Friday, November 30, 2012

Editorial: Why Console Exclusives Must Change

Every system has exclusive titles, whether it's Halo, Little Big Planet, or Mario. Companies bid each other out for new titles, series continuations, and future downloadable content. They do this to increase the sales of their products. To increase the profits for IP's they own. And while this can mean quite a turn in console sales, it also hurts the industry.

Console exclusives don't just create revenue. They also create friction between players, often leading to forum-based console wars. There are many hardcore PlayStation gamers that would love to see the Halo series or Gears of War come to the PS4 (because let's face it, there's no way this will change with the current systems), or Xbox Gamers to enjoy Ratchet and Clank or the newer game The Last Guardian. What makes the exclusive so much better than a cross platform game? Multiple platforms may mean a bit more development time, but wouldn't the revenue on the game be bigger?

Of course, developers have to consider the loss of an exclusive rights bonus. These bonuses can sometimes make or break a title, or even a company. What if the game is a flop? Then the console developer takes a bath, not us. These are the voices inside the heads of every company out there. Fear of shutting down is high, even when the economy is booming, which is most definitely not the case right now. Most companies don't last more than a single title. Maybe they get out two if they're lucky. Most get bought out and brought into the fold of larger companies as they expand.

Players are another hurdle to tackle. The console wars have been around for a generation. Literally. I was raised with multiple consoles out there and now I have children who are gaming. Fans have their choices when it comes to consoles, whether it be controls, technical aspects, and especially, exclusive content. There are many players who do not want to lose the exclusive aspect of their consoles, which they use to increase their standing in the Internet forum wars. They argue everything from arcade titles to online memberships. Sony fans bring out the "Free" artillery while Microsoft fans target their bombs on Sony's "lack of security" that they feel their memberships pay for. Both stances are correct, but neither side wants to admit it. Even gamers who own all consoles, PlayStation, Xbox & Wii (and recently the Wii U), have their favorites. It's impossible not to. The differences is what attracts us as well as drive us apart.

But we've also seen titles that pull us together. Cross platform games, like the Call of Duty series, always outsell exclusive titles, and that's the reason why. They are accessible. Here's some rundowns of popular titles and the numbers they've gotten over the years:
  • Halo series (Xbox 360). 4 titles, 5 years, 31.54 million units.
  • Gears of War series (Xbox 360). 6 years, 3 titles, 18.16 million units.
  • COD (Xbox 360). 5 years, 5 titles, 66.69 million units
  • COD (PS3). 5 years, 5 titles, 35.01 million units
  • ACIII (Xbox 360). 4 weeks, 1 title, 2.29 million units
  • ACIII (PS3). 4 weeks, 1 title, 2.37 million units
You can see that Xbox dominates in the numbers with 118.68 million units between  those 4 series. However, it also adds 37.38 million units to the total on just 2 games. That's over 37 million units that would never have sold. That is a huge impact. Imagine what the Halo or Gears series would have sold if they had been cross platform. As big of a lead that Xbox has over Playstation, what would the numbers for a PS exclusive like God of War have looked like? Skyrim would have lost well over 6 million units if it had been restricted to Xbox instead of allowing PS3 and PC.

Console developers don't like it because it evens out the sales, rather than increasing them to their side. Gamers have never liked restrictions. We play in worlds that push the boundaries of morality, mortality, physics. Even time itself is not an obstacle to us.

Exclusives have always left a bad taste in our mouths. Whether it's pre-order exclusives, DLC exclusives, or console exclusives, gamers are on the edge of revolt. And with next-gen consoles due to launch within the next year, companies are already snapping up exclusives. The future of gaming is going to be about merging the bases, not separating them further. Collaboration is how work gets done. Just think, if companies pooled their resources, how long would it take to hit virtual reality gaming? Just something to think about.

MoreConsole: Big Scary Laser Halo 4 Easter Egg

Man does MoreConsole love his Easter Eggs. This time he's got one for the Spartan Laser. Warning labels are fun. Imma Firin' mah Lazor!!!

Borderlands 2 Golden Key Drops This Weekend (11/30-12/1)

These are American dates, so reverse the numbers for overseas. Anyways, Gearbox is doing some more Golden Key drops. Unlike the usual random twitter drops, these will be scheduled and will be active for 3 hours at a time. Check here for listings or simply read below:
  • Friday, November 30 - Post at 6PM CT, Active until 9PM CT
  • Friday, November 30 - Post at 11PM CT, Active until 2AM CT
  • Saturday, December 1 - Post at 5AM CT, Active until 8AM CT
  • Saturday, December 1 - Post at 11AM CT, Active until 2PM CT
  • Saturday, December 1 - Post at 3PM CT, Active until 6PM CT
Central Time is GMT -6 hours

Halo 4 Spartan Ops Episode 5 Trailer

Man is this story getting good. Enjoy:

Source Says Microsoft Will Release Xbox 720 for Holiday 2013

While Microsoft has yet to comment, unnamed sources have pegged the Xbox 720 release in time for the holiday shopping season in 2013. This information has been mirrored by many gaming sites and players, as it makes the most sense in both time period in year and month. The current generation of consoles have hit a wall, and they cannot be pushed any further with the hardware we have now. A new system is due, and we should hear about it soon.

That "soon" might not be E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo). The source says that Microsoft is debating whether an E3 announcement or a separate venue geared solely towards the Xbox 720 would be more appropriate to build hype for the new console.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gearz and Beers Gaming T's

If you are a fan of Gears of War, or a fan of beer, these shirts may just be what you are looking for. Gearz and Beers is a community based around the love of guns with chainsaws on them, mixed with a nice large brew of the good stuff. One of the best things though, is their t-shirts. I know what you're thinking. "It's a t-shirt. Dafuq is so great about a t-shirt?" I can tell you. I own dozens of t-shirts from every manufacturer that sells them in my size (and a few that aren't in my size), and these shirts are probably the most comfortable I've ever worn. They don't shrink in the wash and they stay soft even if you don't use fabric softener (Man do I sound like such a pansy right now, damn). Anyways, enough of the reasons why, let's move on to the gallery. By the way, did I mention there were models?

Liquid T-Shirts

Crom T-Shirts

Onyx T-Shirts

Fall Selection (these are guys. above links have the ladies)

Full Details on Halo 4's First DLC Pack

With December 10th just around the corner, full details about the first DLC pack "Crimson" have been posted. Taken directly from Major Nelson's blog, the first three maps are:
  • Wreckage: Wreckage is the manifestation of the chaos of war. A medium-sized, asymmetrical map great for accommodating a wide range of objective-based game modes including King of the Hill and Capture the Flag, it is a ravaged environment of crashed debris, where the surrounding destruction creates complex paths perfect for throwing off your opponents, or testing the limits of your Warthog. This devastated landscape provides plenty of cover, and tons of nooks and crannies are at your disposal while fighting for your turn to become King. Wreckage supports up to 16 players in Infinity Slayer and up to 12 players in a variety of other modes, including Capture the Flag, King of the Hill and Oddball.
  • Harvest: Harvest is a canon concept brought to life – the doomed agricultural planet where humans first made contact with the Covenant. A small to mid-size map, Harvest is ideal for Capture the Flag. Here, you’ll need to get creative to effectively use light vehicles which are limited to the exterior pathways and can’t get into the bases, making this map perfect for infantry firefights and face-to-face skirmishes. Snipers will also feel right at home; long sightlines are broken up by great cover and hiding spots. Harvest allows up to 12 players to face off in Capture the Flag, Infinity Slayer, King of the Hill, SWAT and Slayer Pro.
  • Shatter:  Shatter is themed around natural crystalline surfaces and the huge UNSC factories mining them. This large, symmetrical map is a playground for the Warthog and Mantis – its open pathways make it easy to get around, whether on foot or in vehicles. Shatter is a great fit for Dominion and the new game type Extraction. For some close-quarters face-time, escape the open landscape and duck into a mining facility, or slip through a doorway and hunt unsuspecting Spartans. This map has variety for different types of players. Shatter enables multiplayer mayhem for up to 16 players in Infinity Slayer and up to 12 players in other modes, such as Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, Dominion and Extraction.
We also get a rundown of the newest gametype for Halo 4, Extraction:

  • Extraction: Extraction is a 5 vs. 5 objective-based game type where opposing Spartan teams are tasked with extracting assets from various sites around the map. Once a team has found a site and is in position, they must plant their beacon and protect it from the opposing team while the extraction process occurs. If the defending team remains in control of the beacon, they receive one point, however if the opposing team overtakes the site before extraction is complete, the point goes to them. Once a site has been extracted, a new site becomes available. The first team to extract five points wins.
The map pack will cost 800 MSP or free if you own the War Games pass included in each LE version of the game. You can also purchase this pass for $25.00

Microsoft Vancouver Takes on a New Name and a New Project

Microsoft Vancouver has experienced a few shakeups this past year, with news of employee lay-offs, and rumors of the studio closing. The rumors were unfounded and were mainly caused by the completion of a PC Simulator and a children's TV interactive Kinect program. Microsoft confirmed the studio would remain open for the time being.

The Canadian based studio has now been given a fresh coat of paint along with it's new name, Black Tusk Studios. Rumors still abound about the studio, with possible claims that the secretive "XBox Surface", a 7" Tablet geared towards gaming, is being developed here. The studio also may be attempting a massive game series that could rival Microsoft's biggest IP, Halo. Here is a statement from the company's "About" page:

“Black Tusk is able to leverage resources, technology, and experience from other first-party studios such as 343 Industries (Halo 4), Turn 10 Studios (Forza Motorsport), Rare Ltd., Lionhead Studios (Fable), Good Science Studio, and Twisted Pixel Games.“

In an interview with The Vancouver Sun, Mike Crump (Black Tusk Studio Manager) had this to say about the direction they are taking:

“We are working on Microsoft’s next big entertainment franchise,” Crump said. “We’re not working on an existing franchise, we’re looking to build the next Halo here in Vancouver, for example, which is really exciting. We are building something from the ground up.”

Could this be the birth of a huge new Xbox IP?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bungie Reveals It's "Destiny"

Bungie has been very secretive about it's new title Destiny ever since it was accidentally revealed during the Activision legal battle. Rumors abounded for a long time, while true info was locked down tight. Now, details on the newest Bungie series have been brought to light, due to a leak from IGN. A description of the game's story was also revealed:
"Our story begins seven hundred years from now in the Last City on Earth, in a Solar System littered with the ruins of man's Golden Age. A massive, mysterious alien ship hangs overhead like a second Moon. No one knows where it came from or what it's here for, but only that it's our protector. Meanwhile, strange, alien monsters creep in from the edge of the universe, determined to take Earth and the Last City. We are young ‘knights' tasked with defending the remains of humanity, discovering the source of these monsters and — eventually — overcoming it."
Bungie confirmed this information and revealed an official piece of concept art (above) on their site saying:
"Go ahead. Take a peek. It's alright. We weren't quite ready, but we will be soon, and we can't wait to finally show you what we've really been up to."
Destiny is due to hit next year for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, with reported future titles to be released on the next-gen systems. Bungie has made incredible titles in the past, so they have much to live up to. The story seems solid, and with it being described as "fun and accessible by all" and "social at it's core" it sounds like it may have a laid back multiplayer aspect to it. With the massive universe Bungie created for the Halo series, let's hope we get to explore a new universe when we embrace Destiny.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bioshock Infinite Will Not Have Multiplayer

Bioshock is creepy. It's disturbing. And it's fun as hell. But where the other titles were in the deep, dark ocean, Bioshock Infinite brings the setting out of the dark and into the light. Floating in a city of the clouds with the beautiful views, the game still keeps it's predecessors' depressing atmosphere. However, with new additions comes subtractions as well.

Confirmed by Ken Levine, Bioshock Infinite will not feature multiplayer. This seems like a step backward, but anyone who played Bioshock 2's multiplayer will understand why it was done. Massive imbalance, horrendous lag, extremely low numbers and poor map design all led to the multiplayer being mainly a novelty act. It was poorly executed and really emphasized why Bioshock is meant to be a single player game.

It doesn't hurt my opinion of the game in the slightest and I really look forward to exploring the newest setting in the Bioshock universe.

I Shall Call Him.... Mini Wii (Updated)

I shall call him... Mini Wii

December 7th marks the newest Nintendo Console to date. I know what you're thinking, "isn't the Wii U the newest console? We just bought it a week and a half ago and already they have a new console out?" Well, technically that's the case. However, the newest console is really the last console, just in a smaller package.

The Wii Mini is more than likely a gimmick to increase Wii sales this Christmas season. With the Wii U out, people are obviously going to shy away from the traditional looking Wii for the newer version. However, if they can add a change to the current look, it may just reel some fans into buying the mini, or even fans with a current Wii into purchasing a second one.They've really pimped it out with the red and black color scheme. Downsides include no online connectivity or ability to play Gamecube games. While they couldn't have predicted it exactly, the fact that the Wii U has flown off the shelves and is sold out everywhere, this new version may just save their bacon when it comes to their kids' wishlist.

Update: According to one retailer, the price for the Wii Mini is $99.

Update 2: Wii Mini is exclusive to Canada.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wii U Hits 400,000 Units Sold

Hey kids! Remember when you asked your parents for a Wii U this Christmas? I'm betting they wish you hadn't. The Wii U has hit a whopping 400,000 units since it launched 1 week ago. Unfortunately that means retailers are sold out everywhere. It's this year's Tickle Me Elmo! Stores are trying to work with Nintendo to restock them as quickly as possible, but the shelves go bare as soon as they arrive. If you haven't grabbed one yet, chances are you won't be seeing one underneath the tree. If you replace the popular fictional toy from this movie with a Wii U, it's going to be very similar through the rest of the year. Apologies for the bad quality.

Halo 4 Spartan Ops Episode 4 Launches Today

Spartan Ops is starting to grow on me, mainly because of the story. The cinematics are superb and the story keeps me on the edge of my seat. The gameplay is still a bit mediocre unfortunately. This newest episode doesn't promise a change from that formula, but if it's anything like Episode 3's missions on Ragnarok, I may have to eat my words. For any that didn't play it, lots of enemies, lots more enemies, even more enemies, then push button. Cue more enemies, drop pods everywhere, more enemies, and then you get Mechs to fight off a few dozen banshees. Intense, lots of dying and downright hilarious with friends.

Grab it today and get down with some friends.

Possible Halo 4 Map Pack Release Dates

For those of you who bought the LE, this information will get you excited. For those who did not, this information will get you excited and running to buy MSP. We might have the release dates of the Halo 4 map packs. Now, this came from a German Xbox Dashboard ad, so until 343i confirms, this could be an error.

First up is the Crimson Map Pack. It figures since they only say "Crimson" 100 times each Spartan Ops mission. The maps are Wreckage, Harvest, Shatter and will launch December 10th. These will be greatly welcomed since there are only a few good maps in each gametype, and those are getting a bit stale.

Majestic is the next Map Pack. These maps, Landfall, Monolith, and Skyline, look great in the concept art. The launch date for this pack is February 25th.

And finally we get to the end of the Maps. The Castle Map Pack brings Daybreak, Outcast, and Perdition to the group. Expect this one on April 1st. Let's hope this is all real and not some sick, twisted, 5 month head start on an April Fool's joke.

These maps all look fantastic and hopefully 343i confirms this list soon.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Spartan Ops Episode 4 Trailer

The newest trailer for the Spartan Ops missions in Halo 4 has been released. The newest mission is titled "Diadact's Hand". Enjoy

MoreConsole Breaks Down the Halo 4 Wetwork Specialization

MoreConsole has done a LOT of Halo news. He's one of the first ones I look at for fun videos, obscure news and game breakdowns. He's back this time to show you what the Wetwork specialization is all about.

He's always got some good articles on his site, so make sure you check it out!

Christmas Season XBL Arcade Titles to Buy

If you've got Microsoft points to burn, there are titles on the marketplace you don't want to miss. Some are old school but just as fun as they were 20 years ago. Others are part of the newer Indie games, and have great graphics. Either way, storylines are usually lacking. That doesn't take away from the games though. These games are usually meant to be a a few hours of fun, for a much cheaper price than a full title. They are not in order of best to worst, it's just how I put them on my list. Here are my Top Picks for this season.

1) Shadow Complex - Chair Games (1200 MSP)

A good old-fashioned side scroller, this game offers high tech weaponry and some very devious corridors. You will find yourself going through the same part of the map over and over trying to find hidden power-ups, not to mention sometimes just getting lost. The story is a little bland. Girlfriend gets kidnapped by fanatical terrorists bent on taking over the United States by destroying whole cities. They have advanced weaponry including prototype super suits that increase strength and speed as well as containing multiple built-in guns. Rocket launchers? Yes please.

It's a good game and a lot of fun. Completing it is a colossal pain though, since you have to get 100% of the items in one playthrough. It's very troll because if you get to the end boss, you can't turn around and leave the area. All in all this game is definitely one of the best Arcade title out there.

2) Limbo - Playdead (1200 MSP)

There is only one way to describe this game. Extremely morbid. I've played some pretty gruesome games before, but this one may take the cake. Death, dismemberment, and overwhelming odds make this game both intriguing and miserable. Let me warn you now. You will die. A lot. There is no escaping it.

The story is basic. Your sister is lost and you have to travel Limbo to find her. You will have to use your wits to solve puzzles that make you want to just hang yourself and get it over with. I admit, I actually had to use Google to get past one extremely problematic area, and it's a good thing I did. I never would have figured it out. It's definitely a fun game, but it's very dark, both in color scheme which is black and white with many parts of the world where the camera is unfocused, and the tone which requires you to avoid death and sometimes kill others. If you want a puzzle platformer that involves lots of dying, this is the game for you.

3) Minecraft - 4J Studios/Mojang (1600 MSP)

The most ridiculous time consuming game in the world, it beats both the Sims and The Elder Scrolls. You can spend hundreds of hours doing nothing but mining the world before you even consider building anything. Minecraft is essentially Mine items and Craft structures (obviously). The game is better played against monsters, since you are under time constraints to build your house before nightfall. A temporary house is useful and will protect you through the night. Make sure you have torches. Monsters can come through the wall if you don't.

If freedom to create is your style, there is now a creative mode, where you are given unlimited blocks and the ability to fly. The game is addictive and you will spend hours where you might be doing absolutely nothing except random digging to find natural caves. This game is well worth the money and will keep you entertained for months. Just remember the first two rules of Minecraft. 1) Never dig straight down. 2) Never dig straight up. Falling in lava or being buried in blocks ain't exactly a picnic.

4) Braid - Number None, Inc. (800 MSP)

Braid is essentially an upgraded Irish version of Super Mario Brothers. You side scroll through different areas, jump on top of round goombas (which give you a jump boost), collect puzzle pieces in lieu of coins, and there's even a nice Dinosaur that tells you the Princess is in another castle. You know what Dinosaur, I'm gonna give you a name. How does "Toad" sound?

The greatest part about this game is it doesn't use a life system. Instead, when you die, you reverse time to the point before you die, or even further back than that. It's also handy if you miss a jump, since you can rewind again and again. The music is good and the graphics are pretty decent. I'd definitely give this a go, or at least give the trial a run through to see if you like it.

5) Orcs Must Die - Robot Entertainment (1200 MSP)

Orcs have overrun the, well I'm unsure what they've overrun. The story isn't exactly clear. You are a novice War Mage who never paid attention to his training. You're more of a rock star than someone who deals in sorcery. This doesn't mean you are weak, since you have a large amount of spells and weapons you have at your disposal, as well as dozens of traps and sentries you can build and hire.

The first few levels are a straight away corridor setting. Stop them from getting to the portal (I think it's a portal. It's a big glowing magical crystal or something) by any means necessary. The next levels have multiple paths and require you to run back and forth shooting and looting health and magic potions. The enemies get bigger and more difficult as time goes on. Headshots are your friend so make sure you practice with your crossbow since it will be your main weapon through most of the game. If you have time to kill while you are waiting for friends to play with, this game is an excellent way to spend it.

6) Doom - id Software (400 MSP)

This game is a classic from the old PC days. I first played it as a very young child and it was actually a very scary game. The graphics at that time were great. Nowadays they suck, but this game feels more like a nostalgia title more than anything. But what a game it is.

You have to face off against the armies of Hell, including your own marines who have become undead slaves. Creepy fireball throwing monsters are also in abundance and they pop out of hidden panels all the time. Giant pig-headed creatures also have infested the base, and while these are easy to take down, they have invisible versions as well. They are easy to see if you know what you're looking for, but they also can hit you from behind doing a large amount of damage. If you like nostalgia, this is a great game.

7) Duke Nukem 3D -3D Realms (800 MSP)

Ah the infamous Duke. This guy has been a staple of video game history for years. While the recent "Duke Nukem Forever" was not a huge success, this older title is still a great game. I missed the PC version, but I played the N64 version almost every day after school. The enemies, the weapons, the strip clubs... All of these were a great experience (although the strip clubs left a lot to be desired if you know what I mean).

Pipe bombs, freeze guns, shrink rays, jetpacks. Duke has em all. The rewindable death system is a nice touch and doesn't make it seem like you wasted the last twenty minutes of your life. Clip recording and sharing is a great new feature, but the biggest addition is the XBL multiplayer. Whether it's co-op or DukeMatch, this game is more fun with friends. It's a steal at only 800 MSP, and still enjoyable 15 years later.

8) Wolfenstein 3D - id Software (400 MSP)

Another PC classic, this game lets you beat up and destroy Nazis. You wont find Nazi Zombies, so I apologize for some of you COD fans. This game practically launched the FPS genre, and for good reason. It's still a great game even as old as it is. As a super agent, you must escape Castle Wolfenstein after learning Nazi secrets. They aren't gonna let you just walk out the door, so killing it is.

You can find special weapons, health packs, and treasure in hidden areas, usually a panel in the wall, or behind large posters. These also may provide shortcuts, bypassing troops and popping out behind enemies for an easy kill. The game's graphics are about what you would figure for something this old, but they really don't matter when it comes to enjoyment. If you have 400 MSP, it's a great pick-up.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Christmas Holiday Guide - Best Games to Buy

It's getting to be that time of year again. Christmas trees. Wrapping paper. Long lines of angry shoppers and massive amounts of credit card debt. It's the Christmas season! And with the Christmas season comes lots of video game purchases. Usually as a gift for ourselves after a long year of suffering through agonizing days at work, family trouble, bills, and the rest of the usual every day routine. Let's face it, we deserve a nice AAA title to give us some relaxation. Here's my Top Games to buy this year.

1) Halo 4 - 343i (Xbox 360)

This game is one of the best to have ever launched on the Xbox. The story is thrilling and continues one of the best video game stories of all time. Action, lore and love are brought into the forefront of the best cut-scenes in video game history. This doesn't mean it's a sappy romantic game. It's filled with guns, guns, more guns, blood, death, bigger guns, spaceship guns, and a few tender moments between the main characters. If you don't understand why the tender moments are so important, go buy Halo: CE, Halo 2 and Halo 3. Play them first. The graphics blow other titles out of the water and the gameplay mechanics are smooth. 343i took over the reins from Bungie and have done nothing but great things for this series.

Multiplayer has been improved and balanced beyond recognition from the previous titles. It is a fast paced, crazy mess of fun. The weapons are equal to each other, providing much more competition and skill to be used. There are some downsides to the game however. One glitch relating to the Boltshot pistol is gamebreaking and the small amount of maps at launch was disappointing. Spartan Ops, which was promoted as being a campaign continuance, is merely a shoot this, move to the next room, touch a button and shoot some more. The Story Cut-scenes you get at the beginning are great, and the plot seems rather good, but the gameplay is dull and monotonous.

All in all, this is one of the best games you will experience this year.

2) Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - Treyarch (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U)

The highly anticipated sequel of Black Ops (2010), and the ninth installment in the COD franchise, this game spans two timelines. The first in 1980, the second in 2025. 1980 takes you down the path of Alex Mason, fighting a proxy war in "Angola". Time period weapons are utilized for this part of the campaign and leads you to some interesting plot points, including chronicling the rise of Raul Menendez, the main antagonist of the war in 2025. In 2025, you play as David Mason, Alex Mason's son. The Chinese Economy is crippled by a cyberattack, leading to a financial meltdown. China then bans the exports of rare earth elements which inevitably sparks a second Cold War, this time between the United States and the People's Republic of China.

The multiplayer takes place in 2025 and has been changed to a 10-point system rather than the old create-a-class idea. You start with 10 points to use on weapons, attachments, and perks, each costing 1 point. You can also choose up to 3 'Wildcards' to more perks, weapon attachments, or higher damage grenades. These cost extra points however, so make sure you evaluate your character thoroughly.

If you liked previous COD titles, you will definitely enjoy this one.

3) Skyrim - Bethesda (Xbox 360, PC, PS3)

Dragons have invaded the world of Tamriel. Swords and spells have always been a part of The Elder Scrolls series and this time they take the medieval Knight lore to the next level. Facing off against dragons armed with your sword and shield is a lot of fun, but terrifying as well. The story has you searching the realm of Skyrim to understand why the dragons have begun returning from the dead, and the task is yours alone as you are Dragonborn. The blood of dragons runs through your veins. There are many side-quests to complete, adding to the power your character can wield. There are a few glitches, as any open world games have them, and at times the NPC's can be really stupid. I mean abnormally stupid. "Oh I thought I heard something and then I took an arrow to the face, but I guess it was nothing after all." That kind of stupid.

All in all, it's a successful game with a great backstory and a very fluid combat system. The way you can build your character allows far more fluidity than simple pick and choose skill majors. I think fans of any hack n' slash game mixed with sorcery and arrows will love this game.

4) Borderlands 2 - Gearbox Software (Xbox 360, PC, PS3)

To sum this game up in 4 words, it's best with friends. Borderlands 2 is a huge leap forward from the first. Imagine playing your favorite game, loving every bit of it, and then the sequel comes out and totally changes everything. You hate it right? What if they kept all the good stuff and made everything more awesome instead? That's Borderlands 2. My God is this game insane. The amount of guns in this game cannot even be counted. The Easter eggs appear to have no limits. The co-op aspect is one of the best features in this game and also probably executed the best for this medium. Enemies abound and they vary in type and shape. Most of the storyline can be handled by a lone Vault hunter, but for bigger badasses you need a full team of level 50 characters to stay alive. Hilarity ensues in this game with character quotes sometimes making you cry from laughing so hard, and trolling your friends by snatching up that bit of loot they worked so hard for is just too funny.

That's not to say the game is perfect. The mini-map throws you the wrong way more often than not, and it doesn't update until you are right at the point you are driving on. So that awesome jump you just found turns out to be a cliff and there goes your purple hot rod. Weapon pickups are annoying, since anything and everything requires a huge screen above it. If you want one item you need to pick up all 5 around it.

Overall the game is great and if you want a fun game that lasts a while and will keep you and your friends excited the whole time, get Borderlands 2.

5) Assassin's Creed III - Ubisoft (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC)

Ubisoft has proven time and time again that their attention to historical detail is unmatched in the video game world. Developers have spent months visiting sites in Europe to make the Assassin's Creed series as accurate as possible, even getting the assassinated targets place and time of death correct. They follow up the long running series with a move to the States.

Take the place of a Native American/English man as he steps into the shoes of his Assassin heritage. Fight Redcoats and countrymen alike as you further your goal of eliminating the Templar from history. The mechanics are very sharp, even compared to the progression the past games have had, and the combat has been tweaked to allow for many more options and abilities. I can't really get into the story aspect without spoiling a lot of the campaign, especially if you're an American History buff. Let's just say George didn't win by luck alone.

6) Dishonored - Arkane Studios (Xbox 360, PC, PS3)

What do you get when you mix stealth, magic and steam punk? Dishonored stretches the conventional idea of an RPG game. You take the role of Corvo Attano, a royal bodyguard turned assassin. Corvo's only goal now is to find those who framed him for a murder he didn't commit, and commit some murders of his own for revenge. Each individual mission can be changed by exploring the environment, previous violent/non-violent choices, which also reflect on the storyline as well.

Magic becomes a part of your arsenal and can be combined with your equipment to make you a master of death. See through walls, possess another being, turn your dead victims to ash to eliminate evidence... All of these powers are at your beck and call, and even more powerful ones can be earned, such as distorting time itself. The AI in this game is not quite as ridiculous as players have seen before. Suspicious or alarmed enemies will speak to their allies to inform them of a possible intruder, which heightens the threat level of being discovered. Once their suspicion is triggered, it will never revert to a normal setting, so stealth is usually your best option. Get in, get out, get as little blood on your hands as possible. Definitely a good game to have this season. I mean who wants to spend time with family when there are people to assassinate?

7) Batman Arkham Asylum/Arkham City - Rocksteady Studios (Xbox 360, PC, Mac OS X, PS3)

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be Batman, these are definitely the games for you. These games put every superhero game to shame. You actually feel like Batman. Obviously there is combat and gadgets, as well as a spectacular amount of characters from the comics. What is the best part is that Rocksteady got the original main character voice actors from DC Animated Universe, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin reprising their roles as Batman, the Joker, and Harley Quinn, respectively. The story was written by Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series) and it is done beautifully.

The combat of the game is extremely fluid, as Batman bounces back and forth between enemies, handling 30 just as easy as 2. You get access to some of Batman's coolest gadgets as well as some new ones. The story is the best part so I won't spoil any of it. The first game is set inside Arkham Asylum, while the second takes place inside Arkham City. Arkham City is basically the island around Arkham has been turned into a gigantic prison for all the baddies. People go in. No one comes out. If they want to be killers, better to let them kill each other, right?

If you can spare a little extra cash, get both. Right now the two should cost a little less than a new release, but they are probably the best action games I've ever played.

8) Bioshock - 2K Boston ( Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mac OS X)

If you are in the market for something a little more creepy, this game is for you. It's an older title, but if you've never played it, welcome to the world of Rapture. The game begins with your plane crashing in the middle of the ocean. Right next to you is a lighthouse. Now, a lighthouse isn't exactly common in the middle of the ocean, especially since there isn't an island. But you're drowning, so who really cares? There isn't anyone home, but there is a submarine. Obviously you are supposed to take it to find some help.

Help isn't exactly what you find, as the citizens of Rapture are twisted, creepy, homicidal maniacs with paranormal abilities. You aren't exactly defenseless since you get to pick up a wrench. Wrench? These freaks of nature are shooting fire from their hands and we get a wrench? Oh well, it's effective until you get to pick up a gun and then get superpowers of your own. Shoot fire, ice, lightning bolts.... all from your fingertips. While the inside of the city is creepy and everything is falling apart, the outside view is magnificent. You are sitting on the bottom of the ocean, surrounded by sheer wonder. It would be heaven to live there. Which was the point, originally. Now it's a living Hell. Getting to hear the rest of the story will require you to buy it. But it's a great game. You won't be disappointed.

So those are my top picks for full titles this Christmas season. I will have my top picks for XBL Arcade titles for those with MSP to burn. Look for it in a few days.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Borderlands 2 DLC: Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage

With Captain Scarlett defeated and the Leviathan's treasure liberated from the depths, a new challenge has appeared for the devastating, debonair, dual duo of the desert on the delectable and dashing domain of Pandora.
Badass Crater of Badassitude
Badassasaurus Rex?

Meet Mr. Torgue. Mr. Torgue is holding a no-rules-barred death match in the Terror Dome. Where might one find this dome? Why, in the Badass Crater of Badassitude! The grand prize? Opening a Vault. This is gonna pull every low-life and scum out of their hidey holes ready to duke it out until no one can duke anymore. But those dukers don't know who they're duking with. Obviously this is a job for the Vault Hunters! Considering they're bored, this will be a fun repast.

The main star is the sensational brawler of the Crater, Mr. Torgue. Think pro-wrestler, turned announcer, who's not afraid of the FCC knocking down his door. Armed with some of the best lines in the game, they'll leave you laughing and remembering them for a while.
Badass of Badassery, Mr. Torgue!
"I'm here to ask you one question and one question only: EXPLOSIONS!"
"I didn't want you to get bored, so I was like, BLEEP it, give everybody guns! We lost half of our workforce in three days, but who gives a BLEEP!"
With 6-8 hours for the average gamer and appearances by Miss Moxxi and Tiny Tina, this is a must buy.

DLC #2 of Borderlands awesome 4 part pass releases on November 20th at the measly cost of 800 MSP.

Halo 4 Waypoint Terminal Codes - Get Armor & XP

Great riches await on the Halo Waypoint. Accessing the "classified" section of the waypoint will lead you to this hidden terminal:

This terminal can be used to access certain armor unlocks, emblems, and XP bonuses based on the terminals in the game you have accessed and which Spartan Ops missions you have completed.

It may seem like random guessing, so I'll give a pic of some of the completed codes.

You will also need to complete some requirements to access them.
  • Raider Shoulders: Complete LandGrab
  • Raider Chest: Complete SniperAlley
  • Raider Helmet: Complete The Challenge 
All credit for these finds goes to the forum members of the Halo Waypoint site

Halo 4 Spartan Ops Episode 3 Trailer

The newest Spartan Ops trailer has just been released. Continue the story of the Crimson team, this time taking a look into the mysterious artifact brought on board the UNSC Infinity. You and your fellow Spartans will need to rely on Dr. Catherine Halsey, creator of the Spartan Program. Some deem her a war criminal, and others praise her as the hero of Earth. Right now, she is Infinity's only hope at not being destroyed by the artifact. Check out the trailer here:

Skyrim Dragonborn DLC Details Released

What if Dragonborns were not all decent? Granted, none of us were decent in Skyrim during our reign as Dragonborn. We murdered, stole, went on rampages, even went full werewolf on some helpless victims. But what if you were to face the very first Dragonborn? That's what the newest DLC for Skyrim is all about.

The journey takes us to the island Solstheim, just off Morrowinds coast. Morrowind is the home of the Dark Elves, and you will encounter them in droves. You will also meet the island natives, the 'Skaal'. Here you will ready yourself to face the ultimate test, the very first Dragonborn. You must harness the power of the Voice to summon the strength of dragons and deliver colossal blows. Learn new Daedric spells as you travel through an unknown realm. Create new armor and weapons to fight off undiscovered enemies like Ash Spawn & Rieklings. Fight from the back of your trained dragon as you fly across Solstheim.

All of this adventure and power will be yours when Dragonborn is released on December 4th, 2012 on the Xbox 360 for 1600 MSP. PC and PS3 release dates are unknown.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Origin Accounts Being Hacked

There is confirmation that Origin accounts are being hacked. This isn't some sort of phishing scam issue, these are full on hacks. People are getting control of your account names and passwords and once they have them, they can change the email account associated with your profile.

This leads to long wait times on hold with the company, and usually it won't get resolved for days or even weeks. The best step is to change your password now. It's fast and simple and will prevent you from getting a horrible migraine if it happens to you. Never assume you are safe. Change that password.

Longtime XBL Customers May be Getting an Important Package in the Mail

With Xbox Live celebrating their 10 year anniversary, Microsoft decided to ship a very special prize to those who have been with them the longest. What kind of prize? How about a customized Xbox 360 Slim with a full year of Live? Major Nelson confirms.

This console is a thing of beauty, and more than just a console, it represents a significant relationship between the company and its longest supporting customers. Well done, both Microsoft and fellow members.

Epic Games: Dev Cost to Double on Next Gen Titles

Epic Games is well known for its Unreal Tournament and Gears of War series. They are also the developers of the highly prized Unreal Engine. With Unreal Engine 4 coming for the next gen consoles, fans expect to see drastically improved graphics and lighting features. Several months ago they gave us a preview of what we can expect from this new engine:

Impressive to say the least, but it seems it will come with a hefty price. Development costs will most likely double what we have right now. However, double is not nearly as bad as what Epic feared it would be. Tim Sweeney, Epic Games' chief technology officer, revealed it could have gone much worse.
“If we extrapolate that into creating an entire game, we were worried that the cost would go up by a factor of three or four or even five in the next generation," he said, as reported by Gamesindustry International “And of course, we felt that was not acceptable.”
Hopefully we won't see an increase in the cost of next generation games. That is highly unlikely anyways, but it's still a good idea to hope.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Xbox 360: Lego Lord of the Rings Being Recalled

It seems certain shipments of Lego Lord of the Rings for Xbox 360 have had some mix-ups. Users are reporting that instead of the full game, the new, sealed boxes contain demo discs meant for video game dealers to run in their stores. It would be a good idea to check your copy before leaving the store, since wasting gas is not covered in your replacement trip.

It's not the first mix-up reported about games receiving different discs. Earlier, Black Ops 2 for PC was reporting that the second disc in the box contained Mass Effect 2. I'm not sure what's going on at the manufacturing line, but I'm gonna blame Steve. Dammit Steve! You had one job to do!

Halo 4 Spartan Ops: First Impressions

One of the biggest draws for Halo 4 was Spartan Ops. Promoted as additional campaign storyline, you would think it would be an actual story. Cut-scenes, plot, narrative... All of that is missing and it's a real shame.

Spartan Ops is mainly "go here, shoot that, press the button (touch)" and frankly it's a little disappointing. Sure, playing it on legendary makes it a little tougher, but in 4 player co-op it's a joke. Enemies are easily overcome, weapons are conveniently everywhere, and they give you more tools than you would find in the campaign on Normal.

The whole idea of "additional campaign missions" was drastically oversold. The removal of Firefight for this mode doesn't seem like a fair trade. It's the same exact thing, just with less enemies, and a hallway type progression rather than a single defensible area. The only difference is that Firefight was actually fun. It got boring after playing it several times each day, but Spartan Ops you get bored after the first mission.

The only thing good about it is that it's free. I don't see anything in the content we've gotten that would make me shell out MSP for it. The episodes are good, but the gameplay just doesn't live up to the hype. Many people were calling "Spartan Ops" Halo's version of COD's "Spec Ops". At first the comparison was laughable, but now it doesn't seem quite so outlandish. Spec Ops promotes 10-15 minute missions, which they deliver. Spartan Ops promotes several hours of content with each episode. We ran through the full first episode on Legendary in about 40 minutes.

Honestly the loss of Firefight along with the disappointing replacement makes it a bit of a kick in the teeth. There aren't any gametypes in Halo that are a "stand your ground" like Firefight was. This could have been an addition, rather than a replacement, and that's where I think it went very wrong. Firefight had quite a following, and the removal certainly angered some fans. Rather than Spartan Ops dousing the angry fires, it merely tosses a watering can on the flames expecting it to be taken care of.

Al-in-all, Spartan Ops really missed out on what could have been a fantastic game addition, but when there's 10 weeks of it and all for free, what can you expect?

Black Ops 2 PC Ships Mass Effect 2 Discs

Game launches rarely go off without a hitch, but it seems Treyarch has 1 upped everyone with this bungle. Black Ops 2 launched today to overwhelming amounts of fans and review scores. Some PC gamers however, are none too happy. That's because there was a little surprise in their box.

PC gamers have been reporting on the Call of Duty forums and Reddit in droves, as they try to install the second disc of the highly anticipated game. Installing discs are usually fairly straightforward unless there's an issue with a corruption, but what about when that disc contains a different game? Apparently, somewhere on the production line, the Black Ops 2 second disc was replaced with Mass Effect 2. How this mistake happened is unknown, and both Activision and EA have yet to comment.

Black Ops 2 launched today on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Wii U will also release Black Ops 2 on November 18th.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Halo 4 Campaign Review: What a Ride

First off, let me say this review will be almost completely spoiler free. Nothing about key sequences or end spoilers.

Halo 4 launched just under a week ago, and already it has cries for Game of the Year. After playing the campaign, I have not doubt it will win that title. The characters are much more developed and come across as actual people rather than a single minded automaton you take control of for a few hours. Previous Halo titles limited the cut-scenes to basic conversation without putting much feeling into it. This always made it seem like they were trying to put you into the character's shoes rather than flesh out who you were playing as. That's a great path for a unique RPG without any character development. Just a nameless face that you create and build. This was always a mistake for Halo.

Halo 4 breaks that monotonous path and tosses it into the dumpster. This time around, the characters feel. They interact more. They grow. They actually make you feel like you are there in the room and make you care about them and their futures. This isn't just done in the cut-scenes (which are probably the best I've ever seen in any game, and better than a lot of movies), but during the gameplay as well. Emotional conversations back and forth over the com remind you that this story is more than just escaping off of a Forerunner planet.

The story starts with Master Chief being woken up by a terrified Cortana. Distressing sounds on the hull make her concerned about an attack and whispers the words Master Chief told her at the end of Halo 3, "Wake up Chief, I need you." MC is a little foggy about why he's been woken up, but he immediately is ready for action. He's a Spartan, and Spartans don't rest. Ever.

Going through the first part of the game is like any other previous title. Elites, Jackals and Grunts have swarmed the remaining part of the Forward Unto Dawn that you've been sealed in for the last 4 years. Moving through the ship, you have to beat back the Covenant and then turn on the ship's automatic defense systems. Pretty routine stuff. There are some cool moments in zero-g watching dead enemies float around, and a short climbing sequence beats most games that have them all game long.

Once you've done that, the Dyson Sphere you've been orbiting opens up, and a gravity well sucks your ship in. With you on the outside. Not exactly a nice time for a free fall when your ship is exploding into bits around you, and those bits flying at you. But that's Master Chief for you. Path of most resistance.

Skipping a few cut-scene moments, you eventually find yourself being attacked by the Promethean AI's that inhabit Requiem (the planet inside the Dyson Sphere). These fights are different than the original games, but they soon become routine. Shoot the glowing dogs, kill the remote controlled helicopters, beat on the Knights. The enemies change with each playthrough, but the same method works for all of it. You also find Covenant that have landed on Requiem. These enemies are easier and more predictable, since you've been fighting them for 10 years. They still pack a punch though, and be wary of grunts carrying live plasma nades.

Driving in this game is the same as it has always been. The graphics and the sounds have changed for the better, except for the Warthog. The new sound is a bit dull for me. The Banshee is still menacing as ever, and the ghost speeds through everything just fine. A new addition, the Mantis Mech, is slow, but packs a huge wallop. Dual minigun/rocket combo makes it a force to be avoided at all costs. But since you are the only one driving it, abuse it like crazy. There's also a new vehicle called the "Mammoth". It makes the the Warthog look like a moped sitting next to an 18 wheeler.

There are a couple flying missions but these handle much better than past ones, so that's a big relief. One of them involves a Pelican and you gotta love that. After years of being stuck in the back, you get to drive this bad boy!

The relationship between Cortana and John grows a lot more in this story, as 343 brings it to the front, and you really get to understand how close they are. Cortana's rampancy brings out Chief's emotional side in a way nobody has ever seen before. He's always been a machine. Cold. Stoic. Untouchable and unreachable. This really shows how much Cortana means to him, and how he would do anything to save her.

The beginning of this second trilogy is absolutely incredible and a fantastic first step for 343i. I can't wait for it to continue in Halo 5. If you haven't picked up a copy of Halo 4, I highly recommend it. It will be the most thrilling game you've experienced in a very long time.

Overall Score: 10/10