Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gearbox Gifts Borderlands 2 Treats on Halloween

To celebrate Halloween, Gearbox is releasing SHIFT codes for Borderlands 2 characters. These codes gift players special spooky costumes for your character's customization. Codes will start rolling out at 10am CT from the @Gearbox twitter account and the Borderlands facebook page. Codes are valid until November 4th at 11:55pm CT.

Maya in her Halloween Costume

Halo 4 Devs Don't Tolerate XBL Sexism

Anyone who has played Xbox Live Multiplayer can easily tell you about all the times sexist remarks have been made to them personally, especially women. It's not a very friendly place most of the time, and these incidents seem to be on the rise over the last few years. Well, the Halo 4 developers at 343 Industries have something to say about that.

"It can be dangerous to give adolescents a broadcast mechanism," Kiki Wolfkill told GameSpot. "There are always going to be jerks out there, and if you give them a way to express that side of their personality without being seen, you're going to see this type of behaviour manifest itself."
A site I've been linked to by female players multiple times, Fat, Ugly or Slutty reveals many abusive messages they've received in the past. The site is more for amusement as these women are hardly off put by these remarks. Still, the situation does exist, and many feel they can be abusive.

"With Halo 4, we were very deliberate in thinking about who should be female and who should be male in the game," said Bonnie Ross, 343's studio head "and if we came off stereotypical, we went back to question what we were doing and why."
Bonnie also revealed that she feels her position at 343 has altered some stereotypes.

"Most people look at a franchise like Halo, and automatically assume it's run by a guy," she added. "People are surprised to learn that it's a woman who's running the Halo 4 show.
"When Microsoft created 343 Industries to take over Halo, I was given first choice to run the studio because I had proven myself. My gender played no part in it."
It's a little ironic then, that the main female character in the game is a nude AI with large breasts.

Man Arrested for Charging $9,000 in Virtual Currency to Employers Account

Addictions can be difficult to break, especially when dealing with gambling. It can cost you thousands of dollars in a very short amount of time. One man in China gambled he wouldn't get caught using company phones to fuel his other addiction: Video games.

Nicknamed "Xiao Zhu", this 23 year-old worked as a night guard for a company (unnamed). Zhu used a site called Tencent for his gaming habits. The site uses a form of currency known as Q coins, each coin costing 1 RMB (approx. $0.015) and can be charged over the phone. Zhu started using 1 or 2 phone lines in the office at any given time during his shift, but realizing he wasn't being caught, eventually used 40+ lines per night.

Over several months, the company wanted to figure out where the costs were coming from. These were not minor financial over sites that could be dismissed. Zhu had racked up a bill of over 60,000 Q coins (over $9,000). Figuring the cost was due to a corporate spy trying to undermine the company, they looked for patterns in the calls. Every one of them linked to Zhu's nighttime shifts, and it wasn't hard to put 2 and 2 together. Zhu is now in police custody. Hopefully the company can get their money back.

LEGO Lord of the Rings Hits Portables and Consoles

LEGO games have always taken a lighthearted approach to movie or comic based story lines, evident in the Star Wars/Batman games that became very popular over the last few years. This game is no different. Well, small difference. The game is modeled to look like toys based on a movie, based on a novel.

These games are more for the casual audience, but many hardcore games take a shine to them as well. Usually to give themselves a break and just chill out for a bit, but many decide to complete everything in the game, which can be a daunting task in and of itself. LEGO LOTR features over 85 unlockable characters.

The game has already hit Portable devices (Playstation Vita, Nintendo DS/3DS) on October 30th but the console versions (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC and Wii) will hit the US on November 13th and Europe on November 23rd. A ten day release delay is definitely odd, especially for a game like this. Hopefully European fans won't be too upset by it.

And now, just for a bit of fun:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

GTA V Set for Spring Release

Rockstar Games announced today that Grand Theft Auto V will be launching in Spring of 2013 for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

The game's setting will be a Southern California present-day city.
"The largest and most thriving game-world we have ever created set in the sprawling city of Los Santos and for miles beyond. From the tops of the mountains to the depths of the ocean." - Rockstar Games
Stores will begin opening for Pre-orders on November 5th. Fans should expect major game news in November as well.

Halo 4 Limited Editions Sold Out at Major Retailers

If you haven't pre-ordered a copy of Halo 4's Limited Edition, you're gonna have to wait a long time to get it. Every major retailer, from Gamestop to Walmart, has announced they have sold out of the LE's. This isn't unexpected since pre-orders reached well over a million copies for the game, meaning LE versions have been claimed eerywhere. In-store retailers just shake their head. Online pages deny the links. I'm just waiting to hear that a shipment was robbed from the distributors at this point.

It's understandable why the LE's are gone. The contents are just magnificent. 
  • The game disc in a steel facade case with a stenciled UNSC device on it
  • War Games Map Pack; nine maps that will be included in a future DLC
  • Instant access to all 8 Specializations
  • UNSC Infinity Briefing Packet including MJOLNIR armor schematics, weapon information and a layout of the indoctrination of the SPARTAN-IVs
  • The 90-minute extended edition of the ViDoc, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
  • Exclusive Assault Rifle Prime weapon skin
  • Bonus in-fiction content providing backstory on characters and stories in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
  • The Making of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
  • Special Featurette: Bringing Gaming to Reality
  • Spartan Prime Skin
  • Spartan Prime Emblem
  • Cryo-Chamber Avatar prop
  • Avatar Spartan Recruit Armor

If you really want this edition but don't want two copies of the game, wait about 1-2 weeks to pick it up and most retailers should have a few new copies of the LE version.

Halo 4 launches November 6th, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Assassin's Creed III Launches Tuesday, October 30th

Assassin's Creed has always been a game that attempts to immerse you into a historical setting. While the assassinations are contrived events, it is interesting to learn that the deaths of the characters in the series were accurate in the time and place. Buildings are modeled after the actual cities. Designers spent months mapping, visiting, and learning the cities layouts to make it as accurate as possible. This shows real dedication of the developers to engage the fans and also teach them a little bit about history. It's Edutainment!

Assassin's Creed III is no different to this genre, but the setting is. Rather than a continuation of the Middle East or European setting, the society emerges onto the scene in colonial day America. Players take control of Conner Kenway, a half Native American, Half English character. Raised by the Mohawk tribe after a childhood tragedy, Conner dedicates his life to fighting injustice and tyranny.

"On this land, I am torn. Part of me wants to fight and repel all outsiders. The other part of me is the outsider. In the name of liberty, I will fight the enemy regardless of their allegiance. While men of courage write history of this day, the future of our land depends on those who are truly free." - Conner Kenway (Ratonhnhaké:ton)
Ubisoft has spent roughly 3 years developing this game, and with early reviews reporting it is the best game in the series yet, the time appears well worth it. Months of testing have been expended to smooth out the gameplay to make it as appealing as possible. A lot of new mechanics were added into the gameplay as well.

Dual wielding is now a common action. Swing your tomahawk while pulling out a flintlock pistol to shoot another opponent dead. Or pull out your trusty bow and pierce their heart. Rope darts can be thrown and used to yank an enemy off a steep cliff, resulting in a satisfying crunch from below.

Movement freedom allows players to climb trees, scale mountains, slide under obstacles or leap over wagons. These actions can be combined allowing Conner to leap from a window to a tree, and then using that tree to climb onto a rooftop.

All of this takes place during 1753- 1783, including the frontier battles during the Revolutionary War. Conner will be alongside historical figures such as George Washington, helping to thin out the Redcoats from the colonies. All of this takes place over several years (similar to the previous AC titles), however, they have added seasonal changes as well. The frontier is open and warm during the summer, with high snow drifts in the winter, which can slow your character down. Fast raging rivers will freeze allowing further exploration.

Assassin's Creed III looks to be a huge hit this year, and most likely will dwarf the previous games. We'll find out just how good this new game is tomorrow.

Friday, October 26, 2012

G4 Closes Shop on X-Play, Attack of the Show

A channel well known for launching gaming into the forefront in television coverage, G4 announced today that they will be cancelling their long running programs "X-Play" & "Attack of the Show". Once known as the go-to place for reviews, previews and developer interviews, X-Play will be missed by tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of fans. Attack of the Show was a home for all of Geekdom. Sadly, those doors are closing as well.

G4 appears to be moving in a new direction as they are removing their video game and geek culture shows in favor of a more masculine "lifestyle" network. How this will effect G4's standings in the television world we will have to wait and see, but early reports from fans don't look good. The programs will finish out the year and will feature multiple guest star appearances, as well as rundowns of the shows best moments.

 G4 issued a statement about the decision:
G4's two longest-running and defining series, Attack of the Show! and X-Play, will be ending their run at the end of 2012. Both shows will include original episodes through the end of the year, and will look back at theirmost memorable moments as we lead up to their final episodes. A rotating lineup of guest co-hosts including John Barrowman, Michael Ian Black, Josh Myers, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel and Horatio Sanz will join AOTS hosts Candace Bailey and Sara Underwood, and X-Play hosts Morgan Webb and Blair Herter as part of the farewell shows.
With well over a thousand episodes each, Attack of the Show! and X-Play have defined gamer culture for a generation, serving as the launch pad for prominent personalities including Kevin Pereira, Olivia Munn, Chris Hardwick and Adam Sessler. Attack of the Show! debuted March 28, 2005 and from the start was the ultimate guide to everything cool and new in the world of technology, web culture, gaming and pop culture. X-Play made its debut almost two years earlier, on April 28, 2003 (on G4's previous incarnation: TechTV), and immediately became the go-to destination for young men seeking the latest video game news, honest reviews, hands-on demos and exclusive video game trailers and footage. The year-end celebration will take you back through highlights of these landmark shows' history, including its exclusive live-from-the-floor coverage of San Diego Comic-Con and E3.
Both long-running shows helped define, as well as expand, the pop culture and gaming TV experience for a generation. We hope you've had as much fun watching them as we have had making them, and sincerely hope you join us in bidding a fond farewell to Attack of the Show and X-Play's as we look back over the next two months and head towards each series' finale.

Farewell my late-night guilty pleasures. My DVR will be lonely without you.

Minecraft Halloween Skin Pack - Proceeds to Charity

Minecraft on the Xbox 360 gets a new Halloween skin pack today. 55 characters are in the pack including the Mummy, Frankenstein and the Wolfman. I bet Creepers won't even want to face your terrifying new persona (bet does not include money since this most likely will not happen). The best part though, is that all the proceeds go to charity. That's right, every penny spent goes to charities such as Child's Play, Block by Block and the Macmillan Cancer Support.

The skins are great, but the knowledge that it's all for charity is even better.

Makes 55 New Skins, Gives Money to Charity. Good Guy Notch

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Borderlands 2 Captain Scarlett And Her Pirate's Booty: DLC Review

Gearbox Software is well-known for it's DLC, especially with the Borderlands series. Borderlands 1 had several good add-ons, including The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned. Each is lengthy and well executed. Captain Scarlett is no exception.

Rather than following some games and just adding a little section to the map, this DLC adds an entire new part of the planet with it's own location network. Most of the side missions involve traveling from place to place or finding extremely trolling treasure chests, but these are reduced to a mere passing thought from the story mission.

Players are given a new location you can fast travel to called Oasis. It's not how you would think of a place named Oasis since it's a barren desert filled with gigantic skeletons of fish and sand skiffs that hover above the ground in order to travel. This doesn't subtract from the setting though, since it's populated heavily by pirates and sand worms. More than enough to keep your attention, especially once you get to the Cursed Pirates. I won't tell you much about the enemies in this DLC, but if you come across these pirates hit em hard and fast.

Once you do a few side missions in Oasis, you earn yourself a sand skiff, and the story begins. Your first task is to find Captain Scarlett. You need to travel to a new location so take that skiff out for a spin. Controls are awkward and it takes damage quite easily, so make sure you have a pilot who knows what they are doing. Scarlett's ship is a standard pirate ship, complete with a crow's nest and a plank to walk.

Scarlett tells you about a legendary treasure room located somewhere in the area, but you need to track down the pieces of a compass that points the way. Several missions later (ranging from tedious to why?), you have the compass and now must make your way to a lighthouse that will point the way. A very large creature guards the "X", named the Leviathan. Once you get past this boss, the legendary treasure is yours. Sort of. Credits roll right after you reach the room. Troll game is troll.

Still, it's a very fun DLC that provides around 5-6 hours of amusement. For $10 I'd say it's worth the price.

Want to be the First to Get a Wii U? Someone Beat You to it.

Some fans are extremely hyped for the new Wii U console that they are planning on waiting a week camped out. Would you wait two weeks? How about a month? One fan has already taken that spot.

Isaiah-Triforce Johnson is now camped out at the Nintendo World Store in midtown Manhattan. He already has the spot for the first person to buy the Wii and the 3DS, and now he wants to extend that record. He's a month out for that November 18th release date, but he doesn't seem too concerned. make sure that I'll be the 1st in the world to get the Nintendo Wii U, I'm starting the line a month in advance.

 God speed Isaiah. It's gonna be getting cold soon.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Halo 4 "Scanned" Trailer

For anyone who has read the Halo novels, this trailer brings that story to life. For those who haven't, here's a little synopsis.

Like all the Spartans, John (AKA "Master Chief") was chosen for the Spartan program based on certain genetic markers as well as psychological profiles done at the time of selection. They were young children, around 6 years old. Each child that was selected was replaced with a genetic clone that would die shortly after. What followed was years of training, making them the ultimate soldiers. Genetic manipulation was done several years later increasing strength, intelligence, size, speed and bone density. The MJOLNIR armor the Spartans received further increased those attributes. This 2 minute trailer shows the story in fast forward. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Halo 4 Pirates Go to the Gallows! Well, the Permanent Ban List Anyways

Halo 4 is due out in less than 3 weeks time. Not so long for a normal release, but for one as tempting as such a long awaited continuation of the story, Halo brings out the dark side in some. Pirated copies have been making their way across the net, and a fair amount of gamers have delved into the treasure. But like all treasure, this one is cursed.

Playing a pirated version of the game requires a modified console. That, in and of itself, is enough to warrant a ban if used online. Using it to play Halo 4 though, is a no holds barred permanent ban. That's right kids. Those members who are spoiling it for everyone else are seeing their profiles locked for the next 8,000 years (year 9,999 close enough).

Microsoft issued a statement saying,
"We are aware of isolated cases in which 'Halo 4' content has been propped on the web and are working closely with our security teams and law enforcement to address the situation immediately."
Be wary of youtube comments as well as videos.

"There are people putting the whole thing on YouTube," -Frank O'Connor, Halo franchise director at 343 Industries
343 wasn't finished there:

"We take vigorous action against illegal activity related to our products and services. Playing pirated copies of games, such as 'Halo 4,' is a violation of the Xbox Live Terms of Use and will result in enforcement action, such as account and console bans."

And as for those players who have been playing Halo 4 and haven't been caught yet, here's a preview of the message you will shortly receive:

"This email is to notify you that your Xbox Live privileges have been permanently suspended due to illegitimate prerelease title play," the email reads. "Because your conduct is in violation, the Xbox Live Enforcement Team has issued a permanent suspension ... Your Xbox Live privileges will not be reinstated."

Isn't being a Pirate fun boys and girls? I can't wait to see these bans brought up on the forums.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cliff Bleszinski Leaves Epic Games

Cliff Bleszinski, better known in he gaming world as "Cliffy B", is leaving his longtime position of Design Director at Epic Games. His time has come to "chart the next stage of his career."

Cliff started his gaming notoriety as a kid, clinching the top spot in Nintendo Power magazine on the Super Mario Bros. high score table. Taking a more hands-on approach, Cliff designed The Palace of Deceit: the Dragon's Plight in 1992, but his career started gaining speed when he joined Epic Games and created a tough as nails, machine gun shooting, green rabbit. Or to be more specific, Jackrabbit. Jazz Jackrabbit. His most famous games though, are the Unreal Tournament series and the Gears of War series.

An excerpt from his personal note to Epic
"I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager, and outside of my sabbatical last year, I have been going non-stop. I literally grew up in this business, as Mike likes to say. And now that I’m grown up, it’s time for a much needed break.
 I will miss the projects, the playtests, the debates, and most importantly, the people. Epic only hires the best of the best, and it has been a joy working with each and every one of you on a daily basis, whether you were hired weeks ago or decades ago. I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with a variety of disciplines, from code to art to marketing and PR – it’s been one big, rewarding learning experience. I’m confident that each project that is being built, whether at Epic, Chair, PCF, or Impossible will be top notch and will please gamers and critics alike."

Cliff was arguably the best face of any game company. He was charismatic, outgoing, energetic and overall just radiated pure awesomesauce. Epic Games is personally my favorite gaming company and I am saddened to hear he's leaving. But, eventually people have to move on. It is an inevitability, especially in the gaming world. People get burned out. They need time to form a fresh start. New ideas. New creations. Whatever your path Cliff, I know it will be as fantastic as everything you do.

Farewell Cliff. Don't forget to rev your saw every once in a while.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Halo 4 Avatar Armor for... Watching Presidential Debates?

The new Xbox 360 Election Hub keeps members informed about the Presidential election in the US. There will be a lot of traffic on this matter, because a large percentage of gamers are adults. To promote the new hub, Microsoft hopes the traffic may be larger with a little incentive.

Enter Halo 4 Avatar Armor. Avatar customizations being an incentive for certain purchases or participation is nothing new, but a potentially exclusive (and free) armor related to the biggest game of 2012? Definitely something to look at.
Microsoft offers this armor for viewing at least 30 minutes for any 3/4 debates. Debate dates and topics are Wednesday, October 6th (Domestic Policy / 9-10:30 pm EDT), Thursday, October 11th (Vice Presidential Foreign and domestic topics / 9-10:30 pm EDT), Tuesday, October 16th (Foreign and domestic issues / 9-10:30 pm EDT), and Monday, October 22th (Foreign policy / 9-10:30 pm EDT). Avatar Armor will unlock around November 1st, so watch and wear with pride.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Borderlands 2 Review

I never delved into the world of Pandora. I never faced the Destroyer. I never opened the first Vault. I barely had any interest in Borderlands 2 coming out. It honestly wasn't even a consideration for purchasing. My friends had all abandoned me to return to the story, as they all were addicted to the first game. So, since I no longer had anyone to play with, I figured I could burn $60 to have fun just playing with them, even if I didn't enjoy the game. Boy was I mistaken.

Borderlands 2 starts off with a bang. Literally. The train you're on explodes sending you into a frozen wasteland. There you meet the best character in the game. Claptrap, the robotic wonder. The most hilarious and random NPC I've ever seen. He has a misguided idea that you are his minion and he is your master, and pretty much he's right. He sends you fight a gigantic Bullymong named Knuckle Dragger and get his eye back. I'll end the story here so I don't spoil it for people who aren't far along.

The gameplay is fantastic. Finding weapons and mods drives you to search every chest you can find and tackle the largest enemies you can conquer. The items you find through the progression of the game are leveled towards your characters, which is helpful as the enemies get tougher with each new area discovered. Weapons are also hidden in places you wouldn't expect. For instance, in Moxxi's bar there is a tip jar. There is an achievement/trophy for putting in $10k. If you keep going though, she hands out a weapon, Miss Moxxi's Bad Touch. It's a corrosive weapon and is leveled based on storyline progression. If you keep going even further, you get Miss Moxxi's Good Touch. It's an incendiary weapon, and is also leveled through story progression. The bonus to Miss Moxxi's Good Touch is amusing if you have the vibration setting for your controller turned on.

There are some useful features of the game, including Second Wind, which revives you if you can kill an enemy while you bleed out. Vehicles are also in play. Driving is fun but the controls are a little sensitive, so you can be screaming down the dusty road and suddenly find yourself airborne in a 90 degree turn from where you just were. The controls for weapons, abilities and pickups are all smooth and precise. The one downside to picking items up, is certain objects can take priority based on proximity rather than direct visual cues. The stats that pop-up can be useful to view which weapons are desirable if you are low on space, but they also block viewing anything else on the ground. The poorest function in the game is the mini-map. The accuracy of it is minimal when dealing with barriers or pits. Driving is exceptionally frustrating trying to gauge the paths. It really could have been done better.

Character skills can be vast, or they can be very specific. Each character's specialties can force you to play the game differently. Currently I am playing as the Commando. His turret is powerful and a particularly effective ally on the battlefield. Other players will enjoy the stealth of the Assassin's sniper, or the devastating sword when up close and personal. Maybe you would enjoy the brute force of the Gunzerker, whose ability whips two guns out to deal extreme damage and who never seems to run out of ammo. Or perhaps you would prefer the Siren. One of only 6 Sirens who can exist in the universe at any given time, Maya has a few abilities up her sleeve. Phaselocking opponents in a stasis bubble allows for uninterrupted fire. Or maybe brainwashing thugs to fight their own buddies. Whichever character you pick, the results speak for themselves.

The best part about this game is the 4 player co-op feature. Battling it out with your buds is some of the most fun I've ever had in a video game. The opportunity to troll is just as much fun as the bond your characters make. A rounded out team with everyone using a separate character is the best strategy, as you get all the uniqueness tossed onto the field. Watch out though. With 4 friends all bunched up together, the loot will rarely be divided evenly. As someone told me, the #1 rule of Borderlands is "YOU SHOOT, I LOOT!"

Wait, I changed my mind. The best thing is not the co-op. It's the gambling. I feel I need to warn you about  the slots. You gain a lot of money traveling Pandora, and the stores never have what you want or need, so the best use for it is the slots. You would be surprised how fast $50,000 will disappear. Winning guns only to sell them to fuel your addiction is commonplace in this game. The pull is just too strong. You can win some pretty good weapons, leveled to your character once the story moves forward. 3 cherries and you've got yourself a green weapon (4th rarest), 3 ladies legs will net you a blue weapon (3rd rarest), 3 Marcus faces will get you a purple (2nd rarest), and 3 Vault symbols will toss you an orange weapon (rarest) with insanely high stats for the time being. Be careful though. Rolling 3 bandits will have you ducking for cover as a grenade comes flying out of the machine.

There are always bigger, badder and more badass weapons to find, so searching for them can be as addictive as the slots. But that's what keeps this game this game interesting. Well, that and finding a few surprises along the way.

Smooth gameplay
Lack of glitches

Bad mini-map
Weapon pickup displays overwhelming other pickups
Not enough Claptrap

Final Score: 9.5/10 (extra points taken away for not enough Claptrap)

Halo 4 Multiplayer Will Include Mechs

A staple of Halo's multiplayer has always been vehicles. They gain you an advantage (unless you have a bad driver, in which case you just lost 2 lives), and are on every large map. Sometimes they are on small maps in the form of mongoose and ghosts. 343 has now kicked it up a notch.

Halo 4 introduces the Mantis Mech.A single Spartan controlled battle suit that comes with a machine gun, rockets, and a nasty stomp ability to crush cars and flatten enemies. This is not to say this new addition is invincible. Players can still board and remove enemy combatants as well as shut it down using a charged plasma pistol shot. Mechs will definitely change the gameplay, but I think for the better. You can see a gameplay trailer for the Mantis as well as Ragnarok, the Halo 4 remake of Valhalla, below.

Halo 4 is coming ever closer and launches November 6th, 2012.