Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection Dated and ViDoc

The Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection has finally received a release date. Comprised of Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, this kollection will be arriving August 31st on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, PlayStation Store, and PC.

The price point is truly a great deal at 800 Microsoft Points or $10.00 (US).

A ViDoc has also been released interviewing Ed Boon and other team members discussing their experiences working on or playing these original arcade klassics. You can check it out here or below.

I'm very excited for this kollection as it'll be the first time I'll get to play Mortal Kombat in over a decade. Each title will be "arcade perfect," but also include online play and Achievements/Trophies. Wednesday will be one complete nostalgia trip!

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary ViDoc "Multiplayer"

A new ViDoc for Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary has been released, simply entitled "Multiplayer."

The ViDoc looks at 343 Industries efforts to recreate classic maps from Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 for Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary's Multiplayer mode, which of course will be done via Halo: Reach.

You can check the ViDoc out here or below.

So the classic Pistol returns in Multiplayer for both Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo: Reach in specific playlists. It's also cool to see the new Firefight map Installation 04 where AI Marines actually fight alongside you!

Aliens: Colonial Marines Gameplay Trailer

The first gameplay trailer for Aliens: Colonial Marines has been released, and you can check it out here or below.

They've certainly got the look and feel spot on, and since the title's being developed by Gearbox Software, I have high hopes that they'll get the game right.

News originally spotted at TeamXbox here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

BioShock: Rapture Review

Rapture. Four years ago I descended in a Bathysphere and witnessed my first glimpse of this underwater marvel, a man's dream made reality, a man's dream that crumbled. BioShock is a wonderful interactive storytelling experience full or morality, hope, and redemption that was all too psychologically disturbing. Two and a half years later players were able to traverse the depths of this underwater dystopia once again in BioShock 2, but for a very different purpose: to save their adoptive daughter.

The BioShock franchise has always had strong stories that pushed against the norm found in other games, stories founded upon family values and relations and the desires for a free and simple life. However one thing the games never really showed was how Rapture came to the sorry state the player finds it in, how the dream of one great man crumbled despite his wealth of accomplishments. Sure, we could hear about it through the Audio Diaries scattered about the game world, but we could never really experience it. That is until now.

Last month Tor Books published the BioShock prequel novel, BioShock: Rapture. Written by John Shirley, BioShock: Rapture details how this marvel of a city was founded, how it evolved, and how it was subverted by Fontaine, Lamb, and ultimately Andrew Ryan himself.

As the founder of Rapture, Andrew Ryan is, of course, a central figure to the story. Readers will learn about Ryan's past, his fears about the future of the surface world, and his ambitions and initially sound reasoning for the creation of Rapture itself. No gods, no kings, only man. Ryan truly wanted Rapture to be a city of freedom and enterprise where anyone could achieve their full potential without rules and constraint. To accomplish this marvel he needed to recruit specialists he could trust, and one of those is the novel's protagonist, Bill McDonagh.

McDonagh first meets Andrew Ryan as his plumber on an emergency call in New York, and Ryan immediately takes a liking to his integrity and drive. What results is McDonagh's recruitment not only into Ryan's own circle, but his involvement in constructing a completely self sustaining underwater city and his participation in the dream. Others also take an interest in this special project of Ryan's, men like Frank Fontaine who see it as a city of opportunity from a criminal element, ripe for conning and scamming the residents.

One of Ryan's only rules for coming to live in Rapture is that none are allowed to leave, based on the grounds of protecting the city's freedom through secrecy. What Ryan never anticipated however was that your average Joe, maintenance techs and other labourers, simply lack the drive and ambition he has and in a city with no laws or public systems the gulf between rich and poor becomes astronomical causing depression and despair. Thus the fall of Rapture was assured from its very beginning, from this oversight alone, allowing men like Fontaine to more easily manipulate those of the downtrodden.

Ryan brings in Sofia Lamb, a psychiatrist, to try and resolve the situation, but she too is able to twist the social classes of Rapture to her own ends, adding a third party to the city's rising conflict that ultimately leads to the full civil war we've heard so much about.

And of course there's the Adam and Plasmids that BioShock is so known for. BioShock: Rapture goes into detail about its finding, development, and refinement into the Plasmids we know and how they ultimately spelled further ruin for Rapture. As the likes of Fontain, Suchong, and Tenenbaum seek to advance and profit from the substance, McDonagh, Security Chief Sullivan, and the others find it increasingly more difficult to maintain order in the city, especially when they're dealing with what are essentially drug addicts with superhuman powers.

The creation of the Big Daddies and Little Sisters is also a very sad affair, and how Ryan truly fails to deal with the situation, how he begins to become that which he despises and that which we see in-game, and how his own closest colleagues begin to doubt him in his own time of need. There might not be any true laws in Rapture, but there is a universal sense of right and wrong that is at the root of civilized humanity and Ryan throws that sense right out the airlock.

Something Shirley does very well is to tell the history of Rapture incorporating not only the characters and elements from the original game, but also from BioShock 2. The sequel retconned in many elements that simply didn't exist in BioShock, and Shirley has really blended them all and made them a natural part of Rapture's back story. The audio diaries are also wonderfully represented not only by being present in the story, but by being recorded by their characters word for word as how we find them in-game. It adds a great deal more substance for the true BioShock fan to delight in, and speaks of the amount of care to detail that Shirley has undertaken with his work.

BioShock: Rapture is a wonderful read and is a real treat for any fan of the franchise, expanding and detailing events we've already heard about but presenting them firsthand through the eyes of many key characters. Rapture truly could have been the marvel that Andrew Ryan so wished it to be, but it was destined to fail, and after reading BioShock: Rapture one will truly understand why.

Friday, August 19, 2011

BioShock Infinite 4 New Screenshots

Four new screenshots have surfaced for BioShock Infinite, and they can be viewed on the official site's screenshot page right here.

Looks like they were pulled from the amazing E3 2011 Gameplay Demo, viewable here. If you missed out on the demo give it a watch, as it's absolutely breath taking.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary "Damnation" Gameplay Trailer

Showcasing the remake of "Damnation," a fan favourite multiplayer map from Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo Waypoint has posted a video of a full Team Slayer match featured in the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary version which will be available to all when the game launches this November.

You can check out the trailer here or below.

Keep in mind that Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will be using Halo: Reach as its competative Multiplayer mode, so if you're interested in these classic map remakes but don't want to pick up Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary they will be available a bit down the road as a map pack for Halo: Reach. No word on pricing for that yet, of course.

IGN also has exclusive walkthrough videos for both the map remakes of "Damnation" and "Beaver Creek," which is another fan favourite of old.

Those can be checked out here and here respectively.

Mass Effect 3 "Squad Leader" Trailer

A new trailer has been released for Mass Effect 3, showcasing Commander Shepard leading Garrus and Liara into battle against a Cerberus assault. It's action packed though quite reminiscent of Mass Effect 2. Still, that's certainly not a bad thing given how great that game was.

You can check out the trailer here or below.

Batman: Arkham City "Mr. Freeze" Gameplay Trailer

A new trailer has been released for Batman: Arkham City showcasing Mr. Freeze. You can check it out here or below.

I foresee a very challenging boss encounter, or a very simple boss encounter. Either way, it looks like they've captured the character nicely and thankfully he doesn't resemble Ah-nold in any way.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mass Effect 2: Arrival (Xbox 360) Review

The final DLC add-on for Mass Effect 2, entitled "Arrival," went on sale recently as part of an Xbox LIVE Deal of the Week, and I decided to pick it up and complete my collection.

Even at a sale price of 50% off I had reservations about buying it as Mass Effect 2: Arrival received a fair bit of negative press reviews, however despite this I decided to go in with an open mind and see how Shepard's final mission ends the sequel's adventure.

One of the cool attractions for this add-on is that we finally get to see Admiral Hackett, voiced by Lance Henriksen, a character who's been ever present in the franchise but only heard up until now. Once the add-on is downloaded and as soon as you fire up your last save game you'll receive a message that Hackett needs to speak with you about a rather sensitive topic, so Shepard will always take this call in his/her quarters.

Apparently a close friend of Hackett's, an Alliance scientist and operative named Dr. Kenson, has been taken prisoner in Batarian space. To make matters worse, she's got proof of a pending Reaper invasion and Hackett needs you to spring her ASAP.

This Assignment will not become available until the Mission on Horizon is completed in the core game, but like most Mass Effect 2 "quests" you can tackle this at any point you choose. Unlike most Mass Effect 2 Assignments, however, you need to do so solo.

A few rare Assignments in Mass Effect 2 saw Shepard tackling a simple task or two alone, but it's rather regrettable that Shepard has to take on this final adventure on his/her own, especially one that has him/her coming face-to-face with Reapers themselves. Hackett gives Shepard a political reason for not involving his crew, but really, it's nothing more than an excuse for the developers to design a solo stealth mission.

And when all is said and done the stealth mission isn't that bad. It's also not that hard. It also doesn't need to be played as a stealth mission. If you want to run and gun your way to the good doctor, feel free, but there is an Achievement for being all sneaky like.

Once Kenson is rescued, the add-on's story takes a different direction, a Reaper related direction that I won't spoil for you, but the remainder of Mass Effect 2: Arrival is really like a basic third person shooter. There's a brief little scenario that's unique or innovative, so credit where credit is due, but really there's nothing new or special in this add-on that you haven't experienced better elsewhere in the core game.

The storytelling itself is good, at least, and I did enjoy the overall narrative, however the entire add-on took me only two hours to playthrough, about two and a half on Insanity, and I've beaten it now three times; once for all my Shepards.

The enemies you encounter are all recycled and are quite predictable, and surprisingly Mass Effect 2: Arrival features absolutely no new weapons or armour. What you get is three Research upgrades available and some extra resources, nothing to jump and shout about and nothing you truly need.

While I fully expect a few of the decisions you make to have an impact on Mass Effect 3, and as I mentioned the story is pretty good as it conveys a nice sense of urgency and is coupled with some great new music, it's still very hard to recommend at full cost due to its short length and sparse/basic content.

While Mass Effect 2: Arrival isn't horrible, it's a few hours of mainly mindless entertainment, there's nothing essential here and it's quite the shame Mass Effect 2's final add-on isn't up to snuff along the lines of what we saw in Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker, or even Mass Effect 2: Overlord. Personally, I think Mass Effect 2: Arrival would have been perfect as a free release via the forgotten Cerberus Network; short, simple, basic entertainment. Instead it's released as a premium add-on and fails to impress; it's just kind of there.

I know BioWare can do far better than this, and let's hope they don't forget that while developing the conclusion to what's otherwise an excellent game franchise.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe Review Updated

Having played a solid amount of Multiplayer games for Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, I decided to update my review with the sum of my experience.

You can check out my entire review here, or if you've already read it, and just because you're you, I've cut and pasted the new text for you below.

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.

Lord of Souls: An Elder Scrolls Novel Coming Soon

Just saw over on the official The Elder Scrolls web site that the second novel of their series continuing the story from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion will be released this September 27th.

Entitled Lord of Souls, you can check out the details right here.

I passed on the first novel due to its cost, and assuming they follow suit with the sequel I'll be missing this one as well. A pity, as I'm sure they'd be quite entertaining novels since I'm such a huge fan of the universe.

Mortal Kombat "Freddy Krueger" Commercial, ViDoc, and Vignette

Available now, Freddy Krueger is the latest and last DLC character for Mortal Kombat.

In a clearly shameless promotion, WB Games has actually released a TV commercial in which they advertise the horror movie kombatant which you can view here or below.

The standard ViDoc and vignette are also available and they can be viewed here and here or below.

You know, after watching that vignette, I can't help but like Freddy Krueger even less. Shao Khan wants to dominate all the realms. Characters like Lui Kang want to save Earth Realm and Edenia from konquest, but Freddy Krueger, he wants to terrorize a bunch of kids. On a single street.

He's just really lacking in ambition, this guy.

Bungie ViDoc "O Brave New World"

The torch has been passed, and Bungie has officially handed off all things Halo to 343 Industries and is full steam ahead on their new secret project. As a token of farewell to their epic franchise as well as in continued celebration of the studio's 20th birthday, they've released a new ViDoc entitled "O Brave New World."

Looking at the company's begins to present day, the first seven minutes covers the studio's early days and the rest, naturally, covers Halo.

So grab a beer and sit back, as this ViDoc will take a while clocking in at a total of fifty five minutes and eight seconds. You can check out the history lesson of awesome here or below!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Halo: Reach Completed for the 5th Time

With all this talk about Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, I decided to give Halo: Reach's Campaign another whirl.

I played through on Heroic, and I honestly found it easier than my last playthrough for some strange unsuspicious reason.

Though it really does conflict with the universe's previous canon, I did love the overall story telling and darker tone. The level design is excellent and the musical score is superb and really helps to underline so many great and memorable moments. The enemy AI did remain challenging throughout the playthrough, and it really is such a damn shame that the friendly AI was so God awful, but that really is the Campaign's only major flaw.

I also survived for a good 10 minutes in the post-credits sequence, which was really fun and challenging.

I didn't try anything too new or crazy on this playthrough and pretty much stuck with the simple DMR and Plasma Pistol combo, though I did use the Assault Rifle a good bit more than normal.

Halo: Reach really is such a great swan song to Bungie's development of the franchise, and I encourage any shooter fan to check the game out. There's a free demo available for those still on the fence, and the game retails for $49.99 now (with the Limited Edition going for $10.00 less if you can find it!).

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Collector's Edition Announced

Late last week, Bethesda announced the upcoming Collector's Edition for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Retailing for $149.99 (US), the contents include:

- Alduin Statue
- The Art of Skyrim official art book
- The Making of DVD
- A copy of the game (obviously)

I'm a huge fan of The Elder Scrolls, but I'm not so much a fan of collectible statues/figures and I wish there was a middle-ground version, one with just the DVD and the Art Book. I'd pick that up for $89.99, but I'll be passing on the Collector's Edition as it stands.

For those who do like that sort of thing though, this is rather cool, and full details can be found here.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Starter Edition Now Available

Replacing the demo, Blizzard Entertainment has now released the StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Starter Edition.

Basically a glorified demo, any with a account can download and play the Starter Edition, which contains the first four missions from the Campaign, Terran-based custom games against the AI, and access to four custom maps.

Any Campaign progress and Achievements earned will carry over to the full version should you decided to purchase it.

For full details, check out Blizzard's post here and if you're interested, you can download the Starter Edition here.

Diablo III Beta Announcement and Auction House

Blizzard Entertainment has announced that Diablo III Beta sign ups are now live, and all you need to do to sign up is to make sure you're opted in for Blizzard Entertainment betas via your account.

Note that opting in does not guarantee you'll be selected, it simply means you're eligible. If you are selected you'll be notified via email, and like previous betas they'll be adding players in waves.

The beta will include parts of New Tristram and the return of the Skeleton King from the original game. All five character classes will be available as well as Artisans and Followers.

You can check out the details of the upcoming beta here, and the official FAQ here.

Also announced and featured in the upcoming beta is the Auction House. In previous games, if you found a great item that was useless for your character you had but three options: 1) Sell it to an in-game vendor for Gold, 2) Find and Trade it with another player, 3) Mule it to a new character you'd make.

While people certainly did all of the above (Lord knows I did many, many times), other players would also take an unofficial fourth option: Selling the items for real world money over random third party sites on the internet.

With the Auction House, players in Diablo III can now post any item up for auction, and other players can bid on it using in-game Gold or real world currency. While some might feel using real world currency is a bad idea, note that it's optional and no one is forced to do this, and I'd trust one of Blizzard's own services over a random site that could be a scam any day.

Note however that due to the nature of the Auction House, Diablo III will require a persistent internet connection for all characters all the time.

You can read full details on the Auction House here and check out its FAQ, which also discusses associated fees for posting and selling items, here and here respectively.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Mortal Kombat Retro Cyber Sub-Zero and Klassic Sub-Zero Skins

This coming Tuesday the last DLC character for Mortal Kombat, Freddy Krueger, will be released along with the final compatibility pack. As with all compatibility packs, a few Klassic Skins will come included for free.

In this pack, you'll find retro Cyber Sub-Zero and Klassic Sub-Zero (Mortal Kombat 3). You can check out the trailer here or below.

The Klassic Sub-Zero skin was leaked a bit ago and is a warm welcome, but a lot of people seem upset with Retro Cyber Sub-Zero. Everyone's been screaming for Cyber Smoke, however when you think about it, they'd have to create completely new move animations for the character instead of just a skin; he'd really be a new character.

Sektor and Cyrax had different animations and the like but they were developed for the retail game, so it makes sense that we didn't see Cyber Smoke offered as a simple skin. Since Cyber Sub-Zero happened in this time line instead, it's a nice nod for them to include him with the retro skin.

I am surprised we didn't see Klassic Mileena (Mortal Kombat II), but really, who can complain with free add-ons.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Terminals Sneak Peak

Missed this last week, however Halo Waypoint has launched a trailer showing a sneak peak at the new terminals we'll find in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.

You can check out the trailer here or below.