Highlights – June 2011

June is usually the start of the summer lull in gaming releases, but it always has a few big ones; a few well-anticipated movie releases, and even a major event. So it’s looking to be a pretty big month.

June 3: X-Men First Class – Pretty huge release, definitely excited for this one, especially after seeing the previews and commercials.

June 7: inFamous 2 – Sequel to the action sandbox game from a few years back, and another huge release – possibly large enough to even distract from E3.

Red Faction: Armageddon – Always an innovative game, fun to see what new tech they showcase in the Red Faction series. The level of environment destruction in the last one was impressive, interested to see what they have to show off for this one.

June 7-9: E3 2011! The largest videogame conference in the world, happening in LA as always. Predictions will be posted soon!

June 10: Super 8 – The trailers looked interesting, although I often dislike movies where the main characters are children… but this is another I’ll be giving a look-see.

June 14: Alice: Madness Returns – Missed the first one back in 2000, but since this release includes a download of the first one regardless of platform you purchase it for, that’s not a problem. The game definitely looks intriguing, and I will quite likely be giving it a try when it hits shelves on June 14.

Child of Eden – Only coming out on this date for the 360, but it is definitely an interesting title. I may delay purchasing it due to the number of other titles still working on, but looks like a fun one to play, with a controller anyways. Looks like it’d be obnoxiously awkward to try to play without one however.

Duke Nukem Forever - Yep, it’s first person, but still – it’s Duke Nukem. Really… how much more does one need to say?

Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Yes, I know, the previous transformers movie games have sucked. Bad. And the movies have too… but Dark of the Moon’s tie in game is being designed by the same people who made the last GOOD transformers game: War for Cybertron. So I have high hopes.

June 16: Dawn of Fantasy – MMORTS? Interesting concept, looking forward to seeing this one pan out. Glad to see they cancelled the console version though, console RTS games never work.

June 17: The Green Lantern – Trailers for this look awesome, can’t wait to see it.

June 21: Dungeon Siege 3 – The Dungeon Siege games have usually been quite well done, and I’m looking forward to the console version of #3.

Shadows of the Damned – Third person psychological action shooter? I’m intrigued already… from the minds of Resident Evil and No More Heroes? Definitely interested.

Pretty huge June, if I do say so myself. Opens up strong, and stays all the way through. Happy E3 everyone! ;)

Big day for Gaming News!

There’re a number of pretty big reveals to discuss

http://blog.us.playstation.com/2011/05/30/full-psn-services-including-playstation-store-return-this-week/

The Playstation Blog has revealed that the PSN is expected to be up and fully functional by the end of this week! No surprise given E3 next week and they really have to give closure to this whole mess by E3. But still awesome news to talk about.

Also in Playstation news:

http://blog.us.playstation.com/2011/05/29/playstation-fans-watch-e3-online-try-to-win-your-way-in/

You can watch E3 and participate in Interviews of various developers on the PS Blog!

Aaaaaand….

http://blog.us.playstation.com/2011/05/31/uncharted-3-naughty-dog-talks-multiplayer/

Details of the Uncharted 3 beta! This is a huge one, Uncharted 3 being one of the most anticipated sequels of the year.

PAX Prime 2011 has sold out of all tickets.

Activision unveils Call of Duty Elite – the next phase of CoD multiplayer access.  Without a subscription, you’ll get access to some new social and communication features, while premium access(price unknown as yet) will net you unlimited access to all future map packs, as well as full access to the Elite service.

http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/blog/2852981

And the biggest for last: Starcraft 2′s long delayed and anticipated first expansion has started having trailers and reveal interviews going around the web.

Enjoy these little snippets as we wait for E3!

Muses – E3: Predictions, Hopes, and Thoughts

With E3 2011 just around the corner, now’s the time for us all to look to the next year of gaming.

Predictions:

Microsoft:

  1. Microsoft will way overhype Kinect again, but not quite to the same extent that they were ridiculed for last year.
  2. Circque du Soleil will not be there.
  3. Gears of War 3 will take the spotlight.
  4. They will have something Halo to show off to reassure people that Halo isn’t dead.

Sony:

  1. Another apology for everything that happened with the PSN hack.
  2. Kevin Butler.
  3. A lot of PS3 exclusives will be given a nice limelight to show new trailers.
  4. Move and 3d will once again be big players in the PS3 section.
  5. The ICO collection will be showcased, and American versions of the PSP remasters will be announced.
  6. Success among recent PSP titles will likely be mentioned leading in to a discussion of the NGP hopefully with a REAL name for it, and a pricepoint.
  7. Someone will try to hack the PSN again during the Sony conference at E3.

Nintendo:

  1. Nintendo will once again assume an incredibly elitist attitude and tout their sales numbers for the Wii and DS as proof of superiority.
  2. Nintendo will officially unveil the Wii Stream(hahaha) and will announce the first wave of games for it, just like they did for the 3ds last year.
  3. OoT 3DS will have significant spotlight time.
  4. The 3DS and its upcoming titles will be most of the show.

 

As far as individual Developers go…

Square Enix: To help combat the drastic losses they’ve taken recently, they’re going to go all out for E3 this year to generate some positive hype. I’m guessing FF13-2, Type-0, Tomb Raider, and HitMan will be their big show highlights this year. Also hoping to get some info out of  WAKFU private event.

EA: Focus will be split between Bioware, with ME3 DA3 and TOR being their biggest highlights and EA Sports presentation trying to hype new developments in their sports franchises. I think the other big points will be Amalur and BF3. I don’t forsee any big surprises from the EA conference.

ACtivision: Most of their attention here will be on their big Superhero titles: Spiderman: Edge of Time, Prototype 2, X-Men: Destiny. Some new titles from some of their smaller, quiet studios will be announced. CoD: MW3 will have some headline space as well. Biggest surprise will probably be from Bungie.

Bethesda: Biggest emphasis will be on Skyrim – being their biggest title. Announcement of FAllout 4 will be made, and Rage will be showcased.
Hopes:

Biggest things I’m hoping to see more of are MGS:Rising, Final Fantasy Type:0, DMC, Final Fantasy vs 13, Mass Effect 3, The Secret World, Thief 4, Dragon’s Dogma, another Nier game, Sorcery, more Prototype 2, and I’d like an announcement that some of the big first person games in development will also have 3rd person game modes, but I don’t really expect that.

Final thoughts:

Sony’s conference’s success is going to depend on whether they can wrap up the PSN affair and then move on to games. If they focus on their lineup, they’re probably going to have the most impressive showing – have you seen the lineup of ps3 exclusives? It’s pretty impressive. Basically Sony has to do 3 things: Provide closure on the PSN fiasco, show off their impressive lineup with some demos and some new footage, and give the NGP a name and a price. If they can hit all 3 checks, we’ll be talking about their conference fondly.

Nintendo’s conference will hinge on whether the Stream is impressive or not. If it seems Nintendo takes the stance they’ve been taking lately of ‘go to hell hardcore gamers we don’t need you we’ve got a mountain of money’ then their conference will likely be the lowpoint of the show since E3 is mostly of interest to the hardcore gamers. If, however, they seem to have learned their lesson and make a split focus with some parts being casual and some part of it geared to really bring the hardcore gamers back, they might steal the show. Another big thing that will make a huge difference in their success is whether they can make the 3DS relevent with some good solid unique software. But it all hinges on their new console, which will hopefully have a better name than Cafe or Stream.

Microsoft’s in a really difficult position here. Their ‘big impressive technology’ from last year is something that, while it is impressive on a technical level, is barely ever even thought about among gamers. It only ever comes up in conversation as a reference to fitness games really. So they can’t really showcase that again, because it hasn’t done much of note. And they really lack a strong software lineup that we know of. So Microsoft’s conference being successful really hinges on what secrets they have. Sony and Nintendo we can make a fairly educated guess about what they’re going to discuss. With Microsoft, on the other hand, we just don’t know. As far as announced points of interest, there really isn’t enough to fill a conference, so Microsoft has to be keeping something a big secret. What that is will determine the success of their conference. Regardless, however, unless Sony and Nintendo both screw up, I don’t forsee Microsoft stealing the show like they did 2 years ago. I just hope it isn’t as bad as last year…

The developers to watch this year are Bioware, Square, Sony, and Konami, I think.

Written by: Sean

Thor (Movie)

Thor tells the story of the legendary God of Thunder himself being banished by his father, Odin, for his arrogance and his headstrong attitude – but not everything is exactly as it seems.

From the start to the finish, this movie looks fantastic. The realm of Asgard is gorgeous, the frost giants look exactly as they should, and every aspect of the special effects is perfectly tailored to the effect it wants to produce. The combat is brutal and the rainbow bridge stunning. Probably the only part that isn’t fantastic is the 3d. I don’t really think this is one of those movies that the 3d version is worth it. It’s barely noticable except at a few parts.

But probably the best part of this movie, although it doesn’t seem like it would be in this type, is the character development. Everyone in this movie was cast superbly well, from Asgard to Earth, I don’t think they made a single mis-cast. Hemsworth turned what could have been a completely unrelatable character into a remarkably down-to-earth(forgive the pun) superhero figure countered well by the eccentric scientist portrayed by Natalie Portman – the type of person completely unconcerned with her own health is pursuit of her scientific goals. But I think the most well-acted character in the movie was Loki, portrayed by Tom Hiddleston. Loki is the type of character that could very easily have been portrayed as a complete villain – evil, cold, and heartless. But in stead, thanks to a good script and superb acting, Loki played out as a contrary character that is just sure he’s right. He genuinely believes at the heart of it that he is doing good, and that every act is justified by that fact. This makes him into a very relatable villain, rather than a cold, implacable evil. Which suited the movie just fantastically.

Thor is a movie that is part high action, part bumbling comedy, part redemption, and part love story… and while none of those parts are the shining examples of their genres, they all play together to form a very compelling story with a truly superb cast.

Thor (PS3)

Another big superhero movie is out… and you know what that means? Another Marvel tie-in videogame! But are we in for another disaster like Iron Man or another decent game like X-Men Origins: Wolverine?

And here we’re in for a surprise, because Thor is not a bad game. Yep, a marvel movie tie in that is actually not bad! Rejoice!

For Asgard!

To start with, the story is not a parallel to the movie. Great decision – don’t get me wrong, the movie had a good movie story, but I’m very glad to see they recognized that it wouldn’t work for a game and decided to merely use the same design and character, but a different story in the universe. The story, like the movie, is one of redemption. And it’s executed fairly well. Not the best story but definitely an interesting story, told fairly well.

It’s the story of Thor as he tries to save Asgard from a foe he himself unwittingly unleashed, overcoming obstacles and treachery. Pretty standard fare for an action game like this. But overall, not a bad story.

Pink Lightning? What?!?

Yes, the game gives you the option to have pink lightning; among several other colours. But really, this is just a catchy way for us to get onto graphics. The game’s environments all look and sound incredible. The voice acting is quite good(and many of the actors portray the same characters as in the movie).  The character design is quite good, although some of the monsters seem to move and attack very awkwardly and it’s very hard to gauge, from the animations, the effect of many of the abilities.

I am… THOR! Son of Odin, God of Thunder, who commands the Lightning and the Storm!

So yes, you play as Thor, which means you have a lot of lightning based powers, a lot of storm themed abilities, and a big hammer. And… well… that is what you are.

Let’s take a step back and start with the good, shall we?

The powers are fun to use, they feel powerful, they’re suitable to the mythology, and you definitely feel strong right from the beginning. Everything about combat definitely feels ‘Thor’. The customization options you have for the abilities add some very fun attributes.

As to the combat itself, it feels mostly pretty good. You get a nice sense of impact from Mjolnir, and the powers play into things quite a bit with each type of enemy having weaknesses to various attack types and powers, adding use to even the weaker abilities against the right enemies.

As a slight positive aside, you get rewarded for destroying all sorts of things through odinforce runes and through feats of valor.

But it’s not all pink lightning and Mjolnir-crushed foes. The combat definitely has some parts where it falls short.

As mentioned above in the graphics section, some of the abilities(both yours and the enemies’) feel a little unreliable. The area of effect is hard to gauge and thus the ability is hard to use.

As far as controls go, the issues are pretty minor. The timing for reflecting spells can be very erratic, with a very tight window for successfully reflecting. When this becomes a key mechanic in certain bosses, it just leaves you feeling like something wasn’t polished enough. Additionally, when you had to aim the hammer throws, the targeting reticle moved really painfully slowly which made any parts involving using that for any quick attacks somewhat frustrating.

The combat was a bit simplistic as well, with only one ‘basic attack’ button and then a separate button for spells. Left the combat feeling a bit repetetive at parts. Also having your combo button be the same as your spellcast button felt a bit awkward.

Probably the worst decision they made regarding abilities, however, was giving you access to prettymuch every ability right from the start. Thinking back to GoW, or Castlevania; some of the best moments were when you’d get that new ability and start learning to incorporate it into your strategy. And this game you didn’t really have that, sure you got points to upgrade your abilities and sometimes you’d get a cool new sub-ability or addon to an ability, but it isn’t the same as getting something completely new.

Some of the enemy abilities are ridiculously hard to dodge or block, specifically on a few boss fights(there was one where the only way I could dodge it was if I jumped and did a charge at a very specific angle towards the boss and past him at just the right time, for example). Also during most boss fights, most of the spells felt largely useless, and I found myself almost exclusively using the tornado spell during bosses just to get the longest invulnerability period because the spells seemed to all do similar damage to bosses which was a bit disappointing.

The Defense of Asgard

I’m going to give a bit of a spoiler here, because this – the last chapter of the game – was just so bad it deserves mention specifically. You’re called to defend Asgard, and you have to do it by a series of mini-game style combat challenges. These challenges were so frustrating, awkwardly done, and just plain not fun… that I could hardly believe it. So if you’re getting close to the defense of Asgard, I don’t envy you. It was just terrible. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, quite literally. After you complete all the primary challenges, you get one more afterwards, and that one is pretty fun. After that comes the last boss, which is quite fun. And the end cinematic is pretty cool, if a bit short.

Overall

Barring the ‘Defense of Asgard’ segment, I had a lot of fun with Thor. It certainly wasn’t a prime example of a great action RPG, but it is certainly a worthy game to play – especially if you’ve been craving a new action rpg-style game to fill the gap left since Castlevania and GoW 3 are all long done with. The flaws in the game are visible, but do not significantly detract from the experience for most of the game’s length, and if you can get past the Defense of Asgard, you’ll be rewarded by a fairly satisfying ending.

Pros:

  1. Satisfying feel to the abilities.
  2. Cool customization options(costumes and colour of lightning)
  3. Decent redemption story, and not parallel to the movie.
  4. Very good quality graphic and audio design from voice acting to environment to most characters.
  5. Everything about the abilities and combat feels ‘Thor’.
  6. Good sense of strength right from the beginning
  7. Really epic-looking visuals for the spells.

Cons:

  1. Defense of Asgard chapter was terrible. Absolutely terrible.
  2. Some abilities were hard to gauge effect.
  3. Slow controls for targeted throw detracts from enjoyment of certain segments.
  4. Reflect timing is difficult and unreliable.
  5. Abilities can be very hard to dodge/block with no real queues to indicate what to do.
  6. Simplistic combat with limited options.
  7. Some enemies’ animations feel sloppy.
  8. No gating to abilities, all major abilities available from the start leading to a lack of progression.
  9. Story is a bit cliche.
  10. During boss fights, abilities seem more useful for the damage immunity they give you than the damage they do.