Archive for the ‘Xbox 360’ Category
Please Note: Many reviewers out there seem to think it is appropriate to discuss the events of previous episodes of Life is Strange as if everyone who would read it damn well should have already played the previous episodes. It has been my experience that if you have held out this long and haven’t already played this episode then you are most likely wondering how the game progresses throughout the season and will decide whether or not to buy when all episodes are out. This is why each episodic review is spoiler free for the entire season, not just this episode.
Episode 4: Dark Room
We have arrived at episode 4, nearing the end of the season and who knows, perhaps this episode contains the major climax for the arc. I say this without assurance because episode 3 had such an unexpected cliffhanger that I didn’t think it was possible to get me again. I was wrong. That being said I need to come right out and say I was a little unimpressed overall with episode 4, proving that the warning I gave in the first episode’s review may have actually come to fruition. Whereas episodes 2 and especially three can begin to fork based off of your choices and possibly even suggest that two playthroughs is more of a recommendation rather than an option, episode 4 is forcing you down a corridor. Granted, it’s a well calculated corridor that presents itself with the illusion of choice, but I’ve seen this trick before in The Walking Dead series from Telltale and without sounding catty, I thought Dontnod was above that. There’s a decent amount of substance here still, with the story having easily its highest moment yet as the episode closes and again there are some strong emotional scenes that make up a very heavy episode. One thing I do find a bit troubling is the fact that as certain plots unfold, others are left almost unmentioned, which nets a lot of catch up, wrap up, and resolution required for the fifth and final episode. I’m just hoping that it remains as interactive as the others have been and doesn’t become the 90 minute ending of Metal Gear Solid 4. Dontnod has yet to convince me they don’t know how to craft a story and without a doubt they know how to catch my interest, here’s hoping the ending stands as strongly as the jaw-dropping cliffhangers of previous episodes.
Alpha Protocol is a game designed around choice, optimized for espionage, and works really hard at having you roleplay as the type of secret agent you want to be. During our game club podcast, we all would refer to our handling of Agent Michael Thorton as “being in character,” which goes a long way in telling you just how immersed in the game one can get. Before you go thinking this means you’ll feel like a true secret agent, there are many aspects of Alpha Protocol – the most notable probably being the game glitches and bugs – that will remind you time and time again that this is a game and tethered to the tropes of such. Still, as time has gone on and the fact that we have rarely seen games quite like it, Alpha Protocol has had a lasting impression and subsequent cult following that we not so warmly embraced when it released up against the likes of powerhouses like Mass Effect 2. It’s time to take a critical eye to this self-proclaimed “Espionage RPG” and figure out if it’s more James Bond or Maxwell Smart.
Fred has never played Operation Raccoon City and after it was mentioned on the most recent Silent Evil Episode, he finally decided to join veteran to the game and co-host Jam for a co-op session. This is the result.
Warning: This video contains adult language and graphic violence. The chat language is quite offensive as well.
Mirrors Edge was released back in 2008 and believe it or not this year was quite the year for EA releasing new IPs to the new consoles. We got Army of Two, Dead Space, and Mirror’s Edge all in the same year. Now whether you like these titles or not is a matter of opinion but this was a good time to be a gamer. Despite my love for survival horror and heartily awaiting the arrival of Dead Space, it was hard to ignore just how unique and different Mirror’s Edge looked. It’s time to revisit this title and see how it holds up today.
Episode 3: Chaos Theory
The story of lead character Max, her best friend Chloe, and the various people that cross paths with these girls in the small Oregon town of Arcadia Bay continues. We are now on the third episode of five, which is the time where typically the twist of the season presents itself and the direction for the overall story arc begins to come into view. I don’t know where Life is Strange is headed – the twist at the end I never saw coming and it only furthered my intrigue – but I am pleased to say that the flaws I was detecting in the second episode are quite absent this time around. In fact, it feels like perhaps two different teams at Dontnod are programming episodes because Chaos Theory feels more like the first episode and might even be able to get by if episode 2 didn’t exist (save for a plot point or two). Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed this third iteration, although despite my gripes from episode 2 being resolved, all new ones have emerged that prove there’s still room for improvement on this project.
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Many of you may know the story behind the original Halo, and for those that don’t we have this trusty podcast from a while back. It’s one thing to hear it and it’s quite another to see it. This documentary series shows off the initial MacWorld reveal of Halo in 1999 when Steve Jobs himself introduced what was to become a real-time strategy (RTS) title, the progression to a PC squad-based shooter in 2000 at E3, and the final reveal as a first person shooter on the Xbox in 2001. After seeing how it progresses we then get about half an hour of developer commentary on the various decisions made in the development process to result in the finished product you know as Halo: Combat Evolved. This video and the gameplay footage in it are owned by Microsoft and Bungie.
Episode 2: Out of Time
I was quite taken with my initial impressions of Life is Strange, the episodic game that’s part modern adventure and part Choose Your Own Adventure, but there’s a part of me that acknowledged many works have started with fantastic openings and fall short at the end. In fact, much of the first episode was probably how the game was pitched for development. Typically the second outing, especially in the case of episodic titles, give us a much better feeling of what the overall title is going to be like and allows us to gauge how effectively or ineffectively the unwinding story and gameplay goals are executing. It’s also important to note that almost universally the second episode is hit with the largest amount of criticism and negative feedback, if only because it’s a focused burst of reality on the high hopes of the first episode, but also because it’s an awkward in-between time for the plot. I wish I could say Life is Strange overcomes this potential hitch, but it does appear that like most of the others it just doesn’t quite pack the punch of the first.
Dance Central is one of the few reasons people actually wanted to pick up a Kinect for their 360. Harmonix really brought a unique dance experience to the table that felt like it was just made for the Kinect motion sensor. Finally a game where you could literally dance like a loon in front of your game console and not have to worry about dance mats or plastic instrument peripherals. It was just you and the music. I have only briefly played the original Dance Central game which I actually kind of enjoyed so there was this part of me that was keen to see how the series had developed in Dance Central 3.
One of the biggest jokes I used to make about the Kinect was how you could only blame yourself for being bad in Kinect games because of the “you are the controller” slogan Microsoft used to advertise. Dance Central has you attempt to mirror the dance moves from the avatar on screen who performs the dance moves perfectly. Cue cards on the side of the screen will display how the Kinect is detecting you as well as what arm leg movements your supposed to perform to get the dance move down. If your jumping into this game you may find this quite tricky as the game moves quite fast and it can be quite hard to keep up. The kinect essentially detects the movements you make and if they match that of the cue cards you score more points and rack up chain combos (like Guitar Hero or Rock Band). I actually found it quite stressful trying to follow the cue cards and actually enjoyed the game a lot more following the cartoon styled avatar. This of course usually lead me to getting a terrible score at the end but I had more fun. This really is a game that if you want to go into it to score points you need to invest time into it, learn the dance moves and keep playing the songs over and over again to get it right. However, if you don’t care about score and you just want to jump in front of a Kinect and look stupid then you can absolutely have a ton of fun by just jumping into this game. With the Kinect not being completely accurate at detecting movement its likely this will also lead to frustration if your trying to score more points and match the moves perfectly.
Switching It Up
A lot happened both in the talent pool of Mortal Kombat players and in the game design overall between the release of Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3). For starters there was a mass exodus of on screen talent due to royalty disputes, so almost no one from the original two games returned for the third release. In addition, Boon and his team were trying to turn Mortal Kombat into a viable fighting game with things no one had ever seen before and mechanics that could compete with the massive rush of fighters in arcades. The game was completely Americanized, with all hints of Eastern influence including symbols, locales, and the soundtrack completely absent without a trace and instead replaced by urban stages, 90s hip-hop soundtracks, and cyborgs replaced the signature ninjas. These locations were now composed of pre-rendered 3D backgrounds and the character sprites were almost totally digitized as opposed to the digitized/hand drawn hybrid of the previous games. Along with it came an overhaul of the controls, including combos and a “run” button to address rightful claims that defensive players ruled the previous title. It’s all one giant 90s metaphor but that doesn’t change the fact that MK3 (and it’s update Ultimate MK3 or UMK3) stands as the moment I felt the series went into the mainstream fighter territory. Couple this with the fact that it was on just about every console that existed at the time, still dominated arcades, and had more content than rival Street Fighter II could ever dream to do with its iterations and I see why it’s creator Ed Boon’s favorite. Mortal Kombat 3 definitely upped the ante.
Platform: Mega Drive and PS2 (Japan Only), English translation available on XBLA (360), PSN (PS3), and Virtual Console (Wii)
Released: 1994 (Japan only), 2012 (English Translation)
Developer: Westone (English port handled by M2)
Digital Release? Yes
Price: $8.00 (Wii), $9.99 (XBLA & PSN – part of Monster World Collection)
The Wonder Boy/Monster World series is one of those unappreciated darlings in gaming that has spread its love across various Sega consoles and even arcades but never reached it’s height of popularity in the West. So I guess it made sense that the series swan song, titled Monster World IV, was released on the Mega Drive in Japan only. It was not until 2012 that a official English re-release came out on services like XLBA and PSN, which is the version I will review here. [Editor’s Note: There is a fan translation of the original game released by DeJap in 2000, that site can be found here. Our review does not account for or evaluate this fan translation.]