Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (Review)

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I’ve long been a fan of the Tekken series. I remember, many years ago, when I first laid my eyes on a demo of Tekken 2. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was one of the last times I’d ever be able to use one of the most influential characters in the franchises’s history, Jun Kazama. Continue reading

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Street Fighter X Tekken (Review)

Tekken has been my favourite fighting game series by leaps and miles ever since the third game in the series over a decade ago. The characters, gameplay, and mechanics have always been the cream of the crop in my eyes. Street Fighter, in comparison, has always been a distant second… But really, there’s nothing wrong with coming in second, is there? Both universes have good characters and fun gameplay, so combining them sounds like a formula for best fighting game ever.

Unfortunately. Street Fighter X Tekken falls a bit short in my opinion, which is a shame given my love and respect for the two franchises that star in this game. That’s not to say that SFxT is a bad game, because it’s not. SFxT is just merely a “pretty okay” game.

First and foremost, I’d like to mention the graphics. Outside of SoulCalibur V and Tekken 6, this is easily the best looking fighting game this generation. The stages you fight on are all extremely detailed and put even Street Fighter’s most hectic locales to shame in terms of how busy the backgrounds are. The game is also overflowing with a really fantastic sense of style with a lot of ingame hit animations and effects looking simply gorgeous. There are a few falters however, such as when you KO an opponent with an ultra combo. The screen flashes so erratically that I would worry for any epilepsy sufferers who would happen to be watching this game in motion and, as a whole, looks a little sloppy in comparison to the rest of the game’s pretty looking effects.

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Character models are mostly all pulled straight from the Street Fighter 4 series but with a few tweaks here and there. Some characters may have a little more detail in their textures while others may have slightly different proportions (for example, some say Cammy has bigger thighs, but I don’t see it myself). The Tekken characters are all brand new, though some of them are clearly just retextured and heavily reworked Street Fighter models (Ogre is an obvious Seth, Asuka is a redone Sakura, etc.) but, for the most part, they all look exceptionally unique. I’ll commend Capcom for really nailing down the look of some Tekken characters such as Hwoarang, but a few of them (Law and Paul being good examples) don’t look terribly faithful, giving off the impression that Capcom just shrugged their shoulders and winged it.

The music department isn’t too stellar. Music doesn’t dip above average in any instance in my opinion, and the versus screen tracks are just horrendous. Capcom usually does a pretty good job with fighting game soundtracks, and I can’t help but wonder if they used one of their second tier composers for this game. If not, then clearly whomever they used (was it the SF4 composer?) didn’t put forth a lot of effort.

The sounds and voices of SFxT aren’t anything to write home about either. All of Street Fighter’s familiar voices are carried over from previous games, so we know what to expect there (awful English Akuma and all). Tekken’s cast is pretty iffy when it comes to voicing. I’ll commend Namco on getting the original voice actors for some characters such as Lili and Steve (who both sound great), but others just sound really “off” in this game compared to their Namco counterparts. Paul sounds like he has a severe psychological disease coupled with rabies, and Marduk sounds like he has been taking one too many anger management sessions since we last saw him.

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In terms of gameplay, this is pretty much just Street Fighter with a more beginner friendly approach to inputs and delving into the finer technical side of the gameplay system. If you’ve played Street Fighter in the last few years, then you’ll be able to pick up and play SFxT without any issues. The Tekken characters all play like Street Fighter characters themselves, with some even having projectiles now, so they fit in pretty well with Capcom’s crew and are fun to learn how to use. I’ve found Steve to be particularly lethal when I can get into a groove with him, but it pains me to see my favourite Tekken character, Paul Phoenix, not having a great deal of tools at his disposal here.

Essentially, this is just Street Fighter with Tekken characters and an engine that is easier for beginners to ease themselves into. Unfortunately here isn’t much else to it than that, literally. Beyond the standard arcade and online fighting modes, there is just versus, practice, and mission mode. Versus is mandatory of course, but it is just another fighting mode. Practice is essential too, and is pretty much better than mission mode (dull and mindless character trials) in every way possible when it comes to learning how to play the game. Mission mode is, literally, a complete waste to even play. As was the case in Street Fighter 4 and Marvel vs Capcom 3, mission mode teaches you nothing that you can’t learn in practice mode. It’s pointless.

There are no fun bonus game modes and very little to do besides just fight, which has become typical of Capcom fighters nowadays. There is a customization menu for assigning gems to your characters (they modify your damage output, speed, and other things during fights) as well as colouring your characters. Both of these features were hyped by Capcom pre-release, but after sinking my teeth into the game I can tell that they weren’t properly developed and are particularly lacking in terms of appeal and content.

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Overall, this is just another fighting game by Capcom. There’s a significant sense of “been there, done that” when playing. It’s evident that Capcom has stopped raising the bar when it comes to fighting games, as they feel that they can just slap a few fighting modes together and call it a day in recent years. There’s a wealth of new moves to learn from the Tekken characters, as well as a few gimmicky bonus characters, but when everyone online is going to default to Chun Li, Guile, Juri, Ken, Ryu, and Sagat then… Well, what’s the point of it all?

Final Score

6.8/10

Pros:
+ Street Fighter engine has been dumbed down to gently ease beginners into it.
+ The character roster is absolutely huge and will grow more later in the year.
+ Very flashy and great looking presentation.

Cons:
– As expected of Capcom nowadays, there’s a severe lack of content.
– Some Tekken characters are represented very poorly.
– The game could have sounded a lot better as a whole.

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 (Review)

Capcom sure has taken a lot of crap from their fans in recent months. Hordes of angry consumers are upset that they have to buy Marvel vs Capcom 3 for a second time, but I’m not even going to get into that. This is after all my review for Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, and Capcom has really proved their doubters wrong with this thorough upgrade to an already great fighting game.

Since I already wrote a review for the original release of Marvel vs Capcom 3, I won’t really rehash anything I said about the gameplay systems and what not so if you haven’t played Marvel vs Capcom 3 at all, read that review first for my thoughts on the overall structure and playability of the game. So what does Capcom bring to the table with the Ultimate update? Twelve new characters, ten new stages, a revamped main menu and UI, as well as extensive balancing and expanding of existing character move lists.

First, let’s talk about the returning characters. A lot of characters have brand new moves which will force their long time fans to come up with new strategies and ways to integrate the new moves into their play styles. Wolverine is perhaps my favourite example of this as he has gained an attack called “Swiss Cheese” in which he slices his claws repeatedly in front of him. It’s a lot like Super Skrull’s “Tenderizer” attack and is easy to execute (perhaps too easy). Various other characters have a new trick or two up their sleeves while almost every character has been rebalanced or tweaked to some degree. Most of the changes are fortunately minor and won’t really affect the gameplay any differently for regular players, though the hardcore tournament players will be obsessing over each and every small change due to even the slightest tweak being a potential game changer for specific characters on the tournament scene.

All characters now have six colours to choose from with most of them being new colour schemes that were not present in the original release. Captain America, Deadpool and Zero have some cool alternate colour schemes with Zero perhaps being the most interesting due to how his alternate colours pay homage to various characters in the Mega Man universe. In typical trollish Capcom fashion, Zero has received a brand new Mega Man X alternate colour scheme. This is sure to annoy some Mega Man fans, but they haven’t seen anything yet. Just wait until DLC costumes!

In terms of new characters, there’s a lot of really interesting variety. Twelve new faces have been added in total, six to each side. On Capcom’s side we have Firebrand, Frank West, Nemesis, Phoenix Wright, Strider Hiryu, and Vergil. Firebrand is a winged red demon who can flutter around the screen shooting fireballs and doing various dive attacks. He’s a little difficult to get used to, but he seems like a fairly pleasant surprise. It’s pretty possible for Firebrand to be anywhere at once, and I anticipate he’ll be the bane of a lot of inexperienced players online.

Frank West seems like a very enjoyable character. He appears to be very melee oriented due to starting off with his baseball bat and camera. The fun thing about Frank is that he can level himself up and gain new weapons. Each time Frank levels up, his melee weapon will change. What starts off as a mere baseball bat will eventually end up as much stronger combo weapons that we all know and love from Dead Rising.

Phoenix Wright is a real handful to use. His animations are confusing and it is difficult to determine what “moves” will hit your opponent. Phoenix Wright’s moves include throwing papers, sneezing (or coughing?), and falling down on his butt. While I appreciate the fact that Capcom included Phoenix Wright in the game to please his fans, he is an obvious joke character – but not in the good way. In my opinion, he is a waste of space in this game.

As a long time Marvel vs Capcom fan, I’ve been putting a lot of time into Strider Hiryu and am loving how he plays in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. He is fantastic at both short and long range and his teleports can really help mix things up quite a bit.

Nemesis and Vergil also seem quite handy and I’m sure each of them will be devastating in the right hands. Nemesis sort of reminds me of Venom while Vergil is sure to get a lot of play from Devil May Cry fans as well as anyone who prefers sword-based characters.

On the Marvel side we have Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, Hawkeye, Iron Fist, Nova, and Rocket Raccoon. I’ve really only taken to two Marvel characters and they are Ghost Rider and Nova. The rest, unfortunately, just don’t mesh with my play style at all which is a real shame since I was really looking forward to Iron Fist before release.

Ghost Rider is a long range virtuoso. His chain attacks often stretch all the way across the screen which makes it pretty hard to run from Ghost Rider, and his “eat chain” line that he spits out with each attack sounds great. I feel like I probably like Ghost Rider’s look and voice more than how he plays but, overall, he feels like a really well made fighter with his chain and fire attacks. Oh yeah, and we can’t ignore his hyper where he jumps on his bike and mows down the opponent!

Nova took a lot of heat before release with many fans saying that he just looked like a rehashing of other characters. Essentially, they thought he was a bland and boring version of Taskmaster. I was always looking forward to Nova and I’ve grown to really enjoy using him now that the game is in my hands. He does have a lot of close range rushdown attacks as demonstrated in his trailer, but he also has quite a bit of long range possibilities as well and I can’t wait to try him out against human opponents.

Now, the four characters I don’t like too much on the Marvel side? Doctor Strange seems very well made, but I can’t adapt to his floaty mechanics and, due to him hovering slightly above the ground, I haven’t had much luck using Strange against the likes of Amaterasu, Arthur, or Rocket Raccoon.

Hawkeye isn’t a bad character and his bows have excellent range and speed, but he feels seriously bland and uninspired to me. I like his theme music, but playing him is honestly a bore. The same applies to Iron Fist who I thought looked like a blast in his trailer, but after using him? He just felt hopelessly generic and is nothing but a Bruce Lee rip-off in this game. I understand that Iron Fist is an exceptionally talented martial artist, but the Bruce Lee vibes could have been taken down a few notches.

As for Rocket Racoon? I don’t have any problems with him and his quirky design amuses me, but his small size makes him a little harder for me to play with. It feels like Yoda from Soulcalibur IV all over again. He has plenty of range and can even use traps (think Trish), but Rocket Raccoon is pretty pitiful in my hands and I don’t want to comment on him very much because of this.

I suppose I could mention Galactus as a seventh Marvel character since we are able to play as him now. In Galactus Mode, you simply play as the planet devourer himself as you take down team after team of opponents. It’s fun for one or two matches, but after that it becomes a bit dull. Playing as Galactus is interesting, but it usually feels like a lot of effort on my part to even make him do anything. Capcom does not include a move list for him, so figuring out how to use Galactus is all guess work.

There are ten new stages in total, but they are all just “remixed” versions of existing stages. For example, Kattelox Island is now covered in snow and the SHIELD heli-carrier stage is now set during the day. Fortunately the remixed stages add just enough variety to be interesting to play on, though Demon Village Redux (essentially a black and white version of the original Demon Village) feels like a bit of a lazy rush job.

There aren’t too many other new features, though the ingame UI has been improved making it easier to tell which character is on point and how much life your teammates have left. You will also always know when you have X Factor available due to the electrified red X at the end of each player’s life bars. Another small thing worth mentioning for those who don’t play online much is that the computer AI has been made a little more difficult.

Overall, I feel like Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 is a huge step in the right direction. All of the new characters (except Phoenix Wright) feel as if they belong in this game and all of them are probably pretty viable. While we’re sure to see a frightening number of Vergils online, at least we’re still going to see a little more diversity! If you were a fan of the original Marvel vs Capcom 3, then I would definitely suggest checking out the Ultimate upgrade. The game feels remarkably exciting and fresh again and the new characters add plenty of unpredictability to the fights.

Final Score

9.4/10

Pros:
+ New characters and stages all look really great.
+ Old characters receiving new moves was a great idea.
+ The new characters add lots of new possibilities.

Cons:
– Galactus fight is the same as ever.
– No new innovative game modes.
– Phoenix Wright. Capcom, what were you thinking?

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!

DiRT 3 (Review)

In 2007, Codemasters released the newest game in their Colin McRae Rally series simply titled DiRT. It was a stunning rally game that was a huge blast to play and I couldn’t have been happier with it. Two years later, DiRT 2 was released. I was less than impressed with the aesthetics and presentation changes from the first game. DiRT 2 was still a decent game to play, but the game itself had been “mainstream-ified” by tossing in a punk rock soundtrack, silly gameplay features (friendships… seriously?!) that added little to nothing to the core gameplay. Despite these problems, I still thought that DiRT 2 was a pretty great game overall, but it could not compare to the depth of the first game. Now here we are in 2011 and a new game, DiRT 3, has been released. Is it a more traditional rally game like the first DiRT, or does it stray from the established Colin McRae Rally path in favour of something that will appeal to people who don’t even really like rally racing, like DiRT 2 had done?

DiRT 3 has abandoned the whole “the entire game is a career mode” approach that DiRT 2 featured in favour of a more traditional presentation similar to what was found in the first DiRT. The game is no longer centered within a three dimensional motorhome and the career mode is an actual selectable game mode from the main menu once more, and I couldn’t be happier with this. The previous game focused too much on trying to drag the player along a silly career mode and not straying from that path much, which made the rest of the game feel a little weak. DiRT 3 gives ample attention to everything in the game, and it makes for a far better experience than DiRT 2.

From the main menu, there is of course the career mode, but several other choices are present as well such as the single race mode that lets you set up a specific race or rally to compete in. There’s a good number of options here, but I did not seem to see any option that let me make a custom championship or even a custom rally that would let me play consecutive point-to-point stages. This was a bummer for me, and it seems that to access any form of championship gameplay, you will have to venture into career mode and select a pre-made championship. This can be a little upsetting since individual rally stages aren’t very long in DiRT 3. The longer stages will probably take most players about three minutes to finish which is, once you get driving and into your groove, painfully short.

Gymkhana is a fairly disappointing addition to DiRT 3.

There are a variety of ways to go driving in DiRT 3. Typical point-to-point rally racing is of course present, which is a relief since it is indeed true rally racing. Other mainstay modes such as circuit racing and rally cross are there while a new mode tries to establish itself. The new mode in question is gymkhana. Many people have probably seen videos of Ken Block doing all kinds of impressive stunts and tricks in a rally car on YouTube. These videos are in fact gymkhana, which Block seems to be popularizing quite a bit. While gymkhana videos are pretty cool and entertaining to watch, the actual game mode in DiRT 3 is not nearly as impressive. While the controls are certainly responsive, the challenges presented in the gymkhana mode are extremely dull. You’ll be asked to drift around poles, break through obstacles, and even collect tokens. While this doesn’t sound so bad, it is all executed pretty poorly and is not a very replayable game mode. It all feels very gimmicky and out of place, especially when you are forced to compete in mandatory gymkhana events in the career mode.

A lot of lame tacked on features from DiRT 2 have been removed to deliver a slightly more realistic gameplay experience. No more will you have to forge friendships with fictional female rally drivers. In the career mode, you only have one objective… Do better than your competitors! By doing so, you will level up every now and then which now serves a much better purpose than it did in DiRT 2. In the previous game, gain levels would give you pretty useless things like dashboard decorations for your car. DiRT 3 understood that this was pretty stupid, so now gaining levels will instead increase your popularity and recognition in the rally scene. Get enough recognition by leveling and new rally teams will be interested in offering you a drive. The career mode is also narrated by a few different characters who serve as your staff (mechanic, etc.). They are a breath of fresh air compared to the hopelessly bad narration by Block and Pastrana. While they never say anything particularly important or useful, they will crack a few jokes or say funny things from time to time, and this helps break up the mononotous nature of the game’s menus.

As far as gameplay is concerned, there’s a definite step up from the previous two games. In the first DiRT, games felt very floaty and gave the impression that they were hovering above the ground. DiRT 2 tried to address this issue and did indeed make the cars feel slightly grounded, but the controls were still incredibly forgiving and cars still felt a little floaty. DiRT 3 has eliminated all previous issues with controls, with cars that now feel completely grounded and respond brilliantly to your inputs.

One joy that I’ve found in DiRT 3 is how much more entertaining it is to deal with a car that is trying to spin out on you. In one rally stage, I took a turn too sharply and ran off the road slightly and over a few bumps in the grass. This was all it took to make my car want to fly off the other side of the road and into the ditch, but I was able to quickly wiggle the car and snap it back in place, thereby averting disaster. While it certainly was not impossible to straighten your car out and continue during spins in the previous two games, it feels better in DiRT 3. The cars are just much more responsive to you when you tell them what to do. Only the worst of mistakes will force you to crash without being able to prevent it from happening.

Yes, DiRT 3 really does look THAT good!

The AI has been revamped to be much more aggressive in DiRT 3. While they wrestle their cars through rally stages more realistically now, the AI racers in lap races are pretty terrifying! It is not unlikely to be rammed from behind, or for a car to violently slam into the side of your car when they try to pass. In many racing games, these events occur from the player being overly aggressive when trying to defend or overtake, but in DiRT 3 I point my finger exclusively at the AI. Outside of lap racing, the AI is pretty bearable. However… Once you’re confined to a race track with the AI drivers, you’d best watch your back. They are positively ruthless in DiRT 3!

DiRT 3 also boasts the ability to upload portions of your replays to YouTube. While this sounds cool in theory, you are limited to uploading only 30 seconds of your replay and uploads take several minutes at a time. There is no way to save the replay and rewatch it from within the game either. Because of this, the YouTube functionality that is present feels half done at best, and the inability to watch entire replays at a later date is a real downer. Fortunately for PC users, programs such as Fraps are easy enough to find and use.

Multiplayer is pretty great in DiRT 3. There are the usual rallies and lap races to take part in, but a few silly minigames are also thrown into the mix. Want to play capture the flag? It’s here. How about playing a zombie themed game of tag with cars? Yup, you can do that too. How about defending Earth from an invading alien swarm? That’s here too, no joke! DiRT 3 offers a variety of fun themed minigames to jump into, and they are all fairly interesting and varied. Gamers who really don’t feel like racing and rallying all the time will definitely enjoy what DiRT 3 has to offer here.

In terms of graphics, DiRT 3 is probably one of the best looking racing games out there. The original DiRT looked great in 2007, and DiRT 2 looked a little above average in 2009, but in 2011 it is safe to say that DiRT 3 is king. I am more impressed with the graphics in DiRT 3 than I am in other games such as Gran Turismo 5 – a game that takes photo realism a little too far. Car models in DiRT 3 look absolutely incredible, and the rally stages that are held in the middle of nowhere, like just about any stage in Finland, look absolutely breathtaking as you zoom through forests and past the occasional house or two. The HUD also looks pretty nice, abandoning the urban graffiti look of DiRT 2’s HUD and replacing it with a cleaner, sleeker looking one that is easier to read and understand.

DiRT 3’s soundtrack is definitely worth mentioning. Most of the tracks are really entrancing techno or foot stomping rock songs, which isn’t a bad thing at all! Every single track I’ve listened to in DiRT 3 simply sounded great. Need proof? Here is a tune that many feel is the unofficial theme of DiRT 3.

Sound effects are pretty much what you’d expect. There hasn’t been much of a change since DiRT 2, so most vehicle engines and such sound more than adequate but won’t really excite the diehard fans. Environmental sound effects are pretty good, though. You’ll hear nearby spectators cheering and shouting an awful lot and, if you park your car in the right areas and listen, you’ll get to enjoy mother nature as well.

So how good is DiRT 3? Truthfully, it is Codemasters’ best rally game since Colin McRae Rally 3, which was released in 2003. The superb rallying from the first DiRT is here and gone are the tacky filler features from DiRT 2. The interface and menus have been cleaned up, and DiRT 2’s reliance on graffiti art and text is now a thing of the past. DiRT 3 is proof that this new series (it is no longer a part of the CMR franchise) has grown up and has established a true sense of identity for itself. While a few features such as gymkhana aren’t really up to par, overall this is probably the best mass appeal rally game there is.

PROS:
+ The graphics are absolutely stunning.
+ Meaningless content from past games has been cut.
+ Multiplayer modes are very fun and original.

CONS:
– AI can be frustratingly aggressive in races.
– Gymkhana events feel bland and lack replayability.
– Rally stages are far too short.

Final Score

9/10

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