Wasting Time With Neon!
Max Payne lives! While Remedy have moved on to Alan Wake, another series named after its title character, Rockstar have taken it upon themselves to resurrect one of the most fondly remembered shooters from years gone by. Where Max Payne felt fresh and new back in 2001, the shooter genre has come a long way forward. Games like Gears of War and Vanquish have had a noticable effect on the newest Max Payne. The newness is gone. And in its place is masterful pacing that allows the tried and true action to take center stage.
Max Payne 3 is brighter than the previous two games, though it isn't any less gritty, particularly with two of the flashback missions, both of which reference the first two games. But it works as a standalone game about an angry gringo shooting at Brazilians left, right and center. Max Payne 3 is a fierce shooter that never hides any of its brutality from the player. Gunplay is standard third person shooter fare. It includes bullet time that you can use in various ways and as is customary in a post-Gears of War world, cover. Get behind it, stay alive. Get out of it, take a bullet to the head. Unless you have bullet-time. In which case, fire away.
This is a very story-focused game. The story isn't particularly exceptional, but it's fun and exciting which is perfect motivation for shooting anything that moves. It looks like a modern summer blockbuster and at times it can be about as braindead as one. You will easily identify the villain in the opening moments, realize that there things are very wrong with numerous characters long before the actual reveals and despite all of this, Max Payne 3 still pulls out a few surprises. And it rolls fast with the ones you saw coming. It still turns this shooter topsy turvy and when Max Payne 3's story gets really badass, so does the gameplay, so does Max's narration over the bullets tearing people to pieces and so does your urge to see things through to the end. The story complements the game and is perfectly paced with the gameplay.
Max Payne 3 gets your attention and holds it through the various story beats and if nothing else, there's enough ass and bare flesh going alongside some amazing beats to catch your eye, if only for a minute at the least. Rockstar understand what's cool in what setting and they pull it off each time. There is not one moment that will look awkward, from party scenes, to a night club to hookers with their legs spread wide open for tourists, everything works and nothing feels forced. It's a shame that so few developers understand what Rockstar clearly does.
There are a few options for playing the campaign, one is just as a straight story playthrough. The Score Attack and later New York Minute and its Hardcore variant are available as well. They provide incentive to replay the campaign, similar to Halo's Campaign Scoring and Skull modes. They provide incentive to return to a fun shooter. There is a multiplayer mode as well, but I haven't tried it.
The visuals are wonderful. From the way a bullet tears a hole through a man's nose and pops out the back of his head to the scars that Max gets throughout the story that always remain on his character model. There's an attention to detail here that displays an artistic vision of violence, explosions and blood. The two levels set in America are dark, dank and have a cIassic mobster feel as a gang boss hands you a shovel and tells you to dig your own grave. You'll mix things up in a police station, a nightclub and a dank jungle base. All of them look and feel amazing. Nothing in Max Payne 3 feels phoned in or placed in the game for the sake of being in the game.
And if the visuals are top-notch, the audio is on another level. This is some of the best sound work I have ever heard. From believable voice acting straight down to the background noise within the levels. But above all else, Max Payne 3 has proper audio-mixing. This is most apparent during the night club scene where certain parts of the dialogue can't be heard unless someone is right up in your ear shouting at you. But even as explosions and crashes cut out dialogue where characters can't be heard, it helps build a sense of realness to the events, as silly and action-packed as they are. Much credit needs to go to Rockstar's sound team for their work on Max Payne 3, because this is truly exceptional audio. It is never loud for the sake of being loud like many games nor does it try to mute the background noise to focus on the dialogue. Everything is seamless, it feels just right and it is a major accomplishment by the team that the game sounds this good.
If you enjoy singleplayer shooters Max Payne 3 is a no-brainer. A single playthrough on Normal will take about ten hours to complete, but it's well-designed and truly badass, and the two extra modes for singleplayer add a decent amount of replay value. The multiplayer doesn't interest me, but it is available as well for fans. This is by and large a singleplayer shooter that focuses on intense, stylish action and it succeeds due to Rockstar's excellent design decisions. If you are ever in the mood to shoot things there are few games that are as good as Max Payne 3.
Wrote this really quickly in my blog, so no clue if there are errors. It just became a review halfway through.
Now to determine the question that's been bugging me: Max Payne 3 or Binary Domain? They're both really good.
Oh well, on to Dishonored!
Games don't really know how to pull off nightclub scenes. They're always so cheesy. A lot of this is likely the fault of the tech and a lot of random crap I don't feel like looking into or discussing. But I'm guessing it has to do with the processing power of many machines (or something, I don't care) where we see a few NPCs awkwardly shuffling on a dance floor.
Most games are horrible at it, RockStar games are decent at it.
For Max Payne 3, what sets it apart is how deafeningly loud the music is. To the point where you can't hear the game's dialogue. But that's how nightclubs are. You can't hear a damn thing. Even at crappy dive bars that have a sh*tty DJ with a MacBook Pro and some tinny speakers, the music is blaring and you have to get up close to someone's ear and just shout into it for them to hear you.
Max Payne 3 got that part down. You can't just have the game's soundtrack play over it and see people dancing. It's not believable at all. In Max Payne 3 the club itself isn't too packed but it's believable enough, so kudos to RockStar for not making a nightclub scene another awful, and just overall embarrassing addition to a game. It's not perfect, but it'll do for now.
While on the topic of Max Payne 3, it's pretty good. It's story focused, but the story doesn't get in the way of the gameplay. It all works and there's an action-movie "realism" to it all that works just enough to not make you question how silly some of it is. Max is constantly shot at, we all know this. You even get bullet holes on his clothing with blood marks. But when the story decides you take a sniper bullet to the arm, suddenly Max can't move. He's struggling to hold himself up. Your buddy gets you to a first aid station while dispatching enemies and then it's time to heal your ass up. With a few painkillers and a fresh bandage. You can use your arm again and kill like a boss.
It's far-fetched, sure. But it lends itself to the goofy action stylings of combat, combined with the tough-guy demeanor of the characters and so on. Max Payne 3 is really just a summer blockbuster stretched to 8 hours and the narrative is interesting enough to keep you playing.
I'm on Mission 7 right now (out of 14) and I've seen only one flashback (actually, Mission 8 is a flashback mission as well). The flashback was a bit grimier than the rest of the game, but whatever. It's taken me four hours to get this far, so I'm questioning GameSpot's "it takes 12 hours to get through this game." Unless missions get longer by like 20 minutes from this point forward, we're looking at an 8, maybe 9 hour game. But it's interesting and without garbage getting in the way.
I also caved to peer pressure and purchased Dishonored for 50% off. It came from a few people on here telling me it's worth the price and lightwarrior's savage Indian chant of "buy it! buy it! buy it!" But I had to turn it over to my confidants. I texted my buddy while I was at work "bro, check this game out and let me know if I should buy it" (he's teh casual) and I got a text back 30 minutes later "bro, this looks right up your alley. Trailers look sick, I see high scores and I can see you playing this." I ask "yay or nay?" He responds "yay." Deed is done.
Max Payne 3
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I was considering Torchlight II, but I have enough on my plate at the moment. XCOM would have been sick too, but hopefully it'll be cheaper in a few weeks/months and I'll have more free time for it.
I beat Mass Effect 2. I did almost everything. It took 49 hours.
I enjoyed it more than before because I went in with the idea of "this is like a season of Star Trek" so I went in looking for "episodes" that built up to a season finale. I enjoyed the characters more, the missions were fine and the DLC certainly helped flesh out the experience.
My issue is still with the Suicide Mission though. Even on my replay, it was crap. It's just such a letdown. Say what you will about it, but it's all just noise. You go through one easy shootout where your goal is to keep your specialist alive by opening up heating vents so he/she doesn't cook to death in there and then a second part where you follow your specialist who has a shield up for your team. That's it. That's the suicide mission. Then you fight the final boss.
Compare this to Mass Effect:
You make an impossible drop on Ilos where you chase after Saren, completely disobeying orders, discovering further horrors of the Reapers and how the Protheans were slowly killed off. You give chase to realize that the gate takes you to the Citadel which is now under siege and you literally scale the freaking tower on foot to get to your target. All while making some important judgement calls.
Compare this to Mass Effect 3:
Where you take the fight to Earth, it's completely ruined (the best alien invasion I have ever seen). Reapers and their armies are everywhere. I don't want to say much else because the game is still new and is one of the most exciting games I've played in a while. But Mass Effect 2's finale is just a boring thud compared to how excellent the first and third games' endgames are.
Regardless, I'm raising my score for Mass Effect 2 from a 6.0 to an 8.5. I was enthralled for 48 hours (counting DLC) and let down yet again by the Suicide Mission.
Your recruitment efforts feel like a joke. Why did you need Thane? He's a trained assassin but there's no reason to have an assassin? He's one of my favorite characters in the game, but why exactly is he, and many others, on your team if you aren't going to use them as specialists? The mission is a letdown and the stakes don't feel high enough. They did in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 3, but Mass Effect 2 kind of withers for its endgame, which is a shame. Or Kasumi from the DLC as a master thief.... why do I need a thief specialist if we aren't going to have anyone sneak around? I could have sent her and Thane out for something, anything, I don't know man. Just a disappointing endgame. But it's a fun build-up to it and leads in to the much superior Mass Effect 3.
I'm going to replay Mass Effect 3 after I go through some of these new purchases. Namely Max Payne 3 and Dishonored. I'll see if anything else pops up for me after that. I don't want to start Skyrim before Mass Effect 3 though. Last day of the sale is up. Nothing that interests me so I think my purchases end at those three. I might still pick up Torchlight II just because, but I think a Christmas sale for that game is more likely for me, if it happens.
For those of you that haven't played The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, it's 75% off on Steam today (and tomorrow). Get it. It's one of the best games I've ever played and it comes very highly recommended.
No joke, the amount of new games getting discounted is insane. On Steam:
XCOM was at 33% off (now back to 25%).
Max Payne 3 was at 75% off (now back to 50%).
Skyrim is currently at 50% off.
Dark Souls is at 33% off.
Saints Row: The Third is at 75% off.
Borderlands 2 is 50% off.
Shogun Total War 2 is at 66% off.
F1 2012 is at 50% off.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is at 50% off.
Dishonored is at 25% off.
Spec Ops: The Line is at 50%.
Sleeping Dogs was at 50%.
Civilization V: Gods and Kings is at 50% off, (and Civilization V too).
The Walking Dead series was sold for a bundle at 50% off.
These are all brand new games. The oldest games on this list are late 2011 releases. There are so many awesome looking 2012 releases here, man.
And it isn't just Steam. GameFly has a digital sale too and it's awesome.
Kingdoms of Amalur- 80%
Darksiders II- 66%
Sleeping Dogs- 50%
Spec Ops: The Line- 75%
And at Amazon
BioShock bundle- $5 for both games
Max Payne 3- $15 (that's Steam's price)
Dark Souls- $15
The freaking PC sales have been insane this year and each service has provided a good deal on a different game. GameFly's Dishonored price is way tempting.
I took Amazon's Skyrim price and went with Steam for Max Payne 3. The discounts for these new games is insanely awesome.
I had a $25 gift card to Amazon, I used it and then used the points on my card to basically get Skyrim for free. Not to mention free shipping.
Max Payne 3 at $15 is a steal, especially considering that 2012 has only really seen a few really strong shooters release (Max Payne 3, Borderlands 2, Halo 4, Counter Strike: Global Offensive are all that really interest me and then you have the other games that might be considered anyway like Black Ops 2, Tribes: Ascend, Natural Selection 2 to fill out ballots. But even with those taken into consideration I still can't name 10 excellent shooters this year)
There are some awesome deals. I don't know how things are on the console end (and they're barren on Origin), but Steam, GameFly and Amazon have had the goods this year. I haven't a Steam sale this strong before and I'm happy to see GameFly competing in price. I'll have to consider whether I make another purchase anytime soon. Max Payne 3 and Skyrim feel like enough at the moment. But XCOM looks sweet, Dishonored looks sweet, Sleeping Dogs looks sweet and so on. Lot of good games, but I'll wait unless something really tips me over the edge. But for now, the 2011 GotY, which I have waited a year for a price drop to $30, purchased at $25 with no charge to me AND $15 for a brand new 2012 game by Rockstar? I'm feeling OK with this.
With Mass Effect 2 almost finished, BioShock procured for free waiting for a replay, Skyrim procured basically for free waiting to be installed and Max Payne 3 downloading and a replay of Mass Effect 3, combined with a free download of The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (it was buy one get one on Origin a few weeks ago, I actually bought War in the North and got Mass Effect 2 for free, but same deal), I'm feeling solid. I've spent minimal cash and I've got games to play. In fact, most of my money probably went to Mass Effect 2 DLC and that's because I was totally OK with getting Mass Effect 2 for free. Shoot, I feel good.
Mass Effect 2's downloadable content has provided some entertaining highs for the series with Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker. But it started with a dud in Kasumi: Stolen Memory and it ends with a similar dud in Arrival.
The premise is that Shepard is sent in alone to rescue a friend of Admiral Hacket from a Batarian prison because she has knowledge of the Reaper invasion.
What sounds like an exciting mission is boiled down to Mass Effect 2's worst bits, stiff action, and excludes the decision making altogether and at no point does it allow you to utilize any of your awesome squadmates.
So what follows is a two hour long mission that has Shepard running around alone, killing anything that comes his way without the dynamics of your squad's powers and abilities to be used in combination with your own.
There's no sense of urgency with the add-on either. You would think the death of 300,000 lives would feel impactful, but it's done in such a hokey way that you feel robbed of any actual drama that the game tries to present.
In short, Arrival isn't a necessary add-on at all for Mass Effect 2. It may carry some story implications for Mass Effect 3, but it's so dull and over-priced that simply reading a summary of it will suffice.
BioShock. Free. Downloaded it.
I played BioShock once back in 2007 when it first came out. I enjoyed the premise, the setting and the first two acts of the story VERY much. I didn't enjoy the braindead AI or the third act of the game, but it was unique in that it tried something very different from most other shooters of the time.
Right now, you can download it for free. If you already own it, whatever. But if you haven't played it, all you need to do is sign up for GameFly's online client. Yes, this is a cheap attempt by GameFly to get you to use their client. I also don't care. A free game is a free game. I'll use the client to play this game. Steam is my go-to for clients. It's convenient, has the best library and the best prices (in general). But I need Origin for EA's games (well, Mass Effect, actually). GameFly's client serves little purpose unless they get some boss discounts or something. GFWL is a joke. But I need it for Dark Souls, so whatever.
But yeah, sign up, get a free copy of BioShock. It's interesting enough to play at least once, and I daresay it's interesting enough to revisit after five years. For all I know it might just grow on me. My tastes now are significantly different from 2007. Hell, Mass Effect 2 has grown on me significantly in this replay. It still drags a little, but when you've put over 32 hours into a game and are still completing loyalty missions (granted I have DLC, so that's boosted playtime by like 6 or 7 hours) you're in for the long haul. But it's grown on me significantly. I'm appreciating the faster-paced action and streamlining over Mass Effect's openness and overt focus on RPG elements.
I also revisited Quake 4 this year, and found it to be largely the same as when I played it in 2005 so that wasn't worth it. But hey, BioShock at least has ambition as a shooter. It gets too much praise for things it doesn't deserve, but it's worth playing just to see a unique take on the genre. I have no issue with using this client just for this game. I'll return to it later though as right now I have me some Mass Effect 2 to play and to be followed up with BioWare's beastly sequel.
GameSpy's Article: How to Get BioShock for Free
Nothing about Mass Effect in here. Not one mention. Go figure!
1. Diablo III- Game sold 10 million and an expansion pack is planned. What does this mean? More always online goodness with Blizzard's poor direction for the series. I wouldn't put nearly as much stock into that 10 million number as Activision/Blizzard are. People are disappointed with Diablo III and while that still means there's like half the fanbase that enjoyed it, I expect smaller numbers for the expansion. Whatever Blizzard did to Diablo III, and there's no explaining it honestly, just take my word and run, they screwed up. Diablo belongs to the 90's.
2. Tatsunoko VS. Capcom- If you were interested in buying the game now is the time to do so. Capcom's rights to the Tatsunoko characters has come to an end. They may no longer sell the game through retail outlets or digital distribution. If you have even the slightest interest now is the time before the inevitable price hike.
3. Street Fighter Alpha 2- It released on GoG for $6. One of the downsides to PC gaming is the lack of fighting games. Yeah, Street Fighter IV, BlazBlue: CT, a few Guilty Gear games, etc exist but it lacks the Dead or Alive, Tekken, Soul Calibur and Virtua Fighter games amongst so many others. I don't know what it's going to take to get the genre on PC as well, but you literally plug in a gamepad or whatever you prefer to play with and simply play. I don't get the animosity. But those looking for an oldie, Alpha 2 is available for cheap.
4. Halo 4- Microsoft has no plans to port the game to PC. This is a shame, as it is with all of their game franchises. Microsoft seems content to haphazardly port the odd game here and there: Halo 2, Gears of War and Fable 3, but leave the rest out. It's a shame. Microsoft have their busted GFWL service that people would bear with for a game like Halo 4 but otherwise despise. They have no support for the platform other than dumbed down, free to play versions of old cIassics. I don't see why the company responsible for Windows doesn't think that their games should be played on Windows. Now, the reason I bring this up is because Microsoft wants to make Windows 8 a viable platform for gaming. How do you expect to do that if you don't release YOUR game on the platform? It would be counter-productive for them to release games exclusively for PC, so why not release their line-up for both Xbox and Windows? It makes no sense. These guys need an intervention.
All this can be further summarized by Microsoft's own words (which make no sense at all):
Halo 4 was designed specifically for Xbox 360 (WHADAFUQ?), and while were always exploring new ways to expand the franchise and share the Halo experience with as many fans as possible, we do not currently have any plans to port Halo 4 to PC. (May I ask what your grand plan is, in that case? Perhaps there's a PlayStation 3 version planned )
DAFUQ DOES THAT EVEN MEAN!? How do you explain "exploring new ways and expanding the franchise and sharing the Halo experience with as many fans as possible" by saying "but there aren't any plans for it on PC." OK.
5. Mass Effect 3: Omega- I LIED!!! IT'S GONNA BE SICK! Aria's gonna take back Omega. And you know what? I'mma make her kiss me on tha face! I don't care if BioWare says she's not romanceable. IT'S HAPPENING PEOPLE, IT'S HAPPENING!! MAH SHEP AND DAT ARIA. HER TONGUE WRAPPED 'ROUND MAH TONGUE. WE TAKIN' DIS THANG BACK!
Wut? I love angry and psychotic. The fact that she's blue helps. :3
CERBERUS GON' BE SORRY!!!
Liara T'Soni holds a special place in the hearts of many Mass Effect fans. It helps that your choice for a romantic partner in the first game was either Liara or the decidedly bland Ashley Williams. Furthermore, blame James Cameron for my urge to mate with anything blue and BioWare's refusal to admit that the Asari are anything but spacefaring sex kittens and you can suddenly see why so many people love Liara (or Samara, but she's Space Samurai from head to toe, and can't be romanced). In Mass Effect 2, Liara is relegated to a minor role. Similar to how Urdnot Wrex is on his own mission to unite the Krogan, Liara is on a mission to hunt the Shadow Broker. And that mission is finally brought to light in the third add-on for the game, Lair of the Shadow Broker, a spectacular, story-based addition to the game that feels like the most exciting bits of a major release. This is DLC done right and well worth the asking price.
Lair of the Shadow Broker brings things to a head spectacularly. Similar to Kasumi- Stolen Memory, there's a bit of searching for information, but unlike Kasumi it doesn't take half the length of the add-on. It's five minutes at most before you are taken to the first of four major set-pieces. Lair of the Shadow Broker starts with a bang as a new Asari Spectre is introduced, making her the fourth one introduced in the first two games. Explosions and stunning level design also highlight just how much BioWare learned from Mass Effect 2's mistakes. The production values are better than anything available in the previous two add-ons and at times surpass Mass Effect 2 as well. They really help make Lair of the Shadow Broker feel more important than the other pieces. It is a major step up, even from the fun Overlord.
Lair of the Shadow Broker also oozes atmosphere in each of its locations, from the bombed-out office building to a stunning ship in constant electrical storm. The game's various locations are a sight to behold and provide some of the coolest levels in the series. And with Liara's return to the battlefield there is a sizable amount of personality and witty banter that takes place, much of it was missing from Kasumi- Stolen Memory and Overlord. But sharp writing and interesting characters, both new and old, and funny references to the first game help make for an entertaining experience.
Lair of the Shadow Broker also improves on various faults that were present in Mass Effect 2. First of all, there are two fun boss battles that are better than anything available in Mass Effect 2. BioWare have corrected the issue of bosses that simply floated in the background and put them on the same battlefield as you. This makes them zipping around and attacking you feel far more threatening and at times personal. Battlefields are also well designed and help show a certain complexity to the combat that just makes it entertaining to keep moving forward.
Graphically, Lair of the Shadow Broker is the best-looking add-on so far, though Overlord is no slouch. The significantly higher production values make it feel like a major part of Mass Effect 2, whereas Overlord, despite being well-designed and with some cool tricks up its sleeve, felt like a side-mission. Lair of the Shadow Broker just looks and sounds like it was created to be the highest quality possible.
The set-pieces in Lair of the Shadow Broker are spectacular. From a bomb going off in a building to a high-speed chase and one of the coolest spaceships ever to be seen, this add-on nails everything. It feels genuinely polished and helps to expand the universe at large. It feels far more important than the other releases and it shows through fun gameplay, improvements to boss battles and level design, very high production values, witty writing, spectacular locations and actual significance to the universe at large. Lair of the Shadow Broker is not just recommended, it's a necessity to the Mass Effect experience.
Mass Effect 2's first downloadable content, Kasumi- Stolen Memory was a dud. It was by the numbers, all too brief and generally uninteresting. The low production values certainly didn't help. The second piece, Overlord, is a major step up from Kasumi. Shepard and team are sent off to investigate a rogue VI at a Cerberus facility. The premise is simple and clearly feels like a side-mission from the get-go. Overlord has no bearing on Mass Effect 2's story and no real impact to the universe at large. It is its own mission, but at almost three times the length of Kasumi, greater production values and filled with surprises all around, Overlord is a good time.
Once you land, with the Hammerhead vehicle in tow, you arrive at a station where there is only one survivor after the VI went rogue and corpses to spare. Upon entering you are quickly greeted by the green-faced virtual intelligence as it stalks your every move, and shrieks in a rather disturbing manner. Your job is to keep that rogue VI from spreading its influence off-world. And this is where Overlord succeeds. There's a sense of dread in the destroyed facilities you visit. The bodies of scientists litter each room, some in mid-escape, others caught off guard. The flickering lights and leaking gas pipes all help to build up the atmosphere of the adventure. There are four facilities in all to visit, each different from the other. One will have you traverse rivers of molten lava in an extended vehicular section, reminiscent of the first Mass Effect, although much improved. And another will keep you from firing a single shot as you slowly tread forward, the darkness and eerie atmosphere slowly moving you forward until all hell breaks loose for a daring escape. If Kasumi- Stolen Memory was about being redundant, Overlord is about variety.
It certainly helps that Overlord is a genuine looker. Each facility is distinct in its look, and it is tied together by an overworld that you drive across. The world itself is beautiful, at times evoking a Panzer Dragoon feel. That may have just as much to do with the unique wildlife flying in the distance as it does with the flowing waterfalls, beautiful views of the valley below, all juxtaposed with cutting edge technology and a rogue VI that at once references other greats including SHODAN and HAL.
It is worth mentioning that Overlord's final 20 minutes are superb. As good as the rest of the add-on is, the end-game is what makes it an all-around great package. As the rogue VI plays with you, messes with where you can and can't go, and some fantastic visual tricks await as well. Mix in some exciting, scripted sequences and a dramatic finale and Overlord's end-game holds up better than many full-fledged games.
Overlord is light on dialogue, with the only real conversations taking place at the beginning and at the very end. The rest is focused on tense atmosphere, action and exploration. Each of the four facilities should take anywhere from 30-40 minutes to complete, and exploring the overworld for its secret nooks and crannies should provide similar playtime. Overlord is decently priced for its excellent production values, game length and overall variety.
Mass Effect 2 feels like an episodic series, and that narrative structure is what makes it the perfect kind of game for downloadable content. Each character is given a mission where they are introduced and later a loyalty mission that further expands on them. The game introduces a character as a spiritual hitman and then portrays him as a worrying father. Another mission brings to life an explosive prison escape. These events feel disconnected from the greater threat of the Reaper invasion at hand, but help build up the characters needed and as such makes Mass Effect 2 the perfect game for add-ons.
Gamers were given a look at how it could work with the free addition of Zaeed. It was a fun enough mission, but ultimately for a character that felt inconsequential to the rest of the cast. Unfortunately, Kasumi- Stolen Memory suffers the same issues.
The most worrying thing is the cost in relation to the amount of playtime available. This is essentially an hour long mission sold for $7. Certainly, you gain Kasumi as a team member to use throughout the rest of the game, but there is no recruiting mission. A dossier is not provided as it was for the main cast. You simply walk up to her, she comes aboard and theres a loyalty mission waiting for you. There is no true character-building, which is a shame.
Beyond simply having Kasumi as a character, there is a lackluster mission waiting for you. Kasumi is not the most famous thief in the galaxy, but she is the best, which is why few actually know who she is. And while the story has a touching enough finale for her, it isnt enough to make up for the fact that the mission itself is not any fun to play.
The mission is a heist, which is already an issue because Mass Effect does not have any stealth elements to speak of. You enter a lifeless party where the production values are just depressing. The guests mouths do not move when they speak, theres no one to speak to whatsoever beyond a few key prompts, and it involves aimlessly wandering around touching random objects for things to happen. The good news is thats only the first half, and the second half brings on the traditional Mass Effect 2 gunplay. It is standard fare though and nothing out of the ordinary will be waiting for you. In fact, the coolest moments of this add-on are the references, from the tragic figure of Saren portrayed as a statue to relics from Earth and other colonies all stashed away by a criminal.
Kasumi- Stolen Memory is a functional add-on, but hardly a necessity. It feels like a quick side mission with generally low production values and a steep asking price of $7 for an hour of gameplay that adds little to the overall Mass Effect 2 experience. Kasumi herself is not a remarkable character and pales in comparison to the rest of the female cast while her story fails to hold the weight of the rest of your teammates. For those interested in spicing up their Mass Effect 2 experience, best to look elsewhere, Kasumi- Stolen Memory is a dud and only recommended for completionists that want to experience everything at hand.
Dear From Software, thank you for porting your game to PC. I just bought it in a blind show of faith for PC ports in the hopes that your game's success will force Microsoft to consider porting their game.
That and it being $20 helped.
NBA season is starting up! Final major trade happened with James Harden going to Houston. All the Rockets need now is a decent center/power forward and they can finally compete for one of the lower playoff spots in the Western Conference. The Lakers have to be happy with this trade. They'll have to learn some chemistry pronto as Kobe learns to play with Nash and Howard learns to share the spotlight with other big name players. But OKC just lost one of their best players and it makes their job a little easier should they face them. Don't get me wrong, OKC's starting line-up is freaking boss! And they have chemistry with one another. But they lost a key part of what made them so successful. They can still win, but they took a hit while the Spurs stayed strong, the Lakers and Clippers deepened their own rosters and on the East Coast, Miami is looking like a third trip back to the Finals.
Looking at the West
Thunder- Still one of the best, if not the best in the West, but they lost the sixth man of the year and that's never a good things, just ask the Lakers
Lakers- They revamped their roster. They have the talent on paper to take it all, but they need to figure out their chemistry to win.
Clippers- They're no joke. They've got a deeper line-up than last season and they're going places. And Odom. They've got Odom. That's freaking awesome.
Spurs- Still a dominant force. Old, but with enough youth that the guidance of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker can get this team through to the end one more time.
Memphis- Solid. They were a surprise each year, both when winning and losing. But the top four teams are above. These guys are great and good fun to watch, but no one's taking those four down.
Rockets- Lin has to be pleased. So much pressure is taken off of him now that Harden is on the team. They still need a center/powerforward. Big men in general that don't suck. Once they get that, they can compete for a spot as the rank 7 or 8. And likely lose in 4 to either the Thunder, Spurs, Lakers or Clippers.
Nuggets- I love coach Carl. I love the unselfish play of his team. There's no standout superstar, but these guys are a killer team. They'll be boss and they'll upset some heavyhitters throughout the season. Don't underestimate the Nuggets.
Mavericks- They played butt roulette and lost. OK, not really. But they took a gamble on D. Will. They got nothing. Nowitski is in the twilight of his career, but at least he won a championship before they blew apart one of the best teams assembled. Imagine if they faced the Heat again. Instead, well, that's never going to happen, so whatever.
Looking at the East
Bulls- Chicago is done. D. Rose isn't coming back in time to save this season. They'll be championship contenders again once he's healthy, but he's in rehab for that injury and by the time he gets back and readjusts and gets in shape, well, next season will be better for Chi-town fans. Derrick Rose is one of the most important things to happen to the sport. He's a different player than Lebron, but his talent level and significance will be higher than Lebron. Once he's healthy this team will have its hopes brought back. But for now, they're a shadow of the number 1 seed they used to be.
Boston- Aging and without Ray Allen. Rondo is the future of the franchise and they need to build around him. But the Celtics will keep Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce until they retire. They're great, experienced players, but they won their championship. I don't think they have another run in them, not with the Heat as they are now.
Heat- Let's see.... 'Bron. Always excellent. Wade. He's healthy now. Bosh. Also healthy. Added depth to their line-up with numerous players like Ray Allen, and suddenly the defending champs look like they might repeat. And who is in their way? Indiana, but they're still growing.
Knicks- The Knicks have great players. They have no chemistry. Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and now adding in Jason Kidd in his twilight years is cool and all, but they don't play well together. They need to find their rhythm, eitherwise NY isn't moving past the cross section of "middle of the road" and "disappointing." Again. Carmelo Anthony is one of the best scorers in the league. Period. He's amazing and awesome to watch. As for Stoudemire, he needs a point guard to run the floor and facilitate to him. Remember how high flying the Suns were back when he and Nash had championship aspirations together? Those were good times. Jeremy Lin's reign was short-lived though so we never got to see how he could positively impact the team. With Felton on board we may see how it all pans out as he is a proven point guard.
Nets- Brooklyn is the new cool thing in town apparently. I want to see Deron Williams succeed. But his team is only OK. The rivalry that's going to start between the Knicks and Nets should be entertaining to watch and pretty evenly matched. D. Will is amazing. As a point guard, New York has no answer for the guy. But then, their shooting guard is over-rated. Joe Johnson? I honestly have no clue why people think he's an all-star. Guy's a good player but whatever. Lopez is a good center, but Tyson Chandler is the returning Defensive Player of the Year. Kidd is ancient, but knows how to facilitate. He still can't do a thing against D. Will. It'll be entertaining to watch and I expect the NY crowds to roar when these two teams play. But neither will go past the second round.
Pacers- Still under-rated. Still a beastly team. I don't get why people don't talk about this team. Yeah, they're in Indiana. Big deal. They took the Heat to six games last season. That's worth talking about. They'll face Miami in the East Finals. They'll lose to them, but they're handily the second best team in the East, particularly with Chicago out of the picture.
Sixers- There's a reason the people are cheering Bynum's name. He is their savior. With Howard out of the East, the conference no longer had a terrifying threat. Tyson Chandler is great and all, but he's a defense-first guy. But Philly got Bynum, the best center in the West. If that Sixer's crew can still play as well as they did, fighting for every game against Boston in a seven close matches, well, they've got the best Center in the East now. There's still Chandler and Hibbert, sure, but Bynum's in another league. Almost the same league as Howard. Almost. But the Sixer's also became a top four team in the East.
Preliminary predictions for playoffs
West- San Antonio Spurs, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, OKC Thunder, Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks (barely)
East- Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76'ers, NY Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls (barely), Atlanta Hawks
Preliminary Conference Finals Predictions
West- Oklahoma City over the Lakers in 7
East- Miami Heat over the Pacers in 7
Preliminary Finals Prediction- Heat as repeat champions
Yes, I believe that those series will both be close. Now to watch it all unfold and see if I'm right (I'm usually pretty good, but things change throughout a season always).
In other news, finished Mass Effect. Ending to Mass Effect 3 is clearly hinted at in the very first game. Go figure. Looking forward to discovering new things about the series as I go through #2 again, leading up to a replay of #3!
Love it or hate it, a lot of games are telling their "stories" in threes. Sometimes, these stories aren't planned as trilogies (Ok, they usually aren't). It's hard to say whether we actually need trilogies. I kind of like having different options, but our sequels are important, and trilogies are a way of doing it while seeming like you have a grander plan beyond exploiting sequels (and expansions). Othertimes, there are trilogies within series (look at Final Fantasy XIII, damn thing is its own trilogy now). I'm no expert. Nor have I played every game around. But I'd like to look over some of our trilogies. Here's five big ones to start:
Trilogy #1- Halo
It started as an unassuming game from a former Macintosh development team. Suddenly, they became the flagbearers for Microsoft's defective machinery. But the games made their mark and helped influence the shooter genre in a big way.
Halo: Combat Evolved- It was a shock. I hated console FPS before Halo. And Halo changed everything. It brought the core PC values of the genre over to consoles. Immediately at Halo's release, Rare's shooters became obsolete. Bungie held the crown. But was it a fluke?
Halo 2- Nope. Halo 2 lived up to the hype and then some. Halo 2 suffered a bit in people's eyes because it had a bad ending. But story isn't the main reason to play, going online meant we were in for the first truly great online game for consoles. Play whatever you want, have your favorites, but nothing beat Halo 2.
Halo 3- Bungie ended the series spectacularly, with a game that played essentially like a 12 hour ending. It also still stands as one of the best-paced shooters ever made. Online was improved even further and innovative ideas were introduced with the metagame and Forge.
What's Next?- Well, we had a spin-off, a prequel and a remake of the original game. Now Microsoft are set for the second trilogy, which they are calling The Reclaimer Trilogy. I doubt I'll play it though. The days of Halo's superiority have come to an end. It's officially a brand now, and that leaves little hope for continued innovation and inspired design. I'm sure the games will be fine, but it's time for me to move on.
Trilogy #2- Gears of War
Easily one of the most influential series of this gen. Gears of War has become synonymous with shooter gameplay these days as each game is praised for being better than the competition.
Gears of War- A fantastic game. It took a lot of the best parts of lesser (and better) games by borrowing mechanics from Resident Evil 4 and Kill.Switch among others and blending them to create a visually intense shooter with some fantastic level design and awesome cooperative play.
Gears of War 2- Despite all the praise the game received, I found it to be a bloated and glitchy mess. Design was subpar and funneled you forward more often than not, rather than leaving you hunkered down behind a slab of rock, fighting for inches of tactical superiority. It at least introduced Horde mode, but that's a cheap substitute for a lackluster campaign and (at the time of its release) busted multiplayer.
Gears of War 3- I played some cooperative play. It was entertaining enough. I have to give Epic credit for not compromising on the design of the game in the face of Call of Duty's dominance. Gears of War requires skill to play, and it's difficult to go online and win. But Epic have a genuinely unique game in those regards. My experience was short-lived though.
What's Next?- People Can Fly are developing a prequel with Baird as the star. People Can Fly are OK, I guess. But with CliffyB out of the picture, I don't know how the series will fare. It's clear the guy hates handholding, linear as Gears of War is, but I'll be sad to see the series lose some of its edge without him.
Trilogy #3- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Being friends with one of the original designers of the game makes for awkward conversations when he tells me how much better Modern Warfare 2 is than Modern Warfare 3. Then again, he's got a point. It is better. Of course, he thinks Modern Warfare 2 is a good game and that Infinity Ward as they are now, Sledgehammer and Treyarch are all losers (well, they are, but still)
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare- Not a bad game at all. It's the definition of a rollercoaster ride. But it does so with expert pacing. Pacing can make or break a game, and Call of Duty 4 nailed it. All the dramatic highs of the game were punctuated by some scenic downtime. All Ghillied Up was an atmospheric break that just had you enveloped in the mission. Ignore the fact that it's designed as a "Follow the leader" type level and look at how the dramatic highs are broken up with actual breathing room. Add in some fun multiplayer ideas and you have a pretty good game.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2- Busted. The campaign is a mess of "LOOK AT HOW BADASS THESE EXPLOSIONS ARE!!!!" It's poorly designed and suffers from having the protagonist get killed way too many times. You play like five roles because everyone dies. It was a novel thing in Call of Duty 4 when your American player died and you walked his death. It was a dramatic high of the bomb going off and that somber low as you watched yourself die. In Modern Warfare 2, it's cheapened. You just freaking die. And someone new takes your place. To die. And at the end you're Soap again. Great. And that multiplayer? Glitchy and exploited to hell. And that auto-aim? Yeah, that thing was cranked to 11.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3- I don't remember it. I fell asleep on my cousin's couch after playing for an hour. That's all that needs to be said. For all I know, it might not even be a trilogy. But I just felt like pointing out that Modern Warfare 3 put my ass to sleep. It was like 6 PM. Nothing should put me to sleep at 6 PM.
What's Next?- Who cares? They all play the same. Respawn are busy making their own game to battle what they created in the first place. Call of Duty won't change, but maybe the original creators can try a new idea.
Trilogy #4- Mass Effect
Mass Effect has the benefit of starting out as a planned trilogy. So you figure BioWare's opus would translate well to the three game format. Thankfully, it does, even if it has a few missteps.
Mass Effect- An ambitious game that plays like a real-time KotOR. I can do without all of the drawn out explanations in dialogue and the side missions are boring. But the gameplay is well-executed, the lore and universe is nearly unmatched and the narrative is entertaining. Decisions are generally black and white.
Mass Effect 2- BioWare drops the ball here. It's clear that they wanted a TPS type game with ME, and they went that route with ME2. They just had no idea how to design it properly. Add in a subpar endgame, that Suicide Mission is a joke, and constricting level design that really bears down on you with cookie-cutter enemy placement and worse AI and you have a disappointing sequel. Decisions are also, still black and white.
Mass Effect 3- BioWare's ultimate success. Mass Effect 3 is everything the team has strived to create since 2003's Knights of the Old Republic. A smooth flowing hybrid that finally brings in real-time gameplay done successfully and utlized with genuine RPG elements. The level design is spectacular and the enemy AI is far improved. Of course, Mass Effect 3 is suffering from the Halo 2 syndrome. People think it s predecessors are better just because the ending wasn't that good. Oh joy. Whatever will we do? A videogaming ending that wasn't good. Never heard of that before. It definitely doesn't get the recognition for finally having a morally gray choice available throughout the game. A success in every way that counts. It's too bad that people are hung up over the last five minutes.
What's Next?- At the end of Mass Effect 3 a thank you message comes up stating BioWare's intentions to develop more games within the series. Apparently, people just realized this and are abuzz with news of Mass Effect 4. Whatever the case, it simply can't be a sequel. Just how the ending worked. To keep it within the same universe it needs to be a prequel or a parallel story. It'll be nice to visit the Drell homeworld for instance, *hint hint.* Though the doctors are gone, I don't think they needed to stay. Their time was up in this industry. They literally moved BioWare up to its highest possible point. Anything else would simply be impossible. They did good. Now its time to leave the genre in the hands of the younger devs.
Trilogy #5- Metroid Prime
Metroid Prime had all the promise in the world. Nintendo managed to finally, after a full system generation without the fan-favorite girl, find a developer that could capture the spirit of Metroid, and *gasp* manage to make it succeed as a, wait for it, first person shooter.
Metroid Prime- A miracle. One of the greatest games of all time. Unrivaled in how spectacular it is. A shooter for a different breed of gamer. Superior level design, all interconnected across worlds, with fantastic environmental puzzles and imposing boss battles make for one of the most genuinely excellent games of all time.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes- But miracles only happen once, and it's never easy to stand on the shoulders of giants. Metroid Prime 2 is a great game. It features some solid level design, some good puzzles and some nifty boss battles. But it lacks the ambition of the original and, depressingly, feels like a key hunt that's just dragged over the span of 20 hours. Prime hid its flaws by being fresh. Echoes however never corrected them. It is however, to this day, the most atmospheric game released. It is genuinely alien, in a wonderful way. A great game, some would say a superior game in terms of the ramped up difficulty and atmosphere, but its flaws are too noticable.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption- A fititng title for the game as it corrupted everything we had come to expect from the Prime series and Metroid in general. I stopped playing it halfway through because it was that bad. I picked it up again after a year, refusing to go through the first half of the game, just to see if it got better. A linear mess with a focus on gunplay with braindead AI, poor level design, worse narrative that detracts from the atmosphere, and a sense of childish urgency that belongs in the 1990's. Metroid Prime 3 is a disgrace to the trilogy and the series at large. Whatever problems folks may have had with Other M that they praise Corruption is flat-out stupid. If Other M is worse than Prime 3, that's no reason to praise this game for being better.
What's Next?- Nothing thankfully. Other M was generally considered a disaster (I honestly think people are over-reacting, just as they did with Mass Effect 3, but whatever). Metroid Prime 3 showed that Retro is completely out of ideas for the series and that they have no clue on how to move it forward. They should look to Demon's/Dark Souls for inspiration, honestly. Metroid Prime tells its story in a similar way, while the third game betrays that in every way imaginable. Brooding atmosphere and a story told through the environment is what we need, similar to the first two games. It also needs to avoid the "collect these keys/powercells/artifacts" to get to the final boss. Whatever is in store for Metroid, more Demon's/Dark Souls inspiration, less Halo. Halo's a success for doing its own thing, Metroid needs to be a success for doing its own thing and it lost its way this gen.
Like I said, I haven't played every trilogy out there. The PlayStation ones elude me, so I have no idea how God of War, Resistance, Killzone and Uncharted fare with their respective entries. But if you feel like sharing let me know.
A report and a take home midterm both due on the same day... for the same class? Professor, let me state this bluntly: I hate you.
That aside, I know what you all are thinking: Neon, I thought you were great at time management. You worked three internships and a job over the summer and still had some free time. Yeah, that I did. And you're probably thinking: So why the hell are you complaining now when you only have two jobs and school? I'm sure your professor gave you more than enough time to do both. Yes. Yes he did. (I'm certain none of you thought any of this crap, but there's always hope that I can make a prediction).
The reason? When it comes to education I procrastinate. I can go to different places, juggle workloads and get sh*t done. When given multiple school assignments? Ugh.
So I finished the paper, now I have the midterm. But other than those two, I totally downloaded Mass Effect. And started playing it. I'm officially a Spectre. Again.
As many of you know, I played ME1 and 2 on 360. I also don't have my 360 anymore. So I played ME3 on PC. My character did not make it over. I was still blown away because the outcome of an adventure where I figured what had happened before: barely anyone survived that suicide mission, Wreav was in charge and a lot of other swell stuff. I intend on seeing things through my way now. I'm keeping Wrex alive, getting my Suicide Mission crew home safe, I want to see all those stories play out in ME3. It's a long journey, but I'm banking on it.
Anyway, after ME3, ME1 plays like crap. But it's still an interesting world that I haven't seen in four years. So it's good to step back into it. I'm not going to lie, as disappointed as I was in ME2, I'm looking forward to actually being able to shoot stuff again. These RPG mechanics are killing me this go around. They're not broken, but they aren't as intuitive as ME3's gameplay, that of a true hybrid. ME2 ultimately screws up its TPS combat by being too basic, but at this point I'm getting anxious for it.
EDIT- Disregard that whole "plays like crap" line. I've been playing the game more and once you adjust to the RPG elements it's actually f*cking awesome. I know I've stated this before, but back in 2009 when I took an 8 month break from gaming, Mass Effect was the game that drew me back in. And for good reason, even in 2009 when I played it, it was awesome. Still awesome. It just has more of an actual learning curve and once you get in the flow of it, the game is just smoother than most would think. Not as smooth as ME2 or 3, but there's a reason why a lot of people like the first game over the sequels. It is really good.
Regardless, I'm off on the hunt for Saren, who, let's be honest, is the best antagonist the series has had. You're also given freedom to play the game in the order you want unlike ME2 and ME3. Still, my aim is for ME3, otherwisw I wouldn't be replaying these. It will be interesting to see if I think better of ME2 after this replay. In terms of the story, someone told me to approach it as I would a season of Star Trek, which kind of makes sense. So I'm going to go in with a different mindset and see if it helps me enjoy the game a bit more.
I also gave Bulletstorm a shot. It's the game I downloaded for free off of Origin. I don't like it.
People that do like it tell me it's supposed to be a parody of sci-fi shooters. The dialogue is crap, even if it is a parody. You know it isn't funny when it's terrible. I just got a headache from hearing it.
The actual gameplay is OK. It's not a bad-playing shooter, and the skillshot idea is fine and all, but it isn't a stand-out or unique as some people tell me. It's literally just another shooter. If you're cool with that and enjoy braindead enemies (something People Can Fly specialize in), big explosions (they specialize in that too), fast-paced action (go figure, another of their specialties) and want a shooter that combines that with an arcade like score system than this game is for you.
With Painkiller and Bulletstorm I know exactly what People Can Fly are now, they're that B-level dev like Raven that has a decent fan following and can be hired to make a sequel in a big IP now and again (PCF got Gears of War: Judgment and Raven Software got Quake 4) but they'll never really be a standout development team. At least not yet. Remember when the most notable thing Gearbox had done was porting Halo to the PC? Look at them now, riding that Borderlands 2 cashcow, baby. But even that took multiple releases and a many years of playing second fiddle to everyone else before a hit really stuck with audiences.
Anyway, if you see it for like $5 or $10 it's worth it if you enjoy shooters. But it isn't a genuine stnadout. It also uses GFWL. This was my first experience with GFWL. I can already tell you, between Steam, Origin and GFWL, GFWL is the worst out of the bunch. Horrible program. MS needs to either improve it or just leave PC gamers alone.
The culmination of a studio's lifework. Few games can make that claim, but that's exactly what Mass Effect 3 is for BioWare. It ties together the entire trilogy, bringing relevance to decisions made five years ago when this system generation was still beginning. It masterfully blends action and role-playing, something the team has been moving towards since 2003. It brings relevance to moments some may have hated. It concludes what will be remembered as one of the greatest science-fiction tales ever to be experienced. And it does so in style.
The first two games each served a purpose. Mass Effect introduced you to the world, as Commander Shepard rose up to become the first Human Spectre. Sent on the hunt against the rogue Spectre Saren, the journey proved memorable as characters were introduced, and the realization from the very first game that you can never save everyone, no matter how hard you try, hit home pretty hard. The second game focused on the characters around the galaxy, while preparing you for a suicide mission. Mass Effect 2 ultimately falters as a stand-alone experience. The plot is poor, the level design is too small, making for extremely basic action and there's an overall lack of challenge through it all. But Mass Effect 3 brings relevance to the second game, turning Mass Effect 2 into the bridge that helps take Mass Effect's finale to its emotional highs.
And what a high it is. The sound of the Reapers still blares in my mind. That loud rumble that shook my speakers in each encounter likely won't go away anytime soon. The wails of the Banshees coming after me as I ran in fear on the battlefield, issuing commands to my team and hoping I could finish them before they reached me. The colossal scope of the Reapers as they dominated the entire screen, as I ran to avoid being trampled is a sight to behold. The boss fights that actually took place on the battlefield, and not just in the screen background as they did in Mass Effect 2 make for an exciting time that makes the battles feel personal and not just busy work. Every issue that anyone can bring up in Mass Effect or Mass Effect 2 has been dealt with. From the improved inventory to the spectacular level design that combines the open-ended levels of Mass Effect, even if they grew monotonous at times, with the guided feel of the level design of Mass Effect 2, even if it was far too constricting for a game so focused on action. Mass Effect 3 gets everything right.
Mass Effect 3 is an extremely plot-heavy game, but it treads familiar ground from the first two games at the outset: you don't have control of the Normandy and you don't have your crew. Of course, it makes sense for all three games when taking each game's plot into consideration but it is still noticeable. But once the story kicks in it never lets go. Similarly to Mass Effect 2, you will be going to different locations to recruit help, but Mass Effect 2 was essentially, as some folks put it, Seven Samurai in space, just with a worse plot. But in Mass Effect 3 you are recruiting entire races to help fight a final battle that expertly shows just how dire the situation is for everyone. Mass Effect 3's invaded Earth isnt just a stellar battleground; its easily the best representation of an alien invasion to be seen. Notwithstanding London's telephone booths nearly 200 years in the future, and they are everywhere.
And on this galactic journey you will meet many old friends again, each having gone their own separate ways. Some can be recruited, others will have their own agendas. But they are all a sight for sore eyes. But unlike Mass Effect 2, you can't guarantee everyone's safety. Whether it's returning characters or new characters, tragic and often heroic deaths await anyone. Some who are extremely attached may cry, others will be angered, but just about everyone will feel dread and shock. There were deaths that occurred that redeemed a character's past and there were deaths that shook me to the point where I had to stop playing. But there are sacrifices, there are characters you have seen since 2007, across three games, who will go with you to put everything on the line. And it makes for an amazing experience. An experience that will ultimately shake you to your core with how emotionally charged the journey is while never resorting to the hammy acting of lesser games.
The planets are something to see as well. In the first game, levels were massive, and missions had a grand scale, often tying in major cities that later took you to combat areas. In Mass Effect 2 levels were tiny, and missions were brief, though numerous. Major cities were removed from the game entirely, making them minor pitstops, and combat areas were fully separated from those so-called cities. Mass Effect 3 again brings the best of both worlds. The Citadel stands as the one major city you can go to, its significantly more streamlined than it was in Mass Effect, but is a major step-up from the tiny, non-combat areas of Mass Effect 2 that often literally spanned the length of a hallway. The only exception being Omega, which included a nightclub and several hallways, and as the best that Mass Effect 2 has to offer, non-combat areas were rather disappointing in that game. Mass Effect 3 may focus on the Citadel only, but thats because you will visit other planets and see both their cities and civilizations in all their glory as the Reapers tear it apart. The planet of Tuchanka in Mass Effect 2 was nothing more than a gladiator's pit and a stone throne, but in Mass Effect 3 theres a sense of genuine wonder as you finally see the planet in action and the Krogan culture is presented to you in ways that Mass Effect 2 never managed to pull off.
But this galaxy under siege helps provide an intensely atmospheric game, one that's darker in tone than Mass Effect 2 without having to resort to that games forced attitude on nearly every character. Exploring the cities you were never given a proper chance to see in Mass Effect 2 while doing battle matches the high stakes and rising tension of the narrative. Even as failure hits you hard, as you watch entire planets fall, you will be compelled to keep going forward. And with remarkable level design you will be excited to see these conflicts through to the end. This is not like Mass Effect 2 where you simply hide behind an obvious cover spot and enemies follow a set pattern in dull, shooting gallery combat. This involves actual movement on the battlefield, taking tactical control of your teammates and it goes beyond just the level design but into how improved enemy AI is from the other two games. Battles on normal can finally present a challenge.
BioWare must be commended on more than just the improvements and general design though. They have crafted an experience without compromise, one which every type of player can enjoy. Mass Effect 3 provides three ways to play: Action, Role-Playing and Story. Action completely removes dialogue options and focuses exclusively on combat. Role-Playing is the intended experience that brings the same intense combat while letting you dictate how the story plays out. And Story simplifies the combat but keeps the decisions. No matter your preference, Mass Effect 3 provides options on how to play the game.
Despite all of the things that Mass Effect 3 gets right, there are a few missteps. The most obvious is space exploration. To BioWare's credit, this is the best that the series has been, but that isn't saying much. In the first Mass Effect you would land on barren planets and discover some artifacts or a base to attack. But it was far too tedious. In Mass Effect 2 you scanned planets for minerals that you would use to help you upgrade your gear or ship. But it involved scanning planets manually and purchasing probes. Absolute monotony. Mass Effect 3 improves this by letting the scan lead to only one location on the planet. This location is often a War Asset that prepares your Galactic Readiness by providing you with more support for the conflict. Other times you will find items that you overhear characters in the Citadel speaking about to help them for the War. Returning it to them helps your existing assets and gets you some extra money. It's a step up as it isn't monotonous, but it isn't a stand-out feature. Still, the more you explore the more assets you accumulate.
These assets can also be accumulated in the game's multiplayer as Galactic Readiness, which sits at 50% until you play the multiplayer. It isn't required though and won't really alter the game. In all honesty, you're better off playing Gears of War 3's Horde or Call of Duty's Zombies modes as the game follows a similar structure. The actual assets can be found in either mode though, so again, it is to BioWares credit for providing the option, even if it feels out of place with the series. It is fairly fleshed out, allowing you to play as other races and having their talents available as you play cooperatively. But it is far from the main draw of the game.
The other misstep is how the game's ending is presented. Not the actual ending itself, that's fine and the events that take place are hinted at numerous times in this game. But the presentation of the ending is really a joke. You literally are presented with a choice. It doesn't matter what your actions were up to that point, you simply choose which ending you want. Regardless, there has been a lot of fire thrown in BioWare's direction over how the ending played out, but it works fine. It involves a bit of Deus Ex Machina, but it preserves the game's mythology at the same time. There is no real necessity for the Extended Cut, but I do intend on replaying the trilogy again after this game, so I will see if it truly adds anything meaningful to the existing experience. It is a shame that so many people made such a fuss over a perfectly competent ending. It may not be to everyone's liking, and it could have been better, but what is available works fine.
Minor missteps aside, Mass Effect 3 is BioWare's finest effort. It doesn't require nostalgia to bring their past successes to life as Dragon Age and Star Wars: The Old Republic tried (and ultimately failed at). Instead, it moves forward, realizing the team's ambitions over the past decade of creating a perfect hybrid RPG that could focus on fantastic role-playing and intense action. Where each of their games from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic up to Dragon Age II each faced numerous missteps that kept those ambitions in check, Mass Effect 3 succeeds by getting everything right. It will take your breath away. It will shock you and leave you in awe. It is a genuinely well-crafted game, but most importantly, for the thirty or so hours it lasts, the game is terrific fun.
*Review formatting is still busted. Shame on you GameSpot.
*And for some reason my blog doesn't copy over apostrophes from Word. Don't mind it. I'll fix it. :/
Yeah, that was probably one of the best BioWare decision/choice moments in a game. Usually the Mass Effect games range between choices that are Space Saint and Xenophobic Racist. ME3 has avoided that, and it really shined during the missions with the Quarians and Geth.
But that was a pretty intense conclusion to that mission. I chose, well, not Tali's side.
Some folks say that ME3 made them cry multiple times. I don't see how. I get that characters die, some are tragedies, others are heroic deaths, but it isn't sad, it's just cool. The game is totally badass and this is what I would have expected from Mass Effect 2 and the whole "Fight for the Lost" and "Suicide Mission" that basically turned into "LET'S GO INTO SPACE AND HAVE FUN TOGETHER AND BE FRIENDS FOREVER, EVERYBODY!!! Oh, and I guess we can fight the Collectors every now and again.... OH AND DON'T FORGET TO BRAND YER BADITUDE!"
No tears here. But I can appreciate when a game is this damn spectacular. Such a huge improvement over ME2. I know people are pissing about the ending, but already I can't stand the 1 out of 5 or 1 out of 10 user reviews posted everywhere just based on the final ten minutes. If it sucks, it sucks. But this is such a well-made game that I'm finding people's over-reaction to the ending as damning for the entire series increasingly stupider. And everyone already knows I found it extremely stupid before I had even played the game.
I don't know if I'll hate the ending or like it or simply accept it, but after 23 hours already played I can confirm a few things:
- Mass Effect 3 is one of the best RPGs I've played
- Mass Effect 3 is the best game in the series
- Mass Effect 3 is going to be a front-runner for Game of the Year
When talk of GotY rolls around, folks tend to focus on the games released right now. Gamer mentality is stupid like that. Assassin's Creed III comes out soon, Halo 4 comes out soon, and a bunch of rehashed sequels with new settings are suddenly considered the front-runners for many gamers. But Mass Effect 3 released back in March (thus making it forgotten in the age of hype), people pissed on their own mothers over this game's ending, but if they're that furious over the final ten minutes, imagine how amazing the first 29 hours and 50 minutes must have been (for those of you that haven't played the game).
I'm glad the BioWare founders left the company and gaming as a whole. I already stated that weeks before. They took BioWare from a small, ambitious company to an Xbox flag-bearer, to a brand name that would be synonymous with EA. It can't go any higher. BioWare is no longer a company, but a brand that EA has labeled across numerous studios to help sell their games. And after the ridiculous pissing (I like that word today) contest over the game's ending where fans demanded a new one, the media defended the creators, and BioWare ultimately decided to go and fix the damn ending so people would stop wetting their beds in a mad fury, I think they made the right call leaving. There's enjoying something someone created and than there's selfish entitlement.
However the ending plays out, whatever I feel about it, I'm siding with the media on this one. Six months too late and all, but screw it, I don't want to play this crap when everyone else is in full hype mode screeching bloody murder at the Canadians. And with the praise from the media and the controversy from fans, I think Mass Effect 3 will end up being a stellar representative for 2012 GotY. Maybe there'll be better games, but there won't be a game that made an impact in 2012 the way Mass Effect 3 did. Unless our half-assed sequels with new settings turn out to be something truly special (and I'm going with them just having new settings and playing the same so who cares?), than Mass Effect 3 will deserve to be the media's winner just for the impact it had on so many gamers. (No idea if it will be mine or not since how a game affects the larger population isn't my concern, I just choose the one I had the most fun with).
Still, Mass Effect 3 is badass. You should play it. Admittedly, playing Mass Effect 3 is best done by experiencing the first two games. Not a problem on 360 and PC, but if you have a PS3 you need to wait for the Trilogy disc to be released which will put ME1 for the first time on PS3.
I really like ME1 but don't care for ME2. But, I intend on going through all three games. ME3 is just that good. I'm hit with a sense of The Witcher here, which is a good thing. A lot of story events that have happened in ME3 are the direct result of choices made in ME1 and ME2. I want to play them both (even if they aren't as good) just to see the whole thing play out from a different perspective. Admittedly, it took BioWare three games to do what CD Projekt did in each of their games alone, but no biggie. A badass game is a badass game.
And besides, there's no way the ending is as stupid as Deus Ex: Human Revolution's ending. OH HAI DERE! YU BEET DE BOS, NOW WE PUT YU IN RUME WID FOH BUTTONS! PICK ONE FOR ENDING! ALL ENDING HAVE SILLY PICTURES BUT DIFFEREN TALKING! NONE ENDINGS MATTER SINCE DIS PREQUEL, DUR!
Swear. To. God. I. Love. This. Game.
LOOK AT HOW BADASS IT IS!!!! I really want to replay it, man. A third replay is in order, damn it! There has not been an RPG this good since Diablo II, and that's just sad (and impressive for Diablo II). This is also the first time that I have ever felt hyped for a game that I already own. I can't explain how good this game is! (well, I did review it, BUT STILL!)
The GoG Conference however was kind of lackluster. Yeah, they announced support for Mac with 50 games (28 of which have never been on Mac before) but I'm not a Mac user so it didn't matter much to me. They also announced three indie titles and showed off the mod-tools for The Witcher 2 and revealed the title of their Cyberpunk games (it's Cyberpunk 2077). But they really had nothing substantial to show of that game. It was basically focused on Mac support for GoG and the mod tools. Basically, existing stuff brought to a new platform and new features for an existing product.
Whatevs. I still watched it for an hour cuz dats how i roll!!!
For those of you who missed it, feel free to read my first impressions on Mass Effect 3 over here.
For those of you who are unaware of my love for all things The Witcher 2, read my review over here.
Anyway, need to get to clearing my backlog so I can replay The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and re-experience how real games are meant to be played.
I'm entertained. Beyond that, I'm interested. Mass Effect 2 did not entertain me, nor did it keep me interested in the game world.
But Mass Effect 3 gets sh*t done right.
Before you start the game you can choose how you want to play: Action, Role-Playing or Story. I naturally chose role-playing as that it is the full experience, but Action focuses on combat and conversations are just cutscenes, no dialogue wheel. This is the intended evolution that Mass Effect 2 was going for.
Story makes combat easier but lets you experience all the dialogue and story choices around while leveling your character.
Role-Playing is no simplification, action and story are merged with their two focuses. But it works because it shows BioWare are ahead of the curve in this regard. They literally made a game that can be enjoyed by every type of player.
Move With Purpose
First five minutes, what happens? Reapers show up and start destroying Earth. Mass Effect 3 starts off similarly to Halo 3: boots on the ground, start moving. Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 had slower openings, Mass Effect 3 tosses you in the fire and you're moving. And at no point in time are you confused about your objective. It remains from the opening moments: Stop the Reapers.
Mass Effect 2 lost sight of its purpose: the suicide mission, all the freaking time.
Sense of Wonder
That level design? Best in the series. Mass Effect has grand, large levels that you can explore, but they can lack direction. Virmire is an exception, but whatever. Mass Effect 2 has short, narrow, corridors for levels. Mass Effect 3 takes the direction of Mass Effect 2's levels and opens them up a bit. You can explore, but it isn't needlessly large, nor is it stupidly confined. There's enough room to breathe without ever feeling like you have no idea where you're going.
You Know What it is
First five minutes: Earth is attacked. Prologue: Little boy needs to be saved. Brave soldiers get the kid and a bunch of civvies on their shuttle while they stand to fight, facing certain doom. None of the shuttles make it.
It's cheap. There's no attachment to that kid. But it's there, and deep down, on the most basic level, you know you're pissed off. Because if there's one thing I learned about stories over the years, you don't just casually kill women, children or the elderly. And BioWare did it for good reason: the reapers are here to exterminate everyone. Six year old boys included.
Combat is much better than in Mass Effect 1 or 2. It's basic, so don't expect it to replace Vanquish or Gears of War or other more accomplished TPS. But it's much better than in ME1's clunky combat and Mass Effect 2's overly simplified gunplay. You'll need to better utilize tactics in combat than in the other two games.
Enemy AI is also the best that the series has seen. I hated that ME2 was basically CoD in space with a dialogue wheel. Mass Effect was cooler, but it ultimately passed on enemy AI when it presented itself with heavier RPG elements than the rest of the series. But ME3 strikes a great balance between sharp combat, capable AI and RPG elements.
That and unlike ME2 the game doesn't have infinitely respawning enemies. An absolute plus.
More than Distractions
Side quests are back, as is the case for many RPGs. In Mass Effect they were extremely dull. Driving around empty planets, searching for bases and artifacts. Not the best time around. In Mass Effect 2, they were better implemented than the first, but they felt really out of place. And you stupidly had to pay for probes (unlimited in ME3). But in Mass Effect 3, they actually exist because of the main story. It reminds me in a way of The Witcher games.
The game's wonderful. I didn't expect to be this hooked, but after over 6 hours I can say this is one of the better experiences I've had this year. I figured nothing could come close to The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. But if Mass Effect 3 keeps up this pace, it certainly can. I don't think it can surpass it, but I won't know until I beat it.
So folks. I beat Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I also saw every ending available. All four of them. They were whatever. Not amazing, not bad. I just don't understand why they gave you a choice of ending that would be so far-reaching seeing as how this is a prequel to Deus Ex. So yeah, you can feel about your ending all you want, but it's not canon. So what's the point? It should have ended with smaller repercussions and a more personal endings considering it was a more personal story anyway.
That final level was an odd one. No reason to be stealthy, you can just run past everyone. It's literally a pain in the ass to navigate it considering there's nothing to do other than get from one point to the other. The final boss was better than the other 3, but still, what's the point of having Quake-like bosses in a game that's about stealth?
Still, it is actually a really good game. It has some issues, but it's really well made and will take over 20 hours. My Steam profile shows 27 hours, but I can say it's closer to 23. There were sidequests I obviously missed though, so it could very well be a 30 hour game for completionists.
The Good- Great stealth gameplay; Great combat; Excellent range of abilities catered to how stealthy you want to play, whether it's being invisible and silent or hacking machines to turn them on their masters; Great level design; Interesting story
The Bad- For a story based game there are no standout characters; The graphics aren't as sharp as I'd like them to be; First five hours just drag on and on; Pointless endings; Boring boss battles; boring city hubs
Overall- Well worth playing. It's a fun game that while not an RPG like the original hit game provides one of the best stealth experiences this gen. In terms of actual sneaking around it's up there with Crysis (I think Crysis is one of the best stealth games ever, and you are given the option to play it as just a stealth shooter) and maybe Dishonored and Metal Gear Solid 4 when I get around to playing those two. Despite it's issues, it's one of the more satisying games available and it's relatively cheap. Good job Square-Enix for helping Eidos bring this game out.
So, a focal point of my past few blogs has been on Electronic Arts and their SNAFU with Origin. It started with a (deleted) blog pointing out that EA was giving away a game for free with a code. Turns out that was supposed to be a one-time use code. In which I posted about that error and how EA screwed themselves. They then cancelled the promo code a week early and said that any users that used the code could keep their games. It was afterall kind of their fault for not covering their asses.
Turns out, EA decided to make right with everyone. Legitimate users are still receiving a code, this time ACTUALLY one-time use. In the end, EA doesn't really lose out that much. Some of their older games were taken without payment, there are more users for Origin than ever before and legitimate users still get their free game.
I'm not here to pat EA on the back, just to say that they did everything exactly as they should have. Good job, dumbasses, you didn't screw this one up like everything else.
Moving on from that, I'd like to point out that I got Bulletstorm. My initial intention was to not download it after the transaction as I figured it was theft, but EA is letting people keep their games, so I got Bulletstorm for free.
My cousin? Well, he decided to go to town. Made a ton of alt accounts and got himself what he wanted. His response to me "I've been paying for The Old Republic since it came out, So I took it all!" Me, "Alright." Him "Let me write down the alt account logins for you."
Out of his alt accounts I took Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (he already has it for 360), Dragon Age: Origins- Awakening (he still has to play the first, he got Dragon Age II as well, but I passed), and Dead Space 2. Thanks dude! So they aren't on my main Origin account, but I don't care, I'll just use his alt-logins for them since he made fresh emails for them and just play them. We share everything anyway between the two of us, though we're always talking sh*t about one another's taste in games. You know, seeing as how the only game we ever agree on is Halo and everything else is a battle to the death.
But on my Origin account I have Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (you guys know I hated it), Bulletstorm and.... yeah.... so today EA did something else: they offered 60% off of their catalog on Origin. So I went and bought Mass Effect 3. It's currently downloading right now.
My backlog grew exponentially, and I only paid for Mass Effect 3. Go figure. Sweet deal as it saves me a ton of money. I have these five, LA Noire, Recettear, Sonic Generations, Alpha Protocol, Final Fantasy VII, Guilty Gear X2 still. Not to mention my iOS games.
For those not in the know, I really enjoyed Mass Effect and was really let down by Mass Effect 2.
Let's go over it real quickly:
Mass Effect- 2007/2008
The Good- Superb game world; Excellent narrative; Fantastic lore; Interesting characters; Grand scope to missions; Wonderful antagonist; Great use of choice/decisions; Great dialogue; Exciting endgame
The Bad- Combat is just OK; Choices are clearly "good/evil" in most cases; Side missions are dull; Mako driving sections are OK; Some glitches; poor inventory
Overall- Mass Effect created one of the greatest worlds of this gen. The galaxy is a wonder to explore, the lore is interesting, the world is designed as a massive place to explore and it makes for some great space opera! There are some minor issues that needed to be fixed to make it one of the best ever. What we got with Mass Effect 2 wasn't fixing what was broken, it was literally taking it out and acting like it wasn't necessary.
Mass Effect 2- 2010
The Good- Interesting characters; More refined gunplay; Great dialogue; Side missions are much improved;
The Bad- Combat is still just OK; Choices are clearly "good/evil" in most cases; Missions on a much smaller scale; No cohesive narrative structure to tie everything together; horrible final boss; disappointing endgame
Overall- Some people describe Mass Effect 2 as Seven Samurai in space. I can see why, I would also expect Seven Samurai and cIassic movie fans the world over to be offended by that statement. Mass Effect 2 goes all over the place, and while I understand that's necessary to recruit your team, ME2 is still just a videogame and can never be a movie. So in Seven Samurai or 13 Assassins, these guys are convinced to come together and fight against a common enemy, one that is likely to be unstoppable for most. They're great dramas. Mass Effect 2 has you taking your character to recruit some newbie you want to help you on a suicide mission, and that's where it ends. The overall story is a similar concept, but it isn't pulled off in the grand fashion of the two Japanese movies. There isn't enough time for everyone to shine and Shepard himself is just an avatar for you as the player, he never goes through a true change as a character. He's just an a**hole with a dialogue wheel. And there are so many characters though that each mission feels like a tiny, corridor shooter that you simply go to and then leave.
I just want to say, that in Seven Samurai and 13 Assassins, half of the movie is spent building the team, the other half is their equivalent to a suicide mission. One which they ultimately lose. Yes, the villains are killed, but so many of the team are gone as well. But you watched them endure a hellish battle for half the damn movie, putting their lives on the line for an ideal that they believed in.
In Mass Effect 2 you spend 20 hours gathering your team, most of whom don't give a crap about the suicide mission to begin with and another 30 minutes blowing through a brown level that was hyped as "the suicide mission." The payoff is not the same. Yeah, maybe if you didn't fully upgrade your ship or or do all the loyalty missions you'll lose a few characters during cutscenes or something. But let's be real, playing through that tiny, dull mission is not the same as the excitement found in those two movies. Seven Samurai and 13 Assassins are both wonderful, character driven dramas that tie it all together with a grand, epic finale. In 13 Assassins the villain also is just so amazing and cruelly portrayed that you are rooting for these dudes to kick his ass.
I understand that you can't have a 20 hour suicide mission, but it also needs better implementation than "here's an easy mission like all the others, we'll just say it's badass and everyone will believe us!" It didn't work. Conflict needed to be at the forefront of the end-game. It needed to show us that true spark of Seven Samurai, which 13 Assassins captured so well.
So now, I'm going forward into Mass Effect 3. It's time to see if this game can redeem the series again in my eyes. It requires Origin, and hey, EA got a purchase out of me. It took 60% off and a few free games (DA: O- Awakening, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Dead Space 2 and Bulletstorm which needs GFWL, which will take me closer to Dark Souls next year) but most importantly, it's time to see if 2012's biggest RPG can match what I consider to be pinnacle of the genre, one which Poland stole from Canada.
Mass Effect 3 is 30% downloaded, so let's see if Mass Effect 3 can bring back that same spark and feeling of wonder and promise that the original game nailed. But most importantly, let's see how it compares to Assassins of Kings, the RPG that's greater than anything BioWare have created in the past decade. KotOR, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Mass Effect 2, none of them hold a candle to Assassins of Kings. I hope Mass Effect 3 can keep up.
And also of note, let's see if these endings are as bad as people said they were.