Madden 15 - Xbox One Review

It looks good, but how does it stack up to the prior years?

Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star - PS3 Review

This ambitious RPG might not be for everyone, but is worth giving a chance

Lords of the Black Sun - PC Review

The potential is there, but so are plenty of missed opportunities

Styx: Master of Shadows - Xbox One Review

Challenging, beautiful and rewarding stealth for the Xbox One

Starpoint Gemini 2 - PC Review

Assume the role of a ship - it may sound strange, but is worth trying out

Friday, February 18, 2011

Marvel vs. Capcom 3 - Playstation 3 review

So, I did something just a bit out of character and picked up a brand new game on release day. That doesn't happen often. Usually I try to be a bit more frugal with my purchases and wait until they're used at Gamestop or something. However, there was the perfect storm of having a couple of beaten games waiting to be traded in, a good deal at Gamestop where they were handing out an extra 50% on all trade-ins and the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on Tuesday. I like my fighters. I'm not especially great at them, but they are a lot fun in my opinion.

I played part 2 a ton in the past, and have been looking forward to part 3 for quite awhile now. The premise is pretty basic stuff. There's a large pool of fighters from both the Marvel and Capcom universes, and you put together teams of three to duke it out in Street Fighter-like fashion. It's all very over-the-top and people looking for a solid storyline need not apply. However, if you enjoy a fast-paced, balanced fighting game with a good number of characters to pick from, this might be the game for you.

For those familiar with Street Fighter or Marvel vs. Capcom 2, you will find that the controls are a bit different. Instead of buttons mapped for various strength punches and kicks, now they are simply mapped for power to the face buttons - light, medium and hard with a fourth 'pop up' button for attacks meant to pop your opponent up into the air. The shoulder buttons are used for things like calling in a special attack from a team mate, or swapping out your character for another one on the squad. As the combat progresses a power meter slowly increases and allows you to pull of big attacks that can rack up the hits and damage.

There are some online modes - ranked or unranked matches against people and there is a lobby system where up to 8 people can occupy a virtual room and you take turns playing one another in a sort of 'winner stays' style you might see at an arcade. There is a story mode, though it's really little more than characters talking at the beginning of rounds as random combinations of characters are pooled together and increase in difficulty on your way through several matches culminating in a big end fight against Galactus. Whichever member of your team that deals the killing blow is the one whose ending you get to see, which consists of a few static images and some text overlay with music.

There are also mission modes, which try to teach you how to do combos and learn a player's moves in a sort of stage-by-stage training progression. There is also the requisite training mode, where you go against a computer opponent you can help tailor to specific situations. So, with this game having been hyped up quite a bit now, what are my thoughts?



Graphics - 8:

This is not the most technically amazing game. Backgrounds look good and are heavily animated, though sometimes you don't even really get a chance to sit back and enjoy them as you're participating in the frantic fights themselves. Characters remind me a bit more of the chunky style used in Street Fighter 4 than the prior Marvel vs. Capcom game, which does a good job of making the game look like it is taken from a comic book or cartoon. Still, the game is loaded with vibrant colors, explosive-looking super attacks and the framerate doesn't tear as it moves along at a smooth clip.



Sound & Music - 8:

The music matches the feeling and tempo of the game itself, and the voice work is decent - what there is of it. It generally consists of a few one-liner comments between the lead characters right before the start of a match. The sound effects are pretty solid, with a variety of tones and special effects. It's not going to blow you away with surround sound technical proficiency, but it's not going to make your wife complain about hearing nothing but gunfire and explosions either.



Gameplay - 9:

The game feels like it has been slowed down from part 2, but I think the game actually plays better for it. It is still very fast-paced, and you don't feel like you can take any 'time off' in most matches. One of the keys is to always be moving. Seems like any time I try to stop and 'think' - either cpu or human opponent drills me. The game is best played instinctively. The controls feel pretty good - some of the super moves can be a tad difficult to perform under duress, but most are just fine. Throwing out my fireballs or doing dragon punches all come very naturally after years of playing Street Fighter games. The menu is nothing special to look at, but it gets the job done. The roster of characters also feels very well-balanced. In my online matches, I saw almost completely different characters every time. That's unusual in my experience, and gives me the impression that people can find favorites and play them while not feeling like they are hurting their odds of success.



Intangibles - 7:

The game is a lot of fun. You're going to spend most of your time fighting and that part of the game is nice and tight. There's also a fair amount of unlockable content - including 4 fighters (that were probably a bit too easy to unlock as I got them all in about my first 40 minutes of playing). There's a lot of characters here, but like 20 less than in part 2. I've seen that bother a lot of people, but honestly I'm good with it. The characters feel a lot better balanced than in the later iteration. Plus, most of the characters feel unique from one another. Sure, you might use the same move input, but that same control scheme might make one character do a rising uppercut and another character launch a flurry of missiles. That's a far cry from version 2, which had several characters who felt exactly the same, just skinned differently. There are 2 additional characters coming out for download soon for purchase (or for free if you bought the special version of the game). There are some omissions that fans will consider glaring, and a few added in who just seem goofy or out of place. My youngest wanted to know where the Fantastic Four were at, and I admit a few favorites of my own like Psylocke and Cyclops were nowhere to be found. I suspect we'll see a bit of DLC come out - already Capcom has announced some new costumes. I'm rather hoping for more modes or characters though than outfits. I also can't help but think that given Capcom's history, that there will be a super-duper-shiny-edition that comes out in about a year, though nothing's been announced that I'm aware of.

So, why this score? Well, the game does get some demerits. It seems like there should be some more modes for one. Also, while there is a fair amount of bonus content to unlock, none if it is terribly compelling. You can look at 3D models of characters, or get new titles or icons for when you play online. There's also a fighter's card that keeps track of your record, stats and playing style, which is cool - but it comes at a bit of a cost. This extra content and this card seem to force the game to do a lot of saving, which is not a super quick process. It's not a huge deal, but when you just really want to get back into a match and hit someone, waiting for the profile to save can be at least mildly annoying.

Also, the online lobby sounds good in theory, but there's a lot of sitting around. It would be nice to actually spectate the people who are fighting, but I didn't see a means of doing so if there is a way. Also the single player ranked matches are hit and miss. My lag time was good in all but one match, which is huge for a game like this built on twitch reflexes. But, a lot of times it just does not come back with a match. Tonight for example, I only got to fight 4 times out of 13 attempts to find an opponent, and I left my settings wide open to have as many options as possible. Considering the game's recent release date and popularity, it sure seems like there should be plenty of people playing right now.



Overall - 8:

I've sunk in probably around fifteen hours so far overall, and have unlocked over half the trophies. I've beaten the game now with about 1/3 of the total cast of characters. I've enjoyed the game quite a bit - and so have my younger two children. There is a simple mode to the controls I did not really talk about much because I only used it for a few fights. The idea is that it can help you perform some techniques that might otherwise be too complicated for the player. It's nice to see my daughter be able to use moves that she normally would only see once in a blue moon by complete accident. Some people worried that making special moves a single button press would give an advantage to these players, but I don't think that's the case. From what I have seen of it so far, it lets them do things they normally would not be able to consistently, but it does take away from their flexibility. I think someone on the normal controls has a better repertoire to react with for given situations during a fight, so skill still tends to win out more often than not. The key is, the younger kids are having fun with it, and so am I. There is a lot of addictive fun to be have with this game, and its broad cast of characters really helps with the game's appeal as well.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gaming News and Notes from 2-16-11

A Game of Thrones has been a hot property, and now there's some info about the game.

Oh, some games released this week. Marvel vs. Capcom hit Tuesday to very good reviews, and the Ogre Tactics remake for the PSP has been getting solid response as well.

Dead Island - I'll admit, I haven't heard much about this game, but the trailer looks very cool.

Playstation Plus user? Congrats - you get some free Sega Genesis games.

Steam has some discounts on Square Enix games this week. It started Monday I believe - can't recall what game was up there that day, but Just Cause 2 was up yesterday. Today is Front Mission Evolved. Each day the discount has been about 75% so not a bad value.

Here's the new stuff on Playstation Network. Also, they will be doing some voting for games starting Feb 22nd that could lead to some discounts on Minis, PSP games, exclusives, etc.

I'll file this under semi-random: but Felicia Day is involved in a web-project for Dragon Age. She's cute in The Guild (I'm a fan of it), Dragon Age was awesome and these webisode things have been taking off for other games and shows (remember when Lost did them? Also, Mortal Kombat is planning some). Might be worth a peek later.

Sony is preparing to ban people who are detected with hacked PS3s. Xbox 360 started the trend - and it looks like Sony will follow suit.

Interested in Killzone 3? Ps3 system? There's a bundle coming up.

For fans of Chris Evans (I think I just saw my wife raise *her* hand) - he's going to be part of the Captain America video game cast.

Crysis 2 demo hitting the PC on March 1st.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

NBA Jam - Retro Reflections

Continuing my weekend NBA theme (couldn't the Pistons have at least put up a fight Friday night?) - here's my Retro Reflection.

So I posted the NBA Jam review for the Wii already, and that got me thinking to the SNES version. Now, I'll be honest - I've owned a few copies of NBA Jam over the last 15 years or so, but had completely forgotten we owned it for the Super Nintendo. Most of my older gaming systems have made their way upstairs to the "kids' living room", and I have probably forgotten at least half the games we own. I was always a bit of a gaming packrat - I kept boxes, booklets and I even stored them in alphabetical order. There was no easily accessible used game trading store when I was a kid, like Gamestop now, which keeps my current gen games going through a bit more of a revolving door.

Anyway - after having spent so much time lately with the Wii version of the game, I was a bit surprised by a few things when I fired up the Tournament Edition on the SNES. For starters, I recall playing the Wii game thinking: These graphics are pretty old-school. Gameplay is pretty much what I remembered it to be. The announcer is as awesome as ever. That sort of thing.



Maybe I should have done the reviews in opposite order? The Wii version is much improved on so many fronts - as one would honestly expect with a decade's difference between the releases. Still, the graphics were okay on the SNES version, but you could not really say: Oh yeah, that's Joe Dumars I'm using. Looks just like him. And while it's the same announcer, he has a whole lot more to say with the current iteration as well. It was interesting last weekend when I played the Ninja Gaiden games, and found them to be pretty much how I remembered them, and then to put in NBA Jam here on my SNES and realize - I remembered this game a lot more fondly than it may have deserved. It was still fun to poke around with, and some of the roster combinations cracked me up (like Pippen and... BJ Armstrong for the Bulls). There's some fun to be had here: both of these games are fast paced and have that same over-the-top style of action, but honestly if I have a craving for NBA Jam, I'm going to pick up and play the new Wii version first.

Screencast version of the video:




Youtube version.