Kind of a quick column this week after last week’s E3 bonanza of announcements and trailers. Speaking of E3 its future for 2013 is up in the air as you can read about below. A few interesting games on the release slate for next week including Lego Batman 2 and Brave, based upon the Disney animated film. I’ve also got a review of Dragon’s Dogma this week so let’s dig in!
Tecmo’s Dead or Alive 5 coming in September
The next in the famed Dead or Alive fighting series, Dead or Alive 5 was Tecmo Koei’s highlight of the E3 show. After taking a hiatus, the widely recognized Dead or Alive series returns with a new look and feel while retaining the legacy that established the series as a core fighting contender. Dead or Alive 5 incorporates a variety of martial arts fighting techniques into its signature fighting style to create a new generation of intense Dead or Alive combat. Players will once again take on the roles of the cast of Dead or Alive fighters, along with new contenders such as Virtua Fighter’s Akira Yuki and Sarah Bryant, in an action-packed brawler set in visually striking locations from around the world. The famed Dead or Alive hand-to-hand combat returns in DOA5, supported by new 3D stages that change as the match progresses. Created by Team Ninja the fighting game will ship for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on September 25th, 2012.
Max Payne 3 cheaters beware!
Rockstar Games has come up with an innovative way to people who cheat in the multiplayer mode of Max Payne 3 with hacks or mods…that a small minority of players are spoiling the Max Payne 3 multiplayer experience for honest players with cheats and hacks, and while certain issues will be dealt with in forthcoming title updates, today we'd like to make it clear that anyone using these nefarious methods will be dealt with," the company said in a corporate blog post.
Rockstar has created an area called the "Cheaters Pool," where it will toss anyone who uses hacked saves, modded games or other shortcuts to gain an advantage -- a group the developer calls "confirmed miscreants." Once confined to that area, they'll only be able to play against others who have used cheats like invincibility hacks, infinite adrenaline or score boosters. Anyone in that quarantine zone who's caught cheating a second time will be banished from the multiplayer servers indefinitely. To round up the troublemakers, Rockstar is asking players who spot a cheater to email with the platform, Gamertag, description of the violation and a video or a screenshot if possible.
The future of E3
Will E3 be back in LA next year? Will there even be an E3? At issue is the proposed construction of Farmers Field stadium, which would include a renovation of the convention center itself. ESA (Entertainment Software Association) officials are worried the remodel…which would eliminate one of the center's two main halls…would result in insufficient space to put on the show. Officials at the ESA say they still expect the show to be in Los Angeles, but are talking with other cities like New York, New Orleans, or Chicago, as a back-up. The organization says it will announce the dates and host-city for the show in the "coming weeks."
Bigpoint Scares up details about Universal Monsters Online
Bigpoint released new information about its anticipated free-to-play (F2P) browser-based title, Universal Monsters Online. The game, which Bigpoint is developing in collaboration with Universal Partnerships & Licensing, will enable players to experience Universal’s iconic cast of classic monsters in a highly-competitive Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) setting.
Taking on the persona of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon – among many other notable monsters from Universal’s rich history – players compete with and against each other in a blend of combat and strategic game play. Like all Bigpoint titles, Universal Monsters Online will be F2P. In-game currency can be used to purchase items such as new characters (after a free-trial period), unique character skins, and special abilities. Bigpoint plans to begin closed beta testing shortly, and is now encouraging players to sign-up for early access at: http://www.UniversalMonstersOnline.com
DUE OUT NEXT WEEK
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Warner Bros) Rated E, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, 3DS, Vita, PC
In Lego Batman 2: DC Super Hereos, calamity strikes as the Joker forms as alliance with Lex Luther. The result is a uniting of the world's greatest villains from across the DC Comics universe, hell bent on tearing down Gotham City, brick by brick. Thankfully Batman and Robin are able to form their own unit for good with members of the Justice League. Additional heroes available in the game include Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and many more. The game contains light-hearted content featuring Batman flavored action, mixed with classic LEGO block gameplay. Players utilize a variety of vehicles including the Batmobile and Batwing, and must master a range of gadgets in order to triumph. True to the beloved LEGO video game play, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Hereos contains contains both single player and co-op gameplay options.
Pokemon Conquest (Nintendo) Rated E, Nintendo DS
It's a new world of Pokémon battles! Become a Warlord and build your kingdom! Welcome to a world inhabited by mighty Warlords and their Pokémon—It's a new way to experience Pokémon! Use your Pokémon—and the special ability of your Warriors—to build your kingdom! Train your Pokémon and recruit more Warriors! With nearly 200 Pokémon, mainly from the Pokémon Black Version and Pokémon White Version games, there are many options when building your army! Unite the 17 kingdoms of Ransei and awaken the Legendary Pokémon!
Brave (Disney) Rated E, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, PC
Inspired by "Brave", the upcoming Disney/Pixar animated fantasy adventure movie, Brave: The Video Game invites players to run, jump and battle their way through the rugged landscape of mythical and mysterious Scotland. By using their wits and bravery, gamers will also be able to wield a sword and bow and arrow to defeat fierce enemies, break a magical curse and save a kingdom.
Play as Merida, Pixar's first female hero and an expert archer, or in the console versions players can also play as other entertaining characters from the film. In addition, they will be able to go on quests through a magical world and solve puzzles to uncover secrets. Gameplay features include an exciting single-player campaign, a co-op option for play with family and friends, and exclusive mini-games.
Steel Battalion (Capcom) Rated M Xbox 360
Set in 2082, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor depicts a world devoid of semiconductors, where war is waged with rudimentary weapons as new superpowers struggle for dominance. In a twist of fate, the U.S. army has been forced to begin major landing operations on what was once its own soil. In this low-tech era, there is one weapon class that will determine the course of the war – the Vertical Tank (VT). Playing as pilot Lt. Powers, players control one such VT as he embarks on a mission that will see the action shift from North America to battlefields and war-torn streets across the globe.
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor delivers an unprecedented level of control and interaction. VT movement, aiming and firing of the main guns are undertaken using the Xbox 360 controller. A wide variety of other combat-crucial actions are done through Kinect for Xbox 360 with upper body gestures - from starting the engine, to operating the scope or manning the turret-mounted machine gun. Kinect for Xbox 360 also provides a means of interacting with your fellow crew members. These range from ensuring a panicked crew member stays focused, to a high five for successfully completing a mission.
Quake 4 (Bethesda) Rated M, Xbox 360
In a desperate war for Earth's survival, against an unrelenting enemy, the only way to defeat them is to become one of them. Armed with advanced weaponry and vehicles and aided by an elite squad of marines, you take the battle to the heart of the Strogg home planet and become earth's only hope for victory.
Dragon’s Dogma (Capcom) Rated M, PS3, Xbox 360
Dragon’s Dogma is an action RPG that features an eclectic blend of influences and styles, all melding into a hearty stew of a game…you can see influences of Final Fantasy, Skyrim, Shadow of the Colossus and more. There’s even traces of squad-based shooter type games in the way you can command your “pawns”. Despite these many influences though, Dragon’s Dogma carves out its own path in the RPG genre and makes for a flawed but wonderfully enjoyable romp through a Tolkien-like world.
The game has a short prologue which apparently is included only to give you the basics of the game and serves as a really weird opening. Once you’ve completed the battle against a powerful Griffon, you actually begin the game with the character creation. Dogma offers a robust character creation system with literally thousands of possible combinations of appearances in either male or female bodies although you can only be human. Once your character is created the game real opening begins as a massive red dragon attacks your village. You bravely, i.e., stupidly rush out to attack it only to be knocked to the ground as the dragon pierces your chest with a claw, removes your heart, and gobbles it like a tasty appetizer. But…you do NOT die. You are the “Arisen”, the hero destined to reclaim his or her heart by slaying the dragon. Dogma doesn’t earn many points for story originality, unfortunately.
With your character built you now choose their class from a selection of Fighter, Ranger, or Mage. While this isn’t exactly a beefy set of class options never fear…as you gain experience you can essentially blend your skills into hybrid classes like an Assassin, Sorcerer, Mystic Knight, or Magic Archer. As you can tell from the descriptions these will help give a character the best of different worlds of class types.
One of the most unique aspects of Dragon’s Dogma is its Pawn system. Pawns are hirelings, henchmen, mercenaries…call them what you like but they are there to serve and aid you. One of these Pawns is with you permanently in the game. You can edit their appearance, name, class, skills, and equipment, just as you can for your own character. The other two pawns can be switched out whenever you want. These pawns come from other players. So essentially you can borrow two other player’s main pawns via a rift to allow them to travel to your world and another player could borrow your pawn as well. This allows you to bring over a pawn which actually might be much higher level than your own character. These require the use of “rift points” to purchase.
Your Pawns will aid you in battle. You can issue them basic commands like “Go”, “Help”, and “Come to Me”. They will attack independently in battle and also yell out important hints and strategies for whatever enemy you are facing. This can be both good and bad. At times there’s so much chatter going on between all your pawns that you want to scream, “Shut Up! One at a time!” Their phraseology also gets repetitive very fast as they will make the same comments over and over. Your pawns will also heal you during and after battles although one wishes that they looked after themselves as well as you.
Combat and character development is Dragon Dogma’s true calling card. Boss battles are some of the best ever seen in a fantasy RPG. The bosses are vicious and massive on an epic scale and look fantastic with brilliantly rendered animations and models. You’ll need to develop your strategies to take them down. The character customization makes you feel like you really do have a character that is completely your own and not a clone of a thousand other PCs.
Dragon’s Dogma is a large game…not on Sykrim’s scale but large nonetheless. But it is made unnecessarily large by frequent and monotonous back-tracking, particularly during the early part of the game. You find yourself constantly traveling the same paths over and over and it saps a lot of the thrill of adventure out of the experience. Your pawns remind you (frequently) at the start that there is no shame in retreating in battle from a more powerful foe. Good advice as Dogma can often have a weird flow in terms of difficulty. To put it in old AD&D terms, it can be like fighting a group of goblins one moment and fighting a dragon in the next. There’s also a good deal of annoying graphical glitches like some really bad cropping of boss characters in battle. I reviewed on the PS3 but I hear there was some significant slowdown in big battles on the Xbox 360. While I’m not to completion yet, figure upon a solid 40+ hours of play to complete everything.
Yes it has its flaws but Dragon’s Dogma has far more good than bad and I hope to see a sequel soon! Grade B+
Tim Janson is a columnist and reviewer for Mania Entertainment. He writes Level Up, the weekly look at videogames and the horror dedicated column, Tuesday Terrors. Tim has written for Fangoria, Newsarama, City Slab Magazine, Twitch Film, and Cinefantastique. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). Be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter
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