy deal of 800 Reward Zone Points ($10.00), then I'd bite at launch.

Regardless, you can read 343 Industries official announcement right here.

New Mass Effect 3 Squad Mate Revealed

A new squad mate set to appear in Mass Effect 3 has been revealed: James Vega. Aside from being a Systems Alliance soldier, not much is known about him yet, but you can check out the brief write up on G4 here.

I do hope we have a healthy mix of old and new squad mates just like we did in Mass Effect 2. I admit when running into Tali, Garrus, and co., it really did feel like a reunion with an old friend, which speaks volumes about the story telling and character development of the franchise.

Batman: Arkham City "Can You Defeat a Mind Such as Mine?" Trailer

I completely forgot to post this last week! Another trailer has arrived for Batman: Arkham City featuring the Riddler. He'll actually appear in-game this time around and has a much larger role, though he is still terrorizing Batman from the shadows.

You can check it out here or below.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mortal Kombat "Rain" Vignette and Klassic Jade and Kitana Skins

Rain will be released as the latest DLC character for Mortal Kombat tomorrow, and just in time for his release is his vignette which you can watch here or below.

Again, I'd really, really love to play as the character, but I'm not spending 400 Microsoft Points for him.

With every DLC character though, free Klassic Skins are released for everyone, and tomorrow we'll see Klassic Jade and Kitana grace the game. These aren't the Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 skins you got via pre-order or the Klassic Skins Pack, but rather their Mortal Kombat II costumes which I personally think look very, very nice.

You can check out the trailer for these skins here or below.

So, who do you think the final character will be? My guess is Tanya since her model is already in the core game (she can appear chained in Khan's Arena if Kitana is a kombatant), but of course we'll know in a few weeks.

How about the last two Klassic Skins? Mileena (Mortal Kombat II) seems like a given to me, but who else? Cyber Smoke? Klassic Skarlet (Mortal Kombat II, since that's where the rumoured character started). Like all the Klassic Skins I do expect it to be a simple palette swap, which is fine by me as long as they are free!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (Xbox 360) Review

I've been having so much fun with Mortal Kombat that I decided to hunt down and pick up its predecessor and the franchise's first foray onto current generation consoles, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. While not as polished as its successor and certainly a lot cheesier than the standard Mortal Kombat storyline, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe is still a solid fighter filled with its own campy fun.

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe features several modes of play, such as Story Mode, Arcade Ladder, Kombo Challenges, and of course, multiplayer over Xbox LIVE. The Story Mode is where most will venture into first, and it allows you to choose your side, Mortal Kombat or DC, and play through that faction's events of the overall story.

As a non-canonical story, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe sees Raiden defeating Shao Khan at the same time Superman is stopping Darkseid's latest invasion attempt. At the exact same moment Raiden zaps Shao Khan into a portal Superman uses his heat vision on Darkseid as he attempts to flee into a Bomb Tube. While both villains appear to be destroyed by these events, the duplicate timing actually merges them into one being, Dark Khan, and slowly begins merging Mortal Kombat's Earthrealm with DC's Earth.

Story Mode is broken down into Chapters in which one character is focused on and playable out of the 22 playable characters featured (two of which must be unlocked), and all but a few are playable in this mode. Some of the most popular and recognizable heroes and villains from the DC universe make an appearance, such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Joker, Lex Luther, and Catwoman, while all the Mortal Kombat cast is pulled from the first two games in the franchise. Favourites like Scorpion and Sub-Zero as well as villains like Shang Tsung and Baraka are all present.

The Mortal Kombat characters are, of course, well suited to a fighting game while the DC characters had to be adapted to the roll. DC Comics collaborated with Midway to create the right special moves and tone for all of their characters, and the results are a cast that fit their comic counterparts but also feel like other absent Mortal Kombat characters. For example Catwoman's agility and pounce move reminds me of Mileena, Flash's fast attacks and dashes reminds me of Kabal, and Lex Luthor's missile attacks and escape moves reminds me a bit of Sektor. Such moves and familiarity are not a bad thing at all and help to better integrate the DC cast into the game.

Back to Story Mode, as the worlds merge not only do these heroes and villains all encounter one another, but the creation of Dark Khan has begun spreading "Kombat Rage" throughout, infecting the characters and making them volatile, hostile, and prone to violence. Friend and foe alike can't help but clash with one another, and the Mortal Kombat and DC characters each see the others as invaders to be destroyed.

While both the Story Mode experiences are separate, the Mortal Kombat and DC story lines are parallel with one another and the DC side has one extra Chapter for some strange unsuspicious reason. The dialogue is cheesy and very comic book styled, with many battles actually starting with one character shouting "Fight!" at the other. They like fighting you see. It's also rather amusing how the characters are always threatening to kill one another, yet once defeated in a fight the victor simply walks away from the defeated. Finishing Moves can not be performed in Story Mode, so there'll be no killing here.

Once you're done with Story Mode there's Arcade Ladder to tackle. Here you select any of the 22 characters and then you can choose for the Ladder's opponents to be all Mortal Kombat characters, all DC characters, or a mix. The sub-boss for each Ladder encounter will either be Shao Khan or Darkseid (depending on what type of opponents you picked or random if you selected a mix), and the final boss is always Dark Khan. One interesting trait about Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe's Arcade Ladder is that you can actually perform a Finishing Move on sub-bosses, something I've wanted to do to Shao Khan for nearly 15 years.

It should be noted that this is the only Mortal Kombat title to be rated "T" for Teen, which means the Fatalities are toned down and the DC heroes sport Heroic Brutalities as they're not permitted to kill by license. While the Fatalities themselves may be far less gory, they still kill their opponent and get the job done, and I personally didn't have a huge issue with this. What did irk me though was the complete lack of Stage Fatalities. Each character posses two Fatalities or Heroic Brutalities and that's it, and while it keeps things simple, honestly, I always loved the creative Stage Fatalities the franchise has had. It was cool though to see some classic Fatalities return, such as Kitana's Kiss of Death, Liu Kang's Arcade Drop, and Sub-Zero's Ice Breaker. The Heroic Brutalities do work even if they aren't exactly typical of the franchise, though honestly some of them would be fatal as well. If Superman pounds someone into the ground, they wouldn't just be brutalized, they would be dead but hey, whatever works for the licensing.

There are several mini-games to be found throughout the various game modes. Most stages are multi-tiered and if you knock your opponent off to a level below, you'll begin Free Fall Kombat. In Free Fall you're on top of your opponent mashing buttons to hit them and increase damage. If your opponent matches your button press though you switch places and the damage you did to them is transferred to you. Once you reach a certain amount of damage dealt you can press "Right Bumper" to do a nice little character specific finisher which'll send your opponent smashing to the ground.

Another mini-game is Klose Kombat. During any regular match if you press "Right Bumper" when standing next to your opponent you'll grab them and the camera will zoom right in. You can then mash buttons to severely damage them, but if your opponent matches your button press they'll break free and the fight resumes as per normal.

The last mini-game is Test Your Might, but it's implemented in a completely new fashion. Instead of breaking blocks they're now featured in regular maps on specific stages. If you knock your opponent into a building you'll keep pushing them through, pressing buttons quickly to increase the damage they take. Your opponent, on the other hand, will need to mash buttons themselves to try and reduce the damage you're doing to them. The max damage dealt is capped and the mini-game ends when you both emerge on the building's other side. Personally, I wasn't a big fan of this version of Test Your Might and I'm glad the idea was abandoned in Mortal Kombat.

The game's Super Metre has two bars that fill up over time, either by dealing or absorbing damage (but more so by dealing it). The first bar allows you to perform a Kombo Breaker by pressing forward and Block, which can really help save you from some punishing damage. If you allow the second bar to fill, however, you can either perform another Kombo Breaker or you can instead enter Rage Mode by pressing both Triggers. Aside from having glowing yellow eyes, a nice roar, and a crazy aura, your character will no longer be stunned from Kombos for the duration of the Rage which really lets you dish out the damage. If your opponent is next to you when you activate Rage Mode they'll also be knocked back and take damage. You do still take regular damage while in Rage Mode, however, so it's up to you whether you want to use it or stick to Kombo Breakers as there's no guarantee that you'll do significant damage when Raged.

Once you've finished up with Arcade Ladder you can attempt the game's Kombo Challenges for each character, which are a series of increasingly difficult combos to pull together. These combos will sometimes involve the new Pro Moves, which are a specific special move followed immediately by another to create a devastating effect. The timing for Pro Moves must be perfect, but if you pull them off you'll do some nice damage. The Kombo Challenges in general are extremely challenging and require precise and expert timing, and as of this typing I don't expect to be able to complete any myself.

If you finish up or give up on Kombo Challenges, you can always take the fight online over Xbox LIVE. The player pool is small, especially since Mortal Kombat is now out, however I never had to wait long for a Ranked Match (unlike Mortal Kombat) and the few matches I've played in had no lag (also unlike Mortal Kombat). This surprised me greatly as if any title would have had more online issues, I would have expected it to be the earlier one but that's apparently not the case. The online matches I've played thus far have been fun, smooth, and quick; exactly what I expect out of an online fighting game. Perhaps Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe sports better net code or perhaps I just got lucky. Regardless, if Ranked Matches aren't your thing you can hop into a chat room and simply challenge anyone who's there for some friendly or not-so-friendly competition.

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe is built on Unreal Engine 3, and it certainly shows. While visually not as pristine and polished as Mortal Kombat, the game does look solid and the 3D arenas are reasonably well detailed and filled with enough variety to keep them appealing and engaging. Character models are well detailed and fluid in their animations and this was the game that introduced visual damage to your characters as they get smacked around, which is a very nice addition. The games physics are good though the juggle combos that can be pulled off are insane, and for those of you wondering all the female characters do have a solid hefting of physics applied to their breasts, though less so than in Mortal Kombat.

Audio wise the voice acting is solid and campy for a fighting/comic book game but it does what it needs to do, and the sound effects are spot on. The music is well composed as well and generally works in complimenting each setting or section of Story Mode.

The Xbox 360's D-Pad still isn't overly precise but for some odd reason I found Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe handles rolling motions better than Mortal Kombat. Scorpion's Teleport Punch, for example, is easy to execute with a simple role of the thumb while in Mortal Kombat the thumb roll usually has him jumping backwards. One thing I found Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe to be very unforgiving on though would be Finishing Move distance. You really need to be precise on your distances and quick with the button combinations to get these finishers off right, which can be a bit frustrating.

Being a 3D fighter the Left Stick is used to navigate the 3D plain allowing you to side step incoming projectiles, or you can also accomplish this by holding Left Trigger and using the D-Pad. Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe is actually the first 3D fighter that I've spent any real amount of time with, and I can honestly say that I didn't find the 3D plain to be overly useful or drastically game changing, and even in online matches most players that I've gone up against seem to rarely use it. As an old school fighter I do prefer my 2D plain for the genre, but this was doable.

It is a shame that there aren't more unlockables or game modes available, and while what Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe does offer is solid, it's a bit on the sparse side. No alternate costumes or Stage Fatalities, Friendships, or Babalities, no hidden fighters, no Kombat Kodes or unlockable artwork, and not even a tutorial means that you'll be spending most of your time either online or with Arcade Ladder, and while there's certainly entertainment to be had this makes it hard to recommend at full retail price.

Thankfully though I don't have to, as Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe is already a Platinum Hits title and with a $19.99 price tag, well, it's a solid price for some campy fun. Personally, I also found it quite interesting to see the development of the franchise, to see how Unreal Engine 3 was first used and how the Super Metre, special moves, and combos have evolved to the current release. I missed the last console generation's entries into the Mortal Kombat franchise, and I've been told that Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe went back to a more classic feel that was lost with its predecessors. While I can't vouch for them, I can say the game was easy to get into and to play with no complicated fighting styles and any switching of weapons and the like (save for sheathing or unsheathing Baraka's or Deathstroke's blades). A lot of what this game did right or returned to properly was carried into Mortal Kombat, and those are all good things.

If you're waiting for a price drop on Mortal Kombat, looking to pad your Gamerscore, or just looking for a fun, cheap fighting game, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe will fill all those rolls nicely. There's a solid if limited fighter there, and with a more stable online mode than Mortal Kombat, there's definitely replay value in the box, even two and a half years after it's release.

Update: Having recently completed "The Competitor" and "Relentless" Achievements, I thought I'd pen a bit more about the game's Multiplayer experience.

Even this late into Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe's life cycle, there's no shortage of players on Xbox LIVE and the game really does have a solid feel to it. I have 217 games under my belt (over 50% of those are Ranked matches) and I must say that I've enjoyed myself immensely. In terms of number of games, this also makes Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe my most played game over Xbox LIVE to date.

Ranked matches are pretty standard, and the matchmaking system uses your TrueSkill to find you an opponent to compete against. It did a fairly good job of matching me against worthy foes, something I've always felt the TrueSkill system lacked at doing, and rarely was I in a game that I completely dominated in or was being dominated. Higher skilled players would unleash the most insane juggle combos I've ever seen in a Mortal Kombat title, and lower skilled players would attempt to spam the same move over and over or abuse the few characters who had a two-hit kick juggle that only seems breakable by using a Combo Breaker.

In any match I also found Combo Breakers to be a real life saver, and for Rage Mode to be a waste except in the rarest of circumstances. It's far too easy to avoid a player who's in Rage Mode, or even better, you could often crouch and keep punching with "1" and your average opponent just couldn't figure out how to hit you!

If you're not a fan of Ranked games you can simply hop into a Chat Room, where the "Gotham City" one usually has anywhere from 20 to 60 players lounging around, and you can simply challenge people over and over and over again by pressing "X." These were pretty fun and a lot of players enjoyed rematching, allowing you to play a sizable number of games in short order.

I played all 217 games as Scorpion, my chosen kombatant, and I fought against most of the others at some point. Kombatants like Kano and Lex Luthor were rare while Catwoman was the only character I didn't see once, and others like Scorpion, Captain Marvel, Batman, and Sub-Zero were hugely popular.

I was also very pleased with the lack of any serious lag which really allowed me to focus on my combos instead of trying to determine who was hitting what when, or why my hits weren't connecting.

So when all is said and done, I can't complain with my purchase of Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. While I've retired it to play Mortal Kombat, I most certainly got my money's worth out of the title and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to any of you for offline or online play.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mortal Kombat "Rain" Gameplay Trailer

Rain will be the next DLC character available for Mortal Kombat, coming on July 19th for 400 Microsoft Points. You can check out his gameplay trailer here or below.

I'd be very interested in trying out Rain, as I've loved the concept and mystery of the character since he was first "revealed" in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3's attract mode in arcades, and he wasn't even in the actual game!

However, 400 Microsoft Points is far too much for a single character, so I'll be passing.

X-Men: First Class Review

When X-Men first graced the silver screen back in 2000, I greatly enjoyed it as well as its sequel released in 2003. Bryan Singer really had the franchise down portraying the characters and their conflicts in a great light. Combined with some excellent action sequences, Singer made a memorable start to the franchise's feature film debuts. After Singer moved on from the series it arguably took a strong turn downhill, however Singer has returned as a producer for the latest installment, the prequel X-Men: First Class.

Set in the 1960's, the film follows a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) as he creates a team and then a school for "gifted children" who's purpose is originally to assist the US government in the Cuban missile crisis.

I personally loved how X-Men: First Class took such a popular and memorable recent historical moment and had the entire film centered around these actual events, complete with stock footage of JFK and various news broadcasts. It really helped ground the story, giving it a sense of credibility while also showing us the "unofficial" side of what happened, all of which work wonders for suspension of disbelief.

Of course, as a prequel set in the '60's, X-Men: First Class explores the early relationship of Xavier and Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Beginning with the opening scene from X-Men, X-Men: First Class shows young Erik Lehnsherr loose his parents in the Nazi internment camps, and the subsequent experiments the Nazi's conducted on him to try and harness his mutant powers. As a result Erik is angry; very, very angry.

Years later, he's begun a quest for vengeance, hunting down and eliminating those who hurt him and his family. This takes him in search of Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a former Nazi who has his own plans for the US and Russia and the pending missile crisis. This also leads him to meet Xavier, a man and a mutant who becomes his close friend, and together the two aid one another not only in the hunt for Shaw, but also in the protection of other young mutants whom they begin to form into a team.

Like the original two films, X-Men: First Class has very strong character development. I personally wasn't too big on McAvoy's portrayal of Xavier as I found him rather pompous (though I suspect that was done on purpose), but I thought Fassbender was absolutely brilliant as Magneto. I really felt for the character, his need for revenge, for self preservation, and the struggle to be different in an unfair world. His influence on the other characters, such as Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), was both stimulating and moving, as were his morale disputes with Xavier. Watching the two drift apparent, using different methods to achieve what they first believe to be the same goal and the realization in one another that each is after something different, well, it's quite sad. The relationship between Mystique and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) also really grounded the central theme of what it means to be normal and to embrace one's own self.

Being a comic-based film, X-Men: First Class features some excellent battles and action sequences complete with stunning special effects. As the young mutants learn to harness their powers better, the action only becomes more intense and more grandiose culminating in the Cuban missile blockade itself, which brings about some additional wonderful character moments as we see these iconic personalities molded into what we already know they're destined to be and how they'll deal with the world they now find themselves in.

X-Men: First Class is not only an excellent film for fans of the franchise, but it's the best film I've seen this year. Filled with very real moral predicaments, strong characters, and wonderful action, the film doesn't disappoint from start to finish and I'm quite glad that Singer has once again dabbled in this wonderful franchise.

Friday, July 08, 2011

BioShock Infinite E3 2011 Gameplay Demo

There's nothing for me to say, really. Just watch this and wear a bib.

BioShock Infinite can't release soon enough!

Bungie Foundation

Bungie has started up its own charity, the Bungie Foundation, which you can read about right here.

Essentially they're using collected proceeds to buy iPads for kids who are recovering in hospitals to make their recovery time all the better.

If you want to help, you can buy a charity Avatar T-Shirt for 80 Microsoft Points, men's available here, lady's here.

As you well know by now I don't support such things as overpriced Avatar clothes, but when the cause is charity and helping kids, well that's a big difference. I'll be picking one of these up to help Bungie's fine cause.

Mortal Kombat "Kenshi" ViDoc and Klassic Noob and Smoke Skins

Kenshi is now available for download for 400 Microsoft Points and is the second of four DLC characters that will be released for Mortal Kombat. The ViDoc detailing his creation for the game can be viewed here or below, and it is an interesting watch as always.

I'd love to try him out, as well as Skarlet, but 400 Microsoft Points is far too much for a single character so as you've already guessed, I'll pass. However the release of Kenshi has also released the game's second Compatibility Pack which is a free download and required for proper online play, and it also comes with an additional two free Klassic Skins, this time for Noob Saibot and Smoke.

You can check out the trailer with these character's showing off their old duds here or below.

I love that Mortal Kombat 2 mask, and wish the Klassic Sub-Zero skin I had featured that instead of the odd mix between his Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat 2 costume. Oh well, mustn't complain with free, as that's all too rare in these nickle-and-dime days!

Dead Space 2 Completed for the 3rd Time

This past weekend, I completed Dead Space 2 for the third and likely final time. I did a New Game+ on Zealot difficulty, using more or less the same tactics as I did the last time save that I used the Plasma Cutter almost exclusively at the beginning.

Once again, absolutely amazing story telling and a wonderfully atmospheric game. I loved the setting, the characters, and how Isaac was often swearing at the same times I was. Inventory management was fun and the variety of enemies and wonderfully large and cinematic boss battles keeps things engaging and fresh.

My only gripe is how the developers really dropped the ball on the gameplay in the last few Chapters. The bulk of the game is a tension filled, horror survival experience and while the strong storytelling continues throughout I just can't understand why the developers reduced the last few Chapters into a drab and generic shooter accented by the ever annoying Ubermorph.

Originally starting up on Zealot Difficulty I planned to see how things went and to use this play experience to judge whether I'd give Hardcore Difficulty a run, and at first I really though I would. I died once stupidly in the first Chapter but after that I don't think I died again until around Chapter 9, so time constraints aside I was really thinking that Hardcore would be a fun challenge.

Once I got into the last Chapters, however, I remembered how frustrating, annoying, and un-Dead Space they felt and based on the amount of times I died there I know I'd be breaking my Controller in frustration with a max of only 3 saves, so unless something changes or I find myself with an abundance of free time (unlikely) Hardcore Difficulty will remain unplayed by me.

My Zealot playthrough lasted about 10 hours, but of course being my third run with this Isaac I was well equipped and upgraded and I'm also much more familiar with the levels, so progressing faster wasn't too difficult.

Overall Dead Space 2 is an excellent experience, excluding the gameplay stumble for the last hour or so. The game's seen a drop in price recently, so if you've missed out on it the summer months will make a great time to check this gem out.

Monday, July 04, 2011

BioShock Infinite E3 2011 Demo: The First Two Minutes

The first two minutes of the BioShock Infinite E3 2011 demo has been released, and you can view it here or below.

Very immersive, and I like how Elizabeth holds conversations with the player. I wonder if such converstations are dynamic or completely scripted and will occur every playthrough. I'm guessing dynamic since she seems to chat with the player based on where he goes.

After Thursday July 7th, the full demo should be up for viewing, and based on how this teaser ends off, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next!

Batman: Arkham City Box Art Revealed

The official box art for Batman: Arkham City has been revealed. You can read the announcement here, and of course take a peak at the pretty picture to the left.

The announcement also has pictures of the PlayStation 3 and PC versions of the box.