The Aftermath of E3 2012

E3 2012 wasn’t the greatest show in its history, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. This year in gaming is the perfect example of the time where next-gen consoles are guaranteed, but the time to reveal them has not yet come. It is years like this where we get to see developers make games that take full advantage of the hardware of current consoles.

I’m the kind of person who tunes in for the games. New consoles are great, but it’s hard to look at a pricey $500+ box that may not launch with compelling games that are worth the sticker shock. Because of that, I’ve highlighted a handful of titles that I feel are going to make the second half of 2012 and into 2013 great. Now that the dust has settled and the near future of video games has been shown to us, here are my picks for games that struck a cord with me. Along with a few words, enjoy the videosfrom IGN, Gametrailers, and Youtube I’ve attached.

Tomb Raider

I honestly never played Tomb Raider. Back in the PS1 days I didn’t get into Lara Croft’s adventures probably on account of being too young. Over the years, she was also the victim of shoddy sequels that demoted her from a well regarded video game character to the biggest joke in the industry. This reboot to the franchise looks really promising, as it gives Lara a new origin story and shows how she became the femme fatale that many people fondly remember her as. It’s a great feeling to see a game character age as technology improves. Lara has evolved from a rigid, wirey-framed girl with a big polygonal chest to a realistically proportioned young woman. Watching Lara make use of both the limited tools she has with environmental hazards to take out the bad guys makes her out to be a very resourceful heroine. The preliminary footage of this new Tomb Raider is very promising, and if all goes well, I’ll be waiting in line to pick this up when it drops on March 5, 2013.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Need for Speed is constantly fighting against the likes of other racing franchises like Forza and Gran Turismo, but between the three, I’ve been enjoying Need for Speed the most. When Criterion started reimagining Need for Speed starting with 2010’s NFS Hot Pursuit, they succeeded in making a racer that didn’t have to be super-realistic, but still was very fun. However, the original Need for Speed: Most Wanted from 2005 is still my most beloved Need for Speed title. I can still remember climbing up the Blacklist 15, starting with a junky Fiat Punto and eventually blazing through the highway in a Porsche Carrera GT. Seeing it remade will satisfy the racer in me. With the Autolog, Most Wanted will monitor almost everything the player does, such as recording a new best time in a race. To fuel competition, this information can be broadcasted to other friends. Although it will be out on October 30, 2012, I’m willing to bet that the price for it will definitely drop just in time for Black Friday.

The Last of Us

After finally seeing some real gameplay footage, The Last of Us definitely has me interested. Naughty Dog has taken a bold step to create a harrowing experience where the combat isn’t just about taking cover and shooting a couple of times and moving to the next objective. Sometimes, you gotta get dirty. Combat appears to be more desperate, putting players at the edge of their seats. It was a nice touch to see that your enemies react to the sound of the player’s gun running out of bullets. Hopefully these struggles aren’t completely scripted, and the player can fail if they aren’t actually pressing a button. If the game is full of moments like the end of the demo, then I’m sold. This game is the perfect example of showcasing an exclusive game that Playstation owners can show off to their buddies who are missing out. The dreary atmosphere reminds me of The Road, but hopefully after playing this I won’t feel as depressed once it’s over. We’ll see more of the post-apocalyptic world in The Last of Us when it is released sometime in 2013.

PlayStation Plus

Although it isn’t exactly a game, the indirect value that PlayStation Plus offers continues to sweeten the pot for PSN subscribers. Many digital downloads for games are offered at discounted prices, and more often than not, for free. As of Sony’s press conference, inFamous 2, LittleBigPlanet 2 and MotorStorm: Apocalypse are free to download and own for Plus members. More free games are going to be offered every month as well. Barring any discounts, a full year subscription to PlayStation Plus is cheaper than a year of Xbox Live Gold. For those of us multiplatform gamers out there who have Xbox Live but haven’t gotten PlayStation Plus, we might really be thinking that our PS3’s aren’t being put to their fullest potential.

Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation

While I don’t have a Playstation Vita yet, Assassins Creed III: Liberation looks to be one of those titles that will help put more copies of Sony’s handheld into the laps of more people just like me. Admittedly, the change of setting to the New World has renewed my interest, and most importantly, this game stars a female African-French assassin. I dare you to think of how many games in the last ten years that have done this. Details are pretty scarce at this point, but by its October 30, 2012 release date which also coincides with Assassin’s Creed III, we’ll know much more.

Watch Dogs

One of the disappointments of this year’s E3 was that almost everything that was shown was either leaked prematurely, or we’ve known about it for months. When you actually reveal a new game at your press conference like Ubisoft did, you create real E3 moments. Posed as a high tech Frankenstein of features from both Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell, Watch Dogs thrusts players in the near future, where every piece of information about us exists as data. In the hands of the capable, this data can be exploited. The gameplay video explains it all. I would love to carry around a smartphone like that. When people are wondering if this is a current gen title, or something for the next batch of consoles you know you’ve made an impact. Couple that with an open world third person shooter and you just might have the highest acclaimed game in the show. Watch Dogs will be out in 2013.

Star Wars 1313

In my opinion, I have yet to see a Star Wars game on the same level as Jedi Outcast. Contemporary Star Wars games have tried to deliver on so many fronts that when taken as a whole, they simply failed to reach their mark. Star Wars is a legendary IP and presents a universe where thousands of stories have been told beyond the movies in the form of games, novels and television shows. It appears that Jedi, Sith, and other aspects of the Force in general are absent. The player is a Bounty Hunter, and well, shoots stuff. This premise might fall into the mold of “just another third person shooter,” but I’m really hoping that it doesn’t. Although the cover based shooter style is tried and true, 1313 could spice things up by taking advantage of the various tools that bounty hunters like Boba Fett had. Jetpacks, flamethrowers, grappling hooks anyone? This “mature” take on the Star Wars universe got many fans watching with great interest. Also, this game looks absolutely amazing. Details are also slim, but more information is likely to be on the horizon.

Agni’s Philosophy

The idea of next-generation consoles permeated the air of this year’s E3 like the subtle aroma of breakfast in the morning – we all know it’s coming, but can’t really do anything until it emerges on the table. Everyone whispered and speculated, but Sony and Microsoft had nothing to talk about. Square-Enix had a rather dismal offering in its RPG department – Final Fantasy Versus XIII was absent for yet another year, and as much as I like Kingdom Hearts, its handheld outings have not done much to move the story forward at all. Enter Agni’s Philosophy, Square-Enix’s tech demo showcasing the graphical potential a next gen game engine could be able to produce. While this is just an exercise in eye candy and graphical muscle, let’s play the what-if game for a minute. What if Agni’s Philosophy could be a starting point for a new style of Final Fantasy, where dragons and other creatures are really monstrous? Not everything is as elegant and pretty, yet the world is a perfect mix of gritty environments married in with locations where magic and technology go hand in hand? If this is a taste of what Square-Enix is capable of, faithful fans will be frothing at the mouth to play their new stuff. That is, after get around to finishing the numerous projects that have been announced but have yet to materialize.

There’s tons of games and new technology to get excited for, and there are a number of other titles, peripherals and software not mentioned in this article, this is just a taste of what’s to come. I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with a controller once these great titles finally release.

 

Video Credits – Gametrailers.com, IGN.com, Youtube, and all of the developers and publishers who showed of their great titles at this year’s E3.

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Crisis Averted!

Color me infuriated. I’ve had my fair share of issues with my consoles; my third Xbox 360 stands as a testament to that. I’m not a professional, but I’d like to say I’m good at fixing a number of problems that have dropped onto my plate. It’s never easy, but solving them does leave me feeling a little gratified, that is if it’s a problem that can be fixed in the first place.

“That’s not supposed to happen…”

For a few days, Mass Effect 2 was unplayable for me. After finishing the game as a male Paragon Shepard (and subsequently writing an article about the choices in the series thus far, found here), I thought it would be fun to play through the game again on Insanity as a female Renegade. I was having a blast until I had died for the umpteenth time. While I was reloading like usual, my game had abruptly stopped in the middle of the loading screen, forcing me to power off my Xbox. Each time I tried to start the game again, it would freeze up and have to be manually powered off.

I began to fear the worst. “Is my Xbox going to fail?” “Is this the first symptom of a Red Ring of Death error, or the beginning of a chain of bad occurrences leading to a slew of other problems that would render my system dead as well?” A lot of things flew through my mind; it was tough to stay calm. The idea of troubleshooting a console has steadily evolved from simply blowing on the cartridge of an NES game, to running down a long and tedious list of fixes for our current generation consoles that rival a help manual for a computer. When did it ever become so complicated? Throughout the night and the following two days I began narrowing down the possible causes:

1.       Removing all of the Downloadable Content (Stupid mistake)

2.       Cleaning the disks, even though they were in perfect condition

3.       Contemplating using canned air to dislodge any built up dust inside (REALLY STUPID. Thankfully I didn’t go through with this)

4.       Calling Electronic Arts and wasting about an hour of my time (The technician ended up sending me a knowledge base article on Microsoft’s website for how to get on Xbox Live…..)

5.       Playing another game

After four really dumb ideas, I finally landed on something mildly intelligent! As I said before, when you’re not in the right state of mind, foolish things are bound to occur. I proceeded to find out every other game I bothered to put in worked just fine, so it was only Mass Effect 2 not functioning properly. I tried using a different Gamertag as well, and lo and behold, the game was playable again! Only problem is that since I wasn’t using my primary profile, I didn’t have access to the save files I would be using in the first place. Because of this, I realized that the issue had to be centered on my gamertag.

“What seems to be the problem with your game, sir?”

Of the many problems and glitches people have had to battle with to get this game to work, my case had yet to be brought to Bioware’s attention, and because of that, it lacked an official fix. I was literally on my own, unless there were others in my situation that just haven’t spoken up. I did some digging, and eventually got in contact with other Xbox 360 users that had the same problem.

Upon further investigation, the problem lied within the save files connected to my gamertag. Apparently, if you have “too many” save files, a rare instance occurs where an important save file, like your AutoSave(which brings you right back to the last place the game saved before or after a battle or major plot point) or ChapterSave (which brings you to the beginning of the mission you’re in) can get corrupted. This is very problematic because when Mass Effect 1 or 2 is turned on, it is also readying your most recent save to be loaded immediately. Even though you haven’t actually gone about to manually load the save file in question, this is done for you. If these two files or a save you made on your own are corrupted, the game will freeze when you try to advance past the start screen, which was my problem in the first place.

…How I got this fixed isn’t up for disclosure…

….But nevertheless, I had found that my AutoSave for my female Renegade was 0kb’s. Having no file size essentially makes it corrupt, and obviously fails to load. After rectifying that, I was able to load my game up again, and was subsequently able to play as well.

From what I gathered, there are a number of possible causes to this, but I’m willing to bet that this problem won’t be addressed by Bioware or Electronic Arts. Mass Effect 2 has been out for a year and a month now, and if a major issue like this hasn’t gotten some attention yet, it likely never will. I just hope that when Mass Effect 3 comes out, other gamers like me won’t have to wrestle with the system in order to play.

It’s funny. My reasoning behind preferring console gaming to computer gaming is very simple – I don’t have to pray that my machine can handle a new game, and don’t have to be haunted by the idea of having to invest in new tech in order to keep your machine useful. With a console, I just have to pop it in, sit back o the couch and enjoy. For a few days, I had joined the minority of players afflicted with errors. When you aren’t having problems with your game, people like me are invisible; yet if your game fails to work, then you’ll see other people with problems everywhere you look.

Mass Effect 1 and 2 Choices Retrospective

Commander Shepard has saved the galaxy twice. Despite thwarting the plans of both Saren and the Collectors, Shepard must take up the fight against the Reapers for a third time.

Along the way he has made a lot of decisions for better or worse, and it’s an understatement to say that some were more substantial than others. Nevertheless, the majority of his actions have served to shape the well being of many groups, individuals and even an entire species that have come into contact with him.

The key to the Mass Effect series is decision making and accountability. As such, the actions the player makes were said have an immediate outcome in the following adventure. I’ve just recently cleared both Mass Effect 1 and 2, and while I’m completely floored by how vast and massive the game universe is, I can’t help but wonder about a lot of plot points that are hoped to be answered in the eventual release of Mass Effect 3. Some of the choices made in Mass Effect 1 had an immediate consequence (or alteration in cut scene) like whether a certain character is alive or not, was addressed Mass Effect 2. However, bigger choices between both games like the ones mentioned below have left all of us hanging.

Cerberus –

It’s very obvious that Cerberus and the Illusive Man had ulterior motives. Much like how a corporation injects large sums of money to help a business, it’s only a matter of time before that corporation starts to try to control that business’ actions from behind the scenes. The Paragon choice at the end of the Suicide Mission results in the Illusive Man’s only show of emotion, as Shepard blatantly disobeys his order. It’s not smart to piss off the only group that took it upon themselves to bring you back to life, especially if it’s Cerberus. The Illusive Man’s connections and intel were what allowed Shepard to assemble his new squad to take on the Collectors in the first place. Needless to say, the team couldn’t have gotten where they did without his assistance. Upsetting him by “doing the right thing” has to have some repercussions in the third game. (Update: the events of the ‘Lair of the Shadow Broker’ DLC may be the answer to this issue.)

Krogan Genophage –

Krogan are the toughest organic species in existence, who were instrumental in saving the galaxy from being overrun by Rachni long before the events of the first game. On the surface, Krogan seemed to be a typical Sci-Fi bloodthirsty race with no goal other than to fight. Learning that each and every Krogan was forcefully sterilized and left to deal with their affliction definitely added a lot of depth to them and rationalized their disdain for other species. The Genophage renders only 1 /1000 births to be viable, while the remaining typically end in stillbirths or serious birth defects, which severely limit their population. The end of Mordin’s loyalty mission makes it clear that the ongoing issue of the Genophage affecting every living Krogan could be rectified, or left alone to run its course. I hope that Mass Effect 3 addresses this decision, because uniting the Krogan to help in the fight against the Reapers would be a definite plus for Humanity.

Legion and the Geth –

Sabotaging or re-purposing a Geth stronghold was one of the more interesting plot points that were posed during Mass Effect 2. Shepard and his crew spent the majority of Mass Effect 1 killing hordes of Geth, only to be helped by an advanced model that had gone “rogue.” In Legion’s loyalty mission, players are faced with the choice of significantly hurting the Geth army by destroying a large amount of them, or reprogramming them into assisting in the fight against the Reapers. Would you kill off machines that could be your enemy, or take a chance in reprogramming them to help further your own goals? In the grand scheme of things, the Geth became pawns to be used for good or evil. Either way, the Geth can become a new ally or continue to be a nuisance in the face of the greater threat.

The Reapers –

It took the combined efforts of much of the Alliance fleet to take down Sovereign at the climax of Mass Effect 1, and even then, there were heavy casualties. The devastation that one Reaper is capable of was apparent, but the image of thousands of them making their way into the Milky Way Galaxy from Dark Space is a bit unsettling. Also, Sovereign was important because he was the only Reaper who wasn’t hibernating in Dark Space to begin with. His role was to send a message to the rest of the Reapers to begin the process of exterminating all life once again. In Mass Effect 2, we’re treated to the disjointed voice of Harbinger, another Reaper that was controlling the actions of the Collectors, the primary antagonist(s) at certain points of the game. If all of the other Reapers were trapped in Dark Space in hibernation, where did Harbinger come from? They seemed to come out of their sleep on their own, which wasn’t explained. How can that many Reapers be stopped, and at what cost? While the final boss in the Collector Base was incredibly large, it was only an embryo compared to what it would be like if it were to mature. Whatever it’s going to take, Shepard is going to need more than a couple shots from a Heavy Weapon or a sniper rifle to take down a fleet of Reapers.

Suicide Mission –

If you’re red, then you’re dead.

It was clear that casualties were to be expected during the Suicide Mission, hence it’s name. However, it’s possible to ensure everyone lives if players are prudent enough to make sure everyone was loyal (And in some ways this is expected, since there’s an achievement / trophy for doing so). No matter what you do, some of the dialogue still implies that people died. This leads to the idea that getting everyone’s loyalty in the first place took a back seat compared to the issue of time constraints. How long of a timeframe did Mass Effect 2 take place? Perhaps Shepard wasn’t intended to take the time to gain the loyalty of each and every squad member, but only a couple of the more important ones. If players were to start a new game in Mass Effect 3, will there be some sort of default roster of squad members who lived and died?

Mass Effect 3 has a lot of plot points to conclude, and having some input on how things go is what makes these choices that much more meaningful. The conclusion of Shepard’s journey has to tie up these loose ends and some others not mentioned here; otherwise the point of playing each of the three games will lose their luster. How will the final game address all of these plot threads?

Repackaged, But Nothing New

It’s hard to imagine certain franchises will stick to their guns and remain exclusive to one console. This year has seen Final Fantasy’s highly publicized fall from grace, when Xbox 360 got its own version (a slightly underpowered one, at that) of Final Fantasy 13, which was released alongside its native PS3 counterpart. The ever raging console debate is just losing its momentum – the heavy-hitting big name titles that fanboys tout as the reasons to purchase a console are becoming moot, since it seems that both sides eventually get access to these previously exclusive games.

I unfortunately had missed out on the Mass Effect craze. Both games have gone right over my head, but I always wanted to check them out. Although I own every console, other circumstances always stopped me from taking the plunge. Even so, this series is pretty special. It’s clear that the story is modeled after the best sci-fi trilogy ever made, and it would be foolish to step into the second game without having played the first. This past year I’ve been trying to move my focus from my Xbox 360 to my PS3, and the unwarranted consequence to that was that I was going to miss out on Mass Effect

Until it was announced that Mass Effect 2 would be released on PS3.

Naturally, the Playstation camp is pretty ecstatic. This port of the main game also contains all of the downloadable content that was released for the PC and 360 versions of the game, all on the disk. Of course, this is all well and good, but a quick glance at the price turns me off completely. The core game is still largely the same experience, yet the mere 6 hours of bonus content (as it’s advertized on the box) boosts it to full price. Compare the $60 you’d spend for this against the astronomically low price for the PC and 360 versions, which are hovering around $15 now.

In the midst of having the privilege of playing this game, PS3 owners will be missing out on an important factor that this release will be lacking. One of the main factors of playing each Mass Effect game is that the choices you make in the previous game reflect in the next. For example, your main character’s class and reputation, whether certain characters are alive or dead, or the livelihood of an entire race, to name a few, are variables that can affect your experience. The rights to Mass Effect 1 are owned by Microsoft, so the chances of it appearing on PS3 are slim to none, but I hope this glaring problem is addressed somehow.

I suppose in the end, this was a good move for Bioware. When all is said and done, a new audience gets to play another excellent RPG. Past decisions or not, Mass Effect 2 is still a great game, but I’d be more inclined to play it if it wasn’t so expensive, just for being on a different system.