The Wolf Among Us – Episode 2: Smoke and Mirrors Review – PC/Steam

If you liked the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, you’re in for a treat. And if you’re waiting until the entire game comes out to pick it up, things are still looking good, but you are going to have to be on a diligent media blackout to avoid spoilers. Telltale’s interactive storytelling is as sharp as ever, and this new episode, Smoke and Mirrors, brings Bigby down the next few steps of his investigation, with all the twists, turns, and reveals that you’d hope for out of a good noir detective story. Of course, it’s hard to say much without spoiling the surprises, but it’s still a great ride.

Episode 1 ending with a shocking reveal that has kept gamers on the edge of their seat during the unusually long release interval between it and this follow-up, but your wait will be expertly rewarded even before the opening title sequence of Smoke and Mirrors.  As the title implies, there is a lot of deception and misdirection taking place and the mystery takes a twist into the dark areas of prostitution and the sinister plans of an unknown serial killer.  The second episode does a good job of revisiting characters established in the first chapter while introducing just as many new and interesting characters like Nerissa, aka, the Little Mermaid and Georgie, the slimy owner of the Pudding and Pie strip club.

By clever design, your previous choices come back to help or haunt you in this episode just as your new choices are certain to mold your path in future installments, but there are generally no right or wrong decisions; just slight alterations to the narrative.  For instance, early in this episode you have a chance to pocket some extra money, and later in the game you will need to spend some money.  If you took the money earlier you have it to use, otherwise the game provides the necessary cash in an alternate method.  As with the Walking Dead games; you aren’t really “playing a game” as much as you are “directing the narrative”, both in the moment and in the future.

The characters from fantastical stories have been driven out of their native land, and settled in New York, under an amnesty that brings monsters, villains, and fallen nobility together. The lucky live in Fabletown, a neighborhood protected from mortal attention by magical means, while the less fortunate live on the outskirts, away from the protection of the fable government.

In the middle of this, you’re Bigby Wolf. After the amnesty given to fables, you’re the sheriff of Fabletown. Trying to enforce the rules is a thankless job, and your history – eating Red Riding Hood, blowing down pigs’ houses, and your time as a terrible manifestation of nature, red in tooth and claw – doesn’t make it any easier. In the wake of the killings in Fabletown, Bigby Wolf spends this episode following up leads, interviewing witnesses, and looking for crime scenes. It’s pretty standard detective work, but it’s fun to play through, and try to piece everything together.  Fans of the C.S.I. series of games will likely find enjoyable similarities in the way you search crime scenes, analyze evidence, and question witnesses.

You’ll make choices under a time limit that determine the events of the story, and you never know what’ll come back later and what won’t. It does a great job of putting you in the shoes of Bigby, making snap decisions and hoping things will work out, and as much as in the tense situations in The Walking Dead, when you’re dealing with the families of the dead or trying to get a witness to talk, knowing when to ask questions, make statements, or just shut up and let things unfold is vital.

The voice work is great. My initial concerns from the first episode ended up not panning out, and now I’m enjoying each of the characters. In particular, Ichabod Crane really comes into his own in the introduction of this episode, and we get a unique look at how the Fables coexist with humans.

The visuals are pretty much perfect. On a technical level, the cel shading is ace, to the point where screenshots have the look of being hand-drawn pictures. The color palette isn’t quite as muted as I remember the comic being, but gives a lurid air to the investigation. Meanwhile, the environmental details are amazing. The twin advertisements in an hourly hotel for an escort service and a suicide hotline were a brilliant detail, but every environment you go through has touches like that to really bring it alive.

Episode 2: Smoke and Mirrors felt shorter than the first episode, which was already being criticized for its brevity.  The first two episodes combined are about the length of a single episode in The Walking Dead, and you’ll have this installment wrapped up in two hours or less.  Then again, it’s about quality and not quantity, and every minute you spend in Fabletown is a moment to immerse yourself in the story and brilliant presentation of that story.   The Wolf Among Us is one of those games that will have you thinking and talking about it long after you have played it, trying to guess what is coming next and perhaps second-guessing decisions you have already made, and when a title can do that then video games have truly evolved into a new species of interactive entertainment.

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Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies Review – PC/Steam

Much like Tom Clancy, when a name like Sid Meier is thrown out in a conversation or printed on a product box, people tend to pay attention. In the gaming industry, especially in the PC sector, Sid’s name carries a deal of respect, and games like Civilization and Railroad Tycoon have always been well received. Over the last year Sid has branched out into the mobile market with the release of Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol for iOS that got a PC port back in August, which I sadly didn’t get around to playing. Here we are though a few months later with a new sequel to that title, with the simultaneous release of Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies for PC and iO.

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Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies is a turned-base strategy game that puts you in the cockpit (so to speak) of some of the greatest warplanes of World War II as you engage in combat through some of the war’s toughest battles. Players can choose to take up the fight for the United States or Japan’s Army or Navy as they choose their pilot from a list of male and female candidates. If you want a bit more historical playthrough you can opt to turn off the female pilots in the campaign. Starting out you only get access to a single pilot, but as you progress you gain the ability to take on wingmen to aid you in combat. Each pilot in the game has his or her own strengths chosen like being able to escape from POW camps or hitting targets at farther distances.

Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies has you dogfighting on a hex grid playing field across land and ocean depending on your military preference. One of the things that I particularly enjoyed about this game is that your pilots don’t exactly move across the field like pawns across a chessboard. As you move across the grid you usually have multiple ways is which to move. Similar to an actual airplane your moves could make the plane bank, change altitudes and later with upgrades pull advanced maneuvers like inverted half loops, full loops and slips. These maneuvers can mean the difference between hitting 33% vs 66% damage on an enemy plane. As you earn promotions you unlock these much-needed upgrades including new planes. The downside to new planes though is that upgrades for your current plane do not carry over so it’s a hard choice to stick with a powered-up older plane or a new one with higher base stats.

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Graphically, Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies is kind of a toss-up for me. The caricatures of the pilots are rather cheerful looking in a Disneyesque kind of way for a war game. The planes look good, especially when you zoom in close on the battlefield, though the rest of the graphics are not so pretty. Ground models look which would probably fly on mobile versions are quite bland when you zoom in on the PC, which is prone to showing any imperfections and sadly that is the case here. The other thing that bugs me is that the game doesn’t play in fullscreen, which for a PC game is sort of not cool considering its creators. The effects and little voice snippets actually sound decent as does the big band and Japanese tunes that you hear on the menu screen.

One of the things Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies does have going for it is that there is a lot of content for the price. There is even a bit of local multiplayer where two
players can go to head-to-head that is fun. It’s also nice to see that Sid and the gang went with the whole game for one price plan like the Steam release of the original game. In the end, Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies for the PC is a pretty enjoyable title, really fun in fact, though the weak graphics and inability to play in fullscreen just seemed off for Sid Meier game. But for $5 dollars, it’s a fun game and Meier fans will probably enjoy it.

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SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH HAS GONE GOLD

South Park: The Stick of Truth has gone gold and will ship to retailers across North America on March 4, Ubisoft, South Park Digital Studios, and Obsidian Entertainment announced today.

Written and voiced by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, South Park: The Stick of Truth is the definitive South Park experience. Arm yourself with weapons of legend to defeat underpants gnomes, hippies and other forces of evil.  Discover the lost Stick of Truth and earn your place at the side of Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny as their new friend. Succeed and you shall be South Park’s savior, cementing your social status in South Park Elementary. Fail, and you will forever be known… as a douchebag.

Check out this awesome Behind the Scenes look at The Stick of Truth with Matt and Trey

World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition Now Available Globally

Wargaming today announced that World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is now available globally. Custom built specifically for the Xbox 360, World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition brings World of Tanks’ trademark 15 versus 15 team-based tactical online tank action and free-to-play accessibility to the 48 million Xbox Live gamers around the globe.

Published by Microsoft Studios and developed by Wargaming West (formerly Day 1 Studios), World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is digitally downloadable and free-to-play for Xbox Live Gold account holders, with an additional 7-day timed trial for all other Xbox Live account holders. The title features all new intuitive controls, integration of Xbox Live features like Friends, Parties, Achievements and a custom user interface designed for the large screen experience. World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition also features in-game purchases such as premium tanks, consumables and premium accounts to boost experience and currency accrual rates.

At launch World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition features more than a hundred iconic tanks from three separate nations—the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as seven different maps. The game will be expanded with additional tanks, nations and more in the future.

“World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is a tremendous leap forward for Wargaming,” said Victor Kislyi, CEO of Wargaming. “Not only does this release mark the company’s very first title on console it also presents us the opportunity to bring World of Tanks to a tremendously passionate new audience of gamers around the world.”

Available until February 28th, two special “Founder’s Packs” of content will be available at launch, each containing special premium tanks, resources and items at a reduced gold price of almost 40% off.

Founders Pack 1 will contain the US Tier VII T23 medium tank, an extra garage slot, 17 premium ammo rounds, a 100% trained crew, 10 small repair kits, 10 small first aid kits, 10 manual fire extinguishers, an exclusive gold star emblem and 30 days of premium account status for the price of 6,700 gold.

Founders Pack 2 will contain the German Tier V PzKpfw V-IV medium tank, an extra garage slot, 19 premium ammo rounds, a 100% trained crew, 5 small repair kits, 5 small first aid kits, 5 manual fire extinguishers, an exclusive black star emblem and 7 days of premium account status for the price of 3,400 gold.

Players who purchase both packs will also receive a bonus Russian T-127 light premium tank.

For more information on World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition, please visit www.worldoftanks.com/xbox.

“In the Name of the King 3: The Last Mission” Arrives on Blu-ray & DVD March 11

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Looper meets Clash of the Titans in the next chapter of the video game-inspired non-stop fantasy action adventure where Hazen Kaine (Dominic Purcell), an American hitman, skeptically enters into what he hopes is his final contract with corrupt European crime lords. When Hazen realizes he’s been tasked with an impossible mission involving the countries royal family, the stakes change and his mission turns into an all-out fight for survival that takes him spiraling back to medieval times. Now completely out of his element, he must evade a vile medieval army and reclaim a stolen kingdom.

Special Features

 The Making of In the Name of the King 3: The Last Mission

 

In the Name of the King 3: The Last Mission Blu-ray

Street Date:March 11, 2014
Prebook Date:February 12, 2014
Screen Format:Widescreen 16:9 (1.78:1)
Audio:English 5.1 DTS HD-MA
Subtitles:English / Spanish
Total Run Time:85 minutes
U.S. Rating:R
Closed Captioned:Yes

 

In the Name of the King 3: The Last Mission DVD

Street Date:March 11, 2014
Prebook Date:February 12, 2014
Screen Format:Widescreen 16:9 (1.78:1)
Audio:English 5.1 DTS HD-MA
Subtitles:English / Spanish
Total Run Time:85 minutes
U.S. Rating:R
Closed Captioned:Yes

STAND BY FOR THE TITANFALL BETA ON FEBRUARY 14

Register Today for a Chance to Participate in the Titanfall Closed Beta

The future of first person multiplayer action is upon us, and now’s your chance to be among the first to fall for Titanfall. Starting today, Respawn Entertainment and EA are inviting gamers to sign up and register for a chance to be a part of the upcoming Titanfall closed beta, a large-scale event coming February 14 to Xbox One and PC. For complete details on the beta and to register, please visit www.Titanfall.com/beta.

Already the winner of more than 80 awards from critics around the world, Titanfall is one of the most anticipated games of the year. Fans around the world from Tokyo to Seattle to London and beyond have been impressed with its thrilling and dynamic multiplayer gameplay featuring elite assault pilots and agile, heavily armored 24-foot tall titans.

The Titanfall beta will include three game modes – Attrition, Hardpoint Domination and Last Titan Standing. In Attrition, teams win by eliminating anyone or anything on the opposing side – pilots, titans and AI soldiers. In Hardpoint Domination, teams will capture and hold three hardpoints throughout the map to earn points and secure victory. And in Last Titan Standing, everyone on both teams starts with a titan in a round-based mode that ends when one team has lost all of their titans. There’s no respawning and no replacement titans can be called down.

Set in the near future on a distant frontier torn apart by war, Titanfall drops players in the middle of a conflict between the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) and the Militia. The action is rapid and varied — featuring parkour-style wall running and massive double jumps. The freedom to shift back and forth between pilot and titan allows players to change tactics on the fly, attacking or escaping depending on the situation and extending the action vertically to new heights.

For more news about the Titanfall beta, including when it will begin, stay tuned to our official Titanfall channels on Facebook, Twitter and at www.Titanfall.com. Titanfall is coming to Xbox One and PC on March 11, 2014 in North America and beginning March 13, 2014 in Europe. The Xbox 360 version is being developed by Bluepoint Games and will be released on March 25, 2014 in North America and March 28, 2014 in Europe.

Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, Guild of Rogues is now available

Today, Ubisoft® announced that the second multiplayer add-on content pack for Assassin’s Creed® IV Black Flag™, Guild of Rogues, is now available for $2.99 and is included in the Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag Season Pass.

Three new characters join the hunt in Guild of Rogues, each bringing their unique set of skills to battle for the title of deadliest Assassin:

  • The Siren: After years at sea posing as her deceased brother, The Siren is back on land, wielding a lethal navy saber acquired in battle. Ready to put her murderous skills into action, her striking appearance distracts unsuspecting foes, giving her time to make a clean kill. Her mystique coupled with her deadly saber earned her the name that even seasoned mariners fear to utter.
  • The Stowaway: Seemingly foolhardy and carefree, The Stowaway is a seasoned fighter who has survived a lifetime of battles at sea. Even better on land than on sea, his agility and gun-wielding skills leave victims unaware of the danger that he brings.
  • The Shaman: Driven by forces beyond the mortal realm, The Shaman sees this world in a different light. Calm and composed, once he locks onto a target, he channels the forces of the supernatural to aid him in finishing off his prey with his brutal hatchet.

Two new maps will also be available for players to download for free on February 17:

  • Kingston: Alongside Kingston resident’s sturdy colonial houses, nimble Assassins can navigate the treetops overlooking the young town, while the careful hunter will find shelter in the covered alleyways of the residential districts.
  • Charlestown: The fan-favorite map from Assassin’s Creed® III is back, with a layout offering a mix of streets and open space, all dominated by the town church.

For more information on Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, please visit: assassinscreed.com and facebook.com/assassinscreed. For more information on Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag Guild of Rogues, please visit: assassinscreed.com/guild-of-rogues. 

UBISOFT RELEASES FAR CRY CLASSIC

Ubisoft® announced today that Far Cry® Classic is now available in the US for download on Microsoft Xbox LIVE for the Microsoft Xbox® 360 and on the Sony PlayStation Network for the Sony PlayStation® 3.  The game is rated “M” for Mature.

Return to where it all began with Far Cry Classic and relive the game that left a legacy.  With graphical enhancements, revamped cut-scenes, and a fresh new user interface, Far Cry Classic allows players to experience all the action and chilling gameplay that made Far Cry legendary.

It’s another beautiful day in paradise…or is it?  Step into the shoes of Jack Carver, a ship captain unwittingly trapped on a remote tropical island and hunted by an unrelenting team of highly trained mercenaries.  Choose firepower, strategy, or stealth, and use your freedom in massive open environments.

It’s never too late to rediscover a classic.