Feb
12

The original Skate was considered a savior to the skateboarding genre of video games two years ago when the Tony Hawk franchise was fading out. Its innovative controls and being a better representation of the skateboarding lifestyle gave new life to the genre and fans of the sport as well. Two years later, the sequel is finally here and while San Vanelona underwent some changes because of a natural disaster, the core game is still fundamentally the same with some additions that weren’t in the first game. That same satisfaction of skateboarding is still there as well of nailing the perfect line or consistently executing harder flip tricks.

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The career mode in Skate 2 is fundamentally the same as the first game as there is an open city to skate around filled with challenges to complete. Like the first game, the single-player portion can be difficult at times, but definitely beatable even if it has to take millions of tries to complete a specific challenge, which is a really admirable parallel to real-life skateboarding. EA Black Box has managed to replicate the skateboarding lifestyle very well in Skate 2 from deathraces, being chased by the cops, finding awesome spots to skate on, and more. Due to being in an open world, you can just free skate or complete sets of challenges in any order, which is nice to have. Eventually, the later part of the game does ask for specific tricks to complete certain challenges, which can be frustrating just like the first game not getting the flip trick or specific grind you want to execute, getting hit by a car, or bailing millions of times. There are many side tasks to do as well from emptying out pools, letting Mike cut out a path for you to grind easier, and complete Hall of Meat challenges, in which you have to bail in specific ways to complete them. Speaking of bailing, that mechanic has improved and sort of became its own metagame getting a high score for the worst bail braking as many bones as possible. As a single player game, Skate 2 does have infinite replay value due to its community features like the replay editor and the new Create-A-Spot feature.
822498-002_superMultiplayer consists of local Party Play games and online with a maximum of eight players. Local mutliplayer is nice to have around if others want to play on the same TV taking turns on modes like Spot Battle and S.K.A.T.E., but the online is where the multiplayer truly shines. The online is split up into freeskate and competitive modes. Freeskating online reminds me of Burnout Paradise as other players in the same room can just skate together as well as complete specific objectives. If freeskating is not up your alley, the competitive modes are the meat of the multiplayer with the same modes like Spot Battle, Jam, and Deathrace from the first game as well as Hall of Meat for the best bail. New features have been added which are cool like rating your competition whether or not they had a sick line. In addition, uploading replays and photos to the Skate Reel return as well as being able to rate them YouTube style. The level progression for the online multiplayer is the same from the original as long as you are consistently doing well getting 1sts, 2nds, or 3rds for more experience points. The online multiplayer can be as addictive as the single player competing online against others just like a random real life skate session.
New San Vanelona does look like a beautiful city graphically that is filled with diverse locations. From the Downtown area, the beach, the school, and the mountain overlooking the San Vanelona Hollywood-like logo, the game definitely feels more diverse to skate in unlike the first game. Unfortunately, the framerate consistently does not stay stable at any point of the game which is expected from Black Box considered they never fixed the framerate issues from the first game and the recent Need for Speed games. When the game runs at 60 frames per second, the game runs and looks beautifully, but at a consistent 30 frames, it does not recapture the same feeling playing it at 60 frames. The framerate issue as a whole can be distracting at times, but does not make the game unplayable. Some animations can feel sluggish, but that it is a nitpicky flaw. The characters look great as this game is filled with customizations from your own skater, your board, and even having custom graphics on your board. Skate 2′s graphics are indeed good, but if it runs at a consistent 60 frames per second like Burnout Paradise, then it would be a remarkable achievement.
This is your playground

This is your playground

As for the sound, the licensed soundtrack is a mixed bag as expected for a game by EA. There are definitely some hits and misses, but at least all the tracks are tolerable to listen to. The characters’ voice acting can also be hit and miss with the pro skaters saying their usual cheesy lines either by normal conversation or trash talk. Your camera buddy Reda can also be annoying at times, but he is not a huge distraction. All the other sound effects are accurate enough to the skating experience, which is fine by me.

Despite being a flawed experience, Skate 2 is still a great skateboarding game and being the only one around till the competition makes an attempt of a comeback. It is definitely what the first game should have been with more tricks that complete the core skateboarding trick list even though there are probably more tricks like flatland moves that could be added in a future installment. After a two year wait, it is nice to return to the innovative control system in a redesigned city that revitalized the genre to a new direction. The core gameplay still feels fresh and not yet stale with all the new additions. The career mode is still good and challenging, but the online multiplayer is the true shining point of the game with the freeskating, competitive modes, and all the community features that are filled with customization like the Skate Reel and Create-A-Spot. If the developers are able to fix the flaws like improving the on-foot controls and having a stable framerate at 60 frames per second, then the Skate experience would be perfect. Skate 2 does not suffer the sophomore slump as it is still the best representation of skateboarding in gaming for now.
Feb
11

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The kind gentlemen from Criterion Games aren’t only working on that new Black game hopefully, but are setting the standard for supporting a game post-release. Releasing later this year is the “Cobs and Robbers” pack for Burnout Paradise. The DLC will release on the PC, 360, and PS3, no price or details announced as of yet.

Steven Beynon

Feb
09

 

Project Origin

Not only is it my birthday this week, but we got plenty of kick-ass games to play.

Xbox 360


3 on 3 NHL Arcade (XBLA) – February 11

According to IGN and OXM, this hockey game is light on features. But for 10 bucks, it’s a decent party game. Review for this game will be up by the end of the week.

F.E.A.R. 2   2/10

1up’s Garnet Lee said his game could have been shooter of the year if it came out in 2008 as scheduled, and Brad Shoemaker over at Giantbomb showed the internet some multiplayer that looks hot. Keep our wallets opened for this one kids, you won’t want to miss it!

PlayStation 3
Flower (PSN) – February 12

1up’s Alice Liang says Flower is an artistic adventure anyone can get into. A great relaxing PSN game.

F.E.A.R. 2   2/10

PC
X-Blades – February 9
Warfare – February 10
Perimeter II: New Earth – February 10
Galactic Civilizations II: Ultimate Edition – February 10
Celetania – February 13

Nothing to interesting

 

Wii
LIT – February 9
Deadly Creatures – February 9

The House of the Dead: Overkill – February 10

Mark Bozon from Ign’s Nintendo channel game Overkill an 8.3, and says it’s a smart choice for anyone looking for a hardcore Wii title…and those are hard to come by!
NASCAR Kart Racing – February 10

 

DS
Moomin: The Great Autumn Party – February 9
Retro Game Challenge – February 10
My DoltAll – February 10
Jake Power: Fireman – February 10

PSP


LocoRoco 2 – February 10

I can make a pretty good argument the PSP is dead. It’s not too often Sony’s handheld gets any games worth playing. Ign can’t stay out of this damn news story,  Jeff Haynes gave this a 9.1! Locoroco 2 is also only $20.00, now who can pass that up?

Feb
09

Honestly, who doesn’t love zombies?

Over the weekend, a trailer leaked over the interweb and is now confirmed to be the sequel to capcom’s other zombie hit, Dead Rising. What we know so far…

-Takes place in a parody of Las Vegas, “Fortune City”

-According to screenshots, we will not play as Frank West, but a blonde haired hero

-The zombie infection has spread accross the world

-100′s of new weapons will be avaliable

-According to the trailer, you will once again race against a 72 hour clock

-Dead Rising 2 will release on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC

Here are the screenshots as seen on IGN’s news story…

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Dead Rising 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dead Rising 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dead Rising 2

Feb
09

 

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Every year’s end is a fantastic time to be playing games. The market contains a nearly endless supply of high quality titles to keep a busy gamer playing until the beginning of the new year. After enjoying high profile titles like Fallout 3, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, and Left 4 Dead, I went into 2009 with high expectations. It’s fair to say we’re at the half-way point of this generation, so no company has the right to charge full retail price for an out of date game. I played Lord of the Rings: Conquest, and dear God I’m glad I didn’t spend money to play that piece of garbage, it totally killed my 2008 buzz.

Once in awhile I play a game that’s so mind numbingly broken I often question my own intelligence and dance to the Sun God to make my controller work before realizing the game I’m playing was just poorly constructed. Almost everything imaginable is wrong with this bastardized telling of classic Tolkein, minus the fact the game technically “works” with a good frame rate.

The majority of the problem isn’t the fact the game is an obscene train wreck, it’s that Conquest seems pretty cool on paper. You got your epic battles, your fiction, your copy and paste Star Wars Battlefront formula, and finally your online multiplayer. Unfortuanitly the game is plauged with mechanical issues, and those “WTF, I totally hit the button, why didn’t that work!!!” moments.

Lord of the Rings Conquest is a game that’s impossible to recommend, even to huge Lord of the Rings , or Battlefront fans. With its laundry list of issues ranging from control mechanics, to poor textures, to lame-ass fighting, Conquest is an absolute mess and is in no-way worth half of its retail price point. After this and Mercenaries 2, Pandemic seems to be the company with cool ideas, and poor executions.

 

-Steven Beynon

Feb
09

 

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Games based on existing properties are typically below the bar, and are glorified advertisements. Afro Samurai is a hack & slash gore fest Ninja Gaiden wannabe showing a lot of potential, and eventually crumbles under stupid mechanical issues. You play as Afro (appropriate name), in an obligatory “boy avenging his father’s murder” adventure.

Throughout your six hour quest traveling around futuristic feudal Japan, you’ll be spending most of your time cutting fools up while listening to The RZA, yeah; it’s totally a hip-hop themed atmosphere. From heads, to arms, to legs & toes, your objective seems to be ruining the days of random ninjas. The game best represents Ninja Gaiden II in the sense of the over the top gore, and limb cutting.

The game has its fair share of awesome moments

The game has its fair share of awesome momentsthemed atmosphere.

Although they give you the potential of combos, Surge designed it for the mainstream anime fan. This means you can walk through the game mashing light and heavy attacks. Afro Samurai does capture a good middle ground between stupid button mashers like Dynasty Warriors, and more hardcore games like Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden. This doesn’t help from the combat being painfully repetitive, fighting the same generic ninjas over and over in arena styled kill rooms.

If the monotonous combat wasn’t enough, Afro Samurai shoehorns half-assed platforming sections. Considering Surge incorporated a “my first 3D camera” tool, platforming is near impossible. Blind jumps, wall clipping, and random death traps truly hinder what could have been a good experience. Even if the platforming didn’t’ exist, the camera did enough to ruin the stylish bloody combat.

At least the environments are beautifully rendered, but are reused to often. The graphic style Afro Samurai utilizes is beautiful and I hope to see again in another form. Regardless of

There's a lot of cutting dudes up

There's a lot of cutting dudes up

how the Afro Samurai anime is received, the game is utter crap. I truly wanted it to work and be fun, but the game shares too many gaming cliché’s, from invisible walls, to repetitive “bad guys”, and non interactive environments. The game does contain a fair share of amazing moments, like when your falling from space sword fighting an android version of yourself, or walking into a room to see naked strippers slide down a pole and challenge you to battle, yes, totally over the top.

Afro Samurai falls into the trappings of having a totally rad concept, and amazing ideas, but falls due to stupid problems. Hopefully Surge will put out a sequel after Afro Samurai’s second season airs, but with this game I can only recommend a decent weekend rental. 

 

-Steven Beynon

Feb
09

 

 

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Fallout 3 is a massive game that offers dozens of hours of pure Western RPG action. Like Oblivion, Bethesda has promised to deliver several packs of DLC. As of now, they plan to launch one piece of DLC every month ending with March.

Your first missions would be to destroy three of those massive guns

Your first mission would be to destroy those massive guns.

This first expansion titled, Operation Anchorage, will thrust you into a simulation taking place in Fallout’s past before the nuclear holocaust. You’ll be in charge of assisting the U.S Army in dealing with a Chinese invasion in Alaska, no Cyborg Palin included. Operation Anchorage focuses less on the choices, but more of straight action. After purchasing the 800 point package and loading up the game, you’ll soon find out the Brotherhood Outcast’s are transmitting a radio broadcast asking for backup. After you rally with those dudes, you’ll be asked to embark in a military simulation program to unlock a door which contains advance technology.

Alaska’s white snow and blue skies are a welcomed vacation from the browns, and grays of post-apocalyptic D.C., and fitting with the subject matter Anchorage is a much more combat focused in terms of gameplay, but that’s also where the whole expansion falls apart.

Anyone who’s played Fallout knows that every quest offers multiple ways of completing it, unlike the three hour Operation Anchorage quest. This new quest typically boils down to you, and your American homeboys heading off to some Chinese military base to ruin their day. At no time do you make a choice, or utilize speech skills to affect the outcome of a situation, and more often times than not, Anchorage feels less like an RPG and more like a shooter.

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Snowmen!

So the breakdown is this, you run from kill room, to kill room shooting an almost never-ending onslaught of Chinese reds. The choices are taken away; you always choose what weapons you want before each battle. The whole package feels empty and only rewards you with a decent stash of armor and weapons upon completing the simulation. It’s almost impossible to recommend, but is also the perfect excuse to revisit the Fallout universe. It boils down to how much you expect to get for paying $10.00. This action intensive mission is defiantly disconnected from everything Bethesda’s RPG is all about, but anyone needing an excuse to jump back into Fallout 3 this isn’t too bad of a deal. 100 extra achievement points is kind of hard to walk away from. Hopefully February’s DLC will be more meaningful. 

 

-Steven Beynon

Feb
09

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It was only a matter of time before Lionhead would backup its flagship game with some hot new DLC. The first of what is promised to be several different pieces of downloadable content is called Knothole Island. This package offers a quest line, which should take you anywhere from 2-4 hours to complete. In this brand new quest, you’ll find a dude in Bowerstone Market. He’ll tell you about Knothole Island, and its seemingly endless winter. Now it’s up to a good ol’ fashion hero to save this small island from extreme weather conditions. You’ll first be tasked with retrieving a totem that rids away the snow. After that, Knothole Island becomes a desert, so then you gather the rain totem to bring back water, but shortly after that people decide they hate constant rain, and so on…Its about as repetitive as it sounds, not to mention you’ll be fighting recycled enemies from the main game, their lots of beetles and shadow monsters to be found here.

What’s most aggravating of the puzzles in the various dungeons you have to solve with hitting orbs. Hitting a tiny orb in a split second over, and over requires a lot of trial and error, and will automatically turn off many players. This wouldn’t be as bad if the orb puzzles weren’t as ubiquitous as they are, but the game seems to use the puzzle mechanic as a crutch.

The main quest aside, Knothole Island has several other attractive qualities. What really seems to be the main focus of this DLC is fixing the mistakes you made with your character, and character re-creation. There are potions that will make you taller, skinner, more attractive, and even ridding away nasty scars. One of the most surprising things is that you have the ability to resurrect your dog in the main town. You can argue that negates what the ending was all about, or you could argue that the contents of DLC shouldn’t pertain to what the main game did. I was just shocked they allowed you to do that. Considering Knothole Island is more about its fun toys, and presents the player with more stuff than actual questing, this package seems to be a bad deal. To most people, I recommend saving your 800 Microsoft Points, but any rabid fan itching for an excuse to return to Albion, your not getting ripped off too badly.

 

-Steven Beynon

 

 

Feb
09

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Interpol: The Trail of Dr. Chaos is a simple point and click game, in which your task is to find pointless items in a mess. So does this game have any purpose being on the Arcade? Imagine a room with a giant clutter of crap, like, umbrellas, computers, clocks, and so on. Now, imagine you trying to find, say, a pencil in this mess, make since? Their’s a reason this type of “seek and find game” is only found for free in web browsers, and thats because when you are actually buying games their’s always going to be something actually worth money.

The whole game is about two hours long, and is really confusing. Interpol is often times obscure about what you need to find. I found my self randomly clicking until I found what I needed to find. It surprises me Microsoft would clog up XBLA with this atrocious waste of time. It’s fair to say Interpol: The Trail of Dr. Chaos might mean “best title of the year”, and win “worst use of DLC of the year” at the same time.

 

Steven Beynon

Feb
09

 

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Some would say Braid is a bit pretentious, and it is but who cares, I enjoyed every minute of Johnathen Blow’s Braid; including the many instances staring at a puzzle and cursing my television loudly because I was too stupid to get it instantly. Puzzle solving fun a la Portal in terms of unique challenges and fun mechanics. It should be cheaper than fifteen, not because I’m a cheap bastard afraid to spend money on fun, but merely because the price point will turn-off nae-sayers. Braid is easily one of the best Live Arcade games to date, despite the lackluster style of story telling, which could have been fantastic. Still, an ‘AAA’  XBLA game for certain. Braid is strictly for the Portal crowd, if you enjoyed Valves mind bending puzzle champion, the style of innovative game design, and the charming single player length not over staying its welcome, then its easy to recommend the puzzle that is Braid where no lies are told.

 

-Steven Beynon

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