About sk1ll4xed

I've been gaming ever since I fired up Pitfall on my Atari at age 7. And ever since I've been what my parents referred to as a "Vidiot." The other item I've always loved is writing... So why not combine the two? You can either catch the dulcet tones of my voice on the PGCR podcast, or my blogs on Teabagordie.com. Then again, why not both? Thanks for tuning in!

Witchin’ Ain’t Easy

Intense action, cool weapons, LOADS of monster slaying… and boobs.  That’s right kids, I’m talking about the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and why you should be playing the hell out of it right now.

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My Spider-Sense is Tingling…

Another Summer, another Superhero game!

Another Summer, another Superhero game!

Or rather has been going off the scale since The Amazing Spiderman 2 game was announced by Activision and Beenox.  Not only is it a follow-up to a fairly good movie tie-in, but appeared to provide a huge throwback to the one title that made Spidey games huge:  Spiderman 2 which was launched wayyy back in yesteryear for the O.G. XBOX, PS2, and other consoles of that time.  For a movie tie-in this game set a new precedent for superhero games, and even made it to XBOX’s Platinum hits, which is no small feat for a traditionally shitty movie based game.

Spiderman 2 was the first in the long series of titles modeled after our friendly neighborhood web-head, which offered a free-roaming New York to go about fighting petty crimes, and baddies in a GTA style environment of quasi-freedom.  It was even voiced by Toby Macguire – the Peter Parker we’re all doing our best to forget. Especially the Emo-Jazzcat version in Spiderman 3.  There were other additions to the series with this style of freedom based gameplay that were NOT based on a movie release, most notably for me as a drooling spider-fan:  Spiderman: Web of Shadows.

Getting back to this day in age, as soon as this game was announced I knew it must be mine, and so it is.  So True Believers:  Is this game worth your money and time?  Let’s swing into The Amazing Spiderman 2 and you be the judge.  (And no, I will not apologize for ANY corny Spidey jokes in this post.)

One feature which perked my interest with this game was the re-vamped web-sling mechanic.  In application it is very reminiscent of Spiderman 2’s more realistic version of web-slinging.  Unlike the previous Amazing Spiderman game you can’t magically “Sky-Sling” high above the skyscrapers, and must rely on buildings that are in-range and relative to your altitude.  Much like Spiderman 2, each trigger corresponds to it’s respective web-shooter while traversing Manhattan.  This made for some clumsy, noobish and embarrassing web-slinging at first as I wrapped my head around the new hotness, and to the artificial onlookers on the sidewalk it must have appeared that Spidey was black-out drunk.

Admittedly after a good 6-7 hours of gameplay I still find myself over-shooting a turn while chasing a getaway car, or slamming into the side of a building as I attempt to live up to the Parker hype.  Trust me, it’s fun learning how to web sling, and after a fairly early unlock you gain the web-boost ability which helps you use speed and accuracy to launch yourself into the air, or use a webline to vault gaps in the skyline rather than helplessly fall to the street.  Use caution when boosting however, I discovered a game-breaking bug which clipped me into a water-tower after which I was stuck in a perpetual free-fall and had to restart the checkpoint to free myself.  (Beenox:  OOPS!)

The free-roaming aspects are similar, but not a re-hash of the repetitive mini-crimes which happen in previous titles.  Added to the mix in this installment is building fires, bomb threats, and newer more challenging revamps on assisting pinned down cops, and other classic items like Break & Enters, public disturbances, etc.  In Amazing Spiderman 2 however they have introduced a new character element called Hero or Menace.  If you fail, or neglect crimes in progress they will expire and push you toward the menace side during which J Jonah Jameson will give you an earful on the Daily Bugle News Network.

The more of a bumbling menace you become, the more attention you attract from Oscorp’s law enforcement task-force.  A high-tech patrol of robot baddies, and armed thugs on goblin gliders funded by local philanthropist and (crime kingpin) Wilson Fisk.  Yes:  The Kingpin is in this game.  I haven’t completed the campaign yet, because I’m a huge explore/stop and smell the roses type of gamer with titles like this.

The story so far is pretty good, the round-up of Spiderman’s rogues gallery is satisfying and I haven’t encountered them all.  On the list so far is Kingpin, Black Cat, The Shocker, Electro, Kraven The Hunter (who starts off as a mentor who practically wants to adopt Spiderman instead of kill him and send him to a taxidermist…), Harry Osborn/Green Goblin, and likely others.  Through mini missions outside the main plot, I learned the Police are hunting down the classic Hammerhead villain, and a gruesome serial killer who leaves the initials CK written in blood at each scene.  The media has dubbed him “The Carnage Killer.”  hmmm I wonder who he could be.

For the details obsessed people like myself there’s cool locations for you to vist such as Aunt May’s house where you can replay unlocked missions, change your unlocked costumes, but sadly can’t sit down and eat her famous wheat-cakes.  The unlockable costumes in this game are actually more than cosmetic this time as they each have their own traits which you can level up.  I found that rather cool instead of just a new costume with no functional benefits in gameplay.

Another awesome location is a comic store owned by none other than Stan Lee.  Again Stan-The-Man lends his voice to the movie series, and has some great lines.  At the comic shop you can read entire digital versions of comics you unlock by finding “hidden” comic pages throughout the city, figurines, concept art, and you’ll also find an arcade machine where you can play a b-list “horde mode” or battle royale against waves of thugs.

All in all the story is a strong mix of elements from the original classic comics, and the Ultimate Universe.  Voice acting is a little…campy but hey, what can you expect.  The plot supposedly takes place in the aftermath of the 2nd film, but has it’s confusing parts such as a chance meeting with Max Dillon (AKA Electro) which is seemingly for the first time.  Oh well.  I was too busy beating the snot out of petty thugs to really care about one interaction with a poorly designed Jamie Fox lookalike with a comb-over.

Combat is faster, and more fluid than the last title, but the stealth missions can get frustrating due to some jittery controls at first.  It didn’t take me long to figure out how best to approach these indoor scenarios and they are an improvement over ASM 1.  But be prepared for some true WTF moments as you learn the webs…er ropes.

They’ve added sequences where you play as Peter Parker, using his Daily Bugle press-pass to get into places and interview/gather intel on characters, etc.  The Mass Effect style dialogue selection is a nice touch, but the silly dialogue in some instances make you scratch your head, like for instance when asking heatscore questions to Wilson Fisk about “What his problem is with Spiderman.”  or  “I heard your Oscorp taskforce was corrupt!”

All in all, it’s a good game for die-hards like-myself to jump into and swing around in superhero bliss.  If you go into this game expecting an award winning stupendous Walloping Webshooter of a game…  Don’t.  It’s one of those titles that is what it is.  A Spiderman Game.  Love it or hate it however, you’ll still have some fun.  A side-note for Beenox though…  By wielding the franchise they have been granted the power to create some seriously Spectacular experiences in the future.  But of course:  With great power, comes great responsibility.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back often for more great gaming goodness right here, at Teabag or Die.

 

 

 

Heroes in a Half-Assed Shell.

Dude, you paid 15 bucks for this game?  NYAH NYAH

Dude, you paid 15 bucks for this game? NYAH NYAH

Step One before reading this blog:  watch this video. Get turtle’d up.

Recently Activision, and developer Red Fly Studio released the latest offering to the Ninja Turtles gaming crowd:  TMNT Out of Shadows.  Unlike previous releases while Ubisoft had the licensing for the series, this game is not a remake, or port of the classic ninja turtle games – but an entirely new game.  And seeming how I’ve been moving at a turtle’s pace as far as my posts here on TBOD go…this felt appropriate.

Still drawing heavily on the series’ roots as a co-op brawler, Out of Shadows still offers that hack and kick goodness we’re all used to, but adds a rather hefty spectrum of combos, counters, special weapons, and an upgrade and level system that rivals most RPG’s out there.  Each turtle has his own level progression tree, and series of up-gradable abilities that encourage replay.

Now, being the TMNT fan that I am, I instantly gobbled this up as soon as it hit, and dove right in.  As a kid I would read the original black and white comics by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, watched the cartoon(s), and had just about every action figure.  At first glorious glance it was obvious that Red Fly had put some serious fan service into the look, and feel of this game.

The Turtle’s underground lair is essentially your in-game UI menu, and each selection will tour you to different areas such as the dojo, to throw-down against Donnie’s robot Foot Soldiers solo, or as a team.  Learn combos, and get much needed practice to succeed at the rather difficult campaign.  I’ll touch on combat later, but the game uses an attack/counter formula similar to the Batman: Arkham series, but one that is much faster-paced.

Other areas within the Turtle HQ include, A concept art gallery, The main campaign selection map, and the one that made me nerd-squeal: Donatello’s workshop, where you can purchase and upgrade cool weapon mods, and other inventions by the notorious  tech-tinkering turtle.

The coolest addition to HQ which fans of the classic games will love, is an old-school arcade machine where you can play out mini versions of the campaign levels in side scrolling beat ’em up bliss.  Each mission for the classic style game is unlocked via campaign.

The combat system for TMNT Out of Shadows, is to put it “lightly” a gong show.  It’s fun, and rather challenging – but the games wonky camera (which you constantly fight with to prevent extreme close-up angles when it collides with walls.) makes for some rage-quit inducing moments sometimes.

In a nutshell the core combat function is rich, and offers some great animations, and the ability to call out team KO’s and other attacks that really show the brothers true calling, which is kicking the shit out of thugs and ninjas in tandem.

For the first time ever, the player is now able to take control of each turtle on the fly – using the D-Pad.  This makes for some very cool opportunities to practice each turtles unique combat style, speed, as well as how to utilize team attacks to your advantage.  Early on, you’ll learn that the Dojo I mentioned earlier is your best friend as training is important to get a feel for each character before braving the unforgiving campaign.

The health-system is a tad on the stagnant side, offering hidden, and sparse pizza boxes which serve as single use med-packs that you can keep in a mini-inventory along with throwing stars, and any power-weapon you might have purchased from the workshop.  Pizza can be used to either replentish your health meter, or can be cashed in to revive a turtle if they are KO’d.

Due to the sparse nature of health, it creates a frustrating situation where it’s virtually impossible to keep each turtle “healthy” nor recall which of them has a pizza in their inventory.  When you revive a turtle, they respawn with little to no health, thus wasting the precious pie entirely.  I recommend taking the selfish route, especially when you are being swarmed with enemies.  There is one particular moment I was stuck at for some time as a shit load of robots systematically killed each turtle that I was not controlling, leaving me alone against the raving horde of mechanical teeth and claws.  Online co-op can help you get through a difficult situation however – so all is not lost.

The game’s story is based on the Nickelodeon series, which is not a far cry from the animated series I grew up with, so there’s plenty of familiarity with characters like Baxter Stockman & his robots, the foot, etc.  All I can say, is that it’s a ninja turtle storyline, and it works pretty well and will give fans some real nostalgic nerdgasms,  But don’t come here looking for a grandiose dramatic epic.  It’s designed to reawaken your inner 8 year old…and it does it’s job well.

Well enough until the clunky camera shits on your parade when fighting in narrow spaces, or areas with lots of background geometry to literally trip-up and catch the mischievous camera, which seems on a quest to make you want to seriously kick a baby seal in the face.  (Hey, I’m Canadian.)  My best words of Splinter-esque wisdom would be:

“A warrior, will face many dangers, and enemies.  But if his soul is pure.  His presence a shadow, and his ability to rotate the camera quickly before being suckered by a Foot Soldier is true… He shall succeed.”

At first acquaintance TMNT Out Of Shadows is a fun and great offering to the series, that offers plenty of good ol’ gaming nostalgia, with a heaping helping of new school features.

After about an hour, you’ll likely light your XBOX on fire out of rage – but soon enough run out to get a new console so you can let this game give you heavy doses of joy and pure livid anguish again, and again in no time.

Uh….Cowabunga?

“This Ain’t Yo Mama’s Zombie Game!”

To add a twist to our regular review format, The Wach and I have decided to both write reviews of Undead Labs’ debut title available currently on XBLA, and soon to be released for the PC.  The Wach’s impressions are up right now, at Postgame Carnage Report!

Zombie games, are likely the most over-done, dried up, and most common place genre to hit the gaming industry since the proliferated side scrolling platformers of the 80’s and 90’s.  It seems that almost everyone has released a title cashing in on the zombie obsession which began a few years ago most notably with games like Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, and later titles like Undead Nightmare (a 10/10) and Dead Island.

What is it about the un-dead appeal which encapsulates all our darkest apocalyptic fantasies?  A zombie scenario is easily the most impossible to survive, an end of the world scenario where it’s only a matter of time despite your best efforts to survive until you slip up, and turn into delicious nom-noms for a horde of salivating, slobbering, shit sucking zombies.  And I don’t care who you are, how many times you’ve read Max Brooks’ “Zombie Survival Guide”, you are either going to get  eaten, or owned by marauding survivors who want your food, weapons, and anti-biotics more than they want your heart warming company.  Just don’t bother arguing…you will get schooled eventually in any “real” zombie event.

Now, enter Undead Labs, and their debut title for XBOX Live Arcade (and soon PC) State Of Decay.  What is State of Decay?  It’s not a question with a short answer.  This game is many things, layered into a dynamic, and deep game of suspense, action, sociology, and most of all:  SURVIVAL.  And yes, there are zombies.  Lots, and LOTS of hungry, persistent, and determined zombies who want nothing more than to find you, and leave your consumed carcass rotting on the ground. Continue reading

A Throne of Games.

The future of gaming is not unlike your lower intestine…  Stinky… and bloated with confusion.  It’s been a long grueling battle of the brands.  Gaming has surpassed Hollywood as an entertainment industry…nay… Empire. ..NAY… World.. clawed and fought over by the ravenous empires within.  Caught in the middle cats and kitties is us:  The gamers.  The source of their sustenance and, and the financial cannon fodder when they fail miserably, or trick us into buying into some gimmick like Kinect, or gods forbid… Aliens Colonial Marines.

We truly are the be-all-end-all for these game industry giants who without our hard earned cash would crumble into dust and echoes.  And many have.  You can literally watch studios drop like flies after shitty releases, or scramble to appease the masses after boycotts and fan revolts.

But do these monolithic monarchs of the gaming realm, truly take into account, and listen to the little people who make up their respective kingdoms?  Some seem to, while others do a rather good job at appearing to do so, but instead force feed their subjects features, and shiny bobbles they really never asked for nor require.

And here we are my fellow polygon plebs, at the intermission before the next round of the Console Wars.  The two main contenders: Houses Sony, and Microsoft have done their pre-E3 cock waggling, shield rattling, and boasting, and the eve of battle is soon upon us.  Winter IS coming, but which house shall ascend the Plastic Throne?  A sinister, seat of power made from the melted down consoles and copies of Atari’s ET thrown at the feet of the ancient kings of gaming when their makers bent the knee.

Here is my take on the two main Kingdoms vying to sit the Console-Chair.

House Microsoft: 

Words:  “Ours is your Television.”

After over a decade of fair and just rule over his subjects the reign of King Bill Gates first of his name, lord of Windows 8, and keeper of the Halo came into dark times.  Soon twisted, and unnatural things came into the province of XBOX a pox on its people, potentially driving them away, and leading to the purge of many great game houses like Ensemble Studios.

House Bungie, under the lordship of Jason Jones lead bannerman of King Gates paid for his houses release from the Kingdom of Microsoft but in doing so was made to sacrifice his strongest and most promising son John 117 to house 343 industries, led by Lord Franklin O’Connor formerly of the Bungie Banner.

Over time, John 117 took the field of battle, and won a sweeping (but unstable) victory against the holiday shopping mobs.   Under the leadership of House 343, John’s future looks uncertain.. and over-saturated with TV series, confusing story-arcs, and a dwindling handful of old trusting comrades still clinging to the hope he can get his shit together since being torn from his birth-house of Bungie.

King Gates stepped down from the throne, which is now sat upon by King Donald Mattrick 1st of his name.  Lord of Hokey TV features, Sports Bullshit, and protector of anything but gaming.

In his first proclamation with regards the Kingdom of Microsoft’s new future he stated that games were a tertiary at best function, and the future of his house is in ESPN, fantasy sports, being too lazy to use a controller, and forcing his citizens to use a Kinect toy that they really don’t want, while dangling a dried up and diluted exclusive game series in front of us by none other than Lord Spielberg the Butcher of Books, and Father of Velociraptors.

While we have only to wait until the jousting match at E3, Microsoft appears to have been corrupted by trend-setting yuppies who have forgotten the people who first bought into their enchanted kingdom, and have thrown them beneath the carriage in favor of bells, whistles, and super cool crap like being able to do what you already CAN do…with a SNAPpier interface.  (heh)

House Sony:

Words:  “Bitch, Please.”

Currently Led by Lord Andrew House:  1st of his name.   Warden of the developers and protector of gaming culture, the ever growing PlayStation Province has prospered for nearly two decades.  Over twenty years of victories on the fields of battle have given his forces a competitive edge, and advantage over the still young, and brash men and women of XBOX.

This house has produced such gifts to their folk as the Uncharted Series, a slew of fan favorites such as Crash Bandicoot, Metal Gear, among other amazing experiences that I have missed out on because I had the master chief’s … Plasma Pistol rammed down my throat.

In his official decree Lord House pledged that he was working closely with his bannermen, and developers to provide a kingdom where all could prosper by moving forward together as a unified force of incredible power – rather than trying to squeeze their developers and game-smiths for all their worth before putting them to the sword… like other houses have demonstrated…

PlayStation Province appears to be offering a peace-time peach.  An environment where gamers can break free of the chains of exclusive fanboyism and recall what gaming truly is through something fresh, and geared toward gaming itself.  Or have they too been infected with the same darkness which crept into the ranks of their rival house?  Only time can truly tell which house will win the console throne, and bring balance, peace, and stability to the world they have created, and threaten to destroy beneath the fury of their rage.

***

Parody aside, this round of the console wars is going to be an intense one.  Both consoles share a similar architecture, with similar capabilities…But it does appear that PlayStation 4 might have a bit more raw power under the hood.  I am heavily slanted toward Sony, (if it wasn’t already obvious).

XBOX ONE’s mandatory Kinect feature just plain creeps me out, and while a high-res IR camera and microphone in every living room in North America & Europe might sound bonerific to the government spooks, it sounds like an invasion of privacy to me.  If Kinect 2.0 has the same “Opt-Out” features as the current model I might be comfortable enough to own one…  But creepiness aside:  I really could give a flying cart-wheeling, flipping fuck about being able to talk to my XBOX and navigate by doing strange interpretive dance.  I just want to play games, and watch some movies and TV via Netflix.

Sony, from the ground up seems to have created a machine specifically for the developers, providing an environment where they can take full advantage of PS4’s power without the awkward motions of porting cross-console games to the PS3 (anyone remember the nightmare of playing Skyrim on PS3? Those days are *allegedly* gone.)

Whichever console you choose, I’m sure you will pick the one that is best for you, but it’s going to be a tough one.  Both sides will be dangling their exclusive titles in front of you, along with their respective bells and whistles.  I hope my little rant has provided some entertainment and that you’re just as excited for E3’s extravaganza as I am.

Thanks for reading, and of course stay tuned to Teabag Or Die for more awesome content!

-SK1LL4XED

Crysis Management

Let’s face it.  Today’s gaming audience is a spoiled and pampered populace of pixelated princesses.  And if this is truly the case, Crysis 3 is a brand new pony that rides on rainbows, and shits skittles.  I kid you not.

This, I know is contradictory to Quim’s impressions of the multiplayer beta, but we will get to that.  For any fan of the Crysis series what truly takes center stage is the campaign.  In it’s entirety the series is top-shelf Sci-fi storytelling at it’s finest. Continue reading

Aliens: Colonial Conundrum

Love at first sight!

Love at first sight!

In space…No one can post douchey mud slinging reviews.

Unfortunately here on earth, everybody can and has – it seems with respect to the recently released “labour of love” from the ladies and gents over at Gearbox:  Aliens: Colonial Marines.

Now, it’s no secret that I’ve been hornier for this game than a nymphomaniac O.D’d on roofies since it’s announcement in 2008.  I am a huge fan of the movies, comics, and games.  Alien, and everything the film has spawned since has become one of the most recognized and popular franchises in SCI-FI history.

However, when February 12 finally rolled around and the game hit shelves, the “Review Embargos were lifted… and something far more wretched and all-devouring than the xenomorph was unleashed on the known universe.  It were as though there was a conspiracy of some sorts for all the mainstream gaming journalists to collectively take a steaming dump on ACM.  And from the look of things, they all eat plenty of bran.

At the present time I have already completed a playthrough of Aliens Colonial Marines on the XBOX 360 on “Hardened” Difficulty, and I’m working on a second.  I’ve put many hours into both single player and co-op, as well as a heaping helping of the multiplayer offering to acquire a taste for this fanboy feast from Chez “Gearbox.”  And I say “Gearbox” because it was actually “Timegate Studios” (Section 8) who pulled most of the weight for the games shaky development – ironically being blamed for many of the games so-called “problems” when it was GB’s signature on the product.  In fact Timegate’s work is not acknowledged on the games packaging or manuals at all.

In my opinion, Aliens Colonial Marines is a fucking AWESOME game.  Let’s get that out of the way.  It does not come without it’s problems however and I will touch on those.  Many of the problems indicated in IGN’s review however seem exaggerated with respect to AI behavior.  The story is well thought out, and it’s fiercely synonymous with the events of James Cameron’s masterpiece.

As you progress into the game’s 2nd half however you get a mild impression of the game’s bumpy and prolonged development as it ends in an abrupt and uneventful ending like…well…you know.  Campaign DLC has been confirmed, so fanboys can rejoice, and penny pinchers can grumble.  “Haters gonna hate, Lovers gonna love.”

The level design, and script for the game deserve an immense amount of respect and props.  Much attention to detail, and dedication went into designing the game, and this has paid dividends into creating a truly authentic experience for any fan of the films, and previous games.

To the contrary of IGN’s statements on the games AI’s, namely the Aliens – I have literally had the crap scared out of me, and sat dumbstruck after being not simply overrun by bugs, but outsmarted.  They don’t just simply throw themselves in front of you blindly like lemmings.  They rush when in high numbers, but as their numbers dwindle they begin to shrink back, and go through great effort to get at your back, and sides.

In one sequence while operating the Smart-Gun in the bowels of Hadley’s Hope, I have seen singular aliens suddenly hold back and allow their hive-mates to rush waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of the distraction.  I seriously question what difficulty settings  Mr. Ogilvie was playing on.  Not that there is anything wrong with playing on “kid mode” but the scary aliens might definitely seem meek when they have the strength and ferocity of kittens.  And ammunition is not seemingly endless, as I have had several desperate moments involving my sidearm and a swath of slobbering aliens running me down like a mouse.  I have literally had my ass kicked by this game.

The friendly AI’s however are about as useful as a hole in the head, and often disappear during moments when they would come in handy – only to magically re-materialize as you enter an elevator or reach an objective.  And speaking of which, apparently Left-Eye from TLC has been reincarnated as a Colonial Marine, or she simply has a huge fan 500+ years in the future.

Don't go chasing Xenomorphs, please stick to the COD's and Gears that you're used to...

Don’t go chasing Xenomorphs, please stick to the COD’s and Gears that you’re used to…

The co-op is a real hoot, and resonates with Left 4 Dead as a main inspiration, right down to a seeming AI Director which completely randomizes many ammo, armor, and health drops.  This has not been mentioned in any of the reviews I’ve read.  Even enemy placement differs in certain encounters keeping the action fresh and challenging on the harder difficulties.  I have yet to man-up and play through on Ultimate Badass.

The multiplayer is difficult, with the power being blatantly on the side of the Marines and their firepower.  Some critics have knocked the controls for the xeno, which are “clunky” or “awkward.”  In my little corner of reality we call this “a learning curve.”  Which means, not every game you play is going to be the copy/paste comfy controls you demand, and might..JUST MIGHT involve some…practice!  And I can say that with a coordinated team, and some patience an effective group of xenos can demolish a team of humans before they can say “GAME OVER MAN.”

I have had some funny, “blooper reel” bugs and glitches which included an encounter with a lurker simply sitting on the fours swaying back and forth staring at me while I was mere inches away from it – as though it had a bad case of Alien ADD.  As well as a gamebreaker in which I clipped through the floor while trying to beat an enemy down and was trapped in a bottomless free-fall in the pitch-black purgatory beneath the map.

Many critics have slammed the games graphics, even going as far as showing promotional screenshots VS the final product while pointing and screaming.  Please.  Show me a studio that hasn’t used polished promo images that look different from the final cut.  Have you never been to McDonalds?

Yes, there are some serious surface-pop problems in the game akin to Halo 2’s fuzzy surface rendering.  It was definitely disappointing to see a game ship after 8 years of development with such blatant graphical inequities, but it did not really interrupt the gameplay, and was not as frequent as some critics had pointed out.  Again, I question whether or not they had installed the game on their 360.  The graphics were not “terrible” but did look mildly “unpolished” but this lent positively to the old school feeling the game has with it’s health and ammo pickups right out of Doom.

So there we have it.  All I can say is that you should try a game before allowing the pompous elitists of gaming culture determine for you, what it is you like or dislike.  Sometimes in order to appreciate a game you need to look past your own expectations, and concentrate on what the game offers at face-value, and Aliens Colonial Marines is a labor of love, and like all things revolving around love does not come without it’s hiccups.

I would definitely recommend this game to fans of the films, or fans of intense co-op shooters.  To the ever scrutinizing gamers with preconceived notions of how a game should play, and look who get wounded when a game doesn’t fall into this standard – perhaps you should rent this game, or borrow it from a friend.

I’ve said before that I hate giving a game a review scrore, but in the interest of offering a contradictive review of ACM to the sheer swath of negativity out there – I would give Aliens Colonial Marines a well earned 8.5/10.  It’s a great game that I am still thoroughly enjoying, but it had some obvious graphical and story hiccups which could have been buffed out with a consistent development process and diligent QA effort.

So that’s my humble opinion on Aliens Colonial Marines.  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned to Teabag or Die for more great gaming reviews, articles, and more!

In space, no one can hear you Squeal.

aliens2With nerdgasm fueled glee that is. From the phenomenal development crew at Gearbox (Borderlands 1 & 2, Duke Nukem Forever, Brothers in Arms, and *ahem* Halo CE’s PC Port) comes Aliens: Colonial Marines. This claustrophobic co-op enhanced FPS title is coming on the heels of SEGA’s last foray into this series: Aliens VS Predator made by Rebellion Studios.

Although a decent enough game, AVP’s reboot at the hands of the original developers saw impressive success for a licensed multi-platform title – but still left a less than favorable after taste. It tried earnestly to keep up with the films ever choppy canon, but just didn’t quite make a lasting impression with me.

First it should be known, that I am a huge fan of the films and have seen them multiple times. In fact, I just finished watching the original three films in all of their Directors Cut glory, in anticipation of this game. Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford has demonstrated during developer walkthroughs of Colonial Marines that they are paying immense respect, and homage to James Camerons masterpiece: ALIENS. In fact, Colonial Marines is more or less a direct segue from that film into the events which transpire in the upcoming game.

You and your squad of jarheads are sent in to intercept a long missing Colonial Navy vessel: the USS Sulaco which is now mysteriously in standard orbit above LV-426. (the planet where the film Aliens took place.) From presentations of the game, your mission will take you from the derelict Sulaco, down to the surface of LV-426 to the Hadley’s Hope colony – and straight into the alien hives which according to Gearbox has been lovingly designed directly from the original movie set pieces with loving detail, and to other unknown locales as you fight swarms of Xenomorph baddies. So, it’s safe to say that fans of the film(s) can expect plenty of easter eggs and juicy morsels of fanboy treats.

What seems to set Colonial Marines apart from the AVP series (other than the absence of the Predator) is that this game is being designed as a tight quarters “claustrophobic” co-op experience where your teamwork and perseverance will prove even more useful than your firepower. And speaking of firepower, not only the level design is being drawn straight from the films. From pulse rifles, and Smart Guns to Flamethrowers and the ever iconic Mech-Suit Gearbox is setting you up with an authentic and amazing arsenal with which to conduct your online bug-hunt.

Colonial Marines also offers a heaping pile of multiplayer options which is sure to bolster alot of replay value. Reminiscent of Left 4 Dead’s co-op benchmark, this game pits you and your squad mates against a variety of different types of Alien. There appear to be charger inspired Xenos, as well as suicide acid-bombers, and other wonderful playmates awaiting us. And to add some nostalgic spice to the multiplayer landscape those who pre-order at Gamestop in Canada & the US get playable characters from the original film:

alienspreorder

We’re all praying we hear Bill Paxton’s “GAME OVER MAN” line

The multiplayer mode which has me the most excited is Escape Mode. In which 4 Marines face off against 4 Xenos in an all out fight for survival, and as the title says it one single mission objective: “Escape!” The human squad is made to run a rat maze of control/checkpoints being ever chased by their hungry opponents. Only coordinated teamwork, and a steady trigger finger can ensure good odds in this gametype.

Being ever the cynic, I can’t help but feel slightly concerned after the last Aliens release, but with Gearbox at the helm, and their blatant love and dedication to delivering a top notch and authentic experience, I can safely say that I am highly anticipating this game. Aliens Colonial Marines is set to hit store shelves on Tuesday February 12 in North America and Europe for Playstation 3, XBOX 360, PC and Wii U.

I cry, you cry…

We all cry for…*sigh* a spectacular addition to the Far Cry series.  And I can say with confidence that Ubisoft has taken some valuable lessons from the previous installment’s game-breaking and infuriating aspects – and delivered a solid and game changing experience this time around.  Far Cry 3 does not come without it’s head scratching moments, and numerous “why can’t I” scenarios however.  But more on that later.

Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane.  Far Cry hit shelves way back in ’04 courtesy of a little studio named Crytek, now the devs behind Crysis.  Far Cry, offered a sweet harmony of stealth and over-the-top action sequences all deliciously mixed with a heaping portion of Island of Dr. Moreau styled sci-fi storytelling.

Far Cry 2 shipped in ’08 and was developed instead by Ubisoft Montreal (made most famous by the Assassins Creed series).  This title dropped the beast-powered slaughterfest and instead, tempted the player with vast open ended gameplay set in the African Savannah & Jungle(s).  There was wildlife (sort-of) and two extremely annoying game breaking boo-boos.

The malaria component was trippy at first but it later just became redundant and took away from the overall experience, while the complete lack of safe territories created a toxic play environment.  NPC’s would shoot at you regardless of whether or not you just completed a series of missions FOR their faction.  Needless to say Far Cry 2 did not live up to the hype.  It’s main saving graces were a robust map-editor (the likes of which were only on PC games) available on console versions, and the coolest fire-physics I had ever seen in a game.  (OK…Alone In The Dark’s fire dynamic deserves a mention here.)

So, here we are with Ubi Montreal’s latest addition to the series.  Far Cry 3 is set in a Pacific Island chain called the Rook Islands.  To keep myself from rambling into eternity, I’ll break it down into sections.

SINGLE PLAYER

The single player is where Far Cry 3 truly shines.  The Island(s) are huge open, and lush playgrounds with plenty to offer the player in ways of side quests, hunting areas, scouring the jungles for collectible items, or just free roaming.  They definitely took some notes from their work in Assassins Creed when they brought in the use of radio-towers which pretty much serve the same purpose as the Eagle Towers.  Climbing each tower allows you to disable a signal jammer which reveals more of the map, and also unlocks weapons in the various stores and safehouses scattered throughout the islands.

As far as the story goes, you play the role of Jason Brody:  Yuppie Extraordinaire.  While vacationing with your two brothers and some friends (clearly in a part of the world where you should not go) you are kidnapped by human trafficker/drug cartel/pirate…guys.  After what is likely the most intense opening sequence to a game I’ve played, you gradually learn to be a badass and own plenty of pirates in the process of trying to simultaneously rescue your friends and brothers, and cripple an international slave & drug operation.

The story reminds me of movies like Touristas, and Apocalypse Now (complete with easter-eggs) with notes of The Beach, and just about every action flick I saw in the 80’s – 90’s.  It works, and has some genuinely powerful sequences that strike an emotional chord.  As the story draws into the final two chapters it really builds up momentum, and intrigue…and ends on a bizarre note.  It’s also noteworthy that there are two endings… However you had better want to play through the entire story twice, because the lack of a “replay mission” feature is a major letdown.

One major “WTF” moment for me during the campaign pertains to the acquisition of safehouses, and your allied Rakyat Warriors.  These intimidating looking, and heavily armed tribal mercenaries have got to be the most useless and wasted NPC’s I have seen in a game.  When they aren’t begging for help next to a broken down Jeep, they’re coming to your aid when, and ONLY when the final enemy has fallen.

Seriously, whenever you clear an enemy fortification and unlock a safehouse, an entire batallion of these hardened warriors magically shows up and has the audacity to gloat, saying things like:  “I’m the man!”  A better idea would have been to give the player the ability to request reinforcements when attacking an enemy stronghold rather than watch them roll up and whore the credit for each and every victory.

CO-OP

I played the games cooperative campaign in a fast past-paced high-octane bromance with none other than my PGCR cohort Big Heeb, which made for some interesting moments, and shenanigans.

I should warn you that the co-op mode is worlds apart from the singleplayer, with entirely different characters and an independent plot.  The free-roaming aspect of singleplayer is tossed out the window and replaced with a play structure almost exactly like Left 4 Dead 2, except the zombies have automatic weapons, flame-throwers, and spam you with grenades.  Oh, and they’re bigtime shotgun whores too.

Even the main objectives seemed to be on lease from Valve, such as “Power up this engine while every enemy and it’s grandma attacks you” moments, or “Hold your ground while..vice versa.

Almost every (scripted) encounter and checkpoint is merely a mindless run and gun sequence of clearing spawn-closet, after spawn-closet, as the game literally spews enemies at your ill-fated team.  It wasn’t long before I was craving the single player, rather than the linear, and clunky co-op.   

MULTIPLAYER

To be honest, I have not given the multiplayer the time it deserves, but in passing I found it rather “run of the mill” and generic when weighed against adversaries like Battlefield, Call of Duty, and other fast-paced shooters.  Not an overall bad experience…but after a decent enough taste I didn’t feel compelled to really get into Far Cry 3’s multiplayer, with so many other titles in my lineup.

The map editor is rich, and filled with goodies.  The only problem that may befall this installments map editing is the sheer lack of players in the online landscape – but only time will tell.

Overall, Far Cry 3 is likely the best in the series, with plenty to offer any fan of free-roaming shooters.  Solid storytelling, and a rich and incredibly fun environment to roam around in, and blow shit up.  However the lack of a strong online component makes Far Cry 3’s likelihood of ending up on my trade-in list higher than most.  In hindsight I would have been better off renting this badboy than considering it a permanent resident on my games rack.  But to each their own, this is merely my opinion.  Nothing to…Cry about.  

Hey, 343. You’re alright.

After a little over a month’s hiatus I’m now ready to write about Halo 4.  I’ve had plenty of time to fully immerse myself in 343’s franchise debut.  Sip it like a fine glass of Scotch, and inhale it like a finely rolled…cigar…  I’ve also taken in what others have had to say, from the mainstream gaming journalists on high, to my fellow plebeian scribes here in the underverse.

I have chimed in and discussed the game in great detail on my (shameless bump) podcast: PGCR.  In that particular episode I joined my rapier wit, with that of my co-host Evander, laying waste to Halo 4’s campaign in true “Devils Advocacy”.  But as many listeners are aware I simply enjoy frazzling another certain co-host who shall remain un-named but obvious.  So without further delay allow me to offer my true Impressions on Halo 4.

I should start by saying that this is not a review.  I find myself despising game reviews these days finding them more of a smarmy pissing contest, offering plenty of douchey commentary, but little constructive feedback about a game.  And at the end of the day, after the hype is pulled away, and the fanboy giddiness subsides Halo 4 is merely another game.  It’s only fair that I keep this in mind when critiquing any title.

Multiplayer

Leading up to the games release I had always predicted that there would be little to no problems with Halo 4’s multiplayer.  I (along with many community members) collectively agreed that it was time for change, and 343 delivered in a way that couldn’t have been better executed, nor at a better time in the franchises lifeline.

I’ve always been more of a campaign geek, but suffice to say that for the first time since H2 I have been deeply drawn into the online landscape and its various playlists, and modes and keep going back for more.  It still has that classic Halo feel, but it’s almost as though 343 locked Halo, Call of Duty, Crysis, and Battlefield in a honeymoon suite with unlimited champagne and other FPS aphrodisiacs.  Halo 4 is the streamlined love child of these other industry giants, resulting in a refreshed and revitalized online presence.

Spartan Ops:

The new co-operative frag-fest which has kicked the beloved game-mode firefight to the curb like a used up hooker is ironically my biggest disappointment with Halo 4.  Don’t get me wrong, it tells a fairly well delivered story with plenty of intrigue…via the cutscenes.  In game play application it’s little more than a rehash of campaign moments, lightly dotted with some nods to multiplayer, and RVB.

I would have liked to see more diversity in gaming environments.  Requiem is a massive artificial world, so it makes little sense to use copy/paste play-spaces from the campaign.  It feels like a continuation of the campaign, but many of the scenarios play like redundant encounters like:  “flip this switch, or destroy this objective.”  in a cramped arcade-ish locale.  In fact, it kind of contradicts 343’s supposed development formula of not re-using campaign play-spaces in Multiplayer…  Too bad it never carried over to Spartan Ops.  I  can only hope that 343 pour some more creativity and tailor some new and exciting level designs into S-Ops.

Campaign:

Halo 4’s campaign was a roller-coaster ride for a long time fan like myself.  Chock full of shocking revelations, hard truths, honestly emotional twists, and turns.  But like any intense thrill ride, Halo 4 definitely has its ups AND downs.

Take Halo 4’s audio design for example.  Lead composer Neil Davidge has created a lovely soundtrack that stands apart independently from the work of Marty O’Donnell.  Sometimes H4’s musical background is recognizable as Halo, and at times it’s like Mass Effect and Tron had a sexy baby.  (As awkward as that may read.)  But this is a good thing.  The MUSIC, is a triumph.

The sound effects on the other hand are an entirely new “Up and Down” all their own.  The guns primarily sound absolutely succulent.  The warthog on the other-hand is an alienating mess.  When I first hammered down on the Warthog I literally slammed on the brakes as the horrid sound of a late 90’s racing game, or monster truck rally filled my ears.  I can say with confidence that, it there’s one thing I hate about Halo 4, it is the sound of the Warthog.

Even the covenant seem to suffer.  The grunts sound like nasally Steve Urkel ghouls, and without the ever classic “FEET DON’T FAIL ME NOW” dialogue they feel odd.  The covies do however play well, and on Heroic or Legendary show their true ravenous and oft devious nature on the battlefield.

The story itself, starts off great, the characters are easily at their best.  The facial animations, and voice acting are top-notch.  I won’t bother going into great detail on Halo 4’s graphical delivery – but suffice to say it is the best looking 360 game I’ve seen since Crysis 2/3.

Where the story really hits snags for me, is gaps that may have been better left void, and newly opened gaps that simply leave me scratching my head.  For instance, let’s just segue right into the new kids on the chief’s galactic block:  The Prometheans.

The story behind them is definitely intriguing, and at the same time tragic.  The terminals do a stellar job (no pun intended) of delivering a juicy new slice of Halo’s Forerunner story which began with Greg Bear’s recent literature.  But fighting them at times felt like a Spray & Pray gong show which turned Halo’s original 30 seconds of fun formula into 4-5 minutes of pure monotonous bullshit.  

Maybe it’s because I (admittedly) have not read Mr. Bear’s series yet, that I am so baffled…if not OVERWHELMED with the flood (pun intended) of information the player gets literally water-boarded with during the campaign, and terminals.

343 did take something away from Halo which I loved, and replaced it with a complex and sometimes baffling saga.  For me, the feeling of humility, and humbling mystery behind the forerunners is what made them so interesting.  A vanished and superior race which created ring-worlds, dyson spheres, and shield worlds, and there was nothing left of them.  We didn’t even know they had six fingers on each hand yet.  (wtf?)

Not knowing, for me was what made Halo so amazing.  And in my opinion, shedding light on all these things so suddenly has taken that mystery, and sense of awe, and replaced it with a sensation akin to:  “Oh.  So that’s what that is…”

It felt…perhaps not “bad”..but after learning all this, the big mystery felt sullied and unfulfilled.  Is it wrong that I’m not compelled to delve into Bear’s series?  A big part of me didn’t want to know every last detail behind the forerunners.

Cortana really did steal the show, the ever lovely Mrs. Taylor really delivering her best material yet in this series.  Her long developed on-mic interaction with Steve Downes was apparent, and pairing them in the same studio was a superb move for 343.  Their performance was epic.

To wrap things up, I can safely say that Halo 4 was a great game.  It is also a firm handshake from 343 ensuring their confidence, and dedication to developing a new and exciting direction for this series.  It simply begs the question:  Where are we headed now?

Bungie’s contributions to Halo are in a league of their own, but 343’s product is solid and obviously is a labor of love.  From here on its their baby.  Let’s all hope they can handle the lil’ tyke because it’s a handful.

-SK1LLZ

Please 343. Don’t *BLAM!* up my Halo.

So, here we are less than two-weeks until Halo 4 hits store shelves like a crisp pimp slap with baby powder.  It’s been five long years since we last linked up with Spartan 117 and delivered our collective teabags to those split chin sons of bitches, the covenant.

Now, before we get any further cat’s and kitties – I must illustrate that I came into this series as not only a Halo fan, but a Bungie fan.  Bungie was not only the forefather of Halo, but also a slew of other games I had truly enjoyed beforehand, especially Myth.

I watched as this small studio came into their own, and nearly needed a new pair of pants when I saw the initial gameplay demos of Halo from Macworld ’99.  Nobody had ever seen anything like it, and it was an ambitious, and revolutionary spin on shooters.  With half joy, half trepidation I witnessed Bungie lock hands with Bill Gates & Co, and perhaps subsequently lose their innocence as a studio.

By the time Halo 2 hit shelves, and I had burned an entire week of college saving the known universe – it became abundantly clear that Bungie’s amalgamation into Microsoft did not come without it’s pains and pressures.  Missing/broken features like a fragmented story, graphics pops, and most annoyingly a non-functional online co-op option – were telltale signs that they did not have the luxury of putting the time into developing it, as they would have liked.  They even came out and illustrated how difficult it was to finish the game with Microsoft breathing down their necks from concept to crunch time.

I was overjoyed when Bungie reclaimed their independence as a studio, but also grief-stricken to learn that it came at such a heavy price.  In securing their freedom, they had to sacrifice their greatest creation.  Now, with 343 Industries, MGS has constructed a “dream team” Halo studio complete with familiar faces from Bungie, and fresh faces to bring a new level of passion, and dedication to the series…  Or so they say.  From some of the tom-foolery with Halo Legends, and the over-saturation of Halo merchandise these new wardens seem like some kids who stole their dad’s shiny new Porsche. And I’m afraid they’re going to eventually wrap it around a light post.  Or maybe 343 is more like Icarus, and as Halo 4 draws ever closer so to does their proximity to the sun.

My new found compatriot here at TBOD: Eremenko has already written a reassuring post which details that “behind the wheel” Halo 4 PLAYS great.  That brings a sigh of relief.  My fear, and concerns however, pertain specifically with the story.  For me, Halo’s story, and universe is what really pulled me into the series.  It was, and still is the perfect amalgamation of my favorite Sci-Fi elements, with a healthy helping of originality to make it stand out, and resonate with me in a way no other series has.

Without key players like Joe Staten, the Mclees, and others I’m afraid that in trying so hard to make Halo 4 awesome, and pay homage to the true forerunners of Halo, that this brash young studio will accidentally drop the bottle of win-sauce into the simmering pot that is this entire franchise.

Time will only tell, and with 12 days until H4 makes landfall, I’ve got the jitters like a green ODST on his first drop.  Am I merely a rampant old bastard with irrational and misplaced fears?  Chime in, and leave a comment below or hit us up on Twitter, and PLEASE talk me down from this.

Cheers,

SK1LLZ

Forward Unto Dawn has won me over.

First, let me start off by stating that I am one of the… Grizzled Ancients of the Halo fan-community.  Once, I too was a giddy, excited fanboy gorging on expanded fiction, and posting like it was going out of style, my voice once echoing throughout Bungie’s forums (and beyond) to the point I was bequeathed with the title Exalted Mythic Member…

Now I find myself a crotchety old miser, floating and sputtering about the dust, and the echoes of other voices, with their own resonating opinions on what has become of our beloved saga.  In my relatively silent rapancy, I formed my own hypothesis on this saturation of data from the makers new wardens: “343 Industries.”  How quaint.

And now my friends, an even more ancient evil awakes.  Time for me to offer my proverbial “Two-Cents.”

Forward Unto Dawn:

The title isn’t quite as dead a giveaway as you might think.  Honestly my first-impression of this series could be summed up by calling it: Degrassi meets Halo.  Chock-full of cliche “dramatic haircut” sequences, and linear plot development, I found the first two episodes to be a rather sour tasting smoothie consisting of redundant plot paths, and predictable arcs.

As far as casting – I found it difficult to believe in these scrawny kids running around in full UNSC combat kit and not keeling over and dying.  They looked like they’d be better suited chilling at the food-court than traipsing about the inner colonies fighting insurrectionists.  Then, a friend pointed out something which dissolved this entirely.  “They’re training to be officers.” He said with casual dismissal.  Then it all made sense.  To me, Corbulo feels more like a UNSC boarding school than a Military Academy.  Then again, with a galactic civil war plaguing the colonies, younger candidates made more sense.  Suddenly the young skinny cadets felt more visceral, and truly illustrated how dire the situation was.

Also, the show is breathtaking visually.  Following the benchmark set by the live action trailers of the past, 343 has blatantly put allot of love into filming this series.  The Special effects are nearly on-par with what I would expect from a Hollywood project.  The acting quality hasn’t disappointed, but more accurately it took me a while to warm up to it.  The set-pieces are brilliant, especially the Space-Tether, which plays a more prominent role in episode 3.

The third episode is what really brought me into the series in a way I hadn’t felt since I first read The Fall of Reach.  I’ll keep things spoiler-free for those who have not had a chance to watch it – But I can say with confidence that they have picked up the pace, and that this show is shaping up to be one hell of a series that any Halo-fan, or any fan of Science Fiction would enjoy.  I found the characters to be much better grounded, and the drama was less typical, and grew more suitably grim.  And of course in Halo-tradition it was ended with one spicy cliffhanger.

But the million dollar question, burning in every other story-geek’s mind remains.  And that is: “How does the Master Chief fit into all this, and from a canon perspective will it work?”  343 has already muddied some of the established storyline with Legends, and merely brushed it off casually.

Fanboyism aside, whether or not this satisfies my anal retentive story expectations, Forward Unto Dawn is a great series that overall, has set up their characters, and story rather well, albeit they’ve stepped on a few movies, and books toes in the process… But frankly tell me who hasn’t now-a-days.  Go check it out, if you haven’t already.

Thanks for reading folks.