Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot - 7

Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot is the second piece of downloadable content for the first-person shooter Borderlands and is centered around a wave-like cooperative multiplayer style of game play. The content sticks to the game’s gorgeous art style and sense of humour along with introducing new multiplayer modes and several new in game options. However, the content surrounds this new cooperative coliseum style fights completely and can cause the content to come up as slightly shallow in overall value.

The main feature about Mad Moxxi is the new coliseum mode to play in. The object of this mode is to survive a number of rounds while enemies flood into the area. Each round has five waves and contains different enemies and different handicaps or bonuses. These little add-ons can range from increasing the damage or one weapon while reducing the effect of others, to game play devices like making the enemies more accurate, have more ammo, or even taking the players shields away from them. There are a number of handicaps that can be set up for each wave and the more rounds you complete, the more bonuses will be added at one time.
The waves also differ from how the enemies will go about trying to kill you and as you progress through each round they will become smarter and stronger. One nice addition to the rounds is that the final wave of each one is called the Boss Wave and pits you and your team against either one of the main story’s bosses or a new one for this content alone.

The waves are formatted like Horde mode from Gears of War 2 or Firefight from Halo: ODST. Like these other games, the coliseum causes your team to stay together and work as one. Leaving to fight by yourself will quickly lead to death when playing on the higher rounds and finding precise locations to set up a camp is important. Each of the three coliseums are based on areas from the main campaign and are set up in very different ways. For example, The Gully consists of a tall sniper tower with three levels of arena beneath it, while The Angelic Ruins is wide open with not many closed off areas to make a safe place to hide out in.

There are a total of three coliseums and two different round caps to choose from. The first being a short five round game (25 waves in total) and the second being a long 20 round game (100 waves). A short game can take around 30 minutes to complete while the latter can last over four hours. Apart from these three arenas to play in, Mad Moxxi also includes an all new bank system and the ability to unlock two more skill points for your character. The bank is probably one of the more intriguing features to the game. It allows players to stash any of your guns and equipment. You can also purchase bank upgrades that will give you more room to hold your stuff. The bank is a very welcomed feature since you now have a place to hold those weird weapons that you’re only carrying to show off to your friends.

The one downside to this add-on is that it focuses completely on the coliseum battles and nothing else. This causes the content to feel a little short and shallow when you look at what you’re really paying for. Despite some of the matches lasting very long, finding out exactly how to position and use your team over and over can come off as a bit repetitive. With that said, the handicaps for each wave add a random element to each fight and can cause you to mix up each of your formations. This addition greatly s and alters the otherwise monotonous nature of simply kill everything.

Despite the short length of time between this and the previous piece of additional content, Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot feels like a solid addition to the game. Even though the arena fights can get repetitive during your third hour of the 20 round games, the number of different bonuses and handicaps can still keep you on your feet. The bank system is very welcomed to anyone who has come across a weak but unique gun that they don’t want to have to sell off in order to keep some inventory room. And to anyone who has hit the level cap - but still wants to upgrade their character - the two unlockable skill points are a great addition. Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot not only gets the wave-like cooperative game play right but alters it enough to make it feel new and very exciting.

Overall: 7/10

Monday, December 28, 2009

What I am currently playing:

I know I could just update the side bar section specifically for this, but I'm playing a lot and felt it deserved its own post.
  • A Boy and his Blob: So far this game is spectacular. The art is fantastic and the overall feel of the game is wonderfully cute. This is definitely one of my favorite games of this year.
  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii: What can I say, it's Mario, so you know it's good. The multiplayer aspect is as good as it sounds and brings a whole new level of enjoyment to the standard side-scrolling platformer.
  • Bit. Trip Void: I have yet to get into this but it is downloaded and waiting.
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: I didn't like the first game but this is already starting (I'm on chapter 7) to change my mind. Much more on this later.
  • Dragon Age: Origins: So far I have only created my character and been through the very first dialogue tree. I have not played enough yet.
  • Call of Duty: Classic: The only reason I got this was because someone gave me their download code since they only cared for MW2.
  • The Maw: I have always been interested in this game but not enough to spend the full 800 on. It became xbox's deal of the week today so I picked it up for half price. I have yet to play it.
  • Uno Rush: Once again, I always wanted it, but not for full price. It became one of xbox's holiday deals of the day, so I grabbed it for 50% off. This game is crazy, very hectic and very fun.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: So far I am loving the game despite not reaching a dungeon yet.
That's quite a bit, and if I choose to hang on to Assassin's Creed Bloodline then that rounds the count up to ten. For the most part I will be talking more about each of these games later, if not during Game of the Year stuff.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Games. I've been playing them.

It's been a while since I booted up this blog and wrote something. I put up my Balled of Gay Tony review last week after realizing I never did. Anyway, I've been playing games, a lot of them. Mainly because a ton have come out in the last two months.

Since it is Christmas break, I have free time; and since I got a new laptop, I have the means to write on here anywhere; and since I played games, I have opinions.

So over the next week or so I shall be talking about some of the games I've been playing and played over the last few months. By the new year I will try and get my list of top games of the year like I did last year.

Here's a sneak peek of some stuff: PSP isn't doing too great for me.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Review: The Ballad of Gay Tony - 8

Like the first piece of downloadable content added to Grand Theft Auto 4, The Ballad of Gay Tony brings new forms of gameplay and a completely new story. Though the story remains separate from the main game’s campaign, there are enough references and ties between the two games to present a real connection. The story that you play through remains as well written as ever and despite the look of the aging graphics, The Ballad of Gay Tony feels like a solid addition to the already massive game.

You play as Luis Lopez, the body guard of Tony “Gay Tony” Prince, as you help revive the chain of nightclubs that you both have a stake in. Not only has Tony managed to piss off the Russian mob group in Liberty City, but everyone you meet seems to want nothing more than killing the flamboyant business owner. As the trusted friend, you take it upon yourself to win back your enemies by either helping them out, or gunning them down.

A great inclusion to the game is the various references towards events are characters from the main game and even the first piece of downloadable content. Many characters make a return and sometimes even play a more major role in some of the missions. It was great being able to see characters like Roman Belic try and squeeze his way into one of Tony’s clubs. The addition of these constant references really make the world created in Grand Theft Auto 4 and The Ballad of Gay Tony much bigger and real.

The Ballad of Gay Tony’s strongest aspect is the writing behind the characters. Each one of them either feels very realistic or completely ridiculous. A personal favorite is Tony himself. He is set up as this rich club owner who seems to have it all. However, as the story plays out, we learn his life is far from glamorous. The game does a great job at showcasing this drugged up shell of a man. Another great character is the main protagonist Luis. The drama he has to go through to keep his boss from killing himself and getting himself killed is very well handled. Along with the constant issues we are presented about Luis’s home life, we can see how crummy this character really has it. On the more playful side we have Yusuf. His only dream is to build the biggest skyscraper in all of liberty city. Along with that goal, he wants to spend all the money he can. This is most often played out by getting Luis to steal him helicopters or even tanks. The mix between the two contrasting personality types really helps this content pack to live up to the tone set in Grand Theft Auto 4 but also relate back to some of the previous, less serious Grand Theft Auto games.

As always, the conflicting parties in the story will have the main character performing various tasks for them and this is where the main gameplay comes in. These missions can be anything from car pursuits to shooting your way out of a museum. Along with these, the always amusing helicopter missions make a return. The game can be quite fun when you are instructed to take out a ferry ship with your missile equipped copter.

A new type a mission is included in this download pack known as base jumping. These will have you either ride a helicopter into the air or get to a very high location and jump out. From here you can freefall down until you wish to pull the ripcord to release your parachute. With the ability to play these outside of story related missions, the game becomes all that much more enjoyable. The map is filled with dozens of different base jumping missions and they all differ by either the location and height or if you are intended to land on a moving object or not.

One of the main downsides to the game is the return of the incredibly awkward driving mechanic. Like the original Grand Theft Auto 4, the cars’ handling is very different than most driving related games and the learning curve can last you longer than the time spent going through the story. The problem is that the vehicles feel as if they’re constantly on ice. The inclusion of a hand brake doesn’t help much either. Many times I found myself performing donuts when I had anticipated an easy right turn. Though the cars can become easier to drive when finding and unlocking better vehicles, the main ones that are given to you for each mission aren’t very fun to use at all.

The final complaint to be had with this download pack is the visuals. Since they’re almost identical to the main game’s, they begin to look a little dated. The character models don’t have the same realism they had last year and some come off looking a little to polygonal. However, the environments remain good and the lighting and water effects throughout the enormous Liberty City is just great.

The Ballad of Gay Tony is a solid piece of additional content that is worth the $20 being charged for it. Whether you’re just into the series’ fiction or want to find new ways to cause havoc in the streets, this game has it covered. Despite the steep learning curve to the cars, there are many ways of becoming accustomed to it and with all the replay ability, you’ll get used to it in the end. This pack delivers what you’d expect and want when continuing a Grand Theft Auto game and it does very well in doing so.

Overall: 8/10

Monday, November 2, 2009

First Impressions: Balled of Gay Tony

I received a download code for the Balled of Gay Tony from some publishers last week and started playing that today after getting a hold of a copy of GTA4. I've only played about ten minutes of the main story and around two hours of the online multiplayer. Here's what I think so far:
  • Delivers exactly what you'd expect from a GTA4 add-on
  • The new character is pretty cool and his relationship with Tony and some of his other associates feels good and real
  • The cars' handling is still not the best
  • Motorcycles take forever to get used to
  • The online multiplayer's lobby is great since you can just run around shooting the other players while waiting for a game to begin
  • The super robot bubble gum anime cartoon is on the TV and still awesome
  • The other TV shows I saw while watch the super robot bubble gum anime show look just as ridiculous as you'd want
Overall it feels very well done and I look forward to diving further into the main story.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I need to write more here

I plan to start up more stuff here. I have a download code for Balled of Gay Tony to dive into, that should give me some stuff.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review: Halo 3: ODST - 8

Halo 3: ODST is a first person shooter set in the Halo universe and prequel to the original Halo 3 game. The controls and overall game play are very similar to Halo 3 but ODST contains enough new features to make this feel like a new experience. However, the similarity between the two games can cause ODST to come up a bit short.

You play as a no-named Orbital Drop Shock Trooper who, along with his teammates, encountered problems when entering the atmosphere. After awaking and noticing you have been separated from your squad, you set out to round up your teammates. As you search the area, you will come across several objects that had been used from your team several hours previous and upon finding them, a new mission will begin. Each of these separate missions has you take command of a new teammate as you discover what happened to them during the crash landing.

Each mission brings something new and different for you to utilize. Some will have you focusing on using your sniper rifle while others will want you to drive throughout the level using huge laser cannons against the enemy. The diversity is quite nice and shows how much this game has to offer.

You also have the choice to play through the campaign with up to three addition players. This can really skyrocket the amount to do in the game since tackling harder difficulties seems like a more achievable task. This also allows you to discover new ways to complete the levels and missions. One downside to the cooperative play is that there is no system in place to continue a game is a player chooses to quit. If at any point one of the players drops out the game, the rest will experience the game freezing and then kicked back out to the lobby. This is a really bummer since random loss of connections can cause you to have to replay many areas.

The story telling in the game is a nice touch since you only get bits and pieces of the whole story. Finding new items from your team and engaging in each teammate’s perspective reveals more to the story. However, the main characters in the game come off as quite stiff and easy to forget. Since you only play as each one for around ten to fifteen minutes, there isn’t enough time to develop an attachment to any one person. Even playing as the rookie for the duration of the over world section feels the same since your main character stays mute throughout the game.

There is the addition of collectable audio logs spread out through the game. Each one is a piece of a side story involving a civilian girl and the enemy Covenant. The depth and character development in each of these are great and along with the ability to play them while searching the over world for more of your teammate’s items can cause these characters to become far more interesting than the main campaign ones. In addition, the game tries to help guide you to these hidden logs by having indicators point you in the right direction. What might look like a construction sign telling you to “stay right” may actually be a hint on which path to take forward.

The controls and game play are very similar to Halo 3’s but there are several new features. The most noticeable is the night vision mode you have. Pressing the X button will allow you to see things more clearly. Not only does it brighten up darker areas, but it outlines your comrades in green and the enemies in red. These bright contour lines are great for being able to find hidden audio logs or items and it can even help you against enemies with invisibility. The only downside to using this mode is it takes some of the detail away from the environment. Though, the look of the contour outlining is nice but not being able to see the great looking atmosphere is a downside.

It’s safe to say that this game looks wonderful. The dark environment you explore as the rookie looks great when illuminated by the small fires and broken street lights. And when playing in the day time missions the bright colors and detail is very well done. Your night vision mode even changes the detail a bit and even though it lowers the quality, the style used with its colorful contours lines is great in its own way.

Partnered with the great visuals, ODST’s audio and soundtrack is perfect. The soft and slow music played when exploring the main over world is great and fits in with the lost and lonely feel to it. At the same time, the music is just up beat enough to fit in with the various enemy encounters. And when playing through your teammates missions to the fast paced music as they fight their way to extraction is just great. The music is this game is a real treat.

Another new feature ODST brings is the Firefight multiplayer mode. This is a standard survival game mode that can be played with up to four players cooperatively. Much like Horde mode from Gears of War 2, this setting stations you in a small area where you need to survive as long as possible while more and more enemies enter and begin to fight you. To keep things interesting, the game awards score multipliers and bonus points when you pull off certain moves. Killing two enemies in quick succession will double your score while using a grenade to blow up several at once will increase it that much further. This is a really great mode to play with your friends and adds loads of replay value.

Halo 3: ODST comes across as a bit of a double edged sword. For anyone looking something new and different from the typical Halo game won’t be completely satisfied. The game stays very true to the series’ formula and delivers on all accounts. But if you are no huge fan of the original trilogy, you may just find this to feel more like an expansion of the third game. Though the new multiplayer mode and great visual/audio choices make this game feel just different enough to keep it separated. Overall the game looks and handles very well and with all the audio logs to discover and story to unlock, there’s a lot going on.

Overall: 8/10

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gamerscore Update: 19/08/09

LOTS has happened in the way of achievement points and me in the last two weeks. I finished playing all of the games from my last update and got a whole bunch of new ones for this time. I'll run through these in the order I played them.

Armored Core 4
This game was awful and has one of the worst user interfaces I have ever seen in a game. So bad in fact that I had to turn off my game due to it and, thinking it auto saved after a few of the missions I had done, lots everything I had done. So I got 20 points. That is all.

Shellshock 2
This game is pretty dumb but I did get a decent amount of points for the hour or so I played. I got 11 for 175 points by going through the first three missions. A lot of them are from getting a certain number of kills without reloading specific guns. You also get a massive 40 point achievement for beating a level without dying. And that's pretty easy to obtain by going through the first mission on easy. Overall I am never going back to that game, I didn't enjoy it.

Ninja Gaiden 2
This game is mad hard, MAD hard. I got 20 points (3 achievements) for starting up the second level and playing through that. I never want to play this game again.

This is the big one. I finally sat down with a friend and made my way from the start to the end of this game. It actually gets a lot less creepy as you proceed through the game. Playing on easy also makes it that much easier since you will never die. I got a total of 47 of the 51 achievements, which is 900 of the possible 1100 points. Overall this was a good game that has some easy, easy points.

Rainbow Six Vegas
So since I made my way through the second game, it only makes sense to try the first one. I don't like the first Rainbow Six Vegas. There is not enough checkpoints. I got fed up by playing the same part over and over, getting further and further each time but still dying from like two hits and ending up at the same check point. You die far too easily. The second game was MUCH better than this. I got 6 achievements for 125 points.

Splinter Cell Double Agent
I'm not a Splinter Cell fan, never have been. I thought I should give one a try and this confirmed it. When it comes to stealth games, it's Metal Gear Solid or nothing. So I got 3 achievements for doing the two training missions and completing the first level. This got me 80 points and that's all I plan to get.

Tales of Vesperia
Once again I sat down and got a good chunk of this game done. I think I got around 5-10 hours more into that game. It never ends; but I realize that I enjoy its length. It's a great game with so much in it to do. I got 5 achievements this time for 75 points. This was mainly from clearing out all the Giganto Monsters and then a few for normal story bosses. The last 10 point achievement was from earning over 100 000 chips from gambling. I recommend doing this because their "poker" game is mad easy. I bet 500 chips in one hand and finished with over 700 000. A good way to get Gald is to then buy some of the items with your chips and go sell them. Then repeat.

Shadow Complex
This is the latest game I've played. It came out today and I've spent around two hours on it so far. I've gotten 4 achievements for 55 points but I am no where near finishing the game. I plan to get at least 5 more of the achievements to get and I'll try for the others depending on how long they take me. The game is great and is definitely worth the 1200 Microsoft Points.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Review: Wii Sports Resort - 9

Wii Sports Resort is the second game to feature the Wii Sports name and improves on everything from the first one. The main difference is the inclusion of the Wii MotionPlus peripheral that comes packaged with the game. Using this allows for a much higher level of sensitivity and really makes playing the game feel great. The 1:1 controls make you feel like you’re performing the actions more than any other game on the Nintendo Wii and boost this game beyond any previous mini game compilation.

The bundled Wii MotionPlus accessory plugs into the bottom of the Wii remote controller and adds more sensitivity and greater accuracy to the movements you make. For example, instead of the game knowing you made a diagonal slashing movement with your hand, it now knows the exact angle you swung your controller at. This causes each one of the games to feel more realistic and bring a new level of control to the console. The downfall with this is that it is mandatory that you have the Wii MotionPlus accessory in order to play. Wii Sports Resort is only shipped with one of these so you will not be able to play any multiplayer unless you purchase an addition peripheral. This brings the game up to around an $85 retail value just for wanting to play with one other person; any more people wanting to play at once will bring the price up that much higher.

This leads to the biggest problem with Wii Sports Resort; it can be a little boring when playing the game alone. Playing the game single player isn’t the best use of this game. Wii Sports Resort is designed as a multiplayer game and each activity is short enough to keep a group of players’ attention for a good deal of time. Taking the multiplayer aspect out of it defeats this purpose and will shorten your play time quite a bit.

Wii Sports Resort plays off the same gameplay set up as the first game by giving you a selection of sports and activities to play. However, this time there are far more options to choose from - five in the original and now twelve in this game. These choices consist of activities like Archery, Swordsplay, Basketball, Table Tennis and etc. Golfing and Bowling are also part of the list and make a return from the first Wii Sports game. Each game is set up very differently than the others and require much different hand movements in order to play them. Games like Frisbee will have you gently flicking the Wii remote horizontally while Canoeing will have you make stroking motions.

Of course, not all the activities are the best or work well with these controls. For example, Cycling has you shake the Wii remote and nunchuk up and down to make the bicycle move. Obviously this isn’t how you would normally ride the bike. It would have been better if they at least made you move the controllers in a circular motion to replicate the pedaling motion. However, most of the other games feel realistic and great to play.

Swordsplay is one that stands out above the rest by letting you take place in sword fights. You have the option to swing your sword in any direction you want. The ability to block is what really brings in some strategy to this game. Holding down the B button will cause your character to begin his blocking stance. From here, you need to watch your opponent’s strikes so you know which way to block. If your enemy attacks vertically, you need to block horizontally (and vice versa). This really brings some depth to the game for it allows you to strike back against anyone who thinks just waving the remote as fast as possible will lead to an easy win.

Frisbee is probably the next most intuitive since it allows you to tilt your disk to perform curves. Holding the Frisbee level will make it fly straight and the speed you flick, along with the timing of your release, will change its flight. Tilting it down will curve it in opposite direction as an upwards tilt – if you throw right handed and tilt it down, the Frisbee will fly more left. Along with the option to throw forehand the game really allows for some skilled throws. With the added difficulty of more targets to hit during one throw and wind speed, the game can get very challenging.

Another fan favorite is Archery. You play with the Wii remote in your left hand and hold it vertically in order to aim. Holding down the nunchuk’s Z button will zoom in while pulling back your right hand – that holds the nunchuk controller – will zoom in even further. From here you can carefully take aim as the cross hair-like ring slowly gets tighter. This allows for more accurate shots. The target is set up in rings; hitting closer to the center will award more points while the outer rings will be less. There are also many levels to play on and three difficulties to try out. Each stage will be at a new area on Wuhu Island (where Wii Sports Resort takes place) and shows off some of the unique characteristics of the area. Some courses will be on a rickety bridge while others will have your shooting inside a volcano. The higher difficulties will also add obstacles between you and the target. This allows for less planning time since you have a smaller window to shoot through. To make things more interesting, every stage has a hidden target to be found on it. These targets are much farther away than the main target and require a very exact shot to hit. This is a great feature that can keep you coming back for more, even if you’ve already mastered the highest difficulty.

A personal favorite is the Air Sports category. It consists of Skydiving, Dogfight and Island Flyover. Skydiving has you fall out of a plane and tilting the Wii remote in order to drift around and catch onto other skydivers. After you link up with someone a camera will count down and take your picture. Dogfight is the only competitive mode in this category and has you controlling a plan and using the A button to try and shoot at the opponents. You are set up with balloons that act like points and there are several locations on the island that will respawn with new ones. Your mission is to shoot down the other planes’ balloons while trying to collect the most for yourself.

Island Flyover is my personal favorite from all the Air Sports. You get five minutes to fly a plane all around Wuhu Island as you search for special locations. Each location is indicated by an icon that floats above it. Flying into the icon will award you with “collecting” it and some information about the spot. What makes it so great is that you can see everything the island has. This can range from the Swordsplay ring and the Bowling alley all the way to the inside of the volcano or the winding tunnels underneath and throughout the island. It really is a lot of fun to search for these spots while getting to see and learn more about this unique and fun resort. This mode can be played at three different day times: Daytime, Evening and Night. There are 80 spots to find and new information will be posted there depending on the time of day.

Along with all the sports to play, each on has its own set of stamps. These act like achievements that you can unlock during the game. For example, Island Flyover has one for collecting all 80 information points. Some are as easy as that, while others can be incredibly hard. You will come across ones asking for a bulls eye on every Archery course or completing the Table Tennis’s return challenge with over 200 points. These are a great addition to the game since they boost the replay value through the roof. You will constantly have something to try and unlock. Along with that, you are awarded levels each time you play the games. Each game has its own level to increase and doing well will make it move up higher. After reaching level 1000 you will unlock harder difficulties and from there can strive to reach level 2000. This makes the game last so much longer and allows the player something to work towards no matter how good they have become. This also helps give someone playing this game by themselves more to do. The inclusion of these stamps really helps fight the slightly dull aspect to playing Wii Sports Resort alone.

The graphics are also nice as far as the Nintendo Wii goes but do look updated from the original Wii Sports game. The water is great looking and despite some odd ripple effects it looks very realistic. There are also some nice sunlight effects to be seen, for instance, when playing Island Flyover during the evening. Other than that, you’re getting pretty standard Wii graphics. The music in the game is also nice and calm to really drive home the ease of play this game has. And along with cheery congratulatory remarks from the game when playing, it becomes that much more enjoyable.

Overall Wii Sports Resort holds up as one of the best mini game collections on this console to date. It improves on everything the original game has and adds tons of new features. Almost every sport is incredibly enjoyable and can be played for quite some time. The inclusion of a level system and the unlockable stamps lead the game to some very long replay value and cause you to play the activities in ways you wouldn’t normally. The only shortcomings are that playing alone can be a tad dry and with only one Wii MotionPlus accessory bundled with the game, multiplayer can end up costing you more than the standard video game retail price. However, when you do get some friends together, there is so much content for you to explore and enjoy.

Overall: 9/10

Friday, August 14, 2009

Can't wait

I think finally preordering this game has gotten me at the level of excitement I should be. I simply can't wait for it now and plan to be spending many a sleepless night working through it.

Here's a video from Kotaku showing some of Batman's gadgets at work.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Review: Splosion Man - 8

Splosion Man is a 2D side scrolling platformer where you make your way through some of the hardest and mind numbing levels ever imagined. There are a total of 50 levels to play in the main campaign and an additional 50 for multiplayer. The game presents itself nicely with sharp graphics and good humor but can begin to become quite tedious and frustrating very quickly.

Armed with the ability to “splode” you must explode yourself in order to jump or damage enemies. Your only option is to hit any of the four face buttons (A, B, X, Y) to cause you to blow up and propel yourself slightly upwards. You can continue to explode up to three times before you run out of energy. Sliding on a wall or standing still will recharge you instantly. You will come across enemies that can also neutralize your character and cause you to become vulnerable to enemy attacks. The game has a very simple set-up to its gameplay and uses it in tons of great ways.

Each level is very different and comes with its own unique perks. Some levels will have you dodge laser shooting robots and blowing up rocket launchers while others will pit you against rising acid as you use explosive barrels to propel yourself to safety. To keep things interesting, there is also a hidden item in each level. There is an entire cake to be found and is usually tucked away in a corner or some place that requires much more time and effort to reach.

On paper the game can seem quite easy, but the difficulty in Splosion Man is one of its biggest drawbacks. The game starts out easy enough as it introduces you to each of the game’s several mechanics that you’ll have to master. However, the game is set on split second timing and it doesn’t leave room for error. You will need to nail every jump and every landing almost perfect if you want to proceed. The difficulty also starts off quite quick making you deal with some extremely intense stage only after a few levels in.

However, the game counters this in every way it can. Each time you pass a certain section, you will come across a checkpoint. You will find a checkpoint every 30 seconds to a minute on each level. The game also features no load times during the stages so you aren’t sitting there after each death just waiting for the game to load the level again. Lastly, it includes the Way of the Coward option which lets you skip a level you have died on repeatedly. This is nice to keep you interested and not let you become permanently stuck as you get more and more frustrated. And though the levels may get incredibly hard, there’s enough charm and jokes in here to make you keep coming back to try.

The game also features up to four player cooperative play with 50 multiplayer specific levels. This brings the grand total of different and unique stages to play up to 100. Each of the multiplayer levels can be completed with a minimum of two people. However, having extra players to help cut down on time always helps. The addition of another splosion man also adds new elements to play with. For example: exploding off of one another to reach higher and farther platforms. This does make the split second gameplay yet again harder but the inclusion of a timer you can use (pressing LT) can help you and your team coordinate your jumps and explosions. This addition is quite nice when playing online with someone who doesn’t have a headset.

The multiplayer can be done local or on Xbox Live but at this time the online play is quite broken. When two separate Xbox’s are playing with each other, the games desynchronize from one another. This causes players to see the game at two different times. For example, one player will see the platform close to him while the other will see it far away. This renders the gameplay useless as you’re already up against some of the hardest stages imaginable. Also, any lag experienced what so ever will completely ruin your chances of succeeding. The only way to play with someone else is locally. It allows the game to remain constant and there is no chance for a lag in connection.

Splosion Man also looks great. It is set up on a two dimensional plain but the camera moves and rotates enough to shows the 3D space around you. This gives the game a 2.5 dimensional feel to it. The movements in the camera are also quite appreciated to help you see further down the hallway or the entirety of the room you are in. The stages are very well designed and feature great vibrant colors. The splosion man will also glow brighter with the more energy he has and become a burnt crisp when exploding too much.

The game’s sound is also quite good and very funny. The splosion man will constantly make weird and comical noises as you play. He will also choose to run and sound like a monkey every now and then. Also the addition of Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes and references are just great. Lastly, the humorous and lovely Donut Man song found on several stages is a great surprise and a real treat.

Overall Splosion Man is a fun and hilarious game that makes it a steal at only 800 Microsoft Points. The variety of levels, hidden items found throughout the game and a harder difficulty to unlock give the game loads of replay value. However, the difficulty can be quite harsh but with the whimsical appeal and enough help to keep you playing, the game manages to be fun enough to make it worth struggling through. And though the online multiplayer being broken is a real shame, getting some friends over and playing locally is great and doubles the length of the entire game. Splosion Man is a great and charming game and despite a few draw backs, it becomes an easy recommendation for anyone.

Overall: 8/10

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gamerscore Update: 04/08/09

These last two weeks were a big one. Some new games, some old ones; just a lot in general.

Gears of War 2
I played quite a bit, mainly this weekend due to the double experience awarded. I really wanted to get my online rank to 25 to get that achievement. Dark Corners was also released to the public so I could finally play with people. I mainly did Horde so I could work on those achievements. Since my last update i got 195 point from this time which is ten new achievements. This brings my total to 63 out of 79 which is 990 points.

Halo Wars
I received the Historic Battles downloadable content pack for review so I got a couple of points from playing that. I got 45 points from three achievements. I only got one of the achievements from the DLC and two just for winning some online games. My total for the game is 17 out of 58 which translates to 375 out of 1200.

Splosion Man
I finally downloaded this game after seeing the Quick Look on Giant Bomb. This is probably the only game from this year's Summer of Arcade (I may get Shadow Complex, haven't decided). The game is great and I should have a review up either later tonight or tomorrow. I finished the entire game (minus the multiplayer) and got 8 out of the 12 achievements - 100 out of 200 points. I eagerly look forward to some of the new avatar awards to be incorporated in it.

Rainbow Six Vegas 2
I borrowed this off my friend and it's pretty whatever in my opinion. I played through the first two levels and part of the last one. So far I have 7 out of the 47 achievements which is 115 out of 1000 points. I plan to complete the rest of the game so I should have another hundred or so to come.

Overal Gamerscore: 41 015

Monday, August 3, 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

Banner Update

The new banner is from some concept art released for the game -- code named -- Epic Mickey. This game and art is from Warren Spector's Junction Point Studios and Disney.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review: Halo Wars: Historic Battles - 7.5

Halo Wars: Historic Battles comes with four new multiplayer maps along with individual achievements for each one. The maps range from specific 1 vs. 1 game play up to 3 vs. 3. Each map looks quite different and are set up to make any a good choice to play on. The four maps are Barrens, Blood River, Glacial Ravine and Memorial Basin.

Barrens is the first of the four maps and is probably one of the best. It’s specifically a 1 vs. 1 map and sets you and the opponent on the opposite ends of a winding path. The path causes you to have to keep your troupes tight and close together. This can lead to some very risky business when encountering the opponent. Also, you will encounter small none-player controlled enemies throughout the map that when defeated can be used to create new bases for you. Along with several gunner outposts and a facility for restoring health located directly in the center, this is a great map. Having it designed so well for strict 1 vs. 1 play is great and it comes through quite well.

Memorial Basin is the only 2 vs. 2 map and it is constructed to look almost like a huge letter X with a thick center. Each player starts on a different corner and has access to an addition base location a little farther out. This is a great set up for a four person game due to the layout. Your teammate will be positioned beside you (as opposed to diagonally across from you) so they can help you gain control of one entire half of the map. Separating the teams could have left you weak when being attacked and not having an ally to come to your aid. Though Memorial Basin does work for the 2 vs. 2 style of play, it does feel a little dull since it`s essentially a big open area. It would have been nice to have a bit more corridors and sections around the outer area so that there could have been more strategizing involved.

Blood River is the second 1 vs. 1 map and my personal favourite. It is set up by positioning both you and the opponent on opposite cliffs. You must work your way down them and then across either of the two small bridges before proceeding up the opposing cliff to the enemy. There are also several field generators and resourcing harvesting facilities you can take over to use. Along with the inclusion of an extra base on each side of the bridges, you can get quite an army going before ever having to cross onto the enemy’s side. This map is set up very well for the 1 vs. 1 style of play and is quite a lot of fun.

The last of the maps is the huge, snow covered Glacial Ravine. This is the only 3 vs. 3 map to come in the Historic Battles content. Each team is set up on one side of the map as huge mountain ranges split the field in two. There is only one opening in the very center to use in order to reach the enemy. There are also energy shields you can get a hold of in the center to hold off some of the enemy’s advances. This map can be very fun when having to cram your entire army through the narrow entrance. There are also non-player teams stationed around the map that you can destroy in order to obtain more base locations. Overall the map is great and the mountain ranges really give it some character. It was nice to see this map not just become one giant open area.

The content as a whole feels great and each stage is different enough from the next to lead to some great times. You can really tell the developers but some thought into each one when landscaping each stage. Though there isn’t really anything that stands out about them so buying the content pack isn’t a necessity if you’re looking for something drastically different. Though the maps are new, they still follow the same basic arrangement as the previous stages and offer nothing incredibly special or fresh.

One big downside is that you can’t choose to only play on these maps when doing an online game. Searching for a game will result in a random map being selected depending on which content packs each player has purchased. This means that you will most likely end up playing a stage that came with the disc since there are more of them and less people have bought each piece of downloadable content. This is a shame since you won’t be able to use your content as much as possible. It would have been much nicer to see some sort of option to only search for games that use specific content packs.

The Halo Wars: Historic Battles downloadable content is a good and solid addition to the game. The majority of the maps feel varied and fun. Each one is set up to allow for the strengths and weakness of the game type it was designed for. The only downside to the content is that there is no way to filter out other maps when playing online. This means you must play either private games or local games to ensure you’re playing with some new content. The Halo Wars: Historic Wars map pack is a good deal but can be passed if you’re not a die hard fan of the game.

When it comes to my verdict, it completely depends on how much you like the game and how often you play. If you just come to Halo Wars casually now and then I wouldn’t recommend it. It doesn’t add anything new enough to warrant the purchase. However, if you play the game regularly then this new set of maps is a great buy and you’ll be in for a lot of fun.

Overall: 7.5/10

Friday, July 24, 2009

Review: Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection - 9

The Gears of War 2: All Fronts Collection is a downloadable content pack that contains every map pack released and an all new deleted scene from the original campaign. The collection is broken up into five parts: the Flashback, Combustible and Snowblind map packs and the all new Dark Corners map pack along with the Road to Ruins deleted scene.

Each of the map packs can be used for online competitive multiplayer or you can take on Horde mode with a group of up to five people cooperatively. Along with new maps to play on, each piece of content comes with its own set of achievements to work towards.

The Flashback Map Pack is the first of the four pieces of content and features five maps that were originally in the first Gears of War game. The maps have also been updated with new textures and color to change the overall aesthetics quite a bit. For example, the Gridlock map that was quite grey and empty in the first game but now has been tons of vegetation and moss covering the map with much more green color to it. Along with changes such as the Mansion no longer being rained on and Canals being completely covered in snow really make the maps feel more alive and look better.

The second released map pack to be included in the All Fronts Collection is the Combustible Map Pack. This is probably the weakest of the downloadable content since it only comes with three new maps. Each of them is quite different than the others. The Flood map will have you playing on the ruins of a broken bridge as you are surrounded by Imulsion. This once again shows off some great vibrant color that was so rare in the first Gears of War game. The other two maps, Gold Rush and Fuel Station, are more of the fan favorites since the areas aren’t so tight and there’s more places to run around in. A very cool thing about the Fuel Station map is that is has areas specifically designed to use when playing on Horde mode. This is great since the developers are now designing maps more suited towards some of new additions to Gears of War 2.

The Snowblind Map Pack is the third released map pack and is one of the best. It comes with three all new maps and one returning from the original Gears of War. Each is very different from one another. Maps like Underhill will have you playing inside with tons of places to hide, while the Courtyard map – which is huge in size – is filled with wide open spaces and area to run. The greatest thing about these maps is that they all have an area that is secluded enough to be used in Horde mode. The Grindyard map is probably the fan favorite for this since it contains a central tower with tons of vantage points and only one entrance. As stated before, it’s great to see levels being developed not only for some fast paced competitive games but some intense and defense-focused Horde games.

The fourth map pack is Dark Corners and comes with a massive seven stages. Each is very different in layout and presentation. Maps like Allfathers Garden are rich with lush vegetation and vibrant green and blue textures, while Highway is quite red with dirty brown architecture all around. Not only are the maps different but they are all very big. Some feel like mazes with the number of passages and walkways you will be able to use. And though each map is big, some still focus on tight and narrow corridors to fight in. For example, maps like Way Station and War Machine have tons of cover and places to hide. Also, there are several maps that feature great secluded areas perfect for the Horde gameplay mode. One in particular is Nowhere. In here you can choose either the inside of several houses or the on top of the central building. To make things even better – every few minutes you will be hit with a dust storm that lowers your vision significantly. This adds another level to the thought process of how to take on the enemy and makes the map that much more enjoyable to play. A nice feature about this pack’s specific achievements is that they have you play certain waves of Horde on certain maps in comparison to which maps work better on this mode than others. For example, you need to be level 50 and complete all 1-50 waves of Horde on the Nowhere map – which is conveniently the best map for this game type; whereas you only need to be level 8 and complete waves 1-10 on War Machine – a map with no great secluded areas.

The last piece of content you will receive is the Road to Ruins deleted scene from the main campaign. What’s interesting about this is that you get the chance to try out the new stealth mode or play through it normally in guns blazing. The stealth mode has you sneak past each enemy and avoid being detected. However, it comes up as a bit weak. Since no new gameplay elements were really used, it ends up just being you walking by when an enemy turns its back to you. The game does change this a bit by making you create diversions by dropping creates every now and then but you still end up just slowly walking through. It comes off as a bit shallow.

The overall length of the chapter is relatively short as well. It’ll take around 20 minutes to finish it but this does increase if you play through it both ways or try a harder difficulty. The guns blazing mode feels much nicer since it allows you to fight an addition boss during the chapter. It also lasts longer than the stealth side since you must fight off each enemy instead of bypassing them completely.

Overall the deleted scene is a nice addition and when packaged with seven multiplayer maps, the Dark Corners downloadable content is a great deal. Dark Corners can be purchased by itself for 1,200 Microsoft Points but if you missed out on some of the previous map packs you may want to buy the All Fronts Collection. Priced at 1,600 Microsoft Points it’s a steal for getting every bit of content, especially when compared to the individual pricing of each one.

Overall: 9/10

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gamerscore Update: 19/07/09

This week didn't have much in terms of the 360 for me. Most of my time was spent finishing The Conduit and getting my review up. However, I did receive some DLC codes in my email yesterday and have been doing a bit more.

Tales of Vesperia
As my quest to finish this game never seems to end, I did earn a significant amount of points in it this week. Normally I would obtain around five points for two hours of work, however this week 205. I did this by finally beating the second main boss of the game, that alone got me 150 points. Vesperia awards huge achievements for each significant boss you beat. I also got five points for beating this boss and doing the secret mission involved with that battle. Lastly, I got the 50 point achievement for uncovering every piece of the game. This was annoying since the area I was missing was very small and took a great deal of time just staring at the map looking for blank areas. I currently have 23 out of 50 of the achievements - 445 of 1000.

Gears of War 2
I received a download code yesterday for the All Fronts Collection for review purposes. This gave me the Flashback Map Pack (which I already had), the Combustible Map Pack, the Snow Blind Map Pack and the new Dark Corners Map Pack and deleted scene. So as you can see, many achievement possibilities have opened themselves to me. Currently I have gotten eight achievements - 150 points - since downloading the content and have quite a bit more I can get relatively easily. I did all the "play a multiplayer match on each stage" achievement and now need to find some people to go through Horde mode a bunch of times with me. I have 53 out of the 79 possible achievements which translates to 795 out of 1750.

Overall Gamerscore: 40 570

Monday, July 20, 2009

First Impressions: Gears of War 2: Dark Corners

Here is my current thoughts on the Dark Corners pack for Gears of War 2.

  • The stealth mode is a nice addition though it feels odd. Nothing really stealthy about it besides 'don't shoot the bad guys'.
  • Guns blazin' is much more fun and lasts a bit longer. There are also more twists and turns to this track and it fits in with the story better.
  • The length isn't that long but since it's only one section to a mission, it doesn't have to be very long.
  • Not being able to start from the last check point you reached really sucks.
  • 7 different maps is a great number and offers a lot of content.
  • Each map is quite different.
  • The maps are huge which is great.
  • They look great as well. Tons of color in these.

Coming Up: 20/07/09 - 27/07/09

Here's what I'll be posting sometime this week:
  • The Gamerscore update for last week's play.
  • A First Impressions on the Gears of War 2 All Fronts Collection
  • A First Impressions of the Historic Battles DLC for Halo Wars

EA Sports Active Vs. Wii Fit Part 3

Here we are now with the last installment to my comparison article between the Nintendo Wii fitness games: EA Sports Active and Wii Fit. Up till this point I have covered each game separately, describing how the game works overall and noting/listing the aspects I enjoyed the most or thought could use some work. This will be the main comparsion part of this three part article. I will talk about what each game has that works better than the other. I will mention places that each of them fall in comparison to the other game. And I will point out parts of each game that were great ideas and should be in any fitness game.

As I stated before, the best feature about Wii Fit was its accuracy when tracking the movements and positions I was in. And as I mentioned with EA Sports Active, the tracking was off in some places. Now to be fair, there are only a few exercises that had me having to repeat the action in EA Sports Active, but it happened enough to really bug me. What also happened in some cases was that it made me hold the pose longer when working one side of my body and very short on the other. This could be looked at as the game wanting me to strengthen and use my muscles more in that particular leg but when the game never did this to my opposite side. This causes me to think that the game just didn't pick up that I had moved until a few moments later. Wii Fit always tracked me properly. This is most likely because it has a huge piece of hardware to use but even when EA Sports Active used the balance board, it still felt slow. Overall, I give the tracking and precision over to Wii Fit.

Now keeping up with your original exercise and workout plan can be hard. Many people can end up getting bored with their routines very quickly. EA Sports Active does a good job of trying to keep you coming back as much as possible. First, with the inclusion of a calendar system you can see exactly which days you are to be returning and which days you can get off. By not just relying on yourself to return and actually having the game tell you what you'll be doing the next day, returning becomes more of a priority in your life. The best part is probably that the game tells you, at the end of each days workout, what you'll be focusing on tomorrow when you come back. This not only gets you working on different muscle groups in your body, but keeps your routine moving and changing. Not only will this work your full body but it will keep you from becoming bored.

Now with Wii Fit, there is no in place routine system. EA Sports Active sets up specific routines for each day, Wii Fit just lets you pick and choose. This can be bad for several reasons. It allows you to neglect certain muscle groups and you can quit more easily. Since EA Sports Active keeps you in the workout screens and doesn't return to any menu till you're finish, it feels more put together. Wii Fit makes you return to a menu every single time you want move on. This can allow the player to stop working out more easily than if they are constantly moving on to the next workout and seeing how many they have left to do. So overall EA Sports Active is set up in a nicer way and ensures your entire body gets worked with its constantly changing routines. Wii Fit gives the player too much freedom and without enough encouragement and systems in place to keep the users attention, they may just give up.

Now along with the way each game is set up, we can look at the user interfaces. And as this may not be a big deal for someone truly dedicated to working out, someone not being able to navigate the game easily can begin to feel overwhelmed and give up early. For starts, Wii Fit is very simple, the entire game is only exercises and finding an activity to do is quick and easy. Even setting up a profile is fast since most people using it will already have a custom Mii character saved away from before. What's also nice about Wii Fit is that it shows you and tells you exactly which muscle groups you will be working in each exercise. The inclusion of pictures with highlighted areas on the virtual person make it easy to know if you're going to be working your abs, or your thighs. This can help if someone is only trying to strengthen or tone a specific muscle group in their body.

Now the EA Sports Active interface is much more complicated. Since there is so much to this game, there's a lot you need to absorb before you even begin working out. This means that you need to take some time to read and try out every little thing. What's bad about this is that not everyone going into this game wants a whole journal of activity references and surveys to look at. The majority of people purchasing a fitness game just want to do the workout and be done. Also, with no way of telling you how you did at each exercise and giving you an overall score, you never know if you're improving. Wii Fit gives you a score after each workout and even gives you the Wii Fit Age so you know if you're getting more fit. EA Sports Active just wants you to keep working.

So what does EA Sports Active have that Wii Fit doesn't? There are several things that I would recommend any fitness game use and even try to improve on. The first is the calendar system. Telling the user when to be back and what they're doing is great motivation. To add the motivation, EA Sports Active has trophies. These are a great idea that act as mini achievements and I would highly recommend them be used in any game. By rewarding the player for working harder, longer and more often is a great way to keep them coming back. Everyone likes being able to have something to work towards unlocking and I constantly wish there was more trophies. Granted there are quite a bit, the more the merrier as unlocking these is a great feeling. Lastly, EA Sports Active tells you how many calories you are burning. This is good for anyone trying to lose weight as they can determine how much longer and how much harder they need to exercise. And the fact that the calories burned meter is always on screen during your workout just motivates the person that much more.

Now what does Wii Fit have that EA Sports Active doesn't? Well not much actually. As I stated before, it has a lot harder of workouts. The strength training is great and can really work even some of the more physically fit people out there. Also, each exercise will show you exactly where to be applying pressure and how to be standing. Along with this, performing well will give you a higher score and the inclusion of leader boards can be a great motivation when competing with other users of the game. And lastly, the game does a better job of showing you if you're improving. It constantly tells you your weight and body mass index (or BMI) and the Wii Fit Age is a good representation of how physically fit you are.

Now probably the most important thing we need to think about is just how well do these work your body? Let's say you're going into this as a relatively unhealthy person, you don't have much muscle and your stamina is low. For this person, which is the main audience for anything fitness related, I can't recommend Wii Fit. Sure he'll get some exercise with the yoga, aerobics and balance games, but none of those work your muscles that well. The only time you will really be getting some muscle mass is the strength training and it can be hard, especially for a somewhat unfit person. So when it comes to a workout that you can ease into, EA Sports Active wins easily. It has far more cardio workouts and doesn't start hard. However, if you are someone who is normally healthy and at a good fitness level, I wouldn't recommend EA Sports Active. The game's workouts and exercises are just too easy to give any huge muscle building benefit. I would say that you can still lose weight with it and keep your body healthy, but for any real muscle workouts you are going to want to use Wii Fit.

Overall, both games are a good option to go with and it depends on what your fitness goal is exactly. If you're trying to lose weight, build a small amount of muscle and generally keep your body fit - then I recommend EA Sports Active. It feels like a more complete game for the average person trying to lose some weight and burn today's calories. However, the exercises aren't very hard if you're already fit. Someone trying to build some muscle or just keep their body hard and tight would probably benefit from the strength training in Wii Fit. The yoga will also keep you flexible and strengthen some key muscle areas. So when it comes down to it, I can recommend both, it just completely depends on your level of physical fitness before going into these game and what you want to achieve coming out.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

EA Sports Active Vs. Wii Fit Part 2

Continuing my 3 part comparison between EA Sports active and Wii Fit, we now come to my segment completely on:

EA Sports Active

EA Sports Active is a more recently released fitness game - compared to Wii Fit - for the Nintendo Wii. This game tries to act as your own personal - and virtual - fitness trainer by setting up specific workout routines and schedules.

You begin by creating a profile. This involves entering your age, weight and height. You also get to create a character to represent you and to replicate your actions when working out. After creating your profile you can start the 30 Day Challenge. In this you are given a schedule that shows which days you are to return to work and which will be for resting. Each day will be different than the last as the game sets up specific workouts each routine. Some days you will be focusing on your arms, some day will be lower body.

You also get to input your goal that you wish to reach. The goal is broken down into three categories: calories burned, time spent working out, number of workouts complete. For each, you select the amount and in how many days you want to complete it. As you progress through the 30 Day Challenge, your time, workouts and burned calories will be added up towards your goal. You are shown your progress after each daily session.

Exclusive to EA Sports Active is the leg strap and resistance band. The leg strap acts as a pocket for the Wii controller's nunchuck so that the game can monitor your right leg's movement. Along with tracking the wii remote in your right hand, the game can get a general reading of how your body is positioned. The resistance band is just what it sounds like, this will be used for arm and back exercises like bicep curls and tricep rows. The balance board can also be used in this game but it is not required, there are also only a few exercises that work with it.

Along with completing the daily session in the 30 Day Challenge, you can take nutrition and extra physical activity surveys. In the nutrition survey, you must answer a number of questions ranging from how many full fruit/vegetable portions you ate yesterday to how many hours of TV you watched yesterday. The extra activity survey is a list of other possible activities you may have done. This can be things like swimming, running or even household chores. You must enter in how long you did them for and the intensity of the work on a scale of 1-10. The game then marks these down on its calendar so that the "player" can reference back to to see how they are doing.

Doing both the surveys and the daily workout session will add to your daily work out medal. This is a percentage reading that shows how fit you were recently. The higher the percentage - the more fit your daily activities are. The workout session will add 50% to the meter (earning you bronze), while the two surveys and any other workout sessions you partake in will fill the remaining 50% (earning silver and then gold).

Things I Like
  • The idea of a workout schedule is great. Showing the person which days they need to show up and which days they can rest really motivates a person. Also, by mixing the days up and not repeating the same routines over and over, the body gets a good and full workout and the player isn't left bored.
  • Probably the best inclusion to this game are the trophies that you can earn. These are like achievements that will unlock as you workout longer and harder. Some can be as easy as completing your first day or earning a gold fitness medal, while others can take a while, such as burning 10 000 calories or completing a full 30 Day Challenge. Some of the more fun ones are the workout specific ones. For example, having ran 25 laps in all the running in place workouts or doing 100 squats in total. This adds another layer to make the player feel that they should try as hard as they can and workout as often as they can. This was a wonderful idea.
  • The leg strap is a great idea to ensure the user is moving their entire body correctly. It would be very depressing if you went through several workout sessions just to find out you did the majority of them wrong and weren't achieving anything.
  • The option to workout with a friend is good. Bringing another player into the game to workout with you can add motivation and enjoyment. Though there is no way of doing the daily 30 Day Challenge session so if you plan to workout in partners, you will have to return by yourself to do your daily segment.
  • The game shows how long approximately your daily session is going to last and how many calories you will be burning. This is a great idea so people can make sure they set aside enough time to get their full workout. Along with this, the game has a timer in the corner to show how long you've been working out. It also shows how many calories you've currently lost in this one routine and it goes up each time you make a motion in the exercise. Seeing the calories burned number increase was a great idea as it adds a small reward function during the exercises.
  • The inclusion of a settable goal is good and showing it after each exercise routine is great. Allowing the player to see how close their are to their goal is good to make them feel good and want to come back.
  • The vast number of different exercises is great and can really get you moving and sweating. It's very much for cardio so I could definitely see someone losing some weight with this game.
Thing I Don't Like
  • Since the game only works by tracking the controller's movements, it's not the most accurate. There were several times when I found myself having to repeat a step because I either lowered my arm to slowly or the controller wasn't moved quick enough to sense it. This is quite disappointing since it can really throw off a person's rhythm.
  • The resistance band is far too flexible and not strong enough. For most of the exercises that require it, my muscles are hardly being worked because there just isn't enough resistance going against them. It also feels very cheap and there are many times that I'm thinking I could snap this thing any second.
  • Many of exercises that mean to replicate an actual sport (ex: basketball or tennis) just don't end up working me at all. They feel a lot like the balance games from Wii Fit and I'd rather just not do them.
  • The audio trainer that you follow doesn't give enough instructions I find. Instead of being told to do it slower or follow her pace, I'd like there to be some actual tips and more precise information. Though with the way the game tracks movement, knowing exactly what I'm doing wrong might be hard.
  • The majority of the exercises are very easy. I currently have it on the hardest difficulty and always do the full session and, even though I do work a sweat up, my muscle don't feel very sore. There just isn't much in this game for muscle building.
  • The user interface takes some time getting used to. This is mainly because there is just so much packed into this game; finding it all and knowing what to do can be a bit of a challenge.
So there is my generalized look at EA Sports Active. Now that I have talked about both Wii Fit and this game, tomorrow I will write up my comparison article between the two of them. I will mention things about each game that stand out and just work better against the other. I will also end it with my recommendation on which you should purchase.

EA Sports Active Vs. Wii Fit Part 1

EA Sports Active and Wii Fit both say that they aim to make you lose wight and live a healthier life style. After working with both for a good deal of time, I've decided to write up a comparison article on the two games. In this I will be talking about things that I liked, disliked and anything that stood out to me for each game individually. Then I will do my fine comparison on which I would choose and what I believe is the better purchase. Since this will be a somewhat long article I have decided to split it into segments. Today's part will feature:

Wii Fit

Wii Fit is a first party Nintendo game designed for the Nintendo Wii that fully utilizes the balance board add-on peripheral. Along with a simple user interface and several games to play, it can be quite enjoyable.

You start off by selecting your personalized Mii from the Wii's internal memory and begin to fill out your current age and birth day. Then the game sets up several activities that require you to balance and lean in certain ways. After this and once it has weighed you, it will present you with your "wii fit age". This age is the basis on how the game scores you and determines your progress. The lower the age, the better. It basically acts as a representation of how fit you are. Though this can sometimes be off as it scores you only on the body test games you do, which usually rely on balance as opposed to your muscle strength or personal stamina.

The game tracks you as you do each exercise and workout through the balance board. The balance board acts as a common scale but is fitted with many sensors placed throughout it. This way the game can see where you are applying more pressure or leaning. The basis of the game is all about how much pressure and the weight you are applying to the board. For exercisers such as Lunges, you will be shown a meter that relies back how much pressure you are putting on your front foot. By showing these meters and making the "player" aware of how much force they're applying and where, the game can easily tell if you're doing the workout properly.

There are four types of "game play" modes to Wii Fit: Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics and Balance Games. Yoga will have you do many different stretches and hold different positions in order to strengthen your muscles. Strength Training focuses on isolating specific muscle groups in order to work on them. Aerobics involves activities such as running in place and hula-hooping. Lastly, Balance Games will focus on your level of balance how fast you can shift weight from one leg to another in a series of games.

Things I Like
  • The best thing about Wii Fit is how accurate it is when you preform each exercise. Since the balance board is there, you're always getting a one to one reading on the force and weight you're exerting towards the board.
  • Trainer feedback. As you do each one of the Yoga exercises and Strength Training workouts, your virtual trainer (who you chose when starting) will constantly remind you how you should be standing - or lying if the situation arises. Along with regular tips and encouraging statements, the trainer is a great "companion. What I liked most about this is that my trainer would tell me specifically, or close to, exactly what I was doing wrong; whether this be leaning too far forward, or putting too much weight on one particular leg.
  • I also really enjoyed the Strength Training section to the game. This is what I spent most of my time with as I - literally - felt I got the best results while working through it. What I liked so much about it is that the workouts were actually quite hard. Though the game is aimed at a more unfit audience, these workouts could be done by anyone and still feel some pain. And not only do they make you do the workout, but they make you hold them and constantly tell you how to improve and perform better.
  • Wii Fit Credits. After completing each exercise, you will be giving a number of credits. Each credit counts as one minute of working out. The fun part of this is it tracks how many you have and how many you've collected from each game type. From here you can enter your workout graph and see which exercise modes you use the most.
  • The game also gives you a score on each one of your workouts depending on how well you did. You can do well by things like doing every push up on time or keeping your pressure over the correct line in lunges. What makes this so good is that the top 10 scores will be placed on the leader board. From there, any one else who plays the game will also be shown there and you can "compete" with your fellow Wii Fit users. This helps motivate the player and make the game that much more fun.
Things I Don't Like
  • The main focus to Wii Fit is getting out of shape people into shape. Now if you're incredibly weak, it can be very hard to complete some of the Strength Training - even on the lowest number of reps. There are many people out there who can't do six push ups with a side plank in between. The reason this isn't good is by being unable to do many of the workouts, you're missing on of a good chunk of the game. And though there are very easy activities in the Yoga, Aerobics and Balance Games sections, none of them will build as much muscle as Strength Training.
  • Balance Games. I never do these, I tried each of them when I first got the game, but they do nothing for me. The only time I can see this improving anything muscle related in you, is if you're incredibly weak. If squats are very hard for you, you might be able to receive some positive results from these.
  • Not enough cardio. For a game focusing on losing weight, there isn't much cardio workouts in here. The closest thing is the running in place exercises. These can range from 3 minutes all the way to 30. And even though strengthening your muscles from Yoga and the Strength Training will slim you down slightly, cardio workouts are a must for any significant change.
  • No option to set up a whole routine. When you finish each exercise, you will be asked to either quit or try again. Quitting brings you back to the workout menu so if you want to move on then that's the option for you. From there you need to select your next exercise. It would have been nicer to fluently move from one to the next without such a long break.
So that's my general look at Wii Fit. Overall I enjoy it quite a bit, mainly due to the high difficulty to the strength training. Coming up either tonight or in the next day or so, I will have my general look at EA Sports Active. Then the main comparison to follow.

Review: The Conduit - 5

The Conduit is a first-person shooter that utilizes good controls but is riddled with bland and sometimes dull game play. It features a great control scheme by using the Wii’s motion controller in several fun ways but sometimes back fires when put against intense and fast paced sections. And though the controls may feel good for the most part, the majority of the game seems somewhat slow and plan boring.

The game centers around Mr. Ford as he battles invading alien races who wish to destroy Washington, DC and from there, take over the world. As you begin the game, you will be playing a level that is set closer to the end of the game, sort of a preview of what is to come. This does a good job of opening a lot of loose ends and causing questions to begin stirring. After which, you will find yourself set five days previous to the opening stage. From here the story begins to unfold.

You main tool (besides the game’s weapons) is the ASE, a glowing orb used to uncover secrets, hack computers, and communicate with allies. Using it will cause you to holster your weapon so you must choose wisely when it’s safe to put down your firearm. The best part of this object is there are several different kinds of secrets in each level and scanning with the ASE causes them to unlock. You will be able to find hidden doors, floating discs, hidden messages and etc. It will also act as a sensor and alarm when you come close to invisible enemies or landmines.

Finding all hidden objects in one level will unlock achievements for you. The achievements in The Conduit are a great addition to the game, especially since not many Nintendo titles feature these. Some achievements can be unlocked by simply completing a certain stage, while others will require you to rack up a certain number of kills with each weapon. This causes the game’s replay value to increase substantially as you will want to continue to search for hidden objects and use new weapons as much as possible.

The Conduit’s most unique feature when compared to the average first-person shooter is the Wii specific control scheme. Due to the console’s motion sensing capability, players are able to move their guns around as if they were holding them themselves. This works for the majority of the game but can really backfire when put up against some of The Conduit’s more intense and difficult sections. Though the movement for the gun feels nice, it sometimes feels quite slow, for example: when you need to turn around or look to the side quickly. This can become quite frustrating when having to focus on two different directions in more enemy heavy parts. Overall, the controls feel great when facing only a few enemies positioned directly in front of you, but doesn’t hold up for the harder – and far more important – segments.

There are also some controller waving controls to the game. Shaking the Wii remote quickly will have you perform a melee attack, while shaking the nunchuck will cause your character to throw a grenade forward. The grenade throws are probably the most intuitive as the angle you are looking will alter the flight path and distance completely.

The controls will probably feel the worst when playing the game’s online multiplayer. Though this can be helped by the fact that every player will be faulted by these controls, it still can be a bit of an issue. However, the multiplayer is set up nicely, allowing you to choose to play with only friends, only your region’s players or anyone around the world. This was a good option to allow for less lag and loads times if you choose a closer opponent. There are also many different modes to choose from such as the standard death match and capture the flag type modes. Added to this is a ranking system for each player. Every time you finish an online match, you will be awarded experience due to your team and personal outcome in the game. However, the one downside is that there’s no system in place to separate the high ranking players from the low ones. I found myself playing with some very skilled players on my first try to the online multiplayer; being matched with people closer to my skill level would have been much better.

The graphics also aren’t much to look at in The Conduit. The majority of the levels are quite generic and many of the textures are extremely dull to look at. There are even several areas you can see that had no extra textures, like fire marks or broken walls, at all since they weren’t reachable. Looking out the window and seeing bland and dull streets was quite disappointing. However, the enemies are quite nice to look at and though they don’t differ too much from one another, they are well detailed. This is most noticeable when fighting some of the game’s bigger boss creatures.

Along with some dull environment visuals, the games voice acting is terrible. Almost every line spoken sounds like the actors were very uncomfortable when they were recorded. This not only sets the stage up in a dull manor, but any dialogue that occurs through the mission is just a complete let down.

Overall The Conduit comes across as unfinished but this isn’t to say it isn’t a fun game. Some of its parts will feel great to play through and you will feel quite powerful as your character’s suit gets more upgrades and you find new weapons. The number of weapons in the game is great and with the inclusion or weapon specific achievements you will want to try them all out. And though the controls do feel slow and awkward in places, the game makes up for it by not throwing too many difficult moments towards you. The online multiplayer is a good addition to the game but with no proper format to its matchmaking and rank system, it can become tedious and overwhelming when faced against high level players. The Conduit feels like quite the average game, but in a time where great first-person shooters aren’t hard to come by, it doesn’t hold its own.

Overall: 5/10

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Level 5 announces an announcement

I am a huge Level 5 fan. The first Professor Layton game on the DS is my all time favorite for the system and I loved Jeanne D'Arc on the PSP. The gameplay in these games wasn't the only great part either, the art in each was great. In fact, Jeanne D'Arc has one of my all time favorite box arts.

Now Level 5 is announcing an announcement (stay with me) for three new games. They plan to unviel the 3 games at their Level 5 Vision 2009 event. You can see their main website here.

For more news and the names of some titles Level 5 is currently working on, you can check Kotaku's article on this here.

Xbox Live update

So this Monday there will be an update to the Xbox Live service on the Xbox 360. From the list of new additions and features I find myself quite excited. Here are the things I'm looking forward to the most:

Avatar Marketplace
Now I don't expect myself to buy ANYTHING from the store they're setting up but I like the fact that they're doing more with avatars. Hopefully this will lead into more game achievement freebies for our avatars.

User Ratings
I can see this being used by not many of the "casual gamers" out there. I will most likely use it though, this is probably due to my interest in rating games and such.

Xbox LIVE Parties
Even though they aren't changing how they work (and they shouldn't), I like the fact that they're just streamlining them more. I love Xbox Parties and hated how often me or my friends would randomly be dropped out of it so the fact that they're adding an automatic reconnect is great.

Video Display Options - Display Discovery
This is a GREAT idea. As someone who isn't exactly where he should be on TV resolution knowledge, I can relate to the guy who has even less. This will be a great new feature for anyone without the crazy level of knowledge needed for TVs today.

Gold Member Veterans
I always love more options to show off new profile additions. Though the downside is mine will be low since I haven't had my 360 as long as most people.

Achievement Browser & Achievements Tracking
Anything to do with 360 achievements is good with me.

So those are the main features I'm looking forward to, hopefully I can get into the update this Monday.