Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dead Space 2: Severed (Xbox 360) Completed for the Third Time

Well, I didn't One Gun it like I had originally planned, I Two Gunned it. Earlier this week I completed Dead Space 2: Severed for the third and likely final time, this time on Zealot Difficulty which earned me the add-on's final Achievement. I actually found it easier than on Survivalist, however I suspect that's because this time around I played smarter.

As soon as the add-on began and I got to the first Workbench, I immediately re-speced my Pulse Rifle and sold it along with my Flamethrower. I then bought the Refurbished Plasma Cutter, fully upgraded Stasis, and then began upgrading my R.I.G. to gain additional Health. Buying Medium Medkits, ammo, and Power Nodes as available, I slowly but surely made my way through the add-on's two Chapters.

The Plasma Cutter has always been the franchise's staple weapon, and this playthrough proved that this still held firm in the series' latest addition. I supplemented the use of my Refurbished Plasma Cutter with healthy uses of Stasis and the Patrol Seeker Rifle you start the add-on with; which came in very handy on the tougher Necromorphs.

In truth, the only hard section of the add-on was right towards the end of Chapter 1 where you're ambushed by about four Leapers and those two Pukers (where it's the Leapers that are the real problem). That took me several attempts and a healthy dose of profanity, but once I got past that the add-on was pretty smooth sailing.

I clocked in a little over 2 hours, which is more or less what I expected to spend.

At the 50% off price I paid for the add-on, I've enjoyed myself and it's solved that Dead Space fix I've been craving for a little while. I likely won't be touching the franchise for a while now, either not until the inevitable Dead Space 3 is released or should I pick up an iPod Touch or iPad this summer when I move to my house. I'm toying with the idea of using one so I can easily take my tunes between floors, and if I do pick up one of Apple's devices I'd likely purchase Dead Space (iOS) for it and give that a whirl.

Mass Effect 3: Special Forces Trailer

With Mass Effect 3 releasing in a little over a month, EA's kicking the advertising campaign into high gear. The latest trailer showcases the game's Multiplayer mode. Entitled "Special Forces," this trailer loosely shows how Multiplayer might be tied into Single Player, as well as some core Multiplayer game mechanics themselves.

You can check out the new trailer here or below.

Provided Multiplayer isn't required to fully experience the Single Player game, I won't have an issue with this at all. If that's not the case, however, it'll be extremely disappointing since the Mass Effect trilogy is really a Single Player experience.

Aliens: Colonial Marines "Contact" Cinematic Trailer

Gearbox Software's upcoming shooter, Aliens: Colonial Marines, has officially been delayed until this Fall. To tide us over until then, they've released a new Cinematic Trailer entitled "Contact," which you can check out here or below.

Robot Chicken Star Wars Episode III - The Force Unleashed Sketch

While this trailer is well over a year old, looks like I completely missed it. While Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II turned out to be a disappointment, this Robot Chicken commercial certainly is not!

Enjoy here or below!

Kinect Star Wars "Duel" Trailer

While I'm personally not interested in Kinect or the upcoming Kinect Star Wars, I quite enjoyed this trailer. Entitled "Duel," it's a nice little spoof on an iconic scene that I can see the Staff re-enacting in just such a fashion.

You can check the trailer out here or below.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Demo (Xbox 360) Impressions

For a demo, this download has more meat too it than most premium DLC today, and this was free. Thanks to the cross-promotion with Mass Effect 3, I downloaded and gave the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Demo a whirl today, not knowing much about it going in.

For all intents and purposes, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning appears to be EA's version of Fable II with some Mass Effect and, I believe, Dragon Age thrown in for good measure. The game world is a standard fantasy world with Men, Elves, Gnomes, etc. and there's a race of what I believe are Elves who've gone all evil and Orc-like and they're trying to wipe out the other races in a massive war. That's all well and good save that unlike the other "mortal" races, these evil Orc-Elves don't properly die; you kill them and their soul goes back to their homeland to be reborn.

This war has been going on for well over a decade and the western kingdoms (why are the good guys always in the west anyway?) are starting too loose simply due to the inexhaustible numbers of the enemy. That's where the Gnomes come in. One crazy Gnome has been working on a way to bring regular folk back to life, and guess what: You're the results.

The demo starts with a summary of the fantasy world and the war and with your body being hauled off to be discarded. You can choose to be male or female at this point and can choose from four different races, two kinds of Men and two kinds of Elves, and you can fully customize your facial appearance, name, etc. It's all standard RPG fare and you awaken in a pile of corpses, still alive but with no memory of anything (amnesia, the classic RPG plot device) and a Quest to escape the underground tunnels you're in.

From this point on, if the cartoonish graphics weren't already a give-away, the game plays very much like Fable II: linear exploration, similar styalized combat and control scheme, similar inventory system, and a host of Skills to expand and level up (you do actually earn XP in this game). More or less it's fun with a slightly clunky camera, but I didn't find anything overly innovative.

Dialogue is handled via a conversation wheel just like in Mass Effect save that you don't hear your character speak anything, traditional dialogue boxes will crop up in more detailed conversations, and I found myself having to hit "A" several times on many occasions to have a dialogue option actually select; the responsiveness wasn't the best.

Just like in Fable II, you can find chests to open and loot for goodies, and you can engage in lock picking of a make and style ripped right from Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim; it's exactly the same but inverted.

Once you escape the dungeons you have a Fable II-styled surface area to explore, again very linear with caves, mines, and swimming scattered about (complete with bubbling spots in water that have items you can take).

Once I completed the demo's core Questline, a notice popped up telling me I had 45 minutes to continue playing and that Pausing the game or entering conversations stopped the timer, so I could take my time talking to townsfolk. This was good as exploring and doing Side Quests is what I wanted to do, save that this is when the bugs really began.

From this point on, I could talk to people but they wouldn't actually speak, and the dialogue would race through as if I was jamming on the "X" button to skip everything; save that I wasn't. For this reason I had no clue what was going on with anything because I couldn't read/hear any of the information, Quest related or otherwise. Outside of conversations, music would cut in and out as would some sound effects, and I started having odd texture issues; corpses would sometimes stretch into the ground or bounce around with odd physics, and one towns person's teeth were showing through her facial skin texture, making her look like a sloppy wanna-be zombie.

Basically these are some pretty heavy bugs that were near enough to game breaking to really turn me off from the game. By playing through the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning demo, I've unlocked several items for the retail game, but more importantly to me, I've also unlocked special armour and a weapon for Mass Effect 3.

Seeing as how I found nothing special or innovative with the demo (outside of the fact that it took me about 3 hours to complete) and with the tremendous amount of bugs that kicked in, I'll be passing on the retail copy unless I find it dirt cheap in a bargain bin. If I get any kind of an action RPG fix before that, I can always fire up Fable II again, as it was similar enough.

Dead Space 2: Severed (Xbox 360) Completed for the Second Time

Yesterday night I finished off my second run of Dead Space 2: Severed, this time on Survivalist, and it took me a little over two hours to complete. It was actually a decent challenge due to the lack of a New Game + option, as you do need to start bare bones and credits/ammo were scarce for a while.

There really isn't anything amazing or spectacular about Dead Space 2: Severed, but it was still fun in a simple kind of way. Knowing what enemies were going to pop out where this time really helped, and also knowing the locations of Stores in advance helped with better Inventory management.

Shame the story wasn't a bit more engaging and there wasn't more variety in the gameplay, but hey, it's modern DLC so what do you expect.

I'll go through Dead Space 2: Severed one last time to complete it on Zealot Difficulty and earn the DLC's final Achievement. I'm thinking of One Gunning it, actually, and seeing if I can make that work. Won't take long to find out, that's for sure.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 1.4 Update Detailed

Though still being worked on, Bethesda Game Studios has revealed what the 1.4 patch for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will contain, and you can check out the sizable list in their Bethesda Blog post here.

Some of these bugs have affected me, and I know far too many PlayStation 3 gamers who are having issues with long term play save files, so I'm glad to see this all getting patched.

There's no official release date for the 1.4 update just yet, but I'd anticipate late January to early February and that the Steam version will release first, followed by the Xbox 360, Games for Windows, and PlayStation 3 versions about a week later.

Can't wait to finally use my weapon racks in my house in Whiterun!

Mass Effect 3 Demo Dated and Kinect Video

For some odd reason, EA and BioWare have decided to release the Mass Effect 3 demo on February 14th. The demo will be available on the Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3 and will contain the opening Single Player level as well as another level from later on in the game, and a sampling of the Multiplayer portion (available to select gamers on the 14th, opening up to everyone on the 17th).

Xbox 360 gamers will also be able to experience the demo with Kinect if they happen to have the peripheral, and BioWare has posted up a demo video showcasing Kinect in action which you can view here or below.

I'm still not sold on Kinect and voice commands, as I've unanimously heard that the integration was horrible in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. And no, I wouldn't buy Kinect just to play Mass Effect 3 even if it did work fine.

Thankfully Kinect isn't required for Xbox 360 gamers, and it'll be great to see how Mass Effect 3 handles. Note that you will not be able to import any of your previous Commander Shepards into the demo and no game data, Single or Multiplayer, will carry over from the demo to the retail game, so this really is just a sampling of what's to come a few weeks later.

You can check out a full Q&A regarding the Mass Effect 3 demo here, and the official announcement on the BioWare Blog here.

Mortal Kombat (2011) Coming to PlayStation Vita this Spring

For the first time, NetherRealm Studios' smash hit fighting game, Mortal Kombat (2011), will be going portable as it arrives for Sony's PlayStation Vita handheld console this Spring.

All of the original content and DLC from the PlayStation 3 version of the game will be present, and there'll also be unique content and features exclusive to PlayStation Vita.

To read more about the upcoming port's graphical compromises, as well as touch screen Fatalities and a second exclusive Challenge Tower, you can check out the review PlayStation Blog has posted with Ed Boon right here.

BioShock Infinite 1999 Mode Announced

Paying homage to challenging games of old (and in this instance, more specifically System Shock 2), Irrational Games has announced 1999 mode for BioShock Infinite. Essentially, 1999 Mode will make player's customization choices for Booker permanent, and weapon uses will be restricted and the game's health system will be different, amongst other changes.

Unlike most games of today which ridiculously hold your hand through the entire experience in an attempt to increase the customer base, if players select the 1999 Mode in BioShock Infinite they're going to be in for a more hardcore and serious challenge when they traverse Columbia.

For more details on this exciting mode, which I'm very, very happy about, you can read the official announcement here.

Additional New XCOM: Enemy Unknown Screenshots

Once again, ActionTrip is hosting some great screenshots of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and the game is looking really, really slick. I'm excited to learn more about it, and should it actually turn out to be a solid title I simply hope I'll have the time to play it!

You can check out their entire collection of screenshots here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dead Space 2: Severed (Xbox 360) Review

I've had the craving to play through Dead Space 2 again, and I've only resisted simply because I lack the time to properly enjoy the 15 to 20 hour experience. I also never bothered to pick up the game's single player add-on, entitled Dead Space 2: Severed, because I heard it was a) short and b) rather actioned up much like the disappointing ending Chapters of the core game.

During Xbox LIVE's Boxing Week Sale, Dead Space 2: Severed was discounted by 50%, and I decided to bite. So how does it stack up compared to what I'd already heard? Well, a) it is very short, with only two Chapters that clocked me in at under three hours on Normal Difficulty and b) it is _not_ like the ending Chapters of Dead Space 2 and once again focuses on solid survivor horror gameplay, much to my pleasant surprise.

Dead Space 2: Severed continues the story of Gabe Weller and his wife, Lexine, both of whom survived the events of Dead Space: Extraction three years ago. Now residing on Titan Station, Weller works as a security officer patrolling the Titan Mines when the Necromorph outbreak is unleashed. As most of his fellow security personal are whipped out, Weller realizes the situation is hopeless and contacts Lexine to plan their escape.

Paralleling the events of Issac's journey during Dead Space 2, Weller travels through many of the mine areas that Issac will explore and then much of the hospital section that Issac has already gone through. Much of the environmental interaction that Weller does in the mines are things that Isaac has to undo when he makes it there later on, and Weller will travel through post-battle chaos in the hospital that Isaac caused, complicating his own journey.

Being a simple add-on, Dead Space 2: Severed is less robust than the core game. There are no new suits to purchase, so you can not increase your inventory space, and there are no locked doors requiring Power Nodes to open, so spend them at a Work Bench as soon as you get them. You begin the DLC with 50,000 Credits to immediately let you purchase items or upgrades, and if you have a save game from Dead Space you can still buy, at no charge, the Refurbished Plasma Cutter (handy against the Pack). You also start with an upgraded Plasma Rifle and the Patrol Seeker Rifle (grants +5% to firing speed and -%5 to reload time over the default model), as well as a Stasis Unit and Telekinesis. Every other weapon and Inventory item is available for immediate purchase in the Store, however.

The only new enemy in the add-on would be the return of the Twitchers whom I so loathed in Dead Space, though instead of being reanimated soldiers they are instead reanimated security team members and there's two special Twitcher's towards the add-on's end. The Twitchers are tougher than before as they now zig-zag while approaching you, dodging your shots and making them far harder to hit. Using Stasis is near essential to slow them down and take out their legs. Despite the lack of real new enemies and weapons, the add-on is fun featuring several nicely done scenario pieces and scripted sequences which add to the plot and variety, and I won't ruin them for you here.

Oddly enough, one of the hallmark gameplay mechanics from the franchise is completely absent: there's no Zero-G sequences what-so-ever. This susprised me greatly, as I expected Zero-G to be in the DLC in some short and limited form. There is a very brief sequence where there's no oxygen, but at no point will you need to upgrade the Oxygen in your suit to get past it. Overall, Dead Space 2: Severed's gameplay is very basic gun-play.

The story telling is far less dramatic and much more simple than what was offered in the core game, but it certainly gets the job done, and the voice acting is good, though it's a shame that Weller makes much of the same basic grunts and noises that Isaac does since the developers really just used Issac's model over again; save for the face. There's also no new music that I noticed, but the overall sound scape is as creepy as any Dead Space experience and will make you jump at things that aren't really there.

The add-on features 8 additional Achievements to earn, some Secret/story based, on Difficulty based, and the rest situational specific. For the most part, it's an easy 250 Gamerscore that you can earn in one or two playthroughs, a short affair given the DLC's length. Note however that you can _not_ take advantage of the New Game + option with this add-on, and any subsequent playthrough's you do you'll be starting from scratch.

Dead Space 2: Severed is a simple little fix to any Dead Space craving and is a decent Single Player add-on based on today's lowered content standards; straight, basic, and to the point. While I did enjoy it and was surprised by a few of the scripted events, due to its short length and lack of any real innovation and complete lack of some key components from the franchise (Zero-G), I can't recommend it at the full overpriced cost of 560 Microsoft Points ($8.12), but at the discount of 280 Microsoft Points ($4.06) it was alright.

If you have the time to properly play through Dead Space 2 again though, you'd get a far richer experience out of that at no additional charge, and you wouldn't miss much of anything if you passed on Dead Space 2: Severed completely. Basically, buy it only if it's on sale and if you want something new that's Dead Space related.

Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition Announced

Earlier this week, Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment formally announced the Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition, releasing to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on February 28th.

The Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition includes Mortal Kombat (2011) and all of its DLC, such as: Klassic Skins Pack #1, Skarlet, Kenshi, Rain, and Freddy Krueger plus the eight skins that came with each DLC kombatant, as well as a downloadable copy of Mortal Kombat (1995 feature film) and Mortal Kombat: Songs Inspired by the Warriors soundtrack.

No word on whether all the DLC is included on-disc or if they'll be provided via downloadable token, and I'm also not sure if the soundtrack is on a CD or will also be a digital download. Also no word on the retail cost, I'm afraid, but I'd anticipate around $39.99 plus tax.

Regardless, this is a cool compilation if you don't own Mortal Kombat already. For those who already own the game, it'll be cheaper for you to buy the extra content separately if you really want it.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Screenshots

ActionTrip is hosting the first XCOM: Enemy Unknown screenshots right here.

These screenshots are early, of course, however they're certainly not too bad looking for a tactical game. Looking forward to finding out more about the title!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Accounts Being Hacked on Xbox LIVE

Recently, a member of the Delay of Game community had is account hacked and stolen via Xbox LIVE. The thieves immediately purchased Microsoft Points and an Xbox LIVE Gold Family Pack with his credit card (since it was linked to his account), and then transferred the Microsoft Points to another account created with the Family Pack.

When he reported the theft to Xbox Support, they promised to suspend the account immediately for 30 days while they investigated, thus preventing any additional purchases on his card. It took them a few days to suspend the account.

While searching around, he came across this blog. Entitled Hacked on Xbox, it details another user's similar story, Microsoft's denial that their service was compromised, and demonstrates a colossal failure by Xbox Support to address the situation in a timely manner. Unlike the Delay of Game community member, this person had multiple charges made against her over a series of days.

A very interesting read if you have the time, and a solid reminder not only about keeping a strong password, but also if your Xbox LIVE account is ever compromised and your Credit Card is associated with it, immediately call your bank and have your card suspended first to prevent any additional charges, as Xbox Support is clearly going to take their sweet time dealing with it.

Shame on Xbox Support and Microsoft for treating such situations with such little concern, and shame on them for providing only a month's worth of Xbox LIVE Gold as compensation.

Halo: Primordium Released

The latest Halo novel is now on store shelves, and our friends at Tor Books has sent along the official release which you can read below:

Tor Books announces publication of the second novel in Science Fiction legend Greg Bear’s Halo Forerunner Saga!


New York, NY – January 6th, 2012 – Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC—the largest publisher of science fiction in the world—is pleased to announce the publication of Halo: Primordium, the second novel in acclaimed science fiction author Greg Bear’s Forerunner Saga, a prequel series to the hugely successful Halo video game franchise for the Xbox 360. Halo: Primordium goes on-sale in bookstores nationwide and online on January 6th, 2012. An unabridged audio book edition will publish simultaneously with the novel.

Halo: Primordium continues the story of the enigmatic creators and builders of the Halos that began in Halo: Cryptum. In the wake of the apparent self-destruction of the Forerunner empire, two humans—Chakas and Riser—end up on a strange inverted world where horizons rise into the sky. Their epic journey across this damaged Halo takes them into the domain of a powerful and monstrous intelligence who claims to be the Last Precursor. Called the Captive by Forerunners, and the Primordial by ancient humans, this intelligence has taken charge of, and perverted, the Master Builder’s already horrifying research into the Flood. Chakas and Riser unwittingly become trapped in an ancient game of vengeance between the powers who seeded the galaxy with life and the Forerunners, who have taken up the sacred Mantle of duty to protect all living things.

Halo: Primordium publishes at an exciting time for Halo fans, as the Master Chief is set to make his triumphant return in “Halo 4,” the next blockbuster installment in the Xbox 360 franchise that begins all-new Halo trilogy, set to release in 2012. As with Halo: Cryptum before it, Halo: Primordium continues to expand Halo’s universe and lays the foundation for many new discoveries to come. “As we head into the launch year for Halo 4, more and more fans are begging for answers to a lot of questions. In Primordium, Greg answers those, and a bunch you never even thought to ask and introduces some new mysteries that will have a resounding and lasting effect on the Halo universe.” said Frank O’Connor, Franchise Development Director at 343 Industries.

An icon in the science fiction community, Greg Bear has won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for such critically celebrated international bestsellers as Eon and The Forge of God. His work has covered such heavy themes as galactic conflict, artificial universes, consciousness and cultural practices, and his talent for taut narratives, intellectually rigorous themes, and realistic, appealing characters make him the perfect fit to write the early history in this epic blockbuster franchise.

“Greg Bear's high concepts and deep characterization are the perfect complement to the beloved world of Halo,” says Tor editor Stacy Hill. “The implications of his thoughtful Forerunner books are shocking and far-reaching, illuminating the satisfying complexity of the Halo universe."

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 $2.8 billion. The highly-anticipated next installment in the franchise, “Halo 4,” was recently announced for a holiday 2012 release. With a fully fleshed-out universe of heroes, villains and epic scenarios, the novels expand the universe to give fans a grander view of the game environments and characters they encounter.

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 Tor has been named Best Publisher 24 years in a row in the Locus Poll, the largest consumer poll in SF.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Earlier this week, 2K Games announced the development of a strategy sequel to the turn based classic, X-COM: UFO Defence. Entitled XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the game will take PC and console gamers alike back to the core gameplay that made X-COM a smash hit in the '90's.

X-COM: UFO Defence is still one of the greatest games I've ever played, and no sequel has lived up to the original. With any luck, XCOM: Enemy Unknown will at least spark some very fond nostalgia.

The official site has also launched, with limited info, and you can check it out right here.

Mass Effect 3 Pre-Order Bonuses Revealed

Following the trend for pre-order bonuses, EA has revealed what extra weapons or armour you can get when you pre-order Mass Effect 3 at select retailers.

Anyone who pre-orders the game at any participating retailer will receive the M55 Argus Assault Rifle (and since I've already pre-ordered at Best Buy, looks like that's what I'll be getting).

Anyone who pre-orders the game at EB Games will get the M55 Argus Assault Rifle and the N7 Warfare Gear.

Anyone pre-ordering via EA's own Origin will receive the M55 Argus Assault Rifle and the AT12 Raider Shotgun.

Full details and a brief FAQ can be found here, and links to screenshots and videos are also included. You can also check out the videos below.

I personally find the enemies revealed in the videos more interesting than the pre-order bonuses themselves; what appear to be Turian Husks and Krogan Husks.

Gears of War 3: Fenix Rising Achievements Revealed

The upcoming "Fenix Rising" Multiplayer Map Pack for Gears of War 3 will feature seven additional Achievements totaling 250 Gamerscore. If you're interested in reading up on what they are, you can do so here.

"Fenix Rising" will release on January 17th for 800 Microsoft Points or at no additional charge for Season Pass holders.