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Earlier this week, Sony released its 256-player, online-only military shooter, MAG. I've been playing since launch day and undermining the world's geopolitical stability as an agent of S.V.E.R. Because I still have some ranks to earn before I can access certain echelons of command, the review won't be coming until early next week. I have, however, put plenty of hours into the game, enough to form some early impressions that I'll share with you here. For those who want something quick and simple: MAG is good so far. Shooting mechanics are solid, battlefields are enjoyably chaotic, and earning experience is satisfying. For those who want to know a bit more, read on.
When you start off in MAG, you have to sign up with one of three private military companies (PMCs). Raven is the Eurocentric technophile team, Valor is stocked with North American military vets, and S.V.E.R. is a hodgepodge of insurgent types from across Asia. The differences among the groups are largely aesthetic, and thus far, S.V.E.R. seems to be the most well represented of the three, with Valor close behind. Factions compete in a global shadow war in a few different match types. If one faction dominates a match type, it can earn contract rewards that bestow bonuses, such as plus-5-percent experience points in that particular match type. These contracts can change hands daily depending on each faction's performance.
There are four different match types, but only one is available to you from the start. Suppression is a 64-player team deathmatch that takes place solely among members of your own faction. There's nothing to do here but kill the other team and hone your weapons skills. If you've been playing any other online shooter recently, the controls will be largely familiar, and the few differences are easy to learn. Suppression matches tend to be on the short side and are generally populated with lower level characters. It's a fine way to earn XP and get the hang of the controls. But these matches are straightforward and don't showcase any of MAG's interesting command chain features.
You can unlock the next few match types very easily, and these introduce you to varying objectives, as well as more diverse battlefields. In Sabotage, the attacking PMC must capture and hold two well-defended points in order to access the third and final capture point. In these 64-player matches, you need to capture or defend whichever point (A or B) is gently pulsing. The pulsing indicates that your squad leader has designated that point as your objective, so any XP earned in that area will count double. This is the incentive that MAG uses to encourage players to stay with their squad, and it's quite effective. Earning XP allows you to unlock new guns, improved abilities, and the right to command a squad of your own.
The barracks screen allows you to choose which specific bonuses you want to unlock and lets you spec your character down certain paths. Assault, marksman, support, and heavy are fairly straightforward categories, but areas like athleticism and close quarters can add interesting twists to your battlefield skills. There's a good amount of customization options, but it can be unclear what you need to purchase in order to unlock more powerful rewards. You only need to spend a certain number of points in each tier to unlock the next one rather than purchase every upgrade in a given tier. Once you figure it out, the interface is easy to understand, and you can undo choices you don't like by earning respect points. You earn these points at a steady rate by playing matches, though it's unclear what affects this rate.
Acquisition is a larger game type that can accommodate 128 players. Assaulting teams try to infiltrate enemy territory, steal a vehicle, and deliver it to a safe evac point. These matches feature bunkers, gates, antiaircraft batteries, and sensor arrays, making the battlefield rich with potential objectives. Bombing a bunker will neutralize a powerful minigun and enemy spawn point, while repairing an antiaircraft battery can keep the enemy from calling in potent air strikes. This can lead to some battlefield confusion, but ideally, the average soldier doesn't need to worry about all that. The squad leader should designate a target, the assumption being that by the time players can become a squad leader, they have a good idea of how the battle should flow. Of course, this isn't always the case, and there's no way to give your squad leader feedback. That is, unless you have a headset.
Any confusion that acquisition may cause is only magnified in domination, the much-touted 256-player battles. In both of these match types, the battlefields are arranged in such a way that only 64 players are concentrated in a given area. You won't see rows of 100 attackers shooting at 100 enemies (this ain't the Revolutionary War), but you will get a sense that you are part of a big conflict. Domination is littered with objectives to destroy and repair. The tactical assists that commanders call in can also have substantial effects. Gas bombs can choke an area with poisonous clouds, while blockades can increase the time between enemy respawns.
Respawning in MAG is cyclical, so your wait time will vary and you will usually spawn at the same time as at least a few teammates. You could be waiting 3 seconds or 17 seconds, depending on when you die. Players are either killed outright or incapacitated and left to be revived or to bleed out. In one match, our squad began telling each other when a respawn time was coming up so they could bleed out and have a quick respawn. This tactic kept more of our squad on the ground at any given time, and it's this kind of communication that MAG hopes to foster.
Whether players will fully embrace that communication remains to be seen and is also dependent on how many PlayStation 3 owners have headsets. I'll be spending the next few days climbing through the ranks, earning my command stripes, and seeing what the view is like from the top in order to write a comprehensive review. Check back early next week for the final verdict.
Tekken 6's lengthy Scenario campaign was a decent addition to last year's brawler, but as we noted in our Tekken 6 review, it sported a pretty noticeable omission--the lack of two-player co-op support. Namco Bandai's recent free update to Tekken 6 remedies the situation, adding in the ability to play the campaign with a partner online.
While the offline Scenario campaign was a multi-hour romp featuring dozens of levels, the online version truncates the experience down to 10 levels and can be beaten within a couple of hours. Just as in the offline game, you and your partner have to face wave after wave of increasingly tough enemies, with characters from the Tekken 6 roster acting as bosses. You need to work closely with your online partner because either player's death will cause both of you to fail the level completely. You do, however, have the ability to revive a fallen partner once, but this is annoyingly tied to a timer. If you fail to resuscitate a downed player within 30 seconds, it's game over. This can lead to moments of frustration, particularly during the more hectic fights as you urgently try to reach a comrade while numerous enemies get in your way.
You have three difficulty settings to choose from, and even at the easiest difficulty, the mode can be quite a challenge because of the sheer number of enemies the game throws at you (significantly more than you'd experience in the offline mode). You need to equip the best items you've already earned so far if you want to tackle the higher difficulties, although if you don't have anything decent, the online mode features pretty generous item drops that can help bring you up to speed quickly. You'll come across plenty of high-level gear here, making it an ideal way to quickly build up your characters. Playing online is quite stable, with most sessions running smoothly during testing. Slow connections result in serious input lag, however, and even connections that read as healthy can sometimes be choppy.
This latest Tekken 6 update also includes a fix for Mokujin in online matches, with the wooden pugilist's fighting style now changing with each round. But the big news here is the addition of co-op to the Scenario campaign. However, with its limited levels and occasional connection issues, it's not something that will convert you if you weren't already a fan of this bashing side quest.
You may recall that 12 months ago, I posted lists of our most wanted review assignments for 2009. Now celebrating its second anniversary, the "You Wanna Review What?!" e-mail thread is something that I send around to all of our in-house reviewers asking for a list of the 10 games that they'd most like to work on in the upcoming year. I'm not sure how the process plays out in our UK or AU offices, but here in the US, it invariably sparks some interesting conversations as editors compare lists in an attempt to avoid too much crossover and "wasted" entries. Personally, I keep my list a secret while I'm working on it and pay little attention to what anyone else is up to, but I did make a point of telling everyone what my number one choice is in the hope that nobody would be willing to fight me for it.
As in previous years, including games on these lists doesn't guarantee an editor the assignment, and you shouldn't confuse these lists with lists of our most anticipated games. Sure, these are games that we're looking forward to, but we don't necessarily want to review every game that we're looking forward to playing in 2010. Also, don't think that just because a game doesn't appear on any of these lists none of us are eager to get our hands on it. We already have a good idea of who will be working on some of the big upcoming releases--either because we're already working on them or because certain editors are obvious choices having reviewed previous games in the series. Anyhow, without further ado, here are the lists--minus the names of the reviewers they belong to and in no particular order:
Dead Space 2
Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
The Last Guardian
Metroid: Other M
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth
The Last Guardian
Okamiden: Chisaki Taiyou
Professor Layton and the Last Time Travel
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
Ninokuni: The Another World
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Mass Effect 2
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars
Star Trek Online
The Last Guardian
Scratch: The Ultimate DJ
(Anything with Natal)
(Anything with Sony's motion controller)
Professor Layton and the Last Time Travel
Okamiden: Chisaki Taiyou
The word "epic" gets thrown around a lot these days, but there are very few games whose scale is so large and imposing that even the simple act of climbing a set of stairs feels like a momentous experience. God of War is able to turn this mundane chore into something that feels significant--a pivotal moment in your quest to destroy an all-powerful deity--though it's little more than a quick buildup before you get to the real action. Have you never had the pleasure of climbing a staircase carved into the brittle stone of a spiraling rock face? Or have you always wondered how it would feel to make those bold steps in snazzy high definition? God of War Collection turns such fantasies into a full-fledged reality. God of War and God of War II are both included in this budget-priced disc (just $39.99 for two classic games), and though there are few updates aside from the visuals, the epic stair climbing and the blood-gushing combat easily stand up to modern releases.
Of course, the games are still deliciously violent, but you may be wondering if ripping off the three heads of Cerberus one at a time looks as vicious as it did when these games were first released. Have your puke bib handy, because the copious amounts of blood and gore have been painstakingly updated, making them seemingly splash right off the screen in high definition. If you thought it was nasty to see a giant bird eat the savory insides of Prometheus before, then just wait until you see his juicy vital organs gobbled up in exquisite detail.
God of War Collection retains the gross factor and epic scale that helped make the original games so memorable, but this remake doesn't look nearly as good as the best modern releases. Kratos and his enemies are sharp and detailed, but the environmental features are uneven. You can still see miles into the distance in some levels, but the foliage up close is way too pixelated, and the floors look downright bland. The most troubling visual problems crop up during cutscenes, though. Kratos has made the transition to HD intact, but the supporting characters are blurry with lots of jagged edges. The scripted cutscenes have not been updated at all, and the transition between the fancy HD visuals from the main quest and the blurry visuals in these scenes is jarring. These small problems certainly won't destroy your blade-chopping fun, but they do make it obvious that these games were originally created for the PlayStation 2.
Aside from the updated visuals, the biggest addition in God of War Collection is a complete set of trophies to go after in each game. This is an expected feature for PlayStation 3 games now, but that doesn't make it any less fun to go after some of the challenges. For instance, if you can somehow make it to the top of that treacherous spiked column in the depths of Hades without taking any damage, you get a solid gold trophy as a reward. And this may be the first game in which you receive a tangible reward for performing well in bed. There's one for the history books!
Updated visuals and fancy new trophies may be worthwhile bonuses, but those features are for naught if the original action doesn't hold up. That is thankfully not the case in God of War Collection. These two games are both an absolute blast and are still among the best in the genre. The focus of both games is on the vicious combat, but the layers surrounding your bloodlust are what make these games so incredible even years after their first release. The well-crafted, vengeance-fueled story is easy to get sucked into; logical puzzles are a welcome change of pace from the chaotic action; the symphonic score makes your powerful actions carry even more weight; and the beautiful artistic design brings these demon-filled temples to life. These are both outstanding games that are every bit as fun and rewarding as they were when they first came out.
God of War Collection is an awesome update for people eagerly awaiting God of War III's release early next year. These two games have easily stood the test of time, and the updated visuals make it a pleasure to relive Kratos' blood-soaked vengeance on an HD TV. The graphical problems are so slight that they are but a tiny blemish on God of War's otherwise pristine facade. If you have yet to experience Kratos' tale, then God of War Collection is a must-play rerelease. And even if you've already slain a minotaur and ripped out the eye of a cyclops, God of War is worth going back to once more.
As Aussies will know by now, the version of Left 4 Dead 2 being sold down under isn't the same as what the rest of the world is playing. After a convoluted and prolonged classification process, which saw the game initially get banned (and then banned again on appeal), a toned-down, less violent version of L4D2 is what Aussie gamers are stuck with now. Most of the changes to the Australian version seem to be cosmetic, and as such, our global review of the PC and Xbox 360 versions of the game suitably address the high and low points of this zombie shooting sequel. But even cosmetic changes can have some impact on your gameplay enjoyment, so for Australian consumers, do the changes made in the censored version of Left 4 Dead 2 make it a less worthy game?
Firstly, let's look at those differences. Thanks to Australia's restrictive classification regime, the version of Left 4 Dead 2 being sold in this country features much less explicit violence than international copies. You won't see copious amounts of blood spray, limb dismemberment, gaping wounds, or decapitations. You won't see zombies catch on fire, either. While they'll still be affected by Molotovs and sport the "on fire" animation, you won't actually see flames on their bodies. Finally, the bodies of slain zombies won't pile up on the ground; rather, they disappear even before they hit the ground, which makes for some odd animation as zombies that are shot from fences or high ledges seem to just vanish in midair. And it seems that at least one Uncommon Infected has been affected. The Riot Cop--a heavily armored foe that needs to be attacked from behind--doesn't seem to be in Australian versions of the game or, at least, doesn't pose the same level of threat as in international versions. In our testing of the censored version, we saw Riot Cops on rare occasions (particularly in The Parish), but this cop seems to be as easily stopped as regular zombies, as opposed to being a tricky foe that needs extra skill to kill. These differences are ones we've spotted ourselves during testing. We've reached out to Valve to get a full, definitive list of changes, but we didn't hear back from Valve as of publication time (if you've spotted more, tell us in the comments below).
Taking out (or at least severely neutering) one of the new Uncommon Infected certainly alters gameplay, but after hours of gaming across Left 4 Dead 2's many campaigns, having one less enemy didn't significantly change our overall enjoyment of the game. The visual changes are of greater concern--censored Left 4 Dead 2 definitely has less of a visceral impact and takes away that gleeful sense of twisted realism as you mow down wave after wave of the undead. It's not enough to take away the core experience that Left 4 Dead 2 provides--that of being a desperate survivor facing overwhelming odds and having to rely on your teammates for support--but it's not as immersive experience of an as it could have been.
And it's that loss of immersion that will irk many Australian gamers. Censored Left 4 Dead 2 is unsurprisingly not as gruesome, and while gameplay hasn't really been affected, there's no denying that it's simply not as fun to play if only for the fact that seeing brutal, bloody zombie deaths makes it less of a guilty pleasure. Make no mistake--Left 4 Dead 2 is still a fun game on the inside, it's just that it's not much of a looker on the outside. Whether or not you'll be able to live with the changes depends on whether you believe in the old adage that beauty is only skin deep.
At the time of this writing, there's not a single review for Tony Hawk Ride to be found anywhere. That's because, to the best of our knowledge, Activision didn't send finished copies of the game to anyone prior to release. We haven't received a copy in this morning's mail either, so it looks like we'll be making a trip to a local video games emporium this afternoon so that we can start work on a review.
In fairness, Activision did organize a "review event" for the game last weekend, but it's our policy not to review games in controlled conditions, so just as we have for a number of big game review events in recent memory (Grand Theft Auto IV, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Halo 3: ODST spring to mind), we politely declined to attend. I imagine a lot of other reviewers declined on this occasion as well because while most review events appear to involve overnight stays in hotels and afford ample time to both play the games in optimal conditions and mingle with representatives of the company that's paying for your accommodation, this particular event was nothing of the sort.
The Tony Hawk: Ride review event was originally pitched simply as a "Family Fun Event" and then later, when the full invitation arrived, as a "Family Fun/Review Event." Apparently, we were expected to review the game based on just three hours of "activities, music, and gaming" in the company of Tony Hawk and, if we wished to bring them along, our families. Yeah, not gonna happen.
We'll bring you our review just as soon as we can track down copies of the game and play them the same way that we do all games we review--on our own terms.
Going off-topic for a second, you might have noticed that our video reviews for both Modern Warfare 2 and Assassin's Creed II have spoiler warnings at the start. Going forward, we'll be including this at the start of all our video reviews because, depending on how sensitive you are to spoilers and how much you know about the game already, we figure that every video review we do could potentially spoil something for you. We always try to make our video reviews as free of spoiler as possible, and we'll continue to do so.
Back on September 29, Rockstar released Beaterator for the PSP. You may be wondering why we haven't reviewed it yet. The answer is simple: Beaterator isn't a game. It's a music-making software application that happens to have been made by a game publisher for a game system. Yes, those close ties to the gaming world have led us to preview Beaterator, but it's not something that our review scale is designed to evaluate. That's why you have not and will not see an official review for Beaterator on GameSpot. But in case you're still on the fence, I'd like to share some personal impressions of Beaterator now that it's out and I've spent some quality time with a retail copy. (Here's the quick version: I like it a lot.)
For a basic rundown on all the features be found in Beaterator, you'll want to check out the preview I wrote last month. There you'll find a basic summary of the different methods of making and recording music. No major features have been added or removed since I previewed it; you're still going to find the Live Play mode for taking the 3,000+ loops and playing a song on the fly; Studio Session for playing live songs with a few more options for customizing the sound; and Song Crafter to get into the real nitty gritty of your music.
Here's an example of Live Play in action.
We'll start with Live Play. You don't need anything more than a rough sense of musical timing to get the most out of this mode. You're basically just given a template of loops (hip hop, house, etc.) broken down into various instruments and ability to start and stop them at will. It's a simple system, but one that lets you feel like you're actually making music even though you're only controlling which loops play and when. Besides serving as a friendly way for newcomers to get a feel for making music, the cool part about Live Play is that you can record your performance, then take it into the other two modes to fine-tune your work.
Studio Session is sort of the bridge between Live Play and Song Crafter. What it does is allow you to fill all the loop slots manually, edit the individual loops to your liking (more on that in a bit), and just generally do the same thing as Live Play but with more customization. I honestly didn't find myself drawn to Studio Session much at all. It's nice that it exists as an option, but I usually found myself attracted to either the mindless fun of Live Play or the all-out creative potential of Song Crafter. Studio Session doesn't really offer either one, it just sort of sits in the middle all on its own without either of those benefits.
But that's just as well, because once you jump into Song Crafter (the third and most advanced of the three modes) you won't want to leave any time soon. Song Crafter is the real heart of Beaterator, and it's where you'll find yourself feeling most rewarded for your creative endeavors. It resembles a traditional music-editing software app in the way you're given a grid-based view of the entire song with color-coded audio loops to help visualize everything. And while there's a lot of depth here, the act of quickly making a song and then taking the time to fine-tune that song are separated enough that you won't need to be a music software expert to make something that sounds great off the bat.
One of the many tutorials you can find.
A lot of that is thanks to the huge library of quality loops, which are separated between those made by the in-house musicians at Rockstar Leeds and those recorded by Timbaland. I found myself using the Timbaland loops way more often because of their more compelling sound, but the Rockstar ones are pretty good too, with selections running the gamut from techno beats to jazzy guitars to atmospheric synthesizers. If there's one problem with the loops, it's that previewing each one requires three or four seconds to load when running off a UMD copy of Beaterator. It's not a problem if you know what you want right away, but if you're trying to decide which of the 18 "Drums Groovy" samples to use in your intro, those load times add up. However, I also tested a copy downloaded from the PlayStation Network store that I got running on a PSP Go, and the load times were much, much better. Not quite instantaneous, but noticeably improved.
If you're not content with the 3,000+ loops that come with the game, you can edit each one of them or make something brand new. Audio loops (i.e., ones recorded from real instruments and not emulated) can be trimmed, cut, repeated, and faded in and out, while MIDI loops go a step further and let you go in and change each individual note right on down to snare hit velocity or synthesizer waveform oscillation. Yes, there's a lot you can do, but I found myself perfectly happy to learn everything there was to learn, and didn't find myself struggling with the menus or interface much at all. In fact, you can pull up helpful tutorial videos any time you want from the main menu, and the interface does a good job of remembering previously used samples so you don't go hunting all over the place when you want to recycle something from earlier in the song. Some form of edit-undo would have helped for those times I goofed up and deleted a chunk of song that I had meant to copy, but those gaffes were pretty few and far between.
Playing your song back in Song Crafter.
While I could go on and on about the myriad ways you can create and tweak sounds to put your own personal touch on your songs, the bottom line is that Song Crafter will gladly steal away hours of your life at a time. There's a lot to take in, but you'll feel rewarded every time you finish a new song. And when you've done that, you can take those songs onto Rockstar's Social Club website and share your tracks with other players and also follow the uploads of those you've deemed to be your favorite artists. The song upload process is a pretty painless one: You just need to register for a Social Club account, connect your PSP to a WiFi network, and upload your song right from the system. There's no delay, either--we uploaded a song and found it on the site within seconds. It's a surprisingly easy process to go through, and there seem to be quite a few standout tracks on the site already. You can also export your song to a raw WAV file and transfer it to your computer from the PSP.
Beaterator may not be a traditional game, but anyone who owns a PSP and has an interest in making music would do well to check it out. It's not as full-featured as the more high-end music editing software applications out there, but it carries the dual benefits of being a fraction of the cost and portable enough to craft songs on your morning bus ride. I definitely recommend it.
I won't be quitting my day job any time soon.
Hi everyone. You may have noticed that GameSpot has opened up a new mobile games channel. We'll be starting off covering games for five major operating systems: iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm WebOS for the Pre, Google Android, and Windows Mobile. We are covering mobile games in response to the huge growth we've seen in mobile gaming, particularly in the case of the iPhone, which has thousands of games to play on the App Store. The site itself is intended to be community-focused and powered by your opinions, so please feel free to dive in, discover new games, and submit your own thoughts on your favorite (and not-so-favorite) games in a reader review.
And yes, with a new site comes some new GameSpot reviews of mobile games. Keep in mind we're not looking to cover every single mobile game on the planet right now, which is why you'll see GameSpot's reviews appear in a limited fashion on the site. This is because the world of mobile games is both enormous and constantly changing, so rather than focus on every last little detail, we're instead working to bring you coverage on the most important developments and absolute best of the best top games in the world of mobile gaming, to help you cut through all the clutter and zero in on the good stuff, and on the stuff you should know about. So, we're starting off GameSpot's mobile reviews covering a combination of both the absolute best in mobile games and also the highest-profile mobile games you may have heard the most about...the two are not always exactly the same. (And so, if you're wondering why your favorite mobile game wasn't covered, this would be why. Please do feel free to leave your own thoughts in a reader review for that game in the meantime.)
To this end, we've enlisted help from a content partner site, SlideToPlay.com, a site that fully focuses on covering mobile games, to help us with our reviews. Note that although the reviews are coming from a different source, they are still edited and checked by GameSpot's editors to be consistent with our site's standards of quality and consistency. Also, please note that GameSpot does not currently plan to post new mobile reviews every day, but rather, in regular updates throughout the year. Again, rather than looking to cover every last little detail in the mobile space step-for-step, we're looking to encourage you, our readers, to use the mobile site to discover and share your thoughts on new games while we here at GameSpot periodically weigh in with our own thoughts on the absolute cream of the crop.
That's it. Please feel free to start poking around and explore the site. Thanks.
As many football fans will be aware, FIFA 10 launches tomorrow in Europe. In the last two years, the quality of EA Sports' franchise has improved dramatically, and with a host of new features and gameplay refinements, we've been eagerly anticipating the arrival of this year's game.
Earlier this week, we received review code for our debug PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles, which has allowed us to play a good portion of the game offline. The manager mode has been expanded, the new 360 degree control is a subtle but welcome gameplay addition, and the new custom set piece feature is sure to please hardcore fans of the series.
However, online functionality has been a big reason for FIFA's recent success, and in FIFA 10, it's even more interwoven into the game's DNA. Aside from the incredibly popular multiplayer online mode, you can now import your face onto a Virtual Pro player, share custom set-pieces online, and download even more live update data using the new Live Season 2.0. It's impossible to experience any of this in the debug code we received, so to be able to offer a definitive verdict, we've had to wait for the retail version of the game to arrive.
For that reason, our review will sadly not be appearing until early next week. We'll be getting retail versions of the game in tomorrow, so we can play the game as it was meant to be experienced. If you're online, feel free to add me on PSN (GuyJC) and Xbox Live (Dan Ashcroft). If nothing else, it'll give you the chance to kick a ball at my virtual face before our full verdict hits the site in a few days' time.
It's been almost a week since I started playing Aion: Tower of Eternity and so, although the full review is probably still a week or two away, I wanted to update you all on how it's going. I'm also going to take this opportunity to call out some of the game's features that, for better or worse, have really made an impression on me. I already posted something similar on my personal blog earlier this week, but while some of what I talk about here will inevitably be similar, I promise not to go anywhere near the cut-and-paste button.
The first thing I should mention is Aion's launch which, at least from my perspective, was an incredibly smooth one. Two days before those of us with preorders were able to get in on the "headstart" early access program, we were afforded even earlier access to the character creations tools so that we could pick out our classes, reserve a couple of character names, and basically be ready to play as soon as the servers went live. I took this opportunity to create an Elyos scout and an Asmodian priest, the former being one of the "good" guys on what ended up being a high-population server, and the latter a "bad" guy on a less popular server. NCSoft was purportedly planning to prevent players from creating certain factions on certain servers if it became necessary to keep the two factions somewhat balanced, but I saw no evidence of this personally.
Not that it's unique amongst MMOs by any means, but creating a character in Aion is more like doing the same thing in an EA Sports game than it is World of Warcraft or any of the other MMOs that I've played personally. After settling on a class and a gender, you're presented with a few dozen preset characters to use as your starting point, and from there you can pretty much do whatever you want. There are dozens of hairstyles to choose from, there are skin tone color spectrums to play around with, and the seven or eight different preset physiques run the gamut from short-and-stout to lanky-and-lean. But that's not even the half of it, because after choosing all of your presets you can enter the advanced customization mode and use sliders to tinker with multiple attributes for facial features, limbs, and the like. The only downside to the character creation is that there are no safeguards in place to prevent people from making freakish looking beings with, for example, tiny heads sitting atop long necks and giant shoulders. Many, presumably PVP-oriented folks are also opting to create the tiniest characters they possibly can, at which point they're dwarfed even by the insects and other small enemies that you encounter in the starting areas.
Questing in those starter areas when the servers went live was, predictably, a little frustrating at times. With so many players trying to complete the same quests, the competition for both enemies to kill and items to collect was fierce. Nothing was taking very long to respawn, but there simply weren't enough enemies and items to go around. Both the headstart and regular launches are out of the way now thankfully, and as players level up at different speeds, so they're getting dispersed. That helps with overcrowding in the various zones that make up Aion's great-looking world, but it doesn't help with the overcrowding on certain servers.
On day one, some players were reporting queue times in excess of two hours, which is clearly unacceptable. I lucked out on that occasion since I was among the first people to log in and I didn't log out until several hours later. I've had to queue on one of my two servers a couple of times since then, though, for around 30 minutes on both occasions. This coming Saturday and Sunday will be the first full weekend since launch, so I'm guessing that once I log in I probably shouldn't log out. Something that's easily accomplished by setting a character up as a "personal store" with at least one item that isn't going to sell in a million years. Do that, and you can step away from your keyboard for as long as you like without any fear of being logged out automatically.
I'll admit that I've done that a couple of times, but for the most part when I've been logged in it's been because I'm busily running around completing the usual assortment of fetch quests, kill quests, and collection quests. So far I haven't had any problems finding enough content in each zone to level me up for the next, but this doesn't appear to be a game where you can afford to pick and choose which quest chains you want to take on since you should really be doing all of them. Not only do these chains earn you plenty of experience, cash, and some useful rewards, but some of them also reward you with titles for your character. One of the early Elyos chains gives you the option to precede your name with the title "Tree-Hugger" for example, and doing so affords you a +4 bonus to accuracy. Similar bonuses appear to be attached to all 50 of the titles that you can unlock, though at level 16 (hey, I have other games to review as well) I only have six or seven right now.
I'm told that PVP content and dungeons don't really kick in until somewhere between level 25 and 30, so I've got a ways to go before I can check out any of that stuff. Level 10 is a big milestone in Aion as well though, because at that point you gain the ability to fly (though only for a minute and in certain zones) and you have to decide which of two paths you're going to take with your chosen class. Having started out as a scout, for example, I had to choose between a ranger specializing in ranged attacks or an up-close-and-personal assassin. I opted for the latter and, without wishing to write too much about how combat works since I already talked a bit about that in my earlier blog (along with a little about gathering and crafting), so far I'm having a lot of fun it--even if the vast majority of my encounters do play out in much the same way. Surprisingly, to me anyway, all eight of the classes appear to be equally well represented right now, though tanks and healers are predictably the ones in demand when the LFG (looking-for-group) and LFM (looking-for-more) messages start flying.
Hopefully those dungeon groups will have room for an assassin when I've leveled up some more, and it'd probably be a good idea for me to get into a guild sometime soon as well. And, with that in mind, I think it's time for me to log in again and get back to stabbing small animals, retrieving stolen items, and running errands for villagers who are too lazy to do anything themselves. Check back next week for another update or two, and in the meantime be sure to check out the new screenshots in the gamespace.
Not sure if you noticed, but last night we posted our reviews of NHL 10 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with scores of 8.5 and 8.0, respectively. The difference between the two games was that, based on time spent with retail copies on retail servers, the online multiplayer was silky smooth on the X360 but very laggy on the PS3. That was accurate at 9:42pm last night when the review was posted but, increasingly, it seems that any review we post is in danger of being rendered inaccurate or out-of-date within weeks, days, or on this occasion hours of it going up on the site.
We were contacted by EA Sports this morning and told that, while the PS3 servers were still being optimized up until late last night--not in time for our review, but in time for the game's arrival in stores--today they're up and running, and making the multiplayer every bit as smooth as it is on the X360. After checking this out for ourselves we found that the PS3 servers are indeed much-improved and so, in fairness to both the development team and to those of you looking for an accurate review to base your purchasing decision on, we decided to up the PS3 review score from an 8.0 to an 8.5--bringing it in line with the more-or-less identical X360 version.
In case you're wondering, the main reason we opted to go back and edit the review on this occasion rather than post one of our "After the Fact" updates is that the improvements to the game were made prior to the game being available in stores. Therefore, the multiplayer portion of our original PS3 review, while based entirely on time spent with a retail copy of the game and accurate at the time that we posted it, wasn't actually representative of the online experience that any of you going out and buying the game are going to have.
We posted our review of DiRT 2 on the Xbox 360 earlier this evening and I just wanted to post a quick note here to let you know that the other versions will be reviewed soon. The reason we haven't already posted reviews for the PlayStation 3 and Wii versions of the game is simply that we haven't received code for either of them yet that will run in a retail machine. They're both expected to land on my desk tomorrow.
The PC, PSP, and DS versions of the game will also get reviews just as soon as I've been able to spend a good amount of time with them.
Right now though, it's almost 10pm, and time for me to head home and put my DiRT 2 skills to the test on Xbox Live some more. I shouldn't really spoil the review for those of you who didn't check it out already, but this game is a lot of fun. Definitely recommend checking it out if you're at all interested in off-road racing.
Metroid Prime, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption are three of the best first-person shooters, or best games for that matter, to grace a Nintendo platform in recent years. When Retro Studios' Metroid Prime was released on the GameCube in 2002 (2003 in Europe), it did the impossible: it brought Metroid's classic side-scrolling shooter gameplay to life in 3D for the first time. The game featured gorgeous visuals, and its immersive gameplay included shooting, puzzle solving, and Metroid's iconic morph ball. It was one amazing package that earned a GameSpot editors' choice award and a score of 9.7. When Echoes came along two years later, it stuck to the award-winning formula, adding a multiplayer mode to the Metroid universe for the first time, along with inventive new gameplay, and it earned a score of 9.1 in the process. Finally, when Corruption brought the franchise to the Wii in 2007, it featured the most impressive graphics in the series and, most importantly, successfully incorporated Wii controls to become the benchmark for future Wii first-person shooter games.
So what is new in this package? Well, the biggest difference is that Corruption's tight control scheme now works in all three games. In the same fashion as the controls in Pikmin, Mario Power Tennis, and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, Metroid's controls have been given an overhaul for the Wii rerelease, and the GameCube controller has been swapped for the remote and nunchuk. While the GameCube's clunky control scheme limited you to a single analog stick, the remote's point-and-click control and the nunchuk's analog stick work supremely well together. Unfortunately, there's no added Wii MotionPlus support, but you can customise the sensitivity and options in all three games to your preference. We found that the advanced level of sensitivity works best, because this will rotate your view well before the cursor reaches the edge of the screen. While Metroid's FPS gameplay is particularly well suited to the improved controls, perhaps even better is that Metroid Prime Trilogy combines three fantastic games into one bundle, and for the price of a regular Wii title.
In addition to new controls, Corruption's bonus credit system has been expanded to all three titles, and you can earn points and unlock bonuses across all three games. Achievements such as killing bosses and collecting items or information will earn you points to spend on concept art and bonus items. Corruption's screenshot mode can be unlocked for all three titles, adding the ability to take in-game photos and post them to the Wii message board. Trilogy also adds new unlockable Prime and Echoes concept art to the collection seen in Corruption, with artwork of Metroid's environments, life-forms, creatures, bosses, and lead character, Samus. In addition to the 15 audio tracks added as a bonus in Corruption, Trilogy includes an additional 33 songs from the first two instalments. The concept art, bonus items, and tracks are purchased through bonus credits.
The Metroid Prime franchise has always been associated with great graphics, and both Prime and Echoes hold up well. The biggest improvement is that all three games are playable in a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. Retro has also given Prime's and Echoes' graphics a touch-up, adding some slightly higher-resolution textures and additional light bloom. Some of the effects from Metroid Prime still look great even after all these years, such as rain and condensation on your visor, and Samus' face reflecting off the visor during explosions.
On the downside, Trilogy has done away with original opening cutscenes in all three titles, and considering that they were created with such loving detail, ardent fans will be disappointed to discover this. Instead, Trilogy has its own equally slick opening cutscene and seamlessly meshes all of the options and saved games (three files, each with a slot for Prime, Echoes, and Corruption) from all three games together into one easy-to-use menu system. Unfortunately, there's no way to use existing saved games with Trilogy, so you'll need to start from scratch or boot up your original copy to continue where you left off. In addition, there's also no option to play Prime or Echoes with a GameCube or Classic Controller, but given that the Wii Remote outshines them, this is a minor problem.
So is Metroid Prime Trilogy worth buying? Whether you're new to the Metroid Prime series or consider yourself a dedicated fan, this represents great value for the money and is the definitive Metroid Prime title. Metroid Prime Trilogy is available now in both North America and Europe, and if you want to see the game in action, check out our collection of gameplay videos.
So Champions Online came out this week, and if you're like me, you've been eagerly awaiting Cryptic Studio's newest superhero-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game (whew, that's a tongue twister). Well, the wait is over, though as with all MMOs, we want to spend as much time with the game as we can before delivering an official review. In the meanwhile, we wanted to give you a quick taste of Champions Online before then.Let's start with a quick impressions video.
The character creation is likely the best you'll ever see in such a game, even trumping that of City of Heroes/Villains. The creation interface takes a few moments to get used to, but is otherwise slick and easy to use. If you have an idea for a character, chances are, you can build a good approximation of it here. Fresh out of ideas? Let the game randomize a character for you. Some of the random combinations are actually pretty awesome.
Winged Hulkbeast isn't pretty, but he'll get the job done.
The starting area is an extended tutorial, and will give you a good idea of the basic mechanics, as well as your starting powers. You see, when you create your character, you aren't just selecting a costume, but an entire persona. You can select an existing archetype (sorcery, might, dual blades, and so on) or customize your own from a list of available powers. Champions Online offers a great deal of flexibility, so you can follow through on any specific concepts you dream up. This flexibility comes at the cost of effectiveness in some cases, however. There are some obvious balance issues at work, and they seem to be magnified after a release-day patch that altered the entire game's balance. That patch favors specific builds, so you may find that your creativity may not necessarily be rewarded with consistently exuberant questing and player-versus-player battling.
Millenium City: Home of heroes, thugs, and escaped prisoners. Wonder what the property prices are like.
It's worth noting that the patch also broke starting sorcery powers for existing toons, an issue that couldn't be overcome if you were in the initial tutorial area. There are some other bugs I quickly ran into as well--controls that keep getting reset, hotbar keys that stop working, and a few other oddities, like enemies that won't die and keep doing damage, even when their health drops to zero. Lag has cropped up a good bit as well, and an extended downtime just a few days in left a bad taste in many mouths. But now that the bad stuff is out of the way (and it's worth noting that few MMOs launch without issues), let's throw out the good stuff: So far, Champions Online has been fun, both in solo play, and when grouped.
Here's the Canadian wilderness. Canadians note: These virtual Canucks say 'eh?' a lot.
The combat is packed with action. My current character, Taoist Angel, is a sorceress that can summon a white wolf and a ring of electricity-spewing totems, and possesses a few more terrific moves besides. Many powers can be charged up by holding the button down for longer, you can block, and you break free from holds by tapping a button. As a result, combat will keep you busy, as you can tell in the following clip:
Taoist Angel: An Oasis in the desert.
There's a lot more to tell you about Champions Online, but it's time to get back to the game and prepare for the review, which should keep me busy most of the long weekend! We'll have an official review in the next week or two, but in the meanwhile, should you see Taoist Angel online, be sure to wave hello and tell her you like her hair, and her fancy trenchcoat.
We just posted our review of Madden NFL 10 for the Xbox 360 and, given that the two games are so similar, you're probably wondering why we haven't also reviewed the PlayStation 3 version. The answer is simple: We haven't played it. More to the point, we haven't received it from EA yet.
The Xbox 360 version arrived almost two weeks ago, so we've been able to spend plenty of time with it. The Wii version, which we'll have a review of up soon, wasn't too far behind it. There's still no sign of the PS3 version though, despite our requesting one from EA on August 6 and subsequently being told that at least two or three copies were sent to GameSpot last week. Did those copies get lost in the mail? Is the PS3 version deliberately being withheld because it's inferior in some way? Or perhaps the PS3 version is even better, and the feature that lets you design plays on your PSP and then import them into the game is awesome? We just don't know.
What we do know is that we're not going to post a review of the PS3 version until we've spent time with the PS3 version. We're told by EA that the X360 and PS3 games are "identical", but we prefer to judge that for ourselves. And we will, just as soon as we can get our hands on a PS3 copy.
EDIT: August 13, PS3 copy just showed up in the mail. Looks like it was overnighted to us. We'll get a review posted just as soon as we've spent some time with it and had an opportunity to try out the PSP connectivity.
As you may have already noticed, we posted a review of Fallout 3's Mothership Zeta downloadable content today. This is the first of many DLC reviews that you can expect to see on GameSpot going forward, but that doesn't mean that all (or even most) DLC will get reviewed. We'd love to give you a list of hard, fast criteria that we can use to determine which games we review, but that list doesn't exist. Given the countless different shapes and sizes that DLC comes in, deciding which ones to review is something that we'll be doing on a case-by-case basis. Horse armor? No. New costumes for street fighters? No. Multiplayer map pack for a long-forgotten shooter? Unlikely. Single-player, story-driven episode for a still-popular action game? Definitely. You get the idea.
Wipeout HD's first add-on offers new game modes, music and courses, practically doubling the content of the original game.
When Wipeout HD first launched on the PlayStation 3 last year, it was a little disappointing. Sure, the game looked amazing and played brilliantly, but all the tracks, game modes and music had already appeared in PSP versions of the game. Wipeout HD Fury is much more novel--a £7.99 upgrade for the original game that adds a whole host of brand new, never-before-seen content to the game. This includes three game modes, six new music tracks, and eight tracks; and while the circuits once again originate from the PSP games, they bulk out a new single player campaign that's as long as the original game's. All this adds up to a package that's not only incredibly good value, but one that offers something genuinely new for fans.
Check out Wipeout HD Fury's Eliminator mode!
The most noteworthy additions are the new game modes, which manage to shake up the original gameplay while remaining true to the Wipeout universe. The best is Eliminator, which originates from Wipeout Pulse on the PlayStation Portable, but has its own twist on the PS3. You score points by hitting enemies with weapons, with even more points awarded for a kill. The PS3 upgrade is that you can now flip your ship 180 degrees using the L1 button, allowing you to fire directly into oncoming traffic. Being head-on makes it easier to hit enemies with most weapons, but this is balanced by the fact that a stationary target is also easier for other people to hit.
The other two new game modes take place in 'zone', which those of you familiar with previous Wipeout games will know gives the game a Tron-esque visual makeover. Zone Battle introduces multiplayer to this mode, and while it's fun, getting your head around the rules can be difficult at first. Each zone becomes progressively faster, and your aim is to make it to the last zone before anyone else. You do this by running over the coloured patches on the track which build up your boost bar and allow you to jump to the next zone. Your boost also leaves behind a barrier that other players may crash into, so there's an element of risk and reward choosing the right time to use it. Zone Battle is fun once you understand these rules, but it's too complicated to become a classic Wipeout mode.
Detonator is much more successful take on zone. In this mode, bombs are placed over the track in sets of threes, and you have to shoot them down to score points. If you take out five or more bombs without missing a shot, then you get a bonus, but this is tricky, and your ammo is limited to 20 shots before you have to perform a painfully long reload. If you miss any bombs, then they appear on the next lap, but you can also collect EMP grenades to clear a path in front of you. After a few laps, navigating through the bombs, accurately aiming, and timing your reloads becomes incredibly intense, and overall it's a great new take on the Wipeout formula.
Wipeout HD Fury also includes a new Zone Battle mode.
Fury's tracks aren't new--they're all from Wipeouts Pure and Pulse on PSP, and include Talon's Junction, The Amphiseum Tech De Ra and Modesto Heights. The lack of truly new tracks in Wipeout HD was annoying, and the complaint remains the same for Fury--anyone who's played the PSP games will definitely still yearn for some new courses to master. That said, they really are a different breed when viewed in 1080p, and even more has been done to jazz up these tracks for their PS3 appearance. There are loads more animations going on in the background, from cheeky ad boards for the in-game racing teams to air traffic flying overhead, making this a gorgeous game to see in motion.
That said, we did notice some slowdown, and some resulting screen tearing, when playing these new tracks. It's not enough to affect the gameplay at all, but it will annoy anyone who marveled at Wipeout HD's seamless 60 frames per second presentation. The music is also wisely assembled--a mixture of grungy house and drum 'n' bass sit far more appropriately than the ambient tunes from Wipeout HD. Of the six artists, The Crystal Method is the only one that will be familiar to mainstream music fans, but the tracks are all excellent.
Wipeout HD Fury doesn't just add to the original game--it betters it in every way. The new game modes are really well executed, the soundtrack fits perfectly, and while the courses aren't completely new, they help form a new single player campaign that's at least as long as the original's. There are minor complaints, such as the slowdown and the complicated nature of Zone Battle, but as the new game modes are compatible with the old tracks, this is still incredibly good value for money. It will be interesting to see if Sony release the game on a Blu-Ray now that the entire package now costs around £20, but if you've ever been a fan of Wipeout or futuristic racing games, this is well worth checking out.
Gears of War 2's newest downloadable content, Dark Corners, comes out next week on July 28. It's going to cost Gears fans 1200 Microsoft points ($15), but the good news is that it's a worthwhile package for anyone who has exhaustively explored every nook and cranny of the game. Seven new maps and a new single-player level are included--and most of the content is excellent, which makes Dark Corners a great value. (Consider, for example, the Halo 3 map packs, which only included three multiplayer levels and sold for $10.) Warning: the following content contains Gears of War 2 spoilers. Read only if you have finished the campaign, or if you don't mind discovering important plot points.
According to developer Epic Games, the single-player level, Road to Ruin, is a "deleted scene," i.e., content that was originally conceptualized but didn't make it into the final game. The level takes place after Maria's death, but before Marcus and Dom enter Nexus, the central city of the Locust Horde. The action is typical Gears stuff in a number of ways; you battle it out in the series' signature stop-and-pop style, confront a hulking Brumak, and rain death upon a Reaver before you reach the end of the 20- or 30-minute mission. The twist is that you must make a choice at the beginning of the level: Either don Locust armor and try to sneak past your enemies, or gun down drones the old-fashioned way.Make room in the memorial: More corpses are being delivered.
The idea of stealthy Gears is initially fascinating, but in practice it isn't as enjoyable as shedding Locust blood. You use the cover system to shift from one point to the next, occasionally pulling a lever or pushing a button, and staying far enough away from your foes to prohibit them from picking up your scent. It quickly becomes apparent that Dom and Marcus weren't meant to slink about; Gears-brand sneaking simply isn't as intense or as satisfying as curb stomping. Fortunately, an old friend from the original Gears of War joins you in the final third of the level, during which you must wreak havoc with your Lancer and Gnasher. Road to Ruin is much more enjoyable if you choose the guns-a-blazing route, not because it offers many surprises (it doesn't), but because it extends the experience and embraces the action that makes Gears of War 2 so great.
It's no surprise that the seven new multiplayer maps also embrace that action. You won't encounter many surprises within this suite of excellent battlegrounds, but there are some standouts amongst them. Two maps stood out as particular favorites: Memorial, and Nowhere. Memorial is set near the Eternal Flame and Tomb of the Unknowns, and its main feature is the monument in the center of the map. That memorial gives rise to intense action, and opportunities for flanking should keep you on the move, particularly during Annex matches. Nowhere is set in an abandoned village in the middle of the desert. The swirling sand is an authentic visual treat, and there are rusty derelict vehicles and stacks of tires that not only make the map look gritty, but provide plenty of opportunity for cover. Nowhere's highlight, however, is the vacant diner. A stairway leads to its roof, where a Mortar lays waiting for you. It's always fun to shower your enemies with fire, though you'll need to be careful, because you're highly vulnerable to anyone that would slink up the stairway. If you don't have anyone covering for you, an enemy can easily sneak up and blast you with his shotgun.
Most of the maps are more straightforward and symmetrical. One of these, Allfathers Garden, is visually striking. Cracked stone archways, crumbling sculptures, and temple columns provide plenty of good cover, while sconces glow softly and mist swirls about. This visual style is similar to what you find in Sanctuary, the third and final "exclusive" map from the PC version of Gears of War to be brought to Gears of War 2. The collapsing stone structures here are clearly more neglected than those in Allfathers Garden, though climbing vines of ivy lend some organic respite to the porticos they obscure. A couple of bridges and a web of stairways spread the action across multiple planes, so a coordinated team can spread across the map effectively and take the enemy unawares.
Way Station, War Machine, and Highway round out this septet of quality multiplayer offerings. The red-hued Way Station takes you clearly into Locust territory and features a trough of imulsion flowing down its center. Multiple platforms (look for the Scorcher on one of them) let you take higher ground, and some tight walkways make a well-aimed grenade toss particularly effective. Forsaken train stations have provided home to shooting action in any number of games, and War Machine is the latest to do so. Moonlight shines in from above, tinting the combat zone blue; and while cover opportunities are abundant thanks to numerous stacks of sandbags, you'll want to watch your step if you jump down on the tracks, since the tight corners and ledges restrict your movement a bit. You take the fight back to Locust territory in Highway, and it's one of the more atmospheric of the new maps, due to columns and altars inscribed with runes and elaborate patterns, almost a mixture of Gothic and Rococo sensibilities. Not only does it look creepy, but elevated areas provide good clear views across the map, handy if you've got the Longshot in your possession.
It just never gets old.
$15 is a good deal for all of this content. The additional scenario isn't as compelling as others in the campaign, but with two different ways to play it, there's reason to visit at least a couple of times, and of course, it supports the usual co-op play. While few of the multiplayer maps supply real surprises, they're laid out well and have a lot of visual character. If you're a Gears 2 fanatic, Dark Corners is a must-play. If you haven't downloaded any content for the game, you can get the new content as part of the All Fronts collection, which includes all downloadable content to date, including Dark Corners, for 1600 Microsoft Points ($20). Either way, you can't really go wrong: More Gears of War 2 is never a bad thing.
Battlefield 1943, the latest entry in the venerable Battlefield series, arrived on the Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Network this week. It's an online multiplayer shooter set in the Pacific Theater of WWII, with three soldier classes and three maps that support up to 24 players at a time. We've been playing the game as much as we can in order to review it, but as you may have heard, there have been some serious connectivity issues. Because we waited to review Battlefield 1943 on retail servers, the problems detailed below have prevented us from playing enough of the game to give it a full review. We'll be trying to play more over the weekend, but regardless of any further issues we may encounter, the review will run on Monday.
The most glaring problem we ran into was simply not being able to join a game. For most of Wednesday and much of Thursday, we were lucky if we made it into a match. The PS3 version suffered less from the issue, and our experiences on both platforms have improved over time, but there are still issues that keep players from joining. Trying to play with a friend or create a squad is even trickier. Whether this difficulty spawns from the generally unintuitive squad system or is linked to the other connectivity issues, we can't rightly say yet. Even when we did get in a squad, though, we weren't able to communicate via headset. On the PS3, one could chalk this up to the relative scarcity of headset users, but this isn't a plausible excuse for the Xbox 360. We only experienced fully functional squad chat in one match. When that match ended and the next began, we remained in the same squad but were no longer able to chat. There were other sundry issues that hampered our play time as well. The Xbox 360 version crashed on four separate occasions, and the PS3 version had problems correctly balancing teams, leading to painfully lopsided conflicts that were soon disbanded.
The matches we were able to join proved to be great fun. The three classes offer strategically diverse ways to play, and the three maps are very well-designed. Jeeps, tanks, airplanes, mounted turrets, anti-aircraft guns, and transport boats further deepen the strategic possibilities, and the shooting mechanics are clean and accurate. We're eager to play the game more, despite the myriad issues, and you can look forward to reading our full review on Monday.
By: Shaun McInnis
A good six months after its initial release, EA is continuing to support Skate 2 with fairly regular DLC. We've already seen content running the gamut from 1980s clothing in the Throwback Pack to new camera angles and replay filters in the Filmer Pack. Now, the latest Skate 2 DLC to hit the market is the Maloof Money Cup Pack, due out for release today at a price of $3, or 240 MS Points.
The Maloof Money Cup is based on the real-life skateboard contest of the same name, and comes in the form of a brand-new arena outfitted with the same ramp and obstacle layout as what you'll see when the event is broadcast later this week. The contest grounds exist outside the city of San Vanelona, but you can get to them through the career mode event map or by setting up a freeskate session and choosing it as your location. The real estate is a pretty decent size, split into a street skating section and a vert ramp. The street area comes with a modest number of benches, ledges, and stair sets, and subsequently doesn't feel like anything you can't find on any city block in the regular game. But the vert section is substantially more interesting, with a giant kicker ramp leading into a big halfpipe that reminds us of the X-Games area from the first Skate.
In terms of events packed into this DLC, there's a street contest, a vert contest, and some online multiplayer freeskate challenges you can take part in. The two single-player contests are the same sort of events you'll find in the retail game, without any added presentation to let you know it's based on a flashy, high-stakes event. The prize for winning both contests, though, is a hefty $175,000 of in-game cash and 200 achievement points.
Altogether, $3 isn't a ton of money to spend on DLC that'll net you a bunch of quick achievement points and in-game cash. But the actual skating terrain you're buying feels much less interesting than a lot of what San Vanelona already has to offer, and since the Maloof Money Cup isn't exactly one of the storied events in the history of the sport--it debuted last year--there's not a lot of reason to check it out on name alone. If you're purely looking for new turf to skate, you'll probably want to hold onto your money and continue sniffing out all those great hidden spots San Van has tucked away. On the flip side, anyone who really enjoyed taking part in Skate 2's career mode contests and wants to pad out their gamerscore and in-game wallets will find a much more rewarding purchase here.