Tag - xbla

Guardians of Middle-earth Release Date

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November 9, 2012 – Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Monolith Productions today revealed that Guardians of Middle-earth will be available Dec. 5, 2012worldwide via download on Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. The key art for Xbox LIVE® has also been revealed. Guardians of Middle-earth was previously confirmed for release on PlayStation®Network on Dec. 4, 2012.

With more than 20 Guardian characters and two maps available for unparalleled competitive play at launch, Guardians of Middle-earth is a valuable buy at $14.99 on PlayStation Network, and for 1200 Microsoft Points on Xbox LIVE Arcade for Xbox 360.  A separate Season Pass can be purchased for just $14.99 more, or 1200 Microsoft Points for Xbox 360, and provides discounted access to a significant amount of additional game content to be released in the future, including Guardian characters, map skins and a new gameplay mode. The game and the Season Pass are available for bundled purchase* in select retail stores across North America for a price of $29.99 beginning December 4.

New Key Art

 

Happy Wars – Review (XBLA)

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Ok I know it sounds a bit like a contradiction unless you are a totally twisted.  War should not be happy times.  In the gaming world though it can be very true if you find yourself having fun on a silly playing game that is also free.  Yep I wonder how many people stopped reading and started downloading with that last statement because Happy Wars takes the big RPG mechanics of a PC and makes them some simple fun on XBLA.

Storyline:

When two tribes go to war… well in this case it’s two kingdoms and they fight daily over such things as what is tougher a hippo or an elephant, favorite games, the weather, politics, you know the usual stuff everyday arguments result in that generally don’t turn into war.  Oh and a princess gets kidnapped at one point in case I forgot to mention that, which actually is a pretty good and ancient reason for war.  There actually is a storyline on the single player campaign though I imagine a lot of folks will dedicate themselves to multiplayer because it is an absolute blast.

Graphics and Sound (Atmosphere):

I mentioned they fight over hippos versus elephants right?  Well the graphics and sound are as silly as the reasons they fight.  Giant heads on little bodies all with cartoony features and silly atmospheres combine with goofy noises and Saturday morning music to make this a game that visually doesn’t take itself seriously and aims for fun rather than realism.

Gameplay:

Strangely enough this may be the one area where the game takes itself serious and has had some heavy time vested into it.  You can choose from three classes and you receive armor rewards for the different classes no matter which you play.  You can be a warrior, cleric, or mage – pretty standard classes for a MMORPG though sometimes the names may vary.  As you fight a battle your character levels up quick in battle opening up more skills and helping you earn free items.  At the end of the fight you find out what items you have and you get exp towards a character’s overall level.  So you always start at level one in a battle but as you level up outside battle you go in wearing better gear.  I know that sounds kind of confusing so I will try to put it this way: a level 15 character goes in as level one but can go in with level 15 armor and have skill bonuses as well.  So it rewards the longer term player but gives a level enough starting playing field that a noob won’t get totally slaughtered.  This makes it so that the smart player, using the environment and skills they have learned can take down opponents that in some games would be untouchable.  Gameplay consists of capturing spawn points, destroying opponents’ castles and beating the snot out of each other.

Items such as armor, weapons and charms, can be aquired multiple ways: earned in battle, won by gambling in game credits or purchased with real world money.  Normally this bothers me pretty bad because it means the game is free to play but pay to win.  However this game hit a decent enough balance that yes you could pay and level fast and be tougher but if you don’t it is still fun.  Also it has a single player campaign as well as multiplayer so you can play against a very good AI if you choose to and that AI won’t be running around with purchased weapons.  To have a free game that has single player campaigns is kind of unheard of these days so making a couple small purchases doesn’t feel as bad since you are supporting a full gaming experience.  There are levels of purchases, some of the weapons, armor and charms can be pretty pricey in the real world so it all depends on how much you want to invest.

Last Call:

This is a really fun game that kept turning into “one more battle and then I’ll go to bed”.  The servers are a little different in setup, expect to be disconnected a lot during the matching up section because I think it balances the teams then boots the extras.  I play a lot of free to play games but they are almost exclusively on the PC so to have a F2P on the console that sucked me in as much as this one did was a very pleasant surprise.  I also really appreciate the single player campaign being on the game too, if it is free it usually only has one or the other, not both multiplayer and single player.  Or one will suffer heavily for the inclusion of the other, too much of a stretch of resources.  I enjoyed this game a lot both in single player and multiplayer and highly recommend it.  What do you have to lose except a bit of hard drive space on your XBox 360?

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Massive Fury DLC Hits Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron (Review/XBLA)

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The latest Massive Fury DLC for Transformers: Fall of Cybertron doesn’t bring any new maps with it but it does bring some love for the old school Transformers.  The features include being able to play Retro Optimus Prime in single player campaign mode as well as the following:

Multiplayer

  • Kickback (Flying Insecticon)
  • Sharpshot (Flying Insecticon)
  • Hardshell (Beetle Tank Insecticon)
  • G1 Retro Optimus Prime Skin
  • Autobot Hound

Single Player

  • G2 Bruticus Skin
  • G1 Shockwave Blast Cannon weapon
  • G1 Megatron Pistol weapon

Last Call:

This pack was a lot less about weapons as it was about being able to climb into some fresh skin.  Playing as an Insecticon or as Retro Transformers is fun but not much more than cosmetic which is pretty much what the pack is about.  If you picked up the previous DLC then you have Dinobots to choose from as well or you may get lucky like I did and wind up in a multiplayer mission where I was playing an Insecticon next to Retro Optimus Prime as we charged some Dinobots.  Playing in the single player campaign has a novelty as Retro Optimus Prime and Retro Bruticus but it does seem a little weird in the futuristic world of Cybertron to be cruising around in a semi truck.  The DLC is a real blast and if you are fans of either set of additions to the Transformers world I recommend it but don’t expect any real change in content, it appears we have to wait a little longer for that.

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Jet Set Radio – A Review (XBLA)

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The Sega Dreamcast was a beloved machine by many people back in 1999.  Having only survived the vicious video game market for three years, the Dreamcast was home to some of the most memorable video games in history.  Games like Crazy Taxi, Space Channel 5, Rez, Shenmue, and Phantasy Star Online all made the Dreamcast a blast to play, but in the end, could not save it from cancellation.  This led many people to look back at the life of the Dreamcast and wish that they still had copies of these games.  Thanks to Microsoft and Sega, these old Dreamcast games are beginning to be resurrected on the Xbox Live Arcade.  The newest release is my all time favorite Sega game, Jet Set Radio.

Story:

Jet Set Radio, or Jet Grind Radio as it was called on the Dreamcast, is set in futuristic Tokyo-to, Japan and focuses on small groups of “rudies”, or juvenile criminals that want nothing more then to hang out, skate their turf, and tag graffiti on anything that will stand still for a minute.  The story focuses on the GG’s, a group of rudies from the Shibuya-cho district, who is defending their turf from the other rival groups in the area, the Poison Jam from Benten-cho and the Noise Tanks from Kogane-Cho.  You begin the game as Beat, a 17 year old male who has run away from home and has decided to start his own group of rudies by first recruiting Tab and Gum.  After you gather your group together, you set off to make sure the world knows that Shibuya-cho belongs to the GGs and defend your turf from the other invading groups.  That is, after you have completely taken Shibuya-cho from the Love Shockers, a group of girls who have been spurned by love.

Tokyo-to has their own graffiti task force that is dedicated to stopping these groups of rudies and their turf wars and send in these troops whenever they can.  This task force is lead by Captain Onishima and can be a tenacious group that does not hesitant to open fire on a bunch of kids armed with spray cans.  The last character in Jet Set Radio to make any impact on the story is Professor K, the DJ of a local pirate radio station that acts as both narrator and soundtrack for the entire game.

The story for Jet Set Radio is simplistic at best, but for this type of game it is exactly what I would both want and expect.  You play as a kid that is hanging out on the streets with only one goal, to protect his turf while expanding it into other territories.  What is fantastic about Jet Set Radio is the way that Sega choose to portray this life, without violence on the part of the gang members.  The only ones that use weapons of any kind are the police that show up to try to capture you, or kill you as in the case when Captain Onishima shows up with his .357 Magnum.  The gangs of Tokyo-to solve their territorial disputes with graffiti and skating tricks.  All to one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard in a game.

With many games that I played as a younger man, I was 26 when the original came out, I began playing the XBLA version with some trepidation.  Did I love Jet Grind Radio because of nostalgia?  How will this reproduction hold up to my memories of the original on the Dreamcast?  It held up amazingly well.  I couldn’t help but to smile as I was playing Jet Set Radio, like I was hanging out with an old friend I hadn’t seen in twelve years.

Game Play:

Jet Set Radio’s game play  is pretty much the same throughout the whole thing.  You select your character, and your character list grows and your gang gets more reputation and more people join, then head off to the level to complete a number of tasks.  As you are trying to tag all of the areas in the level that you need to tag, you have to keep an eye out for the police, who will try to capture you, and the rival gangs of the area, who are tagging over your marks.  Once you have tagged all of the markers in the level, you move back to your hideout and then off to the next area.

Each section has a time limit that you must complete the level in, just like most Sega games of that era.  This can get frustrating when you are trying to tag that last, hard to reach marker and have no idea how to get up there to hit it.  The level is also filled with spray cans, yellow cans which refill your paint level to allow you to tag and red cans which refill your health meter.  These are scattered throughout the level and are collected mostly by grinding the various rails and edges placed around the city.  You spend most of your time avoiding combat, but when you do have to put someone in their place, it takes the form of a chase scene, where you skate after the boss and tag him until he gives up.

The game controls for Jet Set Radio are simple and handle the game quite well enough.  You pretty much just have a jump button, tag button, and a boost button to worry about, with the sticks controlling direction.  The only issues I had with this game were the same ones I remember having at it’s original launch, and that was perception and camera controls.  I have a hard time seeing where exactly to land to hit a rail and start a trick chain, or what angle I need to hit the wall for a wall ride.  The other issue with Jet Set Radio is that it is damn near impossible to efficiently see your surroundings.  I find myself being surprised and grabbed by they police, simply because I could not see them coming.  Jet Set Radio does give you the classic “Sega Arrow” to help direct you to the nearest threat, but you never know just how close they are until they snag your skates. Besides these two small gripes, the game play mechanics for Jet Set Radio work well enough to get the job done, without being memorable in either a positive or a negative way.

You can unlock more music by finding the music icons throughout the game.  You can also unlock different tags as you progress too, or use the graffiti creator to create your own mark.  You have three marks in game, small, medium, and large.  The game allows you to truly get into the spirit by giving you a fairly robust graffiti creator so that you can personalize all three of your tags.

Aesthetics:

Jet Grind Radio, and therefore Jet Set Radio, is a cell shaded video game.  Cell shading is the aesthetic of creating a video game to make it look like a playable cartoon.  Bright colors and heavy black outlines help project this effect for the player and was a massive hit as the video game industry entered the 2000s.  Jet Grind Radio is, arguably, the very first game to be released using the cell shading technique and it looks fantastic to this day.  This reintroduction with Jet Set Radio means that the graphics have been tightened up and released in full high definition, so the game looks even better then it did in 2000.  Cell shading was a big hit for a while, just like the idea of bullet time, until it started to get very overused.  Many games would use cell shading just to cash in on the popularity of certain hit games.  However, with Jet Grind Radio being one of the first to use this method, it fits perfectly into the design aesthetic and really creates a unique world to skate through and graffiti.

Voice acting in Jet Set Radio is very minimal, with most characters doing nothing more then grunts or single word shouts.  The only person that is fully voice acted is Professor K, who just continues to bring a unique aesthetic to the game.  Acting as narrator, Professor K adds to the aesthetics of Jet Set Radio with his pirate radio persona, giving you the feel that he is the driving force in the youth rebellion in Tokyo-to.  He also is the DJ and soundtrack for Jet Set Radio, which features both original and licensed music from around the world.  The music comes from many different genres, including Trip-Hop, J-Pop, Metal, Dance, and Funk.  The exact soundtrack differed depending on the location of the release for Jet Set Radio, and Sega has been able to work in all of the licensed music from the original into this re-release.  To some of you out there that aren’t familiar with the music scene twelve years ago, some of this may sound out of date.  But for me, who’s taste in music tends to avoid today’s artists, this soundtrack is nothing less then the perfect soundtrack for this game.  Every song in this game works well for me, and brings the world of Jet Set Radio to life.

Final Thoughts:

Jet Set Radio is proof that not everything we liked in the past is only good because of our sense of nostalgia.  While the game play mechanics just merely work for me and get the job done, it is the aesthetics of Jet Set Radio that truly found a place in my heart and made this update and re-release absolutely necessary for me.  This game is art.  It looks different then any other game did in 2000, when it originally was released, and speaks volumes of the idea of a youth revolution against what is perceived as the oppressive adult culture of this society.  Jet Set Radio truly explores the idea of the evolution of what art is, both in the idea of urban street art through graffiti, and the idea of the video game as art by creating a whole new look that was revolutionary for it’s time.  Looking at this game today versus other more current games, I can see that the mechanics feel aged and outdated, but the game itself feels just as relevant and new as it did twelve years ago.  Jet Set Radio is a must have for anyone that is interested in seeing a piece of video game art that might have been missed by many who was not lucky enough to own a Dreamcast twelve years ago.  Jet Set Radio is available now for the Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points ($9.99).

Hybrid – Review (XBLA)

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I wasn’t able to make it to E3 this year but I kept my eyes out and ears to the grapevine for any standout unusual games that might be coming down the way.  The word I got was, “Play Hybrid, it may be the most unique third person shooter out right now”.  So when the code came in the office I put it aside for when I had some time to dedicate to giving it a proper run-through.  I purposely avoided the reviews and previews, I wanted to go into it the way people who got hands on with it for the first time at E3 would, minus the booth babes and swag (I really missed the booth babes and swag).  So it took a little longer to get to than I would have liked but it is a good thing I did wait until I had a decent block of time to dedicate to it because Hybrid is so different it takes a while just to decide if you like it or not.

Storyline:

Our planet is under attack, we don’t know where they came from but they want to leech our planet of a vital element known as dark matter.  The world is broken up into regions, similar to old school Risk, and you have to fight for control of that region.  Whoever gets control get the dark matter.  If you are an earthling fighting to defend your soil you are known as a Paladin.  If you are the ones trying to take the goods you are a Variant.  This is pretty much all the story you get from the games storyline.  There is a back story available out there that Australia exploded and the Variants are mutants but it really isn’t presented in the game and in a way doesn’t matter much to it.  All you really need to know is there are two forces fighting for control of the planet since there is no single player campaign and it is all about PvP.

 

Graphics And Sound:

The graphics are nice and fit the style of game well, good detail and nice background setting.  The battleground is mostly dressing with the exception of some key locations that will be discussed during gameplay but they are very nice dressing.  The sound is very good and actually is key to play because a sound alert can let you know about an incoming attack, sometimes one targeted directly at you.  You learn to hate certain sounds because they mean a wicked death awaits you if you don’t figure what to do next but at the same time when a game has a sound that is done well and fills you with dread then it is doing it’s job.

Gameplay:

This really is the meat and potatoes of the game and the deciding factor on whether or not someone will either love it or hate it.  The uniqueness starts at character faction choice where the faction which has the weaker numbers is recommended and starts at level 5 and with an XP bonus.  This is kind of nice because it gives you an incentive to come in as the underdog and to understand that it is trying to offset any imbalance.  Once you pick a side you are that side for the season, which is the time for one side to win over another, which can be quite a while.  I know there has been at least one season since the game came out that completed but not sure how long it took.  So you are committing for a fairly long haul.

After you pick a side you see a map and you go to a continent and see it broken up into three sections, blue for the Paladins, Red for the Variants and yellow for a Hot Zone, an area currently in contest and not controlled by either faction.  Working in the Hot Zones give you experience bonuses and help earn your faction dark matter toward the season victory so it is desirable to go into them but that is where you will probably see some of the biggest players and find your little level 6 up against level 43 enemies and wondering how horrible the slaughter will be.  The interesting thing is you may still come out ahead.

In most third person shooters with aimed first person perspective such as… well just about all of them, you get so many advanced weapons and armor that makes it so that the higher the level you reach the more likely you are to obliterate the lower levels.  This is usually pretty tedious for newcomers who have to basically “pay their dues” and grind their levels through matches where they spend more time dead than alive.  When I went into my first match I was the lowest player by 10 levels and the other team, all matches are three versus three, had a combined total of over 100 levels.  Ours was less than 50.  So I sighed gritted my teeth and went into the fray.  After a few games I realized that there is definite strategy involved and though your weapons and armor unlock as you level a great deal of it is type rather than strength and this was as much a strategy game as it is a shooter.  And I love me some strategy.

Here’s how the game works, you have these jetpacks on your back and you have predetermined landing locations of cover.  The cover is two sided so if someone comes rushing up from behind you you can flip to the other side of it.  Once you pick a landing location and activate your jets you can do all kinds of actions such as shooting, dodging, using special weapons even picking a new landing location further down so that I have seen practiced players never land.  Once you land you are in cover from one or two sides, open to the others.  Cover looks like concrete dividers you might see on a freeway, some are set up in big squares so that you can move around the inside to change your cover but most are just like a concrete divider placed on the ground.

Now the weirdest part is these dividers can be on any wall of a room, so your cover might actually be on the ceilling while your enemies are on the ground and you are upside down shooting at your enemy.  Your cover might be on a wall so you are sideways in the room shooting at them upside down.  Angles of cover can play a key role because if you are close enough together and one of you is on the roof and one on the ground your are basically defeating the cover and shooting over it at each other.  You can also pick a target location past you enemies cover and fly over them shooting.  Then you are a flying target without cover though.  Generally the rooms are set up in a square, eight or + shapes so that there are often chances at flanking or maps where having the right cover makes a huge difference.  Thrown weapons however follow gravity rather than position so if you are upside down and lob a grenade it will follow the arc of throw as momentum with cause it then follow the pull of gravity.  Also if a grenade hits off of something it bounces as standard physics would suggest.  It is probably best to think of it as reduced gravity and you are fighting in gravity boots and jet packs.

So you are in a 3 vs. 3 team match with standard deathmatch, hold the location or blow up the bomb matches but you don’t run anywhere, you fly to predetermined locations which can be on any wall.  This is strange but pretty straight forward.  Now here is the equalizer and where things get even weirder.  When you kill an enemy or their drone you can summon a drone which, like in many games, is one of those shoots by your side kind of drones.  When you get a couple kills you get a Warbringer drone, a self sufficient drone that attacks sighted enemies independently. You can be behind cover and it will wander off and attack.  If you get even more kills, either player or drones, you can get a targeted drone which hunts down and kills your enemy with a sword if your enemy doesn’t kill or stop it first.

Suddenly this match with strange cover and movements has drones all over the place.  You launch your own drones when you feel like it and killing other drones and players get you more so you tend to get a lot and go through a lot at the same time.  But with exception of personal enhancements that effect them all drones are the same no matter what level you are.  So a reckless level 40 who decides he is going to land on the opposite side of the cover you are hiding behind can suddenly find themselves in for a nasty surprise as you call out your side drone, your Warbringer and maybe a targeted drone all while the enemy is flying through the air.  They may have been using that technique the whole match and be on a huge streak and at level 7 you are able to completely shut them down.  By the way the targeted drone lets out a banshee cry that only the target hears so they know that death is coming for them, even on the receiving end that is kind of bad ass.

Another example would be at a fairly low level you can get a droid bomb which causes all enemy droids in range of the bomb to turn on their own team.  So let’s say there are two players who have all the drones with them and they have you pinned down behind cover.  You can throw this grenade over their cover and it will cause their own droids to turn on them and you can fly in while they are dealing with the droids and shoot the players down.  My personal favorite is hearing the screech of the homing droid and timing my grenade just right and hit it causing it to turn right around and kill it’s owner.  That gives the achievement “Return To Sender” and the satisfaction of knowing that player just got whacked by his own droid.

Last Call:

This game is so unique and innovative that it is really a wonder how much it will be embraced.  A smart player can beat a higher level player which in third person shooters is fairly uncommon and in a time where players purchase or hack to get an edge and players who are all guns and no brains are fairly common will a game that is like a third person shooter chess keep the fanbase necessary to keep it alive?  Luckily there is no separate subscription so people are more likely to stick it out and I think they will become better players of all kinds of games by playing and getting good at this one.  Also maybe the ones who ruin the headset experience might take their toys to another game leaving heads open for group strategy like they were intended instead of trash talking your own team.  Hybrid is a unique game, a smart game, I just hope there is a big enough player base smart enough to realize that.

Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise (XBLA) – A Review

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Qooc Soft and 7sixty brings us an old school arcade beat-em-up style video game with Kung Fu Strike:  The Warrior’s Rise on the XBLA.  While Kung Fu Strike will not win any awards for game play or story telling this year, the game ultimately succeeds where many have failed before, it is fun to play.  The story is basic and told through dialogue loading screens before each map, and can even be skippable in the options menu, so that should tell you how much the developers believed in their story.  Game play is old school brawler, fighting a screen full of enemies on your way to the boss for that section.  Aesthetics remind me a lot of Street Fighter 4, with the ink outlining and dripping as you pull of major moves, to reproduce the look of Chinese art.  That is Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise summed up, now let’s look at the details of what made this game.

Story:

Whenever a developer makes the story to a game optional, I have some concerns.  The story is usually what draws the player into the surroundings of the game and immerses us into the world that the developer wants us to be in.  A story gives you that connection and when you make it skippable, like Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise does, then you are just solely relying on your game play to save the game.  That means your game play has to be so good that people will want to continue playing your game without ever becoming invested in the characters.  That is a bold move, and it works here for Kung Fu Strike: A Warrior’s Rise, sort of.

The story follows you as General Loh, a general of the current ruling faction of China, who is both searching for his father’s murderer and is trying to save his ruler from a rebellion.  The game follows Loh as he searches for answers in a secluded monastery, searching for the master.  Unwanted at the monastery, Loh must fight his way passed everyone, just to have a talk with the master.  To make matters worse, members of the rebellion have traced Loh to this monastery and are trying to kill him to help further the cause of the revolution.

The story is told through graphic novel pages, a la Max Payne, but without any type of voice acting.  If we had cared more about the story and the characters, I truly believe this could have raised Kung Fu Strike: A Warrior’s Rise to a higher level of excitement and enjoyment.  However, since the developers had absolutely no faith in their story and chose not to develop it further, it only serves as background knowledge and the entire game has to rely on it’s game play to make it through this review.

Game Play:

The good news here for Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise is that it’s game play is enough to make this game good, though not great.  The game is set up to have you fight your opponents within sections of the monastery, like the front gate, the courtyard, or the “Zen Room of Emptiness”.  Within these sections, you will defeat soldiers and monks in groups, battling your way to the mini boss of that section.  While fighting these waves are fairly straight forward for this type of game, the action can be frantic if you are not paying attention enough to get yourself overrun, and the boss fights are a pain to play.  Each boss has a set pattern to their attacks, so it is up to you to quickly learn the tells from the boss in order to counter act or dodge these attacks.  I felt like I was playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out again, staring into his eyes to see what move he was going to make next.  The bosses can also complete moves that are completely unblockable, and must be dodged.  These are truly what drove me up the wall, for I would have the block and counter punch pattern down, only to forget that the next move needed to be dodged.

The moves list plays out like any other brawler, you have some combinations that are all performed by hitting certain buttons in certain order that goes along with a block button that most will forget about until you fight the boss.  In Kung Fu Strike: the Warrior’s Rise, timing is everything.  Your blocks, parries, deflections, and moves will all depend on how quick your reflexes are on whether or not you are successful in pulling of the move.  Your biggest enemy here, however, is the camera.  The camera has a tendency to do it’s own thing during some fights, not all.  It will behave for most of the game, then decided that it’s been good long enough, and misbehave just in time for you to miss a critical move or block.  While not a deal breaker, the camera was annoying enough to make a mention of it in this review.

Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise can be played co-op on the same screen, which is great.  Two people beating up wave after wave of monks and soldiers reminded me of the hours I put into Double Dragon as a kid at the local arcade.  What did frustrate me with this game play mechanic, is that essentially you and your partner share the same life.  If one of you is cornered and defeated, then the game is over.  For the minion fights, that isn’t such a big deal unless one of you just isn’t paying attention, but for the boss fights it can become annoying quickly.  Again, like many of the flaws of Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise, annoying not game breaking.

Aesthetics:

Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise is done in a very similar art style to that done in Street Fighter 4.  The artists used heavy black lines to represent the ink in a Chinese painting to outline the world, and to highlight the moves of General Loh.  Ink blots will appear on your screen as you pull off major moves and spin through the air.  The visuals of the game look good, if not great and would be quite unique if it had not been for Street Fighter 4.  Still, overall, the game has a nice feel and look to it and utilizes the graphics well enough to give us a nice visually pleasing world to play through.  Level design is very basic and relies on the background textures to be interesting, and are all taken out of your typical Chinese kung fu design schemes.

Voice acting for Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise is non existent.  The only voice work you will hear will be the typical grunts and yells of the stereotypical kung fu practitioner.  Sound effects are exactly what you would expect from this type of game; punches, kicks and other impact sound effects.  None of this detracts from the overall aesthetic of Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise, but none of this adds to it either.

Final Thoughts:

Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise knows what it does and does not do well.  The game is very self aware that the only reason people will play it is because of the game  play and the old school brawler mechanics, not because of the story line or voice acting.  The game plays well and is fun, but truly lacks the polish and care that is shown in some other higher budget games.  The aesthetics, though borrowed from other games, are used well here and make the game look good.  Only a few issues made the game feel unpolished, like a camera that would misbehave every once in a while, and bosses that felt rather cheap sometimes.  These negatives, while annoying, don’t detract too much from the overall feel of Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise.  Overall, this is a very solid throwback to the arcade beat-em-up game mechanic, playable from the comfort of your couch.  Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise is available now for the XBLA.

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Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown Review – Xbox 360

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In the world of the fighting game genre, Virtua Fighter holds a very unique and special place in my heart.  Fighting games, like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, focus on special attacks or moves that no human could possibly pull off.  While other games, such as Soul Calibur, add weapons to the mix, leaving the matches feeling unrealistic after you hit your opponent in the head with a huge axe.  The Virtua Fighter series has always been based in the real world of martial arts, focusing on quick strikes, timely blocks, throws, and reversals.  This realism has made the Virtua Fighter series the ultimate fighting game experience in my eyes, making matches more of a chess game then being about who pulled off the super moves first.  Sega has released the newest version in this series, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

Characters and Features:

Instead of using my normal “story” headline here, since there really isn’t a story in Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown, I will use this section to talk about the character design and the features of the game, including the many game options for both online and offline play.

All but one of the characters are returning fighters from previous versions of Virtua Fighter, with only Jean Kujo being the new addition.  The list of characters include many fan favorites, including Pai Chan, Lei-Fei, Lau Chan, and my personal favorite, Shun Di.  Each fighter is a practitioner of a real world martial art, and are designed around these styles.  Shun Di practices drunken boxing, so he carries a jug of wine to keep him well motivated.  El Blaze is an expert in the Luche Libre style of wrestling, and has been designed to look like your typical luchadore.  The actual visuals of each character are a little stereotypical, but I find that the designs work in the end.

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is full of features and game play modes for both online and offline games.  The single player list includes your standard arcade edition, but also includes a score attack mode and a license challenge mode, where the player must win his or her bout while completing the listed challenge as well.  There is also a special sparring mode, but unfortunately you must have had customization unlocked in order to play this mode, and I did not have any customization available for any of my characters.  For multiple players, there is the offline versus mode, which is exactly as it sounds.  Two players play versus each other offline, no more, no less.  Online fighting is single player versus another player over Xbox Live.  Bouts over Xbox Live were quick and lag free for me.  I was able to find opponents quickly and was able to fight without any delay, making the matches fast and fun.  The last mode available to the player is a training mode called the dojo.  This is where the player can learn the moves of his or her toon and become more familiar with what the toon is capable of.

There is plenty here to keep anyone busy for a while.  Customization is a great idea that helps keep the game alive longer, but it is a premium for this version of Virtua Fighter.  You can buy full costume packs, or just buy the ones that you want.  Overall, I love the list of fighters for Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown and feel that the modes are great, but really love the lag free online fighting.  I hope the community stays involved in this game for a while to go so that I can find opponents just as easily as I was with this last week.

Gameplay:

The game play for Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is the definition of “easy to learn, hard to master”.  You only have 3 buttons that you worry about:  punch, kick and guard.  Your moves are based off of the button press combinations and direction of your movement stick.  Move lists for each character is long and detailed, including a move for almost any situation you’ll find yourself in.  Each character has the ability to throw, dodge, reverse throws, and counter attack through button combinations, making defense just as deadly as offence.

Final Showdown has gone through Virtua Fighter 5’s core game play and have revised and balanced it.  All the balance and timing of each move has been evaluated and balanced, to make Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown one for the tournament playlists for fighting competitions around the world.

The arenas are interesting to look at and now are extremely varied in both size and shape.  I was surprised to find myself on a floating arena that measured 6×16, making it a rectangle with almost nowhere to dodge to.  Walls are breakable and half walls can trip up your fighter if you are not careful.  Fighters can also use the walls and fences to trap their opponents in a corner and fighter can perform special wall maneuvers.

Gameplay for Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown feels natural and right.  The moves are quick and are pulled off with the simplest of buttons combinations, but require the right application during the right time.  One must have great timing to pull of a grab reversal during a match, so it really comes down to reaction time and concentration, rather than complex button presses.

Aesthetics:

Graphically speaking, I really did not see a difference between Final Showdown and the original release of Virtua Fighter 5.  It looks good on the Xbox, but still looks a little dated and rough around the edges.  The movements of the fighters are smooth and come off looking natural, which is extremely important in this type of game that relies on real world martial styles.  Robes flow like they should and the arenas are interesting to look at and varied enough that I did not get bored with them.

Voice acting is probably the weakest of all areas for Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown.  That’s not to say that it is bad in any sense of the word, but it is just not riveting and fantastic.  Each character speaks in his or her native language, which is a great feel.

Like many games before it, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown doesn’t do anything bad in the aesthetics department, it just doesn’t do anything great.  Everything here works for what is needed.

Final Thoughts:

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is a fantastic game in a long series of fantastic games from Sega.  while there isn’t a lot of noticeable upgrades from the original Virtua Fighter 5 version, this game does present the most balanced and competitive version out currently of the franchise.  Characters show up from previous games with one brand new character just for this game.  Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is full of options and modes to play to keep you busy for a long time, but be prepared to pay extra for customization options.  Overall, this is the version to own if you are a huge fan of the Virtua Fighter series.  Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is available now on Xbox Live Arcade.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing First Screenshots

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BUDAPEST – June 14, 2012 – Independent developer NeocoreGames revealed the first-ever gameplay screenshots for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. Those wanting to learn more about the upcoming PC/XBLA title, featuring the legendary monster hunter, can enter the land of Borgovia at the link below.

Set in a gothic-noir universe resembling a fantastical 19th century Europe filled with monsters, magic, and weird technology, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing will follow the son of the famed hunter, known in-game as Van Helsing, in a tale wrought with wry humor and snappy dialogue. Van Helsing, a larger-than-life hero possessing a dark yet romantic charm, will follow his path to the dismal land of Borgovia where former supernatural foes have enlisted his help to defeat a new scourge terrorizing the ravaged city. With an assortment of extraordinary characters, an engrossing storyline, and a beautifully dark and gothic art style, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing looks to bring Action RPG enthusiasts an anachronistic adventure like no other.

Website: http://www.vanhelsingthegame.com
DevBlog: http://devblog.neocoregames.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/VanHelsingTheGame
Twitter: http://twitter.com/VanHelsingGame
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/NeocoreGames/featured

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Alien Fear Post-E3 Screenshots

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Following up on a great E3, City Interactive released the first screenshots of its upcoming XBLA/PSN shooter, Alien Fear. These screenshots showcase the beauty and power of the Unreal Engine 3-powered title and reveal some intriguing hints about the arcade action coming soon to Xboxes and PlayStations everywhere.

Alien Fear puts the player in the role of a highly trained elite commando on a mission of sabotage. Featuring non-stop, visceral run-and-gun action in an explosive environment with meaningful co-operative gameplay and using proven Unreal 3 technology, Alien Fear sets a new standard for digitally distributed XBLA and PSN titles.

Scheduled for release Fall 2012, Alien Fear delivers beautiful, arcade-style aggression against relentless alien hordes.

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The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing Teaser

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BUDAPEST – May 30, 2012 – Independent developer NeocoreGames have tracked down the first-ever teaser trailer and screenshots for recently announced The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, giving would-be monster hunters their first glimpse of the young Van Helsing, the brash and larger-than-life hero of the upcoming action-RPG title. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, loosely based on Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula, is being developed for PC and Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft.

Featuring young Van Helsing, son of the famed monster hunter, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing sets players on a fantastical journey to Borgovia, a kingdom on the very edge Eastern Europe, and the perilous lands surrounding it. In a place where unexplainable technology and supernatural creatures are prevalent, players will take on the role of the romantically dark protagonist in this modernization of the legendary vampire killer. Featuring an immersive storyline, a memorable cast of characters, and a beautifully dark and gothic art style, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing looks to test the bravest hunters in Q4 2012.

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