ThunderCats Review (DS)

ThunderCats is a side-scrolling adventure game published by Namco Bandai and developed by Aspect Digital Entertainment. The game is inspired by the ThunderCats animated series from Warner Bros., and was released for the Nintendo DS.

Story: 2/5

ThunderCats is a game based on the new animated series, and as a tie-in, it shares many of the shows story elements. So much so in fact, that the game borrows exact scenes from the show to piece together a story line for the game. In the game, Thundera has fallen into ruin by Mumm-Ra and his evil Lizard Army. The leader of the ThunderCats (Lion-O) must wield the Sword of Omens, and along with his ThunderCats companions, stop at nothing to reclaim Thundera and obtain the Book of Omens. Along the way, the ThunderCats come into contact with other allies that help them on their journey, as they inform them of the dangers that lie ahead on their quest to stop Mumm-Ra. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll have a better understanding of who all these characters are, and why this quest is so important. Yet the game just takes snippets of scenes from the show, and tries to combine them together to give Lion-O a reason for why he is on the next level. It was nice seeing so many cameos and story elements from the show, but had I never heard of ThunderCats, I wouldn’t really know the important details that the game’s story fails to deliver.

Gameplay: 2/5

I’m a big fan of ThunderCats, and was happy to see that a game was finally in the works. Unfortunately, the game isn’t as good as it could have been. While the game does a decent job of incorporating many elements from the ThunderCats animated series, the gameplay itself can be a bit rough. For starters, you can only play as Lion-O, and while the other ThunderCats are in the game, they only act as assists for the player. While it’s a shame that an opportunity to use the other ThunderCats is absent, at least we see them aid Lion-O throughout the game. However, Lion-O needs all the assists he can get, because combat can be a bit difficult for a number of reasons. First off, Lion-O has a very basic skill set: he slashes with his Sword of Omens, can double jump, and slide. Yet Lion-O has no way of actually defending himself. This means that while battling enemies that slash and fire at you, Lion-O will undoubtedly get hit again and again. I’m not sure why a block feature wasn’t implemented, as it would have come in handy to somehow block enemies that are firing at you from a distance. Not only that, but Lion-O seems to get stunned long enough to get hit two to three times before he actually falls backward. This can prove especially daunting during boss fights, and you will need to utilize every assist (you can carry up to three) to help defeat the enemy.

While Panthro, Tygra and Cheetara come in handy with their attacks (which normally eliminate any enemy on-screen or brings damage to a boss), I basically used Wilykit/Wilykat for the majority of the time, as they are the only ones that provide you with health and icons (to call a companion) during some of the more difficult stages and bosses. The game also had an unbalanced checkpoint system. I found myself redoing an entire level if I died, and even if you manage to make it to the boss battle at the end of the level, losing meant restarting the level from the beginning. While I did appreciate seeing many characters from the animated series during the boss battles, I felt that it was difficult to determine if some of my hits were damaging the bosses more than others. Without a life bar, or any visual indicator of my attacks, each hit felt the same. Whether I attacked with my sword, or used a special assist from the other ThunderCats, or even unleashing a powerful Sword of Omens attack (which builds up from enemy attacks and collecting sword icons), there was nothing to let the player know how damaging any of these attacks were. Luckily, the game wasn’t long enough for me to become too frustrated with these issues, as I completed it in about an hour and a half (which is something else to consider when purchasing a game of this length at $29.99). Overall, I feel that ThunderCats could have been more enjoyable if these issues were better handled.

Graphics: 2/5

As a DS game, ThunderCats is not going to be a graphical powerhouse. Lion-O and the other ThunderCats characters are simple sprites that are hard to see because of their size. The backgrounds are uninspired, and the cut scenes are nothing more than stills from the show. I suppose that this is to be expected from the aging system though.

Sound: 2/5

“ThunderCats, Ho!” is a very popular phrase from the ThunderCats, and I loved hearing that when I was a kid when watching the original cartoons, or even from the more recent animated series that the game is inspired by. Yet I got sick of hearing this when it’s the only sound in the whole game. When Lion-O starts a level, when Lion-O unleashes his Eye of Thundera, when you continue after losing a life, when Lion-O requires an assist from a companion; he constantly responds with “ThunderCats, Ho!” It gets old fast. The music is decent though and reminded me of old 8-bit games, but it’s nothing memorable.

Overall Score: 8/20 = 4.0 out of 10

ThunderCats is not a horrible game, but it’s not great by any means either. It was fun to finally play as Lion-O and to experience the world of ThunderCats as a console game. In small bursts, the game is somewhat enjoyable, but that doesn’t hide the fact that the game has its problems, and that many people will tire of it quickly.

PROS:

+ Finally get to play as Lion-O in a video game

CONS:

– No Defense against Attacks

– Repetitive Enemies and Levels

– No Checkpoints

– Annoying Sound Effects

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME 

A special thank you to Namco Bandai Games for providing us a review copy of ThunderCats!

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Review (PS3/360)

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a third-person action game developed by High Moon Studios and published through Activision. The game is a direct sequel to the 2010 video game, Transformers: War for Cybertron, and is available for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Story: 4/5

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron takes place shortly after the events of its original, War for Cybertron. The game begins on the infamous Ark, which is the shuttle that the Autobots use to escape Cybertron, but are then attacked by Megatron and his Decepticons. A battle ensues and we eventually see Optimus and Megatron battling aboard the ship. Megatron seems to gain the upper hand and is about to finish Optimus once and for all, until Bumblebee jumps in to take the hit instead. This prologue event sets the course of the game, and then flashes back six days prior to this final confrontation. It’s interesting to note that even though War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron take place right before the original 80’s Transformers cartoon, there are many nods to the 80’s Transformers animated movie (such as the Bumblebee save that was just mentioned). The game contains thirteen chapters (as opposed to the originals ten) and this time around begins with the player controlling the Autobots during the first half of the story, before switching to the Decepticons in the latter half. The final level, however, is a mix of both Autobots and Decepticons, before letting you choose to end the game with either Optimus or Megatron. Fans of the original cartoon series will get an even bigger treat, as there are many cameos and surprise appearances that will please longtime fans. However, even those unfamiliar with the original cartoon series will enjoy the engaging story that the game has to offer. Fall of Cybertron deals with the ongoing conflict between the Autobots and the Decepticons as they attempt to escape their dying planet of Cybertron. Yet the game goes into greater detail by showing Autobot characters Jazz and Cliffjumper investigating the disappearance of Grimlock and his Dinobots, as well as Shockwave’s interest in the Insecticons and Starscream’s betrayal of Megatron (another scene that is taken from the 80’s animated movie). The story switches between many different Transformer characters as you progress through the game, and even though it’s no surprise that the game ends right where the cartoon begins, it is quite an experience to witness the events leading up to the original series.

Gameplay: 4/5

Fall of Cybertron plays very similarly to its predecessor (War for Cybertron) yet with a few changes that help to make this better than the original. Once again, the game is a third person shooter, where the objective is to destroy the opposing forces with primary and stronger secondary weapons. Other objectives vary the gameplay a bit, such as destroying outposts, protecting teammates, and collecting items, such as energon cubes and audio logs. You also have the ability to purchase and upgrade your weapons, as well as many different kinds of perks, such as extended shields and health. You will still need energon cubes to refill your health meter, but your shield re-energizes over time and when not in battle. One of the issues of FOC’s predecessor was that ammo was tough to come by at times and the melee was slow to use. These have been changed in FOC for the better, as ammo is more readily available through the thirteen chapters, and the melee has been improved. Each Transformer also has a special ability that can be activated by pressing R2. These specials need to recharge after each use, but come in handy during difficult areas with large amounts of enemies. Special abilities are specific to a particular Autobot or Decepticon and range from grappling beams, shock bursts, and artillery strikes, to name a few. Grimlock and Bruticus are exceptions to this, as these two have different control schemes due to the nature of their transformations.

Transforming is as easy as it was in the previous game, and is accomplished by clicking the L3 button. However, as fun as it is to transform, there is still little use for it. Even though your armor can be a bit stronger in vehicle mode, there are only a couple moments when you need to transform in order to escape quickly or fly to different locations. While the option to transform is the best idea for the player, it would be nice to have some “forced” missions where you need to use the vehicle form for an extended amount of time. Another improvement to the game is the levels themselves, as they are more varied and interesting to play. Levels are not as bland as they were before, and are more “colorful” and detailed than in WFC.

One of the modes that I was sad to see leave was the online co-op campaign and the option to choose a character at the beginning of each level. But it’s understandable why that is no longer available after playing though the game and experiencing the story progression. However, Escalation mode returns for those that prefer a multiplayer component, where the goal is to work with others to defeat waves of enemies. Fall of Cybertron is gripping from beginning to end, and has a good balance of exploration, story development and gunplay. It was tough to improve on the greatness of the original WFC game, but these minor enhancements have helped make this game better than the last.

Graphics: 4/5

War for Cybertron set the bar really high, so it’s nice to see that its sequel can at least maintain the graphical effects of the game. Each Transformer has highly detailed designs, and even showcase areas of rotating gears and functions that consistently move on their outer frames. The transformations themselves also look great, and environments are much more varied and less monochromatic than in WFC. Some set pieces even rival games such as God of War and Ratchet & Clank, as we see interactive backgrounds and gargantuan robots or ships that dwarf our main characters on screen. Lighting effects are also well done, yet there were moments in the game when the environments take a while to fully load as we move from one room to another. This doesn’t happen often, yet is noticeable when it does. Still, the game looks great and the graphics are on par, if not superseding, War for Cybertron.

Sound: 5/5

What’s noticeable about the soundtrack from the moment we see the initial title screen is how it closely resembles the score from the recent Transformers movies (which is a good thing). Even though it’s similar however, it does stand on its own and is easily one of the best soundtracks in a video game. The intensity of the music sets the tone of the game and doesn’t let up until the final credits roll (which fans of the original 80’s movie will remember). Sound effects sound just as they did in WFC, as players transform and blast their way through the games many levels. Also, familiar voices return as Peter Cullen reprises his role as Optimus Prime, and for the first time in twenty-five years, Gregg Berger returns to the voice of Grimlock. Fall of Cybertron is best experienced with the volume cranked up, as the audio effects and tracks really shine.

Overall Score: 17/20 = 8.5/10

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a worthy addition to the Transformers brand, and an improvement to the already stellar original, War for Cybertron. With its engaging gameplay and abundant fan service, Fall of Cybertron is definitely a must buy for any Transformers fan, and an excellent addition in any gamers library.

PROS:

+ Lots of cameos and surprises for longtime Transformers fans

+ Engaging storyline that bridges the gap between War for Cybertron and the original 80’s cartoon series

+ Fantastic soundtrack and effects

+ Entertaining gameplay and an improvement over its predecessor

CONS:

– Minor graphical glitches

– Need more reason to transform to vehicle mode

– No more co-op feature

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II Review (PSN/XBLA)

Fans of Sonic the Hedgehog have waited patiently for Sonic 4: Episode II, and the wait is finally over! This game does a nice job of connecting past Sonic games in both story and style, as many familiar faces and locales return. The story revolves around Metal Sonic being reborn by Dr. Eggman after his defeat in Sonic CD (originally released on the Sega CD and now also available on PSN/XBLA). During the events of Episode I, Dr. Eggman revived Metal Sonic to locate Sonic while he planned to build a new Death Egg (mk. II). Sonic and Tails race to stop Dr. Eggman and Metal Sonic before the new Death Egg can be completed.

Episode II plays similar to the first episode, yet with some enhancements to the gameplay. This time around, Sonic is no longer solo in Episode II, as Tails returns to aid the blue hedgehog. Tails can either be controlled by the computer in single-player, or in multiplayer in local or online co-op play. With the inclusion of Tails, Sonic can now perform new combo moves, such as the Tail Lift and Power Spin Attack. Tail Lift gives Sonic a temporary chopper lift that he can use to hover in order to reach elevated areas. It also serves as a quick escape from death during certain levels in the game. Meanwhile, the Power Spin Attack combo grants Sonic and Tails a powerful roll (similar to Sonic’s regular spin attack) that can destroy mostly anything in their path. This combo move definitely comes in handy during some of the boss fights.

Special stages also return in Episode II. Similar to how Episode I revived the special stages from the original Sonic, Episode 2 borrows from Sonic 2’s special stages. These special stages are based on a half-pipe race showing a rear view of Sonic and Tails as they try to collect a certain number of rings. If you succeed in acquiring all the rings during a special stage, then Sonic is able to retrieve a Chaos Emerald. Also returning are the Red Star Rings (which were last seen in Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations). One Red Ring is hidden per act, and an achievement/trophy is unlocked after collecting them all.

Also, a nice addition to owning both Episode I and Episode II will unlock you the Episode Metal bonus stages. These stages explore how Metal Sonic survived his battle with Sonic after the events of Sonic CD. During these levels, you take control of Metal Sonic as he races his way through reworked zones from Episode I. Not only are these zones a little different from the first Episode, but there are short segments that show how Metal Sonic received the power he now has in Episode 2, and how he caught up with Sonic and Tails at the beginning of this game.

The old school challenge of Sonic the Hedgehog is still apparent, with creative boss battles and reworked levels from previous Sonic games. It would have been nice to see newer zones rather than older ones retooled for Sonic 4, but the level designs are engaging and fun, and they are reminiscent of past Sonic games. Sonic’s movements are still a little sluggish compared to the originals, but you easily get used to it and the controls don’t detract from the gameplay experience (except for the “flying” stage as Sonic and Tails head for the Sky Fortress in their Tornado plane. This segment was difficult and somewhat boring in its length). The boss battles were well crafted as well, as they gave the player an old school strategy feel. At times, these bosses could prove frustrating, but once you were able to figure out each strategy, the feeling of accomplishment overcame the frustration.

Sonic 4: Episode II is a great DLC game that all Sonic fans (as well as new fans to the series) should play. I’m hopeful that we’ll see an Episode III, but from what’s been said, that would depend on the sales of Episode II. Sonic deserves to remain in 2D form, so I hope to see more DLC episodes down the line.

VERDICT: BUY IT!

Binary Domain Review (PS3/360)

Binary Domain is a third-person, squad-based shooter from the creators of the Yakuza series. Published and developed by SEGA, the game features an optional headset functionality. Binary Domain is available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Story: 5/5

During the early years of the 21st century, the effects of global warming have caused most of the world to lie in ruins, forcing government leaders to build new cities above the devastation. With millions dead, robots were created to be used as the humans main labor force. America became the world superpower when the Bergen company dominated most of the robotic industries. However, the Amada corporation in Japan tried to sue Bergen for stealing their technology, but that case ultimately failed. As the years passed, the government passed a new set of international laws, dubbed the “New Geneva Convention.” One of these laws, clause 21, banned any research dealing with robots that could pass for humans, also known as “Hollow Children.” The IRTA (International Robotics Technology Association) created a task force called the “Rust Crew” to deal with issues relating to clause 21. Many more years passed, and a Hollow Child attacked Bergen Industries, but was wounded in the process. To their surprise, the Hollow Child had no idea that he was a robot himself. With this newfound knowledge, the IRTA sent a Rust Crew to Japan to question Yoji Amada, head of the Amada Corporation, as they believed he was responsible for the Hollow Child.

The story behind Binary Domain is a very interesting concept, and one that will keep you guessing throughout its many engaging cut-scenes. At times, the story made me wonder how the concept of ‘hidden’ robots could eventually become reality, and also made me think twice about certain choices that needed to be made. The story line revolves around the main character (Dan), a member of the Rust Crew, who eventually comes into contact with other agents of different nationalities/ governments. These members then make their way towards the Amada Corporation while tackling a myriad amount of robotic soldiers. Towards the end of the game, the story shifts depending on the character interactions you have with your teammates, leaving many players with different outcomes. Binary Domain sucked me into the game by the story alone, and pushed me through it just to see how it would all end.

Gameplay: 3/5

Binary Domain is basically a squad-based shooter that incorporates a cover system. It’s very similar to many 3rd person action games like Gears of War, Dead Space, and Vanquish, but differentiates itself with a few gimmicks. First off, the game can be played with a headset, giving you the option to issue commands to your teammates. While this is an innovating idea, you realize that some of the commands don’t always register, leaving you to continuously shout commands to your teammates until they copy, or become frustrated by your lack of communication. Plus, you just sound silly issuing simple commands to your television when no other human is around (or even when others are around).  Another addition to the game is the Consequence System. Trust plays a key role in how your teammates view the player (Dan). Their opinion of Dan is determined by how Dan interacts and responds to his teammates, which affects both the story line and game play. As you progress through the game, your teammates could offer assistance or leave you to defend yourself depending on how you treat them. The story line itself can change, and not all of your teammates might survive depending on the choices you make, leaving you “responsible” for their outcome. This was a nice change of pace to the game, as the story was its biggest asset, and made you care for the characters in the game.

However, as entertaining as Binary Domain was, it was a pretty repetitive affair; even though the developer tried hard to change the game play through its six chapters, such as rail shooter moments and vehicle sections. Yet, the biggest issue is that you mainly just destroyed robots with your main assault rifle and firearm, and an optional third weapon scattered throughout the game. It was nice to also have different types of grenades to lash out at the enemy, but it was all standard fare. There were a few moments of stealth and level interaction, but it mostly boiled down to walking into an area filled with robots, destroying the robots, and moving ahead until you need to destroy more robots. The boss battles did enhance the game play, as there were many different types of large-scale bosses, and most of the time, a strategy needed to be implemented with your team in order to survive (there are many one hit kills, so gunning it alone isn’t a good idea).  An upgrade system is also present in the game (this too is similar to Dead Space). “Kiosks” are scattered around the area that give you the ability to upgrade or purchase additional nanomites (health, armor, etc.) or weapon upgrades for you and your team. Destroying robots gives you credits to purchase the items, but you never felt stingy as there was always a surplus of money to be obtained.  Binary Domain had a lot of great moments, whether you were running and gunning, manning turrets, being chased on a transport vehicle, or riding jet-skis, yet the repetition kicked in too frequently throughout the game.

Graphics: 4/5

It’s impressive to see the robots built in layers, and as you shoot them with your weapons, they break apart into pieces revealing more of its interior design. A lot of Binary Domain is like this, with interesting set locations, enemy design, realistic looking characters, and lighting effects that gives the player a futuristic landscape to observe. There are a few moments however when the locales are bland, but for the most part, Binary Domain is a very pretty game to look at.

Sound: 3/5

There were moments in the game that drove me insane, and one particular moment that comes to mind is the repetitive comments from some of the characters. Being a squad-based shooter, teammates are supposed to interact during certain situations, but when you are trying to defend them while they are busy operating a machine, you hear the same comments again and again in a very short time period, which gets really annoying. Plus, when Dan gets wounded, he lowers himself to the ground and the player tries to crawl himself to safety as you wait for aid from one of your teammates. Yet that help sometimes never arrives even though the teammate is saying they’re coming. Still, the voice acting is really well done (although do we really need another game with characters cursing when there is really no need to curse), and the music, while limited in tracks, has a very good soundtrack that gets you into the game.

Overall Score: 15/20 = 7.5 out of 10

Overall, Binary Domain is a very good game, with many inquisitive moments during its storyline, relentless action, and interesting additions to its gameplay. For being a new title that is mostly unheard of, and not just another sequel, Binary Domain surprisingly holds its own, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it in the future.

PROS:

+Engaging story line.

+Innovative features (headset, consequence system)

+Impressive Graphics and cut scenes

CONS:

-Repetitive gameplay

-Annoying character interaction

-Inconsistent headset functionality

Retro Gaming: Bionic Commando (Nintendo Entertainment System – 1988)

Bionic Commando is an action-adventure game that was loosely based on the 1987 arcade game of the same name. The protagonist is known as Radd Spencer, a commando equipped with a bionic arm that enables him to grapple ledges in order to traverse over gaps. This is one of the few instances where a jump button was not included in an 8-bit game.

Radd Spencer is sent in to investigate the disappearance of the Federation’s best soldier, Super Joe, after they find out of the Empire’s plans of constructing a weapon known as the Albatross. This premise sends our hero through 19 areas throughout the game. However, certain areas are locked until you can locate specific weapons to access the area.

The game begins at a stage selection map where you can decide which areas to tackle in any sequence (although it is mostly a linear progression). From there, you can load-out your weapon selection before beginning the level, but some weapons are better than others in certain areas so you need to choose wisely. There are two level types to Bionic Commando. The first is a side-scrolling action-adventure game filled with many objectives: various enemies to eliminate, platforming areas that require your grappling hook to swing across, communications terminals that need to be hacked in order to obtain useful information, and level bosses that incorporate a certain strategy to defeat. The second level type is a top down view, similar to the original Commando game. These levels require you to get from point A to point B as you defeat hordes of enemies and dodge incoming fire to reach your goal.

Bionic Commando was remade just recently for the XBLA and PSN, and while the remake was great, the original is the one to play to fully experience the gamelay, along with its engaging music and cutscenes. What’s interesting is that the Japanese version of the game included a revived Adolf Hitler as one of the main villains, but was renamed “Master-D” in the American release. However, the Hitler graphics were never changed, and a “gory” cutscene of his face exploding was shown. An image that was unheard of during the NES era. I was certainly surprised when I viewed this scene after playing it for the first time during my younger years.

Bionic Commando was a fantastic game during the 8-bit era. It’s a rare gem and true classic of old-school gaming…especially after you get used to not being able to jump.

Do you remember playing Bionic Commando for the NES? If so, comment and share your memories with us about the game!

Unpopular Opinion: Why Playstation 3 is Currently the Best Gaming Console

Before reading, please note that this article is not a bashing statement to other gaming consoles, and that the author owns all 3 current-generation gaming systems. Also, the PC is not considered a console, and so has not been included in this article.

All views expressed in the article are strictly of the author’s perspective.

1) Better Exclusives

Let’s face it. Owning a gaming console is useless unless you have great games. While all three major systems (Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii) have fantastic games, only Playstation 3 provides the player with exclusive blockbuster titles that can’t be found anywhere else. Dynamic, original series such as Uncharted, God of War, Ratchet & Clank, Resistance, Killzone, Little Big Planet, Infamous, Motorstorm, and Gran Turismo are just a few of the highly rated series-exclusives you can find on the Playstation 3. PS3 is also the home of several one-hit wonders, such as Metal Gear Solid 4, Heavenly Sword, Modnation Racers and Heavy Rain. While the Xbox 360 has high profile games such as Gears of War, Halo, Fable and Forza, their library of exclusive games just doesn’t compare to the Playstation 3. The Wii on the other hand, has an assortment of the most memorable characters in gaming, such as Super Mario, Donkey Kong. Zelda, and Kirby (to name a few), yet as great as these games are, they still don’t match up to the caliber of exclusive games found on the PS3.

2) Online Features 

Easy and accessible, the Playstation 3 has a wide array of PSN (Playstation Network) titles that provide endless hours of entertainment. The PSN Store houses hundreds of demos, gaming titles, and movies and TV shows that you can rent or own. Best of all, online is free! While the Playstation 3 has a membership option called Playstation Plus (where you can receive discounted or free games, as well as an online storage option for all your game data), you can easily bypass this payment option and receive free online play as soon as you create an account. You can also play online with a various assortment of gaming titles with friends from anywhere around the world, and share Trophies and Messages with just a click of a button. All free! Again, Xbox 360 has a great online addition as well (XBL), but it is a paid subscription, and the Wii has a much more convoluted online option, but the Playstation 3 can provide what the others have for free and with ease. You even have access to Playstation Home, a 3D community that offers an interactive and virtual space to meet, chat, plan and launch into games. These are just some of the online features that can be used on the Playstation 3.

3) Additional Accessories

So you have a Playstation 3, but what if you want to expand your gaming options? Well, the PS3 has many peripherals and devices that can easily enhance your gaming experience. If you have a PSP (Playstation Portable) system, not only can you access Playstation games when on the go, but you can also use the Remote Play option to access your Playstation 3 when you’re not home. Want to start downloading a new game while driving home from school or work? The Remote Play option lets you do this with ease. Do you live far away from your relatives or friends? Then the Playstation Eye is the perfect device to communicate with them via video or text messaging. Want some hands-on, motion sensing gaming? Then the Playstation Move can provide endless hours of arcade style fun. While the Wii started this motion sensing craze, and the Xbox 360 jumped on board with the Kinect, it doesn’t negate the fact that the Playstation 3 also has a motion-sensing device for those interested in this style of play. Also, the PS3 supports an addition that no other console has – it also acts as a Blu-Ray Player. Not only do you now have a gaming console, yet you also possess a Blu-Ray player as a bonus, where you can play any Blu-Ray or DVD.

Bottom line, all 3 current generation consoles are fantastic in their own ways, yet if you want a true gaming and entertainment experience that has it all, the Playstation 3 is the system to own above all!

Why Trophies/Achievements are Pointless

1) No Value

It’s like working for free.  You play an endless amount of hours to collect every trophy/achievement in a game, and then you finally master the game by collecting 100% of everything. You get a sense of accomplishment for about 30 seconds, and then realize that you spent the last few hours of your life collecting things that ultimately don’t matter.  Instead, Sony and Microsoft should keep track of your trophies/achievements and reward you with free games on PSN/Xbox Live when you reach a certain percentage. Now if I knew that I would be rewarded in some way, then I’m all for using extra hours on pointless “do this, collect that” errands if I know that I can get a free game out of it. Otherwise, it’s pretty pointless.

2) Distraction to Gaming

I’m sure that many people have experienced moments when you are in the middle of an intense firefight while being completely immersed in the experience, when all of a sudden, you hear a “ting” with a box that appears in the corner of your screen. Well that little sound and visual just ruined a portion of the experience. Not only that, but players are often caught focusing on a game’s objective, that oftentimes, they’ll remember of a trophy/achievement they could get by jumping over an enemy 10 times (or some other absurd goal, if you didn’t catch the sarcasm). It becomes a distraction to the game play and again, something that is completely pointless. What is worse are players who review all the trophies/achievements before they even start playing a game so that they can get everything. Players are no longer playing a game for the experience, but rather to “collect them all.”

3) The More You Have…

Ever compare your trophies/achievements with someone else? Does it make you look cooler? No, it actually makes you look like someone who does nothing but sit on his/her couch playing video games more than anyone else. Not exactly something to brag about. While I agree that trophies and achievements do bring about more replay value (which is a good thing), don’t become a “trophy/achievement whore” that needs to collect 100% in every game. It’s pointless and detracts from the overall experience of a game. Play because it’s fun…no one likes working for free.

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 Officially Announced

It’s appears Capcom is continuing their business model of re-releasing their titles within a year of their release by adding more content to the game.  However, Capcom has decided to release Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 within less than a year of MvC3’s February release by releasing UMvC3 this fall.

12 new characters are coming to UMvC3 (giving the game a total roster of 50), with Strider, Firebrand, Hawkeye and Ghost Rider as the only 4 announced for now.  Capcom will be announcing the other characters within the months to come.  They are also adding eight new stages, a spectator mode to watch online matches, rebalancing of gameplay mechanics and online enhancements.

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 will be releasing for the PS3 and Xbox 360 this Fall for $39.99.  Will you be buying this edition?  Sound off your thoughts in the comments below!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review (PS3/360)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a third-person action game based on the third Transformers film and developed by High Moon Studios (Transformers: War for Cybertron).  The game is a prequel to the Transformers: Dark of the Moon film and is available for both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

Story: 2/5

Transformers: Dark of the Moon takes place three years after the events of Revenge of the Fallen. The humans believe that the Decepticons have fled Earth, yet Optimus feels differently and the Autobots continue the search for Megatron and his Decepticons. Unlike the previous two movie games, the story is played through a single player campaign rather than separate Autobot and Decepticon campaigns. You’ll begin the game as Bumblebee who is sent to upload a virus into Soundwave’s network system to track all remaining Decepticons on Earth. From there, you take control of Ironhide who is ordered to rescue Ratchet from the Decepticon known as Mixmaster. Mirage then takes center stage as he races to aid Sideswipe and also discovers that the Mayans built their temples above Decepticon technology. After this point in the game, you take control of the Decepticons, with Soundwave landing on Earth after disconnecting himself from a US satellite. He discovers that NEST has a secret facility hidden in a volcano and begins to attack the base. During this time, the Decepticons learn that the Autobots are about to transport their new mechtech weapons system to Optimus aboard Stratosphere. Starscream begins the attack on Stratosphere to retrieve the mechtech but gets ambushed by the Aerialbots. Starscream manages to evade the Aerialbots and obtains the mechtech for Megatron. However, Megatron is angered when Starscream returns the mechtech to their layer, revealing that the mechtech contains a tracking device. It’s at that moment that the Autobots attack, leaving Megatron to defend himself against the Autobot warriors. As the Autobots swarm the base, Megatron makes his way to the cryochamber that holds Soundwave (captured by the Russians in the same manner that Megatron was captured by the Americans). Yet before Megatron can release Shockwave, Optimus Prime arrives to stop Megatron. After defeating Optimus, Megatron escapes, leaving Optimus in a cryochamber leading to Shockwave. This final level has you controlling Optimus Prime as you fight a Driller and Shockwave together. Even though the premise is pretty basic, the story guides the player through the games objective. In the end, the game takes place through seven chapters, filling in some gaps and leading directly to the Dark of the Moon film.

Gameplay: 4/5

The game is a huge improvement over the two previous Transformers movie games, and is very similar to Transformers: War for Cybertron (In my opinion, the best Transformers game thus far). As you control both Autobots and Decepticons throughout the game, you’ll notice that the games controls are just like WFC, with some minor differences. The ability to pick up new weapons is gone, as well as the need to pick up ammunition. Instead, each character possesses special abilities and weapons that are used specifically for the stage that they are a part of. For instance, Soundwave can utilize laserbeak to access areas out of his reach, while Mirage can camoflauge himself to sneak undetected past Decepticon patrols. What the game does well is change the pace of the game from simply shooting robots across seven levels. There is a good degree of variety in the gameplay. Your tasks include objectives such as stealth, race, flight, item retrieval, and obviously gunplay. This game even uses the vehicle modes in a more creative fashion than WFC did, letting you use the vehicles more frequently and with purpose. This time around, the Transformers also turn into a third form called Stealth Mode form, which turns your vehicle into an arsenal of destruction. These vehicles “hover” and add extra armor to your vehicle mode. Controls for the vehicle modes are sluggish in Stealth Mode form, and too loose in vehicle mode. The boost for your vehicle doesn’t help as it makes movement a lot more difficult to control, leaving you bumping into areas needlessly. The game is playable, but controls in vehicle form could have been more refined to match the robot forms. The game is a bit on the short side, with the game taking about 5 hours to complete. While some might find that short, the game was enjoyable enough to warrant a second playthrough, as well as the addition of Multiplayer to lengthen the game. One thing that I wish they included was the option to choose any Transformer for any level after the game has been completed, but each level is set directly to a specific character, leaving you to play through the same levels with the same characters.

Graphics: 3/5

Graphics are a step down from War for Cyberton. The levels are mostly bland, ranging from forests, to hidden bases and even a volcano. While the set locations are interesting, the graphics don’t do enough to make anything stand out. The Transformers themselves are pretty boring to look at for the most part because of their movie versions, which means a lot of dark gray colors. In one level, it was tough to determine who was a Decepticon, and who was an Autobot during a firefight. Cutscenes were pretty basic as well, which worked fine but does nothing to impress you.

Sound: 5/5

The game does a good job with weapon and transformation effects, as well as providing the voices of the actors behind the film (especially Peter Cullen as Optimus).  The music of the game is very reminiscent of the Transformers movie score, and provides a good soundtrack while playing.

Overall: 14/20 = 7/10

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is an improvement over the previous two movie games, but a step down from War for Cybertron. It’s a fun game for fans of the Transformers franchise and a decent movie tie-in game.

PROS:

+Gameplay similar to War for Cybertron, with a variety of levels

+Cameo appearances from movie versions of Transformer characters

+Good sound effects and music

CONS:

-Short campaign that lasts about 5 hours

-Basic story line

-Graphics are a step down from WFC

Thor: God of Thunder Review (PS3/360)

Thor is a third-person action game based on the Thor film and developed by Liquid Entertainment.  Thor: God of Thunder is the first standalone game to feature Thor in a videogame, and is available for all three major consoles (PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii).

Story: 2/5

Thor: God of Thunder is written by Matt Fraction, one of the top comic writers in the industry, yet his tale in the Thor video game falls flat and is mostly uninspired. The story for the game is a sort of prequel to the movie, which adds more characters and worlds that we know from the comic books. Asgard is invaded by frost giants and many citizens are captured or injured, leaving Thor on a quest to vanquish those responsible across the nine realms. As always, the master of mischief, Loki (also known as Thor’s brother) uses the situation to his advantage as he manipulates Thor to achieve his ambitions of power. There are many locations within the nine realms that were fun to see, as well as some well-placed cameo appearances from the Thor film, and even certain characters that longtime comic fans will enjoy. Yet the story is a bit lackluster with dull narrative and basic plot points. If you’re looking for a good Thor story, I recommend reading his comic series instead, as the game’s storyline has no interesting moments to fuel the advancement of the game.

Gameplay: 2/5

At first, Thor feels like a GOW clone, which is not a bad thing, but you soon realize the issues that the game presents. Using the might of Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer), you beat and bash your way through hordes of enemies until you are allowed to advance. However, the repetition builds quickly as you enact the same basic moves throughout the game. The developers added multiple combat moves in order to attack your enemies, as well as three different magic powers (lightning, earthquake, wind) that you can upgrade along the way by collecting runes. These are all elements to a game that work for genres such as this, but the inconsistent hit detection makes the process a hassle. The move sets quickly become limited and you find yourself bored as you progress further through the game. One of the biggest challenges I faced while playing the game was when facing boss encounters. Many of the boss encounters required the use of quick-time events (something that is overly redundant in the gaming industry and actually takes away from game play), but these quick-time events do a poor job of explaining what to press and when. It was almost as if the developers forgot to add the visual cues for the player. This occurred numerous times and made the boss battles frustrating to play. Not only was this annoying the first time around, but many of the same bosses were recycled throughout the game, having you redo the same broken technique again and again. Thor also has the ability to grapple his enemies, but the same issue of never knowing when the proper time to attack an enemy often left you on the bashing end of the enemy instead. There were some moments where you felt the strength of Thor when he used his powers, but not enough to bypass the combat issues. Another problem with the game was that there were moments when you weren’t quite sure what your objective was in certain levels, leaving you scratching your head for a few minutes before stumbling to where you needed to go or what you needed to do to progress. Also, the final levels of the game leave you defending Asgard against invading enemies, and the only way to accomplish this is by keeping the moral of Asgard up (basically, a time based trial). The problem here is that the game saves the moral meter at a certain point when you die, making it much harder to complete these time trials in an unrealistic time limit. I eventually completed the level, but it was one of the most frustrating game experiences I have faced. The game does try to add different variations of gameplay, where you are riding a water beast through a level, or firing your lightning bolts using a reticule, but unfortunately, the broken gameplay makes for an unpleasant experience.

Graphics: 3/5

Graphics in Thor are a mixed bag. In many moments, the graphics are anywhere from decent to very good, with visually striking character models and background environments. Yet there are other moments with severe clipping issues, facial expressions and effects that are not detailed, and an unpolished look to the game. There were some visual cues missing from the game, and the Chapter 12 logo that signals the player to the beginning of the chapter is strangely absent, going from Chapter 11 to Chapter 13.

Sound: 3/5

The sound in Thor mainly works, with powerful sounding lightning and earthquake attacks. It’s nice to have the voice talent from the actors of the movie to portray their characters, but the dialogue does not engage you into the story. Music in the game is mediocre, and doesn’t drive the experience further or possess any memorable tunes.

Overall: 10/20 = 5/10

Thor is lacking in many areas and doesn’t provide the gamer with any enjoyable moments or gameplay. If you are a fan of Thor, or Marvel, you might enjoy it in small bursts, but it barely holds any entertainment value.

PROS:

+ Seeing Thor in his own game.

+ Cameo appearance from well known comic characters from the Thor series.

CONS:

– Repetitive, and often broken, gameplay

– Dull story and experience