Author - Jerry Paxton

Mortal Kombat Review

NetherRealm Studios new Mortal Kombat is a re-imagining of the famed fighter series that began back in 1992 with the original Mortal Kombat. Created by Ed Boon and John Tobias, the series started off with an arcade fervor that lasted for a few iterations before losing some steam on the console generation as it began to stray from its core gameplay. This new Mortal Kombat, which has been released roughly 19 years after the original, is an attempt to get back to the roots of the series.

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Call of the Dead Trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops Escalation

Activision has released a new trailer done up in VERY cool 1970’s grindhouse style showing off Call of the Dead, the new zombie game mode for their upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops Escalation content pack, due out on May 3rd. The new game mode features the likenesses and voices of cult fave like Danny Trejo, Michael Rooker, and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

E3 2011 – Our First Sponsor is…

The first sponsor has announced themselves for our coverage of this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, which runs from June 7th through June 9th at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Of course, for us the expo start the previous Saturday or Sunday depending, but them’s the breaks. The first sponsor of our show coverage will be….

Clear will be providing one of their 4G+ hotspots for use on the show floor and in the various press conferences to come. Thanks again for your support, Clear!

LINK: Clear.com Mobile Internet Services

Conduit 2 Launch Trailer

SEGA of America has released the official launch trailer of the upcoming Conduit 2 from High Voltage Software. Conduit 2 is out now on the Nintendo Wii.

We’re Back!

Okay, so it has been a long three weeks with a crazy amount of effort and lost news days – but, we are back in business with our daily doses of gaming news and reviews. We have fully-moved over to a WordPress blogging system in order to be more SEO-friendly as well as get better performance for you fine readers.

The Good

New User Registration System!
Better comment system!
Forums (You guys can now chat amongst yourselves)!
Better Content Management!

The Bad

Some formatting may appear wonky thanks to transferring from a non-Wordpress CMS.
You have to re-register.
Some images have not transferred over properly.

Any growth is painful and I fully expect the next week or so to be a bit of catch-up. We appreciate your patience throughout this trying time and will definitely make it worth your while with a contest that we will start up tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy the ride (hey, E3 is not far away now so some really cool stuff should break soon)!

-GS

Post Apocalyptic Mayhem Review (PC)

Post Apocalyptic Mayhem is a new racer from Meridian4 and Steel Monkeys. It allows up to six players to race around post-apocalyptic tracks and blow each other to smithereens. That’s about it. Oh – it is also only $9.99!

Okay, so that does not constitute a full review – but at its core you are getting just what I wrote. Does this mean the game is flaw-free? Far from it, as Steel Monkeys have developed a racing game here where the goal is to blow each other up, not take 1st place. It is a bit of a confusing gameplay mechanic – they are racing around, but why even have a track? Why not just make it an arena-based experience? The main reason for this, good or bad depending on your own tastes, is weapon collection.

Over the run of the track you will find various weapon reloads in the form of colored barrels. Each color signifies a different weapon. Each vehicle basically has three weapons – even though they change slightly between them. For instance, the small dune buggy can spew forth blue bricks of doom to fend off wolf packs while the motor-home lets fly with lawn flamingos (btw, Steel Monkeys, that kind of humor does not go unnoticed – fun stuff!).

Visually, the game has a very pretty graphics engine with crisp detail and enough graphics options to satisfy the PC gamer. Across levels you will find all manner of debris, from destroyed battle tanks to entire aircraft carriers! In the sound department, the game is no slouch either with tons of ambient noise as well as guttural rumblings and whining of the various vehicles.

In the end, Post Apocalytpic Mayhem is a somewhat limited experience where your real challenge and fun will come from racing your friends online. The single player mode doesn’t present much of a challenge and you will tire of the limited track selection after a few races down each of them. On the multiplayer front, you will find an adequate ranking system as well as a number of Steam Achievements to unlock.

Post Apocalyptic Mayhem is an inexpensive racing experience that will definitely entertain you and your friends. It is a simple gameplay experience, but you must consider that you are not spending $60 dollars on a AAA racing sim here. This is not Gran Turismo X or V or whatever number they are on now – this is post-apocalyptic fun. Enjoy!

Building A Basic Home Cockpit

 

For us fans of PC flight simulation, the ultimate goal has always been a realistic home cockpit with tons of switches, knobs, buttons, and levers to give us that extra edge and forever do away with having to use a keyboard.

The biggest question when approaching your home cockpit should first and foremost be: How much can I spend? In the world of flight sim peripherals, it is not unusual for realistic components to cost way over $500 dollars. Many remedy this by building their own gear which, I will touch upon later on in this review. For most people, however, they will not be able to go that route and will instead focus on purchasing equipment for their ‘pits. We are targeting this build for gamers with lower to mid-level budgets.

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DCS: A-10C Warthog Review – PC

DCS: A-10C Warthog represents the revival of a genre in, for the most part, a kind of sleeper status of late – the flight simulator. With the downfall of companies like Microprose, Jane’s Combat Simulations, and Spectrum Holobyte the field of combat flight simulation has been somewhat bereft of winners – often falling to the hands of lesser-skilled, indie developers. Coupled with the fact that Microsoft ditched the ACES team responsible for their line of Microsoft Flight Simulator line of civil aviation simulation and things were looking pretty bleak for us armchair pilots. Enter: Eagle Dynamics, who turned many heads with their survey combat flight simulation, Lock-On: Modern Air Combat, back in 2003. Unfortunately for fans of the series, publisher support waned, leaving many bugs unfixed until the company teamed up with The Fighter Collection in order to proceed with their own line of flight simulators.

The latest in this line is the new DCS: A-10C Warthog, which simulates the US Air Force’s premiere close-air support aircraft, the A-10C Thunderbolt II, or ‘Warthog’. The game is laid out in similar fashion to their past products: there are training missions, single missions, campaigns, mission editor, and multiplayer options. With Warthog, Eagle Dynamics has provided players with the sorely-wanted option of creating dynamic, on-the-fly missions based on a given set of parameters. This allows players who are ‘iffy’ on their mission-creating skills to come up with new content should they get through all the campaigns and user-made missions to be found on the various Warthog community groups out there. Speaking of campaigns, there are several to choose from, each with their own objectives, end goals, and environmental conditions – all will challenge your skills on every level possible.

Missions can start both on the runway, engines primed and ready for takeoff, or on the ramp where you must go through a detailed pre-flight and start-up procedure before you can begin taxiing. Of course, all this realism comes at the price of a steep learning curve. Smartly on the part of Eagle Dynamics, there are several difficulty scaling options for the less sim-oriented. If you want the challenge, however, just about every switch, knob, and button can be operated via the virtual cockpit view and your mouse cursor. The amount of controls present is refreshing in an age of console-based, arcade flight games with no basis in reality whatsoever. In fact, after many hours with the simulator in full realism mode, I believe that if given an A-10C Warthog on the ramp in the same start-up conditions, I would have a fairly good idea of the proper order of switch operations to get it rolling – definitely a much better idea than Joe Schmo off the street.

With all of these controls, it is quite overwhelming for most people when they first get in the game’s virtual cockpit. Thankfully, there is a series of interactive training missions designed to get you flying and used to the various systems found on-board the aircraft. Players get a nice introduction to the aircraft in the first training mission, and then begin to progress into pre-flight ops and basic aircraft maneuvers. Then, the real fun begins as you have several training missions designed to teach the targeting and weapons systems.

The mission editor is a full-featured tool that will allow players to script out their own adventures in both single and multiplayer modes. That being laid out, there is still one glaring issue when creating a multiplayer mission: you cannot have two human players in the same flight. Apparently, this is part of the base coding of the game and can’t be altered. However, a tip for you mission-makers out there would be to create two flights, one for the player and one for the multiplayer client, and just mirror all the way-points, etc. From there you would just need to make sure your flight lead was responsible enough to pass on all relevant information to the rest of the flight. Taking this a step further is the campaign creator, which will string together sequences of your mission editor-created missions in order to create a full campaign! For the budding actors out there, you can even add your own audio files to missions!

The simulation itself simply has too many aspects of brilliance to expound on. I could rattle on about the avionics, communications, and flight dynamics of Warthog all day but, in the end, I think it is better just to say that I have never seen such a realistic simulation available in the civilian market. Special kudos must be sent to Eagle Dynamics for their bang-up job simulating the LITENING targeting pod as well as the various functions of the two multi-function displays.

Peripherals will be key in effectively playing Warthog. Those of you with simple two-button joysticks will definitely need to upgrade to at least a setup with a throttle control – preferably a HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) setup. These are flight stick and throttle units which, in theory, move all relevant controls to the peripherals so you don’t have to switch back to the keyboard. There is no HOTAS setup that does this in full, so if you don’t have additional peripherals for USB programming, the keyboard will be your friend for a while to come. Gamers looking for a good entry-level HOTAS should take a gander at Thrustmaster’s Hotas X. It is inexpensive and will allow you some assignments for easier operation.

If you have a gaggle of cash lying about, you may want to look into the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog. The peripheral has direct plug and play compatibility with Warthog and is an exact replica of the stick and throttle found in the actual aircraft. Another good peripheral that won’t break your budget is Thrustmaster’s set of Cougar MFDs which will allow you to control your on-screen MFDs with a physical re-creation. I would also recommend NaturalPoint’s TrackIR head-tracking system, which will allow you to look about the cockpit without the use of the flight stick hat button.

One of the more awesome features of DCS: A-10C Warthog is the ability to coordinate strikes and CAS operations with JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers). These JTACs are troops or other scout platforms operating in the theater of battle who call out incoming enemy units for the player to take out, sometimes even lasing the target for them to use precision guided munitions. JTACs will even perform BDAs (Battle Damage Assessments) so you can measure your effectiveness on target.

Visually, DCS A-10C Warthog features some breathtaking graphics both in the air and on the ground that can stress even the beefiest GPUs when fully maxed-out. Not to exclude anyone, there are a host of scaling options for graphics so that your PC can keep up no matter what you are running under the hood. The audio design of the game is also well-done, with all the appropriate warning sounds and indicator cues present. A nice touch that just gets my geeky juices flowing is the point during start-up that you close the canopy. There is this point where the audio transitions to primarily your in-cockpit sound, muffling out the outside world slightly. It provides a nice moment of immersion that I trust other players will experience as well.

In closing this review, I felt it a good idea to bounce some questions off of Matt Wagner, producer of the DCS series – especially to see if he would spill the proverbial beans on what platform they plan on simulating next!

Q) Why cant you assign a multiplayer client to be in the same flight as the primary player in the game’s mission editor?

A) MP is based on SP code in which player (client) much always be flight lead.

Q) Are you planning to move onto a completely new airframe after this or will you be creating DLC packs for Black Shark and/or A-10C?

A) Over the next year we have both DLC and a new aircraft development planned.

3) Any hints on what aircraft you guys are planning to simulate next?

A) The next DCS aircraft will be a fixed wing US fighter.

Q) When do you foresee Black Shark/A-10C compatibility in missions, etc, being implemented?

A) We plan to provide a compatibility for Black Shark that will allow it to fly online with A-10C sometime later this year. First we need to polish up A-10C a bit more.

Q) In your opinion, why should gamers out there who have never touched a flight simulator give DCS A-10C a chance?

A) The A-10C is a rather easy aircraft to fly and has lots of cool weapons like the 30mm cannon, guided missiles, GPS bombs, etc. We also included interactive training missions, improved graphics over Black Shark, expanded map area, many new AI units, and the ability to fly the most detailed and accurate modern jet sim EVER done for the PC. For those that don’t want to go full-hardcore, there are many options to scale back the difficulty and detail. For those that fly the A-10 in shooter games and would like to see how the REAL aircraft operates, this their chance.

I would like to thank Matt Wagner for taking the time to answer my questions as well as helping to produce such a wonderful combat aircraft simulation.

Overall, whether you are looking to take your first steps into combat flight simulation or are a battle-hardened desk jock, you can’t go wrong with DCS: A-10C Warthog. The game features rock-solid simulation that will allow you to get the feel for what it is like to sit in the cockpit of the venerable A-10C while not having to salute or enlist in the Air Force to do so – although, you may wish to thank your wife when she gives you the okay to begin construction of your home cockpit!

Homefront Review – PC

Homefront was a title I had been looking forward to ever since John Milius was attached as a writer. Milius, who for those of you that don’t know, co-wrote and directed the 1984 action flick, Red Dawn, in which a group of young people-turned freedom fighters resist an occupation of the United States by Soviet aggressors. Given that credit alone, Homefront should have been amazing. So, I redeemed the PC review code sent by the always friendly folks at THQ press relations and began my play.

First thing I noticed was that Homefront did not support the ultra widescreen resolution of 5760×1080. Most modern shooters have no issue with this resolution, even if the menu screens get a bit wonky but Homefront was having none of it. So, I selected 1920×1080 and set the visuals to their maximums. This is not a showstopping issue, by any means, but was bothersome at the time. Anyhow, time to join the resistance!

To sum up the very intricate tale of the United States’ decline and North Korea’s expansion, it can be simply said that due to a hodgepodge of catastrophes, the US was left severely weakened. Having to turn its back on the rest of the world, North Korea slowly began a series of expansive movements which greatly strengthened their position on the world stage. In a bold maneuver, the now united Korea launched a massive EMP attack on the crumbling United States which decimated the power grid on a nation-wide scale. As the country fell into anarchy, US forces attempted to keep order – that’s when the Koreans launched a full-scale invasion.

At the start of the game, the United States is largely occupied by Korean forces and the player is being sent to a prison camp to mine for ore. The resistance movement liberates you because of your history as a trained pilot and your adventure begins.

Visually, Homefront is a very attractive game, utilizing a modded Unreal Engine 3 for its visuals. It should be noted that the PC version of Homefront was not developed primarily by Kaos Studio but was outsourced to Canadian developer, Digital Extremes. Despite a strange ‘shimmer bug’ where non-interactive objects periodically flash, they did a great job with the game’s graphical elements. The PC version supports DirectX 11 and first-person cockpits.

The game audio is excellent, with the sounds of a large-scale conflict always looming around you. In some sequences, when you are in the wreckage of a city, the sounds are more intimate – maybe the grumbling of Korean forces as they harass civilians or even chat amongst themselves about the current situation or their ‘great leader’. Voice over work is very good, with a believable cast of actors providing some visceral performances.

Homefront’s gameplay is of the contemporary FPS fare, being akin to Call of Duty: Black Ops in its frenetic pacing and sudden action elements. The player will usually be accompanied by a small team of resistance fighters and both friendly and enemy AI is responsive and adaptive. Unfortunately, the gameplay of Homefront on the PC does have some challenges. First, and foremost, is that the overall player controls feel wooden and unresponsive. It feels more like you are controlling Frankenstein’s monster than an agile human being. For the weapons-fans out there, you will note a surprisingly large number of armaments being carried by the game’s combatants – all of which can be wielded once dropped. You can carry two primary weapons at a time, so choose carefully as all weapons do not share a common ammo type.

By far, the single biggest issue with Homefront is the length of its singleplayer campaign. At the standard difficulty level, I passed it all in a scant THREE HOURS. This is simply unacceptable in a modern video game. Digital Extremes added a lot to the multiplayer modes, but this franchise was sold to me and a lot of other gamers on the promise of its campaign… Which comes up short, literally.

Despite the wooden controls, what story and narrative there is is actually fun. Combat tends to unfold quickly and has a lot of interesting set pieces to play with, like a TigerDirect.com store, Hooters, and even a White Castle. There is also a multitude of homages to John Milius’ previous film work in the game – one which cracked me up hard the first time I saw it. When in Utah amongst the crazy masses residing outside a large wall built by the Koreans, you encounter this farm complex. In the center of this complex you will find two farmers/soldiers pushing a ‘wheel of pain’ a la Conan! The Wolverines reference is much more apparent and on the nose.

Homefront’s story is full of mature situations and death – as it should be. It takes an unflinching look at an occupation by openly-hostile forces not at all concerned with the Geneva Convention. Parents are shot on the street in front of their crying children, Korean soldiers are tortured before being executed, and there is even a mass grave scenario. It is such a shame we only get three hours of play here. The climax at the end of the game is so awfully-setup as a segue into a sequel, it is jarring and leaves you feeling ripped off. If a game is meant to have a sequel, you need to leave fans feeling like they got their money’s worth enough in the first game to shell out even more cash for the follow-up!

Overall, Homefront is a fun game that should definitely be experienced… as a rental. Don’t pay $60 dollars for a three hour game – doing so is not fair to gamers at large as other game companies will soon follow suit unless there is enough backlash. Homefront is a tragedy – so much potential and great setup with so little to show for it. I am left confused and bewildered at the whole experience. I wanted to be in a resistance force against the Koreans. I was hoping to see some more tactical gameplay. I was hoping to see four more hours of game time!

In closing, kudos to THQ and John Milius for putting so much effort crafting an awesome game backstory. We hope that next time you give us a lot more game with which to explore it.

Battle: Los Angeles Review (PC)

Sabre Interactive, the developer behind the clever shooter TimeShift, has teamed up with Konami along with Sony and Relativity Media to develop the video game tie-in with their new film, Battle: Los Angeles (or Battle: LA). The game is available on the PlayStation Network, Xbox LIVE Arcade, and Steam platform on Windows PCs. Having recently seen the film and enjoying its action sequences (not so much the corny civilians and dialog, but I digress…), I was primed and ready to fend off the advance alien invaders as one of SSgt. Nantz’s squad members.

The gameplay is your standard shooter fare, similar to games like Combat Arms or Breach, minus that game’s cool cover system. Unfortunately, the game does suffer from some control issues. The worst being that the player character jumps like what seems to be a real-world equivalent of three inches off the ground when the space bar is pressed and overall movement is a bit stiff.

Also, if the game were accurate, US Marines would only be able to run for about fifteen feet before being winded for five to ten seconds. Meanwhile, your AI-driven squadmates seem to go forever, often times leaving you playing catch up. Also of concern is that none of the marines seem to be carrying a standard issue sidearm or fighting knife. The game features three weapons – an assault rifle, a rocket launcher, and a sniper rifle.

Levels are taken from many of the film’s action sequences and, to Sabre’s credit, look the part. The biggest flaw in the level design is the uber-linear layout to the debris laid about. It is very clear where the game developers intended you to move – to a fault, actually.

Visually, Battle: Los Angeles is pleasing enough to look at. The game features a number of graphical optimizations that your gaming PC will gladly take advantage of. On the console versions, however, the game is a less-attractive affair. In-game audio is well done also, with the sounds of full-scale war permeating the environment around you. Battle: Los Angeles features numerous graphic novel-esque storyboard sequences which act to setup the next level. For the sake of the game’s very short playtime, the plot of the story is altered slightly to accommodate.

Unfortunately, the game spans about 45 minutes of game time and, even with a few unlockable modes, just is not worth the $9.99. What the game DOES show off, sometimes, is how cool a full Battle: Los Angeles game COULD have been. Combine the alien-fighting action with a tactical control system a la Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 or Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter and you would have a real winner on your hands. While not a horrible game by any means, the game would be far more worth a purchase at a $4.99 price point.

Hopefully, with the nice box office draw the movie has been, we will see a true Battle: Los Angeles wargame in the near future… Hopefully.