Black Ops 2 DLC Allows You to “Become a Zombie”

 

Activision has finally unveiled the highly anticipated first DLC pack for COD: Black Ops II. The “Revolution” expansion pack is due out on January 29th for Xbox 360. The content contains five new maps and will be free for those who purchased the $50 Season Pass. For those who did not purchase that, it will be available at the traditional Call of Duty DLC price of $14.99 (1200 Microsoft Points).

“Revolution” for Black Ops II adds four new competitive multiplayer maps: Downhill, Hydro, Mirage, and Grind. The fifth map is for the highly praised “Zombies” mode. The map is a well known name from COD: World at War called “Die Rise”. However, the level has been completely changed and redesigned. Additionally, there will be a new game mode called “Turned”, in which players can compete against one another as an actual zombie! Finally, the Revolution DLC  for Black Ops II brings a bonus multiplayer weapon called the “Peacekeeper”, which comes with a new set of weapon challenges. The DLC will be made available for other platforms at an unspecified later date. For more news on this, stay tuned to Gamers Xtreme, and as always, “Game On!”

Borderlands 2 Review (PS3/360): “Shootin’ and Lootin’ Like It’s 2012”

Back in 2009, Gearbox Software and 2K Games had introduced gamers to the fresh new IP, Borderlands, which infused FPS and RPG mechanics. The game became a sensation amongst both critics and consumers around the nation, even selling out in numerous stores within its first week of sales. Three years later, Gearbox Software and 2K Games have pushed out the sequel to their highly-praised IP but is it superior to the original?

Story: 5/5

Taking place five years after the events of the first game, we find that Handsome Jack, the person who controls the Hyperion Corporation, is trying to reach a newly found vault on Pandora that contains a creature known as, “The Warrior”. Taking control of a new group of Vault Hunters (Salvador, Axton, Maya and Zero), you’re tasked with putting a stop to Handsome Jack before he can make his way to the vault and unleash this devastating beast amongst Pandora.

If there’s one thing Gearbox improved on the most with their sequel, it’s definitely in their story department. Borderlands 2 has a much richer and deeper story this time around, filled with characters’ histories to unveil, why they are who they are and why they are there. Pandora is a world filled with story to unravel, whether it’s the campaign or side story material that helps flesh more out of the main story. The infamous humor that was intact with the original is still found here but is even funnier and more clever this time around. I couldn’t even tell you the amount of times I was cracking up with how well written and executed the dialogue was. The characters that you’ll play as also have a good amount of backstory that can be told with audio logs scattered in specific areas.

The story does an excellent job with characterization this time around and you’ll actually feel for all of these characters more so than the original. Whether it’s familiar faces or new ones, all the characters are very likable…except for Handsome Jack. I don’t think I’ve come to hate a villain as much as him (that I can recall) and that’s a good thing. That comes to show you that Gearbox made a villain that’s twisted, sick and humorous, all at the same time, while still hating him. There are a good amount of plot twists and shock moments as well…but obviously none of those will be mentioned here. However, these moments really do an effective job of engrossing you deeper into the game’s story. Kudos Gearbox.

Gameplay: 5/5

Let’s get this out of the way first…Borderlands 2 is bigger, better and more badass than the original. When it comes to the gameplay mechanics, Gearbox Software created something special with the original installment. This one takes everything from there and improves upon them dramatically, while adding little details that make this a more robust package. As with the original, you’ll kick off the game by choosing the character/class you’ll want to play as. You’ve got Salvador (a Gunzerker who can dual-wield any two weapons of your choice), Maya (a Siren who can Phaselock enemies, which suspends them in mid-air), Axton (a Commando who can throw down turrets) and Zero (a stealthy Assassin who can use Deception to find enemies’ critical points). All the characters can utilize the same weapons so it boils down mainly to what class pertains to you the most. From there, you’re ready to kick off your journey through Pandora.

In the original, you were only able to explore a specific region of Pandora. Now, Pandora has expanded dramatically and you’ll be exploring multiple regions of the planet, all completely varied from your typical wasteland environments from the first game. Whether you’re going through the snowy plains, western towns, or underground caverns, exploring Pandora has never been so much fun. While playing it solo is completely fine, Borderlands 2 is a co-op game at heart and joining or hosting a game on the fly is made incredibly simple. A new feature they added to the game is the ability to change your network settings, both in-game or at the main menu. You can set it to Online Friends Only (public for your friends to join), Online Public, Online Private (invitations only), LAN, and Offline. Another thing, the main menu is pretty awesome. You’ll see your character standing in real-time with the equipment and look that you chose for them, but if a friend jumps on via split-screen, you’ll see their character teleport on the menu as well. You can even rotate the camera to look around the environment the main menu is surrounded by.

Borderlands 2 plays essentially the same as the original, but with a few tweaks that further polishes the package. The first thing you’ll notice is that the game’s campaign is broken up into chapters now (18 in total), as opposed to being one massive game. Granted, it’s still one massive game but with a little more sense of progression. Collecting loot off of enemies has now been enhanced a bit where if they drop health and/or ammo, you’ll automatically pick them up this time, as opposed to looking at them and pressing the action button to collect. This certainly helps when in the heat of battle and don’t have the time to look down and grab ammo while being attacked from all directions. Should you go down, the “Fight for your Life” feature is back, in which you’ll have to kill an enemy to get “Second Wind” and keep going. This time around, you can actually crawl on the ground instead of being completely grounded. This helps out a lot because should you be shot down behind an object, you can crawl around the corner to try and get your revenge. Challenges also return but with a greater purpose now. As you complete the extensive list of challenges, each broken into categories and multiple tiers, you’ll earn points for your “Badass Rank”. Each time you fill up your Badass meter, you’ll earn a token which can be redeemed for permanently increased stats (i.e. Gun Damage, Shield Capacity, Maximum Health, Recoil Reduction, Fire Rate, etc). The percentage of these stats that you increase will effect not only yourself, but all the guns you carry as well, regardless of their pre-determined stats. Also new is the “Trading” system. When you go up to your partner, you can hold the crouch button to initiate a trade and from there, you can choose up to five items at once to swap with your partner. If you want to make things more interesting, you can duel each other for certain items, giving it a fun competitive nature. Also, there will be times when you complete a mission that you have to make a choice as to who to turn the mission into for a special reward, regardless of who tasked you with the mission originally. These choices won’t change the story’s outcome or affect your relationships with them, they’re strictly for figuring out which reward appeals to you more.

Leveling up your character is still absolutely essential and the pacing Gearbox has in place is well done. If you’re the type that wants to get strictly through the campaign, well you may not be able to do that. Completing side-missions is necessary in getting more XP so that you can level up for the tougher missions. You can still manage through the higher level missions and the game will tell you what difficulty (Trivial, Normal, Tough, Hard, Impossible) the mission will be for you based on your level at the time. Basically, the game’s difficulty ultimately depends on how you play it but the great thing about Borderlands, it’s a game that anyone can beat while maintaining a solid challenge. When you die, you’ll return to the nearest “New-U” station at the cost of some money, but you will keep all the XP, weapons and items you’ve earned. Skill Trees have also been tweaked to have even more options in each of the three subclasses of skills you can branch from. The first game had about 15 skills you can upgrade, this one has almost 30 for each class. Customization is also a little bit deeper than it was before. Instead of being able to choose colors for the way your character looks off the bat (like the first game), you’ll earn customization skins by completing specific side-missions. It’s basically the same thing except now you have to unlock colors for the character. There are a ton to choose from in the beginning but you can definitely add more to it. On top of that, you can also earn new head/hair styles for your character to change up as well.

One of Borderlands’ hooks was that the game offered “bazillions” of guns. Well, Borderlands 2 one-up’s that by including “870 Gajillion More Guns….with Personality”. This time around, there’s an unprecedented number of weapons and every single one is entirely unique. However, to make the weapons stand out even further, each gun’s manufacturer has particular traits for their firearms. For example, if you have a Tediore weapon, they will always explode upon reloading and reappear as a new gun for you to use. Dahl Corporation weapons will all have burst fire functionality while zooming down the scope. The fact that Gearbox added more focus to the manufacturers to make them stand out a bit so that people can become fond with which weapons they like is a great little detail.

Enemies this time around will provide a much stiffer challenge, thanks to more advanced AI and strategic elements in place. For example, when going up against Loaders, you can strategically dismember them to give yourself the upper hand. However, the moment they’ve been dismembered, they will call out for a Surveyor to come repair them or even shield them. Certain enemies may cloak within the environment, making it harder to spot and shoot them. Others may have very specific locations to target to take them down, such as the Crystalisks and Spiderants. The boss battles that you’ll take on are definitely a step up from the first game’s, both in scale and intensity. These battles will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat, especially if you’re playing solo since you’ll have no one around to revive you.

Borderlands 2’s gameplay is just as addictive, if not more so, than the original game. It’s brilliantly paced, plays incredibly well and has that “just one more mission” element. The presentation and mechanics are above and beyond the original’s…and that’s saying a lot since the first game was impressive as it is. Getting through the campaign alone will take a minimum of 25-30 hours and there’s a ton of content (including True Vault Hunter mode, which is New Game Plus) to keep you coming back.

Graphics: 4/5

Borderlands had a fresh visual style and the same can be said here with the sequel, this time with more variety and detail. Every part of Pandora is incredibly lush, vibrant and detailed, making the environments pop out with character. Gearbox definitely made some enhancements to their visuals, but that’s also in part to the variety within their environments. Snowy regions look stunning and calming, with beautiful detail made to the ice especially, while the same amount of effort was put into the volcanic, cavern and desert regions. When in the volcanic and snowy regions of Pandora, you’ll see either snow or ashes sticking on the screen occasionally. Water has received a massive amp up from the original game, now looking more appealing with reflective surfaces, making you want to dive in. The scale of the environments have also received a vast upgrade, now with landmarks that really flesh out the areas and make each location feel distinct and unique. No matter where you are in Pandora, Gearbox has crafted a beautifully stunning world that you’ll want to explore in its entirety. There’s even a realtime day/night cycle that looks astonishing to say in the least.

Character models look a little bit better than the original, but not by much. This is not a bad thing at all since Gearbox had very detailed models in the original as it is. One little detail I loved to see was when you have your inventory open, your co-op partners can actually see a window open in front of that specific character to showcase they’re in their inventory menu. Animations for all the characters are very well done but there were a few instances where a specific enemy (Goliath) will sprint at you but when he turns to you, he’ll just magically do a 180 turn while still running forward (looks like he’s doing a moonwalk). It’s humorous, no question, but definitely odd. Another thing that hurts the visuals a bit is its technical issues. Environments tend to load textures as you progress through them at times, as well as the objects that appear when opening chests. Also, shrubs and grass that stick out of the ground appear to just pop up as you keep driving through the environment. The framerate is smooth most of the time but there were moments where the game slowed down a bit when aiming down scoped elemental weapons (i.e. a pistol with a scope that can shoot fire rounds). Lastly, I came across a few lockers and chests that were completely discolored and seemed as if they were in a debugging state. This one was a rare occurrence during my playthrough but should be pointed out. Regardless, Borderlands 2 looks absolutely stunning, but it is because of this that the little graphical bugs stand out a bit, making it just shy of perfection.

Sound: 5/5

When a game advertises that it has “gajillions” of guns, you would hope that they sound as powerful and badass as they quoted. Well, they do. The guns in Borderlands 2 sound like they pack a punch and would put anyone down. Voice acting is excellent amongst the whole cast of characters, whether they provide their hysterical or more suitable dialogue. You actually feel for these characters thanks to how well acted they are. For example, Handsome Jack is a bad dude, no question. However, it is in large part to how his voice actor portrays him and executes his condescending tone.

Environmental ambiance effects are terrific as well. As you’ll explore Pandora, each environment will provide audio that really brings them to life and immerses you even further into the game. The real star of the show is the superb soundtrack composed once again from acclaimed musicians, Jesper Kyd, Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan. Every track perfectly conveys the setting and scenarios that accompany them. When in the snowy region, the music is calming and conveys a sense of “coldness” to it, while being in a volcanic region is more dark and ominous. Combat music really intensifies the situations brilliantly and brings you deeper into the action. This is a soundtrack that will stick with you even when you’re not playing. Overall, this is an audio package that’s just plain rock solid. Crank up those speakers!

Overall Score: 19/20 = 9.5 out of 10

Borderlands 2 isn’t just a sequel that’s superior to the original in almost every way, it’s one of the best games released in 2012. Gearbox Software looked at everything that worked in the original and vastly improved upon every field. With a hearty-sized campaign, beautiful visuals, fantastic soundtrack and audio effects, and rich story, Borderlands 2 is a must-own for any gamer out there. Do not miss out on this experience.

PROs:

+ Rich, deep story

+ Beautifully detailed environments

+ Fantastic soundtrack, audio effects and voice acting

+ “Gajillions” more guns than the original

+ Lengthy campaign with a ton to do after completion

CONs:

– Textures load while playing and can look jarring at times

– Some technical bugs

Special thanks to 2K Games for providing us a review copy for Borderlands 2! Review based on PS3 version of the game.

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First Medal of Honor: Warfighter DLC Will Make Heads Turn

Electronic Arts announced news that is definitely causing a buzz in the gaming community earlier today. The newly created DLC for Medal of Honor: Warfighter will undoubtedly cause some controversy when it is released on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC this October. The DLC is based off of a movie currently in production aptly named “Zero Dark Thirty”. The film’s brief synopsis is described as “the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man.” The movie follows a special operations forces’ mission to capture Osama Bin Laden in the years after 9/11. The DLC will take place in the exact town Bin Laden was found and executed in. The “Zero Dark Thirty” DLC will feature two multiplayer maps, called the Darra Gun Market and Chitral. These two locations were confirmed to be hideouts for Bin Laden at various times between 2002-2010.

The Darra Gun market map synopsis:

“The decade long hunt to find Bin Laden went through some of the most remote and dangerous parts of the world. The Darra Gun Market is located in a tribal land where the rules are defined by only two principles – hospitality and revenge. No police are allowed to enter the area and all the laws are made by the tribal leader. This small town in Pakistan is home to dozens of back-alley shops and self-taught machinists who are in many cases building guns by hand. Almost no outsiders ever see this town. What better place to hide than where only locales and known tribal members are allowed to enter.”

Chitral map synopsis:

“Chitral is another area of Pakistan thought for a time to be one of Bin Laden’s hideouts. A rural mountainous area filled with deep narrow valleys, it has many places that are inaccessible several months each year because of snow and road conditions. There are over 1200 small towns scattered throughout the Chitral district and finding someone who doesn’t want to be found would be next to impossible.”

Amazingly, those who pre-order Medal of Honor: Warfighter will receive “Zero Dark Thirty” DLC for free. Those who do not pre-order it will have the option of paying $10 when it is released to the public on December 17. On a side note, one dollar from every sale will go towards EA’s “Project HONOR” charity, which is a honorable cause that must be noted. For more news on this or any other topic be sure to keep it locked onto Gamers Xtreme, and as always, “Game On!”

Battlefield 3 Co-Op May Have Just Vanquished MW3’s Spec Ops

EA kicked off big with Gamescom 2011 showing off Battlefield 3’s riveting cooperative gameplay mode in a press demo. In a hostage rescue mission you start off with two characters which is the co-op mode. EA has stated that the co-op mode will have a full-fleshed out story line separate from the campaign.

The demo displayed variety of cool and intuitive moments. The dynamic co-op tactics reminds me of “Army of Two” with scenes of both online players emptying rooms through gunfire and by coordinating with each other when to proceed and attack.  Eventually the hostage was rescued. The next scene shows the players escorting a vehicle convoy when suddenly a rocket ambush from the rooftops erupts in total chaos (reminding me of the famous scene from “Clear and Present Danger”). The co-op system allows players to heal each other when shot down, which has become a standard in FPSs nowadays.

EA is promising an assortment of mission types, comprising vehicles both land and air, which sounds terrific. Impressing even more on the gamers, EA is implementing a social network and stats tracking system with the new website which is accessible to all players and of course, thanks to EA, it’s free of charge! Codenamed “Battle log,” this lets the gamer manage his or her friends lists, squad/clan, create platoons, use voice chat and follow your friends’ progress in actual real-time.

Now in my own opinion, being a beloved fan of the COD franchise and still am, I have something to say. If anybody has actually seen footage of this game period whether in HD or not you would be hard pressed not to state that this is the most next gen looking game in the history of gaming especially for FPS shooters. Aside from that, this mode I just discussed will only be a fraction of the overall pie of BF3. However, when comparing this co-op mode to Spec Ops in the Modern Warfare series, I can’t help but wonder that Spec Ops now seems a bit out dated and well…overly bland. And please do not misinterpret I loved spec ops mode and still do to this day. However, for BF3 and MW3, I feel that MW will need to absolutely step it up more than a few notches to equal or surpass what EA has created here. This is a fully fleshed out co-op mode that has the potential to have more heart and character in it than most FPS main campaigns nowadays. Only time will tell if EA delivers on their promise and also if Modern warfare 3 will overcome or at least compete with its own side mission slice of the game.

WHY FPS ONLINE MULTIPLAYER IS RUINING THE INDUSTRY… (AND WARPING THE MINDS OF YOUNG GAMERS)

1) Players are ignoring the single player campaign

While FPS multiplayer can be fun to play at times, it should not be the main reason for playing a certain game. Multiplayer is nothing more than an addition to the main single player campaign. Keep in mind that developers use their time and energy in creating an experience containing solid gameplay with interesting stories and characters, yet many gamers today skip the single player campaign to rush online and blast their friends to smithereens without giving the game itself a chance. This is a disservice to both the makers of the game, and to the gamers themselves, as they will most likely miss out on an incredible journey that the main character must trek through in order to save the world or some diabolical corruption. If compared to a DVD purchase, the single player campaign is like the movie itself, while the multiplayer is nothing more than just extras that you can find on a bonus disk. So do yourself a favor and play the game first before rushing in to mindlessly shoot enemies to bits.

2) Players are spending months on one game

One of the cool things about the current console generation is being able to see what your friends are playing online when you sign into your account. I like seeing what types of games other players are interested in as they cycle through their games library. However, there are a growing number of people who are sticking with one FPS game for months playing only the multiplayer portion of the game. While I understand that a game can be fun to play, gamers should venture out and try out other amazing titles that have been released to the world. There are many other genres to explore that are just as immersive (if not more so) than the standard FPS game.

3) Poor morals

Just recently, I watched my eight-year old nephew playing an FPS (I believe it was one of the Call of Duty’s – they all look the same, run around and shoot people with a gun). As I sat there watching him kill other “human” beings by using a number of different firearms, and even slitting enemies’ throats using a combat knife, I thought to myself how an eight-year old child should not be playing these types of realistic games. Now before people start lecturing on how most games have ways to kill off enemies, it has just been in recent years that they are made to look more realistic. Defending your planet from aliens, killer robots or goombas is one thing, but intentionally killing other humans is no way to have young children express their imagination. Look at most superheroes in comic books and you’ll notice that they have a moral responsibility to defeat an enemy without killing them. Games used to have more characters with a similar mentality, and while there still are a few, many games today are looking for a grittier look with more realistic graphics, leaving us with images that could confuse us between make-believe and reality. You don’t have to look far to find news reports of young members in our society creating harmful acts due to their fascination with realistic games that “teach” us to kill. When it comes to certain FPS games, morality is something that gets thrown out the window (especially in homes that don’t have parents to teach their kids values). Most, if not all, FPS games are built around war, and yes, war can be violent, yet war is also political, and most people who play these FPS games don’t know the meaning behind this fact. They just think it’s fun to kill people in as many ways as possible. Games are supposed to show us how to be hero, not a killer. With the overly abundant first person shooter games being released each year, I’m hopeful that this is just a gaming fad, and that we can revert back to more creative and meaningful game experiences.