Saturday, October 29, 2011


It seems like we are always playing zombie video games, but this weekend? Tis the season! With the second season of "The Walking Dead" currently airing and a seeming supply of never-ending games featuring the undead likeness, now is as good a time as any to try and survive the zombie apocalypse (at least in a virtual reality).

I recently was shown the site Complex at a VGAME meeting, which has a solid gaming section complete with one of my favorite features, lists! I've been looking around today for Halloween-related rankings and Complex alone had a few. Here's the first one I'd like to promote: "The 10 Best Free-To-Play Zombie Games."

I wasn't familiar with any of these beforehand, so I consider this a very informative gallery. Thus far I've only checked out "Zombie Taxi 2," which I quickly learned I was horrible at. Using the arrow keys to steer a car in top-down view is not an easy feat. I wondered how the hell I operated "Grand Theft Auto 2" back in the day... I've expressed before how I prefer a controller over mouse and keyboard for gaming any day (except for obvious exceptions like point-and-click adventures and real-time strategies). Anyways, back to "Zombie Taxi 2," Complex's number 10. The object is to pick up survivors in your taxi (which you can eventually customize in some ways) and bring them to safe zones, all the while turning the undead denizens of the city into roadkill. Well, I spent most of my session crashing into building and accidentally running over zombies and survivors alike. The one person I did save I picked up in the safe zone!

Complex made a point of wanting more from games than just "shooting zombies" in their foreword for this list. They said these 10 were games that "breathe life into the living dead" (I like that). Well, just from looking and reading it seems many of these games also feature, yes, "shooting zombies." The reason I was quick to play "Zombie Taxi 2" was because it had no gun involved. The other game that really stood out among the undead crowd was "Dead Frontier: Outbreak 2." It seems to be a point-and-click outing that gives the player plenty of chances to choose wisely or poorly.

As students, a lot of us are the target demographic for free-to-play games. They may lack the polish and production value of other games, but- Wait! You've probably heard something like that before and isn't it true? That might be why I don't play a lot of free-to-play games, because I happen to be a fan of polish and production. That said, there are plenty of indie games with charm and innovation and might certainly be worth a gamer's time. It is important to keep our eyes open for those free-to-play titles (at least the best of them). I will hopefully get around to trying more of the games on this list, but I wanted to get it out there in time for Halloween.

What do you think of the list? Have you played any of these titles? What other zombie games deserve a shuffle in the limelight?

Live on. Game on.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Oftentimes I do not get the opportunity to even try out the game for myself. Such is the case for non-professional gamers, critics, and fanboys. Three important schools that I subscribe to. Last week Rockstar Games announced that for the 10 Year Anniversary of their mega-hit "Grand Theft Auto III," one of the most influential games of all-time, it would be hitting iOS and Android systems later this year. I wrote on that story here.

Well, now we have received actually gameplay footage from the New York ComicCon this week. What you'll see above is roughly 90-seconds of uncut action of the game as played on an iPad. It becomes immediately apparent that the controls are going to take some getting used. If you've done much gaming on an iPhone or iPad then you know one of the two mechanics they use for movement in a 3D realm. You get a small circle in a bottom corner and wherever you place your finger or thumb in that (micro) area your onscreen avatar will move in the (macro) direction respectively. It's weird and I don't think it will every feel as natural as an analog thumbstick, which I believe is the most natural and control-friendly way to move in gaming. Besides that adjustment you are given onscreen "buttons" that control different actions. When a car came within jacking distance a car icon appeared onscreen. Running, jumping, and punching buttons seem to always be available (as they should for a thug like you).

It appears that whoever is playing is not that good at it (the video begins just after they get wasted and then later the owner of the car they commandeered hijacks them right back). However, if you pay attention you'll probably notice they seem to be doing it one-handed while probably recording this footage with the other hand. Unfortunately, this video doesn't show us how driving and shooting (not at the same time mind you, but those actions respectively) are going to function on touchscreen version. That will be interesting to see when we receive more footage of this great game on a foreign system.

All in all, it looks just about as good as it did on PS2, maybe even as good as it did on Xbox. Of course, it is easier to make that happen on a smaller display. I'm sure my iPhone could not handle it, but I hope to try it on someone else's eventually.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Orcs Must Die!
Released 10.5.11
XBLA & Windows

Developer: Robot Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Here is a bloody riot that takes no time at all to master. The challenge keeps you on your toes in this tower defense outing that has never been more fun. You'll plan, strategize, and hack and slash as you utilize dozens of means to keep the nasty foes at bay! "Orcs Must Die!" is a must play!

The other morning I played through the "Orcs Must Die!" demo for a second time. Anytime I play through a demo again is a good sign of a good game. My sister called during my play session and asked how I was. I told her it was a good morning and I had already killed a couple hundred orcs. "No, really!" I said, I then explained. (By the end of my session the tally was totaling near 1,000!)

An opening cutscene of graphic novel-esque pictures sets the stage. An aged warrior has spent 300 years fighting for the Order. In this time he has killed thousands of Orcs and defended dozens of Rifts. Then, after slipping on a puddle of blood (which, if you really think about it, was bound to happen sooner or later) and cracking his head on the gatehouse steps, he was put out of mortality and therefore out of the job. You were his apprentice and now it is up to you to defend the castle (and more specifically the Rifts). "The world is doomed,"your masters voice laments. Now is your chance to prove that prediction otherwise. Orcs must die! You are given the objective to defend the rifts at all costs, if a certain number of orcs make it through, the world is doomed indeed. You cannot prevent the orcs from breaching your castle, but you can stop them from reaching the Rift(s). In fact, you never leave the castle. It is your playing field for the entire game.

Tower defense is a specific subgenre of the realtime strategy (RTS) which in itself is a subgenre of sorts for the strategy game. A couple years ago tower defense was changed forever with the release of "Plants vs. Zombies," one of the greatest games I have ever played. Instead of holding out against an undead horde, you will be fending off lots and lots of orcs. The best part of the game is that you actually become your most valuable defense. Most tower defense games give managerial type duties and you have an almost god-like presence over the battle field being able to control units or in the very least determine where they ought to be placed. You can do that herein, but you are also a character yourself: a young medieval warrior with a red scarf.

Before each level you get to choose your load out from the Spell Book. This might not be the best name because all your weapons and all your traps are selected from there. You have a limited number of slots and so you must choose wisely. As far as traps go you've got the Boom Barrel, Spike Trap, Tar Trap, and Arrow Wall just to name a few. A strategical placed Boom Barrel on the battlefield can be triggered by a well placed arrow from a safe distance. This will make it boom and cause any orcs in its immediate vicinity to explode to limbs and so forth. The Tar Trap slows enemies down as they trudge through. The Spike Trap impales them from below while the Arrow Wall gets them from the side (a la that temple at the beginning of "Raiders of the Lost Ark"). You have a set amount a points at the beginning to spend on traps and earn more during play as you kill orc upon orc. You can actually build traps in the heat of battle, which is always an exciting move. They do say the best defense is a good offense (or is it the other way around?... either way, you will be defending against and offending the orcs.) Then there's your personal weapons. The Bladestaff is a must should you ever resort to close-quarters combat, which you most certainly will, and the weapon to end all weapons, your ever trusty crossbow (so you can fell the orcs before they even come within swinging range.)

Depending on how well you do in any given level you are rewarded skulls (out of a possible five skulls). You can use these to upgrade equipment from your Spell Book. I chose to improve the Spike Trap because I seemed to use it more than any other Orc-killing device. The upgrade added poison to the spikes and actually seemed to make the spikes longer. By the demo's end I had unlocked 7/30 of the possible weapons you can choose from the Spell Book. I've no doubt the other weapons will be just as detailed and useful as the ones I've been describing. I had finally unlocked the Wind Belt, which enables me to push and pickup enemies and objects. It works great to keep the foe at bay and even lets you push them back onto the traps you've set, thus putting them through the ringer again. Some levels have built in defenses, such as one corridor that had two large bubbling vats of acid. I waited until some orcs wore beneath it and the shot an arrow at the oversized bucket which dumped its contents on the ugly buggers below. Their skin, flesh, and blood vanished and their remaining skeletal structures fell to the floor! Sometimes other "good guys" will aid your cause, such as archers, which actually eventually end up in your Spell Book.

The orcs themselves are pretty foolish. They run in a predetermined path, solely fixated on reaching the Rift (which you will have to resort to yourself every now and again in order to heal). Many of them take corners nice and wide like humanoid tanks. This isn't adapting AI like some people have been experiencing with Id's latest, "Rage." Still, their numbers are relentless and they will certainly fight back when you are close enough. Besides the standard orc, their are ones with crossbows, and other creatures (though they do not appear in the demo). I've seen the Cobolts in a video, which are small and agile and are a particular threat when it comes to defending the Rift. Other creatures include Ogres, Helbats, and Gnoll Hunters (see the full Mob at the "Orcs Must Die!" wiki).

The game released a couple weeks ago for the Xbox Live Game Marketplace at $15. That is the upper tier price for XBLA games and is a more significant investment than say $5 for "Geometry War." Still, I feel this is an upper tier game and worth that and more (though in my current Benjamins-lacking state I will be likely waiting for a Deal of the Week purchase for this one). In today's world, where people are having to shell out $60 for new releases, this is a fair price for such a fine game.

Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the current age of digitally downloadable games. "Orcs Must Die!" is a worthy addition to any gamer's library and truly one of the best games I've played this year.


Content: blood and violence

Friday, October 14, 2011


Rockstar Games is a developer and publisher that lives up to their name. They have consistently delivered good games, but oftentimes good is too far an understatement. They've started franchises such as "Midnight Club," "Max Payne," "Red Dead Redemption," and the popular and controversy "Grand Theft Auto." Earlier this year they published the innovative "L.A. Noire," which far too people are remembering was developed by Team Bondi). Their games are usually for mature audiences, but there is no denying how well they actually make games. This week we have two items of note from the legendary company.

"Red Dead Redemption" (my pick for best game of 2010) is appropriately crowned with a "Game of the Year" edition. I called this back in July, not like it was that unexpected though. It includes the full game, the "Undead Nightmare" expansion, and all the multiplayer DLC. If you still haven't picked up this game, now is the time to do so and this is the version to get. "Red Dead Redemption" boats a massive wild west open-world set just after the turn of the century. It breathes and behaves like it should, complete with a wide array of wildlife and plentiful things to do. The single-player story is among the most entertaining, compelling, and thought-provoking I have ever encounter in a video game. "Undead Nightmare" is exactly what is says and changes the entire way you play the game (with zombies of course).Then there is all the multiplayer options. There's your standard Deathmatch options, Grab the Bag, and even a Horde mode where you team up with others against wave after wave of undead cowboys. The highlight is the Free Roam where you can form posses with friends and strangers alike and do whatever the heck you want. Seriously, play this game. Here is Rockstar Newswire regarding "Red Dead Redemption: Game of the Year."

What's more? Rockstar Games is celebrating the 10 Year Anniversary of the title that chagned video games forever, "Grand Theft Auto III." The game will be coming to iOS and Android devices later this fall! It seems an interesting choice. I currently don't have any such device to support it, but I can always play it on my original Xbox. How do you think such a game will play on the iPad2 and company? It seems very much meant for a controller, but I don't doubt Rockstar's abilities. "GTA III" is a remarkable game and still holds up a decade later. I spent significant time with it just last year. It was a pioneer in the sandbox and open-world movement of games that I, for one, fell head over heels for! The freedom-induced gameplay is exhilarating and the sprawling city awaits your royal thug-ness. When GameInformer did their "Top 200 Games of All-Time" about two years ago it ranked number 4 for a reason. Actually, for several reasons.

Along with that news Rockstar announced a limited edition Claude (the anti-hero you play as in "GTA III") action-figure! The specifics: "This fully articulated 1:6 scale action figure of Claude comes dressed in his original attire of cargo pants and a bomber jacket, but can also sport his iconic Liberty City Prison-issued jumpsuit (supplied) and comes equipped with an arsenal of classic weapons from Grand Theft Auto III including a bat, knife, grenades, pistol, sniper rifle, and assault rifle." It's not cheap (at $150), but is currently for sale from the Rockstar Warehouse should you consider yourself that much of a fan. Rockstar Newswire has more on these "GTA III" announcements.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


So, I finally made myself a Reddit account. Took me long enough, I know. I went to the "Gaming" page and riding at number 2 was a link to these video game related jack-o'-lanterns (including the above from the classic "Oregon Trail"). I thought it was pretty sweet, even if the games they chose were quite random. Also, this is the ideal time of year for this sort of activity and art.

I found myself Googling "jack o' lantern video games" and found a trove of them! Check out "50 Video Game Jack-O'-Lanterns" as posted by Geeks Podcast almost a year ago today. Their number 1 is iconic. It looks meant to be.

Vault Boy (from "Fallout") has to be my favorite. What is yours?

These are sweet eh? Pumpkin carving is no easy task and taking on some of these designs seems more than daunting. Maybe I could do a "Pong" one...

Live on. Game on.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


EEDAR (Electronic Entertainment Design and Research) published the following infographic based on a recent study among HD console owners (i.e PS3 and/or  Xbox 360 owners). The purpose was to find out how influential game review outlets were on gamers' decision making to purchase a game or not. Infographics are among my favorite methods to report data. Check out the aesthetically pleasing results below:

GameSpot (who is probably my first and foremost resource when checking video game reviews) was the most influential. Next in line were GameInformer and IGN (probably the next two I typically consult). The findings seem pretty accurate to me personally. How do they match up to the outlets you look at?

I found the states breakdown to be particularly interesting. What do you think of the survey's results?

Source: GameInformer

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


My Fellow "Elder Scrolls" Gamers,

The fifth installment in one of the grandest series ever constructed will be here in just a month! 11.11.11 is the day our gaming schedules will change forever. While very much a niche game, those of us in it love it with an utmost passion. Over the past weeks and months we have been teased with plenty of "Skyrim"-related goodies. I thought I'd take the time this morning and put them all in one place for you! Enjoy.

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Much like Bilbo Baggins, I love maps! I admire when developers include a map with their open world game. Bethesda and Rockstar seem to always do this. Check out the recently revealed map for "Skyrim" above! I imagine by the end of the year we will all become very familiar with it. Here is Kotaku's comments on the map, here is Game Informer's comments.

Reports are that it is roughly the same size as Cyrodiil, the beautiful land we roamed in "Oblivion." Looking at this map above will confirm that it is a little smaller, but more dense and compact. In any case, there is going to be a lot to explore!

In case you haven't heard. You need to pre-order the game to get the map this time. Yeah, it's a ploy, but those of us who are serious about the game are pre-ordering anyway so no big deal.

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Just yesterday the manual (which people are saying looks like the final retail version) was leaked, almost entirely as seen in dozen of pictures here. Here is Game Informer's comments on the manual, here is Kotaku's comments.

Looking through these screenshots I learned some very noteworthy things. For one, you can cook in "Skyrim." Heretofore it seemed the "Gothic" series was the only medieval-fantasy RPG that would let me refine my culinary skills as well as my bow skills. No longer the case! I imagine this will much like it was implemented in "Fallout: New Vegas," a neat feature that made all the edible items you acquired even more valuable. Also (and my heart leapt for joy at this one) it looks like the awful tumbler lockpicking mini-game from "Oblivion" has been done away with! Instead they are implementing a system similar to "Fallout 3" where you feel the lock open. It is far less frustration and more aesthetically pleasing.

What things do you learn from the manual?

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Say what you will about the Xbox 360 Achievements (and the PS3 "trophy" equivalent - is that right?), but I still cannot deny the tinge of pride I feel with each and every one earned. Here is a full list of the Achievements that await unlocking in "Skyrim," though many are names of quests and currently won't mean much to us. Still the "Hard Worker" Achievement confirms that you can "Chop wood, mine ore, and cook food" in "Skyrim"! Yay! Chores! But honestly, they feel a lot more meaningful and rewarding in detail open-world games than the crap they have you do in "Farmville" and its siblings. Game Informer comments on the list.

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"Oblivion" surprised and wooed us with an impressively robust character creator. "Skyrim" looks to be the same, check out some of the myriad options at this IGN gallery.

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Back in July IGN gave us "Five Reasons 'Skyrim' is Going to Make You its Bitch." (Hint: Two of the reasons are pretty cool tidbits about dragons!)

Also from July is a great interview with Todd Howard of Bethesda (the design director for the game) about his scope and vision for "Skyrim" found at Gamasutra.

The Bethesda Blog takes us inside "The Art of 'Skyrim'."

The Bethesda Blog informs us on some of the voice-talent behind the characters, including one of my favorite actors, Christopher Plummer.

Joel Johnson of Kotaku details his hour of gameplay with "Skyrim" here.

And, in case you missed it, here is my lengthy article of impression after watching the 20+ minutes of gameplay that were released last month.

Finally... Crab Armor DLC?! Kotaku has the whimsical wish.

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Well, there you have plenty of information to keep you excited for when the game finally arrives. It probably is not enough to whet your appetite entirely, but thankfully you only have to wait one month!

Live on. Game on.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I've yet to play "Portal 2" (which is one of my biggest regrets in gaming this year), but from everything I've heard it is every bit as good as its predecessor (which is one of my favorite gems in gaming any year). Nonetheless, I can deeply appreciate the skill and precision on display in the the video above. YouTube user Divector8 completes the Propulsion Catch chamber in 32 seconds! He was going for a speed run and I think defined it. What's more? He only uses four portals! I cannot wait to play this game (hopefully sooner rather than later).

Full disclosure, I found this video on Game Informer earlier today.

Live on. Game on.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Kotaku published an article this morning asking (and entitled) "Is Xbox Where TV is Going?" It reports that "Microsoft is on the verge of landing a deal that will net their Xbox 360 access to some or all of Verizon and Comcast's cable television." Will cable boxes become a thing of the past as home consoles like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 continue to become more than just gaming devices?

I heart my Xbox 360 and all its online-ness. I frequently use Netflix on there, which is in my mind the ideal place to use it. Xbox Live has had an ESPN channel for nearly a year now, but I haven't given it much time or though. Then there is Hulu and Zune Marketplace. PlayStation 3 has all this as well. I used to even watch MSNBC news on my Xbox 360 until that feature mysteriously went MIA. Maybe I was the only one using it... Still, these consoles are multi-media devices. They are fast becoming an entertainment hub with which you can replace all other machines in your living room with.

In his article Brian Crecente speculates future possibilities, "Imagine getting a pop-up on your television while in the middle of playing 'Madden NFL 2016,' telling you that the latest episode of Psych just started. A single button push pauses the game and drops you straight into the show. Or the opposite. Maybe you're watching a show and a friend shoots you an invite asking you to play a round of 'Call of Duty.' A button-push starts recording the show and drops you into the game."

2016. Not a stretch at all. For those of us who already watch TV anymore anyway, a home console with a Netflix subscription is all you currently want or need anyway. 

What do you think about these prospects? Might non-gamers pick up an Xbox 1080 or PlayStation 4 simply because it is the new way to watch TV? I know my folks sometimes use their Wii to watch movies on (and that is all they use it for).