Tag Archive: XBox360


E3 2014 ~ So Far…

E3-2014

It looks awesome!

It is an event that gamers throughout the world as well as those within the industry look forward to each year.  It is an event where thousands view the conference from their homes via live streaming while others traverse the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center brushing shoulders with big name developers and playing demos of games that seem barely more than a wandering thought for most; it is a time in which all eyes focus towards one finite point. And as always, oh what a show it has been so far.

Monday marked day zero of the 4 day conference showcasing Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony and all they have in store within the coming future.

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Microsoft presented a succinct showing of numerous exclusive and large titles that would exhibit all that the XBox One is truly capable of. Glimpsing the first images of huge names such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, Witcher 3 gameplay footage, Tom Clancy Thehalo_5_guardians-672x372 Division, Forza, and Sunset Overdrive; that alone would have been enough to keep gamers glued onto the coming horizon. Add in a few unexpected twists such as Phantom Dust, an original Xbox remake; much loved Crackdown; new title Scalebound; and of course numerous smaller titles such as Project Spark, Ori and the Dark Forest and handfuls of other Indie games that hold just as much impact and there is little more that could be asked for. Lastly, who could forget to mention the news surrounding the Halo series – Masterchief collection coming out end of year containing all the previous Halo games leading up to the much anticipated Halo 5: Guardians. Microsoft ended their conference stating that they make the Xbox for the gamers and that every gamer helps “shape the future” of the beloved brand and system.

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EA took the stage next bringing with them an entourage of sporting titles and other big names. Opening with Star Wars Battlefront and the greatly anticipated Dragon Age Inquisition (accompanied by a live musical performance) set the stage for what was to DAInquisitionGoGamercome. The new Sims 4 captured much attention with their “smarter Sims, weirder stories” demo which outlined the limitless possibilities players will have. Additionally, EA brought forth gameplay and footage of the new UFC game, NHL 15, PGA Tour (“Golf without limit”), Madden 15 and Fifa 15 to round out their sports venues. Criterion Games went behind the scenes of their newest work which, while unnamed, promises to showcase every mode of transportation and extreme adventure known to man. MOBA Dawngate and Mirror’s Edge also gained some press time. The finale of EA’s conference came with not only long minutes of gameplay for Battlefield Hardline (set on the streets, cops and criminals) but also announced the start of the live beta opening with 64 PS4s in room and directions on how to register both PS4 and PC to those at the conference and at home.

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Next on the lineup came Ubisoft, which in my opinion gave one of the most entertaining shows thus far (pre-show rules given by none other than a group of Rabbids, of course). Opening the stage with the first 5 minutes of footage from Far Cry 4, it started the show on a grand scale and kept on climbing. Just Dance 2015 followed introducing not only new gameplay footage and music but also a new way of playing the game altogether – with a smart phone. Using technology most everyone has paired with the Just Dance App allows anywhere from one to thousands of people to play together – anyone, anytime, anywhere – and of course this was demonstrated with about 30 people on stage, in the balcony and in the aisles of the conference room. Tom Clancy The Divisionac unity graced the screen next with more visual footage to aid the gameplay viewed earlier by Microsoft. As a zombie apocalypse survival shooter without the zombies, its line of “tragedy is invisible” really struck home after viewing this side of the presentation. Racing across the world and a tournament of teams accompanied more information on The Crew with an announced beta of July 23 and a November 11 release date. Next up on their list of heavy hitters came Assassin’s Creed Unity, not only giving an intense preview of the game and just what exactly it means when it says ‘unity’ but also showing an entire missions worth of live gameplay. AC Unity is set to release October 28. On another level entirely, to help gamers enjoy a bit of fitness a new game called Shape Up was introduced as well making fitness activities into a competition (and what gamer can turn down a competition, anyway?). From the talented creators of Child of Light, Valiant Hearts The Great War tore at the crowd and viewer’s heartstrings as it showed a glimpse into the story of 4 separate military personnel all accompanied by their faithful canine. For their grand finale, Ubisoft unveiled something that nobody saw coming. Showing unnamed gameplay as a co-op team of 4 attempts to infiltrate a house and recapture a hostage with tactical prowess, good aim and perma-death, audiences watched in awe as Rainbow Six: Siege was unveiled and truly almost stole the entire show.

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Sony ended day zero of E3 with a somewhat overly long but well done conference. As anyone who watched the conference can say, there is no doubt that Sony ever tires of stating how they bring things to gamers first and they bring it better. Destiny opened their show as well as announcing a glacier white PS4 bundle that will be available at game launch. Following this came numerous game previews and announcements to include The Order 1886 footage, Entwined, Infamous DLC, Little Big Planet 3, Bloodborne, Far Cry Destiny4 (with the ability to play co-op even if friends do not own the game), Dead Island 2, Diablo III (with last of us zombies included – hello clickers! :eek:), Battlefield Hardline, Disney Infinity 2, Majicka 2, Remastered classic Grim Fandango, Let it die, Abzu (from some of the same creators as Journey), and No Man’s Sky. A huge list of games all with great potential as well as great exclusives for playing them on PS4. Additional hardware was also shown such as Project Morpheus, the supposed future of gaming incorporating the Playstation camera. Also discussed was PSN as a whole as well as free to play games. Information was also given on Playstation Now and its hundreds of titles available on any device and even a Sony TV with a dualshock 3 controller (July 31 open beta PS4). Playstation TV will also be available later this year for a $99 price tag or a $130 bundle. Following this technology interlude it returned to what players really wanted to see: Mortal Kombat X gameplay, PS+ promotions, A new show based on a graphic novel called Powers, Ratchet & Clank movie and remastered game, Last of Us remastered, Metal Gear Solid 5 Phantom Pain footage, Grand Theft Auto V for PS4 announcement, Batman Arkham Knight gameplay and a glimpse at Uncharted 4. Phew. It was a long two hour conference for Sony, but they certainly delivered.

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Finally, the start of Day One began with Nintendo’s pre-recorded conference and they brought exactly what people were looking for. Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Wii U showed more depth into Mii fighting styles and techniques (to include brawler, fighter andYoshisWoolyWorld gunner as well as over 36 mixed abilities) and also gave the first view of something called Amiibo – a way of bringing toys to life (much like Disney Infinity or Skylanders). These small figures of Mario, Link, Pikachu and many more can be used to bring powerful, yet unique, characters into certain games such as Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart (among many more to come) simply by hovering the figurine over a corner of the Wii U Gamepad. The adorable Yoshi’s Woolly World was looked into as well showing the initial idea process of it to actual game play as well as a look into a new game featuring Toad called Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. A game that most everyone held their breath in anticipation for was word of  a new Zelda game for Wii U and although only a small amount of footage was seen, the promise of a truly open world and the beauty and mystery that has always surrounded the Zelda universe surely made every fan smile. Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire as well as Bayonetta 2 were given some previews as well as Kirby and the Rainbow Curse and Xenoblade Chronicles X. Small interviews and footage were also shown for the upcoming Hyrule Warriors (confirming Link, Zelda, Impa and Midna as playable characters), Mario Maker (an amusing new twist on creating and playing Mario levels either in classic or more updated form) and a new ink shooter battle game called Splatoon.

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All in all, E3 2014 has been huge and there is no way to crown just one conference as the best. With major cross platform titles to exclusive franchises to unique and quirky adventures, there is something for every type of gamer no matter what system they may own or prefer (if not all of them). As E3 continues for the next two days there are still bounds of news, trailers, booths and demos to see whether it is on site at the convention center or from the comfort of home. So enjoy one of the biggest events in the gaming industry, let anticipation reach an entirely new level and know that at the end of the day, everyone is leaving as a winner!

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brothers tale

Life is one of the most precious gifts a person holds; yet every so often we are reminded just how fragile and fleeting this vibrant and cherished thing is. To take risks and make sacrifices for all that we love, is it truly worth it in the end? Most would like to think so…

Developer Starbreeze Studios and publisher 505 Games have created a beautiful and emotional journey in their newest title Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons. From the game’s first moments, players are met with tragedy as the youngest of the brothers mourns the memory of their mother’s passing to the great depths of the sea some time previous.  Interrupted by a shout from his elder sibling, he rushes to where his brother is holding up their ailing father and the two quickly rush him to the town’s doctor. Finding no immediate cure, the only way to save their father’s life comes with making a long, arduous journey across the land to a tree which harbors healing waters that may be their only hope in keeping what’s left of their family together.

brothers 12With only a map in hand and the company of each other, the two brothers set out on their fantastical tale, encountering many obstacles and people in need along their way. Whether it be assisting an outcast rabbit to join its brethren or comforting a man close to suicide after the loss of his family; the two brothers remain close by each other’s sides, ensuring their combined success and ever pressing onward to their ultimate goal.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this game lies within its simple yet engrossing gameplay element that allows the player to control both brothers separately and at the same time. In essence it is a co-op game played with but one controller; where the left joystick and triggers control the movement and action of the older brother and the right joystick and triggers control the younger sibling. Although many times the brothers are moving in tandem, there are numerous occurrences where each must set to their own paths and actions in order to allow the other to progress along certain paths and through obstacles. Timed levers, movement, and joint actions are the only things that allow the two to continue their journey as they do; a feat that would be nigh impossible as a solo traveler.brothers scene

While there is not an extreme amount of difficulty to the gameplay and it is easily accustomed to, what truly makes this play style special is that it creates a bond with both characters. The player does not simply control one and have the other follow or switch as they are needed, but is in complete control of both throughout the entirety of the game. The story is certainly the highlighted aspect of this title, yet somehow the gameplay mechanics draw you into it that much more and truly instills an emotional connection with everything the brothers are going through.

The lands traveled across during this fairy tale like adventure are beautiful and vast, and players will often find themselves sitting the brothers on benches strewn throughout the land simply to marvel at the gorgeous backdrops they are about to traverse. From sun touched mountainsides to underground mechanical troll lairs to snowy tundra and bloodied battlegrounds of giants, players will hardly feel limited despite a linear path being laid out for them. Oftentimes much of the environment can be manipulated as well to clear the way for the brothers to travel, adding a bit more than simply following along a designated line to get from point A to point B.

brothers-tale-sons-sad-tale-night-raqwe.com-06The story is beautiful, joyous and tragic and every feeling strikes deep within and remains. It is a feeling almost akin to playing Ico or Journey, where it does not take a known language to understand what is going on or feel the deep connection to everything that is happening to and around the brothers. They speak in their own tongue to each other and those around them and the devastation, fear, and laughter is almost tangible. It is an experience that will stay with you long after the credits finish, where the haunting soundtrack lurks within your mind and their tale stays buried deep within your heart.

Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons is a simple game on the outside with an underlying beauty and depth to be discovered. It is not action intense or even drawn out, but rather a beautiful story driven experience. Its 8 chapters can be completed within about 4 hours and is available on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 via download. This type of game is certainly not for everyone but I would encourage many to at least give it a try if not incorporate it into their library permanently. It is an excellent example of how games can create the same impact as books, movies or television shows – if not even taking it to another level entirely.

The most amazing part of a journey is not knowing how it will end, or how it will ultimately change who you are.

So take that first step; and let nothing be taken for granted.

Child-of-Light-logo

Listen closely child, to this story of a land; a place called Lemuria, a landscape grand. Left forsaken to darkness by a queen of the night; left with but one beacon of hope – a princess of light. Twisted forests to caves, to the depths of the sea; the crown and her companions would fight so bravely. To recover her kingdom, her stars, moon and sun; but for now, listen child, as her story is just begun…

Within this vast world of gaming there are numerous qualities that stand out among others: graphical prowess, innovative gameplay mechanics, in depth multi-faceted storylines or even exquisite and hard to forget soundtracks. Sometimes games possess many of these qualities among so many others all in one pristine package and other times many fall just short in one or more areas. Ubisoft’s newest release Child of Light, may not be a trailblazer of these factors by most people’s standards; however, it shines brightly through those clouds of violence, gunfire, and blood and introduces players to a spectrum of elegance that is not often found.

In this fairy tale RPG, players find themselves in control of a young girl named Aurora who awakens in a land unlike anything shechild of light dialogue has ever seen. With bright red flowing hair held under a protective crown and a sword at her side, she sets off to discover this mysterious land of Lemuria and find a way back to her home, back to her ailing father. As she aids many passerby and villages, she receives more than just simple items and trinkets to help along her journey – she finds companions and friends whose worth becomes more than words can say. From a rhyme challenged Jester with a beautiful voice to a love-struck mouse archer always eager to impress, the cast leaves behind the generic party makeup that so often accompanies RPGs for an endearing cast of creatures whose intentions almost carry an air of innocence. With her friends, Aurora explores the lands ever searching for the light that was so cruelly taken away from the Lemurians and fights to gain back what was once taken.

One of the most noticeable aspects of this title lay in its enchanting art style. Beautiful hand drawn characters and landscapes almost replicate floating through a dream. Contorted trees and rocks shadow in the forefront and the endless backgrounds go on for what looks like miles giving a wondrous depth to the 2d sidescrolling fantasy.  Additionally, the story and dialogue is not told in a usual format, but rather in an almost shakespearean-esque round of poem and lyric from the narrator’s interludes to the characters banter back and forth. It is an unusual and surprising element at first; and while it may cause some to lose focus of the story trying to keep up with the rhyme, it also adds a variance of color to its own atmosphere. It just feels right.

child of light combatGame play wise, the player primarily controls Aurora either on foot or by the most welcomed method of flying around the overworld areas. In addition to Aurora, players also control a small firefly of light named Igniculus, who can alternatively be played by a second person. Igniculus has his own abilities both in and out of combat which consist of acquiring items and some chests that may be out of reach for Aurora or simply hazardous to navigate to as well as temporarily stun/blind enemies for safe passage. Once combat is initiated (either by a frontal or rear encounter) the screen and tempo changes to a new format. It is a mix of turn based and real time combat that truly is something simple and easy to grasp yet exceptionally fun to master at the same time. During battle, two party members may be on screen at the same time (along with Igniculus) and a small action bar appears at the bottom of the screen to show both party and enemy placement along the timeline. Each attack or defensive tactic has its own cast time within the action window and it goes the same for both friend and foe. Attacks and spells may also be interrupted by either side and alternatively may also revert the target further back on the time line, which in turn opens the door to the true strategy of it all. On top of planning attacks and counters and watching the enemy, Igniculus also plays a part via healing party members, slowing down enemy progress along the time line and even collecting small replenishments of hp, mp and his own light source.

In addition to exploration and combat there is also a trove of treasures, stat boosts and confessions to find scattered around the world map to achieve that 100% completion mark. Going even deeper, each character has their own unique three tiered skill tree so they may upgrade their active and passive abilities as the player chooses up to a three star basis determining power and effectiveness. A somewhat simple crafting system is also in place involving certain gems called Oculi. These oculi have varying degrees of strength and up to three can be attached to each character to boost elemental attack, elemental resistance, evasion, hp or mp depending on the slot they are assigned. In essence, these factors allow the player freedom to build the characters as they wish and utilize them to the best of their ability.child of light sea monster

Overall, Child of Light is a game that takes many familiar RPG elements and places them into an atmosphere that is somewhat unexpected yet exquisitely enchanting. The story may hold a simple premise, yet plays out much as it is first introduced: as a bedtime story told to a child awaiting their dreams. It is a work of art both in visual allure as well as written word, and should be taken in as such. Taking around 10 hours to complete the story (and perhaps additional to find and acquire everything missed once complete), it is well worth the price and can be played on PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox360, Xbox1 and in the near future the PS Vita as well.

So when the time comes, will you step into the world of Lemuria?

Will you listen to this story?

…I think you should.

 

wolf ep 3

Many people dream of living a fairy tale; whimsically dreaming of a fantastical place, magical powers and an idealistic love story. What if those fairy tales already exist around us, without anyone even knowing or suspecting? In Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us, the characters from many beloved fairy tales and stories are living in a 1980s set of New York City – or at least trying their best to. However, it is an entirely new story for these fabled characters this time around; it is a story of social class struggle, corruption, crime, and much like everyone else in the world, a will to survive.

In the newly released episode 3 of the 5 chapter series, Telltale brings back the urgency and story progression that captivated players throughout its first installment. While the previous episode still provided difficult decision making and character development, many were left disappointed at its short length and lack of truly moving the story forward as much as desired. Well, episode 3 fixes that bringing forth an array of even more difficult decisions, a host of new characters joining the cast, and a strong sense of having too much to do and not enough time to do it in. They will remember that.

wolf choicesAs players remain in the shoes of Sheriff Bigby Wolf, they deal with the repercussions the previous episode left off with. With one of their old world relics still broken and un-repairable, it leaves Bigby and Snow White with no choice but to investigate what leads they have the old fashioned way: on foot. With naught but a time and a description, they narrow the leads down to three separate locations; however, the player will only have enough time for one,  maybe two, as the clock continues to tick surreptitiously down to the hour at hand.

The decisions the player faces this round have leveled up in their own regard and the consequences weigh even heavier beyond simply seeing that “X will remember you said that.” People will be hurt and evidence destroyed while you stay true to your choices, yet the reward is well worth the struggle. By the end of the episode the player will not only experience one of the most action intense and formidable encounters, but will also see the curtain drawn back slightly on who is truly behind everything; all the while creating yet more confusing questions and leaving even more anticipation for the upcoming episode 4.

What Telltale seemed to have shined with in episode 1 and lost luster with during episode 2, seems to be back in full force and episodewolf snow shocked 3 is truly both a painful and enjoyable experience filled with intrigue, urgency and even surprise. The developers excel in their story telling devices and prowess and not only live up to their high expectations but even find time to include some minor, yet outstanding fun to their own method that players will notably remember and smile at.

In the end, A Crooked Mile brings out that illustrious shine that makes this series so enthralling. Sparking a desire for multiple playthroughs whether to unlock additional fables missed or to simply see the other side of your not-so-timely made decisions gives even additional length to the 90 minute episode. So, will you delve back into the grisly backdrop of Fabletown and step closer to everything that is tearing the world apart by its seams?

The decision is yours.

“A force of good is not so easily extinguished”

Dust-Review

There are very few people in life who ever know, full heartedly from the start, that they are destined to be heroes. Even when the time does come, knowing what to do and having the ability to carry it out can be two entirely different feats; but that is all simply part of the journey.

In the indie game Dust: An Elysian Tail by independent designer Dean Dodrill and published by Microsoft Studios, you begin your adventure as an unknown swordsman named Dust. Having no previous memories or knowledge of who you are or once were, you are soon teamed up with your weapon and companion for your upcoming journey: The Blade of Ahrah, an ancient mythical talking sword and Fidget, the sword’s guardian nimbat.

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Along the way, Dust seeks to remember his past while following the advice of Ahrah and helping the citizens of Falana negate the oppression and bloodshed caused by General Gaius and his army. As waters run dry, towns are demolished, and an ancient race known as the Moonbloods draw nearer to extinction, time is of the essence whether Dust is completely aware of his mission or not. However, with every new area as well as with every new friend and foe he encounters, Dust begins to learn of himself; duly accomplishing everything he sets out to do.

Dust: An Elysian Tail is a side scrolling action RPG filled with quick action combat, a vibrant cast of characters and a beautiful hand painted backdrop. Action wise, Dust slays his enemies via numerous sword combos and timed use of his dust storm ability which can also be enhanced by Fidget’s magic projectiles in unison. As the story progresses and new areas are discovered, Dust will also learn a myriad of abilities to increase his effectiveness – abilities that will not only allow you to continue forward, but to also travel back to previous areas later on in the game and explore even further into their depths.

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The core of the story itself is in many ways the generic save-the-world-from-evil plot except that many aspects involving who Dust truly is and how these events came to pass all result in an intriguing twist of events.  The main characters all bring their own unique quirks to the foray as well: Ahrah remains the ever thoughtful voice of reason, having all the answers but only revealing them in due time while giving meaningful advice to Dust and Fidget as needed; In stark contrast, Fidget  offers much of the comic relief through the tale as well as her combat endeavors; While Dust stays in a subdued cloud of angst and confusion while maintaining confidence in his skill and upholding his sense of humor throughout.

When facing a new enemy, Ahrah tells Dust to "remember what he has learned," and this is Fidget's response:

When facing a new enemy, Ahrah tells Dust to “remember what he has learned,” and this is Fidget’s response:

The game is truly an enjoyable experience that offers various difficulties as well as numerous battle challenge arenas to be discovered and mastered during gameplay. However, as in most titles, it does have its flaws. The boss encounters are probably one of the biggest disappointments as they do not offer near the difficulty you would expect from them. It has also been said that many of the RPG elements could have been more involved, though they are still present and should be utilized to the greatest of your ability to ensure success and make life easier all at the same time.

What makes this title stand out just that much more is that it was created by one solitary person over the course of three and a half years. A feat not often seen or accomplished to this extent and in many opinions has gone above and beyond what full teams have not managed to do.

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In the end, Dust: An Elysian Tail is definitely worth playing. Depending on the difficulty and completion it will likely take less than 20 hours to finish; but it holds a great amount of content for its price as well as an artistry and ingenuity that is often hard to come by.

So venture to Falana; be awed by Ahrah, amused by Fidget, and discover who Dust is and was…all while accomplishing everything you are meant to do…whether you realize it or not.

“I remember everything. AND IT CHANGES NOTHING!”

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(Additionally, feel free to check out my Twitch channel as I livestream my next playthrough of Dust: An Elysian Tail!)

“Booker, are you afraid of God?”

“No, but I’m afraid of you.”

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There is always a lighthouse.  A man. A city.

From the depths of Rapture, Bioshock brought players into a world unlike any other; where choices and decisions not only affected the player but also the ultimate consequences to come. Now the tables have turned to a new time and a new city; to a place so Utopian yet so corrupt: the sky-high dwelling of Columbia.

The year is 1912 and American exceptionalism has reached its pinnacle. The city floats high above “the sodom below” basking in the picturesque glow and ideals of its founder and prophet, Zachary Comstock. Kept afloat by a mix of quantum levitation and blimps, Columbia not only rises above the rest of America physically, but sees itself in a higher spectrum all around.

Despite its isolation and independence, the steampunk paradise amidst the clouds has more dark secrets and atrocity than one might bioshock_infinite_46initially suspect. It is something of a floating battle ship armed with heavy artillary, zeppelins, airships, machine gun turrets and various other weaponry. It is a hostility that has seen the face of and impacted The Boxer Rebellion and even houses a fierce civil conflict within its own boundaries. Within this internal struggle lies two main forces: the city’s ruling class which prioritizes a specific religion and strict signs of racial purification and the Vox Populi (translating to ‘voice of the people’ in Latin), a revolutionary group intending to overthrow the powers in charge and gain equal rights for all citizens of Columbia.

It is here that the player controlled protagonist, Booker DeWitt, is sent to retrieve the girl, fulfill his mission and finally erase his debt.

On a turbulent and rainy night, a small boat carrying three passengers rows towards a solitary lighthouse. Allowing DeWitt to exit upon the dock, the two confounding rowers turn away with hardly an explanation between them. Entering the lighthouse, DeWitt finds its sole occupant brutally murdered with but a small note left for him and him alone: “Don’t disappoint us.” Climbing to the top of the lighthouse, DeWitt discovers a contraption that will take him on the final leg of his journey: to Columbia.

Arriving at a half submerged candlelit church and forcibly receiving a hasty baptism drowning, DeWitt is finally set loose upon the sights and sounds of Columbia. He then sets his aim on getting to Monument Island, a huge angelic statue rising through the middle of the city, where Elizabeth is being held captive.

Bioshock-Infinite-tin-man-600x337Once Elizabeth joins in on the escape, you will probably wonder where she has been all of your life. She becomes the best of npc allies almost instantly: telling you not to worry about her in battle, as she can fend for herself (which means ducking out of the line of fire, which also alerts you to when enemies are close at hand); additionally, Elizabeth will also pick up spare money, ammo, weapons, health kits and salts that she will toss to you mid-battle should the need arise as well as pick any locks along the way. One other unique ability that Elizabeth harnesses is the skill to open tears throughout the world. These tears can show a window to another time and place and can also bring useful objects to and from their current space time continuum.

Bioshock Infinite is a game where it is apparent to see the time and detail that went into its creation. From graphics to story to soundtrack, everything flows together in perfect harmony throughout so much of the game that it is no wonder it has received such high scores and reviews from numerous sources.

The graphics and visuals of Columbia make up for nearly the entire backdrop of the game and it is plain to see every beautiful painstaking detail that went into its mastery. Artistic flourishes and paintings line the streets, shops and buildings of Columbia in a mix of bright, steampunk design. From the initial setting of a happy, festival atmosphere to the defiled and burning streets of the lower commons, there is not a corner or crevice of the game left ignored. The skylines that run throughout the cloud city provide an even more unique element to the floating vessel, and not only bear a fast and necessary way of transportation but also add another versatile element to combat situations. Even though most of the time the action will be so great you only have time to look for the next cover or barrier between you and the onslaught of bullets, when you do have a moment to breathe, the setting is breathtaking and is worth taking in as often as possible.

Gameplay wise, Bioshock gives you an arsenal you should feel fairly accustomed with if you have played the previous installments. Abioshock-infinite-pc-ps3-xbox-360-screenshots-33 main gun (of which you can hold and switch between two at a time), a melee weapon in the form of the skyhook and a power called vigors, which vary and are discovered throughout the game. A sleek mastery of using all three elements will grant the player the best outcome through any gunfight be it from regular infantry opposition, motorized patriots with the likeness of America’s founding fathers, or handymen, the giant mechanized “Big Daddys” of Columbia. Vigors range from possessing machines and enemies to fight for you to calling a murder of crows to swarm, damage and distract your target; they can also be set to fire directly upon an enemy or set as a trap to be walked over. The skyhook and skylines running throughout Columbia do add a fun alternative at times as well as providing a quick and often necessary means of travel. Smooth controls throughout aid in quick reaction times and uninterrupted action even taking Elizabeth’s aid into account. The endless fights can becomes repetitive at times as you find a setup that works for you, but the introduction of new enemies will often prove different weapons or vigors more useful and various upgrades to them will change their outcomes as well. However, for the length of the game the battles almost always had some measure of challenge to them – the final fight in particular.

The soundtrack that accompanies the game is the perfect accompaniment to the often astounding visuals. From serene choral pieces to adrenaline inducing battle tones, the background sounds move you just as much as the action and story itself. The various reintroduced hits of the 1900s also come as a pleasant surprise whether they consist of a barbershop quarter rendition of “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys or “Girls just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper heard briefly through a tear in a famous musicians house. They easily add an element of surprise and surrealness amidst the idealistic retro-future American background. It is a soundtrack that can find success of its own accord and adds to, and never takes away from, the entirety of the game from start to finish.

bioshock boys of silenceDespite some of the controversy about the extreme violence in Bioshock Infinite, it is a necessary evil. Even the characters remark at one point, “what did you think would happen?” after a particularly brutal scene. The game is not about skirting around issues, but rather envelopes a plethora of extremes. Criticism exists in mass on the amount and level of violence used; but it is through that violence that not only pushes the story forward but also forces players to go through with it despite an innate feeling of how very wrong it is. It makes the players confront the violence head-on not only through general survival, but also in the decisions they make (to spare or kill a person) and through Elizabeth’s reactions to those decisions. There truly can be no morality in extremes.

Although Bioshock Infinite may not hold up to every expectation set by the original, it is a game that is thoroughly enjoyable and stays with you long after the final credits have finished. It will, without a doubt, make you think and question everything that you have seen and done; and it is no wonder it is one of the most talked about games in the industry at this time. Various difficulties, to include the extra challenging 1999 mode unlocked after first completion, as well as numerous achievements gives this title plenty of replay value; and that doesn’t even include the fact that once you have seen the story to its end, playing through again will show you the game in an almost entirely new light. It may still be early in the year, but it is easy to see this as a GOTY contestant. Whether you have been with the series since the original or are looking to see what all the excitement is about, playing through this title is a decision you will not likely regret.

A debt. A girl. A cage. A songbird.

Columbia awaits.

“The mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist…”

Limbo

How far would you go to save someone you love?

The side scrolling monochromatic game Limbo, by game developer Playdead, begins as a young nameless boy searches for his lost sister – awakening to a darkened, decaying forest strewn with horrific deaths, traps and puzzles which never appear to be quite as they seem.

As the boy travels deeper into Limbo, the scenery shifts elegantly from secluded forest to a passing tribal village to an underground city of rampant mechanisms. The traps and puzzles divert as well to match their surroundings – trees, water, bear traps and arachnids give way to electromagnetic switches and gravity defying feats. Every puzzle within this journey comes with a painstakingly acute lesson…and a heavy price.

Unlike most games in the puzzle and problem solving genre, this one stands out from the rest. Eerily beautiful and horrifying both in visuals and sound, Limbo keep players on edge as they ever so warily (…or not so much, if you’re the more brazen, ‘I’m ready to die!’ type) make their way through the haunting atmosphere; eying each new challenge with enthusiasm and disdain. Additionally, players are not met with a secluded “get out of this room” kind of puzzle, but rather, each challenge fits into the journey’s succession – never once breaking the overall atmosphere.

Towards the beginning, the puzzles themselves range from simple timing exercises (jumping, dodging, activating sensors and switches) to basic box maneuvers; all of which represent fundamental concepts that will not only allow passage through the conflicts themselves but will also be instrumental in surpassing the challenges ahead if applied correctly.

If there is one thing to prepare yourself for on the first play through it is that death is inevitable; and you will be reminded of this lesson repeatedly. In fact, the developers actually classify this style of game play as “trial and death” as most traps are not entirely apparent until it is far too late. Luckily, you can die an indefinite amount of times to overcome the obstacle as there are no game overs and you simply reset to your most recent checkpoint.

From start to finish, the game can be played through in about 3 hours; however, just because a game is shorter in length does not mean it has less to offer. Aside from simply beating the game, if you are up for an additional challenge, try getting all trophies/achievements. One trophy in particular, called “No Point in Dying”, stands as a worthy challenge in itself as it involves completing the game in one sitting with five or less deaths. Let’s just say that I wish I had kept track of how many times I died my first play through; Unfortunately, all I can attest to is that it was more than five….way more.

With plenty of ways to play this title (PC/Xbox/PSN), there is hardly a reason not to give this one a try. It may not be your generic puzzle, horror or adventure title, but it is an intriguing experience that stands out none the less.

So leave reality behind, and take the first step into Limbo…

The king of all that is snowboarding has returned, and it’s looking better than ever! However, this time it is not about pristine parks, slopes, and half pipes – it is just you versus nature on 9 of the world’s deadliest mountains.

In EA Sports’ newest installment of the popular snowboarding franchise, there are three main areas to attack from the main menu: World Tour, Explore, and Global Events.

Let’s begin with the World Tour, undoubtedly the first place you will want to tackle first.  This area is where you will master (well, survive) the 9 descents, compete against other SSX team members in race or trick, and unlock additional characters (you begin the game with Zoe as the only playable character).  Each new area has a new rider in which to unlock and as you go through the World Tour, once that character is unlocked, you maintain control of them throughout the remainder of that particular mountain.  It gives you a chance to see what the character is like, get some experience and levels, and see how they ride. Additionally each deadly descent is made up of 4 or so different events including a one-on-one race/trick match against the rider you will unlock, a race against 3 other riders to the bottom, a race/trick match against 3 riders with the addition of a unique gear choice necessary to make it down the peak, and finally a survival match of the descent itself.

What makes each peak unique is that there is one particular aspect that stands out from the rest making the descent uniquely dangerous from the rest.  This aspect will require your rider to equip specific gear in order to make it to the bottom alive.  The only objective to the descent is survival, but it swiftly becomes so much more than simply dodging trees and jumping bottomless crevices as avalanches, cold, oxygen, total darkness, and other dangers ominously attribute themselves to certain peaks. Take for example the deadly descent of the Rockies. Zoe must wear a specific armor suit which will increase her survivability (a percentage given to you before you begin each descent) and protect her from rocks, trees, and debris – trees being your main deadly obstacle of this mountain. The more the armor is used, the weaker it becomes until it finally breaks.  The breaking of armor not only damages Zoe but from then on her health will drastically fall with each hit she takes. For another example let’s look at Kaori in the Himilayas. Mt. Everest is the descent to master; but as many know, a lack of oxygen at such high altitudes can spell certain death if not properly prepared.   As your vision swiftly blacks out, your oxygen tank is the only thing keeping you going…while it lasts.  This is a challenge where speed and cutting corners can mean the difference between survival and defeat.

The Explore feature is a full world access free for all.  This is where you can earn experience, levels, gear, points, and medals on all the different descents, peaks and uncharted trick parks.  This is where you will want to really flaunt what you’ve got as players from around the world will be waiting for you to challenge their best scores…or perhaps challenge yours! As you race or trick down the mountain you’ll be up against three other players viciously fighting for that gold medal place.  Competition is tough but even coming in as silver or bronze will earn you experience, credits and medals.  Upon finish, if your score is good enough, it will be saved for challenging via a ghost of your character.  A cool feature here is that you don’t even need to be on game to challenge people and whenever you next play it will inform you of any winnings your ghost may have earned you while you were away. The competition ranges from minor threat to how-the-hell-did-he-do-that ~ so think you can hold the top placement for long? Only time will tell 🙂

Global Events is exactly what it sounds like, but instead of simply competing to put the best score down on the books, this time you’re playing for credits and fame.  The events can last hours to weeks and throughout that time frame riders from all over will compete against each other for a share in the spoils.  Each event has a certain amount of credits to pay in which then goes into a large pool.  As you compete in the event, be it race or trick, you get a placement of diamond through bronze (five in total) and it gives you an estimated share of the winnings…that is unless someone beats your score within the allotted time. It is a great way to make friends, meet rivals, compete, and earn some extra credits!

Finally there is a feature called Ridernet which is your online social connection to the rest of the SSX world. It’ll show you where the best competitions are, where friends are competing, as well as which descents you like or have mastered, gear choices, and other stats.

SSX incorporates many of the beloved features from the previous games while still introducing new twists, ideas, and aspects.  One thing veterans of the series will note is a change in controls. They may be different, but give them a try – the new configuration isn’t too hard to master and love.  However, if you simply cannot part with your old habits there is a manual option to go back to the standard control settings – a feature I particularly thought was a nice touch to include.  The characters and environments look great and the various natural terrain dangers are an excellent addition.  You can just about feel the adrenaline rush as you careen down the mountain in the dead heat of a trick competition whilst trying keep up the extra effort of staying alive against Mother Nature. It’s enough to make me wish it wasn’t so freakishly warm out for February/March, but I suppose I am simply left to stare longingly at my snowboarding gear and amuse myself amidst the world of SSX! Now back to the descents!

[note: SSX is currently available for the PS3 and XBox 360 gaming systems. For those on PS3, if you want to challenge or try to beat my scores feel free to add/rival me: Primula2525] ^^