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PC: Sim City 5

My copy of the latest Sim City arrived in the mail today.  I was surprised as it was a present from my GF!  She totally rocks it!  Anyway, after booting into Windows 8 and installing the game (which was pretty quick), the headaches are starting to take a toll with this game.  I have for at least six hours now tried to login to a free game server and finish the tutorial.  Apparently, there is no getting around skipping this.  Then again, I wouldn’t mind as much completing the tutorial if I didn’t have to watch grass grow trying to find a server that even responds.  What’s going on EA/Origin?

I’ve read forums (even EA’s own) where users have complained about buying the game and not even being able to play it.  I even came across someone who has had it since launch and still hasn’t been able to start a city!  Yes, the experience is dismal and there should be a refund policy for games that just don’t perform the way they should off the bat.  Why not adopt the 15 minute rule that Google Play and iTunes App Store use?  Users can test drive and get refunded for ANY reason within a given amount of time.  It’s clear that the servers are NOT ready for primetime — thus reflecting on the game holistically.  As I write this, reviewers on Amazon.com have given this game a 1.5  1 star rating.  At this point, I tend to agree with that.

I understand that the new thing nowadays is to tightly control piracy via DRM and such, but I feel it really hurts the larger market of paid players who can’t get into the game because of the walls of technology preventing the game from launching.  Sad.  Every single Sim City prior to this version has been successful — I mean, the anticipation of this latest version of Sim City can be accredited to versions before this.  I know I have been looking forward to it, but alas, I have given up trying to get past the Origin login screen.  I would like to add, playing previous versions of Sim City did NOT require you to be online.  This is where I think EA/Origin has dropped the ball BIG TIME!  Why do I have to have a persistent connection to the internet to play a game in single-player mode?  Lame.

I know this review sounds like a rant, and it totally is — but games today are going the way of strict DRM and this process has hindered too many potentially great games.  If you’re going to stack a ton of prevention steps and bombared a game with DRM technology, AT LEAST ensure that the game experience from install to gameplay works!  It’s okay to have minor bugs here and there, but to prevent the masses from playing completely?  HUGE clusterf*ck on someones part.  I remember Diablo 3 going through the same issues upon its launch, it took me months to totally dive into the game.  Yes, I am complaining, but hell, it’s my website!  I’ll put in an honest review of the game once I’m able to play it.  For now, I’ll have to fire up the PS3 or play Diablo 3 for the next few days/weeks until EA/Origin gets their sh*t together.

The takeaway for now, EA/Origin has definitely tarnished this brand and has made a lot of people, including myself, frustrated with this launch as well as question the EA lineup for future games.

Review

ProsCons
Improved graphics, umm, that's about it!Strict DRM, Unable to get past login due to server timeouts, Laggy login screens, Computer must have persistent internet access in order to play.
Rating
02%
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PLAYSTATION 3: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 Multiplayer and Single Player Campaign Review

So this game has been out for a few months now.  I wanted to focus in on the multiplayer mode because well, I go into the first 20 minutes of the single player mode and decided to see what multiplayer was all about — and I haven’t looked back ever since.  I’ll go back and finish the single player campaign — at some point.  For now, this review focuses on aspects of multiplayer.

First of all, I thought it was awesome that there weren’t any EXTRA costs in playing multiplayer on the Sony Playstation Network.  (I have yet to renew my XBOX Live account)  The lobbies and player match menus are identical to the XBOX Live versions.  Let’s start with the new game modes:

In the Standard Playlist Mode, “Kill Confirmed” is the latest and greatest.  This mode basically forces the player or their teammate to grab “dog tags” of a fallen enemy in order for the kill to count.  You’ll still get kill points for wiping the enemy out, but unless you grab his dog tags, it won’t count towards the team score.  This mode needs at least eight players to start.  In the Community Playlist Mode, “Drop Zone” is an endless sprint to a specified location on the map. Your team is supposed to hold the drop zone long enough to win care packages which range from UAV to Osprey Gunners.  Zones switch every minute.  So as you can imagine, it’s a slugfest with weapons.  I’m beginning to really like this mode because of the fast pace it delivers.

Another new feature in the game is called the “Prestige Shop.”  When you’ve leveled up your character to 80 and want to start over again with shiny new emblems and call signs, this mode is activated.  You get one “token” every time you cycle through Prestige levels.  You can spend your token on an Extra Custom Class, Double XP which gives you two game hours of double XP points, Double Weapon XP (two hours double XP for your weapons), Unlock Gear which allows you to create a class item early and carry it through future Prestige levels, and Reset All Stats (self-explanatory).  There are other packages, but I believe they exist in previous versions of the franchise.

As with the other CoD titles, the maps are fun for the first 80 levels, then they get really boring, really fast.  There are a few maps like “Dome” and “Hardhat” that everyone in the lobby seems to vote for all of the time.  These maps lend themselves to the “run and gun” as well as the “sniper” types.  The graphics are clean and great along with the sound design.  I’ve been messing around with the Theater feature which allows you to view your last 20+ games or so in full detail.  Go ahead and pause, rewind, use the free camera, or switch to a team mate view to see how well you and the team did in a particular battle.  You can even grab a screenshot.  Cool.

What I find a little annoying was that the game can place you in a game in progress on a losing team.  Sometimes the game ends before you even spawn.  Another gripe is that you can spawn in the middle of your enemies where you have zero chance of surviving, let alone getting your bearing.

Overall, the game is an excellent addition to the franchise.  Some say that it’s better than the previous “Black Ops” title, and I agree.  The new game modes as well as the Prestige Shop keep the game fresh and re-playable.  Not sure if I’ll be passing to the third Prestige level as it does take a grind to get to level 80.  Then again, I do have a single player campaign to finish.

UPDATE: Now for the “brief” single player campaign review.

The single player campaign mode was quite short.  I completed it in less than eight hours of gameplay time.  The story picks up where MW2 left off.  I can say that although it was short, the story was way less confusing than “Black Ops.”  I still don’t know what exactly went down in Black Ops.  Anyway, the game play is filled with slow-motion action where your character breaches doors in which case slow-mo is triggered and you have to try to shoot your enemies during this mode.  It was pretty cool.  One thing I noticed was that aircraft like airplanes and helicopters always seem to go down in important story milestones.  It seems to happen when your side is transporting important people, or calling in for support.  It was predictable.  Overall, the this mode was fun to play and finish.  There’s a little surprise at the end (past the end credits) for those of you who are awaiting the next installment.

Review

ProsCons
Great new game multiplayer modes, Beautiful graphics and sound design, Theater Mode, Single Player Campaign short, but fun!Spawning points on some maps not ideal, Can be placed in a loosing team (game in progress), Maps get tried and tiring, Single Player Mode storyline a bit predictable.
Rating
95%
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PLAYSTATION 3: MAG First Impressions Review

When I first heard about this game I scoured YouTube to find actual gameplay.  It looked really awesome!  To think that you can be playing with 255 other people on a map executing on various objectives sounds really cool!  Unfortunately, that’s where the coolness factor ended for me.  To give you a brief overview of a First Impression Review, it is assumed that the game has been played for a sufficient amount of time to form an opinion.  Because this is an online multi-player game only, it doesn’t take long for that opinion to form.

How it all started.  Picked up the game at a local Gamestop and came home and loaded up Call of Duty: MW2.  Yeah, I’m addicted to that game, I know.  Anyway, after two days of MAG encased in it’s original wrapping, I decided to tear it open.  The game required about 60MB worth of updating.  Once that process was done, I was off choosing a faction.  There are three to choose from (S.V.E.R., Raven, and Valor).  I chose Valor because it sounded cool.  After designing a character, I was off to training.  The training portion, or as I call it, the MW2 motor skills brainwashing was actually quite entertaining.  The typical run here, shoot five targets there, lob a grenade here were quite useful in getting acquainted with the controls.  However, that’s where the entertainment of the game ended for me.

The first four level up exercises puts you into games with 64 players.  You gain experience points be eliminating the opposing team.  Once your character has passed level four in skill, it opens up more gameplay modes.  I was able to unlock the Acquisition mode which allows you to play with 127 other people.  It’s where you either attack or defend two prototype transports and escape to the extraction point.  Sounds straight forward, right?  Well, not so fast…  I think the objective of the game as a whole carries massive expectation.  To have a ton of people on a map doing their thing sounds amazing.  The problem lies in the mechanics of gameplay – which I think Sony and Zipper Interactive have dropped the ball on.

The good:  Lag was never an issue for me.  Then again, I have Verizon FiOS which rules over everything.  Players who have headsets actually communicated within the context of the game.  Never heard any annoying 12 year old kids talking to their mom in the background about cleaning up their room.  The sounds are THX certified.  Which means the environmental audio is spot on as well as the accompanying sound FX.  All crisp.

Now for the bad:  Here we go.  First of all, the controls do not feel as polished as they could be.  Collision detection is way off.  When I’m looking down the sight of a gun and see an enemy in the crosshairs, I expect to waste his a$$.  Not so in this game.  There have been occasions when the player remains alive, even at point blank.  (It’s also a huge problem in MW2 with the shotguns)  When I have a rocket launcher aimed at an enemy and it detonates next to them, I expect them to R.I.P., not this time.  The enemies seem to think of it as an afterthought.  They live!  WTF!  (I’m calm, really!)  A lot of work needs to be done in executing the basics for this game.  I’ll let the graphics slide, but the controls, I can’t.  It hinders the gameplay completely and makes it frustrating to play.  No one wants to be frustrated when they play, right?

Needless to say, I took the game back and traded it in for a pre-order copy of EA’s Battlefield: Bad Company 2.  Which by the way, if you’ve played the demo, by far beats MAG in playability and fun factor.  Quite sad considering Battlefield is still in Beta.  Moral of this review is it doesn’t matter how many people are playing with/against you at any given time, if you aren’t happy with the mechanics of the control system and collision detection, the game will end up being frustrating.  It may even prompt you to type up a scathing review on a gaming website somewhere…  I suggest you put your money down on Call of Duty: MW2 (if you haven’t already) or Battlefield: Bad Company 2 which is out March 2, 2010.

If we had a rating system, I’d give MAG a 4 out of 10.  One for everyday I owned the copy.

Review

ProsCons
Expanse Maps in Multiplayer, Destructible environments, Beautiful graphics and sound designUnderwhelming single player mode, Controls can have a learning curve after playing MW2
Rating
45%
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XBOX 360: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review

Two months ago, I waited in line at a Gamestop to acquire a copy of this game for the Xbox 360.  Not having pre-ordered a copy, I was denied a sale.  Remember, we (the writers at Gamersplay) don’t get advanced copies of games — yet…  Anyway, I headed to the Best Buy next door and to my surprise, they had a ton of copies.  Ca-ching!  Sold.  By the way, this title has set a ton of records.  One of them being that it generated $550 million in the first five days of release.

I began playing the single-player campaign.  It was cool.  The gameplay brought me back to the Call of Duty 4 days.  The controls were second nature, like riding a bike.  You never forget it.  After getting to the second mission, I decided to play the multi-player campaigns exclusively.  Why you ask?  I was going on vacation in early December 2009 and wanted to level up my character as much as I could so that when I returned, I could be at-par with my friends.  Needless to say, my friends have never caught-up — so far.  I have been playing this game non-stop, every single moment I get the chance.  I’m not a hard-core MW2 player as others I’ve seen online, but compared to my friends, I’m pretty much labeled as addicted.  There are 16 multiplayer maps in the game.  Hard to imagine that there are that many, but if you’ve played it as much as I have, the maps are beginning to feel a bit old.  Currently as I write this, my character is at 1st Prestige level 50.  It’s still interesting enough for me to pick up the Xbox controller almost every night, but my gameplay has since been cut down from all-nighters to an hour max.  The graphics are sharp as I can see movement well beyond the scope of my gun.  Then again, it helps to play on an 52″ HDTV.  The sounds are crisp and typical of this type of genre as the gunshots and AC130 planes hover above the map.  One of the coolest features of this game are Kill-streak awards.  The concept behind this is for every consecutive kill you make (without dying), you unlock a reward.  Rewards vary from drop packages, to being a gunner on a gunship chopper, and even the ultimate tactical nuke strike — which by the way, ends the game for everyone playing.  In order to get this coveted reward, you have to kill 25 enemies (24 with the hardline perk) without dying.  The best I’ve done is 13.  I know, lame for the hardcore players, but pretty awesome in my book!  There are a ton of gameplay types from Free-for-all to Cage Deathmatch.  I haven’t played all of the game types, as I seem to gravitate towards Team Deathmatch Express, Ground War, and Domination.  Domination in my opinion is a great experience point collector for your character as points are awarded whether or not you kill people in the opposing team.  There are plenty of weapons to choose from and can vary and even change the experience you have in matches.  In general, the weapons seemed balanced, except maybe for the top of the line shot-gun in Akimbo mode.  Those seem to get me EVERYTIME and can get quite annoying.  Still though, it doesn’t detract from the game as a whole.

The Xbox Live system has been solid and the multiplayer games are hosted by a random someone in the party.  There have been times I’ve been frustrated with my skillz and have left the game leaving the rest of the gamers waiting for the system to find a new host.  Haha!  At least I can disrupt their gameplay in that sense!  Anyway, the multiplayer experience is top-notch.  It’s so good that I haven’t finished the single player campaign yet.  I’ll get to it soon enough as the multiplayer is wearing on me.  I don’t know how other gamers can replay Prestige level three or more times.  Who has the time???  I can’t wait for the fine folks at Activision to release new maps which will give this game new life when they do.  For now, I’ll continue chugging along the MW2 bandwagon.  This game has not been a disappointment.  Also, IF we had a rating system in place, I’d give this game at least a nine out of ten joysticks, thumbs up, whatever you think is cool.  If you haven’t purchased this game yet, do it now!  There is still hope for you!

Review

ProsCons
Awesome graphics, In-depth single-player missions, Rock solid multiplayer modeMultiplayer maps can get old quickly, This addictive game will test any relationship you have with your significant other.
Rating
92%
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XBOX360: The Beatles Rock Band Review

So I’ve had this game for a few weeks now. It’s one of those games that I have consistently played since it’s release. Then again, aside from the games I bought from a Burger King promotion a few years ago, this is the only game I currently own for the XBox360. The game is visually stunning and colorful. The animated breaks between levels are thoughtfully done. The music is awesome if you’re a Beatles fan, and if you’re an exclusive Rolling Stones fan, the music is lame — according to one of my colleagues who is a hard core Stones fan. Anyway, the music is awesome. Whether you’re in “Quickplay” or “Story” mode, the instrument you choose (in a single player game) stands out in the music. For instance, if you’re an awesome Rock Band bass player like myself, the bass sounds pop out a little more. It’s the same for the other instruments. This means you can hear how awesome you’re doing in the game, or failing miserably like I do when I play the guitar on Expert mode.

Speaking of modes… For Bass guitar, easy is way too easy, and can be quite boring. Medium is still too easy, and a little less boring. Hard mode can be challenging, but still too easy. Expert mode is just right if you have at least 10 previous hours of Rock Band time. I noticed a few songs in Expert mode were way too hard, but when I bump it down to Hard mode, it was way too easy. The Guitar and Drum modes are a bit more challenging in the Hard and Expert modes. As far as the Vocal mode goes, as long as you’re singing in the range of the right frequency, you’re all good.

I finished the game playing Bass guitar on Expert mode in two weekends. I haven’t unlocked everything yet, but the beauty of this game is the replay value. So, when I’m in-between playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Forza (thanks in advance Miles for letting me borrow your game), I’ll be on Rock Band: The Beatles desperately trying to complete ANY song on Expert mode using the Guitar. This is the game that keeps on giving, until you go crazy trying to collect all of the photos and can’t because your skills suck no matter how many times you play “I Saw Her Standing There” or “Helter Skelter” on Bass. (Do not attempt after a long day at the office — you’ll only aggravate yourself)

Overall, this game is a keeper. Glad I chose to keep the “Guitar Hero 2” guitar. The game is fun with all devices connected and everyone is half drunk. Now that’s a party! You can find it for around $60 for just the game. It’s $130 for a generic band set plus game, and $250 for the Special Edition — which I don’t think it’s worth it, even for a Beatles fan like myself. If we had a rating chart, I’d give it an 8 out of 10 stars/joysticks/happy faces, etc…