SOCOM 4 and Thor: God of Thunder Enter Level Up (

By:Tim Janson
Date: Thursday, May 26, 2011


Well we have online gaming back on the Playstation Network but still not PSN Store as you will read below in our first news story. However Sony has made an announcement about the previously mentioned free one year identify theft protection. All the details are below. 
That’s just the beginning of a very busy news week. We got a look at the first trailer for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and reviews of SOCOM 4 and Thor God of Thunder.
Playstation Network Store still not available
We had originally been told that the PSN store would be back up on 5/24 but that is not the case.  On the PlayStation Blog, Sony stated it will not be bringing the Store back online yet. There's still no official date being cited except to say the goal is to have restored all aspects of PSN, including the Store, by the end of the month.  So we’re going to have to wait a bit longer to take advantage off the free offers of Sony’s Welcome Back program.
Sony Announces Free One Year Identity Theft Protection
If you are a Playstation user you may have already received an e-mail from Sony (I got mine on Wednesday) about their offer of one year identity theft protection. If you haven’t received it yet the official announcement reads as follows:
Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Network Entertainment have made arrangements with Debix to offer AllClear ID PLUS to eligible PlayStation®Network and Qriocity account holders in the United States who are concerned about identity theft.
AllClear ID PLUS is a premium identity protection service that uses advanced technology to deliver alerts to help protect you from identity theft. The service also provides identity theft insurance coverage and hands-on help from expert fraud investigators.
Sony has arranged, at no charge to eligible PlayStation®Network and Qriocity account holders, for twelve months of this service to be provided by Debix to those who choose to enroll. In order to be eligible, account holders must be residents of the United States with active accounts as of April 20, 2011.
If interested, please submit your email address by June 28, 2011, at 11:59:59 PM CST at:
Please note, you must enter the same email address used to register your PlayStation®Network or Qriocity account. Once your email address is validated, you will be sent your AllClear ID PLUS activation code.
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 5th anniversary edition
Prior to the release of its sequel, Skyrim, on November 11, Bethesda will release the 5th Anniversary Edition of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in June.  The special edition will include Oblivion, its two expansions (Knights of the Nine and the excellent Shivering Isles), a collector's steelbook, a making-of documentary, and a full-color map of Cyrodiil and the Shivering Isles.  In addition, buying the 5th Anniversary Edition will also entitle you to $10 off the purchase of Skyrim and a strategy guide.  The new edition of the game will be released on June 28 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC for $30.
Sony Announces the PSP Remaster Series
Sony recently announced the new PSP Remaster series, which will see PlayStation Portable games ported to PlayStation 3. These will be enhanced ports of the games, not just straight ports.
Remaster titles will be released on Blu-ray, not as downloads.  As the title suggests, games will be remastered and rendered in high definition on PS3. Controls will be reworked, as necessary, to function on a PS3 controller, and games may also get any number of other features.  Save data from the original PSP versions of these games will be usable on PS3 so that players can swap between playing on PSP and PS3.  
Fix Coming for Brink lag issues
Hopefully by the time this column goes live the lag issues that have been plaguing gamers during Brink’s multi-player mode will have been fixed.  Developer Splash Damage promised a patch for both the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.  Among the issues the patch is said to address are: sound dropping out, graphical performance, character voices resetting and improves both the server browser and dedicated server.  Level up with have its PS3 Brink Review next week.
Ubisoft Announces Ghost Recon Online for PC
Ubisoft has announced the development of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online, a new multi-player, third-person, cover-based tactical shooter that will be offered free-to-play online. Ghost Recon Online is developed by Ubisoft Singapore , and offers all the best qualities of the Ghost Recon franchise in a downloadable, dynamic, PC-based online game.  Ghost Recon Online launches in closed beta beginning this summer.   
With Ghost Recon Online, Ubisoft is delivering the most social, connected and customizable Ghost Recon experience yet. The game offers players the ability to choose between three different classes of Ghost, customize their weapons, deploy cutting-edge military technology, and share intel with their team. Ghost Recon Online also features a rich lobby platform for hosting social and persistent progression features. Ubisoft also will back the game with a full set of services, including regular events and game content updates, customized content based on community feedback, and live support. 
The online features complement Ghost Recon Online’s rich graphical environments and maps, which rival the quality of those traditionally seen only in retail games. And while the game is free for anyone to play, players also can purchase premium items and fully personalize their experience.
Konami Sets Release date for No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise
Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. announced the release date for the North American version of No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise which is scheduled to release August 16th 2011 for PlayStation 3. For the first time in franchise history, fans of the exciting hack and slash series will have the opportunity to see Travis Touchdown in rich high definition graphics as No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise makes its first appearance on a next generation console in North America .
Konami’s Plans for Pro Evolution Soccer 2012
Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. outlined its ambitious plans and focus for Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 which it will release in Autumn 2011 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360,  Windows PC, Wii, PSP,  and PlayStation2, and which again boasts exclusive use of the UEFA Champions League & UEFA Europa League licenses.
"For me, the ultimate aim in the ongoing PES series is to match what people see when they go to a match or watch a big game on TV with what they experience on their console," explains Shingo 'Seabass' Takatsuka, the Creative Producer of the Pro Evolution Soccer series. "As such, in consultation with football fans across the globe, we have been working non-stop to isolate and determine how to make our game marry in with how real football is played. This is key to PES 2012, and key to providing the ultimate football experience within a console title."
To this end, PES 2012 continues KONAMI's determination to work with fans of both the PES series and football in general, to create a truly realistic, immersive and utterly playable take on the modern game. Thus, the focus in PES 2012 is the instinctive way the game can be played and on teamwork in particular. Seabass and his Tokyo team have worked to recreate the very essence of top-level football, ensuring the new game's AI engine has undergone a major overhaul and provide an experience akin to being part of a real team.
"Team work is what separates the world's greatest teams from their peers, and is the hub of everything within PES 2012," added Takatsuka. "PES 2012 focuses on the core elements of top-level football: attacking play, freedom of movement, the creation of space, and working together as a unit both up field and in defense. These elements combine to create a game that flows and ebbs like a real match, with individual shows of brilliance changing a game, and more control over every aspect of play within a wide-ranging yet instinctive control system. PES 2012 will turn the heads of fans everywhere."
Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale Now Available
The original standard for fantasy roleplaying is taking another step in its storied pop culture history as the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms is brought to life for gamers and fantasy enthusiasts across the world. Atari, one of the worlds’ most recognized publishers and producers of interactive entertainment and Bedlam Games announced the release of the highly anticipated Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale on Xbox LIVE for the Xbox 360 and Windows PC (With Playstation 3 coming soon). 
Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale, a hack and slash action role playing game set in the deep mythology of the Forgotten Realms, is the first Dungeons & Dragons video game for connected consoles. Players are summoned by a mysterious mage and given the duty of defending their homeland as Rezlus, an evil Zhentarim Cleric looks to bring the power of the Black Lord Bane to Daggerdale. Restore order to the Dalelands by unlocking the secrets of the Mines of Tethyamar, defeating the evil within the treacherous Tower of the Void, leading to the final confrontation with Rezlus himself.
Players can take on the role of the melee expert Human Fighter, the quick and nimble Elven Rogue, the master of the arcane arts Halfling Wizard, and the powerful divine Dwarven Cleric. Gamers use intuitive pick-up-and-play combat combined with a wide assortment of weapons, feats and powers to defeat a wide range of deadly enemies. Players can level their character, unlocking three tiers of powers, and an extensive list of feats to create a truly unique character. As the player levels, they can add additional attribute points to their ability scores, further enhancing the performance of the character. The action-packed RPG gameplay allows for solo and co-op play for up to four players. 

Sony Announces Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One
Sony has announced October 18, 2011 as the North American release date for Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, the next action-adventure title in the critically acclaimed series, exclusively for the PlayStation 3 system. In addition, we’ve also unveiled the official box art, complete with all four heroes.  To entice you further, we also announced our partnership with GameStop, Amazon, Best Buy and to provide pre-order incentives for new and old fans alike, which includes the following free unlockable items exclusive to each respective retailer:
In Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, the award-winning development team at Insomniac Games reunites fans with the wonder and adventure of the Ratchet & Clank universe which has spanned nine titles and more than 22 million in worldwide sales since 2002. This latest installment delivers an explosive new adventure infused with the series’ signature humor and cinematic style, while being brought to life with vibrant cinematic visuals. The latest title also supports stereoscopic 3D.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Release Date Announced!
Global warfare is raging and the battle will begin on November 8 when the cultural phenomenon Modern Warfare returns with the worldwide release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.  Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the newest installment in Activision Publishing, Inc.'s #1 first person action series and is being developed by Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games.  
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is by far the most epic Call of Duty experience yet.   The teams at Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games have worked tirelessly to create for the Call of Duty player a scale that is unimaginable with a level of polish and creativity that will push the genre forward," said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, Inc.  "The passion and energy of our developers is reflected in everything about the title.  From the innovative gameplay, to the cinematic intensity, to the most advanced multiplayer ever, Modern Warfare 3 will raise the bar for this already incredible franchise. Check out the first Reveal trailer!

Hunted: The Demon’s Forge ( Bethesda ) Rated M  Xbox 360, PS3
Set in a dark fantasy world, Hunted: The Demon’s Forge™ is an unforgettable cooperative action game, pitting you and your partner against waves of vicious enemies. Taking control of either E’lara, a ranged weapon expert, or Caddoc, a master swordsman, you must use a variety of weapons, powerful spells, and cover tactics to battle your way through menacing dungeons, overgrown ruins, and downtrodden towns. Discover secrets and complete co-op-based puzzles whilst exploring the sinister world to discover answers to the game’s deep, dark mysteries.
The dark ages have become corrupted. Heinous creatures have emerged from underground. Townsfolk across the land are disappearing. Upon the promise of their fortune in gold, mercenaries E’lara and Caddoc take on the daunting task of discovering where the innocent villagers have been taken. Their journey will lead them on a dark and twisted path where they will encounter death, slavery, and sacrifice. Travel deep within the world of Kala Moor...and to the secrets of The Demon’s Forge.
BlazBlue Continuum Shift II (Aksys) Rated T  Sony PSP
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II is an enhanced port of the critically acclaimed BlazBlue: Continuum Shift. Now available for play on the PlayStation Portable this next installment in the popular BlazBlue fighting game series is a unique gaming experience that combines the best features of the Japanese arcade fighting series with the advanced handheld features that only the PSP can provide.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II contains the complete set of single player features from the console version, such as Arcade , Score Attack, Training, and Story mode, and also has a local wireless ad-hoc Network mode for multiplayer play. This impressive list of features is topped off with new content created solely for the handheld version, including extra story material and brand new modes such as Legion 1.5 and Abyss Mode. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II also features the full 18 character cast of the original BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, including the three DLC characters, Makoto, Valkenhayn, and Platinum. Furthermore, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II contains the new system mechanics and game balance revisions introduced by the original Arcade version and system version 1.03. With all of these new features, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II is a brand-new fighting game experience sure to meet the expectations of fans everywhere.
Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion (SVG) Rated E  Nintendo 3DS
Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion brings the best of Cartoon Network to one epic 3D Rumber! Mysterious forces are at work when worlds collide and the casts of the biggest Cartoon Network shows battle one another in this all-star brawler. Shows include Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, The PowerPuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, Codename: The Kids Next Door, Chowder, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and The Grim Adventures of Bill and Mandy.
Maximum Racing: Sprint Cars  Rated E Nintendo DS
Push your driving abilities to the limit at the wheel of winged Sprint Cars. Powerslide in light-weight high-powered cars across dirt ice and snow tracks. With high speed collisions on almost every corner Sprint Car racing is extreme octane motorsport!Race head to head against a friend. Unlock bonus vehicles. Race on dirt ovals as well as testing circuits crossing ice and sand with full damage modelling.Features: Split Screen head to head racing. Test Drive or Championship. Chassis and engine damage. Unlockable bonus features. Dirt Ovals and extreme circuits crossing dirt ice and snow.
SOCOM 4 U.S. Navy Seals (Sony) Rated M PS3
The SOCOM series has always had the reputation of being more strategically tactical than the Call of Duty series but does that give it the edge in gameplay? After nearly a month of the Playstation Netword being down we can finally bring you our review of Sony’s latest first-person shooter. SOCOM 4 take you on an extensive campaign to Southeast Asia to stop a maniacal revolutionary whose actions threaten peace throughout the world. You play as Cullen, the leader of a 5-member NATO Special Ops squad that also includes a female South Korean operative known as “forty-five”. You’ll play as Cullen for the most part although there are a few stealth missions where you play as Forty-Five. Throughout the campaign you face off against rebel soldiers known as “Naga” and a mercenary organization called “Clawhammer” who played parts in previous SOCOM games.
As the squad commander, it’s up to you to issue commands to your team which you do by utilizing the directional control. Set points and have your two pairs of team members move into position. You can also have them rally to your spot, mark a target, etc…You team’s AI is generally pretty good and fortunately your opponent’s isn’t. You’ll find little trouble getting through the campaign although the hardest difficulty setting does provide an ample challenge. It’s not all point and shoot though as some distinct objectives await you. You’ll gather intel, mark armored targets for inbound air-strikes, sabotage enemy facilities, and more. The stealth missions with Forty-Five can be particularly tricky as your mission comes to a quick end if you are detected by an enemy. Take them out quickly and quietly and stash their bodies. You can even hurl a shell casing to try and distract the enemy letting you sneak by. Controls otherwise are similar to other shooters in terms of the buttons you use to aim, fire, crouch, jump, switch weapons, etc…

SOCOM 4 Image

The levels look generally nice and the character models are great. But the various levels don’t have a lot of uniqueness to them and are only minimally interactive and destructible. At 6 – 8 hours the campaign is short and that’s becoming an annoying trend in first-person military shooters. Believe it or not, not all gamers are interested in on-line play. It’s incumbent on designers to take this into account when developing their games. A good online mode should complement a strong campaign, not the other way around. 
That said, SOCOM 4’s strongest aspect is its multi-player modes with support for up to 32 players. You can gather a few friends to take on several missions in co-op mode to earn points for upgrades and unlockables. SOCOM 4 doesn't have lobbies like previous SOCOMs instead SOCOM 4 has a Quick Match system along with a Party System to meet up with your friends. Multi-player features four game modes: Uplink is basically your capture the flag mode as one team goes on the attack while other defends. The attacking team is given the task of stealing the defending team’s data by downloading it off random data locations set throughout the map; Supression is your team deathmatch mode; Bomb Squad features one team trying to protect bomb sites while other team must disarm them. The team that disarms the random bomb sites need to choose one player as their Bomb Technician and they get heavy armor protection and two unique weapons; Last Defense requires you to capture all the neutral sectors placed in the middle of the map to find the opposing team’s Head Quarters. 
These modes can all also be played in “Classic mode” that feature shorter time limits and no respawning. There are also smaller map versions of games like Supression which result in some truly hellacious firefights.  A nice variety of maps from shanty town slums to jungles to cities helps to keep the action fresh. However there are some issues with lag during online play, especially when there are a lot of characters onscreen. There are also some visual glitches like players that seem to float and such but these are slight. 
SOCOM 4 U.S. Navy Seals is a good game. That’s it really. The campaign and multi-player modes don’t break any new ground in terms of play, strategy, or graphics, but they offer a fair challenge and come at a time when no other first-person shooter is making noise so Sony’s timing was impeccable. Grade B. 

Thor: God of Thunder (Sega) Rated T PS3, Xbox 360
Thor God of Thunder takes us back to those videogames of yesteryear and not in a good way.  Like many games before it, going all the way back to ET: The Extra Terrestrial on the Atari 2600, Thor is yet another game rushed to market to take advantage of a blockbuster film.  Any excitement I had about playing my favorite Marvel Comics Superhero quickly crumbled away. 
Thor: God of Thunder is another God of War-style game with wave-after-wave of enemies, gigantic boss battles, and a points based skill tree to increase your abilities.  So far, so good.  It may not be original but it’s a good template to start out with.  The opening puts you into the gleaming city of Asgard to start and the game gets off to a reasonable start as Thor has to help defend the city from a frost giant attack.  The game acts as somewhat of a prequel to the film and the character models are based on the film as opposed to the comics.
Thor has four modes of attacks: Melee, Thunder, Lighting, and Wind. Each of these modes has their own special button combos that allow you to call down lighting strikes, summon powerful wind gusts, or make the ground tremble with a shattering earthquake.  You have to use your D-pad to switch between Lightning, Thunder, and Wind attacks as each may have the same button combo but will produce different effects depending on which one you are on.  This can be problematic in battle if you try to pull off a move and don’t get the expected results, only to find out you are on Wind instead of Thunder.
If that were the game’s only problem it might be ok, but unfortunately its only the tip of Ymir’s iceberg.  The controls are frustratingly clunky.  Even when you pull off the right button combo you still might not get the intended result.  And here’s where this gets to be a problem…unlike God of War or Dante’s Inferno where you could get by mostly with button mashing and standard attacks, you’re going to need the special attacks in Thor.  At the very least it’s a huge help to call down some of the more powerful lightning attacks to strike every enemy onscreen rather than fight them all one-on-one.  Adding to the combat annoyance is that to pull off some of the special attacks you need Odinforce.  The problem is that Odinforce drains very quickly and so much of the game is spent running from enemies and destroying ice crystals to unlock Odinforce.  Thor?  Running from frost giants?  Didn’t the developers at Liquid Entertainment ever read any Thor comic books? 
Boss battles are another source of frustration.  As in other games of this type, you need to grapple onto an enemy at a specific point and then hit a button or sequence of buttons for a quicktime event attack.  You have to be in one exact location to first grab onto the boss which is problem #1, and then you have only a short window of opportunity to pull off the correct button sequence or else you’re tossed off him.  Developers have been relying on this cheap tactic far too often.  You end up having to replay levels over and over because of these nagging tactics that it completely sucks the fun out of the game.
Visually Thor is simply not up to par.  This would be an average PS2 looking game at best and is far below PS3 standards.  There’s a wide variety of frost giants to battle early on but their color palettes are all the same dull light blue and green as are the levels themselves.  The animation is stiff and jerky all around.  Even the voice acting, which features several of the film’s stars including Chris Hemsworth as Thor, is lifeless.  If the movie was as bad as the game, it would have been a major box office disaster.  Grade D