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Portal 2 Review

Portal 2 marks Valve’s triumphant return to Aperture Science. The original Portal had the element of surprise. Its style of first-person physics-based puzzle gameplay was unique. GLaDOS, the murderous robotic villain, was new and vibrant and evil in the most charming way.

From the first moments of waking up in the rusting Aperture Science facility to right before the credits roll, Portal 2 rarely falters. The world is bigger, the story thicker, and the character development more surprising.

You still play as Chell, dragged back into Aperture after the events of the first game. You soon meet Wheatley, a spherical robot, voiced by Stephen Merchant (The Ricky Gervais Show, Extras) who helps you through the early stages. It’s difficult to overstate how Merchant’s obvious enthusiasm for the role benefits the game. No word Wheatley speaks is without witty inflection, and the consistently clever writing perfectly complements the onscreen action. It’s easy to be be just as concerned about missing lines of dialogue as about progressing through the puzzles, especially during Wheatley and GLaDOS’ verbal sparring matches.

The original Portal benefited from its brevity. It had a concise story paired with inventive first-person puzzle mechanics that challenged you to be creative while pulling the trigger. Portal 2 makes the original look like the prototype it was. It’s filled with a larger cast of characters vividly brought to life through brilliant writing and some of the best voice acting in video games. Its puzzles are challenging without being unreasonable, and, once you’re finished with the single-player mode, one of the best co-operative experiences on the market awaits. Valve cuts no corners and finds ways to make you care about everything from the major characters to the cubes used to solve puzzles. From the beginning of the single-player story to the end of the co-op mode, Portal 2 is a novel, unforgettable experience.

 

Duke Nukem Forever

Hail to the King Baby!

On the 2nd of September, 3D Realms president George Broussard posted a cryptic picture of pigs flying. The reason is now clear. At PAX Prime in Seattle, Gearbox president Randy Pitchford took the stage to announce that his studio has taken over Duke Nukem Forever, which had been in development at the now-all-but-defunct 3D Realms since 1997.

Speaking to a shocked and enthusiastic crowd, Pitchford said, “We can’t let the Duke die, right? The guys at 3D Realms who put their hearts and souls into this, so we wanted to make sure it hits all the platforms. It’s coming to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC in 2011.”

Pitchford also told the Wall Street Journal that Gearbox took over the game in late 2009, following the quasi-closure of 3D Realms and tit-for-tat lawsuits between 3D Realms and Duken Nukem Forever publisher Take-Two Interactive.

“Clearly the game hadn’t been finished at 3D Realms but a lot of content had been created,” Pitchford told the Journal. “The approach and investment and process at 3D Realms didn’t quite make it and it cracked at the end. With Gearbox Software we brought all those pieces together. It’s the game it was meant to be.”

If you’re a Superbikes fan then this is just the game for you! SBK 08, 09, and it’s predecessors were; well..good. This year, it’s simply called SBK X and it’s HUGE! A new physics engine, new game modes, and a suite of audio and visual enhancements seem to back up the claim, and Michael Caletti the Game Director hopes this will be the SBK to take down archrival MotoGP.

What’s new is a garage, where you can talk to your engineer and get advice on how to properly equip your bike. You can also set up your own custom rider–choosing to adapt features such as your face, height, and helmet before embarking on your career. You can’t fully customise your rider, such as altering things like eyebrow type, but you can choose from predefined templates. You’ll also have more control over the business side of things this year, with an office complete with lovely assistant where you can analyse your team interests.

SBK X offers an arcade driving experience alongside the sim counterpart. The arcade mode has a different structure, with progression based on completing challenges instead of simply finishing first in each race. For example, your bike may have a worn-out engine, and there will be a challenge to hold your position until the end to progress. The attention is taken away from the minutiae of bike and racer management and is placed on enjoying the racing experience.

This shift in focus is supported through the use of a more forgiving driving engine in the arcade mode. The management of weight, speed, and gear ratios required in the sim mode are removed in favour of fewer options. While the driving may be simplified, negotiating a sudden hairpin corner is just as thrilling, even without the weight management quirks. The boost mechanic injects the arcade experience with an element of strategic risk and reward, since manoeuvrability is significantly reduced during boost periods.

Developer Milestone has also included a number of user-interface tweaks that make arcade racing a friendlier experience. Uncontrollable factors such as weather have less of an impact on your driving, while a Forza 3-style racing line is provided to suggest optimal braking points. Overall, the arcade racing experience looks like it could open the game up to a new subset of racing game fans. It also provides existing fans the opportunity to use the array of bikes and riders in a less intensive game mode.

There is also a special edition and it will come housed in a metal box and will offer a DVD documentary with 2009 winner Ben Spies. It will also include the Legendary Roster–a selection of classic riders to play as or compete against, including people like Neil Hodgson and Max Biaggi.

SBK X is being released on the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 on Septermber 28, 2010

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a military science fiction real-time strategy video game developed by Blizzard Entertainment as a sequel to the award-winning 1998 video game StarCraft. Released on July 27, 2010, StarCraft II is split into three installments: the base game with the subtitle Wings of Liberty, and two expansion packs, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void.

Set in the 26th century in a distant part of the Milky Way galaxy, the game is built around three species: the Terrans, human exiles from Earth; the Zerg, a race of insectoid genetic assimilators; and the Protoss, a species with vast psionic power. Wings of Liberty focuses on the Terrans, while the expansions Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void will focus on the Zerg and Protoss, respectively. The game is set four years after the events of StarCraft: Brood War, and follows the exploits of Jim Raynor as he leads an insurgent group against the autocratic Terran Dominion. The game includes both new and returning characters and locations from the original game.

Here’s what’s awesome about the game:

  • Campaign offers a lot of variety
  • Awesome cinematics and great voice acting
  • Element of choice gives campaign lots of replay value Excellent online play featuring three disparate but balanced factions

The downside is probably just a few battle net issues which you read about at their wiki page, so I’m not going to get into details.

Anyway, for starters the campaign is the first of many of these delights. You may have heard that Starcraft II features only a single campaign: that of the human faction known as the Terrans. One of the game’s few disappointments is that the other two factions–the Protoss and the Zerg–don’t really get featured as playbale factions, so if you’re a first-timer playing online,  don’t expect the campaign to prepare you for the potential onslaught. But the campaign is so much deeper, offering loads of variety, including an entire set of missions that divulges important story elements from an entirely different perspective. Yet even outside of those devious missions, you accomplish diverse and interesting tasks throughout the story. In one early mission, lava periodically rises onto the mainland, posing a threat to any units not positioned on high ground. In another, an exploding sun causes a deadly wall of flame to steadily push you across the map. From one mission to the next, there’s an intriguing new development that keeps you devoted to seeing what surprise is waiting for you next.

Tychus

Many of these missions are RTS standards: Lead these small groups of units down this linear path, defend this specific structure, and so on. Yet Starcraft II gives these tasks meaningful context. Take the very first mission, for example. It’s a very easy training mission, but one side objective has you take down holograms displaying emperor Arcturus Mengsk’s political propaganda. After destroying these displays and arriving at your objective, the citizens rise up and join you, and you get a sense of the Terran dominion’s heavy hand, as well as the peoples’ desire to be freed from tyranny. A later mission puts you in control of an enormous mech and sends you off on a fiery rampage. Controlling a single unit in an RTS for any period of time isn’t always fun, but because of how the mission is presented and its meaning within the story, this simple single-unit romp feels completely satisfying.

Apart from missions, you also closely follow Jim Raynor as he struggles to fight off the threat of the alien Zerg race, topple the manipulative Emperor Mengsk from his throne, and come to terms with his own guilt over the fate of Sarah Kerrigan. If you’re headed into this sequel without any knowledge of prior events, you need not worry that you’ll be in the dark: the campaign does an excellent job of filling in backstory even as the current narrative unfolds. The plot is uncomplicated, and the dialogue is action-movie simple, but Starcraft II’s excellent cinematics, evocative soundtrack, and top-notch voice acting have a way of keeping you glued to the screen. Hero Jim Raynor is a strong but troubled man. You hear it in his voice and see it on his face, and the way the soundtrack signals his presence with its telltale twangs; you see it in the dark, moody way he’s so often lit.

Wait! there’s more! You do more than just watch cutscenes in between missions, however. This downtime is your chance to get to know the crew of Raynor’s battlecruiser, the Hyperion. In a style similar to that of an adventure game, when you click on various characters and items on the screen, you might be rewarded with a short cutscene, a clever quip from a nerdy scientist, or a broadcast from a not-so-fair-and-balanced news agency. But these interludes aren’t just for clicking and watching: You also upgrade and enhance your units and structures in important ways. By spending research points you earn on particular missions, you will gain access to permanent upgrades and new units normally associated with the Zerg and Protoss factions. However, these are either/or propositions: choosing one research option will lock you out of the other choice offered. You also earn currency to spend on other permanent upgrades or on mercenary units you can immediately summon to the battlefield. By their very nature, these options give the campaign replay value–value that’s further elevated by a few occasions on which you must make a choice during the campaign that determines the course of minor story elements. These decisions don’t just bring narrative consequences, however; they also determine which of two or more potential missions you must complete and have further impact on what units you might have access to or the enemy units you will face. So while it may seem like a single campiagn only game – all these things really come together so well to make it well rounded.

Battle.net Play Online

This Battle.net interface has its drawbacks. In order to play the game at all, you must create a Battle.net account and associate it with your game key. To earn achievements–even those in the single-player modes–you must be signed in to your account, which means always remaining online. Fortunately, you can play the campaign as a guest when not signed into your Battle.net account, though you won’t earn any rewards that way.

Starcraft II is an intrinsically social experience. When friends receive achievements, you get a notification, which might drive a bit of friendly competition. You unlock and select from various user icons, which identify you to your friends and to your multiplayer rivals. You select which achievements you want to show off to anyone viewing your profile. And if you aren’t sure which of your friends might be playing, the game will search your Facebook friends list and automatically send an invite to anyone with a Battle.net account. The social integration, the achievement notifications, and the intuitive and smooth interface make Battle.net–usually–a positive way of interfacing with Starcraft II.

All said and done – Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is not just an old game with a pretty new face. It’s a varied and full-featured jewel that will keep you stuck to your computer chair for weeks, months, and even years to come.

Here’s how the game DVD looks – just for kicks :D

We give it a 5/5

 

Set in 1912, BioShock Infinite introduces an entirely new narrative and gameplay experience that lifts players out of the familiar confines of Rapture and rockets them to Columbia, an immense city in the sky.

Former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt has been sent to rescue Elizabeth, a young woman imprisoned in Columbia since childhood. Booker develops a relationship with Elizabeth, augmenting his abilities with hers so the pair may escape from a city that is literally falling from the sky. DeWitt must learn to fight foes in high-speed Sky-Line battles, engage in combat both indoors and amongst the clouds, and harness the power of dozens of new weapons and abilities.

Once you look at the trailer you’ll start to realize what an amazing world they’ve created. It’s completely the opposite of Rapture; which was dark and claustrophobic as opposed to Columbia which is bright, roomy and airy…but still manages to create the environment of discomfort and fear. Also what’s interesting is the events of this game take place before that of BioShock 1 and 2; which means we’re in for a ‘past creation’ and possibly a BioShock 3 in the near future.

Although we’re almost 16-18 months away from playing the game, I’ve got such a good feeling about this game! Coming on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. However, if you’re on a PC, you’d better start stashing away a few bucks every month for an upgrade :)

If you were planning on getting a little fear on with F.E.A.R. 3 this year; well you’ll just have to hold on a little longer.  Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has confirmed that the survival-horror shooter is now expected to ship for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC in 2011, having initially been scheduled for this fall.

Unlike previous installments in the F.E.A.R. franchise, primary development of the game is being handled by Day 1 Studios, which worked on the PS3 and 360 console ports of the original F.E.A.R. Monolith Productions, which was the lead developer on the first two F.E.A.R. games, will not be involved, having “passed the torch” according to Warner Bros. Previous Day 1 titles include Fracture for the Xbox 360 and PS3 and MechAssault 2 for the original Xbox.

F.E.A.R. 3 will be the third full-fledged installment in the first-person shooter series, which began in 2005. The forthcoming game will continue the franchise’s storyline but will add an all-new “divergent co-op” mode that will let players assume the role of one of two characters. Players can step into the shoes of Point Man, the genetically engineered supersoldier who appeared in the first F.E.A.R., or his brother, Paxton Fettel, who has telekinetic powers. Warner says the two characters will provide completely different storylines from each individual’s perspective.

In an effort to enhance the horror element of F.E.A.R. 3, Warner Bros. has enlisted horror film director John Carpenter to advise on development of the game. After coming to prominence with the 1978 cult hit Halloween, the filmmaker has been behind the camera on such cult hits as Escape From New York, the remake of The Thing, and They Live.

Warner Bros. has finally announced the title of the highly-anticipated sequel to last year’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. It’s called Batman: Arkham City, and it’s slated for a fall 2011 release.

The game is aptly named, as it sends Batman out into the streets of the city, which has been transformed into a new prison for Gotham City’s criminal element. Warner is promising that the Rocksteady Studios-developed sequel will bring “a new all-star cast of classic characters and murderous villains from the Batman universe,” in addition to all new gameplay features.

We’re sure to find out more about Batman: Arkham City soon, as word is that some print magazines are about ready to bust the doors open on the title. As for getting our hands on the game, the wait for its release (more than a year away) will be excruciating. Don’t forget to check out the trailer :)

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