PS Vita London Event Coverage

November 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

When there are bouncers at the gate of an event, you know they mean serious business. The event is the PS Vita Preview event in London, and ‘they’ are referred as Sony. We were fortunate enough to get an exclusive invite to the preview event with everything PS Vita!

A brilliant setup in my regards, the event took place in Central London at the Old Burberry Building. It was a concise setup and I was booked for an early afternoon session for two briefings; The Create Workshop, and the Augmented Reality briefing. I will divulge more on that soon. After registering myself at the main desk, and giving in my coat to the hangars, it was straight up work from there. The show floor, circular in design with stairs in the middle to the basement and to the two workshops a floor above. There was a refreshments bar at the far left, with unlimited Red Bulls and fruit juices (just what I needed).

Now on to the heart of the matter, the PS Vita. Very close to launch in Japan; December 17, and a couple of months away; February 22 2012, this was the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with the system. It’s a beautiful device to look at feels like a solid product. The analogue sticks aren’t flimsy and the display is pure brilliance! I won’t get into the technical aspects of the device, but I will say that most of the devices were retail prototypes, and not one failed during the entire event. Some on the games on the show floor were; Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Little Deviants, Escape Plan, Wipeout, Motorstom RC, Reality Fighters, Little Big Planet, Modnation Racers: Road Trip and Unit 13. All of this game will be available for launch.

Of these titles, Unit 13 and Motorstorm RC were unveiled at the event. Motorstorm RC is the next game in the long running and Playstation exclusive title. It is not a fully fledged sequel like some of the entries before this, and will only be available on Playstation store. One of the main highlights was its Cross-play technology. As it will only be available on the PSN Store, players can buy it either on the Vita or PS3 and play it on both consoles. If at home, players can enjoy the game on their HD television with added support for 3D and split-view multiplayer. When on the go, the game saves the player information on a cloud, and the player can continue its races from the Vita. The developers want the player to have seamless interaction, no matter which console they play the game on.

Unit 13 is a military based shooter, which plays a lot like any third person shooter on the home console. It makes use of the two analogue sticks, the right for movement and the left for camera. From the demo I played, it was very generic. The game looked sharp as well as the controls. It takes getting used to, to the two analogue sticks on a handheld, especially if you are a fan of the PSP. Developed by Zipper Interactive, famous for the SOCOM series, Unit 13 will be available on the Vita at launch.

One of the two workshops available to attend was the Augmented Reality (AR) showcase. Not a new concept for Sony, as similar games on the PS3 already use this feature, like Eyepet, it has been upgraded for use on a handheld. Not one but SIX markers will be available to players, and it depends on the game as to how many need to be used.

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Three AR games would be available at launch for free for players to experiment with the new and improved technology. Reality Fighters is a standalone game that would utilize the AR technology. The concept is pretty simple. It’s a wacky fighter, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The camera on the Vita can point facial features and can replicate that on screen which would become the face of the fighter. Unfortunately that doesn’t work on animals, as of yet.

Place a marker on the ground and begin the fight. The game can be played via Ad-hoc or online. Another feature is the panoramic photography editor built into the game. Players are given the opportunity to take 360 degrees pictures of their favorite places, and fight with the in the background. The demo worked flawlessly and was enjoyed by the present crowd.

The second workshop was named the Create workshop. Little Big Planet fans are amongst the most loyal fans of Sony has, and this was specially for them. The half an hour demo just focused on the create feature of the game, one which many fans and gamers alike are looking forward to. All the content from Little Big Planet and Little Big Planet 2 and DLC’s will be available in the Vita version, which is saying a lot! Mentioned in the workshop, there are around 6 million user created levels!

For people familiar with Little Big Planet, playing on the Vita is a simple fare. Like always there are multiple ways to create items in the universe, and now with the addition of the camera, the possibilities are endless. The camera can capture real world items and morph it into in game items. With the addition of the back touchpad, items can now be placed behind a wall, for example, and can be interacted with when playing the level. It was a very small glimpse of what is possible within the game.

A whole day with the PS Vita seems to have done the job for me. It’s something I am personally looking forward too. The launch lineup is brilliant and caters to everyone. I am sure there will be a few more surprises before launch date. Hope to see you gamers at launch.

Uncharted 3 Review

November 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews, Spotlight

It’s that time of the year where every week is another reason to spend some hard earned money on some AAA title! After the release of Uncharted 2 nearly two years ago, the second sequel has been a long awaited title. After all you have heard, seen, and/or read, there is no experience like to play the game in its full glory. For fans, who I think are majority of Playstation 3 owners, this is a day one buy. For others who need a little bit more convincing, read on.

The Uncharted series has always rested on the laurels of its storytelling, combined with a balanced gameplay of a third-person shooter and platformer supported by a cast of believable characters, lead by the witty Nathan Drake. Much of the story for Drake’s Deception has been kept under wraps, and I’ll do the same not to spoil too much. Its clocks to around 10 hours for the single-player, which is longer than the first game and a little shorter than the second. But, after it is done, you understand why, and I have to give credit to the writers for not stretching out the story too much. One thing you do realize is that Nathan has more lives than a cat! He is pitted in impossible situations, which make for epic set-pieces, and he comes out the other side with a devilish grin, ready for another day of unforeseen adventures.

The outline of the plot this time around is that Nathan is tracing back Drake’s journey to find the ‘Atlantis of the Sands’ and find out what secret it holds. Off-course it wouldn’t be much of an adventure without someone else wanting the treasure to fulfill a diabolical plan. Enter Katherine Marlow. She has history with Nate and Sully (something I wouldn’t spoil), but it gives good direction to the story. Holding it all together is the bromance between Nate and Sully, something fans have been looking forward to after it was lacking in Among Thieves. It narrates as to how they started working together, and has a few surprises in store.

The pull of the game is how all the elements work together. Not much of the formula has changed from Drake’s fortune, and only adds in a few melee attacks. Funny thing is, it still works perfectly. Its basic run and gun, with walls, crates, pillars and other staples of the environment to help with cover. There are a few areas where Nate can use stealth, but I opted for the offensive route just because its loads of fun. You appreciate the platforming sections when the camera pulls out completely to give a canvas of the whole scenario, and the players goes , “HOLY MOLY!!” The climbing controls still feel a little flimsy, but not enough to be an annoyance.

Breaking up the action are the cleverly laid out puzzles. There are quite a few, so get ready to tinkle that brain for answers. What’s different this time around is that after a few unsuccessful tries the game gives the option to solve the puzzle itself. While this is the easy way out, where is the fun in it? Some of the puzzles are pretty unique and you may even have a laugh or two as to how it is possible.

Batman: Arkham City Review

October 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews, Spotlight, Xbox 360

From the moment Rocksteady planned a sequel, they knew they had to do better than Arkham Aylum. It was big shoes to fill. The first game was not only an example of excellent use of license, but it even holds the Guinness World Record for ‘Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever’! After all the ‘underwhelming’ super-hero games to have been developed in recent years; movie tie-in’s, Arkham Asylum was a relief. Now it is time for Arkham City to stand to the challenge.

Gotham city is filled with villains, literally. To counter this and keep Gotham as safe as possible, the government built Arkham City. Within its walls, the Caped Crusader’s arch-enemies could roam freely and call it home. Off-course, Bats thinks it a very very bad idea. This is where Batman’s quest begins and he has to find out what is happening and why. To make things a little more difficult for Bats, Dr. Hugo Strange, who is in charge of Arkham City, knows Bruce Wayne’s secret. That wasn’t much of a spoiler as the first trailer made that pretty clear.

If you have managed to stay away from forums this entire time, make sure you still are. There are a couple of surprises you don’t want spoiled. Suffice to say, Paul Dini has given one of his best works in form of this game, and is surely to be talked about long after it is done. That’s all I am going to say about the campaign without spoiling it.

No longer are you roaming in office buildings and enclosed spaces. Arkham City is all open to explore from the very beginning and the rooftops are Bats safe haven. The streets are filled with goons who were once inmates in Arkham Asylum and Black-gate facilities. Batman is brute force. He faced against the likes of Croc and Bane in the first game. Combat, just like in Asylum, plays a huge part in the game and it has been improved. What’s satisfying about the combat is that is simple and rewards button mashers and combo experts with ‘XP points’ which in turn help them upgrade Batman’s gadgets, suits and combat abilities faster than most. The last punch is presented with a zoomed in slow motion sequence with Batman clinching his fist in the end.

What would be Batman without his gadgets? Well, he would still be cool, but why not get all the help you can get. The gadgets include batarangs, freeze bombs, smoke pellets, and a REC (remote electrical charge). All these gadgets can be used in the heat of battle by a simple quick-fire. As I said before, the city is home to the thugs. They have enough fire-power to empower Bats. This is where stealth comes in handy, especially the smoke pellets for a breather in a tough spot. Activating detective mode lets you plot your attack in advance as it brilliantly help locate ducts, high ceiling structures as well as Riddler trophies if you are a collector.

Resistance 3 Review

September 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews, Spotlight

Insomniac Games has always been a big supporter of the Sony Playstation, developing exclusive games for the platform since the days of the first Playstation. They were one of the first developers for the Playstation 3, releasing Resistance: Fall of Man as one of the launch titles. Now, half a decade later, sees the release of what is said to be the final game in the trilogy, Resistance 3. This should be seen as the best in the trilogy, with a brilliant single player campaign and an equally captivating multi-player.

In this year of news of sequels and prequels, Resistance 3 never found its place. The focus was definitely not set right, and who is to blame. Marketing was on the down-low, and other developers where pitching their games as its systems best. In the end of the day, this will be seen as more of a surprise and astonishment, that it took three games to get it right. Be proud of it, because this is one title you don’t want to miss!

To recap the story, Resistance takes place in alternate history 1950’s, where an alien civilization, known as the Chimera, have invaded Earth and chaos follows. In the first two games, players take the role of Sergeant Hale, who is touted to be a hero as the Sole survivor of the Chimeran attack on Britain. After the events of Resistance 2 (which I will not spoil), players now assume the role of Joseph Capelli.

The prologue explains that a cure for the Chimeran virus is found and survivors all around the world and given the vaccine. The number of survivors are a handful and the army of the enemy grows. Rather than collecting bodies to harvest, the Chimera are killing of the rest of the survivors in attempt to wipe the human population. The humans survive by living in caves and underground tunnels. The story is a personal one, which distinguishes is from the first two games. Joe (Joseph) is doing what he can, so that his infant son could live a life free of fear.

Desperate time requires desperate measures. The game continues to give a feeling that times are dire and one man on a mission can make a difference. Defeat was not an option! The game is of ordinary length when compares to any other FPS, around 10-12 hours, but it’s the continuous pacing that keeps you hooked. Insomniac wasn’t afraid of giving challenges every step of the way, and making it seem impossible for anything to end good. Yet, Joe fights for survival and for mankind’s last stand.

What keeps the gameplay satisfying are the guns. Some old favorites make a return like the Bullseye, Deadeye and the Marksman. New additions fit in very well and one can wonder how such technology made its way in 1950. My conclusion, the alternate human race were smarter than us! In true Insomniac fashion, each weapon can be upgraded to a more powerful one on the fly and doesn’t require players to purchase upgrades. It keeps the focus on the game itself, rather than it being an RPG. That’s one reason for you to come back to play the single player a second, or maybe a third time as well. For fans of the series, they should play it on normal or highest difficulty. One more thing, something you might love, is that Joe can carry all the guns he acquires throughout the game. So, you don’t have to choose to drop one, to favor the other. It helps in section where the Chimera are storming in like rain and you will need every bullet of every gun to get through, sometimes even on your last breath.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

August 27, 2011 by  
Filed under PC, Playstation 3, Reviews, Spotlight, Xbox 360

Prequels are the new sequels. Developers are now trying to tell the back story of many game franchises they started a long time ago, and Deus Ex is no different. The good thing about this is that it actually makes sense, and the world created by developer Ion Storm, almost 11 years back, is an expansive one. There is not much I remember of the original Deus Ex or its sequel Invisible war, but the theme here is pretty much the same.

The game takes place 25 years before the original, and tells the story of one Adam Jensen, the head of security of Sarif Industries, which is one of the leading companies that focus on human augmentation. After a brutal assault on the company headquarters, Adam is nearly killed in the attack. The only way to save him is to replace most of his organs and limbs with augmentations, making his more cyborg than human. Think of it as something like the transformation of Anakin to Darth Vader, with the only difference being Adam is still the good guy. Back to work after six months, Adam is hell-bent on finding the people responsible for the attack and the murder of his estranged girlfriend, Dr. Megan Reed.

When reading about Human Revolution, the term ‘cyber-punk’ shooter is used almost every time. That gives us an idea of the bleak world of Deus ex, filled with high-level conspiracy and will have you thinking of choosing sides every now and then. That is where the major part of Human Revolution’s gameplay dwells. There is no right or wrong decision, but it will change the course of the game depending on whether you choose to save a civilian’s life, for example.

With choice as the core gameplay mechanic, the player has different ways to approach a mission. There is stealth, and then there is the first-person shooter side of it. Which road you take is entirely your choice, though the end result churns out to be the same. Linked to the choices are Adam’s augmentations. That is the RPG element of the game, where one can spend praxis points, gained by earning experience points and/or by picking up praxis kits scattered around the world. Augmentations help Adam hack terminals, see through walls, quick melee two enemies at a time and even help him fall of high ledges only to land safely with the Icarus augmentation. Depending on your choice of play, different people upgrade/unlock different abilities at one time. Note that, by playing on easy or normal settings, you can unlock most augmentations a little more than halfway through the game. That’s a reason many players may choose to play side missions as they come so as to earn experience and unlock or upgrade as many augmentations as possible.

No matter what route you take, cover is the most important aspect and it can save you. The enemy AI can be quite ruthless especially if you are playing at the highest difficulty. In cover, the camera changes to a third-person mode, allowing you to peak through corners tracking the movements of the enemy, and planning your assault. After a takedown, the next step should be to hide the body before another sentry spots him and alerts the other guard. When low on ammo, it can be quite difficult to escape and alarmed situation where the best alternative is to load the last checkpoint. That is one feature that comes in handy all the time, and fortunately there is no penalty for excessive saving. I found myself using this before hacking a terminal or when I wasn’t sure what the outcome of my next decision would be. (Especially when spending praxis points).

Uncharted 3: Multiplayer Beta Hands-on

July 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Features, Playstation 3, Spotlight

Let me begin with an explanation with my love for the Uncharted series. Well, better to say for the developer, Naughty Dog. Crash Bandicoot was one of the very first games I played on the Playstation one. Then loved the Jak and Daxter series on the PS2. When I played Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, it felt nostalgic. The game wasn’t anything new, but the way it was presented and the way the core mechanics worked out, it was love at first sight. Suffice to say, it was the best single player experience I had in a long time, until Uncharted 2 came along. This may sound funny, and it does, now that I say it. I played and completed the sequel at GAMES’ 09, standing in the Sony booth, playing the game for 4-5 hours in the course of three days. Call me crazy, but, it was really fun. I didn’t dive in the multiplayer till I got my own copy. (No Wi-fi at the convention). Now that I have explained myself, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Uncharted 3.

With the release of Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog entered the realm of online gaming. The multiplayer in the sequel was quite balanced, with variety of maps and the norm multiplayer modes. Naughty Dog wants to improve on that and make it much better and compete with giants like Call of Duty and Gear of War. The release still being six months away, Naughty dog has more than enough time to debug and enhance the experience, with the data collected in the Multiplayer Beta.

For those who have had experience with the multiplayer in Uncharted 2, this may feel similar with a few exceptions. If you are new to the series, it is pretty easy to figure out and Naughty Dog is smart enough to drop hints to ease the understanding. The beta is pretty small, only giving access to two maps (which will be explained further) and five multiplayer modes.

To start things off, the player needs to select a preloaded character, or can create one with the wealth of options available. This includes a wardrobe, specific load outs and perks players can select. Obviously, to select items you need to earn cash by playing and leveling up to receive rank-only advantages. Till now I have played with characters that have reached level 40 and I am guessing have every available perk, weapon and booster the beta provides.

The meat of the experience lies in the multiplayer modes itself. The modes that are included are pretty standard fare, but still have the Uncharted feeling to it. It includes Free for all, team deathmatch, three team deathmatch, hardcore and Co-op. No one seems to be playing three team deathmatch because it never found any players in matchmaking. Hardcore and Team deathmatch are alike, the only difference being that hardcore does not have access to boosters and medal kickbacks. Nothing needs to be explained for free for all. It basically is you against everyone else. Co-op and Hardcore is where I spent most of my time.

Co-op has a mixed bag of modes that are all played during the twenty minutes time limit. These are survival, gold rush and siege. Co-op pits you and two other players against computer AI and you have to complete each mode within the time limit or in the case of siege, capture the point to win. If you are looking for a quick rank up, co-op is the mode to play. The perks and kickbacks provided in co-op are different from the ones provided in deathmatch.

What makes the beta great, other than the gameplay obviously, is the way it is presented. The menus are streamlined and easy to understand. On the bottom right coner is something called the Uncharted TV. It shows gameplay and developer dairies and is a great way to cool off between matches. The cinema records the previous 9 games and shows how you have played. You have the option to delete, protect/unprotect and upload the video. It’s a useful feature to have if something funny happened during the game.

There are only two maps available in the beta. One is the ‘Chateau’, a vast crumbling estate in the jungle, and to jog your memory the fire demo. The other, and my favorite, is the Airstrip. This is a two tier map. The first half takes place on the airstrip, where one team spawns in a cargo plane and the other on trucks chasing the plane. The trucks are going at top speed and jumping at the right moment is the key. It’s a dynamic map, and with everything happening, there was no slowdown. The second part takes place in a hanger/complex. Both maps feature multiple levels and is sound for 10 players. Power weapons are spread across the maps to give players the edge over others. One thing that was a little ‘not-so-perfect’ was the climbing sections. It didn’t cause much of a problem at the start, but when trying to escape gun fire, it did become a little nuisance. Hopefully, this will be fixed in the retail copy.

I noticed no lag whatsoever and the experience was very smooth. No crashes or glitches that I found. The game does a good job at balancing the teams and no one team is stronger than the other in terms of player ranks. There were a few occasions where it took a little time between matches. I guess it would be because the older players left or it automates a new match altogether.

For a beta, Naughty Dog did an excellent job. They have more than enough time to highlight and fix any mistakes. The beta is online till July 14th and the game is scheduled to release on November 1st. Mark you calendars and start saving. Come this fall, you have a lot of spending to do!

inFamous 2 Review

June 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews, Spotlight

The tag itself gives you a little insight into the review or on the game as a whole. Sucker Punch delivered a defining experience with Infamous, with a credible storyline, a not-so-norm cast of characters, and the choice of morality. And, they do it again, though it may feel like a déjà vu at times.

Looking at the game as a sequel, it doesn’t feel very different. Which is a good thing, as well as bad. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, rather just improves on what was already there. One of my main concerns with the original was the enemy AI. It was just too perfect. They could shoot from miles away, and not miss a shot. But in the sequel, it has been dimmed down a bit and gives your character the feel of superiority.

The story picks up right from where it ended in the first game. Kessler prophesized that something called the ‘Beast’ is coming and it is up to Cole to stop it. It is his destiny. The problem is that Cole is not powerful enough to take on this apocalypse. That is where most of the story lies for the sequel. There is a small, not so relevant, side story involving Cole and Zeke; his best friend and biggest betrayer, as Zeke tries to correct his mistakes from the first game. You don’t have to play infamous to understand the story as it is cleverly narrated at the beginning of the game.

The game begins with a BANG, pitching Cole against the Beast. It is precise to say that Cole is overpowered by the Beast and is stripped down of all is powers. He barely escapes and makes his way to New Marias. Zeke and NSA Agent Lucy Kuo, help Cole find Dr. Wolfe; the man responsible for developing the Ray Sphere, as it is the only chance they have to bring down the Beast.

The City of New Marais is one just like Empire City. There are a couple of sky scrapers, there are people walking and cars driving down the street and there are thugs, which in this case is the Militia. Enter Bertrand, the leader of the Militia and a purist, who believes that conduits are evil and has branded Cole the ‘Demon of Empire City’. Not that there were bigger problems at hand, the militia are spread all across the city to hunt down Cole. The basic bunch of Militia are machine gun wielding thugs, while some are more powerful with Rocket Launchers and Mini-guns. Adding to the mix are monsters that look like something the developers took out from Dead Space. They aren’t too difficult to defeat, but larger enemies do cause fatigue as they have hardened shells to bounce off Cole’s strikes. Cover plays an important part of the game, especially in area that don’t have power to recharge Cole. Use it wisely.

Cole’s main powers are his lightning bolts, blasts, grenades and rockets. Pressing R1 to aim, each of the face buttons have a different power. All lighting powers can be upgraded to Level 3, which would make Cole a beast itself. The arrow keys have special powers, one of which is the Iconic Vortex. The gives Cole the ability to launch a Electrical Tornado that will sweet everything in its way, and is useful for larger groups of enemy. Cole can only carry upto 3 special powers at once, and can be collected from dead enemies. Even if Cole is a little power than the thugs, cover is important in almost all cases. Filling every block of the Karmic meter gives Cole a few boosts. These vary according to the path you choose in the game. Nonetheless, playing as Evil Cole is fun.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood Review

December 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews, Spotlight, Xbox 360

Lets get one thing out of the way. Assassins Creed II did everything right the first game did wrong. The latter was a good game but got extremely repetitive and had a convoluted storyline. I never bothered to finish the first one but the sequel got me hooked. The series got exactly the push it required. Now a year later, we are treated with yet another title that is not a full fledged sequel, but a good entry nonetheless. Brotherhood even introduces the multiplayer component to the world of Assassins Creed.

The game still retains its open world setting, but this time its focus is just on Rome. The story picks up from where the sequel finished; with Ezio returning home with the Apple of Eden. Once he charms his was back into the Auditore Villa, and after a few mundane, yet important tasks, the story picks up the pace. The Borgia attack the villa for revenge and Ezio barely manages to escape to Rome. Once back to full strength, Ezio embarks on a journey to get the Apple back and get rid of the Borgia, once and for all.

Ezio is as acrobatic as ever. Climbing buildings and running and jumping from rooftops remain the staple of the series. Its all very fluid and the controller schemes haven’t changed. Even though Ezio is stripped to the bare essentials (in terms of weaponry and armor) at the start of the game, restoring black-smiths around town, even the odds far too quickly.

Rome is taken over by the Borgia, and Ezio has sworn to their riddance. That requires Ezio to kill a Captain for a specific town area and then burn down the Borgia tower. This enables Ezio to buy Banks, Black-smiths, and art-shops and upgrade Rome just like he did to the Auditore Villa in Assasins Creed II. As with the title of the game, Ezio can now hire citizens of the city and train them to be assassins. Ezio is able to send them on missions thought out Rome and Europe, earning cash and upgrades. They help Ezio on difficult missions and must be used wisely.

The action is mostly focused on Ezio and his gang, but there are a few Desmond sessions throughout the game. With the bleeding effect, Desmond can do what his ancestors did. This include wall climbing, platform jumping as well as a combination of those to solve puzzles. Thought it doesn’t progress Desmond’s story any further, it is a good change of pace and the crew provides some comic relief.

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