God, it's been a while.

I've been in hibernation, chewing on cud, scratching my ass, the whole sh'bang. Why don't you check back for my reactions to E3 announcements?

Tanks with love.


Opening Whole New (And Sometimes Old) Worlds to Video Gamers

I recently purchased the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for my Xbox. I popped in the disc, extremely excited to experience these games for the first time ever. I had always wanted to play through the PlayStation classics since I played The Twin Snakes on the GameCube long, long ago, and because I’ve had a copy of Guns of the Patriots sitting on my shelf untouched for about two years now. I popped in the disc, sat down, and awaited to play Sons of Liberty. I watched a cut scene, and watched another, and then a codec sequence, then a light tutorial that only glazed over the control scheme, then another cut scene, and then another codec sequence. It took me twelve God damn minutes to gain control of my character. Twelve. Fucking. Minutes.

Let me just say that I did expect this. Metal Gear, after all, is a Hideo Kojima game. Lengthy exposition is his lifeblood. If it were any other game, however, I would throw a tantrum. It’s torture, essentially, second only to the likes of pepper spray and waterboarding. Though my claims may be slightly exaggerated, there’s no denying that a good game usually has you in its grips within the first few minutes. Halo has you on the go in about a minute. A Link to the Past and Super Mario Bros. has you start within seconds. And the grand-daddy of them all, Braid, let’s you begin playing immediately from the start screen. These are the games that live forever in the memory of gamers. These are the games that have such a lasting impression, because their openings illustrate what it’s all about.

This makes me recall the greatest opening scene of all time in film history, from the original Star Wars. Right away, you knew what you were getting from that movie: an adventurous tale in space. All from a simple long take of a big starship running away from an even bigger starship, all set to the sounds of flurrying lasers and a grand, thundering orchestra. Star Wars has, by all definitions, the perfect opening, and I think game developers should try more to emulate it.

The issue that video games have is the notion of the start screen, being the first thing a player usually encounters in a game aside from maybe a demo reel. Granted, some games handle their start screens rather well, illustrating the feel of the game exceptionally well while not allowing any player control. Metroid Prime is a stellar example. It manages to convey the overall tone rather well, with its hypnotic, tingling music and red-and-black DNA imagery effectively coming together to convey a very scientific kind of isolation. When the player presses a button to go to the save selection screen, the spine-tingling music makes a dramatic tonal shift, turning into an overdramatic choir that suggests a sense of discovery and overcoming of the fears that seem to have been perpetuated by the first start screen. It effectively recreates the sensation of Metroid games; the player traverses through unfamiliar alien environments, eventually coming across an upgrade that may or may not enlighten a pathway to the next level. Prime’s start screen, then, is effective in foreshadowing the series traditional structure.

Another example, more recent and simplistic this time, is Nintendo’s Super Mario 3D Land, although it takes a more direct approach rather than Metroid Prime’s more subtle queues. The game combines the traditional demo reel and start screen into a fantastic introduction to its mechanics and visual style; Mario is seen in the background doing his jumping thing, acquiring a Tanooki suit and using its powers among other elements. It’s brief, but eloquent and useful, skipping the tedium of a forced tutorial. In addition to the reel—and in the spirit of Super Mario 64’s stretch demo—the player can choose to play around in a small constrained world that quickly demonstrates the Escher inspired visual mechanics.

Nintendo is pretty big on immediately expressing exactly what their game is to the player before they even start. Other Japanese developers aren’t quite as resourceful or successful in this area. Squaresoft used to, and to an extent still do, express the story in their games quite early on, cementing the overall tone of the plot and atmosphere as well as showing off the visual fidelity of games such as Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger rather well, but not touching on the nuances on their structure or design. Final Fantasy VI actually forces the player to sit through a credit sequence before starting the actual game, showing off the once impressive Mode 7 graphics which surprisingly turned out to be a big part of the game. This is mostly forgivable, since story was and is a focus for Squaresoft (now Square Enix) and many other Japanese developers, such as Kojima Productions and Namco’s Tales teams.

But so far, the only examples I’ve illustrated have openings that do not let the player start right away: there’s always a demo reel or star screen that provides a barrier between the player and the experience. This, I think, should be removed for the benefit of the player. Take Jonathan Blow’s Braid, for instance, a game that decidedly breaks this barrier in a rather spectacular way. Blow decides to keep the traditional start screen but does not keep its traditional function as a barrier, and instead he lets players take control of Tim immediately. Blow has effectively fused the game and the start screen together, seamlessly and expertly, much like a filmmaker who injects the audience into a film without so much explaining who made it, what it is, or what’s going on. Instead of following directions such as “Press A to Start”, the player is encouraged to explore the controls, to see which button does what, engaging them from the moment the game boots up. Even the level selection is built directly into the gameplay, rather than being treated as a separate entity outside of the game itself. It’s an experience designed to make the player think twice about how a game can be structured. More importantly, it allows the game to feel like a more wholesome product because there’s nothing standing in the way between it and the player.

That isn’t to say that the start screen should be totally eradicated from the face of the earth. The Star Wars films still has its equivalent of the start screen in the form of gigantic yellow font flying through space. It has the same function, then, as Metroid Prime or Super Mario 3D Land in that it gives the audience a specific idea as to what they’re about to partake in. Also, like Metroid Prime and Super Mario 3D Land, Star Wars wastes no time getting to the action after the initial “demo”. Some games fail to do this, punishing the player by making them sit through a long cut scene rather than get straight into the game. Halo does this on the more tolerable level, keeping its opening sweet and short and to the point. The Metal Gear Solid games are the more extreme example, taunting the player who wants to play by forcing them to sit through several minutes worth of cut scenes. And it’s worth mentioning that Metal Gear Solid does this kind of prolonged exposition well. Other games, mostly, do not.

In the broadest sense, the opening of a video game should be the magical moment for a player, and also the most helpful. It lets them understand what kind of adventure they’re about to partake in, whether it’s a simplistic, cheerful puzzler, or a foreboding, isolated trek through sci-fi worlds. We can look to games like Metal Gear Solid and Metroid Prime and Braid to see just how much variety a developer can inject into an opening. The perfect opening, I might add, comes not from these games, but the games that do not yet exist; the game that puts the player smack dab into the middle of something they’re not familiar with, and encourages them to explore and familiarize themselves at their own leisure. That is the perfect video game opening.


Skyward Sword Impressions

It all seems so dream-like, playing Skyward Sword, especially after five years of painful waiting, murky rumors, and cringing reveals. Link’s latest adventure finally arrived only a few days ago, and I’ve managed to pour a few hours into the massive journey. Like Skyrim the week before, I’ve only played enough to give my most basic impressions, but don’t let my meager time with the game fool you: Skyward Sword is most definitely the peak of Zelda games thus far, and it’s a lock that it will remain a classic.

The first few hours of Skyward are about as welcoming as any Zelda game can get. Right off the bat, you’re introduced to a Zelda game that doesn’t have awkward animations or scenes or dialogue. Instead, these characters are wonderfully animated, and more appropriately designed, unlike the mess of characters in Twilight Princess (sorry Malo) and more like the superb cast in Wind Waker (even the lovable Beedle shows up). The music is another improvement you’ll notice right away: the orchestrated tracks are a nice addition, adding to the Disney-like charm of the game. You’ll recognize some tunes here and there, but Yakoto’s score is mostly sparkling new, from the invigorating over world beat to the haunting melody in the first dungeon to the heart-melting romantic theme that plays when Zelda and Link share a precious and surprising moment of sexual tension. The use of music is also used in an incredibly dynamic way, changing or adding instruments seamlessly when you near an enemy in the clouds, or land a successful strike on a Bokoblin, or approach a vendor in the bazaar. All these instances are used to a great effect, either by revealing something about the gameplay to the player, or forcing them into a specific emotional state. Nintendo knows how to use music, and this definitely shows in Skyward Sword.

Speaking of new things, Skyward Sword almost shockingly doesn’t rely on nostalgia to get kicks from the player. The puzzles so far (I’m currently hanging around the Lanayru Desert) are all distinctively new and fresh, drawing from no previous Zelda game. Sure, some if not all items may be lifted directly from other games in the franchise, but they’re used in such ingenious ways that they rival Ocarina’s revolutionary mechanics. This is all thanks to the smooth and accurate controls, which I realize a lot of other writers are complaining about in their own reviews. I thought I would do a specific test to really see what could be truly said, so as soon as I obtained my first sword I tested out each directional slash, in all eight main directions. I performed each directional slash almost flawlessly, except for my horizontal swings. The Motion Plus was reading my movements too accurately, and any slight angle would cause my horizontal slash to deviate into a diagonal one. It’s a trifling matter, for sure, especially considering that the design of the combat encourages you to take your sweet time with the swordplay anyways: every time you want to swing your sword, Link has to stand still, and enemies sometimes patiently wait for your move and have easily readable patterns essential to defeating them. This causes the game to have a refreshing focus on combat, effectively turning each enemy—aside from a few basic ones—into a reflex-based puzzle.

Puzzles are a big part of Skyward Sword. Enemies now taking the role of puzzles themselves, it’s only fitting for the over world to take the role as well. Each area on the surface feels more like a dungeon extension rather than the traditional lead-in gamers have come to know and love (or hate) in Zelda games. No longer is that the case: instead, each dungeon begins almost immediately when you descend to the surface, though the game designers may not necessarily want you to know that, in order to make the game appear more seamless. This is a rather successful and welcome addition to the franchise, even though these sections of the game are laden with fetch quests, just because the puzzles you find in these areas are just as fresh and exciting and challenging as the dungeons thus far.

I won’t touch upon some of the story elements I’ve seen: I’ll save those for my final review when I complete the game. I can say that Skyward Sword is worth your time, from what I’ve seen of the game so far. The controls are all what they’ve been cracked up to be; a real game-changer in terms of revolutionizing motion gaming. The nostalgia doesn’t overpower the game, if it’s even a factor; Skyward Sword survives on its own merit, rather than the legacy of its predecessors. And production values have gone through the roof, reinforcing Nintendo as the master game-makers and catapulting the Zelda franchise into even higher heights than before. If you really want to know what it’s like to play motion-controlled perfection, you can’t look any further than this.


Super Mario 3D Land Review

After a mediocre eight months on the market, the 3DS finally received its first of many supposed kill apps in Super Mario 3D Land. It finally feels that there’s a reason to play Nintendo’s latest hardware offering, because every time I fired up a level in Mario, I couldn’t help but smile at its pleasantness, its ingenuity, and its quirkiness. 3D Land really is a joy to play and, like all mainline Mario games, is the purest definition of video game fun for a list of reasons.

The most noticeable thing about 3D Land is how noticeably pretty it is, often resembling its big brother Galaxy games on the Wii in terms of charming art style, and explicably triumphing over the blandness of the New Super Mario series. It’s bright, cheerful, and eccentric, more than likely because it chooses to accentuate the inherent blocky design that comes with its form of gameplay, playing with these ideas at first and then totally going overboard in later levels when the player finally comes to grip with the mechanics. The 3D graphics actually complement the game fairly well, unlike previous efforts on the system, thanks to the careful placement of the camera: vertical levels have a much needed sense of depth when the camera shifts to an overhead perspective; enemies use the effect to their advantage by attacking at angles otherwise unheard of in a left-to-right platformer; and the M.C. Escher-esque mini-levels become quite the sight to behold when the camera slowly shifts to reveal a mind fuck truly worthy of a Mario game. Even though the 3D should be righteously held as a gimmick, no matter what the game, it’s a gimmick that works in 3D Land, because it feels somehow different when you turn down the 3D volume. This is the only game on the system where I felt compelled to play through entire levels with the head-splitting 3D. You won’t find another game that convinces you otherwise, unless it’s built from the ground up to take advantage of the effect, like 3D Land is.

And then there’s the music. The main theme is particularly charming in its own, especially during the mesmerizing title screen. It stands side by side with the tone of the game rather well, and the game even incorporates some classic tunes in some levels, reinforcing the obvious homage to Super Mario Bros. 3. There’s just a certain joy to be felt by wandering around a Toad’s house listening to that jolly tune we all know and love from years back.

One department that Nintendo could consider spending some time in is the hub world. Gone are the days of having a classic sprawling map littered with levels that make sense cohesively, replaced by a nonsensical linear selection of levels. It would make more sense to have a full 3D hub world connecting each level, like the Mario games of old, but I guess it’s too much to ask for. That, and Nintendo did away with full analog control for this installment, instead opting for a run button coupled with eight directional inputs. This idea works fine in the levels that resemble older Mario games, but in others, it just incites frustration, having to fight with the controls just to jump onto a static platform, but that’s more of my fault rather than the games because I’ve been indoctrinated to think that 3D games should always have analog control. Despite my shortcoming and my apparent inability to play Mario games, Mario 3D Land still controls like a dream compared to it contemporaries, ,pre than likely because its levels are simple to navigate.

Whatever you do, don’t go thinking of Mario 3D Land as a simple retread just because its marketing solely focuses on the classic Tanooki Suit. There’s a lot of new and exciting ideas here, and they’re executed wonderfully, if not a bit easily for the player. That is to say, the game isn’t an absolute must have for everyone; it’s only an absolute must have if you have a 3DS somewhere collecting dust or weighing down a pile of school work that you always intend to finish “tomorrow”.


Skyrim Impressions

I went to work on Saturday, expecting the worst. Imagine how terrified I was when my fears turned out to be true: the release of Skyrim in Nova Scotia had brought a flurry of costumers just waiting to dive into Bethesda’s virtual crack stash once more, and I was at the front lines. Everything was chaotic, dramatic, over-the-top, and needless, but it was all so worth it. Giving into the hype, I decided to purchase a copy myself, despite having been disappointed with Oblivion years and years ago.

Thank God I did.

Having only put roughly eleven hours into my game so far, I can only give a modest impression that doesn’t quite capture just exactly how good this game is. I don’t even think a full play-through could justify an accurate review. All I know what to say is the game is exceedingly excellent, raising all bars that Bethseda had set in terms of gameplay, quality, and storytelling in Morrowind and Fallout 3. The game also dramatically improves every facet of Oblivion, choosing to reinvent the once boorish conversation elements and polishing the spectacle of the series’ signature real-time combat. Skyrim is extremely satisfying in these regards. Hell, even the trademark Bethesda bugs are seemingly squashed, at least in what I’ve played so far.

The randomness of the Elder Scrolls games would sometimes lead to some pretty punishing bugs and infuriating save-losses, but in Skyrim it seems the developers have fixed these problems to a large extent. For example, I traveled to the College of Winterfold to learn magic and, lo and behold, one of the game’s many, many (superbly designed) dragons descended to rain chaos upon the school of mages. I’m not completely sure if this was a random event, but the encounter handled itself pretty well and gave the illusion that it was unscripted. The only problem I have (and this is a very minor problem at that) is that the dragon’s skeleton spawns in a totally different place in the school than where I murdered its sorry ass. And it does this every time I go to the location. I made sure I drained the bastard of all its loot, but its empty carcass still insists on chilling in the courtyard, and every NPC in the area just pretends it’s a giant ornament.

Another minor pet peeve is the save system, which I both applaud and despise. For some reason, I absolutely hate getting killed. The actual act of dying, however, doesn’t really bother me, but the process of reloading auto-saves that you know are five or ten or twenty minutes behind is kind of grueling. Now, I realize that Bethesda has tried to remedy this by including three auto-save slots, but it still doesn’t record your game data fast enough. The intervals need to be smaller, like one to three minutes short so that I don’t lose my patience and have to start from the dungeon entrance again. Granted the game is so streamlined and rewarding that this is really a non-issue, and you shouldn’t have any problems at all if you save compulsively, which this game really encourages.

Otherwise, Skyrim is a beautifully crafted game. Well, so long as you overlook some technical infidelities like blurry textures, but again that’s hard to judge considering the bug that’s currently present in the Xbox version of the game that prevents textures from loading. The art direction is still fantastic despite this ongoing glitch: everything looks like it belongs in the world and everything meshes together well. It’s extremely pleasing to my eyes, except for the rare instance of climbing a mountain with geometry and textures that resemble an obscure N64 game.

Play it, as soon as you fucking can.


Mario's Picross Review

Taking a break from NaNoWriMo, I decided to finish up writing my review on this little gem:

Mario's Picross, quite plainly speaking, is downright addicting, even though it’s embarrassingly simplistic and shallow. That is to say, it’s better than 99% of the original Game Boy games out there. The game involves some puzzles that vaguely resemble Sudoku with blocky pictures, with Super Mario imagery slapped everywhere imaginable. It’s a game that has a lot of charm, even though its depth doesn’t seem to match.

There’s certainly a lot of visual appeal working for it; Mario’s sprites and frames seem to suggest a breaking of the fourth wall, and he even breaks out in a sweat when there’s only two minutes left on the board. It’s stellar stuff for the Game Boy, which can only do so much on a technical level. However, the pictures are a different story: sometimes they barely resemble a vague depiction of what they’re supposed to actually depict. But then again, it’s forgivable. There’s only so much artistic value you can jam pack into a 15 by 15 grid.

The gameplay itself is a bit of a hit or miss, but it’s what essentially defines Picross. While the game is addicting, there’s not much substance to be found. Puzzles start out as mostly guesswork if you don’t use the hint system (hint: use the hint system, unless you want to memorize puzzles entirely over a period of multiple play-thoughs), but they slowly become understandable pieces of logic within themselves. It’ll take about a dozen hours to do every single puzzle, which is an incredibly satisfying length for a puzzle game on the original Game Boy.

Some of the best parts about the game, aside from the actual gameplay, are probably the tunes:

So much of the game’s personality rests on the music. It’s incredibly well done.

It’s just too bad the asking price on Nintendo’s eShop is too high. Four bucks is definitely a lot to ask for in this day and age of $0.99 iPhone games. I found it well worth it, but other people might find it a bit of a steep ticket price. Regardless, it has my recommendation, especially since Mario’s Picross pushed me to buy the contemporary DS version.


Batman: Arkham City Review

I shouldn’t like comic book games. I don’t even read comic books. I’m pretty sure I haven’t even touched one. My only experiences with super hero characters are watching the big-budget Hollywood adaptations of the last decade and loyally following Batman: The Animated Series as a child. I was Batman crazy as a kid, despite never reading a single comic book. I had the figurines. I had the clothes. I had the video tapes. I had everything but the comic books. And now, here I am, enjoying the sequel to what I thought was one of the best games to come out in 2009, and reliving my first ever fanboy years. Batman: Arkham City, simply put, is wonderful, stupendous stuff. Rocksteady should be proud of every aspect of the game: everything is just so well organized and crafted, and completely worthy of every single ounce of praise.

I have to admit, I had my initial doubts before release. The number of villains—which I originally thought would become a major flaw because I believed it would cause the game to lose its focus, much like many Batman films beforehand—actually helps the narrative rather than becoming detrimental to it. I always found it interesting how people were interwoven with one another, in and out of the main story, and how Batman reacts and uses each relationship to his advantage. Another interesting thing—and I find this is true in most Batman media, but Rocksteady manages to do it better in their own way—is that we’re reminded of Batman’s unmovable morality throughout the entirety of the game, whether it’s during the main story or one of the many side missions. He stands only for his idea of justice; a kind of anti-utilitarian guardian trying to maximize happiness for everyone, including his enemies, all while being incredibly stoic and unflinching, devoid of any humanity save for a brief moment of remembrance in a dark alley.

We see Bats almost lose his qualities later in the game, and it makes playing the last few story missions much more exciting. To see Batman argue with Alfred and the Oracle on what he should accomplish next was an absolutely pivotal moment in the game for me. I’m also extremely glad that Rocksteady didn’t succumb to making a lame morality system for Arkham City: it just wouldn’t work with Batman’s character. Granted, there is a small use of it during one of Catwoman’s missions, but the choice is so utterly obvious that it’s simply a non-issue.

The thrill of playing as Batman is the best part about the game. He doesn’t kill any of the many rapists, murderers, or any other misfits, instead opting to knock them unconscious with heavy-handed finishing moves in slow-motion, cadenced by a satisfying crunch of bone. Gliding around the city is also fantastic. You become enamored with the power you have looking down at the criminals in the alleyways, listening in on their fruitful conversations… it’s a nice touch by the developers in adding to the sense that you really are the Dark Knight. The feeling hasn’t exactly been perfected before in video games: replicating the power of a licensed character so accurately and realistically, even though said character is something so out-of-this-world in terms of stature and ideology. It’s simply amazing stuff.

That said, the story could’ve been tied together a bit better. It felt kind of strange having Batman carry out Joker’s corpse, though it makes perfect sense thematically, keeping in tune with the opening shot of the Catwoman content. Emotionally, the ending didn’t really click: it would have been a far more satisfying ending if Batman carried out Talia’s body. But then the story would become closed completely: carrying out Joker’s body allows for a continuation past the main story component, since Batman isn’t—and shouldn’t—be all that traumatized by Joker’s death to just go home and sulk. This allows for Talia’s possible resurrection, since her death isn’t really explored after the climatic final boss. Speaking of which, Clayface’s appearance during the last boss battle was a great little surprise, and didn’t feel completely shoe-horned in like the Titan-infected Joker in the last game.

Following Arkham Asylum was an enormous task to begin with, but Rocksteady succeeds, quite plainly and quite efficiently. While the main campaign is short, it’s poignant right to the end, bristling with goodies, cameos, and satisfying mechanics that will make any fan of Batman salivate. If that’s not enough, the side missions and challenges are always there, niggling at you to complete them. It would be absolutely astounding if you could completely finish the game in 20 hours. But length isn’t an issue here. After all, it’s the God damn Batman.


Battlefield 3 Review

Battlefield 3 is just one of those games.

You’d think that after a third entry in the main stay franchise, a series of console spin-offs, and a glut of free play experiments, that you’d be tired of that same old tune. That’s true, to a certain extent, but it bodes well have a sense of familiarity in this case. My history with the franchise is spotty at best: in my youth I played a tremendous amount of Battlefield 1942 offline, waging war with shell-shocked bots because I lived in the middle of no-man’s land with nary an internet connection. When I delved deep into console gaming, I had left those memories behind. I recently rediscovered it, like many others, on the Xbox 360 with the advent of Battlefield 1943, and then again on the same console with Bad Company 2. Both games were great reintroductions into a system of gameplay that has pretty much been perfected since I played the first entry almost ten years ago.

And now we’re at Battlefield 3. To be honest, I’m not completely sure what to think of it yet. The marketing machine behind it is confusing. Is it a Battlefield game? Or is it built specifically to compete with Call of Duty? After your first hour or two with the multiplayer, it may seem more like the latter. The game places heavy emphasis on its upgrade path and statistics. What sets it apart—aside from the high res textures and shiny lens flares—is the pace of gameplay. Whereas Call of Duty focuses more on fast twitch, in-your-face, ADD close encounters, Battlefield, as it always has, opts for a more patient, long ranged affair. It’s a remarkable refreshing experience in the face of the Modern Warfare dominated industry we find ourselves in today, despite being a nearly decade old design. Yet despite this, battles still feel frantic, chaotic, and engrossing; you’ll just find yourself thinking and strategizing a bit more than usual if you’re used to the Call of Duty grind-fest.

It’s also quite apparent that DICE strives for realism in the game. The fidelity of the graphics is not the only indicator of this, but the gameplay mechanics as well. Vehicles are the most obvious indicator of realism. Jeeps are wickedly fast but fragile. Tanks feel like, well, tanks. And Helicopters and jets are notoriously difficult to control. Each type is complemented by nuanced visual details, such as HUDs in first person mode as well team indicators, which can sometimes play into a tactical advantage. And while vehicles play an important role in the overall flow of the multiplayer, they’re not exactly overpowered: DICE has done well in balancing the game, making everything vulnerable to something.

In the attempt to balance the game, however, is where the game faults at times, breaking the realism so that a tank can be repaired, or that a map is perfectly suitable for 64 player mayhem. Sometimes it’s forgivable, seeing as though the game has to remain fun somehow when your tank is on the fritz after a series of hits from an enemy RPG. But there are times when you realize that the realism has totally been broken. Operation Metro on Conquest mode is a superb example, reducing the game to a chaotic stillness where players spam bottlenecks with rockets and grenades in hope of trying to achieve something.

Aside from Operation Metro, however, the maps truly do shine. Aside from a few maps that focus on chokepoints, all the maps function pretty well on Conquest mode. Those that fail to impress on Conquest succeed on Rush mode, where bottlenecks become crucial in defending and attacking a M-COM. Granted, there are a few frustrations, such as spawning difficulties and lack of flanking in some areas, but it all balances out in the end, making for a more enjoyable than irritating experiences.

Whatever irritation you do feel about Battlefield 3 will probably poke through because of Battlelog, though that’s a far stretch especially when time progresses. You won’t find your problems with Battlelog’s user interface; in that respect it’s really slick and streamlined. Getting from one place to another on the site is really no problem. But in the early days of Battlefield 3’s release, it can be difficult to go a few hours without having a server disconnect once in a while, which really becomes a downer when you’re trying to find a specific game type on a specific map. Regardless, Battlelog is functional, pretty, and promising.

As far as the single player is concerned, I really haven’t touched it. I made it past the fighter jet level before I ultimately just got bored. During the short amount of time I did spend on it, I did like some of the ideas it presents, and the visual and audio flair along with it. The soundtrack is astounding, seemingly inspired by the memorable yet haunting synth of Apocalypse Now. The lighting, too, is just as awe inspiring. It just so happens that each interesting idea outside of what’s been mentioned is executed awkwardly, causing myself to lose interest fairly quick. This goes especially for the story, which hasn’t done anything to really grab my attention. It appears to be a case of replicating Black Ops’ rather bland roller coaster ride.

DICE has accomplished a lot with this game, making technological strides that will change the video game industry for the better. The amount of polish behind the visuals and sound is also matched by the almost-perfect online gameplay. And despite the fact that the single player campaign is dry as real desert combat, and that I haven’t tried the cooperative mode yet, Battlefield 3 earns my recommendation based on multiplayer alone. In the end, I’ve been really enjoying the game, and hope to continue playing it for years to come.