Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dance Central 2 Review

Platform(s): XBOX 360
Developer(s): Harmonix Music System
Publisher(s): Harmonix Music System
Genre: Music, Rhythm, Exercise

Without ever a full year passing by, the Kinect’s best-selling game, Dance Central, is back with its long awaited sequel, Dance Central 2. As you may recall with the first Dance Central, it made a perfect blend of music, ranging from old school to contemporary, and dance, ranging from simplistic to intricate. Taking cues from previous music games, Dance Central creates innovative dance routines based upon the theme and genre of the song and goes a great job while doing it. The same thing is done with its sequel but at a greater effect.

Right off the back, Dance Central 2 present itself with more appealing graphics by adding the effect similar to that of viewing a lighted object through smeared glass. This only made the colors pop and, when it came down to scenery changes, which can only be achieved by hitting a string of “Flawless” and “Nice”, the visual makes the game even more appealing.

Another thing that makes the game worthwhile is the improvements that it has made from the first one. One of them is the introduction to crews. There are six crews, consisting of two members (some returning from the first one and some new to the game) each with their own style and attitude towards you: Lu$h, Riptide, Hi-Def, Flash4wrd and Glitterati. With these crews comes the most important improvement in the game: Simultaneous 2-player gameplay. While the first Dance Central dabble in 2-player mode , having the Dance Battle forcing you to switch every interval, Dance Central 2 now support two dancers on the screen. This enables you to either play cooperative or competitive with your friends. It even introduced a drop in/drop out functionality. While the two player gameplay is a welcoming addition to the game, granted if you have enough space to accommodate another player, that’s not the only thing that has improved.

Dance Central 2 has also remodeled their “Break It Down” mode, allowing the players to focus on specific moves in a particular routine that’s giving them a hard time as well as record how you’re performing each move. This feature will allow you visually see how precise your movements are in comparison to the dancer. It also goes to show the improvement that the developers went into making sure that players don’t half step these moves now the sensor is very sensitive to the way your body is moving. That means if they want you to get low, you have to get low.

Finally a campaign mode has been added to the game allowing players to get familiar with the different crews in the game. Each crew has a set list of songs that are unique to them. For example, Flash4wrd, a sassy hip hop crew consisting of alumni Taye and newcomer Li’l T, focus more of the sexy and seductive dance style such as Rihanna’s Rude Boy or Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff. The campaign is simple, and can be expanded on, but it’s still pretty fun.

The Pros:
Like its predecessor, Dance Central 2 has a great blend of old school and contemporary music, ranging from techno to hip hop. It also gives the player the luxury of import all their downloaded and original songs from the original Dance Central increasing the complete list of songs to a whopping 100 or more. It also made a great number of improvements to its existing features; two players dancing being the most emphasized one. The graphics is another plus because it makes the environment and characters pop.

The Cons:
Dance Central 2 goes come with one interesting flaw: it’s not XBOX Live compatible. This may be a problem for some but others aren’t too picky about it. Since the game is meant it to be a party game, putting it on Live would defeat the purpose of the local aspect of the game.

Dance Central 2 is the game for beginner and advance dancers alike, showcasing seamless routines to some of the most popular songs in the industry. While your body may be aching from some of the demanding moves in the song, it still, in my opinion, holds the title of being the best-selling game for the Kinect.

Final Score: Dance Central 2 gets 4 out of 5.

Justin P.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Batman: Arkham City Review

Platform(s): Playstation 3, Microsoft Windows, X-Box 360, Wii-U
Developer(s): Rocksteady Studios
Publisher(s): Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Genre(s): Action-Adventure
Rating: T for Teen
In 2009, we were introduced to what has been hailed as the "best superhero game ever made." Batman: Arkham Asylum gave gamers exactly what they wanted--a great comic hero game and, moreover, a great Batman game.  Two years later, Rocksteady Games is looking to catch lightning twice.

The Story:
Batman: Arkham City picks one year after the events of Arkham Asylum.  Taking credit for stopping the uprising at the asylym, Quincy Sharp has been elected mayor of Gotham City.  His first act was to buy a large section of Gotham City's slums, which he converted into a massive prison and leaving it in the care of psychiatrist Hugo Strange.  The criminals are allowed to run free with the exception of one rule.  They are not allowed to escape.  Batman, fearing the former warden's plan may go awry, has himself placed in Arkham City as his alter ego Bruce Wayne.  After escaping and contacting Alfred, Bruce suits up and sets out to uncover the truth of Arkham City.
Right off the bat (pun intended), you get a majority of Batman's gadgets that were aquired in Arkham Asylum minus the Ultra Batclaw and Sonic Batarang.  The game's open world gives it more depth than the confines of its predecessor.  It truly depicts Batman's worst fear--a city where anarchy runs rampant; where values and sanctity are cast to the wind.  It's one man against seemingly overwhelming odds.  At the start of the game, the Dark Knight learns that Catwoman has been captured by Harvey Two-Face.  He suspects there is some hidden agenda Dr. Strange has and that Catwoman might have useful information.  After sneaking into an old courthouse, Batman finds Catwoman and Two-Face.  Fighting Harvey's men, I immediately noticed that the freeflow combat has been tweaked.  Batman glides smoothly from foe to foe, taking them out with a variety of moves.  I discovered that I can take out two badguys at once in the midst of combat.  I like how Batman immediately has a strong set of moves right away.
The Pros:
When I got my first glimpse of Arkham City, I was awestruck by the sheer scale of Batman's new proving grounds.  This city is massive.  It is a vibrantly lit landscape with dark overtones.  It is as if the city itself is a living entity.  The graphics completely blew me away.  Not one once of detail was spared.  Everything from all the characters to the buildings to the TYGER helicopters flying overhead is intrigantly detailed to perfection.  The game machincs are polished to a mirror finish.  You have absolute control of everything with no hinges at all.  And the cream of the crop--open world exploration.  No longer restricted to the clastrophobic confines of Arkham Asylum, you are free to take Batman wherever you want in this massive, living, breathing landscape.  With an enhanced Glide machanic, there are no restrictions.  Plus, you get to play as Catwoman, whose combat machanic is just as sleek and beautiful as she is.
The Cons:
The only cons in this game are the ones you get to beat up. There is nothing bad to say about this.

Epic.  A beautiful dark symphony that will enthral all who listen.  Rocksteady has not only struck lightning twice, they pulled it from the sky and tamed it to create this beast of a game.  Arkham City is truly a masterpiece.  The acting is phenominal.  Kevin Conroy is awesome giving Batman his gritty voice and Mark Hamill is just electric portraying the best Joker ever.  The action is intense and the boss battles are amazing.  I love how each new villan is introduced as well as old ones.  The inclusion of Catwoman as a playable character is a plus and just adds to the craziness of the action.  The characters are beautifully detailed and the city is just majestic.  While buying this game, the retailer told me that Arkham City makes the previous title look like toilet water.  I can now go back to him and tell him that he was wrong.  Arkham City makes the asylum look like a baby's crib.  Rocksteady has brought one of the most beloved comic heroes into the spotlight of gaming.  Batman: Arkham City is a game that should not be missed and a strong contender for "Game of the Year."

Final Score: Batman: Arkham City's rating is 5 out of 5. My only regret is that I can't go higher.

See you on the next level,

Brian M.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gears of War 3 Review

Platform(s): X-Box 360
Developer(s): Epic Games
Publisher(s): Microsoft Studios
Genre: 3rd Person Shooter
Rating: M for Mature

It seems that 3 is the magic number for video game series nowadays. From God of War to Resistance: Fall of Man and even Skate, 3 games seem to be the ideal life span for a series…although Halo doesn’t count if you consider ODST and Reach. This time, X-Box’s golden child Gears of War is back with its third installment, ending the saga once and for all. But does the final chapter of Gears make the epic impact that Epic Games aimed for, or fizzles out into a mass of hype?

The Story

The game takes place 2 years after the COG was forced to destroy the Jacinto plateau, the last major city on their planet, in Gears of War 2. Their world ravaged by a new enemy, the Lambent, the remaining teams of COG are left to survive, some on land and others by sea. However, after receiving a message from his father via Chairman Prescott, Marcus Fenix and Team Delta go back out to search for the missing scientist…who possibly has the answers for destroying the Lambent once and for all.

The Pros

Geez…how do I begin this? For starters, my personal pro would be the enemies in the game. There are two types of enemies: the Locust, which are/have been the staple enemies in the game (but far from common) and the Lambent, creatures in the game that have been mutated by Imulsion. The pro about this is that they are far from simple to kill, especially the Lambent. When you kill one, move away b/c they are bound to explode. That, plus some will mutate after taking a lot of damage, taking the fight to another level.

A clip of Horde mode, where you fight off
wave after wave of Locust.

Secondly, Horde mode is a second pro in my book. If you haven’t played Gears 2, Horde mode is an arcade-style mode where you fight off wave after wave of enemies until you reach Level 50. And after every 10 levels, the enemies stats increase, making them harder to defeat. This mode has undergone some massive improvements, to say the least. A money system has been added, allowing players to buy items to protect their fort from caltrop barriers to mounted turret guns and even a decoy to draw enemy fire.

But the biggest improvement in Horde mode is that they added boss battles at every 10th round. Meaning after you fight the entire wave off, you have to battle a boss. And if you played any of the Gears games, you’ll know that the boss is far from easy…or small. And with the addition of Mutations in the game – similar to the Skulls in Halo ODST/Reach – it adds a deeper challenge to the game than just shooting enemies to survive.

A new mode to the Gears series (and another pro) is Beast mode, which is the complete opposite to Horde. In Beast mode, you’re playing as the Locust whose goal is to destroy all the humans in the area. The money that you gain from this mode is used to spawn better Locust. So if you play your cards right, you could appear as a Kantus on one round…or a Beserker.

Finally, my last pro would be the weapons in the game. A lot of the weaponry has been improved since the second installment of Gears. And with the addition of newer weapons (the One-Shot, Incendiary Grenades, Cleaver and more) and more savage versions of older weapons (Retro Lancer, Sawed-Off, and Digger), combat gets a bit more nuts.

The Cons

Alright…so for my first con, I’d have to get on Story Mode. Why? It’s shorter than expected. With 5 acts and 5 chapters an act, that’s 25 stages that you have to play through. And with the promise of the “biggest-ever Gears campaign solo”, that seems like a bit of a letdown.

And yes, that was written on the back of the Gears 3 box.

Members of COG.

The second con has to be one that I always find in every FPS (or in this case, 3PS) game. There’s always that one weapon in the game that’s unreasonably unbalanced and overused by everyone online. What is it in Gears 3: the Sawed-off Shotgun. The reload time is extra slow, however if you are in point blank range of someone and shoot (or get shot), the result is simple: You Die!

My next con lies with Beast Mode. Now, that mode is great, seeing that you pretty much flip the script and play as the antagonists. However, the mode is short. You only get 12 rounds and a minute per round, which slightly increases with each kill you acquire. And compared to Horde, where you get 50 rounds and unlimited time…yeah, enough said.

The leveling up system in the game…I can’t say it’s a complete con, but I do feel that it needs to be listed. The more you level up in the game, the more characters and weapon skins you are able to unlock. It looks nice, however it’s been considered useless by a good amount of players so it’s a noteworthy con.


If you’ve been waiting for Gears of War 3 anxiously, from the moment you first heard the announcement, then you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth in this final installment. With the new modes, the 4-player campaign co-op, and gritty, brutal gameplay that the series is known for, you won’t put it down. If you’re buying this game and haven’t played the other two, you will still enjoy this game. Even though the campaign may be a bit short, there are plenty of modes that will keep your hands on the controller for a long time!!!

FINAL SCORE: 4 out of 5