Archive for October, 2010

Fable III: Pre Order Exclusives Guide

With the upcoming October  release of Fable III looming near – next week, everyone, next week!! – I decided to give a rundown on the preordering exclusives you can find at various stores.  Because who doesn’t want the freebies that you can’t get anywhere else?!

Preorder Fable III from Amazon.com

If you don't preorder Fable III, this guy's gonna shoot you.

Amazon – I detail this option first because it seems to be the most cost-effective option if you’re someone who likes to save money.  You can get a $20 credit for any future video game purchases, and release date shipping is just 99 cents.  Plus Amazon is always nice enough to include a Pre-Order Price Guarantee, which means if you preorder for one price and then the price drops prior to the game coming out, you’ll pay the lower price.  And now, on to the exclusives!

  • Champion Hammer – First of all, it’s a hammer.  So yeah, that kinda sucks.  However, if you like your weapons slow but powerful, then this is for you.  I much prefer swords.  The name ‘Champion Hammer’ sounds nice, and it sounds like it will probably be slated in the ‘good’ category.  Otherwise it ain’t nothing but a pretty decoration.
  • Balance Tattoo – From a description I read, it sounds like this set relates to a hero committed to restoring balance in the world.  So that doesn’t really say a lot about what bonuses you could receive from it.  Strength?  Skill?

Preorder Fable III from Walmart

Walmart – Walmart has a similar deal to Amazon in that you will receive exclusive in-game content, a $20 Walmart.com eGift card, and the game is $59.96!!  You save FOUR CENTS, people!

  • Absolver Hammer / Mallet – Okay, so I can’t really tell if it’s a full sized hammer or just a mallet that you have conk your enemies out with.  Apparently the weapon has to due with Hammer wreaking vengeance in the name of her father after Lucien was defeated.  The perfect choice for warrior monks or angry priests.
  • Dragonbreath Tattoo – An attractive tattoo that explains perfectly how you may feel – like you want to breathe dragon flames on your enemies.

Or for an extra $20 you can get the limited edition with all the same preorder goodies. But it’s…limited.

Preorder Fable III from Gamestop

Industrial Tattoo and Inquisitor Sword, brought to you by Gamestop

Gamestop – The pre-order exclusives from Gamestop have been very publicized from their TV spot.  I’ve seen this spot more than I’ve even seen commercials for Fable III itself.  ‘Be as evil as you want to be’, claims the ad.  Let’s just say that it’s pretty obvious you’ll be going down the dark path if you choose Gamestop to pre0rder from.

  • Inquisitor Sword – According to Gamestop, this sword is somehow linked back to Reaver, and therefore earns you bonuses when you kill innocents, spend money, and annoy people.  And oh yeah, it’s evil.
  • Industrial Tattoo – The ever-changing tattoo!  It will morph to go along with your focuses, so the color will change depending on your alignment.  This tattoo makes you more attractive, and will also assist in completing a particular quest in Aurora.


Preorder Fable III From Best Buy

Best Buy – Last but not least, the final location to get exclusive in game content is from Best Buy.  These items are best for those dedicated to Will use.

  • Channeler Sword – You can already see what this sword is gonna do: have magical attributes.  Yes, it’s true.  This sword, which is pretty much encrusted with crystals and doesn’t look very sharp at all, was created by Garth in his later years and is imbued with his Will abilities.
  • Crystal Tattoo – So, just like the sword, the tattoo looks like crystals.  Crystals that are strangely arranged to look like wings.  I guess if you’re a Will user, you can fly…?

So there you have it.  Based on this info, I’m probably going to be ordering from Amazon.  I’ve already got one $20 pre-order credit under my belt.  Where will you be pre-ordering your copy from?

-Kat

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Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – Multiplayer Beta – Kat’s Rundown

Ubisoft has done a fantastic job with their first attempt at an online multiplayer version of Assassin’s Creed.  And it works, too.  My overall impressions were very positive, with a few kinks that need to be ironed out.  It’s different from regular, Halo or Modern Warfare – types of versus games in that everything you do in versus matches of AC:B has to be approached stealthily.  You can’t just run around shooting (or, in this case, stabbing) everyone in sight.  Well, scratch that.  You can, but it will be a quick way to call attention to yourself and you will be assassinated in no time.

In fact, in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the online versus matches can actually get your heart pounding.  Especially when the screen flashes with a warning of ‘ESCAPE’, indicating that another player is hot on your trail, looking to take you down.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - The Courtesan

She'll drop you... and then you can watch her hips SWING

As I started my AC:B Multiplayer experience, I was given the fairly standard introduction, with tactics on how to approach an enemy and how to kill stealthily.  One thing that instantly made me incredibly happy:  You can FINALLY play as a sexy assassin female!  Hell yes!  I, of course, was the Courtesan.

Anyways, after taking out three targets in the intro, you’re able to move on to fight against other online players.  From the menu options, it looks like there will only be two types of playable games, versus and co-op.  Unfortunately for me (because I absolutely suck at online versus gaming), I only had the option to play versus.  Hopefully Ubisoft will expand the game types further, so that the online matches don’t get overly repetitive.  ‘Capture the Flag’ is always a good one, and could be creatively implemented with the assassin theme, such as ‘Cut a Coinpurse’ or ‘Steal the Treasure’.  Even something along the lines of half the players try to assassinate one non playable character, while the other half try to protect the NPC could be interesting.

But on to the gritty details!  When you jump into an online match, which usually contains around 8 players or so, you get to choose what character you’d like to play as.  Characters get picked up quickly, so it’s best to choose a person as soon as you’re on the screen.  From here, you are taken to a screen where you are able to choose something called a ‘Profile Set’, which you can customize from the main menu and has a set number of abilities, perks, and streaks.  (More on customizing profile sets later)  In the match, your mission is to assassinate a target, shown in the upper right hand corner of the screen, within a set time limit.  You need to first locate your target, using a ‘compass’, a blue circle on the bottom of the screen.  This indicator works just like an actual compass in that it points in the direction your target is.  The indicator will also widen or shrink, depending on how close or far away from your target you are.

The catch is that there are plenty of random NPCs walking around within the level, and every NPC looks like all the characters you can play as.  In other words, if your target is the Doctor, there are many look-alikes in the crowd that can throw you off, and if you’re playing as the Courtesan, there are many Courtesans walking around to throw off pursuers.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - Killed with a Fan

Killed with a fan. And I bet that dude sneaking up behind is about to take her out.

Within the match, there are various ways to earn points: kill related, action related, session bonus related, and team bonus related.  The kill-related points are obviously counted when you make a kill.  An ‘Incognito Kill’ earns you a whopping 300 points, and is awarded when you never use the High Profile button, meaning you can’t run and can’t be detected.  Believe me, how anyone could get this type of kill is beyond me, because most people are hard to locate or are far away or are running around themselves, and you want to find them quickly.  Unless maybe their connection froze and they’re just standing around.  There are many various kill points you can get.  Action points are for things such as an ‘Escape’, which is escaping a pursuer while being chased.  Session bonus points include ‘Podium’, for finishing 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a match. (Yeah, I haven’t gotten points for THAT – best I did was 5th)  Finally, for team bonus points, you must be in a co-op match, and can earn a ‘Co-op Kill’, which is killing a target locked on by a teammate.

‘What can I do with points?’, you may ask.  Well, points actually help you level up.  And leveling up unlocks various abilities, perks, and streaks for your profile set.  So, let’s talk about that Profile Set.  There are three different unlockable profile sets that you are able to customize, and each set has two slots under each category of abilities, perks, and streaks.  This means that you can create characters with various special talents or bonuses that will work to your advantage while in multiplayer.  One example of an ability is ‘Sprint Bonus’, which makes you run faster for a short period of time.  A perk is something that assists you, such as ‘Reset Cooldowns’, and the streak bonus grants you extra points for various accomplishments.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - Doomed

Yeah, that happened to me a lot.

The bad stuff?  Well, I might be nit-picking, but I really don’t like that once a match is completed, the game will immediately begin a countdown to plunge you into matchmaking to find a new match.  Another thing, is there any type of penalty for dropping out of a match?  I did so in the middle of a game (after being stabbed in the back 5 times without having killed anyone yet) and the only backlash was that I didn’t get to keep the points I’d earned (except I didn’t earn any, so it didn’t matter).  When someone continues to do that over and over, it’s abuse of the system.

I’m really hoping Ubisoft will crank out some new game play types and some new maps.  The Siena map…oh I’m not sure I can even craft a full sentence regarding my hate towards this level.  I will, however, type out the jotted note I’d written down about it, “Siena lvl – bleah SUCK HATE death”  Yeah, that sums it up.

The last of my complaints – which I feel is a big one – is about the various levels for online multiplayer matches.  To me, it seemed as though I was playing against people at much higher levels than me.  One character that I played against when I was at level 3 had the ‘Smoke Bomb’ ability, which is unlocked at level 8.  Granted, there are just 5 levels between our characters, but that leaves a wide gap between my abilities and a level 8’s abilities.  It seems as though the Profile Sets can breed unfair advantages to those of a much higher level.  And why, prior to a match, can’t I view the level of another player in the same match?!  Gamers love to compare stats.  Ubisoft, please oblige.

Overall I believe the multiplayer in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a very solid starting point for the series.  It is to be noted that I am simply playing the Beta version; I have no doubt that Ubisoft will smooth all of these pieces out to make it a completely awesome experience.

-Kat

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Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 Demo Impressions

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II the sequel to 2008’s moderately successful offering from LucasArts comes out October 26. But while you wait the fine people at LucasArts were nice enough to throw a playable demo onto the Playstation Network and Xbox Marketplace. The big question becomes, “Should you go download it?” The answer: dude, its free. Why the hell not!?!? But is it worth it?

star wars the force unleashed 2 cover art

I bet his cell phone always stays charged

When we start off we see a nice little cinematic showing Darth Vader talking to Startkiller. I use the name Starkiller because as LucasArts has already gone out of their way to state that the big question in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 is whether it is Galen Marek or a clone. What is 100% certain is that in the demo whoever this guy is that he is 100% pissed and so full of the Force he has it coming out his ears.

As the combat begins you fight a few droids (very similar to PROXY) to get your bearings. The addition of twin lightsabers adds a certain flair and penache to the combat that is very pleasing to the eye. The training begins to show you the ropes of your force powers as you chase after Galen’s love interest in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Juno Eclipse. It’s only a PROXY style combat training droid but it helps to show us that Starkiller is pretty much coming unhinged because he has no idea what these memories are.

As you run through your Force powers at the start what’s amazing is not the amount of them you have off the get go, but how powerful they are. Granted to make them as weak as possible would make the demo hardly any fun but some of these could damn near bring two Death Stars down on top of a Star Destroyer making one nicely perverted image at the base of a large forest on Endor. It’s not 3-P0 but something tells me they will wind up worshiping the Force Phallus all the same.

The style used in executing the Force powers in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is absolutely a vast improvement over the original. What strikes me most is the Force Lightning. It actually seems to arc instead of just hit everything in its path. It’s a simple pleasure now to force lightning a group of Stormtroopers…gaggle of Stormtroopers….cloister? Anyone? Little help?

After defeating the PROXY droids you’re met with another cinematic leading into the much talked about free fall on Kamino where you’re essentially bringing down the side of a building before Force punching your way through a roof and Force ass kicking everything within a 40 foot radius. In a word…AWESOME!!!! This is the wet dream of any Start Wars fanboy and wannabe Force user. In the first three minutes of the game you begin to see that LucasArts has decided to actually make the game live up to the name Force Unleashed instead of the previous outing that would have been more aptly labelled “The Force Kinda Ramped Up but Nowhere Near Truly Unleashed”. Just doesn’t have the same ring to it did it?

As we continue on we get to catch our first glimpse of the new “Mind Trick” power unleashed by LucasArts. This is very easily my new favorite way to dispatch Stormtroopers. Whether they jump out a window or into a barrier shield or simply begin to shoot one another it is simply fantastic to finally get that pimp feeling of Obi Wan when he first uttered the phrase “these are not the droids you’re looking for.”

As you start hacking and Forcing your way through Stormtroopers we start to see that the complaints of Star Wars fans have finally been seen. The lightsabers in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II actually cut off limbs of people. You see arms, hands, and heads being lopped off in an amazingly satisfying and visceral experience.

The biggest complaint from the first game was that targeting with force grip and force push was a pain in the ass. This seems to have been made more intuitive and easier to use. This is shown numerous times when you grab the throw Stormtroopers into one another and again when you’re picking TIE Fighters out of the sky like you’re grabbing apples from a tree. The really fun part about force grabbing the TIE Fighters was when they begin to crumble in your grip before you throw them.

star wars the force unleashed kamino fall

Insert Tom Petty lyrics here

Near the end we finally get to take a glimpse at the truly fantastic and amazing “Force Fury”. Let me break it down to you this way. Have you ever wanted to see lightsabers fly around someone while they beat the hell out of everything near by? Yeah…yeah its pretty much like that. Only when you see it you will scream with delight and you mind will blank at the sheer awesomeness of it all.

Granted there was one major flaw that I kept having with it. For some reason my demo would lock up. I’m curious as to why this happens and hope we don’t have some Heavy Rain style problem where an otherwise fantastic game is marred by a frequent freeze problem. But demo’s are one thing and with luck the release will go off without a hitch.

So the big question becomes “Should I download Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II?” Well let me ask you this? Are you a Star Wars fan? Did you like the first video game? Do you want to see someone flip out using the force and completely destroy everything that gets in front of him? If you said yes to any of the above then you need to stop what you’re doing and go download this game. But a warning needs to be issues…there’s a damn good chance you will want to pre-order the video game.

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Rating: 4.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – The Review

Our story begins on a crashing ship in a post apocalyptic world. Girl breaks out, boy breaks out, girl crashes ship, boy chases girl, girl fires an escape pod with boy clinging for dear life on the outside, girl enslaves boy and forces him into servitude. Pretty standard tale. I met my fiancé in a fairly similar circumstance. Okay so it was yelling about Christmas Carols in a fraternity house in Ohio…it’s similar.

Monkey - Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

How could you not think this is awesome?

You assume the role of Monkey, a brutish shirtless man with a large pole that enjoys beating up gigantic robots that force humans into slavery. Anyone who has ever thrown a controller or smacked a computer monitor in frustration will absolutely relate to his facial expressions when throwing a beat down on a over sized intelligent can opener. I say over sized though I’m fully aware that an intelligent can opener may in fact be six feet of walking sharp metal. It is possible, right?

No Monkey is complete unless it’s got its goofy looking organ grinder calling the shots. In this case “goofy looking” is replaced with “attractive” and  “organ grinder” is replaced with “ginger kid”. Trip is a timid, entitled pain in the ass who will quite literally ride Monkey to get her home. The strange part is she actually becomes quite endearing despite the whole “forced into servitude” aspect.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West - Monkey

PC Load Letter?

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Controls

The controls are nothing short of standard. Enslaved seems to adhere to the concept that everyone needs to be able to play it and play it well. It’s button mashing at its finest. There is almost no creativity involved.  If you can mash a button you can play Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. It would have been very nice of them to include a way to make Monkey run a bit, but that seems to be as much thought into original, interesting, and fun controls as there was put into making this paragraph interesting.

That being said, they aren’t bad controls. They are the tried and true control scheme that every gamer should feel more than comfortable with. But they are still pretty average.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West’s controls get a 3 out of 5

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Gameplay

Trip - Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Most of the game involves Trip running or being carried and thrown. GINGER TOSS!!

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West does a very good job of masking loading screens with cinematic sequences. While not every one of them is interesting there is at least something going on that takes your attention away from the fact that the game is loading. Anyone who has been to this site before knows that I’m not a fan of boring loading screens.

While the main flaw of the gameplay stems in the fact that it is quite literally a collection of loaded rooms with phenomenal backdrops that’s more or less the mood of the game. You’re not in this game to look around and take your time. You’re always trying to get the attractive ginger somewhere.

Add to that the intense sense of urgency in certain situations. In some instances you will reach a hand hold and it will begin to crumble beneath your hand. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West goes balls out and actually makes you move quickly.

Early in the game when you’re clinging to the outside of a crashing plane you see a building getting closer in the distance. Twenty seconds later and it’s crashing into you. Some video games allude to a sense of urgency that doesn’t really matter. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West flat out says “get it done and get it done now.”

The downside comes in that after a while the video game becomes rather stale. It falls into the Assassins Creed pitfall of repetition.  After a while I caught myself thinking “okay this again”. Climb, flip a switch, kill a robot, toss a ginger. That’s not to say the entire game is repetitive and has some genuinely fun pieces throughout the entire game. But the same 5 glowing hand holds and common tasks just become stale after a few hours.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West’s gameplay gest a 4 out of 5

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Graphics

Much ado has been made about the graphics in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West but its really not the up close graphics that make it borderline majestic. In fact the foreground much of the environment are just trying to do a little too much. It’s quite nice , mind you. It’s just that…well…it almost feels like that kid that everyone likes but he just tries a little too hard.

The real beauty in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West comes in two big aspects. 1.) The Background. Yes the foreground isn’t anything to write home about, but the backgrounds have the feeling of a living breathing world that you can almost feel. As smoke billows out from a crashed slaver ship you can almost smell the air carrying the smoke.

2.) The faces. Ninja Theory took a tip from Heavy Rain and seemed spent time looking at the subtleties of a human face and how we look while we interact with one another. It’s these minor cues of  emotions conveyed in each facial expression in every interaction speak volumes more than the words spoken.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West’s graphics get a 4 out of 5

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Story

The story is the true gem of the video game. It will absolutely catch you off guard with how emotional it is. Some credit goes to the actors for helping to convey this in some otherwise mundane scene’s of “Go from Point A to Point B”. For instance at one point Trip essentially has a breakdown and Monkey is chasing after her showing obvious concern.

Ultimately its the story that helps reinforce this strong attachment between the two. Through every step of the story there is always something to illustrate the caring and bond between Monkey and Trip. This makes what you are doing far more important than the “do it or you fail” mentality present in some games.

On top of the emotional attachment the story is just fairly epic. There are unique and memorable characters, deep understandable motivations and though the tasks are somewhat repetitive the reason for doing them is always present and wrought with actual motivations. Especially when you have a fat man named Pigsy hanging from a sub about to get put into a spinning fan.  Yeah, got your attention now didn’t it.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West’s story gets a 5 out of 5

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – Overall

It took a while to get fully immersed in. After all, no emotional attachment happens in a snap. However once you’re in, you’re totally in. There are pieces that include fantastic surprises and delightful dialog. Graphically this game is sound and quite intriguing. While it may not be for everyone it is absolutely for people who want an interesting adventure with an entirely different story. Sadly though, you won’t find an innovative or interesting control scheme.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West gets an overall score of 4 out of 5

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Assassin’s Creed II: Ezio the Fraud

While I was playing the best sequel ever made for a video game, aka Assassin’s Creed II*, I found myself losing faith with a certain aspect of the main character as I continued further into the game.  Certainly it wasn’t about Ezio’s growth or abilities, because those were perfectly developed and played well in the game.  My concern was more about something that is constantly referred to by characters around Ezio, yet isn’t a factor in any parts of the game except for the beginning.

I’m talking about Ezio’s womanizing ways, of course.

I know what you’re all going to say.  “Kat, you’re such a perv.”  I know, I know.  I love a little (or a lot) of sexiness in video games.

Ezio

Come on, shouldn't this guy get a little more female lovin'?

However, I feel I have a very valid point here.  That being, if Ezio is continually referred to as a womanizer, why don’t we see more womanizing in the game?!  Sure, characters may hint at it, but we need to see this acted out.  In fact, with all those courtesans around in all the towns, why can’t Ezio get distracted occasionally?  And maybe jump into a nearby house to take care of business?

Granted, I understand that Ezio’s on a revenge streak and may only have a mind for that.  But women love a man who’s on the run and is whole-heartedly focused on one thing.  They’d probably be throwing themselves at a young assassin with a fierce goal in mind.  Just look at any Bond movie.

Perhaps Ubisoft just didn’t want to push their limits.  As they’d already included that interactive sexy scene, they didn’t want to go overboard with the sex.

I still think that this limits the character that is Ezio.  And yes, I would like to see more romantic interactions for Ezio.  Because until then, he’s just a fraud.

-Kat

*For an action game.  Mass Effect 2 is clearly the best as far as RPGs go.  Sorry, BioWare, I know I scared you for a minute there.

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Rating: 3.7/5 (6 votes cast)