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Ellen and Ellie *SPOILERS*

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Ellen and Ellie *SPOILERS*

the-last-of-us

Ever since Naughty Dog first revealed The Last of Us to the public, one of it's main characters Ellie has always drawn reference to actress Ellen Page. While game director Neil Druckman has never acknowledged whether it was intentional or not, playing the game leads one to believe there were at least some traits lifted from the actress and her likeness. In short the game takes place in a gritty realistic post apocalyptic world where a large portion of the population has been destroyed by a plague that turns humans into zombie-like creatures. The story revolves around relationships and how those relationships develop under such chaotic situations. This isn't a review in any way only a write up of something I found extremely fascinating. Last night, February 14th 2014, Valentine's Day no less, Naughty Dog released it's first story based DLC for The Last of Us called Left Behind. When you first boot up the expansion the game asks you to allow access to your Facebook account for a "neat feature." I usually don't allow games to do this but this is Naughty Dog we're talking about not King, developers of that Candy Crush Saga bullshit.

The way Facebook is integrated into Left Behind is...pretty rad. Simple but effective

Spoilers start here ---

Throughout the roughly 2-3 hour game you play as Ellie and you are accompanied by your AI partner Riley, both female protagonists and yes this point must be made. As with Last of Us proper the story telling and character progression are paced in a manner that you care enough about the outcome at the end, and yes it's always pretty fucked up. However, somewhere in the middle is where the whole Facebook integration and this post come together. This story takes place in a small town shopping center that's fully destroyed and abandoned. Riley and Ellie are just doing what all fourteen year old girls would do in this situation; break windows, play arcade games, shoot each other with water guns, argue then kiss and make up. Wait what?!?! Yes, kiss and make up. The Last of Us was no stranger to pushing the boundaries of what storytelling in video games is capable of, and with Left Behind Naughty Dog should be applauded for having the balls to do this. As the player you control Ellie around the mall and it's up to you to really explore the environment. I came across a photo booth which resulted in this picture that was posted to my Facebook.

As the player you choose your pose and the theme, Love, Friends, or Cool. Once you're done you can choose to export the picture. Shortly there after is when Riley and Ellie argue about their past and how they can't live without each other. They laugh it off while dancing then Ellie reaches out and kisses Riley on the lips. This is what I found fascinating. I woke up this morning to the news of Ellen Page announcing that she's gay. What a fascinating coincidence. Bravo on both fronts. But what a fascinating coincidence.

Also Ellen Page does actually star in a video game but that game is called Beyond: Two Souls. It's still great but no where near the style of story you get from the Last of Us. Sorry David Cage, but you're game is still great in it's own way.

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REVIEW - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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REVIEW - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers_ A Tale of Two Sons - Brothers Review 1

Brothers follows the trend of games like The Last of Us and Journey, where the emphasis is not so much on the "game" but the experience, It's an amazing achievement in story telling and it's all done without any dialogue or even a single line of text. It can easily be argued whether or not this is a game per se, but one thing is for certain you don't want to miss out on this one.

Yay for option screens

The game's mechanics are extremely easy to wrap your head around, however it's in the execution that they become dynamic and essentially become the dialogue. Each character is controlled individually using the analog sticks while the left and right trigger correspond to each characters interaction with the environment. The interactive elements change depending on which brother you are controlling. For example, you reach a point in the game where something as simplistic as coming across a stray cat gives separate outcomes; the older brother causes the cat to hiss and claw, while the younger brother is the polar opposite. It's these series of events that continue to cascade into an extremely well told story that, ironically, would have been given a disservice through dialogue.

You'll be fending off a horde of hungry wolves while also trying to keep your brother close behind

Brothers gets dark and morbid as the game progresses; unapologetically so. It goes hand in hand with the game mechanics as you'll notice if you make it to the bitter end. I completed the game in one sitting of about 3-4 hours and if you give it a chance I recommend you do the same. The puzzles aren't puzzles in the usual sense, they are more an exercise in dexterity but equally as rewarding without being too punishing. Picture yourself counting backwards from 100 in your head while verbally reciting the alphabet two letters at a time; YouTube would be so proud. There are secret areas you can find by exploring the branching paths and ultimately earn some achievements; this alone is what make Brothers a game in my opinion.

The scenery and atmosphere are stunning and help set the mood; good and sad.

If you have $15 to spare pick it up on XBLA, PSN, and Steam. It's definitely worth the price of admission and will give a whole new outlook on what is possible of video game storytelling.

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Xbox One's new controller explained...well in a PR way ofcourse

I was lucky enough to get my hands on this beaut at E3 this year and I gotta say, I fucking loved it. The sticks felt looser yet more responsive as I had just played Diablo 3 on 360 and then almost immediately went over to a play Killer Instinct; not the best comparison of course but a comparison none the less. Loved the flat feel and screwless design; it's crazy how much you can take the subtle things for granted.

This video has Xbox Live's Larry Hyrb give a tear down of the outer and inner parts of the new controller you can expect in your shipment of next gen goodness. I have to admit I've been really intrigued by the rumble in the triggers since it's announcement at E3 but none of the games I played showed any sign of it's implementation, or how exactly it could be used.

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Sony preps Tokyo for PS4

20130415-170927.jpg Shit just got real in Tokyo. Sony just launched a new internet service that makes Time Warner, in the states at least, seem like a joke that is not in anyway funny. You may want to add Japan to the list of "places I'd rather be." Kansas City who? Austin has shit weather and too many hipsters what?

2Gbps downstream and 1Gbps upstream, that bests Google Fiber by whole Gb. Thats a lot of Mbs. Hyperbole aside I'm sure streams will still be heavily dependent on the speed at which services like YouTube, Twitch, and other media heavy sites can be served up to you, but its undeniably a huge step in the right direction. Even on TimeWarners theoretical 30Mbps I still, on good days, can only connect to Steam at 3Mbps. Sad Face.

via TweakTown

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Genesis does what Nintendon't....then we end up with the Dreamcast

Nintendo, with the NES, had built up an amazing following by 1989; considering how difficult of a time they had getting their start, they truly focused on the software and allowed the NES, and later the Game Boy, to fully flourish. Sega on the other hand decided to push towards the 16-bit era and in 1989 released the Genesis. Its dénouement came when Sega decided to push even further with the 32X and Sega CD not much longer after first introducing the Genesis. Time and time again console manufacturers continue to overlook how software is the ultimate deciding factor of its lifespan, and not the hardware itself; Donkey Kong Country further exemplified this when it was introduced into a sea of underwhelming, yet clearly technologically advanced, console launches. With the Genesis, Sega inadvertently benefited due to Nintendo’s strict licensing and exclusivity agreements by allowing it’s software to evolve and expand off of already established and well-known franchises; Final Fight initiated Streets of Rage and Sonic The Hedgehog responded to Super Mario Bros with callous heels. The Genesis was on the right track by creating software that spoke for itself even after the Super NES came to market. It’s marketing was edgy and mature in nature, it needed nothing more than to continue down this path, but what ultimately happened was it decided to introduce new technology that was not necessary, let alone beneficial. The Sega CD and 32X did nothing to enhance the end-user experience and its biggest barrier to entry being price, caused it’s adoption rate to be so low that designers at the time were slow to support it, if at all. Even as a kid I remember playing Sewer Shark and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on Sega CD thinking how this could be any fun when I can’t even tell what’s going on; images were grainy, gameplay was sluggish, and as the player I never really felt in control of anything.

I do have very fond memories of Super Mario World, Altered Beast, Street Fighter II, and Bionic Commando, but all of these are games and not consoles. I honestly believe that it simply becomes an issue of one-upmanship. When these game companies introduce a new product they are passionate, focused, and whimsical even (everybody needs a little whimsy now and then), but once success hits, or in some cases lack thereof, there’s this inherent need to create something else in its place; even though history dictates that software will always determine the lifespan of a console cycle. Amazingly Microsoft and Sony get the message but Nintendon’t.

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CD Projekt Red just blew my mind

The Witcher 2 was released on PC back in 2011. The Witcher 2 has full frontal nudity and very egregious sex scenes, as egregious as the medium can currently handle of course, but egregious nonetheless. The Witcher 2 will soon be released for Xbox 360. Do you know what rating the ESRB slapped on it back on the PC? M. That's an M for Mature. Amazing. Truly amazing. I'm not arguing that fact I'm just amazed they got away with it and that Microsoft is allowing it to be released unedited unscathed on Xbox 360.

I started The Witcher 2 on PC as I did Skyrim simply because of how much better they run and look on PC. I'm tempted to pick up Witcher on Xbox 360 when it releases this April. If anything to finally finish it and receive some achievements while I'm at it. Knowing full well this generation of consoles are on their way out the door that's my excuse. Watch the video above witness a quick tease of what's in store for you in The Witcher 2. It's a great action/adventure/rpg. The interaction with the ladies is simply the cherry on top.

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Robert Bowling leaves Infinity Ward

Back before Activision shat all over Infinity Ward proper and the Call of Duty IP, causing what was arguably the biggest shakeup in gaming history this side of Gerstman-Gate, Modern Warfare stood a chance and making a name for itself as a stand alone product. Activision ultimately drew the final straw that broke that camels back when it fired Vince Zampella and Jason West with most if not all key members leaving to join the newly formed studio that Vince and Jason appropriately named Respawn Entertainment. Robert Bowling questionably soldiered on as Community Manager later being retitled as Creative Strategist. It's no wonder many in the gaming industry were taken by surprise by Bowling's sudden departure from Infinity Ward, or what's left of it. One has to wonder what the cause was. Could it be that Bowling did not agree with where Activision will be taking the franchise in the future. It's been widely rumored that Call of Duty would go subscription based and considering Activision's past greed filled endeavors,along with bunk-buddy Blizzard's ability to milk the shit out of their player base month to month, it doesn't seem too far fetched. Modern Warfare 3 left a sour taste in my proverbial mouth and this only makes matters worse.

Not surprising however, was Respawn Entertainment's was quick response to Bowling's 300K+ Twitter followers that current Community Manager Abbie Heppe is still steadfast in her position at Respawn. Only time will tell I guess but it sure is fun to speculate.

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Tell Tale gets around to finally releasing The Walking Dead

Tell Tale Games has a thing for releasing great adventure games. Pair that up with the a already great and engrossing story of The Walking Dead and you've got yourself a customer. At $4.99 an episode, you can't beat that with a stick. I'll admit I couldn't get into the TV series but that's only due to the fact that I can't sit in front of the TV with a controller in my hand to interact with the screen. It simply does not feel natural to me. This tho, I think this may have done it. I love the cell shaded look which I think will do wonders for the overall feel and skyrocket the immersion factor to 110%. Maybe it'll suck. Who knows?

The Walking Dead will show up on XBLA, PSN, PC and Mac next month. Sheck it bro!

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David Cage is slowly earning the title of "My Next Kojima"

Yeah, it's a title gotdammit. David Cage has a thing for niche. I'd go out on a limb and say he may be the full on definition of it. With titles like Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain a guy like this is, well intriguing to say the least. It's been awhile since I've seen, heard, or consumed anything artistically that has caused chills to crawl down my spine. People wonder why I tend to pay more attention to video game and tech news more than real world news. This is why. The real world tends to focus on destruction where video games and tech heavily lean on the side of construction. Creating something from nothing or maybe....I really do just live in my head. It's a great place to be.

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Max Payne 3's new tech video series is nothing short of astonishing

Rockstar, much like Kojima Productions, can get away with their usual 3-5 year dev cycles for each new game they pump out since every game they release is of such high caliber. Max Payne 3 will fit in nicely. It's easy to see how far they've come from using the Euphoria engine since GTA4. Red Dead was solid, LA Noire added the facial animation tech, and now Max Payne is bringing full character animation based on AI design. Insane. GTA5 sounds more appealing by the minute.

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Unboxing? More like take it off! Take it off!!

Ever wonder what the inside of a PS3 looks like? Well here you go. No fucking shit!?!? Reality Synthesizer eh? Yeah the PS2 had a little something called a Graphics Synthesizer and an Emotion Engine. Yup, Ken Kutaragi is one crazy son of a bitch.

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Activision's at it again and YOU are the problem.

I know, I know, this is coming from the guy who payed $150 for the Prestige Edition of Black Ops that my cat enjoyed for all of 5 minutes, but at least I got something tangible out of the deal that wasn't, for lack of a better word, lazy. Activision has just announced their first DLC Map Pack for CodBlops and surprise, surprise it's $15.

On the latest episode of Major Nelson's podcast, Treyarch's Online Director Dan Bunting, revealed First Strike, the first DLC map pack for Blacks Ops hitting February 1st. Thanks to Kotick and Mattrick's love affair and Microsoft's deep pockets, Xbox 360 owner's get first dibs on all DLC so PS3 players will have to wait. How long? I'd be surprised if it was longer than 30 days however, that was never specified only my speculation. The pact between Microsoft and Activision was announced at last years E3 but the timed exclusivity will continue through 2012 for what it's worth.

So what do you get for your $15 or 1200 Spacebucks MS Points? You get five maps total: 4 multiplayer maps and 1 zombie mode map. If you're anything like me you'd like some specifics and the Ask An Enemy break down. Here it goes, The first 2 uninspired fluff-and-filler maps are based on areas from the campaign with one called Discovery, an antarctic research facility, and the second is Kowloon, based on the rainy rooftop sequence in Chinatown. Is it just me or does there always seem to be a map that shows off the engine's weather effects. The last two multiplayer maps are at least somewhat interesting: Berlin Wall, the name says it all and Stadium, a hockey stadium located in the northern United States. The latter sounds more like an ideal situation for Zombie mode don't you think? Gretsky zombies FTW!! I digress, the last map is Ascension for you zombie killin' bunch.

Here's where things get tricky. Personally I'm more of a co-op guy so I played the shit out of zombie mode on World at War, multiplayer not so much. Based on personal experience, within my circle of friends it tends to be competitive or co-operative, it's rarely both. When Treyarch released those map packs I essentially was paying $10 for a new zombie mode map and had no qualms whatsoever, again: the shit, out of. Now I'd be paying $15. Ascension may be one amazing zombie mode map however, I'm not falling for that one again Activision! For the sake of avoiding one massive rant we'll leave the whole Activision-destroyed-Infinity-Ward discussion out of this, but know that it played a huge role in my personal decision to avoid the MW2 DLC. It's no secret that Activision charges a premium price for their DLC since the masses don't vote with their wallet they vote mindlessly by following the herd. Hey little sheep, I feel the Call of Duty subscription model is coming your way sooner than later. Everyone has their own opinion on value as everyone values their opinion. Damn that's deep.

There's a reason Activision gobbled up Blizzard. Do you know just how much they make from WoW subcriptions? I can just see Bobby Kotick with his rolled up sleeves, flame-lit globe in hand, laughing maniacally. Oh yeah, so February 1st y'all.

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Codblops: Understanding the paranoia or questioning my intelligence

Treyarch, your attention to detail is lost on me. Your attempt at keeping me engaged and focused in the narrative while keeping the shit-hittin-fan level continuously well above 11 is admirable, yet in my opinion, slightly discordant. I never once felt important in terms of plot and my role in it and the gameplay left me unsatisfied by virtue of the disconnect with my character. Is this wrong? Is it possible to be wrong? Can my enjoyment of the single player campaign really weigh so heavily on whether or not I paid attention in history class or how many war documentaries I've seen? It's an interesting dilemma further emphasized by how I originally planned on reviewing it for Ask An Enemy. After completing the campaign my disappointment felt overt. Upon reading review after review and listening to my boys on Weekend Confirmed discuss it, it felt unfair.

How is it that I'm not digging this game? It's an ADHD sufferer's dream. The action is non-stop, the explosions are ginormous and the violence is of the caliber you'd see Rambo take part in. It's that sensory overload without remission I've come to love and, undeniably, am a huge fan of. So what's going on here? My inability to focus on the narrative and naiveté with it's references to the real life situations and events of that period caused me to see right through to that broken gameplay mechanic I've been all too familiar within the franchise. Infinite spawn points that don't end until you hit the trigger point, rinse and repeat. Veteran difficulty immensely exemplifies this and paired with my ignorance, it shot down any enjoyment I was expecting from playing through single player. Previous games in the series also suffer from this design choice however, Captain Price was the fucking shit.

It begs the question had I reviewed Black Ops and been so negative on it, would my review hold any merit? How about disregarding the story and focusing on gameplay? I was struggling to find what angle to approach the review from. Luckily it's obvious where the focus of Treyarch's attention went and that was one-upping Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer, stepping out from Infinity Ward's "Hiroshimic" shadow and shattering the bar and any preconceived pettish feelings gamers may have had of the multiplayer experience. Allowing the user to set the default executable, on consoles no less, to multiplayer by default should speak volumes. Additionally, there's so much more than single and multiplayer packed onto the disc that makes even the Prestige version of Black Ops worth the wallet-weight-loss system. With the return of Zombie mode come three entirely new maps and purchasing the Prestige edition gives you access to all four maps from World at War's Zombie mode. I can't see any reason why these maps wouldn't come later as DLC but definitely a nice perk. Also while sitting in your chair on the Mode select screen, look down at your hands and pull the the left and right triggers continuously. Go ahead give it a shot. Once you do that, wander on over to the computer termiinal and type in "DOA". You may even want to experiment with "ZORK". My work here is done.

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Kinect my balls to your face, big disgrace, kicking your can all over the place

The launch line up for Microsoft's Kinect is a tremendous disappointment as it usually is for any new console launch. Obviously Kinect isn't a new console per se but we're now 6 years into the life of the Xbox 360 and that's about the time new consoles are introduced to replace our pathetically outdated systems. The difference this time around is that both Microsoft and Sony are pushing motion controls, and unfortunately 3D, as the next-gen gaming leap without a call for a new device. I'm sure as hell not ready to jump into a new lifecycle of consoles just yet and I'm sure many others feel the same. For Christ's sake there are people out there who still have no idea their Xbox 360 can be turned on by pressing the Xbox guide button on the wireless controller. Just yesterday, I confirmed a question a friend an acquantiance had about whether or not his Xbox would play DVDs. He nearly shat his pants in enjoyment. Do these people really need a new console?

Xbox Live's Major Nelson posted the complete launch list for Kinect over on his blog and it reads like the most uninspired, half-assed, me-too list of video games 3VAR! Most of those games are nothing you wouldn't find on an uninformed parent's Christmas list of exciting gifts for Billy which he can only play after church and chores are done. EGM is the truth, read it.

The line up announced at TGS in September however, is a different story. Microsoft, much like Sony, without a doubt are aiming towards the casual market with the same Wii-like mentality of throwing motion controls onto the same ol' gameplay mechanics and "family friendly" themes we are all too familiar with. Can you blame them? They're Satan. In the hands of the right developer though, Kinect and Playstation Move can really shine. If Peter Molyneux's "Project Milo" presentation at last year's E3 was any indication of what's in developer's minds we've got some really intriguing stuff to look forward to. Although Project Milo has had it's share of on-again-off-again moments in the development cycle it's still promising nonetheless.

With devs like Grasshopper led by Suda 51 of No More Heroes fame and of course the omniscient Hideo Kojima onboard, my bets are on the future of Kinect looking fairly bright. Consider my pre-order confirmed.

Quick side note about menu navigation support, which I find to be an extremely useful feature. Once Kinect is plugged in, your Xbox will essentially have full voice command support as well as having a new dashboard to fit more with Kinect's method of input for navigating the new UI. Sony's Playstation Move does little in this area as navigating the XMB's menus are extremely finicky and not elegant in the slightest. Granted I own a Playstation Move and Navigation controller, where I have yet to test out Kinect's implementation which I will surely do in the days to come, November 4th to be exact.

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PODCAST: The Lipstick Device is the featured music break for this weeks Weekend Confirmed!! Episode 28 to be exact.

The ability to break apart, dissect and extend any type of discussion about a game like Guitar Hero beyond 2 minutes is one miraculous feat and that’s exactly what they guys of Weekend Confirmed just did in episode 28. There's a reason it's THE gaming podcast it's also the reason why I never miss an episode. While I'm at it I'll bring up how this episode also happens to feature one of my songs “Proximity is Your Campaign.”

I’ve followed Garnett Lee’s podcasting since the early days at Ziff and countless restructuring in lineups. It's a lot like a band with each new revolving chair the chemistry takes a hit. Like many others, I’m also one who miss the original chemistry shared between Shane Bettenhausen, Luke Smith and John Davison, but that was the past and Weekend Confirmed is the present. Garnett never skips a beat even when special guesting the guys at 8-4 Play, another great podcast featuring former 1UP/GameVideos editor Mark MacDonald which focuses primarily on news coming from Japan. It's just as informative, wacky and entertaining as Garnett and the crew.

This post is simply to express my admiration for the great, entertaining minds over at 1up, ShackNews and of course Jeff Cannata, also of the Totally Rad Show. I find it extremely exciting to have something I created be featured on a podcast I truly respect and admire. Jeff's "Very true" response to the album title sent chills down my spine. Them there my fucking boys yo!!!

Visit "Weekend Confirmed - Episode 28" over on ShackNews.com for the break down of this specific episode.

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Impressions: OnLive

According to OnLive, I was one of the lucky few to be selected in my area for the Founding Members Program which provides me with a free 1 year membership to the service, or as I like to call it, access to a closed beta. Essentially, that's what it is, and I'm all for it.

While companies like Spawn Labs and StreamMyGame are doing something similar, that is remote access to your content, OnLive is pushing for something considerably more useful and less of a hassle to set up.

Spawn Labs and StreamMyGame both provide access to content you already own which is definitely a plus however the execution of how to go about setting it all up is a bit of a hassle. The nice thing about OnLive is it bypasses that entirely by only requiring a quick download and install of their application. You don’t have to leave your console on when you leave the house with whatever game you plan to play preloaded into the disc drive or leave your gaming PC on while you rack up the electric bill.

OnLive simplifies all that by simply starting up the application choosing a game and your off. It took me no longer that 10-15 minutes from the minute I got the invite email to the time I was in playing games in OnLive. It really was and is a breeze to use. Games start up almost immediately and jumping from one to another is equally as seamless.

Let me clear some things up. I currently have an internet connection speed of 25mbps downstream and 2.5 upstream which is way above OnLive requirements and I still experience some very, very slight lag. Nothing that makes games unplayable by any means but it is definitely noticeable. If you were playing any multiplayer games that require precise movements such as FPS games or fighting games I could see gameplay being hindered somewhat however I can’t say that with a firm conviction since games like that aren’t available on the service yet. OnLive also currently does not support WiFi connections so the “portability” of it is severely limited. That along with the bandwidth requirements really limit is it’s use on a broader scale and at the moment I honestly don’t see them loosening up in that area. It’s the heart of the service.

My biggest gripe currently is the list of games currently on offer. The following statement is entirely subjective, however for me, the whole purpose of OnLive is to provide the end-user with games that would normally require an expensive gaming rig to play. Crysis anyone? The games currently available are nothing you can’t play if you don’t have an Xbox 360, PS3 or low end PC running Steam. Seriously, World of Goo? Great game without a doubt but not one I’d personally chose to showcase the service.

The user interface is not much different from what Xbox 360 does with it’s current blade system. Heck, OnLive even recommends the use of Xbox 360 gamepads specifically. The guide button brings up the OnLive dashboard as one would expect on the 360 proper during gameplay. Oh and the gamepad works flawlessly on Mac as well. FTW!!!

Pricing on games is also another big issue in that it’ll vary greatly from one game to another. Some games you can rent while others you can only buy, however you’re not actually buying the game you’re purchasing a PlayPass which provides you with unlimited access to the game for the life of your subscription. Some may take issue with that since the cost is on top of your membership which isn’t really clear how much it will be once it opens up to the general public. While some games are a full $59.99 for a PlayPass some are $19.99. I can’t justify a PlayPass for what I’d pay for a fully tangible disc I can hold in my hand. $20 seems more appropriate. If they can standardize the pricing structure across all games I think the service would greatly benefit from it but as it stands it weighs in as more of a con than a pro.

I’ll post up a video showing off the service later today. Feel free to ask any questions if I didn’t cover something you’d like to know. I’m all ears.

Also posted at Bitmob.com

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Impressions: Crackdown 2 Demo (Xbox 360)

 

 

It happened with Crackdown and now it returned with Crackdown 2.  My desire to to play Crackdown was close to nothing until I got my first hands-on with the demo and being the completionist I am, I was immediately addicted to finding every single orb.  Crackdown 2's recent demo has proved to be a return to form as I immediately found myself back at the mercy of those little green time consumers.  Crackdown 2 has soared it's way back up my Day One list.  Crackdown 2 has soared it’s way back up my Day One list even without any beta invite attached to it.

Let's keep it simple.  

What's new

Well for starters, there's now an Agility Orb ping that assists in finding all the scattered Agility and Hidden Orbs around Pacific City.  It's a feature I found tremendously helpful in inFAMOUS that I found myself asking why Crackdown didn't have this crucial ability implemented.  It appears someone over at Ruffian Games played inFAMOUS and figured the same.  While the patch that Real TIme Worlds released did help with it's wider radius and amplified sound wave, I was left with 2 Orbs hidden somewhere in the city that have forced me to bow out of that struggle with my head held high.

Not only will you spend most of your time scaling tall buildings for Agility Orbs and scouring every nook and cranny of Pacific City for Hidden Orbs, Ruffian Games found it necessary to add even more items to find.  Audio Logs will give you the backstory as to why Pacific City is in it’s current state, Agency Beacons, once activated, aid in eradicating the freaks and Tactical Locations provide weapon and vehicle drops.

While I’m still not sold on the addition of zombified Freaks, they do provide an easy way to acquire tons of XP.  

What’s the same

The same broken melee combat system still leads to some frustrating deaths so if you’re thinking of Ramboing it up think again.  Jumping head first into a pile of enemies will quickly bring up the Regenerate screen.

The targeting system was never Crackdown’s strongest suit either and it fails here as well.  While you can definitely free aim it, you’ll have better luck dating a fat chick.  The AI seems to have a better revamped version of the lock-on mechanic as every bullet that leaves their weapon seems to land without fail.  Who’s the Agent here?  

Wonky control system aside, I'm glad they decided to leave jump mapped to R3,  I’m in this for the Agility Orbs and hella rad over the top achievements.  As you’d expect the unbelievably ridiculous achievements are back once again and it seems Ruffian Games has had co-op heavily on the mind.  “Co-op Keepy Up” which requires an agent to pass a vehicle back and forth between each other 3 times using the UV shotgun without touching the ground is what Crackdown is all about.  With achievements like that and “Victory Roll”, kill and enemy with a mounted turret while airborne AND upside down, it’s easy to allow the combat off the hook but only slightly.  I can’t even begin to comprehend how I’d go about attempting that one.  Looks like it might be one of those accidental achievements I’ll obtain after mucking something up.   Any achievements you earn in the demo carry over to the full game which is a nice touch.

I’m in the process of testing out Co-op as I write this up and I’ll update it with those impressions once I’m done.  Anyone else had the chance to give it go?

Also posted at Bitmob.com

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Splinter Cell: Conviction - First Impression

Ubisoft had originally planned to bring Sam Fisher out of the shadows in 2007, they even nailed down the cover of EGM at the time with a 4 page spread on the game. His look was completely different and the game seemed to resemble Assassin's Creed a bit too much, enough to cause Ubisoft to delay its release and due a complete reboot of the franchise. After playing the first couple of missions the game still feels very Assassin's Creed like however, due to it's brilliantly implemented Rainbow Six Vegas sytle control scheme and game mechanics I am now very much interested in the series going forward.

If you're a veteran to the Splinter Cell series odds are you'll not feel welcomed here. This is not Chaos Theory, Pandora Tomorrow, heck it's not even Double Agent and I kinda liked Double Agent. Conviction takes the series in a new direction. Kojima Productions listened to Metal Gear Solid fans and adopted the popular shooter feel ironically making stealth much more fun to play. You're no longer trying to hide bodies and waiting and waiting and waiting in the shadows. It's slightly more action oriented though not in a guns blazing sort of way and also without entirely sacrificing stealth. The pacing is balanced better thanks to the introduction of the mark and execute mechanic which finally lets you play Sam Fisher like the badass he is and not so much a clunky mess being controlled by an even clumsier gamer who's trying to come to terms with a control layout you'd think was set up to for a goat. Notice I said not so much of a clunky mess. Controls can always be refined and no one way is ever 100% perfect. Unless you're Hideo Kojima since wrong is simply not in his vocabulary. While some might say the mark and execute command is too much of a gimme you can only perform it once you've successfully carried out a close quarter stealth kill, however if you're skilled enough with head shots Fisher's silenced pistol packs a mean punch that lead to some very satisfying one shot kills. It definitely allows you to experiment by CQC'ing a guy then marking two targets and executing with Y, if timed and planned out accordingly you can effectively clear out a room in seconds. I hear playing brolo trains you for some of the more difficult missions that lie ahead in the bromance mode, or co-op.

Touching back on the Rainbow Six comparison, the one thing that's always bothered me was how the AI felt cheap. If you were discovered the enemies immediately knew where you were regardless of any attempts at distraction and they'd conveniently spawn right around the corner giving you a face full of controller chugging madness. The AI here is still as preposterous as ever shouting heavy handed lines about Fisher's skills then disregarding the dead body and the search after a few seconds. There is a benefit to this however in that the game is more forgiving of any fuck ups caused by unintended button presses. It's almost as if the game knows it's a game and punishes itself and not the player. Mission objectives are projected on walls and such which gives the game a nice cinematic touch that adds to an already slick presentation. It's quite obvious what Ubisoft was aiming for though I can't say much for the story itself. So far it's all very lackluster. Sam hardly shows any emotion during interrogation scenes like one in particular where I can't help but think "What do you tell a chick with two black eyes?" Ever heard it? Oh it's a good one. The gameplay has it's hooks in me though and that's all that matters at the moment.

All in all I'm getting a really good vibe from the latest entry in the Splinter Cell series. I'm roughly 2-3 hours in but I'm eager to see how it all pans out.

Oh yeah and picking up Conviction get's you an invite to the Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Beta that'll start up sometime this summer. :)

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Kevin Butler for President.. I mean Sony's E3 Presenter

You've all seen those surprisingly humorous ads Sony's been pushing lately with VP of whatever-makes-his-shit-float-that-day Kevin Butler right? Well it sure as hell beats the Cell Processors out of those ads of old with the crying baby explosions and what not. Ken Kutaragi lead Sony back then with a steel fist and a peg for a leg. Motherfucker even told people to get another job so they could pay for their PS3s. Well things have gotten slightly better ever since Sony execs finally grew some big shinny ones and made Kutaragi walk the plank. Hey, if you want a lion for pet that's great and all but he's gonna get tired of them mash potatoes soon so, look, the fuck, out.

Anyway back to my man KB, he's actually been so well received that over at the Playstation Blog Share there's a thread going on to get him to present this years E3 spiel. I suspect the kids over at NeoGaf are behind this since I mean who else would comment with "Yes! He should somehow be integrated into the XMB!" HAHA!! Oh those fucking kidders. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against Jack Tretton but, THIS. SONY. DO IT.

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