Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mass Effect 3: Leviathan Trailer

BioWare has released a trailer for their upcoming Single Player DLC for Mass Effect 3, entitled "Leviathan."

You can check out the trailer here or below.

Looks alright, though outside of being underwater for at least a part of it the trailer doesn't show anything too enticing.  The DLC will release this Tuesday, though I'll be holding off for a sale myself.

Halo 4 Achievements Revealed and Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn "Enlist" Trailer Released

In this week's Halo Bulletin, the full set of Achievements for Halo 4 has been revealed.  They all look like standard fare to me (which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned), and you can check them out here (scroll down a bit).  There's also some cool info about the game's official soundtrack.

Also, a new trailer has been released for Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.  This trailer is titled "Enlist," and you can check it out here or below.

The more I see of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, the more keen I am on watching it.  So much so, that I actually decided to pre-order the Halo 4: Limited Edition so I can get the full length version of it later this Fall.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mortal Kombat (PlayStation Vita) Review

This past May, NetherRealm Studios ported Mortal Kombat to Sony's new handheld, the PlayStation Vita, with the goal of creating an experience that felt exactly like the game's console counterparts.  As someone who's quite addicted to Mortal Kombat (2011) and has spent hundreds of hours with the Xbox 360 version of the game, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take some kombat on the road.

The PlayStation Vita version features almost all of the content available in the console versions, with a few exceptions, and it also sports some exclusive content.  This exclusive content sparked some outrage from the community as they complained about the recently released Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition not being "complete," so let's take a look at what extra content the PlayStation Vita version has and what it's missing compared to consoles:

Exclusive Content

- A Bonus Challenge Tower featuring 150 new Challenges centred around the PlayStation Vita's exclusive functionality (touchscreen, accelerometer, etc).
- Test Your Balance
- Test Your Slice
- 16 additional Klassic/Alternate Costumes
- The Kombat Tomb stage featuring Augmented Reality (Training only)
- Touch Screen Fatalities
- Ability to touch the X-Ray icon to use your X-Ray
- Additional Concept Art in the Nekropolis
- An additional variable slot in Test Your Luck (When chosen under "Fight" from the Main Menu)

Missing Content

- King of the Hill
- Multiplayer Lobbies
- The Chamber of Flame Stage
- The ability to manually change your fighter's stance

Now while it seems that more was added as opposed to taken away, and it was, the majority of the new content is specifically tailored to the PlayStation Vita itself and simply couldn't be easily implemented onto consoles, at least not without their respective motion sensing peripherals.  The additional Klassic/Alternate Costumes would be a welcome addition on consoles, but seeing as how they're cosmetic they're certainly not essential, so I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about.

Outside of the exclusive content, it's essentially the same game, and as such my original review of the Xbox 360 version (found here), still applies so feel free to give it a skim.  For the remainder of this review I'd like to discuss the new content and technical changes present in the PlayStation Vita version of the game.

The Bonus Challenge Tower is great fun and is one of the primary draws to this version of the game.  Like the original Challenge Tower, some of the new Challenges are annoying and cheesy but for the most part they're interesting and well designed, and it's great to see the four DLC kombatants so prominently featured.  The majority of the new Challenges require you to use the PlayStation Vita's hardware specific features to advance, usually adding a great twist to the gameplay but occasionally the included functionality is very gimmicky.  There's also a few traditional styled Challenges mixed in, a fan favourite character guest stars (and is playable) in a few Challenges, and all the bosses are playable in the odd Challenge.  "Mini" versions of the kombatants also appear in several Challenges, where both speed and damage is increased.  As you progress through the Bonus Challenge Tower, you're also introduced to the two new mini-game modes:  Test Your Balance and Test Your Slice.

I personally loathed Test Your Balance.  Basically your kombatant is balanced above a pit and you need to tilt the PlayStation Vita back and forth to maintain their balance.  Subsequent Test Your Balance levels feature body parts being thrown at your kombatant to try and knock them off, and while the whole concept is good in theory, NetherRealm Studios clearly didn't play test this on a moving subway.  This is predominantly where I played the game, and the motion of the train regularly messed up the accelerometer to my great frustration.  If you fail, your kombatant plumets to their death, and there's about five possible ways in which they can meet their end.  While all of these potential deaths were fun to watch at first, they got quite repetitive after a bit, and since you can't skip them, they actually became rather annoying.  I have completed each Test Your Balance level and personally I never intend to touch them again.

Test Your Slice, on the other hand, is a different story completely and it's great fun.  Essentially it's Fruit Ninja Mortal Kombat style, and you're slicing body parts and power ups as they're tossed onto the screen while trying to avoid slicing bombs, which you can shake your PlayStation Vita to detonate safely.  Test Your Slice is a mode I keep coming back to when I need to pass a few minutes here and there, and I only wish there were more levels for it!  It's simple, addictive, and incredibly enjoyable!

Visually, the PlayStation Vita version of Mortal Kombat is a downgrade from its console counterparts, looking very much like a last generation title, however there's a solid reason for this:  frame rate.  Frame rate is something that's essential to a fighting game, and NetherRealm Studios chose to sacrifice the game's visual quality to keep it running at a smooth 60 FPS.  What this means for you is that you can play the game on your PlayStation Vita using the exact same combos and timing (more or less) as you would on the console versions, and I personally believe this is absolutely superb.  In truth while the visual downgrade is noticeable, it is not horrible at all, the game looks great for a handheld title, and you really don't notice it during the heat of a match.  I fully agree with NetherRealm Studios decision at having the PlayStation Vita version of the game play better over looking better.

The backgrounds suffered less than the character models, however, and they look very sharp and very close to their console counterparts.  There's less detail and animation in many of them, but again, during a match, you don't notice.  A great trick that NetherRealm Studios used is a lot of the background objects are actually 2D images of the high res versions found on consoles, and you'll only clue in on this when the camera angle shifts away from the standard 2D plain (such as during character intros).  Very clever and a great resource saver.

The cinematics featured in Story Mode are the exact same as those featured in the console versions, so you'll be able to see the characters in their high res and higher polygon count glory here, at least until Story Mode transitions into actual gameplay.

Audio wise, the game is exactly as you remembered.  The voice acting, announcer, sound effects, and music are all the same, which is great.  I did notice one odd audio glitch, however, and I've only experienced it in Arcade Ladder.  Sometimes, instead of saying, as an example, "Round 2.  Fight!," the announcer will oddly say something like "Round 6.  Round 7."  I have no idea why the wrong audio files are sometimes played here, nor can I reproduce the error at will, it is completely random, and it's the only audio hitch I've experienced.

As mentioned above, King of the Hill is absent from online play as are Lobbies, however you can connect via Wi-Fi to play Player and Ranked Matches or you can connect via ad hoc for local play.  I've played several Ranked Matches to date, and it saddens me to report that the lag which plagues the console versions appears to still be here, depending on the match, but thankfully the "Game Session is No Longer Available" drop seems to be absent.  Players can still disconnect on you though, screwing up your stats, but there's nothing to be done about that now and the overall experience is still both enjoyable and competitive.

The PlayStation Vita version of Mortal Kombat also features the same number of Trophies available in the PlayStation 3 version of the game, though some of them have been removed (such as the King of the Hill ones) and replaced with new Trophies related to the Bonus Challenge Tower, the new Mini Games, and a few other secrets.

At day's end, I really need to compliment NetherRealm Studios on an excellent port of an already excellent game.  Despite the visual downgrade, this is Mortal Kombat through and through with some great exclusive, hardware specific content to help keep things fresh.  Not only has the PlayStation Vita version of Mortal Kombat entertained me through countless commutes (and it'll certainly continue to do so), but it's also greatly improved the quality of my game, allowing me to learn additional kombatants and overall improving my skill in the game.

For you though, the real question is if Mortal Kombat for the PlayStation Vita is worth your hard earned cash.  Being almost the exact same game as that available on consoles, the question you need to ask yourself is if you're tired of the core game or not.  If the answer is yes, you're done with it or where never interested in it in the first place, then the PlayStation Vita version will do nothing for you.  If you're still in love with NetherRealm Studios fighter then there's an excellent experience to be had here which you can now take with you anywhere.  If you've never tried the game on any platform before and are itching for a solid title for your PlayStation Vita, I'd definitely recommend it as the amount of content available out-of-the-box is staggering for a modern day retail release, and you'll get months of solid enjoyment from it.

Halo 4 Specializations

This week's Halo Bulletin features a wealth of information about the upcoming Specializations, which will be featured in Halo 4's Multiplayer.  Basically, Halo 4 has 50 levels and once you've advanced past them, you'll get to choose a Specialization for your Spartan-IV.  You'll then need to advance through your chosen Specialization before being able to choose another one.

Only two Specializations will be available at launch, Wetwork and Pioneer, and more will be released post-launch.

You can read up on all the revealed Specializations thus far and what's been revealed about the entire process right here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mortal Kombat Season Pass (Xbox 360) Review

When NetherRealm Studios released Mortal Kombat (2011), they packed it full of a significant amount of content for a modern day retail release, something that impressed me very much.  Through the course of last summer, they did release four additional kombatants as DLC, each priced at 400 Microsoft Points ($5.80).  Launching along with the first of those DLC kombatants, Skarlet, players instead had the option of purchasing the Season Pass for 1200 Microsoft Points ($17.40), which granted them access to all four kombatants (once they were released) for a reduced price.

Last Boxing Day, the Season Pass was on sale for 50% off, and since I was busy grinding "My Kung Fu is Stronger" at the time, I decided to bite to add a little more variety to my Arcade Ladder opponents.  This allowed me to both fight against and to use Skarlet, Kenshi, Rain, and Freddy Krueger, and each of these kombatants also came with two klassic costumes each (also available with the free Compatibility Packs):  MK3 Cyrax and Sektor, MKII Smoke and Noob Saibot, MKII Kitana and Jade, and MK3 Sub-Zero and Cyber Sub-Zero.

If you use Random Select at the character select screen you could now get one of the DLC characters, and AI Shang Tsung can morph into them as well during Arcade Ladder/Tag Ladder.  If Skarlet is being used in Khan's Arena, she's no longer chained in the background and isn't replaced by anyone, and I'm not sure if Kenshi still appears in the background of The Pit if he's being used or not.

I spent some time with each of the new kombatants, and I personally found Skarlet and Kenshi to have a great deal of potential, Rain was fun but in my opinion the least useful, and I'm not a fan of Freddy Krueger being included as a guest character and didn't really enjoy using him at all.

Ultimately everyone has different play styles when it comes to fighting games, so whether you like the new kombatants or not is completely up to how you play.  Also, whether the new content is worth its price depends if you really want to play as any of them or not.  If the answer is "No," then each character won't add much to your game and you're better off passing on the Season Pass.  If you're only interested in one of them then getting that character specifically will save you some Microsoft Points, unless, of course, it goes on sale again.  Otherwise, if you're hungry for more characters to play as, then you'll get a lot out of this content.

I personally felt that Mortal Kombat (2011) has so much to offer that more kombatants weren't needed, however for 600 Microsoft Points ($8.70) I certainly got my use out of them, both playing as and fighting against.  In the end these characters are kind of like a bonus, something you can get if you really want but something you won't miss out on if you pass.  At full price I personally don't feel the Season Pass is worth it, especially since the Klassic Costumes they come with are available to all for free via the Compatibility Packs, but at 50% off it wasn't too bad and if you're a die-hard fan like me, you'll get a good bit out of it.

Dead Space 3 Weapon Crafting Gameplay Trailer

The Workbenches in the Dead Space franchise are getting an upgrade in Dead Space 3, becoming the Weapon Bench where Isaac can use scavenged pieces to assemble his own custom weapons.

To see this customization in action, you can check out the trailer here or below:

This seems like a natural evolution of the upgrade system to me, and it's cool that you'll have the option to create traditional weapons as well as customized ones.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 1.7 Update Released

A week ago the official 1.7 Update was released for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and it mainly addresses some standard bug fixes and also properly adds mounted combat to the PlayStation 3 version of the game.

If you don't have the update already you'll get it the next time you connect online.  You can read a full list of fixes here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Injustice: Gods Among Us ComiCon and Catwoman Trailers

I completely missed posting the ComiCon trailer for Injustice: Gods Among Us, which was released just over a month ago.  You can check it out here or below.

Also just released is a "Catwoman" Trailer, which you can check out here or below.

Dead Space 3 Gamescom Gameplay Trailer

A new gameplay trailer for Dead Space 3 has been released, and you can check it out here or below.

Seriously, I want this game.  It looks great, both action-packed, story drive, with with suitable horror elements; just what I've come to expect from the franchise.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II Multiplayer Reveal Trailer

Activision has sent along the official Multiplayer Reveal Trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops II.  You can check it out here or below.

Looks slick, very slick.

Mass Effect 3: Firefight Pack Released, "Leviathan" DLC Announced

A little over a week ago, BioWare announced and released the "Firefight Pack" for Mass Effect 3, which brings seven Multiplayer-only weapons to the Single Player Campaign.

The "Firefight Pack" is available now on all platforms and costs 160 Microsoft Points (or $2.32), and you can check out all the details right here.

More importantly, the game's next Single Player DLC has been announced.  Entitled "Leviathan," Commander Shepard and crew explore the darkest reaches of space looking for a fabled creature believed to be powerful enough to kill a Reaper.  Players will get to explore new Uncharted Systems as well as new areas of the Citadel, interact with new characters, gain access to two new weapons, and learn more about the history of the Reapers.

Mass Effect 3: Leviathan will be released on all platforms on Tues. Aug. 28th for 800 Microsoft Points ($11.60).  You can read all the details for "Leviathan" here, and the release date announcement here.