Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Top 5 Games of 2012

Happy (slightly belated) New Year everyone! Now that it's 2013, it's time to reflect back on the year that was 2012. Part of that for me is my annual blog post of my personal top five video games of the year. The following are my picks, in order from #5 to #1, for my favorite five video games that were released in 2012. After that, I've also included some honorable mentions and my biggest "letdown" video game of the year. So read on and enjoy!

5. Journey - PS3 - March 13

Journey is a game that's very difficult to describe to someone who hasn't played it. If you have a PS3, $15, an internet connection, and a couple of free hours, I would definitely recommend trying it out yourself. Gameplay-wise it's a fairly simplistic adventure game, but it's got amazing visuals and a great soundtrack (which actually won a Grammy). The game centers around your trek to a faraway mountain and the exploration that occurs during the journey. There's no dialogue the entire game, and no cutscenes or backstory given. You're left to insert your own story if you'd like, but the game is more about making your way and taking in everything that's around you. Journey's use of co-op was also something that was new and different from any other game I've played. You will randomly come across other players during your quest, and the only communication method you have with them is a sort of "ping" by pressing a button. That's it. You can't speak, send text, point, or anything else. You also can't choose to play with your friends like most games; any person you come across is a random stranger. But if you manage to stay with another player you can actually help each other out and (in my experience) start to form a sort of unspoken bond in helping each other. Like I said, it's a hard game to describe properly, so if you get a chance to play it I would definitely recommend it.

4. Halo 4 - Xbox 360 - November 6

The return of Master Chief. The end of Bungie and the beginning of 343 Industries. In my mind, this game had "letdown" written all over it. I wasn't even planning on getting it, but based on early feedback I changed my mind right before launch. And I'm glad I did. Halo 4 was a hit. Within the first fifteen minutes of the campaign I felt more invested than I ever did in any of the past Halo games (and I liked all of them except Halo 3). That really says something about the direction 343 went with this game. They kept all the action and combat, but they expanded on the core characters and made you actually care about them. The story was a good sci-fi story that wasn't overly complicated, and the Prometheans were much better enemies than the Flood (who I never liked). There were also a few vehicle levels which I thought were well-placed to mix things up a little bit. They were fun but they didn't overstay their welcome. My only complaint about the campaign is that I actually wish it had been a little longer. I finished the game in around nine hours on normal, but I'm not a Halo god and I usually take longer than most people to go through a game.

Besides the campaign, the multiplayer was different but good. There's the "Infinity" mode, which is your normal multiplayer that consists of slayer, team slayer, capture the flag, etc. Here they definitely took a step towards being more like Call of Duty in that you level up your Spartan based off XP you get in multiplayer to unlock new weapons, armor, abilities  customizations, etc. I always liked Call of Duty's multiplayer better for this reason (it's more like a little RPG in and of itself), so I was happy about this. The other multiplayer mode is called "Spartan Ops", which is a series of new missions they put out every week which are meant to be played co-op by up to four people. They continue the story of the game after the regular campaign with non-Master Chief spartans. These missions are if a little repetitive, but it's hard to complain about what basically amounts to free DLC every week. Overall, I was very impressed with Halo 4 and am looking forward to the rest of this new trilogy more than I ever looked forward to any Halo games before.

3. Mass Effect 3 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U - March 6 (later on Wii U)

There was some sort of problem I remember reading about with Mass Effect 3. Apparently there was some controversy about the ending of this game or something? People on the internets weren't happy I guess? I don't follow that stuff much.

Seriously though, I loved Mass Effect 3. I thought it was and still think it is an excellent game. The problem was with the last ten minutes or so. I didn't hate the ending as much as most people, but there were some definite problems with it. The "Extended Cut" DLC which came out a few months later fixed most of the loopholes and added a little more closure, but it still was a little bit of a disappointment. But while the ending wasn't great, I thought the rest of the game was, and I'm not ready to trash the whole thing just because of the ending.

The campaign was great and once again extremely well-written. Like the rest of the Mass Effect series, you are forced to make choices that affect your game (at least in the moment), and it was great to see all the old characters again, and meet a few new ones. As always with Mass Effect, the writing and voice acting were topnotch. Mass Effect is so well done that you can't help but become invested in the characters and story, which is why people were so upset when it didn't have an epic ending with great resolution.

Oh, and let's not forget about the gameplay improvements. Combat went from being kind of a chore in Mass Effect 1 to "fun" in Mass Effect 2, and ME3 took it to an even better level. The combat is both strategic and action-packed, you need both skill and smarts (to manage your powers and squad mates if you choose to do so). The cover system, which is key in 3rd person shooters, was also improved, along with giving you a ridiculous amount of customization over what guns you take and how you equip yourself. Oh, and let's not forget about the multiplayer, which wins the "No One Thought This Would Be That Good But Me And My Friends Wound Up Playing It Non-Stop For Months" award. Yeah, it was that fun and addictive. Without getting into it too much, it basically took the best RPG elements from Mass Effect 3 and combined them in a co-op horde mode game. And you could play as all the races. It was awesome.
"Gimme yo' head!"

2. Borderlands 2 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - September 18

Like sequels often do, Borderlands 2 took all the good stuff from the first game and expanded on it while adding a few new things. I always liked the graphical style of Borderlands and this game kept it going. Also, Borderlands has become a standard in co-op games, which is definitely a plus (unless you have no friends I suppose). If you're playing Borderlands alone, you're doing it wrong.

As always with the Borderlands franchise, the characters and dialogue were great (and by great I mean hilarious). Last year in my Top 5 I said that Portal 2 was the funniest game I'd ever played. Borderlands 2 probably surpassed that this year. Claptrap is the greatest character ever created in any form of media or literature throughout human history. He makes the whole cast of the Godfather movies look like bad community theater actors. A bunch of other characters from the first game also make an appearance and the new characters are all great too. While some of the quests get a little repetitive, the overall story is good and the gameplay is top notch. While I beat the game, I'm behind on playing the DLC (and there's still more coming), and I still haven't gotten a max level character yet, so there's definitely replay value and a lot of life to this game.

1. Dishonored - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - October 9

Something must be said for Dishonored, which is the only new "franchise" to be on this list from 2012 (Journey was a new IP as well, but probably won't become a franchise the way Dishonored will). You've got to give props to a game that is new and innovative but is still this good. I'm normally not a fan of stealth games, and you don't even have to play Dishonored like a stealth game if you don't want to, but I did anyway and still really enjoyed it. I think that speaks volumes for how well it's made and how interesting the game is. The gameplay is great, the story is good, and the world of Dunwall (where the game takes place) is amazing. I've often said that Dishonored is like a mix of Half-Life 2, BioShock, and Assassin's Creed, which are all hugely critically successful games. That's very high praise, and while Dishonored isn't a perfect game, I think it deserves it.

Besides all the great qualities of the game I listed above, the other great and unique thing about Dishonored is how many options they give you for approaching each different situation. You can finish the entire game without killing a single person if you wish (there's even an achievement for doing it). While that makes the game much harder (I didn't have the patience to do it that way), it just shows you how many different options you have in the game (you can also kill almost every person you meet if you so desire, not that I endorse that). The level of control you have approaching every situation, the mix of combat and stealth, and the RPG elements make the gameplay and replay value outstanding. Mix that with a setting, atmosphere, and story that is reminiscent of Half-Life 2 and BioShock, and you have my Game of the Year for 2012.

Honorable Mentions:

X-Com: Enemy Unknown - Something old and something new. I played some X-Com when I was a kid (it was probably slightly before my time), but I remember it well enough to know that this is both a great remake and a great game in its own right. It's also nice to see a well-made turn-based squad strategy game, as that's a genre that's hard to find nowadays. This game is addictive and extremely deep.

FTL: Faster Than Light - Very much an "indie" game, but extremely fun and addictive, and also surprisingly deep (gameplay-wise). If you're a Star Trek fan and ever wanted to be the captain of your own starship, this is the game for you. This game can run on almost any computer, and is only $10 (and often times I've seen it on sale for less than that). If it sounds interesting you have no reason not to check it out. Here's a link: http://www.ftlgame.com/

Letdown of the Year:

Diablo III - Since it's pretty much been beaten to death online I won't go into this too much. Diablo's co-op was great, and levels 1-59 were all pretty good (I did have to use the gold auction house a few times in there but it wasn't too bad). But once you get to level 60 and Inferno difficulty, the game's just not fun anymore. By then you're on your fourth playthrough of the exact same game, and to progress you have two equally unattractive options: farm the previous difficulty or Inferno Act 1 for days to try to find some halfway decent gear (tip: you probably still won't), or go spend $250 (that's not a typo or exaggeration) per item on some ridiculous items in the real money auction house (or RMAH). Yeah, thanks Blizzard, but I think I'll pass on that and just leave my character suspended in Act 2 of Inferno for the rest of time. Can't wait for Heart of the Swarm though!!!

And there's my list for 2012. While there were some good games that came out (see above), I feel like the video game industry is starting to slow down in anticipation for the next generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony (which will probably be out either late this year or early 2014). And the Wii U doesn't really count, because it's on around the same level as the 360 and the PS3, which have been out about 7 and 6 years respectively (can you tell I'm not a big fan of the Wii U?). Games now are starting to be made for the next consoles, so there's probably going to be a lull in the number of games for 360 and PS3, which soon will be "last generation" consoles. I think to some extent that's what happened last year, and it will definitely be more noticeable this year. That's just my prediction though.

Stay tuned for my upcoming list of games I'm looking forward to in 2013 (and beyond)! As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on my list or even your own list. Any comments, feedback, likes, shares, retweets, +1, high-fives, "Sup girl?"'s, or whatever else are all greatly appreciated!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chromebooks: The Worst of Both Worlds

2016 Update: I got a Chromebook last year and I love it. You can't game on it but it's great for pretty much everything else. Please disregard this post that was written in ignorance. I will however leave the post here for posterity's sake.

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Top 10 Upcoming Games For 2012

I've already gone over my favorite games of 2011, and now (in keeping with tradition) I've decided to list my top 10 upcoming video games that are scheduled for release in 2012. Keep in mind that all dates are tentative. Very few of these games even have set release dates (only two to be precise) and you never even know what could happen with those, let alone the ones that are just "2012" or something similarly vague. It is more than likely that several of these games will wind up getting pushed back into 2013, but for the purpose of this list I'm using games that as of right now (January 2012) are supposed to be coming out sometime this year. Also keep in mind that the world is going to end in December, so if you decide to get/play any of these games set your schedule up to have adequate play time before that happens. You're welcome.

10. South Park: The Game - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - "Second-half" of 2012
I am excited for this game, but with some major reservations. Don't get me wrong, I love South Park. It's definitely one of my favorite TV shows of all-time. What I'm worried about is whether or not the game will stay true to the South Park spirit, and more importantly whether or not it will be a good game. It's an RPG, which is an interesting format for a South Park game, and so far it looks like Obsidian (the company developing the game) is going about making it the right way. But Obsidian does not have my full confidence: they've made some okay games based on other people's game engines (Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas), but they've also made some pretty bad games when using their own tech (Alpha Protocol). Overall I'd say their history of game development over the past few years has been mediocre at best. Hopefully Obsidian will knock this one out of the park, but for now I'm (very) cautiously optimistic.

9. Tomb Raider - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - Third Quarter (Fall) 2012

I've never been a huge Tomb Raider fan, but I appreciate the franchise for the impact it's had on gaming, and from what I've seen of this reboot so far it looks awesome (mainly the preview they showed at last year's E3). It looks a lot more like a survival-horror game (think Resident Evil-ish) than your normal Tomb Raider game, which I think is a great direction to take a franchise that has gotten pretty stale in recent years. The game features a much younger Lara Croft who is just getting started on her tomb raiding career, and the preview they showed was very gritty and downright scary at some parts. We'll see if they can keep that up for the course of a whole game and not just one 10 minute demo, but if they can it will make for one hell of an action/adventure/survival-horror game.

8. Journey - PS3 (via PSN) - Spring 2012

Journey is a semi-indie game from the makers of the indie hit Flower, which (like Journey will be) is only available on the PS3 by downloading it from the PSN. While there's still a lot of mystery about this game, it seems like it's a third person adventure game with a very cool art style (see the picture above - that's actually a screenshot from the game). You are making a journey through a massive desert to reach something at the end, and along the way you'll encounter puzzles, obstacles, and even other players. There's an interesting co-op feature where you will occasionally randomly come across other players in the same area as you. You cannot connect with your friends or even use any kind of voice chat or text chat, but (if you like) you and this other random player can try to figure out a way to help each other with some of the puzzles in the world. This game will probably only be a few hours long, seeing as how it's a downloadable game, but that also means that it will probably only cost around $15.

7. Borderlands 2 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - End of 2012/Beginning of 2013

Borderlands was a game that was great if you were playing with two or three of your friends and you were all almost exactly the same level. That being said, it had some problems too. Hopefully Borderlands 2 will keep the good things from the first game and fix most (if not all) of the problems. From what they've revealed and what I've heard so far things are looking pretty good though. Either way, assuming you have a couple of friends that will be picking this up too, a good time is all but guaranteed. Plus, I would pay $60 just to hear Claptrap talk for like 20 hours. Nice.

6. Guild Wars 2 - PC - 2012

As I've stated before I'm not usually a big MMO fan (besides my current obsession with Old Republic), but this game looks like it's really trying to innovate in the MMO genre, perhaps even more so than Old Republic has. Besides just the graphics and gameplay looking really nice, this game looks like it will be taking interactive storytelling to the next level for an MMO. Choices you make during missions not only affect your own story down the line (like Old Republic), but they can also affect entire areas around you. For example, while you're in town someone (a computer controlled character) might run up to you and beg for your help: his village is about to be attacked by goblins and they won't be able to fight them off. The goblins are almost ready to attack but his village is the next one over, so if you hurry you may be able to make it in time to drive them off. But if you choose not to go, the village can actually be taken over by the goblins, meaning that you and other players will have to fight them off before you can rest there, use shops, turn in quests, etc. If that game mechanic works the way it's supposed to it will make Guild Wars 2 incredibly interesting to play. Also, with Guild Wars 2 there is no monthly subscription fee. You pay the $50-$60 up front for the game but then you never have to pay again to play it. Subscription fees stop a lot of people from playing MMOs, so the fact that this doesn't have one means you'll probably get a lot of people buying the game who don't normally play MMOs (like myself).

5. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - February 7

This is the game that's being made by famous MLB pitcher Curt Schilling and a bunch of other "big names". Besides Schilling, who's the head and founder of 38 Studios (the company developing the game), he's recruited R.A. Salvatore (one of my favorite fantasy authors from back when I used to know how to read) to write the story and the lore for the world (Amalur); Ken Rolston, who's claim to fame is being the lead designer of both Morrowind and Oblivion, and Todd McFarlane (who worked for Marvel and created the comic series Spawn) to be in charge of the art style. As far as fantasy video games go that just about as close as you can get to a star studded cast. Besides all the hype, what I've seen from the game does look very cool and promising, so I'm definitely excited for this one.

4. Diablo III - PC, Mac; Possibly Xbox and/or PS3 - 2012

I've only played a little Diablo in the past, but the quality of Blizzard's games makes anything they put out command attention, and Diablo (like all of Blizzard's other current franchises) has been beloved for decades. Diablo III looks like it will be no different in terms of quality and addictive hack and slash fun. A lot of the new ideas they're implementing seem pretty interesting and will most likely raise the bar for the hack and slash/RPG genre. It also seems that as time has gone on Blizzard has become more and more interested in telling a good story in their games (StarCraft II being a great example), and I would expect Diablo III to keep pushing forward with that.

Also, while this game is obviously coming to PC, there's been a lot of talk recently that Blizzard might be making it for consoles as well. Blizzard has admitted they've been looking into the possibility of making it for consoles, but beyond that it's all rumors and hearsay. So as of right now no one knows for sure whether it'll also be coming to Xbox, PS3, or both.

3. BioShock Infinite - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - 2012

Coming from the makers of the universally acclaimed BioShock (not BioShock 2, which was created by another developer), BioShock Infinite leaves behind the dark, damp hallways of Rapture and takes us to a literal city in the clouds: Columbia. Not only are the storytelling and characters guaranteed to be top notch, the atmosphere of the game, although much different from past BioShocks, seems like it will be just as intriguing as the first game. The gameplay also looks fast paced and like it will be a lot of fun. I've seen numerous interviews about the ideas behind this game and the direction they wanted to go in (including a live discussion with Ken Levine and some of the development team at last year's PAX East), and every time I get more details this game just gets more and more fantastic looking. Definitely can't wait for this one.

2. StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm - PC, Mac - 2012 (maybe)

There's no definite release time frame for this game yet, and while Blizzard has said it will be out sometime this year I wouldn't be surprised to see it get pushed back into 2013. Even if it does come out this year it will most likely be at the end of the year. Even so, I am still extremely excited for the next chapter in the StarCraft saga. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (the Terran campaign) blew me away and consumed a lot of my time in 2010/2011. Most of this was time playing the online multiplayer, but the single player campaign was also fun and very well made, which is something you don't often find in a RTS. My hopes are that not only will Heart of the Swarm (which will be the Zerg campaign) match the quality of Wings of Liberty but will even exceed it. To be honest, although I'm very excited for this game, the one I'm really waiting for is Legacy of the Void, which (as of right now) is the name for the Protoss campaign that will be the final one released. But that is still years away, so the Zerg will have to keep me busy until then.

1. Mass Effect 3 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - March 6

Mass Effect 2 was my favorite game of 2010, and now Mass Effect 3 is my most anticipated game of 2012. That's not a coincidence. I really enjoyed the first Mass Effect, but Mass Effect 2 really set a new standard for cinematic action/RPG games. The RPG elements were present but not complicated or intrusive enough to have to spend hours learning the rules and sorting your inventory, and the action was smooth, visceral, and satisfying. Those two elements, combined with a great story and superb characters combined to make one of my favorite games of all-time, and each of these elements should be even better in Mass Effect 3. If that is indeed what happens, then this game would (in my mind) have to be the best game of this console generation (which will probably be coming to an end in another year or two). The expectations (at least mine) are ridiculously high, so this game has a lot to live up to. And that could very well be its downfall. But I have faith that the people at Bioware will end the story of Commander Shepard and the Reaper invasion with a proper farewell. Commander Shepard and his team aboard the Normandy deserve no less.

With any luck, 2012 should be another great year for video gaming enthusiasts (which I'm assuming you are if you actually read this far into this post). When I look back at My Top 11 Upcoming Games For 2011, there were definitely several disappointments. Brink, Duke Nukem Forever, Dragon Age II, and Rage turned out to be letdowns, and while Battlefield 3 was decent it wasn't exactly the revolutionary modern war shooter I was hoping for. But there were some great games that more than made up for the bad ones. There's a good chance that one or more of the games on this list won't live up to the hype, but overall I'm convinced that 2012 will have at least a few gems (especially games number 1-4 on this list).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Top 5 Games For 2011 (and more!)

The year 2011 has come and gone, and was a great year for video games. We saw a lot of great releases throughout the year and, as usual, especially around the holiday season. Unfortunately my free time was tragically cut short around halfway through the year, so I don't have nearly as much time to play video games as I once did. Because of this I've had to limit my selection based on free time (and money) to certain games (pick and choose my battles, if you will). So instead of a top 10, this year I present you with my Top 5 Games of 2011. Out of all the games I played this year, these five are my favorites. Keep in mind that I only include a game in lists like these if I feel I've played it enough to adequately review and judge it (which usually means "beating" it). The below are ranked in order, with #1 being my "Game of the Year". After the top 5 list I'll also give a few honorable mentions, some games that may have made the list if I had had time to play them, and a few of the letdowns from this year (there were unfortunately several).

We'll start with my Top 5 Games of the Year:


5. Dead Space 2 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - January 25

I'm not usually a fan of the horror genre, but I've come to realize that that may be the reason I'm so drawn to the Dead Space franchise. Besides the fact that they're great games with good stories, great atmosphere and setting, and very fun gameplay, a game like Dead Space 2 wouldn't normally be something I'd enjoy. It's outside of my comfort zone, and while I naturally like my comfort zone, it's nice to try something different once in a while. It's almost like a personal mark of pride for myself that I can say I've beaten every Dead Space game that's come out so far (yes, even the on-rails one for Wii). And while they're great games and I thoroughly enjoy pretty much everything about them, I do have to admit that I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I beat Dead Space 2. Playing games where you don't always have to worry about aliens popping out of dark at you is much easier and much less stressful. Dead Space 2 is not one of those games.

4. Batman: Arkham City - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - October 18

"Gimme yo' heads!"

Following up on the hit game Batman: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City puts you in a larger, open world, adds more classic characters, and improves on the (very) few flaws from Arkham Asylum. My one complaint about Arkham Asylum was the combat, and I felt that it flowed more smoothly and was easier to master in Arkham City. The setting, story, side missions, characters, voice acting, and gameplay are all great... and I mean, come on, it's Batman. What more could you ask for?

3. Portal 2 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - April 19


Portal 2 has the distinction of being the funniest game I've ever played. As someone who loves humor and comedy, that's a big deal for me. And when you add that and the great characters in the game (most of them new) to the awesome gameplay mechanics and puzzle design you get something really special. The new co-op mode is a lot of fun and works really well too. I played through this game almost three times this year, and while it admittedly isn't as long as most of the other games on this list (especially after you beat it the first time), that really says something about the kind of experience you get when you play this game.

2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - November 11

One of the most epic games I've ever played. The world is beautiful and perfectly constructed. The stories and quests are very good, and the combat, while still a little rough in spots, is definitely a step up from Oblivion. And while that stuff is all great, the main reason I play the Elder Scrolls games (and Fallout for that matter) is for the expertly crafted huge open world. Most RPGs are all about going from quest to quest, advancing both the story and the side missions, and leveling up in the process. And while that is a big part of Skyrim, the beauty of this game is the ability to just explore the world and see what secrets you can find hidden away in the mountains of Skyrim (the name of the game is also the area in which it takes place). The game has a quick travel option to go from place to place, but I often find myself not wanting to use it. I'd much rather spend the extra time walking to my next destination and seeing what kind of awesome stuff happens along the way (like defending myself from a dragon attack), or what I can discover (like another hidden dungeon). This game is truly a masterpiece in an already fabled franchise.

*another, more dramatic drumroll*

1. Star Wars: The Old Republic - PC - December 20

Deciding between this and Skyrim for my #1 game was a tough decision that took me several weeks to come to. Both games earned the right to hold that title, and in fact when I first drafted this list I had Skyrim number one and Old Republic number two. But as I continued to play Old Republic I gradually changed my mind. Because it's an MMO, Old Republic has a built-in advantage of being able to play with your friends, which is always a good thing. All MMOs have that going for them, but what really sets Old Republic apart is that I find myself wanting to play it even when none of my friends are online (even over Skyrim, which is made to be only a single player game). I messed around with WoW back in the day, and more recently played Rift and a few other free-to-play MMOs, and while they're all fun in their own way I never experienced this with any of them.

Old Republic mixes all that's great about MMOs with a story that works a lot like Mass Effect does (another game by Bioware). There are still your usual MMO fetch quests (i.e. go here and kill 15 of these, or collect 6 of these and return to me), but where the game really stands out are its "class quests". These quests advance a story and introduce supporting characters that stay with you the rest of the game. And your choices in these quests matter: like Mass Effect you usually have a choice to be good or evil, and whatever you pick affects what happens in your story down the road. There are 8 different classes (4 for each faction) all with original and unique stories that span from level 1 all the way to level 50 (the max level right now). I haven't beaten any of them yet, but I'm a good chunk into 2 of them (out of 8) and they're both really good so far. And from what I hear from other players and online, all 8 are very well made (in the Bioware tradition). You basically get 8 Mass Effect-type stories in one game, and best of all it's set in the Star Wars universe (which I'm also a big fan of). All that mixed with the space combat (which is a fun diversion) and the ability to play with several friends makes this my choice as my favorite game of 2011.

Honorable Mentions:

Rift - Wasn't as captivating as Old Republic, but was fun and had a lot of good ideas I wish other MMOs (including Old Republic) would steal.

L.A. Noire - A very interesting game; it tried a lot of new things and they worked out. Some parts were repetitive, but the interrogations, the story, and most of the action was great.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution - This game had some problems, but overall I really liked it and found most of it to be a lot of fun. Here's hoping for a sequel where they keep all the good stuff and iron out all the problems.

Games that may have made my top 5 list if I had had time to play them:

This is my way of giving props to games that probably deserve a spot on the list but that I unfortunately haven't gotten a chance to play yet.

-Dark Souls
-Gears of War 3
-Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
-The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

The Letdowns

And, last but definitely least, the letdowns. Every year there are a few games that I (and many others) look forward to but unfortunately fail to meet most expectations. These aren't necessarily bad games (although many times they are). They're just... well, letdowns.

Brink - Bought this game for like $10 on sale about two months after it came out. That should tell you something.

Duke Nukem Forever - This game has been $10 for months now, and I still haven't bought it. That should really tell you something.

Dragon Age II - Not a terrible game, but for the most part it was overwhelmingly average. The characters (Bioware's specialty) were still good, but that was probably the only real bright spot in the game. The story was only okay and the environments and combat were damn near terrible. Definitely did not live up to expectations or the standard set by the first game.

Rage - Another one that wasn't all bad; in fact it started out really well. The graphics and gameplay were great, but the story started out decent and only got worse and worse until the ending, which is one of the worst endings for any game ever. The game just ends. Like stops. All of a sudden, you just win. And for a game that was in development for like five years, it's insultingly short. The "open world" is a lie and the multiplayer is not worth playing. The racing is an okay diversion but is pretty shallow and gets old pretty quick. Rage had a lot of potential but ultimately failed to reach it, or really even come close.

And there you have it: my list(s) for 2011. As always I value and appreciate any feedback, so feel free to post any comments or opinions you might have.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

E3 Press Conference Impressions

Although E3 2011 officially kicked off today, all the major press conferences are now over. Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and Sony all went yesterday (Monday), while Nintendo went today (Tuesday). In the following paragraphs I'll briefly sum up my thoughts about the press conferences (or at least what I can remember), and give a grade to each one.

Microsoft- This gets my award for best press conference. Mass Effect 3 looks great and the way it will use Kinect (voice commands) looks like it might actually be worthwhile. I'm not a big Gears of War fan, but if I was I would have been excited to see Gears 3 in action. And Ice-T is pretty badass. Most of the Kinect stuff looks mildly cool, but a lot of it is obviously aimed at a younger demographic than me. Even though I don't know if I'll play it, I think it's very cool that Minecraft is coming to 360 with Kinect.

As someone without cable TV though, I am very excited about Live TV coming to the 360. This will obviously depend of how much it costs and if there are any good channels, but I'm definitely interested. The new dashboard that will come out this fall looks like an improvement over the current one too.

The Halo 1 remake looks okay, but I doubt I'll get it when it first comes out. Halo 4 really caught me by surprise though, and they already announced it's going to be a new trilogy (so 4, 5, and 6). I'm not a big Halo fan, but it was pretty cool to see Master Chief in action again, even if it was only a teaser. Also, the small part of the new Tomb Raider game they showed looked pretty cool too.

On a final note, the whole beginning of the Microsoft press conference started with a live gameplay showing of Modern Warfare 3. Here's my question: does anyone care about Modern Warfare/Call of Duty anymore? Am I the only one completely tired of it? Unless something drastic changes, I have absolutely no plans to purchase MW3 this holiday season. I really think they need to give Call of Duty a break before they wind up running that franchise into the ground just like they did with Guitar Hero.


EA- A solid, if unspectacular press conference. Mass Effect 3 looked good (coming out March 6, 2012), Battlefield 3 looked good (coming out Oct. 25, 2011), but I'm a little upset that we still don't have release date for The Old Republic. We have a date for Mass Effect 3, which is definitely coming out next year, but we don't have a date for TOR, even though they still say it's coming out this year. I smell B.S. If I don't get a release date very soon, there's a very good chance that I will not cancel my pre-order. And like I said before, Battlefield 3 looks really good and like it's ready to take the throne from Call of Duty. And I for one can't wait for that to happen.

When they first brought out Ray Lewis, Clay Matthews, and Peyton Hillis, I thought "Hey, this is cool!", but near the end it started to get awkward. As for Madden, I probably wont be buying this year's copy: A) Because as a general rule I buy sports games every other year (and I bought last year's), and B) Because there might not even be a football season this year, and I refuse to support the NFL at all if they cant get their crap together. Besides that, nothing really interested me. I don't play FIFA, Need for Speed, The Sims, or anything else that I can remember them showing.


Mr. "Huge Douchebag" Caffeine

Ubisoft- Since I've been watching E3 (which actually isn't that long), Ubisoft has always had bad press conferences. The mistake they continually make is instead of having game developers talk about their games and occasionally make the "not-funny" joke that no one laughs at, they hire a semi-professional comedian to host the event and make constant "not-funny" jokes that no one laughs at. "Mr. Caffeine" filled that enviable role this year. In fact, the only funny part of the press conference was how much of the FarCry 3 demo they had to "bleep" out because it contains so much foul language (also, because it was live, one F-bomb definitely slipped though. I wonder if G4 will get fined by the FCC for that). Also, Randy Pitchford did come out to pitch a new game Gearbox is doing with Ubisoft (Brothers in Arms: Furious 4), and that's the only thing that will keep this press conference from getting a "F".

As for Ubisoft's games though, because I don't really play any of their franchises I'm not really a good person to judge them. However, lack of qualification and understanding has never stopped me from judging anything before, so...


Sony- If there's one thing you can say about Sony, it's that their press conferences are always stronger than their firewalls and encryption. Seriously though, Sony had a pretty good press conference, and I liked how the first thing they did was apologize to their customers and developers. I did want Kevin Butler to be there though, and I'm disappointed he was MIA. But Uncharted 3 looks great (no surprises there) and the PlayStation Vita (the new PSP, pictured above) looks absolutely amazing. And it looks like Sony learned their lesson from originally pricing the PS3 at $600, because the Vita (Wi-Fi only model) will only cost $250, which is very reasonable considering the tech.

My favorite part of the press conference though would have to be when Kobe came out and played NBA 2K11 with the Move. Not because of the Move (which I still think is extraordinarily lame), and not because of NBA 2K11 (which I've heard is very good but never played myself). It's because it reminded me that for years I've been telling Lee Brewer that Kobe's my boy and that he's much better than LeBron, while Lee defended LeeBron for years until finally recently admitting that I was right. Sup, Lee?

FINAL GRADE: B- (for Sony)

FINAL GRADE: F- (for Lee Brewer calling LeBron years ago)

Nintendo- I'm very "meh" about the Nintendo press conference. I guess all the upcoming 3DS games look cool, but I don't own a 3DS nor do I have any intention of buying one (if anything I'd wait and get the Vita for the same price later this year). Skyward Sword will probably be great, but unfortunately I've never been a Zelda fan, and Skyward Sword probably won't change that.

Also, Nintendo did such a good job explaining the new "Wii U" that I had only one question at the end of the press conference: "What the hell is this thing?" It's basically the new Nintendo console with HD graphics, better online functionality, and a controller that's a mix between a PS3 controller and an iPad. Seriously (the picture above is an actual picture of the new controller). It's definitely... interesting, but its success will really depend on if developers take advantage of the hardware. That was the same case for the original Wii, and unfortunately most of them didn't. But we'll see. Either way it wont be out until holiday 2012, and if it's anything like the Wii you wont be able to find one in store until summer 2015.


Also, on a side note, I saw the live E3 demo for Skyrim twice, and that game looks more and more amazing every time I see it. Can't wait.

As always, feel free to chime in and let me know what you think, especially if you watched some of this stuff. But feel free to even if you didn't

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Impressions From PAX East 2011

I, along with a friend and my wife, got to attend PAX East in Boston this year. I had a great time (besides all the lines... and the Broadway T stop, but that's another story), and I figured I'd take a few minutes to give some brief descriptions of games that I got to see or demo. There were many, many more games there than what I have listed here, but I'm only going to write about the ones that I remember and feel like I have something informative to say about.

Bioshock Infinite- This game is still a while away, and I heard the creators talk about where they got their inspiration from more than I got to see any actual gameplay. Even so, I have full faith this game is going to be amazing.

Brink- Didn't get a chance to play this one (the lines were out of control), but looked interesting. It's not exactly what I had pictured in my mind, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. It actually reminds me of Team Fortress 2 more than Call of Duty or anything like that. It's definitely a class-based squad shooter, with stuff like medics, engineers that can build turrets, etc. It still looked fun though, and I'm sure there's a lot more to the game than the small multiplayer demo that they had on display.

Duke Nukem Forever- Didn't get the chance to play this one, but watched some other people play, and it looks like it will be exciting and hilarious. It's also definitely an adult game - don't buy this one for your kids or little siblings. The booth itself was hilarious, they had portraits hung everywhere of Duke in ridiculous scenes: climbing Mt. Everest, space-walking, smoking a cigar while holding a huge fish he had just caught, etc. The game will probably seem a little dated when it comes out, but I'm definitely still looking forward to this one.

Homefront- Played a single-player demo of this. It was cool, but the game handles and feels pretty much exactly like Call of Duty. The story looks like it could be powerful though, and I didn't get to see any of the multiplayer. Hopefully that will offer something fresh.

Hunted: The Demon's Forge- This is a fantasy hack 'n slash game, but it handles and play a lot like Gears of War. It really emphasizes two player co-op (also like Gears of War), and the short demo my friend and I played was cool, if not amazing.

Kingdoms of Amular: Reckoning- This game looks very promising even though it's a ways off (scheduled to come out sometime in 2012). It's a pre-alpha build and already looks very good graphically. From the live demo I saw, it seems like it takes the best parts of both the Fable series and Oblivion and merges them together. This game is the first game coming from the studio Curt Shilling founded (38 Studios), and the story of both the game itself and the whole history and lore of the world of Amular are being written by R.A. Salvatore, one of my favorite fantasy authors. Definitely looking forward to seeing more of this.

Lord of the Rings: War in the North- Made by some of the people who made the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance series, this game actually reminds me a lot of that, only with next-gen graphics and a Middle Earth setting/story. It's emphasizes three player co-op, which is kind of strange (you figure they'd make it so four people could play at once like most games). The characters you can control are an elven archer, a dwarven warrior, and a human who can do a little of both. The demo I got to play was cool, but like Hunted, I wasn't really blown away or anything.

Mortal Kombat- Didn't get to play this one (I'm not a big fan of fighting games anyway), but it definitely looked like they're taking this game back to it's roots, which is a good thing.

Nintendo 3DS- The two games I got try on this were Street Fighter 3D and Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. While both of those games played well, the 3DS itself is what really blew me away. I've heard for a while now how awesome the glasses-free-3D technology is, and it really works. I actually tried this shortly after seeing a small demo of Crysis 2 on a giant 3D TV (using glasses), and while the 3DS obviously has a much smaller screen, the effect was exactly the same, but without the glasses on the 3DS. While the 3DS is awesome, I really cant wait until they perfect this technology enough to make big screen 3DTVs that you don't need glasses for. And I think we're a lot closer to that technology than the people who are buying expensive 3DTVs and glasses right now realize.

Rage- I got to see a live demo of some of the single-player for this game, and it did not disappoint. Let's just say that there has been a lot of hype for this game (especially in my mind), and what I saw in the demo did disappoint me in the least. In fact, I think I'm even more excited for this game now then I was before, I didn't think that was possible.

Red Faction: Armageddon- Played a small "destruction" demo, where you basically had to cause as much damage in as short a period as possible to win prizes (I got a t-shirt out of it). Obviously there will be more to the game than that, but as far as I could tell it looked and played exactly like Red Faction: Guerrilla, which was a good game when it came out two years ago. But I think a lot of people will be disappointed if Armageddon turns out to be Guerrilla 1.5. I really hope they've added a bunch of new stuff and improved on the first game.

Star Wars: The Old Republic- Saw a little bit of this game, but unfortunately didn't get to play the demo (like Brink the lines were out of control). It still looks promising, but the question now is when is it going to come out? First it was April or May of this year. That's obviously not going to happen now. All they'll say now is "still 2011", and some rumors have placed it coming out in September. Mass Effect 3 is also supposed to come out this holiday season, but I wouldn't be surprised if both these games wind up getting pushed back to 2012. Old Republic's been in the works so long now though, I feel like they need to release it sometime this year or else it's going to turn into the next Duke Nukem Forever. God forbid.

That's all I can remember seeing from PAX. Hope you found something interesting in here, and thanks for reading. As always, feel free to post any comments or questions you may have.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Top 11 Upcoming Games For 2011

Although we are already two months into 2011, I present to you here my list of my most anticipated video game titles for this year. These are games that are currently set to come out in 2011. Video games often get delayed, and chances are at least one of these (if not more) will wind up coming out in 2012, but as of right now they are all slated to be released this year. Along with each game, I'll list which platforms it will be coming out for, and the current release date/window. Enjoy.

11. Brink - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - May 17

Brink is still somewhat of a mystery. It's a new IP (intellectual property) which also means it's the start of a whole new game franchise (assuming it doesn't bomb). This game has been delayed a couple of years now, but everything I've seen about it so far looks awesome and really ambitious. What's most interesting about Brink is that whether you're playing offline single-player, co-op with your friends, or online competitive multiplayer, you're always still playing the "story" mode. Assuming you have an online connection, missions in the story mode can actually be played against other people who are playing their own story mode at the same time. Like I said, the game is still very much a mystery, but if all the cool new things they're trying to implement come together and work well, this could be the start of a whole new genre in games.

10. Duke Nukem Forever - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - May 3

The Duke is finally back. I've played some of Duke Nukem 3D over the years, and while the gameplay and graphics are obviously dated (it came out 12 years ago), Duke himself still cracks me up. Duke was created as an over-the-top parody of a lot of 80's and 90's action heroes, so it will be interesting to see if he is still relevant and funny (my guess is yes, at least to the latter). The game, while in development for 12 years, was finally picked up last year by Gearbox (the makers of Borderlands) who will be finishing it. This game's legend has grown to epic proportions, and many people's expectations will probably be too high for what the game can actually deliver, but as long as this game makes me laugh and gives me a good time, I'll be satisfied. Hail to the King, baby.

9. Battlefield 3 - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - Holiday

This game was only recently revealed, but everything I've read and the small bits of gameplay footage they've already shown are amazing. I really enjoyed Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (especially the multiplayer), and while this game will build on that, it looks like it's going to take it to a whole new level. The new game engine (Frostbite 2) looks amazing, and is really improving everything, like graphics, destructible environments, lighting, and even ridiculous stuff like individual bullet trajectories when you fire your gun (seriously). I have no doubt the multiplayer is going to be awesome; if DICE (the game's developers) can craft a great single-player campaign too, and add some fun co-op content, then Call of Duty might finally be dethroned as the king of military shooters.

8. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception - PS3 - November 1

Uncharted 2 blew everyone away with its gameplay and story, and I'm sure Uncharted 3 will carry on in that tradition. The trailers for the game so far look very interesting, and there are very few things as exciting as a good Indian Jones-like story, which is what the Uncharted series mainly is. Not much about this game has been revealed yet, but don't be surprised if it gives Uncharted 2 a run for its money on how many "game of the year" awards a game can win (note: Uncharted 2 won like ALL of them in 2009).

7. Batman: Arkham City - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - Late Summer/Fall

Arkham Asylum was a huge surprise just because of how good it was. Past Batman video games have all been pretty bad, and while I didn't think Arkham Asylum would suck, I didn't expect it to be as amazing as it was. It turned out to be easily one of the best games of 2009. I have full faith that Arkham City, like its predecessor, will not disappoint. And who doesn't want to be the Bat?

6. Crysis 2 - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - March 22

I've been looking forward to this one for a while. I never really played the original Crysis (I just recently got a computer that could even run it), but most of what I heard about it was that the graphics were amazing, the gameplay was really good, but that the story (while not bad) left something to be desired. While they've improved the game's engine (which will improve things like gameplay and graphics), a big focus for this game has been on the story and the single-player campaign, and everything I've seen looks really good so far. Crytek (the game's developers) have also gone on record saying that this game will have the most advanced enemy AI in any game ever. It still remains to be seen if that is true, but if it is, you can expect a really challenging game where the computer can actually tactically coordinate its attacks (hopefully not too well though, or else we might all wind up feeling as over-matched as Ken Jennings).

5. Portal 2 - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - April 19

I actually just played through the original Portal again, and that has made me even more excited for this game. The single-player is a complete game all by itself this time around (the original came as part of The Orange Box), which means even more ridiculous puzzles, and more interaction with one of the greatest villains/misunderstood-self-aware-hilariously-murderous super-computers ever: GLaDOS. This game also features a seperate co-op campaign, which looks to be very interesting (it features the robots pictured above as the playable characters). Here's hoping this game will be a HUGE SUCCESS (hint: it will).

4. Dragon Age II - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - March 8

I loved the first Dragon Age, and this one looks like it's going to be even better. They've decided to take the series in a new direction with this game, with a darker art style and gameplay that is similar to Bioware's other big franchise: Mass Effect. I'm a big Mass Effect fan too, and now that I've played the Dragon Age II demo, I think this is really going to make the game that much better than the first one. They have limited your customization options (mostly in the fact that you have to play as a human now), but I think it will make for a much better story with a much more compelling main character (who can actually talk now).

3. Rage - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - September 13

A post-apocalyptic, open-world, first person shooter from the makers of games like Doom and Quake. It will also have a lot of driving/racing and vehicular combat. Like Crysis 2, this game promises to have great graphics, gameplay, and enemy AI. From what I've seen of the gameplay so far, if the story/world is half as good as those other things, this will be a great game that will consume a lot of my time. It also will include competitive online multiplayer, and possibly some sort of co-op mode.

2. Star Wars: The Old Republic - PC - Sometime in 2011

I'm not really a fan of MMOs, but I cannot wait for this game. It's like the perfect storm of gaming: Star Wars, George Lucas not being involved, Bioware, leveling up, and playing online with your friends - all wrapped into one. Like all the other games on this list, everything I've seen and heard so far has been really exciting, and even though this is Bioware's first attempt at an MMO, as far as I'm concerned they have a near-flawless record when it comes to video games, and that wont change here. Part of the reason I dont normally like MMOs is because of how much time you have to invest in them, but that's a sacrifice I'm more than willing to make once this game comes out. Goodbye, marriage. It's been real.

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - November 11

The semi-sequel to Oblivion, the next game in the Elder Scrolls series takes place around 200 years after Oblivion, when a great, ancient evil (dragons) has returned to the world and threatens to kill everyone, or something along those lines. While Oblivion was a great game, it did have some shortcomings (which are much more obvious if you go back and play it now, 5 years after it came out), and it looks like Bethesda has really made it their mission to correct all of those, while adding a lot of new stuff (and borrowing some ideas from their very successful game Fallout 3) too. They just released a trailer with some in-game footage, and the world is breathtaking. If the gameplay and story are as improved as they want them to be, then Skyrim will be one of the greatest games ever (at least in my eyes).

There's my top 11. Two games that just barely missed the cut are L.A. Noire and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Both those games also look like they're going to be awesome. Had I made this list in the beginning of the year Dead Space 2 definitely would have been on it, but because Dead Space 2 has already been released (and is amazing, by the way) I don't consider it an "upcoming" game anymore.

On an interesting side note, no games for the Wii made the list, or even came close. Seriously, what's coming out for the Wii this year? The only thing that comes to mind is the new Legend of Zelda game, Skyward Sword, but I'm not a Zelda fan so that doesn't really do anything for me personally. There are plenty of games that are going to come out in 2011 that haven't been announced yet; like obviously there will be a Call of Duty game in the fall (probably Modern Warfare 3), and there's also been a lot of rumors about a new Halo game being done by a new studio (possibly a full remake of Halo 1). If I don't know about a game, obviously it's not going to make the list. But besides Skyward Sword, there's nothing I can even think of for the Wii. Yeah, Nintendo is going to make a crap-load of money off the 3DS, so they'll still be okay financially, but I don't really do handheld games, so (like Zelda) I don't really care as much about that. What this leads me to believe is that Nintendo is going to announce a new home console at some point this year, probably at E3. That's right, you heard it here first. That's my prediction. Whether it's the Wii 2 or some completely brand new name, I think they'll announce it at E3, which means it wont actually be out until around the holiday or sometime in 2012.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and as always feel free to post here (or on Facebook) what you think. Comments, questions, discussion, and corrections are always welcome!