Wipeout: Create & Crash Review (Wii U/Wii/3DS/360): “Not a Total Wipeout”

Wipeout Create & Crash Logo

Wipeout has become quite the reality show on ABC over the past few years. Essentially being an Americanized version of the cult-hit “MXC” on Spike TV years ago, Wipeout brings together contestants to tackle absolutely insane obstacle courses with completely unexpected traps to dodge. Naturally, with a mixture like this, it was only a matter of time before the gaming industry tried to formulate this into game form. Wipeout: Create & Crash is the fourth installment in the Wipeout game series, but is it an obstacle course worth tackling or should you just avoid this “big balls” of a game?

Gameplay: 3/5

Wipeout’s gameplay is simple: you’ll run along a set path on the obstacle course, jumping and sliding past the traps that await you. You’ll take part in 12 episodes all based on specific themes, such as pirates, halloween, wintery scenes, prehistoric times and even your traditional classic Wipeout theme. Each episode has you running the gauntlet in four levels, the first and third being always being a specific course, the second being a mini-game (which I’ll explain in a bit) and the fourth being the Wipeout Zone, where you’ll face the most brutal of obstacles in the biggest spectacle possible. Controls are incredibly simple and straightforward that practically anyone will be able to pickup the controller and play. The camera is fixated behind the character’s back, always facing forward. You’ll move forward by pushing up on the analog stick and can take steps backward pushing the stick down. You never adjust the direction you’ll be facing and only push the stick left and right to change spots on a specific obstacle or when zip-lining to avoid obstacles on the sides. You’ll also be able to jump with the A button, duck with the B button and slide with the Y button.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 4

Before tackling an episode, you’ll be asked if you’d like to partake in a Daily Course Bonus Challenge. Once a day, you can participate in a single run through a randomly generated course for a few extra Ballsy Bucks. During episodes, I mentioned that there are four levels. The first level is a Qualifier Round, where you’ll be sprinting your way through a course as fast as possible. The second level is a mini-game where you’ll either have to shift lanes on the tracks to avoid incoming obstacles, or bounce on angled trampolines while avoiding getting nailed by an airborne obstacle. The third level is just like the Qualifier Round, only with less people in the standings. The fourth and final level of an episode is the Wipeout Zone, which is the grand finale. Here, you’ll be tested with the most challenging obstacles and start by being launched into the water and swimming your way to the start point. The course itself is always over-the-top with fireworks, flames and spectacles around. There are two difficulties you can play the game on: Normal and Black & Blue. Normal mode is basically “easy” mode, where if you fail an obstacle at a certain checkpoint 3 times, it’ll automatically advance you to the next checkpoint (but you do add 10 seconds to your timer every time you fall in the water). Black & Blue mode removes the “3 try” rule and makes you keep repeating an obstacle until you successfully pass it, no matter how much time you accrue on the clock. I highly recommend playing on Black & Blue mode off the bat as it gives the game a bit more challenge. Speaking of challenge, while the game is pretty easy, this year’s edition of Wipeout brings a huge improvement over last year’s “Wipeout 3”. The course designs are more demanding and imaginative than ever before, with some pretty crazy obstacles to dodge. When you get knocked into the water, you can press the B button to see an instant replay of your “wipeout”, with a few cinematic camera angles that try to replicate the feel of the show. These are ok, but often times the camera does a poor job of showing the “pain” of your mistake.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 3

Aside from the main episodes you’ll complete, there are a few more modes to explore. Wipeout Max is new this installment, where you’ll play through an endless amount of randomly generated levels that increase in difficulty. This is basically an endurance of how far you can get before a course becomes too challenging for you to beat. It’s a fun little mode that helps keep things interesting. However, the biggest addition to the game that’s the main selling point is the Course Creation system. For the first time in a Wipeout game, you’ll be able to become the mastermind of some truly devious courses. You’ll use your Ballsy Bucks to purchase themes based on the episodes you complete, at which point you can purchase and choose the layout of your choice to customize. Once selected, you will enter the course creator, where you can select between 6-12 adjustable obstacles depending on the layout you chose. Creating a course is incredibly simple to use that anyone can easily jump into and create something in literally minutes. You’ll use the D-Pad to scroll to each adjustable obstacle, at which point you can cycle through the variety of pieces to place, as well as the difficulty of each set of obstacles. There are 3 difficulties to cycle between, each with their own unique obstacles. Depending on how big the obstacle section is determines the type of obstacle you can place, such as a catapult, a straightaway with 8 wrecking balls, a spiral spinning cylinder, a zip-line trail and more. You can also test out each obstacle at their specific locations or just test run the entire course without any load times at all. The bummer with the obstacles of choice is that no matter which theme you choose, you can’t use the theme specific obstacles. So if you choose to make a course with a snow theme or a pirate theme, the obstacles will always be the same default choices.

Wipeout wouldn’t be Wipeout without a multiplayer mode (which is completely omitted on the 3DS version oddly). I mean, it is based on the TV show where contestants are competing against each other. The game’s multiplayer provides two modes: Party Mode and Trap Attack. Trap Attack gives players with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk the chance to run the gauntlet on the TV screen, while the player with the GamePad will see fixed camera angles of the course from the GamePad screen directly. The GamePad player can launch balls at the opposing player, as well as trigger specific traps to mess up the opponent and make them fall off the course. Party Mode is more the traditional multiplayer where players take turns running the course and competing for the #1 spot for the fastest time and of course, the Wipeout winner. It’s nothing great or overly engaging, but can provide for some solid fun with friends and some laughs as well.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 2

Graphics: 3/5

Wipeout: Create & Crash has a basic, fun art style to it, that’s certainly passable and pleasing on the eyes most of the time. However, there are some seriously wonky physics issues. Whenever your character gets knocked backwards, you’ll see them cycle through a variety of animations stuck in place, hovering over the ground. Get hit by a wrecking ball and you’ll see the character clip completely through the ball in slo-mo, then launch to the side. Then there are the balls being shot at you outside the course…except they literally appear out of nowhere in the distance when shot towards you. Another weird design are the water effects. When swimming in water, there’s almost no effect shown that your character is swimming in the water. Even when you fall in the water, the splash is incredibly minimal and is essentially flat textures layered over each other. Some unpolished issues aside, the level designs are pretty solid, with a decent amount of detail given to the obstacles. It’s not a bad looking game by any means, but an average one that’s hindered a bit by some wonky animations and visual effects.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 1

Sound: 3/5

Wipeout’s audio consists of an entirely appropriate soundtrack that provides the vibe of the TV show and themes of each episode. Commentary is provided by John Anderson and John Henson, with Jill Wagner providing additional lines. While they are the commentators of the show, they’re just not very entertaining or funny to listen to. John Henson’s lines in particular always fall flat and are just plain bad…almost like he’s trying too hard to be comical. Lame jokes aside, the sound effects are exactly what you’d expect of Wipeout nature, with over-the-top effects kicking in when being nailed by an object. The audio isn’t too bad and is solid overall, just don’t expect anything great here.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 6

Replay Value: 4/5

Wipeout: Create & Crash offers a solid amount of replay value, especially compared to the previous installments. While completing all 12 episodes will only take 2-3 hours to complete, there’s plenty of characters and gear to unlock. Additionally, each of the episodes has you aiming for bronze, silver and gold Ballsy Trophies, as well as additional objectives in each level. However, this year’s installment introduces the new Course Creation mode, which is where players will spend most of their time on. Using the Ballsy Bucks you earn in the game, you’ll unlock numerous obstacles and themes to build your own crazy courses with. Add in the new Wipeout Max mode that has you doing an endless endurance run of randomly generated levels until you fail and there’s some really good replay value. There’s no online mode to find here and sharing level creations is done in a very archaic method of swapping 14-digit generating codes.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 5

Overall Score: 13/20 = 6.5 out of 10

Wipeout: Create & Crash is without question, much better than last year’s Wipeout 3. It brings more content, more ideas and more creativity to the table. If you enjoy Wipeout games, you’d do quite well to give Wipeout: Create & Crash a look, especially with the Course Creation system that opens up a solid amount of game time. While it’s nothing great or memorable, what’s here is still an entertaining game.

PROS:

+ Fun gameplay

+ Course Creator is simple to use

+ Interesting course designs

+ Good amount of unlockables

CONS:

– Wonky physics

– Sharing created courses is dealt in an archaic method

– Commentary isn’t funny at all

– Some technical bugs

A special thank you to Activision for providing us a review copy for “Wipeout: Create & Crash”! Copy tested on the Wii U.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review (Wii/360/3DS): “Ahh…Shell Shock”

TMNT 2013 Wallpaper

Over time, we’ve seen some stellar media franchises progress over the years. One particular franchise that’s had numerous changes has been the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Between it’s dark toned comic, chipper late 80s/early 90s cartoon, to the comic-based 2003 cartoon and now, Nickelodeon’s rendition that started in 2012, there’s no question we’ve seen the turtles in a variety of ways. However, if there’s one thing that fans of the franchise will remain fond of, it’s the video games that released in the early 90s. Whether it be TMNT: Turtles in Time, TMNT II: The Arcade Game, TMNT: Hyperstone Heist, TMNT III: Manhattan Project or even the 2003 TMNT game for the PS2/GC/Xbox, they’ve always been known for their downright fun, beat-em-up gameplay. Well, with a new media rendition comes a new game based on the latest cartoon. Developed by Magic Pockets and published by Activision, is the turtle’s latest return a radical one or should it stay in the sewers?

Story: 2/5

There’s one thing for sure: TMNT games are never really known for their story. However, if you plan on incorporating one, make sure it’s somewhat coherent. Unfortunately, TMNT’s story here mainly falls flat. The turtles are thrown into mischief as there’s a mutagen bomb that Stockman plans on detonating in NYC that will turn all its inhabitants into vile creatures. Fans of the show will instantly recognize characters such as Fishface, Dogpound, the blob known as “Justin”, Krang bots, Foot Ninja, Karai, and naturally, Shredder. The story is told through very brief cutscenes with minimal dialogue just to remind you there’s something to connect the player to the scenario. However, as opposed to the story being somewhat engaging, it’s very shoddily pieced together. It doesn’t help that the presentation of the story is downright poor and incredibly rushed. Even though it’s nice to see familiar faces return, the story is minimal and very subpar.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 1

Gameplay: 2/5

“Well, that was incredibly mediocre.“ Leonardo states this numerous times throughout the game, and it pretty much sums up the gameplay of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The game is designed as an old-school style brawler where you can choose between all four turtles on the fly, which is nice since you don’t have to wait to lose a life before choosing another character as had been done in previous TMNT games. This option gives you the chance to try out any of the characters during any point in the game. Yet while each turtle has their different variation of moves, they are very limited and the game becomes more of a continuous button masher. Each turtle has a basic attack move, a special attack, and a throw feature (along with jumping). The problem is that the moves and gameplay are incredibly repetitive. Each level is a series of areas where you need to defeat a horde of foot ninjas and Krang bots. Once destroyed, you continue on your path until you do it all over again. This continues until you complete the level.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 5

There are 5 levels in TMNT and each level contains 3-4 sub-levels. Yet with the exception of the last sub-level on each level, you are basically attacking enemies until you complete the level. There are some minor collectibles that you can locate in order to gain more points, and pickup items such as throwing stars and smoke bombs, but they are pretty much useless in the game as you can just slash your way through everything. At certain moments, you can access your camera device to locate hidden doors. If you locate them, you can find additional mutagen canisters needed to unlock a mini-game (which is essentially the classic arcade game “Defender”, TMNT style) in the Extras area. The last sub-level is a boss battle that pits you against some of the main enemies from the TV show, such as Dogpound, Baxter Stockman and the Shredder. These boss battles deliver a change of pace and strategy, which was refreshing, but not enough to help ease the boredom that the game delivers. The game is also extremely short, taking only about 2-3 hours to complete, and in a way, I’m glad it was short because of how tedious it is. While you can co-op your way through the game on the Wii and 360, the 3DS is mysteriously missing this option, which is strange. I did enjoy the ability to upgrade each turtle by collecting orbs from defeated enemies and then using them to update your characters strength and move set, but most of the upgrades aren’t even needed to complete the story mode.

Once you do finish the game, other options become available to you, such as Time Attack and Survival Mode, but they are more of the same and offer nothing new to the experience. You can tell that the game is geared towards a younger audience based on the easy difficulty, and that Nickelodeon wanted to quickly put out a product that aligned with the popular show.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 3

Graphics: 2/5

Let me start off by saying, the versions I am reviewing are the Wii and 3DS version, not the Xbox 360 (which is already an odd assortment of consoles they chose to develop for…omitting the PS3, Vita and Wii U). However, even for a Wii game 7 years into the console’s lifecycle, the visuals here are less than average. Washed out textures, incredibly blocky character models, stiff animations and lifeless, mundane environments round TMNT to be one of the most inexcusable visual games for 2013. The TMNT game that released in 2003 for the PS2/GC/Xbox looked next-gen compared to this…and that was 10 years ago! When I look at a 10 year old game and am immediately blown away by the comparison, it’s just plain sad. On the 3DS, it’s a bit more excusable and less ugly due to the condensed resolution. The only benefit visually is that the game runs quite smooth, with only a few rare instances of slowdown.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 2

Sound: 2/5

Turtles games have relied heavily on energetic soundtracks to really engage the player during the beat-em-up fun, with the pinnacle soundtracks being Turtles in Time and Hyperstone Heist. What we have here is something that matches the tone of the show a bit, which is fine. Although there’s nothing memorable to leave the game humming too, it’s still serviceable background music that neither adds or detracts from the experience. The voice actors from the TV show reprise their roles, but they all fail to deliver any excitement to the game. Some of the line deliveries just don’t match the tone of certain scenarios and just feel stiff. For example, there’s a boss battle where April will keep shouting “keep it up guys, you’ve almost got him!” but I didn’t even hit the boss once yet. The boss battle lasts for about 5 minutes and she repeats it every 20 seconds…so do the math and it’s pretty nonsensical. Worse yet, occasionally some voices will be blown out while others will be much lower. Sound effects are pretty poor overall as well, feeling like stock sound effects for an amateur game development program.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 4

Overall Score: 8/20 = 4.0 out of 10

When I heard there was a new TMNT game coming out, it was easy for me to get excited. Being a die-hard turtles fan, I’m always eager to play a new game in the series. However, what I was left with was an immensely rushed and pale imitation of the SNES/Genesis beat-em-ups from years past. What the game lacks is soul. It feels lifeless, generic and doesn’t have anything that the older TMNT games didn’t do better…in 1992 or even 2003. While I had the slightest mild enjoyment playing this game for the fact that it was a TMNT game, the game itself is just incredibly dull and unimaginative. The only thing going through my head as I played it was, “Ahh…Shell Shock”.

PROs:

+ Has the show’s intro

+ Turtles can be upgraded

+ 4-player co-op on Wii/360

CONs:

– Ugly visuals

– Awful audio mixing

– Subpar, rushed storytelling

– Unimaginative, bland levels

– Very spotty hit detection

– Too easy

– 3DS version omitted co-op completely

A special thank you to Activision for providing us a review copy for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”! Copy tested on the Wii and 3DS.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

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Xenoblade Chronicles Review (Wii)

Xenoblade Chronicles is a long begged-for Japanese RPG released exclusively on the Wii. It was developed by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo.

Story: 5/5

Xenoblade Chronicles’ story is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. While most JRPGs I’ve seen appear to deal with themes about friendship or religion, this game’s story centers primarily on survival and later on, vengeance. Eons before the beginning of the game, two gargantuan beings fought each other to the death. Their corpses were all that was left and upon them rose life that would eventually become the civilizations and wildlife you see during the game. The Homs, who are human type characters, are at war with the Mechon, a race of mechanical robot-like beings that maliciously attack and slaughter the Homs. The main character is a Hom named Shulk, an intelligent researcher as well as a gifted fighter. Throughout the game, he meets other unique characters who become party members along the way, such as his childhood friend Reyn, and other characters like Dunban and Fiora, who all have different skills and attributes.

The story is very engaging; so much so that I haven’t wanted to stop playing. Its fresh and balanced method of progression is enough to make you want to continue playing forward after each scene. Some scenes I found to be rather gripping and others are unsettling, but it’s I nothing I could give away without spoiling the game. The game is very cinematic in this sense. Some of the cutscenes are a little lengthy; reminiscent of Metal Gear (though thankfully not as long). Each one is very well animated and of course, well acted. In a sense, I almost found the game about as fun to watch as it was to play.

Gameplay: 4/5

Xenoblade’s gameplay was very foreign for me. The only other JRPGs I had played before were the games in the Kingdom Hearts series and those featured real-time hack-and-slash gameplay. Xenoblade is completely different from beginning to end. The way combat works is you can move around freely until you engage an enemy. When this happens, your party will all unsheathe their weapons and begin their assault on the enemy. From the get-go, your chosen party leader will begin automatically hacking at the enemy you’re currently targeting. From here, you can choose Arts that serve as special abilities. They each range from offensive to defensive perks and depending on the Art, after meeting certain requirements, you can deal massive damage to an enemy. For example, my favorite Art is a wide slash that deals excessive damage to an enemy from the front while also applying a Slow debuff (which briefly slows the enemy’s movement).

Other Arts work in conjunction with Arts that your party uses. For some enemies, you’re required to use an attack that utilizes a debuff called Break and then an ally needs to use an attack that uses a Topple debuff. Only then will you be able to deal significant damage to the enemy. Sometimes this can lead to minor frustration because your party member’s AI may have used up their Topple Art and needs to recharge. Of course you can find strategies by unlocking new Arts to get around this issue. Expect to grind for at least a little bit throughout the game.

Overall, the battle system is tight and works well enough to be applicable for newcomers while applying enough strategy and challenge for JRPG veterans. The rest of the game involves mostly movement and some minor jumping to get around some of the scenery. This works well enough, though the jumping does feel a tad useless since there is very little platforming involved, if at all.

Graphics: 4/5

At first glance, Xenoblade Chronicles looks very much like a low-end Wii game. I’d go so far as to say that the graphics look like that of a PlayStation 2 game at times. Where this game’s visuals strike me is in their design and just the sheer amount of rendering that the Wii is doing. Monolith deserves a medal for their work here. Similarly to the visuals in Kid Icarus: Uprising, the developers opted to go with lower quality models and textures in favor of expansive open worlds and on-screen characters. While NPCs appear sparse in towns, some of the cutscenes and battles feature quite a few on-screen characters and I’ve noticed no graphical hitches occur because of it. When exploring the open fields, it’s difficult not to look around and simply take in the scenery. Trees, grass, wildlife and the looming Bionis and its mortal adversary hang overhead in the skies. Everything feels alive, as well as larger than life. The developers truly take you into a different world. It’s a testament to what graphics on the Wii can do, even without incredible horsepower and an HDMI cable. In Layman’s terms, even those who love spectacular visuals will see something amazing within this game’s extremely expansive open world. It’s because of this that walking around does not feel like as much of a chore as it typically would. You always feel like you’re headed somewhere new. Landmarks and terrain changes as you move from place to place. “Stunning” isn’t enough to describe it.

Sound: 5/5

I cannot express the beauty in the sound quality enough. Every musical score, every sound effect and every voice is simply top quality. The soundtrack is a magnificent piece of genius, with moody and sad songs for slow moments and fast-paced rock for certain battle sequences. The music is overall fantastic and fits just about every situation in the game. The sound effects spared no expense either; energetic impacts for the arts and mechanical blasts for the Mechon. Everything sounds crisp and clear. Finally, the voice acting is far greater in quality than a typical JRPG game. The game was first dubbed in Europe, so the entire cast is British. The voice work honestly makes me feel that Nintendo should outsource their voice overs to England a heck of a lot more often. To say the least, the voice acting is brilliant, especially when compared to most of the english dubs for these types of games done in the States. Every actor fits each character and they nail the emotions perfectly. Some of the side characters sound a little over the top here and there, but the voices of the primary cast makes it very easy to ignore. The voice acting in this game has definitely set a bar for how voice over in games of this caliber can and should be done.

Overall Score: 18/20 = 9.0 out of 10

Given that this is the first JRPG I’ve played for longer than a few minutes, it’s fair to say that I’m largely inexperienced with the genre. However, that doesn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this magnificent game. Xenoblade Chronicles is new, unique and should be on the must-have list of not only Nintendo fans, but of anyone who owns a Wii. It has fun, strategic gameplay, an engaging story, some very cool visuals and a soundtrack that works all too well.

Due to the Wii’s staggering software lineup this year, I would be hard-pressed to hear a reason for any core gamer with a Wii to not buy this game. It took a great deal of patience to have this game localized for the western hemisphere. Now that it has, I cannot recommend it enough. Go get this game; not just to support more games like this from Nintendo, but also because it is, despite minor flaws, a genuinely fun and amazing experience.

PROs:

+Engaging storyline

+Lots to see and do

+Excellent soundtrack

+Strategic gameplay

+It’s out in the west!

CONs:

-Relying on AI can be frustrating at times

-Graphics appear primitive at first


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review (PS3/360/Wii/PC)

Modern Warfare 3 is the highly anticipated follow up to 2009′s blockbuster title, Modern Warfare 2. Modern Warfare 3 was developed by Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games and published by Activision. However does Modern Warfare 3 live up to the heights and praise that the first two received or does it whimper in the shadows of previous greatness?

Story: 5/5

First off, let me state that this is a Call of Duty game and taking it a step further, it is the third title in this series while being the eighth title in the COD franchise. That being said, anybody who decides to pick up and play this game knows exactly the type of storytelling they are about to encounter. For good or bad, COD has crafted its own niche in the game storytelling department. This storyline is not a deep and thought provoking epic that challenges the mind, nor is it a throw away script that can be forgotten and sent straight to DVD. Throughout the series and franchise, the games have always been pages torn out of a Hollywood summer blockbuster, complete with amazing set pieces and action with some good dialogue to match. Modern Warfare 3 is no different here. Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games did not reinvent the wheel here. They simply took what was great about the first two installments and looked to expand to it. The game starts off right where MW2 ended with “Soap” MacTavish badly injured from the epic battle with the treacherous General Shepherd. Captain Price carries Soap off onto a chopper that leads them to safety for the moment. On the other side of the world, terrorist nationalist Vladimir Makarov is plotting and planning new acts of evil and destruction. Makarov’s famous deception “No Russian” level of MW2 has now led to World War III with the United States and Russia. Major battles are waging on all continents and countries around the world creating a modern day global conflict, alas World War 3. All while an international manhunt ensues for Makarov, the most dangerous terrorist in the world, the only two men in the world that can help bring Makarov to justice are being hunted themselves. Captain Price and Soap Mactavish are now United States fugitives.

New characters are introduced this time around and you will get to play as them as well. The first 20 minutes of the game will leave many at awe and unfortunately reminiscent of a not too distant past in reality. New York is under attack, with skyscrapers burning and crumbling in Manhattan, all while the streets are riddled with blood and bullets from the battles taking place. With the clock winding down to the end of civilization as we know it, both super powers Russia and the U.S. are gearing up for a nuclear showdown…unless this war can be stopped and the most dangerous man in the world, Vladimir Makarov, can be caught “Dead or Alive.”

Gameplay: 5/5

One of the crown jewels of Modern Warfare has always been its gameplay and fluidity. This third installment does not raise the bar leaps and bounds by any stretch of the imagination but rather takes what was perfect with the first two and fine tunes it. I must state that having played both the 360 and PS3 version of the game, there is almost absolutely no difference in visuals or gameplay. Sadly in 2011, that is still a rarity and I will say, along with my fellow staff, congratulations to Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games for dedicating time to not just the HD consoles, but also delivering a superb presentation on the Nintendo Wii version as well. Shooting mechanics have always been superb compared to any FPS out there and MW3 is no different. Running at a solid 60fps helps the gameplay seem so fluid and fast paced. The single player campaign is certainly filled with some of the best action set pieces in the trilogy. As with any MW, the guns are always a sight to behold and use. This time around you can switch between two different scopes on a large number of assault rifles. By pressing left on the d-pad, I can either use an ACOG scope or a red dot sight without having to drop the weapon and look for another rifle. Another enhancement has been the checkpoint system, which is terrific. When you do die, the restarts are nearly instant and the checkpoints are frequent enough that you won’t be replaying huge portions of the level like in the previous COD titles. Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games have now implemented a “smart system” that detects when you are having a rough time, it will actually save your progress a bit closer than the normal checkpoint. The enemy AI is also smart and complex, in which they do their best to try and flank you. Thanks to the auto targeting, in which a tap of the aim trigger snaps your weapon right onto the enemy you’re aiming at, players are given a definite advantage. Without giving any spoilers away, I must state that the end of MW3 contains one of the best and most satisfying ending sequences in a title this console generation. In my view, this was the perfect way to close this trilogy. I myself played and beat the single player campaign on Veteran difficulty for both the Xbox 360 and PS3. Clocking in at around 8 hours after completing the hardest difficulty was more than acceptable for a game that on Normal should take about 5 hours. I must say that I feel all players will be more than satisfied with the intense and fast paced gameplay in this title. From start to finish, this was the most fun I’ve had playing a game in a long while. FPS or not, the high level of addictiveness and fun was enormous and this was only the single player campaign.

After completing the campaign I knew I hadn’t even touched the meat of the game and that was the plethora of additional content loaded in this one disc. Spec Ops, the new “Survival Mode”, Multiplayer, Video Recording and Editing, Facebook connectivity and more, all come packed into this amazing package.

In MW3, multiplayer has seen some noticeable changes that must be stated. First off, characters run slower due to the different weight of the guns they are holding. No matter how anybody slices it, you can never run as fast as you did in the previous COD’s. Another major change is the selections for strike packages. Essentially, this replaces kill streaks or further enhances it depending on how you look at it. Your killstreak rewards can once again be unlocked as you level up.  The “Assault” package grants the player special attacks for the amount of people he or she killed in a row without dying. The next package you could unlock is “Support.” Support is a list of features that help all your fellow team mates out from UAV’s to ammo caches.   Amazingly, there is even a third option besides Assault and Support; this is unlocked after achieving a high certain level. The “Specialist” package unlocks more player perks with every two kills he or she gets, and you can even customize the order in which they are given.

Multiplayer, I am happy to say, has finally returned to its MW1 roots. Becoming more accommodating for all players of varied skills intern makes MW3 have a better multiplayer than MW2. A substantial 16 maps exist in MW3 at the start, giving it the largest map selection we have ever seen on day one for a COD game. The maps are a diversified and detailed experience that will fit every player’s needs and styles. Desert towns and cramped tenement hallways, to lush jungles all encompass the first maps of MW3. New modes also add to the extensive playlist, one in particular called “Kill Confirmed,” which is team deathmatch but with a nice twist. Players will now have to retrieve the fallen dog tags of dead enemies to help gain XP for the team and themselves. Also, when your fellow comrades have fallen, you will have to race to obtain their dog tags before their killers do, therefore not allowing the other side to get double the points of a kill and dog tag. Lastly, the new weapon ranking system is a true thrill and reminded me of Resistance 3. As you gain rank when playing, the weapons that you use will rank up as well. The higher your weapon goes, the more you’ll be able to unlock such as customized camo skins for the weapons and attachments. Weapons will also be able to receive abilities, which are basically perks tied to a specific weapon. Abilities can affect weapon-related attributes such as reduced recoil and movement. This is just some of the great tweaks and enhancements I have encountered in MW3’s competitive online.

Spec Ops

The highly praised Spec Ops returns, giving players the chance to place themselves in distinct and exciting moments without having the restrictions of fulfilling a story mode. Spec Ops has its own ranking and progression system, which means it’s completely separate from the competitive online multiplayer. And thankfully, the game will match you up with players who are around the same level as yourself. Spec Ops really did become a staple in the MW series much like the famed Zombie mode became in Treyarch’s iteration. This is for good reason because Spec Ops succeeds in creating an intense mini story for the player and he/she has the choice of bringing an online friend into that story with them or even a friend next to them thanks to split screen play. Trying to get 3 stars on all 16 missions will feel impossible and frustrating at time,s yet highly rewarding and fun which is a huge credit to the developers.

Spec Ops Survival “Horde”

Now, quite possibly my favorite part of MW3 besides the epic campaign would be the newest mode to the series called “Spec Ops Survival.” Essentially, this mode is a take on Gears of War’s famed horde mode and twisted into a beautifully, fine-tuned Modern Warfare experience. This mode does deserve every bit of praise and here’s why. A great feature in this survival mode is the ability to purchase firearms, explosives, and even air support! There will be stations scattered across the maps where you can obtain each of these features for a price. Even more fantastic is that all of these items purchased are uniquely linked with your “Spec Ops” leveling system so playing one mode and leveling up can greatly help you with the other. At level one or wave one, your options are basic and limited. However, over time your equipment grows and as you explore the map, you learn great spots to camp. Playing with a friend is the ultimate experience, especially when you and a friend are tactically working to defeat waves of harder enemies. Naturally the difficulty rises the longer you survive.

Graphics: 5/5

Right off the bat, most people including myself were bashing the graphics MW3 when it was first unveiled and not for the usual reasons either. Modern Warfare games always had astonishing visuals and lighting, but MW3 early on looked no different than MW2. There are still some scenes in the game where you think to yourself that this still isn’t much different then 2. After playing over 16 hours between the PS3 and 360 versions, I can easily say that Modern Warfare 3 is a sharper, more artistic and colorful game then the graphics we saw in 2007 and 2009. Thanks to technology and developers, the MW3 engine named “IW 4.0 Enhanced” is now able to stream faster compared to MW2. This lets the developers create bigger environments and larger action set pieces while all running in 60fps with a visual detail and photorealism that isn’t matched too often. MW3 assaults you from the beginning of the game with its overpowering visual presentation from the moment you crash land into the Manhattan streets and witness the destruction of lower Manhattan and the Pearl Harbor esque action sequence in the East river. It’s hard to believe that it is based on a four years old graphics engine that can accomplish all this, while pumping out graphics that are still easily in the top 10 of triple A title visuals. Photorealistic scenes emerge almost everywhere and when the entire game gets set in motion, an all-encompassing cinematic picture appears. The level of complexity in the level design and the amount of detail is astounding and astonishingly crafted, particularly in the multiplayer maps as well.

Isaac Clarke would've had no problem in this Zero-G sequence

Sound: 4/5

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the game was the audio and I’ll explain. Modern Warfare and Call of Duty in general have always been known for their orchestral soundtracks that help shape the campaign into a true epic. To me and my fellow staff, music is a massive contribution to the game and when you have a high caliber game such as Modern Warfare, you expect the music to be just as fast paced and acoustically pleasing. However, for about 50% of the campaign, the soundtrack is just a step above mediocrity, not reaching the cinematic heights the first two achieved. By today’s standards, the soundtrack would be great among other FPS titles where music is almost nonexistent or abysmal, but for fans of the series and in particular, audio fanatics, it just wasn’t up to the standards of the previous titles.

Overall Score: 19/20 = 9.5/10

Four years after the first Modern Warfare, which changed the face of gaming forever, a feeling of nostalgia resonates with me because of the heights this series has reached within that time. Infinity Ward has changed in those years too, but their standards haven’t thankfully by delivering a consistent 60fps, zero controller latency, explosive set-pieces, robust multiplayer and military characters you actually give a damn about. All in all, if Modern Warfare was just a single player campaign, I would say this is a worthy 8.5 or 9.0 package. However, when it is coupled with the enormous and renowned online and extra single player content, this package is easily a 9.5. Call of Duty’s can keep getting pumped out each year and many, including myself, might turn away but Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 3 closes the trilogy and stands as this generation’s defining FPS series. Modern Warfare 3 is emphatic, feature-packed and topped with a truly stunning final act.

PROs:
+ Top Visuals
+ Modern Warfare’s Perfected Gameplay returns and more tuned than ever before
+ Colossal, deep, engaging Multiplayer that will easy last for hundreds of hours if not thousands for the Prestige crowd

CONs:
– Story, while engaging and intense, isn’t as strong as the first two installments.
– The soundtrack just isn’t up to par with its previous two predecessors


SECOND OPINION
By: Glacier928

I’m not going to lie. I had zero interest in Modern Warfare 3 when it was unveiled. Being a fan of the COD games since COD4 and clocking in a good amount of time with them (getting the platinum trophy on both COD: World at War and Modern Warfare 2), I’ve surely had my fill with the formula. However, upon getting my hands on Modern Warfare 3 and completing the campaign, I’m glad I did. The story does come to a final resolution and an incredibly satisfying one at that. The set pieces in this game are extremely intense, providing some truly shocking, and occasionally disturbing, sequences as well. The final level really deserves some recognition as it reminded me of something out of Hitman or 24, two franchises that I’m a huge fan of. The competitive multiplayer has been tweaked to a great deal of balance, unlike MW2’s finnicky component. Spec Ops returns, which was one of the strongest components of MW2, but with more intense missions this time around. The new Spec Ops Survival mode is easily Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games’ answer to Treyarch’s Nazi Zombies and is incredibly addictive.

However, I wasn’t without my complaints on the game. To start, the main menu in this game was literally copied and pasted from MW2 with just a grey color as opposed to the tannish background color. Throughout my playthrough of the campaign, as engrossed as I was in it, I couldn’t shake the feeling of the “been there, done that” experience. This is now the sixth Call of Duty I’ve played this generation and while the formula is outstanding, it’s starting to get a bit stale. It is clear that Jason West and Vince Zampella, the creators of the Modern Warfare series, were not behind this installment (since they were fired) because their creative vision of the first two games seem to be missing here. The enhancements from the first to second game were clearly evident. This latest installment doesn’t give off that same vibe. Make no mistake, the creative vision from the developers is still quite impressive and they did an excellent job putting together this latest installment. The main problem here is that Activision feels the need to push out Call of Duty titles yearly as opposed to every two years. Had they been spacing it out a little more, then these games would still have that “fresh” feel to it.

I’m a massive soundtrack fanatic, to the point where if the soundtrack to a game is lacking, a great chunk of the experience is ruined for me. Modern Warfare 1 had a great soundtrack scored by Harry Gregson-Williams (Metal Gear Solid 2-4, Armageddon), while Modern Warfare 2 provided one of the most remarkable soundtracks this generation from Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight, Inception) and Lorne Balfe. This iteration brings Brian Tyler to the table, who’s well known for his Fast and the Furious movie scores. While what’s composed here is pretty good, it is nowhere near the previous installments soundtracks, especially MW2’s. It’s a shame because I like to walk away from a game (or movie) remembering a score and this one just wouldn’t stick with me. Don’t get me wrong, the soundtrack is still very good, but for those who were massive fans of the previous iterations soundtracks, this one may not be up to snuff. For many, this may be a minor issue but it’s something that needs to be mentioned for those who are expecting an equal soundtrack to MW2 or MW1.

Aside from these shortcomings, there’s no denying that Modern Warfare 3 is a great game. The campaign was an absolute blast, the ending was very well done, the multiplayer component is still addictive and Spec Ops provides more coop thrills than before. Completing the campaign on Veteran provided to be more fun than frustrating surprisingly (except for the level “Back on the Grid,” which was unnecessarily difficult for me) as well. Simply put, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 provides an incredibly robust package. However, I personally feel this should be the final installment to the Modern Warfare series and that Activision should end this trilogy on a high note.

SECOND OPINION SCORE: 8.5 

Epic Mickey Review (Wii)

Epic Mickey is an adventure based game by Junction Point Studios for the Wii console. It is an attempt to re-brand Mickey from the lovable cheerful mouse we all know and love to a more mischievous and adventurous character.

Story: 5/5

Epic Mickey begins with Mickey searching through Yen Sid’s workshop after slipping through a mirror in his house. After seeing a model displayed on a table, Mickey picks up Yen Sid’s magic paintbrush, and inadvertently creates the Shadow Blot while using it. Panicking, Mickey uses paint thinner to try and erase it, but manages to damage the entire model during the process. Unsuccessful, Mickey returns to his house through the magic mirror, leaving the Shadow Blot to enter the model world. Many years pass and Mickey forgets the whole scenario, until the Shadow Blot breaks through the mirror and drags Mickey into the model world known as Wasteland. Mickey learns that Wasteland is the home of many forgotten characters from cartoon past, including Oswald the Lucky rabbit. Oswald is jealous of Mickey for his popularity and fame, and initially refuses to help him. Meanwhile, the Mad Doctor and the Shadow Blot enact a plan to steal Mickey’s heart, for all forgotten characters no longer have hearts of their own, and need it to escape Wasteland. Throughout the game, Mickey visits numerous characters from the old Disney cartoons that aid him in his quest to return home. If you’re a fan of Disney, you’ll notice the reappearance of forgotten characters, as well as robotic re-imaginings of more current ones. The story is darker than normal Disney stories, but still retains its humor and good-natured storytelling. It was a great way to revisit old locations and characters from Disney’s timeless classics.

Gameplay: 3/5

Epic Mickey uses an interesting game play technique involving paint and thinner. The worlds in wasteland have been destroyed by the paint and thinner that Mickey accidently spilled into the model, leaving the levels partly unfinished. Mickey needs to use paint and thinner to add parts of the world that are gone to traverse to new areas and solve puzzles. The two are easily found throughout the game, and even if you are completely empty, they refill over time. This game play technique brought a new dimension to Epic Mickey that I really enjoyed. However, there were many issues as well. For one, combat was annoying at times. In order to defeat enemies, you would need to whack them with a flick of the Wii remote, then either 1) paint them to make the enemies good (leaving them to help fight other enemies with you) or 2) use thinner to eliminate them completely. The game tries to add a moral element letting the player decide whether to choose a good or bad role. There are many collectibles throughout the game, and depending as to which side you choose, you’ll receive different collectibles, as well as different story paths. While this didn’t affect the overall storyline, it presented a challenging combat mechanic that found me losing life after life because of the awkward controls during combat, especially when trying to point the cursor at the enemies while moving and using both the paint and thinner. The second issue was the bad camera. There were too many moments when I didn’t know where to go or what to jump over, leading to many confusing moments and instant deaths. What I did enjoy were the 2D side-scrolling segments between each “level.” These were recreations of early Mickey cartoons that were fun to play, however, there were moments of backtracking in Epic Mickey that made these 2D segments tedious to play through over and over again. The game also felt a lot longer than it needed to be. I completed it in about 11 hours, and that was with me not doing every side “mission.” There was a moment in the game where you felt like it was over, but then it kind of dragged the last few hours, making you wonder when it was going to end.

Graphics: 3/5

For a Wii game, the graphics were mediocre. It does a good job of showing what you need to see, but there was nothing that really stood out. What I mostly had trouble with in the game was how dark it was. I understand that Wasteland was supposed to look unfinished, but there were moments when I couldn’t quite see what was surrounding Mickey, leading to unavoidable hits and more instant deaths. The game doesn’t even provide an option to adjust the brightness of the screen, which is almost unheard of in today’s games. The cut scenes were an interesting opacity that didn’t really feel like Mickey colorful tone, but worked for the style of game the designers were going for.

Sound: 3/5

Sound quality was decent in Epic Mickey, giving us some memorable tunes to hum along and providing us with the necessary effects. I wish they had provided more though, as the tunes were limited. I would have also liked to see more voice acting /dialogue in the game, as most of the cut scenes had you reading text while listening to mumbled sounds from the characters.

Overall: 14/20 = 7/10

Epic Mickey is a clever game using creative techniques in its game play, but is hampered by bad camera angles and mediocre quality.

PROS:

-Fun story

-Clever game play

-2D segments

CONS:

-Bad camera

-Poor controls

-Dark visuals