Showing posts with label Windows PC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Windows PC. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Games on the AVE: Gamespot Reviews Diablo 3

Also on PS3 and Windows PC





After causing calluses on clicking fingers far and wide on PC, Diablo III has come to consoles and swapped the mice and keyboards for gamepads. The result is an experience that feels somewhat different; clicking the screen to guide your heroes around isn't the same as having direct control of their movements with a thumbstick, though whether you think one control method or the other is better is purely a matter of personal preference; both are equal to the task. The console versions of Diablo III also don't look as sharp as the PC original, but the impact of the atmospheric art design is undiminished. Most importantly, Diablo III on consoles still makes slaughtering thousands of monsters good fun, especially if you're doing so with a few friends. You begin your quest just after what appears to be a flaming star falls from the heavens and crashes into the cathedral in Tristram, the doomed town where the events of Diablo took place. This cosmic occurrence has the unfortunate side effect of reanimating the dead, and the people of New Tristram find themselves besieged by corpses long ago put to rest. Diablo III's story is unremarkable, but it weaves in plenty of references to and appearances by characters from earlier games and enriches the established lore of the series. Fans of Diablo and Diablo II will immediately feel drawn into this world.
You certainly don't need any familiarity with the series to jump right into Diablo III, however. If you've played earlier games, you'll likely get even more out of Diablo III--the music that plays in the New Tristram area may send nostalgic shivers down your spine--but the gameplay is welcoming and easy to grasp for vets and newcomers alike. You choose one of five character classes, and though they become quite distinct at later levels, they all start with nothing but basic offensive skills.
That may sound dull, but in fact the rate at which you acquire new skills is part of what makes Diablo III so hard to pull yourself away from. You very quickly open up slots for new types of abilities; if you're playing as a demon hunter, for instance, you begin with a basic archery attack, but you can soon supplement this with resource-draining skills like a rapid fire ability, enemy-slowing caltrops, acrobatic somersaults that can get you away from enemies, and other techniques.
These skills are divided into distinct categories--primary, secondary, defensive, and so on--and by default, you can have only one skill from each category equipped at a time. This is a sensible restriction if you're a novice player, because it helps ensure that your character is well rounded, with a complementary assortment of abilities. However, if you prefer a greater level of character customization, you can turn on what's called elective mode. With this on, you can opt to equip whichever skills you want in your available slots, rather than being limited to choosing one from each category. But if you do this, be mindful of your character's resource pool. If you select two monk skills that cost spirit (the monk's resource) and no skills that generate spirit, you're going to have some trouble slaughtering the legions of hell spawn you encounter.
Choosing one skill always means not choosing another, since the number of buttons you can assign skills to is always equal to the number of active skill categories you've unlocked. (Once you've unlocked all six skill categories for your class, for instance, you have just six buttons to which you can link skills.) But you can change your selected skills at any time, giving you free rein to tinker with your abilities until you find a combination you're happy with.
You never sink points into skills to make them more effective, so you never have to worry that you're not making the best choices. Rather, as you level up, you unlock both new skills and new runes you can apply to existing skills. From level 13 on, for instance, witch doctors can apply the numbing dart rune to their poison dart attack, which adds a slowing effect to this offensive ability. You can eventually unlock a total of six runes for each active ability, though you can have only one rune at a time activated on any ability. This system prevents you from squandering your character's growth by sinking points into skills that leave you ill-equipped for challenges to come, and lets you customize your abilities on the fly to better tackle the challenges you're currently facing.
It's not all about unlocking skills, however. It's about employing those skills to slaughter the monsters you encounter as you travel the world, and collecting the loot the fiends drop. This is where Diablo III's habit-forming pleasures lie. The randomly generated environments encourage exploration; you never know what treasure (or what powerful foe) you might find down each cathedral hallway or desert trail. Enticing art design draws you into these realms. In and around New Tristram, a foreboding mist hangs in the air, and ancient ruins crumble as you visit places long undisturbed. In the lands around the elegant city of Caldeum, you traverse stark landscapes of cracked earth and bone.
You explore ornate, musty manors and spider-infested caves. You make your way through rat-infested sewers and emerge into a dusky, teeming oasis. And though the inspiration it draws from The Lord of the Rings is a bit obvious, a setting in the game's fourth act effectively makes you feel like part of a desperate, large-scale war between humanity and the forces of hell. Just when you've had your fill of one region, it's time to move on to another, and each location is so different from the one that preceded it that you feel as if your quest to rid the land of evil is taking you across a vast and varied realm.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Games on the AVE: Madden NFL 25 Review

Also on PS3 and Windows PC




Since it isn't every day that a game franchise marks its silver anniversary, you expect something sublime from Madden NFL 25. This may be the most respected series in all of gaming, with a pedigree that goes back to before Ronald Reagan left the White House, so it isn't unreasonable to expect the developers at EA Tiburon to do things up right this year with something really special. They haven't. Despite the name, you get the same old story with the traditional roster update, a few tweaks to the graphics engine, new control schemes to rev you up, and a teensy bit of feature creep. Instead of closing out the current generation of consoles with a big bash, this year's Madden just plays out the string.

Madden NFL 25 still looks good, but this big anniversary isn't being properly celebrated.
Madden NFL 25 still looks good, but this big anniversary isn't being properly celebrated.


Not much distinguishes Madden NFL 25 from last year's Madden 13. The game has been refined overall, but not in enough ways to make a measurable impact on how it plays on the gridiron. With that said, the core of the game remains Sunday afternoon in a box. This is a remarkably full-featured NFL simulation where you can play, coach, and manage in just about every way possible through a range of single-player and multiplayer modes. If you have ever fantasized about what you could do with your favorite NFL team, player, or owner, chances are very good that you will be able to do it here. And if you can't do it here right out of the box, you can peruse the files available in the new Madden Share online feature, since it allows easy access to rosters and tweak files uploaded by fellow players that adjust the game in a variety of ways. Of course, the exact same comments about everything save the new sharing option could have been made about virtually every Madden game released in the last decade.
The one big feature addition is being able to play in the Connected Franchise mode as an owner. This completes the trifecta; you can now take on franchise play as a player (a made-up rookie, an existing NFLer, or a rookie version of a legend like Joe Montana or Sammy Baugh), a coach (fictional, one of the real guys wearing a headset on the sidelines this fall, or a legend such as Tom Landry or Madden himself), or an owner (also fictional or a real-life tycoon like Jerry Jones or Robert Kraft). There isn't enough difference between these options, however. You're stuck doing too many of the same things for any of them to stand out. It's strange, for example, that you need to run practice challenges to earn XP when playing as an owner. It's rather unlikely that Jim Irsay takes time away from his luxurious office in Indianapolis to head down to the practice dome and run scrimmages.
You would expect the owner mode to function like a sports management sim, but it really works as a traditional franchise option with a couple of actions grafted on, such as answering the odd media question, setting the price on merchandise like autographed footballs and stadium snow cones, and even deciding to leave town (here come the Rams, Toronto). There just isn't enough depth here. At least the developers have added back in franchise features like draft class imports from NCAA 14 and full offline 32-team control. And they have bolstered the long-term appeal of the collectible-card, multiplayer-focused Madden Ultimate Team mode, with player chemistry affecting team performance, and head-to-head season play. Madden Ultimate Team isn't for everyone given its odd complexity and focus on collecting player cards to field top lineups, but it now almost rivals more traditional franchise play with these added features.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Games on the Ave: Gamespot's Rayman Legends Review

Available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Windows PC





Did you know ducks could wall-jump? Well, maybe not all ducks. But fowl sprouting the head of a certain limbless hero definitely can. Rayman Legends is unabashedly weird--relishes in the bizarre even--though never to the detriment of its fantastic action sequences. As you dash across platforms to the beat of a mariachi "Eye of the Tiger," or tickle armored guards to lower their defenses, you realize that Legends is strange with a purpose. It uses absurd scenes to imbue this feisty adventure with enough variety to keep you continually amazed, and presents every disparate scenario with expert care. Rayman Legends' off-kilter identity serves as the foundation for this wild and crazy journey.

Momentum is the name of the game in this 2D platformer. Rayman runs, leaps, swings, glides, and swims with a kinetic grace that compels you ever onward. Being able to squeeze past spikes and thunder across toppling towers should be expected in any adventure that presents such formidable challenges, but what makes Legends special is how joyful such movements are. Rayman chains moves together so effortlessly that you often get lost in the rhythm. Pirouette across a series of platforms at top speed and then rocket toward earth in a ground-shaking slam. Follow that up by immediately bashing a nearby baddie before bounding up that vertical shaft. Such combinations roll off your fingers as you venture deeper into this fantastical world.
It's when Legends picks up steam that its impressive potential is reached. Varied situations keep you wondering what's going to come your way next. You may play red light, green light with a security system in an underwater fortress, or catch a ride on an updraft as you wind your way through spikes and parachuting meanies. Boss fights demand an inventive spark as you dodge their plentiful attacks while trying to puzzle out how to retaliate in kind. Your hovering pal Murfy may join you in some levels, spreading guacamole or poking creatures in the eye at your command. Plunging to the briny deep to torpedo past booby traps is particularly impressive. So often swimming segments derail the breezy derring-do of a platformer, but Legends makes the oceanic sections a high point. Fast and smooth, swimming's unshackled movement makes overcoming deep-sea dangers a satisfying detour.
A smooth difficulty curve welcomes those unfamiliar with Rayman's hijinks without annoying those well versed in the art of jumping. Achieving such a precarious balance is a testament to how enjoyable the core mechanics are. Despite minimal challenge early on, the sheer pleasure of dashing through these beautiful worlds urges you forward. And there are hidden collectibles that require a curious mind to track them down. Shining lums and crying teensies are waiting to be discovered, and nabbing all of them unlocks myriad rewards. There are goofy-looking creatures, additional playable heroes, and even dozens of stages from Rayman Origins. Such ample treasures make exploration well worth your time, and the fact that the early challenges are purely optional ensures that everyone can enjoy this game from the onset.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Games on the Ave: Gamespot Reviews Saints Row IV

Also available for PS3 & PC





After Saints Row: The Third, it was hard to imagine how this series of increasingly zany open-world crime games could possibly get any zanier. Rather than attempting to tackle that challenge head-on, Saints Row IV sidesteps it by being an almost completely different type of open-world game. Sure, the core of Saints Row is still there; there are still plenty of absurd weapons, costumes, and activities. But the way you interact with the world has changed. No longer are you an ordinary earthbound mortal. Saints Row IV turns you into a superhero capable of running up the sides of buildings and flinging people with your mind. This isn't a refined game or a challenging one, but it is a sometimes hilarious playground of a game that gives you plenty of fun abilities to use and plenty of opportunities to use them.How does the game explain your new capacity for doing things like leaping tall buildings in a single bound and zapping enemies with freeze blasts? It's simple. You saved the world from a terrorist threat and became the president of the United States. Then Earth was invaded by aliens, and the evil alien overlord had you placed in a Matrix-style computer simulation of a city where, much like Neo, you can acquire all manner of abilities that break the rules of the simulation.
The simulation in which you spend most of the game is a virtual re-creation of the city of Steelport, and the city's layout hasn't changed much since Saints Row: The Third, but the evil alien overlord, Zinyak, has remodeled a bit, and he likes to keep it gloomy. Because there's no day-night cycle during the course of the campaign and the whole city is shrouded in darkness, Steelport is a drab, monotonous setting. But it's much more attractive on the PC, where objects are sharp and defined well into the distance, than it is on consoles, where objects even a short distance away look muddy by comparison.
Saints Row IV mines its goofy premise for all it's worth. When "What Is Love" by Haddaway comes on as you're escaping from an alien spaceship, the juxtaposition of grim sci-fi visuals with '90s dance beats is so unexpected that it's delightful. And there's an infectious joy in the way your extremely customizable character, puckish rogue that he or she is, delights in it all, whether you've opted for one of the male voices, one of the female voices, or the aptly named Nolan North voice.
Given that this is a game in which you can run around naked shooting people with an Inflato-Ray, you might expect the humor throughout to be crass and juvenile. And, for the most part, it is, but not always in the ways you expect. The game's humor is unabashedly stupid, but it's smart about being stupid, working in references to Shakespeare, clarifications about the distinction between alliteration and assonance, and knocks at those silly people who don't know the difference between a robot and a mech suit. The banter among Saints is consistently sharp and will definitely have you laughing out loud on numerous occasions.
Very early on in Saints Row IV, you acquire the abilities to leap incredibly high and to sprint at superhuman speeds, and by collecting ubiquitous glowing blue clusters, you can enhance these abilities and the others you gradually unlock. Once you can sprint, you'll probably hardly ever use a vehicle again, since you can run faster than any car, which makes all of the car customization options carried over from earlier games feel a bit superfluous. But it's hard to lament the lack of emphasis on vehicles given the exuberance that can accompany leaping 15 stories into the air and gliding all the way across town.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Games on the AVE: Gamespot Reviews Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review

Also on PS3 & PC
Sam Fisher is different nowadays. His gruff voice has smoothed, and he's not always keen to stick to the shadows. Sam isn't worse for the wear, but he isn't always the man you remember. Nor, for that matter, is Splinter Cell.




Just as Splinter Cell: Conviction represented a metamorphosis for the stealth series, so too does Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Blacklist nudges Sam further into action-hero territory; where Conviction's story was personal, Blacklist's narrative is about what Sam does, not who he is. As in its predecessor, your mission goals appear as text projected into the environment, but that text no longer reflects Sam's state of mind. Blacklist is all business, and the Tom Clancy-inspired, jargon-heavy dialogue of its early hours reflects as much.
The boilerplate story focuses on a group of terrorists seeking to annihilate a series of targets in the United States, though the overfamiliarity of the setup is frequently trumped by tense story beats that rival those of any good political thriller. A confrontation between Sam and a colleague signals an overall increase in narrative tension, and the real-world locales you sneak through communicate the high stakes by the very nature of their political importance. Returning operations manager Anna Grimsdottir rattles off technospeak at a faster clip, resident hacker Charlie Cole gets even more annoyingly precocious and hyper, and the secretive Fourth Echelon team grows more and more desperate as the finale draws near. This isn't a story about Sam, but rather, a story about surreptitious warfare. Information is power.

Perhaps it's appropriate, then, that Sam Fisher's presence isn't as commanding as it's been in the past, in part due to the replacement of longtime Fisher actor Michael Ironside. New actor Eric Johnson does a creditable job as Sam, though he doesn't possess Ironside's gravel-throated urgency. Nevertheless, the entire cast effectively communicates Fourth Echelon's calm-under-fire efficiency, as does Blacklist in general. Snazzy digital displays and computer terminals fill out the group's airborne headquarters, the Paladin, and each mission begins with the camera rotating into position above the base's main map before zooming into it. It's a fitting transition into a gadget-filled escapade across a dreary rain-drenched rooftop, or through a heavily guarded trainyard.

The best missions are those cloaked in darkness.

You need to get used to Sam's new digs; everything you do in Blacklist is performed there, from upgrading your gear to initiating multiplayer. Rather than accessing menus, you explore the aircraft and speak to your comrades, making the Paladin as much your interface as it is Sam's. The entire scheme feels unnecessarily convoluted and disjointed at first, and the game doesn't do a very good job of introducing you to its structure, though curiosity (and a bit of trial and error) should get you up to speed. But the player-as-Sam logic soon clicks into place, giving even the stand-alone cooperative missions context within Blacklist's fiction, rather than treating them as distinct and unrelated tasks.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gaming News: Gamespot Reviews Battlefield 3




Title is Available on Xbox 360 & PS3 as well


When it comes to virtual battlefields, nobody does it quite like the Battlefield series. It has a long history of creating sprawling conflict zones where players have an exhilarating range of ways to make powerful contributions to the war effort. The competitive multiplayer mode in Battlefield 3 stays true to tradition, delivering an online combat experience that is amazingly addictive, immersive, and exciting, with refinements and new elements that make the familiar action feel fresh. Unfortunately, the stale single-player campaign fails to capitalize on the strengths of the series and feels like an off-brand imitation. The six cooperative missions fare better and offer a tougher challenge, but only the competitive multiplayer provides a compelling reason to buy Battlefield 3. With online battles this excellent, though, that reason is all you need.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gaming News: Gamespot Reviews BatMan: Arkham City



This title is also available on PS3 and PC



Gotham City. This crime-infested metropolis has been famously imagined and reimagined in comic books, cartoons, and films. Now, we have a new vision of Gotham, and it stands not just as one of the most unforgettable incarnations ever of the city that Batman is devoted to protecting, but as one of the most richly detailed and exciting environments ever seen in a game. Building on 2009's outstanding Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City sets you free in the intoxicating neighborhood of North Gotham, now a sealed-off superprison for the city's worst criminals. As the Caped Crusader, you struggle to bring some semblance of order to the chaotic streets, foiling the plots of supervillains and protecting the victims of those who prey on the innocent. With its atmospheric setting, thrilling movement, immensely satisfying combat, and tremendous assortment of secrets to discover, side quests to complete, and other attractions, Arkham City is a fantastic adventure game.



Friday, October 14, 2011

Gaming News: Gamespot Reviews Crysis



Originally released on the PC, this title has been re-released for PS3 & Xbox 360

Any discussion of 2007's PC shooter Crysis inevitably turns to its graphics. It was--is--a beautiful game, boasting incredible technology that makes it one of the most lifelike adventures to date. For some, its excellence as a shooter is secondary, which is too bad: Crysis is a fun and challenging game that doesn't rely on its technological wonders to make an impact. Now, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners get to experience these wonders for themselves, and they should be pleased to learn that the game holds up well, due in part to some interface tweaks pulled directly from Crysis 2. The console Crysis isn't as beautiful as the PC original, or even this year's sequel, which may be why its flaws seem more readily apparent than before. Don't take that to mean that Crysis isn't a looker, though: It's absolutely attractive on its new platforms. More importantly, shooting humans and aliens amid lush jungle foliage and frigid ravines is as entertaining as ever. 

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Gaming News: IGN Reviews NBA 2K12




This title is also availale on PS3 and PC


NBA 2K12 has three different covers highlighting the athletes that define basketball (though most gamers will see the Michael Jordan cover, marking the second year in a row his Airness takes the spot). But it's about a lot more than MJ this year. Last year's Jordan Challenges were the highlight of the game, but 2K12's NBA's Greatest mode trumps it. Michael Jordan is back, and along with him come Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen, and 10 other basketball greats. They're matched up in games against other basketball legends such as the '93 Hornets, Dikembe Mutombo and Shaq with the Orlando Magic. Every team you play as and against is unlockable, letting you pit the greatest players of the last 40-plus years against the stars of today. Want to see Dwight Howard go head to head against Shaq in his prime? Of course you do because that's awesome.



Each game gets the full presentational treatment. (You're going to hear a lot about presentation in this review, because NBA 2K12's is astounding.) The games are treated like television broadcasts from the era, so Bill Russel's mid-'60s Celtics game is in black and white. The announcers treat the games like playbacks, talking about your performance as if it already happened and sharing trivia about the players.

Last year, two of the biggest complaints were the cheap defensive AI and the alien looking players. NBA 2K12 improves on both counts, but it's not perfect. The defense never lets up and will take advantage on every play if you let them. They still occasionally become psychic (my favorite was Dallas Mavericks center Brendan Haywood executing a perfect backhanded block without ever turning around to see me coming in for the layup), but it's rarer. The fact is that you're given so much more control of your footwork and shots, that it's up to you to get around the defense, because the game won't do it for you anymore. Choosing which hand to shoot the layup from or which way to fake before a jump shot makes or breaks every point in the game, and NBA 2K12 give you full control. It takes a little while to get fully accustomed to, but the amount of control you have is incredible.



Bonus: Here's 2K12's commercial featuring Michael Jordan and Drake !

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Gaming News: Gamespot Reviews Rage



RAGE is also available on PS3 and PC





The postapocalyptic future looks better than ever. From the moment you step out under the brilliant, cloud-studded sky of a ruined world, Rage proclaims its technical and artistic mastery. As you drive along dirt roads through narrow canyons among the hardscrabble outposts of civilization, every environmental element pops with an amazing level of detail. As you converse with the people you meet, their expressive faces and believable dialogue have you eager to hear what they'll say next. And as you blast your way through your snarling enemies, their battlefield behavior and gory deaths make you feel like a powerful fighter. This is a gorgeous world that makes you excited to go exploring, but there is disappointingly little to find off the beaten path. The richness of Rage makes you wish it were even richer, and you may also find yourself wishing for a better story, a more accommodating save system, and more robust ways to enjoy this world with friends. But your lengthy adventure is exciting and rewarding all the same, and the stunning landscape alone is practically worth the price of admission. 





Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Game News: Official Batman: Arkham City Box Art




It looks like we've now received the final and official art for Batman: Arkham City directly from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Entertainment. The game will be available beginning Oct. 18 in North America for the Xbox 360, Windows PC and PlayStation 3.

Batman: Arkham City builds upon the intense, atmospheric foundation of Batman: Arkham Asylum, sending players soaring into Arkham City – five times larger than the game world in Batman: Arkham Asylum – and the new maximum security "home" for all of Gotham City's thugs, gangsters and insane criminal masterminds. Set inside the heavily fortified walls of a sprawling district in the heart of Gotham City, this highly anticipated sequel introduces a brand-new story that draws together a new, all-star cast of classic characters and murderous villains from the Batman universe, as well as a vast range of new and enhanced gameplay features to deliver the ultimate experience as the Dark Knight.

Here's a couple of trailers for the game as well:






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