It is the surest sign of Spring! Baseball is back and next week is opening day all around the country for America’s past time. This week I have the first of two reviews looking at the year’s annual baseball games from Sony and 2K Games. This week its Sony’s MLB 12: The Show and next week we’ll have MLB 2K 12. In addition I have a review of Binary Domain, an exceptional squad-based shooter that has flown under the radar a bit with so many other major releases coming out in the past few weeks.
IN THE NEWS
Brave the game in development
Inspired by “Brave,” the upcoming Disney Pixar animated fantasy adventure movie, Disney Interactive Media Group announced today that “Brave: The Video Game” is currently in development for the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS, and Windows PC/ MAC.
The video game invites players to run, jump and battle their way through the rugged landscape of mythical and mysterious Scotland . A third person action-adventure, “Brave: The Video Game” expands the tale beyond the movie’s storyline. Gamers can play as Merida , an expert archer and heroine, and in the console versions, players can also play as other entertaining characters from the film. By using their wits and bravery, gamers will also be able to wield a sword and bow to defeat fierce enemies, break a magical curse and save a kingdom. The video game will release summer 2012, in conjunction with the film.
Elder Scrolls MMORPG in development
Time to rejoice Eldeer Scrolls fans as it's being reported than an Elder Scrolls MMORPG is not only in development, but it will also be getting an official announcement fairly soon. The game, known as Elder Scrolls Online, will be announced at some point in May and feature three playable factions. It is set approximately 1,000 years before Skyrim. This is not the first time there has been talk of an Elder Scrolls MMO. Even before Skyrim was announced, there was speculation that the next game in the series following Oblivion could take on the form of an MMO.
Trailer for new Reckoning DLC
Check out the link below to the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning The Legend of Dead Kel Trailer. The Legend of Dead Kel features a mysterious tale of intrigue, danger and dark magic on the island of Gallows End , players will encounter shadowy characters and new enemies, and will experience a host of new side quests, treacherous battles and exciting new challenges. The Legend of Dead Kel gives players access to Gallows End, a gigantic new continent to explore where players claim ownership of a vast personal estate and experience new weapons, Twists of Fate and other perks against new enemies.
No announcement about new Xbox to come at E3
Microsoft has firmly squashed the rumors that the next XBox console would be announced at E3. "There will be no talk of new Xbox hardware at E3 or anytime soon," said Microsoft spokesperson David Dennis in a statement to Bloomberg. "For us, 2012 is all about Xbox 360."
Makes sense considering the 360 still continues to sell enormously well, with over 450,000 units sold in the past month. With sales also still very strong on the PS3 there’s really no point in either Microsoft or Sony to rush a new console to market just because people think its time. Both systems are really in their prime right now and I hope things hold off until 2014 for any new consoles.
DUE OUT NEXT WEEK
Tiger Woods PGA tour 13 (EA Sports) Rated E PS3 , XBox 360
The world's #1 selling golf game is back and ready for another season of PGA Tour golf. Take your game to the next level with the first controller-free, voice-enabled and body tracking sports simulation to support the Kinect sensor for Xbox 360 (optional and sold separately). Put real-life swing in-game with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13: The Masters Collection Edition as you experience revamped swing control, tackle Tiger Woods' legacy, competition against the world's best players at the Masters, and collector's edition exclusive features.
Taking its most significant leap forward in swing mechanics in over a decade, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 revolutionizes the virtual golf swing. Golfers will take full control over their swing with all-new tempo, swing plane and shot power controls along with an adjustable shot setup, allowing players to address the ball in a number of ways to create limitless shot types with just one club.
Fans can take to the course with any one of 22 PGA Tour golfers in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, including Tiger Woods, 2011 US Open Champion Rory McIlroy, 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 US cover art finalist Bubba Watson. Take on the best of the best on some of the world's most celebrated courses.
Silent Hill: book of Memories (Konami) Rated M PS Vita
Book of Memories is an all-new game in the Silent Hill series, with a unique premise and storyline. The story begins with a strange book that is received and inside that book is your entire life story to this point, everything that’s ever happened to you; all of your memories. You discover that by altering what’s written… you can actually change the past. You can write your own ideal history.
A departure for the series, with a focus on co-operative multiplayer action rather than traditional Psychological Horror. Players can work together as they explore several different Otherworlds, solving puzzles and defeating creatures to advance through the Nightmares and uncover the truth behind the Book of Memories. Scare rooms, limited resources, and dark atmosphere all return—but in a gameplay package specifically designed to take advantage of the PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system.
Book of Memories is a macabre celebration of the best that Silent Hill has to offer. Players will encounter items and Creatures culled from over a decade of Silent Hill lore, including a special someone who walks softly and carries a gigantic knife.
Ridge Racer Unbounded (Namco) Rated T PS3, Xbox 360
Drive Hard, Create Anything, Destroy EverythingWith Ridge Racer Unbounded, the Ridge Racer franchise gears up to carve its own destructive path on a spectacular collision course with PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. Ridge Racer Unbounded adds an unexpected destructive dimension to the series, delivering an original blast of ferocious racing adrenaline. Join the Unbounded street racing gang and test your driving skills against rivals in every street and alley of Shatter Bay . Prove your worth behind the wheel to get respect and expand your turf. For endless race variety, use the simple but powerful City Creator to design amazing original tracks in minutes.
MLB 12: The Show (Sony) Rated E PS3
Ahh yes it’s spring and as I write this we are only about two weeks away until opening day. Hopefully the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had during the winter will continue to hold. I’ve been to opening games in Detroit where we’ve had snow! Of course, you won’t have to worry about bad weather when you pop in Sony’s latest edition of their annual baseball game, MLB 12: The Show.
You expect a certain number of minor tweaks each year to annual sports games and MLB 12 does not disappoint with reportedly over 1000 new animations including player reactions to the on-field action. There are improvements in lighting, stadiums, sound…all of which add up to making this a better looking and sounding game. But Sony did not stop there. The biggest change is the new overhauled pitching system which they are calling pulse pitching. Gone is the usual pitching meter of past years and in its place is a pulsating circle grows and shrinks in the strike box. Time your pitches when the circle is at its smallest for the best accuracy and power. The size of the circle changes depending on the type of pitch that is thrown. Obviously pitchers with good control will be more apt to hit their target and fastballs will be more accurate than breaking balls. It helps to make the entire pitching system easier without sacrificing true realism.
On top of that there are major changes to the games physics in almost every way…from the way a ball pops off of a bat, to the way it bounces on the ground, to the way it careens off of an object it may hit like a base or a fielder. The ball reacts in a much more realistic way. This means a bit more unpredictability when it comes to fielding. You’re more likely to see bad bounces than you have in the past. The batting system is also refined and gives you more control in the strike zone. Timing is everything when it comes to both the new pitching and batting systems.
Football games seem to be generally considered the most complex simulations, especially when it comes to all the things you can do in Franchise-style modes but MLB 12 might just have any football game beat with its sheer number of options. MBL 12’s Franchise mode puts you in charge of all the operations although you can turn on or off what you want to do for as much or as little detail as you want. If you’re not interested in drafting then simply let the AI handle it for you. Road to the Show returns as MLB: The Show’s career mode and has been beefed up to include more training options for hitting, fielding, and base-running. You’ll begin your career as a top prospect at a Double A affiliate. Work on your game and you might just get that call up to the big league roster.
A new mode this year is called Diamond Dynasty. This is basically an Ultimate Team mode similar to many of EA Sports’ games. Utilizing virtual baseball cards, you build a team using both real and fictional players. You can compete against both CPU-controlled teams as well as other players online and even make trades for other player cards.
MLB The Show has always excelled in its beautiful, broadcast style presentations. The game utilizes numerous cameras during the game, just like an actual network. These give you the perspective of seeing the game from various vantage points as well as through the reactions of the players in the field and in the dugout. These are done in a very professional, fluid style and you can easily find yourself believing you are watching an actual TV broadcast. The announce team of Matt Vasgersian, Dave Campbell, and Eric Karros are solid and knowledgeable. They are often quite conversational (an important trait with baseball announcers) although a bit on the dry side.
The usual adage is that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. MLB The Show was not broken but Sony did not rest on its laurels. They took the risky chance to improve major aspects of the game and frankly they succeeded. There are some quirks and baseball games by nature take some getting used to and have a higher learning curve than other sports games but MLB 12: The Show shows why it can always be summer with a great game that has a ton of options, a beautiful presentation, and remarkable realism. Grade B+
Binary Domain (Sega) PS3
Binary Domain is a game that I feel sorry for…Oh not that it’s a bad game, in fact it’s actually really good. But it’s like a film that happens to opens up sandwiched between a couple of blockbusters and gets lost in the shuffle. It’s a game that came out with little fanfare…which is Sega’s fault…but a game that is quite good…also Sega’s fault. Binary Domain is a squad/cover based shooter set in the year 2080. Robots have become the primary work force in the world. A new Geneva Convention agreement has banned robots that are able to pass themselves off as humans. A Japanese robotics firm has ignored the agreement, producing humanoid robots called “hollow children” that are able to imitate humans and assimilate their way into human society.
You take on the role of a mercenary named Dan Marshall, who is assigned by the International Technology Robot Agency (ITRA) to lead an interchangeable group of mercs to infiltrate and investigate the Amada Corporation, and ultimately destroy the illegal bots. The game has parallels to many popular films like “I, Robot’ and “Bladerunner” and does a nice job of pacing its story. While the plot isn’t overly complex there’s a nice back-story that plays out with a few twists tossed in for good measure. The various characters you command each have their own unique personalities even if they are stock characters straight out of central casting with various cultural stereotypes. Still, you’re more likely to choose which two mates you take along on missions based more on their colorful personalities than you are their fighting skills.
If you’re played other squad-based shooters you’ll find yourself right at home with Binary Domain’s precision controls and the well-defined combat system. Naturally you will carry the weight of the battle but your squad mates hold their own better than average and will even heal you when you’re hurt. You can issue your basic commands such as “follow”, “Cover”, “Charge”, etc…however the really cool function is that Binary Domain can recognize a good-size amount of voice commands if you utilize a headset. These can take the form of all the standard commands but you can also supply encouragement to your team and give them a pat on the back by saying “Nice work”, or you can even ream them out a bit as the system will recognize a handful of choice four-letter words. The voice recognition works (most of the time). There’s even the ability to train certain words and phrases as well as being able to reduce ambient noise. Still the best bet if you’re going to use a headset and voice commands is pretty much turn off anything else and play it without a lot of other people around. Or at least tell them to shut up!
There’s also a trust system that the game incorporates between you and your men. Take care of them, treat them well, and they will perform better in battle and obey your orders. Things like friendly fire, or arguing with them can lead them to not be as helpful or responsive in battle. But while this is an interesting element ultimately it proves fairly useless. Unless you make it a point to being a total jerk to your men, you won’t have an issue. Mass Effect 3 it is not when it comes to decision making.
The combat in Binary domain really shines as there’s a great variety of robots to kill. But what makes the combat truly standout is the robot damage. These are not like most organic enemies that just fall down and die but you literally can blow these bots to pieces. You can blast off their armor or limbs and they will still pursue you like undead zombies, crawling or hopping along towards you. I can’t tell you just how cool the destruction is in this game. You can even take control of some of the bots and use their firepower against them. The fantastic combat and robot designs more than makes up for ordinary levels and scenery.
The campaign game runs bout 10 hours in length and there are both multi-player and co-op modes included although neither is what you would call robust. The campaign game is definitely the meat of Binary Domain. Grade B+
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