I have to confess that fighting games are not my preferred genre when I fire up the good ol' videogame console, nor would I proclaim myself as a formidable opponent in the few games in this genre that I dabbled in back in the days. Sure there was the occasional Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat battle in which I took brief interest then quickly realized that the learning curve in these types of games was far beyond my level of patience. Narrative driven gaming has been my main focus since I gave up on my late nights playing Counterstrike at the PC cafes, and fighting games were never known to excel in this area. With the release of Injustice, this could all change.
Injustice is a fighting game at its core from the developers of Mortal Kombat, but the game is so much deeper than the genre in which its unfortunately lumped into. The story mode is beautifully constructed and you can see the thought and effort that was placed by the developers to incorporate an entertaining narrative around the basic battle structure that are the bread and butter of fighting games. It's helpful that the characters from the DC Universe (some well known, some I'm hearing of for the first time) are treated as real people with ambitions and motivations. The voice acting is well done, the character design/animation is smooth and the controls are easy to learn and responsive.
In addition to the excellent story mode and newbie training mode, there is the standard multiplayer spread consisting of offline versus mode and of course online mode. I played both modes and found them to be lag free and well designed. The menus are easy accessible and you aren't bogged down with excessive lobby screens which can be such an annoyance in online arenas. There is also a Star Labs mode which will satiate your need to rack up stars and collectables for completing specific tasks/moves during fights. In the end, this seems like an attempt to add longevity to the game to compensate for the slim 3-4 hour story mode, but it can be fun at times and will enable you to practice at mastering your fighting style.
I had a fun time with Injustice. The story is well thought out, the fighting mechanics are solid and should be an overall enjoyable experience for both comic book enthusiasts as well as the average gamer. Despite the story mode being on the short side, there is enough content here to make this worth a purchase for hardcore fighting fans and us fighting newbies as well.
Having grown up playing the original SimCity all the way through SimCity 4, I can tell you that this is one of my favorite franchises of all time. I love the simulation genre and have dabbled in the likes of SimTower, SimFarm, Theme Hospital, etc. When I saw the demo of the new SimCity at E3, my jaw hit the floor and my money went straight to the digital pre-order (By the way, preorders for digital releases seem quite stupid to me, but that's a discussion for another time).
I'm going to start by commenting on the game design and gameplay first whilst ignoring the white elephant in the room (which is of course the server disaster that erupted at the games launch). The new GlassBox engine is thoroughly impressive and is able to realistically simulate a living, breathing city. Whether its a shift from day to night or the immense amount of pedestrians and cars roaming about the city, the game does a remarkable job at making it look and feel authentic. The basic tools for construction have remained largely the same, with the addition of curved roads! This is actually utilized with mixed results. The lack of 90 degree intersections everywhere adds a great deal of creativity and visual differentiation, but it seems the building integration with these curved roads never quite adds up. The areas where curved roads meet usually end up in wasted space or a motorhome style plot of land that ends up dragging down the land value of the adjacent skyscrapers. Designing certain buildings to fit in curved intersections would have been a nice touch.
Moving onto more positive features, the incorporation of power lines and water/sewage pipes into roads was a stroke of genius. I mean, come on, who liked sending those awful power lines allover their city in previous games? Never mind the nightmare of trying to connect underground water pipes on varied land elevations. The game manages to build successfully on what has worked in previous games and simplify the elements which were, lets say, a hassle.
The controversial design of the game comes from its multiplayer. This is the newest addition to the SimCity universe and not coincidentally turns out to be the area that needs the most work. Besides the horrendous server issues that prevented customers from actually playing the game at launch, the process in which you find and join a game with other players is incredibly challenging. Locating a city with open territories that haven't been wrecked and abandoned is frustratingly difficult. Why are cities allowed to be bankrupted and left for other players to attempt to claim? I get the fact that they need the game to be "always online" in order to incorporate this multiplayer element, but it clearly lacks the fine tuning that a project with this scope deserves. Sure this can all be patched down the line, however the stain that has been left on the multiplayer aspect of the game is becoming more and more permanent as time goes by.
Thanks to EA and Maxis's little "server issues" with SimCity, I scored a free copy of Dead Space 3. After playing the first two games in the franchise and seeing a rather good looking demo at E3 last year, I was excited to give it a try. Twenty or so hours later, I have to say I was entertained but not excited about playing the next installment. Luckily this wont be an issue. Due to sales not meeting EAs expectations, it appears this will be last in the series.
The graphics and atmosphere are clearly the high points of the game. There is a clear sense of place developed and especially during the first half of the game, the developers manage to deliver some legitimate moments of tension and a general sense of unease. Unfortunately, story was never the driving force of this franchise and this continues to be the case for Dead Space 3. The failure to generate any type of narrative drive really makes the game feel like a jumbled mess of mini action scenes with an occasional random boss battle. During the 2nd half of the game, the horror element completely fades away and you are left with ridiculously challenging action scenes that would feel a bit out of place in Call of Duty, much less in Dead Space. The current trend to turn slow paced survival horror games into fast paced shoot-em ups (*cough* Resident Evil *cough* ) not only sacrifices pace and story, but it leaves the game feeling unfocused and more of a chore than a challenge. I rarely complain about a game being too long, but the lack of pacing and story in this game would have been better packaged in a 10-12 hour romp rather than its current 18-20 hour version.
That being said, the game is not unplayable and its certainly not a waste of time, but I must admit its sad to see a somewhat new horror franchise with this much potential take a wrong turn. EA's sales expectations seemed unreasonable at best for this 3rd installment, and perhaps reviews from both the public and critics will be able to turn this franchise back onto the correct path somewhere in the future.