Monday, October 17, 2011

Walk the "Edge of Time" with some time-traveling Spidermen

Originally published in the October 19, 2011 issue of the Coast Report.
By Parker Shannon, Distractions Editor

“Spiderman: Edge of Time” for the Xbox 360 is an enjoyable visit to both of Marvel’s Amazing and 2099 universes that offers players an interesting story and solid gameplay along with theoretical time travel and rips in the fabric of space-time.
Developed by Beenox and published by Activision, the game puts players in the shoes of Amazing Spiderman (Peter Parker) and Spiderman 2099 (Miguel O'Hara) in a race to stop the fabric of space and time from collapsing.
The key feature in “Edge of Time” is that players switch back and forth seamlessly between the two Spidermen who work in tandem to affect each other’s realities by changing events in their respective points in time.
Switching between the wall-crawlers is very natural, and the two of them have conversations throughout the game that add a lot to the depth of their characters. Amazing Spiderman spouts so many lame puns it was nearly impossible to keep track of them all, especially with Spiderman 2099 constantly giving lectures about quantum causality.

This game's story truly feels like a Spiderman comic. It will certainly sit right with fans because it was penned by veteran Marvel writer Peter David whom also wrote for “The Incredible Hulk,” “Supergirl” and “Aquaman” comics.
More depth is added to the story through unlockable newspapers that change as the player completes goals in the story to reflect the revised timeline as well as through references to other Marvel characters the Spidermen make throughout the game. These little touches give players the sense that the events of the game are just one part of a much bigger world just waiting to be explored.
As far as gameplay, “Edge of Time” is pretty much a typical third-person beat 'em up with basic combo attacks that are upgradeable via collectible orbs to increase their effectiveness.
Each Spiderman has attacks unique to his own fighting style. Parker uses his webs as his primary weapon while O'Hara gets in close to his enemies and attacks with his fists and feet. Both of the web-slingers can also enter their own super-speed mode for a short period of time in order to dodge enemy attacks, as well as cause a time paradox that renders nearby foes immobile for a short period of time, which the player can use to dispatch large groups of enemies quickly.

Spiderman 2099 levels feature free-fall sections in which the player must maneuver O'Hara through long shafts at high speeds while avoiding obstacles. I found these areas particularly tedious and frustrating due to the lack of precision in the controls that lead to Spiderman 2099 crashing into a great many metal beams.
Unlockables come in the form of new costumes that must be unlocked through the completion of challenges scattered throughout the main story. These challenges can also be accessed through a mode called the Web of Challenges after the story is completed.
Players also unlock action figures that can be viewed which give descriptions and back story for all of the characters in the game – similar to the collectable trophies in the Smash Bros. games.
“Spiderman: Edge of Time” is not the best superhero game ever made, but it does present a strong story and solid gameplay.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Dark of the Moon" Doesn't Disappoint, Doesn't Suprise

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is a game based on a blockbuster movie. A movie game. That could serve as the entire review, but you might want a little more explanation as to why you might want to avoid this game.
“Dark of the Moon” tells the story of Decepticon schemes and Autobot heroism leading up to the events in the movie of the same title. It's a third-person shooter with some driving portions sprinkled in to break up the monotony.
Levels are linear - very linear. You go where you need to, shoot the enemy and watch a cutscene. There is little to no exploration to be done, and a lot of invisible walls to be run into.
Controlling the Autobots and Decepticons is clunky and incredibly slow, and actually hitting the enemies I shot at seemed completely random at times. There were instances where bullets literally passed through the enemy they were intended to hit. And other times when shooting anywhere near a baddie caused them to explode.
Stealth-Force mode, which allows players to transform to a partial vehicle mode that includes the use of weapons, is probably the coolest feature in the game. This new mode, however, also renders robot mode nearly useless. In Stealth Force mode, players gain increased mobility, increased damage protection, a lower profile and the ability to fire endlessly without reloading. The game can be played almost entirely in Stealth Force mode.
A saving grace for the game are the graphics, which are pretty impressive in some levels. The Autobots and Decepticons are also rendered beautifully and the transformation animations look great.

Online multiplayer offers up to 10 players three modes in which to blow each other up: deathmatch, team deathmatch and conquest.
The deathmatches play out just as you would expect, and conquest adds a tiny bit more strategy to the game by allowing players to take capture points around the map.
Players can choose from four classes: scout, hunter, commander, and warrior. Each class has two or three body types to choose from and features unique weapons and special abilities such as the hunter's ability to fly or the scout's increased speed.
Controls are the same as in the single-player campaign, with the addition of team-buffing special abilities specific to each class including the ability for commanders to heal teammates and reveal enemies anywhere on the map for a short time.
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is not the worst game ever made. It's not even the worst movie game ever made, but it's certainly not going to compete with some of the other third-person-shooters out there. If you can find this game for a bargain, it wouldn't hurt to pick it up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Modern Warfare 3 invades E3 2011

This article was originally posted on the Orange County Register’s “OC Unwired” blog.

At E3 this week Orange County Register intern Parker Shannon got a hands on with two missions from the upcoming “Modern Warfare 3,” likely one of the biggest games coming this year. Here’s his report:

Mission 1: Take over the sub as New York crumbles
American soldiers swim in full scuba gear through a flooded freeway tunnel in a ruined New York City on a mission to plant explosives on an enemy submarine.
That is the opening sequence of the demo of Infinity Ward’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3″ at this week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.

“Hunter Killer,” the first of two demo levels, takes place in a ruined Manhattan as enemies blast away at the city with ordnance from submarines and aircraft.

The player must first pilot a personal underwater craft, undetected, to reach one of the enemy submarines and then use explosives to disable it long enough for American forces to break in and take it over.

This is all done in classic “Call of Duty” fashion, with huge set pieces including the massive submarine that must be taken and buildings in the distance being decimated by jet fighters.

The climax of the level features the player weaving a small zodiak-type boat between warships in the harbor as they are destroyed by missiles, only to narrowly escape the attack by navigating into a waiting helicopter.

Mission 2: Steal the intel
The second mission shown, titled “Mind the Gap,” takes place in London and features mostly standard first-person-shooter gameplay.
The goal of the mission, clear out the bad guys and steal their intel, changes midway through when the team discovers that there is no intel. The player must make way through waves of bad guys in order to jump into the bed of a pickup truck and and chase a train full of enemies through tunnels under London.

The level ends with the enemy train plowing into a teammates truck and subsequently derailing, which causes several explosions and destruction right before the screen fades to black.

The easiest thing to note about this game are the graphical improvements over its predecessors. Character’s faces, in particular, look much more natural than in previous installments in the series.
Sound design is an area of improvement some may not notice, and throughout the demo the sounds of gunfire, screaming enemies, jet engines and helicopter blades rumbled the demo booth.

“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” due to release November 8, is shaping up to be another blockbuster hit for publisher Activision and developer Infinity Ward.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Clip of the Week

Here's the clip. It's the Turret Opera, only it's not performed by turrets. Does that make it a human opera?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Anaheim Comic-Con takes place this weekend

Originally published in the April 13, 2010 issue of the Coast Report
By Parker Shannon, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Ghostbusters, storm troopers, superheroes and Power Rangers will descend upon the Anaheim Convention Center at the end of April for this year’s Comic Con.
The annual convention runs March 29 through April 1 and plays host to a wide variety of pop-culture icons, comic book artists and sci-fi staples. Fans are offered an opportunity to meet the creators and stars of some of their favorite films, TV shows and comics.
Special guests at this year’s event include Ghostbusters co-star Ernie Hudson, Eisner Award-winner and “The Simpsons” artist Phil Ortiz and “Batman” star Adam West.
Convention goers can attend a large number of discussion panels and autograph signings throughout the weekend, or they can simply shop around exhibitors’ booths and ogle celebrities set up around the convention hall.
There will be several fan groups present at this year’s Anaheim Comic Con for things such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons. Attendees can meet group members and get information on joining a fan group if they’re interested.
Anaheim Comic Con is put on by Wizard World and will be held in Hall A of the Anaheim Convention Center March 29 to April 1. Hours of operation and a full list of guests and events can be found at

"Crysis 2" makes players feel Godlike

Originally published in the April 13, 2011 issue of the Coast Report
By Ethan Hawkes, Staff Writer

Aliens have always been the subject of video games, but most of the time players fight them in space or on another planet.
“Crysis 2,” however, explores the idea of an alien invasion happening in a major city on Earth, and it does so with class.
The game begins with players in the shoes of an average American marine in the future who is tasked with fighting off an alien invasion in New York City. Not long into the campaign, the player is given access to an extraordinary suit of armor, the “Nanosuit 2.0,” that drastically changes the way the game plays.
This suit does it all – it gives the player the ability to cloak, jump farther, run faster and, most importantlyly, absorb the many bullets that will be flying at him throughout the game. The suit works well as the main gimmick of the game and is a lot of fun to play around in.
Zipping around in futuristic battle armor and shooting aliens with a variety of weapons has never looked so good. “Crysis 2” is the first game to feature Crytek’s CryEngine 3 and is amazing to look at.
Never before has New York City looked as beautiful in a virtual world while in such a chaotic state. I caught myself multiple times pausing from the adrenaline pumping action to just gaze around at the gorgeous, collapsing city the developers recreated.
Gameplay took a backseat to graphics in the first “Crysis,” but “Crysis 2” fixes most of the issues present in the first game. The environment of a city gives the game a more focused feel and turns up the action and chaos levels to that of games like “Call of Duty” and “Bulletstorm.”
What separates “Crysis 2” from the pack of other first-person shooters is that the enemy encounters can be dealt with in different ways depending on the preferred style of the player. I chose the sneaky way of dealing with enemies by utilizing the cloak, flanking them and then giving them a nice knife in the back.
The Nanosuit gives the gameplay an almost god-like feeling. Switch on armor mode and absorb an onslaught of bullets, but if things get too hot, throw up the cloak and flee into the shadows. It is a gratifying feeling having this much power at your fingertips.
A few issues plague an otherwise awesome game.
The story is pretty confusing if you missed playing through the first game and it contains a few plot holes, but it probably won’t detract too much from the experience for most players.
The more annoying issue is when enemies are occasionally found bumping into walls and standing out in the open, ignoring the cover right next to them. It isn’t terrible, but considering the budget that this game is running on I expected enemies with half a brain, even if most of them are aliens.
“Crysis 2” also features a multiplayer component. It borrows pages from “Call of Duty’s” book by including a leveling up system in it. It is fun and has a lot of depth and replay value.
A beefy and exciting single player, that takes about 11 hours to beat and a fully fleshed out multiplayer makes this game well worth the money. It may not do anything a veteran gamer has not seen before, but what it does do, it does exceptionally well.

"Portal 2" was a triumph

Originally published in the April 27, 2011 issue of the Coast Report
By Ethan Hawkes, Staff Writer

Rarely does a game come around that is completely satisfying from beginning to end. Valve’s “Portal 2” is just that kind of rare game.
I’m usually a very critical person and love finding the flaws in pieces of entertainment and blowing them out of proportion. Unfortunately, this is a game provided me with nothing to complain about.
It turns out it was actually one of the most enjoyable parts of my life.
“Portal 2” is the sequel to the 2007’s surprise hit “Portal,” which was included in a pack of Valve games called “The Orange Box.”
The main idea of “Portal 2” is similar to the original -- players solve puzzles with a gun that has the ability to shoot two portals that connect to each other to reach the goal. This gives the player one of the most unique and engaging ways to solve puzzles ever conceived in video games.
I should also mention that these puzzles are actually tests, run by the most cynical and passive-aggressive robot ever, GLaDOS (genetic life form and disc operating system). The humorous story in “Portal 2” is filled with fantastic dark humor and many fleshed out characters, keeping me engaged until the dramatic conclusion.
The polish and the amount of time that went into making this game is apparent at every turn. Everything from the voice acting to the layout of the puzzles is top notch.
Gameplay in “Portal 2” is very much like its predecessor with a few new mechanics and extra polish thrown in. For example, propulsion gel, which has the potential to launch the player to great heights to reach goals, is a great example of the many ways the developers have freshened up the puzzle solving formula.
Furthermore, the game does not disappoint in the graphics department. It doesn’t boast the highest quality graphics on consoles but the art style of the characters and levels are visually stunning.
In addition to the single-player story, a co-op campaign is available that takes place at the same time as the main game .
The puzzles are significantly harder and it is not as entertaining as the single player story but games are always more fun when played with a friend in my opinion.
After completing both campaigns, players can go back through each level and listen to commentary from several of the game’s developers. These commentaries offer insights into how the game was made and even yield some secrets for very clever players.