Category Archives: Video Games

“Mass Effect 3” Game Review

And now, we come to the end of the trilogy. The third installment in Bioware’s epic science-fiction action-RPG franchise launched on March 6th, 2012, selling over 3.5 million copies in the first quarter of its release. Unlike the two previous games, this one was released on all major systems at launch, even getting a Wii-U port which- I’ll tell you right now -is grossly inferior in controls and visuals to its counterparts. Set a mere 6 months after Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard has been grounded on Earth for his/her involvement with Cerberus. Right when his trial begins, the Reapers- ancient hyper-advanced machines floating in the dark space -begin their cyclical purge of the Milky Way Galaxy’s organic life, starting with Earth. Barely escaping by the skin of his/her teeth, Shepard and the crew Normandy make a mad dash across the galaxy to rally as many allies as possible, while Admiral Anderson holds down the fort with the human resistance. So this game is a mixed bag if ever there was one. Let me be clear: Mass Effect 3 is a great game and deserves to be played, but some of the controversies it caused are earned. Let’s start with the gameplay because it is perhaps the best in the series. Expanding on the cover-based combat from the second game, you’re given more ways to approach a gunfight than before. And that’s partially thanks to the improvements made to the guns, as well as the addition of new ones. Rather than overheating, it does rely on ammo. Word of advice: the 2 guns you want to use the most are the shotgun and the sniper rifle, simply because they’re the most powerful against enemies. Much of the action is shown from an over-the-shoulder perspective, so when you jump over cover or run across the room, the camera is shaking. This made the experience feel more cinematic, really placing you in the middle of an intense war zone with almost no way out. Mass Effect 3 does get rid of the loyalty missions for your teammates, but this is supplemented with various side-quests and activities. This feeds into the feature of War Assets. The more you complete, the higher your reputation will climb and the more aliens commit to your cause. A good chunk of time is also spent onboard the Citadel, where millions of refugees are housed in the docking bays and politicians can’t figure out what to do. Considering the events unfolding in Syria and the controversial executive order signed as a response, the game couldn’t be more timely in its themes of unity and prejudice. The soundtrack, composed by Clint Mansell and a handful of others, is beautiful and unforgettable. The score utilizes a simple piano melody established at the very beginning, when Shepard is forced off Earth as the Reapers slaughter much of innocent human life, as the backbone for many of the tracks. By far, it’s one of the most memorable emotional suites I’ve ever heard in a video game. And yes, Mass Effect 3 is a super turbulent ride of dichotomous emotions; hope to despair, joy to sadness, optimism to desperation, but all human. This is a war, and it isn’t pretty to be a part of. Especially considering the fact that the game really makes the player feel as if the entire fate of the Milky Way Galaxy rests on your own shoulders. So the choices you make on each mission, main or otherwise, has a relatively big impact on the finale. Also, it’s highly recommended that you play the first two Mass Effect games before starting this one. To be clear, it is possible to jump into this installment fresh, but you won’t have the necessary attachment to the characters. Because some of the things that happen to them in the story are just so tragic, it’s almost hard to watch. Props have to be given to the writers for allowing gamers to feel that kind of emotion. Then, there’s the end. This is the subject of controversy, a lot of fan division, and is polarizing to the point that it makes the series finale of Lost look like it was universally praised. Okay, that’s pushing it, but you get the idea. Basically, at the very pinnacle of the epic climax, you’re given a choice of 3 different endings, each one essentially distinguished by a certain color. I will not fret from saying that I hated the ending of Mass Effect 3, and was one of many people who demanded something different. While Bioware refused to change it outright, they did throw us a bone with a rewritten Extended Cut. It added much more resolution to the conflict and its aftermath and added an additional 4th ending, that was a far more pessimistic outlook of everything the series has led up to. And honestly, this Extended Cut gave me everything I wanted the first time, and I’m interested to see how Andromeda uses the different outcomes in the story. Despite that somewhat anticlimactic ending, Mass Effect 3 is an overall fitting conclusion to one of the best science-fiction epics you’ll find in any media out there. Also worth noting, get the “From Ashes” DLC with it, as it adds new missions and one of the most fascinating crew members in the series. One of the most emotional and unforgettable trilogies in the history of video games, you’d be a fool to miss out on it.

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“Mass Effect” Game Review

With a 4th installment due out this March, now seemed as good a time as any to look back and review the first three games. Developer Bioware’s epic science-fiction action RPG was originally published on November 2oth, 2007, as an exclusive for the Xbox 360 before coming out on the other systems 6 months later, becoming a critical and commercial smash. The game underwent 3 and a half years in development, and was a total game-changer in terms of storytelling and technology. There’s a rich backstory to the world of Mass Effect that you should know in order to understand everything. Long story short, in the year 2148, a manned mission to Mars discovered a piece of ancient alien technology that opened up the possibility of faster-than-light travel. This was known as Mass Effect. The discovery led to a First Contact War that nearly wiped out humanity, until peace accords were made. Now the intergalactic government called The Council has integrated us into their conglomerate. In the present day, 2183, you play as Commander Shepherd, a male/female human soldier who becomes a Spectre, Council-sanctioned agents who operate independently from the systems. One of the Spectres, a turian named Saren Arterius has gone rogue, and you and your crew are tasked with taking him down before he can go through with his plan. And then you embark on one of the most epic journeys in video game history. Companies were becoming more ambitious with their games, but few games before or since have a scope or scale this big. As far as gameplay goes, it’s a pretty standard third-person shooter with cover mechanics. It’s actually quite fun, but occasionally I would get bogged down in the weird upgrade system for each of the guns. I could be good at a few, but not great at just one. This customization does lend itself well to the RPG aspects of the game, adding cool replay value. However, as fun as it is to fight evil aliens and humans alike, you’ll be spending some good time fighting the inventory; it’s cumbersome and terrible. Items I didn’t need or want kept getting equipped at the wrong moments, making firefights very problematic. But the worst part of the gameplay was the Mako. Every time you wanted to explore a planet, players would have to go on foot in a Land Rover  called the Mako. The controls were so wonky, I often flipped over the vehicle and couldn’t continue. I hope it’s much better in the new game. However, the game makes up for this with the power menu. There’s a piece of tech known as the Omni-Tool that pretty serves every purpose possible in the game. It allows you to order your teammates to perform a move that is unique to them on the battlefield. Be it disrupting all electronic devices or swinging enemies around with special forces called biotics, you’ll be tempted to swap teammates around each mission. But where the gameplay fails, the story completely makes up for. Bioware are the masters at making the game revolve around your decisions. Sometimes, you’re forced to make tough calls with your buddies, and there’s not always a right answer. To be clear, the climax of the plot will remain the same regardless of your choices, but that type of narrative freedom was unprecedented in 2007. And if we’re going to talk about the villain in the game, Saren Arterius is actually quite badass. You’re immediately interested by what he’s up to and his reasons for suddenly leaving. But there are big things going on I want to tell you, but it’s better to find out for yourself. I will say he is one tough guy to defeat. Normally, a game will have one supporting character that you wish you could meet in person. Mass Effect had at least 4 teammates I can think of that are in that league. First, Tali Zorah, a quarian engineer who’s really good at figuring out the kinks of your ship, the SSV Normandy. Her face remains covered for the next two games, so it intrigues you. Next, the asari Liara T’Soni is the love interest you should go for. You’re given a few options on your crew to potentially romance, and she was my favorite. Her powerful biotics make her a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. Then, the krogan warrior Urdnot Wrex can charge enemies head-on and shoot everything in his way. He would be an awesome character even if he didn’t have any relevance. But he does, and his story gives insight into deep-rooted conflicts with his people. The most memorable character of the game is the turian marksman Garrus Vakarian. He says everything that’s perfect for the moment and made me laugh quite a bit when I needed to. He’s an excellent choice for picking off enemies from a distance, but on the Normandy, he constantly is repairing the ship guns. This continues as a running gag in the next two installments. The themes the game touches on are very relevant today. Prejudice, artificial intelligence, loyalty, history as a cycle, and war are not uncommon topics explored in the science-fiction genre. But the way the story presents itself makes it feel very fresh and very real. There are just some conflicts between civilizations that will simply never get resolved. In the end, Mass Effect‘s gameplay may be frustrating at times, but the interactive storytelling places this game in the realm of modern classics. It excellently sets the foundation for the rest of the series to come with fascinating characters, an engrossing narrative, and top-notch voice acting. You can buy this for less than $20 on Steam, along with Mass Effect 2, a review for another day.

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“Witcher 3” Review Update

Yeah it’s true. This post is coming late in the year, but now it’s summer and I don’t have the courage to play the awful Godzilla game on the PS4. I am now completely free to play the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for a good while. The review is coming, everybody. I beg of you to be patient with me like with my Arkham Knight Review. After just a few hours of gameplay, I can tell you the it’s freaking amazing. I highly recommend you go out and buy it on either the PC or the consoles. It’s going to take at least a week to get halfway through the game; I REFUSE to rush through it. Give me time and patience. As for the downgrade controversy, from what I read on the Internet it seems like the graphics are not as high resolution as they were at E3 2014. It is believed that this, as well as it’s apparent delay, was because the developers wanted the PC version to look as good as the console version; the consoles may not have been able to handle that type of power. I do not mean to say “PC Mater Race” because that is honestly not true. While does seem shady on the surface, CD Projekt RED is just treating it’s fans and customers like real people. Anyway, my fully written review of the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is coming soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

“Star Wars: Battlefront” Thoughts and Predictions

I know, I know. “Cade, where’s your review for Ant Man? It’s been almost a week.” The review is in progress. Expect it to show up in a few days. But for right now, I need to share my thoughts on EA and DICE’s brand new upcoming game. I’m going to draw comparisons from its predecessors as well as DICE’s Battlefield series. Now Battlefront II has to be one of my favorite games not only of my favorite games in the third/first person shooter genre, but also on the PlayStation 2. It inevitably had a few technical issues, but had significant additions and improvements. The single player component had a substantial depth and enjoyment, the Galactic Conquest was addictive as hell, and the consoles were able to host 64-player wars with a host of upgrades. Cool Hero classes, better A.I., faithful map recreations of Star Wars locations, intense space battles, and was an improvement in almost every aspect over it’s predecessor. But whatever happened to Battlefront 3? Well it was in development, but was cancelled by LucasArts in 2008. And after LucasArts was closed down by Disney in 2013, many believed that it would never come out. But at E3 2013, EA and DICE unveiled a small teaser of their revived version of Battlefront. And in 2014 and 2015, when gameplay was officially revealed and what to expect for the game’s launch, gamers created a long backlash over social media. I myself am kind of skeptical that this can be done. Why? Because EA has become one of the most evil and greedy corporations in America. They charged $120 for the disastrous Battlefield 4, hundreds more just for server access, and forced micro-transactions with Battle Packs. The game is much better and more stable now, but it was still a shameful display. Earlier this year, EA and Visceral Games did the exact same model for Battlefield Hardline with $120 for the full game and the four upcoming expansions; while that game had a pretty stable launch, it was anywhere close to being worth even $60. So EA has one shot left this year with the long-awaited Star Wars: Battlefront. Honestly, I think it could hit or miss. For starters it takes away the features that made Battlefront II awesome. Galactic Conquest, Space Battles, and a single player campaign are completely gone. I really wanted a dynamic battle from ground to space, where it would change if a star destroyer crashed in the middle of the field and killed many soldiers. Or give the Galactic Conquest and single player more RPG elements and improve on them. Nope, now it’s just ground battles in the Classic Trilogy. Hero classes are still an option as are dog fights in the air, but classes have transformed into Call-of-Duty-style customizable loadouts, which isn’t a terrible thing. Those epic 64-player battles, which were also on Battlefield 3 and 4, have been reduced to 40-player matches. On the good side though, Battlefront looks stunningly beautiful with the Frostbite Engine. It looks like some of the new modes, like Walker Assault, will encourage teamwork from players. As far as I can tell, the annoying Battlelog will not be included in Star Wars: Battlefront, although I’m still unsure about Battle Packs. We know the name of just one DLC so far: Battle of Jakku, which adds two maps and one planet that precedes the events of The Force Awakens. It’s free if you pre-ordered the game, but haven’t we learned by now that pre-ordering games is incredibly risky? Especially with EA’s history? But the gameplay looks better than I thought it would be, and I might review the game, but I SWEAR TO GOD! EA if you so much as put one battle pack in this game or fill it with bugs, I will lose all hope. If so, the Star Wars community will bombard you from high orbit.

“Batman: Arkham Knight” Game Review

I am the night! I am vengeance! I am… a few days late on this review. This action-adventure superhero video game was first released on June 23rd, 2015, following much anticipation. I waited until midnight to get my copy of the game at GameStop. I can already tell you that I love it and it’s my favorite game of the year so far. But how does it stack up against Rocksteady’s first two games? (Yes, only two games. Arkham Origins doesn’t count) Well simply put, it takes several steps forward but also a couple tiny tiptoes backwards. Set about a year after the events of Arkham City, both Gotham and Batman are having a difficult time adjusting to the Joker’s absence and the decrease in crime. But on Halloween night, after a pretty creepy first-person intro, Scarecrow threatens to cover Gotham City in his fear toxin. This leads the city to get evacuated by everybody except for the police and Batman. Poison Ivy, Two-Face, the Riddler, and Penguin also take advantage of the abandoned city, all of whom can be defeated in side missions. Right by the Scarecrow’s side is the titular Arkham Knight, a highly trained military commander with an army behind him and a personal grudge with Batman. Without spoiling much, I was fairly disappointed when the Arkham Knight’s big reveal was actually predictable; he’s not exactly an original character as we were lead to think. Oh well. The story has plenty of surprising twists and turns I wasn’t expecting, and keeps you engaged throughout the whole 10-13 hour run-time. add in nearly a dozen other interesting side missions, than I have about 40-50 hours of Tripe-A gameplay. Speaking of gameplay, the combat is as refined as it’s going to get in the series. Though the game is by no means particularly brutal or difficult, combat encourages you to use creative combos with either your fists or your gadgets. One of the latest additions is Dual Gameplay. During certain combat scenarios that involve Nightwing, Robin, or Catwoman, you can swap between them to experience their different abilities or perform dual takedowns together. However, unlike Arkham City, you can’t swap between the characters at certain points on the map for specific objectives. The map is pretty big this time around; at least five times the size of Arkham City. The streets are always brimming with thugs and side activities. To navigate these streets, you are provided with the tank-like Batmobile. The design looks reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s incarnation. However, there are some legitimate concerns. The steering felt kind of slippery at times and while it can be fun to wreak havoc in the open-aired streets, during the campaign it feels a bit like it’s shoved down your throat. But it works well enough for the game. As the first game in the series on next-gen consoles, the game’s visuals look gorgeous. Gotham City and the street’s are filled excellent detail. Especially during Scarecrow’s nightmare visions. The audio is also superb. The sound design and soundtrack fit so well with the tone and direction of the game. And the voice acting is film-quality. Kevin Conroy and John Noble in particular stand out as Scarecrow and Batman. However I did come into a few technical problems; a couple funny glitches here and there. The worst I’ve encountered so far were just two freezes. Thankfully, the game has great autosave for this. But this brings to the most controversial part: The PC port. I have been fortunate enough to play the game on my PS4, but the Steam community has reported a bunch of problems. There is some very questionable framerate loss and poorly optimized visuals. Some aren’t able to even play it. Thankfully, Rocksteady was quick to respond to this and removed it from Steam. Please share your own experience with the game in the comments. But for me, it’s a true swan song for Rocksteady’s stellar incarnation of the Batman. I have no problem playing through all of it in the Story Plus.

“Batman: Arkham Knight” Update and Debacle on the PC

Well, they can’t all be good. If you guys read my earlier posts, then you know that I bought Batman: Arkham Knight for the PS4 on midnight with additional content. I am loving it so far, and will have a review on it released soon. However, I don’t think just playing the game on the PS4 necessarily restricts me from talking about the PC port. If you guys know what’s happening on there then you have a right to be concerned. It’s just like Mortal Kombat X, where the people on the PC are unlucky, as players have so far encountered extremely poor frame rates, poor performance and numerous crashes. There are even some people who aren’t able to play it. Due to these issues, many Steam Users have posted negative reviews and warned to stay away form the game. Now I am a gamer who understands the inevitable bugs, as I’ve run into some minor ones on my copy of Arkham Knight. And while this may not be as huge a disaster as some other games including Arkham Origins and Battlefield 4, it’s still ridiculous. Thankfully, Rocksteady and Warner Bros. Studios have stepped up to the plate and written an apology to the fans. The game has been removed from Steam following the feedback until the games issues have been fully dealt with. It may end up hurting their bottom line, but the game should be in far better state and released in the way it should have been. I’m still disappointed at how a highly skilled developer like Rocksteady was able to let a terrible port get released in such a state. Still, this is the type of company that I like to see: someone who takes full responsibility for their mistakes and sets out to make up for them, even if it puts their bottom line at risk. This is a sign that gaming companies are actually listening to the feedback of their fans, and take them into account. This means that we should continue fighting for better gaming. Remember to check back in for my review of Batman: Arkham Knight soon. I will be using the PC debacle as a weight in the game’s final score.

E3 2015 Impressions

OK, it’s been almost a full week since E3 began, so I must talk about my thoughts on the games that showed. We were all blown away by the gameplay demo for Fallout 4, No Man’s Sky showed us a scale unlike anything seen before, Total War is tying in with the fantasy genre, and Halo 5: Guardians looks gorgeous and epic. As far as EA goes, I am excited for the new Mass Effect game, Andromeda, and I’ll talk more about Battlefront in a little bit. It looked liked the Doom franchise was back in full swing with more stylized violence, Assassin’s Creed looks like it should be able to redeem itself, and Black Ops 3 may or may not turn the franchise formula on its head. There were also a few fresh new I.P.s that caught my attention. For the PS4, Horizon Zero Dawn looks both gorgeous and engaging. On the Xbox One, backwards compatibility is finally available, Rare finally gets a game to work on, Gears of War 4 comes to life, and the Holo Lens shows off the potential of the future. For Honor looks like medieval games can become realistic and historical rather than fantasy. Kitchen for the PS4 with the Oculous Rift looks amazing and intense. Now I had to save the most controversial showing for last. What I’m talking about is Star Wars: Battlefront by EA and Dice. When it was first announced that the same people behind the disaster Battlefield 4 were reviving the Battlefront series, many Star Wars fans were less than pleased. I’ll admit the E3 gameplay was better than I thought it would be. Although several reviewers say that the flying controls are like crap. Others are accusing EA of making the gameplay are a direct re-skin of Battlefield’s multiplayer. (Which isn’t a terrible idea) EA has already screwed up once this year with the release of Battlefield Hardline. But I must say, that I have higher hopes than I had previously.