Thursday, May 31, 2012

Top Four Most Anticipated Video Games (Fall 2012)

#4 Madden 13 - In recent years, Madden has been trending in a downward spiral, releasing a particularly lack luster effort last August. Madden 12 marked the first Madden that I did not buy since I became a madden fan pre-Xbox 360/PS3. Why will Madden 13 be better? Developer EA Tiburon seems to finally realize that they’ve dropped the ball. A greater effort is being made in the game play as well as the presentation. There will be two new announcers in the booth and they were actually recorded together, sounding more natural than the robotic Chris Collinsworth, who color-commentated the last few games. Even if EA’s hard work doesn’t pay off, this game can’t possibly be worse than its predecessor.
#3 Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - I’m excited for Black Ops 2 for the same reasons as the upcoming Madden. Call of Duty has become stagnant. Gamers unanimously agree that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is by far the best installment in the franchise. Since CoD 4, each annual release has been almost the same thing with little to keep things fresh. Like Madden 12, last years Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was the first ever CoD that I didn’t buy since the franchise’s birth. I have not been alone in clamoring for changes to the CoD franchise and Black Ops 2 is bringing changes. Part of the game will be taking place during the Cold War in the 1980’s. The rest of the campaign and all of the multiplayer will be in a future Cold War in 2025. So far the campaign appears to be as over-the-top as ever, but there seems to be signs of evolution as well. There will be several times during the campaign where players will be forced to choose which mission to go to next while those that they do not pick go un-played. The decisions you make impact aspects of the story including who lives and dies. The missions will also allow players to run through the entire mission commanding troops and drones from a birds eye view, hopping into a drone, or playing as a soldier on the ground. Players will also be able to switch to whoever they want whenever they want. This will add replayability to the campaign for the first time in a long time. Little has been revealed about the multiplayer, but there are sure to be changes there, too; hopefully significant ones.
#2 Assassin’s Creed III - After the success of Assassin’s Creed II, the franchise began releasing games annually (Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed Revelations). Unfortunately, annual releases are rarely a good thing for gamers since the short development times oftentimes lead to games that aren’t particularly polished or innovative (see Call of Duty and Madden) and that proved to be true with Assassin’s Creed as well. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood felt like ACII, but somehow not as good. Assassin’s Creed Revelation was supposed to provide fans with answers, but left them with more questions instead. For the first time since the release of ACII, ACIII will bring a lot of change to the series. Ezio Auditore, the main character in the last three Assassin’s Creed installments, is gone; his story has been told. The franchise is abandoning more than just one of the best characters in video game history, but Europe, the Middle East, and all of its characters that don’t play into the modern day story line as well. Players will now be exploring colonial America and will be spending the majority of their time during the American Revolution playing as a half Native American, half British assassin. Although there will be some large cities to use all playgrounds (Philadelphia, Boston, etc.), there won’t be anything like the colossal cities featured in past games. Instead, the wilderness will become a significant part of the game. Trees will be a new way of transportation. Players will have to fend for themselves out in the wilderness, hunting animals for food. Another first for the series is weather; there will actually be seasons. Snow will dramatically slow players down. More so than in the past, players will have to really think about their surrounds both before and during combat. The combat itself will receive various changes, providing more options, and hopefully, simply be better. Ubisoft took some big risks by implementing such huge changes to the setting; will they backfire?
#1 Borderlands 2 - The original Borderlands was phenomenally fun; it earned game of the year awards for a reason. Borderlands 2 will bring gamers back to the planet of Pandora. Four new character classes will be playable as well as a fifth class that will be downloadable sometime post-launch. However, the original four playable characters and other characters from the first game, will make appearances, too. Borderlands was known as a game where players fought a ton of enemies, grabbed an incredible amount of loot, fired thousands of different weapons, and didn’t experience much of a story. Borderlands 2 has set out to change some things. Players will encounter a much greater variety of enemies and more of them. There are thousands of more weapons and each weapon manufacturer feels and plays very different, no longer being just a name. Gearbox is actually valuing story. The antagonist of the game is Handsome Jack (the first game didn’t really have a bad guy), owner of weapons manufacturer Hyperion. He is taking over Pandora in pursuit of alien technology and riches. There will be tons more dialogue as well as parts in-game that serve as cutscenes while keeping players in the game. The graphics are better, there is even more color, and the game brings a much greater variety of environments for players to explore (the first game was mostly, but not exclusively, a desert wasteland). Each new character appears to be a fresh, evolved version of their predecessors. Instead of a berzerker that uses both his fists to pound enemies into submission when filled with an animalistic rage, there is now a gunzerker that has the ability to dual-wield any two weapons (even rocket launches) and unload a significant amount of punishment on his foes. There is a siren class again, but instead of temporarily becoming invisible and very fast (phasewalk), she can now immobilize, suspending them in the air and leaving them vulnerable to attack (phaselock). Each characters skill will also be highly customizable, completely changing the integrity of what the skill is. Claptrap will be making a comeback and is likely to provide more lovable moments to those who adore him, and more rage to those who hate him (or love to hate him). And of course there will be loads or more sweet, sweet loot. Borderlands 2 will be bigger, better, more customizable, and (hopefully) more fun than the previous installment. This is the game that the original Borderlands was supposed to be and that game was pretty damn good.
Missed The Cut - Halo 4 - Players return to Master Chief for the first time in years and much has changed, but Bungie is no longer at the reins and this sequel almost feels forced.

Top Four (Worst) Video Game Worlds To Live In

#4 Pikmen (Wherever You Crash Land/Live) - Would you want to live in a world where everything is giant and nothing is friendly except for tiny, colorful, noseless people that do whatever you tell them to, and you live in constant fear of being killed by some strange creature? Or would you like to be one of those puny people, devoting your life to a stranger dressed as an astronaut, and being put into harm’s way nearly 24/7? No. No you wouldn’t.
#3 Any Superhero Game Ever (Any Superhero World Ever) - If there are superheroes, then there are super villains, too. Sure Batman, Spiderman, and the rest of the spandex clad, overly muscled men and women out there have saved a lot of innocent people over the years, but a lot of civilians have died too. If you are a “damsel in distress” you are as likely to be killed as you are to be saved. Either way, there is always going to be crazy stuff going on in the world and there will always be a new villain waiting to run amuck as soon as the last one is tossed into a high security prison somewhere, assuming they don’t escape from said prison.
#2 Mass Effect (The Universe) - The galaxy is at war and if you haven’t personally been decimated by the Reapers, then someone you know has. All organic life (and some synthetic life) is throwing everything it has in one last ditch effort, suicide mission style assault to save everyone and rid themselves of the Reapers. It all comes down to the decision made by one man/women, Commander Shepard. They decide whether to control the Reapers and send them away, destroy all inorganic life forever, or permanently blend all inorganic and organic life into sentient, cyborg-like beings. No matter which option they choose, the mass relays (the way everyone travels through the galaxy) will be destroyed, millions of people will be stranded, and millions more will die. The worst part? Some stranger gets to decide your future and you have no say whatsoever. Maybe if Shepard had more choices *wink wink, then maybe things wouldn’t be so bleak. 
#1 Diablo (Sanctuary) - Despite the name “Sanctuary” this Earth-like world is all but peaceful. Not long after its creation, its people had their magical abilities taken away by the powers of heaven and hell. Then angels and demons fought over Sanctuary for the loyalty of its people. Eventually Diablo and his brothers were banished from hell and chose to ravage Sanctuary. Years after they were captured and locked away in soul stones, Diablo was released again, wrecking havoc on everything in his path. A few years later and Diablo was at it again, releasing his brothers along the way. Fast forward two decades and Sanctuary was once again under attack by the likes of hell with humanity’s existence at stake. While in Sanctuary you’d likely be living in a little town with the armies of hell in your backyard. If you think that sounds crappy, imagine all of that happening while living in Sanctuary’s equivalent to the Middle Ages. Diablo; fun to play not to live.
Missed The Cut - Rampage (Earth) - It would indeed be quite terrible to live in a world where every major city is constantly being attacked by giant lizards, apes, and rats.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Top Four Best Video Game Worlds To Live In

#4 Rock Band (Earth) - Love music? Then you’d love living in the Rock Band version of Earth. The world would be riddled with amazing bands that would be touring all the time.  Your itunes library would never suffer from a shortage of new music, ever. Plus, nothing else would really change and Earth is already pretty nice.

#3 PaRappa the Rapper (Whatever World It Is That PaRappa Lives In) - Going along similar lines as Rock Band, PaRappa’s world would bring in a reign of music. Singing and rapping would make the mundane things in life, like taking your driving test, a whole lot more fun. It would also be school, yet slightly awkward, to get to hangout with talking dogs, bears, and onion-people. Life would never be boring.

#2 Mass Effect [If The Reapers Didn’t Exist] (The Universe) - With all organic life no longer in danger, life would be pretty sweet. Flying around the galaxy and discovering new worlds would be incredible. No, it would be so unbelievably enjoyable that a new word would have to be invented to describe it. As long as you don’t find yourself being chased by space pirates or looking down the barrel of a shotgun held by a mercenary, you’d be fine.

#1 Super Mario (Mushroom Kingdom) - Think about it, unless you are an Italian plumber (and who is?), princess, or minion of a dimwitted dinosaur-turtle king, you would never be in danger. The kingdom is colorful and the clouds smile at you. How could you have a bad day racing a go-cart against a gorilla? Life would be pretty easy while spending the majority of your time playing soccer with turtles, baseball with chimps, and cruising around town on the back of a fun-loving, egg-laying dinosaur. Sounds pretty sweet to me.

Missed The Cut - Your Favorite Video Game World - At first you might think it would be amazing, but you’d soon discover that your expectations were set too high and would be doomed for disappointment.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

R.I.P. Deckard Cain

It's not likely that he'll magically return since his body was burned, but sadly, Deckard Cain died in the first of four acts in Diablo 3. Cain was the lone character, besides Diablo, to be in all three games. He'd survived horrifying demon onslaughts, being locked up and left for dead in Tristram as it was burning to the ground, as well as being hit by a 'falling star'. Despite all of that, he died kind of pathetically and undramatically as players sat and watched, unable to save him.

R.I.P. Deckard Cain. You won't be forgotten.

"Stay awhile and listen."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Balancing Act: The Diablo 3 Demon Hunter

Diablo is amazing. Video games are (mostly) amazing. Diablo is an amazing video game.

In Diablo 3, players get to choose from five different classes: barbarian, witch doctor, wizard, monk, and demon hunter. Players are also allowed to have a total of ten characters at once. Because of that, it might seem that the class you choose first is not that important, but to me it is. My first class of choice (if my computer can actually run the game) is . . . the demon hunter.

I am not choosing the demon hunter because they are totally badass, because they have grenades, which is just plain cool, or because it is easier (at times) to play as a ranged class; I am choosing the demon hunter because I can relate to them (sort of).

Each character has something called a "resource system." This system is what allows them to use their spells and abilities. The demon hunter's resource system is actually a combination of hatred and discipline.  Hatred is used for offensive skills while discipline is needed for defensive ones. In the lore of Diablo demon hunters need to maintain a balance between hatred and discipline, so that they do not lose control while in pursuit of demons. To me, in life we or at least I, have to live in a similar balance.

On a daily basis I need to maintain balance in different phases of life. I know that when I wander off the beaten path things usually do not go terribly well. One of the best part of playing video games is being able to connect to the character that you are playing (which is why everyone hates when their character dies *cough *cough Mass Effect *cough Bioware, you screwed up). Maybe I am going to play as a demon hunter because they look ridiculously cool, but I'd at least like to believe that I'm not that shallow (all the time).

Decide for yourself which class to choose.