Year in Review

WordPress has compiled my year in review stats for 2011 and they’re pretty satisfying, at least to me! They detail how many visitors I had, when my busiest time of the year was, and what articles were the most popular.

Click here to see them, and thank you all for making 2011 a very busy year for my hit counter and I hope to have another great year in 2012.

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F1 2011 (Review)

“Codemasters comes close to perfection with their third Formula One title.”

It’s hard to believe that just three years ago, Codemasters had nothing more than the official license to develop F1 games for the next several years. F1 2009 on the Gamecube and PSP was arather slow start to their career as F1 developers (2009 wasn’t even developed in-house) and, while 2010 was a very nice treat, there were a lot of problems with the game that ultimately turned away even I, an obsessive fan of the real life sport. F1 2011 continues the trend of each Codemasters F1 title being significantly better than the last and I can probably even say that 2011 is perhaps one of my favourite Formula One games of all time.

For starters, if you want a realistic/sim racer, don’t even bother with this game. F1 2011 is developed for mainstream appeal because, of course, Codemasters would like to maximize their profits from this game’s sales. The hardcore sim fanatics will find plenty to be upset over in this game due to the slightly arcadey feel of the cars at times, but the rest of us? Oh, we’ll gobble this game up like a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

F1 2011 is, predictably, very similar to 2010 in many areas. Your statistics are still flashed before you during loading screens, and most menus are still set up in the same way that Codemasters established with the very first DiRT game some years ago. Regardless of the quality of racing in Codemasters games, I can’t help but frown a little bit at their laziness. We’ve had three DiRT games, GRID, and two F1 games that have all had scarily similar features and menus. For some reason Codemasters seems content to simply copy and paste a vast amount of code and resources over and over again throughout the years. As a result, it feels all of the games they release are merely mods running on the same engine due to there being so many similarities with each of their games. It is sort of like how many Source mods still look and feel like Half-Life 2 in terms of visual presentation, controls, features, and so forth. It’s also worth noting that the ingame garage menus at the race tracks are literally ripped straight out of last year’s game. The garages even look the same, which is just completely lazy in my opinion. Even when you choose to go out on track, the animations of the mechanics are the same from last year. Heck, they’re even standing in the exact same locations from last year’s game. This goes back to how I feel like all Codemasters games simply feel like mods. F1 2011 may be far superior to F1 2010 in many ways, but it also unfortunately feels like a mod of it as well. So while there is a lot of copying and pasting going on here, which I feel is a horribly lazy thing to do, there’s also a lot of fantastic improvements in the game.

The best part of F1 2011? Car handling has been improved drastically. While I am still a little saddened that driving over grass and sand traps isn’t as difficult as it should be, I honestly revel in the fact that kerbs can now be driven over without having a fear of spinning out wildly sitting in the back of your mind. In 2010, spinning out by riding the kerbs was a pretty common problem that a lot of people complained about. In 2011, the realism has been improved greatly in this area and players are now able to ride kerbs as well as the real life drivers. This will encourage a lot of players to be more aggressive with their hot laps as it gives us more room to be creative and develop our own proper racing lines.

There are a few new features in the game that were not present in 2010. Split screen racing has finally made an appearance in a Codemasters racing game for what I think may be the first time ever. There’s also co-op championship where you and a friend can plow through career mode together by driving as teammates for any of the twelve teams. This is an amazing feature that more games should incorporate, as it should help develop a real rivalry between good friends as they fight to beat each other and become the team’s #1 driver. This mirrors what happens in real life, so kudos to Codemasters for adding this! I only wish that I had even a single friend or relative who liked Formula One as much as I do so that I could utilize this game mode.

Codemasters did all of us true fans a favour by adding the safety car to 2011. It’s pretty rare to have the safety car deployed (a stark contrast to the real sport in recent years), but if a pretty substantial pile-up occurs then you can certainly expect to see the silver Mercedes safety car being deployed to lead the cars around the track for a lap or two. They have also added DRS and KERS to the game. I won’t bother explaining what those two systems are because I am sure that most people reading this will be actual fans of the sport and won’t need to be educated. Both systems are incorporated fairly well, and you will notice a frightening increase in speed if you are lucky enough to have DRS and KERS at your disposal at the same time.

The AI has also been improved tremendously. While they are still likely to make some pretty awful driving errors at times (I’ve been side-swiped on straights), they now behave appropriately when they are on cooldown laps or being given a blue flag. If you are lapping them or are on a hot lap, then the AI drivers will always make an effort to pull out of the way for you. This is a massive improvement from last year’s game where the AI felt as if it was travelling on rails and almost ignored the player.

The visuals in 2011 have been improved upon slightly. I honestly have not seen a large change from 2010 to 2011, though the mysterious green fog that plagued the race tracks of 2010 have been done away with. I understand that this was done to capture the look and feel of how we television viewers see the sport from the T-Cams since the television cameras do capture a big of mist, though this is probably from the glare on the lens or something. One aspect of the visuals that I believe certainly looks better is the car modelling. When the lighting is just right, the cars in this game are almost photo-realistic. I really have to commend Codemasters on making the cars look this good, though they do seem to be a bit too high off the ground. The ride height of the cars isn’t too realistic and it does make the cars look a little funny if you are looking at one head on from the nose cone.

The soundtrack has been much improved in 2011 and I find myself tapping my feet to many of the game’s pseudo-electronic tracks. 2010 was a big bag of mixed nuts (the paddock music in particular was sleep inducing), but just about every selection in 2011 sounds very nice. The music you will have play if you qualify well or get a podium finish is incredibly uplifting and is certain to make players feel very good about what they’ve accomplished, especially after relatively long races.

My two beefs with this game? First and foremost is the lack of Bruno Senna. A name like his would certainly attract more gamers than Nick Heidfeld and his scruffy over-the-hill mug. Replacement drivers simply are not in this game and it’s a shame. I remember F1 ’95 having all replacement drivers throughout regular seasons and including them in the races they drove in, so why can’t that happen sixteen years later? My second complaint is the difficulty. Even on the amateur difficulty setting players who are unfamiliar with F1 games or simply take a while to get up to speed will find that it is quite hard to set competitive lap times on some tracks. I recall my first race in Australia driving for Force India. I did not have a single off and really drove what felt like I was on the limits and where did I end up? Around eighteenth. You really need to be incredibly precise with your acceleration, braking, and racing line in this game. Gone are the days where, on the easiest difficulty settings, new players could immediately be on the pace if they at least stayed on the track. 2011 will make you work hard for your positions even on the easiest difficulty setting. This isn’t too terrible, but there is a habit of the AI being better at some tracks than others. For instance, the Ai is laughably easy to beat in China, but other at tracks? Get ready to pull your hair out if you’re not a master at the game.

F1 2011 is a huge improvement over 2010, but there are still a few critical issues in the game that hold it back from absolute greatness. While this is a very good F1 game, it is still not even close to being in the league of the greatest console F1 game ever, F1′ 97. Still, this one is worth a look. Give it a go if you have a hankering for some truly fun grand prix racing.

Pros:
+ Car handling has been improved drastically.
+ Exciting new multiplayer game modes.
+ Graphics have been improved upon slightly.

Cons:
AI difficulty can be very inconsistent.
Copying and pasting of menus from previous Codemasters games is starting to feel VERY old and overdone now.
Lack of substitute drivers.

Final Score

8.9/10

Dead Island (Post Impressions)

This is not a review, because I did not play Dead Island long enough to justify the writing of one. I played the game for a grand total of a mere 3.7 hours. This isn’t a terribly long time to spend with a game unless it is something overly simplistic such as Minesweeper, so I cannot and will not write about Dead Island as if I really even know what I am talking about, since I just did not spend enough time on the game to become terribly knowledgeable.

Why didn’t I play the game for any longer than four hours? There are a few reasons. Some of them may or may not be agreeable, but not of them are outright “wrong” since it’s all opinion and is therefore pretty subjective.

1. Collision Detection: What’s with this aspect of the game? Why is it so off? There is not much consistency with collision detection unless you’re using a ranged weapon or throwing something at a zombie. It just seems horribly off a lot of the time since I can kick a zombie in the chest when it appears to be several feet away from me, and then there are times when a zombie will be less than an arms reach away from me and my kicks will miss. I don’t know what’s going on here, but it gives me horrible flashbacks of Morrowind’s iffy dice/number based “hit or miss” battle system. I doubt that Dead Island uses the same method to calculate whether or not you hit since nothing in the game really indicated that it did, but at the very least the fighting mechanics seem a little sloppily coded.

2. Depth of Field: I’M GOING TO THROW UP! Maybe not quite, but this game is a pain for me to look at. The camera controls are extremely wonky and I feel it’s hard to look in certain directions at times. It can also be hard to judge just how close (or far) zombies are at times, which kind of ties in which my beef with the collision detection in this game. I just feel like the whole experience is awkward and disorienting. The way in which character movement is portrayed makes me feel a little confused and really messes with my mind. I don’t get motion sickness or anything, but there’s definitely something to this game that makes me feel a little “off” when I am moving around on foot.

Didn't I already cut this guy's head off? Like a few dozen times? Hurrah for repeating character models!

3. (Lack of) Enemy Variety: Walker, walker, walker, thug, infected, walker, walker, walker, infected… Rinse and repeat a lot. This game is an RPG, yeah? Even games such as Fallout 3 (which I can’t stand) boasts better variety. Fighting the same three enemy types, with a grand total of what feels like two or three different models in total for each kind of zombie, gets tiring fast. They could have done so much more! The variety truly is a little boring, and I would only accept shambling zombies if they came at the player en masse ala Dead Rising. When you run into one or two walkers at a time over and over, it just gets really boring. I am aware that you have more zombies attacking you at once later (such as several infected at a time), but really? Should we honestly have to work towards this? I’m playing a zombie game, I don’t want to be attacked by tiny little twosomes and trios for a few hours, especially when it is the same character models/zombie types over and over. I would have at least appreciated a few blood barfing zombies at the start or something.

4. Poor Atmosphere: This game just doesn’t grip me at all. I love zombies as much as the next guy, and a proper horror/scary game can certainly freak me out, but this game just doesn’t suck me in. The hotel at the very start was sufficiently spooky and I enjoyed it, but afterwards? I don’t know, roaming around a tropical resort wasn’t very scary even with zombies screaming and running at me. The environment still looked too pristine and untouched, and the zombies themselves weren’t very intimidating. Everything I was asked to do by the dull and personality-lacking NPCs felt very routine. I just struggled to feel immersed at all. Singleplayer mode ended up being ridiculously boring because of this, and the short time I spent playing co-op with a friend was slightly better, but still kind of sucked since he was a much higher level and was just rushing me through the game. There was no challenge at all because of this since he was running around killing everything in one hit with electrified weapons and such. My situation never felt particularly dire.

This guy has the personality of a cardboard box. He is so dull that I gave him an exciting nickname. Cinnamon. I'm serious.

5. Bugs & Glitches: While I commend the developers on being able to develop a game that would run on my laptop (it isn’t a set up as gaming machine, but it can hold its own pretty well), I’m a big disgruntled at the frequent black screens I would receive when quitting the game, along with various odd control issues. I’ve also noticed that others online have had quite a few issues with the game, especially with quest NPCs bugging up or with save files becoming corrupted. Dead Island does seem to be about as buggy as standard Bethesda TES releases (Morrowind, Oblivion), but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the game is unstable as other games such Sacred 2. A lot of people have no issues with Dead Island, so I guess that counts for something.

So, there you have it. These are the issues that I feel stopped me from playing more of Dead Island. I will admit that the game looks pretty nice and has some decent ideas such as the combo weapon system and co-op gameplay, but they weren’t enough to save the game in my eyes. I respect that a lot of people are enjoying this game, but Dead Island just doesn’t seem to be for me. I regret purchasing the game, as the money I used to buy it could’ve gone towards F1 2011 instead. Oh well, to each their own!

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 Info Post

Last Update: November 2, 2011

August 2, 2011: I’m too lazy to keep things like character changes updated. I’m only going to add major things now, such as character reveals and such.

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 is now official, baby! I’ve collected pretty much everything that you need to know. The full roster, new stages, gameplay videos, and changes/tweaks to characters and gameplay! This page will be updated whenever I can attain new info so, if you like what you see here, add this page to your bookmarks/favourites! Enjoy.

If you have any info that I have not yet added, feel free to post a comment below or email me at daniel.babineau@gmail.com!

Basic Info

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 will be released in November 15th 2011 and will be on store shelves at a price of $39.99 without tax. There are twelve new characters (six Capcom, six Marvel) and eight new stages.

There will NOT be a downloadable version on the Live Marketplace or Playstation Store. Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 will only be available on disc from online and physical retailers.

The Roster & Stages

There are twelve new characters. Six are from Capcom franchises and six are from the Marvel universe. Here they are.

Capcom
Firebrand (Demon’s Crest)
Frank West (Dead Rising)
Nemesis (Resident Evil)
Phoenix Wright (Ace Attorney)
Strider Hiryu (Strider)
Vergil (Devil May Cry)

The Marvel characters aren’t really from specific “series” and such, so only their names are listed. Here they are.

Marvel
Dr. Strange
Ghost Rider
Hawkeye
Iron Fist
Nova
Rocket Raccoon

Here is the character art for the twelve new characters. Click the thumbnails for larger images.

As far as stages go, there are eight being added to Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. They are, more or less, “remixed” versions of existing stages.

Asgard: Stage is now set during the night.
Kattelox Island: Is not covered in snow in a winter-themed setting.
Metro City: Destroyed by sentinels, features a “apprehended/slain” poster of past MvC characters.
SHIELD Carrier: Stage is now set during the day.
Training Stage: “Simulation” is off and now resembles the danger room shown at the game’s main menu.
Tricell Laboratory: The background area is now in ruin.


Game Modes

Ultimate Marvelvs Capcom 3 will feature a few new game modes which should prove enjoyable for those who complained about the vanilla version not having enough to do.

Galactus Mode: A game mode where Galactus is playable by a character. What I can tell, it’s just the standard Galactus fight at the end of arcade mode, but the big guy is now controlled by a player.

Heroes & Heralds Mode: A free post-launch DLC mode in which one side plays as heralds of Galactus using modified stats/techniques via combining cards that alter character performance (?).


Character Changes/Tweaks

As many people will be very interested in changes to their favourite characters from vanilla MvC3, this is a very important section! Please let me know if I have anything wrong, or if there are changes/tweaks that I haven’t found/been notified of. Remember, since UMvC3 is still in development, some of the changes below may not be final and most of what’s below has been gathered from third party sources and from watching streams/videos of UMvC3. Please let me know if any of this information is incorrect.

  • Demon Flip: A new command throw that Akuma has had in Street Fighter titles.
  • Tatsumaki Zankukyaku: When used as an assist, knocks enemy away rather than knocking them down.

  • Double Jump: Captain America seems to have a double jump now.
  • Shield Slash: The speed of this special has been increased dramatically.
  • Overall Mobility: Captain America, overall, appears to be a much faster character now.

  • Specials Startup: It is currently believed that the startup time on Chris’ specials are now shorter. This is not yet confirmed.

  • Combos: Dante’s basic combos do not seem to be executed in the same way or have simply been changed completely. No detailed info on this yet.

  • Quick Work: The distance/range of this attack is said to have been increased.

  • Flame Carpet: Pushes the opponent further away.

  • Uni-Beam: Overall startup and speed of attack increased and is now very spammable.

  • Attraction: A new special move that resembles an orb which drags the opponent towards him.
  • Dash: Magneto’s dash speed has been nerfed significantly.
  • Disruptor: Has had it’s speed reduced and is now slower overall.
  • Gravitation: A new special that Magneto can use to ground airborne opponents.
  • Repulsion: A new special move that resembles an orb which pushes the opponent away from him.

  • Damage Buff: It is currently believed that Morrigan’s overall damage has been slightly increased.
  • Finishing Shower: This hyper move has been had it’s startup and overall speed increased.

  • Air Limitations: Phoenix can now only perform one special in the air before dropping back to the ground.

  • Chargeable Hadoken: A hadoken move that can be charged (like Zero’s buster). Travels extremely fast at maximum charge.
  • Hadou Shoryuken: A brand new shoryuken that I have no current information on.
  • Shinku Hadoken: Can now reflect off of walls. It seems to reflect at a forty five degree angle.
  • Shinku Tatsumaki Senpukyaku: Now creates a large tornado when used.
  • Shoryuken: Ryu’s regular shoryuken can now be charged.

  • Sentinel Force Charge: Drones are deployed faster when used as an assist.

  • Overall Mobility: She-Hulk, overall, appears to be a much faster character now.

  • Death From Above: This new special attack is a damaging dropping attack from above similar to Super Skrull’s meteor smash special.

  • Damage Buff: Storm’s overall damage has been increased slightly.
  • New Wind Special: Storm can now pull and push the opponent her using winds.

  • Charge Stick: A new special where Taskmaster impales the enemy. Can easily be linked to Charging Star/Shield Charge.

  • Bonne Strike: This special now has a quicker recovery time.
  • Gustaffe Fire: The assist version of this has been nerfed. Tron Bonne is more vulnerable when called out to perform this assist attack.

  • New Dodge: Joe can now dodge/parry low attacks by doing a sort of “upwards dodge.” He has been seen dodging other attacks as well such as Berserker Slash.

  • Health Nerf: Wesker has been given a health nerf. Not sure how much less he has, but his health is said to be lower now.

  • Berserker Slash: This attack’s speed has been reduced.
  • Swiss Cheese: An oddly named new special move where Wolverine quickly slashes diagionally many times.

  • Rage Trigger: This hyper move is now faster overall.

  • Rekkoha: This special now covers more ground, as it has become wider.

Gameplay Changes/Tweaks

Expanded Online Features
It has been noted that a spectator mode has been added to the online component of the game. Players will no longer have to wait in a lobby for their turn and will now be able to watch other players in the lobby fight.

“Magic Pixel” Removed
In vanilla MvC3, it was possible for a character’s life to be completely depleted (visually, at least) yet still be alive and fighting. This graphical issue has been fixed and is not present in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3.

X-Factor Changes

  • New Properties: Can now be activated while airborne and the duration of X-Factor has been cut in half by approximately 50%. X Factor is now displayed prominently on the inside of the lifebars beside the timer.
  • New Appearance: Characters no longer glow red when X-Factor is active. Instead, they will become “shadows” of themselves with red centers. The shadow darkens when you attack.

General Aesthetic Changes/Tweaks

New Character Select & VS Screens
The character select and versus screens have each been given a very nice and sleek makeover. The character select screen firmly divides the two sides from one another. Note that you now change the colour of your characters by pressing L1/R1 to alternate through them, rather than pressing X, circle, square, and triangle.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

The HUD Redesign
Lifebars have been overhauled. Your active character (the one you are playing as) is now displayed in the center of your team’s lifebars. Your active character’s lifebar is also larger than the others. There is also a new X-Factor display on the inside of the lifebar HUD.

The new lifebars.

Super meters have been overhauled as well. They do not function differently and have simply been given a new appearance that seems to be more comic book inspired than the old meters.

The new super meters.

New Win Screen
The win screen has received a new look. Your three characters are given equal treatment on the screen and the stage you fought on is displayed in the back rather than in it’s own little window in the corner.

Click to enlarge.

Character Voices
When two of your characters die and your third and final character leaps into the fight, they will shout out a line that many people have taken to calling the last man standing line. For example, if Hawkeye is your only character left, he will say “Looks like it’s just me!” when he jumps into the fight.

There are also new lines that characters will say to each other before and after fights. For example, if the last character on the opposing team is Hawkeye and you defeat him with Taskmaster, he will say something similar to, “Ha! Thanks for the archery lesson, William Tell!”

Remixed Music Tracks
Various music tracks will be remixed. Currently it is known that the victory theme has been remixed as a new version of it can be heard at the end of the gameplay videos. Also, the character select theme has been remixed and is more “rockish” than before.

Reveal Trailers Videos

Doctor Strange

Firebrand

Frank West

Ghost Rider

Hawkeye

Iron Fist

Nemesis

Nova

Phoenix Wright

Rocket Raccoon

Strider Hiryu

Vergil

Other Videos

Gamespot Interviews Seth Killian (2011 San Diego Comic-Con)

Random 2011 SDCC Matches

Dr. Strange vs. Nemesis

Phoenix Wright vs. Nova

Ghost Rider vs. Firebrand

Hawkeye vs. Strider Hiryu

Iron Fist vs. Vergil

Rocket Raccoon vs. Frank West

Ultimate Odds & Ends

New Box Art
Here is the box art for Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. Click to view the full-sized version.

Click to enlarge.

Costume Packs
There are currently three new costume packs that are slated to be released in conjunction with Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3.

"Femme Fatale" Pack: Chun-Li, Morrigan, Storm, X-23.
"New Age of Heroes" Pack: Akuma, Dr. Doom, Sentinel, Strider Hiryu
"Villains" Pack: Crimson Viper, MODOK, Super Skrull, Wesker.

You can acquire each costume pack by preordering from various retailers. Here are the retailers and which packs they offer with their preorders:

Amazon – New Age of Heroes Pack
Best Buy – Villains Pack
Gamestop – Femme Fatale Pack

Vanilla DLC Compatibility
Downloadable content purchased for the original Marvel vs Capcom 3 will be compatible with the Ultimate version. If you purchased Jill and Shuma-Gorath in the original version, you will still have them when you boot up Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. No DLC purchases will have to be repeated.

No Mega Man/Females
Twelve new characters and none of them are female. This is pretty weird by fighting game standards. Apparently a raccoon was deemed more important than a woman. There is also no sign of a Mega Man character. This is pretty shocking since he was the most demanded Capcom character by fans. It is pretty likely that, if we get DLC characters again, we can probably expect a Marvel girl and Mega Man X for Capcom to be released in the same manner as Jill and Shuma-Gorath. They may even be offered as special edition bonuses in much the same way as the vanilla DLC characters (assuming we even get a special edition this time).


Have any comments to share? Sound off in the box below!

Mortal Kombat (Review)

Ever since Mortal Kombat 4, the Mortal Kombat series has looked a little unsure of what it wanted to be and, as a result, it continuously changed with each new game and alienated fans of the previous games. Fans of MK4 were alienated with Deadly Alliance, and further revisions to Deception’s gameplay alienated those who were comfortable with Deadly Alliance. Armageddon threw everything together in a big mess and, well, we know how that game turned out. A few years later and we had Mortal Kombat vs DC which, to this day, I have never played because it was rated T and I knew that it wouldn’t deliver a proper Mortal Kombat experience.

So, with the series looking to have lost it’s identity for over a decade, it was understandable for anyone to write off the series and lose faith in any future installments. I think that this is what many people did but, when Midway went bankrupt and the Mortal Kombat franchise was sold off to Warner Bros. Games, something happened. The MK team was given more freedom than they probably ever had, and they were granted more time to work on the next game. When the first screenshots of what everyone called Mortal Kombat 9 surfaced, a 2.5D fighter that sought to return to the roots of the series, it was clear that a massive spike in quality had happened.

Now, here we are in April 2011 with a brand new and proper Mortal Kombat game that is simply titled, well, Mortal Kombat. Why not MK9, you may ask? Well, even though this game does serve as the ninth entry in the series’ canon story (the game picks up immediately after Armageddon), everything gets rewinded and the game becomes a complete reboot for the series. As everyone is well aware by now, the game starts off after Mortal Kombat Armageddon when Shao Kahn is about to kill Raiden and merge the realms of Outworld of Earthrealm. Just before the final death blow, Raiden sends a message to his MK1 era self as a way to alter the future so that Shao Kahn does not emerge victorious.

Character and stage detail greatly exceeds all expectations for a Mortal Kombat game.

The timeline for this game is set between MK1 and MK3 and, in the game’s engaging and expansive story mode, you play will through each of the three tournaments, though MK3 was more of an invasion than a fighting tournament. It is really worth noting that this Mortal Kombat has perhaps the best story mode I have ever had the pleasure of playing through. The narrative is fantastic, as everything occurs in fully voiced cutscenes that uses the game’s character models and stage arenas to tell a fascinating story. The story mode is divided up into several different chapters, each one giving you control of a protagonist from whatever timeline you are playing in.

Story mode is a lot of fun and has a lot of great voice acting and writing. NetherRealm Studios put their heart and soul into delivering a very engrossing experience here, and it really shows. This is truly their best work ever and it seems that Midway’s unfortunate downfall has allowed the development team to really flex their creative muscles, delivering a higher quality experience than anything we probably have never received from them in the past. The storyline is great and the fights in story mode are very enjoyable, though a few of the tag fights can feel a little unfair if you’re unfamiliar with the character you are using. The final fight of story mode is also extremely difficult to beat if you do not resort to using cheap tactics or spamming projectiles, but in a way that is what Mortal Kombat’s tough fights have always been about. What would a Mortal Kombat be without a boss that enrages us and forces us to abandon our cleverly developed strategies in favour of mass spamming of fireballs and other projectile attacks? Well, it wouldn’t be a proper Mortal Kombat! While some major game review publications have slammed the difficulty of this game’s bosses, I have embraced it in all of it’s insanely hard glory. Bring it on, I say.

The story mode will take between five and ten hours to clear depending on the difficulty level you are playing through, which is very impressive for a fighting game. After making it through the story mode and unlocking a few cool characters along the way, you’ll still have about half of the game’s content left to blow through – if not more!

X-Ray attacks are painful to be hit with... And also to watch!

Outside of story mode, there is the Challenge Tower. In this mode, players are given a ladder of three hundred challenges that they must complete. Many of them are pretty basic fights while others are more creative and force you to do things such as defeat waves of oncoming zombies. Mortal Kombat mainstays such as Test Your Might and other mini games also appear in the Challenge Tower, and they become progressively harder as you work towards the magic number three hundred. Clearing this massive amount of challenges can take some time and, at the end of it all, players are rewarded with a prize for clearing all three hundred. Many players do not seem impressed with the prize, but in NetherRealm’s defense I would like to say that Challenge Tower is more about the overall journey than the final prize.

Additional game modes include your standard ladder mode (think arcade mode, complete with bosses at the end), tag ladder, and a few “test your…” modes. We are all familiar with Test Your Might, but what about Luck, Sight and Strike? Test Your Sight is the typical game of finding the hidden object under cups that are moved and swapped around. Test Your Strike is a lot like Test Your Might, only instead of having to build up your strength past a certain threshold, in Test Your Strike the objective is precision. You have to work your meter up to a certain point and keep it there. If you go above or below, you fail. These two modes are alright, but pale in comparison to Test Your Luck. In this mode, you get to use a slot machine that determines random battle mechanics such as who your opponent will be and what sort of enhancements the characters will receive. There are a lot of cool possibilities, such as armless kombat, which is when both characters lose their arms at the start of the fight, so any attack that involved using your hands will not be possible.

The newest innovation in Mortal Kombat is on that has been featured in several other series (most notably Marvel vs Capcom and Tekken) and that is tag fighting. The tag feature in Mortal Kombat allows you to choose two characters to use, and the overall experience is a lot like Tekken Tag Tournament was in terms of feel. In Mortal Kombat’s tag fighting, you can freely swap characters whenever you want by tapping a left shoulder button, and you can perform a tag assist attack by tapping down, back, left shoulder button. It’s pretty simplistic overall, but it makes the traditional Mortal Kombat fighting experience feel extremely fresh and new.

Kratos is available to Playstation 3 owners. Needless to say he fits in very well!

Now seems like a good time to discuss the gameplay mechanics in the latest Mortal Kombat. It is worth noting that this MK is the easiest to just pick up and play since perhaps Mortal Kombat 2. The past four or five titles were becoming a bit complicated in terms of playability by adding several stances to each character and having a heavy reliance on combos despite the fact that games such as Deadly Alliance or Deception had extremely clunky controls that made having exciting fights an extreme challenge for even the most devoted MK fans. This installment in the series remedies the problems of the past by almost eliminating the traditional stiff gameplay entirely. Mortal Kombat now feels surprisingly fluid when you have a controller or stick in your hands, perhaps exhibiting the best controls and fighting engine that the series has ever seen.

New to the fighting engine is the super meter, a familiar sight to Capcom fighting game veterans. The super meter in Mortal Kombat is divided into three segments and each one performs a different function. The first segment will allow you to perform an enhanced special move, which is basically a powered up version of an attack such as Sub-Zero’s freeze or Nightwolf’s arrows. The second segment allows you to perform combo breakers, which are fantastic if you are having trouble keeping a combo-happy opponent off of you. Breakers are pretty powerful in Mortal Kombat, giving anyone who uses one quite a lot of breathing room as the offensive player is thrust backwards. The third and final segment of the super bar, which performs X-Ray attacks, is arguably the most useful. X-Ray attacks are powerful moves that can deplete up to 40% of an opponent’s life bar. Some X-Ray attacks are executed frighteningly quickly, while others are hard to avoid due to the game having peculiar hit boxes that are sometimes difficult to judge. An X-Ray attack is performed by pressing both shoulder buttons when your super bar is full. The move itself is often very brutal, giving players an inside view of the opponent’s body as they are pulverized in slow motion. One example of an X-Ray attack is Kitana’s. She will thrust her fans into the back of the opponent’s skull (ouch!), rip them out, and then stab both into her attacker’s eye sockets. Skin and muscle tissue become invisible during this brutal display so that players can witness the bone-breaking assault on the unlucky victims. Some X-Ray attacks are very easy to pull off and almost feel cheap in just how good they are, while some characters such as Scorpion have fairly useless X-Ray moves. It makes you wonder why those characters got the short end of the stick.

There aren’t too many balance issues in the character roster from what I have observed. Some characters may seem a little intimidating with their special moves, but I have learned that pretty much nothing is safe in this game. If it can be pulled off, it can also be punished. Teleport attacks in particular seem to be extremely punishable. Unless your mind is wandering and you’re not really paying attention to the fight, it’s pretty easy to be able to halt any teleport attacker in their tracks with a simple uppercut – regardless of what the character is doing.

Challenge Tower presents players with all sorts of amusing fights and minigames.

The online portion of the game is pretty much what you’d expect. There are some latency issues at times, while you may have wonderfully lagless matches other times. It’s a big bag of mixed nuts. The most interesting aspect of the online mode is King of the Hill, which is meant to simulate fighting in an arcade. Oldschool gamers will definitely remember the days long gone when playing the original Mortal Kombat games in an arcade was all the rage. King of the Hill allows eight people to cram into an onscreen lobby where everyone takes turns fighting the winner. When you lose, you are thrown to the back of the line. There are two ways to view King of the Hill, and that is from the standard ingame fighting view that we are all used to, as well as the theatre view mode. In theatre view, the avatars for the two people currently fighting are presented on each side of the zoomed out match that they are partaking in and along the bottom of it are the six people waiting in line. While you are waiting and watching, you can perform emotes that let the fighters know what you think of their match. You can cheer if someone does something cool, boo them if they’re being cheap, or even hold up a piece of cheese. When the fight concludes, the loser of the fight and the several spectators at the bottom of the screen award “respect points” to the winner. It operates on a scale from one to ten and essentially just lets the winner of the fight know how good everyone thought he or she did. It doesn’t serve any purpose and respect points may not accurately represent the skill of a player since it is an abusable system. Anyone can casually rate every match a 0 or 1 out of 10, so it’s open to debate as to how beneficial it is to have respect points in the game.

In terms of unlockable content, there’s loads to obtain in this game. The Krypt returns from the past few MK games, now with even more locked goodies than ever before. While there aren’t any hidden characters or stages in the Krypt this time around, there are plenty of hidden fatalities and alternate outfits to unlocked, though with hundreds of lots to select from, you’re pretty likely to end up getting a piece of artwork instead unless you are using a guide for the Krypt. The amount of currency required to unlock everything is pretty staggering and should keep everyone except the obsessed players visiting the Krypt for a good while. I’ll also note that it might be best to play the game with a lowered volume when you’re in the Krypt. Why? Well, you’ll see!

Bloody and cringe-worthy fatalities in glorious HD. Are you prepared?

In terms of presentation, this is probably the best looking fighting game this generation. Most character models are packed with detail and the arenas all have lots going on and just look fantastic. I really can’t fault the graphics in this game at all, as it’s clear that NetherRealm Studios poured their hearts into making a game that looks very nice. With even the female fighters looking surprisingly feminine for once, it’s impossible not to admit just how pleasant the graphics are in this game. From each fighter and arena to each X-Ray attack and brutally detailed fatality, this game delivers on the graphical front.

The sound department is just as good as the graphics. Sound effects played during fights are all very brutal, heavy, and visceral. Each hit sounds painful and raw, and you can almost feel them yourself. Special moves all sound pretty great. From Scorpion’s “get over to here!” to Raiden shouting incomprehensible gibberish during his fights, it is hard to find anything to complain about. The voice acting can be a bit cheesy at times, but it is moreso the lines and not the voices themselves that are silly. Sindel in particular has an intro speech that is so bad that it’s laughable, but cheesiness has always been one of Mortal Kombat’s most admirable qualities.

So with tons of great game modes to plow through, almost thirty diverse characters (including Kratos on the PS3), and an insane amount of unlockables to acquire, it’s pretty hard not to view this as one of the most comprehensive fighters of the generation. While the fighting engine won’t deliver experiences quite as compelling as those found in high level Marvel vs Capcom or Tekken fights, the combat is still deeply satisfying and the wealth of content will be more than enough to satisfy any casual fan of fighting games. This is certainly one of the very few fighting games this generation that comes packed with enough content for everyone, casual or hardcore.

Is this Mortal Kombat at it’s best? Without a doubt. Anyone who has enjoyed this series between now and it’s early 90s debut in the arcades should definitely check out this fantastic title. Mortal Kombat is back, and it’s better (and bloodier) than ever!

PROS:
+ Story mode is very engaging.
+ Very pretty graphics.
+ Most fluid gameplay ever in an MK title.

CONS:
– Many Krypt rewards are very uninteresting.
– The vastly uneven boss fights may deter many players.
– Clipping issues occur often during fatalities and win poses.

Final Score

9.2/10

The Sims Medieval (Review)

When I first heard of The Sims Medieval, I dismissed it as another pointless installment in the Sims series that EA was endlessly milking. Originally, I had no idea that this game supposedly boasted all sorts of new gameplay mechanics that drastically set it apart from its older household-themed siblings.

The Sims Medieval is, in short, the most refreshing entry in the Sims series since the original game. It expands upon and introduces many features, though it also seems to take a few steps back which prevents this from being the definitive life simulation game.

When you boot up Sims Medieval, you’re treated to the game’s very well put together presentation. Music sounds like it came straight out of a renaissance fair or cheesy fantasy movie, and the usual bright and happy blue menus from the previous Sims have been replaced with a lot of brown. Surprisingly, the brown actually works. It is a colourful and vibrant sort of brown, ff that even makes sense.

After beginning a new game from the main menu, you get to watch a clever little cinematic that tells you about the kingdom you’ll be inheriting and then, from there, you get to design your king or queen. Creating a sim in this game is exactly as it was in The Sims 3. When I say exactly as it was before, I mean it’s pretty much ripped straight out of the last game. You have your body and face sliders, voice tempo, clothing selections, and character traits. There’s a little bit less customization here than there was in The Sims 3, though. All clothing options are now full body costumes and outfits, so instead of manually choosing your shirt or pants, you are selecting one entire outfit. They can still be recoloured, which is a definite plus.

Feeding your sims is just as important as ever before.

The notable change in the sims editor for Sims Medieval is the traits. No longer do we just choose several personality traits, but rather just two and then a fatal flaw. The traits are what you’d expect to see (friendly, loves outdoors, etc.) but the fatal flaws add a new dimension to character personalities. It is required that all characters have one, and these fatal flaws range from being a chronic drunk to being blood thirsty and always wanting a fight.

When you finish making a monarch sim, you get to check out the kingdom you get to direct. You basically just start off with your castle, but as you progress you will be able to build many other buildings like barracks, a tavern, and even a wizard tower. In order to construct these buildings, you have to take on quests that award points required for developing your budding kingdom. Quests in a Sims game may sound a little awkward at first, but it works surprisingly well here. You cannot play the game without taking on a quest, and you must accept one from a pretty lengthy list before the game lets you control a sim. Quests can be just about anything you can imagine in a medieval setting. One quest has you trying to find a way to remove a bad luck curse from yourself while another has you going into a cave and forming an alliance with a crab monster. They are pretty varied and are often very fun to do.

Standard Sims gameplay from before is of course present. When you take on a quest, you have an infinite amount of time to complete it. If you don’t feel like working on whatever given quest you are on, you can simply lead your sim around and live out their life by eating gross sounding medieval meals, getting absolutely hammered by brewing alcohol, getting into fist fights and duels to the death, and much more. The interaction is the same here as it has always been in Sims games, meaning you are able to form friendships and relationships with other characters, and you will always have to pay close attention to your character’s mood to make sure they stay happy. In the past, we had to keep our sims happy by managing about eight different bars that represented energy, hunger, fun, atmosphere, and much more. There are only two now, energy and hunger. Culling so many of these bars from past games does this game a lot of good, as it was not uncommon to sometimes to feel overwhelmed when your sims were unhappy over several things at once in previous Sims titles. It is now fairly simple to keep sims happy, as all you have to do is make sure they get to eat and sleep.

All hero sims have their own unique abilities. For instance, the spy can poison drinks.

Their mood bar can still dip into the red if you’re not careful, however. Various actions can have a negative impact on your sim’s focus, which is a statistic that governs how your sim feels and how well they perform their duties. The higher a sim’s focus, the more happy and successful they will be. Focus can be increased by making your sims do good things such as bathing, eating, winning a fight, and getting married. Focus will decrease when sims get sick, are hurt from other sims or wild animals, and even when they are locked up in the stocks and bombarded in the face with eggs and tomatoes.

As your kingdom expands and you build new buildings, you will get to create hero sims. The monarch character was the first, but each building you add to your kingdom is managed by one as well. The tavern will grant you a bard sim, the smith gives you a blacksmith, and the cathedral gives you a priestly sim. You get to design each of these characters by yourself and then eventually use them on various quests. There are some quests that are specific to certain hero sims, such as one where the bard aspires to become a better writer so that they can impress people with their plays and poetry. Some quests will have you using two or more hero sims that you have created, which helps you build chemistry between the characters and feel like the sims in the kingdom really are working together to overcome problems.

Each hero sim has their own distinct style of gameplay as well beyond the standard eat, sleep, and have fun. For instance, the monarch sim can willingly arrest anyone without any consequences, the merchant sim can open their shop and sell wares, and the bard sim can play music to earn money and seek inspiration from other sims. Each and every single sim feels very unique once you check out what they can do, and it’s fun to try them all out.

It is worth nothing that you cannot actually construct any buildings in the way that you could design your own homes in previous Sims games. All buildings already have preset designs, it is just up to the player to furnish them and make them look unique. As far as customizing the interior of buildings go, Sims Medieval probably offers us the most options. There are loads of items to purchase, and the amount of options for painting your floors and walls is really impressive. So, while The Sims Medieval isn’t much of a playground for budding architects, I think that aspiring interior decorators will be very happy.

The kingdom map starts small, but players will end up with a very bustling empire.

The graphics in Sims Medieval are probably slightly better than they were in The Sims 3, but that is not saying much. The game has a very silly look to it and graphics junkies should probably look elsewhere if they are only looking to play a game that is very graphically advanced. The graphics in Sims Medieval aren’t top of the line, but they are certainly sufficient. At the very least, they will be an upgrade for Sims 3 players. The sound is also exactly what you would expect from a Sims game. Simlish, the language spoken by Sims, is of course here and is as interesting as ever to listen to. Environmental sounds, as well as those caused by sims going about their daily business, aren’t breaking any boundaries but certainly sound good enough. Keep in mind that the game is presented in a comical fashion, so neither the graphics nor the sound are meant to be realistic.

In the end, I would have to say that The Sims Medieval turned out to be a very pleasant surprise and I’m a little disappointed that it has flown under the radar of just about everyone, since nobody I know seemed to have even heard of this game except for one Sims junkie. This is certainly a Sims game and it should appeal to anyone who liked the previous games, but the added depth from questing and managing a kingdom is probably enough to lure in those who could never get into The Sims before. The medieval setting is also very interesting, and I think that anyone who likes fantasy settings could enjoy this game as well. This is certainly the most original Sims game to come along since the very first one was released eleven years ago.

Final Score

9/10