Titanfall: Official Gameplay Launch Trailer

Standby for Titanfall. Crafted by key developers behind the Call of Duty franchise, Titanfall is the first next-gen shooter that combines fluid wall-running, double-jumping action with powerful, fast-paced titan warfare to set the new bar for online multiplayer gameplay. Already the winner of more than 75 awards from critics around the world, Titanfall is winning over fans with its thrilling, dynamic first-person action gameplay featuring elite assault pilots and agile, heavily-armored, 24-foot titans.

Pre-order your copy today for Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC here: http://www.titanfall.com/buy

 

 

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announces Batman: Arkham Knight

Today, Batman: Arkham Knight has been officially announced for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC, and is scheduled for release worldwide in 2014. The game is the epic conclusion to Rocksteady Studios’ award-winning, best selling Batman: Arkham videogame series and will introduce a drivable Batmobile and a fully-realized Gotham City.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Entertainment today announced Batman™: Arkham Knight, Rocksteady Studios’ conclusion to the series of award-winning, best-selling titles Batman™: Arkham Asylum and Batman™: Arkham City.  Batman: Arkham Knight is based on DC Comics’ core Batman license and will be available exclusively for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, and Windows PC.  The game is scheduled for release worldwide in 2014.

In the explosive finale to the Arkham series, Batman faces the ultimate threat against the city he is sworn to protect. The Scarecrow returns to unite an impressive roster of super villains, including Penguin, Two-Face and Harley Quinn, to destroy The Dark Knight forever. Batman: Arkham Knight introduces Rocksteady’s uniquely designed version of the Batmobile, which is drivable for the first time in the franchise. The addition of this legendary vehicle, combined with the acclaimed gameplay of the Batman Arkham series, offers gamers the ultimate and complete Batman experience as they tear through the streets and soar across the skyline of the entirety of Gotham City.

“Batman: Arkham Knight is the pinnacle game of our hugely successful franchise, and we are giving players the most expansive, impressive title in the series,” said Martin Tremblay, President, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.  “The Rocksteady Studios team is continuing to focus on the excellent gameplay for which they are known while delivering a thrilling new experience for gamers and Batman fans.”

“The team at Rocksteady Studios is putting a tremendous amount of work into delivering the final chapter of our Batman: Arkham trilogy so that fans can feel what it’s like to be the Batman,” said Sefton Hill, Game Director at Rocksteady Studios.  “We’re excited to be developing the game for next-gen platforms, which has allowed us to bring to life the design elements that we envisioned from the beginning such as the Batmobile and how it augments Batman’s abilities, to the fully detailed and realized Gotham City.”

For more information on Batman: Arkham Knight, please visit www.batmanarkhamknight.com

 

 

South Park: The Stick of Truth Review – PC/Steam

After years of suspenseful anticipation South Park: The Stick of Truth has finally been unleashed to what will soon be the delight of South Park fans and RPG-adventure gamers everywhere.  I’ve been rolling with laughter for the past 20+ hours as I made my way through our pick for Best Xbox 360 Game and Best RPG of E3 2012.  Sure, it’s almost two years late but it was worth the wait.  Matt Stone and Trey Parker have created something wholly unique here, and The Stick of Truth plays out more like an entire season of the show rather than a video game thanks to excellent production values that mirror both the look and sound of the show down to the finest detail.

This is normally where I would say, “you don’t have to be a fan of the show to enjoy this game” but you really do.  The game is bursting at the seams with insider jokes, winks, nods, and subtle nuances that only the most diehard fans will notice or appreciate.  Sure, the game is playable and entertaining if you are coming in cold, but it really helps if you are already used to South Park’s special brand of humor, which is meant to offend everyone equally at all times.

I’ll keep the story details at a minimum to avoid spoilers, as this is one of the few games of recent memory that has a story worth discovering.  Basically you play a new kid who has just moved to South Park under mysterious circumstances.  At the insistence of his parents he goes outside to play and encounters Butters who he saves from a fight.   It’s a fake fight as all of the boys in town are currently LARPing (live action role-play), so the grateful paladin takes the new boy to meet his master, the Wizard King (aka Eric Cartman).  He is accepted into their ranks and thusly dubbed Douchebag before beginning a short but competent tutorial on how to fight.

The Stick of Truth uses a turn-based combat system much like the older Final Fantasy games in which you and up to one other party member will face off against enemies of varying type and numbers.  Using a command wheel you can choose between melee, ranged, and magic attacks, as well as other special abilities specific to the character or progress in the game.  Each character gets a turn that allows them to access a potion and also attack.  Modifiers like a Speed potion can double your attack while negative buffs inflicted by the enemy can slow you down or even stun you causing you to miss your turn.

The best powers in the game are your character-specific abilities like the Thief’s backstab or the Wizard’s fireball (Roman candle) spell.  There is also a Fighter and a Jew class, and they all have their own unique power and upgrade path.  I tried all four and they all seemed perfectly balanced as far as gameplay, so it basically boils down to what kind of player you are.  Once you have mastered combat Cartman will unveil The Stick of Truth that grants the possessor ultimate power over the game, but just as quickly the Stick is stolen by the Elves, a rival group of LARPers headed up by Stan and Kyle.  It’s only when the Stick is stolen by a third party that the two rival factions must join forces to defeat their new common enemy.

Over the course of 20 hours you will be given a wide assortment of quests and side-missions that will take you all over South Park to all of your favorite locations from the show as well as some excursions to a zombie-infested woods, a remote farmhouse, and even a substantial visit to Canada where the game takes on a unique 8-bit graphics style that brought back found memories of my very first Ultima game.  Now I want a cloth map of South Park.  Missions are structured so that you always have goals that will advance the story as well as numerous side-quests that boost your XP for completing them as well as all the extra combat they produce.   It’s a clever balancing system that ensures your character is always at a suitable skill level to tackle the next story quest.  It works so well in fact that I never once got to an area or boss fight and found myself underpowered.

One of your first missions is to recruit three missing players.  Tweek is working at his dad’s coffee shop and you’ll need to help him finish his chores before he can play, while Token is locked away in his palatial estate to the north of town.  And then you have Craig who is currently serving detention and will require a full-on rescue raid on the school.

One design element I really loved was that everything that can be opened and searched is highlighted in gold from drawer handles to door knobs, and anything that can be remotely shot and activated glints with a silver sparkle.  There are numerous collectibles; some quest-specific like finding five pairs of underpants, and others that span the entire game like finding all 30 Chinpokomon.   There are so many other random items ranging from armor and weapons to patches and attachment mods to boost your gear with special perk powers.  There are all sorts of potions to boost strength, healing, mana, and power, and an almost infinite possibility when it comes to customizing your character with hair, facial features, bears, glasses, and a variety of armor outfits that come in three-piece collectible sets.

Regardless your chosen class, you are never limited in what you can wear or what you can wield, so even though I was a Mage by choice I was bouncing around from Monk, Barbarian, Knight and even a Stupid Spoiled Whore.   Yes, you can only play a boy but that doesn’t stop you from dressing like a girl and it might just get you into the backroom of the abortion clinic.  And if the thought of an abortion clinic offends you then you better steer clear of this title as no politically incorrect stone is left unturned.  Everything from Nazis to KKK to pedophiles, beastiality, drug use, and even an adventure inside Mr. Slave’s well-used ass are hot topics in The Stick of Truth.  I’m hard to offend but even my jaw dropped when zombie fetuses started spilling out of the waste management system at Unplanned Parenthood and began eating the doctors, and you can’t even imagine who the “mother” of the boss fetus is.

It takes about an hour to level-up your character, which usually prompts a wardrobe and weapons change which in turns has you going through all your patches and mods to customize your new gear.  I was surprised at how fresh this kept the game even though you are essentially doing the same thing over and over.  When you start adding on fire, ice and electricity mods the visual variety of combat is always entertaining, and your ability to switch out your companion, even during combat, is another great way to mix things up and actually makes for some strategic gameplay in later encounters.

While the story and mission structure is going to be the same there is some great replayability in the order you can choose to tackle the missions as well as which characters you have active in any given situation.   There were a few instances where I cycled out characters just to hear their response, and some missions require you to have a specific character active like the trip to the farm for Jimmy’s flute.

There are so many crazy things to do in this game.  You can crap in toilets and collect your turds to throw at enemies later on to “gross them out”.   There are button mashing games for performing abortions and pattern memorization games for defeating alien anal probes.  You primary magical attack is rooted around four specific styles of farting, either a burst far, a guided fart, a stealth fart you can detonate behind enemies, and a super fart you’ll learn from the masters; Terrance and Phillips that can bring down walls.  Later in the game you’ll gain the abilities to teleport or even shrink yourself down for some gnome-size adventure.  You can even take a trip into the sewers to meet Mr. Hanky and possibly encounter some crab people.

Every major character from the entire series makes some sort of appearance. Even Tom Cruise is hiding in Stan’s closet.  Chef is back, Santa is hiding somewhere in the city, and once you “find Jesus” he, along with several other key characters, can be summoned into battle once per day for some awesome results.  Al Gore is back and you’ll be helping him hunt the elusive Manbearpig, and Professor Chaos is a great reason to keep Butters handy in combat.

The presentation is undeniably South Park with perfect graphics, animation, parallax scrolling backgrounds, detailed interiors of all your favorite places, and a wonderful map view that shows you quest and treasure locations.   Your quest list is nicely itemized and you can even click on objectives for your quest and have the location revealed on the map.  Timmy will even use his wheelchair to fast-travel you around previously unlocked checkpoint flags.  The game even has its own version of Facebook where people you encounter can send Friend requests and then spam your account with amusing status updates.  Some people in the game won’t even interact with you until you have a certain amount of friends on Facebook.

The music and sounds are straight from the show right down to that twangy guitar sound when you return from commercial, only now you hear it when you load your game.  The radios are playing all of the songs you’ve ever heard on the show while the TV’s are playing many of your favorite TV shows from the show (audio only).  I stood in the movie theater for at least 15 minutes just listening to the fake movie trailers ripping on Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, and movie remakes for ET, Star Wars and Saving Private Ryan.  The voice acting is outstanding and there were times I was laughing so hard I had tears running down my face and I had to pause the game.

The game checkpoints frequently and you can also save anywhere at any time.  I was annoyed with the load times, especially for the PC.  Given the relatively low system requirements almost anyone with a system built in the last three years can play this with no problem, but you can tell by the loading before each and every area they were fighting console RAM and never bothered to optimize for PC.  I’m really surprised that there is no Xbox One or PS4 version (at least not yet).   It’s not like the game will look any better, but you may as well reach out to gamers on all systems.

South Park: The Stick of Truth is about to set the world on fire, and I can’t imagine the controversy this game is going to generate.  If you thought the Hot Coffee incident in Grand Theft Auto triggered a backlash, just wait until parents catch their kids playing a game where you are fighting a gnome on your parents’ bed while they are screwing and you are dodging your mom’s swinging nipple and ducking your dad’s swinging scrotum.

There have been a lot of South Park games over the years and they’ve been mostly miserable, but The Stick of Truth is not only a great homage to the entire existing series, it is also a delightfully hilarious, enjoyable, and at times, challenging RPG adventure that I would stack up with anything else in the genre.   For fans of the show, this is a must-own game that will keep you glued to the screen from start to finish, and a game that has certainly been worth the wait.

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World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition Review – Xbox 360

There are some things that are almost universally true about the gaming community when it comes to military titles. Top on that list is that we like to hear things go boom and in a big way. This goes double when you’re the one pulling the trigger with an enemy in your sights and nothing says military like a several ton World War II tank. A while back I got my first look at Wargaming West’s Beta for World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition and I’ve been very eager to see what the finished product would bring ever since. Over the past several weeks I’ve had the opportunity to dive in to the finished product as World of Tanks: 360 Edition hit the Xbox Live Marketplace globally this month and I’m here to give my SitRep.

World of Tanks: 360 Edition for those who are not already accustomed to the PC version is a hybrid comprised of elements from the MMO, FPS, RPG and Simulation genres all in one nice little package. Much like the PC version it’s important to know that World of Tanks: 360 Edition is free-to-play though only for Xbox Live Gold subscribers. With that said if you are a Gold member then you are in for a lot of fun after the initial 2.5GB install with more content to be released later including maps and new tanks.

World of Tanks has a lot of things going for it that I absolutely love starting with its MMO and RPG elements. Tanks are powerful devastating machines though not always for the same reasons in battle and that’s something Wargaming West really tapped into with this game. Much like an MMO, there are five different classes of tanks: light, medium, heavy, tank destroyers and artillery to utilize. You only have access to a handful of Tier I tanks to start out with more tanks becoming available as you move up in the tier ladder all the way to Tier X. While tank destroyers and artillery tanks are out of your reach at first, the light and medium tanks will help you get acquainted with the controls and tactical applications that each machine offers to the team.

While I like the big lumbering Tank Destroyers and Artillery units that can take out enemies at a distance thanks to their heavy frontal armor and long range turrets, I’m particularly fond of the light tanks like the German Pz.Kpfw. II or the M3 Stuart American tanks. These highly mobile units can clear great distances offering recon support for the other class tanks by spotting enemy tanks at decent ranges allowing for your teammates to find them on the battlefield and even going so far as to call imminent threats to your base or team. These units however lack heavy armor and all tagged tanks will disappear from your team’s radar if you are destroyed. Players who prefer a more up close and personal battle would feel right at home using the medium tanks like the German Panther or American M4 Sherman. Medium tanks may lack the higher speeds of the light class but function amazingly well in packs on a well-coordinated team especially against tank destroyers’ weak rear armor. Heavy tanks, like the American T14, on the other hand work well as route deterrents as long as the player works to protect its vulnerabilities.

World of Tanks Xbox 360 Edition may be based on its PC counterpart but I have to say that it handles amazingly well with a controller. A large part of lasting in matches is how well you adapt to each tank’s simulated handling over diverse terrain and how to aim and actually damage your opponents. Like a real world tank, your vehicles in World of Tanks actually are slowed down when going through terrain like swamps. Every tank in the game is a little different even within the same class so it’s up to the pilot to learn each one’s strengths and weaknesses. You can however use the environment as a form of camouflage or cover in combat which is great for getting the drop on the enemy at times as you have a few seconds to do some damage as both you and them become viewable to each other via Second Sight.

World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is a free-to-play game as I mentioned and with that comes the micro transactions. It is possible to play this game without paying a dime though but for those seeking a viable edge you can spend real money to purchase the gold required to for instance become a Premium player for a set amount of time or apply camo to your vehicles permanently. Now depending on the game, I don’t really cough up cash to gain an advantage, but the system in place here does give the player a remarkable advantage both in the ammo you can buy and the experience and credits earned in combat to make it a little worthwhile.

Participating in battle, win or lose, nets you two kinds of XP and silver based upon your contributions to the battle. The better you do the more you rake in. This is where the RPG system comes into play as you use your hard earned silver to purchase packages and tanks. The two kinds of experiences or XPs earned are regular XP (silver stars) and Free XP (gold stars) and both are used to research upgrades to your current tanks or towards new ones. The silver stars are only useable on the tanks that earn them through your usage of them though a small percentage of your earned XP gets turned into Free XP which can be used towards any tank or upgrade research. In true RPG form though the next tier of tanks cannot be accessed or purchased with silver until you research the prerequisite tank or package. Luckily you don’t have to actually buy the items to proceed up the tree you just have to research them. If you find yourself loving a particular tank you can make it an Elite tank by researching all of its packages and the connected tanks around it. This gives the ability to convert all XP earned on that tank into Free XP for a fee which I found extremely useful.

One of my earlier impressions of World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition was that I really liked their recreated portrayal of famous World War II tanks graphically. That roster has now been upgraded to over 100 different tanks from the U.S.A., Germany and the UK with more tanks to come. These machines of destruction look good as you roll through fences leaving tank treads tracks in the earth as you go. Environments are also destructible to a point such as blowing out a wall that’s being used for cover by another tank though sometimes crops don’t fall under your might as you roll though some maps. The maps themselves are also quite diverse with new maps being released. World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition utilizes a third-person perspective as the default view for maneuvering your tanks over the terrain but like any good military shooter the best view for taking down enemy tanks is right down the barrel first person style. Doing this is not only crucial for firing on distant targets but really puts you in the firing seat visually. It also helps that World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition also features a clean and easy to read HUD and menus.

As with my preview the audio doesn’t disappoint as you hear the roar of the engines and the sound of tank treads moving. You can even hear the sound of the turret swiveling as you aim down the sights before firing a deafening shot. I know guys and gals love explosions but a little caution should be exercised if you’re wearing a headset to chat and strategize while playing this. Each tank that I tried also sounded a little different from each other to fit their size and type instead of some cookie-cutter audio which was really nice.

World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is a game I can easily see someone dropping a lot of time into and like many MMOs and FPS titles its better with friends. Three friends can get together forming a Platoon over Xbox Live so you can deal out damage in tactical fashion in randomly selected maps and modes. In the time that I played I came across some really good teams of random strangers and things went remarkably well though not always. Friends make things a lot easier though and it’s always a good idea to use like leveled tanks as you’re matched with other players according to tank tiers. While the maps may vary based on your tank tier there are only three game modes available to play. You have Standard which tasks the two teams to take the other’s base while the Encounter has either side pushing to take control of a single neutral base. The third mode Assault is a game of attacking or defending a single base, although all modes ultimately end when one side or the other is completely destroyed.

After playing World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition for the past few weeks, I can easily say that my initial impressions of the game from my time with the Beta have held up spectacularly. The only way that this game could get any better would be perhaps a graphically facelift and more destructible objects in light of the new generation of consoles to keep this game exciting for some time to come. The game handles remarkably well after you get the hang of things and it’s fairly easy to learn the ropes while you play, even for new players looking to join the fun. If you have Xbox Live Gold and a love for things that go boom, then I absolutely recommend checking out World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition available now on the Xbox 360 Marketplace.

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Toukiden: The Age of Demons Review – PlayStation Vita

Toukiden is an entirely new IP from Omega Force, the developers behind the long-storied Dynasty Warriors franchise.  Equally loved and hated for its repetitive (i.e. nonstop) hack and slash gameplay, Dynasty Warriors has managed to become a cornerstone in the gaming industry for nearly a decade and a half.

With Toukiden, Omega Force aims to improve on the Dynasty Warriors gameplay by adding an new element of gameplay; monster collection.  Not unlike the concept behind popular franchise like Pokémon, Digimon, and Monster Hunter, Toukiden looks to grab ahold of addictive gamers who just gotta catch ‘em all.  And guess what?  It totally works.

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When it comes to the great Dynasty Warriors debate – I tend to fall on the “Do Not Like” side of the argument.  The constant button mashing required to hack and slash the unyielding waves of enemies is simply not my cup of green tea.  So, I’ll admit that I didn’t have much faith when it came to reviewing Toukiden – but I was actually pleasantly surprised by the new gameplay that swaps out the unyielding waves of attacking Samurai for a more manageable army of monsters.

Toukiden starts with one of the best opening cinematic scenes I have yet seen on the PS Vita telling the tale of a band of warriors called the “Demon Slayers” who are tasked with purging the world of the demons that have been unleashed upon it by the Great Awakening eight years prior.  The cinematic visuals are truly theater-quality CGI, and gave me the same sense of awe that I felt back in the days when I first popped the original Onimusha title into my brand-spanking-new PS2.

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The in-game visuals equally remarkable; Toukiden looks superb on the PS Vita, with stunning character modeling, and rich, colorful backgrounds.  The onscreen action is full of flashy visual effects and explosions that come as a result of the various special attacks, and the uber-cool “Oni Vision” which is kind of like a Slayer’s own X-Ray vision to spot enemy weak points.

Slayers are sent on missions to harvest particular monsters from their hub-world leader.  Missions require a bit of requisite hack-and-slashing of minion characters, who leave behind “Mitama” or the souls of the deceased Slayers which imbibe the gamer with Oni power to be used for special attacks and Oni Vision.

The main goal is to collect the boss monsters – which is where the Oni Vision comes in handy.  During battle, gamers can scan their impending foe and determine target zones in which to inflict the greatest damage.  Gamers then start methodically bludgeoning, “purifying,” and then severing each zone one-by-one until the boss monster reaches its limit and collapses.  These boss character leave behind rare elements and armor that can be collected and traded for Haku – the currency of Toukiden – which in turn can be used to purchase and upgrade weaponry.

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As you can imagine, with all of the haku up for grabs, Toukiden has a much deeper RPG element than what is initially encountered on the surface.  Gamers will quickly find themselves addictively playing and replaying levels to farm haku in an attempt to develop more powerful warriors to go against the increasingly more challenging monsters later on in the game.

Gamers start off alone, but eventually are allowed to build a party of up to three companions.  These AI-controlled party members are akin to what you would find in a typical Lego game – they don’t really help all that much, but they don’t seem to die all that quickly either – and since they are often are there to revive you if needed, I would rather have them than not.  If you happen to have the luxury of playing ad-hoc or online co-op with a real human companion, I would assume that the party play would be a bit more, err…supportive, but at the time of this review online play was hit-or-miss.

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I cannot lie, there are times where Toukiden definitely hits a certain degree of monotony – but it is far from the monotony of the typical Dynasty Warriors game.  The RPG elements definitely seem more important to the core gameplay, and the boss battles are infinitely more exciting.

I still prefer a bit more adventure in my hacking-and-slashing – I have a soft spot for games like Devil May Cry, Onimusha, and Ninja Gaiden – but Toukiden definitely kept my interest longer than I expected it to.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on Blu-ray Combo Pack 3/7/14

hungergamescfThe Second Installment of The Hunger Games Blockbuster Franchise Arrives On  Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Digital HD, Video On Demand And  Pay-Per-View March 7 From Lionsgate

 

Theatrical Release Has Generated Nearly $420 Million At The Domestic Box Office

and over $850 Million Worldwide

 The blockbuster second film of The Hunger Games franchise that took the world by storm ignites once again when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital HD UltraViolet), DVD (plus Digital UltraViolet), Digital HD, Video on Demand and Pay-Per-View Friday, March 7 from Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF).  Academy Award® winning Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence (2012’s Silver Linings Playbook) headlines the all-star cast in this action-adventure which became the #1 movie of 2013 and the 12th highest-grossing film of all time at the domestic box office.  The first film with a female lead to top the annual box office since 1973, the film has grossed nearly $420 million at the North American box office and over $850 million worldwide to date. 

The second installment of the worldwide phenomenon is packed with over two hours of extensive, must-see bonus materials that include a Blu-ray-exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, “Surviving the Game: Making Catching Fire,” deleted scenes, an audio commentary with director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson as well as a sneak peek at the highly-anticipated theatrical action film Divergent from Lionsgate’s Summit label. The Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $39.99 and $29.95, respectively.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Distraction

Hailed as “a monumental achievement” (The Playlist), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire features a critically-acclaimed cast including Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right), Liam Hemsworth (The Expendables 2), Academy Award® nominee Woody Harrelson (The People vs Larry Flynt, 1996), Emmy® nominee Elizabeth Banks (TV’s “30 Rock”), Lenny Kravitz (Precious), Academy Award® nominee Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones, 2009) and Golden Globe® winner Donald Sutherland (Path to War), reprising their original roles from The Hunger Games. The impressive line-up is joined by Academy Award® winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, 2005), Jeffrey Wright (Codeblack Films’ The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete), Jena Malone (Into The Wild), Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction) and Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman).

Based on the best-selling second novel of Suzanne Collins’ award-winning trilogy, with a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy and Michael DeBruyn and directed by Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire begins as, against all odds, Katniss and her fellow tribute Peeta have returned home after surviving The Hunger Games. Winning means they must turn around, leaving their loved ones behind and embark on a “Victory Tour” through the districts. Along the way, Katniss senses a rebellion simmering – one that she and Peeta may have sparked. At the end of the Victory Tour, President Snow announces a deadly 75th Hunger Games that could change Panem forever

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – I’m Staying

BLU-RAY COMBO PACK SPECIAL FEATURES*

·       “Surviving the Game: Making Catching Fire – 9-part feature-length documentary

·       Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson

·       Deleted Scenes

·       Sneak Peek of Divergent

*Subject to change

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES*

·       Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson

·       Deleted Scenes

·       Sneak Peek of Divergent

*Subject to change

 

PROGRAM INFORMATION

Street Date: March 7, 2014

Price: $39.99 Blu-ray/$29.95 DVD

Title Copyright: The Hunger Games © 2013, Artwork & Supplementary Materials ™ & © 2014 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language.​​

Feature Run Time: 146 minutes

Type: Theatrical Release

Genre: Action/Adventure; Action; Suspense; Adventure; Drama; Futuristic

Blu-ray Closed Captioned: English SDH

DVD Closed Captioned: English

Subtitles:      English and Spanish

Blu-ray Format: 1080P High Definition 16×9 Widescreen (2.40:1)

DVD Format: 16×9 Widescreen (2.40:1)

Blu-ray Audio Status: English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

DVD Audio Status: English and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Fighter Within Review – Xbox One

It didn’t take long before the phrase “Kinect Required” became a death sentence for any new game that tried to implement the device on the Xbox 360; especially when it was the ONLY way to play the game.  With all of the hype surrounding the Xbox One and their “new and improved” Kinect it was only a matter of time before somebody tested the motion-capture waters, and we didn’t have to wait long.  Fighter Within is not only a launch title, it is also the only Kinect-required launch title making it somewhat of a proof of concept game or in this case a proof of failed concept game.

Somebody at Microsoft needs to face the facts that unless you put on a spandex suit outfitted with dozens of tracking balls and stand in the middle of a professional mo-cap studio you can’t reliably track body movement with enough accuracy to play a game.   At best, the new Kinect is suitable for facial recognition to log into my profile (even that is dodgy) and voice input only.  The closest Kinect has ever come to successfully controlling a video game was Kinect Star Wars – one of the last Kinect games I ever played on my Xbox 360, and even that had issues.

Fighter Within is thin on story, but let’s face it; we aren’t here for the weak plot of an MMA fighter working his way up through the ranks of various fighters and fighting styles.  We are here to fight using our body as the controller, so in the inspirational words of Michelle Obama…LET’S MOVE grasshopper!

Aside from some Jet Ski racing demo this is the first game I have played on my Xbox One that uses the Kinect motion for controlling anything.   Everything from menu navigation to punches, kicks, blocks, and throws are all supposedly interpreted by the Kinect’s ability to read your body movements and recreate those moves in the game.  The story mode gradually introduces you to a growing list of more complex moves or you can jump right into the arcade mode and try out the entire move set.  The structured story does a decent job of easing you into the fighting mechanics, introducing combos when you score five or more hits, as well as special blocks and counter attacks.  It comparably simplistic to a traditional fighting game where you are mashing a controller but it’s a competent system for a physical fighter…in theory.

And that theory is that the Kinect actually works as advertised.  It does not.  Even as early on as the menus that now no longer require you to hold your hand over an area for 2-3 seconds but instead have you making this push and pull motion (because the Kinect can now sense depth…no it can’t) to register your choices, I was cringing with each failed attempt to recognize my physical input.  It got worse when I tried to play the actual game, and the Kinect was misinterpreting my moves confusing punches and throws.   Counters were all but impossible to pull off, and even simple blocking boiled down to luck.  No amount of calibration, camera placement or lighting changed this.

For those with the room to spare, Fighter Within offers a multiplayer mode that allows two people to stand next to each other and fight, but facing the screen while your fighters face each other is unspeakably awkward and reminded me of the perpendicular oddness of playing Tiger Woods using Kinect and not facing the screen.   You may want to rearrange the furniture and invest in some protective headgear if you plan to play this mode.

The game works about 20% of the time so I’m scoring it the same equivalency, which is more than generous considering that even when it does work the game isn’t that great.  The ridiculous story, poorly acted voiceovers playing on static character art, and an overall lack of any meaningful content all scream a $10 marketplace game – not a $60 launch title (now discounted to $20).  Shame on Ubisoft for releasing this and shame on Microsoft for allowing it to be released.   Your new Kinect already has enough of a stigma to overcome without games like Fighter Within proving what we already know.  There is no place for motion-capture gaming in the home.

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NBA Live 14 Review – Xbox One

It’s been five years since we’ve seen an NBA game from EA Sports; a company notorious for obtaining, monopolizing, and grinding a license into the ground before relinquishing the rights.  Despite my mid-western roots (Hoosier by birth) I am not the biggest fan of basketball, but over the past two years 2K Sports’ NBA games have slowly converted me into a fan.  I still could care less about the sport in real life or any of the teams, but there is something uniquely satisfying about creating a college draft pick and seeing how far I can take him in a fantasy career.   2K Sports has created a critically acclaimed masterpiece when it comes to basketball; admittedly the only game in town until now, so with some Shaq-size shoes to fill, can EA Sports compete?

In a word; NO.  NBA Live 14 trips over its laces coming out of the locker room, stumbles around the court for however long you have the quarters set to, then sulks back to the showers.  Given all the hype for their new IGNITE engine along with all of the videos and media hype since the game was announced at E3 I was expecting a lot more and so were others.   NBA Live 14 pales in comparison in almost every way to NBA 2K14, even the Xbox 360 version.  There is nothing remotely next-gen about this game in looks, gameplay, or presentation.

I can only assume this game was originally scheduled for release on last-gen systems then delayed for next-gen release as most all of the character models, textures, and stadium graphics are decisively lacking in detail and polish.  The same can be said for Madden and FIFA, but at least those were cross-generation titles whereas NBA Live 14 is next-gen only.  Player animation is generic and often quite poor.  There are no signature moves or style for the more noteworthy stars.   Individual animations are cobbled together and nothing flows or looks natural and it all lags terribly behind controller input.   Non-players on the sidelines are even worse and the crowd may as well be blow-up flailing arm dolls; so embarrassing that the stadium camera avoids getting too close.

The audio is considerable better, and while I don’t care for the dominating hip-hop and rap music in the menus, the broadcast quality was exceptional for pre and post-game shows, an informative half-time report and some great commentary by Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy that was topical and in some instances, even helpful.  Better yet, it took several games before I started hearing any repeated lines.  I still miss the personalized touch of the commentary in NBA 2K14 that would even discuss my performance in previous games.

While I know how to play basketball I don’t know how to play NBA Live 14, and EA doesn’t feel you need any tutorials or practice mode to learn the controls or the timing.  At least the last NBA Live let you shoot the ball during the load screens.  There is a myriad of controls and combos to memorize and you have mere seconds to do so when a diagram is randomly thrown up on the screen.  If you want to perfect your free-throw shot plan on doing it during the game, assuming you ever get fouled.

Player and team AI is rubbish, creating imbalanced gameplay where fouls are virtually non-existent, even in the final seconds of the game, while blocks and steals are as common as dribbling.   I tried to be a team player and pass the ball, but it seemed no one but me was capable of putting the ball in the basket, so I ultimately became a ball hog and was repeatedly chastised in post-game debriefings.   Even if I was clearly open and called for a pass, the player with the ball would move somewhere else before passing, usually resulting in a turnover and a “bad pass” notation for me.

Once I had my fill of the generic and more common modes where you can play along with your favorite team and their daily calendar of games, compete in special challenges, or immerse yourself into the menu-heavy Dynasty mode I went straight for the Rising Star mode where I got to create my own draft pick and try to go pro.   NBA 2K14 does this mode phenomenally well, which only makes NBA Live 14’s version that much more depressing.  I created my Purdue player and after the initial scouting game where I made 5 of 8 shots I was the 17th draft pick and newest player to join the Atlanta Hawks – not the best team but at least there would be no unreasonable expectations.

Now in NBA 2K13 and 2K14 it was always my dream to become a “starting player”.  I would play full-length games just because I knew that most of the game I would sit on the bench, but in NBA Live I guess they feel that you actually playing the game is more important than realism because not only will you be starting each and every game of your pro career, unless you totally screw up or foul out you’ll probably play every minute of those games.  I opted for 7-minute quarters, which was about the same amount of actual playtime I was getting in NBA 2K14 halfway into the first season.  The game tries to stimulate competition by giving you a rival for each game that you are supposed to beat in various skills.  You are also awarded XP which ultimately levels up your player awarding you with skill points you can assign to a variety of skillsets, some of which are discounted if they fall within your chosen position.  It’s a fairly complex system that is presented without flair.  In fact there is no real career substance off the court – no meetings with the coach or any of those post-game interview sessions with the press.   If you play the game for any time at all it quickly turns into an RPG-like level grind for XP and skill points until you finally realize you don’t care about your character, his career, or this game.

Online play is loaded with lag making the game virtually unplayable over Xbox Live.  Local two-player gaming is certainly a better experience as far as being able to actually play the game, but then you have to contend with all of the problems the single-player game has, sluggish characters, poor animations, and unresponsive controls.   Even the new BounceTek dribbling system is a bust; mostly because nobody ever tells you that it exists or how to use it.

I get the impression that at one point EA was really excited about this game and then they saw how good NBA 2K14 was and they just threw up their hands and said “ get this thing out the door”.  Every major facet of the game is either lacking or broken, which is a shame because there are some good ideas here.   I cringed every time I started the game and it spent 10-15 minutes syncing and updating until I realized it was downloading fresh NBA season data and creating new specific challenges based on the real season.   The Ultimate Team mode is just as good as any other sport that uses the concept although the lack of an auction feature almost destroys the concept.

Now we will have to wait and see what happens with the franchise.  Will EA cower in their cubicles and lick their wounds for another five years or will they take what they have and what they have learned and try again with something more entertaining, playable, and fun in 2015.

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One Piece: Romance Dawn Review – 3DS

It takes a very unique fan to appreciate authentic Japanese Manga and all of its quirky nuances – and the One Piece series is about as quirky as it gets.  In publication since 1997, One Piece follows the adventures of the young Monkey D. Luffy and his band of Straw Hat Pirates that set off to find One Piece – the world’s most sought-after treasure that was left by the former King of Pirates, Gol D. Roger, upon his untimely execution.  Monkey is a rather ordinary boy, except for one unique trait; his limbs have the ability to transform into rubber – a gift he was endowed when he ate a magical Dragon Fruit.

Romance Dawn is a handheld 3D adventure RPG set in the world of One Piece following Luffy and his band of Pirates on their continued quest to find Gol D. Roger’s treasure.  Like most of these Japanese-derived RPG titles, Romance Dawn is heavy on the dialog and fairly light on the actual exploration.  Just to put things in perspective, before the gamer even gets their first chance to control Luffy they must endure over 25 minutes of dialog-filled cutscenes which set the premise for the upcoming adventure.

oprd3The exploration is also heavily reliant on dialog as gamers wander each area – city, dungeon, etc.  – in search of treasure.  When the party encounters another NPI, iit often sets off another series of verbose dialog scenes – generally nonsensical, but each in some way important to the progression of the game.

Sadly, combat is entirely turn-based – and while the antiquated combat scheme may seem suitable against the higher profile boss characters, against the most basic enemies the concept of turn-based fighting feels a bit out of place in the modern age of gaming.  Avid RPG fans will cite an augmented sense of strategy from turn-based fighting, but the strategy is so rudimentary in Romance Dawn, that it becomes an exercise in button-pushing.

The level and character design is very basic, and the overall presentation is nowhere near the quality of that which we find in a similarly-themed Final Fantasy title.  The characters all deliver their dialog through a series of still portraits that pulsate to indicate which character is delivering each text box.  Considering that these scenes often breech the 15 minute mark, paying attention to the meandering storyline is even harder than it seems on the surface.

On the bright side, every now and then Romance Dawn snaps into a full-motion video segment from the actual anime.  These segments are a welcome relief from the rather static dialog segments, but are all too short-lived.

I cannot lie, I have never been much of a fan of turn-based RPGs – but over the years some have really caught my attention.  Romance Dawn is not one of those games.  The nonsensical storyline, rudimentary combat system, and the meager presentation leave little room for recommendation.  Fans of the manga and anime may find something to enjoy in Romance Dawn, but most gamers will want to look elsewhere.

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