Monday, December 31, 2012

So Long 2012!


Instead of our typical Monday news post, we at Aristogamer wanted to take this special day (being New Year's Eve and all) to wish everyone a sincere thank you for your continued support! How sincere? Sincere enough to bold this puppy up!

It's good to remember how amazing this gaming world truly is and the unique community whom with we all are able to share.  2012 has proven itself as a fantastic year for video games and we can't wait to see what 2013 has in store!

Have a supremely excellent (and safe of course) New Year's Eve and may 2013 follow as a good year of good gaming!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers Coming to USA

One of my personal favorite RPG franchises gets another port next year. The Shin Megami Tensei RPG series has been going since the 90's with the most recent SMT: Persona series being released on the PS2 and re-released on the PSP and PS Vita. Now the 3DS will receive a title from way back in the Sega Saturn  days. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is a first-person dungeon crawler with the usual turn based RPG elements, but what makes this series pretty unique is the animations that goes with it. Both in the original series and the Persona titles, the art style and story have been portrayed through Anime. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 even has it's own short Anime series, and Soul Hackers will be getting a big upgrade for the 3DS before it is released next year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

THQ Declares Bankruptcy

In a sad turn of events, game publisher THQ has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company has fallen on hard times with many of their franchises selling well, but not well enough to pay off whatever debt the company has taken on. While it sounds a bit dark and gloomy, the filing has revealed that things will still be continuing on for the publisher. 2013 releases like Company of Heroes 2 and South Park: The Stick of Truth are still in development and planned to be released. Investment group Clearlake Capital will aquire the business and most of it's franchises, as well as it's current in-house projects. An interesting point is that many in-development projects are still being worked on by various dev-teams. THQ President Jason Rubin is more optimistic about the Chapter 11 and sees it as a "new start." At the very least, we still get to see THQ in action for the near-future with some exciting titles being released next year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale Review

It has been a while since there has been a game that four friends can enjoy together as a group. Sure, you can play Call of Duty or Halo online, but there are few games of late that I can put on at a party that everyone can enjoy. Generally, the party games of choice are Rock Band/Guitar Hero or Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Playstation Allstars: Battle Royale looks to change that a bit. The new party game on the block, PABR, looks fun to play and seems like a good time, but is it just a carbon copy of the old standby, Super Smash Bros.? I spent days finding out.

PABR is pretty much exactly what it looks like: Super Smash Bros. with Sony characters and Sony themed maps. All of the usual aspects are there, with each character having unique moves tied to a button and moving in a different direction and pressing that button will result in a different move. You can play via a timed battle or with lives depending on your preference. A big difference is how you win in a match. The only way to score points or kill your opponents is to nail people with a characters’ super move, so as you fight you build up a super meter, with each character having a level 1, 2, and 3 super. Basically, you are on the offensive almost all the time: working out the best combos and attacks that build your super meter the fastest or with the most efficiency. Most of the maps have walls so you can’t fall off the stages, and if you can, then you just respawn and sit there for a few seconds vulnerable to attack. There is a guard and a dodge roll available but their only real use is to dodge someone else’s attacks and jump back in the action. It feels like the developers created an atmosphere where the more you are in your opponent’s face, smacking them around with combo after combo, the better. There is depth within the characters and their diversity, but unfortunately the solo player aspect of PABR is frankly forgettable and disappointing.

The story mode in PABR feels like it came out of the N64 days, with very little in the way of story. Essentially, the mode serves only as a way to familiarize yourself with the character of your choice. You simply fight a series of battles until you fight the boss who has a few snappy evil villain cliché one-liners. The rest of the single-player modes are some training battles and challenges. While they do help in training you in both general tactics and the moves of each character as well, the single-player side of PABR has to be the most barebones and simple single-player I have seen in a long time. Since the full roster of characters is unlocked from the beginning, the only motivation to play the single-player is to level up each character and unlock the various customizable additions each character has.

Each character can unlock various intros, icons, and so on through playing and leveling up said character. Each character only has 2 or 3 new things to unlock per category, but it is nice to have something to distinguish you when playing with friends or online. Unfortunately since all of the unlocks and leveling are purely aesthetic in nature, they serve about as much functionality as the names you can choose in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

The real meat of the game is in the characters themselves. Each character is pretty unique in how they are played and their fighting style. Big Daddy, for example, is very slow with a lot of power and his attacks can build up points very quickly, while an agile character like Kratos fights with his swords and his combos feel visceral and satisfying just as in the God of War franchise. Fighters like Sackboy and Parappa the Rapper are very close range and all of their moves reflect that in a really intuitive way. However sometimes the characters can feel similar enough depending on how much you play. After playing with Raiden from Metal Gear Solid for a while, then switching to Nariko from Heavenly Sword, I felt little difference in how I battled against my opponents. My strategy was more or less the same: make a lot of combos with my sword (or swords) and never let my foes get much respite. Same thing with characters like Nathan Drake from the Uncharted franchise or Colonel Radec from Killzone. I was fighting with a lot of guns and weapons that required timing, patience, and well placed grenades or shots. Though there are definable differences between the characters, the minute-to-minute gameplay feels very similar with certain characters. While both the character roster and the map choices are smaller in comparison to other fighting games, each character and map is still worth looking at, at least once.

The areas that you fight in are very interesting and engaging. Each map starts out as a background from a Sony IP and halfway through, it changes to another. Metal Gear Rex sliced through the background of a Loco Roco stage and started firing missiles everywhere. Another surprising addition is the use of Area Hazards. Each map, after transforming/changing in some way, will introduce a map hazard, which can be anything from missiles aimed at random parts of the stage to monkeys running around with giant hands smashing their way through the stage. If a character is hit by any of the hazards, their super meter will be depleted. It adds a certain amount of tension in playing, as well as a healthy dose of annoyance, especially when you are fully charged and ready to use a level 3 super, and you get smashed by giant baby headed rockets. The hazards, weapons, weapons, and the imbalanced supers can make the online aspect of PABR exasperating.

When you decide to take your skill and go online to fight someone besides your friends and family, tread carefully and be prepared to lose. I was matched against people who obviously played the game much more than me, and they knew exactly which characters were the most powerful and the combos that can get you super meters in no time. While each character is unique, some are much more powerful and versatile than others. Characters like Kratos and Raiden have very powerful and quick combos that build up their super meter and their level 1 supers are quite powerful in comparison to characters like Jack or Parappa. If you are willing to invest the time to learn move combos and really practice, then the multiplayer can be a challenging and fun experience. For me however, I ended up not playing it as much as I was quite jarred by the gap in skill I found.

Verdict: Playstation Allstars: Battle Royale is a fun game and I might even pull it out and play it once in a while. However I don’t think there is enough there to warrant a full priced purchase, unless you own a PS3 and a PS Vita. When you purchase the PS3 version of PABR, you receive a free copy of the game for your PS Vita. With the ability to play on your Vita and use it as a controller for the PS3 version, PABR would be a good investment if you are looking something that you can pick up and play for some fun. Otherwise, I would recommend waiting for it to go on sale and then trying it out.

As a side note, I have high hopes for the next game in this series. I feel like the developers would not go through all the trouble of making a game like this without plans to create sequels with bigger rosters and more maps, so hopefully the second iteration will improve on the first and fix some if its problems.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Valve PC possible in 2013

With the launch of Valve's new Big Picture mode for Steam (seen above), it looks like things are still making headway for Valve to release its own home PC/console hybrid. Designed specifically for PCs connected to televisions, Big Picture is a menu setup that should be more familiar to console gamers, providing large icons and smooth scrolling for selecting different options.

Valve's Gabe Newell said in a recent interview with Kotaku that Valve's goal with these living room PCs is to be designed similarly to consoles in terms of connivance while still providing the full PC gaming capabilities that next generation consoles will lack, therefore "unifying the environments".

Newell also states that although this PC developed with Valve and other companies to be a hybrid that bridges the gap between consoles and PCs, it's still to remain a more closed hardware system as compared to a general purpose computer. "If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that's what some people are really gonna want for their living room."

Though no specific date has been provided, Valve anticipates to see the first of their PC console to be showcased in 2013. Granted this is Valve we're talking about so for all we know it could be an additional 4 years before we can even buy one.

December 2012 Podcast

Devin, Casey, and Colby discuss the holiday season, gaming memories from years past, and how growing up affects the way games affect you.

Subscribe to us on iTunes

Or download here directly

Friday, December 14, 2012

AristoGamer December 2012 podcast

It's time for the holidays, which generally means bare wallets and more time for gaming. This month, we'll be discussing

  • Game recommendations
  • Holiday gaming memories
  • A look to next year

How to download and use Teamspeak

Date: Monday, December 17

Time: 8:00pm Central Time

Holiday Gaming Guide 2012

The holidays are rapidly approaching and that means the window to get gifts is closing soon. You know that gamer in your life? The one who’s always the last to get a present because you have no idea what they like? Or even worse, they get whatever game gets pushed on you by a Best Buy employee and ends up with Call of Juarez: The Cartel? This guide is for the both of you. These are the top games to gift for the holiday season for any of the gamers in your life.

Games for Casual Gamers

This category can be the toughest if you’re a hardcore gamer. It’s an awful feeling to give someone a game you thoroughly enjoy only to have them discard it later. This mistake is a common one in assuming they are as enthusiastic about gaming as you are. Maybe they’re not? Perhaps they just needed a Netflix machine and to have a fun activity for parties. For them, the games aren’t about sitting down alone and playing for an extended period of time, they’re about quick fun that can be enjoyed in groups. These are the best games this year for that:

Just Dance 4, Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, Wii U
Will this game change your worldview? No. Will it grab your heartstrings and never let go? No. Will it dazzle you with great graphics, characters, and fantastic controls? No. But will you be able to have fun in a group of people and dance Gangnam Style every morning after having your daily bowl of Lucky Charms, still in your undies? Hell yes it will. Just Dance has been a paragon for dance games in the past few years, like Guitar Hero was for guitar rhythm games, and that legacy continues with Just Dance 4. With loads of new songs, dance moves, and the familiar smell of a combo of sweat and fun, Just Dance 4 is a great gift for casual players.

Mario Party 9, Platform: Wii
This game has been tearing friendships asunder for over ten years now. With each subsequent Mario Party, people tend to forget how nerve-wracking, unfair, and enraging this game is and buy it anyway. That being said, Mario Party is one of the best games to play with a large group of people – as long as they aren’t particularly competitive. The minigames are fun, the idea of an overarching board game with games in the middle is engaging, and it’s made fair for players without skill by its higher-than-usual random chances of success. As long as you’re not afraid to hear “OH YEAH, OF COURSE YOU WOULD GET IT, JUST LIKE YOU GET EVERYTHING,” screamed at you by someone you barely know, this game is an excellent pick.

Trials Evolution, Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PC
You’d think a game about dirt bikes wouldn’t be a great social game, but I can’t think of many more entertaining games to play with friends than Trials. The multitude of crazy deaths, jokes, and “Okay, give me that, let me do it”s that get thrown around produce endless fun. This game would be great even if it was just for one player, but the gaming gods (aka RedLynx) saw fit to bless us with multiplayer. Spend your time trying to cram the most flips into your jump, coming up with the sickest deaths, or time attacking one other. As surprising as it is, you can’t really go wrong with this as a party game.

Games for Families or Kids

I don’t like pigeon-holing kids into their own category, as they’re just tiny people developing their gamer taste and I don’t think inundating them with shovelware will promote good game taste. However, I recognize that there are certain guidelines some parents have for their kid to game safely and with age appropriate content. That doesn’t mean those games have to be awful, though. Here are some great games for kids and families to play.

Nintendo Land, Platform: Wii U
If you have a Wii U, this is the game to get for any category really, but especially for kids. Nintendo Land is like Wii Sports was for the Wii—a showcase of what the Wii U can do with its new hardware with a collection of fun minigames. But unlike Wii Sports, Nintendoland has much better graphics, more games, better games, and it features familiar Nintendo characters. So in ten minutes of time, you could be collecting candy in Animal Crossing, then shooting Ridley in Metroid, and on to running away from Toad in Mario. Though there’s an obvious grab for attention with beloved IPs, the games all stand up on their own without having to be propped up by the familiar characters. No matter if you’re one player, two players, or up to five players, Nintendoland is the best game for Wii U yet.

Professor Layton and The Miracle Mask, Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Nothing teaches you to open your mind and use critical thinking skills more than Professor Layton. It’s a tried and true series comprised of an overarching story connected by a mountain of puzzles. Though some of them can be difficult, Layton is a kind man, and allows you to get hints on the particularly difficult ones. Though there are some puzzles that may still escape kids, that’s when it’s time to bring in their elders for some pinch hitting. I’m a grown man and my parents still hand off Layton to me when they need help on a puzzle. It quickly turns from an engrossing, one-player experience to a group effort to solve the puzzles.

Minecraft, Platform: PC, Xbox Live Arcade
Okay, so Minecraft for PC has been out for some time, but the Xbox Live Arcade version was released earlier this year. Though we think it’s a different experience than original Minecraft, it’s nevertheless an excellent game for kids and parents alike. The Xbox version also takes away the confusion of how to make items, which is a bad thing if you really want the experience of learning Minecraft from nothing, but also eliminates the frustration of your first few hours in the game. The XBLA version also features local multiplayer and allows you to invite your Xbox Live friends into your world. It’s an excellent game for everyone, but especially curious minds aching to be given tools to sculpt their dreams.

Games for Hardcore Gamers

This group can be the most difficult to buy for, even for experienced gamers. Generally, they’ve already played all the games they’re interested in and know exactly what they want. If you’re not privy to that knowledge, it can be a treacherous time trying to buy for them. Luckily, there are a few safe bets you can try to make them happy.

Sound Shapes, Platform: Playstation 3, PS Vita
This game is one of my favorites this year, and it’s not as popular as it deserves to be. Imagine a platformer where your actions control the music. Every new map has a different song that your actions piece together. Both of the major aspects of this game — platforming and music — are excellent. The gameplay mechanics are fun, responsive, and interesting, and the music is done by well-known artists including Beck and Dead Mau5. Though it’s short, it’s cheap and completely worth it.

XenoBlade Chronicles, Platform: Wii
“There’s no such thing as a good, quality RPG on Wii” has been a saying amongst hardcore gamers for years. Well this year, after many trials and tribulations, that precedent has been broken with XenoBlade Chronicles. Though the game has a few issues with controls, it’s more than made up for with the scope of the game and the world it’s set in. You’re a race of people living on one of two giants that fought and killed each other in the middle of an ocean. In fact, when you’re outside, you can often look up and see what the rest of the giant’s body looks like from wherever you are. That’s awesome. It’s also incredibly long, some estimates going from 50 hours minimum all the way up to 200 hours. The dialogue gets a little annoying , but it’s an excellent game whose length is daunting even to the most hardcore of the hardcore. This game separates the men from the boys, and hardcore games do love a challenge.

Gamefly Subscription, Platform: All
Though this is a bit of a cop-out, it’s a smart idea. You don’t even have to pick what game, as they can burn through their heart’s content of games for however many months you want to gift them. Since Gamefly also expanded their library this year to include PC games, it’s an even better value than it was before.

Lighting Round

Here are a few final categories in case the gamer you had in mind wasn’t in any of the others.

Someone who’s too deep for their own good: 

Dear Esther, Platform: PC.  Because if you need a thesaurus to play it, probably a good gift for the person who’s taken up permanent residence in their own head.

Significant other who’s not as in to games as you are: 

Minecraft, Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PC. Nobody doesn’t like playing with virtual legos. And multiplayer means everyone can enjoy the fun of building elaborate structures for no real reason.

Somebody who is still playing Diablo 2 because they think Diablo 3 sucks:

 Torchlight 2, Platform: PC. It’s everything they expected from Diablo 3, but didn't get and more.

Mom or Dad who stopped playing games at SNES:  

Nintendo Wii U. Not only does it play Netflix, the games are easy to pick up and put down and aren’t intimidatingly complex. If you’ve got the money, drop it on a console for them. If not, buy them a new SNES and remind them how fun Super Metroid is.

Gears of War: Judgment and God of War: Ascension Multiplayer Presents

In a rush of goodies, both multiplayer footage and a multiplayer trailer have been released for Gears of War: Judgment and God of War: Ascension respectively. The multiplayer footage of Gears of War is intersting and fun as it shows off the "OverRun" mode where you get the chance to play as Locusts. I haven't played much of the Gears of War franchise myself but it looks fun and the curb stomping is always a blast.

On the more Greek Mythology side of video games God of War Ascension gets a new multiplayer trailer to show off it's addition to the already epic story. A series-first for the God of War franchise, God of War: Ascension will launch March 12, 2013 with PS Plus members getting an early start with the multiplayer January 8th. The lucky people of the Playstation Plus Membership will get to see what the multiplayer has to offer with a more open beta hopefully coming after Jan 8.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday News For Everyone to Enjoy

Whether you like Sci-Fi or Fantasy, this week new trailers and releases make everyone happy. First, the latest Skyrim DLC, Dragonborn, has been released and is a heck of an add-on. Not only do you get to meet the first Dragonborn, you get to travel to an island off the coast of Morrowind, Solstheim. Now if that makes no sens to you, no problem! but fans of the Elder Scrolls series will love going through the story missions and finding old and familiar terrain and landmarks.
If that doesn't exactly tickle your fancy, A new trailer was just released for Star Trek: Into Darkness with a bunch of awesome rolled into a 1 minute trailer. Not only that but rumors of a third Tron movie has been confirmed, more or less. Disney is in talks with a few scriptwriters to get the ball rolling with a new Tron movie. After hearing that I almost jumped for joy and wished for a time machine for christmas, that way I can travel into the future and enjoy the movie immediately.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Review

J and Tyranus go head to head in the latest game from Treyarch, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Is the game worth the money, or sill it generate as much outcry as Modern Warfare 3?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

So Many Games, Never Enough Money

It's early December and I’m sure that by now everyone has a wish list made out for the holidays and I bet there are at least two or three games on there. I know I have a handful of titles I want. The unfortunate part is almost all of them are at least $50 because they've been released in the past two months. Halo 4, Assassins Creed 3, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 have all been released in the past eight weeks. And that's only a portion of the holiday releases! It’s fair to say that unless you are an avid/hardcore gamer, most people will buy one or two games this holiday season. And since half of the recently released games have at least 20+ hours of content with multiplayer components that also require a time investment, I think it’s fair to say we’re getting a little flooded with video games. Unfortunately this habit has been going on for a while, with five or more games being released in a short time frame during the holiday season and almost nothing coming after. I think it’s time for a change that developers and publishers alike need to push for, before the market is so saturated that good games get passed over because they are competing with five or six blockbuster titles for attention.

Two of the biggest reasons for the holiday extravaganza of video games are Christmas shopping and conventions. One of the easiest things for families to do is to walk into a local GameStop and get a new game or two for their kid. All of the sudden, their shopping is halfway done with one trip to the game peddler. Now said parents can get some green Army men or a box set of Batman the Animated Series Season 1 and their kid will have one happy Christmas morning. Not only that, but because of all the holiday deals it gets even more opportunistic for anyone to start trading in old games or saving up for holiday deals; buy 2 get 1 free or buy this new game and only 8 dollars for an Xbox Live Subscription, that sort of thing. All the deals from Amazon to Walmart capitalize on the holiday season and the multitude of new games coming out. Developers and publishers know this and plan accordingly, realizing that they will get the maximum amount of immediate sales when they release in the fall. Not only that, but they get to spend the 6-8 months before that hyping it up, showing off game demos at conventions like E3. The amount of excitement that was garnered from the ship combat game demo for Assassins Creed 3 was ridiculous, and then in the following months we get multiple trailers, poster art, and gameplay videos. And all of that builds up to the fall release. If Assassins Creed released in May or June, Ubisoft wouldn't have as much momentum and excitement or nearly as many potential sales. Not all companies follow this idea though.

Some companies buck the usual process, with games like Mass Effect 3 released in March, and Bioshock Infinite planned to be released in February March.  However there is generally a period of summer doldrums where not many games at all are released. Whether or not it’s because of the close proximity to E3, I think that developers and publishers are missing out on a window of opportunity where there is much less competition to deal with. Lately Sony and Microsoft has take the summer slump and used the time to show off indie releases or smaller digital titles, but a $15 digital title is completely different from a full $60 release. While it seems as simple as 343 deciding to release Halo 5 in May instead of November, I’m sure there are plenty of other factors behind the scenes that help decide a release date. I feel that some of the bigger factors are completion dates and advertisement. Many triple-A games have huge ad campaigns running as far back as 5 or 6 months before the release. Bungie released regular video documentaries as Halo 3 was being made, and did the same for Halo: Reach. Those videos helped build hype for the game all the way until its release. And maybe that kind of ad campaign isn't as effective if there’s a new year that breaks it up or something along those lines. Honestly I don’t really know, and I’m sure most that aren't in the game industry are in the same position: mostly speculating based on evidence and theory. But maybe a solution is as simple as asking why. Posting on developer forums or being vocal about wondering why developers and publishers do what they do. It may seem slightly redundant to say “Speak louder! Ask questions!” but I think it could work. Gearbox has a Community Day where the entire company spends the day answering questions, and it is great to be able to sit in a room with the CEO of Gearbox Software and pick his brain. While a lot of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of developers, it isn’t solely up to them.

We as consumers are the ones that end up spending hundreds of dollars new games every year. And in that, parts of the developer’s actions are in reaction to us: to how and when we buy games. Personally, I always splurge a little for the holidays like anyone else, but after that I start searching for the best bargain, trading in older games and such for new titles that I want to play. Maybe that too is part of the reason we have been locked into this fall release schedule for big-name releases like Halo and Assassins Creed. They build up hype, and release quite a few of games in the fall and a lot of people buy them, effectively spending upwards of $200 on 3 new games in 2 months. That also affects the rest of the year. When I know I’m going to spend more money later, my mindset for the rest of the year is “I’ll save up for Christmas.” While there have been many good games that have been released earlier in the year, it always seems that the holiday game releases have a little extra advertising push to them, or more coverage across a bunch of different websites and stores. I’m not sure what else we can do to change this stigma of holiday releases, but I am worried that more games will compete for this 2-3 month release window and I won’t be able to enjoy games that look really interesting. If I buy Halo 4 and Playstation Allstars: Battle Royale, I miss out on games like Dishonored and COD: Black Ops 2. And it feels bad to talk to your friends who bought the other games and you can’t share in the experience of playing the same game.

Either way most of us will still buy a lot of games throughout the year, but if we keep having to spend all of our money in 2 months for 3 or 4 new games, there will be a breaking point where more and more people narrow down their choices to only 1 or 2 games, and it's sad that they can’t enjoy all the fun games that are released. If there is anything we can do to change it, it’s showing developers and producers that we love our games but would also like a more even release schedule. I think that in the end we would all benefit from being able to enjoy more games throughout the year, allowing us to not cherry-pick the best titles.

Friday, November 30, 2012

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review

As a man who enjoys the finer qualities of life both old and new, whenever something doesn’t live up to the legacy passed onto it by it’s “parent” game, I find myself having to fend off those that just wish to dismiss he idea as “seeing the game through nostalgic-tinted monocles”. While this may be true, there is something to be said about a game that removes elements that made it stellar in the first place, and does little to replace it. That something is not very good either.

To begin, X-Com is a game that centers around aliens slowly invading earth to a point of a full scale war. You operate a not-so-secret organization that battles against the invading forces. In a world where simulation games are all but gone…besides the dreadful “You’ve run out of energy! Pay $80 for more!” games…this game encompasses so much more than just being a turn-based tactical game. In the original games you built you relied on base building, research and development, and various other elements that rounded the game out to be vastly deep, but entertaining no less. It involved the most micro of managing at times, but even then, it was worth it.

So what changed? What differences arose between the game from yesteryear and this one?

XCOM Enemy Unknown Grenade

The simplicity of the newer game is just the start of where I find the game lacking . Where you used to be able to do so much, the game now made it easier and far more streamlined. To some, this may make what was once a game that required far more investment something that could be picked up and played. While I would fight that this could be something helpful and acceptable across the board, it’s less about the thought that counts, and more about the approach.

First thing a veteran of the series would notice is the change in base orientation. An unusual thing of note but one of the most intense and enjoyable missions in the original was an invasion on one of your bases. There’s an inclusion of different things needing to happen to expand your base, but to me this was reasonable. Instead of throwing money at things, you need to be able to build what you research using the resources you have. While I will miss the base attack missions, the new set-up isn’t that bad.

Next, we look at the way the game approaches the invasion. It starts small but builds up as you go. Keeping up with or ahead of the invasion is a large amount of the enjoyment. But this game does something that doesn’t exactly streamline the experience and instead makes it more difficult to feel that you’re in front of the invasion. Instead of having a way of running multiple missions to combat each invading ship, you’re forced to choose only one of the invading forces and the others are “allowed” to continue without any defense. It’s as if the game is forcing you to stay crippled and watch the aliens invade more and more. Aggression with the nations you don’t defend rises and what once could be easily managed now is a broken mechanic that feels unnecessary and out of place.

XCOM Enemy Unknown Combat

Then we reach the battlefield, a place I long to be again. The graphics of the battles are stunning, no doubt. But the problems lie once again on the legacy it’s been given and not living up to it for reasons beyond me. Originally, an energy based system was available to give you options on what you did. Have a person that’s in a pinch and needs to run faster J does when I’m holding a sharp object? You’re fine to do so. Bunkered down in a great position so you can take well-aimed shots off instead? Even better! Everything was registered as a bit-by-bit action, and it gave more freedom. Now, movement has been turned into a two-tiered system. Move just enough and still take a single action. Move one step beyond that and sacrifice that. There are abilities of units that can alter this, but in the end, what was meant to make something easier is just the start of what makes the game more restricted.

They’ve also unceremoniously stripped things away like an inventory system to properly load out your units as you see fit. My belief is they replaced this with the abilities you find on each unit. However, when I played the game as a young lad, I always had a unit that had nothing but grenades and explosives to help clear out mass areas of aliens with ease. No weapons, just an enjoyable man with a penchant for destruction. Others would have ways to switch between assault and ranged. No more. Now you’re locked to specific classes that require you to only use certain weapons, items, and abilities. This would be fine until you reach another realization of a restriction.

XCOM Enemy Unknown Cover

You still want to take a dozen squad members on a mission to clear out an alien invasion? Good. You get 4. Later on you get 6, but enjoy the lack of back-up as you’re fighting off forces far greater than yours, both in number and strength. In the original, it was smart to send squads of 3 or 4 each out to cover and clear an area. Firefights with groups of aliens were balanced, and didn’t take a long time playing “hide and seek” to find a remaining enemy. It felt like you commanded a strong force instead of a tiny militia. Being a man to see military action myself, I cannot fathom why a small group would be sent in against such an opposing force.

XCOM Enemy Unknown ScreenshotThen, the game begins to make actions that both surprise and aggravate. Initially, you could spot an alien but if they couldn’t see you, they didn’t know you were there. You could keep the element of surprise. Gone. It’s gone. Immediately when you move within a radius of an enemy, no matter if they could see you or not, suddenly they all can see where you are and move to cover. This makes the AI even more broken than before. When an alien moves into your line of sight, do you get an action to hide? No. Why? Who knows at this point.

Let’s continue on this wonderful journey down the far more narrow path. Need equipment that a fallen comrade has? No more pick-up with things on the ground. Want to set a grenade to go off in a certain number of rounds? One round, that’s all you get. Want to take multiple shots at an alien? One shot. That’s what you get. Half cover may as well be no cover at all. On a map that has barely any good cover besides vehicles? Chances are a car will start on fire and blow up, killing your units before you have a chance to respond. Want to choose how much you aim a shot? Gone. Have money but need additional supplies? Hope you researched it, because the black market is gone and all that’s left is the “grey market” where you sell what you have. No purchasing at all. Want to take a shot at a wall or cover to clear it out? Only if you aim at an enemy you can see, and miss.

XCOM Enemy Unknown Gimped

On and on, the game continued to be restricted. What was once a fun, free game that allowed for many approaches to the same problem, you’re now forced to play a “simplified” version of a great classic game. Even when I played for the first time, I saw Classic Mode and became excited. The game felt nothing like the original. Many of my units died without any chance at all by almost always-hitting shots. I already was losing out on 2 different missions I didn’t accept, and losing on a third just meant ridiculous hits were taken. There are supposedly mods out to fix these issues but when a game is so broken and has removed so much, it shouldn’t be at the hands of the gamers to correct those problems for you.

Verdict: Does it make the game a bad game? On its own, not really. It’s not a GOTY candidate in any stretch of the imagination, but it still can hold its own. Especially nowadays when these types of games are few and far between. However, stack it up against its predecessors and you begin to see the great flaws the game has, many without any real justification, and what could have been a solid game turns into a test of mental willpower to not fling your computer across the room when you lose half your squad without any ability to protect yourself. I’m excited to see the game’s reboot, but if you’re looking for gameplay that sticks more to the classic action, go with the fan-created Xenonauts. It’s still in beta but the entire feel of the game far surpasses that of this one when it comes to living up to the legacy.

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 2012 Podcast

Colby and Casey discuss impressions of the Wii U after its release, the flood of AAA titles this season, and what to get gamers for the holidays.

Subscribe to us on iTunes

Or download here directly

Aristogamer November 2012 Podcast

After finally waking up from our food comas, we decided it's time to do a podcast! Tonight's topics include:

  • Wii U Impressions
  • Game bonanza of November
  • Holiday wishlist
How to can download and use Teamspeak

Date: Monday, November 26

Time: 8:00pm Central Time

Friday, November 23, 2012

Halo 4 Review Part 2: The Multiplayer

And we’re back with more Halo 4 action. Well maybe not action, but at least some more words and opinions. As with Halo there is a Campaign, and there is the multiplayer. Is it as good as the ones before it? Is it better? Is it worse? Continue on to find out.

Halo 4’s multiplayer component takes the form of War Games on the UNSC Infinity. The short answer is that the multiplayer rocks. As a Spartan IV, your abilities are a little different than what you’ve been used to. Sprint is a permanent ability and you don’t have to worry about health packs anymore. You can customize your loadouts and now have additional “perks” in the name of Support Packages and Tactical Packages, and still have Armor Abilities to battle fellow Spartans with. While you can customize your loadout with different primary and secondary weapons, you aren’t able to use any weapon in the game. 343 made the smart move by limiting the loadout weapons available to standard assault and medium-range rifles. As you rank up, you can unlock different rifles to start with, as well as other pistols like the Boltshot or Plasma Pistol. Most of this sounds like what Modern Military Shooters have been doing for years, but Halo has been unique in the way multiplayer gameplay has been implemented, and 343 did a great job at taking aspects from other games and giving them a unique Halo twist. The biggest change in multiplayer is the way your score is measured per match. Instead of tracking kills and measuring score by how many kills each player has, every game mode is tracked via a score system. Each kill is worth 10 points so you’re still playing the same game, but the new score system gives out additional point for various tactical moves, like being a distraction for a teammate to get a kill or holding a hill for an extended period of time. I don’t think the new system is necessarily better than ones before it, but it certainly isn’t worse. It is much more forgiving when you haven’t had a kill in a while or if you don’t have the highest amount of kills. You’re encouraged to work as a team and are rewarded when you do. After the game is done your points are totaled up and added to your overall point score, which serves as your XP bar as well. As you level up, you unlock more customizable armor and emblems. While it’s a purely aesthetic aspect of the game, it’s still fun to unlock new stuff. And with a new Halo comes new everything: maps, weapons, armor abilities, and what comes with all the new stuff is discovering how it balances out with everything else.

If I could guess, balancing all the new weapons and abilities with older weapons had to be one of the hardest things to do, and they almost got it right. One of the happiest changes was bringing the Battle Rifle back. Thankfully it mingles well with the rest of the medium-range rifles, in fact, most of the weapons balance well. Occasionally you’ll face the wrong end of a sticky detonator or a team of people shooting you in the face with a DMR, but it’s not unfair overall. Unfortunately, not all aspects of the Halo armory are balanced. Some of the tactical and support packages are just overpowered. Abilities like dexterity, which allows you to switch weapons and reload much faster and the ability to use your radar while scoped, can make the game not as fun when you die from someone who can do certain things you could never do before in the history of Halo, like beat someone in the face and kill them after two shots. The melee damage is pretty broken in Halo 4. Since you no longer have a health bar after lowering your shields, there are a certain number of hits you can take after your shields die, and you can beat someone in the face to take away their shield in an instant. I don’t think 343 purposefully put a melee attack that powerful in the game, but I do think the power of the melee attack should be lowered slightly. One of the interesting things about all these new weapons is when you actually get to use them in game.

When you start a match, new weapons are spawned randomly throughout the map. While most of the weapons received are random, there is a pattern and set points to where the weapons will spawn and what they will probably be. A shotgun here, a few plasma grenades here, as time goes on, more weapons will spawn throughout the map and much of the momentum of a game can change quickly depending on who picks up what weapons. Along with that, each person has their own personal orbital drop package available after a while. Each kill and score gain contributes points to a drop meter and once it’s full you can choose a random weapon to be dropped at your feet. There are a lot of strategic opportunities to the way your team can control the map and the drop points as well as timing your own personal weapon drops. The strategies differ in each game mode, which make each one worth playing. New game modes like Regicide are really fun and interesting right alongside the old standards like Team Slayer, Capture the Flag, and King of The Hill. Overall the multiplayer experience in Halo 4 is really fun and engaging. There is a lot to offer and plenty of depth in leveling up and playing with or against your friends. Probably the only real determent to the Multiplayer side of Halo is Spartan Ops.

Since this is being written and published a few weeks after the release of Halo 4, I have had a chance to sample Spartan Ops, 343’s new co-op experience. Spartan Ops follows the story of Spartan strike teams on the UNSC Infinity (cool campaign tie-in huh?) 6 months after the campaign as they complete various missions. Part of the draw of Spartan Ops is the ability to not only fight with your friends, but continue the story through weekly missions. Unfortunately these missions are light on the story and the fun. The story behind Spartan Ops is mostly the Spartan Commander yelling at you to shoot anything that moves. Without the deep characters or dramatic impact that is offered in the campaign, Spartan Ops feels like running and gunning in the most boring and grinding form. It is quite disappointing to see how the episodes play out when I had such high hopes before the games release. While there are plenty of episodes to go, I’m not sure people will come back and play Spartan Ops a few weeks from now to just shoot Covenant and Forerunners on the same maps you saw in the campaign in smaller, bite-sized chunks. Personally I wish I had Firefight back, because even if I didn’t play the multiplayer that much, my friends and I could always sit down for a while and enjoy a firefight map or two. I’m sure more maps and episodes are on their way, but I personally won’t bother playing them.

In the end, is Halo 4 worth buying? My verdict is yes. If you’ve ever played a Halo game ever, Halo 4 is worth playing. The campaign is interesting and fun, introducing new enemies and telling a really good story. The multiplayer is fun to play and has a lot of depth to work through as you level up. Spartan Ops is slightly disappointing to me but still worth playing at least once. I really like the Halo Franchise and this game is worth every cent of the $60 I spent on it. If you don’t like Halo that much or never really played it before, find a friend who does and just watch him play or play the campaign with him, you might find yourself enjoying it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Halo 4 Review Part 1: The Campaign

While first person shooters (FPS) had been released on consoles before, the original Halo was the game that reintroduced the idea and proved the financial viability of an FPS on a modern console. A lot of new genres, games, and amazing experiences owe their thanks, at least in some small part, to Halo’s success. Now I find myself sitting in front of Halo 4, the seventh installment, barring the PC ports and anniversary edition, of the Halo franchise. 343 Industries took the lead as Bungie stepped away to make their own game and many were speculating whether 343 could produce a game that is part of a franchise that everyone held in such high regard. I am a huge fan of the Halo franchise and have spent many hours shooting people in the face, but is the $60 investment worth it?

From the first loading screen, it is apparent that this is not going to be the same experience that I had in the past with previous Halo games. The music gives a much different feel as you navigate the menus and look at the art in the background. But the moment I started the campaign, I instantly felt at home in a small way. The story picks up 4 years after the Master Chief locked himself in a cryo-tube and told Cortana, “Wake me when you need me.” Something has happened and the pair found themselves outside a Foreunner planet. As usual you go through a more or less tutorial phase explaining the controls and introducing new mechanics one at a time. An interesting new piece to Chief’s arsenal is the sprint ability. An Armor Ability from Halo: Reach, Sprint is now a permanent part of the Spartan arsenal. While having sprint permanently is great in multiplayer, I’m not sure I liked it as much in the campaign. Some of the areas you move through are small enough that you could sprint through, press a button, and advance the story. If you opt to do so, additional comments and side stories may be missed. Throughout the game there are consoles hidden that can be interacted with to give you additional backstory as well as video content on Waypoint. Sprinting through the level isn’t always the best option but it’s a hard temptation to resist when you’re fighting through waves of enemies area after area. Either way, the story itself is epic. The tone is different in Halo 4 -- you spend a lot of time interacting with Cortana, who seems to not be doing well. And the cutscenes and dialogue show the Chief trying to reconcile this new idea of his own humanity with the years of training that made him more or less a machine. The best part is that all this drama doesn’t take away from the action.
One of the biggest new elements in the campaign are the new enemies, the Prometheans. The Prometheans seem like they live on this forerunner planet, more or less, and don’t like the fact that you are there messing things up. The Covenant are there as well, but they aren’t nearly as interesting as the Prometheans. They come in 3 varieties: the night, the watcher, and the crawler. While it doesn’t sound like much, their strategic abilities are insane. The crawler is the equivalent of the Covenant grunt: lots of them around and easy enough to kill. However they are really quick on their feet and can flank and surround you really fast. I’ve jumped in head first way too many times and found myself surrounded by a bunch of crawlers with weapons that tear me to shreds. The knights are the walking foot soldiers who are more or less like Elites, except that they are stronger, have better weapons, and can spit a watcher out of their back. The knight is a powerful opponent that can take advantage of your mistakes very easily. With all of the new enemies, the AI has been improved to where you can’t just run ‘n gun your way through an area. The watcher is the most interesting of the new enemies. It hovers around the battlefield, providing assistance to the knights around it. It can catch grenades and toss them back, create a shield to protect the knights, and revive them if you take one down. These guys are hard to hit and annoying to deal with. Quick tip: if you see one on the battlefield, kill it immediately. You don’t want to deal with the hassle it can give you later. The Covenant is pretty much the same, with a few new weapons and tactics. Most of the difficulty in dealing with them comes from attacking them and the Prometheans at the same time, though that’s nothing compared to the difficulty in the new multiplayer.

And cue the cliffhanger! Unfortunately today will not be the day you get to read about Halo 4’s multiplayer. If you want to check it out come back on Friday and see the conclusion to this review as well as some more cool images. See you soon!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wii U Unboxing Video

Our first unboxing video! We peel back the pretty packaging of the Wii U and reveal what goodies Nintendo has waiting for us inside.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Assassins Creed III: Liberation Review

I’ve been a fan of Assassin’s Creed games since the series had its first reveal at E3. I remember buying the games and each time, being so pleased with freerunning, stylish kills, and inventive storyline that I couldn’t wait until a sequel came out.

I also remember the crushing disappointment that ensued after buying a portable Assassin’s Creed title. Assassin’s Creed in my hand! they said It’ll be great killing people on the go they said. Well they were damned wrong. Altair’s Chronicles for the Nintendo DS was atrocious. I wrote it off due to being on such an underpowered console that a true Assassin’s Creed title could not be achieved. Bloodlines, the PSP title, was different, but still horrible! By the time Discovery came out, I was completely done with mobile AC games.

But hark? What’s that? That shimmering ray of hope on the horizon? Could it be an Assassin’s Creed mobile title that may actually have a shred of quality and some semblance of the gameplay from the main series? Yes, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation seems to be put to the until-now impossible task of recreating the console title’s look and feel on the handheld. Did it triumph or was I as disappointed with my hopes for a game as I was for Sonic ’06?

Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation has so much going right for it. To start with, they made the incredibly good decision to have the game star an assassin that has nothing to do with the storyline of the original game, nor does it start with some strange, out of place Desmond sequence like its console siblings. Instead, you’re given a quick video about how Abstergo’s product, the Animus, lets you view memories from an ancestor, and how you’re going to look at those from Aveline, a girl living in New Orleans around the time of the American Revolution. That’s it. No “the sun is going to kill us, please help us random bartender” nonsense, just a quick setup to let you dive in to the game.

The Vita also enables this game to have something has needed in order to make the successful jump to mobile platforms: a second thumbstick. Without the ability to control the camera freely and easily, Assassin’s Creed is fundamentally broken. If you can’t quickly find routes in a chase, observe things from a vantage point, or even target characters correctly, Assassin’s Creed quickly loses its appeal as it’s all about freedom of motion. Luckily for us, this game is built on the same engine as Assassin’s Creed III, which means roughly equivalent quality and gameplay. Whether or not that is better than previous titles will have to wait until our review on Assassin’s Creed III.

So did the game capitalize on these correct steps? Could the fun of the series be finally wrestled into submission?


For the first time in mobile titles, combat actually feels like an Assassin’s Creed game, complete with chain kills, focus switching, and parrying. Be it casually sauntering by, stabbing your victim and sashaying away or provoking a group of guards just to hear their blood spill, combat is something they nailed to be as good as its console predecessors.  But if that’s due to the same game engine, what did Liberation do differently?

First, this game features a persona system, allowing the player to change wardrobe to fit certain scenarios. Three personas are available – assassin, lady, and slave – all which have advantages and disadvantages. Assassin allows the most range of movement, armor, and weapon types, but has a higher wanted meter. Lady doesn’t allow freerunning and cuts your arsenal in half, but allows you to charm and bribe people to use more nonlethal ways to accomplish your goals. And Slave can blend into crowds easier and incite riots, but is also much weaker and has less weapons than the Assassin persona. Each persona has its own wanted level that’s decreased by taking down wanted posters or killing witnesses. Overall, the system was a great idea, but ends up being more hassle than it’s worth. Finding places to change personas sometimes takes more time than it’s worth and in some missions, you need a specific persona for full sync, but aren’t told that until the mission is underway. It’s also difficult keeping track of what wanted level-lowering activities affect what persona. In the end, it’s a great idea that just needed more ease of use, more defined perks, and more rewards for appropriate personas to be an important part of the game. As it is, it feels like hindrance more than a feature.

Another strange feature that’s more annoying that fun is the shipping minigame. Aveline can control her father’s shipping empire by sitting at a desk, buying goods at one place, sailing to another and selling it. It’s rather simple, but wholly obsolete. Not only does it take quite a while to get a ship from one place to its destination, but the interface is confusing and the rewards are little. Sure, it only takes a few minutes and you can come back later, but even if you did it once an hour, you’d earn far less in that one hour than you would killing and looting. That’s the other problem—like with other games in the series, this is meant to be a hands-off way of making extra cash, but it generates so little money it’s ultimately useless. Why would I go out of my way to go to the desk, invest an upfront cost and return later to a whopping $500 return on my investment when I could just murder people, an action that has no punishment other than wanted level, and make far more than that? Or even bypassing that, why even try accruing more money? I’ve played the game through and not once have I ever encountered money problems.

Despite those annoyances, the game is assuredly the best mobile game yet. Being built on the AC3 engine has quite a bit to do with that, but it’s also in the story and characterization. Aveline is an interesting, well-rounded character who keeps you rooting for her until the end. Though her orphaning backstory is a bit questionable — who becomes an orphan after losing their mom in a crowd while chasing a chicken? — you’re quickly sucked in to Aveline’s world. From the annoying, stuttering business partner to her well-respected Madam stepmother to the drunken Spanish captain, the characters are all interesting, if one-dimensional. Even the setting is excellent. When thinking of New Orleans now, people picture Mardi Gras party goers being showered in beignets while riding alligators to the Saints winning the Super Bowl.

Just me? Okay.

But the city is shown in its infancy, iconic two story building with wrap-around porches and all. From the colors to the accents to the bayou, New Orleans looks and feels excellent. The mixture of French and Spanish accents with signs showing of the iconic Cajun drawl setup the characters well, making the setting that much more alive.

And though the story may not follow Desmond putzing around in some cave, it’s no less important to the Assassin’s Creed canon, showing different sides of the Templars and Assassin’s Order respectively. It also contributes to the main storyline more than previous handheld games. Granted, it’s not needed to continue in whatever strange direction Assassin’s Creed has taken itself, but it’s a nice addition. Also, the Vita’s touch features are done pretty well for this game, as you can switch weapons by touching the weapons and touching the minimap brings up the full map. I would have liked to been able to select two weapons before backing out of the menu, but I guess we can’t have everything.

Verdict: Hands down, this is the best Assassin’s Creed game on a handheld device. It looks, feels, and plays like a console AC title. I only wish the differences had been better executed. As they stand, the shipping minigame is redundant and the persona feature, while incredibly promising and still cool, feels like the developers wanted to try it before they put it in a real AC game, so they enabled limited functionality here to test the waters. If you like Assassin’s Creed or want a good action/adventure game on the Vita, Liberation is a title you’ll want to pick up.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Elder Scrolls: Online Gameplay Released to Public

We finally have footage of Elder Scrolls: Online! Today Zenimax Online Studios and Bethesda has released a 9 minute video showcasing future features of the much anticipated game, including interviews with the developing team.

The art visuals in the game seem to be complying with what many fans of the series had hoped, that being the known Elder Scrolls art style and not what's seen in most MMO's (that cartoony style). With this impressive showcase of art style, the developing team also talks about several impressive features such as the depth of character customization and even real time combat (a personal favorite to hear about).  As far as servers are concerned, Bethesda has mentioned that the Elder Scrolls: Online will use Megaserver technology to allow all players to connect on one massive server and still be able to find other players without server hopping.

With such details as the setting being 1,000 years before Skyrim, be sure to check out the video and get your fill of information on the Elder Scrolls: Online, set to be released in 2013.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Polygon Man Returns in Playstation All Stars: Battle Royale

While many are excited to see PAS:BR come out later on this month, Sony still likes to tease us with awesome opening cinematics before the game is released. In this video you get to see the entire roster fight each other with what seems to be some random evil face at the end of the trailer. The random evil face happens to be Polygon Man from the Playstation days. He was used as an advertising stunt of sorts but was quickly put away into some corner before the Playstation was released in North America. I almost forgot about the game until I watched the trailer. Then I remembered all the awesome characters and the fact that I want to play with every single one. Don't take my word for it, see the trailer for yourself. What is even better is that Polygon Man will be the final boss of the story mode that comes with the 4-player fighting shenanigans.

Monday, November 5, 2012

New Skyrim DLC Teased via Twitter

That image is pretty much all we know so far on this rumored upcoming DLC. According to Bethesda's official twitter page, the first trailer for this upcoming DLC is to be released at some point today, November 5th. Until such a trailer is actually released, fans of Skyrim will have to remain patient and curious.

Some gamers aren't quite so patient it seems, as many are trying to crack into the source code and find clues of this DLC. According to VG247, the possibility of dragon mounts and exploring an area of the old Morrowind region is seen within the coding. However, for all we know these are fake hints given by Bethesda in order to get rumors buzzing around. Hopefully the trailer will be released at some point soon later today, which of course will be posted here the moment it's available.

Speaking of hopeful, PS3 owners I'm sure will be hoping to hear additional news on Skyrim DLC for their respective console since they have yet to receive the Dawnguard or Hearthfire DLC's.

EDIT: Here it is! The trailer has been released! The specific area still isn't quite clear but we can see that have dragon mounts is looking very real and a slew of combat variations added to the mix. Story wise this DLC will seem to be more story oriented, as opposed to Hearthfire, and will follow along interactions with the very first dragonborn. Check it out and tell us what you think!


The Dragonborn DLC is set to be available on Xbox on December 4th.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Disney Buys Lucasfilm: New Star Wars Movie Announced

In an astonishing announcement, Disney now owns all of Lucasfilm and its subsidiaries for the low low price of $4.05 billion dollars. While that number sounds like something from and Austin Powers movie, the news is  quite interesting as a new Star Wars movie was also announced. Not much else is known past the fact that Star Wars: Episode VII exists, and the fact that good old George Lucas himself has more movies planned for the Star Wars franchise. At the moment I honestly don't know what it means, but I do know that Darth Vader at Disneyland looks pretty awesome!
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