E3 2013: Sony’s PS4 KO’s Microsoft’s Xbox One

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by Angelo Baute

PS4_details3In one simple move, Sony had gamers around the world cheering “PS4! PS4! PS4!”

Near the end of  their E3 press conference last night, Sony let loose the dogs of the console war with a bevy of announcements aimed directly against Microsoft and their next-gen business model. To sum things up, Sony believes in the current console business model by supporting the used games market. When gamers buy a PS4 game, they can trade-in it in, sell or lend it to someone else, or keep it forever. And gamers won’t need an online connection to check-in every 24-hours to play a single player game.

There hasn’t been quite a direct attack to another competitor like this in E3 in recent memory. Sony didn’t just stop at the press conference. They took the vitriol straight to the internet, releasing this sarcastic little video on YouTube soon after the announcement.

What made Sony’s salvo against Microsoft even more stinging was the lackluster reception to Microsoft’s own press conference. Sure, fans of Halo are souped and everyone was impressed with Titanfall. But Sony’s  announcement was met with near universal and thunderous applause, both from the live audience and online.

Did Sony just win the console war even before it began? Their consumer-friendly approach has a ton of support, which really puts them ahead of game against Microsoft. As of now, it’s the Sony fanboys who are cheering the loudest and claiming victory at this year’s E3.

sony-microsoft-e3-gif

Ouch!

 

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Xbox Dun: Why Microsoft’s New Console Reveal Nearly Put Me to Sleep

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by Angelo Baute

Xbox One - Title

After months of speculation and weeks spent in anticipation for May 21st, Microsoft finally revealed their next-gen console, dubbed “Xbox One.” Unfortunately for this gamer, there were few, if any, worthy disclosures that kept me interested.

First, there was the reveal of the next-gen console’s name. Would it be the obvious “Xbox 720?” Or recently rumored “Xbox Infinity?” After Don Mattrick revealed the new moniker, I nodded in silent approval. My inner Don Draper thought it was simple, iconic, and eliminated what was essentially an arbitrarily assigned number. And don’t think the folks at marketing weren’t aware of of the “subtle” hint of where they believe the Xbox belongs in the console pecking order.

Afterwards, the conference shockingly became very stale. I wasn’t waxing poetic with this article’s headline; I really had a hard time staying awake throughout the whole presentation. Every subsequent announcement didn’t arouse any sensations of surprise or curiosity. The Xbox One will be an all-in-one entertainment hub; well, the recent changes to the Xbox Dashboard has already betrayed Microsoft’s next-gen strategy. Xbox One will feature Kinect-driven controls; well, that’s hardly a surprise. Xbox One will have a new Forza game; that much was obvious. Xbox One will allow you to watch ESPN and the NFL; you can watch ESPN now on the 360 and I’m not a football fan. Microsoft partnered with EA for their new lineup of sports games; these games are annual rehashes. It seemed like Microsoft really had nothing bold and new up their sleeve for the Xbox One.

It's ironic how a device named "One" has its name displayed four times. Was it so we don't forget its difficult to remember name?

It’s ironic how a device named “One” has its name displayed four times. Was it so we don’t forget its difficult to remember name?

The few things that weren’t as predictable fell resoundingly flat. I don’t think people were clamoring for an upcoming live-action series of Halo (a close friend of mine, a huge Halo fan, called the announcement “a facepalm”), and as a non-fan of the series, I’m certainly not interested. Quantum Break could have been one of those “I have no idea what it’s about but it certainly looks interesting” moments, but it was too vague to capture any lingering interest (plus mixing live-action videos with games feels so outdated). And was it ever really a surprise that Call of Duty: Ghosts will be part of the next-gen consoles? Despite the marketing rhetoric, Infinity Ward showed nothing to prove that it’s not just this year’s installment with an updated engine (which wasn’t as impressive as DICE’s Frostbite 3.0 for Battlefield 4).

Also not surprising was the deafening silence abou the rumors of an “always online” feature. I’m sure Microsoft wanted a controversy-free reveal, but the Xbox One’s DVR capability all but confirms it.

Did I like anything out of the Xbox One reveal? Yeah, but what I liked didn’t exceed my expectations either. According to the specs they provided, the Xbox One will be comparable to the PS4. I wasn’t expecting Microsoft to come out with an inferior console, but it is comforting to know that I won’t be picking up the lesser of the two if I decide to pick one up. Microsoft announced the Xbox One will arrive “later this year.” I’m no seer with a crystal ball, but I’m probably not alone in thinking it will be available in stores just in time for the crazy holiday season.

This is what you'll wait in line for hours in the cold.

This is what you’ll wait in line for hours in the cold.

It was certainly disappointing Microsoft barely scratched the surface of the new console’s gaming capabilities. From a marketing point of view, E3 is on the horizon and it makes sense to focus on what interests gamers at the year’s biggest gaming event. Today was about reaching out to everyone else, potentially increasing their market share beyond the realm of gaming. Unfortunately, that meant boring me with their hour long presentation. Hopefully there will be more information about additional games, console exclusives, technical capabilities, and other miscellaneous gaming information over the upcoming weeks leading up to E3. June 10 can’t arrive soon enough.

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Retro Revisits: Quattro Adventure

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quattro

By Christine Melgarejo

The NES era was a golden age for me as a kid; we had a ton of games, from big hits like Zelda and Ninja Gaiden to little known ones like Faxanadu and Archon. But one of my favorite cartridges to pop into the system was my Quattro Adventure 4-in-1 set. Quattro made a few different combo NES catridges, but this was the only one I owned and frankly, I loved it. Created by Codemasters, it gave you some interesting options to play: Boomerang Kid, Super Robin Hood, Treasue Island Dizzy and Linus Spacehead. I know, all of those titles sounds awesome.

I’ll be honest, none of these games did much in helping me learn patience and calm as a child. Each were incredibly difficult but yet something drew me to play them over and over for as far as I could progress in them.

Read More »

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ChronoBlade Could Be the Best Facebook Game to Date

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by Christine Melgarejo

Facebook games; yuck. That’s usually my first reaction to the thought of things like Farmville or that terrible Walking Dead abomination of a game that plagues my social network. There’s no such thing as an actual good Facebook game, right?  Not quite.

ChronoBlade put my thoughts on that to rest. It’s one of the coolest Facebook games I’ve seen to date and as a fan of action role playing games in general, it sucked me in pretty quick. Your options are still a little bare bones, with only two different classes of warriors at the moment; Aurok and Lophi. Aurok is the equivalent of say, Diablo’s barbarian. Big, strong, and intimidating. He relies on brute strength and is a heck of a lot of fun to play. Lophi is for the player who wants something a little less direct combat involved, though she still does pack a punch. The combat feels perfect for the game, a combination of fighter meets dungeon crawler combat.

Aurok_Screengrab_01

And like a dungeon crawler, you’ll find the ability to level up and strengthen your character, make use of drops, and progress through a variety of levels and enemies.

There are plans for future classes with their own skill sets, which I look forward to, and considering the game is only in beta, two options are great for now. Single player is available for those who like to travel on their own (I tend to be a bigger fan of that, personally, being able to jump on whenever I’d like) but PvP and co-op multiplayer are also promised, if you want to get your social gaming on.

The cartoonish graphics are crisp and impressive for a browser based game, looking great without a need to download any big file to your computer. If everything run as smooth at launch as it does now, this will definitely be the “it” Facebook game to check out. You can’t do much better for a free of charge browser game.

Right now, it is still in beta, but potential players can sign up for the beta test here: http://www.chronoblade.com/beta/

Now might be the time to really check it out, before release. Caution though: you might get hopelessly hooked.

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Hands-On With the SimCity Beta

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By Christine Melgarejo

I lucked out this past weekend, being at a friend’s place where he had access to the SimCity beta for the new iteration of the franchise, due out March 5th. The beta test only allows you an hour of gameplay, setting you on a timer before forcing you to quit out and start all over again, if you truly wish. I had hopped on the beta after my friend told me to “give it a try,” thinking I’d only be on it for 5 minutes to sort of mindlessly peruse the menu before going, “yeah, that’s cool.” Instead, I played the entire allotted time, going back and forth with my friend as we both contributed to our city in a variety of hilarious and awesome ways.

simcity

The menus took me a moment to get used to, with a little guidance from my friend who had already played through a couple of hours of cities. There seems to be a lot going on when you look at that bottom task bar, but really it is all very intuitive. You’ve got your basic options for roads and zoning (industrial, commercial and residential), for adding buildings in a variety of services and areas (schools, medical clinics, fire houses, with a lot being unavailable for the beta) and for placing various utilities like a water tower or waste disposal center.

When you zone, buildings start to crop up on their own. Our residential area grew with low cost housing, little moving trucks driving down the road to move in new families. You got to see the thoughts of various residents, whether they were happy to be receiving hot water or broke an arm and needed to go to the hospital. Over time in a longer game, you can place buildings, parks, and other things in a neighborhood that will drive up the value, causing more expensive houses and buildings to be built.

You can also look at a variety of 3D graphs of what is going on in your city, from population density to finances to, well, a lot of neat things that were really fun to check out. It lets you get into more of the nitty gritty of the game.

There are also goals you can take on to try and achieve, which open up the ability to build different buildings or provide different services for the city. Unfortunately, you couldn’t actually complete any in the beta version. But I did get a taste of the kinds of things expected (get X amount of people into parks over Y amount of days, etc.).

Because of the lack of access to a variety of parts of the game, there was only so much we could do within the hour. Still, I really enjoyed what I saw on the surface level, with knowledge from Maxis that the later game gets much harder. I’m looking forward to that challenge. And if my friend and I had as much fun as we did playing side by side, I can’t wait to see how it’ll be when we play multiplayer online.

Of course, with 10 minutes to go and our recently unlocked ability to create tornadoes, we spent our last minutes the way anyone would: completely destroying the city we built. It was with a morbid glee we watched car after car get sucked up into the winds of each tornado, houses get torn apart. There’s something to be said for completely obliterating something you created.

tornado

Other aspects of the game that stood out were the beautiful graphics (my god, those cities are pretty at night!) and the music. I was in love with the ambient music as we molded roads and dropped down trees. It really stood out and was quite beautiful and fitting.

I’m really looking forward to SimCity. I know the biggest concern for many is the DRM issue of always having to be online to play and while I agree that this is a practice that needs to be done away with, I won’t boycott a game I really want to play over it. and I REALLY want to play this game. I foresee plenty of late nights creating Christine-opolis!

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Remake of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Coming to WiiU in the Fall

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By Christine Melgarejo

I’m just going to say it: I’m excited. Well, I’m excited for those of you who own a WiiU (or are looking to make that future purchase). Because it has been announced that a remake of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is coming to WiiU this fall. As it is my favorite of all the Zelda games, by far, my heart leaped a little in my chest. Not only will it be redone in HD but will get a graphic overhaul as well.

Players will get an option to play the game entirely on  the GamePad. Nintendo also boasted other plans to “tune up” the original experience, though left it a mystery as to what that exactly means. There’s been a few different snapshots of the in game engine and the updated look. Check out how great this game is going to look:

 

wiiuwindwaker

A prettier, newer version of The Wind Waker! If I had more of a reason to get a WiiU than that, I’d jump on it. Instead, I’ll have to live vicariously through future “Let’s Play”s on Youtube, unless Nintendo can convince me otherwise between then and now.

 

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Sneak, Stab, It’s All in the Mind!

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by Heinreich T. Sioson

No, this has nothing to do with Parappa the Rapper other than my play on the quote by Chop Chop Master Onion.it has to do with stealth games and my love for them!

My first foray into the stealth/action genre came with a game you’ll all know - Metal Gear Solid for the original PS1.  As an exclusively action gamer at the time, it took me some time to get used to the fact that running-and-gunning alone wasn’t enough to keep me alive.  I had to be clever, creative, and cunning to survive and I fell in love with the game, the franchise, and the concept as a whole.  Of all the MGS games, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was my favorite of the bunch due to the fact that I had to make use of the environment to hide using a multitude of camouflage suits.

video game reviewsSince then, I have made it my mission to play as many in that genre as possible.  As much as I enjoyed MGS4, I didn’t find the stealth aspect once touted as the cornerstone of the series to be all that compelling.  It took a number of years before I could find something as equally gratifying as MGS3; and when I did, it came as a flood.

First was Deus Ex Human: Human Revolution.  While gameplay is not exclusive to stealthily moving around, it was an option and the open environment allowed several clever, sneaky approaches.  My favorite moment was hiding in a vent above a room for a highly placed politico so that I can subdue him and steal information.  The cover system allowed for some cool traversal of the environment in 3rd/1st-person.

Next came the critically-acclaimed Dishonored.  This game, more so than the latter, proved stealth can make its home in a larger open-world environment.  I loved the moments where I would look around and think, “Maybe I can approach my target from that rooftop.”  That “maybe” turned into a reality more often than not as I teleported to it and made my way through the city.  Being able to take over a person or animal’s mind allowed for even more creative ways to get where I needed to go.  There were so many avenues to approach a mission that it was mind-boggling.

Mark of the NinjaBut Dishonored would be trumped in the stealth department by the PC/XBLA game, Mark of the Ninja (sorry PS3 fans!  This breaks my heart to say since I’m mostly a PS3 gamer).  This is by far my favorite stealth action game of this generation.  If you’re a fan of the genre and ninjas, I can think of no other game that makes you feel more like a badass ninja than this.  Every single aspect of sneaking and skulking around in silence, as well as assassinating like a ninja, is serviced so well that you will find every reason to play Mark of the Ninja.  Even now as I write this, I’m thinking about speed-running the entire game; the FIRST TIME I’ve ever considered such an idea.

Are you big stealth/action gamer like I am?  Let me know!

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Unfortunately Underrated Games: Condemned: Criminal Origins

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CondemnedBy Christine Melgarejo

You guys know me and my love for horror games by now. And Condemned: Criminal Origins was one of those games I discovered a little late, as I was a late 360 owner. So while this game came out back in 2005, the first time I had ever picked it up was 2008. It was a wild ride for me and one that held one of my scariest video game moments, ever. And I feel as though overall, it’s pretty underrated.

OK, so when Condemned: Criminal Origins came out, it wasn’t necessarily underrated by critics, per say. It actually did fairly well, with a score of 83% for the Xbox 360 version. Not bad by any means. But I remember when it came out, the talk about it came and went with its release date. It never had any staying power and most people I had spoken to had never even played it. But I wanted to know what Condemned was all about, now that I had a shiny new 360.

I’m glad I took the time to try it out, given it was “old” already. Condemned’s set up is an FBI agent (that’s you) who is on the trail of a few different serial killers. That is, until he discovers that they are being killed by someone else using their own methods.  You travel through the fictional city of Metro, trying to find this Serial Killer X, all while fighting off the citizens who seem to be going crazy because of some unknown force.

What made the game so scary wasn’t just the idea of tracking down a serial killer, but it was the environments you traversed through.  Subway tunnels, condemned buildings and even an abandoned department store were all fair game for taking on crazy citizens and tracking down Serial Killer X. In fact, the department store was easily the scariest part of the game for me. Walking through cramped corridors filled with mannequins, you were never sure which were truly plastic and which were enemies, poised and waiting for their moment to strike. I had one moment where I walked well past a group of mannequins, only to turn around and find an enemy right in my face. I think it’s one of the rare times I let out an audible gasp (I’m the silent fear type, usually).

Then, there was also this part:

 

 

 

It also all culminates in a major choice you have to make at the end of the game, which really is telling of where you stand in all of the madness.

Condemned is worth it, for any real horror fan. If you haven’t played it, you should. It might not hold up to all your pretty graphics of 2013 and beyond, but it’ll still give you a scare, I promise.

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My Problems With Blaming Violence on Video Games

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video game violenceLet me say, I was horrified and saddened by the massacre that occurred in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.  It should not have happened and there is certainly a lot of blame to go around.  But yet again video games have been hit with a spotlight in light of this tragedy, this time by Senator Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia.  He has introduced a bill to study the effects of video games on children.  Some of the things the bill wishes to accomplish is the “…investigation of the connection between violent video games and violent video programming and harmful effects on children” and “…whether violent video games/programming cause kids to act aggressively or otherwise hurt their well-being, and whether that effect is distinguishable from other types of media.”

Sigh.

Here are my problems with singling out video games.

  1. The barrier to entry is high.  The cheapest game console on the market right now is the Wii, and it can run somewhere around $130.  A new Xbox 360 runs around $200 and the PS3 is $270.  And games run the gamut from $20-$60 retail.  What child can afford one of these systems who has not already taken on their own responsibilities and has not already learned the difference between what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t?  Even if someone earns minimum wage (lowest, $5.15/hour in Wyoming ; highest, $9.04 in Washington), it would take a person a week or two of hard work to save up for a console and one game.  Compare these numbers with how much books and movies costs and it’s a wash; and these two are much easier to access.
  2. Parental controls exist on consoles.  Every current-gen system has one!  Hell, even the Wii – which one can argue is the most child-friendly of the bunch – has a parental control system that can be set up by the parents the moment they turn the system on.  The problem is, very few take the time to set it up.  The system can be set to prevent children from playing games beyond what is allowed by the parental controls.  Even if your child was able to reset it, you can always call customer service to assist you in this regard.
  3. Using technology to babysit.  Have some bloody wherewithal, parents.  Don’t just sit your kids in front of a TV and/or game console and leave them to their own devices.  Keep yourself informed as to what they’re watching, what games they’re playing.  You would most likely ask them what kind of friends they hang out with if you suspect they were a bad influence on your kid; what’s the difference with the games they play?  And bad friends are more likely to influence your kids worse than video games because they are more tangible, they can actively goad and taunt your children into doing things that are bad.  Video games are are not nearly as tangible; in the backs of their mind kids understand that.

And thus ends my rant.  There are other arguments against blaming video games that I haven’t made but I leave that to you guys.

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2013 Games I’m Looking Forward To

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by Christine Melgarejo

 

2012 is almost over and as long as we survive the Mayan apocalypse today, we’ve got a whole new year of gaming to look forward to. There are plenty of games coming out in 2013 that we’ve all been waiting a long time for, many which were due this year and were delayed. Others were always  meant for their 2013 glory. The following are the ones I’m most looking forward to:

deadspace3Dead Space 3

Although I’m only a little more than halfway through 2, admittedly, I thoroughly enjoyed 1 and am looking forward to where Isaac’s journey brings us next.  Besides, I’m all about scary games and while one could argue that there are scarier games than the Dead Space series, it’s still given me quite a few good jumps so I’d like to see what they have coming next.

 

 

Tomb Raidertombraider

I’m a gamer who missed a big chunk of the Tomb Raider series. Crazy, I know. They always appealed to me, but at the same time, it wasn’t enough for me to want to run out and buy them. This newer addition looks amazing. It’s an origin story of Lara Croft, so for someone like me, it’s a great place to jump in. I also get dazzled by pretty graphics, what can I say.  My feminine penchant for pretty things carries over into video games.

 

 

starcraft2Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm

I’m one of those people who waited with baited breath for Starcraft II to come out, after all those years. I’m also one of those people that dropped $100 on the collector’s edition (which takes up far too much space in one of my shelves under my T.V.). And even though I had some issues with the story of Wings of Liberty, I’m not going to lie; I’m still hooked. And maybe I’m one of the few people who plays Starcraft for the story over the multiplayer, but I really want to see where it heads next.

 

bioshockBioshock: Infinite

I would be stupid if I wasn’t excited for this game. The first Bioshock, to me, is a masterpiece. The second is a good deal of fun with a strong story, though wasn’t quite as up there as the first.  But because Ken Levine is back as lead designer, I have a lot of faith in Infinite. The game is going to have a “1999″ mode, where decisions are going to have such a great impact on the game that it could possibly make the game’s end unattainable, causing a player to have to go back to a past save and try again.  That sounds like a gameplay mode I want to delve into.

 

thelastofusThe Last of Us

The Last of Us is the sole reason why I want a PS3. It’s the last of this gen’s consoles that I haven’t obtained and The Last of Us is the driving force, pushing me to get it. Just from the gameplay that was shown at E3, I was intrigued.  Post-apocalyptic awesomeness from Naughty Dog? To me that means great gameplay and a great story that I’m interested in seeing unravel.

 

 

remembermeRemember Me

Bad ass female protagonist? Check. Manipulation of memories? Check. Interesting sci-fi plot and atmosphere? Check.  From what little we’ve seen of Remember Me, I look forward to what Capcom might bring to us with this upcoming May release. I’ve heard plenty of arguments that it might end up just being another God of War/Castlevania combat style game with little substance, but I like to give things the benefit of the doubt when we don’t have much to go on just yet.

 

 

watchdogsWatch Dogs

I’ve placed Watch Dogs last as we have no confirmation of its release in 2013, but there’s the possibility that it may be released some time later in the year.  Hacking, surveillance  and technological warfare? Sounds cool to me. Plus, the gameplay shown was just downright pretty. Wrap it all up in this mysterious cloak of who are these characters and what is going in this alternate reality city of Chicago and I’m following this game closely.

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