PS3 Review: DiRT 3

September 12, 2014 Leave a comment
Where the hell's my blue shell!?

Where the hell’s my blue shell!?

By: Matthew Striplen

I’ve always wanted a fast car, but me and my broke ass has the car equivalent of the turtle: slow and steady wins the race. Now, with DiRT 3, my ’95 Camry and I can dream of being a Subaru WRX STI GR pulling 100 MPH through the forests of Norway… *sigh*.

CONTROLS (5/5)

Any action game requires super tight controls, and DiRT delivers. The active buttons are laid out in a way that the fingers naturally fall onto them. You can also feel the steering sensitivity change depending on the driving surface, which as you will see, sets up a theme of attention to detail. I know this may sound silly, but they control are so good that I would feel comfortable driving a real car using only the PS3 controller.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4.5/5)

This is an extremely pretty game. The environments achieve a level of realism generally not found in games. You can actually see individual leaves on the trees! Even more impressive than the environments, however, are the cars themselves. Each car is a replication of a real world racing car, and as the car receives damage in various areas, the effects of said damage are accurately represented. That is to say, if you run headlong into a tree, expect the doors to come crashing open.

The sound fairs a little less well. Most of the time, the only thing you can hear is, appropriately, engine rumblings, complete with gear shifts. That’s all fine and good, but my issues arise with the, albeit sparse, voice acting. Two very British sounding announcers alternate informing the player of the current situation. This would be fine, but they somehow come off as condescending, even with their complements. However, the actors are not solely at fault: they were given a mediocre script at best.

GAMEPLAY (4.75/5)

The place where DiRT 3 shines the brightest is in the mechanics of driving. Again, the realism of driving on different surfaces, weather conditions and even the simple act of turning impressed me. Although I can’t say I’ve drifted around a 90-degree turn in the snow while going 75-plus MPH in real life, I can imagine.

Going along with the realism is the fantastic depth of customization. While I’m certainly no car expert, I do know a lot of options when I see them. Everything and more I thought possibly toggle-able was available to be tweaked to my heart’s desire, from simple stuff, like automatic versus manual transmission, all the way to advanced adjustments like removing the ABS braking. You name it, they had it.

Perhaps the most intriguing adjustable is the difficulty, which is presented in the form of three presets: Casual, Intermediate and Advanced. The difference between each difficulty setting is substantial. Casual makes the car significantly easier to drive and dumbs down the other racer’s AI. As the player increases the difficulty, more safeguards get turned off, the most interesting of which is the damage.

In Casual and Intermediate, the player’s car will show any damage taken, but it will not affect its handling. With damage effects turned on, the player will immediately notice changes in suspension, steering, and engine pick-up after a bad crash. I can’t say I’ve ever played a racing game with that level of intensity.

To help mitigate the sharp learning curve of the difficulty presets, DiRT enables players to create their own custom difficulty. For instance, if you’re struggling with handling the car but want tougher AI, you can supe them up while keeping vehicle handicaps in place for yourself. The designers obviously put a lot of thought into how they could tailor the game to each individual.

This game has a crap ton of cars. Different styles of cars will be offered depending on the type of race, my personal favorites being the classic cars. Other vehicles include standard stock cars and trick cars, etc. Unlike many racing games, cars are not purchased but offered to the player by various teams once they’ve achieved a good enough reputation. Reputation building is simple: just win lots of races. Revisiting previously won races and challenges will still increase it.

Only one aspect of the game raised a red flag for me, and I’m not even sure if it’s a real issue. DiRT 3 features a paid VIP program, which contains a huge quantity of otherwise unavailable cars, and more importantly, the online multiplayer function. I was initially disappointed to see such a greedy cash grab in an otherwise outstanding game, until I looked up the package on the PSN Store. Much to my surprise, it was free! The description did not mention whether or not this was a limited offer or not, but I was happy to have gotten the extra content for free.

Another privilege of VIP status is the ability to upload replays to YouTube, a fact which the announcers constantly remind you of. While being able to save replays, let alone uploading them to the internet is a cool quality, I really did not like being pressured to do something that has no in-game function. A player should want to watch a replay, so the badgering felt unwelcome.

OVERALL (4.5/5)

This is an extremely polished title, with tons of fleshed out features. The sheer level of detail, customization and realism sets DiRT 3 apart from just about everything else in the genre. The issues that I had with the game, of which there were very few, are mostly superficial. If you’ve always dreamed of speeding down a dirt road in some of the most beautiful locations in the world but are stuck with your ’95 Camry with a zero to sixty of more than 15 seconds, I can safely say DiRT 3 is the next best thing.

Categories: Reviews Tags: , ,

Throwback Thursday: Win Minecraft on Xbox One!

September 11, 2014 51 comments

MineXB1

So, perhaps you heard that Microsoft is angling to buy Mojang, the developer behind Minecraft. Well, while that remains in rumor mode, I can confirm that Minecraft is indeed available on Xbox One, and to celebrate we’re giving away codes to download everyone’s favorite sandbox game!

HOW TO ENTER

To enter simply let us know what previous-gen game you’d like to see find its way to the Xbox One and/or PlayStation 4 in the comments section below. Also, if you’re on Twitter please include your @handle as well. If not, just make sure the email address you use when entering is valid.

Sample Comment
Mass Effect
@RenegadeShepard

THE FINE PRINT

Winners will be selected on Thursday, September 18th. All entries must be submitted by 4 PM EDT/1 PM PDT on Thursday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must either be following me on Twitter or submit a working email address to win.

Good luck!

DLC Review: Crown of the Old Iron King (Dark Souls II)

September 10, 2014 Leave a comment
...do you wanna build a snowman?

…do you wanna build a snowman?

By: Jeff Cater

In Crown of the Old Iron King, the second piece of downloadable content for Dark Souls 2, your adventurer is sent to a place called Brume Tower. If you have played the original game, you’ll have an immediate suspicion as to what you will find in this forsaken land: enemies bathed in fire and landscapes painted in ash. This DLC takes place high in the skies, making the area feel connected to the Dragon Aerie from the vanilla game.

Visually, it’s somewhat of a disappointment compared to Crown of the Sunken King. While the new enemy types and bits of the environment look fittingly desperate and dreary, textures tend to get extremely muddy when you are in the outdoor areas. The interiors, however, are oft decorated with a dark, royal feel. Someone of snobbish importance directed the construction of this tower, to confuse and confound.

Tight corridors lead to tighter gangways where multiple enemies must be reckoned with. These tight quarters can either severely hinder your play style or provide a completely new set of options for the crafty player. And if you are adept at playing any Souls game, you ought to be a little crafty, at least.

Visuals aside, the gameplay is what truly matters, and DS2 fans can rejoice in the fact that there are several new, dangerous enemies that help the environment come to wicked life. One of these enemies pours lava from his back while fighting him, so the circle-around technique might not be the best way to dispatch this foe.

Along with that guy comes innocent looking barrels with legs that just violently blow up anything and everything around them, which, if you are a clever player (and you are, aren’t you?), can be used as walking traps to cause splash damage to surrounding foes.

In Crown of the Old Iron King, you explore the forsaken halls and slowly get the gist of what happened here, or what is possibly still in the process of happening. Upon first stepping into the tower of Brume, you’ll notice that the ground seems to be covered in a thick layer of snow. Continuing your journey, the snow in question could very well be ashes of old conflicts in the tower.

In your quest you will come across piles of ashen, cindery bones that can either cause enemies to spawn nearby or provide damage buffs to existing foes. These pyres of ash and fire are fragments of Nadia’s Soul, wife of the Iron King. To dismantle the idols is to alleviate much difficulty from your travels here, but be warned that these idols are well-guarded and have intelligence of their own, displaying survival tactics in the form of things that usually burn the crap out of you.

Since you’re reading this, you probably enjoy the difficulty of the Souls series. Here, in Crown of the Old Iron King, you will find much challenge up ahead. While a boss fight is recycled from the vanilla game (SPOILERS: !!!!!!!!  It’s a color palette swapped Smelter Demon… even with the same name), there are new fights that will test any Souls player’s patience and skill. One boss in particular, closer to the end, is nigh impossible without the aid of other players’ phantoms. I’m sure he can be taken out solo, but the fight is long and arduous enough even with two people helping you out.

OVERALL (4/5)

Crown of the Old Iron King has value measurable far past the $9.99 price of admission, especially for collectors of items (there are several new pieces of armor and weapons) and hardcore Souls fanatics. Yes, the DLC recycles a boss fight, but even that part is still interesting due to the environmental factors. There are some textures that are pretty yucky, but those moments are kept to a minimum due to the pacing of the adventure laid in front of you.

PS Vita Review: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment
What better way to defend yourself against the dark than with night vision goggles.

What better way to defend yourself against the dark than with night vision goggles.

By: Uma Smith

It appears that the influence from NIS America’s visual novel-on-the-go is on fire with a sequel called Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair making its release onto the PlayStation Vita. With this adventure taking place in a new setting, the high school guessing-game experience continues to be quite the hit. Let’s take a look to find out whether the Danganronpa flame continues to ignite.

CONTROLS (4.5/5)

Just like its predecessor, Danganronpa 2 has both an effective and simple approach in its control scheme. What really stands out is the implementation of the PlayStation Vita’s touchscreen to the whole murder mystery gameplay. You collect clues that take the form of ammunition, which, in turn, can be used either to challenge statements appearing in yellow or to support those in blue during arguments amongst students. It works perfectly and adds to the game’s sense of interactivity.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3.75/5)

With Japanese anime being the essential theme to this game, Danganronpa 2 continues to offer some detailed and crisp visuals, as evident in the character designs or environments. Considering its lack of animations there aren’t a lot of flashy effects, which is expected since it’s not exactly an action-oriented title.

What does keep Danganronpa 2 lively, however, is its effective voice acting where every character displays his or her own colorful personality and charm. While its music may not leave much to be remembered, it still ends up performing its job at crucial points in the game’s story.

GAMEPLAY (4.25/5)

Danganronpa 2 will have you engaging in a murder mystery as 16 high school students end up on a tropical island thanks to an odd robot named Usami. There’s a new cast of characters that vary in terms of personality, including a princess and a chef. Apparently, the students were previously drugged when they ended up in this predicament and now must figure each other out in order to escape safely in one piece. As Monokuma makes his appearance, things get out of hand as the element of murder is added to the equation.

As expected, Danganronpa 2 plays out very similarly to its predecessor where you’ll spend time with your classmates and learn more about them. After each chapter, new areas within the game’s environment become available for you to explore.

With murder in mind, you’ll need to search for clues that you’ll use during the upcoming trial in order to determine who the suspect is. There’s a good mix of both pointing-and-clicking adventure and mini-games, thus giving a nice blend of the visual novel storytelling and puzzle challenges.

While there are some references to the first game, you can still play Danganronpa 2 if you just jumped into the series. Since the title’s strength lies in its plot and diversity in unique characters, there’s a lot of awe and intrigue that players will encounter, especially during the twist in the story.

Things are never as you would expect, thus making way for some challenging experiences. While you do get the opportunity to find out how the crime was carried out using the various clues you manage to collect, you’ll still need to work with other characters in order to piece things together.

The main storyline should take 20-plus hours to complete, thereby making Danganronpa 2 a rather lengthy game. On top of that, you can unlock other modes, including one where you have Usami trying to take down numerous waves of incoming minions from Monokuma. Not only do players get replay value out of Danganronpa 2, but they also get additional content that offers a different approach and perspective in the murder-mystery adventure packed in this title.

OVERALL (4.25/5)

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a strong and memorable title that should be experienced on the Vita, even if you haven’t played the first game. The only “despair” you’ll get from it is the fact that you have to say “goodbye” once you’ve experienced all the content that this game has to offer, which thankfully won’t be for a long while.

PSN Review: Deathmatch Village

September 8, 2014 Leave a comment
Makin' bacon.

Makin’ bacon.

By: Ted Chow

With the stance Sony has taken towards indie developers it’s no wonder that an influx of titles would appear on the PlayStation Network. Deathmatch Village is one such game with Freeky Games, a new indie contender, at the helm of its development. However, with any large inclusion of indie games, there are always bound to be those that deliver lackluster results. Does Deathmatch Village live up to its claim of bringing a breath of fresh air to the MOBA genre or does it just fade into obscurity?

CONTROLS (3/5)

Deathmatch Village comes with the most basic of controls indicative of any side-scroller on the PS3 and Vita. There is really no option to remap any of the standard shoot, jump or melee buttons, nor is there any reason to do so. Everything will quickly feel second nature, and the tutorial does a good job in explaining the basic commands.

My only complaint would be how floaty your character’s movement is, but that is minor compared to the other glaring game design issues.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (2.25/5)

While the game is tailored toward a wider audience — as evidenced by the 10-plus ESRB rating — you can’t help but feel that the graphics are a tad too simplistic. There is no option to change anything and what you see is what you get essentially. It feels like you’re playing a web browser game with Flash-like art and animations found on a site such as Newgrounds.

Still, personal preferences aside, the accompanying light-hearted country music does complement well with the overall thematic art style the game hopes to accomplish.

GAMEPLAY (2/5)

Fresh out of the tutorial you’re brought to your game hub where you conduct all of your upgrades, customization and future purchases. And I stress the word “purchase” as the game really hampers your play time through pay walls and timed upgrades. You can use the real cash equivalence of oil to speed up your upgrades and to quickly convert the pigs you acquire after completing matches to in-game currency.

And there lies the problem; you have to wait to receive your in-game currency. Yes, there is an option to receive a fraction of your maximum currency within 10 seconds, or you can be more efficient with your pigs at the expense of waiting close to an hour. Additional queue times can be purchased with oil, to expedite all the processes, but that is just bad practice and gives an unfair advantage to those that shell out real cash.

I personally wouldn’t mind waiting for my upgrades to finish if the matches were reasonably fair. Except in this case, matchmaking is pretty much non-existent and having to play against over-powered opponents that kill you in one hit over and over again can frustrate any new player. Two noticeable outcomes occur: either, a) matches spiral out of control and definitive winners make players dread re-spawning, or b) you run around in circles for what seems like forever to find an opponent.

With limited game modes (literally two modes that pretty much play out as death matches) and excruciating long match timers that create an artificial grind wall to climb, no amount of maps with interesting environmental interactions can help prevent matches from being stale and losing their novelty rather quickly.

Factor in additional diminishing carrying capacities for pigs if you don’t cash them, lack of interesting customization, basic leader boards, no achievements, no story mode, expensive character slots and no way to try out different characters without resetting back to level one… and you may start to question why you even downloaded the game in the first place.

OVERALL (2/5)

While I am a proponent of indie game development and the shift towards self-publication and development freedom, the romanticizing and novelty associated with indie games must be distinguished from games with actual forethought and developer’s creed. Although Deathmatch Village has a handful of bright spots, they’re ultimately obstructed by the myriad of design flaws.

Nintendo 3DS Review: Siesta Fiesta

September 5, 2014 1 comment
ONE OF US, ONE OF US, ONE OF US.

ONE OF US, ONE OF US, ONE OF US.

By: Justin Redmon

On the surface, Siesta Fiesta is the happy tale of a sleeping Siesta being taken to Fiestaville, home of the Fiestas, for a one-of-a-kind tour and all-around party. Delve deeper, though, and things start looking a little more sinister. Siesta was all but kidnapped and is now forced to participate in Breakout-influenced gameplay across scrolling levels, all the while Fiestas look on, never blinking, never breaking that giant toothy grin.

Mojo Bones has probably created a game worthy of someone’s nightmares here, but thankfully, Siesta Fiesta is anything but, taking the best of pick-up-and-play stylings and creating a charming game with tons to offer.

CONTROLS (4.5/5)

Now, with Breakout-style gameplay, controls are honestly as simple as it gets, but smart button placement helps Siesta Fiesta control exactly how you’d like regardless of whether you choose to use the touch screen or the buttons for movement of your paddle. The game’s physics feel fair enough to keep you in control the majority of the time, but they can still put you in situations where the ball is bouncing around uncontrollably. This lends a slight wrinkle of difficulty to high score runs by adding a dash of randomness, which can all but ruin some attempts at more precise shots and waste precious time adjusting while the stage scrolls on by.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (5/5)

When it comes to presentation, Siesta Fiesta is extremely reminiscent of the new Rayman games in look and style, following in its example of bright and charming levels — whether at the beach, through a factory, or a few other choice locales. Each stage also has tons of things happening in the backgrounds, and regardless of whether the Fiestaville denizens are cheering you on or just interacting with each other, their antics help breathe some life into the levels and add character to stages that would’ve been somewhat flat otherwise.

My favorite part, though, has to be the music, which, like look of the game, takes on Rayman stylings in the form of Lum backings. Overall, it’s the complete package when it comes to making a well realized world, where every effort in bringing you into it pays off.

GAMEPLAY (4.25/5)

Nightmare scenario aside, Siesta Fiesta goes by the tried-and-true Breakout formula for its gameplay, with most of the action taking place across scrolling levels. As you’d expect, shot placement is crucial, where hitting the middle of you paddle sends the ball straight back up, and off to either side sends it at an angle dependent on your placement. There’s tons of control here, and even moreso when taken that a correctly timed button press or tap of the screen will send your ball even higher, which has a lax enough timing window that no one should have any trouble hitting their shots.

The scrolling levels both work toward adding an almost adventurous feel to stages and difficulty to shots, where certain obstacles have you doing things like arcing shots through hoops, awarding points for hitting every one in a single go, or piñata styled boxes and other destructables that may take multiple hits to break — and those are often surrounded by point-deducting obstacles.

It may sound simple, but there’s a surprising amount of variety in the obstacles and level setups, and more often than not, sections of levels will take on a puzzle-like quality, while different powerups and paddles keep things fresh even long into the game, most notably in the boss battle stages, which are my favorite of the bunch.

With three medals to acquire for each stage, first runs act more as an introduction, and with eight locales and 64 levels, there’s plenty here to enjoy (or obsess over if going for gold is your thing), which leads me to my only minor complaint about Siesta Fiesta.

Even though I enjoyed my time with Siesta Fiesta, something I should mention that this game lends itself very well to knocking out two or three levels and stopping for later; it’s the best way to enjoy what it offers. If you’re the type of player who tends to burn through a title, this one might not be best for you. Regardless, Siesta Fiesta is a charming twist on a classic game that’s worth checking out.

OVERALL (4.5/5)

Mojo Bones understands what it takes to make a great mobile game, and, when played in short bursts, Siesta Fiesta delivers a charming experience that anyone can enjoy.

Throwback Thursday: Win Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited!

September 4, 2014 215 comments

Disgaea 4We’re keeping the Vita train rolling this week by giving away copies of NIS America’s Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited. Unlike most weeks, however, we’ve got physical copies to give away this time, which unfortunately means this week’s giveaway is limited to US residents only. Now then, let’s win some stuff, dood!

HOW TO ENTER

To enter simply let us know your favorite Vita game is in the comments section below. Also, if you’re on Twitter please include your @handle as well. If not, just make sure the email address you use when entering is valid.

Sample Comment
Tearaway
@CleverTwitterName

THE FINE PRINT

Winners will be selected on Wednesday, September 10th. All entries must be submitted by 8 PM EDT/5 PM PDT on Wednesday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must either be following me on Twitter or submit a working email address to win.

Good luck!

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