Level Up! Returning to Raccoon City (Mania.com)

By:Tim Janson
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Source: Mania.com

Interesting week in videogaming since most of the major stories have nothing to do with actually playing games.  It seems that the saga of Mass Effect 3’s controversial ending will finally be addressed although likely not to everyone’s satisfaction.  And just when you thought you had heard it all, the Better Business Bureau, of all people, weighed in on the Mass Effect 3 issue.

We’ve got reviews of two games this week that unfortunately must both be considered disappointments: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and Armored Core V.

New DLC ending coming for Mass Effect 3 

Personally I think all the whining about the ending of Mass Effect 3 was utterly ridiculous.  Could the ending have been better?  Sure!  Would we have liked to have seen the Reapers get theirs?  Absolutely!  That said…had I not heard about the controversial ending before completing the game myself I doubt I would have given it any more consideration than a film that has a lackluster ending.  You shrug and you move on… 

That said…BioWare will be release a DLC pack which they’ve dubbed Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut.  Lets be clear…this is NOT a new ending to the game.  But rather it will feature additional cinematic sequences and epilogue scenes meant to "give fans seeking further clarity to the ending of Mass Effect 3 deeper insights into how their personal journey concludes."  BioWare’s words, not mine.  Putting to rest any rumors that Electronic Arts was looking to cash in on selling a new ending, the DLC will be free of charge when it is released later this summer via Xbox Live, PSN, and Origin for the PC. 

The Better Business Bureau Says Mass Effect 3 is guilty of false advertising

And continuing the Mass Effect 3 ending saga comes this news from the BBB.  On their blog (The BBB has a blog?) the BBB stated, “The issue at stake here is, did Bioware falsely advertise? Technically, yes, they did," wrote the BBB's Majorie Stephens. "In the first bullet point, where it states 'the decisions you make completely shape your experience', there is no indecision in that statement. It is an absolute. The next statement is not so absolute. It states 'your choices drive powerful outcomes'. A consumer would have to very carefully analyze this statement to come to a conclusion that the game's outcome is not 'wholly' determined by one's choices."

"The lesson to be learned here is companies should give careful consideration to how they word their advertisements," she adds. "Otherwise, there could be detrimental effects, especially in the era of social media and online forums."

Commodore founder dies at age 83

Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore and a pioneer in personal computing, died Sunday at the age of 83 in California.  Tramiel founded Commodore as a typewriter company in 1953, and shepherded it through the 1960s to become a major supplier of calculators and business electronics.  As personal computing flourished in the 1970s and 80s, Commodore was at the forefront, releasing a number of popular models like the VIC-20 and the Commodore 64.  An icon of the 8-bit computing era, the Commodore 64 sold between 12 million and 17 million units during its lifetime, making it the most popular single personal computer model of all time.

Resigning from Commodore in 1984, Tramiel purchased the struggling Atari Consumer Division from Warner Communications and transformed it into Atari Corp.  Atari's 16-bit computer, the ST, became a major rival of the 16-bit Commodore Amiga in the mid-1980s.  Tramiel sold Atari in 1996, remaining on the board of its purchaser, JTS Corporation.  

Gamestop settles lawsuit with the state of California

As a result of the settlement to a class-action lawsuit, all California GameStop stores will now have to post signs warning customers that they'll have to pay extra to access 'free' DLC advertised on the boxes of used games.  Typically, such content is only free to the original purchaser. The warnings are mandated for the next two years, online as well as in California brick-and-mortar stores.  Mark Pifko, an attorney with law firm Baron & Budd, made the following statement to the press:

"The in-store and online warnings are an important benefit under the settlement as well, because if GameStop discloses the truth to consumers, it is unlikely that they will be able to continue selling used copies of certain games for only $5 less than the price of a new copy. In fact, we already know that not long after the lawsuit was filed, GameStop lowered prices for used copies of many of the game titles identified in the lawsuit."

You mean people really shop at GameStop?  Ewww!

Electronic Arts: Worst company in America ? 
That’s what a recent internet poll says.  Conducted by Consumerist.com in a NCAA tournament, March Madness style of voting, the gaming giant was named worst company in America .  All I can conclude from this is that there are a lot of gaming nerds with chips on their shoulders who don’t live in the real world.  EA worse than Fannie Mae for helping create the Mortgage Crisis?  Worse than some of the banking giants who are to blame most for the country’s economic crisis?  Worse than stinking eBay?  EA has its faults but they are hardly the worst company in America . 
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Warner Bros.) Rated M Xbox 360, PC 
Compared to the initial award winning PC release, the Xbox 360 edition will feature lots of new and exciting content. Additional hours of gameplay for the Xbox 360: New major adventures set in previously unseen locations, expanding the story and introducing new characters, mysteries and monsters. New Game Introduction and cinematic: All new animations and cut scenes, including a new, three and a half minute pre-rendered cinematic depicting the assassination of King Demavend of Aedirn. BAFTA Award winner and Academy Award nominee Tomasz Baginski brings this key historical event to life, setting the stage for the story told in The Witcher 2. Upgraded interface, designed specifically for the Xbox 360: Game camera and targeting have been redesigned for the Xbox, and with upgraded pad controls, players will now be able to experience fully The Witcher 2's spectacular and thrilling combat. 
Deadliest Warrior (345 Games) Rated M  Xbox 360, PS3 
Based on the wildly successful TV show, Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat is a definitive compilation package that puts the fate of history's most legendary warriors in your hands. Ancient Combat is fully compatible with the downloadable versions of both games. Choose from the ultimate selection of ancient warriors with signature weaponry, authentic and historically accurate combat skills and quick and deadly action. Battle to the death as a ninja, samurai or pirate, or choose to fight as one of the most legendary warriors of all time, including Shaka Zulu, Vlad The Impaler, and William Wallace. With all of the original features from both games plus exclusive bonus retail features, experience the glory of conquering the world of Deadliest Warrior. 


Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (Capcom) Rated M  PS3

While it may have “Resident Evil” in its title, Operation Raccoon City is about as far away from the Resident Evil series as a game staring Mario and Luigi would be.  Emphasizing squad-based, cover action shooting far over survival horror, Raccoon City seems determined to drive the final nail in the coffin of the long-running series. 

In terms of Resident Evil continuity, the game is set around the time of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis at the time of the outbreak in Raccoon City .  Umbrella Security Service (USS) Delta team enters the Raccoon City Underground Laboratory, to rendezvous with Alpha team leader HUNK. Their mission is to stop Dr. Birkin from handing over his T-Virus research to the U.S. military and retrieve the G-virus.  Little do they know that Birkin has infected himself with the virus, turning himself into something looking like Moe Howard of the Three Stooges crossed with the Incredible Hulk…with a giant eye on his right shoulder.  I kid you not…I could not make this stuff up.  What sounds like an interesting storyline in theory turns into a horridly executed mess. 
There are multiple playable characters in the game such as Vector, a recon expert who is equipped with a cloaking ability; Beltway, the explosives expert; Bertha, the medic; Spectre, the marksman; Four Eyes, the scientist, with the ability to program the bio-organic weapons; and Lupo, who is the team leader.  You can play single player or co-op mode with 4 players.  You can also play single but allow other players online to join at anytime or make the game private.  Here’s a big hint…PLAY CO-OP!!!  RE: Operation Raccoon City has just about the worst AI-controlled teammates in any game I’ve ever seen.  These pylons are damn near useless as they will only be too happy to let you get pummeled by Birkin-Hulk as they stand around small-talking.  Ok, ok…I’m exaggerating but not much.  
Furthermore you have no control over this group of NPCs and they will wander off, into areas already completed or into mines.  They seem to do almost no damage against enemy forces, leaving you to do the bulk of the killing and also absorb the lion’s share of the attacks.  About the only useful purpose of the AI characters is that Bertha will throw a cure your way when you’re hurt.  But when you combine the fact that ammo is always in short supply (as is typical for RE games), most of the enemy killing is on your shoulders, and enemies are bullet sponges that seem to take at least 6 rounds or more to take down, it makes for a problematic experience to say the least.  On the plus side though, the enemy AI is just as atrocious, even for the foes who are not mindless zombies but still act like they are. 
And here’s another gem of gameplay stupidity…the cover in the game is automatic.  Rather than hitting the X button for example to crouch behind an object or slide behind a wall, you virtually stick to any wall you go near.  So much for tactical play!  Things do improve a bit once you start encountering the zombies.  A well placed headshot can take them down and at least there is some gratification there with a spray of blood…far more of a reaction than you get by shooting enemy soldiers.  The brutal kill melee system is also fun but becomes repetitive.  Visually RE: Operation Raccoon City gets no better.  It’s muddy, dark, and gloomy.  To a certain respect it fits with the tone but one would think the laboratories would have more of a clean, bright, sterilized look to them.  
Besides the campaign mode the game features four multi-player modes, each supporting up to eight players. Heroes mode offers a four-on-four team match that lets you play as notable RE characters (Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine). Biohazard is basically capture the flag, only you're trying to capture lost G-virus vials. Survivors is a fight for survival against human and computer-controlled enemies that doesn't end until the extraction helicopter arrives, and Team Attack is a team deathmatch.  Multilplayer somewhat improves the value of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon city but it can’t make up for horrid gameplay and uninspired visuals. Grade C-


Armored Core V (Namco Bandai) Rated T  PS3 

I used to be the type of gamer who would read the instruction booklet from cover to cover on a new game before I even started playing it…but not anymore.  As a reviewer I want a game that I can pop in and get right going.  Tell me your story in the game and give me a tutorial on controls and let’s get moving…In Armored Core V, the latest in the long-running Mech battle series, unfortunately I had no such luck.  Jumping into Armored Core V is like jumping into a morass of sticky slime that you can’t find your way out from thanks to a confusing menu system and startup that makes it unclear if you are supposed to be playing alone or with a team.  

Lets start with the fact that Armored Core V has the longest installation of any game I’ve played since DC Online.  While it’s nowhere near the wait time of that game, it did take a good 20 minutes and for the life of me I cannot see why.  Armored Core V is basically an MMO although good luck in figuring that out right off the bat.  The lousy documentation barely provides any info you need to get started.  So here’s the deal, you first start by picking a name for your mech pilot and then you either join a team or create a team of your own.  Your Team can be chosen bases on several criteria such as your state, and tour desired level of difficulty.  A list of available teams pops up but there’s little to guide you on how you choose a team.  Do you pick one whose level is low since you are a newbie?  I just chose one at random.  A world map displays which teams control the dozens of territories and you can also chat with any teammates who happen to be online. 
You can then begin the campaign game which take you through several extremely repetitive missions, blowing up any tanks, aircraft, and rival mechs as you slog through to the end.  Completing the missions contributes to the overall success of your team even if you played through the missions solo.  At the start of the mission you are able to outfit your mech with an impressive array of weapons, armor, and boosters.  These might not be of the highest quality to start with but at least you can go into battle with things like a gatling gun, missiles, energy weapons, and even a laser sword.  In your team hub you are able to trade items you’ve gained with other members of your team, underscoring the co-operative play of the game. 
However the customization of your mech gets back to my earlier point.  The process is very confusing with menus and submenus that can leave you lost.  The first three missions I attempted my mech as not outfitted with the weapons I chose…or thought I chose.  As there’s no help at all you really have to play around with it, make sure that the image of your mech has the weapons you want as it will change, and then confirm the changes.  The way you outfit your mech can have a major impact on your success as well as how your mech maneuvers.  Outfit it with too much and you can feel like you are dragging your armored feet through molasses.  It makes the entire mech building process more of a chore than fun. 
The story itself is just as confusing.  You can play through the dozens of missions solo or with a friend.  But what is the story?  Why are you there?  I haven’t a clue.  You’re tossed into a mission, you follow a route from Point A to Point B, and destroy everything in your path and that’s about it.  The level designs are as drab as the gameplay.  The only real goal here is to amass funds to outfit your mech and gain prestige for your team but there doesn’t seem to be much of a big picture goal.  Trying to conquer another team’s territory requires a team of five players with one assuming the role of operator, who watches the battle unfold from an overhead map, noting important tactical areas on the other players' HUD. Since most teams won't be online 24/7 to defend their territory, most invasion squads will go up against a team of NPCs, plus whatever defensive turrets the team has purchased.  Thus, assaults on enemy territory take some serious coordinating and pre-planning to get all five members together.  
The battle effects are also mundane.  I had no more feeling that I was piloting a massive mech than if I was driving my Malibu down the street.  There was no “Oomph” to the weapons.  You blow things up and they just disappear with little residual damage effects.  Enemy tanks seem to move like they are gliding on a sheet of ice. 
Armored Core V offers incredibly complex customization but does so at the sake of its gameplay.  You can spend far more time trying to customize your mech than actually using it in battle.  A huge variety of missions is available but whether or not you’ll be able to feel the true value of the game by being able to find and play co-operatively with other players is a major issue.  What a pity that more effort wasn’t put into a single player game.  If co-operative play is not your thing then its best to avoid Armored Core V.  Grade C