Thursday, May 31, 2012

Injustice: Gods Among Us Announced

With the huge success of Mortal Kombat (2011), it's no surprise that NetherRealm Studios' next major game will be a fighting game.  What is surprising is that it once again features super heroes.

Announced today, DC Comic's characters will once again do battle in Injustice: Gods Among Us, releasing in 2013 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.  You can check out the cinematic announcement trailer (which looks like it includes gameplay) here or below.

I'll be completely honest with you, I didn't see this one coming.  While I'm sure Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment had something to do with it, I really thought NetherRealm Studios was done with super heroes after Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, and while I really enjoyed that game as a bargain bin title, it wasn't a full retail blockbuster.

Of course, we'll need to see how Injustice: Gods Among Us turns out.  Based on the trailer, the game looks more violent than the last super hero offering and it looks like it will once again be 3D and not 2D.  Time will tell, and I'm sure we'll also see a few Mortal Kombat characters make cameo or guest appearances as well.

Update:  The official site has also been updated with several screenshots from the game.  Might be a 2D fighter after all.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dawnguard Trailer

With E3 just days away, Bethesda Softworks has released the official trailer for the first DLC add-on for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  Entitled "Dawnguard," you can check it out here or below.

Debuting exclusively on Xbox 360 this summer, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dawnguard will sell for 1600 Microsoft Points ($23.30).  For more details, we'll need to wait for E3 next week.

My reaction:  The trailer looks good, but nothing crazy special.  I admit that even though Vampires have been a part of The Elder Scrolls since the franchise began (as far as I know), I still chuckled at Bethesda Game Studios cashing in on the Vampire craze.

I very well might pick this up though, but I'll wait for the inevitable Xbox LIVE Boxing Day sale where I expect it'll be reduced to 800 ($11.60) or 1200 Microsoft Points ($17.40).  I still need to finish almost everything in the core game anyway.

Doom 3 BFG Edition Announced

Yesterday, Bethesda Softworks announced the Doom 3 BFG Edition coming to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC sometime during 2012.

The console versions are also remastered and feature 3D.

Doom 3 BFG Edition doesn't just include Doom 3, but also Doom, Doom II, Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil, and The Lost Mission (whatever that is).  Only the Doom 3 content is remastered.

You can check out the official announcement trailer here or below:

Well, I'm a huge fan of Doom 3 so this has my interest and I'll be keeping an eye on it, though I'm curious as to what the actual cost will be.  As a full priced game I'd likely wait for a price drop, and then I'd need to figure out what to do with my Xbox copies of Doom 3 and Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil.

I'm also expecting this to be a port of the PC version of the game, which is a shame as in my opinion, the Xbox version of Doom 3 has far better pacing.  The Doom 3 BFG Edition has the Flashlight mod right out-of-the-box though, so that's a plus.

You can check out the full announcement here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mass Effect 3: Rebellion Pack Revealed

This coming Tuesday, BioWare will release the next map pack for Mass Effect 3.  Entitled the "Rebellion Pack," it will contain two new maps, six new classes, three new weapons, and more.  The best part:  It's free.

That's right, this Multiplayer add-on will be free on all platforms.

You can check out the full details on the Mass Effect 3: Rebellion Pack, including a small FAQ, right here.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim 1.6 Update to Feature Mounted Combat

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion first introduced gamers to horses in the land of Tamriel, however they were a means of transportation only and in order to engage in combat, one had to dismount first.  Horses returned in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, yet once again you could only ride them and not fight from horseback.

Well, with the upcoming 1.6 Update, that's all going to change; mounted combat is finally coming to The Elder Scrolls.

There's no release date for the patch just yet, but you can read all about it, including the list of usual bug fixes, right here.

And yes, mounted combat will be free and not premium DLC.

Halo 4 Railgun Revealed

In the latest Halo Bulletin, 343 Industries unveils a new weapon that we'll find in Halo 4:  The Railgun.

To give us a better idea of how the Railgun will function, they heavily compared it to the Spartan Laser we already know.  The Railgun does need to charge up but it takes about half the time of the Spartan Laser.  It does not have a scope and does less damage to vehicles, but it's pinpoint accurate.

I don't know if this means that the Railgun will replace the Spartan Laser or not, and of course the weapon's functionality could change by launch.  Right now though, it is considered a power weapon.

You can check out the full reveal in the Halo Bulletin right here.

Mortal Kombat Playboy Pinups

Apparently, late in the development of Mortal Kombat, artist Justin Murray was brought in to create Playboy pinups of some of the female kombatants.

I don't know if they were ever published in the magazine or not, but now, over a year later, the Mileena pinup is available in the Krypt of the PlayStation Vita version of the game.  There's also a Sindel pinup (done by a different artist) as well.

I personally found this rather funny, but also interesting from a business standpoint to see what kind of publicity a company goes through to market their product.

You can read up on the scope of the job on Murray's blog here, and also check out both his site and blog for cool concept art for other great games (such as the God of War franchise) and feature films.  In terms of Mortal Kombat, after the pinups he went on to do art for the Skarlet DLC, including her ending, and Rain's ending.

Aliens: Colonial Marines Release Date Announced

The official release date for Aliens: Colonial Marines has finally been unveiled, and we can all lock and load on February 12, 2013.

A release date trailer has been released as well, and you can view it here or below.

Very cool.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Avengers Review

Odds are you've already seen The Avengers by now, and if so, then you already know it's awesome.  The culmination of several films Marvel Comics has released over the last few years, The Avengers brings together the heroes from the different franchises, tying their stories all together and creating the team the world desperately needs.

The action begins right away as we learn S.H.I.E.L.D. is researching the Tesseract and that it's being triggered to open a portal, a portal in which Loki (Tom Hiddleston) steps through.  Killing the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents on hand, enslaving a few, and wounding Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Loki escapes with the Tesseract for his own purposes.  Thus, Fury has no choice but to proceed with the Avengers Initiative.

Since they already have their own films, everyone already knows who Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is, they know how the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) came to be, and they know who Captain America (Chris Evans) is, etc., so while time is spent focusing on forming the team and having each member learn to trust the other, time is not wasted on any real origin stories for each team member.  While it certainly helps to have seen all the previous films, this also isn't required and The Avengers stands on its own as a great film.

Joss Whedon is known for extremely character driven pieces with exceptional character interaction, and The Avengers has this in spades.  Filled with humour from such characters as Iron Man, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and the Hulk, it also features some very serious and touching moments that help to provide solid pacing to the film's action and battles.  Make no mistake, while The Avengers is a superhero thrill ride filled with amazing conflict and special effects, at its core, it truly is a marvelous character driven piece.  There's also a strong bit of nostalgia factored in as it's simply great to see all of these comic book heroes that I enjoyed as a child come to life in a way I've not yet seen before on the silver screen.

And I confess, I loved watching Loki in action.  So manipulative, so conniving, and so petty, he is a villain you loved to hate.  Just the arrogance of the man, and the banter between him and Iron Man, how he'd continually trick Thor, or how he goes on at Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); Loki truly has some of my favourite writing and dialogue in the film.

For true comic book fans, make sure you stick around through the credits, and for true Joss Whedon fans, make sure you stick around to the end of the credits.  Seriously, a wonderful and completely Joss way to have a post-credit sequence and well worth it.

The Avengers is a great start to the summer blockbuster season, there's no doubt about that.  Entertaining, effects heavy, and more importantly, character driven all the way.  If you haven't seen this movie yet then please stop reading this and go now, it's completely worth it.  If you have already seen it, than really, I haven't told you anything you didn't already know.

Mortal Kombat (PlayStation Vita) Tips and Tricks

Having trouble with some challenges in the PlayStation Vita version of Mortal Kombat?  Well, a new video featuring the game's developers offers some helpful tips and tricks that might give you a bit of an edge.  You can check out the video here or below:

I actually didn't know I could use multiple fingers for some of the touch screen Challenges, and that's proven quiet helpful since!

Another interesting tidbit in the video is that this is the first ViDoc shot in "Goro's Lair" at NetherRealm Studios to feature the Mortal Kombat 4 arcade cabinet in the background as opposed to the Mortal Kombat (1992) cabinet.

Halo 4 Official Box Art and Limited Edition Revealed

In the latest Halo Bulletin, 343 Industries has unveiled the official box art for Halo 4, as well as the contents of the game's Limited Edition.  Note that unlike past Halo titles, only a Limited Edition will be released alongside the standard edition, there will be no Legendary Edition.

The Halo 4: Limited Edition contains:

- War Games Map Pack Access.  Access to three post-release Multiplayer Map Packs.
- Specializations.  Early access to six specializations that standard edition players will need to unlock by playing normally, or purchase separately.
- UNSC Infinity Briefing Packet.  Story details about the ship, Spartan IV armour customization, and UNSC weapons.
- Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Special Edition.  An extended cut of the upcoming live action digital series, weighing in at a total of 90 minutes.
- Bonus Digital Content via Xbox LIVE.  Featuring unique in-game Spartan IV armour skin, unique in-game weapon skin for the Assault Rifle, an exclusive in-game emblem, Xbox LIVE Avatar prop, and lastly an Xbox LIVE Avatar Spartan IV costume.

Personally, I like the way a friend of mine put it:  With the Halo 4 Limited Edition, you're essentially purchasing an overpriced Season Pass, and I agree completely.  Retailing for a whopping $99.99 (compared to the Standard Edition's $59.99 price tag), I'll happily pass since I'm not a supporter of DLC anyway.

For those interested in the Standard Edition of the game, the official Box Art can be viewed in this little video here or below.

Well, I still don't like John's armour design, but at least the Assault Rifle looks like an Assault Rifle.

For full details, check out the Halo Bulletin here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

PlayStation Vita Purchased

This past Friday evening, I caved and picked up a PlayStation Vita along with the Starter Kit and Mortal Kombat.  I've been thinking about this for some time and I finally decided to treat myself, as I've spent well over 300 hours with the game and this will allow me to take it on the go, as I'm not bored of it yet.

My weekend's been a busy one and I've only gotten to spend a bit of time with the handheld, but thus far I'm quite impressed.  This is actually the first touchscreen device that I've owned, and overall I'm finding the PlayStation Vita to be very slick and intuitive.

Mortal Kombat handles extremely well and I almost feel like I'm playing on my Xbox 360.  Graphically it is a bit of a downgrade, but that's to be expected and the gameplay is tight and solid and I can still pull off my Mileena combos with relative ease.

The last time I dabbled with a Sony handheld I ultimately sold the product over lack of use, but the PlayStation Vita does appear to be able to cater to a more current style of console gaming, and with a title I already love on it, I'm not expecting that to occur again this time.

I'll post my full impressions in a few weeks once I've really given the product some loving.

BioShock Infinite Delayed

BioShock Infinite has been officially delayed until 2013, with a new release date of February 26, 2013, to be exact.  The reason given is they simply need more time to polish the game to the level they want.

You can check out the official word from Ken Levine himself right over here.

Personally, I'm okay with this.  Aside from getting a better product while only waiting an additional four months, this also gives me a solid amount of time to play through my current backlog, which is all lengthy RPGs.  Too many RPGs.

The MKast - Series 2, Episode 9 and Bonus Challenege Tower #130

The 9th episode of Season 2 of the MKast has been released, focusing on the Bonus Challenge Tower in the PlayStation Vita version of Mortal Kombat.  You can view it here or below.

NetherRealm Studios has also released another video showing how to complete Bonus Challenge Tower #130, which requires you to hit Shao Khan 60 times in 60 seconds.  You can check that video out here or below.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Mass Effect 3: From the Ashes (Xbox 360) Review

Note:  This review contains minor SPOILERS.

Released on launch day, the first DLC for Mass Effect 3 adds a new Squad Mate, weapon, mission, and alternate outfits for all Squadmates to the game. Similar in concept but of a greater scope and better integration than Zaeed was for Mass Effect 2, "From the Ashes" allows players to recruit the last Prothean to their cause.

Shortly after leaving Earth, players will gain notification of a Cerberus attack on Eden Prime, the same world the original game started on.  Now years later, the colonists of Eden Prime have begun to rebuild and further excavations of the Prothean ruins have commenced.

Learning of a valuable Prothean find, Cerberus heads to Eden Prime to collect it for themselves, leaving Commander Shepard and crew to stop them.

Eden Prime is laid out like most other side missions in the game, and is simply a bunch of prefabricated buildings centered around the dig site.  The mission itself isn't anything spectacular (though it isn't bad either, it's just more of the same really), it's the result of this mission that is.  Javik, the last Prothean emerges from stasis and after a brief confrontation joins Shepard's crew to help stop the Reapers.

There seems to be a trend these days with long extinct alien races who leave behind technology for us to learn from not being so long extinct after all, and instead of being benevolent they actually turn out to be great big jerks.  Such is the case with Javik, who's pretty grumpy and hostile and doesn't really make friends with your Squadmates, but he does feature a nice set of combat and biotic powers (including a unique ability entitled "Dark Channel) and his Particle Rifle packs a great punch.

Throughout the course of Shepard's journey Javik will have many interesting comments to say like any other Squadmate, either in general or to specific crew members, and the conversations you get to have with him are far more dynamic, featuring better production values, than what was used for Zaeed.  There's no question that Javik added to the overall experience but since he's optional DLC, the real question is does he impact it enough to warrant the cost of admission.

My answer is no.

The majority of what Javik provides is back story information, and while it's great to hear I wouldn't call it essential, and at an asking price of 800 Microsoft Points ($11.60) , EA is asking for a lot for something you can easily read online.  While I would recommend experiencing this content during at least one Mass Effect 3 playthrough (and make sure you take Javik to Thessia!), I can't recommend it at this cost, especially when you have several other good combat and biotic characters to draw upon.

For those of you who purchased the Mass Effect 3: Collector's Edition, "From the Ashes" is included and you can simply redeem the code in your case and experience the new character and earn the two additional Achievements almost right away.

For those with the standard edition of the game, wait for the inevitable sale.  While better than what Zaeed, and even the premium DLC Kasumi had to offer, the cost for "From the Ashes" has gone up accordingly negating it's initial value.  Mass Effect 3 is a rich and deep experience, and there's more than enough there to satisfy without him.

The MKast - Series 2, Episode 8

With the release of the PlayStation Vita version of Mortal Kombat, another episode of the MKast has been launched showcasing the exclusive features to this version of the game.

You can check out the video both here or below.

The Elder Scrolls Online Announcement Trailer and Official Site Launch

Hot on the heals of the game's announcement, an Announcement Trailer has now been rolled out for The Elder Scrolls Online which you can view here or below.

In addition, the game's official site is now live, though containing little aside from the trailer.  You can check that out here.

Halo: The Thursday War Announced

Our friends at Tor Books have announced the next Halo novel, to be published this Fall.  Entitled Halo: The Thursday War, you can read the full release below.

Tor Books announces the second Halo® novel in the “Kilo-Five Trilogy” by
#1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Traviss

New York, NY – April 25, 2012 - Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC—the largest publisher of science fiction in the world—is excited to reveal the title and release date for the second novel in the “Kilo-Five Trilogy” written by bestselling novelist and renowned game writer Karen Traviss. HALO: THE THURSDAY WAR will release in hardcover alongside a simultaneous audio edition on October 2, 2012.

Traviss, whose first foray into the Halo Universe came with the short story “Human Weakness” in Fall 2009’s New York Times bestselling “Halo: Evolutions” anthology, launched her new trilogy last fall with the acclaimed bestseller Halo: Glasslands. A #1 New York Times  bestselling author who has penned novels in the Star Wars and Gears of War franchises (she most recently served as lead game writer for Gears of War 3), as well as her own critically acclaimed science fiction series, the Wess’har Wars, Traviss has an incredible gift for writing believable and compelling military science fiction.
“From the very first page, The Thursday War propels you into a universe on the brink of chaos,” says Frank O’Connor, Franchise Development Director, 343 Industries.  “It will immerse you immediately and enthrallingly into the events and circumstances that will come to define the state of the Halo universe in Halo 4. I can’t wait for fans and newcomers alike to experience the sequel to Glasslands.”

HALO: THE THURSDAY WAR picks up immediately where Halo: Glasslands left off, with forces on Earth and among the Covenant threatening a peace that is precarious at best. With a splinter group among the Sangheili pushing for war, some human colonies rebel against earth authority; and as ONI policy continues to shift with the volatile situation in space, the discovery of a trove of Forerunner technology on Onyx provokes leaders on Earth to seek uses for it in the conflict. For the fight is far from over…

"I wanted to focus on what it feels like to operate in a fragile ceasefire that’s turning into a mass of small, unpredictable wars where the enemy is much harder to spot and define,” says author Karen Traviss. “It's not about big set piece space battles, superheroes, and hardware; this is a messy conflict seen at close quarters by real people with their own problems, whether those people are human, alien, or artificial intelligences."

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

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Mass Effect 3: Collector's Edition (Xbox 360) Review

Easily one of the biggest launches of 2012 yet, Mass Effect 3 sees the conclusion to your Commander Shepard's story begun just over four years ago.  Set approximately six months after the conclusion of Mass Effect 2, the final installment of the trilogy sees the Reapers invade the galaxy pitting every species in a war for survival.

For a first in the franchise, a demo for the game was released prior to launch, and the impressions article I wrote for it was so detailed and spot on that it can almost serve as a review itself.  Since the bulk of what my demo impressions article says, both about story and gameplay, is quite relevant, there's no need for me to rehash the writing of it twice, so why don't you wander on over here and give it a read.  Don't worry, I'll sit here comfortably and wait for you to get back.

Alright, so now that you've skimmed through that, let's talk about the full version of the game.

Just like in Mass Effect 2, you can import your Commander Shepard, retaining his or her appearance and key decisions from past games.  Your primary goal is to unite the different races of the galaxy to make a stand against the Reaper menace, and along the way you'll encounter many characters, allies and enemies, from your past adventures.  I thought it was absolutely excellent when I saw someone I helped back in the first game doing well now, or when decisions I made were brought up in random discussions throughout all parts of the galaxy.  Such little nuances really lend credit to the story being my own but it all still feels like part of a larger whole.

The Normandy SR-2 functions like it always has, though it has been renovated by the Alliance.  The Tech Lab is gone and has been replaced by a secure access point leading to the conference room, war room, and communication room.  It's here that you can track your progress on the Galaxy at War, but more on that in a second.

The Armoury has been relocated to the Shuttle Bay, a section seen towards the end of Mass Effect 2 but not accessible normally.  Now it's a common spot for you to go where you can chat with a few crew members, upgrade your weapons, and remotely shop for extra goods.  Other little and larger changes to the ship exist, however for the most part you'll find everything where you left it from Mass Effect 2.

The Galaxy Map also functions like it did in the sequel in terms of navigation, however there are a few key changes in terms of execution.  Clusters on your Galaxy Map conquered by the Reapers now appear with a Reaper on them.  You can go to that cluster without issue, however scattered in the various systems will be War Assets that you can scan and collect.  Scanning will attract Reaper attention and if you scan too many times and a progress bar fills up, the Reapers will enter the area and give chase, forcing you to flee.  If you fail and they catch you you'll be loading a save.  If you succeed you'll need to wait until you complete your next mission before you can safely reenter that system again.

If you successful find a War Asset on a planet without attracting Reaper attention, you can enter the planet's orbit and search via a simplified version of the Probe mini game from Mass Effect 2.  No longer a chore, you can now quickly find the objective, launch a Probe (of which you have an infinite amount), and then move on.

Now, War Assets play a long term role in the game's final battle.  The number of War Assets you have will determine your effective military strength for the final conflict and have an impact on the game's ending, and your War Assets are also affected by your Galactic Readiness.  Your Galactic Readiness is a breakdown of how ready certain sections of the galaxy are for the Reapers, and the higher the percentage, the more of your War Assets are available for the final push.  While there are a few ways to increase your Galactic Readiness, the primary method is Multiplayer.

New to the franchise, Mass Effect 3 introduces Multiplayer in the form of a co-op survival game.  The N7 missions featured in Single Player this time take place on the Multiplayer maps and play in a similar style, somewhat teaching the player what's expected in Multiplayer.  In truth, I found these missions boring and contrived and I did not really enjoy them.  Multiplayer itself, however, wasn't too bad at all.

You can pick your class, weapons, colours, etc. and then search for a game where you're dropped into a key location to take on eleven waves against one of the game's three enemy factions:  Reapers, Cerberus, or Geth.  Every third, sixth, and tenth waves are objective based where you and your team, up to three other players, must hold an area, disable various devices, or eliminate marked enemy personnel all on a timer.  The final wave you must hold the extraction point to escape.  Successful completion of an entire match will increase your Galaxy at War percentage, however each day your percentage drops by 3%, forcing you to keep playing to keep it up.

While I personally thought the concept and integration to Single Player was cool, I did find that Multiplayer got very repetitive after several games and it just became a whole lot of grinding.  I was also disappointed that I had to spend so much time in Multiplayer to properly experience the end of what to date has been a purely Single Player experience.  In truth, I feel that the Multiplayer component for the game should have been implemented in a future title and not this one, as it was unnecessary.

As you play through Multiplayer you earn Experience to increase your various Powers and Credits to buy various Weapon and item upgrade packs.  EA has sunk to a low for the series and will allow you to purchase these packs for Microsoft Points as well, so if you want to make your $59.99 game cost $79.99, you can easily do so by buying several packs.  Such micro-transactions are optional, thankfully, but they still turn my stomach.

Combat, in both Single Player and Multiplayer, is the most refined in the franchise though the cover mechanics are still clunky and will mess up on you from time to time.  Interestingly though it wasn't until I started playing Multiplayer that I truly noticed there's only three factions to fight in the game, which somewhat makes story sense but does feel rather limited.  Gone are the several factions of mercs, the Vortcha, Varren, and even the Mechs that were so common in Mass Effect 2.  While the Reapers, Cerberus, and the Geth are far more developed than any faction in any previous game, it does still feel a bit cutback, though it's not the end of the world.

Visually, Mass Effect 3 looks really good.  Most of the game is on par with if not better than Mass Effect 2, having very detailed character models for a late generation title as well as gorgeous backgrounds.  The only major visual gripe I have is that in conversations, sometimes Shepard's head would twist at odd angles or the camera would close-up on a wall instead of the person he/she was talking to.  That's never happened in the franchise before and is embarrassing to see, but it happens rarely enough that it won't stick with you through your experience.

Audio wise, the voice acting is as strong as ever and the musical score is great, really fitting the mood and pacing of the story.  And for the most part the story is solid and an engrossing delight to play through.  The actual story telling and character development feels like a solid mix between the first and second games, with some great dramatic and character moments.  There are different points through the game were certain key characters can die, depending on your actions and choices, and especially for one character, when he sacrificed himself I honestly got misty eyed.  That alone is a true testament to BioWare's story telling and the overall Mass Effect experience, in how invested with these characters I've become over the last four plus years.

My only major critique here is that the level of choices during conversations has been reduced from the previous games, and many conversations feel more like traditional cutscenes as a result.  Paragon and Renegade interrupts have also been reduced in frequency, which is a shame as overall the more limited conversations make Shepard feel a bit more robotic.  Thankfully the writing is strong and generally, the conversations are well done.

No doubt you've heard about the uproar over the game's ending by now.  In my personal opinion, while the ending I chose wasn't spectacular, in fact it's the worst ending and overall climax sequence in the trilogy, it wasn't as horrible as everyone seems to be making it out to be.  It simply felt far more generic than I would have expected from BioWare.  What really annoyed me was the game's penultimate battle, which was a massive affair that I felt was far too tedious and it relied on one of my most hated game design elements:  infinite spawning enemies.

Personally, I feel that when a developer relies on infinite spawns it shows they simply were incapable of crafting a true challenge for me with the enemies and AI at hand.  It also frustrated me that once a cutscene kicked in, even though I was completely surrounded and outnumbered, all those enemies just vanished for no reason at all.  It's a shame, and though I felt the game got a bit more interesting for the final bit after this, it does end up being such a great experience that falters and feels a bit rushed at the very end.

Now, I picked up the Mass Effect 3: Collector's Edition for my Xbox 360, and it's quite the hefty package.  It's a nice cardboard sleeve that contains a Steelbook case containing both game discs, download tokens, etc.  The case has an image of Shepard on the front and FemShep on the back, and while my case wasn't cracked inside this time like with Mass Effect 2, it was scratched all on the outside.  What is it with EA being unable to properly package their collector's editions?

This frustration aside, the Collector's Edition also includes a very cool 70 page hardcover artbook, a code for the digital soundtrack, a fabric N7 patch, a 4x6 lithographic print, and the first issue of the Dark Horse Comics series, Mass Effect: Invasion.

In terms of digital content, you get a Mechdog pet who wanders around the Normandy's shuttle bay, extra Squadmate outfits, an N7 hoddie for Shepard, four N7 weapons (Pistol, SMG, Sniper Rifle, and Shotgun), a Normandy SR-2 Avatar Prop, and most important of all, Mass Effect 3: From the Ashes, the game's first DLC.  Because "From the Ashes" is a premium download for those who purchased the retail version of the game, I've written a separate review for the content (which includes minor spoilers) that you can read here.

As a whole, despite some shoddy packaging, the Collector's Edition of Mass Effect 3 is an excellent purchase that I don't regret at all.  The bonus content, at the extra cost of $20.00, was well worth it and a great addition to my game collection.

Mass Effect 3 ends the kind of journey we've never been able to experience before.  This franchise is the first of its kind that's allowed us to not only craft our own character, our Commander Shepard, but that's permitted us to carry that character and those exact choices through the entire trilogy, giving a real sense of entitlement and stake in the overall story.  The entire franchise is not only a testament to gaming, but to storytelling unto itself, filled with memorable and wonderful characters, locations, and conflict.  While the third installment of the franchise and final game of the trilogy is far from perfect, it ends weakly, reduces the conversation choices and involvement, and Multiplayer was inspired but not required for this title, the overall experience, which took me 55 hours, was a great one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

BioWare has done a superb job with the franchise, creating a universe that's provided an amazing experience of hope, humour, and character, and one that should not be missed by any fan of story driven games or fine science fiction stories in general.

Mortal Kombat (PlayStation Vita) Launch Trailer

Released two days ago, Mortal Kombat (PlayStation Vita) is tied for the highest rated game on the platform as of this typing (according to Metacritic).

The launch trailer was also released, and you can view it both here or below.

The Elder Scrolls Online Announced

Today, Bethesda Softworks announced The Elder Scrolls Online, an MMO set in The Elder Scrolls franchise.

As someone who's not a fan of MMO's, I don't care for this at all and won't be paying attention to it.  For those of you who are MMO junkies, you'll want to read the official announcement here.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dawnguard Announced

Earlier this week, Bethesda Softworks officially announced the first DLC for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, entitled "Dawnguard."

Aside from this, the only other details mentioned were that it arrives on Xbox 360 this summer and more information will be shown at E3.  Presumably PlayStation 3 and PC versions will follow some time later.

You can read the limited announcement here.