Wednesday, November 18, 2009

sims 3 world adventures

The first expansion pack for the Sims 3 came out this week and I have to admit, I am really enjoying Sims 3: World Adventures so far! I was skeptical at first - we've seen vacationing before in Sims 2: Bon Voyage and while it was well done there, I was worried that World Adventures would seem like merely a reinvention of the new stuff introduced in BV. Not to worry! World Adventures is in fact a really cool addition to the many already cool and new features of the Sims 3. For one thing, there are three new locations to visit, replicating China, France and Egypt - your Sims can visit these locations as vacations for a small fee and spend time without advancing time in the normal game. There are new skills to acquire - martial arts and photography - and several new personality traits that can influence your Sim's behavior and lifestyle. I have only played through some of the new stuff but overall I am pretty impressed. Also, this could totally be a coincidence, but I have to say that my game has been running waaaay better than it ever did before World Adventures and the accompanying game patch, so that's something for sure. All in all, there is a lot of cool new game content and gameplay details to be had in World Adventures, plus registering it on gets you a free 1,000 points to put towards downloading new hairstyles, outfits and furniture. If you're a big fan of the Sims, I don't think you'll be disappointed with World Adventures. I look forward to exploring it further and figuring out all the cool new things I can do with this first expansion pack.

dragon age: origins

The boyfriend just finished his first playthrough of Dragon Age: Origins, the latest party-based RPG from developer Bioware, and it was a pretty epic game. This fantasy RPG is a pretty awesome, full game that certainly is reminiscent of Bioware's Star Wars RPG Knights of the Old Republic, and this first playthrough at least took over 70 hours. Considering there are six different character class origins to start with, each with a unique storyline, I think this speaks highly for the replay value of this game. If you liked KOTOR or Mass Effect in recent years, Dragon Age: Origins may be up your alley. The combat is pretty typical if you've played Bioware games before. The characters are very cool and despite the game's similarities to Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, they are more deeply developed and offer more of an emotional distinction from character to character. One big issue I have to take with this game is its graphics and presentation. While it runs smoothly, it looks like crap and seems like not much of an engine upgrade from KOTOR - I would believe it if I read that it was the same game engine at work here. Considering the leaps and bounds taken by other current-generation games with regards to animation, this game seriously disappoints in that realm. Luckily it is pretty much the only area in which this game suffers, so as long as you are not too much of a graphics snob (and are planning on playing it on an Xbox 360 - can't speak for how much worse it might look on a PS3) you will most likely still get some serious enjoyment out of this game. Looking forward to experiencing different characters and plot elements in the second (and other future) playthroughs!

halo: reach will debut at spike awards

Some guy from has announced via Twitter (Of course! Is there any other way to announce anything these days?) that the Spike TV Video Game Awards will be held live this year on December 12th. One of the more major news stories going along with this revelation is the announcement that Halo: Reach will have its official world premiere during the Video Game Awards. Reach is of course a first-person shooter slated to be the last game in the Halo franchise developed by original game developers Bungie; future Halo games (you know it's not ending any time soon, hello Spielberg movie?) will be handled by Microsoft game subsidiary 343 Industries. With all the awesome titles that launched in 2009 it should be a cool year for video game awards, with Batman: Arkham Asylum, Left 4 Dead 2, CoD: Modern Warfare 2, Uncharted 2 and Assassin's Creed 2 all receiving nominations for Game of the Year. Sounds like this year's VGAs are worth catching, if only to see which of the many deserving game titles ends up running away with GotY this year.

mario is timeless

Video game characters come and go; some are universally loved, others hated, and other still manage to be remembered for cheesy lines, awesome weaponry and crazy special moves. Yet no video game character is (or really, will ever be) as pervasive as everyone's favorite Italian plumber Mario! Whether you grew up with Mario in the 80's, originally meeting him as "Jumpman" in the Donkey Kong arcade game, or you met him as a youngster in Super Smash Bros. or any of the other more recent Mario franchises, one thing is for sure: the world cannot get enough of Mario. He is tenacious, cute, exciting and brave. He always manages to save Princess Peach, no matter what kind of crazy situation with Bowser she's got herself into now. This summer he and Luigi even ventured into Bowser a la Innerspace in Bowser's Inside Story, and now a whole new generation of gamers will get to experience classic side-scrolling fun in New Super Mario Bros., which dropped this past weekend. So whether Mario is a favorite of yours or you have minimal experience with the short, scrappy plumber, rest assured knowing that Mario is here to stay.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

assassin's creed lineage

With the holiday season rapidly approaching (and me thankfully no longer working retail) it is hard not to get caught up in the giant marketing campaigns of all the great games coming out over the next few weeks. Still after being hit over the head with banner ads, facebook fan pages, and slick television spots, when a game's marketing team serves you up an innovative way to learn more about their product, it's kind of refreshing! That's how I feel about Ubisoft's release of Assassin's Creed Lineage, a prequel short film offering insight into the story of the upcoming Assassin's Creed 2. The movie provides plot elements to introduce the game's new hero and adds in parts of the story that were left out of the original Assassin's Creed, which launched in 2007. Where TV commercials and banner ads might get the point across in an invasive or annoying way, Assassin's Creed Lineage lets the interested user explore further into the game's universe and learn more on his or her own time. The short films can be viewed on YouTube or caught on gamer-friendly TV channels like SpikeTV.

atari finds a new way

Most people associate Atari with clunky black cartridges and antiquated systems with 20 buttons on the controller, not giving much consideration to the fact that Atari is in fact still developing games for current consoles. Granted, they may not be releasing groundbreaking games today when compared with other modern competition, but one thing you can say for Atari is that they understand the importance of reinvention. Where others focus on how to develop games in new ways, Atari is setting its sights on new strategies in game marketing. The process of developing and selling a video game is a long and expensive one - Atari's idea is that streamlining presentation can better highlight important aspects of games during the selling of games to interested buyers/publishers. With considerations to conference calling rather than in-person presentations and using HD video tools to better show off the impressive elements of a game's design process, Atari is definitely thinking smarter when it comes to game marketing and development.

hey kids, history IS interesting!

Lately it seems like video games that deal in historical plotlines or recreate monumental events from history are growing in popularity. This is of course not a new development; game designers have been delving into the past for game ideas and story lines for years. Having majored in history in college, I find myself drawn to genres of games I wouldn't even normally play if they appeal in a plot-based way to an interesting part of history. Still, with the video game industry growing into the billion-dollar machine that it has, representing an entertainment option to a much more mainstream demographic than ever before, people have started to notice when a video game manages to be rooted in historical substance and yet still catch the attention of today's jaded and disconnected youth. The American Library Association has established November 14th as National Gaming Day in U.S. libraries and recognizes the benefit of adding video games and interactive activities into the suite of learning tools that libraries offer to help kids learn. More and more game developers are picking up on this interest as well and tailoring their games to be not only historically interesting but also accurate:
Gary Keith Brubaker, a lecturer in game study at The Guildhall at SMU in Texas, said historical games always have to try to balance accuracy and fun. "Just as movies about the past adapt the story to medium, so do games. However as limited as this history is, it can be a gateway for further exploration and interest for players," said Brubaker.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

modern warfare 2 set to break sales records

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 came out today and according to initial reviews, it sounds like it probably deserves the high sales predictions that accompanied its midnight release. IGN's review goes into depth about the game and awards it a 9.5 "Incredible". I am not really a huge fan of first-person shooters but I'm sure if I was I would be attached to my console of choice at the moment blasting terrorists in the face. Anyway, early forecasts are predicting that Modern Warfare 2 will be the fastest selling video game in history, starting with over 4.5 million preorders ready for pickup. MW2 is also another example of a big-release title coming out in multiple editions: the game by itself is $60, and there are two levels of special edition; the more expensive "Prestige" edition came with functioning nightvision goggles. You also can't forget the (admittedly a great deal if you don't have a 360 yet) limited edition Modern Warfare 2 Xbox 360 console that comes with the game, two wireless controllers and a whopper of a 250 GB hard drive. So whether or not you play the Call of Duty franchise, expect to hear more and more discussion of this brand new and crazy popular shooter.