Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mafia II| Review

Synopsis: Mafia II has recently released and 2K Games sent us over a copy to get us hooked on the sequel to the original organized crime title that engaged over two million gamers. Though this is not your typical sandbox title, it manages to change things up with its cinematic style, story, and gameplay behind becoming a made man. You play through this game as Vito, son of an immigrant, beaten and short on his luck trying to make a name for himself living the American Dream, leaving the poverty he grew up with behind him. With criminal backgrounds, you and your childhood friend, Joe, find a way into the organized crime world to prove yourselves and work your way into one of the local families.

Praise: This game is like playing through a movie, as it is visually stunning and fires on all cylinders. On top of the graphics is a solid, engaging story that hooks you from the beginning and keeps your attention with a number of twists from start to finish, accompanied by a soundtrack featuring artists from the 40’s and 50’s to make you feel like you are in this era. 2K really did their research to have this accurate looking environment from cars and fashion to the way people talked and hot topics from that time, like World War II. The gameplay is nice and smooth, whether you are fist fighting or in a shootout, while controls handle generally the same as other sandbox titles, so it doesn’t take long to get the hang of. There is a small amount of customization available throughout the game such as your ability to go and purchase outfits and weapons, along with the option to tuning, painting, and storing your car in a garage which houses multiple vehicles of your choice. Lastly, throughout the game are Playboy magazines, which show centerfolds from those decades in high def, unfortunately, there are no articles.

Gripes: Though I did make it sound like there isn’t anything wrong, there were some things that made “my” list. The number one issue on the list is the amount of driving, there is a lot, possibly too much as it seems you drive for five to ten minutes to complete a short task and then have to drive all the way back to your place for sleep before starting the next mission. This game also has its share of bugs and glitches, one which made me miss an entire mission and others screen freezes when the game appeared to be loading while driving. Without giving away the story, I had gotten into my car with my buddy Joe and as we get in and start driving to the checkpoint, the conversation immediately changed from where we were heading to what had supposedly happened and to head back home. Lastly, it is way too easy to become wanted by the police and rather than surrendering, losing mass amounts of cash, or running, making you more wanted, it is easier and faster to open fire and get killed by the cops, leaving you to restart not to far back without penalty.

Overall, 2K Games did something they do really well, perhaps better than most, by providing a cinematic experience in video game form through a well written story, attention to detail, and just producing a fun and engaging game to play. While it is not perfect, very few come even this close to being as fun, it does offer a lot to both fans of sandbox titles and mafia movies alike. With the upcoming DLC coming out, Mafia II will have you assuming the role of Vito for a while.

Mashbuttons.com gives Mafia II an 8 out of 10.

Mafia II is available now for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Disney unveals their collector's editions, I want!

Disney has released the big guns today by announcing collector's editions for both of their upcoming titles, Epic Mickey and Tron: Evolution, showing of the large amounts of swag for the Disney fanboy in everyone. Below is a glimpse and list as to what to expect from each.

Epic Mickey
* Special packaging
* Disney Epic Mickey Software
* 5" Collectible Vinyl Figure
* Special Edition DVD with behind the scenes footage and other marketing materials and videos
* Wii Remote Faceplate and Wii console skins

Tron: Evolution
* Light Cycle model
* special case for both the game and model bike

Okay, whose first thought was Gunship for the PC?

Yup, that's right, I am going way back, who remembers the helicopter combat titles like Gunship and Jungle Strike? Obviously Activision does as they are working on releasing Apache: Air Assault to be released in November in a genre that hasn't received much recognition in the past. This will feature other helicopter model besides the well known Apache fighting both air to air and air to ground combat across the world in 16 multi stage missions.

Nintendo does away with my case of the Mondays with price drops and release dates

That's right not only do we get good news from Nintendo today but they are providing multiple releases. The first piece of good news is that the prices of Nintendo's handhelds are dropping to $149.99 for the DSi and $169.99 for the DSi XL starting September 12th. The other good news is that there is finally a release date for Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is scheduled to hit store shelves on November 29th. Thank you and that is all.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light | Review

Rounding out the 5-week Summer of Arcade is Eidos and Crystal Dynamics attempt at re-inventing Lara Croft; this time by shifting the perspective, dramatically changing the control scheme and placing a little less focus on exploration and more on combat. But this time, you're not alone...

Click past the break for our full review

Two wheel enthusiasts, get a load of these SBK X screens

As you may recall, a couple months back we reviewed the most recent Moto GP title, well SBK X is releasing shortly and those that did not like Moto GP or ready for something new have something to look forward to. So enjoy these screenshots and keep an eye out for more to come.

Vanquish demo to be made available this month

Sega has let us know that the demo of their upcoming title, Vanquish, will be available to download on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in the states on August 31st. The demo will have players choosing from one of two difficulty levels as an agent fitted with a futuristic battle suit fighting for the last remaining resources on board a vast space station.The game is scheduled to hit store shelves on October 19th.

More Portal 2 footage, this time with more Wheatley

That lovable robot that we caught a glimpse of in previous clips now have a video devoted to him and his wonky personality. Wheatley is played by Stephen Merchant,from The Office, but not the American version of The Office. More to come as it is received from Valve.

Monday, August 23, 2010

ArcaniA trailer from GamesCom full of oh so pretty cut scenes

I am new to the mid evil, action RPG genre, but after playing Risen, Divinity II, Dragon Age, and Oblivion, it is easy to see how so many can spend hundreds of hours on these type of game. Well the latest appears to be ArcaniA-Gothic 4. which is due to be released in October, and watching the trailers, I hope the gameplay is as good as the cut scenes, should I be holding my breath on this?

MK fans rejoice to the news of new fighters and environments

We all know that a new Mortal Kombat is in the works for the 360 and PS3, but what we don't know is the lineup and stages that will be appearing in the newest entry to the long running fighting series. Well, we have been informed that Cyrax and Kitana will be making their way back and you can pit them against each other in the desert and bell tower stages. Expect more to come as soon as it hits my inbox.

More FEAR 3 screens shown at Germany's Gamescom

Though we were not fortunate enough to go to Germany for the convention, we were lucky enough to get some of the assets that were shown off overseas. Some of that content just happens to be FEAR 3 screenshots. We have previously posted information as it has been released as this is one of the few games series' that has scared me, so needless to say I want to get my hands on it, mainly because the talented John Carpenter has provided consultation in the development.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Deathsmiles | Review

Synopsis: Cave, one of the biggest names for shmup or bullethell titles has released a new entry for their fans, Deathsmiles. Those new to the term shmup are most likely familiar with the genre and have played their fair share of these whether killing time in an arcade or devoting hours into getting the high score or playing cooperatively. Deathsmiles takes you to the world of Gilverado, a land full of monsters and tortured souls, while your role of course is to rid the land of the baddies with one of five available gothic Lolitas, each with their own unique abilities and demon familiars. Aside from the single player gameplay, players are able to save, playback, and download the top 20 scoring runs from the leaderboards, along with online coop to see how you rank with players worldwide through Xbox Live.

Praise: There are a few things a shmup needs in order for me to have a lot of fun with, mainly bright crisp looking environments, lots of bullets and enormous boss fights. Cave has delivered these prerequisites and then some. Gameplay is very fluid with the occasional slowdown, which some would see as a bad thing, but in these kinds of titles I see it as a blessing in disguise as the slowdown often times helps keep me from dying. A new feature to this shoot em up is the shooting mechanics, where you shoot left with the left trigger and right with the right trigger, requiring a new strategy from the gameplay I’m used to. Mega Black Label seems to be an additional game mode on the disk that includes an additional character and level to add to the replay value. Lastly, you WILL get a handful of achievements from this game as they seem to be thrown at you left and right.

Gripes: First and foremost, this would be a great game to play online coop, the problem is, there doesn’t seem to be anyone playing this game online any longer. I have tried multiple times on multiple days and waiting 5-10 minutes each time for someone to join me, but nothing. The three graphical modes, from arcade to Xbox 360 are a nice variety, but after playing on Xbox mode, I had no intention of going back to play the others as it looks visually better. Other than that, my only complaint is the length of the game as it takes about 30 minutes to play through all the levels and complete the story mode, making it harder to justify the full retail price as opposed to the Xbox Live Arcade game prices as it feels as if it is the same size, if not smaller than the downloadable arcade titles.

Overall, as a fan of shmups, I enjoyed this title playing in one hour increments for about a week. Without being able to find anyone else online, it does reduce the amount of replay value to continuously playing; however couch coop would be a lot of fun if I had others in the house into these types of games. The nice part about this release is that the limited edition includes swag, consisting of Deathsmiles Xbox 360 faceplate, CD soundtrack and special box art. Unfortunately, for the price I would like to have more content to keep me engaged, but is a blast to go back and play for a half hour or so to work your way up the leaderboards.

Mashbuttons.com gives Deathsmiles a 7 out of 10.

Deathsmiles is available now for the Xbox 360.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Madden 2011 Review

The national holiday known as Madden Day is upon us and football fans can let out an impatient sigh of relief and collectively rejoice. This year EA took more of a focus on the casual football gamer with features geared towards making gameplay much more user friendly. This year’s version also has the Ultimate Team mode fully integrated into the game (last year it was a download later in the season).

The Good: I seem to say this every year, but the graphics really do look much better than the previous years, just start up a game and enjoy the realism of the field. This year they turn the turbo button off by default (can be turned back on in the settings) and it still takes some getting used to but I really like the idea because it allows you to focus more on hitting holes and following your blockers. Finally the presentation blows me away. From the QB waling off the bus before the game to the coaches talking to the QB on the sideline (did I mention real players on the sidelines!). Also, new to the booth is Gus Johnson, he is a very welcome addition.

Love seeing the 'Hawks stick it to the Cardinals
 The Bad: Franchise, franchise, franchise!!! Why not give a big focus to franchise, leaving it the same was a huge mistake. I’m not saying it needs to be completely redone, but improving tweaks need to be there yearly. I will chalk the new GameFlow feature under bad because I am smart enough to pick my own plays and something tells me the development of this took away from the ever important FRANCHISE mode.

Overall: The day that I am not impressed with a new Madden game will be a sad day, and frankly I don’t see it happening. Despite its lack of franchise mode improvements the gameplay, graphics and presentation more than make up for it. I give Madden 2011 an 8 out of 10.

Madden 2011 is available now for just about every platform under the sun

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mafia II dev gives us the dish on the upcoming release

Friday was a monumental day for me as it was not only my first 29th birthday, but was also the a conference call with a developer behind the creation of Mafia II. I will be the first to admit that I had never played the first title, nor did I know anything about the sequel aside from hands on time at E3. The end result is that the city is 10 square miles, the soundtrack consists of over 120 songs from the era, and that main character is a bad ass the just returned from war. Aside from that, I was corrected on the gameplay as this is a linear and cinematic game, not the sandbox in which I had originally assumed. One more week, and I will be working my way up to being the Don Mega!

HAWX demo available now

That is right, if you go to the Xbox marketplace, you will see that the 800 meg, 2 mission demo of HAWX 2 is available for download now, as long as you have a gold membership. PlayStation 3 gamers will have the demo available to play starting tomorrow. Those who like the demo are able to pick up the title on September 7th on both consoles.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sniper: Ghost Warrior | Review

Synopsis: Tired of modern day FPS titles not having enough sniper elements to feel a bit more realistic? Sniper: Ghost Warrior is filled that void and my mailbox with a review copy to get all you viewers a hands on review of this newly released FPS that is sure not to break the bank. The story takes place on the island of Isla Trueno after the government is overthrown and a hostile military uprising occurs. You assume the role of a military sniper, aiding the rebels to put a halt to the oppression and restore the rightful government back to the island. Aside from the story missions, Sniper: Ghost Warrior includes up to 12 person multiplayer modes to see how your sniping skills compare to real people. It’s time to locate the opposition, judge wind and distance, hold your breath, and remember one shot, one kill.

Praise: The first and possibly the most guilty pleasure of this title is the kill cam, which is when you have a headshot lined up and squeeze the trigger, time slows down and you see the bullet make its way to your enemies head and the force of the impact on the body while penetrating said opponent. The sniper elements that you have to take into account when lining up your shots add what feels to be a great amount of realism, having to judge distance, wind, and ultimately having to hold your breath to steady yourself before taking any shots. Not being able to complete the mission using run and gun tactics used in previous FPS titles was hard to get used to at first, but it is what makes this game a lot of fun, as you have to slowly make your way to the next waypoint hiding in bushes, slilently killing with throwing knives, and finding higher elevated points to clear the battlefield without detection. Multiplayer was almost as enjoyable as the single player playthrough as you have to choose your spots wisely to find your opponents and take shots without giving away your position. Lastly, another part I particularly liked about the multiplayer was a compass which shows the direction of other players without giving away how far they are so it is a bit of a gamble trying to locate your next kill before they find you.

Gripes: The difficulty, even on easy is proven to be rather difficult, my prime example of this is that the enemy AI seems to be a lot smarter than me. At certain points in the game I would retry a mission over and over again because I was so easily detected lying down in tall bush by a militia across the playing field. The recent patch did reduce the amount of times in which I would be detected but even when playing on easy, it is rather difficult at times as once you are detected, depending on the amount of enemies on the field, it is most likely lights out! I was also expecting my spotter to be a little more supportive especially in those said situations where my cover was blown, left me hoping he would save the day and try to provide some cover fire as I am running and screaming across the map like a kid being chased by a schoolyard bully. Lastly, I thought the assault scenarios where adding some weapon variety and run and gun team based warfare would have been a more fulfilling break from the stealth like gameplay, but it always felt a bit out of place.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with Sniper: GW and will continue playing online as it felt a lot more tactful from start to finish than other titles in the same genre. It’s non linearity in additional to having to use a lot more thought before you take your shots was a nice change from the fast paced, unloading your clip on anything that moves as you sprint across the middle of a warzone. The story is good, keeping me engaged from start to finish and even though the single player missions do not have much in the replay department, it is a great way to hone your skills before getting sucked into the multiplayer side of the game, and with a price tag of $39.99, first person shooter and sniper fans alike are sure to enjoy.

Mashbuttons.com gives Sniper: Ghost Warrior an 8 out of 10

Sniper: Ghost Warrior is available now on the Xbox 360 and PC.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

If you haven't pre-ordered NBA 2K11, here is another reason

So the news is out that Michael Jordan is in NBA 2K11, this isn't new news. However, if you preorder through GameStop, you will receive a Jordan Bulls jersey for your avatar. PS3 gamers will receive the white home jersey, while the Xbox 360 gamers will get the official red road jersey.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Here's more dirt in your eye

DiRT 3 has made me forget about my wait for Gran Turismo 5 altogether and that is a feat in itself. Codemasters must enjoy teasing me with the initial trailer and now visuals of the upcoming rally racer. Unfortunately, it looks like Ken Block will be appearing in his Ford and not the Subaru we all fell in love with in DiRT 2. This time around we will see more cars, locations, routes, and events.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Survey Says...Family Feud to come for the Wii

Ubisoft will be releasing Family Feud Decades for the Wii this November, just in time to get some practice in before going head to head with in-laws after Thanksgiving dinner and in between watching football games. Decades will be packed with thousands of questions from the 70's to current. Sounds like there is no better time to get two families together for some friendly competition over the holidays that does not consist of beating up fake guitars, drums, and mics.

New Shaun White Trailer Transforms More Than A Michael Bay Movie

A while back I had posted on a teaser received for Shaun White Skateboarding and had no idea what to expect. Well Ubisoft answered my questions with a transformation trailer showing off the upcoming skate title. From what is seen, I want to know more as it looks like you start in a dull city, but as you land tricks, the city quickly transforms around you into a skate park...interesting, right? Well, as always, enjoy the trailer and I will keep you posted as more information is received.

Mafia II demo breaking knee caps as we speak

Thanks 2K Games for letting us all know that the playable demo for Mafia II is available for download know. I do not know why you are still reading this and not watching the active download bar in anticipation of playing the demo as we come to the home stretch leading up to the release. If you are still reading, the playable demo is of the "Buzzsaw" level, where you and your crew are tasked with taking out "The Fat Man".

Arc Rise Fantasia | Review

Synopsis: The latest JRPG for the Nintendo Wii has released and we have received a review copy to let you all know our impressions of time spent with Arc Rise Fantasia. A little background to the game before you get into the review is that this title is set in the Meridian Empire while dragons are passing over the Empire in flocks. If these dragons are killed, they explode poisons that contaminate the area, and this is where you, the mercenary L’Arc are tasked to fight these creatures with your longtime friend, Prince Alf. Arc Rise Fantasia is brought to us from the developers that created the Luminous Arc titles and features turn based gameplay, where the player strategically queues up actions to eventually execute huge attacks. Wii gamers, is this your next JRPG must have?

Praise: After losing faith in Final Fantasy XIII, I have been jonesing for a RPG to immerse myself in, and I think I may have found something to fill that void. As a fan of Luminous Arc, I was more than eager to try Arc Rise Fantasia, and so far it has been worth the wait. To start, the story is engaging, full of twists and characters that have their own unique personality that you will either grow to love or hate. The environment has a bright anime inspired world full of bright colors, unique enemies, and attacks that are definitely over the top, and with the vast character development, the attacks only get bigger and better as the game progresses. The gameplay in my opinion is where this title really shines, as it does require some grinding to progress through the story, and as your characters grow in levels, as do your abilities, making it necessary to think a couple moves ahead, and completely destroy the enemies. Lastly, this title allows multiple control types which is a huge selling point for me as I love using the classic remote over the remote and nunchuk combination.

Gripes: Though it sounds like there isn’t anything wrong with this game, there are a few things I would like to address with the 20 plus hours spent with this game. After the first couple hours, the voice acting was driving me nuts, hearing the same thing repeatedly whenever I command my party members to attack. Getting into the story and game does take some time as the story progresses slowly at first and the learning curve takes some time to get the hang of before really getting into what is going on and mastering each party member’s abilities. Lastly, navigation is something I had trouble with as it can be hard at times trying to locate what you have to do next especially if you if you have to locate a specific individual within a large city before having the option to move on.

Overall, Arc Rise Fantasia is a fun game that starts to feel more rewarding for sticking through the learning curve and introduction of characters after the first five hours or so, depending on how much grinding you do. Though it does not stand out and introduce anything beyond the typical JRPG’s we have played before, but it does stick to the basics on what makes the genre entertaining and addictive, making it a RPG in which had me striving to finish to see the story unravel, while providing a challenge at the same time.

Mashbuttons.com gives Arc Rise Fantasia a 7 out of 10.

Arc Rise Fantasia is available now for the Nintendo Wii.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ubisoft shows off AC: Brotherhood collector's edition to help haunt your sleep

We are all anxiously awaiting Brotherhood and with the constant information coming from Ubisoft as we get closer to release is not helping much. In their most recent email blast, they reveal the contents of the collector's edition and it looks like they did not pull any stops as this is the best looking CE I have seen in a while. The box will set you back $99.99, but a creepy jack-in-the-box has got to be worth most of that right?

- The Harlequin Jack-in-the-Box Collectible (exclusive to GameStop customers only) or The Doctor Jack-in-the-Box Collectible (available at all other participating retailers)
- Two Exclusive In-Game Single Player Maps
- Hard Copy Strategy Map of Rome
- Exclusive Art Book
- Bonus Disc
-- Exclusive Making-of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood Video
-- Digital Sneak Peak at the Assassin’s Creed Comic
-- Trailers
-- Game Soundtrack
* Please note that contents of Collector's Edition may be subject to change

What the puck is going on in the RV?

Yes, I replaced puck with another four letter word that rhymes with puck to describe my reaction to the NHL 2K11 skit featuring Ryan Kesler and Jack Johnson playing as themselves in the Wii hockey title. Some pranks ensue, but from what is shown of the gameplay looks pretty nice.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Here is your reason to preorder AC: Brotherhood from Gamestop for the PS3

Yes, I am suggesting my faithful viewers to go to your local Gamestop and put five on Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Why would I do such a thing? Well, the reason is that if you preorder Brotherhood for the PlayStation 3, you will receive exclusive access to the pre-launch multiplayer. So there you go, head to Gamestop, pre-order and enjoy September 13th.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair | Review

Synopsis: It has been a while since wanna be vampire slayers have been able to play a Castlevania title on anything other than a Nintendo handheld. Well the time has come for Konami to give back to its fans with the release of Harmony of Despair, exclusively for the Xbox Live Arcade. This iteration introduces features that are new to the series, changing up how you play Castlevania games. In Despair, the player gets to choose from a number of lead characters from Castlevanias past to take on the big, bad Dracula, but this time the battle can be taken online in an up to six player coop gameplay. On top of the online coop gameplay, a competitive survivor mode is available to slay other players. Now that I have been grinding single player and rushing multiplayer levels, here are my impressions of time spent with Koji Igarashi’s latest masterpiece, Harmony of Despair.

Praise: To start my review, I need to preface it by saying that this is not like the Castlevania titles you have played on the Nintendo handhelds, as there are six levels, all timed, and you do not level up. I know that sounds like all of the key elements to a Castlevania title, but there is still a lot of fun to be had, mainly with the online coop, as you and up to six other players storm each castle to loot for new items and make your way through large bosses until you get to take on Dracula. Each level is large and hard to explore all the rooms within the half hour time limit when playing alone, increasing replay value, but when playing coop it seems like plenty of time, and the best part is that if you or your teammates find a chest with items, everyone on the team gets the contents. If you die before completing the level, you still get to keep the items earned throughout the level to equip or sell before you retry.

Gripes: Not all change is considered good in my opinion as I am sure I value different aspects of games than most of our viewers and after spending a couple hundred hours with previous Castlevania titles, there are a number of things I wish went unchanged. The first being timed levels, sure it is enough time to play through the level but at the same time, it is not enough time to really explore the environment. The ability to level up is no longer available and the way in which you increase your character’s stats are by getting new equipment, either from chests or through the shop, and you are unable to change equipment and items on the fly, but have to do it from designated spots in each level. Lastly, the difficulty in single player is significantly harder than playing through cooperatively, resulting in repeated grinding to get money and new equipment to ease the physical beat downs from bosses.

Overall, your gameplay style would really be the biggest factor in regards to your appreciation for this title. If you are a glutton for punishment, when playing single player or do most of your gaming online with others, you will like Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. However, if you don’t like playing online or do not have a gold membership, then you may want to pass on this. While it may not be the title you were expecting, it does still offer a lot for the 1200 MS point pricetag, such as huge 2D side scrolling levels, looting, and support for future DLC of levels and characters.

Mashbuttons.com gives Castlevania: Harmony of Despair a 7 out of 10.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is available now for the Xbox Live Arcade.