Archive for the ‘XBOX 360’ Category

It’s only been a couple of months and 2010 is already shaping up to be one of the best ever for gamers. If your wallet hasn’t already been emptied, Electronic Arts and development studio DICE have tossed yet another videogame on the pile that can’t be missed. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 ups the intensity and visual prowess of its predecessor, while still delivering one of the most compelling multiplayer games around.

If you were to buy Bad Company 2 solely for the single-player campaign, you might come away a bit disappointed. That’s not to say it’s particularly bad in any way, but it doesn’t feel impressive enough to stand on its own as a great experience. Once again, the multiplayer game is the star of the Battlefield show.

Ultimate Edition Content

The situation with the Ultimate Edition of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is pretty simple. If you already have a copy of Bad Company 2, you’ll likely want to skip this release. However, if you were someone who was hesitant to pick up DICE’s latest high-quality creation because a little game called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was still spinning in your disc drive, then Ultimate Edition is certainly worth your time. Keep reading for the reasons why.

For sixty bucks players get what essentially amounts to the full Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Limited Edition experience (which is to say you get a few weapon and vehicle upgrades along with some fresh maps for multiplayer) as well as the Onslaught co-op mode DLC and the beloved downloadable title Battlefield: 1943.Sadly none of the content in Ultimate Edition is new in any way. Instead, the real attraction of the package is that you get all of this great Battlefield: Bad Company 2 content in one box. It’s a bit of an annoyance that you have to enter in three different download codes on Xbox 360 (two on PS3) to get your hands on everything, but that shouldn’t be a surprise given EA’s new initiative to try to bolster new-game sales through the use of one-time-use codes.

As far as the content itself, everything is just as it was when it was originally released. Given that everything you’ll find here earned high marks in our eyes when it first dropped into the hands of consumers, there’s nothing to knock. Battlefield: 1943 still has an active online following so I never had trouble quickly finding a game. I did encounter a bit of lag which is strange considering I was playing on IGN’s speedy connection, but it dissipated once I switched games. The same goes for Onslaught and the core Bad Company 2 gameplay, which is as enjoyable as ever.

All in all it’s a little disappointing not to get some fresh content in this supposed “Ultimate Edition” but it’s tough to argue with the sheer abundance of quality that you’ll find under this relatively modest (when you consider the fact that you get a free fifteen dollar downloadable game) sixty-dollar price tag. Again, if you played Bad Company 2 when it originally launched then there really isn’t enough original (or any at all) stuff to warrant spending the sixty bucks again, but if you skipped out on DICE’s second iteration of this popular series and want to know what all the hubbub was about, BF: BC2 Ultimate Edition is your answer.

The single-player campaign follows the story of a rag-tag bunch of soldiers as they traipse around the world on the hunt for a mythical weapon of mass destruction which absolutely must not fall into the hands of the Russians. It’s a typical story of unlikely heroes as they attempt to save the world, and it will take you across a great variety of locations that range from frozen mountains to densely packed jungles.

These gorgeous locales are the first thing that will spring out at you as you begin the fight. The vistas and skyboxes look nearly photorealistic in many situations, and DICE did a wonderful job blending the particle effects and game objects in the foreground with the more static backdrops. The result is a sense of depth that few videogame worlds can offer.

Things become more impressive yet when the action kicks in. Returning from the last Bad Company game are nearly fully destructible environments. If an enemy soldier is holed up in a second-story bedroom taking potshots at you, all you have to do is send a rocket at that wall and he’ll either wind up dead or fully exposed. The same line of thinking applies to just about anything you see – send enough firepower at it and you can watch it crumble.

Once you’re done ogling the smoke trails or mountain ranges in the distance, you’ll start to notice that Bad Company 2 has taken a few cues from the Call of Duty franchise. The last Battlefield game was the first to introduce a fully fleshed out storyline and it stumbled a bit in the process. The humor was goofy and over the top, the open mission design was a bit too open, and everything seemed coated in a dense fog. A lot has changed and improved for the sequel.

The big change comes with a more streamlined and cinematic approach to the action. The dialogue is less overtly inane, though it does offer its fair share of humor, and the level design feels more straightforward. While the last Bad Company game couldn’t hold my attention, this one kept me interested and having fun from start to finish.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that this Battlefield game has some great mechanics. The guns react well, and sound fantastic. The vehicles handle smoothly and really do a great job of making you feel like the king of the battlefield. The instant-respawns and med kit injections of the last Bad Company have been replaced by the more standard checkpoints and regenerative health bar and that makes the challenge of war feel more realistic.

To top things off, the AI squad mates at your side act like real soldiers in battle. They’ll press the attack while you flank and hold off the enemy while you duck behind cover to recuperate. Many games slap you in a squad of largely ineffective soldiers and let you do all of the heavy lifting. Bad Company 2 is a refreshing change of pace in this regard.

Of course, if you want to start nitpicking, there are plenty of instances to call out. Some of the details and little pieces of the environment stream into view a bit late. There still are no arms drawn on screen when driving a vehicle, causing a poltergeist-like steering wheel to move on its own. On the Xbox 360 version, slow loading from the disc causes the player to be locked out for as much as five seconds from throwing grenades or using the knife when picking up a new weapon or changing kits (this issue went away when installing the game onto a hard drive).

These are mostly small complaints and, for me, the campaign’s only real troubles rest with the presentation and pacing. The B-Company (known as Bravo Two in this game) squad returns with you filling the shoes of Preston Marlowe. At your side is a crew of largely one-dimensional characters who are good for a laugh every now and then. This cast exists mainly to deliver one-liners and to direct you through the battlefield to the next objective. It’s hard to even think of them as people after watching them take a rocket propelled grenade to the face and then get up and go right back into the fight.

Though the action has been streamlined, it feels like Bad Company 2 just missed the “epic” feeling that it seems the developers were going for. Part of the problem is in the direction of the cutscenes, but mostly I feel like it rests with the non-stop high-intensity approach to gameplay. In a given level, you can do everything from sniping soldiers to manning a turret on the side of a helicopter to calling in air strikes – all in rapid succession. You’re something of a Rambo super-soldier, well versed in every facet of war. With the constant action, it feels like there is very little tension building outside of the game’s opening moments. There’s tons of variety to the gameplay and all of it is a great deal of fun, but it doesn’t quite come together to be a top-tier experience.

And with such a frantic campaign pace, it is over in short order. I blew through the game in just a few evenings of lazy play, probably clocking in under six hours. A collectible weapon system does offer a reason to go back for a second or third run, but this isn’t the kind of campaign you’ll be returning to again and again.

For many, the shortcomings in the campaign won’t matter one bit. These people come for the multiplayer online game, and that’s where Bad Company 2 delivers. Here the destructible environments of the campaign take on new meaning. Your target might be waiting inside a shack. An enemy squad may be using a tower as a staging point. This can all change with just a few well placed explosives as you literally level the playing field. It adds an extra tier of strategy to the game as you struggle to work through extended fights, adapting your approach to the fight as the world around you crumbles.

That’s just the first level of strategic planning this shooter offers those that work well together. Battlefield has long been known and adored by gamers as the franchise that offers epic, large-scale online fights and plenty of vehicles to take into battle. That tradition continues here. Personally, I’ve always held it in such high regard because of how it is inherently team-based. The very layout of the game is designed to encourage players to work together, straight down to awarding extra points for working with your teammate.

Little squads can be created, segmenting larger teams into strike forces which can each play a specific role. Then within that squad, players can choose between four load-out kits that range from the light machinegun toting medic to the heavy weapon specialist engineer. Each has its own weapons and unique tools that allow you to set yourself up as a small but integral part in the team’s success. It’s a game that requires a cool head and open lines of communication just as much as it does a deft hand, and that just makes the victories that much sweeter.

What struck me as most impressive with Bad Company 2 is how flexible the multiplayer game is. The class system allows you to choose what your approach to battle will be. It’s the maps and modes included in this package that allow you to choose exactly what kind of game you want to play. There is a huge difference between the giant and extended team Rush games – an attack and defend mode which plays out across expansive maps and features vehicles heavily — and the tighter Squad Deathmatch games which can feel just like your standard frantic and close-quarters shooter. If you care for something in between, you can just hop into a Conquest game to try your hand at the classic Battlefield fight over specific areas controlled by raising and lowering flags. Regardless of your mood, it feels like Bad Company 2 has something for you.

And if the game itself isn’t enough reason to keep coming back, perhaps you’ll find yourself hooked on the class upgrade system. New weapons and gadgets can be unlocked, as well as little perks to give you an edge in the fight. Those familiar with Call of Duty (And at this point who isn’t?) will be right at home with the system that rewards players for completing small challenges as well as winning games or simply playing well and getting a lot of kills. (ign)

Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Digital Illusions CE (DICE)
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Number of Players: 1-24
Release Date: US: August 30, 2010
MSRP: $59.99
M for Mature: Blood, Strong Language, Violence
Also Available On: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3


Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles should look somewhat familiar to you. It was released in 2008 on the Nintendo DS and in 2009 for iPhone. And now Gameloft has ported the adventure to Android.

If you were a fan of Ubisoft’s ambitious Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 production, you know the set-up. An assassin named Altair is scouring the Holy Land for the means to bring down the Templar knights, an organization with sinister designs on the world in this narrative. The iPhone game serves as a prequel to the console game. Altair is in search of a specific artifact called “The Chalice,” which possibly has the power to bring the ugly Crusades to an early, merciful end. But seeking this relic raises more questions than it answers, setting up the console game, which I consider to have one of the best fictions in videogames in quite some time despite its uneven game mechanics.

As Altair, you must use your stealth abilities to seek the Chalice. The rooftops, awning, and beams that stretch across the grand cities of the medieval Holy Land are your playground. Careful movement above the sandy streets will keep you out of harm’s way for the most part, although occasionally you must descend to the avenues below and draw blood. Altair has a sword that can be upgraded, but there are other devices and items he uses in his quest, such as a grappling hook and bombs. Altair’s signature weapon, though, is his hidden dagger that is used to silently execute enemies and not raise the alarm of dozens of guards and Templar reinforcements.

As you explore the Holy Land, you will pick up hundreds of blue orbs that can be traded in for upgrades, such as expanding Altair’s health bar or the aforementioned sword. Personally, I tended to lean on sword upgrades because I wanted to make sure I could overpower enemies in any combat situation. I would accidentally blow a stealth situation by walking through a crowd too fast or stumble off a rooftop and land on the street below, just within striking distance of a Templar.

Naturally, this raises the issue of control. I think the control stick here is a little looser which does prevent absolute precision and will cause occasional mishaps, but for the most part, I really don’t have any major problems with how the game handles. The combat buttons work great, although the shield button placement over by the control stick is awkward. While there are some automated actions, like scrambling up a wall, I do wish that some small jumps were also self-propelled. The jump button works without a problem, but an auto-jump would help casual gamers by taking one less button out of the mix.

One feature in Assassin’s Creed I do not care for, though, are the minigames. I think they are pointless holdovers from the DS version. They felt tacked-on back then, like Gameloft was trying to integrate the DS touchscreen some way… any way. They don’t fare much better here. They function, but add nothing to the overall game. They feel gimmicky in a game that needs no gimmicks.

As mentioned earlier in the review, Assassin’s Creed looks fantastic. Everything — from the textures on Altair’s robes to the crackling fire effects — is brighter, crisper, and more detailed in this edition of the game versus the DS. However, Assassin’s Creed is not necessarily the smoothest play on a Droid. There is some framerate chugging here and there that mars the experience. However, some users have mentioned that Creed runs better on newer handsets. (ign)

Published by: Gameloft
Developed by: Gameloft
Genre: Action
Release Date: US: September 13, 2010
Also Available On: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC,Wireless, iPhone, Android
Also known as: Assassin’s Creed

Sonic Adventure Review

Posted: September 16, 2010 in Playstation 3, XBOX 360
Tags: , , ,

I was always a SEGA kid. Sure, A Link to the Past is at the top of my all-time list, and I felt a guilty thrill cheating on my Genesis as I played through Super Metroid, but my fondest 16 bit memories were of games like Sub-Terrania…and Sonic the Hedgehog. I remember counting the minutes ’til junior high school was out so I could rush home and play through Sonic 2. I’ll even still get involved in semi-heated Genesis vs. SNES arguments with friends for fun from time to time. I bought a Dreamcast on launch day, driving all over San Diego to find first a system, then a game, then yet another store still to buy a VMU. I bought Sonic Adventure a few days later, and I convinced myself that it was flawed but great.

I was wrong. Sonic Adventure for XBLA and PSN has successfully driven a stake through the heart of my combined nostalgia/Dreamcast launch blinders/residual SEGA fanboyism. Everything from the original release is in there, from fishing mini-games to Chao raising to awful voice acting, like an evidence folder in a trial against what you thought was ostensibly the Dreamcast’s flagship launch title.

The gameplay shifts between 3rd person, behind the hedgehog running, which doesn’t control very well, and 2D side-scrolling sections here and there which control marginally better (since you’re pretty much just holding forward and hitting the jump button). Enemies and bosses are dispatched by rolling through them, bouncing off them, or boosting through them, but Sonic has always been more about lightning fast platforming than kicking enemies’ collective asses. When Sonic Adventure released, the graphics were amazing, and the sense of speed was unmatched.

The game was so fast, in fact, that you probably didn’t even realize how broken it actually is. Sonic Adventure is so fundamentally flawed that it borders on unplayable – the sections that move the fastest, that work most, that are even slightly interesting, require the least input from the player. In fact, in many of these sections, input from the player will result in death or catastrophe, and there’s really no way to know which until you either fly through not completely sure what happened or die, also not completely sure what happened.

This is, of course, when the camera is working — which is about half of the time. There are not enough expletives in the collected languages of humankind to express how broken the camera in Sonic Adventure is (and I am very familiar with profanity). You might hear people talk about games where the camera seems to get “caught on something,” but in Sonic Adventure it’s like the camera is hanging onto random objects for dear life. Its negligence becomes more homicidal as the level design leans toward the punitive side near the end of the game, but it’s always lurking, waiting for a chance to block your view (often by showing the inside of a character model or game object).

The controls themselves are another failure. Sonic and co. maneuver poorly, even at slow speeds, and there are bizarre collision detection rules in place that will cause you to become caught in bizarre invisible traps that require some frantic thumbstick jerking to break free of. This extends elsewhere throughout the game, as the world itself seems fragile and pitted with holes in its reality. I fell through floors, was catapulted outside of the game world, and generally murdered without warning or explanation by failures in Sonic Adventure’s ability to hold itself together repeatedly. And this isn’t counting the times the camera literally broke free of the game world itself to exist outside of the engine’s geometry.

All of this presumes that you can actually figure out how to get to the next action stage. Sonic Adventure has an overworld – or an Adventure World, rather – that features some mild platforming and pronounced frustration. Characters control even worse in Adventure areas than they do in Action stages, as you’ll be walking most of the time, rather than running as fast as possible. Action stages are difficult to find — they’re entirely reliant on paying depressingly close attention to Sonic Adventure’s painful cutscenes and dialogue for esoteric clues as to your next destination. You’ll be just as likely to stumble on the next nonsense “key” to the Adventure area that holds your next Action stage.

If you think that paragraph is confusing, Sonic Adventure will make you feel like you’re stuck in Groundhog Day by comparison.

The bulk of your time will be spent playing through Sonic’s campaign. But as you play, you’ll meet various, er, pals from Sonic’s menagerie, including Amy, Tails, and Knuckles, which you can then guide through their own little journeys through the horrors of broken 3D platforming. Each character has their own wrinkle or drastic departure from the game’s primary mechanics — Tails hovers, E102 shoots, Amy…wields a giant hammer, Big the Cat fishes, and Knuckles glides and punches. Unfortunately, all of these new mechanics are even less functional than the broken platforming of the main adventure.

While it’s difficult to comment on whether the game feels more broken in downloadable arcade form than it did for its US release on the Dreamcast, there is an unmistakeably rushed and shoddy air to the presentation of the port. It’s as barebones as can be, with hideous menus, no widescreen support, and an options menu that forgets your camera settings once you exit the game. Performance is good, at least, as I can’t remember any point where the game dropped below 60FPS.

Sonic Adventure, in hindsight, feels like a game thrown together in a panic, held together by spectacle and the fervent wishes of SEGA fans for a proper return to form for Sonic and SEGA. Unfortunately, spectacle has a short half life, and Sonic Adventure’s basic design and gameplay fall apart under scrutiny. Playing Sonic Adventure for the first time in 11 years, after returning to the franchise a few times over the last decade, I’ve realized that the great tragedy about Sonic games isn’t that they’ve gotten worse over two console generations — they just haven’t gotten appreciably better. (ign)

  • Published by: SEGA
  • Developed by: Sonic Team
  • Genre: Platformer
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Release Date: US: Q3 2010 , Japan: Q3 2010
  • E for Everyone: Animated Violence
  • Also Available On: Dreamcast, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Halo: Reach (Legendary Edition) ProductLimited Edition

Most limited or special editions are filled with a few trinkets of questionable worth. This, however, is actually a pretty cool set of goodies, all for just an extra $10. Inside the larger box, you’ll find a black DVD case that will make Halo: Reach stand out in your collection. That’s a nice touch, but it’s only the start.

You’ll also find an “artifact bag” that contains notes from Dr. Halsey, the creator of the Spartan program and blueprint for Cortana. This bag is a must for any real Halo fan. Inside a hardbound notebook, you’ll get tons of inside info made to look like it was handwritten by the good doctor, a patch, a mock UNSC security badge, a color map and a whole lot more. Play Halo: Reach and then go back and read through the manual for a deeper understanding of what happened in the game.

Last, but not least, you can find a code to get a special armor set for your Elite multiplayer model.

The Halo: Reach Limited Edition package is a great one, and one that I would recommend to anybody that wants more than the base game but can’t quite afford the very expensive Legendary Edition. It may smell a bit funky when you first open it (seriously), but it’s a great buy for serious Halo fans. (ign)

  • Published by: Microsoft
  • Developed by: Bungie Software
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • Release Date: US: September 14, 2010
  • MSRP: $79.99
  • M for Mature: Blood, Violence

Halo: Reach (Legendary Edition) ProductLegendary Edition

The Legendary Edition contains everything the less expensive Limited Edition comes with, plus a lot more to justify the $150 price tag. It’s all housed inside a special case made to look like an ONI security container. This is a pretty substantial set of bonus content, so let’s get right to it.

Like the Limited Edition, the Legendary box has a special black DVD case to house your copy of Halo: Reach. It’s a nice touch, though not as sweet as the Halo 2 metal case I still proudly display on my shelf.

The other crossover content with the Limited Edition includes an “artifact bag” that contains notes from Dr. Halsey, the creator of the Spartan program and blueprint for Cortana. This bag is a must for any real Halo fan. Inside a hardbound notebook, you’ll get tons of inside info made to look like it was handwritten by the good doctor, a patch, a mock UNSC security badge, a color map and a whole lot more. Play Halo: Reach and then go back and read through the manual for a deeper understanding of what happened in the game.

Inside the disc case, you can find a code to download several exclusive pieces of content. There’s a special flaming helmet armor affect for your Spartan (previously only available to Bungie employees), a cool Elite costume, and a Falcon Avatar accessory. This code also gives you two free days of Xbox Live Gold and a behind the scenes video delivered in a unique way. Rather than putting the video on a disc, it can be watched through Halo Waypoint after redeeming the code.

Make sure you play the game before watching the behind the scenes video. It’s two hours long and filled with spoilers, according to the descriptor. It wasn’t available for us to watch in Halo: Waypoint pre-launch, so we can’t comment on its quality.

The crown jewel in the Legendary Edition is the hand crafted statue of Noble Team. This limited statue will surely make your friends jealous — it’s made for the true fan and collector. It’s sturdy, well-crafted, and exactly the sort of thing that will make the Halo fanboys cry tears of joy. (ign)

  • Published by: Microsoft
  • Developed by: Bungie Software
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • Release Date: US: September 14, 2010
  • MSRP: $149.99
  • M for Mature: Blood, Violence

Halo: Reach Review

Posted: September 16, 2010 in XBOX 360
Tags: ,

Halo means so much to so many people. This is not extraordinary in the culture of videogames. What’s exceptional is how many different things it means to those players. For me Halo has always been a social experience, with lifelong friendships forged over a shared love of the game. Some hop online to randomly test their merit in competitive matches. Others find themselves lost in the fiction, playing through the campaign alone and then poring over the extended story in books and anime. Still others look to Halo for a creative outlet as level forgers or machinima producers. This range in how we play Halo is a testament to how feature-rich development studio Bungie has made the franchise, and Halo: Reach is the ultimate punctuation on a decade’s work.

This is the end of the Halo road for Bungie — the group is set to move on to a new original game next while Microsoft takes over responsibility for the franchise’s future — and that sense of this being a finale is in Halo: Reach. It shows clear reference to past games, refines well-established game mechanics, adds a few exciting twists, and polishes the rest to a glossy finish. The result is one of the most complete, fully-featured packages you’ll find in gaming.

Little here will surprise the hardcore Halo fan, especially if they were among the millions that took part in the multiplayer beta earlier this year. The approach to making a first-person shooter remains the same as it has in the past for Halo. There’s a co-op friendly campaign filled with the dreaded Covenant aliens, sparkling online competitive multiplayer, the four-player Firefight mode, and lots of flexibility to allow everyone to tweak settings to their liking. If you’ve played a Halo game in the past, you’ll feel instantly at home.

That’s not to say this is just another rehash. There’s plenty of new and exciting content in Halo: Reach and it begins with the main character. Master Chief is out. This time you’ll step into the shoes of Noble 6, a nameless hero for players to project themselves onto. Noble 6 doesn’t even have a defined gender. Thanks to a deep new customization system, you’re free to fit Noble 6’s look to your personality.

Noble 6’s tale begins with an introduction to Planet Reach. This colony is the center of humanity’s military might, and home to the Spartan program that produced Master Chief himself. The events of Halo: Reach take place as a prequel to the main Halo trilogy and — though they take small liberties with the established fiction — help to tell the story of the events that lead up to events of Halos 1 through 3. The war with the Covenant is already raging, and things don’t look good for us humans.

Noble 6 is the rookie member of Noble Team, a squad of Spartans stationed on Reach. You’ll get to know each of the other team members through the course of Halo: Reach as you work with them to complete various missions, but the action always follows Noble 6’s adventure.

The whole shebang will last you about nine or ten hours on your first play through on the Heroic difficulty (less if you’re real good and more if you aren’t). During that time you’ll find a lot of tried and true mainstays of the Halo formula. That means plenty of big battlefields, crazy vehicles, lots of aliens to fight, and tons of weapons to help make the Covenant pay. Though past Halo games were filled with repetitive landscapes and circuitous, difficult to follow plots, Halo: Reach does not suffer from these problems.

This is the most straightforward and enjoyable tale of destruction the franchise has yet to produce. And don’t worry if you haven’t played the other Halo games yet – though Reach will feel a lot deeper and more compelling to longtime Halo fans, it can stand on its own as a self-contained story. The tale starts out simple enough, but it quickly escalates to stunning set pieces before pulling out all the stops. The last third of the game is just one big thrill ride, and the revelations that occur during that part of the game are sure to make any Halo buff go ballistic. The ending in particular left a huge impression on me. I don’t want to spoil anything, but just know that the space combat Bungie used to tease Halo: Reach is only the beginning.

Now, though the Halo formula is intact and there are plenty of wink-and-a-nod references to past games, Reach is a big step forward. Little successful elements of old Halo games are sprinkled here or there while a newfound sensibility in level design and pacing is wrapped around the core. The action is always moving through one combat scenario to the next, with plenty of gameplay and scenario twists to keep things fresh.

The best new addition? Armor abilities. These are an evolution of the equipment found in Halo 3 and drastically change the way you play in their updated form. These temporary but reusable extra abilities add things like sprinting, jet packs, and invincible armor to the franchise for the first time. The result is a faster, more acrobatic game that affords the player more flexibility in how they’d like to approach each fight. Also, jet packs are awesome. How did we go without them this long?

These new features and refined, classic design work in concert well enough that Halo: Reach often meets that gaming ideal of pure immersion — the core components that can remind you that you’re playing a game are a nonentity while you focus on the action at hand. While playing I found myself slipping into that state quite often, only occasionally ripped out by nasty difficulty spikes. Halo: Reach is a tough game on the harder settings — easily the most difficult in the franchise — and it only gets more challenging as you add co-op players thanks to a scaling difficulty.

That sense of immersion is helped along quite a bit by the amazing audio work and the new graphics engine built for Halo: Reach. Marty O’Donnell, the lead sound guy at Bungie, has once again delivered an epic soundtrack that is so good that it elevates the entire game. That’s no small feat.

While that music pummels your ear drums, your eyes get to feast on one gorgeous looking game. The alien vistas and color palette are striking, and the sense of scale is oftentimes off the charts. You’re fighting amidst a war that rages across an entire planet, and Bungie doesn’t let you forget it. Even so, there are times when the epic battles don’t quite feel so incredible thanks to a lack of detail or the occasional framerate stutter while the engine can’t keep up with what’s happening.

It’s difficult to separate out the core components of Halo: Reach because they all sort of blend together into one massive experience. The campaign can be played alone or with up to four-players on a split-screen or online. Likewise, you can play the Firefight mode, a single map test of skill and endurance against waves of Covenant enemies, with a few friends cooperatively. All of those great additions that made it into the campaign? Well they’re here too. This mode was introduced in Halo 3: ODST, but has finally met its promise thanks to online matchmaking and a more robust set of options. One of which is a competitive versus mode where you can compete for points while one or more players take up the side of the Covenant.

Or you can just go all out in a fight against other players by joining the competitive online multiplayer game. Like Firefight, the core concept remains the same as past Halo games while new features, weapons and modes have been added. Armor abilities and tweaked physics make the game that millions have poured hours and hours into feel fresh once again. It doesn’t hurt that the new modes like Headhunter and Invasion are a ton of fun. The format is warmly familiar, but it all feels so new after digging into the competitive game and learning new tricks and skills.

Wrapped around all of this is an addition that Bungie calls player investment. Everything you do — be it play the campaign or complete an online match — earns you credits. Rack up enough and you can unlock customization features to make your Noble 6 look elite, and that look carries through all modes in the game — even cut scenes. Don’t be surprised if you find a goofy, pink-and-blue Noble 6 invading your game like IGN editor-in-chief Hilary Goldstein did. If you make your character look dumb, it’s your own fault.

Likewise, Xbox Live members can take part in daily or weekly challenges created by Bungie with an eye towards compelling players to come back again and again to prove their skills. This, for me, is the kicker. I don’t think I’m going to be able to stop logging on every few days for a new challenge, followed by a little message to a friend taunting them about how I did it faster.

The one aspect of Halo: Reach I found lacking was in the multiplayer map selection. There are 13 total for competitive games, but four of those are either direct copies or retreads of maps from past Halo games. Everything plays quite differently with all of the gameplay tweaks, but I can already see myself looking forward to the first map pack. It’s tough to complain about a lack of content in such a feature rich game, but I was left hoping for more.

That issue is mitigated to some extent by the incredible amount of flexibility built into Halo: Reach. The Forge, where players can lightly edit the competitive maps, is back and now much more user friendly. Most won’t take advantage of that tool, but they will benefit from the new map and game variants that the hardcore create and share with the community.

It’s also incredibly simple to just hop in and edit the rules of the game, both for Firefight and in normal multiplayer games. You can tweak everything from which enemies you face in Firefight to how much damage weapons do, and a whole lot more. Think of a crazy game variant — even one that doesn’t have anything to do with shooting — and you can probably make it and share it with your friends in Halo: Reach. The whole system is incredibly powerful and equally impressive. The only downer is that there is no way to search for a custom game. If a game type isn’t in the predetermined matchmaking hoppers and you don’t have friends online, you’re out of luck.

All told, the multiplayer suite is one of the best ever. The Halo multiplayer game has been expanding since the early days of the original Xbox, and now it’s hit a point where the amount of , flexibility, number of modes, and potential for fun is just out of this world. Very few other games can compete with this level of polish, presentation, and attention to detail. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, don’t forget to hop on to to find extra stats, shared in-game screenshots and movies, and a vibrant community ready to help you extend the life of your game for months and months. (ign)

Published by: Microsoft
Developed by: Bungie Software
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: US: September 14, 2010 , Japan: September 15, 2010
MSRP: $59.99
M for Mature: Blood, Violence

Kinect Product

Microsoft set aside the bulk of its presentation at the Tokyo Game Show to announce several new Kinect titles. Four brand-new titles were shown, all slated for release in 2011.

The first game shown was Haunt, a first-person perspective horror game with a cartoony art style. Players will use a flashlight to point at objects as they explore what looked like a haunted mansion. The game is being developed by famed Parappa the Rappa creator Masaya Matsuura.

Up next was Project Draco, by Phantom Dust creator Yukio Futatsugi. His studio, Grounding Inc., are developing a game that includes dragons and flight. Not much else was revealed about the game except a teaser trailer.

Later in the presentation, Suda 51 of Grasshopper Manufacturetook the stage to announce his new game, Codename D. He described the game as “hardcore, punky, and casual,” and it will not be using guns or swords. This is being made for the hardcore gamer, Suda said. The live-action trailer revealed few details about the gameplay, only showing men dancing around at a carnival-like setting wearing animals masks.

Microsoft also showed off a fourth Kinect title, Dr Kawashima’s Body and Brain Exercises from Namco Bandai, but that game was revealed last week. It will launch in North America and Europe next year.

Tetsuya Mizuguchi later took the stage to reveal a new level fromChild of Eden called “Beauty.” He said Child of Eden won’t make the launch of Kinect this November, but added it’s coming next year and promises to work very hard until Child of Eden is ready to be played.

SEGA later announced Rise of Nightmares. This horror title is aimed at the hardcore audience. The teaser trailer shown contained screaming girls and scary, flashing images.

Last but not least, Capcom announced Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, a revival of the classic game from the original Xbox. Infamously known for its large controller, this new title will use Kinect motion controls. (ign)

  • Published by: Microsoft
  • Developed by: Microsoft Game Studios
  • Genre: Hardware
  • Number of Players: 1-2
  • Release Date: US: November 4, 2010  , Japan: Q4 2010
  • MSRP: $149.99

Radiant Silvergun is generally considered to be one of the best 2D shooters ever made. Released in arcades and on the SEGA Saturn in 1998, it gave players control of seven weapons that are activated by different button combinations. Today during Microsoft’s press conference at the Tokyo Game Show it was announced that a high-definition remake of Radiant Silvergun will arrive on Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) next year.

This will be an XBLA exclusive with support for two players over Xbox Live. The graphics are being improved and you’ll be able to download and share game replays. Both the original Arcade and Saturn modes will be available (Saturn mode adds a storyline to the action).

Look for more info on Radiant Silvergun HD from Tokyo over the next few days. (ign)

  • Published by: Treasure
  • Developed by: Treasure
  • Genre: Shooter
  • Release Date: US: TBA , Japan: TBA 2011
  • RP for Rating Pending
  • Also Available On: Saturn, Arcade

UFC Undisputed 2010 (PSP)

Posted: September 16, 2010 in Playstation 3, PSP, XBOX 360
Tags: , , ,

UFC Undisputed 2010 on PSP is going to be an interesting case study. Here, you have a portable port of a big budget PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 game. The fighters, modes, and options you’d expect from those versions have been carried over to the PSP, and from a broad perspective the transition went smoothly. Still, this version is four months old and missing the polish that made the console games shine. Plus, in reality, if you were the world’s biggest UFC fan, chances are that you’ve already played this game in one of its other incarnations.

However, I can tell you that this game is good.

Sweep the leg!

If you’re just joining us, UFC Undisputed 2010 is THQ’s latest take on the sport that Dana White built. Pick up this UMD (there’s not a downloadable version at the moment) and you’re getting more than 100 fighters, a slew of stadiums, and a bunch of modes. You can square off in exhibition matches and even take on your friends via ad-hoc mode, guide a created fighter through a career, or relive/rewrite a classic UFC bout.

All of that’s great, but how does it play? You figure mixed martial arts is a complicated sport and UFC games have always packed a complicated control scheme to mimic that. The PSP version, of course, has to drop an analog stick and two shoulder buttons out of the console control scheme, and that could easily turn into a disaster. Luckily, it works. You strike and kick with the face buttons and modify those moves with the shoulder buttons while the analog nub clinches, grapples, and transitions you from one mount to another.

Of course, moving with the D-Pad and then having to drop your thumb to the analog nub for moves is a bit of a pain, but it doesn’t throw off the pacing of fights. The bouts seem balanced and I’ve actually been using the ground game and takedown system a lot more than I did in the console versions. This boiled down control scheme actually makes it easier to do more in the Octagon. I feel like I have a handle on the action — for the most part. I still find myself flicking the stick like a madman to try and get out of holds or regain control of the situation, but the game seems like it gives me a chance to figure everything out. It feels good.

Put in the work here so you don't get KO'd.

Once I got the hang of the controls, I started taking in the visuals of UFC Undisputed 2010 on the PSP. I was pleasantly surprised by the how good the game looks. UFC Undisputed 2010’s defining characteristic on the other platforms is how realistic it looks, and that visual love is carried over here as best it can be. Obviously, the PSP game isn’t as slick or detailed as the console counterparts, but the fighters do look good. They move realistically, bloody wounds will pop up, and you’ll have no trouble identifying your favorite fighter from a glance at the screen.

In motion, things can be a bit less impressive. Punches and grapples will occasionally clip through the opponent, and the presentation isn’t really up to snuff. The screen goes black and white when you’ve dazed a fighter, but the sound drops out and it becomes too quiet. The knockout post-round and post-match replays are super-quick flashes of ho-hum moments, and I’ve had matches end in flash KOs where the opponent didn’t fall down — I just hit him in the jaw and the bell rang.

What made the other versions of UFC rock was the TV-style presentation. Name bars and stats pop up on the PSP sporting the colors and fonts you know from the real show, but there’s no announcing and the fights feel a bit flat without Joe Rogan screaming in your ear. The crowd noise isn’t very reactive and it doesn’t sell the feel of the main event. On top of that, the loads are a bit long here. They’re not terrible, but hopping between matches and options screens will take some time — even with the optional install.

They look pretty good, right?

If you’re looking for features, you’re getting your fair share here inUFC Undisputed 2010 (they are all exactly the same as the stuff we saw in the other versions), but I find most of them too similar. Exhibition lets you pick a fighter and fight someone, ad-hoc lets you square off against a local friend, Title mode lets you chase a championship in a series of fights, and then Title Defense mode lets you defend the belt you just won. That’s all kind of the same, you know?

Shaking things up are Ultimate Fights Mode and Career Mode. Ultimate Fights gives you 15 classic bouts and asks you to relive them or rewrite them. You pick a competitor and get a series of objectives (recover from a knockdown, win by decision, etc.) that you need to complete in the upcoming fight. Pull them off and you get rewarded (there is plenty to unlock in this game in the way of clothes, trading cards, and so on); fail, and you get chastised by the sexy UFC Octagon girls. If you’re a fan, there’s some appeal to this mode, but if you don’t remember the matches it doesn’t bring much to the table.

Career on the other hand brings a lot no matter your level of UFC knowledge. You’ll create a character (it’s basic but functional) and start off as an amateur fighter. Hone your skills, go pro, and soon you’ll accept an offer from Dana White and become part of the UFC. You’ll work your way up the ladder of success, but the real work is done in between bouts as you train (improving your strength, speed, and cardio), spar (improving your attributes), and accept camp invites (allowing you to learn new moves).

Stop! Stop! He's already dead.

The system’s complicated and deep — if you want a full breakdown, check out this 360 preview and imagine it’s on the PSP because it basically is — and it is cool to build a fighter from nothing to something that fits your specific play style. The trouble is, the mode is pretty repetitive. You’re going to get used to seeing those menu screens over and over again, and there isn’t much variation throughout the years of your career. You never look any older, you’re occasionally interrupted by new sponsors, and so on. (ign)

Published by: THQ
Developed by: Yuke’s Media Creations
Genre: Fighting
Number of Players: 1-2
Release Date: US: September 7, 2010
MSRP: $39.99
T for Teen: Blood, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence
Also Available On: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Also known as: UFC 2010

It’s been just two weeks since Mafia II stormed stores across the nation, but it’s already time for its first batch of multiplatform downloadable content. Mafia II: Jimmy’s Vendetta picks up the story of — you guessed it — Jimmy, a wise guy who used to be a go-to guy but was double crossed and tossed into jail. If you played the PlayStation 3 exclusive “Betrayal of Jimmy,” this picks up where that left off. If you didn’t, you don’t have to sweat it as the missions you’re about to embark on aren’t really story-driven.

Whereas the game you know from the Mafia II disc follows the story of Vito and his best friend Joe, Jimmy’s Vendetta is a $9.99 download that packs 30 arcade-style missions for you to jump into from the game’s main menu. What’s an arcade mission in the Mafia world? Well, you’ll roll up to a floating icon, accept the mission, and a timer starts. You have to finish the job before the timer ends, and as you fly around Empire Bay blowing dudes away, you’ll bank points for headshots, kills, speeding, and more. Complete the quest, and all that action is boiled down into a score and letter ranking.

There’s a bit of story to this — an opening cutscene recaps the basics of who Jimmy is and each mission begins with a paragraph about why you’re about to do what you’re doing, but for the most part these tasks are bite-sized versions of the Mafia II gameplay. That’s all you need to know. Drive over there and kill a bunch of fur thieves, steal this certain car and get it to the docks, and blow up these marked gas trucks.

This focus on gameplay is a nice change of pace as the missions in Vito’s Mafia II story almost seemed like filler between cutscenes. When I was playing as Vito, I was trying to polish off a section of his life and get to the next bit of story. In Jimmy’s world, the missions are the sole focus and I found myself fooling around a bit more — I run from police rather than trying to play it straight, I fire my guns into crowds of people, and I crash rides just for the hell of it. This feels more sandboxy than the “real” Mafia II game because the missions are so short here you don’t have to worry about screwing something up late in the game and getting stuck with a terrible checkpoint.

I just play here.

That’s not to say Jimmy’s Vendetta is perfect. The majority of the issues I had with Mafia II are still here: it’s a run-of-the-mill third-person shooter. The animations are wooden, the fist fighting is way too simple, the aiming with weapons isn’t satisfying, and you only have one or two missions available on your map at anytime so it isn’t really a world where you can do whatever you want. Making matters worse is that I usually found the two available missions spread out on opposite sides of the map. I’d finish one and then have to drive across the whole of the map to get another. If you ask me, this is a cheap way to make the missions longer and make it seem like you’re getting more out of this download. It makes some of the quests boring or frustrating (there’s nothing worse than driving three-fourths of the way there and killing yourself in a car accident).

Get out.

Get out.

The missions themselves run the gamut from being an enjoyable breeze to being a complete bitch. It is cool to drive up, climb out, shotgun two guys, and complete the mission, but things can get tough. The difficulty spikes are rare, but I found myself shouting obscenities at the TV more than once as seven Irishmen would surround me out of the blue or my car would get flipped just as I saw the finish line in a mission. Then, there are the missions where the game’s own bonehead AI steps up. In one, I had to destroy a couple of gas stations. As I pulled up to both of these places, the enemies began firing from the other side of the gas pumps, blew the place up on their own, and I got the credit. (ign)

  • Published by: 2K Games

  • Developed by: 2K Czech

  • Genre: Action

  • Release Date: US: September 7, 2010

  • MSRP: $9.99

  • M for Mature: Blood, Intense Violence Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Alcohol

  • Also Available On: Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3