Ok, a bit of an abbreviated column this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Plus, other than the new Assassin’s Creed game there’s just not much coming out next week of any major interest. BUT…I did not want to wait another week to bring you my reviews of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. How often is it that two potential game of the year candidates come out in the same week.
For those of you going out Black Friday…you’re braver souls than me. But I’m sure you’ll hit some good deals. So have a happy Thanksgiving and Go Lions!
DUE OUT NEXT WEEK
Assassin’s Creed Revelations (Ubisoft) Rated M PS3, Xbox 360, PC
When a man has won all of his battles and defeated all of his enemies; what is left for him to achieve? Ezio Auditore must leave his life behind in search of answers, in search of the truth. In Assassin's Creed® Revelations, master assassin Ezio Auditore walks in the footsteps of the legendary mentor Altaïr, on a journey of discovery and revelation. It is a perilous path — one that will take Ezio to Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire, where a growing army of Templars threatens to destabilize the region.
In addition to the culmination of Ezio's award-winning story, a refined and expanded online multiplayer experience returns with new and additional modes, maps, and characters, allowing you to test your slaying skills against others from around the world.
Become Deadlier Than Ever — Wield the lethal skills of a wiser, more efficient and deadlier Ezio. Swiftly eliminate your adversaries by deploying a new arsenal of weapons and abilities, such as enhanced free-running and hookblade combat. Experience new levels of gameplay customization with bomb crafting, and use heightened Eagle Sense to vanquish your enemies and the environment.
Nano Assault (Majesco) Rated E 3DS
Stop the deadly Nanostray virus from spreading and contaminating civilization in Nano Assault, a fast-paced action shooter set within a visually stunning cellular system that leaps off the screen in full 3D. Control your microscopic Nanite ship inside the dangerous virus to fight off infections, navigate through alien cell clusters, battle bosses, and ultimately analyze and destroy the virus' core to save humanity.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Activision) Rated M PS3
In the past I have railed against annual releases of games such as NCAA Football or Madden football which could easily get by with just new team rosters and players since the changes to the gameplay each year are minimal. That, however, does not apply to the Call of Duty series which always feels like a new game and always seems to feature improvements that make a difference in gameplay. Developed by Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is an epic success in everyway and will no doubt keep millions of fans trudging through their days after sleepless nights.
The campaign game is a direct sequel to 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, as you play as various characters on the hunt for rogue Russian military leader Vladimir Makarov who has brought war to America ’s shores. Returning characters include Cpt. John "Soap" MacTavish and former SAS Cpt. John Price. But you’ll play most of the campaign as Yuri, an ex-Spetsnaz soldier who joins Price on his hunt for Makarov. While I’d prefer sticking with one character for the sake of continuity, there’s such a cinematic quality to the action that it will literally sweep you up. Early on you are aboard a Russian Airplane that is hijacked my Makarov’s operatives. You try to lead the Russian President and his family to safely as the plane is brought down and it includes a harrowing segment of zero gravity as the plane plummets to the ground. The world-hopping story takes you from New York to Germany , to Sierra Leone to Paris and more.
It’s amazing, really, how good the game looks while still built on an older engine but it flies at a fluid 60 FPS and never fails to amaze with its terrific level design and special effects that threaten to rock you off your seat. You’ll need to do a lot of maneuvering around inside the crowded set pieces. There’s lot’s to do even if you do feel a little led by the leash with its linear play. I encountered an enjoying sound glitch though that sounded like microphone feedback…I thought it was my TV but nope, it’s the game. It’s only happened once but it’s something I’ve read that others have encountered as well. So yes the Campaign is too short and that’s the biggest pet peeve with these first-person shooters like this and Battlefield. I understand these games are built for multi-player but it would be nice to get more bang for your buck on the campaign side.
Ok so to multi-player and of course this is where COD: MW3 truly excels and improves on previous editions. 16 maps in all are included and all are extremely detailed to go along with 19 different game modes. There’s something for everyone and will no doubt be able to keep you busy for months. The leveling and reward system never makes you feel like your treading water, there’s always progress to be made no matter what your skill level may be.
The traditional Killstreak, perks, and unlock system has been revamped. Gone is the currency system for unlocks. The new Strike Packages (Assault, Support, Specialist) allow you to tailor your perks to your style of play. For noobs or those that just might not have the skill to accumulate a lot of consecutive kills, the Support Strike package offers items like the UAV or SAM turrets…the good thing about this package is that your killstreak doesn’t reset once you’re killed. Weapons level up as well and provide proficiency perks such as gun attachments, hybrid scopes, reduced recoil, improved accuracy, etc…The new “Prestige Shop” will allow you to expend these Prestige tokens to buy things like the ability to double your XP and extra custom classes.
Among the new game modes in COD: MW3 is Kill Confirmed. Here you and your team kill the enemy and then have to collect their dropped dog tags to confirm the kill. However the other team can deny the kill by picking up their own teammates tags, thus denying your team the point. There’s also Team Defender, and the ability to customize private matches. In addition there are a couple of co-operative modes. The new one is called Survival Mode and has two players fighting an on-rushing wave of enemies. Spec Ops returns and offers mission-based play for you and a partner.
What more can you say about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3? When any series becomes this big and this popular there is going to be the occasional backlash by people who want more or expect something different. But the game delivers on every level campaign, multi-player, co-op…tons of rewards that will keep you playing for months and the sure to be coming DLC with more maps. Overhyped? Perhaps but it lives up to the billing. Grade A-
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda) Rated M PS3
The polar opposite of Call of Duty is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Here’s a game that quite literally could take well over 100 hours to complete depending upon just how much of this vast world you want to explore. Whether you choose to follow up on tips of information from the may NPCs or just decide to explore every nook, cranny, and cave you find, Skyrim unfolds a vast tapestry of opportunities for the player leaving it up to you how much you want to take out of the world.
Set some 200 years after the events in Oblivion and in the northern lands of Skyrim, you begin life as an unnamed prisoner on his way with others to the chopping block. A timely attack by a dragon—just as you are about to lose your head—allows you a chance at freedom. It is here where you begin your character creation choosing from a roster of various human and Elven races as well as Orc, feline, reptilian, and other types, each with their own unique characteristics. This is a change from previous Elder Scrolls games where you assigned your own attribute skills. While skill nuts might not like this control taken away it does make the game easier and quicker to jump into without those agonizing points to distribute. There’s a fairly exhaustive menu system for developing your character’s look that you can personalize to your taste. You’ll make your way, along with a guard, out from the attack area and its here where you can decide your path. You can follow the guard and his suggestions on whom to talk to in the first town you encounter, or you can go it on your own.
Whichever way you choose to go, you’ll find a near endless array of decisions open up to you. Conversions open up a dialogue wheel where you can take NPCs advice, follow up on their tips and hints, or choose to ignore them entirely. The main story casts you something called a “Dragonborn”, one who can communicate with Dragons and absorb their souls. You are charged with finding out what dragons have returned to the land. But this main plot just skims the surface of what awaits you in Skyrim as you explore villages, sewers, tombs, dungeons, and more in the frigid climes. You can choose to ally yourself with other like adventurers or go it lone wolf style. The radiant storyline features quests that are many-layered. Taking on one minor quest may lead to a much larger and more difficult quest. Can you motor through the game and stay on the course of the main storyline? Sure, but doing so only cheats yourself out of the rewarding experience of so much more gameplay and things to discover.
Your race can help you decide whether you choose to specialize in the schools of magic, combat, or stealth but you do not choose a class as such, allowing for a combination skills which you can level up with experience, improve upon, and earn perks. The leveling system is giddily comprehensive. You can add your points to increase your health, stamina, or magicka, select a perk, or any other number of possibilities. Countless one and two-handed weapons are available. Through the use of a blacksmith you can increase the effectiveness of your weapon or create new weapons. 85 spells are available in the game that can be assigned to each hand along with weapons and these can be swapped out quickly via a favorites designation. Shouts are new powers that you gain from absorbing the souls of dragons and there are 20 in all. These allow you to perform feats like slowing down time or controlling weather.
Even the most mundane items have a use in Skyrim…vegetables, spices and herbs, meat, etc, can be eaten to increase your health or they can be combined in recipes using a spit in a farmer’s house to make soups or stews that increase health and stamina. Who’d have thought it would be that much fun to cook in a videogame! These are the little details that make Skyrim so enthralling. The NPCs you meet are not just 2-D cutouts but they seem to be alive. They have their own personalities, their own views on local events. NPCs will react to you very differently based on your status.
Skyrim’s environs are filled with all manner of treats for the eyes…snow gently falls as the harsh winds whip at you…wolves and deer can be seen running in the distance and will occasionally try to make a meal of you…the wolves not the deer. Battle, giants, trolls, various forms of undead, bandits, and of course more than one dragon. Skyrim’s combat system is simple and tight, the best yet in the Elder Scrolls series. Those who master in stealth can use their abilities sneak up on their enemies or become the perfect cat burglars. They are also adept at picking locks and pockets.
All the good is dulled somewhat by the bad and that does come in the form of numerous glitches and bugs. Players can find themselves stuck helplessly on a fall, forcing a quick travel ore restart from a save. But the most egregious glitch that a lot of PS3 players have found so far is a terrible lag that takes place once game save files exceed 6 MB. Restarting can improve this but only for about an hour before the slow-down resurfaces its ugly head. The good news is that Bethesda has announced that a patch should be available the week after Thanksgiving that hopefully will take care of the problem. With its vast scope, endless hours of gameplay, myriad numbers of quests and side quests, and addictive gameplay, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim hits the pinnacle of the action RPG. Grade A
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