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Little Update

Started work on writing my Final Fantasy XIII-2 review, so that’s expected to be online by Monday. I’ve also got my last exam coming up, so that’ll explain why I’ve not been so active on here. I chose a horrible time to start all this. Screw it, I’ll stick to it anyway!

I’ll probably start writing some news articles because, while it still requires the research (I’m not going to copy paste news articles from anywhere), it just isn’t as long and requires less effort than a full review. That, and I think it’d be interesting to touch on some gaming news. Maybe I’ll have a set day for reviews, a set day for news and a set day for impressions, but we’ll see what’s happening.

See you guys soon.

Tommy Wi-Show

Tommy Wiseau Tommy Wi-Show

Honestly, I’ve been putting this off for a couple of days because I’ve been hesitant about posting this, but I’ll get to that in a minute. I’m going to answer a simple question that you probably didn’t ask: “Who is Tommy Wiseau?”

Tommy Wiseau is an actor, director, screenwriter, and everything else (think YouTube videos where the kids in their bedrooms even take credit for their light being switched on). One would think he had talent considering the multitude of roles that he partakes one. It’s easy to be mistaken, but it’s actually also kind of true that he does have talent. He’s the right amount of bad for comedy gold. Where did this happen? The Room. If you’ve not seen The Room, I highly recommend it. It’s pretty damn funny.

But now back to the subject. Last year, Tommy Wiseau released a new show involving video games. This was named Tommy Wi-Show, and it was part review, part comedy, part whatever the hell you can call it. What I can tell you is that it wasn’t good. But that’s a given with Tommy Wiseau. That makes it funny, right? Wrong. Unless you’re some douchy hipster wanna be kid who idolizes the man, there’s nothing good about this show. And that’s what’s heavily disappointing.

In the Tommy Wi-Show. Wiseau plays himself, or “TW”. Every week (or every month once the show lost user interest until it’s demise), TW would be transported to an alien world to play video games. He would be scored by a particularly annoying (see “forced” to try and be evil, but unaware of it’s morality and opens it’s heart) alien. Every week (or month, whatever), TW had to play a new game. Each episode would attempt to be witty, but in a subtle manner. This often failed miserably, but I could see what they were at least trying to do. Or maybe that was me looking too much into it, because surely something couldn’t be this bad?

So far, it sounds like something Wiseau would do. It sounds like a terrible setup, but maybe it could be funny? I thought so too. It’s why I tuned into it. The lack of humour stems from the fact that Wiseau now knows he’s awful. He’s become self-aware and that’s what leads to him killing any form of humour that can be found in his works. Instead of being hilariously bad, he tries to act it instead. And, if The Room taught us anything then that would be that the man just plain can’t act. There’s nothing genuinely funny, because it’s so blatantly forced. When you’re aware of what made you popular, and try to be so bad that it’s good to recapture it, it just doesn’t work. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t.

Wiseau falls flat on his face, bad. Now, why was I hesitant about posting this? Because I’m going to share the video, and the video generates him money. Here it is anyway.

Christopher Walkenthrough and Me?!

christopher walken walkenthrough

So, browsing the internet at this fairly late time and I stumbled across a video. Who is familiar with Christopher Walken?

Yeah. This is actually a thing. It’s voiced by Jason Stephens, a Christopher Walken impressionist. He does a pretty good job. I saw this and realised that I just had to share it. I found it pretty funny, especially in Stephen’s ability to capture the nonsense that Walken would sometimes spout (such as that Chipmunk comment. That got me.)

I remember The Simpsons: Hit and Run too. I had it on my old Xbox. I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if I’d be able to go back to it. It probably wouldn’t live up to nostalgia? I’m not sure. Anyway, as usual, voice your opinions in the comments below. This includes both the Walkenthrough and Simpsons Hit and Run.

Transformers: War for Cybertron

Transformers War for Cybertron box art

Civil war has ravaged the metal planet of Cybertron as the cybertronians, robotic lifeforms with the ability to disguise themselves by transforming, take two distinctive sides in this battle for the fate of Cybertron. The Autobots fight for freedom and are lead by Zeta Prime. Their enemies, the Decepticons lead by the ruthless Megatron, seek to collect the dark energon to gain control of the planet’s core and bring Cybertron back to it’s golden age. Dark energon is an alternative to the energon that fuels the planet and it’s denizens and has been located in an old space station currently guarded by the Autobots.

To gain access to the core of Cybertron, Megatron requires the Omega Key which is held by Zeta Prime, and so he must end this battle against the Autobots once and for all and achieve his goal. Unbeknown to Megatron, his greatest feat would also lead to his greatest downfall as the fall of Zeta Prime also marks the rise of a new leader of the Autobots, and one that he will forever be  locked in battle with until the end of their days. Optimus, a field commander, gathers up the remaining forces of the Autobots and takes up temporary leadership. It’s no secret to us that Optimus is destined to become a Prime, the true leaders of the Autobots, but how he got there no longer needs to be up to our imagination.

Transformers: War for Cybertron is a computer game aimed at being the origin story for every iteration of the Transformers series, from the fan favourite “Generation 1″ to the infamous Michael Bay movies. That doesn’t really say much for this game though, as all gamers know that computer games based on popular franchises that weren’t first games don’t tend to be that great. This rule also applies to Transformers. Now I won’t go into why these type of games don’t succeed, not here. No, instead I’m going to question, “does that rule also apply to War for Cybertron?”

Publisher: Activision
Developer: High Moon Studios
Release Date: 25th June 2010
PEGI: 12
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows

War for Cybertron consists of ten chapters  split into two compaign modes – Decepticon and Autobot. Chronologically, the Decepticon story occurs first and is followed by the Autobot story. In each chapter you may select one of three character choices. I know that doesn’t sound like much variety, but this is a computer game; playing Starscream, a cybertronian jet,  in a tunnel would be just plain impractical. Each character is designed with that type of level in mind. The entire game is designed specifically around gameplay and being the origin story of the Transformers.

There are a total of nine Autobots and nine Decepticons for campaign, and each character is full of personality. This is where the presentation of the game excels. The cutscenes in the game develop the story and nothing more; however, the characters are fleshed out really well through the use of in-game dialogue passed between the three playable characters of that chapter. Each character has their own distinctive personality, and each have their own role in the various chapters. The pacing of the story is exceptionally well done, and designing the campaigns to have five chapters each was nothing short but genius with each chapter serving to deliver an important plot point, while having an extensive period of gameplay where characters get shaped by in-game dialogue.

Transformers: War for Cybertron successfully delivers a brilliant story with little neat touches supplied by developers that are also fans of the series. I was confident to say that the franchise was in good hands before, but after experiencing their story I not only feel that my confidence was within reason, but I also feel that I still underestimated what High Moon Studios were capable of as I was blown away by the experience; however, I do feel that the Decepticon campaign was underwhelming compared to the Autobot campaign which makes me have to claim that there was some underhanded Autobot fanboy involvement found within the development team. Regardless, the story in both campaign modes were incredibly satisfying; and, quite frankly, I want more. Bring on War for Cybertron 2! Of course, given the conclusion of the game I believe a new subtitle would be more apt…

The story for War for Cybertron was impressive through almost perfect presentation; however, without good gameplay the story can find itself less effective and lose it’s impact. So how did the gameplay fare?

cybertron concept art

War for Cybertron is a third person shooter developed using the Unreal Engine. This resulted in a lot of comparisons with Gears of War, a cover shooter game where you must hide behind cover and shoot targets from there. Transformers is nothing like it. Yes, it uses the same engine and is a third person shooter, but it’s certainly no cover shooter game. Enemies are varied amongst car type, aerial type, brute, heavy and tank; with the former two having two different versions – a recruit and a leader.

One thing I noticed early in the game is that ammo and recovery items feel sparse, but is not entirely a problem and in fact adds to the game’s own style. The player finds himself conserving ammo, trying not to waste it and as such players are rewarded for skillful play. For the lesser players this needn’t be a bother as the inclusion of a melee attack works as a nice alternative, and for players with a tendency to look around instead of playing the game like a rail shooter will also be rewarded with ammo and health packs.

There are only five real boss battles in War for Cybertron, two in the Decepticon campaign and three in the Autobot campaign. These battles usually involve surviving three iterations of the enemy’s pattern to completely defeat them; however, the enemy may also change it’s pattern after a short period of time keeping players on their toes. These battles usually last no more than five minutes, with the exception of the two final bosses – Omega Supreme and Trypticon.

So now I’ve covered the general gameplay features, but what of  the transforming feature that is so important that the game was named after it? Well, it was an after thought. Now, I know what you’d be thinking, an after thought is bad, right? Well, no actually. They designed the gameplay and then added each character’s transformation to fit gameplay. If anything, having the transforming an after thought and the least important feature was actually beneficial; instead, transforming adds a nice little bonus during gameplay to make use of. I found transforming for use of the weapon in vehicle mode quite beneficial, or using vehicle mode to traverse long paths really handy. Transforming also allows you to evade persistent attacks, particularly of bosses.

Like most games this generation, Transformers: War for Cybertron contains a multiplayer mode. More specifically, it contains three different multiplayer modes. Firstly is co-operative campaign, which sees you playing with up to two friends online during the story of the game. The second mode is escalation which is essentially a survival mode where the players must fend off multiple waves of enemies and survive as long as they can. Finally, there is competitive online, in which players must fight in game modes such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, etc. In all honesty, there isn’t much to add to these things as they have become so common in recent games that they’re practically expected, and all play rather the same. These modes serve to add reason to continue to play the game even after completion, and extend the replay value of the game.

Transformers: War for Cybertron features exceptional story-telling and an appropriate style of gameplay that fits the Transformers universe well. Graphically, the game also looks nice, which only adds to the already well polished presentation that this game has. Each cybertronian is well designed, looking mostly unique. This leads to the characters being easily identifiable much unlike the Michael Bay counterparts. War for Cybertron looks great, and even the level designs look really nice. My only real major bone to pick with the graphics in this game is the repetitiveness of the levels, but even that isn’t really all that bad. Each location has it’s own style; but unfortunately going down the same looking corridors or motorways does seem to get old. This is where the transforming feature also helps as these type of areas are usually the ones that you blaze through in vehicle mode; in which case the repetitive level design becomes less prominent.

Now for one of the biggest things for fans of the franchise, the voice acting. Needless to say Peter Cullen reprises the role of Optimus Prime so we all know that’s good and I can confirm that it’s nothing short of an amazing performance. Optimus is really brought to life by his voice actor, but that isn’t to say the others are too. Every character in the game has an appropriate voice actor; and, although the some of the fan favourite voice actors aren’t around, their replacements match up perfectly giving an equally impressive performance. Transformers: War for Cybertron is a game in which the voice acting is very unforgettable, a fact that also stands with true with the soundtrack.

Stan Bush makes a return to the Transformers franchise giving it a new main theme entitled “Till All Are One”. Several moments in the game techno music or metal music will play to set the tone and atmosphere and is played at appropriate times. The overall soundtrack is very appropriate and feels complete with Stan Bush giving it that little boost.

So, my question at the start was if War for Cybertron would be an exception of the rule that adaptations as a video game would be bad? Well, I think the answer is clearly, “yes”, in this case. War for Cybertron is a well polished game that is delivered exceptionally well. Fans of the franchise will not be disappointed, in fact, this is the game we’ve all been waiting for.

Transformers: War for Cybertron is a game that shows that when an adapted video game breaks the formula and does something on it’s own – it becomes a very successful and fun game. This game receives a well earned 8/10 – A great game. I recommend to all Transformers fans out there to go out and buy it; and if you’re not a fan of the series then I have two words for you, “Rent it”.

(This game was reviewed on the Sony PlayStation 3 on Normal Difficulty. Single player campaign was completed, and multiplayer experiences were touched on.  Game was completed in nine and a half hours).

Mass Effect 3 – Extended Cut?

commander shephard

So, it looks like Bioware caved in on demand and delivered what happens to be the middle ground. If you’re unaware, many people were dissatisfied with the ending of the Mass Effect trilogy, that many held dear to them. As a result, there was heavy fan backlash resulting in a petition for Bioware to create brand new endings. Instead of giving the fans new endings, Bioware opted to solve the main issue the fans had – coverage of what happens to the characters post-ending. That’s resulted in the Extended Cut.

Anyone here dissatisfied with the Mass Effect 3 ending? Or were they happy enough?

Japanese Drama (Final Fantasy XIII-2) and Me

Final Fantasy XIII-2 X Tidus

So, I’ve only just started playing Final Fantasy XIII-2, and already it feels like I’m watching some TV drama. Being bogged down with so much coursework, I’ve had little time for gaming. That includes today, actually. Despite that, I’ve been playing it anyway, little by little.

So when I loaded up my game I was welcomed by a “Last time on Final Fantasy XIII-2″ cutscene, which chopped scenes up exactly how I expect a drama. Needless to say it’s weird. And awkward. I can’t say I’m a fan of really any TV drama, so this just gives me a weird vibe. Beyond that though, it’s actually beginning to feel more like a Final Fantasy game. Hell, it’s beginning to feel more like a game, compared to it’s predecessor. Which reminds me, I must upload my review sometime soon.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is definitely far more expansive already. Which doesn’t say much. Especially when it’s still linear as hell, within the stages. You still follow winding paths – occasionally branching out to appear to solve that linearity problem, instead only to lead to the same place and have nothing exciting between. At least that’s the case so far. Still, I’ve already started some quests, which is good, and the battle system does feel more in depth before (y’know, given that I have the option to choose a more specific approach within the classes I’m given, albeit still very little). I just wonder what Square-Enix are smoking to have rewarded me with a 200% chance of obtaining rare drops and ordinary items, only to get absolutely no spoils. What the shit?

Anyway. I’m liking it so far. But then again, I did enjoy the cesspool of shit that was Final Fantasy XIII. At least I can admit to it though. And admit to just how god awful the “game” was.

Review: Dragon Didn’t Age Enough II

Dragon Age 2 box artIn continuing my “catch up” session, here is my Dragon Age II review.
Dragon Age II is a title that received controversy online. The original was well received, giving the players a modern experience with a traditional role-playing game. Hell, even I, who had very little experience with traditional RPG’s around the time I first touched Dragon Age: Origins, experienced an overwhelming sensation of nostalgia from playing. For many, the original drawed upon their nostalgia and gave an enjoyable play through this. The sequel, however, does not deliver this sentiment.
Publisher: EA
Release Date: 11th March 2011 (UK)
PEGI: 18+
Platform: PC, PlayStation 3 [Reviewed], Xbox 360

Dragon Age II follows Hawke, a refugee in the city of Kirkwall who is destined to be the Champion of Kirkwall. He escapes during the Fifth Blight, in Fereldan (the events of which conspire in Dragon Age: Origins), with his family into his mother’s birthplace. It is here that Hawke has a run with the Qunari and becomes an important figure in the ever ensuing fued between the Mages, whom are deemed too dangerous to let free, and the Templars, the knights who oppress the mages. The narrative itself focuses on a central theme of whether human rights should be sacrificed in order to maintain order.
The game is split into three acts seperated by key narrative events, with each act complimented by its own series of quests. The story being split into three acts, each seperated over the course of a number of years, allows the player to experience and involve themself in the change of Kirkwall under the ever-corrupting rule of the Templars, as well as discovering the consequences of earlier actions in previous years. As of such, players may also initiate quests which actually continue from a previous act, developing their own narrative and becoming a reasonably strong subplot which integrate with the central theme. These subplots delve deeper into the player’s sense of morality, resultingly making them question whether the ends is worth the means. I personally found myself siding with the rebel faction – the mages – more than I ever did the Templars, but there were a couple of tricky situations of which I struggled to pick a choice I felt was the right one as I played my character as a noble hero.
Being a role-playing game, you’d expect a lot of freedom to play the character you want to play. Unfortunately, this is when Dragon Age II becomes a shell of its former self. Whilst the previous title allowed you to choose from six origin stories, three classes and both genders of three races, Dragon Age II only allows you to choose both genders for three classes.  The origin is the same, and the story itself is generally the same regardless of the actions you make. Indeed, the only real impactful choice in the game comes at the end. Beyond that, the game pretty much plays the same both times. This results in the replayibility of the game being completely underwhelming in comparison to the previous outing. Despite this, I did find exploring the other perspectives interesting. It just wasn’t enough to keep my second playthrough fresh.
The combat system feels significantly different in comparison to the previous title, but less has been changed as may appear. The pace has been increased, with battles becoming much faster and have now taken on the pace of an action game such as God of War. Players attack enemies through button mashing, occasonally mixing in abilities for various effects. While this is more immersive than the previous, with the user feeling more involved in the battle, it doesn’t take very long for the experience to become very shallow. Ultimately, there is nothing really to gain from being more in control of battle. Instead of watching them fight, and making impactful decisions, you are mashing the attack key while trying to keep your eyes out for an opening for one of your abilities – and that’s if you ever use them.
I found the majority of battles that I participated in were over in a flash, with myself only ever really mashing attack. My abilities were usually left unused, as they were relatively unnecessary in the many skirmishes you will face. Even with the difficulty turned up, I found that I rarely had to bother with the exception of the higher class enemies. The strategy from the previous outing was lost in exchange for short and flashy battles. While I do admit that there is still the useful tactics system, and how you develop your character requires some level of thought, they didn’t seem to be as effective in the previous. When a new ability is obtained, the characters’ tactics slots are usually updated to include their new skill; meanwhile levelling up has been made more simpler, with each class having two attributes that they specialise in – leaving the others pretty redundant.
Essentially, the new battle system seems to open up a new level of control in battle. And yet, it doesn’t take this new system anywhere. It plays out much of the same as the initial title did, with the bonus of possibly suffering a sore thumb or finger by the end of your playthrough. What could have lead to more depth (maybe invoking a combo system where the effectiveness of an ability is altered based upon the actual ability and when in the combo it is used?) only leads to an experience that, in all honesty, just feels more shallow than the last outing – despite the fact that it does not take anything of substance away (albeit the pace does often make abilities redundant, but I would chalk that up to the change in enemy attributes over anything).
There are plenty of quests to partake, but they usually all amount to the same ‘go here, kill that’ formula. It’s great that they add more story to their quests, but the quests still need more variety in terms of actual gameplay.
One of the key improvements, however, is the level of role playing in regards to a linear story. Bioware have a great tale to tell with Dragon Age II, even if the conclusion can leave the player disatisfied. It’s obvious to me that the story was the focus of this game, with gameplay shunned to second place. Despite that, the role-playing mechanics are superb. The player’s character, Hawke, develops his personality based upon your interactions with other characters. If you make many jokes, then Hawke will become a more sarcastic and witty character, for example. Furthermore, there are still plenty of choices for him to make that cover both ends of the spectrum. It’s just a shame that they usually amount to little more than just an immediate effect, with little consequence beyond the present dialogue.
While the soundtrack was pretty well made, in my opinion, it quickly gets repetitive as a result of the sheer lackluster amount of locales to explore. The player often finds themselves revisiting the same handful of areas. The worst offender here are the interior maps – be it inside a cave or inside a building – there are about three or four of these maps total, and that’s more accurate than I wish to admit. Yet, considering the sheer number, quests almost always lead to visiting at least one of them, if not more. What results from this is nothing more than the repetitive formula quests becoming even more repetitive with their shared maps. It really doesn’t help that all of these maps are very plain, with the most interesting visuals being the background that I was left just wishing I could explore more of.
I can’t help but write negatively of Dragon Age II, despite it being a game I easly spent over one hundred hours of my life on. I personally found its repetitive nature strangely addicting. While the title doesn’t have much going for itself when you compare it to what the original was, don’t let it be said that Dragon Age II is an awful game. Far from it. It just becomes increasingly frustrating seeing the potential that the game has, and how it squanders it with what seems to be too little development time. And no wonder too. The game was released but a year and a half after the original. That’s shockingly short considering the genre, scale and content of the game, and what it had to live up to. There was no way that Bioware could have ever hoped to achieve anything slightly less of the game they were developing a sequel for, let alone surpass themselves.
To me, Dragon Age II is an example of a game that truly has so much going for it, and yet seemingly has little to show. It’s a great and fun game, with an immersive story and experience to play, but ultimately falls short of any expectations. In many regards, it feels incomplete with its lack of maps, underwhelming consequences from all those choices that you get to make, reducing number of quests as the game goes on, and the seemingly shallow combat. This game is an example of what happens to a game when developers try to make a title more accessible to the market. The title just feels more shallow, even if the substance found in previous titles remains. It is also an example of the terrible effects of a bad development cycle, with this game apparently getting too little time to be worked on – most likely a consequence of the older brother title, Mass Effect 3, being released later in the same year. A game of this magnitude should surely get at least two years of development time, otherwise the outcome is an unfinished and underwhelming game that leaves a disatisfying after-taste.
For what it’s worth, Dragon Age II was a title I love, but it does not really earn that love from me. It aims high but falls significantly short, as the game feels unfinished and rushed. There aren’t many people I would genuinely recommend it to over Dragon Age: Origins. In fact, there aren’t many I would recommend it to at all. If you like Dragon Age, I suggest you give it at least a rent, because it does have an interesting tale to be told, but you will be done with it after your first play-through. For anyone else: give this game a miss. It’s a real shame, too.
(Because people fret over scores so much, I have to give Dragon Age II a 6/10. This value means that the game is above average, but has nothing special going for it. In this case, it failed to live up to its predecessor, therefore it not only failed at its own potential, but at the potential of the game it was meant to be improving.)