Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pokemon Black/White


Pokemon - Black VersionI would like to start by stating that yes, the target age of the Pokémon game series passed me by some years ago. In fact, I have been playing the series since the first games, Pokémon Red/Blue version(s), were released in the United States in 1998. Since my youth, I have played absolutely every installment and enjoyed them thoroughly. Perhaps it may be due to a yearning to reliving my childhood that I continue to play these games. Whatever the reason, it seems Pokémon discovered a formula in gameplay that has worked so soundly that is has remained unchanged for well over a decade. In fact, with its phenomenal global success, the series is Nintendo’s second most lucrative, losing only to Mario. Pokémon remains a perfect example of the idiom "if it is not broken, I see no reason why I should attempt to repair it, as that would be foolish". The only exception to this rule is the ice cream cone Pokémon Vanillite. Honestly, it's an ice cream cone that evolves from a small cone to a single scoop to a double scoop. Ice type or not, Pokémon that idiotic make me want to void my life.

If you are reading this review, it is likely you’ve played a Pokémon game in the past, so I will not bother going into details in the basics of gameplay. You begin as a trainer starting a Pokémon journey, obtain a starter Pokémon, have a rival, are required to trade between both White & Black versions in order to complete your pokedex, eight gyms and the Elite-Four, all quite standard by now. However, Nintendo has added minor changes to the latest entries in the series, as they have done with each previous generational release, to make the new experience feel renewed. First off, rotation battles have been introduced. By now, we have already become quite acquainted with dual Pokémon battles, so Nintendo decided to change the styles around a wee-bit when going into a triple battle. Rather than just lobbing out three Pokémon simultaneously, a turn-table is used as a platform to spice things up a tad. This subtle change means the one on one aspect of battles remains intact, while allowing Pokémon to change positions on a whim, adding a new dimension to gameplay. Additionally, a new wireless system has been added to the game, allowing players to trade and battle with other players in the vicinity without needing to even go into a Pokémon Center. This feature makes the gameplay more versatile by giving players the option to be more spontaneous in their battles, greatly increasing player interactions.



The Nintendo giveth, and the Nintendo taketh away, however. Instead of simply including berries or mini-games or making pokeballs out of dried fruit, Nintendo decided to force a radically new limitation in the game. In the past, trading was available between old and new generations of Pokémon, allowing players to create any team they desired based on their previous games. Of course there were limitations in how far one could level them up between gym badges, but it still did not stop players from mixing and matching as they pleased. This time around, however, the trading is limited exclusively to other Black/White cartridges and that limitation is not lifted until after defeating the Pokémon League. In my opinion, this was a fantastic idea on Nintendo's part. Instead of just introducing a new region with new Pokémon, this restriction forced the player to actually use what was in this new area without resorting to older Pokémon and strategies they already understood. This situation is not unlike having to use a new rifle because of its scarce availability. What’s a Colonel to do when his trusted Lee-Enfield finally wears out while he’s taken up residence in Germany for a short while but learn to use and appreciate the Mauser? Push your comfort zones, chaps! 

Though the game is quite fun and is overall enjoyable, it is not without flaws. The game’s graphics appear to be approximately 85% unchanged since the series’ inception. Cut-scenes have been added and a few areas such as a metropolitan city look graphically impressive on the DS, but otherwise the game still has the same over-head, simplistic interface. Most frustrating of all, places like the city in comparison to the graphical boondoggle of the rest of the game make it painfully apparent that Nintendo could be doing a better job, but simply is not. In fact, several of the newer Pokémon are just recycled versions of older Pokémon, such as Excadrill and Sandlash. Honestly, use the Googler Machine to find an image of those two and tell me they are not related in some way. Another minor detail of note—technical machines (TM's) that can teach Pokémon different attacks are now reusable. This subtle difference completely changes certain strategies from previous games in a negative way. In my opinion, it seems a bit of a mistake to allow powerful TM's to be used infinitely instead of forcing the decision to be upon only one Pokémon, but it is a factor that does not impact gameplay in a detrimentally large fashion. Honestly, I adapted to it just fine. What I certainly have not adapted to is that ice cream cone Pokémon! I apologize, but that incredibly ludicrous creature is just…it's an ice cream cone! AN ICE CREAM CONE, BY GOD!
The Colonel's Conclusion:

In short, if you're already a fan of Pokemon, nothing will stop you from playing this new generation. The new game’s style of catching small woodland creatures to force into gladiatorial combat is mostly unchanged and equally as enjoyable as its predecessors. In all honesty, Pokémon Black/White is a fresh semi-reboot of the series and I felt more nostalgic in playing through it with new Pokémon because I could not rely on my past accomplishments in my new journey. It felt exactly as I did when I played Pokémon Red/Blue so many years ago, banking only on the sense of familiarity within the context of the game universe. If you're a fan, you shall most assuredly want this, and if you are not, welcome to a new adventure!

...

Honestly, an ice cream cone? Bloody hell….

Friday, August 26, 2011

Counter Strike: Global Offensive Debut Trailer

Although I am more than heartbroken about my dreams being crushed, my excitement for a new Counter Strike title is unmistakably high. That excitement has been amplified by the release of two CS:GO videos earlier today, the first of which is the official preview trailer:



If you simply cannot get enough of CS:GO, the video after the break will showcase some of the weapons that will be available upon the game's launch next year on PC, XBLA, and PSN. It seems like the PS3 version may be the best version for consoles as it allows for keyboard and mouse support and cross-platform play with PC and Mac. CS:GO for 360 will be terribly lonely.

It did not dawn on me until recently, but Call of Duty is now a direct competitor to Counter Strike and both series have a rabid fan following. I wonder if the same level of rivalry and bickering seen over Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 will come to light over these two series in the next few months. CoD has console loyalists, ready to yell obscenities into their headsets from the couch, but CS has PC diehards, and they have what I hear are "1337 h4x0rz". I am not sure what a h4x0r is or why there are 1337 of them, but they certainly sound formidable. Call of Duty fans beware, the bomb has been planted and you did not buy the defuse kit.


Quantum Conundrum Trailer and Gameplay

Kim Swift, the brilliant mind behind Portal, has done it again. It seems making interesting, charming puzzlers comes naturally to her, as she revealed her latest endeavor Quantum Conundrum. You take control of a kid looking for his mad scientist uncle in a comically large mansion armed only with a dimension shifting glove. Does it already sound wonderful? Just wait until you see the trailer!



If you are as intrigued as I am, click the Read More link below to see the gameplay and creator narration video. It is difficult to not compare this game to Kim's earlier masterpiece, but I believe it will not matter in the end. Quantum Conundrum appears to be building a new puzzle game paradigm that I am more than excited to jump into.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monthly Podcast

It is that time again, my friends. The Colonel was in London,taking care of some looting hooligans and as such, the podcast had to be delayed by a week or so. Fear not, however, as our second show will be this week!

Tuesday, August 23rd at 8:00 PM CST

Join us on our Teamspeak server to participate in the conversation or download it afterward from iTunes, podbean, directly, or stream from our site. To join in live, just follow the following instructions:

How to download Teamspeak 3 and connect to our server

How to join in the discussion and the rules for doing so

We shall be discussing topics like this:
  • Gamescom news

  • 3DS price drop

  • Hats for games in Steam

  • DLC

  • Gamefly's PC game service


We certainly look forward to seeing everyone on Tuesday. Tell your friends, acquantainces and enemies to listen in and participate.

Gamescom 2011 Wrapup

I know I said we would be covering all six days of Gamescom, but there simply was no news left to report over the weekend! To close the Gamescom chapter of our lives this year, I submit to you this summary of noteworthy announcements:

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Link's latest adventure will be released for the Wii on November 20 in the US. We tried our hand at it at Comic Con and it's certainly one of the most exciting titles this year. November is already a busy month for games with the new Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty, Battlefield and more being released, and with Nintendo adding a Zelda title, the Colonel and I should be quite busy this Thanksgiving!

Ubisoft Announces Six Titles for the Vita
Did you think Vita was only going to have Lumines and Assassin's Creed? Nay, says Ubisoft, You shall have not two, but six titles from us to sample. These titles are "Assassin’s Creed, Rayman Origins, LuminesTM, AsphaltTM, Dungeon Hunter Alliance and Michael Jackson the Experience." Hey, I said six games, not six good games.

To The Moon:
Nostalgic for Chrono Trigger? Looking for a game that makes you teary eyed? To The Moon looks to deliver on both. Freebird Games says its latest indie game is about "two doctors traversing through the memories of a dying man to fulfill his last wish." The graphics are 16 bits of elegence and the story is certainly a heavy one. If this sounds like the game for you, watch the trailer and visit the game's website for more information. It will be released this fall and I've already got my tissues handy.

Infamous 2: Festival of Blood
Cole McGrath is getting a superpowered expansion with Festival of Blood, an expansion that adds vampires to New Marais. It's not clear how this will tie into the story, but it seems to be not unlike Undead Nightmare was to Red Dead Redemption. If you cannot get enough of zapping people, have become enamored with the more appealing, but equally undead cousin of zombies, or both, then this trailer is for you.

Zone of the Enders:
Hideo Kojima tweeted the following image, invoking both fits of joy and rage from long time fans of the series:



I'd wager we shall hear more of this either later this week or at Tokyo Games Show next month!
Battlefield 3:
Are you ready to team up with 31 of your closest friends to anniahlate your opposition? Do you even have 31 friends? Well you had better make more, because Battlefield 3's latest trailer shows of it's 64 person multiplayer. I was convinced with the tanks trailer, but adding in deadly vehicles and a hoard of enemies just sweetens the proverbial pot. If this trailer does not warm you to the idea of buying Battlefield 3, I think nothing will.

Guild Wars 2
The sequel to the popular free MMO Guild Wars is looking better than ever. Gamescom was rife with press demos and trailers, two of which are here. The game looks beautiful and it seems the combat system has been revamped. With the inclusion of PvP and slick enemy designs, I would have to say this is the MMO to beat.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gamescom 2011 News Part 4

Updated at 11:29 AM CST!

And so begins another day of Gamescom news. Six full days of game updating pandemonium is exactly what we all needed at the tail end of our summer, I'd wager. Videos are after the Read More button and check back often as this post will be updated with more news throughout the day. How can you tell if it has been updated? The Updated line at the top will be refreshed every time more news is added. Oh my, is it time for less blathering and more news already? Well then, let's get to it!

Trine 2

The Atlus published game certainly looks beautiful, but what about the gameplay? Let the trailer below put your mind at ease. The stylish platformer lands on PSN, XBLA and PCs this fall.

Star Fox 64 3DS

The latest trailer below shows off the polished remake's three vehicles and not much else. Certainly the game looks better than it did, but does it seem to anyone else that the voice acting lost its luster? Slippy sounds like he/she/it could not care less that Fox destroyed a giant cycloptopus in nothing but a barrel-rolling submarine. Perhaps frogs are a difficult crowd to please?


Guild Wars 2

The sequel to the popular free MMO Guild Wars is looking better than ever. Gamescom was rife with press demos and trailers, two of which are below. The game looks beautiful and it seems the combat system has been revamped. With the inclusion of PvP and slick enemy designs, I would have to say this is the MMO to beat.

Rayman Origins

If our Comic Con impressions were not enough to excite you about this game, perhaps the latest trailer will. A fair warning, the video has no gameplay, but makes up for it in nonsensical noises from cute characters.

Deus Ex Human Revolution Preorder Bonus

By preordering the latest Deus Ex game, you can become the proud new owner of some items in Team Fortress 2. If hacking, punching, and sneaking as a cyborg was not enough to get you to preorder, perhaps having a Heavy with a robot arm will:




Rock of Ages:

I had never heard of this game, but after the below trailer's jab at classic games, I may have to investigate it further at its Monty Python-esque webpage. Rock of Ages is being released for digital download this summer.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gamescom 2011 News Part 3

Updated at 11:11 AM CST!

Day three of the illustrious Gamescom has begun, so let's get to the news! As always, videos in the post will be seen after the Read More button and the Updated line above will be changed upon new news being added.

War of the Roses

Paradox Interactive has announced its latest project with the intriguing trailer below. Not much has been revealed beyond that it will take place in medieval England, cannons seem to be in use, and the title is War of the Roses. I'd like to say I'm looking forward to it, but too little information was given away for me to care one way or another about it.

Cobalt

Mojang, the team behind Minecraft, has announced its partnership with indie developer Oxeye Game Studios to publish on a game called Cobalt. So far, a veritable plethora of nothing has been said about the game. It seems to be an action game that has a multiplayer component and has something to do with space. Mojang appears to just be publishing the game, as it was coded solely by Oxeye. If you're interested in the game or developer, visit their website in a few hours after it comes back online. It seems when you throw around the name Minecraft , a crippling amount of web traffic is soon to follow.

Dota 2

Those of you who were itching to get your hands on Valve's latest game will get no luck this year it seems. Gabe Newell, the main man behind Valve, has said that it will not ship until 2012

The Last Guardian

Were you afraid the latest game from Team ICO was never going to be released? Fear not, says Sony executive Shuhei Yoshida, "The Last Guardian team has been making progress." Until I see a new trailer, or at the very least some screen shots, I shall continue to be worried about the much yearned for Last Guardian.

Full Playstation Vita Specs Released

Sony has finally given away the secrets behind it's upcoming handheld, the Vita. The ARM Cortex A9 processor should provide low power and high performance to the console, which it will certainly need considering the games it shall be running. Other reassuring specs include 512MB of RAM and 128MB of VRAM. If you're a technophile, this data will make you giddy. If you do not know the difference between GHz and MBs, rest assured that this handheld will have second to none performance for its class. Now, if only we could get detailed, accurate battery life information...

Ubisoft Announces Six Titles for the Vita

Did you think Vita was only going to have Lumines and Assassin's Creed? Nay, says Ubisoft, You shall have not two, but six titles from us to sample. These titles are "Assassin’s Creed, Rayman Origins, LuminesTM, AsphaltTM, Dungeon Hunter Alliance and Michael Jackson the Experience." Hey, I said six games, not six good games.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gamescom 2011 News Part 2

Updated at 10:10 PM CST!

Good morning, chaps! It is another glorious day here at Aristogamer as we continue with our Gamescom coverage. We will be updating this post throughout the day with news and will update the line above every time we update this post. As always, the trailers and videos are in the post, but after the Read More button, so click there if you would like to see them. So much news, so little time; let's get to it!

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Link's latest adventure will be released for the Wii on November 20 in the US. We tried our hand at it at Comic Con and it's certainly one of the most exciting titles this year. November is already a busy month for games with the new Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty, Battlefield and more being released, and with Nintendo adding a Zelda title, the Colonel and I should be quite busy this Thanksgiving!

Silent Hill: Book of Memories

Do you enjoy Silent Hill games? How about Silent hill games that have nothing to do with the story of Silent Hill, have a focus on multiplayer, and have an overhead camera? Oh there is not a Silent Hill like that yet? Well, now there is. Book of Memories will be released for the Vita in 2012, along with a collective sigh of "Why?" from fans.

Playstation Vita Social Networking Features

The Vita is a strange machine. It is a game console at heart, but seems to do many of the things smart phones to, including download small games, use 3G for data, and now connect you to your social networks. Sony has announced that the Vita will come bundled with the Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Foursquare, and three first party social apps to make you feel connected to your friends as you're bludgeoning baddies. The three first party apps are called Near, Party, and Live Area, which allow you to find Vita players near you, make parties, and receive updates about your friends and games, respectively.  I am not quite convinced these added features will be useful, but we shall see when the console launches in the US next year.

Little Big Planet for Vita

LBP keeps its Sackboy-toting, level-creating, silly-object-using magic as it moves to the portable console. The latest trailer below shows of some of the wonderful new creation features including importing objects and skins from pictures you've taken with the camera. I was never much one for creating levels in Little Big Planet, but knowing that those features exist makes me smile nonetheless.

DMC: Devil May Cry

This title was announced last year, but just got its latest trailer. Fans are quite furious over the change in Dante's looks and I cannot say I blame them. Enough DMC-esque games have been released that the combat no longer sets it apart, the characters do. The only encouraging thing about the game so far is that the developers are working on it with Ninja Theory, the development team responsible with one of my favorite PS3 games Heavenly Sword. The trailer certainly looks like a Devil May Cry game, but only time will tell whether the new entry in the series will be worth a buy or deserve a place in the same dark hell Devil May Cry 2 now lives in.

Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One

Everyone's favorite robot and furry mammal combo is back in a game that focuses on multiplayer. We were first intrigued by this game when it was shown off at E3. At the time, the gameplay had been delved into quite a bit, but the tone and characterization of the title seemed lacking. The latest title corrects that with two minutes of footage from the new game and not one bit of gameplay. I must say, I have never been a Ratchet and Clank fan, I was always more of a Jak and Daxter chap, but all the buzz around this game is getting me excited. View the latest trailer below.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss

Arguably, one of the most visually stunning and anticipated titles for the Vita released a new trailer today. Uncharted: Golden Abyss puts players back in control of Nathan Drake looking for treasure, but he has a few new acquaintances this time around including Marisa Chase and Jason Dante. The new video below also shows why this title has already been dubbed the best looking game for Vita.

Last Story and Pandora's Tower to be Released in Europe

Despite the desperate pleads of the proletariat consisting of RPG-starved Wii owners, Nintendo refuses to bring Last Story, Pandora's Tower, or Xenoblade to America. However, in a shocking move, they will localize the titles for Europe. The most frustrating bit of this news is that Nintendo still has no plans to bring them to US soil despite the hard part of the job, translating the games into English, being done. I shake my head disappointingly at you, Nintendo, like so many other fans whose Wiis have been collecting dust.

Assassin's Creed Revelations

The final chapter in Ezio's trilogy will be closed this Fall, and just to remind us all that we are itching to get back to wrist-stabbing evil, Ubisoft has released a new trailer for Assassin's Creed Revelations. Watch all the zip-lining, dubstep action of Ezio and Altair below.

Prototype 2

Did you not play Prototype? Would you like to get more information on the game before you attempt to play the sequel? If so, watch the trailer below before rushing to preorder the superpowered morality game slotted for an April 28, 2012 release.

 Sonic Generations

You already know how I feel about Sonic Generations. The game is everything I hoped it would be and more. To seal the final nail in my wallet's coffin, Sega has released a new trailer for the bifurcated hedgehog adventure. Unfortunately, the trailers do it little justice as it's hard to properly articulate speed and tension via Youtube.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda confirmed today that Skyrim will not be using Games for Windows Live, as previously speculated. The newest title in the Elder Scrolls series will be using Steamworks, which has favorable implications for not only PC, but PS3. Precisely what services will be integrated and how Steamworks will be used is yet to be detailed, but gamers can breathe a sigh of relief now that they have dodged yet another GFWL bullet.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gamescom 2011 News Part 1

Updated: 3:06PM CST!

Gamescom, one of the largest game expos in the world, is off to a roaring start today even though it technically starts tomorrow. New trailers for some of the biggest games and announcements for others have already started flooding the internet from Cologne, Germany. We will be bringing you daily updates from Gamescom with a veritable compendium of information. Today's news consists of mostly trailers, but this post will be updated throughout the day with new information, so check back often!

Street Fighter X Tekken:

The new trailer provides not only look at new characters added to the game, but an in depth explanation of the controls. For anyone looking forward to this game, click Read More to see 4:31 of information you cannot afford to miss.

Soul Calibur V:

The tale of souls and swords forever retold has a new trailer today. It contains no new information, but some nice visuals. Click Read More to get your fill of Ivy, Mitsurugi, and company.

Zone of the Enders:

Hideo Kojima tweeted the following image, invoking both fits of joy and rage from long time fans of the series:



I'd wager we shall hear more of this either later this week or at Tokyo Games Show next month!

DOTA 2:

The fan-made game adapted into one of the most anticipated commercial games to date, DOTA 2 has been scarce on information, but it seems Gamescon is where it will be making its grand debut. The trailer after the break is just the beginning of Valve's showing for DOTA 2. The main attraction The International, the first DOTA 2 tournament between sixteen teams to be shown live on the internet for free. The prize in the tournament?

$1 million.

For more information on the game and to view the high stakes tournament, visit the DOTA 2 website.

To The Moon:

Nostalgic for Chrono Trigger? Looking for a game that makes you teary eyed? To The Moon looks to deliver on both. Freebird Games says its latest indie game is about "two doctors traversing through the memories of a dying man to fulfill his last wish." The graphics are 16 bits of elegence and the story is certainly a heavy one. If this sounds like the game for you, watch the trailer below and visit the game's website for more information. It will be released this fall and I've already got my tissues handy.

Battlefield 3:

Are you ready to team up with 31 of your closest friends to anniahlate your opposition? Do you even have 31 friends? Well you had better make more, because Battlefield 3's latest trailer shows of it's 64 person multiplayer. I was convinced with the tanks trailer, but adding in deadly vehicles and a hoard of enemies just sweetens the proverbial pot. If the trailer below does not warm you to the idea of buying Battlefield 3, I think nothing will.

All Playstation Vita Titles will be Downloadable

You read that right, according to Sony, every Playstation Vita title will be downloadable. The more popular releases, like Uncharted, Assassin's Creed, and the like will also be released on Vita memory cards. Sounds to me like Sony is trying to encourage indie development for its new handheld platform, something Nintendo is lacking and smartphone platforms are revelling in. Sounds to me like Sony is the company with more foresight, at least in this category.

Assassin's Creed, Lumines and More Come to Vita

The PSP's surprising hit Lumines will be back for another go round on the Vita, joined by another Assassin's Creed game. I must admit, I'm quite skeptical at AC for the Vita as the series' PSP releases have been lackluster, but perhaps the second analog stick was all it needed.

Resistance: Burning Skies

That's right, not satisfied with making just one new Resistance game, Sony deemed it wise to release a second for the Vita. Players of Burning Skies will take control of a fireman named Tom Riley whose forced to take up arms against the Chimeran onslaught. For fans of the console series, I am positive this game will be as close an experience to the console version as you can get in the palm of your hands. If you choose to not believe me, see for yourself in the gameplay video below.

PS3 Price Drop

Sony has officially dropped the price of a base model PS3 to $250 in North America. That's how much a Wii was when it first released. They are definitely being aggressive with their pricing of not only the PS3, but the Vita as well. I would not doubt that they are trying to squeeze two or three more years out of the aging console and at $500 for both its handheld and home systems, Sony's certainly making it difficult to say no to its hardware.

The Secret World

This mysterious MMO has been getting its fair share of press recently, and for good reason. It's an game that boasts magic in a post apocalyptic type world with modern weaponry, something that sets it apart from most other games in its class. The new trailer below only helps in drumming up excitement for its release in April of 2012. To sign up for updates, including how to get into the beta later on this month, visit the games website.

Resistance 3

The new installment in the Resistance series is due out on September 6th, but that did not stop Insomniac games from putting together one last trailer. Check out the latest, and probably final, trailer for Resistance 3 below.

Infamous 2: Festival of Blood

Cole McGrath is getting a superpowered expansion with Festival of Blood, an expansion that adds vampires to New Marais. It's not clear how this will tie into the story, but it seems to be not unlike Undead Nightmare was to Red Dead Redemption. If you cannot get enough of zapping people, have a buildup of vampire aggression, or both, then the trailer below is for you. (I apologize for the low quality,  but I will replace it once a higher definition version becomes available).

Uncharted 3

Nathan Drake's next adventure is nigh upon us, but a new trailer with intense gameplay has just been released. I had forgotten how excited I was for this game until I saw Drake silently taking down enemies and jumping with reckless abandon to his goals. Uncharted 3 makes its debut November 1st, but the latest trailer is available below right now.

3DS Sales Up

In light of the recent price cut, the Nintendo 3DS has enjoyed its second highest selling week in its short history, being beaten only by its initial release. 214,821 units have been sold since the company slashed the price and I'm sure they are pleased with the results. But how long will this last? I'd wager a month or so, but only time will tell. I'm sure Nintendo would love to get back to days like this:

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Counter Strike Title?

Rumors started swelling this week as the internet collective has leaked news of a new Counter Strike title. Yes, that's right, those of you who simply cannot get enough de_dust2 and Scout/Knives maps seem to be in luck. This news comes from multiple sources, all seeming to call the game Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

The news broke in a few venues, but it seems ESEA is behind most of the information. A thread was soon started on the Steam forums in which the game, at the time only known as Counter Strike:GO was called Global Operation. A Valve employee then entered the thread and corrected them with "Global Offensive." I happen to think this is a clever ruse, as I submitted an idea to them years ago that I am positive they are capitalizing on:


Think of the hat sales alone!

Not much is known about the Counter Strike game other than the few technical details that playtesters and ESEA have leaked onto Twitter using hash tag #csgo. I must stress that these are still rumors, but they certainly seem credible, and the information continues to come in. The latest rumor is that Valve will officially announce the title either today or tomorrow, though the details are still hazy. I will certainly keep my Steam news window open and report how many millions Valve will be giving me for my brilliant suggestion.

Edit:

It most certainly is real! CS:GO will be releasing early next year for XBLA, PSN and PC, though everyone knows which platform will be the most popular and worthwhile. For detailed impressions about changes, read this hands on report from ESEA.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Catherine Review


CatherineGood evening noble ladies and gentlemen;  J. Wellington Rommefeller here to bestow upon you yet another elegant evaluation of the video game persuasion.  This week I’ll be reviewing “Catherine”, a game I first caught wind of in a short online blurb that unceremoniously dubbed it a “porn puzzler”.  Understandably, I was shocked and a bit put off by this somewhat profane description and dismissed it as a game I was not likely to play. Last week, however, a good chum urged me to download the demo and give the game a shot. The demo was short, only twenty minutes or so, but the story and gameplay intrigued me enough to throw presupposition into the wind and opt to rent the title. Was the demo my gateway into an unexpectedly wonderful experience, or would the “porn puzzler” have me sighing and cringing at my television as I did all through the cut scenes in Final Fantasy X-2?
Catherine is a difficult game to define. It’s part dating sim and part puzzler, but far less awful than that description makes it sound. In fact, I would say the dating sim component alone is far better than one would expect within that genre. The game begins with its protagonist, Vincent, being pressured by his long-time girlfriend Katherine pop the proverbial question.  Vincent, the quintessential indecisive 30-something, balks at the idea of marriage and seeks escape at his favorite grimy watering hole. One drunken encounter with a blonde, drill-haired hussy, oddly also named Catherine, throws his world for a loop and he finds himself forced to choose between the two ladies.
 To add to that stress, every time Vincent sleeps he is plagued by nightmares in which he is a frightened sheep who must use heavy square blocks to build stairs, ascending tall towers quickly enough to avoid falling to his death below. Sound vexing? It is! And it is wonderful! The story does an incredible job of building and maintaining tension, through both the nightmares and the cut scenes. As Vincent tries to sort out his relationship with the two women, he must take great care to ensure they never learn of one another, leading to frequent anxious and potentially compromising situations. As pedestrian as the story of a cheater who must hide his misdeeds sounds, Catherine does a particularly good job of drumming up feelings of pity and concern for Vincent, effectively transferring his desperation to the player. This fact is not surprising, however, as Atlus has a history of creating games with wonderful narratives, such as the Shin Megami Tensei series and Radiant Historia. The story is also helped along by a “morality meter” which tips toward good or evil depending on the player’s actions and choices during the game. These decisions allow the player to identify with Vincent even more, as their choices directly lead to certain consequences in the game. The player’s preferences also conclude in one of eight separate endings, giving the game replay value and providing a reason to go back and play as dastardly, honestly, or amiably as you may desire.
A smashing story can only be supported by equally entertaining gameplay, and Atlus does not fall short here either.
The concept of the gameplay is simple—pull out blocks to form stairs and climb ever higher. The blocks adhere to one another via their edges, not always obeying the laws of physics, but enabling Vincent to hang off of them and navigate the stage. Some special blocks add difficulty, but the game is centered on those few fundamental concepts. Having a set of simple rules allows the player to find techniques on their own, as there is no one correct solution. This also means that no matter how many times a particular stage is played, different solutions are guaranteed to emerge depending on your mood, skill level, and techniques you remember. If you’re worried about being unable to discover gameplay tactics on your own, fret not as small breaks between levels give you the opportunity to learn new techniques from your sheepish brethren.
These brief interludes between stages also allow you to learn the stories of some of the other sheep in a situation similar to your own, sheep who strangely resemble some of the sad frequenters of Vincent’s favorite bar. You can get their full story by chatting them up in both locations and you can even save their lives through the dialogue choices you make and how often you elect to speak with them. This feature makes the player feel as if they are responsible for the people around them, and gives an incentive for speaking with people and not rushing through the storyline. Clever play, Atlus.
The gameplay is greatly enhanced by a soundtrack comprised mostly of modern remixes of classical pieces. Hearing a single two-minute song repeated for twenty minutes could be an auditory catastrophe, but when it’s Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, I actually found myself missing the music after the stage had concluded. I recognize that this is entirely a matter of opinion, but the song remixes are done so cleverly that I still have not grown weary of them and, in fact, listen to them often when not playing Catherine.
The only bad aspect of the game I was able to discern was that the audio levels between animated cut scenes and the rest of the game were utterly different. Once I realized that an animated cut scene was imminent, I scrambled to lower the volume, lest I frighten the good Baron Catticus from his slumber. This issue is especially agitating because at the conclusion of each night, a loud, grating noise is played as Vincent’s awakes, and if you do not realize what’s happening you may find yourself in need of fresh skivvies.
Verdict:
I myself rented Catherine and have completed the game on normal mode. I enjoyed the game so much that I actually purchased it after finishing the story, something I rarely do with rented games. The gameplay and story do a marvelous job of engaging the player’s emotions and the music certainly enhances the experience. The replay value is quite high with the different endings, two-player puzzle mode, and a smashingly difficult challenge mode. I implore you to give this game a chance if you like puzzle games, dating sims, intense stories, or great music. Its gameplay is not unlike a mix of Q*bert and Persona, but is far less annoying and more gratifying than either. Do yourself a favor and at least download the free demo to give this game a go. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gamefly to Add PC Games to Rental Service

I fancy Gamefly. I use it when I want to play a game I'm not quite sure I want to buy, and it's certainly saved me from wasting money on horrible games. My only complaint was that I could not rent PC games. I was initially confounded by how such a service would even work, so I abandoned the notion and continued to buy through Steam.

Gamefly seems to have employed more clever folk than I, however, as they just announced in USA Today. After buying Direct2Drive some months ago, the game rental service decided on a system in which subscribers get access to their PC game content based on subscription. By signing up with Gamefly, you get access to over 100 PC titles for as long as your heart desires. If your subscription expires, though, you are locked out of those games until your subscription renews.

Very little elaboration has been done on this new feature and that raises a few questions in my mind. Though Gamefly seems to be confident in its own proprietary interface, will the new service integrate with other programs like Steam and Origin? Will my saves be my own? If not, will they be available to me if I renew after letting my subscription lapse? How about the price for this new feature?

Gamefly is not saying much, but what they are saying is quite promising. The PC service goes into  beta in September and will be launched in time for the holiday season.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Batman Arkham City Skins

Fans of the Dark Knight's escapades outside of the video game world will be delighted to hear there are a few new skins for the World's Greatest Detective.


How can you procure these fetching bat-mods? Initially by preordering at different retailers, though they will all be added as DLC later. Here is where you can get them, according to ArkhamCity.co.uk:

From left to right:

Batman Beyond - Preorder from Gamestop.co.uk or MightyApe
The Dark Knight Returns - Purchase the Limited Edition of Arkham City at any vendor
Batman Earth One - Purchase from MightyApe
Batman 70s - Preorder from ToysRUs
Batman Animated Series - Purchase from MightyApe

(not pictured) Robin's Red Robin skin - Purchase from Best Buy

MightyApe is a store based in New Zealand, and there's no word yet on if those skins will be available at launch to US residents.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Iron Grip Warlord Video Review

Hello there! J. and the Colonel are back to review Iron Grip Warlord for the PC. The shooter/tower defense game certainly sounds like a winner, but is it worth with the $10 price tag?

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