Perhaps one of the most anticipated and talked about titles for 2011, the developers at DICE wanted to raise the bar and go head-to-head against other military simulation games (i.e.: “Call of Duty” franchise). Publisher Electronic Arts went so far as to state they were gunning for “Call of Duty’s” market share with some pretty strong words.
The campaign for “Battlefield 3” is told in a series of flashbacks through the eyes of different people as a terrorist plot involving nuclear weapons is discovered. Twelve missions show off environments from the Caspian Sea to New York City and all are gorgeously rendered.
While most of the action occurs with the main character, players also become a gunner in a jet, a tank driver and a foreign spy. Each mission is intense, intricate and follows along the plot nicely. Some of the missions fail to energize like the rest. The jet mission doesn’t allow you to fly the jet, but rather sit in the back and wait for things to come to you. Not sure if it was done that way for pacing, but it does slow down the action and doesn’t offer the same thrills as other missions.
There are some emotional moments in the single player campaign that the actors portray very well. Beyond the typical “tugging at the heartstrings” scenes when a comrade dies, a few missions should make you want to slap the character on screen with the butt end of your weapon.
The Frostbite 2 graphic engine works hard to display intricate details, cast gloomy shadows and appears to move every blade of grass individually. Roads, tunnels, open fields, building interiors project the appropriate feelings of openness, claustrophobia and increased tension – and that’s even before the bad guys arrive to the scene.
I do have one complaint as the graphic engine produced rain smears or mud splatters on my display during missions for no apparent reason other than to show off. I’m not talking about on the jet canopy. I’m talking about walking around when it is obvious that I’m not wearing glasses or a visor. It was rather annoying, but a minor point.
There was also some video lag, which I found very odd on the Xbox 360 version. The audio would continue along nicely, but the visuals bogged down and would get out of sync for about 5 to 10 seconds. Not sure if it was just a fluke with my console, but it is worth mentioning in case it happens to you.
Combat, as expected, is the backbone of the game. Multiple weapon options are available and how you build your soldier’s arsenal will determine how your missions get accomplished.
Campaign players will start with initial weapons, but many more can be found. Will you change out your automatic rifle for something with longer range? Depends on if you are headed for higher ground or a possible flanking maneuver?
And teammates are key to any success. Wading headlong into the battle will just get you revived back at the last checkpoint. While the military movies may portray the hero rushing into the fray alone, that tactic doesn’t work here.
See how your squad mates are advancing and pick a different route. Often times, the enemies will be so locked in to the main force that you’ll discover easy pickings by taking the road less traveled.
If the campaign missions are good, the multiplayer missions are great. So many different options for weapons and vehicles open up as well as action that can’t be found in the single player missions.
“Battlefield 3” offers nine maps with 24 players each that span different objectives and environments. Five game modes offer familiar classics, but Team Deathmatch is a welcome addition that puts you in an infantry firefight where the object is kill or be killed.
Where the campaign failed on the jet mission, the multiplayer lets you pilot attack helicopters as well as fighter jets. Players can also spawn directly into the cockpits so no more waiting around for a plane to pilot.
A variety of armored assault vehicles are also available depending on the size of the map and type of mission selected. From jeeps to light tanks to full battle tanks, all have been revamped on how they recover from damage.
Minor damage is automatically repaired as long as you stay out of danger. Heavy damage caused the vehicle to catch fire, which results in slower speed but continued weapon function. The question then becomes how long you remain inside your damaged ride and racking up kills before it explodes.
There are plenty of weapons with unlockable attachments and gadgets to discover. Those bonuses are tied into your class so think about how you play before diving in. Loadouts, the weapons and abilities you choose at the beginning, have also been tweaked to offer more options to the players.
You can change classes from mission to mission, but focusing on one class will unlock the more powerful gear faster. Points can be earned in a variety of ways from straight kills to disabling opponents to working well with your teammates. When they succeed, you succeed.
All of the multiplayer experience is tied to the EA Battlelog, an online social media program that tracks your multiplayer stats and awards, keeps tabs on your friends and lets your form up platoons for future battles. PC games can also launch their game from Battlelog.
Word of warning: my Safari browser was not fully supported on Battlelog, so I could look around and talk to friends, but not join in their game. Also, there have been reports of server connections dropping or not connecting, particularly with the Xbox 360. EA has been working on the problem, but forum pages are filling up with disgruntled players who can’t enjoy multiplayer.
There are also six co-op missions that are loosely tied to the main campaign. They do require communication between teammates especially for the stealthy missions. One nice mission puts the player in the cockpit of a helicopter, giving you the chance to do some flying outside of the multiplayer missions. Weapons can be unlocked in the co-op game that can be used in multiplayer.
Comparisons to the new “Call of Duty” game will inevitably rise after its release. On its own merits, “Battlefield 3” still is one of the top games in the military simulation genre.
Intense action, wide variety of weapons and vehicles, and rich, immersive environments will test your skills and adaptation abilities. Some minor issues detract from a very fun and exciting game, but those shouldn’t stop players from coming back for more.
“Battlefield 3” is available for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The PC version requires registration to the Battlelog and EA Origins. It is rated M for mature due to blood, intense violence and strong language. This review was done playing on the Xbox 360 Limited Edition retail version.
“Batman: Arkham City” takes everything that was great about the first Arkham title and makes it bigger, bolder and better. The Dark Knight goes up against his most murderous foes with new weapons and allies in a story that expands the Batman universe.
Spinning off the ending of “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” Gotham City decides that the best way to house all of its criminals is to wall off a large section of the city and dump them all together. So now, Joker, Penguin, Two-Face and others are free to do whatever they want inside those walls. Out of sight, out of mind.
The 18-month backstory of the game was presented in a limited series by DC Comics in the months leading up to the game’s release. If you didn’t read the series, there may be some confusion about what’s going on when the gameplay begins.
The city is beautifully rendered with plenty of locations that are unique to Batman’s enemies. While the regular prisoners tend to repeat themselves, each villain looks and feels very unique and true to their comic book counterparts.
It also helps that Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy reprise their voice roles as The Joker and Batman respectively. Those trademark voices have become as necessary as the Joker’s laugh or Batman’s scowl.
Combat is similar to “Arkham Asylum” as rhythmic button pushing sends Batman from foe to foe in a fluid and almost dance-like movement with devastating effects. The more times you can string together attacks will open up new power moves that can daze or level multiple opponents.
Batman’s utility belt is full with some of the same “toys” as before, but with new abilities and functions. Batarangs, batclaws and explosive gels are back with additional weapons like smoke pellets and a new Cryptographic Sequencer to help the Caped Crusader escape from trouble or solve puzzles.
Tutorials and the Batcomputer will help you master the skills needed to succeed as well as help point you in the direction of the next objective. Arkham City is five times the size that Arkham Asylum was so it is easy to get lost or misplace a mission.
Batman spends most of his time traveling this new territory by grapnel gun and gliding. There is an opportunity to get a grapnel boost, so use it and it will cut down the time it takes to get around.
In all, there are more than 250 upgrades and collectibles that help increase Batman’s skills, armor and weaponry. Take advantage of each when you can.
All that real estate needs to be occupied and developers filled it up with some of Batman’s most famous and deadly foes. Each of them wants to rule over the prisoners in Arkham City, but are willing to take their shots at the Dark Knight when they can.
Mr. Freeze, the Riddler, Two-Face, Harley Quinn and, of course, the Joker are ready to battle Batman in their own ways. Each has a unique agenda and part of the gameplay is figuring out what they are up to and how best to stop it.
The main storyline is filled with intrigue and drama. Fighting skills alone will not win the day and Batman is again equipped with a Detective mode that lets him spot clues normal eyes can’t see.
In “Arkham Asylum,” this mode could be turned on and pretty much left on at all times. In “Arkham City,” the mode stays on until Batman takes a hit. Players will not want to leave it on the entire time because they’ll miss other things that are needed to complete other missions.
Twelve complete side mission, which could be regular missions in their own right, help to deepen the game’s experience and introduce even more new villains and weapons to use. Players also are assisted by allies and other heroes as they make their way through the City.
The Riddler once again plays a big part again in hiding riddles and puzzles all over the City. This time, however, he’s taken hostages and only releasing clues to their whereabouts when Batman solves a certain number of riddles. Be warned – there are 400 secrets to be discovered so don’t pass up an opportunity to find them when you can.
Catwoman is a playable character in the game with her own adventures and missions. There is some crossover between her and Batman during cutscenes, but fighting and puzzle solving are all things she does on her own.
She has some special abilities like being able to climb on ceilings and use her whip and bolas to take down enemies. She also has more than 50 trophies and upgrades that can only be collected by her.
The mastermind behind all the action? Well, you don’t read comic books from the back to the front to you?
Suffice to say, the game story takes plenty of twists and turns, revealing more about the Dark Knight and his rogues. The action is well balanced between fighting objectives and detective work and has a nice flow and pace throughout the game.
It is a very deep game with a lengthy storyline, plenty of side missions and hundreds of collectibles. The playable Catwoman sections are a nice addition that weaves in and out of the main story, but never feels out of place.
Through it all, players will become enmeshed in the Batman universe and experience it all as if they were looking through the eye slits of the Dark Knight’s cowl and into his mind. It is a wonderful mix of classic characters, enhanced combat and new highlights that makes “Batman: Arkham City” worthy to wear the Bat-logo.
“Batman: Arkham City” will be available October 18 in North America, October 19 in Australia, October 21 in Europe and November 23 in Japan for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A PC version is expected to be released in November and a Wii U version is planned for sometime in 2012. The game is rated T for Teen due to alcohol reference, blood, mild language, suggestive themes, use of tobacco, and violence. This review was done playing a review copy on the Xbox 360.
“Rage” starts off full of promise and beauty, but finishes with clunky game mechanics and an ending that was probably the most disappointing I’ve experienced in years.
The new first person shooter game from id Software draws heavily from the developer’s history and pedigree for producing intense action and violence in titles such as “Doom” and “Quake.” Players start out as survivors of a world hit by an asteroid and wake up from a cryo-sleep inside an Ark to a planet full of mutants and tribal clans.
The scenery is both gorgeous and dangerous. The surroundings are wide open and encourage exploration. The level of detail in even the smallest rock really immerses the player in a world that has lost civilization as we know it and is struggling to survive.
Once players get to “cities” where clans have gathered, the graphics continue to shine. Water droplets from a broken overhead pipe cloud your vision temporarily as small, furry creatures scramble around your feet.
Other characters in the game are equally impressive looking with individual features that make them very lifelike. Everything moves naturally and there are very few moments where something looks out of place even in this post-asteroid world.
While non-player characters (NPCs) do look alive, it is when they die that the graphics break down. Dead enemies will often fall through walls or desks and multiple bodies will occupy the same space, making it seem like you’ve just killed a three-headed, six-armed, six-legged person. Those are the moments that distract from gameplay.
Combat is varied and brutal. There are plenty of weapon choices to be found and used to blow away enemies. While only four weapon slots are handy, the game allows access to your weapon locker at any time to mix and match your selections to your opponents.
From a wingstick (sort of a three legged boomerang) to a crossbow with exploding arrows to assault rifles and machine guns, players will have many options to exact bloody damage. Each weapon also has a variety of ammo choices that can pierce armor or explode on contact.
A crafting system lets you create health bandages, grenades and remote controlled bombs, which comes in handy when funds to purchase these things are low. But it does force you to scavenge and pick up everything you can when walking around.
The story is pretty basic at its core. You awaken from the Ark and are expected to be humanity’s savior in this god-forsaken world. Your player moves from city to city as you try to stay one step ahead of The Authority, the military force that acts as the rulers of the planet.
Despite the game being filled with extra missions and plenty to do off the beaten path, the story tries to hurry you along to the next plot point. NPCs are constantly reminding you that The Authority is ready to invade their city if you remain too long or telling you to hurry to complete your mission because time is of the essence.
Most of the missions are what you’d expect from a wide-open game – fetch and return quests. You are often directed to a location (oh, and use a vehicle because walking takes WAY too long), have to kill either mutants or another clan, retrieve some item and return. The quests aren’t repetitive in their detail so each one does hold interest plus the opportunity to scavenge for more crafting parts.
The main points are generally more difficult and move the story along. You discover that your bio chip from your sleeptime in the Ark holds the key to surviving the future. Eventually, you become part of The Resistance, whose mission it is to overthrow the evil (?) Authority and make the world better for all survivors.
The game will offer tips along the way during loading screens. One reminds players to save often.
Do it. I’m not kidding.
The automatic checkpoints are spaced so far apart as to be nearly useless. Many a mission was restarted because I neglected to save after 30 minutes of gameplay and died. Pausing the game to save after every battle ruins the flow of the action.
Ultimately, you are tasked to take a disc to The Authority’s main city, upload data to a satellite and wake up people who are sleeping in undiscovered Arks. Why they would automatically join the Resistance side is never really explained, nor how the Authority managed to retain a full army complete with futuristic weapons after the asteroid hit.
Without revealing any details (no spoilers!), the ending was probably the most unsatisfying and disappointing I’ve experiences in years. When the credits started to roll, I actually shouted at the screen, “Are you kidding me?!?”
After obviously investing a lot towards environmental and combat graphics to make the game as immersive for the player as possible, I was stunned by the lack of an ending, answers to obvious and lingering questions, anything that would make me feel like I didn’t just walk out in the middle of a movie.
“Rage” is a beautiful game that lovingly renders a post-apocalyptic world into a place that draws the player in and makes them feel part of the whole. However, graphics issues with dead characters and an ending that is weak and incomplete makes the player feel like the audience of a magician who just told everyone how he did all his tricks.
“Rage” is available now on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. It is rated M for mature due to blood and gore, intense violence, and strong language. This review was done using the Xbox 360 version, which comes on 3 disks – 2 for single player and 1 for multi-player.
Yes, the “NBA 2K” franchise is the top rated basketball simulation for 11 years running.
And yes, this year’s “NBA 2K12” will let you end the debate about what historical team is the greatest by offering 15 classic teams and players to battle on the court.
But what really makes this a deeper game are the enhancements to the My Player mode, which allows you to create your own basketball player and guide his career (hopefully) to the NBA Hall of Fame.
Start off by creating the physical attributes (height, weight, age, etc.) and the game assigns your abilities based off what type of player you want to be (shooter, post player, etc.). In theory, you could create a 7-foot tall point guard with zero post abilities, but I’m guessing the high dribble would make you susceptible to steals.
After finalizing your player, you immediately play in a rookie showcase game. This game shows off “NBA 2K12” improvements on player movements, facial features and unique moves from player to player. It is also where how you do will help determine where you are selected in the NBA Draft.
While you are always referenced by a nickname, the announcers do a good job of mixing your player’s performance in their chatter. If you get on a hot scoring streak, they’ll remark how unexpected this is out of you and how many more teams will be taking a look at selecting you.
There are three expectations per game that you try to match (no turnovers, hold match-up opponent to 5 points, etc.) as well as improve your teammate grade by making good passes, playing transition defense and other skills that lead to victory. Meeting these goals help increase your skill point totals, which translate into improved attributes.
In all the My Player games, action can be simulated if your player is on the bench. Unless you want to watch the action while sitting on the sidelines.
I created a 6’ 6” shooting guard from Marshall University and picked up 18 points and a B- on my teammate grade in the rookie game. Now, it was time to be interviewed by general managers from three teams.
After the rookie game, you get to answer two questions from teams that will be interested in drafting you. They ask questions about your desire to play, your dedication to training or how willing you are to work on an up and coming team. How you answer those questions is taken into consideration prior to the draft.
The Charlotte Bobcats (#9 pick), Golden State Warriors (#11) and Utah Jazz (#12) were interested in my shooting guard. I answered the questions in a way that I hoped would get me selected by each team, but there was an answer choice, “I do not want to play for your team,” that would have automatically dropped me off that team’s list.
The draft starts off with NBA Commissioner David Stern (yes, it was really his voice) announcing the first pick and continuing on until your player gets selected. If you don’t get picked until late in the first round, this can be a rather drawn out process since there is no way to skip to your selection.
Developers wanted to enhance the drama and suspense of being selected. They also said the highest any created player can be selected is number 3 (Utah Jazz) so don’t set your sights on being the top pick.
After walking to the podium and signing your rookie contract, your team’s public relations department contacts you and shows you a new billboard, touting you as the future of the franchise. Having been selected by the Bobcats, it was pretty cool to see my player on some outdoor advertising.
Now it is time to earn that contract.
Players’ skills can be improved through buying skill points with your contract money or by doing individual and team drills. The 8 of the 9 drills are new to the franchise and work on offensive and defensive skills. Do well enough at the fast break skill and additional points are yours to spend.
Skill points are also earned by how well you play in your games, meeting the goals and getting a good teammate score. Your first game as well as other key games is worth double points so keep turnovers low and keep your teammates involved.
My shooting guard decided to take advantage of the new arsenal of moves in “NBA2K12” to put up 33 points in 16 minutes in his first game. Oh, you didn’t think you were going to be in the starting lineup, did you?
After every game, there is a press conference where you are asked about the game action. Your answer impacts what your teammates think of you, your league-wide reputation and how you are perceived by the hometown fans. The answers were tough to interpret and I came off as a jerk sometimes when I was trying to praise my teammates.
While the franchise touts its improved facial features and player movements, my player still looked awkward when he was speaking. His bottom lip didn’t seem to move and it appeared frightening when he addressed the press.
As your season progresses, more playing time can come your way and more endorsements will start coming your way depending on your reputation (those press conference answers are important). Money can be used to buy skill points, increase your reputation through team bonding events and even attend camps to enhance more than one attribute.
Later in your career, you can request trades, negotiate contracts and continue to build a player that will grace the NBA Hall of Fame. How long that takes depends on how fast your become one of the best players in the league.
“NBA2K12” offers many different modes of play, but the My Player mode has depth and versatility to challenge even the best gamer to achieve basketball immortality. It takes the new look of the franchise, the enhanced moves, and the improved shot creation, and personalizes it in a way that will have players cheering themselves on to greatness.
“NBA2K12” will be available October 4 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PlayStation 2, PSP and PC. It is rated E for Everyone. This review was done playing the game on the PlayStation3.