Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Review (PS3/Vita): “Not the Improvement You’re Looking For”

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Wallpaper

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is an expansion off of the already released Ragnarok Odyssey, a high flying, cartoon-ish hunting game. It takes the original gameplay and story, adds a few new tricks and improvements, as well as some rather menacing looking monsters and throws it back in your hands for another chance to save the kingdom. Does ACE fill the gaps that the last one left behind? Or do its changes add a new layer of complexity too confusing to stand on its own?

Story: 2/5

Ace’s story is the same as the past title, Ragnarok Odyssey. Basically, you’re a new knight recruit who’s stationed at the rear defense of a kingdom – a very important location. Your sole job is to make sure the front lines don’t need to worry about their backs. How do you do this? Kill everything. When it’s that simple, there really isn’t a huge need for a story, but Ragnarok Odyssey tries one anyway. You’ll find yourself being presented with a quasi-mystery as to why certain monsters are attacking, where they’re coming from, and how to stop them. A bombardment of caddy jokes, humungous text and a plethora of seemingly unnecessary dialogue help fill the downtime between quests; but to be completely honest, none of it serves any further purpose than a time filler. All you need to know are the basics: something is attacking, we need to kill it. Sadly, that’s about as in-depth as the game even reasons with the events that take place. While I did appreciate some of the categorizing of the enemies the story did, which made it seem like we really were fighting a war against an organized army of monsters, as well as the locations which tied nicely into how the story progressed, there wasn’t much for me to really grab a hold of. In the end, I wanted nothing more than to skip all the dialogue and just get back to killing things.

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Gameplay 1

Gameplay: 3/5

Thankfully for the story’s sake, the gameplay is where the true enjoyment of the game lies. ACE progresses with a nicely paced tutorial that gives you freedom to figure things out on your own, but holds enough of the new expansion content to deliver out in doses. If you’ve played Ragnarok Odyssey before, you’ll be instantly familiar with how the game works. You have 6 classes to choose from, each with a specific weapon and abilities. Attacks are initiated in a 2-button combo manner, one button initiates a normal attack pattern and another will deviate that pattern to an alternate path to execute a special attack. Ragnarok Odyssey takes it a step further and adds vertical plane attacks to the mix, allowing you to jump into the air to carry out a full combo however you choose. However, if you’ve played Ragnarok Odyssey before, you’ll also notice a few attacks are missing from each class. That’s because certain abilities or attacks got removed to accommodate the new ACE skills. These are essentially MMO-like abilities mapped to a button combination or touch screen location. While progressing through the story, you will unlock different skills for each class that you can purchase, equip (up to 4) and use at the cost of some stamina. It’s a small disappointment that certain abilities had to be cut out from the normal attack patterns to make room for the skills, but the extra unlockable skills are definitely strong and fun enough to make the process worth it. This also creates a larger presence of the class system, forcing you to really pay attention to what role you want to play when going out on a hunt… if only there were more than 2 roles. Unless you play as a cleric, you’re going to be strictly on the offensive. While the skills for each class appear to create more of a specialized teamwork effect, they’re really just creating more ways to deal damage, something that is great but could really use some attention in a game focused on 4 player co-op. You’ll also need to be careful about these ACE skills as they consume a lot of stamina – something very valuable in the ever moving play style of Ragnarok Odyssey. Accidentally hit a button combination for an ACE skill and you’ll be stuck initiating an unrecoverable attack while draining your stamina. While there are a few button layout presets, none of them removed the combinations to activate ACE skills, even if the touch screen function works twice as well. In fact, the button layout that once was smooth with Ragnarok Odyssey has since been overloaded in ACE, requiring multiple “claw” configurations, as well as an inefficient and poorly executed lock-on feature. Word to the wise: using lock-on will mess with your camera angles and it should be avoided all together.

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Gameplay 3

Although performing a few actions can feel a little “chunky” or out-of-place, the gameplay is enjoyable for the most part. While strategy gets lost almost completely as minions and boss enemies can juggle you like a circus act gone wrong, there is a handy berserk mode that allows you to dish out all the suffering that’s resulted from your frustration of the enemy’s clear advantage over your slow recoveries and easily flinch-able demeanor. This is mostly rectified by playing online, allowing the monsters to focus on someone else while you frantically try to recover, but for single player, this constant focus can be quite the challenge. Luckily in ACE, there’s a solution! For a nominal fee, you can hire AI controlled sand bags to act as allies in your hunts offline! They never really do anything other than die repeatedly (which doesn’t count against you), but they make great distractions.

Hunting games are all about the monsters. Defeating a monster, taking its parts to build something amazing to destroy the next, and repeating the process until you have a whole room of armor and weapons strung on the walls like trophies…unless you’ve taken a hunting game and turned it into a roulette easter egg hunt. One of the main things that bothered me about Ragnarok Odyssey was that you never really needed to farm a monster for its parts. Armor and weapon creation were easily done and really unnecessary as the weapons paled in comparison to what you could find off of enemies and armor simply did nothing for you. Most of that hasn’t changed in ACE, as armor merely adds slots for cards (I’ll get to that in a minute) and weapons you can craft always seem to be a chapter behind. It’s almost like the developers knew this as they attempted to implement a new weapon system into the game. “Halomonas” weapons are a new system that basically render every other weapon pointless. You can build up and evolve them by completing certain tasks, resulting in the weapon acquiring a new skill. Perform enough tasks and the weapon will evolve to a new weapon along its tree. Sadly, skills learned from completed tasks delete the old skill, but at least they’re insanely strong. You get your first Halomonas weapon for free towards the beginning of the story, and in all honesty, you can use that weapon and your first armor to complete the game no problem – that’s what I did.

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Gameplay 2

Let’s get back to those cards for a minute though. While armors do nothing more than provide a cool look (seriously, some are awesome looking!), they do have one important role: holding cards. You can socket armors with different cards you acquire randomly by defeating monsters. These cards have a plethora of different skills that they contain, from stat boosts to skill-altering capabilities. This is where the true planning comes into play, as cards can make or break a battle. Many cards have a “give and take” effect where there may be consequences for the boost you gain. This really adds a highly appreciated level of strategy to how you prepare for a battle as you need to weigh the pros and cons of your loadout. Then again you could just farm a monster for a better card that doesn’t have any negatives.

In the end I found that monster farming was nearly pointless once I had a decent loadout. Without needing drops for weapons or armor, the game quickly lost its replayability. The sheer lack of variety in monsters also made me feel like I was just doing the exact same quests over and over again. Re-skins and extremely similar attack patterns across different monsters creates a very repetitive experience for the player, even with the new monster(s) loaded into the expansion. Thankfully though, there are plenty of quests to embark on if you’re a “completionist”, including both offline and online quests (with cross-platform online play with the PS3 version)! Teaming up with a group of four is definitely the way to play the game and immediately increases the amount you’ll enjoy the game. It’s a shame that the skills weren’t more expanded to accommodate better teamwork as it seemed to at the start of the game.

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Gameplay 4

Graphics: 4/5

While many games try to create a darker image when living the life of a mercenary, Ragnarok Odyssey creates a vivid, near cartoonish experience. Colors pop and draw you into small details, while attack effects glow and shine rapidly to create a feeling of pure mysticism and fantasy. Armors and weapons are beautifully rendered and detailed, even in the middle of battle. The variation in locations ensures you won’t tire of seeing the same scenery, which is a definite must-have for large questing games. However, enter a room online with a full party and you’ll find all of those effects and details create a major issue with the frame rate. Even offline playing solo, certain boss attacks would quickly deplete the game’s power resulting in a choppy experience and usually my character being attacked (then juggled and killed).

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Gameplay 5

Sound: 4/5

Like most fantasy games, the music is uplifting and enticing, creating a positive atmosphere for a productive day of slaughtering monsters. Weapon attacks have a real weight to them when backed by such impactful sound effects, really adding to the fights. Ragnarok Odyssey also does a very bold move and allows you to choose your own background music. Purchasable at the item shop in the town, you can select from a large number of tracks to play in the background as you hunt. Even online, the host is allowed to select the music for everyone to hear, which can really create some powerful and unique experiences! While some effects are reused across completely different monsters, the rest of the game is a pure delight to play with a pair of nice headphones, really giving homage to the vast array of music at your disposal.

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Gameplay 6

Overall Score: 13/20 = 6.5 out of 10

Ragnarok Odyssey ACE takes a hunting game previously set in its ways and attempts to uproot it to be something else. The entire time, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this should be made into an MMO. The new skills and Halomonas weapon system gave insight to something that really holds potential and even though different armors proved are mostly pointless, they are awesome looking! A few small, but drastic improvements such as item recycling and the ability to change loadouts, upgrade weapons and armors all within the online hall were welcomed with open arms; but in the end, the game still has the same issues it has had in the previous installment: too few different monsters and a system almost entirely based on random luck for improvement (weapon and card drops). The drops almost seemed more infrequent than the past entry and the inability to improve your character how you see fit (with the partial exception to Halomonas weapons) is a major replay killer. With strategy severely lacking, there isn’t much holding this game together from a gameplay perspective, but if you can tough it out, you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful soundtrack and some gorgeous visuals to treat that fantasy addiction.

Pros:

+ Nice visual details

+ Selecting your own background music creates the right mood

+ Card system has plenty of options for character improvement

Cons:

– Lack of different monsters, weapons and armors

– New skill & weapon system were a major disappointment (but has great potential)

– Any size enemy can juggle you

– Small strategy involved in a co-op themed game

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Ragnarok Odyssey ACE! Copy reviewed on PS Vita.

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DualShock 4 Controller Hands-On Preview

DualShock4

Several retailers, such as Amazon and Best Buy, are beginning to sell the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller nearly two weeks ahead of the console’s release. This might seem like a strange move, but it’s been confirmed that the new controller is, in fact, compatible (at least in the most essential capacities) with many current PS3 games, such as Call of Duty. Some, like myself, also wanted to make sure we have an extra controller handy on release day so our friends can get in on the multiplayer action with us on day one.

A controller is one of the most essential pieces of a great gaming experience with a console. Sony’s always managed to make waves with their line of DualShock controllers, released as far back as for the original PlayStation. Every iteration has seen streamlines and improvements on the core design while still maintaining the originality that makes the DualShock line one of the most preferred controllers in gaming. With that in mind, I was excited to get my hands around a DualShock 4 of my own, and for those of you who are still wondering how it stacks up, read on; I’ll get into the form and function, the good and the bad, and even a little hands-on time with the DualShock 4 during a few games of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

First Impressions

The first thing you’ll notice after picking up the DualShock 4 is that it feels much more solidly built than the DualShock 3. While both controllers’ internals are contained in a plastic chassis, the DualShock 4 feels much sturdier and less cheaply-built. The controller also seems a tad bit bigger than its last-gen cousin, which might throw some die-hards off at first, but adjustment comes quickly. It’s also pretty hard not to notice the new design of the control sticks, and it’s an excellent modification from the previous line. The raised lip around the edges of the top make it much harder for your thumbs to slip off when doing constant rotations and split-second flicks. The D-Pad has been improved upon too, in spite of its previous excellence. Each cardinal direction is a bit more spaced from the others, and the entire D-Pad is a bit larger overall. I’m very happy with this change – it’s a great boon for fighting fans, where the slightest false read from a controller can mean the difference between a Hadouken and a Shoryuken, and nobody wants to lose a close match over using the wrong move.

No doubt one of the most controversial changes to the DualShock 4 will be the new L2 and R2 triggers. Now, they seem to deserve the name much more than they used to, as they sport a concave curve (like an actual trigger on a firearm) rather than the convex curves of old. It’s true that the DualShock 4 may be losing a bit of its originality by making its triggers more like the ones found on an Xbox 360 controller, but coming from someone whose fingers would sometimes slip off the triggers when in use, this is a welcome change. Interestingly enough, this could change the dynamic of the default controller configuration in shooters on the PS4; whereas games previously used L1 and R1 for aiming and shooting, respectively, the new upgrades to L2 and R2 could very well make them the standard. So long as they provide the option to switch between the two setups, though, everyone should be happy.

The newer additions to the DualShock 4 – the Share button, touch pad, and light bar – are certain to make a real splash once the PS4 is released. Naturally, as of yet they have no functionality, not even the light bar (which, theoretically, should be compatible with the PS3’s existing Move system). Speaking for their position, however, everything sits right where it should. The Share button is accessible without getting in the way, and it’s unlikely you’ll accidently post a video of your most humiliating defeat unless you intend to. The light bar remains completely unobstructed when holding the controller, even if you put a finger on each of the L and R buttons simultaneously (as I’ve known some players to do). It’s safe to say that its functionality will work smoothly during even the most intense gameplay session. As for the touch pad, while it may seem out of place at first, it’s clear that it isn’t meant to be used alongside the more typical gamepad buttons. It is, however, a pleasure to interact with. The entire touch pad clicks in when pressed, not unlike the touch pads featured on many laptops today. Also of note are the inclusion of a speaker and audio-in jack on the front and bottom of the controller face, respectively, with an add-on port next to the audio jack. This is no doubt to accommodate the upcoming PS4 wired headset, but it would seem the inclusion of a speaker also expands on the audio output options available to PS4 developers, much like the WiiMote’s speaker did for its games. It may also give us an option for listening to voice chat without the need for an attached headset. Overall, these wildcards are sure to make a real splash once the PS4 makes it proper release.

There’s another quirk here that DualShock veterans may notice right away – while the familiar PS button is present in the bottom-middle of the controller face, the start and select buttons are nowhere to be found. The lone “Options” button, present opposite the Share button on the right of the controller face, seems to have replaced these two individual buttons, and it’s probably safe to say that this button will roll the functionality of the Start and Select buttons into one. If it works, I’m all for this streamlining, though it’s possible some finagling might have to happen for users who are going to subscribe to the PS4’s upcoming Gaikai service for backlogged games. Clicking in the added touchpad certainly seems like a possible replacement.

Other than these specific points, I’ve got to say that overall, the controller just sports a really solid feel. From the chassis itself to each and every button, the DualShock 4 feels like it’s built to last. Button presses are easy, yet sport an impact you can feel. The overall bigger shape and added spacing between buttons means it’s much easier to avoid pressing extra buttons by accident. And it really has to be said what a welcome improvement the new L2 and R2 triggers are.

Field Tests

In order to test the DualShock 4’s new build, I decided to play a few rounds of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 using the new controller. A few notes about this if you’re looking to try it yourself:

  • The DualShock 4 will only work when plugged in with a USB cable. The PS3 can’t pick up the DualShock 4 over Bluetooth.
  • The PS button will not work on the DualShock 4. You’ll need a PS3 controller to access the PS button’s functionality, like quitting a game.
  • The Select and Start buttons’ functionality is replicated with the Share and Option buttons, respectively.

With all of that in mind, I booted up BLOPS 2 and went into a multiplayer match. Though I hadn’t played for a month or two, I was able to quickly adjust to the new feel of the DualShock 4. To really put the controller through its paces, I played my LMG class – one of the slower, more lumbering and deliberate weapon classes in the game.

However, once I got to lining up my shots and opening fire, I was amazed by how accurate and responsive the new R stick is. Sony have really tweaked the sensitivity from the DualShock 3, and the new level of control and accuracy was impressive. Whereas I would sometimes aim too far and miss my mark with the DS3, my shots landed dead-center every time with the DS4. I also elected to switch the assignments of the L and R buttons, such that L2 and R2 are used for aiming and shooting, respectively. Though I’m still a big fan of the instant responsiveness of L1 and R1 for FPS games, I have to say that the triggers on the DualShock 4 just feel right, and are extremely responsive. There was a familiar yet fresh feeling to these triggers, and it was extremely satisfying to squeeze them and unload a hail of lead on my opponents. The switch brought back a nostalgic feel from my days with the Xbox 360 controller, and aside from accidently firing off a shot instead of throwing a grenade, the switched control setup was extremely intuitive and didn’t take long to get back into.

I made a very subtle discovery while playing with this setup – the DualShock 4 seems ergonomically designed for this sort of control setup with shooters. After a couple of games, I noticed that my hands fit more comfortably around the controller with my index fingers on the 2 triggers, while my thumbs were more relaxed on the control sticks. While I’m sure old-school fans will be just fine using the classic PS shooter setup, it seems the controller is built for this new  intended use of the triggers.

With a few games down, I have to say that the DualShock 4 really did make a difference in my game. It seems like my K/D ratio was actually higher in spite of being a couple of months out of practice, and there’s no question that the new, finely-tuned DS4 is the reason why. While I don’t yet have the chance to see what the touchpad, light bar, and share button can really do, in terms of the more salient aspects of the controller, it’s safe to say that any PS4 owner is going to have an excellent, precise, and comfortable experience with the DualShock 4.

Just for bonus points, I decided to give the new D-Pad a run too, and loaded up Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. Here’s another game that I’ve fallen out of practice with for a few months, and so I was expecting at least a little bit of a warm-up curve; yet again, however, I was pleasantly surprised. The newer, larger D-Pad really does make a difference when executing attacks, and the face buttons seem extremely responsive as well. I was pulling off combos and stringing together special moves more easily than I ever could with the DS3. The most die-hard fighting fans will no doubt be sticking with an arcade stick for the PS4 (once one is released), but the rest of us certainly have an excellent and capable control method for fighters in the DualShock 4.

Wrapping It Up

What we’ve seen of the DualShock 4 from press conferences and commercials is certainly exciting from an innovation perspective, with the new input methods and the inclusion of a share button, but when it comes to the improvements in mechanics and build quality, nobody can just tell you how it’s improved – you’ve got to get your hands on it for yourself. After hearing a lot of talk, I was extremely impressed and excited by what I got to experience in Sony’s new controller. Finely-tuned controls, ideal button placement, and solid build quality come together in a package that’s going to improve the gameplay experience over anything Sony have come out with before. If you’re already on board for getting a PS4, I’d encourage you to get yourself a spare controller early, and start to experience how much the DualShock 4 is going to up your game. If you’re still on the fence, try to get your hands on a DS4 and see how it feels to you. The controller is a central component in a console experience, and the DualShock 4 may very well win you over.

Hotline Miami Making Way to PS3 and Vita This Spring

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The “Most Original Game” of last year, according to Inside Gaming, is making the leap off of the PC platform and making its way towards the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita this Spring via the PlayStation Network.

Originally developed by Dennaton Games and published by Devolver Digital, Dutch developer Abstraction Games has been picked to head up the game’s transition to the Playstation platform. Even better, Hotline Miami will feature Cross-Buy, allowing play on both the PS3 and Vita after just a single purchase.

Hotline Miami combines rock-solid top-down action gameplay with a visceral, retro-inspired art style and surreal storytelling flavor. Reminiscent of Terrentino’s Pulp Fiction storytelling style and heavily inspired by the 2011 film Drive, Hotline Miami made a huge splash in the PC gaming world, and is sure to have just as big of an impact once it hits Playstation this Spring. And check out the teaser trailer below for a visceral preview!

PS3 Ultra-Slim Confirmed at TGS; Launching September 25th

During Sony’s TGS Conference, they finally unveiled the worst kept secret since the PSP GO, the new ultra-slim PS3. The device is said to be 20% lighter and 25% smaller than the current PS3 on the market. You’ll also notice that the top bulges out a bit and that’s because it slides to the side so you can pop the disc in. It gives the console and old-school feel to the original PSOne, as well as the slim PS2 models.

Set for release on September 25th, Sony is aiming to release two models: 250GB and 500GB. The 250GB model will have a limited edition bundle for $269.99 that will give you a free 30-day trial for PS Plus, the Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception: Game of the Year Edition, and $30 worth of content for the MMO, DUST 514. The 500GB model will be $299.99 and will contain Assassin’s Creed III for a limited time. This model is set for release on October 30th.

Here’s the 250GB Limited Edition PS3 Model

What are your thoughts on the new PS3 models? Sound off in the comments below!

GamesCom 2012 PlayStation Conference Recap

Sony sets the bar high when it comes to its press conferences, and GamesCom 2012’s was no exception. The conference was streamed live on PlayStation Access’s site at 1 PM EST, and in case you missed any of it, here are the major details. Brace yourself; Sony belted out a LOT of info.

  • LittleBigPlanet Vita will be available as a solo game and also in a new Vita bundle, which includes the system.
  • PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale gameplay footage with Dante, Spike, Nathan Drake, Big Daddy, Sweet Tooth, PaRappa the Rapper, Ratchet & Clank, Fat Princess, Sackboy, and more is shown. CrossBuy announced as a planned, recurring feature – buy the game for PS3 or Vita, get the version for the other console at no additional cost.
  • Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and Ratchet & Clank: QForce announced.
  • Assassin’s Creed: Liberation will make use of the touch features of the Vita; Front screen used for “Touch to Kill” feature, while the rear pad is used for context-sensitive movements.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified details revealed:
    • Single-player campaign set between the events of Black Ops 1 and 2.
    • Will feature 4v4 multiplayer over WiFi on brand-new maps, including Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed game modes.
    • Will be available as a solo game or in a bundle with the Vita system.
  • Final Fantasy 7, Tomb Raider free for PlayStation Plus members starting August 20th.
  • Tear Away, a new Vita IP from Media Molecule, features paper as a central element.
    • Players can use front and rear touch pads, as well as the gyroscope and microphone to manipulate the game environment and fight enemies.
    • Fingers (representing the player’s) will actually pop out of holes punched in the game world.
    • Augmented Reality features, such as taking a picture for an in-game character to wear as a coat.
  • Killzone Mercenary, a new chapter in the IP for the Vita. Touch gestures enable different melee finishing moves.
  • PlayStation Mobile announced. Seemingly similar to the Apple App Store and Google Play, offers “Bite-Sized” games to be played on PlayStation-approved mobile platforms and the Vita.
  • PlayStation 3 Essentials series revealed – a selection of iconic PS3 games at a bargain price (20 Euros). First games in the series are Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Infamous, and LittleBigPlanet.
  • LittleBigPlanet 2 to receive “CrossController” DLC, featuring levels in which players use both the PlayStation 3 and the Vita.
    • Gameplay demo showed Vita being used as a second screen, providing extra information and level control.
    • Touch screen and rear touch pad used to manipulate the environment and objects in it.
    • Jumping into a pipe marked with the Vita icon changes the level’s perspective to the Vita screen, reminiscent to the cross-platform functionality of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures.
  • PlayStation Plus to receive many great improvements soon.
    • Red Dead Redemption will be a free Plus title in September.
    • Cloud storage increasing to 1GB, from 150MB.
    • Plus service coming to Vita “soon”.
    • 25% discount on Plus subscriptions from September 5th – 19th for European customers.
  • Wonderbook:
    • Book of Spells will have head-to-head multiplayer.
    • Two new titles announced for the Wonderbook line-up:
      • Diggs Nightcrawler – a noir-style detective story. Retells the story of Humpty-Dumpty as a murder conspiracy.
      • BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs will allow players to select dig sites, use a virtual chisel to dig up fossils, and interact with dinosaurs and see them in action.
      • Disney will also be contributing to the Wonderbook lineup, though no specific details were given.
  • FIFA 13 will make extensive use of the PlayStation Move controller.
    • Players can mark opponents, draw movement paths for their team to follow automatically, and take shots by flicking the Move controller – even add spin by twisting the controller.
  • Until Dawn, a new game inspired by teen horror movies. Players will control seven characters whose relationships with each other evolve over the course of the game’s story.
  • Rain, a new Sony IP about a boy who can only see in the rain. No further details given.
  • Puppeteer has players control a character who can swap heads to gain different powers. A pair of magical scissors is central to the story, and allows the character to fight enemies and traverse the environment. The presenter stated his inspiration for the game was his desire to exercise his son’s (and his) imagination.
  • A new The Last of Us trailer – Ellie makes Joel a mix tape, and Joel admits that he’s seen events “from both sides”, implying he wasn’t always a good man.
  • The event closed with further Black Ops: Declassified multiplayer footage.

It was certainly a lot to take in, but Sony certainly revealed a lot of exciting developments in such a short time since E3 in June. You can see all of the trailers and footage seen at the event below; be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below!











New PS3 Firmware on June 26, Includes New Power and Data Options

A new firmware update, version 4.20,  is on its way for the PS3 on June 26, 2012. The feature highlights are listed below:

– When the wireless stereo headset (CECHYA-0080) is connected, you can now adjust the sidetone level for microphone audio. Select [Sidetone] under (Settings) > (Accessory Settings) > [Audio Device Settings].
–Off: Disable microphone audio from the headset
–1-5: Enable microphone audio from the headset

– You can now set the amount of time until the system automatically turns off. Under (Settings) > (Power Save Settings) > [System Auto-Off] you will be able amend the time for [Video/TV/Music/Photo] and for [Game/Other Features]:
Video/TV/Music/Photo – After 1 Hour, After 2 Hours, After 3 Hours, After 4 Hours, After 5 Hours, Off
Game/Other Features – After 1 Hour, After 2 Hours, After 3 Hours, After 4 Hours, After 5 Hours, Off
–o If you enabled [System Auto-Off] in system software prior to version 4.20, the selected time will be set for both [Video/TV/Music/Photo] and [Game/Other Features].
–o The default settings are [After 4 Hours] for [Video/TV/Music/Photo] and [After 1 Hour] for [Game/Other Features].

– Under (Games) > (Saved Data Utility (PS3™), you can now select multiple saved data items, and then either delete or copy them as a group.
–You cannot use [Copy Multiple] to select data that is copy-protected.
–Some saved data cannot be copied.
–The upper right corner of the screen displays:
the number of saved data items that are selected
the total number of saved data items
the total file size of the saved data items that are selected

The new power saver and saved data options are certainly a welcome addition. What are you excited for? Let us know!

Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Will Not Be Released This Year

Sony Worldwide’s Shuhei Yoshida confirmed today that Naughty Dog’s upcoming survival title, The Last of Us, will not be released this year. Yoshida had this to say to VG247:

“We are not ready to talk about 2013. But some of the games we showed like God of War and The Last of Us are not coming out this year. We will talk more about what our line-up of games will be like in 2013. PS Vita we just launched. It’s been just four months.”

Yoshida commented that the prime reason for the games’ delayed releases is to focus more on the Vita platform, which had a surprising lack of coverage at Sony’s press event at E3. However, we can be sure that The Last of Us will be a phenominal title once it’s released, if the gameplay footage from E3 is any indication. Check it out below, and let us know what you think in the comments!

Rumor: Sony to announce cloud gaming service at E3

A post on VG247 claims that Sony will announce a new on-demand game streaming service at E3, possibly powered by OnLive or Gaikai. This service would allow players to stream video games directly to their PS3, PlayStation Vita, or both, similar to the way OnLive’s service functions now. No other details are available as of yet, but with E3 right around the corner, and Sony’s penchant for releasing big news at this event, it’s possible this new cloud service might be a revolutionary step forward for console gaming.

Have any predictions or wishes of what to see at E3? Sound off below!

Mass Effect 3 Official Launch Trailer Released

As if there wasn’t enough hype built up for Mass Effect 3, BioWare has just released an official launch trailer, featuring some provocative and surprising previews into what we can expect from the game when it’s released in just four days, on March 6th. Check the video and sound off in the comments below!

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars: Looking Back Review

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, developed by Psyonix Studios, is an exclusive PlayStation Network title for the PS3, combining the finesse and non-stop action of a soccer game with acrobatic, over-the-top RC cars. It’s certainly an interesting idea (and temporarily FREE for PlayStation Plus members!), but does it have more to offer than just an extremely long name?

To help explore the question, let’s begin with the game’s idea: You’re in control of a tiny RC car equipped with jump jets and nitro boosters, given free reign to ignore the laws of physics to compete with other RC cars in an amped-up game of soccer. Your car can boost into Superspeed and wreck other cars on contact, do double-jumps and flips, and even barrel rolls to avoid other drivers. The soccer elements are completely physics-based as well, so you’ll need to use these techniques properly to guide the ball into your enemy’s goal. Thankfully, this is easily done, as the control scheme is extremely intuitive, and the game’s tutorials give you an excellent and fast crash-course into how to expertly drive your vehicle.

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The game’s main gameplay mode is a short Career mode, which will have you facing off in 3v3 teams against the computer in several arenas. This serves as a nice warm-up to get your feet wet, but the real fun happens when you grab a few friends to play online together. This is a game that begs to be played with real opponents, as every goal, assist, and take-down feels even more exciting when it’s your friend who’s involved. The game has a thriving community as well, and comes with a robust matchmaking system built-in, so finding a game is no problem. You can also party up with your friends before-hand, but once the game starts, you can’t join a team if it has too many players, so it can be difficult to get on the same team with all of your friends at once. Still, it’s just as fun to take down your friend as it is to assist him. The game also comes packed with mini-games designed to test your skills. Challenges can range from picking up nitro boost items to scoring a set number of goals within a time limit, and that’s just naming two. These mini-games will challenge your abilities in just about every aspect the game has to offer and rate your performance out of 5 stars. And if honing your skills isn’t enough of a reward, you can unlock new mini-games and cars by building up stars. It’s a great, addictive system for improving your game and adding more value.

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As far as graphics go, the game looks superb, and the use of the Unreal engine ensures that textures look crisp, lighting pops, and special effects will rock you. The game does suffer from occasional texture load times, but considering the context of the game, it isn’t immersion-breaking. It’s more the fault of the engine, not the developer. In addition, the game’s bright fields and grungy, neon-filled industrial arenas are a perfect fit to the game’s soundtrack, which consists of several electronica and techno themes. While they would sound somewhat generic on their own, their use in the game really helps get you in the zone during a match. However, if these tracks don’t appeal to you, the game also allows you to use your own custom soundtracks if you’d like.

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars comes off as a fairly non-spectacular idea, but the creative minds at Psyonix Studios have taken the concept and ran with it. This is a rare gem in the PlayStation Store, and provides many more hours of entertainment than you might expect from a $10 title. Best of all, it’s free for PlayStation Plus members for the time being, so don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind game.

VERDICT: BUY IT!