10 Hour Countdown!

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In just under 10 hours one of the [hopefully] greatest sequels will be released here in the USA for consumers! Yes, Bioshock Ininite will be released via various midnight releases on the east coast! Leaving everyone else the option to go pick it up off the shelves tomorrow morning.

Bioshock Infinite will not be expanding on the story of Rapture anymore, but instead going back in time and exploring a whole new story on the floating city of Columbia. This is where you, acting as the protagonist, will be sent to save a girl from the harsh reality and rebellion going on upon the massive sky city. What will we learn about this new world, this cities inhabitants, and the main protagonists? Well we will find out in mere hours, and all of us here at the basement have never been more excited for another Bioshock game!

Snapshot: Tomb Raider (2013)

Tomb Raider Art

Yes, as of last Tuesday (March 5th, 2013) the new imagining of Tomb Raider was released! The game was developed by Crystal Dynamics, and published by Square Enix, and honestly it’s probably the best Tomb Raider game released; aside from the lack of puzzles to solve.

Graphically the game is astonishing. The environments though not truly “open-world” have an open world feel to them, though there are obvious paths for you to walk upon and invisible barriers to stop you from going anywhere outside the allotted space. So needless to say you won’t be glitching up mountains like in Bethesda games, but they leave just enough room for exploration of various artifacts and things needed to upgrade weapons. Since, they focus on these small hub-like areas instead of a sprawling free-for-all environment the areas look damn near realistic, and almost next generation. I’ve been playing on Sony’s console, so I’m sure on the PC it looks even better. Despite the vast traversal options the game never feels clunky and the frame rate never drops.

Tomb Raider_Lara Croft Voice ActressThe game sounds great as well. The weapons sound realistic whether its the small whistle from the bow string or the loud explosion of fire coming into contact with a natural gas line. Since the island is tropical you will hear a lot of nature related sounds like birds and wolves, which you can actually come into contact with. The voice acting is pretty solid for most of the characters, pulling you deeper into the fiction. The best voice acting is of course Lara Croft; played by Camilla Luddington. Camilla gives a solid performance of the re-imagined Lara Croft. Hell, she may be Lara Croft in disguise  as a voice actor.

This new Tomb Raider also implements some pretty amazing mechanics that makes it feel more like a survival game, rather than a third person cover shooter; though at its core that’s exactly what this game is. The most exciting mechanic they use is a reaction based Lara. When you come into an area or approach enemies she automatically draws her equipped weapon. So now you know there are enemies in the vicinity what else will she do? Well, when you approach a low wall, bush, tree, or well just about anything that’s worth hiding behind she will automatically go into cover. The cover doesn’t feel still, like games where you would snap into cover, but rather more natural as you move from object to object. They’ve also included a feature called “survival instinct,” which works a lot like Batman’s Detective Vision in the recent Arkham games. The primary use for it is to see objects you can interact with, animals you can hunt, or enemies in the nearby area. However, after some upgrade points, it becomes very handy in finding the hidden treasures of the island! (The collectibles are actually worth collecting, because it fills in more of the fiction of the island!)

Tomb Raider_CombatThe upgrade tree is similar to Farcry 3 with three different trees to fill out. The skills aren’t to the extreme that the one’s in Farcry are, nor are they about the stealth kills, but they upgrades do make some considerable upgrades to Lara’s survival and combat abilities. The weapon upgrades are different and interesting enough for you to care to do them. They add things like better accuracy, more damage, fire arrows, and silences (just to name a small amount). You’re not able to upgrade everything out of the gate, but rather as you become more intune with survival and you find gun parts that will enable the next set of upgrades. You’ll also need salvage (a sort of upgrade currency in the game) to make the weapon upgrades, but don’t fret salvage is everywhere.

The AI is far from intelligent, but they are extremely aggressive, normally attacking in groups allowing for some to attempt to flank you while others are spraying bullets and throwing sticks of dynamite. However, most of them aren’t very hard to kill until later in the game where a little more planning and strategy is beneficial due to the various enemy types, including armored enemies.

With all of that said, we get to the best part of the game… THE STORY! The story takes place on Lara’s first expedition to find a hidden (almost Atlantis-like) island, where she hopes to find answers to the worship and culture of the ‘Sun Queen.’ However, Lara believes they must head into the Dragon’s Triangle to find the island. The Dragon’s Triangle makes the Bermuda Triangle look like a bedtime story for little kids. Nonetheless, they head straight into the storm ridden and dangerous area in search of an adventure, however, the adventure finds Lara as they shipwreck on an island with a constantly changing climate that stops all who try to leave the island.

You’ll play as Lara as she goes from being an ‘innocent’ shipwrecked girl in search of her team as she faces the many dangers of the forested island with her instincts leading the way. Though, this story is one action and over coming, as well as, a story of loss and confusion. Lara will have to survive and overcome everything if she plans to help even just one of her friends last on an island overtaken by a group of bandits who’ve been stranded on the island for years, an island who has a great amount predatory animals, and many old dangerous and explosive (and wrecked) buildings. Oh and there’s a group of over-sized and very powerful enemies protecting a sacred chamber.

Honestly, I can’t see this game just simply being a prequel story. I feel like this game has great potential for a reboot of the series. With all the resources Crystal and Square dumped into this game I’m sure we’ll atleast see a trilogy out of this new and improved Tomb Raider. Hell, as long as they keep just about everything that made this game amazing and add some more puzzles I’m sold!

Bioshock Revival

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So everyone know that Bioshock Infinte is set to hit shelves in March of this, pending any additional delays. However , the first two Bioshock games are getting a revival this month with the Biohock Ultimate Rapture Edition. The edition comes with both the first two Bioshock games ( Bioshock 1 and Bioshock 2) as well as all the DLC that came out for both games (yes even the Challenge Rooms Pack; which was previously only released on PS3 as an exclusive for Bioshock). The edition also includes never before seen artwork, character models, and all that fun behind the scenes artsy things major Bioshock fans will love. So that’s both games, all the DLC, and never before seen artwork all for the shelf price of $40. Well damn, that’s a pretty great deal.

So if you haven’t tried some of the best stories on this generation of consoles, or if you just want to get back into the Bioshock spirit this is surely one awesome, affordable and easy way to just that!

We just have one question for all of you; what do you all think about the videogame industry’s recent investment in repackaging and reselling previously released games?

Angry Birds’s Christmas Rampage

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Angry Birds got an incredible amount of downloads on Christmas, that is deserving of a standing ovation. Those of you who are fans Rovio probably remember them hitting 1 billion downloads back in May 2012, well maybe you didn’t hear that, but it did happen. Nonetheless it’s great to see that Rovio is still racking up downloads in the millions on Christmas and the week afterwards. Basically what it breaks down to is that’s one download for every other new android an iOS tablet and smartphone that was purchased over the holidays. Great job guys! All 1.03 billion of us can’t wait to see what you do in 2013.

Best Games of 2012!

As we near the end of the year we decided to get everyone’s opinion on the top games of 2012! Everyone can pick up to 3 answers, and on December 26th we will post what the most popular best games of 2012 were!

Nuketown Zombies & EXP BOOST

Nuketown ZombiesThe map that the majority population of Call of Duty: Black Ops fans love has just become infested the brain eating corpses. Yes, that’s right Nuketown Zombies has released. Unfortunately, unless you have the season pass for the 360 or purchased the hardened edition of the game, you won’t be able to play it just yet. Nonetheless, you can still watch the really awesome trailer for the pandemonium that will be released upon the small and fun map!

Though, the release of Nuketown Zombies is great news by itself, Activision has announced an even better event scheduled for this weekend! The second Double XP weekend will begin this Friday [starting roughly 10am PST] (December 14th) through Monday [ending 10am PST] (December 17th).

Black Ops 2 was this year’s Cash Cow

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According to Activision and PC Gamer Black Ops 2 generated an amount of money equal to $1 billion in only 15 days! Yeah, that’s quite a lump sum of cash in just over two weeks of sales. SO that doesn’t even include the increasing amount that Activision is still going to receive throughout the rest of the holiday season!

Despite the fact tat prices will vary from area to area, that roughly works out to 16.7 million copies of Call of Duty Black Ops 2 sold. All I have to say is WOW! Obviously Call of Duty still holds the majority amount for FPS games. However, that’s going to be hard to beat next year. Let’s see if the teams at Activision are up to the challenge; not only for the speed of sales, but the quality of content!

 

Snapshot: Little Big Planet Karting

Little Big Planet Karting

The next story of the sackboys and sackgirls released this season, with Little Big Planet Karting. This addition features a Mario Kart style of racing featuring the sack people, and delivering a large amount of customization to hands of its players, as it’s predecessor’s did.

The story’s format, as I’m sure you would have guessed, had to take kind of a make over since the base mechanics in this game are fairly different from Little Big Planet & Little Big Planet 2; which were both platformers. A new enemy has revealed themselves in there sporty karts, which are referred to as the Hoarders. They drive by and steal and horde all the items throughout the universe. Yeah, I said universe instead of world. You are limited to only one planet in this game. Instead you will travel from world to world instead of country to country. They have the same base area designs, but just now each area has it’s own planet.

While the story is always entertaining and comical, most people come to the Little Big Planet games to create and play other user generate content with their friends. Well don’t worry there is no shortage of ability to create your own tracks and arenas. Hell there is actually to some extent some more ability to be creative since you will be designing in a three dimensional aspect instead of the two dimensional aspect of the previous games. The designing is a little confusing at first, but there are no shortage of tutorial videos to teach you how to do just about anything you can imagine.

Graphically the game is an improvement. I mean yeah it’s still the same basic character models and upgrades with some minor tweaks and additions, but the image seems more crisp and the frame rate seems pretty constant. The game also sounds well. Actually in your popit you can edit your kart and change the different engine sounds to make the Kart sounds just the way you want it to. The music is calming and catchy as usual, and the weapon sound effects seem pretty constant.

The game controls alright, i suppose. The kart just doesn’t seem as floating as it should at times, and other times it seems like your floating all over the place and becomes hard to steer and control. I have a few problems with playing some races and the game saying I wasn’t on the track while I was doing a jump so it would respawn me, which becomes annoying when you finally get to first amongst the crazy rocket battles throughout the races. Other times I got stuck just outside the track and it wouldn’t respawn me at all, which really made me miss that kind of suicide respawn the franchise featured in earlier games. My biggest pet peeve though is the loading time. So there is no option to go to the next race at the end of a race. Every time you have to exit to your pod and from there you pick the next story level or challenge. Okay cool. The problem is the loading time from the end of race leaderboards to the pod, and then the load time to the next race.

Overall, the game is alright if you’re playing by yourself. Though I noticed some of the more annoying things while I was playing alone. However, when I’m playing with other people the fun doubles, if not triples. The franchise had delivered another fun family and friendly game that you can pick up and play a couple of rounds before placing it down. You’ll have a good time, but it’s not necessarily going to keep you entertained in the longer sittings.

Pre-Shot: Little Big Planet Karting

Oh yeah, Little Big Planet is entering the whole karting scene. Actually this year is a decent year for nintendo knock offs; no offense is intended towards Little Big Planet Karting or Playstation All-Stars. Nonetheless, I’m sure this game is going to be a great addition to the Little Big Planet Franchise. It still follows the company’s favorite motto “Play. Create. Share.”

You’ll be able to play a fun packed story with races, combat arenas (that are packed with LBP styled weaponry), and intense boss battles; and that’s only the STORY! Once your done that all you future game creators get to dive into the create mode to build your own intense levels, personalized carts, and, of course, your own sack boys (or sack girls); all of which can be uploaded for other people to download. The game will be 1-4 players local, or a maximum of 8 players online. Also, the game will have 3D functionality (unless your trying to use the Sony dual cast screen.) Who else is excited for this creative and funky game that’s due out some time this fall!

Derek Padakowski

Snapshot: Sleeping Dogs

 The game was originally supposed to be to be the next True Crime game, but after being cancelled by Activision due to its high budget costs, Square Enix got the the rights to the game and finished the game under the title Sleeping Dogs.

Sleeping Dogs is about an undercover cop, Wei Shen, who is brought to Hong Kong to infiltrate the Triads to try and take down their operations through out the city. However, Wei Shen begins to blur the lines between his two identities as he rekindles a friendship with a childhood friend, and makes new friends in the underground world.

There were many people that were pretty much comparing the game to Rockstar’s hit franchise Grand Theft Auto, but Sleeping Dogs is so much more than that. My favorite part of the game, aside from the story, is the combat system. It’s very similar to the combat system implemented in Batman Arkham City. It’s incredibly useful and fun throughout the entire game as you gain new moves by moving through the upgrade trees. It was certainly a surprise to see this mechanic in a third person crime shooter. However, since they put such an emphasis on the combat, they slacked off on the driving controls. Driving, needless to say, was my least favorite factor of the game, which made it a drag to grind through the racing missions in the game.

Another fun aspect of the game are the challenges they place in the game. One of the challenges in the game even rewards you for ‘driving clean,’ which means you can’t hit civilians, cars, or even the random obstacles placed throughout the world. Your challenge times, or scores, are then uploaded to online leader boards so you can compare your success with your friends and others around the world. Aside, from the online leader boards there isn’t any online play.

Visually the game is stunning, especially every time it rains. It obviously looks better on the PC, but the consoles display all the images and animations very well too. United Front Games did a very good job of portraying Hong Kong; especially Hong Kong night life with the large mass of Neon Signs filling the streets.

The side jobs throughout the world are relatively rewarding, except for some grinding events and my ever hated racing missions. There are a couple of side games you can play, one of them being a Chinese version of Poker. Which were really only fun the first few times through, but I didn’t really spend much more time outside the main events indulging in them.

Honestly, I feel the game is pretty underated for it gives its players. The mechanics were mostly well done, the visuals reward your eyes, and your explorative side, and a number of the side jobs aren’t all that boring and really just add to the story and world. Sleeping Dogs released at the beginning of the summer, when there wasn’t really much coming out, but still didn’t do as well as it probably should have. There is so much more to the game that I can’t even explain it all in words, you’ll just have to try it out for yourself! I encourage all types of gamers to give Sleeping Dogs a try.

4 out of 5

Derek Padakowski