Xbox 360

As avid gamers, we always want to be ahead of the game (awful pun intended) by having the latest gadgets that enable us to play all the best games, either on the big screen or on the go. Y’see, games aren’t just played on consoles or handhelds nowadays: gaming is now a ubiquitous enough hobby that one can enjoy on any piece of tech with a screen. For instance, here’s my personal list of gadgets that I enjoy playing games on!

IMG_26171. HP Envy 15″ and Macbook Pro Retina 13″ laptops – I only play Diablo III Reaper of Souls and a bunch of Steam games on PC so I fire one of these two from time to time. I use the HP when I’m docked as it is heavier but it’s where I mostly play because of the bigger screen,  hard disk and a fuller keyboard. I use the Macbook when I’m stuck outside and more for work, but I also have a limited number games installed on that machine (like yep, Diablo III; if you haven’t figured out, I’m a D3 addict).

2. PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS – If I have to go out and I know I have to wait long for something (pay for a bill, or wait for someone to arrive), I almost always carry one of these babies depending on what I am currently playing. The titles are pretty diverse in each so you can always find a few games that will sit on your GOTY of the forever (for me it was Persona 4 Golden and Fire Emblem Awakening).

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3. iPhone 5 – If I have a spare minute (or thirty), I fire up Clash of Clans or one of my favorite Kairosoft titles (now being Ninja Village) to get my gaming fix. LINE also has a bunch of games like Puzzle Bobble (who hasn’t played or got addicted to that game though) but it gets pretty limited because of the fatigue-based mechanic (5 stages at a time, then you have to wait 30 minutes to replenish one stage turn). It’s pretty lightweight as a gaming platform but with millions of users, even Square Enix has picked up the pace and ported some of its most popular titles on iTunes.

4. PlayStation 3, XBOX 360 and Wii U – Exclusive titles and things more epic go to one of these consoles. Admittedly, I haven’t fired up anything recently (probably Wind Waker U from a few months back), but I still have a few discs lying around that I should look into finishing before I get a…

5. PlayStation 4Dragon Age: Inquisition comes out in a few months; I happen to be a big DA fan so this is the title that will make me break the bank to get a unit. Priced competitively and having supported off-screen play through the PS Vita, this is definitely the next step to my gaming progression.

From upgrades to new models to competing brands, deciphering what’s worth the splurge is an exhausting, confusing feat. So, SM Supermalls is making it easy for you as they celebrate Cyber Month for the whole month of August.

Get a gadget upgrade and join in the geeky fun with SM Supermalls’ exciting line-up of activities that will make all tech lovers go crazy:

  • Tech Sale – Stock up on the latest gadgets at discounted prices in the biggest technology sale of the year.
  • Cybervasion – Discover and experience the latest gadgets at their interactive tech displays.
  • Game Station – Check the hottest gaming consoles and videogames of the season.
  • Cosplay Parade – Catch your favorite characters and the most outrageous costumes at their exciting cosplay parade.

Even more surprises await online with SM Supermalls’ #31HappyCyberDays promo:

  • DigiTalk – Answer Cyber Month-related questions on the SM Supermalls Facebook page and win cool prizes.
  • Cyber Rave – Listen to what your favorite blogger has to say about their favorite gadgets of 2014.
  • Tech Throwback – Send in a pic of your “antique” gadget together with a clever caption or funny story and win its modern-day counterpart.

Be the first on scene with the newest gizmos as SM Supermalls celebrates Cyber Month until August 31. For more details, like SM Supermalls on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@smsupermalls), and use the hashtag #EverythingForTheTechieInYou. You can also like their SM Cyberzone Facebook Fanpage at https://www.facebook.com/smcyberzone. Contact these numbers for queries: (02) 876-1111 (Metro Manila) / 0917 876-1111 (Globe) / 0908 876-1111 (Smart) / 0922 876-1111 (Sun).

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Square Enix wants to prepare us for the third and final part of the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy and they are doing it in style. They’ve put together an awesome retrospective video summarizing the first two games in SNES-style 16-bit!

Complete with a chip-tuned version of the FFXIII soundtrack, this video makes me all the more excited for when Claire Farron finally returns in less than two weeks from now.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII will be available for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on February 11th, 2014.

Grand Theft Auto V is this week’s game.

That’s it. Thanks for coming!

Here are this week’s vidyas:

 

Hot Wheels Worlds Best Driver (Wii U/3DS Retail)

We Sing: 80s (Wii U Retail)

Cut the Rope (3DS eShop)

Rage of the Gladiators (3DS eShop)

Star Wars Pinball (3DS eShop)

AiRace Speed (3DS eShop)

 

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 Retail/PSN)

Hot Wheels World’s Best Driver (PS3 Retail/PSN)

Capcom Fighting Evolution (PS2 Classic)

Saints Row 4 – GATV Pack (PS3 DLC)

Saints Row 4 – Wild West Pack Pack (PS3 DLC)

Real Boxing (PS Vita PSN)

 

Grand Theft Auto V (Retail)

Hot Wheels World’s Best Driver (Retail)

Saints Row 4 – GATV Pack (DLC)

Saints Row 4 – Wild West Pack (DLC)

 

Foul Play (PC Steam)

Borderlands 2 – Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2 (PC Steam)

Ironclad Tactics (PC/Mac)

Takedown: Red Sabre (PC/Mac)

Urban Trial Freestyle (PC Steam)

Saints Row 4 – GATV Pack (PC Steam DLC)

Saints Row 4 – Wild West Pack (PC Steam DLC)

In the upcoming Kojima game/movie (lol) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, there’s a female character shown in the E3 trailer wielding a rifle and a bra. We learned that the character is named “The Quiet” and will play an important role in the game.

Playing that character who will play an important role in the game is actress Stefanie Joosten. She will provide voice work and much of the motion capture for The Quiet. The embedded video shows how they converted the actress into a digital representation of herself as the character, as Mr. Kojima strokes his chin in satisfaction.

Rayman Legends is finally out this week, though you might want to steer out of the way of the PS Vita version of the game as we heard it’s missing some content (until they patch it). Diablo 3 makes its way to consoles as promised, and you can get jiggle with it with Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate *mmphh*, and a new adventure awaits you with the Strawhats in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2.

Here are this week’s vidyas:

 

Rayman Legends (Wii U Retail)

eShop Releases (TBA)

 

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate (PS3 Retail/PSN)

Diablo 3 (PS3 Retail/PSN)

Rayman Legends (PS3/Vita Retail/PSN)

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PS3 PSN)

Castle of Illusions (PS3 PSN)

Chaos Code (PS3 PSN)

Hunter’s Trophy 2: America (PS3 PSN)

Kickbeat (PS3/Vita PSN)

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 (PS3 PSN)

Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity (PS2 Classic)

Borderlands 2 – Costume Packs (PS3 DLC)

Borderlands 2 – Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2 (PS3 DLC)

Grid 2 – Destruction Derby (PS3 DLC)

Metro: Last Light – Tower Pack (PS3 DLC)

Saints Row 4 – Dubstep Gun (Remix) Pack (PS3 DLC)

 

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate (Retail)

Diablo 3 (Retail)

Rayman Legends (Retail)

Castle of Illusion (XBLA)

Freefall Racers (XBLA)

Borderlands 2 – Costume Packs (DLC)

Borderlands 2 – Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2 (DLC)

Grid 2 – Destruction Derby (DLC)

Metro: Last Light – Tower Pack (DLC)

Saints Row 4 – Dubstep Gun (Remix) Pack (DLC)

Minecraft – Mass Effect Mash-up (DLC)

 

Borderlands 2 – Costume Packs (PC Steam)

Borderlands 2 – Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2 (PC Steam)

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PC Steam)

Castle of Illusion Castle of Illusion (PC Steam)

Grid 2 – Destruction Derby (PC Steam)

Huntsman: The Orphanage (PC/Mac)

Metro: Last Light – Tower Pack (PC Steam)

Outlast (PC Steam)

Rayman Legends (PC)

Saints Row 4 – Dubstep Gun (Remix) Pack (PC Steam)

Total War: Rome 2 (PC Steam)

Total War: Rome 2 – Greek States Culture Pack (PC Steam)

Anyone excited about Madden NFL 25?

Anyone?

*crickets* *tumbleweed*

Okay!

Here are this week’s vidyas:

 

Wario Land 3 (3DS eShop Virtual Console)

 

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PS3 Retail)

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F (PS3 Retail/PSN)

Killer is Dead (PS3 Retail)

Lost Planet 3 (PS3 Retail)

Madden NFL 25 (PS3 Retail)

Crimson Sea 2 (PS2 Classic PSN)

Floating Cloud God Saves the Pilgrims in HD (PS3/Vita PSN)

The HD Adventures of the Rotating Octopus Character (PS3 PSN)

Spelunky (PS3/Vita PSN-CrossBuy)

Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (PS3/Vita/PSP PSN)

 

Killer is Dead (Retail)

Lost Planet 3 (Retail)

Madden NFL 25 (Retail)

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 – Apocalypse (DLC)

 

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition (PC Steam)

The Chaos Engine (PC/Mac Steam)

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC)

Game Dev Tycoon (PC/Mac Steam)

Guardians of Middle-earth (PC Steam)

Guardians of Middle-earth DLC Bundles (PC Steam DLC)

Lost Planet 3 (PC Steam)

Memoria (PC/Mac Steam)

Pixeljunk Monsers Ultimate Edition (PC Steam)

Shelter (PC/Mac Steam)

The Saints are back in their 4th game: Saint’s Row IV — out this week and that should tide you down before GTAV releases in September. The spin-off The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is also launching this week. It’s an FPS set in XCOM‘s universe. And also, Disney Infinity goes to retail for all major platforms. Anything for you this week?

Here are this week’s vidyas:

 

Disney Infinity Starter Pack (Wii/Wii U/3DS Retail)

Splinter Cell: Blacklist (Wii U Retail)

Super Luigi U (Wii U Retail)

 

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (PS3 Retail)

Disney Infinity Starter Pack (PS3 Retail)

Saints Row IV (PS3 Retail/PSN)

Splinter Cell: Blacklist (PS3 Retail)

Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers (PS3 PSN)

Divekick (PS3/Vita PSN)

Kessen III (PS2 Classic)

Naval Ops Commander (PS2 Classic)

Saints Row IV Season Pass (PS3 DLC)

The Walking Dead (Vita Retail)

 

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified  (Retail)

Disney Infinity Starter Pack (Retail)

Saints Row IV (Retail)

Splinter Cell: Blacklist (Retail)

Divekick (XBLA)

Saints Row IV Season Pass (DLC)

 

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (PC)

Divekick (PC) [Steam]

Hate Plus (PC/Mac) [Steam]

Might & Magic X: Legacy (PC)

Ravaged: Zombie Apocalypse (PC) [Steam]

Saints Row IV (PC)

Saints Row IV Season Pass (PC) [Steam] DLC

Sir, You Are Being Hunted (PC/Mac)

Skullgirls (PC) [Steam]

Splinter Cell: Blacklist (PC)

First sighted as part of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (The Collection) listing at Play-Asia, it has been confirmed that not only will the HD-fied version of this previously Nintendo 3DS exclusive title be part of that collection, it will also be offered as a stand-alone digital download from the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live Marketplace for the PS3 and Xbox 360, respectively.

The 3DS version was plagued by low frame-rate issues and that’s the main reason I’m still yet to finish it (you can find our official review here). I’m pretty sure this will be the best version to play for the second part in the Mirror of Fate trilogy before Lords of Shadow 2 is released.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate HD has a release date of October 31st. Perfect for a Halloween playthrough.

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Pool (or more popularly known here in the Philippines as Billiards) is a game of skill and concentration. You can’t really become an Efren “Bata” Reyes overnight, and the investment of time and money for equipment and practice make most people shy away from even trying out the sport. That and the lung cancer you get from frequenting the cigarette smoke-filled billiard halls.

But Pool is fun. Even non-players get drawn to the sound of the ivory balls striking each other. The satisfaction of seeing a called shot doing exactly what you want it to. Developer Cherry Pop Games gives us Pool Nation. And for $8.49 you get to avoid the hassles associated in learning to play the sport, but still retain the fun.

Sure, there’s already Hustle Kings for the PS3 and I know it’s a pretty decent billiards game. So what makes Pool Nation different?

The game is at its core, a pretty standard video game version of Pool. But once you delve into the tutorial, you will realize Pool Nation is not just your standard line-up, shoot, an pocket kind of deal but instead use more complicated and realistic ball physics. More emphasis is given to trick shots and skill shots and the excellent tutorial does a very good job of teaching you to pull amazing shots that will have you feeling like a badass Pool Shark.

Single player modes are tournament-based. You have your 8-ball and 9-ball tourneys, with a unique bonus round in each tournament phase. Pretty straightforward.Whereas Hustle Kings has its story mode where you play as a pool player searching for fame and fortune, Pool Nation ismore of a real Pool simulator focusing on realistic physics and gameplay mechanics.

There is also a local versus and an online option which I haven’t tried yet. Endurance Mode was the thing that got me hooked, though. In this time-based mode, you need to continuously sink balls to fill a meter that is constantly being depleted. Get style and combo points to get the meter filled quicker. Once it drops to zero then it’s game over.

I was expecting a bland experience but I played a couple of hours last night and was surprised that I ended up liking the game.

Ok, let’s do the breakdown.

The Good Stuff: poolnation balls

Graphics — This is the best looking pool game on a console I’ve seen. The shine and reflections on the balls and the finish on the table are perfectly rendered. When you make an awesome shot, the camera goes into bullet mode and you will see every detail of the shot; from the particles of chalk exploding from the cue ball to the subtle warping of the cushion when the ball banks.

Very helpful tutorial — In a game that is so technical and one that rewards you for playing technically, you will really need to know what you are doing. Thankfully, the supplied tutorials in this game are clear and precise. It tells you step by step how to do a particular shot and it is very satisfying when you eventually master the moves yourself.

Realistic Physics — A sliver of difference in how you make the shot will affect the ball physics accordingly. Shoot a bit too hard and the balls can even go out-of-bounds off the table and crash to the floor (with a realistic sound that will make you cringe like the real thing). But it doesn’t end with the ball and cue stick — the cushions and even the wood of the table reacts to the shot with amazing detail.

Pulling off trick shots and skill shots is extremely satisfying — I’ve learned a trick where you jump the cue ball to the wood part of the table above the cushion and spin it back to the table to your target. It’s kinda like Sonic the Hedgehog lol. I felt like a badass when I nailed it. The accessibility of these pro techniques is the main draw for me. Shot creativity is the key to advancing through the tourneys.

No clunky menus and loading screens — Menus are fast with no unnecessary things going on. When playing a game like this, being able to restart instantly is something I appreciate. Thankfully this game lets you do exactly that.

The Bad Stuff:

AI opponents — They cheat! One moment you are owning them but when you are about to win and the make a mistake, the AI swoops in and become Efren fucking Reyes. It’s like the rubberbanding AI in Mario Kart. I hate it.

Playing against a friend is really fun, though.

Hard to get online matches — I’m not sure if everyone who has the game was sleeping when I tried to get an online opponent or no one actually has the game except me but I will try again later tonight.

The game could use a bit of personality — Interface is minimalistic and direct to the point. I know the developer meant it to be this way but I think it could use a little bit of shine and flash.

Things That Could Swing Either Way:

More of a Sim, Less Arcadey — I like how it’s a realistic Pool game which was the original intention, but some people used to pool games like Hustle Kings and Inferno Pool might feel it’s kinda boring.

If you are a fan of Pool/Billiards and like the strategy and tecnical aspect of it, then this is worth every cent because quite frankly, this is the best video game Pool sim out there.

In Closing:

If you are a fan of Pool/Billiards and like the strategy and technical aspect of it, then this is worth every cent because quite frankly, this is the best pool/billiards sim out there.

If you are looking for a party game, then look elsewhere.

 

Pool Nation is available via digital download from the PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3 and XBOX Live Marketplace for the XBOX 360. It is priced $8.49 (or whatever the equivalent Microsoft Points lol)

Big thanks to Cherry Pop Games for providing us with a review code of their game!

Yes, I know. I suck for not playing and getting this game when it first came out last year. I blame my initial impressions with open world games. I never got into the Grand Theft Auto series and why people praise it to high heavens. I tried again with Red Dead Redemption since the theme is different, but alas, I still was not impressed by Rockstar. LA Noire came into the picture a few years ago and I played it until four to five cases, but never got to finish it even though it was loads better than the other games I tried previously. Thus ended my interest in sandbox games and I committed a capital sin by not giving Sleeping Dogs a once-over when it was released last year.

Then the PlayStation Plus freebie happened. I looked at the game (after being pimped to death in the Square Enix crazy sales a few months back which I also passed on), and said why not? It’s free anyway. Queued it, downloaded and played for an hour. One hour became two, then three. I realized I cannot put the controller down despite it being 1:00 AM already. To borrow Reggie’s infamous quote, “My body is ready” for open world games, finally.

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In this life, loyalty is everything

To be honest, there is nothing hugely spectacular with Sleeping Dogs. It has the same formula as the Grand Theft Auto games, maybe a marriage of it and LA Noire even. I never got into the two games maybe because the themes are not so much to my liking. GTA lets me live a life of crime by working as a thug for local gangs or something, while in LA Noire I am a straight arrow cartoony looking cop. Sleeping Dogs let me enjoy the two sides of the coin at the same time by playing as Wei Shen, an undercover police officer trying to infiltrate the Sun on Yee, which is one of the more prominent triads in Hong Kong. A childhood friend named Jackie Ma assists you and vouches for you to get the trust of one of the “red poles” of Sun on Yee. You eventually become the right-hand man by doing the gang’s dirty work to earn their trust. On the side though, you provide vital information to the police to facilitate their undoing.

The Good:

Above average story writing. Well, the story is not that unique as there are probably tens of Hong Kong movies centered around the theme of being an undercover cop trying to infiltrate a gang, but somehow this shallow plot works for the game. It gives a lot of room for doing a number of fun side missions but can still stay true to the linear plot . The dialogues are well-written; it is mostly in English but peppered with Cantonese phrases every now and then which really makes you feel the setting of the game. I also learned some cuss words and gang stuff in Cantonese, so yeeeeahhhh I feel like a tough guy.

Memorable characters. The characters are well-developed and have different motivations in their being in a gang. You will feel their indifference to you at the start when you are still a lowlife thug trying to move your way up in the triad, but will later warm up to you as you prove your loyalty and service to them. While playing as lead character Wei Shen, his back story develops through progressing in the game and is also supplemented by report files that you get as rewards in the game (you can read character profiles and reports through your mobile phone). You will also get to learn to love the gang members, even though they are ultimately bad people by being in the business, but the game gave them redeeming qualities and interesting personalities to make you want to root for them somehow.

Stellar voice acting. Sleeping Dogs has one of the best voice over works I have heard in a video game. This might be because they enlisted popular actors to do the voice work of the characters which really made them come to life. Wei Shen is voiced by Will Yun Lee, Jackie Ma by Edison Chen and Uncle Po by James Hong. Supporting characters include Emma Stone, Lucy Liu, Kelly Hu and a lot of celebrities. This is voice acting done right, video games people; there are lots to be learned from United Front Games.

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Racing is one of the more enjoyable side missions in Sleeping Dogs

Entertaining side missions. Normally I skip side missions in games especially if the game’s story is super interesting to cut into pieces, but the ones in Sleeping Dogs are equally entertaining. They range from infiltrating illegal racing circuits (so of course you get to drive around Hong Kong), doing drug busts (you are still a police officer after all), joining martial art fight clubs and well, karaoke with the ladies. See, there are tons of things to do and all of them are fun as hell.

The music is all parts awesome. Like Grand Theft Auto, music blares when you are riding your car. The radio stations have different themes so you can choose to rock out to heavy metal (Roadrunner Records station), indie (Kerrang Radio), hiphop (Real) or even Cantonese Pop and orchestra (Ninja Tunes and Softly). One thing I was disappointed about is that the ads are pretty serious so you don’t hear any funny ads or talk shows like in GTA.

Overall gameplay. You get to fight in fisticuffs or shoot using pistols, machine guns or even a freaking grenade launcher. There are simple puzzle decoding activities to get into goodies, and loads of stuff that will make you feel like a Hong Kong action star. The game is very well-rounded and offers a lot of things to do in the game so you do not get bored by being stuck doing the same things over and over.

The Bad:

Minor bugs. There are some bugs in the game which breaks the game’s seriousness sometimes, but nothing that will destroy the flow of the game so I didn’t mind it that much. There are times that the boss would taunt me while I beat him up and then his dialogue / voice continues to play even though he’s already dead. Also, this is probably not a bug but sometimes when I fight with the thugs and I have only like one hit left on my life bar, I die from being PUSHED by a gangster. Yeah it’s considered a hit, I guess, but it’s just funny to die by just being pushed though.

Map icons. It could be fine-tuned as some of the icons of drug bust locations are actually inaccessible by the route that the GPS maps out. Not that serious, but it can be fixed.

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I wanted more…

Emma Stone? I was stoked to see Emma Stone’s name on the game’s starting credits roll but dismayed to find out I have already finished the game and only had like two interactions with her character (Amanda Cartwright). What’s up with that? I am still playing the game to get all the trophies though so I am still hoping I get to bump on her somewhere.

Things That Could Swing Either Way:

Graphics. To be fair, I played this on the PlayStation 3. I cannot say if it’s any better on the PC, but I am guessing it would be especially if you have an awesome rig. The textures sometimes take a while to load and they’re not as amazing as well, LA Noire or The Last of Us in terms of facial expressions and whatnot but it’s not too bad.

Overall, Sleeping Dogs is a solid game that still deserves your purchase (yes, it has already cycled out of the PlayStation Plus free games). The game has the right amount of length story-wise, and there are tons of things left to do even if you finish the game by doing only the core missions. The writing is superb, the voice acting stellar, the music gives the right vibe to the Hong Kong triad scene and the brawling and shooting is mad, mad fun.

Sleeping Dogs is developed by United Front Games and Square Enix.

Despite a very crappy launch, Old School Games set things straight and released a patch, although not perfect. It did make God Mode playable, and that’s what counts. This 3rd person shooter isn’t necessarily original in concept, but at least it’s of a different flavor: a mythical theme. You play as a descendant of a fallen god that was made mortal by Hades, and as the game starts you must venture into this purgatory called The Maze of Hades and survive (metaphorically) to avoid an afterlife of eternal damnation.

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During the course of the game you will be heckled on by an obnoxious and stupid annoying yet to a some extent funny narrator, played by popular motion capture actor Oliver Hollis-Leick (who has done works for Harry Potter: Order of The Phoenix and Iron Man 2).  While the narrator makes fun of you for your crappy shooting skills, hordes of demons, undead and beasts will gangbang you, and we’re talking about A LOT OF THEM. Coming from all directions. At the same time.

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Kill these abominations for EXP and gold. Gold is the main currency of the game which you use to unlock costumes and upgrade weapons and skills. EXP is used to level up. The higher your level, the better weapons and skills you can unlock and buy, perfect for some post-death perennial ass kicking. The game boasts a lot of customization, you can change your appearance, weapons and special skill. Before you start a map you can even add handicaps called Oaths, equivalent to the skulls in Halo games. They make the game harder, but the rewards greater.

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There are only 5 maps in this game, divided into different sub-sectors, and each sector has what is called a Test of Faith, challenges and obstacles created by the gods that serve as game modifiers. Tests of Faith can include awesome ones like Book (EXP up) , completely pointless/amusing ones like Hat (enemies wear Bowler Hats) or F@#%ING irritating ones like Dice (weapon change every few seconds). Win each sector one at a time until you eventually reach the boss room, kick its ass, enter a gold room to get mountains of cash, and end the play session.

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God Mode heavily emphasizes multiplayer, which is how it was designed and meant to be played in the 1st place. You can play solo, although it’s not obvious at the beginning. You do this by creating a match and choose “ready”, without inviting anyone beforehand. Be warned that this game has no solo campaign and its difficulty was made with the assumption that there are a lot of players in mind. Solo play is absolutely irritating, unrecommended and not fun. You will die, and most likely will lose, unless you’re a high level player with all the upgrades with extensive experience. Not that multiplayer is already chaotic and you’ll most likely die doing it anyway.

The game has some obvious bugs, but the developers already are on it to fix them slowly. Reviews on the internet, especially on Metacritic have been lukewarm because of the pre-patch problems, notably the inability to shut people up on multiplayer (no mute), and of course, the various incompatibility and data dump issues associated with low-end machines for the PC version. Hopefully in the advent of more fixes, the game will be in a state where people can just stop whining.

For the price of $10, it’s a budget title, so keep expectations low. The graphics are beautiful, but we’re mostly after the gameplay mechanics. Pick this game up if you have friends to play it with, it’s VERY fun, or if you’re willing to risk teaming up with jerks online. Don’t bother playing this by yourself. Although so far the God Mode community has been very nice and tolerable, you get more dissing from the narrator himself than the players. I can recommend this game, with reservations. Look videos of it up online and judge it for yourself. 10 bucks isn’t necessarily a big loss.

The Sacred series of games are better known as ARPGs, so it comes to a surprise that Sacred Citadel was developed as a side-scrolling brawler. I did some digging and it turns out that Ascaron Entertainment, the original developer of the Sacred series has officially dissolved, with the Sacred license acquired by Deep Silver, the video game label of German parent company Koch Media. Sacred Citadel will actually be a prequel to the upcoming title Sacred 3 which is scheduled to be released around 2013. This game is virtually a souped-up cousin of The Behemoth’s Castle Crashers, being a beat-em-up with RPG elements. Since brawlers are relatively simple, the gameplay consists of button mashing in executing combos with minor platforming.

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First off, Sacred Citadel is cel-shaded and the rendering is nice, however the PC version of the game only maxes out at a 1600X900 resolution. This alone can be a turn-off for videophiles, so going full screen is simply out of the question. This may be a personal preference, but after all we’re now in the HD era, not having a 1920X1080 support is somehow inexcusable. Graphics-wise everything’s fine, except that annoying conversational font that resembles Comic Sans. I HATE COMIC SANS. The music is alright, but not necessarily a top-notch x-piece orchestra worthy of gracing your iPod. Voice acting is good. As for the controls, it’s very annoying to play this on a keyboard, so if you got the PC version, use a controller for it, your hands will thank you.

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The game is split into 4 acts consisting of different stages each, and its RPG elements are similar to Castle Crashers; you hit enemies to gain experience and as you level up, you unlock new and better combo moves. At the end of the level, you get attribute points to spend on your hero’s stats. However, unlike Castle Crashers where the level ends when you die while playing solo, in Sacred Citadel you get infinite lives and restart at the nearest checkpoint, which isn’t too much of a bad thing. However, dying isn’t necessarily encouraged, which brings us to one feature of the game…

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…and that’s the challenges. It’s not unique, many games have it. However, challenges are in the form of a gamble. For instance, you can pay the NPC 100 gold to bet that you can finish a certain stage without dying. Accomplish that feat and you earn more money. Fail, and you’ll lose the bet, along with the 100 gold. There are plenty more challenges and they vary per stage, so why not try them all? This is one of the game’s good points. It gives you something to shoot for. Speaking of NPCs, visit the village and visit merchants to update your gear and potions. You can buy, but sadly you can’t sell, which is sad because you’ll frequently see a piece of gear you wanna buy but almost always won’t have enough money, and by the time you go farm a stage for cash, the item you want will be gone from the merchant when you come back.

Enemies drop money, as well as food for recovering your HP. They may also drop potions and sometimes, weapons and armor. During the early hours of play you’ll depend on enemy drops for gear upgrades when money is scarce and you can’t afford them from merchants. Once a weapon/armor drops, run over it and the game will display its effects on your stats, negative, positive and all. You’ll be given a choice to equip it as well, but take note that you can’t manually adjust/re-equip gear within a level, you have to visit the village to change. Since you can’t sell stuff, you’ll have to go over them one by one according to the category the gear falls under. Very tedious and stupid annoying. This is the very same flaw that Castle Crashers has, but at least with Castle Crashers weapons are so limited, you can determine your final weapon for the rest of the game unless something better comes up, which is very rare.

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Levels will sometimes include mounts, and you can even kill enemies using the environment (swinging traps or bombs in barrels, for example). So use these to your advantage and earn the corresponding achievements! Of course, it will be a minor pain if you play a game of multiplayer, especially if your teammate simply sucks in dodging. Unfortunately, multiplayer isn’t as good as say, Double Dragon Neon, where you can perform team feats or even enable friendly fire to “accidentally” hit your comrades. There is little to no synergy. Just “I’ll kill this, you kill that”. Also, job classes are locked to one player, meaning if one guy picks a Warrior, all other players can no longer choose to play as Warrior, and that results in tantrums and people leaving games. They should have at least allowed different colored Warriors or something, but then again, Castle Crashers has this flaw on co-op too.

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Overall, Sacred Citadel is a mediocre game that is not awesome, but not terrible. It’s in the middle and doesn’t offer anything much. Sure, the betting challenges are a good twist but I wish there could have been more unique features so I wouldn’t end up comparing it to Castle Crashers all the time. Plus you only have 4 characters/job classes so replay value is just leveling them up. It’s linear, boring and unfulfilling. There’s basically no end game, but brawlers aren’t popular for that. I would say buy it only if discounted, otherwise pass on this. It’s out now on Xbox LIVE, PSN and Steam ($15) with a $5 DLC so far. If you’re grabbing this, make it on a platform where you got plenty of friends who are willing to buy and play it with you. I will admit, it’s more fun playing with friends than meh… strangers.

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Gears of War: Judgment is finally out for all of us COGs and third-person shooter lovers to embrace and enjoy.  I got the game during its release and have played a great deal of it already.  The game is by Epic Games, People Can Fly (R. Kelly thinks so), and Microsoft Studios. The setting is right after Emergence Day — so yes, it is a prequel to the first three titles.  In the first few minutes of the game, the Kilo Squad gets shoved into the COG safehouse and investigated by an officer for violating commands in their ‘questionable’ use of the highly dangerous lightmass missile.

So, what do you need to know about the game?

Actually I'm with this other guy.Main characters.  The old Gears of War games feature the duo of Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago of the Delta squad; in Judgment you now play as Lieutenant Damon Baird and Private Augustus Cole (the 3P and 4P AIs from the previous games) of the Kilo squad.  I actually love them more than the two muscled emo Delta guys so this choice of player characters is a definite improvement for me.  New characters Cadet Sofia Hendrik and Gorasnaya soldier Garron Paduk are introduced in the game as your 3P and 4P AI support.

POVs.  The game chapters plays a bit differently from the old Gears games.  The narrative is split up between each character’s testimony during the military tribunal which is the main storyline of the game. You play each scenario of the testimonials given by the characters in the tribunal, but this can change because of…

You can always pick up dead bodies and use them as meatshields, anyway.Declassify.  A layer that adds challenge to Gears of War: Judgment is the Declassify missions.  While playing through the “testimonials,” you will encounter a giant red COG logo in the map and upon examination you are given a challenge to complete to earn stars (more on this later).  As mentioned, choosing an option will change the testimony of the character as there are two scenarios that can happen per mission.  In Declassify, certain scenarios are forced to make the chapter harder.  For example, one of the declassify missions will make the map darker and your regeneration time slower.  Other challenges limit you into using specific weapons (i.e. Boltok pistols only) or have time limits to clear the map (e.g., you are given only 4 minutes to clear the map and get to the next checkpoint or you die of poison gas).

Stars and Mission Summary. After every mission, you are ranked according to how well you performed.  There are three stars to earn per mission and you get higher chances by getting ribbons (by doing special things in the mission), gib kills, and succeeding with the Declassify conditions.  Down But Not Outs (DBNOs) will pull down your ranking and might cause you to lose a star so you are encouraged to perform well and be more careful.  A short summary of who’s had the most kills, executions, perfect reloads, time in cover, et cetera is displayed as well so you can trash talk your 2P for spending too much time being in cover like a wussy and having less headshots.

Controls.  There are a lot of changes from the old control scheme.  Instead of using the directional pad to choose from the four different weapons that you have, you now have to press the Y button to toggle between the two weapons that you have.  Yes, you only have two main weapons now.  Also, frag or ink grenades are now assigned to the left bumper.  Pointers that tell you where to find your teammates are now assigned in the D-pad’s down button.

Protip: Opt in for the tutorial even if you are a GoW veteran because there are a lot of changes from the controls that you are used to from the previous games.  Also, change the sensitivity for aiming and camera; the default feels like you’re moving underwater.

Character Levels.  During missions, you gain experience points which levels up your character / profile.  I think this is useful in the multiplayer bit of the game, but I will have to skip that for now because multiplayer is not my cup of tea (read: I don’t want to hear 12 year olds screaming at me nonstop in Live chat).

Prize Box and Unlockables.  During the course of the game, you are awarded prize boxes for performing well.  You can open this in the main menu’s character setup and unlock weapon and character skins that you can use in the multiplayer.  There are also items locked for MS Points if you want to deck out your weapons in bunny decals and make your avatar wear pink stuff.  Prize boxes can also contain EXP instead of items.  You can also get more player skins like Minh Young Kim, Ezra Loomis and others as you advance in the game.

Additional content for Gears of War 3 can be unlocked in Gears of War: Judgment (possibly because the game is shorter than the standard GoW title).  Collecting 40 stars from successfully fulfilling Declassify conditions will unlock the Aftermath scenario.  This extra content continues from the ending of Gears of War 3.  I will update this review when I finally get the chance to play it (it’s unlocked, but I haven’t started it yet).

Other changes worth noting in the game are the following:

  • No more Down But Not Out in multiplayer modes
  • You cannot plant grenades on walls anymore (sadness)
  • You cannot have shotguns and rifles together
  • Active reloads do not give you damage boost anymore

Overall, I enjoyed playing Gears of War: Judgment.  The characters are better (in my humble opinion) and have less cliches and corny ‘tough-ass’ lines spewed per minute.  One thing I noted is that the game feels less intense.  This could be because I am always cut in the middle of missions for the system to rank my fragging skills.  Not that it is a bad thing; I think doing this puts the game in bite-sized pieces that you can enjoy at your own pace and calm your frazzled nerves after the massacre.  Unlike 2 and 3 which places you into a non-stop rollercoaster ride featuring countless locust swarms biting your ass every other minute, GoW:J gives you a breather and lets you focus more on strategy and play style (courtesy of Declassify missions).  Another thing that I have noticed is that the game has a big jump of difficulty from normal and insane which feels a bit different from the old versions.  Insane here is pretty much insane-r than the previous games.  But then again, it might be because of my talent-less ‘lancer only plz’ play style, haha.

For the Gears of War fanatic, it’s obvious that you should not miss Judgment.  Aside from being a great piece of third-person shooter game, it also allows you to peek into the Aftermath.  For players new to the series, I would also recommend getting this game as it is really enjoyable to play (especially on local multiplayer) and shows you a good peek of what the series is all about.  It also comes with a free download code for the first Gears of War game so it will help you catch up on the franchise (as well as free items for multiplayer).  If you’re still on the fence, it’s a solid recommendation; value for money-wise, it’s pretty much a steal.

If this great industry finally collapses on itself tomorrow, analysts ten years from now will point to games such as The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct as the sole reason why video games died off. It is pure corporate cynicism packaged into a six-month development cycle and expected to sell for fifty dollars. This game is bad and anyone clamoring for this game’s release is presumably a bad person.

Let me preface this review by saying that apart from playing through Telltale’s excellent and fairly recent adventure game, I know nothing about the Walking Dead franchise. I’ve watched a few episodes of the award-winning television series and promptly brushed it off. Because much like bacon, the greater internet populace’s general pants-wetting and overenthusiasm for this tired plot device has soured me on anything zombie-related on any media that I consume.

[Survival Instinct] is pure corporate cynicism packaged into a six-month development cycle and expected to sell for fifty dollars.

That being said, Telltale’s spinoff game is surprisingly well thought-out, engaging and visually pleasing; attributes I ascribe to an enjoyable gaming experience. Survival Instinct on the other hand is a poorly-planned, boring and awful-looking piece of software. While Telltale’s game can be thought of as Walking Dead: Gaiden, Survival Instinct is drawn up as a prequel to the television series (and I’m assuming the comic books, but I can’t be arsed to look it up). The game stars Daryl Dixon, who is probably the most hilarious and likeable character on the show. I know it’s hard to see with the awful texture work, but Activison did sign the television talent for both Daryl and tag-along brother Merle to lead some sort of credence to this pile.

Since I already broached the topic, let’s talk about visuals. At times, Survival Instinct looks straight up like a PS Vita game. That’s not a knock on the Vita, but I’m pretty sure both current-gen consoles are more capable than this. To its credit, it does run at a pretty constant framerate. That’s probably the only good thing I have to say about how this game looks. I’m sure some folks out there can appreciate the dated aesthetic; it’s a shame I don’t suffer from glaucoma.

Walking Dead Survival Instinct Screenshots
Where are his arm textures? Do you even lift, bro?

I’ve heard very off comparisons on this game’s progression system with The Oregon Trail. You start off the game collecting supplies, gas cans, and possibly other survivors to trek along to the next couple of areas, and in between you have the choice of three thoroughfares to use. The back roads eat up your fuel but let you stop over more to gather more supplies, regular streets are the safe medium, taking up lesser fuel but with lesser chances of finding side-areas, and freeways take up the least amount of gas to travel through but with a high possibility of the car stalling and your crew being sitting ducks while hordes of zombies bum-rush you.

As one may surmise from the game’s title, Survival Instinct (not to be confused with Lara Croft’s very own “Survival Instinct”) assumes that the player would do the smart thing to survive, which is to sneak up on zombies instead of taking on hordes of them at a time. Somehow the game trips over itself on the very core mechanic that it’s supposed to do and ends up being a hilarious, bungling mess where you can either (a) spam melee attacks and take down hordes of zombies by “bottlenecking” them into a corner, (b) simply run past enemies without much in the way of a reaction from them—shoutout to Aliens: Colonial Marines—or (c) laugh as the awful pathfinding and AI renders 80% of your opposition useless. Killing hordes of zombies is a joyless afair—they kind of just stand there and absorb punishment.

Sadly, much like their beleaguered Ghostbusters game, I see glimpses of greatness in this Terminal Reality joint. It’s just a damn shame that they weren’t given a fair shake nor a reasonable development cycle to make this game any good. It’s pretty clear from the very abrupt ending (spoiler alert—the game just cuts off during a cutscene and shows you the credits) that the developers got the rug pulled from under them quite literally while coding this game. I finished this game in about four hours, which is acceptable for a PSN/XBLA release but totally not cool for an almost full-priced retail game.

Even he doesn't want to be seen in this game.
Even he doesn’t want to be seen in this game.

As I most probably have stressed at this point, this game is nothing but a cynical cash-grab designed to confuse its target audience (Telltale’s Walking Dead is a pretty hot property right now after controversially getting the nod for SpikeTV’s Game of the Year). The sad part is it probably worked. In between Activision embargoing reviews for the game and all the nerds literally squealing like schoolgirls for this game on Facebook I’m pretty confident that they made a pretty penny off misinformed purchases (mine included). They literally are banking on idiots to buy this game. I’m declaring caveat emptor to the nth degree—do not buy this game.

This review is based on my playthrough on the PlayStation 3 version. Aside from differences with  controls on the PC version, all three versions play the same. I didn’t play the multiplayer mode because it’s stupid.

I’ve played every Tomb Raider game. From her first outing on the PlayStation (geometrical boobs!), to the awesome co-op goodness that is Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Some I finished, some got sidetracked for other new games that came out when I was playing them, and on a few I got stuck on a stupid puzzle and never came back.

So like everyone else, the months that lead up to the release of Crystal Dynamics’ reboot of the beloved relic-hunting heroine hyped me way up.

Tomb Raider lived up to the hype in spades.

In this incarnation, Lara Croft is not a cool and collected archeologist, no money for choppers and jets, no dual pistols that don’t run out of ammo, and no disproportionate breasts.

What you get, is basically a naive scared girl who is struggling to survive in a mysterious and danger-filled island while trying to rescue her shipwrecked crew from an unknown threat. The island, a character by itself (IMHO) is a well crafted assortment of obstacles that provides challenges and the perfect environment for Lara’s story. Lara versus Island.

Lara is late for a dinner of venison.

Playing through the single-player campaign takes you on a journey not just to rescue your wrecked shipmates, it is also the journey of how a frightened 21-year-old girl learns to do whatever it takes to survive and coming to terms with the consequences. Lara reluctantly kills a deer for food, apologizing to it a number of times. Her resolve nearly breaks when she is eventually forced to kill another human being. Lara’s horrified reaction and the way the game presents it is amazing. It’s a nice change from fragging someone and teabagging his corpse right after. Heh.

The game takes about 12-18 hours to wrap up (more if you are a nerdy completionist). You spend most of those hours exploring the island and uncovering its secrets. And like I said, the main mission is to rescue you shipmates. The people who does not want you to do that are the island’s scavenging inhabitants, a savage cult with a sinister agenda.

Her mom made her watch Bambi too many times when she was a child.

Gameplay controls are the standard  third-person action game you would expect from the genre. The game puts more emphasis on traversal than combat but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of opportunities to kick butt.

Tomb Raider’s combat mechanics are mostly cover-based. And I think this game has the best system of all the games I played that has the mechanic. You don’t need to hold a button or even press a button. Covering is automatic — Lara ducks behind crates and the like whenever she goes behind them and enemies are afoot. From cover, you can strategically come up with your plan of attack (or at least before one of the assholes throws a molotov to your face).

Ms. Croft’s arsenal consists of four weapons which you gradually acquire through gameplay. Three of them are your standard gaming guns like the pistol, shotgun, etc but the real ass-kicker here is Lara’s bow. The controls really capture the thrill of cocking an arrow and letting it fly straight to someone’s skull. In fact, I would have to agree with a quote I read from a different review: “I felt dirty whenever I used a firearm”.

Weapons are modified and upgraded with salvage. It is the game’s currency and can be collected by opening crates, looting enemy corpses, or carving up animals. It’s a decent system and well implemented, but it’s hilarious that you can upgrade your rifle by killing rats.

Graphics are great, overall. There are parts where the frame-rate dips but it doesn’t really hinder the gameplay that much. The environment is fantastically rendered though. Traversing the island doesn’t get boring and there are sequences that are just breathtaking. Death sequences are also “breathtaking”, you can see Lara get impaled in the throat with a metal bar in one of them.

The music in this game is awesome, it appropriately changes depending the current mood of the game. It uses one main theme and rearranges itself to suit whatever feeling the game needs to convey. Brilliant.

The voice acting in this game was done very well. I don’t know if they changed the voice actress since the E3 trailer (I hated how Lara sounded like in that), but british-born Camilla Luddington nails it as the voice of the new Croft.

In closing, Tomb Raider is my best gaming experience of 2013 so far and I highly recommend getting it. I consciously avoided comparing it to the Uncharted games which I also love but if you would really have to know:

Tomb Raider is better than Uncharted. It’s awesome tits. Ed. Note: you’re not allowed to use this expression again. Ever.

“Come out little girl. Mr. Drake wants to have a little word with you.”