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Level Up! Reviews of Infamous 2 and Alice: Madness Returns

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

By Tim Janson     July 07, 2011


Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Electronic Arts) Rated E Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Nintendo DS, PC
© EA Games

 

 

Are we getting Playstation 4 in 2012? It doesn’t seem possible. Shouldn’t be possible…But a report from Digi Times is saying Taiwanese component makers have indicated PlayStation 4 production will begin towards the end of 2011 with the goal of having the system ready to ship sometime in 2012. We can only hope this is not true as the PS3 has not neared the end of its life expectancy and earlier reports pegged the PS4 for 2013 at the earliest and 2014 more likely.
 
As I mentioned last week the release schedules are a bit light in July but next week does see the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 5th Anniversary edition. And while were baking under July heat it is never, EVER too early for football and EA sports kicks the season off early with the release of NCAA Football 12. Check out all the news of the week below.
 
IN THE NEWS
 
Konami cools off prices on select titles during Steam’s Summer Camp Sale
 
Until July 10th, fans can download some of their favorite Konami titles for 50% off on Steam.  The list of titles includes SAW, Silent Hill Homecoming, Biozone, Rocket Knight, Battle Los Angeles, and Puzzle Chronicles.  The titles will run anywhere from $2.49 to $19.99 each.
 
Warner Bros. Announces Collector's Edition and Pre-Order Details for The Lord of the Rings: War in the North
 
Warner Bros. today announced the details of the North American Collector’s Edition and pre-order incentive programs for The Lord of the Rings: War in the North along with a Fall 2011 ship date. The game will be released for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
 
The Collector’s Edition includes:
 
  • Ranger of the North Quiver Case
 
  • War in the North art book featuring concept art of key characters in the game, various enemies and beautiful environments in Middle-earth
 
  • Inside Look: The Music of War in the North—content includes: interviews and footage of legendary composer Inon Zur at Abbey Road Studios and the E3 2011 Concert event, along with three tracks from the game soundtrack
 
  • Digital content: Ranger of the North Avatar for Xbox Live (Xbox 360 sku) - includes the Ranger armor set, helmet, quiver and bow.  War in the North Theme Pack (PS3 sku) - includes War in the North wallpaper, fonts, icons and much more!
 
If you choose the standard edition, battle against Sauron’s evil forces and help turn the tide of the War of the Ring with these special pre-order incentives from the following retailers:
 
Amazon.com:  Exclusive to Amazon.com, pre-order the game and get early access to part two of the War in the North Digital Comic written by Brian Wood, illustrated by Simon Coleby and produced by DC Entertainment. The comic book reveals the back story leading up to The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. Players will also receive the Orc Champion sword for in-game use.
 
 Best Buy:  Embark on an Elven adventure with the Elf Theme Pack, equipped with a mystical Elven sword, armor and helmet, and get access to the Lothlórien Challenge map.
 
GameStop:  Visit the Citadel of the Stars and the Tower of Stone with the Human Theme Pack equipped with an exclusive human sword, armor and battle attire of the Human Ranger, and get access to the Osgiliath Challenge map.
 
Target:  Immerse yourself in the sounds of Middle-earth with three exclusive tracks from the War in the North soundtrack.
 
Toys ‘R’ Us:  Receive a limited edition, signed War in the North poster by Jim Lee, and access to download parts one and two of the War in the North Digital Comic at launch.
 
Wal-Mart:  A Dwarven quest lies ahead for everyone who chooses to pre-order at Wal-Mart; the Dwarf Theme Pack includes an exclusive dwarf sword, armor and helmet.
 
BioShock Infinite Wins 75 E3 2011 Editorial Honors, Including ‘Game of Show’ by Game Critics Awards
 
2K Games today announced that BioShock Infinite has earned 75 E3 2011 editorial awards, including 39 “Game of Show” awards.  In addition to the many independent editorial awards, BioShock Infinite also earned the industry’s most coveted E3 honor, the Game Critics Awards’ “Game of Show.” This marks another significant win for a title developed by Irrational Games, as the original BioShock was awarded the Game Critics Awards’ “Best Action/Adventure Game” honor in 2007.
 
Namco Bandai announces Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations
 
Namco Bandai has announced Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.  MBased on the popular animated NARUTO SHIPPUDEN series and coming to North America in 2012, the title will offer a vast selection of playable & support characters spanning every generation of the Naruto saga, alongside incredible online functionality to take the Naruto ninja fight onto the global stage in the much-beloved fighting series.
 
Developed by CyberConnect2, the title will power the series into the future by revolutionizing online play and ramping up the number of playable and support characters far beyond any Naruto game in the wildly popular franchise.  Players will compete in a variety of online battle modes with their favorite Naruto characters, including Naruto and Sasuke.  Naruto fans have been waiting to see more of Zabuza and Haku since the launch of the original Manga, and now they will have their chance!  These are just a few of the many new ninja in the game.  
 
Namco Bandai Announces Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi
 
Namco Bandai Games announced the official release date and fan-decided name for Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game will launch on October 25th, 2011 in stores across North America .  Prepare to dive into the world of Dragon Ball Z with Earth-shaking combat, a massive character selection, faithful manga-style graphics, and exciting new features.  “Fans of the Dragon Ball series of games are among the most passionate gamers and anime experts in the world,” said Vice President of Marketing at Namco Bandai Games America Inc., Carlson Choi.  “That’s why we reached out to them through our social channels and forums last month to find out what the name should be for the deepest, richest and most intense Dragon Ball game yet.  The fans have spoken, and today we’re happy to announce that Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi will be hitting stores across the country this October.”
 
Konami’s MLB Bobblehead Pros now available on Xbox Live
           
Konami announced that MLB Bobblehead Pros is now available on Xbox 360 as a digital download title on Xbox Live Arcade.  KONAMI'S MLB Bobblehead Pros is packed with all of the sights, sounds and action of Major League Baseball with a fun twist; all of the players in the game have bobbleheads. No longer do baseball enthusiasts have to be among the first 1,000 fans to show up on game day to get their favorite player's bobblehead doll.  MLB  Bobblehead Pros gives you access to all your favorite bobblehead dolls and will allow you download them right onto your Xbox in the comfort of your own home.
 
MLB  Bobblehead Pros features 30 teams with players wearing their home and road jerseys in games played under the professional code of baseball rules. Fans who have always wanted to see every major league ballpark can now step into the batter's box in 30 different stadiums within the game and try to hit a pitch out of the park. All 30 ballparks and their likenesses are included, plus players can compete through an entire season with their favorite team and try to win the pennant or go online and play against opponents for a fresh game every time.
 
Resistance 3 to require pass to play online
 
Sony has announced that Resistance 3 will ship with something called PSN Pass. It's essentially Sony's version of the online pass we've seen other publishers use for their games in the past. It'll be "game-specific" and included with first-party PS3 games that have online capabilities.
 
"We are always evaluating new programs for our online offering, and starting with Resistance 3 this September, we will be instituting a network pass program for PS3 games with online capabilities," a spokesperson said in statement. "This program will be game-specific. Games that are a part of this program will include a single-use registration code that grants the account holder redeeming the code full online access for that title.  "This is an important initiative as it allows us to accelerate our commitment to enhancing premium online services across our first party game portfolio."
 
Team Bondi At odds with Rockstar over L.A. Noire
 
There will likely be a sequel to the hit game “L.A. Noire” from developer Team Bondi but it almost certainly won’t be published by Rockstar.  A source has mentioned,  “…Rockstar's disdain for Team Bondi, and it has been made quite clear that they will not publish Team Bondi's next game. Team Bondi are trying to find another publisher for their next title, but the relationship with Rockstar has been badly damaged.” 
 
The source said Rockstar provided Bondi with a great deal of assistance, including programmers, animators, artists… perhaps to make up for the high level of turnover from reportedly horribly demanding working conditions at Team Bondi.   At one point a source said there were very few animators working at Bondi, and that there was no lead animator from January 2008 until L.A. Noire shipped, and this is the cause of some people's complaints that "the world is so boring.”
 
DUE OUT NEXT WEEK
 
NCAA Football 12 (EA Sports) Rated E Xbox 360, PS3
 
NCAA Football 12 lets you experience the rise to dominance of a young, up-and-coming gridiron star hoping to make his way to a college superpower of choice and eventually a national championship. Experience the pride and pageantry of gameday Saturday like never before as you go from high school superstar to top college player to head coach in Road to Glory and Dynasty modes. With an enhanced in-game presentation, new traditions, and an all-new collision system, make an impact by leading your team to the National Championship with NCAA Football 12.
 
 
·            Dynasty Mode - Dynasty Mode in NCAA Football 12 is all about customizing your experience. Through the Coaching Carousel you can start out as a head coach and climb the coaching ladder to your dream job. With Custom Conferences you can alter the landscape of college football by editing conference membership, conference rules, and BCS bowl tie-ins to your liking.
 
·            Conference Customization - Create new rivalries and alter the landscape of college football forever by realigning conferences throughout college football. Build new 16-team super conferences, create conference schedules, decide BCS bowl tie-ins, and more.
·
·            Authentic Gameday Traditions - Feel the true emotion of college football as your team runs onto the field with new pre-game traditions like the Sooner Schooner and Ramblin' Wreck, and celebrate big plays alongside school icons like Chief Osceola, Uga, and Tommy Trojan.
 
·            Enhanced Tackling Engine - Your college gameday experience rises to a whole new level with an all-new momentum-based collision and tackling system that allows you to control a player through the moment of impact.
 
·            Road to Glory Mode - Live your journey to a national championship like never before as you explore your high school years like never before, including: games, practices, tracking colleges that you are interested in and your progress in earning a scholarship.
 

 
 
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 5th Anniversary (Bethesda) Rated M Xbox 360, PS3, PC
 
Oblivion 5th Anniversary Edition presents one of the best RPGs of all time like never before. Step inside the most richly detailed and vibrant game-world ever created. With a powerful combination of freeform gameplay and unprecedented graphics, you can unravel the main quest at your own pace or explore the vast world and find your own challenges. Also included in the 5th Anniversary Edition are Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles, adding new and unique quests and content to the already massive world of Oblivion, the original "making of" DVD, map, Skyrim trailer with $10 off coupon - all packaged in a highly-collectible steelbook. See why critics called Oblivion the Best Game of 2006.
 
UFC Personal Trainer (THQ) Rated E Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
 
UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System is unique exercise program that blends real mixed martial arts (MMA) training techniques with the motion sensing technology built into the Wii gaming system to get you in the shape of your life while you have fun doing it. The program features over 70 MMA exercises approved by the National Academy of Sports Medicine; 30 or 60-day goal presets; exercise/routine customization options; in-game advice and training by real UFC fitness experts as well as appearances by real UFC fighters; an included a leg strap for the Wii Remote / Wii remote Plus controller; and Wii Balance Board support.
 
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is the fastest growing sport in the world and one of the toughest to compete in, drawing thousands of otherwise ordinary people into gyms around the world every day to dedicate hours to training in return for a shot at glory in the Octagon. Not every fighter will be victorious, but every serious competitor will get in the shape of their lives and now you can too without leaving your living room.
 
Regardless whether you are a fan of MMA, the UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System combined with your Wii, Wii Remote / Wii Remote Plus and the included leg strap for your remote is the optimal way to get in shape fast as you train the way the pros do. Designed by NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) with support from leading mixed martial arts training experts Mark DellaGrotte, Greg Jackson and Javier Mendez, the fitness routines and full programs included in UFC Personal Trainer deliver a challenging and motivating UFC fitness experience that includes the best and most effective exercises utilized by today's renowned UFC fighters.
 
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Electronic Arts) Rated E Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Nintendo DS, PC
 
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is a third-person Action-Adventure game that allows players to continue the adventures of Harry Potter. The second part of the Deathly Hallows release, players again take on quest to find and destroy the magical items known as Horcruxes, through which Lord Voldemort hopes to attain immortality. Features include: multiple playable characters, exciting wizard duels, diverse enemies including everything from Death Eaters to giants, and stunning game environments.
 
Step up and play the parts of your heroes in the epic finale of the entertainment event of the decade. Playing as Harry and other key characters in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 the video game, you are on a dangerous and urgent quest to locate and destroy the remaining Horcruxes, and with them, Voldemort. Break into the high security vaults of Gringotts Bank, escape Fiendfyre in the Room of Requirement and battle Voldemort's most powerful allies as you defend Hogwarts in this action-packed experience. Featuring the most epic battles of any Harry Potter games gone before, this is the ultimate showdown against Voldemort and his Dark Forces. The fate of the wizarding world rests in your hands in the final battle for Hogwarts.
 

 
 
REVIEWS
 
Infamous 2 (Sony) Rated T PS3
 
Infamous 2 doesn’t necessarily bill itself as a superhero game but quite frankly it puts some recent superhero videogame releases to shame with its thrilling storyline and even better gameplay. It is the sequel to Infamous of course and while playing the first isn’t a prerequisite it certainly helps as Infamous virtually tosses you into the middle of the action with little explanation of the previous game’s events. Cole McGrath is the games supercharged hero who controls electricity with such skill that even Spider-Man’s nemesis Electro would be envious. Cole gained his powers in the first game from the mysterious Kessler and learns about “The Beast”, a titanic villain made of ash and fire that threatens to destroy the entire country.  It’s already destroyed Empire City (think New York) and now is on Cole’s trail to New Marais (think New Orleans). Cole is not yet ready powerful enough to face the Beast and has some to New Marais along with his buddy Zeke, a chubby, Elvis-looking ex-courier and Lucy Kuo, an agent with the NSA. They’ve come to New Marais to locate Dr. Wolfe who can help Cole control and augment his powers.
 
New Marais is a big, open world for Cole to explore. Like Assassins’ Creed you can visit any spot you can see and climb to the top of the highest powers for some awesome, death-defying drops to the ground. New Marais mimics “The Big Easy” in every way from its famous French quarter to its historic plantation mansions, to its spooky above ground cemeteries. Cole has a lot to explore! The city is controlled by a ruthless militia force under the control of wealthy industrialist Joseph Betrand who opposes super-powered…uhhh…mutants like Cole. Infamous 2 is layered with many types of missions and quests. Main missions appear in white and progress the game. Yellow missions are optional but completing a set will unlock new powers or upgrades. Green mission are user created by other players. You can choose to keep these on or off. They don’t affect the outcome of the game but can get you more experience. At the start, the user-generated missions have all been created by the game’s developer, Sucker Punch and you can rate each one upon completion. 
 
Early on in the game you’ll decide on if you want to play the game as heroic or evil. Taking on heroic missions locks out evil missions. You’ll raise your heroic meter and eventually level by doing heroic things like saving citizens from militia, healing citizens, defusing bombs, and capturing rather than outright killing militia. Likewise you can raise you evil side by killing annoying street performers or taking out militia without regard to innocent civilian casualties. These side missions pop up frequently throughout the game but they are very quick and usually only involve taking out a few militia soldiers. Cole can’t fly but he can zip around the city on electrical wires or grind cables that connect buildings. Cole has a wide variety of electrical-based bolts, blasts, grenades and other attacks to choose from. Completing missions and leveling up gains him access to these new powers. Infamous 2 also uses a Call of Duty style unlocking challenge where you have to perform an certain kind of attack a certain number of times to unlock an upgrade. These are things like using a blast wave to knock enemies off buildings or killing enemies by blowing up nearby vehicles and such.
 
Cole’s main quest involves tracking down six blast cores hidden in the city. Each of these cores adds new powers and he needs all six to have the power needed to defeat the Beast. Cole will also need to find dozens of crystal shards that will help increase his electrical capacity. Fortunately, Cole can recharge himself by any nearby electrical source such as a street light, neon sign, electrical meters and transformers, even cars. As you advance your new powers will be based upon which alignment direction you’ve moved in. Call me old fashioned but I always prefer the hero route although some of the “infamy” powers can be quite devastating. Beyond the militia you’ll also find yourself facing off with types of mutated creatures who look like they would be more suited for a Silent Hill game. They provide a diversity in challenge although look slightly out of place with the rest of the game. Cole also has a new weapon designed by Zek called the Amp…its kind of like a giant tuning fork that Cole uses in melee battles.
 
Some of the fights and missions can border on the frustrating. There are missions that have you zipping from building to building along the grind lines, unable to touch the ground or you fail. It can be hard knowing exactly where to go as you have only a few seconds to make a decision resulting in a lot of replaying missions. Also, the camera has a tendency to be too tight in melee fights making it tough to see the enemies around you. The frustration pales before the game’s positives. The electricity effects are gorgeously rendered. The city of New Marias lives and breathes and is full of people. The voice acting hits the right note of thrills mixed with a little gallows humor. There is a lot to do here and will take a good 20 hours to complete. You can probably double that time if you take on all the side missions and user-generated missions and try to find all of the game’s collectibles so Infamous 2 offers a great deal of replay value. I also love the fact that the game is rated T. So many of the popular games today are rated M for profanity or nudity that is completely unneeded in the game. Grade A-
 
Alice: Madness Returns (Electronic Arts) Rated M Xbox 360, PS3, PC
 
Alice: Madness Returns is the sequel to American McGee’s Alice .  If you can’t recall the original game don’t beat yourself up too badly.  It came out way back in 2000 which is like 30 years ago in videogame years and it was only released for the PC.  The game was praised at the time for its cutting edge (at the time) graphics and like the original, Alice : Madness Returns’ greatest strength is its visuals.  While not cutting edge they portray a much darker vision of the Alice in Wonderland story.  This Alice takes a trip through a Wonderland that embraces many types of influences from Anime to Inception to Lovecraft with some eccentric Tim Burton-style characterizations tossed in for good measure.  After her seeming victory over the Red Queen in the original game Alice is recovering outside of the asylum and in a Victorian era London orphanage under the care of a psychiatrist.  Soon she is sucked back into a ruined Wonderland (or perhaps its all in her mind!) that she must save in order to save herself and her sanity.
 
The game is played out over five total chapters in Wonderland interspersed with return trips back to London .  Each chapter has its own delightful and depraved theme and that is the best way to describe it.  This is a Wonderland that has been twisted into the monstrous.  Alice features a combination of platforming, puzzle-solving, and third-person combat   Each new chapter is a visual treat filled with dark enchantments and bizarre creatures.  Alice will have to navigate through these landscapes in a variety of ways…jumping (even triple-jumping!) and floating to reach higher platforms; shrinking herself down to crawl through tiny spaces; hitting switches and pressure plates, and pulling levers to open new areas; and enlarging herself to battle bosses.
 
The gameplay is almost straight line linear which normally I would bag on but not here.  Alice ’s world may not be wide open to exploration but its levels are so gorgeously rendered and creative that you’ll hardly notice that you’re being led around so directly.  On top of that there is an abundance of objects to find and quests to undertake.  If you’re a person who salivates at finding everything in a game then Alice : Madness Returns was made for you.  You’ll have to go on numerous side quests and mini-games to find items to placate a character to get them to reveal important information to you.  These are often strung together so that one character will send you to find another; they will have you go somewhere else, and so on.  It sounds like it might be agonizingly repetitive but the narrative is so engrossing that you can’t wait to go on the next quest. 
 
Alice can get repetitive in some of the platforming segments where you have to perform the same moves over and over to get to new areas.  These can get cheap as the difficulty increases but the game has a very forgiving checkpoint system so you won’t have to repeating large sections over and over.  Alice has a variety of weapons at her disposal to battle the terrifying denizens of Wonderland including her Vorpal Blade, hobbyhorse, pepper grinder, and teapots (basically a grenade launcher).  They are not as mundane as they may sound!  Combat is basic and not too difficult although it is occasionally made harder than needed by odd camera views. 
 
The music embraces the chaotic landscapes and characters and sets the right tone.  Voice acting can be spotty at best.  Characters tend to dramatically over enunciate their lines and Alice isn’t as expressive as you’d like.  There’s an odd graphical glitch or two but they are minor and don’t detract from the game’s fun.  The game isn’t as long as you’d hope for, especially since there really isn’t an online mode.  Finding every item can take a bit but if you want to just complete it quickly it will take maybe 8 hours or so.  On the plus side, buying it does come with a code for a free down load of the original game.  Grade B
 

 
 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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hanso 7/7/2011 12:59:04 PM

I'm very interested in the new Bioshock game since it won't take place in Rapture.  It just looks so different from the previous entries.

InnerSanctum 7/7/2011 1:23:30 PM

 Now I'd like to see this take on Alice on the big screen!

BunyonSnipe 7/8/2011 11:33:51 AM

Got to agree with Hanso on this one, Bioshock Infinite looks great, just wondering if they will shoehorn a multiplayer in like the second game...

Thank said the way the new game is designed MP could be as interesting as single player...

fatpantz 7/8/2011 9:30:46 PM

Any of you game fans out there want to check out a cheap awesome game....Download Outland on the PSN.  It was recently released and is a side scroller action game that is absolutely amazing.  Gamespot gave it a 9/10 and I picked it up yesterday out of boredom and was instantly hooked!!

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